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Taylor's Coaster (and Food) Adventures

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Days 19/20: DisneySea and Disneyland Day 3/4


Alrighty. We're back for one last update. Before I finish up, just want to say thank you to everyone who has followed along. This time last year, I was a few days out from visiting these parks. I am so, so grateful to Robb and Elissa for planning a perfect trip. Truly incredible to just have everything totally figured out for me when it came to transportation, lodging, and these parks. Could never have done this myself. And likely would never have become interested in Japan as much without all the great reports from them/others over the years.


It is crazy to think of the opportunities I have had because of this little community. The forum has been a beautiful thing for me and am super proud to have been a part of it for ~10 years (likely more as a reader). Cannot wait to see what is in store down the line.






Nemo - 1

Indiana Jones - 6

Raging Spirits - 6

Tower of Terror - 3

Aquatopia - 4

20k Leagues - 2

Carousel - 1

Gondolas - 1

Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster - 1

Toy Story Midway Mania - 1

Sinbad - 2

Electric Railway - 2

Transit Steamer Line - 1




Tritan's Band - 1

Fantasmic - 2

Magic Lamp Theater - 1

Mickey Big Band Beat - 1

Out of Shadowland - 1


Tokyo Disneyland


Peter Pan - 1

Snow White - 1

Monsters Inc. Hide and Go Seek - 2

Pinocchio - 1

Big Thunder Mountain - 2

Jungle Cruise - 1

Western Railroad - 1

Swiss Family Treehouse - 1

Canoes - 1

Roger Rabbit - 1

Star Tours - 2

Space Mountain - 6

Splash Mountain - 6

Haunted Mansion - 4

Pirates - 4

Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters - 2

Tom Sawyer's Island - 1

Pooh's Hunny Hunt - 3

It's a Small World - 2




One Man's Dream - 1

Electrical Parade - 2


So yeah, I did a lot. Some folks will see this and wonder why it was necessary to do some of these rides so many times. I dunno, I just really enjoy them. Plenty of folks on the trip were more than content with just two days at the park. And honestly, if you aren't a Disney crazy person, it probably is enough time. It is tough, because these extra two days could've been spent exploring Tokyo more and having loads of super unique experiences. So, tradeoffs must be made, I guess!


Okay, now back to business. The way Tokyo Disney tickets work is:


Days 1 and 2: Pick one park to go to.

Days 3 and 4: Hop as you please.


It is an understated bonus that the price includes hopping parks. Because of how close the parks are to one another (two quick monorail stops), it is so easy and worthwhile. Then I got to do some of my favorites (Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, etc.) on three separate days, instead of two. Also, ticket prices are still very affordable, compared to the States. Which is confusing because attendance is... high.


Either way, I am going to recite here my day so you can get an idea of just how much you can accomplish in one day.


Rope-dropped DisneySea, went and grabbed a Tower of Terror FP, then rode standby. Then walked back to the Arabian Coast and began a bit of a food adventure. Rode Sinbads. Had a Raging Spirits FP and went into line for the FP before opting for Single Rider instead (shorter). Then rode indie single rider with no line. Rode twice. Got Gyoza and Grapefruit Blood Orange Beer Cocktail (yes it deserves to be capitalized). Rode 20k Leagues Under the Sea stanby. Did two shows, explored the SS Columbia and left Tokyo DisneySea at 2:50 for Disneyland. On monorail at 2:54, in Disneyland gates by 3:08. Grabbed a Space Mountain FP, rode Jungle Cruise, rode train. Had a dinner, rode Splash Mountain single rider, did canoes, Cinderella's Castle walkthrough, Haunted Mansion, had a snack, watched electric parade, rode Pirates, Space Mountain FP, Star Tours, Space Mountain stanby, and Monsters Inc.


Yeah, it was a crazy busy day. But I wouldn't have it any other way.



Welcome to the best illusion (for Taylor, that is) that Disney has ever pulled off. It is simple, but SO effective. The first time I saw it, I was dumbfounded.


Cool little props everywhere in Hotel Hightower.


Started out the day with some yummy eats in the Arabian Coast.


Spotted the Genie, though! Lots more characters doing random interactions, I would say, than I was used to seeing in Florida.


Maple Cream Puffs with some nuts and chocolate sauce. Delicious. And notice the prices!



Some tandoori chicken!


This place had some yummy options for lunch/dinner. I didn't partake, though!


After some snacking, I went off to ride Indiana Jones. This is the end of the single rider line. Walk down this narrow stairway and at the bottom of the second set of steps you are literally at the loading platform. I never waited more than 5 minutes. Truly incredible.



Next up on the snack quest. GYOZA. Plenty of horrifying pictures of Robb eating it, I knew I must have it. The first day I was at the park, I didn't make it to the stand before they close (before park close).


Blood orange and grapefruit beer cocktail. I remember REALLY liking this.


Mysterious Island was just stunning in person. Grand and something to look at everywhere. Unfortunately, no Journey to the Center of the Earth this trip.


More beauty.


This whole area by the harbor was a blast to explore. So much cool stuff to see and interact with!



There are no words that can be used that accurately describe what this park is actually like to explore. You can read countless reports and still be amazed when you experience it.


The Chamber of Planets with a super cool model of the solar system that you could tinker with.


Some alchemy.


Went and saw the show at the Magic Lamp Theater. Don't remember being overly wowed by it. But, alas.


Little its of Disney magic, everywhere.


