runDisney Tips and Tidbits

So, you want to run Disney. Congrats!

Many runners often start their journeys at one of the races that are offered at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, or Disneyland in California. No matter the location, there are some written and unwritten rules about navigating the landscape that should be established and researched prior to toeing the line. Some may seem obvious, others may be total news to you. Whether you’re running your first 5K or 25th marathon, these rules of the road from myself and other runDisney veterans will hopefully make your experience more enjoyable.

The 25th anniversary of Marathon weekend is coming up fast, and I posed the question to runDisney Twitter of what advice would you provide before racing. I have compiled my advice and that of others here in this post. This list is not all inclusive, as it would take months to compile an exhaustive document.

Take some of this with a grain of salt, as it may come off with a sarcastic tone. You’ve been informed.

Grab a snack and take notes…

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Christina’s List of runDisney Tidbits and Advice:

-The Expo can be nuts. Be prepared by printing out your waiver, signing it, and having proper ID before coming to your booth. It expedites the process. Printers are available on site if you need them.

-If you’re planning on heading to the parks at any point during the race weekend, be aware that it is still peak season. Holiday décor will be abundant and many schools may  still be on break. Get your Fastpasses and ADRs early, and be prepared for long wait times at favorite attractions. Bring a book, magazine, and a spare phone charger.

-Bear in mind that runners of all nationalities will be descending into FL. Some of them do not understand the concept of runner’s etiquette and personal space, and can come off as brash and rude. (It’s part of their culture.) Deal with them however you need to; just don’t go to jail. That’s a lot of registration money down the drain if you do so.

-If you get hurt in training, or and think pixie dust will get you through the race, you’re sadly mistaken. If you are injured, you are taking a huge risk by furthering said injury on the course. Listen to your body.

-Don’t gorge yourself on too much sugar-laden park food or alcohol before you race. A drink or a treat is fine. Save the bottle of wine and Kitchen Sinks for after.

-Be prepared for ANY kind of weather. 2017 saw a cold front move through during race weekend, causing various weather patterns (10K was rain, half was cancelled due to storms), leading into wind and freezy ice cold for the full. Florida, surprisingly, is more than sand and sun! At least there won’t be any hurricanes during this time.

-Wear sunscreen, no matter what the weather is. I underestimated the amount of sun on 2017 marathon day, despite the 35 degree temps and 15 mph winds, and ended up with a nice burn.

-Sleep is good for the soul, ESPECIALLY if you’re doing Goofy or Dopey. Don’t let FOMO keep you from achieving your rest. Trust me, you’re not missing much.

-For the love of crap, don’t wear your “I Did It” shirt WHILE ON THE RACE COURSE RACING THE DISTANCE ADVERTISED ON YOUR SHIRT. You will get so many side eyes, you’ll be running through a sea of eyeballs.

-Leave earlier than anticipated if you’re driving. I panic if I know I’m running late, and much prefer driving in early so I can avoid traffic chaos.

-Nothing new on race day. The ONLY exception is for those things which you have been training with. For example: socks. I prefer a fresh pair of Thorlos Experia socks on race morning; I have been using them for five years and they  fit the best right out of the package.

-To prevent foot chafing, slather them up with Vaseline before putting on your socks.

-You’ll be hanging out in the corrals a LOT longer than you may realize, especially if you’re in the back. Bring throwaway clothes and hand warmers because you will start to get cold.

-If you are a female and take gels before racing, stick one in your sports bra. It’ll be toasty warm and delicious by consumption time.

-Balloon ladies are not to be feared. They’re very encouraging and are on your side—they want you to finish!! They start after the LAST runner crosses the start line. Then the game is on.

-First couple miles are just mass hoards of runners jockeying for position. Bring your patience. Watch for those runners who are not educated in runner’s etiquette and suddenly stop in the middle of the road while doing intervals without signaling.

-More miles than not are on long, lonely stretches of highway.

