I first ventured into the Orlando area theme parks in the spring of 2010. While a seasoned veteran in theme parks in general, I am a still a bit of a novice when it comes to the Big 3 in Orlando. Although a monthly visit to Orlando is helping me play catch up. I think as someone who is pushing himself as a source for “theme park news, reviews, ideas and opinions”, I should take a look at the things I have and have not done inside and outside of the Orlando area. I figured what better way to kick off the New Year than with a slate of confessions and resolutions to share with all ten of my readers!
Confession # 1. I go to Orlando for a theme park visit, be it Universal or WDW, about once a month. I live about 2 hours south of Orlando in the Gulf coast city of Sarasota. So needless to say the last thing I want to do after a full day of theme park touring is make the 2 hour trek back home in the middle of the night. I always get a hotel room for the night. Most of these monthly trips are multi day trips. On these, obviously, a hotel room is a must. In 2011 I logged about 25 hotel nights in about 13 different hotels in Orlando. None, nada, zero, zilch of these nights were spent inside of a WDW or Universal hotel! That’s right. I have my own semi successful theme park blog, but who doesn’t now a days, and I have not stayed “on property!” I am ashamed and embarrassed, but I have my reasons. The average nights stay for an on property, value level hotel stay at WDW is about $90 depending on the time of the year. These hotels are well themed and close to the Disney parks. I however, have chosen the cheap route when it comes to staying overnight in Orlando. I bid for hotel rooms online on priceline.com. This is an uncharted and scary experience for most Orlando visitors but I think it’s really easy and well worth the time. In 2011, the most I paid for a hotel room in Orlando was $65 a night. The lowest star level hotel I visited was 3 stars; the furthest I have been from WDW was only about a 20 minute drive from my hotel on I-drive by Universal Orlando. The value and quality is a no brainer for me. I am in love with bidding for hotels because it is considerably cheaper than staying on property at WDW or, god forbid, the very expensive hotels inside Universal Studios gates. That being said, it is time to stop making excuses, stop being cheap, and it’s time to start experiencing life inside the resort hotels.
Resolution: In 2012 I plan on staying at 3 different Walt Disney World resort hotels. One value, one moderate, and, gulp… one deluxe Disney hotel. I would love to stay at Pop Century and since I am a premium annual passholder I get a considerable room discount. I would love to stay at Port Orleans and maybe even, again, gulp….the Grand Floridian! In addition, I am absolutely dying to spend at least one night at the Universal Studios Hard Rock Hotel! I have heard so many good things about this place and I know, after the sting of the price wears off, I would love to spend a night in the Hard Rock. The hour early entry into the theme parks does not hurt either.
Confession #2: This confession is personally as shocking as my first one. I am a hardcore, to the bone, balls out theme park tourist. I want to ride as many rides, see as many shows, and watch as many parades as possible. When you are so committed to such a balls to the walls them park lifestyle something has to give. For me, unfortunately, it has been sit down, table service dining inside the theme parks and hotels. I do have another reason for not enjoying fine restaurants like Chef Mickey’s, 50’s Primetime Café or Confisco Grille. The price (are you sensing a theme here?). I am the kind of theme park tourist who packs his back pack full of cookies, chips, and other unhealthy snacks that melt and leave a mess in my bag by the second hour in the park. I do make it a point to seek out a counter service restaurant for my lunch while inside the parks, but I know it’s not the same. I can easily suck it up and pay the extra dough for a dinner, but I have been choosing to take the cheap route (Golden Corral). I have also heard multiple horror stories about how the food at table service venues, at WDW in particular, is nowhere near the quality and value that it should be.
Resolution: For every horror story I have heard about the food at these restaurants, I have heard two about how good the selection is at these places. Tonga toast! How can I call myself a Disney World freak, and I have never tasted Tonga Toast!? How can I call The Lost Continent one of my favorite lands at Universal (hush) and I have never been to Mythos?! I am a fraud, a cheat, and a loser. I resolve to dine at a table service venue in each and every one of the major Orlando theme parks in 2012. I can, nay, I will right this wrong!
Confession #3: I love Walt Disney World! I love Universal Studios! Each time I go to these parks it feels like my first time all over again. The two hour drive there each month can’t be over with fast enough. All of my Orlando hotel check ins are in the middle of the night at like 1 or 2 am! Why? When we arrive in Orlando we could stop by the hotel, check in, throw our bags downs, and then head to the parks; but I get so excited and impatient to walk though those gates, we totally skip the hotel process and go right to the park. Because of this love for Disney and Universal that generates a lack of patience and abundance of ADD, I have never visited Sea World Orlando! I love animals and zoos, and I love dolphin shows, but every time I sit down to plan an Orlando trip and add in a Sea World day a little voice in the back of my mind says, “But that’s a day you can spend at Disney!”
Resolution: In 2012 I am determined to stomp a mud hole in that little voice and silence him forever. Sea World is a world class theme park and I can’t wait to plan a trip there. 2012 will be the year of Shamu!
Confession #4: I would like to make a public apology to about 3000 people. These 3000 people have submitted themselves to the worst kind of torture, pain, and agony imaginable. They are the visitors and viewers of youtube.com/prideofsimba. Prideofsimba was a youtube channel that I started about a year or so ago to share my Disney videos with my Facebook friends. The videos on this site are shaky, out of focus, and poorly produced monsters that showcase and highlight how much of an amateur I truly am. It was started innocently enough and I do love the heck out of it, but the production quality leaves a lot to be desired. I did spend a lot of time wondering if I should even keep the channel up. There are countless channels out there filled with people who have much better cameras and talents than me. So why should anyone spend their valuable time visiting my channel and watching my videos?
Resolution: I begged, groveled, and pleaded to my partner Daniel for a new digital camera for Christmas. On Christmas morning my dreams came true and I got a brand new camera! I am constantly thinking of new ways to entertain, and inform my YouTube viewers. I have some pretty good ideas, I think, of ways to make my videos stand out from the rest and I am committed in 2012 to providing quality content to youtube.com/prideofsimba Stay tuned!
Well there it is, for better or for worse, those are my 2012 confessions and resolutions. I really hope that my fan boy card is not revoked. I hope to accomplish all of these things in 2012. It is going to involve me stepping outside of my comfort zone a little bit, and taking some chances. Orlando has a lot to offer and I have only scratched the surface. 2012 will be a year of adventure, mystery, and fun. I hope to see you in the parks, hotels, and restaurants. If you would like to meet up in 2012 in any of these places feel free to hit me up on twitter @wakefieldreport
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Here is a cool video from my YouTube channel...