We always said the first thing we’d do when I get out of my business, before my dream round-the-world trip, would be to book a two week holiday to Florida for a fix of rollercoasters, magic and Donald Duck. We stuck to that promise and have just returned from one of the best trips of our lives! So what if it’s the ultimate tourist trip? Who cares if it’s not the most cultural getaway you can have? This holiday was purely FUN – something that we both very much needed!
In two weeks, we managed to do everything that we wanted – including swimming with beluga whales, feeding giraffes on a safari, meeting a Mexican Donald Duck, filling our Epcot passports with stamps – and everything that we didn’t expect: seeing tiny lizards everywhere, getting Ash to go on the Aerosmith rollercoaster (I’m not even sorry)… and raving with a load of Disney characters. Yes, really. I even had Daisy Duck grinding against me. Best moment ever, or something!
Here’s a run down of what we got up to in our first week in Orlando.
DAY 1 – ARRIVAL
It’s 6am on Saturday, September 13th, and we are wide awake. (Well, Ash is. I’m really not.) Everything is packed because at half 6, we have to be on a train.
And so begins our first real holiday in the four and a half years we’ve been together. I don’t think I’d had much sleep in the hope that I would sleep half the flight away. Instead, I had about half an hour (I watched 3 films: The Lego Movie – ridiculous; Divergent – very good; Frozen – brilliant, first time I’d seen it and it was on the way to Disney World, how apt!), followed by over an hour standing in the customs queue which was ONLY dealing with our flight. By the time we got out, it was 6pm (11pm UK time) and I was ready to fall asleep.
But no, I had decided that the best way to get back to the hotel, because public transport from Sanford is non-existent, is to hire a car for 24 hours.
This was my first time driving in America, and my second time hiring a car, so I was a little nervous – but apart from one little hiccup at a toll booth, the drive was absolutely fine.
We got to our hotel around 7pm, thinking we had the evening ahead of us. And suddenly it was 5am.
DAY 2 – EXPLORING
We decided on our first proper day, after meeting our friends at breakfast (IHOP, BABY!), that we wouldn’t visit any parks and make the most of our car. Instead, we ended up driving to a mall, having a mooch around, I acted like a 13-year-old in Hot Topic, and then we thought we’d go to Aquatica. We didn’t do that, either. By the time we’d found where to return the car to, it was too late to really bother, so we went to an amazing restaurant called Bahama Breeze and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by our pool. A fairly wasted day, but then that’s what holidays are for, right?
DAY 3 – UNIVERSAL
FINALLY. A DAY WHERE WE’RE ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING!
We ventured out to Universal and the first thing we did (we being all of us except Ash!!) was queue for the horrendous time of around 15 minutes for The Hulk. And then 20 minutes for Spiderman. And 5 minutes for Jurassic Park. I couldn’t believe it – were we actually going to get IOA finished in the morning? I had expected way worse than this.
Oh wait, 45 minutes for The Forbidden Journey.
But we did! The Marvel “island” was amazing. The Hulk was amazing. Harry Potter World was amazing. Jurassic Park was wet. We had lunch at The Three Broomsticks and I of course had a butterbeer to wash it down with. So did Gulliver. By the time we went back to Hogwarts, the queue for The Forbidden Journey was down to half an hour so we went for it.
What a brilliant ride! LOVED it! Afterwards, it was time to cross over to the Studios park via the new Hogwarts Express. It was fantastic, you can look out of the “window” and say goodbye to Hogwarts and HELLO to London town!
In fact, you could almost be forgiven for thinking it is London. The first thing we headed to after exploring Diagon Alley was Krustyland across the lake. We laughed like hell on the Simpson’s ride, and by the time we got to the Hollywood area, the parade was about to start so we got ice cream and sat on the road side.
The parade was shit. Hilariously shit. It included this guy, which just about sums it up.
Rip Ride Rockit (amazing), The Mummy (BRILLIANT) and Twister (the shittiest thing I’ve ever seen) and we’re basically done with the things we really want to see and do.
What a day!!
Day 4 – MAGIC KINGDOM
Today is DISNEY DAY for me and Ash!! Our friends have gone back to Universal so it’s just the two of us.
Thankfully seen a few days later sans crane.
We got to Epcot before 9am which was perfect for getting to Magic Kingdom on the monorail, and by 9.30 we were in! The first ride we went on, I’m ashamed to say, was The Little Mermaid. I’m even more ashamed to say it was ASH who dragged ME on it.
We had such a whimsical day, which for me is what Disney is all about (though there is no need for It’s A Small World really, is there?), and we fell in love with Thunder Mountain Railroad. I ALSO MET MARY POPPINS!! Hells to the YES. We saw the amazing afternoon parade but unfortunately we could only get the early bus back to our hotel so we couldn’t stay for the evening one this time around.
