Moving to Orlando, Florida? Read Our Guide
If you're planning a residential move to Orlando, you're about to live in a city like no other. You may know about the great weather, and you've certainly heard of the theme parks, but what you may not know about Orlando will surprise you. Get ready to find out why with our guide to this one-of-a-kind place.
A Place Everyone Can Call Home
Whether you're a retiree, family, young single, or snowbird, Orlando has plenty to offer. Like any city, it's not without its challenges, but overall, many people who come each year as one of the millions of visitors find good reasons to return and make it their new home. If a list of features on your own "best place to live in Florida" includes a diverse population, great schools and universities, a booming cultural scene, abundant natural spaces, and a healthy economic engine, Orlando can check every box.
Yes, the city is notorious for its traffic, but it also has great public transportation options. Yes, it's hot in summer months, but you can wear shorts and sit in the sun in winter. And there are alligators and sometimes even hurricanes. But, depending upon your reasons to move to Orlando, the trade-offs may be well worth it. Read on for more information on the area's assets (and a few challenges) as you plan your move to Orlando.
Finding Your Way Around
It will all become second nature after you've moved to Orlando and been here awhile, but at first, it can be confusing making your way around town. One reason for your uncertainty may be that the extended highways and new road construction can make your GPS a bit unreliable, so you'll want to ensure that you have up-to-date maps on your phone. As for more permanent circumstances, it's important to know this:
- Interstate 4 runs east-west across the middle of the state, but the part that goes through Orlando runs north-south. It helps to think of downtown as east/north and the concentration of attractions as west/south.
- Keep some change handy until you officially establish residency, since there are toll roads in the area. As a resident, you can get a SunPass and avoid the coins.
- More contributors to the confusion are some street names that change when they head in a different direction, and streets that wind around all of the bodies of water, changing direction as they go.
Family Life in Orlando
If you have school-aged kids, they'll be thrilled with the theme parks and attractions, and you'll be thrilled with the quality of the area's schools. The Orange County Public School (OCPS) system includes 16 high schools that made the Washington Post's list of the most academically rigorous in the U.S. Among large school districts, the system's students ranked eighth nationally and first in Florida for the number of exams taken and passed. There are also more than 30 charter schools, with programs that range from special needs inclusion to leadership and character education.
As for the fun, families with children from toddlers to teens will soon realize that finding something great to do on weekends is easy—choosing from among all of the choices is the challenge! See below for more to-do ideas than you may ever need.
Orlando Attractions, Landmarks and Parks
Moving to Orlando opens up a whole new world of places to go and things to do and see, including world-famous attractions, landmarks and parks to visit. When you establish Florida residency, you'll be eligible for resident-only savings and passes to Walt Disney World, Legoland, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and more.
If you're considering relocating to the Orlando area, you'll be near these popular sites and many more:
• Walt Disney World
• Ripley's Believe It or Not!
• Universal Studios Florida
• Bill Frederick Park
• Lake Eola Park
• iFly Orlando Indoor Skydiving
• Orlando Science Center
• Madame Tussauds
• Medieval Times
• Holy Land Experience
• SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
• The Coca-Cola Orlando Eye
• ESPN Wide World of Sports
Are events more to your taste? Orlando and the surrounding area offering plenty of those as well, all throughout the year. Popular events include everything from film and folk festivals, to wine, beer, and pottery festivals. For don't-miss gatherings, mark your calendar for the annual Downtown Food & Wine Fest, Florida Strawberry Festival, and the world-renowned Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival.
Orlando Sports Teams
Sports fans who relocate to Orlando are always pleased to find plenty of choices, including college and professional sports. Orlando hosts the Florida Citrus Bowl and is home to several sports teams, including professional basketball, soccer and hockey:
• Orlando Magic
• Orlando City Soccer Club
• Orlando Griffins
• Orlando Solar Bears
• Orlando Pride
Higher Education in Orlando
The Central Florida region is known for its high-quality universities and colleges and comprehensive degree programs in a wide range of specialties. This not only makes Orlando attractive for students of all kinds—it also contributes to the diversity of the population and the vibrancy of the cultural scene.
Orlando is home to the second-largest university in the U.S., the University of Central Florida. More than 60,000 students attend the school, which includes top business, engineering and computer science programs. Rollins College, according to The Princeton Review, is one of America's top 50 Best Value private universities and colleges, with an excellent graduate school of business. Those pursuing careers in creative arts attend Full Sail University, which offers bachelor's, associate's and master's degrees in fields such as graphic design, filmmaking, web development, recording arts and much more.
