The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 24, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:09 pm

Note:  In case you missed them, the first two parts of this trip report may be found here:

Given the fact that it’s been more than a month since I actually got home from this trip and with this particular installment I will be barely finishing off the first day of the four-day (and change) trip, I suspect that it’s ultimately going to end up taking a while to finish off this trip report.  I’m hoping to get this finished at some point before I actually end up going again.  Given how much stuff I missed on this trip (including missing an entire park) I’m pretty sure I will go again at some undetermined point in the future, and if I can spring for it staying closer to the parks so it doesn’t take 45 minutes on the buses to get there and back (I hear the Polynesian is a nice place, if a bit on the not-so-cheap side…)

When I last left off, I was spending the first day of the trip in the Magic Kingdom, where I was mostly wandering through the parking semi-aimlessly going on whatever rides looked interesting (and some that common sense would suggest I avoid like the plague, but that’s beside the point.)  I ended just after riding on Disney World’s version of Space Mountain for what would be the only time of the trip (and the only time before it gets a major overhaul that will take most of 2009 to complete.)  I will pick up from that point, after the jump.


Can’t I Get Just a Little Bit of Pixie Dust Here? 

In which I discover that Fastpass isn’t always so fast, and find out that there are some things you actually can’t find in the shops…

After getting off of Space Mountain, I went looking for a semi-quiet place to call my Mom back, since she has called while I was in the Space Mountain line (Apparently Tomorrowland isn’t exactly the quietest place in the world.)  Eventually, I started wandering down a (somewhat) quieter path that led away from Space Mountain past the Tomorrowland Speedway (or Autopia, for the purists) as we talked, mostly about the standard parental concerns that tend to accompany having ones son being flung across the country in a claustrophobic pressurized cylinder  and other such things.  As a seasoned traveler, I don’t think my Mom was too worried about this though. While she was growing up she was a frequent visitor to Disneyland along with her brothers and sisters (and many of their family photos reflect this,) and she is the only person in the family that has been to Walt Disney World before, for one day at a time on two separate occasions. Anyway, after talking for a few minutes, I said goodbye and found myself over near the Toontown Fair area.

On the way into the park this morning, I had done a bit of cursory looking through the gift shops on Main Street to see if there were any greeting cards available anywhere (there didn’t seem to be any,) and I tried at the big gift shop in Toontown once again, to no avail. During the time that I would be here, my parents would be celebrating their anniversary, so I had the idea to try to send home an anniversary card signed by Mickey and Minnie. Unfortunately, aside from a relatively meager selection of postcards, there wasn’t anything even remotely appropriate available that I could find for the purpose. After wandering through the gift shop a bit (and noting that it would have been a 70 minute wait if I wanted to go visit with the fairies for some unknown reason) I grabbed some random postcard off the shelf, paid for it, and went over to Mickey’s house to see if there was any way I could go meet Mickey without spending an hour in line.  Of course, being Mickey’s house, it has to have appropriately toony decorations.

Although I suspect there are some people who would find places like this to be boring, Mickey’s House is the type of place that if I didn’t have a looming Fastpass arrival time I could spend quite a bit of time looking around to see all the little details that were put in. Think that’s a fake tree?

Of course, the place was decorated for the holidays.

I’m not even going to ask how this would have happened.  Note that Mickey’s fish in the picture just happens to be the same one that’s over the fireplace…

Here’s Another bit of detail that most people are going to miss who come through here, especially with some of the inside jokes and somewhat obscure references that most of the people who consider High School Musical to be Disney’s greatest contribution to society would completely miss.

If you ever happen to reach the point where you find yourself lying on the ground and see Goofy carrying one of these, you might as well consider yourself done for.  On the other hand, what exactly would you store in something like this anyway, a harp and a halo?  Miscellaneous gags and jokes aside I wandered through the house for a bit, then I went over to find the line to meet Mickey (or whatever costumed cast member was standing in the stead thereof,) and found that line a bit longer than I would have cared to stand around in.  I turned back around and headed out.

