Two go mad in Orlando

Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
Trip End Feb 26, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Orlando is the tackiest place on Earth! Giant fibreglass characters everywhere, chain restaurants and fast food joints, motels and scary highways cut through the middle in International Drive. Our first thought was 'Hideous!' However, we decided to embrace it by acting like big kids for the 2 days we were here…  

You can’t come to Orlando without exploring the wonder that is Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford tickets so we went to the only bit of the park that has free entry: Downtown Disney. This is filled with shops, exhibitions and restaurants but is set up just like the parks with cheesy music blaring out and over the top Disney themed decorations everywhere. We enjoyed a couple of hours looking at all the crazy merchandise (which has really moved on since Rachel’s days working at the Disney Store!) and trying on hats. Stuart was in his element when we found the Lego store with enormous Lego (or Lee-go as they say here) models and tables where you could build things including designing and making your own lego man! There was also a T-Rex section in Downtown Disney which had ‘Build-a-dino’ like ‘Build-a-bear’ at home. We were understandably very excited by everything!

Next, we discovered Orlando has some very good outlet shopping and we headed for the Premium Outlets, a huge shopping centre where everything is very cheap. Rachel was a woman with a mission, namely the replacement of her backpacking clothes with designer favourites (Nike, Levi, Gap etc). We ate our own bodyweight in pizza at the all-you-can-eat buffet and settled down for an early night.

Next came what we had been waiting for, the reason we were in Orlando: Universal Studios!! Universal has two parks in Orlando: Universal Studios itself and Islands of Adventure. Universal Studios is more cinema-focussed (it actually looks like a film set) while IoA houses the majority of the rides. We had an incredible (and exhausting) day going on all of the rides including the Incredible Hulk, Duelling Dragons and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoasters. Our favourite attractions, though, were the ones which put you inside the movie, either in a simulator or by giving you a ‘real life’ experience of what the characters would have gone through. The most amazing of these was the 4D ‘Spiderman’ where you wear 3D glasses and are taken on a track from scene to scene. The set combines props and 3D video as well as sensory elements where you can feel fire, water, wind etc.  It actually feels as if you are part of the action, falling off skyscrapers and interacting with the characters. Wow! Another favourite was Jurassic Park where you are taken on a boat along a prehistoric river with incredible animatronic dinosaurs before ‘accidentally’ ending up sailing through the raptor contamination zone and being attacked by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, at which point the boat shoots down a hill like a log flume. The Simpson’s simulator ride was also amazing but we both got a bit motion sick from this one! You have to experience all these rides to believe it. The technology and creativity involved is mind blowing!

By the end of the day, we were absolutely shattered so after our pizza buffet (we’re really getting into the swing of living like Americans), we headed back to our motel for an early night.  Orlando was where we discovered just how LOUD Americans are (they keep asking us to repeat ourselves because we speak too quietly! Rachel, quiet? Apparently in America!) It is a crazy city where it’s easy to forget about the real world and lots of fun, but after 2 days, we were ready to get out of there!
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