I'd love to have the money to stay in the Hotel MiraCoast.


Could rotate this properly. But you get the point.


I had really wanted to give these a go, just because of how cute they were. Looked for em in Tomorrowland because that is where I had read you get them. I struck out, but managed to find them on the bridge between American Waterfront and Cape Cod. One chocolate, one vanilla, one strawberry. They could never be as tasty as they are adorable. But they were quality!


Where you get on the gondola.


I am a bit confused by this picture. Because it precedes me entering Tokyo Disneyland after leaving DisneySea midday. Is this to get in to Disneyland? Seems odd.


Loved this guy!




This was a nice railroad! No stops in the park because of some weird rules in Japan where if it stopped, it would be considered a form of transportation and they would have to charge. Haven't fact checked that. But that's what I had heard (explains the cost to ride the monorail throughout the resort).


Some nice shots along the route. I think these parks would feel a lot less alive if the river, riverboat, and Tom Sawyer's Island didn't exist.


The Canoes! We'll get to you later. These are a ton of fun and are just a super unique offering. These poor cast members do 80% of the work.


I appreciate this scene from Big Thunder a lot.


Love the little surprise in the train tunnel.


There's the sign. Yeah, the Stitch overlay seems like a net positive. I wouldn't mind Disney Florida taking this approach.


Oh man, this Waffle Sandwich was delicious. So many snack worthy things in these parks. This is how I prefer to eat. Fill up on a bunch of smaller things.


Choo. Choo.


Got a bit wet thanks to some IRRESPONSIBLE rowers. Cough, cough. They were small children. Alas, it felt wonderful because all four days in these parks were brutally hot. It may have drizzled once.



Canoe views.


Wow, I am so good. This is likely my favorite Disney ride. It is so tough to decide that. But it just has it all.


The Cinderalla Walkthrough is definitely worth doing if just for the neat views of Fantasyland. If you haven't already, read up on the Mystery Tour that used to take place in the basement of the castle. Some interesting videos on its bizarre existence.


Recommend these pizza spring rolls over in Toontown. I legitimately walked back there a second time to have it.


They have a guy that comes around to collect garbage before the parades start. This is a smart idea.


Now for a whole bunch of Electrical Parade shots. Every float, in fact. I loved this show and actually saw it a second time so I could fully appreciate it. Being tall I could kind of sneak in last minute and stand in the back of a group and still see quite well.







One of my favs.


The best of the best. This Genie float goes absolutely crazy. Watch one of Robb's videos of the parade.












I know these pictures sort of sucked. But that's alright. Better to see than not to see.


My kind of sponsorship!


As the day winded down, we frantically realized that Monsters Inc. had opened up again (had been closed so we opted for Star Tours instead to end the night). We manged to hustle off Star Tours (had actually considered walking straight through the ride to the exit. I believe we actually did ride Star Tours and then ended up being one of the last few to get on the ride, as you can see here.


Goodbye Tokyo Disney


Sight. This is where the trip comes to an end. One more day at these great parks and I was determined to make the most of it! Did a few new things, revisted some favorites.


From my phone record:


Rope dropped Tokyo Disneyland, grabbed Space Mountain FP, did standby for Pooh. Walked right on and got to ride the third 'mode.' Started as third car in convoy and finished first. Standby Small World, got honey popcorn, and used Space Mountain FP. Off by 10:05. Got Big Thunder FP, then rode Splash Mountain via single rider... twice. Shopped around a bit and obtained a delicious waffle. Rode Pirates and Big Thunder with FP. Arrived at One Man's Dream show at 12:50 for a 1:30 show and got in. Was able to leave seat before show started to get a drink and still come back in. Ate lunch at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Rode Haunted Mansion, then Splash Mountain single rider again. Then Space FP, before leaving for Tokyo DisneySea.


Explored Mermaid Lagoon, rode Caravan Carousel. Ate dinner at Yucutan Base Camp, rode Indiana Jones single rider, did Electric Railway, and Big City Vehicles. Tried to Aquatopia on 'Get Wet' mode, but did not get wet. As soon as I got off, they were transitioning back to normal mode for night. Watched Fantasmic again. Rode Raging Spirits twice single rider no line. Rode Aquatopia twice more, and finished with the Gondolas.


PHEW. This was an insane day.



Oh, how I love this ride.


Oh someone made a funny!


Oh, I will.


Getting ready for that afternoon parade.


Caught a bit of it. Mickey getting carried around like the royalty he is.


This waffle was so good. Vanilla custard and strawberry sauce. Yum. Like , or so. Why can't Disney Florida be like this. I snacked so hard because it didn't feel criminally expensive to do so.


One Man's Dream was a nice show! Retold various Disney movies in a different way. Lots of cool costumes.



Swordfish with potatoes and broccoli. The food here is good. But this portion was TINY. I never really felt like portions were an issue here or in Japan. But this place is a bit of a rip off, IMHO.



But the vibe is great! Come on in, if just to get a glass of water to check it out!



These tombstones always make me chuckle.


More crowds lining up. So orderly. So prepared.


The only selfie I took the entire trip. There were LOADS of people just hanging out here taking pictures for what seemed like forever.


Expansion brewing.






Everyone was wearing these watermelon dressed. Think it was supposed to be like Minnie's favorite fruit or something. I dunnnnno.




Some more views of DisneySea from Disneyland. If you didn't know already, the fireworks (cancelled due to high winds all five nights I was there), shoot off between the two parks and so both parks get the same show.


