Of mice and zombies
The wife and I just returned from our 10 year wedding anniversary trip. For our honeymoon, we decided to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. Needless to say, it was a blast. We were young, had tons of energy, and truly enjoyed the experience like no other. Part of our honeymoon included a trip to Universal Studios, which we found out had a Halloween thing called Halloween Horror Nights. It was fucking EPIC! They had demons on stilts and full prosthetics, fire breathers, cave girls dancing in front of fire, and awesome haunted houses. It was an amazing surprise, and we had an absolute blast. For our ten year, we figured what better way to spend it than to do exactly the same thing, reminiscing on the old times, and reflecting on the years gone by. Did the trip do our memories justice? Well, keep reading and find out. (no spoilers!)
We went for a much shorter period of time for this trip, but we brought friends this time around. We went with 2 other couples. We were only able to spend 2 days in Disney parks, and 1 day in Universal. We stayed, this time, at Disney’s Art of Animation. It was actually pretty cool. Huge pool designed like Finding Nemo, themed buildings like Cars, Lion King, Nemo, and Little Mermaid, etc. We stayed in the Cars building. The ENTIRE area around the building looked like the movie cars, complete with a huge neon rotating sign for the Cozy Cone, and full size replicas of the characters. The room was pretty nice for our needs, and we had no problems there. Checking in was a mild nightmare, since they started this new thing where you get a bracelet with a chip in it that acts as your room key, park pass, and charge card for the trip. It’s wireless, waterproof, and generally comfortable, but being new it took the girl behind the counter an hour to set up. Not a deal breaker, but certainly a PITA. Hopefully they get this sorted out quick, since we’re going back next year with the wee beasties in tow.
The day we flew in, we had the night free to go do Downtown Disney. We had tickets to see Rifftrax Live! at the theater there, and didn’t wanna miss it. Although it was very crowded, it was just as I remembered it, with a few different stores and displays. I remembered going to Planet Hollywood for dinner one night, Fulton’s Crab House another night, and La Nouba. After the movie, we went back to our room and passed the fuck out. Time for some REAL Disney-ing!!!
Day 1 was spent entirely in Epcot Center. We spent the morning wandering a bit, going on rides, etc… We did Sum of all Thrills, where you can build a roller coaster and “ride” it in a VR simulator. Pretty cool shit. We went on Soarin’, which simulated flying with a huge screen in front of you. Cool stuff, but not quite as epic or impressive as I thought it’d be. Seeing the row above us’ feet kinda killed it a bit. The one experience I DID think was awesome, and mock me all you want for thinking this, was Captain EO. I saw this when I went to Disney as a kid, and remember loving it. Coming back and experiencing it as an adult was both awesome and emotional for me. It epitomized the 80’s in every way. The jokes, the music, the sound effects, the special effects; all of it was the best the 80’s had to offer, in my opinion. Think what you want of Michael Jackson, you can’t deny that he was an extremely talented and amazing entertainer. Seeing this made me a little sad for him, because he ended up so far down the hill at the end of his life, having fallen so far from grace that most people don’t really remember his awesomeness. That, and the longing it filled me with for the simpler and more magical days of childhood, really affected me. After that show, there was only one thing to do….drink! We ended up in the world showcase. We had dinner in the Mexican temple, and followed it up with drinking around the world and watching the awesome fireworks show. It was a great time with good friends. Epcot is close to being my favorite park is Disney, second only to one, but we’ll get to that.
Day 2 was a mixed bag. We all started in Animal Kingdom. First attraction was Expedition Everest, which wasn’t there when we were on our honeymoon. I knew it was a roller coaster, and that it had a Yeti in it, but didn’t really know anything else about it before going on. For that, I am truly thankful. This is, hands down, my favorite coaster in all of Disney. I won’t give any of it away, but if you like fun coasters, this is for you. It doesn’t go upside down, and doesn’t need to. It’s just a great time!!! After that, we went on the dinosaur ride. It was pretty good, and we definitely had fun on it. We did that last time, but with my memory I don’t really remember any of it. Truth be told, 99% of what I remember about Disney from my honeymoon is memories of the pictures we took, and not actual mental images. Probably a tumor or some shit, but I’m getting off topic. So, after Dinosaurs, we tackled the Safari. This was exactly how we remembered it. Great time, close ups with some truly beautiful animals, and finally a guide who didn’t sound like Howard Cosell. After the safari, we left Animal Kingdom. We could have spent more time there, but there was more to do, and this trip was sort of a “best of” kinda deal. We took a quick hop over to Epcot for lunch in the UK. I got to enjoy a scotch egg in all of its delicious glory.
