Day 7, April 1st - Animal Kingdom, WWoS, MGM Studios (Planned)Go Back to Part 3
Animal Kingdom, WWoS, Magic Kingdom (Actual)
I'd purchased some doughnuts at the Meadow Trading Post the night before so we could have a quick, ready-to-eat breakfast this morning. Our plan was to arrive at the Animal Kingdom (AK) as close to its 7 am opening time as we could - we made it at 7:15. The pre-Easter crowds were so bad by this point in the week that even though we'd arrived just after opening, the wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris was still 20 minutes. Still, it wasn't too bad as the line moved continuously. The safari itself was one of the better ones we've been on as we saw almost all of the animals that were out there. This included sightings of a baby hippo with his/her mommy, baby warthogs and these two cheetahs - our first cheetah sighting ever! As we exited the attraction, we saw that the line had grown tremendously - I think it was at least an hour wait. We trekked to Asia where we rode Kali River Rapids (it was Susan's and the kids' first time). We walked right on with no wait after donning our Mickey ponchos. Many of the people coming off the ride were soaked and I could tell many of them wished they'd had their ponchos too. We rode Kali twice with no wait - Susan opted not to ride the second time. :-)
We decided to go ahead and get the other main ride out of the way so Countdown to Extinction was next. The kids have not been big fans of this attraction in the past (they spend most of the time holding on for dear life with their eyes closed) but they still chose to ride with us. I noticed Katie actually peeking some during this ride so maybe she's getting used to it. It was at CtX that Katie began to drive us crazy with her backpack - she left it in the vehicle. To her credit, she remembered it just as we were exiting the building. A custodial CM took us back
in and we were able to retrieve it when the vehicle came around again to the loading ramp - whew!
Festival of the Lion King was next. I was a little worried that we were arriving only 20 minutes before showtime but was pleased to find that there was plenty of room. In fact, there were seats available right up until the show started.
***TIP***If you want to see Festival of the Lion King and minimize your wait in line, go to the first show of the day. Most guests are back in Africa either on or waiting in line for the Safaris.
FotLK is a great show, not to be missed, but it's not our favorite because it lacks any real story. The costumes are wonderful and the artists are very talented (especially the monkeys and the fire twirler). After a quick snack at Pizzafari, we walked back to Asia for the Flights of Wonder bird show. We rate this as a must see, but we like animals and shows anyway. Your mileage may vary. It was now after 11 am, so we decided it was time to head to the Wide World of Sports (WWoS) complex where we had tickets for the last Atlanta Braves Spring Training game against the Houston Astros - woo hoo, go Braves! We had ordered the tickets soon after they had gone on sale and were rewarded with seats behind and to the left of home plate on row 6. The stadium at WWoS is fantastic! It has the feel of a big league stadium in terms of the amenities but it's small enough to feel like a minor league park where you can get up close and personal with the players.
Speaking of up close and personal, Brian tried really hard to get his favorite player's (Javy Lopez) autograph only to have Javy stop signing just as he got up to him. The poor thing came back in tears mumbling not-so-nice things about Mr. Lopez. :-( He soon got over it though after we went up to the Braves Clubhouse merchandise shop and bought souvenir t-shirts. Greg Maddux, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, was on the mound, which was another unexpected treat. Greg pitched great but after he left the Braves got hammered - they lost 7 to 1. After the game, we waited outside the Braves dressing room hoping to get some autographs but since today's game was their last at Disney, they boarded the team bus and left together for Atlanta. Poor Brian was frustrated again. :-( We headed back to Fort Wilderness to do some laundry and rest.
At Brian's suggestion, we decided to have dinner at Cosmic Ray's in the Magic Kingdom. We think the grilled chicken sandwiches they have there are pretty good. Afterwards, we rode Goofy's Barnstormer before taking the train back to the front gate and returning to Fort Wilderness.
Day 8, April 2nd - Magic Kingdom, Epcot (Planned)
Magic Kingdom, River Country, Epcot (Actual)
We slept in a bit this morning and ended up missing rope drop at the Magic Kingdom by 10 minutes. In that short period of time a huge line had already formed for Space Mountain, thwarting our efforts to ride it yet again. Instead, we rode Buzz Lightyear after a short 2 minute wait and then the kids and I rode Astro Orbiter. Susan *hates* Astro Orbiter (it makes her nauseous) so, as usual, she found something else that required her immediate attention when it came time to ride. ;-)
Continuing through Tomorrowland, we next rode the Grand Prix Raceway. The sign outside said the wait would be 15 minutes but it turned out to be more like 30. It really frustrated me to watch two of the CMs, Jim and Eduardo, chatting with one another and not properly attending to their loading and unloading tasks. Their part of the queue was moving at least a third slower than the other part. Guess which part I was in? I jotted their names down in my little notebook with plans to turn in a complaint at Guest Services later. After we were finally on our way I noticed that Brian's and Susan's car had a flat tire. We pointed that out to Eduardo upon our return which got Susan and Brian another ride with no wait.
