Sunday, June 29, 2014

Animal Kingdom, Day 4

We started off day 4 in the parks by going to the Animal Kingdom. Harrison was very excited for this park, and we had talked to a lot of people and heard many times that we needed to go to the Safari first thing to see the animals out and about instead of napping in the afternoon heat. We hardly even stopped to look around because we were so focused on just getting to the safari.
A short 30 minute wait, and we were on the Kilamanjaro Safari.


Rhino in Mud...

Rhino covered in mud!

The Safari was fun, lots of animals to see, and always nice to put my feet up.  Be prepared that it is quite the bumpy ride!

We decided to wander over to Expedition Everest for a ride before our fastpass, but we stopped for a photo first. You can kind of see the mountain in the background.

We waited for about 30-40 minutes, it was nice to experience the que, but it was kind of a long wait! We met a mom and her teenaged son in line, who ended up being in the same train as us--in the very front! There's a part where the track is mangled and ends, and this lady did not expect that, and then the ride goes backwards! It feels like you go through a loop, but it is mainly because it pulls you backwards so fast. It is by far our favorite ride in Animal Kingdom.

After the ride we decided to go towards the front to get our very own Wilderness Explorer books, because they have a lot of booths and activities so that you can earn badges (stickers) for the book.

We got Wilderness Explorer Books and were off to fill it with the activities to get the stickers!
 After we got the books and were walking back, we saw Dug and Russel! We couldn't resist.
Harrison meeting Dug (the hug lasted nearly a minute)

Harrison handing his Wilderness Explorer book to Russel to be signed

Dug made sure Harrison understood he wanted his head scratched!

SQUIRREL! (Russel did NOT get the memo!)
We met Dug and Russel and that was sure fun! Dug gives real long hugs and Russel made Harrison do the Wilderness Explorer sign and calls. (The Wilderness MUST be explored, Caw ca CaW, ROAR)

After getting our explorers book we walked through the Pangani Forest Trail to earn a badge, and we also walked through the Maharaj Jungle Trek to earn another badge. Then it was time for our fast pass for Expedition Everest, and this time we were in the VERY BACK! It was interesting to see both ends of the track, and especially to see all the teens in front of us holding their phones up to take selfies on the ride! (Whereas we had ours in the backpack tied to our legs because we were worried we would lose them.

We spent some more time walking around and earning badges before it was time for the Kali River Rapids. Overall, it is a fun ride, worth going on to get  wet in the heat of the day... but it sure was no Grizzly River Run like in California Adventure! It is a much shorter ride with only one drop. But it was fun.

Afterwards we ate at the Yak and Yeti, and enjoyed some good Chinese food. We walked a loop around the park, filled in some more badges, and then we felt like we had done all the things we wanted to... so we got a frozen coke (with a paper straw that Harrison is very passionate against) and left the park! It was fairly early, like 3 in the afternoon, but we decided to head back to the hotel for a quick nap.

We decided to go back to Epcot to see the Illuminations show again. We made reservations for the Beirstein, a German Buffet styled restaurant. They seat you in a table for ten, and you sit next to people you don't know, and share your table. There was also a German band and there was Polka to be had, but mostly the little kids went down and danced like fools while the rest of us tried to make the most out of this $40aperson buffet. It was tasty food, but not entirely worth the price tag for me.. The family we sat next to was fun, one of them works in the Parks as a Jungle Cruise director, so they were telling us about how the parks change from the Halloween to Christmas decorations, and those are incredible stories to hear.

My dessert plate!

We found a spot on the opposite side of the park we had been last time (Last time we were near Canada and this time we were just outside of Germany) to watch Illuminations. We were a lot closer this time and it was relaxing to just watch and enjoy the show.

After the show was over we decided, against our better judgement, to go to Magic Kingdom for magic hours! For us, the park would be open til 2. The line to get on the monorail was so long! We made friends with a family and chatted with them while we waited around half an hour to get on. It is kind of confusing to take the monorail, there is a part where you have to get off and change trains but it felt like the same train and we were all confused. You do go through one of the hotels, and it was quite extravagant.

