A Botconner's Guide To Orlando Theme Parks

Discussion in 'Transformers Conventions and Get Togethers' started by Omegatron, Apr 6, 2010.

  1. Omegatron

    Omegatron Mandatory Fun. Buy it now TFW2005 Supporter

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    Available as a word .doc if needed, mods please move if necessary.

    Tony’s Guide to DisneyWorld and other Orlando area attractions.
    This guide is in no way a guarantee of what you’ll experience, and some things are subject to change. It’s intended as a general guide for what to see and do around Orlando if you’re looking to get the most out of your time in the area, but is not all inclusive. Knowing what you want to do in advance can help a lot, as WDW is not like most other theme parks.

    Theme Parks
    The Magic Kingdom
    The Magic Kingdom is what most people think of when they hear ‘Disney World.’ It was the first park built, and has many classic attractions. It’s naturally the busiest of the parks. If you want to see and do everything, plan 1 ½ to 2 days during the busy season, especially if you’re traveling with small children. For adults, the main highlights are Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain. For kids, almost all of Fantasyland is great, including Dumbo, Peter Pan’s flight, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, and Winnie the Pooh. Other neat things to do are Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Mickey’s Philharmagic, and the parades- Magic Kingdom typically offers one daytime and one nighttime parade, as well as nightly fireworks. Of course, if you skip the parades, you can see and do other attractions during that time, as lines get smaller. Like all of the parks, MK has lots and lots of places to shop, with lots of unique merchandise. For food, a relatively inexpensive stop is Cosmic Ray’s, which offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads. It’s a nice big indoor place, with a lot of seating; even on busier days you can normally get a table pretty quickly. Remember, that from most hotels (and general parking), you actually arrive at the Ticket and Transportation Center. From there, you take a ferry boat or a monorail to the park. If you’re taking the monorail, there’s a chance you can ride up front with the driver, so ask an attendant. They both take roughly the same amount of time, but the mono is air-conditioned. If you get to MK early enough in the morning, I’d recommend heading to the back of the park first, and working your way to the front, as most people will do the opposite. Take advantage of Disney’s Fastpass system, which lets you get a pass to come back and ride something at a designated time by skipping most of the line. So, get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain, then ride Big Thunder Mountain. By the time you’re done there, you should be able to use your Fastpass for Splash Mountain. With smaller kids (if you’re not splitting your party into ‘big-people’ and ‘little people,’, head to Fantasyland, and get a fast pass for Peter Pan, then ride Dumbo or something. Things to skip may include the WEBWAY people mover, the Indycars, the Hall of Presidents, and the Swiss Family Robinson tree house. It’s not that these are bad attractions, but they just don’t deliver the same amount of Disney ‘magic’ as most of the others, in my opinion. Oh, one other thing- if you want to see Mickey and Minnie and get your picture taken, go back to Toontown, where those two characters have their own houses and can always be found. Take the kids on Goofy’s Barnstormer (kiddie coaster) while you’re back there.

    EPCOT
    EPCOT stands for ‘Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow,’ but also ‘Every Person Comes Out Tired.’ To see and do everything in EPCOT, plan 2 days. If you’re just looking to ride some rides and attractions, plan 1. Epcot is separated into two sections, ‘Future World’ and ‘World Showcase,’ each of which are separated into different ‘pavillions.’ Epcot attractions tend to be educational and entertaining. Future World typically opens an hour before world showcase, so plan to start your day there. ‘Mission Space’ is very fun, though not for those who have motion sickness. The GM test track is OK, but I’d recommend a Fastpass for it (get the FP, then ride Mission Space). Soarin’ is also recommended. Ellen’s Energy adventure is somewhat funny, as is Journey Into Imagination. The Seas with Nemo and Friends is worth it if there’s not much of a line. Don’t do Spaceship Earth at the beginning of the day, as there’s normally a huge line for it. If you come back sometime after lunch, the line dies down a lot. As far as the World Showcase goes, there aren’t many rides, per se (though Norway’s Maelstrom is a lot of fun). There’s a boat ride in the Mexico pavilion which has apparently been refurbished since the last time I went there , and is a nice air-conditioned break in the middle of the day. Take time to also see the Chinese acrobats perform. Don’t get any high hopes about the Japanese pavilion offering Takara Transformers- I’ve only seen them carry Hasbro products at import prices . There is lots of other cool merchandise to check out, though. England puts on a very good comedy street performance, and their Beatles cover band does a nice job, too. For kids, every pavilion has ‘KidCot’ activities, though some are better than others. Food-wise, most pavilions feature food from their native lands. I’ve not been disappointed with Mexico’s cantina or the Chinese walk-up stand, and England’s fish and chips stand is decent. Up front, you can find a huge variety in of food in ‘The Land,’ as well as take an educational tour of food growing techniques. For those who are staying at the Swan and Dolphin, both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are accessible by a quick boat trip, or a 20 minute walk down a paved sidewalk. At the close of day, EPCOT's Illuminations is pretty, and the lit-up buildings are amazing- the second best night show Disney does, which leads us to…

