I'm planning a trip down the Orlando area at the end of February or middle of March for a week and just wanted everyone's opinions on what I really should do and what's overrated. I'm 24 and going with my best friend who's 25. I'm planning on seeing both Universal parks, all the Disney parks, and possibly squeezing in Busch Gardens while I'm there. I could also use suggestions on where to stay on-site at Universal (I've already kind of made up my mind on staying at one of their 3 hotels because Universal has always been my favorite and I enjoy the idea of having the fastpass). So I really need ideas everyone! Where should I plan on eating? Any parks I could skip because they wouldn't be much interest to me? Are there going to be rides that are shut down for refurb or because it's too cold (water rides)? Would the VIP tours be something I should look into? I really don't have much of a budget either so price isn't really an issue. Thanks a lot everyone in advance!
The temp should be very nice!
How are you getting around? Renting a car? You are planning quite the mileage going from Tampa to I4
If I was in Orlando for a week without a budget I would definitely book to do Discovery Cove, because I've also wanted to swim with Dolphins but never managed to save up enough money in time. (Coming from England it's much more of a massive holiday for me!)
I would eat in Bumba Gumps Shrimp Factory in City Walk because I've been in the one in Bali when I was travelling and could only afford desert (we were travelling for a year and had to make money last!!!), but the meal looked amazing...AND (possibly the best thing of all) they had these little signs on the tables which you had to spin round. One side says 'run forrest run' which tells the waiters to carry on about their business, and the other side says 'stop forrest stop' which tells the waiters to stop by your table coz you need something. Classic.
You cannot miss Harry Potter world at Islands of Adventure, obviously, but there is tonnes of information about that (timings, when best to go, queue lenth etc) on the other discussion posts. I have not been myself yet (will be going in March 2011) so perhaps I can't offer too much advice on that. However, if you've never been to IoA before, there are some cool little things to look out for, like the talking fountain in Lost Continent...
*Everyone - is that still there or did it get swallowed up in the HP development?*
...there's a nice place to stop for a beer just before you get to Jurassic Park coming from HP, and also check out the times for the Marvel Heros parade thing they do near the Spiderman ride...they all come round on quadbikes, Cpt America, Wolverine etc. Good fun. Obviously you can't miss Hulk Coaster, Spiderman, Doctor Doom and you have to do the water rides for the sheer insanity that is the holes in the back of your seats so there's no escaping the torrent all around...
If you've never been to Disney before, and judging by your ages, you could miss out Magic Kingdom (I expect there will be some disagreement to this though), as in my experience, adult appreciation of this park (unless you're taking your kids) comes from having been there as a child and along with the visit comes the magical memories from childhood. I still enjoy going (i'm 27) but my husband (32) isn't really bothered. We'll probably just go for a half-day in order to see Spectromagic (cool light parade at night) and Wishes (excellent firework spectacular).
EPCOT has become a firm favourite with the older people I know who go (i.e. in their late 20s) as it is aimed at an older age group. Here you CANNOT miss Mission Space - but you have to do the Red queue, as the Green version doesn't actually move you round. There was a lot of controversy when it opened, as a lot of people were getting ill from the ride (it's a giant centifuge which not only spins you round in a sealed capsule, but inverts as well) so they put in an alternative version which didn't spin. Waste. Of. Time.
Eating in EPCOT is supurb too. So far we have eaten in Morocco, Italy, Mexico and France. Morocco was the best with Mexico coming in second. France was too posh for me and Italy was a bit too long ago for me to remember (!). But something else you should do is stop for a croissant in the Patisserie in France, they do the best giant pastries and hot chocolate.
Unless you're obsessed with whales and dolphins I would sack off Seaworld, I wouldn't bother with Busch Gardens as, although the rides are good, the overall experience was quite negative due to the poor attitude of the workers and the lack of innovation in the surroundings. Animal Kingdom is a must, as is Hollywood Studios (TOWER OF TERROR, ROCK N ROLLER COASTER AND FANTASMIC ARE ESSENTIAL :-P )
Well, I could go on, but I think I've said enough! Let me know if you have any questions and hope you have a brilliant holiday.
At Magic Kingdom, you have to go on Buzz Lightyear. It may sound lame, but it is an awesome ride. Big Thunder Mountain is also a must-see as well.
In the same vein, MIB at Universal is a must-see as well. Buzz and MIB are basically have the same idea just with different characters.
Also, Soarin' is a major headliner at Epcot and is worth the wait.
Finally, you must ride Harry Potter at least twice to catch all the intricacies of the ride. It is a "ride" in every sense of the word and is the best one in Florida.
Oh and if you're a sports person ESPN Club on Disney's Boardwalk is where you have to eat.
You asked about parks that wouldn't interest you, but you never told us what your interests are. Can you be a little more detailed about what kind of experiences you're looking for?
I wouldn't recommend Discovery Cove in February, simply because of how cold it might be. However, definitely go for a 2 park pass for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Someone else mentioned that the Magic Kingdom can be skipped- I agree. Since no big holiday things will be going on there at the time, it might be better to spend your time at Epcot or Animal Kingdom.
2) Get parkhopper option on your Disney tickets or get an annual pass (work the numbers - it may be cheaper).
3) Don't just think of "one day, one park". Disney Studios is probably a half day (do it first thing and go directly to Toy Story. Fast Pass it and then get in stand-by.)
4) Ditto Animal Kingdom - you may find that half or three-quarters of a day are as much as you want. Don't miss "Finding Nemo" and "Lion King".
5) Hit all of the parks at rope drop. If it gets too crowded, switch parks. If you get bored, switch parks. Don't g crazy waiting in line - if a line is long, do it on another day.
6) We usually do 7 or 8 days on a trip, with 2 days each at Universal, Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT. If its crowded, we leave and either do another park or call it a day. Nice thing about multiple days is that you don't have to park until you drop...
7) I use touringplans.com for crowd projections. Its a subscription site, but reasonably priced. They have a nice app (runs on most phones including Blackberry, iPhone, and Android) which shows real time waiting times for the Disney Parks.