The Orlando Guide
Lake Eola, Disney World, the University of Central Florida, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, NBA's Orlando Magic, Sand Lake Road's Restaurant Row...Orlando is known for a great many things.
While 72 million people visit the Theme Park Capital each year, there are more than 2.4 million people in the Orlando metropolitan area, working and living in the "City Beautiful."
Dr. Philip Phillips
Dr. Philip Phillips may have earned his doctorate from Columbia University, but his skills in business and philanthropy became his legacy.
The Doctor had owned 5,000 acres of citrus groves, purchased courtesy of a $5,000 loan from his father. In the early 20th century, he perfected the art canned juice processing. Minute Maid bought the majority of his property and the canning business. The company paid $54 million in 1954, an amount worth more than $450 million by today's standards.
Phillips established the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation for charitable causes and dabbled in various business dealings. He helped to make Orlando what it is today and is honored with namesakes including the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando Regional Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, Dr. Phillips High School, and the Dr. Phillips neighborhood that includes Restaurant Row.
Theme Parks and Tourism
Tourists may flock to Walt Disney World, Epcot, and Universal Studios, but the first theme park in Orlando was Gatorland, which opened in 1949.
Disneyland in California came first, and then Disney World opened in 1971. Sea World opened its doors in 1973, and Universal Studios was completed in 1990.
Movies and Music
Orlando kicked off the Boy Band craze in the 1990s. Music recording and television production are big businesses in the area. Backstreet Boys, N Sync, and O Town, all got their start in central Florida.
The city has also been used as a backdrop in part of some films. But, movies like Apollo 13, Sisters, The Waterboy, and Sharknado 3 were solely Orlando-based.
Orlando Guide to Arts and Entertainment
Hey, it's always fun to spend the day with Mickey, but an area with 2.5 million people is going to want to offer a more for its residents. You'd be hard pressed to find a day without something on the event calendar, courtesy of the Orlando Arts & Entertainment community.
Plays, Musicals, and more in the Theater
The prominent Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has a few different theaters including the 2,711 Walt Disney Theater. It has an amphitheater feel with excellent sightlines.
Orlando Magazine has named the Mad Cow Theater, the Best in Downtown for several years. mad Cow is located on the second floor of its Church Street address.
Some of the newer additions to the theatrical community include Mimi's Community Theater and Theater on the Edge.
Music and Dance
Orlando hosts some of the biggest touring musicians. Additionally, though, it also has intimate music venues that should appeal to all tastes. The Timucua Arts Foundation supports the Arts & Entertainment community and hosts an average of 60 events a year, with just 20 to 40-person audiences.
Jazz lovers can head to Maitland as Jazz Tastings has the genre covered. Plaza Live doesn't have a bad seat in the house, and Raglan Road Irish Pub features live music and Irish dancers weekly.
Symphony, Ballet, and Opera
Not everyone is up for a night at the symphony. But, those who love and appreciate classical music have had the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra since 1993.
The Orlando Ballet performs at the Dr. Phillips Center and offers an annual series of shows including The Nutcracker. Orlando may be an opera, but it also has opera. Opera Orlando was founded in 2009 and schedules seven primary productions annually.
Standup Comedy and Improv
When you've had an especially hard week, some laughs are always appreciated. So, the greater Orlando area has Improv clubs like Orlando Improv. SAK Comedy Lab has a 250-seat venue downtown and also specializes in improv.
Bonkerz Comedy Club features comedians on tour. But, Hard Rock Live and CFE Arena host some of the biggest names in the world of comedy.
Orlando Area Sports
Orlando's two major professional sports teams are relatively young. For example, the Orlando City Soccer Club is a Major League Soccer expansion team that just started in 2015. Their games are played at downtown's Orlando City Stadium.
Central Florida is represented in the NBA by the Orlando Magic. Both the Magic and the Minnesota Timberwolves were the two 1989-inaugurated NBA expansion teams. While the Magic have racked up five divisional titles, they haven't claimed their first NBA championship as yet. Magic games are held at the Amway Center.
Other Orlando Sports Teams
In addition to the City and Magic, Orlando has other professional and collegiate teams and events representing every major sport.
Atlanta Braves - Spring Training (MLB) - ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort
Florida Fire Frogs - Class A (Braves) Florida State League (MLB) - Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee
Orlando Solar Bears - ECHL (NHL) - Amway Center
Orlando Apollos (starting in 2019) - AAF Football - Spectrum Stadium on the UCF campus
Orlando Anarchy - Women's Football Alliance (WFA) - Trinity Preparatory School
Orlando Pride Soccer - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)- Orlando City Stadium
UCF Knights Athletics - University of Central Florida - NCAA Division I
The Guide to Orlando Outdoors
From theme parks to traditional parks, Orlando has the weather to keep people outdoors all year long. There are 83 parks in the city as well as recreation and senior centers all managed by the Parks and Recreation Department.
The area is also home to 100 lakes and was built around Lake Eola.
Lake Eola is actually a sinkhole as opposed to a lake. However, it was converted a park in 1892 and is known for its Centennial Fountain, which was built in 1957 to replace the original 1912 version.
The lake is located in South Eola, which is part of Downtown Orlando. It now features the Walt Disney Amphitheater, a Chinese pagoda, gift shop, sculptures, and more. Also, it's the site of events like the city's 4th of July Fireworks, Sunday Farmers Markets, and November's Fiesta in the Park.
Darden Restaurants, the restaurant chain operator with brands including Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, and LongHorn Steakhouse, is headquartered in Orlando. It's the only Fortune 500 company in the area and its history includes the first Red Lobster restaurant in Lakeland, Florida in 1968.
Orlando has over 7,000 restaurants, and they're not all well-known chains. Some of the best food comes from the one-off locations with their varying specialties.
The Black Bean Deli is a local's favorite for Cuban sandwiches and other Cuban favorites. Prato Pizza covers the upscale pizza dining with an al fresco experience. However, for the flash-baked Neapolitan-style pizza that can come out with yummy blackened or blistered crust, you'll want to check out Pizza Bruno.
Food Network Ties
If you're a fan of the Food Network, you may want to check out Guy Fieri's Planet Hollywood Observatory or Emeril Lagasse's Emeril's Orlando. Iron Chef America's Masaharu Morimoto also has a pan-Asian restaurant called Morimoto Asia.
New on the Taste Menu
In the past few years, Orlandoans have been treated to some new dining options.
Carol-Bama BBQ started as a food truck industry. But, it now has a permanent location in the North Quarter Market. Cottage pie, scotch eggs, sausage rolls, and plenty of lagers can be found at Claddagh Cottage. Plus, you can work on your trivia skills or give the dartboard a workout. If you're just looking for a quick treat, Choulala Fine Pastries in Winter Park should satisfy your taste buds with savory and sweet pastries.
The Orlando Miscellaneous
Is Bigger Actually Better?
Orlando is home to both the world's largest McDonald's and Disney Store locations. While a Disney Store makes sense, you may wonder just how many burgers are needed, but this particular McDonald's serves pizza, pasta, and sandwiches too.
City Hall Explodes on Film
Orlando's former City Hall was famously immortalized in the film Lethal Weapon 3 with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. The movie was made in The City Beautiful and featured a real-life City Hall explosion, which helped the city as it needed the funding to demolish it anyway.
A Beautiful Day in (this) Neighborhood
Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame, graduated from Rollins College, where his sweater and sneakers are on display. He spent his winters in Winter Park where a sign was erected that reads "It's a Beautiful Day in this Neighborhood."
New and Cool
Travel & Leisure Magazine named the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts one of the "50 Coolest Places in the World" in 2015, the year after it was completed.