Alligators at Gatorland

Gatorland was Orlando's original theme park, founded in 1949. (©Rochelle Siegel)

30 Weird and Interesting Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Orlando

By Laura Lee on 05/12/16, updated 07/11/16
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Traveling to Orlando soon? Here are some fun facts to quiz your family in the car or the airport on your way. And while you're likely coming for the theme parks, we hope this list will expose to you to all Orlando has to offer.

(1) In 2015, 66 million people visited Orlando, more than any other destination in the world.

(2) Long before tourism, the most popular industries in Central Florida were cattle, cotton and citrus.

(3) You can experience the cattle country in Kissimmee, in the downtown area, at the annual rodeo and at a working cattle ranch where you can ride horses.

(4) Showcase of Citrus is a working citrus farm just west of Walt Disney World, and in nearby Lake Wales is Florida's Natural Growers, where Florida orange juice is made.

Showcase of Citrus near Orlando

(5) Orlando businessman Dr. Philip Phillips once owned 5,000 acres of citrus, perfected the canned orange juice process and sold his company to Minute Maid in 1954 for $50 million.

(6) Dr. Phillips is now the name of an affluent neighborhood that's home to "Restaurant Row," named for the grand number of upscale eateries on Sand Lake Road.

(7) The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which opened downtown in 2014, was named among the "50 Coolest Places in the World in 2015" by Travel + Leisure. 

The Dr. Phillips Center of Performing Arts

(8) Legend has it that the city of Orlando was named for the character in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Rosalind and Rowena are other names found in the city.

(9) Gatorland was the first theme park to open in Orlando in 1949. Its main attraction was a 15-foot gator, said to be the biggest in the world. 

(10) After Disneyland opened in California in 1955, Walt Disney began buying up thousands of acres of swampland in Kissimmee, Florida.

(11) Walt Disney World opened in 1971, 15 years after Walt Disney died.

(12) Among the original rides at the Magic Kingdom were Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Carousel of Progress, the Mark Twain Riverboat, It's a Small World, Tomorrowland Speedway, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Carousel, Mad Tea Party, Swiss Family Treehouse, the Country Bear Jamboree and the Enchanted Tiki Room, all of which are around today.

Magic Kingdom circa 1971

(13) SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973 as a marine park with animal shows.

(14) Universal Studios opened in Orlando in 1990 with Nickelodeon, Back to the Future, E.T., Ghostbusters and The Bates Hotel. Of those, only E.T. is still open.

(15) The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal's Island of Adventures in 2010. Disney had the rights to Harry Potter first, but sources say J. K. Rowling went with Universal for better collaboration.

(16) The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley is reported to have cost more than half-a-billion dollars. 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

(17) Celebrities with ties to Orlando include Arnold Palmer, Justin Timberlake, Carrot Top, Christina Aguilera, Wayne Brady, Ryan Gosling, Brittany Spears, Mandy Moore, Kevin Richardson and Aubrey Peeples. 

(18) Tiger Woods' infamous fight with his ex-wife took place at his mansion in Windermere, an upscale suburb of Orlando.

(19) Bubba Watson ended up buying Woods' house, which you might have guessed, is located on a golf course. 

Windermere's Butler Chain of Lakes

(20) The most famous player for the Orlando Magic is Shaquille O'Neal, who wears a size 17 shoe.

(21) Paul McCartney owns a condo in Winter Park and likes to eat at Briarpatch.

(22) Mr. Rogers wrote “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” as his senior thesis at Rollins College. You can see his lakefront home aboard a Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.

The lakefront campus of Rollins College in Winter Park.

(23) Orlando's City Hall was blown up for a scene in "Lethel Weapon 3" featuring Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. Orlando's mayor had a cameo.

(24) Other movies filmed in Orlando are "SHARKNADO 3," "Sisters," "Apollo 13" and "The Waterboy."

(25) Orlando has 100 lakes, many of which are the result of sinkholes. Rose Lake, an infamous lake formed from a sinkhole in Winter Park, was mentioned in the hit HBO series "The Sopranos" as a good place to hide bodies.

(26) Lake Eola in downtown Orlando is the result of a sinkhole and is a whopping 80 feet deep.

Lake Eola downtown Orlando

(27) Orlando is the Lightning Capital of America.

(28) Central Florida is home to Shingle Creek, the source of the Florida Everglades, and yes, also thousands of alligators.

Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida, the source of the Everglades

(29) The number of visitors in Orlando each day is equivalent the population of Atlanta—with half the interstate. Orlando's population is 2.3 million.

(30) Orlando is home to the world's largest McDonald's and the world's largest Disney store. The McDonald's unique menu includes waffles, brick-oven pizza and made-to-order omelets. 

To learn more about Orlando's history, quirks and claims to fame, spend the day with OTown Tours or visit the Orange County Regional History Center.