Okay, so a couple of weeks ago I came back from my first-time visit to Orlando, and my first US trip since 2008. As I’m starting to recover from the post-Disney depression, I figured it was time to start writing a trip report.
Here is the list of parks and attractions we did the trip: 09/13 - Arrival 09/14 - Disney’s Hollywood Studios 09/15 - Universal Studios 09/16 - Aquatica 09/17 - Busch Gardens Africa 09/18 - Magic Kingdom 09/19 - Kennedy Space Center 09/20 - Fun Spot 09/21 - Discovery Cove 09/22 - Disney’s Animal Kingdom 09/23 - Islands of Adventure 09/24 - EPCOT 09/25 - Sea World and flight home in the evening
I brought my videocamera with me on the trip. Some of the days I have limited or no footage from, so I might not cover all the parks in this trip report. But I have finished up my Disney videos so even though the four Disney parks were spread throughout the trip, I will start by covering these parks. Videos from Busch Gardens/Universal/SeaWorld will not be anytime in the near future, so I will probably cover these parks later when I get to that stage.
Anyway, to get off to a flying start, here is my compilation video from all four Disney parks.
Okay, a little back story required first. Before going I did not really know a lot about the Frozen movie. I had heard about it and I knew it had become a big thing, and also that it was giving Norway additional international attention. So since I was on my way to Disney, I figured it would be a perfect movie to watch on the plane so I did. Ended up really liking the movie and its soundtrack, and boy did it set me up for the next day...
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
First park of the trip and boy did we have a fun day. We arrived at the park a little before 11 am if my memory serves me right. Already at the gate was plenty of advertising for “Frozen summer fun”, and we entered the park with just a couple of minutes to spare before the “Frozen” parade. I thought it was fun, we didn’t watch the stageshow as we were not quite in the Frozen mood yet. That would change in the evening though...
I can’t remember the order of the rides we did, so I will just list them here together with my comments as they spring to mind:
Star Tours: It’s always fun going into a ride knowing next to nothing about it. I was pleasently surprised by this ride, very fun and the effects worked really well.
Rock’n Rollercoaster: First rollercoaster of the trip and it was a pretty good one. The launch and first inversions had some good forces. Layout is a bit repitive with the constant turning, but it’s limited what you can do in such a small space. We rode a total of 3 times, twice in the back and once in the front. I preferred the front seat as it was smoother, but I would not call the backseat rough.
Tower of Terror: My expectations were high for this ride, but unfortunately the ride did not quite live up to it. The theming was top notch, but the drop sequence just seemed a bit weak to me. Maybe my expectations for thrills were a bit high considering we were in a Disney park. Still I enjoyed the ride and thought it was fun, but I couldn’t help feel a bit letdown after riding. This ride also had the longest wait later in the day, with 80 minutes posted on the sign. Due to this we only rode once.
Lights, Motors, Action: This was a pretty cool stunt show and it was nice to spend some time in the shade. And as if the Orlando heat wasn’t hot enough, you really felt the heat of the blast at the end.
Backlot Tour: I have no problems understanding why this ride is now closed. The canyon scene was pretty cool, but other than that it doesn’t really offer much. Looking at movie props from a tram isn’t really that exciting.
With a couple of hours to spare until the fireworks and long lines, we felt done with riding so we headed towards the stage area to find something to occupy us while waiting. When we arrived at the stage, they had started the “Coolest summer ever dance party” with DJ Chill. There wasn’t a whole lot of people there, but the kids seemed to be having fun dancing with the Disney characters. After a little while the band “Icemen of the North” came on stage. They did an okay job, though the crowd at the stage was still quite small so it didn’t quite live up to a party atmosphere.
As darkness fell on the park and DJ Chill hit the stage again, the crowd rapidly increased in size and the atmosphere quickly lifted. The Disney characters came back dancing in the crowd. Maybe it was because I did not know about this before going, but the dance party was so much fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, kids, adults and seniors alike. I was having a total blast.
Here’s my video from the dance party with DJ Chill.
Then it was time for the highlight of the day, Frozen fireworks!!! My opinion is probably influenced by this being the very first day in a Disney park, but this ended up being my personal highlight of the trip. The fireworks were amazing and I enjoyed the stageshow as well. Of course with me becoming an instant Frozen fan, it was truly spectacular with the fireworks synced with the music from the movie!
Here is my video of the full fireworks show + parts of the stage show.
Overall we had a great first day with an amazing ending! I was sad to leave the park, but at the same time I could barely stop smiling as I went to bed with what can probably only be described as a massive crush on Queen Elsa....
Last edited by viking86 on Sat Nov 01, 2014 1:07 pm.
