October 2014 Trip Report - HHN Nights And Food & Wine Days - Day 1

October 2014 Trip Report – HHN Nights And Food & Wine Days – Day 1

Day 1

flighttoorlando2I typically fly out to Orlando on JetBlue and this time I had a lot of trouble finding a reasonably priced flight for that particular day. I had monitored the flights for over a month before giving up and seeing what else might be out there. I found a non direct American Airlines flight that was well priced and still got me into Orlando before Halloween Horror Nights that evening so I decided to give it a shot. I had to fly from Boston to Miami first departing a little after 8am, followed by a 1 hour layover which would get me into MCO just before 2pm if all went correctly.

The day prior I went ahead and confirmed online only to find an option to upgrade to first class for $130, which was pretty much what I paid in the first place. I have never flown first class and after a brief argument with myself, the option became a mandate and I went ahead and purchased it. Once it was said and done and the charge hit me, I felt really good about the decision. Fast forward twenty-four hours and I found myself going through security and headed for the American Airlines gate. So much like a 1%er I marched on to the plane first and found my big comfy seat and sat down nice and relaxed. Almost immediately a flight attendant was bringing me a Bloody Mary. They continually check on you and get you anything you need and for once in my life I fell asleep on a flight because the seat was that comfortable. They did give me a hot breakfast that was quite good, an omelette with sausage, bacon, and hash browns. The 3.5 hours went quickly and before I knew it I was exiting in Miami to await the next flight, which happened to be on the same plane but this time I was going to be with the peasants.

First I would like to briefly mention I felt like I needed to watch my wallet in Miami airport. It simply is a pit. Enough about Miami, I hope I never see it again. So I boarded the plane and went to the last row and couldn’t believe just how small the seats were and how close together they are. In the comfortable chair up front I hadn’t even noticed there was no personal television but now it became extremely apparent. I have never been so uncomfortable in all of my life on a flight and this was a 38 minute flight from lift off to touch down that seemed to take hours. In the end, I could have flown direct with JetBlue for the price I paid here after the upgrade. Honestly I will be desperate before I ever consider straying from the JetBlue formula again. I am grateful for having the first class experience which is not available in JetBlue. I will gladly take a socialistic approach when it comes to flying and keep my television and my good spaced seating that is the same for everyone.

I arrived on time and got my luggage and ran for the Thrifty rental counter. This was my first experience with them and although everything was great in the end with the price and the car, the service was slow. When I was finally up next 2 of the 3 employees left for some sort of break leaving me seemingly for hours. Once I got situated it was fine, not to strong on trying to push the extras on me and I was on my way. I would use them again but it would be nice if they managed their staff a little better and/or added a computerized check out option as well. I got the car rate from zalyn.com , a mid size car (mazda 3) for $13 a day. I had heard about zalyn from the ‘ WDW Today podcast ‘ and I will try it again.

IMG_2844_EFiring up Google maps on my iPhone I set my destination to the Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort. I was here last May and I was familiar with the layout so pulled out front and went in to check in. Apparently everyone was doing the same thing because I had to wait for quite a while. Honestly, its probably my only complaint for this hotel after two visits. The check in area is just overwhelmed. The comfort and accommodations for the price point is amazing. With an annual pass discount I was paying $74 for a Sun – Thursday and $84 for Friday and Saturday nights.

The rooms are of a good size, with a small table / seating area and includes a small fridge. What I would soon realize later was that the beds were going to give me the best sleep I think I have ever experienced away. The other people who would join me later would also agree with that point.

I needed to get a move on because it was getting late and I was hoping to get inside Universal Studios in time to get a look at Diagon Alley before participating in Stay & Scream. I exited the room and made my way toward the lobby to get a bus. As I approached the exit I noticed a will call kiosk setup. This was convenient and allowed me to get my HHN tickets right now and be done with it. Once completed I stepped out the doors and found a bus waiting for me and before I knew it I was heading up an escalator toward the security check for the CityWalk area. Once through I kept a strong pace to get into the park and right into the photo location just inside to use my voucher and get my photo connect star card. This would allow me to download any photo for a year at $49 which has since doubled in price. A text message sent off to Brandon telling me where I was and before I knew it, he and I were headed to Diagon Alley. I know sooner noticed he was carrying an umbrella when it began to rain on us, fortunately it didn’t last which is amazing considering the weather cycle Orlando had been experiencing and would be for the next week as well.

When getting near Diagon Alley it became apparent I was not going to get inside as they where telling us basically if we stepped in, that would be it for us until 6:30pm event start time. No worries, I wanted to see it correctly not be rushed anyway so we turned back toward Finnegan’s and the holding location to get in line and wait among the crowd for our stay and scream early entry. While penned in we met a few other people I had known from twitter and it helped consume the wait time.

 We were released into the park about 5:45pm (event actual start is 6:30pm). They only open a couple of the houses early but it is a huge head start as compared to those outside the gates. We headed for AVP first and unless you have been living under a rock you know its incredible.  The other house we hit early was Dracula untold which happens to be my least favorite. We went on to hit every house at least once and you can hear my initial comments as was recorded from this evening on the IPA 005 podcast episode. At this point I will run down and briefly describe and rank each house the way I saw it.

