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Lake Buena Vista is a magical lake in a magical land. This tiny natural lake in Florida's East Central Region has been transformed by Walt Disney World, it's latest owner. Originally called Black Lake, the pond rested just outside of the small town of Vineland. Vineland never was a very big town; it's one-time post office left town before the local roads were ever paved. The attempts of farmers at grape growing weren't terribly successful so Vineland never grew either. In fact, the entire area around Lake Buena Vista was primarily wetland dotted with small ponds and lakes making up part of the Kissimmee River system that feeds the Everglades.
All of that changed when Walt Disney came to Florida looking for a location to build his second vacation extravaganza. He settled on Reedy Creek, a couple of miles east of the current location of Lake Buena Vista. In order to have free rein and deal expediently with zoning issues, the area was incorporated as a town wholly owned by the Disney Corporation. In a way no one can quite explain, the center of the town was moved to Black Lake away from Reedy Creek. Black Lake was renamed Lake Buena Vista in honor of the street Mr Disney lived on in California. The town itself became Lake Buena Vista, the location of Disney Downtown. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and the newer additions of Disney-MGM Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach Water Park, River Country Water Park and Pleasure Island were all built in the immediate area. Lake Buena Vista itself, however, has remained as a hotel and resort location primarily for Disney visitors. In a manner that would cause a modern environmentalist to cringe, the Disney complex carved out a series of lakes, rivers and lagoons from the wetlands around which to site their feature attractions. Village Lake, the manmade centerpiece of Disney Downtown, is now connected to Lake Buena Vista by canal. Of all of the lakes in the complex, Lake Buena Vista remains the most natural, with a section of wetlands along the north shore. And Disney has recently has in recent years purchased a large acreage to the southeast of the area which The Nature Conservancy is restoring to wetland as a mitigation project.
The entire town of Lake Buena Vista is mostly uninhabited. Last census, the total population was 16 people - all Disney employees. Lake Buena Vista is a town of visitors and is entirely geared to vacationers and fun-seekers. Lake Buena Vista itself is rimmed along the south and east shores with resort hotels placed back from the water's edge, overlooking the peaceful little lake. Resort visitors wishing a quiet interlude away from the crowds and bustle of the Disney attractions can retire here to watch the swans glide serenely across the water. Visitors are welcome to stroll across the lawn to the water's edge but there is no beach, no swimming and no fishing from the shore. The only way to fish in Lake Buena Vista is to engage a fishing excursion at Disney Downtown and go out with a 'guide'. Fishing on all Disney lakes is catch and release, with huge largemouth bass common, thanks to the Disney stocking program. Depending on the health of the fish population, Disney sometimes allows bass over a certain size to be kept and can even provide mounting. But the general rule is to release all fish. The lagoon complex also contains big bluegill, crappie and channel catfish and in some areas of the park, fishing docks are provided where visitors can rent poles and bait. Again, the general rule is usually catch and release.
The resorts and rentals around Lake Buena Vista are an excellent location for a week-long vacation: in addition to the well-known large Disney attractions, a variety of smaller specialty attractions in the area do a thriving business, such as Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach - both Disney water parks that will delight the kids. And tons of specialty shopping, dining and entertainment will please the most discerning grown-up in Disney Downtown. It would truly take more than a week to see everything Disney World has to offer. There are a variety of challenging golf courses, both within the Disney Resort complex and in the Orlando area.
Outside of Lake Buena Vista are at least another week's worth of attractions and activities to keep the visitor busy. The Orlando Science Center holds four floors of exhibits and hands-on activities for pre-schoolers through adults. Wonderworks (the upside-down museum), and Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not Museum are just wacky and weird enough to appeal to the most jaded teen-ager. Sea World is well-known, but Gatorland will be new to many visitors. Known internationally as the "Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland provides family fun with thousands of alligators and crocodiles, a breeding marsh with boardwalk and observation tower, one-of-a-kind reptilian shows, aviary, petting zoo, swamp walk and educational programs. Learn of 12,000 years of Central Florida history at the Orange County Regional History Center. And for a quiet change of pace, visit the Harry P Leu Botanical Gardens-southern-style, semi-tropical gardens with miles of walking paths thru beautifully designed garden-scapes. In addition, Orlando provides galleries and art museums, including the Orlando Museum of Art. And the city park system provides miles of cycling and hiking trails, along with playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts and ball fields. For the family angler, he can schedule a bass fishing charter on West Lake Tohopekaliga (also known as Lake Toho), the lake with the unique reputation of being the #1 trophy bass fishing lake in the United States. Deep see charter fishing in just an hour away.
Finding vacation rentals in the Lake Buena Vista area is limited only by preferences and budget. On the lakefront itself, only resort hotels are available. But immediately off the park and hotel grounds, around the boundaries of the town of Lake Buena Vista, rental condos and private homes are readily available, many with water views. Small hotels, motels and other types of vacation lodgings are often found at reasonable prices where the budget-conscious visitor can still vacation in style. Real estate is always available, with timeshares and outright purchases available for homes, condos and townhouses. Several area campgrounds and RV resorts cater to the bring-your-own-housing crowd. So plan a trip now to the Lake Buena Vista area. Create your vacation memories of a lifetime.
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