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May 11, 2008

My Bonus Trip to WDW - Part 5

You can blame commando Lee for the fact that there was no blog entry yesterday. Since it was his only day to play in the parks he made the most of it - we got a short afternoon break back in the room, but that was it.

We started our day with a three mile walk around the resort area - it was warm and muggy already. After breakfast (and after he did some work stuff) we drove to Animal Kingdom. It was a lot more crowded than when I was there on Wednesday - the standby lines were double what I experienced.

After we got Fastpasses for the Safari we visited the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Where we learned the first of several new things that I learned that day: Never get into a staring contest with a Komodo Dragon. They only close their eyes to sleep or to protect them from the sun.

The tigers were doing what tigers do best - sleeping. Though at least they were sacked out right up against the windows of the viewing area so people could see them.

Over at Expedtion Everest we asked for our CM friend - and of course he was on his break. A nice CM went and found him, though, and we had a brief chat before he had to go back to work. Lee and I went to see the Flights of Wonder show. Which we've seen many times, but we still enjoy it. There was a new (and much younger) actress playing Guano Jane this time. And even a few new jokes and puns. We also saw some different birds - instead of the crow who usually does the dollar bill schtick, it was a parrot. And this particular parrot was fairly new, and hadn't mastered the part about returning the money - he kept putting it back into the trainer's pocket. :-) Eventually Guano Jane had to take it back, doing her best flapping her arms bird imitation. Which was pretty scary, actually.

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And here we learned a second new thing...there was a grackel who had taken offense at some of the birds in the show and was dive-bombing the owl and the Harris hawk when they were out - even though they were much larger than he was! The trainer said this behavior is called "mobbing", and the birds do it in defense of their nesting areas. It didn't seem to bother the larger birds very much, though.

The standby line for the Safari was approching an hour - we're used to zooming right on with Fastpasses, but even the Fastpass line was backed up quite a ways. Once we got to the point where the Fastpass and Standby lines merged it stopped completely, since there were no jeeps showing up! After about 10 minutes they finally announced that there was a "wildebeest migration on the savanna" that had delayed the jeeps. One finally showed up...and then there were no more for another 10 minutes. It was definitely the longest I've ever waited for a safari when I had a Fastpass!.

The safari itself was just ok - not as many animals as we sometimes see, though quite a few on the savanna. Where we learned something else that was new - the male sable antelope are darker, almost black, while the females are the lighter brown color.

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In Pangani Forest the four gorillas in the bachelor troop were all out and moving around - that was quite a treat to see all of them!

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One of them picked up a branch and carried it around before sitting down to strip the bark off and eat it.

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Before we left the park we rode Everest (where our friend collected our Fastpasses!), and then had ice cream from the colorful truck there. It was melting pretty fast on such a warm day! I think they have the best soft-serve in the parks.

Back at the room we relaxed for a little while and made a late lunch out of the cold pizza Lee's coworkers had insisted we take the night before. I went through some photos and we took a short nap before leaving again around 5:00 - this time we took the bus.

We didn't have to wait too long for the bus and soon were on our way to the Studios. We noticed that the pre-recorded bus spiel that plays automagically when you get close to the park still talks about the Stars and Motorcars Parade, which is no longer running. Oops.

I'm not quite sure why Lee wanted to go to the Studios, since it's our least favorite park, but it was his day to do what he wanted. Lines here were pretty minimal - posted 10 minute standbys for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Though the queue for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster completely stopped moving not long after we got in it - no explanation as to why, but after 5-10 minutes it started moving again and we rode with no further incident. We were starting to think we were a jinx! (Why does everyone feel like they have to run their hands over those glass doors at the ride's entrance? Does anyone else find it as annoying as I do?)

After we'd twisted and turned on the streets of L.A. and made a visit to the Twilight Zone, we walked around the park a bit, and rode Star Tours, which only had a 5 minute wait. As we headed out of the park there were a lot of groups of kids coming in - there were signs posted for some kind of Disney-Josten's Grad Night event. Even though it was 7:00 by then the sun hadn't gone down and it was still quite warm. Very different than the weather in California where it just doesn't stay hot all afternoon and evening!

