Day 7 – A Deserted Wizarding World, preparing for Irma and meeting a Polar Bear

Today is the main reason we decided to stay at Hard Rock Hotel.

Staying on site gives you the early entry and both parts of the Wizarding World open an hour early for hotel guests. 8am in our case at this time of year. We got up early, checked out and walked to Universal Studios. Literally a 5 minute walk if that! No need to get on a bus, train, monorail or boat.

Nothing else bar Starbucks and a few places to eat were open and we were a little disappointed to learn that Gringotts didn’t actually open until the park did. That being said there is so much to look at in Diagon Alley and we had so much fun looking about and being able to have pictures without loads of people in the background. Paul even pretended he knew what Harry Potter was all about and had a go at being a wizard!

Anyone who’s been here knows how immersive it is and it does really feel like you’re entering the wizarding world. Even with the ride closed the hour we had before opening wasn’t anywhere near enough time to explore it all in peace!

We spent a lot of time doing spells and wondering around the shops and into Ollivanders to see how the wand chooses the wizard. One of the little extra things I really wanted to do that I’d kept quiet from Amelia was visit the money exchange where you can change up your dollars (a minimum of $10) to wizarding money with the help of one of the gringotts goblins. Fully interactive of course.

The money can only be spent in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or of course makes a relatively cheap souvenir. We kept ours.  We did video our experience in the money exchange as well as most of the trip so when I can get my head round editing I’ll put all that up as well.

Food in Diagon Alley, well snacks, are magical too. We had the obligatory Butterbeer which comes frozen or normal, and is every bit as delicious as I remember but a little too sweet for some people. We had Earl Grey and Lavender Ice Cream which was lovely but in typical Orlando style even one scoop was far too big! Amelia was sensible and went for a no melt ice cream from the sweet shop. It looked fabulous but was essentially just a pot of frosting, very good frosting but frosting all the same.  Pumpkin spice is one of my favourite things in Orlando so we went for a Pumpkin Pasty which was ok and we also bought a cauldron cake – we skipped breakfast so we were all a bit hungry!

I really enjoyed just wandering around and to be honest I could have quite happily walked around all day. But we needed to get as much done as possible as we needed to find a Walmart to stock up on rations for when Irma hit.

We had a quick stop off at The Night Bus and a chat with Stan and the shrunken heads before we took a little walk over to the other side of the park to see a show I’d been dying to watch for a while.

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That didn’t happen straightaway however as Paul nearly had some sort of fit after The Blues Brothers were walking along. He loves the Blues Brothers and we were planning on making sure we caught their show but we ended up seeing an earlier one. Paul even got involved in it, again to be seen in an upcoming vlog!

The Blues Brothers show is one of those must sees, everyone knows all the songs and it’s so entertaining and funny. Lots of audience participation and the performers are really really good 🙂

Jaws the ride may now be a distant memory but you can’t visit Universal Studios without finding the famous shark himself and inspecting the inside of his mouth.

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We did try and go to Richter Burger for lunch which does some of the best burgers but sadly it was closed.

The park was very quiet today, eerily so, due I would imagine to the upcoming storm. Most of the people in the parks were on holiday, I think most locals were out getting supplies.

If you’re planning a trip to Universal or have been before and are looking for something different to do, make a spot in your itinerary for the Horror Make Up Show. It’s not something I was overly interested in on previous trips just thinking it would be like some of the animation classes you used to get at Disney which although I enjoyed it wasn’t something I would rush to do again. I actually saw a vlog on it a few months after we booked and I laughed so hard! So we decided to give it a go 🙂 Plus it’s inside and it’s been raining on and off quite heavily all day.

It’s a live stage show with 2 fantastically funny hosts who show a few techniques for horror make up and blood and then show clips of the movies that they’re used on. And the movies the hosts have worked on. An unsuspecting audience member – sadly not one of us – gets roped in to be made up as well.

There are screens in the theatre – which isn’t that big – so any tricks they show you are shown close up on those 🙂

It’s a great way to spend half an hour, you won’t be disappointed and honestly it’s one of the funniest shows I’ve seen 🙂

Plus you can have your throat cut by the hosts after if you want to…

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One thing I only found out about recently were the impromptu ‘dance parties’ involving the floats from the Superstar parade. We were lucky on coming out of the show to stumble upon a Despicable Me one. Amelia got picked to be a Minion which she loved and you can have a dance with all the characters to the music from the film. I was just really excited that you can meet the girls!

These are really good fun and kids love it!

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It turns out we were in a great location for meeting characters here, after the dance party we spotted Popeye, Beetlejuice, Scooby Doo and The Simpsons. Some with photographers so we could take advantage of the photopass.

Shaggy and Scooby are always fun to meet. Other places where you can use the photopass are with the meets with Transformers, Minions and Shrek.

I finally got to do the Transformers ride which I wasn’t all that impressed with. The ride tech is brilliant and the special effects are really good but it’s not really that much different to Spider-Man, it’s just the story is about Transformers instead. I prefer Spider-Man.

The Despicable Me ride is one I always enjoy, I love the films and the Minions do make me laugh. Best bit of the ride though is undoubtedly when you exit to a dance floor where you can dance with the Minions 🙂

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After a quick? stop in Walmart and $200 of groceries later – we were told we could be in our rooms for 48 hours so we needed enough to last – we went back to Port Orleans, without getting lost for a quick dip in the pool.

I really enjoyed the pool at Port Orleans, it’s a great size and has a slide. There’s always activities for the kids as well, at an extra cost though.

There is also a bar that does some brilliant cocktails and an adults only Jacuzzi which we most definitely made the most of.

We decided to spend the evening in Disney Springs. The beauty of staying at Port Orleans is that you can get to Disney Springs on a boat which was fun. They run quite late into the evening as well it’s a less crowded more fun way to get about than the buses.

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We had a reservation at T-Rex where I really wanted to try the famed Cottontini 🙂

It’s basically a martini poured over candy floss (or cotton candy as they call it). I went for the apple one and I loved it. If you don’t like sweet things you won’t like it. The Candy Floss dissolves as you pour the drink over it. I ended up having 2 and another fruity cocktail as well. You get to keep the cocktail shaker when you order as well so you get a little reminder.

Food wise we really enjoyed T Rex, I’d read a lot of bad reviews about it but honestly apart from it being loud, it is dinosaur themed and comes from the same people who do Rainforest Café so you do expect a certain amount of ‘background’ noise from all the things that go on. I don’t remember exactly what happens in T-Rex I think it’s supposed to mimic the demise of the dinosaurs but there are animatronics all over the place and it’s a great fun place to eat with kids.

After the cocktails we had a rather tipsy wander around the Springs. I love the shops in Disney Springs so much grown up Disney merchandise from homeware and clothes to artwork, I never buy a lot but I just like to look.

