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USA: Florida: Miami, Northwest Florida, Orlando
Orlando, Florida, USA: All about themes
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
In this vibrant city, themes have been planned to perfection. Theme park, theme dinners and thematic exhibit buildings are all around. Well designed and well executed. Not a surprise when the young and the old want to come back to rock with stars of the fantasy world.
I had business convention in Orlando. I was hosted at Hotel Peabody. Just next door was the trade floor in the sprawling premises of Orange County Convention Center, popularly known as OCCC. Thanks to the fantastic exhibition spaces and the countless hotel rooms in Orlando, the city ranks amongst the top few destinations for meetings and exhibitions.
The show would go on for 4 days. That would give me the opportunity to opt for a day tour to John F Kennedy Space Centre as also attend 3 gala events in the evenings at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and Sea World.
The trade show is named POWOW. It’s the largest of its kind in the United States wherein sellers of travel from USA showcase their products and services to buyers of travel from around the world. Since the who’s who of the US Travel are involved, the delegates are privy to some spectacular events.
The theme parks open their doors exclusively to POWWOW attendees in the evenings. The rides that are choc-o-bloc in general hours (especially in the holiday season) are quite easy to hop on. Bars and food kiosks are set up all along the park area. Nothing less than the best of cuisine is served. It’s only fair that general visitors to these parks get to taste the same delicious food in the many restaurants. After all, the chefs remain the same.
Highlights of my visit were a sneak preview of the Harry Potter Castle in the Universal Studio. It would open for public in the coming weeks. Though I am not a Harry Potter fan, I was impressed the way it was built up. Talking photo frames, 3-D holographic images of Harry Potter and his friends, the passages and the staircases in the castle were quite intriguing. This would be the world’s first Harry Potter theme. I am told it’s already sold out for weeks in advance.
At Sea World, the show ‘Shamu Rocks’ was stunning too. Shamu is a killer whale. Shamu and his friends (other whales and trainers) did a fine job performing to the tunes of a live band. I had in the past witnessed the Shamu show in Orlando as well as in San Diego. But this one took the cake.
About 60-miles from Orlando is the John F Kennedy Space Center. Just a day before our visit, Atlantis had taken off for its final journey in space. Their Visitor Centre has on display various exhibits to keep the visitors glued for a day or two. Highlights of my visit (could be yours too) was a simulated ride of shuttle launch and lunch with an Astronaut. I had the opportunity to be with Astronaut Bruce Melnick who was in space twice – in Discovery on October 6, 1990 and in Endeavour on May 7, 1992.
Bruce was great with the slide show. He showed us the pictures he shot from space and shared with us his experiences. The slide show was followed by Q&A. Guess what are the two most popular questions asked? One, how does it feel up there? And two, how do you use the toilet? The answer to the second question was quite technical… it was about matching holes and using rear-view mirrors!
We were back in Orlando by 4:45PM. At the stroke of 5, a ritual happens in the atrium of Hotel Peabody. A duck-master guides a flock of ducks who march back to their shelters located on the terrace. A lift is reserved exclusively for the ducks to go up. Sharp 11 the next morning, the ducks would march down to the atrium and would play around the fountain till 5PM. This has been going on for years. Lucky ducks!
After the duck show I decided to spend the rest of the evening on the International Drive. The road runs north to south for many miles. This is the road where all the action is. Hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, shows, shopping malls, boutique stores… et all. And a great way to explore International Drive is by hopping on and off the I-RIDE Trolley. Day passes are available for $4. Or you may want to pay $1.25 every time you hop on the green coloured bus.
The 42 stops the bus takes will do the tricks for you.
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