By this time, it was finally time to use the Peter Pan Fastpass I had acquired some time before, So I headed back toward Fantasyland at this time, where I then got into the Fastpass line for Peter Pan… Or at least I thought it was the Fastpass line, because it didn’t seem all that fast.  I didn’t check the regular line wait time (I probably didn’t want to know,) but even the Fastpass line seemed rather long, and I think by the time I actually got on the ride I had spent at least 20 minutes waiting, even with the Fastpass. As for the ride itself, there was a short delay while flying over the London scene, but even with that, it seemed like it took all of two minutes to ride through it.

After disembarking the Peter Pan ride, I proceeded back toward the most incredible part of Fantasyland…

It’s amazing…

It’s colossal…

It’s stupendous…

It’s…

… The backside of the castle! (OK, sorry, I guess I’ve been spending too much time reading lists of Jungle cruise jokes on the Internet lately.  After passing under the castle, I saw that people were beginning to claim spots for the afternoon parade, but it was still about a half hour off at this point, so I went back through the hub toward Tomorrowland again, where I saw that a talking robotic Garbage can was roaming the area near the entrance…

I don’t think there’s too many other places in the world where a trashcan can draw a crowd like this. I ended up watching it interact with the kids for a bit, then headed toward the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (of Doom) ride, where I found that the line was somewhat long, but the Fastpass return time was fairly short, so I grabbed a Fastpass and headed back toward the Hub to stake out a spot for the parade. Along the way I was beginning to get a bit hungry, so I grabbed a box of  only somewhat overpriced popcorn (definitely not cheap, but years of working concession stands at Safeco field have skewed my perception of theme park food prices somewhat.) and then I went looking for a decent parade spot, but found that by this time, such spots were in rather short supply (and I’m definitely NOT the type of person who has enough patience to stake out a parade spot an hour in advance like you’re apparently supposed to if you want to actually see anything.)

Eventually I settled on a not-entirely-obstructed spot in the hub looking toward Liberty Square’s entrance, (either that, or it’s where I happened to be when the parade arrived in the area.) Having not entirely having thought through my prior snack choice, I found myself trying to juggle a camera and a half-eaten box of popcorn trying to get some decent shots of the parade. I have quite a few shots, and if the person who happened to be in front of me was wondering what the back of their head looks like I’ve got some great shots of that. Shots of the actual parade… not so much. Here are a couple I did get though…

Is it just me, or does Pinocchio seem unusually leggy for a magically animated wooden puppet?

Someone should really tell Doc that he forgot to bring half of his instrument along with him for the parade.

And how is it that they can manage to go from Winnie the Pooh to Aladdin…

…to Mary Poppins in just one single float? Seems a bit of an odd juxtaposition, if you ask me.

After that, the obligatory wretched float full of scum and villainy arrived on the scene. Although I’m not quite up to speed on my old school Disney movies, I think I recognize most of the villains here (I suspect that nine times out of ten you can assume that the one with the green skin and sinister looking robe is probably evil.)  On the other hand, who’s the guy sitting in the boiling cauldron of evil down there? Do they have auditions for the part of “Guy sitting in the boiling cauldron of doom as assorted villainy gloats over him”? I’m guessing he’s the one driving the float, but couldn’t they at least give him some sort of bungling minion costume or something like that?

Meanwhile, as the parade passed by, the sun decided to break through the clouds for the first time all day. This should also give you idea of how far back I was watching the parade from.