They had like 18 cars running on this puppy. Every 15 seconds a dispatch.


Goodbye, friend.




The cast member insisted I wave this flag around.


The little Venice area was super well-themed.


A few more shots.


This is the game where you either win a big stuffed animal if you win or a pin if you lose. Line had to be 30+ minutes, but I guess it is worth it!


Big City Vehicles. They hauled. Maybe 3 mph.


You are a beaut.


Thanks again for reading all these reports! I hope I have inspired a few of you to visit Japan. It is such a unique country. Wonderful people, wonderful parks, wonderful culture everywhere, wonderful food, and yeah. It's just the best. Planning my return visit every day until I'm back.

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Really great report! I've enjoyed reliving the trip through you. Thanks for the kind words, we hope to have you on many more trips with us.


As for your picture you were confused about with the big lines midway through your day? I'm assuming that was around the time when they offer the Starlight Passport (after 3 or 6pm depending on the day). It can get very busy around those times as it's a great deal and many people take advantage of it so it's almost like another mini-ropedrop!

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^ Tokyo Disney has so many great ticket/visiting deals for (mainly) their local visitors, and those from overseas who are lucky enough to get to visit TDLR. It's wonderful!


And thanks for the awesome TR on all of Disney AND Japan, Taylor! I miss Japan (and Disney) so much.

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I've loved following along, and seeing all the fantastic pics.


and agree 100% on your comments about Robb, Elissa, the Mods here, and the entire TPR community as a whole (including Kristen too, as her joy in some of the pics that are shared is fantastic).


So glad I found this place years ago!

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...

Knoebels Phoenix Phall Phunfest


Well, I have a lot of other photos from trips I would like to post. But I am going to go out of the order because I didn't want to NOT post up a report of Knoebels Phoenix Phall Phunfest this past weekend. Maybe this will be the spark to get this thread going with other reports from the past year or so.


Either way, here's the scoop. I was unable to leave work until 3:00 on Friday, so we hustled over from Pittsburgh and parked around 7:10 PM at Knoebels, hungry and eager for some airtime. We checked in to the Coaster Club only event and were wristbanded and given four coupons. They were:


1. Free small bag of kettle corn

2. Free roasted ear of corn (with omfg delicious option for 'mexican style' with mayo, cayenne pepper, and parmesan cheese).

3. Free slice of cake

4. Free hot dog, hamburger, ribbq, tri-taters, pierogies (yum but not the buttery, oniony ones), tiger tail, and drink, with a bacon and cheese topping bar.


This was different than in 2017 when it was seemingly unlimited (which would be totally unnecessary). Oddly enough, the line for food was immense and far longer than in 2017 (though Phoenix was always 1 train wait or so). We abstained for a little while and eventually bit the bullet, alternating holding spot in line with solo Phoenix rides. We ended up with 13 laps on Phoenix, 1 on the Haunted Antique Cars (a huge treat) and 1 on the new Twisted Timbers ride, as well as loads of delicious food. Why they do this, I dunno? I thought maybe it was to butter up enthusiasts who may have a vote for the Golden Ticket Awards?


Regardless, Friday was a great, great success. We were tenting over at Lake Glory and had to set up shop around 10:30, which we did. Weather was rather chilly at around 35F, but we made do.



Dick singing Ring of Fire, just as I remember from 2017.

Saturday, we got to the park around 9:50 (craft show opened at 10, rides at 11) and the lot was already 2/3 full. We weren't too worried because folks generally come just to see all the vendors. I had purchased the 'enthusiast wristband,' which was priced as normal, but included two free slices of Cesari's Pizza, a drink, a haunted mansion coupon, and a free game. I gave Kylie the wristband and I used some tickets I had been given for Christmas.


Here is the part of the report where I summarize every food item we ate on Saturday.


Potato Pancake: $1.50/each or 3/$4, plus $1 for apple sauce to top them with- this was quite tasty and something I had not tried until this year.


Chili at the Wharf: $4 for a big bowl- this was pretty solid, hearty, sweet chili. In 2017, there was a pop-up stand right next to the waffle ice cream sandwich stand that sold chili that was INSANELY good. This was not that chili. But still, good.


Cesari's Pizza: $3.75/slice (in our case, free) 'nuff said. It could've been warmed up more. One day, I will have reason to purchase a whole Pie and it will be fresh and even more delicious.


Roast Beef Platter with Fries and Slaw: $8.25- this was a simple but well done rendition. Roast beef was tender and pretty juicy but could use some seasoning or something. Fries were fresh cut and slaw was REALLY good.


Sweet Tea Slush: $3.5 for a large- we love these and will never not get them.


Zombie Fries at International Food Court: $4- These were fried onion and jalapeno strings served with a tasty spicy boom boom sauce. Pretty solid!


Fresh Roasted Peanuts: $2.50 for 1/2 lb bag.- These are underrated and need to be experienced.


Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich: $4- Neapolitan goodness. I wish the waffle was like super warm. But this is a yummy, yummy thing.


...phew. I think that's it. I mean, it sounds like a lot. But it was like < $40 and we ate like... constantly.. all day long. I wish I had taken pictures of everything for you guys to salivate at. But trust me, none of it was bad.


Now, for a few pictures.



We worked our way through the park, hitting up all of the usual suspects. There are certainly some rides we never feel the need to do here. But that's only because there are SO many must rides. The Skyway had some funny decorations, though I didn't catch the skeleton they usually have on one of the carriages.


