A lot has been said recently about how Florida, and more specifically Orlando, isn’t a good place for millennials to live. As a born and raised Floridian, I’m here to throw down the gauntlet. No seriously, meet me at Medieval Times, I know a guy.
Do people move down to Florida to retire? Sure! But like any other state and any other city, if you care to do research, you’re bound to find something that suits your lifestyle. That is the purpose of this week’s blog, to give you a taste of what can be found here, what we can offer, but mostly, why we stay.
I’d like to address the go-to rebuttal for anyone who has done research and read some of the other articles I’ve mentioned. Yes: There is an overabundance of low paying jobs due to the large amount of theme parks and entertainment driven venues in Orlando. Yes: It drives down our average pay and is an ongoing issue for us. Yes: Livable pay is hard to find anywhere in our once great nation.
To me, this is a non-issue. Clearly, if you are thinking about moving here you either-
A: Have been offered a job and it must be good if you’re willing to move.
B: You are considering moving here for school and won’t get a high-paying job regardless of what town you’re in until you finish your degree.
C: You’re madly in love and would follow your partner anywhere so none of these issues matter.
But in all seriousness, if you don’t think you can find a good paying job, don’t move before you do! Affordability of living expenses is a nationwide issue and I’d rather not dive down the rabbit hole of income inequality.
The Orlando Scene:
From here we’ll move into a section-by-section breakdown of the variety of things you can find in Orlando. We have many different crowds, venues, and activities, a lot of which you can only find here and in our surrounding cities. As this blog is home for the MFA in Creative Writing at UCF, we will start accordingly.
Our Literary Community:
Orlando is slowly becoming a powerhouse for the literary arts and boasts what I consider to be one of the most versatile communities for writers you can find anywhere in the nation. Throughout the year, you can attend monthly readings from a variety of groups, as well as some workshops and the occasional book fair. No matter your interest, you will find a home.
Burrow Press: Burrow Press is a nonprofit, independent publisher based in Orlando, FL committed to publishing the best contemporary literature by new and established authors, as well as fostering literary community in Orlando and Florida. They print books, run an online journal, and host a free, quarterly reading with their reading series, Functionally Literate. Burrow Press also works closely with its sister program, with Page15, to provide Orlando youth with professional instruction in the fields of writing, editing, and publishing.
The Kerouac Project: In short, The Kerouac Project was founded as a tribute to Jack Kerouac and works as a haven for up-and-coming writers. The project offers four residency slots a year to writers of any background and age. All that is required is to live in the house, work on your writing project, and attend two events, a potluck dinner and a reading at the end of your stay. Not to mention utilities are paid for and you are given a $1,000 stipendstiped for food.
The Drunken Odyssey: The Drunken Odyssey is a podcast with John King and was begun as a forum to discuss all aspects of the writing process, in a variety of genres, to foster a greater sense of community among writers.
As if running a literary podcast weren’t enough, John King can be found at any given reading event in town, hosting workshops, reading some of his latest work, or supporting local writers.
There Will Be Words: Hosted by J. Bradley, There Will Be Words has been named Orlando’s Best Literary Reading Series by the readers of the Orlando Weekly in 2013 and 2015., There Will Be Words produces a somewhat quarterly reading series called Saturday Night Special which combines prose, and poets, and a sporadic poetry slam called There Will Be Verse. The location of these shows rotates. and proceeds generated from our shows go back to our featured writers.
Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts: Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts is a passionate group that welcomes writers from any genre, profession, and background. They hold readings once a month.
Loose Lips: Hosted monthly by Tod Caviness, Loose Lips is a spoken word event at which Orlando writers interpret news headlines of the past month in poetry and prose.
Various Open Mic: There is no shortage of venues to read your work in an open mic setting. These are constantly changing but a few honorable mentions: The Milk Bar, Lil Indies, Stardust Video & Coffee, Dandelion Café, and Austin’s Coffee.
House of Blues: The House of Blues is dedicated to educating and celebrating the history of Southern Culture and African American artistic contributions to music and art.
