As one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, Orlando’s famous attractions form the backbone of its tourism industry: Walt Disney World, located approximately 21 miles (34 km) southwest of Downtown Orlando in Bay Lake, opened by the Walt Disney Company in 1971; the Universal Orlando Resort, opened in 1999 as a major expansion of Universal Studios Florida. With the exception of Walt Disney World, most major attractions are located along International Drive. The city is also one of the busiest American cities for conferences and conventions; the Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention facility in the United States.
Like other major cities in the Sun Belt, Orlando grew rapidly during the 1980s and into the first decade of the 21st century, mostly due to the success of Walt Disney World, which opened on October 1, 1971. Orlando is home to the University of Central Florida, which is the largest university campus in the United States in terms of enrollment as of 2015. In 2010, Orlando was listed as a “Gamma−” level of world-city in the World Cities Study Group’s inventory. Orlando ranks as the fourth-most popular American city based on where people want to live according to a 2009 Pew Research Center study.
Fort Gatlin, as the Orlando area was once known, was established at what is now just south of the city limits by the 4th U.S. Artillery under the command of Ltc. Alexander C. W. Fanning on November 9, 1838 during the construction of a series of fortified encampments across Florida during the Second Seminole War. The fort and surrounding area were named for Dr. John S. Gatlin, an Army physician who was killed in Dade’s Massacre on Dec. 28, 1835. The site of construction for Fort Gatlin, a defensible position with fresh water between three small lakes, was likely chosen because the location was on a main trail and is less than 250 yards from a nearby Council Oak tree where Native Americans had traditionally met. King Phillip and Coacoochee frequented this area and the tree was alleged to be the place where the previous 1835 ambush that had killed over 100 soldiers had been planned. When the U.S. military abandoned the fort in 1839 the surrounding community was built up by settlers.
Prior to being known by its current name, Orlando was once known as Jernigan. This name originates from the first permanent settlers, Issac and Aaron Jernigan, cattlemen who acquired land two miles northwest of Fort Gatlin along the west end of Lake Holden in July 1843 by the terms of the Armed Occupation Act. Aarron Jernigan became Orange County’s first State Representative in 1845 but his pleas for additional military protection went unanswered. Fort Gatlin was briefly reoccupied by the military for a few weeks during October and November 1849 and subsequently a volunteer militia was left to defend the settlement. A historical marker indicates that by 1850 the Jernigan homestead (or Fort Gatlin in some sources) served as the nucleus of a village named Jernigan. According to an account written years later by his daughter, at that time, about 80 settlers were forced to shelter for about a year in “a stockade that Aaron Jernigan built on the north side of Lake Conway”. One of the county’s first records, a grand jury’s report, mentions a stockade where it states homesteaders were “driven from their homes and forced to huddle together in hasty defences [sic].” Aaron Jernigan led a local volunteer militia during 1852.
Jernigan appears on an 1855 map of Florida and by 1856 the area had become the county seat of Orange County. It is known for certain that the area was renamed Orlando in 1857. The move is believed to be sparked, in part, by Aaron Jernigan’s fall from grace after he was relieved of his militia command by military officials in 1856. His behavior was so notorious that Secretary of War Jefferson Davis wrote, “It is said they [Jernigan’s militia] are more dreadful than the Indians.” In 1859, Jernigan and his sons were accused of committing a murder at the towns post office. They were then transported to Ocala but escaped.
There are at least five stories as to how Orlando got its name. The most common stories are that the name Orlando originated from the tale of a man who died in 1835 during a attack by Native Americans in the area during the Second Seminole War. Several of the stories relay an oral history of the marker for a person named Orlando, and the double entendre, “Here lies Orlando.” One variant includes a man named Orlando who was passing by on his way to Tampa with a herd of ox, died, and was buried in a marked grave. At a meeting in 1857, debate had grown concerning the name of the town. Pioneer William B. Hull recalled how James Speer (a local resident, and prominent figure in the stories behind the naming of Orlando) rose in the heat of the argument and said, “This place is often spoken of as ‘Orlando’s Grave.’ Let’s drop the word ‘grave’ and let the county seat be Orlando.”
Through a retelling of history, it is believed that a marker of some sort was indeed found by one of the original pioneers. However, others claim Speer simply used the Orlando Reeves legend to help push his plan for naming the settlement after the Shakespearean character.
Before European settlers arrived in 1536, Orlando was sparsely populated by the Seminole tribe. There are very few archaeological sites in the area today, except for the former site of Fort Gatlin along the shores of modern-day Lake Gatlin south of downtown Orlando.
After Mosquito County was divided in 1845, Fort Gatlin became the county seat of the new Orange County in 1856. It remained a rural backwater during the Civil War and suffered greatly during the Union blockade. The Reconstruction Era brought on a population explosion, resulting in the incorporation of the Town of Orlando on July 31, 1875 with 85 residents (22 voters), and subsequently as a city in 1885.
The period from 1875 to 1895 is remembered as Orlando’s Golden Era, when it became the hub of Florida’s citrus industry. But the Great Freeze of 1894–95 forced many owners to give up their independent groves, thus consolidating holdings in the hands of a few “citrus barons” who shifted operations south, primarily around Lake Wales in Polk County.
Notable homesteaders in the area included the Curry family. Through their property in east Orlando flowed the Econlockhatchee River, which travelers crossed by fording. This would be commemorated by the street’s name, Curry Ford Road. Also, just south of the airport in the Boggy Creek area was 150 acres (0.61 km2) of property homesteaded in the late 19th century by the Ward family. This property is still owned by the Ward family, and can be seen from flights out of Orlando International Airport southbound immediately on the south side of SR 417.
Orlando, as Florida’s largest inland city, became a popular resort during the years between the Spanish–American War and World War I. In the 1920s, Orlando experienced extensive housing development during the Florida Land Boom. Land prices soared. During this period several neighborhoods in downtown were constructed, endowing it with many bungalows. The boom ended when several hurricanes hit Florida in the late 1920s, along with the Great Depression.
During World War II, a number of Army personnel were stationed at the Orlando Army Air Base and nearby Pinecastle Army Air Field. Some of these servicemen stayed in Orlando to settle and raise families. In 1956 the aerospace and defense company Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) established a plant in the city. Orlando AAB and Pinecastle AAF were transferred to the United States Air Force in 1947 when it became a separate service and were re-designated as air force bases (AFB). In 1958, Pinecastle AFB was renamed McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael N. W. McCoy, a former commander of the 320th Bombardment Wing at the installation, killed in the crash of a B-47 Stratojet bomber north of Orlando. In the 1960s, the base subsequently became home to the 306th Bombardment Wing of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), operating B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, in addition to detachment operations by EC-121 and U-2 aircraft.
