Florida’s magic | Orlando to Sanibel Island
Our family holiday to Disneyworld, Orlando and to Sanibel Island, then Fort Lauderdale, Florida
For a year we had been planning our trip to Florida. My kids are 7 and 9 years old. It was a long wait but so worth it...
Planning a Disney trip is like a military operation. We bought a 6-day ticket for 4 Disney parks. For those interested, our trip itinerary and accommodation details are at the bottom of this post.
We chose to do 9 nights in Orlando, 4 nights staying in Sanibel Island and 1 night in Fort Lauderdale.
Disney is truly magic.
Hollywood Studios has it all. The Indiana Jones Stunt Show and Fantasmic show were epic. Stormtroopers march through the boulevards. My 9-year-old's favourite ride was Rockin' Roller Coaster. My 7-year-old loved Slinky - a fun roller coaster ride. Hollywood was one of our favourites because it was unique to all the other parks as it's based on classic favourite movies.
Disney Magic Kingdom - after a long wait we finally were standing in Magic Kingdom with the iconic castle before us and the fairy godmother, Mickey and friends opening the park. Disney is packed with loads to do, soak in the atmosphere with the all singing and dancing parade, the marching band playing tunes from movies like Mary Poppins and Disney characters singing. The finale to a perfect day is the Happily Ever After firework show, a Disney story projected on the castle under a raining show of Fireworks. The most awesome show I've ever seen.
Epcot was a welcome relief from the other parks with it's laid back wide open space and little countries you can walk through from Mexico to China and our favourite, little England - very authentic. We sat on a bench in a Kensington street, eating our packed lunch - it felt just like my old London days. Walking into Norway's Frozen ride felt very realistic, as you step in you get a blast of icy air as you make your way through the snowy escapade in your ride. Test Track was pretty amazing too, where you can design your own car then race through a circuit.
Our final park was Disney's Animal Kingdom - start your day on the Kali river as you'll get very wet then you can spend the day drying off. As you eat your lunch monkeys swing above on ropes. Set aside some time to go on the safari jeep to see elephants, giraffes, and rhinos. The light show in the evening is just beautiful - managing a visual show whilst seamlessly encompassing a message about looking after the world and the animals. Disney's Animal Kingdom doesn't look like the other parks, it feels like a part of Asia. Visit the Rain Forest Cafe for dinner - thunderstorms and animatronics recreate the sounds of the jungle whilst you eat.
The allure of Disney and the villa's warm swimming pool and games room made for a fantastic week and it passed far too quickly but the next part of the journey was what I was looking forward to the most.
The journey to Sanibel is only 3 1/2hours with stop point at Punta Gordo for lunch and a play in Gilchrist play park. Excitedly we crossed the 3-mile-long bridge from Fort Myers to Sanibel Island. Straight away the island felt special with its miles of wide cycle paths, no traffic lights, wildlife refuge and hidden beaches only accessible by foot.
I began to wish we were staying longer.
Sanibel, Sanibel ... every time I think of this island it conjures up sunrises, soft sugar sand, warm water, brown pelicans swooping above, sand castles and the sounds of happy children jumping the waves. Every morning I would get up early and watch the sunrise, picking up shells as I walked along barefoot enjoying the water lapping at my feet.
Our condo was 2 minutes away from the beach, decked out in beach decor and so comfortable we felt very lucky.
We chose to cycle to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge the next day. 30 minutes along flat wide cycle paths through nature reserves, all, with thanks to Ding Darling, a cartoonist and pioneering conservationist who protected the Island from further development.
We cycled passed Mangroves, Ibis and Great Blue Herons, Anhingas and Eagles soared above. We did spot an alligator in the water once. Unfortunately due to the red tide. birds and wildlife are only just starting to come back.
The next day we hired kayaks from Tarpon Bay Explorers. There was a small group of us and our very informative guide, Chris took us through the Mangrove Swamps. Not intentionally, it ended up with us all in full giggles, as my daughter and I kept crashing into the bushes and ducking under the mangroves as our steering was often off course. Afterwards, you could head into the bay and have the kayaks for the day. The current was strong so we struggled with the kids to get very far so we chose to spend the rest of the day at the beach instead.
I was sad to say goodbye to Sanibel but we will be back someday...
Our last part of the journey was in Fort Lauderdale about 2 hrs 30 along the highway. We parked the car near the beach and bought pizza slices for lunch, walking back along the huge crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
In the evening we headed to the Moonlite Diner, a proper traditional American diner with yummy milkshakes and craft burgers. We stayed at the Fort Westin hotel, not far from the Galleria Mall for a spot of shopping the next day before our flight.
This was a magical, warm, amazing holiday that we will never forget.
Our budget: With thanks to You Need a Budget
Sanibel: Sanibel Moorings Condo Resort
Fort Lauderdale: The Westin Fort Lauderdale Hotel
Disney World Itinerary: with thanks to Under Cover Tourist for plenty of tips, crowd calendar and tickets
Hollywood Studios: 1 day: Arrive early (8.45am)
- Rockin' roller coaster
- Home for lunch (back by 2 pm)
- Star Tours
- Indiana Jones Stunt Show
- Launch Pad (Star Wars)
- Fantasmic Show
Magic Kingdom: 2 days:
Day 1: Arrive early (8.45am for opening) - Allow time to get the monorail in.
- 7 Dwarfs mine train
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- It's a small world
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Space Mountain
- Under the Sea
- Astro Orbitor
Day 2: Arrived about 1.30pm
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Carousel of progress
- Haunted Mansion
- Frontierland Arcade
- Peter Pans Flight
- Happily Ever After fireworks
Epcot: 1 day: Arrive early (8.45am)
- Nemo (under the sea)
- Lunch in London
- Mission Space
- Test Track
Animal Kingdom: 2 days:
- Kali River
- Primeval Whirl
- Na'vi River Journey
- Kilimanjaro Safari
- Rainforest Cafe (Dinner - book in advance)
- Rivers of Light show
- Pandora - The world of Avatar (We queued for 2 hours - get a fast pass if you can)
- Expedition Everest
Please note: The week we went to the Disney Parks it was fairly quiet (21st October - 28th October) apparently the week before was heaving. Use the Undercover Tourist's calendar for the best days to go. I hope this has been a useful post. Any questions please ask.
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