The expert's experience: Dawn's trip to Orlando
We recently sent Dawn Knox, our Gosforth Branch Manager, on a 7-day FAM trip to Orlando, Florida, to gain a first-hand experience of the two most popular attractions in the state, the Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
In this blog post, we will be looking at Dawn’s experience, from her favourite moments to her most thrilling adventures in the southern state.
The first leg of the trip was hosted by the Kennedy Space Center. The space centre is one of NASA’s ten field centres that is located on Merritt Island in Florida and has played a vital role as a NASA spaceport for the past six decades. The centre contains a visitor complex that allows guests to explore exhibits of rockets, spacecraft and cutting-edge technology.
Upon arrival in Florida, Dawn checked into the recently opened Courtyard by Marriot, a space-themed hotel which happens to be the closest accommodation to the space centre. She described her room as having incredible detail which made you feel truly immersed in the ‘out of this world’ experience. The facilities included an astronaut projector that projected shapes and colours over the ceiling and a pair of binoculars for viewing the nearby rocket launches.
In the evening, Dawn met the rest of the tour group on Space Bar's rooftop terrace and enjoyed several space-themed cocktails. She praised the hotel and experience as unique and would recommend it to any family of space enthusiasts.
On the second day, the group was served breakfast on the rooftop terrace whilst taking in the picturesque views of the sunrise over the Indian River. They then boarded the coach and set off for a tour of the world-famous Kennedy Space Center.
Upon arrival at the complex, the group first toured through the Rocket Garden and found out more about the history of rockets used in space exploration. The group was then given the opportunity to take part in the space centre’s microgravity challenge, which involved entering a microgravity simulator and experiencing what it feels like to walk in space. Inside the simulator, they were required to work as a team to complete a series of training challenges, all whilst in a seemingly frictionless environment.
Next, the group was taken to visit and learn about the historical significance of NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis, a real space shuttle orbiter vehicle that has completed 33 missions.
They were then taken to Planet Play, the complex's fully immersive multiple-story play experience for children. It is designed as an indoor interactive area for children aged 2 to 12 years old in order to provide a memorable learning experience of the solar system.
After a day of activities, the group headed back to the hotel before dining on local cuisine at Shilohs, a steak and seafood restaurant in Titusville located right on the waterfront across from the space complex.
On the third day, the group returned to the Kennedy Space Center, where they were able to tour the complex's restricted areas. One of these areas was the working space flight facility, from which America has launched multiple shuttles to the moon.
They next boarded the space centre's Shuttle Launch Experience, an eight-and-a-half-minute simulated ascent into orbit described by astronauts as the closest thing to flying aboard a space shuttle.
After another thrilling day of space experiences, the group left the centre and headed to the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton Orlando to prepare for the next part of their trip hosted by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
As part of the FAM trip, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment was responsible for providing the group with a tour of their various marine and entertainment attractions in the area.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment is a company that owns a variety of amusement and marine zoological parks in Orlando, Florida. They privately own and operate the SeaWord, Discovery Cove and Aquatica amusement parks in Orlando as well as Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay.
On the fourth day, the group headed to their first park on the tour, SeaWorld, where they were greeted by their very own tour guide. They were first taken to the SeaWorld Rescue Centre, where they were educated on how SeaWorld helps sick, injured, or orphaned animals. The group then visited the Dolphin Stadium to watch a fascinating Dolphin presentation and were allowed to get up close and feed the beautiful creatures.
They stopped for lunch at Sharks Underwater Grill, which is a full-service restaurant with seating next to an indoor shark tank, giving guests a view into the world of sharks while they enjoy their meal.
Following that, the group had a thrilling afternoon at the SeaWorld amusement park. They rode the Pipeline, the world's first surf rollercoaster, as well as the Mako, a hypercoaster famed for its high speeds, deep dives, and thrills at every turn. Dawn described the experience as an unforgettable day filled with fun and excitement.
To round off the day, the group headed out to Top Golf for an evening of delicious food and drinks, as well as a friendly golf competition at the attraction to see who would take the crown as the best golfer.
On the fifth day, the group headed off to Busch Gardens, a family theme park located in Tampa, Florida, which is filled with exciting amusement park rides and safari encounters.
They were greeted by their VIP tour guide who took them on a safari tour across the Serengeti Plain. They were able to feed the giraffes by hand and explore the habitats of other animals such as zebras, ostriches, and rhinos.
They finished off their trip to the amusement park by riding the ‘Cheetah Hunt,' Tampa Bay's longest triple-launch steel roller coaster which Dawn described as very scary, but very thrilling.
On the sixth day, the group took a visit to Aquatica, a popular water park that is filled with super-sized slides, speedy splashdowns and sandy shores. Dawn set up base for the day on the white sandy beach, where she had a fun-filled day of ocean-themed activities.
In the evening, the group got to experience the horror houses, sinister shows, and terrifying thrills at SeaWorld's Howl 'O' Scream event.
The Howl 'O' Scream is a yearly Halloween fright fest held at the attraction. The event is intended for mature audiences and was even named the '#1 Best Theme Park Halloween Event for 2023' by USA Today's 10 Best Readers Choice Awards.
The group started their final day early to enjoy Dawn’s favourite experience of the trip, Discovery Cove. The attraction is a sister theme park of SeaWorld and Aquatica and allows visitors to interact with a range of marine animals including bottlenose dolphins.
Upon entering, they were first shown to their private cabana, after which they headed to Dolphin Lagoon and were given the experience of swimming with dolphins, something Dawn described as an unforgettable, magical experience.
The group then took part in Discovery Cove’s SeaVenture, an innovative underwater walking tour experience where, whilst wearing a dive helmet, they were able to walk across the floor of The Grand Reef. They came face-to-face with all kinds of sea creatures and even came eye-to-eye with sharks through an 8-foot-tall, 21-foot-long panoramic window.
After a thrilling week hosted by the Kennedy Space Centre and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the group said their goodbyes and headed back to the hotel and prepared for their flights back to the UK with Virgin Atlantic.
Dawn had the following to say about her time in Orlando:
“This whole experience felt like a pinch-me moment. Everything about this trip was spectacular. We had amazing hosts and an incredible itinerary as well as a lovely group to enjoy it with. Although this destination would be brilliant for everyone, I would recommend this trip to families. Both the Kennedy Space Centre and the SeaWorld attractions are fun and educational at the same time, making it the perfect location for parents looking to provide an exciting way to benefit their child’s education and development. This trip was an incredible experience from start to finish, and I am thankful to have been allowed to experience these attractions first-hand and would recommend them to anyone seeking a thrilling, fun-filled holiday.”
We would like to thank the Kennedy Space Centre and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment for taking Dawn along on this FAM trip so she was able to experience these incredible attractions first-hand.
If Dawn’s experience has piqued your interest in visiting these attractions for yourself, our specialist team can help.
Get in touch with one of our professional, experienced consultants at your nearest Dawson and Sanderson store for assistance in finding the best deals on trips to the Sunshine State.