Travel to Orlando, Florida – Episode 431 Transcript

categories: USA Travel

transcript of Travel to Orlando, Florida – Episode 431

Chris: Amateur Traveler, episode 431. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about theme parks, young wizards, and a mouse, as we go to Orlando, Florida.

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. This episode of the Amateur Traveler is again brought to you by BloggerBridge. If you’re looking for content creators to help get the word out about your destination or company, check out bloggerbridge.com

subscribe: rss feed | iTunes | stitcher

INTERVIEW

Chris: I’d like to welcome to the show Jason Cochran who is the editor of frommers.com and more particularly to this show, the author of Frommer’s Guide to Orlando, Florida. Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason: Hey, I’m thrilled to be on. How are you?

Chris: I’m good, and in case people didn’t guess, what we’re going to talk about is Orlando, Florida. And if you are a long-time listener of Amateur Traveler, and you’d have to be a long-time listener to have heard this, actually we’ve done shows on Walt Disney World. We’ve done, I think, a couple shows including a live question and answer show. But Orlando, Jason, has changed a fair amount here in the last seven years since we’ve done a show, I’m going to say.

Jason: Yeah, I would say that too. I think that instead of just a place where you go to Disney and come back, I mean it’s always had other things going on, but most visitors just go to Disney and come back. It’s sort of expanded and people are now starting to spread the wealth a little bit and go to some of the other parks.

Chris: And is it fair to say, and let’s just jump right into what’s going to be controversial for Disney lovers, that Universal now has gotten much more hype and buzz around it than even Walt Disney World?

Jason: Well, I think it is now matching Walt Disney World in terms of hype. Disney’s always been extremely good about hyping itself. Even back in the 1950s when Disney had his Sunday night TV program, it would constantly use to hype his TV show. Now, Universal has Comcast behind it and NBC, of course, is part of Comcast. So it is, yes, it is hyping itself now to the degree that Disney and ABC are so regularly hyping itself. So yeah, it’s getting up there in the noise machine.

Chris: Yeah, and especially with some young wizards, but we’ll get into that in a bit later. But the one thing that I did want to point out is, you mention that the version of the book that you’re doing for the frommers.com series is actually changing the title.

Jason: Yeah, this next edition, which is actually heading off to the printers momentarily, has Universal in the name of it. It used to be just Walt Disney World and Orlando and now it’s Disney World, Universal, and Orlando. And that speaks to the visitorship. The two Universal theme parks that are in Orlando were in the upper teens of visitorship, in terms of the top twenty, top thirty parks in the world. They are now edging towards the top ten and sometimes popping into the top ten, depending on the year.

This is a significant change. Disney has always been in the top ten, all four of its parks in Orlando, but Universal has now got a legitimate stake in that market. It’s not just a pretender to the throne; it’s standing right next to the throne and wearing a crown of its own.

Chris: So let’s say I had a week to spend in Orlando, because I’m thinking if I said I only had a day to spend in Orlando, you’d say, “Good luck.”

Jason: Yeah.

Chris: What kind of itinerary would you recommend?

Jason: This all depends on what kind of, I know you hear this a lot, but what kind of traveler you are. If you’re going to Orlando for theme parks, well it’s easy to fill an entire week with only theme parks. There are four Disney parks, which if you’re a first-timer and a not die-harder, I think you can do in three days, by combining two of the least interesting ones into one day. And then there’s the two Universal parks, which increasingly demand each their own day, partly because the lines are getting so long, but partly because they’re just so interesting.

So there, even to take that prescription, that’s 5 days and leaves you only 2 to fill with other things that aren’t theme parks. You could go to Sea World, that’s a theme park, but if you don’t do that, you could stay by the pool, which of course is one of the reasons all these places are in Florida to begin with, to enjoy the weather.

Chris: Right.

Jason: But I also suggest that people go, it’s a technically a little out from Orlando, but it’s part of the whole deal, is NASA. Go to Cape Canaveral and spend a day at the Kennedy Space Center. It’s remarkable what the country has been able to do and the evidence is all out there. But fewer and fewer people seem to be going out there, because both of the theme park titans are working so hard to keep people on property and to try to convince them not to rent a car. Try to convince them to pre-purchase so much that they don’t feel like leaving, otherwise they’ll have wasted their money. So I do recommend that you try to do a couple things on those extra days you’re not going to theme parks, but I always feel I’m shouting into the wind when I suggest this, because I think few people . . .

Chris: Shout away, Jason, shout away.

Jason: . . . few people want to. People want to go to Disney and stay at Disney. It’s not something I recommend. And Universal is trying to match Disney on this. They’ve now built a fourth giant hotel. It’s 1800 rooms, the others are smaller, but that’s an enormous property. And there are rumors of two or three more coming in. So Universal’s trying to create its own little kingdom on a smaller plot of land, so now in the future, it’ll be you choose. Either you’re going to stay at Universal or you’re going to stay at Disney. Great for those two companies, not so great for Orlando at large and all the people who run the restaurants and the attractions all over that town, because the more people who stay on property, the fewer people who are spending money there.

Chris: Right. So, if we had a typical, let’s say a family of four, that’s what we were when we went, and address that demographic first, how would you map out a week?

Jason: I think if you’re a first-time visitor and you’re a family of four, you should probably stick with the Disney ones first.

Chris: Okay.

Jason: Depending on how old your children are.

Chris: And you said four parks, so you’re skipping the two water parks.

Jason: Yes, right. There are four major theme parks, which for those who are uninitiated are Magic Kingdom, which is like Disneyland. It’s the one with the castle and Space Mountain and all the things that you think of when you think of Disney. There’s Epcot, there’s the Hollywood Studios, which used to be called MGM Studios, and then there’s the Animal Kingdom park. So those are the four that Disney has. The most interesting to children under 10 are probably Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, with to a smaller degree, Animal Kingdom. If your kids are a little older, they start to hunger for the thrill rides a little bit more and then all four parks are pretty much fair game, within the Disney universe. Magic Kingdom is like the number one choice. It is also the number one most visited amusement park on the planet, so I think it’s pretty fair to say that would be the can’t miss of the four Disneys, if you had to choose only one.

Chris: Well, and you mentioned it being the most visited. You also mentioned the Florida weather. When would you recommend, if you had all choice in the world, when’s the best time to go to Orlando in general?

