Hello everyone! Long time no speak. Today’s blog post is a bit of a different one because, if you haven’t already guessed, I recently made a very exciting trip to the good old US of A. And I still have the ever so painful jet lag as a lovely souvenir. I thought I would share some of the snaps I took whilst over there in one big blog post – all of these were taken on my phone (iPhone 8 Plus) which I quite like for a change because it gives a raw and accessible feel. Let me know what you think of this style of post!
During the first week of the holiday we stayed in the Kissimmee area of Florida in a villa around 30 minutes from the Disney and Universal Theme Parks. ‘We’ being myself, my boyfriend Ben, his parents, two nieces, nephew, brother and his girlfriend – quite the party! After a long flight from Manchester the first day was spent wandering around and exploring the mahoosive Disney Springs where Ben had lots of fun making his very own light sabre (okay, I did too). We also stopped off at Planet Hollywood, and the Orlando branch has an outfit that Bryan Cranston wore in Breaking Bad – there were obviously lots of other impressive memorabilia but Breaking Bad is my all time favourite show so I was made up to find that!
Since we were travelling with three young kids (this is the excuse we told ourselves), we obviously couldn’t visit Orlando without heading to the theme parks. I have to admit, it was pretty full on as we did five parks in the space of five days which was EXHAUSTING. If you are planning on visiting Orlando and doing the whole theme park thing, I would highly recommend giving yourself some space between them as you will feel completely pooped otherwise (especially when the weather is 35 degrees with 100% humidity!). Despite the tiredness, it was an absolutely incredible and fun-filled week.
The first park on the agenda was Disney’s Hollywood Studios where I immediately spent $20 on a water mister fan – honestly the best $20 I’ve ever spent. To start the day we used our fast pass on Star Tours – The Adventures Continue which is a simulator ride. We took two of the kids (ages 4 and 7) on with us and whilst all the adults enjoyed it, they both came out in tears with horrified expressions – maybe one to avoid if you have young children! For something more age-appropriate, we ventured over to the new Toy Story land and did the Toy Story Mania ride where you fire at moving targets, which was so much fun. We also spoke to some of the Green Army Men toys and got some snaps of the kids with them (along with autographs for their books). Unfortunately the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster was out of action for a lot of the day due to some thunder and lightning so we didn’t get a chance to trial it out. Top tip for if you’re visiting Orlando in July – buy some rain macs! They were a life saver. Although the rain did result in a lot of soggy feet and some shut down rides, it was such a relief for the humidity to drop to a bearable level – I actually found myself hoping for thunder storms!
As the kids are huge fans of Frozen, we obviously had to head to the sing-a-long show which was still enjoyable for adults (us anyway!) and they shot out fake snow throughout the whole theatre at the end which was a great touch. We also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet Olaf in the flesh! Before we headed home we stopped off for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular which involved audience participation. My seven year old niece Lexi went as far as to say that it was the best thing she’d done all day, whereas two year old Brody told us all that he found it ‘a bit loud’. I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re there!
The second park we went to was Universal Studios Volcano Bay which is a water park. I actually only have one picture of this day to share with you because this day was a bit of a ‘blip’ shall we say in the holiday. After going around the lazy river (which was a lot of fun) I ended up getting a bought of sun stroke and passed out whilst waiting in the queue for some pizza. Thankfully there were a couple of paramedics who were incredibly nice and made me drink lots of Gatorade and orange juice – on the plus side I got these for free which would have normally set me back about $10. Top tip: If you want a free drink, just pass out – it works like a charm! After I ate my pizza (obviously) I felt a lot better, and then immediately worse again when I ended up throwing up in a nappy bag whilst sitting by the kiddy pool and being pushed out of the park in a wheelchair – not my most glamorous of days I must admit.
