Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Trip - Day 8 - EPCOT

   

April 14, 2012

As happens on every trip, we have reached our final day, and this time there is no hurricane back home to keep us here. We start the day offsite this time, as my daughter's mother-in-law will be coming today to spend the day, and we all meet for breakfast.

When breakfast is done, we head to EPCOT for a final day at the International Flower and Garden Festival. There are a number of photos I still want to take, and I start right at the entrance.

Although Disney is known for its topiaries which can be seen year round, this time of year there are topiaries everywhere you look in EPCOT. And it starts as soon as you walk into the park. This year's entrance theme is Fantasia, and it is presided over by none other than Sorcerer Mickey.

We also take a moment to have a look at our Leave a Legacy tiles. We purchased ours way back when the program first started, and so our tiles are right up front. In fact it was so long ago that while we did get a cast member discount on it, it was a discount that our son got for us. Our daughter had not yet been working here, which puts the purchase back in 1999! That's me (with the beard) and my wife, and just to the left (as you look at the picture) is our son and daughter.Can you believe that my beard was actually that dark back then? It was!

(Pictures of our day in the park can be seen here.)

We decide that while there was a line at Spaceship Earth, that we would wait on it and ride the attraction. It is a continuously loading ride and the line moves quickly. We are on in no time.

Next we walk over to The Land and get fastpasses for Soarin'. Our return window is later this evening, after our dinner at Le Cellier, so that works out for us. While we are here, we hop aboard the boat at Living with the Land.

When we exit The Land, we have a cast member take a photo of all of us together, and then it is time for my daughter's mother-in-law to start her trip home, so we say our goodbyes and head in opposite directions. We head towards The Seas with Nemo and Friends and ride our clamshell. We spend some time looking in the tank after the ride, and then meet my wife, where else, in the gift shop!

At this point, our daughter and her husband head over to Test Track (which is closing the next day for a rehab and rebranding) and see how long the single rider line is. While we originally planned on riding Test Track today before its coming metamorphosis, we decided instead to see the product of another metamorphosis, and head to Bambi's Butterfly House. We have ridden Test Track many times, but one of my stated goals for this trip was to take photos of the butterflies here, so when we next see Test Track it will be like these butterflies, transformed.

(Of course I am going to show you the butterflies, just not here. You have to go to this link to see them. The best of the butterflies can be seen here.)

After getting some good photos here, we head towards World Showcase. We will be meeting our daughter and son-in-law at Le Cellier in Canada, where we have reservations, at dinner time, but now I want to spend some time walking through the Rose Garden getting some more pictures, as was my plan for today. Each year, EPCOT plants many different types of flowers around the park, but the roses are saved for the Rose Garden. All different varieties of roses are on display, and I take some time to photograph many of them.

(I have teased you with the rose above, and now you want to see more, right? Okay then, head over here and see many of the flowers I photographed today. For the best of the flowers, have a look here and here.)

Now my wife has an agenda (that doesn't include shopping) and wants to head over to Italy so I can photograph something in particular for our twin grandsons. Two of their favorite Disney characters are Lady and the Tramp, and when we walked around World Showcase earlier in the week, for some reason I just didn't see them. Time is getting tight, so we take the Friendship over and get the pictures.

We now have to walk quickly in order to meet the kids in Canada, so off we go. Along the way I get a text from my son-in-law that they are there and waiting for us. My daughter remarks that it is unusual that they got there first, because my wife and I usually get to where we have to be so early that we are always the first ones there. We are still on time now, but barely. We check in and soon are shown to our table.

After the type of meal that you would expect at Le Cellier (which is a very good steak house), we make our way back over to Future World and our date with Soarin'. When we get to the end of the queue, we request to be seated in the front row, so we wait for the next load and have our request accomodated.

It's now time to head back to the room, pack and get ready to go home in the morning. Our daughter drives us to the airport where we catch the first of our two flights for today (we went home by way of St. Louis same as coming down here), and arrive home on time.

Time now to think about our next trip down. Possibly this summer, but definitely in the Fall for the International Food and Wine Festival and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

(You know the drill by now - photos of the day in the park can be seen here ... photos of the butterflies can be seen here ... and photos of the flowers can be seen here.)



Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Trip - Day 7 - Magic Kingdom


April 13, 2012

We have reached the next to last day of this trip, and another visit to the Magic Kingdom. Our daughter is working in her office today, and will meet us after work. I remember to pack my tripod since I plan on photographing Wishes again from a different spot. The last 2 times (this trip and last) I photographed the fireworks from the porch of the train station. This time I hope to set up about three quarters of the way down Main Street. While the spot on the porch was convenient, the flagpole - which is always there - and the temporary covered scaffolding on some of the stores down Main Street add unwanted and blocking elements to the shots.

As we arrive at the Magic Kingdom, I take some photos of the train and the train station before heading in the park itself. As we enter, there is some entertainment going on in front of the train station, and we stop to watch. (For those of you keeping score, and I know you are, the photos from today can be seen here.)

When we were here a few days ago, we didn't make it into Tomorrowland at all, and that is where we head first today. My wife runs (in a manner of speaking) ahead to obtain fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear while I stop for a few more photos along the way. We have a little time to kill, so we take a spin on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. (So happy that they officially added "Peoplemover" back into the name - that's what most people still called it anyway.) We followed that with another Magic Kingdom classic, the Carrousel of Progress - a favorite of mine since I rode it many times at the 1964-65 NY World's Fair (and in Disneyland before it was moved here when WDW first opened in 1971.)

