Written by Meggysmum on 02 Nov, 2009
A vacation in Orlando is full of exciting days at theme-parks, long journeys to the beach or frantic visits to shopping malls to bag a bargain. Sometimes there is a need for a couple of hours peace and quiet to enable you to recharge…Read More
A vacation in Orlando is full of exciting days at theme-parks, long journeys to the beach or frantic visits to shopping malls to bag a bargain. Sometimes there is a need for a couple of hours peace and quiet to enable you to recharge you batteries. We had friends who had visited Orlando before us who told us to seek out Celebration for a quiet walk.Celebration is a town that Disney Development Company built in the early 1990s. The running of the town has now passed to another firm. This may account for why there are not many signs directing you to the town from the Disney site. However if you get onto World Drive and head south you will soon reach this quiet gem.The town architects modelled this town on an idealised version of small town America in the 1920s/1930s. It is obviously very artificial as it is a totally manufactured community. However it is a delight to explore on foot.Parking is not terribly easy to find but we eventually found a lot behind some shops. Along the road you will not see cars parked; you will see electric vehicles parked instead. These nifty white machines are what transport some of the locals about.The buildings are a mixture of residential of business. Theye are painted in lovely bright colours with shutters and unusual features like porthole windows. There are several shops set around the square closest to the lake. These offer unusual shopping opportunities and also there are some nice restaurants and a fantastic ice-cream parlour where you can sit outside and admire your surroundings.An ornamental fountain can be found near the lake. Around the lake there are walking and running trails and you will probably see an alligator or two floating lazily around. On the shores of the lake there are plenty of signs warning about not feeding the alligators (are people stupid?). You will also find so amazingly comfortable rocking chairs made from wood which simply invite you to sit and relish the peace and tranquillity. Alongside the lake there is a very impressive looking hotel.We spent a good couple of hours here; we just walked around enjoying the scenery and then sat watching the lake and enjoying the fact that we hardly saw another person. This is so unusual for Orlando that it is somewhere we will return to. We also visited in October which meant that all the houses were decorated in the best Halloween style I have ever seen! Close
Written by Meggysmum on 29 Oct, 2009
Disney Pin Trading started about 10 years ago and is now a popular pastime for many people. Disney Pins are made in many styles, featuring parks, characters and occasions.Pin Trading is the action of swapping a pin you already own for a pin from…Read More
Disney Pin Trading started about 10 years ago and is now a popular pastime for many people. Disney Pins are made in many styles, featuring parks, characters and occasions.Pin Trading is the action of swapping a pin you already own for a pin from a cast member or another trader. Cast members have to trade their pins and you can trade twice with the same cast member. They will wear a blue lanyard and you must always ask before you look at the pins they have. They will only trade for an official Disney Pin. Cast members wearing green lanyards will only trade with children up to 12.To get started in trading it is a good idea to buy a starter set which contain small pins and sometimes a lanyard. It is then great fun looking at all the pins on the cast member’s lanyards. It is interesting to see the variety and it is also a good way to start conversations. You may decide that you like to collect certain characters or films or you may just choose ones that you like the look of.I originally started buying pins for my children as a souvenir. I chose their favourite ride from a park or one that showed the year we visited. We were all lucky enough to get a "Year of a Million Dream" lanyard as a gift and they store them on there. They then started to see people trading but did not want to trade their "memory" pins so they got a starter set between them and set about trading. It was a great boost to their confidence to approach cast members and enquire about their collections. Sometimes they would swap a pin several times until they found what they were looking for but that was all part of the fun.New pins cost about $8-$12 and there are all sorts of special sets and collectors additions that the more avid collectors are searching for. My children are happy with the cheaper end of the scale and they have had hours of pleasure from trading and just looking at their pins and talking about them. I like them as a souvenir because they can be kept and unlike clothes or toys they will not be grown out of.If you visit Disney get yourself a pin and start trading! Close
Written by Meggysmum on 08 Oct, 2009
Visiting Disney is always an exciting experience but after the first visit it is easier to start to absorb the environment and pay more attention to the subtleties of the designs around you. This is the time that you may notice your first "Hidden…Read More