The slide is always fun, though I think I need to like push up the mat onto right side of the slide as I head down. Maybe I'd maintain some speed better. Is it a kiddie attraction? Yes. Do we care? Naww.


The park has nice bits of decoration here and there and practically every ride has something clever or funny thrown on it.

As this was Kylie's 25th birthday, she had a goal she had set for herself Friday night: to ride Phoenix 25 times. She had thought it possible to get fairly close Friday night. But I think we only ended up with around 13. So the two of us got two rides on it earlier in the day on Saturday and then around evening time, it was decided, I would wait for the Haunted Pioneer Train and she would marathon Phoenix with her wristband (I love the ride but I couldn't justify shelling out alllll those tickets). I joined her for ride 25, though!



The other thing we did... that I regret a bit... was ride the Looper. Two years ago, I braved it for the first time to humor Kylie. We were ridiculously unsuccessful at actually flipping it because one of us mismanaged the brake pedal. This time around, we got three laps on it. The first ride, Kylie manned the pedal and we probably got 5-7 rotations under our belt. I wanted to give it a go, so we went a bit later in the day and I managed to get us going pretty good, getting 10 or so in a row. Toward the end of the night, against my better judgement, and because I knew how much she likes this deathtrap, I joined for one last go-round. I manned the pedal and got 25 straight rotations in one cycle for her birthday. Once you get in the rhythm of pushing and releasing the pedal, you got loads of room for error. I felt a bit weird the rest of the night, but alas.



As far as the Flyers go, we got three cycles on them and the thing is running same as ever. The operator had to slow it the cycle before I went on (justifiably as it was just a mess of people whipping the sails). I got three seemingly normal cycles and really can't describe the craziness of this ride any better than others have done. It seems absolutely incorrect that a ride should do this. And the folks in line behind me seemed to agree as they kept discussing how 'sketchy' the ride seemed. I love this thing to death and hope it never changes.


One other note: The Haunted Antique Cars and Pioneer Train are truly awesome. Knoebels has no business putting this much effort into these things (they operate like 9 evenings a year for like 4 hours a night).


The Antique Cars have a good four or five actors along the way (one actually hopped in our car for a trip, as we were one of the last few of the night) and quite a few great scenes. The Train tells a proper story and really takes advantage of the real estate back in the woods. They're popular and for good reason. Don't miss them!



So, that does it for Saturday. Sunday morning, we got to the park around 9:15 and had breakfast at the food court.


$11 got us:


2 big pancakes, side of bacon, side of ham, home fries, toast/jelly, two eggs, and a large coffee. Yeah, of course it was good.


From there, we decided on a whim to play some mini golf. One of the few things we have not done in this park, so it seemed wise. $4.50 is a great price!


Of course, it is a great course. What else do you expect from Knoebels. It was honestly a bit exciting going from hole to hole seeing what was next. Also, it sits right by the Carousel so you get to spend a good hour enjoying the beautiful music.



From there, we played a few rounds of Fascination (no luck) and then grabbed an early small lunch, sharing the popcorn chicken bowl from the Roast Beef Stand (turning down the pierogies in the process, but next time). $5.25 and quite yum! Took another stroll through the craft fair and were on our way home by 1:00. A short little day, but fun, nonetheless.


Final ride tally for the weekend.


1- Skylide

1- Haunted Antique Cars

1- Bumper Cars

1- Giant Wheel

1- Grand Carousel

1- Haunted Pioneer Train

1- Skyway

1- Whipper

1- Black Diamond

3- Flyer

1- Flying Turns

1- Haunted Mansion

3- Looper

16-25- Phoenix

1- Stratosfear

1- Twister

LOTS- Food


Thanks for reading. Sorry for the shortage of pictures. There are plenty out there. Phoenix Phall Phunfest is a great excuse to head to the park. For me, with limited time off, it's real nice that Friday can still be an eventful fun evening even though it doesn't start until 7:00. The rides are never too too crowded (just plan to ride some things a bit later in the evening if the line looks too long). Love, love, love this park and everything about it. We sat on the Ferris Wheel trying to think of criticisms (we are so used to just heaping praise) and these are the only ones we could come up with.


1. Bathrooms could definitely benefit from some modernization

2. Game prizes suck (but prices for games are affordable, so it is a wash

3. Layout can be confusing (but also charming in its own way)


Yeah, the place rocks as these are all super nit-picky.

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Agreed, great report Taylor! Echoes a lot of our own experiences from the weekend. My only complaint is even with the whole weekend from Friday night onward it still felt like there just wasn't enough time to experience everything that we wanted to do. We never got a chance to spend some time in the Fascination parlor, for example, and we didn't get a chance to check out the Scenic Skyway or train rides either. Guess this just means we need to go back again real soon!

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This is the motto of all the credit whores out there, so what does it matter if it's a slide?


Yeppp. I felt even better when a father walked his kid up the steps and turned around. TOO KIDDIE FOR ME HE THINKS.


Agreed, great report Taylor! Echoes a lot of our own experiences from the weekend. My only complaint is even with the whole weekend from Friday night onward it still felt like there just wasn't enough time to experience everything that we wanted to do. We never got a chance to spend some time in the Fascination parlor, for example, and we didn't get a chance to check out the Scenic Skyway or train rides either. Guess this just means we need to go back again real soon!


