What are the best things to do in Orlando?

This weekend, Flea and I will be flying out to Florida for half-term, as guests of Visit Orlando.

We’ll be visiting the major theme parks while we’re in the US – including Sea World Parks, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, as well as having some time to explore other attractions in the area.

Realistically, this is the ONLY time we’re likely to be making this kind of trip together, and I want to be sure we’re making the very most of it. Which is where I need your help…

If you’ve been to Florida, what are the things you thing we shouldn’t miss? Do you have any tips on how to make the most of our time?

I’ve been checking out the new Orlando Holiday Planning tool, a nifty little site where you can plan your holiday itinerary, activities, accommodation and more –  but I’m not sure which attractions/rides/places should be on my MUST SEE list – and obviously what should be on the “can’t possibly miss it” list of the world’s most over-excited seven year old…

So I’d love to know what you most enjoyed on a trip to Florida – or where you’d go first, given the chance…



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Annie
    12th February 2013 / 3:31 pm

    Wishing you and Flea a safe flight and a big welcome to Florida! The weather here has been perfect! I have no doubt that you will have an excellent time here =) I definitely recommend the parks as you mentioned you will be doing and the beaches! It has been so warm here. There are also a lot of fairs going on. Have fun!

  2. 12th February 2013 / 8:21 pm

    I am literally just looking at booking for us 🙂

    I’ll be making sure we go to NASA, but with just a week, you might not have time.

    Have a fantastic holiday. xx
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  3. 12th February 2013 / 8:51 pm

    Wow Sally, what a fabulous opportunity, I just know you and Flea are going to have a great time!

    My in-laws used to own a villa in Orlando (sadly it had to be sold after my FIL died), so we managed to get quite a few trips out there. I’ve never been with kids, so bear in mind my opinions are those of a grown woman (who is quite capable of behaving like a 7 year old child at the best of times!)

    We used to plan a full day at each of the major parks that we wanted to visit. We would try to arrive at opening time and get as many of the big rides done as possible before the queues got too long. All the parks have “FastPass” systems where you can “book” a space on a ride, so we’d use those once the park got busy. Also all the parks have live shows which are really entertaining and not to be missed, so pick up a park schedule on your way in and arrive early for the shows to get decent seats.

    Our favourite parks, in descending order, are Universal Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens (if you can get further out of Orlando), Sea World, Epcot, MGM Studios and then Universal Studios. We can happily spend a full day at each one of those without getting bored. Magic Kingdom looks dated now, but has some classic rides especially for kids, so I’d probably do that in a half day with Animal Kingdom.

    I don’t know how long you’re going for, presumably not more than a week, so I expect you won’t be able to do everything. Personally I would choose to do a selection of the parks well, rather than trying to dip into everything and racing around like a loon.

    I would recommend that you stay late for the fireworks display at a park at least once. Epcot fireworks are probably my favourite, but Fantasmic at MGM Studios is also excellent, hard to choose between the two. Book an evening meal at one of the restaurants in the park in advance as they fill up quickly.

    We always liked to alternate park days with less busy days, as a full day at a park can be very tiring. A little light shopping at the Florida mall, or an airboat ride into the Everglades both make great “less busy” days. I’ve always wanted to swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove as well, I hear it’s an amazing experience.

    If you can get out there and have time the Kennedy Space Center is also a great day out.

    For meals out we always enjoy Carrabas, Longhorn and Outback. Our favourite breakfast place is Waffle House, we have been known to eat at a different one each day (blush).

    There’s probably loads more to say, but I’ve written an essay as it is, and your rotten blog already ate my first attempt at this, so I’ll stop now, but if you have any questions just ask. I also have friends who live in Florida, I’ll see if they have any advice too.

    Can’t wait to read all about your adventures 🙂
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  4. Suzanne
    12th February 2013 / 9:42 pm

    We went to Orlando last year, as a family of 5. We decided that as we had never been before, to hone in on just the Disney parks and not attempt any of the others. This was definitely a good decision. We got 14 day passes to all 6 parks (it included the two water parks) and we also got a few days off to enjoy the pool and not rushing around. There are also a few great malls in Orlando and I didn’t want to miss out on shopping time! We stayed in a villa and I would recommend that if you’re not an enormous Disney fan. I would also recommend arriving at the parks either first thing (before the gates even open) or at the end of the day (4pm) when people are leaving. You will get a lot of conflicting advice so I hope that helps a little?

