Category Archives: travel
Notes I’ve taken on trips and such
I hear there’s cake.
Treat these knobs with respect
…once they are set correctly. One arcsecond colder: molecular motion ceases. One arcsecond warmer: shower head slags off into liquid metal.
Totally worth the $35 day pass
Disney, Day Eight: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and more
Another very long day, and not a lot of photos to show for it! OK, perhaps "not a lot" isn't the way most people would describe it, but there are definitely fewer than I have taken on most other longish days of the trip.
Photos: today only (sorry, no captions yet, it is late!), all days
We started the day at the other Disney water park, Typhoon Lagoon. We went around their lazy river, which went all around the circumference of the park just like the one at Blizzard Beach. I think this one might have been shorter, but I'm not sure. We then spent a fair amount of time in the wave pool, which was different from the Blizzardish wave pool we saw yesterday–whereas the one at Blizzard Beach produced medium-sized waves on a continuous basis, the one at Typhoon lagoon produced only about one wave every two minutes, and that wave was positively giant. It was fun, although we almost lost the little dry box I had around my neck which had, among other important things, our room keys in it. That would have been a bad thing. Fortunately some folks behind us found it and were nice enough to return it to us almost immediately. That's all we really did at Typhoon Lagoon; we were there for a couple of hours, then we made our way back to the hotel bus.
We went back to the hotel to change, and then headed out to Epcot for a bit, because I wanted to see the remainder of the "Innoventions" areas that we had so far missed. That area is where we got to ride a Segway scooter some days ago, and it's where I remember a robot arm drawing a picture of me when I was there fifteen years ago or so! Sadly, it appears to have gone through a major redesign since then, and the exhibits weren't nearly as interesting to me. We did however ride "Spaceship Earth" again (that's the ride beneath the giant Epcot ball), which is one of our favorites, so it was all worth it. We had dinner reservations at the Contemporary (read: "ugly") Resort at 4:50, so we headed for the monorail at about 4:00.
The monorail proved to be excruciatingly slow. We were held up in monorail traffic for what seemed like monorail hours, both before and after we switched monorails at the transportation and ticket center. (Monorail.) We actually missed our reservation time, and didn't make it to the (ugly) Contemporary Resort until about 5:00. It was all fine, though, they led us right to a table at the Contemporary Steakhouse.
Again, the Disney Dining Plan that we got for free with our tickets paid for itself today, as Anna and I both ordered filet mignon, an appetizer, and a dessert, and didn't have to pay anything. What a deal! A popular topic of discussion is whether or not the dining plan would be worth it, if we had had to pay for it instead. The consensus answer seems to be yes; although one is likely able to eat for a day less expensively than the cost of a day of the Disney Dining Plan, using the plan gives you better-quality food than you might otherwise get, and you don't have to worry about the cost while you're there!
After we finished eating, we were going straight to a special event at the Magic Kingdom, "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party." Anna had paid extra for these tickets, and had even bought us costumes for the event–Tinkerbell and Peter Pan! (I was concerned about dressing up as Peter Pan, but Anna did some extra research and made sure the costume didn't have tights!) We changed there in the Contemporary Resort, and were headed for the monorail when Anna discovered that she didn't have her room key. Actually, she realized, someone had come into the bathroom while she was changing in a stall and asked if someone by her name was there. Anna, mystified, chose not to respond, and the person was gone when she was done. An employee in the bathroom said that the person had gone to turn it in at the "front desk," so we walked around the hotel to many desks-front before we finally found the key right at the entrance to the Contemporary Steakhouse where we had just eaten. 🙂 The monorail over to the Magic Kingdom was much, much more pleasant than our previous experience–basically non-eventful.
The Halloween Party was great! They had a special parade twice while we where there, with Disney characters dressed up in Halloween costumes! There were lots of Disney villains in the parade, including Captain Hook, the villain from Peter Pan. When he saw us in the first parade he shook his hook at us, and then he walked right over to us and stared us down in the second parade! Before the parade started, the Headless Horseman galloped through the parade route–very cool. Throughout the parade and throughout the park, Disney employees were handing out candy! Anna collected quite a bit of it, despite the fact that neither one of us particularly like candy. Our costumes, and hers in particular, were quite popular–a manager in the Contemporary Resort came over and gave us a coupon for a free dessert because she liked our costumes so much, and we had lots of children asking to have their pictures taken with us. It was fun!
