Orlando's 5 Strangest Attractions

1. Gatorland

Part of Florida's great charm is its penchant for local kitsch, and Gatorland certainly fits the bill. For more than 60 years, this quirky spot has entertained travelers from the moment they stroll through the park's enormous, alligator mouth-shaped entrance. The 110-acre theme park is the self-proclaimed "Alligator Capital of the World," and houses hundreds of gators which you'll see up-close on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Alligator Breeding Marsh, or during one of the parks Gator Wrestlin' or Gator Jumparoo (yes, gators can jump) shows. Adventurous visitors can ride the 1,200-foot-long Screamin' Gator Zipline, whizzing past hungry gators down below. If you still don't have your fill of reptiles, the Trainer for a Day program allows you to hold baby alligators.

2. Holy Land Experience

Billed as a "living, biblical history museum," the Holy Land Experience easily wins our award for the most unexpected Orlando attraction. This Christian-themed park recreates the ancient city of Jerusalem. You'll enter the complex through an archway modeled after the Damascus Gate, then wander past 40 exhibits, including a Middle Eastern marketplace complete with touts dressed in period garb, and a replica of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed. Interactivity is key at the Holy Land, and guests can watch live entertainment in the Temple Plaza, take part in a Baptism ceremony, or even watch a live reenactment of the Passion of Christ.

3. The Presidents Hall of Fame

Sure you can trek all the way up to Washington D.C. for a lesson in White House history – or, while you're chilling in Orlando, you can make your way to the President's Hall of Fame, which pays homage to the nation's capital, as well as its monuments and history. Visitors can stroll past miniature recreations of sights like Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, and of course, the White House. In fact, the White House has been so lovingly designed that there are representations of each room of the house during every president's residency there – yup, all 43 of them. These White House displays rotate regularly. Other exhibits include recreations of First Lady inaugural ball gowns, animatronic presidents, china patterns, and even a dresser that once lived in Caroline Kennedy's bedroom.

4. American Ghost Adventures

Too often, visitors arrive in Orlando and only experience the thrills of the city's shiny, new attractions, when in fact, the town has a storied history that's also well worth exploring. The City of Orlando was founded in 1885, and today, people can see some of that history in the original building of Church Street Station and on historic tours. One unique way to dive into the city's past is on a haunted tour with American Ghost Adventures. Guides with a penchant for the paranormal lead guests on a hunt for the hereafter's (mostly friendly) spirits. You'll trek through some of the city's oldest hotels and buildings, passing by notorious haunted spots. During the latter half of the tour, guests are given EMF detectors, so that they can witness some of the electromagnetic oddities in Orlando's buildings for themselves. A haunted pub tour is also available, for those in need of liquid courage.

5. Wonderworks

No, you're not seeing things; the Wonderworks building actually is built upside down, and plopped smack on the street in Orlando. This "amusement park for the mind" serves to spark the imagination and broaden the intellect with more than 100 interactive exhibits. Legend has it that the space was once a top-secret laboratory in the Bermuda Triangle, but after an experiment when terribly wrong it was flung through the skies and landed upside down on International Drive. Visitors will have the chance to experience an earthquake in the Disaster Zone, lie on a bed of 3,500 nails, experience hurricane-force winds of 71-mph in the Hurricane Shack, and climb into a replica space capsule.

The 10 Most Underrated Places In Florida That You Must Check Out

1. Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area

Flickr/Jeff Kraus This campsite at Flagler Beach, FL, is a gorgeous stretch of beach that is adored by campers with both tents and RVs. You can stay right on the beach and watch the sun rise over the ocean.

2. Bok Tower Gardens

Flickr/Rick Schwartz Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales in Central Florida is right out of a fairy tale. The 205-foot tower is not only a work of art, it holds some of the world's finest carillon bells. The surrounding gardens are lush and expansive. This is one of the most relaxing and romantic places in Florida.

3. Ancient Spanish Monastery

Flickr/Brook Ward This 12th-century Spanish monastery was purchased in the 1920s by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, whose plans of moving it to California were sidetracked by shipping complications. It ended up in storage for decades until it was purchased again in the '60s and moved piece by piece to North Miami Beach.

4. Rainbow Springs State Park

Flickr/Darryl Kenyon This park in Dunellon, FL, has been drawing visitors for decades with its crystal blue waters. It's hard to find natural waterfalls in Florida, but the man made ones at this park are a lovely substitute.

