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THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE MOVING TO ORLANDO

20 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MOVING TO ORLANDO

Most people hear the name Orlando and immediately think MICKEY MOUSE!  While  we Orlandoans (that’s what we are called) are proud to be home to the the most famous mouse, we are actually a lot more than Disney.  Locals find nature and culture, and learn to pronounce things their own way. The name of the small city of Ocoee, for example, is pronounced oh-COE-ee for newcomers and oh-COY for natives.

Now that you are ready to Take the Florida Plunge, here are 20 things you need to know before moving to Orlando.

1. THE CITY BEAUTIFUL. 

Outsiders think of Orlando as theme parks and only theme parks.  Many are surprised to learn we have a proper downtown with tall office buildings.  Orlando’s nickname is “The City Beautiful” and it’s no mystery why.  With its lovely architecture, lush green trees, clear blue skies, and surrounding wetlands, Orlando definitely lives up to its beautiful reputation.  Orlando also has several homey neighborhoods with eclectic houses, tree lined side streets and our downtown is filled with locally owned business.  Be sure and check out Thornton ParkCollege Park and Winter Garden, just to name a few.

2. EAST IS NORTH, WEST IS SOUTH.

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3. YOU WILL GET WET.

Every June and July afternoon, starting around 3 p.m., Orlando gets wet during it’s afternoon thunderstorms.  Rain will be heavy and lightening strikes will happen repeatedly and you will hear thunder booms like you’ve never heard.  That’s because Central Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S. and No. 2 in the world.  Don’t worry though, an hour later, the weather will clear and blue skies will magically reappear.

4. WE HAVE GREAT FOOD.

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5. ORLANDO HAS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION.

You’ll get around best with a car, however in the spring of 2014, the area got SunRail, a light-rail service running from DeBary in the north to Sand Lake Road in the south. Lynx buses operate throughout the area.

6. GREEN IS A BIG THING.

Soaking up its natural sunshine, Orlando — while no Seattle — is aggressively going green. Under the banner Green Works, Orlando has built the country’s first LEED-certified NBA arena, green-retrofitted hundreds of houses, planted thousands of trees and added hybrid garbage trucks to its fleet.

7. THERE ARE MANY WAYS FOR VISITORS TO REACH YOU.

Orlando International Airport is the headliner, hosting about 3 million passengers a month. But travelers can find discount fares at nearby Orlando Sanford International Airport and fly into a few “executive” airports (for those with private planes). Visitors also can arrive via Amtrak train. Public and private buses, not to mention an endless array of private vehicles, run up and down Florida’s Turnpike.

8. SPORTS FANS HAVE PLENTY CHEER ABOUT

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9. YOU WON’T BE THE ONLY ONE CONFUSED BY “WINTER” TOWNS.

It takes years for most newcomers to distinguish among Central Florida’s “Winter”s. They are Winter Park, a well-to-do community with Park Avenue, a swanky retail center; Winter Garden, with a lovingly restored community center called Plant Street; Winter Springs, a bedroom community north of Orlando; and Winter Haven, a more rural community near the Legoland theme park.

10. IF CULTURE IS WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR, YOU HAVE FOUND IT.  

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11. ECO-ENTHUSIASTS HAVE MANY WAYS TO DELVE INTO NATURE.

You’ll find locals enjoying the weather on an eco-safari — or on a zipline over preserved land — at Forever Florida. We ride bikes along the 22-mile West Orange Trail, rent canoes at Wekiwa Springs State Park, take pontoon tours of the Winter Park Chain of Lakes or the Harris Chain of Lakes, ride horses through the woods and hike parts of the Florida Trail. For those of us without boats and lake access, there also are airboat rides, natural springs and manatee spots to explore.

12. THEME PARKS DON’T HAVE TO BE RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE

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13. ENTERTAINMENT CAN BE FREE OR CHEAP.

Catch a Popcorn Flicks film on the lawn in Central Park. Take in a date-night jazz stroll or movie under the stars at Leu Gardens. On Friday nights in downtown Winter Garden, old-timers play tunes from generations ago. And occasional concerts are staged at downtown’s grand Lake Eola. This is how the locals live.

14. EXPECT A SMILE WHEREVER YOU GO.

Disney World hires its ultra-friendly “cast members” from the surrounding community, and it’s a natural fit because Central Floridians tend to be an open, agreeable bunch. Strangers may give you a coveted parking spot, help change a tire or freely guide a lost driver. Everyone in every subdivision waves hello. It’s jolting at first, but even hardened cynics come to embrace the practice.

15. ORLANDO IS BIG ON BIGGIES.

Disney World is the biggest biggie of all, with about 63,000 employees, supposedly the most at one business workplace in the U.S. But you’ll also find the headquarters for Tupperware here, along with large chunk of Lockheed Martin. The University of Central Florida is the country’s second largest college, with 60,000 students.

16. EVEN THE CHURCHES ARE BIG

Megachurches attract thousands of worshippers a week (plus the occasional headline-worthy scandal). Among them are the 130-acre First Baptist Orlando, with 13,000 members; Northland, which holds 15,000 worshippers; and the multicampus Summit and Discovery churches.

17. YOU’LL SEE HOW FLORIDA GARDENS GROW.

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18. ENJOY THE ODDITIES.

Besides name-brand theme parks and attractions, Orlando is home to a bunch of quirky ones. One enthusiast has put together The Presidents Hall of Fame, with miniatures of White House rooms from every administration. Religious visitors might enjoy the Jesus-centered Holy Land Experience, Gatorland revolves around alligators, and the Reptile World Serpentarium houses more than 50 types of snakes. There’s even a venue called Warbird Adventures that’s dedicated to retired military planes.

19. COLLEGE IN THE SUNSHINE STATE.

Did somebody say college? Orlando’s University of Central Florida currently enrolls more more than 60,000 undergraduate students, making it the largest public university campus by enrollment during the 2015-2016 school year.  There’s also Valencia College that’s one of the top schools for associate degrees and general studies. The school’s film program was even called “one of the best film schools in the country” by none other than Steven Spielberg! As for aspiring lawyers, Florida A&M University College of Law is the place to be. And, of course, Orlando also has several private institutions, including Belhaven UniversityColumbia College, and Rollins College.

20. ORLANDO IS A SMALL TOWN.

It’s not, but it is. Until Disney World opened in the 1960s, this was a “cow town” — more Deep South than destination. You’ll find evidence of this when you meet those few folks whose families are from the area and when you spot cows grazing in quiet pockets adjacent to developed areas. And don’t be surprised when you see Orange groves proudly stand right near new construction, too.

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