Orlando, Florida

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Skyline of Orlando at night, from across Lake Eola
Skyline of Orlando at night, from across Lake Eola

The city of Orlando is the county seat of Orange County, Florida. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 185,951 (metropolitan area 1,644,561). A 2004 U.S. Census Estimates population count gave the city had a total population of 205,648 (metropolitan area nearly 1.8 million). It is the sixth-largest city in Florida, and its largest inland city. It is also at the head of the state's third-largest metropolitan area, behind Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Tampa-St. Petersburg. Additionally, Orlando is home to the second largest university in Florida, the University of Central Florida.

The city is best 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, Universal Orlando Resort and the World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's® & PlayPlace. 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. Over 50 attractions are available on the Go Orlando Card.

The city's nickname is "The City Beautiful", and its symbol is the fountain of Lake Eola. The current mayor is Buddy Dyer. (See a complete listing of the Mayors of Orlando.)

Orlando, Florida
City flag City seal
City nickname: "The City Beautiful"

Location of the city proper in the state of Florida

Founded 1875
County Orange County
Mayor Buddy Dyer (D)
 - Total
 - Water

261.5 km² (100.9 mi²)
19.3 km² (7.5 mi²) 7.39%
 - City (2004)
 - Metropolitan
 - Density

1.8 million
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5
28°32' N
City of Orlando Official Website



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.

Orlando remained a rural backwater during the Civil War, and suffered greatly during the Federal Blockade. And, most of the early residents made their living by cattle ranching. But, the Reconstruction Era brought a population explosion. This 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 the latter year 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.

The years between the Spanish-American War and World War I saw Orlando become a popular resort, as Florida's largest inland city.

During World War II, a number of Army personnel were stationed at the Pine Castle AAF, now the site of Orlando International Airport. 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 addition, 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 innovative "Space Coast", many high-tech companies have shifted to the Orlando area.

The most critical event for Orlando's economy occurred in 1965 when Walt Disney announced the plans for Walt Disney World. 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.

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.


Orlando Skyline at sunset, from SR-408
Orlando Skyline at sunset, from SR-408

Orlando is located at 28°32'1" North, 81°22'33" West (28.533513, -81.375789)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 261.5 km² (100.9 mi²). 242.2 km² (93.5 mi²) of it is land and 19.3 km² (7.5 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 7.39% water.

Orlando is rivaled only by the Twin Cities in the number of natural lakes to be found in its metropolitan area. The region Orlando occupies is generally low-lying, the only exception being minor sand hills formed by wave action in earlier geological eras when sea level was higher. These are found primarily in the western sections of the metropolitan area, especially in Lake County. The Orlando area is home to 100+ lakes, the largest of which are Lake Apopka, Eustis, Griffin, Harney, Harris, Jessup, Monroe, Saint Cloud, and Tohopekaliga. The area is also very prone to sink-holes due to the large number of underground limestone caverns that are located in the area. Many of the lakes started as sink holes in recent geologic history.


The city of Orlando has 115 neighborhoods in the city limits, some of which are:

Metropolitan area

In the Orlando area, like most metropolitan areas in Florida, the majority of the population lives outside the city proper. Orlando is the center of the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne metropolitan area. Nearby suburbs extend into the surrounding counties. Oviedo, in Seminole County, has been listed as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Clermont (Lake County) and Poinciana (Osceola) have also seen explosive growth. Deltona, in Volusia County, has grown so fast that, between 1990 and 2000, it became the largest city in that county. Cities such as Melbourne and Palm Bay on the Space Coast have also seen tremendous growth.


Orlando is considered to be in a subtropical climate zone. Summer high temperatures average in the low-to-mid 90s °F (mid-30s °C). Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean in particular allows the Sea Breeze to cool it, but also keeping humidity high, keeping temperatures stable and making temperatures of 100 °F (38 °C) very rare. Its all-time record high temperature is 102 °F (39 °C), last achieved on May 31, 1945. 100 °F (38 °C) was last reached in 1998 for several days and peaking at 101 °F (38.3 °C) on July 2.

Winter temperatures are typically mild, with the jet stream bringing in frequent cold fronts. High temperatures typically fluctuate anywhere from 65 °F (18 °C) to 80 °F (27 °F). Below-freezing temperatures are uncommon, with snow almost a generational event. Orlando's all-time record low is 19 °F (-7 °C), last achieved on January 20, 1985. The last recorded snow event was on December 23, 1989, when light snow and sleet fell and the high temperature only reached 37 °F (2.5 °C) on Christmas Day. January is the only month in which a temperature of 90°F (32°C) has not been recorded.

