Disney's Typhoon Lagoon
If you were to say to me a year ago that you would make your first steps out of England to Orlando, Florida on the holiday of a lifetime I would have laughed and probably thought you were mad, and yes I used England and not the UK as the furthest North I had been was York and the furthest west was probably Swansea. My ... mother-in-law died at the end of last year (2011) and my wife thought that Disney World would be an ideal place to visit and would leave us with memories that we would remember for a very long time. The holiday was booked through Virgin holidays and included 14 day Ultimate Disney tickets and 14 day passes to Universal, a day tour to The Kennedy Space Centre, car hire. We stayed for the 14 days at the Port Orleans (French Quarter) on the Riverside resort with "free" Disney dining plan entitling us to 2 full meals and 2 snacks each per day. The full cost of the holiday was in excess of £12,000.
So for someone with a real fear of heights to be on a 747 at 40,000 feet on my maiden flight of some 8 hours came as a really big shock and had been dreading it for weeks leading up to leaving Gatwick airport on 6th August 2012. Temperatures ranged between 34 and 39 degrees centigrade throughout the whole of our stay until mid / late afternoon when apart from 3 days when we would be subject to a daily thunderstorm which dropped temperatures down to the mid 20's. In fact as the airport doors opened we walked straight out into our first storm, and as we left on our return flight another one was hitting the Orlando area.
When I think of Disney my first reaction is theme parks not water parks of which Disney has 2 - Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Not only am I afraid of heights but I absolutely hate swimming although I can swim reasonably well and don't mind being in the sea so finding me in these 2 parks certainly was unexpected but it wasn't about me, there were 6 of us in the family that were on vacation and it was an experience that I wouldn't have wanted to miss.
Typhoon Lagoon is situated near to Disney's Caribbean Beach resort and Downtown Disney and only a short 10 minute drive from the Riverside resort where we were staying. Our Disney Ultimate tickets were for 14 consecutive days and activated when we entered our first park and all adult tickets were subject to a finger print scan on entry on every visit to every park and like all Disney (and Universal) subject to a bag search. 14 day Disney Ultimate tickets were bought through Virgin at £265 (adult) and £235 (child). The Ultimate tickets together with Disney dining plan were issued individually to us at the reception desk at our resort which also acted as our room key and could whilst within Disney resorts and parks be used as a room charge card. These cards were known as your key to the world and any that allow room charging are linked to your credit card when you check in and charged on departure.
Typhoon Lagoon like all the other parks has a massive car parking area which on our visit during the second week of our stay was probably about 1/3 full. US children went back to school during the 2nd week of our holiday and the resort and parks were noticeably quieter.
On entry we purchased a can of sun spray at about $14 which was almost a daily occurrence (and full of CFCs that are banned in the UK), goggles for my youngest daughter and a card holder that allowed me to keep my credit cards etc in my pocket or looped to my belt in a water tight container (really useful). It was not difficult to spend money and with the hire of towels and locker (part of locker fee refunded) within minutes of being there we had already spent over $50.
Once changed and sprayed, and with possessions safely stowed in the locker we searched for some chairs or loungers around the surf pool. As we dropped off our towels and bags with drinks etc we heard a sudden woosh as a giant wave started heading for the beach. We didn't go in the surf pool at first and decide instead to go on the lazy river (Castaway Creek).
Castaway Creek surrounds the surf pool and main area within Typhoon Lagoon and is accessible from various locations around the park from steps and there is access for those that find steps difficult. This is a very gentle "ride" using large inflatable rubber rings although some (including me) found getting in / on them extremely difficult and at times staying on! There are plenty of lifeguards stationed around Castaway Creek but from my point of view were positioned in the wrong areas because the most dangerous areas were at / close to the access points because of people leaving, people getting on and the clogging caused by the empty rubber rings that were not removed from the water. In fact so dangerous that on numerous occasions meant that I would get off my ring and pull my daughter through the areas as she kept slipping off her ring. Castaway creek is about 3 feet deep and is fun taking about 30 minutes to go around. Under normal circumstances this is great relaxation but if you have any young children that are non-swimmers or have just started to learn it should be treated with a degree of caution.