Just as the last float in the parade began to pass by, my camera began flashing the dreaded low battery warning. I took this as a sign that this would probably be a good time to head back to the room to recharge (both me and the camera), but I still had a Buzz Lightyear Fastpass to use, so I headed back in that direction, and arrived with about five minutes left until the Fastpass window opened. I decided to sit down and wait for a few minutes, and then went on the ride (I have to say I much prefer the Disneyland version with the non-fixed aiming,) and after riding, I headed toward the exit, took the monorail back to the Transportation and Ticket Center, and made the long walk back to the hotel bus stop, where I waited about 15-20 minutes for the bus to arrive. The bus wasn’t all that crowded, but there was an electric scooter that needed to be loaded, so it took about an extra five minutes before we could get underway, and on the way back there was also a pickup at Animal Kingdom (which is as close as I would get to there on this trip) before we got back to the hotels. When I got back to the room, I put the camera battery on the charger, got out my notebook computer to check a few things, and then went down to the pool for a brief swim to cool off a bit (as it turned out, this would be the only time on this trip that I would make it to the pool.) After swimming for a bit (the huge pool had only a handful of other guests in it, so there was plenty of space to go around,) I headed back to the room and got dressed again, preparing to return to the Magic Kingdom for fireworks and the rest of the evening.


Going Out to Socialize with Grim Grinning Ghosts

In which I find out if things really do turn into pumpkins after Midnight…

After taking a break for a while at the hotel, it was time to head back over to the Magic Kingdom for the evening’s festivities, but after dealing with the hotel buses earlier in the day, I was ready to look for alternate routes to get to the park to see if they were any faster. Since I also hadn’t really gotten my bearings on Disney World as a whole just yet, I hadn’t quite figured out how to walk to Downtown Disney from the park yet either.

I ended up catching the hotel bus to Downtown Disney, which I soon found to be a waste of time. As I found out, the hotel bus to Downtown Disney stops at each of the 6 hotels they serve to pick up/drop off passengers (as opposed to the buses to the parks, which serve only three hotels apiece,) then drops people off between Pleasure Island and the Marketplace, but a fair distance from the entrance to either one. From the Hilton where I was staying, there’s really no point in taking this bus at all, unless you were going to T-Rex or one of the Pleasure Island places and wanted to walk a little bit less to get there. For pretty much everything else, walking across to Marketplace and taking the water taxi across to the westside (if applicable) would be quicker. Of course, I didn’t figure any of this out until later, but for now, I was at Downtown Disney, where I wandered around the place to take a look around, then spent a bit of time browsing at World of Disney (at some point, I’m going to do a roundup of odd souvenirs found at Disney World, probably after I finish the trip report itself up) and eventually wandered over to Ghirardelli for an ice cream cone (given my odd schedule and jet lag, this could technically be considered lunch, although it was already getting dark by this time.) After getting the ice cream, I found my way over to the Disney bus stop, trying to catch a bus to one of the hotels to get to the park from there (there are no direct buses from Downtown Disney to the parks, to deter people from parking there.)  The only problem with this was that I really didn’t quite know what I was doing yet, so I wasn’t sure which bus to take to get where. Eventually I settled on one that I knew would get me close (the Contemporary Resort, right next to Magic Kingdom) and waited about 10-15 minutes while I finished off my ice cream for the bus to arrive.

After getting off the bus at the Contemporary, I proceeded toward the monorail station inside the building, but ended up wandering around the place a bit along the way, into the Fantasia gift shop and the video arcade (I was just looking to see what they had there, and didn’t play anything) before heading up to grab a monorail into the park.

There was a chorus of Christmas carolers singing in the atrium when I was there. I’m not sure if they were Cast Members or just a group that happened to be there performing, but they were pretty good. I listened while waiting for the monorail to arrive.

I hadn’t really figured out the monorails yet, so it wasn’t until I got there that I learned that the monorails would be going in the “wrong” direction to get to Magic Kingdom (This one would actually get there eventually, but would make stops at the TTC, Polynesian and Grand Floridian before doing so.)

In order to get there quicker (or just out of sheer impatience,) I ended up hopping off at the TTC, heading up and around over to the Magic Kingdom monorail, then getting on that one to finally get back into the park. This was an Extra Magic Hours evening (Guests of Disney hotels and a couple of others including the Hilton where I was staying could stay for three hours after the non hotel guests left,) so I figured it would be a good time to catch a few rides after the fireworks.