Overall, we only lasted maybe an hour. We knew that we were going to be back in the morning and would spend the day in Magic Kingdom, so when our legs hurt too much to bear, we left!

Three parks in ONE day??? We have reached a whole new level--we could now be respected by season ticket holders!

Notes: I think that Animal Kingdom is a little more kid friendly, there is a whole section for Dinosaur Land... but we felt it is quite crowded, small walkways, and there seemed to be a lot of politics about recycling and conservations--which isn't bad, but felt like too much. As a couple, half a day is a good amount of time to experience this park.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hollywood Studios, Day 3

For our third day in the DisneyWorld parks, we decided on Hollywood Studios.

I was most excited about Tower of Terror! Harrison hates that ride more than anything, so I made a deal with him that we would only go on it once.

On the bus ride to the park we found out it was a Star Wars Weekend, and we had no idea... but were curious about how it would affect the number of people in the parks. (all in all it ended up helping the rides to not have such long lines, because everyone was there to stand in line to meet characters!)

We didn't have much of a plan going in to the park, so when we first got there we thought we would go to the Great Movie Ride. It is a delightfully fun ride, similar to the Jungle Cruise, where you are being talked through the ride and awfully awesome lame jokes all the time. This one is done by car. We walked straight on to the ride since it was the first thing in the morning, but I might not have minded waiting a little bit in the que, there were costumes from movies and some interesting things to keep your attention. The ride is 20 minutes long, so it seemed like it would be a good ride for when your feet need a break--and let me tell you, it was day three and I had a HUGE blister. So even though it was our first ride, it was about time that I needed to rest my feet! (Que foreshadowing...)

Since it was still early we thought we might check out Toy Story Mania, but it already had an outrageous wait time and while we love the ride, we did not think it was worth the wait.

So we walked through the Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. It is a nice walk through exhibit with bits of history and a little video at the end that talks about how Disney came to be. It is really neat, especially for those who love Walt Disney himself.

It was finally time for our delightful ride on the Tower of Terror! As we walked up, I somehow was so excited that I ran into one of the poles and got a huge bruise. Was this park out to get me?

I LOVED Tower of Terror, it is different from the one in California Adventure, and I delighted in the change and thought the ride was perfect, but since Harrison hated it so much I felt bad for making him go... we did not end up returning.

We are in the back corner

Post Tower of Terror, it was time to finally get some breakfast! We stopped at Fairfax Fare. It was alright breakfast food. We did have a lovely visitor...

We had some time before our fast pass to Rock N Roller Coaster with Aerosmith, so we walked the street and looked at some of the gift shops.
Harrison found the Power Rangers!
 The Rock N Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith blew. my. mind. I was no prepared for this ride! In the que, you stop by the sound studio and find out that Aerosmith is late for their concert, but they want to take you with them in a high speed limo! So you walk through the doors and get into a stretch limo... once strapped in, you ease around a corner and see a sign that counts you down, and from there on out you are going 60 MPH! As soon as you shoot off they take your picture.

I had no idea, it is a neon and black light kind of ride, and wow. I think I was a little unsteady getting out of the ride because it is so fast!

Rocking out after the ride
Next stop was the Studio Back Lot Tour, which was pretty neat. We saw how a ship/water scene was pieced together with a random family from the audience who got soaked, it was fun to see them act it out and then for the camera guys to stitch it together in a different sequence and make it epic. You then walk through a storage room of props, then you get on a bus and experience a fire and flash flood scene which was awesome! We saw Herbie.
Harrison channeling his inner Nicolas Cage, stealing the Declaration of Independence

Water tower with Mouse ears and a plane


Harrison with Indiana Jones' whip
After the ride you walk through a memorabilia exhibit and then to a bookstore/gift shop --very clever.

