Category Florida

“I’m going to Disneyland!” “Really? Because I’m a travel agent and I’ve heard nothing but bad things.”

Our hotel was essentially right down the street from Downtown Disney, so even though we didn’t visit any of the Disney parks on our trip, they still got plenty of our money. Downtown Disney is essentially a Disney-themed mall, with restaurants, shops, an arcade, a theater, and blessedly, free parking. The main impetus behind our first visit to Downtown Disney was one of their themed restaurants, The T-Rex Cafe.  


The T-Rex Cafe is operated by the same company that owns The Rainforest Cafe, so if you’ve been to the latter, you know the schtick, except in this restaurant, they have a bunch of animatronic dinosaurs and there’s a meteor shower every twenty minutes instead of a thunderstorm. They also don’t seem to operate with the same slogan as The Rainforest Cafe, “Fun until it isn’t,” because our food was actually pretty damn good, lacked any sort of embedded hair, and they even had cocktails made with cotton candy which made Jason extremely happy. Actually, the restaurant is quite similar to Jurassic Fork; they don’t let you order your meat “medium roar” at The T-Rex Cafe, either. Luckily, they also don’t have any rules about feeding a hungry animatronic stegosaurus an onion ring so long as no one sees you do it.  

trexcafe   herexsherex

One day, Jason thought it might be nice to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 at Downtown Disney. I don’t want to point fingers, but this was, hands down, the worst idea he’s ever had. After we paid for our tickets and went into the theater, a herd of the world’s noisiest children flooded in and sat directly behind us, kicking our seats, screaming about whether they should get popcorn or nachos, arguing about the trailers, and doing everything in their power to drive me goddamn insane. We didn’t even make it to the movie proper before getting up and asking for a refund, which we were given without so much as an “I told you so” from the theater employee.  I was confused at this level of restraint and politeness from a Disney employee; one of the only things I remember from my family’s trip to Disney World when I was 11 is an altercation at Epcot Center. We’d stopped in the France Pavillion to split an eclair. All they had to drink was whole milk, and we were used to drinking skim, so my mom asked if they had any skim, to which the employee replied “You’re all already fat, what does it matter?” Very few things can put me off an eclair, but that’s one of them, even if that surly French teenager had a point.     candycauldron   candycauldronapples

These are some next-level candy apples. I can’t even get the caramel to stick to the damn apple!

Every evening we visited Downtown Disney over the course of our stay, they had live music in the streets, which definitely added to the overall festive atmosphere. Among the more entertaining performers was Dominic Gaudious, a guy who plays a double-neck didgeridoo and a double-neck guitar. I’m always impressed by didgeridoos, as my mom used to have one hanging on the wall and about the only thing I ever managed to make it do was slowly dribble my spit out the other end.


We spent the better part of another day at the DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, relishing in both its air conditioning and the unlimited play games. Their virtual reality games were terrible, with graphics, headsets, and controls straight out of the early 90s, and neither one of us could handle them for more than a minute or two. I made it all the way through Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, but Ride The Comix was so horrendous that I ripped off my dorky helmet and walked out in the middle. Sorry teammates, but my laser sword didn’t work anyway, so it’s not like I could have helped you regardless.   Literally everything else was much more fun. They had a classic games area, a pinball machine room, skeeball, air hockey, a bunch of music game machines, even a bank of playable Fix It Felix from Wreck It Ralph! My personal favorite was a driving game I’d never seen before called “Dirty Drivin'” which involves some of my very favorite things: revenge, explosions, and customization. It would probably lose something in translation from arcade to console game with the loss of the steering wheel/gas pedal/revenge crank controls, but I would still buy it in a second. I would pay full price. What I can’t pay is $7700 for an arcade machine. $15,000 if I ever want to play with another human being. Please port it!  

  No, seriously, port it. Or my buddy Ralph and I are going to wreck you. wreckitralph  

Shut up! And another thing: how come I can’t get no Tang ’round here?


  We weren’t certain if we’d be able to tour the Kennedy Space Center as our trip fell smack in the middle of the government shutdown. As it turned out, the visitor complex remained open, but other things, like the bus tours and vehicle assembly building tours were suspended, nor were we allowed to enter the Kennedy Space Center proper–so thanks for ruining our honeymoon, Republicans. Way to go, hope you’re proud,  and congratulations, you’ve made The List.  