The party ended at midnight, but we left at about 11:30pm, and suffered through a long (but efficiently-managed) line at the bus stop for the trip back to the Pop Century. Tomorrow, we get to go home and see the dogs again! We are both very excited about that!
Disney, Day Seven: Blizzard Beach and Magic Kingdom
We started the day by going to one of Disney World's two water parks, Blizzard Beach. Given my avoidance of things heights-related, we didn't really take advantage of the many water slides that were available there. We did go on "Teamboat Springs", which is a long, gradual slide in a raft that's big enough for about four people, and we spent about a half-hour in largish tubes on "Cross-Country Creek," a meandering river that goes all the way around the park. We didn't spend more than a few hours at the park because we didn't get there until about 11:30 or so, and we planned to leave around 3:30 due to dinner reservations. After doing the above (and spending some time in the wave pool–just like the beach, only better in my opinion), we figured we had done enough there (especially since we're planning to go to Typhoon Lagoon, the other Disney water park, tomorrow), so we left at about 2:30 to go on back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner reservations at 4:45. We left just in time, too: as we were walking out, an announcer came over the intercom and said that the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for our area! It was raining quite hard by the time the bus got back to our hotel, but it never really got any more severe than that.
Photos: today only, all days
Oh, and I didn't take any photos (gasp!) at the water park, because I didn't even take my camera! We weren't planning to rent a locker, so I just took myself, my room key, some money, and a towel!
Dinner was at the Polynesian Resort, in a restaurant called Ohana. It was awesome! They prepare one meal, and everyone who comes into the restaurant gets that (although it might change from day to day, I'm not sure). We started out with some fried wontons with three dipping sauces, and a large bowl of salad, then we had shrimp and chicken wings for appetizers, both cooked in a Polynesian sort of way, whatever that means. The entrees were served as in Brazilian barbecue restaurants–guys come around with big metal stakes and cut off portions of meat for you! We had chicken, steak, pork loin, and turkey sausages, all well-seasoned. My personal favorite was the pork loin; it was spectacular! After we were done gorging ourselves on that, we had dessert–bread pudding served a la mode, with bananas foster sauce. That was so good, we debated ordering another one, since everything there is also all-you-can-eat, but decided against it since we didn't want to be miserable for the rest of the evening.
After dinner, at about 6:30pm, we went down to the Magic Kingdom where we planned to watch the parade formerly known as the "Main Street Electrical Parade." Unfortunately, we had to stake out our seats almost as soon as we got there and wait for 90 minutes for the parade to start; people start grabbing seats that early, and we wanted a good view! The parade has apparently been renamed at some point in the 20 years since I've seen it to "SpectroMagic" and they've gotten rid of the neat theme song. Harrumph; I like the old way better! But, the float was just as electrical and fun as before! They dimmed the lights on Main Street so the floats were very visible.
We then stayed to see the fireworks show "Wishes" at 9pm, which we had seen earlier in the week from a vantage point behind the castle, but we really wanted to see it from the front. This really is one of the most beautiful, magical shows I've ever seen. We did capture it on video to share, but I'm not sure it will convey the spine chills that were present in the real show. Everyone that visits Disney should see this show at least once. The fireworks and music were beautiful in their own right, but together they are just phenomenal. I'd see that show again and again.
So, tomorrow, we're hitting several different parks: Typhoon Lagoon in the morning, Epcot in the afternoon to catch a few attractions we've somehow missed up to this point, and the Magic Kingdom in the evening for a special event, "Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween Party." It should be a long, but fun, day!
Disney, Day Six: MGM Studios
We spent the entire day at MGM Studios, even though we hadn't expected to do so since we had already visited that park previously. However, sure enough, by the time we were done with everything, it was the end of the day, and we were both tired.
Photos: today only, all days
Oh, and before I get any further:
BEWARE: This man cuts in lines!
This man cut in front of both of us in line today, separately. He tried to cut in front of Anna in a line for fries, but she thwarted him with a feisty game of "Backpack Bumper Cars." He cut in line in front of me later when I was getting snacks before a show, this time by masquerading as if he were part of the party in front of me. I caught on to his little ruse, though, and did the only proper thing in such a situation–I took his picture.
