Tag Archives: roller coaster

Six Flags Great Adventure

I’ve been to Six Flags Great Adventure four times in my life. The first was when I was fairly young and I don’t remember it at all. The next two times were in 2005 when the ride Kingda Ka was made. The first 2005 trip ended in a bad experience because Kinda Ka was having technical difficulties. I then convinced my Dad later that summer to take me and my cousin back with, essentially the sole purpose of riding Kingda Ka.

We went all the way back, a six hour drive down to New Jersey, only to find that once again Kingda Ka was closed! However it eventually opened towards the end of the day and after 3 and half hours in line, we had finally conquered the (at the time) tallest and fastest coaster in the world.

IMG_7280Kingda Ka/Zumanjaro

Cut to 2017 and it’s been 12 years since I’ve been to this park. After moving to NY I searched how long of a ride it was from the city to the park. As it turned out, it was only an hour and a half away. And so, last Sunday I hopped on the NJ transit bus from Port Authority in Manhattan to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.

We arrived at SFGA at ~10:00am and waited in a fairly long line to go through security. Being that I had my backpack, I had to wait in a longer line which took forever because that had to search everyone’s bag. When they got to mine, the security guy found the opened green tea I had been hiding. He told me I needed to dump it out into a bucket.

“If it wasn’t opened,” he said, “you could have kept it.” I was so pissed because I had only had one sip of the drink. Not only did it mean I no longer had my green tea, it also meant that had spent X amount of money which I was now literally throwing away, but it also meant waste of a perfectly good bottle of green tea. I hate wasting things. This was strike one.

After going through security I then had to wait in another line to get my ticket scanned. This was super annoying but at ~10:45am I finally got into the park. The first thing I did was to run to Kingda Ka. When I got there however, I was stopped by the fact that you could not bring bags or any loose items into the line. Instead you had to place your items in lockers.

This is already annoying enough but at least at other parks you go to that make you do this you get to put items in for free. At this park, you get squeezed for every dollar they can get and it’s a dollar each time you have to place your items in the locker. The locker is only good for 2 hours. After that it’s an additional dollar per hour. This is simply “highway robbery” because they know they have you by the balls. This was strike two.

I begrudgingly paid the $1 and got in line. To my pleasant surprise, the wait time was only ~10 minutes, a far cry from that first 3 and a half hour wait in 2005. After riding Kingda Ka, I got back in line and rode it again, this time with a ~15 minute wait. I then made my way over to Zumanjaro.

Zumanjaro is a simple elevator drop ride. It was built onto the front structure of Kingda Ka in 2014. It is, apparently, the tallest (at 415 feet) and fastest (at 90mph) drop ride in the world! I typically hate these rides because I really don’t like heights, but yet I love roller coasters… go figure. However, because this one doesn’t launch you from the bottom, it actually wasn’t bad.

Also, because it is attached to Kingda Ka, it somehow makes it feel less heigh. I took the age old advice of “don’t look down” and it truly worked. Instead, I looked up to see how close to the top we were. Once at the top I looked out over Six Flags before dropping five seconds later. All in all not bad.

IMG_7258El Toro

After that I retrieved my backpack from the locker and went over to El Toro. El Toro was being built the year we went to SFGA twice. It opened a year later in 2006 and has been voted the number one wooden coaster in the world two years in a row. I paid another dollar to put my bag in another locker before getting in line for the ride.

El Toro did not disappoint. It was by far one of the smoothest, if not the smoothest wooden coaster I’ve ever been on. It also has the second biggest drop of any wooden coaster at 176 feet and one of the steepest drops at 76 degrees. It’s also the 4th fastest at 70mph. However, what I thought was really cool was the speed of the lift hill. At 13mph it gets you to the top in no time at all.

After riding “the bull” I went over to Medusa, er, I mean Bizzaro. Formerly know as Medusa, Bizzaro is was repainted and renamed for the 2008 season and theming objects were added. It really does nothing for the ride but I can now say I’ve ridden this floorless coaster with two different names. B&M rides never fail to deliver fun, smooth rides.

I then grabbed my bag from the second locker and got overpriced Mexican food for lunch. After eating lunch, I made my way over to the Green Lantern coaster. Placed in the spot where The Great American Scream Machine used to stand, Green Lantern was relocated from Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom and renamed; it was formerly called Chang.

I was really excited to ride it because I’d never been on it before and because it was only going to be the third stand up coaster I’ver ever been on. However, upon my arrival, it was closed. This was strike three. I was pretty bummed about all of these things and though they may seem minuscule, they cumulatively made for a fairly bad experience.

Disappointed, I then made my way to the other end of the park where I put in my third dollar for the day. There I rode The Dark Knight. This is, arguably the best themed ride in the park. I say that very loosely because it is barely themed. It has a pre-ride show and, because you are supposed to be riding on Gotham City Transit, the queue is subway themed and the cars look like subway trains.

This ride is nothing more than an indoor wild mouse coaster with some lighting and theming objects. It replaced the defunct Batman and Robin: The Chiller for the 2008 season. Sadly, I only ever got to ride Robin in 2005, the Batman side was closed.

After riding The Dark Knight I went over to perhaps my favorite ride in the park, Nitro. Nitro is another B&M coaster, this one however is a hypercoaster with a 215 foot drop. Nitro never fails to be thrilling and enjoyable. After Nitro I rode Batman The Ride, a compact inverted coaster. The ride it so short that the long line did not really justify the wait but oh well, another one to check off the list.

Cut to a montage of me looking at the map, strolling around aimlessly and eventually taking the Skyway gondola. The thing that really sucked about having to pay for locker each time, on top of the cost, was the inconvenience. It was so annoying to not be able to just place your stuff on the other side of the track and pick it up when you got off.

IMG_7248Six Flags Great Adventure as seen from the Skyway gondola

I get that it probably messes with load times but it is ultimately an easier system. It basically made me not want to ride as many rides because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle. For example, I didn’t ride Skull Mountain because I didn’t want to pay a dollar to ride it. Its a fun stupid little coaster but it’s not worth a dollar. Being that going on rides is the whole reason I went to the park, it kind of put a damper on the whole day.

When I got to the other side, I put my bag in a locker… again, before riding El Toro one last time. At an hour and a half, this was my longest wait of the day. The ride was having problems, than ran few trains empty to test them and eventually they had to take 15 to 20 minutes to swap one of the trans off. This meant running a one train operation.

The down side to this was that ranter than loading on train while the other was running, they could only load the train once it was back in the station. This essentially doubled the wait time for the ride. However, as before, it delivered and I was glad I got in two rides on it.

After that I basically had to play the waiting game. The bus back to New York wasn’t set to arrive until 9:30pm and it was only about 7:30pm. I was essentially done for the day, tired and a little depressed. Eventually, after going back and forth for a while I bit the bullet an paid the $12! for a chicken sandwich.

As I exited the park with my overpriced food to wait for the bus, I contemplated dumpster diving through the recycling bucket for my green tea. I bet, if they hadn’t emptied the bucket throughout the day, that it was still in there. That said, it was probably sticky and gross so I decided against it.

As I waited for the bus, I reflected on the day. I thought about the fact that overall, I had a fairly mediocre experience. It really bummed me out because it made me think that I’m getting too old or too jaded for theme parks, something I used to love. Maybe if I’d gone with a friend or bought a locker at the beginning of the day or not had to throw out my green tea or spend so much money it would have been a better experience, I don’t know.