Shortly after we arrived, there was a presentation by astronaut Mark Lee, who told the audience about some of his space missions (including his untethered spacewalk), as well as answering their questions and posing for photos afterward. One thing I learned was that space suits weigh almost three hundred pounds, which is about ten times more than I would have guessed. But then again, if I was in charge of designing space suits, they’d be about as useless as the ones in “Nude on the Moon”, so it’s not like I was making an educated guess to begin with. As soon as I asked my question about space suits, I realized I had made a terrible error and wasted an opportunity, so we made sure to get in line for a photo with Mark. When we got to the front of the line, I asked the real question that had been burning in my brain: Do astronauts like ice cream as much as we’ve been led to believe? Because every shop that sells anything even vaguely space related ALWAYS has astronaut ice cream, so are they really super keen on it? Mark then proceeded to blow my mind. He told me that astronauts DO enjoy ice cream, but not the stuff they sell in the stores. That they have super-secret astronaut-only ice cream, and it is transcendent. WHAT?! I hope it’s not too late for me to sign up for astronaut school.

spacecenter2Hey, I’d love to chat, but I’m running late for the moon!

After that shocking revelation, we made our way to the Atlantis exhibit, which was spectacular. It started with a video played on screens all around you (in front, overhead, on your sides) about the design problems inherent in building a space shuttle, something that was designed to re-enter earth’s atmosphere and land in a horizontal position, able to be reused, unlike any other spacecraft ever built. A video about human struggle and triumph, all set to swelling music. At the end, they showed Atlantis swooping toward the camera, said “Atlantis, welcome home,” and the screen lifted to reveal Atlantis behind it in the same position and I burst into tears.

…I don’t think they let crybabies be astronauts.

  Look, you watch it and see if you can handle it any better. It was an extraordinary experience, a moving display about humanity reaching toward something greater than themselves, and a fitting tribute to an important part of history.  

atlantis“Oh, that space shuttle is so fake. Look, you can see the string.”





Inside the Atlantis display, they have a ton of different artifacts, replicas, and simulators. My favorite part, aside from the shuttle itself, was the sign describing Personal Pocket #2. Astronauts could carry ANY ITEM that would fit inside, and yet they mostly used it for pens. Pens. Is that the limit of your imagination, astronauts? What in the heck do you keep in Personal Pocket #1, and why don’t they talk about that? Is that your ice cream pocket? THE WORLD DEMANDS ANSWERS.

explorerswanted To test our astronaut readiness, we went on an important space mission which involved testing our claustrophobia.  

To get down from that area, they have a giant slide that I wanted to slide down so badly, but a supervising employee told me that it was for children only. Wait, you’re telling me that it was ok for me to cram myself through a relatively small plexiglass tube that hung out in the open, but that an enormous slide that was at least 12 feet wide couldn’t handle the weight of my ass? In protest, I sat down on the ramp intended for adults to walk down and pulled myself down using the handrail as though it were a terrible slide. This is what happens, NASA. This is what happens. End slide age discrimination now!   jfkspacecenter

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not. And it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this space race. We mean to lead it, for the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”

They are serious about wanting to put a human on Mars within the next 15 years, and it’s possible that with Curiosity already in place, that we would be able to watch the astronauts descend. Nothing on Earth will stop me from watching that broadcast. So help me god, I’ll even subscribe to cable.

Come and see the mermaids of Weeki Wachee! Unless the power’s out, then you can’t see them!


After Dinosaur World, we continued on the road to our other non-Orlando destination: Weeki Wachee Springs, home of real live mermaids! We tried to plan our trip so that we could hit dinosaur world in the morning and still make the afternoon mermaid shows: Fish Tails and The Little Mermaid; we ended up squeaking into the parking lot just as the Fish Tails show was beginning, bought our tickets, and hurried over to the theater, missing only a few minutes. Luckily we came late enough in the season that the Buccaneer Bay water park was closed, or we would have had to park in the back of a lot, wait in an interminable line, and miss the show entirely. That day, only a handful of cars were present, and there were maybe twenty other people in the theater.


