Tag Archives: Seaworld

Top Tips for Theme Parks (and some amazing US foods!)

We had an amazing 3 weeks in Florida, even if they do seem now to be a dim and distant memory as we’re back into the routine of school, hospital appointments and work.  Before I file those memories away, however, I want to share some top tips we picked up for when visiting theme parks with children, or with those with a chronic illness, or anyone with food allergies.

  • DISABILITY ACCESS PASS – I was tipped off about these from a lovely lady from my choir and immediately investigated what they were, how to get them and whether M would qualify. Whether you are going to Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland or Seaworld, if any member of your group has a disability or condition that makes a lengthy queue wait a difficult prospect, then you can benefit from these passes. 20140916_182709 The passes allow the holder and their group to effectively bypass the challenge of waiting by giving a return time, which then enables the party to enter the ride via either the exit or the fastpass queue.  To support our request for a pass, I had a doctor’s letter detailing M’s EGID and the associated bowel problems and we were given a pass without problem.  These passes were invaluable as we didn’t have that mid-queue panic of needing to rush off to find a loo!
  • ICED WATER – Don’t spend lots of money on bottled water as you travel around the park.  Instead, pop into the nearest counter-service restaurant or anywhere that serves drinks and ask for a glass of iced water.  Keeping hydrated as you walk around the parks in the hot Floridian sun is important and nothing quenches your thirst like a glass of iced water and it’s somehow even better when it’s free.  Be warned that you may struggle in some places – we could only get ice and no water at Legoland Florida –  but it’s definitely worth the ask.
  • PARK ACTIVITIES – And I don’t just mean the parades, shows and fireworks that everyone knows about.  At Epcot, the kids were given a handset that sent them on a journey around the countries of the World showcase, following clues, completing challenges and seeing some really cool special effects to complete the secret missions set by Phineas and Ferb.  Once that country’s mission was done, we had the option of moving on to another country for another mission or finishing the game then.  20140816_230608In Magic Kingdom, we discovered the delights of the “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom“, which was a similar activity to Epcot, but this time saw us collecting cards, defeating well-known Disney villains and finally completing the first level of the game.  M and G loved this so much that we spent an unplanned afternoon back at Magic Kingdom, running around to complete the first level and collect as many cards as we could before we left.  The final activity I’d recommend, and one I’m extremely proud we managed to achieve, was participation in the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios.  Getting M and G signed up for this involved a very early start to be close to the front of the queue for rope drop, a rush to beat the crowd to the sign-up and absolute focus that that, and nothing else, was our first goal of the day.  The 20 minute session saw them being taught by a Jedi master, before taking on none other than Darth Vader to prove their ability as a young Padawan and their loyalty to the cause.  20140817_152258
  • MAGIC SHOTS – This is something that is specific to WDW, but is definitely a lot of fun.  We had bought a Disney Memory maker package, which allowed our group to have access to any photos taken in park, on rides or in resort by a Disney photographer for one, relatively low price.  PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_7033012070This automatically gave us easy access to Magic shots, which see Disney characters, amongst other things, to be added to your photograph.  Any Disney photographer not using a tripod can take a magic shot and M and G loved running around, tracking down photographers and asking if they could take a magic shot.  The photographer would pose us and give us instructions for facial expressions before taking the photo and adding it to our memory maker package.  I could then view the images on-line later in the day to see who or what had been added into the photo.  The magic included Tinkerbell, Stitch, Olaf, butterflies and a bunch of Mickey balloons.

Should you be travelling to the USA and come across these delicious treats, I would highly recommend stocking up and enjoying them whilst you can.  G and M loved all of these and the small supplies we brought back home with us are now nearly all gone – must mean another trip to the US soon!

  • Babycakes – these are the most delicious, allergy-friendly cupcakes I have come across and were available in some restaurants in WDW.  20140812_011542Luckily for us, they were included in the dessert options at the Mara restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge and we bought enough to see us through our final week spent in St Petersburg.  You can find them at a few other locations across the USA and I would highly recommend searching them out if you’re anywhere nearby!
  • Silk Almond milk drink cartons – these are a great alternative for those who aren’t able to drink either cows’ or soya milk, especially as they come in both vanilla and chocolate flavours.  We discovered them at the local supermarket in St Petersburg and I wish I’d known about them sooner.  M really enjoyed being able to have a chocolate milk with his dinner, especially as G had been having chocolate and vanilla soya milk whilst we were staying in WDW.
  • Enjoy Life cookies & chewy bars – another great hit with M and G, especially the soft-baked cookies.  20140819_034546These were the brand stocked in a lot of the WDW restaurants which meant they could have a pudding with their meals, but we found them easy to buy in the local supermarkets too.  They were such a huge success with my pair that I even brought 3 boxes of cookies home with us – Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Brownie.  The chewy bars were equally delicious and G found it hard to choose between the Cocoaloco and Sunbutter Crunch flavours.

