Our Orlando Highlights
This year my parents surprised my sister and I and our families with a trip to Orlando. We have taken a trip somewhere warm around Christmas or in January for as long as I can remember and we try to extend it for as long as possible. We typically escape to an island to rent a house or charter a sailboat but this year was all about Disneyworld. They rented a lovely house in Davenport (20 minutes from Disney) for our party of 9 (which included a 4-month-old, 2 three-year-olds and a six-year-old). The last time I stood in the Magic Kingdom was exactly 30 years ago. My sister had done a quick stint to Disney last year with her 2-year-old and she warned me that when I stepped onto Main Street in Disney World, I would probably cry (and I did). I am not a Disney junkie or someone who even thrives off of amusement parks but I am a sucker for nostalgia and this trip was a walk down memory lane. Witnessing my parents take their grandchildren on a version of the adventure we did as a family of 4 in 1987 was remarkable and something I will always remember.
If you want Disney swag for your crew I highly recommend hitting up a local Target. They have a vast array of choice and size and it’s economical in comparison to park purchases.
Our AdventuresDisney – Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is known as the happiest place on earth. They remind you of that on the billboard on your way into the park. It’s always full and on most days the lines are long. It most likely takes days to do the entire park and frankly, that just didn’t appeal to us. It’s expensive and 3 days in Magic Kingdom seems like overload. A friend tipped me off on a service she knew I would think was indulgent and maybe even a bit ridiculous but she sold me on trying it. It’s an amazing way to experience Disney and when you have a party of 9 it saves time, arguments and all the planning involved in making your way through the park and all the waiting. We hired a private VIP guide. The service is http://www.michaelsvips.com and they are sensational and definitely able to coordinate things we never would have had access to. Ben met us at the front gate at 830am and we commenced our 10-hour day through the park with him. It was calm, organized and completely enjoyable to be guided by Ben. He knows Disney inside out and backwards. He had taken my top 10 list (that I forwarded him in advance) and planned a day around all of the experiences our hearts were set on and added a few more for good measure. Think lunch with the characters, front row seats at the parade, a meet and greet with Mickey, by-passing long line ups and hidden gems we couldn’t have imagined finding on our own. This made our experience a little bit sweeter and dare I say a tad happier?!
Disney – Animal Kingdom
This was slightly less chaotic than Magic Kingdom and just as fun for the entire family. The kids especially adored the Safari, Festival Of The Lion King, Gorilla Falls and It’s Tough To Be A Bug.
Disney Springs is a themed retail, dining, and entertainment center inspired by Florida’s charming waterfront towns, historic architecture and natural beauty. The sprawling promenade features 4 distinct neighborhoods―The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center—built around bubbling springs. It’s easy and free to park, there’s always some form of entertainment (we had a great dance party with the kids after dinner one evening) and the kids loved running free.
The Crayola Experience/Florida Mall
This is amazing on a rainy day. The Florida Mall is gigantic and filled with restaurants and a huge food court. The kids loved all of the creative activities at Crayola.
Our crew adored walking through this park and catching a variety of shows throughout the day. Our dining highlight was the Sharks Underwater Grill where we enjoyed a fascinating view of underwater life in an upscale full-service restaurant.
This charming community is filled with boutiques, fine dining, sidewalk cafes and hidden gems all over the place. Tucked in the little side streets off of Park Avenue you will find oyster bars, art collections and a great mix of both well-known and one-of-a-kind shops. The kids can run free in Central Park which sprawls for 11-acres down the avenue. Surrounded by gorgeous flowers, fountains, and shade from the giant oak trees you will find the perfect place to perch after a delicious meal. Our lunch at Briar Patch was sensational. If you have time, catch a yoga class at Full Circle Yoga – the teachers are wonderful.
I can’t be this close to the beach and not actually go to the beach. So, I piled everyone in the cars and made them drive to the beach for the day. The closest beach to us was Cocoa Beach. There is nothing glam about it and the sand isn’t even that great – but a beach is a beach in my eyes. We happened to land there on the day of the Annual Keylime Pie Festival and we had a blast. There was live music, hula hooping contests, food trucks galore (the lobster rolls being a highlight), bouncy castles, face paint and obviously the most amazing Keylime Pie. It was everything you needed to “Catch The Florida Fever” as the theme promised. Basically a jackpot day!
Our Restaurants Highlights
Croissant Gourmet Bakery (Winter Park)
Feel free to send me an email if you are considering a trip to Disney, I know it’s overwhelming and would be happy to share my experience.