Although people commonly divide Florida into North, Central, and South regions, the most surprising thing might be that the exact borders of Central Florida are up for debate. Most people agree that the I-4 Corridor between Tampa and Orlando is one of the key landmarks in that area of the state. It also includes key cities such as St. Petersburg, Daytona Beach, Kissimmee, and Clearwater.
We have put together a list of 15 other surprising facts that you may not know about Central Florida.
- Central Florida is home to more than 1,500 bodies of water including lakes ponds and rivers. Major rivers include the Ocklawaha River, the Halifax River, and the St. Johns River. Lake Kissimmee, Lake Apopka, Lake Tohopekaliga, and Lake Virginia are some of the largest bodies of water in the region.
- Central Florida is located in the Florida Panhandle, which separates the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Warm air from the Gulf mixes with cold air from the Atlantic to create more thunderstorms in central Florida than any other area of the state. Residents refer to this area as “lightning alley” or the “thunderstorm capital of the USA”. This phenomenon is also the inspiration and namesake for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
- Prior to the 1880s, the land in Central Florida was primarily composed of marshes and wetlands. Hamilton Disston, a real estate developer, and industrialist purchased 4 million acres of land in Central Florida in 1881. He led a drainage project that transformed the swamps and wetlands into land suitable for agriculture, railroads, and other industries.
- Tourism and agriculture are two of Central Florida’s most important industries. Owen Goodwin founded Gatorland, one of the first theme parks in Central Florida, in 1949. Its main attraction was a 15-foot alligator, which he described as the largest one in the world at the time. Gatorland still exists today as a privately owned 110-acre wildlife preserve and amusement park
- Over 60 million people visit Central Florida each year. Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios are well-known attractions for travelers to the sunshine state.
- Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, which is part of Universal Studios, includes replicas of Diagon Alley and the Three Broomsticks Inn from the novels. The replica of Hogsmeade village, including the inn, supposedly cost more than $500 million to build.
- Central Florida has the seventh-largest technology park in the United States. 126 companies have offices there including the National Center for Forensic Science and the National Center for Simulation. Private companies including AT&T, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cisco Systems, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Siemens all have offices in Central Florida.
- Central Florida is also home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. This complex has been NASA’s main point for human space travel since the 1960s. Today, companies like SpaceX routinely launch commercial missions to space from Cape Canaveral,
- Babe Ruth reportedly hit a 587-foot home run, the longest one of his career, while playing an exhibition game in Tampa.
- St. Petersburg, near Tampa Bay, is home to the Salvador Dali Museum. The museum is famous for a freestanding staircase. Two entire rugby teams once stood on the staircase to prove its durability and stability.
- Tampa was once the death metal capital of the world. Morrisound Recording, a studio that opened in central Florida in 1981, is widely regarded as the driving force behind this category of heavy metal. Morbid Angel, one of the founding bands of this type of music, got its start in central Florida during the mid-1980s.
- Although Florida is one of the sunniest and warmest states, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Tampa is only 99° F.
- John Gorrie, a native Central Floridian, invented a mechanical cooling system that was a predecessor to air conditioning.
- Flatbread, ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, better known as the “Cuban” sandwich was actually first created in Central Florida.
- Dr. Philip Phillips, who owned 5,000 acres of citrus trees in Central Florida, created the first canning process for orange juice. He later sold that technology and know-how to Minute Maid for $50 million.
As you can see, Central Florida is one of the most diverse and fastest-growing regions of Florida. From Disney World to professional sports, museums, and spaceflight, this area has a lot to offer. What were the most surprising facts from our list? Are there any other interesting facts that you would add to the list?