I have a confession: I’m not big on theme parks, but most of my relatives are. So when we had to choose a city to hold our family reunion a few years ago, we looked for a location that had activities that everyone would enjoy. Orlando fit the bill.
It was probably the easiest decision we made as a family in all the years we’ve been organizing our reunions, and serendipitous for me as that year, I was running the Walt Disney World Marathon, one of the annual racing events that takes place on the property.
Orlando is a hit not just with our family. Fifty-one million visitors agree annually, making this central Florida city the top Family Spring Break destination in the US.
It’s easy to understand why Orlando is so popular. With several different properties, from the Walt Disney World Resort’s four theme and two water parks, to Universal Orlando, Seaworld and Legoland, there are entertainment options that are appropriate for every age group.
Everyone in our party agreed on Disney World, the sprawling 20-acre complex just outside of the city where two of the main attractions, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center greet 38 million visitors every year.
The Disney staff helped us plan our reunion to coincide with the time of my marathon weekend in January. It was perfect as there are fewer people at Disney in January than in the summer, when we usually have our reunions.
Given its size and the number of attractions, we had to agree on a plan for how we’d spend our seven days at Disney so that everyone would enjoy the entertainment they preferred and all 35 of us would still have our ‘together times.’
We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. With its African safari theme, it was a hit with the younger ones and even with the adults. Staying in the same hotel, made it easier to gather up the early risers for breakfast together and head out before the park got too crowded.
I wasn’t prepared for the lines, which for most of the popular activities, were long. Fortunately, they moved along quickly but with more people out and about in the afternoons, everything slowed so we knew then to take the little ones back to the hotel for afternoon snacks and naps. We saved the evenings for dinner and conversations.
After a week of family togetherness, it was my time to shine. My race started with a bang, literally, as dozens of fireworks lit up the still dark sky on race morning. It was the most spectacular race start I’ve ever had! Throughout the course, several cartoon characters from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Goofy and Snow White greeted us and cheered us along. They definitely took my mind off the miles I had to run and the growing ache in my feet.
After the celebration, I joined my family a bit sore but with a definite sense of accomplishment, for our last night’s dinner together and reunion close-out. Everyone said they’d return to Orlando to enjoy more of the city outside of Disney World.
There are several flights to Orlando from most major US cities, Canada, the UK and Europe. A variety of accommodation options, from hotels, resorts and vacation rentals make this an attractive place to visit whether you are traveling with a family or group or with a loved one.
If you’re planning a trip to Florida, be sure to check out the theme parks and all the other attractions that Orlando has on offer.
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