Orlando Family Holiday

Written by  Thomas Maris

  • Photo of Orlando Family Holiday
  • Photo of Orlando Family Holiday
  • Photo of Orlando Family Holiday
  • Photo of Orlando Family Holiday
  • Photo of Orlando Family Holiday
Photo of Orlando Family Holiday
Photo by flickr user Christian Lambert (on hiatus)

There comes a time in the life of every family when the following conversation takes place:

MUM: Darling, have you thought at all about where we might go on holiday this year? We want to book while there are still good deals...

DAD: Good thinking! Have you had any thoughts? I quite fancy French wine country...

MUM: Oooo – or Italian wine country? What about a cycling holiday? That would be fun for the kids.

KIDS: We did that last year!

DAD: And you loved every minute of it!

KIDS: No we didn't! And last year you promised that this year we could go somewhere WE want to go!

MUM: And where do you want to go?

KIDS: We want to go to Disney World!

And most parents will know when their time stalling is up and it's time to pack to bags for a vacation in sunny Orlando, Florida. Here are some of the ways you can make this the memorable family trip of your kid's dreams.

Disney World

Walt's wonderful world may be the main reason your kids have been clamouring for this trip for years, but many grown-up park visitors are equally swept off their feet by the magic that is one of the world's great theme parks and, at the same time, largest productions. 'Cause everyone you encounter here is part of the production – even the people who aren't obviously in uniform – and everything is tailored to making sure a good time is had by all.

But to have the best possible time some planning is required. Disney World covers 47 square miles and made up of four parks in one: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. That's A LOT to see, but there's more: Disney also has two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, and several other mini-complexes. Many families opt to spend a whole day exploring each park, but even allowing for a day per park you still don't want to burn your family out by rushing from one queue to another trying to fit everything in. So consider either extending your holiday, or just visiting some of the parks.

Here are some of the highlights from each of the parks:

Magic Kingdom

It's a good idea to save this one for last – it's got the highest concentration of rides and attractions, so kids who've visited first often expect the same from the other parks and are disappointed. Cinderella's gorgeous castle is an obvious highlight, but as far as rides are concerned, the Magic Kingdom has it's fair share of headliners: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Smaller kids will like Goofy's Barnstormer, the Pirates of the Caribbean and of course Dumbo!

Once you've covered the rides there are some great shows to see here – which are also a great way to rest your feet, and you'll definitely want to see at least one of the parades (down Main Street USA).


Epcot is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom, and a good choice for 'first park to see'. It's spilt into Future World (which contains nine pavilions grouped around the silver geosphere Spaceship Earth) and the World Showcase, where 11 international pavilions sit running about two and a half kilometres around a lagoon. Spaceship Earth, Test Track, the live street shows, Body Wars, the American Adventure Show and the Maelstrom ride in the Norway pavilion are some of the highlights, but Epcot is also a good place to get a decent food fix – there's LOADS of choice. Their fireworks show is also impressive.

Animal Kingdom

This park is even larger than Epcot, and is home to 1,700 animals belonging to 250 different species. Built around the 14 storey Tree of Life, it's more than a zoo, there are rides, parades and live shows in this park as well: Expedition Everest is a roller coaster, Kali River Rapids is a white water ride and even the safari is value added. And there's a musical version of Finding Nemo and the 'Festival of the Lion King' to watch while you're resting your legs.

Hollywood Studios

This park focuses on some of the fun had behind the scenes in the moviemaking business, with more live shows, stunt shows and backstage type tours – all set in a 'movie lot' of the 30s and 40s. Some of the highlights are Star Tours, The Great Movie Ride, the Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Hunchback of Notre Dame Show, Muppetvision 3D and the 'Honey I Shrunk the Audience' show.

To get your family round the park you're also going to need to keep them in fuel, so having an idea about where you're going to eat each day could really save you time and money. There are 300 places to eat in Disney World – not including the roving food carts - so you can pretty much find whatever your culinary imagination is hankering for, but many restaurants are booked up at meal times so if you want a proper sit-down meal then think ahead and book in. If you stay in one of the park's many hotels or resorts you can get your dining package added onto your reservation – so all your meals and some snacks will be included.

The final planning tip is to arrive when the park opens and proceed directly to the most popular ride or attraction – that way you'll have the shortest time to queue.


SeaWorldWhile you're pleasing your kids may as well push them to their fun limit by including SeaWorld on the agenda. Home of Shamu the Orca - one of the Shamus from the long line of Shamus – and a bevy of other fascinating ocean life, this is also a theme park, so there are nautical themed rides and loads of fantastic shows aimed at teaching you something about the animals that inhabit the park while at the same time making you gasp.

Meal times is the best time to meet a lot of these creatures, because many of them can be fed by hand – possibly even by you or your kids, if you're there at the right time.

Kennedy Space Centre

Kennedy Space CentreThere are few people in the world who'll get closer than this to experiencing taking off into space than the Shuttle Launch Experience at the Kennedy Space Centre. Here you can walk/ climb around real space capsules (Apollo, Atlantis, Mercury and Gemini), and watch footage recorded over several missions in the 3D Imax theatre.

Sign up to lunch with an astronaut. You'll have a yummy meal and meet a veteran member of NASA's Astronaut Corps.

Ok it's not as flashy as the theme parks, but this is the real thing – NASA, real 'Mission Control', the real launch pads, real shuttles and real stories. And so for some it's going to be inspirational, not just fun.

Warbird Adventures – Ride in a Vintage T-6 Plane

Ride in a Vintage T-6 plane at the Kissimmee Air MuseumThe North American T-6 is the plane that 70% of WW2 pilots earned their wings on, and for you an opportunity to see this town from the air, to try out some crazy aerial acrobatics or just see what it might have been like to be a trainee pilot. All sorts of flight experiences are offered out of the Kissimmee Air Museum.

It's not cheap at $250 for 15minutes in the air, but it's certainly an experience you and your kids will never forget – this is what flying really feels like, better than any roller coaster!

Ifly Orlando – Indoor Skydiving

Indoor Skydiving at iFlyWhile you're treating your family to some high octane, high altitude, good times, you may want to consider adding indoor skydiving to your to-do list. It might sound dangerous, but in indoor skydiving you're not actually jumping off anything much at all, what's happening is that you're placed at the mercy of a vertical wind tunnel strong enough to get you off your feet and hovering, windswept, horizontally over the ground. This isn't a simulator, you're actually flying, controlled by the system of fans that keeps the wind tunnel going, and by your flight instructor, who'll advise you on the best way to fly.


GatorlandAlligators are some of the original inhabitants of Orlando, and this is a good way to get close to them without putting yourself or your family in even mild peril. You enter through a huge gator mouth, and inside will find thousands of crocodile and alligator inhabitants, along with other reptiles and a 'stacked' aviary. You can get up close at the petting zoo (if you want to), and even be photographed on the back of an alligator in the 'wrestling arena'.

Don't miss the new rare white alligators on display for a limited engagement at Gatorland's newest exhibit, White Gator Swamp. Featuring four of the world's largest white leucistic alligators known to roam the planet, these giant Ivory colored reptiles are each ten to twelve feet in length and weigh over 800 pounds. Their piercing blue eyes are believed to have the ability to command good fortune to those lucky enough to make eye contact with the blue eyed beauties.

It's quite an old fashioned sort of theme park compared to Disney's Animal Kingdom, but the feeding shows are frightening fun, and it's an amazing insight into this local creature.


Find out more about how you can stay at some of the Disney Vacation Club resorts located right within the park.

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