Passenger Transport - July 20, 2009
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FRA Receives 278 Pre-Applications for High-Speed Passenger Rail Funding

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced July 16 that the Federal Railroad Administration has received 278 pre-applications for grant funding totaling $102 billion under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail competitive grant program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

LaHood called the response “tremendous…shows that the country is ready for high-speed rail.” He continued: “It’s time to look beyond our highways and invest in public transportation services like rail, which will enhance regional mobility and reduce our carbon footprint.”

MCI's Melaniphy Testifies on Economic Impact of Transit Investment

Michael P. Melaniphy, vice president, public sector, for Motor Coach Industries, stressed the nationwide economic impact of public transportation investment in his testimony July 16 before the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) regarding the next surface transportation authorization bill.

According to Melaniphy, testifying on behalf of APTA: “This next authorization bill is imperative for the jobs and economic opportunities that it will create, for companies such as mine, and many others throughout the industry. This is an industry with a long and extended supplier base, and the investment that the Surface Transportation Authorization Act will provide will have an immense impact on jobs and our economy both immediately and for years to come.”

The hearing focused on the importance of long-term authorization in sustaining economic recovery.

Walder Nominated as New York MTA CEO and Chair

New York Gov. David A. Paterson nominated Jay Walder July 14 to serve as chief executive officer and chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Walder is a partner in McKinsey’s London office and the global leader of McKinsey’s infrastructure practice.

Prior to joining McKinsey, Walder was managing director of finance and planning Transport for London. He also was a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and previously served the MTA from 1983 to 1995 in positions including executive director and chief financial officer.

The nomination is subject to confirmation by the New York State Senate.

FRA Issues NPRM to Support Use of Positive Train Control

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA) Joseph Szabo announced July 16 proposed rules designed to prevent train collisions through the use of Positive Train Control (PTC). The proposed rule would provide guidance and performance standards as railroads implement Positive Train Control systems to prevent train-to-train collisions.

PTC technology is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements. “These proposed rules give railroads the framework to use this life-saving technology,” said LaHood. “We believe this is an important step toward making freight, intercity and commuter rail lines safer for the benefit of communities across the country.”

Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, major freight railroads and intercity and commuter rail operators must submit their plans for PTC to FRA for approval by April 16, 2010. PTC systems must be fully in place by the end of 2015. The proposed rules will specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and indicate how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC plan before it can become operational.

Congress Takes Up Authorization Timeframe

As the Sept. 30 expiration date for SAFETEA-LU approaches, Congress began to focus on the upcoming transportation authorization legislation during the week of July 13, with the House and Senate considering different timeframes for passage. The Fiscal Year 2010 transportation appropriations bill was also taken up by a House subcommittee.

At a July 14 press event in the Capitol calling for quick action on the six-year authorization bill now being developed in the House, Reps. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, were joined by Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).

The next day, EPW marked up a bill that provides an 18-month extension at the FY 2009 annualized rates, which is in keeping with the Obama Administration’s recommendation. “This legislation...is an authorization of about $41 billion in 2010 and another $20.5 billion in 2011,” said committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). 

In calling for the immediate passage of the six-year bill, however, Oberstar, DeFazio, and Voinovich explained that only a longer-term authorization bill could sustain the ongoing and growing investment in surface transportation by allowing states and other funding recipients time to plan their long-term construction projects. Short-term extensions cause uncertainty and disrupt the planning process, they said, resulting in fewer projects, fewer jobs, and less economic growth.

Oberstar said: “An 18-month extension…will take four years to finish, not a year and a half,” he said. “Inertia becomes the enemy of progress. We are ready to move and we should move now.”

DeFazio termed the extension “short-sighted, unacceptable, and it will harm our economic recovery.” He continued: “Our six-year authorization bill will create or sustain double the amount of jobs as an extension. We cannot afford to walk away from one million jobs at a time when we are experiencing a struggling economy and high unemployment.”

APTA supports Oberstar’s effort to enact a long-term bill now, and urged Congress to make this a top priority and pass a long-term authorization bill as quickly as possible. “APTA does not want to see multiple short-term extensions as was the case with the SAFETEA-LU process...,” said APTA President William Millar, noting that enactment of a long-term bill is essential for planning and forecasting. APTA’s letter to Oberstar stating its support of the legislation is available here.

The House Science and Technology Committee has some jurisdiction over the research portion of the House version of the authorization bill, H.R. 2569, so its Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation planned to mark up the legislation, also on July 16, to authorize surface transportation research and development activities.

House Subcommittee OKs THUD Appropriations
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Related Agencies approved draft FY 2010 appropriations legislation July 13 that includes approximately $75.8 billion in net discretionary funding for U.S. DOT.

The appropriations in the Transportation and HUD, or THUD, bill include $10.48 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $148 million above the level in President Obama’s proposed FY 2010 budget, and $4 billion for high-speed rail, a $3 billion increase over the administration’s request. Within this amount, $2 billion may be transferred to a national infrastructure bank if it is authorized. The increase in FTA funding refers to an additional $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, offset by a $2 million reduction for FTA Research and University Research Centers.

This bill “reflects the renaissance of passenger and commuter rail in the United States that was jump-started by the $8 billion provided for high-speed and intercity passenger rail in the [American] Recovery [and Reinvestment] Act,” said Rep. John W. Olver (D-MA), chairman of the subcommittee.

The full Appropriations Committee was expected to take up the THUD bill on July 17.

LaHood Stresses Role of Public Transit in Climate Change; Testifies at Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called for public transportation to be part of an integrated effort to help decrease carbon emissions in his testimony July 14 before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), convened the hearing to solicit comments about the role of transportation in climate change and reducing greenhouse gases.

“We must invest transportation and housing dollars to create strong communities,” LaHood said, noting federal partnerships among the agencies responsible for public transit, housing, and economic development. Such a program would “redefine livability,” he said, decreasing total vehicle miles traveled by providing enhanced opportunities not just for transit—such as light rail and fuel-efficient buses—but also by providing bicycle and pedestrian paths that connect with transit centers.

“These options will also reduce household transportation costs, strengthen local economies, lower traffic congestion, and reduce reliance on foreign oil,” he explained.

The secretary called for increased fuel efficiency in all forms of transportation while simultaneously introducing low-carbon fuels and alternative power sources for all types of vehicles. He noted that simply achieving a 55-mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard in coming years would not be enough; such a change would lead only to a modest drop in carbon emission levels.

Also testifying were Regina McCarthy, assistant administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, for the Environmental Protection Agency; Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker; David Bragdon, president of the Portland Metro Council, the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Portland, OR, region; Steve Winkelman, director of adaptation and transportation programs, Center for Clean Air Policy; and Ray Kuntz, chief executive officer of Watkins and Shepard Trucking.

Boxer said she is aiming to have her committee pass the climate change bill by the end of September.

Transportation Officials Testify on Rail Transit Safety

On July 13, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an urgent recommendation to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which in turn sent a “Dear Colleague” letter advising all rail transit operators who use train control systems that are able to monitor movements to evaluate those systems to ensure their safety redundancy capability is both adequate and working. This recommendation coincided with another that NTSB issued to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) concerning the June 22 Metrorail accident.

On July 14, a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), held a hearing to discuss safety oversight of WMATA in the incident’s aftermath; NTSB is still investigating its cause.

At the hearing, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff told the subcommittee that U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has established a multi-modal departmental committee, chaired by Deputy Secretary John Porcari, to consider ways to address “what we consider a gap in safety oversight.” He added: “The current State Safety Oversight (SSO) structure, with a few exceptions, lacks sufficient authority to provide for a uniform approach to transit system safety.”

APTA President William Millar testified on the rail transit industry’s efforts to ensure safe operations and the use of train control systems Millar described APTA’s Standards Development Program, which includes standards for rail transit, commuter rail, bus operations, procurement, intelligent communications interface, and security, adding that U.S. DOT has designated APTA as a Standards Development Organization (SDO).

With the help of other SDOs, he said, APTA has created and implemented 170 consensus-based standards specific to designing safe and efficient transit systems—and he specifically cited the Heavy Rail Crashworthiness Standard, developed over five years by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in collaboration with APTA.

Others testifying included former Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-VA), who made clear his support for increased federal funding for WMATA; WMATA representatives John B. Catoe Jr., general manager, and Jim Graham, board chair; Mark V. Rosenker, acting chair of NTSB; and Jackie Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689.

U.S. Chamber Promotes Transportation Investment

As Congress works to develop the next transportation authorization bill, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce brought its business leaders to Washington, DC, for a two-day advocacy event.

The purpose of the chamber’s Transportation Is Your Business Fly-in was to bring transportation leaders from around the nation—including APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D.—to Washington to inform members of Congress of the critical importance of the legislation and to call for increased investment in transportation infrastructure. The event began with a July 14 welcoming reception on Capitol Hill, followed by a full schedule on July 15. Steve Odland, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Office Depot, addressed the lunch session as part of the National Chamber Foundation’s CEP Leadership Series.

The chamber called the current situation facing Congress a “critical opportunity to improve existing programs and increase investment in the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems,” adding: “A well-maintained, modernized, and expanded surface transportation system is essential to spur economic growth, create jobs, and maintain America’s competitiveness in the global economy.”

APTA is a member of the chamber’s Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition.

APTA Chair Visits Oberstar

 

 APTA President William Millar, left, and APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., prepare to discuss legislative issues with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) during a visit to his Capitol Hill office.

 

Rogoff Helps Break Ground in South Bend; Recovery Act Grant Among Funding for New Transit Facility

The South Bend Public Transportation Corporation (TRANSPO) in South Bend, IN, broke ground July 1 for its new operations, administration, and maintenance facility, with such invited guests as Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) helping to turn shovelfuls of earth.

“This facility will not only provide the people of South Bend with the 21st-century transit system they need and deserve, but it will also mean a cleaner environment, as well as the immediate and long-term creation of jobs,” Rogoff said. TRANSPO has received $18.3 million in federal transit funds for the project, including a $3.7 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant; it is the largest transit development in the state in more than a decade.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on the 167,000-square-foot structure, which will house all functional areas for TRANSPO’s bus operations. It will be named for Emil (Lucky) Reznik, a member of the TRANSPO board since its establishment in 1967 who currently serves as its secretary.

The new TRANSPO building will be the first structure in South Bend’s Ignition Park, a development for businesses in the high-tech manufacturing and commercial industry located in a brownfield area in the former Studebaker corridor. The agency’s current facility, located along the St. Joseph River in South Bend, has been in continuous use since the 1880s and has surpassed its useful life.

“The Studebaker corridor is a place where a lot of history was made, and now we have turned the corner in ensuring the continued vitality of Ignition Park for the next generation of Hoosiers,” Bayh said. “Not only will the TRANSPO facility offer a critical service and preserve local jobs, it will help create green jobs of the future in a way that’s good for our natural environment….South Bend is setting a national example for how to provide public transportation options in an energy-saving, economical, and environmentally friendly way.”

In addition, the building is on track to become the nation’s first LEED Platinum transit facility and the first Platinum structure of any kind in Indiana.

Its location, closer to the main transfer station than the previous site, will add to the efficiency of maintenance and operations procedures, ultimately leading to service improvements; the new location is in a designated ozone action area, which will benefit from reductions to TRANSPO’s carbon footprint and conservation of energy. In addition, the new facility will allow better management of the agency’s fleet and pave the way for the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles beginning in 2011.

“For nearly 125 years, TRANSPO has been an innovator in meeting our community's transportation needs. We look forward to the completion of a nationally significant facility that will help TRANSPO reduce costs, operate with streamlined efficiency, and lessen our impact on the environment,” said South Bend Mayor Stephen J. Luecke. “I especially want to welcome TRANSPO to this place of our industrial heritage and our high-tech future.”

High-Speed Rail Grant Program Takes Shape

Propelled by the $8 billion federal investment in high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has spent the last few months crafting the program that will integrate high-speed rail into America’s travel patterns of the not too distant future.

FRA, tasked with developing an entirely new grant program, must create one unlike any other it has previously administered, maintaining a pipeline of developing projects, shovel-ready work, and construction—all with an eye toward achieving a world-class system of high-speed trains.

Within a severely limited time frame, FRA has created a series of plans and proposals to move the process quickly while ensuring that the industry and public are fully engaged in program development. The latest step came on June 17, when FRA announced its interim program guidance at the APTA Rail Conference in Chicago and asked for responsive comments.

APTA and its members have responded to FRA’s solicitations for comments from the beginning for formulating the program. The association’s review and comment drafting efforts were led by its High Speed and Intercity Rail Committee, chaired by Rod Diridon, chair emeritus and member of the California High Speed Rail Authority; former vice chair of the High Speed Ground Transportation Association (HSGTA); and current executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute. HSGTA was formally absorbed into APTA in January 2007; this integration brought decades of high speed rail expertise under the APTA umbrella.

