A Year of Disney (and Universal) Trips- Universal Christmas Photos- updated 12/23

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by meeko_33785, Aug 6, 2011.

  1. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    Welcome to another year of trip reports! For those of you who have read some of my past reports, I hope you will join me again as I revisit 2011’s day trips, vacations and more and post some of my photos from them along the way. To those who haven’t read any of my reports, here’s a look at our cast:


    :earsboy: Meeko- I’m a 20-something guy who has been going to Walt Disney World for longer than I can remember. While at Disney World, I most enjoy the attractions (Tower of Terror being my favorite), finding the little details, and meeting/ photographing the characters. Out of all the Disney films, Beauty and the Beast is my favorite. As for Universal, my favorite attraction there is Jaws, and I’m a fan of both I Love Lucy and The Simpsons. I (of course) will be going on all the trips reported here.

    :earsboy: Buzz- My twin brother. Buzz is an art student and, like me, a Disney fan. He’s a big fan of Disney and PIXAR animation (Toy Story being his favorite film, hence his nickname here) as well as the Muppets. Buzz’s favorite Disney attraction is Splash Mountain, and he enjoys the atmosphere, humor and all the animals around the World. His favorite attraction at Universal is the Simpsons Ride and is, obviously, also a Simpsons fan. Buzz went on the February, May, July August, September, and October trips and will be going on the December trip as well.

    :earsgirl: Mom- My and Buzz’s mother. Mom’s favorite parts of a Disney trip tend to include doing something that involves learning about history of different cultures, trying different restaurants or just relaxing in a beautiful setting. She loves World Showcase, Soarin’, the Animal Kingdom (park and Lodge) and the resorts. She has never been to Universal before. Mom went on the August trip and will be going on the December trip.

    :earsboy: Dad- My and Buzz’s father. Dad also enjoys having a more relaxing time at Disney and also likes Soarin’, exploring the gardens around the World, restaurants and just sitting on a bench and enjoying the day. His favorite Disney movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas and tends to like both Disney and Tim Buton films in general. Like Mom, he has never been to Universal. Dad went on the August trip and will be going on the December trip.



    As for this year's trips, we have…


    "The Geekiest Place on Earth"- February 2011 Day Trip
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    My brother Buzz and my first visit to Universal’s Islands of Adventure plus a brief trip to neighboring Universal Studios.


    Chapters:



    **************


    "Best Day (Trip) Ever"- May 2011 Day Trip
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    A day at the Magic Kingdom with Buzz.


    Chapters:



    **************


    "Alone in Universal"- June 2011 Day Trip
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    A solo visit to Universal Studios Florida.


    Chapters:



    **************


    "A Disney Afternoon"- July 2011 Mini Day Trip
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    A brief afternoon visit to Downtown Disney with Buzz.

    Chapters:
    • Part One: Lego Imagination Center, lunch at Earl of Sandwich, Marketplace Fun Finds
    • Part Two: World of Disney, Harley Davidson, D Street



    **************

    "Africa in the Rainy Season"- August 2011 Trip
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    A theme park-free family vacation including a three-night stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge- Jambo House and visits to Kidani Village and Downtown Disney as well as a trip off-property to Orlando Premium Outlets.



    Chapters:

    Upcoming Chapters Include:
    • More Animal viewing at Jambo House and Kidani Village
    • Tours and activities around the Lodge, including the Wanyama Safari
    • Dining at Jiko, Sanaa, Boma, Raglan Road and more
    • Shopping at Orlando Premium Outlet, including the Disney outlet store



    **************

    September 2011 Day Trip
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    A day with Buzz at Disney's Hollywood Studios.




    Upcoming Chapters Include:
    • Our first flight on the new Star Tours
    • Lights, Motors Action with new Cars 2 segment
    • The "new" PIXAR Pals Countdown to Fun Parade
    • Lots of meet-and-greets including Phineas and Ferb and “Character Palooza” at the Magic of Disney Animation
    • Lunch at the infamous ABC Commissary



    **************

    October 2011 Day Trip
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    A day trip to EPCOT with Buzz.




    Upcoming Chapters Include:
    • Our first time seeing Captain EO
    • Kim Possible Missions in the United Kingdom and Mexico
    • Snacking our way around World Showcase at our first International Food and Wine Festival



    **************

    November 2011 Mini Day Trip
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    Buzz and my very brief visit with stops at Orlando Premium Outlet and Downtown Disney.

    Upcoming Chapters Include:
    • Shopping at the Disney's Character Warehouse
    • Christmas Decorations at Downtown Disney
    • Trying out Pin Trading



    **************

    December 2011 Trip Report

    A family Christmas vacation including a two-night stay at the Royal Pacific Resort and visits to Universal Studios, Citywalk and Islands of Adventure.