The last thing that bummed me out was that fact that I missed the first bus -my own fault, I refused to wait in the line- and so I had to get on the second one, which stopped in NJ first before going to NY, making the trip that much longer. On top of that, the driver didn’t even collect my bus ticket. Why did I bother paying for a round trip ticket if I could have snuck on for free?

Overall the day was fine, but it may mark the end of an era for theme parks for me, #sad.


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Japan – Day 13: Tokyo – Day 7

Thursday – April 20, 2017

We had booked our MariCar tour for today at 11. Knowing we wanted to get breakfast before hand, the initial game-plan was to get to Akihabara by 10. But, as is the case most days here, things never go according to plan. We ended up leaving late and not getting to MariCar until 10:50. Cutting it a bit close if you ask me.

We then paid for our “tour”, signed the waiver, got on our costumes -Pete was Mario, Dan wore a Yoshi hat and I didn’t bother- and headed out with four other rando’s to the go karts.


For those who don’t know, MariCar is a company that takes people on 1, 2, or 3 hour tours of Tokyo while driving in formation on go karts. It is supposed to be like the video game Mario Kart and so they have costumes you can put on to dress like the characters.

IMG_8630Pete, myself and Dan (back) driving through Tokyo in go karts

After a super brief tutorial we selected our karts and started the tour. We chose the 2 hour tour which took us over the Rainbow Bridge, to Odiaba (where we stopped for a bit for a photo op), back over the Rainbow bridge, past the Tokyo tower, through Roppongi and then back to the store.

It would be impossible for me to account for all of the things that went on during the drive becuase the two hours flew by and it was all a blur. I will say that driving across the Rainbow Bridge at 70-80kph was definitely the coolest and scariest part.

MariCarThe on-ramp to the Rainbow Bridge felt like Toad’s Turnpike from Mario Kart 64

Also being amongst downtown traffic, you realize just how small and vulnerable you are. Plus because it is an open air vehicle and you are so low to the ground, 40mph feels like 100mph. The only complaint I have is because you are sitting so low, exhaust fumes go directly into your face. Thus, I’m pretty sure I now have the black lung.

Oh well, totally worth it. This may have been the most fun thing we did the entire trip. We all loved it and it was worth every Yen (it cost 6,000 Yen or ~$55.00).

Hanayashiki Amusement Park

After finishing MariCar we grabbed a bite to eat at Mister Donut, a chain we had been seeing but had yet to stop into. Pete and Dan grabbed a quick bite where as I was going to be eating in. Since we all had different plans, they wanted to spend MORE time in Akihabara (I literally don’t know how that is possible) we once again split up.

IMG_6722Hanayashiki Amusement Park

After finishing my breakfast I headed to Hanayashiki Amusement Park, the oldest amusement park in Japan. There, I was on a mission to ride their roller coaster. It is tiny and barely worthy of note. However, if I’m not mistaken, it is the same roller coaster feature in the film Enter the Void.

Being the movie and roller coaster and movie nerd that I am, I had to ride it. After getting off at the nearby subway station, walking the short distance to the amusement park and figuring out after minor confusion how to get in, I paid the 1000 Yen entry fee.

Once inside I had to buy five tickets (at 100 Yen a piece) in order to ride the roller coaster. I literally rode it, filmed the entire thing, got off, took a few pics of the park and left. One more thing to check off the list.

Snoopy Museum

Next I made my way to the Snoopy Museum which, despite the fact that their hours are 10:00 – 20:00 seven days a week*, was closed when I got there. For whatever reason I am having shit luck with museums on this vacation.

IMG_6723Snoopy Museum

However, to be honest, because I knew I had other things to do with my day, I didn’t really mind. In the distance I could see the Tokyo Tower and since I had yet to get a close look at it, I decided to start making my way there.

*I should know, I’m the reason their hours are posted on Google. I checked the website, submitted them to Google Maps and they were approved by Google. I even have the emails to prove it.

Reiyuka Shakaden

However, along the way I got side tracked by a familiar site. Down some side street, off the main road I was using to head to the Tokyo Tower, I caught a glimpse of a temple I had put on my list to check out. Thus, I made my way over to it.

IMG_6729Reiyuka Shakaden

The Reiyuka Shakaden is a Buddhist temple/community space that is open to everyone from 6 to 17:00. I arrived a little after 16:00 and thus decided to head in. Apart from a police security guard and a few janitors, there was no one out side the place.

I slowly made my way up the ominous stairs and, at the top, pulled on one of the giant doors. It opened and I entered like the fellowship of the ring entering the doors of Durin. When I stepped inside there was no one there either.

I was in a lobby and so I made my way through a second set of doors into the main hall. I was floored by what I saw there. The hall was massive and beautiful. Again it was filled with no one but me and the 204 empty benches. It was absolutely silent.

I walked as lightly as I could trying not to disturb the silence. After walking to the front of the rows of benches I made my way back to the back and took a seat in the last row. I closed my eyes and reflected on the trip the far and the trip (what little left there was) to come.

After a few minutes of peace, I exited the main hall and then walked around the rest of the facility before heading to the Tokyo Tower. I was a truly excellent experience.

By the way, before stopping at the temple, I knew I was near the Hard Rock Cafe so I made a little side trip to grab a pic of the temple before heading on my way.

Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower was a short walk from the temple. To be honest, I really just wanted to see it up close and get a few unobstructed pictures of it. I had read that the top observation section was closed which, to be honest was fine with me. After doing the Skytree I was basically done with observation towers, simply because they are all the same.

IMG_6764Tokyo Tower

I did however pop into the gift shop which was multiple levels and filled with restaurants as well. I found a bench and plotted my route to the nearest subway which would take me to Ikebukero. I then left and walked to said subway station.


I made it to Ikebukero a little before 18:00. I had three main goals here. The first was to find Tokyu Hands because it is a store featured in Durarara, an anime I enjoy. The second was to find more locations from Durarara and the third was to go to the Kit Kat store as Kit Kat is known for having Japan only flavors.

After a bit of walking around aimlessly, I made my way to Tokyu Hands. This muilti-level department store has literally everything. Each floor is a different “topic” and it is stacked wall to wall with a little something to everyone.

IMG_6768Tokyu Hands

I gravitated to the stationary section where I found a beautiful little Field Notes sized notebook. Despite not needing it, I decided to buy it. Made by a Japanese company called Delfonics, what drew me to the notebook was they livery.

There were several colors to choose from but this one was yellow with deep blue typography on it. In addition the logo and the typeface that had been chosen -Helvetica- reminded me of the airline Lufthansa. To top it of there were some words and phrases on the front that were in German so it just added to the the feel of Lufthansa.

IMG_6771Kit Kat Chocolatory

After getting the notebook I made my way to stop number two, the Kit Kat Chocolatory. Despite what appeared to be straight forward directions on Google maps, I was having a tough time figuring out where to go. Eventually, after a bunch of walking around and digging a bit deeper I found the Kit Kat place.

Rather than being a store, it was more of a kiosk. Slightly disappointed, I grabbed a variety pack to bring back as a shareable souvenir.

Though I wanted to try and find sights from DRR, I had done no prior research on the matter and my feet were simply too tired. Thus I decided to head back to the room to rest for a bit and do a some blogging.

Brewdog Roppongi

Once Pete was back, we headed out to Roppongi to try Brewdog Roppongia bar I had found on Google maps while researching the trip. After a few stupid subway screw ups we made it to the bar. I had no idea how Westernized it would be. When we enter we were greeted in perfect English by a young woman whom we later found out was American.

