Beasties and Beaches (and Creams)

Oh my goodness, I love Disney so much! 🙂 We swapped hotels early on Sunday morning. The hotel-swapping was a bit traumatic. My poor (and awesome) DH got up super-early on Sunday morning and drove over to Port Orleans to get us checked in. They only had one person working the desk, and there were a ton of people there because the Buy-4-Get-3-Free deal started on Sunday, so a bunch of people were checking in for the second time, to initiate their deal-based tickets and room. Then, when DH finally got to the front of the line, they had assigned us a room that met none of our requests. That is, we were not in the requested buildings, we were on a second floor (we’d requested first floor for my parents’ benefit), and we were a long walk from pretty much everything. Okay, in fairness, we were in the same building as my parents, so that’s one request that they met. (Alligator Bayou Building 26 was the one they originally assigned, if you want to check the map at the previously mentioned Port fansite.) DH called me to ask if my parents would rather be on the second floor or near a bus stop, and I suggested that he look into Magnolia Bend instead of Alligator Bayou. Magnolia Bend is a little less themey inside the rooms, and the buildings are huge by comparison to Alligator Bayou. But, the Magnolia Bend buildings have elevators, so being on a 2nd floor there is better than being on a 2nd floor at Alligator Bayou, if stairs are an issue. So, DH went back to the desk and asked about switching to Magnolia Bend. We ended up in the Acadian House of Magnolia Bend, rooms 8009 and 8010 on the first floor…which was actually way better than our building #26 assignments and probably even better in some ways than what we would have had in building 14 (our “top of list” requested building). We have a view of the fountain, and the room is very quiet and peaceful.

Ironically, about a month ago, DH and I had been debating switching our request to Magnolia Bend, but we let the Disney sites talk us into Alligator Bayou. However, in retrospect, I think I like Magnolia Bend much better. If you’re going to go to the food court alot, then maybe the Bayou buildings are better for you, but if you’re not, Magnolia Bend seems much quieter and prettier. I don’t know. I guess I’d take either, really. Port Orleans Riverside is a gorgeous resort with a brilliant design. They put the feature pool on an island at the center, so no room is subjected to the noise, but most buildings are an easy walk to it. Brilliant. I love the mouse.

Anyways, DH suffered through all of that on minimal caffeine. Meanwhile, I got up, snapped some photos of the sunrise and animals, and got ready for our day in Animal Kingdom.

I have to say that, if you’re staying at the Animal Kingdom lodge, the Kilimanjaro safari at Animal Kingdom seems like a letdown. You get much closer to the animals by staying at the lodge, and the nature of the safari ride is that you are hard-pressed to get pictures. I did really enjoy the Conservation Hut. I wish we’d managed to catch a surgery or check-up on an animal, but just looking around and talking to the staff was really fun for me.

Around 11am on Sunday, my parents called that they were nearing town. We had a fastpass to use still, so we had them check in to the resort on their own, and then we arranged to meet them there. They, too, were pleased with our room. The only downside to our room is that it was a dead zone for all of the GSM users in the family. DH, as a CDMA person, was still able to get and make calls from the room, but the rest of us had to walk out into the courtyard to use our phones. (Go CDMA! Feminist cellphone tech, baby, yeah!)

Once we’d all met up and had lunch at a nearby Fuddrucker’s, we carpooled back to Animal Kingdom to see the Lion King show and the Bug’s Life 4D show. The Lion King show was AWESOME. I highly recommend it. It was like a mini cirque show, with great music and giant parade-style floats. Granted, Disney movie music rarely fails to make me weep, so I’m biased in favor of any show that features Disney movie music.

Next, we headed over to Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly known as Disney MGM) to see the Osborne Family Lights, as this was the last night that they’d be running. They were spectacular. And, as I’d intentionally avoided any spoilers or pictures of the lights before I got there, I didn’t know that there would be snow! They make fake snow (probably soap flakes) that falls as you walk through the lights. It was awesome. It was crowded and crazy, but it was totally worth it.

After that, DH and I decided to get into the line for Toy Story Midway Mania, which is the newest, coolest, and thus most busy, ride at Disney. It’s a little car that follows a track while you’re wearing 3D glasses. You shoot things with a cannon that appear on screens in front of you, and it’s set up such that you see the projectile coming out of your cannon. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a really neat ride. The only problem with it (as DH succinctly put it) is that it is a) a ride that anyone can enjoy, including the typically ride-averse and b) a ride that has a score component and thus motivates you to want to ride it multiple times…and so, despite a very fast loading process, it has 60 minute waits at any time of day and 90 minute or more waits at peak times. The fast passes tend to run out within the first hour of park open. We ended up waiting in line for a little more than an hour, and my feet were killing me from a long day of walking in brand new tennis shoes. (If you recall, most of my shoes got ruined in the laundry room flood, so I was forced to break in shoes on this trip.) I was cranky, and the line people were smelly and annoying. One guy was letting encouraging his kids to climb all over the decorations, the ride queue barriers, and be generally destructive and annoying. So, I took off my shoes and walked through the line in my sock feet until we got toward the end.

