Monday, June 9, 2008

Florida Trip 2

So after we left the Magic Kingdom, Ben and I rode the bus over to the newly RENAMED Disney's "Hollywood Studios". Ben is a huge Ohio State fan. He talked to ANYONE that had Ohio clothes on or looked like they were from the state. This happened again, just outside of the studio entrance. While I was taking this photo of the entrance, Ben was being social! The people he was talking to were as excited as he was. This time it all paid off. This family from Ohio had been lucky enough to be chosen by the Dream Team and granted two Ultimate FastPasses. They had only used one of the passes and were leaving the park for the day, so they gave them to us. It was really cool! The only bugger was that the passes didn't come with the Dream Cloud Ears...the one thing I really wanted! I was tempted to ask someone if winning ANYTHING from the Dream Team got the ears and act like we hadn't gotten our Ears, but figured that'd be pushing our luck. For all we knew, they would look to see that we hadn't been the winners and screw it all up!

This is close to my favorite park. It's my world..HOLLYWOOD! I sometimes wish I'd been alive back in the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood. Here's where I can indulge in that dream. We were still on the goal to hit all four parks, so we mainly were there for the rides. We headed to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror first. A favorite! Love the the premise..and LOVE the drops!!

After the drop...we got to use our first Ultimate FastPass for Rockin' Rollarcoaster. I was nervous we'd get caught..but it was sweet going through fast and feeling like royalty for a sec. But to be honest, this time of year had the park with just the right amount of people so no wait was even that long. But it was still fun having the passes...felt really cool!

We had done the big rides, and after some pin shopping and looking for any cool villians stuff, I was good to hit the fourth park in one day. But then Ben realized the Star Wars portion of the park...which I'd totally forgotten about. Well, not really, I'm a HUGE fan of Star Tours, but I've been on it many times and I'm waiting for them to get the updated ride done (hopefully soon! Let's go Lucas!!). This ride was also on our Super Pass..but the guy at the gate told us we wouldn't need it..and he was right. Unfortunatly, not having to wait made it harder for Ben to fully take in all the great stuff alone the que. Ben was starting to loose energy when we got to this park, but getting to ride on an Endor speeder gave him some renewed energy. I was only bummed we were like a few weeks too early for the "Star Wars Days" held at the park in June. Wish we coulda seen the Jedi Academy. I've heard from a good source it's a pretty cool experience for young kids..or young at heart!

After we finished the rides and some shopping at the Studios, we were gonna try to hit the last park, EPCOT. But the full day had gotten to us, and we realized we'd barely make it. So, we decided in stead to go to Downtown Disney and get food. We headed back via the bus to the Magic Kingdom parking lot. The bus driver talked with us a little and suggested we watch the Pirates and Princess fireworks show from the Polynesian beach. I hadn't ever been to the Polynesian resort and was really impressed. It makes me really want to try some of the other on property places to stay. Fun pool and the beach was fantastic!

After we wandered the resort and walked around the pool, we found a place on the beach and watched a pretty good fireworks show.

It was a whirlwind trip through the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH, but I'll take any amount of Disney fun that I can! Thanks, Gene, for sending us!!

Until laterz!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Last Cities visit...for now

I took the weekend to go up to my old stomping grounds in the Minneapolis area. I wanted to catch up with some good friends before I make "THE MOVE". I realized I hadn't been up since a year ago, pretty much exactly. I stayed with my childhood friend, Anthony. He and his wife, Kerri, were my landlords for a year when I went to the Art Institute International-MN earlier in the decade. They are like family. They have a beautiful little peanut, Camryn, who today turned 2!!
(click on images to see larger versions)

They went to college at Bethel College with many of my other Minneapolis friends. I also got to catch up with another good "brother" of mine, Andy. After hearing about her for the last couple months, I finally was able to meet the girl that holds his heart, Kelly. She was a sweet gal and fit right in with the other girls. We all gathered at Ian and Lara, where we cooked out

and watched a master class of pie making, performed by the hosts.

It was great to see Ian and Lara's new house, which I totally forgot to take a picture of. But I did get to take plenty of pictures of their two young ladies, Lily and Cici. Add in Camryn and it made for many photo ops!

It was a wonderful time to catch up and see old friends, and new ones!

Unfortunatly, we had to get going before the pies were totally cooled...that was maybe the biggest bummer...just look at this masterpiece!!! Way to go Chef Ian!!

