We've had a couple members of our leadership team from Tampa in the Orlando office in the last few weeks, which inevitably leads to lunch out. Today, again, I the conversation turned to how fantastic Orlando is for all of the reasons most people don't know. When I landed here a little over a year ago, I was oblivious as well. Now I feel like it's a little secret that should be kept, maybe.
If you come to town as a tourist, you probably know 528, a few miles of I-4 and I-Drive. If you're really adventurous, maybe you know a few miles of the coast (Kennedy and the cruise lines), and maybe Legoland or Busch Gardens Tampa. That was probably my limitation as well when I moved here, and working for a theme park company may have even reinforced that. But I did obviously land in a place to live that was away from all that, and you have to branch out if you're going to live in any area. Don't get me wrong, I love me some theme parks, and it was a consideration for moving here, but it's a fraction of what Orlando is about.
This job opened my eyes quite a bit, in part because our office (where I got twice a week) is right in the middle of everything, downtown. Yes, Orlando has a downtown. The arena is two blocks away, the mixed-development revival of Church St. is a block, across the street is the amazing new Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts, Lake Eola is diagonally a few blocks... it's really fantastic. I'm told it's not a great place to live yet, because you need to actually get out of downtown for regular retail needs, but as a place to work and play, it's really fantastic.
In fact, you'd never know that the area was so in the same city as the attractions. There's a sense of an up-and-coming city when you're downtown, with a mix of start-ups and technology companies, as well as the typical big financial firms and such. Of course, a world-class performing arts facility is important to us, but I look at how those places benefit Cleveland and Seattle and I see how important it is to the general atmosphere and vibe in a downtown area.
There are a lot of areas that are uniquely "old Florida," as a friend calls them. I'm not entirely sure how you describe that... it's kind of a mix of old south, 60's modern, but not tacky. You find a lot of great old houses, family businesses and restaurants that have survived for decades, and a whole lot of money. Not sure what these folks do for a living, but they're well-off.
It's all a nice surprise to me. I've enjoyed getting more involved with local business and non-profits, as well as our local software development community. I'm guilty of seeing the area as one-dimensional, and in some ways relieved that it's not.