Orlando Trip Report (or rather, "Trip Essay"!).
We arrived back from Orlando on Easter Sunday, and have been thoroughly jet-lagged since! I only got 1 1/2 hours sleep last night, so was thoroughly pleased to be back in work this morning. :-/
Day One (Saturday 9th):
First trip to Orlando (except my OH, who'd been with his family, during his teenage years. My kids and I did Florida two years ago, but in the form of Miami).
We (myself, OH, daughter who turned 15 during the trip, and my son who's 12) flew out from Heathrow on Saturday April 9th at 10.30am. We drove down to London the evening before (live in Coventry), and stayed in an M4 Heathrow Travelodge. The Travelodge was pretty rubbish (even by their usual standards!), but it did the job.
The flight was Delta, and not bad at all. Reasonable seat pitch, and pretty standard all round. We left a little late, but arrived early! We had a 1 hr 45 mins stopover in Boston, and arrived at MCO for 6pm. We then got a cab to our hotel (Rosen Inn at Pointe), which cost around $35. We had dinner at Pizza Hut, as it was the closest place (!), and then pretty much fell into bed.
I was quite impressed by Rosen Inn at Pointe. The rooms are small-ish for a family of four, but adequate enough, especially considering us not spending an awful lot of time in our room anyway! The room was very clean (which was maintained throughout our stay), and the beds were really comfortable. The hotel grounds were well kept, and we always found a sunbed at one of the three pools. Many thanks to Audrey for the advice on Rosen Inn at Pointe - we got Block B, facing the pool, which I requested on your recommendation! It was definitely the right place to be. :-)
Day Two (Sunday 10th):
We stayed by the pool and sunned ourselves, as we were pretty zonked from the travelling! Went for a Sizzlers breakfast (okay, but not brilliant), and had dinner at Ponderosa (again, okay but not brilliant).
Day Three (Monday 11th):
Islands of Adventure.
My daughter is Harry Potter obsessed, so the Wizarding World of Harry PotterWizarding World of Harry Potter was the initial inspiration behind me booking the trip (just a couple of months ago!) in the first place! Our hotel offered a free Universal shuttle, so we booked onto the 8.15am, and were at the IOA gates for around 8.40am. We headed straight through Seuss Land to WWoHP, and pretty much walked on to the Forbidden Journey ride! I have to say, the ride was spectacular. It remained the favourite for all four of us, throughout our whole trip. We also did the other two WWoHP rides, although my son gave the Dragon Challenge a miss, as he's not a fan of big rides (or the dark... or pretty much anything that could be deemed as 'scary' :P). They were both pretty good, too. We mooched around the shops (didn't bother queuing for Ollivanders, as the line was already huge) and went into Hogsmeade for a Butterbeer (which we all loved!).The whole WWoHP experience was fantastic - incredibly well done.
We were very lucky with the whole of IOA, as we got to do every ride we wanted, with very little waiting. I researched the theme parks well before going, though, and knew it'd be best to get them done in our first week, before the American spring break!
The Spiderman ride was probably our second favourite of the whole trip (although, my son opted out of keeping the 3D glasses over his eyes, to make it less scary :P). The Hulk was good, but pretty hardcore! The log-flume ride was fab - what with that and the River Rapids, we got pretty soaked on this day!
We ate lunch at Captain America Diner. The burger was fine.
It was a roasting hot day (we were very lucky, as the weather stayed glorious throughout our whole trip), so we were ready to drop by the time of our return shuttle at 5.40pm. We then ordered pizza online from Dominos that evening!
Day Four (Tuesday 12th):
We chose not to hire a car for our trip. I can see now why lots of forum people advised me against this plan, as catching the bus to and from Disney was something of an arduous pain! It was no big deal, however, so I don't really have any regrets about not hiring a car. Our four days at Disney would've been the only time we'd have used it (airport aside), along with our one trip to Walmart! Huge thanks to SCAN for the Lynx bus info - I reckon we'd have been seriously stuck without it! One word of warning to fellow bus users, however - when getting on the 111, ensure that it's going to Disney and not the airport. :P
We never quite managed rope drop for any of the Disney parks, mostly due to the travel time.
