Every year British families arch to two of the world’s key destinations for winter fun: Dubai, in the UAE, and Orlando, Florida. The flight times are comparable: aloof over seven hours complete to Dubai, hardly added than nine hours to Orlando. The capital draw, of course, is the sun: in January and February you can apprehend temperatures of about 77F (25C) in Dubai, eight hours of sunshine daily, and about no rain. In Orlando, temperatures will hover at about 72F (22C), with a hardly college adventitious of rain, but still seven hours of circadian sunshine. Not to put too accomplished a point on it, but London at this time of year has two hours of sunshine, one in every two canicule has rainfall, and temperatures are about 45F (7C); if anytime there were a time to escape, this is it.
But Dubai and Orlando accept no cartel on winter sun; the complete acumen British families go is that these places are Las Vegas for children. The array and calibration of adaptation accessible is astonishing. Both destinations action an amazing ambit of packages, from actively priced all-inclusives from the cast of Thomas Cook or Tui to added affluence bespoke bales from Kuoni.
Also like Vegas, the affluence of winter ball is unrivalled: from the world’s best affair parks to accomplished dining, awe-inspiring and admirable architectonics and avant-garde auberge architecture that caters abnormally to those travelling with children, Dubai and Orlando action a cafe of ancestors treats.
But which is the destination for you? In Orlando, it’s about all about the affair parks, but abhorrence not – there’s affluence more. Dubai is accepted for its amid resorts – but there is affluence of activity aloft those walls. Don’t assurance the reputation: let our ancestors biking experts booty you through their trips, below, and adjudge for yourself which atom in the sun is appropriate for you.
Orlando is a agleam apple of bogus fun. From auberge to car appoint outlet, you’ll acquisition automated American service, about consistently with a smile. You will accept a nice day.
Away from the bustle of Dubai, JA Palm Tree Court Auberge is an anchorage of calm. This array of altar is the appetite of all of the cloistral resorts of the emirate.
There’s a affair esplanade to clothing all tastes and altruism levels in Orlando, but Disney does it best: alike the best repressed British traveller is defenceless adjoin its Fifties-style panache.
No queues is a huge advantage in Dubai, acceptation you can try rides like Blast Off, which is about the aforementioned acme as the Leaning Belfry of Pisa, afresh and again.
Outside the parks, Orlando is experiencing a aliment revolution, conspicuously in the Winter Esplanade breadth (cityofwinterpark.org). Disney Springs has a ablaze array of high-end cafés, bars, and cheffy restaurants (disneysprings.com/dining).
Nowhere is the comedy of Dubai added acceptable than its baroque dining scene. Dinner at The Social House alfresco Dubai Mall; watching the “dancing fountains” adverse Burj Khalifa.
You will overspend in esplanade gift shops and acknowledgment stands. Alfresco the parks, aliment in Orlando is abundant value, and abundantly ample to a fault.
Dubai Mall is the world’s better with 1,000-plus retailers, an Olympic-sized ice skating rink, Dubai Aquarium with sharks you can see from axial the Mall and a abyssal crocodile in the underwater zoo.
Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are anniversary aural a two-hour drive of Orlando’s parks. In both admonition you’ll acquisition bank resorts with abreast motels and, about Dunedin and Clearwater, hip-happening places to eat.
Dubai’s beaches are added of an breach amid the hotels’ pools and watersports on the Persian Gulf. Auberge beaches accept affluence of bank to be enjoyed but bank can be a bit abject and grey: don’t apprehend pure, white powder.
By Sarah Barrell
The shiniest atramentous shuttle glided into the station, gold accouter gleaming. It looked as if it should appear with a caped attendant and a arbor for hat boxes. “It’s a bling train!” said Ella, almost complete her delight. Arriving at Orlando airport for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to the affair parks, my 10-year-old was abreast for best fun. The actuality that the shuttle alternation amid airport terminals had already over-delivered was a able start.
So, too, went Ella’s acknowledgment to our aboriginal hit of Floridiana, in the Winter Esplanade commune – our antecedent abject at one of Orlando’s oldest resorts – breadth backward spring’s trumpet copse were in Technicolor blush and chicken bloom. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!” breathed Ella at the tidy grandness of it all. Immaculate sidewalks abut lath houses with just-so lawns surrounding baptize appearance so immense I had to stop her pond in them.
Welcome to axial Florida, acreage of artificial absurd affair parks but also, for the adeptness travelling parent, added accustomed distractions that amuse esplanade naysayers and advice families clip themselves. This antithesis is the abstruse to the address of Florida. Afore adverse the parks, we spent a day or so acclimatising, with baiter trips about Winter Park’s appealing cord of lakes. At the farmer’s market, set about a celebrated alternation depot, we abounding accoutrements with bounded peaches and sourdough bread, while in Mills 50, an advancing ’hood for Florida foodies, we abounding our stomachs to billowing at the farm-to-fork southern-inspired aliment collective Cask & Larder (caskandlarder.com).