The average annual rainfall for Orlando is 48.35 in (1198 mm). June through September is its "rainy season", accounted for by its location at the center of the Florida Peninsula, with the Gulf Breeze off the Gulf of Mexico and the Sea Breeze off the Atlantic Ocean colliding over the city in the summer, creating "pop-up" thunderstorms. December through May is considered Orlando's "dry season", with wildfires a danger particularly in May.


To no surprise, a large part of the Orlando area economy is involved in the tourist industry. Tourism surrounding Orlando is worth billions of dollars to the area's economy. Over 48 million visitors came to the Orlando region in 2004. The convention industry is also critical to the region's economy, due partly to the multitude of attractions available for all age ranges in the area. 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 the United States. The Orlando International Airport is a world-class facility, and one of the most heavily travelled airports in the world.

The area's economy also has other industries apart from tourism, such as the presence of manufacturing in the region. Lockheed-Martin has a large manufacturing facility for aeronautical crafts and related high tech research due to Orlando's proximity to the NASA Kennedy Space Center. The area is also home to many computer software and hardware firms that located here in the 1970's and 1980's such as IBM. Another sector that is developing is the film, television, and electronic gaming industries, aided by the presence of Universal Studios, Disney-MGM Studios, Electronic Arts, Full Sail School, and other entertainment companies and schools. Numerous office complexes for large corporations have popped up along the Interstate 4 corridor north of Orlando, especially in Maitland, Lake Mary and Heathrow. The U.S. modeling, simulation, and training (MST) industry is centered around the Orlando region as well, with a particularly strong presence in the UCF Research Park.

The diversifying economy has led to an incredibly low unemployment rate in Greater Orlando of 3.7% as of July 2005. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2005) The result is explosive growth that has led to urban sprawl in the surrounding area and skyrocketing housing prices. Housing prices in Greater Orlando have gone up 34% in one year, from an average of $182,000 in August 2004 to $245,000 in August 2005. (Source: Orlando Regional Realtor Association)

Companies that have a their corporate headquarters or a major presence in the area:



Orlando is served primarily by Orlando International Airport, though nearby Orlando Sanford International Airport also serves the area. Orlando Executive Airport is used for charter flights and General Aviation.


Its major freeway is Interstate 4, which crosses Florida's Turnpike southwest of Downtown Orlando. It is also served by the toll roads of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, particularly the East-West Expressway (SR 408), which crosses I-4 downtown.

The East West Expressway (SR 408) is undergoing major construction with the addition of lanes, concrete barrier walls, sound walls, and a better scenic view. This project begun in 2005 and is not yet complete as of right now.


The Orlando area is served by one through railroad, CSX's A line (formerly the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad's main line), and some spurs, mostly operated by the Florida Central Railroad. Amtrak passenger service runs along the CSX A line. See also a map of these railroads.

The following major railroad stations have existed in Orlando:


Orlando is served by Lynx, which runs bus service in the tri-county area (Osceola-Orange-Seminole).


Public Education is handled by Orange County Public Schools. Some of the larger private schools include Lake Highland Preparatory School, Bishop Moore High School, New School of Orlando and Orlando Christian Academy.

Area institutions of higher education


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 185,951 people, 80,883 households, and 42,382 families residing in the city. The population density is 767.9/km² (1,988.9/mi²). There are 88,486 housing units at an average density of 365.4/km² (946.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 43.10% White, 22.85% African American, 2.68% Asian, 0.34% Native American, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 5.41% from other races, and 2.54% from two or more races. 31.48% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The city has large Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban and Venezuelan communities. There are 80,883 households out of which 24.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.4% are married couples living together, 15.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.6% are non-families. 35.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.25 and the average family size is 2.97.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 37.3% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100 females there are 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $35,732, and the median income for a family is $40,648. Males have a median income of $30,866 versus $25,267 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,216. 15.9% of the population and 13.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 27.0% of those under the age of 18 and 12.6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Area attractions

For more tourist information, see the Wikitravel article.

Also contact:

  • Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. 8723 International Drive. (800) 972-3304. The official sales and marketing organization for the Orlando and Orange County area. http://www.orlandoinfo.com.

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 Florida, CityWalk, and Islands of Adventure theme park.

