Background: For those that haven't read any of our previous trip reports, the participants are myself, Jeff (39), a NASA aerospace engineer, Susan (37), also a NASA aerospace engineer, and our two kids Brian (11) and Katie (9). We are certified Disney fanatics - it's that simple. 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 other Fort Wilderness fans out there that are constantly sending me updates.Go To Part 2
This trip, our second of 1999, was made specifically to visit Epcot during the International Flower and Garden Festival. Our first real exposure to the Festival was last year and we were completely blown away! (See last year's trip report) The topiaries were amazing, as was David Rogers' "Big Bugs" sculptures which were scattered around Future World. We love looking at the flowers and plants normally on display at Epcot but are amazed at what Disney rolls out for the Flower and Garden Festival. On to the details!
Days 1 - 2, May 26th and 27th - Travel, MGM Studios
We picked May 26th because that was Katie's last day of school. After an awards ceremony that ended at 10 am, she was free to hit the road with the rest of us! We had decided ahead of time that we would drive down to Ocala, FL and spend the night there rather than arrive at Fort Wilderness late and have to put up our camper in the dark. Using our Florida AAA guide and the phone, we were able to make reservations at the new LaQuinta Inns and Suites in Ocala for $64/night. The room was spotless and had plenty of room for the four of us - excellent! Our only regret is that our room was overlooking a nice, unoccupied hot tub that was seemingly beakoning us to get in - ohhhh that would have been so nice - but alas, it was too late. We awoke the next morning and, after a complimentary breakfast of sweet rolls, cereal and the like, stepped outside into a beautifully clear morning to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle (mission STS-96), which was carring a flight experiment for one of the projects I manage at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Shuttle launches, whether viewed from near or far, are a spectacular sight indeed.
Since we were arriving on Thursday, we decided to forego Epcot since it was the Early Entry (EE) park for the day. Instead, we went to MGM Studios, which was the EE park the day before. We often use the strategy of visiting the park that was the EE park the day before to help us avoid the worst of the Disney crowds and it works for us. One thing I noticed that I'd not noticed before was that the park didn't open 30 minutes before the normal opening time like it has for so long. I hope that isn't a permanent change as one could do a whole lot in that first 30 minutes. We'll see. After the rope dropped at 9, we headed for the Great Movie Ride. Walking right on, we were seated in the back car which meant we were going to be ambushed by Gangsters! When we reached the movie montage finale we noticed that Disney had added clips from Armageddon, the Lion King and Independence Day. We'd done this ride just a few weeks ago and didn't notice it then so it must have been done recently. After stopping off at the Star Wars speeder bikes for a ride and photo, we rode Star Tours with no wait. It would really be neat, in my opinion anyway, if Disney added a second Star Tours movie based on the pod races in Phantom Menace. The tour could be to Tatooine and Rex could take a wrong turn and bam - there we'd be in the middle of a race! I think it'd be fun. :-)
The new "Sounds Dangerous" show starring Drew Carey was our next destination. This 12 minute continuously running show is billed as a "wacky soundsational experience". Bah! I think this is worst show I have ever seen at any Disney theme park. First of all, 90% of the show takes place in complete darkness so if you or those in your party have an aversion to darkness *definitely* skip this one. To sum it up, you are seated in the theater and directed by a stage manager to put on the headphones conveniently located in the box next to your seat and "sit back and enjoy the show." After a brief introduction projected on a screen up on stage the room goes totally black and you listen to Drew stumble and bumble his way through an "investigation". The sound track incorporates some of the effects (haircut sequence) that used to be done in the "3-D Audio" sound booths in the post-show area. The lights come on at the end after Drew catches the bad guys or whatever. I was so disappointed that frankly I stopped paying attention. This show had "LOW BUDGET" written all over it.
Our next stop was "Doug Live!", the attraction that recently replaced SuperStar Television. A bit of trivia here - at one time "Doug Live!" was to be called "Doug Rocks!" I guess Disney thought it wise to tone down the name. As much as we hate "Sounds Dangerous", we really enjoy Doug and highly recommend it. The show does a fine job of combining on screen video with talented live actors. A quick look at our MGM map revealed that it was almost time for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Having skipped this show on our last several trips, we decided to check it out. We were able to find a seat down near the front row way over on the right side. The view was great but I think the explosions and fire at the end nearly singed off all our body hair. ;-)
While making a bathroom stop I overheard this exchange.
