Day 3, March 31 - Fort Wilderness, Epcot, Magic Kingdom
Given that we didn't get to bed until 11:30 pm last night, I didn't even consider setting the alarm to get up early. We finally stirred at 8:45 am. Our plans called for taking it easy around Fort Wilderness in the morning with a later visit to Epcot if we felt like it. It really is nice to have annual passes. They seem to take away the urge we had before to see and do as much as possible every day. After breakfast in the camper, we rode our bikes to the Swamp Trail, which is a 0.75 mile walking trail along the southeastern shore of Bay Lake. We took some nice photos which I've sent to Deb Wills to scan in for the Fort Wilderness FAQ. We also saw a few critters along the way, including bunnies, (appropriate for the Easter season), ducks, geese, peacocks and a snake. It was a little snake and it slithered off quickly so don't let the sighting deter you from walking the trail.
I also took some photos of the Settlement Trading Post, marina, Pioneer Hall, Petting Farm, Blacksmith Shop, Tri- Circle-D ranch and Katie on a pony ride. The pony rides are still $2. Kids must be 80 pounds or less to ride. Another interesting sight was a worker CM and Minnie Moo wrestling. Yes, I said wrestling. No tights or anything like that. The CM guy had a rake and he was using like a cape to tease Minnie. She in turn ducked her head and with speed not consistent with her bulk took his feet right out from under him. It was hilarious! I swear that cow had a smirk on her face! We hung around the petting farm a little while longer, noticing the sheep had been sheared and watching a nice little head-butting contest between two billy goats. Reminded me of Katie and Brian. You parents know what I'm talking about I'm sure.
We rode back to our camper and changed into our swimming suits, then rode to the main pool behind the Meadow Trading Post. While the kiddies and Susan swam and sun bathed, I took photos of the pool, tennis courts, shuffleboard, the Bike Barn beach and various watercraft, and the Campfire area. Look for these to be added in the near future to the FW FAQ. The swim was nice and relaxing. The only problem was those danged little black love bugs that were everywhere! I think I'd rather have seagulls dive-bombing me than those pesky little insects. They don't bite or sting but they pester you by landing on you and crawling all over you. There had to be 10,000 love bug carcasses scattered around the pool.
After swimming, we headed to the showers. The comfort station was clean throughout our stay; however, it had not been renovated as the one in loop 1300 had (where we stayed in December 1996). The downside was it looked a little worn, the upside is they still had faucets in them with handles, not those infrared type that make shaving nearly impossible.
We headed out to Epcot at around 2:30 pm with no real plan in mind other than to do some touring in the World Showcase. This was our first real encounter with the hoardes that we were to encounter the rest of the week. They were unexpected at Epcot as Monday is the early entry day for the Magic Kingdom. We surmised however, that most folks, like us, were at the MK for the Easter Parade yesterday and had decided to come to Epcot today. We caught the Voices of Liberty show inside the rotunda. It was very nice.
*Tip* The VoL sing right in the middle of the rotunda. If you want a front row seat simply sit just outside the red ring on the floor facing the wall to your left as you enter the pavillion. They really do sing well. Also, there is no need to queue up to get into the American Adventure show. The theater is huge and can easily accomodate all who want in to see the show.
We then pretty much wandered aimlessly through the WS. We walked by Maelstrom and there was the longest line I had ever seen for that ride. We continued on to the Mexican Pavillion where we waited 10 minutes to ride Rio del Tiempo. That should give you an idea of how crowded it was. We've *never* waited for that ride before. We knew we were wasting our time so we headed for the front gate. As we passed Spaceship Earth we noticed a 40 minute wait. We drove back to the camper and ate dinner there. On a whim (its the Annual Passes again) we decided to take a quick jaunt to the Magic Kingdom at 7:30 pm. The boat ride over to the MK takes a little longer (13 minutes) at night, which is fine with me. We walked into the gate at about 7:50 pm and walked down to the wait board near the end of Main Street. As expected, most everything had long waits but it looked like the Fantasyland and other "kid" rides and attractions were reasonable. We headed off to the Country Bear Jamboree and walked in just as the doors opened for the show. This is a family favorite. We always sit on the back row so the kids can sit up on the back of the seats to get a better view.
We then headed out toward Fantasyland with a quick look at Haunted Mansion. The line for HM was out to the gate so we bypassed it. We were able to ride Snow White with a 15 minute wait and noticed the hidden Mickey at the top of the magic mirror on the wall. We then rode Mr. Toad with a similar wait and decided to check the queue at Goofy's Barnstormer. What luck! We walked right on and ended up riding twice! We all like this ride even though it only last 50 seconds. The kids have even gotten to the point where the will raise there hands during the entire ride! By this time it was 9:10 pm and we knew we needed to get out of the park before Spectromagic finished or we would be caught in the mob. We caught the Railroad to the front gate and arrived just as the last few floats were circling the Town Square. We walked right onto the Fort Wilderness boat and were back at the camper by 9:45 pm.