Additional higher education options include:
• Adventist University of Health Sciences
• Columbia College
• Florida A&M University College of Law
• Valencia College
Distinctive Neighborhoods and Districts
One of the most important considerations when you're thinking of moving to Orlando is finding the neighborhood that's right for you and your family. The good news is that you'll have plenty to choose from, whether you're looking for an easy commute to downtown Orlando, affordable neighborhoods if you're a first-time buyer, or great schools for your kids. Orlando has several local districts, including its Main Street district, and other popular, bustling neighborhoods that are great for all walks of life, whether you're just starting out in college, starting a new family, or looking for a great place to retire in Orlando.
Some of the area's most popular spots to live include Kissimmee, which puts you close to the largest theme parks (and the jobs they offer); Winter Park, which puts you near some of the best restaurants, shopping and cultural events in town; and St. Cloud, which is a 35-minute drive to downtown Orlando and offers a slower, rural lifestyle.
Here are just a few more of the city's distinctive neighborhoods:
• Audubon Park
• Baldwin Park
• College Park
• Doctor Phillips
• Lake Nona
• Milk District
• Nona Blue
• Park Lake Highland
• Thornton Park
• Winter Park
Restaurants in Every Category
Your new home in Orlando puts you in the center of a popular restaurant scene. You'll find everything here: fresh seafood from the Florida coasts, fine dining in resorts and hotels, authentic Southern food, and surprisingly great choices in some of the theme parks, where famous chefs have set up shop.
Some of the spots that consistently draw crowds of locals include:
• Ace Cafe Orlando
• Hunger St Taco's
• Roy's Restaurant
• La Luce
• Nona Blue
• Pom Pom's Tea House
• NYPD Pizza
Orlando offers plenty of nightlife options to explore, including lounges with great happy hours and dancing hot spots. Try Blue Martini Lounge for relaxing and dancing with high-end style or consider Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort for a wide range of restaurants and entertaining in an easily walkable area. Downtown Orlando has been a busy spot for nightlife for many years, with its blend of modern bars, rooftop lounges, nightclubs and more.
Shopping in Orlando
Theme parks aren't the only thing that visitors and residents will come from miles around to go to. With all of the shopping options here, you may just move to Orlando for that reason alone. You'll find everything from luxury brands at upscale boutiques to discount designer outlets.
Be sure to check out popular and expansive malls, such as The Mall at Millennia, The Florida Mall and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets to get the best shopping deals in town. Even the theme parks have plenty of shopping, including the Universal Orlando Resort and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World.
Although you may never actually need to leave the city limits, you'll want to venture out to some of Florida's best cities that are just a short drive away, such as Tampa, Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral. You can take short weekend trips there by driving along I-4 or taking local roads to hit the beach or explore local attractions, such as the Kennedy Space Center.
Important City Links
Preparing for a move to Orlando? Here are a few helpful links for your planning:
Esri. Find stats on Orlando based on your ZIP code.
DMV/Licenses. Whether it's taking a driving test or getting a Florida ID, you can take care of your motor vehicle and identification needs at your local Orange County DMV office.
Voting Locations. Orange County's Supervisor of Election makes it easy to find your voting precinct using your address.
Hurricane and Emergency Shelters. Don't get caught unprepared in a hurricane or other natural disaster. Know your evacuation zone and route and nearest emergency shelters by checking with the Orange County Office of Emergency Management. You can also get help finding shelters for individuals with special needs.
Evacuation Maps for Natural Disasters. Look for evacuation zones in Orlando for natural disasters, such as hurricanes, by using this ESRI-powered interactive map.
Utilities Companies. Duke Energy and Orlando Utilities Commission offers gas for Orlando residents while the Orlando Utilities Commission provides service for water.
Trash and Recycling Services. The City of Orlando conducts a weekly garbage, yard waste and recycling collection program. Take care to follow garbage and recycling collection rules and regulations by following your schedule using the Orlando Collects tool. You can use the tool to schedule pickups of large items and set up reminders for recycling, yard waste and garbage collection days.
Cable and Internet Providers
What Else You Should Know
Some people move to Orlando for the sunshine and some for the fun, but whatever their reasons, more than 280,000 people live within the Orlando city limits, according to the United States Census Bureau. When including the immediate surrounding areas, the population is more than 2.4 million. Here are a few more of the most important Orlando stats:
Median home prices: The median home price in Orlando, Florida is $224,000.
Average income: Orlando's median household income is $44,007.
Largest employers: Orlando's largest employers include the Florida Hospital, Walt Disney World, Comcast, Publix, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando Health, and the Adventist Health System.
Crime rates: Based on data from the last two decades, the most recent statistics show a downward trend in violent and property crimes.
State and national parks: While Orlando is not home to any particular national parks, it's within proximity to Canaveral National Seashore, where you'll likely find sea turtles, pine flatwoods, and an open lagoon on this 58,000-acre barrier island. Plenty of state parks are within easy driving distance, including Wekiwa Springs State Park, Lake Louisa State Park, Lake Griffin State Park and more.
Clubs: Both the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA have local chapters in Orlando, including Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida and the Downtown Orlando YMCA.
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