Half the fun of visiting Orlando with kids
is that it's an excuse for adults to unashamedly share their
favorite theme parks with the next generation. Thanks to a steady
influx of new attractions nearly every year, the destination
remains fresh even for repeat visitors, and 2007 is no exception.
During a recent
visit with a group that included my 14-year-old daughter and other
children ages 8 to 11, I took in as many of Orlando's top new rides
and venues as possible in five days.
We moved at
breakneck speed, but there was still plenty of fun left undone for
" Universal Studios Orlando: The hot ticket at Universal CityWalk is Blue Man Group,
which will permanently occupy the new Sharp Aquos Theater. The
show, which fills the gap for people looking for something do to in
the evening apart from dining and bar-hopping, was a hit with
everyone in our group, despite our diverse ages. A word of advice:
Those who sit in the first few rows should wear protective
The hot ticket at
Universal CityWalk is Blue Man Group, which will permanently occupy
the new Sharp Aquos Theater. The show, which fills the gap for
people looking for something do to in the evening apart from dining
and bar-hopping, was a hit with everyone in our group, despite our
diverse ages. A word of advice: Those who sit in the first few rows
should wear protective ponchos.
Tickets are $59 for
adults, $49 for kids ages 3 to 9 and $112 in combination with theme
" Walt Disney World: While my daughter and I usually gravitate toward rides over
shows at theme parks, the new "Finding Nemo -- The Musical" at
Disney's Animal Kingdom is an exception.
Disney's "The Lion King" in terms of presentation -- characters are
beautifully rendered, puppet-like creations that actors hold above
their heads -- the show alone is worth the price of admission to
That said, we also
made time to take in the new Expedition Everest coaster ride, part
of which runs backward in the dark. We found it to be just scary
enough to brag about but not too much to handle.
Even better for
multigenerational groups is the cute "It's Tough to Be a Bug" 3-D
show and Kilimanjaro Safaris, a live animal attraction.
" Discovery Cove: Similar
to the private-island experience offered on cruises, Discovery Cove
packs in dolphin encounters, a lazy-river ride through an aviary
teeming with birds and a snorkeling lagoon full of
Since our last
visit, the park has become all-inclusive, which means that the
1,000 guests admitted each day don't have to pay for food and
drink, including Anheuser-Busch beverages, while in the
The Trainer for a
Day program, new this year, enables up to eight guests at a time to
spend time with animal experts as they interact with dolphins,
tropical birds, sloths and anteaters.
Discovery package is also new. On summer evenings on Tuesdays
through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., 150 guests are admitted to
the park for live music, cookouts and sunset dolphin
Packages are priced
from $259 per person ($159 without dolphin interaction) and include
a seven-consecutive-day pass to SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens
" SeaWorld Orlando: The
big news at SeaWorld is Aquatica, a water park that will include
animal experiences, 36 water slides and an 80,000-square-foot beach
area. All are scheduled to open in March.
In the meantime,
SeaWorld Adventure Park has added three kiddie rides in Shamu's
Happy Harbor and an Elmo show.
While some of the
braver kids in our group tried Kraken, billed as Orlando's longest,
tallest and fastest floorless roller coaster, my daughter and I
spent a happy half-hour at Journey to Atlantis, a ride that walks
the fine line between thrills and terror. We also took in
"Believe," an eye-popping show combining performances by killer
whales with dance and music.
At dinner, we ate
under the watchful eye of marine predators at Sharks Underwater
Grill, followed by a rock 'n' roll concert in Shamu Stadium called
Shamu Rocks, featuring live music, lights and killer
" Kennedy Space Center: Somehow, this attraction had never made it onto our radar
before. We were suitably impressed by the experience, particularly
the new Shuttle Launch Experience that simulates a blast-off on the
space shuttle, complete with facial vibrations.
We also took
advantage of the Lunch With an Astronaut program, whereby retired
NASA astronauts -- in our case, Charles Walker -- give a talk,
answer questions about space travel over lunch and pose for
pictures for small groups, for $22.99 per person.
We watched the
latest IMAX space film, "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the
Moon 3-D," and visited the International Space Station Center,
which features full-scale models of station modules.
A tour of the
Astronaut Hall of Fame, with its artifacts, interactive displays
and a mission-control console, rounded out the day.
Numerous tours that
include some or all of these sites are available. Admission to the
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is $38 for adults, $28 for
kids 3 to 11.
" Wekiwa Springs State Park: For an antidote to the theme park tempo, we spent a morning
on a guided canoe ride in Wekiwa Springs State Park, where we
encountered thrills of a different kind: a couple of lazy
alligators snoozing on fallen logs and a host of exotic birds. Plan
to spend at least two hours at the park and enjoy the admission
price of only $1 per person.
" The Nick Hotel: There
are plenty of reasons to stay overnight at Walt Disney World or
Universal Studios, but families looking to visit multiple parks
might want to opt for a centrally located resort with shuttle
services to parks.
We bedded down at
the Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, also known as the
Nick Hotel, where we had stayed on a prior trip to Orlando. There,
my daughter and I swam during our down time.
She and her friends
got "slimed" on stage, and we ate breakfast with some of the most
famous characters from the Nickelodeon TV channel.
include a more upscale dining option in the Nicktoons Cafe, an
expanded Kid's Spa experience and the supervised Nick After Dark
program, which enables parents to enjoy a night out without the
The hotel has suite
accommodations that include two bedrooms, one with twin or bunk
beds and the other with a double bed. The living room has a
pull-out couch and flat-screen TV; the kitchenette has a sink,
fridge and microwave. Although there were only two of us sharing
the suite, on other visits our entire family of five has stayed in
the same suite in comfort.
three-bedroom suites also are available. Rates start at $224 per
contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].