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Photo TR: Catrina and Ted visit Florida


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Each year, Catrina and I head to Orlando in October but have yet to check out any of the Halloween stuff. Primarily, this is because Catrina isn't much of a Halloween fan and I prefer not to go through themed mazes alone.

 

So ... this year, we met up with some of the fine people over at Theme Park Review and did some of the events. Over the course of five days, we took in IOA, Universal Studios, Halloween Horror Nights, Sea World, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Busch Gardens, Cypress Gardens, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Not too bad for a short trip, eh?

 

Tuesday night, we made it down to the Carowinds exit outside Charlotte. From here, it would be another 8-9 hours before reaching our final destination.

 

Once in Orlando, we checked into our room. Not at a hotel, but instead in a house full of blood thirsty coaster enthusiasts. The king bed was most excellent and was a nice departure from the hotels we typically stay in.

 

As you can see, the toilet was even "sanitized for our protection"

 

Thursday morning brought us to Islands of Adventure where we would begin a 15 hour day at Universal. In the train (from front to back) are Paul (Toronto), Dave (London), Eric (Gainesville) and Matt (Chicago).

 

Looking back on the lift hill of the Flying Unicorn.

 

Joe was in this position for much of the weekend. I seriously think that the boy could sleep just about anywhere. For the coaster dorks reading: You can see the new/lame lapbars on Ripsaw Falls.

 

The weather wasn't exactly hot, but a select few of us braved the elements to ride this excellent log flume. This was the first time that I had been on this ride in nearly 6 years.

 

New socks are a must when you plan on walking about 6-7 more miles before the day is over.

 

The group as we make our way over to Seuss Landing for a couple of rides.

 

Chuck waves hello from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

 

The challenge of this ride is not so much to stay bone-dry, but to get not too wet.

 

Larry doesn't look so confident that I will be able to pilot our fish through the water successfully.

 

Dave and Robb already rode Popeye, so there is no hope for them.

 

No comment needed.

 

Over at Universal Studios, the seasoned vets wait while all the newbies "whore up" Woody's Nuthouse Coaster.

 

Wow ... I managed to get one of our group in the photo. My photo skills are improving.

 

Outside the park, people were beginning to gather for Halloween Horror Nights.

 

I blinked my eyes for one second and this huge group appeared.

 

Thankfully, our group had their own "special" entrance.

 

Looks like Big Mike is excited to meet up with Jack and the gang.

 

Jack's transportation for the night.

 

Now inside, we were invited into the Freddy Kreuger Dreamwalkers maze for a little preview. Originally, the lights were supposed to be on, but I am sure that Catrina could tell you ... they were not.

 

Enter Dreamwalkers.

 

Once the sun went down, the park took on a whole new persona. Chainsaw wielders, clowns and freaks welcomed you around every corner and $9 drinks were available to all.

 

Apart from the mazes, HHN also offers a selection of shows. Rocky Horror, Jack's Show and the Freak Show were just a couple, but the one everyone loves is ...

 

Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure (for obvious reasons)

 

Our priority seating arrangement would put us right in front of the action.

 

Though the photos is blurry, you can see that the show is not appropriate for those younger guests.

 

Weird Al made an appearance.

 

As did the Geico Caveman and a Transformer.

 

The Grande Finale.

 

Many of the elements around the park are slightly modified to give a more Halloween feeling. This one is just way too easy to pass up.

 

This was one of the few "scare zones" in the entire park. Catrina was a little hesitant to walk through at first, but found a stroller to tag behind. Little did she know that even a stroller can't escape the clowns in this one.

 

Robb leads us to Jack's Funhouse. Out of all the mazes, this is the one that was the lease impressive to me. It just felt like something at any other park.

 

The entrance.

 

Inside, you wore these prismatic glasses that amplified the effect of the colors inside the maze. In Universal land, it is called "Clown-O-Vision".

 

No more picture for Universal, but it was a great night. Only made better by the wonderful planning of Robb over at Theme Park Review.

 

My ranking for the mazes are as follows.

 

1. Psychoscarapy: Home for the Holidays

What is not to love about this theme. The crazies have escaped the loony bin and crash a retirement community on Christmas Eve. Bonus points for the little people.

 

2. The Thing: Assimilation

I thought that this one and Dead Silence had the most "movie-like qualities". The sets were perfect and the audio breathtaking.

 

3. Dead Silence: The Curse of Mary Shaw

Excellent use of lighting and sound. The gags weren't huge, but they didn't need to be. This one was just eerie.

 

4. Friday the 13th: Camp Blood

Of all the "New Line" mazes, this one felt truest to the movie. The sets were great and Jason is the perfect shock scare when he pops from around the corner.

 

5. Nightmare on Elm Street: Dreamwalkers

The entry facade was amazing and elements of the house stayed very true to the movie. This one probably would have ranked higher for me if i got to walk through it later. I don't think they were quite warmed up yet.

 

6. Vampyr: Blood Bath

A mediocre maze saved by vampire strippers pole dancing.

 

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds

The maze was good, but the character almost made too many appearances. That couple with the sounds of multiple chainsaw going at once, made it a little surreal.

 

8. Jack's Funhouse: In Clown-O-Vision

Standard funhouse fare. Nothing that really stuck out at me.

 

More picture coming soon.

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Day 2 - Park 1

Sea World

 

While the rest of the group got up early to head over to Epcot, we relaxed a little before heading over to Sea World. The only real goal of the visit was to get the Shamu Coaster credit, so we knew we had plenty of time.

 

At the front gate, we paused while Eric took this picture of us in front of the Halloween display.