Also, the Toy Story queue has a really neat Mr. Potato Head thingie at the far end. He’s meant to be entertainment while you’re in line. They got the voice of Mr. Potato Head to record a ton of phrases, and there’s a person who views the crowd from his eyes and chooses phrases to go with the crowd’s actions and words. So, he might call out to a girl in a white shirt and then keep calling out to her until she responds, and then he responds to her in a way that at least somewhat seems like he heard her. It’s pretty cool stuff, but the crowd didn’t get it, so they just thought it was a giant moving decoration…and as a result, they kept holding the line up to take pictures with it instead of letting the queue build in front of it and interacting with it. I suppose Disney will figure this out eventually and either dim the lights in that area to discourage pictures or adjust the queue to make it clear that it’s an entertainment area. Or maybe they’ll just record him shouting, “NO PICTURES! Keep it movin’!” 🙂

Anyways, we left DHS after closing. My parents had opted against waiting in the forever-line and had gone ahead back to the hotel. Since we’d rode in my mom’s truck to get there, we hopped a Disney bus back to the resort. My parents had gone to dinner at Perkins, but by the time we got done, they were well into dinner, and there was a place we wanted to try but weren’t necessarily going to subject my parents to in case it wasn’t good. The Trail’s End buffet at Fort Wilderness was supposed to be one of the best bargains onsite. So, we went from Port Orleans to Fort Wildnerness, which is the campground area of Disney. The first thing we learned is that you can’t park near the lodge, which is where the restaurants are. You park and take a bus to get to the lodge (or to a depot near your campsite, if you’re camping). I hobbled to a bus with DH, and we rode through the darkest darkness I’ve ever seen at Disney to get to the lodge. The campgrounds seem crowded, but they do keep them dark at least. The lodge area was bustling with people. Also, you can apparently rent golf carts to go to and from your campsite, and there were a bunch of them parked at the lodge. We were some of the last people to get seated at the buffet before closing, but once inside, there were no signs of it. That is, it wasn’t like they were rushing us or taking things off of the buffet line. The food was fried chicken, baked chicken, BBQ ribs, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, pizza, rice krispie treats, make-your-own sundaes, and cookies. I think they also had a carver station with ham and turkey. Oh, and there was a small salad bar. All the food was hot and delicious, but they’d raised the price of the buffet by $4 which still probably makes it the cheapest buffet on property but probably not so much of a value meal now. They did serve drinks in mason jars though, which pleased me. 🙂

Once we got into the room, I inspected my feet and found 4 blisters. Ouch! I followed Major Blisterbuster’s recommendations from The Unofficial Guide (ding!): drain the fluid with a needle but leave the skin layer otherwise intact, cover with a blister bandage. By the next morning, my feet were feeling nearly A-OK for EPCOT. I wore a different pair of shoes (my old Lands’ End river runners), and I made it through most of the EPCOT day. I decided to bail on DH around 2:30pm. My parents bailed and/or split up to do separate touring at 1pm. DH finished up a couple of things he wanted to do at EPCOT and then took a boat over to the Beach Club for dinner. We’d read about a place called Beaches and Creams in The Unofficial Guide (ding!), which was supposed to have the best burgers at Disney. Around that time, I was well-rested, having taken a dip in the hotel’s “quiet pool” (a quiet pool being any of several non-feature pools scattered in the resort). My parents were napping, and I was hungry, so I drove over to Beach Club to meet up with DH for dinner. I had a Florida Sunshine (orange sorbet, vanilla ice cream, soda, blended and topped with whipped cream and candied orange slices) and a burger, and DH had a milkshake and a burger. It was very good, but Fuddrucker’s has better burgers, IMO. But, the ice cream was a welcome treat.

We rode the boat from Beach Club to DHS. We wanted to see Fantasmic, and it’s generally recommended to arrive an hour early. We were going to the second showing, and it was an Extra Magic Hours night (meaning resort guests get an extra 3 hours in the park), so we didn’t know how bad the crowd would be. Meanwhile, we texted with the parental units to sync up with them. Tom ended up being the only one who joined us, and I think he enjoyed the show, too. This was his first trip to Disney World since 1971, so, as you can imagine, he was practically doing Disney for the first time.

Fantasmic was amazing. Standing in line for it sucked, and it was a long wait, but we got great seats, and it was jaw-dropping in scale and technology. I won’t say much more about it to avoid spoilers. You will get a little wet if it’s a windy day; we did, and it made us shiver a bit in the night air. Also, Disney villains do not feature as much as we might have hoped, but we really didn’t care that much by the end because it was such a good show. It made me love Mickey, and it felt like a bit of Fantasia in a live version, which is pretty amazing. (Pocahontas was strangely a major figure…not sure why.) Actually, let me just say that I have yet to be disappointed by a theatrical-type show at Disney. (I am generally not entertained by animal shows or stunt shows, so I exclude those intentionally.) They are all enjoyable and worth seeing, plus it’s often a welcome break from walking. But, Fantasmic is the show to see if you’re only going to see one show. There’s good reason for the lines and crowds.

After that, we split up for a bit. I did some shopping. Tom did Star Tours and a few other rides. I did Voyage of the Little Mermaid. DH did Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster again. Then, we did Toy Story one more time, this time with Tom. The queue claimed it was a 60 minute wait, but having just done the queue the night before, DH and I could eyeball that it was less than that. It ended up being just under 25 minutes. Tom beat my original score, but I got a new high score. 🙂

And then finally, we came home. 🙂 We took the boat back to Beach Club and then walked to the car to drive back to Port Orleans. Once again, I have blisters, but the ones that I took care of yesterday have healed up mostly…it’s just a couple of new places now.

Relevant photo albums: Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, EPCOT Future World, Beach Club and more DHS

2 thoughts on “Beasties and Beaches (and Creams)”

  1. For future visits, the magic way to do Fantasmic is to call ahead for their dinner and a show package. It was brand new when we went there in 2002 and we were sad to find out that it now requires advance reservations. Anyway, dinner isn’t spectacular, it’s one of three fairly cookie cutter restaurants, but you get into Fantasmic priority seating before the crowds. You wait nearly as long, but at least you’re sitting and not in a line and you’re guaranteed to get in.

  2. We looked into that. You still have to show up 30-45 minutes early and you seats are in a section on the far right side of the stage, which isn’t ideal since you can see the floats loading up backstage.

    Our seats were an awesome location (centered about 1/3 of the way back).

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