Best Places to Live in Orlando
So you’ve decided to move to Orlando, Florida. Congratulations, and welcome to the neighborhood! We’re happy to have an adventurer like you. So let me guess, you’re looking for the best places to live in Orlando?
Orlando is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, only trailing Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, and Atlanta last year. When you include the suburbs, the total population of Orlando exceeds 2 million. With over 60,000 brand new residents, where will you find your place?
Many people think of Orlando as “the Theme Park Capital of the World” with Disney World, Orlando Studios, and SeaWorld – and that’s definitely part of the appeal – but there is so much more to central Florida. You might be wondering about area schools, homes on the market, restaurants, employers, and things to do.
We’ve put together this guide to help you find a great neighborhood in Orlando—so without further ado, here are the best suburbs in Orlando.
Best Apopka Schools: If you have school-age children, you’ll have plenty of options in Apopka with 43 preschools, 15 district schools, 40 private schools, and a charter. This area is serviced by the Orange and Seminole school districts. Top-rated schools include Wolf Lake Elementary, Dream Lake Elementary, Apopka Elementary, and Bear Lake Elementary. The high schools are ranked as “average,” with Apopka High leading the pack.
Top Apopka Employers: If you’re looking for work in the area, major employers include: Orlando Freightliner, Green Rhino, the Farmworkers Association of Florida, Randall Construction, or Orlando Health.
What To Do In Apopka: On those hot summer days, there’s no better place to cool off than Rock Springs in Kelly Park. For just $3 per car, you have access to lifeguards, clean sand, shady picnic groves, and a fast-moving “river” ideal for tubing. It does get packed on a nice day, so plan to be there right at 8 a.m. on the weekends or before noon on the weekdays.
Favorite Food in Apopka: If you need a bite to eat, try NY Pizza Baby – arguably the best slice in Orlando. For something a little more upscale, visit Back Room Steakhouse, a location described as “spectacular,” “magical,” and ideal for anniversary dining – also voted the best steakhouse in Central Florida.
Best Oviedo Schools: Oviedo is home to great schools (think 8 or 9/10 rating) like Chiles Middle School, Jackson Heights Middle, Partin Elementary, Carillon Elementary, and Hagerty High (which won a “College Success Award” for 2018 and 2019).
Top Oviedo Employers: For those in the workforce, jobs can be found at Publix Supermarkets, A. Duda and Sons sod, the Oviedo Mall, Seminole State, or city government (which staffs over 300 people).
What To Do In Oviedo: Lukas Nursery is a bright spot in Oviedo, providing a place to shop for tropical plants and fruit-bearing trees, as well as stroll the relaxing 4,000 square-foot conservatory of colorful finches, button quails, and butterflies. People also truck into Oviedo to pick strawberries at Pappy’s U-Pick, and visit The Artistic Hand Gallery — a staple in the community for more than three decades, where you can view artisan creations, take a class, and make a purchase of unique gifts. If you’re new to Florida, The Black Hammock is a must – where you can ride a thrilling airboat, have a drink at the Tiki Bar, dine on fried gator tail, and check out the local wildlife.
Favorite Food in Oviedo: Dining options are varied (and they’re all amazing) – from Southern breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company, Greek diner breakfast at The Townhouse, and Italian steaks at Delmonico’s, to raw fish at Sushi Pop, street tacos at Oviedo Brewing Company, and Mediterranean at Taziki’s.
Best Winter Park Schools: Lakemont Elementary is the highest rated school in Winter Park, with a score of 8/10, though Brookshire, Killarney, and Aloma Elementary schools have high ratings from local parents as well. Winter Park High School is ranked “above average” in terms of test scores, but won a college success award. We’re home to Rollins College, a private liberal arts school five presidents.
Top Winter Park Employers: Find work at Full Sail University, Winter Park Memorial Hospital, Publix Supermarkets, Swedish-owned publishing company Bonnier, Orange County Public Schools, and the city government itself.
