Travel Series: Destination Orlando!

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Destination Orlando

This past month, our president Paige Zutavern was privileged to return to Orlando, a place that sparkles with adventure. This time alongside her was foreign exchange student Lynn Ten Kate and another foreign exchange student Carmen Hope. The girls were thrilled for their first visit to Orlando and were geared up to embark on a magical adventure.  Orlando is a destination where children and adults alike can enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences exploring legendary theme parks, aquatic attractions and luxurious escapes. In a city with so much to offer and only one weekend to pack it all in, the group selected what they considered to be the “must see” attractions that Orlando has to offer.

Florida Magical Tours & Transportation | (877) 850-6946 | www.flmagicaltours.com

What other way to arrive in Orlando than to be picked up from the airport in our very own stretch limousine complete with a private driver ready to whisk us away on our many adventures! We used Florida Magical Tours & Transportation services for our transportation needs around Orlando during our stay. We couldn’t be more pleased with their exceptional service. Their team provided great communication beforehand to ensure everything went smoothly, always arrived on time and were extremely friendly and professional, and their fleet of vehicles was extensive to offer guests a variety of options. Their website is enormously user friendly. Users are able to preview their available fleet, request rates and estimates of travel based on the distance and location, and overly easy to secure your transportation needs confidently. Our driver was exceptionally friendly and very knowledgeable of the city.  Considering how high transportation costs can be, the service is very affordable considering. With every ride you can expect a meet and greet service, luggage assistance, no waiting in lines. Get straight to your destination and let the fun begin!
While in Orlando, we highly recommend using their services if looking to get around with ease. Thank you Florida Magical Tours for the VIP A+ Service!

Bongos Cuban Cafe | (407) 828-0999 | www.bongoscubancafe.com

We chose to have dinner at Bongos Cuban Cafe for our first night out. They offer guests an upbeat atmosphere and live music after 6 pm, which makes them a top choice for dining in Disney Springs, formally known as Downtown Disney. Enjoy hot Latin rhythms and authentic Cuban cuisine at this recreation of a 1950’s Havana nightclub. The establishment was created by Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio who serves Caribbean and Cuban Cuisine for lunch and dinner.

Our dinner experience was nothing short of exceptional – we had the entire Cuban experience during our stay. The wait staff was extremely attentive and did an exceptional job of timing our entrees for when they arrived at our table. We were thoroughly impressed with the level of service. The manager Tony Montana was really impressive. He was knowledgeable with offering recommendations and helping us with the pairing of our dishes to boost the flavors. It was astounding the difference it made. We really enjoyed his expertise and passion for the restaurant.  Known for their world-famous mojitos, we can say that we definitely agree. They were delicious and well balanced, not too sweet. In fact, everything we ordered was very fresh and flavorful.
We ordered the Estefan Cuban Combo, Grilled Seafood Platter, Shrimp with Garlic Sauce, the Cuban Skirt Steak and for desert we had the Chocolate Lava Cake and Chocolate Three Milk Cake with Cuban Coffee. The food portions are enormous, and came out quickly with a great presentation.

The performers walk around each table and are super friendly. There was even a Conga line which we were super excited about. Overall, a great spot with high energy for dinner – the staff were all so polite and our Cuban experience was a blast!

Disney World | (407-939-7679 |disneyworld.disney.go.com

One of the best things about Disney is that they have free transportation between all of the parks, so it doesn’t matter where you are staying, you can always get to other areas of Disney quickly and for no charge.  Disney World is always a must when we visit Orlando. Each time we visit we fall in love with the park more and more. It’s remarkable how you always find something new or a new favorite attraction with each visit. And of course, this was Lynn and Carmen’s first trip to Disney so there was much to see and do. Making sure to get a full day of exploring in, we arrived at the park when it opened and stayed until closing. Although Orlando was experiencing seasonally cold weather this day, we took advantage of our Park Hopper passes and were able to visit 3 out of the 4 available parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) was one of our favorite attractions. The thrilling accelerated drop tower has riders stepping straight into an episode of The Twilight Zone. After passing through the lobby of the enormous Hollywood Tower Hotel, they are informed via a pre-show video that the hotel was struck by lightning decades ago, sending some of its occupants spiraling into the Twilight Zone.