One of the things I was super excited about was meeting the Coca Cola Polar bear. I’d watched some videos of him on YouTube and he really made me laugh so finding him was one of the things on my bucket list for this trip. He was brilliant, such a fun character meet and all the photos – in fact all the photo ops in Disney Springs – are included with memory maker. We loved him that much we went back twice.

We also had more cocktails on the rooftop bar at Coca Cola Store. You can have them with all the different coke products you can try in Epcot at Club Cool, I wasn’t brave enough to try the Beverley one so I went for something raspberry flavoured although all I could taste was the alcohol. Don’t forget if you are over 21 and old enough to drink in Orlando you will need to prove it so make sure you have ID with you.

The rooftop bar is lovely, it gives you great views over the Springs, the shop was great as well. It wasn’t there last time I visited so I was excited to have a look 🙂

Feeling ever so slightly tipsy we went back to the boat to go back, tomorrow is the last day the parks are open before Irma hits so we’re off for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days 6 – Staying at Hard Rock Hotel, Volcano Bay and more Universal

Breakfast this morning was finally at Waffle House after I didn’t get lost and found one! You can always rely on Waffle House for cheap good food and lots of it. Service is always great and the servers do make it a fun place to eat. Plus they have the tastiest and biggest hash browns. We did notice these seem to be everywhere on the 192 and not so prominent when you get to I-Drive so if you fancy trying one of their delicious breakfasts then head towards Kissimmee you’re bound to come across one!

 

I’d heard lots of good things about Hard Rock so we were both really looking forward to staying here. Mostly because of the early entry to the parks and the unlimited Express Passes that come with a room booking 🙂

We checked in about 9ish and were lucky as our room was actually ready for us. The smell of this hotel is unbelievable! I did ask if you can buy it but you can’t, they are missing a trick with that one! Because you get the early park entry with your room you can actually check in as early as 7am on the day of your stay to make use of it. Your room might not be ready but you can leave your bags somewhere safe.

We had a quick look at the room and got changed to head to Volcano Bay for a swim. The rooms are big and spacious and we loved the music channels as well. You can even make your own playlist that you can download to remind you of your trip.

My favourite thing about the room was this, it had me in fits – no-one else found it quite so funny..

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The good thing about staying on Universal is that all the parks are really close and we got on a bus from our hotel to Volcano Bay. It gave us a chance to see some of the other hotels on property as well. It was quick and there is no way to walk there from Hard Rock.

We didn’t actually take any pictures really in Volcano Bay just a few as we went it. It’s a great park. The Tapu Tapu worked great, its given to you as you go in and each of the rides have machines where you can scan it to put you in a virtual queue for that ride. We were lucky it was pretty quiet. Paul and Amelia managed to get on a few slides. The ‘Oh No’ was her favourite. It was a slide which ends 6ft above the pool giving you a free fall drop to the water.

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Volcano Bay has 2 lazy rivers, if you want to chill out and relax make sure you enter the right one. TeAwa The Fearless river is anything but relaxing. It’s like white water rafting in a rubber ring, its so much fun but kind of impossible to get off! The wave surges come at just the wrong time and kept shooting me past the exit, I think we went round 4 times and it’s not a short river!

Disabled Access here is really good, there was an entrance for me on the rivers with hoists to put you in and out of the water, most of the slides had lifts to get you up to them so if you are in a wheelchair you can still experience a lot of the park which is great.

The Volcano is stunning when you see it, and the wave pool in front of it is perfect to just chill out and soak up the sun. Do not forget your sun cream, we were there for a few hours and I ended up with red legs!

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to ease our sunburn and just as we sat down we had a knock at the door and some Champagne and Chocolates delivered as a Honeymoon gift from the hotel which was lovely, we were chuffed with that 🙂 Made light work of the bottle and went off to Universal Studios a little bit tipsy…

 

The Express Passes you get with your room booking are fab. It’s actually your room key that acts as your pass so buying a lanyard is a great idea, it’s a good way to carry them around 🙂

We were straight on every ride we wanted to do. Jimmy Fallon is amazing. We were obviously aware of his show and who he is but you don’t need to to enjoy it. The pre show is fabulous with a barbershop quartet like he has on the show singing some modern classics for you, I really enjoyed that. It’s worth queueing for just for them. And it does keep you entertained while you wait. The ride itself is another 3D/4D ride simulator of which there are quite a few at Universal. The general idea of these is pretty similar yet they are all unique in their own way. This one takes you on a race through New York City taking in all the sights like the Empire State and Statue of Liberty before ending up back in the Tonight show studio.

Amelia had been going on and on and on and on about Rip Ride Rockit since our last trip, it was another one we had tears about with her being so little. Having the Express pass meant she could go on as many times as she liked and I lost count at 5, seeing this little gem after she’d been on it made my day!

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We managed to get on Simpsons, which still makes me feel sick, Men in Black and The Mummy before our day was cut short because of the weather.

I mentioned the photopass in my last blog which we managed to get a good deal on and we did use it as much as we could. It’s nowhere near as good as the Disney one and there isn’t really any photographers about much it’s mostly just on rides and character meets you can use it. There isn’t a lot of those at all. With all the photo opportunities all over Universal and particularly in Wizarding World I think Universal would benefit from having more photographers dotted about. That being said we did take advantage of it today with ET and SpongeBob 🙂

Dinner today was in Mels Diner which I wasn’t overly impressed with if I’m honest. I’d eaten there before and I remembered having jukeboxes on the table but I’m sure it used to be table service. Food was ok, not brilliant and it was quite expensive.

We spent the evening chilling out with cocktails by the pool and sitting in the hot-tub not an entirely bad way to spend the evening. Universal doesn’t have the evening shows like Disney does so the parks do close earlier. You do have Citywalk to explore but being as we only had one night in the hotel we did want to make use of the pool and have a quiet and early night. We need to be awake enough to take full advantage of early entry for Diagon Alley!!

Tomorrow we get the chance to visit Diagon Alley without all the crowds!

Things to do in theme parks without queuing – UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

With it being the home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal is now a lot busier than it has been in previous years and is giving Disney a run for its money as a resort in itself.

Although Universal does have a large amount of very popular rides and is popular with the thrill seekers – although it does actually only have 3 rollercoasters – there is almost another whole parks worth of non-ride stuff to do there.

Turning right as you go into the park and into Hollywood you’re sure to bump into Characters as you work your way down the street you’ll find all sorts from Scooby and Shaggy to The Flintstones.  There’s live music here as well from the studio Brass Band and I’m sure I remember them playing the Simpsons theme.

Here you also find Terminator 3-D it’s part 3-D film and part live action and is based on the Cyberdyne company from the films – mostly from Terminator 2. It’s really action packed and runs periodically throughout the day and being as it’s in a pretty large theatre I’ve never seen a queue for it.

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Also in this area is the Horror Make-Up Show which shows clips of horror movies to show us how they have scared us through the years and then show how the make up is done. It’s fun and interactive but not recommended for under 12s. Again there’s rarely a queue and an entertaining way to spend 20 minutes.