I suppose I had never really given much consideration to how much effort and training it would take to be a mermaid, at least of the Weeki Wachee variety. Learning how to swim with the tail apparatus, not only getting used to breathing out of a tube underwater, but taking in the proper amount of air so you’re floating at the correct level, learning all of the choreography, and on top of that, learning how to eat and drink underwater. What!? I don’t even like putting my face directly under the showerhead. The Jaws game gave me borderline panic attacks; I seriously felt like I was drowning in my living room. What I am saying is, I may have had some quibbles with past jobs, but none of them required me to breathe from a tube underwater, so they have that going for them. Not long after Jason stopped shooting video of the Fish Tails show, the power went out in the entire park. Obviously they had to stop the show: I would have been fine without the announcer or the Enya, but my guess is that the air hoses also stopped working in which case I’m glad that they got out of the spring ASAP. All of the guests were hustled outside of the theater to wait and see if power would be restored, and the hour that followed was one of the longest hours of my life because there was absolutely nothing to do. We mostly just groaned and hung out under an umbrella near the restaurant, and I also spent some time hassling a peacock. IMG_1200 I mean, not that the architecture isn’t stunning and worthy of study. It looks like they transformed the place from an old school McDonalds. After eating at their restaurant…all I can say is that I wish they had lived up to McDonald’s quality, which is so, so sad.   Eventually, the power kicked back on, just in time for the Weeki Wachee performance of The Little Mermaid. I’m glad that they still put the performance on, as only a few other people elected to stay through the power outage. IMG_1222  

Even though they emphasized repeatedly that this was Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, it definitely played closer to the Disney version. No talk of the love of a human being the only way to get a soul or the agonizing pain of having the legs she desired, her voice was stolen instead of having her tongue cut out,  anthropomorphized animal buddies, all wrapped up with a happy ending. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, the Hans Christian Anderson version is depressing as hell. “When it grew dark a number of colored lamps were lit, and the sailors danced merrily on the deck. The little mermaid could not help thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen similar festivities and joys; and she joined in the dance, poised herself in the air as a swallow when he pursues his prey, and all present cheered her with wonder. She had never danced so elegantly before. Her tender feet felt as if cut with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang had pierced through her heart. She knew this was the last evening she should ever see the prince, for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home; she had given up her beautiful voice, and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him, while he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry sky and the deep sea; an eternal night, without a thought or a dream, awaited her: she had no soul and now she could never win one.” Both difficult to portray with the few actors they had on hand and not the making of a happy afternoon. If they did something faithful to the source material, everyone would go home crying, not even stopping to get a pressed penny on the way out. If they ever decide to go with a new name to more accurately reflect the content, they could go with “Don’t Sue Us, Disney”. Overall, it was generally entertaining and I was still impressed by the tube-breathing, plus there was an excellent sequence where the sea witch beats up some mermaids for fun. On our way out, they had a mermaid available for photos opportunities, but for whatever reason, I felt weird about standing in line behind some eight year olds to have my picture taken with a real live mermaid. I suggested Jason do it, and the look he gave me could have withered the little mermaid’s soul. We were just leaving the parking lot when I saw….something. I pulled over immediately and hopped out of the car. TURTLE!

Deciding that having him hang out in a parking lot heading toward a busy road was a bad idea, Jason picked him up and carried him over to a grassy area, where he proceeded to sit and hate-stare at us. Clearly we had interrupted his errands and now he was going to have to start his trip over.   turtle A former coworker told me that he used to have a pet turtle but that he ran away from home. That one day, he’d taken his turtle outside to wash him, and he turned around for a second and the turtle was gone. I never really believed him, I didn’t think turtles could move that quickly. I mean, it was obvious to me how they were getting away from the reptile zoo, but it seems like someone competent would have a harder time losing a turtle. As soon as I saw this one booking across the parking lot, I had two thoughts: One, I owe him an apology for thinking he was a liar, and two, this could be the runaway turtle himself. So Drew, I’m sorry, and your turtle seems fine but angry. I think that during the summer when Weeki Wachee is in full swing, water park and all, it would make for a supremely fun afternoon. When it’s just the two mermaid shows, it’s fun, but not necessarily worth a large detour.