Day 7, April 4 - Disney Village Marketplace, KSC, Epcot
We were up at 7:30 am to ready ourselves for the drive to Kennedy Space Center to see the launch of STS-83. I had gotten a car pass to the NASA Causeway from our Public Affairs Office back at Marshall Space Flight Center a few weeks ago. The launch wasn't scheduled until 2 pm so we decided to drive over to the Disney Village Marketplace to shop for souvenirs. We arrived at 8:45 am to find that the shops didn't open until 9:30. We browsed around the area to kill time then went into the World of Disney when it opened. We knew what we were looking for so it didn't take us too long to get in and out. We used our MKC card to save 10% on our purchases. Be aware, the place is pretty big and we had a moment of unease as we lost Katie for a minute or two. Keep and eye on your kids, it's easy for them to wander off.
We left DVM confident we had plenty of time to make the short drive over to KSC on the Beeline Highway. As we listened to the radio, we began to hear reports of bottlenecks on the Beeline and all around the KSC area. Apparently, not only was there a Shuttle launch but there was also an air show at Patrick Air Force base. We came to a screeching halt just outside Orlando and I do mean a halt. Luckily, we keep a road atlas in the Explorer when we travel, so as we sat we plotted out alternate routes to get to Kennedy. We ended up taking Highway 50 over and there was hardly anyone on it! That got us to the KSC area but there was still a long backup once we got to Titusville. It took us at least 45 minutes to drive that last 7 miles. But alas, we made it about 30 minutes shy of the launch time. The launch did go off, thank goodness, and it was awesome! I've worked for NASA for almost 11 years and this was the first launch I'd seen up close. It was worth all of the driving hassle. The public viewing area on the NASA Causeway is 6 miles away from the launch pad, so there is a little delay in hearing the launch but once the sound gets to you it is loud! If you want to see a launch, get a launch pass from KSC. Instructions on how to do so may be found by following the Office of Space Flight link on our homepage.
As bad as the drive over was, the drive back was worse! No details but suffice it to say it took us 3.5 hours to get back. Worst drive of my life!
*Tip* If you are planning on driving over to KSC for a launch leave very early *especially* if you are there during a busy time of the year for WDW. It seemed like everyone in Orlando drove over to see that launch! Also, plan on stopping in Titusville or somewhere close to eat or shop and let the traffic die down before you try to get back to Orlando.
We got back at 6:30 pm and headed straight for Red Lobster in the Crossroads area. We were seated immediately and had a nice dinner. We then drove to Epcot with a goal of seeing Illuminations 25. On the way in we rode Spaceship Earth with no wait then made our way over towards the Canadian and United Kingdom pavillions to scout out a spot to watch the show. We found a very good spot near the big rock at Canada so I left Susan and Katie there while Brian and I went to check the "secret garden" in UK. To our disappointment, they had the garden roped off for "special guests" that night so we went back to Canada. It was fairly windy that night which affected the Illuminations laser effects. Susan and I both thought the show stunk but are willing to give it another try during our next trip in June. The fireworks, with the exception of the closing barrage, are pitiful! They look like something I could get at a local fireworks stand and shoot in my backyard! I expect better from Disney. Also, we weren't in an optimal position to see what was being projected on the fans of water. To top it off, we also were downwind, so within a few minutes our eyes were burning and we felt like we were in a fog.
*Tip* Before picking out your spot for Illuminations, stick your finger in you mouth, hold it up and see which way the wind is blowing. Get upwind! Secondly, pick a spot which is roughly at 12, 3, 6, or 9 o'clock to best see the images projected onto the water fans. Thirdly, don't expect too much from this show.
We departed Epcot and were back at FW and in bed by 10:30 pm.
Day 8, April 5 - MGM Studios, RADP Meet, Epcot, Magic Kingdom
Well, Saturday was our last day and, as usual, we used it to do missed and favorite rides and attractions. We got up at 6:30 and were at MGM for early entry at 7:30. We headed straight for Star Tours and rode it twice with no wait. Next was Muppets 3D.
*Tip* To get a good seat in the middle of the row in the Muppet theater make sure you let at least 15-20 people go in ahead of you. People's natural tendencies are to crowd up by the entry doors to get in first but you really don't want to go in first. The 3D effects are better when you're seated in the middle of the theater.
Next was Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
*Tip* When queueing up outside for VotLM, look up towards the front of the queue. People have a tendency *not* to fill in the space but instead form a line. If there's space at the front, don't feel obligated to stand at the back. Go right up to the front. About 5 minutes before they open the doors a CM will ask that everyone move up anyway.