5. St. Augustine

Flickr/Mike Flickr/Steve Beger People who don't live in Florida usually think of the our bigger cities like Orlando and nightlife Miami and don't seem to realize the oldest city in the country is right here. There's so much to see in St. Augustine, including the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Alligator Farm (opened in 1893), Anastasia Island, plus lots of great shops and restaurants.

6. Solomon's Castle

Flickr/Sam Howzit Solomon's Castle in Ona, FL, is one of those wacky roadside attractions Florida was once famous for. Built by a single individual from found materials, Solomon's Castle stands as a testament to what a person can do when equipped with creativity and determination.

7. Paynes Prairie

Flickr/Meredith Leigh Collins Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Micanopy (near Gainesville) is a National Natural Landmark with winding trails for walking and cycling. Come and check out the alligators, wild horses, and even bison up close.

8. Chantilly Ridge Alpaca Farm

Flickr/VISIT FLORIDA Editor These fluffy cousins of the llama are prized for their super soft coat, but did you know they're also quite friendly? Visit Chantilly Ridge in Port Orange, FL, for a farm tour like you've never experienced before.

9. Caladesi Island State Park

Flickr/Pinellas County As one of our few completely natural islands, Caladesi Island is perfect for those looking to get away from the crowds and rapid development of our ever-expanding state. It's located near Dunedin, FL.

10. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens

Flickr/Kim Seng Located on 83 acres in Coral Gables, FL, this garden has an extensive collection of rare and unique tropical plants and fascinating exhibits. They also offer education for plant lovers of all ages. Have you been to any of these amazing places? What are some of your favorite underrated spots in Florida? Please share your comments with us below. Thank you!

Top 10 Things to Do This Summer in Orlando

With the help of our Facebook fans, here's our list of the hottest summer "must-dos" in the Orlando area.

1. Our Facebook fan Tiffany N. suggests Gatorland, and starting this month, experience 1,200 feet of high-flying adventure on the new Screamin' Gator Zip Line.

2. Explore The Grand Reef, opening June 10 at Discovery Cove. For a more exhilarating adventure, try the underwater walking tour, SeaVenture, which offers up-close encounters with schools of fish and rays. Don't forget to swim with the dolphins while you're there (from Facebook fan Allison W.).

3. Cycle through the treetops on the Cypress Canopy Cycle, a new ecotourism experience at Forever Florida that's the first of its kind in the U.S.

4. Spend your summer nights swaying to the tunes of live concerts at the Amway Center, House of Blues, Hard Rock Live Orlando or check out the summer concert series at Universal Studios (Saturday nights June 11-July 16) and Epcot (June 12 - July 30).

5. As our Facebook fan Constanze N. suggests, indulge in some retail therapy in Orlando's ever-growing shopping options, including The Mall at Millenia and Orlando Premium Outlets.

6. The summer must-do from Facebook fan Amanda P.? "EAT!" Well, treat your taste buds at one of Orlando's newest eateries like Pine 22 and Chico's Dirty Tacos and Tequila in downtown Orlando or Cocina 214 in Winter Park.

7. Beat the summer heat at Orlando's coolest water parks, including Aquatica - SeaWorld's Waterpark, Wet ‘n Wild - Orlando (from Facebook fan Justin E.), Disney's Typhoon Lagoon or Disney's Blizzard Beach.

8. If kicking back at cool pool is a must for your resort stay, check out the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa or Orlando World Center Marriott (editor's note: their pool was voted one of the World's Coolest Hotel Pools by Forbes!).

9. Celebrate Independence Day at SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World Resort or Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando for the Fireworks at the Fountain event.

10. Keep the family cool at one of Orlando's indoor museums like the Orlando Science Center, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art or even Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium (from Facebook fans Joe K. and Christi S.).


Eatonville, FL

DESCRIPTION: Twenty seven African American men, led by Joe Clarke, carefully planned and built the nation’s first incorporated, town for African Americans in 1887; though self sufficient with a post office, clean water supply, ranches, a railroad station, Hotel Eatonville and Hungerford Normal & Industrial School, this was not a sleepy industrious town all the time -- big name performing artists on the Chitlin’ Circuit played Club Eaton on Apopka Street; the town is most famous as the inspirational home of writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), a true Renaissance sister; Zora, while interpreting life in Eatonville as fiction in her writing, is credited with exposing literary America and Europe to the realities of life for southern rural Blacks; she was also a great influence on Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Toni Cade Bambara; thanks largely to the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, the town is on the National Register of Historic Places and many original property lines and historic markers are in place allowing you to explore it at s leisurely pace; Thurston House, home to Zora Neale Hurston, located at 851 Lake Ave is now a Bed & Breakfast; the landmark Eatonville Water Tower is easily seen from I-4 Freeway