Jason: The short answer is you go when school is in session, because when school is out of session, it’s packed. Holidays, prices go up too. I don’t think that you would want to be there over Christmas and New Year’s. Sometimes they close the gates, there are so many people. And in the summertime, it can be really ruthlessly hot in Florida. So I always say, September or early October are two of the best moments to go, just because the weather is still plenty warm, but the parks have emptied out somewhat, the lines aren’t so long. You could say January as well, but if you want to ride some of the water rides, they are either turned down, the effects aren’t as much so you don’t get as wet, or they’re turned off for their annual scrubbings. So if you want to get all the parks in their full glory, I say September and the prices go down in September as well.

Chris: Now you mentioned the weather being ruthlessly hot. When I first went to Orlando in the summertime, I was there for a conference and just thought I would add on Orlando, and I come from a place out here in California, where we get a thunderstorm every three years. So I was really surprised when people said they get one daily.

Jason: Daily.

Chris: It was my experience that pretty much 5:00 every day I was there, there was a thunderstorm. Sometimes short, sometimes the rest of the night.

Jason: Yeah, most of the time it’s like a short hour-long, 4 or 5:00, you get a thunderstorm, in the summertime. Now people who are not from Florida, what do they do? They panic and they leave. They think, “Oh, well my day is over. Let’s all go back to the hotel.” So that’s great, if you know the game, stick out this thunderstorm, stay for the hour. All of the lines for all of the rides go down right after that. So the thunderstorm can work to your advantage, but it does however, shut down rides. Because if the ride is outside or on the water, it will close down if there’s a lightning strike within a certain, I think, 17 or 20-mile radius. So it can play havoc with a day, it’s true. So yes, it is a problem, but the warm weather has its own delights, on its own.

Chris: And you were recommending three days for the major four parks at Disney, combining two, and I’m guessing you were combining the Disney Studios and the wild animal park?

Jason: Yeah, the Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom. Now again, I’m going to get some –

Chris: That’s right. They’ve changed names since I was there is my problem too, so I keep wanting to call it MGM Studios.

Jason: Yeah, they had an old MGM license and that expired and besides, who knows what MGM is anymore, so now it’s just Hollywood Studios. Anyway, so yeah, I would suggest combining those two parks. I think there’s enough. A lot of Disney fans will crucify me for suggesting this, but sorry, I’ve got to call it like it is. You can combine those two into a single day; the only trick is you have to make sure your ticket has what’s called a park hopper option, added on to it. That’s a little bit extra money, but I think it’s worth it.

Chris: Meaning that you can get a multi-day ticket, but that lets you only do one park at a time? I don’t remember that option.

Jason: The way it works in Orlando is you buy one park per day. And if you want to jump to other parks owned by the same company, you must pay a surcharge.

Chris: Okay.

Jason: So otherwise, if you wanted to see all four Disney parks and you do not buy the park hopper, you have to take four days. If you want to see all four parks and you do buy a park hopper, you can technically do highlights from each one, all in one single day if you wanted to, but otherwise you can’t change gates.

Chris: And you mentioned the can’t-miss attractions, do you have your personal list of can’t miss attractions for the four parks? Let’s just focus on Disney for now.

Jason: I like to think in terms of what is quintessentially Disney. Because Disney is so American, I often say that if for some reason the Disney Company was unable to run the parks anymore, the National Parks Service might have to step in and keep it operating. It means that much to us. And it’s something that almost every American child has had in common for, what is it, the last 58 years. I think just recently that Disneyland in California just celebrated its birthday and that was the start.

Chris: Just a few years ago, yeah.

Jason: Yeah. I would think that you would pick the most classic Disney rides. And in Magic Kingdom, that’s where the most of those are, because that’s the park modeled on Disneyland in California, in Anaheim. And that, Walt Disney had shaped himself, because it’s cut from that mold, that’s his Disney. And those rides include the Haunted Mansion, It’s A Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, which is this 90-second basically, a ride in a pirate ship hanging in a dark room –

Chris: That you have to wait on a 45-minute line for.

Jason: Oh, 45 would be on a good day. Pirates of the Caribbean, I don’t know. Space Mountain, I think a lot of people are sentimental about that one. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which is that simple ride where you get in an elephant on an armature and it goes in a circle and you take your kids and you take lots of pictures. That ride, actually the Anaheim version, donated one of the original cars to the Smithsonian. That’s how important that ride is to American culture. So that would be a don’t-miss, even though the ride itself is pretty much a carnival ride.

Chris: And one of the worst rides for lines, just because it’s not a constantly loading ride, like so many Disney rides that handle the crowds well.

Jason: Well, that brings us to something that’s changed in the last seven years, because two years ago Disney decided to add a second Dumbo ride.

Chris: Oh, smart.

Jason: So the fans call it Double Dumbo and they’ve moved it so that your wait now, it’s sort of like when you go to Cheesecake Factory and you put your name in and you get a thing that buzzes and vibrates when it’s your turn?

Chris: Right, right.

Jason: So you get a little buzzer and your kids run loose in an indoor playground while you wait your turn. So it makes waiting so much more pleasant than it was a few years ago when it was purgatorial out in the sunshine. So that’s changed in the last . . . because Dumbo was one of the rides that seemingly everyone with a small child must ride, so much so that Disney has now put a version of Dumbo in some of its other parks in another form. Like, one will have a triceratops on it, in another part of Magic Kingdom it has magic carpets on it, but it’s just such an iconic ride that it’s like the Starbucks of rides at Disney now. For Magic Kingdom, those are some of the iconic rides. For Epcot, I think of classic Disney, I think of Spaceship Earth, that big ball you see?

Chris: Yeah, sure.

Jason: That’s called Spaceship Earth. And there is a ride that crawls around inside and ostensibly tells you the history of communications in the world, although I defy you to get off it and tell me what you learned from it. It’s still a fascinating ride. It’s very slow moving past audio animatronics narrated by Judi Dench to give it the heft it otherwise lacks. It’s one of my favorite experiences, because it’s just so one-of-a-kind, one of those only in America type experiences. But people also love a ride called Soarin’ at Epcot, which puts people on benches in front of a giant screen, the benches lift up off the ground and then give you the slight sensation that you’re moving as the film on the screen shows you flying over parts of California. This is a very mild, granny-pleasing ride and in fact, it has the highest re-ride rate of any of the attractions at Walt Disney World.

