Wednesday 15 June 2016

Ripley's Believe it or Not Orlando

Ripley's Believe it Not, is actually a really hard review to write, as there are so many surprises along the way in this attraction that I really don't want to spoil any of it for our readers. There are exhibits that make you laugh, make you shocked, cause intrigue, and quite simply some that will make you go ewwwwww!

Ripley's Believe it or Not Orlando, is located on International Drive and features a huge 600 exhibits and artefacts ranging from the weird to wonderful. It is open 365 days a year from 9am up until midnight everyday with the last admission being 11pm. Tickets are very reasonably priced for an Orlando attraction costing $19.99 + tax for adults and $12.99 + tax for children. Children under 3 can visit for free, and if you book online you can also benefit from a discount of $3 per adult and $2 per child. This attraction also offers free parking which is an added bonus. 

On arrival, the lady on reception was very welcoming. We quickly sorted out our tickets, and then she explained how we could connect to the wifi, and informed us that we were welcome to take pictures and videos throughout the attraction. She also asked whether we would like to purchase a guidebook, which we did, as it was reasonably priced at only $2 and nice for the kids to have a souvenir of our visit.

The attraction was busy but very easy to get around. We had a stroller with us which made it slightly difficult to navigate around some areas but this was just due to the number of other visitors in the attraction, however if your child is happy to walk, then you can leave strollers by the entrance and collect them again at the end, which is what we should have done.

There are numerous photo opportunities around the attraction as well as several hands on interactive exhibits and my children really enjoyed seeing all the many wonderful and sometimes extremely confusing artefacts and displays. One particular area that still has me confused is a snooker table exhibit. The snooker table is situated on an angle on an unlevel floor, in a crooked room, however if you roll a ball on the snooker table the ball does not roll back down and instead will continue to roll to the top of the table seeming to completely defy the laws of gravity. 

The Odditorium is quite suitably named as it really does feature some of the most oddest things. One of the first exhibits we saw was a large potrait of Beyonce, not so odd you may think, apart from the fact that it was made entirely from sweets! The exhibits got even stranger as we continued our way around, and there were definitely some very bizarre sights.

The exhibits really have to be seen to be believed and so if you are looking for something fun to do to fill a bit of time whilst in Orlando then this is definitely a good place to visit. It is important to note that this isn't a full day activity though, and we finished it in about 2 hours going at a slow speed. We found this really enjoyable however as it meant that we managed to visit several different attractions all in one day and there are plenty of places to visit along International Drive. 

It would also be a great rainy day activity or something to do if you fancy avoiding the sunshine for a couple of hours. Having never visited a Ripley's Odditorium before, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but overall we really enjoyed it and had a good laugh and a lot of fun along the way.

To find out more information, please visit the Ripley's Believe it or Not website here: Ripley's Believe it or Not

If you would like to read more about our visit and view some more photos, please visit our site: A Family Adventure

Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary tickets for this attraction in exchange for an honest and impartial review. 

Our Visit to Sea Life Orlando

I love aquariums, as do my children, and so we were really excited to have the opportunity to visit SeaLife Orlando.

The entry cost is really good value for money when you purchase online at least 24 hours in advance, at only only $20 + tax for an adult and $15 + tax for a child aged 3-12. As mentioned in my Orlando Eye review, it is also possible to purchase combination tickets and the Eye Drive Experience Ticket is excellent offering entrance to The Orlando Eye, SeaLife Orlando and Madame Tussauds for only $39 + tax for an adult and $34 + tax for a child. The building where all three attractions are located is really welcoming and is beautifully maintained outside with a lovely garden and waterfall area. There are numerous stores located near by, including an ice cream parlour, and inside there is a food court, and atm machines available. We arrived not long after it opened and so there was no queue.

We had a friendly welcome, and as we entered we were provided with a quiz book, that the children could collect stamps for whilst going round the attraction and then exchange this book at the end for a prize! The children were really interested by this, and I liked the fact that the children were being provided with something that was not only fun, but also educational. The attraction was nicely presented and the tanks were all very clean, a nice size and easy to view. They also had a lovely idea in that there are little tunnels your children can climb in and then stand up in a raised section of the tank so that the fish are all around them.