In its comments, APTA stressed themes consistent with principles adopted by its executive committee at its May meeting, including competition and system interoperability, and identified a number of technical issues that could impede the program’s progress.

To read more, click here, then on the SAFETEA-LU Rulemaking and Notices icon, and scroll down to the entries on the high-speed and intercity passenger rail program.

DOT Distributes Almost Half of ARRA Funds

U.S. DOT has distributed almost half of its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding—more than $21 billion—and more than 6,300 transportation projects have been approved, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a July 15 speech at the Center for National Policy in Washington, DC.

“For public transit, an unprecedented $3.2 billion in grants has already been awarded—and another $5 billion is in the pipeline,” LaHood continued.  He called his department’s more than $48 billion in ARRA funds “an enormous opportunity for us, and we’re working overtime to make the most of it.”

The secretary emphasized that—while some people may think ARRA relief isn’t coming fast enough—less than six months have passed since the introduction of the act. “It’s important to remember that the Recovery Act was designed from the beginning as an 18-month program that rolls out in stages, using well-established procedures wherever possible to channel funds to states and other stakeholders,” he said, adding, “I think we have a great deal to show for our investments.”

U.S. DOT will begin awarding part of the $8 billion in ARRA grants for intercity and high-speed passenger rail projects in September. LaHood called the response to this program “tremendous. We’ve received hundreds of proposals from 40 states and the District of Columbia.” An additional $1.5 billion in discretionary grants for multimodal transportation projects becomes available in the winter.

According to LaHood, half the states have obligated at least half of their ARRA funding to economically distressed areas.

“The American people have said loud and clear that they want us to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and build clean and green public transportation systems to help ease traffic congestion,” he stated. “We’re putting Americans to work doing just that. And in the months ahead, we will work with Congress to find creative new ways to finance the kinds of transportation systems and services that Americans need and deserve for the 21st century.”

DART Dedicates Rosa Parks Plaza

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) opened its new Rosa Parks Plaza bus transfer station on July 13. Four of DART’s busiest northbound routes now stop at the new facility, which incorporates four passenger shelters; two bus bays; and a walkway to connect employment sites within one-half mile south and east of the site with the West Transfer Center and the West End DART Station.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) joined agency representatives at dedication ceremonies held prior to the opening of the station. DART funded the $1.7 million Rosa Parks Plaza, on the former site of a parking lot, with $600,000 in federal funds and contributions from the City of Dallas Park & Recreation Department, Downtown Dallas, and Dallas Main LP (landlord of Bank of America Plaza).

The plaza, which will welcome more than 1,400 daily bus riders, offers a park-like setting featuring a 13-foot-high wall of water cascading over the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. carved in stone, a drinking fountain, and green spaces flanked by two bus bays and spacious passenger shelters. The focal point is a life-size bronze statue of Rosa Parks sitting on a bus bench.

San Francisco sculptor Erik Blome said he intended the statue of Parks to “invoke a feeling of determination and a presence that has a solidity to it and a beauty that transcends time.”

Free Shuttles Serve Valley Forge National Historical Park

As traffic congestion, pollution, and driver frustration continue to grow on roads all around Valley Forge National HistoricalPark near Philadelphia, the park is trying out a new way to keep itself quiet, safe, and green. This summer, the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association is managing a free shuttle that provides an alternative to driving among the most popular destinations in the park.

Visitors who use the Revolutionary Shuttle leave their cars in the parking lots and travel easily throughout the 3,600 acres of the park on colorful vehicles wrapped with images of Continental soldiers and fueled in part with biodiesel. The six-mile loop runs throughout most of the park, making stops at nine locations including the Welcome Center and Washington’s Headquarters. Bike racks on the shuttles allow visitors to combine a bike tour with an easy ride.

The park is operating the shuttle this summer on a pilot basis; staff members will receive comments from visitors to find out what they do and don’t like about the service.

“The Revolutionary Shuttle is a great new addition to the growing menu of visitor services at Valley Forge,” said park superintendent Mike Caldwell. “We’re experimenting with the service this summer and, if visitors are enthusiastic, we’ll expand it next year.”

Funding for the shuttle service comes from National Park Service Alternative Transportation Funds and a grant from the Ford Motor Company through the National Park Foundation.

US Railcar to Resume Production of Former Colorado Railcar DMU

In the aftermath of the shutdown of Colorado Railcar Manufacturing late last yer, private investors affiliated with Value Recovery Group Inc. (VRG) of Columbus, OH, announced that they have formed a new firm, US Railcar LLC, that will resume the manufacture of Colorado Railcar’s Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) later this year in a new manufacturing facility to be established.

Michael P. Pracht, a rail industry veteran with experience at Siemens and Ansaldo, will serve as president and CEO of US Railcar. Assets acquired by the firm include the former Colorado Railcar DMU proprietary rights and information, manufacturing documentation, inventory, and other equipment necessary for production.

“US Railcar intends to re-establish passenger train production in the United States,” said Barry H. Fromm, chairman of VRG. “We want to keep American jobs and U.S. public investment at home.”

The company plans to manufacture both single- and bi-level DMUs, which are self-propelled railcars that eliminate the need for locomotive-hauled push-pull trains in lower density corridors. The US Railcar DMU was prototyped through a demonstration project in 2002 and is available in both regional and intercity configurations.

VRG is an asset recovery and management firm that specializes in asset management, advisory, and asset recovery services for state and local governments, commercial banks, private investors, and several federal agencies.

Price Dies; Rail Professional

Howard L.E. Price of Rutherford, NJ, a longtime train operator, conductor, and transportation supervisor for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia and its predecessor organizations, died June 30 at the age of 99. He spent most of his career on the route that today operates as SEPTA’s high speed Route 100, connecting Philadelphia and Norristown, PA.

Price operated multiple generations of high speed electric railway equipment for the former Philadelphia & Western Railway and Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (Red Arrow Lines) as well as SEPTA.

As recently as 2008, Price advised and assisted PTSI Transportation in an assignment for the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) in Lewisville, TX.

FTA Deputy Administrator McMillan to Address Sustainability Workshop

Therese McMillan, the recently named deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), has joined the lineup of speakers participating in the fifth annual APTA Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop, Aug. 2-4 at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center in Salt Lake City, UT. Her presentation will focus on upcoming federal initiatives to support sustainability and public transportation.

The three-day program, with the theme “The Business Case for Sustainability,” focuses on best practices in sustainability within the transit industry and the role of public transportation in meeting federal, state, and local sustainability goals such as increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This year’s workshop has an international flair, with a session on international sustainability indicators established for transit and work related to the Charter on Sustainable Development of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP). UTA Chief Executive Officer John Inglish, the first U.S. chair of the UITP Sustainable Development Commission, will moderate a session featuring Heather Allen of UITP, and Gunner Heip, director of strategic planning for the transit agency in Munich, Germany.

Workshop participants also will have a choice of “Sustainability in Action Tours” on Aug. 2. The designers of Daybreak Development Community worked to make sustainable development an integral part of the 4,200-acre development; the Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) Warm Springs facility demonstrates sustainable operations and maintenance; and a third tour will highlight green maintenance practices.

Also on the schedule is a presentation on the findings of the new Moving Cooler report sponsored by APTA, FTA, the Federal Highway Administration, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other organizations. This report considers strategies the transportation sector can implement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (See related story.)
 The deadline for APTA’s reduced rate for sleeping rooms is July 10, so register now. For more information, contact Rich Weaver or Petra Mollet.

2009 Fact Book Now Available in Print

APTA’s 2009 Public Transportation Fact Book is available online. The book, now in its 60th edition, was first published in 1943 and has long served as a leading source of statistics for the entire public transit industry.

The book itself presents statistics describing the U.S. transit industry for 2007, along with definitions of reported data items. Over the past two years, APTA has greatly expanded the amount of data available in the Fact Book by placing the most recent information in print and adding historical and agency data online; these latter two sections are referred to as Appendices A and B.

A limited number of print copies of the 2009 APTA Fact Book are available. However, individuals wishing to see all this information should go to the web site.

Nominations Still Open for APTA Officers and Board

The Nominating Committee for the APTA Executive Committee and Board of Directors reminds APTA members that they have until July 27 to submit their nomination forms to the APTA office. The committee will select the slate of nominees at an Aug. 10 meeting, and the election will be held as part of the Oct. 4 Annual Business Meeting in Orlando, FL.

Persons interested in the nomination process will find the nomination and authorization form, as well as the nominating committee roster and the list of officer and director positions to be filled, online. They should also consult past issues of Passenger Transport for the campaign guidelines adopted by the APTA Executive Committee in 2002.

Questions regarding the election process, the election guidelines, and eligibility requirements should be directed to Jim LaRusch.

What’s New at the 2009 Annual Meeting? Highlights of What to Expect in Orlando

The public transportation industry's premier event—APTA’s 2009 Annual Meeting—officially begins in Orlando on Oct. 5 with the Opening General Session, “Quality Transit—NOW!”, where speakers will highlight transit’s accomplishments of the past year and present both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. And of course, there will be the traditional “passing of the gavel” from the outgoing to the incoming APTA chair.

In these difficult economic times compounded by the uncertainties of the cost and availability of fuel, the value of public transportation has become increasingly evident. The Annual Meeting offers APTA members the opportunity to stay up-to-date and current on all the key public transportation issues—and to take back ideas and best practices to implement at home.

This conference (with its first-ever Product Showcase) will provide participants with an array of educational sessions and workshops, all designed to cover major policy issues, including:

* Authorization. Hear the latest on the next federal surface transportation authorizing law from invited Congressional representatives and staff as well as industry leaders.
* Economic Stimulus. Learn the latest updates on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding opportunities, reporting requirements, and more, directly from Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) officials.
* High-Speed Rail. After FRA staff analyze comments received in response to their June 17 announcement at the APTA Rail Conference (see related story on page 3), they will soon begin sorting through grant applications for project and planning awards for high-speed and intercity rail programs across the country. Make plans to attend this workshop to hear FRA’s latest report.
* Federal Sustainability Partnerships. Representatives from U.S. DOT, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been invited to discuss how their combined efforts and underlying policy principles will foster livability and sustainability in rural, suburban, and urban communities nationwide. Their approaches are designed to expand public transportation options while lowering transportation costs, increasing the availability of affordable housing, and better protecting the environment.
* Public Transit in a Green Economy. While no one can predict when the economy will turn around, most everyone agrees that the resulting economy will be a greener one. What does this mean for the future of transit and doing business in the industry? What new business models and partnerships are already established and what is innovative about them? “Green” leaders from both the public and private sectors will participate in forums and workshops throughout the conference.
* Transit Mega Projects. A special forum will highlight the largest transit public works projects in North America. Find out more about the planning associated with advancing these projects to this point and the transportation benefit to communities, including job creation, mobility options improvement, and the provision of enormous environmental benefits.

Program Redesign
The entire agenda of the Annual Meeting has been redesigned to be responsive to participants’ feedback. One major change will be a decrease in the number of concurrent educational sessions—to enable members to attend more topics of importance to them. Scheduled “against” the sessions will be a forum (which will largely provide a general overview on a subject) on a non-conflicting topic. The program also provides an increase in the number of smaller, interactive workshops, which will allow for significantly more networking.

The agenda will include sessions on leading and managing in a volatile economic climate, such as:
* CEOs’ Panel on Managing in Turbulent Times. This interactive session with transit industry leaders and CEOs of major employers in the Orlando area will examine how top executives in the transit industry and other sectors are coping with the impact of the depressed economy on decision-making on major infrastructure investments.
* Doing Business in the New Economy. The fundamentals of doing business have changed significantly in the last year: surety markets have evaporated in many business sectors, cash is much harder to access, the leasing market has been turned upside down, public agency bond ratings have suffered, and many transit suppliers are in poor shape, restructuring, or even going away. This interactive session will feature a panel of business members—transit CEOs and purchasing managers—and FTA representatives who will review and discuss the new realities and rules of doing business today and in the future.

