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Immerse yourself in thrills in Orlando

Each year, hundreds of people living in RVs travel southward to stay in the warm weather found in Florida, Texas, and other states in the far south. One of the most popular of these destinations is Orlando, Florida, and this is by no means an accident.

Orlando is home to some of the world’s greatest amusement parks, and folks from all over the world make their way down to this southern city to experience the thrills.

If you are considering a trip down south, I highly recommend a visit to Orlando. No matter how old you are, you are certain to find something you love about this welcoming, fun-filled city. Here are just a few of the many options you’ll find in the area.

Walt Disney World Resort

Quite possibly the most sought-after attraction in Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort is well worth a visit of at least several days. Even folks who dislike most amusement parks will tell you Disney World is wonderful.

The resort consists of four theme parks, two water parks, a campground, two miniature golf courses, a shopping district, and a collection of hotels.

I highly recommend staying in the Disney campground, Fort Wilderness, if at all possible. This campground is home to an amazing swimming pool, complete with water slide, a restaurant and horseback riding. Each night, there is a campfire in Fort Wilderness that includes a sing-along and a visit from Chip and Dale.

S’mores fixings are available for purchase, or you may bring your own. This event is open to the public, so even if you aren’t staying at Fort Wilderness you can stop in for the campfire fun.

The four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios — are the main attractions at the resort.

Magic Kingdom is a must-see and features the iconic Cinderella Castle at the center of the park. EPCOT has two parts: one with a focus on the future, and the other being a walk through various “countries” complete with shops and restaurants.

Animal Kingdom focuses all of its attractions on animals and nature, while Hollywood Studios is centered around the magic of movies. All of the parks are wonderful, and all deserve at least a day of your trip.

The Disney parks are open every day. Admission prices depend on the number of days you will be spending in the parks, and the price per day gets lower the more days you spend. The gate rate for a one-day, one-park ticket starts at $97, depending upon time of year.  For more information, visit disneyworld.disney.go.com

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando is another resort that is perfect for more adventurous theme park visitors. The resort boasts a handful of hotels, a shopping district referred to as City Walk, and two theme parks.

The first theme park, Universal Studios, puts guests right in the middle of the action in such movies as Transformers, E.T., and Despicable Me. The equally fascinating second park, Islands of Adventure, is newer and features rides and attractions based on The Simpsons, the Dr. Seuss movies, and Marvel stories.

Both parks have an incredible Harry Potter section, and for fans of the wizarding world, this alone is worth the price of admission.

The Universal theme parks are open seven days a week. The cost of admission varies depending on the number of days spent in the parks, but tickets purchased at the gate start at $105 for one day at one park. For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com

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Beaches

Orlando is about an hour away from an assortment of beaches. Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, and New Smyrna Beach are the three closest ones, and all are wonderful choices.

Our personal favorite is New Smyrna Beach. The sand at this beach is beautiful and white, the people are all friendly, and we have never seen it get overly crowded (though we haven’t yet visited on a holiday).

We love that we can park right on the beach for easy access, and the $10 daily fee is very reasonable. My son loves to jump in the waves and make sand castles, and my husband and I enjoy relaxing by the beach and visiting the nearby Nichols Surf Shop and Cafe for a coffee drink after our visit.

There are plenty of other shops and restaurants near the beach to keep anyone happy for quite a while, and the little shopping area is pretty cute. For more information on New Smyrna Beach, click here.

Orlando Science Center

This enormous hall of science is the perfect place to spend a rainy day. It is entertaining for children, and ideal for bringing out the inner child in all of us. The free dome theater is incredible and gives you the sensation of being in the movie. Other notable exhibits include the nature exhibit, which has plenty of interesting animals, as well as the huge dinosaur exhibit.

The museum does have a cafe and a Subway inside, but honestly, I recommend bringing in your own food.

Additionally, this science center is a part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers Passport program which means admission is free if you carry membership to another member museum. Otherwise, admission to this center is $19.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids, and $17.95 for seniors.

For more information, visit www.osc.org.

