Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is designed to bring back some Hollywood glamour withe a replica Graumanns Chinese Theatre and Hollywood Brown Derby.  There are shows, street entertainment, film sets and gift shops – but the reason we love it is for 3 of the rides and at Christmas the spectacular Osborne Family Spectacular of Dancing Lights.  A word of warning though – get a fast pass for Toy Story Mania as soon as you enter the park – even if you go immediately to get a fast pass you may not get a ride time until after lunch – it is a very popular ride with long wait queues for standby – however, we think it is worth the wait for a fast pass.  The other 2 rides are next door to each other – Aerosmith Rollercoaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

There are some good stunt shows – Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Lights,Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show.

Personally, I love the Muppet Vision 3-D because it reminds me of my childhood and watching the Muppet show on a Saturday night.

When my niece was in her princess phase she used to love the Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage.  There are also great opportunities for character meetings and photographs.  Although the park is larger than Magic Kingdom it doesn’t feel like it and we think can easily be done in half a day.

The final thing to mention is Fantasmic – a special effects spectacular which is hosted in the evening.  It is a 25 mins show which people begin to queue for and seat up to 2 hours in advance.  Personally, we don’t like it – it’s by the water and is a bug fest and we just weren’t bowled over by it.

How to keep your theme park ticket safe or what to do if you lose it!

My husband has laughed at me in the past for buying a lanyard and then keeping our tickets and fast passes in a clear poach round my neck – simple, accessible and stopping drama and panic when you return to the rides at the allotted time.

I have also been known to take a photocopy of the back of my park passes and passport before I leave home.  If you then lose your tickets or passport while away it may help you replace them – plus the parks will accept the photocopy of your passport as photo id.  These days I take a picture of them on my mobile phone – keeping all the information safe and accessible.  We even go a step further and take a photo of the area and line of the car park where we left the vehicle in the morning.

I’d like to say that I do all these things because I am a great planner, however, I learned to do these things the hard way.  Hubby once left his park ticket on top of the fast pass machine and we spent quite some time in Guest Services while they traced the ticket for us and printed a replacement.  Then there was the time that we had a great day in the park – probably had a little too much sun – and couldn’t remember where we had parked!  Fortunately, if this does ever happen, you should attract the attention of the security guard and tell them approximately what time you came into the park , they can then magically tell you which row you are parked in.

Kids eat free card

The handy kids eat free card for Orlando offers a free child’s meal (for 11 and under) with every adult meal or entree purchased.  It costs just $19.99/child and features more than 150 local restaurants – from the standard Chick-Fil-A and Dunkin Donuts to up market Timpano Chophouse and Ming Court – with potential savings of $350.  It is valid for 90 days from first use.  See http://www.kidseatfreecard.com

Florida Scallop Season

Scallop season began on July 1 and will run through to Sept 24.

The popular area of Homosassa to St. Joseph Bay will see thousands take to the water in search of the legendary bay scallop. Local old-timers will tell you that it is better to wait until later in the summer, when scallops are bigger, fatter and, some say, juicier.

Bay scallops are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, but you can only gather them from the Pasco-Hernando county line north to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. Areas such as Homosassa, Crystal River and Steinhatchee tend to have the best scalloping fields because scallops prosper in places where freshwater rivers meet saltwater. Scallops are particular creatures and need the right mix of saltwater and freshwater to survive.

If you do go scalloping, you  are allowed to harvest up to 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of scallop meat each day during the open season.


An excellent place to shop.

When you’re not at the beach or hanging out with Mickey, Florida is an excellent place to shop, with brand bargains to be found all over the place. Here are some of the best malls in the Orlando, in my opinion, so leave some space in that suitcase…

Orlando Area Premium Outlets Orlando Premium Outlets is America’s largest outlet chain and has two huge malls in the Orlando area, both open until 11PM, Mon-Sat. Both locations have much the same list of retailers and there’s barely a big name brand that isn’t on there. Sporty brands are particularly well covered, so this is the place to head for big savings on trainers. Discounts of 20-65% are available every day. The International Drive mall is south of the city, about 25 minutes’ drive from Disney World or 20 from Downtown Orlando. Vineland Avenue is a bit further south and under 10 minutes from Sea World.

The Mall at Millenia With 150+ stores and restaurants, The Mall At Millenia is a great all-rounder, with everything from high street to high-end chains. The eating options are great, making it the best place to visit if you need a bite with your retail therapy. Various sales, expo events, fashion showcases and kids’ activities rotate throughout the year. Southeast of the city, with the nearest attraction being Universal Orlando, about 10 minutes’ drive away. About 15 minutes from Sea World or Downtown Orlando and half an hour from Disney.

The Florida Mall Central Florida’s largest retail space, The Florida Mall is like a mini city with its 1.9 million square feet of shopping. A gigantic selection of fashions for everyone, especially women and children, plus about as many accessories, electronics and health & beauty products as you could fit in one place. About 15 minutes’ drive south of the city, around 30 minutes east from Walt Disney World and an easy 10 from Sea World.

Fort Christmas, Florida

As my hubby is really interested in the history of the Seminole Indian Wars we decided to visit Fort Christmas, which is in Christmas, Florida – just off State Road 50.

Fort Christmas is a full size replica of Fort Christmas with 7 restored historical homes demonstrating the Cracker architecture of East Orange County.  Fort Christmas is a free place to visit.  The house are interpreted to show to show pioneer life from the 1870s through the 1930s.

The history is that  on December 25, 1837 a force of 2000 US Army soldiers and Alabama volunteers arrived to construct a fort.  The fort houses exhibits and a video presentation on the Seminole Indian Wars.

It was quite a long drive to get there and on first arrival we were surprised at how little there appeared to be.  However, we really enjoyed it and found it very interesting.  My biggest disappointment was that as well as the shop not accepting cards they were also unable to take large notes and unfortunately that was all we had so we weren’t able to support the Fort Christmas Historical Society who operate the gift shop.

The Fort is not open on Mondays or holidays so don’t get caught out.  Visit http://www.nbbd.com/godo/FortChristmas/ for more information.