This central Florida city of Orlando is more than meets the eye.
A record 75 million people visited Orlando in 2018, making it the most-visited destination in the U.S., reports the Orlando Weekly.
And if you're thinking of living here, it's so much more than Disney World. About a dozen or so theme parks dominate. But besides being a destination for Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it's a city with real communities. You'll find mixed-use developments and a big city financial district here, too.
We organized 10 neighborhoods with five Orlando fun facts for each. They all have noteworthy traits. Perhaps one of these 'hoods will be where you find your next great place to call home.
1. Baldwin Park
The concept was first envisioned in the 1990s and reached fruition in the early 2000s. The City of Orlando faced the closure of the 1,100-acre Naval Training Center, two miles from downtown in the mid-1990s. It opted for walkable neighborhoods with a mixed-use town center, according to CNU.
Five fun facts about Baldwin Park
- Lake Baldwin and Baldwin Park are named for Robert H. B. Baldwin, who was the former secretary of the Navy
- Where Baldwin Park is located, was once the Orlando Naval Training Center
- Baldwin Park is one of three neighborhood-scale, master-planned New Urbanist communities in the Orlando metropolitan area
- The first buildings of Baldwin Park broke ground in 2003
- Baldwin Park includes a park that completely circles a large lake
2. Downtown Orlando
Downtown Orlando is also known as the Central Business District. It's a destination for its historical districts, brick-paved streets and shimmering lakes. While it's a hub for commerce, it's also hailed for five-star hotels and cultural landmarks, including museums and art galleries.
It's both an economic epicenter and an engaging urban center to call home. It's a conduit to Antique Row in the Lake Ivanhoe area and hotspots for dining and shopping in Thornton Park.
Five fun facts about Downtown Orlando
- Downtown's Lake Eola is a giant sinkhole that's 80 feet at its deepest point
- Once the hub of Florida's citrus industry, a deep freeze in the late 1800s caused citrus farms to relocate further south
- Rumor has it that Orlando was named after a character in Shakespeare's "As You Like It"
- The estimated number of visitors to Orlando daily is comparable to the population of the city of Atlanta
- Gatorland was the first theme park in Orlando to open 1949 with its attraction being a 15-foot gator
3. Kirkman South
This suburban neighborhood known as Kirkman South is southwest of the hub of Orlando. There's easy access to Turkey Lake and Bill Frederick Park. And, the area is a favorite family-friendly go-to spot for fishing, taking walks and more.
Dining and shopping dominates its eastern end. Dwellings in the South Kirkman Road/Raleigh Street 'hood were built starting in the 1970s. New builds have continued on throughout the 2000s to the present, according to Neighborhood Scout.
Kirkman South is located north of the Universal Orlando Resort. Primarily a residential area, there's still plenty of access to touristy hot spots. Highways lead to Downtown and other key local destinations.
Five fun facts about Kirkman South
- South Kirkman Road and the Raleigh Street neighborhood is mainly comprised of large apartment buildings (complexes or high-rises)
- The majority of real estate here is made up of rentals
- The neighborhood has a large population of people who have Brazilian and South American ancestry
- The languages spoken by people in this neighborhood are diverse and include Spanish, Portuguese and French
- Bill Frederick Park spans 183 acres
4. Lake Nona
Lake Nona takes up approximately 17 square miles. Health and well-being is the focus of the design of this mixed-use planned community. Lake Nona hopes to serve as a global model for improved quality of life. It sits within city limits and is located southeast of Orlando International Airport.
Home to Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, the neighborhood is named for a large lake. There are also designated communities within Lake Nona, including Lake Nona Central, VillageWalk at Lake Nona, Lake Nona Estates (including the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club) Lake Nona South and NorthLake Park at Lake Nona.
Five fun facts about Lake Nona
- The Lake Nona community is home to the USTA (U.S. Tennis Association), which is touted as the largest tennis facility in the world
- There's approximately 40 percent of preserved green space here, including four miles of trails
- The Lake Nona area is recognized for the region's first autonomous shuttles that are known as Beep
- Old shipping containers make up Boxi Park, a creative entertainment district
- Lake Nona is the first gigabit community in the state of Florida
5. Lake Underhill
Source: Enclave at Lake Underhill
Lake Underhill is known for being home to Lake Underhill Park. It spans nearly nine acres of Lake Underhill's southern banks. It's a hotspot for birders and nature lovers for its nearly eight miles of walking trails along the shoreline.
The Lake Underhill Park is perfect for fitness buffs into cross-training, walking dogs and even water sports. There's access to a boat ramp. The park is located on the southern side of the Orlando Executive Airport. The Conway/Dover Shores/Lake Underhill area offers older, established neighborhoods with character.
Five fun facts about Lake Underhill
- Lake Underhill Park is a neighborhood park that covers nearly nine acres of green space on the southern banks of Lake Underhill
- Lake Underhill Park connects Festival Park, Orlando Skate Park, Colonel Joe Kittinger Park, West Lake Underhill Park and Park of the Americas
- It's rumored that Lake Underhill got its name from a Mississippi River port at the foot of Natchez, a riverside area known as Natchez Under-the-Hill
- The East-West Expressway (also known as the 408) slices Lake Underhill in half
- An official Orange County map of 1890 shows the lake and identifies it by the name of Lake Underhill
The pie-shaped community of MetroWest is just southwest of downtown. Beautifully designed, residents here enjoy golf course access and lakeside views. MetroWest sits between highway 408, the Turnpike and Kirkman Road.
