Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2012

12BGWBanner.jpgBusch Gardens Williamsburg | Photos | Videos


May 25, 2012
Williamsburg VA

I’d been watching with much anticipation as Busch Gardens Williamsburg announced and started construction on Big Bad Wolf’s replacement. Would it be just as good? What would it be? When Verbolten was announced I thought it looked really interesting. My original plan was to go ride Verbolten on opening weekend, but since Matt didn’t want to go that weekend I changed it to the following weekend. Matt decided not to go that weekend either, so I made plans for BuschGardens on Saturday and Kings Dominion on Sunday.

Then, of course, a week before opening, Matt decided to go. But he wanted to go opening weekend, and I already had plans. So he wasn’t going. Then he was again. So finally, the week of, I made reservations for Friday and Saturday nite in Richmond. Leaving on Friday of Memorial Day weekend was rough at first since everyone was heading to Charlotte. Traffic was a mess for about 20 miles, but then lightened up. I made my way north in about 5 hours. Matt showed up around 11 PM. I wanted to go to the diner beside the motel for a late dinner, but they closed at 11 PM. What diner by a motel closes at 11 on a holiday weekend?!?! We swung by Burger King instead before heading back to the room where I was fast asleep about an hour later.

Waking up early Saturday morning to beat the rush and get breakfast, we headed out to Busch Garden. We were anticipating lite to mild crowds, but you never know. Breakfast was at a McDonald’s about 20 minutes from the park and eventually we made our way to the parking lot where we met up with Chuck, who decided to come down for Verbolten as well, a surprise to me.

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Dixie Classic Fair 2012

11DCFBanner.jpgDixie Classic Fair | Photos | Videos


October 8, 2011
Winston Salem NC

Some time around 2008 or 2009, I came down to North Carolina in October on my hunt to find a job. I stopped in Winston Salem and kept seeing signs for ‘Fair Traffic’. I asked someone standing at the counter what kind of fair, what it was like, etc. and they told me about the Dixie Classic Fair, a large Fair the city hosts every year. After looking it up online, it really piqued my interest.

In 2010, I had planned to go to the fair, but because of different circumstances, and being out of town on a roller coaster trip, I ended up not going. But for 2011, I was determined. I had driven by the fair when I was working in Winston Salem one day on my way to work, and it looked like a lot of fun. So this year I made time to go.

The Dixie Classic Fair was huge. Well, for me anyways. The largest fair I’d been to previously was the West Virginia State Fair, which was large enough. But it seemed that every time I turned a corner at the Dixie Classic Fair, I was walking down a whole new midway. I decided to go up for Saturday afternoon. I’d forgotten that there was a home game for Wake Forest on the 2nd Saturday of the Fair, meaning there was limited parking. I was parked in traffic for quite some time before I lucked out. I made my way up to the Fairgrounds and paid to get in.

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Six Flags Over Texas 2011

11SFOTBannerSix Flags over Texas | Photos | Videos


September 3-4, 2011
Arlington & Dallas TX

When Six Flags over Texas announced that they were completely redoing the Texas Giant, I was apprehensive. I hadn’t ridden it, and was hoping that they’d make a once well liked coaster well liked again, but when they announced what they were doing to it, I was kind of worried. Especially since this was basically now going to be a prototype for the Rocky Mountain Iron Horse track that was being placed on the ride. Over the course of several months (well, a year, I guess), I watched with anticipation. I chose not to go to Texas for 2010 as I had planned, and talked about a Texas trip with Matt Scott to check the ride out.

Matt loved the original and was very apprehensive as well, but we started to make plans for a decent sized Texas trip for Memorial Day Weekend 2011. Then we switched it to July 4 Weekend, 2011. Then we finally decided on Labor Day Weekend because that worked out best for both of us, since I was starting a new job in December 2010 and needed to make sure I had enough vacation time.

