When you think of Orlando as a holiday destination, the first thing that comes to mind is taking the kids to Disney World, or Sea World…or just about any other “World” attraction they’ve got out there! But what if you don’t have kids – or, like me, you’re just a big kid yourself? Can the adults have as much fun if they’re planning a grown up holiday? As I discovered, the answer is a resounding YES! So here is HAYLEY NOLAN’S guide to Orlando – without the kids!
Whether you’re traveling as a couple or in a group, the Waldorf Astoria is the only place you’ll want to stay if you’re looking for unrivalled luxury, glamour and sophistication! It’s the only Waldorf hotel outside of New York and it oozes the same class and charm as its Big Apple counterpart. A sprawling 18 hole golf course surrounds the luscious property, which also boasts a Guerlain Spa – where they do the best 90 minute Swedish massage I have ever experienced! (Top Tip – book in for one after a day at the theme parks, you’ll need it!!) The hotel’s piece de resistance, however, has to be The Bull and Bear Steakhouse, which was the first restaurant on the Eastern Seaboard to serve USDA-Certified Angus Beef. Absolutely mouthwatering! And every other dish on the menu, from starters to deserts, lives up to the same high quality standards!
Even without children in tow, you’ll want to visit Universal Studios, take my word for it, it can’t be missed! And after you’ve experienced their VIP Tour, you’ll never go back to a normal park entry ticket either! (Queuing is so Disneyland circa 1990!) As a VIP guest you are given your very own Tour Guide – we had Ruben, in my opinion the best person to enjoy a theme park with, so nice and just so fun! I think everyone needs a Ruben in their life (we were very sad to have to hand him back to Universal at the end of the day!) Ruben took us to the front of every queue, to the front of every ride, even took us backstage at some of the attractions! I must stress at this point, Orlando Theme parks have never been on my “To Do” list of holiday destinations. As much fun as the rides look, come on, they’re only rides, right? How thrilling can it be to get flung around a track? But no! They are sooo much more advanced and smarter than that. My favourite 3D rides (1: The Mummy, 2: Spiderman, 3: The Simpsons) admittedly sound childish on paper, given the themes, but they really are the most impressive, mind blowing, realistic rides I’ve ever been on! Almost impossible to convey in an article, it really is a case of having to be seen to be believed and understand how awe-inspiring they actually are! Do it! Of course, Universal is also home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! But aside from all the theme park attractions, Universal Studios also has a huge selection of amazing Bars and Restaurants on “City Walk” (including the Rising Star karaoke club where you are accompanied on stage with a live band and backing singers – like something out of a movie!) And if you’re visiting throughout Sept/Oct and are into genuine scarefests for Halloween, then make sure you visit the park at night for the famous Halloween Horror Nights!
If it’s once in a lifetime opportunities you’re looking for, then head on over to Kissimmee, Florida to Warbird Adventures. When I heard that our WWII Fighter Plane experience was NOT to be a simulator, but the real thing, I really didn’t think I was going to do it! I’m not a thrill seeker, I get travel sickness on normal planes, so didn’t fancy my chances – especially when I was told we would be do aerobatics at how many thousand feet?! But after a reassuring chat with the extremely qualified and calm Pilot Jim Harley, I decided it was a chance I couldn’t pass up – and you will too! Once you’re up in the air, all fear and nerves evaporate as you look over the serene toy town below! Of course all serenity was lost when I was instructed on how to take over the controls and informed I was now “flying the plane!” (I was told to make a gentle left and I flew the plane right!!) Then taking over once more, Jim did a “Barrel Turn”, flipping the plane 360 degrees! That was enough excitement for me but other more hard core wannabe pilots can nose dive and do all sorts of wild and crazy tricks! A truly thrilling and gratifying experience – from which you can take away a DVD and photos of your entire flight, providing hilarious mementos!
Of course, if certain members of your party prefer to take their holidays at a slightly slower pace, then they might want to opt out of that one in favour of a lazy amble round Winter Park. Not actually a “Park Attraction” as the title might suggest, this is a stunningly beautiful, and incredibly affluent town in Orlando where you can kick back and take a scenic boat tour round the many lakes (and jaw dropping mansions that line them!) At the weekends they play host to the Winter Park Farmer’s Market, where up market stalls sell high quality local produce – it’s what I imagine The Hamptons is like, from the many movies I’ve seen!! The whole town really is like a movie set – but without looking fake at all. The stunningly beautiful Park Avenue is home to some gorgeous boutiques, very much like the LA version! Perfectly picturesque, Winter Park is a must go on your “Orlando To Do” list!
Orlando Tourism Bureau – For more information about an Orlando holiday, go to VisitOrlando.com/uk and order a free Orlando Holiday Guide that includes the Orlando Magicard™, a free discount card offering deals on a variety of attractions, restaurants and shopping.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando – Special rates start from just $199 per night. Rooms vary from Deluxe Rooms to Presidential Suites. Golf services include an 18 hole range, pro Shop, Practise Range and Putting Green. The hotel also has a Gym, a variet of restaurants and cocktail lounges plus pool side cabanas and in-room dining. Waldorf Astoria Orlando
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando, Florida 32821 USA, Tel: 407-597-5500
www.universalorlando.com To reserve a VIP tour please call 407-363-8295 seven days a week, during normal business hours, or email [email protected].
Warbird Adventures – Kissimmee Gateway Airport, 233 N. Hoagland Blvd. Kissimmee, FL 34741, USA
Phone: (407) 870-7366 or (800) 386-1593 Fax: (407) 870-2295 [email protected] www.warbirdadventures.com
British Airways (ba.com 0844 493 0787) flies from London Gatwick to Orlando, return fares cost from £499 including taxes for travel December to March.