A great place for family bonding
I had recently experienced that bitter-sweet epiphany that eventually strikes every working mom: time was flying by and I needed to savour these golden years. At ages six and nine, Sophie and Olivia were at that perfect stage: old enough to travel with ease and still eager to hang out with mom. I seized the moment, and we escaped on a four-day girls' getaway where the only task on my to-do list was spending some precious time with my daughters. (If only everyday could be so simple!) There are plenty of cheap places to stay in Orlando but I wanted to feel spoiled and not spend our limited time on long treks to the parks.
While the Portofino Bay Hotel was a splurge it worked well for us. It has a fantastic pool, a serene, old-world feel that was a lovely respite from the busy parks, and we could take a scenic water shuttle to Universal Studios.
It's not all just theme parks
What really helped make the trip work for all of us was the mix of theme park activities and excursions to lesser-known attractions in Orlando. We hit the parks in the mornings before it got too hot and Olivia was game to try out all the wild rides. One of our most enjoyable experiences was an hour at a charming playground at Disney Hollywood Studios based on the movie A Bug's Life, where we ambled about like insects, crawling through oversized tin cans and dodging spurts of water.
Two of our treks outside the parks included a visit to Wonder Works, an interactive science museum where we dipped our hands in water, which was the temperature of the ocean the night the Titanic sank, and Farris and Foster's chocolate factory, where we made chocolates on a conveyor belt just like in the episode of "I Love Lucy." These relaxing afternoon outings helped prevent Sophie and Olivia from becoming exhausted, and I was pleased that they liked them as much as the theme parks.
While I did survive several rides with the kids (even two roller coasters, albeit for the under 10 set) the most memorable was gliding through the wetlands of central Florida on an airboat, catching a glimpse of baby alligators, osprey and an assortment of other wildlife. Olivia, Sophie and I decided as soon as the experience was over that it will be high up on our list of things to do if we ever make it back to Orlando.
Websites to check out if you go to Orlando:
• Boggycreek Airboat Rides