-If you plan on social media-ing during a race, your photos, statuses, and tweets will take a LOT longer to upload because of the concentration of runners in one location trying to do the same thing.

-If you plan on listening to music during the race, don’t blare your tunes so loud that you can’t hear your surroundings.

-If you plan on taking pictures, put your phone into airplane mode to conserve battery.

-Ladies-it’s okay to pee in the men’s room. Just announce that a lady is coming in and do your business. Hint: no one cares.

-Cinderella castle truly is the wretched bottleneck that race veterans talk about. Everyone stops and slogs through because there are photopass photographers taking pictures just on the other side. Here’s a hint—keep running through, and if you really want a castle pic, come back post-race and do a medal shot.

-Speaking of post-race medal shots, there are more photographic places around WDW to this at. Cinderella Castle is okay, but get creative! No one like the same boring shot at the same place clogging their media feeds.

-Cone Alley(s) are worse than Cindy Castle. There are several on the marathon route, guarded and watched by local police. Do NOT try to run on the other side of these. You will get caught, possibly pulled from the course, possibly hit by another vehicle (as it IS reserved for emergency vehicles).

-Speaking of EMS vehicles, it is entirely possible that you will hear sirens and/or see lights at some point during the race. Stay alert of your surroundings and get the hell out of the way. If someone has dropped on the course, time is of the essence. If someone is engrossed in their headphones, get them out of the way.

-Mile 8-9 is by the Grand Flo, and you’ll be hit with a blast of sun, provided that the sun wants to make an appearance.

-Upon entering AK, there may be cute fuzzy animals to pet 🙂

-If you have the time to ride Expedition Everest (around mile 14) and aren’t motion sensitive to coasters, go nuts. It’ll add a little time, but worth it for the bragging rights later.

-Miles 15-22 of the marathon are long and stupid and boring.

-WWOS (16-19) is a 5K of dumbfuckery and disappointment. Majority of runners hate this winding loop of torture.

-Running through World Showcase is incredible. Torches are lit, spectators are aplenty…and if you get there after 11am, you will have access to purchase alcoholic goodness. Just make sure to bring a form of payment. Favorites include:

-Grey Goose Slushie from France
-Beer Flight from UK (and turkey legs)
-More beer from Germany (and jumbo pretzels)
-Margaritas from Mexico
-Possibly wine from China/France

-Reminder: course officials have the jurisdiction to sweep at ANY point in the race. Don’t think that once you hit DHS that you’re safe. There’s no such thing as a “safe point” in a runDisney race. They can pull at any time.


RunDisney Twitter’s Contributions:

Emily (@iRunForDisney): “Any good suggestions for spectator spots during the marathon? Some midway location people could go and then make it to the finish line in time to see the runner cross?”

“Hogwarts running club has a sign that says, ‘No, we aren’t in the wrong park?’ around Mile 4 for the half, I think!” -Lauren (@wvumello_out)
“The Animal Kingdom parking lot is a great midway spot, giving you an hour/couple of hours to get over to the end of the race, depending upon your runner’s speed.” -Eric (@ericasco)

“My fam always does Main Street, DAK and Epcot! They work harder than I do! LOL.”
“Plan your bathroom breaks, so you don’t have to use the portas!!”
-Ian (@BazTastic77)

“Cheering at the Magic Kingdom is just amazing. I was able to get there before the first runner came through and stayed all the way for the last. Then I headed to EPCOT and cheered with Team Margarita and then scooted to the finish line! A great day indeed!” -Kristen (@DisneyKrstn)

“@MissusSmith and the kid stood in the hub and then moved over to Liberty Sq. to catch us after we exited the castle.” -Chris (@DopeyRunr)

“The boardwalk by Jellyrolls is also a good (and not at all usually crowded) spot, and gives you enough time to get to the finish line after seeing your runner(s) there.” -Heather (@MissusSmith)

“Don’t try to PR!
Wear a costume!
Stop for photos!
Get there EARLY!” -@Team Shenanigans