As I've mentioned before, Anna's favorite Disney movie seems to be Beauty and the Beast, so we definitely had to go see "Beauty and the Beast–Live on Stage", which was basically a live-action 30-minute version of the movie. It was really well done, and we both enjoyed it! Besides Belle, Anna's favorite character in the movie is Mrs. Potts. Know why? If you know Anna, you'll understand. OK, ready? It's because the part of Mrs. Potts in the movie is played by Angela Lansbury, of Murder She Wrote fame. A fantastic a capella group called "Return to Zero" opened the show, and they were hilarious, as those types of groups often are. They and the show were both great, we both had a lot of fun there. 🙂
We next went to a stunt show, "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular", where we saw folks who were supposedly stunt doubles for the main characters in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" perform a variety of stunts. The show was entertaining, largely because there was fire involved. Anna met a guy named Robbie working in a gift shop who went to RIT and knew her mother! That was incredible! I took their picture, you know, because that's what I do.
We saw another parade today, the Disney Stars and Motor Cars parade, which was definitely a highlight of the day! Notably, R2D2 was in the parade and came rolling by, and Anna got a hug from a penguin! Later, we saw another stunt show later in the day called "Lights, Motors, Action", featuring car and motorcycle stunts, which was also very good, and which also contained goodly amounts of fire. We later went on the "Disney MGM Studios Backlot Tour", which showed special effects involving largish amounts of water and fire, yet again.
Perhaps the best highlight of the entire day was the show "Fantasmic" which takes place in an amphitheatre. It featured Mickey as the Sorceror's Apprentice, with lots of fireworks and water effects, most notably video projected onto a "fan" of sprayed water! It was incredible! There were three such fans, facing the different parts of the audience, and they showed clips from Disney movies that went along with the storyline. This was a spectacular Disney show, one that I hope I get to see again. Unfortunately, it was so dark that it didn't photograph well, and the video camera had a really hard time focusing on the sprayed water, so we don't have much to show about it. You'll have to just go see it yourself sometime! It alone is worth the price of admission.
Anyway, tomorrow we make our first trip to a water park. We were going to buy some sunscreen in the store in our hotel, but it was twelve dollars so we think we might have to keep looking.
Disney, Day Five: Magic Kingdom
To make up for sleeping in yesterday, we got up much earlier today, and made our way to the Magic Kingdom by about 10am, and stayed there all day. Anna has decided that it is her favorite park, so we wanted to make sure we had a lot of time there to see everything she was interested in. They didn't have the Main Street Electrical Parade tonight for some reason, so I imagine we will go back at some point to catch that.
Photos: today only, all days
We saw lots and lots of attractions today, but the biggest hits were:
- Mickey's Philharmagic – This was a 3D show, much like the ones offered in the other parks (Honey, I Shrunk the Audience in Epcot, the Muppet show in MGM, A Bug's Life in Animal Kingdom), but Anna and I both though this was the best one of the bunch. It was hysterical, and very well done. (How do those glasses work? It's apparently not through polarization.)
- The Tomorrowland Transit Authority – I went on this ride with Mom, Dad, and Andrew when we were here many years ago, when it was called the Wedway People Mover. It starts off slow, but speeds up and quickly speeds you on a very gentle, enjoyable ride through Tomorrowland, taking you inside popular rides such as Space Mountain. It was a lot of fun, especially to see the rides we'd already been on, from a completely different perspective.
- Dreams Come True Parade – We got good seats along the parade route. The floats, characters, dancers, and the entire experience were just magical and fun.
We also went to Storytime with Belle, where Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) told us the story. Anna really likes Belle, so it was fun to interact with her for a while. I took lots of pictures of this, since Anna is such a fan. We also rode the Mad Hatter (aka "the teacups"), Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and the river raft over to Tom Sawyer Island.
