Tag Archives: theme park

A Universal Evening (or Checking Out The Castle)

One of the fun bonuses for having an annual pass for Universal Studios is that they do some preview events for passholders from time to time. And pretty soon after renewing my pass, I got my first preview event invite. This time, it was for the upcoming light show that they are going to be doing on the castle in the Harry Potter section of the park.

When they originally announced the new light show, my friend Michelle and I realized that it was going to be starting after our passes were blacked out for the summer. So when we got the preview invites, we jumped at the chance to go and signed up! We had a viewing time of 9:20pm for the show, but we figured we’d just go to the park after we were both done with work and have some fun before the light show.

We got to the park around 5pm and found a pretty amazing parking space (which doesn’t always happen at Universal since they aren’t as great with their parking lot as Disneyland is). And since we were both getting a bit hungry for dinner, we decided to make a stop in CityWalk before going into the park since the food is a bit better there.

We went to DongPo Kitchen where we had gone once before. They have amazing green beans that we were both kind of craving. We decided to get those again along with some chicken and pork belly and had a pretty awesome meal!

We then headed toward the front gate of the park where we had to check in for the preview event and get our wristbands. We also got coupons for 20% off a purchase in the park. I didn’t think I would be purchasing anything there (I’m really trying to not shop as much), but it was nice that they gave us those as a perk.

Michelle and I weren’t sure what we were going to do at the park. We only had about an hour before the park closed (the preview event only had the Harry Potter section open) and we were debating on what we wanted to ride. And as we passed the Special Effects Stage, we realized the show was going to start within a few minutes. I hadn’t seen the show in about a decade, so we decided to go in and check it out.

We were sitting on the side in the front, so it was a bit tough to see everything. But we could still see a lot and I noticed how much they’ve changed the show. It’s pretty awesome what they do now and they have real stunt people in the show doing stage fighting and lighting themselves on fire. It’s a big improvement over the old version and I have a feeling I’ll be checking it out again.

When the show was done, we only had about 5 minutes until the park closed so we had to pick one ride to do. And we figured since The Simpsons ride was right there that we would do that. The line wasn’t too bad and we got to cut ahead a bit because they were looking for a group of 2 to fill up one of the ride vehicles. And after waiting only maybe 10 minutes, we were inside the building waiting to go on the ride. I love the little digs at Disneyland attractions that they have inside there!

When we were done with that ride, the park was officially closed so we walked over to the Harry Potter section. There were 3 showtimes for the new light show (8:40, 9:00, and 9:20) and we figured we’d try to watch it at least twice. But first, we wanted to ride the Harry Potter ride which is one of my favorites.

As soon as we got off the ride, we headed outside and the light show was starting! We couldn’t really be in the viewing area since we had a different showtime, but we had a pretty great view from farther back!

And as soon as that show was done, we made our way to the front of the reserved viewing area to see the show from up close. The show is only about 5 minutes so I’m glad we didn’t really have to wait in a big crowd to watch it. It’s pretty awesome and the projections are incredible up close, but I was a bit disappointed how short the show was.

We let the crowd clear a bit before we headed out. I’m glad that we were able to go to Universal and considering that we were only in the park for about 2 hours I think we got quite a bit done. I won’t have a chance to go back for a while unless they do bonus days for passholders (which they do from time to time). But if this is my last visit for a while, I would have to say it was a pretty great visit and I feel like I got everything done that I wanted to do.

Another Year Of Universal (or Hanging Out With A Little Wizard)

My Universal Studios pass expired a little over a month ago and I wasn’t sure originally when I’d be back. I knew I’d be getting another pass eventually, but I figured I probably wouldn’t start using it until after the summer since the pass level I get isn’t good for the summer. But when my friend Erin mentioned that she and her daughter Olive were going to be there on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I decided that I should get my pass sooner than expected.

Even though the pass I get isn’t usually good on weekends, when you have a new pass you can have your first day be any day. So that worked out pretty well for me. We knew that it would be pretty crowded going to the park on a holiday weekend, but we figured that even if we only got one ride in we would be pretty happy.

Olive loves all things Harry Potter, so our first stop had to be the Harry Potter section of the park. Olive has one of the wands that can be used to do spells around that part of the park and she wanted to test out her wizard skills as soon as we got there.

Olive is really cute with all of the wizard stuff. She believes in it (which I loved!) and she practices the various spells so she can do them all when she gets to the park. She can even do them behind her back or with her non-dominant hand!

And since we were in the Harry Potter section, we did the main Harry Potter ride first. Because of the way the seats are on that ride, I have to use the alternative loading area. That’s fine with me (and I’m no longer fat-shamed on that ride) but sometimes it can be a bit of a wait because only one magical bench can be used at a time with the alternative loading. It usually goes pretty quickly, but it seemed to be taking forever for us. We found out later that the ride had broken down and the people who were on it rode it again. But they were given one time front of the line passes because they got stuck and they decided to give one to Olive! That was so sweet of them and then it was our turn to ride.

And somehow we got stuck on the ride too! We were only stuck for maybe 2 minutes and it wasn’t in too bad of a spot (and we weren’t hanging in a weird position). The ride started up again pretty quickly and the rest of the ride was fine. But the employee at the loading area felt bad that we had to wait so long and we got stuck so we got 2 more one time front of the line passes! This was amazing because we knew the lines would be horrible all day and these passes were going to save us so much time!