IMG_6772Brewdog Roppongi

Most of the patrons were caucasian and spoke english. All of the waiters, though not all Amercian spoke English. The bar was rad and felt like it had been transplanted from Central Square in Cambridge or from Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

The music was great too. They played Do I Want to Know by Arctic Monkeys, followed by either I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself or I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends (I forget which) by The White Stripes, followed by Supermassive Black Hole by Muse.

I ordered a Chili IPA, and a kabab. Pete got a burger, typical, and a curry chicken app which we split. The food was great and we ended up finishing up around 23:30. I headed back to the room afterwards because I was so tired from the day. Pete wanted to stay out longer, so he did.

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Japan – Day 12: Tokyo – Day 6

Wednesday – April 19, 2017

Knowing me and knowing that I like to get to things early, I woke up a little before 6 so I could leave by 6:30. The train ride was supposed to take about an hour and though the park wasn’t set to open until 8:30, I wanted time to scope out what I could (such as their “Downtown Disney” section) before they opened.

Despite the fact that Google had other plans for me, I listened to my app which took me exactly where I needed to go. I took two subway trains and one JR train. Before making the transfer to the JR I grabbed a quick bite to eat. Then, two stops later… I was there.

Tokyo DisneySea

I arrived at 7:33. When I got off the train I was instantly giddy. I ran back and forth taking pictures of EVERYTHING. I had no idea the JR would take me, basically right to the entrance. After getting pictures of the gift shop and the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, I made my way to Ikspeari (their version of “Downtown Disney”). Unfortunately however, that section did not open until 10.

IMG_6525Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea

After running around for a bit longer I eventually made my way to the Monorail station where I figured out that I needed to take it from where I was in order to get to the entrance of DisneySea. Weirdly, rather than being free, you had to pay to ride it. Fortunately, it accepted Pasmo.

Their monorails are fully autonomous; because of that I was able to sit right up front and pretend I was driving. The monorail made two stops, one at each hotel, before arriving at DisneySea.

I got out, ran down the stairs and immediately got in line to get a ticket. This was strange because I’m so used to already having my ticket before I ever arrive at the park. Regardless, the line moved quickly and I actually ended up paying with cash rather than putting it on my card (I actually have more than enough Yen to sustain me).

After getting my ticket, I got in line to wait for the park to open. While waiting I put on suntan lotion and looked at the park map. Before you knew it the park was open and I was ready to start my Disney day.

Tower of Terror

The first ride I went on was the Tower of Terror; it is one of my favorite attractions at Disney World in Florida. Also, because it is one of the closest attractions to the front of the park it was a natural fit to start my day. Also, because no one was in the park yet there was only a 10 minute wait. The 10 minutes was mostly due to the pre-ride show you watch.

IMG_6545Tower of Terror

Unlike the one in Florida which is Twilight Zone and Hollywood themed, this one is New York and African god themed. Basically this explorer guy Hightower-san, stole this tiki god thing and now he’s cursed. At least that was the gist I got from the pre-ride show; naturally it was all in Japanese.

The ride itself was pretty good, not as good as the one in Florida for 3 reasons, 1) it is not as tall, 2) it doesn’t do as much, ie. move forward through the “The Twilight Zone,” and 3) and it doesn’t drop as much in terms of, not height, but how many times it goes up and down. Nevertheless, Tower is always a good ride.


After Tower of Terror I made my way towards the back of the park. Along the way I passed a ride called Aquatopia. I was going to pass it since it was a family ride, but there was barely any line and I knew I was gonna be there all day so screw it.

It ended up being as lame as I expected but who cares. I was trying to do the opposite of what I usually do and actually smell the roses, rather than pass them by.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

Eventually I made my way to the back of the park where I found and rode the Indiana Jones ride.

IMG_6563Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

When I got to the front of the 45 minute line, I met a guy named Russ who told me there was a single rider line. I told him I didn’t mind the queue because it was well themed but that that was good to know. We got to chatting before the ride set off and it turned out that he was from Attleboro, MA; small world.

The ride was basically a version Countdown to Extinction (aka Dinosaur) in Animal Kingdom. You drive a jeep through a temple and, rather than being chased by dinosaurs, you are chased by evil spirits. Also, you get to see Indiana Jones speak Japanese. Fun.

Raging Spirits

Right next to that ride is another Indiana Jones themed ride called Raging Spirits. It is a compact little roller coaster with a loop in it. The cars look like mine trains and there are two cars per train. They were running about 6 at a time so the line had a steady flow. Though short, it was fun.

IMG_6567Raging Spirits

When I got off the ride, I checked my email and finally I had something from Dan. Because I had told him I was going to leave so early and I knew he wanted to sleep in, he decided he’d meet me there. However, since he had gone out late the night before, I thought he might bail. To my pleasant surprise, he was writing to say he was on his way and would be at the park soon.

After reading the message, I figured out a game-plan; ride one more ride then slowly make my way to the front of the park.

Journey of Sinbad

The next land over was Aladdin themed. There I came across the Journey of Sinbad ride. I had no idea what it was but I figured I’d try it. There was virtually no wait and it ended up being, essentially a Sinbad themed It’s a Small World -slow boat- ride. It was very childish and again, all in Japanese but the message, from what I could understand was to follow your heart.

After that I strolled through the Little Mermaid section before heading to Mount Prometheus, the main feature (Cinderella’s Castle) of the park. This section, because it was steam punk themed was by far my favorite.

IMG_6583The Mysterious Island section of the park

One of my favorite movies growing up was 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. This section had a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride so I was pumped. I hadn’t been on it since before it closed at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, so probably since 1994.

Knowing I didn’t have time, I decided to hold off and save this section for Dan.

Cut to me at the front of the park checking my email. Dan had written that he did not need to ride the monorail to get to the entrance of the park. This made me nervous that he was entering The Magic Kingdom despite the fact that I had warned him that he’d need to take the monorail to get here.

He then wrote back saying he was looking at a big volcano and not a castle so clearly he was in the right place. I walked over to the lagoon and sure enough, there he was. I later found out that rather than take the JR, Google had made him take a bus which must have dropped him off right at Disney Sea, rather than where I had been dropped off.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Since I had just come from the Mysterious Island section of the park and had wanted to save Journey to the Center of the Earth to ride with Dan, that was where we went. When we got to the ride there was a 70 minute wait. I immediately grabbed Dan’s ticket and had him hold our place in line. I then went to the FastPass machine and came back with two FastPasses, that way we would be able to come back between 17:00 and 18:00 and skip the line.

IMG_6587Entrance to Journey to the Center of the Earth

Because Dan is not a Disney pro like I am, he was completely blown away by this concept. Despite the relatively long wait time, the line moved right along. Not only does Disney do lines better than anybody else, because they are themed, but having someone to talk to makes things go faster.

The ride was pretty cool. The ride vehicle was a sort of digging machine and you bore through the “center of the earth” until you reach the conclusion where you speed up a hill and erupt from the top of Mt. Prometheus.

Immediately following the ride, we were both starving, so we ate at Vulcania Restaurant. The place was really cool and the food was great. They had a sampler, which we both got, that had dumplings, rice, and other stuff I’m forgetting but all of which was great. After getting sufficiently filled up, we made our way to the nearby 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

I had been on the original 20,000 Leagues ride when it was at Disney World back in 1994. It has since closed down and so I was excited to ride it again. However, when we got to the ride vehicle, I knew something was a miss. The ride was more akin to the Peter Pan ride at the Magic Kingdom than a submarine ride that actually goes underwater. Regardless, the ride was kind of fun and was cool to check off the list.