What To Do In Winter Park: Winter Park is known for its beautiful outdoor gardens and waterfront spaces — like Central Park, Kraft Azalea Gardens, Mead Botanical Garden, and Lake Virginia. If you love art, the Charles Hosner Morse Museum has tons of Tiffany art glass, Albin Polasek has sculpture gardens, and the Orlando Museum of Art is within a couple miles. The Orlando Science Center with all its awesome t-rex on display and hands-on activities is nearby, too. Winter Park Village is an upscale shopper’s paradise, featuring jewelers, makeup retailers, music shops, salons, and more.
Favorite Food in Winter Park: If you’re hungry, check out 4 Rivers Smokehouse, named one of “The South’s Best BBQ Joints” by Southern Living Magazine. The Ravenous Pig gastropub, brunches at Briarpatch Restaurant, and Winter Park Fish Company are other local foodie favorites.
Best Maitland Schools: Maitland is home to 21 small private schools and four public district schools – Dommerich Elementary, Lake Sybelia Elementary, Maitland Middle, and La Amistad K-12. The nearest high school is Winter Park High.
Top Maitland Employers: Over 400 businesses and 45 office buildings exist within the bounds of Maitland. Worldwide Brands and Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ are headquartered here. Other major employers include game company EA Tiburon, Fidelity Financial Solutions, and Charles Schwab.
What To Do In Maitland: Enzian Theater is Central Florida’s only full-time, non-profit, indie film theater – host to the annual Florida Film Festival. Art lovers will find a unique architectural gem at the Maitland Art Center. Outdoor relaxation hotspots include the bald eagles and hawks at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, the half-mile boardwalk trail and picnic grounds at Lake Lily, as well as the playgrounds and recreational facilities of Maitland Community Park. The Farmers Market, held at Lake Lily every Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm, is a huge draw – boasting more than two dozen vendors of retail, craft, fruit, vegetable, honey, dairy, and baked goods, and entertainment provided by the Performing Arts of Maitland.
Favorite Food in Maitland: Maitland is best known for its fine Italian restaurants like Antonio’s (for their lasagna and meatballs) and Francesco’s (for their pizzas and salads). A new, buzzworthy place is Luke’s, a popular spot for classic American brunch and cocktails in particular, and a “relative” of Chef Brandon McGlamery’s beloved Prato and Luma On Park in Winter Park.
Best Lake Mary Schools: There are 36 schools in this Seminole County suburb, including the very highly rated Heathrow Elementary, Seminole Science Charter, Seminole County Virtual School, and Crystal Lake Elementary. Lake Mary High School is a college success award winner.
Top Lake Mary Employers: AAA’s national headquarters, Dixon Ticonderoga (the world’s largest pencil producer), and English leisure industry tech firm Accesso are all located in Lake Mary. You’ll also find Verizon Financial Center; Mitsubishi Motor; Scholastic Book Fairs; TV stations WTGL, WOFL, and WRBW; and financial companies Convergys, Fiserv, The Bank of New York Mellon, AIG, and Wells Fargo.
What To Do In Lake Mary: Free activities abound in Lake Mary, whether it’s biking or walking the Seminole County Trails, buying local fare at the Lake Mary Farmers Market on Saturdays, grabbing a coffee and fresh-pressed juice downtown, cooling off at the Trailblazer Park Splash Pad, or hitting the range at Timacuan Golf Course. Once a small suburb, Lake Mary has really become a self-sustaining destination to live, eat, work, and play.
Favorite Food in Lake Mary: When it comes to good eats, Lake Mary has it all – Greek (Greek Village), Japanese (Poké Joint), Mexican (Don Julios), French (Chez Jaqueline), Italian (Giovanni’s), Turkish (Lale), Irish (Liam Fitzpatrick’s), and American Gastropub (F&D Kitchen).
Best Windermere Schools: Of the 27 local Orange County schools, Windermere Elementary and Keenes Crossing rank 9/10 for preparedness, grades, attendance, and equity. Windermere High rates just above average.
Top Windermere Employers: Windermere is a small town, so most people commute the 25 minutes to downtown Orlando for work. However, locally centered here is US Thrill Rides, a major manufacturer of theme park rides, and Isleworth Golf & Country Club, one of the top golf courses in the country.
