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Friday, June 8, 2012

Orlando August 2010 Part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Day 5 - August 19 - Universal Orlando

What with the late night we had the night before, once again we decided to relax in the morning before our second trip to UO. We hung out, went to the pool, relaxed, ate a late breakfast/early lunch, the usual. And I'm sure there was probably a viewing of "The Goofy Movie" in there as well. We had arranged for the car service to pick us up at 1:00. As we were walking to the front of the hotel the girls were saying "Wouldn't it be cool if our driver was Suresh again?" Well, we got to the pick up area and out of the van comes SURESH! He was greeted like an old member of the family. On the way over the girls regaled him with stories of our adventures - everyone had a good time. Suresh dropped us off and we agreed to meet up that night at 9:30.

As before we went to Universal Studios first. Again, first on our agenda was The Mummy. The posted wait time was 30 minutes but we decided to do the single rider line which had a 10 minute wait. While in the single rider line Charlotte and Gabby chatted with a little girl (about 10 I'd say) with a British accent who went on and on about how this was her favorite ride and that she had already been on it 14 times. It was funny because she ended up riding with me and Charlotte and, 14th time or not, she was screaming and jumping at all the right times. After The Mummy we went to Disaster!, which we had missed before. The posted wait time was a manageable 30 minutes although it ended up being closer to 40. We then decided on something cool and calm - E.T. Now, the first time I rode E.T. was at Universal in California and I thought it was one of the lamest things I had ever been on. Years later, when I went to UO with my friend Kirk, I agree to ride again because it's an attraction Kirk really enjoys. And I have to say that I've changed my mind and I quite like it now. It's really just the ending that is bad - sort of like "It's a Small World" on LSD. In fact I'd say that the E.T queue area is right up there with the best of them. After E.T. I tried to convince the girls to check out JAWS but nobody was interested, so we left the Studios and headed to IoA.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
We had some stuff we wanted to store, plus the girls were planning to do some shopping, so we rented a locker in IoA. As we walked through Jurassic Park on our way to WWoHP we stopped and bought Ice Cream at a stand. Once we got into WWoHP, as we were now all (including Gabby) roller-coaster fans we decided to check out Dragon's Challenge (DC). DC is made from a previously existing coaster called "Dueling Dragons" that has been re-themed for WWoHP. And I have to say that the theme-ing - in particular the queue which is themed after the Triwizard Tournament from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - is very impressive. The wait was 10 minutes and we got in the second row of our dragon. I've always said that this is a coaster where you really want to sit in the front if you can, however I hear that it is no longer timed so that both coasters hit the outer loop at the same time. I guess there was an incident with this feature. It's too bad as it was something that really made this coaster unique. While I'd still recommend the front I would say it doesn't matter as much as it used to.

We then went shopping at Dervish and Banges and exchanged the scarf Charlotte had bought on our previous trip. As I mentioned she got a Ravenclaw scarf. While she still identifies with that house she decided to exchange it for Gryffindor because the colors are more recognizable as making it a Harry Potter scarf. (editor's note - Charlotte was later sorted into Ravenclaw in Pottermore, making her wish she had kept the first scarf.) Also I should note that we had lost the receipt but the folks at IoA were kind enough to do the exchange anyway.

The original plan had been to have dinner in Citywalk but we were all hungry so we decided to eat in the park. Now, I don't have a high level of trust when it comes to theme park sit-down restaurants. I've found a few that I like at WDW (in particular in Epcot World Showcase and DHS), but outside of that I avoid them. I had heard good things about Mythos however, and they had a big banner announcing that they were voted "Best Theme Park Restaurant" (by who they did not say), so we decided to give it a whirl. And I have to say - this was a very nice experience. The decor was very nice (although I must admit I was not sure what the theme was supposed to be) and the food was surprisingly good. If you're in the park and want a sit-down meal Mythos is a very good choice. The total was $74 with tip. I feel obligated to note something here. The astute reader may have noticed how small our sit-down meal bills tended to be. This is really due to 3 things. First, obviously, most members of the party were not old enough to drink (and at Mythos I didn't have anything either). Second, Natalie and Charlotte are both vegetarians and veggie choices are usually inexpensive. Finally, the biggest factor, I think, was that the party consisted mostly of girls. If this had been a party with 4 teenage boys I have no doubt that the meals would have been considerably more expensive.

After dinner we headed over for an encore ride on FJoHP. The line was quite long so we did the single rider option. Since Universal does not have FP unless you are staying in one of their resorts, the single rider option is a good choice. I avoid it if it was my first time on a ride with a particular group but as we'd already ridden it seemed like a good idea. As it turned out the wait in the single rider line was 30 minutes despite being told it would be 15-20 minutes. I actually think the regular line was about the same. This is a risk you take with single rider - it can be hit or miss. That said, I have had very good luck with single rider on Test Track and on our first trip to IoA I was able to ride Hulk several times using the single rider line.

After that we left WWoHP for the last time. I convinced the girls to ride Spider-man (SM) on the way out. I just can't imagine a trip to IoA without riding SM - it is, hands down one of the coolest rides ever. (editor's notes - first, I've heard that SM has been re-vamped and is even better. I can't wait to ride again! Second - Kirk and I are going to Busch Gardens Williamsburg where they have a ride called "Dark Castle" which I understand is uses similar technology to SM. I can't wait to check it out). Well, that was the end of the UO portion of our trip. While the Studios is fun, IoA is simply a top-notch park and I love going there. The rumored expansion to the Harry Potter area will make it even more awesome. I can't wait to experience that.

We were actually a bit early for meeting Suresh but he was already there waiting for us (good ol' Suresh!) After driving us back to our hotel the girls insisted on posing for a picture with our new buddy. It was a bit dark unfortunately but everyone is smiling!

The girls went to the room to relax, but it was still pretty early so I decided to have a drink on the Boardwalk. I was in the mood for a margarita so I went to ESPN Zone and ordered one. I sat on the Boardwalk for a while, watching the lights on the water, the boats coming and going and folks strolling along. Man I love this place. DVC always says "Welcome Home" and the Boardwalk is the one place, other than my real home, where I really feel "at home". Welcome Home indeed.

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