Florida – September 2011

Day 16 – Islands of Adventure

Tuesday 4th October

Ok, so for the second time on this holiday, I sit at the laptop on the day after to write up the events of the day. I think the problem yesterday was that the park was open a couple of hours longer than we’ve been accustomed to and we took advantage of the extra time to continue to have a good time. By the end of the evening, I was simply too tired to continue. Fortunately, I did write up the notes and so it’s from these musings that I now recollect what happened yesterday.

For whatever reason, we got up a half hour earlier than we would normally do in the morning. I think this is because we knew it was going to be a long day ahead of us. The plan for today was to re-visit BOTH Universal Studios & Universal Islands of Adventure. We would do the former in the morning and then walk over to the latter later in the day. Despite getting up so early, we were all a bit muted as we plodded through the morning routines. I think that both Sandy and me were still very tired and had insufficient energy to chat very much. I think we were all a bit irritable from the tiredness also. This has happened a few times on this holiday and we’re usually all pretty human again after a good, hearty breakfast and I know that everyone was looking forward to this today.

As expected, both Shane & Lisa were sound asleep still. I daresay they will remain that way until well after we leave the house this morning, which we did almost half an hour earlier than usual.

Another trip to the Waffle House pleased the kids no end again this morning. I think we’re all going to suffer from WHW (Waffle-House-Withdrawal) once we leave the States. Sandy tells me that we do actually have a waffle-iron somewhere in the house and I dare say this is going to start getting a lot of use after we return home. As usual, Joey insisted on another waffle to-go, which he ate in the car on the way over to the Universal resort area.

Despite planning on redoing both Universal theme parks today, we debated the merits of this on the way over. The idea was to redo those parts of the parks that the kids most enjoyed and they did have a lot of fun at the kiddie play areas in Universal Studios. But doing both theme parks would mean leaving one and making our way over to another and by the time we made this journey, navigating the ticket turnstiles, etc., we would burn up a good half hour in the process. Sandy was not looking forward to what she felt was going to be an arduous pushing of the buggies from one park to the other and so we decided to simply forego doing Universal Studios altogether and just concentrate on getting the most fun out of Islands of Adventure. There was still plenty that we hadn’t done there on our visit the other day and still lots of stuff that we did do that the kids would really enjoy doing again.

When we got to Universal, the car-park attendant gladly took our $14 and again allowed us to park in the preferred parking area after we told them that we had a special needs child with us. This time, we managed to get just about as close as it was possible to get to a spot that afforded us the shortest journey to the huge corridors leading into the CityWalk parade. These corridors are very wide, so as to accommodate the huge numbers of park visitors all making their way into the CityWalk area, through which you have to pass to get to the two theme park entrances. There are also moving walkways there too – the kind that you might typically expect to find at a large airport terminal building. It would have been nice to shave off a couple of minutes walk with the fully-laden buggies but the uniformed guards were being particularly enthusiastic about their duties to prevent this from happening and so we had to walk the full hundred meters or so down the covered walkways before we reached direct sunlight again. As usual, we didn’t stop at any of the CityWalk shops or trappings and made direct to the Islands of Adventure turnstiles.

A bit of a blessing today was the weather. Not a cloud to be found anywhere in the sky, again, but the temperature was just about perfect. Nice and very warm but not oppressively hot as had been on some of our previous theme park visits. Once through the turnstiles, we decided that we’d circumnavigate the park today in an anti-clockwise direction, taking in first and foremost Seuss Landing, which has several rides that both kids would be able to do and having lots of fun in the process. Low park visitor numbers again allowed us to do everything here several times in quick succession and the kids were just bouncing up and down (quite literally in fact) with glee and enjoyment. We did the Cat in the Hat, Caraseusselle, People Mover & One Fish Tow Fish Red Fish Blue fish rides, although Sandy stayed on the ground for that last one so as to avoid getting the cameras wet and, of course, so that at least one of us was on hand to take plenty of snaps.

I don’t know exactly how long we mulled around Seuss Landing but we eventually tore ourselves away so as to continue our circumnavigation. We passed up the Lost Continent, as we were sure that the Poseidon’s Fury attraction would be too intense for both Joey & Jennifer, and made our way directly to Wizard World. Just as soon as we entered that island, we saw someone pointing out that a magic show was about to begin. In actual fact, what it was was more of a demonstration of some of the tricks that you could then purchase in the adjacent shop. The little 5-minute demonstration was nice but I’ve seen all the tricks before in Las Vegas. Both Joey & Jennifer did get a kick out of seeing my $1 bill being levitated by the magician.

We didn’t bother with the Duelling Dragons pair of roller-coasters (now called the Dragon Challenge since Wizard World opened up) but we dId the Hippogriff ride with Joey (another roller-coaster that pre-dates Wizard World). As with almost everything else that we did today, we did this a couple of times. Even with the low park visitor numbers, Wizard World in particular pulls in a sizeable number of guests and the wait times were up to an hour here so we were very glad for our guest assistance pass here today.

