When I mean late, I do mean that. This from the eight night stay at the Palms Hotel and Villa in August 2013.
Tue, Aug 6th - Touchdown in Florida for the first time since 2000. It was like a dream, a daydream, except it was for real this time! Anyway, the villa was nice. It was smaller than I thought however. Good enough for three friends on a college-budget. The location is great. Three minutes away from I-4. At the most, 10 minutes away from Disney. About a 15-20 drive from Universal, Seaworld and Wet n' Wild.
After taking 1 1/2 day to get there by car, do you think a bunch of young male 20-somethings chilled that night? Wrong! We went to Downtown Disney in the evening after getting settled in. Just a big spaceout session for me. Went in a few stores like World of Disney and Team Mickey. Bought a shirt for a friend who's an Angels fan. Was more of just walking around the area. Wanting to go to Disney Quest, but that wasn't going to fit the budget lol. So then, we finished the night on International Drive at Dave and Busters. This location destroys any of the ones in Illinois. Felt like a club inside. Loads of people inside for a Tuesday. Music kind of blasted with many baseball games on in the dining area. The games were better. I had an intense battle with eight other players in a driving game (forgot the name of it). I prevailed! It's always great when you're actually facing multiple individuals. When we planned, Dave and Busters wasn't even on the radar. Happened to see it arriving into to Florida. Good thing we went.
Wed, Aug 7 - I remember this being a relaxing day. We went to the Best of Orlando to pick up discounted tickets to the parks. Picked up a few groceries. Then chilled at the pool and shot some basketball till the wee hours of night.
Thu, Aug 8 - We went to the Premium Outlets first, but finding parking was impossible. So we went to Florida Mall (will go to Mall of Millenia next time), to check out what their malls were like. Didn't get to totally browse like we would've liked. Immediately thereafter, we drove to Tampa for the first preseason game of the season to see them take on the then defending Super Bowl Champions. Sat lower level for about 25-30 bucks. Great view, even though it was preseason. Parking wasn't too bad. The traffic getting there was more problematic. The Tampa fans were pretty stoked for a preseason game. Didn't know they were into their football team like that. It only rained twice during the time we were there (LUCKY BREAK). During the game was one of those times. It drenched. One of my friends went for cover. Me and other friend decided to sit in the rain (don't ask why, as I don't even know). It cleared up after about 30-45 minutes, and the rest of the night was smooth. The game was a blowout in the Ravens favor, so we left to get a jump on traffic. Great experience.
Fri, Aug 9 - I had purchased an all-access track tour as I'm a huge NASCAR fan, so it was off to the famed Daytona International Speedway. I remember the lone other time I came to Florida, I was seven years old. I said I was going to go there one day. Mission accomplished (even it it wasn't for a race). Again, felt like a dream. I actually stepped foot onto the track, at the start finish line and in victory lane. Saw the garages, too. Saw the Daytona 500 winning car of Jimmie Johnson, although I'm a diehard Jeff Gordon fan lol. Bought some Gordon gear and purchased a picture of me in Victory Lane. Worth it.
Since the beach was a short 10 minute drive, we drove over there. Spent an hour or so. One friend was feeling ballsy and was going deep into the ocean. The wave currents were looking pretty stout, but he held his own. We should've checked the boardwalk out. Don't know why we didn't. Next time, I suppose.
Then, we finished the night around Downtown Orlando at Club Roxy. Had legit conversations with the bartenders. According to my friend, they gave us freebies for the night. That was a bad idea lol. Arrived when it opened, and stayed till it closed. It 'twas a good night. Will check out Citywalk next time.
Sat, Aug 10 - This was supposed to be the day to go to Busch Gardens, but due to a hangover and quite possibly alcohol poisoning, that didn't happen. This won't be happening again, that's a guarantee. However, I had a scare as I lost my belt at the club - that's not the big problem - but I couldn't find my iPhone. Thanks to the clutch works of "Find My iPhone," I found it behind a Dunkin Donuts by a bush.
Sun, Aug 11 - This was the day we took Grayline to take a tour of Miami. We got up at 4 AM, and had to drive to Maingate Lakeside Resort to meet up (it was about 7 mins from our villa). Arrived in Miami at around 11 AM after leaving at 7 AM. We were dropped off at Bayside. Right next to it was American Airlines Arena, home to the NBA's Miami Heat. I'm a sports nut, so that stood out to me. Bayside is an outdoor mall. Fascinating change of pace. A lot of browsing around. Ate some things, like a chicken kabob, I believe. I'd eat it again, if I got the chance. Walked through the mall pretty quick, so we walked over to Downtown Miami. Maybe it's because when we were in Downtown Orlando, and it was brief and at a night, but I felt there was better than Orlando's. It looked more like a downtown closer to here in Chicago.