What To Do In Windermere: Windermere is known as “a peaceful oasis near Orlando,” so there is not too much to do immediately in the vicinity – but that’s part of its charm! During the sixties and seventies, many Disney execs lived in the region to get away from the bustle of city life. You could golf with Tiger Woods at Isleworth, pick blueberries at Beck Brothers U-Pick, relax at Windermere Recreation Center, or take one of the lake tours.
Favorite Food in Windermere: Shop for wine at Tim’s Wine Market and enjoy a hearty lunch at the artsy Dixie Cream Café or the iconic Yellow Dog Eats Café, which is technically located next door in the village of Gotha and owned by Fish Morgan of the Culinary Institute of America.
Best Belle Isle Schools: Belle Isle is home to Cornerstone Charter Academy, an “A” rated, SACS-accredited, tuition-free, K-12 public charter school. They offer a Project Lead the Way biotechnology program and life sciences curriculums for middle and high school students.
Top Belle Isle Employers: Belle Isle is home to approximately 75 businesses, including Bank of America, CVS Pharmacy, McCoy Federal, Planet Fitness, Regal Marine, and Starbucks.
What To Do In Belle Isle: Belle Isle activities are pretty much centered around Lake Conway and the beautiful parks of Belle Isle, including Regal Park, Venetian Park (and boat ramp), Cross Lake Beach, Lesser Park, Swann Beach, Delia Beach, and Gene Polk Park, Perkins (boat ramp), Lagoon (Trimble) Park, Gilbert Park, and Warren Park. Whether you’re looking to walk the dog, get some exercise, or enjoy a picnic with those you love, there is no shortage of relatively quiet scenic spots.
Favorite Food in Belle Isle: Just outside Belle Isle, you’ll find several noteworthy establishments to satisfy your cravings for fine food – to the west, Sharon’s Homestyle Cookin’ (a must for biscuits and gravy with tater salad), Gnarly Barley (a worry-free sandwich and beer emporium), and Dixie Belle’s Café (home of the famed sweet potato biscuit)… and to the east, Cork and Fork American Restaurant (for fresh, locally sourced comfort food).
Best Kissimmee Schools: If you want school choice, Kissimmee has it with 132 educational institutions serviced by the Polk and Osceola school districts. The Osceola County School of Arts (for grades 6-12) is ranked 10/10, while the Celebration School (K-8) and the Professional & Technical School (9-12) rate an impressive 9/10. Kissimmee Elementary and charter schools like PM Wells and Osceola Science are rated above average.
Top Kissimmee Employers: The massive School District of Osceola County is the area’s largest employer, providing roughly 8,332 jobs. Walt Disney World is the second-largest employer with 3,700 workers who call “the happiest place on Earth” home. Wal-Mart, Publix Supermarkets, Advent Health Celebration, Gaylord Palms Resort, the Osceola County Government, and Osceola Regional Medical all offer more than 1,000 jobs in the robust local economy.
What To Do In Kissimmee: Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld get all the street credit around here as major tourist attractions, but there are many hidden gems for locals to enjoy as well. Old Town Kissimmee is a unique recreation of a classic Florida town that offers unique shops, delicious food, concerts, and events like Classic Car Cruise Night every Saturday. If you love shopping, there is no better place than the 250+ premium stores at the Florida Mall. Kids love the 26 attractions and creative hands-on fun at Crayola Experience Orlando. For eco-adventures, get out into the wilderness at “the Alligator Capital of the World” Gatorland or ride horses and zipline at Forever Florida.
Favorite Food in Kissimmee: Expect nothing less than everything from this world-class tourist destination, from romantic bistros and upscale Asian-fusion to burger joints and can’t-miss holes-in-the-wall. Orlando Weekly’s top pick is El Tapatio, a small unassuming Mexican hotspot. Fodor’s recommends the Old Hickory Steakhouse for fine food and atmosphere that won’t steer you wrong. Other atmospheric spots you’ll want to linger at include Mediterranean brunch at Villa de Flora (also at Gaylord Palms) and Caribbean fare at Bahama Breeze.
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