Published on March 1st, 2015 | by Kelly Rose Bradford0
Visiting Orlando for the first time
Visiting Orlando for the first time is a total adventure – but planning is the key to an action packed and stress-free break!
I had waited a very long time to visit Orlando – almost 40 years, in fact– and obviously, my trip was all about my son rather than me, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy every magical moment of our debut Floridian visit as well, though!
Having pored over the Visit Orlando website for at least a month before our trip, we thought we knew everything that the theme parks and other attractions had to offer. But you can never truly appreciate just what a kids’ paradise Orlando it is until you are in-situ.
We stayed at the amazing Nickelodean Suites resort in chalet-style accommodation with two bedrooms, a kitchen, sitting area and family bathroom. William loved his SpongeBob painted room, and my own grown-up mellow-hued bedroom next door was just the place to retreat to after a hard day in the sun.
Although not a traditional hotel in terms of the accommodation, the resort is in every other respect, with every onsite amenity you’d expect. The character breakfast in the main restaurant combined with an eat-all-you-like buffet with walk-abouts from Dora and SpongeBob (complete with singing and dancing routines) was a sight to behold over an early morning meal of waffles and pancakes, but a brilliant start to the day for younger guests.
Our first day In Orlando was spent at Seaworld where we saw everything from dancing dolphins to whales, stingrays and turtles. We particularly enjoyed the 3d TurtleTrek experience which took us on an amazing simulated journey through a turtle’s life via a ‘help the environment’ message.
One of my son’s main Florida must-sees was Legoland, which was just a 30 minute or so drive from our hotel. As Legoland Windsor veterans, we deemed the park ‘bustling’ yet manageable, and the queues for our favourite things – the driving school and boating – were minimal.
But of course the main draw is the big parks, and neither Disney or Universal disappointed. As we’d had not been to such huge theme parks before, we had spent a lot of time planning this part of our trip, and this is really important if you want to make the most of your days and not waste time simply being overwhelmed (which even then is still very easy, but in a good way – we seemed to do a lot of standing and staring just because everything is so amazing!). We were lucky enough to be using the services of a VIP tour guide so cut the queues to go effortlessly from ride to ride. Personal guides and Fast Pass or Express tickets might seem like an expensive add-on, but I truly believe they make the difference between a chilled, relaxed visit which makes the most of your every moment and a fraught, queue-central one with potentially bored kids!
Our absolute fave part of Universal was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was simply magical and like being on a movie set. Wandering round the straight-from-the-books streets and taking pictures of all the familiar Potter shops and landmarks was just ‘awesome’ according to my son. And then there was Hogwarts and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride…
Ambling through Hogwarts to get on the ride is in itself another ‘experience’, with portraits which come to life, and a speech from Dumbledore all part of the pre-ride ‘experience’. The Forbidden Journey is part simulated, part moving, and was just on the right side of thrilling/scary for even the wussiest of theme-park goers (me!) to enjoy.
Our final day in Florida was spent at Walt Disney World, where we met all our favourite Disney characters and saw Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
A holiday to Orlando is exhausting in the best possible way – we only experienced the tip of the iceberg with Walt Disney world, and there is still a good couple of days worth of exploring for us to do on our next visit – which hopefully, based on the amazing memories we have taken from our first, and the faultless hospitality and service we received throughout, will not be too far away.
Based on our Orlando break, these are our top tips for a family trip to the theme parks:
- Plan ahead. Using VIP services or fast track passes might seem an expensive additional cost but will pay dividends once you are in the parks.
- If you are vegetarian (like us) or have any other dietary requirements, take a packed lunch – unless you want chips, there are not many healthy veggie options around or much deviation from fast food.
- Dress for comfort! Flat shoes (which stay firmly on your feet!) are a must for both all the miles you cover and the rides you go on. An across-body bag is better than a rucksack when you are on rides, and if you have anything in your pockets, take it out and zip it away before going on anything!