- April 12th 2012
Orlando’s extensive line-up of theme parks is perhaps most famous for its impressive selection of dark rides, such as the classic Peter Pan’s Flight at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the high-tech Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. However, while the area’s roller coasters are perhaps less-renowned, they are still some of the very best on offer anywhere in the world. Here’s a run-down of 10 amazing coaster experiences in Orlando.
10. Kraken (SeaWorld Orlando)
While it features weaker theming than SeaWorld Orlando’s other thrill rides, the towering Kraken is still not-to-be-missed. The lengthy floorless coaster includes a 119-feet-tall vertical loop, a diving loop, a cobra roll, a zero gravity roll and some G-force-inducing turns, which more than make up for its dull setting. Don’t forget to check out the eels that live in tanks underneath the ride, which represent the Kraken’s offspring.
9. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit (Universal Studios Florida)
Opened in August 2009 after months of delays, Hollywood, Rip, Ride, Rockit was plagued by technical problems for a long period but is now running slightly more smoothly. Towering over Universal Studios Florida, the Rockit features a long vertical lift-hill followed by a steep drop into a non-inverting loop. A series of twists and turns follow, and the entire ride is accompanied by a music track that you can select personally using an iPod-like device. You’ll be hard-pushed to concentrate on the tune, though, as you race around the 3800-foot circuit.
8. Dragon Challenge (Islands of Adventure)
Opened alongside the rest of Islands of Adventure in 1999, Dragon Challenge was originally known as Dueling Dragons. The name was a nod to its design, which features two separate inverted coasters with circuits that are intertwined. Absorbed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, the two coasters are now known as the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail. Both feature five inversions in their intense, high-velocity circuits, but sadly they are no longer synchronized after a series of incidents in which guests were hit by falling objects.
7. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
The oldest operating coaster in Florida is still one of its best, despite its relatively tame design. What Space Mountain lacks in big drops and fast speeds, it makes up through its pitch-black indoor setting. The “wild mouse”-style ride is packed with tight turns and small drops, which are enhanced significantly by the fact that riders cannot see them coming. An extensive refurbishment in 2009 resulted in an overhaul of the coaster’s dull queue line, which is now packed with interactive experiences.
6. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
A roller coaster that features rock stars Aerosmith in its storyline may sound like a strange fit for Disney, but in typical fashion its Imagineers succeeded in creating a musical tour-de-force. The plot is cleverly tied to the ride’s design, with guests racing across town in a limousine to catch the band’s next concert. After a start which sees the trains launched from 0 to 57 miles per hour in just 2.8 seconds, the ride then soars past illuminated road signs in an otherwise pitch-black setting. The on-board audio adds to the experience, and even non-rock fans will find it hard to resist head-banging along. Read more »
- March 10th 2012
It’s time for the second in our March Madness Spring Break Travel series. Last week, we visited The Bahamas. This week, we’re staying closer to home with a trip to Florida. Now, it’s no secret that Florida is one of our favorite destinations. As well as covering airports in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, we’ve provided travel tips, and posts about different Florida experiences such as go-karting and other attractions. One of the places we haven’t talked about much is Daytona Beach and given its history in the Spring Break tradition, that’s where we’re going today.
Daytona Beach – Spring Break History
When Spring Break trips really took off after the release of Where The Boys Are, Daytona Beach decided to get some of the Spring Break action, opening its beaches, clubs and doors to college students and collecting lots of money while it did so. According to SpringBreak.com, MTV came to Daytona Beach for Spring Break in the early 1980s and this soon resulted in the area becoming the biggest Spring Break city by the mid 1980s. At its peak, more than half a million students visited the city. Rising crime and rising prices eventually sent many students elsewhere, though Daytona Beach still remains a popular spring break destination.
Five Fun Facts about Daytona Beach Read more »
- February 23rd 2012
If you’re thinking about heading off to Florida for spring break (more on that tomorrow), then consider Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) as an alternative to Orlando International Airport. About 18 miles north of Jacksonville itself, the airport is just a couple hours’ drive from Orlando, home of popular theme parks and many more Florida attractions.
History of JAX
Originally, the airport was built to help the city cope with an influx of passengers because of large regional naval bases. Construction began in 1965. The airport replaced Imeson Field and also became home to a small air force base, the Jacksonville Air National Guard Base. At the start, the airport was slow to expand, carrying about 2 million passengers a year, but when passenger numbers increased, an expansion plan was put into place, starting in 2000 and ongoing, with plans to extend the concourses by 2020. The airport has two runways and two concourses, A and C. Concourse B is scheduled for rebuilding in the near future. JAX airport handles almost 6 million passengers a year with main airlines served being American, AirTran, Delta, Continental, JetBlue, Southwest, United and US Airways.
JAX Airport Parking and Services
JAX airport parking is never going to be a problem. Our Jacksonville airport parking locations Travel Time Parking, VIP Park & Ride and Parking Club Airport Parking supplement the on-site facilities.(Don’t forget to check our airport parking reservations site for coupons and web only rates.) Other passenger amenities include free wi-fi, rocking chairs, live music and a range of shops and restaurants. Find out more on the terminal maps. While moving through the airport check out the art made local school children and the airport’s Haskell Art Gallery.
