unexpected orlando


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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.

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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 orlandoluxury.com and orlandoedc.com. 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.


This impeccably run Five Diamond resort does double duty: It’s a perfect launching point for exploring Orlando, but it’s also a wonderful place to linger and enjoy first-class amenities. The spa provides a rejuvenating escape from the hurly-burly of daily life, and multiple pools offer relaxation for both adults and children.


Venture east to Downtown Orlando or north to Winter Park to find Orlando’s blossoming foodie scene, with great local haunts such as East End Market and the award-winning Ravenous Pig.


This Spanish-influenced restaurant known for its tapas-style dishes on the 17th floor of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort offers inventive cooking with surprising touches—entrees include halibut with sunchoke and thyme and lamb with bulgur and smoked yogurt—as well as perfectly cooked steaks. The view alone is worth a visit.


“Orlando truly has evolved and now celebrates some of the best restaurants and dining experiences you can imagine,” says Emeril Lagasse. “I’m proud to be a part of this with two restaurants, Emeril’s Orlando, in the heart of Universal CityWalk, and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop located on the first floor of the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.


Two of the world’s most admired chefs, Emeril Lagasse and Masaharu Morimoto, have brought their distinctive cooking to Orlando with Emeril’s Orlando and Morimoto Asia.


The restaurant in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a repeat winner of AAA’s Five Diamond Award, is not only one of the finest in Orlando, it’s one of the finest you’ll ever visit. With just one seating each evening, guests enjoy a remarkable meal of modern American food, prepared by chef Scott Hunnel, that incorporates the freshest offerings with the finest fish, vegetables and meats from around the world.


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.


One could easily spend a day at The Mall at Millenia with 150 stores and restaurants presented in a beautifully designed space. Luxury boutiques such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Bulgari are paired with in-demand brands like Apple and Tory Burch for a superb shopping experience.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Only two years old, this striking facility has become an anchor for Orlando’s performing arts scene and the city’s thriving downtown. Its venues include the 2,700 seat Walt Disney Theater and the more intimate Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater.


Combining entertainment, dining and shopping, Disney Springs has over 150 unique shops and restaurants. It’s also an excellent spot for Disney-related gifts, from Disney’s Candy Cauldron to the Art of Disney, a hot spot forcollectors.


A Cirque du Soleil production, La Nouba comes from the French phrase faire la nouba, meaning, roughly, “live it up.” This fantastical production depicts the meeting of two worlds, the color-filled one of the Cirques (circuspeople) and the more monochrome one of the Urbains.


This signature shopping street boasts more than 140 boutiques, sidewalk cafés and museums. And it’s bordered by oak-canopied Central Park, which hosts seasonal art shows, concerts, exotic car shows and fashion events.


Presented by MasterCard, this tournament has been played at Bay Hill since 1979, when the late Arnold Palmer brought it to town. The prestigious tournament is one way in which Orlando, with more than 170 courses and training academies, has become a golfer’s paradise.


Held at Camping World Stadium, the NFL Pro Bowl 2017 moves to Orlando with a week-long celebration of football that includes fun for the whole family, culminating in the main event, which will see a return to the traditional AFC vs. NFC game format.


Lion Nation will soon have a new location in which to cheer on their favorite soccer teams. Created below ground level, the Orlando City stadium will be home to both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride teams in a space designed with the intention of amplifying the crowd, rain or shine.


Celebrate the NBA Orlando Magic’s nearly 30 years of basketball reign in the city where it all began. Watch home games at Amway Center, the technologically advanced venue that boasts the largest main scoreboard in the NBA.


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 experiencethe 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.


This all-inclusive resort is more like a one-of-a-kind island oasis, limited to only 1,000 visitors daily. You can swim with bottlenose dolphins, feed tropical birds and snorkel through a saltwater reef. Appealing upgrades include being a trainer for a day, renting a private cabana or an underwater walking tour of the Grand Reef.


The private tour at Universal Orlando Resort begins with special parking and a VIP lounge, then continues with a personal escort through Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Your VIP tour grants you exclusive front-of-line access to all rides and adventures, including both lands in the astonishing Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


At SeaWorld, VIP status brings you preferred parking, your own personal tour guide, exclusive front-of-line status, reserved seating at your choice of shows, fine dining at Sharks Underwater Grill, and the chance to get up close and personal with marine life.


Disney offers a range of exclusive experiences. You could, for example, take the Wild Africa Trek, a three-hour guided experience that gives participants the chance to view rhinos, crocodiles, cheetahs and more in an environment that replicates their natural habitat. You’ll walk along a grassland path, cross a rope bridge and ride in a rugged safari vehicle over an open savanna. Or charter the Disney Grand 1 yacht, a 52-foot Sea Ray Sedan Bridge yacht that sails from the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Motoring over Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, you and up to 13 friends will experience Disney, including Wishes, the nightly fireworks show, from the water.


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.