We then split up with Brian riding the Teacups and Susan and Katie riding Snow White's Scary Adventures. Using our radios, we joined back up at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Again, I checked the progress of the left versus the right queue (hey, it keeps me occupied, ok?) and the left queue won this time - barely. On our way to El Pirata Y el Perico (the taco place), we noticed the Splash Mountain queue wound *way* back into Adventureland and they were all standing in the hot sun. We asked the CM tending the line why they had not opened the queue behind Splash where the folks could stand in the shade - "good question" was his reply. Someone obviously dropped the ball. Ball dropping continued as we had to wait 10 minutes for the taco place to open. Lunch, which consisted of four taco meals and two large sodas was $23.64. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean next, with Brian choosing the right hand queue for us. Bad choice. The left queue was loading with no wait where we had a 10 minute wait - still not too bad. The crowds were beginning to pick up which is typically our signal that it's time to leave.
I left Susan and the kids in the Emporium while I went to Guest Services to fill out a comment form on Jim and Eduardo. Strangely enough, the CM at the desk wouldn't let me fill one out. Instead, he insisted that I tell him the problem so that he could try to work it out to my satisfaction. After explaining my earlier observations, the CM picked up the phone and called the manager of the attraction. To my surprise, I was told the manager was on her way to talk to me - hmmmm - this was new. After waiting about 5 minutes, a nice lady, I believe her name was Darlene, arrived and we talked about my observations. She seemed genuinely interested, writing down the names I gave her and we discussed her difficulties in hiring and retaining her staff. She asked where we were from, whether we were first time or frequent visitors and whether we were having a good time. She walked with me over to the Emporium and met the rest of the family and talked to them. She asked if we had been able to ride everything we wanted and stupid me, not recognizing she was looking for some way to make us happy guests, said yes we had. D'oh! No we hadn't - we hadn't ridden Space Mountain! Wait Darlene! Drat! We finished up our morning with a tour through the Town Square Exposition Hall/Kodak Camera Center - Wow! It's a real shame that Disney doesn't advertise this more. There's plenty to see, lots of props for picture taking (101 Dalmatians, Snow White, Toy Story, car from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) and continuous movies running in the theater. We watched Steamboat Willie for the first time.
After riding the boat back to Fort Wilderness and changing into our swimsuits we went swimming at River Country, which seemed *really* small after having gone to Typhoon Lagoon a few days before. Another thing immediately noticeable about River Country is that it is *cold* - at least the water in Bay Cove is. The separate pool is heated and was plenty warm though.. My water slide buddy Katie and I did the White Water Rapids tube ride first. At the beginning a Cast Member helps you into the tube and gives you a push through a cold waterfall - well he's *supposed* to push you through. He held me under the water fall for a few seconds before pushing me - BRRRRR! :-) After that, we did the two Whoop 'N Holler Hollow body slides several times. These slides are shorter and slower than those at Typhoon Lagoon. One word of caution on these slides - they dump you in water that is about 5 feet deep and the current is pretty strong so be prepared. Those that aren't good swimmers probably should not do these slides. We saw several folks, young and older, getting pulled out by the lifeguards.
Feeling sorry for Brian who couldn't swim because of his cast, we went back to see what he was up to. He'd found the heated Indian Springs pool, which is geared for kids but had plenty of adults there warming themselves up in the hot tub-like water. After having some Dippin' Dots - mmmmmm - we buried Katie, then Brian in the sand. After rinsing off, we all went to the heated pool where Katie and I did the Slippery Slide Falls a couple of times. We then had fun just jumping off the "rocks" surrounding the edge of the pool. We had a 5:45 pm priority seating at Marrakesh in Epcot so we left River Country at about 4 and rode our bikes back to our campsite for showers.
We planned on having dessert at Beaches and Cream after dinner so we parked at the Beach Club and walked to Marrakesh via the International Gateway. We arrived a few minutes early and were seating immediately. The dining room is nicely decorated and the place seemed to be nearly full. This was our first time to eat here but we'd seen almost universally positive reviews of it on the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup so we thought we'd give it a try. We were glad we did! The food was excellent, the service was very good and the entertainment was unique and, well, pretty darn entertaining. :-)
Back to the food, I had the Sultan's Sampler, which is a brochette of chicken, beef kefta, and beef shish kebab served with yellow rice and vegetable couscous. All of it was very tasty. Susan had the Shish Kebab, Brian had the chicken, which he proclaimed to be the best he'd ever had, and Katie had the Kefta (3 little beef burgers served with fried potatoes. Katie ate most of her dinner and then swiped my couscous and gobbled it up. We will definitely be returning to Marrakesh on future visits. Total with tip was $59.
The kids really loved our ride on Test Track earlier in the week and they begged to go again, which was fine by us. Once again, we made use of the singles line to turn a 75 minute wait into a 15 minute wait - woo hoo! Someday we might go through the normal queue to see what we're missing but not unless the wait time is 45 minutes or less. The outside part of Test Track is way fun in our opinion. I've read where others have said it's just like riding in a regular car on the highway - not so. I do think that folks' enjoyment of the ride is proportional to how long they have to wait in line. The shorter the wait, the better they like it. After Test Track we played around in Innoventions East. We tried to see the Honeywell House of the Future but just missed the last tour. Instead, we stopped in to see Bill Nye the Science Guy's show, which is worthwhile. It was now getting close to time for Illuminations, a show we find only ho-hum and typically avoid, so to avoid the crowds we began making our way back to the International Gateway.