The main attraction of Wizard World is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. This really is too intense for the kids but I did it again and thoroughly enjoyed it. It really was better the second time around and I’d now call this the best attraction in Orlando at the moment – and I can say this fairly confidently, having done just about every last Orlando attraction in the past couple of weeks. Sandy decided not to ride and instead walked through the castle again with the kids.

We pottered around (no pun intended) Wizard World for a bit just taking it all in before finally heading off into the next island – Jurassic Park. As we’d done the Discovery Centre the last time, we took the kids into Camp Jurassic this time, where they could explore the climbing equipment and overhead walkways to their hearts content. Having been here several times in the past, I’ve always wanted to do the Pteranodon Flyer but have never had the willingness to wait the hour+ wait times that were always there. It’s a suspended 80 second flight around the Camp Jurassic playground area and when Joey saw this and decided that he wanted to have a go, this was going to finally be my chance and where our guest assistance tickets would really come into their own. As the wait was more than 30 minutes, we were given a time to return some 50 minutes hence and so we wandered off to allow the kids to play some more and, in particular, to get very wet at the wet play area within the Camp Jurassic enclosure. Three quarters of an hour later and I was finally flying through the air with Joey. The views were really good, although at just 80 seconds, there’s precious little time to enjoy them. Still, it was a worthwhile experience and Joey really enjoyed himself. Sandy took Jennifer up shortly after us boys and they seemed to have just as much fun as we did.

Having learnt our lesson from a week or so ago, we stopped in at the restaurant in Jurassic Park to fill our tummies before it’s closing time. The rotisserie chicken was really good but I had stuffed myself full with the BBQ ribs and, alas, left little room for it. As is typically the case, we were all getting a bit cranky by this time of the day but we were all cooperating with each other again after the food worked its way into our systems. It’s amazing to see just how much a good meal can perk you up.

The next island along our route was the Toon Lagoon section of the park. Here, we had lots of fun getting wet – really, truly, completely-soaked-through-to-the-skin kind of wet. We wanted to all go onto the Dudley Do Right Ripsaw log flume ride but in full anticipation of how wet we were to become, we took advantage of the conveniently positioned lockers to store the cameras and all our valuables. They had similar lockers like this over at Universal Studios the other day and they were free for the first hour. Unfortunately, that was not the case here and I had to relinquish a full $3 for the privilege. This sort of money grab really gets under my skin but I did my best to suppress my annoyance and forked out the $3. I put everything in and then met Sandy and the kids at the entrance to the log ride. Mistakenly, however, I had put everything into the locker – including the guest assistance ticket. Hmmm. None of us were particularly keen on an hour wait so I went back to the locker to get the ticket but when I went to open it, there was a message on the screen telling me that this would be the LAST time that we could open the locker and that a new locker rental would be needed to secure everything again. What!? For just 30 seconds of usage, I had to put in another $3? This was too much to bare and so I let rip at the nearby attendant. Whether it was the full onslaught of my anger, I don’t know, but the attendant wasted no time in allowing me another free rental. I pointed out, in that oh so very special way that I alone seem to be able to do, that I thought it was inappropriate to render an attraction near enough unusable unless you were able to store away those possessions that you didn’t want to get water-damaged, but that you were to be help ransom to $3 for the privilege – particularly given that you’d already spent a lot of money to get into the park to begin with. What a bloody money grab! This little tiff played out over just a couple of minutes but I could easily have spent the next hour arguing the point – I tend to thrive on this sort of thing. Fortunately (for the attendant’s sake and also for my sanity’s sake), Sandy and the kids were still waiting, so I cut short my tirade and we went into the ride. We were all sent through but once we got to the point where we were to get into the log boats, one of the staff there decided to check Jennifer again for her height but this time decided that she was too small to ride. Shit! We had promised both kids a go on this ride and had built it up earlier by looking at the riders fall down the steep drop from the vantage point on the bridge. Jennifer in particular is something of an adrenaline junkie and was looking forward to this. If she had been wearing a pair of sneakers, she would have been tall enough but they were being particularly adamant about adhering to their height restrictions. I thought that I could plead my case to the manager, who was duly summonsed. When he arrived, it turned out to be that same attendant that I had just let rip with at the lockers. Just my luck. I did my best to point out what I thought was the absurdity of fact that the difference between a pair of shoes would be the difference between being allowed to ride or not allowed to ride. These things already have a very wide margin for safety already and it seemed a bit overzealous on their part to split hairs over such a small different in height. Jennifer’s height was right on the cut-off point. Alas, this being America and this being an issue of ‘perceived’ safety meant that he was not prepared to budge on the subject. I persisted for as long as I felt was reasonable but, alas, Jennifer was not going to be allowed to ride and it was just going to be Joey and me. In the event, the ride broke down at that point and we had to wait a good ten minutes before we were allowed in. It was a good ride, although Joey did seem a bit unsure of it. It wasn’t the huge drop towards the end that got us wet, it was the people feeding water jets with coins that aimed at us part way around. What was just a few drops of water up to this point effectively became a complete submerging after we reached that point. Nice. So much for the locker attendant’s suggestion that we could have wrapped our cameras in a plastic bag in lieu of paying the $3 for the locker rental. Had I done that, I’ve no doubt that they would have been ruined.