Pick-Your-Own Farms

The warm weather in Florida is ideal for growing incredible fruit. Take advantage of this by visiting one of the many “pick-your-own” farms in the Orlando area. This is a great way to teach kids about where our food comes from, an excellent way to make some memories, and a perfect way to bring home some delicious Florida fruit for your family to enjoy.

The price to pick and operating hours vary by farm, but you can check the list linked above to find the websites of many farms in and around Orlando.

To find a farm in the Orlando area, click here.

Other Notable Attractions

There are several other popular attractions in the Orlando area for families and adults alike. Here are a few I recommend:

Orlando Museum of Art — Great for art lovers, and best for adults without kids. Features contemporary, historical and cultural art collections. Click here for more information.

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens — Small but lovely zoo with a splash pad and paid animal interactions. Part of Association of Zoos and Aquariums reciprocity program, that means people get discounted admission if they are members of other member organizations. Features more than 500 animals representing 205 species (not including bugs), but for real adventure, consider the ZOOm Air Adventure Park. For more information, visit www.centralfloridazoo.org.

SeaWorld — Cool cross between aquarium and amusement park. Definitely worth a visit. For more information, click here.

Legoland — Perfect for the younger crowd, ages 12 and under. Especially great if you have a Lego block lover in your family. Click here for details.

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Places to Eat

In Orlando, food is half the fun. As one of the largest cities in Florida and an international destination, Orlando is home to a delicious variety of foods and restaurants. Here are some favorites:

Hot Krust Panini Kitchen — This place has some amazing sandwiches and great prices! Gluten-free options are available, making it an even better choice. www.hotkrust.com

Be Our Guest — If you are visiting Magic Kingdom, be sure to get lunch reservations at Be Our Guest. This immersive restaurant offers up plenty of Disney magic as you dine in the Beast’s castle featured in Disney’s classic animated film, Beauty and the Beast.  Click here for menus and reservation information.

Downtown Credo Coffee — Coffee lovers will appreciate this local coffee shop. Their house-made vanilla is to die for, and their coffee and espresso aren’t bad either. They operate on a “pay what you want” honor system, with a menu of suggested prices in case you’re unsure what to charge yourself. www.downtowncredo.com

Q’Kenan — This Venezuelan restaurant has some awesome choices for adventurous eaters. For that matter, they even have some great items for the picky eater in your group. Check out their Facebook page by clicking here.

NYPD Pizza — This local pizza joint will have you returning for more of their incredible cheesy goodness. Never underestimate the power of a good slice of pizza! www.nypdpizzeria.com

Places to Stay

There are many, many RV parks in the Orlando area. These are just a few we have stayed at and enjoyed.

Thousand Trails Orlando — A clean and well-kept park with plenty of Florida wildlife to enjoy. A swimming pool, playground, and other fun activities are available, and the park hosts events and classes often. Rates are on the steep side for nightly visitors, but the Thousand Trails Membership or Zone Pass options might be a good deal for your family if you will be staying in places with Thousand Trails parks on a regular basis. Click here for more information.

Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake — The RV section located in this local park is a hidden gem right in the middle of Orlando. The prices are more than fair, especially during the winter, and the park is absolutely beautiful. A pool and petting zoo are both located in the park, as well as a playground. For more information, click here.

Fort Wilderness — This Disney-owned campground is absolutely incredible. The list of amenities is far too long to put here, but some of the best parts include a pool with water slide and hot tub, several playgrounds, horseback riding and carriage rides, several food options, and clean, well-maintained sites and bath houses. With all of this in addition to Disney’s famously high level of service, your trip is sure to be a magical one. The nightly rates at this campground are very high, but a trip to the fort is well worth every penny if you can swing it. For rates and reservations, click here.

About Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea enjoys full time RV living and traveling — and trying new coffee shops wherever she goes — with her husband and 4 year old son. Her other hobbies include riding bikes, singing, dancing, acting, and reading. Her personal blog can be found at gonzalesonthego.wordpress.com.

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