A few months passed and we planned the trip out. Then one day Matt found a great price on a flight and asked me when I was going to book and if he should go ahead and book his flight and vacation time. I said sure, because I had planned to book my flight that Friday since it was pay day. Unfortunately, 2 days after Matt booked his flight, I lost my new job. This was both a blessing and a curse for me as I’d spent four very long, very miserable months working for a county that was run very poorly. It was stressful and I was already looking for another job after only about 2 months in, but that’s beside the point. I found myself unemployed and with no hope of going to Texas unless I found another job in time and could get off for Labor Day while giving up on taking Friday or Tuesday off as well.

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Janet Jackson Up Close & Personal Tour New York City 2011

UCAPBanner.jpgJanet Jackson | Photos | Videos


March 11, 2011
New York NY
Number 1s Up Close & Personal Tour
Radio City Music Hall

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Magic Kingdom 2011 Day 2

11MK2BANNERMagic Kingdom | Photos | Videos


January 17, 2011
Walt Disney World Resort FL

There was a mass exodus leaving Epcot. My body hurt. I was tired. And I’d already told Matt I may not make it till 2 AM. In fact, as the seconds ticked off I was convincing myself more and more that I needed to leave earlier than that. We waited for a few Monorail cycles so that we could ride TRONorail again over to the Magic Kingdom. We got to Magic Kingdom and walked around a bit, heading over to Tomorrowland for a Fastpass and a quick ride on Space Mountain, which was still kicking butt. We wandered around the park and looked for the shortest lines until Extra Magic Hours began. I know we rode Big Thunder Mountain at least once and eventually we rode up Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters, which was also a lot of fun. Almost as fun as Toy Story Midway Mania.

Winnie the Pooh had a bit of a line, but we waited it out. It’s a fun dark ride, but I liked the outdoors station in SoCal better, although this interactive queue was quite good. We also rode Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and I’m glad we did, because it will soon be closed and turned into another attraction. I wish I’d gotten some pictures of it, but at least I will remember the ride. And finally the queue for Peter Pan wasn’t quite as long as it had been. Matt loves that ride, and I missed riding it at Disneyland. It was really good. Lots of great scenes, flying thru each one. I enjoyed it, and of course, I enjoyed sitting down.

We went back over and rode Space Mountain more before I finally decided to call it a nite. I gave Matt my fastpass for Space Mountain so he could back to back and I headed to the front of the park. My legs hurt and I was very nearly ready to fall asleep. I got to the Monorail station and headed to the Transportation center. Sadly, once I got there I was told I needed to ride all the way back around and get on a bus in front of the Magic Kingdom. Dang! It was kind of neat riding all the way around the lagoon, and having an entire Monorail train to myself.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios 2011

11DHSBanner.jpgDisney’s Hollywood Studios | Photos | Videos


January 16, 2011
Walt Disney World Resort FL

We arrived at the Studios early. I mean, way early. Well before the park let guests in. And Bill and Jill got there early too. The reason? Toy Story Midway Mania. Everyone said it’s one of the best, if not the best, ride ever built. Not only does it see 2 hours lines on slow days, but hour plus waits just to get a fastpass to ride later! We were prepared. Bill took our tickets and planned to rush to the fastpass dispensers, while we followed with the crowd and headed to the line. This worked out well for us because we were able to get fastpasses valid after 12:30, and were able to get in line right as they opened it for a 20 minute wait. Would Toy Story Mania be that great?

Well, before I go into that, I just want to say that on my only visit to Disneyland, Buzz Lightyear’s interactive dark ride had just opened and it was commanding lines and the same kind of hype. I opted out of riding since the line was so long the day I was there, yet people said it was the greatest thing ever. They said the same thing about Soarin’ over California, but I found that ride to be very meh. Would Toy Story live up to the hype?

Toy Story Midway Mania-This was the best interactive dark ride ever! It was so simple! Disney needs to build 2 more of these in the park just to handle the capacity (well, they’d eventually add another one to this park)! It was so much fun, and yet so simple! You shoot your cannon of darts, pies, etc. at stuff in 3D. It was way too much fun to describe, but it definitely did not disappoint. And everyone else thought so too, as when we exited the line the standby line was already 2 hours, less than 30 minutes after the park even opened, and the fast pass line was around an hour wait. That meant less people in line for everything else!

