Orlando, Florida is a beautiful city located in Orange County in Central Florida. The city goes by a few different nicknames that include: the Theme Park Capital World, O-Town, and The City Beautiful.
This city is located in the state of Florida in the United States of America. It is also Orange County’s County Seat. Orlando is located in Central Florida, and according to United States Census data, the Orlando metropolitan area has a population of 2,387,138 people living within it, based on census data that was gathered in March 2016. And according to this information, this makes the Orlando metropolitan area the 24th largest within the US. As far as the southern United States is concerned, it is now the sixth largest metropolitan area. And in the state of Florida, it is considered the third largest metropolitan area.
The city of Orlando itself, based on data that was gathered on July 1, 2014, has a total population of 262,372 residents. Across the United States of America, the city is considered the 73rd largest. Orlando is the largest island city in the state of Florida, and it is Florida’s fourth-largest city.
Orlando has earned the moniker “The Beautiful City”, and the symbol of the city is the fountain that is located at Lake Eola. Another important nickname for Orlando is the “Theme Park Capital of the World” for very good reason. In the grand scheme of things, the theme parks located in Orlando bring massive amounts of visitors to this great region year after year. In 2014 alone, the city had 62 million visitors come to this great location in order to enjoy all of the wonderful rides and attractions.
On the other hand, Orlando International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the United States. As a matter fact, it is considered the 13th busiest airport in the US. And as far as the entire world is concerned, it is now considered the 29th busiest airport on a worldwide scale.
Orlando is considered one of the premier destinations for tourism around the world. And it boasts a wide variety of famous tourist attractions including Walt Disney World resort, which is located at approximately 21 miles of downtown Orlando to the southwest, and the Walt Disney Company first opened this fantastic location in 1971. Another famous attraction in the location, the Universal Orlando resort, first opened its doors in 1999. This is an expansion upon the already existing Universal Studios Florida. Wet ‘n Wild, Gatorland, Sea World and Universal Studios are the other major attractions in the area besides Walt Disney World. Another telling fact is that just about every major attraction in the city is located on International Drive, with the only exception being Walt Disney World. But one thing is for sure you will find many affordable clean hotels during your trip, and you can be rest assured with the SOPs put in place as a precautionary measure, you will be taken good care of by the staff. An example of such a site within the vicinity is the West Gate Resorts, which maintains social distancing guidelines for the guests on priority.
Not only is Orlando known for all of its wonderful theme parks, but it is also considered one of the hottest areas in America to host conventions and conferences. The majority of these conferences and conventions will take place in the Orange County Convention Center. In the United States alone, this convention center is considered the second largest facility of its type.
When you compare Orlando to other major cities that are located within the Sun Belt, it’s easy to see that this wonderful location began to grow during the 1980s. And the growth continued to expand as it headed into the opening decade of the 21st century and beyond.
Most people recognize that Orlando is a great tourist attraction. But what many people fail to realize is that this great city is also home to the University of Central Florida. As far as enrollments go, UCF is actually the second largest campus out of any university in the US. At the time of this writing, the 2014-2105 enrollment statistics state that 60,810 students went to school at this university during that school year.
The History of Orlando, Florida
As you can imagine, Orlando, Florida is a city with a rich and storied history. We will now take a look at Orlando’s pre-European history, and we will also take a look at the history of this city’s name.
Orlando’s Pre-European History
Before the arrival of European settlers in 1536, Orlando actually had a much different name. The city that we now know as Orlando used to be called something totally different, and we will go into that in greater detail below.
At the time, Orlando was hardly populated at all, and the only people living in the area where Native American tribes including the Creek. Today, there are unfortunately not too many archaeological sites still available, but the major exception is the Fort Gatlin ruins that you could find along the shores south of downtown Orlando in modern day Lake Gatlin.
