So here’s the first part of my holiday review. I’m going to recap Orlando and Dallas separately as they were so different and also do a post on food (because it was amazing).
For the Orlando part of our holiday we were spending it with one of my university friends, Kate, and her husband, Jamie. Ben and I get on really well with them but we’ve never been on holiday with them before (I have with Kate but not Jamie as well). There was apprehension I think between both parties beforehand as to how it would go but honestly there were no issues. Jamie is very much like me (hello all the foods) and Kate is like Ben (food is fuel). But we all love roller coasters and have quite crazy senses of humour. We really gelled well and there wasn’t anytime I felt either party had to compromise for the other. In fact sometimes it was Ben and Kate compromising for Jamie and my food choices, or vice versa!
We met up at the airport and all agreed Jamie’s Oliver’s (Jamie’s Italian) restaurant would be perfect for breakfast.
We all had the mammoth full breakfast and it was deeeeelicious and oh so filling. I also made sure to buy myself some food from Prêt a Manger as well as I detest the microwave plane food so I was sorted.
We arrived in Orlando probably about 10-11pm British time but by the time we got out and got our cars it was very late. We grabbed some food from a brilliant little spot Jamie knew of (side note: Kate and Jamie are like the experts of Orlando having been there quite a few times and Jamie, like me, always does his research on good restaurants so we were set!) and then we crashed at the hotel.
Our hotel was a Universal hotel called Cabana Beach Bay Resort and it was huge. There were four different buildings, a Starbucks, a bowling alley, arcade, two large pool areas (regular pools, lazy river, water slide and hot tub), a diner, bars, gift shop, an amazing gym and regular shuttle buses to City Walk where Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are located.
The first day started rather dismally it must be said. It was chilly and raining. We met up to go to IHOP for breakfast which was great but we realised that with the weather being pants it probably wasn’t a good idea to go to the parks. This made us all a bit grumpy.
In the end though Ben and I decided to be really exciting and go to the gym while Kate and Jamie went shopping. Judge away but we didn’t fancy shopping and had planned to go to the gym Sunday morning so just switched it up so we could sleep in the next day. It made sense to us!
I’ll post more on the fitness side of the holidays another day as we did do a lot of running and gym stuff on holiday. It might sound odd but to me it’s part of who I am and to not do it would be weird. Plus I hate coming back from holiday feeling unfit and struggling to get back into the swing of things.
Anyway while we were at the gym the sun came out! Jamie and Kate arrived back and we got ourselves showered and ready to FINALLY hit the parks.
We went to Universal Studios and it was brilliant. The whole new Harry Potter area (Diagon Alley) was brilliant. It looked so realistic and the new ride was pretty good. The Harry Potter restaurants were hilarious with the American’s take on British food (jacket potato with broccoli and cheese anyone?).
We went on quite a few different rides and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The best part about our hotel is the location as we could dip into either of the Universal parks so easily (within 15 minutes) so we never felt we had to stay and do everything all at once. We went back to the parks quite a few times over the course of our eight days there.
Sunday we decided to do Sea World. Before the holiday I didn’t want to go. I’ve seen Black Fish and I’m not a fan of watching animals that should be in the wild amuse humans for the sake of making money. It’s not right. That said, we decided to go because Kate and Jamie said the park was great with the rides and our tickets were a combo anyway so the money was going there regardless of whether we actually went or not. Feeble excuse I know. In my defence though I didn’t watch the shows with the others. It’s not something I enjoy so I left them to it while I went on a few rides and wandered around the park (the shows were only 30 minutes). It’s very strange walking round a theme park on your own!
The rides were brilliant. There was one called Manta and it was basically like Air at Alton Towers but on steroids. So much fun! Because it was so close, like Universal Studios, we were able to pop back in to do the rides again another day.
Monday we went to Busch Gardens. This park is quite far away as it’s located in Tampa, which is about an hour and a half away. We decided to drive separately (most of the time we drove together) so if one couple fancied leaving early they could.
