50 is the new 10 - A birthday celebration at Universal

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by Charade67, Dec 30, 2017.

  1. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    So I turned 50 this year. Wow. I decided that I had 2 options, I could be completely depressed, or I could embrace it. I decided that a theme park vacation would be fun. My family had just spent a week at WDW at the end of 2015, so I decided a Universal vacation was in order. We have only been to Universal a few times (IOA only once) and it was always as a side trip from WDW. This year we would embrace Universal and leave the mouse for another time. I started planning this trip on July 4, and got lots of great information from these message boards.

    Let me start with the introductions. I am “T” - age 50, a receptionist in a mental health counseling office, Ravenclaw. Dh is “C” - age 55, college professor, Slytherin. Our daughter is “B” - age 17, high school student, Ravenclaw. Yes, we are all HP geeks.

    December 15: Travel day - I was beginning to think this would never happen. I week prior to this day i was diagnosed with strep throat. Really? I was joking about acting like a child for my birthday, but I never thought I would get a common childhood illness. Thank goodness for antibiotics.
    We had to get up early on Friday because B needed to get to school to take her las 2 mid-term exams. Exams were actually scheduled for December 18-20, but all of her teachers agreed to let her take her exams early so we could have this trip. After dropping B off I stopped by the grocery to buy stuff needed for Christmas dinner. I didn’t want to be grocery shopping when we got back. (2 days before Christmas.) I got home, put some laundry in the machine, and then had to get the cat into his carrier to go to the pet sitter.
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    The rest of the morning and afternoon was pretty much a blur. I washed sheets and towels, cleaned the house, finished packing, and I think I ate lunch at some point. Around 3:00 we loaded up the car and headed to the school to pick up B. We headed straight to the airport from the school. Although we live in Virginia, we decided to fly out of Charlotte, NC because the flights were so much cheaper. It is about a 3.5 hour drive for us. Our flight didn’t leave until 10:30, so we had plenty of time. I think we got to the airport around 8:00 or 8:30. It was quite busy, so I am glad we got there early. We eventually boarded only to be told there would be a delay due to problems witht he bathrooms. Do flights ever leave on time? We finally got going, but with only 2 working bathrooms on a full flight. Thankfully the flight was short.

    It was sometime around 12:30-1:00 in the morning when we arrived in Orlando. We had prepaid for transportation to the hotel. I called the transportation service and they told me they were sending a cab. While we were waiting I happened to notice that one of the prongs on my engagement ring was broken. Not a good thing to discover right before spending a week in a theme park. The cab arrived and took us to the Royal Pacific Resort. It is a beautiful hotel, but we were too tired to appreciate it at the moment. We got checked in and I was given buttons
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    And balloons.
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    At this time it was 2:00 in the morning. We found our room (Tower 1), I put my ring in the room safe, we all changed into pyjamas, and collapsed into bed.

    Birthday celebration tomorrow.
     
  2. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Saturday, December 16 - Today was the official birthday day. I don’t remember exactly when we got up this morning, but it was still in time to get breakfast. We wandered down to the Islands Dining room and decided on the breakfast buffet. The food was really good, and I loved the made to order omlettes, but we were in a bit of sticker shock when we got the bill.
    After breakfast we printed out park tickets and headed to the water taxis. I really prefer this form of transportation over busses. I cannot count the times I have had to stand on a packed park bus. The water taxis only allow the number of passengers they have seats for. We arrived at Citywalk and then had to make a decision. We decided to start with Universal.
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    We headed straight for Harry Potter, but got distracted by the Blues Brothers show. This is one of C’s favorite movies.
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    We stayed until the end of the show, then continued our journey to HP. We spent some time checking out the knight bus and Grimwald Place before heading into Diagon Alley.

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    This was our first time in Diagon Alley, and even though we have been to Hogsmead before, I was still overwhelmed. I was trying to look everywhere at once, and trying to take pictures, but the rest of the family was eager to ride Escape from Gringotts. We put all of our stuff in a locker (big mistake) and got in line. I really wish I had kept my phone with me so I could take pictures inside. It was extraordinary. Next time I go I plan to take my time, go throught the regular line, and take lots of pictures. I was a little nervous about the ride itself because I really don’t care for roller coasters, but this one was fine. After Gringotts it was time to take the Hogwarts Express.

