Tips for First Timers to Orlando

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By Suzanne and Andy Evans

Posted on August 21st, 2005


As for the 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 Hulk, The Mummy, Back to the Future, Jaws etc. Universal is split into 2 parks and you can get special tickets to cover it 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 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, and is great fun to walk around in the warm evenings. If you are visiting in October, Universal does the best Halloween Fright Night I have ever seen. It is worth travelling in October just to go to this.

Disney has 4 main parks, which are Magic Kingdom, Epcot Centre, MGM 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 under 10 yrs, and most younger children like The Magic Kingdom the best as they get to see the great day and evening parades with all their favourite disney characters. The evening Light Parade is also very popular, but make sure that it is on on the day you go.

By getting a park hopper you can go to Magic Kingdom in the morning and then visit Epcot Centre (which is famous for its great fireworks at night) in the evening, and have a rest at villa during the heat of the day. Best 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 11 am and spend day at the water park. MGM studios, is much like Universal and is more geared to golden age of cinema. My parents loved it when they came to Orlando. The rides are not so white knuckle as in Universal (apart from a few such as Tower of Terror). 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 swop places without having to que 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 (1 ½ hours away) and visit Busch Gardens (great white knuckle rides and shows) and entrance to this park can be included in a Flexi Ticket mentioned above for Universal and Seaworld for a little extra. Gator Land, Cypress Gardens (very popular with older generation) and of course a lot of people visit the NASA Kennedy Space Centre which is also only approx 1 ½ hours drive. Look out to see if there is a launch on the day you go.

I can go on but you will find you cannot do everything and will need a holiday to get over it all if you try. 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 places such as 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. If you don't get time to pick the leaflets up there you can get them from the Terra Verde Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is useful to visit to get stamps for postcards and to post them. Also it has a Cyber Cafe for you to catch up on emails. A lot of teenage guests to visit like to use the pool at the clubhouse as they can make friends with other guests.

A few driving tips. It is legal in America to overtake on the inside, so be careful when changing lanes. Also bear in mind that in Florida you can turn right at a Red Traffic light whenever safe to do so, unless sign says no turn on red. Always have quarters in the car ready for the tolls on highways, which only take exact change. The toll to Disney via Osceola Parkway from Terra Verde is an example of this. They ask for 75c toll but don’t tell you that exact change is needed until you are committed to the slip road.

When eating out they give you huge portions. Don't be afraid either, to ask for a doggie bag to take stuff back to villa or get 2 plates for one order, and share. Also tip at least 15% as this is standard in US. The British have reputation for being mean on tipping. Air conditioning is turned up very high and if you go to cinema or restaurant on a balmy night take a light cardigan or jacket with you as you might freeze indoors. I have a small one which folds up in my handbag for such purposes. 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 Gaterland, Airboat Rides, Skull Kingdom, Titanic Exhibition, 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.

As for shopping there are 4 main malls. Beltz Factory Outlets and Premium Outlets for bargains, Millennia Mall for Designer Clothes and Florida Mall for High street fashion. Don't stuff your suitcases on the way out, and maybe even consider taking an empty one, as most people end up buying lots of extra stuff. Women's clothes sizes are two sizes down eg. UK size 14 is US size 12. Also don’t forget to ask for visitors discount at Macy’s and Bloomingdale Department stores at Millennia. (They give 11%, which is worth having).

Hope above helps a bit to make your holiday go smoothly and are just a few tips to help make sure you get the best from your Orlando Experience. If you have any queries on the above we are happy to help and recommend that you look on forums like the one attached to or to see what other Florida experts have to say.

Sue and Andy Evans

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