Wednesday, April 16, 2014

15 Stages of a FROZEN Obsession


Stage 1
Oh my goodness, WHAT AN AMAZING MOVIE!! The strong female characters, OLAF (ha ha!), the gorgeous snow and ice, the TRUE LOVE of a SISTER (sniff sniff), and OH, the MUSIC! It's just SO GOOD! Yay Disney!

Stage 2
"Let it gooooo, let it goooooo, can't hold it back anymoooore!" (Sigh) Don't you just LOVE Idina Menzel?

Stage 3
"Do you wanna build a snoooowmaaaan? It doesn't have to be a snooowmaaaan. Okay, byyyyyye." (Sniff) That part gets me every time.

Stage 4
Sure, kids! Let's buy the DVD. And the soundtrack. It's only like THE best Disney movie EVER MADE!

Stage 5
Oh, how cute! The kids have all of the songs memorized!

Stage 6
Oh, how cute! They're belting out "Let it Go" all day!

Stage 7
Wow. They're really belting out "Let it Go" ALL DAY LONG.

Stage 8 
GOOD LORD, THEY'RE BELTING OUT "LET IT GO" ALL. FREAKING. DAY. LONG.

Stage 9
Please. Please, let it go, kids. For real. LET IT GO.

Stage 10 
Holy cow, now it's all over Facebook. I have to hear other people's kids singing it, too? Exactly how many times does it take for one song to qualify as torture?

Stage 11
I'm hearing it in my dreams now. In my dreams. Every night.

Stage 12
OMIGOD, KIDS. IF YOU DON'T STOP SINGING, I'M GOING TO LET YOU GO.

Stage 13
Disney is the devil and Idina Menzel is Satan spawn.

Stage 14
What, kids? No, I have NO IDEA what happened to the DVD and the soundtrack. Maybe you lost them. Maybe the big snow monster ate them. OR MAYBE YOU WORE THEM DOWN SO MUCH THEY HAD NO WILL TO CONTINUE EXISTING. 

Stage 15
Yes, I know you're just devastated, kids. Yes, I understand you can't "let it go." Wow, you're THAT upset, huh? Well . . . I just have one thing to say: "Let the stoooorm raaaage ooooooooon. The cold never bothered me anyway."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Scariest Ride at Universal Orlando

I enjoy a good theme park ride. Truly. I have proof:

Flight of the Hippogriff is a zippy little coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Short, but fun.

See? Nothing but smiles.

Then there's The Hulk. Awesome mega coaster. It shoots you out of a dark tunnel, accelerating from 0 to 40 mph in TWO SECONDS before plummeting down a big drop and completing seven inversions. 

Scary? A little bit.


Fun? Absolutely. 



See? That's me on the far left. White knuckling it, for sure, but still smiling. 

People say The Hulk is the scariest ride at Universal. It's not. 

The most terrifying ride at Universal turned out to be in the most unlikely of places: SEUSSLAND.

Seussland itself is really quite awesome. But within its whimsical walls is this little kiddie ride called One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

Cute, right? Yeah. Like Rosemary's Baby.

Let me just say for the record that "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" was one of my very favorite books as a kid. I still have most of it memorized.

It will now haunt me forever.

The ride started off okay. It's basically like the Dumbo ride at Disney, with one significant difference: IT SHOOTS WATER IN YOUR FACE.

You don't understand how much I HATE having water sprayed in my face. 

Like, HATE HATE it. My husband learned early in our marriage not to playfully flick water in my face. Ha ha, NO. It evokes a primal, visceral RAGE/FEAR/HATE response in me. 

There's a reason putting water on someone's face is a form of torture, you know.

So here we are at the beginning of the ride. I knew there was a possibility of getting wet, but I didn't understand the nature of the beast. The sign said, "You may get wet," not "WE WILL SQUIRT WATER DIRECTLY INTO YOUR FACE AT RANDOM INTERVALS AND TRICK YOU INTO THINKING YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT."

And at this point I didn't give it much thought, seeing as I was distracted by my two children fighting over the up/down lever.

As it started up, I noticed the sing-songy, Dr. Seuss-ish rhyme the ride was chanting. Oh, that's cute! I thought. Then I heard it say, "Follow me and you'll stay dry!" Oh goodie! Clues! I might not even have to get wet! Then she says, "One fish, red fish, up up up! Two fish, blue fish, down down down!"


Please note the fish we're sitting in.


It is both a "red fish" and a "two fish."

Therefore, "One fish, red fish up up up! Two fish, blue fish down down down!" was like some sort of a sick joke. I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO, PEOPLE.

Her directions were TOTALLY unclear. AND DID I MENTION THERE WAS WATER SQUIRTING IN MY FACE?

As my two munchkins continued to haphazardly fight over the up/down lever, I desperately tried to decipher the rhyme. Were we a red fish or a two fish? Were we supposed to go up up up or down down down?

OMG, THE WATER. IT'S IN MY FACE. And look at my daughter's expression. Sadistic little punk. 

Finally, I commandeered the up/down lever on my kids' kiddie ride. YOU'RE NOT LISTENING TO THE SONG!! UP UP UP!! DOWN DOWN DOWN!!!

THERE HAS TO BE A WAY TO AVOID THE WATER!

 That's DESPERATION mixed with DETERMINATION, right there.

But alas, my righteous determination was short-lived. As the water continued to squirt, and the torturous song chanted on like some TWISTED CHILDREN'S LULLABY IN A HORROR MOVIE, I plunged into full-fledged panic.