Now it was time to use our fastpasses and help Buzz Lightyear rid the galaxy of the scourge of the evil Zurg. (Wait a moment here ... didn't we find out that Zurg is in actuality Buzz's father?)

Time now for a little laughter, so we get on line for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and the comic stylings of Mike Wazowski (That's Wazowski with one eye. Ba dum bum!) As always, though the format is the same each time, you never know what is going to happen here and it is always funny.

Following a bite of lunch at Tomorrowland Terrace (no longer the Noodle Station), we find a spot to watch the afternoon parade. I don't care how old or young you are, watching a Magic Kingdom parade is fun. We find a great spot just as the parade is getting ready to start, and it rolls by in front of us. I am enjoying watching the people (not just the children) as I always do. There is a lot of interaction between the characters and the guests as always, and the adults are as excited about it as the children are.

During the parade I get a text message that my daughter has just parked in the Magic Kingdom parking lot (she still needs to take a tram to the monorail, the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, go through security and enter the park), so I decide that while my wife does her thing (look out Emporium, here she comes!), I will find a seat back on the train station porch, take some photos, and wait for her. I text her back and let her know. This is where I am when she shows up - having made the trip here rather quickly. I send my wife a text message, and she meets us.

We decide that Dole Whips are in order, so we head into Adventureland and make the purchase. From there we head to the Tiki Room, no longer under new management, but back to the classic show.

A look at the Pirates of the Caribbean shows us a line longer than we care to wait on right now, and since Iris has not had lunch we stop for her to get something to eat. While sitting there, my wife realizes that she has reached the end of her strength for the day and it is decided that she will head back to Pop Century while our daughter and I continue. I am still feeling good and of course, plan on photographing Wishes tonight.

We head over to the Frontierland train station. My wife will continue on to Main Street and head back from there, while my daughter and I will get off at the New Fantasyland station. She has not seen it before, and while most of the new area - which will double the size of Fantasyland when it is complete - is still under construction, the re-themed Barnstormer is open, as is the relocated Dumbo spinner ride (one of 2 planned once the second one is installed). But the station itself is also new and well designed. I had not noticed the new cast member costume for this circus themed area, and my daughter points it out to me now. (You can see it in today's photo set.)

Since there really is very little going on here - except construction walls, we decide to head back to Tomorrowland where we begin with another trip on the Peoplemover. Then, since every show is different, we return to Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor. (No, I will not use the obvious acronym - though Disney prefers using my initials for it ... MLF!)

One thing that we very rarely do, is ride the riverboat, and we decide to do that now. As we approach the landing, we see that we have just missed it, so sit down and wait for its return. While sitting I decide to see if there are any dining reservations available for this evening where we can sit and be served rather than a counter service meal. I check my iPhone app (Mobile Magic) and find that Crystal Palace and Plaza Restaurant both are available, so we decide on Plaza Restaurant. Though the 3G is painfully slow, we eventually get the reservation through. Turns out we got the last reservation available for Plaza, as we check and the app now shows that none are left.

The Liberty Belle comes back after its latest trip around the Rivers of America and we board and make the voyage ourselves. We attempt to see the Country Bear Jamboree when we are off the ship, but it is not running at the moment, so we sit for a while as my daughter calls her husband and makes arrangements for him to come to the park to meet us.

We have a nice relaxing (and enjoyable) dinner at Plaza Restaurant, and then head towards the front of the park to wait for my son-in-law. While waiting we get to see the Electrical Parade. He shows up and we head down Main Street as I look for a spot to set up my tripod for Wishes. I find what appears to be a good vantage point, and set up. Though people walk around my setup prior to Wishes starting, once it actually starts, I am happily surprised that everyone gives the front of my set up a wide berth, and no one even comes close to blocking my view. This position was successful, and next time I want to try moving even closer to the hub and seeing if that works as well. (My photos of tonight's Wishes fireworks can be seen here.)

The final thing I want to do this evening is take some reflection shots of the castle all lit up, and once that is done we are ready to head back. Tomorrow morning my son-in-law's mother is coming to spend the day with all of us, and we are meeting off property for breakfast. My daughter realizes that it would be easier if she went home with her husband (who is parked at the Contemporary Resort and can walk to his car) and I take her car back to Pop Century. It makes perfect sense to me as well, so we do that.

I leave the park and head towards the monorail station, only to find the queue coming down the ramp from the station and wrapping around many times at the bottom of the ramp. I decide to take the ferry which holds many times the number of people the monorails hold. The crowd by the ferry is huge, but I get on the second boat and am soon in the parking lot. This is the first time I have been here since they renamed the sections as Disney heroes and villains, and have separate trams for each.

The wait for the tram is quite long as well, but I eventually get on, find my daughter's car and drive back to Pop Century.

Tomorrow, our last day before flying home, we are back at EPCOT and the International Flower and Garden Festival.

(Don't forget to have a look at photos of today's Magic Kingdom visit and the photos of Wishes.)


Friday, April 27, 2012

Flashback Friday - April 2004


Today's Flashback Friday is a trip report of a trip 8 years ago today. 

