Wednesday, February 8, 2017

USA Trip - Part 5: Sunshine State - Florida

Day 18
We arrived Orlando in the afternoon and collected our 7-seater Dodge Grand that we've booked earlier and then drove directly to our airbnb accomodation.
Dining + Living Room
Living room with comfy sofa that becomes the bed at night
Laundry Area!!!! Meichi's favourite area! lol
Bedroom 1
En-suite bathroom/toilet
Bedroom 2
Bedroom 3
Bathroom / toilet
We were so super hungry as we did not manage to have a proper meal since morning so we headed straight out for early dinner (Yes! we skipped breakfast and lunch!). Supposed to explore the Orlando city center but we were so tired so we headed back home and called it a day.

Day 19
Orlando city is all about theme parks! We decided to fully stretch our planning and organizing skills today by visiting the two Universal Studios park in one day (Universal Studios + Islands of Adventure)

We visited the newest highlight of the park - Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but this time it's Diagon Alley!
Entrance to the Wizarding World - Brick Wall behind Leaky Cauldron
Gringotts Bank
Dragon on top of Gringotts breathing Fire!!
Frozen butterbeer (Even better than normal butterbeer!)
And the plus side is if we have the park-to-park ticket, we can enjoy on the Hogwarts Express which is a ride itself as it gives us the experience of riding with Harry, Ron and Hermione and even had the trolley lady and dementors! (Sorry for the nerdy wizard talk! hehe). The Hogwarts Express also connected us to the other theme park's Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade!
Hogwarts Express
Hello again, Hogsmeade
Of course besides Harry Potter, there were many nice (and some very scary!) rides in the two parks as well. We had so much fun riding, laughing and screaming our lungs out throughout the 12 hours in the park!
Thinking about our videos taken during the ride still makes me laugh!

Favourite (Must try!) ride of the day was: 
In Universal Studios Orlando
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Harry Potter and the Escape Gringotts
- Transformers: The Ride-3D
- Men In Black: Alien Attack

In Universal's Islands of Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Dragon Challenge
- The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges (wet ride) 
- Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Fall (wet ride) 

Please note that the wet rides in Universals are really WET rides. Not just sprinkle on our skin but fully soaked type. They are really fun though so please take extra set of clothes to change. We didn't know so we had to take those rides at the end of the day!

Day 20
Of course, coming all the way to Florida, how can I not go to Disney World?!
In total, Disney World has 6 theme parks (4 dry parks and 2 water parks) so it's totally not a bizarre when you hear people spending one week just on Disney! Unfortunately, due to limited days (and limited $$$), some of us will be spending 4 days, and others 2 days or 1 day.

After dropping off Aunty and Uncle in a huge shopping outlet, six of us headed straight to our first Disney park - Epcot. We have already bought our tickets earlier online, so we just collected our tickets (which is a card that we will be using for all our entrance tickets to the parks assigned).

Epcot is a theme park featuring futuristic world as well as cultures from all around the world.
The icon of Epcot
Entrance to one of the ride
Mickey Roundabout
Replica of Venice, Italy's Bell Tower & Doge's Palace
Replica of Beijing, China's Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan)
Replica of Egypt's Pyramid
Not only the exterior but the insides were full of details. Whenever we entered the building, it's like we were transported to the other part of the world.
Inside the pyramid - one of the restaurant
Replica of a Norwegian Town
Beautiful sunset
Epcot's icon lighting up at night
Our day ended with a fireworks show!

We even managed to take photos with some of the Disney characters at the end of the day.
It all begins with MICKEY!
all of us looked so un-glam standing next to Minnie Mouse
Goofing around with Goofy
Baymax, your personal healthcare companion
Favourite (Must try!) ride of the day was:
- Soarin'
- Mission: Space (We did the more dizzy level - Orange Level)
- Test Track
- Frozen Ever After

Day 21
The main day for Disney as all 8 of us are visiting the main park which is Magic Kingdom. We spend the whole day living in a fantasy world where 'Dreams Come True' and 'Lived happily ever after'. Nothing but happy memories and feeling like a kid all over again.

