Theme Parks Are The One-Night-Stands of Summer Activities.
They’re fun while you’re there, but in the morning all you’re left with is a sore neck and a missing wallet.
*If you don’t care for my blather or haphazard iPhone pictures, feel free to skip to the end for my quick-and-dirty tips for visiting theme parks.
Okay. I’m about to admit something to you that might make me seem like a lame-o stick in the mud, but here goes:
I Do Not Enjoy Theme Parks.
That actually felt kind of good. Like an AA meeting, except instead of for alcoholics, this one’s for people who don’t enjoy things that most normal people enjoy, like Saturday nights at the movie theater. And in-home jewelry sale parties. And French toast.
My name is Katie, and I do not enjoy theme parks.
I do not enjoy theme parks because they are noisy, they are smelly, they are hot, and they usually involve longer lines than the DMV on a Monday afternoon and let me just tell you something right now: roller coasters have fallen a long way since I was a kid. The designing of coasters used to be an art form, you know. And I suppose it still is, but where the coasters of yore were designed to induce suspense — an intense build-up of adrenaline followed by a euphoric release and then, if it was really good, another rickety, knee-trembling, do-you-think-we’re-going-to-make-it-out-of-this-alive? kind of moment before another stomach dropping plummet.
But now? Now they’re about speed. And vomit. And G-force. And vomit. And, hey. I like a little danger as much as the next adrenaline junky, but honestly — the only exciting build-up on these puppies is the two hours you wait in line, followed by the shaky moment you make the mind-numbing decision to remove your flip-flops and tuck them safely under your butt so they don’t fly off into the murky depths of a theme park pond. That’s it. Everything else is just a blur. Especially if you’re on one of the coasters designed so your feet are dangling into the air because you can’t actually see anything up ahead of you.
Basically, all you get anymore is a 45-second, non-stop terror-fest where, when the thing comes to a sudden halt at the end, all you can think is, Get me the eff off of this thing and where the eff are my shoes?
The art of suspense has been lost, you see. And I can’t decide whether that says something negative about the next generation or my own. The next generation wants everything now, now, now, but it’s my generation that’s enabling it.
Not a huge fan of theme parks.
But we went to one last week because, really. Who gets a free timeshare in Orlando and doesn’t go to a theme park? Well, I wouldn’t. Except my hunky geek of man meat is a huge Harry Potter fan and we happened to be near a place that proclaimed he’d be able to walk through the village of Hogsmeade and drink butter beer and gaze up at Hogwarts Castle with wonder and excitement, and I’ll admit —
— most of that was actually true.
By heading to Shades of Green, the Armed Forces Recreation Center at Disney World the day before, we were able to procure free tickets for Justin and Pedro, both active-duty service members, to get into both parks at Universal Studios. My ticket cost $88 for just Islands of Adventure within Universal (gotta love how they split it into two parks so you have to buy two tickets), but knowing my low-level theme park tolerance, we figured just the one would be enough.
And judging by our full day of excitement requiring exactly two poolside piña coladas back at the resort just to come down from the high, it totally was:
Those of you who followed along during our Day of Adventure on Facebook got a live-preview of the shot above, right before we embarked on the air trolley that gently glides through Seuss Landing.
See, Missy and Justin were the token weak-bellies of our group and were ready to slow things down. Yep. The main guy who talked us into going to a theme park doesn’t even like roller coasters (though he was a total sport and rode the Dragon Challenge with me in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter).
Did my opinion of theme parks change after our day of fun?
Not really. I still think they’re over-priced with really bad food and too many long lines. (Hey. If I’m going to pay $7 for a hot dog — and believe me I’ve spent more than that before because I love them — I expect it to be exceptional.)
But am I glad we went?
Absolutely. See, while I bitch and moan about the state of roller coasters today, there’s one type of ride I was never subjected to as a kid — the virtual reality ride. And here, I went on two: The 3-D Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and let me tell you, my friends, my life has been changed. Look. I can’t say much because that Harry Potter ride was pretty much indescribable. All I can say is that I basically got to fly a broomstick on a Quidditch field and got spit on by giant spiders and fought a fire-breathing dragon and I actually felt the heat.
Way. WAY. Cool.
Even the line was kind of fun once it wound its way inside the castle.
All-in-all? I’d definitely do it again.
And here are my quick-and-dirty tips if you’re heading to your own theme park adventure this summer:
1) Go during the off-season. This is obvious, but it’s true. It won’t be as hot as during the summer and the lines won’t be as long. Our longest was about 45-minutes, which is short compared to the peak season. Even if you have kids — just pull ’em out of school instead of waiting until summer. Your life will be better for it.
2) Bring your own food. Check the rules first, but many theme parks don’t have a problem with you bringing your own food. They usually don’t allow coolers, but a backpack full of sandwiches, chips, bottled water, etc. is totally acceptable. Considering the cost of tickets just to get into these places, you could spend an additional small fortune on sustenance. Especially if you have children.
3) Skip the souvenirs and bring your own. Souvenirs are over-priced crap. I happened to glance at the cost of a plastic wand in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and guess what? I could get an entire pedicure for the cost of one of those puppies, so think ahead. If you have kids, order awesome wooden wands like these or these from Etsy and take them with you to surprise them while they wait in line. They’re way cooler and less than half the price.
4) Wear proper footwear. Seriously. Flip-flops are awesome when it’s hot outside, I know, but they don’t offer the proper support for a long day of walking, and they’re prone to flying off during the more raucous rides. So embrace the sweaty ankle farmer’s tan. Your feet (and back) will thank you.
5) Other gear to remember: Sunglasses, sun screen, hat, some type of line entertainment, small camera/phone, patience, and at least one person who doesn’t actually want to ride the rides but doesn’t mind waiting in line. Missy waited in every single line with us right up to the end, then grabbed our bags, hats, etc. and stood in the designated waiting area for the full minute it took most rides to complete. Sometimes less. And it was awesome to not have to worry about that stuff or pay for a storage locker.
Do YOU enjoy theme parks? If so, what’s
wrong with you your favorite? If not, what will you be doing this summer, instead?