(This report has appeared in a number of forms on a number of my websites, so the formatting is a bit off and the fonts vary, please bear with me.) 

Focused On The Magic

 Thanks to Deb at Focused on the Magic for hosting Flashback Friday.

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Dates: April 26 - 29, 2004

Prelude

This was supposed to be a week with nothing much happening. Sandy had to work since it wasn’t a school holiday, and I had to start using some vacation time since I still had leftover from last year, so I took the week off. The plan was to stay home and vegetate — pure relaxation. Then Sandy started to suggest that I go down and visit our daughter in Florida, but I didn’t truly want to expend even that much energy, and would feel funny leaving her home. But the seed was planted. I spoke with Iris and found that she now had new responsibilities, and new hours and days off, and would be off on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. But still, my plan called for staying home and perhaps doing a few things around the house – or not.Yet, Sandy kept suggesting that I go visit Iris, and when Iris found out that I had decided not to, she was disappointed, and on Sunday night, I finally changed my mind and booked a flight on Song for the next day to Orlando. I would return on Thursday afternoon, giving me two partial days and two full days.


Day 1

I called Iris when she got to work on Monday to let her know I was coming (and that I needed to be picked up from the airport) and to have her make a room reservation for us. Shortly thereafter we were booked into Pop Century for three nights, starting Monday. She also called back and asked if we could go to The Hoop-de-doo Revue that night (a favorite of ours), especially with an extra discount that she had which was valid for the 9:30 show. Of course, I agreed.

I left home at about 11:00 AM for my 2:30 PM flight, giving myself plenty of time to account for traffic tie-ups and delays at the airport. As it turned out, there were none. I got to JFK in about 45 minutes and was soon parked in Long Term Parking — from where you take a shuttle bus to the new shuttle Air-Train to your terminal. I arrived at Terminal 3 where Song is located, and proceeded to check-in. Since I was only traveling with a carry-on, I tried to print my boarding pass from home, but I guess the proximity of the reservation to the actual flight was not enough time for Song’s computer to be able to do this, but no problem, checking in at the airport is just about as easy. (I had done this the last time I flew Song so I was very familiar with the procedure.) I pass the bar code on my emailed confirmation under the kiosk’s reader, and it finds my itinerary and prints my boarding pass with the seat I had picked online when I made the reservation. The flight boarded and left on time, and we arrived in Orlando as scheduled. Iris was just pulling into the airport and met me at passenger pick-up and we were off to check in to Pop Century.
We were assigned a room in the 70’s area.

The wall poster in the 70's rooms at Disney's Pop Century Resort
We brought our stuff to the room and then decided to head to the Magic Kingdom for about an hour before we would have to be in Fort Wilderness for The Hoop-de-doo Revue. We were both hungry, but didn’t want to have a big meal so we each got a hot dog at Casey’s on Main Street and then headed towards my favorite WDW attraction — The Haunted Mansion. The last time I was in the Magic Kingdom , the line was so long that we didn’t have time to wait or get a fastpass, so for the first time since the original opened in Disneyland in 1969, I was in a Magic Kingdom and did not visit the Haunted Mansion . Today, we got back to Liberty Square , and the attraction was closed. Once again, we did not ride. But we headed past Fantasyland and into Tomorrowland where we rode another favorite, the former People Mover — The Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

Iris on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority
At that point we decided it was time to leave to head over to Pioneer Hall and the Hoop-de-doo Revue.
We got there and purchased our tickets, while the previous show was still going on. We enjoyed listening to everyone having fun and then watching and listening to them as they left. Once inside we had a great time as usual and when done, are ready for a good night’s sleep to get ready for tomorrow.
 





Day 2

Today is supposed to be rainy, so we decide to go to Animal Kingdom, since it is usually so hot there. We had hoped the rain wouldn’t be heavy or constant, and it wasn’t, making for a rather comfortable visit. My plans were to spend time on each of the animal trails, something that I usually don’t get to do when Sandy is with me, but something that Iris enjoys as much as myself. We head back into Harambe and decide that the best bet is to get a fastpass for the safari. When it starts raining, we decide that rather than do the first trail at that point, we would head back to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where Iris first worked when she came to WDW on the college program, almost 4 years ago.

The other night she had run into one of the keepers she was friends with when she worked there, and was surprised to find out that he was still there. She would see and chat with a number of others still there from her days in Conservation Station. We spend some time there, watching a keeper present a talk on the African Pygmy Hedgehog, and checking out the animals in Affection Section. Iris was even surprised how many of the goats there she still remembered. Not much was different from her days there.


Iris as a Conservation Station CM in 2000


Visiting in 2004

We headed back to the train to take us to Harambe and then took our safari. Despite the rain, quite a few animals were out and about and we saw quite a few up close.

By now we were hungry and decided to eat in Pizzafari, one of the places we had not eaten in before. The pizzas had too much sauce for our taste (remember we are NYers where there is a Pizzeria on almost every corner), but the desert pizza, cinnamon apples on a pizza crust, was wonderful.


From here we went to see The Festival of the Lion King in its newly enclosed theater. It seemed shorter to me, and I was disappointed when the bird did a dance upon the vehicle floor, rather than flying overhead as in the past. Also, there must have been a problem with the Simba float as it came in very late, and was pulled off as soon as the show was over while all the other floats were left in place. But all in all, we both still enjoyed the show and would have liked to have seen it longer.