After the ride, we made a quick stop for lunch and then did the tram tour. I’m sure I’ll be sick of the tram tour eventually, but I do still love it and how silly it is. I enjoy seeing the fun theme park elements of the tour and I really love going past Bates Motel and remembering the good time I had working there during Halloween Horror Nights.

After the tram we headed down the set of escalators to the lower lot to ride some of the rides down there. Erin and Olive haven’t been on any of those rides and Olive decided to try the Jurassic Park water ride. I usually don’t go on it because I don’t like water rides, but it was hot enough out to want to cool down a bit. I think Olive was a bit nervous about how big the drop is on the ride, but she seemed to enjoy all the dinosaurs on it and I promised to warn her when the big drop was going to happen. And when the ride was done, she seemed pretty glad that she tried the ride. And she didn’t get that wet because it seemed like all the water hit me! I’m glad I wore quick drying workout pants but my shirt was dripping with water.

Erin wanted to try the Mummy roller coaster, which I love, and we thought Olive might want to try it too. But after being in line she decided she didn’t want to do it so Erin and I did the kid swap service so I rode first and then she went on it after. It was fun getting to have some time hanging out with Olive and she and I decided to work on planning out what else we wanted to do that day.

And of course, all that Olive wanted to do was the Harry Potter stuff some more. That was fine with me so we headed back up the escalators to go back to the upper lot. We rode the Harry Potter ride one more time (we didn’t get stuck this time) and Olive did some more spells around the park. And since it was warm out, we made a stop to get frozen Butterbeer, which is one of my favorite treats at Universal.

We just walked around enjoying our drinks and I was glad that the park wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was afraid it would be. Of course, having the front of the line passes helped a lot too. But it was a gorgeous day out and it could have been much worse with the combination of the holiday weekend and the nice weather.

Olive had been saving money to afford some glasses (I don’t know Harry Potter stuff too well but I guess this is a big deal for a character she loves) so we did some souvenir shopping to end our day. Olive seemed so excited that she got exactly what she wanted and that she was able to pay with the money that she had been saving.

After shopping, it was time for me to head home so I could do some of my normal Sunday chores (like laundry). I’m so glad that Erin and Olive invited me to join them at Universal that day. Even though I had been recently, this was the first time I had been with a kid in a very long time. I think the last time I was there with a kid was when I went with Olive which was almost 7 years ago! It’s so fun seeing a theme park through a kid’s eyes and I hope that I get to go with Olive again soon!

One More Universal Day (or Getting In All My Rides)

It’s almost been one year since I got my Universal Studios annual pass. I’ve totally gotten my money’s worth with my pass since I only had to go 2 times to make it worth it. But I wanted to get in one more day before my pass expired. Also, when I went, I still thought I needed surgery so I wanted to ride all my favorite rides before I couldn’t go on them for a while (like what I did at Disneyland).

I went to Disneyland with my friend David and he and I were both in agreement that we wanted to try to get as many rides done as possible. What we didn’t think about was that the park was going to be a bit more crowded than we expected with it being spring break for a lot of schools. But we managed to really time things out right and I think the we kind of killed it with getting in all of our favorites.

Our first stop was the tram tour. I love the tram and there are also so many fun little theme park elements to the tram that is just fun to experience each time. And this time, I really liked seeing King Kong since David and I had recently gone to see the new King Kong movie. I still miss the old King Kong, but the new one is still awesome. I don’t know if it was because the park was so crowded or if there was something else going on, but there seemed to be a couple of places where the tram was stopped for a pretty long time. Our tour guide tried to keep us entertained with as many facts as he could think of, but you could tell that he was hoping that we would start moving again soon.

And for me, the highlight of the tram tour every time is to go past the Bates Motel where I used to work during Halloween Horror Nights. Even though I don’t want to work there again, I miss the good times that I did have there. And every time the tram goes by my old workplace, I can’t help but smile at the memories of me scaring so many people there.

After the tram tour, we headed down to the lower lot to ride the rides down there. I usually don’t seem to make it down to the lower lot, so I was glad that we did that. We ended up riding the Transformers ride twice and The Mummy roller coaster once. Those are both pretty great rides and it made me wonder why I didn’t make the effort to go on them more often in my visits over the past year. But at least we fit them in this time.

We then headed back up to the upper lot to ride The Simpsons ride (another one that I don’t seem to go on that often) before heading over to the Harry Potter section of the park.

First, we rode the Forbidden Journey ride. That is one of the best rides in the entire park and since the last time I was there they changed the ride from being 3D to 2D. I have to say that the 2D version was much better for me and I felt more into the ride than I had the previous times riding it. I would have gone on it again, but I think we were both feeling a bit tired by that point.

But before we left the park, we had one more stop to make. David also has an annual pass to Universal but he had never tried Butterbeer before. That is one of my favorite treats in the park and I couldn’t end our day without getting one so David could finally try it.

Even though I really enjoyed the hot Butterbeer when I had it, I think the frozen one is really the way to go. And I think David liked it too so I’m glad that we made the stop to get them before we left the park for the day.

