Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

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Universal Studios Florida

Postby The Great Zo » Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:56 pm

Continuing onward on my Floridian trip -- my (almost) first-ever trip to Universal. I've got enough pictures that I've decided to split this into two parts -- one for each of the Universal parks. I'll start off with the original.

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It's a globe!

As with SeaWorld, my last and only visit to Universal Studios was in 1995 at the age of 10. Again, I remember very little of the visit, but there are a couple things that stick out. For one, I do remember riding Jaws, which met its unfortunate demise several years ago. For two, I remember waiting at least an hour for Kongfrontation. I don't remember the ride at all, but I remember the NYC-subway-esque queue, which had a "Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain" movie poster that 10-year-old me was quite fond of.

Suffice to say, Universal Studios looks nothing like it did in 1995, so this was essentially a first-time visit. Yes, ET Adventure carries over from 1995 to 2017, but that's about it!

I visited on Tuesday, February 14. Scorecard for the day:
Gringotts
Men in Black
Simpsons Ride
ET Adventure
Mummy
Transformers
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (x2)
Terminator 2
-- Lunch at Red Oven --
Shrek 4D
Mummy
Gringotts
Men in Black
Minions
Hogwarts Express (to IOA)
Hogwarts Express (to USF)
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

My closest points of comparison for Universal Studios Florida are Movie Park Germany and Disney's Hollywood Studios -- two parks that, at least in their current state, are inferior to USF. A launched Mack coaster might change that for the former, and two huge new lands will almost certainly change that for the latter. I went into USF with measured expectations, knowing right off that there would be two factors that would negatively influence my feelings on the place.
1) I have zero attachment or connection -- as a child or an adult -- to any of the park's franchises or theming.
2) I've never been huge on 3D media-based attractions.

To no surprise, I didn't fall in love with most of the attractions (or the park as a whole), even as I recognize that it's overall an impressively-themed property. The only attraction I truly disliked was Shrek 4D -- a mostly-unfunny film set to a hideously uncomfortable "moving chair that feels like a pothole-ridden Michigan freeway at 90 MPH" experience. Transformers was incoherent, Simpsons looked like 360p, and I didn't like Mummy as much as I thought I might. Oddly, despite thinking that Minions are among the most annoying franchise mascots ever created, that might have been my favorite of the non-coaster simulator attractions! Gringotts, of course, was excellent -- and a brilliant combination of ride and simulator technology. However, I think it's Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit that ends up as my favorite attraction overall at USF -- I enjoyed it far more than I'd expected to.

Crowds were not as completely dead as they'd been at Busch Gardens or SeaWorld, but they were still light. A 20-30 minute wait for Minion Mayhem was the worst of the day, and most everything else was walk-on to 5-10 minutes at most. I went through the full (non-single-rider) queues for Gringotts, Mummy, and MiB on my first rides, and even that didn't add much time to the wait.

For lack of a better place to put this part of the review, Red Oven Pizza missed the mark. They're trying to be a little more deluxe than Blaze and its fast-casual peers, but it wasn't as customizable or economical, nor was it a true higher-end pizza. I'm a pizza snob, so I'm willing to pay for a good legit Neapolitan pie, but this one did not fit the bill. Plus, I'd been to Bavaro's in Tampa exactly a week prior, so it's almost unfair to ask this place to compare.

I'll save my overall thoughts for the Universal experience for the next trip report segment. For now, let's get to the pictures from the first park!
Last edited by The Great Zo on Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:14 am.
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby The Great Zo » Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:56 pm

Pictures from Universal Studios Florida (part 1)
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I actually stood outside of this gate in late September 2015 on a quick visit to City Walk, but it'd be another year and a half before I ventured inside.
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So, what's still the same from my last visit in 1995? This is about it -- a ride I had no recollection of, based on a movie I have little recollection of.

