Monday, December 12, 2011

Seeing in Many Ways

Two weeks from today I will be in Walt Disney World, combining three of my favorite things; visiting my daughter (and son-in-law), being in WDW and photography.

As you can imagine, I have taken quite a few photos there over the years, so what is there still to photograph? That being true, the challenge each time is to find ways to photograph the same object, but in a different way. Here are some examples. (You can see the technical information on my photo blog, Gathered Images.)

Last time I was in EPCOT, I succumbed to the urge to photograph Spaceship Earth. Let's face it, we all have. Most of those shots look something like this: 

Taken as you pass through the turnstile, this is the fist thing you see, so naturally you take the picture. Come on, admit it ... I still do. But this time it was not the first picture of Spaceship Earth (please, let's not refer to it as that big golf ball) that I took this day. We came over from The Magic Kingdom (as related in an earlier post) by monorail, and before we left the monorail station, I took this photo:

Personally, I am fascinated by the geometric shapes that make up Spaceship Earth, so as I approached the attraction, I took a photo of this view of the structure:

Getting even more intimate with the thousands of triangular elements as I stood underneath the structure, produced this image:

Then one final shot as I walked up the ramp to get onto the attraction itself:

After that last photo, I was finished for the day when it came to taking more photos of Spaceship Earth, but as we waited for Illuminations to begin that night, I took a few more. Here are two of them:

In two weeks, I will once again be in EPCOT and the challenge once more will be how to take pictures of Spaceship Earth - and most of the other objects in the park - that are different from what I have taken on my many visits in the past. Stick around, and I will show you what I accomplish.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Been 40 Years

It was December 25, 1971 and one of the last winter break vacations I would spend with my whole family. We were in Central Florida, Orlando to be exact, and almost three months earlier something happened here which would forever change this sleepy village - Walt Disney World (WDW) opened its gates for the very first time.

We arrived at our hotel on December 24. It was an off property hotel of course, since there were only two in WDW itself, The Contemporary and The Polynesian Village. Both were quite expensive. Along route 192 in Kissimmee there were a few hotels, but for the most part, Irlo Bronson Highway was pretty much empty. One could only imagine what it would look like in the years to follow. Walt Disney could, having seen what happened outside of the gates of Disneyland in Anaheim a decade and a half earlier, and that was what prompted him to buy 42 square miles of land in Central Florida - twice the size of the island of Manhattan.

We watched the news the night before and saw the major traffic backups onto I-4 of people hoping to get into the parking lot of the only theme park in WDW at the time - The Magic Kingdom. We knew we needed to leave very early in the morning the next day, our first ever in WDW. (We had been to Disneyland a few times already.)

So on December 25, 1971 we left our hotel and drove towards the only entrance to WDW and the parking lot for the Magic Kingdom. I was 18 years old, but just as excited as I had been years earlier the first time we visited Disneyland. I had grown up watching Disney every Sunday night, and my favorite episodes were always the ones that dealt with Disneyland, and more recently, the building of WDW.

But where was all the traffic we saw on TV? We were able to drive right up to the booths at the parking lot where we had to wait for them to open! We drove right to the front of the lot once we were in, with only a relatively few others alongside of us. We bought our ticket books, containing A through E tickets, and then took the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. (We had to use a special transportation ticket to board.) Did you notice the price of admission and 7 attractions? $4.75!!!

Once inside The Magic Kingdom, we discovered that the entire park was not yet complete and open. Tomorrowland was boarded off since it was not yet finished. We would have to be content with the other lands. Another disappointment was that there was no Pirates of the Caribbean. No, it's not that it wasn't ready yet, but a decision was made that since Central Florida was historically pirate country itself, people might not want a pirate attraction in WDW. That was a mistake in judgement that was promptly corrected.

But despite these disappointments, we did have a great first day at The Magic Kingdom. And there were no crowds! As it turned out over the years, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were very low attendance days. On Christmas Eve, many of which we spent at The Magic Kingdom over the years, the park (and later parks) closed early and people stayed away. Leaving the park on Christmas Eve was nice in the early days, as Cast Members would line up and shake your hand and wish you a Merry Christmas as you left the park. Christmas Day was also a low attendance day ... until the year after the Christmas Parade was first televised live. The second year it was scheduled, we found The Magic Kingdom more crowded than it had ever been, and we were funneled backstage from the entrance directly into Tomorrowland. Now Christmas Eve and Day are among the most crowded in the Magic Kingdom.