By this time I noticed that Iris appeared tired, and I knew that I was myself — not to mention the chronic pain I occasionally have in my foot had returned a few days earlier — so rather than go back and walk the trails, we decided to call it a day at the park. We got back to Iris’s car, and after a stop for a few things at Walgreen’s, we headed back to the room until it was time to head over to The Beach Club for our dinner at Cape May Café. As good as the place always is, we had a wonderful family at the next table with whom we had pleasant dinner conversation, as well as our server, Karen, who was simply in the silliest of moods and made for a wonderful evening.
When we were through eating, it was back to the room to relax — I was insistent that this would not be an exhausting visit, I needed my relaxation!



Day 3

Day 3 saw us headed to Epcot and the International Flower and Garden Festival.


The 2004 International Flower and Garden Festival






I had never been down for this, so here was something new to see. We once again got up at about 10 AM (no need to rush) and after a quick “breakfast” at the Pop Century food court, we headed to Epcot. We decided to make a Priority Seating at the Japanese Tepanyaki restaurant, and did that as we entered the park. We then headed to Test Track to see if we would ride then or get fastpasses for later. Fastpasses won and we received passes, good for 3:00 – 4:00 . We then headed over to World Showcase to see what Flower and Garden Show elements we could see. (We already had seen some wonderful topiary.) I would have liked to have seen the presentation on making bonsai trees, but it was the previous day. We stop in Norway to ride The Maelstrom and continue our walk around World Showcase. When we get to Italy , we take a few moments watching some street comedians performing a version of  Taming of The Shrew, using guest “volunteers”.

Street Entertainers in Italy directing guests in Taming of the Shrew
We get to Japan just at our P.S. time and soon settle in for a wonderful meal. When the meal is over we visit the Tin Toy exhibit at the Japanese exhibit. Too many people aren’t even aware that there is an exhibit back there that always has an interesting theme of one kind or another.


According to the schedule, Voices of Liberty and American Vybe have performances in the American pavilion within the next 20 minutes or so. However, when we get there, we find the posted times quite different from those on the hand-out schedule, and we cannot hang out waiting. We head to Test Track where we use our fastpasses to ride.


After Test Track, we decide that we will leave Epcot and head for Downtown Disney, as I still have to buy a nightshirt for Sandy — the only thing she asked of me if I came down. (I would also buy a tee shirt for my son who always has something for me when he comes home after a WDW visit. Last trip it was the polo shirt he won — his second — at Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Play It!) We do two more Epcot attractions (Universe of Energy and Spaceship Earth) and then head off to Downtown Disney.


We purchase the presents and then decided to check out the new Earl of Sandwich shop which recently opened. That was one of the best decisions we made. The sandwiches were delicious, the fresh baked bread was light and wonderful, and the price was unbelievably low considering you are on Disney property. If you have a chance, definitely give it a try.


We returned early to the room since Iris had to be in work at 7 AM the next morning. Of course, since Caribbean Beach Resort is adjacent to Pop Century, it was a fast commute! I had to get up early as well, since I would be leaving my carry-on in her car, and having Mears pick me up at CBR, since Iris would be getting out of work to late for me to make my 4:00 PM flight.

Day 4 

This morning we were awakened at 6 AM by the only wakeup call this trip. At 6:30 , I walk Iris to her car, and place my carry-on — carrying everything but what I have with me for the day — in her car and then return to my room for an hour or two. I plan on and arrive at the Magic Kingdom at 9 AM this day. The Studios will have to wait until next time. My first stop was to be the Main Street Bakery for a small breakfast, but the line was so long, and my time was so short, that I decided to get my OJ someplace else. (I got it at the small stand in Liberty Square directly behind the castle.) Now, it is time to attempt to ride The Haunted Mansion, and the third time is the charm. I walk directly to the door of the foyer and am there with about 8 others, who all appear to be first timers with no knowledge of what is to come. This is always fun. I love watching their reactions through the foyer and stretch room. Even through the ride you can hear their reactions.

From the mansion, I head out through Frontierland, and seem to be drawn to Splash Mountain . I arrive at the entrance and see that the standby wait time is rather small, so into the queue I step. As usual, the ride continues to be one of the best in the parks.



Some happy guests taking the plunge



Going Fishing


It is now time to start heading to the entrance, as to make sure I catch a bus to CBR in time to find Iris and get my carry-on before Mears come to take me to the airport. I had hoped to get a Dole Whip on the way out, but unfortunately the stand was not yet opened, so that will have to wait until the next trip. When I arrived at the train station on Main Street it was still too early to leave, so I bought a box of popcorn and people watched until the time came.


The Mayor
People Watching
Arriving at Customs House I called Iris’s number but she wasn’t at her desk. This wasn’t surprising as it was Thursday, and she was busy getting those going on the Disney Cruise Line ready to go. As it turned out, she was just around the side getting their luggage on the truck. I got the car key from her and got my luggage and then it is all over except waiting for the shuttle. It comes and I get to the airport with time to spare, so I get a bite to eat in the terminal and then wait for the on time flight to board. The flight was an easy 2 hours and 4 minutes (a half hour shorter than the trip down) and thanks to the personal TV’s was over before I knew it. I got my car from long term parking and before I knew it I was back home.
 