A major highlight of today, and of the trip so far, though, was our dinner experience. We ate at the Royal Table inside Cinderella's Castle! In reality, this is just a nice restaurant in the castle, with the addition of a complimentary set of photos with Cinderella (taken before you eat), and a show with the Fairy Godmother while you're eating. The inside of the castle was beautiful, so Anna and I lingered a bit so we could enjoy it. Anna was brave and ordered a Crab and Corn Chowder for an appetizer, as did I, and it was great! For our entrees, I had prime rib (so-so) and Anna had pork tenderloin, which was quite good. I finished off with a "Blueberry Buckle," (lemon ice cream on top of a crusty blueberry muffin, it seemed) which was delicious, and Anna had a strawberry sorbet.
After eating there, we headed on over to Tomorrowland, where, among other things, we rode the previously-mentioned Tomorrowland Transit Authority (awesome). It was nearing 7pm by this point, and Anna was tiring quickly, so we nearly decided to go back to the hotel, to the point where we were almost ready to go through the exit turnstiles. Anna changed her mind, though, so we went back in to see the electrical parade and the fireworks show. We went shopping a bit and rode the Adventureland Jungle Cruise first, then picked a comfy spot on the curb on Main Street USA where we intended to watch the parade, which was only about a half hour away. At that point, we overheard someone say that there wasn't going to be a parade that day, so we checked our schedule and found that they were absolutely right! We decided to cut our losses and go back to the hotel at that point, rather than waiting an extra hour and a half to see the fireworks show which we've seen already, and which we'll see again later in the week.
When we got back to the hotel, we went to the main building to pick up some packages. First, Anna ordered us some costumes(!) for a special "Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween Party" which we're going to this Friday evening, and we had some boxes waiting for us from some gift shop purchases we'd made in the various parks. (If you stay on the Disney grounds, any time you buy something in a gift shop, you can choose to have it delivered to your hotel for you, if you'd prefer not to carry it around for the rest of the day. How awesome that is!)
Tomorrow, we are scheduled to go to MGM Studios again for the full day, but we saw a lot of it on Saturday, so we might head out early and go back to another park. We shall see!
Disney, Day Four
We allowed ourselves to sleep in today, since we were both exhausted from yesterday, so we didn't get out to the park, Epcot, until about 1:30. We had a reservation at the Coral Reef restaurant, which was to be our "table service" meal of the day. (And, again, the free Disney dining plan we got still rocks.) Anna started with an appetizer of crab souffle and I started with a bowl of lobster soup. Mine was fantastic, but Anna didn't care for hers too much, and sent it back in favor of some braised beef, which was excellent.
Photos: today only, all days
From there, we proceeded to walk around the Future World portion of Epcot, where we hadn't really spent much time so far. We both enjoyed the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" show, which is much more impressive than the corny name would suggest.
We also saw an interactive show called "Turtle Talk With Crush" where the audience interacted with an animated turtle named Crush, from the movie Finding Nemo. It was very impressive. Our favorite experience there was a ride called "Mission: Space" which simulates a rocket blasting off, performing a gravity slingshot around the moon, and landing on Mars. We were both a bit concerned about it because we'd heard many negative comments about how it made folks motion sick. Disney offers two different "experiences" there: green ("less intense") and orange ("more intense"), with the biggest difference seeming to be that you don't experience as many G-forces in the green side. On the orange side, several cars like the one you're in (apparently, I'm guessing here) are arranged in a wheel shape, and they revolve around the center to simulate the G-forces. Well, we tried the green side, and loved it, loved it. As soon as we left the ride, we turned around and got right back on, taking the orange side this time, and had a blast! The G-forces were rather strong, though; at one point, you are asked to push some buttons on a screen in front of you, and it was difficult to even lift my arm to do so! If I had to guess, I think we might ride that one again. It was awesome!
Also, we got to ride Segway scooters! There was a small test area inside Innoventions, where you could try them out for a minute. They were so fun I almost couldn't stand it! When I got on, I kept moving backward, apparently because I was balancing that way–the scooter senses minor shifts in your center of gravity and responds with movement. But, after just a couple of seconds, I got the hang of it, and drove it up and down the little test lane with no problem. It was great! Anna got on next, and had no problems at all. How dare she make me look so foolish! 🙂 We discovered that they offer Segway tours of Epcot, where you get to ride the scooter for an extended period of time. Those cost extra, but we might have to book it anyway.