My daughter said that this made her feel like she was right in the ocean with the fish, and it also gave her a 360 degree view. The aquarium itself, has over 5000 creatures, ranging from seahorses to sharks, and there really is loads to see and do. The 360 degree tunnel was our personal favourite, and it was great fund trying to spot all the different species swimming around us. It was also both very exciting and interesting to see a shark up close.

I loved that there was so much information everywhere, and even I learnt things that I never knew, so this made the experience very enjoyable. Towards the end of the attraction is a large childrens soft play area, this is ideal to have a nice cool place for your children to burn off some energy and it is included in the entry price. You must wear socks when using this facility for hygiene reasons, but if you've turned up in your flip flops and sandals, don't worry, as the shop has some socks for sale just in case.

Next to the soft play area is an interactive rockpool, that allows you to get really up close with some fascinating creatures. There is a guide on hand to help and answer questions and there are large tv screens on the walls, so that you can see the creatures really clearly. I felt this was a great idea under supervision as it allowed children to see creatures they may not normally have the chance to, and with a helper on hand, it meant they could ask any questions that came to mind. It is of course important to remember to wash your hands afterwards and there are sinks & steps available for both children and adults.

This is not a full day attraction, and it took us around 90 minutes to walk around at a leisurely pace. However, when combined with the other attractions on site, you could easily spend a few hours here. It is very accessible, with plenty of parking and an iTrolley stop a very short walk away. If you are after a slower paced day, away from the stress of the parks then I would definitely recommend a visit here.

 If you would like to learn more about SeaLife Orlando then please visit their website here: Sea Life Orlando

If you would like to see more pictures from our visit then please go to our website: A Family Adventure

 Disclaimer: I was provided with two complimentary tickets for this attraction in exchange for an honest and impartial review. I purchased the remainder of the tickets.

Monday 13 June 2016

A Wonderful Experience at Wonderworks Orlando

Wow! I literally don't know where to begin with Wonderworks Orlando, we had such a fantastic time here, that we were really disappointed when it came to having to leave. Located on International Drive, you can't miss it when driving past as the outside is presented as an upside down house. It is so clever, and immediately attracts your attention. We couldn't wait to get inside and find out what it was all about!

The Wonderworks website describes the experience as being one of the top things to do in Orlando and they are not wrong. This indoor attraction offers 35,000 square foot of educational entertainment that keeps you mesmerised, interested and entertained from start to finish. 

General admission tickets offer excellent value for money at only $26.99 + tax for adults and $20.99 + tax for children. I felt that this was a very low cost in comparison to other attractions in the area, and these tickets offer access to all of the exhibits, one ticket to the 4D XD Motion Theater and one ticket for the ropes course. If you also fancy a fun game of laser tag too, then you can purchase the Laser tag combo ticket at $29.99 + tax for adults and $23.99 + tax for children. It is important to note however that if you plan on going on the ropes course or playng laser tag, then you need to have closed toe shoes on such as trainers, for obvious safety reasons.

The exhibits are split into six wonder zones. The first zone we came to was the Natural Disasters Zone. The kids were fascinated to learn about natural disasters that have occurred around the world, and actually took the time to read the information provided. It was great to see something capture their attention as opposed to a quick glance and carry on, and around each piece of information was a hands on exhibit to try out. The first one that my children tried was the Earthquake cafe which was designed to show the power of a 5.3 Earthquake. I found that these kind of exhibits were a real eye opener for the children as we often hear of earthquakes on the news without any idea as to how they actually feel or how scary it must be, and so it definitely got us all thinking. Next we tried out the Hurricane Shack which allowed us to experience a category one hurricane force winds, followed by the Google Earth console which was a huge screen that allowed us to zoom in on any part of the world. My children loved this and were able to find our home, their school, and our hotel that we were staying in. It really is fascinating to see and use the technology that we have available to us.

