SeaWorld Orlando 2017

17SWOBannerSeaWorld Orlando | Photos | Videos


December 29, 2017
Orlando FL

After getting to my sister’s home Wednesday nite we took most of Thursday easy.  Later in the evening my sister, nephew, and I went to Disney Springs to hang out for a while since I’d not been after the change over from Downtown Disney. I had Blaze Pizza for dinner and it was good.  Then on Friday morning we headed into Orlando around 11 AM on our way to SeaWorld Orlando. We were fortunate that my nephew was able to get us tickets thru work at no cost. We had to meet him and some of his work mates there, and once we arrived at the park I saw a packed parking lot.

Of course I knew it would be busy, this being one of the busiest times of the year in Orlando. Normally I wouldn’t want to go to a new park on such a busy week, but it worked out pretty well. We got in line for the tram, but that line was massive so we just walked over to the front entrance and met everyone. I’d been texted the previous day that it was around a 45 minute wait just to get tickets and get inside the park, and this was obvious when you got to the gate. We, however, walked over and got in the ten or so minute line to get in the front gate. Our first stop once inside was to Guest Services as my sister wanted to get a Handicapped Pass, since she has some major back issues and other health problems, so standing in line wasn’t really an option for her.

Once we had that in hand we went to the restrooms and started our day. We passed by some pink flamingos, then Manta on our way over to check out Kraken. I wasn’t interested in the VR, neither was my sister. We went to the entrance and, although the park was super packed, the lines were never bad, save for Manta. And the way they handle the handicapped pass is that you give them the sheet for eligible rides and they give you a return time, much like Disney. They basically looked at the wait time and assigned your time based on that. With Kraken being a 30 minute wait we were asked to come back in 30 minutes for our timed ride. As we walked back towards Journey to Atlantis we noticed that it was a walk-on, so we headed there first.

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Wild Adventures 2017

17WABanner.jpgWild Adventures | Photos | Videos


December 27, 2017
Valdosta GA

As I’d taken two weeks off in September of 2017 to visit Japan I really hadn’t planned a lot of domestic travel in 2017. I knew getting back from Japan would lead into a busy time. The following two weeks after my return to the US were busy with local events including a work trip at Kure Beach. Then there was a pre-planned trip with friends in October to Atlanta. I took most of November easy, but I knew that December would be another busy month to cap off the end of the year. I had tickets to see Janet Jackson in Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA which were rescheduled dates from her Unbreakable World Tour, renamed the State of the World Tour, at the beginning of December. These were the last two dates of that leg of the tour. Needless to say, I was busy.

Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to request 2 days of vacation in between Christmas and the New Years holidays at work, which meant I would have 10 days off in a row. I didn’t plan out anything, but in the back of my mind I had considered spending part of the time in the Orlando area as my sister and her family have been there for 6 years and I’d only made the trip down once. Eventually I made the commitment and let my sister know I’d be down for the latter half of my time off. Time slowly approached and soon it was Friday.

Some more back story, during my trip to Japan there was a position at an office very close to my house that I’d hoped to transfer to before the year’s end. I knew the position would be available, but unfortunately due the incompetence of some human resource employees I missed my chance at an interviewee even though the local management team tried to set up a phone interview while I was abroad. However, in a surprising turn of events, 2 more unexpected positions became available before year’s end. I was able to secure an interview this time, but the wait in between interviewing and finding out whether I was selected for a position was nearly a month an a half. I was in a bad mood during most of that time, but 3 days before the start of my vacation I received confirmation that I would be transferring, starting effective the first of the year.

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Japan 2017 Day 14

17Japan14Banner.jpgTokyo Disneyland | Yokohama Cosmoworld | Photos | Videos


September 23, 2017
Tokyo & Yokohama Japan

The next morning we got up early and made our way to Disneyland.  It was our last day in Japan and I knew it was likely to be busy at Tokyo Disneyland, but we pressed on.  The morning was overcast.  We ate breakfast outside of the park at the train station before heading over to Ikspiari and then the front gate.  When you enter there’s no familiar hill with a train station for you to pass under, but immediately you are standing on a covered version of Main Street U.S.A. called World Bazaar (Still not sure why the covered main streets are all the rage in Japan, but it does cover you from the rain).  The castle in the distance, however, is all too familiar.