Visiting Disney is always an exciting experience but after the first visit it is easier to start to absorb the environment and pay more attention to the subtleties of the designs around you. This is the time that you may notice your first "Hidden Mickey".Hidden Mickeys can be found all over the Disney Parks, Hotels and Restaurants but what are they?A true Hidden Mickey is an image of Mickey Mouse or another Disney character that has been hidden into a design. Disneys Imagineers added them in so subtly that the images are almost invisible to all but the most eagle-eyed Hidden Mickey hunter. Hidden Mickeys originated around 1980 and they have been a growing phenomenon ever since. Cast members are also known to arrange objects into Hidden Mickeys as well so although most are static occasionally you may be lucky enough to spot one that is transient and will have disappeared a week later.The commonest Hidden Mickeys are in the shape of the outline of Mickeys head- a larger circle for his head and two smaller circles for ears. The next group involve the Mickey Profile either just his head or sometimes his whole body. Occasionally it will just be a recognisably item such as his ears or his name that will qualify. The final group consists of other Disney characters such as Minnie or Goofy, these are often much harder to spot. The simplest Mickeys are usually formed by plates, cogs, biscuits etc.Hunting for Hidden Mickeys is a great way to pass the time, especially when waiting in-line or waiting for a parade. Children love the excitement of spotting a new one and it is not uncommon to hear a cry of "Hidden Mickey" whilst in the parks, this will sometimes bring other hunters out of the crowds to spot the hidden gem.Some of the designs are so clever that it can take a lot of searching to spot an image that you have been told is there. Once you have started to spot them it is amazing how many there. There are well over 700 in Walt Disney World, Florida. The best way to start your quest to become a spotter is just to keep your eyes open. If you are waiting inline at Test-Track look at all the stickers on the cars, pay attention to what is on the desk and whilst on the ride look at photos on the wall, rust marks on cars and even figures drawn in the dust. Suddenly you will begin to realise the imagination and the sense of humour the Disney Imagineers have. If you buy a photograph of your group on Test-Track you will have a Hidden Mickey to treasure, just look carefully at the hoses on the floor. You will find yourself paying far more attention to the details around you and this really makes you appreciate the skill of the Disney designers, no detail is small enough to be overlooked.Once you have spotted all the obvious Mickeys you will have caught the bug and you will want to move onto the next stage. Now you will want to find the special Hidden Mickeys, the ones that are really hard to spot. At this point it is wise to get a copy of the "Hidden Mickeys- A field Guide to Walt Disney Worlds best kept secrets" by Steven Barrett. This little book lists all the recognised Hidden Mickeys and it sets scavenger hunts or gives you full details of where to find what you are looking for. For a return visitor to Disney this adds new excitement to a familiar destination. As a family we have been known to return to an attraction again and again until we spot the listed Hidden Mickey, it is a great family activity and brings out friendly competition between the children.Sometimes you will spot a Hidden Mickey that is not listed in the book. This is great fun, you need to make a note of it and take a photo if possible. After your vacation send Steven Barrett an e-mail and he will look out for it on his next trip. If your Mickey is verified it will be added to the website and you will be credited with its discovery. This makes you feel part of the whole Hidden Mickey experience.Be warned though, once the Hidden Mickey bug has taken hold you will spot them everywhere, at work, in the supermarket, even whilst walking in the country. It becomes a great family game and really that's what memories are made of.More information is available at www.HiddenMickeysGuide.com Close
Written by Meggysmum on 01 Oct, 2009
Driving in America is a whole new experience to a Brit. I am the map-reader in the family so the driving always falls to my husband, after four trips to Orlando we feel that we are starting to get to grips with it and…Read More
Driving in America is a whole new experience to a Brit. I am the map-reader in the family so the driving always falls to my husband, after four trips to Orlando we feel that we are starting to get to grips with it and there are some things worth remembering.The hire-car will be an automatic. Having always driven manual cars this does take a bit of getting used to. The best thing to do is to put your "clutch" foot well under the seat and just concentrate on using the accelerator (gas) and brake. Failure to do this will see you bunny-hopping out of the airport! The attendants at the hire station will run through the basics with you if you ask. You will have to be in "Park" before you can take the key out.Obviously you need to drive on the right. America does not have roundabouts (or at least I have never seen one) so if you have gone wrong you can usually do a u-turn.Parking should always be done bonnet first. The cars don’t have plates on the front and I was told that you should always park with the plate showing.You are not allowed to park near to fire hydrants.You are not allowed to pass a yellow school bus on either side of the carriage-way if its lights are flashing.Traffic lights are suspended above the road. It is easy to miss them when you are used to seeing them at the side. They swing around a lot when it is windy which can be quite scary! When you arrive at a junction and the light is on red you must stop first (obviously!). However if you are turning right and it is safe you are allowed to proceed as long as there is not a sign prohibiting it. This will save you having angry locals blaring their horns at you whilst you sit innocently waiting for the lights to change.When a sign says something is "next left" it does not mean in a short distance like it does in the UK. It normally means almost immediately, sometimes directly behind the pole holding the sign so be prepared. Filling up with fuel requires payment first so you will have to go into the