The most interesting part to me in this zone was the Titanic exhibit and actually made me quite emotional. Most people will know the story of the Titanic, and of course many of us will have seen the hit film based on the tragedy. I know the story, I know it hit an iceberg and then tragically sank resulting in the death of many of its passengers, but ive never thought about how cold the water actually was. What temperature were the passengers being plunged into, and what did they have to experience? It really is horrifying to actually think about how it must have been for those onboard, but in this exhibit there is small pool of water that you can put your arm into to experience how cold the water would have been. There is also a timer that records how long you can manage to keep your arm in until you voluntarily withdraw it. I managed 12 seconds which just goes to show how horrible it must have been for the passengers who had no choice but to wait in the water to be rescued. This really gets you thinking and makes you want to learn more. My children asked so many questions after this zone and it was nice to see them so keen to find out as much as they could.

The second zone we visited was the physical challenge zone. This zone was so much fun with plenty to do. My husband tried out the bed of nails, and the kids absolutely loved the Wonder Wall which allowed you to create 3-Dimensional images of your body on a giant  plastic pin wall. My 3 year old absolutely loved this! The firm favourite in this area though was the Bubble Lab where you could create bubbles of all shapes and sizes. My husband managed to create a huge bubble that my daughter fitted in, and my 3 year old was delighted to be able to make some huge bubbles all by himself. My husband and son also really enjoyed the virtual sports area. There really was something for everyone in this zone.

Next up was the light and sound zone. Here we learnt all about the speed of light, colours, patterns, shadows and sounds. Our favourite part of this zone, was the shadow experiment. This allowed you to see your shadow in any shape you wanted to. We stood in front of a wall and then there was a flash, the portion of the wall that our bodies were covering was not able to absorb the light and so this left our shadow impression on the wall. We learnt from this that our image on the wall hadn't actually become darker but instead the rest of the wall had absorbed the light and made the wall lighter. It was a really fun experiment that captured my children's attention and even with the explanation it left them intrigued as to how it worked. Isn't science interesting!

Our favourite zone was the Space Discovery Zone, this area was so informative and interesting, and also offered some fantastic photo opportunities. We learnt all about space suits, what they provide to astronauts and how they help them to survive. They really are an amazing piece of equipment and you can have your photo taken inside one which is fabulous. There is also the replica of the Mercury capsule where you can experience what it is like to be inside one of these amazing vehicles. In this area is also an Astronaut training challenge which seats 2 people, and then spins and rotate in numerous directions to simulate the effects that space has on human beings. Having just eaten our lunch prior to our visit though we decided not to try this, but it did look great fun. Don't miss out on the Wonder Coaster in this zone, this amazing simulator actually allows you to create your own dream roller coaster and then experience it in a virtual ride. Really clever!

After everything we had already tried, we were expecting the attraction to soon come to an end, as it felt like we had already done so much, but no, there was yet another zone called the Imagination Zone. My youngest son Riley loved it in this zone as there was so much for him to do. A gigantic version of Lite-Brite immediately caught his attention where you could rearrange coloured sticks on to a black wall which would then light up and glow. He created his own little masterpieces that looked fantastic and he was really proud of his efforts. The Fun Express stations also offered Riley some enjoyable digital colouring activities, that are similar to some of the apps that he uses on the ipad and so it was nice for him to be able to enjoy an activity that he was familiar with and knew how to work. I think he could have quite happily sat for hours playing here. When we did manage to get him to venture away from the Fun Express station, he then enjoyed playing with the Gear Works. As he is only 3 he didn't quite understand the purpose of this, but thoroughly enjoyed moving them around and connecting them together, whilst Emma and Ben enjoyed the educational side of it and started to understand how gears work.

Last up of the zones was the Far Out Gallery, this wasn't in a large allocated area like the others and instead it was a series of illusions,images and paintings that really got your mind working. These were all situated on the walls on the way UP to the basement, yes that's right UP (remember the house is upside down)!

The basement offers even more fun and offers an amazing 3 storey glow in the dark climbing course. My daughter Emma tried this out and it really tested her abilities and also helped to improve her confidence whilst offering enjoyment in a new activity that she had never tried before. My eldest son Ben doesn't like heights and so he chose not to participate in this, and unfortunately I wasn't aware of the shoe policy prior to arrival so due to wearing flip flops I was unable to take part, but Emma really enjoyed it and was so excited and proud of herself when she had finished. 

