Frolicking in Florida – Chocolate, Lego, Racing and SeaWorld!
by David J. Cox
Orlando is a wonderful place with so many activities, parks, attractions, museums and more that it is exhausting just planning what to do! This trip, we decided to forgo Disney and check out some other attractions. Our big days were spent at SeaWorld, where the rides overwhelmed the animals and their amazing water park, Aquatica, where I learned what ‘freefalling’ means. We then pressed the pedal to the metal in go carts, and rode one of the fastest little roller coasters ever at Orlando’s Fun Spot America, followed by a step into childhood at Legoland and topped off with visit to a chocolate lover’s paradise, the Chocolate Kingdom.
King of the Chocolate Kingdom
A bit of fortuitous timing and we were able to visit the Kingdom with just our family and 3 other people. The waiting room is an interesting area, with a windowed hothouse area containing several cocoa plants, and shelves chock-full of handmade chocolate treats.
The tour is really aimed at families with children, as the first step is a fun video that introduces visitors to a cartoon prince and his pet dragon who will help the human guide explain the history of chocolate!
After the video, our guide was inundated with questions from my son, who quickly became the star of the show. Our guide answered every question in a friendly way, never condescending or patronizing. I think he sparked a new passion in my son – chocolate making!
The three together (guide, prince and the clumsy dragon) take visitors through each step of the chocolate making process. It starts with the history of chocolate, stemming from the Mayan and Aztec empires in a memorable and interactive way. There are videos, plaques and displays. The presentation is done at a leisurely pace and we never felt rushed. The best part is that they let you sample the chocolate during each phase!
Some highlights include the `chocolate land` diorama, with a 5 foot tall milk chocolate castle, a river of dark chocolate and forests of white chocolate trees. There was also the marshmallow catapult…which can be a little painful if done wrong…as my son`s chin found out!
After the history lesson, guests are led into the chocolate factory where the experts are hard at work making dark, milk and white chocolate.
The creamy mixtures are hypnotizing as they are slowly thickened. At the end of the tour, visitors get to choose their chocolate bar starting with a choice of dark, milk, or white chocolate, then adding add any 3 of an awesome list of ingredients including peppers, cashews, mint pieces, rice crispies and much, much, more!
A magic visit that my son (and our taste buds) will not soon forget!
Legoland is a blast for young and old alike, especially the under 10 set, the real target audience of the Park!
The ambiance throws you right into your imagination and childhood. The Miniland area was a real highlight. The replication of famous landmarks were really remarkable, including the Daytona International Speedway, with Lego drag cars and stands filled with Lego characters, the Kennedy space centre diorama was detailed and impressive, as was the Miniland Pirate’s Shores with boats and cannons.
My personal favorite was the new Star Wars themed Miniland section, with scenes taken from the 6 films and the Clone Wars series. A hydraulic system that has the Millennium Falcon taking off; a battle scene with smoke and music; dueling Lego Jedi – as adorable as it was impressive.
The rides were more fun than thrilling, as they were also geared towards the younger fans, though the Dragon offered a little drop or two that got the heart going!
Though the shows like ‘Shamu’s Miracle’ show and the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin! are interesting and fun, it was the rides that were the highlight at SeaWorld for us. First up was the Manta, a coaster where riders are suspended under the track offering the sensation of flying. It is very daunting and on the climb towards the first drop, and I was not comforted by my son’s words, “see you on the other side”!
Next was their roller-coaster / boat ride Journey To Atlantis, where riders begin floating through a canal, up a hill and into a dark passage with Arabian themed scenes, down a dark tunnel and into the first splash pool. That is followed by another climb and a major drop into a pool, then the ride becomes a super-quick roller coaster until another drop. We laughed and laughed as we rode this one at least 4 times!
Our visit was a pleasant one, and though I am not one for captivity, the SeaWorld rehabilitation centre is amazing, as are its many walk through aquariums with glass ceilings. It is quite something to walk beneath a real shark!
Aquatica has many of the typical slides offered by water parks, but some are truly exceptional. For the novice, there is the gentle Dolphin Plunge that glides through an aquarium housing a few dolphins, who often swim alongside the clear plastic tube!
My favorite was also the biggest thrill slide I have personally done, Ihu’s Breakaway Fall water slide. As we reached the ‘launch zone’ my son asked “I wonder which is fastest!”, to which the attendant answered The Blue One! Ever foolhardy, my son entered the torpedo-like chamber first. I will never forget his face as the countdown ended and the floor dropped from under him. Well, I’m sure my face held the same expression as the floor fell from under my feet. The slide starts with a freefall and then the rider starts the slide, gliding at incredible speeds. Seconds later you arrive at the bottom laughing at the absurd speeds of the slide. I cannot wait to do it again!
Walhalla Wave is a thrilling family ride, with a maze of twists, turns, and tunnels before hitting the landing pool.
There are enough fun rides for a day-long stay and luckily, Aquatica also offers a lazy river that puts all other lazy rivers to shame. With a moderate current, visitors can swim, float or laze along Loggerhead Lane. Total relaxation.
Orlando’s Fun Spot America
I had never visited a Fun Spot before, and I regret it! What a great little treasure in the land of big name parks!
We enjoyed the carnival ambiance and were impressed with the rides that were offered. I have ridden many roller coasters, and I think their White Lightning is in solid contention for a position in my top ten. Lasting only about 45 seconds, this super fast wooden coaster is an absolute treat to ride. Tight corners, breakaway speed, that wooden click-click feel that the metal coasters cannot offer – this ride was something special. I think I rode on it a dozen times and could have enjoyed a dozen more, but there were Go Karts awaiting!
Renowned for their multi-level Go Karts tracks, Fun Spot did not disappoint. The kids had the opportunity to drive their own Go Karts, which made their day. I heard many a cry of “I’m going to beat you, Dad!” After a short wait, the countdown…3, 2, 1, and we were off. There were two different tracks that we enjoyed. Turns and straight-aways, twists and climbs, the whole family was laughing and trying to win the races!
The Park also offered a moderate Freedom Flyer coaster and other amusement park staples, including bumper cars, Ferris wheel and the world’s second tallest SkyCoaster at a dizzying 250 feet tall!
A good portion of the day was spent in the arcade as well, with plenty of video games, pinball machines and other fun available.
Family fun for everyone!
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