kiosk before you can start.Always carry small change as the toll-roads are usually 25 or 50 cents. Try and get some coins or small notes before your trip as several roads that you may use from the airport will have a charge and they don’t take kindly to a $20 bill. It is useful to have small notes available for tipping at the airport too.Carry your passport, driving licence and hire-documents with you at all times.If you are driving in to Disney or Universal be prepared by knowing which roads you want when you drive out. Getting into these places is easy but getting out when you are tired, it is dark and you have lost all sense of direction is trickier. Work out the road number you need and keep heading for it as you will no doubt end up coming out in a completely different way to the way you went in!We have managed perfectly well on all our trips and a car really is essential to make the most of your holiday. Public transport and pedestrians are definitely rated behind the car-driver. Take things easy, always carry a map and use your common sense and you will soon be as happy on the road as the locals. Close
Written by C.Kowalczik on 14 May, 2007
When we first made our weekend trip reservations they were for a Lagoon View at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and SPA and we were plenty excited about that. However, that excitement continued to build and escalate right up to the time we got off the…Read More
When we first made our weekend trip reservations they were for a Lagoon View at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and SPA and we were plenty excited about that. However, that excitement continued to build and escalate right up to the time we got off the Disney’s Magical Express motor coach and tried checking into our room.
To start, this is going to be our first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort area without our children in more than five years, and for someone who has been visiting Disney for the past 30 years it’s a big deal to be able to return and relive parts or the parks you simply can not take advantage of when you are traveling with you children.
As Disney’s Magical Express motor coach drove us the twenty-five miles from the Orlando International Airport (MCO), where we arrived via Air Tran Airways to our Disney resort, we began a conversation about whether or we have lost the "Disney Magic" after visiting so many times in the past eight years together. We almost decided that it was slowly slipping away, that is until the motor coach drove us right up to the front of the Grand Floridian resort. Once we exited the bus and walked under the covered entrance we were greeted by Richard (he is that nice old man you see on Disney’s planning DVD) and we knew that you can never completely lose the magic, it will be with you forever.
As we entered the grand five-story lobby of the resort we began the check-in process with Patrick, who was new to the Grand and he told us so while he attempted to check us in. Because he was new we didn’t think anything of it when Patrick told us that he was unable to finish checking us in and had to walk away. This brought us a little concern, especially after our last trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, however we weren’t left alone for long before the front desk manager, Adel came over and introduced himself. We were a little taken back that the manager would just come over and say hello like that, but then again this is the Grand Floridian, maybe that is how things are done. After Adel thanked us for choosing the Grand Floridian he also thanked me for my continued dedication to the Disney product and that is when I knew this greeting had something to do with me being a travel consultant. Adel then asked us to have a seat and told us that they would finish the check-in process momentarily.
We had no clue as to what was going on with our check-in. Did we have a room? Did our reservation get lost? Who was this new girl walking towards us from the concierge desk? Sadly enough I didn’t actually catch an idea of what was going on until Michelle introduced herself and invited us to tour the fourth floor; the concierge level floor.
My face lit up like a Christmas tree. It doesn’t get much better than concierge level at the Grand Floridian. The only thing that would make our accommodations would be an upgrade in our room status, maybe a Magic Kingdom view or a suite. Once we got to the forth floor Michelle offered us some complimentary snacks and drinks before she directed us to an empty table by the window overlooking the courtyard pool. As we sat down over a glass of fresh lemonade Michelle explained to us how the concierge level worked. She told us that a concierge cast member would be at our disposal from 7am to 10am for anything from child care and theme park tickets to recreational activities and dining reservations. She also reviewed a professionally prepared packet of information which contained a map of the resort, park times and information guide, resort airline check-in information, the "Around and About" guide to the Grand Floridian and what we thought was the most important information, the times schedule to the complimentary concierge offerings. Michelle also gave us the key to our in-room mini-bar and explained how only our room key and the elevators we just used would give us access to the concierge level.
Unfortunately, our room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so we left our cell phone number with Michelle and took off for lunch at the Flame Tree Barbecue in the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. It wasn’t long before I got a call from Adel who told us that our original room was experiencing some mechanical problems and that we were going to be upgraded to the Big Pine Key (building 9) building with a Magic Kingdom view. Who was I to complain?