Mom: "Did you hit him?"
Dad: "Da$%#& right I did!" "Let's go home. I'm tired of waiting in lines all day and listening to him whine."
Mom: "What, so you can sit on the couch all day and drink beer? You want to go - go!"
Yikes! I hate it when reality creeps into my Disney fantasy. :-(
It was now lunch time so we made our way to Hollywood and Vine for our 12 noon priority seating. This was our first visit to the restaurant, which features art deco theming with lots of stainless steel and tile. The seats were very cold to the touch of our bare legs. :-) The food is served buffet-style so after ordering our drinks from our waitress, we proceeded to pig out! Highlights of the buffet were the pan roasted salmon and the orange cake...mmmmmmmmm. There is a separate kids buffet that has the typical kids stuff like mac & cheese, hot dogs, chicken tenders, etc. Characters in attendance were Chip, Dale, Pluto, Goofy and Minnie, all dressed in the best Hollywood attire. We thoroughly enjoyed Hollywood and Vine and will make sure to return.
We waddled down Sunset Blvd. to check the line for Tower of Terror - 40 minutes - too long. We settled instead for seats under a fan in the Theater of the Stars and watched Beauty and the Beast (BatB). The show is pretty good but I'm ready for something else. Personally, I'd like to see a Mulan themed show but I won't hold my breath since Disney already has the afternoon parade themed after that feature. I've heard that the Hunchback (HoND) show may be moving here to replace BatB but they'd have to modify the HoND staging to pull that off. Whatever Disney does I *hope* it doesn't take away Hunchback! Oh, one other thing. We noticed the same guy sitting next to us at the Doug Live! show was sitting next to us at the BatB show. All those people and all those attractions and we end up sitting next to each other at both shows. Weird.
We left MGM Studios and drove to Fort Wilderness to check in. I was elated to see no other campers lined up to check in - woo hoo! We were finished in 5 minutes and on our way to site 202, a preferred camping site with cable - yes cable - located near the Settlement Trading Post/Pioneer Hall/marina area. It had been a while since I'd visited the preferred loops so I was somewhat surprised to see that everything had been repaved and spruced up. As we requested, we were put next to the comfort station so all our preferences were satisfied - yes! We unpacked the kids' bikes and gave them a Motorola Talkabout radio so they could keep in touch and sent them off to explore (and get them out from under foot). Setup was a breeze, which was fortunate as it began sprinkling just as we finished. We turned the air conditioner on high and laid down for a short nap.
We woke up refreshed and drove to our favorite park - Epcot - to catch our first glimpse of this year's International Flower and Garden Festival. The theme of the entrance garden this year was "Flower Power" and you could certainly tell it with the peace sign, "far out" butterflies and large daisies. Since there was no line for Spaceship Earth we did that next, afterwards stopping in the Global Neighborhood to play in one of the voice activated television booths and in the big round things you ride in. We proceeded to Innoventions East and squeezed in to a tour of the Honeywell Home of the Future. We had tried to see this last time but just missed it twice. The tour takes about 15 minutes and consists of a Disney (not Honeywell) tour guide leading you through several rooms (den, kitchen, bathroom, etc.) while he/she explains different new technologies that could be showing up in your home in the future. Included were a large flat high-definition TV, a new "smart" oven (reminded me of the oven in Carrousel of Progress - hehehe), a high-tech self cleaning toilet and an awesome combination whirlpool tub/shower which included a color TV, stereo system, telephone and two shower heads. There were other displays "outside" of the house too.
Test Track was our next planned stop but we were foiled by technical difficulties - drat! Instead, we walked through the butterfly garden and the "Plants for Health" garden, which featured herbs and other healthful plants used worldwide for medicinal purposes. Also scattered around the east side of Future World were the "Big Bugs" sculptures that so amazed us last year. We ducked into the Wonders of Life pavilion where we saw "The Making of Me", which caused Brian to snicker quite a few times. We also gave the stationary bikes a ride (I rode through Disneyland) and did the MetLife health surveys. We finished up the evening with a screening of one of our favorite Epcot attractions - Cranium Command.
Tomorrow - Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, our 16th Anniversary and the beginning of Nightmare on Peacock Street!
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