Cast of characters: me - Jeff (38), a NASA aerospace engineer, my wife Susan (36), also a NASA aerospace engineer, our son Brian, (10) and our daughter Katie (8).Go Back to Part 1
Resort: Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground (where else?) - camping in our Coleman Utah pop-up
Occasion: The May 8th wedding of Laura Acker and Dave Scribellito at Disney's Yacht Club. I had met Laura on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in the #radp-friends chat room back in the summer of 1997. I later met Laura and Dave in person at Disneyland back in September 1997 (see Jeff's, Laura's Lee's and Pam's Disneyland Trip Report) along with some other rec.arts.disney.parks (radp) newsgroup and chat friends. Laura and I have been friends since then and stayed in touch via the internet. I was thrilled when Laura invited me to her wedding...I think she might have expected me to say no...surprise! ;-) She not only got me, but the rest of the Spencer clan too! Thanks Laura and Dave for allowing us to participate in such a happy time in your lives.
Day 5, May 10th - Magic Kingdom, Epcot
We've always found that Sunday morning is a good time to visit the Magic Kingdom (MK) and this Sunday was no exception. We awoke at 7:15 am and were ready to go by 8:15. We had not brought our bikes this trip so we had to wait for the Chip internal bus to get to the marina area. As it turned out, we ended up waiting about 20 minutes for the bus, longer than we've ever had to wait, but we made that up by timing the boat to the MK perfectly. We were surprised to see that the boat dock had moved down towards River Country. One of the boat's cast members told us it was temporary; that the dock was new and would remain in its present location until the old dock was dismantled, then the new one would be floated into position. Another item of interest is that Fort Wilderness had replaced its old water sprites with the new "water mouse" boats. We didn't have time on this trip to try out the new water mouse but we definitely will on a future trip.
***TIP***When arriving at the MK by bus, monorail or boat take at look at both sides of the entrance. Often, after a monorail arrives, the turnstiles on the left are backed up but the ones on the right are open. Don't wait any longer than you have to.
We just missed rope drop at 9 am but not by much. It's always nice to walk down Main Street and be able to gaze upon Cinderella's Castle, especially since it's now back to its original splendor. On the boat ride over we'd decided to ride Space Mountain first, so we took the shortcut through the Plaza Restaurant terrace and queued up for Space (10 min). Brian, Susan and I rode while Katie, who still hasn't gotten up the nerve to ride, walked through and met us at the exit. We bypassed the rest of Tomorrowland and headed for Fantasyland. We rode the Mad Tea Party (Teacups) first, with Susan and I in one cup and the kids in another. It's amazing how much more enjoyable this ride is when your kids aren't in there trying to make you barf. ;-) Knowing the queue for Peter Pan is one of the first to get long in Fantasyland, we headed there next. After riding Peter Pan (5 min), we rode It's a Small World (0 wait), Snow White (5 min), and the left side of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (10 min). We could have ridden the right side with about half the wait but Brian wanted to do the side with the "naked lady" on it. :-)
Mickey's Toontown Fair was our next stop to ride Goofy's Barnstormer. As usual, there was no line, as it was still before 10:30 am. The kids wanted to do Donald's boat but we didn't want them getting wet this early in the morning so we instead visited Mickey's House.
***TIP***If you want to take pictures in Mickey's and Minnie's Houses, try to plan on visiting early before the hordes arrive. That way, you can get photos without lots of strangers in the pictures.
We boarded the Walt Disney World Railroad at the Toontown Fair station and rode it to Frontierland. Noticing there was no huge queue for Splash, we ducked in and rode with only a 15 minute wait...woo hoo! Brian is still a bit afraid of the big drop so he took the last chance stairs (we promised not to call them the chicken stairs) and waited for us on the benches on the exit side of the loading area. As it turned out, we timed our ride perfectly as we noticed the queue was growing steadily as we left. We rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (10 min) next, completing all three mountains before lunch. We had just missed the opening of the rehabbed Enchanted Tiki Room on our previous visit, now called the "Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management", so we made that our next destination. I've read some unfavorable reviews of the new Tiki show on the newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks, but we all liked the new show better than the old. Iago and Zazu are good, but in my opinion the best addition is the Tiki goddess...excellent animatronics! We tried to ride Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) next but it was down, so we went ahead and ate lunch at El Pirata Y el Perico. This counter service restaurant is one of our favorites in the MK. They feature tacos, taco salads, nachos and hot dogs. Four taco plates and sodas totaled $25.97.
