October 3, 2011

Our Vacation in Walt Disney World

For two years, we saved money so that when our youngest was old enough to remember, we could visit Walt Disney World.  I have been to Disneyland in California at least two times, so I wanted to see what Walt Disney World was like.  Plus, Disneyland did not have the Hall of the Presidents.  We decided to go in September to take advantage of a flexible homeschooling schedule allowing us to be there during off-peak times, when prices are a little lower and there are fewer people.  We started our vacation in the best way--late morning on a Sunday, so that we could work all day Saturday as a family to get packed.  Just having that stress reducer was a wonderful way to keep the previous week from being too stressful trying to do school, clean and pack.  So we left in the morning after dropping off Jacques at a neighbor's house and some final packing.  As with any trip, we managed to forget something--the boys' swimsuits.  We arrived on Sunday evening in time for a late dinner at the hotel's kitchen.  The kids were so wound up from all the sitting on the plane and the excitement of the next day's adventure that it was hard to keep them asleep.  We attended Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom in that order.  Our order was partly determined by what restaurants were available at the times we wanted to attend and by how much time we thought we would spend at the park.  My idea was to spend the first day at Hollywood Studios, which typically does not require a full day because we would still be on Mountain Standard (a.k.a. "Arizona time") and eating at 9 p.m. E.S.T. wouldn't be a big deal.  We wanted to leave the Magic Kingdom for the end of the trip. I am not going to bore you with details, but leave only the highlights, the stinkers, the pleasant surprises, and the disappointments

  • Every sit-down restaurant we ate at was excellent.  We had home cooking at Hollywood studios in a 1950's style table, Restaurant Marrekesh served Moroccan food at Epcot Center, a BBQ Hoedown with some Disney Characters, Greek food at Kouzzina's at the Disney Boardwalk and seafood at Cap'n Jacks (no relation to the "Pirates" franchise) at Downtown Disney.
  • Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom is the best rollercoaster I have ridden.  Ever (I have not gone to Cedar Point, though, so my opinion might change in the future.
  • "Mickey's Philharmagic" at the Magic Kingdom was the best 3D show, maybe because it combined music and scenes from three or four of my favorite Disney movies with Donald being funny.
  • "Toy Story Mania" in Hollywood Studios had the best entertainment during the 85 minute wait AND was the best combination of ride, video game and 3D viewing.
  • "Soaring" at Epcot Center was the best non-rollercoaster ride.
  • "Splash Mountain" at the Magic Kingdom was the best water ride.  It was funny and used the story of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear to extend the ride, giving us several minor drops before "The Big One."
  • "Tom Sawyer's Island at the Magic Kingdom was the best way to have fun that didn't involve stimulating the adrenal glands and/or disturbing your equilibrium.
  • The Kim Possible Adventure was the best use of Disney property and animatronic effects not in a ride.  We were given a cell phone that gave us clues to find somewhere in the World Showcase.  It gave us the feel of being in a very easy episode of "The Amazing Race."
  • Dinosaur was the best animatronic ride.  I loved feeling the gust of wind when the T-rex roared at me.
Attractions I would avoid next time:
  • Captain EO at Epcot:  There was a certain sense of nostalgia driving Eric and I to see the first 3D movie Disney made.  However, it was, in Michael's words "Bad".  The plot was hokey, the dialogue horrible, the dancing was boring, the sound effects when he was dancing would have been annoying if they didn't remind me of Weird "Al" Yankovik's spoof called "Fat".  The kids thought Michael looked, sounded and acted like a girl ("He is the original Justin Bieber" according to my oldest) and they were not impressed with his dancing.  Sorry Michael.  Sorry George.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster at The Magic Kingdom:  no big drops, just a lot of tight corners and dips.  yawn.
  • "The Circle of Life" movie at Epcot.  The movie's plot was Simba explaining to Timon how bad it was to dam a river in order to make an amusement park that would make him rich when it hurt the environment and used humans as an example of how they used to not care about the environment and almost ruined the planet until they came to their senses.  Even Elizabeth saw the stomach churning hypocricy in the movie since all food and drink at quick service venues were offered in disposable containers and that WDW altered the environment to create the park in the first place as a way of giving us joy while making profit.   
  • "Stitches' Great Escape" at the Magic Kingdom:  They put shoulder restraints to make you think you are going on a ride, but you just sit there while Stitch "spits" on you," eats" many different things while you are in the dark and "bats" at your head a few times.  Only Kyle was relieved that there was no ride.
  • "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror":  Instead of one long plunge several stories, you have several short plunges.  All that is left is the creepy factor they create.
  • "It's Tough to be a Bug." at Animal Kingdom.  Short on anything but potty humor, involving lots of bad smells, bug "spitting" at you and poking you.
Pleasant Surprises:
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios
  • "Walt Disney:  One Man's Dream" at Hollywood Studios.  A nice little homage to Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, who was the numbers man.
  • Awesome fireworks at Epcot Center.  It was the only night we were able to watch fireworks for one reason or another.
  • Journey into imagination with Figment:  John laughed through most of it, which made me laugh.
  • John loved "It's a Small World.", which made it enjoyable for me in spite of the annoying song repeated endlessly through the ride.
  • "Kilimanjaro Safaris" at Animal Kingdom.  A cheery guide takes us on a tour of their African animals. They did a great job of hiding the big ditch keeping the tigers and lions from escaping.  Our guide sounded like Ariel.
  • "Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor":  Very funny with audience interaction, whether they volunteer or not.  You can also text your jokes in the hopes of having them included in the banter.