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    Now that we were in IOA we decided to stay there. Today was going to be a short day at the parks because we had plans for later. At this point we were all getting hot and thirsty, so we decided to stop to hydrate. We got water and, since we had never tried it before, pumpkin juice. I only had a couple of sips of C’s pumpkin juice since I really don’t care too much for pumpkin. I thought it was interesting, but not something I would buy for myself. Next we wandered over to the fountain near Sinbad.
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    It took me a while to get a chance to talk to the fountain. There were lots of little kids around including a few who didn’t want to leave. B and I finally got a chance to talk to the fountain. This was probably one of the most amusing parts of the vacation. Next C wanted to check out a shop that makes 2 sided coins. He had one made a few years ago when we visited IOA, but lost it recently. We wandered over to the shop and he took forever deciding on which designs he wanted on the coin. By the time he made his decision it was almost time for us to head back to Citywalk for dinner..........
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  4. EveDallas

    EveDallas Always keep fighting

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    Loving your report so far! The pics are awesome. RPR is a great hotel - can't wait to be there in April!
     
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  5. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Saturday, December 16 cont. - I had decided months ago that I wanted to have my birthday dinner at Toothsome. I love chocolate, my husband loves steampunk, it’s a win-win. We got there just before 5:00 and had about a 15-20 minute wait.
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    We were seated upstairs and decided to order the chocolate almond bread. It was really good. For our meals C ordered the shrimp and crab macaroni and cheese, B ordered the salmon, and I ordered Chicken Bercy. Both C and B loved what they ordered. Mine was good, but not something I would order again. Finally it was time for the real reason we went here - the milkshakes. I ordered the Brownie, B got red Velvet, and C got Marshmallow Crisp.
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    The server started to take my shake to a young woman at the table next to us. She told them it wasn’t her shake, but it was her birthday. Her group sang for me and then my family sang for her. The shake was good, but I made the mistake of eating the brownie first. I couldn’t finish the shake, so our server offered to put it in a to go cup for me. (Also had to put B’s shake in a to go cup.) After dinner we took a quick trip back to the hotel to put the shakes into the refridgerator. Now it was time to call a cab to take us to the final birthday event of the night - the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert.

    I have never seen TSO live and was really excited that they were in Orlando on my birthday. We had a nice ride to the Amway Center. Our driver was polite and friendly. I wish we could have gotten him again for the trip back. I almost didn’t get into the concert because one of the people working security didn’t like my camera. I argued with her that the rules that I received by email stated no professional cameras and no cameras with detachable lenses. Mine was neither. Finally another person came over, checked my camera, and said it was okay. The concert was awesome. The music and singing were great, and I was fascinated by the lights and pyrotechnics. Here are a few pictures and they certainly don’t do it justice.
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    After the concert is when things got interesting. We called the cab company to come pick us up. They instructed my husband to go to a certain street corner and look for the cab stand. When we walked over there the street was blocked off. We wandered around a bit looking for a cab stand and ended up at Church Street Station. My husband called the cab company again and told them where we were. They tried to send us to another street corner. He informed them that we were tourists and had no idea how to find that corner. He insisted that they come to where we were.They insisted that they couldn’t because the street was closed. We were standing there watching cars drive up and down the street. Then the dispatcher was trying to give instructions to the driver on how to find us. Um...how can you be a cab driver if you don’t know your way around the city? After arguing with the cab company for what seemed to be at least 15 minutes, my husband got frustrated and flagged down the first car he saw that had a for hire sign. Thankfully the driver got us back to our hotel for roughly the same price it cost us to get to the Amyway center.
    By this time it was well after midnight. We would not be taking advantage of early park entry when we got up.
     
  6. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Somehow I posted twice and I don’t know how to delete.
     
  7. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Thank you! I just wish I had taken more. We loved RPR and would happily stay there again.
     
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  8. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Come back and share more with us!
     
  9. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    I’ll try to post more soon. I had to go back to work yesterday .
     
  10. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Sunday, December 17 - We were exhausted from last night’s debacle with the cab company, so we decided to sleep in. I think it was around 10:00 before we got up. C wanted to eat breakfast in one of the parks, so we headed over to Universal again. On our way out the hotel door we ran into Gru and a minion. I wish I had my camera ready for a quick pic. They appeared to be coming in for a break, so we didn’t try to stop them for pictures. We got to Universal and almost immediately I spotted Scooby Doo and Shaggy. This is where my inner child came out. I have loved Scooby Doo since I was a little kid, so naturally I shoved the camera into C’s hands and insisted he take some pictures. Please forgive me for not posting photos, but I am a little leery about posting our faces on a public message board.

    After the Scooby photos we decided to look for food. At this point is was too late for breakfast (after 11:00) so we wandered over to Mel’s Diner. Not the best food we had, but it was food. After lunch C got distracted by one of the pin carts. He started collecting several years ago. He doesn’t trade, just collects. I hate shopping with him because he takes forever to decide on something. After he chose some pins we decided to introduce B. to Bruce the shark. C and I had visited Disney and Universal (our first trip) back in October of 1996. The parks weren’t crowded at all. I remember Jaws as being our longest wait time at 20 minutes. I’m going to break my rule (just this once) about not posting pics with us in them. I think this is a cute photo and you can’t really see their faces.

