Orange County Fun Facts
Orange County, Florida, is a well-traveled and highly publicized destination. With over 60 million visitors each year, it’s hard to imagine the area has any secrets left. However, there are still fun facts and weird histories that aren’t common knowledge.
City Hall Destruction
In 1991, the city of Orlando spent 36 million dollars building a new city hall. The modern construction was well crafted and considered an ideal representation of the city. The old city hall was still standing, however, right in front of the new one. The Mayor’s office contacted local film producer Ross Testagrossa and asked for assistance in getting rid of the old one. Testagrossa called around Hollywood and eventually got ahold of Joel Silver, the famous Hollywood producer of the Lethal Weapon franchise.
After a week of peripheral filming, the old city hall underwent a controlled destruction on October 24, 1991. Thanks to Silver, it was featured in the opening sequence of the third Lethal Weapon film. The city was paid for the use of its old building and offset the costs of the new city hall construction as a result.
Disney World—Or the City of Disney?
Walt Disney World spans 40 square miles, totaling the size of two Manhattans. As the largest single-site employer in the United States, the operation employs 62,000 people. With such a large employee base, land use, and population, Disney needed to be self-sustainable and work as a contained city.
Beginning with the garbage systems, Disney World employs the most high-tech and efficient methods of city management. The Magic Kingdom features vacuum-assisted systems, which use compressed air to suck garbage in from beneath the cans and propel them through tubes into a centralized collection area. Disney has its own recycling facility and wastewater treatment plant, leaving only solid wastes to be processed off-site.
Disney’s EPCOT generates over 30 tons of produce every year, which is used in the park’s restaurants. Not just a theme park, Disney World is in many ways a self-sustainable and contained city.
Los Mosquitos County, Renamed
On December 29, 1824, what is now known as Orange County became the 11th county in Florida. Created from a segment of Saint John’s County, Orange County was originally called Los Mosquitos County. Spanish explorers referred to the entire coast as Los Mosquitos because of the density of these small bugs in the area. The name was assigned to the American county for the same reason until January 30, 1845. The Florida council then agreed to change the name to Orange County because of its massive orange groves and distribution.
In 1970, a runway was built to deliver passengers directly into Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Shawnee Airlines utilized this small airport until 1972, at which point the runway was closed. The area is now used for storage and as backstage parking.
Before being relegated to storage, however, the abandoned runway was used to train new Disney bus drivers. Trainees experienced a surprise meant for plane passengers years earlier. The runway is lined with grooves that create tones when hit. If a vehicle travels approximately 45 miles per hour over these grooves, the tones come together to play “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
Animal Attraction: Orange County’s First Theme Park
Though Disney World and Universal Studios now command Orange County, the first theme park to open here was Gatorland. Gatorland opened its doors in 1949 with a 15-foot alligator as the main attraction. This 110-acre wildlife preserve and theme park is still owned by the family of its founder, Owen Godwin.
The park contains thousands of crocodiles and alligators, including four leucosticte alligators, which have white skin. The Screamin’ Gator Zip Line isn’t for the faint of heart, and petting zoos are available for tamer fun. Animal shows and a free-flight aviary round out a visit to Gatorland. Over 60 years after its founding, this theme park is still going strong.
Orange County, Florida, has plenty of surprises and timeless attractions. From unlikely movie sets to a singing runway, Orange County will always be a major destination.