Thursday, May 5, 2011

Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Entertainment

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips. In this final post I'll talk about entertainment options. Most of this list will be things you'd consider doing if you're staying a few extra days, but some things you can squeeze in 

The Obvious Stuff
The first thing that most people think of when they think about Orlando are the theme parks, so I'll get the obvious ones out of the way:

Now with that out of the way, here's a few things most people don't think about when they visit Orlando:

Disney Related Activities
In addition to the theme parks there are a ton of other things to see and do around the Disney area. Here's a few:

  • Downtown Disney - They've got an official LEGO store, Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, and Disney Quest (5 floors of all you can play video games). They've also got a balloon ride that takes you 400 feet in the air for a nice view of Orlando. Parking is free.
  • Disney's Boardwalk - Ask for a free 3 hour parking pass at the parking lot security gate and go check out the ESPN Club and Jellyrolls (dueling pianos).
  • Magic Kingdom Fireworks - Park at the Grand Floridian and walk over to Narcoossee's. You have a clear view of the Wishes fireworks show from across the Seven Seas Lagoon and they pipe in the music so you get the full experience of the show without having to be in the park. Fireworks are at 9 PM on the 10th, 11th, and 13th, and at 10 PM on the 12th. (Tip: Bring Bug Spray!)

Alligators!
Florida is famous for alligators. Visiting here without seeing at least one would be like going to the mountains in the winter and not seeing snow. Here's two places for seeing live gators:

  • Gatorland - Watch feedings and someone step into the ring to wrestle with a live gator. You'll see more alligators in one spot here than anywhere else.
  • Everglades Airboat Tours - If seeing gators in captivity's not your thing how about hopping on an airboat and seeing them in the wild?

Be A Kid Again
There are plenty of places where you can let your inner child out. Here's a few

  • Old Town - Come join fellow SQLRally Attendees Thursday night from 7-10 PM. Old Town is best described as a permanent county fair. They've got shops, bars, a mechanical bull, and a really cool slingshot ride that sends you a few hundred feet skyward in under 5 seconds (Check out a video of it here, wear headphones - NSFW language). Next door is Fun Spot USA with 3 Go Kart tracks and some killer thrill rides like a giant swing that drops you from 300 feet high.
  • Helicopter Tours - Check out Orlando from a helicopter! There's quite a few of these places around town. The closest to the Marriott are Sunshine Helicopter Tours on Highway 192 (407-390-0175) and International Heli-Tours on International Drive South (407-239-8687)

Museums
These aren't your fine art kind of places…

  • Ripley's Believe It Or Not - You'll find some strange, oddball kinds of things here.
  • Titanic, The Experience - Full scale recreations of famous parts of the ship, original artifacts recovered from the wreck, live actors dressed in period clothing, and more bring the story of the Titanic to life.

The Coolest Pad On The Planet
A 45 minute drive from Orlando - but well worth it if you're into space - is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex. They've got a rocket "garden" full of flight hardware, IMAX movies, a space shuttle simulator, one of the few remaining complete Saturn V rockets in the world, and tours of Kennedy Space Center.

At the time I write this it's possible that Space Shuttle Endeavour may launch while SQLRally is taking place, so keep an ear to the ground because on launch days the visitor's complex is closed. Of course, seeing a launch in person is pretty cool, too. (The best place to keep up with shuttle launch news is SpaceFlightNow)

Get Your Geek On
Orlando is also home to Skycraft Parts & Surplus, a treasure trove of miscellaneous electronics and mechanical parts that you'll love if you're the maker\tinkerer type.

Liquid Bread
Like beer? Check out Orlando Brewing, Florida's only certified organic brewery. Tours offered daily at 6 PM, and after the tour enjoy a drink fresh from the tap.

Conclusion
These are just a handful of the things you can do in Orlando, and hopefully you'll take some time to try and do at least one non-SQL related thing for fun. If there's something else you're interested in or have heard about that's not on this list feel free to catch me in person and ask me about it. If I don't know I'm sure someone else local does!

See you next week at SQLRally!

 

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