“Riding Everest during the marathon is a MUST!”
“If you don’t like port o potties, look at the course to see what bathrooms you can use in each park.” -Jess (@loveWDW5)

“You can use the bathrooms in the parks. Nicer than a port-o-potty!” -Erin (@mulderist)

“Bring money/credit card/Magic Band to buy some food/drink on your way to the finish (or have a cheer squad help you w/purchase).”
“Don’t be afraid to go slightly off course to use bathrooms while waiting for characters in (the) park. Strangers are usually kind enough to hold your spot if you ask.” -Sarah (@essaysareayaitch)

“Hydrate, and don’t eat at Ohana the night before a race.” -Ryan (@rteetz)

“Don’t be a rude asshole? Like walking five across, stopping suddenly without warning, etc.? I feel like we can do better spreading the word.” -Elizabeth (@TrainWithBain)
“Also, some stretches where even two across can cause problems, as the route is about 2.8 people wide.” -Eric (@ericasco)

“Don’t be a jerk to other runners just because they are different than you (slower, walking, stopping for characters). Don’t walk (or run, people always put this on just walkers) more than 3 across so people can’t pass.” -Heather (@heatherw25)
“And be cognizant of whether there’s another group that is also two abreast right next to you, so that it doesn’t look like you are a group of 4 (or more) to others.” -Sarah (@essaysareayaitch)
“Yeah that’s a big issue where you get 12 people abreast on Osceola all walking the same pace even tho they’re not together – it’s still the same thing. Move over!” -Chris (@DopeyRunr)

“They give out chocolate at DHS for the marathon.”
“If you’re doing a challenge, get your legs in the pool after your races to help reduce inflammation.”
“Get a resort room near the lobby/elevator.”
“The toll booths going into the MK area are NOT bathrooms, even if it is dark in the early morning…Wait until the TTC/Tomorrowland depending on urgency.” -Eric (@ericasco)

“Whatever time you think you need to get up, get up half an hour earlier.” -Holly, Jolly Horizons (@horizons1983)

“Bring tissues in case {they’re} needed in the portapotty.” -Heather (@heatherw25)
“Wet ones in a baggie, often referred to as a sh*t kit.” -Chris (@DopeyRunr)


If you have anything to add to the running list, list it below!

Universal Orlando Fun Run 5K Recap

It was a very early Saturday morning when I woke up  for the company fun run. Having slept about three hours the night before (on top of taking two flights back from DC), I knew the run wasn’t going to be decent. I had the goal of breaking sub :30 in the 5K, and thought this race would be the one to do it.

I hadn’t run since Marine Corps; I walked a lot at work! But mileage at work doesn’t substitute well for legitimate racing miles.

Anyway.

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The field was slightly more than 1,000, which was perfect. The announcers were asking for competitive runners to be in the front, slightly less competitors in the middle, and walkers/strollers in the back. I thought this was very fair. I lined up near the front, still with that sub :30 on my mind.

At 6AM, we counted down and raced through the gates to Islands of Adventure!

 

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All of my pictures are going to be horrendously dark until the end. 

 

The course was very windy, as we alternated from onstage and offstage/backstage areas often. We were in the presence of our most majestic attractions, such as Hulk, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Poseidon’s Fury, and Hogwarts Castle!

I started out fantastically, with my first quarter of a mile hovering around 2:30. I slowed for a quick walk interval, then started back up again. The route ran through Marvel: Superhero Island, and the characters began. I never stop for characters in runDisney races, but seeing as there were very few people comparatively doing this race, I felt it obligatory to stops for some characters:

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Comic Book Strip and Toon Lagoon were next:

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Then Jurassic Park and Hogsmeade!

 

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Frog Choir!

 

Even with character stops, my first mile was around 13 minutes. Not bad.

To clarify, this was a non-chipped race. Nothing is officially official, and I’m going off of my watch data.