IMG_6582 Queue for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Next we made our way to the back of the park to ride Raging Spirits. Since it was to be my second time riding it and Dan didn’t want to wait 45 minutes, we decided to do the single rider line. It probably ended up taking about 25 minutes so still a win. After we got off the ride, Dan went to the bathroom while I grabbed us FastPasses so we could come back to ride it later.

We chased Raging Spirits with a ride on Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. Again we did single rider and again it worked to our advantage. After that we made our way to the front of the park to ride Toy Story. The line however was super long and for whatever reason we were unwilling to wait. Instead Dan got an ice cream and we sat and chilled for a bit.

Following that we explored a few of the shops at the front of the park. Naturally we took an infamous picture of us in Mickey ears hats. We then slowly made our way back to the the back of the park, along the way stopping to check out this DaVinci castle thing before getting back to the Mysterious Island section.

IMG_6621Blurry selfie of me and Dan in Mickey hats

There I grabbed an ice cream sandwich before we got back in line for Journey to the Center of the Earth, using our FastPasses of course. We chased Journey with Raging Spirits again (also with the help of FastPass) before grabbing food at the Arabian Coast Section of the park.

Again we both grabbed the sampler meal which was pretty good before making a game plan for the rest of the day using the park map and a Sharpie. Because we had seen it earlier and not gone in, we decided to go to the show at the Magic Lamp Theater. It wasn’t until the line started moving that Dan realized/pointed out that the show was probably all in Japanese. Sure enough, it was.

The show, as expected, was sort of childish, but a nice excuse to sit for a while. From there we took the electric railway from the back of the park to the front of the park and waited in line for the Teddy Rosevelt bar. The cool thing about this bar was/is that it is located on the SS Cloumbia, a “steamship” they have in the American Waterfront section of the park.

IMG_6647SS Cloumbia which houses the Teddy Rosevelt Bar

The bar seemed cool and I was craving a beer and a cheesecake. However, we were also pressed for time as the Fantasmic show was set to start at 20:00 and it was already 19:20. On top of that there was a line to get into the bar. While Dan held our spot, I explored a little bit of the boat. More that just a prop they had actually built out some of the decks where I got to have my Jack and Rose moment.

When I got back to the line we had barely moved. Since time was running out we decided to go to the lagoon only to find out from a cast-member on the way that, due to the wind, the show was not happening. We were bummed two fold, one because we had waited in line and bailed for nothing but also, because it meant we skipped the bar.

Toy Story Midway Mania

We once again rerouted and found ourselves in a 70 minute wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. Once inside the building, the line was cool and a little bit lifted our spirits. The ride, as usual, was a lot of fun. Dan kicked my ass and the girl in the other car kicked both our asses. We chatted with her and her friends for a bit after the ride before doing one last thing each.

IMG_6646Toy Story Midway Mania

I wanted to ride the Tower of Terror one more time (this time at night) and I knew Dan still wanted to do the bar. I sped through the line for Tower. When it got to the part half way up where they fake you out by turning off the lights (knowing this was a fake out) I let out a blood-curdling scream.

What I forgot is that after the lights go off, they turn them back on. When the lights came back on I had an entire elevator of Asian people staring at me. Half started laughing and the other half started clapping; mission accomplished. After the ride I exited through the gift shop to find Dan waiting for me. Apparently, the bar was closed by the time he got there.

I was bummed that he had missed Fantasmic and the Teddy Rosevelt Bar. Oh well. For the most part the day was a good one and it gives us a reason to one day come back.

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Japan – Day 3: Osaka – Day 3

Monday – April 10, 2017

We decided to mix things up a bit today, again getting out of the city to do something different. For those of you who don’t know, I used to be, and still sort of am, a huge roller coaster nerd. In the research I used to do, I would find theme parks in countries around the world and say to myself, if I ever go those countries, I am gonna go to those theme parks to ride those coasters.

As it turns out, Japan is one of those countries and located a few hours outside Osaka by train is none other than Nagashima Spa Land. Nagashima is home to several world class coasters, but the most famous is Steel Dragon 2000. Built in the year 2000, now 17 years old, I have been looking forward to riding it since I was 10.

Getting There

I woke up at 7am. After I got dressed I woke the other guys up at 8am and we were on the road by 9am. I was already a little upset because we were starting the day so late. Located in Mie Prefecture, NSL is a nearly 3 hour train and bus ride away from where we are staying. Additionally, because it is their off season, they have shorter hours; 9:30 to 17:00. I was afraid that the later we got there, the less time we’d have to go on all the rides I wanted to hit.

So for me, a perfect on the road time would have been 6 or 7. On top of that, the night previous, Dan started to question how we were getting there and was suggesting new/different ways than the ones I had painstakingly researched months ago. This threw a mental monkey wrench in my game plan, but also frustrated me because we have been executing our train rides flawlessly and I have given him no reason to doubt me thus far.

Because of this and the fact that I am really good a bottling and building my internal anger, the day started out with a lot of tension. We walked to Namba station took a train to Shin Osaka. There we switched to the Shinkansen to take us to Nagoya station. On that train, partially because it was crowded, partially because we hadn’t reserved a seat and partially because I was mad a them, Pete and Dan sat together and I sat by myself.

On the train I grabbed a drink and sandwich for “breakfast” and to break my 1,000 Yen note so I would have smaller Yen denominations to pay for the bus. At Nagoya station we we switched to a Kintetsu Limited Express train. This not only required us to tap on with our IC Card, it also required us to buy a ticked for that train. More money that I wanted to spend. We eventually figured everything out though, what train we needed to take, how to purchase the ticket, and got on a minute or so before it left the station.

Luckily ours was the first stop and it only took 16 minutes to get to Kuwana Station. There we were to board our final mode of transportation, a bus that would take us to the amusement park. However, we first had to make it out of the station.

I tried to use the card I bought to get on the express train to get through the turn style but all it did was eat the card and lock the gate. When I tried to tap my IC Card, it locked the gate again. Frustrated, I just walked through. Pete and Dan however went trough a different turn style, only tapped there IC Card and got through fine.

After figuring out where the buses were, we waited at our bus stop. We saw that the bus took IC Cards so we didn’t buy a bus ticket. When the bus arrived, I was the first to board. When I tapped my card, it made a weird noise and weird letters came up. When Pete and Dan tapped theirs however, they had no problem. This got me nervous that I would have a problem getting off the bus.

Being that there was still tension in the air, on our way to NSL I manned up and apologized to Dan and Pete for my shitty attitude. And though things were still sort of tense, I was forgiven.

When we arrived at the park I was the first to exit. I tapped my PASMO card and the screen said “Unable to use.” This bummed me out for two reasons, 1) I had to pay the fair out of pocket which took a long time and held up the line (something I HATE doing) and 2) it made me nervous I would have to forfeit my PASMO for a new card thus also forfeiting any money that was still on it.

Thinking of ways to rectify this situation was something that would plague my thoughts intermittently throughout the day. However, we were finally here and making our way towards the entrance so I couldn’t be too mad. We arrived at -near as makes no difference- noon.

Nagashima Spa Land

After paying 5,000 Yen (~$45) for a “passport” (unlimited ride) ticket and putting our things in a locker, we made our way to the crown jewel of the park, Steel Dragon 2000. As we entered the queue we found that there was virtually no line. We waited for the current train to come back, that train to board and were on by the third ride.

IMG_5610Acrobat (forground) and Steel Dragon 2000 (background)

I had not been on a gigacoaster (one with a drop over 300 feet) in a very long time, so by the time we got on the lift hill and started to climb, I was genuinely nervous. A feeling I have not felt on a coaster in some time. It was nice to have that “fear” again because I had gotten to a point where riding coasters was no longer thrilling to me.