The City of Tavares, located in Lake County, has created a unique environment accessible to all things seaplanes, including a deliberate focus on recruiting seaplane manufacturers to the area known as “America’s Seaplane City.”


This Orlando outpost of the gaming powerhouse, consistently one of the most cutting-edge companies in the space, oversees the production of Madden NFL Football, PGA Tour and NBA Live. EA both draws on and contributes to the thriving local community of technology programmers and innovators.


With support from Florida governor Rick Scott and a coalition of public and private organizations, Verizon opened its $63 million Lake Mary Center of Excellence finance hub in 2014. The telecom giant employs some 1,100 people in finance and back-office operations there.


The global security and aerospace company employs approximately 7,000 people at two different facilities in the area. Part of a network of some 2,000 aerospace and aviation companies in central Florida, Lockheed Martin helps support world-competitive STEM education throughout the region.


The iconic kitchenware company has experienced worldwide growth in the past 50 years thanks to a sales force of nearly 3 million members. With a corporate base in Orlando, Tupperware sells goods under seven brands of products for food prep, serving and storage, and the company supports a socially responsible mission to educate and empower women and girls.


The International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR) is the world’s first industry-led consortium for manufacturing smart sensors, the technology that helps connect the “internet of everything.” By 2020, an estimated 50 billion devices are going to rely on them.


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 smarthome 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.


From research to treatment, Lake Nona offers a remarkable range of medical facilities at its Medical City hub, including the GuideWell UST Global Innovation Center, an innovation hub for healthcare technology; the UCF Health Sciences Campus.; Nemours Children’s Hospital; the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the first new veterans’ hospital in Florida since the 1990s; and the University of Florida Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona, intended to promote research into new drugs and participation in clinical trials.


The new USTA National Campus is a 64-acre expanse for tennis players on the local and national level. The facility will house more than 100 tennis courts in a variety of styles for residents of the Orlando community while hosting collegiate and pro championships.


This Orlando company offers bike- and train-based tours of the city that not only help spotlight local businesses but also raise awareness of Juice, Orlando’s bike-share program, and SunRail, the city’s commuter rail line.


Every city rises or falls on the strength and vitality of its communities, and these are among Orlando’s pillars. All have different emphases, ranging from golf (Isleworth and Heathrow) to a connection with Walt Disney World (Golden Oak) to integration within a mixed-use community (Lake Nona). What they have in common is an outstanding quality of life and the feel of a small town that happens to have all the benefits of a big city.


The mixed-use luxury community of Lake Nona includes residences, retail, recreational facilities, a golf and country club, and a group of medical and research buildings known as Lake Nona Medical City.


Founded in 1908, Florida Hospital is one of the largest not-for-profit healthcare providers in the country with 22 campuses and the goal of catering to whole-person health—wellness of mind, body and spirit.


With 13 colleges and 63,000 students in 210 degree programs, the University of Central Florida, founded in 1963, is now the state’s largest university. Students come from all 50 states and 148 countries.


A nonprofit focused on pediatric medical care and research, Nemours Children’s Hospital is a family-centered health system, where doctors and staff are trained to help families actively participate in their child’s care.


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 thenation’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.


Set to open in the heart of Orlando in 2019, UCF Downtown will accommodate 7,700 college students who will be living, learning and working alongside local businesses. The university will offer degrees in digital media and communication, health information technology and administration, and community-facing programs like social work and legal studies.


Transportation infrastructure is critical to a city’s success, so Orlando is investing some $15 billion in its infrastructure, including Orlando International Airport and Orlando Sanford International Airport, which offer over 175 direct flights worldwide daily; SunRail, Central Florida’s commuter rail line; Port Canaveral, which handles 4 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo annually; Brightline, a new regional high speed train connecting Orlando and Miami; and the central artery highway I-4, in the process of receiving significant upgrades.


At Rollins College—a liberal arts school founded in 1885 in Winter Park—students are challenged to step outside their intellectual comfort zones in learning and community service. With nearly 100 student-led organizations and clubs, plus a prime location on the banks of Lake Virginia, the environment is perfect for pursuing passions and reaching potential.


Creating impact with chart-topping hits, influential films, innovative games and landmarks in technology and art, Full Sail University alumni have made lasting impressions in the world of the arts thanks to their education at the Winter Park school. Students from all 50 states plus 67 countries converge at this institution of higher learning to earn degrees in entertainment, media, arts and technology.


Spread across four K–12 school districts (Lake County, Orange County, Osceola County and Seminole County), the Orlando region’s educational offerings are high performing and award winning. In addition to receiving numerous accolades, the districts offer magnet programs, arts schools and personalized learning approaches.


DirectConnect guarantees admission to UCF after students earn an associate’s degree from one of the partner colleges. With access to UCF campuses, student services and activities, DirectConnect offers a shorter time to degree completion and a smooth transition to UCF.
For more information visit OrlandoLuxury.com and OrlandoEDC.com.
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