Day 4, April Fools Day, EE at Epcot, Magic Kingdom
We got up at 6:15 am for breakfast in the camper and were on the road to Epcot by 7:15. Epcot is a short 10 minute drive from FW. The crowds weren't too bad this morning at all. We were the 13th car parked in the lot.
*Tip* If you get there early and notice a single long line behind a turnstyle, walk up and make a second line. When they open the gates, you can go through more than one turnstyle.
After entering, we made a beeline to Honey I Shrunk the Audience. We walked right in and waited a short time for the Kodak preshow. I like the preshow. I don't view it as an advertisement for Kodak (which it is), I just enjoy the really neat pictures. Great show as always. The kids remembered the special effects as they both put their feet up in their laps. Mom and Dad were brave and kept ours down. We then did JIA with no wait and then the Land boat ride with no wait. There was a glitch with the sound on our boat so we missed the sound track. The narrator wasn't particularly good either; nevertheless, this is one of our favorite rides in Epcot. We proceeded to the Circle of Life movie, which I think is O.K., then went downstairs for Food Rocks. I know many think Food Rocks isn't as good as the Kitchen Cabaret but IMO, it's a toss-up.
Next we walked right through the queue into the preshow movie at the Living Seas. We really didn't spend too much time here as it's not one of my favorite pavillions. We let the kids get their fill of the dolphins and sharks then headed out. As we exited the Living Seas we saw the queue was now out the door quite a ways. It was 10:45 am so we headed over towards the World Showcase to ride Maelstrom. As we passed through the Innoventions breezeway were were amazed to see the HISTA queue running all the way through the breezeway and out to the Fountain. Our timing for Maelstrom was superb and we walked right on with no wait. As we exited we noted the line was out the door and the wait was 35 minutes.
*Tip* During the busy seasons, use early entry and at Epcot see HISTA first! It may be possible to first do Spaceship Earth then HISTA but only do so if there is no queue at SE.
It was now 11:15 and the park was *packed*, yet we were completely satisfied because we had stayed one step ahead of the masses and had done everything we had planned! Yea! We drove to the Crossroads to eat lunch at that fine Mexican restaurant known as Taco Bell then drove back to Fort Wilderness. We rode our bikes around for a while, then checked out the shuffleboard equipment (complimentary with resort ID) from the Bike Barn. I hadn't played shuffleboard in 25 years but we really had fun doing it. Katie and I teamed against Susan and Brian and we whipped them. We then hit the showers and changed clothes in preparation for out night out without the kids.
We dropped the Brian and Katie off at 5:00 pm and arrived in plenty of time for our 5:30 priority seating at the GF Cafe. The Cubs Den has beepers for parents that want them for no charge. For dinner, we shared the Grand Chicken Nachos appetizer (very good). For entrees, Susan had the Key Largo Pasta with marinara sauce (very good) and I had the Floribbean Ribs (very good). The portions were large and we were soon stuffed. Total with tip was $51.
Susan and I then caught the resort monorail to the Magic Kingdom. We hoped to ride Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Alien Encounter and Big Thunder Mountain (at night) and headed anxiously to the wait board to see what we were in for. Queues were listed at 60 minutes plus so we decided to try Alien Encounters first. The queue actually didn't look too bad so we got in line. Little did we know that the line actually snakes all the way around the back of the building! Nevertheless, it continued to move at a reasonable pace so we stuck with it. Just a we were about to round the corner back in the front of the building AE broke down! We waited another 10 minutes before abandoning it. Disappointed, we walked across to Timekeeper, which is a wonderful show. It would really be nice if they put swivel barstools in there instead of those darn lean rails. We walked on our the *secret* walkway to the left of Spacemountain over to Mickey's Toontown. As busy as the MK was, we only passed two people on the way over. Here we caught the Railroad to the Frontierland Station. As we passed by Splash Mountain the conductor pointed out the reclining Hidden Mickey which I always thought was a cloud in the Riverboat scene. From that point on, we became Hidden Mickey fanatics! We looked on every ride for them. We hopped off the train and were able to ride BTMRR at night with a 20 minute wait. One of our objectives was accomplished! The ride really is better at night. If you haven't tried it - do so. You won't regret it.
The Splash Mountain queue was huge and it was about 9:00 pm so we decided to call it a night. We rode the train back to the main gate, then caught the launch back to the Grand Floridian. We were the only two on board and it was a romantic, if short boat ride. We picked up the kids after paying the $63 bill. Of note is the fact that Cub's Den has raised their prices from $6 per hour to $7. I don't know if the other Kid's Clubs have raised their prices too, or not. We drove back to FW and were in bed by 10 pm.
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