Sunday, September 16, 2012

When Can I Avoid the Crowds in Disney/Universal? - Part II of When Should I Go to Disney?


darthmaz314’s previous post entitled “When Should I Visit Disney World?” recommended the week prior to Thanksgiving as an excellent time to visit the vacation capital of the world. Well, you can now add the week of Labor Day to the list of preferred times to make your way to the Orlando area. While there are some weather-related drawbacks, early September can be a very appealing option when planning your next Disney trip.

No Line for the Caro-Suess-el at
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Labor Day signals the unofficial end to the summer and the conclusion of summer vacation for most schools around the nation. This translates into scores of unhappy students and teachers who are not only depressed about returning to school and work, but unable or unwilling to travel to Disney World for a vacation. U.S. Elementary schools, high schools, and colleges/universities are ordinarily all back in session by Labor Day. Most parents are not keen on having their kids miss the first week of school. In addition, parents (and teachers for that matter) are busy making their last minute preparations for the return to school and are thus not likely to add a trip to Disney to that madness. Even Floridians, who may not need to travel far to visit are less likely to skip school to venture to the parks for a visit on weekdays. These circumstances keep a huge portion of the Disney-going population from filling the parks during that time of year and result in minimal to non-existent lines on even the most popular attractions at your favorite Disney AND Universal parks.

Fisherman's Wharf Area in Universal Orlando - Nobody Home

During a recent visit, we spent four days in Disney parks and two days in Universal parks between the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and the Saturday following it.  During our four Disney days, we used Disney’s FastPass once…yes, once. During the two days in Universal’s two parks, there was no need to purchase their money-grubbing version of Disney’s FastPass, the Universal Express Pass. (Although, I can appreciate Universal’s practice of providing this perk to their resort guests [similar to Disney’s Extra Magic Hours resort guest perk,] I am somewhat disgusted by the fact that after all the money you must spend to simply get into their parks, and in addition to the money you will inevitably spend after you enter those parks, Universal then wants to hold you hostage for money to avoid the oppressive lines encountered during peak attendance times.)

Empty Toy Story Mania Queues

Any Disney/Universal veteran can attest to the fact that there are few feelings like walking briskly through those endless mazelike queues normally jammed with weary and often sweaty bodies. Eliminating those long waits in line not only allows you to see and do more during your day, but reduces the fatigue that can set in during a long day in the parks, standing in between those metal rails like herds of cattle. The fact that this fatigue has a cumulating effect can spell misery for the last few days of your trip.

You Can almost Feel the Florida Heat Through the Photo

A visit to Disney/Universal during the Labor Day Week can allow you to accomplish a great deal in the parks and still leave some time for enjoying your resort pool or perhaps a Disney water park. This brings us to the weather drawback referenced earlier. Although early September is slightly cooler than the raging heart of summer, it is important to remember that Orlando in the summer can easily be compared to the actual surface of the sun or the fiery depths of Satan’s deepest circle of hell. Simply put, it is ridiculously hot in Orlando in the summer. The sun is so intensely strong, that hydrating is an absolute must. It is not exaggerating to say that a family of four can spend between $150 to $200 on water purchased in the parks over a seven day stay, particularly since the water (at $2.50/bottle) is so affordably priced. The humidity, which can rival an African savannah, only makes it more unbearably. Add to this, the insanely long lines that one encounters during the peak summer season in Disney/Universal parks, and it can drain the energy of even the most grizzled theme park veterans.

ImageWorks in Epcot's Imagination! -Imagine it with a crowd!

The Labor Day week erases the challenge of the crowds and the oppressive lines, which makes the heat much more bearable. You spend less time waiting in the heat and can cool off much more frequently, because you can experience more attractions, most of which either move fast and/or are outdoors. You can also escape the heat by retreating to your resort, if you are so inclined, and you can still accomplish quite a bit in the parks in the cooler early morning and later afternoon/evening hours.