When we left, it was pretty much during rush hour so we decided to get some dinner at CityWalk. I’ve had dinner there a few times, but we went to Karl Strauss which I hadn’t been to since I worked at Universal Studios. I used to go there all the time for a late lunch before my shift started because it always has good food and they were always so nice to all of us who worked there. This time, I got a burger that had a blue cheese sauce on the side. That was awesome and I was so full when I was done.

I think that this was the perfect last Universal day with my pass. I’m thinking about getting another annual pass since they are pretty inexpensive (only about $20 more than a 1 day ticket), but I probably won’t do it until after the summer is done since most of the summer is blacked out for the pass level I would get. There aren’t as many rides at Universal as there are at Disneyland, but it’s still a fun park to go to and I love having awesome places to go for a fun day adventure!

I didn’t know at the time that the surgery was going to be canceled, but I still totally consider this a way that I was able to celebrate not needing surgery this week and it really was a great celebration. But how I celebrated only hours after I heard the news will be in tomorrow’s post. And I think it was the perfect nerdy way to celebrate!

A Universal Adventure (or Lunch And A Tram Tour)

This past Monday I was originally going to go to Disneyland. That didn’t end up happening (and I’m glad I did change my plans), but since I had my afternoon free I decided to make some other plans. I thought about it for a minute and realized that it has been a while since I went to Universal Studios. I’ve got about 2 months left on my pass and wanted to make sure I went at least one more time before it expired. So I called my friend Robert and he was free too so we decided to go to the park to hang out!

Since I was coming after my workout and Robert had to go to work at 4pm, we didn’t have a ton of time at the park. But since we both have passes and didn’t really care too much about what rides we went on, this worked out perfectly. We made plans to meet up at the gate at noon and I rushed to get ready to drive over to meet Robert. We ended up having pretty perfect timing and got to the front gate within minutes of each other.

As soon as we went inside, we went to get some lunch. Robert has been working his way through the menu at the Three Broomsticks restaurant in the Harry Potter section of the park, so I was happy to go there so I could help him get a few more things knocked off the list. Plus, the food is pretty good there and isn’t like traditional theme park food. I was pretty hungry after my workout (and it was lunchtime), so I got the bangers and mash for my lunch. It was a bit more food than I normally would eat, but it was perfect!

It wasn’t too crowded at the restaurant so Robert and I had a nice time just relaxing and catching up. He works for the Oscars so he’s about to get really busy with helping out at the show. So I wanted to take advantage of the time we had to hang out before he gets too busy with work. We had just seen each other recently (he came over to watch the SAG Awards at my house), but we both have had a lot of things happening in our lives lately. So it was nice to catch up.

After our lunch, we were debating about if we were going to go on a ride or just walk around the park. We ended up deciding to go on the tram tour since that’s always fun to do and it was a pretty nice day out. I had told Robert a while ago about how it was interesting to sit in the very front of the tram because of the way some of the theme park elements of the tour work, and it was awesome to find out that we were going to sit in the first row of the front car!

We had a nice time going through the tour. It is silly and gimmicky, but it’s always fun. I like to see what the backlot looks like when they are filming different shows, and I really do love the theme park elements and how cheesy they can be sometimes. When we were getting close to the Jaws part of the tour, the guide told us that Jaws was under refurbishment and we could not go through it. I could see that it was all torn up, but the guide told us not to be sad because we were in for a special treat. And as we got closer to the ride, we saw that one the animatronic Jaws was off to the side getting ready to be used!

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one of the Jaws out of the water so that was a really awesome thing! I do love the Jaws part of the tour so I’m glad they are working on keeping it looking nice so it will be around for a while to come.

One of the last things on the tour that we always see is my old workplace. I love going past the Bates Motel or Bates house. Even though I had some unpleasant experiences with working Halloween there (specifically with guests who decided to hit or attack me or other employees), I do still look back at that time with happy memories and I miss working there. So getting to see where I worked does make me happy.

After the tram tour, Robert had to head home so he could get ready for work. I thought about staying at the park to walk around a bit more, but I decided to head home so I could avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic. We were in the park for a little more than 2 hours, but even though it was a fast visit it was the perfect thing to do that day!

I don’t know if I’ll be back to the park before my pass expires. I am looking at getting another pass for next year if I can find a good deal like I did this time. But if I don’t make it back for a while, I’m glad that I have had a couple of great days at Universal and really got my money’s worth with the pass.

A Calm Disney Day (or Enjoying An Empty Park)

Since I average going to Disneyland almost once a month (except in the summer when my pass is blacked out), it seemed perfect timing to go to Disneyland this week! And not only had it been almost a month since the last time I was there, it seemed like a lot of other things were saying it was the perfect time to go. It was supposed to rain on Monday, which usually means the parks aren’t that crowded. And, this past Monday was the first day of school for many schools in the area which also usually means the parks might be on the empty side.

I went with Michelle and Dani (as usual) and we took my new car. Dani was with me when I bought the car, but Michelle really wanted to see it. Plus, I need to drive more so I get used to the car! Usually Michelle or Dani drive, so it was my turn to be the driver for the day. And since we went down around lunchtime, there wasn’t too much traffic that we had to deal with.

When we got to Disneyland, we were very happy to see that the parks were empty! It was exactly what we wanted and the rain had already stopped so we were pretty excited to have a great day! We didn’t have a bunch of rides that we wanted to get done, so we decided to take things easy and just go on whatever seems fun to us at the time.

