Help us avoid Mickey on our mini vacay, please!
August 5, 2008 7:27 AM   Subscribe

In Orlando sunrise Friday Aug 15th to sunrise Sat. What to do?

If you had only one day in Orlando, what would you do?

Hubby and I have accommodations and complimentary transport to the theme parks, but were wondering what else there was to do?! What restaurants to try?! Any nostalgia/Americana/kewl stuff and/or places?

We aren't really theme park people but are very silly (so maybe there's a can't miss theme park?) and were hoping for some unique and interesting options for two noobs to Orlando. :)
posted by citystalk to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You said you weren't necessarily theme park people, but if you had some kind of comp'd/discounted passes, I think Disney's Animal Kingdom is perhaps worth a visit. It really is a world-class zoo in addition to being a theme park. IMHO, the safari ride is worth a visit on its own... not to mention, you may get to see the new baby elephant.
posted by dicaxpuella at 7:41 AM on August 5, 2008

Best answer: A buddy of mine was a tour guide on the Safari at Animal Kingdom, and the experience is incredible. I probably would have loved it even if he wasn't the guide. It's the least theme-y of the Disney parks, too, save for the Tree of Life in the center of the place. I'm also told that the Finding Nemo show is not to be missed, and even though I'm generally terrified of roller coasters, Everest is a blast.

Animal Kingdom is probably the only Disney park you can do in a day and not regret missing anything.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2008

I grew up in Orlando and, well, there isn't much in the way of nostalgia/Americana, etc, since the town was mostly a sleepy bunch of orange groves till Disney started buying up land. The town of Winter Park is quaint and lovely for wandering - there's a museum with a nice collection of Tiffany glass, and some shops and restaurants and a park, and there's also a great boat tour of some interconnected lakes (though in August, the heat/humidity would likely make this unpleasant).

I actually think you can do any of the parks in a day, and would probably go for it. There's some pretty great people-watching while you're exploring, and you can take in some of the less popular rides/shows/etc and not make yourself insane trying to see everything.
posted by judith at 8:22 AM on August 5, 2008

I definitely agree that Disney's Animal Kingdom is an outside-the-box sort of theme park. It's totally doable in a half day even if you stop to smell the roses, which I suggest, just get their at park opening. The price for one days admission may shock you a bit. It just went up to $75. There are discounts for multiple days, but it doesn't sound like you'll be back.

If you want to visit Disney, but not pay anything, park at Downtown Disney and shop a little bit. Then catch a free Disney bus to one of the Magic Kingdom Hotels (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian). From there you can board the monorail and explore each hotel's grounds. Then take the Monorail to the TTC where you can catch the Epcot Monorail for a round trip that will take you inside the park.

If you decide to visit Disney World, look me up via my profile, I'd be happy to provide more suggestions for your visit.

If you're totally set on not seeing Mickey, then check out this pretty long list of other Orlando area attractions at Ultimate Orlando.
posted by IndigoSkye at 8:24 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Epcot can be nice for a leisurely stroll. There are some interesting exhibits/shops/restaurants.

In the evening, you could hit Pleasure Island. Explorer's club for drinks and fun. There are decent restaurants. I thought the Cirque du Soleil was excellent.
posted by dzot at 8:46 AM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks y'all! My hubs is OBSESSED with animals, and so AK it is! I shall surprise him...

We're planning on getting to the park at 10AM via shuttle from hotel that leaves at 9:30. We may be able to catch the 8:30AM one but don't want to chance it.

Few questions:

What's best to start with - safari?

About to make dinner reservations for around 8pmish...should we do Jiko or Boma?

Also for lunch, is Tusker House the best bet? There's a 2pm reservation available there...don't know if there are better options.

This is PERFECT. Yay!
posted by citystalk at 8:46 AM on August 5, 2008

Start with the Safari. It gets very hot, very early and it tends to keep the animals cooped up instead of out and about, not to mention the smell gets very bad the hotter it gets. So go there first. Don't miss the train ride over to their petting zoo. It is neat and something you should see. Stay hydrated! Florida is very humid and hot and you tend to not really realize you are loosing fluids. Drink plenty of water and stay cool.
posted by ForeverDcember at 10:31 AM on August 5, 2008

Animal Kingdom is a wonderful choice. If you are still interested in other options, though, there are plenty of kitschy little tourist places in Florida. A few examples that pop into mind:

