Orlando Theme Parks - Sometimes Less is More
Although visitors looking for an action packed, theme park family holiday in Orlando are spoilt for choice, depending on your time-frame often less is much much more. It's a simple matter of logistics. Let me explain.
Just taking into account the offerings from the giants in the Orlando theme park game — SeaWorld, Universal and Walt Disney — the Greater Orlando area boasts 12 different theme parks to sample. Add Gatorland, the Holy Land Experience, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Legoland Florida to the mix and choosing which theme parks to visit presents your first planning challenge.
Let's take Disney's offering for starters. The Disney World Resort boast the following four separately themed parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Throw in their water parks — Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon — and that's some serious ground to cover.
Let's break it down a little further. The Disney World Resort covers some 27,258 acres, that's 111 square kilometres or 43 square miles for the metrically challenged. As well as the four theme parks, the space also plays home to 27 themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney affiliated chain hotels, a couple of water parks, four 18 hole and one nine hole golf courses. Add to that 318 restaurants and eateries and you start to get a feel for the scale of the place. And that's just one of your options.
If your a movie buff — and in particular if you or your family are Harry Potter fans — it will be hard to leave Universal Studios off your agenda. Universal Studios is a real, working film and TV production facility where you'll find an amazing array of rides, shows, movie sets and attractions. Travel to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express, shop at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and dine at the Leaky Cauldron.
Once you and your family have settled on the theme parks you'll be visiting, take your homework to the next level. What rides are top priorities at those parks and what time of day are the queues at their longest? It's not necessary to have each day planned out ride-by-ride and attraction-by-attraction but it's certainly worth noting the times of the day and week when things are less hectic. A little pre-planning can pay off big time.
By purchasing your tickets for Universal Studios Florida in advance you can utilise Orlando Informers' Crowd Calendar. As the name suggests, the crowd calendar uses historic data to help select your dates based on likely ride-wait times. Check out websites like TripAdvisor where you can garner a stack of useful Orlando theme park information or leave your own questions and have those in the know respond with replies.
On a two week family holiday to Orlando, there's a very strong case to argue for some careful planning followed by some theme park exclusivity. As strong as the pull may be to sample three or four different parks, consider the logistics of upping sticks and moving your family from park to park. Even if you've hired a car and plan to maintain the same central accommodation for your entire stay and travel between the parks, consider the time involved in purchasing tickets and learning the lay of the land of a new park.
Keep in mind that a little preparatory work done before departure will ensure you maximise your fun on the ground in Orlando.