Discover Florida: Sanford

12 01 2009

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Believe it or not a sleepy lakeside town is the first image many European tourists have of Florida.  Orlando Sanford International Airport has emerged in the last ten years as the premier port of entry for European Charter operators. Sanford ironically has also served for years as the terminus for the Amtrak Auto Train which brings thousands of northerners to Florida’s tourist destinations each year.

Sanford looks like almost every other mid sized central Florida city. Besides fronting Lake Monroe, the city resembles nearby DeLand, as well as Tavares, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Leesburg and Bartow in its architecture and natural vegetation. Spanish moss adorns many roadways and  the city maintains commercial industry independent from the larger Orlando metropolitan area.

The city was a transportation center for many years in Central Florida as a railroad head and a water transportation center.  A wilderness resort, President Chester A. Arthur vacationed for a week in the town while in office.

Agriculture was always the centerpiece of Sanford.  The town was also dubbed the celery city thanks to its most famous vegetable crop, and chosen as the county seat for Seminole County in 1913 when the county was created. Today, Sanford stands as a bit of an outlier in the county: at the northern extreme it’s a much older city with its own economy as compared to the rest of the county which serve as a bedroom communities for Orlando.

Yet, today even Sanford has its connection to the rest of the Orlando Metropolitan area.  It’s a quick drive up I-4 from Downtown Orlando or Winter Park to Sandford. The Seminole Town Center has become a primary shopping area for Northern Seminole and Southwestern Volusia County, and the Central Florida Greeneway connects Sanford to the University of Central Florida and Orlando International Airport.

Orlando Sanford International Airport as mentioned above has quickly become one of the busiest airports in the state. A general aviation facility until the mid 1990s, the airport which is located just southeast of the city was the 8th busiest airport in the state in 2007. Traffic into Seminole County’s only passenger airport in primarily international with scheduled services to Iceland, Scotland and England as well numerous charters to different points in Europe. Allegiant Airlines maintains a large operation at the airport connecting over 20 domestic destinations nonstop with Sanford.

Sanford has typically been the most Democratic city in Seminole County. A large African-American population which dates back to the towns early agricultural days has helped Democratic performance which has typically been dismal in the county. But the county like the rest of the Orlando area has swung more heavily Democratic recently. While Seminole is still majority Republican, the trend is unmistakable. Republicans need to reconnect with suburban voters throughout the country and this area is no exception.

What to see in and around Sanford:

  • Weekiwa Swamp
  • St John’s River
  • Lake Monroe
  • Central Florida Zoo
  • Museum of Seminole County History.
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