Category Archives: USA

Review of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel in Florida, USA

Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel Review

Review of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Hotel, Florida, USA

We have now stayed twice at the Hilton Cocoa Beach and have found it a great place to unwind before heading off on a cruise. Located right on the beachfront, you can either hang at the beach or let the kids swim in the pool while the adults relax by Longboards or the Beach bar.

Pool & Fitness Center

While it’s not a huge pool area, it is enough to cool down and keep the kids entertained.

The fitness center has a few cardio machines and some weights for those that like to work out while on holidays.

Longboards Tiki Beach Grille

If you’re looking for an outdoor bar with a great atmosphere to sit back, relax and have a few drinks with a bite to eat then Longboards Tiki Beach Grille is the place for you. They have a real good happy hour menu from 4.00pm to 7.00pm (daily except Saturdays). The staff service is excellent and the meals were pretty big. The bar has big screens which always have sport playing and at night there is live entertainment.

Next to Longboards is a sun deck with plenty of deck chairs and at night there are a couple of fire pits for the cooler nights.

You can watch our YouTube Video of Longboards and the Pool Deck area here.

Note: the video was taken before the Castaways Beach Bar was built.

Castaways Beach Bar

The latest addition to the Hilton Cocoa Beach is Castaways Beach Bar. Opened in July 2017 this bar is situated along the walkway from the hotel to the beach. Great if you are hanging out and the beach and fancy a quick drink.

Salt Restaurant

The main dining area inside the hotel is Salt Restaurant. We only ate here for breakfast but it is open for dinner from 5.00pm to 10.00pm featuring modern American cuisine. Breakfast is served between 6.00am to 11.00am and you have the choice of the buffet breakfast or you can dine a la carte. We chose the buffet as the selection was quite good. It had an egg station, bacon, sausages, potatoes, scrambled eggs and waffles. There was also plenty of pastries, bagels, cereals, fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Cool Beans Coffee Shop

If it is a quick bite to eat you prefer or you may just want a Starbucks coffee on the go, head to Cool Beans which is open 24 hours. Cool Beans serves a variety of foods including sandwiches & wraps, cookies, sweets and other convenient snacks.

Our Room

Both times we have stayed at the Hilton Cocoa Beach we have stayed in a two queen room with coastline views. The rooms are good-sized and features included a desk, coffee-making facilities and empty bar fridge. The bathroom is on the small side with all in one bath & shower and has the usual Peter Thomas Roth amenities.

You can watch our YouTube Room Tour video here.

Cocoa Beach

Just a few steps from the pool area is the very nice Cocoa Beach. Through the hotel you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, surfboards, bodyboards, kayaks, wetsuits and even a volleyball. You can book in for private surfing lessons as well.

If you like walking you can wander up to the Cocoa Beach Pier which takes about 30 minutes if walking along the beach.

Conclusion

The Hilton Cocoa Beach is a really nice hotel, not fancy but great for relaxing on the beachfront. It has really good features including an on-site laundry so you can do a load of washing if needed for those that are travelling on an extended vacation.

We also took advantage of a shuttle service provided to the nearby Port Canaveral cruise terminal which is only $5 per person. We would definitely stay at the Hilton Cocoa Beach again before leaving on a cruise out of Port Canaveral.

For more information on the Hilton Cocoa Beach go to: www.hilton.com

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DoubleTree Orlando Airport Hotel Review

DoubleTree Orlando Airport Hotel Review

Review of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando Airport 

Staying at the DoubleTree Orlando Airport was very convenient for us after travelling for over 24 hours to get from Melbourne, Australia to Orlando, Florida, USA. The DoubleTree Orlando Airport provides a free shuttle service to and from Orlando International Airport which is very handy.

We had emailed the hotel before leaving Australia to find out where we needed to catch the shuttle from so we knew where to head once we had our luggage.  Although you are actually supposed to ring the hotel so they can send the shuttle we were lucky enough that a shuttle arrived as we were about to call so we just jumped in. Fifteen minutes later we were at the hotel and checking in.

