Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Disneyland - The Magic Kingdom

Now, Disneyland is huge. Most definitely. They have 4 themeparks there, and we visited only The Magic Kingdom

Away from the city. And then it took nearly an hour to go from entrance parking lot to the actual park ! Infrastruture to get people to actual park, is comparable to an actual city one. Across river by boats or by monorail. That did feel like Hogwarts entrance.
Monorail Disney Resort View from far More open space around

With springbreak going on in most of the states, there was a sizable crowd, which only added to the festive spirit.
Crowds ... ... everywhere
And looking at the crowds, it made me wonder what recession was the media talking about ? I mean, people are living and spending just like before. Jobs are being lost yes. But that's not because people are saving-more-&-spending-less - as the media would like all to believe. The downturn is because of miscalculation by the bigger fish. But as usual media would like to pin down the blame on the silent majority. Phew, let me get on track.

Morning parade of practically all Disney characters.

Animatrix display of puppets co-ordinated with lights, sounds, even water.

I was so tempted to apply for job here. Surely they need designers, light-sound-water-software-hardware-structural-everything engineers, entertainers, what not. I can't think of any job description, that does not fit here.

The castle is the centerpiece. And maybe a million shows & rides around it. We did cover the whole place. Thanks to the maps and the Fast-Pass system.
Magic Kingdom

And with dusk, things got even better. Castle looked more magical with all the lights.
Magic Kingdom with fireworks

Then at 8pm, they started the Lighted parade. Totally Ganeshostav-in-Pune style.

And finally fireworks at 10. Now I could say this was Diwali-style, but even better. Millions of rockets in sync with background music.

I know this blog is on a photo overload. But I just had to share each & every photo of that dazzaling fireworks. Truely amazing work there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Theme parks 101

While on the theme of themeparks, here are some of the things common in each of them and important enough to make life easy:
  • Buy tickets online. Or atmost via the automatic vending machine. Otherwise be prepared to waste atleast 1-1.5 hours to enter the park. Oh ya - only at the entrance !
  • Parking lot - the first point of contact. Now they run for miles together, and sometimes on multiple stories. So each section or floor is marked with a unique identifier. A color scheme combined with a character name (like Goofy or ET or Jurassic Park). Take a photo of that. So it is easily remembered, while on our way back at the end of the day. And we avoid the "Dude where's my car ?" situation.
  • And Maps. What would we do without maps ? Enter park, take map. Find locations of every show & ride. And cover them. As simple as that. Its called planning your day. ... And yes, it is humanely possible to cover all rides & shows.
  • Limit how many souvenirs you buy, by marking them on the map. Each ride or show will have a gift shop dedicated to that Disney Character, Universal movie or such. Decide which one is you favorite and limit your shopping to that gift shop.
  • And then escalators & elevators at strategic locations. Along with moving walkways, to cover those long mile without walking. So get all you need - strollers, food, jackets, etc.
  • Now queues are generally long. But most of the parks have some or the other timesaver. So find out what it is ? Disney had Fast-Pass. A vending machine outside every show. It dispenses a pass for some particular timing and you need to come back at that time for this show. Universal has Child-Switch. When you are with a young child who is not allowed inside a show or a ride, one person is anyway going to wait outside with the kid. So rest stand in a queue, while the Child-Switch person can skip queue when its her turn. 
  • That reminds me, take a picture of your kid at the start of the day. If anyone gets separated, it will be easier to show what clothes they were wearing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Universal Studios in Florida

Universal Studios was more of a theme park. No shooting-wooting here. But it is a fun place.

People dressed up as Universal characters. Movie memorabilia.

Streets designed in a certain style. Playareas with a million ideas to keep the kids involved.

Show before the Barney show Barney show

There are so many things it's all paisa-vasool. There is even a show put up, before the actual show, for the waiting crowd too !

