Thursday, March 10, 2005

We now return to your regularly scheduled Florida trip report, already in progress...


We once again got up at 7 to head over to the Magic Kingdom. We parked our car and took the tram to the Transportation & Ticket Center. From there, we decided to take the ferry boat across the lake to the Magic Kingdom. It was once again an overcast day, although it was fairly warm.

Once again, an early arrival served us well. We walked onto a number of rides, and had short waits for most of the others. We hit pretty much every ride we wanted to do. As with MGM, here are the rides we did and short comments on each.

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin: This is a fun little ride, where you get in a car that spins around and you can shoot at various targets with big Z's on them for the evil emperor Zurg, Buzz Lightyear's arch enemy. This was the first ride we did and we walked right on. You actually get a score as you hit targets - ones that are further away give you more points. I like the fact that this one is interactive; most Disney rides just let you watch rather than participate.

Stitch's Great Escape: This ride has gotten roundly panned in the online forums, but I thought it was pretty good. Of course, this may have been a case of my expectations being so low that I wasn't expecting much. The basic story is that Stitch, the small blue alien from the movie Lilo & Stitch, is transported into a holding facility. The people in the audience are trainee guards, and are "guarding" Stitch when he escapes. The audio-animatronic Stitch is very cool, and a couple of "laser cannons" similar to those seen in the movie follow his every move. There are a couple of fun moments when Stitch escapes. J. thought it was pretty cool and didn't seem bothered that we were plunged into complete darkness a couple of times.

Space Mountain: This was the first of our visits to the Magic Kingdom's "mountain range", along with Big Thunder and Splash Mountains. Space Mountain is a pretty basic roller coaster in the dark. It's a classic (I remember riding it twice during my first trip to Disney in 1980), and not so fast that you feel sick when you get off.

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway: I never quite understood why this was in Tomorrowland, but it certainly is a big hit with the kiddie set. You ride in a small Indy style race car around a track. The big attraction is that the kids can "drive" (the car is guided by a track so that you're not all over the place). J. was really into this, although he wasn't quite tall enough to both drive and reach the gas pedal, so I was controlling the gas. This prevented us from smashing into the person in front of us when we got to the end of the track, much to J.'s disappointment.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority: We visited this later in the day. I'm not sure why, but I've always loved this ride, maybe because it's so relaxing and there is almost never a wait. You get into a small car which is powered by magnetic induction for a leisurely tour around Tomorrowland. Quiet and cool, it's a good 10 minute break from the theme park madness.

The Haunted Mansion: This was one that J. really wanted to do, so we did it after leaving Tomorrowland. Good thing, because instead of the 2 minute wait we had in the morning, there was a 40 minute wait when we walked by later in the day. Another Disney classic, you first enter the "stretching room" where a cast member explains the history of the mansion, then get into your Doom Buggy for a ride through the house. My favorite part is still the dining room with the dancing ghosts. I remember being amazed by it the first time and I'm still amazed seeing it a quarter of a century later.

Fontierland Shootin' Arcade: We saw this walking by and J. wanted to do it. For 50 cents you get to shoot a rifle at various targets in a scale model western town. If you hit the target, something lights up or moves or an animatronic animal pops up or something. J. thought it was pretty cool and ended up playing 4 times.

Checkers!: We noticed a couple of tables set up with checkers in front of the Shootin' Arcade and decided to play. I'm sure that out of the millions of people that visit the Magic Kingdom every year, we're one of the few who actually stopped to play checkers.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: A roller coaster that is themed as a runaway train and takes you around a western desert town scene. Cool theming on this one.

Splash Mountain: This was J.'s favorite ride on the trip. It's basically a flume ride, with a 5 story drop a the end. It starts out with a boat ride and views of animatronic characters from Disney's Song of the South, including a few small drops along the way. The final drop puts you into the "br'er patch", which concerned J. slightly.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin: Basically a revised version of Dumbo, except you ride a magic carpet that you can make go up and down. J. liked it, but if the line had been longer than 15 minutes I never would have waited for it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me! This is one of the great audio-animatronic rides, as you go through pirate ships and an old-time town. Another one of my all-time favorites.

Jungle Cruise: People either seem to love or hate the Jungle Cruise. Put me in the "love" column, but it all depends upon your captain. The young lady we had combined the right levels of fun and cynicism. Some of the lame jokes date back to my first visit, including my favorite where they show you "the back of water."

Mickey's Philharmagic: Despite the name, the real star of this 3D movie is my favorite Disney character, Donald Duck. The short version of the story (without giving too much away) is that Donald misuses Mickey's magical Sorcerers Apprentice hat and ends up bouncing through different scenes from classic Disney movies. The 3D effects and the physical effects are great and the story and music are wonderful.

We had a nice lunch at Pecos Bill's, where they serve a very good hamburger and a great fixin's bar. We started to leave a little after 3:00 and got caught up in the Share a Dream Come True parade. I'm glad we did because it was fun to watch. We finally got out of the park and took the boat and the tram back to our car around 4:00 to head back to Mom & Dad's.

I had a quick turnaround after that because I was meeting some old friends at Downtown Disney for dinner. I was having dinner with the Ryans and Towaway at the House of Blues. I've known both Dave and Towaway for over 20 years. I was best man at both of their weddings and it was great to see them again. They both moved down to Florida and we arranged to hook up while I was down there.

There's nothing better than getting together with old friends, especially friends that you share so much history with. It felt like no time had passed since the last time we had been together. We talked about old times, kids, friends and what we were up to in our lives. Dinner at the House of Blues was good, and we recreated a 20 year old picture (you can see both the old and new versions at Towaway's blog).

After dinner they all joined me for a walk to the World of Disney store, where I picked up some presents for R. (so that I would be allowed to come home again). At that point we split up and I returned to the parent's house to get some much needed sleep.


We had a nice, low key day on Sunday. It was pouring rain and we all drove up to my brother's house. It was great to see everyone again. We chatted while the kids played and then we all went out to lunch at a nearby place called Gators. After lunch we headed back to my parent's house and just sort of hung out for the rest of the day. We were really too tired to do much more.


We said goodbye to my parents and headed home. Another uneventful flight back on Song and we actually got in 1/2 hour early, well ahead of the approaching snowstorm.


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