We really enjoyed Hollywood Studios. Again, I chose well, as there was minimal queuing involved all day. The Disney Fastpass system is brilliant. Such a shame that Universal don't do the same thing. We immediately got a fastpass for the Toy Story ride, and later got one for the Rock'n'Roller Coaster. My son really enjoyed Toy Story, and the rest of us really enjoyed Rock'n'Roller, which my son wouldn't go on! (Kudos to both Universal and Disney for their system of non-riders being able to queue, though, and then being easily found at the end of the ride! It helped that my son is old enough to be able to wait alone, too.)
I loved, loved, loved the Tower of Terror, as did my OH and daughter (no go for son, again) - we couldn't stop squealing and giggling throughout the ride, and wound up going on it twice! Shame the Star Wars ride is currently closed, as my son is a huge SW fan.
We ate lunch at the All American cafe - pretty impressive burger, this time!
Ate dinner Miller's Ale House. I had their Tuesday special steak, which was AMAZING! Best steak I've had in years.
Day Five (Wednesday 13th):
We all liked Epcot well enough, but not as much as HS. I guess there didn't seem to be many decent rides? We got fastpasses for Test Track, then headed onto Mission: Space. Again, we did well for queues, all day. Mission: Space made me feel incredibly nauseous - I was glad to get away from that one! Test Track was reasonably good. My son backed out at the last minute, which is a shame, 'cause I reckon her would've liked it. Soarin' was okay, but didn't live up to its 'promises'!
The World Showcase was pretty good - albeit tiring! Never did find the free Coke stand, though...
For lunch, we took our leftover Dominos pizza that was still languishing in the fridge!
Oh, and we somehow managed to get our photo taken with Mickey, with only a five minute wait. He was kind of hiding around a corner!
I think it was this night that we ate dinner at Sizzlers. Not bad. Better than their breakfast, and marginally better than Ponderosa.
Day Six (Thursday 14th):
Animal Kingdom & Downtown Disney.
None of us were overly impressed with AK, I'm afraid to say. Simply not enough decent rides, I guess. Dinosaur was good fun, although that was another one my son refused on the basis of darkness! The safari was cool, but the woman driving had an incredibly annoying voice!
For lunch, my OH and I got jalepeno and cheese stuffed pretzels (delicious!) and my kids got burgers (again! - Tamu?), which they were unimpressed to find came witrh crisps (chips) and not fries. :P
We left fairly early, and moved on to Downtown Disney... where we had a couple of beers. :-) We didn't stay late, though, due to knowing how immense the bus ride home would be!
We wound up eating dinner at Miller's again, as I was craving their steak... which is on special on Thursdays, as well as Tuesdays. :-) I convinced my OH to have it too, and he was instantly converted! We also had choc fudge brownie sundaes for dessert, and they were HUGE! Seriously, even a really big eater would be perfectly satiated by sharing one of these. Saying that, though, my OH managed to polish his off!
Day Seven (Friday 15th):
This was our favourite of the Disney parks (although, closely followed by HS). We got a Space Mountain fastpass, then later for Thunder Mountain Railroad. We really liked Space Mountain (again, too dark for my son!), and also enjoyed the Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion (great fun!). The Monster's Inc show was surprisingly funny! The Stitch ride, however, was the worst, most pointless thing we went on over the whole trip!
For lunch, we had hotdogs from Casey's Corner, which were fab. We wouldn't get all those free relish choices in the UK! We also had Dole Whips for the first time.
We went to Friendly's for dinner. The BBQ chicken sandwich was second only to the Miller's steak as the best thing eaten all holiday! Good ice cream, too. :-)
Day Eight (Saturday 16th):
A rest day.
We got a cab to Walmart, where my daughter spend a good whack of her saved paper round money on clothes! We also bought some pasta to go with late lunch/early dinner of take-out Dominos. We sent the kids away for ten minutes, and picked up a Birthday cake and just a few bits for my daughter's impending Birthday.
We went to the cinema in the evening, at Pointe. My OH was none too impressed with American cinema popcorn!
Day Nine (Sunday 17th):
8am shuttle from hotel. We all loved US, although not as much as IOA. It was astoundingly quiet all day, so clearly a good choice! Both the Rip Ride Rockit and Revenge of the Mummy were brilliant (although, given a miss by my son!). The Simpsons ride was also EXCELLENT. Amazingly well done. I also really enjoyed the ET ride - very nostalgic! Twister was very cool, but scared the hell out of my son!