In 1968, Orlando AFB was transferred to the United States Navy and became Naval Training Center Orlando. In addition to boot camp facilities, NTC Orlando was home of one of two Navy Nuclear Power Schools, and home of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division. When McCoy AFB closed in 1975, its runways and territory to its south and east were imparted to the city to become Orlando International Airport, while a small portion to the northwest was transferred to the Navy as McCoy NTC Annex. That closed in 1996, and became housing, though the former McCoy AFB still hosts a Navy Exchange, as well as National Guard and Reserve units for several branches of service. NTC Orlando was closed in 1993 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and converted into the Baldwin Park neighborhood. The Naval Air Warfare Center had moved to Central Florida Research Park near UCF in 1988.
Tourism in history
Perhaps the most critical event for Orlando’s economy occurred in 1965 when Walt Disney announced plans to build Walt Disney World. Although Disney had considered the regions of Miami and Tampa for his park, one of the major reasons behind his decision not to locate there was due to hurricanes – Orlando’s inland location, although not free from hurricane damage, exposed it to less threat than coastal regions. The vacation resort opened in October 1971, ushering in an explosive population and economic growth for the Orlando metropolitan area, which now encompasses Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake counties. As a result, tourism became the centerpiece of the area’s economy. Orlando now has more theme parks and entertainment attractions than anywhere else in the world.
Another major factor in Orlando’s growth occurred in 1962, when the new Orlando Jetport, the precursor of the present day Orlando International Airport, was built from a portion of the McCoy Air Force Base. By 1970, four major airlines (Delta Air Lines, National Airlines, Eastern Airlines and Southern Airways) were providing scheduled flights. McCoy Air Force Base officially closed in 1975, and most of it is now part of the airport. The airport still retains the former Air Force Base airport code (MCO).
Today, the historic core of “Old Orlando” resides in Downtown Orlando along Church Street, between Orange Avenue and Garland Avenue. Urban development and the Central Business District of downtown have rapidly shaped the downtown skyline during recent history. The present-day historic district is primarily associated with the neighborhoods around Lake Eola where century-old oaks line brick streets. These neighborhoods, known as “Lake Eola Heights” and “Thornton Park“, contain some of the oldest homes in Orlando.
Geography and cityscape
The geography of Orlando is mostly wetlands, consisting of many lakes and swamps. The terrain is generally flat, making the land fairly low and wet. The area is dotted with hundreds of lakes, the largest of which is Lake Apopka. Central Florida’s bedrock is mostly limestone and very porous; the Orlando area is susceptible to sinkholes. Probably the most famous incident involving a sinkhole happened in 1981 in Winter Park, a city immediately north of downtown Orlando, dubbed “The Winter Park Sinkhole“.
There are 115 neighborhoods within the city limits and many unincorporated communities. Orlando’s city limits resemble a checkerboard, with pockets of unincorporated Orange County surrounded by city limits. Such an arrangement can be cumbersome as some areas are served by both Orange County and the City of Orlando. This also explains Orlando’s relatively low city population when compared to its metropolitan population. The city and county are working together in an effort to “round-out” the city limits with Orlando annexing portions of land already bordering the city limits.
Metro Orlando has a total of 19 completed skyscrapers. The majority are located in Downtown Orlando and the rest are located in the tourist district southwest of downtown. Skyscrapers built in downtown Orlando have not exceeded 441 ft (134 m), since 1988 when SunTrust Center was completed. The main reason for this is the Orlando Executive Airport, just under 2 miles from the city center, which does not allow buildings to exceed a certain height.
- The SunTrust Center, 1988, 441 ft (134 m), is the tallest skyscraper in Central Florida.
- The Vue at Lake Eola, 2008, 426 ft (130 m) tall, but with 35 stories it has more stories than the SunTrust Center.
- The Orange County Courthouse, 1997, 416 ft (127 m).
- The Bank of America Center (formerly Barnett Plaza), 1988, 409 ft (125 m)
- 55 West on the Esplanade, 2009, 377 ft (115 m)
- Solaire at the Plaza, 2006, 359 ft (109 m)
- Dynetech Center, 2009, 357 ft (109 m)
- Citrus Center, 1971, 281 ft (86 m)
- Premier Trade Plaza Orlando, 2006, 256 ft (78 m)
- CNL Center City Commons, 1999, 250 ft (76 m)
- Downtown Orlando Information Center, 2008
Outside Downtown Orlando
- Orlando International Airport ATC Tower, 2002, 346 ft (105 m)
- The SeaWorld SkyTower, 400 ft (122 m), was the tallest tower in Orange County outside Orlando’s city limits until surpassed by the Peabody.
- The Hyatt Regency Orlando Expansion Tower, Winter 2010, 428 ft (130 m), is the tallest tower in Orange County outside Orlando’s city limits.
- The Orlando Eye, 400 ft (122 m), was opened in 2015.
Orlando has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) like much of Florida. Orlando is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9B. There are two basic seasons in Orlando, a hot and rainy season, lasting from May until late September (roughly coinciding with the Atlantic hurricane season), and a warm and dry season from October through April. The area’s warm and humid climate is caused primarily by its low elevation, its position relatively close to the Tropic of Cancer, and its location in the center of a peninsula. Many characteristics of its climate are a result of its proximity to the Gulf Stream, which flows around the peninsula of Florida.
During the height of Orlando’s humid summer season, high temperatures are typically in the lower to mid 90s °F (32–36 °C), while low temperatures rarely fall below the mid 70s °F (23-26 °C). The average window for such temperatures is April 19 – October 11. The area’s humidity acts as a buffer, usually preventing actual temperatures from exceeding 100 °F (38 °C), but also pushing the heat index to over 110 °F (43 °C). The city’s highest recorded temperature is 103 °F (39 °C), set on September 8, 1921. During these months, strong afternoon thunderstorms occur almost daily. These storms are caused by air masses from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean colliding over Central Florida. They are highlighted by spectacular lightning and can also bring heavy rain (sometimes several inches per hour) and powerful winds as well as rare damaging hail.
During the cooler season, humidity is much lower and temperatures are more moderate, and can fluctuate more readily. The monthly daily average temperature in January is 60.2 °F (15.7 °C). Temperatures dip below the freezing mark on an average of only 2.4 nights per annum, and the lowest recorded temperature is 18 °F (−8 °C), set on December 28, 1894. Because the winter season is dry and freezing temperatures usually occur only after cold fronts (and their accompanying precipitation) have passed, snow is exceptionally rare. The only accumulation ever to occur in the city proper since recordkeeping began was in 1948, although there was some accumulation in surrounding areas in a snow event in January 1977. Flurries have also been observed in 1989 and 2006 and 2010.
The average annual rainfall in Orlando is 50.6 inches (1,290 mm), a majority of which occurs in the period from June to September. The months of October through May are Orlando’s dry season. During this period (especially in its later months), there is often a wildfire hazard. During some years, fires have been severe. In 1998, a strong El Niño caused an unusually wet January and February, followed by drought throughout the spring and early summer, causing a record wildfire season that created numerous air quality alerts in Orlando and severely impacted normal daily life, including the postponement of that year’s Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in nearby Daytona Beach.