Chris: Oh, interesting. Hm.

Jason: That opened about eight years ago, but it is just as popular now as it was, and it doesn’t show much sign of falling out of favor. So I’d say that those two at Epcot are the ones that people don’t miss. The one at Hollywood Studios, there’s two that I would name. Some people love the roller coaster, which is Rock’n’Roller Coaster. It’s an indoor coaster, so it won’t shut down if it rains. But the two I think are the most unbelievable are the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which is a kind of a . . .

Yeah, I know. That’s about 20 years old now, but it still feels fresh. It’s technically, you’re in an elevator, it’s a controlled drop down an elevator shaft. But there’s all sorts of fun little twists on it, like the elevator at one point leaves the shaft, travels through this false hotel down a corridor and into another shaft where the drop happens and that sort of technological wizardry is a lot of fun. The other one is the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, which is, you put on 3D goggles and you ride past screens where you have a little cannon fired with a string in front of you and you just play games, video games, 30-40 seconds at a time, racking up points and all the video games are based on the Toy Story characters, like the Army men have a plate smashing contest. Years ago, there was a little green man, you throw the rings over the aliens and when you get a ring over an alien he flies up. It’s all done with 3D; it’s all done with computers except there’s the ride component that takes you from screen to screen. Those are the two most popular, they fill up, especially the Midway Mania, and they fill up as soon as the gates open. And at Animal Kingdom, the don’t-miss, I think, is Kilimanjaro Safaris, which is sort of the centerpiece of the park. It’s a 20-minute drive through, in a Jeep, through a very carefully controlled habitat that imitates an African Savannah where you get to see all the different major animals that you pretty much came to see.

Chris: Now when you say carefully controlled, less controlled, than the Jungle Cruise ride, for instance?

Jason: Well, the Jungle Cruise, there’s not a real animal in it.

Chris: Because there’s real animals here.

Jason: Yeah. Those animals always do what you say and they never do anything embarrassing. At Animal Kingdom, there are all sorts of things that animals do that make the kids ask questions. But again, that’s part of the fun.

Chris: Why, Jason, what are you referring to?

Jason: Yeah, eating other animals is not one of them, by the way, because they have separated them so carefully with hidden barbed wire and hidden trenches that you can’t see from the ride. So it’s very artfully designed. Which, by the way, brings me to something I also really love about Orlando, if you’re over all this stuff and you don’t like theme parks, you don’t like waiting in line, and the thought of all this consumerism makes you want to retch, there’s a lot to like in Orlando’s technological prowess, its civic planning, and its design.

The amount of thought and careful cultivation of architecture and design is kind of astonishing. We have built some incredible little kingdom down there. The machinery that is involved is almost always bespoke or one of a kind. Just seeing how people are controlled, not just physically, but emotionally, by the design of the place is something that can stimulate you even if you are not in the mood for cotton candy.

Chris: Well and the thing that I’ve always appreciated about the Disney experience, for instance, and I think they’ve gotten best at it, is the wait on the line, not counting Dumbo, traditionally, although it sounds like they’re dealing with that, is a part of the experience. So as you’re walking through Indiana Jones, for instance, you’re not just standing in a queue, you’re in an experience.

Jason: They’re getting better at that than they used to be. Disneyland in Anaheim, there’s not enough space to do that kind of thing and people wait outside in gates, but somehow it seems to be okay. It’s funny, because you’ll spend hours of your day during peak season, in a line.

Chris: Right.

Jason: And yet, when you get home, you don’t talk about the lines. You talk about the 90 seconds you spent on the rides. I want someone to study the psychology of how this is possible and the kind of mindset that this place creates, where you automatically forget the negative and only speak about the positive. It’s like childbirth. So it’s a fascinating place.

Chris: And speaking of lines, when we were talking about Universal, which I want to talk about also, I was hearing that some of the brand new rides there had multi-hour lines when they first opened. Like four hour lines or something ridiculous like that.

Jason: This is not uncommon when any major attraction opens in Orlando.

Chris: Right.

Jason: It’s the new hot thing and all the devotees of Orlando want to be there first. Also, these attractions almost always seem to open at the beginning of the summer, which just makes it even more popular. So yes, a couple weeks ago, the new Escape from Gringotts ride opened at Universal Studios and at one point, there was a seven-hour wait. This is partly because everyone wanted to go, this is also partly because the ride is technologically advanced and it keeps breaking down.

Chris: Okay.

Jason: So they were loading cars with three-minute waits in between, which is normally supposed to be much, much quicker. It’s just not up to speed yet. Within six to eight months, I expect that to dissipate and like a two-hour line though might actually be more common. And also, a lot of these rides also have single rider lines now. So you don’t have to wait in that if you’re on your own or you’re willing to split up, that makes it much faster, because most people aren’t willing to split up, so you can actually cut a two-hour wait into a twenty-minute wait using a single rider line. You’ll miss some of that fun queue that you were talking about, that environment that you pass through, when you do a single rider line, but if you’ve already seen it once or that’s not so important to you, big deal.

Chris: Yeah, I know out at Disneyland, with like Splash Mountain, we’ve sometimes been able to cut a 45-minute to an hour wait to a five-minute wait even, by doing single rider.

Jason: Yeah, not everyone loves that method.

Chris: Right.

Jason: And some attractions actually try to ferret you out. I know at Test Track at Epcot, they’re saying “are you really with anybody else?” and if you say yes, they’ll make you go to the main line, so you might have to be sneaky about it. You won’t sit together on the ride, but again, that’s two minutes, I’d much rather have that time to do other things than wait in line for two hours because you’re together.

Chris: Well, as long as you’re talking about that, let’s talk a little bit about tactics. Obviously, the fast pass is something that they’ve had for a long time, which is the get a time when you can show up, but they’ve been playing with that too now.

Jason: Yeah, they’ve completely thrown away the paper fast pass. What used to happen, you stick your park ticket in a machine by the attraction, it would spit out “Okay, you come back in two hours at 1:50” or whatever and that’s when you’ll have an hour to ride it. That has been done away with. Now, what Disney wants you to do is pre-plan it all. Basically, you would have to register with its website, tell Disney when you’re going, and then it will say, “Well, OK. Here are three different options. You can do this ride at 9 and this ride at 10 and this ride at 12. How’s that?” and you would say yes or you’d shuffle them around or something like that. And then when you show up, you’d either wave your ticket to get in over a sensor or you use what’s called a magic band, if you want to do that, and that’s a new bracelet that basically enables all that information to be carried around on your wrist, rather than you using a card.