The Cinderella Castle Forecourt at 1:00am - Cricket, cricket...
One other drawback to mention is that once Labor Day passes, the park hours are scaled back, so that your total time to work the parks is reduced overall. Even with Extra Magic Hours, you will have less time in the parks once the hours are rolled back. However, if you make the most of the actual Labor Day Weekend Days, during which the parks were open quite late (Magic Kingdom Magic Hours on Sunday ended at 2:00am!) you can still get the most park hour bang for your buck.

So if you are looking to avoid the huge summer crowds and you don’t have school-aged children and/or you know that they can make up any work that they might miss, you may want to plan your next Disney/Universal trip for the Labor Day week. You may still experience the Orlando heat, but you will be pleasantly surprised at the thinness of the crowds.

All photo credits - darthmaz314

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On 9/11, darthmaz314 Remembers Our Heroes and Honors America

Eleven years ago today, the most heinous and cowardly act ever perpetrated on American soil took place on a late summer morning that would forever be etched into our collective hearts and minds. On that day, an immaculate and pristine sky was marred with the smoke of hatred, the ash of envy, and the fire of false righteousness. The ground was not only pelted with the debris of falling buildings and airplane fusillade, but with the emotional shrapnel of families and lives, ripped apart by hatred and extremism. What seemed like an otherwise nondescript and quiet September morning deteriorated into a date that now has taken its place as one of the darkest in our nation’s history.
Many terrible events took place on that morning of September 11, 2001. None of which will be chronicled here. The innocent dead taken from us on that day deserve far more respect than that. As do the heroes that gave their lives to save them. Those brave souls, regardless of the color of their uniforms or the letters stitched upon them, were there when they were called. Some were there even though they had not been called. Many of them did not return home that day. Others returned home, but were diminished, whether physically or emotionally, in ways that most of us will luckily never know.

Thousands upon thousands more heroes have answered their country’s call to fight since that day. Whether they believe that they are on the right soil or fighting the right enemy, they stand for us. Ever the pawns in the international and political game of chess, these men and women stand anonymously between us and our enemies. Their uniforms do not differentiate them as either Republicans or Democrats, or as liberals or conservatives. They are simply our protectors.

The experiences and memories of September 11, 2001 vary greatly across the members of this great nation. Yet, whether you were in New York, D.C, or Anchorage, you felt the sting of loss on that day. In the intervening years, the phrase “our lives were forever changed on 9/11,” has been uttered countless times. There is some truth to this. Our lives may never be the same again in some ways. America took a collective kick in the gut on that now infamous day.

Yet, if there is a truth that is undeniable, it is this. America has endured. The center of the financial world was nearly obliterated but our economy did not completely crumble. We are still the capital of the world, regardless of whether our credit rating has slipped in recent years. Our nation did not disintegrate and fracture following the acts of a band of extremist cowards. We united in a way that only Americans can and although we were kicked in the gut, we brushed ourselves off and stood up again, ready for the next round.

Therein lays the failure of all those who seek to pierce the heart of our nation and do us harm. America may be a patchwork quilt of religions, races, ethnicities, and political ideologies, but there is one defining thread that weaves us all together and binds us in a way that the perpetrators of September 11th’s vile acts cannot comprehend and will be forever envious of…freedom. It is that freedom that defines our nation. It is that freedom that fortifies us not only as a nation, but as a people. It is that freedom which terrifies those that seek to do us harm. That ideal of freedom, unattainable and incomprehensible to those like the cowardly perpetrators of that fateful day, gave birth to this nation and has nurtured it for over two hundred years. It is a flame that cannot be extinguished by bullets or bombs or blood. It is who we are and will always be.

So as you go about your day this September 11th, 2012, think not of the fallen towers or the damaged Pentagon, or the charred wreckage of a plane in a Pennsylvania field. Do not dwell on the evil and the destruction. Instead, celebrate the lives of the heroes we lost on that day and have lost since. Celebrate the courage of those who answered the call and continue to do so. Celebrate the good in life. Celebrate the fact that we live in a nation where we are free. Celebrate…America.