Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but there’s plenty more pop culture juice to squeeze from its figurative orange. Consider the following destinations to enhance your next visit.
Rock and Roll Heaven
(1814 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. 407-896-1952, rock-n-rollheaven.com)
Record stores may be becoming as rare as the most treasured slab of vinyl, but this holdover keeps its figurative turntable spinning in perpetual motion. Imagine stepping inside a funky 1970s-era record shack covered from bin to ceiling in a sensory overload of memorabilia. So reads the descriptive liner notes for Rock and Roll Heaven, a music nerd’s Valhalla. It plays host to more than 1,500 square feet of meticulously categorized vinyl, CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, VHS tapes and laser discs. Make sure and carve out several hours to wade through the inventory of more than 250,000 45 singles. Shoppers can snag a Pink Floyd poster, grab a Kiss action figure, drape themselves in a T. Rex T-shirt and peruse the thousands of pop culture-related postcards. The savvy staff, each armed with a degree from the college of music knowledge, help guide customers in the right direction. And don’t forget to bring the camera. The not-for-sale, museum-like decor includes artifacts ranging from the backing glass of an Elton John pinball machine to a Six Million Dollar Man board game.
Boom-Art by Rogers Studio
(1821 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. 407-895-0280)
Just across the street from Rock and Roll Heaven in Orlando’s antique district sits a concentrated splash of acid-laced whimsy and chromatic pop culture. Co-owner Glenn Rogers, a rat-a-tat wordsmith and the spitting image of a younger Wavy Gravy, says the shop lands somewhere between the Guggenheim and “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” He and wife Sandy, a pair of former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus clowns, inject shots of Technicolor imagination into recycled and found items. You might walk out with a pair of bottle cap earrings dangling from your lobes. Stools and tables are slathered in iconic images of The Cat in the Hat, Marilyn Monroe, Batman and an endless array of others. A mannequin torso painted up in a Wonder Woman onsie, clocks made from pulp magazine covers and a jewelry box plastered with the faces of all four Beatles make up just a smidgen of the inventory. It’s all hand painted and encapsulated in a plastic sheen, giving a literal pop to the Rogers’ work. Even some celebrities themselves indulge in Boom-Art. Rogers says Robert Plant, Jay Leno, members of The B-52s, Ann-Margret and other notables have shopped there. Rogers put some boom in Shaquille O’Neal’s room by creating a table emblazoned with the Superman symbol especially for the b-ball legend
(905 E. State Road 434, Longwood. 407-331-0433, acme-superstore.com)
Acme’s super power comes in the form of 10,500 square feet of showroom space teeming with toys, comics and collectibles. The dynamic duo of husband-and-wife owners Terry and Tory Dinkins keep geeks breathing heavily from their mouths. Racks upon racks and rows of glass cases house vintage and contemporary action figures. Think Tron, Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers and an exhaustive roster of others. It’s enough to light the nostalgic sabers of children of the 1970s and ’80s. Comic book mongers devour new and back issues, zipping from the golden age and back again. Once busting at the seams like the Hulk in slacks, Acme took over the neighboring space. It’s now home to the Danger Room, a special events facility that holds free improv classes and shindigs including a Batman 75th anniversary bash on July 23. Heck, a couple even exchanged nerdy nuptials within those walls. Who says geeks stay trapped in their parents’ basements?
(205 N. Mills Ave., Orlando. 407-796-2522, bartcade.com)
Have a hankering for classic stand-up video games and discerning suds? Stop by Bart, and you’re in like Flynn. The Jeff Bridges character would likely approve of this watering hole and nostalgic nod to arcade iconography. Chris and Adrian Brown have created a bonus level of the grown-up kind; a place where you tip back a Terrapin while playing Frogger. Original art hangs from the walls, and Abita, Rogue, Dogfish Head and a slew of other hops and barley await. As for the games, Bart plans on rotating them in and out. Expect to come across the glory days of vintage acardia. Bart promises Ms. Pac Man, Centipede, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and more of the usual suspects.
The Cloak & Blaster Gaming Pub
(875 Woodbury Road, Orlando. 407-674-7435, cloakandblaster.com)
Geeks looking for a retreat from the jock strapiness of a lackluster sports bar can visit the Cloak & Blaster. The restaurant and bar serves up piping hot board and card games. Its sprawling library holds time-honored picks such as Monopoly and Mouse Trap, and new schoolers like Munchkin, 7 Wonders and Cards Against Humanity. Console gamers plug in in the video game lounge. Don’t be surprised to see an episode of “Doctor Who” flickering on one of the TV screens. And it’s not unlikely to watch cosplayers bite into a Smaug burger and wash it down with a Soul Stealer, a combination of mead and ale.