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Old 01-06-2013, 06:28 PM   #16
aprilfoolwed
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Hi everyone! Thanks for reading and for all of your replies.

It's the night before vacation!!!!

The bags are ALMOST packed. The tickets are in my brand new eBag piazza bag. And the plane leaves tomorrow morning at 10:10!

The kids are really excited - I don't think they will sleep well tonight.

@Nancy - I will certainly let you know how the house is! We are a family of 5 too, so we love staying in condos or houses rather than a hotel! Honestly, the house we are renting was less expensive than most of the condos in Windsor Hills that we priced. And you have your own pool!

I will take lots of pictures! I am not sure how to upload them here, but I am sure I can figure it out!

We have few actual plans on this trip. I am not used to not having a page full of ADRs and touring plans! I think we are going to hit the Studio on our first day, and then alternate between the parks. I'd like to eat at Mythos one day, but otherwise no dining plans.

We are going to Dave & Busters in Orlando on Wednesday to meet up with a friend from college. That should be a good time too!

Not sure how I am going to be with being so close to Mickey and not seeing him, but maybe we'll sneak in some time at DTD!

I'll be reporting back soon!
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:01 PM   #17
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I hope you are having a fantastic time. I can't wait to hear about your trip.
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Old 01-12-2013, 04:20 PM   #18
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I'm excited to hear how your trip went!
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Old 01-12-2013, 04:33 PM   #19
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waiting, hope you have pics....
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Old 01-12-2013, 07:41 PM   #20
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Day One - Monday, January 7

Hello! We just returned home today from our quick 5-day visit to Orlando. I have lots to share - including photos (if I can figure out how to do it!).

I will start with Day One (Monday 1/7) - although there isn't much to tell.

Our flight left PA around 10:00 AM, and with a slight delay (as the previous flight from FL arrived a little late). It was the first time the kids flew, and they were nervous and excited. Thankfully, we had a really uneventful flight and everything went well.

Arrived at Sanford airport around 12:45, and we picked up our rental car (used Dollar/Thrifty). We stopped for lunch off of I-4, and then headed to Kissimmee to our rental home.

We stayed here:

Mickey's Manor

The house was in the Rolling Hills subdivision. It was our first time staying in that neighborhood. The homes are a little older, and the community was not gated. That didn't seem to be an issue - there was not the traffic through there like in some of the bigger rental neighborhoods. We didn't even have any of those pizza menus slipped under the door.

The house itself was well-appointed, although a little older and in need of some updates (carpet was a little worn). My biggest issue was that the house, while mostly clean, did have some areas that were not up to my standard of clean. The bedroom my DD used had a down comforter on the bed - and it was visibly dirty. The ceiling fan was filthy and the baseboards were very dusty. The microwave smelled of bacon and was greasy. Yuck! I did my best to clean with the few supplies we could find - but I was turned off by that (despite the rest of the house being quite nice).

After unpacking (and doing some light cleaning), we went out to the Super Target to pick up some groceries and supplies. Our plan was to eat breakfast in the house each day, as well as packing snacks and drinks to take to the parks. It worked out wonderfully and I know we saved a ton of money each day by doing this.

The kids asked to eat at the Golden Corral (not my choice at all), and it was as to be expected. After dinner, we headed to Downtown Disney to do some window shopping. The kids enjoyed the dance party on the stage!

We turned in early, as we were tired from traveling and had plans to be at Universal for rope drop the next day!
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Old 01-12-2013, 07:56 PM   #21
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Day 2 - Tuesday, January 8

Today we had our first day at Universal Orlando, and we spent it at the Studios.

We left our house in Kissimmee around 8:00, and arrived in the Universal parking deck around 8:20. After the walk through the parking deck and a stop at the restroom in CityWalk, we arrived at the front gate around 8:35. We were about 20th in line at the gate, so it didn't take long to get in the park.

The gates opened around 8:50, and we went straight to Despicable Me. There was no line at all! We walked right into the preshow room. Really cute attraction - I think it was my favorite of all the 3D/4D things we did (and I have not even seen the movie!). The Minion Dance Party at the end of the ride was really cute too!

From there, we walked across the street to Shrek 4D, where we waited 5 minutes. The kids were frustrated with the preshow because they had a hard time seeing, but they liked the actual attraction. I found it to be a little too bumpy at times, but maybe I am just getting too old.