We had selected to visit Magic Kingdom on a Thursday, as the park was open late and we wanted to go on a day with fireworks. Due to some other errands earlier in the day, we arrived at the park around 3:30 - 4:00 PM. We were all hungry so we decided to start our day at MK with dinner. This we had at “The Crystal Palace”, which was really nice. The buffet food was excellent, and it was great fun with Winnie the Pooh and his friends wandering around the restaurant.
We wandered around the park in a clockwise direction. We skipped past Splash Mountain as it had about an hour queue, and went for a ride on Big Thunder Mountain. I think we waited for about half an hour to ride. Overall I really liked this classic ride, it was great fun, a couple of surprising pops of airtime and laterals, the ride was comfortable and the theming was great.
Here is my onride video taken from the backseat (with permission):
Next ride on our schedule was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Being a brand new ride, I was quite excited about this. My impression after riding is that this ride is pure quality. I loved the theming in the queue line, and the interactive elements were really cool. I hope this is something we will see more of in the future. As for the ride itself, the coaster parts were better than I had thought. We rode it the backseat, which was very fun going down the “big” drops. Also after the second lifthill there was a blinding light in our face going down the drop, which made it even more fun as we could not see where we were going. The indoor part was also really good, but I do wish it could have been a bit longer. Still I was very impressed by this ride. Our wait time for this was about 45 minutes.
After that we headed off to Space Mountain, which had about a 30 min wait. There were some thunder and lightning in the sky, so it was perfect for an indoor ride. This was another very fun ride. I was also very surprised by the length of this ride. Everytime I was expecting the ride to end, there was another drop or turn.
When we had finished our ride, the rain was pouring down outside. After waiting a bit in the store we decided to bring out our jackets and head towards the castle. We arrived to see the last few minutes of the projection show, which was quite spectacular. The rain had eased up a little, but still it was raining pretty good and we were rather wet. It was nice and warm though, so nothing to worry about there. Unfortunately a few minutes before the fireworks were scheduled to start, it was announced that it was delayed due to weather. We killed the time in the stores on Main Street, which became very cold due to the aircondition and us being wet.
I can’t remember how long the delay was, but it must have been in the 30-45 min range. But once it was announced that the fireworks were going to start in a few minutes, we ran outside and took our positions on Main Street. I had seen videos of the full Wishes fireworks show, but it was still a magical thing to observe in real life. Some of the explosions were absolutely gigantic and you could really feel it even from far away. Overall I loved the show, and while it didn’t have any surprises in store for me, the Wow- factor was really there.
Here is my video of the Wishes fireworks:
Overall it was a good half-day at Magic Kingdom. I wish I could have spent a full day there, but we got on the main rides, we got to see the fireworks and the rain didn’t stop us from anything so we all left the park happy.
As always clips from all four Disney parks are featuered in the compilation video in the first post.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The third Disney park on our trip was Animal Kingdom. This was also the closest one, being only a 5 minutes drive from our rental apartment. We got there about half an hour after opening and with the parking lot being only a third-full it was a good sign of how our day would be. No queues to get into the park either. Once inside the park there’s one thing that stands out... this park is GREEN! You really feel immediately cut off from the outside world. Of all the Disney parks in Orlando, this might be my favorite, and the scenery played a large part of it.
We headed off to Expedition Everest quite early. It has quite an imposing look with the large mountain looming over the park. The queue line was beatifully themed, and it was great fun throwing coins and trying to hit into the cups (which I failed repeatedly on). Unfortunately the ride broke down while we were waiting, so we had to return later in the day to ride...
With Expedition Everest down, we decided to head towards Harambe Theater to watch the Festival of the Lion King show, since we had chosen to get FP for it. This definately seemed like a right decision, as it was pretty full when the show started. Overall it was a great show, with all the famous music and impressive artistry on center stage. This was probably my favorite show of the trip.
Here is my video of the highlights from the show.
After the show we were getting hungry, so we decided to have dinner at Yak & Yeti Restaurant. Quite anonymous from the outside, I was really impressed by the size and beatiful theming of the place once inside. As always with Disney, service was impeccable and the food was absolutely fantastic. All four of us had different meals, and none of us had anything bad to say about the food. One of the best meals of the entire trip.
After eating we headed back to Expedition Everest, which was now open again.The line was not very long and moved quite quickly. We rode in the backseat for all of our rides, which proved to be great fun. I ended up really liking this ride, it is smooth, has some decent forces and is surprisingly fast. Easily the best of the Disney coasters in Orlando.
We did the Kilimanjaro Safari, which was also really good. A nice, long safari trip, with lots of animals and the driver was also pretty entertaining.
The only part of Animal Kingdom that I did not like was DinoLand U.S.A. I understand what they were attempting with making it look like a parking-lot fair, but it just doesn’t fit in at all in this park and was a rather big letdown. It might have been different had it been in a small park, but here its just feels completely out of place. We went on the right side of Primeval Whirl, which was a complete walk-on. Unfortunately the ride was heavily braked, so the excitement factor was low.
