The Other Side of Orlando, Florida

I recently took the inaugural flight on Alaska Airlines from San Diego to Orlando. The non-stop flight departed at 10:35PM on Thursday, October 11, 2012 on a Boeing 737, filled to capacity.  Our flight arrived almost an hour early into Orlando.  Normally the flight should arrive at 6:30AM.

No Disney World on this trip, this was all about seeing what the other side of Orlando is about, the nature part for the adventurist. We loaded onto the mini coach and were whisked away to Reunion Resort, about 20 minutes away.

Reunion Resort is a Wyndham property with one and two bedroom units in the main building called villas. Each unit included fully equipped kitchens, flat screen TV, DVD/CD player, spacious dining and living room area, along with washers and dryers and nightly turn-down service. Also on property are homes to rent for a 3 day minimum.  The resort is home to Annika Sorenstam’s golf academy.  There are also golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson.  It has over 185,000 sq ft of total meeting space and a water park! There are two restaurants on property although one is seasonal and breakfast is served only in the golf clubhouse which is just outside of the lobby driveway.

Our first stop, Revolution Off Road, for an ATV tour and a Water Jet Pack demonstration. We met the owner, Kevin Jowett, then it was time for a quick lesson on safety and how to drive the ATV. Drivers must be over 16 years old, have a full license and over 45” in height. With over 230 acres of tracks and trails, we had a great time exploring. After the ride we enjoyed brunch overlooking the lake where bass fishing also takes place.

We watched the water jet pack demonstration but didn’t participate due to time constraints. Instruction time is a couple of hours, there are height and weight requirements too.

Then it was on to the other side of Orlando to Florida Eco Safari at Forever Florida. Located on a 4,700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area boasting beautiful untamed wilderness, natural streams, wetlands and a dense cypress forest.  We were there to experience the Zipline Roller Coaster in North America.  We were transported in something resembling a safari bus to the middle of the forest to be fitted with cables for the zip lining and to try the zipline roller coaster.

I have done ziplining in other destinations but the roller coaster zipline was a first!  Just when you think you’re safe you are dropped down and turning in a different direction. I loved it!  Cypress Canopy Cycle is also available.  The park also offers a horseback safari and a tour with the safari bus for those that would prefer something slower paced.

In the late afternoon we headed back to the resort to freshen up for dinner and take a tour of Reunion Resort. I was surprised at how big the water park is. I thought the easy river float would be the perfect way to relax at the water park.  The other thing that made an impression on me was there were houses that could be rented with their own swimming pools on property.  3 and 4 bedroom homes with garages, perfect for golfing trips and family reunions or friends getaway.

Dinner at the Reunion Resort at Eleven, the restaurant, named Eleven as it is located on the 11th floor of the hotel. The service and meal were great.  The pool and deck are located outside with a lounge area off the restaurant.  As we finished up our meal we were treated to an amazing fireworks display compliments of Disney World which is just six miles away.

Another day, another adventure. We drove to Wild Florida, Orlando’s only airboat and Wildlife Park.  This was definitely an experience to remember.  The park has been open for less than a year but the airboat rides have been going on for quiet some time, over ten years. The pier there is the longest in Orlando.  We took an airboat tour for about an hour, the wildlife was incredible.  I saw numerous bald eagles, I lost count after while because we had seen so many of them.  We actually saw the backside of the Disney World property line.

After the airboat ride it was gator time.

I held a couple of gators and have decided I could never own a gator bag, boot or shoes.  After the gators, we toured the wildlife park on foot.  It’s a small park, but expanding.  They are now taking in abandoned wildlife too.  There were deer, peacocks, watusi, wild boar, water buffalo, zebras and zeedonks(zebra/donkey genetically altered)  just to name a few and of course alligators.

Within the park the animals are behind fences. However you can see them and feed them.  There are benches located throughout the park and signs reminding parents to keep on eye on the children.  After touring the park we had a barbeque lunch out near the airboats.  As we were departing we saw the area being set up for a children’s party.  This is also a great venue for an event.  Out of all the places I experienced this one was my favorite.  It was such a great experience and so opposite of the commercialism I was expecting.

The flight home was pleasant and we enjoyed our Digi players on the flight. The Digi player is a DVD player with headphones preloaded with current movies, classic/favorite movies, television shows, games and music.  These can be rented on-line at up to 24 hours before departure, prices range from $8-$10 depending on how long the flight is. It was a nice way to pass on the time.  Again we arrived early.  I was back in San Diego by 10AM on Sunday morning!  It was whirlwind trip and worth the experience. There is so much to do in Orlando other than theme parks!


Arleen Albi for Carefree Vacations


Ready to plan your trip to Orlando? Contact the travel experts at Carefree Vacations by calling 1.800.CONFIRM (266.3476) or request a quote.

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