Background: For those that haven't read any of our previous trip reports, the participants are myself, Jeff (40), a NASA aerospace engineer, Susan (38), also a NASA aerospace engineer, and our two kids Brian (12) 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 Walt Disney World (WDW). One reason we're able to do that is we are the 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.Return to Spencer Family Homepage
This trip, our fourth and final of 1999, was our fourth consecutive trip to Disney sometime during the first two weeks of December. We've made it a family tradition to visit WDW during the Christmas season to enjoy the park decorations, the Candlelight Processional, the Osborne Lights, Holidays Around the World and all of the other special shows and activities unique to this time of year. We enjoy the Christmas season at WDW so much that we decided to arrange for Susan's parents, Myra and JC, to join us for a few days so they too could experience some of the things that we're telling them about the last few years. On to part 3!
Day 5, December 14th - Character Breakfast, Epcot
Today was our last day at WDW. Susan, the kids and Susan's parents were all flying out of Orlando airport at 11:10 am so we'd decided to wrap up our trip with a character breakfast at the Grand Floridian's 1900 Park Fare. We arrived at 7:40 am and were seated at the sparsely populated dining room. We've been to many of the character breakfasts and rate 1900 Park Fare as our favorite due to the excellent buffet selection, the made to order omelet station and our general enjoyment in visiting the Grand Floridian resort. The characters in attendance were Dopey, Alice, Snow White and her handsome Prince. Katie actually got up when the Prince came to our table - she was being shy. :-)
Included on the buffet are pancakes, Mickey waffles, cheese blintzes, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, grits, biscuits, all kinds of muffins and sweet rolls, toast, all kinds of fruit and cereal plus the made to order omelet station. Our server kept our juice glasses full and left a decanter of coffee on the table. The meal was excellent as always.
I said my good byes to my family and my in-laws - they were all going to the airport together in the rental car. I drove back to Fort Wilderness to do some laundry and pack some stuff up. I seriously considered breaking camp and beginning my drive back home early but decided that doing so would mean a good deal of driving after dark. Instead, after doing a few loads of laundry, I drove to Epcot - my favorite park. I started off at Test Track and was surprised to find no wait even though the park had been open for over an hour. I actually got to walk through the queue for the first time (we normally skip the queue and go for the singles line).
***TIP***For those that don't know, Test Track has what is known as a Single's Line. If you're willing to ride by yourself, this option provides an excellent opportunity to cut down on what are normally extremely long waits. To get into the Single's Line, proceed into the normal standby queue until you come up to a Cast Member. Tell them you want to do the Single's Line and they'll point you in the right direction.
Next up was Innoventions West. The exhibits included are:
1. Networked Living - Presented by IBM. Future of computing and the Internet. Send an Internet postcard.
2. Ultimate Home Theater Experience - Lutron's presentation of the latest in home theater technology.
3. Beautiful Science - Monsanto's presentation themed on life sciences.
4. Video Games of Tomorrow - Sega's demo of the new Dreamcast system.
5. Medicine's New Vision - a presentation by the Radiological Society of North America featuring breakthroughs in radiological technologies.
6. The Broadband Connection - AT&T's "whimsical" game show focused on broadband communications.
7. The Knowledge Vortex - Xerox's hands on exhibit featuring electronic paper, other information technologies.
I found the new Innoventions to be much better than its previous self. Your mileage may vary.
I decided to visit The Living Seas pavilion next as I'd been reading posts on the newsgroup news:rec.arts.disney.parks that it was suffering significantly from lack of maintenance. I was expecting really bad conditions but found things pretty much like they've been all along. The water was a little murky but not one could still see the fish and other marine life quite well. The "coral" (fake - nothing but painted concrete) had a rusty "dust" on it that needed to be cleaned off but everything else looked fine to me.
