Who: Jelle Collignon and Heidi Willekens
When: July 2010
Destinations: Miami, Cocoa Beach, Orlando
Sights: Miami Art Deco District, Everglades, Kennedy Space Center, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld
Day 1: We're going to Miami!
After an 8 hour flight we set foot on American soil for the first time in Philadelphia. The first American we meet wants to know everything! Who are you? What are you doing in the USA? How long will you stay? Intimidating, those immigration officers. We answered all questions right, so we were allowed to enter the USA. Now quickly pick up our luggage and check in for our flight to Miami.
Once landed in Miami we pick up our car and drive to our first hotel, Howard Johnson Miami Beach. It's a good hotel, but a little old (edit 2017: The hotel has been demolished and was replaced by another one). We will stay here for 2 nights and had no complaints, except for the very unfriendly man at the reception.
Day 2: Miami!
When we left the hotel to go explore Miami, we met some other hotel guests from Dessel, 10km away from our hometown! Small world...
We went to South Beach. It was warm and the humidity was high. The Art Deco neighbourhood was the ideal spot for a stroll on the boulevard next tot the white sandy beach. The weather wasn't that good, so there weren't many rollerskaters or bikinibabes... Off to Downtown Miami then. A ride on the Metromover took us passed some nice skyscrapers. After the ride we relaxed in Bayfront Park, where we did our first shopping in Bayside Marketplace. In the evening we had a drink in the hotel.
Day 3: Roadtrip!
After a good night's sleep we left Miami Beach and set course for Cocoa Beach. About an our from Miami we had a stop in Boyton Beach, where we visited the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. This is a part of the Everglades. We made a walk through the cypress swamp and want to the waterfront afterwards. We were lucky! An alligater was gliding through the water just feet a way from us.
Back in the car with the airco on full power. Next stop, Cocoa Beach. We will stay for 1 night in the International Palms Resort. A fancy name, but it is more like a basic motel. The rooms weren't very clean. Next time we would choose another hotel. Once checked in we took to car and went to Ron Jon Surf Shop. This shop the largest of the Ron Jon shops and is open 24/7. Some T-shirt richer (and some dollars poorer) we ate in the beachside restaurant at the hotel and enjoyed the evening at the beach.
Day 4: We're going to space!
The next 4 days will be exhausting. We are getting closer to Orlando and every day we will visit a recreational park. We start with the Kennedy Space Center. Even the ride to the Space Center has some great views. We pass Port Canaveral, where the Freedom of the Seas was getting ready for a cruise to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. This ship is enormous. We can also see the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launching platforms when we get close to Cape Canaveral.
When entering the parking we can already see the rockets in the Rocket Garden. On this small space a full history of space exploration can be seen. From the first American in space up to the moonlanding and missions to the International Space Station.
The more recent history of space exploration can be found on the other side of the park. There you we could admire a lifesize replica of the Space Shuttle, next to the fueltank and engines. Nice to see, but too bad the second last shuttle launch was postponed, otherwise a real shuttle was standing on the launchpad, ready to launch.
There is very much to see at the Kennedy Space Center, that much, we even don't have time to take the bustour to the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Appollo Center. Well, reason to come back some day!
Around 18h we leave the park and continue our drive to Orlando. We check in and make a walk in the neighbourhood of the hotel where there are many restaurants. We stay in the Orlando Vista Hotel (Edit 2017: the hotel is now called Delta Hotels by Marriott Orlando Lake Buena Vista). The hotel was clean, newly renovated.
Day 5: SeaWorld
Our first day in Orlando was incredible! We visited SeaWorld, with as main goal to see the orcas. The orca show Believe! was amazing. Magnificent how large these animals are.
Of course there is more to see in SeaWorld. Blue horizons is a great spectacle with dolphins and whales and you can have close encounters with many sea animals.
SeaWorld is also a themepark, so there are some rides. Second goal of the day was riding Manta, a rollercoaster that gives you the feeling of flying.
After a very hot and exciting day in SeaWorld we went to Downtown Disney (Edit 2017: This is now called Disney Springs) to eat at PortoBello, a lovely Italian restaurant.
Day 6: Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom
The next 2 days are all magical because we're going to Walt Disney World! This was our main reason to come to Florida.
We start with Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This is a mix between a zoo and a themepark. The parc is built around the Tree of Life, an artificial tree with carvings of 325 different animal species.
The areas of the park take you to different places in the world, with there own vegetation and animals. One area even takes you to another age, like Dinoland-USA. Here you find Dinosaur, an attraction that lets you ride a jeep with a build-in time machine on a mission to find a little dinosaur in the past, just before an asteroid will crash on earth.
In the back of the park ther is an African village, Harambe, from where you can go on a safari. On your trip you'll see elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffalos,...
The main attraction in the park is Expedition Everest. From a small mountain village in Nepal you leave in a train for an expedition in the Himalaya. But before you are well on your way the train stops, rails are ripped apart and in the distance you hear the roar of the Yeti. He isn't happy with your visit! The rest of the ride is a high speed trip through the mountain to escape from the Yeti. Luckily our train was fast enough! ;-)
After we spotted some more animals we headed to Downtown Disney to eat.
Day 7: Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
The second day in Walt Disney World we visited Disney's Magic Kingdom. This park can be compared to Disneyland in Paris, but is much larger. Getting to the park is already an adventure. The parking far away from the park. You have 2 options to get to the entrance: a ferry across the Seven Seas Lagoon, or the monorail. We took the monorail.
Once on Mainstreet, USA you have a great view of the castle in the center of the park. Around the castle there are 6 themed areas: Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown Fair and Tomorrowland.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom has many attractions that can also be found in Disneyland Paris, but there are also some E-ticket rides we would love to see in Paris, like Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain.
Space Mountain is a classic that can be found in every Disney resort, albeit in different forms. The one in Orlando is much more futuristic than the Jules Verne style Space Mountain in Paris.
Our general impression of the parc is very good, but we think Disneyland Paris is more charming than it's big brother in Orlando.
Day 8: Shop till you drop!
On our last day in Florida we went to Florida Mall, a enormous shopping mall. We did some shopping, but the one thing we will remember from this day is World of M&M's! There are hundreds of different kinds of M&M's here!
After exchanging some dollars for M&M's we went to Downtown Disney for the Disney Store and dinner in Rainforest Café. Here you can eat in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by many animals. Every half hour the lights go out and a thunder storm passes through the restaurant.
Day 9: Going back home...
Nine days have past and it is time to head back to the airport to fly back to Belgium. We returned the car and checked in for our flight with lots of memories.