Unfortunately (and strangely enough), the Future World portion of Epcot closed at 7pm (the World Showcase stayed open until 9), so Anna and I decided to head on over to the Magic Kingdom, which was open for a couple more hours. It was almost 8pm when we got there, which was when everyone else in the park was lining up to see the Main Street Electrical Parade, but we decided to take that opportunity to ride some of the more popular rides, and then catch the parade tomorrow. (It't still not busy around the parks, so we probably wouldn't have had to wait more than five minutes anyway, but, with our plan, we didn't have to wait at all.) We rode the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan's Flight (nifty), and (gulp) Space Mountain. Now, I've been to Disney several times, and never ridden it before, because it's a roller coaster, but I was newly emboldened by my other experiences on the trip. So, I rode it, even though I thought I would throw up while I was waiting in line, just from the anticipation. I've decided that the thing I hate the most on rides are drops, and, perhaps just as much, the anticipation of drops. You know that sensation when you (an obviously normal person in all regards) are riding a roller coaster and you see the crest of a hill coming up? You know how that makes you feel excited? Well, it makes me want to:
- poop, then
- run for the hills.
Anyway, Space Mountain is in the dark so you can't see that well, and I was told it didn't have big drops in it anyway, so I took a chance. How was it? Well, it was too fast, and it really jerked you around quite a bit, but I don't really remember very much about it because I was bracing for a drop the whole time. But hey, now I've ridden it, so no one can pressure me to do it now. Yeah, that means you. Stop it.
When that was all done, we found a spot behind Cinderella's castle and watched the fireworks, which were synchronized with music, and generally just awesome. We plan to find a spot in front of the castle tomorrow so we can see everything even better.
Disney, Day Three
We started today by getting up relatively early and heading over to Animal Kingdom, a newish theme park that neither Anna nor I had been to before. I don't think it was even here when I've been in the past! Our first stop of the day was for breakfast with Donald Duck at "Donald's Breakfastosaurus". That was a buffet-style breakfast with all kinds of good stuff, and before long, Pluto, then Goofy, then Donald(!), and then Mickey came around to our tables to play with us! We met another nice couple from Jacksonville, FL, so we took pictures for them as well (that's who those folks are if you see them in the photo stream).
Photos: today only, all days
In that park, I rode a smallish roller-coaster named Primeval Whirl, which was OK because it didn't have a lot of drops. I don't like drops. We also went on the "Kilomanjaro Safaris" where you actually get in a truck driven by a guide through some beautiful animal sanctuaries. This one was awesome! Anna wanted to go on Expedition Everest, but that one closed down because it was having "technical issues". I'm sorry she didn't get to ride it, because there was no way I was going to get on it myself (reference earlier commentary regarding "drops"). Aside from Kilomanjaro Safaris, another of our favorites was "Dinosaur!", which was a bumpy, scary ride through the dark; it was great! 😀
I took lots of pictures while we were there, but it definitely wasn't Anna's favorite park–it was warm, and there was lots of walking, and bugs were noticeable. About 3:30, then, we hopped aboard a bus and headed over to Epcot.
We decided to spend our time in the World Showcase portion of Epcot, where there are a bunch of small areas for many different countries arrayed around a largish lake. However, we swung by Test Drive, a very popular ride in the Future World part of Epcot, to see what the line was like. It was empty, so we went ahead and got aboard. It was great! We got in a little car that zipped all around a test track, sometimes going 60+ miles per hour around the outside of the building. It was fantastic!
The rest of the day we spent in the various countries of World Showcase, seeing what all they had to offer. The highlight of the day, in my opinion, was the "Illuminations" show at 9pm. This is a fireworks and light show that takes place every night in the lake at Epcot. It was really, really good. It started to rain on us a bit before the show started, so Anna ran and got ponchos ($7) for us while I held our coveted spot on a bridge overlooking the lake. That's not the first time she ran off, though; she also ran back to Japan and picked up some tasty items for us to eat, since it was nearing 9pm and the last time we had eaten anything significant was at Animal Kingdom at 10:30am.
I should mention that we got a "Disney Dining Plan" for free with our tickets, since I booked them within a certain time. That means Anna and I each get one counter-service meal, one table-service meal, and a snack for free, every day we are here. We just swipe our room cards and go! What a deal!
Anyway, tomorrow holds more Epcot in store for us, this time in the Future World section. It should be a blast!