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!


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)!

Orlando Holiday Recap

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.

IMG_9038 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.

Hotel Cabana Beach Bay Orlando

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!

IMG_9055Work out selfie – could we be having anymore fun??

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.

Universal Studios 2015 That’s Jamie photo-bombing behind us – we didn’t even realise!

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?).

IMG_9088 MIB ride – Kate taught me the tricks of the trade to high score

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!

IMG_9129 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 2015Busch 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.

IMG_9174 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).

Games Day 2015 The bowling was at the hotel and the crazy golf was on City Walk

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.

IMG_9350 The Amway Center

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.

IMG_9355 Obviously I tried to catch it on my phone

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.IMG_9559Pig 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!

Pig Fest 2015 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!

IMG_9597Just chilling with Decepticon (like I know who that is…)

Ben would kill me if I didn’t mention one final awesome thing about Orlando…the cars:

IMG_9663 Both couples got Mustang convertibles…*sighs*. Having the roof down was cool but it did mess my hair up (I know, such a girl comment).

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??)