The park was already quite busy and it was just opening.  We made our way to the right first to their version of Tomorrowland (or, more aptly titled, we-need-to-upgrade-it-all land).  Tokyo’s Tomorrowland has the familiar Space Mountain building as its centerpiece, and we were able to snag a fast pass for Space Mountain for later.  But it also has a version of Star Tours that never seemed busy (I’m not a fan of those types of motion rides so we never bothered), Stitch Encounter (Stitch is pretty big in Japan, but again, I’m not going to wait for 2 hours for a ride I’m not crazy about and have ridden in the states), Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters (which is fun, but had a long wait and no Fast Passes), and a version of the twirling rockets, though they’re being removed soon for their version of New Fantasy Land.  This part of the park is in desperate need of a make over.  It was very dated and it needs at least one new E-Ticket level attraction.

One ride that I’ve heard is nothing short of amazing though, and had yet to reach a 90 minute wait time, was Pooh’s Honey Hunt  So we got in line with 82 minutes to wait.  The queue is very well done, mostly outdoors.  They should incorporate the queue entertainment from the ride at Magic Kingdom.  Having said that…

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Japan 2017 Day 13

17Japan13BannerTokyo DisneySea | Photos | Videos


September 22, 2017
Tokyo, Japan

Because of the weather we had to push the two Disney parks to the end of the trip. This was less than optimal because once the weekend hits, these rather busy parks become extremely busy. But other parks and attractions were affected by weather and Friday & Saturday called for rain, which I knew wouldn’t affect Disney nearly as much.  On Friday morning, we slept a little later than planned.  It was a much needed rest, but eventually we made our way to the Tokyo Disney Resort by around 11am to spend the day at Tokyo DisneySea.  It meant taking a train to Hanieda airport where we had lunch, then a bus directly to the Disneyland resort.

I was afraid since we’d let the morning get away from us, and it was a Friday, that wait times would be unbearable at DisneySea but we actually lucked out for the day.  We headed from Ispiari, their version of a Disneyfied shopping district, to the ticket booth at DisneySea, then into the entry plaza.  Once we passed under Hotel Miracosta, I was just in awe of the entire place.  The entrance was nothing like I’d seen at a Disney park, but once inside everything is just so… amazing.  A high level of detail goes in to everything.  It is absolutely astounding.

Our first destination was Port Discovery as we headed over to our first ride, Aquatopia.  This ride uses RFID pucks to guide water based vehicles around in a very shallow pool (6 inches deep or less) spinning, stopping, and swinging around rocks, waterfalls, and whirlpools.  I anticipated a multi hour long wait, but it was only 25 minutes, so we got in line.  Aquatopia was really a lot of fun!

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Japan 2017 Day 11

17Japan11BannerFujikyu Highland | Photos | Videos


September 20, 2017
Fujiyoshida, Japan

The next morning we had to get to Fuji Q Highland early.  I’ve read nothing but horror stories from both coaster enthusiasts and non enthusiasts, locals and visitors about how terrible the operations at Fuji Q are, and how long the lines are.  During the day, those horror stories would prove to be correct, and they make any poorly run park in the U.S. look like a walk in the park.  So the plan was to get there and be close to the first ones in line.  We woke up from our hotel, headed to the Kawaguchiko station which proved to be quite a walk, stored our luggage, and headed back to the cute Fujikyuko train.  We arrived about an hour before the park opened, and I was shocked (and didn’t quite believe) that we were the first ones in line at the back gate.  There were some Russians staying at our hotel that showed up after a bit, as well as some locals who had internet tickets.

In order to get to do all of the major coasters, we were planning to quickly exchange our tickets then, once the rope dropped, literally running to the middle of the park where the very limited express passes could be purchased for rides. Express Passes are sold at the resort, online (but only on the Japanese site), and a few local convenience stores which means they sell out very quickly on the morning of.  So at 8:20, we were able to exchange our passes and, even though they were letting in resort guests early, we were at the front of the rope for the rope drop. Once the park was opened it was go time.