We walked to Epcot from there - it had Extra Magic Hours that night and would be open until midnight. And besides we'd only walked about 8 miles so far that day. ;-) It seemed very strange to be walking past the Boardwalk and not going into it, though.

Once inside Epcot we got our Extra Magic Hour wristbands and caught Off Kilter's final set of the evening and got dinner from the Fish and Chips shop in the UK pavilion. They seemed to have changed the brand of malt vinegar they use - it didn't have much of a bite to it at all. We sat on a curb and listened to British Invasion while we were eating. They performed several songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think British Invasion has been performing together longer than the Beatles did.

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After the show an AllEars reader (who noticed the logo on the shirt I was wearing) came over to talk to me for a few minutes. Unfortunately I forgot to ask her name, but if she's reading this, it was nice chatting with you!

Over in France we got in line at the Patisserie to get something for dessert before Illuminations. We both had the chocolate mousse, which was pretty good. There were a lot more people in the park than when we were here Monday night, but we still found a spot in our favorite area near Germany, and the people in front of us obligingly remained seated on the ground for the entire show!

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Most people were headed out of the park but we went into the Seas pavilion and rode the Nemo ride. Man, that is a looooong queue!!! Fortunately it was pretty empty, and we just kept walking all the way to the loading area. The ride is cute - I liked the starfish that's up against the glass at the end who talks to you - one of her comments was something like "I saw 18,352 people yesterday!" Lee wanted to "talk turtle" so we went in to see "Turtle Talk with Crush", and that was fun, as always.

From there we Jouneyed into Our Imaginations. And watched the fountains outside, which were very pretty at night.

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At 10:30 at night Spaceship Earth actually had a line, though it was only a few minutes long. There were several people in line with us who did NOT have wristbands, but the CMs weren't checking, and let them on anyways (we noticed that at Imagination, also). So much for a "Resort Guest Only" event...Once we got on the ride we discovered we'd apparently managed to break another ride...though we could hear Judi Dench's narration, the rest of the audio soundtrack was silent. So no music or instructions, and it was sort of eerily silent when Judi Dench wasn't talking.

The computer in the Project Tomorrow area wasn't as good with its facial recognition this time and we had to tell it which photo was ours. A photo I would have included here, but it doesn't seem to have been emailed to me - which is what happened with the first one, too.

It was almost 11:00 by then, and we were tired, so we headed to the bus stop. The Port Orleans bus was there, but there was a line - I thought there was no way we'd get on but we did - and there were even 10-15 people who got on after we did. Standing room only of course, but it's a pretty short ride. We were back at the room about 11:15. Kind of a long park day for us, though! But it's all Lee's fault. :-)

We walked about 13 miles yesterday.

So today was departure day...sigh. We went to breakfast at Boatwright's. Lee had the Sweet Potato Pancakes and I had the French Toast. The French Toast was actually *real* French toast, made with thick slices of French bread. Of course then it was battered and deep fried and coated with sugar...but it was really good. :-)

Since we only had carry-on bags I suggested we get our boarding passes printed at the resort. This took a lot longer than I thought it would because of some problems with people ahead of us in line, and Lee was grumpusing at me for wanting to do it. But I looked like a genius when we got to the airport and the Continental check-in line was insanely long.

By the way...I was not real happy with Advantage Car Rental - they are off-site and we waited over 15 minutes for the shuttle to the airport - and there were people ahead of us that had waited longer than that. They couldn't get everyone who was waiting on the bus, either. They said that they only had two shuttle buses. Not good.

Some final thoughts...

It was very nice of Lee to take me with him to enjoy myself while he worked - thank you, dear. :-)

Though I missed being within walking distance of a theme park, I really liked a lot of things about Port Orleans Riverside. It's a lovely setting, and the paths around the resort are nice for walking/running - just not quite long enough. Lee and I thought there should be a path all the way along the river that connects it to Old Key West, and then to Saratoga Springs and Downtown Disney. The room was comfortable, though it was very inconvenient to have the outlet for the internet connection behind the nightstand rather than over next to the table. And I could've done without the annoying sound of the turbo-toilets flushing overhead - we were on the bottom floor, and one night I think I heard it 8 times between midnight and 7:00. The bus service was good - I never waited more than 10 minutes, and usually it was less than 5 whether I was at the resort or a theme park.