Which bring us to Christmas Day, 2011 ... 40 years after my first ever visit to WDW. On December 25, 2011 my wife and I will be arriving in WDW. We are staying on property this time, as we always do, and will be spending time with our daughter (who has worked in WDW for over 11 years now and got married there) and son-in-law. It no longer has the same excitement that it had in the early days since we are here so often, but more of a feeling of "coming home."

I don't know exactly what time we will arrive in WDW, but if it is early enough, and if The Magic Kingdom isn't closed due to high crowds, I hope to be able to go into the Magic Kingdom, even if we don't get onto a single attraction, to celebrate 40 years to the day since I first set foot into the park.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Last Day - Take 2

It's not often that you have two last days in the same location on a single trip. But thanks to Hurricane Irene that's exactly what we have had on this visit. Earlier in the trip we thought we were approaching the end of our stay in WDW, but it turned out that we found ourselves with an additional 4 days. Barring any last minute natural disasters, today will be our last day at Disney World. We decide to spend it at The Magic Kingdom.

We arrive at the Magic Kingdom and, as usual, head back into Liberty Square where we gravitate towards the Haunted Mansion. However, as we enter the Hub area, the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party Parade is going on, so we take a few moments to watch - though not participate. It's actually a good way to get the energy up for the last day of a longer than planned vacation which has featured exhaustively hot weather.

Once the parade is over, we continue our journey back to Master Gracey's Mansion. Earlier in the week we had seen the new interactive queue that now leads you in  to the attraction, but it had been raining that time, and both my wife and I would like to spend just a little more time seeing all the new features of the graveyard. We are able to take our time a bit more as we pass through today. There are some very clever new pieces to be seen as you wait your turn to drag your wretched body into the mansion, and a number of tributes to imagineers and performers who are part of the history of the mansion. After having the time to see the new additions, we enter the mansion for yet another trip through.

When we are finished here, we head into Fantasyland and take a boat trip through It's a Small World. To be honest, by this point in the trip, the activity and the weather are really taking their toll on both my wife and myself, so any attraction where we can sit in air conditioning for any amount of time, is going to hold our attention today.

As we leave It's a Small World, we walk past the construction site for the Fantasyland Expansion, and the new castle (Beast's Castle) is clearly in sight. I can't wait until the new area is finally opened. It will be nice to have something new in the Magic Kingdom - something it has sorely missed for too long. But we can't stop and admire the construction as the day just keeps getting hotter and more humid, so we continue on until we reach Mickey's Philharmagic. Actually the plan had been to get fastpasses for Winnie the Pooh, but along with them came "surprise fastpasses" for Philharmagic, so that will be our next destination. Hey, it's cool and you sit down. Remember the order of the day?

After Mickey's Philharmagic, it is time for our Winnie the Pooh fastpasses, and that is where we head.

Earlier in the week, my wife, along with some of the other gals who were here for the wedding, attending the tea at the Grand Floridian. My wife enjoyed it so much that she wanted to go back again before this trip was over, so this morning, before we left for the park, we stopped at the front desk to see if there were any openings for today. Turned out there were 2, and we took them. Now, it was time to head over to the Grand Floridian and have our tea. (Yes, I enjoyed it and would not mind doing it again when we are there the next time.)

When we return to the Magic Kingdom, I notice something that I must have missed this morning when we first got here. Something I know was not there just a few days ago when I was here last ... the Halloween decorations are up! They certainly must have been there this morning, but I totally did not notice them at all. However, I do see them now. (And when I look at the pictures I took earlier in the day, they certainly were indeed there this morning.) Yep, I am losing it. I hate to say it but it is time to get home. (Okay, I can say that knowing it will not be long until we are back here.)