Some people love this new thing, especially if you know the parks pretty well. I’m not so much a devotee of this; I don’t subscribe to this new magic band/fast pass plus system, as it’s called, because it forces people to pre-plan so much now. It used to be you could just walk in to a Disney park and make it up as you went along that day. No longer the case. Now, you have to sort of plan out what you would like to do at what time and to do that you’re going to be reading up about everything there is to do and it’s going to spoil a lot of the fun for a first-timer.

Chris: Well, that reading up, and I suggest that you might know a guidebook we can use for that, is part of the fun too. The planning and anticipation, says the guy who used to have a Disneyland map on his wall when he was a kid.

Jason: Sure, no, it can be fun, but it’s also, there are a lot of gigantic guidebooks out there. Like the phone book.

Chris: Right.

Jason: It’s extremely daunting. We’re talking four theme parks. We’re talking more than two dozen hotels, just on property. It can be dizzying and also it can put a lot of stress on a family. They’re terribly worried they’re not going to make that 11 a.m. appointment, or “Darn it, we didn’t make the right choice here. We should’ve done this fast pass and now it’s too late.”

Chris: Well, that also, you don’t know what characters you’re going to encounter on the way or there are things that may surprise you. You may walk past Fantasyland as somebody pulls the sword out of the stone or whatever and you can’t anticipate those.

Jason: You can’t. I mean, so you stick too much to a schedule, I just sort of personally miss the days when you could wander around having a lovely time, because that’s the way it was designed. It was designed to unfold like a surprise, when you round a corner, the music changes, the colors change.

Chris: Right.

Jason: And it wasn’t designed to be militarily strategized. That’s really what people do and it adds to the stress.

Chris: I’m one of the people who does that. We have a whole episode of Amateur Traveler about Disneyland and strategy, because you can sometimes get in twice as many rides if you do that.

Jason: Oh, of course.

Chris: But you’re right, it is a very different experience.

Jason: And yeah, I think there’s a complete place for it and I’m, of course, I know the Orlando parks and Disneyland in Anaheim very well and I could do that too. And I do that, when I’m there. But there’s a lot of people, and this is one reason I think my guidebook is different from a lot of others, there’s a lot of people who they’re not true believers necessarily, but they want to see Orlando.

Chris: Right, sure.

Jason: Something that we all do as Americans. And so, I always think of my guide as the guide for the rest of us. The people who just kind of want to know the straight talk about it without going too deeply into the weeds about “now if it’s a Tuesday at 9, do this, but if it’s a Wednesday at 9.” That’s far too much detail for what’s supposed to be a vacation, in my opinion. So a lot of my advice is more top-line, here’s really what you just need to know, don’t stress yourself out too much about it. The one piece of advice I give without changing it is you must make a reservation at a sit-down restaurant inside the parks, if you want to have one. Because there’s a meal plan that Disney sells, and tons of people subscribe to it and because they’re trying to make that pay for itself they have booked up all the reservations in the sit-down restaurants by the time you get to the park.

Chris: Right.

Jason: So the only thing is you cannot go on the spontaneous route anymore in Orlando, because the restaurants are all booked up, you have to plan that ahead. And that’s different. It’s easier to plan a restaurant ahead of time and know which cuisine you want than to necessarily figure out all the ins and outs of what’s busy when and which rides are going to be worth your time.

Chris: Well and you mention cuisine, and that is a word that didn’t traditionally, say, 10, 20 years ago get associated with Disney. They had a reputation for you could eat at the park; you just weren’t necessarily going to enjoy it. They’re trying to change that though.

Jason: Yeah, they are. I don’t know how successful they are . . .

Chris: And yet at the same time serve hundreds of thousands of people.

Jason: It’s like any place. The better you want the food to be, the more you’re going to have to pay for it. There’s a few very nice tables, or very more exclusive tables, most of them are at Epcot. The rest is sort of heightened theme park food. And unfortunately, at all the sit down restaurants, a main is going to be between $23 and $32 or so. That’s just a main course. It’s expensive. The counter-service, the stuff where you go to the counter, order it, sit down wherever you want, that’s called quick service, generally, a meal with drinks and fries is about $10 or $11. That’s ballpark.

Chris: You mentioned there were a couple tables that are worth mentioning in Orlando in terms of a good experience or good food. And they are?

Jason: Some of the nicest places to eat at Epcot are Monsieur Paul, I believe, it’s a French restaurant. It’s a prix fixe only, about $85 or so. That’s in the France pavilion. That books up quite soon. So does Le Cellier, which is the Canadian steakhouse. Steak always being a popular staple in Orlando, so the Canadian steakhouse is a place that people like to go as well. But there’s an Italian place, Tutto Italia, but it’s overpriced and it’s just pasta. It’s like $25 for lasagna. I don’t recommend that so much, but it is popular.

Chris: And we haven’t really said how Epcot is a little different from some of the rest of the parks. I mean, they’ve sort of put it in place. I want to say it’s almost like a permanent World’s Fair.

Jason: Yeah, that’s an accurate, I mean Walt Disney grew up on the World’s Fairs and he designed, or at least his people that came after him, designed Epcot to be like a World’s Fair. So yeah, that’s accurate. There’s an area that is called Future World, which in 1982, when the park opened, was all sponsored by corporations showing you a vision for the future like this is how getting around in a car has changed and will change. Here’s how health has changed. Pretty much all of that has fallen away and now there’s a little more just thrill ride stuff and there’s one thing sponsored by an oil company about energy.

Chris: Well, you still have the Test Track and things like that that are still more technology.

Jason: It’s not the same vibe though. I mean, back in the day, it was very more presentational.

Chris: True, that’s true.

Jason: And more instructional. Test Track is really a ride in a fast car.

Chris: You say that as if it were a bad thing.

Jason: It’s fun, but it’s not the instructional, educational prospect it was when it opened as World of Motion. The other side of the park is called World Showcase. That is a series of pavilions themed after international countries. You’ll have a Mexico, Germany, and China, and Japan, and this pride of place is, of course, the United States, presiding over all of them. My English friends like to joke though, “However, the architecture in the United States pavilion is Georgian English.” There is an English land as well, the U.K. So, you go to each one, you buy souvenirs, especially candies, from those countries. You try a couple safe foods, maybe beers, maybe desserts from those places. And a few of them have rides, but very few. And that’s sort of a place where you walk around shopping and drinking.

