Florida USA

Florida for adults: an Orlando 2 week itinerary for first timers

Universial Studios Orlando Florida

Thinking back to when I was young, planning an Orlando 2 week itinerary would have BLOWN MY MIND. Like most little girls, I loved Disney but sadly I never experienced going to Disney World as a child. Now that I’m older though, seeing Cinderella’s castle and meeting Mickey isn’t at the top of my travel wishlist (like it would’ve been when I was 8). Yet Orlando still has the lure of theme park heaven.

Imagine how I felt then when I found out I’d be going for a 2 week Orlando trip earlier this year! The little girl in me was excited to finally go to the epicentre of Disney, whilst it was more the older me that couldn’t stop thinking about all the world-class rollercoasters I’d get to ride. So, if you’re a bit like me (not exactly Disney-mad, but love a good thrill ride), here’s my Orlando 2 week itinerary.

Orlando two week itinerary

It’s for 14 days but… Flights from the UK to Orlando usually land early evening (5pm), but by the time we passed through security (7pm onwards) there wasn’t much time to venture out. So I’m cancelling out this day, as we headed straight to our villa. This was a sensible idea though, for all the big days out we had ahead of us, it was worth containing our excitement to get an early night. 

Day 1: Magic Kingdom

We started at the beating heart of the commercial theme park world. The alpha of the ridiculously big Disney world complex is Magic Kingdom, where even the car park is bigger than Disney in California. (Yes, seriously.)

View from the Swiss Family Treehouse in Magic Kingdom, Orlando

For my first time in Orlando, the only Disney park I’d experienced previously had been Disneyland Paris. So, to put size in perspective; Disneyland Paris is near identical to Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is just one park in the DisneyWorld complex in Orlando. (Disney was so much larger than I thought it was when I found this out.)

There are rides here that I knew and loved from Paris (Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, The Haunted House, Pirates of the Carribbean etc). But there are a few rides that Paris doesn’t have; namely Splash Mountain (my favourite ride), Hall of Presidents and Carousel of Progress (although this ride is best avoided, as it’s seriously dated).

Day 2: Typhoon Lagoon

We went to Orlando in May, which falls just inside of the peak season. This means we avoided most of the rain, but had to cope with the beating sun. Thank god then for the multiple Orlando water parks!

Typhoon Lagoon is one of two water parks that belong to Disney. With a tropical Hawaiian theme, the choice of rides here aren’t as intense like the ones you’ll find in Universal’s Volcano Bay. But being someone whose been traumatised by water park rides (I just don’t like them), this suited me fine.

Typhoon lagoon surf pool

My highlight was the half mile lazy river, which played dreamy surf tunes throughout. But I did brave some of the other rides like Crush n’ Gusher and Miss Adventure Falls (both raft rides) as well as the 6-foot waves of the surf pool.

Day 3: Epcot

Another day at Disney, although I wasn’t sure what to expect from this park. Heavily sci-fi/futuristic themed, I was surprised to find the majority of the rides here are simulators. Whilst a few of these were impressive (Soarin’ Around the World and Test Track), many felt dated (sorry Spaceship Earth and Mission:Space). Although they must have felt quite futuristic when first opening.

I actually found the World Showcase area a little more fun; an area where you can explore the sights and sounds of 11 countries, and even taste a number of national dishes too. We ate in Japan, explored America and Canada, and, I’m not going to lie, really enjoyed the Frozen ride in Norway.

Disney Epcot ball

Day 4: Rest Day

After 3 full-on days at Disney, it was time for a break. Staying in a villa like we were though, it didn’t feel like we were missing out. (We had our OWN pool!)

After one heavy breakfast at iHop, we’d bought a couple of crates of beer for later (we kept it American and went for Budweiser) and spent the day by having a few swims, or in my case getting my head stuck in my book while bathing in the sun. (Florida is the sunshine state, after all!)

Day 5: Kennedy Space Center

Now we’re talking! Fans of Disney can be blinded by the fact that Orlando is all about Disney, and that’s it. They couldn’t be more wrong – some of my favourite parts of this holiday were about getting out of the theme parks and discovering this part of the US. I mean for godsake rockets flew into space from here – and still do!

Nasa Kennedy Space Center in Orlando

Exhibition spaces that are filled with astronaut costumes, old space rockets and even moon dust! You can see Atlantis, Saturn V and feel what it’s like to be blasted into space on a realistic simulator. I honestly can’t say in words how awesome this place is. I loved it so much I even bought a touristy NASA cap.

Day 6: Universal Islands of Adventure

If Disney has families covered, then Universal is Orlando for adults. Thrill ride, after thrill ride, after thrill ride, I may as well say it now; Islands of Adventure was my favourite park we went to in Orlando.

We spent a full day here and there’s several rides not to be missed; The Incredible Hulk, Reign of Kong, Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls, Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Jurassic Park River Adventure – then, even the not-so thrill rides are great! I’m talking about; Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, Flight of the Hippogriff and Poseidon’s Fury.

