Theme parks and hotels provide fun holiday activities

The Holiday Season is Magical in Orlando

By Phyllis Steinberg

Hundreds of families waited in long lines and endured nine-degree temperatures in The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, FL at the resort’s “Ice” display which runs through Jan.2. Two million pounds of ice were carved into magnificent holiday displays which included an ice slide where young and old bundled up and slid down the ice. Hotel staffers handed out heavy parkas to those who didn’t come dressed for the occasion

The huge “Ice” spectacular is just one of many magical activities that await visitors to Orlando during the holiday season. Thousands of brightly colored lights depicting holiday scenes glow throughout the city and at the theme parks.

Universal Studios Orlando has many activities for the family during the holiday season including the famous Macy’s Holiday parade which is performed for several weeks. Disney’s Magic Kingdom is presenting “Mickey’s Very Special Christmas Party” on selected evenings throughout the holiday season.

There are many new rides at the theme parks this season to spark memorable adventures for families. The lines for the newest rides were the longest on my recent visit, but Universal and Disney have fastpass machines that allow guests to re-schedule a time later in the day to go on many of the busier rides without waiting, thus avoiding long wait times for the most popular attractions.

The newest attraction at the Magic Kingdom is “Stitch’s Great Escape.” This delightful adventure may be too scary for children under six but will be loved by the rest. The attraction uses the latest technology of smell and touch to wreck havoc among the audience.

“Mickey’s Philharmonic Magic” is another recent addition to the Magic Kingdom. Here, the lovable Donald Duck directs an orchestra in 3-D with lots of instruments flying in all directions.

Epcot has the thrilling Mission-SPACE to make this holiday extra special for young and old. Four passengers are assigned a space craft, (which was actually designed with the help of ASTA space engineers), and it is their job to prepare for a mission to Mars. One of my travelling companions on Mission- SPACE was an eight-year old boy, attired in a space suit and accompanied by his father. Both father and son, had a great time on the ride and worked together, each performing certain tasks insuring a safe landing on Mars. Memories like this last a lifetime.

Epcot, which boasts exhibits from many lands such as China, Norway, and Japan, was all aglow with entertainment. In front of the Norway pavilion were singers, dressed in their native costumes, and outside of the China pavilion a man did magic tricks.

Universal Studios’s newest ride, “Revenge of the Mummy” is a thrilling roller coaster ride, mainly in the dark, into the tomb of a mummy. You are not allowed to carry backpacks or purses on the ride, but handy lockers are provided just outside the ride to check your belongings. A machine scans your fingerprint and locks and unlocks your locker. Universal has really gone hi-tech with this ride. For those who are afraid of roller coasters, “Revenge of the Mummy” is certainly not in the category of the giant roller coasters. It is a lot of fun with dozens of special effects. I’m not a fan of roller coasters, but I really enjoyed this ride. Another tip for avoiding long waits is to go in the single passenger line. I decided to brave it alone and got on the ride in less than five minutes.

Don’t overlook Sea World Adventure Park this holiday season. The lines are shorter at this park and the attractions are fun and educational. New, this year is “Shark’s Underwater Grill,” a restaurant where you can dine with sharks swimming next to you in a giant walled aquarium. You can also dine next to “Shamu” the killer whale who year after year continues to amaze the audience with his repertoire of outstanding tricks.

Also, you can cool off in the Penguin Encounter Exhibit where dozens of species of penguins make their home at Sea World Adventure Park. There is also Stingray Lagoon where youngsters have fun petting the Stingrays.

Even McDonald’s Restaurants are special in Orlando. There are eight “Bistro Gourmet” McDonald’s in Orlando which serve made to order breakfast, lunch and dinners on real plates with silverware. These McDonald’s also have pool tables and game rooms. Try these “Bistro Gourmets” for extraordinary omelettes, waffles, pastas and gourmet coffees. Check out Orlando locations at www.mcfun.com.

I stayed at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center on this visit to Orlando and loved it. There are acres of beautiful gardens and replicas of Florida locales such as the St. Augustine with its famous fortress and a Key West fishing village, complete with its own sailboat. Gaylord Palms also has a Canyon Ranch Spa Club which offers 25-massage, facial and body treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The Gaylord Palms also offers free transportation to the theme parks and has a computer in every room with free internet access for all guests. The resort also has many restaurants in a variety of price ranges and a wonderful buffet restaurant called “Villa de Flores.”

The “Ice” spectacular is well worth the wait to visit this holiday season at the Gaylord Palms Resort and they give everyone who attends a blast of cold air in sunny Orlando and a free cup of hot chocolate afterward.

For more information about events in Orlando, visit Orlando’s official website at orlandoinfo.com or call toll-free at 800-551-0181.

Photos by Phyllis Steinberg

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