This is just a short post to fill in the gap regarding our other Orlando experiences, things we did and where we ate that didn't include Walt Disney World.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort, about fifteen minutes from Disney property and near all of the crazy themed gift shops. It was impossible to drive past these stores every day and not step inside. Who isn't drawn in by a giant mermaid? We let the kids go wild with picking out bargain Florida souvenirs. We had so much stuff that we had to buy enormous tote bags to haul it all home: which of course, they sold.
Speaking of crazy things we kept seeing: Bonanza Adventure Golf. It has a gold-rush theme and we visited twice, to play each course. One visit was in the evening, which was the ideal time to play mini-golf, as the weather was cool. We had fun. The other visit was in the middle of a scorching afternoon. I have no idea why we thought that it was a good idea, but we were all dripping in sweat and downing bottles of water: too hot to enjoy it. We didn't even finish the second course.
Hot day/cold day= any day is good for ice cream. It's even perfect for breakfast. We discovered Twistee Treat and arrived before the ice cream stand had even opened for the day.
Before meeting Dan, I had been to a Waffle House one time, and it was a less than mediocre experience. I gave it another chance on my Christmas trip to Florida with Dan ( his first Waffle House experience) and I was won over by plenty of southern charm and a cheap, greasy breakfast. You gotta love a place with furnishings that are designed to be hosed down every night. We took the kids and they LOVED it! It wasn't hard, they love waffles, so it was a sure-bet. We ate at three locations and had a great experience each time.
We also had two wonderful dinners at Bahama Breeze ( Felix asked to go back for his birthday, because he liked the Mac and Cheese) and one lunch at Logan's Roadhouse. I know they are chain restaurants, but not ones that any of us had ever experienced, so we really enjoyed them. The kids also loved a lunch we had at Golden Corral. They were impressed by the cotton candy dessert option. Golden Corral isn't a great buffet by any stretch, but there is something to be said for the ability to have the whole family pick exactly what they want to eat. We'd go back.
We had a great time exploring dining options and activities that are outside of Walt Disney World.