Day 5, March 30th - Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios (Planned)Go Back to Part 2
Magic Kingdom, Discovery Island, MGM Studios (Actual)
Let's see, we left off in Part 2 with our bed on the verge of collapse and our camping neighbors talking and making noise like they were the only ones in the campground. The good news is that our temporary fix to the bed held up (being engineers worked out for us again!) and the yahoo neighbors *finally* ran out of gas and went to sleep. The bad news is that between the noisy neighbors (who were still gabbing at 12:06 am, which is the last time I looked at my watch) and us worrying about the bed falling down, we didn't get much sleep. :-(
Despite that, we were able to drag our wretched bodies to the Magic Kingdom, arriving at the entrance to Adventureland right at rope drop. We speed walked to Splash Mountain and were able to ride with no wait - woo hoo! Brian even rode with us in an attempt to "face his fears". He did pretty well but the picture revealed that he still ducked his head down on the big drop. I suppose one has to crawl before they walk, right? ;-)
Our timing was excellent for as we exited Splash we heard the "All Aboard!" call for the WDW Railroad. We hustled up the stairs of the train station and slid into an empty row. We got off at Mickey's Toontown Fair hoping to walk to Tomorrowland and find a reasonable wait for Space Mountain - fat chance! The queue was already stretching way out the door - the crowds were just too big for this trick to work for us. Oh well, we veered off towards Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin instead. After a short 7 minute wait we were off once again as Junior Space Rangers assisting Buzz in his battle against the evil Emperor Zurg and his robots. Katie set a new personal record score of 60,100 points - woo hoo!
Seeing the Skyway opened in 20 minutes, I decided to wait at the entrance while Susan and the kids rode the TTA. They finished in plenty of time and joined me at the head of the line. As we boarded the first Skyway bucket I heard the attendant say something about guinea pigs. The Skyway is not only a nice, relaxing ride, it provides guests with an interesting view of various attractions, backstage areas and park icons, like the Castle. I got some good shots of the Grand Prix Raceway, the Castle, and the empty 20,000 Leagues lagoon. For those interested in a little nostalgia, I dug out this 15 year old photo of the 20,000 Leagues lagoon, which I also took from the Skyway, when the attraction was still operating. Whether you liked the attraction or not (I personally didn't care that much for it), it's hard to argue against the idea that an operating 20K added to the overall look of Fantasyland. We exited the Skyway in Fantasyland and noticed that if we hustled, we'd be just in time for the next Hall of Presidents show.
***TIP*** The Hall of Presidents show takes place at 15 minutes past and 15 minutes before the hour. The theater is large enough so that you are all but assured of a seat so there is no reason to sit around and wait for the next show, unless of course you just want to cool off and relax.
We stopped at the nearby Columbia Harbour House for lunch. We split three fish and chicken baskets between the four of us and had food left over. With sodas, the total for lunch was $27.46. Afterwards, we tried another item on our "things to do this trip" list - the Diamond Horseshoe Revue. Unfortunately, we arrived late and found there were no more chairs available. Not wanting to stand to watch the show, we reluctantly departed making a note to make sure we did this on our next trip. Crowds were really beginning to build so we were pretty limited on what we could do without waiting in long lines. On a whim, we stopped in at the Frontierland Shooting Gallery. Sure you have to pay a quarter to shoot but it's fun! Give it a try sometime. The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management, which we all prefer over the old show, was our next stop. We sat in the front row underneath the spot where Iago gets zapped by the Tiki god so we were able to pick up a few of his lost feathers. About this time, the lack of sleep last night combined with full stomachs started making us a bit sleepy, so we decided to head for the exit. As we walked through Adventureland we were magically pulled towards Aloha Isle by the faint call of "Dole Whip...Dole Whip". How could anyone resist that on a hot, sunny day? :-)
Our timing seemed to be good as we exited the park to find a boat at the dock for our trip back to Fort Wilderness. What we didn't know was that the young lady attendant "manning" the boat was a turkey. That became obvious as we watched her quickly cast off the docking rope as she watched us walk towards her on the dock. In all our trips on the boats I've never seen a Cast Member do that. If they see a guest on the dock they have always waited the extra few seconds for them to board. Oh well, I guess all Cast Members can't be great.
With our new premium annual passes in hand, we made our first ever trip to Discovery Island. As luck would have it (bad luck that is), my camera battery died so I got no pictures of the island or the wildlife there. :-(
We walked around the south side of the island first, passing by Alligator Swamp, Tortoise Beach, Flamingo Lagoon and through the South American Aviary. The huge Galapagos turtles were interesting to look at as was the colony of flamingos and the ever present vultures. We stopped to watch the 2 pm Reptile Relations show, which featured a gecko, a tortoise and a large snake. It was a cute show and informative. Afterwards, we walked a short distance to see the 2:30 Feathered Friends show, which again was interesting and entertaining. We finished up our stay by touring the north side of the island where we saw tamarin monkeys, a peculiar animal called a patagonian cavy (large rodent that looks like a short-eared rabbit) and various species of birds. It's a real shame in my opinion that Disney is closing Discovery Island.
