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Photo TR: Boldy's Birthday Bash 2017

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*The following Trip Report is rated PG-13 and only recommended for mature, non-judgemental readers with a twisted sense of humor, free spirit and appreciation for the ridiculous.


Since I got heavily back into coasters 4 years ago, found TPR, started to meet other enthusiasts, decided I needed to get out and ride these things for myself, I naturally started a bucketlist - the top of which were parks such as Cedar Point, Kings Dominion, Hersheypark, Dollywood, SFOG, and Busch Gardens Tampa. I've miraculously managed all but DW and BGT.


Every year since, I've promised myself I'd get down to Florida to ride coasters on my birthday, something that a Philadelphian with a December birthday couldn't do locally. Of course that was until Great Adventure's Holiday In the Park started a few years ago. While that event is great, it didn't quell my lust for the steel behemoths and warm sunshine of Tampa. The park and its rides just looked so good! Each year came and went, other things came up, HITP shortened the off season and certainly made putting off the trip another year a little easier. Then a visit to Busch Williamsburg last year intensified the desire.


Not to mention, this is a big birthday. Midlife, here I am. And since I have the hobby of a 13 year old, why not celebrate it that way?


If you want a deeper backstory on this trip (like how we ended up staying in Orlando, etc), or help planning a similar Florida park trip, dive into this planning trip thread. If you don't give a crap and just want to get to the juice, read on...


As discussed in the trip planning thread our plan was to fly down Thursday night and fly back Sunday due to work restraints. Thursday I had to work almost a full day thanks to the fact that as manager of a real estate office my job inevitably becomes incredibly busy the end/beginning of each month. You may not have noticed but I have actually scheduled the majority of my prior trips around the middle of the month to avoid screwing over my coworkers who have no choice but to pick up my slack due to the nature of our business. But, this was my birthday, and a big one at that. You don't get to choose when you're born and my staff had to suck it up for one day.


Dawn (commonly known to you all as "the missus") had taken Thursday off to take care of last minute shopping and prep, packing etc. Since we were doing this all without a car, and my office is 10 minutes north of the airport, while my house is 30 minutes north of the airport, we had our first - and hopefully only - logistical challenge. She could leave her car @ my office (not the worst place, but compared to the airport was free, though we'd have been much more comfortable with it @ the house) or I could have her download Uber and she could make her way to me. I did some googling and figured out that we could keep things simple and that I could call an Uber for her from my phone and have them bring her to me, and that yes I could add a second trip on so that we don't have to get a second Uber. (protip: make sure when adding a 2nd stop you tell the driver right after pickup so he doesn't schedule another call after yours. We knew this going in, and it wasn't any issue but just an FYI)


I normally close my office @ 5pm but our flight was at 7pm and they recommend you arrive 90 minutes early. The office is 10 minutes north of the airport but we have to pass our stadium complex (which luckily had nothing scheduled) and get down a small stretch of 95 that should normally take 10 minutes or less but rush hour traffic can turn into 30+. We gave ourselves plenty of time anticipating this with me calling her Uber @ 4pm. She made it down to my office by 4:20, I hopped into the car and into the weekend-long phenomenon of quirky, foreign-accented Uber drivers, starting with this friendly gentleman from Albania. We talked about all the places he's lived and he eventually went off on a tangent about his adventures smuggling pot on flights into Siberia when he was younger. He got us to Philadelphia International @ 4:40, just before the rare earthquake we had that day. Standing in security, we didn't feel it, but Dawn happened to ask me the time and when I checked my phone, as we later recalled after reading news reports about the quake, it read "4:47", the exact time it apparently happened. Strange stuff.


Security @ PHL was mostly a breeze, and we quickly found our gate and the Chickies (of course) two gates down. With an hour and a half to kill before boarding we saddled up at the bar and ordered our first of the incoming weekends' many drinks. I was delighted to see Mad Elf on tap, as it would guarantee a buzz before boarding. The bar was busy but not slammed and the two bartenders were complete sh*theads who were more interested in socializing and playing with the register than making money off of customers.



Mad Elf vs Vodka & Cran

We ordered crab fries to split and wound up ordering another round of drinks while we waited... and waited... and waited for our fries, before we were suddenly asked if we wanted to settle up. We did, hoping the fries would be out and we could scarf them down before running to our gate, but upon inspection of the check we noticed they were never even put in. Sh*theads. That was the smallest tip I'd leave all weekend, as we luckily left the assh*les in Philthadelphia.



Smell ya later, Philly!

We flew Southwest on one of their newer planes. I don't know anything about aircraft other than I don't want to die in one, but it seemed like a big deal as the crew wouldn't shut the f*ck up about it.



This is us! I am making my "I don't have to work for 3 days" face

I don't like planes but it was a nice plane, I guess. The flight was uneventful, in fact we even both dozed off (two Mad Elfs in quick succession will do that to you) and were landing in Orlando just before 10pm.



With only carryons we got out of the airport in no time and had an Uber on its way to grab us in less than 10 minutes, hitting zero traffic on the way over to the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive which would serve as our homebase for the next three nights. We were checked in quickly by an extremely friendly woman at the front desk (who also happened to have the appearance of a Jefferson Starship reject) around 10:15, who showed us a map of the grounds and how to find our building and room.


When booking the place I'd read some good reviews and the website did a great job of selling me on it. The location was clutch - right between Seaworld and Funspot, we could get the shuttle to BGT at the massive Orlando Eye, which was right next to the hotel. It wasn't ridiculously priced, but obviously wasn't a budget hotel either, and it looked pretty nice in photos. Dawn isn't much of a park person and on paper the weekends itinerary looked like insanity to her, so I knew having a cozy base to bounce off of all weekend would make it much more enjoyable for her.



