Follow the civil rights trail and understand the history surrounding the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr Day each year. Sample eclectic and soulful cuisines, tap your toes to jazz and junkanoo, and celebrate the culture, heritage and lives of the African-American people on this third Monday of January each year, Martin Luther King Jr Day.
While there are many Martin Luther King, Jr Events in Orlando, traveling to another destination will surely enrich your family’s commemoration of this important weekend.
It’s not just a day off from school, it’s an acknowledgment of an entire people with a rich past and stories to be told. For this coming holiday, consider taking a drive or flying to one of these spellbinding and sometimes somber destinations around Florida and beyond in commemoration of Black History.
Within 2-4 Hours Drive of Orlando
Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Daytona Beach
Distance from Orlando: 1 hour
Home of the Daytona Tortugas Minor League Baseball team, Jackie Robinson Ballpark is a close-to-home option for remembering one of the greatest legends in baseball’s history. Jackie Robinson started as first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in Major League Baseball in 1947, breaking the color barriers that existed at the time.
As the first African-American professional baseball player, he became so infamous that they retired his number, 42, in 1997. Today, the ballpark in Daytona remembers Jackie Robinson with a statue, and of course his namesake being on the building. The park opened under another name in 1914.
While in the area, discover these fun things for kids to do in Daytona Beach.
Fort Mose State Park, St. Augustine
Distance from Orlando: 1 hr 45 min
Established in 1738, Fort Mose has great historical significance in Black History, namely because it became the first legally sanctioned free Black settlement in the United States. Although remains of the settlement do not exist at the park today, there are many educational opportunities onsite.
Kingsley Plantation, Jacksonville
Distance from Orlando: 2 hrs 33 min
The Kingsley Plantation near Jacksonville is the oldest plantation house still standing in Florida. Once housing over 200 slaves, you can see the village of cabins that they lived in on the property today. The historic land can be explored on Fort George Island, accessible from I-295 or by taking the enjoyable Mayport Ferry.
Distance from Orlando: 5 hours by car
Macon is home to many things like Georgia peaches and seriously good down home cooking. It is also home to the Tubman Museum, the celebratory home of African-American art, history and culture in the southeast.
While in Macon, also check out the unique Native American Ocmulgee Mounds sites.
Bahama Village, Key West
Distance from Orlando: 7 hours by car
Bahama Village is a 12-block area in Key West celebrating the immigration of Bahamians of African descent to Florida in the 19th century.
Within the area you’ll find culinary treasures using jerk spices and curries and recipes brought back from their island roots. You’ll hear junkanoo music, reggae and steel drums, and get to browse quirky kiosks at the Bahama Village market.
Situated well within walking distance to many of Key West’s attractions, this village is a great place to celebrate Black heritage.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Montgomery Alabama
Distance from Orlando: 6 hrs 42 min
Escorting American bombers as they flew over Italy in World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen, or the “Red Tails”, protected the bombers from German fighter planes.
These brave aviators earned praise and suffered discrimination for being the first African-American military pilots in the United States Armed Forces at the time, due to segregation from the Jim Crow laws.
Visit the museum and site of their origins in Montgomery Alabama where exhibits and large aircraft commemorate their efforts in the war.
Destinations with Quick Flights from Orlando
One of the blessings of living in Orlando is the convenience of so many destinations just a quick flight away. We love all the budget-friendly nonstop flights from Orlando, but there are a few special spots for honoring Black History that you can easily get to from our home.
By the way, if you need things to do at the Orlando airport we’ve got you covered!
The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI
Distance from Orlando: Less than a 3 hr flight
Just minutes outside the metropolis of Detroit visitors can find the Henry Ford Museum in Deerborn, MI. Inside this amazing museum, you can find the “With Liberty and Justice For All” exhibit, featuring countless artifacts and educational displays about the struggle for civil rights and change in America for African-Americans. The infamous bus that Rosa Parks sat on in 1955, arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, proudly sits in this section of the museum. There you will also find a “whites only” drinking fountain and artifacts from famous anti-slavery leader and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint
Distance from Orlando: Less than a 2 hr flight
Learn about jazz, a wild and wonderful genre of music, which is said to have originated in the African-American communities in New Orleans.
At the former U.S. Mint, a historical building in its own right, visitors today can find exhibits, concerts and annual festivals celebrating the birth of jazz. The New Orleans Jazz Museum is located at the cross sections of Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter, where music history and modern performances have been created and enjoyed for over a century.
Harlem, New York
Distance from Orlando: 2.5 flight to New York
Home of the Harlem Renaissance, New York’s Harlem neighborhood holds an important part of American history. During the 1920s and 1930s there was a boom of African-American music, art, theater, culture and dance in this area. The art movement also showcased a political and intellectual revival, giving way to change for African-Americans in our nation.
Visit the Apollo Theater, Cotton Club, National Jazz Museum, the Louis Armstrong House and more.
Distance from Orlando: 2 hr flight to DCA
Martin Luther King Jr Day is especially iconic in Washington D.C., where his famous “I Have A Dream” speech shook and inspired the changing nation in 1963.
Across the city find numerous monuments, memorials and museums in dedication to not only this man, but to civil rights activism, remembrance of an often cruel and unjust past, and also celebrations of heritage and culture of the African-American people.
Start at the National Mall, where there is no shortage of these exhibitions, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, or the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. On U Street see the nation’s memorial to African-American Civil War soldiers.
Visit historic Howard Theatre in the Shaw neighborhood or sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where MLK Jr’s infamous speech occurred.