Before my sister moved to the Orlando area a decade ago and before I came here to live in 2009, I had Orlando inextricably entwined in my mind with Disney and big theme parks and touristy things. I've been very pleasantly surprised to find that Orlando is not what I thought it might be. Oh sure, tourists do flock to the area in large numbers but make a visit to downtown Orlando on an average weekday and you will find a relatively quiet city with interesting architecture and artwork, a beautiful park surrounding Lake Eola and lots of local (not chain) restaurants in the nearby neighborhoods. Oh, and you will also find lots of swans there. My sister and I spent a late morning and early afternoon there a couple of weeks ago and had a great time just walking around. Here are some of the pictures I took while we were there.
For those of you who are interested in more information on Lake Eola and Orlando, I've also provided some snippets from Wikipedia as well as some additional links.
From the Wikipedia article on Lake Eola:
In 1883, wealth Orlando resident Jacob Summerlin - known as the owner of the Summerlin Hotel, the first City Council president, and financial lender for the construction or Orlando's courthouse in the 1870s - donated a large tract of land in order for a fine park to be established in Orlando. In 1883, Summerlin came to a city council meeting and offered the land around the lake on the condition that was beautified and turned into a park. He also required that the city plant trees and put a "driveway" around the lake. To ensure that the city followed through the stipulations of the donation, Summerlin put reverter clauses in the contract to allow his heirs to reclaim the property if the city failed in its obligations. That park is still maintained to his orders of it being kept beautiful. Several years later, his sons threatened to exercise the reverter clause if the city did not make good on its promise.
The park was informally established in 1888 using the first parcel of land; it was the first of many that were donated to the City of Orlando by several families. His sons named it Lake Eola, after a lady they both knew. The area was officially declared as a park in 1892. The park area has been home to a zoo, a horse race track, tennis courts, a pier with a dance area, and the broadcast site of a local radio station. The fountain was installed in 1912 at a cost of $10,000. A replacement, originally dubbed the "Centennial Fountain," was installed in 1957 at a cost of $350,000. The actual name of the fountain is the "Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain". The iconic water feature is the unofficial symbol of Orlando.
From the Wikipedia article on Orlando:
City officials and local legend say the name Orlando originated from a soldier named Orlando Reeves who died in 1835 during a supposed attack by Native Americans in the area during the Second Seminole War. Reeves was acting as a sentinel for a company of soldiers that had set up camp for the night on the banks of Sandy Beach Lake (now Lake Eola). There are conflicting legends, however, as an in-depth reviews of military records in the 1970s and 1980s turned up no record of Orlando Reeves ever existing. The legend grew throughout the early 1900s, particularly with local historian Kena Fries' retelling in various writings and on local radio station WDBO in 1929. A memorial beside Lake Eola – originally placed by students of Orlando's Cherokee Junior School in 1939 – designates the spot where the city's supposed namesake fell.
More information on Lake Eola and Orlando:
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