Best of ORL 2019 – Fun & Leisure

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Spectacular Kingdom

Living in Los Angeles 40 years ago, Rawlvan Bennett routinely stopped at the same store on his way home from work.  And each time he pined for the same African mask.

The mask cost $200. His rent was $300. The store owner said he’d sell it to Bennett for whatever he had in his pocket. He had $50—his food money for the next two weeks.

Today, the mask hangs in Bronze Kingdom, a gallery teeming with 4,000 rotating pieces of African art—dramatic thrones, weapon-wielding warrior statues and cowrie shell-adorned drums—all from Bennett’s private collection or by featured artists.

Bennett later learned that the first mask he purchased hails from the Congo—the same place, he found through DNA testing, that he is from.

“That mask was calling me. I was really searching for my heritage,” he says.

Bennett opened Bronze Kingdom in Fashion Square Mall last year and plans to move to a 30,000-square-foot location on International Drive, where he hopes to offer virtual experiences, an African-based arcade and ultimately, a performing arts center.

“We want Bronze Kingdom to become a cultural destination,” he says.

Public Golf Course

1 Dubsdread Golf Course
College Park

2 Twin Rivers Golf Club

3 Shingle Creek Golf Club
Rosen Shingle Creek

Private Golf Course

1 Interlachen
Country Club
Winter Park

2 Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge

3 The Country Club of Orlando

Art Gallery

1 Bronze Kingdom
African Art Gallery
Orlando Fashion Square

2 Snap! Space!
Snap! Downtown
East Colonial Drive; East Church Street

3 CityArts Orlando
South Magnolia Avenue


1 Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Winter Park

2 Orlando Museum of Art
Loch Haven Park

3 Orlando Science Center
Loch Haven Park

Business Hotel

The Alfond Inn (Courtesy of The Alfond Inn)

1 The Alfond Inn
Downtown Winter Park

2 Grand Bohemian
Hotel Orlando
Downtown Orlando

3 The Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

Place for a Staycation

1 Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney
World Resort

2 Walt Disney World

3 The Ritz Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

Place to Get Married

1 Harry P. Leu Gardens

2 Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue
Winter Park

3 The Acre Orlando
College Park

Performing Arts Group

1 Central Florida Community Arts

2 Orlando Ballet

3 Sak Comedy Lab
Downtown Orlando

Entertainment Experience

1 The VOID  (Virtual Reality Experience)
Disney Springs

2 I Drive NASCAR
(Indoor Go-Kart Track)
Off International Drive

3 The Escape Game (Escape Room Experience)
International Drive

Non-Theme Park Attraction

1 Gatorland
South Orange County

2 Black Hammock Airboat Rides

3 Orlando Science Center
Loch Haven Park

Movie Theater

1 Enzian

2 Regal Winter Park Village Stadium 20 & RPX
Winter Park

3 Epic Theatres
at Lee Vista
South Orlando


1 Winter Park
Sidewalk Art Festival
Park Avenue, Winter Park

2 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Walt Disney World

3 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival
Loch Haven Park

Charity Gala

1 Runway to Hope
Spring Fashion Soiree
Benefits children & families affected by pediatric cancer

2 Hats & Heroes Ball
Benefits Kids Beating Cancer Pediatric Transplant Center

3 Wishmaker’s Ball
Benefits Make-A-Wish, granting wishes to children with critical illnesses

Trivia Night

1 Graffiti Junktion
Various Orlando-area locations

2 Curtis Earth at Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux
Audubon Park

3 Mellow Mushroom
Rinehart Road

Live Music Venue

1 Jazz Tastings

2 House of Blues Orlando
Disney Springs

3 The Plaza Live
Milk District

The VOID (Courtesy of The VOID)

Workout for the Senses

Curtis Hickman obtained the education that would help him create The VOID, a virtual reality experience, when he was 12 years old.

That’s when he discovered magic theory, which uses psychology to create illusions. As an adult, he performed magic for a decade and worked on teams that created illusions for David Copperfield and Criss Angel. Then he decided to study digital effects.

The VOID—with 11 locations globally, including Disney Springs—uses technology to help immerse guests in the experience. Computer display headgear paired with vests that react to stimuli within the game help people feel what they see.

But The VOID also utilizes the magic theory Hickman learned as a kid.

When guests see lava boiling below a bridge, they also feel radiating heat and smell burning debris. When they see a chair or a wall, both objects really do exist—and creating that sensory confirmation tricks the mind into believing that the fictional things are there, too, such as an approaching Darth Vader in the “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” experience.

“I’ve seen all sorts of reactions. People have dropped to the deck. I’ve had people who have tried running from him. It takes a little bit of reality to convince people that he’s actually coming for you,” Hickman says.