Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Florida, USA
Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
Disney's Hollywood Studios, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA
Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
Epcot, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
I am going to post the Universal part of the report sometime in the next few days.
Day 1, 12/31. We left the house around 6:30 a.m. and started the almost 19 hour drive to Orlando. Not much to say other than that we stopped at a gas station right across from King's Dominion and I got to see I305 with the track missing and got a great view of Dominator. I really hope to go there in the next couple of years. We got to Daytona Beach and stayed at a hotel near the raceways.
Day 2, 1/1. We left the hotel and drove to Disney and checked into the All Star Movies. I was never a fan of the All Star hotels and prefer Pop Century but it was booked and we wanted a value resort. They were offering free dining and the values only had free counter service but for $11 a person per night, you could upgrade to the regular dining plan. The room seemed out of date compared to Pop Century with a smaller TV and the room could have been in better shape.
The weather was so much nicer this year compared to last year. Last year it was in the upper 30's and low to mid 40's the entire time which meant winter jackets and sweatshirts compared to this year where it was in the 70's most of the time so it was shorts and t-shirts all week.
The first park of the trip was the Studios and we of course went to Toy Story Mania first to grab Fastpasses for later in the day. We then went to the Backlot Tour which was skipped on the past 2 trips to Disney. The automated narration isn't as good as having the cast member riding on the tram give the narration and with the street with the houses on it that was torn down for Lights Motor Action and not as much to see makes it just an ok ride. Muppet Vision 3D was next, good as always. Great Movie Ride was around 10 minutes, again not much to say except we got the Cowboy scene this time instead of the Gangster scene but I think they updated some of the film clips they showed at the end of the ride.
I went to Rock N Rollercoaster and used the single riders line, it took around 20 minutes. It was nice to ride a coaster again after 2 months into the offseason. The launch although fun still feels so weak compared to Storm Runner and Kingda Ka. The only bad thing was that because I was riding with my hands covering my pockets so my keys, wallet and phone didn't fall out (I was saving my zippered pocket shorts for Universal), it was a little uncomfortable.
We saw One Man's Dream and went back to Toy Story Mania. The standby line was up to 140 minutes, and with fastpass it took around 15 minutes. I enjoyed the ride more this year than last year but still prefer Buzz Lightyear's Spaceranger Spin even though the technology for Toy Story Mania is way better.
We went to Fantasmic and got ok seats about 20 minutes before the show started. I left the show a few minutes early to go to Tower of Terror before the line got bad. It was posted at 30 minutes but took around 20 minutes. I never really liked the ride that much since although the theming was great, the drops itself never were. I must have gotten a better ride program this year since it had some great airtime moments even going upwards and more drops. By the time I exited the ride, the wait time sign was up to 60 minutes since I guess a lot of people who left Fantasmic went to the ride.
Since there was nothing left we wanted to see in the park, we left and went to Downtown Disney. It was jammed, I guess with locals as well as people on vacation. I had heard about the Space Mountain Knex set last year and although it looked cool, the $229.95 price was not. I had read it was marked down to around $60 and found it at Once Upon A Toy. It was tagged $58.99 and although if it wasn't for the Space Mountain theming, I would have thought it was barely worth that much as a regular Knex coaster set, I bought it. It must not have sold well since how often do you see an item at Disney World marked down to almost 75% off? I had heard the Dumbo Knex set was marked down to $35 but I never saw it in any store.
Day 3, 1/2. Today had to be our day to go to the Magic Kingdom since it was the last day Splash Mountain was open before it closed for its annual rehab. We got to the Ticket and Transportation Center and found a short line for the monorail. The first thing I did was get fastpasses for Space Mountain to use later. We went to Adventureland and went to the Jungle Cruise which was a 5 minute wait. While waiting to exit the ride, 2 boats had problems and both had to be removed.
Pirates had both sides of the line open and for some reason everyone goes to the left side so we chose the right line which was around a 2 minute wait. I still don't like Jack Sparrow in the ride since he really doesn't look like he fits in with the rest of the characters since he looks so realistic.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was around 20 minutes. There is so much to see that even after many rides on the coaster I always find something new I didn't notice on past trips. Splash Mountain had been closed and had just reopened after we exited Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was also around 20 minutes. Sitting in the front row was a mistake. I know the front row usually is where you get soaked but with it being in the low 70's compared to the low 40's last year, I didn't think it would be too bad. The final drop was worse than the normal soaking. It was like a huge wall of water hit us, as bad as going on a rapids ride. I never had that happen before at Splash Mountain. 6 hours later and my t-shirt and shorts were still not dry. Next time I am either going to make sure we don't get the front row or will wear a poncho no matter how warm it is outside.
