The world’s largest orange!

Orange World Gift Shop – Kissimmee, Florida

 

If you’ve ever been to Kissimmee then you will know about the assortment of quirky gift shops that line the Highway 192 – the mermaid, the wizard, the giant animals, amongst others – and no doubt you will have popped in to one or two of them for a bargain price souvenir.

Mermaid gift shop on Hwy 192 Kissimmee

Magic Castle Wizard gift shop on the Hwy 192 Kissimmee

Jungle theme gift shop on Hwy 192 in Kissimmee

But my favourite gift shop on the 192 has to be Orange World – the world’s largest orange! We decided to go for a little drive one evening and explore the Kissimmee area and couldn’t resist the draw of parking up next to a massive orange at the side of the road.

Behold the orange!

Orange World Kissimmee Orlando

As we approached the entrance to the shop we were greeted by a member of staff (or possibly even the owner) who said as they would be closing in a little while, would we like some free of charge orange and grapefruit segments? Well, who were we to say no! Can’t beat a bit of Florida citrus.

At this point I was wondering whether everything within the shop was just orange coloured or orange flavoured, of course much of it was, but there were other fabulous and tacky gifts to be bought.

As I mentioned before when I wrote about the world’s largest gift shop in Las Vegas, I can be quite impulsive when I am on holiday, so of course the excitement of free fruit plus a shop shaped like an orange got the better of me and I ended up purchasing some ridiculous tat…

A mariachi seashell band.

mariachi seashell band

Grow your own pet flamingo.

growing pet flamingo

Don’t judge me. And don’t ask why. But what is a grow your own flamingo? I hear you ask. Well, you pop the little egg into some water and in a couple of days it hatches!

So what about you? What fabulous tat have you purchased in a moment of madness when on vacation? Leave me a comment below or you can email me at quirkylittleplanet@gmail.com and write your own guest post!

 

A view from the top: Empire State Building – New York, USA

Continuing on from A view from the top: Sigiriya – Sri Lanka, I’ve decided to write a bit of a #throwbackthursday kind of post on perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world – The Empire State Building in New York City!

I had always wanted to visit NYC so jumped at the chance to go on a University trip which just happened to coincide with my 21st birthday. Of course, any trip to New York has to have the Empire State Building on it’s itinerary!

view-from-empire-state-building

Even if you’ve never been to New York, no doubt you will have seen either the inside, outside or view from the Empire State Building on television or in the movies or even in the video of the music collaboration between Jay-Z and Alicia Keys (bet you’ve got that song in your head now!)

Pros – You’re in NYC baby! Although my photos aren’t the greatest (it was before I had a decent camera and knew about megabytes, megapixels and stuff like that) with the wonder of modern technology and a good eye you will get some awesome shots from up here.

Cons – It’s not as romantic as the movies might lead you to believe (I am looking at you Sleepless in Seattle!) and it can get quite crowded up there.

Surprises – This may not be a surprise to everyone, but for me I found that when I was approaching the Empire State Building on foot, it was a lot smaller than I imagined. I know that sounds crazy but everything is tall in New York so the Empire State blended in more than I had expected (sorry!)

Verdict – You can’t go to New York without visiting the Empire State and if I ever get back to the Big Apple you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be going back up there – with a snazzier camera too!

inside-empire-state-building

A muggle's guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - how to make the most of your time at Universal's Islands of Adventure

A muggle’s guide to… The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You may be forgiven for thinking that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park in its own right but in actual fact, it is just one part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Since The Wizarding World opened in June 2010, it has been Islands of Adventure’s biggest crowd-puller, with people even queuing for up to 8 hours to get into the park on the opening day! But fear not Potter fans, here is my run-down on my time in Hogsmeade which will hopefully help and inspire you on your own wizarding adventure.

Top Tip: Get to the park before it opens and grab a map. As soon as the gates open, head straight to The Wizarding World. The rest of the crowd are sure to be heading in this direction too but the amount of people will be far less than later on in the day.

Rides

First up, make a beeline for Hogwarts Castle as this is where the main ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, can be found. Enter the castle (don’t forget to stash your belongings in one of the free lockers!) and follow the corridors of Hogwarts school, where you will find yourself in the familiar surrounds of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Dumbledore’s office and other recognizable locations from the movies and books. You’ll be enchanted by the moving, talking portraits as depicted in the movies and even holograms of some of the main characters, so much so that the attention to detail here makes the queuing process a bit of an experience in itself.

Eventually when you reach the ride, you take your seat upon a 4-person “bench” and are then strapped in and whisked away for an adventure through the land of Harry Potter where you will follow Harry twisting and turning on his broomstick, over the Quidditch pitch and through the Forbidden Forest. You’ll see a fire-breathing dragon, giant spiders and evil dementors among other things – all in a clever mix of real animatronic models and high-tech computer graphics. The ride lasts for around 4 minutes and you’ll definitely want to ride it again just to take it all in! We were incredibly lucky and the longest we had to queue for this ride was around 20 minutes but queues for this have been known to exceed 4 hours!!

The next biggest ride is The Dragon Challenge, which is a nod to the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire. Consisting of 2 large and looping rollercoasters, guests will all join one queue and then must choose whether they want to ride the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail (red or blue, in muggles terms). Both coasters travel at the same time and there are even a few moments when it appears as though both rollercoasters, or dragons, may collide. Perfect for thrill seekers, wizards and non-Potter fans alike.