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    Next up was ET. It’s a cute ride, but really starting to show its age. If they every replace it, I hope they replace it with another family friendly ride.

    Next up was Men In Black. B has never seen the movie, so really has no idea what it is about. She enjoyed shooting the aliens though. She did well, C did extremely well, and I was awful. I was trained by Stormtroopers. I couldn’t hit a target if it was two feet in front of me.

    Next we headed over to Race Through NY. I didn’t get a picture at the time, but quickly snapped this one a couple of days later.
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    I really don’t know anything about Jimmy Fallon. I haven’t watched the Tonight Show since Jay Leno (I really miss Johnny Carson.). Maybe someone can explain the panda thing to me? I thought the ride was pretty fun though. it wasn’t my favorite, but I would do it again.

    Now B and C were ready for the Rip ride Rockit. I got to be the offficial holder of stuff. I am not a roller coaster person. I am terrified of heights, so this ride freaks me out every time I look at it.
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    And now for something completely different. It was time for Despicable Me. The regular line was really long. Thank goodness for express passes. This is such a cute ride. B and I would have ridden it again, but C wanted to got to Shrek. I had forgotten how much I dislike this ride. I don’t mind most simulators, but this one is just uncomfortable for me. Definitely a one and done ride.

    Now C wanted to go to Transformers. B had no interest in this ride, so she and I found ourselves a nice bench to sit on. I know absolutely nothing about Transformers, so when I heard kids shouting Bumblebee! Bumblebee! I was looking around hoping not to get stung. B finally explained it to me. As we were sitting there we realized that we were in a good spot to view the parade. We still had a little more than an hours to go, but decided we wouldn’t give up our bench. Once C returned we decided to have some snacks (churros and water) and wait for the parade.....
     
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  11. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    So cute !

    Bumble bee, bumble bee alert

    Glad you were tipped off

    I like the TF but find the ride a bit jerky
    I ask for seats in the middle where it seems smoother for me when I do ride it
     
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  12. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    I haven’t been to a theme park parade in several years. I’m 5’ 2”, and I always seem to get stuck behind tall people. This time I was actually able to sit down and enjoy watching it. The parade wasn’t too terribly long, and we all enjoyed the floats and Macy’s balloons.

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    Once the parade was over it ws time for us to find a spot to see Mannheim Steamroller. I almost bought tickets to see them back in November when they were coming to a city near me. I decided against it since we were already spending so much money on this trip. I was so happy when I found out they would be performing at Universal while we were there. The concert was great. The only thing I didn’t like was having to sit on the ground. I am way too out of shape to be doing that.

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    Once the concert was over it was time for the park to close. We headed over to Citywalk and decided to find someplacce to eat. We eventually decided on the Hot Dog Hall of Fame just because it seemed a little goofy.

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    C and B both got the Kansas City dog. I was shocked because in 17 years I have never seen B eat anything except a plain hot dog with no bun. She ate her entire hot dog and said it was really good. I had the Detroit dog. I don’t really care much for hot dogs, but this one wasn’t too bad. I wish they had a Cincinnati option on the menu.

    When dinner was over we decided to call it an early night and go back to the hotel. Tomorrow we will attempt early entry.
     
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  13. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    that float pic with Santa was great!
     
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  14. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Thanks! My camera has a great zoom lens.
     
  15. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Monday, December 18 - Today we decided to take advantage of early entry. We grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out to the water taxi. When we got there a large crowd was already waiting, so we decided to walk. There was another long line to get through security, and more waiting once inside the park. Once we got to Hogsmead we were informed that no one could go on the rides yet because they were filming a commmercial. The crowd was very annoyed at this. Many people were complaining that we should have been informed of this before we tried to get in the park early. We had the option of exploring the shops or taking the train to Diagon Alley. Most people were going to the train, so we opted to shop for a little while and take pictures.

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    I think everyone takes a picture of this.
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    We also decided to get our obligatory butter beer.
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    The butter beer was a lot sweeter than I remembered it, and I think the portion size was bigger too. I was not able to finish mine. By now they had finished the commercial and we were allowed to ride Forbidden Journey. Note to self: do NOT drink butterbeer then immediately ride FJ. I didn’t get sick, but I didn’t really feel right for the rest of the day. After FJ we rode Flight of the Hippogriff (one of the few coasters I can tolerate) and then took the train to Universal and then back to IOA.

    We had some time to kill before lunch, so we decided to do Posideon’s Fury. B and I had skipped this the last time we were here. I found it to be really odd. I will probably skip it the next time I am at IOA.
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    Now it was lunchtime and we had reservations at Mythos.
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    I was really amused with the number of people who showed up without a reservation and were annoyed that there was a 40-45 minute wait. It’s noon during one of the busiest times of the year at the most popular theme park restaurant. What do you expect?
    I ordered the beef medallions, C had the risotto, and B got a hamburger. We split the creme brûlée for dessert. Everything was really good and we were completely stuffed. We were too full to ride any rides, so we wandered over to Dr. Seuss to see the Grinchmas show. The last time we were at IOA we were too early for Grinchmas. The show was cute and fun, and was a good way to pass some time while waiting for our food to settle.

