I was glad to hear the words, Weeeeeer Baaaaack! And thankfully, it is that time. After two months of self-isolation, shuttered theme parks, idle roller coasters, and no fireworks, Orlando is slowly coming back to life. At the expense of the local economy, it was the city’s desire to first protect their own citizens and to also protect the citizens of the world by closing all of the area attractions and theme parks. But, happily, the #1 tourist destination is now awakening its eyes, putting our masks on, wiping off the germs – but leaving the pixie dust intact! Yes, world, we want you to come back to visit Orlando. You don’t want to upset Mr. Brick, now do you? I didn’t think so.
Things had been going so well. Tourism officials announced on May 9, 2019, that Orlando had surpassed a historic milestone for the U.S. travel industry. In 2018 a record-setting 75 million annual visitors came to visit City Beautiful. According to tourism officials that were an increase of 4.2% over 2017. That historic milestone solidified Orlando’s lead position as America’s most-visited destination.
Where Did They Come From?
The simple answer is. Everywhere. Oh, you want real specifics? Mr. Brick actually dug into the numbers and found that 68.5 million were domestic, meaning they came from here, the land of Red, White, and Blue. The big news is, almost 6.5 million visitors were international. The United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia the primary countries the visitors to Orlando are coming from. What excites me, other than a big ‘ole plate of chili cheese fries, is that Orlando has not even begun to tap its potential domestically or internationally.
Let’s do the math: There are 7.8 billion people in this world. A great year For Orlando tourism is 75 million.
7,800,000,000 – 75,000,000 = 7,725,000,000 potential more visitors. I’m rolling up my sleeves and ready to help!
Wait… 7.5 Billion (with a B) more people? Holy crap, we’re gonna need a bigger freeway! Maybe Mayor Dyer needs to start rethinking this whole i4ultimate project. Maybe it could serve as a blueprint for a future freeway expansion for the billions of people who are coming… wait, he already has, it’s called i4beyond. Note: That is why I love freakin’ Orlando. There is so much forward-thinking at every level of the city!
Although tourism statistics are a year behind, we know 2019 was also a banner year for Orlando. The sunshine state had 68.9 million tourists that flocked to Florida in the first half of 2019, according to an article in The Orlando Sentinel, quoting Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis. Most of those 68.9 million tourists strapped on their mouse ears and headed to Orlando.
The current situation makes it impossible to say just exactly how spectacular 2019 was and how great could have been for this year for Orlando tourism, but all indications are that it could and would have surpassed the 2018 mega visitor numbers. We will be back though. Better than ever. #OrlandoStrong Woot. Woot.
Why I Love Orlando
In 1978 I made my first move to Orlando. It was love at first sight. Like a fat boy falling in love with his grandmother’s chicken dumplings, I’m simply couldn’t get enough! was hired by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to be a clown at their 135-acre theme park, Circus World in nearby Haines City, Florida. (I-4/ US 27). My twin brother and I were the world’s first twin clowns. We spent several years promoting Circus World all over the world. When we were not out on the road doing a promotional tour we were on grounds at the Orlando area theme park, Circus World, meeting and greeting its visitors from around the globe.
Unfortunately for Orlando, Circus World closed May 14, 1986. It was replaced with Boardwalk and Baseball theme Park which opened in April 1987.
I stayed in Orlando by working at a night club/shopping complex that Sea World owned and operated called Florida Festival. Again it was another magical experience working in the City Beautiful meeting and greeting visitors from all over the world. It’s what Mr. Brick does best… other than writing these snarky blog posts!! Ha!
There Was a Mr. Brick Sighting in Orlando
I returned to Orlando 1998 to work at the then under construction Universal Studios Florida. I helped relocate the production of the cable tv series, The New Leave It To Beaver to Orlando from its original home in California. Universal Studios Florida went on to also be the production home for the tv series Swamp Thing, SeaQuest DSV, and several HBO movies.