The same tip for Muppets applies to VotLM. Let about 10 people go into a row before you go so you don't get stuck on the end of a row. It can be difficult to see everything happening on the stage if you're on the end. VotLM is one of our favorite shows. The theater is cool and the mist feels great on hot days. We exited the theater and headed to the Backlot Tour. After a 5 minute wait, we were let into the Special Effects water tank area. Beware! If you are on the front row be prepared to get wet. They announce this beforehand but I don't think some people believe it. Of course, the fact that the floor is wet and water is dripping off the handrails ought to be a clue. This is definitely worth seeing. The next part of the tour is the ride on the tram. First, however, you are supposed to walk through the props storage area. Our group got sidetracked and had to be told several times to walk through the prop area - duh! The Backlot part of the tour is pretty lame in my opinion. Its only saving grace is the Catastrophe Canyon portion. The tram dumps you out into another area where you can view memorabilia from the movies. We breezed right on through this because we wanted to make the 10:15 Beauty and the Beast stage show. We got there in plenty of time for the show and got good seats about midway down. The show is good but not near the quality of HoND in my opinion.
We left MGM after BatB and headed for the Wilderness Lodge. There we were scheduled to me Barb, aka gardenia, from radp along with Valerie Kay and her fiance' Jeff, and Donna and Steve Schwartz at 11 am. We arrived about 5 minutes late but found Barb and company easily. We chatted in the lobby for a while and looked at Barb's pictures of WWoS that are now posted on Deb Wills' WDWIG. Barb was kind enough to point out some of the hidden mickeys in the lobby and gave us a tour, pointing out other interesting things as we went. We then all went out back to look at the pool and the famous geyser. Barb snagged an unsuspecting guest to take our picture - little did he know he would end up taking pictures with four different cameras! We stayed for a while so we could see the geyser erupt. I believe it goes off every hour on the hour. It's really worth seeing as is the rest of Wilderness Lodge.
We returned to the lobby to wish Donna and Steve a safe trip home then split up. We had not eaten lunch yet and really hadn't made plans. I noticed Whispering Canyon was only about half full so we ended up eating a nice lunch there. Barb joined us in the Cafe and we continued our visit. Our waitress Ami-nesia did an excellent job. As I mentioned before, we had become hidden mickey fanatics, so Brian asked the first waitperson he saw if there were any HMs in the Cafe and it turned out there was one. It is located in the bottom grille of the fireplace in the back of the Cafe. You have to get down on your hands and knees to see it. As for lunch, Susan had the Dizzy Daisy veggie plate, I had the special, a beef brisket sandwich, Brian and Katie had grilled cheese sandwiches and fries. Susan declared the veggie plate the best she'd had at WDW, I thought my brisket was very good, and a grilled cheese sandwich is, well, a grilled cheese sandwich. We had trouble deciding on a dessert. Brian and Katie wanted the Worms and Dirt. Susan and I wanted the Mud Slide (brownies and ice cream for 4). After some discussion it became clear what the kids *really* wanted were the gummy worms and they could live without the dirt. Ami-nesia saved the day by bringing us the mud slide covered in gummy worms! Disney CMs are the best.
We said our goodbyes to Barb and headed outside to find the HMs she had told us about on the rocks. They were right where she said they would be. We left WL and drove to the TTC. We wanted to ride the monorail over to Epcot and wanted to ride in the front. Someone had already asked for the first monorail so we waited a few minutes for the next. It really is cool to ride over to Epcot and make that loop through Future World before stopping at the monorail station. Barb had told us there were lots of Hidden Mickeys in the Horizons ride so we decided to go there first. To be honest, I don't think we really found any but we were looking hard. We walked next door to the Wonders of Life pavillion to do Cranium Command again. We got sidetracked by the exercise bicycles in front of the entrance to Body Wars. I honestly can't say I ever noticed these before but I thought they were cool. Brian and Katie got a kick out of riding them. I took my turn and chose a ride through Disneyland. A computer keeps up with and posts on the screen how fast you're going, how long you've been riding and how many calories you've burned.
Since we were right there, I decided to see if anyone was game to ride Body Wars. Katie and Susan wanted nothing to do with it but Brian was game. Susan now claims she was game but had to stay with Katie (uh huh). Anyway, we rode with a 5 minute wait and I can honestly say this ride is a waste of motion simulator technology. Mostly all it does is rock back and forth and wallow around. That's why quite a few people come off this ride feeling nauseous - it is very similar to being on a boat in moderate seas. We met back up with Susan and Katie for Cranium Command.