EVERYONE runs, either to whatever coaster they plan on hitting up first, or towards the middle of the park to buy express passes. We were at the back gate, so you had people at the front gate all heading to the Express Pass booth. Isaac sprinted, and though I tried to keep up, I just couldn’t do it. So I briskly walked as quickly as I could after the first initial burst, and was happy to see Isaac being the second person in line when I rounded the corner. Score!

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Japan 2017 Day 9

17Japan9Banner.jpgTokyo Dome | DECKS Odaiba | Photos | Videos


September 18, 2017
Tokyo, Japan

Monday morning was a late morning, and we needed it.  We grabbed breakfast at a restaurant near the hotel and headed up to Tokyo for some sight seeing and attractions.  First stop:  LaQua.  We went over to Tokyo Dome City and LaQua to see if Thunder Dolphin was running.  The whole area was really nice.  I had considered going to LaQua Onsen while here, but didn’t get a chance.  We walked around the rides section by LaQua and eventually got a ticket for the coaster.

Thunder DolphinYou head up the first hill, drop, pop up on top of a building, dive thru a ‘hole’ in said building, then dive thru and around a hubless Ferris Wheel, then back up on the building for some trick track before dropping down and hitting the brakes.  As far as hyper coasters go, it was what everyone else has said.  A good couple of drops, no major airtime, but a fun coaster, and it looks stunning.  It gives a few good views as well.  The hills really didn’t have much airtime, and the trick track was odd, but I liked it.  I probably wouldn’t pay to ride it again, though.

We walked around the Tokyo Dome, in to a gift shop, and back out onto the plaza where there were a ton of cosplayers all over before heading over to the other rides section.  We were going to ride the parachute drop, but the line was too long, so we had dinner at a burger joint in Tokyo Dome instead. Then we walked back thru the cosplayers, LaQua/Tokyo Dome City, and caught our next train down to the waterfront area to hit up Sega Joypolis.

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Japan 2017 Day 8

17Japan8Banner.jpgNagashima Spa Land | Photos | Videos


September 17, 2017
Nagashima Japan

Sunday was planned as our last non—Tokyo day. Our Japan Rail pass was done after that day, but again we wake up to rain. We talked and talked and decided to take the hour and a half transit trip to Nagashima and hope for the best. We had to take 2 trains and a bus to get to the park. You can see Nagashima Spa Land from a distance. It’s often considered the Cedar Point of Japan, and really, that fits well as a comparison. On a peninsula. You go over a causeway to get to it. You can see the massive rides in the distance.

Nagashima was very much a Cedar Point feeling park. Clean, large midways. Large coasters, new and old. Modern and classic flat rides. Water park. Hotel. Big ole’ Ferris Wheel (which just happen to be everywhere in Japan). We got there and honestly, it was mostly a worst case scenario. The rain subsided, but it was supposed to come back with a vengeance for the day. We didn’t want to pay $50 to go in and not ride anything, but there is a cheaper entrance fee and you can buy tickets. Isaac and I discussed it, asked if Steel Dragon would be open (it wasn’t running), was told it was unlikely, and at the time, the only coaster that was running was Arashi, the new for 2017 S&S 4D Freespin. Then, as we were talking to the gentleman at guest services, Acrobat, the parks newer B&M flying coaster, a clone of Manta in the U.S. opened.

I wasn’t happy, because this was the only chance I’d get at the park on this visit without spending way over budget to come back, and I wasn’t willing to do that. So we eventually decided to try to make the best of it, go in, and maybe get some credits and enjoy what we could of the park. Again, I wasn’t happy, but there’s nothing you can do when the island is getting hit by a typhoon. I wish I had planned for the water park, because it was open and not busy, but I thought it would be closed this time of year, as most waterparks in the country are.

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Japan 2017 Day 4

17Japan4Banner.jpgSpace World | Photos | Videos


September 13, 2017
Yahatahigashi-ku, Kitakyūshū, Japan

Isaac & I woke up super early again on Tuesday morning, but this time we skipped breakfast at the hotel as they didn’t start serving for another hour or 2 and headed to Kyoto Station to catch the Shinkansen to Space World. I realized I’d forgot my phone on the way to the station, but once we had our tickets for the train we realized we had plenty of time to run back for it and eat a bite at a breakfast place across from Kyoto Station. Breakfast at Topscafe was interesting. You ordered from a machine then hand in your ticket. It was busy, cramped, but clean and the food was very good. Once we finished eating we headed to our platform to catch the train.

