A June 2005 trip
to Orlando by wildhoney269
Quote: For this summer’s family vacation, we finally decided to head to Orlando. Our children are 10 and 12 - too old for the "kiddie" things and yet too young for the adult options. However, we found a great variety of activities, and everyone had a great time.
Getting Around: I recommend having a car if you are staying in the Orlando area instead of on the property of one of the theme parks. They do offer trolley service, which is very affordable, but it’s very hot and humid in Orlando, and who wants to stand and wait for the bus?
I personally didn't like the decor of the rooms. They reminded me of 1980s Florida. I guess I go for the more Mediterranean style. However, the rooms had great appliances, were incredibly comfortable, and were highly functional. I would recommend staying here to a friend; however, I'd tell them to overlook the decor. The washer and dryer, dishwasher, stove, and ice maker were all very clean and working. The master bedroom had the largest bathtub I have ever seen!
The resort itself is very large and spread out into a series of buildings. If possible, request a room on a high floor. We were on the second floor, so we still had to wait for the elevator, but there were high bushes and trees surrounding our patio, which blocked our view of the pond in the back. The patio was nice, as it was screened in to keep the bugs away and had a ceiling fan.
I was very sick with a cold and enjoyed cozying up on the couch and watching cable while my husband took our two kids down to the pool. The pool was very crowded on Friday night but they had a lot of fun. On Friday evening, they had hotdogs and a magic show, both of which our kids (10 and 12) were disappointed in.
Since the resort is in Kissimmee, there are tons of things to do in the area. Our kids enjoyed miniature golf nearby, but we spent most of the rest of the time around the resort. While we did not partake, I thought one of the best features was the activities available on their lake. There are all sorts of watersport rentals available. They also have tennis courts and offer a variety of tennis lessons.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 11, 2005
Fairfield Orlando at Star Island
5085 Avenue of the Stars
Orlando, Florida 34746
Hotel | "Hilton Grand Vacations Club on International Dr."
Everything at the resort is brand-new and extremely well done. The one-bedroom unit had a Jacuzzi tub in the bedroom and a large screened-in balcony with access from both the bedroom and living room. A large living area consisted of the kitchen, a dining area, and a living room. The bathroom was spacious and had two sinks.
Our favorite part of the resort was the pool. Even though if you looked at the pool deck it seemed to be crowded, the pool is so large that we had plenty of room to splash around with our family and not be bothered by others. The pool stays open until 11pm and is a very active place at night.
Behind the pool is a deli where you can get breakfast or snacks. It also serves as a small store, offering food items to keep in your room, but I recommend buying your groceries at the Publix across the street, where you will find better prices. Next to the deli is a quiet room where guests can sit and read. On the other side of the quiet room, you will find the activities room, which contains a pool table, chess and checker tables, and a big-screen TV.
There are tons of scheduled activities at the resort as well. The recreation department organizes events for children, teens, and even adults. While we did not participate, the wine-tasting event sounded like a lot of fun. Some of the events are free, while others cost a few dollars.
When I asked, I was advised that they offer free shuttle service to Universal Studios. Simply tell them what time you want to go and arrange with the driver what time to pick you back up.
We enjoyed our stay so much that we decided to extend our stay for 2 more nights and were offered the "members" rate of $135 per night, which was well worth it. The other rate was $179 per night.
Overall, we had a wonderful experience at this resort. It had great access to everything, and we truly felt pampered and rested when we left.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 11, 2005
Hilton Grand Vacations Club on International Drive
8122 Arrezzo Way
Orlando, Florida 32821
Restaurant | "Boma"
Boma offers a special "house" juice during brunch. Instead of just plain orange juice, they mix a variety of four juices together. Very tasty and not too sweet. They had a great selection of brunch items. A traditional omelet station was available but the line was constantly quite long. A traditional carving station with ham and beef, as well as typical scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon, were available as well. All the items were incredibly fresh and high-quality.