A Wide Variety of Educational Sessions and Workshops
Among the many sessions and workshops scheduled will be those that focus on topics of the moment, including:
* Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Transit agencies and Metropolitan Planning Organizations can become partners in many creative and innovative ways to facilitate livable and sustainable communities. Together, they can support the planning and implementation of successful TOD with station area plans, capital improvements that support station access, infrastructure funding, and parking strategies. The presentation will provide a toolkit of current best practices and will also allow for a peer exchange to help attendees learn how they can support successful TOD in their regions.
* Doing Business with DBEs. In this time of limited funds but increased competition, learn how transit agencies can identify and develop business relationships with disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) that are qualified to meet contracting goals. Participants will hear perspectives and thoughts from a DBE owner, transit agency official, and supplier, all of whom will discuss the relationship-building that leads to success for DBEs and their partners.
* Best Practices for Small Operators. Showcasing examples of best practices and innovations from small transit systems across the country, this interactive session will cover topics geared toward small operators but will also apply to larger systems.
* Workforce Development. Today’s executive leaders and managers need plans, blueprints, and innovative approaches to hire and develop a world-class workforce for 2010 and beyond. This leadership roundtable will discuss the key recommendations of APTA’s Workforce Development Blue Ribbon Panel, including legislative proposals, strategies for higher education, youth outreach and awareness, partnerships and collaborations, image/branding of public transportation as a “green” jobs industry, and performance metrics. Also in this session, participants will have the opportunity to discuss the results of recent surveys on industry training needs and best practices on preparing the next generation of leaders.
* Becoming Technology Savvy. Technology evolves at lightning speeds and, increasingly, tech-savvy customers are demanding tech-friendly services—and the transit industry cannot afford to fall behind. How are some agencies keeping up with changing technologies without incurring major expenses? What truly sets the benchmark for today and tomorrow?  In this session, attendees will he learn how to use technology and when to update what they have, without “breaking the bank.”
* Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). America will celebrate the 20th anniversary of ADA in July 2010. In this session, participants will hear from service providers, riders, advocates, and business members on the past—and the next 20 years. Together they will explore the history of public policy regarding access for all, and will examine today’s disability rights environment.

Business Strategies—Disney Style
The Disney Institute’s professional development and leadership team will offer two 90-minute sessions providing information on proven business philosophies that will suggest creative ways to weather the economic storm of late and effectively meet the challenges of today’s business environment.

Session I, Disney’s Approach to Quality Service, will focus on some of the rewards of improving customer service, including increasing market share, solidifying one’s reputation, and finding the ability to exceed customer expectations.  Session II, Leading Through Turbulent Times, will explore best practices that underlie the Disney approach to sustained excellence even during times of economic difficulties.  Participants in this session will learn how they can adapt Disney’s strategies to the transit industry to help retain customers, engage employees, and position the industry for future success.

For more information on these sessions, contact Pam Boswell.

FTA New Starts/Small Starts
On Thursday, Oct. 8, following the conclusion of the meeting, FTA, in conjunction with APTA, will offer a half-day workshop on its New Starts/Small Starts program. It will provide the technical requirements of the major capital investment planning and project development process and will cover the latest issues affecting new starts.

Information on this workshop is available online or from Rich Weaver.

Professional Development and Training Opportunities
The Eno Transportation Foundation will provide two sessions for transit board members. The first, New Board Member Orientation, will help acclimate new members to their positions, prepare them to work with more seasoned board members, and familiarize them with the resources within APTA and throughout the industry. There is no cost for this course.

The second session, the Eno Transit Board Summit, developed in partnership with APTA and the National Transit Institute, will run a day and a half and is intended to build the leadership capacity of board members to enable them to consider the complexities of the transit industry and discuss the critical issues of today. This course is $250.

Focusing on APTA’s Future
Two scheduled sessions that address APTA’s priorities as an association are:
* APTA Governance Roundtable. A task force of APTA members has proposed a major restructuring of the association’s governance design to prepare APTA to lead the industry into the future, and to deliver on the potential envisioned by TransitVision 2050. This effort will realign APTA in a changing world and improve its ability to address current issues, engage all sectors of the industry in how APTA is governed, strengthen and empower committees, and cultivate new industry leadership.
* Strategic Plan Listening Session. In the first half of 2009, APTA members held many broad and comprehensive conversations about what will shape the public transit industry in the next five years, what would be ideal achievements, and what APTA could do to facilitate those outcomes. All this input and feedback has set the context for the new strategic plan that will guide the association from 2010 to 2014.

An Annual Meeting First: Products Showcase!

For the very first time at an Annual Meeting, APTA will present a Products and Services Showcase Oct. 4 and 5 in Orlando. To ensure that business members and transit agency leaders can take advantage of this unique opportunity to make contacts and learn about what’s new and special in the industry, there will be ample dedicated “Showcase” time. This way, participants can focus on the exhibits without missing any workshops, listening sessions, or technical tours.

The Showcase will be the venue for the Opening Reception of the 2009 Annual Meeting on Sunday evening, Oct. 4, in the Coquina Ballroom of the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. And the next day—more opportunities!—because participants can pick up their box lunches on the Showcase floor and then continue meeting with the exhibitors.

This Showcase will be similar to those held at the APTA bus and rail conferences, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. The Bus Products and Services Showcase in Seattle set a record with 130 booths, while at the Rail Products and Services Showcase in Chicago 65 companies exhibited at 77 booths, almost twice as many as the previous year.

Exhibitor space is still available, so sign up now! The registration form is online. For information, contact Anitha Atkins.

Travel, Lodging Discounts for Meeting Participants

Official Hotels
The two Orlando Grande Lakes hotels will be the official hotels for the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting. APTA room blocks are available at special prices, but these will close soon, so reserve your hotel room now. The registration forms are online.

In addition, guests at the Grande Lakes hotels are eligible for special discount rates on spa services, golf, and private guided fly fishing and eco-tours. Information is available at the same link.

Reduced Airfares
Two airlines are offering special discount rates to Orlando. Please call APTA’s official travel agent, Travel Destinations Management Group, (800) 635-7307; the airline; or your travel agent to obtain round-trip transportation at the lowest convention fares.

For American Airlines, contact the airline’s Convention Desk at (800) 433-1790 to obtain these reduced fares. Include the APTA Account Number: A63H9AC.

For JetBlue, log on with code APTAORLANDO for a 5 percent discount.

Reduced Train Fares
Amtrak will offer a 10 percent discount off the lowest available fare to Orlando from Oct. 1-10. To book space, contact the National Reservations Desk, (800) 872-7245, or your local travel agent. Make sure you refer to the fares order number when making your reservation. This offer is not valid on Auto Train. Fare is valid on Acela and Metroliner services for all departures except holiday blackouts. Fare is also valid on sleepers, business class, or first class seats with payment of the full applicable accommodation charges. Give the APTA Fares Order Number: X02W-956.
 
Reduced Car Rental Rates
Avis Rent a Car offers special low rental rates which are available one week before and one week after the conference. Rentals include unlimited mileage. Contact Avis by either calling toll free (800) 331-1600 or online. Provide the code AWD# D757633.

Conference Host System: LYNX Keeps Moving to Provide Quality Service

BY MATTHEW P. FRIEDMAN, Manager of Media Relations, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX), Orlando, FL

A lot has changed at the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) since APTA last held a major meeting in Orlando—the 1999 Annual Meeting and EXPO.

In the fall of 2004, the agency opened the doors to LYNX Central Station (LCS), its state-of-the-art terminal and administrative building. Located just off Interstate 4 in the heart of downtown Orlando, the modern and sleekly designed facility is considered a work of art for the region with its rolling roof and neon blue and hot pink lighting. In fact, the LCS has won numerous engineering and architectural design awards. More than 85,000 passengers travel in and out of the facility each day.

The newest crown jewel of LYNX facilities opened in late 2007 on a 24.1-acre site. The LYNX Operations Center (LOC), which will welcome visitors during the APTA Annual Meeting, was designed to park 250 buses and maintain up to 600 vehicles. Our current fleet contains 268 buses. The operations center has159,925 square feet under cover and houses 26 maintenance bays and 19 lifts.

Most importantly, in mid-August the LOC will become the home of the nation’s first biodiesel blending station owned, operated, and produced by a single public transit agency. This will allow LYNX to use “on-demand” blending to fully convert its fleet to biodiesel and to distribute custom blending to a partnership of other local governmental agencies.

LYNX is extremely proud of this opportunity to showcase the endeavor with a technical tour. Construction of the $2.5 million fuel blending station began June 9, funded with a grant from the State of Florida’s Governor’s Energy Office.

The agency anticipates that the station will allow the annual replacement of more than 1.2 million gallons of diesel with a clean, renewable, carbon-neutral energy source, effectively lowering carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent. West Virginia University will scope the project to study the exact emission improvements achieved by converting to biodiesel.

Ultimately, LYNX expects the biodiesel site to help the agency decrease its dependence on foreign energy suppliers and support Florida’s economy with jobs in this new fuel and technology sector by providing the market needed for the state’s farmers to grow crops for biodiesel production. This, in turn, offers the incentive to develop and produce second- and third-generation crops that will further increase efficiency.

Because LYNX will have the blending station on site, the agency can create custom blends for testing purposes and can increase ratios seamlessly in the future. In addition, if LYNX ever experience fuel supply disruptions (as in 2004, when hurricanes caused delivery problems), it can operate its buses on 100 percent biodiesel until the fuel supplies are restored.

A Brief History
Now for a brief history of LYNX. The agency was founded in May 1972 as the Orange, Seminole, Osceola Transportation Authority, and became Tri-County Transit in 1984. The agency began doing business as LYNX in 1992, officially changing its name to the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in March 1994.

LYNX provides public transportation services for Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties, as well as small portions of Lake, Polk, and Volusia counties. Daily fixed route bus service provides more than 85,000 passenger trips each weekday, spanning an area of approximately 2,500 square miles with a resident population of more than 1.8 million.

Other LYNX services include LYMMO, a free downtown Orlando circulator; a carpool and vanpool program; ACCESS LYNX paratransit; the PickUpLine community circulator; and Road Rangers roadside assistance on Interstate 4.
 In 2008, LYNX set its 24th ridership record in the past 25 years, delivering more than 27 million passenger trips.

Hopefully, all of this can convince you to come to Orlando and visit your friends at LYNX. If not, Oct. 4-7 is a time for beautiful fall Florida weather. This should certainly seal the deal.

See you all in Orlando.

Noted Journalist to Address APTA/WTS Breakfast

Fawn Germer, a journalist nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize, will address the 14th annual APTA/Women’s Transportation Seminar Speaker Breakfast during the APTA Annual Meeting, Oct. 7 in Orlando, FL.

Germer—a former writer for The Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and The Miami Herald—has interviewed numerous world leaders. She is the author of five best-selling books including The NEW Woman Rules and Mustang Sallies, which feature interviews with America’s most powerful women in the corporate world and public arena, who offer guidance to women determined to charge ahead and succeed on their own terms. Oprah Winfrey called Germer’s 2001 book, Hard Won Wisdom, “very inspiring.”

In addition to the breakfast presentation, Germer will lead an educational workshop the afternoon of Oct. 7, building upon her recent book, Finding the UP in the Downturn. Her program will consider how businesses can focus on results-driven solutions and opportunities, rather than surrendering to a victim mindset, and find ways to change their performance dynamics.

 

APTA Awards Showcase ‘Best of the Best’

A major part of the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting is the recognition of outstanding individuals and organizations. The meeting schedule includes the Awards Luncheon; the AdWheel Awards; and the presentation of American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) scholarships.

At the Oct. 6 Awards Luncheon, APTA will single out the “best of the best” in several categories. The Outstanding Achievement in Public Transportation award recognizes public transit agencies in several size categories, and the Innovation Award cites adventurous ideas. Individual awards go to the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager, Business Member, and Board Member; the Local Distinguished Service Award to a local leader on transportation issues; and the newest members of APTA Hall of Fame, commemorating a lifetime of contributions to public transit.

AdWheel Recognizes Marketing Excellence
Savvy public transit marketers will once again be duly lauded at this year’s AdWheel Awards competition, the 30th in APTA’s history. The award ceremony on Monday afternoon, Oct. 5, will recognize the recipients of first-place awards and the announcement of the Grand Award winners, selected from among the first-place honorees.

The APTA Marketing and Communications Committee recognizes public transit agencies in four size categories and a fifth category for business members, and presents the awards in four categories: print media, electronic media, campaigns, and special events.

For the first time, the exhibit of AdWheel winners at the 2009 Annual Meeting will be completely online rather than a three-dimensional display.

APTF Scholarships
APTF will present at least 10 scholarships to young adults pursuing careers in public transportation during a ceremony the afternoon of Oct. 5.

Founded in 1988, APTF has as its mission to increase and retain the number of professionals entering the transit field as a career by providing scholarships to deserving students—the industry’s future leaders. Since its inception, APTF has awarded more than 65 scholarships.

What’s in Orlando? Here Are Some Fast Facts

More than 48 million visitors come to Orlando each year for business and pleasure. Of that number, 45.9 million come from within the U.S. and 2.8 million from other countries. Approximately 46 percent of Orlando’s international visitors are from western Europe, followed by Canada with 28 percent.

The greater Orlando area is home to more than 1.9 million people in a region consisting of Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Lake counties. The city is located in Orange County. In all, greater Orlando encompasses 2.6 million acres.

