Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Theme Park Madness

I think I have recovered from the extended family vacation enough to write about it.

Don't take that the wrong way: It was a great trip. But there was a lot of it. A whole week with the extended family in the Greater Orlando Area. Which means theme parks, mostly. A lot of them. I suppose it was fortunate that it was late winter, so the parks weren't open terribly late and we could actually sleep and recover.

I'd been to Orlando before, but never for recreation, so this was my first chance to experience the plethora of parks available. We managed to hit a different park every day, which was pretty cool. Here's the overview:

Sunday: Universal Studios Florida. I had been to the California version of Universal Studios many years ago, but this seemed much more developed, both thematically and in the overall detail of the attractions. Unfortunately, it was a windy day, so the one big roller coaster was not operating. Most of the rest of the rides are variations on "motion simulators," basically moving seats with immersive movies. I quite liked the Disaster ride, which is set in San Francisco, but the most impressive ride overall was the Simpsons ride. It's long and funny and very true to the show.

Overall I have to say this park appealed more to the older members of the crowd, but everyone had a pretty good time.

Monday: Universal's Islands of Adventure. Quite a variety here, ranging from stuff for the little kids based on comic strip characters and Dr. Seuss stories to adventures like Jurassic Park and the Lost Continent and the thing people really wanted to see, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was really impressed with the attention to details in all of the areas. We managed to score early-admission tickets, which enabled us to get to Harry Potter first, before the lines got long.

Tuesday: Disney Magic Kingdom park. It's kind of disorienting for a group like ours that's very familiar with Disneyland, because it's similar, but different enough to be a bit confusing. It was a big treat to ride Space Mountain again, and we rode Pirates of the Caribbean several times. Big Thunder Mountain was closed, though. And there's no Matterhorn! On the plus side, they have the old Carousel of Progress ("There's a great big, beautiful tomorrow....") and the Country Bear Jamboree. Good memories.

Wednesday: Break from theme parks for a day. Some of the party went fishing in the flats on the Atlantic coast. The rest of us slept in, then headed over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge where we had a nice nature walk and went to see some manatees at Haulover Canal. Then off to the beach for a bit and dinner at the famous Dixie Crossroads restaurant in Titusville, where we ate a LOT of shrimp.

Thursday: Disney Animal Kingdom park. This is a fun park, very different from the Magic Kingdom, and at least partly aimed at a wider age spread (i.e., a little older). First thing in the morning we ran to ride Expedition Everest, which is a very good roller coaster. My daughter and I hit that four times in a row before there was any line to speak of. Good stuff! Nice animal exhibits. We had a good, full day here.

Friday: Epcot. I have kind of mixed feelings on this one. It's meant to be sort of a future-oriented simulated world's fair. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to make anything futuristic that doesn't get out of date really quickly. I did quite like Spaceship Earth (the big golf-ball thing), and the Energy Adventure was a really interesting ride. Most of the other rides were fairly unimpressive, and the Test Track really didn't do much for me at all.

Saturday we only had part of the day before flying home, so we hit Islands of Adventure again to get a farewell cup of butter beer and enjoy some of the bits we had to rush through before.

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