In fact, a lot of people I know do what I call drink around the world at Epcot, which is you just go country to country picking another alcoholic beverage and by the time you make your way around the lagoon, you are lit. Interestingly enough, Magic Kingdom does not serve alcohol, except for in one restaurant at night and the restaurant’s almost impossible to get a reservation in, Be Our Guest, but Epcot does serve alcohol and people make liberal use of it as well.

Chris: We’ve done about half an hour now, mostly on Walt Disney World. If you had to introduce people to Universal, which we’ve said is also gaining, what kind of recommendations would you make for tackling Universal’s two theme parks?

Jason: I’d recommend just doing each one, maybe one each day. If you stay on property at three of the original Universal hotels, which is the Hard Rock, the Royal Pacific, or the Portofino, you stay at one of those hotels, your room key serves as early entry to some of these rides. You get basically, what is equivalent to going in the backdoor, it’s called Express. And so you can actually cram most of the parks attractions into half a day, three-quarters of a day, by using your Express.

But I recommend, at least if you’re going anytime soon, you go to Studios first. There’s two parks there, I should say, Universal Studios, which is the original park, and the Islands of Adventure, which opened up in the late 90s. So the two of them together constitute Universal Orlando. You can walk between the two in seconds, unlike Disney’s parks, which are all spread by miles.

So I would recommend you go to the Studios first, because that’s where the new Diagon Alley area just opened. That’s themed after Harry Potter and it’s extremely popular. See, what happened about four years ago, is Universal built the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, now called Hogsmeade Village. That was in Islands of Adventure and it was so extremely popular, as everyone I’m sure remembers all the hype, that attendance shot up, income shot up, and they realized what a good thing they were onto here. They could finally really stick a sword into Disney.

Chris: Or a wand or something, yeah.

Jason: Or something like that. They instantly built, or planned to do, a second area and the second area, to everyone’s surprise, went into the other park and people said, “Well, then how can I see both?” Well, the genius of it is . . .

Chris: You have to go to both parks.

Jason: You have to buy two tickets. They attached the two of them with this ride that imitates the Hogwarts Express, you get inside a train, and you look out the windows at what’s obviously computer animation.

Chris: Oh, that’s brilliant.

Jason: But it feels like you’re riding along when you’re really riding along through backstage areas, where all the workers are taking their breaks. So it’s kind of a genius thing and they sell tickets to the other park right there at the station on either end. And the other thing they learned about Hogsmeade was how to basically put the pedal to the medal when it comes to bespoke souvenirs. The original Harry Potter, they had butterbeer and everyone went crazy about it, a few other fun trinkets.

With Diagon Alley, they have like 15 ice cream flavors you can’t get anywhere else, six or eight beverages you can’t get anywhere else, beer you can’t get anywhere else, clothing, la la la la. It’s like a giant shopping mall, basically, devoted to Harry Potter. Now, it’s an extremely well designed shopping mall and it’s an immersive shopping mall. You forget you’re in Orlando, almost forget you’re on planet Earth, but it is still a shopping mall and you could spend hundreds and hundreds of extra dollars beyond the already expensive ticket price you paid to get in, if you want to eat, drink, and wear all the stuff that they sell there.

Chris: And is there anything that you would recommend, the butterbeer or one of the other things, as it actually is worth trying?

Jason: The butterbeer, I think everyone needs to try the butterbeer. Get the frozen kind, it also comes liquid, frozen is better. It tastes like a butterscotch Life Savers, if anyone remembers. I don’t even know if they make them anymore, but tastes just like that. There’s a butterbeer soft serve ice cream, which I think is rivaling butterbeer for flavor. I love it. That’s only available at Diagon Alley. And there’s a Fizzy Green Ale, I think is what it’s called, it’s a strange cinnamon-y, I can’t even describe it, but at the bottom are little blueberry, I think they call them exploding fish eggs, it’s really blueberry boba, but it’s a lot of fun to drink. So I would recommend those to start with, it’s going to be hot, so you might get a few of them. It’s incredibly sweet though, butterbeer.

Chris: Sure.

Jason: And I did an analysis once, I paid someone to sneak in, get some butterbeer, pour it into a thermos, take it to a lab and find out exactly how much sugar was in it, because Universal wasn’t telling. And it turns it only has about as much sugar as a can of Coke, so that’s still a lot, of course, but it’s about as much as a can of Coke.

Chris: Now, we mentioned this for Walt Disney World, are there don’t-miss rides for instance, at the two Universal parks?

Jason: Yeah. For many years running, the ride that has garnered the most accolades, it’s at Islands of Adventure, it’s called the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. It’s from the late ’90s, but it doesn’t feel old.

Chris: It was there when I was there.

Jason: They’ve amped it up a little bit and cleaned up some of the projections recently, but it’s still fantastic technology, without spoiling it too much, and that’s a thing with Orlando, they hate it when you spoil the rides, you’re basically a cross between 3D movie and a motion simulator, where you’re not in a capsule, you’re in a car traveling through giant rooms. That’s sort of how that works. But it is phenomenal; it’s something you can take any member of your family on. It’s not going to stress out their bodies, no matter what age.

The other two rides that I would say are the new Harry Potter rides, because again Universal is really juicing up its new attractions to try to compete with Disney. So the first one was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, that’s at Hogsmeade. Again, incredible technology being used. It’s a ride through basically a forest near Hogwarts castle, but you’re attacked by all kinds of things along the way. There are both movies and there’s real robotics. There are all sorts of things happening. You’re on the end of a robot arm the entire time although you don’t quite realize it, but it enables quite remarkable movement. Not the greatest for older folks. Arthur Frommer rode it and he’s still furious about the experience.

Then, the new one is Escape from Gringotts, which also is sort of a cross between roller coaster and motion simulator and movies. Again, Universal is trying things in rides that Disney’s not trying. Universal is theming its areas to such a degree that Disney is starting to look old-fashioned in comparison.

