Just like Chris Sells did a while ago on four amusement parks in California, here’s my list of parks and what I think of them. They are listed in the order that I visited them.
Great park. In retrospect this park was the least busy of all the others that we visited. No wait times for anything, except for Kraken (see below). The shows are nice. There is plenty of seating available, but you have to arrive early, like it says in the park brochure. Make sure you stay clear of the soak zones, because changes are very high that you will get drenched by Khamu the killer whale. Boy, can that fish move a lot of water. We saw this little kid get washed out of his seat by gallons and gallons of water. The poor guy was gasping for breath, because the water is salt and pretty cold (not your average Florida water temperatures). The Kraken roller coaster is by far the best I have ever been on. It is a long, fast ride that will loop 5 to 6 times, depending on how you count them.
Kennedy Space Center:
Nah, not so good. I will always remember this “park” as the one with the rude, impolite and grumpy personnel. Unbelievable how moody these people are. We met exactly one guy that was in a good mood. The facilities itself are nice to see. Seeing the Launching Complex 39 up close (if 3 miles is close enough for you) was nice and so was seeing the Apollo rocket. Other than that it is all pretty simplistic. Good for people who have no clue on astronomics and physics. If you have a more solid understanding of the space-time continuum (or anything remotely in that direction) your appetite will not be satisfied.
Wait, there are two very good things that we saw at KSC: the two IMAX movies were incredibly good. “The dream is alive” on the Space Shuttle missions and “Inside the International Space Station” (in 3D, BTW) were breathtaking. I particularly remember the moment when you emerged from a hatch and went for a EVA space walk. Suddenly the ISS and the earth behind it popped up. Imagine seeing that in 3D. Wow.
Excellent. If you like being in or near the water, this is the park for you. This Disney water park has all the fast water slides you want to go on. You can take the Summit Plummet or the Slush Gusher for very fast dropdowns (55 mph or 90 kmph) or the ones that use a tube. There’s like a good 10 slides that you can take. Arrive early, because later on the day the wait times can be up to half an hour. You should use sun protecting lotions, as only half of the line let you take shelter from the sun in the shadows.
Good. There are actually two parks here. With (Universal Studios) or without real roller coasters (Islands of Adventure). We visited Universal Studios, which is the older one. I visited the one in Los Angeles about ten years ago and during the PDC2003 of course (great party, Microsoft). In the older park you get to take the rides such as ET (for kiddies), Back to the Future (nice), Men in Black Alien Attack (missed it), Jimmy Neutron Nicktoon Blast (got to get the DVD, because I’m a sucker for CG cartoons), Shrek 4D (missed it, but saw it in LA, good) and Terminator 3D (the 3D effects and combination with real live actors are very good). The Mummy Returns were doing technical rehearsals, so I got to ride that (not too bad. Certainly something different for a change). Twister was good (but very, very short. Must have been less than 2 minutes).
The downside of this park is that it is very, very, very busy. Wait times go up to 120 minutes! You will not be able to ride anything if you are not willing to wait less than 45 minutes. So be prepared to join the crowds. There’s lots to see during your wait, though. E.g. you can watch Nickelodeon cartoons while you stand in line for Jimmy Neutron’s ride.
Shopping at the Orlando Outlet Stores (exit 68 on I-4):
Excellent shopping. Take your girlfriend here or yourself if you want to treat yourself or her to some new clothes and/or shoes. Although you won’t find any toys, computer or other technical equipment selling stores here, there is all you can desire when it comes to shopping. Every major brand has an outlet here. And it’s cheap (my Dutch nature thrived in this place). Beware of wallet depravation. We actually had to buy two Samsonite hardcases to get all the stuff we bought home 😉
Good. This shopping/recreational area consists of three places: Marketplace, Pleasure Island and Westside. Marketplace has a huge Disney store and best of all a Lego store. That’s about it aside from some restaurants. Westside has Planet Hollywood, Virgin Megastore (and that it is) plus cinemas to catch your movies. You need to pay to get into Pleasure island, a couple of pubs and discos you can take your date to. It is only open after 8pm.
Very good. Being the water rats that we are, we could not resist to spend another day in the water. This water park is slightly smaller than Blizzard Beach with slides that are shorter and not as fast. But, they have this huge lagoon were every two minutes there is an even huger tidal wave (1.5 meters high) coming in from the back. If you are a good swimmer, you can ride this wave without using a body board or any other floatation device, by just crawling along with it. If you swim fast enough the crest of the wave will propel just forward. It feels like you’re falling forward except that the waves keeps rolling under you. I was able to ride it for a good 75 meters/yards on my longer runs. That sure made me a hero to all the little guys (“Man, how do you do that? I’d want to, but cannot tred water that long” ). These waves are just perfect. I once did the same thing for real in Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife. There I had to wait a lot longer in between the waves (they were a lot bigger though), had to use fins to propel myself and was getting very cold in the sea. Here it’s a perfect wave over and over again. The only trouble is the people getting in the way as you speed through the water.
Some things I will remember for the next time. These will help you on your first time to Orlando:
– Check out all the deals that you can make in your hotel. By prebooking or buying your ticket there you usually get good deals such as second day free (Seaworld and Universal Studios (consecutive day only) for example).
– Pack light (as you should always do), because once you visit the Orlando Outlet Stores, you will need the remainder of your weight limit for your shopping spree trophies.
– Arrive early at the parks. In the early morning it is not so crowded, so you can get a good few rides before the masses flood the place. Most open at 9am, some even earlier (Universal Studios: 8am)
– Get yourself a (rental) car. Although the parks are all situated nearby, a car sure comes in handy to get you places. The Disney parks don’t charge for parking (at least the ones that we went to), all other do at around $8 a day.
We also caught some movies: Lady Killers (great; nice comedy with Tom Hanks. Good for a couple of laughs. Tom is talking some pretty eloquent English here), Secret Window (OK. Especially nice if you read the book by Stephen King (“Secret Window, Secret Garden” from his Four Past Midnight book), although the ending won’t be any surprise to you), Scooby Doo 2 Monsters Unleashed (So, so. By lack of anything better that Nicole wanted to see. I would rather have seen HellBoy or the remake of Dawn of the Dead (which Don Box recommended I saw yesterday)).
The best ones seem to coming this summer: The Punisher, Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban (yup, also saw the first two), Spiderman 2, Alien vs. Predator, SpongeBob Squarepants (he is so cool. And popular too, whereas in The Netherlands he is hardly known).