Check-In & Lobby Area

As we were checking in around 10.00pm it was pretty quiet so it was nice and quick and we received our famous DoubleTree cookies (although only 2 for 4 people!) and 2 bottles of complimentary waters for being Diamond HHonors members. Next to the check in desk is a little gift shop selling snacks and drinks. There is also a couple of computers in the lobby for those that need to print off any tickets or surf the net.

King Junior Suite with Sofabed 

Even though it’s the best room at the DoubleTree Orlando Airport, the King Junior Suite it really cheap to book. It had plenty of room for the four of us and comes complete with kitchenette. Included in the kitchenette is a sink, microwave, empty bar fridge and coffee machine

While the living area is a good size, the bathroom however is on the small side with an all-in-one bath and shower. On the positive side though, there was a nice mixture of Crabtree & Evelyn and Aroma Actives bathroom amenities.

You can watch our YouTube room tour video of the King Junior Suite here.

Dining

Apart from the in-room dining service, the only other on-site dining options are Landings Bistro or Landings Lounge. The bistro is open daily from 6.00am – 10.00pm and the lounge is open from 12.30pm – 12.00am.

We arrived just after the bistro had closed so we grabbed a late dinner and some cocktails from Landings Lounge.

As a Diamond HHonors member we were given complimentary buffet breakfasts for the whole family (four of us). Hot food options included scrambled eggs, crispy bacon seasoned breakfast potatoes, sausages and french toast. There was also a waffle machine, breads, pastries, cereals, hard-boiled eggs, yoghurt and fruits.

Pool Area & Fitness Center

As we received a late check out of 1.00pm the kids were happy to spend a bit of time at the pool area before leaving the hotel. The pool area has quite a few cabanas (no cost when we were there) and a fire pit as well.

The fitness center is not huge but it has enough to do a little bit of cardio and some weight work.

Doubletree Orlando Airport Conclusion

Because of its close proximity to Orlando International Airport, we would have no hesitation in staying at the DoubleTree Orlando Airport for one night again if we had an early flight departure or late arrival. With the free shuttle service leaving the hotel every 15 minutes after 4.30am, it makes for easy hassle free travel.

For more information on the DoubleTree Orlando Airport go to www.doubletree3.hilton.com

We have also previously stayed at the following hotels in Orlando;

Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando

Formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has enough attractions to keep the whole family entertained, as well as a couple of rides which the thrill seekers will love. While there are not a lot of rides for younger kids, there are some great shows that they will really enjoy.

Thrill Rides

There are two main thrill rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that are not to be missed.

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – based around the infamous Hollywood Tower Hotel, this elevator ride is designed so that you never take the same ride twice. This makes it attractive to go on more than once, so even if you have a fast pass we would recommend going here as early as possible before the queues build up too much.

Family Attractions

Our kids were aged 9 & 11 when we visited this park and we found there was plenty of entertainment to keep them busy for the whole day. There may not however be enough attractions for the whole day if you were travelling with small toddlers. Some of our family’s favourite attractions were;

  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – take a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood makes films that are full of explosions, fist-fights and daring stunts. A real-life director is on hand to explain all of the fine details of their movie making magic.
  • Toy Story Mania – score points in this 4D target shooting game. You can also catch some of the Toy Story gang out and about near this attraction.

Other attractions we recommend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be the Muppet Vision 4D Stage Show,  The Great Movie Ride, A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration, the Disney Junior – Live on Stage dance show and of course the Fantasmic nighttime spectacular which is a combination of pyrotechnics and lasers.

Star Wars

If you are a Stars Wars fan then you will absolutely love Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Be sure to pay a visit to Star Wars Launch Bay where you can get a behind the scenes look at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are also character meet and greets as well as memorabilia and props from all the Star Wars Episodes.

There is also a pretty cool 3D simulation ride called Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. Here you can board a Starspeeder 1000 and launch into hyperspace on your very own mission. Each intergalactic adventure is different so you just never know what planet will be your next destination.