The third day of theme parks was actually my 23rd birthday! We headed to Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure (following a Wendy’s breakfast) which was probably my favourite of them all. As someone who grew up reading the Harry Potter books and watching the films, I was very excited to visit the Harry Potter section of the park, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. In this park they have Hogwarts, which is absolutely massive, and Hogsmeade which has lots of shops that you can buy magical goodies in such as wands, sweets etc. The highlight of this day was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This was a simulator meets rollercoaster ride and it was absolutely amazing – good enough that we had to ride it a second time! I went on with Ben’s brother and his girlfriend, both of whom aren’t Harry Potter fans but still described it as the best ride they have ever been on. Ben queued up for about 30 minutes before chickening out at the last minute as he has a huge phobia of rides – the one and only rollercoaster he’s ever been on was a kid’s one years ago and ever since then he swore off them for life! Earlier on in the day though he did come on the Jurassic Park log flume but hated it that much that he was done for the day on the ride front (and the rest of the holiday!). If you get the chance to visit this park, I would highly recommend staying until the evening to watch the light show projected onto Hogwarts – it was absolutely breathtaking.
Onto the last Universal theme park now which was the main Universal Orlando Resort. This is a great park for both kids and adults, with so much to see for all ages. As soon as we entered the park we bumped into the Scooby Doo characters (minus Fred and Scooby) – when I told Shaggy that I was from Liverpool he proceeded to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone at the top of his voice to me, in character, which was one of the funniest and strangest experiences I’ve probably ever had. Following this we had a nosey at some film memorabilia and props including one of the Deloreans and the steam train used in Back to the Future which, as a HUGE fan of those films, was amazing to see.
After a lunch stop at the Hard Rock Cafe, which you could spend all day looking around itself, we headed back into the park. If you don’t have tickets to the Universal Theme Parks you can still head to CityWalk which is a great area for food and drink as there is lots to see and do around there, with lots of live entertainment. We stopped off at The Simpsons land where some of us got a Duff (another of those times that I wished I liked beer) and popped our heads into Moe’s which looks exactly the same as it does in the show. Of course we couldn’t miss checking out Diagon Alley whilst we were there, which was absolutely huge – it even had Knockturn Alley which was blasting the air con to make it feel dark and cold. Whilst we were there we did the Escape Gringott’s ride which I would definitely recommend.
The final theme park and our last day in Orlando was spent at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. As I mentioned before, five theme parks in five days really took its toll and myself and Ben decided to cut this day short and get an uber back to the villa for some relaxation time. Before we left though, we did manage to fit in a few fun things.
Obviously you can’t visit Disney World without stopping off to say hello to the main man himself, Mickey Mouse. The kids were absolutely made up to meet him, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a group photo – how often do you get to meet Mickey Mouse after all?! And yes, that is my water mister fan that I am holding – it came with me everywhere. I sacrificed my fast pass for Splash Mountain to leave early, but I did get to experience the Jungle Cruise which is great for all the family. There were even a load of ducklings and their mum wandering around the queue – I mean even the things that they don’t plan are Disney!
The second week was spent in Sarasota, which is about a two hour drive from Orlando. I absolutely loved this area. If you don’t know, America’s rated number one beach is in Sarasota. Unfortunately they had really bad red tide when we went which meant that thousands of dead fish were washed up on the beach – as you can imagine, the smell was horrific so we were unable to see the beach for ourselves which was a huge shame. A good excuse to return though! The two main areas that we frequented in Sarasota were Main Street and St. Armands Circle. They are both great spots for food and drink, with lots of live music to soundtrack your meals. There is also definitely not a shortage of doggy boutique style shops, which made me even more sad that I don’t own a dog (yet!).
After such a busy first week, it was so good to catch up on some well needed pool time and get some reading done. One of my favourite days from the trip was when we paid a visit to Sarasota’s Jungle Gardens, which is a family owned and run organisation which looks after lots of different animals from exotic birds to alligators. One of the main attractions at this site are the flamingos which you can actually just go up to and feed! Of course, I was very excited for this.
We couldn’t leave the States without first sampling Florida’s take on America’s most popular delicacy… waffles. On the last day Ben and I headed to our local Waffle House for one last carb loaded (and maple syrup covered) hurrah and it definitely did not disappoint.
Well, that was what we got up to in Florida for two weeks. Thank you very much if you actually got to the end of this blog post, I know that it’s absolutely gigantic but I’m hoping it makes up for my long absence. Writing this and going through all of the images again has made my holiday blues about 100 times worse – I even miss the humidity and the horrible sticky feeling you get whenever you venture into an air-con free zone.
Until next time, for hopefully a much shorter post!