We went into California Adventure and our first stop was Toy Story Mania, where I’m hoping that I can get back to having great scores on the game. I’m not that good at it anymore so I need to remember to read up on the tricks to the various games on the ride to hopefully get the high score in my car. Next, we went right next to Toy Story Mania to ride on California Screamin. All of us were going to go on the ride, but Dani got a phone call she needed to take so she had to skip out on the ride. Michelle and I were able to sit in the front of the roller coaster and even though we didn’t plan our photo together, we had similar poses.

I wish we could have gotten a better photo, but there was a ton of glare on the screens and we didn’t want to spend $39 on the photo. So I used the photo I could access from my phone and that has the writing on it.

After that ride, Dani was off the phone and we headed over to Soarin’ Around the World and realized when we were done it was the perfect time to check out the Frozen show. I hadn’t seen it yet and when it opened you had to get a Fastpass for the show as soon as the gates opened. But now, you could walk in and get into the show. So we decided to take a show break in our day.

We wanted to sit in the orchestra section because I don’t like to do stairs, and we were toward the back of the line. But it ended up being perfect because even though we were in the back of the theater, we were in the center and it was a great view of the stage.

The Frozen show was pretty good! I’m still sad that the Aladdin show is gone (and I loved getting to see my friend in it), but this is a fun show too. The cast was very good and while the sets were almost all digital ones they helped to transform the space. The show is a bit long (over an hour), but it was a nice break for us in our day.

Continuing on with our leisurely pace in a pretty empty park, we had dinner in Cars Land before heading over to Radiator Springs Racers. Since the cars seat 3, we fit perfectly in the front row of our car. The sun had set right before we rode and that’s my favorite time to ride the ride. The outside portion of the ride is so beautiful and we had so much fun.

We walked over to Disneyland after that to ride a few more rides for the night. HyperSpace Mountain is still one of the best roller coasters and we were able to get on the ride quickly. We were trying to think of a good pose for the photo, and we decided on Michelle doing the Darth Vader death grip trying to kill me and Dani. I’m not sure if that’s what the picture ended up looking like, but I love the ride photo either way!

We went over to the Tiki Room for some Dole Whips for dessert and we were just in so much shock about how empty the park was! We could have walked down Main Street with our arms out and not hit anyone! It was a nice change over the past few visits where it was so crowded that I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I know that having it so empty is a rare treat, so I was just trying to enjoy it.

We got our Dole Whips quickly (no line!) and went into the Tiki Room to eat them.

The last ride for the night for us was Indiana Jones and we were all just being really silly during the ride and jokingly yelling at Dani since she was in the driver’s seat. Fortunately, the other people on the ride with us didn’t mind that and we just had a fun time being weird.

On our way out of the park, we went through the stores just to see what they had in stock. We all have different things we have been looking for at Disneyland and Michelle was able to find the mug that she had been wanting. And after our shopping, it was time to get back into my car to head home.

We didn’t get a ton of rides done, but it was the perfect Disney day. My next Disney adventure might be later this month and there’s a chance that there will be no rides that day. But I’ll write about that if that ends up happening!

Disneyland At Christmastime (or An Evening Of Rides)

When I knew I’d be meeting with the liver surgeon on Monday last week, my first thought was that I should do something fun after the appointment. I went to Universal Studios with Michelle after my first appointment (when I found out it was actually a tumor), so it seemed fitting to do something like that again. I asked Michelle if she was free, and she was. So we planned an afternoon at Disneyland to celebrate whatever news I got.

I knew most of the news going into the appointment (thanks to my OB/GYN giving me an update and sending me the MRI report), so I wasn’t feeling that odd going to Disneyland. I knew surgery would be happening next year and that there is no reason to stress. I did double check with the surgeon that I was cleared to ride rides at Disneyland since I’m aware there are risks of the tumors rupturing. Thankfully he gave me the all clear.

Michelle and I didn’t have a ton of stuff on our Disneyland list. We knew we’d be coming back the next Monday (yes, I went again yesterday) so we were taking things pretty slow. When we got to the parks, it was almost time for sunset so we decided to head over to the giant ferris wheel to try to view the sunset from high above the parks.

sunset

It was a pretty amazing view and we managed to time it out really well!

Our next stop was a quick dinner (soup in bread bowls again since it was so cold out!) and then off to ride Radiator Springs Racers. Walking through Cars Land during the holidays is so fun with all the cute decorations and every year it makes me smile.

cars-land-tree cars-land

I love Radiator Springs Racers at night since the outdoor part of the ride looks so beautiful then. And I tried to get a fun picture on the ride, but I forgot when you sit in the back your arms may get cut off in the photo.

radiator-springs-racers

Before our next ride, we made a quick shopping stop. I had been looking for some cute Disney ears for a long time. I had some I loved and ended up losing them about 12 years ago when I moved from one apartment to another. But I found some that weren’t too expensive (and the headband part didn’t hurt) so I decided to treat myself! And right by where I got them, they had a really cute photo backdrop setup!

new-ears

Our last stop before going into the other park was Tower of Terror. They are doing a really fun thing at nighttime where they don’t have the effects or sound happening. That makes the ride so much fun! And while we were in line, we noticed a man who was getting a bunch of hugs from various employees. Turns out, he had just done his 200th ride on Tower of Terror! I told him how cool that was and he let me know he was actually known for riding Radiator Springs Racers over 8,000 times! Everyone on the ride thought that was amazing.

tower-of-terror

When we walked into Disneyland, I was just so happy with how beautiful the park looked with all the lights on the trees and buildings. But Michelle commented how the castle didn’t look that nice. She said that it usually has more lights for the holidays. Then, as if someone in the park heard her, we heard an announcement to please stay where we were because they were going to dim all the lights so they could properly light up the castle for the night! I had never seen that before and it was a lot of fun to watch.

castle

Next on our adventure was to ride Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster. Michelle and I have forgotten who is in the lead with wins on that ride, so we decided that we are going to start a new count since we have no clue who is ahead of not (so this ride didn’t count toward the new tally).