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Epcot 2011

11EpcotBanner.jpgEpcot | Photos | Videos


January 16, 2011
Walt Disney World Resort FL

I’d always thought of Epcot as a ‘learning park’. I love museums and I love interactivity, but there wasn’t a whole lot at Epcot that I felt was a must do. Thankfully, though, we planned on spending a good chunk of our day at Epcot, and because the park was SO massive the lines weren’t bad at all. Plus the park was just amazing.

We arrived at the park’s rear entrance after walking around the Boardwalk area from our boat ride. I took over 700 photos in three days, and about a third of them were at Epcot. The park really was just that amazing. I could definitely go back and spend an entire day there just visiting countries and eating. Mmmmm…eating…

Wandering around World Showcase first, we then headed into Future World. As far as the first attraction I have photos of, I think we rode Mission: Space first. This ride was something I’d been looking forward to for a LONG time. But I was also kind of nervous as I really didn’t want to get sick and ruin my day knowing how intense this ride is. Still, the wait wasn’t very long so we headed in.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom 2011

11DAKBannerDisney’s Animal Kingdom | Photos | Videos


January 15, 2011
Walt Disney World FL

In the thirty years I’d been alive, I’d never ‘really’ been to Disney World. I’d been to Florida a couple of times, and even went to Downtown Disney once. I had been to Disneyland in 2005, which was my first Disney park experience. I’d tried to fit Disney World in on so many occasions, so many different ways, but finally I was talked into a 3 day weekend to at least get there and try it out.

On Saturday morning January 15, 2011 I flew out of Charlotte with a layover in Atlanta, where I met up with a former co-worker who was going to Disney with her family as well. Then around 11:00 AM, my plane touched down in Orlando. Matt, who’d made all of the plans and reservations, was already there and on his way to Animal Kingdom to meet up with Bill & Jill. Since he had our packet of information, I had to wait in a long line just to get the ticket to ride the free Magical Express bus. I was hot and sweaty. Yeah, I wasn’t in the best of moods, but, hey! I was going to Disney World!

Once I got my ticket the wait for a bus wasn’t very long at all, and the bus was nice and air-conditioned. I didn’t have much in the way of luggage, just 2 small overnight bags. I arrived at the Coronado Springs Resort in the early afternoon to find a very pleasant resort that I was almost sad I wouldn’t get to enjoy as most of my time would be spent at the parks. The resort had a beautiful lake situated in the middle of it. I rushed into the gift shop to buy necessities (a tooth brush, mouth wash, Speed Stick, and of course, Mouse Ears!) and headed to the Concierge desk to pick up my room key/ticket and information.

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Magic Kingdom 2011 Day 1

11MKBanner.jpgMagic Kingdom | Photos | Videos


January 15, 2011
Walt Disney World FL

Arriving at the Magic Kindom’s parking lot and already my feet hurt. I didn’t change into my sneakers, but in the end, I didn’t bring the right pair of sneakers either, so my feet were doomed to hurt, and they did. After parking we took a tram to the Monorail station to head over to the Magic Kindgom. I was getting to ride the Monorail for the first time (not my first monorail, but first one at Disney) so I was happy.

We arrived in just a few minutes and off we headed to the gate. The day was beautiful and the weather was nice, just the right temperature for me. Sadly, what would have been great skies and lighting for pictures of the castle was hampered by a ginormous crane parked by the castle doing work on it. Boo! I took a photo anywho. And even though there was a ton of people there, everyone was moving around and the lines weren’t bad.

