Dinosaur World, Florida

On the way back from a thing in Tampa in April of 2017, I had the chance to stop in at Dinosaur World in Plant City.   I’ve been meaning to write about it since then, and I am just now getting around to it.  (I know it’s been more than a year.  Shut up, I’ve been busy!)

This wonderful and adorable little attraction is just off exit 17 of I-4, a little bit east of Tampa.  I thought it was one of a kind, but I have learned that there are three of these parks, all owned and operated by the same family.  The park is filled with life sized dino sculptures by a man named Christer Svensson.  (I keep wanting to call him Christopher, but the oph is truly silent.)

The park itself is not terribly expensive, and it won’t take up more than a few hours of your day.  Even from the highway and parking lot, the dinosaurs are visible.

This next picture was actually taken inside the restroom.  I was super entertained that they even themed the bathrooms.

Wherever there are dinosaur sculptures, there are also educational signs explaining what you’re looking at.

::cute the Jurassic Park theme music::

Some of the dino sculptures are just freaking adorable.  There’s a mom-sized one to the left of this little fellow.

The walkways throughout the park are very nicely maintained, and there’s lots of shade.  It’s actually a very pleasant place to stop if you’ve been on the road for a while.

As with nature documentaries, however, there are occasional horror shows.

The T-Rex walk was one of my favorite bits, of course.  It reminded me of that bit in Futurama

There are also numerous photo opportunities throughout the park, which led to one of my favorite recent photos of me.

The sculptures are foam covered in fiberglass and then painted.  A few of them needed touch-ups to their paint but for the most part, the dinos were very well cared for.

There were lots of little showcases throughout the park of dino family groupings.

I particularly liked this one, because a) stegosaurus has long been one of my favorites, and b) it’s so cute when they stand up to get the tall leaves.

There was also a mastodon section, set away from the dinosaurs because chronology.

There was also a set of play areas for children, including a fossil dig and a boneyard that little dino-fans can climb through.  I think there was a picnic styled area where you could bring a lunch, but I’m not positive about that.

Near the main entrance, there’s a smallish indoor exhibit with a few animatronics.  None of the outdoor dinos moved on their own, but this group did.  It just made me miss Universe of Energy more.

Have you ever been to Dinosaur World?

Tokyo DisneySea

In my third weekend in Japan, I went to both of the Disney theme parks in Tokyo.   I’ve already covered Tokyo Disneyland, but the other park was far more interesting to me: Tokyo DisneySea.  There isn’t an analogous park to DisneySea anywhere else in the world.   Many of the rides and concepts in this park are unique to DisneySea.

You still have to use the monorail to get there, however.  I always love the monorail.


Tokyo Disney’s monorail is not that different on the inside than any other Tokyo rail car, except that the windows and hand grips all have that familiar Mickey shape.  The little red shorts on each hanging ring are especially cute.


The entry courtyard of DisneySea has a giant rotating Earth.   Hidden on the other side of the Earth in this picture is a line of people waiting for an official Disney photo of them standing in front of the planet.   On the other side of these entry buildings, the rest of the park centers around an area called Mysterious Island, featuring a giant volcano.


The Easter celebration was going on here as well.


The ride wait times display near the front of the park was surprisingly analog!  I would have thought that a digital display would be in use here.


First up is Mysterious Island, home of the Journey To The Center Of The Earth ride.   I have no photos from that ride, but it was certainly fun.

There’s a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride in Japan, but it was closed on the day that I visited.  Fans of the old 20,000 Leagues ride will recognize this submarine from the old Florida 20,000 Leagues ride.  It’s just window dressing here, though-  the ride inside is reportedly very different than the old Florida version.


This pyramid is part of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride.  It’s really very strange to hear Indiana Jones speaking Japanese.


Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull is a fun coaster ride.  It has no relation to the movie, however-  this was named Temple of the Crystal Skull years before the development of the movie that shares its name.


It looks very peaceful, doesn’t it?


The DisneySea Electric Railway connects different portions of the park.


This is Aquatopia, a ride which uses the same trackless technology as Pooh’s Hunny Hunt over in Tokyo Disneyland.  If not for a slight buildup of silt on the floor of the ride’s shallow pool, you wouldn’t be able to tell at all where the cars would go.    There was more than one possible track as well, so your car might not go the same way as the car ahead of you, and you might finish slightly before someone who started first.


I stopped for lunch on the American Waterfront section of the park at a place called the Cape Cod Cook-Off.  I walked to what I thought was the end of the line, and before long I was ordering my food.   What I didn’t realize was that there was a much longer poorly organized line behind me, and that I had accidentally wandered into a character show meal.  Since I was alone, I wound up right in front of the stage.


