Florida – The Sunshine State
Beach walking, theme parks, and sunshine galore are why so many people visit Florida. If you are from the frozen tundra called Minnesota, double the appeal after January 1 every year, when we have had enough of winter, but still have three months of it to look forward to.
But there seems to be something about Orlando that makes people a little mental.
First timers suffer from the “I came all this way and I will do all 472 things there are to do in one week” syndrome. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are traveling with newborn triplets or Great Grandma, they insist on going until everyone drops from pure exhaustion (guilty). And for God’s sake, why won’t those kids cooperate? Gee, I wonder…
Then there are the self proclaimed “Real Travelers”. The ones who hold Orlando, and all of Florida for that matter, in utter disdain. They would rather take their kids to a swamp in crapholia, because it is more authentic. Orlando is overbuilt, they say, and artificial, and expensive!
As far as I’m concerned, Orlando is a place with great weather almost all year long. It has accommodations for everyone, whether two people, or an extended family, and you have the option to lay around the pool, ride roller coasters, visit museums, or do absolutely nothing, all in one place.
I could be biased, because I am a sun worshiper.
The most obvious draw to Orlando are the theme parks. Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World anchor the city, while smaller entertainment complexes are wedged everywhere in between. This is why most people visit Orlando. If they didn’t want theme parks, they’d be on the coast.
So your morning hours are taken car of.
Now, for evening.
Universal Studios has a more adult oriented area (No, not THAT adult) that has bars, restaurants, live music, and movie theaters. It runs right between Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure. I haven’t spent much time there other than walking through and looking around, as we always had kids along.
What I CAN tell you is that by the look of the place, if you can’t find something that pleases your sensibilities for a night, you might as well just sit in your hotel room watching Night at the Museum for the 17th time, because you are being far too picky.
They market City Walk as a family entertainment complex, and I guess that’s true as far as the restaurants and movie complex are concerned, but I view this more as a place for a night out without the kids. Older kids might appreciate a dinner out and some live music, but I don’t personally think it would keep my 10 year old entertained. Maybe your kids love live music though. You would know best.
International Drive is the main drag for hotels, restaurants, and entertainment.
There’s a trolley which will take you from end to end without worrying about parking, getting lost, or ordering that second Margarita. A true bargain at $1.25 per trip for someone like me who does all of those things.
My husband could not possibly live without a rental car, but I could easily exist on International Drive for a week without the need for one. Most people would probably recommend having a rental, but it IS possible to survive without one.
Orlando, like any overbuilt area, is built for the high season. There are plenty of hotels, resorts, and vacation homes, to choose from. If you are willing to look further than Travelocity, you can get luxury accommodations at a Motel 6 price.
Lots of the resorts in Orlando are timeshares, and when owners can’t use their unit, they rent them out. Check out Redweek.com or even e-bay. As long as you do your due diligence, it can work out great. I’ve done it many times without issue.
During high season, Orlando is crowded. All of Florida is crowded. And it CAN piss you off after awhile. If you try to get into a restaurant after 4:00 pm, you’ll be waiting more than an hour. With three kids, that is a disaster just waiting to happen.
From my experience, there are ways to work around the crowds. If you have little kids, eat lunch out instead of dinner, and eat dinner back at your condo or hotel room. Also, don’t wait until everyone is famished, and then try to dash into the Outback Steakhouse at 7:00 pm. You’re just setting yourself up if you do that.
If you don’t keep an eye on your money in Orlando, you will get home and realize you could have taken a trip around the entire world for less than you did on one trip to mouseland. The tickets, the food, and the souvenirs can add up to complete insanity. But it doesn’t have to. Do you really need the Groundhog Day themed, Mickey Mouse Santa hat?
If you’re planning a trip to Disneyworld, stay off the Disney website. Visit Disboards or Mousesavers. You’ll find reasonable advice, some discounts, and you won’t get sucked in by the Disney magic. Oh, and you can also rent points from owners of Disney Vacation Club properties for far less than you would pay through the official site.
Yeah, it is. But sometimes real life sucks, and pretend is good. Go have a blast in Orlando, and then go to the Louvre or something to redeem yourself. It all evens out in the end.
Thanks to Delicious Baby, a place to get travel tips for families with babies, for hosting photo Friday