    Upcoming Chapters Include:
    • Mom and Dad's first trip to Universal and all of our first stay at at Universal Resort
    • Holiday Festivities around Universal Orlando including Macy's Holiday Parade
    • Dining at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Lombard's Landing, Pat O'Brien's and more
    • Early Entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter


    **************

    As you can tell, we’re long-time Disney fans but just discovering what Universal has to offer. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about our adventures starting with our first trip into the Wizarding World.
     
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  3. jenseib

    jenseib Mommy to Claire

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    I'm here and can't wait to read all about it! :worship:
     
  4. wdwgirl03

    wdwgirl03 <font color=red>I'm just a big Disney Freak! :-)<b

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    I'm here Meeko. :)
     
  5. jc040404

    jc040404 DIS Veteran

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    Subbing to read about your year of fun! I've been debating over Universal APs lately and can't wait to hear what you thought about it compared to WDW. :thumbsup2
     
  6. dawnbu40

    dawnbu40 DIS Veteran

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    Can't wait popcorn::
     
  7. not_Joanna_eggs

    not_Joanna_eggs DIS Veteran

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    I'm here too. Even your overview is making me want to give universal another try..:goodvibes
     
  8. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    Welcome! I'm looking forward to sharing these trips, too.


    Awesome! Welcome Sarah.


    Welcome! Glad to have you along.


    Thanks Dawn. Always nice to see you. Hope that you enjoy the report. :)


    Joanna, is my overview that effective. :laughing: Thanks for joining in.
     
  9. 3timesmom

    3timesmom Earning My Ears

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    Sounds great !!! Can't wait to read more....popcorn:: Tania
     
  10. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    Welcome! I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the report.
     
  11. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    Am I allowed to leave for Disney without doing a pre-trip report? :laughing: I know I didn’t do any for the other trips I that I’ll be writing about in this report, but then again, those were just one-day (at most) trips. Besides, it seems a little rude to start this trip report and just go to Disney without telling anyone. Anyway, we’re not leaving just yet, but there’s still plenty of work to be done- packing, last minute planning, etc.-before we do, so I probably won’t be spending too much time on the DIS (or, at least, on the Trip Report Board) before leaving. So, before I disappear for a bit, here’s a look at what we have planned.


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    As you may have noticed from the report’s introduction, this is going to be a three-night family vacation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. As you may have also noticed, this is supposed to be a theme park-free trip. As a big fan of the parks, I’m a bit apprehensive about going all the way to Disney and not going to the parks, but in all honesty, I'd like to have a more relaxing low-stress vacation right about now. Besides the parks will still be there for us later in the year when the temperatures are lower and the crowds are smaller. Instead of going to the parks, we’re planning on spending plenty of time at the Lodge watching the animals, going to the pool, and trying Jiko for the first time.


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    Beyond the resort, we're also planning on spending one evening at Downtown Disney and another at Universal CityWalk. Raglan Road at Pleasure Island and Pat O’Brein’s at CityWalk have been brought up as potential dinner spots, but instead of making a bunch of ADRs this time, we're just going to be flexible and play it by ear.


    This is sure to be a trip unlike any other that we’ve ever taken. I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but I’m excited to be trying something different at Disney.


    Ideally, I would like to get at least the first installment of my Islands of Adventure report up before I leave for Disney, but in case I don’t make it back to the DIS before then, I’ll “see” you all after my trip. :wave2:
     
  12. not_Joanna_eggs

    not_Joanna_eggs DIS Veteran

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    Your overview was highly effective :laughing: And I'll admit, I'm easily swayed on the subject easily swayed. :cutie: I really want to like universal, but last time we went the crowds were unbearable. To the point that I just sat in WWOHP and did nothing while DH and DSis braved the 3 1/2 hour line for FJ - and they did Single Rider!

    Have fun on your trip! I can't wait to hear about the park-free experience! Have a great time! And I hope you love Jiko... we do!
     
  13. jenseib

    jenseib Mommy to Claire

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    When are you going? I am going in 8 days. I plan to go on the 14th in the evening and take photos of AKL. It looks so beautiful. I am not hitting any parks that day and it seems to weird.
     
  14. Lady Lallie

    Lady Lallie DIS Veteran

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    I'm here!! I really can't wait to hear about WWOHP. I need to plan a trip there very soon to get my Harry Potter fix now that the movies are over.