Afterwards we took a boat ride over to MGM. I know, I know, now it’s called Hollywood Studios, but fuck that! To me, it’ll ALWAYS be MGM. At MGM, we went right over to Star Tours, which had pretty close to a zero wait time. We walked right up to the door to get on the ride, and only had to wait for the ride to finish with the earlier group. This ride was totally changed as far as content. There are now 54 different possible experiences, which are chosen at random. It was pretty awesome, and I probably could have spent all day just riding that ride, but we had stuff to do! Next stop, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. This show is exactly how I remember it, and though it’s still the “same old thing”, I love the shit out of it. It’s still real stunt work, and an awesome live action Indiana Jones experience. We were upgraded to the VIP section by the ushers because it was our anniversary, so we were 2nd row!!! Good times. After that, we wandered a bit and finished up over at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This ride was also just as I remembered it: Fucking AWESOME!!! Definitely one of those rides that I wish I could forget about so I could ride it for the first time again.
Now, here is where shit gets interesting. We’ll have to back up a bit. The day before we left, I went to the doctor because I’d had a sore throat for about a week, and wanted to get meds or something before our trip so I wouldn’t be violently ill. My PCP wasn’t available, big shocker, and I had to go to the Medicenter. The doctor there insisted that I had no redness or inflammation, even though it felt like I was swallowing through a puffy glove coated in broken glass. He said it was likely just my allergies, and acid reflux. Thinking he would know best, I went down to Disney. The travel day and our trip to Epcot was fine, but I was feeling a tiny bit off. I wrote it off to just my sore throat bugging me and my allergies. Day 2, everything changed. My sore throat got a bit better, but after leaving Animal Kingdom, I started feeling really shitty and run down. I also started coughing like crazy. By the time we were at MGM, I was totally sick. I pushed myself through to get on the rides and enjoy myself, but after the Tower of Terror, I was done. I went to first aid and asked about a medical clinic. I ended up going back to my hotel, where the awesome concierge gave me a free taxi voucher to and from the clinic. Long story short, I had Bronchitis. The doctor told me that I should stay in bed the next day and take it really easy, or risk developing pneumonia. This made me both profoundly angry, and profoundly sad. The next day was when we were supposed to be going to Universal for a day in Islands of Adventure, and Halloween Horror Nights. I really didn’t wanna miss that, but it wasn’t looking good. I went back to the hotel, took my meds with some dinner, and passed out. I stayed in bed until about noon or so, when everyone was set to leave for the park. I decided to say fuck it! The tickets were not refundable, so I chose to go, and if I felt shitty, I’d head to the van we rented and sleep for a bit, then come back in. So now, off we went.
Turns out, I was able to take my time, take it easy, and make it through Universal AND Horror Nights. We showed up, and headed straight for the one place we absolutely COULD NOT MISS. Hogsmeade!!!! Now, the wife and I are big Harry Potter fans. I say big, and not huge, because we weren’t big fans of the movies. I must admit, though, this little town was pretty awesome! We enjoyed a Butter Beer, which was basically a glorified cream soda, shopped around, and had lunch at the 3 Broomsticks. A few things about it bugged me, but I get why they did it. Quite a few of the shops that were recreated here weren’t actually IN Hogsmeade, they were in DIagon Alley. Shops like Ollivander’s. But apart from my pedanticism, it was pretty wild! We went on Dueling Dragons (yes, I will always call it that), and the actual Harry Potter ride in the castle. The castle was pretty amazing! Lots of attention to key details, such as moaning Mertyll being heard in the bathrooms. The ride in the castle was awesome, and I was amazed at the sheer engineering aspect that must have gone into its creation. That being said, when they say it can cause motion sickness, believe them. The Lish doesn’t usually get motion sick on rides, but this one definitely gave her a bit of a twinge. Still, it was worth it. We wandered through Jurassic Park and had a blast in the visitor center there, and ended up walking back to the Marvel area by the entrance. We rode the Hulk, arguably the best ride in Universal that I’ve been on. They we went back around for the Poseidon’s Fury show, which I didn’t remember anything about, aside from it being awesome. It didn’t disappoint. After that, the park was closing, so we left to drop off one of the couples and have dinner before a night of horror!!!