Until laterz!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Florida Trip 1

I've had this post on my "to do" list ever since I've gotten back from the trip. Finally it's here. A little background on this random trip. My boss, at the gym I coach at, sent myself and another coach down to Florida for a short little trip. Just 'cause! Ben and I decided we didn't want to just sit around the whole two days we were actually there, so we decided to hit up the theme parks. I hadn't been to Universal Studios Orlando/Islands of Adventure, but figured this would be a good oppertunity to do that park. So we took one day to do Universal. I didn't take my camera that day, so my only pics are on my phone, and I haven't figured out how to get them off it. Ben did take some with his camera, but I haven't gotten copies from him yet. I loved Dueling Dragons (but only if you wait in the line for the front seat) and I loved the Spiderman ride. I enjoyed the Hulk rollercoaster and the Doom ride too, but really we were done with the rides by about 1pm. We then realized that our tickets would get us into BOTH parks, so we hit up Dueling Dragons again and then headed over to the Studios and lunch. I've been to the LA Universal Studios when I was younger (that's a WHOLE other blog, as my family would be able to remember) and this version was pretty much the same. We got on the Simpson's ride (which I found out later that it wasn't even officially open yet). I guess it is in the old Back to the Future ride site, and according to Ben it was basically the same ride experience. Honestly, I can't even really remember what other rides we hit. There was the Mummy ride, which in my opinion was a little dated. The mummy animatronics were sad. The big thing that was confirmed on this day was my dislike of many middle school girls (and guys too, but mainly girls) let loose at an amusement park, alone. They can be the most annoying creatures at that age! One on one, it's cool..but dang...put them with other girls and BOOM! you got a major kill joy on some rides. That's all..I'm off my soapbox.

The second day we hit up the Walt Disney World Resort. Now, for most that know me, it's amazing to think I could go to the resort and spend only ONE day there. Four days isn't enough for me usually. But I took this as a challenge. Thankfully, an old co-worker from my Disney Store days (who had been working for the parks for about a decade) came through with two hopper passes for Ben and I. This solved a huge question of what park to go to. We decided to try to hit all four parks. A HUGE feat for anyone. But since Ben isn't a big Disney fan like myself...I figured this would be a good chance to try to just do the major rides and buzz through the world.

(Click on the images to see a larger view)

We hit up Animal Kingdom right off in the morning. Mainly cause I wanted to catch Expedition Everest. I had been wanting to get on this ride since it opened a year or so ago. The line went fast and the ride was in full working order and was a blast. I really enjoy the latest Disney Mountain. I'm always up for Disney to add more E-ticket rides!

After walking around the park for Ben to see the newest park (he hadn't been to WDW since he was a kid), we headed over to the Magic Kingdom to meet some friends of mine. After being introduced via iChat to fellow Husker fan/Disney fan/Mac lover Brian by my sister, it was great to finally meet him and his wife, Beth in person. We continued the challenge of hitting the main rides and experiences with our new friends.

We hit the upgraded Pirates ride. I still think Disneyland's version is my favorite. Although, I haven't seen how Hong Kong's version is. It wasn't open when I was there last. We also hit up the newly "plussed" Haunted Mansion.

That was great to see the changes and it's always a favorite. Then we hit Space Mountain and the new Monster's Inc, "Laugh Floor" (which if you've seen Turtle Talk with Crush, it's just as fun!). We then hit up Mickey's Philharmagic. I'd seen this in Paris or Hong Kong, but it's a fun show to see again. I kinda wish they'd come up with a few different shows so you could come back and see a new version every trip to the Magic Kingdom.

After that, we split up as Brian and Beth had dinner plans and Ben and myself were trying to get in two more parks. We headed back to the main gate and I did some shopping, of course! One of my gymnast's mom know's I collect Mickey Mouse ears and told me I needed to go to this one shop where you can build your own ears, called "The Chapeau". Well, I didn't end up making any ears cause it was a little spendy and I wasn't seeing any ears that I really really wanted. The ears I REALLY want are the cloud ears that are only given out by the Dream Team. Still trying to get those ears!!!

As we were leaving, the Disney people were setting up for the Mickey's Pirates and Princess Party. It's a Ticket Event that had plenty of people coming in costume for. It is similar to the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party that I went to back in 1999. But from what I've heard, this incarnation has been scaled back so much it's not worth it. I guess you don't get as much cool, special free stuff like you did when it started or like other parties. I mean, why make an event WORTH the $50 ticket???

After the Magic Kingdom, Ben and I headed to the newly re-named, Disney's Hollywood Studios....