Florida in August


Our Summer vacation this year brought us to Florida, (for the past four years we have spent August in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), but we have been to Orlando before: two weeks over Christmas and the new millennium, a week in the Summer of '96, and I was here on my own in the Spring of '79.

We decided that having visited the Disney theme parks at Christmas, we would give those a miss this time, and just go for the water parks, the beaches, other theme parks and of course, check out the shopping malls.


We visited Sea World twice on this vacation. I had been there in 1979 when it had been open for six years, and it was purely a marine park, with the killer whales, dolphin shows and various aquaria. The prompt to go there this time was a new rollercoaster ride called the Kraken, the tallest, fastest and only floorless mega-coaster in Orlando, plus the Journey to Atlantis water-coaster ride, with two of the steepest, wettest, fastest drops in the world.

The Shamu Stadium is the home to a number of amazing killer whales. One of their tricks is to try and soak as much of the audience as possible.

There is a strong sense of bonding between the trainer and the animal, and one can sense that the killer whales are not merely performing mindless circus acts. One of the trainers had been with Shamu for the past seven years, and the trust between human and whale was plain to see.


At different times during the day, small packets of fish were sold so that visitors could feed the dolphins at Dolphin Cove. These creatures are beautiful and so very intelligent. They loved to be tickled under their mouths. The dolphins' smile seems almost permanent as they splash about and make clicking sounds, inviting you to throw them a scrap of food.



One morning we decided to head North East on I4 to Daytona Beach. The journey took about an hour, and our first stop when we arrived was at the Daytona International Speedway. This interactive motorsports attraction is full of NASCAR exhibits, a museum, a theatre showing the Daytona 500 movie, and of course the famous 31 high banks on the speedway track itself. One of the funniest tasks is to try and commentate at one of Daytona's great race finishes. It is no mean feat grabbing the microphone, reading the autocue from the bottom of a monitor, and not stumbling or fluffing any of the words as the cars are racing madly round the track.

A brilliant place to spend a few hours.

Having turned into complete petrolheads, we then headed for the beach.

Daytona Beach has taken over from Fort Lauderdale, (which in the seventies went wild), as the place to be during Spring Break. College students from all over the States gather on or near the beaches for some serious partying.


During the day, driving on the beach is allowed in certain areas, for a modest fee. Sunbathe, walk, jog, pose or just look cool in your Corvette, (or monster truck if you like!) as you drive up and down checking out the sights and sounds!















Twice on holiday we went to see drag racing; incredibly noisy, colourful, exciting and the quarter mile completed in under eight seconds!

After we had spent one hot, lazy day on the beach at Clearwater, on the Gulf of Mexico, we found the Sunshine Drag Strip, a stretch of field at the back of an industrial estate, fast filling up with spectators and competitors alike.

The first few elimination runs took place as the sun was setting. Then unfortunately there was a problem with the starting lights and things were delayed for quite some time. Apparently frantic phone calls were made to Colorado to the manufacturers' and eventually the competition resumed. The final winner walked away with $500, not bad for an evening's fun.


Another late afternoon found us at the Orlando International Speedway where there was lots of noise and many street cars vying for the top position.

These evenings full of roaring engines and burning rubber are incredibly spectacular and great fun for all the family.



On the day that we visited Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure, Dodge were having a promotion of their vehicles, and two of the most gorgeous creations were parked at the entrance :

The Prowler and The Viper.

Our day at Universal was spent walking between the two theme parks of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, picking the best times to queue for the rides and attractions.

At Universal Studios, Terminator 2 : 3-D and Back to the Future remain excellent, but one of the newest rides, Men in Black Alien Attack is terrific fun. You are issued with alien zappers as you sit in an open module which then transports you through the streets of New York. It is up to you to save the world by laser zapping the gruesome aliens that pop up out of nowhere as you are thrown around in the darkness strapped into your seat ~ the outcome being based on your score!




Jaws is another old favourite that still excites, even if the great white attacker looks a bit crude and unsophisticated in this day and age of computer generated images.





Over at the Islands of Adventure, Marvel Super Hero Island is a fantastic place to be with some mind-blowing rides that take your breath away. The Incredible Hulk Coaster catapults you into tight turns, twists and loops as you are launched into a rollercoaster rampage. Doctor Doom's Fearfall rockets you 150 feet into the air up the twin towers, and then lets you drop back to earth faster than gravity itself.




Another 3-D ride is The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Here an incredible high tech journey zooms you through the skyscrapers, falling debris and attacking super villains as you watch Spiderman on his mission to overcome evil!

In the Lost Continent, Duelling Dragons is the world's first inverted, duelling rollercoaster, conveying its eager passengers on a near-miss ride across Merlin's Land. The Mystic Fountain draws its audience close by asking personal questions based on what each is wearing, or perhaps the colour of their hair, waiting for a response, and then soaking the unsuspecting listeners. A great place to watch the misfortune of others!

Inbetween the two theme parks is Universal CityWalk, a collection of themed restaurants (Hard Rock, Nascar, Motown, Margaritaville, Bob Marley and many more), nightclubs with live music, shops and a huge multiplex movie theatre. Each cinema has wonderfully comfy seats, with high backs which rock you gently back and forth! Ask for popcorn and you receive a large shopping bag of the stuff, ask for a beer, and if you can prove you are over twenty-one, you must wear a very fetching pink wristband! We saw X-Men, (terrific super hero action), Space Cowboys, (Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and William Devane; a story of amazing ageing astronauts; a wonderful film), Pokemon 2000 (hmmm!), and Godzilla 2000 ( an over the top monster trashing downtown Japan).



Outside the Quiet Flight Surf Shop you can pretend you are surfing a barrelling concrete wave!









Having been to the amazing water theme parks of Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, we decided to check out another, smaller water attraction at Kissimmee. There was a good offer on in August for Water Mania; two days entry for $13.98. Although the park did not have as many flumes, pools or water slides, it is a cheap and fun place to spend an afternoon. The bodyboarding 'Wipe Out' really tests your skills of strength, coordination and ability to perform infront of an audience; arms and legs flying everywhere, face being sprayed with water and sometimes, board shorts revealing more than they should !



We also managed to cram in many shopping trips, long lazy days on various beaches, and a trip to Wonderworks with the world's largest laser tag arena and many interactive and virtual reality attractions (try programming your own white knuckle ride, and then experiencing it in a simulator !).

Busch Gardens down at Tampa is always a fun day out, with the many roller coasters, wild water rides and of course all the African animals in their natural habitat. The double wooden roller coaster Gwazi, is a fairly new addition, with two tracks racing to the finish at closing speeds of almost 100mph. Montu and Kumba are rated two of the top five steel coasters in the country. A must for anyone enjoying a weightless feeling whilst spiraling out of control !

All in all, we had a brilliant three week holiday.

Me at Cocoa Beach.

August 2000

Melanie Rawlings

(All text and digital images)