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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Have We Ever Not Done Disney?

Yes, we have vacationed and not done Disney. Whoa, it hurt to write that sentence as we are huge Disney fans. But we have only become huge Disney fans because we have tried "other" vacation destinations for the experience and as a source of comparison.

So, in March of 2008 (Spring Break) we made our way to Orlando for a non-Disney vacation. There were a couple of reasons for our decision to venture away from Disney. One, Spring Break coincided with Easter this particular year, so traveling to Disney during Easter was incredibly expensive and incredibly crowded. The second reason was we wanted to be sure our longing for all things Disney was because we were true fans, rather than us lacking the experience of other destinations. With all of that in mind, we booked a hotel stay in a reasonably priced all suite hotel just of International Drive that had free transportation to Universal and Sea World, a free breakfast, and a free manager's reception in the evening with beverages and snacks. We booked a town car to take us to/from the airport and the ride included a 30 minute grocery store stop on the way to the hotel--again, just what we needed.

We enjoyed 3 days at Universal--one day at Islands of Adventure, one day at Universal Studios, and one day doing both. We also spent a day at Sea World, a day at Aquatica, and a day exploring International Drive--Trainland International, a helicopter ride over Orlando, Pirate Adventure Golf, and riding the I-Ride Trolley.

We got to meet many characters. . . the Simpsons as seen in the photo above, Captain America, Barney, Shrek, and others.

Barney had his own show and "backyard" at Universal Studios.

Here we are with Shrek!

Did we like our non-Disney adventure? Yes and No.
Yes--it was great to have the experiences as a family and try new things, but we do that at Disney, too. The husband was jonsing for the Hulk coaster and he got to ride it twice. We appreciated the convenience of not renting a car and relying on others forms of transportation, and again, we do that at Disney. We took in a Blue Man Group performance. It was very convenient to walk between the two parks--Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They are just a stroll along a sidewalk apart.
No--the theming and magic are just not the same. At Universal, their version of Fastpass called Universal Express costs extra unless you are staying on site at their resorts. Other than one table service restaurant that we were aware of at the parks, the meals were all counter service. Level of entertainment is below the Disney standard, but entertaining none the less. Only one character meal is available at the parks.
Our bus driver drove the route between the hotels, Disney parks, and Universal. So, she would pick us up and drop us off at Universal and then go back and pick up another group and take them to Disney and then reverse in the evening. She reported to us that since it was Easter, Disney was incredibly crowded and that some guests were not being let in the Magic Kingdom unless they were on-site resort guests. At that moment, we were appreciative of our non-Disney vacation.
Would we do it again? Quite possibly. Since our Spring Break is now going to coincide with Easter until further notice, it may be that we stay away from the Disney crowds and visit Universal. And, Harry Potter's Island is ready for us to visit at Islands of Adventure. Who knows what April 2011 will bring?!?

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