At the Hadrian Hotel

At the Hadrian Hotel

Monday, November 12, 2007

Disney World - Day 4 - Magic Kingdom

4 of 5 in a series of placeholder blog posts. :-) Day 5 started with a character breakfast at the Crystal Palace. We only managed to get on a few rides during the day but went back for "extra magic hours" after spending a few hours at Downtown Disney. As with the previous posts, this will get fleshed out when I get better network access.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Disney World - Day 3 - Animal Kingdom

Day 3 at WDW was spent at Disney's Animal Kingdom...

We started off on the Kali River Rapids where we all got slightly damp. The boys wanted to ride again, so Randee and I hung out near the exit and watched a few of the more local primates hang out. While everybody continued to dry out, we roamed around, learned a bit about the Komodo Dragon and headed over to the bat house. All of the bats are male, but that doesn't prevent them from "fighting," as one little girl commented. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The boys and I had been pin trading since we arrived at WDW and our day at the Animal Kingdom presented more opportunities for trading. In fact, it presented opportunities for more than just trading. We were on our way to the 2PM Lion King show when the boys stopped to trade pins with "Joe," a cast member with a clipboard. We chatted for a while and he eventually asked us if we were planning on watching "Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade." We said we probably would and he asked if we'd like some really good seats. That sounded good to us, so he showed us the route of the parade and said that our seats would follow the parade route. The only requirements were that we wear some minor costumes (vests and Goofy hats with antlers, as it turns out) and wave to everybody - we'd actually be in the parade! How many times does something like *this* come along? (Answer: not nearly often enough).

We went of to the Lion King show and then wandered off to the parade's starting location. We were given our costumes, put on a float, and off we went! We rode all around the park and waved and smiled at many, many people. It was really satisfying to see little kids' eyes light up when you smiled their way. It made you want to keep smiling and waving even thought your arm felt like it would fall off any minute. One amusing moment during the parade was when we looked into the sea of people and saw Mark's 3rd grade teacher waving to us. You just never know who you'l run into at Disney World.

After the parade, there was not a whole lot of time left until the park closed for the day, so we headed off to the new Expedition Everest. The boys and I had each gotten a FastPass for this one earlier in the day and we were ready to go. Randee had no interest so she cruised the gift shop while me and the guys waited on line. The ride was fun and the boys went again since the line was now pretty short. It turns out that Randee spent her time in the gift shop getting the 3 of us Expedition Everest t-shirts for Christmas. It was a nice reminder of the trip when we got them.

So day 3 didn't include too many attractions but it did include a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for all of us. I think that riding in the parade was, for all of us, the highlight of the day, and perhaps the entire trip.

UPDATED 2008/03/19: Way later than I expected.... I originally posted a day 3 (Saturday) entry from my Blackberry at 1:15 AM on Sunday (Nov. 11) using IMified, which is cool, but not great for long blog posts - especially if you want links and pictures.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Disney World - Day 2 - Epcot

Today we spent a *really* long ("Extra Magic Hours") day at Epcot. We got kind of a late start and didn't actually get on a ride until around 10:45 AM. That ride was "Mission Space" where we discovered that, unlike the last time we were at WDW, there are 2 flavors of the ride: one where they spin you and one where they don't. The boys and I opted for all-spinning, all-dancing and enjoyed it quite well.

After "Mission Space" we met up with Randee's sister Merryl and her girls: Megan and Lauren. We headed for
the "Universe of Energy" where we got to see "Ellen," "Alex" and "Bill Nye The Science Guy" (Bill! Bill!). Nothing new to report here, but we always seem to enjoy this one. We went on to "The Seas" followed by "The Land" where we had lunch.

Other than "Soarin'" (which we rode later, during our Extra Magic Hours), both Land and Sea were pretty disappointing. "The Seas" now seems to be much more geared toward younger visitors (way pre-teen). I remember there being more scientific information available in the past. The boat ride in "The Land" was pretty useless. The last time we went to WDW, there was a cast member riding along with us, explaining what was what and answering questions. This time, we were on our own except for a few pre-recorded blurbs here and there.

After lunch, we headed for "Test Track" which is always fun. We rode again during the Extra Magic Hours, but I took a video clip for our first ride. On the way out, Eric found the car he wants when he turns 17 in January. If he can pay for it, he can have it!

