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Orlando /ɔrˈlændoʊ/ is a city in the central region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat of Orange County, and the center of the Greater Orlando metropolitan area. According to the 2010 US Census, the city had a population of 238,300, making Orlando the 79th largest city in the United States. The Greater Orlando metropolitan area has a population of 2,134,411, making it the 26th largest metro area in the United States, the sixth largest metro area in the Southeastern United States, and the third largest metro area in the state of Florida. Orlando is the fifth largest city in Florida, and the state’s largest inland city.
Orlando is nicknamed “The City Beautiful” and its symbol is the fountain at Lake Eola. The current mayor is Buddy Dyer. The city is also sometimes nicknamed “The Theme Park Capital of the World”, as it is best known for the Walt Disney World Resort (located approximately 21 miles (34 km) southwest of Downtown Orlando in Lake Buena Vista), founded by the Walt Disney Company in 1971, the Universal Orlando Resort (which consists of two parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, as well as other attractions, including City Walk), SeaWorld, Gatorland, and Wet ‘n Wild Water Park.
With the exception of Walt Disney World, most major attractions are located along International Drive. The city’s famous attractions form the backbone of Orlando’s tourism industry, making the city the most visited American city in 2009. The city is also one of the busiest American cities for conferences and conventions. Like other major cities in the Sun Belt, Orlando grew rapidly during the 1980s and well into the first decade of the 21st century. Orlando is also home to the University of Central Florida, which is the second-largest university campus in the United States in terms of enrollment (as of 2012).
Orlando attracts over 51 million tourists a year (3.6 million of them are international tourists). Its airport, the Orlando International Airport (MCO), is the thirteenth busiest airport in the United States, and the 29th busiest in the world.
In 2010, Orlando was listed as a Gamma− world-city in the World Cities Study Group’s inventory by Loughborough University. According to Loughborough, Orlando ranks alongside other cities such as Belfast, Milwaukee, and Islamabad.
Orlando ranks as the fourth most popular city, based on where people want to live, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center study.
The geography of Orlando is mostly wetlands, consisting of many lakes and swamps. The terrain is generally flat, making the land fairly low and wet. The area is dotted with hundreds of lakes, the largest of which is Lake Apopka. Central Florida’s bedrock is mostly limestone and very porous; the Orlando area is susceptible to sinkholes. Probably the most famous incident involving a sinkhole happened in 1981 in Winter Park, a city immediately north of downtown Orlando, dubbed “”The Winter Park Sinkhole”.
There are 115 neighborhoods within the city limits of Orlando and many unincorporated communities. Orlando’s city limits resemble a checkerboard, with pockets of unincorporated Orange County surrounded by city limits. Such an arrangement can be cumbersome as some areas are served by both Orange County and the City of Orlando. This also explains Orlando’s relatively low city population when compared to its metropolitan population. The city and county are currently working together in an effort to “round-out” the city limits with Orlando annexing portions of land already bordering the current city limits.
Orlando’s climate is transitional, with many characteristics of a tropical climate, but is situated on the southern fringe of the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa), and on the border of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9B and 10A. There are two major seasons each year. One is hot and rainy, lasting from May until late September (roughly coinciding with the Atlantic hurricane season). The other is the dry, relatively cool season (late October through April) bringing less frequent rainfall, yet still with warm temperatures. The area’s warm and humid climate is caused primarily by its low elevation, its position relatively close to the Tropic of Cancer, and its location in the center of a peninsula. Many characteristics of its climate are a result of its proximity to the Gulf Stream, which flows around the peninsula of Florida.
During the height of Orlando’s humid summer season, high temperatures are typically in the lower to mid 90s °F (32-36 °C), while low temperatures rarely fall below 70 °F (21 °C). The average window for such temperatures is April 19 – October 11. The area’s humidity acts as a buffer, usually preventing actual temperatures from exceeding 100 °F (38 °C), but also pushing the heat index to over 110 °F (43 °C). The city’s highest recorded temperature is 103 °F (39 °C), set on September 8, 1921. During these months, strong afternoon thunderstorms occur almost daily. These storms are caused by air masses from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean colliding over Central Florida. They are highlighted by spectacular lightning and can also bring heavy rain (sometimes several inches per hour) and powerful winds as well as occasional damaging hail.
During the cooler seasons, humidity is lower and temperatures are more moderate, and can fluctuate more readily. The monthly daily average temperature in January is 60.2 °F (15.7 °C). Temperatures dip below the freezing mark on an average of 2.4 nights per annum, and the lowest recorded temperature is 18 °F (−8 °C), set on December 28, 1894. Because the winter season is dry and freezing temperatures usually occur only after cold fronts (and their accompanying precipitation) have passed, snow is exceptionally rare. The only accumulation ever to occur in the city proper since recordkeeping began was in 1948, though surrounding areas did accumulate 6 inches (15 cm) in a snow event in 1977. It is also quite possible that accumulations occurred in connection with the Great Blizzard of 1899. Flurries have also been observed in 1989, 2006 and 2010.
The average annual rainfall in Orlando is 50.6 inches (1,290 mm), a majority of which occurs in the period from June to September. The months of October through May are Orlando’s driest season. During this period (especially in its later months), there is often a wildfire hazard. During some years, fires have been severe. In 1998, a strong El Niño caused an unusually wet January and February, followed by drought throughout the spring and early summer, causing a record wildfire season that created numerous air quality alerts in Orlando and severely impacted normal daily life, including the postponement of that year’s Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in nearby Daytona Beach.
Orlando is a major population center and has a considerable hurricane risk, although it is not as high as in South Florida’s urban corridor or other coastal regions. Since the city is located 42 miles (68 km) inland from the Atlantic and 77 miles (124 km) inland from the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes usually weaken before arriving. Storm surges are not a concern since the region is 100 feet (30 m) above sea level. Despite its location, the city does see strong hurricanes. During the notorious 2004 hurricane season, Orlando was hit by three hurricanes that caused significant damage, with Hurricane Charley the worst of these. The city also experienced widespread damage during Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Tornadoes are not usually connected with the strong thunderstorms of the summer. They are more common during the infrequent cold fronts of winter, as well as in passing hurricanes. The two worst major outbreaks in the area’s history, a 1998 outbreak that killed 42 people and a 2007 outbreak that killed 21, both happened in February.
Over the course of a typical year, there are 89 clear days, 147 partly cloudy days, and 132 cloudy days.
As of 2010, there were 121,254 households out of which 15.4% were vacant. As of 2000, 24.5% of households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.4% were married couples living together, 15.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.6% were non-families. 35.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.97.
In 2000, the city’s population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 37.3% from 25 to 44, 18.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.3 males.
In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $35,732, and the median income for a family was $40,648. Males had a median income of $30,866 versus $25,267 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,216. About 13.3% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.0% of those under age 18 and 12.6% of those age 65 or over.
Orlando has the largest population of Puerto Ricans in Florida and their cultural impact on Central Florida is similar to that of the large Cuban population in South Florida. Orlando is home to the fastest growing Puerto Rican community in the country. Between 1980 and 2010, Hispanic population share rose from 4.1 to 25.4%. Orlando also has a large and growing Caribbean population, with a large West Indian community (particularly Jamaicans and the Trinidadian and Tobagonian population), and an established Haitian community.