Haunted Mansion was next, also around 20 minutes. We got stopped for a few minutes in the attic where the bride was. Before heading over to Crystal Palace for lunch, we stopped and got fastpasses for Peter Pan's Flight. Crystal Palace was my favorite meal of the trip, since they had a good selection of food compared to the other table service meals we had.
After lunch we went to Fantasyland and went to Mickey's PhilharMagic with around a 15 minute wait. I think it's the most impressive of the 3D shows at Disney. We went to It's A Small World next, waiting around 20 minutes. The new line configuration was a little weird loading on the old exit side since I am used to the old loading setup.
Since there are rumors of Snow White's Scary Adventure closing, we went there next waiting a little over 20 minutes. Winnie had a very long line (posted at 50 minutes) so we skipped it for now and went back to Peter Pan's Flight. The wait time was posted at 60 minutes and it took a little less than 15 minutes with fastpass. I really like the part where you fly over London and can see the tiny cars moving on the roads.
Space Mountain was closed (my phone app had it listed as closed for a while), Buzz Lightyear's Spaceranger Spin was also closed so we went to the Carousel of Progress. The People Mover had around a 5 minute wait and that too broke down for a few minutes. Space Mountain had just opened up while we were in line and when we entered the Space Mountain building, the lights were on. I had my phone ready to take pictures of Space Mountain with the lights on but just as we were about to enter the area where you can see the coaster, the lights turned off.
With Space Mountain just reopening, the fastpass return line was the longest I had ever seen it. the line was almost to the first room where you enter the line which I figured had to be at least a 45 minute wait if they had just the Omega side for fastpass. We skipped it for now and went to try to find a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade.
I prefer the Electrical Parade over Spectro Magic and I'm glad they decided to let it run for more than just this past summer.
While everyone wanted to see Wishes, I decided to go back to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz Lightyear's Spaceranger spin. It was around 15 minutes and the target I always try to get, the back of the robot's hand in the first room is now only 100 points (it used to be I think 100,000 points) so I only managed to get 117,000 points.
We went to Cosmic Ray's for dinner and went back to Space Mountain this time waiting just over 10 minutes with the fastpass. I got the last seat in the first car and it was rougher than last year, more like the ride I had in 2006. We went to Buzz Lightyear's Spaceranger Spin again, waiting just under 15 minutes. Even though we could have stayed for Extra Magic Hours, we were going to get up early for Epcot the next day so left a little after 10:00 after going into some of the shops on Main Street.
Day 4, 1/3 Today was Epcot. Spaceship Earth was first, about a 15 minute wait. I prefer the older versions of the ride and don't like how for the 2nd half of the ride you are looking at the screen in your ride vehicle rather than looking at anything in the ride especially with that not possible with almost everything from that part of the ride removed.
Test Track was a 40 or 50 minute wait with a fastpass return time of a little less than an hour away so rather than wait in standby, we got fastpasses, we went to Universe of Energy. I have seen it so many times I already know what they are going to say before they say it so it isn't that interesting anymore.
Test Track was awesome as usual, the high speed turns are the best part and I wish the ride had a few more of them. We got fastpasses to ride again later and the day and went to the other side of Future World.
The Living Seas had no line and every time I walk through the empty queue, I can't believe how many switchbacks are set up inside and how long of a wait it must be with a full queue. It's nice to have a ride in the building again. Living With the Land had no one in line, I had never seen that before. Like the Backlot Tour I miss having a ride op narrate the ride. We skipped Soarin because no one wanted to ride it and had lunch at the food court in the Land and went to Imagination.
Imagination had a wait of around 5 minutes, like so many other rides in Future World, I miss the old version and it would be nice to see them bring back the DreamFinder. Image Works has basically been shut down and now just has a few activities. Last year the camera stations were almost all broken and were blocked off. It's too bad they can't reopen the upstairs Image Works since even though it would be out of date, it was a lot more fun than the current Image Works.
Captain Eo was next, I might have seen the show in the late 80's but I didn't remember any of it. I thought it was ok, taking into account it was almost 25 years old so the 3D effects weren't that great. I also liked how it was different than the other 3D films and liked it more than Honey I Shrunk the Audience.
Since we were done with Future World we went to World Showcase and stopped at Mexico for the boat ride. This is yet another ride that I liked the older version of better. Having the Three Caballeros on screens throughout the ride made it less interesting to me.
