Hello all! While I really want to leave a trip report. I find I can't edit myself well enough to post something of reasonable length. I always want to include way too much detail... So, I'm trying to find a happy medium. Anyway.... I had a great solo trip the last week of November. My first solo trip to the parks! A day dream fulfilled! I've stayed at the Cabana Bay resort before, it's a fantastic place! Cheap ($99 per night APH discount) and has fantastic amenities for a budget resort. If you find that it's lacking, you probably need to stay at a higher class on-site property. In fact, I'd say it offers more per dollar (in lieu of unlimited EPs) than RPR, HRH or PFB. Great pools, water slide, lazy river, outdoor events, bowling, amazing fitness center... it's only lacking a proper table service restaurant. Unfortunately, it was cold, cold, cold! So, the pool was either closed, or it was just an utterly ridiculous idea to consider swimming. A shame, since I was looking forward to hitting the pool. I'm visiting from outside Philly and I was looking forward to second summer. like a bad house guest, I brought the cold down to Florida with me. Sorry all! The parks were great as always. Crowds were super small. Most rides were walk-on's and if they weren't, I just went on as a single. Since my last visit was 2015, a few new things have appeared. Since that's the most note worthy, I'm devoting my time to reviewing those and a bit to dinning. New rides and shows! First off, what was new to me at IOA: The Hulk, I haven't been since the refurb was finished and it added a few new bells and whistles to the queue line. As far as the ride goes, I noticed it may have been a bit smoother. But, hard to say without a back-to-back ride. I still bang my head against the shoulder harness. That really hurts my ears, does anyone else have that problem? I do think they subdued the Hulks growl. I did not take notice at the time, but I don't recall really hearing it and that was a sound you heard through out the entire park. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe it was toned down and I just didn't pay attention since it was not as prominent. Kong... I've avoided reviews and spoiler of this ride. It was under construction on my last visit, but based on my podcast listening, it get's a meh from most. Not bad, but not great. That's what I would say. I'd recommend it, it has a fun factor but, is not a landmark hall of fame achievement. It's a good filler ride. What really hurts is that the story is just wonky. You follow the female adventurer, then she get's taken away by a crab claw. You don't see her anywhere else, but she does a voice over at the end. It's really a crummy story line. This bugged me. The Grinch Christmas show... I have no idea what the official title is. I'm not even going to look it up. I did it, I was disappointed and don't understand why they can't go back to the original source material and not the Jim Carey movie! I remember doing the old Grinchmas show (way back in 2008) and that didn't cause me agitation. This caused me agitation. I don't hate it, but I didn't care for it. The performances were all good. The stage looked nice, the snow at the end was alright. But, the songs were corny and nothing I'd want to put into my Christmas playlist. The best part was the playing of the original Grinch song. That made me happy. Why can't we just adapt the book and the Chuck Jones cartoon to the stage? Everything about the source material and the original adaptation is timeless and classic. Do we have to put a new spin on this? Hogwarts lighting. This was fantastic. If you don't see this at least once, you really didn't go to the park. Suess decorations. It seems they really stepped up the decorations since my last Christmas visit in 2008 (ten years, yikes). I thought it looked great! Christmas music everywhere... Am I the only one disappointed that there is Christmas music playing in POE? I missed hearing the IOA theme and the closing music. What's new to me in Studios: Rip Ride Rockit, yes this has been there for awhile. In fact it was there on 2 previous visits. But, I never got the chance to ride it, since I was the only one in the family willing to do it. in 2015 my then 13 year old daughter, was too afraid to try it. To be truthful, I was afraid to do it. That's why I never pushed to do it back then. And, well, the first ride on this damn thing... was a nightmare. That vertical climb is just scary. I was terrified I'd fall out of my seat. Then that first drop was not much better. There was no joy on that first ride. None at all. But, this thing was challenging me. Laughing, mocking... thinking it had the best of me. I showed it. The next day, I went on it again. And I started to like it. So, I went right back on and I kept my hands in the air the entire time. From the vertical climb to the final stop. I showed it. I like that ride. It's intense, but it's good fun. Fast and the Furious.... the best way to sum this ride up was stated by the young english kid sitting behind me "there's so much potential here, but it's all wasted.' He said this before the ride even started. His female companion told him, 'you haven't even ridden it yet.' Amazingly, he was right. I tried to see the value of what she said, but by the end of the ride, I realized I had met a real wizard and he could divine the future. A lot of potential not utilized. Would I ride it again? If I've exhausted all possibilities and there's no wait, I'd give it a go. But, there's nothing outstanding about this ride for me. I don't follow the franchise and this doesn't make me want to