Very central location for us.

After booking the room I dug deeper and found some pretty awful reviews (bedbugs, photos of rooms on website not actual rooms, gross pool/gym/spa facilities, non-working A/C, the grounds being too spread out/impossible to navigate, sounds of nearby highway traffic all night). I was worrisome but went forward anyway, knowing that people are just whiny bitches and are more likely to leave reviews of negative experiences out of spite.


We immediately found the hotel to be above our standards. Not by much, its not new-construction-super-swanky-sh*t, and very obviously a renovated old school dorm-style hotel with a half dozen 2 story buildings spread out over a few acres of land, separated by two pools, a small restaurant, and a lagoon. It reminded me of the hotel my Grandparents stayed at when we all went to Disney in the 80s (my parents, aunts, uncles and all the kids stayed down the road at a sh*tty EconoLodge) with its winding palm tree-lined pathways, lush landscaping, small wooden bridges over the lagoons. As we wandered through the quiet grounds looking for our building, we immediately started joking about watching out for gators.



Not my photo (thanks, Google) but this is the grounds of the hotel, with the massive Orlando Eye just a short 5 minute walk away

Upon finding our building we realized not only were we close to the lobby/entrance but also a short walk to the pool, which we had already decided we likely wouldn't do purely due to time constraints. Still, it was right there if we wanted to. Most exciting is realizing we were also right behind the Wawa adjacent to the hotel (what can I say, we were excited to have the taste and convenience of home all weekend - also this Wawa, unlike at home, has takeout beer!)



Here is the basic layout of the resort. The red dot is where our room was. The Wawa was obviously not finished when this satellite image was taken but I can assure you it does exist.

Sadly we didn't take any photos of our ("recently renovated") room but I can assure you it looked just like the photos on the website. We asked for a second floor room to avoid any kids jumping around above us. We had a balcony that looked out to some trees in front of the lagoon.



Not my photo but our room looked exactly like this.

The room was clean, and so far we seemingly had none of the issues people had mentioned online - water got hot right away, no bed bugs, clean bathroom, working fridge/ipod dock/alarm clock/air conditioning. We unpacked, settled in and wasted no time making our way to check out this new Sunshine State Remix of our favorite hometown hoagie joint/convenience store, picking up some sandwiches, snacks for the room, as well as beer to stock our mini-fridge with, and headed back to finally eat some dinner.


We sat out on the balcony until after midnight, talking, laughing and discussing our plans for the weekend, before setting our alarms for 8am and turning in. We had a full day planned, chock full of massive B&Ms, booze, wild animals and a shady little spot where we've heard you can have a lot of fun.


Subscribe and stay tuned for part 2!

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As far as airports go, PHL isn't terrible. "Not terrible" is the highest praise I ever give an airport. The other end of the scale, "complete shithole," is reserved for the travesty that is O'Hare. But of course, they couldn't have a good Chickie's and Pete's. Airports are legally obligated to promise awesomeness and then crush your hopes.

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The other end of the scale, "complete shithole," is reserved for the travesty that is O'Hare. B


Not to derail the thread, but behold.

This is the best part:


The terrible ranking comes after the airport, located in Queens, announced traveler satisfaction was at an all-time high.

Sounds like a complete shithole to me.

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Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'll have another update ASAP.


As far as airports go, PHL isn't terrible. "Not terrible" is the highest praise I ever give an airport. The other end of the scale, "complete shithole," is reserved for the travesty that is O'Hare. But of course, they couldn't have a good Chickie's and Pete's. Airports are legally obligated to promise awesomeness and then crush your hopes.


Yeah I don't mind PHL in general. I have never had any major issues and I've flown in and out enough to know exactly what to expect. We've been @ that Chickies before and had a fine experience. We just happened to have two bartenders that just did not give a f**k.


You really have to know how to read Trip Advisor reviews and figure out what hotels are really like. Location often times is more important that super reviews. Glad you had a good time, looking forward to more!


Yeah, I try to always take negative reviews with a grain of salt, unless they are absolutely overwhelming. Like I said, I know people are more likely to review stuff when they have a negative experience. This place had a ton of really good reviews, and as the trip got closer I noticed more added from peoples recent trips, a good sign. Not to spoil the report but we had absolutely none of the issues we saw online. Like none. I joked that people had just made stuff up, or had ridiculously high expectations. We really liked the place and would stay there again in a heartbeat. I feel like Dawn is much pickier than me about hotels and she's had nothing but good things to say.

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I have a Wawa within an easy walking distance of my apartment. Like less than a 5 minute walk. Greatly looking forward to reading this report as Coasterbill and Boldikus tend to write the most entertaining stuff.

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Thanks for the comments! We had a terrific weekend in Orlando and I'm stoked to tell you more about it. We didn't take a ton of photos, instead occupying ourselves with fun and relaxation, but I do want to take a quick moment to acknowledge Dawn's excellent photography skills and contributions to this report. You can tell hers are the ones without the boarder, mine show up with them, not sure why that is.


Friday morning the alarm went off and I popped right up, rolled out of bed, throwing on pants and sunglasses and out the door, avoiding eye contact with any other humans I came in close contact with in a stealth, half awake mission to grab some donuts and absolutely necessary morning coffees at... you guessed it! This was another huge reason for our excitement over having the Wawa so close - we don't exactly love their coffee, but we both need at least a cup every morning and hotel coffee is generally disgusting (we have had it in desperate situations). Wawa would certainly suffice.