The basement also houses the 4D XD Motion Theater experience. The film that showed during our visit was the Canyon Coaster and this offered a simulated thrill ride that we all enjoyed. The ride can accommodate twelve persons at a time and lasts about 5 minutes so we didn't need to queue for very long at all. The Wonderworks website does advertise that there are three different movies shown on a rotating schedule, so if we get the chance to return in the future, it would be great to try out one of the others. 

Sadly, due to a dinner reservation that we had in Citywalk, we had no time to try out the laser tag. I was quite gutted about this, as I haven't played laser tag since I was about 10 and so I had really been looking forward to this, but we had so much fun in all of the other zones that time had literally flown. The next time we return to Orlando we will definitely be doing this without a doubt as it looked fantastic. If all of that wasn't enough, the basement also has some arcade games, which was really useful to us, as it meant that Ben and Riley could enjoy a few games whilst Emma was on the ropes course and so it was a handy addition to have within the attraction.

Overall, we absolutely loved it here. All the staff, from the lady who served us on the ticket desk, to those assisting in the zones were really friendly and helpful. It really is a fun filled attraction from start to finish, that offers excellent value for money, as well as providing a unique learning experience. Would I recommend this place to families? ABSOLUTELY!

For more information on Wonderworks Orlando please visit their website here: Wonderworks Orlando
For more pictures and to read more about our visit, please visit our site: A Family Adventure - Wonderworks Review

Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary tickets for this attraction in exchange for an honest and impartial review. 

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Coco Key Water Park & Resort Orlando Review

The first stop of our trip to Orlando was the Coco Key Water Resort, ideally situated on International Drive. When organising the trip we had been looking for a hotel where we could relax for a couple of days but that also offered plenty of facilities to keep the children entertained. After having read what seemed like hundreds of tripadvisor reviews, searching third party holiday sites such as and we came across the Coco Key Water Resort and found that it was exactly what we had been looking for.

Our journey to Orlando consisted of three flights and an overnight stopover in Dublin on the way out, and so we knew we would be tired, however we also knew that after a few hours the kids batteries would be recharged and they would be ready to run around again, and so we felt that having a couple of days in a central hotel, would help us to get over the tiredness, but also allow the kids to start having fun straight away.

I booked online via their own website, and found that they had some great advance booking deals. I compared these prices to the ones found on the third party sites and was pleased to see that the booking direct prices were lower, which we have found isn't always the case with other hotels. For our family of 5, for 2 nights inclusive of resort fee and taxes it came to approximately £162. There were also other rates available that were inclusive of continental buffet breakfast, however we had already planned to eat out on International Drive and so decided to book it on a room only basis. The deposit was low and equivalent to the first nights stay. This was debited from my card within 24 hours of booking, and meant that on arrival we only had to pay for the 2nd night. 

Getting to the hotel was really easy. I had prebooked a luxury SUV from the Mears Transport website which cost $72 inclusive of tip & tolls, however there are plenty of taxis available at the airport and these will cost you approximately $45.  We arrived at the hotel just before midnight and the hotel appearance was exactly as I expected it. In addition to viewing the hotel pictures on the website, we had also used tripadvisor and google streetview to get an accurate idea of the hotel and its location. There was a very short queue of people checking in, so after a quick five minute wait we were checked in promptly. I chose to pay cash on arrival for the outstanding balance, as some hotels place a hold on your card, which then takes a while to be a released. This can then have a knock on effect if you were planning on using those funds for spends and so we always choose to pay by cash where possible. I declined the option of leaving my card for incidentals and instead opted to pay a $50 deposit which would be returned to me on checkout.  We were given an information sheet on the hotel which also had a map on to direct us to our room, however we didn't need this as it was very easy to find without.

The hotel itself, has a mixture of motel style rooms, in addition to several large blocks of internal hotel rooms. There is ample parking, and if you have one of the outside rooms, it is possible to park your vehicle directly outside your room.  There are also a number of rooms that open out directly to the waterpark, which is ideal if you have small children and may have the need to return to your room regularly.