They had promoted the Lights, Camera, Action Stunt show, so we went to that next. Before you enter the stands they have bottled drinks--the first time I saw something other than Coke! So I got some Mellow Yellow.

The car stunt show was incredible! I wasn't too interested in it to begin with, but it was really fun. They show you how cars drive backwards, how they jump things, people falling off buildings, everything catching on fire... it was awesome.

Ballet Chase
Ballet Chase

Lightning McQueen showed up

A forwards driving car and a backwards driving car

Man about to catch on fire

Everything on fire
The show was a lot more exciting than I had anticipated, and it was a great time to put my feet up! It's about a 40 minute show.

Jumping Jenni Star Wars Action Figure!
Harrison Collier, Star Wars Action Figure

We were hungry after the stunt show, so we went to Pizza Planet Arcade for lunch. The pizza was quite greasy, but the Darth Vader Chocolate cupcake was soooo good!

 We got in line for our fast pass to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Luckily we sat on the front row and Harrison got chosen to be a part of the show!! I took pictures with one hand, while filming with the other, and it was just great. Lots of stunts were explained and then shown. And of course, Harrison got asked to strike a pose, and I have video of when he was asked to walk like a model.

 Having seen the Aladdin live action broadway-esque play in California, I was certain that Beauty and the Beast would be just as good, and I needed to rest my feet again, as while we were walking to the play my blister popped. (sidenote, I had broken in my shoes, but my feet were not use to walking 10 miles a day.) So we went to the play with high expectations. It is in an outdoor theater, covered...but already Aladdin was winning in our books because theirs in indoor with lots of great air conditioning. The play fell very short in our opinion. The acting was not very good, but Gaston, he stole the show for us. As he was rallying to gain a crowd to defeat the beast, he gets distracted by his reflection in his knife, it was truly the best part of the show. It did not seem like anyone was actually mic'ed, and it was not our favorite. We now have a joke about roaring though, because the beast's roar was him literally saying Roar. so bad.

After that we needed to have something better, so we walked and were able to walk straight on to Star Tours! and it was delightful as usual. We thought we might just do it again since we were able to walk on, but we stood in the same spot for five minutes and did not move.. so we left.

You should know that by this time, we had already walked the park probably 4 times, because we didn't really understand where things were or how it was set up, and we didn't have a good plan of staying in one area at a time, we kept popping in to other places. so our feet were dead.

We decided to walk to the back of the park to take the singing in the rain photos, and on our way we saw a Storm Trooper.

"Charlie's Angels"

 Every so often the umbrella would start to rain! That was fun.  Well I found on the map a Little Mermaid show called The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, 15 minutes long. so we walked across the park to check it out. SO GOOD! There are lazer lights, bubbles, glow in the dark fish, so much better than the Beauty and the Beast show. It was only 15 minutes, and it was awesome. After that we went to check out a pirates themed something, so we got a pass to come back later to that because they decided it should be a ticketed thing.

 I had thought that the Backlot Express would be right next to the Back Lot Tour... but no. It is next to Indiana Jones. So, we had walked the long way to get there. Did I mention how many times we walked the park? How dead my feet were? Oh well. The food there was awesome, it was really good. I got a salad and Harrison got a burger, and we split the Yoda Hazelnut Cupcake.

We liked it a little bit better than the Darth one. It seemed a lot lighter in the flavor, not so much Death by Darth.

After dinner it was time to walk across the park to go to the pirates thing, which ended up being interesting... since my feet were dead and it is a standing exhibit, movie?something... I did not love it. But it was fun, you got an introduction into the life of a pirate, you had a ship battle, it was a good experience. It was getting close for Fantasmic to start, but we had too much time to go and sit there, so we went back to the Little Mermaid, and even the second time it did not disappoint, it only got better!

We almost ran to Fantasmic because we were both so excited about it. I don't know where they find the space, but it is in an outdoor amphitheater, probably half a miles walk from the sign.

