Given that it’s home to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and ICON Orlando, it makes sense that Orlando is known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World.” But, as the record 72 million visitors in 2017 can attest, there’s a lot more to Orlando than just Mickey Mouse and Shamu. As Florida's largest city, it also has a rich history with a diverse and robust downtown scene.
For those considering moving to Orlando, we’ve gathered information and resources to help make the decision easier. We’ve also reached out to folks who live there to find out what they love about the city and what they think it could improve upon. (And FYI, we're movers in Orlando, so we like to think we know our stuff).
Back in 1838, during the Second Seminole War, Orlando was called Fort Gatlin. Then, according to some sources, it was called Jernigan. But how the city acquired the name Orlando—well, it seems there’s not one definitive story. One version involves a guy named Orlando Reeves. Then there’s another story about a somewhat mysterious memorial that read, “There lies Orlando.” Yet another theory is that the city was named after the character in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
What is clear, however, is that in 2018 Forbes named it one of the fastest-growing metropolitan cities in America. It also has a large LGBT population and a reputation for being one of the most accepting cities in the Southeast.
According to Numbeo, the cost for a four-person family to live in Orlando is around $3,100 a month (excluding housing). Expenses for a single person run around $870 (excluding housing).
Home prices in Orlando, according to this article, are, um, a bit inflated, due to high demand and a limited amount of supply. But, you know, it all depends on where you look.
When it comes to renting, apartments range from $1,200 to $1,400, depending, of course, on what part of town you choose.
If you are interested in a more thorough breakdown, Expatistan is a great site that will provide you with an extensive list of costs such as health care, groceries, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Orlando, of course, has an incredibly vibrant tourist industry. But the city is also known as a center for innovation in digital media, agricultural technology, aviation, aerospace, and software design. It also has the Central Florida Research Park, which is home to more than 120 companies, employing more than 8,500 people.
The television, film, and video-game industries have a large presence, with a division of Electronic Arts, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Universal Studios all located nearby.
The area is also a hub for the nation’s military simulation and training programs, with a Lockheed Martin facility, as well as many engineering firms.
With two nonprofit hospitals, Orlando Health and Florida Hospital, as well as a VA hospital and the Nemours Children’s Hospital, there are also many opportunities for people interested in the health care industry. Finally, the average monthly salary, after taxes, is around $3,000.
Orlando isn’t high on the list of walkable cities, and apparently its highway traffic is terrible. But there are several options when it comes to public transportation. If you plan on spending most of your time downtown, there’s LYMMO, a BRT service, and there’s also a traditional bus system and the SunRail.
When it comes to getting out of town, Orlando has a Greyhound station, an Amtrak station, and two airports, the Orlando International Airport and the Orlando Executive Airport.
As with any major American city, crime is a factor, but it varies based on which part of Orlando you live in.
Voted Orlando’s best neighborhood, College Park is located just outside of the downtown area and is made up of award-winning restaurants, small businesses, and local retailers, including spas and exercise facilities. Public art, beautiful parks, and Orlando’s only public golf course add to the beauty of the area. College Park holds its annual Jazz Fest every October, as well as Holiday on the Drive every December, and Dancing on the Drive in the spring.
Bungalows are prominent in this area, although apartments and other styles are also available.
If you’re a foodie, then this is the neighborhood for you. The Audubon Park Garden District (APGD) is the center of Orlando’s culinary renaissance, with an organic community garden, an eco-district initiative, and a strong commitment to farm-to-table restaurants and organic green grocers.
In 2016, APGD received the Great American Main Street Award, which recognizes the country’s best examples of neighborhood commercial district revitalization. Atlanta Magazine also deemed it Orlando’s “most-talked-about community.”
Designated a historic district in 1989, Lake Eola Heights is one of Orlando’s oldest and most architecturally diverse neighborhoods, with a beautiful park and excellent retail and dining spots. Home styles range from Minimal Traditional and Art Deco to Mediterranean Revival and craftsman-style houses.
If you’re interested in learning more about the rich history of the area, this post offers some nice background, and the neighborhood association also has a Facebook page.
If you’re looking for the next up-and-coming neighborhood, Mills 50 is it. It made Thrillist’s list of “12 Neighborhoods That Are About to Get Crazy Popular,” and for good reason. Not only does it have the city’s largest collection of murals, but even the Dumpsters and storm drains are considered works of art. It’s got a new-age vibe, with yoga studios, holistic wellness centers, tattoo shops, and restaurants serving exotic food—all of which make it a haven for local artists and other creative types.
Orlando officially considers Parramore three separate neighborhoods—Lake Dot, Callahan, and Holden/Parramore, so this area can get confusing. There’s also some controversy surrounding its past and future, which this article does a great job of explaining. One thing that’s clear, though, is that for those who are interested in affordable housing and good restaurants, this neighborhood has a lot to offer.
Rather than discuss all of the theme parks and resorts, we want to introduce you to some of the finer things in the city, such as the Florida Film Festival, which is one of the most popular regional film festivals in the country. For year-round performing arts, there’s the Central Florida Ballet, the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, and the Mad Cow Theatre, among others. And the iconic Bob Carr Performing Arts Center has been entertaining audiences since 1927.
When it comes to restaurants, bars, and clubs, Orlando seems to have no limit. Q'Kenan is a classic Venezuelan restaurant with a low-key atmosphere and exceptional food. Nona Blue serves American pub fare and has an extensive wine, beer, and cocktail menu. Olde 64 is a popular bar on North Orange Avenue, which is the center of the city’s bar and club scene. And we couldn’t go without mentioning Hanson’s Shoe Repair. This speakeasy (you need a password to get in) is located on the roof of the Hanson Building, one of Orlando’s oldest buildings, dating back to 1883. The name comes from the fact that the space used to be a cobbler’s shop.
If nightclubs are your preference, take your pick. There’s EVE Orlando, ICEBAR Orlando, The Beacham, Vyce Lounge, and an array of others.
When we asked Orlando residents about what they love and what they think could be improved upon, Angela Melvin told us that Orlando is a unique city because of all of theme parks and tourist activities, but that average wages tend to be low because the largest employers cater to tourists. She also says that housing costs are high—“I don’t know of many apartments under $1,200 per month unless they are very old”—and that public transportation is troublesome for a city its size. “Orlando is not bike- or pedestrian-friendly, and our major roads are dangerous and always under construction.” On a more positive note, she says the public schools are amazing.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your potential move, that’s OK. It’s all part of the process. Hopefully, what we’ve provided will help alleviate some of your anxiety and enable you to decide if Orlando is the right place for you. If you decide to take the plunge, get in touch. Like we said before, we are Orlando movers, after all.
Move forward, leave anxiety behind.