There are plenty of play areas for the young ones to keep them amused in KidZone and a whole area dedicated to a huge adventure playground based on Curious George.  There’s an indoor play area aimed at the really young called ‘Barney’s Backyard’ and also a Barney live show.  Not to mention Fievels Playland with it’s little water slide that Amelia loved and we couldn’t get her off!!

Also here you have Animal Actors on location a live show with real performing animals in which some of the children in the audience are invited up to help with. I’ve rarely seen queues for this and had no idea this even existed until my last trip – we didn’t get a chance to do it them but this time it’s high on our list!

Springfield has loads just to look at while you’re walking around – that’s the great thing about Universal everything is so immersive in a totally different way to Disney. There are so many photo ops in Springfield and a lot of side show carnival games (for an extra charge) but plenty to do if you don’t want to queue for the ride there. Even wandering into Moes for a Duff Beer or a Flamin Moe.

Men in Black is right at the back of the park and since Diagon Alley opened and the Simpsons next to it I’ve rarely seen a queue.

There are lots and lots of photo ops around Universal Studios, so do look out for them. Namely the huge shark from Jaws and the Knight Bus from Harry Potter.

Diagon Alley is always going to be relatively busy but again like Springfield there’s loads to do if you don’t want to queue for the ride. The shops are an experience in themselves and it’s just like being on a film set with loads of places to investigate. Purchase one of the interactive wands and follow the map through casting spells a big hit with kids and adults. There’s entertainment here as well with a re-telling of Beedle the Bard with puppets and songstress Celestina Warbeck.  Don’t forget to change your dollars for wizarding notes at the Money Exchange there’s even a goblin host there.

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Heading back towards the entrance to the park takes you through New York where you will find the infamous Blues Brothers show which is definitely not to be missed.  There’s also a climbing wall (for an extra charge) and if you look you *may* find the entrance to ‘The Blind Pig’ from Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.

You can easily spend a day just walking round Universal Studios, remember the idea behind it is to ‘ride the movies’ so it is set up to look like a movie set so there’s loads to investigate.

What are your favourite non ride things to do? Have I missed anything important?

Cheap, Reliable transport from I-Drive to Disney and Universal

One of the main things I get asked about is how to get to the parks when you’re not driving and although you do have the I-Ride, Taxis and Uber yesterday I discovered another way which is not only cost effective but from a very reliable and well known supplier in Orlando. Plus it’s easy!

Some hotels in Orlando do offer free shuttle buses to the parks and some offer these at an additional cost but most of these only run a few times a day and will collect from several different locations so you could be going all around the houses before you get to the theme parks.

Yesterday I found out that Florida Dolphin Tours do something called the ‘THEME PARK EXPRESS’.

It leaves from Pointe Orlando which is incredibly central and a really popular location for those staying on I-Drive.

The Theme Park Express services Disney and Universal and runs every hour to Disney and every 30 minutes to Universal.

The Disney bus is direct and takes you straight to Epcot transportation center. It runs from 8am-11am and return times start from 6pm until 1 hour after the latest park closing.

Universal has a few stops at I-Drive 360, Pirates Town and then takes you to the Universal Resort Bus Loop. This service starts at 7:45- 11am and then return times from 6pm until 30 minutes after latest park closing.

You can purchase a combo ticket giving you access to both the buses for 3,5,7 or 14 days.

Prices for these are really reasonable 3 Days for $25, 5 days is $35, 7 is $49 and 14 days $90.

Not only that they are using Citysightseeing open top buses to do it so it’s also a really great way to see some of what Orlando has to offer whilst on your way to the parks!!

You can book it here Theme Park Express

Halloween Horror Nights or Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween – Which is the one for you?

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Orlando during their Halloween celebrations then you may just be able to attend one of the special Halloween events that start from the end of August this year – they do like to drag it out!!

Although Seaworld and Busch Gardens do have their own events the most popular ones and the ones most people are aware of are Universals Halloween Horror Nights and Disney’s Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween. These events are so worth going to if they’re on and give you a different way of seeing the parks but which one is the best one for you? If you can it’s worth going to both as they’re so different but if you can only visit one then hopefully this handy little guide will give you some information that may help you make up your mind… or make you save harder so you can do both!!

WHEN IS IT?

Mickeys Not So Scary (MNSSHP) starts really early this year and runs on selected dates from August-November

  • August 25 and 29
  • September 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26 and 29
  • October 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29 and 31
  • November 1

Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) runs from September-November

  • September 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30
  • October 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
  • November 3, 4

WHERE IS IT?

MNSSHP is at Disneys Magic Kingdom

Halloween Horror Nights is at Universal Studios.

IS IT ON ALL DAY?

No these are both evening events and the parks will close early to accommodate them so do bear that in mind if you don’t have tickets to the parks for the day.

MNSSHP starts officially at 7pm although they have historically let guests into the park from 4pm and it finishes at around midnight. If you have a normal Disney ticket that allows you in the park in the day you are able to get in earlier and stay in for the event. When the event starts you will find cast members scanning tickets and giving out wristbands to those who have tickets for the event.

HHN starts at at 7pm also and gates open half hour before it starts and finishes around 1am.  If you have a day ticket for the parks as well as the HHN tickets then you will be able to stay in the park when it closes for the event. They have ‘holding’ areas for those with tickets which put you in prime position for some of the scare houses as soon as they open.

WHAT HAPPENS AT THESE EVENTS?

Both of these events are obviously Halloween themed so you do expect a certain amount of scariness.

MNSSHP is on the milder side of scares and is family friendly, HHN is more macabre with scare actors and scare houses based on horror movies.

Both parks are decorated for the occasion and each event will have exclusive merchandise and food as well.

MNSSHP is definitely more on the fun and less on the scary. A lot of the regular daily Disney things are given a Halloween makeover so you have different parades and fireworks as well as exclusive shows including one based on ‘Hocus Pocus’ and a villain show too.

Regular characters are dressed in their best Halloween outfits and rare characters and villains are around the park to meet you all including the ever popular Jack Skellington and all of the Seven Dwarfs. It’s also a chance to meet the Princesses with their Princes.

Also included in the admission ticket is a trick or treat bag which you can fill up with candy at all the treat locations around the park and you can go to these as many times as you like!! That is a lot of candy!! Allergens? Then don’t worry they cater for that too, you just tell them as you go in and you’re given a different colored bag and there are treats just for you!!

HHN on the other hand is there to scare you!!

The main attraction at this event are the many scare houses based on horror movies and TV Shows (past themes have been The Exorcist, Krampus, American Horror Story…) Each one of these transports you into the movie so you feel like it’s all happening around you, they use clever special effects, animatronics and real scare actors to completely immerse you into the experience. This is Universal, it’s not a ‘normal’ haunted house attraction.

Also around the park are various ‘scare zones’ again themed on popular horror shows and movies with scare actors walking around completely in character chasing you.