    Disney’s Hollywood Studios
    DHS is probably the best park for older kids, though there are things to see and do for the little one. The Aerosmith Rock n’ Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror are among the best thrill rides Disney has to offer. On a good day, you can probably hit the major attractions of DHS in about ¾ of a day, but you’ll want to make sure you catch the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic. The first thing you’ll probably want to do after you enter DHS is go straight back to Toy Story Midway Mania, and get a FastPass- unless the wait is under 15 minutes. Even with a FastPass, you still might end up waiting 15 minutes or so in line. Star Tours has become slightly less popular over the years, but isn’t that far from Toy Story, and is a good way to spend your time until your FastPass is ready. You’ll also want to decide which shows you want to do, as it can be difficult to get all of them in during one day, due to the nature of the scheduling. The Indiana Jones stunt show and the Lights, Motors, Actions car stunts are both worth seeing, but bring some extra water to the stunt show, as it gets HOT. Beauty and the Beast is a live action re-telling of the animated movie in about half an hour. My daughters LOVE it, as well as The Little Mermaid. On a busy day, plan to arrive 20-30 minutes early to shows for a good seat. Do a FastPass for the roller coaster, and ride Twilight Zone in the meantime. For food at DHS, the ABC commissary is near the center of the park, and accessible from plenty of places. There’s also Studios Catering near Star Tours, and Pizza Planet near the Muppet 3-D show (also good for a couple air-conditioned laughs). For sit-down dining, make reservations at the Sci-Fi Drive In Theatre- you get to watch clips of old monster movies while you eat. Very fun experience. The Great Movie Ride…isn’t so Great, so you may want to save it til last. The Animation tour used to be excellent and have live animators working on Disney projects, but I’m unsure if it still does. The Backlot tour is time-consuming, but if you have some extra time, go for it.

    Disney’s Animal Kingdom
    The newest of Disney’s parks, DAK has a few attractions that are worthwhile ,but you may want to plan to park-hop on the day you visit DAK, or just plan to go back to your hotel and relax. The Safari is phenomenal, with elephants, giraffes, antelope, okapi, and plenty of other animals in natural-seeming environments. Do this as one of your first things in the morning, as the animals are most active then. The walking tour afterwards features gorillas and monkeys, including a newborn baby gorilla. The Lion King Stage show is Disney’s best live show- plan to arrive at least 20 minutes early. Everest is a great roller coaster. If you’re riding by yourself, there’s a single-rider line which can get you on pretty quickly. Otherwise, get a FastPass and come back later. In the meantime, the Bug’s Life 3D movie has some fun bits, and my 6-year old loves it. Dinosaur! Is not one of my favorites, but is worth experiencing once- again, a FastPass is recommended. Skip the train ride back to Rafiki’s Planet Watch unless you’re looking to kill some time. The jungle trek is cool for the tigers, but not much else. For food, Pizzafari and Flame Tree BBQ offer quick cheap eats. The newest attraction, Finding Nemo: The Musical is great, but has the most uncomfortable seats in Disney. Bring something to sit on, and get a FastPass on the busiest days.

