Do you recognize the picture above? Perhaps not, if you don’t live in Orlando. That’s Lake Eola, with the skyline of Orlando’s downtown in the background. You might not have known that Orlando has a downtown, much less one with a beautiful lake smack in the middle of it. Orlando, which has quietly but steadily become one of the country’s most diverse and vibrant cities, is full of such surprises. 

Orlando is internationally famous for having seven of the world’s top theme parks, in particular SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando and the Walt Disney World Resort. Marvels of creativity, imagination and engineering, the parks are constantly innovating, investing billions in new rides and attractions like Mako at SeaWorld, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, Star Wars Land and Pandora: the World of Avatar at Walt Disney World. Visitors to Orlando will also discover top-notch hotels, a range of cultural options suitable for travelers of any demographic, some of the world’s best golf courses and tennis facilities, and a dynamic food scene. 

And it’s becoming increasingly clear that, in addition to these tourism attractions, Orlando has a robust technology-centric economy, industry-leading medical, educational and scientific institutions, and great places to live and raise a family.

Orlando’s broad-based growth stems from a genuine and pervasive spirit of collaboration. Led by two mayors, Mayor Buddy Dyer of the City of Orlando and Mayor Teresa Jacobs of Orange County, Orlando’s communities work closely and well together. “The business community works with local governments and the philanthropic community,” Dyer says. “We’ve figured out how to follow a vision together.” Adds Jacobs, “We have grown into a more eclectic, more diversified, more metropolitan community.” Orlando also has the significant advantage of being located in Florida, a state known for promoting economic growth through pro-business tax, regulatory and economic policies.

You can learn more about the people and places of Orlando at and Their stories show a city that might surprise you.


Orlando’s hotels and restaurants will satisfy even the most demanding travelers.

Days in Orlando can be busy, so where you stay matters. You need a hotel that provides rest and relaxation, sophisticated food and drink, and things to do. 

The natural candidate is Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, the only 5 Diamond awarded resort in Central Florida. This Four Seasons features not only an adult-only pool, Disney Character breakfast, Tom Fazio golf course and super luxe spa, but also a five-acre water park and complimentary kids camp exclusively for overnight guests. 

Other luxury hotels include the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Both offer a standard of luxury appropriate for the most discerning travelers, from businesspeople to parents who are traveling with children but still want excellence from their hotel. 

Visitors to Orlando will also find a burgeoning food scene. You can experience some incredible restaurants, like Capa at Four Seasons, Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World Resort or Hamilton’s Kitchen at the Alfond Inn without leaving your hotel. Other options include Canvas, a New American restaurant in Lake Nona; the East End Market, a neighborhood spot in the Audubon Park Garden District; and Cask & Larder, one of several restaurants from James Beard Award nominees James and Julie Petrakis. 

On top of all that, Orlando is attracting a wave of celebrity chefs, including Rick Bayless, Emeril Lagasse, Masaharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck and Art Smith. The only challenge, really, is finding the time to try them all. 

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Whatever you’re in the mood for, Orlando offers a wealth of cultural activities.

For visitors seeking culture, entertainment and shopping, Orlando has an impressive diversity of choices. One of its most recent additions is the stunning new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which has quickly become one of the country’s leading cultural centers for symphonies, Broadway shows and smaller-scale productions. The Dr. Phillips Center seamlessly blends artistic excellence with modern theater technology and design. Other dramatic options include imaginative shows like Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, which is presented in a custom-built theater at Disney Springs, a collection of stores, eateries and distinctive experiences at Walt Disney World Resort.

Orlando’s museums are another sign of the city’s cultural diversity. You could easily spend days touring the Orlando Museum of Art, which features some 2,400 pieces ranging from contemporary art to art of the ancient Americas, and The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, renowned for its unsurpassed collection of Tiffany glass. 

Those with a taste for finer things will want to visit The Mall at Millenia, which hosts expertly curated upscale brands like Bulgari, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany. Architecturally, The Mall at Millenia, with its vast skylights and infused with sunlight, is an experience in itself.  It’s an invigorating place to shop. 

And for sports lovers, Orlando offers the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, Orlando City Soccer Club of the MLS (and its new downtown stadium) and Orlando Pride of the NWSL. 

Plus, the NFL recently announced that, starting in 2017, it will bring its Pro Bowl game, along with a week of festivities, to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, which also hosts two collegiate bowl games annually. The Pro Bowl joins the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the world’s most revered golf tournaments, as part of the city’s growing roster of iconic sports events.

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When you visit Orlando’s theme parks as a VIP, you see them in new and unexpected ways.

There are many different ways to experience Orlando’s theme parks, and all of them ensure a memorable visit. But travelers who wish to make the most of their time here would do well to consider the VIP experiences that the parks offer. They cost more, of course. But in return, they give visitors a chance to experience the theme parks in new and inspiring ways and to make your visit especially memorable.

The experiences begin with a guide, a specially trained man and woman who will take you through the parks, provide behind-the-scenes insights and answer your questions. Whether they’re sharing information about the conservation efforts at SeaWorld Orlando, the natural behaviors of wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or behind-the-scenes looks at the inner workings of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride at Universal Studios Orlando, these guides really know what they’re talking about—and that knowledge adds another layer of richness to the experience. Visitors invariably cite these park experts as one of the best parts of their visit, helping them to better understand the wonders and innovations of the theme parks. 

A valuable benefit of several of these VIP experiences is exclusive ride access, which is exactly what it sounds like: the ability to experience rides and adventures without having to wait in line. For parents of impatient children or any visitors who wish to maximize their time in the parks, this advantage is a game-changer. You’ll not only experience more rides, but you’ll be seeing more of them—from private rooms to up close and personal animal encounters. 