 

A nice little bonus of our visit was the Halloween Spooktacular. Since we were there on the weekend, they had all the people in costume and even better ... candy!

 

Sea World's "happy-go-lucky" approach to the holiday is a far cry from the insanity that is HHN. But, it is great for the kiddies.

 

Like Eric, who is seen here filling his bag.

 

The costumes are the furthest thing from scary, but they are fun.

 

"Ooh Yay! A big kid!"

 

Today's visit also gave me my first look at the new carousel.

 

It isn't very grandeur by any stretch, but nice to see they are expanding the kiddie area.

 

Before leaving the park, it is a requirement to fulfill my free beer quota. These micro taps should make the experience a little bit easier.

 

More photos coming soon ....

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Day 2 - Park 2

Magic Kingdom - MNSSHP

 

After leaving Sea World, we headed over to the Magic Kingdom where we would be meeting everyone for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. This would be Catrina and I's first Halloween event at the Magic Kingdom and while it was a far cry from Horror Nights, it was cool in it's own way.

 

Upon arriving at the Ticket and Transportation Center, I informed Eric that I had never had the opportunity of riding in the front car of the monorail. He immediately suggested that we talk to the operator and after a short wait, we were on our way.

 

This is way too cool!

 

The obligatory monorail shot for BeemerBoy.

 

Another rare angle.

 

We arrived right at 4 o'clock and the wristband patrol was just getting started.

 

The reason we are at the Kingdom on this particular night.

 

The lengths that Disney went to for the event were much more than I could have imagined.

 

The detail in each decoration was amazing.

 

We arrived at the park a little bit ahead of the rest of the group. The gang took this opportunity to catch a little nap during Mickey's Philharmagic.

 

7 o'clock rolled around and it was time to begin the trick or treating.

 

I understand that the Walrus is a rare sight, but some seemed a little too excited to meet him.

 

Dee and Dumb posing with the newest addition to the Alvey household.

 

Never mind the stroller, it is only a ploy to get MORE CANDY!

 

Another highlight of MNSSHP is the special fireworks show. During which, the castle is used as a canvas for special lighting and projections.

 

I took a lot of pictures during the fireworks show, but this one seemed to sum up the theme better than any other.

 

More fireworks.

 

Another big part of the Halloween event is the "Boo to you Halloween Parade"

 

The star of the show.

 

All of the floats had either a Halloween or Autumn theme. Remember, the theme is "Not so Scary", so there was nothing too frightening.

 

One of the highlights of the parade for me was the dog from the Haunted Mansion. Don't ask me why, but I thought this was really cool.

 

The infamous grave diggers that march in perfect synchronization. They occasionally stop in one place and circle while dragging their shovels. Thus creating a cool spark shooting effect.

 

On our way out, we saw this gang hitch a ride on the tram. I found this oddly disturbing.

 

Oh ... and one more thing ...

 

 

More photos soon ...

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Day 3 - Park 1

Busch Gardens

 

Saturday morning found us at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL. I used to live a couple blocks from this park, but have not visited it since Sheikra first opened. Originally, we were a little worried about the crowds and our decision to sleep in, but the weather kept the crowds at bay and all rides were walkons.

 

SheiKra, you bad thing, haven't had the opportunity to ride you for a couple of years.

 

Seasoned riders and first timers all enjoyed their rides on the first US Dive machine.

 

Justin told me that he prefers to live "on the edge". I still think that it might be a good idea to put the good old wriststrap on.

 

Apparently in Canada it is proper to have your shorts and shirt match.

 

I did not get any pictures of Kumba, because i was saving the camera's memory for more important things. Like this wonderful picture of the Cheetah Chase sign?

 

Our last coaster of the day would be Montu. Personally, it is one of my favorites and we took a ride in both the front and the back.

 

Obligatory goofy picture credit for Justin.

 

More pictures soon.

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Day 3 - Park 2

Cypress Gardens

 

The second park of the day has us driving off of I-4 and to the small town of Winter Haven where we would encounter the awesomeness that is ... Cypress Gardens.

 

Truth be told, I have actually been to this park before but that was many years ago (27 to be exact). But, that is a different story for a different day.

 

The main reason for most people's visit was the newly relocated Starliner (all the way from Panama City, FL).

 

This out-and-back coaster has a very similar feeling to Swamp Fox in South Carolina. The ride gives some nice little air over the first couple of hills but it all but disappears after the turnaround.

 

DynaBrake - Another fine product of Pittsburgh, PA.

 

The Triple Hurricane is now probably my favorite of all Jr. Woodies I have been on. It runs every bit as smooth as the Waldameer Comet but does a lot more. Extra points for the rib-cracking laterals on the final turn.

 

Piers, Catrina and Eric all pose for a picture on the Galaxy Spin while Matt just sits there and picks his nose.

 

Here is a wonderful picture of Catrina demonstrating the effectiveness of Vekoma's Junior SLC restraints.

 

Justin talked us into a ride on the park's ARM Drop Tower. Of all the drop rides, these have got to be the scariest.

 

The lift takes you up slowly before dropping you without any warning at all. By the time you realize that you are free falling, you slam to a stop at the bottom during what sounds like a multi-car pile-up.

 

Larry and the Brothers Johnson (wow that sounds like a cool band name) are ready to go on our last ride of the day ... Mega Bounce!

 

Chuck waves while Colin looks not so thrilled.

 

"I think I just dislocated my spleen"

 

And there you have it .. a visit to the wonderful world of Cypress Gardens.

 

More photos soon ...

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^If you're interested in how many rides you can hit in one night (and not in being freaked out or scared), then go for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at MK--all the major rides are open, and the waits are minimal (with the Haunted Mansion being the exception).

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