Maelstorm had a posted 20 minute wait so we saved it for later since we had an early reservation at Akershus. The food was good but not great and I don't think it was worth the $41.99 per person it would normally cost if not on the dining plan. We went back to Maelstrom and then went to The American Adventure. Walking qucikly through the rest of World Showcase we stopped at Test Track to use our fastpasses and with the park almost closing, headed back to the resort since no one really like Illuminations.
Day 5, 1/4 This was what I thought was going to be our final day at Disney. The Animal Kingdom lot looked way more crowded than I was expecting. We went to the Safari and the standby wait was already 40 minutes. The fastpass return time was only 50 minutes away so we went to Conservation Station. We usually skip this area but decided to take the train ride, not much to say since it is just a petting zoo and area where you can see some baby animals and vets working.
Although I like the Safari, having Great Adventure's Wild Safari so close to me kind of ruins it since Great Adventure's version is way better. The Safari guides now stop a few times during the ride so people can get pictures.
We stopped at Everest to get fastpasses for later and the standby wait was posted at 45 minutes but it looked way longer than that with the line out of the main queue at least 20 feet past the entrance area.
We had lunch at RestaurantoSaurus and then went to Dinosaur. It was around 15 minutes. Thankfully the ride didn't stop this time since 2 out of the past 3 trips, the ride stopped at some point just for a few minutes and last time they turned on the lights for a minute.
Primeival Whirl was around 20 minutes, the brakes were strong in between some of the hairpin turns. Since Triceratops Spin was 5 minutes we stopped there next and went to Everest.
The ride seemed a little rougher than in 2006 and last year but not too bad. The Yeti was also a little more noticeable this year compared to last year since even knowing where to look for the Yeti last year, I barely saw it.
Next was It's Tough To Be A Bug and then we saw the Jammin Jungle Parade. We finished the day at the Safari again getting the last car of the day.
We had reservations at Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Since it was a signature restaurant using 2 table service credit I was expecting it to be great like Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian last year. It was almost the opposite of Narcoossee's. The service wasn't that great, the entrees weren't worth $30 - $40 and the desserts were even worse. They were $9 - $10 and were very small. The chocolate cake was the size of a candy bar. The bill would have been almost $200 for 4 people and I can't imagine paying that much out of pocket for the meal. It seemed like because of the dining plan, food was more expensive than ever all over the resort. Last trip a burger and fries was $6.59, this trip it was either $8.19 or $8.39 for example.
We went back to Downtown Disney and back to All Star Movies for the last time since the next 2 days were for Universal.
Day 6, 1/5 We left All Star Movies and drove to Universal and checked into the Royal Pacific Resort. It was quite a step up from the value resorts at Disney. We decided to stay on site at Universal so we could get 2 days of unlimited Express Pass access. I had not been to the Studios park since 2003 and had never been to Islands of Adventure. We always stayed away from Islands of Adventure because there wasn't that much if you aren't into thrill rides but since I redeemed my credit card reward points for 4, 2 day tickets it seemed like a good time to finally see the park.
We took the water shuttle to the Studios. Because Rip Ride Rockit is not on Express, I wanted to go there first. The posted wait time was 10 minutes with the single rider line closed but the worker at the entrance asked if I was a single rider and let me go in the single rider line. The line was past the stairs and looked to be longer than 10 minutes but the single rider line only had 6 people in line and I only waited about a minute. I got row 5 and decided to choose Rollin by Limp Bizkit. Right away I liked the audio on this coaster more than Bizarro since getting to choose a song and have it play throughout the ride was better than hearing lots of quotes throughout the ride.
The vertical lift didn't seem as intimidating as Fahrenheit I think because the seat backs are higher. Overall I thought the coaster was a lot of fun. The non inverting loop was interesting and the coaster was longer than I was expected with a lot of banked turns.
We went to Jimmy Neutron next, also posted at 10 minutes for standby. In the middle of the ride, the film stopped and they returned the seats to the platform. They told us we could come back later without waiting but since we had Express it didn't matter.
Shrek 4D was posted at 15 minutes standby. The movement of the seats really adds to the attraction and thought it was very well done (I had seen it last trip but didn't remember much of it). Crowds were so much different than the last time I was at the park with Shrek 4D having a posted 150 minute wait.
Revenge of the Mummy was next. Standby was 5 minutes. This was my first Premier coaster since I would have never ridden Chiller in the late 90's or early 2000's and my only trip to Great Adventure in 2007 it was closed. It appeared that Express has it's own loading area. I liked how it started off as a dark ride and then the coaster part was after that. It was a little difficult to see everything in the coaster part since you are moving so fast but it didn't really matter. I was expecting the backwards section to be longer than just a small drop but I didn't mind since I'd rather ride a coaster forwards anyway.
