Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

07 November 2009

Back to the Present

Here’s another of our frightfully amusing theme park adventures. This one encapsulates its host city so well that you’ll feel like you’ve really been there (even if you haven’t) and immediately need to take a shower (even if you’ve just had one). That’s the kind experience we hope to attain for you, our loyal readers: one that’s so real, so funny, and so insane, you’ll repeat it to your friends as your own. —MB & JS

For some people, a trip to Universal Studios is a trip to Hell itself. The crowds. The blatant consumerism. The pandering to our lowest common impulses, like sex. For others, and we count ourselves among them, a trip to Universal Studios is close to Heaven. The rides. The thrills. The pandering to our lowest common impulses, like sex.

Universal Studios offers up almost every conceivable entertainment. On one hand, you have to admire the energy and resolve to pack so much fun into one place. The park’s infrastructure is so sophisticated, city governments should hire its engineers to design public transportation. We’d all live in a happier, more efficient place.

On the other hand, despite the efficient design, long long long lines plague the park. People are waiting everywhere . . . for rides, for food, for toilets, for the exit. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find lines, each longer and slower-moving than the last. It’s a nightmare for the ADD-challenged among us. Imagine the horror, the horror, if city governments hired its engineers to design public transportation.

While you can whine about the prices—and they are outrageous—you should have known what you were getting into when you paid your admission. It’s the lines that will stick with you like a bad burrito. Those lines will haunt you deep into the night, assuming you make it that long. For the good rides, the ones you came to experience, the lines can stretch into an hour-long, bone-numbing wait.

But that’s not the really bad news.

As you’re enduring that wait, shifting from one tired foot to the other, trying half-heartedly to keep your kids from starting a major international incident, you might notice a few people somehow bypass the line altogether and make their way stealthily but straight to the entrance. Who are they and how can they get away with this? Where are the park police when you need them?

Welcome to Los Angeles. Those “chosen few” are likely movie industry insiders. They know all the tricks. Don’t ask us how they do it. Life isn’t fair. You’re stuck in line, boiling inside, for another forty-five minutes just to catch a glimpse of the Jurassic Park ride, when a couple of hot blondes and an industry mogul out to impress them cut right to the front.

You somehow persevere to enjoy the ride, but the vision of those blondes etches itself onto your brain. The whole experience irks you. It helps explain why people enjoy the tabloid stories of movie stars in compromising positions: it’s the satisfying feeling of revenge.

But back to the present. While Universal Studios has its drawbacks, any thrill-seeker worth his salty dog has to go, to experience first-hand the rides that have won the park fame and stature. Because despite the wait, despite the long lines, the rides are worth it.

When preparing for your visit, develop a plan of attack. Decide which rides you absolutely must hit, then using a map of the park, devise a strategy for the day. The order you do things can make a huge difference. For example, during one visit, we made the mistake of sweating it out in the Backdraft ride first when the obvious move was to get soaked on the water toboggan ride and then dry off by the fire.

The rides change year to year, so make sure you have a current list. The major exhibits change constantly, too. When you need a rest, take the trolley tour for a relaxing hour. And we didn’t even mention CityWalk, the food-and-entertainment pedestrian-friendly stroll at the park’s entrance/exit. Want a beer? Want to see a show? Want both? CityWalk might be the answer. Just remember, you’re in LA. There’s lots to do out there.

Lessons Learned: If you can’t score those VIP passes and the blondes that come with them, wake up early, pack a lunch, and bring every major credit card you own (you’ll need them). You won’t regret your trip, and it’ll give you a reason to check the tabloids.
How We Saw It
Blight-Seeing: 1
Communication Breakdown: 1
Customer Dis-service: 1
Discomfort Level: 3
Grunge Factor: 1
Inactivity Guide: 1
Rent-Attainment: 2
Spontaneous Consumption: 2
Fun Fraction: 5/5
Vibe-Rating: 4

If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: Los Angeles International Airport (aka LAX)
Native Population: 4,100,000 (city only)
Normal Attractions: Are you kidding? Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Dodger Stadium, the culture, the food, the population, the Valley, the architecture, the drugs. You could find a worse place to visit. We certainly have.
Final Point of Interest: LA actually has a subway system. It’s not as extensive as New York’s, but whose is? Just don’t get caught on the subway during an earthquake.


Anonymous said...

In my 10yrs experience working in the hospitality industry, six of those were spent 2 minutes from the Big Mouse House, "Disneyland." If I had a dime for every person I gave directions to each Saturday or Sunday morning as they exited, "The La Plaza Restaurant," asking your basic, "Where's the bathroom?" I'd be rich! I also helped those who were so in need of critical important advice as they looked stressed as they exited to the next part of their journey for the day. I knew the look, the walk, as if I could read their minds as they approached the door to leave and their kids bounding all over the place.

These were the "MOM's" who had been dragged along on the husband's business trip to manage the four or more hyper-active sugar laden children who needed to be managed by a metal harnace (sp?). To those Mom's, I shared with them 3 things.
a) GOOD SET OF WALKING SHOES (Like those a Nurse would wear. I would then give them directions to the closest sporting good store to help them be able to have a 'longer time smiling,' because their feet were happier and their back was in less pain due to comfortable shoes. And by this, I mean 'Tennis Shoes built for Walking.'
b) Bring your own water - Many parks didn't carry or build in Drinking fountains & Charged excessive $$$ for an 8ounce bottle of water. Then again, who's willing to share a drinking fountain with things like the H1N1 Flue going around??? BRING Your Own Waterbottles (Save $$$ too!!)

c)This one was JUST for the Mom's when Dad had to have his turn managing the over-spun children, and that was directions to "Fashion Island Newport Center," where they could just relax, see the ocean, and have a really nice relaxing time chilling out window shopping, people watching, and buy themselves something really fun and nice.

c.1) I also sent the Mom's off to Glen Ivy Hot Springs where they could spend the day at an outdoor spa... Upon their return, their dreamy looks of thanks were good enough for me!

There's nothing like seeing the face of an emotionally and physically relaxed person after a long week of Micky Mouse and exhaustive children. Their smiles as they walked into the Restaurant to thank me, was just Priceless.

So, yes, "GOOD COMFORTABLE WALKING SHOES!!" - It's a critical miss, if you don't have those.

Mark - I agree with 99% of what you got in that article. I refuse to head to the desert mid Summer. Magic Mountain? OMG, it gets to be 110 and up out there. Palm Springs can get up to 120!!

Good Stuff!! Keep at it!!
- ADW:)***xxoo

Mark Bloom and Jason Scholder said...

Thanks, Anonymous (aka ADW).

We do our best to bring to light those travel tips most people never get to hear about. We appreciate you writing in with your own thoughts and experiences. Keep coming back.
-Mark & Jason