Back in September I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks on holiday in Orlando, Florida. It was never going to be a relaxing break, but with all the parks to visit, attractions to ride and shows to see, you wouldn’t want it to be!
And we really hit the ground running. On the first full day in Orlando, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. What a park to start off with! With themed Islands including Marvel Superhero Island, Toon Lagoon and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, It features some of the biggest thrill rides so it’s a real big hitter.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a fantastic part of the park, even if the main The ride was something different. A combination of motion simulator, flying ride and special effects show. The effects were impressive, but the constant, sometimes rapid, direction changes let it down. It’s worth it for the walk through the recreated Hogwarts Castle. And the surrounding area, a replica of Hoggsmeade was very impressive, with it’s on-theme shops and eateries.
Next up was Disney’s Magic Kingdom. This park never gets old! No matter how old you are, you can’t help but love it. With it’s mix of themes – from the Wild West, to Future Land, everyone loves Disney. From the characters to the rides, and the world-famous parades, it is a must-do when in Florida. Staying late for the electric parade really rounded the day off. Disney also offers up a host of other parks. Animal Kingdom was as-ever amazing, with a mix of Disney magic and exotic animals to go along with a handful of rides. Hollywood Studios brings the films of Walt Disney to life, and EPCOT
Kennedy Space Centre is somewhere I have a real passion for. It may not be a theme park, but it brings a whole other experience. Seeing the Rocket Garden is a spectacle in itself. Walking in amongst full size rockets, either standing full height or laid down, you get a real sense of the enormity of these stunning works of engineering. We took a tour which is always an eye-opener, hopping on a bus to see parts of the complex. The tour included a stop at the now-disused shuttle launch pads. These imposing metal structures loomed high above as we stood in their shadow. A range of birds, including vultures, circled the towers ominously as you get a feel for how big a shuttle must have been. A trip around the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was a highlight of the tour, getting to see this immense building where the shuttle vehicle was set up with the fuel tank and rockets. A stop at the Saturn V building allows a fantastic opportunity to see a full size Saturn V class rocket separated in to its main parts. The Space Shuttle Atlantis experience started off with a cinematic presentation about the conception, from design to final implementation, of the shuttle programme. As the screen faded to a black backdrop filled with stars, it became translucent allowing a glimpse of the Atlantis shuttle. What an impressive site as the screen raises and I moved forward to see this feat of technology, taking man to the stars. I spent a lot of time lost in thought viewing this majestic creation, before heading to the Atlantis Experience – a simulator-type attraction allowing riders the chance to see what a shuttle launch and re-entry would have been like.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the holiday was a day spent at Discovery Cove. The concept of this park is fantastic. In the heart of Orlando, close to the Universal and SeaWorld parks, it somehow manages to be an oasis of peace. The all inclusive set up including breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks just made the day all the more relaxing. Starting the day with a dolphin experience is something I will never forget. Spending half an hour in the water with these fascinating animals, we were introduced to two dolphins, taught a lot about them, before being taken on an unforgettable swim being towed by one of them. The rest of the day was spent swimming in the warm waters of the lazy river, the cold waters of a lagoon teeming with tropical fish and rays, and feeding a rainbow cascade of tropical birds.
I have been lucky enough to visit Orlando a number of times now, and it never ceases to amaze and astound. There is always something new, and the feeling of excitement as you walk through the gates of the parks and attractions is second to none!