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#1 Halloween: This house focuses on the life of Michael Myers as told in the 1978 film Halloween. The House follows the flow of that first Halloween movie with a couple of shout outs to the 2nd and 3rd film as well. PROS: Unreal how close they followed the plot, in fact you feel like you are walking through the movie. The facade was amazing, the actual house from the movie complete with some projections to entertain the masses out front. The car choking scene is so good they have to beg you to leave the area, seems such a simple effect yet comes off perfectly. One of the biggest scares ever as you see a clearly fake Michael Myers dangled in front of you, of course you don’t realize it is hiding the real deal. Run bitches! The living room scene might be the best thing I have ever witnessed in an HHN house ever. Hiding Michael Myers in plain site by having several dummies in a row was also brilliant. You know some of them are real and some are fake, but which ones? CONS: I find it hard to find any actual flaws with the house but I did notice a little something they could improve on for the implementation after seeing the house 5 total times. The living room scene is clearly at a timed interval. I only saw the scene correctly one time out of 5. On a similar note there is a projection at the facade I only saw one time as well from the express line. The express line does not spend very much time out in front and that means they are more likely to miss all the hard work put into that facade. If they could speed up that living room interval and redirect the line in a manner to just spend more time in front of the house rather than the side of it, they might achieve absolute perfection.

#2 Dollhouse of the Damned: A very twisted idea where a girl has turned her dollhouse into a torture chamber, torturing all who enter. PROS: Maybe its me, but this was the creepiest house this year. So many different types of dolls and toys with nods to the likes of Teddy Ruxpin and a hidden Chucky doll. So much detail throughout each set, your eyes can’t help but wonder which is exactly what is needed to set up a good scare. CONS: the smell in the giant baby room is just a little too realistic, backing it off a bit might be a nice gesture to the guests. Probably my only complaint, which is saying something.

#3 The Walking Dead – End of the Line: A house where season 4 of the AMC show takes place. We walk throughout the major happenings of the season right up to Terminus. PROS: Huge house, massive, they state double the size of any house ever created. Lots of scare actors, they state double the amount ever used. This is what this house needed in my opinion to finally get really on track, after all zombies are only a real threat in numbers. Great use of scare actors, being forced to walk among them or through them really cranked up the intensity. CONS: I hope it really is the ‘end of the line’ for the show, at 3 years in a row its just time for something new. The helicopter was anticlimactic and did not meet expectations.

#4 Giggles and Gore: It’s a clown factory because we all know that clowns aren’t just make up but they are actually created. PROS: A strong story line that is easily identified which really helps an original idea. Pretty intense compared to the humor originally thought might take place here. Fantastic use of the twister queue where houses usually tend to fail in that location. A little interactivity with some effects the guests can control if noticed. Go ahead and push the button. CONS: Could have been a little scarier rather than sole focus on the gore side. Perhaps exploring some mimes in the maze as well particularly to play the distraction role.

#5 AVP: An epic battle between the ultimate hunters where we are unfortunately in the middle. PROS: The Xenomorph puppets were stunning as well as effective. The predators were huge and looked fantastic with the effects and lighting. The laboratory scene was so creative and so cool to get so close to an unmasked predator. This maze was less horrifying focusing on fantastic environments. You really felt like you were moving throughout an environment where these species are indeed with you. CONS: The egg scene seemed like a pause in the action. The two species never appeared to be targeting each other.

#6 Roanoke – Cannibal Colony: This long time abandoned colony survived by eating any trespassers who stumbled upon them. PROS: This house is actually fun, not to say there are no scares but it has this feel to it that brings some amusement, you won’t ever hear the word ‘MEAT’ the same way again. The scare actors here are amazing and bring the most to this house which may have been weak without them. You better look up, the scares come from all directions in this one. CONS: Maybe they relied a little to much on the scare actors brilliance here and perhaps things seem to become redundant.

#7 From Dusk Till Dawn: Based on the El Ray TV series rather than the movie. Several Characters find their timelines and destinations intertwining ultimately at a Gentleman’s club in Mexico. What none of them realize is that the women here are not the prey but rather the hunters. A Vampire cult uses the club to  lure the dregs of society to be used for food and sacrifice. PROS: Facade was amazing with a racy barker out front welcoming you to the twister. Amazing dancers veiled behind curtains only to lurch out and only then are they recognizable as vampires. Final scene in the twister looks true to the story and includes the Gecko Brothers, Santanico Pandemonium, and the chain saw wielding Kate. CONS: The entire middle 1/3 of the maze based on the labyrinth. Despite its detail it just seems repetitive and ultimately boring during this portion. More Gecko Brothers would have helped, perhaps using their challenge as the middle portion might have saved it. This was my biggest disappointment in that I really had high hopes for it. Keep in mind I would happily endure this maze over and over if given the opportunity.

#8 Dracula Untold – Reign of Blood: This house represents the movie, just released. Although this house was my least favorite keep in mind this was such a solid year. I would happily endure this maze several more times if anyone wants to pay for my flight and hotel. The untold story of Vlad the Impaler. PROS: Great facade entrance. Dracula scare actors look very similar to the movie poster. A very strong scene where Vlad rips into a victim and rips it back. CONS: Not enough Vlad for a house about Vlad. Story is not easy to identify, perhaps the movies release will amend that.

Somewhere in the middle of all that I managed to get a bite to eat at Fast Food Boulevard. I got the chicken thumbs from Cletus’ Chicken shack along with a Duff dry to wash it down. It definitely hit the spot and that place is just so convenient as well. Such a great addition to the park. Cosmic Ray’s could learn so much by the way they queue here rather than having to line up in huge lines at each station.

After all of the houses it was just about event ending time so I did head back to the hotel for the best sleep ever. Those beds at Cabana Bay I tell you are incredible. I should mention, once again there was a bus waiting for me and left almost immediately back to the hotel. It was a long long day and I was exhausted and I was in bed about 1am and needed to be at Studios for 7am early entry. Ouch!

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10 – Summary