More SeaWorld and Universal Orlando photos/videos coming.

About 2500 photos taken at the SeaWorld Orlando Seven Seas Food Festival and the Universal Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval are waiting for me to sort them and get them uploaded to the Universal/SeaWorld photo gallery.

This year, Universal had 18 food/drink booths, and SeaWorld had 28. It was quite the challenge to visit each one and take photos. Hopefully, I didn’t miss any this year… I hope to share some articles comparing the two different food events. We enjoyed both of them far better than we did the last time we went to EPCOT Food & Wine. As someone who grew up a Disneyland/Disney World kid since the 1970s, I never thought I’d say that!

We also got to visit the re-opened Mel’s Drive In on its first day open to the public (Tuesday, February 27, 2024). I had never eaten there, so it was a good excuse to try it out and get some new photos.

I also captured some more raw footage with my VR360 camera which I will share to my YouTube channel at some point.

Another upcoming project is to create a detailed page about the annual pass and how much it can save, even if you are an out-of-state visitor like I am. If you stay on site at a Universal hotel, you can save even more with pass discounts on rooms (sometimes; only a few trips have ever had them available–usually it’s just “Seasonal Rate”). For example, after several three-night hotel stays over the course of the year with the pass, the savings are more than what two Premium (most expensive) Universal APs cost! I have spreadsheets going back several years documenting the savings…

More to come…

Top 10 articles from 2023

I don’t like to brag, but literally dozens of folks visit this site every year. They tend to come here mostly via web searches for specific topics. For 2023, here were the most-viewed articles on this site:

Here is what those articles are about, in case you wanted to check them out in 2024…

1. Disneyland’s third theme park in 2000

“It seems like only yesterday” that Disneyland had announced plans to open a third theme park — all during the time when Disney’s California Adventure was still under construction. They set up a teaser website which gave us a look at what the re-development of the area around Disneyland could look like. It also mentioned some of the types of attractions that could be added to the third park.

With recent talk of “Disneyland Forward,” this probably explains the interest in this post about something from over 20 years ago.

2. Universal Orlando Garden Walk Maps

I grew up in the 1970s visiting Disneyland and Walt Disney World with my family. Although I had visited Universal Studios Florida as a teenage (during its first year or so of being open), most of our time was spent at Disney. I only visited Universal a few times until I got my first Universal annual pass a few years ago. I also had never stayed at an on-site resort hotel anywhere (well, I did stay at the Hersheypark Lodge once) until Universal.

My lack of experience with the park had me completely unaware that there was a beautiful walking path that connected all the hotels except Surfside/Dockside to Citywalk. I recall seeing them and trying to find information about them after a trip. Since I did not know the name “Garden Walk,” I could find nothing. After learning the game, I could find tons of videos and references to them…but no maps.

So I made a map. The map has layers that can be turned on showing locations of the water taxi docks, the walking paths, security checkpoints and such. It’s surprising how walking from a resort to the front of a theme park via Garden Walk can be LESS WALKING that walking to the bus stop and taking the bus where it drops you off at the far end of CityWalk.

I hope folks find these maps useful.

3. So that casino in Walt Disney World is finally happening?

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, this one goes back to things my father was told during visits to Walt Disney World in the 1970s — back when the only theme park there was Magic Kingdom. He had heard they build the Contemporary Resort to have a casino… A casino associated with Disney was quite a shocking idea back then, but in recent years, the topic actually has come up about Disney having casinos.

Well, I never thought we’d see alcohol at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom, or beer kegs at ice cream carts, so who knows. Modern Disney is very different.

4. Universal’s Islands of Adventure preview center in 1999

I bought my first digital camera in 1996, and began taking pictures at theme and amusement parks. I visited Universal Studios Florida the year before Islands of Adventure opened, and then the first year the new park opened. I have a few photos taken at the preview center that was were the New York tribute store and Mummy lockers are today.

