Florida "The Sunshine State"
Florida has to be one of the most visited states in the United States with its miles of white sandy beaches, warm almost year around temps, and its many tourist attractions. Just about anybody can find something to do here. With a little fore planning, and preparation you can have one of the most enjoyable vacations of your life.
One of the things that has to be considered when going to Florida is time of year and weather. Most of my trips there have been in the summer months of June, July, and August. This time of year tends to be quite warm, but with a little thought it can be tolerable. Also at this time of year it will rain almost every day at some point. Usually in the afternoon between 1 and 3 pm you can expect a cloud burst of some type. Although most of the showers don't last more than 30 minutes they can still dump a lot of water in this time. Having a cheap fold up rain parka is almost a necessity to seeing any of the larger attractions. This way you will not be wasting time standing under a canopy or in a line to purchase one when it starts to rain. Late summer you have to be mindful as this is hurricane season, and they spring up quickly if you don't pay some attention to the local weather forcasts.
The sun is another thing that has to be thought of. If you are not used of being in the sun a lot this is not the place to start just because you are on vacation. Sun screen is a must down here. I don't know of anybody that enjoys being burnt to a crisp. Or anyone that enjoys it no matter how much they tell you it's not a big deal. Another thing associated with the sun is is heat stroke. It can come on in a flash. Even the people that live there have to be very careful of it. Try to drink a lot of water, or lemonade, or Gatorade. Never drink a lot of soda with caffeine in it as this will bring on heat stroke even faster. One of the most important things to watch for is if a person stops sweating when everyone else is. This is a sure sign that the body is becoming dehydrated. Another way to ward off heat stroke is to wear a hat. This protects the head from the direct rays of the sun which can literally cook the brain.
Now it's on to the fun!! What to do when you get there. Well that all depends on your tastes, and where you are in the state. There are thousands of things to do. Where you start is up to you, but for my family it's Walt Disney World. For us it is one of the best places to be on vacation. We have yet to have a bad time there. There is just so much to do there one can never get bored. I think the first thing you have to address is where you are going to stay. We have stayed both on the grounds, and off. Both have things that have to be considered. Staying off grounds can certainly be a whole lot cheaper as far as room prices go. But then there is getting into the parks. Now a lot of hotels in the area have there own shuttle buses that they operate, and that may be fine if it is not a large hotel with a lot of people all wanting to come and go at the same time. This never seems to be the case though. It just seems that everybody wants to get there, or leave at about the same time. As always there are a lot of hot tired people, most of whom have children that just want to leave as soon as possible. So you say to yourself I'll just drive in myself and avoid all the hassle. Unless you have driven in a major city at rush hour this is not for the faint of heart, or the hard to follow road sign crowd. It is a mad rush to get there in the morning, and I don't even know how to explain it at night except to say that I won't do it again if I can help it.
Let's get specific now and look at time and costs involved with driving in. No matter how close to the main gate that your hotel says you are, you are at least 5 miles from the entrance to any of the parks. One has to keep an eye on road signs all the time as you may have to change lanes quickly to reach the correct destination. Parking is around $9 or $10 per car, and you certainly don't want to forget where you parked the car. With a parking lot that can hold most other amusement parks in it, a lost car is no fun! There are little trams that take you to the monorail, or park entrance depending on the park you are at. Make sure that you have your tickets ready when you get there, or you will be standing in line again.
The biggest, and most obvious, recent change involves security. Now, if you bring any kind of bag to any of the parks, you must go through security and have them inspect your bag. At peak times, the lines can be rather long. The only thing close to a Fastpass is not bringing a bag, which lets you bypass the security lines. I can understand why they do this, and I didn't hear too many complaints, except at Animal Kingdom, where the security lines were exceptionally long when we were trying to go through, right around the park's opening time. It was interesting to note the varying degrees of the bag checks. Some of the guards just took a quick glance into each bag. Others would make the guest take out and open things like glasses cases or camera cases. The guards could not reach into the bags, so some of them would ask the guest to move things around so that they could better see what was underneath. How much each bag was searched did not appear to be dependent on the time of day, or size of the crowd, but rather on the whim of each guard. I would guess that the bag searches will be around for quite a while. Personaly I'm glad that they have them.