At around 3 PM, we all boarded the bus and headed over to the World Famous South Beach. While driving there, the guide showed us houses of celebs like Kim Kardashian, Rosie O'Donnell and Will Smith. Once we arrived, the first thing I thought of was an early scene from 2 Fast and 2 Furious. It was in the exact same area. The beach was incredibly packed. Makes me wonder what it's like on Friday and Saturdays. You really have to scope out for a spot. Because once you leave it, you can easily forget where you were due to the amounts of people. One of my friends didn't bring his phone, so this almost happened. Should've brought a football so we could play catch in the water. I saw many doing this. Looks fun! South Beach is as live as they say it is. If we didn't have the football game to attend, we would've went Thursday. If anyone plans on going through Grayline, you can only go on Thursdays or Sundays. The one negative was the people with on the trip. They didn't come off as very friendly at all. But we didn't let that ruin the day.
Mon, Aug 12 - We went to Wet n' Wild water park. Looking for thrills, and that offered the most. Lines weren't too bad. Rode on just about everything. My favorite rides were the The Bomb Bay/Der Stuka (basically the same to me). Both are free falling water slides. Step into a chute and await the door to be pulled from underneath! I got a wedgie from one lol. Also, among favorites was Disco H20. Lights and music playing in the dark. It felt like one of my friends fell off board, but it was a false alarm. If I could swim, I bet I would've like The Storm more than them all. That ride looks nuts.
And speaking of can't swim, we rode the Mach 5. However, I didn't realize till the end you go in head first. I knew I was a little screwed, but too little too late. I kept touching ground, but couldn't gather myself. I wasn't even that deep. My friend swooped in for the save. Lifeguard has no idea what was going on. That was a red flag.
Tue, Aug 13 - Universal and IOA time! In 2000, I was too little to ride a lot of rides. Time to make up for lost time, I say! I went with one friend who was interested in the Harry Potter parts, but he's afraid of heights. The other stayed at the villa. It sucked because it was just me getting and most of the rides, but whatever. It was better than not riding anything at all.
At first, We both checked out Citywalk. I went to NBA City and NASCAR Sports Grille (which was NASCAR Cafe) last I remember. Both places changed, as expected, but memories returned. Took a picture in front of the Universal globe in the day and night, and then off inside! I was filled with glee. Once again, is the dream finally coming true? Went into the Universal Studios store glancing around. Then the first ride I rode was Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. That took about 45-60 in the single riders line. I felt a little tense going up. Felt like I could actually fall out. The rest was smooth sailing! My friend wanted to try Twister, as it was something he rode awhile back. That took like 20 minutes of waiting. Saw Transformers, and that was just a month or so after it opened up. Took pics of Megatron and Bumble Bee. Had lunch at Mel's Diner. which was longer than the ride waits haha. People were waiting outside to get in. Typical burger and fries place. But it was the first place to eat we saw.
We headed over to Island of Adventure. Walked around the Jurrasic Park session. Then, headed over the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but that area is well done. That ride was a 90 minute wait. I'm more of a thrill seeker, as you can tell, but that was the best simulator ride I've rode to date. My friend was screaming his rear off. Again, worth the wait. Bought more souvenirs and then tried their butterbeer. It's cream soda, for the most part. I like Cream Soda, so I had no problems. I already knew that going in. Next was Dragon Challenge, which was about 10 minutes. The one ride I remember wanting to ride but couldn't was The Hulk. You can bet I did this time! I sped on over and that was 15 minutes. Rode that at night! That's what I wanted to do and it was epic! Best part is when it accelerates from like 0 to 40 at the start. Finally, it was getting close to closing time, so we ran to back to Universal. The Transformer ride was pretty long earlier so we came back. I made it at the buzzer and that was around a 75-90 minute wait. I'm not a Transformer fan either, but the presentation blew me away. It can make you a fan haha. It was good, but not quite on Harry Potter's level. I did feel like I was apart of the battle, though. Glad I rode it. Before leaving, we tried to ride The Mummy, but the line was closed off. Btw, I did all this in roughly 8 hours at the park after arriving around 2:30. I didn't want to go at that time as I preferred early, but hey, it worked out.
Wed, Aug 14 - The sad part of the trip: leaving. Left our villa at 11. We didn't spend too much time there, which to me is a good thing.
Didn't do Disney parks (that was by plan), and missed out on Busch and Seaworld and other things.
But we'll have another chance as we're planning on going next July from like the 1st-9th. This date specifically because I'll get to view my first NASCAR race at the track I wanted to be at, which is the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Even if it's 10 months away, I'm amped! I'm sure we'll visit Disney and Busch time. Not sure about Seaworld, as that's a bonus. And we'll be doing Universal again. Visit Clearwater beach, Mall
at Millenia and go-kart race.
I hope all that read enjoyed this report. I tried being as descriptive as possible.