I am new to the whole blogging game but as a new member of the College of Health and Human Sciences, I, Jordan Raver, will make it my duty to create blogs that are fun, lively, and entertaining so that you, the reader, will want to read my blogs. Let me introduce myself. My name is Jordan Raver. I am from Carmel, Indiana, am a Carmel High School Class of 2013 graduate, and I am a Hospitality and Tourism Management major here at wonderful Purdue University. I have many hobbies and interests. One of those is traveling and will be the focus of my very first blog.
Being a Hospitality and Tourism Management major, I always love when my mom picks the next destination our family trip will feature. As soon as I find out where we will be traveling, I go online to look at the hotel my mom has booked and the reviews that accompany it. This last trip I especially enjoyed helping to plan with my mom. We went to every child’s dream vacation spot…Orlando, the home of Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Disney.
My family likes to think that we are road warriors. If we are given the option of flying or driving, we will always pick to drive. For example we made the long drive from Carmel, Indiana all the way to Key West, Florida three Christmases ago and boy was that a long drive. So after our two days drive we finally reached our condo in Kissimmee, FL. We ended up staying in Wyndham’s Cypress Palms. Let me take a moment to review. Being in the HTM industry I always like to think back and analyze what made a restaurant or hotel such a great experience for me. As a member of a family of five, this condo was very spacious. Both kids and parents had their own area for the week. The location of the Wyndham property was perfect in terms of travel time to all three of the parks that we visited for the week as well. The property was also set back from the main road and bonus…there were restaurants within walking distance of the condo.
So after settling in we started our week off on a Monday spending three days at Universal Studios. If given the choice between going to Disney and Universal, I’ll pick Universal every time. To me, I enjoy this amusement park more because it has attractions featuring the Harry Potter series and Marvel. The whole summer I had seen commercials and read up on the new Diagon Alley of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that was going to be opening. At the point in time when we were planning our trip, it was uncertain if it would open in time or not for our trip. We were three weeks too early. ): I could see Kreacher peeking out from a window of Grimmauld Place, the Hogwarts Express making its practice runs from King’s Cross Station to the Hogsmeade Station, the Knight Bus, and employees in uniform practicing taking tickets from the station in Hogsmeade. I was so close to the new attraction but couldn’t experience it. Even though my sisters and I were bummed about Diagon Alley not being open we still got to ride some of our favorite rides like the Hulk, Men in Black, the Amazing Spiderman, the Simpsons Ride, the Mummy, and others. Besides, we now have a reason to go back to Universal Studios to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once again. You can really spend a whole day just in that part of the park experiencing butter beer, Olivander’s wand shop, the Forbidden Journey ride, and just soaking in all the magic that comes with Harry Potter. Since this was our second time going to Universal Studios, we wanted to experience some new fun things. This time we saw a show on the waterfront featuring 100 Years of Universal and the Blue Man Group. The Blue Man Group show had a really fun, crazy atmosphere. My mom and I enjoyed the show but my dad and sisters not so much.
After we spent our three days in Universal, that Thursday, we headed to Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park. This is a relatively smaller water park so you can do everything you want in half a day. The one ride I want to talk about that my youngest sister, dad, and I experienced is called Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. This water slide, once you have climbed the many many stairs to get to the top, starts you off in a drop box and drops you straight down. For those not wanting to experience the drop box, you can sit down and push off on your own. I opted to do the slide where you push off. In hindsight, it might have been easier just to do the drop box. As I pushed off my heart was pounding and my breath was taken away from me as my crossed legs flailed and water went rushing by me. At the end of the slide, nearly everyone stood up disoriented as they processed the eighty-foot drop they had just made. Both my mom and soon to be high school senior sister, laughed as they stood at the bottom (they are terrified of heights) watching both my dad and soon to be high school sophomore sister stumble out of the slide and have the same disoriented reaction as everyone else. We left the park happy, a little sunburnt, and ready to relax the rest of the day. Which is exactly what we did spending it at an outlet mall and eating at Planet Hollywood in downtown Disney?
Our final two days were spent in Disney. It just so happened that our last two days it rained. But there were Disney ponchos to purchase. Disney really raked in the money those days. In preparation for the trip, I spent a lot of time planning our time spent in Disney. It had been several years since the last time we had been to Disney. I’m talking matching outfits, autograph books, and character meals long time ago. What makes planning a Disney vacation fun now is that when you purchase your tickets early, you can link three fast passes for attractions to each ticket per day. So it took both some thinking and a lot of organization to figure out what rides everyone would ride to maximize our fast passes and rides that would potentially have long wait times. Let me say, I did a pretty good job at picking those fast passes. But I won’t go into too much detail on that. Our first day in Disney was spent in Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Experiencing Magic Kingdom as a 19-year-old adult was completely different than when I was of an elementary age. Instead of caring about how full I could make my autograph book I was focused on how many rides we could fit in before the park closed. I by no means am saying the Disney magic was gone; we just had so much to do and could only fit everything we wanted to do in two days. Even though Magic Kingdom was not my favorite out of the Disney parks, I will say that experiencing the new Fantasy Land and parade was pretty cool. We got to see Ariel’s Grotto, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and Storybrooke Circus. As a child I loved watching the movie Dumbo, so seeing Storybrooke Circus was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. The Seven Dwarves Mine Train was surprisingly not my favorite ride in Disney. All of the hype that was created about this new ride didn’t live up to its expectations for me. I thought the coolest thing about the ride was all of the fun interactive games you could play before you boarded the ride. Later in the day we headed on over to Epcot which thus ended our first day in Disney. Our second day in Disney was much more relaxed. We spent our day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. I have got to say that our last day was by far my favorite. In Hollywood Studios it was a Star Wars Weekend, which was awesome! Characters from the series walked around the park and there were tons of Star Wars themed items to purchase. We even found amazing cupcakes that had Yoda and Darth Vadar on them! I loved getting to experience the new Star Tours ride and Toy Story Midway Mania. The second half of the day was spent in Animal Kingdom. We had purchased tickets for Lion King’s Harambe Nights. This was a celebration for the 20th anniversary of the Lion King. I absolutely loved the show and the night in general. With being a baby that was born in 1994, the Lion King and its 20th anniversary this year coincide with my 20th birthday. Super cool! The show featured favorite scenes from the movie that were narrated and danced to by performers. After the show was finished there was a ton of ethnic cuisine to eat for dinner and of course more special limited edition Lion King Anniversary items.
So there you have it…my Orlando trip wrapped up in a nutshell. I literally could spend hours explaining this trip, but that would take way too long. I hope you enjoyed reading this first post and will continue to follow me throughout my sophomore year at Purdue through these blogs.
– Jordan Raver, Sophomore, Hospitality and Tourism Management