Our first destination was Space Mountain as the Disneyland version was closed on my visit for the mega-upgrade they did in 2005 for the 50th anniversary. We arrived to see a posted 30 minute wait, so we quickly ran to the bathrooms. Once we got out, though, the line went to 60 minutes, and then 95 minutes before our very eyes. We decided to come back to Space Mountain later. Instead, we made our way over to one of my favorite rides from Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion. It was very much like the California version, though the stair room was apparently new. Oh, and I was informed that this stretching room actually stretches up, where as Disneyland’s stretching room is an actual elevator. The rides looked nothing alike from the outside, but that’s okay, as they’re both unique mansions. We rode a couple of times on the first nite there, and Haunted Mansion was one of the best dark rides there

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We headed back to ride the Jungle Cruise, which had a bit of an issue once we were getting ready to get in the boat. It was interesting riding this at nite, I hadn’t ridden the Jungle Cruise in the day, but the nite time ride definitely had its own flavor. Our tour guide was really good. I’m glad I finally got to experience the Jungle Cruise, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ride it in the daylight.

Since we’d had one boat experience, why not try another? Matt wanted to eat at Pecos Bill’s, but it was closed. It, however, was, right across from the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. I loved this ride at Disneyland, but I’d been told it wasn’t nearly as good in Florida, and I have to agree. Some of the better scenes were missing, as well as the good drop, but Pirates was still a fun ride. And I liked the mist curtain and addition of characters from the movies.

After Pirates we had a decent dinner and I got to see some of the Electrical parade. We were going to head to Big Thunder Mountain but weren’t able to at first due to the parade. We rode Haunted Mansion again, but I don’t remember if it was now or later on as the park was open to midnite. At some point we made it over, though, and stood in line for a good 90 minutes to ride, way longer than the posted wait time. Had I known it would take that long, I’d have opted for something else, because I wanted to see Wishes, which we caught the tail end of, off to the left of the castle, so I really didn’t get to see much. Thankfully, I really liked Big Thunder Mountain.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad-I remember liking the one at Disneyland, but I don’t remember liking it this much. The ride gets more aggressive as it goes, with great laterals, some nice pops of airtime, and wonderful theming. I like that the lifts are themed, even if the last one wasn’t fully working with the rocks closing in. Big Thunder Mountain is the quintessential mine train ride. It looks great, it rides great, and it’s just so much fun. Thankfully we got fastpasses for later.

We toyed with riding Peter Pan, but the line was outrageous. Walking by “it’s a small world”, however, there was no line, so we decided to get it over with. It was just as annoying as the one at Disneyland, but it’s a must ride.

We finally headed over to Tomorrowland in order to get our Space Mountain on. The posted wait time was around 30 minutes. Jill had a drink she’d just gotten, so she sat this one out.

Space Mountain (Alpha)-The line was kind of long, but at least it was inside. Sadly, it was kind of hot inside. Eventually we made our way to the rockets to launch. I was in the very back and ready for a great ride. The ride is tons of fun, from the lighted tunnels to the helices, to the drops, dips, and everything in between. I got some major airtime in the back seat.

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Once we finished the miles long trek back to earth from the ride’s exit, we picked up Jill and got back in line again. This time Bill was determined to get on the Alpha side, even though they were only loading Fastpassers for the most part. But Bill was nice and asked the guy assigning people to a side if we could ride on that side, and he obliged.

Space Mountain (Omega)-It’s like a whole different ride after the lift hill! It’s more aggressive, seemed even faster, and had more airtime. I was in the front this time, and got major aggressive airtime. Not what I expected from this ride at all. Space Mountain quickly shot up in my coaster rankings. Especially the Alpha side. That thing was running so great. I wanted more, but not another long line.

We used our fastpasses and did another round on Big Thunder, and maybe even another ride on Space Mountain, I don’t quite remember. What I do remember was being tired, sore, and sleepy, so we headed out of the park as it closed, got on our Monorail, and headed back to the room. Coronado’s rooms were nice, with wooden sliding doors shutting off the bathroom area, comfy beds, and hot showers. The room was smaller than I’d have kind of liked, but we weren’t spending much time in the room anywho. I was off to sleep in no time, not really wanting to get up early the next morning.

Epcot