We ran out of Hogsmeade and through The Lost Continent. All of the decorations were on as we traversed through Seuss Landing.

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Hooking a left out of Seussland, we started the ever-so-boring backstage portion.

Soon, we were in Universal Studios Florida, and the second half of the race!

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I took it easy and just absorbed the emptiness of the park, along with the decorations. It was sooo relaxing to take in the scenery without guests or a ton of runners. It was a relatively quiet race (no spectators, either, since the park hadn’t opened up at that point).

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My pace had slowed down even more, but I was suprisingly okay with it. I was just on the lookout for the next character stop!

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By the time I finished the race (51:25), I had a PR for character stops with 11.

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I met up with some of my attractions team and we proceeded through the breakfast line, which is better than any recovery box I’ve ever received.

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All in all, a good day for my first and only 5K of the year!

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Florida Life Update

So here we are, halfway through August and closing in on the final months of 2017. I’ve been down here in Florida for a little over a month, and I will be perfectly honest: it’s been difficult, and embarrassing. You would think that by the age of 30, I’d have my shit figured out. Alas, here I sit, still unemployed and getting rejections or silence from 98% of the places I’ve applied. (I’ve had one interview for a restaurant, but it was kind of sketchy. I still have to wait “a week or two” to even get a reply, so I’m not optimistic.) 

With my lack of income and current unemployment being the largest percentage of my stress, my depression has also resurged. The clear lack of communication coupled with the sheer stupidity of the “submit resume/retype everything in the resume in this database” method of applying for jobs results in these thoughts being implanted in my mind that I am apparently unworthy of being employed despite having a Masters and transferrable skills to fill almost any position. Some days it is very hard to justify getting out of bed, much less leave where I’m currently staying just to take a walk and get some fresh air. My enthusiasm for things that typically make me happy has waned. I haven’t had a solid workout in months, and I have had to defer Chicago until 2018. I am still on track for Marine Corps in late October, and with two months to go, I could make a comeback. But again, not being employed makes things nervewracking…what if they don’t give me those days off for a race I’ve planned for months? Not being 100% certain that I will end up racing deters me from even training, with the thoughts of, “Why bother training if I won’t be able to run?” constantly screaming in my head.

*sigh*

Even though “Struggle Bus” is the title of this chapter, and despite the ongoing depression, there have been some highlights:


-“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” -Coco Chanel

I finally got my hair cut! The last time I had my hair touched was in Fall 2015, so this was long overdue. I don’t mind having long hair, but once it hits a certain length, it just gets annoying to deal with.

And I got side bangs as an even bigger change! Haven’t had those since the fifth grade.


-Chris and I had date night a couple weeks ago at the Leu Gardens. They had an outdoor movie theatre so we settled in to watch La La Land. We got there relatively early, and I immediately saw why: there were SO many people picnicking on the lawn prior to the show! It was a very fun way to bring the community out for an evening. I’d definitely go again!

The gardens themselves are beautiful, and definitely worth getting lost in for a couple of hours.


-I’ve been to Universal a couple of times, and to City Walk a couple times for food; it’s been a nice distraction from my personal life, and what’s been going on in the world. (It helps to have connections for tickets.) If you ever have to ask someone why they are always going to Disney or Universal or whatever theme park, they will probably respond with this. It is a happy place for many of us, a land of hyperreality where we can use our imaginations and get away for a little while.


-Even though there is only one season in Florida, that’s not stopping the local craft stores from bringing out the autumn decor a month and change early! When I was in grad school, I would go to the nearest Michaels and spend hours in there just looking at all the pretty things and imagining what my house will look like…if I ever get to buy one…


-It is also the most wonderful time of the year: back to school season! I get the biggest rush when I step into a store and see all the new supplies lining the shelves and smell freshly sharpened pencils and a box of Crayolas. I’ve been out of academia (unfortunately) for two years now, but the excitement is still there. I have to really resist buying a new notebook and a fresh pack of pens. I have also been tinkering around with ideas for a college lifestyle series, so that may pan out in the future after I finish with the Studies in Wanderlust series.