The rooms are basic, but they are large, spacious, comfortable, clean and have all the amenities that you could need, such as a fridge, coffee making facilities, television, safe, and ample storage space. There was plenty of space for all of us without feeling too cramped, and in addition to the two Queen sized beds, there was a seating area, and table and chairs, which meant that there was space for everyone in the evening. We were in block number 6, and although there was no direct view from our window, if you looked to the right hand side, we could see the Orlando Eye all lit up in the evening which was lovely.

On site, there is a lobby area which in addition to housing the reception, also has a computer area for guests, a small arcade which is ideal to keep the kids occupied whilst checking in or out, and a ticket desk where you can purchase attraction tickets. There are also a number of coupon booklets available here, which offer numerous discounts at some of the local restaurants, so I would recommend picking up some of these if you fancy saving a bit a money.

The main attraction of this hotel though is the fantastic waterpark, which offers something for all ages. There is a shallow water area undercover with three small slides that are ideal for the younger children, along with some fountains and water toys. Then there is a large pool area that is deeper and great if you want a swim as opposed to enjoying the slides. There is also a large spiral water slide located in this pool but it goes into deep water so is only ideal for older children. Outside is the main waterpark area that offers numerous slides, toys, large bucket drop, sprinklers and water guns. There are plenty of loungers and tables and chairs throughout the water park area, and in the two days that we were there we had no issue getting loungers. This was great as it meant that we could relax whilst also being able to have full view of our kids at all times whilst they played and had fun. The staff at the waterpark are absolutely amazing and a credit to the hotel. I have never seen lifeguards work so hard or be so thorough.  There were plenty of lifeguards who all have there own small area to cover, they then consistently walk up and down watching in the water every few seconds and literally do not take their eyes of the water. They take absolutely no chances with safety and if there is any doubt they jump straight in. This made my husband and I feel very comfortable that our children were playing in a safe environment.

Next to the waterpark is  large arcade, where you can purchase an e-card and top up with money to use on the machines. You can then win e-credits which can be exchanged for prizes. The minimum load on the card is $5 which we found would last the kids around 20-30 minutes depending on which games they went on, and they were more than happy with this. In addition to the arcade is a pool bar area, where you can purchase numerous drinks and there is a large selection of cocktails available. There is a also a large restaurant located here and a Pizza Hut so it was nice to have a couple of dining options on site. We didn't get the opportunity to use these, but we did see numerous customers purchase food and it always looked nice and appetising. The restaurant also offers a continental breakfast buffet in the morning, which is great if you don't fancy venturing out for breakfast.

Off site, there are loads of dining options within walking distance. During our research we had seen several previous guests recommend Cici's pizza which is located directly across the road and so we went over there one evening to try out their pizza and pasta buffet. The pizzas were delicious and it only cost $6.99 for an adult. We had picked up a voucher in the hotel reception for a free adults buffet and so it only came to $25.99 for 2 adults, 3 children inclusive of refillable drinks and desserts. Amazing value for money! We also tried the breakfast buffet at the nearby Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant which cost $41 and offered pretty much everything you can think of that you would want for breakfast and more! 

There are also numerous attractions along International Drive including Wonderworks, Ripleys, The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds, The Sealife Centre, and several mini golf courses. Universal Orlando and Seaworld are nearby and would cost about $12 to $15 in a taxi, but could also be walked to if you fancied a bit of exercise and would probably take about 45 minutes to an hour. 

If you need to stock up on snacks and drinks, then there are plenty of small supermarkets along International Drive along with a couple of Walgreens stores. We found this ideal and we were able to stock up our fridge and ensure the children had plenty of snacks in the room.

In terms of staff, everyone that we met were really friendly and helpful. When we checked out of the hotel, a member of staff helped us label up all our bags and stored them in the luggage room for us whilst we enjoyed the waterpark for the day, and when it came to leaving another staff member kindly called a taxi for us to take us to our next hotel, which arrived really quickly.

Overall this is a fantastic value hotel that has plenty to keep children entertained and is great for families. If you are after a 5* luxury experience then this hotel is NOT for you, however if you are looking to have some fun, enjoy some family time, and be in a perfect location to explore Orlando then I highly recommend this place, and we look forward to returning in the future.

Disclaimer: This review was written of my own accord, based on our experience and stay. I did NOT receive any monetary payment, discount, or complimentary nights in exchange for my review.