Busch Gardens is a fantastic park for adrenaline junkies. It’s literally all just big roller coasters, no messing around. And we loved it! It was very quiet and we went straight to the new ride, Falcon’s Fury, and got on it twice in quick succession.
I honestly haven’t been that scared on a ride for a long time. It takes you up so high. As we got near the top the bravado I had when I was safely on the ground had disappeared and I said to Ben I wanted to get off. Not much he could do there! The seats then tilt you so you look straight down. If the restraints failed you’re dead, 100%. Then it drops you and you fall straight down. It was AMAZING.
The rest of the day we ran round the park like little kids going from one ride to the next. It was awesome. Kate and Jamie fancied looking around the animal enclosures (of which there were loads: giraffes, cheetahs, hippos, etc.) while we decided to make our way back and get some froyo and then chill in the hot tub.
We also had a fun day of playing crazy golf and bowling which was just such good fun. The golf was brilliant; lots of banter and fighting talk. The good thing was that we could pay for two sessions discounted so we came back one evening for another round. I was appalling at bowling but it was still a good laugh (though I lost by stupid amounts every time).
One of the best evenings was seeing the ice hockey. At first I was like “pfft, I’m not that interested but it’ll be an experience”. But WOW it is intense.
And there was a fight! Like a proper gloves-down-helmets-off-fists-out FIGHT. While Kate and I were shocked and morally outraged the boys were loving it! OK I know this is a regular thing for ice hockey but to us naive and gentle ‘soccer’ watching Brits (“oh no there’s a ball, I will fall down now”) it was shocking.
For me one of the best days by far was the last Saturday in Orlando. It started with Ben and me getting up stupidly early to drive to Clermont (30 minutes away) for the Orlando parkrun (insert stupidly excited dance here). I’ll talk more about this on another post but it was brilliant!
We then found breakfast in a rather dodgy IHOP afterwards (this is what happens when Ben and Anna venture off from their Orlando Experts and fend for themselves). After showering and meeting up with Kate and Jamie we then headed off to Pig Fest. What is Pig Fest I hear you ask? I apologise in advance now to any vegans or vegetarians, this will not be your thing at all.Pig Fest is basically a huge gathering of people who compete in BBQ cooking. BBQ’ing in the States is not as we Brits know it (sausages and burgers) but proper smoking ovens serving things like ribs, brisket, chicken wings and pulled pork. Literally heaven. Look how excited Jamie and me are?? This was an afternoon for Kate and Ben to take one for the team.
Jamie and me with our Pig Bucks
You bought ‘Pig Bucks’ at the entrance (1 dollar = 1 Pig Buck) and then use those bucks to buy from different vendors to eat to your heart’s content. There were also non-selling vendors who were just competing as well. I would say it was 95% American. It wasn’t really a tourist hot spot in the sense that the parks are. And this made it so much more fun!
It felt very ‘real’ America, you know? The food was awesome…Jamie and I were like children in a sweets shop. Oh the ribs!! Ben isn’t a huge BBQ fan but he fully enjoyed the deep fried sweet treats. But more on that in another post…
We also spent an evening in Downtown Disney and saw the new Hunger Games film. This is something Ben and I would never have thought to have done and when Jamie and Kate suggested it it sounded like a good way to chill out.
The film was pretty dull though…I fell asleep twice! But you have to see it to see the final one *grumble grumble*. I did enjoy the experience though (and naps in such comfy chairs are awesome).
Basically Orlando was a whirlwind of roller coasters, theme parks, all the food and just good fun. It was lovely to spend the time with Jamie and Kate and we just all got on so well and had a laugh together. I would say we definitely missed them in Dallas!
Ben would kill me if I didn’t mention one final awesome thing about Orlando…the cars:
Have you been to Orlando before?
Do you enjoy roller coasters?
Do you ever watch live sports on holiday? We’ve never done so before but Ben is now addicted. We only saw a very minor league team but he wants to see the big guns now (NHL? Is that right??)