After lunch, we were pleased to see that PotC was back up and running so we rode it with a 5 minute wait. We didn't notice an appreciable difference between the left and right hand queue this time...go figure. I still recommend that you take the left hand queue if it's open. We finished up our morning at the MK with a final ride on the Haunted Mansion (5 min). In total, we did 15 rides/attractions and lunch in about 4 hours. :-)
***TIP***Don't be too intimidated by what appears to be a long line for the Haunted Mansion. HM is a fast loading ride so lines move quickly. If the line is out past the gate though and you can come back later, do so.
We rode the boat back to Fort Wilderness, with the new water mouse boats buzzing all around us. We toured the renovated Petting Farm, noticing that the sheep and goats all seemed to be liking their new shelters. Minnie Moo wasn't in her pen; instead she was in the pen where Cinderella's white horses are normally kept. Minnie's new shelter, which seemed complete, includes a shingle which lists when she was born and where she came from. What I thought was going to be a new "duck" pond turned out to be a "dove" pond. I wonder if those are the doves that are released in the parks (Beauty and the Beast show) and at weddings? At the bus stop we ran into this beautiful peacock who was proudly showing off his plumage. For more photos of the Petting Farm and Tri-Circle D stable area, visit the Fort Wilderness Photo Gallery.
After a nice swim and refreshing showers, we loaded up in the Explorer and drove to the Beach Club, where we parked and entered through the International Gateway. We were pleased and surprised to see that Off Kilter was playing on their new stage next to the Canada pavilion; however we only got to see the last 5 minutes of their show. We were to meet Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman at LeCellier at 7:00 pm for dinner so went there next to see if they had arrived. There was no sign of Laura and Lee but that was no surprise as they are notorious for being late. ;-) We checked in anyway, received a beeper, and were told our table would be ready in about 15 minutes. While waiting, we admired the beautiful flowers and animal sculptures in Victoria Gardens, which is modeled after Buchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. Lee and Laura arrived soon after and Katie showed Laura the bear, the deer, and the squirrel sculptures she'd found.
We were seated about 7:10 at a wobbly table which Susan, Brian and a server all tried unsuccessfully to stabilize. Susan, Lee and I started with the cheese soup, Laura had some kind of salad. Actually, I think Laura's favorite Pooh character should be Rabbit instead of Tigger given all the salad that she eats. ;-) We all ate plenty of the garlic bread too, which was awesome! Susan, Lee and I ordered a Canadian beer, Laura a glass of dishwater, oops, I mean wine. ;-) Initially, when I asked if they had Michelob, our waitress was aghast that I could even *think* about asking for American beer at a Canadian restaurant! The adults all ordered the maple glazed salmon, while the kids had the chicken finger dinners. Overall, the meal was very good, though I think they should consider doing something with the dining room in terms of decor. I'd heard in the past that if the revamped LeCellier turned out to be a success that it would be remodeled. I guess we'll have to wait and see if that happens. The total for all six of us, with tip, was $135. We made sure we were done by 8:25 so we could see the next performance of Off Kilter. The band put on an excellent show...playing some songs that we'd not heard before. Brian was doing his "raise the roof" dance during their show and proclaimed he wanted their CD whenever it came out.
None of us wanted to hang around for Illuminations so we exited through the International Gateway and made our way back to the Explorer. Lee again gave the kids horseback rides...further increasing his popularity. At the rate he's going, we'll be calling him "Uncle Lee" before long. Of course that would be fine with Susan and me...we even discussed the possibility of the kids visiting "Aunt Laura" and "Uncle Lee" for a week or two. They quickly but politely declined. :-)
Day 6, May 11th - Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios, Epcot
Susan and the kids would be flying back to Alabama at noon, so we awoke early with plans to return to the Animal Kingdom to see the Lion King show and to do the Kilimanjaro Safari (KS) again. We arrived at 7:20 and made our way straight to KS, along with about 75 to 80% of the rest of the crowds entering the park. We were surprised at how many people were at the park that early! Cast members were stationed in the Oasis entry area and in Safari Village to help direct people and answer questions, which was good as most people didn't know where they were going. After a 10 minute wait, we rode the KS, seeing about the same number of animals as we'd seen during the heat of the afternoon on Friday. We did see more gazelles, antelope and the male lion this time, but on Friday we saw zebras and hippos that we did not see today. On both days we saw the elephants, rhinos, giraffe and crocodiles. So, based on our experience, I'd say there wasn't much difference in terms of numbers of animals we saw but there was a difference in the wait times. By the time we finished our safari, the wait for KS was over 30 minutes.