This time in the park, instead of heading to the right side, we head to the left. The Country Bear Jamboree calls out to us ... SIT INSIDE - IT'S COOL IN THERE. So off we go. But first, we pick up fastpasses for The Jungle Cruise. I know my wife would be very happy to skip it, but I still love the corniness of the whole thing, and it's connection to the history of Disney parks in general. So after spending some time in Country Bears, we head over, fastpasses in hand, to The Jungle Cruise.

By this time my wife and I decide it may be time to start thinking about heading back to the hotel to pack (and relax) in preparation for an early departure tomorrow morning. I consider staying in the Magic Kingdom for a while myself to get some pictures of the park after dark, but quickly realize that I won't make it until then, and decide to accompany her back to the hotel. Before we leave, she stops to see a show at the Castle forecourt, and I stop to photograph some flowers which have - mostly - survived this extreme weather. Then, just before we leave the Magic Kingdom for the final time this trip, we take the train once around the park.

Finally it is time to leave and we pack at the hotel for an early morning Magical Express pick-up the next day. We seem to have actually reached the end of our stay at Walt Disney World for this trip.

(More photos from today can be seen here.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 8 - EPCOT


Today we head to EPCOT. Believe it or not, this is the first time all week that we have made dining reservations. Lunch will be at Les Chefs de France and dinner will be at a place we very rarely go to, Nine Dragons. The reason we rarely go there is that it is simply a Chinese restaurant, and we have plenty of them at home. When it first opened, when EPCOT itself did, it was run by a California Chinese restaurant, and to tell the truth, we didn't particularly care for it, as it is a bit different from NY style Chinese restaurants. Over the years that has changed, and we do like the food there, and decide that Nine Dragons is where we want to eat this evening.

We head over to EPCOT from The Boardwalk on a clear but once again hot and humid morning. Rather than walk over in the heat, since we saw a Friendship approaching the dock, we took that mode of transportation this morning. As we enter via the International Gateway, we have a nice view of France as we head over in that direction.

Sandy takes some time in the giftshop here picking up a few music boxes that she had previously wanted. Since it is early, we start walking around World Showcase Lagoon in a counter-clockwise direction, stopping to look in giftshops along the way. Once again there is a goal though, as Sandy wants to stop in Japan for a few snacks. The stop there is appreciated since the store is nicely air conditioned. We look through the store and finally come to the Japanese snacks at the back. We both buy some and then look at the exhibition across the way.

We then continue towards The American Adventure. When we get there, we find that the times for Voices of Liberty and the theater show don't allow us to stay and still be back at France for lunch, so Sandy checks out some pins at the pin station and then we slowly head back in the direction of France. We make a brief stop in Morocco to check out their giftshop and kill some time. Not long after it is time to head into the restaurant and have lunch. During lunch we get to see Chef Remy making his rounds.

After lunch Sandy and I decide that we are tired and hot - the long hot week is starting to get to us - so we head back to the hotel for a break. When we get back, we decide we may want to go swimming, but it starts raining and the pool is closed down. We decide to go check it out anyway, even if we can't swim right now. We head out and have a look, and then head back to our room for a bit of a nap.

As evening approaches we head back to EPCOT and walk over to China where we will be having dinner. Once again Sandy needs to buy something in particular in the giftshop, so that is our first stop. Once that is accomplished, we head to Nine Dragons and our dinner.

When we are finished, the sun is setting and there is the most amazing sunset. Naturally I have to get a picture - or five. Once done we decide to find a good spot to watch Illuminations from. This will be the first time this trip that we will be seeing it from the park. Up until now we have been watching it from our balcony at the hotel.

We walk around and find a good spot in front of Germany and settle in waiting for Illuminations to begin. Of course, I take this opportunity for some more photos.

And during Illuminations

Once the show is over, we head back to the hotel and prepare for our second attempt at a last day in WDW.

More photos from today can be seen here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 7 - Disney's Animal Kingdom


Here it is, Day 7 ... our second day of being stranded in Disney World. Today Hurricane Irene is due to hit at home. Originally they predicted that it would come towards evening, but as we watch TV before leaving for Disney's Animal Kingdom this morning, we are watching the effects that the storm is having already. Flooding at the Battery in Manhattan, and flooding of many neighborhoods on Staten Island. My son's house is in the evacuation zone, and mine is just blocks from it. I worry that my backyard furniture may be a problem, but there is nothing I can do about it from here. My brother has taken his family to Pittsburgh to get out of the way of the storm. We watch for a while, and then since there is nothing we can do, head off to Animal Kingdom for the day.

