I’m back, and here is a quick review of where I’ve been – Walt Disney World. It’s at least partially relevant 🙂 Hey, none of you sent in a story… 🙂
Update: A couple of additions of things I forgot to mention.
You can never get tired of Disney World it seems. I have to admit – the first time I went was only six years ago, and this was my third visit, but the first actually staying within WDW itself, and the first with my own kid…
We stayed at the All-Star Music Resort, one of the three relatively new All-Star Resorts that fall under the “Value Resort” heading. It was still a nice place, but perhaps not as good as the other places – but then again, I didn’t pay nearly as much, and a three-year-old doesn’t care – she just wanted a pool – and it had two – a giant guitar-shaped pool and a piano pool, which she thought was cool. The one gripe I really had staying there was the buses. Staying on site we didn’t bother with a car, and thus depended on the buses, which didn’t seem to be timed very well, or because they often serve all three of the All-Stars in one run except during the busiest periods, they were very crowded, and some of the runs are pretty long to be standing in one spot for the whole time.
We were blessed with good (albeit hot) weather the entire time. First time we went, it rained every day – but in Orlando those are usually 5 minute long lightning-thunder-downpour events that are just long enough for the Disney employees (a.k.a. “cast members”) to appear out of nowhere and sell you parkas. This time it only rained while we were resting in out room (and BOY did it rain!) or briefly while we were on some indoor ride.
FastPass is a wonderful invention and should be used at all amusement/theme parks. The basic part of it is that for a ride which offers FastPass, you can either wait in the standby line as normal, or get a FastPass with your Resort ID or park ticket. This pass gives you a specific time period (depends on the ride, most are an hour window) in the future to return and bypass the standby line – you may still have to wait a few minutes (a lot of other people have a FastPass too), but it is not nearly as long. It does a good job of spacing people out too. However, if too many people get a FastPass, the return time could be quite a while in the future. And sometimes the standby time can be – and often is – shorter than the wait for the return time – but if you have a FastPass, you can go enjoy some food or another ride. But, you aren’t allowed to just go around and grab FastPasses – the computer will not allow you to get another one until a certain time, which may be before or after your return time – again, depending on the ride. Our longest wait in a standby line was probably no more than 35 minutes.
We went through Tommorrowland, Fantasyland and Mickey’s Toontown Fair that day, and even hit the Haunted Mansion – with three-year-old in tow. Amazingly nothing really scares her. She came out of there saying “that was all fake!” The only point she was really scared was on the Tomorrowland Transitway when going through Space Mountain and it was really dark for a time. We saved the other areas for our last day. We caught the Spectra-Magic parade and headed back to the resort – it was a long day!
Epcot was our second day. We zipped rapidly over to Test Track, got a FastPass, and then went over to Universe of Energy, rode that, and came back out in time for the opening of our FastPass window for Test Track. We skipped Wonders of Life, The Land and the Honey I Shrunk The Audience show (seen it twice, and I don’t think I can take that humongous Kodak “True Colors” commercial again), and went to the Living Seas – gee, Finding Nemo merchandise, how surprising. As was the tank full of clownfish (“Look! Lots of Nemos!”) I think I’m going to have to set up our fishtank again.
Then we did out trek around the World Showcase. They have really “Disney-fied” Epcot over the years to attract people. It was originally meant to be disjoint from the cartoonish marketing, but that killed the appeal for some, so now the merchandising really is no different. What they do offer is in the various showcases character greetings. Pooh characters in England, Belle and Beast in France, etc. Gives something for the kids who otherwise would get bored. I did consider a “Beers around the World” trip but didn’t feel like drinking much beer. We did go on the Norway “Maelstrom” ride at least. Then we did a monorail run all the way to the Magic Kingdom and back (since we take the buses, the Monorail needed to be a special trip), and then headed back early to the resort as we were incredibly tired, and there was no way we could last for Illuminations.
Animal Kingdom was the third day. This was a little on the disappointing side. Although we got to see the lions this time (they were hidden the first time we went there), we saw absolutely no giraffes. No idea where they were or if any remain. We did at least get to go on the Kali River Rapids (she was just tall enough), but missed out on the new Primeval Whirl rollercoaster. She not only enjoyed the scary Dinosaur! ride, but actually laughed at it. In general though, you’d see more animals at some of the better zoos. Then again, their current promotion is that it is “Nah-ta-zu”…
MGM Studios was the fourth day. We hit most things, although we skipped the Tower of Terror (which they now bill as “Tower of Terror 4” – apparently they keep making minor changes to the ride to keep it fresh) and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular (seen it twice, it doesn’t change). We did go on the Aerosmith Rock’n’Roller Coaster (which was being built when we were there last) which was a wild ride – indoor loop coaster with a linear-induction boost to something like 70mph in 2 seconds. Possibly even better than Space Mountain. We did go to the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Play it!” show, which was kind of cool but I didn’t make it into the hotseat 🙁
On out last full day, we returned to the Magic Kingdom to hit all the rides missed on the first day, as well as attend Cinderella’s Royal Table in the castle for breakfast. Aside from an incident involving sunblock in my daughter’s eyes it was a great day. She loved Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and we even hit a few things again like Buzz Lightyear and the Tomorrowland Transitway, since she knew what to expect this time she wasn’t afraid and enjoyed it.
Amazingly, there wasn’t a huge promotion at the Pirates of the Carribean ride. In fact, it was “closed for technical difficulties” for a few moments but reopened for us to ride. They were handing out free movie posters though.
Overall, a wonderful time, even for a three-year-old. We can’t wait to go again.
Update: I managed to forget a few things I wanted to touch on. Another visible atraction in the Magic Kingdom, the Sky Ride, the lift ride between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, is no more. Like it’s predecessor in Disneyland it is being dismantled. The cables and intermediate towers are gone, but the stations are still in place. No idea what may be done in its place.
Also, Horizons at Epcot is closed and is turning into “Space”, which appears to be about the present and future of space flight and exploration, but was not open yet. Horizons was closed the last time we were there in 1999, and no wonder – it seems it broke down frequently – including when we were there in 1997. Inside, there was a continuous-motion ride similar to the Haunted Mansion and its doom-buggies. I don’t remember a lot of the parts, but there was a big domed theater at one point with one of those flying movies that can give you the illusion of movement – and we were stuck in there seeing it over and over again for something like 20-30 minutes. I don’t care how strong your stomach is – you are going to get vertigo in there that long. Mercifully it’s now dead. I would have liked to see the new pavillion being a space junkie (we visited Kennedy Space Center in 1997), but its something to look forward to next trip.
Alas, the only real negative experience was at the Toy Story Pizza Planet Arcade at MGM, where we stopped for lunch. Like all the other places it is generally crowded and overpriced with a limit selection, but you get used to that. You place your order at one of the registers, and then step up to the counter were a person I would describe as a “runner” gathers together the meals. As a resort person you can carge stuff to your credit card via your resort ID, so it makes it more convenient. Well, I wasn’t quite paying attention when the order was rung up for #38 – for two small pizzas, a large Coke, a large Diet Coke, and a Chocolate Milk. I signed the slip, which was not itemized, an d then was handed the itemized pickup slip. It was at that point that I noticed she had rung up NINE large Cokes instead of one. She had to get the manager and asked if it would be easier to wipe out the whole transaction and then ring it through again – she wiped out the nine cokes, and I was supposedly done – except now there was no Coke, and they started to give me a hard time about _that_, but someone have us the Coke and were finally got out of line.