Whether you want to see something new each time you return, visit old favorites or introduce someone new to the magic of Disney World, you won’t ever be disappointed with your visit!

Air Force Fun Helicopter Tours | (407) 842-1446 | airforcefun.com

The next day we were able to see Orlando and its world famous attractions from another point of view – in a helicopter from above! Air Force Fun Helicopters Tours gives you an experience you won’t forget. If you are in search of a little adventure, this is a must!  Our group took Tour 4 which included a helicopter tour above the
Orlando Eye, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Wet’n’Wild, and Fun Spot America. Our pilot was extremely knowledgeable of the aircraft and the area which left us thoroughly impressed.  The side panels of our aircraft were even removed which offered an especially thrilling experience and unparalleled views. The tour left us with remarkable photos and was the highlight of our trip.

Dicks Last Resort| (321) 329-3002 | www.dickslastresort.com

After our helicopter tour we headed to neighboring restaurant Dicks Last Resort for lunch. Known for its outrageous, surly, and energetic servers, they offer service with sarcasm so make sure you are geared up for a slightly different dining experience than your typical restaurant. Lucky for us, we had a great time! Everyone received a signature handmade “chef” hat with custom wording from your waiter which adds to the fun of the place. Their lunch menu offers guests a variety of options, which is really nice. We ordered the Crab Legs, BBQ Chicken, and Steak & Shrimp for our entrees. For desert we ordered the Extreme Brownie Meltdown which was hands down the best part of lunch. Their specialty drinks were exceptionally large and served in a souvenir glass to take home with you. The quick-witted staff was fun and kept us entertained during our dining experience. The majority of the dining experience for us was watching other guests and their reactions to the service. This Orlando location attracts guests from all cultures, adults and children alike,
so it was entertaining to see others first impressions at Dicks Last Resort. We left with a handful of lasting memories. The place definitely lives up to its name! It’s fun for all and all in fun for those who dare to enter! Sit back and watch, or join in the fun. We left with a handful of lasting memories. The place definitely lives up to its name!

 
SeaWorld | 1-888-800-5447 | seaworld.com

For our next adventure we were off to SeaWorld for a day of fantastic experiences.
The overall park was well-designed and clean and they offer roller coasters for the thrill seekers and shows to be entertained while resting at the same time. One of the best parts is the wealth of informative and interactive features the park offers to guests. We took in both the dolphin and whale shows which were really spectacular – they were both educational and entertaining. Our favorite activity of the day was petting the stingrays, which was amazing.  It took an entire day to immerse ourselves in the park; we left at closing and cannot say enough positive things about SeaWorld. What a wondrous place!

Sharks Underwater Grill| 1-888-800-5447 | seaworld.com

After a full day of exploring SeaWorld we had a dinner reservation in their very own Sharks Underwater Grill. Sharks Underwater Grill, an old aquarium exhibit now transformed into a full-service restaurant, offers guests a fascinating dining experience in terms of class and ambiance. We found it very relaxing to eat while watching sharks and other fish swim in an aquarium that fills up the entire dining area. Not to mention, the seafood was exceptional. W
e ordered the Mussels as an appetizer, and the Ahi Tuna, Tempura Shrimp, and Seafood Pasta as our main dishes–the portion sizes were immense! Our waiter Daniel was amazing and super attentive to our needs.

As you can see, there’s a reason why Orlando is on our list of favorite vacation spots. Whether you are taking your family, a group of friends, small children or teenagers, there is always plenty to keep everyone entertained and you’ll never get bored with all that this premier travel destination has to offer. If you haven’t made plans to visit yet, you should definitely put it on your list!

Our stay in Orlando was truly nothing short of magical. We really had a fantastic time in Orlando and highly recommend these venues as the best Florida has to offer!