All About Orlando, Florida
The city of Orlando, Florida is well known for the tourist attractions in the area, particularly the nearby Walt Disney World Resort, which is in the Reedy Creek Improvement District . Other area attractions include SeaWorld and Universal Orlando Resort. Despite being far from the main tourist attractions, downtown Orlando has recently seen much redevelopment, with many more projects currently under construction or planned. One of the oldest attractions in this area is Gatorland. Orlando sees an estimated 52 million tourists a year. Orlando is the 2nd largest city in the country for number of hotel rooms.
The city's nickname is "The City Beautiful", though plans are underway to change this title through a local contest. Its symbol is the fountain of Lake Eola.
Area Attractions in Orlando
The Orlando area is home to a wide variety of tourist attractions, including the Walt Disney World resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Orlando Resort. The Walt Disney World resort is the area's largest attraction with its many facets such as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Downtown Disney. SeaWorld Orlando is a large adventure 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 comprised of Universal Studios, CityWalk, and the Islands of Adventure theme park.
Other attractions in the Orlando area include:
* Arboretum of the University of Central Florida
* Blue Spring State Park, which is the winter home of large numbers of Florida manatees that come upstream from the St. Johns River to bask in the warm 72 °F (22 °C) waters of the springs. Canoeing, swimming and fishing are popular activities at Blue Springs.
* Central Florida Zoological Park, located in Sanford on Lake Monroe. This 100 acre zoo is home to a butterfly garden, herpetarium, and numerous tropical animals. The zoo originally started as a collection in the Sanford Fire Department, but grew into a regional zoo in 1975. It is currently in the planning stages of expansion and renaming the facility to "Zoo Orlando at Sanford".
* Church Street Station, a multi-level shopping mall and entertainment center that once featured an abundance of specialty shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. Purchased in the late 1990s by TransContinental Airlines owner Lou Pearlman, it is now virtually defunct, as the area suffered in post-9/11 tourist-industry slump.
* Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba, in Downtown Disney West Side, features its renowned blend of acrobatics and special effects with more than 70 artists from around the globe performing in a custom-designed, 1,671-seat theater.
* Cornell Fine Arts Museum, situated on the campus of Rollins College, features significant loans, recent acquisitions, and items from the Cornell's renowned permanent collection. Admission is free.
* Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
* Discovery Cove, a resort that is part of the SeaWorld Adventure Park complex. Some attraction features are tropical fish in a coral reef, snorkeling with stingrays, and interacting with birds in an aviary, as well as swimming and playing with dolphins during a half-hour session.
* Gatorland is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles. A few of Gatorland's residents have made wrangling appearances in movies, television shows and commercial spots. The 54 year old park combines a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, mini-water park, eco-tour and outdoor entertainment, including daily alligator wrestling.
* Hard Rock Café is is the Orlando location of the famed restaurant chain with the typical HRC music memorabilia. There is also Hard Rock Live, a 3,000-capacity live music venue, and the Hard Rock Hotel, a resort hotel with a California-style restaurant called "The Kitchen". It is one of eight worldwide, and one of three in Florida. (Miami and Tampa are the other two.)
* International Trolley and Train Museum features 14 model railroad trains with sound and lighting traveling through an indoor garden with 12 foot (4 m) high mountains, waterfalls, and more than 30 trestles and tunnels. Also on display are toy trains from the 1920s to the present. Visitors can catch a ride in a California Victorian-style half open/half closed trolley or the 5/8 replica of an 1880 locomotive (a Mason Bogey) with its passenger cars.
* Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is 45 minutes from Orlando and south of Daytona Beach. Visitors can tour launch areas, see giant rockets, "train" in spaceflight simulators, and much more. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open every day except Christmas Day and certain launch days. Apart from the Astronaut Hall of Fame, Space Center bus tours run every 15 minutes with stops at an observation gantry and the Apollo / Saturn V Center. Other guided tours include NASA Up Close, Cape Canaveral: Then and Now, and Lunch With An Astronaut. Combo tickets offer maximum access admission, plus one guided tour.
* The Kerouac House, in the College Park neighborhood or Orlando, is where writer Jack Kerouac lived during the time his novel On the Road was published and released, making him a national sensation and Beat Generation icon. He lived in the house with his mother Gabrielle from July 1957 to the spring of 1958, and wrote his three-act play, The Beat Generation, a 51-chorus poem called Orlanda Blues, and the novel The Dharma Bums during his time there. In 1997, the Kerouac Project of Orlando formed, and restored the Kerouac house. It is now a haven for aspiring writers who can live in the house as they create their own work.
* Harry P. Leu Gardens, which is an inner city oasis covering 50 acres and features colorful annuals, palms, an orchid house, a floral clock and a butterfly garden.
