We watch Orlando Magic play a home game at the Amway Center in Florida
On our recent visit to Orlando, we were keen to check out a proper American sports event.
Our son is a basketball fan, so we secured tickets and are so glad we did – it’s a night we won’t forget and the atmosphere was amazing.
Here’s our guide, if you are interested in doing the same.
What is it?
Our tickets were to watch Orlando Magic, a professional basketball team based in Orlando, Florida which competes in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division.
It was their season opening game at home to Boston Celtics in front of a packed crowd of around 18,000 people.
Our children, aged 12 and 8, really enjoyed the experience which is totally different from a sporting event in the UK and extremely family-friendly.
Where is it?
Orlando Magic play their home games at the Amway Center. This big arena, which also hosts concerts, is in downtown Orlando about a 15 to 20-minute drive from Disney World or Universal Studios.
The Amway Center
What did we think
Our children loved this experience and are keen to go back to another NBA game in the USA.
It is very family-friendly with pre-match entertainment, food, activities on the big screen, gifts being thrown out into the crowd and more.
We didn’t hear any swearing or nasty chants like you may at a British football match. It felt really fun and safe.
*Pre-match there were fun and games outside the Amway Center with a Fan Fest (this happens for the bigger matches at Magic). There was face panting, basketball hoops for children to shoot at, music from a DJ and merchandise stalls.
*Once inside, younger children could play at STUFF’s Magic Castle (named after the Orlando Magic mascot), a play area on the promenade level of the concourse.
*It isn’t hard to find children’s food at one of the dozens of stalls inside. There is pizza, hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream and more. We tucked into some pre-match pizza. A word of warning though – it gets quite overwhelmingly busy as it seemed almost everyone was having a meal before the match started.
*The atmosphere – we loved the countdown to tip-off, the last 10 or 15 minutes had light shows, music and more as the players were announced. Once the game starts there is so much to see, children won’t get bored.
*Apart from the action you get t-shirts fired into the crowd as prizes, games to play via the big-screen and chants to join.
*GIveaways – lots of matches have giveaways for fans with t-shirts or hats on every seat. Everyone at our match received a free t-shirt waiting on their seat for them – all adult extra-large but a great keepsake!
Our top tips
*Get there early. At a British sporting event, most people aren’t in their seats until the last few minutes. We got to the Magic game more than an hour before it started and it was packed!
Enjoying the match
*Bags aren’t allowed in, only very small handbags. Don’t bring your backpack from a day at the parks, you won’t get it inside.
*Food is similar priced to Orlando theme parks and portions are big so consider sharing to save some money. Drinks, including water, are very expensive in the USA and you can’t bring bottles in so this does add to the cost of the experience.
*Taxis are the best way to get to the Amway Center as there wasn’t much parking around.
*If you are worried about it being busy at the end, maybe leave a few minutes beforehand if it isn’t a close game to ensure children aren’t waiting around for a taxi, Uber or Lyft.
Our Lyft driver was able to pull up and collect us about 100 metres from the exit of the stadium.
Orlando Magic information
Food: There were all sorts of food options with a stall every 20 metres on different levels of the stadium. There was water and soft drinks available everywhere for children. You can eat food and have drinks either on the concourse or at your seat.
Opening hours: The stadium opens one hour before the match starts. Matches last between two and two and a half hours. So if a match is advertised to start at 7pm EST then arrive at 6pm and you will probably be there until 9.30pm.
Cost: Tickets depend on how close to the action you want to sit and who the opposition is. Tickets cost more for matches against more famous teams like Boston Celtics or LA Lakers. Tickets range from 15 dollars to 1,000 dollars.
Best for: Children aged six and above with the patience to watch the match, which lasts about two hours including breaks for half-time.
Time needed: Arrive one hour before the match starts. The game then last between two and two-and-a-half hours.
Access and restrictions: Fully accessible with seats available for wheelchair users and companions. There are two accessible elevators on the west side of the building, which services the Event, Founders, Terrace, and Mezzanine Levels.
There are also four accessible elevators in the NE, NW, SE and SW corners of the Club Level that provide access from the Club Level down to the loge and club seating areas.
Address: Orlando Magic, Amway Center, 400 W Church St Suite 200, Orlando, FL 32801, United States.
For tickets: If you’re planning on attending a game, you can contact an Orlando Magic Ticket Representative by visiting orlandomagic.com/tickets using the ‘Live Chat’.
Our 10-night Florida itinerary – Universal, Disney World, Legoland, a basketball match, five hotels, three waterparks and four days by the coast
A trip to Florida can be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday so if you are lucky enough to be going, you need to plan wisely.
There is SO MUCH to see and do that when you first sit down to organise this adventure for your family, it can seem overwhelming.
We’ve just taken our children to Florida – it was their first time in America and very special.
Our trip included Universal, Disney World, Legoland, a basketball match, five hotels (including one dream hotel – more of that later), three waterparks and four days by the coast staying on two of America’s best beaches.
I feel tired just writing all that! But it was manageable thanks to enthusiasm and some down time.
So here is our 10-day itinerary, we hope it inspires you.
Travel and settle in at our first hotel
Hotel 1 – Springfield Suites at Marriott Village Orlando.
This was a great location – a 20-minute taxi drive to Universal and a free shuttle to Disney World.
The amazing attraction that is Universal Resort Orlando is made up of the theme parks Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure plus the Volcano Bay water park.
This had the edge over Disney World for us especially as three of us are Harry Potter fans. It’s where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is – Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure. You can even catch the Hogwarts Express between the two.
Highlight: Our son being chosen by ‘Olivander’ to select a wand for him in the mini-show at Olivander’s Wand Shop.
Disney World is one of the reasons that Florida is so popular. There are four parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios plus water parks.
We did a long day here to maximise the value of the expensive tickets. We started at 8am and left Epcot at 8pm. Yes, it was tiring but we saw a lot in one day.
We bought a Park Hopper ticket and started at the iconic Magic Kingdom, leaving after the parade in the afternoon and heading for Epcot. This was a great decision as the Frozen Ever After boat ride there is amazing.
Legoland Florida Resort
Now with a hire car, we drove 45 minutes to Legoland.
Fantastic for younger ones and without the queues of Universal and Disney World (at least not when we went), this was a slower-paced couple of days in the park and at its water park.
We stayed on site at its Pirate Island Hotel and our favourite part was the Ninjago ride, which we went on four times.
Our room opened out on to the beach and we enjoyed water slides and zip wires and an evening’s magic show.
We headed into St Petersburg to enjoy its pier, markets, museums and laid-back harbour vibe and our final lunch overlooking the water before a last beautiful Florida sunset. For more ideas on what to do in Clearwater and St Pete, read our guide to the best attractions for families.
After pancakes for breakfast, we left for our flight home.
What do you like to do in Florida? We’d love to hear your thoughts.