Staycations: Traveling to Orlando

Universal Studios. Photo credit: Brendon Lies

(Mirror) Staycations offer quick easy fun for locals of South Florida. My husband and I have had opportunities to travel to many places over the past six years, but staycations remain one of our favorite things to do. 

Typically, very affordable and easy to do, without much planning these types of trips offer relaxation, and fun rolled into just a few short days. Orlando offers many fun and exciting opportunities within a three-and-a-half-hour drive from home. 

Orlando is one the world’s largest destination getaway spots offering some of the most unique attractions and things to do. There are many ways to plan your trip to this great sunshine city without spending a ton of money on parks or if you’re a thrill ride lover head to Universal Studios, Magic Kingdom or SeaWorld. Each park offers some unique options based on your personal likes and dislikes.

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Over the years, there has been much competition for travelers and state residents to spend their time at the parks, with each company offering specials and discounts to keep you wanting more. This year we visited all three in our five-day trip. Five days, five parks! Each park offers a variety of special upgrades to the standard tickets and all of them offer Florida Resident discounts as well. 

Our first three days we spent at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay is the newest in the Universal family offering a large variety of water rides. Our favorites where the water coaster (yes, its powered 100% by water), and fast lazy river. They offer guest the ability to wait in virtual lines which allows you the opportunity to ride other rides, hangout by the pools, or grab a snack while waiting in the two-hour line. 

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures both offer thrill rides for all guest to enjoy, with the Hulk being our favorite coaster. For us, Harry Potter land is one of the most unique areas of any theme park in Orlando. Connecting both parks together via the Hogwarts Train experience allows you to travel back and forth throughout the day in the parks. The best add-on to your experience is the unlimited express pass which provides nearly front of the line ride experience as much as you want. This upgrade allowed us to enjoy each ride more than once while visiting the parks during our three-day pass. I cannot wait to see what they do with Universal Epic when it arrives, hopefully they include Mario Land.

Magic Kingdom kicked off day four of our adventure with an early call of 7:30 a.m. In addition to the standard park entrance, we purchased the Fantasyland Magical Breakfast, which provided early access to seven rides and two meet and greets with princesses and of course and all you can eat breakfast at the Cosmic Café. This was for sure an amazing add-on and it gave us front row parking at Disney.  This access also gave us the ability to enjoy some of other favorite rides with little to no wait early in the morning. Imagine Space Mountain with a 5-minute wait! The highlight of our day, however, was the Italian glass blower, Michael. Working with the techniques of those found in Murano, Italy, they offered an onsite opportunity to see these masters at work. It truly makes this place magical!

Under the sea, I mean SeaWorld, on day five offered us a relaxing but thrilling day in one our favorite places to go. Unlike the other theme parks, SeaWorld offers unique encounters and learning opportunities for guest to experience behind the scenes. We had this opportunity after riding Manta, the coaster that you ride laying on your stomach a number one ride in all of Orlando. Behind the scenes we learned about sharks and their habits and how friendly many of the species really are. The Magellanic penguin is only able to be visited through this unique opportunity as they are located only in the Avian Research Center as the Antarctica habitat is a bit too cold for them.  

Orlando has many exciting places to visit away from the parks like Hamburger Mary’s in downtown Orlando and even some of the other gay nightclubs if you enjoy those adventures too. Eye of Orlando, or the Wheel at Icon Park, offers guests an opportunity to see most of the city from a 400 feet air conditioned view. Sleuths Mystery Dinner Theaters offered us a fun two-hour dinner show with great food and entertainment, that we participated in with other guests. For those who want something to do to kill a few hours, Orlando offers many great shopping adventures from three malls and four outlet malls. 

There is definitely something for everyone in Orlando and its surrounding areas. You deserve a few days to relax, have some fun, and enjoy one of the best cities in Florida. They do say, vacations are good for the soul!


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