Thanks for reading! It is just impressive how much there is to do. We really didn't wait in many long lines at all (Flying Turns was about 30 min, which is solid, and the train took me a while but that is to be expected), and it still took us every minute we had. We checked off all of the things, including a few new ones.

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^Knoebels has always been one of those places where it just feels impossible to run out of things to do and see! Truly, I've only ever spend 1 day at a time at the park and it NEVER feels like enough time.


Yep. I spent a /week/ there last summer with friends. We figured we'd spend maybe a day at the park and the rest of the week doing other stuff in the area, but ended up spending several days at the park itself, and I still need to get back for more ASAP.

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Martin's Fantasy Island and Erie County Fair


Hello again!


Let us go back to August 11, 2018. It was a day. I had decided to visit Martin's Fantasy Island, because it was a park I had *some* interest in, but knew my girlfriend didn't. So I made the visit solo and bunched the Erie County Fair in to make it a whole day affair. It was a lot of driving for one day (from Pittsburgh), but it ended up being a pretty nice night!


Martin's Fantasy Island


This park is a mixed back, for sure. I wouldn't really ever feel the need to re-visit. But I didn't dislike my time there. Just seemed to lack in rides that would bring me back/charm.



This was actually a big struggle. I found cheap discount tickets online, but they actually needed to be printed, which I forgot to do. So I had to take a detour to a Staples to use their printer. A pain, but it all worked out.


Believe this is Buffalo?


A must-stop institution in up-state NY. My first time.


Man, it was pretty darn good! The baked beans, especially were unique and tasty.


We press on. Our final destination this is not, but we are headed this way.


We have arrived. It was a Saturday, so I didn't know what to really expect. The parking lot was practically completely full by the time I arrived, so I got a little nervous. Lines ended up being... *fine*


The park is kind of split into a couple different areas.


Silver Comet, which is practically the only real reason to visit the park.


This back section of the park really felt like a slightly more permanent carnival. Not a whole lot in the way of charm. All of the adult rides are nestled back along one straight midway path to the back of the park where the Crazy Mouse is.


I did enjoy Silver Comet and got a few rides on it. Operations were... rough. But it is a nice little ride. I wouldn't say it does a whole lot, but the layout is a bit quirky and I'll never pass on a woodie.


This was the biggest eye sore. One of those traveling bumper cars. I get they're much cheaper than a full-size installation. But...


Whatever these things are called... I forget. But they had one that would be open during limited hours. It is absolutely a novel idea. But... kind of stupid.


NEVER BEEN ON ONE OF THESE. I waited far longer than I would've liked for this. I think it is ridiculous that they can't have two lines: One for groups of 1-2 and one for groups of 3 or 4 and just match groups up. The lines would move SO MUCH FASTER.




There was a car show of sorts going on in the park, which I guess added something to the vibe.



The water park was a nice little thing and definitely seemed like the main draw.








Another eye-sore if you ask me. Just a concession stand like you'd see at a fair.



Big ole line available for Silver Comet.


The midway.


So the front area of the park was actually quite nice. Really would seem like another park entirely. They had this nice little show for the kiddies.




And the kiddie area also had some charm. It was a bit rundown, but felt nice.









Maybe some of these are from the train ride. Nice little train ride.


They have a campground. Interestingly, the train stops and drops off folks there, which is nice.



Nice little pizza joint with space for a show.



Here we are.





Erie County Fair


I had two good reasons to visit: The Fab Four (Beatles Tribute) and I guess, credits. I find myself enjoying these larger fairs. It's a metropolis that gets puts up for two weekends. Loads of interesting food, lots of stuff to see and do. Doesn't always bring out the best people, but that's alright!



Here we are!


Let's explore a bit.



It was pretty crowded, but also was a pretty big fair, so no issues.



I thought this was funny. Seems legit.






Woo. A great credit.



Watched a bit of this Ninja show. Always find these little traveling shows interesting. These folks work their butts off and travel from fair to fair.



They had a bunch of these little 'freak shows' set up throughout the fair. Gimmicky as they are, there was something charming about it, especially because I'm sure they aren't making much off them.


I know I've seen this at other fairs. But I can't remember the name. But you just throw balls at the same time and play for BINGO.


Lots of permanent structures all around the fairgrounds. Really well-maintained.


Oh, just a clown.



Oh, just a bowl.


Oh, just a one-man band.


Oh, just a ketchup dispensing robot.


Oh, just a credit.


Oh, just a heart attack. I did not go for this, but I am sure it would be great.


This was the night's entertainment. Got there early enough to secure pretty great spot. And they were a lot of fun. I know it ain't nothing like the original. But for a free show, they're one of the best around Beatles tributes.



Sorry for the low picture quality throughout this report! But thanks, as always, for reading.

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Around here, that bingo ball rolling game is called "Bingball" and every catholick church festival has a giant tent with Bingball.


Not to be confused with BingBong...


(o; Great report! And every home should have a ketchup robot!

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Orlando Trip Day 1


Hello again! So, just as I landed at my layover in Montreal from the TPR Japan 2018 trip, I received a message from my boss informing me to come in to the office the following day. I had worked in the Frac industry (yuck) for a year and a half and got laid off, along with most all of the engineers I worked with. Oh well! At least I got paid for the 3 week vacation I took. The result of this was some free time for myself and some flexibility to book flights. I found a cheap cheap flight to Orlando for < $100 and decided to pounce. Hadn't been to any other parks in Orlando besides Disney and Universal Islands of Adventure.