In any case, we crested the 318 foot lift hill and dropped 306 feet to the ground below. We then went over the next hill and the helix and the bunny hops and 4 minutes later and over 8,000 feet of track (this is the current record holder for longest roller coaster in the world) behind us, the ride was over. We had conquered the Steel Dragon!

Psyched, any tension from the day subsided. We were all totally pumped on adrenaline. We ran back in line and immediately did it again.

IMG_5619White Cyclone

After re-riding Steel Dragon we made our way over to White Cyclone. Built in 1994, this wooden coaster is well known in the coaster community as one of the best reinterpretations of a classic wooden coaster design. Again we had virtually no wait for the ride and though it was rough, we all enjoyed it.

Next we made our way to the Looping Star, a cookie cutter single loop coaster. Though it was tiny and novice, it was smooth and a lot of fun. They placed cherry blossom trees on the sides of the track so it not only felt like you were going faster, but it added theming to the ride. Dan and I rode it again, there was no line, and Pete filmed us on it.

IMG_5625Looping Star

After Looping star, we took a break and grabbed a light lunch. We all got chicken tenders and fries. Once we were done it was back to action with the Shuttle Loop. Despite the fact that this coaster is basic with a launch and two inversions, one forwards and one backwards, because of the rapid fire action of the ride elements, it’s kind of intense.

We had been going hard since we got there and so after the shuttle loop we all decided we needed a break. We grabbed a drink at a classic Japanese vending machine and took a partial stroll around the park. Clearly we either getting old, or simply not accustom to these rides because the day was kind of kicking our ass in terms of headaches.

IMG_5646Shuttle Loop

We eventually made our way back to the Corkscrew roller coaster and checked it off the list. Pete then walked through the haunted house as Dan and I didn’t want to do it. Next we went to the locker to put stuff away and grab layers as it was overcast and chilly. We then banged out the Bobsled “coaster” -aka Bobkart- before walking around and exploring more of the park.

We then made our way back to the Acrobat, a flying coaster which is a carbon copy of Manta in Sea World. I let Pete and Dan do that one as I a) don’t really like flying coasters and b) though I’m sure I could have handled it, I was not feeling 100% enough to want to risk it.

IMG_5655I got a picture of them as they went swooping by

After Pete and Dan got off the ride, we all decided to do Steel Dragon one more time before heading back to Osaka. Riding that coaster was great every time. It felt like such and accomplishment and was the perfect ending.

Satisfied with our day, we started the journey home. First we purchased tickets at the ticket machine for the Mie Katsu bus. Then, since we had just missed one, we passed the time by going in the 7-11, getting snacks and hanging out. A few minutes later the bus arrived which took us back to Kuwana Station.

IMG_5687Steel Dragon 2000 flew by as we exited the park

There, Dan figured out that we could take a JR train, rather than a limited express train, to get back to Nagoya. Luckily, JR trains require the JR pass rather than the IC Card so my now defunct PASMO card would not be an issue.

However, before making it down to the platform, I tried an experiment. I tapped my PASMO on the same turn style card reader that Dan and Pete had when they were exiting earlier in the day. Low and behold, the screen read a balance and the curse had been lifted. All I had needed to do was to take the time and tap the right car reader. Oh well, the problem was solved and I was back in action.

We took the JR train to Nagoya and there switched to a Shinkansen bound for Shin Osaka station. We got on the first car and, because it was fairly empty, each grabbed a row to ourselves. On the way I listened to music, napped a little and tried to figure out the best plan of attack for the evening/tomorrow.

IMG_5729City Walk at Universal Studios in Osaka

Universal City Walk

After weighing my options I decided I wanted to go to City Walk, since I would no longer be going to Universal Studios to at least get my fix and to grab dinner. I pitched the idea to Pete and when we arrived at Shin Osaka, to Dan as well. Pete and I decided to go and Dan decided to head back to the room and grab dinner locally.

After reorganizing my backpack and giving Dan his personal affects, we parted ways. Pete and I hopped a couple of trains to get us to City Walk. Once there we walked around for a bit and took some pictures. Pete had been wanting something quick and easy; something he knew like McDonalds. I was hoping to get something a bit more Japanese. We found a perfect compromise in Mos Burger, Japan’s answer to Burger King.

After hanging around a bit more and looking at some of the shops and restaurants, we made our way back to the Air BnB where Dan let us in and we all went to bed.

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Luna Park Opening Day

Sunday was opening day at Luna Park. Ever since my visit there last month when I found out that their opening day was March 29th I had been wanting to go. So, after a quick breakfast and getting showered and dressed, I began my 45-minute train ride to Coney Island.

WonderWheelSignBeautifully painted Wonder Wheel sign

I wanted to be one of the first people to ride the Cyclone for it’s 2015 season. The park was set to open at noon and I arrived at 11:47am. I had not heard anything, but for some reason I had a feeling they might do some sort of special promotion where the first people to get there could ride it for free.

Low and behold, my complete guess was correct. Apparently every year the first 100 people in line get to ride the Cyclone for free. Unfortunately for me, other people were actually aware that this was a thing and had gotten there very early. I heard one kid say he was there at 1am! (Un)fortunately for me, this happened and it didn’t matter anyway.

CycloneStuckCyclone stuck on the lift hill

So I went on with my day, walking around the park. Though it was sunny, it wasn’t particularly warm out. I made a few laps of the park and was planning on riding a few rides but everything is pretty expensive. The Wonder Wheel, the consolation prize attraction I was gonna ride, cost $7! The Thunderbolt, the other coaster I wanted to do was closed. However, even if it had been open, it costs $10 to ride!

ConeyIslandPaintedSignBeautifully painted Coney Island sign

Now you can buy a wrist band for unlimited rides but a) it costs $35 and b) it excludes the Cyclone and the Thunderbolt, so what’s the point. I basically just spent my time walking around and taking pictures. I considered getting a Nathan’s Hot Dog but decided against it as I’m cheap and knew I had food back at the apartment.

So, there you go, it ended up being a fruitless endeavor, but it got me outside for a bit, so that was good. I figure if I am able to stay in NY, if a job actually comes around, maybe I’ll try again on a nice day with warmer weather and I’ll save up the money so I don’t feel bad spending it.

LunaParkPanoramaLuna Park as seen from the pier

A couple cool things did happen though. 1) I got to see some Guardian Angels in person; until then I thought they were a myth. 2) Apparently Wahlburgers will be opening a Coney Island location this Spring.

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Worth the wait…? – Day 5

Wednesday 8/13/14 – Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure

In a word, No. No it was not worth the wait. What, you ask… the Gringotts Bank roller coaster at the new Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios, but more on that later. To start I must warn that there will be spoilers in this post. So, if you do not want to know things about the ride or the new section of the park, Stop Reading Now.

NemoI drew this picture of Nemo while waiting for the Mears bus.

Kyra and I started our day by waiting for the mears bus. While outside our hotel I saw three easels with instructions on how to draw Nemo. Since we had nothing better to do and were just killing time, I decided to try it. After I was done and we were just standing around waiting, I noticed the guy in front of me had a cool backpack. I took a picture of the lable and when we got home I looked into the brand; they have some pretty cool stuff.

