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Riding High In Orlando

15/09/2017 10:06

From the fast-paced rollercoasters to the dizzy heights of the circus top, Suzanne Baum led the high-life on a recent visit to Florida.

It was my first visit to Orlando in 30 years and despite my kids' excitement I approached it with trepidation, fearing the high exchange rate, the forecasted storms and my motion-sickness may turn it on its head. And how right I was - for there was many a time my sons were left hanging upside down.....thanks to the theme park capital of the world!

With an action-packed itinerary planned, it made sense to ease ourselves in gently and Seaworld's Discovery Cove was the perfect place to begin. The sheer lushness of the place is a huge eye-opener and we immediately felt like we had stepped into a tropical oasis.

The ultimate experience is the opportunity to swim with dolphins - we loved meeting Kayleigh, taking it in turns to swim alongside her.

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Discovery Cove

Taking the plunge at Seaworld was going to be a far more challenging experience, especially with my family fixated on tackling the Mako ride.

How can something designed to leave you breathless as you skim over the park along 4,760ft of track be fun, I joked, reluctantly giving permission for my husband to take my eldest son on it.

And then straight away they were up for The Kraken....yet another ride!

My plan to bring the kids back down to earth backfired as our next trip was to the Space Kennedy Centre. We were fascinated by the artefacts and technology from the space missions and the highlight of the day was having lunch with an astronaut.

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Kennedy Space Centre

We spent our first week in a villa near Kissimmee and then moved things up a notch by heading to the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, perfectly located on site at Universal. The hotel might have been full but you would not have noticed - presumably everyone is out sampling all that Orlando has to offer.

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The Hard Rock hotel

Hard Rock Hotel is the closest of all the Universal hotels to the theme park which proved to be a huge bonus for us.

It had a great laid back vibe, with a fantastically curated backdrop of music and on every floor a huge array of memorabilia from legends of music creating the atmosphere. The informal relaxed tone is the perfect bedfellow for the thrills of Orlando.

We were lucky enough to meet the hotel's Vibe Manager, Molly Ford, who is responsible for curating the music played throughout the hotel - including under the water in the pool. There was live music by the large pool, which also boasts a sand beach and the kids loved the night time 'dive-in' movies.

This being one of the world's most exciting food destinations, my expectations for the hotel were high but they managed to exceed them. Amongst the many dining options at the hotel was The Kitchen where the food was so delicious we dined there on three occasions.

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Universal

One of the biggest perks of staying at the Hard Rock is that guests are provided with complimentary Universal Express Unlimited passes, which meant we could skip the regular queues on almost every ride. Many people stay at the Hard Rock purely to take advantage of the passes and you also gain the opportunity to enter Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the park opens.

Taking advantage of our early start we got to the front of the queue at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, being entertained by the talking portraits in Hogwarts Castle along the way.
We then boarded the Hogwarts Express and took the train over to Kings Cross in Universal Studios Florida.

At Islands of Adventure, adrenalin junkies are spoilt. There are so many rides - do visit The Simpsons section!

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The Blue Man

Orlando has so much to offer -including amazing shows - a visit to The Blue Man and La Nouba (a Cirque du Soleil show which will sadly close its doors soon) is a must. We also had a great indoor sky diving experience at iFly on International Drive.

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i-fly

Having watched the hundreds of kids -- and adults -- experience the time of their lives everywhere we went, I finally cracked the secret to why this place is so ageless. It's simple: you may not be able to be a kid forever, but in Orlando, you can always be a child at heart.

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