As it has been since we have been in Disney World this trip, it is another hot day. Animal Kingdom has always been the hottest of the Disney World theme parks because of the vegetation and other factors, so we know that we will not last the whole day even before it begins. As we sit waiting for the bus we can feel that it is another very hot, and very humid day. We arrive at Animal Kingdom and while I go through security rapidly, my wife encounters a woman who is very thorough and goes through her backpack with a fine tooth comb. When she finds the pen that holds my medicine she demands to see me before she lets my wife through. Ironically, it was taking so long that I had almost told my wife that I would meet her inside the park, so I could take some pictures while I waited. However, I was nearby and eventually my wife was passed through.

As usual, first thing we do is head back to Africa to get our fastpasses for the safari. They are valid in only about a half hour from now, so we decide to go on the standby line first and then use our fastpasses for a second trip when we are finished. While many of the animals are not to be seen - they can opt to stay backstage any time they want, and with the weather the way it is, I suppose many did just that - the ones that are out and about present some great photo opportunities. There is a lot of traffic out this morning, and we get to stop at many places for good views. (You can see some of my best photos from today's safari here, as well as all of my photos from the safari and the rest of the day here.) Between the two trips we walk past the section of the trail from which you can see the gorillas and find a solitary silverback sitting in the shade munching on a snack, so I decide to take this picture. Once that is done, we continue back to the fastpass entrance to the safari for our second trip.

Once we do both safaris, my wife and I decide it is time to get something to eat. It is so hot that neither of us want to eat outdoors or a heavy meal, so we decide on restaurantosaurus. It is very crowded so we split up to try to find a table which we simultaneous do. We decide to use the one she found, and proceed to get our lunch. 

One of my wife's favorite things to do in Animal Kingdom (or most typical amusement areas for that matter) is play the carnival games, and Hester & Chester's Dino-Rama provides this opportunity for her. I, on the other hand find a seat to sit on while she does. It is now the hottest part of the day, and the heat and humidity are starting to get to me, so when she is done, and we notice that it is almost showtime for Finding Nemo The Musical, we take the short walk and head into the show. It's nice and cool here, and we sit down and watch the show - something we always enjoy.

By the time we exit the show, we decide that it is time to leave Animal Kingdom for the day. My wife wants to head Downtown Disney to the Marketplace where we will have dinner and she can spend some time looking around The World of Disney. 

Dinner here is at Earl of Sandwich, perhaps the best food bargain on the entire property. Even without my daughter we get a discount using our AAA membership. Once done, my wife heads into The World of Disney and I find a seat in the outdoor theater in front of the store to sit and relax a bit, giving her as much time in the store as she wants. Surprisingly she comes out quickly, and even more surprisingly without any purchases. So it is time for dessert and that means going to Ghirardelli's for some ice cream!

Finally, we head back to The Boardwalk and watch the news to find out how NYC has weathered the hurricane.

(Don't forget that you can see some safari pictures here and all of the pictures from today here.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 6 - We Visit Disney's Hollywood Studios - and Friends


Today we are going back to The Studios to do the attractions we didn't get around to doing yesterday, and to meet some online friends. Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the people I know from both the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) usenet usegroup, as well as from Laughing Place. There are a few that I know who are in Disney World this week, but with our schedule and priorities it has been hard to find a way to be in the same place at the same time. Today we will try to meet Michelle and her family.

Today Michelle will be in The Studios, and we keep in touch by text as my wife and I take the boat over to the park. Once we arrive, I take my wife's park ticket and head over to get fastpasses for Toy Story: Midway Mania. Once again Michelle and I text each other. We arrange to meet by Gertie the Dinosaur as it is near the Indiana Jones Stunt Show which Michelle and her family are planning on seeing next. As my wife and I arrive in the area, I see Michelle and her daughters there waiting for us. Her husband, Tim, will meet us here in a few minutes and then all of us will head in to see the show. We catch up on all of the events of the week so far and it is as if old friends were meeting, and of course, in a way it was. We have known each other for quite a while online, and it is nice to finally meet in person. Her husband arrives and we head in to watch the show.