And of course, we had to go to Space Mountain. I wanted to make sure my new ears were in the photo, but I knew I couldn’t wear them during the ride because they would fly off my head. I held the ears by my legs for the ride and then grabbed them and held on just before the photo. I put them on backwards, but they still look cute!

hyperspace-mountain

As we were leaving Space Mountain, it was about time for the fireworks to start. We knew we’d probably be watching them again in a week, so we watched a bit with an obstructed view and left to try to get in at least one more ride.

fireworks

Our original plan was to go on Indiana Jones, but just as we walked up to the line they announced it was closed due to technical difficulties. So we ended up going on Jungle Cruise which is all decked out for the holidays. The jokes were as corny as ever, but I love seeing the lights around the ride. And at nighttime it really is beautiful.

The fireworks were done by the time we got off the ride and there wasn’t a huge crowd by the castle. So we decided to wait a bit so we could get some photos in front of the castle with nobody else in the photo. That was something I don’t get to do that often.

nighttime-castle with-the-castle

By that time, the park had been closed for a bit and we didn’t want to miss the tram back to the parking lot. So we headed out and waited for a tram to take us back.

We ended up doing some planning at Disneyland for our adventure we did there this Monday. This week, we went to celebrate our friend Dani’s birthday! And that post will come later this week!

A Harry Potter Afternoon (or Enjoying Some Butterbeer)

Since my appointment with the surgeon about my liver was in the morning, I knew I’d have that afternoon free. And when I have an afternoon free, I always contact my friend Michelle to see if she wants to go to Disneyland or something. We had gone to Disneyland recently enough, so we decided that we should do another adventure at Universal Studios. And right before that day, we discovered that they were offering one of the special Harry Potter drinks as a hot version for the first time there! So we figured it was meant to be that we went to the park.

Our entire reason to go to Universal was to ride the Harry Potter ride again and to get the hot butterbeer. We decided to get our drinks first since we were both a bit hungry and wanted a snack. We were warned that the drinks were hot so we decided to find a place outside to sit and people watch while we waited for the drinks to cool down.

hot-butterbeer

For those of you wondering, yes the hot butterbeer is awesome! I really love the frozen one, but this is just as good. It’s not as sweet as I expected it to be (except for the topping which was a bit too sweet but I didn’t taste that until I got to the end of the drink) and it felt like such a treat! We just hung out and relaxed while enjoying our drinks (and discussed the craziness of me having a tumor).

Our next stop was to ride the main ride in the Harry Potter section. After my fat shaming incident, things have gotten much better and I do enjoy the ride now. I use the alternative loading area so I have more time to get into the ride, but there is no issue with me fitting into it. The ride was just as fun as it was the last time and I know it will be one of those rides that I go on each time I go to Universal.

The only other ride we went on was the little roller coaster in the Harry Potter section. It’s a cute little ride (nothing too crazy), but since we didn’t want to do too much else in the park it was a nice way to spend some time.

Besides the butterbeer, the other main thing about going to Universal was to see the Harry Potter castle lit up at night. With the time change, there was finally a chance to see that happen. But we had some time to kill before the sun went down. At least the sky looked really pretty while we waited.

sunset-at-universal

And we got to check out one of the short shows that they do as well. I hadn’t seen one of the shows before, but this was really cute (even though I haven’t really read or watched Harry Potter and didn’t know all the references).

harry-potter-show

They do character photos after the show and we had no plan to stick around for it. But then they decided that the line would be starting behind us and we realized that since we were first we might as well take advantage of it and get a fun photo from the day.

group-photo

And before we knew it, the sun was down and the castle was lit up. It really was beautiful to be there looking around because they worked really hard on making this section of the park look amazing.

castle-at-night

You get sucked into the world and it feels like the outside world doesn’t exist anymore. You get to escape, which was perfect since this was the day before the election and we were both scared what would happen (I’m still pretty freaked out now after it’s all gone down).

We walked back through the Harry Potter land to get back to the main gate to leave the park (it was only a few minutes before the park closed so we weren’t going to stick around). We went to a fun Chinese restaurant at Citywalk for dinner to wait out rush hour traffic before heading home.

It wasn’t that long of a visit to Universal Studios (we were there less than 2 hours), but it was a lot of fun. After being nervous about my doctor appointment and then in probably a bit of shock after, I needed something to distract me from my day and make things end on a positive note.

My pass to Universal is about halfway done. I’ve got about 6 months to keep going to the parks and then I’ll have to figure out if I want to get a new pass. Before this, I hadn’t been to the parks since I worked there, but now I’m really enjoying it. It’s not as fun as going to Disneyland most of the time, but this is much closer to me and I still have a great time there. I’m hoping I’ll get at least another couple of visits in before my pass expires and I have to make a new plan on what to do.

