I can only speak to my personal experience living there, but here it is. I moved my family to Orlando in 2010-2011 and it was a culture shock for us coming from 82% white "safe" community in Colorado. We lived in Windermere which was nice and fairly close to Universal Studio's. The middle school my son went to was supposed to be a 5 star school, but it was horrible and pretty violent. My kid hated it so I ended up home schooling him for the year. I think the reason there was so much violence at school was because they tend to bus kids in from other more crime filled neighborhoods not that far away. Some say they came from Pine Hills which the locals call Crime Hills. One thing I didn't like was how much crime was around Orlando. If tourists really knew what was going on in that town they'd think twice about bringing their families. It's definitely a tourist trap, and I do recommend that they stay at the resorts for safety reasons. Locals can pick out the tourists pretty easily and that makes them a target for crime. We ended up in the wrong neighborhood a few times, and that an experience. I went to the Walmart at MetroWest and there would be some shady people lingering outside in the parking lot watching customers go to their cars, and then some would pull up behind my car, jump out and try to sell me stuff or ask to buy my car. It was crazy and I didn't like that at all! We had a few favorite places to eat which we still come visit whenever we are there. We only lasted a year because we had horrible neighbors who partied all of the time and made our life absolutely miserable. The humidity was too much to deal with in the summer and the constant crime wasn't a place I wanted to raise my kid. I think if you are raised there you would love it and be use to that type of environment and culture. There seemed to be a lot of New Yorker's which I found most to be very rude, and we witnessed a lot of road rage and wild drivers on the streets while living there. Last time we were there in March 2016 we saw a drug deal going down in a parking lot in the center of a very touristy location. That was not cool. It just validated reasons why we moved away from there. It's fun to visit, just not to live.
I grew up in Orlando. The school districts are excellent, and it's home to one of the largest universities in the country (UCF). That being said, there's an obviously large population of people in the 18-24 age range. Loads of variety in the music scene, plenty of places to hang out, LOTS of bars. But the city is still pretty family friendly. Lake Eola (downtown) always seems to have something going on, be it parade or festival or farmer's market. The restaurants downtown are excellent, and so are the ones near the theme parks. Obviously the attractions are a massive tourist trap, but if you spend a little time waiting on their discount deals, they're still worth the trip. At least 2 outlet malls within reasonable distance of the city center, for those that love to shop. Advice for a great stay, long or short term: Avoid the Florida Mall, visit Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure in lieu of a Disney park, drive carefully, and don't be afraid to look around. The nicest parts of Orlando aren't lit up with neon signs, which makes them a bit harder to find.
Orlando is the place to go if you wanna have fun and enjoy the night life. They have so many things to do that you can never say you're bored. If you are broke and only have a few dollars and want to have fun you can go to Disney Quest (Which is free) and walk around with some friends or family and enjoy the night air and bright lights. They even have street performers and live performances, just make sure you get there early before the seats are filled. They also have McDonalds so if you're too cheap to go to a nice restaurant you can go there. I also got to go to the City Walk at Universal. And I am so broke!! There are lots of stuff to do in Orlando. The hotels are expensive but I usually go to Embassy Suites and it's nice and there breakfast is good and free. Nice place for a vacation if you can't afford Hawaii.
Despite having Disney and all the theme parks and attractions, I feel that Orlando is best suited for singles, couples, college kids, etc. There are a LOT of bars - really a lot of people go drink. And now there are a lot more foodies coming to Orlando, and there are new, more modern restaurants and bars popping up left and right. However, all of these things cost money to do. Work isn't too tough to find in Orlando, and you can get some pretty cheap apartments and housing if you look in the right spots. In Orlando, the rich live right next door to the dirt poor. A lot of homeless and bums. Crime is not so great in Orlando, and we have a pretty high rate of violent crimes. Driving can be a hazard, there are way too many reckless and angry drivers throughout the streets of Orlando. I think Orlando could be a much better place if they just cleaned up the city and got more (and better) police.
I grew up here in Orlando where it was once a safe place. It has now been overrun with drugs and crime. Tourists are constantly being mugged and injured. I am moving from Orlando to protect my family. If I were a tourist, I would consider another place to vacation. If you do plan on making a trip down to good old Orlando, I would suggest staying within the sterile confines of the resorts. Disney is a safe place and so is Universal Orlando. Stay away from the Florida Mall area. Not only are the prices a complete rip off, but the population surrounding the mall is very dangerous. The mall at Millenia would be a better choice just don't make a wrong turn or you could, very quickly, end up in a neighborhood you do NOT want to be in.
I wasn't expecting much from Orlando, FL aside from the obvious theme park attractions and annoyingly massive crowds fighting for position in line. But there's much more to Orlando than theme parks, and by the way, there's even a way to avoid the massive lines at Universal Studios.
First of all, I was surprised how good the nightlife was. Universal CityWalk is a huge area dedicated to bars, restaurants and clubs. It will cost you about $20 to get in, but once you're in there's no cover at any of the bars or clubs and the drink prices are fairly reasonable compared to Miami and Miami Beach. If that sounds a little too childish for your taste, try Le Coq Au Vin (4800 S. Orange Ave). From gumbo to caviar, this gem has it does it all, and does it well.
For accomodations, I'd recommend staying at the Peabody Orlando Hotel (9801 International Dr). I picked it up for under $100/night, a steal considering the hotel is more like a resort. There's a huge outdoor pool area with a great patio. Loads of patio chairs and great service.
I did visit Universal Studios, but I was pleasantly impressed with the outcome of that visit as well. I hate lines, so I was dreading have to stand in the long lines while I waited to get on the rides. What I discovered is that theres a VIP line bypass that you can purchase for an extra couple bucks. At first you feel a little guiltly as you walk past the regular shmoes and immediately board the ride, but after a while you get accustomed to the VIP treatment. It literaly cuts your wait time by 90%!!!
Overall, I had a great time in Orlando and would visit again. It truly is the entertainment capital of Florida...
My time in Orlando was filled with great experiences and friendly people. Orlando, Florida is a town that offers many atttractions and things to do. Of course, the most popular thing to do is to visit the Walt Disney world amusement park. The four theme parks that make up Disney cover the same amount of land area of Boston, Massachusetts. Disney World is a place that every child should visit at least once in their lives.
The great thing about Orlando is that it offers so many other choices for amusement, one of which is Universal Studios. Any movie lover will have a blast visiting Universal, which offers all sorts of rides based on their popular motion pictures. Universal Studios in Orlando also offers a great shopping and eating hot spot called City Walk, which is a great place to find nightclubs with big name acts performing. With a Hardrock Cafe and a Nascar Cafe, there are plenty of restuarant choices that will make the entire family happy.
Orlando is the place to come to experience the best amusement parks and entertainment in the world. You and your family will have a great time visiting Orlando!