follow the franchise, like many other Universal rides had done to me in the past (I can't think of too many rides I went on at UO that have not made me go out and buy the DVD once I got home). Jimmy Falon... I felt no need to ride this. I walked past it and just said no. Did I make a mistake? I almost wish it was still Twister. I at least have fond memories of that. As I stated earlier, I avoided any reviews or spoilers for new rides and shows. So, I could be hating things that everyone loves. I guess we need to get onto the food, the second reason we love theme parks! For the most part I'm skipping any meals I had outside the park. Mainly they were at the Bayliner Diner, those were not bad, they just weren't anything I feel needs to be written about. Day one was not too adventerous. I had lunch at three broomsticks. I had the holiday turkey and stuffing. It wasn't bad. It may have had a bit too much rosemary for my taste and it may have been a little dry, I guess the dry is to be expected with counter service. The serving was too much for one person though. Day two, while I normally skip breakfast when I know I'm getting table service for lunch, but I couldn't resist Three Broomsticks again. I was there for EE and felt I needed to take advantage of the small crowds in Hogsmeade. For this I went with the traditional English breakfast. Yummy. Still too much food for one person, but I managed to finish it Day two, lunch. Mythos. I love Mythos. Every since I first saw it and especially after my first meal there. I had Victor as my server, he was touted as the best server on property. He was pretty good. Very attentive and was certainly the best server I've ever had at Mythos (I'm old school Mythos, my first meal at Mythos was 2000, so I have a long track record of eating there). Props to him. Instead of my regular, the Risotto of the day... I went with the pork encrusted with blue cheese and cranberrys, plus a bowl of the butternut squash soup. Both were fantastic. Loved it. Plus, with tip I only spent $25 after my AP discount. Typically I am not a vegetable or squash fan, so loving the soup was a big deal. It's sweet, so if you are a sweet fan, you'll be happy. Day three.. no pictures, but I had the Korean BBQ tacos at the Bumblebee man taco truck. I read a few good reviews and while I admit they are tasty, they are SMALL. The nachos it comes with... shouldn't there be salsa? Did I miss the salsa station? I dunno. They are more a snack than a meal. Which is surpisng considering that counter service usually is a decent amount of food. Day four... I debated, do I want to go back to Mythos or should I go to the overlooked Confisco Grille? I've had a few meals there and never any complaints. So, I looked up the menu on the WDW Lines app. They showed Valhalla Chicken. Since I was craving some pasta, I thought that would be an excellent way to end the trip. BUT.... That menu on the WDW app was really out of date. That was not on the menu. I debated, should I just get up and head back to Mythos? It was about 1:30 and I needed to leave the park no later than 2:30 to get to the airport. While I saw stuff on the menu I would be interested in, I really had my heart set on the chicken. I could go to Mythos and do the Risotto... but I decided to stick it out, it's not like the rest of the menu was toxic and the Braised Beef Pappardelle Pasta sounded pretty good. If you think I'm about to have a happy accident and accidentally eat the best thing I have ever tasted... you would be wrong. It wasn't bad. But, not what I was craving. I finished the plate in it's entirety. It was good, but not what I really wanted. I'd give it high marks, it just wasn't for me on this day. Any negatives would be my own fault and my expectations on my last meal. lol Other than visiting some family and sightseeing St Augustine and hitting the beach and hitting way too many thrift stores, my first solo trip was over. It was a bit disappointing that it was so cold, but, I had a great time. My only regret was not staying longer and making the time to meet up with any other solo travelers for an adult beverage, ride or meal. I can't say it's lonely traveling alone, but there are times it would be fun to share a few laughs and have a lengthy discussion about rides, shows, scenery with another theme park geek. I think that's where us 'geeks' feel uncomfortable around the general public (or at least I do). Even though all of these people are visiting our favorite places, they are just tourists. Geeks, such as myself, these places are our second homes and, in many cases, our first loves. I am 95% positive that most tourists don't mind us sharing a helpful tip that gives them a better experience, they don't want to hear us talk about all the little nuances and detail that we enjoy about these homes away from home. So, anyway, next visit, I'm going to try and reach out to other members of the community and find a travel partner or group for a few hours. Maybe not the entire day (it really is fun not being tied down!), but it would be fun to have a club outing at either UO, WDW, or some other place us theme park fans congregate in central Florida. Oh yeah... to stir the pot, I changed my views about which Harry Potter ride is better. Forbidden Journey all the way. Gringotts, it's a better themed, better story version of the Mummy, but without as good of a coaster experience. Don't hate... still like Gringotts, just FJ gets a 10 and Gringotts gets an 8. Totally subjective. Hopefully I did not just ostracism myself from the community.... Just imagine... this was the short version of my trip report.