Orlando offers more than 100 attractions. Counting the legendary theme parks, spectacular museums, world-class entertainment, and blockbuster rides and attractions, it would take about 67 eight-hour days to visit all the entertaining offerings in Orlando.

Within a 15-mile radius in the heart of Orlando’s attractions area, visitors will find 12 major shopping malls and factory outlet centers.

With more than 5,300 restaurants, Orlando’s dining choices read like a world map. Visitors from virtually anywhere in the world can find a taste of home here, with international cuisines ranging from African to Vietnamese. All flavors of American fare are represented as well, from Southern/Creole comfort foods and dinner theaters to wine bars and restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.

For guests wanting to be pampered, Orlando’s got the answer: 20 destination spas offering a wide range of treatments, whether for a couple of hours or for a full day.

Visitors take great delight in Orlando’s impressive lineup of world-class performing arts. The Orlando Opera; Orlando Ballet; Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, in partnership with the University of Central Florida; Bach Festival Society; Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra; Broadway Across America-Orlando series; and several professional and community theater companies are just a few of the area’s entertainment options. In addition, House of Blues and Hard Rock Live offer concerts many nights of the week. Cirque du Soleil has a permanent show at Downtown Disney, while Universal CityWalk is home to a new Blue Man Group show.

The multitude of arts and culture offerings in Orlando prove that the area is a haven for artists and performers. It hosts hundreds of museums, galleries, theaters, gardens, historic homes, as well as acclaimed ballet, opera, and philharmonic companies and traveling Broadway shows. Many of Orlando’s arts offerings can be found along its “Cultural Corridor,” a seven-to-eight-mile stretch along Interstate 4 (I-4), spanning from downtown Orlando to historic Winter Park.

Few destinations in the world come close to rivaling Orlando’s year-round recreational offerings: more than 2,000 lakes, springs, and rivers for swimming, boating, water skiing, and fishing; 176 golf courses; 800 tennis courts; and 21 fitness trails for biking, walking, or in-line skating.

Orlando’s average temperatures for October are in the low 70s to mid 80s during the day, low to high 60s at night.

Orlando International Airport is located within 15 miles of the Orange County Convention Center and major attractions. More than 40 scheduled airlines, 12 charters, and 10 cargo companies provide non-stop service to 84 destinations in the United States and 17 international cities.

More than 36 million passengers used Orlando International Airport in 2007, making MCO the busiest airport in Florida and 10th in the U.S. In a 2008 survey by ForbesTraveler.com, the airport was ranked as the most on-time airport in the country and eighth most on-time in the world. Conde Nast Traveler Magazine ranks Orlando International Airport in the top five airports nationwide in areas including ease of connections, food and shops, and comfort and design in its annual Business Traveler Awards (August 2008). Orlando International Airport is also ranked second in overall passenger satisfaction for large airports nationwide according to the latest J.D. Power and Associates study (September 2008).

Amtrak serves more than 28 Florida communities with north and southbound daily trains originating from New York and Miami, as well as the Auto Train, which transports passengers and their vehicles daily between Lorton, VA, and Sanford, FL.

Orlando is an ideal starting point for a host of easy day trips. From sun-drenched beaches and scenic nature preserves filled with rare wildlife to high-energy spectator sports and unique cultural, educational, and historic attractions, visitors can find them all within an hour’s drive.

Sports fans are in their element in Orlando thanks to the area’s great lineup of collegiate and professional sporting events. From the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic and the University of Central Florida Knights football to Orlando Predators arena football, and spring training with the Atlanta Braves, the Orlando sports scene gives fans plenty of reasons to cheer. Orlando is also home to a new Major Indoor Soccer League team, the Orlando Sharks.

Orlando hosts some of the sport’s most talented players each year during two annual Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) tournaments. The Arnold Palmer Invitational, Presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill, is held in March. The Children’s Miracle Classic is played on Walt Disney World golf courses in October. The Del Webb Father-Son Challenge is held in December at ChampionsGate Golf Club.

Offering Far More than Tourist Destinations; Look Inside Orlando’s Coolest Neighborhoods

Ever wonder what it’s like to live in Orlando year-round? To see and hear theme park fireworks from your backyard or to own a season pass to visit the parks as many times as you’d like?

Orlando locals certainly know how good they have it, but they also know there’s more to living in central Florida than roller coasters and cartoon characters. Take an insider’s look at some of Orlando’s most happening neighborhoods.

Downtown Orlando
New residential condos, trendy restaurants, and eclectic shops have reshaped downtown Orlando, the heart of the city’s commercial and cultural core, located east of Interstate 4 and north of the attractions area. Here, breathtaking new high-rises juxtapose with Victorian architecture, a thriving nightlife scene finds a home among historical landmarks, and Orlando’s “Cultural Corridor” stretches for blocks, offering theaters, galleries, and performing arts venues.

Lake Eola Park features a .9-mile loop, swan paddle boats for rent, playground, outdoor café, Walt Disney Amphitheatre, Orlando Farmer’s Market, and numerous special events throughout the year.

The route of a self-guided, eight-block downtown Orlando Historic District tour of buildings dating back to the 1880s, including the Orange County Regional History Center and Wells’ Built Museum, is available.

Thornton Park
One of downtown Orlando’s most charming neighborhoods, centered around East Central Boulevard and North Summerlin Avenue, Thornton Park is Orlando’s center of new urbanism, with residential lofts, renovated Craftsman-style bungalows, and historic Neoclassical and Tudor Revival homes. They’re all within walking distance of a burgeoning collection of shops and restaurants. Historic Dickson Azalea Park and Fern Creek are located in this area.

Loch Haven Park/Ivanhoe Village
Though not actually a neighborhood but a 45-acre park situated just minutes outside of downtown Orlando at North Mills and East Princeton streets, Loch Haven is a local favorite and cultural destination. Just between downtown Orlando and Loch Haven Park along Lake Ivanhoe and North Orange Avenue, Ivanhoe Village is an emerging eclectic neighborhood dubbed Orlando’s newest Main Street. The area features Antique Row along Orange Avenue.

The Courtyard at Lake Lucerne: ViMi District
Just northeast of downtown Orlando, this expanding enclave of authentic Asian restaurants, shops, and markets is home to one of the largest Vietnamese-American communities in Florida. Dozens of Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, and Chinese restaurants crowd along Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue. The neighborhood’s grocery stores, stocked with everything from alternative medicines to exotic produce, cater mostly to Asian customers.

Winter Park
A short drive north of downtown Orlando’s major attractions, Winter Park charms visitors with tree-shaded avenues and a window into the world of Florida’s past.

Once a major citrus-growing region, Winter Park was a popular retreat for well-to-do Northerners who traveled south by train in the early 20th century. From those roots, a city sprang up where culture thrived and natural resources were well-protected. Today, Winter Park is 8 square miles with 20,000 oak trees and is home to almost 28,000 residents.

Winter Park’s Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art features the world’s most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

College Park
Just northwest of downtown Orlando along Edgewater Drive is delightful College Park, with streets named for famous colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. Key West style bungalows mix with turn-of-the-20th-century mansions while young professionals mix with longtime residents in a burgeoning neighborhood sprinkled with colorful shops and restaurants.

Baldwin Park
Those nostalgic for the small town America experience of yesteryear will enjoy a visit to Baldwin Park, located just minutes from downtown Orlando. The neighborhood was designed to foster a sense of community, featuring narrow streets and wide sidewalks, miles of walking trails, distinct architecture, vibrant town centers and a mix of amenities that allow residents to live, work and play in their own neighborhood.

Celebration
Located in Osceola County near the Walt Disney World Resort and developed by the Walt Disney Company as the quintessential American town, this idyllic neighborhood boasts dozens of “villages,” businesses, its own schools and thriving downtown, filled with a variety of shopping and dining options and special events.

Eatonville
Incorporated in 1883 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, Eatonville is the oldest African-American municipality in the United States and home to author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who spent her early years in Eatonville and wrote about those years in Their Eyes Were Watching God and Dust Tracks on a Road.

Before the Theme Parks: Orlando Celebrated Proud Roots in Cattle, Citrus and Space

Although Orlando’s amazing theme parks are what put the city on the map for millions of visitors throughout the world, it existed long before the first roller coaster or castle was ever built.

Over the course of more than 150 years, the area has had several names and seen many different industries come and go. What was a rustic wartime fort in the mid-1800s has emerged as one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. No, it’s not a fairy tale, but it certainly has a happy ending.

Welcome to Jernigan?
The city of Orlando came into existence in 1857, but its origins can be traced to the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. Fort Gatlin was established during the Second Seminole War in 1838 and, when the war ended in 1842, the government offered land to homesteaders willing to live near the forts. Brothers Aaron and Isaac Jernigan settled near Fort Gatlin in 1843; in 1850, a post office opened in the settlement then known as Jernigan.

The population soon spread northward from Jernigan, beyond the fort, leaving the exact location of the community in question. But a gift to the county of land for a courthouse near Lake Eola soon settled disputes and led to the creation of a new town called Orlando.

Many different versions exist concerning the origin of the city’s name. One story says the name honors soldier Orlando Reeves, who died near what is now Lake Eola in downtown Orlando during the Second Seminole War: according to the legend, he warned sleeping soldiers of a coming attack before falling himself. One other popular theory credits early settler Judge Speer as suggesting Orlando, the name of the romantic hero in Shakespeare’s play As You Like It.

Squeezing the Citrus Market
Orlando’s early economy centered around the cattle industry, but the city’s greatest growth occurred during several economic booms, the first following the 1881 arrival of the South Florida Railroad, which made travel to the area easier. Businesses appeared and hotels opened to accommodate the first wave of tourists. The railroad, renamed the Atlantic Coast Line in 1902, enabled citrus growers to ship fresh fruit to northern markets, making Orlando a major citrus producing center by 1890.

The nation’s growing demand for grapefruit, tangerines, and oranges, coupled with the extension of the South Florida Railroad into central Florida, helped the citrus industry to flourish. The two-square-mile city of Orlando was officially incorporated on July 21, 1875, by a vote of 22 men from the 85 residents.

In 1894 and 1895, hard freezes struck central Florida, destroying 95 percent of the citrus trees and severely damaging the citrus industry. It took 15 years for the industry to recover, but then citrus remained a major agricultural industry in Orlando throughout most of the first half of the 20th century. At its peak in the 1950s, the industry accounted for more than 80,000 acres of citrus trees in the region.

Orlando’s second boom paralleled national prosperity and progress. Orlando expanded in the early 20th century as many homes received electrical power. Cars appeared in Orlando in 1903. (The speed limit was 5 mph.) The automobile and improved highways brought increased tourism, the growth of business and construction, and the beginnings of suburbanization. The city saw its population increase from about 9,000 in 1920 to more than 27,000 by 1930.

Flying High
Capitalizing on Orlando’s near-perfect, year-round flying weather, aviation brought another economic boom to the region. The city opened its first airport, to haul cargo, in 1922.

Orlando’s Municipal Airport, built in 1928, became the Orlando Army Air Base and quietly contributed to the war efforts both before and during World War II as one of the first places to train bomber pilots. The military built a second airfield near Pine Castle in 1941, which later became McCoy Air Force Base and is now the Orlando International Airport.

At the end of the Second World War, Pine Castle Air Base served as the site for top secret X-1 tests and as home to a Strategic Air Command unit in the 1950s.

In 1956, the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore purchased 10.6 square miles of southern Orange County land and announced plans to build a missile factory, leading to major development.

The U.S. Missile Test Center, established at Cape Canaveral in 1955, brought the aerospace industry to Orlando. The Martin Company opened a plant in 1956 and quickly became the area’s leading employer. Orlando’s population, almost 37,000 in 1940, reached about 52,000 by 1950. Today the company operates under the name of Lockheed Martin and serves as the backbone of the area’s technology industry.

Orlando is now home to a number of major technological and digital media companies including Electronic Arts, House of Moves, and Blue Orb Inc. Special schooling programs for this field are offered at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy and Full Sail.

Tourism Takes Off
Along with the population, tourism steadily grew in central Florida. Cypress Gardens opened its doors in 1936 and soon became second only to the Grand Canyon in popularity among U.S. attractions. This established Orlando as one of the top vacation destinations in the world.

Weeki Wachee Springs, famous for underwater performances by “mermaids,” put on its first show in 1947. The Florida Wildlife Institute opened in 1949 and became Gatorland in 1954.

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom opened its gates in 1971, followed by SeaWorld Orlando in 1973. Over the years, Walt Disney World Resort continued to expand with the opening of Epcot in 1982, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in 1998, as well as resorts, water parks, golf courses, and entertainment complexes.

In 1990, Universal Studios Florida came onto the scene. In 1999, Universal Orlando Resort opened a second park, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, followed by the addition of an entertainment complex and three hotels.

Discovery Cove opened in 2000 with a unique dolphin-swim experience and, in late 2004, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park reopened its extensive gardens along with new rides and a water park. Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, opened in March 2008.