Refuelled and jet lag-free, back we assuredly faced the House of Mouse, it was a absolutely bewitched thing. Ella had hinted that she ability be a bit developed up for the Abracadabra Kingdom’s fairytale fodder, and my appetence for bathetic homesickness is meagre, but we both got misty-eyed at Cinderella’s majestic alcazar ascent aloft the basin as we paddle-steamed into the park. The rides – log flumes and delinquent trains – bear a ablaze American West aesthetic, if not the highest-octane thrills, and glossy artery parades pop up with a near-endless serendipity. We hugged costumed characters, from Goofy to the casting of The Incredibles and, admitting actuality Officially Too Old, were rendered agog at the Frozen-themed afterpiece that aflame the castle, crowned with the Abracadabra Kingdom’s ballsy nightly fireworks. Scepticism? We absolutely let it go.
Staying on-site, with complete shuttles from axial esplanade to auberge door, is the best way to abstain the ocean of altruism branch for monorail and paddle-steamer at the abutting of anniversary day. We’d appointed into a Walt Disney Apple commune hotel, a chargeless 15-minute shuttle ride able-bodied aloft the park’s gates. After the evening’s fireworks, Ella’s yawns were so advanced I was abashed she would absorb her own head, Minnie Mouse aerial and all. But, a well-oiled machine, the Abracadabra Kingdom orchestrated an able exit. The capital Hopper admission (which grants admission to added than one of the Abracadabra Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot parks in one day) accustomed us to abscond from the calefaction of the day for Epcot’s acquiescently air-conditioned Apple Showcase, to eat algid sushi in Japan and gelato in Italy.
Aquatica (aquaticabyseaworld.com) was addition abode to air-conditioned off. Lazy rivers, adumbral bank cabanas and a spaghetti-network of waterslides fabricated this our shared-favourite Orlando esplanade experience, although Breakaway Falls, a arduous bead “slide” that sees the attic pulled out from beneath riders, who afresh collapse 80ft, is the best alarming affair I’ve anytime done in the name of fun. So, of course, we did it twice, and reflected as we climbed for the additional go that we were not too old for affair parks at all.
Sadly, there’s no spell to vanish the crowds that affliction Universal Studios’ ever-popular Harry Potter World, and the blow of the esplanade seems like audacious blur authorization beam compared with Abracadabra Kingdom’s fairytale innocence. But it is nonetheless unmissable: Ella raved over the 4-D basic absoluteness rides, which took us by the angular and launched us into a J K Rowling-endorsed apple of goblins, behemothic spiders, alcazar escapes, and agitated Quidditch matches that vanished any actual theme-park acrimony quicker than an Expelliarmus spell. Best British families we met had committed a abounding day to this esplanade alone.
The best way to abate ride delay times in all of Orlando’s parks is to acquirement queue-jumping cards. Accomplish abounding use the Abracadabra Kingdom’s Fast Pass (free with admission tickets). You can go online weeks in beforehand to book times for your burning rides, and cut cat-and-mouse to bristles to 10 minutes.
When you adorned a breach from the aberration of the parks, you could consistently try rocket science. Aloof a two-hour ride east of Orlando is the agrarian Atlantic’s Amplitude Coast. Here, the Kennedy Amplitude Center comes with shuttle simulators, retired moon rockets, the adventitious to bout Apollo mission barrage pads, authority a allotment of moon bedrock in your hand, and accommodated a complete Nasa astronaut (who pleases ancestors audiences with tips on how to eat/sleep/poo in space). It is a added brainy antitoxin to addled theme-park fun.
But ultimately for us, the complete abracadabra was adored for our trip’s end: a break on the white bank of the Gulf Coast. Aloof a two-hour drive away, Clearwater Bank is a flop-down afterpiece for park-frazzled families. There are manatees to clue in the mangroves, new-era motels to bed bottomward in, and afresh fabricated piña coladas, it seemed, on tap. Toes in the sand, a Hollywood-style dusk axis the bank golden, a bucket-list cruise ticked off, we airy into the some ancient Florida-style bucket-and-spade fun.
This is Florida’s USP: with basal driving, you can go from high-octane action esplanade thrills to back-to-basics adorableness on the beach.
By Mark Henshall
Dubai is an absurd grown-up’s playground. Michelin-starred chefs are aureate in from about the apple to waterside hotels added than 1,000ft high, advised by the cast of Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace; it’s a fast-paced, style-obsessed anchorage of bling, a destination on steroids. It boasts the world’s aboriginal “seven-star” hotel, Burj Al Arab; the world’s better counterfeit archipelago, The Palm; a auberge shaped as a pyramid; one with a rainforest, underwater villas and a ski abruptness in a desert.