Honest to goodness, the last third of the ride was no less weird than some of the bizarre dark ride stuff I rode in Europe in 2016.
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BTTF is long gone, but the DeLorean survives!
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It's a piece of film history and I'm glad they kept it around.
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More information about one of Hollywood's most famous vehicles.
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The train engine from BTTF3 is also on display.
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Not quite as well-known as the DeLorean, but still kind of neat to see.
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Apparently it's got something to do with Jules Verne.
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The city streetscape theming is quite nice, in my opinion. Better than at Disney's Studios park, to the extent that I'm not sad at all it's going away there.
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Isn't it kind of funny that the Blues Brothers' style of music isn't actually blues?
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To serve and protect.
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Here's a great place to get whacked by the son of a mob boss.
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More San Francisco theming!
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The road sign is a nice touch.
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Jaws (the ride) may be long gone, but there was still a line 10-20 people long /on a slow day/ to get a picture with the shark!
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Meet Lew Wasserman, sort of a founding father for the Universal empire.
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Meet Lew Wasserman, with a bird on his head.
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Looking across the water toward the Men in Black attraction.
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A nice reflection of the MiB building, with its iconic replica of the 1964/1965 World's Fair Observatory Towers.
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The queue is filled with in-joke theming. Of all the franchises at Universal Studios Florida, this is probably the one I'm the most familiar with, so I at least got some of the jokes.
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Coffee break.
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This is one of the better attractions at USF -- a fun and very-well-themed shooting dark ride. Could do without some of the spinning, though. In two tries, I didn't master the game play, unfortunately.
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Sign out the ******* hover cart keys!
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I guess this means Springfield is up next.
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Donuts, clowns...
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...evil space aliens...
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...and advertisements for fictional beer companies.
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They did a good job making this place look like a cartoon.
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I think the gist of this area is "totally make up a reason to have a bunch of thieving carnival games."
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Alas, there is a ride to ride!
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Here's what I liked the most about the Simpsons Ride queue and attraction. It's a clever postmodern deconstruction of the whole theme park concept.
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Sadly, it kind of loses its way pretty quickly into the ride, becoming a bit too frantic to make much sense. The video quality was pretty awful, too -- tough to watch after riding Gringotts earlier in the day!
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Yup, we've all been there. Thankfully, not on this trip for me!
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Next up -- giant metal cars that turn into people and make gigantic explosions!
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This mythic object helps fuel ... the unlimited budget Michael Bay gets to work with ... or something.
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Can't say I've ever wanted a transformer at a birthday party.
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As I visited in early February, the Fallon ride was not yet open. I'm incredibly disappointed to be missing out on yet another 3D motion simulator.
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The park was done up for Mardi Gras, but it didn't seem they were doing much with it on this relatively-slow weekday.
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No bands at the band shell, but what's that just behind it?
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Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit! Ascending into the sunlight!
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I think this is only the second Maurer Söhne coaster I've been on (after X-Coaster at Magic Springs). The cars are unmistakable.
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As I mentioned, I enjoyed this ride a lot more than I was expecting. The non-inverting loop is a ton of fun with good airtime, and most of the rest of the course was more forceful than I'd expected.
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Up into the clouds.
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Taking a closer look at the first drop.
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Transitioning from the vertical lift to the crest of the hill.
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A fun mix of joy and fear.
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Not sure I'd be keeping my hat on, especially in the front row.
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Car #7 on a fun drop.
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Going vertical.
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Right about here, hopefully your song of choice is kicking in. You /did/ remember to pick a custom song, right?
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I came prepared and queued up Rush, which -- sorry Disney -- is infinitely better than Aerosmith.
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The semi-hidden path near the Blue Man Group theater provides some nice photo angles for the second half of the coaster.
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One complaint about the ride? Too many block brakes. Just when you're having fun, there's a little pause in the action.
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Nonetheless, those drops off the flat sections do provide some air in the back.
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Coasters and palm trees.
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Excited kid is excited.
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Scared kid is scared.
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Just had to wait for the sun to come out for a few of these shots -- need the best lighting!
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Excited kid is excited again.
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The coolest guys at Universal.
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Wizard people on a roller coaster. Like seeing a cowboy in Tomorrowland.
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Yup, ultimately, it's just a lot of fun.
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Oh, hi Jimmy.
Last edited by The Great Zo on Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:59 pm.
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby The Great Zo » Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:57 pm