When we got back to the resort we headed right for our building which is just past the courtyard pool on the right hand side of the property. The buildings lobby gave you an idea of the level of elegance to come. Again there was a big, open five-story lobby area decorated in a Victorian theme. The elevators that would take us to our forth floor room were polished brass and located on the left side of the lobby. We didn’t know it, (or really care at the time) that only one of the two elevators were operating properly. On the forth floor, it was a long walk down the hallway to the end of the building where we found our room, number 9441.
Our 440 square foot corner room offered two queen size poster beds, a ceiling fan hanging from the vaulted ceiling, a cleverly hidden mini-bar (which was an expensive additional charge), a small table and chairs, plus a small balcony that overlooked the Seven Seas Lagoon. From the table and chairs on our balcony we had a terrific view of Cinderella Castle as well as panoramic views of Disney’s Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. It was a gorgeous room that complimented our Grand Floridian experience to a T.
We felt that it wasn’t the location of the room, nor the room itself that made the concierge experience so grateful, but the complimentary offering throughout the day that set things over the top. For instance coffee was served from 6:30 a.m. – 7am when the Grand Beginnings breakfast began. We particularly enjoyed the breakfast which was served until 10:30am and included cereals, fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew and pineapple, coffee, select meat and cheeses as well as fresh bake goods. There were refreshments and snacks offered from 11:30am to 2pm, afternoon tea from 2:30pm to 4pm. Our second favorite time of the day came between 5pm and 7pm for the twilight refreshers. This was a pleasant balance of hors d’oeuvres, wine, and champagne. The hors d’oeuvres changed each night and there were usually four or five offerings. Don’t worry about arriving five minute prior to close; the cast members will give you the same high level of service even if that means opening a fresh bottle of champagne and allowing you to bring it back to your room. Completing the evening were cordials and desserts from 8pm to 10pm.
To put this all into perspective, if you can afford it and the concierge level is available at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and SPA, it shouldn’t be missed. Everything from the superior customer service to the complimentary top shelf wines and champagne make the experience of concierge level service a dream come true and a tough experience to surpass. Unless Disney will let me into Cinderella’s Royal Bed Chamber…
Written by MilwVon on 24 Feb, 2007
During our May 2005 Orlando vacation, we spent a full day over at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The morning started out a bit dreary with some light rain, but by mid-afternoon it was sunny, warm, and humid! About an hour’s drive…Read More
During our May 2005 Orlando vacation, we spent a full day over at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The morning started out a bit dreary with some light rain, but by mid-afternoon it was sunny, warm, and humid! About an hour’s drive from the I-Drive area of Orlando, this is a wonderful way to spend a day of learning. There are interactive exhibits, guided tours and a wonderful IMAX movie to be taken in.We first did the walking tour around the Rocket Garden, which is filled with older rockets from past NASA missions, as well as space capsules from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space missions. It is a very interesting self walk tour through this area, especially when you can go inside to see how small the quarters really were for the astronauts. (See the photo of David inside a space capsule!)Each day, they have a featured astronaut speak to the group about their experiences as a NASA astronaut. Because we arrived late, we didn’t get the name of the gentleman who spoke during our visit. He said that he was on two of the Apollo missions and had since retired. One of the young kids asked questions about how to become an astronaut, while another asked what it was like to be weightless in space. If you have the chance, we’d encourage you to take in the “Astronaut Encounter” in the area around the main visitor center complex where you first purchase your attraction tickets.From this area, if you buy the NASA Up Close tour package, you take the tour bus over to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launch pad. The VAB is huge! Standing over 500 feet tall, it is visible for miles around. See a photo of the VAB attached to this review. You really cannot tell how big this building is but when you consider that the stars on the flag are over six feet across and each stripe is wide enough for a bus to drive over, you get a better perspective of just how huge it is. Just beyond the launch pad, they allow guests to get out and walk up to a viewing area that provides a very nice perspective at the launch pad. The tour also drives out to the landing strip where the shuttle has often returned to earth. