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Orlando: The Theme Park Capital of the World

Are you thinking of finally taking the family on a once in a lifetime Orlando dream vacation?  The various theme parks can make for an unbelievable holiday for the entire family but it has now got to the stage that you probably can’t see everything that you want if you don’t plan everything out in advance. Don’t go crazy and make it like a military operation but a little tweaking can make for an incredible holiday.

Magic Kingdom is chock full of iconic rides and experiences, meals with the famous characters, Cinderella’s Castle, photo opportunities with all of your favourite characters, parades that have to be seen to be believed, amazing fireworks and light shows and the new Fantasyland revamp.

But there are changes afoot at the Magic Kingdom and the new “Beauty and the Beast” themed restaurant, Be Our Guest, now serves alcohol with its meals.   After a wait of 41 years, Disney have realised that you can’t serve good French cuisine without also serving good French (and Belgian) wines, so the option of Bordeaux with lunch or dinner is now a possibility.

It might be worth waiting to visit that particular restaurant until the evening, after the rides have shut, otherwise your stomach might stop you from having a huge amount of fun for the rest of the afternoon.  There are several rides that now practically define the genre, like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and to complete the “Mountain” trilogy, the fantastic Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  This last ride is probably my favourite thing at the entire park, the incredible artificial scenery making you feel like you are rattling around some old gold mining railroad in the old west. Thunder Mountain is probably the best ride if you have young teens who may be scared by some parts of Space Mountain, or if you don’t have a waterproof camera and or don’t fancy getting soaked on Splash Mountain.

There are incredible things to do at all of Disney’s parks, from the Cars Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios, to the incredible rides at Animal Kingdom like Expedition Everest and the close encounters with exotic animals on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. However you must remember that Disney also has its rivals in Florida and Universal Studios is one of the biggest and best.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure give you the chance to see how movie magic happens and experience some of your favourite movies such as The Mummy, ET and Jurassic Park through thrilling rides and explore the amazing worlds of Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss. As a bit of a cartoon and comic book geek, I head straight for the Marvel Super Hero Island for some of the most intense rides you can imagine.  I have always been doubtful of 3D in movies and on TV but the Spiderman 3D ride is intense and frankly, incredible. Adding in Hulk and the Fantastic 4 related rides is just the icing on the cake.

If you want an immersive experience though, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is every bit a rival to their immense Disney rivals.  For children and teenagers who are reading Harry Potter and loving the films, this is like diving straight into the set of the movies, with all the right shops tempting them in (and draining your bank account).

With that in mind, you really do need to take advantage of your time back home to research the cheapest ticketing options.  Any savings will probably go to the parks anyway, but at least if you save it on the tickets, then you get to spend it and get souvenirs out of the deal. You don’t have to spend the money in the parks, of course, but having your main activities already paid for allows you to budget much effectively. So if you make sure you already have your Disney or  Universal Studios tickets, Florida, with all its beachfront cafés and restaurants, gets a whole lot more interesting.

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