We did Twister next, also on a 5 minute wait. Then on to the Mummy (again, a 5 minute wait). My boys didn't want to ride the Mummy, so I sat out with them while my DD and DH rode. They loved it! And I hoped that I would get a chance to ride it later....

We had a quick snack in the New York area and started walking into San Francisco. The boys started getting antsy to go on the Simpsons ride, but I insisted that we stop and do Disaster (my Undercover Tourist App listed it at a 20 minute wait, but we only waited about 15 minutes until the next show).

Good thing we stopped there. Both of my boys were selected to be part of the show! They were thrilled! I think my DD felt a little left out, but she enjoyed watching her brothers be part of the show.

Okay - now to try my first photo (I didn't take the camera out much this day -we were more focused on getting things done).



These are my kids in the line for Disaster. They got a lot of attention because of their shirts (Grandma got those for them a few years ago!).

To be continued...
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Old 01-12-2013, 07:57 PM   #22
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Old 01-12-2013, 08:14 PM   #23
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Ok - took a while, but I think I finally figured out the photo linking!
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Old 01-12-2013, 09:05 PM   #24
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you did good!
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Old 01-12-2013, 09:08 PM   #25
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Day Two - Part 2

After Disaster!, there was no way to keep the kids from The Simpsons ride. We were silly though, and didn't just continue around the loop - we backtracked and walked allllllllllll the way around the park.

It turned out to be ok though, because we stumbled upon the Spongebob Meet-n-Greet street show. We missed the show part, but were there just in time for the photos!





FINALLY, the kids got on the Simpsons ride (keep in mind, they have never even seen an episode of the show, but their grandfather is a HUGE fan). I enjoyed that section of the park - with its bright colors and circus-like atmosphere. There was a 10 minute wait for the ride, which gave us just enough time to have a few laughs at all the silly things in the line area.

From there, we went to Men In Black, where we had our first locker experience. I appreciate the free lockers, but it can be such a headache to get into those locker areas. I wonder if there is a better way that could be handled (maybe seperate lines for renting and reopening?)? 10 minute wait for MIB - and I was proud to have a score of 240,000 on my first ride! Even beat my video-game junkie DH!

By this time, it was noon and we hit the majority of the main attractions. We figured it was time for lunch, so the kids voted to try Richters Burger Co. We all had a basic burger (no cheese for the kids) with fries. The boys shared a burger since they were pretty big. The burger was slightly overdone, but not too bad. The fries were very tasty. I liked the fixins' bar with lettuce, tomato, pickles etc. The kids really wanted to try the new Coke machines and were disappointed that you could only use them if you purchased the refill cup (which were $10.50 each - but buy 2 get 1 free). So we promised them a trip to our local Five Guys soon, where they can try the Coke machines all they want!

After lunch, we started to pay attention to show times. We hit the 1:30 Terminator 2--3D show. DH and I saw that when it was new at the park years ago, and not much had changed. I am guessing that attraction may be on borrowed time?

As we left Terminator, we ran into Scooby and Shaggy:



To Be Continued...
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Old 01-12-2013, 09:28 PM   #26
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Day Two - Part 3

We went to the 2:30 Fear Factor Live show. I was pretty excited to see this - I am not a huge fan of the show, but thought it would make a pretty neat live show. I wasn't disappointed. It was a lot of fun seeing the contestants do the stunts and gross stuff. I don't know if they do the same thing at each show (we weren't able to make it back for a second show at all, although we would have liked to)?

There were some technical difficulties in the show - one contestant's platform didn't drop out beneath him, so there was a bit to-do about who was eliminated. And I can't believe what some people willingly drank!

We went right from Fear Factor to the 3:30 Animal Actors show. My DD is a huge animal lover, so I knew she would like this one. This is also a show I remember from our trip there years ago (1996???), but I liked the updates to show some more current "actors" like Marley and Pirates of the Caribbean.

And guess who got picked to help with the show?



My youngest son had a pigeon land on his head! There were lots of pigeon poop jokes, and the poor little guy thought he really did have poop on his head.

The kids needed a ride after all those shows, so we went to E.T., where we waited about 10 minutes to ride. I remember this ride as well! We were lucky that the kids got the front row, so they were really able to help E.T. fly home!

After E.T. the kids wanted to check out Fievel's Playland. They had a great time just running and playing. I didn't want them to be too wet, but they did get to go on the little waterslide there.