A City Known by Another Name
Before the city was known as Orlando, it had an entirely different name. Back in the day, Orlando was actually called Jerrigan. And the name of the former city originated because it was named after the first settler, Aaron Jerrigan. In 1842, this cattleman would acquire land according to the Armed Occupation Act of 1842, and he would own it along Lake Holden.
The funny thing is that the way Orlando got its name actually has three different origin stories, and we will go into greater detail about those below. But the only verified facts that we have is that Jerrigan actually did become Orlando officially in 1857. Unfortunately, the person that the city was named after, Aaron Jerrigan, suffered a major fall from grace right before the name was officially changed. In fact, in 1856, military officials had to relieve him of his military command.
Jefferson Davis, the United States Secretary of War, said that Jerrigan acted with notorious behavior. In fact, to paraphrase, he said the way that the militia led by Jerrigan acted was actually worse than the Indians.
In 1857, at a meeting that took place that year, there was a debate in regards to the name of the town. And during this debate, a prominent local named James Speer mentioned that many people already called the city Orlando’s Grave. He recommended that they remove the word Grave from the name and to begin calling the county seat Orlando instead.
The Legend of Orlando Reeves & Orlando Acosta
Out of the three stories that popularly depict how the city was named, the most popular of the bunch is that this great city was named after a soldier that died in 1835 name Orlando Reeves. Supposedly, this soldier had the misfortune of dying at the hands of Native Americans when he fought during the Second Seminole War.
At the time of his death, Reeves was the acting Sentinel as part of a company of soldiers in the area. At the time, the company had made camp for the night along the Sandy Beach Lake banks, which is now known as Lake Eola.
Unfortunately, there are many conflicting legends. And based on military records that first turned up in the 1970s and 80s, it appears that no soldier by the name of Orlando Reeves ever existed. Some say that an Orlando of a different name, Orlando Acosta, is truly the Orlando that the city was named after. But based on the information that we have available right now, nobody can fully prove that Orlando Acosta actually existed and nobody has much information about him as well.
The Story of Orlando Rees
As you can tell, there is another variation of this story that supposedly took place during the Second Seminole War.
In the second story, the person that Jerrigan was renamed for was a cattle rancher from South Carolina name Orlando Savage Rees. The cattle rancher was quite wealthy and actually owned a number of different estates in Mississippi and Florida.
On two different occasions, the Rees’ have made claims that their relative is actually the person that the city was named after. A man from South Carolina name F.K. Bull, who is also the great grandson of the man in question, once told a reporter about the story back in 1955, and then another one of his relatives, a great-great grandson named Charles M Bull Jr. , also told a story that was very similar to local historians by providing nearly the same information as his ancestor.
The difference between Orlando Reeves and Orlando Rees is that there are no definitive records of Orlando Reeves, but there are many records available about the existence of Orlando Rees in Florida, and they show that he was living in the area during the specific time.
One important historical event states that in 1837, Orlando Rees made an attempt to stop a peace treaty with the Seminoles. He wanted to stop this treaty because within it, there was no mention of reimbursing him for the loss that he incurred at the time in crops and slaves. Rees owned sugar farms within the area and they were burned down in 1835 during Seminole attacks, which also happen to be the year that Orlando Reeves was supposed to have died.
As You like It… Orlando
Finally, a new version of the story states that the city was named after the main protagonist in a play from William Shakespeare called As You Like It.
Judge Donald A Cheney, in 1975, wrote an article for the Orlando Sentinel and created a new version of the story. As a local historian, he had access to information that said a gentleman by the name of James Speer had proposed to name the city Orlando after the character in the Shakespeare play As You Like It.
This version of the story also has some validity to it. Speer was an instrumental player when it came to changing the name of the city to Orlando from Jerrigan. It’s also important to note that one of the major streets in downtown Orlando is named after another character in As You Like It. The name of the street is Rosalind Avenue, and she is the heroine of the play.