It's close to Universal Studios, Mall at Millenia, Shadow Bay Park and Orlando International Premium Outlets. Downtown Orlando or Disney Springs is less than a 20-minute drive. It was brought to fruition in the mid 1980s. Prior to its development, then Hiawassee Road, which was a county road, was lined with orange groves. Now fully developed, new builds are a rarity.
Neighbors include the tony community of Windermere. Known for its classic landscaping and tidiness, the 1,805-acre, master-planned MetroWest community has an urban design philosophy. The community incorporates apartments and condos above shopping. It's touted as a work, live and play concept. And it has a young vibe, so it's good for growing families with kids, as well as college-age students.
Five fun facts about MetroWest
- For the first time in MetroWest's 33-year history, community signage and monuments underwent a $1.2 million renovation in 2019
- It was developed in the mid-1980s as a master-planned community
- At the Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, visitors can stay in a cabin, fish and walk nature trails
- At the 13th and 14th holes of the MetroWest golf course, you can see the Orlando skyline because the course sits at 198 feet, one of the highest elevations in Orange County
- The community has swelled to almost 10,000 residential units, 1.4 million square feet of office space and 762,444 square feet of retail and restaurant space
Source: M2 at Millenia
Millenia is a neighborhood that's close to where the action is. The Grand National Flyover Bridge has made it much easier to get to Orlando Premium Outlets and Universal Studios.
Millenia is also less than a mile away from the upscale shopping enclave known as The Mall at Millenia, and just 15 minutes from DisneyWorld and the Downtown financial district. There's also convenient access to I-Drive, Interstate 4 and the Florida Turnpike. But residents have entertainment and dining choices right in their own backyard. Millenia is also pedestrian-friendly and offers bike lanes, too.
Five fun facts about Millenia
- The Grand National Flyover Bridge is a convenient way to get to Orlando Premium Outlets and Universal Studios
- Nearly 16,000 people live in the Millenia neighborhood
- The beautifully designed shopping Mall at Millenia is more than one million square feet
- For public transportation, Lynx buses service the Millenia neighborhood
- If you ride a bike, you're in luck because there are plenty of bike lanes and the neighborhood is pedestrian-friendly
Source: The Villages at Lake Orlando
Rosemont has a big plus for its residents: Downtown access without big city prices. About 10-15 minutes northwest of Downtown, Rosemont is considered a real deal in Orlando's competitive real estate market.
Set against Lake Orlando, it's a respite from traffic on I-4. It's also close to Lake Fairview, Country Club of Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park and College Park. Easy access for driving includes Highway 441, the 414 Expressway and I-4.
Residences line the perimeter of Lake Orlando. Walk directly from your dwelling to the lake. It's also a popular area thanks to biking, running and walking trails. There's a city-run community center that's perfect for families. It offers after-school programs, summer camps, sports leagues and more.
Lake Fairview Park is a short drive away. Disney World and Universal Studios are only a 30-minute drive. The Lake Orlando HOA is a non-profit group that helps to maintain the neighborhood's aesthetic and reputation for being a safe place to live.
Five fun facts about Rosemont
- While Rosemont lacks in dining and nightlife, if offers quick access to downtown Orlando, Winter Park and College Park
- Many of the apartments here line the perimeter of Lake Orlando with quick access to the waterfront
- Rosemont offers budget-friendly rentals in a peaceful community
- Residents make the most of biking, running and walking on the trails around Lake Orlando, along with kayaking and canoeing on the water
- Rosemont once served as a model for upscale subdivisions dating back to the 1980s, the likes of MetroWest
9. South Semoran
Source: The Oasis at Crosstown
Residents can find everything from a boba tea shop to an authentic Colombian bakery in South Semoran. It's a densely urban neighborhood. A number of residences were built here between 1940 and 1969, according to Neighborhood Scout.
It's considered a renter-occupied district where residences built between 1970 and 1999 dominate the streetscape. It's said that 88.4 percent of the residential real estate in this community was built in this one time period.
Five fun facts about South Semoran
- Semoran Boulevard (also known as State Road 436) supposedly got its name by combining the words Seminole and Orange
- Many of the residences in the South Semoran Boulevard/Curry Ford Road neighborhood are established, having been built between 1970 and 1999
- The every day pronunciation of Semoran is like Cimarron
- A popular favorite in the neighborhood is the Cafe de Columbia Bakery
- The neighborhood is home to people of Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban ancestry
10. Thornton Park
At the turn of the 20th century, developers like James Thornton were vital to the expansion of several important Orlando neighborhoods. Located just steps from Lake Eola Park, lively Thornton Park is full of upscale hotspots to dine and drink and lots of trendy shops.
Picturesque brick-lined streets and colorful landscapes dominate in this stylish community. It's defined as having a European feel for its look, outdoor cafes and boutiques. There are 50-plus shops, dining venues and other destinations here.
Craftsman-style bungalows and high-rise luxury condos are typical of this community. Residents in this hip urban district enjoy nightly happenings, including live music and other activities. As a high-end place to live, it's luring in young professionals and people who love to live in an urban setting.
Five fun facts about Thornton Park
- This sought-after enclave was once plagued in the '80s by urban blight
- The second Thursday each month is the Wine + Art Walk street party
- Styles of homes here include bungalows from the 1920s to Craftsman
- Greenwood Cemetery, which was designed and plotted in 1880 is Orlando's oldest cemetery and is located just south of Thornton Park
- Pristine landscaping and brick-lined streets dot the TPD
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