Recovering At Disneyland (or A Never-Done List)

After going the hospital last week, I spent several days not really doing much. I worked from bed, I rarely left my house, and I tried to make myself get better. I wasn’t getting better as quickly as I wanted to, but I was finally noticing some improvement toward the end of the weekend (during the headshot day). And it’s a good thing that I was getting better because I had a Disneyland day scheduled for Monday and I didn’t want to cancel it!

My friend Michelle knew that I was at the hospital last week and what was going on with me. She was checking in with me to make sure that I still wanted to go to Disneyland. I knew she’d be ok with me if I had to cancel it, but I was feeling like I could do an easy day there (no crazy roller coasters) by Monday and around lunchtime we headed down to Anaheim.

On the way, we picked up one of Michelle’s friends who also has a pass for Disneyland and has Mondays off like we do and we were at the park by about 1:30 to have a low-key day. I’m glad all of us have passes because there was no pressure to get a ton of stuff done and I didn’t feel too guilty about being limited in what rides I was ok with going on.

Since I am on a soft food diet right now, I knew my food options at Disneyland would be limited but there was plenty that would be ok. And one of the first things we did in the park was to go get a Dole Whip!

dole-whip

It turns out that Michelle’s friend had never had a Dole Whip before, and as soon as I found that out I decided we needed to figure out what else she hasn’t done at Disneyland before so we could check things off of her list of never-done things! We ate our Dole Whips during the Tiki Room show and then were off to our next ride!

I was limited in what Halloween things I could do, but the Haunted Mansion is a smooth enough ride that I was totally ok riding it! I love how it is decorated for the holiday season and every time I ride it I notice more and more stuff. And it was a gloomy day outside with lots of clouds so it seemed like the sky matched the ride.

haunted-mansion

Our next stop was the Jungle Cruise (another smooth ride) and we had a pretty fun skipper on the ride. Lots of good cheesy jokes and there were a couple of jokes that he said that I had never heard on the ride before! We were trying to figure out what other rides would be easy smooth ones, and we saw Buzz Lightyear and headed over to that. Michelle and I have been battling each other on that ride since we started going to the parks together. This time, I was beat but I have a feeling I’ll have a comeback soon.

buzz-lightyear

Next was another never-done thing for Michelle’s friend: the Nemo Submarines! None of us are huge fans of going in the submarines (they are a bit tight inside and sometimes they don’t smell very fresh), so we watched the video in the alternative viewing room. The video is just as good as the ride, plus since it was a grey day outside I knew that the stuff in the water wouldn’t have been as nice and bright as it is in the video.

We then tried to ride the monorail (riding in the front of it with the driver was another thing on the list), but the monorail ended up breaking down in the station while we sat on it. It was unfortunate, but we figured we could walk over to California Adventure to continue our day. But right when we were ready to ride the monorail, it started to rain pretty hard! None of us were prepared with umbrellas, so we just tried to walk as quickly as we could across to the other park.

We wanted to ride Radiator Springs Racers, but it was closed before of the rain and possible threat of lighting. And by that time, we were all feeling a bit hungry (Dole Whips aren’t that filling). And all I really wanted to get to eat was soup in a bread bowl. I hadn’t had one in a while and was really craving it. Plus, it was a soft food that I could eat and I knew it would fill me up! We found a table out of the rain near the bread bowl place and sat down to enjoy our dinner.

By this time, my stomach was starting to hurt a bit again. It may have been due to hunger or walking more than I was used to, but our dinner break really helped to get me feeling almost normal again. After dinner we were headed over to the Little Mermaid ride (another thing on the never-done list) and realized that after the rain stopped there was a gorgeous sunset right behind the ferris wheel!

mickey-sunset sunset

The last 2 rides of the day were going on Little Mermaid and then Soarin’ Around The World, but we weren’t done yet! We were getting ready to head over to the Animation Academy to draw a bit (another never-done thing) and we decided to look around the stores a bit to see what they had. Sometimes there are some really cute things and even though my budget didn’t really have extra money, I was happy to check out what was in stock.

One of the things I love checking out are the Dooney and Burke Disney purses. They are limited edition collections that are released from time to time. There have been a few patterns that I love, but I never have been able to get it because all the purses were sold out. So we were totally surprised to discover a new pattern in the store that was Disney villain themed that we had never seen!

birthday-purse

It turned out that pattern was released that day and there were still a few purses left in stock! Michelle was celebrating her birthday the next day (which is why in that picture you see the birthday button) and decided that the purse was going to be her birthday present to herself! It’s such a cute purse so I’m super excited for her! And to know that we happened to be in the park during the first day of the pattern release made us say that it must have been fate for her to get that purse!

Our final stop of the night was one more thing from the never-done list for Michelle’s friend: the Animation Academy. We ended up doing the last 2 classes before park closing. The first one was drawing Sally from “Nightmare Before Christmas” and the second one was Winnie The Pooh. I think that my Sally looks much better than last time and my Winnie The Pooh wasn’t too bad!

sally winnie-the-pooh

My Sally is the big one on the right and my Winnie the Pooh is the one in the middle.