After we came off the lazy river we walked in to the surf pool. When we entered there were a few gentle waves similar to those that you'd see in a number of wave pools in the UK and although we had seen and heard a giant wave earlier the surf pool was dead quiet! It was over 30 minutes before alarm bells went off and water shot up from the boat on the "mountain" at the back of the surf pool. I was expecting extra water to enter from the back of the pool but it didn't appear to be any different as the water rose some 8 or 9 feet and rushed forward towards the beach area. Many walked or swam towards shallower water while others tried various methods to ride or swim the wave with varying degrees of success. We decided to get to roughly waist deep and brace for impact! I grabbed my youngest daughter and survived although not all my family managed to stay on their feet and were swept over!
By about 12pm we decided that we were in need of sustenance so after visiting the restrooms we walked around the numerous shops that were around the side of the Surf Pool and 5 of us decided to have fried shrimps, fries, cookie and coke / other soft drinks and the other was a hot dog, chips (crisps similar like Walkers), cookie and a coke which were all paid for as part of our Disney snack plan which would have cost in excess of $120. It was a memorable experience because we decided to pay for everything using the meal plan associated with our room. (We had 2 rooms - me, my wife and 2 daughters in one and our son and his partner in the other). Unfortunately, Disney systems did not allow for more meals charged than the number of guests in the room and so 2 meals has to be cancelled and re-entered as a separate transaction. It meant that we had been charged for more meals than we had actually ordered and needed a degree in maths for them to correct the problem and although they believed the corrections had been made we weren't convinced it was - as 2 extra cokes, fries and cookies were to prove. Still the food was good (including the drinks).
Shark Reef is near to where we had our meal and is where with the aid of mask and snorkel you can swim with the fish in a reef pool. We watched a number of children as they swam across the surface of the pool and although it looked fun we were wary of the "shark" and weren't convinced we could do it and for $20 each didn't want to take the risk.
Apart from the lazy river our only concern was the sharp bottom and sides of the lazy river and surf pool and we did have the odd graze - luckily we had already purchased swim shoes otherwise we may well have had cuts on the bottom of our feet / toes.
Although we spent some 3 hours at Typhoon Lagoon we did not feel brave stupid enough to go on the many slides at Typhoon Lagoon we had a great time. There are numerous slides and a children's play area that we only knew about after leaving the park. The park opening hours are seasonally adjusted and generally it opens at 10am. As our entry was included within the Disney Ultimate ticket we didn't pay on the day, but in general if you buy period tickets (eg 7 / 14 or 21 day) you get substantially better value per day.
If we could afford to go back to Florida, Typhoon Lagoon would definitely be on my list if we bought Disney Ultimate tickets again and would consider it for the hottest part of the day and if possible one of Disney's other parks when the temperature cooled. We loved the park and you will too.
I would recommend Disney World to anyone, it is an experience you will never forget and if you can afford to go planning is essential and it is beneficial to book any special events etc at least 6 months in advance to avoid disappointment. Disney is expensive, but their merchandise in Florida with exchange rates is better value than the UK. If you can afford to go set yourself a limit and stick to it, you'll probably never do it again (like us) and you don't want to end up in debt!
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John F. Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral)
I can hardly believe that it was 5 weeks ago today (6th August 2012) since my family (wife, 2 daughters, son and partner) jetted out from London Gatwick Airport on the holiday of a lifetime to Orlando, USA. Booked through our local Virgin travel store we would stay on the Port Orleans (French Quarter) of the Disney Riverside ... resort with 14 day ultimate Disney tickets and 14 day passes to Universal Studios and all their other parks. Also included as part of our package was car hire and coach trip to The Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral.
This was my first trip outside the UK, indeed the first anywhere and being afraid of heights I wasn't sure how I'd react to 40,000 ft but I needn't have worried although we did have a few children that had been sick from the turbulence. As we descended over the Florida coast I saw what appeared to be a massive site hugging the coast and surrounded apart from a very straight road by water. From its size I could only assume it was some kind of military base and I could see the odd tower structure that reminded me of shots I had seen of space rocket launches. I could recall that it took 10 minutes or so from there to our final destination at Orlando (Mickey) International Airport as our pilot called it.