We left there and headed back to Hollywood for the Horror make-up show at 5:30. We caught the tail-end of the parade right before the doors opened for the show. I loved this show, although it really was rated PG. There were a few words that I wasn't thrilled that my kids were hearing, and a lot of the jokes were above their heads. But we all liked it, and my middle DS was "picked on" by the show hosts quite a bit. Fun time!

After the show, we headed to the waterfront to get a spot for The Cinematic Spectacular. The kids were hungry, so we invested in a refillable bucket of popcorn, which is by far the best value in the park. The original bucket was $5.50, and refills were $1. The refills were good any day at either park (unlike the soda mugs, which are only good one day). In fact, the girl working there said "You can get refills until you break the bucket."

We enjoyed the nighttime show. The water effects are pretty amazing, and the movie clips were a neat look at film over the years. The kids liked to point out the ones they knew.



I really liked the park all lit up too. I noticed a lot of little details while looking across the lake - like the buildings have different types of lighting just like a real home (some overhead lights like in a kitchen and some lamps).

We left the park after the nighttime show and headed home. We hadn't eaten dinner, so we did a McDonald's drive-thru and ate a quick bite at the house. The kids were able to swim for 40 minutes (because it was in the 80s!) before we called bedtime.

We needed a good night's sleep because we were getting up early to get to Islands of Adventure - and Harry Potter - in the morning!
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Old 01-12-2013, 09:45 PM   #27
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sounds like you all have a fun day!

did you watch the Blues Brothers show or see some of the characters by the Lucy Tribute?
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:13 PM   #28
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Day Three - Part 1 - Wednesday, January 9

We woke up today to another fabulous weather report - high of 82 and just partly cloudy. Nice change from our PA weather!

We again left the house around 8:00 so that we would be in line at least 20 minutes before rope drop. We knew the crowds would be much different at Islands of Adventure, and it was certainly more crowded. This was our first real encounter with the mass tour groups too. We have seen them at Disney (and had some very negative interactions with them at character meet and greets) but there just seemed to be so many more groups here at Universal. Time of year? Type of park? Regardless, we tried to stay as far away from them as possible!

From reading here on the DIS, I knew to make our way back to WWOHP quickly, so we did. We hopped in line for Ollivanders right away. We waited less than 10 minutes to get into our wand show! I love the theming in WWOHP, and Ollivanders just set the mood even more. I do wonder about the guest who is chosen for the wand show - do they get the wand? Or at least a discount?

After Ollivanders, we made our way up to Hogwarts. The line was listed at a 20 minute wait, but most of that was simply winding through the queue. The lockers are sooooo crowded here. I wouldn't even let the kids in with me for that! I think I would have lost them forever in there!

FJ was different than I expected (not quite sure what I did expect, but the ride was different). My middle child didn't like the motion of the ride, and my youngest was scared of the Dimentors (although he was a trooper and didn't cry about it - until later in the day when he randomly started thinking about them!). My DD and I are the Harry fans, and she really liked the ride. I think I wish I would have seen more about Harry, and a little less thrill ride, but it was still pretty neat.

When we got off FJ, we saw the Butterbeer cart and needed to try some. I am not a cream soda fan, so I only drank a little, but the kids really enjoyed it. I am glad we had our Butterbeer early in the day, because just an hour later, the lines were HUGE! (no WWOHP pics from this day - I only snapped a few on my phone at this point).

The kids really wanted to do Flight of the Hippogriff, but the line was really long (45-60 minutes), so we decided to wait. We knew we'd be back, because Dragon Challenge didn't open until 11:00.

So off we went to see some Dr. Seuss. I really liked this part of the park. Maybe it's because I am a children's librarian? Maybe it's because it was really quiet there (especially compared to WWOHP)? But I really loved the theme and out time in this part of the park!

We walked right on the High in the Sky Trolley! The ride is way too short. But it's so cute! From there we walked right on Caro-seuss-el, which was fun to do:



That's my DH and youngest DS there!

The kids did One Fish, Two Fish too. The older two said it was for babies, but they actually liked it.



Same with The Cat in the Hat. We walked on every ride in this area within 5 minutes, so it was a short period of time to spend there. We just missed the meet and greet with the characters, but my kids didn't have an interest in going back later.

So, we refilled that popcorn bucket for $1 and had a snack before moving into the Marvel section.