Orlando is a major population center and has a considerable hurricane risk, although it is not as high as in South Florida’s urban corridor or other coastal regions. Since the city is located 42 miles (68 km) inland from the Atlantic and 77 miles (124 km) inland from the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes usually weaken before arriving. Storm surges are not a concern since the region is 100 feet (30 m) above sea level. Despite its location, the city does see strong hurricanes. During the notorious 2004 hurricane season, Orlando was hit by three hurricanes that caused significant damage, with Hurricane Charley the worst of these. The city also experienced widespread damage during Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Tornadoes are not usually connected with the strong thunderstorms of the summer. They are more common during the infrequent cold fronts of winter, as well as in passing hurricanes. The two worst major outbreaks in the area’s history, a 1998 outbreak that killed 42 people and a 2007 outbreak that killed 21, both happened in February.
As of 2010, there were 121,254 households out of which 15.4% were vacant. As of 2000, 24.5% of households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.4% were married couples living together, 15.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.6% were non-families. 35.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.97.
In 2014, the city’s population was spread out with 12.0% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 36.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 95.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.3 males.
Orlando has the largest population of Puerto Ricans in Florida and their cultural impact on Central Florida is similar to that of the large Cuban population in South Florida. Orlando is home to the fastest growing Puerto Rican community in the country. Between 1980 and 2010, Hispanic population share rose from 4.1 to 25.4%. Orlando also has a large and growing Caribbean population, with a large West Indian community (particularly Jamaicans and the Trinidadian and Tobagonian population), and an established Haitian community. Orlando has an active Jewish Community.
Orlando has a large LGBT population and is recognized as one of the most accepting and tolerant cities in the Southeast. As of 2015, around 4.1% of Orlando’s population identify as LGBT, making Orlando the city with the 20th-highest percentage of LGBT residents in the country. The city is host to Gay Days every June (including at nearby Walt Disney World), holds a huge Pride festival every October, and is home to Florida’s first openly gay City Commissioner, Patty Sheehan.
As of 2000, 75.43% of all residents speak English as their first language, while 16.60% speak Spanish, 1.93% speak Haitian Creole, 1.33% speak French, 0.99% speak Portuguese, and 0.54% of the population speak Arabic as their mother language. In total, 24.56% of the population 5 years and older speak a language other than English at home.
According to the American Community Survey of 2006–2008, 69.3% of Orlando’s residents over the age of five spoke only English at home. Spanish-speakers represented 19.2% of Orlando’s population. Speakers of other Indo-European languages made up 9.0% of the city’s population. Those who spoke an Asian language made up 1.9% of the population, and speakers of other languages made up the remaining 0.6% of the populace.
Metropolitan statistical area
Orlando is the hub city of the Orlando-Kissimmee, Florida, Metropolitan Statistical Area, colloquially known as “Greater Orlando” or “Metro Orlando“. The area encompasses four counties (Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake), and is the 26th-largest metro area in the United States with a 2010 Census-estimated population of 2,134,411.
In 2000, the population of Orlando’s urban area was 1,157,431, making it the third-largest in Florida and the 35th-largest in the United States. As of 2009, the estimated urban area population of Orlando is 1,377,342.
When Combined Statistical Areas were instituted in 2000, Orlando was initially joined together with The Villages, Florida, Micropolitan Statistical Area, to form the Orlando-The Villages, Florida, Combined Statistical Area. In 2006, the metropolitan areas of Deltona (Volusia County) and Palm Coast (Flagler County) were added to create the Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, Florida, Combined Statistical Area. This new larger CSA has a total population (as of 2007) of 2,693,552, and includes three of the 25 fastest-growing counties in the nation—Flagler ranks 1st; Osceola, 17th; and Lake, 23rd.
Orlando is a major industrial and hi-tech center. The metro area has a $13.4 billion technology industry employing 53,000 people; and is a nationally recognized cluster of innovation in digital media, agricultural technology, aviation, aerospace, and software design. More than 150 international companies, representing approximately 20 countries, have facilities in Metro Orlando.
Orlando has the 7th-largest research park in the country, Central Florida Research Park, with over 1,025 acres (4.15 km2). It is home to over 120 companies, employs more than 8,500 people, and is the hub of the nation’s military simulation and training programs. Near the end of each year, the Orange County Convention Center hosts the world’s largest modeling and simulation conference: Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC). Metro Orlando is home to the simulation procurement commands for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
Lockheed Martin has a large manufacturing facility for missile systems, aeronautical craft and related high tech research. Other notable engineering firms have offices or labs in Metro Orlando: KDF, General Dynamics, Harris, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Siemens, Veritas/Symantec, multiple USAF facilities, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), Delta Connection Academy, Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, GE, Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS), U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), United States Army Research, Development and Engineering Command United States Army Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC), AT&T, Boeing, CAE Systems Flight and Simulation Training, Hewlett-Packard, Institute for Simulation and Training, National Center for Simulation, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon Systems. The Naval Training Center until a few years ago was one of the two places where nuclear engineers were trained for the US Navy. Now the land has been converted into the Baldwin Park development. Numerous office complexes for large corporations have popped up along the Interstate 4 corridor north of Orlando, especially in Maitland, Lake Mary and Heathrow.
Orlando is close enough to Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and Kennedy Space Center for residents to commute to work from the city’s suburbs. It also allows easy access to Port Canaveral, a cruise ship terminal.
Orlando is the home base of Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, and the largest operator of restaurants in the world by revenue. In September 2009 it moved to a new headquarters and central distribution facility.
Film, television, and entertainment
Another important sector is the film, television, and electronic gaming industries, aided by the presence of Universal Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Full Sail University, UCF College of Arts and Humanities, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, and other entertainment companies and schools. The U.S. modeling, simulation, and training (MS&T) industry is centered on the Orlando region as well, with a particularly strong presence in the Central Florida Research Park adjacent to University of Central Florida (UCF). Nearby Maitland is the home of Tiburon, a division of the video game company Electronic Arts. Tiburon Entertainment was acquired by EA in 1998 after years of partnership, particularly in the Madden NFL series and NCAA Football series of video games. Nearby Full Sail University, located in Winter Park, draws new-media students in the areas of video game design, film, show production, and computer animation, among others, its graduates spawning several start-ups in these fields in the Orlando area. The headquarters of Ripley Entertainment Inc. are also located in Orlando.
Orlando has two non-profit hospital systems: Orlando Health and Florida Hospital. Orlando Health’s Orlando Regional Medical Center is home to Central Florida’s only Level I trauma center, and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies and Florida Hospital Orlando have the area’s only Level III neonatal intensive care units. Orlando’s medical leadership was further advanced with the completion of University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, a new VA Hospital and the new Nemours Children’s Hospital, which is located in a new medical district in the Lake Nona area of the city.