    A Word on Disney Accommodations
    If you or your family are planning on doing Disney related activities, staying at a Disney-owned hotel (‘on property’) is a fantastic idea. Buses or other transportation can take you from your hotel to the main parts of Disney property- the theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney shopping. From there, you can catch buses or other transportation to other hotels, as needed. For example, if you’re staying at the Pop Century resort, you can take a bus from there to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM), and a boat (or just walk) from there to the Swan and Dolphin hotels and convention center. Keep in mind that the EPCOT boats only access the back of the park, and aren't very useful unless you have admission to the park. Most transportation methods run about every 20 minutes from one destination to the next, though during non-peak hours, there may be fewer buses or boats running. If you stay on-property, Disney hotels offer a number of amenities for their guests. Hotel guests get a key tied to your room which will also serve as your theme park admission ticket (if you choose to go to a park), as well as a way of charging your purchases. If you don’t feel like carrying around a bunch of packages, Disney’s Package Pickup service will take things directly to your hotel room. Disney Hotel guests typically get ‘extra magic’ at a different theme park each day, which admits hotel guests into the parks an hour or two before other guests, or allows them to stay longer after park closing. Many Disney hotels also offer complimentary service to and from Orlando International airport. Check here for more details. Also, if you're planning on doing any of the character dining experiences, call TODAY, as reservations can fill quickly.

    Universal Studios Florida
    Located about 20 minutes north of Disney, Universal is split into two theme parks, Studios and Islands of Adventure. You may want to avoid these around Botcon, unless you’re as big a Harry Potter fan as you are a TF fan, as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is sure to create HUGE lines at both parks when it opens June 18th. Universal Studios is the first park, and has a variety of movie-related attractions (though, oddly enough, not Harry Potter :lol ). Highlights include Revenge of The Mummy, The Simpsons Ride, The Rip Roarin’ Rocket roller coaster, and Men In Black. Twister, Terminator 2, and DISASTER are also well-put together. Shrek 4D, I believe, was released as an extra on one of the DVDs a while back, but the 4D experience is just as good as DAK’s Bug’s Life or MK’s Mickey’s Philharmagic. Universal offers a FastPass like system, but makes you pay an extra fee for it of $30. More if you want it for both parks. Cheap food can be found around the park, but Richter’s makes a pretty good burger. For little ones, the ET adventure and Feivel’s playland are OK, but nothing special. Neither Universal park is highly recommended for small kids.

    Universal Islands of Adventure
    Islands of Adventure is divided into 6 (or 7, after June) ‘islands’ dedicated to its own theme. Clockwise from the park’s entrance, you have Marvel Superhero Island, featuring the must-do Spider Man attraction and the Hulk coaster, as well as lots of cool Marvel stuff to ooh and aah at. This is (until June) the best theming done at Universal. Next, Toon Lagoon celebrates the comic strips. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls will SOAK you; plan accordingly. Jurassic Park features another big water ride and some animatronic dinosaurs which are starting to show they’re age. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is next; if it’s open, the newly-repurposed Dueling Dragons roller coaster are two great rides- sit up front to get the best of it, as you get to see the other coaster coming at you. The Forbidden Journey attraction is not open as of this writing, but I’m trusting Universal to come up with something truly phenomenal, topping even the Spider Man adventure. The hippogryph coaster is designed for little ones, and has no thrills to offer. The Lost Continent offers ‘Poseidon’s Fury,’ which is unintentionally funny in its cheesiness, but does have some great special effects. Finally, you come around to Seuss Landing, offering a variety of attractions for the young and young-at-heart based on Dr. Seuss’ stories.

    Sea World Orlando
    About 15 minutes north of DisneyWorld, Sea World has a lot of great attractions, but is not tops in the thrill ride category. That being said, their new coaster, Manta, is my favorite in the Orlando area. Kraken is also a fun coaster, and Journey To Atlantis has a couple surprises to offer besides the big drop. Arrive early to the Clyde and Seymour sea lion show, as there is a pirate mime who mocks other guests as they enter, and is one of the funniest parts of the show. Skip ‘Believe’ in favor of the nighttime ‘Shamu Rocks,’ as the latter features a lot more whales and less crappy pseudo-story. Besides, Believe has been watered down (pun) in light of recent events. My girls enjoy Pets Ahoy. I enjoy them going to Pets Ahoy so I can go ride Manta. If you’re not into roller coasters, the new aquarium at Manta is wondrous. The Shark Encounter and Penguin Encounter offer excellent views of lots and lots of their respective animals. ‘Allure’ is basically ‘Cirque du SeaWorld,’ but is a nice way to beat mid-afternoon heat. For food, there’s plenty of decent places to eat, but if you get kid’s meals, tell them you don’t want the Shamu lunchbox, and you’ll save another $2. A good family park overall.