View from our balcony.

We took our time getting ready since SeaWorld was so close and didn't open until 10am, and we hadn't yet decided if we were going to take an Uber or take advantage of the hotels free shuttle over to the park. Just as we were ready to walk out the door, about 9:50am, I called down to the front desk to find out the details about the free shuttle. I figured it might run once an hour but she informed me there were two in each direction every day, and that we missed the first, and the next one wasn't until 11am. We weren't going to sit around for an hour at this point as we were literally ready to walk out, but I did note the times of the two returning shuttles in case we wanted to take one of them back.



The building across from ours. Ours looked just like it.

We headed down to the entrance of the hotel and pulled up the Uber app, and had a driver 3 minutes away. It was a pleasant trip hitting no traffic, about 15 minutes and cost $11 (including tip). It was neat to drive right by Mako and Kraken as we headed in.


We did wind up buying Busch Williamsburg annual platinum passes for this trip as we'll be using them there (and at Sesame Place) next year, and knowing of the 10% discount on basically everything it just made sense. Knowing we also get free preferred parking I figured we could direct our Uber right into the gate and just drop us off right at the entrance. At the toll booths they seemed to know the drill as the woman working the booth immediately directed her attention to us in the back seat and asked if we were passholders. I presented my pass and ID and she slapped some sort of tag onto the windshield, welcomed us to the park and told the driver to take us right to the front. I could get used to this.



We up in here!


Where to?

As we arrived just after park opening we had a short wait at the bottleneck of security and the turnstiles. My everlasting streak of good park weather would continue this weekend, with a predicted high of 80 degrees and no humidity. The sun was already blazing and we were thankful we loaded up on the sunscreen before heading over.



We worked our way through the entrance area forgetting to look for the Dine With Shamu cart, instead popping our heads into the Key West area (we love it there!) and then stopping at the flamingos and Manta to watch a cycle in front of the notorious splash element.



Couldn't get it at the exact moment.


Close enough.

While this was my first visit, Dawn had been to SWO as a kid, but was already noting how different it was from what she remembers. I had a pretty loose plan for SeaWorld and that was basically just to hit Kraken first and then do whatever the hell we felt like, since all I ever hear is how the coasters don't get lines but with the park putting VR on Kraken, the line crawls. This actually worked out nicely as Dawn has been a fan of all of the floorless coasters she has ridden so it seemed out of the three large B&Ms here, this would be the best start with.




A good decision as we arrived to an empty queue and were asked if we were riding with VR or without to which we replied without. Little too early for that. Into the station to find a one train wait for the front row, my favorite place to ride floorless roller coasters, since the novelty is kinda lost anywhere else in the train. Thanks to the dumb VR the loading still took 5+ minutes before dispatch. Heading up the lift I mused to myself about how this was just the beginning of an epic weekend of riding a ton of well-regarded rides at a couple of awesome parks.



Sorry I wasn't waiting a year for a train.

Going into this trip I'd been of the impression Kraken gets mixed reviews. A lot of folks seem to find it average and then I feel like I see/hear folks rave about it. I really enjoyed it. It has good pacing and a nice bit of force to many of the elements. I am definitely a fan of the straight drop and it felt much larger in person than in POVs, and the following run of the massive vertical loop into the dive loop into the zero-G was excellent.



I know this is hella super-enthusiast-nerd of me to say, but am I alone in feeling like the cobra roll is completely out of place? Like, I kinda forgot it was there. Being buried in the layout, the coaster was missing the bold visual statement that all the other floorless coasters w/ cobra rolls (Dominator, Bizarro, Hydra, etc) feature. I realize it's a totally dumb gripe. The rest was great - I really enjoyed the loop/floater hill/tunnel/corkscrew finale. Dawn said she got a good bit of headbanging on this but I got absolutely none, so I'm certain it has to do with our height since she's 5'4 and I'm 6'2 and restraints on most rides sit on each of us differently.




From here stopped by Atlantis to watch a few splashdowns and noticed they were cycling empty boats. We wandered toward the back of the park stopping in shops and looking for somewhere with beer, before we found ourselves by the Shark Encounter.




We thought we should get a drink first and walked up to Sharks Bar & Grill, stopping to check out the shark/stingray pool in front of it. When we walked up the hostess kindly informed us they didn't being serving alcohol until after 11:30. Oh no, was it still that early?!



Since we couldn't yet get any booze I declared that I wanted to ride Mako and asked Dawn if she would ride with me. If you've read any of my other reports featuring Dawn you know the coasters she refuses to ride are large/fast steel coasters with lapbars, in particular B&M hypers with clamshell restraints. She's done Nitro and Phantoms Revenge and loathed both. Not long ago she mentioned she would like to eventually try Nitro again, so I brought that up and explained how Mako was newer and likely smoother, etc etc and that she wouldn't have to worry about facing that fear again all weekend, but she wouldn't budge, explaining she would be happy to peruse some stores if I wanted to ride.



I've ridden only 3 B&M hypers (Nitro, Apollo and Goliath @ SFOG) and loved them all. Luckily for me no one at SeaWorld has any interest in riding a brand new B&M hyper as the entire rather extensive queue was empty as was the station except for the front and back rows. I'm lucky to have a solid B&M hyper close to home in Nitro and prefer to ride the back row right side, so I got in line with the two guys in the back row and hopped in with them, in what I was hoping was this rides magic seat.



