On Monday morning, around 8 AM, we thanked Kaz for his extraordinary hosting (he even paid the ticket fares in Georgia Aquarium visit) and boarded our trusted van and hopped on the interstate 75. We would continue to follow it for more than 600 kilometers until we hit Florida Turnpike which would take us into the city of Orlando.
Contrary to our expectation Atlanta was cooler than we thought it would be and one of the sliding doors of the van froze stuck. Little later as we drove on the expressway the ice melted and the door became loose with the alert light coming up on the dashboard. Deciding not to take any chance I stopped the car on the shoulder and had the door shut down properly. Not a usual event. We hopped back on the highway again and merrily drove through the Monday morning traffic, which to my relief wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be considering it was a working day.
All of us were very elated, especially the kids who really glazed in excitement now that finally we were approaching the Disneyland. It was the longest we drove since leaving Ajax – 720 kilometers – Atlanta to Orlando.
As we advanced toward Orlando the weather got increasingly warmer and we started to see occasional glimpses of palm trees – a sure sign of warmer weather. We stopped about midway for lunch in a roadside restaurant and dined with home-style burgers and fries. The joint was quite colorful, it was sunny outside and the kids were really beaming in anticipation – everything looked exactly what we wanted it to be. I found several palm trees outside and took pictures. Back in my motherland Bangladesh I grew up with the sight of various types of palm trees and sight of these plants invariably excites me. To me they are the sure sign of warmth and good times.
We drove at full speed and did not stop any more. When we finally entered the neighborhood of Orlando it was half past four in the afternoon.
Among other things what pleased both Mili and I were the spread out orange gardens that can be seen right from the highway. As a young kid I had visited Tripoli, Libya and visited several orange gardens with my parents. The memory of that instantly flashed before my eyes.
Later, as we drove into the city we found it neatly arranged with palm tree lined roads and colorful houses and buildings. In the north our houses are really bland looking. This was a pleasant change of views for all of us.
Disneyland is located in Kissimmee, in the outskirts of Orlando, one of the major cities of Florida. Naturally most hotels, motels and other tourist attractions have been built in the vicinity. The Universal Studios are also nearby. Among other attractions Sea World is definitely a major one. The Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway is flanked with all kind of hotels, restaurants and additional attractions. I had booked a room in Holiday Inn on the internet. Wasn’t fully sure how it would be but had to settle for something based on whatever images and information was available on their web site and the user experiences that I could pull up from many user groups.
To all of our relief it turned out to be a gorgeous place, quite colorful and well maintained, specious lobby, large outdoor swimming pool, even a small gym and plenty of parking spots at the rear of the building. And above all the view around the place is simply great with large trees and some palms. Our room was in the fifth floor. During check in we were informed that J and family had already arrived and the reception would inform them about our arrival. We can then get in touch with each other. As we stepped out of the elevator on the fifth floor corridor we found a rushing Tasi and her parents following her closely – all smiles. Our rooms were only a few room apart. It was simply great to see them. There’s nothing better than enjoying a great place with great friends.
That evening we went to visit the Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the vicinity. Though as an attraction its significance is much less than the giants that it co-lives with but it is a great place to visit. And I say great because the kids really liked it. In my mind anything that today’s video game playing kids with fast reflex and short attention span find amusing got to be worthy.
A fur bearing trout (very rare)
That night after returning in hotel room I took out my planner that I created back in Toronto based on the information that I had, especially the weather related info. Once here and with the updated weather information the plan needed to be revisited. Going to the water place in a cold day would make no sense while that could work out fine in other attractions.
I had booked the hotel room for six nights. After plenty of thoughts and considering updated weather forecast this is what my final plan looked like:
Disney Magic Kingdom – Tuesday
Seaworld - Wednesday
Disney Epcot - Thursday
Disney Hollywood Studios – Friday
Seaworl Aquatica (water park) – Saturday
Disney Animal Kingdom - Sunday
The other major attractions not in my plan were (I picked Aquatica over Disney water park and considering the age of my kids – 5 and 10 - decided Universal could be little over their head):
Disney Blizzard beach (water park)
Disney Typhoon Lagoon
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Universal Wet’n Wild
Some interesting facts about Florida:
- Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the United States.
- The United States city with the highest rate of lightning strikes per capita is Clearwater (Dolphin Tale movie)
- Young aviator Tony Jannus made history on January 1, 1914 when he flew the world's first scheduled passenger service airline flight from St. Petersburg's downtown yacht basin to Tampa.
- Miami Beach pharmacist Benjamin Green invented the first suntan cream in 1944. He accomplished this development by cooking cocoa butter in a granite coffee pot on his wife's stove.