Waiting for Fantasmic to start
I did not take any photos, but man, it is a good show! I don't love the Fantasmic at DisneyLand because it features a lot of older Disney movies, but this one had a lot from more recent or at least my childhood type of movies, especially Pocahontas. Mickey seems to battle each of the evil witches, and we just loved the show.

The park would be closing soon but we thought we should try another ride... so we went back to Rock N Roller Coaster, and again, even though I knew what to expect this time, I was blown away! So good. As we were waiting in line we heard massive explosions because they were doing the Star Wars Fireworks. We did not see any, but I am fairly certain they destroyed a planet or too.  Since I knew when the photo was taken this time, I tried to do blue steel... but we were going so fast my face just looks funny!
Blue Steel face fail. Harrison rocks out

End of the night photo with the Mickey Hat in the background

16 attractions visited, 11 miles walked (at least!!)
 All in all, we loved Hollywood Studios... but please. Save yourself the foot ache of looking at the map before hand, and maybe getting there a little later in the day so that you do not walk more than you have to. We felt that there were a lot of times we just sat down to kill some time, which is always a good idea, but that we did it too much. I am glad we never waited in line for Toy Story Mania, because a 3 hour wait is not worth the games, they are super fun, but no. The streets can get crowded particularly in this park. And always remember, you can ask for water anywhere and they will give it to you!

Oh and last tip-- do not see Beauty and the Beast unless you what to hear what the "roar" is all about.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Epcot, Day 2

Planning out our day in Epcot, we basically knew nothing. We had looked at a map, saw that there were lots of countries to be visited, we knew we wanted to see the Illuminations show, we knew Soarin' Over California was there, and we had heard about this Norwegian ship ride that we were really excited about, and we had made reservations for a Chinese restaurant that we had heard great things about.   But overall, we had no idea... no idea on how to attack the park, when we should get there, so this will be what we did and what we learned...

We started the day off sharing an omelet from our hotel. It was tasty and left room for us to drink tons of Coke before catching the bus to Epcot. It seemed like a lot longer ride than the one to Magic Kingdom.

The set up to get in to the park was different than we were expecting, but once we got through the line, we saw that large golf ball, gleaming in the sun... We grabbed a map, and decided to go on Spaceship Earth--we did not know there was a ride inside of the golf ball! Harrison loved it because he loves history, but it was pretty exciting to see how they talked about history. Then you get to a point where they talk about the future... and boom, there you are, a part of the ride!

We did not expect this ride to be what it was, but we highly recommend it. There are also some games you could play.

Our next stop was to walk the countries and see what Epcot was all about. We turned to the left and entered Mexico. Seeing that there was a boat ride, we  jumped right on! It was a little less than exciting. I thought it might be a little about the history or even major cities... but not so much.

Norway is right next to Mexico, so once we left we saw that we could experience Maelstrom, the epic Viking styled boat ride... We passed through a part of Norway that had some of the history behind Frozen. Finally we find Maelstrom!  I was surprised to see Trolls, and see some of the history of Norway's legends, but also that Frozen also takes part of that so much. The ride itself was better than the boat ride in Mexico, but not as thrilling as Splash Mountain.

Leaving Norway led us to China, the decor was such a difference between the two countries, so that was neat to see it change. We walked through, saw where the 9 Dragons was so that we knew where to go back for dinner. We looked on our map and saw that there was a 360 or Circle movie experience that talked about China. We decided to stay for that. It was a very interesting way to film, but sadly there were no seats.

After China, we found Germany and were hoping to find some amazing pretzels to eat because we were starting to get hungry. But, what they had did not seem to be what we were looking for. We left Germany and walked into Italy, again, it was so beautifully designed and really made you feel like you were in Italy but we felt like there was nothing to do there.