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this tour is seeing the roadway that is used to move the shuttle to the launch pad. The shuttle transport crawler truly crawls at a pace of one mile per hour. The total time necessary is between eight and ten hours. With a launch coming up soon, I was hoping we might get to see the shuttle being moved over to Launch Pad 39, but we were really too early for the July blast off. Maybe next time!On this tour you will also have the opportunity to visit the gift shop that is located out by the spectators’ area used for the shuttle launches. There is also a snack bar area in that same building, plus several interactive exhibits and games. This tour is one of the most popular at Kennedy Space Center and reservations are strongly encouraged, as they say that they sell out daily.Tickets for the NASA Up Close Tour is $59 for adults and $43 for children (ages 3-11). This price includes the basic Kennedy Space Center admission. If you are interested in doing just the basic tour of the KSC and the exhibits around the Visitors Complex, the price is $38 for adults and $28 for kids (ages 3-11). I’d suggest planning at least two hours to explore Kennedy Space Center just the Visitors’ Complex area. Add another two hours if you are going to take the Up Close Tour. And another 90 minutes if you are going to do the IMAX.There are two other packages available to visitors. . . Cape Canaveral Then and Now (also $21/$15 in addition to the base admission fee) and Lunch with an Astronaut (around $30/$16 on top of the base admission fee). For us, we were there to learn about and see the shuttle, so we just took in the NASA Up Close Tour.We thoroughly enjoyed our day at KSC. I suspect that the next time we go; it will be closer to the scheduled time of a shuttle mission. We highly recommend this and would consider it a “must do” for any family with children interested in science and space exploration. Close
Written by MilwVon on 02 Feb, 2007
While I’m not a rabid NASCAR or motor sports fan, I am a jock and enjoy all sports. When I mentioned to David that I wanted to go to Daytona USA to see the NASCAR exhibits, he was willing to indulge my vacation whim. Besides,…Read More
While I’m not a rabid NASCAR or motor sports fan, I am a jock and enjoy all sports. When I mentioned to David that I wanted to go to Daytona USA to see the NASCAR exhibits, he was willing to indulge my vacation whim. Besides, there wasn’t anything really planned for our day, so why not?? After it was said and done, he was very happy to have taken the trip from Orlando over to Daytona Beach.Daytona USA is an attraction that pays tribute to the history of Daytona International Speedway and the early vision of Bill France, Sr., the founder of NASCAR. When we first learned that the admission price was $24 per person, we admittedly felt that was a bit pricey for what we expected to see. I’m happy to say, we were sadly mistaken! We both felt afterwards that the value for the experiences and the quality of the interactive exhibits were exceptional.Once we were inside, we wanted to make sure that we were back from the track tour for the 3pm show in the IMAX Theater. There really is a lot to see and do. The tram tour out into the speedway infield was a special treat. With IRL teams on-site testing and practicing, there were a small number of motor homes and people throughout the infield. The continual buzzing of cars running test laps was deafening. I was able to catch a couple of photos of cars as they came through turns three and four. Not bad since I was shooting with my new pocket digital camera (Canon SD600), which has some limited capabilities. In the photo attached to this review is Sam Hornish, Jr. and his #6 Indy race car as it navigates the 31 degree banked turn four.Back at the main building of Daytona USA, we first visited the Winner’s Circle where the 2006 Daytona 500 Champion Jimmy Johnson’s car was on display. In the same condition post race nearly a year ago, you can see the sticky champagne, confetti, and track dirt covering the Lowe’s #48. Above the car is a continuous loop video of race footage from last year’s race.Many of the displays are intended to educate fans on the sport. Everything from this history of NASCAR racing and its heroes, to the technological advances throughout the years in order to improve on safety. You could really feel the significance of this after the 2001 death of superstar Dale Earnhardt, Sr. In the middle of the exhibit area is a breakaway model of Jeff Gordon’s DUPONT #24 car. As the video plays and describes the various aspects of construction of a NASCAR race car, the DUPONT #24 lifts a layer off to allow you to see what they are describing. It was a very cool way to show fans all of the intricate details that go into building a race car.There are also several participatory experiences that guests can partake in. While we passed on the 16 Second Pit Stop, we enjoyed watching others play crew members in the pit. If you don’t think these professionals are athletes, you need to see how they train and what is physically demanded of them. The most passive experience at Daytona USA is the Dream Laps, which is essentially a ride much like many of those over at Disney or Universal. You sit in a car with around 10 other people. The car moves while the screen in front of you plays the “race” which you are riding shotgun in. It has a lot of realistic effects that creates the illusion of being in the race, right along side the driver of the fictitious Daytona #15 car. Of course, “we” win the race, beating out Dale Earnhardt, Jr.The other simulator is more of a participative activity and requires an additional $5 ticket. In Acceleration Alley you are the actual driver racing on the famed Daytona Int’l Speedway, competing with other drivers. After your race, you receive a certificate with your finishing position and average miles per