I would still consider Disney on the radar, especially since you are looking for something a bit more intersting than just a roller coaster. Call me a cynic, but I have never been much of a fan of the Mummy. Dueling Dragons, or whatever is going to be called is great and worth a ride!
And for the Disney not doing anything new for 2010, for a majority of the people out there who never get to go as much as we all do (I consider myself lucky)
I think Universal is great, but to me it will always be a day or two excursion from Disney. Curious to hear from the person. I think it matters when they will go due to the Harry Potter being open or not.
But yet again, great insight and article from the fantastic Robert Niles! I would agree with you more if I wasn't such a Disney fan :) Your "Real" FL mentions are spot on!
I've stayed there three times now-- and its the only hotel on or near Universal I'd consider. The visuals, amenities, rooms, room service are all absolutely top notch.
One of my favorite things at a theme park ever is a drink during dusk at the Thirsty Fish (the hotel's wine bar) overlooking the water and watching the nightly singers perform on one of the hotel's balconys.
I was there this past October for Horror Nights and it reminded me just how wonderful this place is-- the Bellagio of Orlando.
Also, don't forget to get ressies for Mythos!
Universal definitely has more thrilling attractions, but it also offers enough things to do with Mom included.
Outside attractions-- call it corny, but if you want cheap, late-night, and fast munchies. Visit the McDonalds with the largest playplace! I've always ran into "interesting" people there.
And whether you're visiting Disney or not, definitely visit Downtown Disney. It's fun just walking around... and the Lego Store is a picture must... but also waltz inside the restaurants to see the awesome themes... and of course... lots of Disney gifts everywhere.
If we are speaking of hotels to stay at, Whats wrong with staying at Disney? They got many choices.
Maybe, and this is just an idea, you can go to Universal and stay a night or two at Disney. Then you get two great hotels and two great parks' perks!
My beach of choice when going from Orlando is Daytona. It's a little over a half hour away. It can be a little touristy in spots, but if you go a little north or south (Ormond Beach for example) you can get some quiet beach time. If someone likes NASCAR, a visit to the Daytona speedway is recommended, and there are obviously other things to do in the area.
To me, the lodging choices and decisions on upcharges (front of the line...etc) will depend on when you go and for how long. If you go during peak season (late June/July/early August), it may not be a bad idea to budget the money to be able to cut in line. You can avoid at least some of the crowds by going in early-mid June or mid-late August, and going to the parks during the middle of the week. Staying on site helps too, as the trip back and forth to the hotel is quick and doesn't require a car. My last trip to IOA was in mid August on a Tuesday a couple of years ago, and the lines were very manageable. I stayed off site, and the whole park was done very comfortably, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a day. That being said, you can stretch your money (and thus your vacation) by staying offsite and still have a fighting chance against the crowds.
So we are most likely going to stay at the Portofino Bay, but how would mixing this idea and another idea we had, a coaster filled road trip, and driving up from Orlando along a place we have always desired to visit, the east coast? Our friend works for Southwest and can get us free Airline tickets, so all we would have to pay for is hotels, parks, and car. Plus if we do that, my Mom would higher the budget quite a bit. Good idea?
My mom is also not a big theme park person, and on our last trip enjoyed the canoe excursion you mentioned more than any attractions at any of the parks.
However, my mom especially didn't enjoy the Universal parks, as they had too many thrill rides for her liking and lacked her type of atmosphere. Don't get me wrong - I love Universal, and I highly enjoy their theming, but my mom prefers something along the lines of Epcot or Animal Kingdom, where the atmosphere is less intense, the music is nice, and the gardens and exhibits allow for casual strolling. She loves walking and stopping to smell the flowers. She also loved having a glass of wine in the France pavilion while sitting in the shade and watching the French acrobats. Epcot's World Showcase provides a distinctly different theme park experience. Additionally, my mom had no problem with Epcot's rides, and even enjoyed some of them (Mission: Space and, in particular, Soarin', which remains her favorite theme park attraction). She also loved Impressions de France. At Universal, though I love(d) it, we encountered constant breakdowns, delayed openings, and other problems that made the experience feel like a standard amusement park outing.
Maybe try one day at Epcot (or another venue of interest) as something different. If not, the vacation Robert planned sounds great, too.