20 Fun Facts About Orlando Florida You Probably Never Knew
20 Fun Facts About Orlando, Florida You Probably Never Knew
There are lots of reasons to love Orlando. It’s home to Walt Disney World, beautiful parks, amazing weather and so much more. There are plenty of fun things to do in Orlando as well, whether you want to watch a rocket ship soar into space, be amazed by marine life at SeaWorld or tour a family-friendly museum in Orlando.
Before your next vacation, discover 20 fun facts about Orlando you’ve likely never heard before.
Did you know Orlando is home to over 100 lakes or that the origin of the city’s name is still unknown? Dive into these 20 fun facts to learn more about one of Florida’s most loved and famous cities.
1 | Walt Disney World is About the Same Size as San Francisco | Our country’s most famous theme park is enormous and sits on over 35,000 acres. Around 58 million people visit the park each year, making it Florida’s most popular tourist destination.
No matter how old you are, a trip to Disney is bound to be a magical experience. Whether you walk through the Magic Kingdom’s main park, take a trip to Epcot or venture through Animal Kingdom, expect to be amazed.
2 | There Are Over 100 Lakes in Orlando | Florida may be known for its sunny beaches, but Orlando is a vibrant lake district. Its largest lake, Lake Harris, covers 13,788 acres and reaches 30 feet deep.
The most famous body of water in the city is Lake Eola, originally called Sandy Beach. It’s been a staple of the city since settlers first arrived in the 1880s.
If you’re a fan of water sports, then visit Lake Jessamine, Lake Virginia or Lake Tohopekaliga. From boating to fishing, jet skiing and more, there’s definitely no shortage of water for you to explore in Orlando.
3 | Lake Eola isn’t Actually a Lake | Surprised? The famous tourist attraction and beloved spot contained a natural aquifer 200 feet underground. Aquifers are bodies of rocks that produce water.
The sinkhole received water from the aquifer below, then filled with ample rainfall from above. The water would fill the sinkhole from below while rainwater provided ample water from above.
Settlers loved visiting the lake on hot summer days, relaxing on its banks, having picnics and embracing early Floridian life.
The name was changed from Sandy Beach to Lake Eola after the owner of the land donated it to the public.
A trip to Lake Eola Park is a wonderful way to relax and recuperate after exploring Disney or another theme park. You can simply lounge on one of the lawns, rent a swan boat to cross the water or watch the adorable ducks and swans that call the lake home.
4 | The Navy SEALs Were Created in Orlando | Orlando’s Space Coast is known for many things, including being the birthplace of America’s Navy SEALs.
Lieutenant Commander Kauffman set up the first training academy for Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) in 1943, which played a vital role in the success on D-Day.
Years later, in 1961, the Navy officially established the SEALs ground and underwater teams as official groups.
Military aficionados will love visiting the official Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, FL, about an hour and a half from Orlando. There, you can learn about special warfare, discover incredible stories of Navy heroes and participate in interactive exhibits.
What’s more, the museum is located on the very grounds that housed the Navy’s first-ever combat divers. They were called the Frogmen.
5 | Orlando Used to Be the Capital of Florida Oranges | Florida’s favorite fruit is sold around the United States, and groves were first planted in Orlando. However, when a deep freeze swept through the region sometime in the late 1800s, farmers migrated further south.
Today, Florida is home to 569,000 acres of vibrant orange groves, and the state produces over 50 million boxes of citrus each year.
The time between 1875 to 1895 was known as the Orlando Golden Era. Farmers throughout the city produced more oranges than anywhere else in the country. Emerging railroads made for fast distribution and many jobs were created as the citrus industry blossomed.
But the Deep Freeze of 1895 was so severe that it destroyed all the crops and made entire families relocate.
Today, you can visit The Showcase of Citrus, a few miles from Downtown Orlando, to pick your own oranges. The family-owned business has been operating since 1898, and it now produces over 50 types of citrus.
In November through May, visitors can harvest fresh fruits from the trees throughout the groves. You can also go on picnics, explore the land on a monster truck, feed farm animals and get a unique souvenir from the Old Time Country Store.
6 | No One Knows for Sure How Orlando Got Its Name | Why is the city called Orlando? There is no official record that explains where the name comes from. There are a lot of theories, including the idea that a judge named it after a character in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
Another theory is that the city was named after a soldier named Orlando Reeves, who served as a military guard on Lake Eola during The Seminole Wars.
