Orlando Recap – part 1

So Orlando was pretty damn fun. I’d even go as far to say one of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

It was just such a non-stop fun time. I’m a huge fan of roller coasters and being “active” on holiday. When I say active I mean doing stuff, not lying on beach. There’s a place for that and I fully appreciate sometimes people need a holiday where they do nothing, but for me I need to be out and about. I can’t lie on a sun lounger or the beach for hours at end.

Anyway I won’t recap the entire holiday because I think that would be a bit self-indulgent of me and boring for you guys. But I’ll give you the highlights  (though it’s quite long, sorry!) – and I’ll do a separate post on the food because it was amaaaazing. And I have a bit to say about that!

So basically I went with my two friends, Kate and Jamie (they’re married). I get on so well with them and I’ve been on holiday with them before though I was with Ben at the time, so I guess this time there was a danger of me being their third wheeling friend. Thankfully they never made me feel like that for which I was super grateful.

The Hotel

We stayed in the Hard Rock Hotel, which was incredible. Ridiculously expensive but so cool. They have their own scent. I kid you not, the entire hotel smells AMAZING. Like an actual perfume – kind of masculine and not over-powering, just subtle and nice.All around the hotel they had music memorabilia – like pop star’s outfits displayed from different events. We were on the Tom Jones floor which was cool.

The great thing about the Hard Rock (asides from the smell) is that it is literally an eight minute walk to City Walk, where there are lots of cool restaurants, shops, crazy golf and an IMAX cinema. It’s also where you go to get into Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures. So extremely handy. There was also a lovely little boat you could get for a more scenic, albeit slightly longer, route.

The hotel itself has it’s own mini shop with a Starbucks and an amazing pool (which includes a slide, and an adult’s only hot tub – and water dispensers that are full of ice cold water with fruit in).

The Parks

We had tickets to a number of the main parks: all the Disneys, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Sea World. It’s an expensive holiday I’ll admit. The tickets alone to all those parks were £720. Yep. I was there for ten days (my friends for 14) and we went to all of them except the water parks. I’m not fussed with water parks as it’s all a bit too much of a faff for me. I prefer the roller coasters and attractions. In the end we went to eight parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventures, Busche Gardens and Sea World). I loved them all for different reasons.Magic Kingdom is good for the experience. The rides aren’t amazing but they’re fun (it’s obviously a great place for young kids). The themes all around the parks are fantastic. Characters are walking around and it seems every little detail has been thought of. Thought we didn’t have to queue much because we were in the off-season and Disney have a fast pass system (which is free, you use an app – not as great as Universal but you pay for Universal…unless you stay in the Hard Rock and that comes with your room!), but the newest ride, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we waited about 40 minutes and the whole queue was cooly themed to be like a mine shaft.

We went to Epcot one evening for the fireworks and they were pretty good. We did a couple of the rides there beforehand (the Test Track was surprisingly really good!) but mainly just went for the fireworks. Epcot isn’t really a ride-focused place, it’s a great place for food and walking around looking at things if that makes sense.Hollywood Studios is good. You can’t beat the Tower of Terror (a lift/elevator that drops really quickly). The entire experience, from queuing, to the ‘cast’ who guide you to your elevator seats and the actual ride are just fantastic. I’m glad they haven’t got rid of such a classic as they did in the California version of the park.And the Aerosmith ride is really good too – you zoom forward so quickly in the first part and the set-up for the ride is really fun too with the band and where you queue. But in terms of other major rides it does lack a little bit. It’s probably the Disney park most needed to be given a bit of an uplift if I’m honest. But we saw the Beauty and the Beast show, the Indiana Jones stunt show and a herd (?) of Storm Troopers march past us so it was a pretty good day! And met Woody and Buzz 😉Animal Kingdom was my favourite Disney park I think. I’ve never been there before and it really outdid my expectations. The entire park was so well done. The different areas themed so well, from Alaska to the Far East. The rides were really good (not scary, just thrilling) and the safari was really good fun. We saw loads of animals like elephants (and a baby elephant!), lions, hyenas (apparently my spirit animal my friends say…), zebras, etc.I’m a huge fan of dinosaurs (weird, I know) so I was totally in my element in the dinosaur themed area and the dinosaur ride. We also saw the Lion King show which was so good! I can’t believe how good all the Disney shows are (OK that’s probably a silly statement but I was expecting something fairly half-hearted). Though I have to say, there is something slightly scary and manic about the people who work at Disney. They seem to have this full-on Disney mega-watt smile 24/7 and they’re all super super enthusiastic. Jamie said they probably go home each night and scream into pillows. I think I’m inclined to agree. No one can be that happy all the time.