This is where the fun begins. There is so many things to see at all of the parks that there is no way that you will ever see it all in one day. Don't fool yourself by planning less than one day at each park, because with standing in line to see things, you won't see much. Even if you get the Fast passes you are limited as to when you can get another. Depending on the ride it may be an hour before you can get another. Even if it is for a different ride. You may even get a bonus pass to a different ride so you have something to do in between. If you have small children plan to take a break sometime during the day and let them rest. You will be better off for it. My family has over the last 20 years, and 10 visits have a routine that we kind of stick to. On certain days each park opens early for people that stay on the grounds. That's an extra hour to enjoy some of the rides that you might otherwise bypass to get on the more popular ones. We go to that park early, the rides are easy to get on, and without waiting a long time. We also try to leave about 2 or 3 pm and go back to the hotel to rest, or take a swim. This is a god send when it is hot out. You feel so refreshed after a swim. Then it is off to dinner somewhere. We have our favorites that we try to visit every year, and we always try something new every year. The best place to do this is in Epcots World Showcase. In each of the countries is some type of restaurant that serves that countries cuisine. We sometimes will have food from more than one place by getting a meal, or snack, and sharing it to see if we like it. Just remember to save desert for France. The French Pastry Shop is to die for. Another option is to dine outside the parks. There are hundreds of places to eat. Something to fit every budget, and taste. Then it is back to the parks. Many of the rides that were hard to get on to early in the day are now easy. In some cases you can just walk on with no lines. If you have never been there before make sure that you take in the nightly fireworks shows, or light parade. They are something to be seen. As an added bonus to people that stay in Disney hotels there are now extra hours that the parks are open at night. Each night there is a different park open from 2 to 4 hrs except saturday none are open later. Two hours before the close time hotel guests can get wrist bands by showing there room key cards. You can stay later if your not a guest , but NO RIDES FOR YOU!!!
HERE'S WHAT'S HOT!!
Here's what will be closed for 2011
In Magic Kingdom "Splash Mountain" Jan 1- May 16". "Cinderellas Castle" on the Fantasyland side Jan 10 - June 2011
In Disney Hollywood Studios "Star Tours" Sept 2010 - May 16.
In Animal Kingdom "Primeval Whirl" Jan 17 - April 5.
We have found that things never stop changing at WDW, and there is a lot of fantastic things to do and see there. As always the people at Disney have come up with a few winners in our book. So here's the scoop on the hot stuff. At Hollywood Studios is the ride "ROCK'N' ROLLER COASTER". This is not your typical Disney ride, and boy am I glad it's not. This is one wild ride and a lot of fun. How does 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 sec., along with 1 loop, 1 spiral, 5g's of force, and great music from Aerosmith sound? Oh, did I mention it's all in the DARK! For you lovers of Hollywood Tower of Terror you are in for a treat. Once is fun, twice is even better, but now every drop is completely different. It shakes, it quivers, and just about the time you think is going to go up it comes down. Some drops can be as many as 5 times!!! If you survive it, well you'll be back for more. New for smaller kids is "Playhouse Disney- Live on Stage". A stage show where Bear in the Big Blue House and all his friends are ready to sing and make you laugh. Also there's "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage" When the sun goes down the fun's not over. Be sure to see the "FANTASMIC" show in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. Next to the IllumiNations at Epcot there is nothing better. The people have spent a lot of time on this extravaganza and it shows. Mixing action of some 500 people with animation, water, fire, and pyrotechnics it is well worth watching!
Now it's on to Epcot where there is a lot that has been done. For starters a whole new entrance in front of Spaceship Earth. Pillars of granite that all seem to reach to support it. On these pillars you will find plaques with hundreds of pictures and names of people that have been there. You can "Leave a Legacy" too for about $25 per square. Innoventions has been refurbished also. On the West side check out the Cool Zone for a taste of sodas from around the world all free. Journey into Imagination is open with a new ride featuring Figment. Test Track is now faster than when it first opened. The shinning star of rides at EPCOT is "Mission: SPACE" This has to be one of the most realistic rides that I have ever been on. It is unbelievably intense in the way that it makes you feel like you are actually being shot into outer space. Not only do you ride but you also have a role to play in the mission. Firing the booster rocket, extending the wings, and flying the craft to safely make it to Mars. But be forewarned it can cause motion sickness. But if you do what they tell you to do you can make it through the mission fine. And now with all the hype of the unfortunate incidents due to unknown medical problems there is a less intense version of the ride. Disney has found a way to make the ride just a fun without the danger. Soarin is also new at Epcot. Prepare to fly all over California and feel like you are there from the cold of a ski hill to the smell of a orange grove as you fly over it. This is one of the most popular rides at all of Disney.