hour. There are height restrictions on this one, so the little ones under 52” cannot participate.In the IMAX Theater, all guests are treated to two wonderful movies about NASCAR and the Daytona 500. First is a 15-minute film entitled “Daytona 500: The Movie,” which tells of NASCAR’s early starts from moonshine running in the south to what is the largest spectator sport in the USA today. After that, you put on your 3D glasses and sit back for the loud and fast movie “NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience.” Narrated by Keifer Sutherland, this is a fast action film that puts you right in the action along with other drivers as they prepare for and compete on the NASCAR circuit around America. It is really amazing how much goes into creating a competitive race team. The movie was both entertaining and educational.Of course what would a Florida tourist attraction be without a souvenir and gift shop? Anything NASCAR is available here too. Only being casual fans, we were able to escape without buying something logo’ed with a driver’s name or car on it.As far as I’m concerned, this is a “MUST DO” if you are in the area. As I first stated, we were a bit skeptical about spending the $24 per person. Afterwards however, we felt this was a wonderful experience and something that we’re very glad that we did. Close
During our most recent trip to Orlando, we ventured over to the Atlantic Ocean coastal city of Daytona Beach. Known as Race City USA, this was our first trip to the home of the most famous NASCAR event in the United States, the Daytona 500.…Read More
During our most recent trip to Orlando, we ventured over to the Atlantic Ocean coastal city of Daytona Beach. Known as Race City USA, this was our first trip to the home of the most famous NASCAR event in the United States, the Daytona 500. The Super Bowl of motor sports, the event is just weeks away. Race season is just getting ready to ramp up with the Rolex 24 sports car endurance race taking place last weekend. During our visit on February 1, 2007, IRL drivers were out working out the kinks in their cars. The practice session was open to the general public for $10.50 or free with the purchase of a Daytona USA attraction admission ($24 for adults).After spending several hours at Daytona USA (see separate review) we headed for the shore to see the infamous white sand beaches of Daytona where early NASCAR races were first staged before the 1959 opening of the Daytona International Speedway. That’s right; one half of the early Daytona races were on the white sandy beach and the other side of the “track” was Highway A1A.We arrived at the beach at 4:15pm, with a scheduled closing time of “sunset,” which on a cloudy day is tough to determine. Ordinarily it costs $5 to drive on the beach, with prices reduced to $3 at 3pm. Because of our lateness, they were allowing folks to enter free of charge. Thank you to the City of Daytona Beach!!As we approached the shoreline, we took a right onto the beautiful white sand. There weren’t a lot of people or cars on the beach, probably because of the late afternoon rain that came through around 2:30pm. It was fun to drive the car on the beach. Take a look at the attached photo of the rental car right behind the 10 MPH speed limit sign. As we went further down the beach, we came upon a number of motels that had experienced some severe damage from Hurricane Charley in 2004. It was sad to still see all the buildings in disrepair, many boarded up and others fully bulldozed with the clear beachfront property being redeveloped. I had wanted to stop to take a photo or two, but at this location on the beach, we had come into somewhat of a traffic jam and we were starting to worry about nightfall and the beach “curfew” of sunset.I can see why people enjoy the driving on the beach experience. They say that during “Bike Week” the place is simply crazy wild with thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts and spectators. I don’t know if that is an experience I need to have before I die but I can appreciate those who do enjoy the three “B's” of beach, bikes, and babes.After our drive on the beach, we headed back for Orlando. The drive was about an hour and a half plus an added 30 minutes or so for the post rush hour traffic in and around downtown Orlando.I recommend the day trip to Daytona Beach. It is an easy drive on I4 East, connecting to I95 North. I can’t believe in all the years I’ve been coming to Central Florida, this was my first Daytona experience. Close
Written by MilwVon on 01 Feb, 2007
Having been annual pass holders at Universal for the last 3 or 4 years, we have always enjoyed our return visit to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. These two separate parks are distinctly different and enjoyable on their own individual merit. Because we have…Read More
