Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
Where exactly is Orlando?
Most of us who visit Orlando spend our time at the theme parks and shopping malls, with a fleeting glimpse of other parts of the city on our way to or from the airport. Somehow it does not feel like a city, more a collection of suburbs and business parks. So where exactly is the city of Orlando?
The Mall at Millenia sits at the northern end of the Orlando that most visitors see. If you look north from the mall, you will see, some miles still further north, a collection of skyscrapers sprouting from the plain. That is Orlando, downtown Orlando.
Most of us scuttling between the theme parks and the shopping malls and International Drive forget that we see only a small fraction of this vast city. Disney is some 20 miles southwest of the centre of Orlando. The airport is 9 miles southeast. The Florida Mall is 7 miles south – and technically outside the city limits.
So is there anything to see if we venture north to the centre of Orlando?
Top of the list if there are children in the party is the Orlando Science Center, just north of downtown. There you will find dinosaurs, live alligators and turtles, interactive exhibits to learn about science in a fun way, and a planetarium. Check out their website to make sure you don’t miss anything.
For history buffs there is the Orlando County Regional History Center, where you can learn about central Florida before Disney. And take a stroll around Lake Eola, on the eastern side of downtown, where you can see old wooden houses built by Orlando’s first settlers in the 19th century, or rent a paddle boat. This is where Orlando earned its title in early tourist brochures, the ”City Beautiful”.
And where did that name Orlando come from? No-one really knows. Some people think it came from the hero of Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, which is why one of the main streets downtown is called Rosalind Avenue (so Rosalind is in the heart of Orlando). Others are doubtful that those 19th century cattle farmers would have been so keen on the bard, and prefer the theory that it was named after an early settler whose first name was Orlando. Take your pick.
So visit the Orlando that was there before Disney arrived, where a city grew up among cattle ranches and citrus groves, a reminder of the time when there really were orange trees on the Orange Blossom Trail.
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