Working Hard Leads to Playing Hard in Florida
One of the things I encourage my coaching clients is taking scheduled time out away from business to refresh and enjoy life. I took some of my own advice, and my family made the most out of Spring Break to travel to Florida; the Sunshine State. Getting away from your business for a period of time allows you to experience the fruits of the labor. It's a work hard, play hard mentality. Here is a recount of our trip if you're considering Florida for your next vacation.
We made the decision to fly into Tampa over Orlando on our Sunday - Sunday trip because of the significant difference in flight costs. When we arrived, thank goodness we had already pre-checked for our rental car with Enterprise as the car lines were hours long. We walked straight to the garage, and Kennedy, the manager on duty, gave us an upgrade from a Nissan Maxima to a 2022 BMW 330i. So far, off to a great start. The trip from Tampa to our place of residence for the week, Marriott's Cypress Harbour Villas in Orlando, was only suppose to take a little over an hour. Due to traffic on I-4, which I've determined to be the worst interstate in the country, it took over 2 hours in bumper to bumper traffic.
After buying points on the secondary timeshare market, we secured a stay at Marriott's Cypress Harbour Villas in Orlando featuring 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, a laundry room, and a screened in porch. The property offered several activities including boating, fishing, volleyball, pickle ball, multiple heated pools and spas, bar, restaurant, and much more. I highly recommend this place especially if you're planning to visit any of the Disney parks or Universal. Marriott's Cypress Harbour Villas was centrally located to the attractions and less than a mile to Sea World. Having stayed on Disney properties in the past at Disney World, we found actually being off site and parking in the lots was much faster than taking the complimentary buses; though you paid for daily parking.
Our first theme park to conquer for the week was Disney's Animal Kingdom. The first ride we rode was Kilimanjaro Safaris. Having been on this ride before, I was a bit disappointed that they removed the storyline of tracking down the illegal hunters of elephants for their tusks. Many of the animals were asleep or away from the vehicle, and after pumping up the baby white rino new to the park by the guide, it was no where to be seen. If you are looking to test your patience, any Disney line will provide the opportunity to be tested including this line that was 80+ minutes long.
Some of the highlights of the park included: Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters - The Kingdom Takes Flight, Dinosaur, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, It's Tough to be a Bug, Na'vi River Journey, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Our favorite ride in the park was Avatar Flight of Passage. This immersive ride is one of the best theme park rides I've ever ridden, and be prepared for a long line. It took nearly two hours!
Our second theme park for the week was Disney's Hollywood Studios. The park was definitely crowded, and it showed in the lines including a 3 hour wait to ride Tower of Terror. Lightning passes are the new "opportunity" that replaced the old "fast pass" system. My understanding is that Disney shifted to Lightning Passes because of COVID. You pay basically to play, and you can only purchase passes every few hours, and they are limited in number. While we did secure a couple of passes, by 12:00 pm, there were no more passes available for any of the rides that day. This move shifts people into the regular cue thus increasing wait times. It was actually miserable, and because of the experience, we may not do Disney again.
Our favorite rides at Disney's Hollywood Studios included: Toy Story Mania!, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog Dash, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Star Tours - The Adventure Continues.
One other thing you will want to consider when booking tickets for any Disney or Universal park is that you must reserve your tickets in advance. With their current policies, they are only allowing an alloted number into the park. The best way to get set up is to book your next Disney or Universal trip through Premier Custom Travel.
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Our final day of our theme park tour ended with Universal's Islands of Adventure. With 12 and 15 year old children, Universal was a much better experience when compared to Disney. The rides are definitely designed for the thrill seeker.
What we liked about the setup of the park is that unlike the spoke pattern used by Disney, Universal is setup in a circle. The park was much more compact reducing the amount of steps and time between rides. Though the park was packed, the number of attractions spread the crowds out making wait times not nearly as long as those at Disney parks. Other than the 2+ hour wait for the popular Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, most of the rides were under an hour. As we got into the evening, some wait times on rides were under 10 minutes.
Our two favorite rides were Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. These two roller coasters are probably the most intense I've ever been on. The VelociCoaster hit speeds of 70 mph and had several moments where I was not touching the seat. This ride also claimed my fairly new Houston Oilers hat:(
Other favorite rides included: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Doctor Doom's Fearfall, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk Coaster. While we ate in the park for convenience, you could leave the park for several top end restaurants located in City Walk.
One of our goals for the trip was to visit a beach on the Gulf side of the state and a beach on the Atlantic side. While this required some traveling, it was well worth it. Our first stop was the beach of Fort DeSoto; located south of Tampa.
Ft. DeSoto was puchased initially by the federal government in 1938, and then after being sold, was then purchased by the government in 1941 to be used as a gunnery and bombing range in World War II. The fort is located steps from the beach open to tour. The beach was beautiful, and during our time there we saw several eagles, a shark, and a small pod of dolphins.
Our second beach was located just south of New Symrna Beach. With the Spring Break crowds, we chose to head slightly south to Bethune Beach. While it was still crowded because of Spring Break, there were a lot more families visiting this beach. The sand was powdery and amazing. We soaked up the sun for a few hours before heading back to our homebase for the week; Orlando. The trip was about an hour and a half each way.
The Food During the Trip
One of the best parts of taking a vacation is experiencing new food. Here is an overview of our experience.
The food in the parks was absolutely awful, and though we ate it out of convenience, I would recommend having an alternative plan if possible; especially if food is an important part of the experience. Now I will say, we did not eat at any of the speciality restaurants while there, and we've done this before and the food was great.
One evening we ate at Blaze Pizza in Disney Springs. Although the line was about an hour, the pizza was great. I thought slightly better than Mod Pizza. For dessert, we headed over to Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop for a sundae.
Universal City Walk and Islands of Adventure
The food at Universal was much better. CityWalk offers many higher end food offerings including the restaurant we had lunch at one of our days in Orlando; The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Our kids both had ridiculous shakes with their lunch. The food was great.
The food inside Islands of Adventure left much to be desired though we found great food for dinner while in the park at Three Broomsticks located in the Harry Potter-themed portion of the park.
Our nearly 3 hour trip to Ft. DeSoto pushed our lunch late into the afternoon. Needless to say, we were starving. We parked at the concession/snack bar/souvenir shop next to the fort to access the beach. They served great, old fashion style cheeseburgers and fries.
When we visted New Symrna before driving out to Bethune Beach, we had dinner with family from Florida at Yellow Dog Eats. They offered a variety of sandwiches including several different pulled pork sandwiches. The food and vibe of the place was excellent.
We loved our trip to Florida with our kids for Spring Break. Like always, our goal is to create new memories through experiences, and my wife and I felt like that was accomplished. Though exhausted, and needing a vacation from the vacation, it was a successful trip.
Coach Jeremy Williams Travel Adventures
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