ADDRESS: Kennedy Blvd

Callahan Neighborhood

DESCRIPTION: Began in 1886, it is the oldest African American community in Orlando; civic leaders for the neighborhood led the efforts to restored and a establish historic markers for various sites in this post-Civil War community; in fact many Black soldiers from the Civil War settled here; how fitting that today the neighborhood center hosts many cultural events year round

ADDRESS: bounded by Colonial Drive, Central Ave, Division Street and Orange Blossom Trail  MAP

J.A. Colyer Building

DESCRIPTION: Built 1911 and housed the Colyer and Williams tailor shop, possibly the earliest African American business located among European American businesses in Orlando; it is currently a commercial establishment

Praise Wave Music Festival at SeaWorld Orlando 2017

January 14, 2017 - January 28, 2017
Location: SeaWorld® Orlando
Address: 7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando, FL 32821
Time: 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Admission: Included in daily admission
Phone: 1-888-800-5447

Description: Guests can enjoy live performances by some of the hottest names in Christian music and celebrate in an atmosphere filled with Christian friendship, thrilling rides and attractions. Performances include TobyMac, Francesca Battistelli and Skillet.

7 New Theme Parks Openings in Orlando in 2017

From a brand new tropical water park, a celebrity hosted adventure to exploring an entirely new world; Orlando - Theme Park Capital of the World SM - is ramping up for another landmark year of new reasons to visit. We've gathered a list of 17 new openings coming to Orlando in 2017, featuring some of the largest expansions in theme park history, new resort hotels, dining experiences and a year packed with unforgettable sporting events.

1- Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort, opening June 1, 2017, is an all-new water park inspired by postcard-perfect tropical islands promising innovative, thrilling attractions made even more enjoyable with new technology eliminating long lines or wrestling with tubes.

2- "Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Universal Orlando Resort invites guests to join the Tonight Show's studio audience on the ultimate race through the streets - and skies - of New York City.

3- Pandora - The World of AVATAR, the largest expansion in Disney's Animal Kingdom history, will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and a Banshee flying attraction, as well as new after-dark entertainment.

4- Miss Fortune Falls at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is a new family-style raft ride that is among the lengthiest at both Disney water parks with a ride time of two minutes.

5- SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken roller coaster will transform into Florida's only virtual reality roller coaster experience, taking guests on a deep sea mission alongside sea creatures.

6- SeaWorld Orlando's Electric Ocean, opening summer, is a new end-of-day spectacle event with bioluminescent lighting, immersing guests in a glowing sea of wonder.

7- LEGOLAND Florida Resort's LEGO NINJAGO World, a new immersive land opening in early 2017, features an interactive dark ride where guests can blast fire, lightning and ice with their hands. In addition, LEGOLAND Beach Retreat opens mid-2017.


The 10 best things you’re not doing in Orlando

It’s inevitable. When any single destination has as much to choose from as Orlando, there will be great places that simply get overlooked. Especially when you consider the ‘pack’ mentality that tends to develop among us Disney fans. We hear about a ‘don’t miss’ place and we all flock there – repeatedly. We’re a loyal group – there’s no doubt about that, but after so many visits to Disney World maybe it’s time to expand your horizons a little and take a chance on something new. And, if you’re not a veteran Disney visitor – if you’re planning your first or second visit to Orlando, this list will help point you to some great places that a lot of people are overlooking. Yes, you too can be the envy of all your friends as you regale them with your tales of the road less traveled. Well, perhaps that’s overselling it a bit – but you get the idea.

How does something make it on to our list, you ask? Well, that’s simple. When we find someplace that’s so obviously good that we ask ourselves out loud “how come more people don’t know about this?” – then it’s worthy of inclusion on our list.

Another question you might be asking is “who are you people and why are you making lists?”. We are the creative team behind this site,, and the DIS Unplugged Podcast. We’ve been working in the Orlando tourism business for 10 years, and we’ve been consumers of the product for a long time before that. To compile the final list, I asked our team to submit their suggestions for the list, and with a few of my own, I decided which of those would make the list and in what order.

