Monday, September 24, 2012

Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World 2012

Finally, on our last day, we visited Animal Kingdom (AK). 



When I was planning for my Orlando trip, I mostly use resources from:
1. http://touringplans.com/
2. http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
3. http://www.universalorlando.com/

From those information that I read, AK was actually the park that excite me the most. It was just different. It didn't focus on theme park in general (princesses, castles, fairy tales, cartoon characters) yet it didn't sound as educational as Epcot =P Plus, my husband loves watching animal documentaries. So, I thought he would enjoy this park the most. I wanted to visit this park early on our trip, but somehow looking at our schedule and the parks' crowd level, it wasn't possible. So we ended up saving this park for our last day. 




As usual we arrived early in the morning. Then while waiting in front of the turnstiles, we did our theme park morning rituals. Firstly, we put on sunblocks. Then we took park maps and daily show schedules. We studied those information and tried to integrate it with our itinerary. Lastly, we took turn going to the restroom =P We didn't want to waste our precious morning hours in the park by going to the restroom.

AK consists of 7 areas: Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Asia, Rafiki's Planet Watch, and DinoLand U.S.A. Basically, there are two important attractions (major headliners) in this park. The first one is Kilimanjaro Safari. I read a lot of tips about this attraction and mostly suggested to visit this attraction early in the morning. Why? Because there is a higher chance to spot animals than during the super hot afternoon. Another headliners is a roller coaster, Expedition Everest. The problem is, they are not located next to each other. Kilimanjaro Safari is in the deep left part of the park (Africa), while Expedition Everest is in the very right part of the park (Asia). 


Anyway, to our surprise, they let us entered the park before it officially opened at 9AM. We were told to enjoy the Oasis area where we could view many amazing animals exhibits such as wild boar, anteater, etc. However, most guests didn't even stop at the Oasis area. They went straight to Discovery Island where cast members were waiting with rope. While waiting, I took picture with the icon of AK, the giant tree of life.



We also came up with a plan to ride both Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest early in the morning. When the park officially opened, we would split up. My husband would head left to Africa and line up for Kilimanjaro Safari. Meanwhile, I would continue heading west to obtain Fastpass for Expedition Everest. Once I obtained the Fastpass, I would join my husband at Kilimanjaro Safari's line. However, I might need more time since I would have to go right and then left. So my husband decided to wait until I got the Fastpass before lining up for the Safari.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney World 2012

Day 5

Hollywood Studios (HS) is the smallest park in WDW. Initially, we thought we would be able to finish this park early and then hopped to Epcot. Since we were done with Epcot, we didn't need to rush anymore. We would just leisurely spend our day in this park, trying to visit as many attractions as we can. Fortunately, we found a very good one day tour plan from touringplans.com. So we had a full itinerary for today filled with headliners and major attractions of this park. 

We also checked the crowd level as usual, and it seemed that HS was always crowded during the week that we visited. However, today was the lowest crowd level for this park throughout the 7 consecutive days. So, in short, we chose the best time to visit this park during our 8 days trip.

We arrived early around 8AM like usual. Similar to Epcot, the parking lots were located close to the entrance of the park. While waiting in front of the turnstiles, we didn't forget to obtain the park maps and daily show schedules. Those two are very crucial for a successful Disney park visit =P

Oh yeah, since today was my birthday, we asked the Guest Relations for pins. Disney's guest relations officers are usually very generous in giving pins. Do not hesitate to tell them that you're there for a celebration. Sometime you might get special treatments from Disney. Especially if you are staying at Disney's resorts. They might offer to upgrade your room! In addition to birthday pin, we also got a various celebration pins. 



Right before the entrance there was this mickey as a sorcerer's apprentice topiary. Of course we couldn't resist the temptation to stop and take picture =P





Remember how I mentioned above that the daily show schedule is crucial for planning your day at Disney's Parks? While waiting in front of the turnstiles, I read the daily show schedule and tried to integrate some of the shows, parade, and character greetings into our itinerary. Then, I learned that Minnie's character greeting schedule at HS was actually before the park opens and it was located in front of the turnstiles. So we left our position in the line and took picture with Minnie first.




Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Magic Kingdom - Walt Disney World 2012

We finally visited the famous Magic Kingdom on day 4. 

As usual, we arrived early in the morning. We didn't have an exact itinerary, but we had a list of attractions that we wanted to visit. My husband was not as excited as I was about Magic Kingdom (MK). He thought that MK would be the exact same park as Disneyland. Well, I think those two parks have around 70% similar rides. Anyway, when we visited Disneyland back in 2010, there are several attractions that we missed. So this time I was planning to visit those attractions plus some attractions that are unique to MK. 

From touring plans we knew that this park crowd level was pretty low for that day. What we didn't know ... even a low crowd level for MK was still much crowded if compared to the other Walt Disney World (WDW) parks. Seems like MK is the most popular park in WDW. In addition, we weren't aware of the different parking arrangement in MK. Unlike Epcot, we had to take transportation (either Monorail or Ferry) from parking lot to the MK gate. 