Epilogue


This was our second stay at Pop Century and the view from our room was lovely, overlooking the lake and bridge to the Legendary Years section of Pop Century, as of yet unbuilt except for the commercial building.



The Legendary Years - the next section of Pop Century Resort


(Note from 2012: You might be interested in what this spot looks like today. If so click here.)


This trip, while I missed having Sandy with me, was a great trip for me to spend some very quality time alone with Iris. This was the first time we have had a chance to be alone since I first took her down almost 4 years ago for her to start her College Program semester. 

Our next trip, hopefully, will be a 7 day cruise on the Disney Cruise Line in July. We should know soon.

Spring Trip - Day 6 - Disney's Hollywood Studios

After a rough day yesterday, I am hoping for a much better one today. We choose the Hollywood Studios (DHS) as I will be meeting my father and my sister this evening at Downtown Disney and this park lends itself to that.

We arrive at the park, and my wife wants to look through the shops as we enter, so I find myself a spot to wait for her. While there, I watch a shell game hustler (streetmosphere) amazing the crowd. It's early afternoon, and there seems to be quite a few streetmosphere performers around today. As always they are a lot of fun to watch, and fill the time well until my wife is finished and ready to meet up with me again. (Of course, as always, the photos from today can be seen online. Here are the photos of our day at Disney's Hollywood Studios)

Once she does, we check our schedule and see that our best plan of attack is to get fastpasses for the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. We have not seen this show for many years, and decide that it is something that would fit in to our plans today for a very laid back and relaxed day at the park. We get our fastpasses and there is a bit of time until we are to come back, so we head into the animation building hoping that the time works out to do a class in the Animation Academy. However, a class is just going in and it is filled to capacity, and we really don't have time to wait for the next class. We decide to hang out here anyway, however, and then go to see The Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

Since today is to be a relaxing day, we decide to see The Indiana Jones Stunt Show, and the timing is perfect as they are just letting people into the arena. We find our seats and after a short wait, the show begins. We had last seen this show back in August, but before that, like the Little Mermaid show, we had not seen it in many years. Although things have not changed in the show, it was still fun to see, and of course, continue our plan of sitting and relaxing when possible. And, of course, getting some pictures.

At this point, my wife decides that she is ready for lunch, and while we had originally planned on simply doing a counter service lunch, she asks me if I would check at Sci-Fi Dine-In and see if they will take a walk up. She reminds me to let them know that we would be perfectly okay with sitting at a table in the back and not a car if that would help get us in. I approach the podium to ask, and am told that they could take us but there will be a 20 minute wait. We are fine with that so I give in our name and get ready to wait. After only 5 minutes, we get called, and are even seated in a car. We do usually try to eat a meal here each trip down, and almost always accomplish that task.

After lunch, we decide that we will slowly make our way over to Downtown Disney where we will be meeting my father and sister later this evening. As we are leaving I get a call from my sister that they are leaving St. Augustine (where they were visiting for a few days) and should meet us in about 2 hours. We decide to head there by taking the boat to The Boardwalk and the the bus from there to Downtown Disney. My wife wants to spend some time on the boardwalk while we are there, and I find a seat in the shade and wait for her to finish looking through the stores.

When she is done, we walk to the bus stop and wait for the bus going to Downtown Disney. As you can imagine, with all the stores here (we stay at The Marketplace this time and don't walk through the former Pleasure Island or The West Side) she has plenty to do. I had told my sister that we would meet her at the bandstand in front of the World of Disney, and that is where I situate myself. A high school dance group is getting ready to perform, so I sit back and watch them while I wait both for my wife and for my father and sister. (Photos of Downtown Disney can be seen here.)

They eventually show up and my wife and sister go off for a while and I visit with my father. When they return, we have dinner at Earl of Sandwich. After dinner, my father and sister head back to my Dad's house, just south of Tampa.

Though my daughter was working on-call all day, I know that she finishes at 10:00 PM, so I text her and tell her that if she is up for it, she can meet us here and we can get some ice cream at Ghirardelli's ... something I know she is usually up for. She agrees, and when she finishes for the day, meets us here for some sundaes. We end the day with me buying some souvenirs which I will be sending to someone when we return home.

Then, it is late and time to head back to the room for the night. Tomorrow we go back to the Magic Kingdom.


Don't forget - photos of our day at Disney's Hollywood Studios can be seen here, and photos of Downtown Disney can be seen here.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where in WDW Wednesday (2)

Okay Disney Fans - it's Wednesday again ... time to answer last week's challenge and issue a new one.

Last week I asked you to tell me where in WDW this is ...


Did you get it? The correct answer is ... in front of the Great Movie Ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Keane over at RADP not only knew it, but supplied us with this shot from his website ...

So now on to this week's challenge ...

Where in WDW is this?


Your answers go below ... good luck, and check back next Wednesday for the answer and another challenge.


Spring Trip - Day 5 - Disney's Animal Kingdom

April 11, 2012

Today we will be meeting our daughter after work, so we decide to return to Disney's Animal Kingdom and do some of the things we missed earlier in the week.

The problem comes because yesterday, the cold I knew I was getting decided to make itself known. The sore throat became a stuffed nose, and I cannot sleep at all with a stuffed nose. Thinking I was able to handle the problem, when we returned from the Magic Kingdom last night, I stopped into the store at Pop Century and bought some nose spray and some Benadryl (antihistamine). As expected it worked its magic and I slept like a baby. Sounds like all would be well today then, right? Well it would have been except I decided to take the Benadryl this morning to keep my nose from stuffing up again. (You see where this is going?)