Things to Do Near JAX Read more »
- December 1st 2011
Florida is one of my favorite places. Here, Adriano Comegna shares the reasons he thinks the Sunshine State is worth a visit.
1. Florida enjoys 3,200 hours of sunshine a year. Orange juice is the Official State Beverage and over two million alligators patrol the state’s waterways. It is a playground for the super-rich and a hideaway for eccentrics. From the beginning of June to the end of November it’s hurricane season. And, of course, it is the theme park capital of the world.
2. Standards of service are universally excellent. In Florida, as in the rest of the US, servers are paid half the minimum wage, the balance being made up by tips. 15%-20% is customary to the extent that it can be taken as an insult if a tip is not forthcoming. Obviously if service is bad, complain. Service matters here – people are proud of what they do and, if you accept this cultural difference and budget accordingly, you will be guaranteed a smashing time.
3. A local delicacy well worth seeking out is the stone crab. The only part that’s eaten is the claw, which with a blindfold and mayo, is as close as you’ll get to lobster without actually eating lobster. Stone crab fishermen remove the biggest claw from stone crabs before dropping them back in the sea. The crab can still defend itself and within 18 months has grown a new claw.
4. Florida is known as the sunshine state. Those 3,200 hours a year help produce mangoes, papaya, guava, passion fruit and citrus of every description. Breakfast can seem like the best meal of the day. If options allow, choose the buffet.
5. Sited as far south as feasible, in order to benefit from the ‘slingshot’ effect of the spinning earth, the Kennedy Space Center saw the last shuttle roll to a halt on July 21st 2011. It remains a monument to the first space age. Attractions include the Saturn V rocket, the launch simulation room at the Apollo Centre, the Rocket Garden and tours of the launch pads.
6. The Florida Keys are closer to Cuba than the US and have a charm and laid-back intensity all of their own. The writer Ernest Hemingway loved it here and, on wilder nights, would referee boxing matches in a local restaurant.
7. The Art Deco architecture of South Miami is famous worldwide and is a magnet for photographers. Sign up for one of the gossipy walking tours and discover niches and corners usually undiscovered by tourists.
8.Founded by conquistador Leon in 1509, St Augustine is the oldest settlement on the US mainland. Cobbled streets, Spanish renaissance architecture and a sprinkling of galleries and antique shops make for a quaint break from the bustle and shine of 21st century Florida.
9. No visit to Florida would be complete without a visit to a theme park. The choice is staggering, the theme park business having been almost invented here. Disney of course is king, with all things mouse and Pixar celebrated here. Usually the ride is constructed after a hit movie. Not so with ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ at Disneyland. Expect a soaking. [Ed: check out Orlando Airport Parking if you're planning a visit to a Florida theme park.]
10. The Everglades are a primeval landscape of mangroves and alligators. Take an airboat tour to glimpse wildlife and enjoy a landscape that hasn’t changed since the last ice age. Complete your journey in Miami with a spicy Cuban style dinner. The food here seldom disappoints. Enjoy.
Adriano Comegna writes on behalf of Thomson holidays, a leading travel operator specialising in Florida holidays.
- September 15th 2011
One of the best tours we did on my recent trip to Florida also proved to be one of the hardest to get to. Remember I told you about the one time we didn’t use Ovi Maps? It was on that trip. We were trying to get to Babcock Wilderness Adventures to do an eco-tour, but although the directions said we should turn off onto State Road 31, that road was nowhere to be seen from the Interstate. We eventually caved in and phoned again, going the long way round. We also missed our lunchtime slot, putting our subsequent planned trip in jeopardy. That’s travel for you!
So when we finally got there, we were feeling tired and frustrated after all the driving. However, the atmosphere soon put us at ease. There were trees everywhere, with little huts we could explore. As we had time to kill before the next tour, we had a look round the shop and checked out the exhibits. One of the most striking of these was Lulu the three horned cow, who had caused quite a sensation in her day, but now exists as a mounted head. Spooky!
Exhibits seen, we sat in the shade and waited for our bus to arrive. Titled the tour buggy, it was an old school bus repainted in camouflage colors, and with very little in the way of suspension, if the bouncing around was anything to judge by. Our tour guide was a Floridian who originally hailed from the South and whose singsongy voice talked us through the 90 minute tour.
I really enjoyed riding through the cypress forests, spotting birds and wildlife, seeing long horned cows that looked like something out of a Western and trying to spot the gators. There was even a panther (safely behind bars) and the chance to stretch our legs on a short walk through the forest.
Since the gators were a little bit shy, our tour guide gave us the chance to stroke a baby alligator on our return. It was hard to tell whether the other members of the tour were enthralled or appalled, but some of us had a go. The gator’s skin was surprisingly smooth and cool to the touch.
Overall, I would say the Babcock Wilderness Eco-Tour is well worth doing. The guides know what they’re talking about (ours was a riot) and the location is beautiful. Highly recommended.