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gardkarlsen Orlando - A travel report by Gard
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Orlando,  United States - flag United States -  Florida
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gardkarlsen's travel reports

A road trip in Florida, part 2

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Page: 1 2

Orlando travelogue picture
Our vacation started on October 14th and ended on October 29th 2001. The travellers this time was as usual my love Nikki Mooki and Gard Karlsen. We flew from Stavanger (Norway) via Amsterdam to Miami in Florida. We rented a car there and we spent a few days in Miami before we drove of to Orlando, Tampa, Naples and then Miami again. On our trip we stopped by places like Kennedy Space center, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Epcot, Busch Gardens and much, much more.

Favourite spots:
Orlando travelogue picture
In Orlando we got a chance to check out many attractions and this must be the entertainment capital of the world. There are so much to do and see here. But your wallet will go empty :-)

What's really great:
Orlando travelogue picture
Well, for a guy it is always interesting to come to a place like Kennedy Space Center. But we also enjoyed the big parks

Sights:
Orlando travelogue picture
Kennedy Space Center, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Gatorland, WonderWorks, Wet’n’Wild, Epcot

Accommodations:
Orlando travelogue picture
We stopped at one of the tourist information centers to get some help to find a hotel but they seemed more interested in selling us Disney tickets. But we did manage to pick up some brochures and in most of the brochures there were info about hotels and also coupons. I don’t really like this coupon business but we managed to get a hotel room at Quality inn for about 32 dollars a night. The hotel is located on 7600 International Drive and it is pretty big.

Other recommendations:
Orlando travelogue picture
Orlando
The drive next morning was not that long…after a couple of hours we arrived at Kennedy Space Center. After standing a line for a while (and listening to the same music over and over again) we got our tickets and went in. As most people I have a certain interest in space and it was a nice place to visit. The most impressing site was of course the building where the Saturn V rocket is kept. The rocket is so BIG that one must really see it to believe it. Maybe some of the photos will give a certain illustration of the size. I think it is quite amazing that these big things left ground at all. But hey, Kennedy said that they chose to go to the moon; not because it was easy but because it was hard. Due to the events on September 11th some of the facilities were closed of. On the bus ride there are normally several stops but on this day we only got to see the Saturn V center.

The drive to Orlando from the Kennedy Space Center is pretty short and after about one hour after leaving the center we were on International drive in Orlando. It seems like most of the tourist “attractions” have centered on this short road and we decided to get a room in this area since it is close to the amusement parks. We stopped at one of the tourist information centers to get some help to find a hotel but they seemed more interested in selling us Disney tickets. But we did manage to pick up some brochures and in most of the brochures there were info about hotels and also coupons. I don’t really like this coupon business but we managed to get a hotel room at Quality inn for about 32 dollars a night. The hotel is located on 7600 International Drive and it is pretty big.

We decided to get started with the fun stuff the next morning. The first thing on our list was a visit to Universal Studios. We got there at about 9 am and we didn’t have any problem finding it because it was only like 5 minutes away from International Drive. The parking houses at Universal are huge so when you park remember to note which floor and section you are in J. OK, I have to admit that we did have trouble finding our car again but the parking people were professional and they helped us locate the car. We bought a two day pass ticket to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This allowed us to switch between the two parks during two days.

Before you read any further please note that there might be spoilers about some of the rides. As I mentioned we came to the park at about opening time and there were not that many people there. So we ran of to start with Back to the future. It was a pretty good ride but it is basically a simulator ride but the set-up around the whole ride makes it great. I like what the Americans do when it comes to lines. Instead of standing in line just waiting, they use the time to build up a story, to build a concept and that makes waiting in line almost a part of the ride itself. After this we ran over to the Men in black attraction and this is more interactive compared to Back to the future. In MIB you get to help the agents shooting at aliens and you get a score for this. One of the attractions that I was looking forward to was the Terminator 2: 3D. I have heard a lot about it and I have to say that my expectations were met. It is a unique mixture of onscreen action, live stage performance and 3D and that was really fun.

After this the lines started to grow a bit and we had to wait a while to get into the Twister attraction. Compared to the other stuff that we had been through this was not much of an attraction. But it was still kinda neat to see how they have been able to create this natural phenomenon inside a building.

Kongfrontation was unfortunaly closed due to maintenance so we never got to see that but we moved on to Earthquake – The big one. This was also a fun attraction and the climax comes when you ride in a subway tunnel and you reach a station and that is when the earthquake hits. Apart from that we got to do the Jaws attraction, go the Gory, Gruesome and Grotesque Horror make-up show and Beetlejuice’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard Revue. The park itself is not all that big but of course we didn’t cover all the stuff that are made for the small children. We even had time to get our caricature painted and go to Islands of Adventure towards the end of the day to try to Hulk but I’ll say more about that later.

I’d like to mention that there is a big 20-screen cinema located on CityWalk, which is sort of the entrance to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We tried it out this cinema and it was pretty good.

It took quite a lot of walking to cover Universal Studios so we took the advice from the guidebook (and our feet) to put in resting days in between visiting the big parks. So the following day we played Adventure golf on International Drive (Pirate’s Cove) and we drove of to Gatorland. The golf was pretty good and they had two golf courses to choose from and we took the advanced one since we try to play adventure golf wherever we go J. Just for the record…I did beat Nikki J.