Eventually, the slightly late Mears bus arrived which was set to take us from our hotel to Universal Studios. We stopped at one other hotel and dropped people off at Sea World before finally arriving at Universal Studios at 9:30am. Upon making our way to the entrance to the park, I had to wait for Kyra to buy a second ticket in order to be sure she’d be let in. It’s a long story involving over-thinking things and buying tickets at AAA and wrong names on tickets and more crap than I care to get into all for what ended up being unnecessary.

London1Crappy overview of London.

So, becasue of all this, we didn’t get into the park until around 10am. I was already frustrated at the whole situation and we hadn’t even gotten on a ride yet. The first thing we did was to make a beeline for the new Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios.

London2Slightly less crappy overview of London with random people in the foreground.

After admiring and taking pictures of the outside, we stepped through the brick wall and into Diagon Alley. In hindsight, with a non angry mindset, I can say that I was blown away.

DiagonAlleyThe first thing you see when entering Diagon Alley. Go back and watch Sorcerer’s Stone, then look at this picture, your mind will be blown.

The detail of everything was out of control and, regardless of weather or not you know about or care about the books and movies, the architecture and world you step into alone is very impressive. But I didn’t care about any of that at the time, I wanted to get in line for the Gringotts Bank coaster. We went straight there and saw that already the line was out the door. We thought we saw a wait time that said 100 minutes.

DiagonAlley2More of Diagon Alley.

After a few minutes we noticed employees going up to various people in line and telling them somehting. We couldn’t hear what it was, but it didn’t seem good. I asked the woman in front of us if she knew what the deal was. Apparently the ride wasn’t even working yet and they weren’t sure how long it would be until it opened. Frustrated that I might spend my entire day waiting in line for one ride, I told Kyra, who is a huge Potter fan, to look around and that I’d text her if there were any updates or if the line began to move.

DragonBy the way, the dragon actually breaths fire!

We stood around for about 10 or 15 minutes until suddenly they began letting people in. Just before entering the building, I heard an employee say that the wait would be at least two-hundred and forty minutes! This made our original panic at the thought of a 100 minute wait seem laughable. I texted Kyra and she soon joined me in line. Shortly after though, I got the urge to pee. Seeing that I wasn’t going to hold it for 4 hours, I got out of line. At the entrance, I explained the situation to the employee. She said it was no problem and handed me a ticket to show I had a place holder so that when I came back, it wouldn’t look like I was cutting. This I thought, was a smart idea.

DiagonAlley3Took the pics of Diagon Alley while Kyra was holding our place in line.

After going to the bathroom, I decided to walk around for a bit to explore a little bit of the new section. What did they care how long I was out of line? After a couple minutes I made my way back to Kyra and the real waiting began. We went up and down endless switch backs. About an hour and a half in there was an announcement, the ride had broken down. Morale fell. A little while later it was operational again. More waiting. Another announcement. This time they predicted the ride might be down for a half an hour.

DiagonAlley4These pictures aren’t going to be in an order that co-insides with the story, but they will at least help to break it up.

Kyra left me to do more exploring while I sat and waited. By the time she got back there had been no progress. There was talk of an exit strategy. How long were we willing to wait? How much of our day were we willing to sacrifice? Though I didn’t want to waste my entire day in line for one attraction, I didn’t want to give up on all the time we invested. We agreed on 3pm, but I had it in my head that I was riding that ride. I then decided to tag out and told Kyra to text or call if the line started back up again. I got all the way to the front and was taking my re-entry ticket when I heard the announcement, “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is once again operational.” In spite of this I continued walking around and exploring. There was no way she was going to make it to the front by the time I got back.


I then explored Diagon Alley in more detail, going into the shops, taking pictures of the facades, and even taking a stroll down Knockturn Alley. It was nice to be in the sunlight, to be free to walk around, to feel like you were accomplishing something. By the time I got back, about 15 or 20 minutes later, Kyra had made it out of the switchbacks and into the straight bit that leads to the first open and themed section of the queue.

BankLobbyGringotts Bank lobby.

After being forced to step out to put bags and loose items in the free lockers provided, we got back in line and were finally able to appreciate some theming. Again we were over whelmed with the details but were torn between stopping to take pictures and running down the open section of queue. While I waited towards the end of the bank lobby, I looked down and notice $20 on the ground. I looked around and saw no one looking for money, then reached down and put it in my pocket.

BankLobby2Goblins hard at work.

I felt and still feel sort of bad about the whole thing. I could have done the right thing and handed it to an employee to put in lost and found, but how does one claim lost money? How do you prove it’s yours? “Did anyone turn in a $20 bill?” “Yes, could you describe the bill sir?” “Uuuhh…” “Do you know the serial number?” I dicided to just keep it. It was payment for all the waiting I was doing. I really shouldn’t have been surprised I found money, this was a bank after all.


After the lobby, the queue moves into a long hall section. There are paintings of famous goblins and gold bars stacked behind bars. We heard from an employee that we were fairly close to the end of the line. All we had left was a pre-show, and elevator ride and then the last little section of waiting. He said we were about a half an hour away. This got us both very excited as half an hour seemed like no time compared to what we had gone through. Eventually we got to the room with the pre-show.

WandShopWand shop.

A goblin got out from behind his desk and began talking to us. I was very surprised by this becuase I thought, “Wow, they have a live actor here all day to do this pre-show!?” It wasn’t until one of the effects happened that I realized this wasn’t a live show, this was some sort of hologram projection like when Tupac performed at Coachella. I was blown away by how real it looked.

TalkingHeadsTalking heads in Knocturn Alley.

After this we moved on to the next room where we were loaded into an “elevator.” I say “elevator” because it was clearly just a staging area. The floor bounced up and down to make you think you were moving, but really you were just staying in the same place. The “elevator room” in the Haunted mansion is much more convincing.

NightBusThe Night Bus.

When the doors opened we exited to the basement level of the bank. It looked like a dungeon and this was where you got your 3D glasses. You then got in one of two lines that lead to a staircase the brought riders to a duel loading station. Soon we were at the top of the stairs and before you know it we were finally on the ride. As the ride pulled out of the station I yelled “Four. Hour. Wait. Wooo.”

NightBusInteriorThe interior of the Night Bus.

The ride basically takes you through the vault and cave section of Gringotts where you have run-ins with Voldemort, Bellatrix and Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The ride is a combination of a roller coaster and an immersive movie expirence. You move through actual environments but the rest is completed by the giant movie screens. The 3D is incredible and you’d swear that the actors were really there. Soon it was over and we exited the ride.


After getting off, all I could do was think about the countless other things I could have done in four hours that would have been a better use of my time. The ride was good and unlike anything else I’d ever done, but definitely not worth the wait. (This however was apparently nothing compared to the supposed 7 hour wait times people dealt with when the ride first opened!) The thing that disappointed me was that I thought it was going to be this crazy fast roller coaster though Gringotts with barrel rolls and stuff. In reality, they probably could have used any sort of ride vehicle to give the same experience. I checked my phone and it was 2:29pm. I looked at the text I had sent Mom when we first got in line and the time stamp was 10:25am; we had in fact been in line for four hours.

—The Rest Of The Day

After being freed from the prison that was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, we made our way out of Diagon Alley and over to Kings Cross Station to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmead. Your theme park ticket serves as your ticket to board the train. We got in the 45 minute line and after about 15 minutes of waiting, we got an announcement that we’d become so familiar with. In short, you guessed it, the ride had broken down. We waited through a few more of this same announcements before bailing. I was not going to spend my day waiting in line for unreliable rides. The Hogwarts Express breaking down was a blessing in disguise (though I didn’t know it at the time) as I had more to see at Universal Studios before heading over to Islands of Adventure and I figured it made more sense to finish one park before making our way over to the other.

