Where can you combine your favorite childhood stories with quality Equity actors — more than any US city except NYC or Chicago? Would you believe the answer is Orlando?
Actually, Orlando makes sense, especially when you consider how many union performers Walt Disney World alone hires (around 250 of the 500 performers who reside there). Orlando may be one of the only places where an actor can make a living doing what they love and ensure that their work will be seen by up to 60 million visitors a year, never mind all the locals partaking of Epcot’s adult beverage selection.
Slytherin at heart? Focus on this.
Let’s start at the very beginning, as it were. The four main Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) host numerous stage shows, live entertainment and what they’ve defined (as only Disney can) as “Streetmosphere.” Streetmosphere is that lovely entertainment you happen upon while wandering a park; some favorites include the agile Serveur Amustant in France and Animal Kingdom’s Discovery Island Carnivale. These attractions continue to be cast with a high calibre of union performers and are all included with admission; your only decision before arrival is whether you want to focus on one park per day or have the option to park hop. Either way, your tickets include Fast Pass service, which is a must if you don’t want to spend half your vacation in line. Be sure you plan for the E-ticket rides early (Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Expedition Everest, Space Mountain) or you may miss the Fast Pass opportunity! To enjoy their relaxing water parks as well, just include that option (with a free day) to the one park or park hopper tickets.
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If you like Elsa and Mickey okay, but you’re a Slytherin at heart, focus on Universal Parks. Universal leans more towards older children and adult entertainment, with Harry Potter, Marvel, DC, Jurassic Park and The Simpsons, to name a few attractions. Add their latest announcement about plans for an interactive experience with Nintendo games, and everyone in your group, regardless of age, will find their own fun.
Here’s why Fast Pass is a must.
Universal has two parks in operation currently: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (IOA for short). Volcano Bay is an incredible water park under construction and expected to open early summer 2017. A few tips if you’re a Muggle and are visiting specifically for a Harry Potter experience: Diagon Alley has no signage to show you where to enter. It’s just like in the books and in the movie: you have to know where the entrance is. The only clue is to find the area across from The Knight Bus that looks like people filing into a restroom; follow them around the corner and there’s Diagon Alley! Enjoy the many live musical wizards and witches, the dragon that breathes fire every 15 minutes (high on top of a building), chocolate chili ice cream, Dragon Scale brew and, of course, the Butterbeer. That one seems to be the favorite, but you can only find your own through trial and error. The goblins in Gringott’s aren’t live, but everywhere you turn, there’s a spell you can cast and a veteran wizard to assist.
Be warned that in order to ride the Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) to Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) — the most magical way to travel — you’ll need Park to Park tickets. You cannot take the train without tickets to both parks.
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Don’t just count on the big names, though. LEGOLAND is worth the trip for all ages, with rides, kingdoms made of Legos to explore, and a water park. There’s also Sea World and Busch Gardens if your family would like more of an animal based theme park day.
You can see there’s a lot more to Orlando than just The Mouse; outside of theme parks, attractions like the Coca Cola Orlando Eye, tours and other live shows share those talented actors with the parks. So no matter the tastes within your group, everyone can find their own favorite kind of entertainment there.