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Orlando Bloom's with so much to do!
Member Name: angusreid
Date: 05/11/05, updated on 05/11/05 (361 review reads)
Advantages: Entertaining, fun and you do not have to work too hard to find it.
Disadvantages: Bit tacky, not as refined as some places.
There is so much more than the mouse’s house in Orlando, so much more!
Having first sampled Mickey’s swamp back in 1987, I returned in 90 and then every year since 98 (twice in one year.) why, I hear you ask. What is the appeal of the plastic palace that Walt built?
Well to be honest, we don’t really do Disney now, we outgrew the mouse about 5 years ago and tend to enjoy the real Orlando and Kissimmee attractions. Her lakes, parks and nature. The golf and the shops.
So what's to do in Disney Town when you are fed up of the mouse?
Okay, I will add a bit about Disney here as it’s only fair if you have come looking for some Disney info.
Disney World can be broken down into the 4 main parks of the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios and Epcot. There are other places such as Downtown Disney, The world of sports place they have and of course the water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and blizzard beach.
Magic Kingdom is my favourite park as it is Disney at its best. Rides that entertain and a feel of dreamality, a cross between reality and dreaming. Such favourites as Pirates of the Caribbean and the jungle cruise are a must, even after a half dozen visits. Plenty to do and more than one day’s entertainment.
MGM has a fascinating tour and the Tower of terror is another favourite of mine. Her Aerosmith rollercoaster is a rocket start which has you pinned to the back of your seat and I recommend that you get a fast track ticket for this as soon as you get in.
Epcot is dull and too much scientific for me. The countries of the world that surround the lake are really a selection of shops that sell cheap gimmicky souvenirs and I have to say I was thoroughly disappointed with it.
Animal Kingdom can be relaxing and enjoyable but I have been told the queues are pretty bad now. I have been twice and both times I never had to queue much and had blistering sunshine. Stroked a giraffe that came up to the safari truck and had a few beers here listening to African music. Nice place but may be a bit boring for teenagers.
Typhoon lagoon is great. It has a stream that flows around the whole park so you can sit in your rubber ring and just go with the flow. You get a cold soak as it goes through a waterfall though, so be careful. The snorkelling pool is a must, as you get to watch tropical fish close up and stroke rays. Also has a cocktail bar on its man made beach so you can let the kids run wild while supping a tequila sunrise.
Blizzard beach is supposed to equal typhoon lagoon for fun, but I have never been there so can not comment.
Downtown Disney is a collection of shops and restaurants along a boardwalk stretching a good mile. Food outlets like hard rock café, Rainforest café and Macdonald’s fight for your custom and are always full, so get there early to eat. The shops are worth visiting just for the amusement factor they provide. Every single Disney item you can think of is available here. The Disney shop itself is about 800 yards long. Other shops worth mentioning are Pooh’s corner and the Christmas Shop.
Pleasure Island is Disney’s nightlife place which includes a few nightclubs and a comedy show. I have never taken to this place due to the fact we once went and I think paid about £15 to get in and then had to queue for the comedy club for almost two hours before giving up and leaving. The nightclubs had two people in at 11pm, me and Sherry and the drinks were expensive.
Universal Studios are a collection of entertainment shows where you get to live the shows from movies like Shrek and Jaws. Bit repetitive and boring for my tastes but am glad I went once. One of our party was ill that day so it put a downer on it as she spent a couple of hours in the first aid station but they looked after her very well to be fair.
Island of Adventures seems quite good, lots of thrill rides and so on, but lacked a family feel like the one you got at Disney. Once I did the roller coasters such as the Hulk, we sat and watched the turtles swimming around the Olde English style bar, although the visit was a bit tainted by the fact that each member of the party had to go to the bar and order their own drinks to prove their age. Sherry was asked for ID and she was 31. She never had any but did not care as she was chuffed to bits to be questioned about being over 21.
Sea World is just a bit of the same old same old as far as I am concerned, once you had seen Shamu, the pirate sketch and the other show which I forget the name of you were looking at, well fish! It was very boring but glad I went the once.
Right, thats theme parks out the way, down to the real Kissimmee and Orlando.
Located just south of Disney you have the H192, a long road that separates Orland from Kissimmee. Here you will find 100’s of restaurants and 1000’s of shops. If you are driving, free parking is available at Old Town, easy to find by the Ferris wheel just outside or the twin towers that they use for slingshots in the adrenalin junkie age we are in.
Old Town is a selection of speciality shops, about 100 of them in total ranging from Christmas decorations to Coke cola products. There are bars and eateries, and entertainment on a lower scale, such as the haunted house, a mini funfair and amusements where you spend a fortune to get a cheap plastic fan.