After drawing, California Adventure was closed (Disneyland had one of the separately ticketed Halloween parties so we couldn’t go back) and we went to the trams to get back to the car.

I’m so glad that I didn’t skip going to Disneyland. I think knowing I had this coming up helped me get better and kept me motivated. And I was able to push myself to see what my body was able to handle and realized that while I’m still not 100% I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. I’m glad that I had done the earlier trip to ride all the Halloween rides since I only got to do 1 of them this time. But even with doing the easy low-key rides, I still had an amazing time with awesome friends!

Epic Disney Evening (or 8 Rides In 3 Hours)

After my dentist appointment was over, I had something fun scheduled. A few days before the appointment, my Disneyland friend June asked me what I was doing on the day of my appointment. I told her that I should be free after 4pm and she asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland for a few hours to check out the Halloween stuff.

I said yes right away since I wasn’t sure if I’d be at the parks anytime while the Halloween stuff was up (now it looks like I’ll make it there next month), and even though it was going to be a long drive in rush hour to get there I was super excited! I needed something positive to focus on during the dentist appointment, and I think knowing I had a Disneyland adventure after really did help keep the panic away (June and I have already said that we will have to go to Disneyland after my next appointment).

The drive down was a bit longer than usual, but fortunately there were carpool lanes on a few freeways we used. It was just over an hour to get to the parking lot but it took quite a while to get through the parking booths and parked (lots of people going into the parks for some after-work fun). By the time we got into Disneyland, it was 6pm and we were on a mission to check out all the Halloween themed stuff.

Our first stop was the Tower of Terror. This ride will be closing in a few months, but before it closes they are doing a special totally dark version of the ride at night. Instead of seeing the various scenes before the elevator drops, it’s totally dark and you only hear the voiceover. There are some tricks that they do that make the ride feel very different, but I don’t want to give away the fun! But I have to say that riding it was really awesome and I was laughing so hard I was crying.

tot-total-darkness

They also have a really awesome photo spot in front of the ride and we took advantage of that. I’m glad we did that because I’m hearing now that the Hollywood Tower sign was taken down that night and I don’t know if it will be put back up before the ride closes.

tower-of-terror tot-photo-spot

After Tower of Terror, we actually decided to leave California Adventure and go over to Disneyland where the other 2 Halloween rides were. We really only had a plan to ride those 3 so we were on a mission to get them done! Our next stop was going to be Space Mountain, but as we passed Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters with almost no line so we made a quick detour and battled each other on the ride. I ended up hitting one of the secret targets that gets you a ton of points, so I did beat June. But I’m guessing if I hadn’t hit it that June would have beat me.

Then it was time to ride Space Mountain. I’ve loved the Hyperspace Mountain overlay, but for Halloween they do a Ghost Galaxy overlay. It’s fun to ride the ride with different theming and it does make it feel like a totally different ride even though it is the same track. It felt super fast and while we did pose for a photo during the ride, the photos weren’t working so we didn’t get an official ride photo.

The last Halloween themed ride we wanted to go on was Haunted Mansion Holiday. This technical lasts through Christmas, but we wanted to go on it for Halloween too. They have added some stuff to the ride each year and it was very fun spotting what was new and different while riding it. It was just as good as I remembered it from last year, and while I love the regular Haunted Mansion too the Holiday one is fun too!

haunted-mansion-holiday

After accomplishing all of our Halloween rides, we realized we had about an hour before the park closed. We were impressed with riding 4 rides in 2 hours, but we wanted to see what else we could do!

Our next stop was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We noticed it while walking back from Haunted Mansion because it looked so beautiful in the dark!

nighttime-at-disney

It had been a while since I had been on the ride and it was more intense than I remembered. I wanted to keep my hands up in the air (how I ride roller coasters), but I kept sliding on the seat so I had to ride with one arm up and one holding on.

We decided to continue on with our crazy ride count and went to Fantasyland where several rides had almost no line at that point in the night! We almost walked onto Snow White right away! We figured this ride fit into the Halloween theme of the day since it is one of the scarier kid rides (which is probably why there was no line). Then we ran next to Snow White to ride Pinocchio which also had almost no line.

With about 5 minutes until the park closed, we decided to do one final ride which would bring us to 8 rides between 6 and 9pm (which is insane since on a normal full day we don’t always get 8 rides done!). Our final ride of the night was the Carousel which was also a walk-on. It was a nice calm ride to end our evening with and it felt like we really had the perfect Disneyland outing.

Since our first 2 rides (Tower of Terror and Buzz Lightyear) both had ride photos, we decided we needed to do a ride photo or a selfie on each ride that we went on. Some of them are in the dark so it’s not as easy to see, but we did get our 8 ride photos in that night.

disneyland-rides

As we were walking out, it was pretty crowded since the park was now closed for the night and everyone was heading home. But I did manage to get a picture of the big Mickey pumpkin in Main Street with no people in it! I don’t know how that timing happened, but I thought it was pretty cool!

mickey-pumpkin

Overall, this was the perfect thing to do after a dentist appointment. It kept me positive, gave me something else to focus on, and I got to walk off all the nerves I had while walking from ride to ride. We had no idea that our 3 hours at Disneyland were going to be so amazing, but I’m so grateful that June had the idea to do this because it really was one of the best Disney adventures!