We left the resort at our normal time, and I was feeling fine as we approached Animal Kingdom, but as the day wore on, I just got sleepier and sleepier. By the time we got near Discovery Island, I was fighting to stay awake.

Our first stop is at the Tree of Life where the standby line for It's Tough to be a Bug is (as usual) non existent, so we took the long walk through the queue (it seemed interminable!) that lead to the entrance. When we finally got into the theater, I was happy to sit down ... and try to stay awake. (I succeeded ... this time.)

Once through, we head over towards the theater to see what the schedule for Finding Nemo: The Musical is, and find that there is a little over an hour until the next performance. Since my wife loves playing the carnival games at Hester & Chester's Dinorama (and we have plenty of stuffed dragons to prove it!), I find a seat in the shade while she plays a few games. With effort I don't fall asleep and start snoring on the bench.

When she is done, we head directly to the Theater in the Wild and are able to enter the theater immediately and get seats. By this time the antihistamine is working its strongest magic, and I know that my eyes close a number of times during the show, which is unusual. There are attractions that I historically use to take a nap in, but this isn't one of them - it is a great show with some memorable music.

By now we are a bit hungry, thirsty and hot, so we decide to get fastpasses for Dinosaur and then wait until we can use them and grab a small bite at Restaurantasaurus. We get just a small bit to eat, since we will be meeting our daughter and going out for dinner later this evening.

Soon it is time to return to Dinosaur and use our fastpasses - which at the moment really do not save us any time over the standby line ... which is only a few people deep and they all get into the same preshow as we do.

By now, the antihistamine is starting to wear off and I am waking up a bit, so as my wife makes a pit stop after Dinosaur, I do something for the first time today. Have you noticed a difference between all the previous trip reports? That's right, no photos! I had my camera and gear with me, but did not have the strength or motivation to take the camera out of the bag. (If you know me and the 300+ photos I usually take each day here you now know just how bad I was feeling.) Today, I took a single photo ... this one!

It was now approaching the time to meet our daughter, and this time she would not be coming into the park, but we would meet her just past the bus stops in the parking lot, so we make our way out of the park. As planned, she picks us up and we travel to Lakeland for dinner. Happily by the time we reach our destination the antihistamine has worked its way totally out of my system and I am my old self again and able to enjoy our Mongolian BBQ.

You can bet that I will not take a Benedryl tomorrow morning before we spend the day at Disney's Hollywood Studios!




Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Trip - Day 4 - Magic Kingdom

April 10, 2012

Believe it or not, the last park that we will get to is the Magic Kingdom. Certainly not because we like it least, but sometimes it just works out that way and this is one of those times.

After the usual morning routine of a late wake-up and breakfast, we head to the bus to The Magic Kingdom. It's another beautiful day, though a bit on the warm side as we approach the park.

After we go through security and the turnstile, my wife wants to do a little souvenir hunting (yeah, like that surprised you!), so I find myself a chair on the train station and take some shots around the entrance area and down Main Street towards the Castle ... reputed to be the most photographed structure in the world! I might have contributed to that number considering how many pictures I have taken of it since 1971! (Lots of pictures today. You can see the pictures of the Magic Kingdom by clicking here.) While waiting, I decide to check my Disney app and see if there are any dining reservations to be had. The original plan called for a counter service dinner, but since it is so hot, I wanted to see if we could get something where we could sit down in air conditioning and be served. The only places still available were Crystal Palace and Liberty Tree Tavern. Both are all you can eat dinners, but Crystal Palace is a buffet with Pooh and Friends, while Liberty Tree Tavern is all sit down and be served, and no characters. I reserve a table at Liberty Tree Tavern.

When my wife returns, we decide to alter our usual start to a day at the Magic Kingdom, and take the train directly to the new Fantasyland station and see some of the new area. With the Fantasyland expansion which has been going on for quite some time now, the station had been closed and remodeled. It is now open and some of the expansion (The Barnstormer and one of the Dumbo rides) is now operating. (See the pictures.) In the distance you can see the Beast's Castle.

As we head into the original Fantasyland, we decide to ride Snow White's ride (a classic) for the final time ever, as it is slated to be closed and replaced in the Fantasyland expansion with a new Snow White attraction.

From  here we head to Liberty Square to go through the Haunted Mansion - always my favorite attraction - but the line is a bit long so we decide to have some lunch at Columbia Harbour House and then head over to the Hall of Presidents before rechecking back at the Haunted Mansion.

When we return, the line is a bit shorter, but since it always moves rather quickly, we decide it is not bad and get into the queue.

Since we are not in a hurry, we opt to go through the graveyard. As always, I love all of the headstones, the names which come from the original Imagineers who designed and built the original Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. However, since the first time my son (a former Haunted Mansion butler himself) brought the grandtwins here for the first time, this has been my favorite of the tombstones, for obvious reasons. Of course it is spelled differently, but I am happy to share it with Disney legend Marc Davis anyway. (And yes, lots of pictures of the interactive graveyard can be see among all of the rest of the photos from today.) While we are on line, however, it seems to stand still for quite a while. A cast member comes by and informs us that they are having some technical difficulties and for a long time no one is admitted to the attraction. However, before long the problem is solved and we continue along until we are finally in the foyer listening to those familiar words, "Welcome foolish mortal ... "

From the Haunted Mansion we turn back into the "old" Fantasyland and It's a Small World.