  5. Richard J Foster
    12th February 2013 / 10:04 pm

    Ah Ruth! You haven’t been paying attention. They recently revamped Magic Kingdom. I haven’t visited there since, but there are several new parts that *should* now be open, including a “Beauty and the Beast” themed restaurant. As a result, and assuming Flea’s interests are similar to my own daughter, I’d probably promote Magic Kingdom to a full day. If you have to double up on a park day, I’d combine Animal Kingdom (in the morning) with Hollywood Studios (It’s not MGM Studios any more Ruth ;-)) in the evening for Fantasmic.

    One thing that my daughter *loves* doing, if you’re in the area of Disney, is looking for the Hidden Mickey’s. There are a large number of them, including ones outside the theme parks – e.g. at the resorts and Downtown Disney – that you can spot without paying any money. 🙂 Hidden Mickey Guy has quite a lot of information about them if you are so inclined. You can find his site at http://www.hiddenmickeyguy.com.

    For a 7 year old, Kennedy Space Center is a bit of a gamble. When we visited recently our young son was much more interested in everything than our daughter was. If she’s not into space I’d probably give it a miss – especially as the Atlantis is not yet on display (or at least I don’t think it is).

    If your daughter is into horses, you may want to consider one of the combined meal & shows like Medieval Times or Arabian Nights. I’ve only been to the former, but I’ve heard good things about both.

    One final bit of advice… Even though it may seem silly, make sure to pack at least one or two pieces of warm clothing. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be below average – possibly down to less than 5 Celsius overnight, and once it gets dark it can get surprisingly chilly – especially if you’re sitting waiting for a show to start. I haven’t seen a long term forecast for next week yet, but my guess would be that it’ll be bouncing back fairly quickly.

    I’m sure you’ll have a great time. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me (e.g. via G+) and I’ll help if I can.

  6. Emma
    13th February 2013 / 1:27 pm

    I really do look forward to reading yours and Flea’s account of it, especially Flea’s. We thought instead of doing the whole Disneyland Paris thing why not save like crazy over the next several years and treat the children when they are older to this kind of trip.

  7. Nikki
    13th February 2013 / 8:41 pm

    Can I just say I’d like your job please?!!!!

    My recommendations – based on my trip there many (many many) moons ago when I was aged 10ish, would be to go to Epcot – bit like the science museum in some parts, but the best bit for me was “travelling” around different countries and experience life in each world – very cool. Kennedy Space Centre – although Flea might be a bit young but I still remember the excitement of seeing the launch pad…We also went off the beaten tracks and visited an Aligator / Croc farm – saw those big buggers right up close and it was awesome.

    From the Disney parks perspective, there was only really the Magic Kingdom when I went and I loved the ET ride, It’s a Small World, Peter Pans Flight, Pirates of the caribbean (called so before the films would you believe), Swiss Family Robinson tree house, Tom Sawyers Island (both classics which I don’t know whether Flea would be familiar with). I also loved thunder and space mountain rides but you can do these types at any UK theme park really. The parade and fireworks every night truly are spectacular…..I still remember crying my heart out as we left on the little disney ferry, crossing the lake to the music “When you wish upon a star”….and sobbing all the way backto the car park. It had a magic that, in my opinion, the UK parks have never achieved.


  8. Jane
    14th February 2013 / 1:13 pm

    We’ve just come back from Orlando in December, I would recommend Magic Kingdom – even though there is a lot of construction going on at the moment, it is definitely worth a visit. The new magic kingdom is half open, The universal studios with seuss landing and harry potter is probably better for a younger child if you had to pick one. Epcot only has the air ride and car ride that are worth visiting. Nasa was a disappointment.
    Have a lovely time

  9. 14th February 2013 / 6:31 pm

    So jealous! Although we are off there in May so I can’t be too jealous. You’ll have an amazing time – it’s incredible. We went there last January for the first time and it was fabulous.

    I can’t say much more than Ruth has already said – all great advice. Make sure you have REALLY comfortable shoes as you’ll do a lot of walking. We loved the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT…and Sea World. We didn’t do Universal but plan to this time. If Flea is into all the Disney characters make sure she has an ‘autograph’ book as they all sign their names for you. Make use of the busy day guides on the planning tool. Do a character meal (if Flea would love it). We loved Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickeys. Everything is really cheesy but you can’t help but love it.

    If you go to EPCOT walk to the Beach Club hotel resort and check out Beaches And Cream.

    Oh and make sure you pick up your big ‘First Visit’ badge – you get treated extra special when the cast members at Disney see you.

    Finally, enjoy and safe travels. Can’t wait to hear all about it.

    Sorry, I don’t normally post links on comments but I posted this after our trip last year:
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  10. 14th February 2013 / 8:31 pm

    I’ve never been so can’t help, sorry, but we’ve booked our flights for August so I’ll be interested to hear your recommendations. My kids are 10 and 14 and the eldest is really excited about the new Disney Fantasyland, which surprised me. Have a great time!
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