We arrived at Space World after a 3-hour Shinkansen ride and a couple of transfers onto the local train line. This area was definitely different from Tokyo & Kyoto. Not one of the major Japanese tourist areas, much further south, even hotter, more humid, and in a more industrial setting. We passed right by the park and into Space World Station. Many people were heading to Space World since it was closing, so we had to stand in line for a bit to get tickets. Lines would be the order of the day.

Thankfully, all of the coasters opened. Unfortunately, all but 3 of them had long, slow lines, with a couple having insane wait times, as they seemed to dispatch trains every 10-15 minutes, just as I’d read online. Since we were prepared it was only slightly annoying, but expected. After getting into the park we headed to Zaturn first, as a launched Intamin was more prone to breaking down. Walking thru the park, it looked very different than the photos I’d seen from even just a couple of years ago. It was clean, but it was definitely not being fully kept up. We headed around the corner and got in line for the coaster. The line wasn’t long, but launches were slow. Once we were in the station, there was an area where you had to lock up all of your personal items, then head into the main queue area. Eventually, though, we were on in the back row of the train.

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Kings Dominion 2017

17KDBannerKings Dominion | Photos | Videos


April 15, 2017
Richmond VA

Saturday morning we woke up and headed north to Kings Dominion. It was much, much easier to get to the park than it was to Busch Gardens the day before. After getting Blake’s pass processed and in to the park the rides started to run. We headed to Volcano first. I knew that this ride would have a ridiculous line later so we went ahead and got in the 20 or so minute line and rode in the front. I still love Volcano. I always think of how much my friend Matthew vocally hated the ride when I’m on it.

Anyways, the launch is really powerful and I love launching back up thru the mountain. I do, however miss the Haunted River, Time Shaft, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Next was a quick spin on Flight of Fear. Again, the line for this got rather large thru out the day. It was running well. Then we went over to Intimidator 305, again, another amazing ride. I love I305. It has great air and laterals, and speed to die for.

Its actually kind of hard to write a report for Kings Dominion. I don’t know why, but it just feels generic to me. I never used to feel that way, but it does feel that way after a few years of going often. Don’t get me wrong, it has a lot of great rides. But it just doesn’t have an ‘it’ factor for me any more. After I305 we got some Panda Express. Then we went to the top of the Eiffel. I don’t’ know why, usually I have no issues, but today I was terrified of being up there. We didn’t stay long.

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2017

17BGWBanner.jpgBusch Gardens Williamsburg | Photos | Videos


April 14, 2017
Williamsburg VA

In 2017 easter came in early March, the weekend lots of south eastern parks opened since it was a three day weekend. This year, it was much later in the spring, with parks having had time to open their new attractions and get them ready. Carowinds hadn’t completely done that yet, and I’ve been twice already. Six Flags over Georgia won’t open their new for 2017 attraction till May. But Kings Dominion & Busch Gardens had their new rides open and ready, so again on Easter weekend, we headed north, this time with 2 extra people in tow. There were some hiccups (as there so often are) before the trip, but this time not so much with me. Isaac, Stefan, and eventually Blake made their ways to my house on Thursday nite, and around 8:30 we headed north to Richmond.

Getting up early Friday morning, we got breakfast and headed about an hour east to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This was a hot mess. After getting close to the exit, traffic stopped. We went around and tried something else, and eventually found a ‘quicker’ (I use that term very, very loosely) way in, which shaved off…an hour of waiting in traffic. But we still waited in our car. For Two (2!) Hours. Just to park. Right beside the parking lot (I was literally less than 50 yards from the parking lot). Ridiculous. They must not have been in any way prepared for a busy weekend. We could see several failures in directing traffic in the parking lot that were a major cause of the problem. But there was nothing to do.

On the bright side, the park was waiving the parking fee complementary because of the wait. Even at that, I would have had my staff waiting outside of the parking toll booths waiving people thru instead of making them stop to tell them parking was complementary. This itself could have saved a lot of congestion.

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