After our hectic weekend at the Timegate convention in Atlanta (see post on the Needless Things website), it was off too Florida for a relaxing 10 days in Orlando (as relaxing as Orlando can get). So after a quick flight one hour and 15 minute flight from Atlanta we arrived in sunny and very hot Florida, I have to add at this point that my dear wife Helen slept the entire journey. She cannot remember seeing us pull off the gate as we prepared for take-off, she only woke up when we landed and asked the question ''are we taking off''?
My answer is not for the sensitive eyes of anyone reading this, but needless to say this wasn't the first time my wonderful wife has done this. Helen has the knack of been able to sleep on a plane even before it takes off, while I don't so guess who can occasionally get irritated when we fly.
So after breezing through the airport it was on to I-drive and within an hour we were booked into our hotel, unpacked and sat in the Buffalo Wings bar enjoying happy hour which we enjoyed just a little too much if I am honest. Happy hour was a scenario that was to repeat its self over the course of the next 10 days, be it either in the afternoon or on a night as happy hour ran from 14:00 to 16:00 and 22:00 to midnight so we always managed to make one of them.
When we wasn't enjoying happy hour (this sound bad) we were visiting the parks be it water or theme, or just walking around the shops trying to raise the America economy. Below is a breakdown on my thoughts on each of the parks, I will add here that we didn't visit Disney not because we don't enjoy the Disney parks it was purely down to time and cost, mainly cost of a Disney ticket.
Wet & Wild
This was our first visit to this water park and probably our last as Universal have announced they are to close it in 2016, however after reading a few negative reviews we were pleasantly surprised on how much we enjoyed our day there. The park is big there seemed to be something for everyone be it a little child or a large one, there was plenty of room to lay down and relax and the wave pool was a lot of fun if you didn't fall over (long story). The food was basic but edible which is always a plus, and it wasn't over priced especially if you shared a drink (were from Yorkshire). If asked I would recommend Wet & Wild as worth a visit, especially if you were staying on I-drive and didn't have a car.
Universal has moved on quite a lot since our last visit in 2012 and as much as we enjoyed the Universal parks, apart from Harry Potter world they were starting to look a bit old and stale.
Well all that has changed as a vast amount of investment has been put into the parks since we last visited, Harry Potter is now stretched across both parks Universal & Island of Adventure. In Universal they have added Kings Cross Station along with the Hogwarts Express that takes people from one park to the other, but the star of the park is Diagon Alley which is simply out of this world. The work that has gone into making Diagon Alley look authentic is utterly breathtaking, every little detail has been thought of and you can spend hours just waling around taking it all in. All the shops you would expect to find are there, along with an actual fire breathing dragon on top of the wizards bank Gringotts.
There has also been a few new rides added to the parks with the Escape from Gringotts ride which is good, but not as good as the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts in my humble opinion. We went on it twice and on both occasions they had technical issues with the ride, which changed our 30 minute wait into a 70 minute one so maybe my judgement is slightly coloured.
A transformers ride has also been added to the park which if you have seen the films may make some sort of sense, we haven't so although we found the ride good and interactive the storyline was totally lost on us. What was very good was the Transformer that was stood outside the ride interacting with the crowd, I know there was a man in there somewhere but it did look very convincing.
The addition of Krusty Land which has been built around the Simpson ride is also fun, and adds a little bit more the the park as you walk around.
We also noticed (you could not miss it) the contruction that was going on between Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon, I am led to believe that this will be a King Kong interactive experience set to open in 2016. It looked very impressive even in its part built state, and its an attraction I am looking forward to seeing when we visit again.
Now I know Sea World has taken some flack in resent times after the documentary Black Fish, it is however a park that we enjoy and love to visit. Antarctica Empire of the Penguin has been added since our last visit, and although the ride is nothing to shout home about it is worth going on it to see the penguins at the end.
We also booked a back lot tour on one of the days there which only cost $50 for the both of us, we were shown the conservation that takes place within the park and surrounding areas. How Sea World care and look after injured or abandoned animals in the park, before releasing them back to their natural habitat once healthy. We were given the chance to stroke a shark which is not as dangerous as it sounds, as this species of shark was only around 12 inches long. Much to the disappointment of one young boy on the tour, who thought he was going to see and touch a great white shark. The highlight of the tour was the chance to see a penguin up close and Helen was lucky enough to be able to touch one, as Helen loves penguins it was probably the highlights of the holiday for her.
We ate out most nights and in all honesty didn't have a bad meal while we were there, Chilli's do a fantastic set menu with drinks for $28 which is mad when you take into account their portion sizes and quality of the food. Buffalo Wings bar has a large selection of food that are all worth sampling, the 3 cheese pizzas and Big Jack Daddy burgers are especially welcoming.
Its been a while since we had visited Orlando and I think the time away was a good thing, as we enjoyed the parks more with all the changes that had been made. It may be a few years before we go back again but its a place we enjoy visiting and love, I would encourage anyone who reads this blog that hasn't been to go at least once to see for yourself how wonderful Orlando can be.