My Floridian Experience

by - 20:43

I can't believe that it's been over a month since I hopped across the pond to the big old land of 'Murica for the first time ever! Myself, my brother, my sister and my dad and his wife all went out to Florida for a two week trip together to have some fun in the various parks and attractions that they have out there.

We stayed just outside of Orlando in a really beautiful villa with its own pool and a great A/C system (which was very welcome in the heat) and we spent most of our time at the Disney and Universal theme parks. The weather was intense: with highs of 38C, humidity levels at 75% and thunderstorms on a daily basis, it is massively different to the fairly consistent climate and grey skies of London.

When we first landed I was over awake and I spent the drive to the villa (and the rest of that day...and the next day) literally gawking at the new sights. We stayed in the suburbs and everything seems very big and very flat; you get such a great view of the sky and it makes you feel pretty small! It all felt a bit surreal for the first few days and visiting shops/seeing products that I'd only heard about in films or TV shows was weird but exciting.

I'd like to utilise this post as a diary of sorts, with a quick summary of the days that we spent there and an image to give some visual aid. Holidays always seem to go fast and even though I had planned to keep a rough journal of the time there I found that it was hard to keep up and I had to catch up on three or four days of activities when I did get round to updating it!

Arrival day

Our flight landed at 3pm local time, 8pm London time. I didn't sleep much on the plane (thanks to some loud, excited children) and my first experience in a different time zone felt pretty weird. We got to the villa, dropped our bags off and then went out to Walmart and got caught in our first Florida thunderstorm. It rains SO MUCH when they have a storm and needless to say we got absolutely drenched.

Day 1 | Settling In

We decided not to do anything too strenuous whilst we adjusted to the new time zone and climate so we spent most the day at one of Disney's waterparks called Blizzard Beach. It contains lots of snow and winter themed rides which were really fun with my favourite being a long, slow moving lagoon that circled the enter park. I could have literally just spent the whole holiday just floating round and round that lagoon...

Day 2 | Epcot

I had never heard of Epcot before we planned the trip but it was actually one of my favourite Disney Parks.The name literally stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and this is the focus of the whole park. They have a range of attractions and activities focusing on topics like space travel, ocean life and agriculture. They also have one half of the park dedicated to celebrating and promoting tourism for countries all over the world, from the UK to Japan. There is a plot for each country that focuses on the atmosphere, buildings and traditions of each country as well as local food and souvenirs.

Day 3 | Breakfast and Beach

We went to a place called Cracker Barrel for breakfast which is an old Western style shop with a restaurant/diner attached to it. We'd got a recommendation their breakfast was amazing and it really was. I, of course, got pancakes and the bottomless coffee which was so good - it was completely unexpected and we never would have gone if we hadn't had the recommendation. We then carried on to Clearwater beach which is on the Gulf of Mexico and we spent the rest of the day getting nice and brown red in the sun.

Day 4 |  Magic Kingdom!

How else can I put it? The Magic Kingdom is....magical! It's everything you'd want from a Disney park with all the characters wandering around and so much to see and do. The parade was definitely my favourite part as you get to see basically all the Disney characters you know and love come right past you. Having only been to the Disneyland in Paris before, it was interesting to see how similar they were, though the American one is obviously a lot bigger and grander.

Day 5 | The Mall

I planned to spend most of my dollars at the mall and the Mall at Millenia gave me a great opportunity to do so! I splashed out mostly in Bath & Body Works and Forever 21 but I did pick up the Miley Viva Glam MAC lipstick as it is quite a bit cheaper in the states than it is over here. I also had my first American Starbucks coffee and got Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets for lunch (which beat McDonald's or KFC's anyday!)

Day 6 | Animal Kingdom

Surprise surprise, this was my favourite Disney Park. They have a whole host of animals that are kept there and the great thing was that the enclosures seemed to be of a really decent size with all the creatures looking happy and alert. I saw a couple of animals that I'd not seen in real life before such as the Wildebeest and Elephants but it was also fun to go on some of the themed rides that they had as well.

