After our 9 hour flight we arrived in Orlando mid-afternoon. We took a short and cheap Uber ride and arrived at our accommodation in Lake Buena Vista, which was about 10 minutes’ walk from the entrance to Disney World. We stayed at the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista and for what we needed it for it was perfect. We were there during the recent hurricane and the hotel did everything to make sure we were comfortable and informed about the weather. I would recommend Lake Buena Vista to anyone thinking of going to Orlando, as it is close to all of the theme parks, has lots of restaurants and shops and is a short taxi ride from things like the Florida Mall and Discovery Cove.
On our first day, we headed to Magic Kingdom early for rope drop, which is the show in front of the castle before the park opens. This is amazing and definitely worth getting up early for. If you have younger children with you this is the park I would recommend the most. It has some rides that are great for adults but I think it would be really magical for little ones, as there are lots of characters walking around and the theming makes you feel like you are in a Disney movie. Magic Kingdom have seasonal events running every year and we were there during their Halloween party. This is separate to your entry ticket and will set you back around £60 each if you wanted to do it but it is 100% worth it. There are things for both adults and children at the party. We sat and watched the parade and show that were included which are amazing and are only available during the party. Some people come dressed up and you can trick or treat which is great for the kids. You also get an extra 3 hours in the park so the adults can enjoy more rides with much lower wait times. I would recommend using the MyDisneyExperience app to book fast passes as early as you can in this park, as it has really popular rides that can have high wait times depending on when you go.
Next, we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this was my favourite park out of the ones we went to. It is full of exciting rides, shows and food for you to enjoy. We watched a Lion King show which was brilliant and did a safari through the parks wildlife reserve, you can book fast passes for both of these. This park recently opened up a Pandora world from the film Avatar and has two brand new rides. These rides get very high wait times and the queues are mostly outdoors so if you are travelling with young children and visit in the hotter months I would give these rides a miss, unless you can get a Fast Pass for them. You can easily spend a full day at this park and if you’re not too tired by the end of it I would suggest staying to watch Rivers of Light, this is the show on the lake located in the Asia section of the park. This takes place at night and is a light show projected onto the water. Disney puts on a show at all of their parks at night which involves things like fireworks and music so keep this in mind when visiting.
On our third day, we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I loved this park as it has some really great rides such as Rock N Roller Coaster and The Tower of Terror. The crowd levels were much smaller here too. There is something for everyone. There are performers in the streets who interact with the public and if you like Star Wars there is a Storm Trooper parade that goes down the centre of the park every couple of hours. This park has lots of shows on offer too which are amazing and definitely worth watching. I would recommend the Indiana Jones show, even if you didn’t enjoy the films it is a brilliant show and is not what you would expect at all. All the shows in the Disney parks are included in your ticket so you do not have to pay any extra to go and watch them, so when the heat gets unbearable or you have another hour before your next fast pass they are definitely worth checking out.
Our final Disney park was Epcot. Epcot is set out around a large lake called World Showcase and has 11 different countries set out in a circle. This is an amazing park as you can walk from France to England in a matter of minutes and each area is themed so well that you would think you were really there. If you have small children you definitely have to do the Frozen ride, it is quite hard to get a Fast Pass for this ride if you are visiting during a busy period and the queues are quite long if you don’t have one but it is a lovely ride and is definitely worth it for little ones. As you can imagine, there is a variety of food here from all over the world. They also have an event called the Food and Wine festival that was running while we were here so there were even more countries represented, each offering delicious food. We made our way around the world showcase ordering a small dish from each and it was fantastic. One of our Uber drivers told us that Orlando locals like to play a game at Epcot called “Drink around the world” were you buy a shot or small drink from each country around World Showcase. Obviously, it is a game for adults who have some extra dollars as Disney pricing is pretty high, but it still sounds like a good way to spend an afternoon in the park.
Once we had done all the Disney parks we headed over to Universal Studios. Universal has two parks, the Studios and Islands of Adventure. Universal Studios is good for your more grown up rides such as Rip-Ride-Rock’it and The Mummy, as well as Harry Potter World which is just amazing. Both parks have a Harry Potter area and you can catch the Hogwarts Express between the two, so if you are travelling with Harry Potter lovers it is perfect. There are interactive areas in this part of the park so if you purchase a wand and follow the spells you can make things in the shop windows move. Again, Universal do themed nights during autumn called Halloween Horror Nights but this is not for children and you have to be 16+ to attend. We didn’t do this as it is an additional cost to your ticket and we already had the Disney one booked but we did see some of the props and it looks brilliant for horror lovers.
Universal Islands of Adventure has some of the best rides that we went on during the whole holiday. They have the Hulk rollercoaster (my favourite), King Kong and Jurassic Park, which I didn’t go on because I was terrified but apparently it is really good. They also have a huge log flume type ride so if the Florida sun gets too hot you can always cool down on that.
The final thing we did was Universals Volcano Bay. This is a very new water park with huge slides and nice little beaches and wave pools. Perfect for a day to relax and cool off from the sun. We didn’t do parks like Sea World or Busch Gardens as we didn’t want to over face ourselves. There is so much to do in Orlando and one visit to each park just isn’t enough.
It was a holiday of a lifetime and I am already planning my next trip as I loved it so much. If the parks aren’t really your thing, there are still plenty of things to do in Orlando such as shopping and eating, and with beaches just a short drive away you have a variety of options.
See our holiday page to visit Orlando and the US.