We went to Disaster next, 40 minute wait for standby, we waited a couple of minutes. It was ok but I didn't really care about anything except the part where you board the Subway car.
Jaws had a 15 minute standby wait, we walked right on. I didn't remember the ride being as short as it was but it was still a good ride.
We had lunch at some burger place and went to Men In Black. Standby was 10 minutes and even in 2003 where the standby was 150 minutes, Express still took around 15 minutes (we had purchased the 1 day Express passes). That wasn't the case this time as it was a walk on right to the loading area. This looked to be another case of the standby wait sign being wrong as the standby line was into one of the main rooms of the queue and about where we waited with Express years ago.
Next was an Animal Actors show and then we went to Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster since I needed the credit since it wasn't on Express last trip and I wasn't waiting 60 minutes for a junior coaster. The posted wait was 20 minutes but it looked to be a 2 or 3 train wait. It was short but not bad for a smaller coaster.
We stopped at E.T. Adventure, 15 minute posted wait for standby. I remembered the ride as being only a few minutes but had more scenes that I forgot about. I hope they keep the ride and don't get rid of it like in Hollywood and Japan since it is a good family ride.
There was nothing else anyone else wanted to see so we decided to go over to Islands of Adventure.
We left Universal Studios and walked over to Islands of Adventure. After so many years of wanting to get to the park, it was great to finally be there. The wait time board showed it was more crowded than the Studios were.
We went to Seuss Landing first and to the Cat in the Hat. The standby was 30 minutes with no wait for Express but the ride broke down for a few minutes at the loading area. I thought it was a good ride but I would have preferred to not have the ride spin so much or to still have an option to not spin at all since it meant not everyone in my family was going to ride because of the spinning.
One Fish Two Fish was closed for 3 days, we decided to go check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and go back to Seuss Landing later. I am a casual Harry Potter fan. I have seen the movies and read all the books and played some of the video games but that's as much interest as I have for the series so although I did want to see the new area, it wasn't a huge deal to me. For what was supposed to be a slow week, it wasn't what I was expecting at all. It was just a huge crowd of people everywhere you looked. Even walking around was difficult because there were so many people.
Seeing as how Olivanders had a huge wait, I went to Dueling Dragons. For over 5 years this ride has been at the top of my list of most wanted steel coasters to try. B&M inverts are one of my favorite coaster types and 2 tracks dueling sounded amazing. The standby wait was posted at 20 minutes. One thing I didn't like about the line was after you go past the Express area, the line merges with the standby line without any warning so you have to be careful not to bump into anyone since you wouldn't know there is another line walking in the same area unless you used Express before.
The stations were packed and the front row lines looked to be at least 30 - 45 minutes. Only 2 trains were running on each side and it looked like only 2 people were checking restraints per train so even a 4 or 5 train wait for a middle row took around 15 minutes. I know 15 minutes isn't that bad but before the trip I had expected to be walking into an empty station and being able to power ride.
I chose Ice first. Every other B&M invert I have ridden starts with a loop and goes into a zero g roll or immelman so both layouts being unique was nice. I really liked the near miss in the loop and corkscrew and how there was a turn after the drop before any inversions and how it went right into the zero g roll. I went back and tried Fire, which I thought was slightly better than Ice since I really liked the 2 immelmans.
Rather than have everyone wait for me to get multiple rides in, I decided 1 ride on each side was enough for now and we went to Flight of the Hippogriff. The standby wait was posted at 15 minutes but looking at the line, I wouldn't have been surprised if it was double that even with 2 trains running. They were using the front row for child swap but we didn't have any wait. I liked how it was longer than the the similar coaster at the Studios.
Forbidden Journey was at 120 minutes earlier and now listed at 90 minutes. Since only my sister and I were going to ride, we went in the single rider line and waited around 20 minutes. Luckily we got to sit on the same bench. The ride itself was very impressive but I didn't care for the video parts. They made me kind of dizzy and gave me a headache. The non video parts didn't bother me at all and I really liked that part of the ride. There was a lot to take in and probably needs multiple rides to be able to see everything.
It was starting to drizzle after that so we decided to leave and finish with the park the next day. We back to Downtown Disney and went to dinner at the T-Rex Cafe.
