What It's Like to Live in a Tourist Town

Locals share the ups and downs of living in five world-famous vacation destinations.

Photo courtesy of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau Disney's influence on Orlando extends beyond its four theme parks: Downtown Disney offers shopping, dining and nightlife.


Once a city of cattle ranches and citrus groves, Orlando is now an international vacation destination. Known for tourist attractions and theme parks like Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, and, of course, Walt Disney World, the Orlando metropolitan area sees close to 50 million visitors each year. Pete Schreiber, an Orlando resident of four years, shares what it's like to live in the city that Mickey built.

Getting around: A native of New York, Schreiber is no stranger to maneuvering through tough traffic. Those skills come in handy in Orlando, where congestion is common on Interstate 4 and in the tourist district south of downtown. While vacationers may be the source of some of this traffic, Schreiber says plenty of people visit the Orlando area but never see the city itself, since Disney and other companies offer transportation straight from the airport to the resorts.

Owning a home: Orlando has many diverse neighborhoods to suit a wide range of tastes -- even those looking for a Disneyesque atmosphere. Celebration, a master-planned community developed by the Walt Disney Company, offers a picture-perfect appearance reminiscent of Disney's Main Street USA. A road called World Drive connects the community to Disney, so Celebration residents can get to the parks without using busy highways.

Celebration may make a convenient home base for Disney World employees, but Orlando residents who don't want the squeaky-clean Disney vibe have plenty of other neighborhoods to choose from.

Finding fun: For some residents, Orlando’s popular tourist attractions are the reason they call the city home. "I've heard of people deciding to move to Orlando because they were such a fan of the theme parks," Schreiber says.

Even for locals who aren't avid park enthusiasts, it's hard to avoid the presence of the parks. Schreiber enjoys going to concerts, and the two main music venues in the city are Hard Rock Live, located at Universal Studios CityWalk, and House of Blues at Downtown Disney. "There's really no escaping it," he says.

Tallying the cost of living: Schreiber says there’s definitely some price gouging for people vacationing in Orlando: One-day, adult tickets are priced upwards of $75 for the area's most popular theme parks, and chain restaurants tend to get more expensive closer to the resorts.

But tourist destinations aside, Schreiber says Orlando's cost of living is moderate compared to other areas in the state and other cities he's lived in. "The cost of living may outweigh some places, but it's not as expensive as other places like Miami or New York. It's all relative," Schreiber says.

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