Life in Miami and Orlando isn’t all about vacation. While this may come as a surprise to many of Florida’s non-natives, each city offers a unique lifestyle beyond theme parks and spring break parties.
While some year-round residents have grown accustomed to dodging overcrowded parts of town and adjusting work schedules to bypass traffic, life here doesn’t always revolve around the tourists.
Locals share what it’s like to live, work and raise a family near some of the state’s most famous vacation spots.
Is it hard to maintain a work-life balance in a city full of tourist attractions?
“I wouldn’t say finding a work-life balance is hard. There are so many things to do here, but with traffic you are still very limited on what you can do within time constraints. If you have your own business, setting your hours to avoid heavy traffic times will greatly increase your balance.” –Kat Khatibi of Persian Kitty Kat (Miami)
“It is the same as everywhere else, but it has nothing to do with tourist attractions. There is a very specific area where tourists go, and it’s not where the people who live in Orlando usually go.” –Stephanie Henley of Beasley & Henley (Orlando)
As a local, do you ever “play tourist?”
“I love this question because there is a big misconception that all of Orlando is filled with tourists, which is not true. I ‘play tourist’ when I head over to the International Drive area, and even a bit further to Disney and Universal. There are so many attractions on this side of town, including shopping, restaurants, theme parks and museums. It’s the perfect ‘staycation area’ for locals.” –Amanda Morehouse of Capturing Life’s Gifts (Orlando)
“All the time! Every few months, my wife and I drive up to Boca Raton for a short getaway. We also take days off here and there to sit poolside at hotels in Surfside and Miami Beach – they are close to home but allow us to get a quick-fix rejuvenation. We take advantage of local tourist attractions like Hollywood Boardwalk, Jungle Island, Miami Seaquarium and Lion Country Safari on weekend trips with the kids.” –Phillip Sosnow of Bilzin Sumberg (Miami)
What are some of your favorite local hot spots that don’t cater to the tourist population?
“Anywhere in Kendall, Pinecrest or Homestead. Kendall and Pinecrest are suburban areas of Miami with more families, but there are plenty of shopping centers with hidden gem restaurants. Homestead is a mix of suburban and farmland, and it’s one of the only places in Miami you can have some space without people. It’s getting more and more crowded by the day, but you can still find unique seasonal destinations like Three Sisters Farm and Knaus Berry Farm.” -Kat Khatibi of Persian Kitty Kat (Miami)
“Most places I go don’t have tourists! The cities of Orlando and Winter Park are not where the tourists go – they are in Kissimmee or Lake Buena Vista. Most of them say they have been to Orlando, but really they haven’t. What they think is Orlando, isn’t. Nightlife and restaurants in downtown Orlando or Winter Park are terrific, and there are rarely tourists there.” -Stephanie Henley of Beasley & Henley (Orlando)
Are there any spots you avoid because they cater to the tourist population?
“It would have to be the International Drive area, because it’s very busy and expensive. Although, there are so many amazing attractions that we reserve this side of town for special occasions such as date nights.” -Amanda Morehouse of Capturing Life’s Gifts (Orlando)
“Yes! Disney, Universal, etc. The traffic [keeps me away], and I don’t want to spend all day at Disney.” -Stephanie Henley of Beasley & Henley (Orlando)
“We generally stay away from South Beach on weekends. When the locals want to visit the beach, that’s not the beach they use. It’s busy, and the restaurants are not the greatest. Almost any restaurant on Ocean Drive isn’t going to be worth the price. The quality just won’t be there – you’re paying for the location and people watching.” -Kat Khatibi of Persian Kitty Kat (Miami)
Is your city a great place to raise a family?
“Yes! I love how much Orlando offers families. I personally love the Winter Park, College Park and Colonialtown areas. I believe Orlando is a city that gets families involved in exploring different adventures within the City Beautiful.” -Amanda Morehouse of Capturing Life’s Gifts (Orlando)
“Definitely. Miami is more of a laid-back town (as opposed to NYC, where I used to live), and people are generally nicer to one another because of it – that rubs off on children. The weather is a plus, as my kids get sick less and are able to play outdoors most of the year. Professionals in Miami are also more mindful of family life – there is generally less pressure to work very late hours and on weekends, unless absolutely necessary. I am usually able to leave work to attend my kids’ extracurricular activities and help with homework, dinner and bedtime.” -Phillip Sosnow of Bilzin Sumberg (Miami)
Since you live in a major vacation destination, where do you take vacation?
“Europe, the beaches in Florida or the mountains. Vacations are to get away and do something different.” -Stephanie Henley of Beasley & Henley (Orlando)
“I personally look for the mountains, hillsides and historic architecture that Miami lacks. I love Las Vegas for the shows, food and mountain views, and for being so close to national parks. I also love to visit the countryside of Italy, where you get peace, old historic villages and scenery so beautiful it puts Miami to shame. I’ve even vacationed in Hawaii, which I found to have better weather than Miami, and much more natural beauty.” -Kat Khatibi of Persian Kitty Kat (Miami)
“We go back up to the Midwest (Wisconsin) to visit family.” -Amanda Morehouse of Capturing Life’s Gifts (Orlando)
Are pro sports games a popular pastime for locals, tourists or both? Do you follow any teams?
“They are for the locals, I don’t know about the tourists. The Orlando City Soccer team is super hot right now!” -Stephanie Henley of Beasley & Henley (Orlando)
“Both. All of the local teams have a strong following with the locals, and tend to attract tourists as the venues are extremely entertaining, even for non-sports fans. I personally follow all of the local pro teams and often go to games with my wife and/or kids.” -Phillip Sosnow of Bilzin Sumberg (Miami)
How does heavy tourism impact parking and traffic in your city? Is owning a car necessary as a local?
“The tourism and massive overcrowding drastically affect traffic. The more high-rises built with no parking lots, the worse it gets. Unfortunately, having your own car is mandatory in Miami. If I were considering moving here, I would first make sure my job and home are within walking distance. Having done this in the past, getting the commute out of the equation makes a huge difference in happiness here.” -Kat Khatibi of Persian Kitty Kat (Miami)
“It always depends what area of town you are trying to find parking. I believe it’s necessary as a local to own a car. Public transportation takes a while to reach your destination, and many areas are spread out, making them difficult to walk/bike to. Also, we have the very hot summer months to consider, which make it extremely miserable to walk around during the day.” -Amanda Morehouse of Capturing Life’s Gifts (Orlando)
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