For most of us, vacations are never as long as we’d like them to be, and maximizing time is key. VIP experiences help to ensure that the time you have is filled with as much activity as you want. They help you to experience the parks more deeply and create particularly special memories. And they also help give you the time to see more of Orlando—to experience the city’s restaurants, theater, museums, professional sports and shopping. Or to relax with a round of golf or an afternoon poolside at your hotel.

The VIP experiences at Orlando theme parks aren’t just about how you experience your vacation. They’re about how you live your life.   

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Orlando may be best known for its entertainment options. But increasingly, it’s known as a city where business gets serious.

What does it take to create a region in which entrepreneurs want to start businesses and companies want to locate? The answer is simple, but hard: It takes the support of the entire community, from private-sector organizations to political figures to the educational system and more. It takes an abundance of developable real estate and high-quality infrastructure. It takes an educated, skilled labor force of people who work in the community because—thanks to an outstanding quality of life in areas like culture, food, schools, recreation and weather—they want to live in the community. It’s even better when all these elements come together in a state whose tax and regulatory policies aggressively promote a pro-business climate. It’s hard to think of a region that fits this description better than Orlando. 

The best-known businesses in Orlando are, of course, theme parks. They foster and sustain a community of high-tech workers who help imagine, build and run the parks. The skills the parks require—engineering, coding, creativity, originality, risk-taking, among others—are the staples of an advanced economy.

Other industries the region focuses on—including advanced manufacturing, life sciences and healthcare, aviation/aerospace and defense, and innovative technologies—also make use of those skills. And Orlando has one of the country’s most active tech communities, manifest in companies like app developer Echo Interaction Group, located adjacent to coworking space Canvs, where over 100 tech companies are clustered.  

Orlando is also home to multinational firms like Deloitte, Lockheed Martin and Verizon. Some, like Lockheed, began operations there because of the world-leading community of aerospace and aviation experts supported by nearby NASA. Others, like Deloitte and Verizon, launched facilities here because of the ecosystem of support they find. Additional corporate and divisional headquarters include the American Automobile Association, Darden Restaurants, Golf Channel, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, Siemens Energy and Tupperware Brands Corporation. 

Perhaps the newest example of this spirit of enterprise is the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, which represents an ambitious effort to lead the market in products like smart sensor and photonics-based devices. This is a community where big ideas can be realized and business gets serious.

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Between its engaging neighborhoods and progressive medical care, Orlando fosters an excellent quality
of life.

Almost everyone knows that Orlando is a great place to visit. And more and more people are learning that Orlando is also a great place to start or locate a business. But many visitors never get the chance to discover what it’s like to actually live in Orlando—how Orlando communities foster an outstanding quality of life while its medical facilities are breaking new ground in research and care.

A key to health and longevity, after all, is environment. Do you have space, light, access to nature, room to exercise, a community that engages you?  

Orlando communities like the ones on these pages do just that. Isleworth and Heathrow blend smartly designed residences with outdoor activities (golf in particular). Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort is the perfect environment for bringing generations of family together. And Lake Nona, developed by the Tavistock Group, offers housing options from townhomes to apartments to single-family homes and estates, designed to incorporate smart home technology and amenities like gigabit internet access. Lake Nona also hosts the new United States Tennis Association National Campus, including over 100 tennis courts.

Healthcare is woven into the fabric of daily life in Orlando. It might begin at Nemours Children’s Hospital, designed around the philosophy that when you’re taking care of a child, you’re taking care of the whole family. Veterans can get care at the new Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the first new veterans’ hospital in the state in nearly 20 years. The University of Central Florida College of Medicine offers first-rank training, while some 50,000 physicians come to the Nicholson Center at Florida Hospital to study leading-edge clinical techniques. Facilities like the GuideWell UST Global Innovation Center and the University of Florida Research and Academic Center promote research into healthcare pharmaceuticals and technology. And Orlando Health is home to state-of-the-art cancer treatment at the Marjorie and Leonard Williams Center for Proton Therapy.

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What are the pillars of Orlando’s long-term growth? Education and planning.

The economic vitality of any city is proportional to the caliber of its workforce. Are the people who live in your city well educated? Have they been immersed from an early age in curricula and, later, career training that prepared them to stay in the area and work at highly skilled jobs? Has your city invested in the infrastructure needed to get people to and from those jobs quickly and safely? 

In Orlando, this kind of preparation for adult economic life begins early, in the city’s progressive K–12 school system. The four school districts in the Orlando region are known for their magnet schools that focus on Advanced Placement and dual enrollment, along with STEM and robotics—as early as kindergarten—and a commitment to the arts and customized learning approaches. Orlando’s K–12 schools are routinely ranked among the country’s most innovative.

With more than 500,000 higher ed students within 100 miles, Orlando also has flourishing educational institutions at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They include small, private liberal arts colleges, like the widely respected Rollins College, and the technology-oriented Full Sail University, which offers degrees in technology, arts, media and entertainment. Founded in 1963 to train graduates for work in aerospace and aviation, the University of Central Florida has since broadened its focus and is now, in terms of enrollment, the second largest university in the country. UCF offers the groundbreaking Direct Connect program, which guarantees admission to students who earn an associate degree from a participating community college. There are also state colleges like Seminole State College of Florida, Lake-Sumter State College and Valencia College, which has been named the nation’s top community college.

Orlando residents benefit from a transportation infrastructure that balances private and public modes of transportation with an eye to integrating future growth. Orlando is also a leader in using public-private partnership to advance transportation initiatives and make big ideas a reality.

It’s all about helping residents who want to live in Orlando and work in highly skilled industries by giving them the means to do so. The path to long-term economic growth begins with the kind of education and planning at which Orlando excels. 

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