The Kennedy Space Centre was a last minute addition that I had suggested because it was a never to be done again visit and thought it would give us a break from the daily Disney and Universal parks. There are a variety of tickets available including having lunch with an astronaut and /or airboat adventure / safari dependant on which day of the week you choose varying in price from £25 (adult) and £20 (child) for entry to the Space Centre complex to £95 for an Astronaut Training Experience (adults only) there were a number of option to choose from. We chose The Kennedy Space Centre tour which included transport and entry to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame - £47 (adults), £44 (children). Apart from the holiday itself this is the only time we had to specific in choosing a date when we originally booked the holiday - Monday, 13th August. I'm not sure about you but I don't know what I'm doing the next day let alone 6 months in advance! We were however to find that this was not the only time that bookings had to be made more than 6 months in advance - this was a bare minimum if we had wanted to dine with Disney characters in the main Disney resort restaurants (or the popular ones at least).
A few weeks before we set off for Florida Virgin posted our tickets and after reading discovered that when we arrived we would need to ring the coach company providing transport to The Kennedy Space Centre at least a couple of days before our scheduled visit to confirm details and arrange the departure point. From our resort we drove to Downtown Disney which was only a short drive and from where we collected the coach - in the car park near to the Cirque du Soleil. The coach driver made 2 more stops on International Drive before we set off for Cape Canaveral although there are actually 10 scheduled as part of the route.
As soon as we hit the interstate our driver (who we later found could be a contender for Mastermind on anything connected to space) subjected us to a series of dvds including the space shuttle (narrated by Captain Kirk) and NASA's plans for the future of space exploration. Cape Canaveral is located within a national park and as we entered the park our driver would direct us from side to side of the coach where he would have spotted an alligator, manities or dolphins in their native habitat. We would also learn later that the Space Center was also home during Winter months to the American bald eagle. Entry is through gates manned by air force personnel.
The Kennedy Space Center is open from 9am until 6pm and can be accessed by car - parking charge $10 per car. The driver came with us to the Space Center and gave us a quick run down on what we would see and timings and most importantly told us that they are very hot on any metal objects - eg pins which they will not allow you to take into the site and their security scan also includes credit cards! I was however puzzled to find they sold pins etc in their shops!
We had no idea what to expect at The Kennedy Space Centre and to an extent was probably a good thing. The coach driver had said not to spend time at the IMAX theatres as you would miss something and we did stick to this although when the temperatures is a sweltering 39 degrees a nice air conditioned theatre does feel appealing.
Having left our resort to be at our collection point for 8am we were starving by the time we got into the main complex and we immediately went to the restrooms and subsequently walked to the Orbit Café where we wanted to partake in breakfast, only to discover that the café didn't open until 11 and it was only 10am! There was a small van as we entered the complex and we decided to buy some drinks, breakfast croissants and Danish pastries, not what we wanted but it would do.
The Rocket Garden was our first real stop and we spent a while walking over to the rockets that towered into the sky and looking at the various plaques that were next to them. A couple of us also climbed in to a module where you could put your feet into the position astronauts would have used for launch but we didn't spend very long because the temperature was becoming uncomfortable. Next to the Rocket Garden is a children's play area which we might have utilised with more time and if it were cooler. The Rocket Garden however has a more sinister past - the rockets are all ones that have been used to develop space discovery but were originally designed as part of the USA's nuclear arsenal for launching at the USSR (and probably the UK!).
Like most things America likes to boast of their exploits and how they've developed this or the first to do that and this is one of those that they certainly like to show off. What they seem to forget is that it was actually Germany that were developing rockets first and that the USA rather ceremoniously transported the engineers and scientists over to their country and turned them in to US citizens.
We visited the Robot Scouts building where we were walked through an exhibition of robot technology that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has used on previous missions and what they are using / planning for the future including their missions to Mars and what difficulties they have encountered. This was approximately 20 minutes.
Apart from rather an extensive look in the Space Shop where we bought fridge magnets, a book, pens, key ring and a USB stick with 20 photos on it our only other visit on the main visitor complex was to Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted where you could try a range of hands on experiments and equipment which included trying to dock a space ship in space and sending ourselves e-mailed photos of ourselves in space suits either on the moon, Mars or the International Space Station - where the main benefit was it was from NASA!
The prices for T-Shirts in the Space Shop were approximately $25-$30 although this was dependant on design. We spend approximately $35 but it would have been quite easy to double or if not triple without trying and we didn't look at their sale items on the 1st floor.
