Background: For those that haven't read any of our previous trip reports, the participants are myself, Jeff (39), a NASA aerospace engineer, Susan (38), also a NASA aerospace engineer, and our two kids Brian (11) and Katie (9). We're premium annual passholders and even though we live in north Alabama, we still find a way to make 3 or 4 trips a year to WDW. One reason we're able to do that is we are the proud owners of a Coleman popup camper which we pull down to WDW with us on every trip. We always stay on Disney property at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, typically at a discounted rate of about $34/day. Over the years we've come to love visiting Fort Wilderness - to the point where it almost seems like our home away from home. When we first started camping there several years ago we found there was little information about Fort Wilderness on the Internet. Deciding to rectify that situation, the family began researching other sources, asking questions around the campground and taking pictures. That effort culminated in the Fort Wilderness Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), which we faithfully try to keep up to date. We couldn't do it alone though. Luckily we don't have to as there are many other Fort Wilderness fans out there that are constantly sending me updates.Go To Part 2
This trip, our third of 1999, was our first ever in the middle of summer. Originally, we planned on one last visit the first week in August, just prior to the kids starting back to school, but Susan's 20th high school reunion threw a wrench into those plans. Also, I had some work related travel planned at the end of July so we ended up having to back up our trip to the week of July 17th. On to the details!
Days 1 - 2, July 16 - 17th - Travel, Magic Kingdom - RADP Meet
We left early on Friday the 16th, driving from Madison, AL (home) to Valdosta, GA where we spent the night at a Comfort Inn just off I-75. After an early continental breakfast at the hotel, we were off to WDW! We arrived at Fort Wilderness right at 11:30 am and were pleased to find no one else waiting for check-in. We were quickly assigned site 1124 (our first time in the 1100 loop) and were on our way within minutes. As it turned out the 1100 loop and site 1124 were nice. The comfort station was a short walk away and there wasn't a peacock to be seen or heard - woo hoo! If you don't get this, go back and read our last trip report. :-)
Setting up our camper went quickly but it was HOT! By the time we finished we were starving so we rode our bikes to Trail's End Restaurant. The lunch buffet included fried chicken, BBQ, sandwiches, chili, chicken noodle soup, salad, pizza and cobbler. We noticed that Trail's End had started charging separately ($1.75) for sodas, which had previously been included in the cost of the buffet. As we were eating, one of Florida's afternoon thundershowers passed through but it ended by the time we had finished eating. Total for lunch was $36. After shopping at the nearby Settlement Trading Post, we returned to the camper for naps while it rained some more. Luckily, the rain stopped in time for the RADP meet at 5:30 we had planned in front of Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC). In a nutshell, it was one of the better meets that I've had the pleasure of attending! Pictured from left to right are myself, wife Susan, Bruce (Zazu) and his wife Marta, Jack and his wife Mac (who posts to RADP as MacFlash88), Rachel (TDC Royal Mermaid) and Max.
We met up underneath the parrot out in front of the PotC attraction. Bruce quizzed us on the parrot's name...I didn't know...well, it's Barkley. Bruce is a walking treasure trove of Disney information and trivia. I could listen to him talk all day and I envy him for his job as a WDW Railroad cast member.
We chatted for a while waiting for some others to show but couldn't stand the blazing heat for too long. After about 15 minutes we retreated to the cool confines of PotC. We had very little wait and were all loaded up in the same boat. Yo ho! Yo ho!
Not satisfied with just one attraction, we went next door and commandeered a Jungle Cruise boat (it was a very short wait). We were a lively and responsive group to the skipper's spiel. :-)
Afterwards, we met up with Wendy at the Tiki drums. We had arranged at 6:30 meet up time with her since she was working over at MGM until after 5. What a nice young lady! Disney is fortunate to have someone that is so energetic and sincerely interested in perpetuating the Disney magic.
Sticking together we next rode the TTA and then the Haunted Mansion. It was really a treat having the
time to talk to Mac (a photographer and a big Disney fan) and Jack (a pediatrician and a Disney fan also). Often at RADP meets I've been to there's just not enough time to even meet all the people much less talk to them for any length of time. Mac and Jack have a daughter (Kaitlyn) that works at the AK as a Kilimanjaro Safari driver...what a cool job! We arranged to meet up again with Mac and Jack on Monday at the AK to ride
Kaitlyn's truck, which was great. More about that in Part 2. Rachel was a lot of fun to be with. She has a wonderful sense of humor and a bubbly personality. She and Brian got into a tickling match later in the evening.