Please note these actors are NOT allowed to touch you so if you’re worried about that – as I was – then you don’t need to be!!

Sound a bit too intense for you? Then don’t worry there are various ‘safe’ zones around the park so you can take a break and there is also a really fun show based on Bill and Ted which changes every year to include things that are relevant in pop culture.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

MNSSHP prices start at $74 – $115 depending on what evening you go. Halloween night itself is the most expensive time to go. These are one night tickets and will not allow you into the park before the event starts.

THESE TICKETS ARE ONLY AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE FROM DISNEY DIRECTLY

HHN prices start at $70 – $81 again depending on when you go.  These are one night tickets and will not allow you into the park before the event starts.

HHN also have Frequent Fear Passes available these are great value and allow you unlimited access to select nights while the event is on. These are great if you’re there for 14 days and can be purchased from most ticket resellers for around £105.

Tickets for these events do sell out on certain dates so it is recommended that you purchase them before travel to avoid being disappointed if you can’t get in.

CAN I DRESS UP?

You can for MNSSHP although there are guidelines to follow which you can find here.

You are not allowed to dress up for HHN

WILL THE RIDES BE OPEN?

Yes. Rides are open for both events but not all of them. Check the websites for up to date info on what you will be able to go on. MNSSHP has info now but HHN is not available just yet.

Halloween Horror Nights Here and MNSSHP Here

CAN I SKIP THE LINES?

Disney FastPass+ is not available during MNSSHP, however because of all the other events going on not many people do ride so it is a fab time to get on some as you’re walking around the parks. Remember though you can do these on a normal day in the park so make the most of the exclusive events and not so much the rides, you don’t want to miss out on something you only have one chance to experience.

You can purchase Express Passes for the houses for HHN, these are in addition to the event ticket and are only available through Universal directly. I’ve searched for some prices but I can’t find any at the moment!!

WHO CAN GO?

Both events are open to anyone although HHN do advise that it may not be suitable for anyone under the age of 13.  I have a 10 year old who is desperate to go so it does all depend on what scares your child.

I’ve had a look at some vloggers online and picked 2 of the best ones to give you a bit of a more visual idea of what you can expect from both events.

If you have any questions at all then please let me know 🙂

Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights House

Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween

 

Harry Potter event at Universal!

Having been to Orlando several times it’s always nice to find some different things to do when I’m there and try and experience the parks in a different way.

We all know about the Halloween and Christmas events that are much publicised and written about but did you know that there is something else happening at the start of September for all you Harry Potter fans….

Orlando Informer is hosting a meet up at Universal this September 2-3 which looks so much fun!!

I’ve been watching a lot of vlogs lately and one of the vloggers posted about this so I did a little bit of investigating!

It’s a separate ticketed event much like the Halloween Horror Nights but a little less big!!

You get to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter after hours which is amazing in itself!! It’s always so busy so there so seeing it when there’s actually room to wander about slowly and seeing the dragon breathe fire at night is one of those memorable experiences you’ll never forget!!

Both sides of the Wizarding World are open for it as well as some of the other rides in the Studios park and the Hogwarts express too. There’s food and unlimited butterbeer included as well!! That’s where I’ll get my moneys worth!!

It runs from 8pm-1:30am and you do need to register to get tickets but it looks soooo cool!! It is quite pricey at $154 so about £120 but if you’re there and it’s on and you can afford it then why not?!!

Full info and tickets can be found here https://meetup.orlandoinformer.com/

Blue Man Group – Is it worth it?

It’s always nice in Orlando to spend an evening catching a show and currently the 2 most popular and most well known are Cirque Du Soleil at Disney (Catch it quick it finishes in December) and Blue Man Group at Universal.

So many people ask about Blue Man and want to know what it is and if it’s worth watching. In a word. YES!!!

I am a huge fan of theatre shows and I know it’s a really bold statement but Blue Man is one of the most incredible ones I’ve seen. I could watch it again and again and again and not be bored.

You’ll find it in it’s own theatre just outside the entrance to Universal Studios, it’s  relatively small  so you will have a good view in any area. There are ‘poncho seats’ where you will get wet and covered in all manner of things including cereal…

It’s fully accessible and there are wheelchair seats if you need them but please book in advance.

It’s cheaper to buy before you go and most of the ticket resellers will sell them, tickets are around £40.

But what is it about? Anyone who’s had the luck to see this show will know how hard a question this is to answer because, quite frankly, it’s a bit odd!! But I shall give it a go…

The gist of it is that these ‘Blue Men’ are aliens who have come to our planet and are trying to understand how we live. That’s basically it. In a nutshell. Doesn’t sound too exciting but I promise you it will be one of the greatest (and strangest) things you ever see.

They use music, art, percussion, lots of paint and mime which I normally hate!

You’ve probably seen little bits of them on variety shows and things on TV where they paint things by spitting paint on a canvas, that is a VERY small part of the show and isn’t really a good representation of the things you see in it.

It is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen and they’re really really clever in that they’ve managed to create something that EVERYONE can understand. On my last trip the youngest was 6, the oldest 60 and we all laughed, at the same time. That doesn’t happen very often.

The show is really visual, some of the comedy is the old slapstick stuff that your grandparents love. They don’t speak. It’s incredibly clever the way that they manage to convey whatever message that they want without saying a word. There is a lot going on and it’s split into different ‘scenes’

There’s a bit of audience participation which starts literally as soon as you get in the theatre when you’re encouraged to read out loud from a screen which you may find your name on…

They do also come out into the audience and will stand right in front of you and stare at you, remember they are aliens who know nothing about us and what we are.  It can be a little odd but ultimately you will laugh at it.

All in all it’s a family friendly hilarious, colourful and fun show.  There’s a little video below to give you a little idea of the kind of thing that they do but honestly you must see this for yourself.  You will not be dissapointed!

It’s just over an hour so it’s not a long show and there is no interval. There’s 2 shows most days but obviously check the schedule.

The men will be around after so you can meet them like I did, they don’t hug you though they just put a blue thumb print on your head… I didn’t get one of those thankfully.

Make sure you go, it’s incredible!! And if anyone has seen it and has a way to actually describe it then I’d love to hear it!!

blueman

Character Dining in Orlando

One of the most fun things about being in Orlando – and Disney particularly – is the ability to dine with the Characters.

There is so much choice though so how do you decide on which one (or ones) that you want to do?

I thought I’d put together a little guide to all the Character Dining options in Disney (and the other parks) so hopefully I can help you choose which one(s) is best for you. I’ll include whether or not there are allergen/vegan options (although I will do a more extensive blog on eating with specific diets) and also a price guide and if it accepts dining plans and how many credits it uses.

The first thing I will say, as I thought this before I had done it, is that the characters don’t actually ‘dine’ with you. They come around to your table as you eat and do pictures and autographs while you’re there. The characters rotate and you don’t need to worry if you see one walk out as you walk in, that character will be back and your hosts always make sure your table isn’t missed out.

