Yesterday my friend and I travelled out to Orlando from Manchester for our annual girl’s week of fun in the sun – so I thought this week I’d give you a little debrief and insight into what that means for us.
We were on the morning Virgin Atlantic flight from Manchester. T2 meet and greet car park – excellent service directly opposite the terminal building. Security lines were long – you need to allow plenty of time. We still had time for breakfast and after seeing the line for Frankie & Benny’s opted for Brodericks.
We had a good flight over – 8hrs 20mins arriving on stand 30 minutes early. The queue for Immigration at MCO stretched from the hall to the aircraft, however, this was due to a new filtering system where ambassadors sorted arivals according to residency and last visit to the States. We were through quickly and cleared Customs with no lines.
Then on to the car rental desks. Historically this can be a real time eater with upto 1 hour wait. This time though I had utilised the new skip the line facility and checked in for the car before I even left the UK. This meant we walked straight to our car of choice. We were through the airport by 2.45pm.
So what did we do with the time we gained – we used it wisely and drove straight to Celebration for a walk round the lakes and a scope of Kilwin’s! !
Taking Exit 87 off the I4 and head along Fairbanks Avenue to the Orlando suburb Winter Park. It has some excellent independent shops as well as some chains, nice bars and some wonderful restaurants. Add to that some museums and an entertaining boat ride and you have a good half/full day of fun away from the Theme Parks.
Heading along Park Avenue you will see plenty of shops, trendy wine bars and restaurants. Some of our favourite stops include Alex and Ani – which is an American brand jewellery store which specialises in eco-friendly handcrafted expandable bangles, chain necklaces & rings, Peterbrooke Chocolatier and the Ancient Olive. My partner also likes to visit Performance Bicycle which is actually over by the Winter Park Village shops.
Restaurant wise we have tried a few a couple of favourites being Luma on Park, Park Plaza Gardens and Prato (best pizza in Orlando?).
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour will show you the wealthiest sections of Winter Park – running since 1938 it’s part nature tour and part local history lesson – always entertaining. It can get very hot so make sure you bring a hat and some water. It departs from Morse Street which is about 15 mins walk from Park Avenue.
On Saturday mornings the Winter Park Farmers’ Market is more of a social gathering than a serious farmers market with dirty vegetables! Good fun though and worth a visit it does sell vegetables as well as potted plants, preserves, baked goods and fast food.
A few years ago now we were lucky enough to be in Orlando when the I4 Derby between Orlando City and Tampa Bay Rowdies took place.
My partner is a lifelong Rowdies fan so it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. We were apprehensive as there was no apparent segregation of the two sets of fans which is unheard of in English Football, however, we needn’t have worried.
The stadium was really easy to find and we were able to park at the venue. We found that there was great support for the teams (it is even larger over there now than it was when we attended). In our experience, watching all sports in Florida is a very family friendly, social event and the soccer proved no exception.
There was a slight crowd incident between the Rowdies supporters themselves, but the police were quickly on the scene removing 2 spectators without any real issue.
Today there is a new stadium which is every bigger and very clean and modern. There are literally no bad seats and there is excellent crowd control.
If you get the opportunity to view any sport while you are in Orlando on vacation I would highly recommend it. For more information about the team and their schedule click Orlando Soccer