As we walked to the Bus Boarding area we had photos taken that we would later purchase as we arrived back from our guided tour around the site on their own buses that ran roughly every 10 minutes. There were 2 stops - to the LC39 Observation Gantry where you can view right the way round the site and with binoculars etc would be able to see much of the site. The 2nd stop Apollo / Saturn 5 Centre where you can see a full size copy of one of the actual rockets and the actual control room used in 1969 for the launch of Apollo 11 and its most famous crew members Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
There is a lift at the Observation Gantry that take you to the main viewing area where you can see the Atlantic Ocean and waterway that makes Cape Canaveral virtually an island and you can see some of the various bird populations that exist in a very placid environment. There are also numerous buildings used over the 50 years of space exploration missions that have been launched from Cape Canaveral including the 7ft gravel roadway they used to transport the rockets. There is a small snack shop providing food and drinks.
At the Apollo / Saturn 5 Centre you are met by a closed door as you leave the bus which seemed to take an age, and you enter into the launch room of 1969 where you see exactly what was going on during the launch. The presentation doesn't last very long and on exit you are met by a rocket. It was vast, so big in fact that it was too big for the single shot on my camera. The rocket however is made up of parts that had been used to develop and test the actual rocket. There was a second presentation that we didn't visit, nor did we visit the shop as we realised that we were running short of time.
The bus tour takes quite a while and although we had given ourselves 2 or 3 hours we were extremely short of time as we needed to be back for the coach for a visit to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. On arriving back at the main complex we viewed (and purchased) our photos for what I believe was $30, but we felt devastated because we had no time left to do the one thing we really fancied - The Shuttle Launch Experience where you can go on a simulator where you can experience a shuttle launch. Of everything on the site this was the one thing we all wanted to do and with only 15 minutes left and an hour wait was impossible.
The coach took us to the US Astronauts Hall of Fame which was located on the opposite side of the waterway we had crossed to enter the main site. You can buy tickets for this "attraction" separate to The Kennedy Space Centre. The majority of this site has a museum feel apart from a simulator that my youngest and I went on that tried to suggest how it would be to land on Mars - the gentle version that is! There was a shop which most of my family visited while we were on the simulator but by this stage I think we had all lost interest.
We left the Hall of Fame to return to the Kennedy Space Centre where a few groups had been on a different tour (paid for lunch with an astronaut and a specialised tour), but on leaving the Hall of Fame the driver stopped briefly to allow us to get out and take a photo of the Space Shuttle (replica) and as we drove off left 2 passengers behind - and nearly ran over by cars behind us. We did not get out as a thunderstorm had gathered while we were entering the Hall of Fame and was now right by us.
Our tour over the coach headed back towards Orlando over an hour and a half away only to be engulfed by lightning from all sides and we could see in the distance a fire amongst the trees - where they had been hit by the lightning and fire truck sped past us. For the first 20 minutes of the journey the driver seemed to rely on knowing where the road should be because he certainly couldn't see it!
As we arrived back at Disney the driver diverted our attention to an unexpected visitor - a 4 ½ foot alligator in one of their waterways!
Apart from the simulator and a new building that is under construction for the Space Shuttle I'm not sure if it is a location I would recommend for a family. It is certainly interesting particularly for the more intellectual or for Americans. At £260+ for my family I don't think we got enough out of the visit. If you do plan to visit Florida it is essential you plan your stay in advance and if you do include this location you need to decide what bits are most important to avoid disappointment as it is a vast place.
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Downtown Disney (Florida, USA)
To say that I never in my wildest dreams would be writing a review on anything vaguely Disney (apart from our local Plymouth store) is a real understatement especially as the furthest I had previously been was York (yes the one in the North and not the one pre-fixed by "New") and having a fear or heights and never flown there ... was plenty of scope for everything to go wrong on our 2 week vacation.
Booked through Virgin we stayed at the Port Orleans (French Quarter) area on the Disney Riverside resort (including Disney dining plan - free from Virgin) with 14 day ultimate tickets to Disney parks, 14 day tickets to Universal Studios (and parks), a day at the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral and a special treat for 2 of our party to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove (which was just not possible for all of us at £200+ each) it was certainly the best way of keeping the memory of my wife's mum alive from a fantastic stay that we would remember for a very long time. We had 2 rooms at the hotel with my wife and I and our 2 girls in one and her son and his partner in the other. It was certainly not a cheap holiday but it was full of fun, excitement and had a sense of purpose. Our visit was during early August 2012 with temperatures between 34 and 39 degrees and daily thunderstorms.
