Monday, 9 May 2016

Fun-filled Florida

FLORIDA - What better place to start for my first visit to the states than the Sunshine State. With its hot and sunny weather, palm trees and of course the theme parks. Me and my twin sister stayed at International Drive, Orlando after booking with my local travel agent who suggested there for its central location. We stayed at the Avanti Resort which was close to all the amenities we required, with chain restaurants like TGI Fridays and the Visit Orlando tourism office, which was handy as first timers in Florida. We got our bus tickets for the I - trolley transportation from the tourism office the bus runs daily, from north to south International Drive. There are malls on either side, with more of the same brands including Gap, Nike, Guess and Victoria Secret, which is found in the south side malls. 
International Drive is a hub of nice family catered hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and is home to WonderWorks, a science based attraction that looks like an upside down house from the outside. Check with your hotel to see if they run daily shuttle buses to the parks so you don't have to organise transport to the parks when you get there unless you've sorted car rental.

The Parks

Without a doubt the main attraction point of a holiday to Orlando is the Parks and as I found you will be spoiled for choice and entertained day and night. It's no wonder The Walt Disney World Resort is the most visited vacation resort in the World. Walt Disney World comprises four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom and the two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Magic Kingdom was the first park created by Walt Disney which was built by WED Enterprises and opened it's doors to the public in 1971.

Feeling like a Princess with The Cinderella Castle behind me

will never forget the first time I seen the Cinderella Castle with my own eyes, gushing at its far away presence as me and my sister journeyed on the Liberty Square Riverboat from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom, which runs daily and in my opinion the best way to travel to Magic Kingdom. 

Liberty Square Riverboat
Once I arrived at Magic Kingdom, and got through the gates Main Street USA led the way to the Cinderella Castle like a magical arrow. I noticed when we first walked in to Liberty Square, the starting point of Magic Kingdom, that people were sitting on the kerb. My Aunty told me back home that if I see this then it means a parade is due, so me and my sister plonked ourselves down on the pavement and waited. Then a few minutes later we were in for a treat as whimsical music played and Disney Characters dancing on big moving floats appeared. Among the characters were Belle and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, her three godmothers and Maleficent as a dragon and Mickey and Minnie in a hot air balloon which put a fantastic finishing touch to the Festival of Fantasy Parade.

Mickey and Minnie's own hot-air balloon, Festival of Fantasy Parade


The best thing I found about Disney World is that every film fantasy is brought to life by Walt Disney, who started it all with a mouse - Mickey Mouse. The 3D and 4D simulator rides at Disney World and Universal tease the imagination as your seats move with certain film sequences and effects like water being skooshed and bubbles come towards you in The voyage of the Little Mermaid ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. 

The Hollywood Studio's is home to the Hollywood Tower of Terror ride infamous for it's scream induced, plummeting elevator. Disney's Animal Kingdom is perfect for animal lovers as its a nature themed park home to hundreds of different types of animal. I loved The Kilmanjaro Safari ride at the Africa area of the park called Harambe as it took us through a tour of African wildlife in an open sided jeep style vehicle. The ride moves slowly so you can get the chance to photograph four of the big 5: Elephants, Giraffes, Cheetahs and Rhino's. 

Elephant at Animal Kingdom, Kilmanjaro Safari


Universal 

The Universal theme park is the first park I visited on my first full day in Orlando as I was keen to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I didn't know that it is split over two parts of the park, Islands of Adventure where Hogsmeade is and Diagon Alley and Kings Cross, London at Universal Studios. The Hogwarts express journeys between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. In the film Hogsmeade is the tradtional village that the students arrive at before getting their boats to Hogwarts school. So would be good to get the train from the make shift Kings Cross station after wandering down Diagon Alley where you can get an ice cream from Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour and take a ride inside Gringotts bank. I did it the opposite way and started at Hogsmeade where I bought sweets from Honeydukes sweet shop and went inside the Hogwarts Castle ride and the Flight of the Hippograff - small rollercoaster of buckbeak. 


Be Park Prepared

Tips for the parks especially if its your first time.

1. Plan where you want to go and when and make a list of what you really want to do. Fast pass the rides and shows you really want to do using the My Disney World experience app or go on there website: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/ If accessing the app on an iPhone just scan the barcode on your ticket pass using your camera and that will be you registered for the parks. 

2. Wear comfy shoes, these are a must you will be on your feet morning to night and the parks are huge so your feet will get sore from all the walking. Sketchers can be bought cheap at the malls or get a pair on their website before you go.

3. Take plenty of water, you will get thirsty after a while as it's warm in the parks and you will be queuing throughout the day. Either buy bottles of water from the vendors or buy the big cups from the park gift shops and fill them up in the morning at your hotel or villa. You can buy ones from the park which have fans attached to them which will come in handy when it gets really warm.