Our magical week at Orange Lake Resorts, Orlando
Harry Potter Wizarding World
First impressions? The sweeping driveways, manicured lawns and tantalising glimpses of swimming pools and water slides were a sharp contrast to the damp and grey London we left behind earlier that day. Not that we dislike London, but it can be a bit dreary at times and a holiday with guaranteed sunshine can give you that boost you desperately need.
At first I was disappointed we weren’t in one of the resort’s self-contained villas but the River Island apartment complex has panoramic views overlooking the pool area and I soon realised we’d certainly not been given the short straw. The free and surprisingly fast wi-fi access cemented this view as I can’t go long without my internet fixes.
Paul, my husband, and I were taking a holiday with my sister Anne and her family who’d emigrated to the States a few years ago but had never visited Florida. As they were flying in a bit later than us, we deliberately rushed to the resort to try and bag the best bedroom, as you do. The good news was that the two apartments we were allocated, with connecting doorway, were so vast it didn’t really matter and we ended up leaving the larger one with two bedrooms to my sister and her entourage – that’s generosity for you!
The first couple of days were spent floating down the Lazy River, a meandering pool right next to the villas, together with an energetic nephew and niece, Laila and Tom and a not so energetic Anne and her husband Joe. My own husband, Paul (also known as Red Elvis) is not a big fan of the sun so spent his time sussing out shopping malls on my behalf. These I frequented, several times.
It was then on to Universal’s Islands of Adventure® and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom®, at a shocking $80 or so each. But we spend a fantastic day at each theme park, the highlight being the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, which was so exciting we bought wands for each household, a very useful addition I now realise. Some of the rides were best left only to the bravest of the brave and I have to say I was terrified out of my wits by the rollercoaster ‘Hulk’ ride.
Relaxing or perhaps rather recovering back at the resort, we continued our exploration of Orange Lake and found that there was a lot more than just River Island. The kids loved the Gatorland® show and were able to stroke an alligator’s belly which is extremely soft and appealing in a strange sort of way. You can apparently see the occasional alligator in the resort’s lakes which put a stop to my ideas of solitary early morning walks, to be replaced by early morning pilates in the safely of the apartment. We had also intended to do a bit of bowling or take a boat out on the lake one evening to celebrate Tom’s birthday, but laziness took over and instead we bought a DVD and had a restrained party back at the apartment.
Later in the week, I was lucky enough to be shown the Signature Collection at River Island, part of RCI’s upmarket Registry Collection. I can’t think of enough superlatives to describe the accommodation, but suffice to say I nearly had my bag repacked to spend the rest of my stay there. If you have the budget, this is definitely the way to go!
Our last day, a Saturday, was a sad one as I won’t be seeing Anne again for a while and as we said or goodbyes, I asked the kids what they thought of the holiday. Laila said it was the best holiday she’d ever had and she wanted to come back every year and Tom had three words to describe it: ‘cool’, ‘cool’ and ‘cool’!
So a big thanks to Orange Lake Resorts for accommodating us and who knows, we may be back again soon . . .
Sue McNicol is head of UK operations for RDO (Resort Development Organisation) Follow Sue on Twitter on @RDO_Sue or RDO on @RDOOfficial