They say: ‘A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.’ But what if a place makes the people (and the friendships) stronger? That’s exactly how I defined my first trip to Orlando. My friend and I took a trip to Orlando, courtesy of Visit Orlando, to experience what the city had to offer.
Sun, sea, sand and adventure. I cannot think of a better way to spend a few days out of the country to relax and rejuvenate in warmer temps. With Spring Break coming up, a trip to Orlando might just be the antidote you need to get away from this soul-sucking winter we are experiencing. We packed a lot into a very relaxing five-day trip. It was just the girls getaway trip we needed and here’s how we scheduled it because it can be a lot, but planning is key. If you’re planning a girls trip to Orlando, this go-to guide might ease you into vacay mode. I have some tips and ideas on how to make the most of what this beautiful city has to offer.
Day 1: Shopping and Chilling
It’s best to rent a car if you’d like to cruise around the city — especially if you’re going to be there for a few days. We checked into the Hilton Hotel for the first two nights — it’s closer to Universal’s theme park. The 18-story Hilton Orlando is a beautiful hotel that features a spa and fitness center, a gastro pub, a steakhouse, a lobby lounge and a gourmet deli. We were greeted to a warm welcome with treats. One of our favorite amenities was the lazy river — that’s opened until late night so you can relax and soak in a float till you’re all wrinkled up.
For a relaxing first day, I’d recommend strolling around Winter Park, a beautiful neighborhood. Located in scenic Winter Park is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. If you’re an art or history lover, this one’s for you. Exhibits include Tiffany jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, windows, lamps and an elaborate chapel interior created for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Highlights include leaded-glass windows and iconic Tiffany lamps as well as art glass and custom furnishings.
If you’re in Winter Park, the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is a great option to take in the city. The tour offers hour-long guided cruises through three lakes and two narrow man-made canals on the tranquil Winter Park chain. If you’re lucky, you may spot a lazy alligator languishing on a nearby bank. Breathtaking views of opulent private homes and exquisite estates sprawling along the shores are also a key feature of the scenic cruise. You will also learn the history of Winter Park, Central Florida’s oldest community, which was originally founded by wealthy Easterners in the 1800s.
You can also do a bit of boutique shopping as you walk along Winter Park’s Park Avenue, a brick-paved boulevard with quaint outdoor cafes, upscale shops and boutiques. The Winter Park Farmers Market is a great option for lunch as you take a break from shopping.
Day 2: Universal Orlando
This being our first time at Universal Orlando, we were pumped. Since we were only spending a day here, we decided to leave super early and has already planned on the rides we wanted to go on. The Express Passes are key here, especially if you’re short on time. It’s totally worth it. Also, download the app — it was the best as it reveals the waiting times for each of the rides.
First, we hit up Universal Studios Florida and went for the most popular ride: the two Harry Potter rides. The waiting times for these are the longest so I’d recommend exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. It’s so intricately created with shops to magically transport you to Hogwarts. Don’t miss out on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, an indoor steel roller coaster which blew my mind.
Grab a Krusty burger in Springfield, or join the ranks of the Minions, fight to save mankind in Transformers: The Ride-3D and there’d still be so much more to do. The newest addition to the park’s attractions, Fast and Furious: Supercharged, takes you with the iconic crew on a street chase adventure. Finally, take the Hogwarts Express and travel to Hogsmeade Station in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Even the Hogswarts train is 100 percent worth it.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure features some of the most innovative rides and attractions ever made. One of my favorite rides of the day was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. You board a magical motorbike and fly into the Forbidden Forest. We had a three-hour wait, and you know what — it was totally worth it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s the newest ride so make sure to go on this at the start of your day. Also, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a motion-based dark ride, is a ride I loved.
I’d highly recommend Jurassic Park, the Incredible Hulk Coaster (my friend’s highlight!), Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls — part roller coaster, part water flume, your squad is going to have a blast on this one. Guaranteed.
Universal Studios was everything an adventure and pop culture enthusiast would adore. More on this to come soon – stay tuned! The cutting-edge attractions truly transport you into a highly imaginative world and what better way to bond with your squad than over edge-of-your-seat roller coasters, magical Harry Potter kingdoms and dining like the Simpsons.
Day 3: Rest, Relaxation and… Gators
We then checked into Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, which is closer to Disney World. The gorgeous resort features a health club open 24 hours, 9 hole, several water sports including canoe, paddle boat, hydro bike, aqua cycle, sailboat and kayak, golf driving range, court time at the tennis and racquet club, and a daily scheduled shuttle transportation to the theme parks.
Your squad will want to chill by the pool which features 12 waterfalls and two waterslides. Their dining options include six restaurants, four lounges and 24-hour room service — there is something to please every palate. We spent the morning soaking in some sun and even went kayaking.
As an adventure lover, we had to take a trip Gatorland, home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles – including white alligators – some of which have appeared in movies, television shows and commercials. Gatorland also features an eco-attraction, The Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, which carries riders over gators and along 1,200 feet of high-flying adventure. At heights of up to 56 feet, you fly at speeds near 25 mph over many of the attraction’s exhibits. This was the adrenaline-pumping activity we needed. Your squad can enjoy the view from the top ziplining or simply take a private tour of the land. We also had the opportunity to feed the gators — it was such a thrill! More on this to follow – stay tuned!
Day 4: Disney World
With only one day at Disney World — planning was key. The app and the Fast Pass is an advantage so make sure to use it. First up, Magic Kingdom. Do not miss the parade — it’s the most memorable event we ever saw. Mickey and Minnie sang and danced around along with other childhood characters. They put on a show and encouraged everyone to join along. There are three adult-themed rides in this park that your squad will most certainly love: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain. I’d also recommend Haunted Mansion for a fun time.
We then moved to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge ride. It features two signature attractions, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, putting guests in the cockpit of the famous space ship, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where an escape from The First Order turns into all-out battle. Other attractions at Hollywood Studios that your squad are bound to enjoy are The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. It was so much fun. We also highly recommend the Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land. Too cute to miss. Stay tuned for more on how to enjoy Disney World as a pop culture and adventure enthusiast!
We headed back to Magic Kingdom for a special night showdown. My favorite moment was the one I had dreamed of a million times and the reality was even better: The “Happily Ever After” nighttime spectacular features a display of fireworks, in addition to more lasers, lights and projections than any show at Magic Kingdom Park before it. My heart skipped a beat and in that moment I truly believed: Magic Kingdom is the place where dreams come true. I was truly, truly happy watching those fireworks light up the sky… and my soul. There’s nothing like it. Create memories with your friends watching this display.
Day 5: Swan Lake
The final day was one of relaxation. We rented a paddle boat at Lake Eola Swan Boats in Downtown Orlando. It is surrounded by the dining and shopping of Park Lake Highland District, South Eola District and the Central Business District, truly making Lake Eola the center of Orlando. The majestic fountain and graceful swan boats for rent make the lake an exceptional amenity to the area.
One of the best places to grab a bite is Swan City Bagels. Finely crafted, delicious and imaginative twists on bagel classics with housemade cream. With so many options, you’re spoilt for choice.
We packed a lot into this five-day trip and made the most of it. You and your friends can enjoy the suns-soaked city of Orlando while taking a much-needed break.