This place is fabulous to spend a few hours browsing and us men when we get fed up can grab a pint of some unusual dark beer or a gallon of Budweiser for a fiver, to share of course. Sherry loves to take in the 3 hour massage special where you get a facial, full body massage, foot massage etc for $100 or about £60. I like to sit in the bar and wait for her. I also enjoy the crazy golf nearby that is built into a plastic mountain, great fun.
Massive sports outlets and designer clothes shops can be found here, with NIKE, Sports Denominator, Reebok, LEVI, etc all within walking distance and some good “tacky” gift shops, although I find that with the years, they have improved their stock and are starting to realise that selling cheap quality items, people will buy rather than plastic crocodile heads.
Restaurants are a plenty here, Pacinos is an upmarket steak house where the fish and steak are chargrilled to perfection and at prices you would expect to pay in England for the quality (£17 for a 24 oz steak, New York Strip.) Low budget restaurants such as ponderosa, Sizzlers and Pizza Hut and fast food joints KFC, Burger King and McDonalds are all located here as well, and mid budget restaurants such as Angels seafood, Dennys and Damens grill, the place for the best ribs you will ever taste. All of these are on the doorstep.
Accommodation is plenty here, opposite Old Town is the Travelodge (Main gate), my favourite budget hotel in this area, built on 7 floors, this hotel has good rooms with great amenities available in the hotel. Couple of pools, whirlpool, small games room, sports bar, restaurant, free shuttle bus to Disney, guest relations (Time share sales) and laundry facilities. You should not pay any more than £200 for a room here, per week, which can sleep up to 4 people fairly comfortably. If we stay longer than a week at our timeshare, we normally stay here or the Days Inn at Lakeside, just off International Drive.
Further down the 192 you have a Wal-Mart which we find suitable for all our weeks supplies. Wine is about £2.50 for a 2 litre bottle of white or red wine and it is the same make that you would pay £5 a 75cl bottle back home. We tend to stock up with wine and beer as well as breakfast foods and snacky things, as I prefer to cook my own breakfast before setting out each day. There are also drugstores and flea markets along the 192 so you really only need to take the essentials with you when you leave home.
Attractions along here are unlimited. You can take an airboat ride along one of the lakes and get to see the wildlife close up, gators, eagles and plenty of birds to take your fancy. We went horse riding at a place about 20 minutes drive from Old Town and they were very professional, courteous and relaxed as was the staff.
This year we hired a small airboat just past the Wal-Mart and had a ride up an unspoilt creek full of turtles and birds. My colleague Brian grounded the boat and had to wade into the swamp to push us back out. How funny was that?
Gator Land is 5 minutes further on from Wal-Mart and is a good day’s entertainment at a fraction of Disney’s cost. Here you get to see the gators being fed, their natural breeding ground and various shows. A small train takes you around the place and there are various shows throughout the day.
Medieval Knights is an evening shows, as well as Capones and Arabian nights. All of these can be found on the 192 and all are reasonable if you are in to group entertainment nights.
Further up into Orlando, you have International Drive which also has an array of shops and entertainment, but the main difference is that I. Drive was purpose built for tourists and tends to cater that way. Spread out over a 4 mile stretch, but well covered by the jump on, jump off tram system, it is easy to cater for any kind of day you wish to have. The belz factory outlets are located at the Northern end of the Drive. These are so tacky and are just aimed at tourists. None of the locals shop there so that tells a story. Avoid these at all costs as the stuff you will buy is not that cheap nor the quality (in my opinion) that good.
I found the cheapest place to shop is Buena Vista shops, which is between the I. Drive and the 192. Here the goods are slightly cheaper and you mingle with a few locals, so a good sign.
On the I. Drive you will find every fast food joint imaginable and very few classy restaurants. Ideal if you are a family on the move and not looking to spend an evening of romance or fine dining. There are quite a few English pubs serving the usual Guinness and Strongbow beverages, offering fish fingers and Heinz beans etc, which again are great if that is what you are after. There are numerous half day attractions such as Ripleys believe it or not, Titanic and a few other over priced attractions, not really my cup of tea, but then neither is I Drive.
The Days Inn on Lake Road has to be the cheapest motel I have ever stayed at. It cost about £19 a night and to be fair, was a lovely place if the rooms were somewhat basic. We had TV bathroom and aircon and two large beds though, so we found it more than acceptable and pound for pound, a bargain. The pool was raised above the car park and 20 yards from the Tikki Bar and lake itself. In the evening we sat by the lake with its soft lighting and watched the fish swim under us. It was very relaxing and quite romantic, with my margherita and tropical music playing.
There are many hotels on the I. Drive and most do free shuttles to Disney and Universal, so if you have no car, this is probably the best place to stay but the 192 if you are opposite Old Town will more than match I. Drive for entertainment and value for money. Giving a choice, it would be Travelodge at maingate, opposite Old Town for me.
Anyway, I could waffle on all day about Orlando and Kissimmee as I love the place, but I will stop there.
Hope this helps.
Summary: Orlando is the place for fun seeking people.