The Mirage of Orlando…

Dear Folks from the Friendly Midwest,

If you are traveling to Florida, and especially Orlando, be forewarned – not everything is so warm and fuzzy in Orlando.

Many at Disneyworld, Universal, Sea World and the Florida travel agency will have you believe that Orlando is the Fun in the Sun. The “happy” place of Florida. From my experience of visiting Central Florida every other year for the last two decades (relatives to visit), it’s overrated. If you have young kids and can afford it, the Walt Disney World Resort is OK but it’s mostly pretend fun. As long as your wallet is filled with cash, Disney will provide a warm smile and welcome you with open arms.

The Wonderful World of Orlando

I think most people realize there’s very little spontaneity in many of these theme parks. Everything is so well planned and choreographed. It’s like a well-maintained suburb where everything is so orderly and well planned — basically plain vanilla. If you’re stressed and tired and are not looking for any surprises and a homogeneous theme park, you’ve come to the right place.

Disney markets to the Midwest to come down to Orlando, enjoy yourself with your family, and have a good time. Mind you, how many of those prospective Disney visitors know that Orlando is in the top 10 of the rudest cities in America? You mean it’s not all warm and fuzzy in Central Florida? In fact, there are several Florida cities in the top ten of this unpleasant list – not surprisingly, no Midwestern city made that list, not even Chicago.

Driving can be aggravating in and around Central Florida and Orlando – tailgating appears to be legal – zipping in and out of traffic on the expressway is tolerated, provided you don’t collide with another car. Using one’s directional is optional in Florida, especially in Orlando. Be forewarned, I’ve never seen another place in the U.S. (besides Miami), where the traffic on the expressway can immediately come to a stop. It’s traumatic. Mr. and Mrs. Midwesterner, don’t follow too closely and make sure your brakes pads have little wear before entering the Sunshine State.

Oh, one thing I forget to mention about Orlando, it’s the most dangerous city in America for pedestrians. Don’t worry Midwesterners, if you can afford to vacation here, you can afford a car or a rent a car where you don’t have to worry about walking. It’s only the poor residents of Orlando, especially those who need to rely on public transportation that need to worry.

Before you get worried, let me tell you about the weather. If you’ve had a rough winter in Chicago or Des Moines, the Florida sun feels great in February, March or April. If you’re driving to Florida at this time, and at some point in the deep south, you’ll step out of your car and appreciate such warm and tropical air. If you’re a deprived sun worshipper from Grand Rapids or Winona, this warmth and sunshine may help prepare you for what’s ahead.

The sun is great at certain times of the year but I just would not travel 1,200 miles from the Midwest for the people or culture (if you can find any). Again, it’s all superficial and fantasy space. Just leave your troubles (and all your cash in your wallet) behind. Prices become secondary at Disney or Universal; don’t you love your kids enough to ignore the inflated prices and let your hair down and enjoy yourself?

If you’re looking for sunny weather, strip mall after strip mall, traffic at all hours of the day, beautiful beaches or amusement parks, you’ve come to the right state. Just realize culture to someone from Indianapolis or Bloomington is different from a Floridian. In other words, museums, art galleries or cultural exhibits don’t exactly abound in the Sunshine State. Museums in Orlando are about as common as the Floridian Panther — almost extinct. Be forewarned, what substitutes for culture in Florida — especially in Central Florida are marine-life theme parks or amusement parks. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s the way Orlando and Central Florida operates.  

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