Paisa-vasool ke saath, paisa kharch bhi hain. Coz there is an overload of merchendise that we can buy, food to eat & drinks in interesting sovenier bottles. But still its worth it.

But some had just way too long and slow-moving queues. And then some delay in starting. So I jumped out of the ET queues. But the rest are awesome. Terminator 2 : 3D - too good; just an extention of my favorite movie.

One thing I am fascinated by things in USA, apart from the infinite free space around, is the way everything is so well organised. Every single need or requirement is considered and taken care of. With the rule being - Safety First. Details of that later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SeaWorld, Orlando

Orlando has so many theme parks. We need to spend an entire day in each. We began with Seaworld, which is an awesome place. People above age 3 will have all the thrill watching those large fishes & other sea animals - dolphins, killer whales, penguins, & a whole range of fishes. And really enthralling shows.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Orlando - not Bloom, but the Florida one

In the begining of March, while Minnesota was covered in snow, we went off to visit my friend M in Orlando, Florida. Thanks M, it was such a great holiday !

First thing to hit me was the weather ofcourse. I mean, away with the jackets. All the freedom to play in the backyard, walk in & out of the house without preparation, look around and actually see more colors than white & brown.

Florida vehicles don't have number plates in the front, only in the back. Thats the first time I have seen this.

Here are some of the Orlando downtown pictures. In general not too many highrises in Orlando. Thats due to the hurricane risks.

And being a coastal area, weather was all warm & toasty, this being winter. I am told summers are really really hot.

Florida and especially Orlando is major tourist destination. There are whole lot of places to visit and things to do. Beaches (Cocoa, Merritt), theme parks and more. I covered some usual suspects, which I could.

Update: So among the million things to do in Orlando, here are some which I covered:

  1. A whole lot of theme parks. I visited 3 of them:
  2. SeaWorld
  3. Universal Studios &
  4. Disneyland - The Magic Kingdom
  5. Sea beaches - Cocoa, Meritt.
  6. NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Also check ther website for any shuttle launch schedules. You can catch at actual launch too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Missing snow

Weather is changing very very slowly here in Minnesota. Spring is around the corner. But not completely here. Its cold at 53F, but not enough to snow. So now I have begun to miss snow.

Watching snowfall is as soothing as gazing at rainfall on a quite weekday afternoon, at home. Only, this one is noiseless.

And opaque. Amazingly snow can cover a whole bush in a matter of minutes.

So far, snow has greeted me outside my window, every morning past 3 months. And now I need to prepare to see Minnesota in Spring.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My American Experience

There is immense source of inspiration for science-fiction here - Nature - so vast & mysterious , sights from airplanes, tech gadgets you can think of.

On a drive, it was a sight to see the changing vegetation from California to Nevada to Arizona.

I savored typical American vegetables, fruits and dishes, which I had only read about and never actually tasted. Veggies like avocado, broccoli, butternut-squash, raspberries, waffles, pancakes, mashed potatoes (the American one which is very different from chokha from UP) and much more.

I managed to collect all 50 state coins.

I have visited 10+ states. In some it was only touch and go. But I noticed how different and unique each state is in its own way. In terms of vegetation, soil, culture, people demographic and more. The 10 I visited so far are - California (LA), Nevada (Las Vegas), Arizona (Grand Canyon), Minnesota, Wisconsin (W Dells), Illinois (Chicago), Florida (Orlando), Maryland (Baltimore), Washington DC, New York (NYC, NF)

Environment consciousness is enormous now compared to 2002. There are 2 areas that can be improved  - reduce Packaging and reduce use of electricity. With the immense focus and work on Design in all areas of life, I am sure they will figure it out soon.

Bottled water is widely used. Though there is customary info discouraging it, bottled water is the thing. Thankfully, for daily use we can refill water by gallons. Otherwise those tiny plastic bottles piling everywhere would be a nightmare. East coast cities is where I found less use of bottles, and more tap water available. That was a relief indeed.