One of the best roller coaster parks is definitely Busch Gardens. If you don’t like the whole ‘adrenaline enthused throw you all about the place’ kind of experience, then this park isn’t for you.

Busch is about 1.5 hours away from the main Orlando area but if you like your roller coasters this is the place to go. I was gutted that their newest ride was closed for maintenance but it still didn’t take away how good the other rides were. And it was great for Jamie who has since lost SIX STONE since last coming so he could sit at the front each time instead of the designated ‘larger person’ seats.

The park was so quiet. Well, no that’s a lie. The queues were basically empty for the roller coasters (which meant we went on each ride twice, sometimes three times) but the park itself wasn’t empty. It was actually full of, well, older people. Like really old people. Apparently it’s quite the destination spot for a day out – there are shows and music events that suit their tastes. It was quite bizarre as we sat on the little train that takes you from the car park to the park realising we were the youngest ones on there by quite some years… Though it was hilarious to see two very old chaps getting off the Cheetah ride (a very fast coaster) before we got on looking like they were having a whale of a time!

My favourite ride is Falcon’s Fury and it literally scares the hell out of me. You sit in a seat and are taken vertically up and then right at the top (so high!) they rotate you over so you’re looking face down, and then they drop you. I’ve never sworn so much in my whole life. I had to apologise to the older lady next to me for the language I was using… But it’s such a thrill!

Though I still have huge reservations about Sea World and their shows, I do like they’ve moved to more conservation focuses and it’s clear from the park that they’re moving more towards rides. Their newest ride, Mako, was AMAZING. I mean, super scary but really good. The scariest part was the fact that the only restraint you have is a lap bar. OK it’s quite thick and you don’t go upside down, but STILL. You feel very, well, unsecured as you’re being zoomed around Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster. The other rides at Sea World are really good too.I have to say I do prefer Universal Studios and Island of Adventures over Disney. I just love the mix of good roller coasters, thrills rides and what the parks look like with all the themes.And the two different Harry Potter areas in each park are just brilliant (And Jurrasic Park ride is a firm classic favourite for me). The new King Kong ride was quite good as well – more of a thrill ride. My favourite ride is by far Rip Ride Rockit which is great as it’s a proper roller coaster but you get to choose what music you’ll listen to on the way round.

While we were there it was the Mardi Gras celebration as well so on that evening we headed to watch a parade and collected lots of beads that were thrown from the floats. It was really good fun! Though the entertainment was a country and western singer who we really didn’t know (Trace Adkins?) so we didn’t stay to watch him.

Basketball Match

We didn’t just go to the theme parks though. We also went and saw a basketball match to see Orlando Magic play against the Toronto Raptors. I’ve seen an ice hockey match before but never basketball.

If you have the choice, go and watch a basketball game because honestly it was so much fun and so much happens! From the outside of the stadium where there is music, face painting free food and samples and a general party atmosphere…I’m a real sucker for face paint so to be honest it was a good job I had it done here otherwise I might have had a tiger done at Animal Kingdom 😉At the match I had a Bud Light (love Bud Lights) and a Mexican rice and chiptole pork meal, which was delicious. There were lots of cheerleaders, back flippers and of course a huge dressed up mascot (think it was a dragon?). The Orlando Magic won which was great! Though what wasn’t so great was when these “Dad dancers” came out and did a crazy little dance which was quite funny. However at the end of it when they headed off one of them literally just fell flat on his back. We thought it was part of the routine so we laughed… Until we saw someone race over and check him when he didn’t get back up. Then medics ran over. Honestly it was all a bit bewildering. We were just stunned and no one really knew what was happening. Eventually though he was taken off in a stretcher and raised his arm to give a thumbs up. I mean, I know it’s not funny but it kind of is – the dad dance was just too much for him!

Extras

As well as the parks we had two-ish days where we didn’t really do theme parks (I say ‘ish’ as one of those mornings we did go into Universal Studios just to try a few rides out in the morning before moving on elsewhere).

We did some shopping in the outlet mall and Florida Mall, which was great. I didn’t spend a huge amount at all. Just picked up some *cough* leggings…and had a mosey round Victoria’s Secret/Pink shop (love those shop). And a whole shop dedicated to jerky!We also went to Cirque du Soleil one evening and it was so good. I’ve never seen it before so I was really enthralled by the talent of the performers! So good, but very random and I wasn’t entirely sure of the story-line…

On the first day we went to Pig Fest again (a non-touristy BBQ festival about an hour away from the main area). We did this the last time we went and as big fans of BBQ food and meat, this was like a dream for us.