    B and C were now ready for some more adventure, so it was off to the Hulk coaster.
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    This is another ride I am too chicken to get on. Next up was Spiderman. That one I can handle.

    It was a really warm day, so we decided to try some water rides. First was Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat barges. I didn’t take into consideration that even though it was really warm outside, the water would be really cold. We got soaked. Well, since we are already soaked, we might as well ride Ripsaw Falls too. Now all we wanted was hot showers, so it was back to the hotel for us.

    After showers and some rest we decided to go back to IOA and see the castle light show. We were packed in like sardines, but it was worth it. I tried to shoot video, but somehow managed to turn it off. I did get some pictures. These really don’t do it justice. I wish we had gone back ad watched it again another night.

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    We were finally hungry again and decided on the Three Broomsticks for supper. The food was okay, but not outstanding. We were mostly there for the atmosphere.
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    We decided to call it a nigh and return to the hotel. Tomorrow we would be splitting up for most of the day.
     
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  16. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Tuesday, December 19 - Today we go our separate ways for most of the day. B really wanted to visit Volcano Bay. She has been a little fish almost all of her life. Unfortunately I do not like water much. I can’t swim and am afraid of heights, so water parks aren’t the place for me. Luckily C also likes water parks, so they headed to Volcano Bay after breakfast. Unfortunately they didn’t take any pictures, so I have nothing to share.

    I decided this would be a good opportunity to do some shopping at Citywalk. I was looking for a new wallet so Fossil was my first stop. The salesperson was very helpful and I was able to find something quickly. I wandered through some of the other shops looking for a Christmas present for a friend, but couldn’t find anything I liked. I thought about going back into the parks by myself, but my feet and back were hurting so I decided to go back to the hotel.

    I decided to take a short nap and then take advantage of the hotel hot tub. I had the hot tub to myself for a while, but then a family showed up. It was time for me to get out anyway. After a shower I realized that I was hungry and it was well past lunchtime. My original plan was just to get a quick snack. I ended up wandering into Jake’s and ordering the spinach artichoke flatbread. It was really good. I planned on just eating part of it and saving some for later, but before I knew it, I had eaten it all. After lunch I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally get some good pictures of the hotel.

    This was right outside Jake’s
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    The tree and gingerbread village in the lobby
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    This pond/courtyard area looked like a nice place to sit and relax.
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    The view outside my room window if I look to the left.

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    And if I look to the right.
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    I went back to the room and watched TV until B and C returned. I had assumed that they would eat lunch at the water park, but they hadn’t. They were starving. Back to Jake’s we went. B and C split a pepperoni pizza which they both said was really good.

    Our original plans for tonight were to have dinner with some friends who live in Orlando, but they canceled on us. We talked about going back into one of the parks, but instead made our way back to Citywalk to the movie theater. We are all Star Wars fans, and the movie had just recently been released, so we wanted to see it before we heard any spoilers.

    After the movie we wandered around Citywalk for a bit then headed over to Antojitos for a late supper. I wish I could remember the name of our waiter. He was really good and very friendly. I don’t remember what C ordered, but B and I split an order of chicken enchiladas with verde sauce. (Neither of us was very hungry.) The next time we go to Universal I want to have a full meal at this place.

    Now it was time to go back to the hotel and decide what we want to do tomorrow.
     
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  17. HM

    HM My tag from the Tag Fairy is now too long to use.

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    We were there the same time as you but stayed at Sapphire Falls.
    I love what you said about being trained by Stormtroopers. That made me smile.

    I'm confused as to what night you did what, but I think we may have seen Star Wars the same night as you.
     
  18. Lynne G

    Lynne G DIS Veteran

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    Great pictures. You did quite a bit. We had fun the days we were there. Was very nice to meet you and family.
     
  19. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Thanks. I’m glad someone caught that.

    We went to see Star Wars on Tuesday the 19th. I wanted to see it before I starts hearing spoilers.
     
  20. Charade67

    Charade67 Whatcha *do*-in'?

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    Thanks Lynne. It was nice meeting you and your daughter. I just wish we had more than a few minutes to talk to each other. B’s teacher really likes the clarinet.

    I suppose I should finish the trip report at some point.
     
  21. HM

    HM My tag from the Tag Fairy is now too long to use.

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    OK, we saw it on Sunday night. We did Blue Man Group on Monday. Tuesday was our last night and we viewed the Castle light show then.
     

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