Another thing that’s a bit of a misconception is that you can only do the dining in the parks. There are places in resort hotels you can dine with characters and you don’t have to be staying there to do that. So if you’re on a trip to Orlando and you’ve done Disney before and don’t fancy the parks but do want a little of the magic. You can do this!!

Currently I’ve only done Chef Mickeys in Orlando and Cafe Mickeys in Paris so review wise I can only comment on those. However for our upcoming trip I’ve gone a bit mad on the character dining and so far have booked 4 character dining experiences (5 if you include Be Our Guest) I’m sure there will be more….

So let me start with the ones available in the parks!

All these are correct and available at time of writing but they do have one off dining events sometimes as well. Keep an eye on your MDE (My Disney Experience) for them.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Magic Kingdom has 3 in park character dining – I honestly thought there was more!!

Cinderellas Royal Table, The Crystal Palace and Tianas Riverboat Party

CINDERELLAS ROYAL TABLE is one of the most popular dining experiences in WDW and if you want to dine here you need to pre book. (a step by step guide on how to book dining via your MDE app can be found here)

The restaurant is inside the castle in Magic Kingdom and is one of the most stunning looking places to eat in the parks not to mention the incredible views you must have from inside the castle.

WHO CAN I MEET? Obviously this is Cinderella’s castle so you will get to see her. After doing a little bit of research it seems you meet her before you enter the dining hall and the others come around the tables. You will see Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine and Rapunzel here. Also Snow White on occasion. They do have different ones so just ask your server who it is that day.

WHAT CAN I EAT?

Breakfast you can have pastries and choose from a few different breakfast plates including a traditional American breakfast, Shrimp and Grits, Quiche and a healthy option. TOP TIP If you’re not staying on site and you want early entry to the park book in for breakfast.

Lunch and Dinner menu is pretty similar with Pork, Beef, Fish, Chicken and a vegetarian CousCous option. Puddings here look incredible and you can pre order the Cinderella shoe dessert for around $15. It comes in white and milk chocolate and you can have your own message written on it as well. You can view the full menu for it here and all the other restaurants on your MDE app.

ALLERGEN /VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes ask your server.

PRICE $35-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED?  Yes it requires 2 of your Table Service credits.

Extra info – it seems as though you need to turn up dead on your reservation time here you will not be let in any earlier. Wands and Swords will be provided for the children. I’m hoping I will get a wand as well but I guess we will see in a few months!!

THE CRYSTAL PALACE is found at the end of main street. Looking at it it reminds me a little of the Plaza Gardens at Disneyland Paris.

One of things I love about any of the character/themed dining in Orlando is how it can transport you to a different time/place. This restaurant looks beautiful.

WHO CAN I MEET? This is a Winnie the Pooh and friends experience so you will see Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Rabbit.

WHAT CAN I EAT?

This is a buffet restaurant and I do love a buffet!!

Breakfast buffet will be standard american breakfast regulars bacon, sausages (that look like burgers), biscuits and of course the infamous Mickey Waffles.  As well as pastries and fruit.

Lunch and Dinner are again the same with various meats and fish, salad and sides and vegetable ‘creations’

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes ask your server. They do have the Tofu ice cream in here.

PRICE $15-$35 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes it requires only 1 of your Table Service Credits.

TIANA’S RIVERBOAT PARTY Now this looks amazing!! I actually didn’t know about this one until recently.  This is actually ON the Liberty Square Riverboat and isn’t just dining. This is a dessert party with perfect viewing for the parade. It only runs once a day.

WHO CAN I MEET? After the parade and a little journey on the lake you are met by Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

WHAT CAN I EAT? This is strictly for those of you with a sweet tooth. It’s cakes and ice cream so really my idea of heaven!!

tiana3

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Can’t find any info on this.

PRICE – $49 PER ADULT $29 PER CHILD

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? No

EPCOT

Epcot has 2 Character dining experiences.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Garden Grill

AKERSHUS ROYAL BANQUET HALL is found in Norway in the World Showcase and is incredibly grand. It’s a nice alternative to Cinderellas Royal Table.

WHO CAN I MEET This is a Princess Dining experience and as with CRT they can change them around. Here you can meet Snow White, Belle, Aurora, Jasmine and Ariel. Anna and Elsa don’t appear at any of the dining.

On reading it seems that you do meet one of the Princesses before you go in, much like at CRT.

WHAT CAN I EAT? As you’d expect from being in the Norway pavilion the menu is Norwegian themed. It’s all all you can eat buffet.

Breakfast has the normal american staples but also a few other things found in a traditional Norweigan breakfast, meats and cheeses.

Lunch and Dinner are similar menus with a wide range of choices including the famous meatballs and various different fish dishes.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? A really extensive GF menu here and chefs are really great at walking you through and letting you know what you can eat being Vegan.

PRICE – $35-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? – Yes it requires 1 Table Service Credit.

THE GARDEN GRILL is in the Land pavilion in Future World and is a really cool rotating restaurant that rotates through different scenes of the Living with the Land ride which is underneath.  TOP TIP from the reviews I’ve read you will have a much better experience if you sit in one of the booths so be sure to request one.

WHO CAN I MEET? This is the only place you can meet ‘Farmer’ Mickey as well as Pluto and of course Chip and Dale who are the hosts of this particular dining experience.

WHAT CAN I EAT? This is a harvest style ‘family’ dining experience so although this is all you can eat. Its not a buffet. Your servers bring you round what is on the set menu and you can ask for more if you wish. A lot of the food is sourced from inside the ‘Land’ pavilion so the salad items will be different depending on what’s in season at the time.

Breakfast items are the same as everywhere else in Disney.

Again Lunch and Dinner are pretty similar. There are various different meats on the menu Turkey, pork and Pot Roast.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes, ask server for options esp Vegan as they can change according to season.

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 table service credit.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Hollywood Studios has only one permanent dining experience at Hollywood and Vine which is located opposite Echo Lake.

WHO CAN I MEET?  During Breakfast this is a Disney Jnr Play and Dine where you can meet Jake and Doc Mcstuffins, Sofia the First and Handy Manny. Lunch and Dinner will be Mickey, Minnie and friends. This is seasonal and changes throughout the year with them all dressed in seasonal outfits!

WHAT CAN I EAT? Breakfast is again the same as the other places in Disney. Lunch has a variety of different meats and nuggets and chips for the kids. Dinner has more choices including steak.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes both and quite extensive.

PRICE $35-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes 1 Table service credit.

N.B during some events they do have different offerings here such as Star Wars and Villian Dining. These may not be included as part of the dining plan.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Animal Kingdom also only has one dining experience. The Donald Duck hosted Tusker House which can be found in Africa in AK.

WHAT CAN I EAT? Breakfast is slightly different here as the menu is African inspired so you’ll find some interesting new items you can try.  Most people I’ve spoken to have said this is the best breakfast in Disney..

