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.
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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.
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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.
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Pandora was a bit overrated, with long wait times for its rides, and a slightly disappointing smaller-than-expected size.
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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.
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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.
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Don’t worry, I’m almost done. Next I headed to Gulf Shores for the Hangout 2018 Music Festival.
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The Journey Begins – Solo at Disneyland

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I made the long boring flight to LA a few days ago. My body clock still suffers, exacerbated by the woman who opened and shut her blind on the plane a million times (when it was light outside! The rest of us figured that one out on try number one).

Anyway, I disembarked the flight, made it through customs, bought an obscenely priced sim card and was on my way. Well… I thought I was. Eagerly I opened Uber, ready to test out the fantastic app I had heard so much about. I typed in my address, and then waited… and waited… and was charged $5 (USD) for not showing up.

In an angry rage I flicked to the Uber site, ready to write a strongly worded email to contest this charge. I hadn’t showed up? I was bloody standing right there, exactly where I had said. I wondered whether this would be another shoe refund scenario (long story short – my pair of ‘aesthetically pleasing, yet most uncomfortable shoes I have ever worn’ were graciously refunded not long after my email).

I stopped for a second before I requested another driver. Carefully I scoured the page. Oh s**t. ‘Drivers arrive on the first floor’… I was on the ground level… probably standing right underneath my failed first Uber attempt. I made my way up, and the long trail of Uber and Lyft cars confirmed that the fault lay with me.

Defeated I made it to my hostel in Hollywood. Never again. I mean the hostel was adequate, but Hollywood is a bit of a seedy place. I took a little walk, paid for my first meal with a hefty 20% tip, then exhausted fell asleep watching TV.

I woke tired, before my alarm. Light shone in through the curtains, I had slept for hours but I was still so tired. Triumphant I could make it to Disneyland early I reached for my phone. I don’t understand. The clock read 0130. I inched open the curtain, the light from the streetlamp outside stung my eyes. The dark backdrop of the night sky confirmed midnight. Great.

Attempt number two was a success. Excited for the day ahead I wandered down to Starbucks for a morning coffee (see below).

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I made it out to Disneyland in an Uber – where in classic LA style, the driver also was a part time actor trying to make it big in Hollywood. My solo trip to Disneyland had begun! Initially I felt a bit awkward and self conscious about being at Disneyland alone, but this quickly faded as I took advantage of the Single rider lines, and jumped far ahead in the queue for some of the best rides.

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The day drew to a close, and I made the mistake of going on the Grizzly river run as the sun began to set. This was followed by regret as I became soaked in freezing cold water. I left the park cold and shivering, making my way over the road to a Denny’s diner where I could warm up and grab something to eat. I was greeted with an over sweet hot chocolate and horrible all day breakfast sandwich. No more Denny’s for me. I hailed an Uber (with heated seats!) and headed home.