Halloween season is almost over here in Orlando, and if you listen close enough you can hear sleigh bells ring in the distance. It’s hard to believe, but here in the land of eternal entertainment our Halloween and Christmas / Winter holiday season starts in September and runs continuously to January, more than a quarter of the year. Thankfully, I am a sucker for this season, yet I still find it comical that we get two full months each of Halloween and Christmas.
Over the course of this past week I enjoyed my favorite Halloween celebration in Orlando’s theme parks, conquered a thrill ride at the last minute, and started to see signs of the Christmas season celebrations. Let’s begin to say our farewells to Halloween and slowly turn our attention to the most festive time of year.
Orlando’s most valuable Halloween celebration – SeaWorld Spooktacular
SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is the best value for Halloween in Orlando’s theme parks. It is included in regular park admission, no extra charge. It takes place during regular park hours on weekends in October. This allows guests to enjoy all the regular park offers plus the added bonus of a fantastic trick or treat trail, whimsical characters, festive decorations, and great photo opportunity. Plus you don’t have to keep the kids up late for an after hours event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Now, the ‘wow’ factor is not as strong as Mickey’s event at Magic Kingdom, but it is charming, fun, super affordable, and very kid friendly. Costumes are allowed, policies can be found here.
My friend and I visited during the afternoon and had no shame being two grown adults trick or treating in the park. We took a few opportunities to have a fun photo taken with some of the great characters found along the trail. And I totally acted like a little kid when we got to the Swedish Fish station and I gleefully remarked that they are my favorite, the SeaWorld crew member gave me four handfuls!
This upcoming weekend (October 29 and 30) are the last dates for this year’s Spooktacular, so if you didn’t make it this year, be sure to check it out next year. It is one of the top reasons I am a SeaWorld Passholder.
The last of Dufftoberfest at Universal Studios
After a fun trip to SeaWorld I resumed the mundane chores of the workweek, and began planning out the following weekend’s adventures. Universal Orlando beckoned, especially as the glorious Florida fall weather arrived. A hot butterbeer sounded very tempting, but there was one more seasonal treat that required my consumption.
Dufftoberfest made a debut last year at the start of Halloween Horror Nights. It became an instant hit with Simpsons fans and HHN fans alike. The pumpkin flavor is spot on with a nice underlying flavors of brown ale. As with all the other versions of Duff, Dufftoberfest is brewed by local Florida Brewing Company. In fact, a friend of mine found “Gourd Shorts” from Florida Brewing that tastes almost exactly like Dufftoberfest.
We arrived around 3:00 PM on this past Saturday to find that only one tap of Dufftoberfest was left, in all of Springfield USA. We made a BumbleBee Man line for Duff Gardens and grabbed two Dufftoberfests while we still could, but I also craved sustenance.
We decided to split a Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, a Springfield delicacy I had yet to try; the Krusty burger always claimed my patronage previously. The food in Springfield’s Fast Food Blvd is some of the better counter service food in all of Universal Orlando. It certainly fits the theme. I would easily order the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich again, though it would be difficult for me to finish one on my own. The chicken is crispy and sweet, which is enhanced by the waffle “buns” on which it is served.
This little romp around Springfield USA was a good reminder of why I enjoy this area as a Simpsons fan, and why I would love to see a Treehouse of Horrors happen during Halloween Horror Nights.
The crowds and rides of Islands of Adventure
More friends met up with us in Diagon Alley with only one hour left in regular park operating hours. Universal Studios closed at 5:00 PM to get ready for Halloween Horror Nights. Naturally the park was packed with people pushing to cram in as much as they could in that last hour. After catching Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees we walked over to Islands of Adventure.
Take a moment to enjoy some Celestina Warbeck 🎶 pic.twitter.com/j6IMXxCi69
— TouringPlans (@TouringPlans) October 22, 2016
The line to get into IOA was backed up past the ticket windows, so we opted to head to my friend’s apartment and play a brand new Harry Potter board game! (Yes I know I am a total nerd and yes, the game was so much fun!)