Towards the end of the day it started raining, so all rides closed down an hour before park closure. Still there were plenty of things to do in the park, with lots of animals to look at. Overall we left the park in a good mood, despite one poor area it was a really good park and it will be very exciting to see what it will be like when the new Avatarland opens in 2017.
The last of the Disney parks on the trip. Started the day by parking at what can only be described as very close to the front gate by Disney standards. This is always a good sign, off-season is awesome! Once inside it doesn’t take long to get a feel of how freakin huge this park is. Surely this must be one of the largest parks in the world??
We started by getting a ride on Spaceship Earth, which was probably a bad idea as it had about half an hour queue. I quite liked the ride, but starting with the ride closest to the entrance is never a clever move when it comes to queues. The moviemaking part at the end was pretty funny.
Continuing on we headed to Test Track. It had about an hour wait, so we went for the single rider line, which put us on the ride in less than 10 minutes. Overall a very fun ride, but having seen videos of the old theming I have to say that the old version looked alot better. After test track we took a spin on The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Pretty fun ride, and the special effects at the end with the Nemo characters looking like they were in the actual aquarium was a really cool effect. After that we skipped Soarin due to another hour-long wait and headed to Illuminations, which was also pretty fun and the song is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
As we started to get hungry, we headed towards World Showcase. Walking in a counter-clockwise direction. After walking through the shops in Canada and United Kingdom, we decided to eat at Les Chefs de France in.... France! Good food and excellent service, which we had become used to when eating at Disney.
Walking through the other pavilions was enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed watching the opening of oysters inside one of the shops in Japan, that was highly entertaining thanks to the wonderful cast member behind the counter. Stopping for a beer in Germany is also a must, the Altermünster Oktoberfest beer was really good. We also stopped in China to watch the street-performers Dragon Legend Acrobats, who were very skilled and also quite funny.
After that we headed off to my hometown Bergen.... errr, the Norway pavilion (see pictures below). Theming-wise it was another very good-looking pavilion. I liked the small Stave church, and it was also great fun to see a piece of my hometown here. The shops included the standard tourist stuff that I see here at home, plus some Frozen stuff. The fact that all the workers are Norwegians helps boost the atmosphere.
My hometown Bergen
I wasn’t really planning to ride Maelstrom as it had a 30-minute wait, but fortunately I had people in my group who had been here before and knew that as long as you speak Norwegian you get to use the fastpass queue, even if you don’t have a fastpass. Turns out this still worked, which meant a near walk-on for us. Somehow I doubt this will be a possibility once the Frozen ride opens...
As for the ride itself, it was a bit fun, but nothing to write home about. I also found the theming a bit strange and confusing, going from trolls to oil-platforms. Oh, and polar bears dosn’t exist on the Norwegian mainland just to mention it. As for the movie at the end, I can understand why they let people have the option of just walking through. Highly outdated and mostly embarassing. As a Norwegian I’m very excited about the Frozen ride, it will definately be interesting to see how they will make it. As for those complaining about lack of education in the Norwegian pavilion, I will say that the most educational part of the pavilion is the Stave church where they are showing various historical clothing, tools and items, and how they inspired the Frozen movie. What a great way to get the kids interested as well.
After a quick snack in Mexico, we went back to Norway where we watched the Illuminations; Reflections of Earth from. While not the most spectacular in terms of large fireworks, it’s a really awesome show with the combination of fireworks, lights, music and other effects. See highlights video below.
Illuminations; Reflections of Earth
EPCOT provided us with yet another fantastic day at Disney. We didn’t have to to check out the whole park, and I would have loved to try various stuff of the Food & Wine festival, but being a first-time visitor it was about seeing as much as possible. I can really understand why people love this park so much, and I’m definately going back sometime in the future. Currently aiming for 2016 when Frozen opens in Norway.
bert425 wrote:I'm enjoying your trip report this far.
keep it up!
Thank you, I'm glad you're enjoying it. With Disney finished it's time to move onto our visit to the Universal Parks.
Universal Orlando resort
While there was 8 days between our visit to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, I I had to put it together to one compilation video as I did not have enough footage to make a video from each park. Still I was quite pleased with how the result, check out the video below.
Part 1 - Universal Studios
This was the second park on our trip. The whole Citywalk area looked great, and I thought the entrance to Universal Studios was really beatiful with the Universal globe to the left of the entrance. Since it was Monday and off-season we decided not to purchase Express passes. This turned out to be a good decision, as there was no need for it.
Our first ride of the day was Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit. A very imposing ride with the vertical lift and the strange non-inverting loop, so I was quite excited to ride. This ride definately had the strictest “no loose items” policy I have ever experienced. No less than three places along the queue line were ride staff asking/checking for loose articles. I don’t really have any problems with this as there are free cabinets provided outside the ride, I just found it surprising that it was so strict.