Another Universal Day (or Having Much More Fun)

I’ll admit, my last trip to Universal Studios wasn’t the best time. I felt bad about being stopped by the “fat police” for days after it happened and it really upset me every time I thought about it. I know I’m probably making a bigger deal out of it than it was, but for me it was just humiliating and I never wanted to have an experience like that again.

After that trip to Universal, I did some research online and found out that for the accessible loading area for the Harry Potter ride they have a loading area that doesn’t have a moving walkway (which means I would have more time to get onto the ride). It reminded me of the accommodations Disney makes on Space Mountain so I kept that in mind for when I could go to Universal again.

I made it back to the park this past Monday and I’m happy to say that the day went so much better! I went with my friend June, but it turned out my friend Robert was going to be there too so we all got to hang out!

We started our day with taking the Tram Tour. Both Robert and I are ex-employees so we had a bunch of fun talking about our time working at Universal while on the tram tour. And I got to show him different places that I had to go for work while I worked there for Halloween. I got to share with him some crazy stories from my 3 years there and all of us enjoyed seeing the silly stuff on the tour. One of my favorites has always been Jaws and I got a pretty decent picture of the shark coming up to the tram (we were sitting in the first row of our car so it was tough to not get the tram railing in the photo).

jaws

And of course we got to go by my old workplace on the tram. Because Halloween Horror Nights is about to start, the Bates Motel was hard to see because of the HHN stuff that is already in place.

bates-motel

But the War Of The Worlds area (where I worked my second year at HHN) was still looking as great as ever!

war-of-the-worlds

After the tram, we were starting to get hungry so we walked over to the Harry Potter section and went to Three Broomsticks for lunch. Both June and Robert have been to the park a bunch so they both have been working their way through the menu at Three Broomsticks. They were able to share with me what was good and what was too filling to eat for a lunch if you are planning on still riding more rides.

While I am working on HDE, I also wanted to make a good choice for food. There were a couple of things that looked good to me, but I also knew that I didn’t want to feel too full and I might get a snack later. So I ended up getting the chicken salad (which was one of the cheapest things on the menu so that was nice) and I was pleasantly surprised by how giant the salad was!

lunch

It was really good, but not as filling as I would have liked. I ended up being hungry again sooner than I would have wanted to, but that’s not the worst thing. If I had planned things out better, I probably would have gotten a side of something with my salad. That will just have to be something I do next time.

After lunch, we headed over to the Harry Potter ride so I could hopefully have a better experience. Robert wasn’t going to ride it, but because of the alternative loading area he was able to wait where the load/unload area was (and he held our purses so we didn’t have to use the lockers). The alternative loading area was actually a fun adventure to get to and while the wait was probably longer than the regular wait, it was totally worth it! Oh, and I wasn’t stopped by the fat police so that was pretty awesome too!

The bench you ride on it brought over to the side where you can load. Nothing is moving around it and I was able to get into the seat easily without feeling rushed. June helped me pull the harness down and it locked easily. When the employee came over to check the harness, he asked me if it was too tight because I could loosen it 2 clicks and still have it low enough to be ok. I don’t know if I’ve gotten that much thinner or what happened to me last time was a weird experience, but obviously I am small enough to have harness options now. I did loosen it one click (we put it down really tight because that’s what they did last time to me). After we were all set in the bench, they handed us the 3D glasses and the bench moved over toward where the regular ride was.

When we moved over, we had to wait a minute or two for our bench to have a turn to go into the ride system. But while we were waiting we were able to see all the benches from the back that were on the ride track! Both June and I are total geeks about seeing how the rides work, so this was so exciting for us. Even when we started the ride we could see a bit of the track and arms controlling the benches before we got into the regular ride.

I seriously enjoyed this time on the ride so much more than last time! I know that last time I was feeling pretty upset the entire ride time and that made it tough to focus on the ride and have fun. This time, there was no stress and everything was just amazing for me! And when the ride was over, we got moved back over to the alternative loading area where I could take my time getting out of the bench (which I needed because my hip was locking). And after we were out of the ride, we were able to see a bit of the ride track for the regular loading area (which was behind us) and found out the loading area is actually 20 feet above the ground!

After that, Robert had to head out to get ready to work that night. But June and I were going to stick around a bit longer and headed over to watch Waterworld. It’s such a fun show to watch and I enjoy it every time! And we sat all the way on the far side, so it was a different view than I’m used to seeing.

waterworld

Our final ride of the day at Universal was the Minions ride. This is in the place that the Terminator ride used to be in and I had never been on it before. It was a cute little ride, but probably not one I’ll be doing all the time. It was a bit jerky and it’s in a corner of the park that I’m not usually in. But I’m glad we got to ride it this time because I’ve been curious about it.

I think it’s pretty clear that this trip to Universal was significantly better than the last time. I’m so glad I learned about the alternative loading for Harry Potter because I know I’ll be using that from now on. It really helps me and makes a huge difference in my enjoyment in riding the ride. It’s tough when I feel super rushed to try to get in and out of a ride and this makes that go away.

I’m not sure when my next trip to Universal will be. My Mondays are starting to get really busy and my pass might not be good for Sundays at all (and if it is, I’m not sure if I want to deal with the crowds). I’ll totally be there again at least one time before my pass ends next year, I’m just not sure how soon that will be. But I’m already looking forward to it!