    Afterward
    Please keep in mind that this document is only my opinion, and your mileage may vary according to your family’s likes and dislikes, weather, attraction availability, or whatever else. If you want more information, see the park’s respective websites, or (for a personal opinion), email me at babadavis1ATyahoo.com. Thanks for reading.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  2. simplygriff

    simplygriff µ - Elitist Dick

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    Awesome little write up. My wife and I were discussing what we want to try to do just last night. Wish they'd release the brochure so we can get an idea of how much time the actual con is gonna take vs. hitting theme parks. Thanks!!
    -G
     
  3. jtuarus

    jtuarus Prowls circutsu master TFW2005 Supporter

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    omegatron you know what you forgot itll be the end of june and burning hot so the waterparks become real attractions at that point disney has 2 of em and then there is wet'n'wild.
     
  4. Bogatan

    Bogatan Well-Known Member

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    Forget the Magic Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon is the happiest place on earth. :) 
     
  5. Screambug

    Screambug King of Transformers

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    Thanks for the tips!:) 
     
  6. ams

    ams Generation All Veteran

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    Just wanted to concur the nice summary from Omegatron, particularly the bit about walking to the attractions in the back of the park first.

    The only thing I would add is to not plan to do more than two days in a row without taking a rest day, especially if you're coming with the rugrats. You will be more tired than you think at the end of the first day, and you'll be totally shot by the end of the second. Day 3 should be spent by the pool. :) 
     
  7. OldDirtyBot

    OldDirtyBot ODB

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    Yeah I have been wanting to go to Typhoon Lagoon for years. Have to go to Wizarding World though even with the crowds.
     
  8. Omegatron

    Omegatron Mandatory Fun. Buy it now TFW2005 Supporter

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    Added links to the various parks websites. Also, I have little expertise in the waterparks, as I've only been to Blizzard Beach, and that only once. Expect long lines in June, but lots of fun. Might be a more relaxing day than a theme park, without as much walking and lazy tube type rides. If someone wants to write a guide to the waterparks, I'll happily tack it on to the main post. I believe the best 4 to cover are Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Aquatica, and Wet n' Wild.
     
  9. Icespark

    Icespark A Spark in the Darkness

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    Hi Omegatron,

    I just wanted to let you know that your guide is really well written. :)  It was nice to be reminded of what magic Disney contains. :D 

    I also had a few recommendation to add too, for Epcot, and MGM!

    For dining, make sure to eat at "The Land", in the center of the park. The vast majority of the food they serve comes from crops grown directly in the park itself, on Disney property. The Living with the Land attraction, takes guest through some of the growing facilities too. You get see where the food you eat there comes from! :D 

    The Living with the Land boat ride, as well as the Mexican Pavilion boat ride, are both gentle, and peaceful; more importantly, they're also both very cool, a welcome relief from the heat of the sun. If you're feeling over-heated, which comes easily with a visit to Epcot, both of these are perfect for relaxing.

    Another option for those feeling over-heated, or thirsty, is the ice and soda station. This area offers samples of varying sodas from around the world, all for free! Make sure to try the watermelon soda! :D 

    Soaring, is absolutely spectacular, and without a doubt should not be missed! The visuals and effects are astounding, and the ride itself is a lot of fun.

    The main fountain is also spectacular, and also should not be missed. Sure, it is just a fountain, but, how many fountains are that large?

    Personally, I feel that the Living Seas can be skipped since its change. Though I'm certain kids will enjoy, I preferred the older 20,0000 Leagues styling.

    For small children, the wonder of dinosaurs shouldn't be missed, at the Universe of Energy attraction. Again, personally, I feel this one can be skipped. Adding a comedian and game show and such took all the magic out of it for me. I liked it more when it was focused completely on the dinos! (Not to mention the better music.) Still, children should enjoy it. :) 

    Test Track is lot of fun, and is another ride that shouldn't be missed. :D  Also, make certain to let the attendants know if you, or an accompanying family member is a GM employee! They'll have a small something special for you, as well as, if I remember correctly, being allowed to directly bypass the entire waiting line process! (Take that Fast-Pass! :D )

    The World pavilion is also highly enjoyable. Make certain to ride on the attraction at Norway! :D 

    A couple other quick final thoughts from me. Like has been said, don't bother buying Transformers from Disney; they're far over-priced, and the Japanese section of Epcot doesn't carry Takara figures, sadly. Disney Marketplace (now Disney Downtown), also carries Transformers, but, they're the same as the Japanese Pavilion.