Millennium Village was my next destination. This was my first time actually experiencing this pavilion and I was sorry that we didn't get to do it as a family - oh well, our next trip is coming up in March and we'll have plenty of time to do it then. Let's see - I played the soccer game in Brazil - my team, which obviously couldn't follow instructions, lost big time. I then did the putt-putt golf in Scotland, the story telling and web page building in Saudi Arabia, the seasonal bubbles in Sweden and then the puppet show in the theater near/in Norway. All in all, pretty interesting stuff.
I exited Mill Vill and left the park through the International Gateway, making my way to the Boardwalk. My kids were dying to get some boomerang balls like Randy Berbaum had during our Hunchback of Notre Dame RADP meet on Saturday. Randy had told me there were available at the Boardwalk and after some searching I was able to locate them - the kiddies would be thrilled. :-)
I returned to Epcot in time to see the 1:10 show by Off Kilter near the Canada pavilion. OK is one of our favorite live acts in the World Showcase. For those that have read along, you know that we'd lost our backpack at MGM Studios earlier in the week and had been unable to retrieve it despite repeated queries to Lost and Found. I decided to call one more time and woo hoo! - they had it! The CM told me they were just about ready to put it in the mail but that I could come by and pick it up if I wanted to. I did just that, catching the monorail from Epcot to the Transportation and Ticket Center - the location for WDW's central Lost and Found. After filling out some minor paperwork I got our good old backpack back. :-)
While I was in the neighborhood I decided to take the Express monorail to the Magic Kingdom. I didn't particularly want to ride anything - I just enjoy walking around the park and being there. I used the other coupon Dave Marx had given me to buy a tub of hot popcorn. I took that and a cold Diet Coke to a table at Casey's Corner and sat there and just took in the beauty of the park. I decided it would be nice to try to hook up with friends Lee Zimmerman and Laura Gilbreath (I was getting lonely) so I tried them at Old Key West but they were out. :-( I left a message but one of the drawbacks of camping at WDW is that there's no voicemail. Also, my cell phone batteries were completely dead. Phooey! I decided to go back to the camper and do a few more loads of laundry and try them again later.
A couple of hours later I was able to contact Laura and Lee and we arranged to meet up for the Epcot Christmas tree lighting ceremony. This turned out to be pretty good as it featured the band Cast in Bronze. Watching the guy play the carillon was interesting. On the way in I took a photo of the Leave a Legacy pictures mounted on the "tombstones" in front of Spaceship Earth. See anyone you know in there? :-) By the looks of things, Leave a Legacy doesn't appear to be as popular as Disney had hoped it would be. There are not that many photos up given the time the Millennium Celebration has been going on.
After the tree lighting ceremony, Lee and I decided a beer would be nice so we got one and then found a bench in Canada. We chatted as we listened to the Tapestry of Nations music. We decided we would try to see the 6:45 Candlelight Processional (CP) but found there were no seats to be had in the theater. :-( We did run into (not literally) fellow RADP'er Kenny Cottrell there and talked with him for a few minutes. Disappointed, we made our way back to Mill Vill to eat dinner with plans to return for the next CP show at 8:15. As we ate and talked, Laura seemed on the verge of falling asleep - I guess I'm not as engaging and interesting as I think. :-)
We said our good byes at the International Gateway and then I crossed my fingers and headed over to CP again. I was able to find a really good seat but that's always easier to do when you're a party of one. The guest narrator for this performance was Edward James Olmos - who, as it turned out, also narrated the Super bowl halftime show. Laura had told me earlier - before she conked out - that she'd heard that EJO had done the CP at Disneyland (at least I think that's what she said) to mixed reviews. He must have worked on his delivery because he did a pretty good job for this performance. He wasn't nearly as good as James Avery but still good. I wrapped up the evening with another viewing of Illuminations 2000 - again, this show is wonderful and not to be missed.
Day 6, December 15th - Travel
Nothing significant to report about the drive home except that it was boring as always. It was made nicer by the fact that we'd gotten a new Explorer with a CD player and a great sound system which I put to good use by listening to the Millennium CD over and over again. I love the Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations 2000 music.
Well, that's it. Another memorable holiday Disney trip in the books. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about Disney or any of our trips.