I was in Walmart, browsing the cosmetics aisle as usual, when I found this collaborative display between Crayola and Sally Hansen!

The colors are vibrant and will take you right back to your childhood! I personally like the Carnation Pink the best.

You can also check out the entire collection on Sally Hansen’s website.


So there’s an update for now. Hopefully things will start to turn around by the time I write another Weekly Review for you all. Enjoy your weekend! xoxo

White House Black Market 👗👠

I don’t consider myself a fashionista by any means. I prefer plain, solid colors and classic staples in my wardrobe. Simplicity and comfort are two keys…hence why I’m often found sporting athletic wear and shirts from all my races.

One of my favorite past times, especially when I was in graduate school at Edinboro, was driving to the mall (Millcreek Mall in Erie, PA), grabbing a coffee, and window shopping. It was a wonderful distraction from the stress of academia, and more often than not, didn’t buy anything. That didn’t stop me from smelling all the candles at Yankee Candle, though! 

Chris was playing tour guide for me the other day as he was showing me around the malls around Orlando. We headed to the Mall at Millenia, which is a bit more upscale than what I’m used to. It includes a lot of the stores that I fawn over in preppy magazines, like Brooks Brothers and Vineyard Vines, so it’s definitely a win in my book! (I have an obsession over the preppy lifestyle, but that’s a post for a different day.)

There is a southern-based store called White House Black Market, and we stopped in there for a quick looksee. I am always on the hunt for those classic wardrobe staples, and I spotted this LBD almost instantly. Chris insisted that I try it on (he’s a pro photographer and always looking for cute things for me to try!), so I did.

Result: A very Audrey Hepburn-ish look…

I slipped it on and fell completely in love with the cut. It fit like a dream, and is definitely on my #goals list when I finally land a job!

Chris spotted this necklace and had me pair it. I hate gold jewelry, but I have to admit, this combination looked really sharp.

Specs: I’m 5’5″ and roughly 140 lbs with broad shoulders. I’m wearing a size four. No complaints 🙂

If you’re searching for a LBD to add to your wardrobe, I would highly recommend this one!

P.S. It has pockets!!

WHBM Sources: Dress || Necklace

30th Birthday Disney Adventures!! 💖✨🎀

June 19th was The Day.

I turned thirty. The big 3-0.

And I was going to Disney World. WOOHOO!

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The plan was to do Animal Kingdom first (because Avatar-Land), then hop over to EPCOT. We didn’t make it quite in time for rope drop, and I had issues getting my printed ticket to scan and converted to a normal ticket, but eventually everything got situated. AND I got a Disney birthday button at guest services! Woot!

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Chris and I headed over to Pandora first and jumped in the FP line for Na’vi River Journey. The standby line was at 40 minutes, but we were in and out in ten minutes. While the ride was gorgeous, it was waaaaay too short. Honestly, if you’re waiting in standby and that wait time is over twenty minutes, it’s really not worth the wait.

We had some time to kill before our Everest FPs, so we hit up the Satu’li Canteen for breakfast! Their menu focuses on American cuisine, and I settled on the cinnamon French toast and some coffee. Oh my goodness…absolutely delicious. And there was hardly anyone in the restaurant! I HIGHLY recommend going for breakfast if you get the chance.

Once happily full of food, we hopped on Expedition Everest (and reconfirmed my hatred for roller coasters). Happy to say we didn’t spew on the ride 😛

Since this was my second legitimate time in AK (first visit being in 2010), and I wasn’t running a marathon, we took our time walking around and exploring…and, of course, taking pictures of the Tree of Life carvings.

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We were also keeping an eye on the wait time for Flight of Passage (which was at 180 minutes and fluctuating because of something or other going down). Chris and I have a pact that unless a ride time is quoted at less than 120 minutes, we won’t stand in line. To kill some more time, we headed to Festival of the Lion King (my first viewing!). The line was extraordinary, and we were one of the lucky last 35 that snuck in for standing room.

