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[ATTENDED: November 6, 2014] Universal Studios

usfS. and I had been to Universal Studios about a decade ago during a library conference.  It was super fun–we were there after the park closed and got to ride all kinds of things.  Despite that, we didn’t remember much about the park, and so much had been added since then, that we were very excited (for The Simpsons Ride and especially the whole Harry Potter experience).  As we approached S. said that it felt so much more commercial than Disney, and then we realized that Disney is the most commercial place in the world, so it wasn’t that exactly.  And then we decided that Universal is like Disney’s tacky cousin.

The set up of entering the park is quite unusual, especially compared to Disney.  You park in a parking garage (which is certainly more convenient than the Disney lots) and enter the CityWalk portion. This is an aggressively neoned area with every conceivable chain restaurant you have ever imagined–mostly larger ones (the kind that we assume people who don’t live near a city a very excited to eat at) which I won’t name, but they are usually associated with a TV show, movie or Hollywood in general.

Here’s what’s so unusual about Universal Studios.  The entrance is shaped kind of like a Y.  You come in via CityWalk and then you go left for Universal’s Island of Adventure or you go right for Universal Studios Florida (the older of the two parks).  Unlike Disney, both parks are right next to each other.  But like Disney, if you pick to go in one, you can’t go in the other.  Unless you buy the Multi Park Pass.  Then you can leave one and enter the other through the front, or you can go via the Hogwarts Express (recommended).

Universal also has a FastPass type deal, but unlike with Disney, you have to pay for the FastPass experience.  And the prices are something like $70-$90 per person on top of park admission.  So the heck with that.  The good news was that when we were there there were very few lines for anything, so it didn’t matter too much.

We entered the park and realized right away that the big attraction at Universal is Despicable Me’s minions–they are the Mickey Mouse of Universal.  But Universal is also super proud of The Simpsons, and as we entered the park, there were Homer and Lisa, and we jumped on line and got our pictures taken with them.  What a weird thing!

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[ATTENDED: November 5, 2014] Hollywood Studios

hollyFor our final day in Disney, we decided to do the most “teen friendly” place, as I like to think of it.  There’s some big time intense rides here–Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster.  We figured that after the big rides of the last few days, our kids might like to do one of these even bigger rides.  And then C. threw up during the night.

Yup, two stomach bugs marring our Disney trip.  C. was less intense than T.’s but he was still wiped out.  And it really put the kibosh on us doing anything crazy fun.  And yet, there’s no resting if you are sick.

So, we decided to do some of the more mellow events today.  We had some FastPasses, and they were in the middle of the day, so we had some time to explore. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 4, 2014] Magic Kingdom

magicFor day three we planned our biggest, longest day–Magic Kingdom.  We have since decided that you could easily spend two days there. Especially since poor T. still didn’t feel great.  C. , on the other hand, was raring to go.

Even if you’re not totally swept up by the Disney Magic, it’s hard not to be excited when your kids turn the corner and see The Castle for the first time.  Even T. who wasn’t feeling great was pretty excited.  And, as far as Disney Magic goes, it was great that they have people in costume–no one “famous,” just random costumed people–walking around to make chit chat.  And we met one such lady who was very funny and was quite charming with T. and it really set the day up nicely.

Our FastPasses were for the mid-afternoon, which meant we couldn’t leave at lunch time like we’d have liked to have done.  So, rather, we made a path for some fun things that we didn’t get to do last time we were there.  Like the Swiss Family Treehouse (more…)

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epcot[ATTENDED: November 3, 2014] Epcot

For day two we planned to go to Epcot.  We figured there is a lot of walking (the World Showcase is apparently a one mile loop in and of itself).  And we figured we would go in the morning and do a few things, return to the hotel in the afternoon and then go back to the park at night.

And then T. threw up.  She had a stomach virus that started at 1AM.  We felt terrible.  But at he same time, we also knew that we had paid a lot of money for this trip.  So, we pressed on to Epcot anyway.  Clark was especially looking forward to seeing the big ball (not even sure if he knew what it was), so we made poor T. schlep out to Epcot.  And she repaid us by getting sick in the park twice.

We didn’t have a lot planned for Epcot.  We knew we wanted to do Soarin’ (which we had never done because the lines are always so long).  We had just read about the people dying and getting sick on Mission: Space, so we quickly nixed that.  We had a FastPass for the Nemo show, but opted against it.  So, it proved to be a pretty quiet day after all. (more…)

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animalking[ATTENDED: November 2, 2014] Animal Kingdom

This past week we went on a Florida vacation.  We have never gone during the NJEA Teacher’s Convention (when the kids have literally one half day of school during the week).  And while I missed out on a few things locally that I would have liked to have done, the trip was super fun.

We did four days in Walt Disney World and two days at Universal Studios.

We had to decide what order to do the parks in.  And we decided that Animal Kingdom would be a good place to start–not too intense and lots to see.

With that in mind, we also knew that we wanted to go on Dinosaur first because there are always super long lines at that ride.  As it turned out, we all got up really early (it was the weekend of the time change) and we got to the park as it opened.  We got over to Dinosaur and there was only a 5 minute wait.  And then we got to ride it again because the line was short again. (more…)

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