Orlando Stories and Tips

Filled with magic

My husband and I spent our honeymoon (and got married) in Orlando, Florida in September/ October this year. However, we weren’t planning on this being a wedding and honeymoon at the time we booked it. The holiday was supposed to be a celebration for his 30th birthday and for me graduating from university. Although our reasons for being there changed, we had a fabulous time and thoroughly loved our time there.

For me, Orlando is the perfect destination for families who have members of all ages. One of the main draws to Orlando is quite obviously Disney for the younger children. However, this was something I desperately wanted to do as I had wanted to go since I was a child. I was slightly worried that Disney would be too aimed at young children but I was pleasantly surprised. Disney offers a whole range of things to do such as the main park (Magic Kingdom), Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and more. Each park seemed to have something for everyone. There are rides and attractions for the younger kids and bigger ones for the adults. My husband and I found plenty to do and enjoy at each of the Disney parks we visited. The drawback to Disney is that it can take up the whole two weeks of your holiday if you let it. There is so much to do and see. I think we were lucky because we didn’t go with children so we were able to miss out a lot of the things aimed at a young audience.

If you’re wanting a more grown up theme park though, Universal Studios is the place to be. Both Universal and Islands of Adventure have bigger, more exciting rides but each also has a section for the younger children which I thought was a nice touch. Out of the theme parks, Universal was easily my favourite but I think that might have been more because it is based around more current films such as Harry Potter and Marvel films. My husband is a massive Harry Potter fan so this was a big draw for us as he was desperate to see The Wizarding World and to go on the rides there. While you can spend a whole day in each Universal park, it is also possible to do both in a day if you’re willing to miss out some things while you’re there.

Theme parks in Orlando are expensive though and you can easily spend a small fortune here, especially if you have children begging for Micky or Minnie mouse ears etc. T-shirts will cost you $20 plus while your basic hotdog and fries can easily set you back around $8 a person. Both Disney and Universal have a souvenir for everyone and yes, we did buy a fair bit while we were there although we didn’t go too mad. For those with more money, Disney and Universal artwork is available to buy in a couple of places and this type of thing could be a real treat to bring back with you.

We stayed in the Lake Buena Vista area of Orlando and here we found at least 4 discount souvenir shops. These all sold Disney and Universal items at much lower prices than in the actual parks. However, you must be careful as some of the merchandise is not authentic but you can find some real bargains if you look hard enough. These shops might be the kinds of places to take the kids if you want to get them something that’s cheap if you know they won’t appreciate the value of items from the official park shops.

International Drive (I-Drive) is the other must go to place in Orlando. Here you will find a street miles long with, again, something for everyone. I-Drive is home to a lot of the dinner shows and I can easily recommend the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure after going there myself. This is such an exciting and entertaining show with the chance for audience participation. It was certainly a night to remember for us. Also on I-Drive is a whole range of museums such as Ripley’s and experience attractions such as Titanic and CSI. If you’ve had enough of this kind of thing though, you can easily head over to Wet N Wild for a day in the water park to escape the heat!

Orlando is also a shopper’s paradise. At either end of I-Drive are two outlet malls. They are both by the same company although each has some shops that the other doesn’t which means they’re both worth visiting. At these malls, you can find so many branded shops such as Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren, Nike and Gap. The items available are at a much lower price than you’ll find anywhere in the UK and I know some people go to Orlando just for the shopping. In fact, the people staying in the hotel room next to us only went over to do their Christmas shopping. My husband and I did quite a lot of ours while we were there too. I managed to get myself a Ted Baker bag for roughly £60 whereas it would have cost £130 over here.

Maybe this is an American thing rather than an Orlando thing, but we found the locals to be so nice. We don’t get customer service like they have there in the UK and it was something I missed as soon as we came home. No matter where we were, people were more than happy to help us with directions or to tell us how to use the bus system etc. We originally thought that people working in restaurants etc. were overly nice because we knew they relied on the tips but it did seem that they were actually being genuine. It was wonderful to feel so special everywhere we went.

Orlando is such an exhausting place to visit and I have no idea how families with a couple of children do it for a week, let alone two. The theme parks get annoying after a couple of days so it would be wise to break up your visits if you can and do something in between. However, I would not have changed our honeymoon for the world. John and I had a magical time and I think that is what Orlando is… a magical place where dreams are made.

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