When we emerge from our cruise, and a quick trip to Adventurland for a Dole Whip, we head back to Liberty Square where we sit down for a while until it is time for our dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern. It is still a while so we sit and enjoy the now cooling early evening and take in the atmosphere and do a bit of people watching until it is time to check in.

After a very enjoyable dinner, it is now about 2 hours before the Electrical Parade and 3 hours before Wishes (fireworks) and I head back to the trains station where I find a chair and a spot to set up my tripod for pictures of both the parade and fireworks. During the wait, I take some pictures of the park as the sun goes down. Also, as I sit and relax waiting for the events, a British family takes a spot right next to me and we spend the evening talking and socializing, making the wait time much more pleasant - and seem quicker. That is one of my favorite things to do in the quiet times at any of the parks - meet and talk with people. Tonight was memorable thanks to some time spent with some nice folks.

Eventually it is time for the Electrical Parade (formerly the Walt Disney World Main Street Electrical Parade). Originally running in the Magic Kingdom in 1972, it is still so popular that many times it has been brought back to replace SpectroMagic, the night time electrical parade which originally replaced it. It returned 2 years ago for what was supposed to be a short run, but here it still is. Tonight, as the opening chords of Baroque Hoedown, the parade's theme song, come over the speakers, I still get goosebumps. (Pictures of tonight's parade can be seen here.)

Now it is time to wait for Wishes.  The fireworks are preceded by The Music, The Memories and You, a multimedia show presented on the castle itself showing guests enjoying their day in the park. Then the main event, Wishes! (And of course the photos of Wishes can be seen here.)

With the end of Wishes, our day is over, and we head back to Pop Century. Tomorrow we will do a second day at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and it will be an unusual one in at least one regard. Stop by and find out why.

(And don't forget that there are three photo sets for today's trip report; the day at the park, the electrical parade, and wishes fireworks.)



Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Trip - Day 3 - EPCOT

April 9, 2012

This morning starts as all have this week, with a late breakfast at the food court and then a bus trip to the park. Today we will be at EPCOT where the International Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing. I have been here before during this festival, but this is the first time since getting back to my passion of photography. This is what I have been waiting for and anticipating and hope to come away with some superb photos.

As we enter the park, I stop to take some photos of the topiaries at the front of the park. This year the theme there is the original Fantasia. (Yes, of course you know I am going to let you see all of the photos and not just this one. Have a look here.)

Once inside the park we decide that the line for Spaceship Earth is longer than we care to wait, so we continue on. My wife enjoys looking in the Art of Disney store, so while she goes in, I sit outside and take a few more shots.

When she comes out, we decide that we need a drink and head over to Club Cool. (I love watching unsuspecting folk having their first drink of Beverly! Yes, I am bad.)

Next up will be a nice long attraction where we can sit down for an extended period of time. (There will be a lot of sitting and taking it easy this trip.) Naturally, that means Ellen's Energy Adventure at The Universe of Energy. Almost an hour later we emerge and I start to take some pictures of the topiaries and flowers in front of the Festival Center - the former Wonders of Life building. Today is one of the two warmest days we will have on the trip so we want to take it slow, which works out fine as photos of the flowers will be the main order of business today.

EPCOT is full of new plantings for this festival. It is hard to convey exactly how beautiful the park is during this time through photos alone ... but I will try. (You have looked here by now, haven't you?)

We had thoughts of going on Test Track and considered our options. The fastpass return time is now in the middle of our dinner reservations, and with the new policy of enforcing the one hour window printed on the fastpass, the time does not work for us. The standby line is well over an hour and a half, and the single rider line is at 40 minutes, so we decide to pass it by at this point, and head over to World Showcase.

Although we have had a late breakfast, the craving for lunch has started to set in. Originally we had thought that we might have lunch either at the Mexican counter service or China counter service locations. Since we first pass Mexico, we go to see if we could find a table, and all are filled, so we decided to continue on to China. We pass Norway and arrive at China and we are feeling a bit warm at this point, so I ask my wife if she would consider a sit down lunch at Nine Dragons (if they can take a walk-up) where we can sit in the air conditioning and be served. She agrees so we go in and find that they can indeed accommodate us, so we have our lunch there.

Feeling fed and refreshed, we continue our walk around World Showcase, and I continue to find and photograph the flowers and topiaries put out for the festival. And there are many.

As we pass Germany, my wife and I stop into the carmel kitchen and who can possibly resist the goodies they have inside. Not only the commercial, prepackaged caramels (Werthers for example), but caramel goodies fresh made right onsite. We, of course, have to get something, and do.

Continuing along, I stop and take a few moments to photograph the miniature village and trains set up just past the Germany pavilion. We pass Italy and then we continue on until we reach the American Adventure. Air conditioning, seats, The Voices of Liberty, a theater show with more sitting in air conditioning ... we never miss it!