Unfortunately, I arrived a bit too late to catch the Spectromagic parade (one of only two performances scheduled for my trip) and got there about a half hour before the evening fireworks.  As with the parade earlier, most of the prime viewing locations were already well occupied by this time.  In the meantime, I went looking for something to eat, and wandered over toward Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland.  I found the lines to be rather long when I got there, and I might have been hard pressed to get out in time for the fireworks if I had waited at that time. I figured out that one of the stations would remain open after the fireworks, so I settled in to find a spot to watch from in the hub. The spot I picked wasn’t the greatest place (among other things, there was a balloon in the way that you can see in most of the shots below) but I still managed to see it pretty well, and I also managed to get several good pictures of the fireworks. You can see that the balloon actually added an interesting reflection to a few of these.

After the completion of the fireworks show, I went back to Cosmic Ray’s to grab some dinner (a chili dog and fries) and wait for the departing crowds to clear out somewhat.

At most of the larger counter service restaurants in Disney World, they use a somewhat unusual setup for taking  and delivering orders, as you can see here.   It seems to work surprisingly well (in most cases, I will note an exception in the next installment of this trip report) and makes ordering a lot more efficient.  I’m actually kind of surprised I don’t see this type of thing more often, but I would guess there aren’t a lot of places that deal with the sheer volume of customers that a place like this would have in a day.  Nonetheless, the place was still fairly busy, but the lines weren’t too bad, and I was able to get food fairly quickly and find a spot with a view:

After eating, I headed back out to go ride Buzz Lightyear again, this time on a much shorter wait than before, but still long enough to get a good look at the queue area, and note some of the scenery:

If it’s supposed to be a secret mission, why is it plastered all over the galactic map?

And while we’re on the subject, Is this supposed to be a wanted poster, or propaganda for the Evil Emperor Zurg’s PR campaign? I can’t tell the difference. Anyway, I slightly improved on my earlier score this time around, but still didn’t do all that great.

If I had thought about it, this might have been a good time to go ride Space Mountain again, but instead I went back toward Adventureland, where I went on the Jungle Cruise another time (and had a really funny guide this time around,) then rode Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion again (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad still had a 30 minute wait and no more Fastpasses available, or I would have gone on it as well. Splash Mountain had 10 minutes, but I didn’t particularly care to get wet at this time.) I also made it onto It’s a Small World again with a short wait (although I’m not sure why exactly I needed to ride it again in the first place.)

Here’s one more nighttime castle shot, added for good measure.

And one of Main Street off in the distance.  As long as there’s a reasonable amount of light to work with, my camera actually does a pretty decent job of nighttime photos, although for each of these that turned out well there’s always at least one or two more blurry ones.  Fortunately the 4GB SD card I had in my camera was able to handle all the pictures I took on the trip, and had space for another 600 when I got home.  I had a second one available too, but it was never needed.

Finally, with about a half hour before the park was set to close for the evening, I decided that even though I could easily get in another ride or two I was getting worn out and that it might not be a bad idea to beat the rush out of the park, so I headed for the exit and caught the monorail back to the TTC for the bus back to the hotel.  Shortly after I made it back into the hotel, I began to get hungry again, but by the time I realized this it was already Midnight, and the options for food seem to diminish greatly at that point. Nothing on the very limited overnight room service menu looked all that great (and the stuff was hideously overpriced too,) all the stuff in Downtown Disney  Marketplace had closed by this time, and even though the hotel lounge was open, apparently they stop serving food after midnight too. It looked like my only option was the hotel’s 24-hour market, which was just about as hideously overpriced as everything else in the place. I even wandered over to Downtown Disney and found things to be closed, and was told the closest option would be the McDonald’s outside of the park boundaries (which I didn’t particularly feel like walking a mile and back after Midnight to get to.) After a fair bit of wandering, I finally settled on a cheese danish from the hotel market that was only ridiculously overpriced instead of hideously overpriced, and ate it shortly before taking a lukewarm shower (As noted in the previous post, hot water seemed to take forever to get to the room, which led me to wonder if they were importing it from France or something like that,) and settled in for a short Winter’s nap.

Coming up:  It’s the FUTURE…  Sort of.  (In which I go do what I was supposed to do on Day 1 and head for Epcot.)

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