Downtown Disney is a vast area that is almost like a focal hub for all the Disney parks and resorts with a range of shops, restaurants, other eateries and a range of entertainment and certainly worth at least one visit. It is accessible by car from Buena Vista Drive which was only a short drive from our hotel. Disney offer a free bus service that goes to Downtown Disney and all the Disney parks. From our hotel, Disney also operate a free boat service taking you to Downtown Disney or to the main Riverside resort and from Downtown Disney it is very easy to use the free boat service to other resorts located on the lake - including Polynesian. There is no entry fee to get in to Downtown Disney but entertainment is not free.
Our first visit was on Disney's free boat service which was a rather uncomfortable affair on wooden seats that vibrated rather painfully in respect of our backsides! At Downtown Disney the quay is situated next to the shops (in area known as Marketplace) and the first temptations to hit you are Captain Jack's restaurant and the Rainforest Café. Captain Jack's definitely had a real appeal but as we'd only eaten an hour or so before at our resort we could only marvel at the crab cakes, clam chowder and other seafood dishes on offer, nor did we even consider their strawberry margaritas which the restaurant is famous for.
As we walked off the quay a small covered stall took our eye where they were displaying a range of name plates created by a group of cartoonists and for $15 each we had 2 made for the girls, one containing rabbits incorporated into the name and the other made with a bed and surrounded by chicken legs - rather odd but all we could think of at the time but they were both really good and now proudly displayed in their bedrooms. We could have chosen different designs that made the name stand out and were only $5 dearer but we were happy with our decision although we did regret not buying the frames! Before the cartoonists start work a form is given to you, which has to be taken to Mickey's Mart where the form is receipted and needs to be taken back to the stall. The work is completed relatively quickly although they do suggest an hour and a half or pick up when you leave. They cannot do any copyrighted / trademarks - so no KFC on the chicken!
There are several stalls around the area including one selling pin badges and another was selling products for left handed people - including a clock that goes backwards and mugs that have a hole in the side that made it impossible to use them right handed. But, as I didn't notice any Disney symbols on the products we didn't pay much interest to them.
Apart from paying for the cartoons we did not spend much time in Marketplace Fun Finds where everything is $10 or under mainly because we had already bought gifts at our resort and the parks we had already visited although I did buy a small Bolt badge for our youngest daughter for around $5. Many of the products were available at the resort and parks so didn't stand out as different, and as we later to find available in other stores around Downtown Disney.
From Fun Finds our next stop was in littlemissmatched which sells odd items - either as miss matched pairs (eg socks with different left and right patterns or colours) or in odd numbers. Items on sell included socks, underwear, t-shirts, coats and "designer" shoes (trainers and boots) and we bought the girls socks and underwear for around $15 that would certainly avoid our routine pairing exercise!
Feeling rather hot and thirsty (37 degrees) we went into Goofy's Candy Co, a rather wonderful sweet shop set to tempt us with candy apples, sweets and drinks. We bought frozen drinks for around $3 each that were paid for using snack credits available on our Disney Dining Plan and we bought frozen coke, banana and strawberry, coke and banana and orange and strawberry which you can mix. Frozen coke was a definite must whereas some of the other concoctions were more down to taste or madness and were certainly different! It was a place we could have spent a fortune and had nothing to show for it, but as one of the aims was to bring back goodies / pressies they would never have made it to the airport.
A short distance from Goofy's shop was Disney's Days of Christmas where you can buy a wide range of decorations, trimmings etc for your tree / house. We bought a few tree decorations for around $15 each that will be pride of place this year from early December. Being August however, the store had very few tree toppers available and Tinkerbell was not expected until October! This was not the first Christmas shop found on Disney - the first was in the Liberty Street area at The Magic Kingdom, and they do hand decorate some decorations viewable onsite. They are certainly very much in to Christmas although their designs all seemed to follow specific patterns. It was certainly wonderful seeing all the ways for making your next Christmas that little bit different.
Next to the Christmas Shop was The Art of Disney and Disney's Wonderful World of Memories that lead into each other. The first sells a range of paper, pens, pencils, photo albums, autograph books etc which were all reasonably priced - I bought some pens from the shop with the end of the pens shaped like Mickey's face and ears and were available in many designs including stars and stripes. The other end is more for camera use because apart from small artworks / designs in the region of $75-$100 they were way out of our price range and some paintings were in excess of $3000. There was loads of wonderful works including copies of original cartoon images of Mickey, Donald and other Disney characters and models of areas within the parks (such as the station at The Magic Kingdom and Cinderella's castle) - well worth a look even if you can't afford them! There is a carousel outside the shop which we didn't try. There are toilets (restrooms) in this area and is also the location of the bus station.
