Nine districts, 10 years, and much more than theme parks

College Park Main Street director Jeff Kurtz

Earlier this month, New York Times travel writer Elaine Glusac put together a piece on our city entitled “36 Hours in Orlando.” The spirit of the column, in a nutshell, was that we have much more to offer in Orlando than theme parks.

The author painted a vibrant picture of what the locals experience every day — great eateries, nightlife, museums, galleries, shops, and landscapes. It was a glowing review of our city, and one of which we can be proud. But it was still almost as if the author found all of this to be a complete surprise and presumed the reader would as well.

Locals, even newbies like myself, are perhaps left scratching our heads on why the secret took so long to get out to a national audience.

In a related story, this year Orlando Main Street will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. College Park Main Street, as one of the nine Main Street districts in our city, is not an island in our work but rather part of a citywide (and in the larger sense, statewide and nationwide) effort to celebrate and support our unique commercial districts.

The Milk District, Mills 50, SoDo District, Thornton Park, Audubon Park, Church Street, Gateway, Ivanhoe Village, and College Park — all different in their own ways — offer residents and visitors an almost overwhelming array of options on where to eat, hang out, and find that perfect gift. We each offer unique signature events as well, perhaps most notably College Park’s own JazzFest, which has become an Orlando phenomenon.

The stories our Main Street districts have to tell, some of which subtly came to the surface in this article, can help Orlando become an even more successful destination city. Many Orlando visitors come back again and again, and when you combine the thrill of theme parks with the authentic, unique experiences that we can provide in our Main Street districts, we can inspire interest like few other cities in the country.

What anyone familiar with Orlando could tell you is that the article, while fantastic, barely scratches the surface on all we have to offer within our nine districts and beyond. But perhaps the tide is turning in our favor. Indeed, following the New York Times piece, a representative from Visit Orlando contacted our office and expressed an interest in a Main Street–themed blog to come from their office, in the hopes of helping to get the word out to a bigger audience.

Visit Orlando, with a much, much bigger soapbox to stand on than any of our Main Street districts, is the perfect entity to help take this story to the next level. After ten years of hard work and dedication, Orlando’s Main Street districts may just become an “overnight success” to a national audience.

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