Photography by Terry Zinn
I have visited Orlando and its amusement parks several times since the 1980’s. Much has changed and improved and attracted even more hordes of pleasure seekers. Knowing the expense of travel and the expense of accommodations and the expense of entertainments, I did some deep research online (not available in the ‘80s) and was able to make the most bang for my buck with my limited travel time.
Having stayed at on site park hotels before, this time I decided to find a property near the parks and downtown Orlando, and succeeded with the Wyndham Orlando Resort. http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/florida/orlando/wyndham-orlando-resort/hotel-overview
A boon for this property is its close proximity to Disney World, Universal and Downtown Orlando all via Interstate 4, with on ramps just two blocks from the hotel. And if you like you might take Universal Boulevard directly to the Universal Park, as the street is adjacent to this Wyndham Hotel.
The Wyndham Orlando Resort is a moderatly priced sprawling property with self-parking, and several pools. The rooms are located in 2 story buildings surrounding the common area. The convenience store is next to the exercise room on the property, with the Gatorville Grill open for lunch and late night snacks. With music into the night it is a popular energetic outlet for some guests. The pools are supposed to close and be quiet by 11 pm, but you may have to remind the front desk of these times, even though the desk does not always answer their phones. To my surprise there are no elevators to the second story rooms, something traveling seniors might take note.
With Disney World I opted for the 2 day park hopper pass, as I wanted to visit as many attractions as possible, and since I am not an early riser the extra early hours for Disney World hotel guest was of no interest to me. Still, arriving around 9 am gave me good parking spots and not too much pedestrian traffic in the parks. Disney has employed a fast pass option for guests to book before or while in the park. There is a magic band which has your ticket information encoded, making it easier to access the parks and to retrieve your one day 3 complimentary fast passes timed visits.
Also the online Disney Experience. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience , lets you reserve dining options as well as ride preferences. With your preplanned visit you can construct an efficient schedule, taking the worry out of, “What do we do next? When do we eat? Let’s not miss so and so attraction.” I tried to make a reservation at the upscale Victoria and Albert’s inside the Grand Floridian, but they were sold out 30 days in advance. In its place I had a delightful pre dinner cocktail at their Misner Lounge, accompanied by the live music of The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, playing ole time favorites. I was lucky to track down their 1995 CD and by playing it am enjoying them and the evening again.
After the cocktail I enjoy a mass luau experience and mini Hawaiian show at the Polynesian resort. The Disney touch was again experienced, as the dinner was during a rain shower that turned into a down pour at its conclusion. As the Luau pavilion was some distance from the main hotel many guest were drenched on their return, but were handed towels once inside the hotel proper. Later on my visit I booked a gourmet lunch at Epcot’s French Restaurant, and a delicious signature pot roast at the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tavern. At MGM Grand I booked a dinner buffet at the Hollywood and Vine restaurant which luckily coincided during another rain shower, keeping me dry and my hunger satisfied, before viewing the over popular Disney Fantasmic water show.
Of course I had to take in the two parks at Universal, a requirement to see both Harry Potter exhibits. After viewing the attractions via You Tube, I had little surprises, with the expectation of the rides which definitely tested your ride jerkabilty quotient. The mixing of 3D movie and live motion made for an adventurous experience. Here again the fast pass is a must to get into and out of popular attractions. And while it costs more on your ticket it is a relatively small price to pay for a near hassle free day. Disney World’s parking for the day at any park is $17 and the Universal $25 VIP parking was worth the economy of a few less steps into the park.
Orlando has a myriad of other parks and attractions. I ventured to take an indoor sky diving experience at IFLY. https://orlando.iflyworld.com Here within a glass enclosed chamber, you are suited up, given a minimal of training and allowed to gently lean or leap into an updraft of air, accompanied by your tandem instructor, holding and guiding you. The hardest thing is to keep your head up during your 2 minute dive. It is natural to look down, but keeping your head up keeps your body in a stable position. I wonder how high flying sky divers can do this with the fast approaching ground and the momentary earthly views below. Young children are accepted and up to 250 pound adults. I had variety of body types in my flight session and all were novices, like me, and all succeeded in an enjoyable flight experience. Of course you may purchase a video of your flight, if you make previous arrangements, or still images as well. IFLY has several locations throughout the Unites States as Orlando is just one.
I also was fortunate to take in the Central Florida University Festival of Performing Arts. They were free with reservations at the new Performing Arts Center downtown. I stepped into the upscale Bohme Hotel across the street and had a quick bite and beverage before the Festival show. Other attractions and night life can be found on Church Street, along with galleries I wish I had had more time to peruse.
With detailed forethought you can get the most for your time and treasure in Orlando, whether for your entire family, your extended family or as I did, a solo visit.