The line was only 10 minutes so it didn’t take long before we were on the ride and selecting music. My choice on the first ride was “Gimme All Your Lovin" by ZZTop. I can’t remember which row I was seated in on my first ride, but I tried both front, back and middle during the day. Vertical lifts are always a strange sensation and always surprising the first ride. That moment when the majority of your weight shifts from your butt to your back always gets me a little.
Once over the top, the first drop was a little dissappointing. I had been expecting a bit more air. The non-inverting loop was pretty fun. I will not go into detail on every single element, but overall I thought the layout was pretty cool. The turns at both ends of the layout surprised me with their strong positive G-forces, particularly the final helix. In the frontseat the ride was pretty smooth, but it got quite a bit rougher towards the back. The lights on the trains was a cool detail at night.
Moving on we took a spin on Twister...Ride it Out, which was pretty fun. We then headed off to Revenge of the Mummy for another short 10-minute wait. The queue was very well themed, but we did not get to enjoy it for long before we were on the ride. Not that it’s a bad thing... The ride itself I thought was very well done. The coasterpart was very fun, and the effects were good. The fire effect was awesome!
Moving on to one of the highlights of the entire trip; Transformers: The Ride 3D. HOLY BALLS what a ride!!! It’s crazy how the 3D screens blend in with the theming on the ride, and the picture is very clear. I absolutely LOVED this ride, heck it was probably more intense than most rollercoasters on the trip. We had to wait about half an hour for our first ride, but towards the end of the day it was down to less than 10 minutes.
We then ventured into Diagonal Alley. Wow, this area was breathtaking! I don’t think there are many words to describe it, it pretty much has to be seen in person. The dragon on the rooftop was amazing! After looking around for a bit we took a ride on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. I think our wait again was about half an hour. Once past the outdoor queue, things start to get really spectacular. The animatronics in the bank was simply the best I have ever seen, the realism was incredible. The remainder of the queue was also really good with the preshow and the lift down to the station.
The ride itself was very good. I liked the coaster section at the beinning with the tilt-track, but its very short. Throughout the ride the 3D special effects are really good, but I would have liked a little more coaster in there. Still a really good ride, but not quite on the same intensity level as Transformers.
Before leaving Diagonal Alley we had a very enjoyable dinner at the Leaky Cauldron.
Moving on we went on Men in Black: Alien Attack, which was pretty much a walk-on. Shooting rides are usually always fun, and this was no exception. Lots of spinning also. We also took a ride on The Simpsons Ride. Had to wait for a bit here, but with Simpsons clips and preshow running on the monitors it was far from a boring wait. The ride itself was also great, but I found it a little more dizzying than the other simulator rides. Still I enjoyed it very much, but I don’t know how well I would have handled multiple rides.
Before leaving the park we had another spin on Transformers, and we also watched a funny little magic show. I love the look of themeparks as darkness descends on the park, and this was no exception. Overall I had a great day at Universal Studios, they have some truly impressive rides when it comes to simulator, and while they lack a really good rollercoaster you only have to go next door for that.
viking86 wrote:As for the ride itself, it was a bit fun, but nothing to write home about. I also found the theming a bit strange and confusing, going from trolls to oil-platforms. Oh, and polar bears dosn’t exist on the Norwegian mainland just to mention it. As for the movie at the end, I can understand why they let people have the option of just walking through. Highly outdated and mostly embarassing. As a Norwegian I’m very excited about the Frozen ride, it will definately be interesting to see how they will make it. As for those complaining about lack of education in the Norwegian pavilion, I will say that the most educational part of the pavilion is the Stave church where they are showing various historical clothing, tools and items, and how they inspired the Frozen movie. What a great way to get the kids interested as well.
It's nice to hear this from an actual Norwegian. We've been telling a lot of the Disney fans the same thing, but they refuse to listen. I mean, we've only been to Norway several times, what do we know, right? But they just insist that the ride has some sort of "educational value" that will be lost. SMH
It's actually ironic to hear to say that you feel the most educational part of the pavilion is the stuff that is tied into Frozen already!
Now just to mention it I'm not completely neutral when it comes to Frozen as I happen to quite like the movie. This was of course also helped by our experience on the first day at Hollywood studios, see my first post in this thread.
Now I think I wrote this somewhere else, probably on your facebook page, but the Frozen movie has actually created an increase in US tourism to Norway. I have my doubts that Maelstrom was ever able to do the same. I firmly believe that with a ride based on Frozen in the Norway pavilion, it will take the interest in the pavilion, and the country of Norway itself, to a whole new level for visitors coming to EPCOT.
As for Maelstrom, its definately time to let it go....
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