That day we chose to take Ferry. However, turned out the Ferry was much slower than Monorail. I was anxious because I could see that a lot of people took the monorail while we were waiting for our Ferry. I though we would lose the benefit of coming early just because we chose the wrong transportation =(


Waiting for the very slow Ferry boat =P
Our Ferry Boat - finally almost ready for boarding
When we arrived at the gate, I was relieved. The waiting area behind the turnstiles was quite big. A lot of people had already lined up behind the turnstiles, but we're not at the end of the line. I could see more and more people coming behind us. As usual, while waiting we studied the park map and wore sunblock. We also went to restroom =p

Before the park officially opened, we had to wait for Mickey to arrive in Main Street U.S.A station, by riding the WDW Railroad. I felt the same way like when I was waiting at Epcot. Disney had already orchestrating their magic for us. When Mickey finally arrived, the crowd cheered loudly. I could feel intense excitement of the crowd.

This was what it looked like when the park officially opened. People poured into Main Street U.S.A. Everyone was rushing to their favorite attraction. 




Monday, September 10, 2012

Universal Studio Orlando 2012

Day 3 =D

We chose to visit this park in day 3 because we knew that we could finish the park early. We were looking at the lists of attractions, and there weren't many attractions that we really wanted to ride. We just wanted to ride some headliners like Shrek, Despicable Me, and the Mummy. We thought, if we finished early, then we could have some rest in our nice and comfy hotel room =D Besides, we agreed that we need to maintain our energy level since we still had 3 more parks to visit.

As usual, we woke up early in the morning and arrived early at the park. It was a pretty morning.





This time we didn't miss the sign... so we found the gate to Universal Studio Orlando. However, similar to day 1, we didn't have an exact itinerary. I read some travel book that suggested us to turned right after entering in the morning, and head to the Simpson and MIB to beat the crowd. We somehow felt that the crowd level was quite low. So, instead of following that route, we took the opposite direction. First, we went straight to Shrek4D.


Shrek4D

Friday, September 7, 2012

Epcot - Walt Disney World 2012

Day 2 - Orlando Trip

Instead of visiting the other Universal, we chose to visit Epcot in Walt Disney World. 

WDW gate at International Dr
Somehow, visiting Disney felt different. I'm not saying that Universal is not as good ... It's just that Disney has its own magical charm that is irreplaceable by any other theme parks (IMHO). 

As usual, we followed our proven strategy of coming early in the morning. Even before that, we also checked the park's forecasted crowd level at touringplans.com. We tried to adjust our schedule with the crowd level. Initially, we planned to spend one day and a half just for Epcot since a lot of our friends suggested us to do so. When we were lining up behind the turnstiles, we took a copy of park map and daily show schedule.

Epcot's famous landmark from the turnstiles
This time, we weren't late. We were among the first 10 cars who parked =P By 8.45AM, most of the cast members that manned turnstiles were already at their position. Disney had also began orchestrating their magical experience for the guests who were still behind the turnstiles. We heard greetings from World Showcase countries like Japan, France, Mexico, etc. Btw, Epcot is divided into 2 main area: Future World area and World Showcase area. World Showcase opens later than Future World. 

When the park finally opened, we went straight to Innoventions East pavilion for Sums of all Thrills. In this attraction, we designed our own roller coaster and tested it by riding the robot arms. You can adjust the speed and the thrill level to suit your own taste. It was quite fun. 

Sums of All Thrills

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Universal Orlando: Island of Adventure 2012

So, this was the park that we visited on Day 1. Actually, I wasn't planning to visit this park on day 1... I was planning to visit Universal Studio Orlando. When we were rushing through Universal City Walk, I was so focused on walking as fast as possible. I didn't stop to read directions. I just followed the crowd. We were kinda late (according to my schedule) and we still need to pick up our tickets from the will-call kiosk. When we're done with our tickets, we walked to the turnstiles and of course ...  there were huge lines already. It was still 8.30 AM. Amazing, isn't it? During this time we began to realize that we're actually lining up in front of Island of Adventure instead of Universal Studio. I wasn't prepared. No itinerary for the day ... I just kinda know what attractions that I wanted to ride the most. 


Entering Universal City Walk
Look at that crowd!

I kept thinking how I should have noticed that we're heading to Island of Adventure since we took this picture. Oh well ... I thought the two park gates were located next to each other. 

See the logo? 
Universal Studio Orlando was far on the back =P
Anyway, once the park was opened, we were rushing to Harry Potter World. To my surprise, seemed like most of the crowd were heading that way too. To make it worse, Harry Potter World was located at the back of the park, so it was quite a long walk. We burned a lot of energy already in the morning =P However ... when we were close enough to see the Hogsmeade gate and the dazzling Hogwarts Express, we felt like we gained new energy LOL It was so pretty! We felt like we were in a different world! It didn't feel like a theme park! The view was quite breath-taking. 


Hogsmeade Gate
Hogwarts Express