I veered towards some of the unknown dishes. They served a few "African" egg and potato dishes that I suggest trying. I don’t know all of what was in them, but they had amazing seasonings and were not too strong – just very tasteful. When I went for seconds, it was those items that I piled up on.
The restaurant itself is on the ground floor, right next to the pool. You can walk out to view one of the Savanna’s at the lodge after your meal to look for flamingos and giraffes.
Boma-Flavors of Africa
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
Orlando, Florida 32830
My favorite performance was of an American-Indian woman. She had glow-in-the dark paint on her and her horse of handprints and other Native-American symbols. It was a beautiful and magical experience. We sat next to a couple from the UK who had gotten married that morning and chose to attend the show that evening. It was very romantic for them, but it was equally entertaining for my family with two children. I think since our children were 10 and 12, they enjoyed the show a bit more. The little kids were very entertained, but they had a hard time sitting so long.
A full meal is included in the price of the show. The food is okay, but the show is better. I had the veggie lasagna, and the others had prime rib and chicken fingers. The meal includes a salad, dinner, drinks, and a wedding cake for dessert.
We purchased our tickets at the Costco in Tampa, where we were able to get the VIP option included for about $42 for each adult and $29 per child. The VIP experience includes one drink at the bar and early entrance to the show to meet the cast and horses. The horses are beautiful, and it was fun to touch them and get pictures. I was happy, since my Costco ticket was about the same price as a non-VIP ticket and we were guaranteed seats in the first three rows. Otherwise, I would have not seen too much benefit in the VIP experience.
Unfortunately, none of our pictures from the show turned out. I think it was due to all the fast-moving horses and use of smoke and light effects, but they were all too dark or blurry. I’m glad we purchased postcards to remind us of the experience and beauty of each scene.
6225 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway
Orlando, Florida 34742
Attraction | "Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf"
Pirate’s Island has two different 18-hole courses. The price above is for one round of golf on one of the courses. There are coupons available in several local publications where kids can play free with each paying adult. They also offer "all day play" for both kids and adults at $9.95. Since we were there in June, it was too hot for us to play any more than one round.
We loved the pirate’s theme of this course. The grounds were entertaining to look at and very well kept. It was relaxing while we golfed next to man-made waterfalls and inside of caves. There is even a large pirate ship in the water for you to look at while waiting for your next hole.
Pirate’s Island is part of a chain of golf courses around the Orlando area called Pirate’s Island or Pirate’s Cove. They do offer a fun and affordable way to spend time with the family away from all the theme parks.
Pirate's Island Adventure Golf
2845 Florida Plaza Blvd.
Kissimmee, Florida 4746
This mall does not have typical department stores for their "anchor" stores. Their advertised draws are Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sheplers Westernwear and Vans Skatepark. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of most of these stores--they are all worth visiting!
We had to get something from Ron Jon Surf Shop so the kids could take a "surfing" souvenir back home. It is fun to check out all the surfboards and surfing clothes on sale here. While we had heard of Ron Jon before, we had never heard of Sheplers. We went into this HUGE store and had fun looking at all the Western items. We all tried on cowboy hats and admired the huge variety of cowboy boots. There also a section with household item where you can purchase all sorts of hot sauce and salsa. We got a Texas Hold ‘Em poker set to teach the kids to play for the nights we spent back at the hotel.
The "showstopper" of the mall, however, was Vans Skatepark. We expected that we would find the clothing and shoe lines from Vans. In addition, there is also a huge variety of skateboards. The store itself is only a very small part of Vans. Inside is just as the name describes – a skatepark. A skatepark in the mall. A HUGE skatepark in the mall. And it looked like kids between 6 and 24 were practicing in various bowls and ramps. We walked upstairs where you can walk around above the skaters and watch all the fun. It was great to see it live and see all the kids fall down hard and just get back up and do it again.