Housing and employment
Historically, the unemployment rate in Greater Orlando was low, which resulted in growth that led to urban sprawl in the surrounding area and, in combination with the United States housing bubble, to a large increase in home prices. Metro Orlando’s unemployment rate in June 2010 was 11.1 percent, was 11.4 percent in April 2010, and was about 10 percent in about the same time of year in 2009. As of August 2013, the area’s jobless rate was 6.6 percent. Housing prices in Greater Orlando went up 37.08% in one year, from a median of $182,300 in November 2004 to $249,900 in November 2005, and eventually peaked at $264,436 in July 2007. From there, with the economic meltdown, prices plummeted, with the median falling below $200,000 in September 2008, at one point falling at an annual rate of 39.27%. The median dipped below $100,000 in 2010 before stabilizing around $110,000 in 2011. As of April 2012, the median home price is $116,000.
One of the main driving forces in Orlando’s economy is its tourism industry and the city is one of the leading tourism destinations in the world. Nicknamed the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World‘, the Orlando area is home to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando. Over 59 million visitors came to the Orlando region in 2013, spending over $33 billion.
The Orlando area features 7 of the 10 most visited theme parks in North America (5 of the top 10 in the world), as well as the 4 most visited water parks in the U.S. The Walt Disney World resort is the area’s largest attraction with its many facets such as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Springs. SeaWorld Orlando is a large park that features numerous zoological displays and marine animals alongside an amusement park with roller coasters and water park. Universal Orlando, like Walt Disney World, is a multi-faceted resort comprising Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk. SeaWorld Orlando also comprises more than one park, alongside Aquatica and Discovery Cove. Orlando attractions also appeal to many locals who want to enjoy themselves close to home.
The convention industry is also critical to the region’s economy. The Orange County Convention Center, expanded in 2004 to over two million square feet (200,000 m²) of exhibition space, is now the second-largest convention complex in terms of space in the United States, trailing only McCormick Place in Chicago. The city vies with Chicago and Las Vegas for hosting the most convention attendees in the United States.
Numerous golf courses can be found in the city, with the most famous being Bay Hill Club and Lodge, home to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Walt Disney World
The Walt Disney World Resort is an entertainment complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida. The resort is the flagship destination of Disney’s worldwide corporate enterprise. Opened on October 1, 1971, Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average attendance of over 52 million.
The resort is owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, a division of The Walt Disney Company. It was initially operated by Walt Disney World Company. The property covers 27,258 acres (43 sq mi; 110 km2), housing twenty-seven themed resort hotels, nine non–Disney hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the new Disney Springs. Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open in the complex, in 1971, followed by Epcot in 1982, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989, and the most recent, Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998. Designed to supplement Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which had opened in 1955, the complex was developed by Walt Disney in the 1960s. “The Florida Project“, as it was known, was intended to present a distinct vision with its own diverse set of rides.
Walt Disney’s original plans also called for the inclusion of an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT), a planned community intended to serve as a test bed for new city living innovations. After extensive lobbying, the Government of Florida created the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special government district that essentially gave The Walt Disney Company the standard powers and autonomy of an incorporated city. Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, before construction began. Without Disney spearheading the construction, the company created a resort similar to Disneyland, abandoning experimental concepts for a planned community.
The Florida resort is not within Orlando city limits but is southwest of Downtown Orlando. Much of the resort is in southwestern Orange County, with the remainder in adjacent Osceola County. The property includes the cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake which are governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The site is accessible from Central Florida’s Interstate 4 via Exits 62B (World Drive), 64B (US 192 West), 65B (Osceola Parkway West), 67B (SR 536 West), and 68 (SR 535 North), and Exit 8 on SR 429, the Western Expressway. At its founding, the park occupied approximately 30,500 acres (48 sq mi; 123 km2). Portions of the property have since been sold or de-annexed, including land now occupied by the Disney-built community of Celebration. Now the park occupies 27,258 acres (43 sq mi; 110 km2), about the size of San Francisco, or twice the size of Manhattan.
Theme parks :
- Magic Kingdom, opened October 1, 1971
- Epcot, opened October 1, 1982
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios, opened May 1, 1989
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened April 22, 1998
Water parks :
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, opened June 1, 1989
- Disney’s Blizzard Beach, opened April 1, 1995
Other attractions :
- Disney Springs, opened March 22, 1975 (Previously known as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, Disney Village Marketplace, and Downtown Disney).
- La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, opened December 23, 1998, and is to close after December 31, 2017.
- Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, opened July 15, 1995
- ESPN Wide World of Sports, opened March 28, 1997
Golf and recreation
Disney’s property includes four golf courses. The three 18-hole golf courses are Disney’s Palm (4.5 stars), Disney’s Magnolia (4 stars), and Disney’s Lake Buena Vista (4 stars). There is also a nine-hole walking course (no electric carts allowed) called Oak Trail, designed for young golfers. The Magnolia and Palm courses played home to the PGA Tour’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Arnold Palmer Golf Management manages the Disney golf courses.
Additionally, there are two themed miniature golf complexes, each with two courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. The two course at Fantasia Gardens are Fantasia Garden and Fantasia Fairways. The Garden course is a traditional miniature-style course based on the “Fantasia” movies with musical holes, water fountains and characters. Fantasia Fairways is a traditional golf course on miniature scale having water hazards and sand traps.
The two courses at Winter Summerland are Summer and Winter both theme around Santa. Summer is the more challenging of the two 18-hole courses.
The Universal Orlando Resort, commonly known as Universal Orlando, formerly Universal Studios Escape, is an American theme park and entertainment resort complex based in Orlando, Florida. It is wholly owned by NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast. Universal Orlando is the second-largest resort in Greater Orlando after Walt Disney World.
Universal Orlando consists of two theme parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure), a water park (Volcano Bay), a night-time entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando), and five Loews Hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort).
Universal Orlando opened in 1990, as the theme park Universal Studios Florida. It was opened as a joint venture between Universal Entertainment and The Blackstone Group. The park was in direct competition with Disney-MGM Studios (now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
In 1994, executives started planning the expansion of the resort into a multi-day vacation destination. In late 1995, construction began on a new park, Islands of Adventure. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opened in May 1997 replacing the Screen Test Home Video Adventure. During this time several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida, including Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, which opened in 1998, Men in Black: Alien Attack and Animal Actors (formerly Animal Planet Live).
On May 28, 1999, Islands of Adventure opened to the general public. It featured six themed “islands”, including Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. The park opened to mediocre attendance, and several attractions were closed shortly thereafter, including Island Skipper Tours, due to lack of attendance.
