Florida has always been one of my most favorites places to visit, not only because of the beautiful beaches, but because of the crazy amount of fun things to do while visiting! My family usually visits Panama City Beach, but to switch things up a bit, my husband and I ventured to Orlando to see all of the sites and of course, visit Disney World and Universal.
We live in Evansville, and I know there will be several locals who might stumble across this blog post. Allegiant Air just added a direct flight to Orlando from EVV, and I would highly recommend it! This does not fly you right into Orlando International, but it does drop you in Sanford which was only about 45 minutes away from Disney and not a bad drive at all. With Uber it cost us about $50 each way, and saved us a bunch of money on any other flight. To me, it was so worth it! I was very, very nervous and reluctant to take this airline after hearing numerous concerns about Allegiant, but we had absolutely no problems and a wonderful experience with them. It may have just been coincidence, but for the cost, you really can’t beat this flight. The other option would be to drive or connect in ATL and fly into Orlando International with another airline.. but at the end of the trip, I was so happy to have only one plane to get on and be right at home when it landed.
I’d say the primary reason that anyone visits Orlando is to go to the theme parks, however, there is another attraction area that I highly recommend. It’s called Icon Park and it’s located right between Disney and Universal off I-Drive. Icon Park features an amazing observation wheel, as well as the Orlando StarFlyer. Nathaniel and I got to go up in the wheel and experience the incredible views of Orlando. We could see all across the city and an added bonus, the fireworks going off at Magic Kingdom! You can enjoy a beverage while taking a ride on the wheel, available for purchase right before you go on!
Icon Park is full of fun things to do and amazing places to eat. We stayed and had dinner at Uncle Julios, which was absolutely delicious! I honestly wish that we would have had more time to spend at Icon, because there was an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. It was a great way to kick off our trip!
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Walt Disney World
If you’re planning on visiting Orlando to experience Disney, I would highly recommend planning for at least two days, and definitely purchase the park hopper passes so that you can experience all of the parks. Nathaniel and I did two days at Disney, and successfully visited each of the parks, and rode all of the major attractions. The key to this is getting up early and getting a head start on the day before the big crowds arrive. I’m honestly shocked that we were able to see and do all that we had planned, but we were on our feet all day long and literally never stopped moving. If you have small kids, this might not be feasible, but since it was just the two of us, we were able to stay moving all day. I would recommend bringing in your own water and snacks, as beverages and food are pretty pricey inside the park. A lot of people don’t know that you can bring in your own things! We went during peak season, so it was over 90 degrees every day. Stay hydrated if you go during the summertime, and be sure to take advantage of lunchtime and dinnertime by sitting in the cool A/C!
I would recommend downloading the Disney app and grab your Fast Passes ahead of time. Load your tickets into the My Disney Experience and do so ASAP, that way you can take your pick at Fast Passes before they’re all gone! The Disney app will also show you current wait times for rides, so we were constantly checking it all day long and hopping on rides with lower wait times!
There are so many places to eat at Disney, but another perk of having the app is that you can see the menu for each restaurant, so Nathaniel and I would look through the menus while we were in line for rides to pass the time, and decide on something that we both liked. You can even order from your phone and pick up your food when you get there!
Dress accordingly! I know Disney offers several opportunities for cute photo ops, but I cannot stress this enough, especially if you are going in the summertime, to dress appropriately. The first day, I wore a super lightweight romper and the comfiest sandals that I own. I only wore sandals the first day (no way I could do that two days in a row) and a comfy short/tank set with tennis shoes on Day 2. I was sweating in every place imaginable, so just keep this in mind when thinking about hair styles and makeup.
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Where To Stay
There are several places to stay in Orlando, and I would highly recommend staying at a Disney affiliated or Universal affiliated resort. There are many perks of doing so, like free shuttles to and from the parks, and some parks are even connected to certain hotels for easy walking distance.
One of the coolest things we did we use the boat from Epcot to Hollywood Studios. They took us through Boardwalk and the Disney Yacht Club, so if you stay at resorts in this area,you can also utilize the boat service!
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If you’re in Orlando, you’ve got to visit Universal. This was my first time going, and it was absolutely incredible. For Nathaniel and I, it was a little more our “pace” since we both love thrill rides and don’t have kids there with us yet. We purchased a park hopper pass for one day so that we could visit both parks, and we were able to see and do everything that we wanted to! Again, the key is to get there EARLY, and hop on as many rides as you can as soon as the park opens. We did NOT have fast passes here, and to make my point, we were able to get on and off three rides within the first hour that we arrived because we beat the crowds there. I am so glad that we didn’t splurge on fast passes this go around, however they would be convenient if you can afford them.
The Harry Potter areas were my favorite, and if you are any type of HP fan, you’ve GOTTA go. At the end of the night, we waited 2.5 hours to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, because it literally just opened 2 weeks ago. It was worth every second!
Like Disney, Universal has an app that I would highly recommend downloading before you get to the park. It allows you to load your tickets onto your device for easy access, and shows wait times for the rides. This is another reason we were able to see and do most everything.
We finished the night by visiting City Walk which is an incredible experience full of shops and restaurants to satisfy any type of craving you may have!
All in all, we gave Orlando a run for its money with only having 4 days to visit. It was long and tiring, but so worth it. Now, I think I’ll sleep for 3 days straight to catch up on my rest and to give my poor feet a break! 🙂
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Thank you to Walt Disney World and ICON Park for hosting us!