Florida Adventure - My Guide to Orlando Part 121:38
You may or may not know (I mean, I don't know how you wouldn't know; I've only been blabbing on about it since the day I booked it and shoving it down your throats whilst I was there) but I have recently been on the holiday of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida. I had been dying to go since the day I got back from my last trip there in 2013, and I was determined to go again. With anyone who would come. Now, my boyfriend probably wasn't that interested in anything Florida/Disney/Theme Park related before we went, but as he has now found, it's impossible not to get the Orlando bug. And now we both want to go back.
Before my trip, even though I had been a few years back I felt like I had forgotten everything I did or knew, so I looked high and low for an Orlando themed blog post, to not much avail. So, after doing a bit of social media fishing, you guys confirmed that a Florida themed blog post would be something you would love. So here goes. It's a big 'un. And this is only Part 1...
Hogwarts at Universal Islands of Adventure
What to do in Florida
So, here's the obvious ones. The Theme Parks. Florida has 12 major theme parks, 6 of which are Disney parks. We originally intended to buy a two week 'Passport' style pass that gets you unlimited access to all parks, but this was pretty pricey. We ended up going for the Flex Ticket Plus, which gets you access to Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Aquatica and Wet & Wild (which I believe has now closed). This was was more cost friendly and we definitely got our moneys worth. If Harry Potter is your thing, don't even second guess it; you need to go to both Universal Parks. It's like nothing you've ever seen before and they are definitely the best parks in my opinion.
As we were sticking to a budget, we had to make a decision on the Disney side of the Theme Parks. As much as I wanted to do them all (I had only done Epcot during my 2013 visit) we just couldn't justify going to each one. So whilst we were there, we made the decision to visit Magic Kingdom - the big daddy. We actually attended a time share presentation to get the tickets for $60pp instead of $130. If you don't mind sitting through a good 4 hour chat and being almost convinced to sign up to a time share, then I think it's well worth the cost saving because I just didn't rate Magic Kingdom at all. Don't get me wrong, I am definitely glad I went as it really is a magnificent sight, but when you compare the actual experience to Universal, there's no comparison. If you have young children, they would LOVE it. Two young adults, you're not missing much. If I was going again, I would chose to go back to Epcot, I love the world showcase there.
SeaWorld is a must, even if you don't agree with the Orca shows, they do some amazing conservation works with the animals, I love seeing the rescue Manatees. Plus, they have three of the best roller coasters there! Aquatica is also a great day out but you're not missing out if you don't go, the kids would definitely love it though.
Not the Theme Parks
My boyfriend was under the pretence that all there was to do was go to the parks. But he was totally wrong. Here are a few things that I think are worth paying a visit to:
Crazy Golf - these are located all along International Drive. We walked form our hotel on Int. Drive to Pirate Golf, or got the iTrolley (which I will speak about later, you NEED to know about this if you're going).
Downtown Disney/Disney Springs - A free to visit Disney themed area with amazing shops, restaurants and amazing views and places to see. If you go I definitely recommend the Rainforest Cafe (but expect it to be busy on Fridays and Saturdays). Spoiler - the volcano erupts!
Hire a Car - Not just a car. We hired a Chevvy Silverado pick up and it may have been the best thing we did all holiday! We found a car hire place in a hotel about 3 doors down from our hotel and hired it for two days, but we wish we had kept it for longer!
Go to the beach - This kind of comes under the car as you will need one to get there, but we took a trip to Daytona Beach which was nice and very chilly (11 degrees - the locals were in hats and scarves and I was in a skirt!) but well worth it. Plus, there's no better feeling than driving down to the coast in a 5 litre pick up listening to Jason Aldean.
The Lobster Burger at Yard House
Disney's Christmas Decorations
You've probably already heard of Orlando's premium outlets. Their version of Cheshire Oaks but even cheaper - sometimes. There are two Outlet's - Orlando Vineland and Orlando International. Both are either end of International Drive and both are pretty similar, although I preferred International (mainly for the Victoria Secret store, but be prepared for madness and $3 pants). I did get some bargains here (Kate Spade and The Cosmetic Company Store were good) but don't be fooled - a taxi driver told us that the outlets are for tourists and they put the prices UP in some places. And we found this to be true. We went to the Florida Mall, which is 'the locals' Mall. It's not as glam as the other malls but a pair of trainers were definitely cheaper there than the outlets.
The Mall at Millennia was my favourite. You can drool over the designer stores (without that UK snobbery, they were actually really friendly and chatty) and you can also get the bargains. I picked up a few bits from the sold out in the UK H&M x Kenzo collection and there was an amazing NYX store. And Sephora, the heaven that is. I actually found items slightly more expensive in here than the UK strangely, bar a few brands like Anastasia Beverly Hills and Tarte etc. Don't forget to visit the Cheesecake Factory whilst you're there; THE BEST CHEESECAKE EVER.
The shops at Disney Springs are lovely but be prepared for a bit of a price hike - Mac was WAY more expensive there than in the UK, but I think Sephora was the same price. Plus there is a Zara there which I didn't see anywhere else.
SeaWorlds Flamingo Boats
Escape from Gringotts, Universal Studios
Dudley Do-Rights Rip Saw Falls, Universal Islands of Adventure
Don't worry, part 2 is coming shortly for all the rest of your Florida needs including food, getting around and what to pack!