Orlando’s Thrills & Accommodations Keep Expanding


SeaWorld Orlando debuted TurtleTrek this year.

If you consider that it can take about 67 days to visit all of the entertainment offerings in Orlando, then it’s easy to understand how the area drew a record-breaking 51.455 million visitors in 2010—making it the first destination in the country to welcome more than 50 million visitors, and, you’ll be happy to know, 47.78 million of those guests were domestic.

So what do these dizzying numbers mean to you? Well, it means there are plenty of bookings to go around and with the myriad entertainment offerings on hand—always being added to, we might add—there are plenty of repeat bookings for the taking.

In fact, Cara Goldsbury, a Virtuoso travel advisor and travel advisor for Sanborn’s Travel Service, as well as chief executive concierge for Glass Slipper Concierge (a Disney travel division for Sanborn’s Travel Service), says, “Don’t try and plan for your clients to see everything in the Orlando area, at least not on one trip. With four Disney parks, two Universal parks, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, several water parks, and even Legoland it’s just not possible.” And with Universal and SeaWorld, among others, adding to their array of attractions, it’s easy for a family to come back again and again, although planning is crucial.

Goldsbury emphasizes that having a plan of action is vital. “Lay out a day-by-day plan for your clients. Orlando can be totally overwhelming and there’s nothing worse than arriving with no set plan,” she says. “For instance, at Universal let clients know about special dining opportunities such as the Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience at Lombard’s Seafood Grille that includes an exclusive area where they can watch the nighttime show. Take care of the details for them so they can relax and just enjoy themselves while visiting Orlando.”

On our recent trip to Orlando, our plan of action was to hit three amusement parks—Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and SeaWorld, all of which have new and updated attractions, parades and shows—and two AAA four-diamond properties—one of our old-time favorites, the charming Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal, and one of our new favorites, the 3-year-old Hilton Orlando, 2-time winner of the Hilton Connie Award for performance. We must say hitting three parks on three consecutive days left us a bit dazed, and Goldsbury suggests that “if enough days are planned for the vacation then planning a day off for relaxation and pool time is perfect. It’s exhausting walking the parks all day and most guests like to stay up later in the evenings to see the nighttime shows and fireworks. So rather than planning for a day off in the middle of the vacation, lay out a plan for your clients to spend the morning and early afternoon in the parks, head back to their resort for pool and rest time, have a nice dinner, and then head back to one of the parks to end the day.”

We heeded this advice and did take a day off poolside after the theme parks at one of Hilton Orlando’s sumptuous cabanas, which come equipped with flat-screen TVs, mini-fridge, comfy chaise longues, and food service from the pool bar, the Tropics Bar & Grill.

Yes, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter might have put “Universal on the map,” as Goldsbury says, but the word amazing comes immediately to mind when we think of the newly revamped Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction at Islands of Adventure and the very new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios.

“We’ve added more new entertainment experiences across our entire destination this year than during any other year in our history,” says Tom Schroder, v.p. of corporate communications for Universal Orlando Resort. “This has created a tremendous amount of excitement among our guests, who are telling us they really enjoy everything we’ve done. And since much of this has happened within Universal Studios, it’s been a great moment for that theme park. We’re hearing families really like the ability to experience all of these new things together—whether it’s our new Superstar Parade, our nighttime Cinematic Spectacular or our new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction.

“We worked very closely with the creators behind the popular ‘Despicable Me’ film to create our new attraction. We worked very hard to capture the characters and the humor that helped make the film so popular. We think we did so—and that means there really is something for everyone as part of the attraction experience.”