My flight got me into Orlando at a reasonable hour, but not early enough to go to a full day park. So I decided to make the most of my day and volunteer at Give Kids the World and visit Fun Spot Kissimmee in the evening for the after 9 PM pass. My departure day I had a flight around dinner time, so I chose to do the same thing and volunteer at the village and then take an uber from their to the airport.


Give Kids the World Two Day Visit


If there is one thing I am truly grateful to TPR for, it is introducing me to Give Kids the World through the Coasting for Kids event. I have been fortunate enough to participate in the event four times and each has been an absolutely wonderful experience (shameless plug). I have always wanted to volunteer at the village and experience first hand the joy it brings people. I am going to do the best I can to cover some of the unique features of the village here, since I haven't found other reports on the site.




Give Kids the World was found by Henri Landwirth, a Holocaust survivor who recognized and understood what it felt like to be young and hopeless. The charity offers children battling life-threatening illnesses (with the help of Make A Wish) the opportunity to visit their enormous village in Central Florida. The escape from the harsh day to day reality these kids and families face includes a 7 night stay in a villa with complimentary tickets to Disney, Universal, and Sea World, as well as all other expenses like transportation, food, etc included.




GKTW boasts that no family in need gets turned away and that they can grant wishes VERY quickly, because they understand children can be facing very dire and quickly changing circumstances. That was one of the main reasons Henri founded the village in the first place. He was in the hotel business and had decided to do his part and help these families visit Disney. But accommodating families in his and other hotels was more difficult to arrange and couldn't be done as quickly. So the village was born.




All of the areas of the village are named after former wish children. Amberville is no exception. From their Facebook page:


"This venue in the village was named after a girl named Amber Holman. Amber stayed at #GKTWVillage in the summer of 1990 when her older brother, Travis, was a wish child. Less than a year later, Amber was diagnosed with the same disease that had affected Travis. The Holman Family then returned back to the Village to fulfill Amber's wish! The Family's courage moved Henri, in 1996 the Village unveiled their plans to build a fun center named Amberville Train Station as a tribute to the family's faith!"



Amberville boasts three rides. I know the two flat rides were donated by Zamperla and I believe the train was, too. All are handicap accessible without the need for any transfer, which is so awesome. One of my volunteer shifts I got to operate Lori's Magical Flight. It was a great time!



This area also has some remote controlled boats and loads of arcade games.




The last big thing in Amberville is this huge train display which is impressive in scale. Donated and maintained by folks who love trains. There's a sign encouraging kids to push every button one after another.



Julie's Safari Theater

Every night, they show NEW Disney movies that you would typically only be able to see in actual theaters.


The schedule at the village is jam-packed. Every day has a different theme. Christmas and Halloween are celebrated every week, so every wish family gets that experience. They have Village Idol one night where all the wish kids get to show off their talents in a welcoming environment. You can volunteer to help out with any of these activities, as well!


You can take a nice walk along a wooden trail (handicap accessible).


In the distance is the huge pool area, including pirate ship.


The Castle of Miracles is a very special place for families. Wish children get the opportunity to have their star placed in the castle, where it will stay forever. The star's location is stored in a database, so if the family revisits the village, the volunteers can easily show them exactly where the star is. It's a very powerful way to commemorate the time the family spent there, which may well have been the best week spent they've spent together.


Sorry for the finger.





The Park of Dreams


The Park of Dreams is the village's zero-entry pool. The day I was there, there was a huge pool party and it was so, so awesome to see all the kids enjoying the fountain area and play games together. Seeing how happy the families were for their kids was just a beautiful thing.


Sorry for the finger.



Once a week, they do horseback rides. I was there the day they did them and all the kids got cowboy and cowgirl hats to keep.

Matthew's Boundless Playground


This is a really neat playground, decked out with all sorts of cool little features. And, of course, very very handicap accessible. My favorite part is that the whole thing is a giant board of Candyland. Once a week, they play "The World's Largest Game of Candyland" and the kids are their own game piece, moving around the board together and meeting some of the 'characters' from the game.



Well-shaded for the Orlando heat!


While there, I volunteered in the Cafeteria for a couple shifts, shuttled folks around the village (awesome) in a long golf-cart (there was a train that you could drive around the village, but I believe they reserve that for more experienced volunteers), and operated the rides. You can put in requests for different kinds of responsibilities, but they're all great!


I especially enjoyed the shuttle service. Got to really talk to the families and hear about what a great time they've been having.


The village is actually quite large, covering 79 acres and containing 75+ villas (each able to accommodate 2 families). It took me a bit to figure my way around as I shuttled. But driving around really allowed me to see the whole facility (it is a long walk from end to end).


Just going to throw some more details in these captions... Families get complimentary tickets to the parks, free meals (compliments of Boston Market and Perkins providing the cafeteria food), free bus transportation to/from and visits from characters from Disney and Universal (and video time with Sea World trainers and animals).

The Villas


Each Villa is a duplex. You can check out videos online to get a tour of the rooms. But rest assured, they are quite nice! Each unit has a unique architecture, lending this real cool, whimsical atmosphere to the village. The kid's bathroom has a hot tub and is twice the size as the parents. Everything is designed to be accessible and every night, families get little gift bags themed to that day's activities. In 2016, they opened Banyan Park Villas, a 24 unit complex. They are running out of room a bit, so this complex allows them to accommodate even more wish children. A bad problem to have, sure, but they saw a need and acted.


Notice they don't look alike.