  • The Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom.  I wanted more animatronic action, more quotes from different Presidents, more highlights and problems of their adminstrations.  That was what I was expecting and waiting to see for 32 years.  Maybe the problem is me, though and not the show.  My expectations were too high.
  • The Pirates of the Carribean.  Jack didn't add anything to the ride.  
  • The Studio Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios was closed.
  • Not being able to walk through Cinderella's Castle.  It seemed to be closed most of the time we were there due to some traveling musical show starting.  
  • T-shirts. Very thin material for the price you pay.
  • Quick service food.  We decided to skip quick service lunches, which mainly consisted of tasteless, fried food and focused on eating a late breakfast, which is hard to make tasteless, have a small snack in the afternoon, when we were actually hungry, and then enjoy the excellent dinners at a sit-down restaurant.
  • Kyle freaked out at a lot more rides than I thought he would.  I think he just took the warnings they gave as a reason to freak out.  He also was thoroughly fooled by the Disney designers who strove for realism in their rides and did such a good job that they convinced him that he NEEDED to push a couple of buttons in order for the mission to Mars to be successful (though it also said it involved a 3 month trip, which should have been a clue that it WASN'T real).  I managed to convince him to go on The Big Thunder Mountain ride, but he didn't enjoy it.  He went on the Dinosaur ride, but had his eyes closed most of the time.  He even freaked out on a ride similar to Dumbo because John took us up too high.  By the second day, I think he was freaking out just as a matter of principle.  Or habit.  We accomodated him when we thought it would be too much for him, like Space Mountain and Expedition Everest, and encouraged him to try a ride when we thought it would be okay, like "Soaring" and "Star Tours".  It was funny and frustrating and sad at the same time.  
Other thoughts:
As much as Disney tries to control everything to make sure it is the Happiest Place on Earth, they can't.  They can't force the weather to be a balmy 80 degrees.  It was in the 90's and humid most of the time. At one point, I tried making a Micky Mouse pattern on my shirt from all the sweat pouring down it.  They can't prevent wives from shouting nasty things at their husbands before stomping away, they can't prevent the lightning and rain from closing down car stunt shows or from people booing when the shows are canceled.  They can't prevent grumpy people from mishandling those stupid motorized scooters and bumping into people to try and get them to go faster or for people to be impatient or rude when their drinks take one minute longer than their food to be provided.  They can't prevent toddler tantrum fits when their parents won't buy them a crappy piece of plastic junk that is sold for 1000 times more than it costs to make it.  All of these things were witnessed by me.  I even saw an adult mother snap at another mother who had temporarily misplaced her young daughter about having to miss a show instead of trying to help find the missing child.  However, the people who work there are stars just because they are ALWAYS friendly, ALWAYS ready to start up a conversation, ALWAYS answer politely when a customer is rude to them and ALWAYS do their best to make accommodations for their guests.  I would really like to know their secret.   It was a wonderful five day break from reality, but it is definitely not a lifestyle I would want to live.  Pictures will be coming soon.


Amanda said...

Oh I can't wait to take Jonathan & Grace to Disney someday... but we also want to wait until they're old enough to enjoy it... but I love the tips!

(BTW This is Amanda from TCC- I've been lurking for a while!)

tandemingtroll said...

Hi Amanda! It is good to hear from you. Thanks for lurking. Your kids looks so cute!

As much fun as it sounds, I think you would enjoy it much more when the kids are older. We saw SO many toddler and pre-school meltdowns. I actually heard one little girl wail "You don't wuv me" to her parents. The absurdity made me chuckle, but I stopped pretty quickly and apologized to the mom because I didn't want the girl to think she was being cute. Our kids also had a few minor meltdowns and we carried John a few times for short bursts because there was SO much walking to do.
The Big Thunder roller coaster ride is actually a good introduction to roller coasters, kind of like The Whizzer at Six Flags.