Every so often, I have to leave behind the heavy and depressing news of the day (Syria, Egypt, the usual mayhem, murder and corruption in South Florida) for something a little more frivolous and fun.
And so it was with my print column for Sunday, in which I wrote about a rite of passage for nearly all South Florida parents, the compulsory trek with the kids to Central Florida mega-theme parks.
But beyond the fun and games, a heated debate arises: If you only had one day to go to one park (and someone else was paying), where would you go?
Orlando or Tampa?
One of Disney World's parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom), Universal or Sea World?
Or Busch Gardens?
Feel free to chime in with your answer (and your rationale) below.
I finally went to Disney World and Busch Gardens for the first time this year, after 24 years in Florida. This is what happens when you have a kid.
I went to Magic Kingdom on one of the coldest days of the year, and one of the most crowded, on Presidents Day weekend in February. My daughter was competing the next day in a gymnastics meet at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex (itself a frightening marvel of Little League Parenting Run Amok).
I went to Busch Gardens on one of the hottest days of the year, on a Monday last month.
I had a good time at both places. But I enjoyed Busch Gardens more. It seemed less commercialized, less intent on hypnotizing kids into a hyper-consumerist state with every princess and iconic character and ride/souvenir tie-in imaginable.
At Disney, my daughter and I split one of those Fred Flintstone turkey legs. We zigzagged from ride to ride, picking up those free quick passes that allows you to come back at a certain time with a reduced line, and got around pretty efficiently. I still can't get the "It's a Small World" jingle out of my head, just when I finally got it out of my head from my childhood visit to Disney Land in Anaheim. But it's a piece of Americana that has to be experienced.
We did Space Mountain two times, but I wasn't thrilled. An enclosed rollercoaster in the dark? It's like making whoppee with your eyes closed. Maybe it gives you a little more of a surprise, but I still like to see what's around me.
I like rollercoasters (As a Brooklynite, I grew up with the Cyclone on Coney Island and I became a later-life devotee of Cedar Point in Ohio), and Busch Gardens certainly wins on that front.
My daughter's not tall enough to ride the biggest, baddest coasters yet (like the diabolical looking Sheikra), but we had plenty of fun with the Cheetah Hunt, a fast and furious (but pleasingly smooth) ride.
We rode that one five times, and by day's end we were in the front car, our faces getting splattered by bugs after sunset. I felt like my car's windshield on I-75. It only added to the fun.