The Food Court was great, though - SO much better than anything available at any of the DVC resorts. There was really quite a selection with all of the different stations - you could order an omelet made-to-order at breakfast, and pasta and salads made-to-order the rest of the day. There were sandwiches and pizza and grilled items available, also, and I already raved about the turkey dinner. The bakery section was pretty good, too - the cinnamon rolls were especially delicious. And I thought the prices were very reasonable, also. And I enjoyed using my refillable mug. :-)

It seemed to be a good time to be at WDW, at least from a crowd standpoint. Mid-week (Monday-Thursday) the crowds were minimal - even at Magic Kingdom. The weather was pretty good, too. Not even a hint of rain, and the heat/humidity was not too bad, even for this wimpy southern Californian (though it got progressively warmer as the week went on and by yesterday afternoon I was starting to drag.) It is very nice not to even have to think about carrying a jacket at night, though!

I enjoyed the displays of Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival - there were a lot of topiaries that were new to me. Though I was disappointed in the Rose Walk this year - there didn't seem to be as many rose bushes, and not as much of a variety of roses, either. I enjoyed the Flower Power concert I attended. And I really wish our trip had been one day longer - I could've seen Davy Jones (I hear he puts on a great show), and we could've gone to the Toy Story Mania Annual Passholder Preview. Oh well...it'll be opening in California next month.

Speaking of Flower and Garden Festival...AllEars reader Susan tells me: "As part of the Flower and Garden Festival trolls have been hidden all through Norway." So that explains the ones that I noticed. I'm glad that I haven't just been unobservant all these years! :-) Thanks for the information, Susan!

It was really cool to get "dreamed", and to be able to attend the "Special Park Dream Time Event- event at the Magic Kingdom!

As usual, I didn't have nearly as much time to relax as I thought I would...though every day it was my plan to be back at the resort by 2:00 I never made it - though I came close on Thursday. There's just never enough time to do everything.

Thanks for reading!

November 2, 2007

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

This was the first time we've ever had the opportunity to attend one of the Halloween parties at the Magic Kingdom. We've gone to the Mickey's Halloween Treat party at Disney's California Adventure the last three years, and wanted to see how different it was here. (Not so different in most ways, much different in others, but more on that later.) Besides, we'd heard the Halloween party is a lot of fun - better than the Christmas party, which did not impress us.

We attended the party on Tuesday, October 30. After donning our costumes we took the bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Magic Kingdom, arriving just about 7:00 when the party was officially starting. The lines for bag check weren't bad at all, and we received our orange wristbands. (That's wristband #3 for this trip - the other two were for Extra Magic Hours at Epcot and the Tower of Terror 13K.)

There was a cloud of mist around the Main Street Train Station, and a glowing Mickey pumpkin at the big floral Mickey. Pumpkin-headed scarecrows were placed around Town Square, and lots of jack-o-lanterns flickered in the windows on Main Street. The castle was spookily (is that a word?) lit.

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One thing we quickly noticed was that the Treat Stations had HUGE lines - much longer than anything we ever saw at Mickey's Halloween Treat. The lines for the attractions were short, though - we waited oh, all of maybe a minute at Haunted Mansion before walking into the Stretch Room. All of the hosts and hostesses were wearing ghastly makeup, some with cobwebs in their hair - they looked great! And on the lawn outside the Mansion (before you go through the turnstiles) was one of the Happy Haunts, surrounded by mist, and ghostly lit, sitting on a bench and talking to herself. Very cool.

It had been drizzling off and on all evening, but it had mostly stopped when we came out of Haunted Mansion. We met our friends Paul and Ilene near Country Bear Playhouse and waited for the start of the first parade. It started raining hard enough that we huddled under our umbrellas for a while, but fortunately by the time the parade started it had stopped. The wet street meant that the Headless Horseman went by at a trot instead of a gallop, though. Which was actually very nice since it was a lot easier to see him!

