Active Attractions

Written by  Nina

We show you how to have fun while burning calories on a last-minute Orlando vacation.

For many, it's the last chance for a summer vacation, so why not take advantage of Orlando's "deal season," which runs Aug. 15 to Sept. 30? And should you go, make it one of your most active vacations yet—by taking on all the theme parks.

In our July 2013 issue, we recently showcased Orlando as one of our fittest vacation destinations due to the city's many offerings for adventure and fitness enthusiasts. As Orlando is perhaps the most known for its theme parks, I decided to estimate how active I could really be while exploring some of these parks. So I strapped on my sports watch to see how many miles I could walk and calories I could burn while exploring five great Orlando theme parks: Disney's Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, Universal's Islands of Adventures, Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld.

DAY 1 at Disney's Animal Kingdom


My highlights:
The younger ones in our party loved Kilimanjaro Safari and Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where they ogled and attempted to mock the sounds of all the animals. Another big hit was the DinoLand region of the park, which offered plenty of rides and activities for the small adventurers, including a paleontology-themed playground. For the thrill-seeking adults and older kids, my favorites were Dinosaur, a pretty scary simulation ride, and Expedition Everest, a rollercoaster with some exciting surprises.

How to boost your calorie burn:
We stumbled upon a few dance parties, where Disney cast members taught a few regional dance traditions from around the world—the Viva Gaia Street Band! in Discovery Island, the Story Dancers in Asia and the Tam Tam Drummers in
Africa. When you see the dancers, don't be afraid to join in, as it's a fun way to get your heart pumping and learn a few moves in the process. Check for a listing of performance dates and times at the front entrance.

DAY 2 at Magic Kingdom


My highlights:
We didn’t cover as much ground as we would have liked—we actually only covered two out of the six park regions. However, we did accomplish our major objectives. Our morning mission was to hit as many character meet-and-greets as possible and ride a few attractions. Of those attractions, we really liked Enchanted Tales with Belle, which was a great, new interactive experience in the newly expanded Fantasyland region. I was also happy to find the legendary Dumbo ride added an indoor play area as part of the riding queue, which was completely genius; a pager buzzes parents when it’s your turn to ride. And of course, the second part of our day (after a break for naptime and dinner) was to see the night parade and fireworks—a must experience for every Disney trip.

How to boost your calorie burn:
While the rest of my party waited in line for the character meet-and-greets, I was charged with running from place to place to get FASTPASS tickets for the rides and attractions. However, the FASTPASS booths are sometimes a good distance away from the attractions, so boost your calorie burn by volunteering to make these runs for your group. Even try running ahead and securing FASTPASSES in the next region of the park, so by the time you and your party finish with the current region and move to that next region, you'll have closer FASTPASS return times. However, note that you can often only get one FASTPASS per admission ticket in a designated period of time, so it does take some strategy.


DAY 3 at Universal's Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida


My highlights:
With no younger ones along for this trip, we were able to zip through these parks at an adult pace. And of course, with the ability to skip the ride lines with an Express Pass (which starts at $19.99), we were able to experience the best of both parks all in one day. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (inside Islands of Adventure) is a must; I was sure to accomplish my Potter to-do list—drink a butterbeer, ride the Dragon Challenge rollercoaster and ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey experience—before moving on. But don't leave I.A. without riding the Hulk coaster and the Popeye water rapids.

At Universal Studios, we checked out the park's newest attractions: Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Transformers 3-D, which are both highly entertaining simulation rides. And as many times as I've been to Universal Studios, I always ride the Mummy coaster at least twice. This year, it was exciting to see that now accompanying the Simpsons Ride are Simpsons-esque dining experiences, such as Krusty Burger and Moe's Tavern (you can actually get a Duff beer). But you can also go light at Lisa's Teahouse of Horror, which includes the healthy menu options of salads, fresh vegetables and hummus and fresh fruit platters. For last, save the Hollywood Rip, Ride and Rockit coaster, in which a night setting makes the music and flashing lights even more of an adrenaline rush.

How to boost your calorie burn:
Universal has a really cool locker system, which comes in handy as many rides don't allow you to bring any bags or purses with you
—plus it's nicer to have a lighter load while walking around. So once again, take the responsibility of running ahead to put in and retrieve your party's bags from the lockers. But in order to make use of the lockers for free, you have to retrieve your bags under a certain time, so you could end up using multiple locker locations throughout your park experience, therefore, having more chances to run around.


DAY 4 at SeaWorld


My highlights:
This was my first time ever at SeaWorld, and it did not disappoint. Toddlers will have a great time in the children's play zone, where they can ride nearly every attraction. But then, I, not expecting to find any major excitement for myself, found quite a rush at Journey to Atlantis, a water flume-like ride, and Manta, which is now among of my favorite rollercoasters of all time (my 12-year-old niece also agrees). There were aquariums to view and fun animal shows to see, but also see their newest ride, Antarctica, which takes you on a super-cool (and I do intend the pun) spinning, trackless vessel that mimics a penguin's slides and glides on ice; the ride is supposedly a technological first for theme park attractions. At the ride's end, you exit through a viewing area of live penguins.

How to boost your calorie burn:
The shows are a huge part of the SeaWorld experience, but if you find yourself on the opposite end of the park's show location and within a few minutes from the start of a show, don't be discouraged; run for it! You'll be surprised how much ground you can cover in a light jog. We often found ourselves jumping from an attraction then dashing across the park to make it for a show.


In total, through our Orlando trip, I walked nearly 15 miles and burned roughly 4,466 calories. Yes, there were a few caloric splurges like ice cream and fries involved in this trip, but I felt confident that, with my activities, I wasn't taking home any more pounds—unless you count the souvenirs.


Images courtesy of Walt Disney World Resorts, Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando
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