Up the fast lift we climbed and in no time were headed over the drop and I was ripped from my seat. Its no Skyrush but I got some really fabulous ejector air over the drop and heavy floater air over each of the hills leading up to the midcourse which all felt considerably steeper than the other older hypers I've ridden. It felt very fast and very tall. I loved the hammerhead, and hills that followed, and I will note that I definitely felt that trim back here. The final leg was was different, and I enjoyed the laterals in the back row but I think prefer the bunnyhops of the other B&M hypers I've ridden. I got off grinning ear-to-ear and immediately found a Mako fridge magnet in the gift shop.



A little before noon we wandered further back past the Infinity Falls construction area, not able to really see much besides the tops of some cranes, and came upon the Pretzel Kitchen. We could smell it from the midway.



By now the alcohol was flowing throughout Seaworld so we each grabbed an Angry Orchard and Dawn got pretzel bites with cheese while I got one of the famed bacon pretzels, and we grabbed a shaded table outside to relax and eat some breakfast (I mean, it is bacon). Holy sh*t these pretzels are insane. Sweet salty bacon-y buttery goodness. My eyes were rolling back and I was already declaring this the best birthday ever.



Heaven in a basket

As we were eating we could hear a show taking place in Shamu Stadium across from where we sat and when the show soon let out the area was mobbed, with a line quickly forming for pretzels and beer. We sat and people watched and enjoyed our grub and suds. Perfect timing. We finished our pretzels and took our beers with us over into Shamus Happy Harbor to check out the area (whoa that carousel! cool play area/ropes course thing!!!) and of course to see just how small and embarrassing the kiddie coaster would be.




Well I'll be damned, it was actually fairly respectable looking and we saw other adults on board (with kids of course, but we knew we should be able to get on). Also its themed to Shamu and the trains are awesome!! I'd love to have been a random park guest/parent sitting and watching their kids and then spotting us - two grownass adults quickly chugging the last of our beers before we hopped onto Shamu's Express with a train full of children. Cha-ching!




I see you Manta


I love both Kraken and Makos paint schemes


We still wanted to hit Manta and Journey to Atlantis and then check out some animals and maybe a show, so we took the boardwalk path across the lake and stopped in a few of the shops over there. Part of the deal I made with Dawn was that if she came with me on this trip she could browse/shop as much as she wanted to. We hadn't seen the Sky Tower running at all but I kept an eye on it.



Loving life!


Really nice park


Creepiest toys ever

We found our way back to Manta but it looked to be down and cycling empty trains, so we moved on to Atlantis and found that it too was cycling empty boats. Ooof!



We headed into the gift shop/aquarium underneath and spent a little time in there on Snapchat sending hellos to our families, and checking out the stingrays, jelly fish etc.





Very cool! We loved the floor with the fish/rays underneath it. Heading out we checked on Atlantis again at the entrance and overheard the greeters telling others it would be a while and to check back later in the day.



So cool



So we headed back to Manta and saw it was up again. We worked our way through a completely empty queue, taking our time to check out each of the tanks, and were again greeted by another mostly empty station, so obviously we queued up for row 1.



Where is everyone?

I have ridden 2 B&M flyers, both Superman clones, and while I do know the back is where the force is at, the front is nice for the view and not having to stare at the bottom of someones dirty shoes - or even worse - feet. Dawn was excited as this was one the coasters she was most looking forward to. We both absolutely loved it. As expected the pretzel loop delivered on the insanity and the remainder of the ride was far more interesting than either of the Superman clones. I was on the right side and during the "splashdown" I actually got totally spritzed on my right arm and leg. Under the hot Florida sun I couldn't have cared less. Anyways, what a great ride. Easily one of both of our favorites of the entire trip.



Upon exiting Dawn exclaimed "I could ride that all day!" and I asked "you wanna go again!?" to which she gleefully responded "YES!" We walked right back into the queue and right back into row 1 for another lap. So good! One small gripe we both had was that they really didn't need to be running two trains and we wished they hadn't as both rides we got stuck out on the brake run in the flying position for a few minutes. The second train was really not necessary.



Leading up to this trip everyone told me the Antarctica ride was dumb, and that if we wanted to see the penguins to just pick the "walk through" side. Both queues had the same wait, about 20 minutes, though as we waited for the walk through side, the ride side's line seem to fly past us and we regretted our decision.




A bunch of quick queues hopping in front of us didn't help matters but at least we could laugh at those people because who the f*ck would waste money on fast pass in a park like this? LOL! We also had a chuckle while waiting at a parade of old folks on scooters attempting and yet failing to navigate the queue, other guests and each other, incessant reverse beeping and all. I regret not getting a photo of that because it was one of the most ridiculous things we witnessed all weekend.



Anyways, we eventually made it into the short movie room and then into another completely pointless holding room, and then into the penguin exhibit, that after the temperature outside, felt like it was 10 degrees. We poked around, took some pictures, looked at each other shivering, laughed and headed toward the exit. We probably didn't last in there more than 5 minutes. But the penguins were super cute and totally entertaining for all 5 of them!



Just keep swimming...

Since we hadn't bit the bullet on the Dine With Shamu deal, we saw the show times for One Ocean and noted the next show was at 4pm. I don't know if Brit would ever talk to us again if we missed One Ocean. We were receiving threatening texts from her by now. But first, it was time for another drink and we still wanted to check out the Shark Encounter since I was preoccupied with Mako earlier. We again stopped to check out the shark/stingray pools in front of Sharks Bar & Grill and went in to have a seat at the bar and order some fancy cocktails.



Our friend Nemo. He literally lives in a bar.


Yo, these drinks were STIFF!

