Tips + Trends

View From the Inside: Q&A With Marriott Insider Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson spends a lot of time in Orlando. His work as a technology security consultant takes him there often. But the Tampa, Fla. resident isn’t all work and no play. He’s a roller coaster junkie who doesn’t mind making the trip down I-4 to share his love of theme parks with the family. Here, Nelson, a Marriott Rewards Insider, shares his inside tips to visiting Orlando attractions and enjoying the City Beautiful.

Where do you like to stay when you travel to Orlando?

One of my favorite places to stay is the Gaylord Palms…. I have to say they kind of tricked me. The first time I checked in there, they gave me a room on a luxury floor overlooking the atrium, and I fell in love with it. And then we came back for ICE!, and the exhibits and shows were simply amazing. We even decided to hold my company Christmas party there. Where else can we find a place that’s so perfectly decorated for Christmas?

What usually brings you to Orlando?

My wife and kids come over for scavenger hunts and they usually stay overnight so they don’t have to brave I-4. I also attend lots of conventions, either at the Orange County Convention Center or in one of the big hotels. So it’s both business and family fun. Most of the time I’m either somewhere on International Drive or at the theme parks.

I held a yearly pass to Walt Disney World for a couple of years and we went religiously, at least once a month. It was nice to be able to walk in and out of the park, not have to do it all in one day. My kids are older now and like Universal better, so we go there at least twice a year.

I am a roller coaster fanatic, and that is where Universal comes in better than Disney. I love the Hulk and the Rip Ride Rockit.

When here for work or at a conference, do you ever get to have fun?

That’s one of the great things about Orlando. If I’m working with a client, 90 percent of the time I can sneak out and do something fun. Sometimes it’s something typically touristy. I still love Medieval Times. There’s also a place called iFLY, which is indoor skydiving, and I find myself sneaking out to that for an hour or two. The wax museums and Ripley’s are a little too touristy; I like finding the less popular things.

Where’s the best place to appreciate the beauty of the city?

From 800 feet up on a helicopter tour. I took my son to Orlando a couple of weekends ago to play, and we took the Grand Park Adventure Tour with Orlando HeliTours. The best time to go is either early morning or late afternoon, but the bestest, bestest time is when the fireworks are going off over Disney — they have a special tour for that.

We saw the parks from the air (it was very cool to see them from another perspective) and the majestic houses on Pocket Lake. The most surprising thing I saw was the Harry Potter train that ran between the two Universal parks. While you are in the train it looks all Harry Potterish and you can’t see out the windows. But when you look at it run between the parks, it kind of loses the magic as you see it going by warehouses and such.

What’s your favorite area of town?

I used to love Church Street Station …. I would go to Orlando just for that. Now … it tends to be more Downtown Disney. It’s got great places to eat, and you can also see a show at Cirque du Soleil.

What do you do to relax in Orlando?

Nothing beats hanging out at our timeshare at Marriott Cypress Harbor. I like sitting by the pool, with the palm trees, and the perfectly clear water in what looks like a lake. I just lay back, read a book and take a nap.