I’ve done quite a couple of trips to Orlando and I always enjoy taking first time visitors with me. As it is really a long trip I try to visit all parks und to "do" as much "stuff" as possible, which can be quite exhausting. In order to prevent people from freaking out (I call it the “Disney Koller”) I try to incorporate some “non-park activities”. And one of my very favorites is Kennedy Space Center.
I have to admit: I totally love this place. I was 11 years old when the first Space Shuttle started from KSC and since then my fascination for space exploration remains unbroken. I believe the whole Space Center Complex is a unique piece of “living history” and I am always surprised how open NASA displays the Space Program and itself here.
One of my favorite attractions is the “Astronaut Encounter”. It’s like Uncle Bob doing a slide show, with the fine difference that Uncle Bob is one of the 344 Americans that left the earth and travelled into space. It even feels like Uncle Bob doing a slide show, with the only difference, that the photos he brings were not taken on the last road trip to Reno but on board a spacecraft. It’s extraordinary.
Here's a picture of my wife Regina, me and Mike Leinbach. Mike has been shuttle launch director for several years. I had the oppertunity to do a special tour with him.
Almost everything in KSC is real. There is a gigantic Saturn V rocket on display and the Apollo 14 crew module “Kitty Hawk”. There is a real Apollo lunar module hanging above the entrance of a restaurant. It’s incredible.
And they have this new amazing display of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It’s stunning. It always makes me a little sad though, as the time of the Shuttle program is over now. In the past, you could see a Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad (if you were lucky) or visit the ISS center, where modules for the International Space Station were being prepared. But I am confident, that – after this time of transition is over – we’ll travel into space again. Some private companies seem to be on their way and also NASA keeps dreaming big.
The crawler that transports the Space Shuttle to the launch pad
This is the firing room here all shuttle missions were supervised
The historic Apollo site, where Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died on a "plugs out test"
Inside the insanely huge "Vehicle Assembly Building"
One thing that is really enjoyable about Orlando is the vast choice of hotels. No matter what your price range is, you’ll find a place to stay easily. Everybody who has tried to get a decent accommodation near places like Monument Valley, Grand Canyon or the L.A. beachfront will surely appreciate this. If you want the “full park experience”, you can book an on-site hotel at Disney or Universal, which is convenient and keep’s you “in the magic” all the time. This can be strenuous though, escpecially if you are on an “all parks”-Trip, that last 8 days or longer. But if you are into a kind of “maximum park experience” staying close to the Magic Kingdom or Universal is awesome. Taking a boat to the parks in the morning gets you in the mood for fun instantly.
Hotels in the U.S. are quite different to those in Germany. First: they are basically completely smoke-free, which is fantastic. In Germany you always have the chance of ending up in a stinky smoker’s room at some hotels. Second: if you stay at a Disney Hotel and do not have a dinner reservation, there is a good chance, that you will stay hungry in the evening. Third: the staff in the hotels is commonly super-helpful, but you should not be in a hurry. For example: When we stayed at the Polynesian our in-room safe said “LOW BAT”, which could mean “I might not open tomorrow when you need to rush to the airport”. 5 minutes after we called front desk, a friendly lady from housekeeping arrived, examined the safe and called tech. 15 minutes later two ladies from tech arrived, examined the safe and concluded, that the battery would have to be replaced. Another 10 minutes later a guy with a replacement battery arrived and fixed the problem. This is what happened to us in Orlando. I promise: in a German hotel nobody would ever show up to fix the safe.
After a long flight, after standing in line for immigration and customs, after fighting with the rental car guy ("No, I don't want the Zombi Apocalypse insurance, yes the Hummer is big enough for me!") nothing beats collapsing into your hotel bed for the first time.
Care for some pictures?
This is the Royal Pacific Hotel at Universal
They have boats running to the park all day
If you stay at the Grand Floridian, you can take a bus, the monorail or a boat to the Magic Kingdom
This is the property as seen from the Polynesian
And that's the Grand Floridian at night
The grand lobby at Christmas
This is a room in the Contemporary Resort
And that's the polynesian
If you do not want to stay on property but very close, maybe the Hilton Bonnet Creek or the Waldorf Astoria are right for you
The view is quite stunning. Can you spot Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest?
And you can watch IllumiNations and Wishes and the Star Wars Fireworks from your private Balcony
This is my very favorite hotel. More on this one soon ...