Halloween Horror Nights used to be in Islands of Adventure, at least it was when we were last here. This year, it was in the main Universal Studios park. We were cool with this, since we didn’t get hopper passes and now could go on the Universal rides. This year’s theme was zombies, so the park was dark and had people in zombie makeup wandering the park as walkers. The ambiance was pretty good, but we did miss the crazy shit from the first time. We also went on the Mummy ride, which was fucking awesome!!! Totally sick ride, well worth going on. Now for the shitty part. First of all, the wait times. The wait times for the haunted houses were absolutely insane! The shortest wait time when we got there was about 70 minutes, and the longest was 125 minutes. Each house was themed. There was the Walking Dead, Resident Evil (the game, not the movie), Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead, and a few others. We chose Resident Evil first, since it was the shortest wait. At the end of the night, we did Walking Dead, since people were saying it was the best. The wait time for RE was right on, but the WD wait time was way off. It took us 25 minutes longer to get through it, which caused us to miss the Bill and Ted Halloween show, which was a big reason for us going. We were pretty pissed about that.
What? How were the haunted houses? Did they live up to the hype? In a word, no. The houses were well decorated and authentic to the source material. The actors in them were decent. That’s about it. There weren’t really any scary portions to them, and the ambiance was kinda killed by the security personnel inside leaning or sitting on props looking deeply bored and half asleep. The houses were short, and when it all came down to it, they weren’t anywhere near worth the wait. I’m actually amazed at all the great reviews websites and bloggers have lavished on these mazes. Sure, the decor and sound are top notch, but it’s more of an interactive museum piece rather than a haunted house. Our local haunted houses here are much better, with shorter wait times. But wait, there’s more. There’s an express pass that will let you skip the lines and wait only a few minutes! Well, yeah, if you wanna spend $90 for a fast pass ON TOP of the $40 for the park ticket, then you can do that. If I’d spent that much to see those haunted houses, I’d have been even more pissed, especially since some of the fast pass lines were waiting over 30 minutes to get through a house!!! This just seems like it’s a very poorly planned out thing for them. When we went the first time, it was a long wait for them, but they were awesome. It took more than 5 minutes just to blow through one, and they had some really cool scares in them. It just seems like it boomed in popularity, but they didn’t compensate for the influx of people the right way. They started charging more for the express passes, and made the houses shorter. Bad form. If we go again to Horror Nights, we’ll probably stick with the Universal stuff first, and hit the houses at the end when the lines are short. We’ll also see the Bill and Ted show FIRST!!!!
“Uhhh, Persona? You didn’t say anything about how the trip was as compared to your honeymoon!”
Well, ok, you might not care, but fuck it I’m gonna tell you anyways. Many people I know have problems with Disney. The commercialism, their stranglehold on certain IPs, their crazy prices, whatever. I’ll admit that they definitely do some messed up shit, but that doesn’t make the experience of going to WDW any less awesome. This trip, for both the Lish and I, was awesome! It was us being the weird and wacky kids we were ten years ago. We ran around, acted stupid and silly, and had an absolute blast doing it. Disney, for us, really is a meaningful and magical place, since we visited at very influential times in our lives, both as kids and as adults. It’s like reliving our childhood together in a beautiful place full of fun, excitement, and wonder. More proof of its awesomeness is that, aside from using it as a camera and clock, I barely looked at my phone while on vacation. I checked FB maybe two or three times a day, and email about the same. Normally, those numbers are well into the double digits. If you think I’ve been drinking the Kool Aid or sold out or whatever by making these statements, then I’m sorry, but you just don’t understand. Staying on Disney property, taking buses and boats for short rides to the parks, having just about anything you might need at your fingertips, being in a place that is almost always clean, and being fully immersed in an experience that lasts days is something that I’ve only found there when on vacation. Sure, I’ve been disconnected when at Ocean City and lost in a relaxing world of ocean, waves, and awesome, but this is more like vacationing in an awesome dream. Being crazy in a place like this was the perfect way to celebrate our first decade of marriage, and I can’t wait to go back. Most importantly, I’m thankful that I found someone awesome who feels the exact same way!