Of course, one of the best thing in Magic Kingdom is the parade. So extravaganza! Nothing to say except 'Wow!'! Below are just some of the parade that I managed to capture.
Beauty and the Beast
Cinderella and Prince Charming
Frozen - Anna, Elsa and Olaf
One of my favourite Disney cartoon, Tangled - Rapunzel & Flynn Rider
The Little Mermaid - Ariel
Peter Pan & Captain Hook in Neverland
Merida from Brave
Pinnochio in the theme park
Super cool Dragon from Sleeping Beauty that breathes fire
It was difficult to find a good view for the fireworks display. My friends and I were all separated and I found a small space in between and sandwiched between many people for this spot right in front of the main castle.

Before the fireworks display, there was a Electrical Parade, which really surprised me as the props were so lovely as well.
Electrical Parade Train in front of the castle
Super cute caterpillar
Cinderella arrived on her pumpkin carriage
Prince Charming arrived with part of his castle (the fountain) lol
London's Big Ben!
Peter Pan, Captain Hook and the Lost Boys in his ship
The seven dwarfs with their mines truck
Dragon from Sleeping Beauty. This time it breathes white smoke!
After the Electrical Parade, we thought the fireworks display will begin soon. Then there was a laser light show on the castle. So far, it's my favourite from Magic Kingdom!

You've got to watch this laser light show! Worth the 10 minutes of your life! Here's the video taken by Ting!

After the super nice laser show, the fireworks begin. It was really a blast! So magical indeed!

This was us taking a photo in our accommodation after 3 days of theme park excitements!

Favourite (Must try!) ride of the day was:
- Mickey's PhilharMagic
- Splash Mountain
- Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Peter Pan's Flight

Day 22
It was the day to say farewell to Karen and Donna. They will be moving on to tour for New York. Ting and myself will be staying on to continue our Disney adventure, and the rest will be doing a mini road trip in Florida.

After dropping Karen and Donna off to the airport, the rest of them dropped Ting and me at the Disney's All-Star Sports Resort where we will be spending the night. The rooms were not ready when we checked-in, but the resort keeps our luggage and will even deliver them to our rooms. And to our surprised, when we checked-in, they gave us these personalised wristbands (which are called MagicBands when you are in Disney). The MagicBands were our room keys as well as our theme park tickets (no longer need to use the card). And not only that! Whenever we take a photo with the characters, or have our photo taken during a ride, we can save those photos by touching the MagicBands to a device, and we can retrieved them in my Disney account. Of course there will be a logo blocking part of the picture unless we bought the MemoryMaker album. But still... so cooooool!!!

Oh, luggage tags are just simple luggage tags.

After checked-in, we took the free shuttle to our next theme park of the day - Disney's Hollywood Studio!

The landmark for this themepark is the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, which I think looks like an exact replica!

It was always fun to play the Hollywood Tower of Terror, and even more fun when it's with someone who haven't played it before. I had so much fun watching Ting got shocked! Hahahhahaa

And to our surprise, there were live musical shows and us being fans of broadway, it was such a treat for us!
Beauty and the Beast
We even bought a cocktail drink (not cheap leh!) to enjoy the Frozen Sing-Along, only to realised that drinks was not allowed so we had to gobbled them down at the queue. LOL
We have time to queue for photoshoot with Magic Mickey, Princess Minnie and even Olaf!
Magic Mickey
Princess Minnie
Olaf in his summer dream
At the end of the day, there was laser show in the theme of Star Wars and a smaller scale fireworks display.
Chinese Theater in twilight
Chinese Theater in Star Wars theme
Fireworks display
We took the free shuttle back to our hotel, happy that all our luggages was already waiting in our room. Look at how big is our room! Btw, this was the cheapest room that we managed to get for our stay in one of the Disney resort.

We have two double beds for ourselves! And with only two person, we even filled up the bathtub and soaked our legs in the hot water! We were so pampered that day!