I loved the Boo to You parade. Lots of characters (some in costume) and great floats, especially the pirates and the villains. Though my favorite was the Haunted Mansion sequence - starting with the gravedigger and his bloodhound...so cute!!! And then the ghostly dancers, the HM float, and following it the zombie gravedigging drill team with their shovels. Terrific stuff! The pumpkin-headed guys on the whirling spheres were great, too - normally the creepy SpectroMagic dudes ride those - the pumpkin guys were a lot better.

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The treat lines were still really long, but they were giving out bags of Kissables at the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean, and we practically walked right onto a boat. I guess everyone was in the Treat lines!

About 9:10 we went to the Hub to stake out a spot for the 9:30 Hallowishes fireworks show - and it started to rain. And this wasn't just drizzle, either. We got back under our umbrella, but since Lee was holding it the back of my skirt was getting pretty wet. Unfortunately the rain did not let up very much during the fireworks. A lot of people left, or sought cover, so it wasn't really that crowded - I was surprised.

The show itself was great - lots of interesting projections on the castle like jack-o-lanterns, flying spooks, and glowing eyes. I particularly liked the one in this picture, though I think it was a colorful pattern and not any particular image, though to me it looks like the face of the Wicked Queen from Snow White is superimposed on the highest tower - looks like a face wearing a crown with that high collar behind it. Or maybe it's just my imagination. :-)

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The effect of the fireworks going on 180 degrees around you is very cool.

After the show we ducked for cover into the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club, then stayed under cover to get to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (no line), and then quickly ran to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority where we went around twice, since it was raining pretty hard and there was no one waiting to get on.

We'd planned to see the second parade, but missed it because of the rain...it must have been really miserable for the Cast Members.

By the time we'd made our second round on the TTA the rain had just about stopped - or was at least not much more than a drizzle. By the time we did the Fantasyland attractions, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, Peter Pan, and Mickey's Philharmagic, it was midnight and the party was over. And of course by then it had stopped raining completely and turned into a lovely night. Sigh. Oh well, if I had to choose between it raining the night of the party or raining the night of the race I would have chosen rain on the party. Running in the rain is not a lot of fun, though it's standing around in the rain waiting for a race to start that is the worst part.

So what did I think of Mickey's Halloween Treat (MHT) at Disney's California Adventure vs. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom? I'm so glad you asked. :-)

I think I have to give it to MHT as far as decorating goes. In general the park has a lot more Halloween decorations than Magic Kingdom, and they add lots of spooky projections and many more ghost Mickey and pumpkin Mickey lights than I saw at MNSSHP. At MHT there's also lots of characters just out wandering around - now maybe that's normally true at MNSSHP, and we missed out on it because of the weather.

There's a lot more people at MNSSHP, and the treat lines are MUCH longer. Though the candy is a lot better at MNSSHP! We didn't get a whole lot of candy, but what we got was chocolate and not that yucky Willy Wonka Laffy Taffy and Now&Later-type stuff that we got at MHT. Lee thinks there are more treat stops at MHT, though I think they are about the same.

A lot of the Cast Members are in costume at MHT - other than the characters in the Parade we saw no Cast Members in costume at MNSSHP - just those wearing the MNSSHP t-shirts.

Even though there's more people at MNSSHP, the attraction lines were shorter. No 30 minute waits for anything like we had for Tower of Terror at MHT - almost everything we did was a walk-on. Now again, some of that might have been because of the rain.

MHT has the Tower of Terror, MNSSHP has the Haunted Mansion - you can't do a Halloween party without SOME kind of spooky ride! Though I have to say the Haunted Mansion gets the edge here.

Parade and Fireworks - MNSSHP does this far, far, better than MHT, which doesn't have a fireworks show, and has a fairly pathetic parade. I loved the Boo to You parade - I really wish we could've seen it again. And the Hallowishes fireworks show was frightfully good. :-)

I'm looking forward to attending the MNSSHP again some year - though hopefully without the rain next time!

To finish this off, here we are in our costumes - you've heard of Disney's upcoming movie, haven't you? Beauty and the Jedi? :-)

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Special Events category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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