The next day I was invited back to Islands of Adventure at the last minute with a different group of friends. I arrived to IOA at about 5:00 PM again, and even though Universal Studios was closed for regular operation, the line to get into IOA was not as bad as the previous evening.
The mission of this visit, aside from having fun with friends, was to get me, the big scardy cat, to finally ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I get motion sick very easy so I’ve built up a severe apprehension to any and all thrill rides. However, this year I have been working on overcoming my discomfort and expanding my horizons.
I have a system. I have to watch a POV video of the attraction on YouTube so I can manage my expectations. I generally do this two to three times. Then, I need to ride one of my gateway rides. In Islands of Adventure that ride is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. This was my first “thrill” ride in IOA, I did it for the first time a year ago. It reminds me that usually the rides are not as bad as I imagine them to be.
Thankfully the Spider-Man ride had about a 20 minute wait, which wasn’t too bad, especially since the queue has so much at which to look. Once aboard our SCOOP vehicle Spidey swept us up in his adventure, and I kept my eyes on the action most of the time (usually I defer to looking at my feet anytime it gets to be too much).
With a renewed sense of slight bravery it was time to head to Hogsmeade. I desired my favorite specialty drink before dashing off with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Inside the Hog’s Head Pub a line of about 10 guest preceded us. However, with such a relatively short line we still waited about 20 minutes before ordering and getting our drinks. And according to the bartender my favorite drink, the Hog’s Tea, must now be called by its Muggle name, a Long Island Iced Tea – boooo.
I’m getting a little frustrated at these name changes that have been happening at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I understand wanting to be careful about how alcohol is associated with a world that is beloved by kids and adults alike. However, the Hog’s Tea has been around for years now, so I don’t really understand why the bartender said it now can no longer be called that. Whatever the rationale, the drink still tastes refreshing.
While waiting in the 20 minute queue, we sipped on our Hog’s Teas. Like Popeye and his spinach, I felt less trepidation about finally going on a ride that I’ve feared for years. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the time has come for me to finally experience you. As my feet landed on the moving walkway and we took our seats I went to my yoga training and took continuous cleansing breaths. This is happening.
I’ll admit, I spent a lot of my time looking at my feet, it was like a tonic that calmed my nerves. I don’t remember every last detail of the ride, but I do think I could definitely ride it again, given the right circumstances. I am so thankful for the many friends in my life that are willing to be patient and encourage me in the right ways to push through my fears and try experiences that I used to think were too much for me.
As the sun set, a chill in the air could be felt. Soon Halloween will be behind us, making the way for the holidays.
Christmas holiday season starts soon at Walt Disney World
In just a few days Jimmy Buffett will debut a new Christmas album, as fun and silly as his last one. On this album is a new original song, “Santa Stole Thanksgiving”. I heard the song debut on Radio Margaritaville a few days ago and it made me chuckle. There is so much truth to the song title alone.
Growing up my family began decorating for Christmas just before Thanksgiving. This is because it was always such a production and took many days to accomplish. So getting into the holiday spirit early is nothing new to me.
But this year poses a little something different. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights tacked on two extra nights due to Hurricane Matthew getting in the way earlier in the month. Now the last night of HHN will be November 5th! That’s incredible.
But the real kicker is just two days later over at Walt Disney World, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins. Boy, if there ever was a time for Jack Skellington to claim responsibility for this year’s events.
Cast Members report that the massive Christmas trees for each of the four theme parks have made their way out of the Holiday Services warehouses. And guests have reported Christmas merchandise taking center stage at many on property merchandise shops.
Between SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular, which is Orlando’s best value for families seeking Halloween fun in Orlando, snagging some of the last Dufftoberfest, and facing the demeantors of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I’d say I bid my farewells properly to the 2016 Halloween season. And now I think I’m ready to start jamming to Jimmy Buffett’s new Christmas album, especially since it’s still flip flop weather.