A Small State of the Union Address

A Small State of the Union Address

A Small State of the Union Addresss

As a former student of American Studies, I’ve always had an interest in the politics, history and culture of the USA. So, it’s fair to say that the US Presidential election has been watched with a fair degree of keenness over the past few months. Not to mention the fact that I now run a website actively promoting the joys and attractions of Florida and indeed the other 49 states of the Union.

The election of Donald Trump has caused something of a stir and it’s fair to say that it’s been greeted with as wide a range of emotions as you are likely to find.

Now, the purpose of this site is not to discuss politics. We will all have our own opinions and views on the significance of recent events and there are plenty of platforms upon which each and every one of us can go to air such opinions.

This is a travel site; a website which places great emphasis on the idea of people finding ways to enjoy themselves. To discover new things, to spend quality time with loved ones, to indulge in fun wherever fun is to be had, To visit places of beauty, of historical significance, or simply places that enable you to forget about the everyday stresses of busy lives.

All that being said, as someone who has visited Florida many times, and as someone who has travelled throughout the USA (32 states and counting), who has studied its history, its evolving culture, its landscape, its literature, music, art and its films; I feel compelled to make this brief statement.

One of the recurring lines from Mr Trump’s election campaign was:

“Make America great again.”

Well, remove yourself from the politics, from divisive chatter, from media discourse, and you will find that there is plenty about the USA to suggest that it is, and has for many generations, been great.

Like the UK and the grand old nations of Europe, like the vast populaces and ancient cultures of Asia, the diverse nations of Africa or the multi-cultural societies of Australasia, the USA is a land rich in beauty, in art, intelligence and imagination.

It’s a country of vast, open spaces and ranging snow-capped mountains.  Of sprawling cities teeming with every variant of humanity. Of lush countryside, white-sanded beaches.

It’s the land of the movies, the culture that spawned Hemmingway and Steinbeck, Gershwin and Dylan. Scorsese and Spielberg.

And yes, it’s the land of Disney, and razzmatazz and garish, loud opulence. The land of the Orlando theme parks, a family oriented destination for fun. Of holiday resorts that allow us to escape, to unwind and enjoy quality time with our loved ones.

And there is a value and a greatness to that.

As a writer, as a parent, a travel lover and as a general person, and not least as someone who represents this website to the public and across social media platforms I say that Florida Travel Service will continue to promote the positives of the state and those which we all think is fun, worthwhile and removed from political overtures (and yes, you can always find a political underbelly if you choose).

However, the site is also founded on the absolute belief in equality across race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic background. We reject any advocating of bigotry or discrimination on any level and take a view that the world is a better place when principles are founded upon inclusion and tolerance.

Everyone has a different life experience, everyone has their own way of living and of spending their spare time. We promote all of these variances, from all backgrounds. And hope that we can help encourage a little fun and a healthy level of the rest, relaxation and quality time that everyone deserves.

Universal’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong | Now Open

Universal’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong | Now Open

Skull Island: Reign of Kong™ Now Open at Universal Orlando®.



Skull Island: The Reign of Kong™ is the latest major attraction to be unveiled at Universal Orlando®. It’s been in the making for a couple of years now. If you’ve visited Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ over the past 12 months you will have noticed the burgeoning area growing up adjacent to the Jurassic World area. 

And this week, the curtain was pulled back to reveal the zone and the ride just in time for the glut of Brits heading over to Orlando for the summer holidays.

Return of the King 

For those with a sense of nostalgia for the old Universal Studio days, having King Kong back as a major feature of the parks is a pleasing nod back to the heritage of the park. And, indeed, to the gloriously monster-based history of the studio itself. 

Back in the heady, early and really rather innocent days of the Universal park (when it was just ONE park and way before IoA and Wizarding Worlds) there were a number of classic features from the Universal movies cannon. The Jaws ride, a classic Back to the Future ride, an Earthquake adventure. 

And Kong.

The King Kong ride back then took the theme from the classic 1930s monster movie, where the giant ape goes walkabout through the streets of Manhattan. We, as gleeful participants, would get close to the action thanks to a cable car ride. 

It was all rather simplistic. But it was great fun nonetheless. 

What of Skull Island?

Well, to tell you the truth, we don’t know, yet. 

And why spoil the surprise? Finding out the thrills of a new ride in person is part of the joy, isn’t it?

The background though is that this new incarnation will take us to the KK’s home world – the eponymous Skull Island (of which a film with Tom Hiddlestone, among others, is in production as we speak). 