After the division of Mosquito County in 1845, Orange County was formed in 1856, and Orlando became the county seat. During the Civil War, Orlando continued as a rural backwater. It also suffered tremendously during the Union blockade. The area experienced a population explosion during the Reconstruction Era, which ultimately led to the region being incorporated as a town on July 31, 1875. Just 10 years later, this bustling piece of land in Central Florida was incorporated as a city in 1885.
From 1875 to 1895, we have a time period that is known as Orlando’s Golden Era. During this time, the citrus industry was thriving and this location became the hub. Many owners unfortunately had to give up their independent groves between 1894 in 1895 during the Great Freeze, and a handful of citrus barrens were capable of consolidating their holdings and eventually moved their operations even further south into Polk County around the Lake Wales area.
One of the more notable homesteader families living in the area at the time was the Curry family. This family was the reason for Curry Ford Road in East Orlando. The Ward family also owned 150 acres of land south of the boggy Creek area airport in the 19th century. The Ward family still owns this property today, and you can see the land on southbound flights out of the Orlando International Airport when you’re on the south side of SR 417.
Moving out of the past and into the present, the core of historic Old Orlando now resides within Downtown Orlando and can be found along Church Street between Garland Avenue and Orange Avenue. The downtown central business district and urban development have recently reshaped the downtown skyline. The historic district of the present day primarily finds itself in association with Lake Eola neighborhoods where the brick streets are lined by century-old oaks. This neighborhood is now known as Thornton Park and Lake Eola Heights, and some of the oldest homes in existence in Orlando are located in this specific location.
Orlando Cityscape and Geography
Orlando and its geography are typically made up of wetlands. These wetlands will consist of numerous swamps and lakes. The area itself, for the most part, is considered flat. This type of flatland is the reason why it is often wet and low.
If you were to look at Orlando on a map, you would see that is it is literally surrounded by hundreds of different lakes. And in Central Florida, the largest of those lakes is called Lake Apopka.
The bedrock of Central Florida is mostly porous and made of limestone. And in Orlando specifically, there are unfortunately many sinkholes and the area is quite susceptible to them. One of the most famous incidents involving sinkholes was in Winter Park in 1981. This incident was dubbed “The Winter Park Sinkhole.” When it happened, the sinkhole gobbled up five Porsches, part of an Olympic sized swimming pool, and one home.
Within the city limits of Orlando, there are currently 115 official neighborhoods. Besides that, there are also a large number of unincorporated communities. When looking at the city limits of Orlando from above, you can see that it looks similar to a checkerboard. Ultimately, it has pockets of unincorporated areas of Orange County that are then surrounded by city limits. This is a burdensome arrangement to say the least. Some of the areas are served by the city of Orlando and Orange County, and others are not.
This is a good explanation as to why Orlando has a very small city population, specifically when you are comparing it to the metropolitan population. In an effort to round up the city limits, the city and county are now working together. Orlando is now annexing parcels of land that are currently on the border of the city limits.
At the time of this writing, the Orlando metro area currently hosts 19 skyscrapers. The bulk of the skyscrapers are mainly located in downtown Orlando. The rest – meaning the ones that are not in downtown Orlando – are located in a district that is south of downtown known for tourists.
Since the SunTrust Center was completed in 1998, no other skyscraper located in the area has exceeded 441 feet. Although this is definitely true, there has been no official reason given as to why this is happening. Although there is speculation that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has something to do with these restrictions since the Orlando Executive Airport is just 4 miles away from downtown Orlando to the east.
The overall climate in Orlando is basically humid and subtropical. The area only experiences two main types of climates on a yearly basis.
The one season is considered hot and rainy, and this will typically last from May until the latter part of September, and ultimately the end of the season will pretty much coincide with the Atlantic hurricane season.
The other season is the relatively cool and dry season. This takes place beginning in late October and goes all the way through to April. At this time of the year, the temperatures will remain warm, but the area will experience rainfall less frequently.
