Making Magical Memories in Orlando, Florida

Of all of the holidays I have taken in my life, the one which stands out more than most is the first holiday I took with the boyfriend (who is now my husband) to Orlando, Florida in the good ole US of A.

Many people think of Orlando and immediately think Disney but let me tell you, this city in the "Sunshine State", Florida has so much more to offer than "just" Disney World.

Don't get me wrong the Magic Kingdom is, well, magical.

When I first saw that iconic castle lit up by fireworks as a cynical journalist in my early 20's I was shocked to feel a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Growing up with Tinkerbell wooshing round the spires at the start of all those movies during my childhood obviously had an effect and I was inexplicably but deeply moved.

Disney castle at night Photo by Jayme McColgan on Unsplash

Years later watching my own children's faces light up with the wonder of Disney brought an even bigger lump.

Contrary to articles I've read I don't think there is an ideal age to do Disney. I was 21 at my first visit and my son was just over a year old and we both had the time of our lives. My Granny also loved Disney in her 80's. 

A lot depends on the time of year - you'll find Orlando cooler from October to April which might suit young children or older travellers better.

When we booked our first holiday as a couple back in the day I wondered what on earth we would find to do in Orlando after ticking off the Magic Kingdom. 

We went along to Epcot. Did you know they hold a Food and Wine Festival there? Admission is included in the cost of your park entrance ticket and if you consider yourself a foodie it's worth checking the dates of this annual event to make sure your visit coincides. In 2019 the festival runs from August 29-November 23.

The festival showcases food and beverages from all over the world, in line with the theme of the park itself, and there are special events, celebrity chefs, demonstrations and the World Showcase Marketplace food booths.

An interesting observation we made is that looking back through our photographs after visiting Orlando we noticed that the vast majority were taken at  Seaworld Orlando.

This attraction really has the wow factor and we were blown away by the family friendly shows and animal encounters featuring all manner of sea creatures.

Seaworld Orlando Photo by Julien Delaunay on Unsplash

Seaworld Orlando is not just a glorified aquarium though and along with seeing stingrays, seals, sharks, dolphins, manatee, manta, turtles, whales and more you can spend an exciting day exploring a host of rides at this great theme park.

Not one for thrill rides? How about enjoying an immersive and memorable dining experience up close to the inhabitants of Shamu Stadium?

Discover the rescue story behind four pilot whales and find out what makes killer whales so unique. Learn how to help save the ocean while enjoying delicious meals featuring sustainable, organic or locally grown ingredients that aim to minimise environmental impacts to animals and their habitats.

Fancy an extra special day out? Book one of the behind the scenes tours and meet the penguins and sharks. If you are lucky enough to be going to Orlando this summer you must include the Seaworld Electric Ocean experience in your programme.

When the sun goes down the night comes to life at this spectacular event where you can explore exotic worlds of light and music. Expect growing sea creatures, DK entertainment and a spectacular display of fireworks as the stunning finale to your visit to Seaworld Orlando on certain nights between now and September 1.

Entry to the evening events, shows and rides is included when you buy tickets for Seaworld Orlando but you can upgrade to get reserved seating, fast passes for the rides and dining deals which look like an absolute bargain.

Another Orlando fave of mine is Universal studios, the movie themed park which is the go-to place for Harry Potter fans as it is the home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Entrance to these Potter-Themed attractions are included in the general admission price but they are in two separate parks so you will need to buy  separate tickets or save money by purchasing a park to park ticket, annual or seasonal pass to visit both.

Photo by Julien Delaunay on Unsplash The ~Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando

A visit to Orlando would not be complete without exploring some of the other attractions in the area. Wet and Wild is a nice day out or you could take in one of the many themed dinner shows in the region.

Travel a little further from the main parks and visit Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, Busch Gardens which we love, or explore the beautiful coastline Florida enjoys.  My husband always likes to take in an American football game too - Go Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

Remember that this can be an exhausting holiday with lots of walking so it's wise to build a few rest days into your schedule, especially if you have children with you.

Whatever you decide to do with your time in Orlando one thing is for sure - you will make many magical memories which you'll be able to look back on for the rest of your life.

Disney Castle Florida Photo by Benjamin Suter on Unsplash

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