As it turns out, the afternoon parade is so much better. Made even better by the fact we were next to two girls dressed as Alice – and it quickly became clear that they were actual off-duty cast members, so all the characters on parade were waving or coming over to say hi. There is something strange about Cinderella signing whether they’re coming out for drinks later…
That evening, we went for one of the most ridiculous meals ever, at Senor Frogs. Our starter was served on a tiny skate board, someone was MCing the venue, and I got given a massive balloon hat. And that was that, really.
Day 5 – UNIVERSAL
Universal again! We had a 3-day photo pass between the four of us, so we wanted to make the most of it and see some of the bits we didn’t get around to on Monday. Including The Transformers, which is fantastic – almost more awesome than Spidey – and Disaster!, a surprisingly hilarious and entertaining set where you create a disaster movie.
I also met Wolverine, ate a HUGE Lard Lad Simpsons doughnut, took a trip to Knockturn Alley (we somehow missed it the first time) and we took the Hogwarts Express the other way. Hint: the train from London to Hogwarts is much better!! Features dementors, of course.
Day 6 – EPCOT & HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Another Disney day! We spent much of the day at Epcot, which I was particularly looking forward to for the around the world showcase. We paid $9.95 for a passport and had to go to the kid’s area of each country to get it stamped! Because we are mature and adult. Of course.
(Actually, it’s really cool. Each country representative writes a message in your passport, so for example in Morocco, Japan & China, they write ‘hello [your name here]. Welcome to [country]!’ in their respective languages. I love stuff like that!)
Highlights: A Batman domokun toy in Japan, accidentally taking a picture of two lizards having sex in Germany, and meeting a Mexican Donald Duck!! I also Skyped with my mum from the middle of the park which was really nice!
However, the day was about to get better as we headed over to Hollywood Studios. I, of course, made a beeline straight for one of my favourite rides, Aerosmith Rock n’ Roller Coaster! And then we heard What Does The Fox Say playing on the loudspeakers by the stage. As we got closer, we could see Daisy and Donald Duck dancing. Let me re-iterate that: DAISY AND DONALD WERE DANCING WITH CHILDREN TO WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY.
It was almost the best moment of my life, but that was immediately surpassed by what happened next. Goofy, Mickey, Minnie & Pluto started walking towards us to join in on the action. And then the YMCA came on.
I danced to the freaking YMCA with Donald effing Duck, and watched Goofy get ridiculously into it!!! I was so happy I almost cried!
DAY 7 – SEAWORLD & HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS
It’s the first night of the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, so we decide to spend the day a little closer to there by visiting SeaWorld. We were supposed to meet our friends there, but as it turns out, the wifi is
shit non-existent, and despite it being fairly quiet, we couldn’t find them.
First up, Manta is amazing. Such a fun yet strangely peaceful ride! Journey To Atlantis is also pretty awesome, with some unexpected twists. And Kraken is a very high but fairly average rollercoaster, but I liked it. After looking through some of the aquariums, we decided to be controversial and watch the Shamu show. In actual fact, I found it really entertaining, however I still feel a bit uncomfortable about it. I’ll talk about that more in the next post.
After having the penguin ride break down while we were in the middle of their freezing cold enclosure, FOR TEN MINUTES, we went to see the dolphin show, which we both much preferred to Shamu – it’s more fast-paced and isn’t all about the dolphins.
In general, I enjoyed SeaWorld more than I thought I would – we mostly went because it was included on our park tickets, and I don’t think I would have gone if we’d had to pay for it separately, as like most people, some of their practices don’t sit well with me. But other than the orcas, they do seem to genuinely treat their animals well. In week 2, we did a beluga experience and it was really interesting seeing the behind-the-scenes of the park and talk to people who really do have a genuine love for the animals.
Afterwards, we made our way up to Universal via the iRide just in time to see the opening of the HHN. I say opening, I mean one small blast and then a long, crowded “queue” (more, mash of people). 100% worth it.
We only went into a couple of the houses; The Walking Dead obviously, and the Dracula one. The queues were insane. In the end, we only went into 4 houses (out of 8) over 3 nights because to be honest, once you’ve seen one, you’ve kind of seen them all unless you have a specific interest. Our mates went into all of them and loved them, so it’s really down to each person.
The general atmosphere of the nights themselves is absolutely amazing, although I’m not ashamed to say one of the first things we did was gawp at the fact the Despicable Me ride had a 10 minute queue (which turned out to be less than 5 – not bad when the day time queue is up to an hour!!). In fact, I think we ended up going on Despicable Me 3 times over the course of the nights! And The Mummy probably 6 or 7…
But not only that, the whole New York area was overrun with people in masks coming up behind you with chainsaws while heavy metal blares out from all directions, cut occasionally by sirens, crashing and general chaos. Terrifyingly brilliant!
It was one of the few nights we actually got a taxi back to our hotel, and needless to say I think we crashed out the second we got back!
That’s it for week one! Join me for part 2 here. 🙂