The city of Orlando is often referred to as “The City Beautiful” and for great reason. Orlando is home to a number of beautiful parks, museums, art galleries and other beautiful entities. The city is known as the fifth largest city in Florida with a population of 2,054,574 (estimate taken in July 2008). It was incorporated on July 31, 1875. In 1885, Orlando became a city and it has grown into a cutting edge, world renowned and bustling center of Orange County, Florida.
Orlando started as a major citrus-growing region in the middle of the state and has since matured into a tourist destination for all. Since it is home to the Universal Orlando Resort and Seaworld theme park, Orlando prides itself on many other tourist amenities such as five star hotels, shopping outlets and award winning restaurants. About 21 miles southwest of Orlando sits the city of Lake Buena Vista, Florida, which is also home to the Walt Disney World Resort. While this resort is geographically outside of Orlando, the culture of Walt Disney World resonates throughout the city and is in general what has made Orlando famous to the rest of the world. Since the popularity of destination tourism in the 1970’s, Orlando has become a popular target for many travelers. The city was the third most visited city in the country among travelers in 2007. In East Orlando, you can find the University of Central Florida, the largest university (measured by student enrollment) in the state of Florida and one of the largest universities in the United States.
With all of the attention Orlando receives from its many studios and theme parks, it is sometimes referred to as the Hollywood of the East. Many television shows including children’s game shows and animation production are filmed and constructed in Orlando. Films such as Mulan, Lilo & Stitch and Lethal Weapon 3 were filmed and created in the Orlando area.
Away from the tourist attractions and studio production, the metropolitan area of Orlando is also known for its contributions to theater and the arts. There are several semi-professional and professional community theaters scattered throughout Orlando and its surrounding areas. Some of these theaters include the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando Theater Project, Mad Cow Theater, Winter Park Playhouse, Orlando Repertory Theater and Theater Winter Haven. In addition to these theaters, the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, originally built in 1926, has just been transformed into the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center. This newly revamped center is a favorite for locals and visitors because many national award winning tours perform at the venue on a regular basis.
Every spring, Orlando is transformed into a theater lover’s heaven. The city is the host to the Orlando International Fringe Festival. Many touring companies from around the world attend this festival, hosted by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, to perform full production plays and readings of their works. There are also many productions performed by local actors and artists in several local theaters and downtown venues.
Aside from these notable and world renowned events and theme parks in Orlando, the city has something for everyone. Boutique shops, novelty and antique stores, small hometown restaurants and bakeries can be found in the unique area of College Park and Thornton Park. Downtown Orlando is home to a new beautiful Amway Center, where the hometown favorite, the Orlando Magic, can be found playing basketball and where many globally popular acts perform to thousands. Several friendly local bars with Irish, Cajun or Mexican flair can be found on Wall Street or Central Avenue. Many well known restaurants such as Kress Steakhouse, Ceviche or Spice Steakhouse shouldn’t be missed on Church Street, along with art galleries and eclectic shops. There are also several clubs lining the streets, known for great bands or DJs, with atmosphere ranging from relaxed to sophisticate. Orlando includes theme parks, theaters, performing arts centers, restaurants, shops and clubs. With so much to offer, the city is a popular destination for tourists and a prideful hometown for locals.
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Winter Park, Florida, is a small town that is often compared to a historic New England town without the snow. The old and interesting architecture with small hometown feel appeals to all tourists and locals alike. Located in Orange County, just north of Orlando, Winter Park is only nine square miles and has more than 28,900 residents. It is one of the most popular and refined cities in Central Florida and is know for its boutique shops, unique store fronts, brick streets, large trees, museums and beautifully landscaped parks.
Winter Park is mistakenly considered to be only a residential and shopping town in the Orlando area. However, the town itself is home to many other businesses, office buildings, a hospital and some industrial properties. The town has its own central business district and also includes the private college Rollins College and Winter Park Memorial Hospital.
One of the most interesting buildings in Winter Park is the Winter Park Farmers’ Market building. The history and unique architecture of the building has made it the center of many hometown events, including the popular Saturday Farmers’ Market. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is another well known event in the area that is consistently rated among the top outdoor art festivals by Sunshine Artist and American Style magazines. Each year, over 350,000 visitors from all over the world attend this festival.
