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Tips for First Timers to Orlando
Things to do in Orlando? The list is endless.
For older children and adults Universal Studios is usually the most popular. There are lots of thrill rides there and the rides are based on films they will have seen such as ET, Terminator, Spiderman, The Mummy, Back to the Future, Jaws. . . . . . . . . Universal is split into two parks and you can get special tickets to cover both, plus other parks. This is called a Flexi Ticket. It allows 14 days access from day of first use to: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World, Aquatica and Wet and Wild Water Park). You should also visit Universal in the evening as the City Walk is full of restaurants, bars with live music and shops. It is great fun to walk around them in the warm evenings and soak up the atmosphere. If you are visiting in October, Universal does the best Halloween Fright Night ever seen. It is worth travelling in October just to go to this!
Disney has 4 main parks, which are Magic Kingdom, Epcot Centre, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. The best option for Disney is definitely the ticket that allows you to hop from park to park on the same day and gives you entrance to one of the water parks, which are excellent. The Water Parks are called Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. My kids tended to like Typhoon Lagoon the best because of the wave machine, but this may be a bit powerful for smaller children and non-swimmers.
Disney tickets are cheaper for kids, but they have to be less than 10 years old. Most younger children like Magic Kingdom the best, as they enjoy the superb day and evening parades featuring all their favourite Disney characters. The evening Spectromagic Light Parade is also very popular, but make sure that it is on the day you go and realise it may be cancelled due to bad weather.
By getting a Park Hopper you can go to Magic Kingdom in the morning, visit Epcot Centre in the evening (which is famous for its amazing firework display) and have a rest at the villa during the heat of the day. It is advisable to visit Animal Kingdom first thing in morning as the animals on the Safari sleep during the real heat of the day. Then you can leave at 11am and spend the day at a water park. Hollywood Studios is much like Universal and is more geared to the golden age of cinema. The rides are not so white knuckle as in Universal (apart from a few, such as Tower of Terror or Rockin’ Roller Coaster). If you have a very young child remember to use the baby waiting area. This allows one adult on to a ride while the other waits in the baby waiting area, and then allows you to swap places without having to queue up twice. If you have a grandparent with you, it is also a good place for them to wait while you go on the ride.
If you still have time after all that, which I doubt on your first visit to Orlando, you can always drive to Tampa (1½ hours away) and visit Busch Gardens (great white knuckle rides and shows). Entrance to this park can be included in a Flexi Ticket mentioned above for Universal and Seaworld for a little extra. Other popular attractions include Gatorland, Cypress Gardens (very popular with older generation) and Kennedy Space Centre, which is also only 1½ hours drive away. Look out to see if there is a launch on the day you go.
There are also lots of smaller attractions, and you can read all about them from the leaflets you can pick up all over Orlando in supermarkets, shopping malls and tourist information centres. A good idea is to drive to Walmart Supermarket when you arrive and stock up with essentials such as milk, bread, butter, etc and pick up all the leaflets you can find for the kids to look at and decide where you prefer to go.
When eating out Americans give you huge portions. Don't be afraid to ask for a doggie bag to take leftovers back to the villa or get 2 plates for one order and share. Also tip at least 15%, as this is standard in US. Air conditioning is turned up very high and if you go to the cinema or a restaurant on a balmy night take a light cardigan or jacket with you, as you might freeze indoors. If you travel in the winter months remember that it is not so hot in the evenings and a fleece would be useful.
Carry around the discount coupons you see in leaflets for restaurants in your purse. You never know when you might decide to eat in one of them and they do save money. Also discount coupons are available for some of the smaller attractions such as places like Gatorland, Airboat Rides, Skull Kingdom, Wonderworks, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Guinness Book of Records and Crazy golf. These coupons can save you money and it is really frustrating when you decide to go to one and your coupon is sitting on the coffee table back at the villa.
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