    Jiko is so delicious, you will enjoy the food there. I hope you have a great trip and can't wait to hear about all of them. :goodvibes
     
  15. saintstickets

    saintstickets DIS Veteran

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    I'm interested in reading your "no-WDW-park" trip to WDW. We are doing the same thing next May, 2012. We will stay at VWL for 5 nights during this trip and not enter a WDW park. :scared1: (Will they kick us out of DVC? :lmao:) Our trip this time will consist of Discovery Cove, Seaworld, WWoHP at IoA and if time, a day trip to Kennedy Space Center. I'm looking forward to read how you handle being so close to WDW parks and not entering.
     
  16. Jennifer48

    Jennifer48 Not a Disney bride but engaged and honeymooned at

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    I'm here!
     
  17. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    Hi everyone! I’m back from a very different kind of Disney family vacation. During the entirety of the trip, we never set foot in a theme park (or even saw the Castle at all!), saw a single Disney character and never ate a hamburger, pepperoni pizza or anything shaped like Mickey Mouse. What we did do however, was spend three nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge watching the animals, dining at the restaurants and having a more relaxed version of a vacation.


    It will be a while before I start on the trip report for August since I do still have four (well, more like three and a half) day trips to get through before I get to it, but as a sneak preview, I’ve updated the description of the trip on the first post of the trip report and added a glimpse at a few of the photos from the trip. In case you don’t want to jump back to the first page to check it out, here’s a look at it:



    More about this trip to come, but first, we’re starting with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Islands of Adventure. Hopefully that post will be up sometime tomorrow.
     
  18. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    Thanks Joanna. A park-free trip was definitely a different experience. I kind of missed not going to the parks, but still had a good time.

    If you really want to try Universal again, I say go for it. If you do, you almost have to go at a less-crowded time. I know we never saw waits for anything get anywhere near 3 1/2 hours or even when we went in February. Even June at the Studios wasn't bad at (although Islands of Adventure next door still seemed packed).


    Have a great time on your trip. The Lodge is beautiful and I hope you get some wonderful pictures there.


    I bet that you would love the Wizarding World. I should have my Harry Potter report up tomorrow, so I hope that you'll enjoy it.

    I have to say Jiko was very good. All the restaurants at Jambo and Kidani were really great. Even the food court surprised us by having some really different and tasty meals.


    For me, I have to say it was a little tough not going to any of the parks, but we still had a great time.


    Awesome! Welcome to the report. :)
     
  19. meeko_33785

    meeko_33785 <font color=teal>Surrounded by characters<br><font

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    ”The Geekiest Place on Earth”- February 2011 Day Trip
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    In February 2011, my brother Buzz and I took a day trip to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Neither of us had ever been before, but ever since our first trip to Universal Studios in October (the mini-report of which can be found on in my 2010 Disney Trip Report), we thought that we’d give its sister park at try.

    As for the name of this section of the report, it comes from a comment Buzz made while we were at the park saying that it felt very geeky. I have to agree with him. It does, after all, include lands dealing with generally geek-friendly subjects like Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, cartoons and mythology. So, just how did two Disney fans like the “Geekiest Place on Earth”? Read on to find out. ​




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    For our first-ever visit to Islands of Adventure, Buzz and I got an early start and arrived at the Universal parking garage about 45 minutes before park opening. After making our way down all of the moving sidewalks in the garage and through the bag check point, we found ourselves in CityWalk.


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    After a short trek, we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory, catching our first up-close glimpse of the Pharos Lighthouse, the entry point to Islands of Adventure.


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    There was already a line forming at the turnstiles, so as soon as we could, we joined the rest to wait until rope drop. Knowing that the Wizarding World was on the right side of the park, we positioned ourselves at one of the farthest right turnstiles available. I’m not sure if this strategy worked, but it didn’t hurt. As we waited, we got our first glimpse at some of the theming and architecture of the park’s entrance. I have to say, I was pretty impressed already. Finally, the park was open and the crowd proceeded through the gates. I had heard that rope drop here can be a little crazy with lots of running, shoving, etc., but it seemed fairly calm to me. I was hoping that meant we had picked a good day to come.


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    We tried not head all the way to the Wizarding World without stopping, but I couldn’t help taking photos of a few of the details around Port of Entry.


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    Has anyone else noticed that the phrase across the entrance of Islands of Adventure is the same as the name of the opening ceremonies at the Animal Kingdom?


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    To get to the Wizarding World, we passed through Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent. Again, the theming looked impressive, but we didn’t stop and check it out just yet.


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    Finally, we arrive at Hogsmeade. I have to preface this portion of the report by saying that neither Buzz or I are Harry Potter fans. We’ve seen a few of the movies here and there and enjoy those Harry Potter Puppet Pals videos on YouTube every now and then, but never got into the books or films. Even with a more limited knowledge of Harry’s world, I have to admit that it looks impressive. It was a little foggy that morning as well which really added to the ambiance.