A lot of people now feel Universal has done so much more in the area of souvenirs. Disney has gotten a little more staid. What you can find in one Disney souvenir, you can find at almost any souvenir shop at any Disney park in America. At Universal though, they’re much more site-specific, both at the Harry Potter exhibitions and things they sell at Springfield, which is based on the Simpsons. They have a whole range of Universal-only food, beverage, and souvenirs. It’s genius, because you just spend more money.

But Universal is, I think according to a lot of people, it is outpacing Disney in terms of innovation and there are people, and I’m included, that I think that Disney will have, in the future, more trouble holding on to its definitive lead that it enjoys now, because the more and more people are starting to see more value in some of its competitors.

Chris: And you mention value. I hesitate to ask, what is this going to run me per person?

Jason: Oh boy, yeah. It’s not easy. Well, let’s put it this way: people save up for years to go to Orlando. I would think if you’re going to do all of these parks, I think well over $1200 or $1300 for a week. Yeah, it’s not cheap. There are ways to save money and one of them is not to stay on campus, in any of these hotels that are owned by these companies, because it’s always going to be cheaper to stay off property.

Chris: Do you have some good recommendations off property?

Jason: My book is full. I mean, this place, Orlando is jammed with affordable hotels. I mean, there’s one after the other after the other after the other, but most of them are corporate. Most of them are outposts of familiar chains. Radissons, you could recommend. Best Westerns, you could recommend. It’s not a place for mom and pops.

Chris: Boutique hotels.

Jason: The food scene is a little different. There’s a little more of that happening, but Orlando is a citadel of American corporate commerce. I mean that’s one of the things that makes it so extremely American, in addition to all the other artificial things that are in the landscapes of the parks. Yeah, there are lots of places.

Chris: Well, you mentioned corporate America, I remember when I think it’s General Foods, opened up what is the Olive Garden chain and they wanted to know what America liked, they could have tried testing all around the country, but instead they just went to Orlando and opened a restaurant, because all America came to them and so they actually used that as a way of figuring out what they need to know.

Jason: Yeah, and now Olive Garden, by the way, is owned by Darden. Darden is headquartered in Orlando. So was the Hard Rock Cafe, which began in London. So there’s something to what you’re saying. Walt Disney World and Orlando, they’re different from Disneyland. If you think you know Disneyland, you don’t exactly know the vibe in Walt Disney World. Disneyland is very much a local’s park. People show up from all around, you might go after school, and so on.

Orlando is a destination. It’s a resort and it is much more of a workingman’s resort, the way that would be the modern day and American equivalent of Blackpool or something like that in England. It’s people from the Midwest or the Appalachians or the South, saving up for years to take, or maybe they go every single year, to take their family. They fly in or they drive in and they’ll spend a week or two there, whereas Anaheim’s clientele is much different. So it feels much different in many, many ways.

So if you’ve seen one, it doesn’t necessarily mean you understand the other one. And to take a walk through the Magic Kingdom and to look at the people who are there is to sort of see a cross-section of the Southeast especially. It’s a fascinating way to look at the United States, is to see it through the eyes of the customers who are going to Orlando, because they say just as much about the destination as the destination tries to say about itself to them.

Chris: As you were researching for the latest version of the Frommer’s Guide to Orlando, what were some big surprises you found?

Jason: One of the surprises, and I mean I don’t want to harp on the negative here, but it’s that Disney is sort of losing its edge. It’s not as innovative as it used to be. It’s now focusing so much on trying to get people to stay on property, to pre-pay as much as possible, and it’s not focusing very much on building whiz-bang attractions and covering their areas with immersive theming. I’ve heard press reports that say that it spent a billion dollars developing the Magic Band, which are those RFID-enabled bracelets I was talking about before, and you’ve spent a billion dollars on that, you’re not spending a billion dollars on getting ahead in terms of attractions, innovations, paying the right talent. You’re spending it on, basically, initiatives to try to up income to please shareholders. It’s not the same thing at all.

Chris: Hm.

Jason: So I think that in 20 or 30 years, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to the Disney brand. When I was a kid, and by the way, I grew up in Magic Kingdom, I was a child of the early ’70s in Florida, so I understand that place extremely well and I understand what it used to do and what it does now and it’s a very different ethic. But I also had a nostalgia that I carried with me, and some of my best childhood memories were riding Peter Pan’s Flight, as we were talking about.

But I don’t know how that is now translating to a new generation, because even among people who adore Disney, I’m hearing a lot more resentment about how regimented it is, how expensive it is, how, “Wow, look what they’re doing over at Universal. Why can’t we have something like that here?” They’re not as enamored with the brand as they used to be. There will always be die-hards and there are lots and lots of what I call mouse heads, who are completely allegiant to the product, but there’s also a growing number of people who would much rather not go next year, when they went last year. So that’s going to be interesting to see how that pans out, at the same time, they’re still filling the park, that’s why they keep raising the rates every year.

Chris: Sure.

Jason: Partly as a crowd control measure, but there’s still a market there, but I think it’s just less beloved than it used to be. I think, this is cyclical, this is what American culture does. Things rise and they fall and there was a time in the ’80s, when Disney was a pariah among brands and it came back in the early ’90s, with Little Mermaid and all that stuff.

Chris: Right. When the movies came back, right.

Jason: Yeah. So I mean, it’s not to say they can’t get it back, but at the moment they’re in a mode of pleasing shareholders more than they’re really in a mode of, I think, innovating and being as fantastical as they used to be. And I think that’ll be an interesting future to see which way Disney goes, as Americans also become more savvy to when they’re being sold to.

Chris: Well, as you mention, the die-hard Disney fan, I think of not last year, but the year before, for the podcast awards in the travel category, there were seven Disney podcasts talking about Walt Disney World and Disneyland, two theme park in general podcasts, and me. So there’s definitely a huge and fanatic following there.

Jason: Huge following.

Chris: And of course, Lou Mongello from Walt Disney Radio, beats me soundly in those awards just every single year for the last, what, eight or nine years, so I don’t know.

Jason: And there’s some brilliant minds at work at these podcasts.

Chris: Absolutely.

Jason: And on these blogs, for sure, but it also makes it harder for an average person who is not so deep into the culture of amusement parks to get honest information. Again, you can get incredibly detailed information, not always so useful, it’s hard to get just information you can use. And also, you read some of the Disney blogs, they do nothing but spout praise, because Disney is a very carefully controlled company.

Chris: Oh, sure.

Jason: And they’re extremely successful at public relations.

