Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Trip - Day 1 - Disney's Hollywood Studios

Day 0 - April 6, 2012

Today we head down to Walt Disney World (WDW) to visit our daughter and son-in-law. We will be flying Southwest Airlines for the first time - they just recently started flying from the NYC airports. The best fare (by far) that I could find had us flying to Orlando by way of St. Louis. This will be interesting.

We arrive at our off site parking and are shuttled to Newark Liberty Airport, where we are dropped off at the Southwest check-in. I must say that our first in-person contact was very pleasant, and as soon as our bags are checked in, we go through security and head for the gate.

I was a little concerned about Southwest's open seating policy, but through 4 flight segments (2 going, 2 returning), I have never seen an aircraft emptied and loaded so quickly. Some of our flights actually left early! I was happily impressed with the whole experience.

The flights both to and from St. Louis are comfortable and timely, and we arrive in Orlando just as my daughter is leaving home to come get us. By the time we get our luggage, we only have to wait a short time for her to retrieve us.

We are already checked into our room at Pop Century, and after a long day it is nice to settle in and get ready for our first full day at WDW.

Day 1 - April 7, 2012

Today is our first full day here, and it looks like it will be sunny, but not too hot. While my wife is getting ready, I decide to take a walk along Hourglass Lake - where our room is situated - to get a look at the new resort currently being built, Disney's Art of Animation Resort.

The original plan for Pop Century called for 2 sections, each on opposite sides of the lake. The Legendary Years (1950's - 1990's) and the Classic Years (1900's - 1940's). You can still see remnants of this plan on the bridge. However, when travel slacked off after 9/11, Pop Century's opening was delayed. The Legendary Years opened, and then the Classic Years began construction. It was decided to stop work on the Classic Years, and for many years the uncompleted resort sat there, like a ghost town as you can see in this picture taken in April, 2004.

The decision to re-theme it and build the Art of Animation Resort has almost come to fruition at this time. You can see the theming of the first three sections, Cars, The Lion King and Finding Nemo already on the buildings. These will be family suites. The final section, now being worked on, The Little Mermaid, will be standard, Value Resort Rooms.

Pictures of this morning walk showing the new resort as well as some Pop Century can be seen here.

Once done, and after breakfast at the Pop Century food court, we take the bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Once there, my wife makes her usual visit to Sid Cahuenga's store, and proves her movie expertise by taking a quiz - and getting all the questions correct.

We will be meeting our daughter and son-in-law here this afternoon for lunch at 50's Prime Time Café, but for now we head to Toy Story: Midway Mania to see if we can get fastpasses for later in the day. The standby line is at 90 minutes, and the fastpasses are for after 8:00 PM. As will be the case all this week, we do not rush to get to any park early, and generally arrive each day at about noon.

With our fastpasses in hand, we decide to next take the Backlot Tour. (Photos of this and our day at Disney's Hollywood Studios can be see here.) When it ends at the AFI exhibit, I wait outside while my wife has a look through the gift shop - a recurring theme for this (and most) trips. In fact, our next destination is the Muppets souvenir shop. We don't do the attraction at this point, but while she is in the store, I take some pictures of the area.

It's now time to meet our daughter and son-in-law, so we head towards 50's Prime Time Café. This is always a favorite place to eat - and was in fact the very first place we ate here when the park first opened (and was known as the Disney/MGM Studios). After a short wait our family is called in and we meet our server, who is most certainly into his "cousin" role, and makes for quite an enjoyable meal - not to mention that the food is, as always, quite good, and it is an experience worth having.

As we head back over to the Muppets' area, this time to see the attraction, it is almost time for the Pixar Pals parade, so we find a good spot to watch as the parade passes our position.

Once it is finished, we continue our trip to see the Muppets 3-D attraction. We are enjoying what to us seems a nice warm day, while my daughter and son-in-law are happy that it is cooler than it has been for quite a while, having been a very hot winter. (Our winter was also warmer than normal in the Northeast.)

Before we get there, however, my wife wants to make a stop in The Writers Stop bookstore and pick up a book that she had seen while she was there earlier in the day. We do that and then it is just a short walk to see The Muppets.

It has been a while since we stopped to see Lights, Motors, Action! which is the auto stunt show, so after we are finished here, and since it is just about time for the next stunt show, we head over to the arena. They haven't started letting people in yet, so we have to wait for about 10 minutes, but then we get in, and get a seat. At this point of the day all the seats are in the shade and for a rare change, we are not too hot or too cold watching the show. This is the first time we have seen the show since they have replaced Herbie (The Lovebug) with Lightning McQueen.

When the stunt show was over, the "kids" had to head home since they both had to work the next day, but my wife and I stayed in the park, at least until we were able to use our fastpasses later in the evening.

Since no trip to The Studios is complete without a trip through the movies, our next destination was The Great Movie Ride. This is always good at the end of the day when you are tired and your feet hurt, as you get to sit down for (at least) 37 minutes.

After The Great Movie Ride there is still a bit of time until our fastpasses are valid - and they are now enforcing the one hour window during which you may return. We decide to fill this time with a class at the Animation Academy. Rather than take the entire animation tour, which we have done quite a few times, we head in through the gift shop and find that a class is about to go in and is filled to capacity. This works into our time schedule very well and we get to sit for the half hour until the next class (ours) gets to go in. Our subject for today is Dale (of Chip and Dale), a character which I have only done once before.

When we exit, it is nearly time to use our fastpasses, so we take a slow walk over to Pixar Place and shortly we are able to enter.

With that, our first day is finished and we head back to Pop Century where we will have dinner where the day began.

Tomorrow - Disney's Animal Kingdom


(Remember you can see pictures from today here and here.)