OptimusPrimeOptimus Prime.

I angrily lead us towards the Transformers ride. I knew that this was basically the same ride as the Spider-Man ride they have at Islands, only with newer technology and Tranformers themed. However, though I don’t give to much of a shit about Transformers, this ride was relatively new to the park and 100% new to both Kyra and me, so I wanted to check it out. My thought was this, if the wait time is reasonable, like 15 minutes, I’ll do it. If it’s crazy long, I can skip it for now. I did want to do it just to say I did it and because it was new, but after that wait, I just needed to get a second ride under my belt.

We walked up to the line and saw that the wait time said 60 minutes. I was literally in the middle of saying “Fuck that,” when the following announcement was made: “If you want to turn your 60 minute wait into a 5 minute wait…” -I assumed they were going to tell us to by their device that allows you to skip the lines so I skeptically kept listening- “…why not try our single rider line?” I looked to Kyra and we were both on board. We got in the single rider line and as it turned out, the announcement was true! It probably took less than five minutes for us to get on the ride and on top of that, the attraction was incredible. This really turned my mood around and got me to think that if we ran into more luck like this, the day might be salvageable.

Next we made our way over to the nearby Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. This is one of my favorites and again we decided to do the single rider line. The wait ended up only being about 15 minutes and Kyra and I still ended up on the same car. We weren’t next to each other, but she was sitting right behind me. This helped to solidify my new found good mood. We were able to ride two rides in the same amount of time it took us to wait in 8.3% of our total wait time for Gringotts!

After that we headed for the exit of Universal Studios. Along the way I checked out the single rider wait time for the Rip, Ride, Rock-It roller coaster. At 75 minutes I was like “Fuck that” and we made our way over to Islands of Adventure.

—Islands of Adventure

Now I was really getting excited because though I had been to Islands twice before, Kyra had never been. Though she was hungry, I wanted to check the wait time for the Hulk roller coaster. When we got to the entrance, I was shocked at what I saw: 15 minutes! Everyone else must have been in line for Gringotts. I asked Kyra if she could do one more ride and that after I promised we could get food. She agreed and we shortened our wait to about 10 minutes by once again doing single rider. As usual, the ride did not fail to entertain. It is just filled with nonstop action. You’re always either dropping, turning, or looping and the ride never gives you a chance to breath. It’s really intense but I love it every time.

JurassicParkWelcome to Executive Bathroom Island.”

After the Hulk, we went next door to Cafe 4. We got pizza and pasta at the Fantastic 4 themed restaurant before continuing our journey. The next stop on was Jurassic Park to ride the Jurassic Park River Adventure log (or in this case boat) flume ride. Yet again we did the single rider line, cutting our wait time from 40 minutes to about 10 or 15. I love this ride because you get to relax and enjoy a nice slow cruise, checking out some dinos along the way. Then, as is the case with rides like this, something goes wrong and you end up climbing a lift hill into the facility only to have to plummet 80 feet to the water below. It’s a pretty standard ride but I always enjoy doing it.

HogwartsJust Hogwarts… nothing you haven’t seen before… move along.

After that we made our way to Hogsmead. Upon entering that section of the park, Kyra, once again, lost her shit. She got super excited upon seeing Hogwarts and this in turn made me happy. However, I was dreading the wait time for the star attraction in this area, The Forbidden Journey. To my shock and amazement, the wait was only 30 minutes! This blew me away because when I came in 2010, the wait time was 2 maybe even 2 and a half hours. Now granted that section of the park was new at the time and granted four years have passed since then and now everyone is more interested in the Gringotts ride, but still, I was blown away. We hopped right in line and began our relatively short wait.

Initially, before knowing that the wait time was going to be so short, I was all set to tell Kyra, “Look, I’ve ridden this ride before, I don’t need to ride it again, I already did one big wait today. I want to get other rides in, but I don’t want to prohibit you from being able to ride it, so why don you go on if you want, and I’ll bang out a few other rides.” But, as it turned out this wasn’t the case. I’m actually glad I got to ride it again for two reasons. 1) because the last time I did the single rider line and missed most of the queue, which turned out to be interactive and entertaining. And 2) because it is one of the most unique and innovative rides I have ever been on and I was glad to get the opportunity to ride it again.

Once we finished the dizzying ride, we made our way over to the Dragon Challenge roller coaster. Formerly Dueling Dragons, the coaster remained the same but was merely enhanced with some Harry Potter theming objects in the queue. Upon entering the line we were once again greeted by a surprisingly short 15 minute wait! There was basically no line at all and it was actually closer to only five minutes. We chose the blue coaster to ride first and it was, as usual, a lot of fun. The one thing that disappointed me was that they were no longer making the coasters “duel.” They used to run the two trains at the same time in order for them to pass by one another in near misses. Now however, they no longer do that. This is/was lame to me because that was a big aspect of what made the ride entertianing. Nevertheless, it was still fun.

After riding blue, we headed over to the Three Broomsticks (restaurant)/Hogs Head (pub). Kyra had been craving a Butter Beer, and I wanted to try a Hogs Head brew; a red ale specially crafted for the park. We got a table and sat and drank our drinks. Kyra was underwhelmed by her Butter Beer, as I sort of expected she would be, I didn’t like it the first time I went to the Wizzarding World either. My real beer on the other hand was quite good.

DuelingDragonsDueling Dragons or Dragon Challenge.

After finishing our drinks I wanted to go on Dragon Challenge again in order to ride the Red coaster; which has a different layout from Blue. Kyra didn’t have an interest, so she waited and held my stuff and I got in line. Amazingly there was literally no wait! By the time I got to the front of the queue I walked right onto the ride.

After doing this we got on the Hogwarts Express and took it back to London/Diagon Alley. The ride was actually really cool. Rather than just sitting in a train, they make it an attraction. The windows are actually video screens that show you pulling away from Hogwarts and entering downtown London. The glass and doors project shadows of passengers walking by. Ron, Harry and Hermione even walk by and peek in, “Looks like a bunch of first years in there.” The cool thing was that when we left Hogsmead, there was still sunlight, but by the time we got to Kings Cross, it was dark out. This perfect timing made the ride feel more realistic; like we’d actually taken a long distance journey.

KingsCrossKings Cross station.

When we got off the ride, Kyra and I parted ways. We didn’t have much time left before the park closed but we had separate things we wanted to accomplish. Kyra wanted to take one more walk through Diagon Alley and I wanted to see if I could squeeze in a ride on the Rock-it roller coaster.

I walked over to the Rock-it and saw the wait time for single riders was still 60 minutes. I got in and hoped that, as had been the case with most of the posted wait times, it was shorter than it said. The only reason it was a factor was that we had a bus to catch and I didn’t want to miss it. I got in line and though it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t going to be 60 minutes either. It ended up being closer to thirty and though the ride wasn’t as enjoyable as I remember it being, mostly because I didn’t remember it being so rough, I was still glad I was able to ride it.

After getting off the ride, I met up with Kyra who was waiting near the ride’s exit and we headed to the bus. The day ended up being much better than I expected it to be from the way it started out. I was able to accomplish all but two of the things on my list. One was the Spider-Man ride, which I’ve ridden before and the other was the Classic Monster Cafe. But a) it was closed by the time we got around to it, and b) I wasn’t hungry by that time anyway. It was a long day and stressful at points, but it ended up well and by the time I got back to the hotel I was cooked. I even fell asleep on the bus that’s how burnt out I was. All in all a solid day.