Meet Me in Orlando
While Orlando’s tourism industry has grown exponentially with the rapid development of renowned theme parks, the city is also quickly becoming one of the country’s leaders in the meetings and conventions industry.

Growing Bigger…and Stronger
Orlando continues to grow, offering nearly 100 attractions, 113,000 hotel rooms, and more than 5,300 restaurants, as well as the second largest convention center in the nation.

Tourism has become the leading industry for central Florida with more than 48 million visitors annually and an economic impact of 31.1 billion. More than 1.9 million people now reside in greater Orlando, which consists of Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Lake counties.

A World-Class Destination for Shopping

Orlando is world famous for its theme parks, but one of the most popular “themes” among central Florida tourists is shopping. In fact, international tourists cite shopping as their number-one travel activity, while domestic visitors rate it fourth on their vacation “to-do” list—and Orlando is ready to oblige.

Within a 15-mile radius, visitors can not only enjoy seven of the world’s top theme parks, but also 12 shopping malls and factory outlet centers.

Fashionistas will find the world’s most sought-after brands including Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, and about 100 other designer brands. They’ll also find major department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy’s, along with numerous trendy, independently owned boutiques. In all, Orlando’s shopping offerings are vast enough to fill 900 American football fields.

With luxury malls and factory outlet stores, unique boutiques, theme park stores, museum and art gallery shops, antique stores, and farmers markets, Orlando offers visitors a wealth of shopping options like nowhere else in the world.

Shopping Malls
Orlando is home to numerous world-class malls, which in total offer shoppers more than 1,000 stores, restaurants, and movie theaters, as well as countless opportunities for fun.

The Mall at Millenia is the area’s most upscale mall, with more than 150 stores and restaurants. Located off I-4 at Conroy Road. High-tech LED screens perched 35 feet high provide views straight from the runways of New York, Paris, and Milan. Mall highlights include Tiffany & Co.; the Sanrio store, home of Hello Kitty; The Apple Store; and The Cheesecake Factory.

The Florida Mall has more than 250 stores and restaurants, making it central Florida’s largest mall. In addition to stores including M&Ms World, Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, and Louis Vuitton, this mall hosts the “Flowrider,” an indoor surfing tank at Adrenalina: The Extreme Store. Dining options include Buca di Beppo.

Festival Bay Mall at International Drive—located at the north end of International Drive, just off I-4—features 80 stores and restaurants and four entertainment venues. In addition to the shopping at Sheplers Western Ware and Ron Jon Surf shop, the options include a visit to Bass Outdoor World, with a 17,000-gallon aquarium; the skateboarders’ ramps, bowls, and street courses at Vans Skate Park; and Putting Edge Fun Center, an indoor glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course.

Pointe Orlando, a recently redeveloped collection of more than 40 stores, restaurants, and entertainment options lies in the heart of the attractions area, on International Drive across from the Orange County Convention Center. Visitors can check out first-run blockbuster movies on a giant IMAX screen; try out new skincare products at the “testing hub” at Kiehl’s; sample one of 120 wines by the glass at The Grape; or design a rollercoaster—and ride it—at WonderWorks.
 Other shopping malls in the Orlando area include the Altamonte Mall, Orlando Fashion Square, Osceola Square Mall, Oviedo Marketplace, Seminole Towne Center, and West Oaks Mall.

Factory Outlet Shopping
The area’s many outlet malls offer some of the best deals, along with the best fun.

Prime Outlets International Orlando, on International Drive near Universal Orlando Resort, is the area’s newest outlet mall and he largest outlet shopping destination in the southeast, with 175 stores. Its roster of stores includes the only Baccarat/Lalique outlet in the world; the only Victoria’s Secret outlet in the southeastern U.S.; and the only 7 for All Mankind outlet, as well as Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH.

The newly expanded Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue, near the intersection of I-4 and State Road 535, offers 150 upscale outlet stores and dining. Author and nationally known fashion stylist Jackie Walker is available by appointment for personal consultations. The mall boasts one of only three Dior outlets in the world; the Frette outlet, featuring high-end Italian linens; a Burberry outlet; the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory; and a Mediterranean-themed children’s playground.

Unique Boutiques
Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park, often called “The Rodeo Drive of the east,” is home to more than 140 stores, boutiques, salons, galleries, and restaurants. In addition to finding unusual fashions and crafts from around the world, visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch in the rose garden at Central Park.

Thornton Park, east of downtown Orlando, is an eclectic neighborhood and a favorite of locals. It centers around East Central Boulevard and North Summerlin Avenue. Urban Think! Bookstore showcases Florida authors and organic vegetarian food, while Marie-France stocks vintage-inspired jewelry and 150 styles of footwear at Marie-France and Fifi’s serves artwork-inspired cupcakes.

Market Street in Celebration, developed by The Disney Company as the ideal American neighborhood, Celebration features a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment set along a picturesque waterfront. It’s located near the entrance of Walt Disney World Resort, minutes from I-4 and Hwy. 192 (W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Parkway).

Baldwin Park mixes small-town appeal with sophisticated shopping, dining, and entertainment just off State Road 50 (Colonial Drive), minutes from downtown Orlando.

Theme Park Shops
Downtown Disney Marketplace and Downtown Disney West Side are part of the Walt Disney World Resort, featuring unique shops, restaurants, nightlife, and entertainment options in the magical Disney tradition.

Universal Orlando CityWalk is where shopping, dining, nightlife, and entertainment all centrally located at the Universal Orlando Resort. Located off I-4, exit 75A/B.

The Waterfront at SeaWorld Orlando provides a break from rides, shows, and games with nautical-themed shops. Located inside SeaWorld Orlando, International Drive, near the intersection of I-4 and State Road 528.

The Space Shop at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the world’s largest store devoted entirely to space memorabilia, with more than 8,000 items on two levels. It’s in Brevard County on State Road 405, east of I-95.

Museum Gift Shops
Get in some shopping time while enriching your mind at some of the area’s many cultural attractions. They offer original art and jewelry, as well as unique toys, books, and collectibles that shoppers won’t find elsewhere.

Orange County Regional History Center Emporium—although it offers toys, books, and collectibles, the emporium is best known for its citrus-themed products and “Florida kitsch,” a collection of humorous gifts unique to the Sunshine State.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art features exclusive merchandise derived from the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, including jewelry, textiles, stained glass panels, and vases, as well as a selection of decorative arts that extend beyond the Tiffany influence.

Orlando Museum of Art setts merchandise that reflects the content of permanent and traveling exhibitions, offering visitors unique and hard-to-find mementos such as books, jewelry, prints, and toys.

Q Gallery, CityArts Factory, features commercial and resident work by local, national, and international artists.

Grand Bohemian Gallery offers original paintings, jewelry, and sculptures by more than 30 nationally and internationally renowned artists.

Antiquing and Flea Markets
Shoppers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as the final product will enjoy the area’s antique shops and flea markets, including:

Orlando’s Antique Row, a variety of antique shops and gift shops located on Orange Avenue near downtown Orlando.

Lake Ivanhoe Village, providing antiques, clothing, and gift shops along Ivanhoe Boulevard, north of downtown Orlando.

First Street, downtown Sanford, located just 30 minutes north of downtown Orlando along I-4.

Flea World, America’s largest flea market, is located on 17-92 between Orlando and Sanford.

Mount Dora, which features Renninger’s Twin Markets, is open on weekends, and located 30 minutes west of Sanford on more than 110 acres of rolling hills.

Plenty for Golf Resources for Participants to Enjoy; Nearly 200 Courses, 23 Academies, Top Tours, and Instructors

A golf getaway can mean different things to different people: a group of hard-core golfers may focus on a competitive program; a couple on a romantic getaway may desire just a touch of golf on the side; a family may require more instruction and flexibility; and a group of friends may just want the opportunity to see their idols up close.

With 176 golf courses and golf resorts, 23 golf academies, some of the world’s most prestigious tournaments, top-rated professional players and course architects, and even many of the world’s top golf shops, Orlando can confidently meet the needs of any type of traveling golf group.

Tough Competitions
Orlando is as renowned on the golf circuit as it is for its world-class theme parks. The area hosts more professional tour competitions than any other city.

PGA Tour stars including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and many others compete every March in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The top professional players then return in October as the tour visits Walt Disney World for the Children’s Miracle Network Classic (formerly the FUNAI Classic and Walt Disney World Classic). The Del Webb Father-Son Challenge held each December at ChampionsGate is a popular stop for professionals like Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.

Orlando also has hosted many LPGA Tour events over the years, including the LPGA Tournament of Champions at Grand Cypress. One of the tour’s most popular current tournaments, the Ginn OPEN, is played at Orlando’s Ginn Reunion Resort in April.

Golfing in Their Own Backyard
With so many pro golf tournaments, it’s no surprise that Orlando is also home to more pro tour players than any city in the world.

Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Chris DiMarco, Zach Johnson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, and Mark O’Meara, among many others, hang their hats in the Orlando area.

The Business of Golf
Orlando is often called the “home of the golf industry” because it has attracted more than its share of golf businesses and organizations. They include The Golf Channel, Golfweek magazine, Meadowbrook, International Network of Golf, Golfpac Travel, Jamison Golf Group, and Rife Putters, to name a few.

The golf industry’s largest trade show, the PGA Merchandise Show, attracts 1,200 exhibitors and 50,000 attendees to Orlando every January.

Learning from the Best
Looking for high-profile instruction? Look no further than Orlando, which boasts 23 golf academies and places five resident teachers on Golf Digest’s Top 50 Instructors list and 10 on Golf Magazine’s Top 100. They include two top 10 teachers, David Leadbetter at ChampionsGate (No. 2) and Mike Bender at Timacuan Golf Club in Lake Mary (No. 10).

Other leading central Florida instructors are Brad Brewer at Shingle Creek, Todd Graves at Eagle Creek, Fred Griffin at Grand Cypress, Hawk’s Landing’s Bill Madonna, Brian Mogg at Keene’s Point, Patti McGowan of Knack4Golf, and Phil Ritson at Orange County National. Annika Sorenstam’s longtime coach, Henri Reis, is the featured instructor at the recently opened ANNIKA Academy at Ginn Reunion Resort.

Diverse Golf Course Options
With so many possibilities, golfers of all levels, interests, and budgets will find a fitting course in Orlando.

Many traveling golfers prefer the all-inclusive, self-contained golf resort experience. The Orlando area is home to Grand Cypress Resort, with 45 holes of outstanding Jack Nicklaus-designed golf and either villas or hotel rooms for accommodations; Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Resort, with a course designed by the golf legend himself; Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club, where Champions Tour player and NBC golf commentator Gary Koch designed the unique layout; and the neighboring ChampionsGate and Ginn Reunion Resort, both of which offer multiple golf courses and great hotels.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes, which opened in 2003, is nestled between a pristine nature reserve and a vast luxury resort complex that encompasses both the 1,000-room JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes and the 584-room The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, and features a course designed by Greg Norman.

The David Harman-designed Shingle Creek Golf Club at Rosen Shingle Creek, located just east of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, was among Golfweek’s “Top 40 New Courses for 2005.” The course serves as the centerpiece of a 230-acre resort.

Orange Lake Resort features vacation villas and 36 holes of great golf, including one Arnold Palmer design that recently underwent renovation. Mission Inn Resort is one of the region’s favorites, with two great courses in a tranquil setting.

Several golf-only facilities in Orlando have received high rankings and notable awards. The Ron Garl-designed Timacuan Golf Club was ranked 14th in the state by Florida Golf Reporter; its par-4 second hole was named Orlando’s second most difficult hole by Orlando Business Journal. Another Garl masterpiece, Eagle Creek Golf Club near Orlando International Airport, was named among Florida’s top 10 new courses of the decade by Travel & Leisure Magazine, and features the area’s only par-73 layout and a tremendous risk/reward par 5 finishing hole.

Casual Games
For visitors looking to enjoy Orlando’s famous theme parks along with a round or two of golf, Walt Disney World Resort awaits with four championship-caliber courses spaced over 775 acres of the 47-square-mile property. In addition to scenic course landscapes, Disney’s golf program offers a variety of instructional clinics, training opportunities and well-equipped pro shops, including leading-edge rental clubs.

Golf Trail
A new Orlando "Golf Trail" links nine premier golf facilities and six lodging properties along the I-4 corridor.

Challenging by Design
In addition to the Ron Garl courses, other legendary architects who have carved their signatures into Orlando’s golf landscape include Tom Fazio (Lake Nona, Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes, Osprey Ridge); Rees Jones (Falcon’s Fire); Steve Smyers (Grande Pines and Southern Dunes, a Golfweek Top 100 in America); Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Jr (Celebration); Arthur Hills (Stoneybrook West); Johnny Miller (Harmony Preserve); Joe Lee (Disney, among others); and Clifton/Ezelle Group (too numerous to mention).