A day at Universal Islands of Adventure park

Day 7: Universal Studios

The fun was not over, we still had Universal Studios to explore! Sadly, I discovered a lot of rides that I’d heard about as a kid (the JAWS ride, The Terminator, etc) were cleared to make way for the new Harry Potter world. I felt this was worth mentioning because I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan either, but Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was brilliant, and I even enjoyed the Hogwarts Express!

Despite Islands of Adventure being my favourite park, my favourite ride was actually in Universal Studios. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster is daunting to look that, but don’t let that put you off. Most upside-down coasters will strap you in with a head and shoulder strap; the Rockit doesn’t. I’ll leave that thought with you.

Is Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket the best ride at Universal?

Revenge of the Mummy is also unmissable, but I was disappointed to find many other rides were simulators once again. Once you’ve been on one simulator, I feel like you’ve been on them all. Although the Simpsons ride was slightly different; it managed to make me feel sicker than all the others.

Day 8: Universal’s Volcano Bay

We had a 3 day ticket for Universal. So being impressed with ourselves that we managed to tick off all the rides in both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, this meant we had one day left. We decided to check out Universal’s water park Volcano Bay.

Universal Volcano Bay water park

My comparison between Disney parks and Universal parks still stands; this is definitely a water park for the older theme park goer. I’ve already confessed about my fear of water park rides, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I didn’t go on any rides here.

Even to look at, they all looked quite extreme. What I can say though is that my boyfriend’s reviews gave them a thumbs up (and he loves water parks). While I was happy on the lazy river (that floats through a pretty cave) and the rapid river. Yes, these were the only two rides I went on.

Day 9: Animal Kingdom

And it was back to Disney… Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect at Animal Kingdom. I soon found out that the different areas of the park were based on parts of the world. My favourite ride here was Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids (which didn’t get us as soaked as the water rides in Islands of Adventure, but was still fun).

Gorilla at Animal Kingdom

The Kilimanjaro Safari that took us round animal closures on the back of a truck was also very impressive, which took me by surprise. My only regret is not going on Avatar Flight of Passage, as the ride continued to have over a 2 hour wait, all day, and didn’t show any sign of budging.

Day 10: Clearwater Beach

You could see this as another rest day if you like, but relaxing on a beach is still an important park of this Orlando 2 week itinerary. Miami beach is perhaps the most famous beach known in Florida. But from Orlando, it’s still a 4/5 hour drive away, which is a bit of a trek just for a beach.

Although we still had to travel for at least an hour (or two), there were a choice of beaches to visit from Orlando. We settled on Clearwater Beach, which was a bit farther away than the other choices, but being on the Gulf of Mexico it sounded too good not to see.

View of Clearwater beach Florida

Soft sand, azure blue water… jet ski hire and fishing on the pier – if this is the typical Florida seaside town, sign me up! If you’re looking for free things to do in Florida then going to the beach should top the list. We rented a cabana from the Hilton, but you could put down a few beach towels and pack a picnic to enjoy a day at the beach for peanuts.

Day 11: Florida Mall

This was definitely more of a rest day than the beach, especially as this was a rainy day for us. So what to do when it rains in Orlando? Go shopping!

There are a number of outlets and malls in the Orlando area. It just so happens that we were close to the Florida Mall. (Beauty lovers will be pleased to hear there’s a Sephora in here!)

Day 12: Disney Hollywood Studios

Orlando 2 week itinerary for first timers

As you can see from those rainclouds, it wasn’t the best end to our Orlando 2 week holiday. But the silver lining is that most rides in Disney’s Hollywood Studios are actually indoors.

The Aerosmith Rock n’ Rollercoaster and Terror Tower are definitely the stars here. The rest of the rides (and shows) didn’t appeal to me so much. With the construction of a new Star Wars section (Stars Wars Galaxy Edge) though, due to open in spring 2019, this should bring more panache to this park.

Day 13: An Escape Room

For our last full day of our Orlando 2 week itinerary, we were due to go to Blizzard Beach. Unfortunately the rain didn’t hold off and instead kept coming. So we went to a nearby escape room, which was fun. (And we managed to solve the riddles and escape in time.)

Day 14: Disney Springs

So after our final big breakfast in America (at Cracker Barrel), we made our way to Disney Springs. As we were flying with Virgin, we checked in here and had our baggage collected for our flight. This left us to wander freely around the retail space that is Disney Springs. (Sadly, I discovered, there are no rides here.)

Being a mixture of shops and restaurants, I can’t see why else to visit here other than to use up a few hours before your flight, to avoid staring blankly at a wall, depressed at the thought of how quickly your holiday has gone in the past 2 weeks.

I hope you enjoyed my Orlando 2 week itinerary! Please tell me if you did in the comments section below. I’m sure I’ve missed a number of things, but Orlando is a big place and a tiny 2 weeks just doesn’t cover it.

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