Continuing along our trip around World Showcase, we pass Japan (where we will be returning for dinner) and Morocco and then come to France. As usual, my wife wants to look at the souvenirs, so I find a shady spot to sit - and take some pictures - while she is gone. After a while she comes back ... with a piece of cheesecake and a coffee. She had gone in just to get a coffee, but could not resist the cheesecake.

Continuing around, we decide that we will stop at the UK to sit down, listen to The British Revolution, and wait for our daughter to meet us here. It is Monday so she was back at work, but will meet us in the park and join us for dinner.

We text her our location and sit back and wait for the show to begin. She arrives before it does and joins us on the bench watching/listening to the performance. It's a pleasant way to start the evening, and when it is over we head towards Japan and our reservation at Tokyo Dining.

When dinner is over, my wife and daughter do some shopping at Japan while I head over to a spot I like in front of Germany where I set up my tripod and wait for Illuminations. My wife and daughter join me and we end our day here with Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

Tomorrow - The Magic Kingdom


Don't forget - all of the photos from today can be seen here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring Trip - Day 2 - Disney's Animal Kingdom

April 8, 2012

Today is a holiday for some, and we hope to avoid major crowds, so we decided that Disney's Animal Kingdom (DAK) might be a good choice for today. (From what I later heard, the other parks were also rather uncrowded today as it turns out.)

Our daughter will not be working today since it is Sunday, so since she lives closer to DAK than to Pop Century, we will meet her at the park. Today, as usual, we get up and go to the food court for a late breakfast before heading out.

When we get to the park, I immediately get my camera out, as this is one of my favorite places to take photos - not just in Disney World, but anywhere. (You can see all of today's photos by clicking here.) As we walk to the park itself, I stop for a few photos.

As usual, we head back towards Harambe villiage and the Safari with plans of either getting fastpasses or waiting on the standby line if it is short. It is currently 40 minutes, but the fastpass return window is in about an hour. I decide to text our daughter to see what time we should expect her to arrive so I know if I should wait for her or get our fastpasses now. Since she is on her way, we decide to wait so we can all ride together. We find a table at the Dawa Bar and soon she arrives.

We get our fastpasses and then decide to get some lunch before our fastpass window opens. Usually it is either too hot or too cold to get lunch at Flametree BBQ which only has outdoor seating, but today it is comfortable so we decide to eat there.

Once we are finished it is time to ride the Safari. You never know what to expect, and today we see a rare sight, one of the hippos has left the water. I don't think we have seen that in all the times that we have ridden through the Safari, so naturally I have to get the shot. Happily it is a bright sunny day and I can use a fast shutter speed since the safari truck does have a tendency to be quite bouncy. Also, we are in the front on this trip which helps, as it it quite a bit more stable than the back, where we usually find ourselves riding.

Amazingly, I am able to get another once in a lifetime shot on this safari - of the scariest mammal on this adventure ... have a look! (Yes, it is my wife!)

We have a good driver, and she does make a few stops along the route to see the animals. Yet another unusual sighting is a troupe of mandrills. Most often they are not seen, but today is a charm. What we don't see, however, as we approach Pride Rock, is any of the lions. This is now the second time in a row that has happened, and it has been suggested that with the modifications to the safari (the poachers story will be dropped and that area will have a zebra herd occupying the space) that perhaps the lions will be moved and they might be getting acclimated to their new space, as the zebras currently are doing. Time will tell.

Since my feet are still feeling pretty good, my daughter and I decide to walk the Pangani Trail - while my wife heads to Rafiki's Planet Watch where we will meet her once we are finished.  Within Conservation Station at Rafiki's Planet Watch there is quite a lot to keep her busy, and best of all it is air conditioned and has plenty of places for her to sit while she is there.

Although I usually want to take the walk through Pangani, either my feet are hurting by the time we get here or no one wants to go with me. This time it is early enough in the week and the day so with camera in hand we walk through. One of my favorite animals to photograph here are the lowland gorillas, and sure enough, at one point on the trail, a few members of the bachelor troupe are within sight. In fact, two of them almost seem to be posing for pictures. This fellow seems to be playing peek-a-boo! (Don't forget, more of these photos can be seen here.)

Once through, my daughter and I head over to the train to meet my wife. This is sort of a homecoming for my daughter, since this is where she worked when she first started working at WDW ... almost 12 years ago now. She has since moved on to other roles within the company, but this is where it all started.

We all catch up at Conservation Station, and spend some time in Affection Section petting the goats and sheep, and then head back to the train station to catch the train back to Harambe and head over to Camp Minnie-Mickey to see the Festival of the Lion King. We almost make it before our way is blocked by Mickey's Jamming Jungle Parade. With no other choice, we settle in and watch the parade. Once it passes, we become parade followers until we come to the road to Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Even with the delay, we make it to the show before the doors open, and when they do we find seats and watch the show. This is one of our favorite things to do here, and no matter how many times we see it ... well, a show with Timon and Tumble Monkeys ... it's a must see. Oh yes, don't forget this guy. (Do I still have to remind you where you can see the rest of this photos from today, including the photos from The Festival of the Lion King? No? Okay then!)

At this point, we left the park, and our daughter drove us to see the neighborhood to which they would be moving the day after we go home. Unfortunately they don't get the key until then, but the neighborhood looked very nice, and the next time we are there we will get to see inside their new apartment.

From there we drive by her current apartment to pick up her husband and go out for a very nice dinner.

Tomorrow we will be heading to EPCOT.