You swap dollars for ‘Pig Bucks’ and then go round buying little samples of ribs, wings, brisket, pulled pork… and lots more. I filled up on different kinds of smoked ribs, with different BBQ sauces and individual chicken wings and butter dipped corn. Oh it was amazing. My friend, Kate, who was the certified pudding pro held back a little on the meat and went to town on the more sweet options, such as a deep fried Oreo and a deep fried Pop Tart. I tried a bit of the Pop Tart but you honestly couldn’t tell it was an actual Pop Tart – it was more just a very sweet and mushy blend of everything good in the world. But I couldn’t have eaten a whole one, even me! Far too sweet.

Deep fried S’mores Pop Tart with chocolate sauce

On my last night we went to Twin Peaks (kind of like Hooters where the girls basically wear no clothes and are overly flirtatious) and had some dirty bar snacks and Bud Light while watching the Super Bowl.I had 12 (!) Buffalo chicken wings with that heavenly blue cheese dip (God I could bathe in that stuff) and we shared a plate of nachos. It was so good.

So basically it was a really jam-packed holiday. I ate far too much but loved every single bite. And every day was just amazing. The weather was great (lows of 22C and highs of 27C) and it was blissfully quiet. Take me back!

Have you ever been to Orlando?

What’s your favourite theme park?

Are you more of a thrill-seeker of an adrenaline junkie, or something a bit more peaceful?

FYI: If you wanted any more information regarding going to Orlando as a holiday, please email me. This was my fourth time going and I have a lot of tips and advice that I didn’t want to bombard this post with (anymore than I have done)!

4 thoughts on “Orlando Recap – part 1

  1. This is a great post! You had such a great time in Orlando. *jealous*

    I’ve only been to Orlando once – in 1994 as part of a family holiday. I would like to go back but it’s not a high priority. I’ve been to New York five times (six if you count the time when I was under 21). I love NY – though it’s not my favourite US city, I still can’t stop going back!

    Apart from 1994, I haven’t been to any other Disney parks. I’ve been to Universal Studios in LA about 8 years ago but that’s it. The recent (family) holidays I’ve been on have been relaxings cruises – Caribbean in 2011 and Alaska last year – which were both amazing – relaxation and doing/seeing things and eating! The only other adrenaline type thing I’ve done was skydiving in Argentina which was awesome.

    Looking forward to your food post …

  2. Sounds fantastic, glad you had a great time!
    I went to Orlando maybe 4-5 times when I was younger, I think the last time was when I was about 16. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since then. I think Busch Gardens was always my favourite as I liked the rollercoasters, whereas I found Epcot quite boring at the time. I’d love to go back.
    Well done to your friend for losing 6 stone, that’s incredible!
    Have you ever done any of the running events at the Disney parks?

  3. It’s so interesting reading this- I have been to Orlando a lot (we stayed in Tampa when we went to Busch Gardens as it is closer and we flew in to there) but we like it for such different reasons! I don’t like rollercoasters, but I find Disney great as they have thrill rides (Soarin’ is my favourite ride EVER) that do not need the up and down bits to be good if that makes sense. That’s why Disney is so brilliant for that sort of thing- I’ve been to Universal a couple of times but didn’t like many of the rides, and at Disney they have enough fun ones that are not the mini ones for kids (like the Dumbo one- I don’t do those ones!).
    The Toy story mania ride is so much fun, but I do agree that the Hollywood park needs updating (they have added the pixar bit)- it’s a lot of shows which is annoying as you have to plan your visit, and if you go and see even something like The Little Mermaid (I go here while Andy goes on Rock and Rollercoaster/ Tower of Terror) it’s a good hour gone, and then the Beauty and the Beast show begins in 5 min and you can’t make it. My top two are Magic Kingdom and Epcot for sure- just for the Epcot fireworks show alone. Although I have not been to Animal Kingdom for ages- the last few times we have been we have not bothered with it- I find it so hot there, and noisy, I don’t like any of the (few) rides that are there, although I do love the Lion King show.
    I have been to Seaworld before, but since seeing Blackfish I could not go back. The thing is, they had even duped their staff into thinking that they were doing conservation work, so I feel it is hard for me to trust them now- even if they say they are rescuing manatees etc, I just don’t believe them. I have a lot of guilt from the times I went there, because even though they had all the signs about conservation, and breeding programmes etc, I feel that I should have known better and questioned it a bit more.
    I’ve not been to a basketball game, but I’ve been to a few baseball matches and it’s always such fun (and hilarious when they all stand to sing the weird organ song near the end).
    Glad you had such a great time! Seeing all those pictures of blue skies at this time of year makes it seem very tempting indeed!
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…A weekend in Nottingham (more parkrun tourism, pancakes, snow, cinema..)My Profile

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