OUTRIGHT DESPERATION.

OUTRIGHT DESPERATION mixed with SHEER TERROR. And still, my kid laughs. Do I laugh when she's terrified? Not usually.

You know those nightmares where you're screaming, but nobody can hear you?

That was this. SOMEBODY GET ME OFF THIS THING!!

Finally, I gave up the song, the lever, and my children, and took the "duck and cover" approach.

I do not exaggerate, people. LOOK AT THE WATER SQUIRTING IN THE FACES.


It's a miracle I survived. Dr. Seuss traumatized me, friends. It was like being betrayed by your best childhood friend.

There you have it. The most terrifying ride at Universal Orlando. Save yourselves the water torture and hit the Caro-seuss-el ride instead. All the fun and none of the trauma.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

What's the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Like?

When I tell people we went to Universal Studios in February, the first question everyone asks is, "How was Harry Potter?" (Technically, it's "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter"—kind of a cumbersome name, if you ask me. I'll just call it WWHP). So I thought I'd share a little tour:

You can enter WWHP two ways. Here's one entrance: 

 If the fam there were to look to their right, this is what they'd see from the bridge:

Hogwarts castle! It's actually not very big. They made it look like it's farther away than it is by making it small—kind of an optical illusion.



 Pretty awesome detail, though.


 Walking into WWHP this way, you turn left to go to Hogwarts, and right to go into Hogsmeade.

We'll start in Hogsmeade. I loved the way they made some of the chimneys crooked. The designers really did a fabulous job.


Everyone wants to know about Butterbeer, of course. It's basically cream soda with a thick cream on top (the consistency of melting ice cream) that tastes like butterscotch. Yummy. Super sweet.


Speaking of sweets, we were psyched to go to Honeydukes. It honestly isn't that impressive inside. It was pretty small, and though they had iconic treats like chocolate frogs and Bertie Botts Every-Flavored Beans, most of it was just standard theme park candy.


The joke shop was part of Honeydukes, too. I wasn't terribly impressed with their offerings, either. Nothing that you couldn't find elsewhere, and again terribly small. I can't imagine what it must be like in there during peak seasons.


The rest of Hogsmeade was cool, though. It really felt like you were in the real ("real"?) Harry Potter world.




Lots of little details in shops and windows.





Like the monster book that "breathed" inside its cage.


 All kinds of piles of old books and trinkets.


Quidditch (with a missing snitch)!



Mandrakes!



Owl Post!


Public conveniences (a.k.a. bathrooms)! The fun part of these was that they have Moaning Myrtle talking to you while you're in there. 


Ollivander's Wand Shop was really cool. You wait in line (often a very long line) to go in, as they take around 20 people or so at a time.



One person gets chosen each time to come forward and be the "wizard" who is getting matched up with a wand. Ollivander has the person try out several wands, with bad results (shelves falling, flowers withering, etc.) until they find the right wand. Then a light shines on the person, air blows up from the floor beneath them, and music plays dramatically when they get the "right" wand. Really fun, especially for the kids. We went twice, and The Muse got chosen the second time. So she has a special wand from Ollivanders that "chose" her. :)

Okay, let's go back to Hogwarts.



Inside the castle are several rooms, which are all part of the line for the Forbidden Journey ride. You can actually tour the castle without going on the ride, so we did that for Havarti and The Muse, who aren't ride riders.


I tried to take photos of the rooms inside the castle, but it was quite dim lighting. I did manage to get a clear one of the talking picture room. That was fun. The people in the pictures really do talk and move around, just like in the books/movies.

There's also Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and one other room I'm not remembering. I was a little disappointed that there was no Great Hall. But it was still very cool. 


Since we were there the week after President's Day week, the crowds were very low. Most of the day, there was only a 10-20 minute wait for the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts. Apparently it can be a 2-3 hour wait during the peak seasons. I can't even imagine. 

The ride was pretty fun, but it made me a little queasy. Most of the rides at Universal make use of simulator technology, which tends to do a number on my equilibrium. Dolittle and I only went on it once. It was a little scary for her, and I prefer real roller coasters.

Speaking of which, right next to Hogwarts is the "Flight of the Hippogriff" ride. It's a little roller coaster, but fun. BoyWonder and Dolittle couldn't get enough of it. And with a 5-minute wait time, we got to go on it a lot. 

Wee!! Dolittle especially loved it because as you go up the first hill, you pass Buckbeak in his nest. Incredibly real-looking. He moves and everything. I couldn't help but feel like a little kid each time.

While we rode the coaster, The Muse did some more wand browsing.


This is the other entrance to WWHP. There's another larger coaster (Dueling Dragons? Dragon Challenge? Something like that.) at this end, but we didn't go on it. The only person who would have gone with me was Dolittle, but she wasn't quite tall enough and I didn't feel like going by myself. Now I kind of wish I had. 


Near this entrance is the Hogwarts Express train, too. Right now it's just a prop. But they're busy building Diagon Alley in Universal Studios (WWHP is in Islands of Adventure, the other Universal theme park), and from what I understand they're going to have the Hogwarts train go to and from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. We just missed it by half a year or so. Guess we'll just have to go back. :) 

I particularly enjoyed WWHP at night. I always love theme parks at night anyway, but seeing the castle lit up was awesome, and it really created a cool atmosphere in Hogsmeade.





So, all in all, Harry Potter's world at Universal's Islands of Adventure was an awesome experience. I might even call it "magical." :)