The relatively low elevation of Orlando is the reason why the area experiences such humid and warm climates. Plus, it is positioned very closely to the Tropic of Cancer, which is ultimately located at the peninsula’s center.
Many of Orlando’s climate characteristics directly results from its proximity to the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream actually flows all around the Florida peninsula.
The Humid Season in Orlando
When Orlando’s humid season is at its height, temperatures are typically very high as you can imagine. They are often in the lower to mid 90s, and the lower temperatures will hardly ever fall below 70°F.
On average, the window for high temperatures in the Orlando region is typically between April 19 through October 11. And the humidity in the area is typically known as a buffer, which actually prevents temperatures from going above 100°F regularly. This is also the reason why the heat index will push over 110°F.
As of this writing, the highest temperature ever recorded in Orlando Florida was on September 8, 1921. On that day, the temperature reached 103°F. And as you can imagine, it was hot, hot, hot!
During this time of the year, you can expect to experience a strong thunderstorm in the afternoon on a nearly daily basis. Air masses coming from the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic Ocean will collide over Central Florida and create these dangerous storms. Every one of these storms is typically highlighted by lightning that is usually followed by heavy rain. And in many instances, Orlando will experience many inches of rain per hour when a storm strikes. Powerful winds and damaging hail will occasionally also play a role during these vicious storms.
The Cooler Season in Orlando
When the cooler season kicks in in Orlando, the humidity and temperatures will typically drop and feel much more moderate. But they can also fluctuate as well.
As an example, the typical temperature in January is 60°F. Although it doesn’t happen that often, temperatures will drop below freezing in Orlando about 2 to 3 times per year.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in Orlando’s history is 18°F. This record was set over 120 years ago on December 28, 1894. And because Orlando experiences a very dry winter season, it is exceptionally rare for Orlando to ever get any snow. In fact, within the city proper, the records indicate that snow accumulation only ever happened one time in 1948. The surrounding area did accumulate 6 inches of snow in 1977, but not Orlando proper. Orlando has had snow flurries on a couple of different occasions. The most recent observed flurries were in 1989, 2006 and 2010.
Orlando Rainfall & Wildfires
During the year, the average amount of rainfall that Orlando will experience is 50.6 inches. Most of this rainfall occurs during the month of June to September. October to May is considered the dry season in Orlando, and unfortunately, when the dry season is at its height, this is typically known as the season for wildfire hazards.
Unfortunately, certain years have experienced severe wildfires. 1998 was a particularly difficult year. El Niño made this season particularly wet during January and February. But then a drought followed immediately in the spring that went into early summer. That season was particularly difficult for wildfires, and they even set records for the amount of wildfires that took place. Orlando suffered from numerous air quality alerts and the normal day-to-day life in the area was impacted by all of the blazes. Even the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race had to be relocated to Daytona Beach that year.
Orlando Hurricane Risk & Tornadoes
As a major area for tourism, as well as a place with a large population, you can imagine that Orlando is a big risk for hurricanes. Even though it’s good to know that when compared to South Florida or other coastal regions, the risk is not nearly as high.
Orlando is located 42 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. And as far as the Gulf of Mexico is concerned, it is located 77 miles inland. When hurricanes do arrive in the area, they are usually weakened by the time they get there.
Since the region is actually 100 feet above sea level, there is no need to feel any major amount of concern about storm surges. Despite being centrally located, Orlando will still get strong hurricanes from time to time.
As an example, 2004 was an extremely bad time for hurricanes in Orlando. Orlando suffered from three major hurricanes that year, and the area experienced significant damage. Out of the three, Hurricane Charley was the worst of the bunch. Another example is Hurricane Donna. This hurricane hit the area very hard in 1960, and the Orlando region experienced severe and widespread damage at the time.
As far as tornadoes are concerned, this is not usually a major problem. Since tornadoes do not have any connection to the summer’s strong thunderstorms, they are often few and far between. But Orlando has experienced tornadoes. In fact there were two major outbreaks in the area. One was in 1998, and unfortunately 42 people were killed. In 2007, there was another tornado outbreak, and 21 people were killed. Both tornadoes struck the region during February.