After picking up a new camera battery at the Settlement Trading Post, we rode our bikes back to the camper to relax, do some laundry and take our showers. While Susan was finishing up some laundry, I rode my bike around to check a few things out in the campground. I stopped in at the Reception Outpost and talked to two CMs (Randy and Naomi) about Fort Wilderness. They told me the last of the Wilderness Homes in loops 2500, 2700 and 2800 should be replaced with Wilderness Cabins by June of 2000. I didn't ask, but would assume that the handicap accessible Homes on the 2800 loop would be replaced with handicap accessible Cabins. We also talked about the new bus routes that were experimented with back in the fall. I was told that Fort Wilderness liked the new routes and that guest feedback was positive but that Disney management decided that the new routes were too expensive; therefore, there were no plans to change from the old routes. I was also told the old rumor about Disney management closing Fort Wilderness was still alive and well. I sure hope that rumor doesn't come true.
I rode back to the camper, called the kids back on the two-way radio, and we were off for MGM Studios where we had a 6:30 priority seating at 50's Prime Time Cafe. We had never eaten there and frankly, it wasn't on the top of our list given the mixed reviews we've read. However, one of the things we enjoy doing on each trip is trying out new (to us) restaurants and 50's Prime Time was one of the very few park restaurants we'd not tried. Another place we thought about doing was Hollywood and Vine but at the time I was considering them they were only doing breakfast and lunch. However, as we passed the restaurant on our way to 50's Prime Time we noticed a sign that said Hollywood and Vine had begun serving dinner as well. We have a trip coming up in May, so we may try it then. We checked in and were told where the restrooms were and reminded to make sure we "washed our hands". :-) We were seated in about 15 minutes and soon joined by Cousin Elizabeth, our server - what a hoot! Elizabeth and friends (or is that cousins?) kept the kids on their toes in terms of elbows and napkins and clean plates. We're still saying "napkies in the lapkies" to this day. :-) Brian ended up with his nose in the corner. In terms of the food, Susan had the turkey and dressing, I had the pork tenderloin special, Katie had the pasta and Brian had the chicken fingers. We were warned up front by Cousin Elizabeth that the green beans were "awful" and the potatoes were "yucky" but we didn't listen. She was right on with the green beans - way too crunchy - must be a chef from the north. My potatoes on the other hand were excellent. We finished up the meal with desserts after getting "clean plate" stickers. Susan and I split super sundae and the kids had the ice cream that came with their kids meals. Brian asked for extra whip cream and got a whole cup of it. :-) Total for the meal was $55.20.
We waddled over to Star Tours and rode it with no wait; likewise with the Great Movie Ride. We then did Voyage of the Little Mermaid before heading over to the second showing (10 pm) of Fantasmic!. We sat down 25 minutes before the start of the show and still got an excellent seat a little over half way up and a couple of sections to the left of center. I noticed people were still coming in right up to the start of the show.
***TIP*** If there is a second showing of Fantasmic! and your plans allow it, go to the second show instead of the first. You'll eliminate (or greatly reduce) any wait time and you'll be able to do many of the Studios attractions, including Tower of Terror, with little or no wait.
***TIP*** Do not sit in the first 10 to 15 rows in the Fantasmic! theater. The show makes extensive use of huge water fans as projection screens. Invariably, the wind blows the mist into these seats and the folks sitting there get soaked and many end up getting up and moving during the show. I suggest sitting about half way up.
I like Fantasmic! but think the segment on the water screens where they show the clips from 15 animated features back-to-back is too much like a commercial. All-in-all though, it's a very entertaining show combining music, live actors, animation, fireworks and some terrific special effects. Back to Fort Wilderness!
***TIP*** The Fantasmic! theater holds about 7,000 people so you can imagine what it's like once the show is over. Unless you're sitting on the top right near the exits, I suggest that you sit tight after the show for a few minutes while some of the crowd files out. If you're over on the left, you'll actually get out faster if you go down to the front then go right and up. BE CAREFUL if you step on the metal seats towards the front! The mist fans have made them wet and they are VERY SLIPPERY! Finally, bear to the right and exit near Tower of Terror and then stay right as you walk down Sunset Blvd to avoid the masses of people.
Day 6, March 31st - Epcot, Magic Kingdom (Planned)
Since we stayed out late the night before, our plans were to sleep in late and get to Epcot for the opening of the World Showcase at 11 am. You know how some farmers have roosters to wake them up? Fort Wilderness has its version of a rooster too - peacocks. Yaaahhhh, yaaahhhh, yaaahhhh! Fortunately, they have adopted the laid back style of Fort Wilderness and don't typically start calling at the crack of dawn. We skipped our camper breakfast and instead enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Trail's End - yummy! The buffet has scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, breads, pastries, breakfast pizza, donuts, Mickey waffles, pancakes and more. Total for breakfast was $31.55. We followed up breakfast with a walk on the Swamp Trail to settle our food.