Lunch and Dinner are the same menu roughly.

WHO CAN I MEET? Well this is Donald’s restaurant so you’ll meet him all dressed in his Safari gear with his friends.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes and very extensive. African food is all about flavour and a lot of vegetable dishes are available.

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table Service Credit.

DINING OUTSIDE OF THE PARKS

1900 PARK FAIR AT GRAND FLORIDIAN

This has really cool themeing based on an old Victorian Carousel (just like the one Mary Poppins brings to life)

WHAT CAN I EAT? It’s another all you can eat buffet. Breakfast here is a little different to the others with a lot of fresh fruit, smoked salmon and made to order omelettes. Brunch has some of the breakfast items and salads and the famous Floridian Strawberry Soup. Dinner menu combines some of the things from the brunch with a few extra meat dishes and a wide selection of veggie ones. And Sushi! (This is a bit of a posh one!)

WHO CAN I MEET? There are 3 different types of experience here (for each meal) Breakfast is Supercalifragilistic where you can meet Mary Poppins, Alice, Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Brunch there isn’t a list for but Dinner is Princess themed, although it changes all the time Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Ugly Sisters are a regular occurrence here.

There is also a Wonderland Tea Party here for children only 4-12 which is an hour of fun, games and stories with Alice and her friends.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS Yes, lots of veggies here. Ask server for the allergen menu.

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT FOR THE BUFFET AND $40 FOR THE TEA PARTY (CHILDREN ONLY)

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table service credit. Buffet only. Dining plan can not be used for Tea Party.

PERFECTLY PRINCESS TEA is also found at Grand Floridian and is a really pricey option for Character Dining at over $300 for 1 adult and 1 child. For Fruit, Sandwiches and Cake. You do get lots of Disney merchandise like dolls and jewellery but it would probably be cheaper to purchase them yourself!!

CAPE MAY CAFE is at Disney’s Beach Club resort with beach-side themeing throughout.

WHAT CAN I EAT? Character dining here is breakfast only and is the same sort of breakfast food at the other buffet offerings.

WHO CAN I MEET? Minnie and friends so usually Mickey and Donald and Pluto.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes as with the other breakfast ones.

PRICE $15-$35 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes,  1 Table Service credit.

CHEF MICKEYS is inside the Contemporary resort right next to Magic Kingdom and can be seen from the monorail.

WHAT CAN I EAT? It’s another buffet so breakfast food is the same including the famous Mickey Waffles. Brunch and Dinner are pretty similar with meats, fish and vegetable dishes. As well as some awesome puddings!!!

WHO CAN I MEET? Mickey and friends all dressed in chef outfits! We met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN Yes

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table Service credit.

MICKEYS BACKYARD BBQ is at the Campsites at Fort Wilderness and is a little different as this is more like a dinner ‘show’ with music and line dancing with the characters.

WHAT CAN I EAT? Well it is a BBQ so you’ll have plenty to chose from with chicken, burgers, corn on the cob and plenty of sides.

bbq3

WHO CAN I MEET? Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale and Goofy all dressed in their best line dancing gear!

ALLERGEN/VEGAN There are a few vegan options but it is mostly meat. Servers will show you what you can eat if you have allergys.

PRICE OVER $60 PER ADULT – IT’S NOT CHEAP BUT IT IS ENTERTAINMENT AS WELL

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? Yes 2 Table Service credits for this one.

OHANA BEST FRIENDS BREAKFAST is in the stunning Polynesian resort just a short monorail ride from Magic Kingdom so along with Chef Mickeys is a fab choice to go for Breakfast on a Magic Kingdom day.

WHAT CAN I EAT? American Breakfast with a Polynesian twist. This is all you can eat but not a buffet. It’s family style so your food is bought to your table.

ohana3

WHO CAN I MEET? Lilo and Stitch!! And Mickey has been known to make an appearance as well. This is only during Breakfast there are no characters at other times of the day.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS Yes, ask server and they will accommodate.

PRICE $15-$35 PER ADULT

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table Service Credit.

That’s everything that I know of in Disney, they will have extra seasonal dining experiences as well so it’s worth checking on your MDE. You’re able to filter your search for dining to ‘Character Dining’ so have a look before you go especially if it’s during Halloween and Christmas time.

UNIVERSAL

There is only one permanent in park character dining experience here. The Superstar Character Breakfast at Cafe La Bamba in Universal Studios.

WHAT CAN I EAT? It’s a traditional American breakfast. All you can eat but you order from a menu and it’s bought to your table.

WHO CAN I  MEET? Minions!! and Gru!. We also saw Dora and Diego, EB and Fluffy from Hop, Spongebob, Patrick and Squidwart. However these can change around. This was one of the best character interactions we had.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes, but you need to advise when you book. There doesn’t seem to be any menus online for any of the Universal places although they do state they cater for food allergies/specific diets.

PRICE? $35 FOR ADULTS $20 FOR CHILDREN

This breakfast is also available in some of the Universal Hotels on select days as well.

During the Halloween Period you can Dine with the Scare Actors from the Halloween Horror Nights at the Monster Cafe and during Christmas you can eat Green Eggs and Ham with The Grinch.

Both Seaworld and Busch Gardens have previously had dining with Elmo and Friends however that seems to be off for this year but hopefully it’ll come back on.

If I’ve missed anything then please let me know and I’ll do an extensive review on all 7 that I’ve booked for this upcoming trip when I get back 🙂 Did you notice it was only 4 at the start of this blog? Writing and researching made me want to do more….

 

 

Orlando – When’s the best time to visit? What’s on this year?

This is probably one of the most asked questions from people who are planning a trip to Florida. The answer is a really hard one! Orlando is a great place to visit whatever time of the year and there’s plenty to do whatever season you’re there.

Many of you are tied to the school holidays when you visit and obviously during these times it will be a bit busier than term time but with fast passes available for all the parks you can somewhat avoid some of the queues.

Crowding aside what are the other deciding factors in choosing when you visit?  For me I like to go when some of the seasonal events are on. Some of these you will be well aware of and some you might not be. So, here’s a little guide to what annual events are on this year. And a little info on what sort of weather you’re likely to have .Hopefully this will help you decide when you visit or give you some other things to experience on your trip.

MARCH : Going this month there is loads to do!! Weather wise March is one of my favourite times to go. It’s hot but not too hot and I’ve never had any issues with storms or bad weather. You might need a light jacket if you’re out in the evenings but you can go to waterparks and the beach and not be cold and get a tan.

HOURS OF SUN IN MARCH – AVERAGE 9 HOURS PER DAY

Disney has the annual Flower and Garden festival which has all sorts of topiaries all over Epcot of many different Disney characters. It’s included in your park admission and this year they also have loads of live music. Called ‘Garden Rocks’ throughout March and into May you can find some well known names in music playing free shows in the America Gardens Theatre. This month you can see Pointer Sisters, Simple Plan (my favourite band I’m so upset I’m not going), Plain White T’s, Night Ranger and The Little River Band. A full list of times can be found here.

