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Four things Disney fans should know before moving to Orlando

For many Disney fans, moving closer to the magic is a dream. After countless vacations over many years, the thought of living on Disney’s doorstep can warm the heart of even the most jaded fan (I know, since I’m one of them 😉 ). However, as is the case with most things, the reality is often a bit different then the fantasy.

It’s Not Like Being on Vacation

Maybe it was my youth, my naïveté or a combination of both, but when I first moved to Orlando, there was some part of me that expected it to feel the way it did when I was on vacation – just all the time. Now of course, intellectually, I knew that wouldn’t be the case – but yet, I distinctly remember the realization of “oh, wait – my life came with me to Orlando this time”. When I lived in New Jersey, Disney World was my escape. My escape from work, from the day to day tasks that defined my life, and well – from New Jersey (especially in the winter). Don’t get me wrong – I love living here and have never spent one day regretting it, but it was something I hadn’t really considered until after I’d made the move. But with that being said…

Where do you want to eat tonight? Let’s go to Epcot

The coolness of being able to pop into a theme park or Disney Springs for dinner at the last minute can not be overstated. The first few times you do that after moving here will be surreal, almost euphoric. Walking into Epcot with your Florida resident annual pass, heading over to Le Cellier for a nice dinner, then back home in the span of a few hours is everything you think it is. I’ve lived here now for 22 years and I still have those ‘pinch me’ moments. However….

The Roads are ALWAYS under construction. ALWAYS.

As a local, you’ll need to drive to get to Disney, and that means you have to experience the wonders that are the roads of Central Florida. The thing about these roads is that they always seem to be under construction. In the 22 years I’ve lived here, I’m trying to think when any of the major roadways haven’t been under construction and … I’ve got nothin’. It’s a fact of life here. Yes, I get it – Central Florida has and continues to experience huge population growth so they’re constantly having to expand and fix our roadways. It’ still sucks and it’s something you should get used to. Also, here’s a quick primer to help you understand some of the major roadways in Florida:

7 Months of Spring

Especially if you’re coming from the northern part of the country, something that can take a little getting used to is the weather. Where I’m from, we had these things called ‘seasons’ – they were defined by changes in temperature and the changing of leaves and snow. When you move to Florida, we have seasons too! We have ‘comfortable season’, ‘lord, it’s hot season’ and ‘dear God we’re crashing into the sun season’. It definitely takes a little getting used to. Something I used to really enjoy doing was waiting for there to be a really cold, miserable day in New Jersey – then get into my pool and call my family. I know, it’s cruel – but its so much fun.

Pete Werner

I'm an Orlando local and owner of The DIS (wdwinfo.com), DVCfan.com, DCLfan.com, and host of the DIS Unplugged podcast.

6 thoughts on “Four things Disney fans should know before moving to Orlando

  • April 3, 2020 at 11:50 am
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    The weather will be the main thing to get used to. Road construction and traffic are a way of life where I’m coming from – southern California. Except our construction is rarely finished.

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  • April 4, 2020 at 11:27 am
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    We moved here from Brooklyn ny five years ago. Although traffic is tough here it’s still better than that of nyc. The cost of tolls is minimal when compared to the verranzo bridge which at last check was 19 bucks. I love living in winter garden. In Brooklyn we enjoyed great bakeries which incredible Italian bread, wonderful Chinese food and Brooklyn pizza. When you get here you have to try not to compare those things to what we have here. There is great Bbq and every chain restaurant know to the universe. Neighborhoods have individual restaurant gems, you have to look for them.

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  • April 4, 2020 at 11:37 am
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    Don’t you know who the patron saint of Florida is? Our Lady of Perpetual Road Construction!

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  • April 4, 2020 at 11:38 am
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    I visited Orlando for a short time in fall of 2019 (no Disney trips unfortunately, it was for work).

    It was so flat and wide, and so much looked the same. It would take me years to get around efficiently!

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  • April 5, 2020 at 1:22 pm
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    I’m enjoying these articles, Pete. Brings back memories about my decision to move to Orlando and eventual decision to leave.

    Personally, my internal temperature never got used to the Orlando weather when I moved there for a couple years. I would often need to wear a shirt and tie out in the parks and I’d be drenched in sweat by 10:00 am. What surprised me was that there was no break from the heat. I expected it to be ugly mid-day, but to experience such oppressive heat in the early morning and well after the sun set was a shock.

    But to echo one of your points, it was pure bliss to be able to drop in whenever. Living in Orlando gives you the gift of time to soak it all in, so I didn’t always go into the parks. I spent so many hours just sitting on the tiny beach at the Wilderness Lodge with a book, strolling the back trails between WL and Ft. Wilderness, hanging out at the Boardwalk under the stars with ice cream in-hand, or finding shade under a palm tree and next to a resort BGM speaker at the Poly. When I did venture through the turnstiles, time in the park was much less hectic since being a local lets you really explore the Imagineering nuances that are often overlooked on a time-sensitive vacation. Having all of WDW as a backyard is everything a Disney fan imagines it could be.

    Another point about moving to Orlando as a Disney fan: I often advised my friends to separate work and play to keep the magic. Some people can handle Disney 24/7 and don’t mind working there, punching out then playing in the parks. For me, I preferred to have my career be someplace else then visit Disney purely as leisure. Many folks in Orlando work in theme parks or entertainment elsewhere full time, but then pick up a limited part time or on-call job at Disney in order to pitch in when needed (and receive CM benefits like full park entry). It is difficult to build a sustainable career at Disney without years of paying your dues with a pay scale on the lower end. With so many amazing cast members, positions up the food chain are highly competitive. My on-call Disney position was in boat transportation, but only to cover a vacation day here and there or special event. It was the best of both worlds – a steady, higher paying career in the industry while working Disney for a shift or two per month. Something to consider if you are hoping to move to Orlando and be in the entertainment business.

    Oh – and get used to constant requests from out of town friends and family. It’s fine, but they sometimes forget that not everyone is on vacation in Orlando. I felt that I often let people down because they came to play and I was working. Seemed like every week someone I knew was in town, so I was up earlier and out later on work days far more than anyplace else I’ve lived. It got exhausting sometimes!

    It’s been about 12 years since I lived there and I will say that there is a pang when planning visits now. Thousands of dollars in flights, passes and resorts for what used to be free! You never get over that part.

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  • April 6, 2020 at 7:23 pm
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    Great article and surely something to consider. I experienced similar feelings when I lived in the Tampa area a short time after vacationing there over the years. I think for me (I may be wrong), is knowing at anytime I can go to Disney or do something related to Disney. Which just in itself makes it all worth it. 🙂 Be well Pete!

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