We saw one of the summer blockbusters at the Cinemark Movie Theater, which is also there. Next to the movie theater is a "glow-in-the-dark" miniature golf that looked like lots of fun. While we did not have time to eat there, I have to mention a unique theme restaurant in the mall. The Murray Brothers Caddyshack restaurant is a spin-off of the classic movie and looks like a great place to grab a burger.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 11, 2005
Festival Bay Mall
5250 International Drive
Attraction | "Animal Kingdom Lodge"
There are three savannas at Animal Kingdom Lodge where you can spot live animals. Usually, two savannas have animals out while the third one is closed for the animals to be fed and taken care of. Throughout the day, you will see a wide variety of African animals. From the savanna by the pool, we got close to a bunch of flamingos and were able to look out and see the giraffes feeding in the distance.
There is also a wonderful gift shop in Animal Kingdom Lodge. While it offers a wide variety of Disney items, there were also several African gifts available. It was the best gift shop I had seen throughout our entire stay. There is also a wide variety of animal gifts and artwork.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando, Florida 32830
The landscaping at this resort is amazing. A "river" starts inside the lodge and travels out and around the pool. Next to the pool is a large waterfall surrounded by all sorts of fabulous wildflowers. A path will take you around to a replication geyser. I am not sure if there is a set schedule of when it goes off. We waited for a few minutes and then decided to keep wandering around the resort. Behind the pool is a lakefront beach. So guest have the joy of swimming in the pool or in the warm lake. We walked the beach and kicked around the sand for a bit and lounged in the beach chairs. We only spent about 45 minutes at the resort, but it is incredible and an interesting way to see some of Disney without paying the high prices for a room in this top-of-the-line resort.
Walt Disney World
I highly recommend the Festival Bay Mall over the Premium Outlet Mall, but just because it is more of a unique experience. If you like outlet malls and top names, then this is the place for you.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 11, 2005
Premium Outlet Mall
8200 Vineland Ave
Orlando, Florida 32821
Gatorland is an incredibly unique place. We chose to visit Gatorland because we love animals and wanted to work in visiting some during our stay in Orlando. We did not know what to make of Gatorland and were unsure what to expect.
We arrived just as the park opened at 9am, and there was only one other family there in front of us. We used a coupon we found at the discount rack in our hotel for $2.50 off the price of the adult tickets. Once you enter the park, you are standing on a large deck that winds about over the water. The eyes of gators can be seen all over the water. They have several smaller species of turtles and crocodiles in tanks, which you can lean over. Many just spend the day lying in the sun. There is a booth where you can buy packs of hot dogs to feed the gators. We purchased two packs for $5. To feed the gators, break the hot dog into thirds and throw the piece into the water right next to their eye. Since their eyes are on the side of their head, they cannot see if you toss some food into the water in front of them. When you throw it next to their eye, throw it hard enough to make a splash. Their reaction is to turn their head and grab whatever just fell into the water next to them.
Four shows are offered throughout the day: Gator Jumparoo, Gator Wrestlin’, Jungle Crocs, and Upclose Encounters. We watched three of the shows, and each one lasted about 15 minutes. Upclose Encounters allows you to view different creatures from around the world. During our show, we saw a scorpion and rattlesnake and I was called as part of the show with four other visitors, and they brought out a huge python for us to hold. During Gator Wrestlin’, the professional gator wranglers work with about 6-foot gators by hand. They do all sorts of tricks with the gator, such as holding the gator’s mouth open with the wrangler’s chin. At the end of the show, they allow the children to sit on the back of a gator and get their picture taken for $10. The gator’s mouth is taped shut and the wrangler stays with the child and teaches them what to do. During the Gator Jumparoo, they feed gators whole chickens and try to get them to jump out of the water. Gators come in from all over the park, and it is quite a sight to see.
We enjoyed the train ride around the park as well. You can sample gator meat by purchasing gator nuggets and gator ribs at the shack shop on the premises. We purchased a sampler for about $7. The gift shop is filled with all sorts of gator items, including the traditional stuffed animals and other souvenirs. But you can also purchase rare gator wallets and other high-priced items.
14501 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32837