Pictures from Universal Studios Florida (part 2)
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Old props used at Universal are sold in the Williams of Hollywood shop. Let's see what's available!
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The Incredible (headless) Hulk! Price: $250.
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A license plate from Warren County, Ohio (home to Kings Island). Price: $30. I think the state of Ohio charges more than that.
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The "Welcome to Wakita" sign. Population: 585, minus a few of Aunt Meg's cows. No price listed. Guess that stopped me from buying it.
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A flying cow. A legit, honest-to-goodness flying cow!
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Price: $2000. I might be inclined toward weather-related memorabilia, but I'm gonna have to pass on this one.
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This ... is surprisingly convincing. Almost like I'm in Hollywood instead of Florida.
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Taking a look around the rest of Hollywood section of the park. A fancy dinner for these prices? I'm in.
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A storefront for all your old-school photography needs.
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Another famous vehicle...
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...and its famous occupants. This is an ... almost convincing version of the Mystery, Inc. gang...
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I may not have grown up in the golden age of horror films, but I'm pretty sure the parents of any child of the 80s owned Thriller on vinyl, so we've all heard this guy!
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Oh, another street sign!
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T2 was not high on my priority list, but I'm going to wager a guess that its years are numbered.
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I ran into a parade. Not literally, mind you.
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I literally have no clue who any of these characters are. Really, for me, it was no different than seeing some of the local-media-based theming at parks in Europe.
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Speaking of things based in Europe...
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The Kings Cross station is the first sign that we're headed into London.
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Along with some sort of triple-decker bus, the likes of which would be a challenge to drive.
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Also, this impressive fountain. But this is all just a facade...
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...let's take a look inside.

And for the record, I'm /really/ impressed with the entrance here. It's kind of bold to have such a tiny, unmarked entryway into the entire park's newest and most important themed area.
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Plus, when you pop out on the other side and see this, it's a heck of an impressive effect.
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This guy, though, doesn't look too friendly.
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The dragon is perched atop Gringotts Bank, the home of Diagon Alley's main attraction. The theming on the outside is fantastic, but the work on the inside is truly stunning.
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I should take this opportunity to note that I have almost zero knowledge of anything related to Harry Potter, and yet I really enjoyed all of this simply due to how immersive the world-building is.
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Spinning, whirling, still descending...

Gringotts is a lot of fun. Maybe not my favorite Harry Potter themed ride of the vacation, but I guess that's getting ahead of myself, isn't it?
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Loved the working split-flap display in the Kings Cross station!
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Is this anything like The Naked Gun 2½?
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Arches. Also, yeah, it's a picture from IoA. I had to ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth at some point!
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It is an impressive train, and really, the whole thing is very well hidden.
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There are only a few spots in USF where the tracks are visible, and I couldn't it at all from IoA (sans perhaps from Dragon Challenge, but I wasn't looking).
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Deep within the semi-hidden Diagon Alley is another semi-hidden area -- barely lit and filled with tons of little secrets. Also, a gift shop.
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What's this poster of John Lennon doing here, and why is he so undesirable? I mean, I always kinda hated Paul.
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I also wandered into this place where apparently you can exchange your money for Wizarding World money, which to me kind of sounds like "buying souvenirs." I didn't get any, though.
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A view over the narrow streets of Diagon Alley.
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From the top of the stairs next to Gringotts -- a narrow passageway.
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We've apparently got some sort of broomball game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
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"Firebolt" sounds like a roller coaster name, does it not?
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Again, despite knowing nothing about any of this stuff, it's just fun to see how much effort was put into it.
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If you're a huge fan of the franchise, you're probably eating up every single one of these in-jokes and references. As a non-fan, I might like to see another attraction back here -- it's basically one E-Ticket and a ton of shops -- but I'm not the target audience.
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The Society for the Reformation of Hags? Well then.
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Looks like I've stumbled upon another performance. This is Celestina Warbeck...
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...and the Banshees. Singing about some wizard stuff, presumably.
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Also starring "some poor sap" in the role of "the guy with the big blue feather boa."
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A ravishing performance!
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But let's get back to that dragon.
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I have read that said dragon is, in specific, a Ukranian Ironbelly.
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Get too close, and...
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...you're probably going to get burned.
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Thus ends a mostly fun day at Universal Studios Florida!
Last edited by The Great Zo on Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:42 pm.
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby The Great Zo » Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:57 pm

Hey, did you know Orlando has professional hockey?

(and, well, major-league professional basketball, if you're into that sort of thing)

Yup -- just a short "other stuff in Florida addendum" for this post, but if you're looking for some action on ice while in Orlando and don't feel like braving Interstate 4 to go see real hockey in Tampa, I give you the Solar Bears.

primaryosb-logo.png

Right, it's word play on "Polar Bears." But, it's "Solar" because it's in Florida, where there's a lot of sun. But "Solar" rhymes with "Polar" so...