The bar itself is an aquarium, adding to the fun. Our bartenders here were awesome and we sat here and relaxed for a while before heading out. We still had plenty of time before One Ocean when the entrance to Mako caught my eye and Dawn motioned for me to go have fun. Through the queue I hurried and up into a half full station and two people waiting for the front row. While I typically prefer hypers in the back, this was my chance to try the front. I still wasn't used to these type of waits at a big park on a beautiful day like this, and kept waiting for the masses to show up (spoiler alert: they never did). I was on the right side of the front row and holy sh*t this ride is awesome up here.


Everything - first drop included - up until the MCBR, is absolutely phenomenal up here. I loved looking over down the first drop on this, just incredible. Dive coaster vibes. The first two huge hills were insane, and we tore through the hammerhead. All of those little hills after the hammerhead are amazing, sitting in the front I could not feel that trim like I could in the back. I love the little ejector hill right before the mid course. The twisty finale is also better up here, being pushed up and into the curves as opposed to yanked around them sideways like in the back row. I was hooked. I got off with the biggest sh*t eating grin and found Dawn who informed me she snapped a photo of me coming around the final turn over the water.



Look Ma no hands

Raving about how great it was, she told me to go take another ride and I happily obliged. Back into a ghost town of a station and back into the front row, same seat. Just as fantastic and again she got my photo as we swooped around the final turn. Good lord I love this ride.



Upon exiting we joined the mass of humanity that appeared out of nowhere and were all apparently headed in the same direction as us - to Shamu Stadium! We got a seat pretty far back in the splash zone as it was fairly warm and didn't mind getting a little splash. The folks around us with ponchos on were a tad concerning.






One Ocean was pretty cheesy, though a ton of fun, but let's be real its mostly just watching whales leap out of the water repeatedly.





Most interesting to me is how the trainers don't go anywhere near the orcas anymore. While we enjoyed the show, I think we were both happy it was on the shorter side. (Sorry, Brit!)





After One Ocean we made a quick pit stop back @ the Pretzel Kitchen this time to just get a few more beers to take with us toward the front of the park. Since the show had just gotten out we had a short wait here but after having such a great day so far we didn't mind. Joining the rest of the crowds heading back toward the front of the park we noticed everyone was queuing up at the other theater near the new construction, apparently they were doing some sort for Christmas show. Passing Mako it was sporting a 5 minute wait and I gave Dawn the look, handed her my beer and ran back through the queue and up to... holy crap there's actually people here. No biggie, it was maybe 20 people total and since the ride loads so quickly and they were running two trains I was in the back row headed up the lift in minutes. I would have gone for the front one more time but it was now a 3-4 train wait and I felt bad making Dawn wait for me again. Plus, we still had more to get to.



Determined to get a ride on Atlantis we headed back and were stoked to see it was up. We figured with it being down for so long that it might now be busy but we worked our way through the queue and right into the station, only having to wait two boats to board. We were warned that if you sit in the front you will get drenched thanks to a tiny unassuming hill halfway through the ride so we begged the grouper to put us further back and he obliged - in row 2. Doh! The two teenage girls who were put in front of us kept us entertained the entire ride, right away asking us if we'd ridden before to which we replied that no we had not, but that we did know the front row gets soaked, much to their dismay.



I'd heard the park ripped out a bunch of the themeing recently to which I have to say that's a shame because if there is some sort of story line to this ride we completely f*cking missed it. Otherwise, it was a cool ride with some pretty, colorful sets in the dark section, a great big and very steep first drop into a huge splashdown that thankfully only spritzed us. The girls in front happily declared they didn't get very wet when I morbidly informed them the little drop around the corner was what would likely soak them and naturally they started to freak out, unable to escape. And get soaked they did. We even got a little bit of it in row 2 but were mostly unscathed. The second half was quick and fun, with that great little twisty coaster section into another splash pool, but again we managed to not be drowned. We both really liked Atlantis. A nice change of pace from the B&Ms, I'm regretful we never made it back around for a second ride.



Manta is fabulous.

Since we were close by we couldn't pass up another ride on Manta. We both loved it so much and I really wanted to experience it in the back row, knowing how intense the Superman clones can be. It was also sunset which always makes for a great ride. We queued up with two other riders and once loaded had a little wait while they took the other train off (lol finally). Mother of god that pretzel loop in the back is intense. Also, this time Dawn was on the left side and she got wet during the waterfall fly-by.


On one of our earlier rides on Manta I spotted the Pineapple custard place right around the corner from the entrance and saw the sign for a Pineapple Twist and thought "Geez that looks like it could be Dole Whip, maybe just with a different name?". I have never had Dole Whip but have obviously heard lots about it. Being a huge fan of both custard and all things pineapple, I had to give it a try. We hadn't eaten since the pretzels and weren't exactly hungry yet, but it was going to soon be time to head out, and a creamy cold snack sounded perfect. Now that it was getting dark we wanted to check out the Sea of Trees light show display on the lake so before we headed back that way toward the waterfront I grabbed a Pineapple Twist in a waffle bowl.



Faux Dole Whip?

So what's the deal? Has anyone had this here? Is it the same thing as Dole Whip? They just can't call it that because Disney? I don't know what to think of it. I didn't dislike it, but I also didn't love it. The waffle bowl was excellent. I'd imagine I would've liked the flavor of the custard more on an ultra hot, humid day. Dawn felt the same way - didn't hate it, didn't love it either.



My camera is terrible @ night, apologies in advance.


Tree light show thing


The tree show was cool but crowded so we bailed as soon as the custard was gone, popping into a few more shops and checking out merch and souvenirs.