Oh ya, if you ever visit Disney on a special day, you can request from any of the Disney workers for a badge! This was our collection (by telling different staff that we are celebrating different occasions) #KiasuAsians

Favourite (Must try!) ride of the day was:
- Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
- Toy Story Mania!

Day 23
It's the final Disney day. To be honest, I wasn't feeling sick of Disney at this point yet! We checked-out and again left our luggage with the hotel for the day.

Then we took the free shuttle to Animal Kingdom (the last dry park) and again spending the whole day in the theme park. !

The icon for this theme park is Tree of Life, which stood tall in the middle of this theme park.

I think this park was the smallest and has the least rides in my opinion. We even had time to watch our favourite 45 minutes Finding Nemo: The Musical twice! Though I secretly hope we can watch it for the third time....
Replica of Mount Everest
Kilimanjaro Safari Ride
Festival of the Lion King
Finding Nemo: The Musical
I even tried to overcome my fear by touching a snake! Even thinking about it now gives me goosebumps! 
Rafiki from Lion King
Chip & Dale
The day in the park ended with a show on the Tree of Life on animals and the beauty nature, which I think was really cool.
Can you spot the animals on the tree trunk?
My favourite scene on the Tree of Life
Favourite (Must try!) ride of the day was:
- Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Kali River Rapids
- Finding Nemo: The Musical
- Festival of the Lion King

We then took the free shuttle back to the hotel, and then use the bathroom/toilet of the swimming pool area to bathe and changed into clean clothes. MeiChi, Ivy, Uncle and Aunty came to picked us up and we exchange stories of how our two days of Disney adventures, while they share how beautiful was Daytona Beach during their mini road trip. They also get to visit NASA center which I think I would've enjoyed very much too!

We then checked into a random highway motel and called it a day.

Day 24
We drove all the way to Miami with our rented Dodge Grand and checked into our airbnb that we booked just the night before!
Kitchen and living area
Bedroom 1
Bedroom 2 that has a little laundry room
Sharing bathroom/toilet
We had a quick rest and then headed out to do what Miami-ans do - the beach! We specifically googled for nude beach because it would be fun to tick this off the bucket list. LOL We decided to go to Haulover Beach for this experience.

Unfortunately, it was drizzling and really cloudy, so there was NO ONE in Haulover Beach. Really unlucky!

We ended up in South Beach which was also really quiet.

But since we were in Miami already, we got into our swimsuits and pose for photos also!

After the sun sets, we headed off to have a nice Cuban dinner to compensate our unlucky day in Miami.

And then it's beer and games in the room!

Day 25
It was another rainy day so we had brunch and then drove around old Miami city before stopping in a mall to kill some time. Then we grabbed some Shake Shack burgers and milkshake before heading towards the airport to return to Chicago in our evening flight.

When we reached Chicago, the weather changed drastically! Raining and thick jackets are needed, no more wearing shorts! Now the REAL windy city was shown!

Day 26
Remember that skydive rain-check that we took in Chicago a week ago? So our plans was to try our luck again on this day. Too bad the weather got worse and was very cloudy and even rained. But we still drove our way to Wisconsin and checked-in with Skydive Midwest. We left our number and asked them to call us we can proceed with the jump while we headed off to the nearby Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlet for our final shopping in the States. 

Our plan was to be near the skydiving center so that we can jump once the weather cleared, but as we shopped in the premium outlet, we can only see the weather got worse.
Super dark sky
We ended up really spending the whole day in the shopping outlet instead. But it was still fun as there were so many stuff on sales! We even headed back to Chicago Shopping Outlet and zoomed around looking like crazy shopaholics because we only had one hour before the shop closes!

Our final dinner in Chicago was our favourite Mexican food. We had to have authentic tacos before we leave! We even had margaritas for each of us!

Day 27
Just like that, our four weeks holiday in USA has come to an end. Months and months of planning and it was time to say goodbye.

That's the end of my 2016 USA trip (and damage on my bank account). Time to work hard for the next holiday!

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