Column by Dan Hatfield
Dear Orlando Informer: How can I experience the thrills and excitement of an Orlando vacation when I can’t get to Orlando? I already know about all the usual books and websites. Are there other things out there I should try?
Luckily in this day and age, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, there are lots of ways to bring the sunshine and screams of Orlando’s attractions home. Below you’ll find a few ideas to get you started. Please note that there are a tremendous amount of excellent sources of Orlando-related information, and I cannot possibly include them all. If one of your favorites is missing, please leave a comment at the bottom of the post.
There are a lot of great podcasts available through iTunes that cover Orlando and our theme parks. Start with Ricky Brigante’s Inside the Magic. It holds the record for the longest-running Disney podcast and each week’s show is packed with new information and ideas for your next vacation. Inside the Magic also covers news outside of Disney World, which can be refreshing every now and then. Visit InsidetheMagic.net to learn more.
Another superb podcast is Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio. Focused exclusively on Walt Disney World, this podcast will take you places inside the resort you never knew existed. Visit WDWRadio.com to learn more.
I also want to quickly mention The Season Pass. This podcast is about the theme park industry and is based in California, so the focus is not really on Orlando. Nevertheless, it offers incredible content and all-star guests from inside the industry, and it is a must for anyone interested in learning about theme parks as a business and not just a vacation destination. Visit SeasonPassPodcast.com to learn more.
If you’re looking for more visual stimulation to bring you back to Orlando, you’ll find plenty online. First and Foremost, this site, Orlando Attractions Magazine, has a very active YouTube Channel with new videos almost daily, plus a new weekly video show that wraps up the week’s news: youtube.com/attractionsmagazine. Orlando Attractions Magazine – The Show is also available on iTunes.
When you’re done with Attractions, head over to izonorlando.com. They host an impressive collection of videos from many Central Florida producers, including The Daily City and Central Florida Top 5.
For some strange reason, the availability of webcams at Central Florida attractions is shrinking. There used to be one at the Swan and Dolphin Resort looking toward Epcot, and there also used to be one at Universal looking toward the gates of Universal Studios. Unfortunately they have been turned off. But if you need a fix of real-time video, you still have a few options: Gatorland, Downtown Orlando and City of Winter Park. This last option isn’t a real webcam of Disney World, but it’ll have to do for now – wdwlive.com.
Forums are interactive message boards where anyone can join a community of like-minded individuals and share their thoughts. There are dozens and dozens of forums related to Orlando. Here are just a few examples. You can visit the site, quickly register, and begin sharing your experiences and future plans with other Orlando enthusiasts: Orlando United, DISboards and WDWMagic.
I saved the best for last! If you truly want to be transported to back to the good times you had in Orlando, there’s no better option than Radio Margaritaville. JD Spradlin broadcasts live from the Margaritaville Cafe at Universal Orlando CityWalk from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. You can also stream Radio Margaritaville online.
Please write a comment below if you know of a great option for “traveling back to Orlando” that I missed!
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’d just like to add that a subscription to “Orlando Attractions Magazine” is a great way to have the magic delivered to your home.
• Dan Hatfield is an Orlando enthusiast, vacation planning specialist, local blogger, and full-time student at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He runs OrlandoInformer.com, a site dedicated to providing practical knowledge and insider tips about a wide range of Orlando vacation activities. You can reach Dan via his website, on Twitter at @OrlandoInformer, or at [email protected].