I had high hopes having been to Busch Williamsburg but overall we loved the park and I can't wait to go back. I would have happily spent the evening here re-riding Mako and checking out more of the animals. I feel like we missed a lot of that - we went for Shark Encounter twice and got distracted, and we planned on checking out the dolphins, sea lions, and Turtle Trek but time got the better of us. I'm happy we just did the show and had our own lunch of beer and pretzels. We never saw any activity from the Sky Tower but I suspect that's normal. We found the park absolutely gorgeous, and all of the employees we encountered to be pleasant and helpful. Special shout out to our bartenders @ Sharks. I will say its definitely strange to be listening to Christmas music all day long in sunny Florida at a theme park but that was the theme of the weekend.



As we walked toward the entrance we realized we had no plan to get back to the hotel. We missed the 5pm shuttle and would have had to wait almost an hour for the 7:15. I didn't know how easy it would be to get an Uber to come into the parking lot and grab us, but as we passed through the gates I immediately noticed a taxi stand with 4 cabs lined up and drivers milling about. I walked over and asked if anyone was for hire and a friendly gentleman hopped up and said yes.


We jumped in the back and headed to the resort. A quick refresher and we'd head back out for an evening at the legendary Fun Spot America!


More to come...

Edited by boldikus
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Great report!


Don't fret about choosing the non-rider line at Antarctica. The other line moves faster but there's a huge queue room after the non rider line splits off. While in that queue room, it's almost a guarantee that the ride will break down at least once because it's the most unreliable piece of sh*t ride ever built.



I have no words...

Edited by coasterbill
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love the report, and glad y'all had such a good day!


(we never got to ride Atlantis, because thunderstorms took it down before we had a chance to on our 1 day there ).


isn't that Carousel fantastic??


we still don't know what the hell this is that Nick rode (he rode the one next to me on the Angler fish), but we did a couple of rounds on it, as I am a huge carousel fan, and the SWO one really is pretty stunning.



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Awesome. Between the no beer before 11:30 and the baby...thing... Very entertaining. Every time I see this park, it just cements the idea that I am going to have to go to SeaWorld. Was just looking at some San Antonio hotels this morning.... Maybe can swing it next year. Crossing fingers.

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After a quick bite to eat back at the hotel we freshened up and headed back out around 8pm to the lobby/pickup spot to call another Uber, which were plentiful all weekend. Thanks to our central location right off Sand Lake/iDrive, we never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a pickup. We had a brief ride over to the much-recommended Fun Spot America, the Uber only costing us $9 w/ tip.



Freedom Flyer & White Lightning

Going in we knew this was going to be a completely different experience than what we got at SeaWorld today. I'd heard lots of things about Fun Spot, from here and elsewhere on the web, from friends, from random enthusiasts. I'd heard things like "run down", "quirky", "a quick stop", "no frills fun", and more than once I was told they had "one of the best wooden coasters anywhere". That was mostly why we came. Also, it was cheap, and very close to our hotel. We managed to buy tickets earlier in the week on Cyber Monday and only spent $25 per ticket, which would give us each a wristband good on pretty much everything but the parks ridiculously massive Sky Coaster. All good, I had no intentions of going near that mammoth contraption anyway.



Did I mention we had a full moon?

After a short 5 minute ride over we pulled down a nondescript Orlando street and spotted the gargantuan green Sky Coaster tower in the distance. As we got closer we could see the rainbow tracer lights on the much raved about White Lightning. When the driver pulled into the lot the front entrance gave me flashbacks of being 15 with Dad dropping us off at the movie theater.



Thanks, Dad!

We walked up to the deserted entrance and stopped at the handful of random security dudes. Dawn had bought one of these waistbands she wore all weekend to keep her phone, etc secure and managed to ride everything (well, except Mako) at SeaWorld without issue earlier in the day. The security dude at FunSpot asked her to take it off and hold it over her head then aggressively, with a completely serious face, asked her if she had a shotgun in there, before the three of them burst into laughter. Oh ok, so its that kinda party. We nervously laughed back at them before they told us to have a great night. We wandered inside, spotting the ticket booths to our right. The park looked completely deserted, a surprise to us on beautiful Friday night just before 9pm, though the ticket line was a short wait.



Upon receiving our wristbands we turned and spotted the parks two coasters. We noticed a mostly empty train going up Freedom Flyers lift and we hurried into an empty line and queued up for the front row, again passing on the VR the park is currently offering on the ride. We're just not really interested, plus we wanted to see what this ride was like before we considered doing it with a germy phone strapped to our faces.


Neither of us had ever ridden one of the junior Vekoma inverts and agreed it looked pretty mild. The lapbar restraints are much more minimal than either of us expected. It was here we first experienced the Bizarroworld Fun Spot ride ops, aka replicants imported from a remote off-world colony (lol any Bladerunner fans here?). The two guys running this thing were devoid of any personality whatsoever, absolutely bored out of their skulls, didn't seem to want to interact with us or each other, a total 180 from the nauseatingly overly-friendly personalities we encountered at SeaWorld. With the train to ourselves, up the quick tire-driven lift we ascended, and down the first tiny drop and... whoa thing little thing is kinda crazy!


I kid, people. It was definitely a little more forceful than we expected, especially that final helix with its crazy footchoppers just before the station, but overall we thought it was a fun little ride. As we pulled into the station we couldn't help notice the robo-ops were halfheartedly applauding at the two of us, furthering the Bizarroworld vibes.