Along with the new theme park, the resort also opened a Florida version of Universal CityWalk from Universal Studios Hollywood. CityWalk Orlando, but with different venues and design. Universal also opened the resort’s first onsite hotel in September 1999. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (originally Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews Hotel) was operated and partially owned by Loews Hotels but was also partially owned by Universal and The Blackstone Group. The two theme parks, CityWalk, and the hotel were branded as Universal Studios Escape, however the name was quickly changed to Universal Orlando Resort. In December 2000, Hard Rock Hotel opened as Universal Orlando’s second onsite hotel. Despite its name, the hotel is owned by Loews Hotels, like Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and is not affiliated with the Hard Rock Cafe company. In 2001, Loews Royal Pacific Resort opened. In the midst of all these openings, two parking garages were constructed and the popular water park Wet ‘n Wild Orlando was acquired. On June 18, 2010, the newest “island” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opened. The Blackstone Group sold its stake in Universal Orlando in early 2011.
Universal Studios Florida is composed of themed areas and attractions based on the film industry. Visitors get themed dining and shopping, a variety of special events throughout the year, and may even catch an actual film crew at work on the backlot. The original theme park in the resort, Universal Studios Florida opened on June 7, 1990, as a theme park that let visitors “Ride the Movies.” The themes of Universal Studios Orlando are targeted at making guests feel like they are on a movie set with rides, shows, and attractions inspired by popular film, television, and music productions. The park consists of eight themed areas – Hollywood, Production Central, New York, San Francisco, Diagon Alley/London, World Expo, Springfield, and Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure, opened in May 1999, is a theme park composed of seven distinct “islands” that are themed to various forms of adventures. Visitors start off in the Port of Entry and make their way through the various islands – Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the popular Harry Potter franchise, is the only island added after the park opened; it opened to the public on June 18, 2010.
Universal CityWalk Orlando opened in 1999, over the former parking lot and entrance, as part of the expansion that created the Universal Orlando Resort. Guests arrive at the resort park in one of two multi-story parking structures, then travel via covered moving sidewalks over Universal Boulevard into CityWalk. From there, guests can proceed into either of the theme parks, Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. The Universal Store offers merchandise from both parks. CityWalk features shopping, nightclubs, dining venues, an AMC Movie Theater, and a Blue Man Group show. There are many night clubs at CityWalk including Groove, CityWalks’s Rising Star (a karaoke club with a live band), Red Coconut Club, and Bob Marley-A Tribute to Freedom (both a night club and restaurant). Some notable locations are The Cowfish, Hard Rock Cafe, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Emeril’s, and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Casual dining locations include: Moe’s Southwest Grill, Burger King Whopper Bar, Panda Express, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, and Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar.
Wet ‘n Wild was founded in 1977 by SeaWorld founder George Millay as one of the first major water parks. In 1998, Wet ‘n Wild was acquired by Universal Parks & Resorts, adding it to Universal Orlando. There where eighteen water slides and attractions at the water park. Popular attractions included The Storm, Bomb Bay, Disco H20, Mach 5, and The Surge. Wet ‘n Wild was located at the intersection of International Drive and Universal Boulevard, about half a mile south of the Universal Orlando parking garage. Wet ‘n Wild closed on December 31, 2016 and was replaced by Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando’s 53 acres (21 ha) on-site water park near the Cabana Bay Beach Resort that opened on May 25, 2017.
Universal Express Pass
Universal Meal Deal
The Universal Meal Deal was a ticketed Meal Plan for park visitors. It allowed visitors of either theme park to eat all day long from lunch through dinner at select restaurants These included Mel’s Drive-In and Louie’s Italian Restaurant at Universal Studios Florida and Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, Comic Strip Cafe, and The Burger Digs at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
The selection food is limited, and drinks are not included. Beverages can be purchased through a Universal Souvenir Cup. For additional costs, visitors may add park-to-park Meal Deal Access allowing them to eat meals in both parks.
Universal Meal Deal was replaced on November 3, 2013 with Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service.
Blue Man Group
On November 9, 2006, Universal Orlando announced that the Blue Man Group would be coming to the resort in a new and theatre, which in May 2007 was named the Sharp Aquos Theatre. Construction of the theatre began shortly after the announcement. The theatre is contained within Sound Stage 18, which was occupied by Nickelodeon Studios from 1990–2005. The sound stage was home to shows such as Slime Time Live, Figure It Out, and Double Dare 2000. In 2005, the sound stage was used for Where Evil Hides, a haunted house for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights: Tales of Terror event. The theatre is located between the Hard Rock Cafe and the main entrance to Universal Studios Florida.
The 1,000-seat theatre features a 30-foot-tall (9.1 m) Blue Man facade, and is accessible both from the Universal CityWalk as well as the Universal Studios theme park. In preparation for the rezoning of the building into CityWalk, a walkway was constructed between the Universal Studios theme park and the resort’s Hard Rock Cafe allowing guests to enter the theatre without paying admission to the theme park, while the former Nickelodeon Studios entrance at the theme park was turned into an attended exit from the theme park to the theatre’s entrance.
The theatre’s seating diagram is organized into five different “zones”. The “Poncho” zone consists of the first four rows of the theatre. It bears this name because of the ponchos that are in each seat of the zone as guests take their seats. This is due to the possibility of materials leaving the stage. The other zones, Zones 1–4, are arranged to provide the best possible view of the show no matter where you sit. The theatre has 13 ADA seats throughout to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Assistance for the hearing and vision impaired is also available.
As of October–November 2008, the pathway to Sharp Aquos Theatre has been moved for construction of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a roller coaster which opened in mid-2009. Construction on the coaster also resulted in the replacement of The Boneyard by The Universal Music Plaza Stage and the entrance of Rockit, and the reconfiguration of the queue of Twister…Ride it Out.
Universal Orlando features a large group of characters varying from Woody Woodpecker to Spider-Man. Visitors have three ways of dining with characters. On select mornings, visitors can have breakfast at Universal Studios Florida’s Superstar Breakfast at Cafe La Bomba where they can consume breakfast with Spider-Man, The Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Two, and other characters. At Loews Royal Pacific Resort, guests can eat breakfast with Universal Characters on select days also. Throughout the day characters have meet and greets within the parks and make appearances during lunchtime at several theme park restaurants. During dinner, on select nights, guests can have dinner with Universal Characters at Trattoria del Porto, The Kitchen, and Islands Dining Room. The Marvel Super Heroes also appear in the Meet the Marvel Super Heroes attraction where the characters ride on motorcycles down the street of Marvel Super Hero Island.
Throughout Universal Orlando and its vicinity there is an organized transportation system which transports guests between the onsite hotels, Universal Partner Hotels, the theme parks, and other area attractions. Mears Transportation runs the system.