After Festival, we headed to FOP, which had gone down to a 115 minute wait. I had been apprehensive about potentially spending so much time waiting, but we entered the queue at 12:00 on the nose, and found ourselves going through the pre-ride sections at a blazing speed. (I think the notification of the ride going down deterred a lot of people from sticking around.) Once inside, we were surrounded by bioluminescent beauty:

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Then we got to the lab attraction in the queue, where the actual avatar is located:

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At one point, the cast members came on the speakers and reminded everyone to, “Please fill in the available space to keep the wait times down.” It was THIS ROOM that we observed people just standing around taking pictures and not moving. There was a massive gap between the small section of people near us and the rest of the line. I’m not sure if families were planning their reunion pictures in this room or what, but for the sake of sanity and respect to the other hundred people behind you, quit holding up the line with your paparazzi tendencies.

The ride itself: fantastic. It’s like Soarin’, but you’re on the back of an individual banshee. (It’s like riding a motorcycle, honestly.) If you have a fear of heights…well, there’s a lot of height-related things on this attraction. Tip: look straight ahead and not straight down. It won’t be as scary.

Time entering the queue: 12:00 PM. Time done with the ride: 1:07 PM. Total time = 67 minutes. Win.

I definitely had to get a new Disney mug to commemorate the weekend, and I settled on the Floating Mountains mug. This is definitely the most creative and intricate mug in my collection!

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We headed back to the Satu’li Canteen for lunch. Couldn’t resist! My lunch ended up being dessert:

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Blueberry cream cheese mousse.

Also, on your birthday, you get a birthday cupcake!

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Birthday cupcakes FTW.

It was a tad more crowded for lunch, but we still found seats inside. This was another win, as it had started pouring outside (and we didn’t have proper rain gear). We monitored the radar and enjoyed our food as the heaviest rain subsided. Then we took off for the parking lot for the second half of our adventures in EPCOT!

Along the way, we passed under a bridge, and the musicians started an improvised version of “Happy Birthday” for me. Normally I’d be scared shitless by being serenaded to, because I don’t like attention and I hate the song with a burning passion, but I rolled with it and it was a lovely time had by all.


EPCOT

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By the time we got to EPCOT, it alternating between drizzling and raining. We camped out in the parking lot for a bit to dry off from AK and to determine what we were going to do. Chris somehow, some way, scored FPs for Frozen. We planned our first three hours around that, starting with a visit to Club Cool.

Did you know you get a free slushy on your birthday?!

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We hit up Soarin’, Living with the Land, and the Pixar Shorts before heading to World Showcase. We spent a bit of time in China exploring; there is an exhibit about Shanghai Disneyland that caught our attention, and now we want to go!

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We doubled back to Mexico and had dinner…

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We started traversing the rest of World Showcase and got as far as Italy before it was time to turn around again and head to Norway for Frozen! En route, we got notice that the ride broke down and it stayed broken for the rest of the night. Bummer.

We made up for it by heading to Spaceship Earth (a classic!), and our running friend, Ian, showed up to EPCOT! That was a nice birthday surprise! We went back through World Showcase in the opposite direction (to grace the other lonely countries with our presence, haha), and stopped in Italy for gelato before Illuminations!

I had missed out on Illuminations the last couple of times I’ve been to EPCOT, and I wasn’t about to miss it again. We camped out by Norway (torch 3 is a great viewing spot) and watched the show:

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We agreed that the speedboats need a feature. Maybe an illuminated “Thanks for Watching Reflections of Earth” banner as they speed around the lagoon?

