Oct 28 - Universal Studios, IoA and Sanaa

Friday, October 28


Stitch was rather unwell during the night. She has always had a rather delicate system, and eating a ton of ice cream on top of regular meals obviously didn't do her any favors. It is a wonder we weren't all sick!


We set our alarm for rather early as we wanted to get up and get to Universal at opening, but after Ursula and I were dressed and drinking coffee Stitch was still not feeling well, and promises of Harry Potter did nothing to sway her. She insisted we go without her and that she'd be fine-- I think she just wanted to sleep off whatever was bothering her. Ursula was not going to leave her alone all day and neither of us imagined we'd have much fun without her anyway.


After another hour or so of sleep we told Stitch she had to come with us to CVS so we could buy her medicine, which got her up and dressed. We buckled her Stitch stuffed plush with the seatbelt in the car and got a smile out of her. Once we'd gone to the drug store (and bought some “non drowsy” meds on my insistence) we went to IHOP for breakfast. Stitch took her meds and proceeded to be a zombie for the rest of the day. It was dreadful! She also forgot her new Donald Duck hat at the restaurant and nobody was willing to go back to get it, which made her very unhappy. It was not stacking up to be a good day for Stitch, because we then proceeded to go to Universal instead of taking her back home to the hotel. Ursula and I are devious that way.


It was about lunchtime by the time we finally made it to Universal Studios, which was closing at 5 for their Halloween fright night event thing. So not a long time to hang out, which ended up being just as well. We were set to go to the main park rather than Isle of Adventure with HP. We all really wanted to go on The Simpsons ride!


Instead of heading straight forward as we entered we veered off to the right, going up Hollywood Blvd. There was spooky evidence of their Halloween event around, which was kind of fun to look at. Ursula stopped to get a picture with Elton John's star on the walk of fame. We saw Marilyn Monroe but didn't stop to get a pic with her, and a Game of Thrones sword throne that was for their Halloween event as they weren't letting people climb up and take pics in it. We spotted Fiona from Shrek (as a human) but she was getting ready to take a break and we did not stop to bug her. I took quite a few pics of the streets of Hollywood, which had more than a couple of things in common with Hollywood Studios! The Darkroom was a notable similarity.


Some critters from Madagascar were just finishing up a performance of some kind and I managed a quick pic before they were whisked off stage.

So far the stage was pretty immaculate, and the theming was very convincing of Californa-style architecture and landmarks, but there was something just not quite right. Even though there were plenty of familiar characters and everyone had been very nice, none of us really could pinpoint why exactly Universal didn't hold much of a candle to Disney. I enjoyed taking pictures, but looking at them now they seem to be a little lifeless and lacking in the joie de vivredepartment. Perhaps because it was a little overcast, perhaps because our morning had not gone as expected? It was an interesting comparison of companies, anyway.


We went to the Terminator2 show and reminisced about an odd occurrence that had taken place there on one of our previous trips. When Stitch was a baby we also went to Universal, long before Isle of Adventure. During T2 Ursula went into the theater first while I waited with baby Stitch. A couple with a baby approached me and asked me (a complete stranger!) to watch their kid while they went to see the show. Granted, I was a teenager who was good with kids and babies, and I had a young toddler with me so it must have seemed safe enough, but that doesn't make me anything less than a total stranger! I didn't really know how to say no and so they left their kid with me while they watched T2. They came and got him when it was over and said thanks, but it was still really odd.


The show was much less eventful this time, with nobody foisting their children upon me at all.


We walked through what Ursula called “Woodpeckerville,” the kid's area which she also noted was kind of sad looking. There were some half-baked cartoon characters there doing a stage show which was unbearably cheesy (that it has exactly in common with Disney!). I watched it for a moment while my crew looked for a restroom. I actually liked the Fievel playground, but I like oversize things such as large keys, glasses and tin cans. There was a really creepy skull and vertebrae slide thing that I thought was a little too weird, but the kids playing on it didn't seem to think it was amiss. As we didn't have anyone of playing age in our party we moved along fairly quickly.