Minnie looks good in purple, don’t you think?


This is Duffy.  The show I accidentally dined in is called “My Friend Duffy,” and it centers around this Disney bear.  Duffy was created in 2002, but he’s most popular in the Tokyo parks.  There’s a great deal of Duffy merchandise available there.  He was reintroduced to the American Disney parks only about five years ago.


Tokyo DisneySea does have a Tower of Terror ride, but it has no connection to the Twilight Zone branding because OLC didn’t want to have licensing fees to CBS as well as Disney.  Instead, the story is completely different than the Florida version of the ride, and involves a cursed idol.


While I was walking toward the StormRider ride, some of the Incredibles popped out to meet park visitors.


Elastigirl was very popular with the kids.


This is the facade of the StormRider ride.  The StormRider attraction is closing next May to be replaced by a new Finding Nemo/Finding Dory ride in 2017, so I’m glad I saw it when I did.  I have strong opinions about the constant remaking of rides to incorporate newer Disney properties-  I understand why they do it, but I often dislike the changes and miss the original versions.  (In other words, Dreamfinder got a raw deal.)


But I digress… StormRider is a ride in which you use a specialized aircraft to fly into and diffuse a storm system.  The actual ride is a simulator, similar to Star Tours.   This is the entry area, where the storm diffusion technology is explained to the audience.


One huge section of Tokyo DisneySea is built to resemble Aladdin’s Agrabah.


Jasmine’s Flying Carpet ride is basically the same as the Flying Carpets ride in the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Hi, Rajah!


Another large section of the park, Mermaid Lagoon, is built to resemble King Triton’s palace from The Little Mermaid.


Naturally, there’s a statue of Ariel.


And here’s Triton himself, trident in hand, being pulled by two porpoises.    Honestly, the notion of using porpoises like horses never made any sense to me, unless he did it on porpoise to make some sort of political point.

Yes, the entire point of that last bit was to set up a dolphin pun.  Don’t judge me.


I wanted to go into King Triton’s Concert, but if you look carefully in this photo, you can see that it has a 240 minute wait time.  Two hundred forty minutes.    I was not interested in waiting  four hours to get into this attraction.


Instead, I waited on line for Raging Spirits.  The premise for this ride is that it’s an archaeological dig, but the temple designs are based loosely on the Incan aesthetic of The Emperor’s New Groove.


I noticed this sign on the way out of the Raging Spirits coaster, and I totally agree.  Life is an astounding  journey.


As I was preparing to leave the park, Mount Prometheus started to erupt.  I had no idea it did that!


Have you ever been to a Disney park outside of the USA?  What did you think?

Tokyo Disneyland

In my third weekend in Japan, I went to Tokyo Disneyland.   This was my first visit to a Disney park outside of the United States, despite having been a stones throw from Hong Kong Disney and Disneyland Paris at other times in my travels.

Tokyo Disneyland had more than 17 million visitors in 2013, making it the world’s second-most visited theme park behind the Magic Kingdom in Florida.  It’s also worth noting that the Tokyo Disney parks are the only ones in the world that are not operated solely by Disney.  They’re owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, who licenses the Disney theme and branding from the Walt Disney Company.  You can’t tell the difference in person, though-  the Disney experience is still the same.


Despite it being June, they were celebrating Easter.  I’m still not sure why, but it did mean there were lots of adorable rabbit figures in the parks.


Tokyo Disneyland’s Main Street USA is quite a bit wider than the Orlando version, and it’s covered from the very frequent Tokyo rain.


This part isn’t all that different than it is in Orlando, except there’s a lot more space in front of and around the castle.


Ahoy there, little fellow!


This castle is a familiar sight to so many people.


One of the sections of Tokyo Disneyland is Toontown.  There’s a Roger Rabbit ride that I wanted to see, but I ran out of time.


One side effect of the Easter celebration is that various Disney characters were set throughout the park in egg form.  Egg-shaped R2-D2 is sitting in front of Star Tours.


The Star Tours ride line area here has no Imperial Walker, no trees, no cover at all from the sun until you get into the lobby.  Luckily, the wait times for this one never get too long because there’s an enormous capacity inside.


The ride isn’t much different, except that all the C3P0 and all the other characters are speaking Japanese.   I have some recordings from my phone, but they’re not clear enough to be blog-worthy.


In Tokyo Disneyland, Star Tours is right next to Space Mountain.  There’s a certain logic to that, when you don’t have an equivalent of Hollywood Studios.


It’s A Small World really wasn’t any different than the Florida version.  The egg version of a Small World character in front was part of the Easter celebrations.


I found the Easter parade.  Seriously.  It was kind of hard to miss.


The springtime themed Minnie and Clarice Chipmunk outfits are super nice, though.