I aboriginal visited 15 years ago on a business trip, and begin a hot emirate with an ice-cold appetite to position itself as a all-around bartering hub. Skyscrapers popped up all forth the Sheikh Zayed Alley that runs from Abu Dhabi to Ras al-Khaimah – almost alongside to the Persian Gulf’s coastline.
The Dubai I knew wasn’t a analytic best for a cruise with my 11-year-old adrenalin aficionado of a son. But agog for some winter sun and time together, Gabriel and I were absorbed by the aperture of Legoland’s aboriginal esplanade in the Middle East. Dubai is agog to abduction the ancestors market, so we absitively to alley analysis what’s on offer.
The aboriginal affair that strikes you at the JA Palm Tree Court Hotel, our abject a 40-minute drive west of axial Dubai, is the absence of noise. After a seven-hour flight, the acceptable calefaction and tranquillity helped us to disentangle quickly. Part of the sprawling Jebel Ali Golf Resort, the auberge sits hardly apart, so has an complete feel while giving admission to a ambit of facilities.
The aboriginal morning afore hitting the rides, we were greeted on our airing to breakfast by the absurd afterimage of a white peacock assuming off in the palm-tree-dotted close gardens. After a cafe so all-inclusive and assorted that it alike independent a amber board, we took a 15-minute shuttle to Dubai Parks and Resorts. This circuitous is the Middle East’s better chip affair esplanade destination and is fabricated up of three big attractions: Legoland, MotionGate and Bollywood Parks. Separately, about 40 account bottomward the alley is the better calm affair esplanade on earth, IMG Worlds of Adventure, based on Disney’s Marvel belief and characters from Cartoon Network.
First on our list, though, was Legoland Baptize Park, which has about 20 slides and aught queues. Yes, it is a almost new park; but for anyone acclimated to cat-and-mouse in ride queues for added than an hour at Legoland Windsor (2.1 actor visitors per year) or Disneyland Paris (13.3 actor visitors per year), this is complete heaven. It meant that we got to try everything, didn’t accept to anticipate about timings or fast passes, ate back we liked, and got to acknowledgment to our favourite rides. Gabriel’s favourite angry out to be Build-A-Raft River, breadth you coast forth a river sitting in a doughnut that you can customise yourself with Lego bricks.
Suitably impressed, that afternoon we went abutting door, to Legoland, where, again, we absolved beeline assimilate rides as the whim took us. Legoland is aimed at two to 12-year-olds, so my son was at the top end, but there were about two dozen rides to try, breach into six acreage based on Lego collections.
Next on our theme-park-rota was MotionGate, which is aggressive by Hollywood and has 27 rides and bristles roller coasters based on films such as Shrek, How to Alternation Your Dragon and Madagascar. Gabriel’s top heart-in-your-mouth ride – and actuality I’m anecdotic my reaction, as I watched – was Zombieland Blast-Off, which launches you up a 190ft tower.
Dubai has abundant rides, but they needn’t boss your holiday. Nor is the emirate fabricated up alone of anew congenital experiences, hustle and arcade amaze – admitting that’s there, if you crave it. To get a aftertaste of a altered ancillary of Dubai, booty a cruise on a acceptable dhow to the aroma souk exchange in Deira, breadth accouchement will get a acoustic afflict from sacks of colourful fragrances and spices. Frankincense chewing gum, anyone?
Better still, escape into the arid wilderness to acquaintance a Bedouin camp, breadth a altered and serene ancillary to this ball hub can be discovered. On the way there, we approved cloister biking and had an animating drive in an SUV. As we confused added into the desert, we saw Arabian oryx and gazelles abnormality about as we approached the baby billet of simple rugs, cushions and the balmy acceptable of dancing, a barbecue and ambrosial shisha. Sitting beneath the abreast of the stars, sipping Arabic coffee with the accommodation of the Bedouin people, and annihilation but bank for afar around, we acquainted as if we were on a altered planet.
But as bewitched as this was, it’s a abatement to break in a resort custom-built for families gluttonous easy, adequate time together. With ablaze and beautiful rooms, 15 restaurants and confined and a two-storey spa, you could appropriately break put for a week. Accouchement get the adventitious to accomplish friends, adequate the abandon of a few altered pools, mini golf and benumbed stables. The resort fronts on to an 875yd amplitude of sand, alms affluence of allowance to absorb up the sun or try some volleyball, as the kids did as the sun went bottomward and the adults enjoyed a cocktail.
Dubai is generally absolved as a cultural exhaustion And there’s no abstinent that 99 per cent of it is cast new; its change can be overwhelming. But there are advantages to actuality at an all-embracing crossroads: for example, the teppanyaki table and sushi adverse at the Pan-Asian White Orchid Restaurant is some of the best aliment I’ve tasted. This is a destination that goes to abundant lengths to baby for all.
When you assemblage it all up with the abbreviate flight, sun, affair parks, arid escape and excess of activities, Dubai fits calm as amphitheater for families appealing well.
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