* The World's Largest McDonald's PlayPlace, located on the corner of Sand Lake Rd. & International Dr, looks like a fry box from the exterior. The interior features an arcade with 60+ games with prize redemption, a 1950's room, a waterfall and a gift shop. The Bistro Gourmet at McDonald's features chef-prepared food, such as panini & deli sandwiches, pasta, soup, desserts, and hand-dipped ice cream, plus the standard McDonald's menu.
* Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, in Kissimmee. Six brave knights on horseback compete in tournament games, jousting, and sword fighting while guests dine on a medieval-style banquet.
* The Morse Museum of American Art, located at Rollins College, houses a permanent Tiffany exhibit featuring the world's "most comprehensive" collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. It includes Tiffany art glass, jewelry, pottery, and the chapel interior designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. There is also an exhibit on the Tiffany home, and American paintings from the 19th century. The museum was founded in 1942.
* Old Town, in Kissimmee, features eight restaurants, fifteen amusement park rides and 75 shops along its brick-lined streets. Classic car shows every Friday and Saturday feature hundreds of vintage automobiles. Admission and parking are free.
* The Orange County Regional History Center Features exhibits and artifacts from the earliest days of the region to the modern day. Includes information on everything from the time of the Seminole Indians to the founding of the city to the Civil Rights era to the Disney period to today.
* The Orlando Museum of Art, which has ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas.
* The Orlando Science Center, is a 207,000 square foot hands-on learning center with hundreds of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. Images surround visitors on the giant screen of the Dr. Phillips CineDome. Other attractions include the Body Zone, teaching health and fitness, as well as an observatory. The center has the largest refracting telescope in Florida.
* The Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium is located in a building artfully constructed to appear as if it were collapsing to one side, which may be a sly reference to central Florida's infamous sinkholes. Visitors can explore bizarre artifacts, strange collections, weird art/hobbies and interactive exhibits in sixteen odd galleries. It is one of 27 Ripley museums in ten countries.
* Wekiwa Springs State Park, which comprises around 700 acres of wild Florida. The springs pump out 42 million gallons of crystal clear water a day. Popular activities at the park include canoeing, swimming, picnicking and fishing.
* World of Orchids, featuring thousands of blooms in an enclosed tropical rainforest. World of Orchids is a working greenhouse shipping orchids and other plants nationwide. A greenhouse covers nearly an acre, and in this controlled climate of warm, humid air some 1,000 orchids are displayed in a natural jungle setting, with streams, waterfalls, and squawking parrots. World of Orchids also has a 1,000 foot (300 m) long boardwalk meandering off into nearby wetlands. Admission is free.
Orlando, Florida HistoryOrlando’s history dates back to 1838 and the height of the Seminole Wars. The U.S. Army built Fort Gatlin south of the present day Orlando City limits to protect settlers from attacks by Indians.
By 1840, a small community had grown up around the Fort. It was known as Jernigan, named after the Jernigan family, who had established the first permanent settlement in the area. Jernigan had a post office, established May 30th, 1850.
Six years later with the settlement expanding northward, the community officially changed its name to Orlando. In 1857, the U.S. Post Office adopted the name change. The Town of Orlando was incorporated in 1875 with 85 inhabitants, 22 of whom were qualified voters.
History is not as clear on where the name Orlando originated. There are four stories that are told. One involves Judge James Speer, who worked hard in getting Orlando as the county seat, naming Orlando after a man who once worked for him. Another is that Speer named it after a character from Shakespeare’s, "As You Like It".
A third version has Mr. Orlando on his way to Tampa with a caravan of ox. It is said that he got ill, died and was buried, and that folks would come by and say, "There lies Orlando"
The most common story is about a company of soldiers on duty during the height of the Seminole Wars. After battling Indians back into the swamps on the east side of Lake Minnie (now Cherokee), the military troop settled there for the night. Sentinel Orlando Reeves was guarding the camp when he spotted a log floating toward him. Recognizing the Indian disguise and wanting to warn his fellow soldiers, he fired his gun. Arrows felled the poor fellow as the Indians came out to ambush the camp. The Indians were chased back again, and the south side of Lake Eola was chosen to bury Orlando Reeves.
History of Orlando
Some historians date Orlando's name to around 1836 when a soldier named Orlando Reeves allegedly died in the area, during the war against the Seminole Indian tribe. It seems, however, that Orlando Reeves (sometimes Rees) operated a sugar mill and plantation about 30 miles (50 km) to the north at Spring Garden in Volusia County, and pioneer settlers simply found his name carved into a tree and assumed it was a marker for a grave site. They thus referred to the area as "Orlando's grave" and later simply "Orlando."
During the Second Seminole War, the U.S. Army established an outpost at Fort Gatlin, a few miles south of the modern downtown, in 1838. But it was quickly abandoned when the war came to an end.
The first permanent settler was cattleman Aaron Jernigan, who acquired land along Lake Holden by the terms of the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. But most pioneers did not arrive until after the Third Seminole War in the 1850s. Most of the early residents made their living by cattle ranching.