Universal also has some live music as part of their annual Mardi Gras event in Citywalk. Again this is included with park admission and this runs through March. Acts playing this month are UB40, Toby Keith, Jason Derulo, Earth, Wind and Fire and the All American Rejects.

mardigras

Seaworld has a food festival on and you can see live music there as well. All included in your standard park admission. Discover loads of new cuisines from all over the world in the ‘Seven Seas Food Festival’. Live music every weekend until mid May and this month you can see ZZ Top and Phillip Phillips (whoever that is!)

For something a little different. Crayola Experience at Florida Mall is having Cirque month with La Nouba themed crafts. Some of the make up artists will be there to paint your faces like the performers in La Nouba and some of the costumes and props will be on display.

Cirque-Month-Web-Slider---Use

There’s golf on at the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club from 13th – 19th, Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival is also on this month, and the Lakeridge Winery has a wine and Seafood Festival.

It’s always worth checking out Hard Rock Live, House of Blues and Velvet Sessions. You never know who will be playing when you’re there.

March is a great time to visit if you’re a music fan!!

APRIL – Weather wise April is pretty similar to March, although it can get slightly hotter towards the end of the month.  It is Easter holidays so you’ll find the parks are fairly busy.

HOURS OF SUN IN APRIL – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY

Epcot still has the Flower and Garden festival and during ‘Garden Rocks’ this month you can see Blood, Sweat and Tears, Gin Blossoms, The Orchestra (feat members of ELO), Expose and Berlin.

Hollywood Studios has the Star Wars Galactic night from 13-16th as well. These are evening separate ticketed events and will include stars of the films doing talks and a scavenger hunt through the park amoungst other things. Tickets are $129 and need to be booked in advance it’s something that’s likely to sell out.

Seaworld’s Seven Seas food Festival is still on and this month you can see Jack Hanna, Village People, Commadores and more.

There’s a big Star Wars convention on during April the Star Wars Celebration. Conventions in the US are crazy so if you’re a Star Wars fan this would be well worth a visit.

star wars celebration

April is also Wrestlemania month at the Camping World Stadium on 2nd. This is a huge thing in the wrestling calendar and a really fun night out. If you like football then the soccer season starts so you may be able to catch Orlando City Soccer

MAY – Getting into May the weather is starting to get a little hotter. More humid and a lot warmer in the evenings.

HOURS OF SUN IN MAY – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY

Epcots Flower and Garden festival finishes this month so it’s your last chance to see the Park with all the awesome Disney themed flowers. Last few shows at America Gardens Theatre are Starship, Hermans Hermits and The Spinners.

Seaworlds food festival also finishes this month so be sure to check it out.

Legoland has Lego Star Wars days throughout May showing some of the most famous scenes from the movies made of Lego and opportunities to build your own as well as a Star Wars themed costume parade. This is included in standard park admission.

legoland-star-wars

The Orlando International Fringe festival is on this month which is modeled on the famous one in Edinburgh as well as another convention. The MegaCon is a huge comic/movie/gaming convention and has some incredible guests including Stan Lee and Tim Curry.

Football season is in full swing so now is a good time to get to a game.

JUNE/JULY/AUGUST – Orlando starts to get really hot during June, when you’re looking at high temperatures in the 90s. It’s really important to keep yourself hydrated during the summer months but all the inside buildings are air conditioned and are great places to cool off during the hottest times of the day. These are the busiest months to visit due to the summer holidays over here and during August you may experience some storms and heavy rain. The weather forecasts in Orlando are incredibly accurate and they can predict the times of showers pretty much to the minute. They’re usually over as quick as they start and don’t ruin your holiday at all. Standing out in the rain is quite nice, it’s like a hot shower.

AVERAGE HOURS OF SUN – JUNE 11, JULY 10, AUGUST 9

By the summer the 2 BIG new theme park openings should be well ironed out and hopefully should be less busy the further into the summer you get. Obviously I’m talking about Universals Volcano Bay and Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, both of these are scheduled to open towards the end of May and both look AMAZING!

It’s always worth checking out places like the Amway center in Orlando during the summer. There’s usually some really good touring music festivals.

SEPTEMBER – My other favourite time of the year to visit. September in Orlando weather wise is similar to March. Although it is classed as hurricane season so you are likely to get a bit of rain.

HOURS OF SUN IN SEPTEMBER – 9 HOURS PER DAY

September means HALLOWEEN!! I know it’s not strictly until October but they do like to drag it out!! Both Disney and Universal start their Halloween festivities in September.

Disney – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! One of my favourite things I have ever done and great for adults and children alike. Magic Kingdom is decorated for Halloween and there are themed parades and show, appearances from rare characters (including most of the Villains) and the best bit is the Treat or Treating around the parks. You can get so much candy!!  It’s the only time adults are allowed to dress up in the park as well. It’s not included in your ticket price and is a separate ticketed event but it’s well worth it. Dates for this year haven’t been announced yet but they usually start around the second week of the month. Prices are around $90 and can only be purchased from Disney directly. This is an evening event only.

 

Universal – Halloween Horror Nights, this is a lot more grown up than the Disney one and puts you inside some of the most popular horror movies and TV Shows. They have a series of ‘houses’ all with different themes. Each one has live actors in them transporting you into the film or TV show it’s based on. It’s not for the faint hearted!! Dates for this have been announced and are on selected evenings from 15th September. Past themes have been American Horror Story, Poltergeist, The Walking Dead and Friday the 13th. You can also dine with the scare actors and they have shows and special events as well. Again this isn’t included as part of your ticket price and you do need to purchase separate tickets for it. You can do this in advance from most of the UK resellers, it’s worth getting a Frequent Fear Pass which will allow unlimited access to selected dates during your stay. Prices are around £90 for these. This is also an evening event.

September is also Magical Dining Month. This is a fab event that lots of restaurants in the area participate in with loads of food offers. Nearly 100 places took part last year offering 3 course meals for $33 with money from each one going to charity. A lot of the best and most expensive places in Orlando take part in this so it’s a really good way to get to eat in some of those places for a portion of the price. September is a great month to visit if you’re a foodie!!

Epcot has it’s annual food and wine festival as well running until mid November.  With loads of food carts from all different parts of the world there’s even more choice of things to eat in Epcot during this festival, as well as concerts, celebrity chefs and other food themed events. I for one cannot wait to get to this!

OCTOBER – October starts to get a little cooler – although not by our standards – it’s still in the high 80s during the day.

HOURS OF SUN ON AVERAGE –  8 HOURS PER DAY

Both the Disney and Universal Halloween events run all through October.

Seaworld has it’s ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ which runs on weekends only throughout October and is included in your park admission. It’s aimed at children and there are not so scary live shows and trick or treating for candy throughout the park. It runs during park hours as well.

