Orlando is a city smack dab in the center of the state of Florida.
The central hub of the Interstate 4 Corridor, its metropolitan area is where Florida becomes like the North and where the landscape turns into the Tropics. It is defined in many different ways by many different cultures, which explains a lot.
Orlando itself has been many things since its earliest establishment, the crossroads of Jernigan, was founded in 1842. It took its modern name in 1857 based on a legend of a soldier named "Orlando Reeves", who had allegedly died and was buried in the area during one of the Seminole Wars.
Orlando was home to several military establishments from early on, as well as orange groves, with one of its biggest established plantation owners being Philip Phillips (known in the area as "Dr. Phillips"). His descendants parlayed the groves into a lucrative real estate business, as well as a large philanthropic trust.
During the Cold War, Pinecastle Army Airfield/McCoy Air Force Base (the modern day Orlando International Airport) became one of the homes of America's nuclear bombers.note To this day, one of Orlando's major employers is Lockheed Martin. But the modern character of the city began to take shape when Walt Disney came to town. The founding and opening of the Walt Disney World Resort to the southwest of the city would change the culture of the area forever.
Today, the city is the hub of a large, vibrant metropolitan area. The locals refer to it as "Greater Orlando"; "Metro Orlando", or even just "Central Florida", is also acceptable.note Naturally, the main area code of the city, 4-0-7, is a common shorthand as well.note Officially, the metropolitan area includes Kissimmee, Sanford, and Daytona Beach; the Census Bureau also recently included Lakeland, which some see more as part of Tampa Bay.note While not officially in the Orlando metro area, the Space Coast/Brevard County is usually regarded as part of Greater Orlando.
That gives it a total of five international airports.
While many outside still see Disney (or Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld, or its other theme parks or tourist traps—or even LEGOLAND Florida if you include Lakeland), the city itself is always re-shaping itself to keep things interesting. It's become a sleeper technology hub; not just for Lockheed, but also for Electronic Arts, which keeps its Tiburon studio (Madden NFL) nearby. Both the University of Central Florida (UCF) and private Full Sail University help with that advancement. Even the local public school systems contribute directly with tech- and arts-oriented trade schools.
In terms of sports, it was nominally the home of many minor-league teams (and baseball spring training, which left the main city in The Aughts) until the Orlando Magic arrived in 1989. In recent years, soccer has become wildly popular, culminating with the arrival of Orlando City SC in 2011, and its accession to Major League Soccer in 2015. The following year, Orlando City's directly-owned Distaff Counterpart, the Orlando Pride, started play in the National Women's Soccer League. UCF has also been making waves in NCAA college athletics; having joined Division I in 1984, what is now the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996, and most recently the so-called Power 5 (specifically the Big 12) in 2023.
Orlando also has very strong credentials in Professional Wrestling. World Wrestling Entertainment runs its developmental league, NXT, out of Full Sail University. Impact Wrestling ran its TV shows out of soundstages at Universal Orlando particularly in The Aughts. Even the old WCW spent a few years in The '90s filming at Disney-MGM Studios.
Consider the name of International Drive a warning: since Orlando is a global tourist destination, it's full of international drivers. The first time they ever drove an automatic was this morning when they picked up the rental car, the first time they ever saw a red rear turn signal was - oops, just now!... and that's not even getting into the ones new to driving on the right.
Works of fiction based in or around Orlando
Film - Animation
- Minions (2015) has Orlando as the host location of Villain-Con, an annual convention dedicated to villainy. The actual location of Orlando is depicted as nothing more than swamp land with a tackle shop that houses an underground convention center. It's very much Truth in Television given the film's timeframe is 1968. By then, none of the suburban neighborhoods and theme parks had been built.
Film - Live Action
- 99 Homes (2015) is based around the foreclosure crisis that Orlando faced during and after the 2007 economic crash.
- Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) has Ernest P. Worrell as a local taxi driver. Patty Maloney, who was raised in Winter Park, played one of the elves.
- Escape from Tomorrow (2013) is based mostly in Walt Disney World, with a few elements of Disneyland thrown in.
- Fighting with My Family (2019) shows that a portion of Paige's training took place in the city.
- The Florida Project (2017) follows a poverty-stricken mother and daughter living in a cheap Kissimmee hotel, just outside of Walt Disney World.
- Jaws 3-D (1983) takes place in SeaWorld.
- Larry The Cable Guy Health Inspector (2006) stars Larry the Cable Guy as a restaurant inspector.
- Never Back Down (2008) is about Mixed Martial Arts.
- Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015) depicts Universal Orlando as one of the places that gets attacked by the sharks.
- Alas, Babylon (1959) sees Orlando being destroyed by two nuclear bombs when the Cold War turns hot.
- Paper Towns (2008) is set in Jefferson Park, a fictional subdivision of the city; although the area was closely modeled after Baldwin Park.
- Coach (1989) changed settings to Orlando in its seventh season, after the main character agrees to coach the fictional "Orlando Breakers" NFL team.
- FreakyLinks (2000) involves a man investigating the mysterious death of his brother.
- Fresh Off the Boat (2015) is about a Taiwanese-American family moving to the city from DC's Chinatown so that the father can start up a steakhouse business.
- On Becoming a God in Central Florida (2019) follows a minimum wage water park employee in search of a better life.
- And according to Star Trek: Picard (2023), Orlando is still a go-to vacation destination in the 25th century. It was one of the choices Deanna Troi-Riker was scrolling through (along with the planet Kaphar Prime) when covertly looking for a beach vacation spot while in a therapy session with Data in the finale episode.caveat
Geordi LaForge: Tough choice.
Musical acts based in Orlando
- Orlando was ground zero of the late-1990s Boy Band craze, producing Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and O Town.
- Matchbox Twenty
- Seven Mary Three
- Alter Bridge
- Luis Fonsi was born in Puerto Rico, but went to high school in Orlando (eventually attending Florida State University), and in fact was in a band with Joey Fatone of NSYNC.