You will notice that our list is heavy on restaurants and dining experiences. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is that we really like food. But the main reason for the presence of so many restaurants on this list is that so many of the ‘must do’ restaurants are full of ‘must doers’, making the chance of getting a table at some restaurants slim to none. Since the dining experiences in Orlando can rival even the best attractions, it’s important to have good alternatives.

This list is based on our experiences. We absolutely admit this is subjective, and by no means comprehensive. But it reflects our opinions based on the feedback we receive from our site visitors, our podcast listeners, our community as well as our own personal experiences. If you feel there is something we should put on the list, please send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll consider it.

This list will be updated twice a year – in January and July. While some might come off the list, and others might move up or down - the list will always reflect (in order) the top 10 places that we think you’re missing out on. So, with all that out of the way, here’s our list:

10) Wekiwa Springs State Park
okay, I’ll admit that this one is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out.  If you would like to see what Florida looked like before it was overrun with tourists – a canoe ride up the Wekiwa river is a great way to do it.  This is natural Florida at its very best.  The spring that feeds the river keeps a constant temperature of 72 degrees year round.  If you’re not into the canoe trip, you can always go visit the springs and take a swim.  There are 13 miles of nature trails here, as well as horseback riding and bicycling.  This is one of the most naturally beautiful places you’ll ever visit, and it gives you a much different perspective on what truly makes Florida special.  The park is open from 8am till sundown 365 days a year.  They offer guided tours for $35 per person (min of 4 people).  Conoe rentals average $12 for 2 hrs and $3 p/hr thereafter.  Details can be found at the website  Horseback rides range from $30 to
$150 (more info on Horseback riding can be found at.

09) Downtown Celebration, FL
the town that Disney built (and subsequently sold) has its share of fans and detractors.  Regardless of what you think of the ultimate in planned communities, it’s hard to ignore the charm and warmth that embody downtown Celebration.   Whether it’s the unique stores or outstanding restaurants – this is a great way to see another side of Orlando living.

08) Mama Dellas Ristorante Italiano
Located at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel, this is, quite frankly, my favorite restaurant anywhere, period.  It has it all – spectacular food, outstanding service and atmosphere for days.  What it doesn’t have is crowds, and honestly –  I can’t understand why.  Yes, the prices here are on the high side – but consider that the portions served are also unusually large.  No one walks away from Mama’s hungry.  And if you’re looking for a very special romantic evening – reserve a table on the piazza for 7:30pm.  At 8pm each night, Portofino Bay does “Le Bella Notte” (Music of the Night) where performers step out onto the terraces overlooking the piazza and perform musical numbers ranging from operas to more modern romantic songs.  A visit to Mama Della’s is also a good excuse to walk around one of the most beautiful resorts in Florida.

07)Velvet Sessions – Hard Rock Hotel – Universal Orlando
Held on the last Thursday of each month, this is a chance for all you 30 and 40 something’s to get a close up look at the bands you idolized as kids.  Recent acts have been The Ramones, the FIXX, Eddie Money among others.  Held in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel, this is a sophisticated,  high energy evening that is a real departure from most theme park experiences.  It’s adults only (21 and older), so you’ll have to leave the kids with a baby sitter, but it’s well worth it!  This event is very popular with locals and attire is ‘business casual’. The $25 per person cover charges gets you complimentary cocktails until 8pm, along with butler-served hors d’ouevres and a one hour ‘up close’ concert.  Cash bar is available after 8pm (be warned, the drinks are pricey).  Reservations are required – tickets and information is available at

06) Sunday Gospel Brunch – House of Blues / Downtown Disney West Side.
Unless you are an avowed atheist, I can’t imagine anyone not loving this brunch.  The food is better than good, and there’s a decent variety of selections to keep just about anyone happy.  The brunch menu consists of items ranging from fresh pastries to cheesecake, all the staples like bacon and sausage, scrambled eggs and biscuits and gravy are joined by unusual fare like broccoli salad (I’m gagging just typing it),   But the food is just something you do until the entertainment starts – and that’s where this goes from a good brunch to a great time.  This is a full on Gospel show that will have you clapping your hands and waving your napkins as you marvel at the sheer energy and passion that these performers bring to the stage.  This is certainly one of the more unique ways to enjoy a Sunday morning brunch.  This venue is a bit more popular than some others on this list, but it is still (in our opinion) woefully underrated.  Advance reservations are recommended (but it’s not difficult to get last minute seatings during less crowded times of the year).  There are two seatings each Sunday at 10:30am and 1:00pm  Adults are $33.50 and children ages 3-9 are $17.25  Reservations can be made by calling 407-934-BLUE.  More information at

