Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Orlando! More than just Universal Studios?

Can you blame me for thinking my weekend trip was going to focus mainly on Universal Studios when this was waiting for us at the airport?
Turns out, as incredible as Universal Studios "Islands of Adventure" park was, there was a lot more fun to had those two days in Sunny Orlando with Wendy and our fellow Astorian, Helena!
This is the swimming pool where we stayed!

After a quick sleep and relaxing start, we headed to the park on Friday!

I was... excited.

HOGWARTS! I nearly peed myself with glee.

We even rode the kiddy coaster!

We bought the unlimited fast pass, which nearly doubled the price, and a one-time-per-ride fast pass would have sufficed and cost less. Oops. Even though the lines weren't bad at all on the weekday, the fast pass still came in handy and we rode most of the rides we liked multiple times!

Hogsmeade was an incredible example of how attention to detail can make the standard nickel-and-dime theme park shops a thoroughly enjoyable part of the experience, and incorporated lots of scenes and shops from Diagon Alley too!

A butterbeer (non-alcoholic) at the Hog's Head

The dueling dragons were coasters predating Harry Potter

Awesome red and blue, intertwining coasters, equally intense! 
One such detail turning a roller coaster line into the Forbidden Forrest
Hogwarts from another angle.

Islands of Adventure is divided into 5 parts. We bolted straight to Harry Potter world, and spent the most time there, but there was also a comic strip/Rocky and Bullwinkle/Dudley Do-right area, Marvel Universe, Dr. Seuss area, and some sort of Atlantis area that didn't really have rides, but looked awesome and had tours/shows we ended up skipping. A good excuse to go again sometime! 

Obviously, I was a little more than ecstatic to see this.

Like coming home!
We tried to ride this 3 times, but bad weather/park closing time stopped us at 2. Easily the best ride in the park though.
Appreciated the decor, but the ride looked lame.
Dr. Seuss world was more fun just to walk around.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish... 

I think the good doctor would be pretty proud of this area.

Next time Atlantis, I promise!


You don't want to make Wendy angry...

More cool signage

Next we drove out to the Disney World "Village" and had dinner at this huge pre-historic restaurant.
The place must have sat about 500 people, and there was never less than a 40 minute wait!

40 minutes was perfect too because it allowed us to enjoy their undersea portion (appropriately a bar) with a huge, beautiful aquarium under a giant octopus with a moving eyes and jellyfish chandeliers! Then it was off to our table for rather reasonably-priced, standard, American food (actually, my fruit and walnut salad was pretty excellent).
Seriously, this place was so massive it could have been a converted sports arena!

Animatronic dinorsuars flipped out every half hour to a simulated comet collision. Poor little fella.

Different sections were different time periods, including Ice Age. (note the giant jelly!)

After dinner we walked around the rest of the shopping center and even made some small purchases. This model is entirely made of LEGO bricks by the way

The next morning our first stop was breakfast at Chic-fil-A.
 I spotted this next door at 7-11. Guess they still love Shaq!

Second stop Saturday was a bird rescue!

But I brought pumpkin juice back from Harry
Potter World to enjoy. Sorry Shaq!
Next up, we bought Florida craft beer. Notice OBP squared has twice the alcohol and one ripped bee!

Actually, I'm skipping lunch, which for some reason I have no photos of, but we went out for BBQ at the local's favorite, 4 Rivers.
We took the beers back to Helena's for some pool-side refreshment, which ended conveniently as a sudden afternoon shower and lightening started to look threatening. We headed back to the house, took a nap, and slowly got ready for a night out!
We went to Cask & Larder first for some light dinner, heavy dessert, and a flight of original craft beers! Helena didn't drink, because she was driving. Good thing too, because as we waited at a red light on our way to the clubs. we got rear ended!
It was low speed, and everyone was fine, before you get worried, but the cars got a bit banged up, especially the guy who was at fault. After the police finished up with us, did we call it quits? Of course not! We hit two/three clubs and finished up with late night tacos!
Orlando bars, by the way, are so much fun!

I mean, look at all these happy Gen-Y-ers enjoying 80's music night!
After delicious Mexican food, I had to fly home, kiss my cat, and prepare for the next adventure:
Argentina Business Trip! More on that after I finish working the 68th UN General Assembly!
Talk about busy!

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