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Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

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Worcester, United...
Level Contributor
21 posts
Disney parks and Winter the dolphin


I'm wanting to plan a trip for this October (2013) for myself as a single mum and my son who will be 8 and is on the Autistic Spectrum.

We have been saving for a few years. He is desperate to meet Winter. Thought it would also be fabulous to do lots of parks while we are there too. I'm thinking of about a total of 16nights or so.

Could anyone help or advise as to the best way to do things as i;m quite anxious doing it alone. I took my son to Lapland when he was 3 on my own but that was an organised package holiday. Should we stay for about 10 days somewhere close to the Disney parks, Seaworld etc probably interested in more Animal related parks and then travel to Clearwater and spend the rest of the holiday there? The main concern for me is safety. I've read lots of reviews saying that a resort/hotel in Disney itself if very safe but what about Clearwater? Is it more wise to book a hotel or would an apartment be just as safe?

This would all mean hiring a car also. I am a confident driver (in the uk) but have never driven on the right before - any tips? Is the journey from Orlando to Clearwater a straightforward one?

Thrown loads of questions out there, but any info/help would be so much appreciated.


Orlando, Florida
Level Contributor
868 posts
26 reviews
11. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

If the hotels at Disney are too expensive that you are looking at there are hotels at the entrance of Disney that offer free transportation to the parks. Sea World would be a park your son would enjoy as well as you.. There are wonderful animal shows and exhibits. You might look int Epcot as well. The beach at Clearwater is beautiful and there are lots of restaurants. Don't worry about safety everyone is out just having a good time and enjoying Florida. The temperatures are usually in the mid to high 80's

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
199 posts
34 reviews
12. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

I recommend a site called MouseSavers which I have been going on to learn all about money saving tips for all of the parks, including non-Disney parks. It's got info, tips and links to all kinds of info, not just money saving stuff.

I made reservations at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Sea World Orlando (owned by Marriott, built in 2009, has full hot breakfast every day, laundry machines for $1 each, pool, shuttles to all the parks, right outside Sea World). It's on International Boulevard, which, apparently, is full of restaurants, shopping, etc. I have been googling the area and find that it's a few miles from a Walmart which, from what people tell me, is where you can get the best Disney souvenirs cheap.

Through MouseSavers, I went on the AAA site and got Universal tickets that include a meal, for less than it costs to buy a regular ticket at the gate.

Level Contributor
1,106 posts
114 reviews
13. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin


This is my review of our visit to see Winter the dolphin from last August.

I think the popularity of the attraction has meant the prices have increased since we booked.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium. - review

We had breakfast at 6.30 and left Orlando just before 7am for the almost 2 hour drive to the Aquarium. My youngest daughter, aged 9, had seen the film Dolphin Tales 27 times and was very excited to see Winter, the dolphin in real life. We had booked the full package (Behind the Scenes Tour, Sea Life Safari Cruise, Tour of items/props from the film, dolphin training).

We made good time to in getting to Tampa, but got caught in the rush hour traffic in Tampa and only arrived at the aquarium just before 9.00am.

Entrance was straight forward, but it is clear that the popularity of the film has meant that the site has had to increase its facilities rapidly and it still has some way to go in these. In particular toilet facilities and food offerings were poor.

The aquarium itself is only small. Currently has 4 dolphins, some sharks, turtles, otters, pelicans etc. We had a tour around, met some of the volunteers and staff and the kids were very interested to see the dolphins and other animals. At 11.00 we had the Behind the Scenes Tour. Gained some interesting info. Some of the tanks and facilities look very rusty, but apparently this was done this way for the purpose of making it look more run down and realistic for the filming. Also saw the back offices, animal food preparation kitchens and had a view of some of the other items used to feed the ill animals.

Had a snack for lunch and then went on the Sea Life Safari tour. Went out into Clearwater bay and had a good view of the Bay and the hotels and beaches surrounding it. Stopped at one of the small Island and the kids explored for shells. my oldest daughter found a Sea Urchin that the staff running the boat trip were very interested in. The Sea Life Safari lasted about 1.5 hours and was a pleasant change.

When we got back we had a further look around before the kids did the dolphin training. The dolphin training was very well done and the 3 of them spent about 15 minutes to 20 minutes with the trainer called Tiffany and a dolphin called Panama. They absolutely loved this.

Overall a good day out that the kids really enjoyed.

After another quick tour and collecting some photos we left and drove to the Behind the Scenes tour of the making of the film. This had some interesting info, but by now we were pretty tired so we just had a quick look around before leaving about 5.30

Worcester, United...
Level Contributor
21 posts
14. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

Thank you for your help & comments. Things are starting to feel a little clearer. I agree, we definitely would love Seaworld so will probably spend a couple of days there. Would like to do Discovery Cove also and do the swim with the dolphins, this park sounds great fun, have you been?