05) Discovery Cove - Orlando
Discovery Cove is by far the most expensive item on our list.  This brilliant off shoot of Sea World suffers from ‘sticker shock’ syndrome in a town already overrun with it.  When people hear that the price of a 1 day admission to this ‘theme park’ is $269, they simply dismiss it out of hand, but consider what you actually get for that price.  You get an all inclusive day at a park that’s not crowded (they strictly limit attendance every day), where lunch is included and you get up close and personal with a dolphin.  And we’re not talking a petting pool here – you don a wet suit and get 30 minutes of quality time with Flipper.
Every person I’ve talked to who has gone to Discovery Cove complained about the price going in, and never mentioned it again after they left.  (You can also experience Discovery Cove without the dolphin portion for a more reasonable $169.)  Reservations are required and it’s always a good idea to book as early as possible, especially if you plan on visiting during busier times of the year.  Reservations can be made at  Right now they are offering a 10% discount if you book more than 100 days in advance, and there appears to be plenty of availability all year – one of the reasons they made our list. Review / Photos

04) Captain’s Galley (formerly the Yacht Club Galley)
When a restaurant on Disney property has an inspired menu of excellent dishes, outstanding service and surprisingly reasonable prices, and is located in the lobby of Disney’s Yacht Club – you’d think it would be packed every night, right?  But, while everyone else is trying to split the atom to get a reservation at Le Cellier, this gem of a restaurant sits virtually empty just a few minutes away.  No, the Galley is not an elegant restaurant, nor does it exude ambiance.  What it does have are very creative chefs who prepare an ever-changing menu that is well suited to just about any palate.  The bold and timid alike will find something here to enjoy.   I’ve been eating at this restaurant for about 9 years (except for the period where they closed it down), and the food and service have been consistently good.

03) WDW Swan and Dolphin
Before you say anything, I know that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are not exactly ‘secrets’.  Everyone knows about them, but oddly enough, there are many people who haven’t yet actually stayed there – that’s the part that baffles me.  Forget the fact that these hotels sit side by side with three of Disney’s premier resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club and Boardwalk).  Never mind that you can routinely get a room at the Swan/Dolphin for at least $100 per night cheaper than the aforementioned Disney hotels – and forget that the resort has one of the best pools on property (we rate it second after Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club).  The beds here alone are worth the price of the room.  Disney has no property that matches the Heavenly beds that have become so integral to the Starwood brand.   Falling into one of these bad boys after 10 hours of ‘theme parking’ with the unwashed masses is one of life’s finer pleasures.   While you don’t get certain perks at these hotels (Magical Express, Key to the World Card), you do get extra magic hours and Disney transportation (buses and water launches).   Really – these hotels should be turning people away at the front desk given the sheer value of this.   Also, the Swan and Dolphin offer excellent discounts to government and military employees, teachers, nurses, Disney annual passholders and others.  It’s a good idea to book here as early as possible (that’s when the best deals are available) and take the money you save and have a blast.

02) Kennedy Space Center
Often overlooked by many visiting Orlando, KSC is one of the true gems of Florida.   As someone who grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s, it’s not hard for me to wax nostalgic about the space program, and the excitement that surrounded it during the hey day of the Apollo missions.  KSC does a fantastic job of playing up its storied past, and presenting its current and future plans in the best possible light.  It’s difficult not to feel a little of the romanticism surrounding the Mercury and Apollo programs as you walk around and look at artifacts from the early space race.  The vehicle tour around the center is another highlight that should not be missed.  It gives you a close up look (albeit from inside a bus) of the areas that make up the space program.  If you time your visit right, you might even get to see the shuttle being crawled out to the launch pad.  If your visit coincides with a launch, the experience of watching the shuttle rocket into space is something everyone should do once. It’s sad that so many people come to Orlando and don’t even think about taking the 45 minute ride out to the coast.  This is a great way to spend a day, have fun and encourage the next generation of Astronauts!