It was a fantastic way to kick off my next decade. Here’s to another thousand circles ’round the sun, and many shenanigans to come.

spaceship earth

30th Birthday Eve: Universal Orlando

So Sunday rolls about and Chris and I wake up extra early to head to Universal Orlando! The park didn’t open until 9AM, so we meandered a little and I got my obligatory Starbucks. It was really nice being able to walk around and not be bumping into people. The crowds during the entire time I was down there were very manageable and not insane. Perfect for pre-peak season!

We had collaborated ideas on what to do prior to my FL arrival, and we agreed to hit up Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and the Jimmy Fallon rides first, as their wait times typically aggrandized very early on. Additionally, we popped into Shrek between attractions and the Beverly Hills Boulangerie for pastries.

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Universal Orlando is filled full of fun photo ops and I couldn’t resist putting a camera to my face as we made our way towards Diagon Alley:

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Diagon Alley

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We jetted over to Hogsmeade and Islands of Adventure next, under threats of rain. The cloudy skies made the summer day more bearable, as did the whopping fifteen minute queue for the Hogwarts Express!

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The train ride over is one of my absolute favorite parts of all of Universal Orlando.

 

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“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” -J.K. Rowling

Our wait time for Forbidden Journey was also super short, around 10 minutes. (How were we getting so lucky with these short wait times?!) We dined over in the Three Broomsticks after, and I got my Butterbeer and the rotisserie smoked chicken platter. Soooo delicious.

 

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Castle picture! 😀

 

After foods, we headed through Jurassic Park land en route to Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

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The wait was around 90 minutes, and the last time we had waited for this ride, it broke down. So we decided to try our luck. The queue was inside and out of the sun, and windy as it went around the walls of skulls and around the turnstiles and around this and that.   The ride did experience delays while they added an additional car to the lineup, so it was a good wait to get the queue moving faster. There are some jump scares in the darker parts of the waiting area. (The group behind me were so rude and screechy and kept pushing into me…I gave them several death glares and Chris flat out told them to knock it off. Trust me, I was two seconds away from summoning security. Lesson: mind your space.)

The ride itself is 3-D and you get glasses. You’re riding around in a Humvee-style vehicle deep in the jungle as you encounter the battle between dinosaurs, bugs (the bees are scary as hell. Don’t look if you have a fear. Trust me, I didn’t!), slugs, Kong himself…

Your Humvee is rattled and rocked in time with the ride, which is on two screens: one of the left and one on the right. Out of the battle scene, you’re slowly rolled around and come literally face to face with the beast himself…then you’re back at home base.

I honestly thought the ride was kind of a snooze. Definitely not worth 90+ minutes of waiting. While I could appreciate the aesthetics and concept behind it, it’s not the ride for me. Definitely a one-and-done.

And on we continued. At this point there were storms on radar, and it was starting to drizzle. This didn’t deter us from enjoying our day!

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Once out of IOA, we circled back around again to the front and went back to Diagon Alley! My cousin decided to surprise me a couple hours prior and told me to, “Go get yourself a wand for your birthday!” So off to Ollivanders!

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Ollivander’s was a madhouse as witches and wizards of all ages scrambled around, opening boxes, trying to find their perfect wand. I checked out every wand they had, character and non-character alike. After much debate…

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…I settled for Narcissa Malfoy’s wand. Out of all the wands there, the hilt of this one was the coolest.

 

Now off to make some magic happen!

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After Diagon round 2, we walked around Springfield and SpongeBob Storepants. (We wanted to go on the E.T. ride but it had broken down. Sad day.)

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Chris and I capped the night at Finnegan’s Irish pub, and saying a quick hello to my fellow chapter brothers Katy and Jacob at the Bob Marley restaurant in City Walk. (BTW, they got engaged the next day! Congrats to them!)

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Next up: 30th Birthday in Disney World!

Changes in Latitude…

I kicked off my birthday vacation by heading to Universal Orlando’s City Walk. I’ve been wanting to visit Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for quite some time, and finally got the chance to do so! 

While I didn’t dine there, I did soak in the atmosphere and fawned over almost everything in the gift shop. ☀️🌴

Title of my Autobiography