    For MGM, make certain to ride Star Tours! As often as you can too, since it has been announced the ride will be removed for Star Tours II, with Star Tours II, apparently, being based on the Phantom Menace.


    That's about it from me. Thanks for making this thread! I'll be looking forward to seeing other people's recommendations. :) 
     
  10. Hi Q

    Hi Q I don't want a user title

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    I just need to figure out what to day with only about 2 and a half day available.
     
  11. Voiceroy

    Voiceroy Trans-fo-mahs!

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    Aiiiee! Giant paragraph blocks hurt my eyes, but I appreciate the time and effort that went into this, and it's a good guide too.

    I thought I'd add that Downtown Disney is free.

    And if you're staying at the park resorts and have a hankering for fast food after park hours (and you're on a budget), I recommend going outside of the park grounds to eat. Example: a "value meal" at the McDonalds near Disney's Coronado Springs Resort will cost you around $8. But just outside the park grounds, another McD's will have *normal* prices.

    Also, if you absolutely *have* to get a Disney T-shirt as a gift for someone back home, DON'T buy them on the park grounds -- they're far too overpriced. The local Walmart and Target should have Disney tees in all sizes for $5-10.
     
  12. Bogatan

    Bogatan Well-Known Member

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    :cry  Star Tours is going? Thats terrible. Really, I feel like I just been told a pet is going to die or something. Thats always been the must go on ride for me, even after 20 years.

    And replacing it with an 11 year old unpopular film, what?
     
  13. *Deathblade

    *Deathblade Well-Known Member

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    I am torn on this. I would like to go to botcon again, but I would also like to go to vegas. I have been to vegas before, and know that its awesome, but I dont know how much the wife and I would actually enjoy disney world.

    Man, even before even factoring in any toy cost, disney would cost TWICE as much as Vegas. If this years box set was like last years, it would be vegas no contest
     
  14. llamatron

    llamatron Shut up, Nigel. TFW2005 Supporter

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    Semi-related, do you know what fast food joints / restaurants are in the local area? Mainly looking for Taco Bell.
     
  15. Voiceroy

    Voiceroy Trans-fo-mahs!

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    According to Google Maps, the closest Taco Bell to the resort is 5.3 mi/13 mins.

    Taco Bell address:
    12555 State Rd. 535
    Orlando, FL
     
  16. Omegatron

    Omegatron Mandatory Fun. Buy it now TFW2005 Supporter

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    Slightly easier, if traveling by car, will be the one at
    8200 Vineland Ave
    Orlando, FL 32821.

    Go past Downtown Disney on Hotel Drive, take a right where it ends (S. Apopka) go underneath I-4, and take a left onto Vineland. Vineland winds past lots of other dining opportunities, but will eventually lead you to a Taco Bell.
     
  17. dak

    dak <b><font color=blue>I am DAK! The customizer!</fon

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    I'm a Theme Park????
     
  18. Coinhound

    Coinhound Well-Known Member

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    Not implying that I know the best spots but theres Old Town in Kissimee. A Lego brand store in Lake Buena Vista or Disney Village if you need proper naming. I beleieve theres two remaining comic shops in Kissimee of which Coliseum of Comics is one and Gregs Comics is the other. If I can think of more places Ill post.
     
  19. Lumpy

    Lumpy Taylor Swift Actionmaster Super Mod

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    this is an awesome write up... i used to live in FL when i was a kid, and we went to disney every summer, but i can't remember half the stuff anymore... my wife and i are trying to figure out what's going on and what kind of park hopper pass we should get... does anyone know if the main disney park hopper works for epcot as well?
     
  20. Voiceroy

    Voiceroy Trans-fo-mahs!

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    There's also Bad Apple Comics in Orlando, but when I visited there their product focus seemed to be on statues/busts, and while there were a few TF items, they were overpriced.
     

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