Busch Gardens has ‘Howl O Scream’ from the tail end of September through October. Running on weekends only.  It looks pretty similar to the Universal Horror Nights with scare actors and haunted houses and shows. It seems as though all the rides are open in the park which isn’t the case with Universal. It’s a separate ticketed event and you’re not allowed to wear costumes.

If you want a ‘real’ Halloween experience and you just so happen to be in Orlando on Halloween itself it’s worth a little trip to Celebration. It’s a Disney owned community and most residents will decorate for Halloween and Christmas so it’s a bit of a spectacle to see.

Halloween is a BIG thing in the US and I’m sure nearer the time most of the attractions will have some kind of event on for it.

NOVEMBER – Temperatures in November are in the 70s so much more bearable than the summer months but still hot enough for water parks and beaches.

HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 8 HOURS A DAY

It’s classed as low season for some of the behind the scenes tours at Seaworld and Busch Gardens so now is a good time to do those.

As soon as Halloween is over Christmas begins! Going to Disney end of Oct/start of November is great as you’ll get to experience both Holidays!

Disney Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party starts early November and like the Halloween one is a separate ticketed event. It follows the same idea as Halloween just all Christmas themed. Different parades, characters in festive costumes and a chance to meet Santa. You also get free milk and cookies and it will snow on main street.

mvmcp

Orlando has a great theatre that has some of the best touring musicals so if you fancy seeing a bit of Broadway in Florida check out the Dr Phillips Center for Performing Arts and see if there’s anything on that takes your fancy.

DECEMBER – Although it is a lot cooler in December, mid 70s it’s still hot!

HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 7 HOURS A DAY

December is a great time to go to Discovery Cove as it’s classed as low season so likely to be a little cheaper.

Disneys Christmas Festivities will still be going and this is also when Universal start theirs. Not only that Epcot is a great place to visit throughout the Christmas season as each country in the world showcase will be decorated as they are at home and you can find out all about different Christmas traditions and food as you walk round the park. Not to mention the famous Candlelight Processional.

candlelight

Universal has a really good festive event included in your park admission called ‘Grinchmas’. Housed in Islands of Adventure, You’re able to meet the Grinch and some of the other ‘whos’ in WhoVille. Cindy-Lou reads the story of The Grinch and there is music and festive things to do all day. Universal Studios also has the Macys Day Parade.

Seaworld has its Christmas Celebration. You can meet Rudolph and friends, try some festive food and do some Christmas shopping. Ice Shows and more. All included in park admission. In past years they had the Polar Express Experience so hopefully they’ll have something equally as special this year.

Busch Gardens changes itself into Christmas Town. They have over 2 million Christmas lights and a whole host of Christmas shows and music. As well as a Christmas market and Santa’s House. All included with Park Admission.

christmastown

Legoland has a Christmas ‘Bricktacular’ has a HUGE Lego Christmas tree and other festive friends around the parks as well as fireworks, meet n greet with Lego Santa and themed building events. All with your park admission.

During Christmas Day parks can be unusually busy and Magic Kingdom has been known to hit capacity so plan well and if you want to go to Magic Kingdom get there extra early!!

Again as with Halloween, Celebration is a great place to visit over Christmas to see the decorations and the SNOW!

celebrationxmas

JANUARY/FEBRUARY – Weather in Jan/Feb are the coolest months in Orlando and again most things are classed as low season so a good time to do extras like Behind the Scenes tours.

HOURS OF SUN – JANUARY AVERAGE 7 PER DAY – FEBRUARY 8 HOURS

New Years Eve is a really popular time to go to the parks and all will have special events on with fireworks etc. Parks can be really busy though so be prepared for that especially into the evening.

Epcot is a great place to be on New Years with all the different festivities around the world and dance parties from 7pm.

January with the exception of New Years Eve and Day is a pretty quiet time to go to Florida.

February is of course Valentines Day, I couldn’t see any special things in any of the parks for this but being in Orlando for it is romantic enough surely!! There are plenty of romantic things to do though. I’ve found a great list of things within Walt Disney World here

Don’t forget to check out places like Old Town and Celebration who have regular fun family events on that are worth having a look at.

Hopefully this should have given an idea of what sort of things to expect at different times of year.

There’s probably a load more things going on that I don’t know about. Check out the Visit Orlando website for up to date info on what’s going on. There’s loads of sports events as well NFL, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Soccer, Golf… some ticket resellers in the UK sell sporting tickets but it’s worth checking Visit Orlando for dates of when they’re on.

If there’s anything you know about that I haven’t mentioned then please let me know

 

 

 

 

Planning Your Trip – All Day Dining in other parks

Both the Universal and Seaworld parks have their own versions of the Disney Dining – although on a much smaller scale.

Universal offer a package exclusively for those staying on site who can purchase in advance just like you would at Disney, it’s the same as the standard Disney Dining and will give you 1 table service, 1 quick service, 1 snack and a drink per day of your stay. It’s valid in over 100 restaurants over the parks and Citywalk. It works out at roughly £50 per person per day.

You can also purchase 2 other dining options for a day at the park if you’re off site:

Universal Dining Plan Quick Service – 1 Quick Service meal, 1 snack and one non alcoholic drink (approx £20 per person)

Universal Dining Plan Quick Service and Coca Cola Freestyle – 1 Quick Service, 1 Snack and unlimited soft drinks. (approx £25 per person)

It’s easy to spot locations that accept the plan throughout the park as you will see this sign

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You’re given a card that has your credits loaded on and that’s what you use when you want to eat.

Seaworld Parks and Entertainment have their own version which is called ‘All Day Dining’ and it’s gives you just that. Dining all day while you’re in the park. You’re able to eat every hour if you wish.

They vary in prices seasonally and those prices reflect on how many places you can eat within the parks.

Aquatica is roughly £14 per person and has only one restaurant (Banana Beach) which is an all you can eat buffet

Seaworld is roughly £31 per person and that gives you 7 different restaurants.

Busch Gardens is around £30 per person and gives you a choice of 4 different restaurants

Dining experiences like Dine with Shamu and dining with Elmo and Friends are not included as part of the dining package.

For the price you’ll pay for the all day dining, if you eat in the park twice a day you’ll make your money back.

Just like Universal and Disney you’ll see signs that tell you where you can use it

All day dining

The Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica All Day Dining is via a wristband that you are given. Purchasing before you go will work out a little cheaper and most of the UK ticket agents sell these. If you purchase in advance you’re given an exchangeable voucher that you take to the park to switch for your wristband.

The other thing that both Universal and Seaworld still do that I’m upset Disney don’t anymore is the refillable souvenir cups. These are a great way to save money if you drink a lot of soda.  They’re usually around $10 or less and Seaworld Parks will have a choice of themed designs, you can use these all day and refills are just 99c (plus Tax) prices are roughly the same for Universal.