Chris: Right.

Jason: And they have very cozy relationships with some of the bloggers, and that partly is because it gives the bloggers access to the stories they’re going to need, and it makes getting honest information sometimes quite difficult. I feel there’s very few blogs and books on the market that appraise this as a consumer product, but also as a consumer product that is extremely important to the fabric of this country, which is one reason that I wrote the book the way I did.

Chris: What’s one thing that didn’t make it into the book because of deadlines, time pressure?

Jason: I think I cover most of the stuff that you would like to go in. Right now, at the moment, it’s about to go to the press, so I am sticking in things as they change, right up until the last minute. The ink’s not yet on the page, I just sent in a change this morning that has to do with Sea World deciding to jump on the bandwagon that Disney has started. Disney’s Magic Bands allow you to wave your Magic Band over a point of purchase to make a cashless purchase. This is if you’re staying in a Disney hotel.

Well, Sea World now allows you to put your credit card into an app that it has, you can wave a U.P.C. code to purchase things in the park, so that’s the way all of the resorts are going. They’re trying to think of new ways to separate you from your money in ways that you barely even notice or care, which I guess is always the story, but they’re just perfecting methods of how to get that done. So that’s a change I actually just sent in this morning.

Chris: Favorite place to stay in Orlando? You mention chain hotels and park hotels, any specific place, specific room that you would love to be in again?

Jason: I have to say, even though I see Disney with sort of clear eyes, I would always choose to want to stay in one of the original Disney hotels that were built in the early 70s. The Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Resort were both built around the same time for the opening of Magic Kingdom in 1971.

Chris: And the Contemporary Resort is the one the monorail goes through? Have I got the right one?

Jason: Exactly. It’s the A-frame that the monorail . . . and that to me, when I was a kid, seeing the monorail go through the cavern of the middle of that hotel, seemed impossible and fantastic and I still love it. Disney is somewhat built on nostalgia and I still would want to stay with a Magic Kingdom facing room in the Contemporary Resort. It would cost me $700 or $800 a night, but I would still do it. Interestingly, the Contemporary Resort, I find this fascinating, is the place where, in 1973, Nixon said, “I am not a crook.”

Chris: Oh, huh.

Jason: He did that famous speech . . .

Chris: Did not know that.

Jason: . . . In front of the AP editors convention that was being held at the Contemporary, because back then it was one of the hottest new hotels in the country and so some history has happened in Disney and that’s one of the amazing things that happened there.

Chris: You’re standing in your favorite spot-and let’s do this two different spots, one in a Universal park and one in a Disney park-where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Jason: My favorite spot to stand, I think, in a Universal park, is a strange spot. It’s in Islands of Adventure, it’s in back of the Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barge Ride, which is one of those round boats that goes down a flume, it bounces…

Chris: Yeah.

Jason: It’s the bridge right next to the children playground, called Me Ship the Olive, there’s a little bridge that goes over the flume and if you stand on this bridge, you can see families come in that round boat and they come underneath the bridge and there’s a waterfall waiting for them and I see the looks on their faces of horror.

Chris: Uh-oh, there’s a waterfall

Jason: They just don’t know which one of them is going to get it, if you stand on that bridge long enough, you know who’s about to get it, because it spins around a certain way, I could stand there for hours watching Grandma get her hair ruined or Junior have his day made or someone point at Dad, everyone is full of such goodwill and is so happy, nothing bad ever happens in that spot and never will. I love that place and it reminds me what I love about Orlando and it’s easy to be cynical about the money and the lines and all that stuff, when you’re there, it’s hard to hate it. In Disney World, I think I would probably like to be stuck in a boat on Pirates of the Caribbean, in front of the giant ship that’s inside having the cannonball fight.

Chris: Sure. Okay.

Jason: I think I’d sit there for a good few hours, just sort of taking it all in. These Disney rides are such fleeting experiences, the thought of being able to stop in one and just sort of take it in for a while, it’s kind of a seductive prospect. You never get a chance; you have to re-ride it.

Chris: And you mentioned the magic that goes into making this thing and really let’s put that on both sides and throw in Sea World and Busch Gardens and all those things too, is there any way to experience, to get backstage and watch how things are done?

Jason: All of the parks are now very smart about charging people a little extra if they want to go backstage, yes. It is possible in all cases. The best one-I call it the Big Kahuna of backstage tours-it’s about $200 plus a day. It’s at Disney, it’s called Backstage Magic and basically they put you on a coach, tour bus, and they go from park to park backstage.

You get to see how the robotics work at the American Adventure pavilion, you get to go to the Utilidor, which is that famous corridor which is built underneath Magic Kingdom to keep garbage out of view of all the guests. You get to go to the machine shops in back of Magic Kingdom and watch them buff up the old elephants from the Jungle Cruise before they install them after a refurb. It’s fascinating to see how the back of house works and this is part of my appreciation for Orlando is understanding it as an entity.

We too often perceive it as how it’s trying to manipulate us, but if you look specifically at how it is created, it is a marvel and it’s a very complicated and very expensive endeavor. Taking the Backstage Magic tour will give you a really deep and respectful understanding of what these parks do every single day, even if you’re not a personal subscriber to the fantasy.

Chris: And Disney, if you’re listening, sign me up for that. That sounds thoroughly enjoyable.

Jason: And anyone can take it, I paid for it and did it, and again I would do it again in a heartbeat. They give you lunch, Disney does it very well, they give you lunch; there’s all sorts of little surprises. At the end, you get a pin that says you took the tour, but Disney does a number of other tours that don’t take a $200 and all-day commitment. There’s the three hour version at Magic Kingdom and so and so, but you can find the behind the scenes tours on the Disney website.

Chris: Excellent. Before we get to our last three questions, anything else that you would want to tell us, besides there’s a new book coming out and remember that, what else should we know before we go to Orlando?

Jason: There’s also my current book is still out, it’s the 2013 edition, the 2014 edition is the one that comes out in the fall. But I would recommend to people not to over-plan things, to try to open your eyes and enjoy it for what it is. I think that now the temptation is to go too far.

The other thing I like to recommend to people, and again, the Disney die-hards don’t love me when I say this, is rent a car. Because I think it’s a real shame that people only stay on Disney property and don’t try the restaurants in town, don’t go to see manatees or go to the crystal springs that are everywhere in Florida, that are the original reason it was a tourist attraction to begin with, don’t go to NASA, don’t go to the beach. There are so many good things to see in the area, but the parks work so hard and so successfully at keeping you in their little cultivated kingdoms.