As we were approaching the Beach Club and my taste buds were getting worked up for some yummy Milky Way cake, Katie stops and says "Oh no, I left my backpack in Epcot!" - Grrrrrr. To top it off, she had her Baby Pegasus beanie baby in it, which of course you can't get anymore. I went back to the International Gateway but by this time Illuminations was over and folks were pouring out of the park. I decided to wait until the next day and hope that someone turned it in to Lost and Found. I joined the family back at Beaches and Cream where we split a Milky Way cake and a brownie ala mode...mmmmmmmm. Afterwards, we returned to Fort Wilderness.
Day 9, April 3rd - Mary Poppins Breakfast, Epcot (Planned)
Blizzard Beach, MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom (Actual)
We often plan a character breakfast for the Saturday before we leave but we decided to skip it this time because we were just too tired and we were still pretty full from the big meal last night. Instead, we slept late and then went to Blizzard Beach (BB), our first ever visit there. We arrived at 9:30 am, found some lounge chairs to leave our towels on and then were off to explore. I tried to ride Summit Plummet but the line was already 45 minutes and it moves SOOOO S-L-O-W! Instead, I rode Slush Gusher after a 5 minute wait and really liked it. Susan, Katie and I rode the Toboggan Racers and then rode Teamboat Springs - the family raft ride. We like it so much we went back, got Brian and, after covering his cast, rode it twice more with him. We also did the lazy tube ride around the park - some 3000 feet of it - called Cross Country Creek. It really helps to be in pretty good shape at Blizzard Beach because we found the wait for the ski lift to the top of the slides to be long all day. We always took the steps instead. Initially we figured we might spend a couple of hours at BB but ended up not leaving until after 2 pm. We had a ball! Brian also said BB had the best looking "babes" of the Disney waterparks. ;-)
After our showers, we drove to Epcot to check Lost and Found for Katie's backpack...it was there...woo hoo! One of the last new things that we had on our "To Do" list was the new drop sequence at Tower of Terror. Susan and I rode after a 15 minute wait while Brian and Katie stayed on Hollywood Blvd. to watch the Mulan parade and look around in the shops. We kept in touch via our two-way radios. Susan and I give the new ToT drop sequence two big thumbs up! We met back up with the kids, left the park and drove over to the Wilderness Lodge for dinner at Artist Point. We had priority seating reservations but found the restaurant to only be about half full. We like eating at Artist Point because the atmosphere is nice - the murals on the walls are beautiful - and the food is very good. Susan ordered the creamed onion soup and the salmon, I had the pork tenderloin, Katie had the macaroni & cheese and a bowl of strawberries and Brian had the chicken tenders. Susan enjoyed her salmon but said it was not as good as it had been on previous visits, my tenderloin was excellent though I had to send some of it back because it wasn't completely cooked. It wasn't our best meal at Artist Point but it was still good. Total for dinner, with tip was $81.45.
We finished off the evening with a trip to the Magic Kingdom. A really nice recent addition in the MK is the colored lighting on Cinderella's Castle. This picture doesn't do it justice but it's the best I could do without a tripod. Even though the park was pretty crowded we still found things to do with little or no wait. We tried Space Mountain again but as expected, the wait was right at 1 hour. Instead, we went to Timekeeper which is a must-see for us each trip. Next we took a cool ride on the Peoplemover and then strolled through Fantasyland one last time. After all the talk recently in the newsgroups about poor maintenance in the parks, especially Disneyland, I found myself looking at all the light bulbs - and there are *thousands* of them - in the park and I was happy to see that only a handful were burned out. Things seem to be much better at WDW than at Disneyland - thank goodness! We rode the Haunted Mansion next after a brief wait and then did our favorite MK attraction after dark - Big Thunder - woo hoo! If you haven't done Big Thunder after dark give it a try - I think you'll agree it's a better ride. :-)
We caught the last train before the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks and rode it back around to the Main Street Station and bid farewell to the MK. We rode the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge and then drove back to Fort Wilderness.
Day 10, April 4th - Travel
Our normally uneventful trip home turned out to be somewhat eventful. Just as we were leaving the
Florida Turnpike and turning north on I-75 I noticed the steering wheel on the Explorer began to vibrate. I pulled off the road to check it out and discovered that a foot long piece of one of my camper tires was missing. It was still inflated though - I don't know how it kept from blowing out. Anyway, changing that trailer tire on the side of I-75 with big tractor trailers zooming by at 75 mph was interesting. I thought my camper was going to be blown off the jack! We were beginning to wonder what *else* could go wrong with the camper on this trip! Anyway, we made it home fine, if a bit later than normal. Well, that's it. I'm done. YEAAAAHHHH!!! :-)
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