If you are a tourist, never actually go to Hollywood. There's not really anything good there.[/QUOTE]
Yes, yes, yes. I live close to LA and I stay the f--- away from it at all cost. It's a miserable place, depending on where you go. There are nice museums, and the beaches are ok, but if you want fresh air, there are better places to go. As for the Hollywood you see in movies, it's not happening. Hollywood is crowded, massively crawling with traffic. The streets are small and cramped, parking is terrible and expensive, and it is absolutely filthy. You can probably close your eyes, point to a random spot in California, and it will be vastly superior to the soul-sucking mess that is present-day Hollywood and LA.
Florida's sales tax at restaurants is 7.5%. When you get the tab look at the sales tax listed and double the amount. That'll get you the 15% calculation for the tip
[QUOTE=JWBooth;995858]Hollywood is America's most significant cultural export, and Walt Disney played a huge role in shaping the industry. Visiting America without every going to Disneyland/World would be like going to Egypt and skipping the pyramids.[/QUOTE]Um, no. Disneyland is an atrocious commercial plastic wasteland that has nothing to do with much of anything historic or cultural. It's there to leverage your nostalgia for the Disney movies of your youth, and the manic enthusiasm of children for animated storybook characters, in order to extract your money. That is all.
The equivalent of visiting the pyramids would be [I]actually watching Disney movies[/I], which you can do in any country, without paying exorbitant sums of money to a multinational corporation to wait in huge lines to get on shitty rides, eat disgustingly bad cheap food (or disgustingly expensive mediocre food), and buy plastic "mementos" that will go from your car to a box in your garage to the landfill, on varying schedules depending on how much of a packrat you are.
Disneyuniverse has no redeeming qualities IMO. There are so, so many more things that are worthwhile to do on a trip to the US than to go anywhere near that shining crown rhinestone of mindless consumer culture.
I'm going to really disagree with you here... the last time I went to Disney in Orlando, there were plenty of places to eat that did freshly cooked food/from scratch stuff. Yeah, there are still lots of hot dogs and burgers and chicken nuggets and candy and stuff, but we stayed at the Polynesian Resort and we had all sorts of Asian dishes and steak and spanking fresh salads and all that. We were actually very well taken care of, and there is no way I would have traded that for Mickey D's! The food folks were more than accomodating towards my dairy-allergic celiac kid (very knowledgable about cross-contamination issues and cooked their gluten-free pancakes, for example, on a dedicated griddle). While I am not a fan of plasticky theme-parks like Disney, my Second never got sick nor hungered for anything our week there.
Agree with crabcakes. The food at Disney is nothing to write home about, and like all things in theme parks, generally overpriced, but it is nowhere near the level of something like McDonalds. Disneyworld is fun, especially for kids. A lot of you folks are sounding like too-cool-for-school hipsters
It's crowded, overpriced, and a tourist trap, but I have to respectfully disagree. Disneyland is hella fun.
On a related note, do a little research on restaurants you plan on visiting before you go there and don't be afraid to ask questions when you're already there. A lot of menu items may contain ingredients you didn't expect, for instance, at IHOP, they use pancake batter in their omelette mix to "fluff up" the eggs.
Make sure your immune system is in good shape; every germ in the world lands in Orlando.
As a displaced Floridian, I'm jealous of your trip. Enjoy what a great state has to offer (just don't try to vote in Palm Beach County ;) ). Contrary to what others have said, the Panhandle is the best part of the state, but hell, Orlando can be fun too. Also, despite what others have said, I can have fun at Disney and while it may not be real America it is entertaining. Sea World rocks and, I don't care how many times you have done it, feeding stingrays is freaking awesome. I'd go to Sea World every day just to do that. That said, Dennys? Holy hells man.
For food I suggest checking out: [url=http://www.urbanspoon.com/c/26/Orlando-restaurants.html]Orlando Restaurants | Urbanspoon[/url]
It breaks restaurants down by price zones, shows newspaper reviews, blog reviews, and customer comments/pictures. Orlando has restaurants out of the wazoo from chains to holes in the wall from Dennys to fine dining. Please do not limit yourself to Dennys. That said, eat breakfast there one day if you like (or better yet, when you drag in at 2am stop by and eat then).
If you have small kids with you there is a farm in Orlando (about 15-30 minute drive from Disney if I recall) that lets you hold the chicks and baby ducks, milk a cow, ride in a hay wagon etc. It was cheap ($7 a person, though this was a few years back) and my nephew, who was 5 at the time, loved it. I can't recall the name but there were brochures about it in our hotel.
All that said, please do not judge America on its tourist attractions. They are just that - mindless diversions. Then again, sometimes I like being diverted mindlessly so enjoy it.
Waitress/Waiters (often called 'Servers' as this is more gender neutral) generally make between $2.25 and $3.75 an hour (minimum wage is something like $7.35 and allegedly tips will make up the difference). As such, if you don't tip people will think you are an asshole.
I generally tip 20%. 10% if service is bad. 0% if it is horrendous. 30% if it is very good. Then again, as Magnolia pointed out, it takes just as much work to bring you a $7 breakfast as it does a $30 dinner steak so please take that into account when tipping servers at cheaper places. I've seen many waitresses in diners bust their asses refilling coffee, running plates, etc to get a 50 cent tip. Screw that noise.
One thing people are overlooking is tipping the kitchen. As one person said, if the food is badly cooked it is not the server's fault. On the flip side if the service sucks but the food is good then the kitchen did its part. Sure cooks might get paid $9 an hour instead of $3 but at some places (Outback for example) a server will make 3-4 times a night in tips what a cook makes. There have been several occasions where I have asked for a manager, told them how good the food was and given them some money to tip the cook, as you can't just walk back into the kitchen. *this is not normal per se nor expected. Do not feel obligated to do it. I just think good work should be rewarded.
Thanks for all the advice. I understand what you are saying about the food but honestly while I'm on holiday I'm not worrying too much about finding paleo options for food. Again with regards to the culture, I understand they're are thousands of more cultural things to do in America and I shall be doing various trips in the future to the likes of Vegas, California etc but this time round we are purely going on a fun holiday as we have both been through a hell of alot through the past few months.
Our latest idea after talking to various people is to take Mears taxis to Universal, Island of Adventure, Sea world & Gatorland and probably Lynx bus from Downtown disney/transport station to international drive for Ripleys/Wonderworks. Possibly doing gunna try and do an Airboat ride aswell probably as part of gatorland.
Thanks for all the advice