Chris: Yeah and with the airport transfer, so that you don’t even have to rent a car.

Jason: Yeah, that’s called Disney’s Magical Express and if you stay at a Disney hotel, you get it free. So already, the temptation is not to get a rental car. Rental cars are cheap in Orlando, they can be $15, $17 a day. I really think it’s worth it. Also, sometimes you just want to escape the music, for just a few minutes.

So, yeah I recommend the car can speed you away from the theme park and towards sanity for a few hours.

Chris: Yeah, you mentioned It’s a Small World and I managed not to scream, but I just think of the Jungle Cruise, which has always been my favorite classic Disney ride, when they tell you leave your kids or they’ll take them over to It’s a Small World and nail their feet to the boat and let it go round and round is just my picture of hell, I think, perhaps.

Jason: Yes, it’s too bad they don’t serve alcohol in the Magic Kingdom. That ride would become more tolerable. I’ve got to say, and I can’t be the only person here, I think I became a travel writer, because of It’s a Small World. I don’t just cover Disney and one of the things I cover, and I’m asked to do it, because I do it honestly, and I don’t do it with this slobbering adoration; I do it clear-eyed and that’s why I keep getting these books and the magazine articles I do.

But in the beginning, when I was three or four, I would ride through It’s a Small World and see all of the different nationalities represented in a genial stereotype and decided I would love to know more, so actually I can credit some of my first exposures to foreign cultures with It’s a Small World. So although yes, now as an adult, the music annoys me, it’s hard to deny that sort of seminal influence it had in my perspective.

Chris: I remember a very hot, tiring day, because we were doing Disneyland all in one day, back in those days, in Disneyland and I was 10 years old and I said, “Well, there’s this new ride that I’ve heard It’s a Small World and a friend of mine likes it, maybe we should try that.” We were all kind of grumpy and tired and it actually rejuvenated us, so I have fond memories as a kid, but don’t make me go more than once in a trip for sure. One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Orlando?”

Jason: The thing that first popped into my mind is all the fake rocks.

Chris: Oh yeah.

Jason: I mean, there must be a whole, huge industry of fake rock makers. You go to the pool and it’s done up to look like the Grand Canyon. Wherever you go, the rock is fake, probably poured out of concrete and sculpted and then painted. It’s so much fake rock and just take a little time to enjoy the rocks.

Chris: I think it’s still true that Space Mountain is the tallest mountain in Florida, right? So not a lot of rocks to work with naturally.

Jason: Now they’ve got several mountains tying it, they’re all 199 feet, by the way, because if they had to be 200, they would have to put a beacon on top to please the FAA.

Chris: Oh, that’s too funny.

Jason: So none of Disney’s mountains go any higher than 199.

Chris: Finish this sentence: you really know you’re in Orlando when what?

Jason: You can’t find a Manhattan. All the cocktails are incredibly sweet. You have to really work pretty hard to find something that’s not been made with fruit, sugar, almost all the food is incredibly sweet. Maybe this is something that is happening in America in general.

Chris: Yes.

Jason: I can’t get over how sweet all the food seems to be and there are also candy shops where they ought not to be. I mean, they’re just everywhere. The place is fueled by sugar. It makes the children demand things of their parents that they willingly give into. So I would say you know you’re in Orlando when you’re just surrounded by candy, yeah.

Chris: Although I have to say if it’s sweet and it’s a Dole Whip, then I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Jason: Oh, then you’re going to like this, they just started adding rum to the Dole Whip.

Chris: Oh my. Okay.

Jason: You also know you’re in Orlando, when every English person you see is red like a lobster.

Chris: And if you had to summarize Orlando in three words, what three words would you use?

Jason: Regimented, astounding, and nostalgic. Can I add consumerist as well? That’s four.

Chris: Sorry, sorry, you ran out of words, but I think that one’s implied. And if we want to read about your travels other than Orlando, where should we go?

Jason: Frommers.com. I have my own website as well, Jasoncochran.com. And of course, I also strangely enough, it doesn’t sound like it the way I’ve been talking, I also write the Frommer’s guide to London. So between the two of them, I’ve got all of your medieval . . .

Chris: Another magic kingdom.

Jason: . . . fantasies. Yeah, because they have quite literal magic kingdom this time.

Chris: Excellent. Jason, thanks so much for coming on this show and sharing with us your love for Orlando.

Jason: Yeah, no problem.

CLOSING

Chris: Given the length of this episode, I’m going to skip news stories and news from the community, but we still do have spots for the Amateur Traveler trip to Morocco, April of 2015, so go to the Amateur Traveler and check out the link on book travel.

There are two recent changes in the Amateur Traveler that I want to make sure you know about, especially if you’re just a listener of this show. One is that every episode, the show notes, now have all of the links that we mention in the show, so if you were looking for a link to something we talk about, you’ve always been able to find that on the website, but now you can also find those links on the audio file itself, if you look in lyrics.

And then, the other thing too is that we also are doing transcripts for every episode. And I say we because I am not doing transcripts, but that is actually something that is being outsourced and my thanks to JayWay Travel, they’re specialists in Central and Eastern Europe and they’re the ones who are sponsoring all of the transcripts that you can now find in the Amateur Traveler. So if you’re interested in reading this episode for instance, it will be up in a couple weeks and it will up thanks to JayWay Travel, so check them out.

With that, we’re going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler, if you have any questions feel free to send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com, you can also leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com or follow me on Twitter at chris2x. And as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

Share this:

by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

One Response to “Travel to Orlando, Florida – Episode 431 Transcript”

chuck

Says:

We just got back from a week at Universial Studios and Walt Disney World. On this trip I figured out the real difference between Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. At Disney unless you are looking you d not see the “wires”. I not only mean this on the attractions, but also in the parks in general. For instance on the “Cat in the Hat” attraction the wires pushing and pulling things along were obvious, while at WDW you would need to look to find them. Another example was on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Don’t get me wrong the ride is an amazing experience for the senses. However at numerous times you could see the mechanics of how it worked and the articulated arm that was flying your or other ride vehicles around, you just don’t notice things like that unless you are looking.

Leave a Reply

Tags: , , , ,