Orlando. The happiest place on earth, home to various theme parks, a world of amusement, great rental apartments, and tons of culture. Banking, logistics, and aerospace all have a notable presence in Orlando too, and let us not forget it’s home to our beloved Tupperware. Despite the many goings-on, Orlando is relatively small. Only about 255,000 people call the city home, which means that the surrounding areas are both thickly settled with renters and very much part of the tourist and resident scene.
Kissimmee and Altamonte Springs are both popular cities for young families who are renting. (Not surprising, given Kissimmee is right next to the theme parks!) Altamonte Springs is also great for young singles, especially UCF and tech students, due to its centrality and entertainment options. And with a large student population in the Orlando area overall, the highest traffic for renters moving in and out tends to be on the semester schedule, during the spring and the fall. Most people tend to stay for 3-6 years, depending on whether they’re coming for school, Disney-related work, or something more long-term.
Due to the abundance of transient job seekers (the theme parks alone employ tons of people, and many such workers treat these gigs as a crossroad) and the fact that Florida is just that way, expect to be asked to prove job security, savings, or positive multi-year rental history. Upscale Orlando rentals can be priced slightly high for overall market conditions - that's due to a lot of economic factors way too boring to discuss here - so there are often incentives to be seized. If you're willing to sign a lease of at least 12 months, and you don't see an incentive advertised, ask or negotiate for it - reread the previous sentence.
Orlando isn't the most pet-friendly rental scene in the country, though it is making steady improvements. While there are an increasing number of properties beginning to welcome furry friends, you'll find many high-rises have a no-pet policy or strict weight restrictions and/or fees. "Conditional" or "Considered" are terms you will often come across when searching for pet-friendly apartments in Orlando.
Living near so many theme parks is the absolute dream, of course. But with this many places of happiness around, which neighborhood should you choose? You’re in luck, because our city guide is here to help you figure out which area fits you best. Read on, apartment hunter!
Orlando: Here you’ll find posh, high-rise apartments, lakes, farmer's markets, pro sports, performing arts, and dozens of hip restaurants (many owned by notable chefs) and bars that bring out your fun-loving, food-loving side! Thornton Park, Lake Eola, and the Central Business District make up the most chic core of Orlando's downtown area, and this is reflected in steeper rent prices.
Lake Buena Vista: Home of The Walt Disney World Resort, and privately controlled by The Walt Disney Company (although it is an incorporated state municipality), Lake Buena Vista is the mostly heavily touristed region and has every imaginable store, souvenir, chain restaurant, theme restaurant, high-end restaurant, and lodging that exists or soon will. The apartments here are mainly big complexes with island motif names - resplendent with pools, fountains, artificial lakes, landscaped grounds...and they are all highly similar to each other. Seek opinions about management and maintenance in gleaning your best choice.
Kissimmee: In relation to Lake Buena Vista, Kissimmee is a few miles south, less frenetic, and marginally less expensive. This city sits right on the edge of Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho, for short), which means that although Kissimmee is close to the Disney theme parks, it’s got a lot to offer in its own right too. The Kissimmee Waterfront Park has fishing piers, walking paths, playgrounds...it’s great place for those who want theme park proximity but with a little less hassle. Except for when the annual Silver Spurs Rodeo rolls around, of course. That one’s a pretty big deal.
Celebration: An entirely Disney designed (but no longer company owned) master community, Celebration could literally be from a Disney movie. Directly connected to the Magic Kingdom (but not as close as LBV), the architecture, piers, post-office, movie theater, restaurants, and shops lend to a surreal atmosphere. This city is ridiculously clean, like gum-wrappers-are-litter clean. There is a dearth of 1 BR accommodations here, so Celebration is best suited for young families or roommates with a desire for an easy commute to Disney.
Altamonte Springs: Quiet, yet full of fun things to do, Altamonte Springs is about 10-15 minutes from Orlando and offers shopping, restaurants, and the Cranes Roost Park and Lake. People from Casselberry, Longwood, and Maitland come to Altamonte Springs to enjoy what the city center has to offer, including its indoor shopping mall and large movie theater. Altamonte Springs is undergoing extensive developments, with plans for more large-scale apartment buildings and high rise condominiums in its near future, so plenty of spaces are opening up for renters in this area. And with so many upcoming available apartments and things to do in this area, it is perfect for families and young professionals.
Winter Garden: Winter Garden is a pleasant, small city with a country feel, right on Lake Apopka - Florida's third largest lake. Just west of Orlando, Winter Garden has a little bit of everything and lots of fishing. Its historical downtown offers various restaurants, shops, cafes, museums, and a performing arts venue. And its open-air shopping center, Winter Village Garden, is a popular spot for an enjoyable shopping spree! Plus, with its proximity to Windermere, living in Winter Garden gives you access to all of the area’s great shopping and schools, for cheaper rent. This city is becoming increasingly popular for families and growing businesses.
Dr. Phillips/Bay Hill: The communities of Dr. Phillips and Bay Hill are the closest to Universal Studios and Seaworld, and this is some of the priciest real estate in the metro region (Tiger Woods lives one town over). Very few apartments, several house rentals though - mostly 3 BR, some 2BR.
The truth is that, living in Orlando and its surrounding neighborhoods, you will feel no more imposed upon by the plethora of parks than the people of Las Vegas do by the Strip. It's there, everyone's aware it’s there, and it’s generally avoided whenever possible. However, they're fun to visit (locals discounts and specials are generous) and perfect for incentivizing your friends to come see you. But there’s plenty more besides the parks, too! For example, you may not have realized that Orlando has a killer live music scene. From downtown bars to the House of Blues (Disney, of course), live bands are everywhere to be found and enjoyed. Orlando also hosts the Florida Film Festival, Florida Music Festival, Orlando International Fringe Festival, Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, and more, so you certainly don’t have to be obsessed with Mickey Mouse to enjoy living here.
Orlando residents love to have a good time and have an appreciation for the artistic and creative, no matter which form that may take (film, traditional art, etc.). And if you’re sports-friendly, this is the place for you! Sports make up a huge part of the culture here, so you certainly won’t be alone in your love for the game. Overall, Orlando is a multi-layered city with lots to offer in itself and in its surrounding neighbor cities. No matter where you’re looking to make your home, you’re sure to find a perfect match around here.