Theme Parks: Visit Anytime | Other Orlando


  • If you love theme parks, and visit often, you can buy a Disney Platinum Plus Pass (for ages three and up) for $729. Or a Universal Premier Pass for $479.

    They are among various price options for single tickets to visit all the times you want.

    No better place to do that than Orlando which, as you know, is the theme park capital of the world.

    But of course it is much easier to do if you live here.

    We are not urging it but have you considered it?

    Not such a far-fetched idea, really.

    Who is moving here? Thousands

    Florida is approaching New York as the US’s largest state.

    Orlando in a recent year had 50,000 new residents.

    So what if you did live here, and could visit a park virtually any time?

    Would you want to?

    Move here, that is.

    You probably would visit theme parks a lot more.

    You would not move into an area just for its theme parks, of course.

    But you would be far from alone if you have thought about life in Orlando.

    Where under mostly sunny skies, you could visit a theme park anytime you want.

    If you are considering it, or seriously thinking about it, at any rate, there are surprising things you should know.

    For example, Disney World is not located in downtown Orlando or even in the city itself. It is about 20 miles away, and much of it is located in the former cowboy capital of Kissimmee.

    Perhaps you already know that but if you did live here, you might have some surprises.

    What you might not know about Orlando

    And you might as well start with the alligators.

    But before that, what we are going to get into here is not the pros and cons of life in the theme park capital.

    You can read about those on the internet (people also leave here, remember).

    You will have to make your own decision about where to live, of course.

    But we’ll stick to what may surprise you if you are from, say, Boston, or Chicago or Denver, and you are thinking of life here (in addition to your interest in theme parks).

    Let’s start with alligators. And we’re not being facetious since everyone knows they are the real face of Florida (and the symbol for the highly ranked sports teams of the University of Florida in Gainesville, located less than two hour’s drive from Orlando).

    Floridians do strange things with alligators.

    They eat them.

    Owners of small pets like dogs fear them (they might eat your pet).

    And they, Floridians and tourists, watch them wrestle human beings.

    Eating alligators is not as common as downing McDonald’s, of course, but you can find them on the menu at restaurants and cookouts. If you wonder about the taste, it’s similar to chicken…but come to think about it, they say the same about snakes,

    To put this into perspective, it is probably as common a menu item as you might find rattlesnakes offered on or off the menu in small town Texas towns. Not common, but it does happen.

    Dog-eating alligators can be found here

    Alligators also do eat dogs and other pesky animals. It is unusual enough to draw newspaper stories and a small item on the 6 o’clock television news.

    And people wrestling them are events that can be commonly found in South Florida or at the Orlando area’s own Gatorland. This has been a long and highly respected tradition in the Sunshine State, though there seem to be few explanations other than to please the tourists.

    While we’re on the subject, Central Florida and the rest of the state has some unusual animals. In the past, it has had “walking catfish.” Yes, they walked on land. And poisonous frogs, which at least were deadly to other animals.

    Lovebugs are another hazard, at least to car windshields when covered with the pesty creatures who are otherwise harmless.

    Outsiders often note that Cypress and Palmetto trees are in abundance in the Orlando area, but they also find such unfamiliar wildlife as armadillos (looking like miniature armor-plated dinosaurs), turtles (some much bigger than pie plates), manatees and various birds not found in most places.

    Watch out for the animals

    Just keeping this in mind will help: don’t jump into any lake idly since ‘gators do occasionally attack humans, though this is not common and at Gatorland they far prefer chickens

    But let’s get to the more serious stuff.

    Employment.

    If you are young and reasonably bright, and personable, you could probably find a job here.

    We say “probably” because no one these days is guaranteed a job in this society, at least so far.

    Finding a real job, as opposed to flipping burgers, is not always easy. Finding jobs: easy enough

    But it has been getting easier in the theme park capital as the overall US economy gets better.

    Particularly in demand jobs are in the general areas of service, especially retail, and security.

    Not all the jobs here are in theme parks, either.

    Other tourism attractions such as restaurants and hotels are not only expanding but also hiring. And there’s always turnover, which in all honesty is understandable because many jobs are admittedly not ones you would to do forever.

    But there are also jobs in healthcare and particularly construction. There are even jobs in the aerospace and defense industries.

    Not for you, perhaps?

    But theme parks are expanding, as you also know.

    So new hires are on the horizon there as well.

    You might still think all such jobs are at minimum wage.

    Not so.

    New jobs often pay more than minimum

    Disney World has been leading the theme parks in raising salaries beyond the lowest possible rates.

    So what, you say?

    Disney and other theme parks have also been strong advocates of “promoting within,” so that the job of maintenance sweeper today might lead to no broom tomorrow because you were named supervisor.

    No guarantees, of course. And there are still other surprises associated with jobs here.

    Two of those: you probably need a car.

    And a roommate.