We took a packed lunch of sandwiches, but bought fries to go with them! (A lot of healthy eating going on, huh? :P)
For dinner, we ate at Denny's, which was pretty good, and also exceptionally good value!
Day Ten (Monday 18th - Daughter's 15th Birthday):
Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios & City Walk.
8am hotel shuttle. Naturally, my daughter wanted to visit WWoHP on her Birthday. We arrived for 8.30am, but realised the park had opened at 8am. We headed straight for WWoHP but it was already absolutely jammed. The wait time for Forbidden Journey said 75 mins, but we queued anyway, as my daughter really wanted a second go on it. There were 'technical difficulties' whilst we were queuing, so our wait turned out to be closer to 2 hrs! In fact, when we got off the ride, the wait time had changed to 120 mins. It was worth the wait though, as I'd forgotten how absolutely outstanding this ride was. WWoHP was then horrendous, however, with very long queues even to enter all of the shops. We grabbed a Butter Beer and got out of there; by then, they were giving out 'return' tickets just to enter the land. It was a very hot day, and the rest of IOA turned out to be almost as packed, so we decided to head over to US. What a difference to the day before! US was also heaving - spring break had now clearly begun! We changed our mind about lunching there, after seeing how crowded even the restaurants were, and headed out to City Walk instead. We wound up eating lunch at Moe's!
I'm very glad we'd already been to IOA and US, as if this had been our first experience of Universal, it would've felt very tainted.
We cabbed it back to the hotel, as none of us wanted to stick around for the shuttle in those crowds. We did the Birthday cake/presents thing at the hotel, and chilled for a while before heading off to TGI's for dinner. None of us were very impressed with the food there, at all. The appetisers and desserts were fine, but the entrees were simply bad. Bit of a disaster Birthday, I guess! My daughter's very pragmatic, however, and didn't seem phased by any of it.
Day Eleven (Tuesday 19th):
Not too much to say about this day, as we lounged around the pool! We had dinner at Miller's again. Yes - steak night! The steaks had to be sent back twice, however, as the chef couldn't seem to cook them medium. :-/ We finally got it sorted though, and sensibly ordered two desserts between the four of us!
Day Twelve (Wednesday 20th):
Pool Day and Universal.
We went back to Sizzlers for our second breakfast trip, and I was even less impressed than I was the first time! We then spent a few hours around the pool, and caught a cab to Universal at 5pm-ish. We headed to IOA first, which was heaving again. US was also really busy, so we went back to Moe's for dinner, then returned to IOA at 8.30pm-ish. It was a fair bit quieter by then, and became moreso over the next couple of hours. We queued for Spiderman for around 30 mins, then went onto WWoHP (yes - again!). We managed to lose my son on the way in, so had an increasingly panicked 15 minutes of searching. :-( He was eventually found looking lost and tearful, but was basically okay - to say I was relieved is an understatement!
We chose not to go back on Forbidden Journey, as we'd done it twice, and they queue was still fairly long. We walked straight on to Dragon Challenge, so went on it twice! We also did Hippogriff again, as the queue was only 5 mins. We visited all of the Harry Potter shops, where my daughter spent another fortune! We also went back on the Cat in the Hat ride on our walk back through the park.
IOA in the evening was a really good experience, so I'd recommend it to anyone visiting during busy weeks!
Day Thirteen (Thursday 21st):
My son had gotten a bit too much sun the day before, so spent most of his day in the room. The room's free wi-fi (we'd also taken a laptop) was also a draw for him, I imagine! My daughter disappeared to the room for a while too, so the OH and I were able to enjoy a couple of peaceful hours. We also got a tad tipsy! Back to Miller's again for dinner - well, it was our last steak opportunity! I suffered a bit that evening, though, with a combination of perhaps a little too much alcohol mixed with a little too much sun. :-/
Day Fourteen (Friday 22nd):
Pool day... again.