Now it was time for the main course and we walked over to White Lighting, the parks modest GCI woodie and arguably their star attraction. Just like with Freedom Flyer the station was empty and we lined up for row 1. The robo-ops were a smidge more talkative here, but still seemed to be programmed subservients. I don't have a particularly high woodie count and the majority I have ridden I don't rank highly save for a handful (El Toro, Lightning Racer etc). I enjoy wooden coasters but I'm definitely more a fan of steel.


As we crested the lift, Dawn - not knowing it had a curved drop - excitedly screamed "where's the track!?" and we plummeted into what is one of the finest roller coasters - wood or steel - that I've had the pleasure of riding. Neither of us had our hands up down the drop, instead clinging onto the lapbar with hesitation of what lie ahead, but as soon as we hit the first airtime hill, her arms flew up quickly followed by mine. I can't tell you if riding in the dark contributed to our experience, but what followed was a perfectly smooth but completely twisted airtime machine, tossing us out of our seats relentlessly through the course, never losing an ounce of speed. Breathless when we hit the brakes, we gave each other the familiar "whoa that was amazing, babe" look of satisfaction.


Holy crap this ride is exceptional.



Too busy riding White Lightning to take photos of it, but Dawn snagged this when we were leaving.

Turning back into the station we were again greeted by more unenthusiastic applause from the robo-ops. Amazingly a few folks were queued up for our row, but we wanted to ride again so we made a quick dash down and back up into the station, waiting again for row 1. Another incredible ride, more uncomfortable applause.



We could have happily stayed here all night, but we had a little more park to explore, and as a huge fan of screaming swings I spotted Space Invader nearby. Funnily enough, years ago Moreys was the first screaming swing either of us had ever ridden, and while I kinda hated it at first, she loved the thing. Over the years she's grown a fear of them while they've become on of my favorite flats at whichever park I'm at that has one. I had full intentions of riding this one, as its included in the wristband unlike many screaming swings which tend to be upcharges due to their extremely low capacity. With no line to speak of, I hopped right on while Dawn watched. Apparently I'm a trendsetter as a fairly healthy line formed as soon as the robo-op sent me into the sky.


While the massive Skyhawk @ Cedar Point is without a doubt my favorite of these rides, Moreys Screaming Swing holds a place in my heart simply because while its a smaller version, they not only elevated the ride itself a good 15-20 feet off the actual boardwalk, if you sit on the side facing the pier you are swung out over the beach, giving you an additional 15 feet of height on the swings.



White Lightning photobombing my SS pic

Fun Spots is installed right on the ground, making it feel a good bit smaller. The cycle was also very brief, only giving me two full swings, but I still had a blast. She didn't staple me so I got some great airtime and a nice view from up there. The cherry on top was of course more emotionless applause from the robo-op, with the kids in line joining in with their own golf claps. This place is so weird!



Wandering around we noticed Gatorville, laughed at the signs outside, and kept walking.


Haha I'll pass

We wandered toward the back of the park stopping in the cafeteria style eatery/bar for more Bizarroworld vibes. The few people that littered the joint definitely had an air of backwoods Florida to them, mullets and all. At SeaWorld the majority of people we encountered were obvious tourists, many with thick European/spanish accents, but the people at Fun Spot were definitely Florida locals. We saddled up to the bar where we were waited on by Miss Kim, who couldn't have been a day over 15. But no matter, she was mixing up the cocktails like nobodies business so we ordered a few of our own.



The draft beer souvenir cup was tempting but I had to try the Fun Punch at Fun Spot.

We were delighted when Miss Kim informed us we were allowed to take our drinks out into the park and walk around with them, as opposed to hanging around the bar with the trailer trash that by now we figured had come out to Fun Spot on this fine Friday night in an effort to get sh*tfaced before tearing up the go-kart tracks, since once we wandered back there, we actually encountered some lines.


The tracks here are kinda crazy. As some of you know I am not a licensed driver (though I can drive if necessary) so go-karts are my chance get behind the wheel like a big boy without much risk. They have four tracks: blue, yellow, green and red, that are all more or less built on top of and intertwined with each other. Its actually quite a sight when you approach. They have actual names like "Commander" and sh*t like that, but I can't be bothered so I will refer to them by their colors. The red track seemed small and without elevation changes so we said screw that and went for the blue track next door which goes like 40 feet up and looked to have an airtime hill all the way up there.



Oh yeah, Its Christmas time!

At first Dawn was worried about driving as she hadn't brought her glasses with her, so I told her to ride a double with me and let me drive to which she balked at with copious amounts of laughter. I wore her down and she got in line with me agreeing to let me drive. As we watched the lap before ours, she had decided to drive herself. Of course she was also warning me not to intentionally bump her. The kids driving as we waited were going nuts, and the queue had filled up behind us, so I knew we were in for a treat.


We hopped in, and after an inaudible and unenthusiastic schpeil from the robo-op (seriously though, the kids working the go-karts were awesome and much more into their jobs than any of the other ride-ops in the park) off we went, me obviously in the slow car with Dawn tearing past me and everyone else.


I could hear shrieks from elsewhere on the course, and later learned it was her, every single time she went over that airtime hill. Speaking of which, it does actually send your cart airborne and makes you feel like you are going to crash and die. The "Go For It!" sign and fire extinguisher beside this hill only helped to increase the ridiculousness. We loved it so much, if the wait wasn't long here we probably would have ridden again.


We noticed the yellow track was fairly extensive and had only a few kids waiting so we jumped in there to wait a cycle. I enjoyed the blue track much more but the yellow was really long and the steep downwards helix in the middle was great. Again, Dawn whooped my ass and was at one point battling with another speed demon for first place. While White Lightning was absolutely incredible, I think that the moment when we both fell in love with Fun Spot was while drunkenly riding go-karts with Floridian trailer trash. I know I am making fun of it a lot but we really did have a great time.