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MGM Studios/Epcot/Downtown Disney – Day 2

Sunday 8/10/14

Kyra and I started our morning by meeting our Mom and Dad in line for Toy Story Midway Mania. The wait was 55 minutes but the ride is, in my opinion, one of the best family attractions at any of the Disney parks. It is super interactive and literally anyone can ride it. Just as was the case with Buzz Lightyear, I dominated with a score of ~88,000 points. After riding that, we made our way over to Tower of Terror. The wait was only 40 minutes or so, so me, my sister, and my Dad got in line. My Mom went off and did other stuff as this would get her sick, or rather, give her a headache for sure.

HollywoodTowerHotelThe Hollywood Tower Hotel aka Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as seen from the queue.

Tower of Terror is another one of my favorite attractions. Not only is the ride fun, but the theming is Disney at its best. Theming is one the things Disney is known for. The sign is weathered and at night you can see the words “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” appear glowing in front of the embossed Hollywood Tower Hotel. The queue leading up to the hotel plays eerie jazz-era music and there’s a thick mist on the grounds.

The deserted and cobwebbed lobby combined with the Rod Serling intro leading into the basement level of the hotel really helps to sell the whole atmosphere of the ride. You can go on drop rides anywhere, but I guarantee you none are as intricate as this. Rather than relying on our innate fear of heights, T of T really tries to impact guests on a psychological level. The ride as usual never fails to thrill and after it was over and we rejoined with Mom, we went across the way to Rockin’ Roller Coaster.

RocknRollerCoasterTheming outside the Rockn’ Roller Coaster ride building.

While we rode that, Mom rode another family favorite, The Great Movie Ride. Probably one of my favorite parts about Rockin’ is, again, the theming. Sure the launch makes your stomach drop and the loops are great, but the loading area is one of the best they have ever done. Set up on the night of an Aerosmith concert, guests are sent a “super-stretch” Cadillac limo. You board the limo in an LA parking garage then turn the corner into a deserted back alley before launching into the night.

I don’t know what it is, but something about emulating reality in a physical environment makes me really happy. Every time I go step into the LA alley and it’s “night time” and I see the first train launch, I’m a kid again. For that alone, the ride is worth it. After riding, we met up with Mom and decide to split up. Kyra and Mom go to the Back-Lot Tour, a ride I could care less about at this point, and Dad and I go on The Great Movie Ride.

Though the whole ride is fun, for a slow family ride, the part I was looking forward to the most was, ironically, the part that used to scare me as a child… Alien. Alien is undoubtedly in my top 50 favorite movies and before leaving for the trip I even had a craving to watch it that sadly went unfulfilled. What I love about this section of the ride is that you get put in the middle of one of the most tense parts of the movie, even if it is just briefly. My plan was to try and get a picture of the creature when it pops out from the ceiling, but I messed up my timing and didn’t get the shot. I could have tried again but the ride is kind of long and not really worth riding a second time just to try and accomplish this.

Starspeeder1000The Starspeeder 1000 inside the queue for Star Tours.

After getting off, Dad and I went to yet another favorite attraction of mine, Star Tours. Not only am I a Star Wars nerd, but the ride has been updated since last I was there and so I was excited to ride it. The queue was filled with even more nerdy details, like an arrivals and departures chart that displays in both the English alphabet as well as in galactic “basic”. The two other updates to the ride are that it is now in 3D, and travels to multiple destinations. This means that, in theory, every time you ride it, it could be different.

SingingInTheRainComparisonSingin In the Rain comparison.

As expected, the ride was good and after getting off we rejoined with Kyra and Mom. Next we made our way over to the Singin’ In the Rain umbrella. One of the small goals I had for this trip was to pose like Gene Kelly does in the movie. It was a dumb goal, but I was glad to accomplish it.

Sci-FiSnackBarSign for the “snack bar” at the rear of the drive-in.

After this we made our way over to the Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre. This is my favorite restaurant in any of the parks. I remember going to this one of the first times we went to Disney. The concept is a drive in theater with classic monster movies and old advertisements. I’m pretty sure we hadn’t eaten there since the only other time we’d eaten there, so it’d been a while. I had tried making a reservation using the Disney App but it didn’t let me.

So I walked up to the desk and asked if they had space for four and how long the wait would be. To my pleasant surprise they weren’t fully booked and, on top of that, the wait was only twenty minutes. The only down side was that instead of seating us in a “car” they were going to have to put us in a round table with an umbrella. Though not ideal, I was glad just to be able to eat there, and, as luck would have it, our wait was closer to five minutes than twenty. Also, when we were seated, they brought us to a car! I guess a group had just left.

Sci-FiDineInTheaterThe view from our car; kinda reminds me of Jack Rabbit Slims.

This worked out about as good if not better than I expected. The restaurant, though indoor is themed to look like it’s out doors at a drive in movie theatre. Again, I don’t know what it is about these false realities, but something about them makes me happy every time. We enjoyed the shows and the meal, and when the check came, Kyra and I paid the bill. We felt it was the least we could do seeing that our parents had paid for basically everything else.


After eating we promptly left MGM and took our parents back to check out our hotel. We showed them our room and took them on a tour of the grounds before making our way over to Epcot.


SpaceshipEarthSpaceship Earth aka the Epcot ball, nothing you haven’t seen before.

The first thing we tried to do at the park was to see the movie Captain EO starring Michael Jackson. It had ran for a few years in the late 80s and early 90’s but was replaced with Honey I Shrunk the Audience shortly after Honey I Shrunk the Kids came out. However, after MJ’s death, they brought Captain EO back and out of the four of us, I was the only one to have seen it. Unfortunately we got to the park at around 7pm and that night it was closing at 9. Because of this, by the time we got to EO it was closed for the night.

WorldOfTomorrowI found this image on one of the walls while making my way into the park. I couldn’t believe I’d never seen it before, though I’m sure it’s been there since the park’s inception. It looks to me, like concept art for this Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

Since there was nothing much else we could do, we did the go to attraction, Spaceship Earth. SE is the ride contained within Epcot’s iconic “golf ball” or geodesic sphere as it is technically called. Spaceship Earth, though not very thrilling, is a staple of any Disney trip, and, unlike most who can’t be bothered to learn a thing or two on their vacation, I actually enjoy the ride and learning about the evolution of communication. Because this was basically the only thing the four of us could do, and none of us were interested in seeing Illuminations, the fireworks show we’ve seen a million times, we left the park.

—Downtown Disney

The next stop on the list was Downtown Disney as Kyra and I wanted to show Mom and Dad the Marketplace Co-Op. However, after a quick tour, I only had one thing in mind, beer. Ever since my trip to Celebration V in 2010, my first time in the Orlando area when I was over 21, I wanted to go to the Raglan Road Pub. So, after getting the green light, I bolted to it.

KilkennyIrishAleLiquid diet.

Raglan Road is an Irish pub that has live entertainment, step dancing or music, every 10 to 15 minutes. I really was just looking for some time to myself with my thoughts and with a couple of Irish friends. The two in question were twins named Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale. I enjoyed them and the entertainment a lot. Eventually, a duo went up and performed some songs.

I asked the bartender if they took requests and he said they did, handing me a turned over coaster and a pen. I wrote my request, Drunken Lullabies, on it and brought it up to the stage with a couple bucks. Unfortunately that song was not part of their repertoire. They instead played a different Flogging Molly song for me, but, being that I only know the one, this was of no use.


After finishing my second beer and snagging the coaster I’d written on, that they would have probably thrown away anyway, I rejoined my family before we each went back to our respective hotels for the night.

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