Located in Central Florida, Orlando is one of the world’s leading holiday destinations. This was not always the case. Originally named Jernigan, the area was sparsely populated until the arrival of the citrus industry after the Civil War. The late 19th century was known as the city’s Golden Era. Many soldiers and airmen who trained at Orlando Army Air Base during the Second World War stayed or returned to the area to raise families. The airbase has since become Orlando International Airport, the 13th busiest in United States. The name of the facility was changed to McCoy Air Force Base in honor of a former commander who died in an aircraft accident. The airfield’s “MCO” designation is still used today.
The area around Orlando became known as a tourist destination soon after the Spanish-American War. The city grew dramatically with the announcement and construction of Walt Disney World in nearby Lake Buena Vista in the late 1960s. Disney chose Orlando over Miami and Tampa because it was believed that the inland location was less susceptible to hurricanes than coastal regions. Over the years, several other large theme parks and outdoor recreational activities have opened. Because of its close proximity to nearby major attractions, the “City Beautiful” is often called the theme park capital of the world. Annually, more than 52 million people visit the area.
Orlando has numerous cultural venues, shopping centers and recreational activities. The city is sometimes referred to as Hollywood East because of the large number of movies, television and musical performances that are produced in the area. There are four major shopping centers in Orlando. The Florida Mall is one of the largest single story malls in America. The city boasts a thriving performing arts scene, including performances by Broadway touring companies. In addition to hosting the NBA’s Orlando Magic, there are several spring training facilities for major league baseball in the Orlando area as well. Numerous cultural festivals, such as the International Fringe Theater Festival, are held throughout the city each year. Orlando is a popular golf resort destination. One of the many courses around the city is the world famous Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
Orlando is more than just theme parks. Whether it is a group of friends, families or single travelers, a stylish historic district, vibrant nightlife, a wide array of recreational opportunities and a full calendar of events awaits anyone who visits.