    Rental rates are high enough so that many newcomers end up sharing living expenses. And if you can’t afford a car, it would help to have a roommate with one.

    Forced to get a roommate

    You can get around the Orlando area by bus or even by train, in a much more limited fashion. But to make regular work hours, it helps a lot and makes life much easier to have your own transportation. Or have a roommate who has a vehicle.

    And yes, there are traffic tie-ups,

    Particularly since most people get to Disney and the theme parks via the main artery, I-4. But most commuters eventually find their own special and traffic-avoiding routes (which we won’t reveal here to keep the traffic moving).

    Everyone looks these days at the cost of living.

    There are many ways to interpret this.

    Some studies show the cost of living here is about 10 percent less than the average of the US in general. But those are just general numbers, and obviously depend on your own spending (or lack of it) habits.

    Let’s just say it is cheaper to live here than in say, California.

    Also much cheaper than, say, Chicago (where there are also more state and local taxes and higher costs for such items as winter clothing and even automobile expenses during frigid winters).

    What else may surprise…or even shock you?

    You know your entertainment taste will never be satisfied here…

    …simply because there are so many things to do.

    Orlando may be landlocked but it has beaches on both sides of it, easily within less than an hour’s drive. These thousands of miles of beaches offer fishing, boating, hiking, camping and any other kind of outdoor activity you might prefer. These attractions are why so many visitors come to stay here.

    But if you happen to play golf, there are more courses here than anywhere in the country.

    If you are single, you should not have any dating difficulties.

    At least when it comes to finding a date.

    Dating not hard here

    Single women outnumber men, at least slightly.

    Forbes Magazine rated the area one of the best cities in the US for singles.

    There’s also a lot of places to take a date, even if you just consider restaurants. There are upwards of 5,000 restaurants here. Yes, that’s just a number but it is a lot for any size population. And there are a huge variety of food choices so that the only real issue is who is paying, anyway?

    Maybe you have not thought too much about this, understandably, but there is also what we commonly associate with cultural options. Ballet, opera, Bach and Shakespeare festivals.

    For readers of books, this is far from paradise, however. Major chains such as Barnes and Noble regularly shut their doors. Independently owned smaller used book stores also come and go. Definitely an endangered species.

    But don’t despair, book-lovers.

    The Orange County Library System is one of the best in the country. It’s main outside drop-off window in the heart of downtown has long been closed but it offers far more than books: CD, movies, preloaded playaway mp3s, as well as various self-improvement courses at 15 different locations.

    And if you get a library card, which is free to residents, they will home deliver.

    University classes are common

    There’s also a huge university to take more classes or get a bachelor’s or advanced degree. The University of Central Florida has grown to where it has more than 60,000 students. It is either the largest or the second biggest university in the entire US.

    If you do enroll there, and drive to classes, have patience.

    Parking lots are always crowded and almost always full. And never cheap.

    There are other colleges here as well.

    But you almost certainly will need a car to get there.

    And they also have limited parking.

    You may have heard the sun shines all the time here, however.

    Not true, of course.

    It rains. A lot. Much of the year, in fact.

    Sometimes, it even rains all day.

    But the rainy season is usually predictable and of limited durations during the wet afternoons.

    Here’s a summary of the weather:

    The weather in Orlando has an average temperature in the 80’s, mild rain and thunderstorms in the summer and cool evenings in the winter with the occasional frost. 

    So the sun does shine a lot.

    If you’re from a climate that traditionally has autumn and winter, the consistently warm weather and lack of deciduous trees can be uncomfortable.

    At first. Anyway.

    But soon you will get used to the regular Florida uniform of shorts, t-shirt and scandals.

    No rule for dress-up days

    No dress-up days, at least for most people.

    Not a clothing concern, but the universally-beloved Christmas season may shock and disappoint you, however.

    No snow, of course, though long-time residents know a time back decades ago when a few flakes fell here (even in Miami).

    But people here still dress up their homes with seasonal decorations and you can always take a trip to the Crystal River less than an hour’s drive away to see the migrating manatees. You’ll be joined by a lot of other residents.

    Windy matters in Orlando

    If you are from say Denver, the “Mile High City,” you know that the capital of theme parks does not have any similar slogan but it does have its own reputation is for hurricanes.

    But you should also know that much of a hurricane’s real damage is from flooding. That tends to impact more coastal areas. Orlando has a lot of lakes but is land-locked, as far as the Atlantic and Pacific is involved.

    So the bottom line: don’t worry much about hurricanes.

    But if you live here, hurricanes and other natural disasters will not discourage visitors.

    Families, often enough.

    They will expect to stay on your couch, of course.

    And they will think you can get them free tickets to theme parks (hopefully, that is where you work).

    They also will think you know how to avoid any traffic jams.

    So if you do move here, do your homework. And expect to accommodate some long-lost cousins as well.

    Just one more unexpected event that, come to think of it, should not at all be surprising.###