01) Les Chefs de France
This fantastic eatery is not destined for a long life on our list.  In fact, I predict that within 6 months, it will be off the list, and a reservation here will be hard to get.  The fact is that this is the single most under-rated restaurant on Disney property – period.  You know you’re guilty of the same crime I committed many times – walking past this restaurant saying somewhere in the back of my mind “I don’t really like French food – there are so many better places to eat”.   Our combined experiences with this restaurant leave us no other explanation – this is simply the best restaurant in Epcot, and among the best on Disney property.   And while a table is easy to get now, once the word is out on this place – that’s going to change.  Make your ADR’s now! Chef’s De France Review

5 Great Neighborhoods in Orlando

1- Winter Park

An independent city created for northern snow birds, Winter Park is Orlando’s quintessential "old money" neighborhood. Posh boutiques and museums dot this charming enclave where the women are just a little bit blonder and a little bit thinner than anywhere else. Cobblestone streets are the norm here, as are wonderfully old oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Rollins College is the town’s cultural center, with its chapel serving as the backdrop of a popular classical musical series. Neighborhood residents -- largely well-to-do families -- have more than a few cultural gems in their own backyard, such as the intimate but stunning Charles Hosmer Museum of American Art, which holds a respectable collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Fine dining options and specialty shops are abundant here, particularly along well frequented Park Avenue, but residents may also enjoy less expensive fare: a Saturday farmers market at 200 W. New England Ave. offers fresh produce, exotic spices, baked pies and homemade jellies, among other treats. Wonderful ethnic options are also available, such as Sazon436 on Semoran Boulevard (State Road 436), which was voted Orlando’s Best Puerto Rican restaurant in a recent Orlando Sentinel survey.


2-College Park

Deriving its name from streets named after colleges (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, et al), this neighborhood packs a punch because of its proximity to downtown Orlando and low-key beauty. Longtime elderly residents live alongside newer Orlando denizens, many of them professionals, in charming, though not inexpensive, homes. The area’s hip specialty stores and restaurants as well as its close proximity to Loch Haven Park, the city’s cultural corridor, also add value to this area.

College Park is highly walkable, a factor prospective homeowners are increasingly taking into consideration before committing to a purchase. If you go for a day visit, do check out the Harmoni Market, a Mediterranean deli serving delicious gourmet goodies. You may also take a stroll by Jack Kerouac’s former home, where the beatnik best known for writing On the Road lived for a time. Today, the house provides aspiring writers with free housing for three months as they work on their next masterpiece.

3- East Orlando (UCF Area)

Home to thousands of students attending the University of Central Florida, Orlando’s largest state school, this neighborhood is dynamic, young and ethnically diverse. Traffic can get a little hectic at times, but living next to one of the largest universities in the country has lots of cultural pluses. Locals, for instance, may attend a football game at the brand-new Bright House Stadium (UCF is trying to beef up its sport creds), catch a play at UCF’s Conservatory Theater and crash a host of lectures and film viewings on campus at a low cost or entirely for free. Most residents live in owner-occupied, single-family homes, but rentals abound thanks to student demand. The neighborhood also hosts a vibrant and large immigrant population that contributes great ethnic food options, such as Rice and Beans Cocina Latina, on Alafaya Trail.

4- Lake Nona

Lake Nona is an up-and-coming neighborhood attracting families from different socioeconomic backgrounds, with housing units ranging from luxury homes to townhouses available to suit many budgets. Originally conceived as a 7,000-acre golfing mecca, the area is perhaps best known for the Tavistock Cup, a competition held each year among the best professional players from the Isleworth and Lake Nona country clubs. Recently, Lake Nona has been trading its exclusive "golf" image for a more scientifically cutting-edge one. A Medical City, which includes the biotech research group Burnham Institute, the University of Central Florida’s medical school, a veterans hospital, and a 500-acre science and technology office park are slated for construction on the site. These projects promise to add real estate value to this still-evolving neighborhood in South Orlando, which developers say has another 10 to 15 years of growth and expansion ahead. Its close proximity to Orlando International Airport is also a plus for those with regular business commutes.

5- Celebration

Though technically in Kissimmee, Celebration likes to think itself as an independent city catering to middle and upper middle class families (quite a few of them employed at neighboring Walt Disney World). Modeled after small American towns from the early 1900s, the place has a feel reminiscent of a Hollywood movie set. Though it’s been derided in popular culture for being artificially squeaky clean and predictable, Celebration’s design has its pluses: besides having its own Town Center with several restaurants and shops to choose from, Celebration allows for pedestrian traffic, a rarity in today’s suburban America. Locals often walk, bike or ride in electric vehicles to get around. Celebration also works hard to create a sense of place and neighborliness through a host of annual events, such as an exotic car show, the Great American Pie festival and an Oktoberfest party. Fall and Christmas events feature fake falling leaves and artificial snow, respectively, blown to the public’s delight in the neighborhood’s Town Center each year.

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