*Tip* There is a clock inside the queue area for Cranium Command that tell's you how long before the next show. You can take advantage of this to play around with the hands on things or take that much needed bathroom break.
My kids, especially Brian, have this thing about not being able to see during these sit down shows. We overcome this by sitting on the front row at Cranium Command. This is one show where doing so is not a problem in terms of being able to *see* the show. Next up was the Journey Into Imagination pavillion for Figment and the Dreamfinder. We found several Hidden Mickeys here including the one on the globe (Susan found it). We went upstairs to the Image Works which I highly recommend for those travelling with kids. There's plenty for them to do and several neat things that parents can do as well. We exited the JII pavillion and bought ice cream at one of the many carts around the park. We walked around and found a nice spot on the ground just across from the wonderful Innoventions fountain and watched two shows. While sitting there a co-worker and his family walked by and we said hello and chatted. It really is a small world!
We departed Epcot and rode the monorail back to the TTC. Our parking place was so good at the TTC, we decided to take the Boone bus back to Fort Wilderness in lieu of driving to get our sweatshirts as it was beginning to get a little cool. Disney transportation worked pretty well this time as we made it to the MK front gate via the FW boat in a little over 30 minutes. Once there, we stopped at City Hall to fill out a Guest Comment sheet for Carl and Melea back at MGM. Now that we know these sheets actually mean something, Susan and I have vowed to take the time to properly recognize those outstanding Cast Members at WDW that go out of their way to make our visit more enjoyabe. I encourage everyone to do the same. Continuing to try to go to things we had missed we first headed for Legend of the Lion King.
*Tip* LotLK has a preshow featuring Rafiki and some movie footage but the real show is in a 500 seat theater. You don't have to really stand in line for this show, just watch when they open the doors to let folks in, and then get in line. If you have small kids, I encourage you to walk around the edges of the crowd and make your way to the front of the preshow, otherwise the kids won't be able to see.
We followed LK with Snow White, Mr. Toad, and Grand Prix Raceway. On GP Raceway, I rode with Katie, who drove, and Susan rode with Brian. I'm not sure which was worse! I don't look forward to the day when we have to teach them how to drive! Beware of kids running into the back of your car. One little brat crashed into us just as I was climbing out of the car and I almost broke my neck! I think I scared him with my glare because he wouldn't get out of the car until his Dad drove up and got out behind him. We went to Toontown again and rode Goofy's Barnstormer and went into the Villains line of Toontown Hall of Fame. The characters were the same as we had seen before so we walked right on through. It was now dinner time so we headed to Pinocchio's Village Haus in Fantasyland. We again got a table by the window overlooking Small World. A comment here from Brian for his peers. He didn't think there was enough jelly on the PBJ sandwiches. I think he's been spoiled at home. I guess in the future we could order it with "extra jelly". Knowing Disney, they'd accommodate us. Our final ride was the Haunted Mansion. We again were looking for Hidden Mickeys and saw a few possible candidates. By this time, people had lined the streets for Spectromagic. We walked back down Mainstreet after Spectromagic was over - big mistake. Don't do it. We rode the ferryboat back to the TTC and turned and waved goodbye to the MK until the next time.
*Tip* After Spectromagic and/or the fireworks, find your way to a train station and ride the train back to the Main Street Station, especially if you have kids. It is simply a madhouse on Main Street after either as lots of people are trying to leave at the same time.
Day 9, April 6 - Trip Home
We packed up the camper on Sunday morning and headed back for Huntsville, Alabama. The drive back was pretty much uneventful but, as always, it seems to take longer to drive back than to drive to Orlando.
I got "strollered" twice during the week. One almost took me down. Both were unintentional and just a part of visiting WDW during the busy season. One good thing about strollers is you can often get through crowds better if you jump in the wake of one. People in fear of their heels quickly part when they see one coming.
A Short "Best Of" List:
Best Show: Hunchback of Notre Dame
Best Fireworks: Sorcery in the Sky at MGM
Best Grown-ups Meal: Whispering Canyon Cafe
Best Kids Meal: Pinocchio's Village Haus
Kids Favorite Ride: (tie) Goofy's Barnstormer, JII
Kids Faborite Attraction: Muppets 3D, HISTA
Adults Favorite Ride: Big Thunder Mountain (at night)
Disney's Decision to Open Parks Early for Off-Site Guests
Disney Bus Transportation
That's it. Hope those that read all the way through enjoyed it or, at least, learned something that may help on their trip.
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