Region’s Outdoor Activities Capture Visitors’ Spirit of Adventure

While world-class attractions have made Orlando famous, the region is also filled with unique adventures that make vacations unforgettable. Where else can adventurous travelers try their hand at hang gliding or skydiving with no prior training or feel the wind in their hair in an open-cockpit 1930s biplane?

From favorite pastimes to once-in-a-lifetime adventures, the perfect vacation activities await in Orlando.

Up, Up & Away
Hot air balloon rides. Visitors looking for an over-the-top experience should check out a hot air balloon ride—at sunrise, no less—with one of the area’s established vendors. After boarding, visitors are carried away by warm breezes and breathtaking views that only a hot air balloon ride can provide. Once back on land, many companies offer a champagne toast, celebration picnic, and commemorative photos with the pilot.

Helicopter rides. For a truly unique view of Orlando’s famed attractions, visitors can board an air-conditioned helicopter. Several companies provide narrated tours, offering insight into the area and fantastic opportunities for photos and videos.

Skydiving. Visitors seeking the ultimate thrill can do so with the help of area skydiving schools that have visitors airborne in just one day. Not quite ready to take the plunge? Consider a company like SkyVenture Orlando on International Drive, which offers an exhilarating indoor experience through a super-charged wind tunnel.

Hang gliding. Wallaby Ranch Hang Gliding Flight Park has visitors airborne within moments of their arrival on a tandem hang glider. Towed to a height of 2,000 feet by a specially designed ultra light tow plane, guests will enjoy the view of unspoiled landscape as they glide back down to solid ground.

Historical flight. Aircraft aficionados can step back in time on board a vintage biplane or fighter plane flight over central Florida. For example, Fantasy of Flight in nearby Polk City offers open-cockpit biplane rides in a 1930s New Standard D-25 or a 1940s Boeing PT-17 Stearman; Biplane Rides over Kissimmee also offers biplane rides in a 1940s PT-17 Stearman; and Warbird Adventures provides flights on the World War II T-6 Texan fighter plane.

Down to Earth
Horseback riding. Trail riding, pony rides, and horsemanship training are available for guests of all skill levels at various locations in the greater Orlando area.

Eco-tours. The Orlando area is home to abundant land-based wildlife from wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and wild hogs to the more elusive Florida panther, black bears, coyotes, and bobcats. An eco-tour is the perfect way to go off the beaten path. Forever Florida offers open-air eco-safaris of cattle ranches that are home to many native species, as well as horseback adventure safaris to accommodate riders of all skill levels. Fun 2 Dive Scuba and Manatee Snorkeling Tours host full-day manatee snorkeling experiences, which include a manatee awareness program and time in the water with these gentle creatures.

Trailing. Designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, Orlando offers a multitude of paved fitness trails for people who want to put more fun in their exercise program by biking, in-line skating, or walking. Many paths surround scenic lakes or are located in recreational parks. A number of shops offer equipment rentals.

The West Orange Trail provides 19 paved miles with restroom and picnic facilities. Those looking to discover a new way to see the sights in Orlando may enjoy using the Segway Personal Transporter, an easy-to-navigate upright motorized vehicle. Sweet Glides of Florida offers one-hour guided tours of the scenic Baldwin Park area, formerly the Orlando Naval Training Center.

Camping. Orlando’s sunny weather makes camping a popular activity for visitors. From public recreational parks such as Moss Park and Wekiwa Springs State Park to campgrounds like Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and Tropical Palms Resort and Campground, the area has endless options for enjoying the great outdoors.

Skateboarding. Energetic boarders can find safe haven at the numerous skate parks in central Florida. The indoor Vans Skatepark and many others in the area offer equipment rental and clinics.

Motorcycling. Visitors can rent a motorcycle for the day, week, or month at several Orlando outlets. Single and couples riders can join up with one of the area’s friendly group rides for hours of cool excitement.

Off-road riding. Revolution: The Off-Road Experience lets visitors take the wheel of an all-terrain vehicle, Hummer, Jeep, dune buggy, or high-speed rally car for a few hours of off-road fun.

Stock car racing/riding. NASCAR fans can live their dreams by driving or riding in an authentic stock car at Richard Petty’s Driving Experience at Walt Disney World Resort or at the Daytona 500 Experience.

Archery, skeet, and trap shooting. Visitors can shoot ’em up at target practice at Westgate River Ranch’s trap, skeet, and archery range or at the Archery Experience at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. Rental equipment is available.

Birding. Bird-watchers will want to check out the 19 central Florida stops on the Great Florida Birding Trail, a 2,000-mile trail with 445 sites throughout the state, designed to conserve and enhance the state’s bird habitats by promoting bird-watching and environmental education.

Ziplining. Florida Eco-Safaris at Forever Florida features the first and only Zipline experience in the state. The Zipline Safari takes guests on a treetop nature tour reaching heights of 55 feet and speeds up to 20 mph.

On the Waterfront
Fishing. Anglers will discover a sea of choices in the more than 2,000 named lakes, rivers, and springs in the greater Orlando area. Large-mouth bass, monster redfish, and spotted sea trout are just a few of the creatures waiting to take the bait.

The area hosts numerous professional fish camps and guide services.

Swimming, skiing, wakeboarding. Water enthusiasts have unlimited options when they want to swim or skim the water’s surface on skis, kneeboards, wakeboards, or other watercraft. Area facilities include Buena Vista Water Sports, Sammy Duvall’s Water Sports Centre at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Wake Zone at Wet ‘n Wild-Orlando. The Orlando Watersports Complex has two cableways for unlimited riding time and increased skill building for riders of all levels.

Slipping and sliding. The region’s famous water parks take guests to new levels of drenching fun as they splash, spin, turn, and twist through one-of-a-kind water rides. Aquatica–SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, and Wet ‘n Wild–Orlando in Orlando, as well as Splash Island at Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven and Adventure Island in Tampa, offer refreshing excitement for guests of all ages.

Boating. Explore Florida’s natural, unspoiled beauty via a number of boating experiences, including a dinner cruise on the Rivership Romance or on the Indian River Queen paddle wheeler on nearby Merritt Island; a leisurely outing on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour or Scenic/Eco & Nature Tours in Kissimmee; or on an airboat ride through nature on Boggy Creek Airboat Rides.

Surfing. Orlando’s central location makes it an ideal home base for surfers. Head east or west and expect to find some of the greatest waves in the southeastern U.S. The Atlantic Ocean offers awesome board time in Cocoa Beach and Sebastian Inlet, while Clearwater’s waters on the Gulf of Mexico are not to be missed. Also, The Flow Rider—an indoor sheet-wave attraction that allows board riders of all levels to surf the waves on a thin platform of rushing water—can be found at Adrenalina: The Extreme Store at The Florida Mall. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon provides surfing lessons at its water park.

Oceans of fun. Sandy beaches, rolling surf, and warm, subtropical breezes beckon sun worshippers to the nearby Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches. Many beaches provide lifeguards, shower and picnic facilities, and food and equipment concessions. Several allow parking directly on the beach for a nominal fee.

Cruising. Port Canaveral, 45 minutes east of Orlando, is the second busiest multi-day cruise port in the world. Each year, more than four million cruise passengers sail from this bustling port on some of the most spectacular vessels in the industry.

Games People Play
Golf. Eagles, birdies, and pars fill the scorecards at the 176 Orlando-area golf courses that were designed by such famed architects as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones, and Tom Watson. Nearby Daytona Beach is headquarters of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the longest-running women’s sports association in the world.

Tennis. Orlando serves up more than 800 tennis courts at area tennis centers, resorts, and hotels. Visitors can leave the racquet at home as most facilities rent and sell equipment and can arrange lessons or matches for players of all levels.

Collegiate and professional sports. The University of Central Florida and Rollins College offer a terrific lineup of sports competitions. For professional sports fans, Orlando is home to the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Pro sports teams playing in nearby Tampa are the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Recreational Attractions Enchant Millions

With seven of the world’s top 20 theme parks in one destination, not to mention almost 100 other fun-filled attractions and outdoor recreation offerings, it’s no wonder that more than 48 million visitors will choose to spend their free time in Orlando this year.

With so many exciting diversions to choose from, no matter where visitors stay in Orlando, they’ll find plenty of entertaining options right around the corner…

International Drive Area
Congo River Golf & Exploration Co. invites guests to explore the “Congo” at one of four central Florida locations: International Drive, Universal, Kissimmee, and Altamonte Springs. Its 36-hole original International Drive location features 25 live alligators.

FunSpot Action Park allows guests to “Drive the Ride” on its five multi-level go-kart tracks and 13 rides, including seven rides for preschoolers. Fun Spot has more than 100 games in a 10,000-square-foot arcade.

Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf features two locations in the Orlando area, one on International Drive and one in Lake Buena Vista. Choose from two challenging Hawaiian-themed courses featuring a waterfall and a $100,000 musical fountain.

Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf offers two challenging 18-hole courses at both its locations, International Drive and Apopka-Vineland. Visitors test their putting skills in a fun-filled setting of natural wonders, lavish landscaping, and delightful pirate themes that offer swashbuckling fun for the whole family.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium, housed in a building that appears to be sinking, looks like it fell victim to one of Florida’s infamous sinkholes. Explore artifacts, collections, weird art/hobbies, and interactive exhibits in 16 galleries of the odd and unusual from around the world.

SkyVenture Orlando, Orlando’s high-energy vertical wind tunnel, offers indoor skydiving in which visitors float on a column of air. No parachute, no jumping, and no experience are necessary. Reservations suggested.

Tiki Island Volcano Golf has two 18-hole courses and is surrounded by a four-story volcano with live flame effects, cascading waterfalls, and suspended bridges.

Van’s Skatepark is Orlando’s premier skateboard park with varied riding areas and obstacles designed for beginner to advanced skaters. Includes multiple ramps, bowls, street courses, and an arcade.

Wet ’n Wild-Orlando offers a variety of multi-passenger thrill rides with loads of special effects. The Storm washes riders down a towering chute, swirls them around at high speeds, and tumbles them into a splash landing while Disco H2O promises a groovy musical raft ride through the 1970s. The park is open year-round with heated pools in the cooler months.

WonderWorks, Orlando’s only upside-down attraction, features more than 100 hands-on interactive exhibits. Guests experience virtual reality and rock climbing as well as designing and riding their own roller coaster. The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show provides a high-energy comedy improvisation dinner show (separate ticket required).

Universal Orlando Resort
Blue Man Group, the wildly successful live entertainment experience, has a permanent home at Universal CityWalk. The group entertains audiences of all ages with a live stage show that combines music, comedy, and multimedia theatrics.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure invites guests to “live the adventure” with technologically advanced thrill rides and attractions including “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man,” “The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!”, the “Jurassic Park River Adventure,” and the “Incredible Hulk” and “Dueling Dragons” coasters.

Universal Studios Florida takes guests beyond the screen and into the world of television and film to “ride the movies.” Visitors ride along with Shrek and Donkey at “Shrek 4-D,” battle the supernatural at “Revenge of the Mummy–The Ride” and hang out at Krustyland with America’s favorite animated family at “The Simpsons Ride.” New this year is “Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit,” a high-tech, multi-sensory coaster.

Worlds of Discovery
Aquatica–SeaWorld’s Waterpark features dual wave pools, two children’s play areas, two lazy rivers, beaches and swimming areas, and plenty of water slides, including the Dolphin Plunge, which whisks guests through acrylic flumes amid a lagoon of jumping Commerson’s dolphins.

Discovery Cove is an exclusive island oasis where guests can swim with dolphins, snorkel with tropical fish and rays, and hand-feed exotic birds. It is an all-inclusive, reservations-only adventure that includes a full day of activities, swim/snorkel gear, breakfast and lunch, plus a seven-consecutive-day pass to either SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Africa, or Aquatica–SeaWorld’s Waterpark.

SeaWorld Orlando features 200 acres of sea-themed shows, attractions, and rides including the new Manta, a “flying coaster”; Kraken, Orlando’s longest, tallest, and fastest floorless roller coaster; and Shamu’s Happy Harbor, a children’s play area with pint-sized rides. The Shamu show, “Believe,” combines a “killer whale ballet” of grace and agility with an original music score. Shows and animal exhibits include polar bears, beluga whales, manatees, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, and more.

Downtown Orlando/Loch Haven Park
Orlando Brewing, located near downtown Orlando, is the only organic brewery and taproom in the southeast and one of only 10 in the United States. Free tours are available and live music is featured weekly.

Orlando Science Center offers an observatory, giant screen theater, and hundreds of hands-on exhibits on four floors, providing opportunities to explore, experiment, and discover. Coming soon, the science center will relocate, renovate, and expand existing preschool areas by creating a distinct children’s museum within the existing complex.