In Japan, the costumed characters tend to wander out among the crowds more, instead of staying in one place and spontaneously generating lines of children.


More egged characters, around the corner from the Country Bear Jamboree.


The Jamboree was also translated (mostly) to Japanese.  This was a fascinating experience.


The signs within the park weren’t very helpful for navigation, but the breaks between sections were quite clear.  The ground was also painted a different color in each section, which helped me find my way quite a bit.


Haunted Mansion wasn’t any different in Japan than it is in Florida, and Pirates of the Caribbean was still Pirates of the Caribbean.  Lots of Jack has been added since the last time I went on the Florida version, but I’m told that the Orlando version has the same Jack stuff added in now.


For lunch, I shall have a waffle and some lemonade!  I wasn’t in the mood to wait for anything else.


Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is different than anything that exists in the Florida parks as far as I know.  It’s definitely different than the Florida Pooh ride, which is basically just a retooling of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

The Pooh ride uses a trackless ride technology that I haven’t seen in any of the Florida Disney parks.  Trackless rides are able to cross over existing paths, reverse, and rotate on the spot.  This makes for a really fun ride experience.

In this ride, you sit in a giant Hunny Pot, and zip around.  When Tigger dances, the entire room bounces.  It’s pretty fantastic.    YouTube has some videos that people have filmed going through this ride, if you’re curious.


On the walkway bridge that separates the parks from transportation are a variety of small sculptures.  Here’s Tinkerbell.


Chip and Dale dance in front of a bicycle parking lot.


What’s your favorite Disney ride?

Getting My Roller Coaster Fix In Germany

It’s safe to say that the few years I lived in Orlando kind of spoiled me for theme parks-  Disney and Universal are the gold standard for theme park crowd control, ease of navigation, and kick ass rides.  That doesn’t stop me from trying other theme parks though.

Since I was already in Köln, it seemed like a good idea to spend a day in nearby Brühl to visit the 45 year old Phantasialand theme park.  I stayed in Brühl the evening before going to the park, but I could just as easily have stayed in Cologne-  you can get to Brühl Mitte from the Cologne Bahnhof in thirty minutes or so via a streetcar, and from there, a bus runs to the theme park every so often.

The entrance area was chaotic and not very well organized, which led to the quote of the day: “I hate this park.”  Even though I had a lot of fun in Phantasialand, this was said at least a dozen times throughout the day.

Phantasialand is broken up into several separate lands, none of which are very clearly marked.  We got turned around several times and had trouble finding our way repeatedly throughout the day.

One thing they did right, but in a strangely frustrating way, was their version of Speedpasses.  You can buy them in packets of four, but the entrances aren’t always easy to find or follow.  Still, the Speedpasses made it possible for us to ride a lot in a single day that we wouldn’t otherwise have managed.  They turned 70-90 minute waits into ten minute waits on several of the rides.

I posted some pics from the theme park to Facebook, and a lot of my friends commented that it looks a great deal like EPCOT back in Florida.  I can understand why though-  Phantasialand has a golden geodesic dome over one of its attractions.  This was built after EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth, but it’s still an easy comparison to make.

The park has an often fantastical look about it.  For example, this ride is called the Würmling Express, and it’s a sort of single car slow-moving monorail.

There’s a 3D animated shooting ride called Maus Au Chocolat, in which you shoot balls of chocolate at animated mice to score points.  You compete against your seatmate for highest total- it’s pretty fun.

Not so fun, in my opinion, is Talocan, seen in the picture below.  I don’t like getting held in inverted positions or getting flipped around in that sort of scenario.  Especially when you can see far around you.  It was popular though.  There’s no accounting for taste.

The best part of the park was the roller coasters.  The Colorado Adventure had an old west mining-train theme to it, and that one kept banging us against the sides of the car. I spent some time before we went on that one trying to figure out why the sign had Michael Jackson’s name on it.  I learned when I was preparing for this post that he actually opened that ride, and there are photographs of the man himself on the coaster, trying to hold his hat in place.

The others coasters were better at keeping us from swinging around so much in our seats.  Winja’s Fear, an indoor coaster, had a lot of fun spinning action.  There’s a relaxing all-dark coaster called Temple of the Night Hawk.

And then there’s the Black Mamba.  It’s smooth and fast.  Really fast.  According to The Internet, the ride hits 4.5G at points.  There’s one particular corkscrew that is amazing to ride.  We briefly considered going back to hit the Black Mamba again, it was that good.

It turns out that there’s a metric pantload of theme parks in Europe.  I get the sense that Phantasialand is one of the three best known though.  Now that I’ve been to Phantasialand, I need to check out the other two-  Europa Park and Disneyland Paris.