Orlando and Sarasota – Florida Fun For All the Family!
I have visited the ‘Sunshine State’ many times, it is one of my favourite destinations for a family holiday. Florida has so much to offer from the action packed theme parks of Orlando to the stunning beaches of the Gulf Coast. I have been lucky enough to visit lots of different areas in Florida, here is a snapshot that I hope might give you some inspiration for your next trip.
My last trip was made up of:
- 5 nights in Universals Hard Rock Hotel
- Sarasota on the Gulf Coast for 4 nights of luxury in the stunning Ritz Carlton Hotel
- 7 nights in a beautiful villa in the upmarket Reunion Resort
Universal Orlando Resort
The theme parks themselves have changed a lot over recent years and there are plans to add a 3rd theme park with many more attractions. The addition of Diagon Alley to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes a visit to Universal Orlando a must-do. Plus, there are new attractions being added with 2016/17 additions Skull Island: Reign of Kong and Loews Sapphire Falls.
One of the best ways to experience the parks is to stay on-site at one of the Universal hotels. I stayed at The Hard Rock Hotel which is located at the gates of Universal Studios. It is a lively hotel with spacious rooms which have recently been refurbished. The hotel has a fantastic pool with music and entertainment all day long. Staying at The Hard Rock not only gives you easy access on foot to and from the parks but it also give you Universal Express Pass Unlimted. The Express Pass allows you to bypass the regular queues for the participating attractions at both Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure theme parks (you still have to buy park access tickets). This is well worth it, buying Express Passes in July costs $149 per day so if there are 3 or 4 of you in a room then your hotel room cost is the equivalent of buying Express Passes! You can also charge things to your room throughout the theme parks which means you don’t have to carry cash around if you prefer not to.
I would highly recommend Reunion Resort, it really is very special it is an upmarket golf resort with stunning villas and a 5* hotel. Located 11 miles from Walt Disney World® Resort, it is an ideal location for all the parks with SeaWorld Orlando just 16 miles away and Universal Orlando Resort 19 miles away.
The resort offers 6 restaurants/bars, 3 pro-designed golf courses, 6 tennis courts and 10 pools, plus a water park. The water park is small but great for younger kids, you have to book access this in advance. There’s also a spa, a fitness centre and a kid’s club.
I have stayed in two different villas on the resort. The villas are huge and are a fantastic base for your Orlando family holiday. The hotel has great restaurants for both daytime by the pool lunches and more upmarket restaurants for the evenings. One of the restaurants is located on the 11th floor offering spectacular views and the opportunity to watch the Disney fireworks whilst sipping a G&T!
If a villa is not for you then the hotel which unlike standard hotels, offers multi bedroom suites which have all the comforts of a villa but within the hotel facility itself.
Sarasota is a small city with a great vibe, itself is very cosmopolitan with an amazing choice of street cafes, restaurants and fine dining venues. Its big on culture so there are a huge amount of theatres and art galleries if that floats your boat. For me it was all about the food and the beaches – absolutely stunning! There are miles of beaches with fine white powdery sand and shallow waters, such as Lido Beach and Siesta Key Beach which is the number 1 beach in Florida.
Food is a big thing in Sarasota, the choice of restaurants is endless, but book ahead as we couldn’t get into a couple of them such as Indigenous and Michaels on East, however we enjoyed Selva Grill and Jack Dusty in the hotel.
I stayed at The Ritz Carlton which is located in the main town area on the harbour. This is a lovely hotel with a great pool and restaurant, not cheap but you get what you pay for with this one. The hotel has it’s own beach club located on Lido Key, they offer transport there and back. The beach itself is stunning, probably one of the most beautiful I have laid eyes on, white sand and turquoise warm water – just beautiful. The staff at the beach club look after your every need – I loved the flags attached to your sun lounger, simply raise the flag when you want another drink – what more could you want!!
St. Armand’s Circle on Lido Key, is great for shopping, it has more than 130 boutiques, cafes, and art galleries – it’s got a bit of European style to it, definitely worth a visit. We ate in a very cool restaurant called Shore Diner – good food, huge portions – think about sharing! The service was excellent.
I really do look forward to my next visit to Sarasota as I only scratched the surface of what it has to offer.