The rest of the daylight hours were spent roaming around the World Showcase. We rode the "River of Time" (another attraction modified down to the way pre-teen level, sigh) and the Maelstrom. We saw Chinese Acrobats and found "Hidden Mickeys" and wandered around until about dinner time, when Merryl and the girls headed back to their hotel. The four of us then had dinner at the "Rose and Crown" where we had lagoon-side seats for the nightly "Illuminations" light and fireworks show. The food was great and we had a great view of the show. If you'd like to watch the show while enjoying some typical British fare, I highly recommend that you make reservations at the Rose and Crown for dinner - and be sure to tell them that you'd like outside seating to watch the fireworks.

We ended the night with a ride on Soarin' which involved almost an hour waiting on line. The wait was worth it (just like it was last time). To keep you amused while you're waiting, they have an interactive wall that allows the crowd to move various animated objects and animals back and forth across the wall. If you wave your arms to the right and your shadow moves into an object, the object moves to the right. The same goes for left, up, and down. They have a number of different games they run, alternating them such that you (hopefully) don't end up playing the same game twice while you're waiting. The ride itself is pretty spectacular. You sit in a "car" in a row of 6 or 8 seats, all facing a large curved screen. Your car gets lifted into the air so that your feet are dangling (don't wear flip-flops!) and all you can see is the screen. They then play an iMax-like movie while blowing you with a gentle breeze, appropriately scented for the area over which you are flying. You almost wish it could go on forever. This one is a definite for Fastpass. I honestly wouldn't mind riding this 2 or 3 times.

I have pictures from this trip over at flickr, with the Epcot pics starting here.

UPDATE 2008/01/04: I originally posted this from my Blackbery using IMified early morning on day 3 as a placeholder post to be fleshed out when I got a net connection better than my Blackberry (and I wasn't ready to just collapse onto the bed :-) ).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Disney World - Day 1 - MGM

Last night we flew from PHL to Orlando (via Atlanta), got onto Disney's Magical Express, and arrived at the Port Orleans Riverside around 10PM. Fortunately, we had gotten some good advice about packing "first night" clothing and such in a carry-on bag, so we didn't need to wait for our luggage to catch up with us (good thing too, as it didn't get to the resort until 3AM).

Today we spent the day at Disney MGM Studios. The highlights were the new "Lights, Motors, Action" stunt show imported from Disneyland Paris, the Rockin' Roller Coaster, and Fantasmic. The stunt show was very cool (and very loud). This being a Disney attraction, it naturally had a back story: they are "filming" a number of chase sequences for an upcoming movie. Of course they're not really doing that, but it does provide for a bit of behind-the-scenes style theater. If you like fast cars, fast bikes, jumps and flames, this is a show must-see.

The last time we were at the Disney-MGM Studios, they had not yet built the Rockin' Roller Coaster. The premise is that you've been invited by Aerosmith to one of their shows, but everybody's running very late so they need to put you in a really fast limo. They shoot this limo out of the staging area at what seems like 0 to 60 MPH in about 1.5 seconds. I'm sure I have the numbers wrong, but we did get up to speed very quickly. The limo took you over the surprisingly winding and hilly LA freeways to the tune of (naturally) blaring Aerosmith music. Too bad all limo rides can't be like that.

We also tried something new (for us) this year by signing up for a dining plan. This is a really good deal. We had lunch at the ABC Commissary and dinner at Spoodles (at the Boardwalk), saved a substantial bit of money, and walked away from both meals *far* from hungry. The meal plan entitled each of us to a sit-down meal, a counter-service meal, and a snack, every day. The counter-service meal included an entree, a drink and a dessert and the full-service meal added an appetizer to that. I just have to say that the food at Spoodles was absolutely great. I would eat there again even without the meal plan, but I don't think I'd order nearly as much food.

After dinner we headed back to Disney-MGM for the evening's showing of Fantasmic. We saw the show years ago when we were last at Disney-MGM, but I don't remember enough to say if/how the show has evolved. There was lots of smoke and fireworks, as well as animations and movie clips projected on water sprays (which were pretty cool). And of course, there were plenty of Disney characters and extras. All-in-all it was a good show.

I have a bunch of pictures from this trip over at flickr.

UPDATE 2007/12/11: I originally posted this from my Blackbery using IMified. It's a great tool for quick posts, but if you want multiple paragraphs, formatting and HTTP links, you need to do a little post processing on a bigger screen.

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