Wednesday, October 5th
This morning I drove to Orlando, stopping on the way to purchase discounted theme park tickets in nearby Kissimmee. Now there are lots of little booths/buildings advertising huge discounts, but of course I found it very sketchy, because if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. However, I wanted to see for myself. So it was 9am when I arrived in Kissimmee, I found one of the little roofed sales booths and, no surprise, they were not yet open and there was a little hand-written sign reading "Dropping my child off at school, be back in 15 minutes" or some crap to that effect. The guy isn't even at work yet and he's already lying; ridiculous. There was another hopeful customer who looked like he'd been waiting in his car for quite some time. I myself waited 10-15 minutes then said forget it. I may never be in Orlando with this opportunity again and the clock's ticking. This missing sales guy doesn't deserve my business.
Well that was just sales booth number one. It gets worse. I stopped at another booth located practically across the street (they're everywhere), which was open. I happened to get out of my car and approach it just as a couple of foreign tourists walked in before me. They started asking questions about why the tickets are so cheap and the pushy, wiseguy salesman in his thick East Coast accent and attitude to go with it became very rude, cutting them off and pretty much telling them to shut up, he was trying to talk, then he started telling them this thing would only work if they returned the tickets after they were done using them, so on and so forth. I shouted to the salesman that he was really rude as I walked back to my car and he belligerently shouted right back, attempting to defend his behavior and unethical business. He kept shouting at me even as I drove away, lol. What a buffoon. You can read more about these scams here and here.
I drove to the local AAA office and purchased a 2-day admission pass to Universal Studios (both parks) for $22 off regular price. I paid a total of $113.99 + tax, but it was worth the peace of mind, knowing I'd be guaranteed to get in, instead of potentially getting busted for illegal activity. At 10:30 I arrived at the the gate for Universal's Islands of Adventure, paid the $15 parking fee (ouch!) and was finally in, phew!
Universal's Islands of Adventure opened in 1999 as part of an expansion of Universal Studios Florida (adjacent), which is now considered a separate park with its own separate fee. Islands of Adventure's overall theme is that of a journey of exploration, where guests depart from a main port to visit six islands, each having its own distinct theme. It's hosted approximately 5.9 million guests, ranking #7 among United States parks and #12 worldwide.
I was rather hurried, because there was so much to see and so little time, but I still enjoyed myself. The day looked like this:
A Marvel-ous Meet & Greet!
Real Props from the Movie!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Welcome to Hogsmeade!
~ Boarded the family-friendly Hippogriff coaster for a training flight over the grounds of Hogwarts castle, spiraling and diving around the pumpkin patch, and swooping past Hagrid's hut, and I almost positive I was the only one on it past the age of 12 without any kids, haha
~ Entered Hogsmeade, the main area of HP land, approached the huge red barrel of Butterbeer (can't miss it!) and stood in line for the sweet, two-part concoction, tasted and approved by Rowling herself: "The bottom layer is a slightly thickened mixture which tastes like a combination of butterscotch, cream soda and shortbread cookies. Then there's the Butterbeer's head -- a lighter, fluffier, less sweet version of marshmallow fluff, placed on top." For obvious reasons, Universal is keeping the ingredients classified, but they state it contains REAL sugar (no high fructose corn syrup), and, despite its name, contains no butter or dairy of any kind (vegans and the lactose intolerant rejoice!). The drink was drawn from a tap, like a beer, and the dense, whipped topping was added from a separate tap; it was served in disposable cups (FREE souvenir!); $3.25 for a 16 oz pour. I opted for the frozen version ($1 extra), which is the same thing only it contains blended ice and more foam topping. DEELISH! =D
~ With frozen Butterbeer in hand, I wandered around Hogsmeade, people-watching in the Train Station, getting my park map stamped with an authentic Hogsmeade Owl Postmark at the Owl Post (a real, working post office where one can mail letters and postcards and purchase offical WWHP stamps, stationary and other related merchandise), following shrieking cries to find a squirming Potted Mandrake plant screaming bloody murder within the windows of the Dogweed and Deathcap storefront, browsing Dervish and Banges (the magical supplies and equipment shop featuring Quidditch equipment, Spectrespecs, Remembralls, Hogwarts school uniforms, and The Monster Book of Monsters, which growled at me from inside its cage) and Ollivanders - "Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.," the small dusty shop is filled with wand boxes stacked floor to ceiling, decorated with colors and details from the books and films, where the guest can experience "the wand choosing them," as the wandkeeper asks them a series of questions that narrows down the most suitable wand for the guest.
I Spy Butterbeer!
~ On Dragon Challenge I chose from a pair of intertwined inverted roller coasters themed to two dragons, one side being Chinese Fireball (60 mph) and the other Hungarian Horntail (55 mph), with a layout in which the two trains share adjacent lift hills, but then traverse two completely unique courses, a two minute and twenty-five second ride duration with five inversions, including a zero-g roll, Cobra roll, two corkscrews and two vertical loops! Wish I had known that they had two different tracks, guess I need to go back! =)
~ Purchased another Butterbeer (regular this time, not frozen, which was noticeably sweeter) then headed over to The Lost Continent island for The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show, which had me leaving early when I could no longer endure its labored slapstick comedy and lame humor (definitely geared towards kids), albeit the set was quite spectacular, as was all of the scenery and structures within The Lost Continent
Three Broomsticks British Tavern
~ Made my way back to Harry Potter land and enjoyed Pumpkin Juice (mostly apple juice with a little pumpkin puree thrown in and really sweet) and Strawberry-Peanut Butter Ice Cream (meh, I don't know if I bothered to finish the stuff) al fresco at Three Broomsticks rustic British tavern
~ Popped into Zonko's, a colorful joke shop selling silly novelty items, jokes, toys and sweets, like screaming yo-yos, ball-balancing bicycling elephants and nosebleed nougat
~ Took one last look and appreciated the amazing attention to detail given to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and bid farewell the Hogwarts Express train, complete with billowing smoke and iconic whistle signaling its arrival, before journeying on
~ Arrived at Seuss Landing, based on the popular works of popular children's book author Dr. Seuss, characterized by bright colors and playful music, bound to bring out your inner child, reportedly without a single straight line anywhere, even installing palm trees curved by the winds of Hurricane Andrew to continue the theme!
Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous!
~ Took in a bird's-eye lay of the land aboard The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, journeying above the colorful rides and attractions with audio excerpts from Seuss stories, on one of two different tracks to choose from (wish I had known this before, so I could've gone on it twice for the full experience!), and circling around the inside of Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous. To my surprise, this was probably the longest line I waited in the whole day, but fun, nevertheless =)
~ Went for a spin in the dark on The Cat in the Hat, riding a 1000-ft. course on my couch through the pages of Dr. Seuss' best-loved children's book, re-creating it scene for scene. I ride on it at least twice, never overcoming my fear of the slightly sadistic Thing One and Thing Two characters, lol
~ Dodged water-spitting fish that squirt in time to a musical rhyme on One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
~ A few go-arounds on the Caro-Seuss-el, featuring imaginative characters from several Seuss storybooks. The only one not behaving was not a child at all, but one rather tall,
an adult no less, the operator did protest, "No standing I say!" the adult didn't obey, what a wretched role-model, smacked her head with a bottle...wanted to! =D
~ Explored the maze-like hedges of If I Ran the Zoo, an interactive play zone for children
FREE Birthday Dinner from Captain D's! =D