A really nice pond where you can fish!


Little touches like this are everywhere. The magic is real.


The new apartment complex!


My vehicle of choice to shuttle folks around. They actually have a pizza delivery service for folks later in the evening when they return from the parks and don't want to go to the cafeteria for food.


Little dead end.

Towne Hall


This is where some of the meet and greets happen, as well as a Princess Tea, and primarily...it houses the cafeteria. Which is huge. Really, lots of seating. The food, as I mentioned is donated by Perkins and Boston Market and is pretty decent stuff. Families can come here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, though if you volunteer during the afternoon, it'll be really dead as most families are visiting the parks.


I love the design of all of these buildings.


The cafeteria is really really nice.


Some free pizza in the volunteer break room. There are so many folks who volunteer here regularly. In fact, I met a couple whose granddaughter spent a week at the village. The experience meant so much to this couple that they parked their trailer at a campground nearby and volunteered for three months. The campground owner asked them why they were staying so long and when they mentioned GKTW, he gave them half off their rate.


Got me some lunch!


Henri's Starlight Scoops


When I was there, they were just about ready to shut down this ice cream parlor to build a new one (with the creative design assistance from Disney Imagineers). It is to be called Henri's Starlight Scoops, after the village founder Henri Landwirth (passed away in 2018). He operated the Starlight Hotel in Cocoa Beach, Florida for the original Mercury 7 Astronauts. The ice cream parlor operates for more hours a day than any other part of the village, ensuring that kids can get ice cream at any time of the day. A simple, but powerful gesture.


The volunteer dishing up ice cream was having an absolute ball with his job, something that still sticks with me.


An icon of the village, to be sure, is the carousel. A beautiful handicap accessible ride (the first at the village). Almost got to operate but didn't pan out!


I want to close by highlighting a few of the other features of the village that I didn't capture:


There is a spa for colorful hairdues, manicures, temporary tattoos, and more, a chapel, a great gift shop (highly recommend both books on the village), and a wonderfully themed dinosaur mini-golf course. Even for families unable to visit the parks, the village offers more than enough fun for the families over the course of a week. I had such a wonderful time interacting with these brave kids and put a face to the organization I have gotten so much help supporting over the last half decade. I CANNOT recommend volunteering here enough. It is absolutely worth adding a day or two to your Orlando trip to do something really good. The village relies on more than 1500 volunteer shifts a week and recently passed 3 million volunteer hours. You can volunteer for 3 or 4 hours or do two shifts and volunteer for 8 hours. They are flexible and can schedule you on a whim, once you pass a quick background check. I thank you guys for reading and if you feel compelled to read more, check out their website https://www.gktw.org/ and consider donating if you can!




Edited by Taylor Finn
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Orlando Night 1 and Day 2


So, after volunteering at Give Kids the World, I took an Uber over to Old Town and explored the area for a bit. Because I didn't have my own vehicle, I was locked into a restaurant local to Old Town, so I settled on Froggers (not many great options). Had a decent dinner and some beer and looked around the area (it was raining pretty hard) until the evening pass opened up at Fun Spot (9 PM).


Fun Spot Kissimmee


My first Fun Spot park and it didn't disappoint. Admission is usually like $50, but after 9 PM, it goes to $30. You can also do both parks in one day for an extra $10 ($60 total). I think that would be the wrong approach. The park is way more fun at night. They have a great thing going here, staying open real late so folks can pop over after a day at the other parks. Paying by the ride would be brutal ($10 for the coasters and go karts), so definitely do the wristband. I think on this visit, I did every go kart track a few times and rode the coasters a handful of times.



Froggers had a self pour beer system. I've experienced these elsewhere and they can be a lot of fun. This one seemed a bit random and cumbersome. Especially because they had a proper bar elsewhere that had drafts.


The burger was actually pretty solid. WAY too big. But solid.



There she is.


This is great.


I am sorry for the low quality pictures. I ain't good at this. But yeah, they have Mine Blower and Rockstar, a standard wild mouse. Plus a kiddie (no shame in riding).



The World's Tallest Skycoaster. There was actually a group that went up and they hung out up there for a while and they kept telling them to pull the cord. I thought they were cowards, but they lowered them down and I guess it was actually just a malfunction. Went back up and dropped. I've never done one of these, I think it is a upcharge on your wristband price which seems fair.


The flyers were not open on this night.


There isn't much to the park. Just some rides around both sides of the lake. But it is very clean and well taken care of.


The Ferris Wheel is kind of by itself. The park is rather stretched for space, so they have a handful of rides kind of in a lot all by itself.


This seems rather out of order. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend Old Town as an area. If you like kitschy stores and *average* food options..


I was pretty impressed by Mine Blower, but I definitely worry this ride is going to become brutal with time. It is by no means a *smooth* woodie. I know what to expect at this point, but this one felt a bit different. Like it just wasn't tracking great. But I really did enjoy it. Just couldn't re-ride as often as White Lightning.


Hmm. Also not open. This was my chief complaint. But all the go kart tracks and coasters were open, which was certainly my priority.


Welcome to the random collection of flats. Seriously, if you look at the park map, they don't even pretend to show you where this is relative to the rest of the park. This ride must've been super cheap.


Also got a paratrooper back here. These rides also weren't open. Dunno if this is typical after a certain hour, or what. It wasn't crowded at all on any of the rides that were open, so opening these really would not have been necessary.


Not tonight, they say.