Not that the Disney movies are any newer, but most of the attractions here seemed based on characters/movies that were terribly out of date, such as Fievel (has anyone under 30 even seen that movie?) Woody Woodpecker and Barney.


We went to ET next, and it was a walk on. The attendants there herded us into the handicap corral though and then onto our “bikes.” Ursula thinks we got the fatgirl seats for this ride. It was cute, but we didn't really want to ride it again, even though the line was nonexistent.


We moved on to The Simpsons and were pleased with the theming around there. The Kwik-E-Mart was cool and we admired all the merch and gag ads it had to offer. The queue was a little longer than we preferred but it didn't seem to be getting any shorter so we bit the bullet. There were occasional TVs playing clips of the show as we stood in the first part of the line, so that was amusing for a while. There seemed to be many sections of waiting as we slowly made our way up in line, but there were attempts at distraction fairly frequently, and since none of us had even been on the ride it was all a complete surprise. It was a lot of fun though and we all liked it! I got slightly ill but managed to make it off the ride without any real danger of barfing all over everybody.


It was time for a Squishee though and that seemed to take forever, too, even though there weren't that many people in line. There was a really obnoxious East-coast person in line with us and I kept scooting away from her so people wouldn't think we were in a group together.


The line for Men in Black was too long and none of us were terribly interested in whatever it was (see how overinformed we are of this park's offerings) so we skipped it. We went to Jaws, but after getting to the part of the queue where it promises to get us all wet we decided to go back the way we'd come in. “We were not interested in shlepping around for the rest of the day in wet shoes and drawers,” Ursula remarked.


We wandered through the park to The Revenge of the Mummy. My mummy had reservations about using the free-for-30-minutes lockers, but we figured it out and the system worked well enough for us. The queue was long but it went pretty fast, and the ride was great! I love roller coasters so much! Stitch thought it was “good,” which was her zombie answer for everything we did that day. Ursula liked it but didn't want to ride it again immediately. She wanted to get her purse out of locker jail before it was too late, and later she admitted that the ride had sproinged her neck a bit.


We moved on, checking out the shops, atmosphere and details. It started sprinkling a little bit but it wasn't unpleasant. I kept seeing the Rip Ride Rockit zooming all around us on its long track, and I couldn't wait to get to the ride! We passed by the Twister ride/show mostly because I thought we must be getting close to the entrance for the rollercoaster. As soon as Ursula saw the 90' vertical launch for the Rockit she volunteered to sit with the stuff while Stitch and I rode. She likes roller coasters but that was a little too much for her and did not look like fun. S and I were almost to the front of the line when the ride shut down. A lot of people left but I was stubborn and made S stay and wait it out with me. We watched a few empty train cars go by and eventually one with a single fearless CM in it (safely testing?), then it was declared safe and we were allowed to board.


After getting buckled in, riders are instructed to choose the music they want to hear being blasted into their headrest during the ride. I chose Kanye West's Stronger and Stitch was forced to listen to something it automatically selected for her because she took too long figuring out what she wanted. I loved this ride! You really do go all over the park and zoom all around. The initial vertical blast off part is probably the worst part, but since you're on your back it's not too bad. Now if it was front-facing, I would have some objections. It was fast and furious though, and parts of my anatomy didn't really want to behave. I had to restrain my girls from flying all over the place! After the ride was over I went and waited to see the ride photo but it never came up-- possibly it was censored by the eagle-eyes on boob patrol.


S was still pretty much a zombie, even after the intensity of the Rockit. What? Glad we got her the non-drowsy version of the meds!


Next up was Shrek 4D. It was a cute enough show, though to be honest I can't remember much about it. My family members bought a few gift things in the dump shop for our little cousins, and we headed out to the character meet and greet. We got some cute pics with Shrek, with Stitch mustering up a tiny smile for the occasion. Ursula wished Donkey was around, but we didn't see him.