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    It may look cold, but it was actually a very pleasant day for February. As you can see, most people were in t-shirts and shorts.


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    After walking through Hogsmeade, we made our way to a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry.


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    The wait time for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was being advertised as only 10 minutes, so we hopped in line. Apparently, we didn’t know the tip about stowing your stuff at the lockers by Dragon Challenge to avoid the craziness of trying to use the lockers in Hogwarts. We probably could have saved at least a good 5 minutes by doing that. Plus, the room with the lockers inside Hogwarts is small, dark and crowded, and it’s fairly stressful trying to get in and out of. Once our bags were stowed, we joined the queue (sorry for the lack of photos, but I stowed my camera in the locker too). As many others have said, it’s very well themed and immersive. You could really tell who the big Potter fans in the crowd were too because they would stop every few seconds, gasp at something else, and take a hundred photos of it. Even with all the stops, the line moved fairly quickly. Within 25 or 30 minutes, we were boarding our flying benches and following Harry and company. I’d heard a lot about how amazing this ride was, and while I thought it was interesting, it didn’t live up to the hype. I didn’t really like the film segments (for some reason, my eyes had trouble focusing on the action at all of them) and the show scenes consisted primarily of things jumping out and making you uncomfortable. The ride system and vehicle itself was pretty cool though- sort of if you rode Sum of All Thrills through the Haunted Mansion. In the end, I thought it was a good ride and very impressive in a lot of respects, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Maybe it’s just my kind of ride.


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    After braving the crazy, crowded locker room to get our bags and exiting though the crazy, crowded gift shop, we headed back towards Hogsmeade, which was looking pretty crowded itself.


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    Next, we wanted to hit the land’s big roller coaster- Dragon Challenge. After stowing our bags in the nearby and much-less-crowded lockers, we joined the queue. I don’t think that we have seen the movie that this ride was based on, but caught on to the basic plot. Like Forbidden Journey, we ended up waiting around 30 minutes. The ride itself was a good roller coaster. The dueling component to it was fun, and the moments where it looked as if the two coasters were about to crash into each other were very well done. I was a bit disappointed that after a very well-themed queue, the ride itself was surrounded by the less-than-impressive backs of buildings and tons of gravel. The moment you left the station, the whole feeling of being in Harry Potter’s world was gone and it was just another roller coaster- a good roller coaster, but not a themed experience like the rest of the land.


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    Back to Hosmeade. Now that’s theming!


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    After grabbing our bags, I headed over to the train station to meet…


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    The Conductor of the Hogwarts Express. He posed for pictures in front of his train and chit-chatted with guests. I forgot to ask if he signed autographs like other characters, so I ended up just getting a photo. Does anyone know if he even has a name?


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    We had one more attraction left to do in the Wizarding World, so we headed back towards the now-even-more crowded streets of Hogsmeade, taking in the scenery one more time.


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    Back closer to Hogwarts, we found the Flight of the Hippogriff, and while in the queue, strolled past Hagrid’s hut.


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    One of the most impressive parts of the attraction was this animatronic hippogriff that you see briefly on the ride, but get a better look at from the queue. It looked fantastic. Behind it is another instance of less-than-perfect theming of the area- the exposed show building for the Forbidden Journey. It just sort of sat there at the edge of the forest unexplained and undecorated. So much of the Wizarding World had such amazing theming that things like this and minimal theming on Dragon Challenge just seemed to stick out even more. The ride itself was fun, though. It may be a kids coaster, but it felt longer and a bit more intense than something like the Barnstormer, but not too long or scary to where kids wouldn’t enjoy it. All in all, a nice little ride, and the wait wasn’t too bad (maybe 20 minutes at most).


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    After almost two hours of exploring the Wizarding World, we decided to move on and experience the park’s other lands. We took a few last photos and enjoyed a little of the Frog Choir show (from afar, the crowd around the little stage they perform at was already quite large by the time we got to them), we decided to head on towards Marvel Super Hero Island.



    Next chapter: “Pictures! Pictures of Spider-Man!”
     
  20. dawnbu40

    dawnbu40 DIS Veteran

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    We are huge fans of the Harry Potter books so every trip to WDW we debate if we should pay a visit to the WWoHP but so far we've always decided against it. Your pictures however are really tempting me to go and see it for myself! :)

    I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more of your day! :goodvibes
     
  21. saintstickets

    saintstickets DIS Veteran

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    Ditto for us except this next trip in May, 2012 we are going to take the plunge and visit IoA and WWoHP! :cool1:

    Keep the great TR coming meeko!
     

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