In 1991 on April Fool’s day I made a brief trip to Orlando to kick off the Eddie Haskell For President campaign live from the Hard Rock Cafe. We had a blast!! I used Orlando as a launching pad for the mock presidential campaign because, well, I just wanted to come back to Orlando!
Every second I have spent in Orlando has been magical. It’s why I moved back here in 20017. I love the people, and obviously the attractions. I love showing people the “local” side of Orlando when they want to get away from International Drive.
When I returned to Orlando in 2017 I decided I was never going to move again. This time, they’ll have to take me out in a body bag. As many of my readers of this blog know that I created Operation Cheesy Medicine, a non-profit to help terminally ill children write their own children’s picture books. This way, their life had a real meaning! They would still die an early death, but now it would be as a published author instead of dying as just a pediatric cancer victim. Sadly none of the kids have been alive when their book was finished. These are the sickest of the sick kids. I give the original copy of their published book to their family. I also give all the publishing rights, ISBN, and all the art files to the child’s family. It makes me feel so good.
But that is such a daunting experience so I need something to bring back my desire to enjoy Orlando!! I needed something that I express my passion for life when I dealt with many death in my non-profit. So, I interviewed with Visit Orlando to be a convention assistant. Luckily, I was selected and have loved every second that I have had as a member of their team. I work at the Orange County Convention Center or one of the area hotels helping meeting attendees navigate their particular association’s convention while they area in Orlando. It’s more an opportunity for me to be that Orlando Ambassador that I feel I was born to be. Some people bleed red, my blood is the same color as orange juice. Well, maybe not really… but some people have said my eyes actually light up when I talk about Orlando. I assure them that yes, it could be because of my enthusiasm for the city I love, but it also could be from my facial expressions of trying to suppress gastroenterological surprises from the burrito I just ate for lunch from the taco truck!
I have read many of the Orlando guidebooks, have surfed on the ‘net, and talked to people who use the term “get local.” I wanted to know how to really tell the Orlando visitors to “get local?” In Orlando’s case, yes, you do want to do that. Getting local requires some extra effort on a visitor’s part. You must get beyond the racks and racks of attraction brochures. You can always start on the right track by asking someone in the know. A hotel concierge is a great source for that. I’m also that dude. You need to know a lot about all of the theme parks and attractions that are here, and that have been here… again, I’m that dude.
If you are headed our way for a meeting, family vacay, or on your own, you can still score a good “local” experience without knowing Mr. Brick. There is plenty of online information, and again my friends over at Visit Orlando know EVERYTHING about the attractions and theme parks. They even have some specially priced attraction tickets that you can only get from them. Check them out here.
Wherever it is you are going, you will still want to see the major attractions. It is not as if you would go all the way to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower! In cities such as Paris, or domestically like your home town of Shaker Heights or Walla Walla, you do not have to wander far to see how the Parisians or locals live. When You come to Orlando be prepared to do some walking because every theme park, every attraction has its own must-see thing!
Go behind the big sites; wander the streets, pop into a local micro-brew, or a neighborhood coffee shop. Don’t be afraid to ask the other customers or employees for other suggestions. Being respectful and engaging can get you a long way, and may attract local friends who can truly “take you out on the O-‘town!” I suggest a visit to downtown and Lake Eola. It’s not even a full mile around the entire lake, so you’re not going to need to pack for the days adventure.
Lake Eola is the crown jeweler of Downtown Orlando, you’ll not want to miss it! There are several small eateries directly on the banks of the lake, so if you want to stroll and graze, well those great thinkers here in Orlando planned that as well. At night time is when the real nightlife begins downtown. There are many, many bars and restaurants in downtown to complete your visit to Orlando, and for you to be able to say, I did it like a local.
NOTE: The above image of Lake Eola is available to use for free as a Zoom background. Get it and other Zoom backgrounds for free here.
Now, you and your family or friends can meet in Orlando virtually until you actually travel here. We’ll be waiting.
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