interesting facts about Orlando

7 Interesting Facts about Orlando

Spread across 113 sq. miles, Orlando is one of the United States blockbuster holiday destinations. In 2018, approximately 75 million people visited the city – more than any other destination in the world. It’s best-known for its epic theme parks and Florida sunshine, but there’s more to the city than Disney World and Universal Studios. From loads of lemons to supersized McDonalds, here are a few interesting facts about Orlando that might surprise you.

7 Interesting Facts about Orlando

1. It’s the alligator capital of the world

Gatorland is known as the ‘Alligator Capital of the World’. It’s home to more than 2,000 American Alligators, including rare varieties like albino and leucistic alligators. There’s also a dedicated home for baby alligators – Baby Gator Marsh.

The 110-acre site also features an aviary, breeding marks and bird rookery, petting zoo, nature walk and one-of-a-kind reptilian shows. If gators aren’t quite enough excitement for you, there’s the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, voted the best zipline in central Florida.

interesting facts about Orlando

2. No one knows how it got its name

The city was originally known as Jernigan, named after the first permanent settler in the area. No one knows when ‘Orlando’ emerged from, but there are a few different theories. Some say it was named after a heroic soldier, Orland Reeves, killed during the Seminole War, while others say it was named after Shakespeare’s character in As You Like It. 

3. There are over 100 lakes in Orlando alone

Orlando is home to more than 100 lakes, mostly formed from huge sinkholes like the Yucatan’s cenotes. The largest lake is Lake Eola, which is actually a sprawling sinkhole situated in the heart of the city. The giant lake reaches 80 ft at its deepest point and its encircling pathway stretches across 0.9 miles in length. It’s a popular spot for renting swan paddle boats, evening concerts and birdwatching.

interesting facts about Orlando

4. Disneyland wasn’t the first theme park in Orlando

Most people assume Disneyland transformed Orlando into what it is today, but there were already a couple of theme parks in the area. Gatorland, which opened in 1949, was officially the first theme park to open in Orland. It’s still open to visitors today. Disney World opened in 1973, then SeaWorld in 1973, followed by Epcot in 1982 and Hollywood Studios in 1989. Disney’s Animal Kingdom was added in 1998.

Today, Disney World is the largest theme park in the world and employs more people than every other Disney theme park combined.

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5. It was once the heartland of America’s citrus industry

Orlando was the main hub for the United State’s citrus industry. By 1894, it produced as many as six million boxes of fruit per year. But the Great Freeze, which didn’t break until 1901, killed off all of the crops. Afterwards, production plummeted to just 100,000 boxes. The industry moved south as a precaution and land values dropped from $1,000 per acre to as little as $10 per acre.

It is possible to get a flavour of the city’s once-mighty reputation though. Showcase of Citrus is a citrus farm located west of Walt Disney World, and in nearby Lake Wales is Florida’s Natural Growers, which is where Florida’s orange juice is made.

6. The city used Hollywood to blow up the Old Town Hall

Ever wondered how to blow up a building on a budget? Look to Orlando. In 1991, the city had just completed work on a sparkling new City Hall. The only problem was that it stood just three metres from the hideous old city hall. Authorities decided to tear it down but were worried about how much it might cost. The solution? Film producer, Ross Testagrossa hopped onto the phone to Hollywood and, as luck would have it, the producer Joel Silver was looking for a building to blow up.

In the opening scene of Lethal Weapon 3, you can watch LAPD cops Danny Glover and Mel Gibson run out of the old City Hall as it blows up behind them. Orlando’s Mayor even made it into the movie.

7. Orland is home to one of the largest McDonalds in the world

Known as ‘Epic McD’, Orlando is home to the world’s largest McDonalds. It sprawls across a staggering 19,000 sq. ft (1,800 sq. metres) over three stories. The restaurant serves up an exclusive menu with 50 additional items including customized pasta dishes, omelettes, Belgian waffles and brick oven pizza. If you’re feeling fancy, you can opt for the ‘Gourmet Bistro’ menu too. The restaurant, which was built in 1976, also boasts a 22-ft PlayPlace featuring arcading games and a waving 30-ft Ronald McDonald. It’s open 24 hours, in case you’re wondering. 

interesting facts about Orlando

Allie D'Almo

Allie is a passionate traveller with a hearty interest in great food and stories. She likes to travel slowly, particularly to underrated and underloved places. She’s lived in Italy and is now based in London, where she spends most of her time either plotting her next trip or writing about her last one.

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