There is no doubt that Florida is one of the best road trip destinations in the US with its endless miles of wide, sandy beaches and the unique keys. Hiring your own car is the most affordable way to experience the best of Florida.
Since we have family living in Tampa, we drove all the way from Miami to Tampa so that we could meet them. We stayed in an apartment villa which my uncle kindly organized for us to stay in.
Orlando is home to the world’s most iconic theme parks and attractions. Because there are literally SO many attractions in Orlando, you must understand that it is IMPOSSIBLE to see and do them all in one visit (unless you are staying a very long time). It’d be much easier to manage your expectations and focus on a few top things you want to see/do.
We chose Aquatica, Busch Gardens, Disneyland Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld and Universal Studios because we thought it was a good combination. We also made sure we had time to fit some shopping in!
The weather was so hot and was just screaming ‘waterpark’, so my sister and I headed to Aquatica. I really enjoyed it (before it started thundering randomly later on in the afternoon) because it had a young vibe, pop music playing throughout the park and great rides!
Okay so technically this is in Tampa Bay – but its close by, and well categorically relevant I guess. I haven’t even heard of Busch Gardens until this trip and is often overlooked by other Florida attractions. It’s another massive theme park but combined with a zoo. I loved the fact that it caters for everyone – for the roller coaster enthusiasts, to the animal’s lovers and foodies. The park is extremely well-marked and set on beautiful grounds.
I enjoyed checking out the animals and seeing the beauties for myself. The theme park also has the best thrill rides of any park I’ve been to in the US. My favorite were ‘Cobra Curse’ – a unique coaster that spins backwards and forwards along the track and the ‘Montu’ – and Egyptian mummy themed ride.
Disneyland – Magic Kingdom
I first went to Disneyland Paris when I was a youngish teenager with my family. The one in Florida is so much bigger and extravagant. I had such a fantastic day with my family as we absorbed the Disney magic (don’t judge) and atmosphere. I think I lost my reputation when I queued for more than an half an hour to hug Tinkerbell and Mickie Mouse. I definitely forced my younger sister to come along so i can pretend to go for her sake (soz yasmin!).
Im a sucker for fireworks so obviously we waited until 9pm for the massive Happily Ever After fireworks show over Cinderella Castle. Crowds start to build from around 7pm so make sure you get there relatively early for a good spot! It was so much better than i remember!
We came here because my mum loves the SeaWorld and looking at sea animals. The most impressive show for me was the Killer Whale show, One Ocean. I was also excited to see the smaller animals such as the turtles, stingray (where we could touch!) and sea lions. I loved the fact that there are lots of educational aspects to SeaWorld, which is great for kids and adults! I was blown away by the penguins in Antarctica House! We came here with my cousin Noor and she told us some cool facts while walking around – thanks Noor!
If you’re visiting Orlando, then I recommed you visit SeaWorld without a doubt. The park as a whole was better than anything we hoped for and provided countless opportunity to learn about different marine life and enjoy some thrilling rides along the way!
We spent an entire day at Universal Studios and entered via the CityWalk. This is my father’s favorite as he loves his movies and famous actors etc.
I loved how much effort went into making the Harry Potter section in the park – particularly Diagon Alley and its ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. We went in an off-season (September) so the queues were minimal.
The favourite ride for everyone in my family is the Too Fast Too Furious ride.
Shopping in Orlando
Obviously you cant leave Florida without doing some shopping – especially if you’re a fan of designer labels! When we left Aquatica, we joined my parents at the Orlando International Premium Outlets, located on the north side of International Drive. We stayed there until it closed at 10pm (my family loves a good shop).
Shops range from Kate Spade, Coach, Michael Kors, DKNY, Nike and Levi’s. I bought a few presents for my fiancé and his family and splurged on a few things for myself. The Premium Outlets is outdoors too, so you can enjoy the glorious sunshine while you shop! Quick tip – you can get extra discounts if you go to Guest Services and sign up with them.