During this period, the United States fought three military battles with the Seminoles, a Native American tribe from Florida that opposed settlement.
Research has never turned up evidence of a soldier by the name Orlando Reeves, so it’s likely that he is more of an urban legend than anything else.
One thing we do know for certain is that Orlando’s first name was Jernigan, after the city’s first permanent settler.
7 | Church Street Station is on the National Register of Historical Places | Church Street Station was built in 1889, and today, it's a popular spot for Orlando nightlife.
Formerly known as the Old Orlando Railroad Depot, it served passengers until 1926. It started to transform into a popular commercial spot in the 70s with the opening of the Rosie O'Grady's Good Time Emporium in July 1974, which was open until August 2021.
8 | E.T.’s Adventure is the Last Original Ride at Universal Studios | The theme park opened its gates in 1964, and since then, all but one of its original attractions have been replaced.
E.T. Adventure has been operating for over 30 years now, and it still delights guests by giving them the chance to ride a magical bike and soar through the stars to help save the friendly alien’s home world.
Universal Studios, itself, was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle, a film producer who produced over 400 films throughout his career.
When Carl bought a 230-acre ranch in California’s San Fernando Valley, it’s believed that he created the world’s first-ever studio dedicated solely to producing feature-length films.
The theme park was brought to Orlando in the 60s, and in 1993, Universal CityWalk was opened, featuring 65 venues, including restaurants, karaoke bars and nightclubs.
9 | Melbourne Beach is Brevard County’s Oldest Beach Community | Although it wasn’t an official town until 1883, Melbourne Beach’s history dates all the way back to the 1500s when Juan Ponce de León discovered “La Florida” just a few nautical miles from the island now known as Melbourne Beach.
Today, Melbourne Beach lies about 80 miles from Orlando and makes for a great spot if you want to get away from the crowds that tend to populate more touristy beaches.
The stunning coastline offers plenty of space for you to unwind, and it is a great family beach for visitors that have small children and want a less hectic beach for them to play on.
10 | Florida’s Space Coast is the “Surf Capital of the East Coast” | More specifically, Cocoa Beach has been a hot spot for surfers looking to catch a wave.
Cocoa Beach’s surfing reputation can be traced back to Dick Catri, who surfed in multiple U.S. Championships and even represented America during the 1967 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational in Hawaii.
He was an inductee of the Surfing Hall of Fame and is most known for showing the surfing world how amazing Florida’s coasts are. He frequently hosted competitions at Cocoa Beach Pier (Now the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier) that attracted local surf legends like Kelly Slater and Todd Holland.
Even if you aren’t a surfer, a trip to the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier is still a must on your itinerary.
11 | Gatorland is the First Theme Park to Open in Orlando | You may think that Disney would take this crown, but the Magic Kingdom didn’t arrive on the scene until over 20 years later.
Gatorland got its start in 1949, and it’s still a popular attraction today. The wildlife preserve features everything from baby crocodiles to a capybara and thrilling zip line rides.
It’s also the official “Alligator Capital of the World,” housing over 2,000 American alligators.
12 | Orlando Was Given its Nickname in 1908 | Some may call it “O-Town,” but Orlando’s official nickname is “The City Beautiful.” This lovely nickname was given to Orlando in 1908 through a contest.
Residents were asked to submit possible nicknames, and Jesse Branch from South Dakota suggested “The City Beautiful” because she was so inspired by its vibrant florals and greenery.
Over 100 years later, people are still mesmerized by Orlando’s beautiful palms, flowy fronds, towering trees and spacious parks.
13 | Orlando Gave the Backstreet Boys Their Name | The iconic 90s boy band got its name from Orlando’s Backstreet Market. Lou Pearlman, an American record producer, was inspired by the name of the flea market the boys used to hang out at.
While the original market is now gone, you can still discover hidden treasures at the OBT Flea Market. This Central Florida flea market offers plenty of products, as well as food and fresh produce from local vendors.
14 | There Are Over 100 Parks in Orlando | It may have an energetic downtown district, but Orlando is also home to more than 100 scenic parks.
Whether you want to ride a swan boat on Lake Eola or have a picnic for two, there will never be a spot of nature too far out of reach in The City Beautiful.