Having been annual pass holders at Universal for the last 3 or 4 years, we have always enjoyed our return visit to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. These two separate parks are distinctly different and enjoyable on their own individual merit. Because we have these passes, we never feel pressed to cram a lot into a single day. Additionally, we rarely are in Orlando during “prime time” which makes the lines very easy. On this particular trip we didn’t spend more than 10 minutes in any single line at either park.Day One: Universal StudiosBecause we have done all of the rides and most of the shows at least three or four times, we were rather select in what we wanted to do, especially since we were rather exhausted after a couple of busy days. The stroll through the park is often entertainment enough. Working our way through the various set locations of Universal Studios, we headed first for the Shrek 4D attraction. This was newly introduced probably 2 or 3 years ago. We love the story of Shrek and Donkey, and the creativity in telling their adventure in 4D is exceptional. Just watch out for Donkey’s snotty sneeze!!From there we ventured over to NYC and the Revenge of the Mummy, which is a fast roller coaster ride. This was new for us last February, replacing the old KONG ride (which was a personal favorite). The roller coaster is very fast and largely in the dark. It doesn’t loop or take any extreme moves, so even the most inexperienced rider can enjoy it.Timing was such that we were able to take in Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. As we sat there, we realized that we had never seen this live musical show. Amazing given the number of times we’ve been here. Beetlejuice served as our host, with other monsters providing the musical entertainment mixed with what I would say was a bit of a PG-13 double entendre. They did a nice job of what seemed to be lip sync at times and karaoke at others. It was fun and we were entertained, so all was good!As we made our way to the seaside village home of JAWS, we moved on, not really wanting to wait the estimated 30 minutes for what is really a rather boring ride. MIBII is always a “must do” and the line was unusually short. David did his usual “car high” in killing the critters, while I seemed to be alien bait not carrying my weight. We also passed on the Back to the Future experience, which has seemed to get more extreme as we have gotten older. The special effects are very good, but sometimes I get off that ride with some motion sickness feeling in the gut of my tummy.Walking through to Beverly Hills, we had to stop in to once again do Terminator 2: 3D. This is David’s favorite, mostly because of the Governator’s Role in the Terminator franchise. They do a very good presentation of what it would be like for John Conner and the Cyborg Terminator in the future facing the corrupt Skynet’s attempt to destroy all humans. It is a mix of live action and special effects...a must do on any trip through Universal Studios.It should be noted that there were no new attractions in Universal Studios this year...probably our greatest disappointment.Day Two: Islands of AdventureBecause we were both feeling a bit weak in the stomach, we decided to avoid what is our normal multiple roller coaster rides on the Hulk and the Dueling Dragons. Instead, we opted for a very leisurely stroll through the Islands of Adventure. We have always enjoyed the Spiderman ride so that was our first stop. We literally walked right onto the ride with no line. I still am amazed by the animation and ability to create the illusion that you and the other passengers in your “vehicle” are climbing high into the city sky and then free falling what is probably 20 stories to the ground below. Add the 3D features to the ride and you have a wonderful sensory experience. Do not miss it!! It is one of the best in this park.From here we moved through the cartoon Toon Lagoon where on a hot Florida day people congregate and wait over an hour to take Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. This toon twist on the standard water log ride will leave you drenched. On this overcast day that barely got into the 60s, there were not a lot of takers on this soaker. I did take a photo of one brave soul as he splashed down, which is attached to this review.I love the Jurassic Park River Adventure where riders are taken behind the scenes where raptors are housed. Unfortunately, they have broken out and place boats at great risk. As you proceed through the five-story tower building, you are set up for the drop, which is heart stopping. As you are focused above you by the 20’ beast, your boat immediately drops with a splash! Fortunately, you get mildly splashed...not one that will soak you to your underwear.Over on the Lost Continent are two other great attractions: Poseidon’s Adventure and The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad, which is a very active stunt show. Poseidon’s Adventure runs continuously and is essentially a walking attraction. I am always amazed by the illusions created with water. The Sinbad experience is staged just a couple of times in the afternoon, so you will need to check with the daily schedule to make sure you don’t miss this. We enjoyed it last time when we visited this park. Today, however, we did not make it in time for the last show (3:30pm).As we made our way back towards the entrance/exit, we spent some time in the children’s Seuss Landing. This is probably the favorite stop for the under 10 crowd. And during our visit, Thing 1 & Thing 2, plus the Cat in the Hat characters, were out meeting and greeting children of all ages. Even kids who are almost 50 enjoy getting their pictures taken with the Cat in the Hat. I am living proof of that, just take a look at the photo with this review!!Seuss Landing is also the location of the only new attraction in Islands of Adventure this year. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride is a slow tram ride high above Seuss Landing which seems to be preparing young guests for roller coasters in the future. Sure, the ride goes slow enough to not startle the little ones, but it did look largely like a slow motion roller coaster to me.City WalkWhile not really an amusement park per se, there is certainly the opportunity for entertainment and amusement in the adult nightlife area of Universal. We have enjoyed an adult beverage or two at a variety of the bars and restaurants on City Walk. New this year is a Bubba Gump Restaurant. We didn’t wine or dine at City Walk this year. Mmmmm are we getting old???All and all, we enjoyed our two trips to Universal and would encourage first-time Orlando visitors to be sure to take in this experience. We do feel that since Universal is not as proactive in creating new attractions every year, we will probably pass on renewing our annual passes and not make the trip to Orlando and Universal Studios for a few years. Maybe the next time we’re here, it will feel like a new experience. Close