Universal Orlando’s internal transportation system is often dubbed Universal Transit. The system consists of water taxis, buses, escalators, elevators, moving walkways, and pathways which transport guests between the parking structure, hotels, CityWalk, and the theme parks. Onsite hotel guests can get to the theme parks and CityWalk by either boarding a water taxi which will take them directly to CityWalk or may use walkways. The dock at CityWalk is located at the center of CityWalk and can be accessed by theme park visitors via the bridges connecting CityWalk to the theme parks. Along the pathways, bicycles also transport guests for an additional cost.
For guests who prefer not to use a water taxi or walk, they will find shuttle transportation also available at the onsite hotels. These stop at four locations: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Spa, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Sapphire Falls Resort and Universal Orlando theme parks. Cabana Bay Beach Resort has dedicated shuttles to the parks. The resort also features two large parking structures, for day and night guests who need to park, connected by bridge to Citywalk and the theme parks.
Universal’s Super Star Shuttle
The vicinity of Universal Orlando consists of several hotels and a major airport all located within 20 minutes of the resort. Universal’s Super Star Shuttle service is broken into two main routes. One provides transportation to all thirty Universal Partner hotels while the newest route began service to Orlando International Airport in 2016. Universal’s Super Star Shuttle provides free transportation between Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and Aquatica. Airport service is available for a fee to onsite hotel guests booking through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations. The new airport route is expected to initially only be offered for onsite hotel guests. The airport shuttle is run through Super Shuttle Transportation. The Seaworld/Aquatica shuttle is run by ESCOT.
Entertainment and performing arts
The hip hop music, metal, rock music, reggaeton and Latino music scenes are all active within the city. Orlando is known as “Hollywood East” because of numerous movie studios in the area. Major motion picture production was active in the city during the mid-to-late 1990s, but has slowed in the past decade. Probably the most famous film-making moment in the city’s history occurred with the implosion of Orlando’s previous City Hall for the movie Lethal Weapon 3. Orlando is now a large production center for television shows, direct-to-video productions, and commercial production. In early 2011, filmmaker Marlon Campbell constructed A-Match Pictures and Angel Media Studios; a multimillion-dollar film and recording facility that has been added to the list of major studios in the city.
Until recently, Walt Disney Feature Animation operated a studio in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort. Feature Animation-Florida was primarily responsible for the films Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and the early stages of Brother Bear and contributed on various other projects. Universal Studios Florida’s Soundstage 21 is home to TNA Wrestling’s flagship show TNA Impact!. Nickelodeon Studios, which through the 1990s produced hundreds of hours of GAK-filled game shows targeted at children, no longer operates out of Universal Studios Florida. The Florida Film Festival which takes place in venues throughout the area is one of the most respected regional film festivals in the country and attracts budding filmmakers from around the world. Orlando is very popular among independent filmmakers. Orlando’s indie film scene has been active since Haxan Film’s The Blair Witch Project (1999) and a few years later with Charlize Theron winning her Academy Award for Monster (2003). A Florida state film incentive has also helped increase the number of films being produced in Orlando and the rest of the state.
The Orlando Metropolitan Area is home to a substantial theater population. Several professional and semi-professional houses and many community theaters include the Central Florida Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Mad Cow Theatre, and IceHouse Theatre in Mount Dora. Orlando Theatre Project, closed in 2009. Additionally, both University of Central Florida and Rollins College (Winter Park) are home to theater departments that attract an influx of young artists to the area.
The Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre had hosted national Broadway tours on a regular basis. This venue was built in 1926 and underwent a major renovation in 1974. While waiting on the completion of Phase II construction of the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, the newly designated Bob Carr Theater will continue to host non-Broadway events.
The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, which draws touring companies from around the world, is hosted in various venues over Orlando’s Loch Haven Park every spring. At the festival, there are also readings and fully staged productions of new and unknown plays by local artists. Also in the spring, there is The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays, hosted by Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Founded in 2002, the Orlando Cabaret Festival showcases local, national, and internationally renowned cabaret artist to Mad Cow Theatre in Downtown Orlando each spring.
A substantial amount of the teenage and young adult populations identify as being goth, emo, or punk. Orlando experienced the Second Summer of Love between 1991 and 1992 that popularized the subculture surrounding electronic dance music in Florida. The culture progressed as time went on, starting in 1995 from when alternative-rock band Matchbox Twenty, and pop bands NSync and Backstreet Boys originated. Over the years, the intensity of the music increased. In the late 1990s, Skrape, a metal band, was established, shortly followed by the screamo band From First to Last as well as the alternative metal band Fireflight. In the early 2000s, the heavy metal bands Trivium and Mindscar formed. In the later 2000s, more screamo bands, such as Blood on the Dance Floor (duo), Sleeping with Sirens, and Broadway (band) were established. Major companies, such as Hot Topic and Vans have noticed and taken advantage of this. Hot Topic, an emo retailer, established 5 stores in Orlando. The Vans Warped Tour, a concert containing metalcore/screamo/punk bands, takes place in Orlando annually.
- The Florida Mall is the largest mall in Orlando and one of the largest single-story malls in the USA at over 1,849,000 sq ft (171,800 m2). There are over 250 stores, seven anchor department stores, and the Florida Mall Hotel & Conference Center Tower. It is located outside the city proper in unincorporated Orange County.
- The Mall at Millenia is a contemporary two-level upscale shopping mall, including the department stores of Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus. The mall covers an area of 1,118,000 ft² (103,866 m²). IKEA Orlando opened adjacent to the mall on November 14, 2007.
- Orlando Fashion Square is the nearest indoor shopping mall to Downtown Orlando and one of the first to open in the city. The mall features 4 anchor department stores and a 14-screen Premiere Cinema theater.
In popular culture
The low-budget films Ernest Saves Christmas, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and Never Back Down take place in and were filmed entirely in Orlando. Scenes were also filmed for Transformers: Dark of the Moon at the Orlando International Airport in early October 2010. Orlando is also the city very prominently featured in the ABC sitcom Fresh Off The Boat.
Orlando is home to numerous recording studios and producers, and as a result, contributed heavily to the Boy Band craze of the mid-1990s. The groups Backstreet Boys, NSync, and O-Town all started in Orlando before becoming nationwide successes. The alternative groups Matchbox Twenty, Seven Mary Three, and Alter Bridge are from Orlando, as is the Christian hip-hop act Group 1 Crew. Orlando also has a prominent metal scene, spawning bands such as Death and Trivium.
Orlando is the home city of two major league professional sports teams: the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer (MLS).
Orlando has two minor league professional teams: the Orlando Solar Bears ECHL ice hockey team and the Orlando Anarchy of the Women’s Football Alliance. Orlando also hosts the University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights college athletics teams, which compete in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as a member of the American Athletic Conference (The American). The original Orlando Solar Bears were part of the International Hockey League winning the last Turner Cup championship in 2001, before the league folded. From 1991 to 2016, the city was also home to the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League.
In 2016, the Orlando Pride began play in the National Women’s Soccer League. Starting in 2017, they will be sharing Orlando City Stadium with Orlando City.