As far as Orlando demographics are concerned, some of the information that we have gathered is from 2010. This information tells us that there are 121,254 households in Orlando, and out of those households, there is a vacancy rate of 15.4%.
Information gathered in the year 2000 tells us that all of the households that had a child or children under the age of 18 amounted to 24.5% of the total. And out of all of the Orlando households, 32.4% had married couples within the network living together. Also in 2000, we discovered that 15.4% of the households were maintained by a female that did not have a husband. And out of all households, non-families made up 47.6% of them. 8.5% of the households contained at least one or more persons 65 years of age or older and they were living alone.
At the same time, we discovered that the average size of each household consisted of 2.25 people. And when a household contained a family, it consisted of 2.97 people.
Age demographics, based on information gathered in 2014 is as follows:
- 12% of the population consists of people under the age of 18
- 7% of the population consists of people between the ages of 18 to 24
- 3% of the population consists of people between the ages of 25 to 44
- 6% of the population consists of people between the ages of 45 to 64
- 3% of the population consists of people that are 65 years old or even older
- 33 years old is the median age
- females outnumbered males at a ratio of 95.3 to 100 in total
- breaking down the previous statistic even further, females 18 years of age or older outnumbered males at a ratio of 91.3 to 100
Orlando is a very large city and contains a large population. Many of the residents are of Puerto Rican descent, and this has a large cultural impact on Central Florida. This is very similar to the impact that the Cuban population has on South Florida.
As of now, in the entire United States of America, Orlando is the home to the largest and quickest growing population of Puerto Ricans. Another very poignant and interesting fact is that the Hispanic population in the Orlando region, between 1980 and 2010, has risen dramatically from 4.1% to 25.4% within that time.
Not only is the Hispanic population growing dramatically in Orlando, but the Caribbean population is also one of the largest and fastest-growing in the United States. The West Indian community in particular – consisting of the peoples from the Trinidadian and Tobagonian populations, as well as the Jamaican population, is growing at a rapid rate. The Haitian community is well-established in the region and Orlando also has a very active community of Jewish people.
Languages Used in Orlando
Since Orlando has such a rich cultural history, it only makes sense that the residents of this great city will speak multiple languages.
As of the year 2000, 75.43% of all residents in Orlando spoke English. And they spoke English as their first language. Many residents also speak Spanish in this region as well. A survey determined that 16.60% of all Orlando residents speak Spanish.
Other languages spoken are as follows:
- Haitian Creole – 1.93%
- French – 1.33%
- Portuguese – 0.99%
- Arabic – 0.54%
All in all, when members of the population are five years of age or older, the percentage of them that speak a language besides English at home is 24.56%.
From 2006 – 2008, based on information from the American Community Survey, only 69.3% of the residents of Orlando five years of age or older speak English at home. This is a big difference compared to the earlier statistics gathered in the year 2000.
According to this same survey, Spanish-speaking residents represented 19.2% of the entire population of Orlando. And the Indo-European population in Orlando represented 9% of the people speaking those languages. 1.9% of the population spoke Asian languages and other languages consisted of 0.6% of the overall population.
Orlando Film, TV & Entertainment
One of the biggest commerce sectors in Orlando is the film, television, and electronic gaming industries. The area consists of many wonderful companies and schools. It has a wide representation by the following schools and companies:
- Universal Studios
- Full Sail University
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy
- UCF College of Arts and Humanities
Many prominent and well-respected gaming and simulation companies are also located in the Orlando region and surrounding area. Some of the most prominent businesses include:
- MS & T – located in the Orlando region
- Tiburon (a division of Electronic Arts) – located in Maitland
- Full Sail University – located in Winter Park and focuses on show production, film, computer animation, and videogame design
- Ripley Entertainment Inc. – located in Orlando
As you can clearly see, Orlando is the home to a healthy and robust videogame, TV, and film industry. And it’s only going to get stronger as Disney acquires bigger and better properties while developing their own new media conglomerates. Think buying the next Star Wars franchise and creating the next Frozen empire.