I suspect interest in the upcoming (hopefully) Epic Universe tribute store is why this article has been getting views.

5. Space Mountain 1999 FastPass

There was a time when FastPass was new. There is alot of conflicting information on when and where it started, but this was the first time I got to use it.

6. Universal Studios Florida in 1998

I just wanted to share some of the photos I took during my first Universal trip with a digital camera.

7. The time(s) Disney changed the lyrics to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song

I was practicing click-bait. Discussions come up from time to time about how folks swear the original song had the word “rape” in it. Until the modern internet, where lyrics and downloadable songs became a thing, I too had memories of that word being in the song and how out-of-place it seemed.

But history shows this was never the case.

But there have been times when the song was presented in edited form 😉 Click the bait to find out more.

8. Before Disney’s California Adventure, part 1

Although I had visited Disneyland in the 1970s — I remember being there before Space Mountain and before Big Thunder Mountain — I did not start going as an adult until 1995. By 1996, I was visiting with a digital camera. I put together some of the photos of what the park was like before Disney’s California Adventure was announced and construction began.

9. Visiting Disneyland in 1996

Just another one showing the earliest digital photos I have of Disneyland.

Happy 2024!

Victoria Frankenstein at Universal Epic Universe

I remember when “Interview with the Vampire” came out and folks familiar with the source books were upset that the vampire Lestat was cast by an actor that did not at all resemble the description of the character from the books. Folks like me who had never read the books did not notice or care.

But Universal Epic Universe information was released the other day and I found it interesting that the Monster of Frankenstein’s creator has been gender flipped in the new park version – Victoria Frankenstein. I doubt that many have actually read the original Mary Shelley book (I certainly haven’t), but the story is so iconic that I think the name “Victor Frankenstein” is pretty well-known. I wonder if their story will be a sequel of some sort with Victoria being his daughter or a relative.

Victoria Frankenstein is not new – she has appeared before in remakes:

The 2007 film Frankenstein introduces Victoria Frankenstein. Instead of making the creature out of corpses, she uses stem cells, intending to use her experiment to save her dying son. The experiment goes wrong, however, and the creature escapes. When Frankenstein catches up with the monster, she comes to love it because it is her only remaining link to her son who has since died.

A 2014 ongoing web series Frankenstein, MD, created by PBS Digital Studios and Pemberley Digital, focuses on Victoria Frankenstein, a medical student determined to prove herself in her field. This series gender-swaps several characters – Elizabeth becomes Eli Lavenza and Henry becomes Rory Clerval.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Frankenstein

…though the Frankenstein movie from 2007 does not appear to be a Universal Studios release and I do not know if PBS has any connection to Universal for their web series. At least they aren’t the first to do it.

Press release mentioning Victoria may be found here:

https://www.nbcuniversal.com/article/introducing-universal-epic-universe-companys-most-ambitious-theme-park-date

More DisneyFans photos on YouTube…

Today, Poseidon Entertainment posted a new YouTube video called “Even More Weird Things in Disneyland.” It’s a fun watch — but be sure to watch the first installment as well.

It’s always a surprise to see one of my photos pop up in videos like this (along with some from Yesterland), though it is a bit annoying they do not ask for permission. They even crop off the watermarks! At least Poseidon Entertainment does add it’s own credit (“Source: Allen Huffman”) when they “borrow” other folks images 😉

Check it out…

I think the image may have been taken from this Yesterland article:

https://yesterland.com/sbwalkthru.html

Request: If you run in to one of my photos in a video, please send me the link and I’ll post it here, too.

I’ve been taking and sharing digital photos since 1996, and do not recall ever turning someone down who wanted to use one of my photos. I can provide the original, full-size version without the watermark, as well, and can even enhance my old photos so they look much better.

SeaWorld and Howl-O-Scream photos coming…

I have now sorted the latest SeaWord Orlandos enough that they are ready to share. This batch includes a daytime visit to the park when family Halloween festivities were going on, and an evening/night visit to Howl-O-Scream. This will bring the total Universal-SeaWorld photo gallery to over 38,000 images.