We had been at Downtown Disney for a number of hours and we were feeling more than a little hungry by this point so after consulting a list of food outlets that we had been given that detailed those that were part of the Disney dining plan we went to Wolfgang Puck Express. As part of the dining plan this was the only time we needed to give a tip at any of Disney's locations and without doubt this was the best eatery that we vacated. My wife and I chose salad - mine a chicken Caesar and my wife's was a volcano with chicken, walnuts and avocados and walnut bread - both immense and delicious. Our youngest daughter had a child's menu with chicken fillets and the other meal also included chicken. Our desserts were a crème brulee, cookie and brownie and our daughter also had a cookie although I can't recall it being included as part of her meal. The meals cost around $70, although they charged against the credits on our dining plan so we only had to give the tip. The menu was immense and main dishes included salads, pizzas, pasta dishes (spaghetti, macaroni), Mexican and rotisserie - the most expensive dish was about $15-$20 which in terms of quality was much better than Harvester or Beefeater or even a number of restaurant chains and for probably less.
Not far from Wolfgang Pucks was the Earl of Sandwich where you can buy various hot and cold sandwiches, cakes and drinks which again accepted the Disney dining plan and had we not already eaten a fabulous meal may well have had our custom. I did vaguely look at their menu after we came out of Wolfgang Pucks and decided we had made the better choice although it still appealed to us more than the choice available at our resort. Prices were for their main meals were about half the price of Wolfgang Pucks.
Mickey's Pantry where you buy a range of kitchen utensils, aprons, cutlery, crockery, kitchen gadgets etc all with the Disney touch. We did spend some time in the shop although the only item we wanted was a metal Mickey trivet which we had seen in all the parks and resorts and was eventually bought at The Magic Kingdom during our second visit to the park. It was certainly very tempting in the shop but even if we had bought items we would probably have struggled to bring them back to the UK due to space and weight limitations.
Once Upon a Toy was a fun shop with plenty of toys (of all types), dressing up clothes and a range of dvds (NTSC format - not PAL) and games for the WII and other consoles. There is an area where you can build your own Mr Potato Head from a range of parts to your own unique design and similarly you can fill Mr Potato Head with your own parts at a set price which you can do from a wide range of mouth, eye, nose and other parts - certainly a toy that would keep younger children amused for a while. There are also many cuddly toys that you wouldn't find in UK Disney shops including Scar from The Lion King - which seems a much more popular character in the USA. There were also various Star Wars items in various formats including Donald Maul and Mickey Skywalker figurines. Dresses in store went to XL which supposedly was age 15 and were in the region of $70 which we did careful consideration to. Outside is the perfect opportunity to take your won photos with Mr Potato Head or Buzz Lightyear.
There were a number of shops that we never looked in - Basin that was selling soaps etc which we could smell from some distance away and similar to ones you can find anywhere, Team Mickey Athletic Club selling sports clothes and items such as baseball bats and Tren-D a clothes shop that we found anything but!
Arribas Brothers was a shop we found very difficult to leave where you could buy glassware - magnificent sculptures in fact that range from under $20 to over $2000 and we would have loved to have brought one of them homes but we had neither the money nor the space. We took an awful lot of photos in the shop - which was the closest we would get to buying them!
At the Ghiradelli Soda and Chocolate Shop we were greeted by a member of staff offering small chocolate and almond bars that were available on sale in the shop in quantities of 30 of more at prices that we couldn't justify. We did however buy several chocolate milkshakes that were almost impossible to drink leaving McDonalds thickshakes a very poor second in terms of thickness. They were so rich that we found them extremely difficult to drink - even when we could suck anything up through the straws but certainly a must for any chocolate lover. In terms of price I believe they were around $5 each but it was the experience we were interested in and not the price.
Other shops listed in this area that we didn't visit included Sosa Family Cigars and Sunglass Icon which as the name suggest sell tobacco products and sunglasses.
Our final shop on day 1 was the Disney Store which was massive. I had been told it was the biggest in the world but I'm not sure if that's true or was meant as Downtown Disney as a whole. It's difficult to remember what they sold because most of it was sold in the other shops across Downtown Disney, the only difference being it was in one place. Certainly there were t-shirts, dresses, mugs, clothing and toys but not as memorable. Throughout the entire holiday we never bought any Kermit ears that were high on the shopping list! Certainly you could change the order of your visit and do this shop first and visit the others for they don't have.