Day 7 | A Chill Day

We discovered that, even though we were having more 'lowkey' days in between the ones we spent at the parks, we were still getting completely knackered. On average, we walked the equivalent of 12km each day we were at the parks. We spent most of our 7th day relaxing at the villa or by the pool and spent the afternoon at the other Disney water park - Typhoon Lagoon. This park has a big pool which creates 'surfable' waves that are actually pretty huge. I spent most of the time in the lagoon that went round the park though...

Day 8 | Universal Studios
This was my favourite of the two Universal parks; there were attractions for so many movies/shows such as the Simpsons and Spongebob as well as half of the Universal Harry Potter attraction. In the Universal Studios park is Diagon Alley with Hogsmeade and Hogwarts located at the Universal Islands of Adventure Park. We went on a ride that was 'inside' Gringotts and the interior of the bank was actually lifesize and identical to how it seems in the films which was awesome!

Day 9 | Disney Hollywood Studios
As the smallest of the Disney parks, we decided to do Hollywood Studios on what would usually be a rest day for us. The park is very heavily 'Frozen' themed and we watched their parade with all the main characters. My favourite part was a walk through exhibit showing the history of Disney and its animation with original drawings and models made throughout the years of films.

Day 10 | An Early Storm
Up until this point, we had been experiencing daily thunderstorms but they had been taking place in the evening when we were already back at the villa having spent all day out and about. This was the first day when a storm actually hit right in the middle of the day. We were at Typhoon Lagoon when it happened and everybody got herded into the covered areas to wait out the rain, thunder and lightning. Watching the storm was pretty incredible as such a large amount of water comes down with loud crashes and flashes of light interspersed here and there.

Day 11 | The Kennedy Space Center
After visiting the Space Center, it's official: I am a NASA nerd. I'd never known that much about space travel and missions until I went to Cape Canaveral and it really is incredible to learn about the efforts and breakthroughs that have happened thanks to NASA. We were lucky as, on the day that we went, they were launching a new satellite so we got to see it go up into the atmosphere. The best part was visiting their IMAX cinema and watching a short 3D film which focused on the Hubble telescope. The movie took you up on a mission with a real team that was sent to repair the telescope as well as taking you on a journey through the universe using images captured by Hubble.

Day 12 |  Pancakes and Butterbeer

We went to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) for breakfast and oh my glob: it was incredible. I wish we had one in the UK but I would probably be about 12 stone heavier if we did. I got some raspberry cheesecake pancakes and they were so, so good. Afterwards we went to the other Universal park (Islands of Adventure) and spent most of the day in the Hogsmeade part of the park which had all the shops and eateries of Harry Potter and was where we got Butterbeer.

Day 13 |  Dunkin Donuts and Daytona

My struggle for the whole holiday was trying to get to a Dunkin Donuts. I asked almost every day if we could go but it never seemed to fit in with our plans. I literally felt like a small child asking for something so minor but I was determined! Eventually I got my fix and for the rest of the day we lounged on Daytona beach which was such a perfect way to spend the last full day of our holiday. Daytona is unique in that you drive your car onto the beach, park up facing inland and set up your towels on the shore opposite.

Departure Day

Our flight wasn't until the evening so we spent a few hours revisiting Animal Kingdom to make use of the two-week Disney Park passes that we had. At the airport we had some time to kill so we headed to TGI Fridays for our last taste of 'all-American' delicacies and filled up on mozzarella sticks and pretzels. Our flight was as pleasant on the way back as it had been on the way in and I watched the new Avengers film on the plane - it was brilliant and I definitely recommend it if you're a fan of the Marvel movies!

Readjusting to the British timezone was remarkably easy and, if I'm honest, I had really missed the sights and atmosphere of England, not to mention the regular sized roads and built-up areas. It's always good to see new places, if only to make you appreciate the place that you call home.

I do really want to go back to the US but I'd like to visit a different state (or several!) as going to Florida just increased my curiousity and I'm sure there were things I saw in the particular state that would be different in others.

Stay inspired,

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