Orlando remained a rural backwater during the American Civil War, and suffered greatly during the Federal Blockade. The Reconstruction Era brought a population explosion, which led to the city's incorporation in 1875.
The period from 1875 to 1895 is remembered as Orlando's "Gilded Era," when it became the hub of Florida's citrus industry. But a great freeze in 1894-1895 forced many owners to give up their independent groves, thus consolidating holdings in the hands of a few "citrus barons" which shifted operations south, primarily around Lake Wales in Polk County.
Orlando, as Florida's largest inland city, became a popular resort during the years between the Spanish-American War and World War I.
During World War II, a number of Army personnel were stationed at the Pine Castle AAF. Some of these servicemen stayed in Orlando to settle and raise families. In 1956 the aerospace/defense company Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) established a plant in Orlando. In 1958, Pine Castle AAF was renamed McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael N.W. McCoy.
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, an important cruise ship terminal. Because of its proximity to the "Space Coast" near the Kennedy Space Center, many high-tech companies have shifted to the Orlando area.
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 cities of Miami and Tampa for his park, one of the major reasons behind his decision not to locate in those cities was the threat of hurricanes. The famous 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 and Orlando is consistently ranked as one of the top vacation destinations in the world.
Another major factor in Orlando's growth occurred in 1970, when the new Orlando International Airport was built from a portion of the McCoy Air Force Base. Four airlines began providing scheduled flights in 1970. The military base officially closed in 1974, and most of it is now part of the airport. The airport still retains the former Air Force Base airport code (MCO). It is considered a world-class facility, and it is one of the most heavily travelled airports in the world.
In addition to McCoy Air Force Base, Orlando also had a naval presence with the establishment of the Orlando Naval Training Center in 1968. Providing training to recruits as well as being a base for selected post basic training programs, the base had a prominent presence in the area. In 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission ordered that the base be closed. The base continued in a diminished capacity until the base closed for good with the last graduates of the base's Naval Nuclear Power School leaving in December of 1998. The former base has been developed into tracts for upscale housing called Baldwin Park.
In the hurricane season of 2004, Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne battered the Orlando area, causing widespread damage and flooding and impeding tourism to the area.
Orange County Regional History Center
The Orange County Regional History Center is located in the "Heart of the Community" in downtown Orlando. This state-of-the-art venue brings history to life though audio and visual presentations, hands-on exhibits, education programs and special events.
Enter into the historic, 1927 former Orange County Courthouse for your journey through time. Your first stop is Orientation Theater. Set as a Florida back porch, you can relax in a rocker while being surrounded by the sights and sounds of Central Florida. Discover the beautiful flora, fauna and rock formations - Natural Environment. And probe the famous Winter Park sinkhole - a natural disaster. Step back 12,000 years into the lives of the First Peoples, Paleo-Indians. Wander through a Timucuan village where natives are boarding a canoe. Witness a First Contact while a young woman inspects the contents of a Spaniard's lifeboat that has washed ashore. Jump into the 1800s and explore an early Florida Pioneer Cracker home. Sample household items and the comfort of a mattress filled with Spanish moss, and spy a teenage ritual "Taffy Pull" in progress. Share a campfire with early Florida cattlemen as they spin tales about Florida's early Cattle industry days. Be sure to try one of their saddles on for size. Get the juice on Florida's best-known industry. Spend time with some Citrus pickers - right in the grove while they work. Close out the century with a railroad car making a stop in the Port of Sanford. Inspect different modes of Transportation of the day. Roar into the 1920s with Model-T travelers in Tourism, a Tin Can Tourist Camp. Be dwarfed under the wing of a WWII Bomber, and learn how some of the best flyers in Aviation, from WWII pilots to NASA astronauts, were trained in Central Florida. Be there for The Day We Changed, the arrival of Walt Disney World, and witness how the area was impacted. Test your knowledge of famous Central Florida people, places and activities inside the orange Dome. Expanding over two floors, the Dome features over 150 unique icons - everything from the slow moving manatee to the high-powered space shuttle.
Enjoy everything this unique setting has to offer - history, concerts, festivals, lunching under the shade of a tall cypress tree or splashing in the pop-jet fountains in Heritage Square, a beautiful park and plazas. The History Center is wheelchair accessible.
LOCATION: 65 East Central Blvd, Orlando 32801. Phone 407-836-8500 or toll-free 800-965-2030.
HOURS: 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday, 12 PM to 5 PM Sunday. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
ADMISSION: Adults $7.00, seniors (60+) and students $6.50, children (3-12) $3.50, children under age 3 and Historical Society members are free.
DIRECTIONS: From I-4, take Exit 82C/Anderson St. Turn left on Magnolia Ave and right on Central Blvd. Proceed to the Orlando Public Library Parking Garage (2 hours free with general admission).