46 Orlando

PopulationMetro: 2,205,000
Yes, there are theme parks. But Orlando is also a thriving food destination with plenty to enjoy without kids in tow.

Being the largest city in a region that generates more than $60 billion in tourism-related revenue every year gets you plenty of lift from a rising tide. That’s a lot of visitors with a story to tell if you give them the means. Orlando knows how to get people talking.

Its #29 ranking in our Promotion category drove its strong ranking among U.S. large cities, including the seventh-most TripAdvisor reviews for any city on earth. Long adept at coaxing testimonials out of visitors, Visit Orlando went all in a few years back with their social media-based Orlando Stories initiative, in which participants can win prizes for sharing their Orlando experiences via social media. The result? Incentivized place champions and a flood of long-tail authentic content. Walt couldn’t have spun the story better himself.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 38
Product
Product 40
Programming
Programming 11
People
People 53
Prosperity
Prosperity 36
Promotion
Promotion 22

But great stories require stuff to talk about and Orlando plans buzzy product releases with military precision.

It’s why the city ranks Top 25 in our Product category, including a Top 10 convention center (#8) and Top 25 for Airport Connectivity (#23).

All that infrastructure rarely sits empty. In 2017, riding the sustained Star Wars demand, Disney’s Hollywood Studios launched the Star Wars Guided Tour, complete with themed fireworks, of course.

But Disney being Disney, the real money is made when you get out ahead of opportunity. It’s why “Pandora — The World of Avatar” opened recently at Animal Kingdom (the theme park’s biggest expansion yet) well before James Cameron’s blockbuster sequels to stoke demand and really rake it in after theatrical releases.

Epcot Theme Park Patrick Hunt

Lego seems to be moving in on Big Mouse in the city, with both Lego Ninjago World and the independent Legoland Beach Retreat recently opened, with in-park bungalows for visitors who haven’t given their children enough.

The city is also expanding its attentions beyond family fun. The new Orlando City Stadium houses the city’s MLS men’s and women’s teams, with seats for 25,500 fans.

Orlando’s Culinary ranking is also an impressive #25 globally. As the world’s chefs focus on the opportunity in a place with so many diners on vacation, they’ll open outposts here. Until then, homegrown gems like the new Kadence (a tiny omakase and sake bar) and local expansions like The Polite Pig (from the creators of The Ravenous Pig—the James Beard-nominated husband-and-wife culinary team that wood-fired, smoked and grills to perfection) will be happy to feed the demand and build Orlando’s suddenly hot food scene.