I always like seeing these outsider perspectives of Orlando, especially since I've never been I would be like an outsider on my first visit. Great pictures so far and I can't wait to see more.
http://coaster-count.com/userinfo15854.xhtml and http://www.coastercounter.com/805Andrew (I don't count traveling fairs and casinos as parks, and I count Coney Island as one park)[url=http://www.clubtpr.com][img]http://www.clubtpr.com/images/memberbanners/07c56b6e6c57795b5e848cab51dd406e.jpg[/img][/url][url=http://www.clubtpr.com][img]http://www.clubtpr.com/images/memberbanners/4bcb6d715cbe293b80fdfea5d0baf0b0.jpg[/img][/url]
Kennedy Space Center is an awesome place, I loved my visit there in 2014! The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibition is amazing, that moment when the video end and the space shuttle is revealed gave me major goosebumps!
multimueller wrote:If you do not want to stay on property but very close, maybe the Hilton Bonnet Creek or the Waldorf Astoria are right for you
I stayed at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort during my last visit in 2015. You can see it on the right side of this picture. Great location, very close to the parks, and at a very decent price as well.
viking86 wrote:I stayed at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort during my last visit in 2015. [...] Great location, very close to the parks, and at a very decent price as well.
I live in Bonn for 7 years now. The city is surrounded by a web of motorways and I still get completely lost without a GPS. But I always find the shortest way back from any Disney Park to the hotels at Bonnet Creek. Home is where the heart is.
By the way ... I just dug up some hotel pictures I could not find yesterday. And I just remembered a story about how extraordinary service can be. Some time ago I stayed at the grand Floridian and they had just introduced Magic Bands for paying, opening the door to your room and getting into the park. At that time the system had some major hiccups. When I returned home I received an online survey, which I completed, writing about the problems that occurred. The same day I got an e-mail from a Disney representative who asked if he could call me. So we had a talk, I explained the problems and some days later I got a letter from Disney that basically said “The guy who shows this letter, will stay one night for free”. I kept the letter in my backpack and almost forgot about it. One day I was staying at a budget hotel and had some neighbors that really loved each other. Every night. Quite loudly. So after a day at the Magic Kingdom, I just took my chance and the boat to the Grand Floridian, showed up and showed the letter. And I got a room and a place at the bar at Cittricos within 5 minutes. Things that will never happen in Germany.
This is the inside of the contemporary resort
The resort monorail runs straight through it, but you also can "walk" to park
This is the hotel shuttle boat for guests who stay at the Grand Floridian
And this is the lobby
You do not have to pay an awful lot of money for a decent stay. This is a room at the Comfort Suites next to Fun Spot in Kissimmee.
“So where will you go on vacation this year, Tom?”
“I think it will be Theme Parks in Orlando again.”
“And what will you do besides Theme Parks?”
“Let me explain, why this question is nonsense: I’ll get up 6am in the morning – which is easy when you are jet lagged – I’ll have breakfast at 7am, so I’ll have enough time to drive to the park, take the tram to the ticket center, get my tickets, take the boat over the lake and will be at the park a quarter to nine to attend the opening show. I’ll stay there until midnight, so I can catch some rides after the fireworks when the lines are shorter. Then I take the monorail back to the parking lot, so I’ll be in the hotel again at 1am.”
I’ve had this conversation a dozen of times and while it is slightly different each time, one thing always remains the same: the puzzled faces of my friends when I tell them how long a day at a theme park in Orlando really can be.
And I absolutely love long days in a Theme Park. Isn’t it amazing when it finally gets cooler after a really hot day and all the lights come up? And the icing on the cake – of course – is the evening entertainment: shows and fireworks. They always make feel like a child. With aching feet.
Even though Avatar is not open yet, Animal Kingdom is a magical place at night
The tree of life show is really amazing
Fantasmic! is the best way to end a day at Disney's Hollywood Studios
And you can have a seat. That's a plus.
When it comes to fireworks, nothing beats IllumiNations
Especially the finale is absolutely amazing
Even when seen from the parking lot
Or from the pavillion in Japan
But my show #1 is still the Fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom
Nothing beats standing on Main Street U.S.A. and looking up to the castle
viking86 wrote:"Adults are only kids grown up. anyway"
And all the shows at Walt Disney World are so incredibly well made that they appeal to kids of all ages. That's a huge difference to most parks in Europe: Over here we do have attractions for kids, but they are designed to be enjoyed by kids and their parents. They are "doing it for the kids". More so most grown-ups over here would never visit a theme park without kids, as this would be considered awkward.
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