Once the show is over, we part ways and my wife and I head towards the Muppet 3-D show. My wife does a little souvenir browsing in the Muppet themed store while I wait, and then we head into the show. When we come out, Florida's famous "liquid sunshine" is once again falling, and we wait in the exit area until it stops. As shows let out, the area becomes quite crowded, but happily the rain stops before the crowd reaches critical mass. Once again it becomes sunny, hot and very humid as it has been, and will be, for our entire stay this time.

We walk out to Streets of America, and my wife checks out one of her favorite stands, "Youse Guys Moychindice" (we New Yorkers take a lot of ribbing, don't we?).

Next up is a stop in the book store at the end of the street. Always a nice place to cool down, and perhaps get a drink or a cookie or cake. While in there my wife asks me if I would be interested in looking into how long a walk-in at Sci-Fi Dine In would be, and I naturally like the idea. She goes in to check. Having been here often, we don't mind if we are given a table in the back rather than a car to eat in. She comes back and says that we will only have about a 15 minute wait, and she has already checked us in. Very shortly our name is called and we are shown to our car. When our meal is over, and we are into the second time through the movie loop, our car hop brings us our check, and something special. Our car has been randomly selected for a surprise gift, and we are all (us and the family in the "front seat") given a Sci-Fi mug filled with caramel popcorn. Very nice indeed!

After lunch, and continuing on the theme of finding indoor entertainment to keep cool, we head towards the Animation Courtyard, and once again backdoor ourselves through the Art of Animation store. One of our favorite things to do here in The Studios is the Animation Academy. Each time we are here we like to do at least a few classes. It is here that an animator takes a group of guests every half hour and guides them through the process of drawing one of Disney's well known characters. Most people who take part are quite surprised how, by following the animator's instructions, they can actually draw the character pretty well. Today we get to draw Mickey Mouse himself. Over the years we have drawn many Mickey's from various angles and, of course, with his sorcerer's hat. Today we get to draw a classic Mickey Mouse pose.

From the Animation Academy, we decide to head over to The Great Movie Ride. Not only is it cool and you can get off your feet, but it lasts for quite a while. And by this point of the day and the trip we are hot and the feet are a bit tired. (Okay, more than a bit ... they hurt!)

Earlier in the day, we got fastpasses for Toy Story: Midway Mania and now it was time to get to use them. We head over to the area and present our fastpasses and enter the proper queue. As I mentioned earlier, I always enjoy meeting some of my online friends while I am here, and Toy Story is where one of them is currently a cast member. As we go through the queue and get on our ride vehicle I keep my eyes open for Kellyn, but do not see her. However, as we are exiting the ride, I see a CM who is just coming off her break, and it is Kellyn. I tap her on the shoulder and we have a brief conversation in the unload area. Unfortunately, she is working and my wife and I are ready to head back to the hotel, so the meeting is brief, but it was certainly nice to get to meet her. Hopefully next time we are here we can find a more convenient time and spend some more time together.

After exiting the ride, my wife and I decide to call it a day and head to the boat for the trip back to The Boardwalk.

More pictures from today can be seen here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 5 - Last Day - Or Is It?


It's Friday morning and our last scheduled day here in Walt Disney World. My son and his wife will be dropping the grandtwins off later this morning so that they can take care of a few chores. We are watching all of the preparations along the east coast for Hurricane Irene. Disney's Magical Express has delivered our confirmation for a 4:30 AM pickup tomorrow morning. I decide to check the status of our flight home tomorrow morning.I notice that our flight has been flagged as potentially being cancelled and that we can change our flight with no penalty. My wife and I decide that it would be a good idea to stay until the hurricane has passed by NYC. Since it is scheduled to hit at home on Sunday night, I start checking flights for Monday - all booked. I check for a Tuesday flight - all booked. Finally I find a flight for Wednesday morning, and book it. Success! We have the new flight and assigned seats. Now to decide about where to stay. We consider moving to a less expensive location, such as Pop Century or one of the All Star Resorts, but in the end we decide that we would prefer to stay here at Boardwalk, if we can remain in our current room. I call my daughter, who has made arrangements for my son and his family to stay until the hurricane has passed, and discuss our options. While on the phone with her, she is in contact with a friend at the front desk of our hotel, and finds that our room is available to extend our stay. We agree and the reservation is extended. All we have to do is get to the front desk and get a new set of keys. We are now stranded for an additional four days in WDW, staying at the Boardwalk. (I know, it's a struggle but we will try to survive.) I call Disney's Magical Express to let them know of our adjusted plans.