Many visitors are often unaware just how much scenery there is to discover in Orlando. Aside from its beaches, city and theme parks, there are so many green spaces to explore.
A visit to Lake Eola Park, Lake Louisa State Park or even Harry P. Leu Gardens can be a wonderfully restorative experience.
15 | One of the World’s Largest McDonald’s is in Orlando | Would you like fries with that? Walking throughout Orlando’s 19,000-square-foot fast food joint will certainly work up an appetite!
The enormous McDonald’s features over 100 arcade games, a giant Ronald McDonald and is known by many as the “Epic McD.”
On the menu, you’ll find all the chain’s usual fare along with some entrees you don’t typically see at Mickey D’s, like pizza and pasta!
16 | Orlando Has Some of the Best Golf Courses in America | Golf Digest named Orlando among the top 20 U.S. cities for golfers. There are 24 courses within the city alone!
From casual, family-friendly courses to lavishly manicured lawns in five-star golf clubs, anyone will be able to find a great place to put in the city.
You’ll find many luxury golf clubs in Orlando, like the Waldorf Astoria and Ritz-Carlton. There are also many smaller courses and clubs that offer experiences for newcomers all the way up to professionals.
17 | Orlando Used to Be a Part of “Mosquito County” | Orange County was once known as “Mosquito County” because of the high number of pesky insects in the area. In fact, it was known as “Los Musquitos” up until 1845 by settlers who were constantly fending off the bugs that love swamps.
When Orlando became the Citrus Capital of the United States, the county’s name was changed in recognition of the famous fruit instead.
18 | Orlando Sold the Demolition of its Old City Hall | No movie magic here! The implosion featured in Lethal Weapon 3 was sold to Warner Bros for $50,000 after Orlando decided to decimate its own town hall.
The plans were already in place to demolish Old City Hall in 1991, and it decided to cash in on the idea by selling the controlled implosion to movie producers.
19 | Orlando is One of the Most Visited Places in the World | With over 60 million tourists each year, Orlando has become world-famous for its theme parks. From Disney World to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and many others, Orlando is home to many amusements, attractions and water parks.
So many exciting adventures await tourists, and beyond theme parks, Orlando also features plenty of gorgeous beaches, parks, restaurants and museums.
20 | An Orlando Man Was the First to Cross the Atlantic Ocean by Hot Air Balloon | Joseph Kittinger II was a United States Air Force officer who also held the world record for the highest skydive until 2012.
On August 2, 1960, Joseph jumped out of the Excelsior gondola at 102,800 feet above Earth. Then, in September 1984, he boarded a hot air balloon from Maine and sailed for 86 hours, landing in Montenotte, Italy.
In total, Joseph traversed 3,543.7 miles by himself, becoming the first person to ever complete a solo venture across the Atlantic Ocean by hot air balloon. He set four Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for distance that day.
BONUS #1 | The World’s Largest Tiffany Glass Museum is In Orlando | Admire the beautiful craftsmanship of Tiffany glass at The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park.
This museum in Orlando features the world’s largest collection of glass works by artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. From stained glass windows, lamps and vases to jewelry and even paintings, there is an astounding collection of work to behold.
In addition to the Tiffany collection, the Morse Museum also houses American pottery, paintings from the late 19th and 20th centuries and decorative pieces.
One of the most noteworthy displays is the chapel exhibit from the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Tiffany created the glass chapel for the event, which garnered international acclaim.
The fair itself was the first world’s fair hosted to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of America’s discovery.
BONUS #2 | International Drive is Home to Six of the World’s Most Famous Theme Parks | Along I-Drive, you’ll find SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Universal Studios, Adventure Island and Volcano Bay!
There are also more than 125 hotels and restaurants lining International Drive, making it one of the best places to head out if you’re looking for a fun night on the town.
The closest beach to Orlando, Cocoa Beach, is about 62 miles east of International Drive, which takes about one hour by car to reach.
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Discover Fun Things to Do in Orlando
With so much to see and do in Orlando, you’d usually never stop to think about the city’s history. We hope you learned something new about The City Beautiful. Pass along the information to your friends and family on their next visit!
For more Orlando travel and food guides, visit our Westgate Resorts Travel Blog.
* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.
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