Dolphins, Killer Whales and all things underwater

When originally planning our 2 weeks “doing” Orlando, Mike and I made the conscious decision not to visit any of the multitude of water-parks you can find there.  As much as both children enjoy swimming, M’s recent struggles with his bowels meant that we were uncertain of how well he would cope with a day in, out and around the swimming pool, so instead, we opted for 2 other water-themed parks:  Discovery Cove and Seaworld.

Discovery Cove

IMG00002smOne of the things I was keen for the children to experience (and to be perfectly honest me too) was swimming with dolphins and where better to give this a go than at Discovery Cove.  This idyllic haven is hidden away in central Orlando and it transports you away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks almost as soon as you step through the doors.  We arrived early, booked in for our dolphin adventure and then headed off to the beautiful beaches and pools to find a place to camp out for the day.  The park only allows a maximum of 1,300 people entry on any given day, which ensures that there is room enough for everyone to enjoy what’s on offer. We settled next to a pool where you could swim with stingrays and other tropical fish and then headed off to the main restaurant to talk to the chef about breakfast and lunch.

Discovery Cove is a very different experience to the others in Orlando as your ticket price covers all your food and drink for the day including breakfast, lunch and snacks and they request that you don’t take any of your own into the park with you.  My initial email to their special assistance team had resulted with their Head chef calling us at home to discuss the day of our visit and M’s food requirements.  They were able to offer M and G a good choice of foods for both meals and, even better, had 3 allergy-friendly snack boxes that were readily available at all of the food concession locations and included M-friendly treats such as fruit snacks, Orgran Outback animal biscuits, pretzels and portions of houmous.  Food sorted for the day – and maybe a few extra snacks too – we spent the day lazing in the sun and learning how to snorkel amongst the fish.

IMG00015sm

M and Clipper

The highlight of the day was, quite obviously, our swim with the dolphins.  M had been nervous as he’s not the strongest or most confident of swimmers, but there was no need.  The trainer encouraged both M and G to feed, pet and even kiss our dolphin, Clipper, before their individual swims and they loved every moment of it, despite the cold temperature of the water! M was able to do the “shallow” swim, which allowed his feet to comfortably reach the bottom at all times whilst still being pulled along by the dolphin.  G, Mike and I took part in the “deep” swim and the thrill was exhilarating. All in all, we had an amazing day, M and G were desperate to do it all again and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone.

Marks out of 10: 10 – a real once in a lifetime experience for all the family and the food offerings were impressive too

Seaworld

blue horizonsHaving had such an amazing experience at Discovery Cove, we were keen to see how their neighbour, Seaworld would compare.  The day started well, with efficient service at guest relations to issue our disability access pass and a park map that indicated where allergy-friendly foods could be found.  We set off on our way around the park and G and M were delighted by the various displays and shows we could see.  First, we oohed and aahed at the amazing dolphins and beautiful birds of the “Blue Horizons” show, which instantly drew a response from G that she’s planning to work at Seaworld training dolphins when she’s older; and later laughed and disappointingly didn’t get splashed by the mighty killer whales in “One Ocean“, despite M’s best efforts of sitting us in the splash zone!

Due to the wealth of food available to us at Disney – an opportunity that we’d certainly taken full advantage of – we didn’t feel hungry enough to need to investigate our food options until we got to lunchtime. The children were excited to see an allergy-friendly pizza restaurant on the map and we headed there with our fingers crossed that we might be able to enjoy pizza for a change.  Disappointingly, we once again hit a problem.  The gluten-free pizza base came ready topped with tomato sauce and cheese, instantly rendering it unsuitable for both G and M.  I was surprised to find this was the case, but quickly ushered the children away from there and headed off to the next location.

Photo taken by M

Penguin photo by M

Two locations later, I finally stumbled into the Spice Mill restaurant and met their allergy server and chef, who discussed our needs and what options were available to us.  Both children settled on burgers, served in allergy-friendly rolls with a side of fries for G and a hefty portion of water-melon for M.  We were able to jump the queue and, as we paid, the server prepared our food and brought it to us as quickly as possible.

Lunch finally sorted, we spent the afternoon in Antarctica with the penguins and getting extremely wet on the impressive “Journey to Atlantis” log flume ride, before Mike and I took G and M out on the lake in pink flamingo pedalos.  It was another good day and despite the uncertain start, lunch turned into a great success.

Marks out of 10:  8 – the children loved seeing the shows and the animals, but we were let down by the assumption that gluten-free pizza with cheese could be considered fully allergy-friendly.