At about 10:00 my son and daughter-in-law stop by to drop the twins off for the day. We take a walk downstairs to the Boardwalk Bakery for some breakfast for the boys and us, and then head back to the room. We had called for 2 cribs earlier, and the boys settle in for their nap. Almost two hours later, after a nice nap, they wake up and we head off to the Disney Hollywood Studios. The boat arrives almost as soon as we get to the dock and we are off.

We arrive at The Studios and decide to head for The Great Movie Ride. The line is not long at all and after a minute or so the doors open and we head onto the ride. The boys are fascinated by the sights and sounds, and even at the times we were a bit nervous that they might tend to be a little scared, they thoroughly enjoyed it.

From here we decide that it is time for lunch, and Pizza Planet gets the nod. My wife and I order meals for us and a kids' meal for the boys. But it seems that they don't have any kids' meals ready, so instead, for the price of the kids' meal, we get a full size pizza with the juice box from a kids' meal. We find a table and proceed to have our lunch.

After lunch we head over to the animation courtyard and backdoor ourselves in through the gift shop, not really wanting to sit through the presentation and movie of the full tour. The boys spot Winnie The Pooh, so we naturally have to take them and get a picture with that silly old bear. While waiting in line, one of the twins spots his favorite character on the TV and in the wall art ... Tigger! The line moves well and after about 10-15 minutes we get to see Winnie The Pooh. The boys are old hands at this, having been here earlier in the week with their parents, and meeting Winnie and Mickey here then as well. Picture taken, we spend a bit more time here, in the air conditioning, waiting until it is showtime at Disney Junior Live!

This is an attraction which my wife and I had never seen in all of it's various incarnations after that venue had changed from being a counter service meal location (and bar). By that time our kids were grown, so we never got to see it as Playhouse Disney. (Plus, sitting on the floor was becoming more problematic for my wife and myself.) However, the twins watch all of the Disney Junior programs, so we took them in. It was actually a rather cute show, and the boys enjoyed it.

By this time we were hot, the boys were starting to get a bit cranky as well, so we decided to head back to the hotel where we would meet our daughter. Once back in the room, the boys got their second wind and were having a grand old time bouncing on the beds and running around. They remembered seeing Illuminations from our balcony the night before and kept running to it wanting to see "fireworks!" Since it was too early, they had to settle for my video from our fireworks cruise a few nights before.

Iris arrived at the room and we decided to head down to the boardwalk and have dinner at Big River. The wait was supposed to be rather short, but the family at the table they planned on giving us had finished their meal, but were not leaving. The boys enjoyed the freedom of the boardwalk, and finally our table was ready. As tired as they (and we) were, the boys behaved like little gentlemen at the table and colored and shared a kids macaroni and cheese - not to mention chocolate cake for dessert. During the meal my son texted me that they were back in WDW and heading over to our room to pick up the twins.

I guess we really worked them out today, as when we arrived back in our room to wait for their parents, one of the twins asked for Tigger and Dog (Tramp) and asked to be put in the crib so he could go to sleep. My son and his wife showed up at that point, and the boys headed back to their own hotel room for the night.

Now we don't have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to get to the airport and fly home, so we start to make plans for tomorrow. The trip now changes from one which is all about my daughter's wedding to a trip about the parks. My daughter and new son-in-law leave tomorrow for their honeymoon, and the second (unplanned) vacation is about to begin.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 4 - we visit the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT


Well, the wedding is over, and we have just two more days to do the parks, or so we think. Today we are heading over to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and then over to EPCOT later in the day. The EPCOT trip today is so that my son and daughter-in-law can have a nice dinner by themselves in France. We will watch my grandtwins so they can do that.