Sorry if the photos seem to get blurrier as the night goes on. No, that's not a coincidence.

Wanting to get a view of the park, and since we hadn't decided if we were going to check out the Orlando Eye at all this weekend, we decided we should have a mild ride on the parks Ferris Wheel nearby. The wheel looked to be the shadiest ride yet, but throwing caution to the wind, we boarded anyway.






The only ones on board, another robo-op sent us on our way, up into the Orlando sky providing a great view of the park and area around us. The wheel rotation was fast but we had a great time taking some photos and we even caught some fireworks way off in the distance (Disney?).



Touching back down we decided to pop in and visit Miss Kim again for some fun cocktails. Now about 10:30, we were both losing a bit of steam. I definitely wanted to get a few more rides on White Lightning and hadn't yet made the decision to ride the parks famed batsh*t crazy Paratrooper. As much as we'd been drinking all day we still weren't drunk and as midnight crept closer I made it a mission and ordered some crazy tropical version of a Long Island with a million different kinds of booze.




I tried to get a corn dog for a snack but the outdoor food stands were already closing up, so I gave up on that idea. Fun Spot definitely felt like a park to get a corn dog at. We sat outside by the water for a few minutes with our drinks before heading back up front to hit White Lightning a few more times, riding it in the front two times in a row before Dawn took a break and I continued riding, getting a lap in the back row as well. The back was great for the drop but otherwise its very much a front seat ride - smoother, better airtime. Out of the 7 coasters I'd ridden today, White Lightning was up there with Mako as one of my favorites. Both airtime focused but completely different experiences. White Lightning is phenomenal and definitely in my top 3 woodies, and top 20 overall.


On our way out we decided to hit Freedom Flyer one last time since it was cycling an empty train with not a single guest anywhere near it. We had another fun little ride on it, nothing to write home about but we both liked it much more than we expected. We did not end up trying to VR at all. Yeah I know we're lame.


As I said we really loved Fun Spot. It perfectly straddles the line between shady and awesome. Totally strange to find a cool little park like this to be completely empty on a beautiful Friday night but it worked out nicely giving us the run of the place. It has the vibe of a permanent carnival, and when first entering we had a feeling of confusion and hesitation but we left completely in love with the place. CoasterBill often mentions he's jealous of locals who have a Fun Spot close by, I now totally understand. I know it would probably get old eventually but I would kill to have a little hole in the wall like this near me. I am excited to see how they expand, and will absolutely make it a stop anytime I am in Orlando. I am already referring it to all my Disney/Orlando visiting friends.


It was a fantastic day for riding, here is a little tally:

Mako: 4xs

Manta: 3xs

Kraken 1x

Journey To Atlantis 1x

Shamu Express 1x

White Lightning 5xs

Freedom Flyer 2xs

Space Invader 1x

Go Karts 2x

Ferris Wheel 1x

(Sorry I didn't ride the Paratrooper or Sky Coaster, it wasn't in the cards. )


(A short epilogue):

Just before midnight we headed out into the parking lot to hail another Uber, only waiting just a few minutes when our next driver Ramy showed up in a super cozy Cadillac XTS Sedan. I'm not even a car person but we were both like "whoa" when he pulled up. Super nice. And the driver had a personality to match. This guy was like Rico Suave. We told him about our night and mentioned we were hungry to which he began to slowly rattle off a list of his favorite swanky eateries near our hotel. Once we got to the hotel we entertained the idea of heading back out for food and more drinks near the Eye or on IDrive, but a quick google told us most places within walking distance closed at 12 or 1. We joked about Wawa and nixed that immediately.


We did however have North Americas' largest McDonalds a 5 minute walk to the corner of IDrive and Sand Lake, which was open 24 hours. I know what you're thinking and we were too - McDonalds is gross. We rarely eat it. But being exhausted and short on time (we had to be OUT of our hotel by 8:30 tomorrow morning to catch our shuttle to BGT) we knew it would be easy and hassle free. Not to mention it apparently it has the worlds largest play area (lol) and a really expanded menu beyond burgers and fries, and even has table service. The self ordering kiosks were a nice touch, helping to ensure the least amount of human to human contact as possible at this time of night.


We walked over, down a really shady and longer-than-we-thought-it-would-be stretch of Sand Lake and had to cross over the insane intersection @ IDrive, but we managed. This part of the night is admittedly extremely blurry to me, but I do recall that upon entering we quickly noticed this looked nothing like any McDonalds we had ever been in - this location had giant fishtanks and multiple levels and people running food, and a whole area where workers were preparing food OTHER than burgers and fries. The self ordering kiosks were easy to figure out, and even with all the other choices, we just got what we normally get at McDonalds - burgers and fries.


We found a table and had our food out in what felt like seconds, filling up our cups at the plethora of Coke freestyle machines, before we stuffed our drunk faces full of non-food. I'll admit it was delicious and totally hit the spot. After this is totally blank, but apparently we made it back to the room and remembered to set our alarms since before I knew it, we were getting up to check out my biggest bucketlist park - Busch Gardens Tampa!!


Stay tuned...

Edited by boldikus
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Great update! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed Fun Spot as much as I assumed you would. I f*cking love Fun Spot.


We've totally been to that McDonalds but I think (correct me if I'm wrong, locals) they totally renovated the entire thing in the last year or so. I vaguely remember some drunken mini bowling in there.

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