Written by IsabelleTravels on 01 Feb, 2007
ROLLER COASTER!!! When looking at the map, the first thing that pops out on The Lost Continent is THE ROLLER COASTER!! And as exciting and fun as it is, I will have to describe everything else before we get to the roller coaster. You see,…Read More
ROLLER COASTER!!! When looking at the map, the first thing that pops out on The Lost Continent is THE ROLLER COASTER!! And as exciting and fun as it is, I will have to describe everything else before we get to the roller coaster. You see, when entering the Lost Continent from Seuss Landing, it is one of the last things you get to before you get to Jurassic Park. So, you leave the colorful and whimsical Seuss Landing and enter the beautiful world of the Lost Continent. There's something peaceful about this particular land: the earth-town facades, perhaps. Let's get the shopping out of the way first. The shops on Lost Continent are either ride themed or dungeons and dragons themed. If you want to stock up on your incense, candle, or pewter collection—this is your place. It's not really my thing, but from the looks of it, it seems to be quality goods. The next big thing that differentiates this Island from the others is the game area. State fair or carnival type games offer guys on dates the opportunity to win the stuffed animal for their gal. All typical carnival games are represented (water gun balloon, races, shooting games) but the prizes have been elevated a tad to fit Universal's standards. The food: Mythos Restaurant is a gorgeous table-service restaurant for those who like a little class in their theme park adventure. I know that it was once the world's only five-star theme park restaurant, but I don't know if that's still true. Regardless, the food is great, the service is great, and the view makes the higher prices worth it. The Enchanted Oak Tavern is where I eat when I want a good meal, but don't want to pay as much. I always end up here at lunch time, so I've eaten here a few times. BBQ chicken, fries, corn on the cob, and a drink for right around $10. There's also enough for two light eaters to share. It doesn't disappoint. The Alchemy Bar is located inside. It's close to the roller coaster so choose your meal and drink wisely! Fire Eaters Grill and the Frozen Dessert are the outdoor, quick-food stops on the Lost Continent. They are convenient and delicious, but I usually seek shelter inside the big tree. Now for the rides. The first ride is actually a tour. Poseidon's Fury takes you deep into the ocean as the great god Poseidon does what he does best—work his water. This is just an amazing indoor water show. The first time I ever watched it, I felt that magic was truly happening. It was beautiful. The highlight is the water tunnel you walk through towards the end of the tour. Another attraction is right near Poseidon and it's a wishing well. Throw some pennies in and see if anyone talks back. The Eight Voyage of Sinbad shows off some of Universal's talent. It's an amazing stunt show that will wow all ages. The Flying Unicorn is a small roller coaster for the kids. I am not a kid and I don't have any, so I've never done it. It looks fun. DUELING DRAGONS THE ROLLER COASTER. Ok, so Dueling Dragons is a double roller coaster putting Fire Dragon against Ice Dragon. The FIRST thing you have to do on this ride is stand in line. Don't worry. The line is gorgeous. The designers must have fun with this one. You walk into this castle/dungeon and just wish you could rent the space for your next Halloween party. I love this line. You have to love it to, it's long. I believe if the line were ever at it's longest capacity it would be over a mile or so long. You never have to walk that long, but it gives you an idea. The SECOND thing you have to do is choose if you want to side with Fire or with Ice. Choose wisely, but don't hold up the line. You can easily go back and do the other one. There are pros to both and they are really different. One seems faster, one seems like it's always running into things. Once you choose Fire or Ice you are at the THIRD thing you must do. Decide if you are going to go on the seemingly short "first row line" or the longer "any other row" line. The longer line is much quicker because about 40 people get to go on at a time. The shorter line takes A LOT longer because there are only four seats on the first row. Take the first row of each AT LEAST once. This ride was made for the first row experience. The FOURTH thing you have to do is keep your eyes OPEN. You waited all that time for the first row, now you have to SEE why it was worth the wait. When you get to the end and you see which dragon won, stand in line again and try the other dragon. When you are done, you will be ready to leave the imaginary world of the Lost Kingdom and enter: JURASSIC PARK. Close