Other attractions in the Orlando area includes:

  • 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.
  • Brevard Zoo
  • Central Florida Zoological Park, located in Sanford on Lake Monroe. This 100 acre (400,000 m²) zoo is home to a butterfly garden, herpetarium, and numerous tropical animals. This 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 features specialty shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.
  • Cirque du Soleil, 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, which is situated on the campus of Rollins College, this free museum features significant loans, recent acquisitions, and items from the Cornell's renowned permanent collection.
  • Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
  • Discovery Cove, part of the SeaWorld Adventure Park complex. This attraction features 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 dolphin encounter.
  • 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 Live & Hotel is the Hard Rock Café chain's featured location in Orlando. It features a concert venue and large restaurant with typical rock style memorabilia. The Hard Rock Hotel is a featured resort hotel with a California-style restaurant called The Kitchen.
  • 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 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.
  • Jack Kerouac residence
  • Harry P. Leu Gardens, which is an inner city oasis covering 50 acres (20,000 m²) and features colorful annuals, palms, an orchid house, a floral clock and a butterfly garden.
  • World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's® & PlayPlace, located on the corner of Sand Lake Rd. & International Dr. This unique McDonald's 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. Also, try the Bistro Gourmet at McDonald's chef prepared food, like Panini & Deli sandwiches, pasta, soup, desserts, hand-dipped ice cream, plus all your McDonald's favorites.
  • Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, located in Kissimmee, Florida. Six brave knights on horseback compete in tournament games, jousting, and sword fighting while guest dine on a medieval banquet.
  • Morse Museum of American Art, which houses a permanent Tiffany collection featuring an impressive array of Tiffany glass, an exhibit on the Tiffany home, and American paintings from the 19th century.
  • Old Town features 8 restaurants, 15 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.
  • Orange County Regional History Center
  • Orlando Museum of Art, which has ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas.
  • Orlando Science Center, a 207,000 square foot (19,000 m²) 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.
  • 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, along with a sly reference to central Florida's infamous sinkholes. Explore artifacts, collections, weird art/hobbies and interactive exhibits in 16 odd galleries. For more than 40 years, Robert Ripley traveled the globe collecting the unbelievable, inexplicable, and one-of-a-kind. His collections are housed in 27 museums in 10 countries.
  • Space Coast beaches
  • Wekiwa Springs State Park, which comprises around 700 acres (2.8 km²) 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 (4,000 m²), 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.


 The Orlando Magic is a professional NBA team based in Orlando.
The Orlando Magic is a professional NBA team based in Orlando.

Orlando is home to the Orlando Magic, an NBA pro basketball franchise that plays at the TD Waterhouse Centre in downtown Orlando. The team made it to the NBA Finals in 1995.

The Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League also play at the TD Waterhouse Centre. Since joining the league in 1991, they have become one of the legendary franchises in the young league, having a historic rivalry with the Tampa Bay Storm, two ArenaBowl titles (1998 and 2000), and several historic moments including the league's only shutout to date and a procession called the Miracle Minute where they scored two touchdowns with two-point conversions and forced a safety to come from behind in the final minute of a game to win.

Orlando was a stronghold of minor-league ice hockey throughout the 1990's, being home of the Orlando Solar Bears of the now-defunct International Hockey League. Historically successful, they won the Turner Cup championship in 2001 to end the IHL's final season. In 2002, the Atlantic Coast Hockey League formed with Orlando forming one of the charter franchises, the Orlando Seals, which won their Commissioner's Cup in 2003. They moved to the World Hockey Association 2 in 2003, then the Southern Professional Hockey League in 2004. The City of Orlando revoked their lease for the TD Waterhouse Centre, forcing them to sit out the 2004-05 season. They moved to Kissimmee and became the Florida Seals in November 2004.

The Citrus Bowl is the home of the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Florida Citrus Bowl) and the Champs Sports Bowl (formerly the Tangerine Bowl). It also hosts regular-season football games for the University of Central Florida (NCAA Division I-A) and Jones High School, as well as the annual Florida Classic played between the NCAA Division I-AA Football teams from Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman College. It hosted soccer games for the FIFA World Cup '94 and the 1996 Summer Olympics when each were hosted by the United States.

The Orlando Renegades were a USFL team playing at the Citrus Bowl in 1985. They folded with the league in 1986. The Orlando Thunder were a charter team in the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992. They lost the World Bowl to the Sacramento Surge in 1992. Like all other American teams, it was dropped in the World League reorganization of 1995. The Orlando Rage were a member of the XFL that played at the Citrus Bowl, and only played in 2001. That team has since been revived in the minor-league Southern States Football League (SSFL).

The Orlando Sundogs were a minor-league soccer team in the A-League that played in the Citrus Bowl. They were disbanded in 1997 after only playing one year.

Tinker Field, named for baseball hall-of-famer Joe Tinker, is an old baseball stadium next to the Citrus Bowl, currently out of use. It was formerly the Spring Training home of the Minnesota Twins (and the Washington Nationals/Senators before them) and AA Southern League affiliates of the Twins, Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.


Trivial facts

  • ZIP codes for Orlando are in the range from 32801 to 32899.

Famous people

Among the famous people and groups connected to Orlando are:

External links

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