Hard Rock: Orlando is lucky to have a Hard Rock, which hosts anything from the most popular musicians to WWE events.
The Open Mic Scene: You can find an open mic in Orlando literally any night of the week if you know what’s good. Thankfully, you do, though I’m sure there’s even more than this. *Locations and times are subject to change*
Sundays: Aloma Bowl 7-10 / Muldoon’s Saloon 9:30-12:30
Mondays: West End Trading Co. 8:30 -12:30 / The Breezeway 6-9 / Sanford Brewing Co. 6-10
Tuesdays: The Falcon 8-12 / Dandelion Communitea 8-11 / The Spot 8-11
Wednesdays: Celery City Craft: 5:30-10 / Piper’s Bar & Grill 8-12
Thursdays: Little Fish Huge Pond 9-10 / Rogue Pun 8-11 / Fish On Fire 8-11 / Meridian Hookah 9:30-12 / Barley & Vine 9-12 / Thirsty Whale Too 9-12
Fridays: Shovelhead Lounge 9-12 / The Healthy Buddha Two 7-12
Blue Man Group, Improv Comedy Club, Sak Comedy Lab, Bonkerz Comedy Club, Mama’s Comedy Show, and all the open mic’s that make space for stand-up comics.
Devil’s Den Spring: This underground spring inside a dry cave has been home to many extinct animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age. Open to snorkelers and divers.
Get Up and Go Kayaking: Kayak in natural springs in crystal-clear kayaks and crystal-clear waters.
Central Florida Skydiving: Having personally been, this dive is in Titusville and overlooks Florida’s awesome coast. It offers one of the highest jumps in the world at 18,000 feet.
Wekiwa Springs: These beautiful springs offer a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when the Timucuan Indians fished and hunted these lands. Here you can relax in a natural setting, enjoy a picnic, or take a swim in the cool spring. Thirteen miles of trails also provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Canoes and kayaks are also available for rent and there are even options for camping.
Weeki Wachee Springs, Crystal River, Ginnie Springs, Ichetucknee Springs, Rainbow Springs, Kelly Park Rock Springs, Blue Springs, Silver Springs, DeLeon Springs, Three Sisters Springs, Alexander Springs, Daytona Beach, Sand Key Park, Honeymoon Island, Siesta Beach…
I really believe Orlando rivals some of the top cities when it comes to locally run eats. Below is my personal, must visit selection of the best food Orlando offers, in no particular order.
Beth’s Burger Bar: Do yourself a favor.
Hawkers: Asian street fare served tapas style.
Rocco’s Tacos: A guacamole station where they make it in front of your table.
Pho 88: Some of the best Vietnamese noodles you’ll ever have.
Ethos Vegan Kitchen: They even prepare special Thanksgiving dinners.
Mynt: My favorite Indian Restaurant in Orlando.
The Ravenous Pig: For anniversaries. The menu changes with the seasons.
Pig Floys: Urban Barbakoa. What goes better with BBQ than rice, beans, and fried yuca?
Domu: For the Raman lovers.
Dragonfly: Best sushi in Orlando.
Las Palmas: Because of the Colombian in me.
Honorable mentions: Bentos Café, Takco Cheena, Inka Grill, Bosphorus, Viet Thai Café, Nona Sushi, Hotto Potto, Gringos Locos, Sapporo Ramen, Ayothaya Thai, Oh Que Bueno, and Publix.
What more do you want:
These are all reasons I love Orlando. What is not mentioned here are all our theme parks (big and small), dinner shows, clubs, beaches, rodeo shows, hot air balloons rides, airboat rides, and so much more. There simply isn’t enough room in one blog post to list everything. The question is, if all of this doesn’t make Orlando a great place to live, what does?
Will Rincon is an MFA Candidate in Fiction at the University of Central Florida, where he reads slush as an intern for The Florida Review. His work can be found in 30 North and Rum Punch Press. He recommends watching Battlestar Gallactica (2004) if you haven’t already done so.