Orlando’s sports teams have collectively won two Arena Bowls (1998, 2000), two titles in ice hockey, three titles in minor league baseball, and two titles in soccer.
The city has hosted the NBA All-Star Game twice: in 1992 at the old Orlando Arena, and in 2012 at the current Amway Center. Orlando also hosted the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game at Amway Center.
Camping World Stadium (the former Citrus Bowl stadium) hosts three annual college football bowl games: the Citrus Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the Cure Bowl. It also hosted the 1998 Major League Soccer All-Star Game. Orlando is the host city for the annual Florida Classic, one of the largest FCS football classics in the nation. It will also begin hosting a series of FBS kickoff games called the Orlando Kickoff in 2016, and will serve as host to the National Football League’s 2017 Pro Bowl.
Orlando was home to the Orlando Renegades of the United States Football League in 1985. The team folded along with the league in 1986.
Orlando is home to many notable athletes former and present, including baseball players Carlos Peña, Frank Viola, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Larkin; basketball player Shaquille O’Neal; soccer player Kaká; and many golfers, including Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara and Arnold Palmer.
The annual Community Effort Orlando (CEO) is the second-biggest fighting game tournament of the country. Having grown since its introduction in 2010, the event got over 4,000 attendees from more than 25 different countries in 2016.
Public primary and secondary education is handled by Orange County Public Schools. Some of the private schools include Orlando Lutheran Academy, Forest Lake Academy, The First Academy, Trinity Preparatory School, Lake Highland Preparatory School, Bishop Moore High School and Orlando Christian Prep.
- University of Central Florida
- Florida A&M University College of Law
- Valencia College
- Seminole State College of Florida (Sanford, Oviedo, & Altamonte Springs)
Private universities, colleges, and others
- Adventist University of Health Sciences, Main Campus
- Ana G. Mendez University System
- Anthem College, Orlando Campus
- Asbury Theological Seminary, Orlando Campus
- Belhaven University, Orlando Campus
- Columbia College, Orlando Campus
- Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Orlando Campus
- DeVry University, Orlando campus
- Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Barry University
- Everest University, Orlando campus
- Florida Institute of Technology, Orlando campus
- Full Sail University (in Winter Park)
- Herzing College (in Winter Park)
- Hindu University of America
- International Academy of Design & Technology-Orlando
- ITT Technical Institute, Lake Mary Campus
- Keiser University, Orlando Campus
- Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Orlando Campus
- McBurney College (Orlando Campus)
- Nova Southeastern University, Orlando campus
- Palm Beach Atlantic University, Orlando Campus
- Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando campus
- Remington College of Nursing (in Lake Mary)
- Rollins College (in Winter Park)
- Southern Technical College
- Strayer University, Orlando campus
- University of Florida College of Pharmacy (in Apopka)
The Orlando Hoshuko, a weekend supplementary school for Japanese children, is held at the Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando.
Orlando is the center of the 19th-largest media market in the United States according to Nielsen Media Research as of the 2010–11 TV season. Three major network affiliates operate in the city: WKMG-TV 6 (CBS), WFTV 9 (ABC) and Fox O&O WOFL 35. WFTV and WOFL operate additional stations in Orlando, with WFTV operating independent station WRDQ 27 and WOFL operating MyNetworkTV O&O WRBW 65. The market’s NBC affiliate, WESH 2, is licensed to Daytona Beach and also owns and operates CW affiliate WKCF 18, licensed to Clermont; both stations operate out of studios based in nearby Eatonville.
The city is also served by three public television stations: WUCF-TV 24, the market’s PBS member station operated by the University of Central Florida, and two independent stations: Daytona State College’s WDSC-TV 15 in New Smyrna Beach and Eastern Florida State College’s WEFS 68 in Cocoa.
Four Spanish-language channels are licensed in Orlando, including UniMás O&O WOTF-DT 43 and Telemundo affiliate WTMO-CD 31. Univision affiliate WVEN-TV 26, which operates WOTF-DT under a LMA, is based in Daytona Beach. Several English-language stations also operate Spanish-language subchannels.
The city’s cable system is run by Bright House Networks, which merged with Charter in May 2016, and is now called Spectrum. Spectrum operates News 13, a cable-exclusive regional 24/7 news channel which covers Central Florida news, including that of Orlando.
25 AM and 28 FM stations transmit to the Orlando area. Some of the country’s biggest radio station owners have major presences in Orlando, including iHeartMedia, Cox Communications, and CBS Radio.
Orlando’s primary newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel, is the second-largest newspaper in Florida by circulation. The Sentinel’s Spanish language edition, El Sentinel, is the largest Spanish language newspaper in Florida.
The city is also served by the following newspapers:
- Orlando Business Journal
- Orlando Weekly
Orlando uses the Lynx bus system as well as a downtown bus service called Lymmo. Orlando and other neighboring communities are also serviced by SunRail, a local commuter rail line that began service in 2014.
- The Orlando International Airport (MCO) is Orlando’s primary airport and the second-busiest airport in the state of Florida closely behind Miami International Airport. The airport serves as a hub and a focus hub city for Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines. The airport serves as a major international gateway for the mid-Florida region with major foreign carriers including Aer Lingus, Aeroméxico, Air Canada, British Airways, Emirates Airlines, TAM and Virgin Atlantic.
- The Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) in nearby suburb of Sanford, Florida serves as a secondary airport for the region and is a focus city airport for Allegiant Air.
- The Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) near Downtown Orlando serves primarily executive jets, flight training schools, and general small-aircraft aviation.
Orlando, like other major cities, experiences gridlock and traffic jams daily, especially when commuting from the northern suburbs in Seminole County south to downtown and from the eastern suburbs of Orange County to Downtown. Heavy traffic is also common in the tourist district south of downtown. Rush hours (peak traffic hours) are usually weekday mornings (after 7 am) and afternoons (after 4 pm). There are various traffic advisory resources available for commuters including downloading the Tele-Traffic App (available for iPhone and Android), dialing 5-1-1 (a free automated traffic advisory system provided by the Florida Department of Transportation, available by dialing 511), visiting the Florida 511 Web site, listening to traffic reports on major radio stations, and reading electronic traffic advisory displays (also called Variable-message signs, information is also provided by FDOT) on the major highways and roadways.
- Interstate 4 is Orlando’s primary interstate highway. Orlando is the second-largest city served by one interstate, preceding Austin, Texas, and is the largest metropolitan area in the US serviced by a single interstate. The interstate begins in Tampa, Florida, and travels northeast across the midsection of the state directly through Orlando, ending in Daytona Beach. As a key connector to Orlando’s suburbs, downtown, area attractions, and both coasts, I-4 commonly experiences heavy traffic and congestion. I-4 is also known as State Road 400.
