Allen Johnson's Personal Take on Orlando

The city leader who oversees such sites as the Amway and Carr centers tells us what sets Orlando apart and how he would spend a perfect day in The City Beautiful.

An industry veteran, Allen Johnson, executive director of Orlando Venues, has been involved in the management of large entertainment, cultural and sports venues for more than 30 years. Johnson oversees the heart and soul of Orlando's culture, including Amway Center, Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, Florida Citrus Bowl StadiumTinker Field, Leu Gardens, Mennello Museum and public art. Though spare time is scarce, he took a few minutes to answer our questions about his role in the "City Beautiful."

What exciting things are in store for Orlando Venues?

There are lots of exciting things on the horizon for Orlando Venues including the Florida Citrus Bowl stadium reconstruction which is actively under way; the new MLS stadium will break ground later this summer; and for the first time we'll be hosting NCAA Men's Division I Basketball second and third championship rounds at Amway Center.

Amway Center
Amway Center is Orlando's prized sports venue. (©Amway Center)

Describe a typical day?

I don't have typical days. I can honestly say I've never had the same two days ever. I could be dealing with anything from preparation for concerts, basketball or hockey to construction planning for one of our venues. I'm fortunate to have a great staff that allows me to manage at a higher level.

What sets Orlando apart?

Orlando is a truly diverse, dynamic and thriving city for residents and visitors alike. With over 50 million visitors annually and more than 2 million residents, we've got something for everyone. We have world-class hospitality, tourist attractions, the best venues and, now, a new stadium on the way.

Welcome to Orlando (©Visit Orlando)
A Welcome to Orlando sign greets visitors at an entrance to the city. (©Visit Orlando)

Where do you like to eat out?

We've got so many wonderful dining options in this city but I'd have to say Christner's Prime Steak & Lobster, Kres and Citrus are among my very favorites.

Citrus, a downtown Orlando eatery
Citrus, located downtown, is one of Johnson's favorite eateries. (©George Cott/Citrus)

What will new projects, like the MLS stadium, add to the city?

Soccer is a truly international sport with a broad—and growing—following. The addition of a new MLS stadium gives us another versatile venue that will draw more people to downtown Orlando and it will further create a strong sports and entertainment corridor which already includes the Citrus Bowl, Amway Center and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

What's the best advice you can give a first-time visitor?

The best advice I can give is to venture beyond the theme parks and discover the other side of Orlando. We've got numerous vibrant neighborhoods, beautiful lakes everywhere you look and a bustling downtown core with lots of dining and entertainment options. Definitely stop by Loch Haven Park for some great art and theater, too.

Favorite moment in your career to date?

I'm grateful to have so many great memories but if I had to pick just one I'd go with the day we got the vote to move forward with building our three new venues. That was truly historic.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will open later this year (©Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts)

My Perfect Day 

9 am, Hop on the Bike

My perfect day would start out with a morning spent biking the Wekiva Trail.

Noon, Time for Lunch

The next stop would be downtown for lunch followed by a stroll around Lake Eola to view the new “See Art Orlando” sculptures. 

Lake Eola
Gorgeous Lake Eola (©City of Orlando)

3 pm, Hit the Links

Late in the afternoon, I'd play a round of golf on one of our many exceptional courses.

Metrowest Golf Club
Metrowest is one of the area's great courses (©Metrowest Golf Club)

9 pm, Dinner and a Show

After a round of golf, I'd close out the day with family and friends at a dinner with live jazz music.