We arrived at Epcot just in time to see one of our favorite acts, FutureCorps, play in the Innoventions East breezeway - excellent! We walked through Innoventions briefly before heading to the World Showcase (WS) for rope drop. As we usually do, we headed directly for Maelstrom and walked right on. I, like others, wish this ride was a bit longer but it's still fun. We stopped at the China pavilion to see how long before the next showing of "Wonders of China" - 18 minutes - too long. We made the first of what turned out to be many stops at a merchandise cart so the kids could play with the puppets there. We played and shopped our way through the Outpost, Germany and Italy before stopping in at the Kaki Gori stand to get shave ices for snacks - yummy! We sat under a tree and ate our shave ices while listening to the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps do their show. Afterwards, we listened to the talented Voices of Liberty in the lobby of the American pavilion, then watched the American Adventure in the theater.
Outside, we crossed the walkway and entered the American Gardens Theatre to see "Disney's International Songbook" show. Brian (why is it always him?) was picked to participate in the show as "U". He was given a big posterboard with the letter "U" on it and during the show was asked to come up to the stage to read some lines about the United Kingdom. I must say he did an excellent job. :-)
Continuing around the WS, we stopped in at Japan's Mitsukoshi Dept. Store because Katie wanted to look for a paper umbrella. We didn't get one but it was an interesting store to visit anyway. There was one area where you could buy a pearl and watch as a Japanese CM opened the shell and plucked it out for you. We also walked through the Bijutsu-kan Gallery where there were a number of artifacts on display.
Morocco was next and *of course* we had to visit the shops there. Katie and Brian found the Indiana Jones paraphernalia in one shop - aren't they cute? The look on Katie's face cracks me up. :-) We really didn't buy anything but it was fun looking. We looked around more in France and then stopped to say hi to Phoebus.
We walked through garden behind the UK pavilion, waving at Tigger and Mary Poppins as we passed by. We would have stopped to visit but we were on our way to see the World Showcase Players and their off-the-wall rendition of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Rubbish! :-) Can you guess what was next? Yep, more shopping at the UK. The last stop in our World tour was of course Canada. We timed it just right to see one of our favorites in terms of live entertainment at WDW - Off Kilter. While we were waiting on a bench for the show to start, a little girl on her mom's electric scooter found the "Go" button and crashed into us. BOING! The mom and the folks with her were horrified and very apologetic but we were fine and glad the little girl and her mom weren't hurt. As usual, the OK put on a great show.
As we were leaving Epcot we stopped to watch Kristos, a trio of alien-appearing acrobats do their show behind the big fountain. Wow! talk about strength and flexibility!
After a break and showers back at Fort Wilderness, we drove to the Contemporary for our 5:45 priority seating (PS) at Chef Mickey's. We arrived to find a long wait at the check-in podium and I overheard quite a few people without PS being told they couldn't be seated until around 8 pm. I was glad we had our PS. :-) After checking in, we only had to wait a few minutes before being seated in an elevated area in the back, near a window that had a great view of the roof of the entrance canopy- doh! Soon, Minnie came through twirling a napkin encouraging everyone to join in on the celebration of someone's birthday. It was a lively, if noisy dining atmosphere. Chef Mickey's features a buffet with a good selection of meats, vegetables, salads and, of course, desserts. As we ate, we were visited by Chip, Dale, Mickey and Minnie. Goofy stayed in the dessert area helping guests decorate their own cupcakes. Donald Duck served as the official greeter and stayed near the front with Goofy. Mickey better watch out - that Minnie is a sweetheart and a good kisser!
We said our good-byes to Donald - got to love that attitude - and decided to change our plans of going to the Magic Kingdom and instead returned to Epcot, primarily to try to ride Test Track. After riding Space Ship Earth, we headed for Test Track only to find an 85 minute posted wait and a *long* line. I asked the first CM I saw if they were still doing the singles line and they were - woo hoo! We were instructed to get into the regular line and a CM would pluck us out of there. After just a few minutes that's just what happened and we were riding in no time.
**TIP** The singles line is the way to go to avoid long waits at Test Track, however, be aware that when you do the singles line, you bypass all the exhibits and stuff they have in the queue area *and* there is NO guarantee that you'll be able to ride with anyone in your party.
As it turned out, I did ride with Katie and Susan rode with Brian in the next car. Everyone loved the ride! The high-speed part outside is especially fun. :-) We finished up the evening with Brian and I riding Body Barf...err...Wars, and Katie and Susan watching Food Rocks. We met back up using our radios at the fountain in front of Spaceship Earth and then drove back to Fort Wilderness.
Go To Part 4
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