It will take a few days to get everything processed and uploaded, but when complete, they will appear here:

http://us-sw.disneyfans.com

More to come…

Over 3600 new Orlando Halloween photos coming soon…

Photos from this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida and Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando will be added to the gallery in coming weeks. We were able to visit all ten haunted houses, the scare zones, and the one (!) show at Universal, and also all five haunted houses, the scare zones and three (!) of the four shows at SeaWorld Orlando.

While Universal’s offerings had zero scares (the only time we heard anyone scream all night was from a chainsaw in a scare zone), they sure were amazing walk through theatrical experiences.

SeaWorld, however, actually had real haunted houses — letting in groups rather than a large conga line. The groups were too big so most scares were spoiled, but we were certainly startled many times during that four hour event (mostly in the scare zones).

Over at my Des Moines Haunted Houses website project, folks there know I scream like a little girl and am a pretty easy target. Seeing these two big theme park haunts be so tame was a surprise — especially with the reputation of HHN being one of the biggest haunt events in the nation.

More to come, and much more to say…

9/11 and Disney Parks

9/11 ribbon.

NOTE: This post was originally written a few years ago.

I was working for a startup tech company in Silicon Valley when 9/11 happened. I remember going to the lobby of the hotel I was staying at and the front desk clerk saying “I hope you weren’t flying out today.” I was not, and I had no idea why she said that.

After the hotel shuttle dropped me off at work, I learned of what was going on. I spent my work day distracted as I kept an eye on news websites. Many must have been doing the same, as “big” news sites were reverting to very sparse, simple web pages to keep up with the traffic.

And even though Disneyland and Walt Disney World were far away from the attacks, the parks closed — something they rarely did. If you tried to go to the official websites, you saw the following:

Disneyland website on 9/11/2001.
Walt Disney World website on 9/11/2001.

It took years for tourism to recover. Hotels closed. Disney projects were canceled. But recover it did, and here we are, almost twenty years later, with some of the busiest parks and largest expansions those parks have ever seen.

Today, as we “Never Forget,” I hope all continue to move forward.

Until next time…

House on the Rock, Wisconsin Dells, and cheese.

Within a short four hour drive is a place called House on the Rock. Folks have been telling me about it for the past two decades, but I knew nothing about it. I have now visited it, and think I still know nothing about it.

A short drive from there is Wisconsin Dells, home of endless tourist traps such as Top Secret, Ghost Outpost, Haunted Mansion and Lost Temple. Some higher end attractions such as Wizard Quest (in a new location) and Ripley’s Believe it or Not make this a great way to spend part of a day.

I have about 1900 photos from House on the Rock I need to sort then share, and hundreds more from spots in the Dells.

What a short, strange trip it was. And on the drive home, we found Hook’s Cheese Company where they actually make cheese, and had a small refrigerator of their cheeses for sale.

I was fooled by the House on the Rock, but some quick research when I got back home explained a lot of what I saw. And now I am even more impressed.

More to come…

Islands of Adventure 1999 soundtrack on YouTube

Tracks from the official Universal Studios Escape (as it was known back then) Islands of Adventure theme park have been posted to the official Universal Orlando Resort (as it is known today) YouTube channel:

https://youtube.com/@UniversalOrlando

The soundtrack was released for the 1999 opening, I believe, but these tracks are listed as being from a “2000 reissue” version. I may have the original disc somewhere, and I know it had many more tracks than what have been shared so far.

I am just hoping the crazy track from Toon Lagoon makes it. The custom soundtracks were one of the best things about Islands of Adventure. Toon Lagoon especially stood out with its massive multi-track arrangement with speakers all over the land playing parts of the looping soundtrack. (This would be done two years later with the opening of Disney’s California Adventure when it had something similar for the Paradise Pier section of the park.)

Enjoy!