Next to the Star Tours ride is the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple where youngsters aged from 4 – 12 can learn to become Jedi Knights. Be sure to register early though as availability is limited and spots are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Throughout the day at Center Stage you will find different performance shows including Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away and March of the First Order.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios also now has a nighttime fireworks and lighting show based around Star Wars called Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. It’s a spectacular way to finish off a busy day at this Walt Disney World park.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot Guides.

Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is totally different from any of the other Disney Parks in Orlando. While there are a few fun rides to enjoy, the stars here are the animals themselves. We visited with our two kids aged 11 and 9 and found this park really easy to navigate around as it’s simply separated into six different sections.

Discovery Island

Once you enter Animal Kingdom and walk through Discovery Island, you will come across the Tree of Life. Standing at 145 feet tall and with a base measuring 50 feet, this man-made tree contains over 300 carvings on its trunk. It’s worth taking a little bit of time to have a close up look at this pretty amazing feature. Located inside the Tree of Life is a 3D show – It’s Tough to be a Bug! This is definitely an experience worth taking the kids to, as they get to embark on a journey of life as a bug.

Africa

The highlight of the whole park is located here in Africa and that’s the Kilimanjaro Safaris. On this adventure you are guided through the savannahs of Africa where a vast array of wild animals roam free. It really is amazing to witness these animals in their natural habitat, especially for those that have never (and may never) get to experience the real beauty of Africa. The helpful guides on board explain a lot about the animals along the way as well.

Another highlight of Africa is the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. This self-guided walking trail takes you through the African forest, looking at various animals such as hippos, gorillas and zebras.

A not to be missed attraction at Animal Kingdom is the Festival of the Lion King. This 30 minute colourful spectacular includes acrobats, singing performers and animal floats. This performance kept our kids mesmerised for the entire time.

All throughout Africa are roving street performers as well as plenty of shops and eateries . Our boys also got taught the African game of Mancala which they absolutely loved!

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

From Africa you can also board the Wildlife Express train for the 7 minute trip to Rafiki’s Planet Watch which highlights the parks commitment to preservation and conservation of animals. Here you will find a petting zoo,  conservation station and the Habitat Habit! exhibit.

Asia

Asia is a really interesting area which showcases countries such as Nepal, Mongolia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Thailand. There is plenty of live entertainment and food venues as well as four main attractions.

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is a rollercoaster ride the kids will love.

Flights of Wonder is a 25 minute bird show which was not only entertaining, but educational as well.

Kali River Rapids is a white water raft ride where you will get wet – quite possibly drenched!

Maharajah Jungle Trek is another walk through animal encounter where you can witness Asian tigers, gibbons, water buffalo, birds and bats.

Dinoland U.S.A.

The kids will love this area of Animal Kingdom. The main ride, DINOSAUR was closed for refurbishment while we were visiting, but it looks pretty good. Other rides include, Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin.

Right in the heart of Dinoland is the Fossil Fun Games area which is home to carnival style games where the kids can try to win prizes.

Another attraction that we highly recommend in Dinoland U.S.A. is Finding Nemo – The Musical. Based on the movie this 40 minute show is a mix of human performers and puppetry. It really is worth watching and our kids just loved it!

Oasis

This is the smallest area here at Animal Kingdom. Its main attraction is the is the tropical forest exhibit – The Oasis Exhibits. There is also a Rainforest Cafe which has an entrance and exit to the park.

Fast-Pass Planning

When doing fast-pass planning prior to arrival at Animal Kingdom we would suggest using them for Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids and DINOSAUR. As DINOSAUR was closed when we visited we used our for Expedition Everest. It is worth noting that Expedition Everest does have a single rider lane so it is always easy to avoid the queues if you are prepared to use it.

Conclusion

While some people will say you don’t need a full day at Animal Kingdom, if you plan on seeing all the shows we would recommend planning a full day here. If you love animals, you will want to take your time and not rush through all the exhibits. There is also a lot of roving entertainment that makes the time fly by as you wander through the park. Disney’s Animal Kingdom really is a place that the kids will enjoy and a must do when visiting Orlando.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Hollywood Studios and Epcot Guides.