Theme Parks Beat Beaches | Other Orlando

  • It’s still warm in Florida this month (ha ha…lol). It’s almost always warm in Florida. But as we approach the end of summer and face the fall, it’s time for fair weather travelers of all types to consider:

    Choose a beach vacation while it is still hot enough to stay in the sun long enough for a lasting tan…or visit a theme park like Disney World?

    Not as hard a decision as you might think.


    Because you can do them both.

    A lot of hotels advertise their closeness to Orlando theme parks. But others who have noted that many visitors want BOTH beach and Disney World and combine the two.

    Just to mention one that is on the Ocean but still offers tickets to theme parks only an hour way: Comfort Inn & Suites in next-door-to-Orlando Cape Canaveral.

    Guests there can pick from a variety of packages. And they are far from alone in offering those combos.

    But what if you do not have the funds and perhaps the limited time to for only one?

    Pick only one

    So is it the beach or theme parks?

    What if you have to pick only one?

    And say you are doing it in August, this month, before we come into September and the start of the fall season?

    We can help you decide…

    Let’s assume since you are in Orlando, your beachfront destination is not a water park or a placid hotel pool.

    You want the mighty Ocean.

    That’s easy enough because it’s as close as 30 miles or less than half an hour away from Orlando.

    That’s the closest beach: Cape Canaveral, where the Comfort Inn offers both options. And has company.

    Few would suggest it’s the best beach. But it does have a lot of local shopping and other tourist attractions. And it is one of the few beaches in Florida where you can go au natural. That’s in Playalinda Beach in nearby Titusville, where clothing is optional.

    If that is not enough, the Canaveral area also has the attraction of the space center and a lot of nightlife-bars.

    The two other beaches near Orlando are New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach. Both are less than one hour away (Tampa Bay is also an option, but that is farther, say 90 miles or so).

    New Smyrna is best viewed as a laidback beach, gentle in nature and more attuned to older travelers and children.

    Daytona is famous for your being able to drive there. But as that amenity has faded in recent years, it remains famous or infamous for its biker weekends. It’s a famous watering hole for them, as well as college students.

    Is coleslaw wrestling your thing?

    It’s also the home of coleslaw wrestling at the Cabbage Patch Bar, where bikini-clad women who often lose their suits in addition to the match. Yes, that’s the coleslaw you put on hot dogs (if that is to your taste).

    Its hotels are inclined to offer bargain basement prices. Its atmosphere is generally loud and raucous. Besides, driving on the beach may be fun but not if the fast moving driver of a vehicle does not see you sunbathing where care are allowed.

    There are accidents. Serious ones.

    So let’s make some comparisons between the the two types of vacations.

    Could you possibly be bored at the beach? There’s sunbathing, reading, and cooling off during a swim in the warm Ocean waters. Fine.

    But Disney has four parks and Universal has two of them, not to mention water parks and others, so the boredom thresh hold is much lower at the parks. They win this comparison.

    But they also come out ahead on many other counts.

    Beach houses and resorts often require payment in full before getting there. Not so the theme parks. Vacation deposits are invariably less. Winner: parks.

    Mummies and other attractions

    August in Orlando is not a particularly busy month, but there are still such events outside the parks as the Main

    Street Restaurant Week where fixed price menus are as low as $10. And special events include the chance to see preserved mummies at the Orlando Science Center (not to mention daily fireworks and many other events at theme parks).

    Daytona Beach, by comparison, offers coleslaw wrestling.

    Beach-goers with children pretty much need to also be babysitters. But theme parks have all kinds of babysitting amenities.

    Babysitting has really gone up in price. An average cost for a nanny for one week is $477, though a lot less, $488, if you bundle two of them, according to the the 2015 Report.

    Don’t need a week?

    The most expensive city for hourly babysitters is San Francisco, where the average cost is $16.55 an hour. Oops, you’re not in California but expect to pay a trusted sitter $11.31 an hour, says Year over year, it’s the largest annual household expense, averaging $18,000 for families in the United States

    At a beach vacation, you will almost certainly need a car. Few beach-goers arrive by bus.

    But at theme parks, everyone is reasonably close. No time spent behind the wheel of a rental car. No traffic jams when you take buses or monorails or ferry boats.

    Autos not needed

    So no auto expenses once you get here.

    Car rentals? Prices have not escalated as much as other items in recent years, as The New York Times recently reported. But it still can be costly.

    Prices are anywhere from $45 (say a Toyota Escort) to $75 (maybe a Chevrolet Impala or other standard size) these days, or even $80-120 for real luxury rides such as minivans, reports USA Today.

    Beach lifeguards are often good-looking and helpful, particularly if you swim out too far and the undertow gets you. But most visitors find friendly customer service at theme parks is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

    Beaches are somewhat dependent on weather. If it rains, you and your party may be confined to your hotel room with a deck of cards to play Hearts or Poker. You aren’t rained out at theme parks.

    Beachfront hotels and other rentals charge you set fees, though there are discounted rates for certain times of the year. But theme parks offer a variety of packages that can generally accommodate all price ranges.

    Then, there’s the issue of safety.

    And beach-goers: did you know this?

    New Smyrna Beach is the shark attack capital of the world. So says the International Shark Attack File.

    In fact, if you get into the water there, you are close to a shark.

    Sharks are closer than you think

    "Most people who have swum in and around New Smyrna have been within 10 feet of a shark in their lifetime," says George Burgess, an ichthyologist and fisheries biologist at the University of Florida who maintains the International Shark Attack File.

    Now it’s true that ever since the movie “Jaws,” there has been an exaggerated fear of sharks.

    It is not likely you will get attacked by sharks, even if you do swim in the Ocean.

    Your chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.

    On average, there are about 65 shark attacks worldwide each year. Only a handful are fatal.

    No one likes to think too much about it. But you are more likely to be killed by a dog, snake or in a car collision with a deer. You’re also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to drown at the beach than die from a shark attack, according to ISAF.

    Even digging a sand hole is more dangerous…

    And isn’t that something you might do at the beach?

    Sand castles can be deadly

    The New England Journal of Medicine reported that from 1990 to 2006, 16 people died by digging until the sand collapsed and smothered them.

    Then, there’s skin cancer.

    Medical experts say the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers is the sun.

    So many sun-worshippers despite slathering on high UVB water-resistant sunscreen of 30 or more SPF and the widest-brimmed hats available still get cancer.

    In a recent year, there were 77,000 new cases. More than 9,000 of those people died (sorry to bring the bad news but there it is).

    But even non roller coaster fans who have seen stories of accidents might ask: are these usually dangerous-looking vehicles safe?

    There is not really an extremely fair answer.

    That’s in part because they are like plane crashes: every single one is major news, even though they are rare.

    You may not entirely trust the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. But they do say the coasters are very safe.

    How safe?

    One number is that the odds of being seriously injured in a fixed-site amusement park is about 1 in 24 million.

    The Amusement Parks group says there were eight injuries for each million days of roller coaster riding.

    By contrast, playing (American) football was 40 times more dangerous, at 343 injuries, and even fishing was far riskier, at 88 injuries per million days.

    Travel writers generally assure us that while putting numbers to safety is not an exact science, roller coasters are generally very safe.

    The far more likely scenario is that riders may get stuck for a few minutes or even a couple of hours.

    That’s not a bad price to pay when you’re having fun. ###