Monday, December 26, 2011

Visiting Florida

Florida in One Week

Florida is a long state - north of Florida to the keys is a 10 hours drive. World class theme parks, stretches of white sand beaches,hep metropolitan city-experience, exotic bird watching and quaint pirate towns are some of the highlights of a Floridian vacation. The list is enough for a week's indulgence.
Lets assume you fly into the Orlando International Airport. Now, Orlando itself has enough things-to-do and places-to-see to fill up a week's time. But lets spend only 3 days here. The visitor has to choose between the 4 Disney parks, 2 Universal Studio parks, 2 Sea World parks, the Gatorland, a trip to the Kennedy space museum and Cocoa Beach, when he has limited time.

Dolphin feeding @ Sea World,Orlando

Some of the must places to hit are:
DAY 1:
Disney World's Magic kingdom - caters to the interests of both travellers with or with-out children.The Cinderella's castle, the Philharmonic 3D show, 'its a small world' ride are some of my recommendations. Children will definitely have plenty of more things to do like meeting the Mickey Mouse, but if you are adult traveler and waiting in line for a photo with the Mouse doesn't tickle your fantasy, I should recommend you getting a Park Hopper ticket. It allows you to see more than 1 Disney parks in a day.The second park recommended for an adult traveler is the E.P.C.O.T with the very slow but wonderful ride through the human progress in the big round dome, the GM-test-drive-ride, and the miniatures of different countries sprawling around the lake. One can get the taste of the different cultures and cuisines as he travels from Mexico to the UK around the globe.


The must must ride you should get on is the Soaring. It is an exhilarating and awesome experience of flying over the state of California. I recommend getting a fast pass for the ride as soon as you get into E.P.C.O.T, and then explore the rest of the park, to avoid long lines for the ride. The normal wait is often 2-3 hours, and if you don't collect the fast pass before 12pm, you are most likely to get a slot after 4 hours- so plan accordingly.Whichever park you are in the day time, you should come back to the Magic Kingdom at around 7pm to grab a spot in front of the Castle for the daily Spectromagic parade followed by the truly magical 'Wishes' fireworks around the castle.

Wishes Fireworks

DAY 2:
On the second day, lets venture to the Universal Studios to explore the world of Harry Potter.I had found it as a very magical adventurous theme park. You can find the Three Broomsticks Restaurant, Hogshead pub with a real hog's head, the butterbear stalls, the newspapers cuttings with moving characters and the very fascinating ride of Harry Potter and the Forbidden journey.

Simpson's 4D ride @ Universal Studio's Adventureland

The Hogwarts Park

Though, I think this is more worth a visit, you can instead want to visit the Sea World. This is also an wonderful experience with shows with killer sharks and pet animals, and opportunities to feed baby dolphins.
DAY 3:
On the second evening, drive east from Orlando to the Cocoa Beach, and stay the night there. Wake up to the sounds of the strong waves and a brilliant sunrise sight. In the daytime, get over to the NASA's Kennedy space center ( Now, who does not find space exploration fascinating? Now, if you are lucky, you can get a chance to witness a live shuttle launch while in the area. If you are not driving, there are daily package tours from Orlando to the Space centre.

Clearwater Beach

DAY 4:
On the fourth day, start west from Orlando or Cocoa towards Tampa. You may opt to make a small stop at the Seminole Hard Rock casino ( It is only about 15 minutes drive from the city. If you did not see the Disney World's Animal Kingdom, you can visit the Busch Gardens in Tampa today. Have a fun day with wild life safaris and dangerously fun roller coaster rides. 

Tiger Hole @ Disney's Animal Kingdom

In the evening, drive further west to the Clearwater Beach.

Sunset @ Clearwater

You can alternatively stay in the St Petersburg city. These are cities with award winning white sand gulf beaches. Stay the night on one of the gulf beaches.
DAY 5:
On the fifth day in the morning, venture south after crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the Pinnealas County. It is a magnificent sight of architectural achievements made by mankind.

Sunshine Skyway bridge

From there the Everglades National Park is a 3 hours drive. You can make a stop at Sarasota if it seems a very long stretch to drive. Sarasota's Siesta Key Beach is one Florida's best. Or Ft Meyers is also a good stop. Details of Everglades NP can be found here: Everlades NP blog entry
DAY 6:
Key West from Everglades is a 4 hours long drive. The two way narrow US 1 is not a safe road to drive in the night. Besides you will also miss out on the wonderful feeling of driving over the ocean.

US 1

So, spend the fifth night in any of the modest accommodations in the Everglades City, and start early next morning.
DAY 7: 
Key West is a pirate city. Besides sea activities, other suggested activities are the Ghost Tours (Tripadvisor review), sunset celebrations at Mallory Square and seafood and key-lime pie eat outs. Key West was actually our favorite weekend gateway when we were Orlando residents. Key West is the southernmost point of the Continental US. If you have an extra day, you can make a day trip to Tortugas National Park -

Sunset @ Mallory Square

Leave Key West for Miami on the 7th day. One of our favorite stop on the way from Key West to Miami is Bahaia Honda State Park. 

Bahaia Honda SP

Miami, like Orlando can again be a vacation spot on its own, depending on your tastes.
DAY 8:
There is the magnificent South Beach, the millionaire houses and plethora of sea activities to explore here. Miami has the Hollywood touch to its style and glitz. It is a perfect city for a luxurious gateaway. You can catch your flight home on the eighth evening from Miami International airport.
Also note that you can also use the Key West internal airport EWY, if you want to make it a keys-vacation. Or Ft Lauderdale airport is also an alternative. It is only 45 minutes from Miami.

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