Which almost certainly means an immersive adventure into a land of creepy crawlies, twists, turns and beastly doings. If our experiences with the other quite brilliant adventures at the park are anything to go by. 

What Universal have achieved with their themed rides and ‘worlds’ from the astonishing Harry Potter areas to the high-octane Spiderman (and soon to be re-born Hulk ride), is remarkable. 

And the Kong ride will surely be just another amazing adventure. And yet more reason to visit. 

Express Pass?

It’s unclear just at the moment if the new ride will be eligible for Express Pass use. Upon opening Express Passes were not permitted and all had to use the regular queue. 

However, that’s not uncommon with a new feature. 

After all, the designers have almost certainly gone to extraordinary lengths to create a story that begins in the queue and would want everyone to get a flavour of that (albeit courtesy of some hefty waiting times!). 

We don’t know about the future – although our personal guess is that after a period of time, Express Passes will be permitted. 

[OUR VIEW: Stay on site at a resort hotel if you can. Especially one of the hotels that offer Express Passes as complimentary. Careful planning and timing your visits can keep the queues to a minimum). 


universal hotels


Tailor Made Florida Holidays

Universal Holidays

Introducing The Orlando Eye at I-Drive 360

Introducing The Orlando Eye at I-Drive 360

orlando eye i-drive 360

Image Published with Kind Permission of The Orlando Eye

The Orlando Eye – International Drive’s Biggest, Newest Attraction

It was back in May 2015 that the latest big attraction from Merlin Entertainment – the Orlando Eye – was finally opened to the eager public and holiday-makers of International Drive, Orlando.

The great big centre point of the new I-Drive 360 complex, the Orlando Eye is the Floridian counterpart of its older brother which rests upon the bank of the river Thames in London. And, like the London Eye, this 400 foot behemoth represents one mighty Ferris Wheel, offering a truly unique view over the theme park centre of the world that is Orlando.

Orlando Eye International Drive

Image Courtesy of The Orlando Eye

The Eye Experience

Contained within one of 30 enclosed glass capsules a ride on the Orlando Eye promises to be unlike anything else you’re likely to experience during your stay in central Florida. Which, given the huge array of attractions within spitting distance, is really saying something.

Of course, the ride is a decidedly more sedate affair in comparison to some of the more high octane experiences in Orlando (The Hulk and Aerosmith roller-coasters springing readily to mind, for example). But what it lacks in speed, it will surely make up for through its sheer scale, spectacle and jaw-dropping scenery.

As you make your serene, meandering way around the wheel you’ll have mile upon mile of Florida landscape opening up before and, more accurately, below you. A chance to get a unique perspective on the major theme parks in the area as well as the ever-expanding skyline of downtown Orlando, old town Kissimmee and the vast stretches of lakes, swamps and lush greenery that the more rural aspects of central Florida has to offer.

And, according to the official website, on a clear day you can even see as far away as the Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. Which makes me ponder that an Orlando Eye Capsule would be quite a cool place from which to see a launch.

Similar to the London Eye the Orlando equivalent offers a range of different experiences from which to choose including booking out your own private capsule for you and up to 14 friends, to champagne accompanied rides which sounds like the perfect way to catch a sunset. In addition there’s also a 4D cinematic experience to be enjoyed as part of the experience – an intriguing added extra that’s worth exploring further.

The Orlando Eye at I-Drive 360, Orlando Florida

Image published with kind permission of The Orlando Eye

Other Attractions

As part of the new I-Drive showcase Merlin Group have added two of their other premier branded attractions to sit alongside the impressive Eye and help to create a real new dimension to family friendly entertainment in the already packed to bursting International Drive area.

Launched in conjunction with the Orlando Eye is the SEA LIFE Aquarium, offering visitors an opportunity to experience and explore a vast and really stunning array of different sea creatures, fish and general aquatic life.

And then there’s the iconic name in Wax Modelling – Madame Tussauds Orlando. Taking its lead from the world famous London venue this brings the wax museum to Florida, bringing with it a decidedly American feel to this distinctly European attraction.

Now a few months old and the Eye is fast becoming a major landmark on the Orlando skyline and another BIG attraction for a region already bursting with things to do. Nevertheless, the wheel certainly promises to become something of an Orlando icon in the coming years and a perfect antidote when you need an alternative source of entertainment from the theme parks.

Pin It on Pinterest