Usually we don't get an early start on park days since we are here often enough to not need to do it all every day in a park, but we get a mid-morning start today, which is early for us now. When we arrive in the lobby and head out to get the bus to the Magic Kingdom, it starts to rain very heavily, so we head back into the lobby to wait it out. We look at the time and see that it is 10:00 AM. Had this been one day earlier the wedding would have had to been moved indoors. Happily it is not, and also happily after about 10 minutes the rain stops and we continue our trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Once inside, my wife wants to get fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear so we head into Tomorrowland and do just that. Once done, we head over to my all time favorite attraction, The Haunted Mansion. This is almost always what we do first when we arrive here, but today there is even more of a reason. Since the last time I was here, they updated the queue area and there is now an interactive queue in the graveyard as well as a more direct queue. Naturally I wanted to see the new area. While I usually am a bit of a traditionalist, I liked this new area ... especially since the original gravestones are all still there, albeit some not in the same place. Since my grandtwins have been here and will be here many times in the future (my son having spent time in Master Gracey's employ as a butler in his youth), how can this be anything but my favorite tombstone? It's true that it honors Marc Davis, one of Disney's Nine Old Men (and Imagineer), and he does spell his name differently from mine, but I am honored to share it with him. We also get to see the new version of the hitchhiking ghosts in the mansion itself, and thought it was quite well done. Haunted Mansion upgrades have all been done well in my opinion, and have been respectful of its tradition and history.

The rain may have passed through the area again while we were in the Haunted Mansion.As we exit, it seems to be just stopping, and is once again very hot and very humid, as will be the story of this trip from beginning to end. Yes, this is August in Walt Disney World, and is to be expected, but this may be worse than any August we have ever been here. But, we are here and that is good. The only other "must see" left for this trip is the new/old Tiki Room. But before we get there, it is definitely time for a Dole Whip first! As you may notice, I like mine as a Dole Whip/vanilla swirl ... my wife gets a rootbeer float.

Then it is off to the Tiki Room. I enjoy the old-school pre-show (minus the mention of the attraction's original sponsor, the Florida Orange Growers Association) and then we head into the theater. The show has, unfortunately been cut by about 2 minutes from the original, and some great pieces are missing. I do have to admit that it feels as if it has been shortened when the end of the show happens. However, I will state that I enjoyed seeing/hearing the original again and will not terribly miss "Under New Management."

From here we head to the Pirates of the Caribbean, and then back through Fantasyland to Tomorrowland to use our Buzz Lightyear fastpasses. Once done, a trip on the People-Mover is in order after which we start to head down Main Street to do one trip around the park on the Walt Disney World Railroad and the head off to take the monorail to EPCOT. When we get off the train the 3:00 parade is about to begin, and we find an empty spot on the curb to watch it, so we wind up doing just that.

Finally we decide it's time for us to head over to EPCOT so we exit the Magic Kingdom and head for the monorail. We arrive in EPCOT and realize that we just have enough time to do one (long) attraction before it is time to meet up with our son, so we decide to spend the next 40 minutes or so taking a cool break in the Universe of Energy. (We do both believe, however, that it is time to update the attraction as Ellen's Energy Adventure has gotten old.) Once done, we get a text message from our son that they are on their way into the park and to meet them at Mousegears. We meet them, along with my daughter and then head to the Electric Umbrella to get the boys some dinner. Their parents leave, and when dinner is over, they boys sit down at the Kidcot table to do some serious coloring.

We take the boys over to Kodak and ride the attraction there, and then to The Seas with Nemo and Friends where they ride the clamshells and enjoy seeing all of the marine life exhibits. This may be their favorite spot as they really don't want to leave. They are loving all of the fish and other sea creatures on display.

Finally we walk back to the room where we once again meet up with my son and his wife, and return the grandtwins. My son then asks if we can watch the boys tomorrow while they return to his wife's parents' house (where they had spent part of the trip) to get their remaining things, as they had decided to stay in Disney World until they begin the trip back home. We of course agree. They will be dropped off in the morning, and we will take them to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Once everyone heads off, my wife and I settle in to relax and listen to the weather reports about Hurricane Irene which will be making landfall soon and is expected to hit back home on Sunday - the day after we are scheduled to come back.

