I moved to Orlando at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. At first, I thought simply, “this sucks,” but it forced me to appreciate Orlando for what it is outside of the theme parks (which didn’t make my list). Disney isn’t the only reason why Orlando is a magical place to live; it’s the environment, the diverse culture, and the wonderful people that make why living in Orlando so awesome.
And there’s one thing I’ve learned about Orlando after years of visiting and living here for the past few years, Orlando isn’t just the city; Orlando is the entire area that encompasses most of Central Florida. From Clermont to Mt. Dora, to Winter Park, and Horizons West.
Here are my top ten reasons why living in Orlando is awesome:
I know some people will argue with me on this. But hear me out. During the summer the temperature can brush up to 100 F. But it usually sticks to about the low 90s. This is perfect weather for diving into a pool–because if you don’t have a pool, your community clubhouse does or you know someone who owns a pool. The water is refreshing and you’re not the slightest bit cold when you get out. More importantly, Winter in Orlando is perfect. While Floridians like to make a joke of the 12 seasons of Florida (from Hell’s front porch to Lovebug season), the colder months have a lovely roller coaster effect of the 40s and 50s some days and then soaring to high 70s other days. The best part of winter in Orlando is the trees. They’re never bare and stay evergreen or turn that beautiful fall color of bright red and orange.
I’m not talking about the theme parks here. Orlando has so many national parks and these parks are sometimes connected with trails (the trails are later in the list). A lot of the parks have shade, have great playgrounds for kiddos of all ages, and most of the time they’ll have either a large green space for soccer or football and a basketball court. My family and I can easily spend a minimum of two hours at any given park.
The trails are my personal favorite. You get to explore a diverse range of what Orlando has to offer from cutting through quaint downtowns (the West Orange Trail cuts through Downtown Winter Garden), cute houses stacked along the way, and just a great place to ride bikes with the kids without having to worry about car traffic.
Orlando has so many beautiful springs! If you’re willing to forgo the thought that a crocodile could pop up at any moment, it’s wonderful! I have loved kayaking in Wekiva and looking through the glass-bottomed kayak in Rainbow Springs or Winter Park.
Anyone who says that there’s no good food in Orlando hasn’t bothered to look outside the touristy areas. Orlando has 24 restaurant features on the Michelin website, 10 of which have Michelin recognition, and 3 with a star. Of the list, my favorite has to be Papa Llama with a great modern twist to Peruvian cuisine. And, of course, The Strand. Hawkers is a great place to take out-of-towners to show them we have something to offer. And the chef’s tasting menu at Kadence is…chef’s kiss (pun intended). Outside of the Michelin features Orlando has plenty of good eats and we have a few regular places we like to go to as a family: Yellow Dog Eats, Jeff’s Bagel Run, Gochi, Poke Hana, Rosalie’s, and so much more!
Honestly, Orlando is one of the best and safest places for families. There is just so much you can do outside and most of the neighborhoods are safe for kids to roam around freely. Not only that, but a lot of restaurants have cute outside areas with fun activities for the kids to enjoy while you eat and drink in (somewhat) peace.
For the last decade, Orlando has taken its quaint little downtowns seriously and has done some major renovations. From Downtown Winter Garden to Winter Park, Windermere, Oakland (still developing), and Clermont, there’s no shortage of at least 1 mile of walking on brick pavers through cute mom & pop shops with the rustic facade reminiscent of when trains used to regularly pass through the orange groves. These picturesque downtowns are great for strolling with the family, getting something very Orlando (something with oranges or lemons), and stopping for a sip of coffee or a drink.
Orlando isn’t one of the cheapest places to live, but it’s also not out of most price ranges. The salary average in Orlando is just under $70K and the cost of living is only 3% higher than the national average. Just to give you an idea, Miami has a similar salary average but the cost of living is 21% higher than the national average. There’s honestly something for everyone in Orlando, and of course, there’s no shortage of jobs at the theme parks and Amazon warehouses near the area.
Most people wouldn’t believe that Orlando is diverse, but over the last few years–and especially with the 2020 pandemic–Orlando has seen a surge in different ethnicities coming to call Orlando home. About 40% of Orlando residents are not-US born, and they help make Orlando, the City Beautiful, a wonderful place to live. They have opened up unique restaurants, and little shopping markets, and have added to the cultural experiences around town.
It’s not just theme parks:
Orlando has so much more to offer than theme parks. Orlando has art museums, large-scale murals for Instagram-worthy photo ops, beautiful gardens, historic society museums, outdoor concerts, and plenty of weekend activities at the quaint downtowns. There is no shortage of things to do in Orlando outside of the theme parks.
Orlando has grown into itself and has truly lived up to its slogan, The City Beautiful. It has the best of Florida and makes it easy to call home. It has a lit bit of Southern charm and hospitality and a lot of excitement and entertainment of a big city. Living in Orlando is awesome and makes raising a family easy and magical with everything you can do here. Orlando is truly The City Beautiful and the most magical place on Earth.