It started to lightly rain as we left the Seuss area. Marvel was pretty crowded. My Undercover Tourist App told us Spiderman was a 10 minute wait, but when we got there, it said 30. And then the ride shut down, and we were not able to get in line for it at all. The kids were disappointed. Rain, no spiderman, and they were getting hungry. We had a late reservation (2:00) at Mythos, so we didn't want to eat too much. But we gave them a little snack to hold them over.

We didn't really know what else to do at that time, so DH and DD got in line for the Hulk (20 mins), and the boys and I headed to the Storm Forst spinning ride. They walked on that ride twice while we waited for the others to come off the Hulk.



My DD and DH LOVED the Hulk, so we were glad they took some time to wait for that one.

We walked back over to Spiderman, which had reopened. The wait was 45 minutes, but I think we really got there in 30. My middle DS was in near-meltdown-mode at this point (he has an anxiety disoder) so I don't think I was able to enjoy Spiderman as much as if we had done it earlier in the day. However, it was a neat ride - even if we had to wait a bit for it. Of course, for the rest of the day, the wait was back to 10 minutes.

We had a little time before our lunch reservation, so we decided to at least walk through the cartoon and Jurassic Park sections. We were not doing any water rides that day, so we passed right through the cartoon area. We stopped at Camp Jurassic for a bit, and the kids LOVED it. We had a really hard time getting them to leave for lunch!

But hunger won out, and we headed to Mythos to check-in.

To Be Continued...
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:15 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by macraven View Post
sounds like you all have a fun day!

did you watch the Blues Brothers show or see some of the characters by the Lucy Tribute?
We did! But not until our last day at the parks. There are so many good shows at the Studios! It's hard to fit them all in one day. I think that's what really makes that park a 2-day park!
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:45 PM   #30
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Day Three - Part 2

Our lunch reservation at Mythos was at 2:00. We arrived around 1:45 and were seated within 5 minutes.

I had read a lot about Mythos online, and really wanted to try it. The kids were glad for a chance to sit down and rest.

Mythos is BEAUTIFUL! The outside of the building is so impressive, and the interior is lovely as well.



I can't say enough good things about this restaurant. The greeters were friendly and seated us quickly. There were ample menus available for people waiting in the lobby. They also had some ice water with lemon in a cooler available for those waiting for a table (and since it was a hot day, it was so welcome!).

We had a lovely table close to a window overlooking the water. It was a booth-style table, and there was plenty of room for all 5 of us (so many times places squeeze the 5 of us into a booth meant for 4!). We all ordered something different:
  • I had the grilled chicked sandwich - with lettuce, tomato, bacon and ranch. The chicken was juicy and tender, the lettuce crisp, the bacon had excellent flavor, and the ranch added just a nice hint of flavor without being too "ranchy"
  • DH chose a chicken wrap - that had potatoes in it! Strange! But he said it was really good.
  • DD had a burger with bacon. It was huge!
  • DS9 had the kids' chicken fingers and fries. There were lots of healthy options as sides, which was nice, but he choose fries. LOL
  • DS6 had the kids pizza - it was HUGE! DH helped him finish it, because he could only eat half of it

The herbed bread that came out before our meal was delicious too. It was warm and yummy! Even my picky eater loved it (despite there being "stuff" on the bread). We were too full to think of dessert - but I wish we could have tried it!




After that great meal, we took some time to walk over to the Mystic Fountain and have a few laughs there. Both of my boys had conversations with the fountain, and got a little wet in the process.

We wandered back to WWOHP after that, stopping at Zonkos and Honeydukes to do some window shopping. We walked out and had an opportunity to get a rare family photo with the Conductor of the Hogwarts Express (and thanks to the nice couple who took the photo for us!).



I was hoping for a chance to let my stomach settle before any rides, but since there was no wait for Dragon Challenge, DD and I took advantage of that. Great ride! We rode the blue coaster.

After that, the kids pretty much revolted and said they wanted to go back to Camp Jurassic, which was their favorite thing in the whole park! I think they could go there for days on end and not get tired of it!

We tried to get to the final Sinbad show, only to find that it had been cancelled. After running over there for nothing, we felt a little tired, so we started to head out of the park. We saw that the Hulk had a 5 min wait, so DD and DH rode that one more time before we left.

We went back to our rental house to freshen up, and then drove back to the International Drive area, where we met up with a college friend for some appetizers at Dave and Busters. The kids had a blast playing games, and we enjoyed some time with an old friend. The kids were so busy playing that they didn't eat anything for dinner, so Wendy's drive-thru on the way back home was our final stop for the night.
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