The last of the rides back here.


I will say, the go karts are all really fun. They are lengthy tracks and very unique. I love me some go karts and it had been YEARS since I had been on one, let alone had a ride all day option. If I lived down here, I would absolutely have a season pass and would love visiting often. Free parking, low lines.

Busch Gardens Tampa


That next morning, I took an uber from my air b n b to a Publix, where I was to take a free shuttle down to Busch Gardens. I had purchased a two park ticket for $100 (Sea World plus Busch Gardens). I had been content to go to Aquatica and Sea World until I realized this shuttle was offered. It was a no brainer. I believe we arrived at the park like 45 min after opening (which I would say is a bit silly, especially because the park hours were like 10-5 or something). I didn't have a ton of time at the park, but figured the lines would be minimal. I was absolutely right. The only thing I waited for at all was for Cheetah Hunt first thing (maybe half an hour). I was considering buying their "fast pass" system, but am grateful I didn't. For breakfast, I had a giant muffin that I ate while I hustled over to the Cheetah Hunt. Didn't really have lunch. A huge complaint I have is the lack of a viable unique thing to snack on. Just pretzels, popcorn, etc everywhere. It seems lazy and a missed opportunity. Just had some fries on the way out.



My ride has arrived. This is a nice thing. They don't *have* to do this, but really, there are a good number of people like me who just wouldn't have gone to the park. Save money on parking, save money on gas, do a good thing for the earth.




Unfortunately, no stop off here on the way down.



We made it! I was a bit discouraged because there were quite a few folks at the park entrance, but that would turn out to be the only crowds I saw all day.


So, I knocked out Cheetah Hunt first thing. I found it to be a fun ride. Best way I can describe it. It doesn't do anything balls to the wall, but is just a good, long experience.


Moving on to Cobra's Curse. Another great addition for the park, I would say. It has multiple little sections to it, each doing something unique. Got the unique elevator lift, followed by a short non-spinning section, a mcbr, a short backwards section, and then an extended spinning section. None of it is WOW worthy. But is all fun for the family.


Next up was Montu. I think the Inverst are my favorite of the B&M coaster models (though Hypers and Gigas are far more re-rideable). Montu is a really good invert. I have a hard time comparing coasters of the same model, because I don't ride them back to back. Sure, Pyranees in Japan was phenomenal, but I can't know for sure that Montu didn't compare.


This is what I had going for me today.


Certainly well-themed!


Man, it was so hot this day. I remember actually sneaking some ice cubes from a big bucket they had to keep pop cold and just throwing them in my hat.







There is a nice walkway that runs past some exhibits on the edge of the Savannah area.


Elephants, trying to keep cool.


Falcon's Fury was up and down all day, so I didn't get a chance to get on it. But, next time!



Kumba is *probably* my favorite floorless. I haven't really been on that, that many. But this is a well-paced ride. The park really got a nice collection. Quality over quantity for sure.


This is a tiger. Up very close.


A pretty cool idea! I guess the tiger likes to hang out here!



This was a nice area, but I think some of it was being worked on or was closed. I cannot remember completely.


OH YES. You know I went on this. Love me a good log flume. And I needed it. So, so hot.


Dive Coasters are definitely not the best of the B&Ms. But they are fun! Can anyone explain to me why Griffon has significantly wider trains than the other dive coasters? Always wondered why a park would choose to have lower capacity? I recognize it costs a bit more. But, not worth the benefit?



Sesame Street Land. Nicely themed, but certainly could use a refresh.



No shame, especially with no line.


Flaaaamingos. The animals really are well integrated here. I would certainly give Busch Gardens Virginia the nod on landscaping, but they're going for animals here more. It is certainly difficult to pick which park I prefer of the two. I would tend to give Tampa the slight edge on coasters, Virginia the edge on food and entertainment, and Tampa the edge on animals. But the overall atmosphere in Virginia gets a nod.




Well, this is going to look awfully different. I did find it real odd how they didn't even really acknowledge this rides existence on the map. But they're gonna be stacked once this thing opens.



Straight chillin'.





The one show I did catch by chance and really, really enjoyed was the Cheetah run. Nothing fancy here. Just a showcase of pure speed. Thrilling.


The only good picture I got all trip, likely.








LOVE that both Busch Gardens parks have chair lifts like this. Great way to get around.



Cute little guy!


Bye bye Busch Gardens! Headed back to Publix and grabbed dinner at a delicious restaurant in the plaza.


Q'kenan was the name of the place. And it was super affordable and absolutely DELICIOUS.


An Arepa is the actual bread here, I believe and it is dense and made with corn meal. This one was filled to the brim with a delicious beef cheese and beans filling. There was a really good garlicky sauce as well as a hotter one. I really loved my meal here. Super hole in the wall, but reaaaal good.



Off to Disney Springs. I hadn't been since long before the conversion was even announced. And I gotta say, I am impressed. The whole area feels much more cohesive and there are loads of cool shops and places to eat and drink. Sure, none of it is going to absolutely blow your mind and is gonna be pricey. But most of the places have unique concepts.


Checked out the Coke store! Pretty cool. Did not partake in the coke bar, but it looked nice and offered great views!



I am a sucker for Lego. Lego Stores are always a fun time.


Made a pit stop at Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar. Drinks priced as you'd expect them, but I do remember it being pretty good. Cool vibe, for sure.


Thanks for reading! Tomorrow, we'll visit Sea World and Fun Spot Orlando!

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