For the Magic Kingdom there is the completely redone Pirates of the Caribbean. Capt. Jack Sparrow and a few others from the movies appear throughout the ride. Also newly reopened is It's a Small World looks as good as ever. For the young at heart, or even kids is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh a very nice ride the whole family will enjoy. But by far the best thing there is Mickey's PhilharMagic. It is a wonderful 3D show with Maestro Mickey in the lead role. Try not to miss the fireworks spectacular "Wishes".
Now it's onto Animal Kingdom park. A lot of people told us not to bother with going there, that it was nothing but a big zoo. Well boy are they wrong! And they have a saying there "It's NăTHăZü" (not a zoo) Yes, there are animals. And yes they are enclosed, but not the way you would think. It is very hard to detect the enclosures because of the foliage that is there. Also walls are built to look like natural stone or native buildings of the countries that the animals come from. The Kilimanjaro Safaris which is a ride on an open air bus is just the perfect way to see most of the animals there. Set in an area that resembles the African bush you cross rivers, climb hills, and traverse the savannah viewing free roaming animals of which there are plenty. We viewed it in midday and had no problem seeing any of the animals out and about feeding, or just roaming about. It is an exciting ride also with the crossing of a rickety old bridge, and the catching of a poacher. In the Asia section is where you will find adventure on the Kali River Rapids. If you go on this ride do plan on being WET. Even still this is a very fun ride. There are many animals to be seen here also. The tigers are very pretty, and the bird house is something unexpected in the way it is set up. The main Attraction in Asia is the newly opened Expedition Everest. It Can be seen all over the park and at 199 ft is the highest point in Florida. The imagineers went all out on this ride by doing the research for it in nepal so everything would be authentic. This ride is wild being stalked by the yeti. At one point the ride even goes backwards. What a blast! Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama is a wild and fun ride in the Dinoland area. Several people have complained about this area, which is themed to be a carnival. Most of the complaints have to do with the area looking cheap and run-down. However, upon close inspection, it appears that this is exactly the atmosphere the park was looking for. They purposely themed it to resemble one of those small carnivals that comes to the parking lot of your local department store. The rides are, Primeval Whirl and Triceratops Spin, are not too much different from those you would find at a carnival, or local fair, and the same can be said about the midway games. The story is that Chester and Hester, the owners of the nearby store selling cheap dinosaur merchandise to tourists, set up the carnival in their parking lot. If you look closely, you will notice that the pavement has cracked and been sealed, and the parking stripes are visible in many areas, contributing even more to the carnival atmosphere. So perhaps when people complain that it looks like a cheap carnival, someone at Disney is smiling, because that is exactly what they were after.
The crowning jewel of Dinoland is Dinosaur. This ride will get your blood pumping when you are taken back to the Cretaceous period to hunt for dinos. For maximum thrill try the back seat. For smaller kids there is the Bone yard Playground where you can dig up a woolly mammoth. In the middle of it all is the Tree of Life that stands 140 ft. tall and has 325 animals carved into it. Underneath it you can see the show "It's Tough to be a Bug!" A 3D show with the characters from A Bug's Life. It is fun, and full of thrills. And don't miss the Rainforest Cafe it is a true eating, and shopping experience.
Here are a few of our favorite rides;
EpcotSpace Mountain; Thunder Mountain Railroad; Splash Mountain; It's a Small World ; Snow White; Peter Pan; Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; Haunted Mansion; Country Bear Jamboree; Pirates of the Caribbean ; Stitch's Great Escape; Mickeys Philharmagic.
Disney StudiosSoarin (A whole new experience) Mission Space (What a Ride!!); Test Track; Spaceship Earth; Universe of Energy; Living Seas; Journey to Imagination; Honey I Blew up the Audience; Innovations; Boat ride in Norway; Of course SHOPPING!
Tower of Terror (The Best); Rock'n' Roller Coaster (Two thumbs way up!); Indiana Jones; Great Movie Ride; Muppet 3D; Catastrophe Canyon; Little Mermaid Show; Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set; Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.Animal KingdomDinosaur (A list topper); Kali River Rapids(Hey, it's only water); It's Tough to be a Bug; Kilimanjaro Safaris; Expedition Everest (What a wild ride.)
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