Welcome to Orlando!

This third US Connect is being held in a magical city that has a storied history prior to becoming home to the most popular and famous theme parks in the world. The city of Orlando is located in central Florida, which was established as the 27th state on March 3rd, 1821.Spanish explorer Ponce de León discovered the region in 1513 and described it using the word “florido”, which means “full of flowers”. 

Though the state is known for its sunshine, the origins of the city’s name are mostly cloudy. There are many differing stories as to how the city got its name, but one thing is quite ironic: the name Orlando has Spanish origins meaning “famous”. One could wonder if any of the founders had an idea of how tremendously famous this city would become when it was established in 1875.

A thriving citrus industry built up around Orlando in the 20 years that followed its founding. However, the blossoming industry and resulting population boom came to an abrupt halt during the winter of 1894–95.What became known as the “Great Freeze” forced the citrus growers to move operations further south and out of the area.The city of Orlando was compelled to re-invent itself and became a flourishing tourist destination following the Spanish–American War from 1898 through to the Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression and a series of hurricanes put a “fresh squeeze” on the city and ultimately ended those boom years.

The period leading up to World War II and beyond brought military and aerospace to Orlando, but it wasn’t until 1965 when Walt Disney would make a decision that would profoundly impact the city.

That was the year Orlando was chosen over Miami and Tampa for development of a theme park: the inland location had greater natural protection from hurricanes than those cities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and has set the bar as the most visited theme park in the world, with more than 56,000 visitors on average per day for a total of more than 20 million per year.

Today, there are 14 theme parks operating in the greater Orlando area, attracting more than 75 million visitors annually. From Gatorland, the first theme park which opened in 1949, to Legoland, the most recent which opened in 2011, there is something for everybody, SeaWorld Orlando, just across the street from the PHUSE conference hotel, opened in 1973 and averages more than 4 million visitors annually. Walt Disney World and Universal Studios are just minutes by car. Early March is actually a good time to go visit any of these theme parks, with shorter lines due to a reduced number of daily visitors.

Orlando isn’t just theme parks. If you are feeling adventurous, take an airboat tour in the wetlands surrounding Orlando and experience the natural beauty of the Central Everglades. There are excellent fishing charters and paddle board rentals in the nearby lakes. Take your stay to new heights with a balloon ride or hit the thermals in a tandem hang glider. I’ve taken the helicopter tour over Orlando, which provides a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the parks. Shuffle, or should I say shuttle, out to the Kennedy Space Center, about an hour east of Orlando, for a real out-of-this world experience! At the end of the day, enjoy dinner at the excellent local restaurants, wet your whistle and even take in some live music at the local pubs. I highly recommend B.B.King’s Blues Club for a thoroughly enjoyable musical experience.

Orlando is an extraordinary city. Do as they say and “make hay while the sun shines” in the Sunshine State and take time out to enjoy some of the many wonderful things to see and do.

We look forward to seeing you at the US Connect!

 

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