Geek Guru: Conventions, Orlando and my endless love for Disney

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This spring break, I went on a trip with several other band members to Orlando, Florida. We visited Disney World, a behind-the-scenes Disney music workshop, Universal Studios and a Blue Man Group concert all in five days. Essentially, I went to one of my favorite places in the world with some of my favorite people in the world, and it was definitely one of the best moments in my high school career. I did have to give up something I was looking forward to as the Geek Guru in order to go, however — both Naka-Kon, the annual Kansas City area anime convention in Overland Park, and Planet Comicon, Kansas City’s comic and pop culture convention, occurred on the same weekend, which also happened to be the same weekend as the Disney trip.

For those who don’t know, conventions are weekend-long events where enthusiasts of similar interests can meet up. They include vendor rooms where hard-to-find merch can be found, as well as artists who sell their own fan or original artwork. They also include game rooms where attendees can play in video game tournaments or simply try out a game with a friend. Many attendees cosplay, or costume play, which means they dress up like their favorite characters from TV shows, video games, movies, anime, etc. Often these costumes are handmade by the wearer, and are very impressive. Panels are also a key part of any convention — basically presentations over a certain subject. They can feature celebrities of the nerdy world, like a video game panel featuring interviews and question-and-answer sessions with the developers and voice actors. It could also be an informative panel, like one over how to make your own cosplay if you’re a beginner. Overall, they are fun to attend to buy some nerdy stuff, maybe meet some famous people in the comics/games/sci-fi realm, and just chill out with others who enjoy what you enjoy in general. So you can understand why I, as Geek Guru, was a little upset that I would have to sacrifice attending either.

However, it was a good sacrifice indeed. Orlando isn’t exactly Comic Con, but it is still a great travel destination if you’re interested in comics, sci-fi, fantasy and the like. So while I could rant for hours about my trip, I’ll focus on the activities to hit in Orlando if you’re looking for a fun and nerdy experience. (Prepare yourself, spring break 2016.)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Whether or not the rumors that this theme park will soon become solely Star Wars themed are true, this a great destination for any fan of Star Wars. This is especially true during the period of May 15 – June 14, known as Stars Wars Weekends. If the fam takes a summer vacation to Florida, you might want to campaign to add this to the itinerary if you’re a fan. There’s a Star Wars parade, fireworks show, face characters you can meet and take photos with, a marketplace similar to a convention’s vendor room and many other special events like celebrity visits. Of course, there’s also the Star Wars-themed attraction Star Tours (which is there year round). If Star Wars isn’t exactly you’re thing, there’s still some things to check out at Hollywood Studios. If you like the classic science fiction TV show “Twilight Zone,” the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror attraction is not only a great homage to the show but also considered one of the best ride in all of Disney World by many. I can only be persuaded to get on by extreme peer pressure, but the randomized drops (including one 13-story drop) in which you fall faster than gravity are intriguing to many. If you’re simply a big fan of Disney, the Fantasmic nighttime spectacular is a must-see. This is a laser, water, firework, explosives and light show, featuring timeless Disney characters. Even if you don’t buy into the Disney magic quite yet, I bet you will after this show.

EPCOT

This is another Disney park, and also the nerdiest. EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and Walt Disney’s original vision for it was to have an actual experimental futuristic city with monorails, renewable energy sources and the like. It has evolved into an educational theme park split into two parts: Future World, which focuses on technology and our future, and World Showcase, which features pavilions of 11 countries that represent their cultures. If you’re an intellectual, you will not just enjoy the fun rides and great food in this park, but also the chance to learn something about other countries and our own future. For example, Test Track lets riders create their own vehicle design and test it against other riders in a car to find the best. Mission: SPACE offers an authentic space-travel experience, for both aspiring astronauts and thrill-seekers (or weaklings like me, who choose to ride the less-intense version). Future World and World Showcase come together for the nighttime fireworks show, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, which celebrates how far us earthlings have come and how we will go on into the future, discovering new things. I might have shed a few tears while watching it with my friends last week.

Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter

On the opposite side of the great theme park battle, Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure share this amazing experience. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you should try to go at some point. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are beautifully recreated, and even if you don’t manage to get on the hour-long-wait coasters, it is still worth the experience. You can buy chocolate frogs, pumpkin juice and other sweets at Honeydukes candy shop, or head over to the Three Broomsticks Inn for some butterbeer (which is amazing!). Another fun attraction is Ollivander’s Wand Shop. While not everyone is chosen for a special show of the wand choosing a wizard, you can shop for a character wand or find your own wand based on your birthday on the Celtic calendar. Many of these wands will actually let you perform magic at certain spots in the Harry Potter areas, by essentially standing on a certain spot and performing a certain movement. While these wands are incredibly expensive, it is a quintessential part of the experience to leave the park with a vertical, wand shopping bag.

Those are the big three, though I would like to give a shout-out to Kennedy Space Center, because while I have not been there recently, I did go when I was much younger and my favorite thing ever was astronomy and it blew my mind away. If you love space as much as 9-year-old me did, you will have a blast (pun intended). Hopefully I will get to go again soon.

Now that this incredibly long blog is finished, if you would like to check out a shorter review of an Orlando trip, check out Clayton’s Catastrophic Column here. See you next week.

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