Rebecca Underwood takes a spellbound trip to visit the magic of Orlando
Orlando, Florida, is America’s number one destination for visitors, attracting 72 million annually, and it is considered to be the theme park capital of the world. Walt Disney World, the largest, comprises Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot and for water babes there are two water parks; Blizzard Beach and the Typhoon Lagoon.
For my own Disney experience and anticipating oodles of fun and adventures, I began my visit at the Magic Kingdom, which is crammed with exciting attractions and thrilling rides, and of course there is ample opportunity for adults to relive a bygone childhood. The sight of Mickey and Minnie Mouse dancing on the stage in front of Cinderella’s Castle resulted in adults and children alike jumping up and down together with glee and I joined in with abandon.
The Magic Kingdom also features Adventureland, where popular attractions include the Swiss Family Treehouse, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the hugely entertaining and hilarious Pirates of the Caribbean. At Frontierland the joyful shouts and screams of those riding the log flumes on Splash Mountain merge together with those aboard the runaway train on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. On Liberty Square, site of the Haunted Mansion, I spotted Goofy ambling along, and I am not ashamed to say that I chased after him but, alas, he managed to escape into the crowds!
Onto Fantasyland, and I headed for the Princess Fairytale Hall where wide-eyed children were entranced by Disney Princesses, complete with glittering tiaras, and I later noticed that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family roller coaster was drawing enthusiastic crowds. I hurried onto Tomorrowland and spotted a father and child skipping together towards the line for a ride on Space Mountain. ‘Daddy, daddy, hurry!’ she cried, and although I prefer to remain on terra firma, I was tempted to join them.
In no time at all it was time for all to gather for the Happily Ever After parade, which concludes with a spectacular fire work display and of course it was utterly enchanting. After an exhilarating day it was time to retire to my sumptuous villa.
Orlando offers a wide choice of accommodations but for those seeking a luxurious resort within a short distance from the most popular theme parks, the Magic Village Yards, located on Kissimmee’s Pantanal Lane, is just the ticket. This resort offers a range of detached and beautifully furnished villas with 3 or 4 bedrooms. I stayed in a four bedroom villa spread out over two floors and every spacious and stylishly decorated room was further enhanced with tasteful artworks. The ground floor featured an enormous open plan lounge, dining area and kitchen, a utility room with a washer/dryer and a plush double bedroom with an en suite bathroom. The enormous ground floor patio doors lead out onto a BBQ space with a huge grill and a comfortable dining area. The upper floor features three more double bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and a huge patio furnished with two ultra comfortable sun loungers, bliss!
The resort’s clubhouse features an impressive gymnasium and a gorgeous open air heated pool, which is flood-lit at night and ideal for a leisurely dip before dining in Villaggio, the resort’s Italian restaurant. I sampled the Filetto, a traditional parmesan risotto with sautéed filet on Roti sauce, and accompanied by the notes and taste of a glass of the 2012 Magique Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve, the flavours were sublime.
After a truly relaxing slumber I spent the following day exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom with areas devoted to Africa and Asia along with Discovery Island, which features attractions including It’s Tough to be a Bug!, and Pandora-The World of Avatar, which includes the Avatar Flight of Passage. Dinoland USA features the Primeval Whirl roller coaster and I loved the lavish performance of Finding Nemo-The Musical. ‘Oasis’ offers tropical garden pathways, where explorers may spot exotic animals including iguanas, a giant anteater and a wide variety of colourful birds. Heading for ‘Africa’, I embarked on the Kilimanjaro Safari, a short, bumpy ride through the lush ‘African savanna’ spotting giraffes, elephants, lions, zebra and hippos. Then, whilst wandering through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, I encountered a magnificent Silverback watching the boisterous antics of the smaller gorillas with irritation and distain. It was a mesmerising sight. Rafiki’s Planet Watch, is not to be missed. I hopped on the Wildlife Express Train and wandered around the Conservation Centre to learn more about Disney’s impressive efforts to support and rescue threatened wildlife and I was delighted to see children interacting with a variety of rare, domesticated animals.
Heading for Asia, I noticed the excitement surrounding the Expedition Everest attraction, which is a runaway train adventure and the Kali River Rapids, a white-water raft adventure through a ‘threatened’ rain forest. I embarked on the Maharajah Jungle Trek and admired a pair of magnificent tigers snoozing in the sunshine, a Komodo dragon busy marking his territory and a colony of giant fruit bats hanging upside down with their wings wrapped around them and all in a very deep and tranquil sleep.
SeaWorld, another major theme park, is only 11 miles from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it also draws the crowds. Located on SeaWorld Drive, this attraction is focused on raising awareness for the protection of our vulnerable oceans and their creatures, and part of the ticket cost supports wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and habitat protections. Parents and children can learn more about sharks, manatees, alligators, flamingos, pelicans, stingrays, sea turtles, sea lions, otters and penguins. There are also a number of roller coaster rides and shows and I was entranced with One Ocean, held at the Shamu Stadium; a spectacular and informative show featuring a pod of magnificent Orcas. I was particularly impressed with announcements as to how young people can protect our beaches by joining local ‘clean up’ initiatives. Dolphin Days is another popular show and it is clear that the audience is in awe of the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins performing the most amazing displays of agility. Another entertaining show, which is an absolute must, is Pets Ahoy. I watched in amazement as a variety of animals including dogs, cats, geese and a pig formed a show, which was thoroughly entertaining and there was no doubt that the entire audience was spellbound.
Magical Orlando offers all this and more.
Top Travel Tips
For more information on the featured accommodation visit magicvillagevacationhomes.com
Airport Transfers and Getting around Orlando
Book private transfers from Orlando airport to all hotels and more. Take advantage of a reliable and punctual, first class service. Prices are all-inclusive and guaranteed in advance, so you can sit back and relax upon arrival. Visit blacklane.com
Travel to Gatwick
Southern Rail moves an average of 620,000 people every day. Parent company Govia Thameslink Railway is currently transforming services into and across London, introducing new trains, modern infrastructure and improved ways of working. Save time and book your Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets online at: southernrailway.com and up to four children can travel with you for just £2 each.
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