Orlando, Florida is a city that had humble -- and mysterious -- beginnings, but possesses a population and reputation that has grown in leaps and bounds. Now, as the 26th largest metro area in the United States and its most visited city
, it's no mystery why Orlando is now one of the top four places Americans most want to live
Orlando originally had the name Jernigan, derived from the first European settler, Aaron Jernigan. It was was renamed Orlando in 1857, though reasons for this rechristening remain historically unclear.
One legend has it that the city is named after a soldier named Orlando Reeves, who was felled in the Second Seminole War in 1835. But other reliable accounts say Orlando was named after cattle rancher Orlando Rees, who owned large tracts of land in the area. Still another version
claims that Orlando got its name from the Shakespeare play, "As You Like It."
Whatever the case may be, Orlando has transcended its modest beginnings to become the cultural and recreational hub it currently is, with hundreds of parks, attractions and events.
Parks and Recreation
Escape from the bustling metropolis in the center of Downtown Orlando, as Lake Eola Park offers free scenic walkways, a sculpture-lined lake with a colorfully lit fountain, swan boat rentals, playgrounds, cafes, shops and a Sunday Farmer's Market. 195 N Rosalind Ave.
Just down the road from Walt Disney World on Orlando's outskirts, Tibet-Butler Preserve
offers three miles-long trails and an Environmental Center featuring baby alligators, a large African Tortoise and educational programs aplenty. 8777 County Rd 535 407-876-6696
Attractions and Activities
Orlando's number one attraction, of course, is Disney's Magic Kingdom
, which is the largest amusement park in all of North America
. A must visit. Also try to check out Epcot
, Animal Kingdom
and Hollywood Studios
while at Walt Disney World Resort. 3111 World Drive 407-934-7639
The most popular Disney alternative is Universal's Islands of Adventure
, at which you'll find caroming coasters, frightful free-falls, wet water rides, spectacular shows and wizarding worlds unto themselves. While there don't miss its companion park Universal Studios Florida
as well! 6000 Universal Blvd. 407-363-8000
A nice change of pace from the hustle-and-bustle theme park shuffle is Discovery Cove
, with a 1,300/day guest limitation giving it more of a resort feel. Swim with dolphins, hand-feed exotic birds and much more. Park tickets include unlimited 14-day entrance to Sea World
or Busch Gardens Tampa
too! 6000 Discovery Cove Way 877-557-7404
The top Orlando event occurs nightly within the cozy confines of Magic Kingdom: the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular
fireworks display -- a pulse-pounding, pyrotechnic tour de force. 3111 World Drive 407-934-7639
Another fun place to seek events in Orlando is the Universal CityWalk
, which has a dazzling array of clubs, concerts, shops, eateries and theaters. 6000 Universal Blvd.
And all of this merely scratches the surface of what this amazing city has to offer. Come and see for yourself!