Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Few Days in Orlando

When my proposal to present at the International Writing Centers Association/National Conference on Peer Tutoring joint conference was accepted this summer, I knew I had to find a way to get to Orlando, FL and make it happen. Coming to Orlando and staying at a Disney resort was expensive, but I knew this conference would help me make great connections and give me tons of ideas for improving the MC writing center. Luckily, I won a professional development award and a grant to cover my funding, and this conference did not disappoint. I am leaving here with so many ideas and goals, and it was a great experience to present at my second ever national conference.

I taught all my classes Wednesday morning, and I left for Orlando on Wednesday afternoon. My mom was able to meet me in Orlando, and it was so nice to have the company. We were able to get some special half day park tickets, so we could check out the theme parks after I attended presentations. I fit in so much in the last few days that I don't really know how I did it, but I know it involved getting up very early and staying up very late. I am so tired!

I took some pictures from our theme park adventures. I haven't been to the Orlando theme parks in two years and ten months, so there were some new to me rides to check out. I know I've been to Disney World at least seven times now, but this could have been my eighth trip even. I LOVE theme parks.

EPCOT had their Food and Wine Festival going on, and they were staying open the latest on Thursday, so we checked it out. Mom and I loved all the delicious wine, beer, and food we could sample for a small fee. There weren't any new to us rides here, but we enjoyed doing all our old favorites like Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, Mission Space, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends...we did the single rider line for Test Track and went again and again. We didn't bother with Soarin'. I know that is one of EPCOT's big rides, but I don't think it's worth the 55 minute line. We ended the day at the World Showcase and tried a new restaurant for dinner: Tokyo Dining. I still like the Moroccan restaurant at EPCOT best (I've also dined at Coral Reef), but I always like to try new places and Tokyo Dining was good.

The fireworks were an awesome way to end the night.

This is my first time staying at a Disney Resort, and I must say, I do appreciate the free transportation between the resort and the theme parks. Plus, I could get used to life around here:

On Friday, we made time to check out Universal Studios and Universal Island's of Adventure. It was Halloween, so things were getting spooky at the park:

Of course, the main draw was the new Harry Potter ride, Escape from Gringotts. Plus the addition of Diagon Alley, and the addition of the Hogwart's Express train ride, which all opened this past summer. To ride the train, you have to get a dual park ticket. This will set you back $136, but, in my opinion, it's worth it. Universal overlooks no details. The photos don't do any of it justice: seeing is to feel totally immersed in the world. I literally squealed with delight.

This dragon breathes fire.
 Platform 9 and 3/4

I saw the Hogwart's side of the park in January of 2012, but it is still just as cool.

So, I have to be totally honest: the new ride is NOT as good as the forbidden forest ride. It was still really fun though. Universal is also having a lot of technical difficulties with the ride. Hopefully, they'll fix the problems. The line for the new ride is just as amazing as the line for forbidden forest. While that line takes you through Hogwarts, this one takes you through Gringott's bank, complete with goblins that look just like those from the movie. It was incredible. Again, the detail that Universal puts into these "sets" is unbelievable. DEFINITELY use the single rider's line. Mom and I were in and out in 15 minutes both times, as opposed to others, who waited 105 minutes! We also ended up right next to each other the second time around. The Hogwart's Express is not a thrill ride, but it is really imaginative, creative, and amazing. The train takes riders between the two parks, and there are two different stories, depending on which direction you are headed. It looked just like in the movie.

Other new rides I rode at Universal Studios included Transformers and Despicable Me. Despicable Me replaced Jimmy Neutron and has exactly the same model and concept (you sit in a row of moving seats and watch a 3D movie while the seats move with the movie). It was cute and fun. Transformers has the same kind of model as Spider Man (an actual ride with set and film), but it isn't as fun as Spider Man. Transformers again has a single rider line. Use it. We hardly waited in lines all day.

In addition to the new stuff, we rode the usual suspects, many of them twice each: The Mummy, Spider Man, Men in Black, Forbidden Forest, Storm, Cat in the Hat, the Star Belled Sneetches...Jurassic Park got us really wet, so I figured I couldn't get wetter on the Ripsaw Falls. I went alone, as Mom wasn't game. I was really, really, really soaked by the end of this ride..cue buying a completely new outfit:

Photo I emailed to Bren

Oh well, you only live once.

Today, I went to the conference all day and presented, and then mom and I ate dinner at the resort. We are now watching Hocus Pocus on TV. It was a wonderful trip, but I'm ready to get home to Brendan tomorrow. We are hardly ever apart, so four nights is a really long time to go without seeing him. We definitely have been talking three times a day since I left: we are that couple. I can't wait to be in his arms.

I'm going to try and enjoy the rest of my weekend, even though tomorrow involves getting up super early and taking two flights. At least we get an extra hour tomorrow, and I will have tons of use for mine. I'm so thankful that I got to attend this conference, and I'm grateful for the substitutes that helped my students on Friday too.

I hope your Halloween week was as magical as mine!
<3 S

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