Holy Land (or, rather "The Holy Land Experience; A lot of non-religious people would probably avoid this one, but they do have some interesting exhibits there, like the Van Kampen collection of "biblical" antiquities).
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides
The Richard Petty Driving Experience (A lot of fun if you're interested in circle track racing, or just going fast; but they've got these all over the country now).
Horse World (Yeah, you can take a trail ride almost anywhere else... but it won't be at a place called "Horse World"!)
Titanic: The Experience

Oh, and if you decide to only spend a half-day at Animal Kingdom and are looking for something to do that night, there's Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba at nearby Downtown Disney. The 15th's 9PM showing still has plenty of tickets available, I think. Good luck! I hope you two have a wonderful time here in O-town. I'll make sure to do a reverse rain-dance for you to hold off the summer showers that day!
posted by XcentricOrbit at 10:39 AM on August 5, 2008

A while back I posted something similar to another travel forum re: a trip to Orlando. One of the responses I got back via PM was something to the effect of "Try Cafe Tu Tu Tango, everyone I've recommended it to has loved it." And true enough it was great. Very fun artsy tapas-style place on International Drive.
posted by reptile at 11:10 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

W/R/T dinner reservations - keep in mind that both restaurants are at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the hotel that's nearby, and not the park. There's free and frequent shuttle buses to and from, so just keep that in mind.

I don't think you could go wrong with either Jiko or Boma, it may just depend on what you're looking for. I'm usually not a buffet kind of person, but Boma is in a league of its own as far as quality and selection go. I've been there twice and would go back in a heartbeat - its a great way to experience various African (and African-inspired) foods. Here's a sample menu.

Jiko is a smidge more upscale, here's a sample dinner menu. Jiko reportedly has the biggest selection of South African wines available in the US, so if you're a wine person, it may be an easy choice for you!
posted by dicaxpuella at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2008

Best answer: I recommend trying to catch the 8:30 shuttle. You want to maximize your time in the early morning before the big crowds arrive in the late morning. Once you're in the gates head over to Expedition Everest right away to get a fast pass (they're free and they let you go on the ride later without waiting in queue). From Expedition Everest head over to the Safari and jump in queue. When you get out be sure to explore the Paganini Trail (where the Gorilla's are). Then before you leave Africa take the train over to Conservation Station (there is no way to walk there).

Next walk to Asia and get a fast pass for Kali River Rapids, but only if you don't mind getting wet when you ride, then explore the walking trail with Tigers and Bats, oh my!

By this time you should be ready for lunch or to get out of the heat. The perfect solution for that is The Lion King Festival. It's in Camp Minnie Mickey which is a good place for some character photos if you're into that.

The other show to see is Finding Nemo - The Musical. It's very popular and if you want to see it you have to get there 30 minutes ahead of time to get in queue. 29 minutes, and you might not have a seat. They do open the Air conditioned theater 15 minutes early, so you're not standing in the heat for that long.

After lunch and between the shows use your two fast passes. You can't use them before the first time listed, but anytime after that is fine!

As for food, there is a coffee bar with pastries just outside the main entrance and one just in front of the big tree, The Tree of Life. That's usually good for breakfast.

For lunch, if you are okay with counter service, the Flame Tree BBQ is terrific. For sit down your choices are Rainforest Cafe (which you can experience elsewhere), Yak & Yet (expensive and gets mixed reviews), and Tusker House, which recently converted to a buffet. If you pick the buffet consider that your meal for the rest of the day and sample all the delicious entrees of "African" treats (most have been slightly Americanized for tourist palettes, however).

However, Boma is a much better Buffet, so I would go with that at 8pm and eat at Flame Tree BBQ for lunch. Jiko is one of my two favorite restaurants on Disney property (the other being California Grill). So if that's in your budget, go for it. Both are at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is a short way off. However, that leaves you with another problem. How to get back to your hotel. The last hotel shuttle usually leaves Animal Kingdom 1/2 hour after closing. So you'll have to take a taxi from the AKL to your hotel. Which is fine, because you can spend some time looking at animals on the hotel's private African Savannah. They have night goggles for this if it's dark out.
posted by IndigoSkye at 1:16 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: luv. u. guys. fo realz.
posted by citystalk at 10:59 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: just to let you know we had a GREAT time!!! we did all of the above (we went to yak and yeti for the amazing air conditioning, lol, and were satisfied) and then went to the CAN'T MISS theater show of it's tough to be a bug, our favorite part of dinoland. :) we got there at 9am and left having done the entire park at 3:30pm. we were very satisfied. after looking at the menu of both boma and jiko, we were unimpressed and decided to do dinner elsewhere!

thought this might help people who need this thread in the future!
posted by citystalk at 9:53 PM on August 15, 2008

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