Day 7, 1/6 The original plan was to get to the park at 8:00 a.m. for early entry but since it was still raining, we waited and got to the park a little after 9:00. First thing we did was go to Olivander's and waited about 30 minutes. I guess it's something you need to see once but I wasn't that impressed since it was difficult to see if you were in the back and they have so many people in the room at once (I guess if they didn't lines would be even worse). It let out into Devrish and Banges and to say the store was crowded would be an understaetment. I hate crowded stores and couldn't wait to get out of there. We got postcards and had them postmarked at the Owl Post. Zonko's/Honeydukes had a short wait to get in and was even more crowded than Devrish and Banges.
We didn't want to try Forbidden Journey again so decided to check out the rest of the park. Jurassic Park really had nothing as no one wanted to get soaked on the River Adventure and although Pteradon Flyers had only a 10 minute wait, and I had heard they will let you on if there is no wait or a very short wait they wouldn't let my sister or I ride the coaster which is a shame because it looks like a fun ride. There was also nothing for us in Toon Lagoon since Dudley Do Right was closed because of the fire and the rapids were going to get us soaked like the River Adventure.
I skipped Dr. Doom's Fearfall because I can ride the exact same ride at Dorney and they both appeared to be Space Shot towers which is my least favorite tower ride. As much as I wanted to try Spiderman, I decided against it because after how I felt on The Forbidden Journey and knowing much of the ride involves moving on a track with screens, I thought I would feel horrible after riding it. I kind of regret not trying it anyway since I probably won't be back at IoA for a long time.
I went to Hulk next and was looking forward to trying a B&M sitdown as well as the launch on a B&M. Although Express can't wait for the front row, I liked the loading setup here since they had someone assigning rows so I was able to get right on the next train.
The launch into the zero g roll was great and I liked how it had 2 vertical loops and the turns/helices (not sure if it really counts as a helix or not) in between the inversions. The only problem I had with the ride was that it was a little rough but not too bad.
We went back to Seuss Landing and try the Seuss Trolley Ride. The standby wait was posted at 10 minutes but we waited almost 10 minutes only having a 2 train wait and the standby line was onto the twisted ramp so it appeared to be another case of the standby wait time being much longer than was actually posted. We went back and tried the other track and it was cool how it went through the restaurant.
There was really nothing else left anyone wanted to see so we decided to leave and go back to the Magic Kingdom since we had 5 day passes. I know this isn't going to be a popular opinion of the park but other than Dragons and Hulk I was kind of let down by the park. I knew there wasn't going to be much to ride as a family which is why we never went to the park before but combined with that and the crowds in the Harry Potter area, I didn't like the park as much as I thought I would. I know they had to follow specific guidelines because J.K. Rowling wanted the area to be accurate to the books but the way it is setup now is not good. Besides the area being way too small, the shops are even worse and I'd like to see how a wheelchair or ECV would be able to navigate in there. I was also let down by the Dragons retheme. Because it is now themed to Harry Potter I couldn't find merchandise related to the ride and I would have liked to have gotten a t-shirt. As for the lack of rides everyone could ride, it would have been nice to see a couple of more tame rides added or the option again to not have the Cat In the Hat ride spin since that is one of the few tamer rides in the park and the spinning means people who would normally go on a regular dark ride aren't going to ride it.
We got back to the Magic Kingdom and first thing I did was grab fastpasses for Space Mountain. We went back to Fantasyland to ride Winnie the Pooh which barely had any past the standby/fastpass merge point and we only waited 10 minutes. The ride is ok but I preferred Mr. Toad. I wanted to go back to Snow White's Scary Adventures since I had a feeling it would be the last time we would be seeing it and I'm glad we got a 2nd ride in this trip since the rumors were true and it is leaving. It was around 15 minutes. We went back to Philharmagic and walked right into the waiting area but had to wait just under 15 minutes before being let into the theater.
We went to Tomorrowland and went to Buzz Lightyear waiting around 10 minutes. Space Mountain was next waiting a little less than 15 minutes with fastpass. This time I got the last car and it was smoother than a few days ago. This was the final coaster ride of the trip and for a little over 3 months. We went Adventureland and walked onto Pirates and Jungle Cruise also did not have anyone in line. After dark the Jungle Cruise is a little different with the lights on the scenes and not being able to see that much before going into the temple which was cool.
We had to get started on the long drive back home and left the park even though it was still open for another 90 minutes. The monorail was having problems and it took around 15 minutes to board the monorail despite a very short line.
Leaving Orlando was sad as always especially with the offseason not even half over yet at that point. Overall it was a great trip and I was really glad to try some new coasters, especially Dueling Dragons. When I got back home I read that crowd levels were much higher than anticipated so I'm not sure if I would go in the beginning of January again and would consider going 1 week later since I heard crowds were much lower the week after our trip.
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