Thinking about doing Universal studios. Think my son would enjoy Disney Hollywood studios as he want to make a movie one day :)

Being more animal orientated we would probably only do a couple of days in the Disney parks so probably not necessary to stay in the resort. Was thinking of staying closer to Seaworld, if you have any suggestion? Will do Busch Gardens when staying in Clearwater.

Do you know of any wildlife sanctuary's that are about 1 or 1 1/2 hours driving distance from Clearwater, particularly with Alligators, which my son is a big fan of.

Worcester, United...
Level Contributor
21 posts
15. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

You've all been so helpful and kind.

Thanks for your suggestions. I will check out Mousesavers and the hotel at Seaworld.

I'm becoming more and more confident with this trip and dare i say it a tad excited!! Can't tell my son just yet though, don't know how long i can keep quiet!

Clearwater, Florida
Destination Expert
for Clearwater
Level Contributor
8,752 posts
23 reviews
16. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

The Homosassa State Wildlife Park is about 1.5 hours North of Clearwater. Very nice park with lots of different animals to see, including manatees and gators. Quite a far drive though.

On the mainland, you can feed a gator, and have fun here congoriver.com/clearwater-experience-the-con…

Probably small gators, but better than nothing!

Level Contributor
1,163 posts
17 reviews
17. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

We went in October last year and the weather was brilliant. It was quite hot, but not too hot. It did rain on and off during the first week, but never for too long and it'd dry pretty quickly.

On Clearwater Beach - we went there for day trips so I can't recommend any hotels or apartments. It is reasonably easy to get to from the Disney area - get on the I4, there's a few turn-offs and then just keep going. Google Maps will give you directions and there's plenty of signposts. I was a bit wary of driving on the right at first but it's not too difficult and, for the most part, driving in America is much easier than driving here in the UK.

Clearwater Beach is actually quite a nice area. As you know, there's the aquarium with Winter, and the aquarium also has tours that go from it to various places the movie was filmed. On the harbour opposite the pier (a bit to the south) you can get all kinds of boat cruises, with ships shaped like a shark or pirate galleon. We chose a regular-looking one and went on a dolphin-spotting excursion, that takes you around the bay (so you can see famous people's houses) and then out in front of the pier to stir up a wake for dolphins (and you will most likely see loads!) that will jump around the wake. On an evening, the pier is also a great and lively place with loads of stalls and acts, and sometimes a giant inflatable screen showing movies for free. We also quite liked the Crabby's restaurant for lunch, and a chinese place (forgotten it's name, but it's on the tourist map) for dinner.

As someone else here mentioned, I would recommend Busch Gardens. You've got plenty of time to see all that Disney, as well as SeaWorld and Discovery Cove if you fancy, have to offer. I'd probably set a day aside in Clearwater to go to Busch Gardens (though it's probably easier and quicker to get to from Disney).

EDIT - unsure if Universal Studios would be worthwhile. I'd start planning how many days you want to dedicate to each park (I'd give Magic Kingdom 2 myself, all the others can be done in 1 but occasionally good to go back). It's definitely more meant for older kids and you're already doing Hollywood Studios.

PS - don't forget an evening in Downtown Disney, especially the world's biggest Disney shop.

Edited: 10:20 am, January 21, 2013
Level Contributor
322 posts
1 review
18. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

Hey meeka wherever you go whatever you do youll have a blast. My son has aspergers hes 14 now was 9 1st time we went was completely underwhelmed at disny i was practically jumping + hes like " yeah its a castle" but absolutely loved the hol we talk about it almost daily goin again august. Clearwater beautifull we stayed holiday inn. Make sure you have bit down/chill time 4 both of you.

Worcester, United...
Level Contributor
21 posts
19. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

Hi Halifaxlinda

Only just seen your message. Thank you for your comments. Was brave and took the plunge yesterday and booked our flights and apartment nr Clearwater yesterday. Not going to tell my son for a while otherwise it will be 9 months of torture! (Although its going to be torture keeping it from him as i'm jumping up & down with joy & excitement like a kid). We took him to EuroDisney when he was 4 and he really loved meeting the characters but by half way through day 2 became what seemed a little bored & aloof! :) I'm not fussed on the Disney Parks so think we will just do 2 days maybe 3 and the rest of the time animal encounters & parks at Seaworld, Discovery Cove, Gatorland, Swim with Manatees and of course Clearwater Marina for Winter the Dolphin. Really hoping the experience will stay with him (& me) forever.

20. Re: Disney parks and Winter the dolphin

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