Alright, I'll stop.
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The Solar Bears play in downtown Orlando at the Amway Center.
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It's a nice and fairly new building. Not sure there's anything that makes it stand out from other modern arenas, though.
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Disney can't help but sink its teeth into everything.
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Checking out the concourse, in an arena that is very clearly a basketball arena first-and-foremost.
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So if you're into historic NBA milestones, here's one.
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Apparently, it is very easy to get dirt-cheap suite tickets for the Solar Bears.
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What, you didn't know I was an investment banker?
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If these chairs don't suit you, there are others in the arena that might be to your liking.
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A middle school band/choir doing the anthems, a giant inflatable mascot tunnel, the upper sections curtained off, advertisements all over the rink ... ah, minor league hockey at its best!
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The Orlando Solar Bears, in their current incarnation, compete in the ECHL -- which is two full steps below the NHL.
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In a previous life, a different Orlando Solar Bears franchise competed in the IHL -- in fact, winning that league's last-ever championship in 2001. I, however, will always remember them for the double-overtime Game 7 Eastern Conference Final victory over my Detroit Vipers in 1999.
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Hey, we even got to celebrate a Solar Bears victory, in front of literally dozens of hockey fans!
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Guess I'll end this here. Islands of Adventure is up next!
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby redfoot12 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 3:55 am

This trip report and my friend just getting back from Orlando (he did Disney and Wrestlemania) reinforce my need to get back down there. So many new rides over the past decade since my last visit: Cheetah Hunt, Manta, Mako, Rip Ride Rockit, Harry Potter, Fun Spot, Falcon's Fury...
And that's just the non-Disney stuff!
Great report as always, Andy!
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby The Great Zo » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:47 pm

redfoot12 wrote:This trip report and my friend just getting back from Orlando (he did Disney and Wrestlemania) reinforce my need to get back down there. So many new rides over the past decade since my last visit: Cheetah Hunt, Manta, Mako, Rip Ride Rockit, Harry Potter, Fun Spot, Falcon's Fury...
And that's just the non-Disney stuff!
Great report as always, Andy!

No kidding, it's really become an even busier destination vacation spot than it's ever been before. Thanks for reading!
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby djmadmanray » Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:18 am

Great pictures, great report. Being locals, we are there all the time and it's nice to see someone else's take and through their eyes, thank you. You've got some great pictures of things (in HP) that I don't think we have ever noticed. We'll have to go find them..Lol. Thanks again!

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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby 805Andrew » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:36 am

The Great Zo wrote:Hey, did you know Orlando has professional hockey?

(and, well, major-league professional basketball, if you're into that sort of thing)

Yup -- just a short "other stuff in Florida addendum" for this post, but if you're looking for some action on ice while in Orlando and don't feel like braving Interstate 4 to go see real hockey in Tampa, I give you the Solar Bears.


Orlando also has an MLS team now: Orlando City SC. Orlando is moving up in the world of sports.

Great pictures of USH by the way - looks like Diagon Alley alone makes it worth a visit.
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby Canobie Coaster » Thu Apr 20, 2017 10:00 pm

Amazing photos as always. I agree that the Rockit is the best ride on the propety. I rode it expecting a forceless ride, but was shocked by the really good air and postive Gs in those funky turnarounds.
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Re: Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

Postby The Great Zo » Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:59 am

Thanks for the comments!

805Andrew wrote:Orlando also has an MLS team now: Orlando City SC. Orlando is moving up in the world of sports.

Great pictures of USH by the way - looks like Diagon Alley alone makes it worth a visit.


Yup -- I'm not into soccer, but I think it's great that it's continuing to expand. Between Orlando and Tampa, all five major sports are covered.

Canobie Coaster wrote:Amazing photos as always. I agree that the Rockit is the best ride on the propety. I rode it expecting a forceless ride, but was shocked by the really good air and postive Gs in those funky turnarounds.


The non-inverting loop really caught me by surprise. Fahrenheit's probably the closest thing I've been on to it, and while I prefer the rest of Fahrenheit's course, I think the non-inverting loop on Rockit is better.
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