- East-West Expressway (Toll 408) is a major east–west highway managed by the Central Florida Expressway Authority. The highway intersects with I-4 in Downtown Orlando, providing a key artery for residents commuting from eastern and western suburbs including the University of Central Florida and Waterford Lakes area. The highway also intersects with the Central Florida Greeneway (Toll 417) and Florida’s Turnpike. By late 2006, the I-4/408 interchange had almost completed undergoing a major overhaul that creates multiple fly-over bridges and connectors to ease heavy traffic. The agency recently finished construction of lane expansions, new toll plazas, and sound barriers along the roadway, though much work remains to be done.
- Beachline Expressway (Toll 528) provides key access to the Orlando International Airport and serves as a gateway to the Atlantic coast, specifically Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.
- Central Florida Greenway (Toll 417) is a key highway for East Orlando, the highway is also managed by the Central Florida Expressway Authority and serves as Orlando’s eastern beltway. The highway intersects with the East-West Expressway (Toll 408), the Beachline Expressway (Toll 528), and begins and ends on Interstate 4.
- Daniel Webster Western Beltway (Toll 429) serves as Orlando’s western beltway. The highway serves as a “back entrance” to Walt Disney World from Orlando’s northwestern suburbs including Apopka via Florida’s Turnpike.
- John Land Apopka Expressway (Toll 414) A new east to west tollway serving northern Orlando. Phase I opened on February 14, 2009 and extends from US 441 to State Road 429. Phase II will link SR 429 to US 441 several miles west of the current SR 429 intersection.
- Florida’s Turnpike (Toll 91) is a major highway that connects northern Florida with Orlando and terminates in Miami.
The Orlando area is served by one through railroad. The line, now known as the Central Florida Rail Corridor (CFRC), was previously known as the “A” line (formerly the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s main line). The line was purchased from CSX Transportation by the State of Florida in 2013 and is now used by SunRail, the Central Florida commuter rail system. Some freight spurs still exist off of the line, which are operated by the Florida Central Railroad. Amtrak passenger service runs along CFRC. See also a map of these railroads.
Amtrak intercity passenger rail service operates from the Orlando Amtrak Station south of downtown. The Mission Revival-style station has been in continuous use since 1927, first for the Atlantic Coast Line, then the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (signage for which is still displayed over the station’s main entrance). Amtrak’s Silver Meteor and Silver Star service Orlando four times daily, twice bound for points north to New York City and twice bound for points south to Miami. Orlando also serves as a transfer hub for Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach bus service. Orlando Station has the highest Amtrak ridership in the state, with the exception of the Auto Train depot located in nearby Sanford.
Historically, Orlando’s other major railroad stations have included:
- Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Orlando station (now Church Street Station, a commercial development)
- Seaboard Air Line Railroad Orlando station (Central Avenue Station; 1898–1955.)
In 2005, federal and state funding was granted for the establishment of SunRail, a local commuter rail service, to operate on the former CSX “A” line tracks between DeLand and Poinciana, passing through the downtown area and surrounding urban neighborhoods along the way. The service is expected to substantially reduce traffic congestion along the I-4 corridor, especially between Downtown Orlando and the suburban communities in Seminole and Volusia Counties. Federal and state funds covered approximately 80% of the estimated $400 million cost for track modifications and construction of stations along the route. The counties involved approved local matching funds in 2007 and the line was originally projected to begin operations in 2011. However, the project was ultimately voted down by Florida State Senate in 2008 and again in 2009 due to an amendment that would have approved a $200 million insurance policy for the system. Although there had been growing concern the system would be scrapped, a deadline extension combined with a new insurance arrangement with CSX brought new hope that SunRail will be completed after all. In a special session in December 2009, the Florida Legislature approved commuter rail for Florida, which also enabled high-speed rail federal funding. SunRail began passenger service on May 1, 2014. Phase I of the rail system runs from DeBary to Sand Lake Road in South Orlando. Phase II, which isn’t expected to be completed until 2016, will connect from DeBary and continue north to DeLand, as well as extend from Sand Lake Road in Orlando south to Poinciana. Attempts to establish a smaller light rail service for the Orlando area were also considered at one time, but were also met with much resistance.
On January 28, 2010, President Barack Obama said that Florida would be receiving $1.25 billion to start the construction of a statewide high-speed rail system with Orlando as its central hub. The first stage would have connected Orlando and Tampa, Florida and was expected to be completed by 2014. The second stage was to connect Orlando and Miami, Florida. The project was canceled by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, and on March 4, 2011, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously turned down the request of two state senators to force Scott to accept federal funding for the project. A privately funded initiative known as All Aboard Florida was announced in March 2012. Station construction is scheduled to begin in 2015.
LYNX is a bus system run by the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, serving the greater Orlando, Florida area, Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties with limited service to Polk county. Bus routes are referred to as Links. The standard adult one-way fare is $2 with free single transfers valid for 90 minutes (not valid on the same Link or for round trips). Lynx runs the zero-fare Lymmo Bus (Links 31, 61, 62, and 63) in Downtown Orlando, connecting many downtown destinations to parking and the Lynx Central Station by controlling traffic signals on a three-mile route along a fully separate right-of-way (Link 31) or a combination of separate right-of-way and mixed traffic (Links 61, 62, 63). All Lynx buses (Links), except the Lymmo, have bike racks (2 – 3 bike capacity) for use at no extra charge.
Other LYNX services include, a commuter assistance Vanpool program; ACCESS LYNX paratransit Service; NeighborLink (formerly PickUpLine) community circulators; KnightLYNX, a transportation option on and near the UCF campus that operates on Friday and Saturday nights only; and the Road Rangers sponsored by State Farm roadside assistance program on Interstate 4.
Bus stop signs are designed with a lynx paw in place of the traditional bus stop signs, which show a bus; although, some new signs have been placed, adding the paw to the traditional sign. Also, the route numbers (Links) are usually attached to the bus stop signs.
Orlando is served by a collection of independently owned taxi companies. In downtown Orlando, taxis can be hailed on a regular basis. Taxis are also available in and around the Amway Center, Orlando Convention Center, and all major attractions/theme parks (i.e., Universal Studios, Disney World, etc.).
Transportation between the Orlando International Airport and various locations in and around Orlando are provided by airport shuttle services. Several shuttles operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Orlando has nine international sister cities as listed by the City of Orlando Office of International Affairs.
- Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil
- Guilin, Guangxi, People’s Republic of China
- Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
- Reykjanesbær, Iceland
- Marne-la-Vallée, Île-de-France, France
- Tainan, Taiwan
- Orenburg, Russia
- Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
- Valladolid, Valladolid, Castile and León, Spain
Given Orlando’s status as a busy international tourist destination and growing industrial and commercial base, there are several foreign consulates and honorary consulates in Orlando including Argentina, Colombia, Czech Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. As a result, Orlando now has the second-highest number of foreign consulates in Florida next to Miami. The British Government operated a Consulate from 1994 to 2014 when all services transferred to the British Consulate General in Miami.