Southwest Orlando
Richard Petty Driving Experience takes motorsports fans out of the grandstands and puts them behind the wheel of a stock car. Ride-and-drive programs are available on the one-mile, tri-oval Walt Disney World Speedway and 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. New to the Speedway is the Indy Racing Experience, where thrill seekers have the opportunity to both drive and ride in actual cars that were used in past Indianapolis 500 events.

Wallaby Ranch Hang Gliding Flight Park, located just south of Orlando in Davenport, teaches guests to hang glide 2,000 feet from the ground using tandem aerotowing techniques. Participants need no previous experience.

Walt Disney World Resort
Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” in Downtown Disney West Side features a renowned blend of acrobatics and state-of-the-art special effects with more than 70 artists from around the world, performing in a custom-made theater seating 1,671 guests.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park offers exciting adventures and unique encounters with real, exotic animals, plus one-of-a-kind guest experiences with fictional animals and giant dinosaurs from the prehistoric world. Not-to-miss attractions include “Expedition Everest,” a high-speed train adventure; “Finding Nemo—The Musical,” a live 30-minute musical show; TriceraTop Spin; Primeval Whirl!; DINOSAUR; and Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park features one of the world’s tallest, fastest free-fall speed slides in a whimsical “winter” setting. It is the largest of Disney’s water parks, with 22 water slides and “icy” bobsled runs that stay comfortably warm and thrillingly fast.

Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf course is a 36-hole golf adventure featuring Fantasia Gardens, an 18-hole miniature golf course with a theme taken from Disney’s classic animated film Fantasia, and Fantasia Fairways, an 18-hole challenge course designed with strategically placed bunkers and hazards.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) is a theme park with a complete motion picture and television studio. Feature attractions include “Toy Story Mania!”; “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show”; “Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage!”; “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith”; “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”; and new this year, an American Idol attraction.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park offers guests twisting tides, roaring rapids, and relaxing rivers. Whether navigating the nine water slides—including a water coaster thrill ride, swimming with sharks and tropical fish, or conquering waves in the United States’ largest wave pool—this exotic paradise promises to be the wettest water adventure known to man…or fish.

Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf course is an interactive miniature golf experience with two 18-hole wacky, elf-sized golf courses. One course carries on the zany, snow-covered Florida theme found at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, while the other takes a more tropical, holiday theme, with ornaments hanging from palm trees.

DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park is a five-story, indoor, interactive theme park that combines Disney’s magic with cutting-edge technology. Guests climb aboard a real river raft on Virtual Jungle Cruise, ride a roller coaster of their own design on Cyber Space Mountain, or become part of a human pinball game in Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam. Some attractions require a separate charge.

Epcot takes guests to 11 nations at World Showcase and fast-forwards them to tomorrow in Future World. World Showcase offers a kaleidoscope of nations—The American Adventure, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, and the United Kingdom—brought together to celebrate cultural heritage. Don’t-miss rides include “Mission: SPACE”; “Soarin’,” which lifts guests 40 feet aloft inside a giant projection screen dome; and “The Seas with Nemo & Friends,” a whimsical and visually stunning attraction that has the stars of Finding Nemo swimming amid the live marine life of the huge aquarium in The Living Seas pavilion.

Magic Kingdom Park features seven magical lands with attractions, restaurants, and shops based on favorite Disney themes of fantasy, yesterday, and tomorrow. Popular attractions include “Mickey’s PhilharMagic,” “Splash Mountain,” “Big Thunder Mountain,” “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin,” “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” “Space Mountain,” and “The Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor,” an interactive adventure inspired by Disney-Pixar’s Monsters Inc.

South Orlando and Kissimmee
Biplane Rides Over Kissimmee offers guests the chance to ride in—and even fly— an open cockpit 1943 Boeing Stearman, an authentic World War II trainer, over Disney and other attractions.

Gatorland, one of central Florida’s first attractions, is home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles as well as a petting zoo, bird sanctuary, mini water park, eco-tour, and action-packed outdoor entertainment, including daily alligator wrestlin’ shows.

Old Town Shopping, Dining & Entertainment Attraction features 75 unique specialty shops, eight restaurants, 21 amusement rides, and Sky Coaster. This free-admission, free-parking attraction offers the look and feel of a Florida town at the beginning of the 20th century. Car shows every Friday and Saturday feature hundreds of classic cars.

Warbird Adventures Inc. gives guests the chance to fly like the aces of yesterday in the premier fighter-trainer of WWII: the North American T-6 TEXAN.

Northeast Central Florida
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens showcases hundreds of rare or endangered animals, including cheetahs, elephants, kangaroos, baboons, leopards, and some of the most powerful snakes in the world.

East Central Florida
Brevard Zoo, located in Melbourne, features more than 550 animals representing 165 species from North and South America, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Unique experiences including hand-feeding gentle giraffes and kayaking through wetlands.

Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 NASCAR races, offers exciting racing; guided Speedway tours; Daytona 500 Experience (formerly Daytona USA), The Ultimate Motorsports Attraction; and the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers tours of behind-the-scenes areas with views of Space Shuttle facilities and launch pads. Visitors can feel what it’s like to blast into space in the Shuttle Launch Experience, meet a real astronaut every day, and see “Space Station 3D” in the world's largest twin IMAX® theater. The Astronaut Hall of Fame features the world’s largest collection of astronaut memorabilia, displays, exhibits, hands-on activities, and simulators.

Silver Springs, the park famous for its Glass Bottom Boat ride and Fort King River Cruise, encompasses the largest artesian limestone spring in the world. Other highlights include bear, panther, and crocodile exhibits; a children’s petting zoo; animal shows; a historical museum; and headline concerts.

Zero-G Corporation provides a full-day experience featuring a weightless flight to which only astronauts have had access prior to now. Flights depart from the Kennedy Space Center.

West/Southwest Central Florida
Adventure Island is a 30-acre water park featuring slides and tube rides, the Splash Attack play area, a 20-foot platform for cliff jumping, lagoons, waterfalls, and more.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is an exciting family adventure park offering an array of fascinating attractions based on exotic encounters within the African continent. Busch Gardens offers a unique blend of thrilling rides, one of the country’s premier zoos featuring more than 2,700 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops, and games. One of its many coasters, “SheiKra,” is the tallest dive coaster in the world.

CitrusTower, located in Clermont, provides a panoramic view of rolling hills, spring-fed lakes, and citrus trees from three Tower Observation Decks. The Tower offers in-season fresh citrus fruit for sale, either to take along or for gift shipments. A restaurant and gift shop are also on the grounds.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park reopened in March 2009 with its famed water-ski shows, historic gardens, beautiful belles, a Splash Island water park, and a quaint shopping and dining village.

Fantasy of Flight in Polk City invites guests to explore the romance and nostalgia of flight in self-guided “immersion” experiences that chronicle the history of aviation. Guests can enjoy the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft, flight simulators, backlot tours, hot air balloon flights, and open cockpit biplane rides.

City Offers Dining Options from Around the Globe

In the coming year, more than 48 million visitors from over 20 countries, including the U.S., will arrive in Orlando. Nearly every one of them will find a restaurant where they can enjoy familiar flavors from home.

Credit this extraordinary influx of international visitors for the significant impact on Orlando dining.

In order to cater to a global range of tastes, Orlando has become an epicurean United Nations, the epicenter of eclectic dining. From this international tapestry comes an unusually appetizing selection of restaurants—ranging from cozy eateries that serve ethnic dishes to five-diamond restaurants providing world-class meals.

As well as globally inspired eateries, the Orlando area has no shortage of restaurants serving more traditional American fare and regional favorites from Southern-style home cookin’ to mouthwatering steaks.

Flagship dining concepts such as themed and celebrity-owned restaurants, as well as trendy tapas restaurants and wine bars, all find success among sophisticated locals and visitors.

Here’s just a taste of what’s cooking right now in Orlando. * indicates a 2009 AAA Four Diamond Award Winner; ** indicates a 2009 AAA Five Diamond Award Winner.

African
• Boma: A Taste of Africa,
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Moderate in price but grand in options, this buffet-style restaurant features such African-influenced foods as Pistachio-Crusted Mahi Mahi and Tamarind Beef Barbecue.
• Jiko, The Cooking Place, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: This sit-down restaurant fuses African flavors such as dried apricots, cardamom, and lemongrass with traditional American items. The restaurant is also known for its comprehensive wine list, featuring South African wines.

Asian/Pacific Rim
• Ming Court, International Drive: Ming Court embodies the art of authentic Asian dining in a spectacular setting based on the centuries-old architecture of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Menus feature authentic dim sum, sushi, and an extensive selection of wok, grill, and fresh seafood items.
• Thai Thani Restaurant, International Drive: Named one of the best Thai restaurants in the United States by the Thai government for its authentic and extensive menu, this family-style restaurant even offers classical Thai dancing on weekends.

Caribbean
• Bahama Breeze, three area locations: With locations at Lake Buena Vista, International Drive, and Altamonte, Bahama Breeze serves up chicken, steak, and seafood dishes inspired by the colorful ingredients of the islands. Signature tropical drinks and steel drum performances add to the tropical ambiance.
• Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Universal CityWalk: A mecca for “Parrotheads,” Jimmy Buffett’s offers a cross between Key West and Caribbean cuisine and, of course, those famous cheeseburgers, all served in a tropical setting.

Contemporary
• California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort: Some visit for the panoramic view of Cinderella’s Castle and the Magic Kingdom fireworks display, others for the California wine list and diverse menu featuring sushi, brick-oven baked flatbreads, and handmade pastas.
• Hue, Thornton Park: A favorite outdoor dining and celebrity-spotting retreat, with specialties including Tuna Tartare Napoleon, Sea Bass, and Tamari-Roasted Duck Breast with Sesame Hoisin Sauce.
• *Manuel’s on the 28th, downtown Orlando: With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, Manuel’s offers breathtaking views of downtown Orlando, complemented by contemporary world cuisine that changes seasonally. Nightly creations often include exotic game and seafood.

French
• Chez Vincent, Winter Park: Named for its chef, Vincent Gagliano—the top graduating apprentice from the prestigious culinary school in Clermont Ferrand, France—this popular Hannibal Square spot offers award-winning food and formal service in an elegant environment.
• La Coquina, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress: A favorite with visitors and locals alike, La Coquina serves an indulgent brunch. For dinner, the restaurant transforms into a 40-seat “Chef’s Kitchen” serving a prix fixe five-course meal.
• Le Coq au Vin, downtown Orlando: Celebrating its 25th anniversary and 10 years at the top of the Orlando “Foodie Awards” list, this classic French restaurant offers traditional favorites such as Steak Tartare, Foie Gras and, of course, Coq au Vin.

German
• Gain’s German Restaurant, S. Orange Blossom Trail: Named the best German restaurant in Orlando, Gain’s offers favorite German beers on tap as well as hearty cuisine.
• Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, Sanford: This family-owned restaurant serves authentic German cuisine and more than 50 different varieties of German beers and wines.

Greek
• Greek Flame Taverna, Winter Park: Specializing in traditional Greek favorites such as Kotopoulo (roasted garlic chicken), Lamb Shank, and Chocolate Kok (cream-filled cake), the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining.
• Taverna Opa, Pointe Orlando: This lively eatery in the midst of the attractions area features a meze, or appetizer, menu and a full dinner menu along with Greek wines, martinis, and desserts.

Indian
• Aashirwad Indian Cuisine, International Drive: Named Orlando’s best Indian restaurant by Orlando Magazine, it offers exquisite North Indian/Mughlai dishes and a wide array of vegetarian choices.
• New Punjab Indian Restaurant, International Drive: One of the Orlando Sentinel’s Four-Star Food Award winners, New Punjab offers a broad menu of chicken, beef, lamb, vegetarian, Biryani, Tandoori, Masala, seafood dishes, and more.

British
• Cricketer’s Arms, Festival Bay Mall at International Drive: Offering “a little piece of England in the heart of Orlando,” this longtime favorite pub in its new location at Festival Bay Mall offers televised European sporting events, live entertainment, and authentic English food.

Italian
• *Cala Bella, Rosen Shingle Creek: Named “beautiful creek” for the creek that runs through the hotel property, Cala Bella features Tuscan-inspired Italian specialties with Mediterranean and American influences, such as seafood, steaks, pastas, and salads, as well as an impressive “wine wall.”
• *Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, Sand Lake Road: Just off Orlando’s “Restaurant Row,” Christini offers a special-occasion atmosphere complete with live strolling musicians.
• *The Venetian Room, Caribe Royale Orlando Hotel: The Venetian Room envelops diners in intimate alcoves as they feast on signature dishes like the 24 Karat Bouillabaisse, Lamb Rack, and the Venetian Room Chocolate Sampler for dessert.