Then we drove of to Gatorland, which is listed as a good half-day experience. The place itself was not all that impressive but we got to see alligators up close, we got so see a guy “wrestle” a gator, we got to try gator nuggets and rib and we got to pet snakes and small alligators. The shows were worth catching because the gators are pretty calm when they lie in the water.

The park is open until 6 pm and we stay almost until closing time. On the way back we stopped by Florida mall, which is located on the way to Orlando. We also managed to make a few turns that we shouldn’t have when we came to International Drive. The result was that we ended up on the highway and the next exit was 5 minutes of. So it is advisable to get a good map over the Orlando area. We only had the bad maps that are presented in many of the tourist folders.

After resting for a day we were ready to try out the next amusement park: Islands of Adventure. Once again we got there at about opening time (9 am). We rushed over to the Spiderman attraction first but that was closed because of technical problems. So we moved on to the Duelling Dragons. As the name might indicate this is actually two individual roller coasters (Fire and Ice) and we started with Ice. It was a great ride and since it was so early there wasn’t much of a line when we got of so we went straight into Fire. And we tried each one twice before we moved on.

We went back to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man after this and it was operating again. We had to get in line for quite some time to ride it and when we finally got on it it turned out that there still were some technical problems. But we got to ride it again later that they and it was good. Again it was a mixture between a ride and 3D film and it was impressive. I mentioned earlier that the lines could almost be a part of the ride. Well, on this ride the line was too long but the creators are pretty clever and you never get to see the full line that is ahead of you. I guess they have made it this way to avoid stealing the hope from people J

We also had to try the Incredible Hulk coaster. We tried it twice and it is a good ride. The cool thing is that you get “launched” on top of the first hill and within two seconds you go from 0 to 40 mph and you’re hanging upside down. It was a great ride and I recommend it.

We also waited in line for quite some time to try out the Doctor Doom’s Fearfall. It is a ride where you get catapulted about 150 feet in the air. I have taken stuff like this before and the best version of this is located on top of the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas but that is another story.

Apart from this we enjoyed The Eight Voyage of Sindbad, Poseidon’s Fury, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw falls and so on. We stay until closing time at about 7 pm.

My advice is to come early because the lines got pretty long in the middle of the day (60-75 minutes). There are some free lockers in connection with some of the rides where you can keep your bags and stuff for about 45 minutes. Having these free lockers is s pretty good system in my opinion.

The next day we decided to go for a resting day again. First of all we went to WonderWorks on International Drive. It is not possible to miss this place because it is a building that is upside down. The place contains lots of fun stuff for kids and adult and there are many interactive things that one can try out. We tried Virtual reality games, we tried creating a roller coaster and then we got to ride it in a simulator, we got to make giant soap bubbles and so on. After this we went over to Wet’n’Wild to try out the slides there. I don’t think that we picked the right day (or maybe we did) because we got lots of rain while we were in there. But we still got to try most of the slides that were open and once we got cold we went into the water to warm up. They had quite a lot of rides there and we had fun for a few hours. It costs about 30 $ per person but this is not the real cost. If you want to park there you have to cough up 5 $ and once you get in it costs 5 $ to get a small locker.

We also did some shopping this day. We went out to a place called Belz outlet center and we walked around for a while in stores with names like Nike, Adidas, Levi’s and so on.

Epcot
Again it was time to do an amusement park and we decided that we wanted to try Epcot. The size of the Disney area is pretty amazing. When we got of the highway to get into the parks we more or less got on a new 6-lane highway. We got there are about 9 am and it turned out that they didn’t open until 10 am. They had done this to save money because there had not been that many visitors after the September 11th attack. But we got in eventually and the first thing I have to say is that it is a BIG park.

We started out by doing attractions like Honey, I shrunk the Audience, Body wars, Cranium Command, Spaceship Earth ride, Test track and so on. And when the world showcase opened at noon we went in there. First of all I wanted to visit the Norwegian area. We took the ride here (called Maelstrom and it was funny to listed to the narrator telling about Norway in English with a Norwegian accent J. The film about Norway after the ride is badly in need of an update by the way. Apart from that it was fun to walk into the “Norwegian” stores and buy Norwegian chocolates. So if you stop by this place be sure to buy some Melkesjokolade (Milk chocolate) because it is a little piece if Norway…at least according to the TV commercials back home in Norway.

My impression of Epcot is that it seems a bit “out of date” compared to the other new parks that we went to. Sure, some of the rides are good but, as we saw in Universal Studios, it can be done a lot better with today’s technology. And that is kinda ironic when a part of the Epcot center is called Future World.

And there is something else I don’t like about Epcot and that is the use of brand names on the different attractions. You have Universe of Energy presented by ExxonMobil, The land presented by Nestlé and so on. This is advertising and it is right in the face of young and adult. But maybe that is what it takes to get bigger companies to invest money into places like this.

Most of the stuff that you’ll find at the Epcot center is educational in one way or the other and that was great.

We stayed until 9 pm and in the darkness we got to see a great fire works. The place is as I say pretty big and we were on the move most of the day and we didn’t really get to look at all the countries in the World Showcase.

Published on Thursday January 2th, 2003


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