Florida sure is nice this time of year...

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 24, 2003, 4:42 PM | comments: 1
I really love going to Orlando in November. It's so refreshing considering the weather just starts to get cold here in Cleveland. I posted a few photos here.

The first reason for the trip was to stop by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) trade show. There's generally not a lot of new things to see from year to year, but it's a good networking opportunity for someone who runs the world's most popular amusement/enthusiast Web site (www.coasterbuzz.com).

The rest of the time there is all about hanging out and enjoying a theme park or two. We stayed for the second year at Universal's Royal Pacific Resort. There are so many things I like about that place. It's a nice setting, the rooms are nice, it's within walking distance to the theme parks and CityWalk and it's just an overall secure and semi-upscale environment. Yeah, you pay a little more (actually a lot more), but it's worth every penny. You get to bypass the normal lines on all of the rides as a guest too.

The first night we were there we hit Medieval Times. If you've never been, you should most certainly go. It's dinner and a show, only without any silverware. The food is quite good, and the horse, jousting and fighting stuff is pretty good. You basically get a knight who represents your section, and you cheer him on in the tournament, while a somewhat light story plays out.

As usual, our knight sucked ass. He got his ass kicked. We really wanted to be in the next section, because the drunk guys there cheered the loudest and were having a damn good time. Being the only drunk guy in our section, I had to try and compensate.

The show itself is around $50 a person, and that includes your food and two beer refills (if you're old enough). Naturally I needed to supplement that with a pitcher. By the time you add in extra beverages, the photos they sell you, the tip and souveniers, it's pretty much a $100-a-person affair. That's cool though. I'm on vacation.

The next day we hit Universal Studios after a visit to Steph's grandparents' place in Kissimmee. It was the first time I had been there since the month it opened back in 1990. There was a lot of new stuff I had not yet seen. Most of it was pretty unremarkable. I thought Twister was pretty cool, and it was cool to finally see Earthquake (which was closed and being tweaked when I was first there). The rest was pretty much just there. the MIB ride was kind of fun, though I think my gun was busted. I had the lowest score in the car. We left after about four hours and hit the NASCAR Cafe for lunch.

Food is an important part of the vacation to me. I love to stuff my face. NASCAR is pretty average stuff with pretty average service, but it hit the spot when I was hungry. Can't argue with that.

After a nap and some TV, we eventually hit CityWalk. It's Universal's answer to Disney's Pleasure Island in many ways, though I think there are fewer clubs and no Cirque du Soleil. We stopped in the lower level of Motown to hit the DDR machine. It's an attention whore's dream. Five songs for a buck right there where everyone comes in for CityWalk and the theme parks. Drawing a crowd is not difficult.

We landed at the Italian place for dinner, which was strikingly average again. Last year it seemed better. Our waitress wasn't very on top of things either, and even though we tend to overlook certain things when she has a cute package, it wasn't going to happen this time. She sucked.

On Saturday we finally got to Islands of Adventure, the park we were looking forward to the most. There are so many things right with the park that it's hard to think of where to start. The park has something really for everyone. Our only annoyance for the day was that they don't let you out beyond Seuss Landing or Marvel Superhero Island until the park has been open for an hour.

There's a lot I could tell you, but let me stick the more important things. First off, Spiderman is still the best dark ride anywhere. There is no other ride that can mix live action and 3D film as well as Spiderman. It's a real work of art.

Other interesting rides included Dr. Doom's towers, the Jurassic Park River Ride, the Caro-Seuss-el and Cat in The Hat. So many of their rides are based on familiar rides or concepts, and taken to a much higher level.

Dueling Dragons are together the best roller coasters in the world. Individually they'd certainly be among the best inverted coasters, but it's having them together that makes them so special. The queue and stations are great, and the way the two trains interact is great. Very well done.

We almost didn't get to ride Hulk, as it went down mechanical about an hour before closing. It opened back up, we hit the Universal Express line, and got right on. We sat in the back seat. The launch is very cool (if not the most inefficient means to launch a train), and the first half of the ride is a lot of fun. The rest just feels like it kind of wanders around. I don't understand how it can be the best ride in some of the polls, because it's pretty average to me in terms of sit-down loopers. It's not a bad ride by any means, but it gets more attention than I think it deserves. It's in dire need of new springs or wheels, or both, because it bounces around entirely too much for a B&M ride.

We capped the night off with a little hot-tubbin' and beers back at the hotel, followed by dinner at Motown. They have some of the best damn barbecue sauce anywhere. It's really good stuff. They have a half-chicken and ribs combo that no one human can actually eat (well, sholdn't eat), so Steph and I split that. Good stuff indeed! The only negative was the really crappy service (again). We had the same problem last year. It's not the restaurant, because we watched this cutie in the next section be all on top of things for her tables.

Tired after a long day, we jumped on the boat back to the hotel and tried to stay up and watch SNL. We got an hour into it before we fell asleep.

I really enjoy being in Orlando. I hope to back again next year, and maybe even spend a little more time down there. I'd like to get back to the rat and visit some of those parks, maybe even spend some time at Busch Gardens again. If it weren't so damn hot in the summer, I'd even consider living there. I suppose you'd get used to it. Overall, we had a good time, and we were both the happiest we've been in awhile.



November 25, 2003, 8:18 PM # Ditto.

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