Korean
• Shin Jung, downtown Orlando: From the grills in the center of the tables to the 10 types of kimchi set out as appetizers, this is an authentic Korean eatery all the way.

Latin
• Bongos Cuban Café, Downtown Disney: Enjoy South Beach-style surroundings and Cuban specialties in this stylish restaurant created by music superstar Gloria Estefan and her husband/producer Emilio.
• Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant, downtown Orlando: With more than 100 hot and cold tapas, paellas, and cazuelas, as well as a comprehensive list of Spanish wines and award-winning sangria, the popular restaurant and nightspot also features live Spanish guitar and flamenco dancers.

Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
• Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, Winter Park: Turkish specialties from frothy tarma (whipped caviar) to Pideler, savory stuffed pastries, and a memorable Lamb Ravioli in Garlic-Yogurt Sauce.
• Spoodles, Disney’s Boardwalk Resort: Offering the “cuisine of the sun,” this Disney restaurant features foods from Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco with an emphasis on spices, cheeses, and other fresh ingredients.

Vietnamese
• Anh Hong Restaurant, downtown Orlando: In the heart of Orlando’s Asian district, known locally as the “ViMi” District, this restaurant is a local favorite known for its outstanding bun dishes and pho. It provides an excellent introduction into the cuisine for first-time Vietnamese diners.

American Fare and Other Concepts
As well as restaurants serving up international cuisines, several other styles of cooking pervade the Orlando marketplace, providing familiar flavors for domestic visitors and a taste of America to those from abroad.

Celebrity Chef Restaurants
• Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando: Chef Emeril Lagasse serves up Asian/Polynesian-style lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch with his characteristic “Bam!” (See also Emeril’s, listed under Southern/Creole.)
• *Norman’s, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes: Chef Norman Van Aken serves his New World cuisine, fusing Latin, Caribbean and Asian recipes with European techniques.
• * Primo by Melissa Kelly, JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes: Featuring Southern Italian cuisine with Mediterranean accents, Primo changes its menu daily to incorporate fresh ingredients, many grown on the premises in Chef Melissa Kelly’s garden.
• Roy’s, Sand Lake Road: Known for creating Hawaiian fusion cuisine, Chef Roy Yamaguchi, Hawaii’s first James Beard winner, specializes in seafood infused with exotic spices and flavors.
• *Todd English’s bluezoo, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel: Combining fresh seafood with coastal cuisines from all over the world, bluezoo has been named one of Orlando’s top three restaurants by Orlando Magazine.

American Cuisine
• *The Boheme, Grand Bohemian Hotel: An upscale dining experience at Orlando’s arts hotel, The Boheme features award-winning American cuisine in an atmosphere filled with art and music.
• Dux, Peabody Orlando: One of Orlando’s finest special occasion restaurants, with a menu that changes weekly to incorporate fresh seasonal ingredients.
• ** Victoria & Albert’s, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: This AAA Five Diamond, Mobil Four-Star and Zagat Triple Crown restaurant features elegant, intimate dining in a romantic Victorian setting.

American Steakhouses
• *A Land Remembered, Rosen Shingle Creek: Named for the beloved Patrick Smith novel depicting life in the early settlements of Florida, this classic steakhouse specializes in Harris Ranch All Natural Prime Black Angus beef.

Casual American/Burgers/BBQ
• B-Line Diner, Peabody Orlando: Take a seat at the counter and watch the cooks in action at one of the area’s few remaining diner-style restaurants, which features favorites from years gone by and creations for today’s trends, including a late night menu.
• Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbeque, five Orlando locations: Named one of America’s top barbeque restaurants by Zagat’s Restaurant Survey and publications like Southern Living and USA Today, Bubbalou’s specializes in baby back ribs and sliced and pulled pork.

Seafood
• Sharks Underwater Grill, SeaWorld Orlando: Dine eye-to-eye with more than 50 sharks at SeaWorld’s upscale “Floribbean”-style restaurant, where entrees are prepared on oak-fired grills and in wood-burning ovens. Sharks also features a young adults menu with smaller portions for kids ages 10-15.
• Ocean Prime at the Rialto: One of the newest additions to “Restaurant Row,” this restaurant brings back the classic supper club dining tradition. Developed by restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, Ocean Prime features a large seafood menu, but also serves many other signature dishes from fresh fish and steak to hand-crafted cocktails and world-class wines.

Southern/Creole/Soul Food
• B.B. King’s Blues Club, Pointe Orlando: Good Southern eats and good Southern blues are always in order at this restaurant and nightclub named for rock ‘n’ rock and blues legend B.B. King, who at 82 still visits and plays to the delight of patrons. Standard fare includes Catfish Bites, the Jumbo Stuffed “Porktato,” an assortment of barbeque dishes, and ribs.
• Crooked Bayou, downtown Orlando: The lively barroom setting makes for an even more authentic New Orleans feel as patrons dine on seafood gumbo, overstuffed po-boys, and other spicy Creole fare.
• Emeril’s Orlando, Universal CityWalk: The TV chef’s legendary energy translates into his cuisine, unleashing bold flavors and unique blends in favorite New Orleans and Creole dishes such as Fried Green Tomatoes with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat.
• House of Blues, Downtown Disney West Side: The food is as edgy as the live entertainment, with dishes like Pan-Seared Voodoo Shrimp and other Southern staples like shrimp po-boys and jambalaya.

Tapas
• Café Tu Tu Tango, International Drive: Orlando’s original tapas-style eatery, Tu Tu Tango envelopes diners in a cozy Spanish artist’s loft and offers a variety of internationally flavored appetizers “for the left side of your brain.”

Wine Bars and Lounges
• Bösendorfer Lounge, downtown Orlando: Located within downtown’s The Grand Bohemian Hotel, this upscale environment—adjacent to an art gallery—features an Imperial Grand Bösendorfer piano.
• Dessert Lady, downtown Orlando: Serving an assortment of artisanal cheeses, “wonderfully wicked” cakes and cheesecakes, as well as an extensive list of wines, ports, and creative coffee creations.
• Eola Wine Company, downtown Orlando: A popular downtown wine bar, Eola Wine Company features more than 70 wines by the glass and 30 microbrew and boutique beers as well as tapas, appetizers, and desserts.

Natural and Healthy
• Ethos Vegan Kitchen, Downtown Orlando: The restaurant’s daily menu is 100 percent vegan and features hearty, home-style traditional and intercontinental fare and a vegan bakery.

World-Class Art: Now Appearing in Hotel Lobbies

When you think of hotel artwork, your first thoughts may be of pastel beach scenes or still-life paintings of flowers and fruit. But at many of Orlando’s highly acclaimed hotels, the works of world-renowned artists adorn the public areas such as lobbies, restaurants, and spas. From Oriental vases to carved stone sculptures, 19th century oil paintings to artistic water features, trompe l’oeil murals to celebrity caricatures, Orlando hotels have a passion for immersing their guests in fine art.

At the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, stately lioness figures that once guarded thresholds of Chinese temples now greet guests as they enter the hotel. These decorative but historic works are just a few in the hotel’s amazing collection of more than 1,000 pieces of Oriental and Contemporary American artwork valued at an estimated $1 million. The hotel also has an impressive collection of contemporary American art.

While the Peabody chain of hotels may be most famous for its company of ducks, they aren’t the only thing to see. Art on display at the Peabody Orlando includes paintings from the mid-19th century, contemporary American works, and antique artifacts from around the world.

The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate follows a theme of “casual elegance,” displaying artworks by Zoe
Hersey, Betsy Eby, Robert Phillips, Jeremy Cline, and Mark Burleson in media ranging from canvas and tile to iron and glass.

Inspired by the quaint Ligurian fishing village that became a favorite getaway for Europe’s rich and famous, Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, A Loews Hotel, creates its unique ambiance with trompe l’oeil exteriors, a style used hundreds of years ago in Italian fishing villages. An elaborate dome, marble floors, and murals add to the spirit of the Mediterranean.

Jack’s Place, a fine dining restaurant in the Rosen Plaza Hotel, features an extensive collection of autographed caricatures of stars and dignitaries. The restaurant is named after Jack Rosen, father of hotel owner Harris Rosen, who graduated with a degree in art but went into the hotel business and worked at New York City’s famed Waldorf-Astoria for 30 years. While at the Waldorf, Jack perfected his craft by sketching the caricatures of the celebrity guests who agreed to sign these historic pieces of art.

At Walt Disney World, world-renowned architect Michael Graves designed the Swan and Dolphin hotels as works of art in themselves. Graves’ vision was to immerse guests in an underwater fantasy experience, including a cascading nine-story fountain that flows through five seashell-shaped troughs into a 54-foot clamshell.

An Overdue Breakout from ‘Silos,’ Borders

BY NEAL PEIRCE

WASHINGTON—For at least a half century, “silos” and borders have been tripping up effective governance in America.

The silos loom highest at the federal level, where huge departments from Transportation to Commerce to Labor rarely speak and almost never work together.

Borders proliferate closer to home, dividing our metro areas into hundreds of economically linked but separately governed cities and suburbs.

And borders, as state lines, plunge straight through such mega citistate regions as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis.

But the Obama era is bringing glimmers of hope for change.

This spring, the president’s transportation and housing secretaries—Ray LaHood and Shaun Donovan—made a public pledge to collaborate in joint field work of their departments. On June 16, the new Environmental Protection Agency chief, Lisa Jackson, joined in under the banner of advancing more “livable,” sustainable American communities. In the near future, it’s likely that Energy Secretary Steven Chu will also align his department with the alliance.

The principles the group has enumerated are amazingly broad.

Transportation choices are to go far beyond roadways, with a likely focus on transit to reduce foreign oil dependence, improve air quality and cut back greenhouse gas emissions. Government-assisted housing will be located near workplaces and/or transit stops to increase economic competitiveness and let hard-pressed families reduce high combined shelter and commuting costs. In lieu of sprawl subsidies, government assistance will be targeted toward support of existing neighborhoods and communities.

“These principles mean that we will all be working off the same playbook to formulate and implement policies and programs,” Donovan said. “For the first time, the federal government will speak with one voice on housing, environmental, and transportation policy.”

The most amazing statements come from LaHood, the former Republican congressman that Obama recruited to head the Department of Transportation.

For 50 years, LaHood confesses, federal transportation outlays have heavily favored scattered road development that requires autos for most trips, even very short ones, undercutting transit and mixed-use communities. Another result, he notes: auto congestion—an $80 billion annual drain on the American economy also imperiling the quality of life in many communities.

LaHood is enthusiastically backing the idea of “livable communities,” including “complete streets” that encourage mobility for all users—“whether they are children walking or biking to school or commuters riding transit or driving motor vehicles.”

What explains this tectonic shift in federal approaches? The obvious answer: Obama’s personal belief in community-sensitive design and planning, born of his Chicago experience.

But it’s now turning out that Obama not only appointed progressive department heads with new missions, he also is staffing those agencies with appointees who started to implement the new gospel in their previous state and local government jobs. Lead examples are HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims (former King County, WA, executive and early climate change evangelist), DOT Undersecretary for Policy Roy Kienitz (former Maryland planning director and later chief aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell) and the EPA’s John Frece (a smart growth leader in the Maryland administration of then-Gov. Parris Glendening).

Their big collective challenge—to turn around large, entrenched, separate bureaucracies, making sure the collaboration celebrated in Washington gets reflected in actual field operations.

But even if silos are made less formidable, what of the thousands of borders that divide communities in our metro regions? Won’t smart growth, “livability” agendas run a cropper if new transportation, housing, environmental initiatives are splintered into thousands of small government pieces?

The new White House Office of Urban Affairs has yet to follow up on the metrowide focus for federal initiatives that the Brookings Institution and others have advocated and Obama explicitly endorsed in his presidential campaign.

But the administration is known to be mulling one lead idea: challenging governments and civic leaders across regions to come up with their own ideas for joined-up transportation, energy, housing, and environmental projects. Federal departments could then negotiate the details and help fund proposals with the most impact for sustainability and livable communities.

Metro regions, says Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, new president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, are such critical linchpins of the national economy that they need direct relationships with the federal government to bolster their livability and global competitiveness.

Nickels and Tom Cochran, the Mayors Conference’s veteran executive director, favor going outside center city boundaries to create political alliances with executives of the large suburban counties. It’s time, says Cochran, “to form a political operation to demand” more effective federal response to the needs of entire metropolitan areas.

There’ll be plenty of political and bureaucratic obstacles to combined city-suburb approaches.

But a new politics, based on the metro economic reality and the country’s huge new energy, climate, transportation and housing needs, is clearly coming into focus. Silos and borders—they won’t go away soon.

But they may be in for a long-overdue challenge.

Neal Peirce’s e-mail address is nrp@citistates.com
Copyright 2009 The Washington Post Writers Group