As you can imagine, tourism in the Orlando area is healthy and strong. With Disney World is at the forefront, and it should be quite evident that the main Orlando economy is driven by the tourism industry.
Orlando is also known as the Theme Park Capital of the World, and rightfully so, since it is home to some of the most popular theme parks from all around the world.
Orlando is the home of Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Legoland Florida Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Wt N’ Wild, Gatorland and much more.
The great thing about tourism in Orlando is that it attracts millions upon millions of people each year. That’s why it is such a huge part of the local economy. As a matter of fact, tourism in Orlando has attracted more than 59 million people in 2013. And more than $33 billion was spent on tourism and attractions during the same timeframe.
The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando
Another huge Orlando attraction is Orange County’s convention center. This is a critical piece of the overall Orlando economy. This convention center is the second largest in the United States, and it has even expanded as of 2004, and now has more than 2,000,000 ft.² of available exhibit space. The only other convention center larger than the Orange County Convention Center is McCormick Place in Chicago. Orlando is in direct competition with Las Vegas and Chicago as one of the biggest convention hosts in the entire country.
Orlando Performing Arts and Entertainment
Orlando is also home to some of the top musical acts in the entire country, and it has an incredible rock, hip-hop, metal, reggaeton, and Latino music scene all throughout the area. Many people call Orlando “Hollywood East” because it has so many movie studios in this part of the world.
Throughout the mid to late 90s, there was an active major motion picture production scene in the region, but in the last decade this has slowed down to a crawl.
Looking at the history of the city, there is no doubt that the most famous moviemaking moment took place at the previous City Hall in Orlando when making the movie Lethal Weapon 3. But as of this writing, Orlando is the home of many TV show production centers, production centers for direct to video movies, as well as many commercial productions.
Universal Studios Florida’s Soundstage 21 is currently home to TNA Impact!, the flagship show of TNA Wrestling.
Let’s not forget about the Florida Film Festival. This is also located in Orlando Florida, and the film festival will take place in one of many venues in the area. It is also considered a highly respected film festival and one of the best from around the country. Many budding filmmakers come to this location each year trying to attract attention. Plus, Orlando happens to be quite popular for independent filmmakers.
There is a strong theater population in the Orlando metropolitan area. It is home to many community theaters as well as several semiprofessional and professional houses. The biggest theaters in the surrounding region include:
- Ice House Theater
- Mad Cow Theatre
- Orlando Repertory Theater
- Orlando Shakespeare Theater
- Central Florida Ballet
- Orlando Ballet
- and the previous home to the Orlando Theater Project that closed in 2009
This part of the world is also home to the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival. This festival is quite popular and touring companies from all around the world are drawn to this beautiful venue. Every spring, it is hosted at various locations throughout Orlando’s Loch Haven Park.
Many wonderful things happen at this great festival. Full stage productions take place as well as many theater readings. These productions consist of new or unknown plays put together by local artists.
Orlando’s Local Culture
Last but not least, it’s important to tap into the local culture and flavor in and around Orlando. There is a large young adult and teenage population in the region, and many of these youngsters identify as punk, emo, or goth. Since Orlando is considered a breeding ground for rock music, it’s no shock to anyone that these are the prominent styles in the area.
In 1995, the alternative rock band Matchbox 20 originated from the area. Around the same time, pop bands The Backstreet Boys and NSync also rose to the height of popularity and were first established in the Orlando region.
Two popular stores taking advantage of this trend are Vans and Hot Topic. Hot Topic has five stores in Orlando, and each year the Van’s Warped Tour is located here for the fans. You can also buy here and find things that travel addicts like myself enjoy.