(More pictures from today can be seen here.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

WDW Wedding Trip - Day 3 - Wedding Day

August 24, 2011

It's 5:30 AM and an alarm goes off. My daughter is about to get up and start getting ready for her wedding day. Jason will also be arriving (with his mom) to get ready for the day.

At 7:00 the hair stylist and make-up artist arrives and starts to work. There had been worries that rain might move the ceremony indoors, but as of now, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. So the predicted rain may not indeed become a factor. And anyway, the forecast only calls for a 30% chance of rain by 10:00 AM, the scheduled time of the ceremony.

Soon, the photographer that my daughter has hired (in addition to the one provided by Disney) arrives in the room and starts to work. I do my best to stay out of his way and not play "flash tag" with him, since his will be the more important photos of the day. Still, I manage to get quite a few good shots of the preparation. And then it is time for me to get dressed.

At 9:30 we leave the room to meet the rabbi in order to sign the civil marriage license and the ketubah ... the Jewish marriage contract. The guests, who have arrived at The Boardwalk lobby are invited to join us for this. A quick look outside confirms that it is still sunny and that the ceremony will be taking place outdoors as planned.

We leave the hotel and head out onto the boardwalk itself and walk towards the pavilion where the ceremony is to be held. Once the guests are seated, Jason and his mom, and my wife, daughter and I prepare for the ceremony to begin. The violinist plays and Jason and his mom walk in and take their place under the chupah. The violinist starts to play "When You Wish Upon a Star," and my wife and I escort Iris down the aisle and take our places under the chupah as well. The ceremony begins. I do my best to keep my sniffling under control. It is a beautiful ceremony and Iris and Jason look as happy as can be.

The ceremony ends with Jason breaking the glass and the violinist plays Baroque Hoedown as the happy couple walk back down the aisle, followed by Jason's mom and my wife and myself.

Tables had been set up outside of the pavilion for champagne and cake, but since it is such a hot day, and the sun is already very strong, everyone stays under the cover of the pavilion for the toast (which I manage, somehow, to get through ... only "losing it" a little bit) and the cutting of the cake. The eating of the cake will wait for a bit, since we have arranged for lunch at The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs Resort, and will have it served there. Now, however, it is time for more pictures with family and pictures of the bride and groom around the lake. As hot as it is, these pictures will look amazing when they are ready, and all of the heat, humidity and sweat will be forgotten. Many of the guests head back to our room while both photographers work to get those memories saved. I stay back and watch them work, taking a few pictures myself along the way. The Boardwalk and the surrounding lake present some wonderful photo opportunities both on the beach and on the boardwalk itself.

Finally it is time to head over to Saratoga Springs Resort for lunch. The stretch limousine arrives to take the couple (and parents) there. In the limousine, we all are simply happy to have cold water on ice, and enjoy the short air conditioned ride to the resort. The Turf Club is a restaurant that we have been to a number of times, and Iris worked with the chef to put together a wonderful experience for all of us. We had an area in the back of the restaurant to ourselves, and the staff couldn't have been nicer, friendlier or more attentive to our needs. Remember the cake from the ceremony? It was cut and served for dessert here ... chocolate and lemon cake covered in fondant. Need I tell you how good it was? When it was over, the limousine took us back to The Boardwalk - along with a box of the left over wedding cake - where Iris and Jason would check in to their room. The rest of us head back to our room where we can change out of our formal wear and into something comfortable and relax for the rest of the afternoon. Soon naps are being taken and everyone is getting ready for later, when the final activity of the day will be taking place. But for now the main event is over, the weather held out and the ceremony was able to go on outside as everyone had planned and hoped for.

The final activity of the day started out at The Contemporary Resort marina. We were going out on a fireworks cruise to see Wishes at the Magic Kingdom from the Seven Seas Lagoon. We left from the dock and had a tour of Bay Lake and all of the spots of interest there when we were treated to an up close view of the Electric Water Pageant. This parade, which has been running continuously since the resort opened in 1971, is the forerunner to both the Main Street Electrical Parade and SpectroMagic. We then headed over to the Seven Seas Lagoon and soon took our place to watch Wishes. It was the perfect ending to a most perfect day.