There are several parks and museums located in the heart of Winter Park. Some of the most notable museums include Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, the Cornell Fine Arts Center Museum and the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Just a few of the local parks in Winter Park include Central Park, Mead Gardens Park and Shady Park. With such an abundance of beauty, history, art and activities, Winter Park is the favorite town of many guests and Floridians.
Nestled in the Greater Orlando area, Maitland is a quiet yet notable city in Orange County, Florida. It is located in the Greater Orlando area, near Winter Park, and had a recorded population of 14, 172 in the 2006 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city is known for its beautiful homes, highly desirable neighborhoods and prestigious boating, skiing and fishing lakes. Many of the popular parks in the city include lake walks or other lake activities. The city is also home to many schools and community centers targeted to local children and families.
Maitland includes several parks such as Lake Lily Park, Lake Sybelia Park, Fort Maitland Park and Maitland Community Park. Visitors can enjoy playgrounds, landscaped fields, lake beaches, fishing piers and boat docks at most of these lakes. Maitland is a city focused on its rich culture and extensive history and offers visitors several cultural sites to observe. The Maitland Arts Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique and well-known Mayan/Aztec sculptures, murals and bas reliefs. The Maitland Historical Society and the William H. Waterhouse Museum offer an interesting look at the history of the city. Several other family-focused city activities include the Maitland Farmer’s Market (Sundays at Lake Lily Park), RDV Sportsplex, the Jewish Community Center and the Audubon Center for Birds and Prey. Maitland is an attractive city for young families and those who like to live in a serene yet urban lifestyle. The beautiful lakes, activities and history of the city are not to be missed by visitors.
Oviedo, Florida, is a city no short of a wonderful place to live, visit or raise a family. The city was voted #100 in CNN Money Magazine’s Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2009. Oviedo is located in Seminole County, east of metropolitan Orlando, and had a population of 30,618 according to the 2006 census performed by the U.S. Census Bureau. The city has a culture of its own and a tightly knit and friendly hometown feel.
One interesting feature of Oviedo that has made it popular among other Florida cities is a population of farm chickens that freely roam the downtown area and are usually in parking lot of a the local “Popeye’s Chicken” restaurant (ironically). The chickens have the right-of-way to passing cars and it is not unusual to see traffic backed up on the main street of downtown Oviedo to allow the chickens to mosey across the street. These Oviedo chickens have been featured on coffee mugs, t-shirts and bumper stickers and were featured in a short documentary shown at the Florida Film Festival in 2009.
Oviedo offers local events throughout the year that are family friendly and fun. These events include a 4th of July Fireworks Party, Great Day in the Country, Taste of Oviedo, Whale of a Sale and Oktoberfest. Some of the annual events sponsored by the Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce include Kidstravaganza, Winter Springs Festival of the Arts, Home and Hurricane Expo and many more. Some of the most popular attractions with visitors to the Oviedo area are Black Hammock Adventures and the Oviedo Marketplace. For outdoor lovers, there are many nature trails available as well as a wonderful paved jogging/biking trail called the Cross Seminole Trail. Oviedo offers its residents natural beauty, many neighborhood activities and a beautiful and peaceful setting. Visitors are usually impressed with the town’s eclectic style and charm.
Known for its many parks, recreation centers and picturesque large community neighborhoods, Winter Springs, Florida is a city that many Central Florida families are proud to call home. The city has a population of 34,621 according to estimates performed by the City of Winter Springs in 2000. The city was also ranked as the 31st best place to live and the 2nd best place to live in the state of Florida by the August 2007 issue of Money Magazine.
While Winter Springs has many businesses, shopping centers, parks and housing developments, it still includes 50 acres of undeveloped land for future use. There are currently nine public parks in Winter Springs that consist of playgrounds, soccer fields, tennis courts and basketball courts. Many of these parks are located in the local housing communities, such as Tuskawilla and The Ranchlands. These parks include Trotwood Park, Moss Park and Ranchlands Park. One of the largest public parks in Winter Springs is located next to Winter Springs High School and is called Central Winds Park. This park features volleyball courts, softball fields, and a dog park and is the usual hosting location for the city’s annual Scottish Festival.
A newly constructed shopping plaza called Winter Springs Town Center has also become a center point of focus for Winter Springs residents and visitors. The beautiful construction of the plaza includes fountains, statues and Tuscan themed buildings. The center includes a health club, UPS store, grocery store, salon and several local restaurants. Winter Springs has become a popular community for many Florida newcomers. The beauty of the city and its great features are what attract many visitors and keep its residents happy to stay.
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