Orlando Travel Guide

The city 'built on the peel of an orange' has also established itself as part of Florida's high-tech corridor. The Mickey Mouse draw card has turned Orlando into the third-ranking US destination for overseas travellers, after Los Angeles and New York City.

Reige's Firearms rent out real semiautomatics for a blast; and Skull Kingdom is endearingly low-tech. While everybody knows the big-name theme parks, they've spawned smaller versions in most of our home countries, the real treasures of Orlando's psyche are the sidekicks: Holyland is peddling God.

So you'd better watch your step in this 21st-century boomtown: according to a 1998 study, the stampede to Orlando has made it the most dangerous place in the US for pedestrians. Orlando boasts not only the space technology industries focused on the Florida Space Coast but a healthy dose of bits and bytes makers as well.

Facts in a glance

Area: 243 sq km
Population: 176,500
Country: USA
Time Zone: GMT/UTC -5 (Eastern time zone)
Telephone Area Code: 407


Originally named Jernigan, Orlando was nothing but a rudimentary settlement tacked on to Fort Gatlin, a military base for American soldiers during the bloody Seminole Indian wars. Disney's 'Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow' (EPCOT) had a brutal beginning.

At the close of the Second Seminole War, settlers moved in and renamed the region after Orlando Reeves, a soldier killed by Indians at Lake Eola.

1900: Orlando had become a thriving farming community, the 'city built on the peel of an orange', as it was affectionately known. The citrus boom was succeeded by intermittent railroad and real estate booms, but the late 1950s brought a cash fountain that was to last: the beginnings of the Space Age.

The Glenn Martin Company (now Martin Marietta Defence Systems) began missile production, and the creation of the Cape Canaveral and Cape Kennedy Space Centers on Florida's east coast brought infusions of cash and jobs to the area.

In 1971, with the establishment of Walt Disney World, the area became a theme park megalopolis. While nobody was looking, Orlando established itself as a high tech corridor, the Silicon Valley of Florida. But it's not just the theme parks doing all the attracting.

You'd have to say that trading in their oranges for tourism and high tech was a good move for the residents of this one-time backwater. The 'community of tomorrow' has proven itself to be forward-thinking, and in so doing has become an über-achieving success today. Orlando is now the third most popular US destination among international visitors, after Los Angeles and New York City.

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