Orlando – Theme parks

A brief visit to Orlando, theme park central.

Song Recommendation – Hedwig’s Theme – Harry Potter

If you grew up with Harry Potter, and you are a true fan, you would understand my need to visit Orlando.
Orlando is the location of the Universal Orlando Resort, home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You might be confused, as there is also a Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood (California). The main difference is that Orlando has both a Hogsmede, and also a Diagon Alley, whereas California has only a Hogsmede. Hogsmede at both the parks is relatively the same.
The Universal Orlando Resort is two parks, with Hogsmede in one, and Diagon Alley in the other. You can go between the parks in a working Hogwarts Express (only in Orlando), as long as you have a park-to-park ticket.

I ended up buying a one day park-to-park ticket, and spent a full day visiting the Universal parks (it was plenty of time to see both parks).

The next two days I spent at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World consists of four parks.

I decided on Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the first day, given they had the relatively new area of Pandora (based on James Cameron’s Avatar). Animal Kingdom is a mix between a theme park and a zoo, and is definitely worth the visit. They even have a “Safari”, where you head off in a jeep to see animals in a semi-caged environment.
Pandora was a bit overrated, with long wait times for its rides, and a slightly disappointing smaller-than-expected size.
20180515_205133The following day I went to a park called Epcot, the “adult” park (just less rides and more shops), which has the World Showcase area, and Future World. Basically the park is split into different sections which are supposed to reflect different parts of the world, with sections from Canada, France, China, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the U.S.A, the UK, Morocco, and Norway.

Epcot and Animal Kingdom feel a lot different to Disneyland and California Adventure (the California parks). I suspect Magic Kingdom (another of the four Orlando parks) is more akin to Disneyland, which is exactly why I missed it in Orlando, although I think everyone should visit Disneyland or Magic Kingdom at least once for the classic “Disney” experience.
Of all the theme parks I visited on my trip, number one would have to go to the Universal Resort in Orlando. Universal is top-notch, with better rides, better shops, less foot traffic and much shorter wait times than the Disney parks.
Don’t worry, I’m almost done. Next I headed to Gulf Shores for the Hangout 2018 Music Festival.

Miami – Outdoor movies & swing dancing

A land of beaches, parties, and endless summer.

Song Recommendation – The Beach Boys – Kokomo

Sorry to spoil the illusion, but I’ve already made it back to New Zealand. I got a little behind with this thing, and am just getting time to catch up on it now.
Miami is great. A land of beaches, parties, and endless summer.

One of the first tourist activities I did in Miami was to go on a boat tour. The tour showed off some of the expensive celebrity properties, and also gave us great views of the city.
I found a Couchsurfing event watching an outdoor movie called “Victor, Victoria” starring Julie Andrews. It was hilarious. It’s about a woman pretending to be a man impersonating a woman, definitely worth the watch.

The following day I visited Miami beach, where I listened to Kokomo while I walked down the white sand strip. It was a bit less peaceful than the beaches in New Zealand, with every couple of meters being crowded by a bunch of loungers, and umbrellas.

I forgot to take a photo here so you’re just going to have to use your imagination.

Someone at the Couchsurfing meet-up told us about a French music/swing dance event happening the next night. I went along, and attempted (and failed) to learn how to swing dance (no video attached).

My Airbnb host also ran a few tours. I went along to his Wynwood Walls tour. There we visited a few breweries, saw a lot of the great street art which decorates the area, and then later grabbed some of the fantastic food at the 1-800LUCKY Asian food hall.
I also spent a day visiting the Everglades, which were stunning.
DSC_0011DSC_0952We even managed to spot a gator.DSC_0998My time in Florida was not over. After a few days of Miami I headed over to Orlando, the home of theme parks.