A slightly tamer, yet still fun, rollercoaster ride is The Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a lot less stomach churning than The Dragon Challenge and aimed more at a younger crowd. Just don’t forget to bow to the Hippogriff before you ride!

honeydukes-at-wizarding-world-orlando

Shopping and Dining

If you’ve always wanted to get your hands on a Pygmy Puff or a Golden Snitch, then all the best Potter merchandise can be found at the shops in Hogsmeade. These include favourites from the books such as Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and, my favourite, Honeydukes sweetshop. I defy anyone to walk out of Honeydukes without purchasing some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (rotten egg flavour jellybean anyone?)

Top Tip: Inside the bottom of the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans box there is a little piece of paper revealing which colour beans relate to which flavour. I must admit part of the fun is the Russian Roulette element but if you don’t like surprises or want to trick your friends into eating all the nasty ones then this might come in handy!

You can also visit the Owl Post in Hogsmeade where you can send a postcard home with a special Harry Potter stamp and a Hogsmeade post mark. The stamps are pretty pricey as you have to buy a whole pack (they won’t sell you just one) but you can always purchase a postcard and get a Hogsmeade post mark on the back (you just won’t be able to post it).

While the queues were kind to us for the rides, unfortunately they were a problem at Ollivander’s wand shop and so this was one part of Harry Potter World we failed to experience. Because the shop is small and is an interactive environment, limited numbers of visitors are allowed in at any one time. So true Potter fans should definitely aim to get here early if they want to see and do everything.

If you’re peckish while in this part of the park, then The Three Broomsticks serves up traditional British dishes such as shepherd’s pie and fish & chips, but even if you’ve already eaten, make sure you take a seat in the Hog’s Head pub and sample some famous Butterbeer or Hog’s Head Brew.

Top Tip: Butterbeer is non-alcoholic and comes in regular or frozen (slushie). No one should leave Hogsmeade without trying Butterbeer as the taste is indescribable!

hogs-head-at-harry-potter-world

Other entertainment

There are plenty of things to look at in Hogsmeade, besides rides and shops. The village scenery is very beautiful and detailed, and true to the films. If you are there at the right time you may witness the Triwizard Spirit Rally, with ribbon twirling from the Beauxbaton witches and mock-fighting from the Durmstrang wizards.

Of course, I should add that my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was before they opened Diagon Alley at Universal Studios last year – which now even includes the Hogwarts Express to connect the two Universal parks!

Have you had the chance to visit the new Diagon Alley section? What did you think?

please-dont-feed-the-birds

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A muggle's guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was written prior to the extension at Universal Studios.

Top 5 tips for any Disney theme park!

So it’s been almost 2 weeks since my last post here but fear not, I haven’t gone off the radar. It appears that my brain can only be obsessed with one thing at a time and because this time last week I was gallivanting around Disneyland, my latest obsession is all things Disney!

I took a day trip on the Eurostar over to Paris with 14 of my work mates and we spent the day running around in our Minnie Mouse ears like excited school children. Well I say day, by the time we got there and had to factor in getting the last train home we only had a mere 5 hours park time*. Not long enough. Hence why, just a few days later, I’m all booked up to go again! I justified this to my husband by telling him that I’d had the trailer and now I want the movie.

As someone who ‘grew up’ on Disney films**, I never actually visited any Disney theme parks as a child. Perhaps I wasn’t that bothered? I can’t remember. Or perhaps my parents couldn’t really afford it? I don’t know. Not that it matters, because at Walt Disney World everyone becomes a child in their own special way. So it wasn’t until the grand old age of 28 that I actually went on holiday with friends to Orlando and experienced some of that Disney magic first hand. As well as never going there as a child, I have never been there with a child, so this post is dedicated to all those Peter Pan adults who never grew up…

1. Dress appropriately

To me this means wearing something Disney, be it a t-shirt with Mickey’s face on it, or Minnie Mouse ears. It also means comfortable shoes. I’m here to have fun! I see too many people wear odd things to theme parks (yeah I’m talking to you – lady with the bridesmaid hair and Nina Ricci dress!).

white-rabbit-magic-kingdom

2. Meet some of the characters

Go on, you know you want to! It’s practically the law to meet Mickey and Minnie at these parks, regardless of how old you are, but who else do you fancy hugging? You haven’t got to get an autograph like all the little kiddies do but it’s fun to have your photo taken with the characters (until Goofy bloody stands on your foot! True story).

3. Watch a parade

Every day, several times a day, there will be a parade. The parades are definitely something that should be ticked off of every Disney wishlist. Just check your park schedule to find out the times and try to bagsy yourself a spot with the castle as your backdrop!

Celebrate parade in Orlando
Celebrate parade in Orlando
Halloween parade in Paris
Halloween parade in Paris
Electrical parade in Orlando
Electrical parade in Orlando

4. Take advantage of Disney’s Fast Pass system

Just look for the Fast Pass Distribution sign near the entrance of a ride, insert your park admission ticket and then receive a fast pass ticket telling you when to come back to the ride. You are limited to how many fast pass tickets you can hold during any one time and the number of tickets on offer are limited, but it’s free and well worth doing to mimimise time spent queueing.

5. Stay to watch the fireworks

Disney do fireworks like no one else, so if you’re able to stay in the park until it closes then do so. My photos don’t do it justice really, but I promise you will not be disappointed!

Epcot, Orlando
Epcot, Orlando
Magic Kingdom, Orlando
Magic Kingdom, Orlando

*Fortunately one of the girls had sorted us a good deal so it’s not like we wasted any money.
** I say grew up, but does someone who considers candyfloss to be an appropriate meal at Disney World ever really grow up?