We decided not to do another park day after Monday's experience; that was pretty much my initial plan anyway, as I knew week two would be much busier. We enjoyed Wednesday evening at Universal, but didn't feel the need to repeat, so, yes - another pool day! Besides, it was our last chance to top up the tan. ;-)
We walked to McDonalds for breakfast, as 'the largest McDs' was something my son was quite insistent that we couldn't miss! We ordered McGriddles, which I thought were awful! That sweet and sausage thing (never to be found in the UK!) just doesn't work for me! I gave mine to my OH, and went back up to buy a trusty Sausage and Egg McMuffin. :-) I wasn't keen on the place, to be honest - another venue that was far too busy!
We then spent the day by the pool, went back to the room to pack, and headed back to Friendly's for dinner.
Day 15 (Saturday 23rd):
We cabbed it to the airport, getting there at 9.30am for our 12pm flight. I didn't notice on the way in just how big MCO is!
We had a four hour stopover in Detroit (I get shivers every time I say "Detroit", after being forced to spend a night at Detroit airport, alone with two small children, eight years ago!), where we got lunch and bought some Jack Daniels and cigs. Both flights were fine and uneventful. We arrived back at Heathrow for 7.30am, and drove home in the record time of 1 1/2 hrs - quicker than it takes to queue for the Forbidden Journey ride. ;P
If you've gotten this far through my 'essay', then I'm most impressed. Don't worry - I'm almost done!
All in all we had a brilliant time in Orlando. I'm not convinced that I've caught the 'bug', and will be pining to go back next year, but then I've always been the type to want to visit as many different places as possible - it's a big wide world out there! Time will tell, however, and I would have no hesitation in recommending it as a 'must do' experience to everyone. :-)
Thank you to all on here who helped me with my planning and understanding of Orlando (and most of you won't even know it, as I trawled through hundreds of posts as a lurker!). You all paid a massive contribution towards making our holiday as fantastic as it was. :-)
Florida seems to have developed something of a monopoly on the bizarre. Take a 2015 news story about a traffic accident in which the only casualty was a shark. Or the ubiquitous “Florida man” headlines that have inspired parodic Twitter accounts and trivia games. (“Which of these absurd headlines is fake?”) Yet to some, Florida is either just home or an entertaining destination for travelers. The following books will guide you through the state’s swamplands, retirement communities and cultural enclaves, offering outright or de facto defenses of Florida.
BEST. STATE. EVER.
A Florida Man Defends His Homeland
By Dave Barry
When did Florida became “The Joke State”? The author argues that the demise of the state’s reputation dates back to the 2000 election. “On election night almost all of the states were able to figure out pretty quickly who they voted for. But not Florida,” Mr. Barry writes. The country has never forgotten that gaffe. Rather than reject the oddball perception of the Sunshine State, Mr. Barry embraces the “Weirdness Factor” and guides the reader in a kooky, humorous road trip to places like Cassadaga, the Psychic Capital of the World, to have his dog’s aura read, and a retirement community with a thriving black market for Viagra. In the process, he recasts the absurd as endearing.
MAKE YOUR HOME AMONG STRANGERS
By Jennine Capó Crucet
A few pages into “Make Your Home Among Strangers,” Ms. Crucet’s heroine, Lizet, recounts the time her father and his friends, as preteenagers, saw a body floating in the canals of Miami. It is a story Lizet knows not to tell her colleagues at the parasitology lab where she works, and reveals fairly quickly that hers will not be a story about Miami Beach’s high-end clubs and celebrity D.J.s. Instead, the author takes us into Hialeah and Little Havana, alternating between Lizet’s world at a prestigious college and her home life in Miami, where her parents have separated, her sister has become a single mother, and a Cuban boy awash on Miami’s shores has ignited a passionate movement to keep him in America. The author investigates themes like family, immigration and race, while demonstrating the Cuban influence on Miami.
SUNSHINE STATE: Essays
By Sarah Gerard
The author blurs the line between memoir and journalism in this stunning book of essays. She opens with “BFF,” the story of her profound friendship with another woman that dissolved, in part, because Ms. Gerard had the means to leave town and her friend, who would become a stripper and spend time in shelters for battered women, did not. In another essay, “Going Diamond,” she writes an account of her family’s foray into Amway, describing their Bayou Club “functions” and including reporting on the company’s founder, Richard DeVos — the father-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — and its history. Ms. Gerard’s Florida is frenzied, evocative, and optimistic.Continue reading the main story