As Joey and I we were already now very wet, we decided that the entire family would benefit from being in the same boat, so to speak, so we wandered over to the Popey & Bluto’s Bilg-Rat Barges. This is one of those round boats that sits about 10 people and that floats along a raging river with various mechanism of dowsing you with water along the way, just in case the water coming over the edge wasn’t enough to completely soak the boat’s entire compliment of riders to begin with. True to form, we came out of this rider so wet that we couldn’t have been wetter had we spent the past 5 minutes standing under a shower. We all did the rider twice but me and Jennifer went around another two times also. I’m not sure what she enjoyed the most, getting wet herself or laughing at everyone else getting wet.

Whilst me and Jennifer were repeating our dowsing, Sandy took joey over to the Me Ship The Olive play boat, where we later joined them. This is essentially an indoor/outdoor play area but themed to look like a boat. Both this and the bilge-rat water rider were closed for renovation when we were here just over a week ago so we were glad for the opportunity to take these in now.

Having finished up in Toon Lagoon, we got changed into dry clothes. Just as was the case in Seaworld the other day, Islands of Adventure has placed a couple of giant human dryers in the park that you can use to get dry. Of course, why anyone would choose to pay $5 to have hot air blown on you for a couple of minutes when simply walking around in the blistering heat of the Florida sun would do the trick just as well, only for free, boggles the mind.

With now dry clothes on, we moved on from Toon Lagoon and into Marvel Super Hero island. We didn’t bother with the Superman ride this time around. Not only did Joey not enjoy it but the new Harry Potter ride makes this one look like a kindergarten roundabout. Spiderman was in the photo studio where Sandy took the kids to get a couple of Spidey photos done, so I made good use of this time by having a crack at Dr. Doom’s Death-fall – twice. You’re strapped to a rig that’s very quickly and very suddenly shot a good hundred meters into the sky and bounded up and down a bit before coming back down to earth again. The force by which you’re shot upwards is so great that when you come down the first time, you’re practically being forced down faster than gravity would otherwise grab you and this means that you’re shoulders are forced against the shoulder restraint for several seconds – almost like you’re being pulled down to earth. The exhilaration is unparalleled and it certainly wakes you up.

Since we were passing it by anyway on the way back to Seuss Landing to complete the circle, I had a go at the Hulk roller-coaster. This is a super-fast roller-coaster that instead of rolling you idly to the top of the first drop, it actually propels you up the ramp and out into a series of spins and loops from the get-go. This, too, will certainly wake you up in a hurry.

Back at Seuss Landing again, we made sure to do the rounds again with all the rides here before ending up in our final destination of the water play area. This, above all else, is where the kids tend to have the most fun and today was certainly no exception. The ground beneath their feet is very soft and the little water river flowing around the edge of this play area is never more that 30cm deep at any point. There’s a plethora of mechanism to aid in getting you very wet, including a water cage that can be switched on or off by a Dr. Seuss-like contraption which the kids can play with and have good fun ‘catching’ other unsuspecting kids.

The park was scheduled to close at 19:00 and this is just about when we finished up in the water play area. By now, the sun was dipping lower i the sky and the resulting shadows were become less comfortable given that you’re wet through. We dried and dressed the kids in clean and warm clothing (again) and made our way towards the park exit.

Before exiting the park, we stopped at the photo shop to sort out a problem with our photo passes and picked up a print of the kids Spidey photo studio session. As Joey picked up another new toy today that was slightly more expensive than was normal, Sandy indulged Jennifer also with a new stuffed toy – an E.T. wearing pyjamas.

Half way along the corridors to the cars, there’s a final retail stand, where the kids each pressed another penny and Sandy picked up a couple of Thing1 & Thing2 T-shirts for the urchins.

Dinner this evening was at the Colorada House of Beef & Fajitas, which was of Shane’s choosing. The food was very good and very filling. The kids were already asleep before we had even left the restaurant.

Back at the house, our now usual evening routine played out as it typically does. Sandy has been nursing the onset of a cold for the past day or so and went to bed early. For my part, I was so knackered that all I could do was to write up the notes for this blog entry in the hope that I’d find time the following day to complete the blog entry before having to write a new one.