Next was America! We watched the half hour American Adventure which featured a song that we heard last year at Disneyland with Abraham Lincoln, so it was weird knowing the words. haha! After that, we found what we had been looking for.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese filled Pretzel! 
 I was so happy! And boy was it delicious. We ate those while we walked through Japan, Morocco, and then France. We looked around but didn't see anything for us to do, so we kept walking through the United Kingdom where we stopped to look at family names and their coat of arms. We passed through on to Canada and it was neat for me to see the Totem Poles and made me think mainly of Alert Bay and the little museum they had on that island dedicated to the natives and totem poles. I don't think I would have thought that was the iconic thing about Canada, but I am glad for the memories it brought.

At this point I was getting quite thirsty, and we had heard about trying all of the different Coke from around the world, so we walked around trying to find it. After passing it once or twice... we walked in and were a little disappointed that it was not different Coke from countries, but different flavored sodas.  But that sure didn't stop us from trying them all!

Italy: Beverly: a bitter soda. And let me tell you. YES it is bitter and NO you should not try it! Blech!
Greece: Pineapple Fanta: totally normal, and just fine.
Thailand: Melon Frosty Fanta: I like this one, it is a melon flavor and was not too strong, but sure was sweet!
Japan: VegitaBeta: an Apricot and Passion fruit non carbonated soda, not bad.
South Africa: Bibo: I remember trying this one, but I do not remember anything else about it.
Zimbabwe: Sparletta: a Raspberry flavored creme soda, also not bad.
Peru: Inca Kola: tastes like bubble gum! Harrison did not like how sweet it was.
Brazil: Guarana Kuat: a type of berry. I think I enjoyed this one too.

We decided it was time to sit down for awhile, so we went to the Circle of Life film... it was quite political about conservation. We went downstairs after that to wait in the line for the Living with the Land. It was a long line! But it was a really neat boat ride, especially when you go through the greenhouse.

After that we decided to check out The Seas with Nemo and Friends. It was a moving ride similar to Little Mermaid, telling the story of Nemo. There is a neat part where they project Nemo and Dori in the an actual fish tank. After the ride we happened to see a scuba diver giving an example of what she does. And finally we heard some commotion over at the dolphins...

We decided that Turtle Talk with Crush was not going to be as exciting as we wanted, so we left and went over to Test Track!
This was the car that Harrison and I created to race "against" the car, thus test track.  It was a pretty fun ride, you go 65-70 mph!

Harrison calls this my "Barney Stintson" photo, because I look amazing! Shortly after that we wanted another afternoon snack, so I tried a cronut! It was a tasty treat. We met a neat lady who had worked in Epcot with her husband and the thing I loved about her is how she said during her lunch breaks she would walk around and ask people if she could take their picture so that they could get one together. She is the kind of person Harrison and I believe that Walt would have been so proud to have hired.

We walked around for a bit longer waiting for our dinner reservation, we jumped in front of the Epcot ball, Harrison blocked a soccer goal from Goofy, and we went on Spaceship Earth again! This time we knew to make the most ridiculous faces...

The lady we had met had also told us that the video in France is incredible, so we went back over that way and enjoyed some lovely music and watched the Impressions of France and it was charming.

Finally it was nearing time for dinner, so we walked back to China and saw a fun show with some Chinese dancers.  We got our table and the service was so fast! We shared an incredible orange chicken and spinach noodle.

Waiting for IlluimiNations

I hadn't even noticed the Eiffel Tower until waiting for the show!
We found a nice spot next to a vendors cart and a nice couple who was at DisneyWorld for their 45th anniversary.

We decided after the show that we were done, but that we should try to catch Soarin' before we left, and because the park had closed but we had magic hours, we were able to jump on!

All in all we had visited about 20 attractions, walking somewhere between 4 and 8 miles.

What we learned was that we would next time sleep in and arrive at the park a little closer to noon, and then stay til closing. We felt that there weren't as many rides but a lot of walking and that we ran out of things to do, we ended up sitting down and just watching others while we rested our feet. We do recommend fast passes for Test Track and Soarin'. We were not interested in going to Mission: Space, we had heard some intense stories about motion sickness.