***TIP***Unless you arrive at park opening, I would save Kilimanjaro Safaris for late in the afternoon or early evening before park closing to avoid long waits.
We then split up, Katie and Susan went to do some shopping while Brian and I went to Dinoland U.S.A. to ride Countdown to Extinction (CtX). Again, there was almost no wait for CtX...I predict this ride will undergo some significant changes in the coming months to increase the lighting and to modify the lame story line. While Brian rode with me, he did keep his eyes closed almost the entire time. Brian and I hung out in the Boneyard play area and dig site waiting for Susan and Katie, who by prior arrangement were to meet us there. After a half hour, I began to suspect that Susan had done it to me again. She's notorious for arranging a meeting place and/or time and then doing something completely different. Sure enough, she eventually walked up, telling us she and Katie were waiting for us at the CtX exit...sigh. It was now 9 am and the first Festival of the Lion King (FotLK) show was at 10 am so we headed for Camp Minnie-Mickey. The kids visited the character greeting areas before we got in line for the show at 9:15. As I mentioned earlier in the trip report, the queue for FotLK needs some major improvement. Currently, it begins in Camp Minnie-Mickey and winds all the way back to Safari Village. About 40 minutes prior to the show they begin loading the queue into four separate areas: Giraffes, Wart Hogs, Elephants and Lions. Each section holds approximately 250 people, so the theater can accommodate 1000 guests. We were seated in the Giraffe section and sat on the back row so the kids could stand up to see better. Those that might want to tape the show should sit on the back row too so they can stand. The show was good, but frankly Susan and I didn't think it lived up to all the hype we'd heard on the newsgroup or from cast members. As far as we're concerned, Hunchback of Notre Dame at MGM is still the best show at WDW.
After FotLK, we hustled back out to the parking lot and I took Susan and the kids to the airport. On my way back, I stopped at Camping World to pick up a new shroud for the pop-up's air conditioner. The old one had become weathered and cracked to the point where I had to take it off on the drive down for fear it was going to fly off. After dropping it off at the camper, I drove over to MGM Studios to take back a Binford Tools t-shirt for a friend of Susan's. After that, I rode Tower of Terror with only a 10 minute wait...woo hoo! I was pretty well worn out so I went back to the campground and took a shower and a nap.
I later called Laura Gilbreath and arranged to meet her for dinner at Chefs de France in Epcot. After meeting in the lobby of the Beach Club, we walked over to the American Gardens Theatre to see the British Invasion. This is one group that I'd only been able to catch glimpses of in the past, but we got to see most of their show this time before having to leave for our 8:20 priority seating. We were seated promptly at a nice table by the window. Laura had the french onion soup and a salad, I had the veal chop with macaroni and spinach, which was outstanding. Chefs de France continues to be one of my favorite WDW restaurants. Total for the meal with tip was $48. We skipped Illuminations again and opted instead to visit Beaches and Cream for dessert. We had my personal favorite - Milky Way Cake - YUMMY! Laura and I then exchanged hugs and said our farewells.
Day 7, May 12th - Travel
Nothing significant to report here. It took me over two hours to take down the camper by myself and I didn't get on the road until 8:30 am but made good time back to Alabama. Road work continues on I-75 from Lake City to the Florida - Georgia state line. The posted speed limit is 55 mph; however, traffic moved along at 60 to 70 mph. I wonder if they'll ever finish? At my first gas stop I checked the new air conditioner shroud and found that it had begun cracking like the first one...dang! Looks like I have another engineering challenge. I made it back home by 5:30 pm CDT, so it took me right at 10 hours...not too bad.
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