Our second visit to Disney was merely a means to an end - we had to pick up the coach for our visit to the Kennedy Space Centre and this was closest to our resort, so we used the location purely for parking the car.
Downtown Disney was also the last place we visited before leaving for Orlando International Airport and the flight home . As Virgin Atlantic passengers they operate a free baggage service that takes your luggage to the airport leaving you to enjoy the last few hours of your holiday without worry - well that was the theory but when you get your bags weighed and they are less that ½ lb underweight (by our scales) we were a little worried we would have unnecessary charges to pay. The baggage service operates from about 8am until 11am from the main car park outside the Cirque du Soleil.
After dropping off the cases we drove out of the area for breakfast and returned a short time later to visit Disney Quest. On the way we looked briefly at a few boutiques and other shops where I noticed a few Star Wars t-shirts selling for $30 that I had not seen elsewhere throughout Disney.
Entry to Disney Quest is chargeable $38-$44 but was included as part of our 14 day ultimate tickets. We spent a good 3 hours within Disney Quest starting on floor 3 where we were met by Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters where the aim is to drive glorified dodgems picking up balls and firing them at all the other astroblasters - if you knew how to do it and not like us collecting the balls but not firing any! It was great fun and now that we realise how to play would love to do it again. Apart from food and the odd prize arcade machine everything else we saw was free. There were lots of car / motor bike arcade games and fun roller coaster rides simulations that you can do from the comfort of your own chair that included tracks that did amazing routes through trains, jumping from track to track and where the track disappears. There's also a great one to try where you drive in a car with mice around the kitchen floor and avoid the owners! It was also time for me to go back to my childhood and play all my favourite arcade games - Frogger, Galaxian, Space Invaders, PacMan - yes all of them and a handful of pinball machines. It was heaven, even if only for a few hours it was a chance to go back in time! There was too much to do and not enough time to do it.
Our last memories of Downtown Disney were of the Lego store where you could buy a Star Wars Star Destroyer, choose Lego landmarks including Big Ben and buy individual Lego bricks. Inside the store were lifelike models of Buzz Lightyear and Woody, and outside St George and the dragon, and among others a massive Lego dragon in the lake.
This was not all that was possible at Downtown Disney there were lots of restaurants (Including Planet Hollywood), more shops and entertainment including the Cirque du Soleil and AMC Downtown Disney 24 where you can watch a wide range of films.
I was sceptical before I went to Orlando, not about Disney but the travel and expecting to be spending most of the day on roller coasters which was not the case. It was a fabulous holiday that I would recommend to anybody and without doubt Downtown Disney is part of that.
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Theme Park / Zoo International
Theme Park / Zoo International / Telephone: +30 22410 84403 - Spend a day enjoying spectacular rides, water slides, and of course, splash pools!
Address: Paphos, Cyprus / Theme Park / Zoo International / Telephone: +357 26813852 - Wildlife park for the entire family to enjoy. Listen to educational talks & programs about the various wildlife, get up close with the animals in the pet farm, or find a souvenir from the local artisans.
Theme Park / Zoo International / Water theme park.
Address: Passeig de Pau Casals, 65 / Theme Park / Zoo International / Vilaseca (Beyond Barcelona) / Telephone : 977 37 16 40 - A diversity of impressive water attractions for the whole family.
Address: 33 / Theme Park / Zoo International /2 Moo2 / Ban Harn Beach / Maret / Koh Samui / 84310 Thailand / Telephone: +66 77 424 017-8 - Watch the magnificent bengal tigers roam in their natural surroundings. Dont miss the Avery, full of exotic birds from all over the world, a colourful experience for all ages.
Theme Park / Zoo International / The zoo was opened in 1938 and is one of the oldest zoos in Thailand.
Theme Park / Zoo International / A beautiful attraction in Bangkok, Thailand. There are seven zones within Ocean World to explore and any species to observe.
Address: 88 / Theme Park / Zoo International /2 Moo 4 Talingngam / Koh Samui / Surat Thani / Thailand / Telephone: 077-423247
Theme Park / Zoo International / A marine attraction. Swim with the dolphins or be the sea keeper for the day.
Theme Park / Zoo International /
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