We were pretty much done with Universal, and it was going to close soon for the Halloween event anyway. We decided to head over to IoA and Hogsmeade one last time. It was starting to really rain by this time, and since we'd been packing our ponchos with us every day decided it was time to actually use them. They had been an inexpensive purchase at an Alaskan sidewalk sale, and came in a little box with a tiny outdoor survival booklet. “We left them on a nearby ledge in case anyone else should need emergency advice,” Ursula noted.

She went on to speak of her experience, “After 5 minutes I officially hate the poncho. Yes I'm semi-dry, but it is swelteringly hot under that thing. Feet are starting to get wet through crocs n socks. Exceedingly grumpy by the time we'd hiked 3 miles across the parks.”


We stopped briefly for a few pictures with the Hogwarts Express, which was getting ready to leave the station judging from the amount of steam it was putting out. Stitch refused to even fake smile for the camera and Ursula wasn't any too into getting her pic taken either. It was certainly time for some food again, though we didn't want too much as we had a dinner planned back on Disney property. We went into the Three Broomsticks and I sat Ursula at a table while I went to the Hog's Head pub to get us Butterbeers. Stitch went the opposite direction and got an order of fish n chips for us to share, and we arrived back at the table at about the same time and noshed.


Ursula was much less cranky after a little food and was able to escape the “torture garment,” as she called it.


We went on Dueling Dragons--our favorite Potterland ride—twice, once on each side. We all agreed the left side was more fun (is that red? Can't recall, now). The free locker went into overtime and the surly locker elf wouldn't be convinced to let us slide this time. Ursula paid the $3 fine and got our stuff out of locker jail.


We decided to just hang out in Potterland instead of rushing to ride the Hulk Coaster one last time. We only had about 45 minutes to kill, so we wandered around the shops. There was some cube-shaped pineapple candy Ursula wanted to try, and we all bought some souvenir candies at Honeydukes. Stitch and I got our final butterbeers in souvenir mugs while Ursula visited with Moaning Myrtle in the restroom and got some cash from Gringott's. “Too bad I don't really have a vault there. It would help pay for this trip.” We ran into the friendly Hogwarts Express conductor on the way out and posed for a few pictures with him.


We sadly left the Wizarding World, but stopped in Suessland for some retail therapy. Stitch bought herself some cute Grinch pajamas she'd been thinking about since our previous visit.


The walk to the car seemed to take forever, though it probably didn't help that we wanted to stop and look in a lot of the shops on the way out. I found a sale rack with some interesting things on it and bought a few gift type items for people back home.


Our dinner reservations were for Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge's Kidani Village. It was a restaurant I'd insisted we eat at after reading a glowing review. I was also excited to see the animals out in the grasslands, but since it was dark they'd all gone to sleep. It was kind of cool the way it was set up. After checking in and getting our buzzer we followed a long plankway out to a patio in the grassy area, where there was a fire going and rocking chairs all around it. There was a CM who was actually from Africa stationed there, handing out night-vision binoculars and answering questions. I've never used night vision goggles before so that was a neat new experience! Some of the animals were visible, resting in the grass. I would have loved to see them awake, but that was the next best thing. It was also nice and relaxing to sit by the fire, though we had to endure the chatter of other guests instead of having a nice quiet break.


We ended up waiting over an hour for our table, and we were bored and hungry by that time. Our server was nice but the kitchen wasn't putting out the fresh, top quality food that I'd read about. By the time we were done with dinner they had turned on the house lights and were cleaning it up for the night. Not exactly the most welcoming atmosphere. We ordered the dessert our server recommended and it was pretty good. She brought us a small card with the recipe on it which was very nice of her. I think she was ready to get us out of there so she could finish up and be done with her shift for the night though. I was a little bit disappointed, and felt like I'd let my family down since I'd worked so hard to convince them to go there.


Free TiW valet service was wonderful though, and we were glad to have our car brought to us and be on our way back home to Port Orleans. Kind of an underwhelming day in a lot of ways, with a few bursts of fun sprinkled in.


The next day was Epcot and promised to be a lot of fun as we were going to get to meet Remy in the World Showcase!