Our final attraction together was It's a Small World. Everyone...well, most...well, actually a *few* of us wanted to do it and the rest came along anyway. :-)
Wendy and Jack did an excellent job of singing along. If I could sing I would have joined them but I satisfied myself by lip synching it Milli Vanilli style. :-)
We ended up the evening as a group with dinner at Columbia Harbour House. Afterwards, Mac and Jack went to stake out a spot for her favorite parade - MSEP, while Rachel, Wendy and the Spencer clan went to ride
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at night - woo hoo! We tried to follow that up with a ride on Splash but the line was just too long. We walked out together past the last of the MSEP which was circling Town Square. Thanks to all that came. We had a lot of fun! We were in bed back at Fort Wilderness by 11 pm.
Day 3, July 18th - Epcot, Coronado Springs, Typhoon Lagoon
We arrived at Epcot the next morning at 8:40 and headed directly to Test Track, hoping to get a ride in before the line got too long. Unfortunately, we were met in front of the attraction by a Cast Member who explained the ride was down and may be up later in the morning. We decided to do Honey I Shrunk the Audience (HISTA) instead, did an about face and headed to the other side of Future World. We were mildly surprised to find a rope up there but it was dropped in just a few minutes. After HISTA, we backtracked to the Land pavilion where we did Food Rocks, the Living with the Land boat ride and the Circle of Life movie.
Even though we had had breakfast in the camper we all were starting to get a bit hungry. We made our way to Fountainview Cafe where we ordered a fruit cup for Susan, a chocolate croissant for me and a black forest cake for the kids. Total for the snacks was $22.11. Re-energized, we went next door to Ice Station Cool. This place is a *must see* when touring Epcot in the summer. Even though it was only about 10 am, the temperature was already approaching 90 F...ugh!
***TIP*** When touring WDW in the summer, some things are a must: 1) sunscreen, 2) hats, 3) sunglasses, 4) lots of liquids, 5) light clothing, 6) squeeze breeze, and 7) frequent breaks in a cool area.
Next we visited Ellen's Energy Adventure, a great attraction to cool down on and then followed that up with a ride on Spaceship Earth before departing Epcot.
Two things we enjoy doing while at WDW is touring the different resorts and eating at different restaurants. For this trip, we decided that we were going to combine the two with a visit to Disney's newest moderate resort, Coronado Springs, and lunch at Pepper Market. We opted to eat first and were seated at a table quickly. The hostess gave us each a card on which the food we ordered would be recorded, explained the layout of the Market and took our drink orders. We split up and found what we each wanted and had a good lunch. Overall, we found Pepper Market to be OK. The layout was interesting but being open, it was pretty loud. The food was good but nothing special. The surcharge tacked onto the bill seemed unwarranted given that the wait staff did little more than bring water to the table.
We then toured around the resort a bit, which was laid out around a fair-sized lake. They had bikes and those little peddle cars (like at the Boardwalk) for guests to rent and ride around the lake. They also had water mice boats for rent but it was clear from watching them putter around the lake that they severely limit the speed. For a really fun ride in a water mouse boat I suggest renting at one of the Magic Kingdom area resort marinas where you can ride around on Seven Seas Lagoon and/or Bay Lake. We walked over to the resort swimming area to check it out the Dig Site pool area we'd heard a lot about. It looked like fun and seemed plenty big enough to handle lots of guests. After a short time in the heat though we were all about to shrivel up and blow away. We came to the unanimous decision that we'd seen enough of Coronado Springs and it was time to go swimming!.
After returning to our camper to change, we arrived at Typhoon Lagoon (TL) at about 3 pm. We were pleased to find the park had cleared out considerably so it was easy to find vacated lounge chairs after we'd stashed our valuables in a small locker. We started out playing in the wave pool which is always a lot of fun. One word of caution though - watch out for the body surfers! These brave souls ride the waves from the deep end well into the shallows and can barrel into unsuspecting swimmers. I wanted to ride Humunga Kowabunga (HK) but couldn't get anyone else to go with me - chickens! I rode it 4 times with almost no wait. Compared to Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach, HK is pretty tame. It's 214 feet long with a 51 foot vertical drop...very similar to the drop on Splash Mountain. I returned to our lounge chair gathering area to find Susan happily relaxing. The kids and I decided to do Castaway Creek, the lazy tube ride that circles the park. I'm not sure what we did after that but we ended up staying until 7 pm.
***TIP*** To avoid the crowds at the water parks, visit first thing in the morning or after 3 pm in the afternoon.
We returned to Fort Wilderness for showers and then went to the Campfire at 8 pm to watch Winnie the Pooh and have a nutritious, no-fat dinner (chili dogs, nachos, roasted marshmallows). :-)
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