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Friday, June 8, 2012

Thanksgiving trip to Walt Disney World - November 1997 - Day 3

Day 3 - Friday, November 28 - Epcot Early Entry, Wilderness Lodge Pool, Magic Kingdom

6:00 again, Mickey again.

Our plans for the Morning were to take advantage of Early Entry at Epcot. We got ourselves together, had muffins for breakfast and were on the road by 7:00.

T-shirt for the day: Since we were going to the Magic Kingdom later in the day, I thought my Disneyland T was in order.

We made it to the Epcot Entrance by about 7:30. I was somewhat surprised, given what I had seen at the MK and MGM Early Entries, at how empty it was. The reasons for this, I assume, were probably a combination of the size of the park and the fact that it seems to be the least popular of the 3 major parks (something that will, no doubt, change when Test Track finally opens). Since only a portion of Future World is open for EE we used this time to take in as many of the pavilions there that we could. We immediately went to Spaceship Earth and got on in a matter of a few minutes. We then went to The Sea. Natalie really enjoyed this, especially since it was almost empty and we had the run of the place. Nat was able to dash from one place to another looking at all the fish she wanted. This pavilion, essentially a (very) large aquarium, is extremely cool, especially for kids. It was difficult to get her to leave.

We then went to The Wonders of Life pavilion. There was a man near the entrance running a big toy radio-controlled Met Life blimp that was fun to watch, but our main goal was to see Cranium Commandos. This wonderful attraction was the biggest pleasant surprise for Andie and me on our previous trip and we were both were looking forward to seeing it again. We were also looking forward to seeing how Nat would enjoy it. We were not disappointed. Cute, funny and highly entertaining, Cranium Commandos is, in my opinion, one of the best attractions at Epcot, if not all of Walt Disney World. Nat loved it. Charlotte slept.

After Cranium Commandos we ran into Goofy who posed with Nat and signed her book. We then went to the Energy pavilion and caught Ellen's Energy Adventure. This attraction had changed substantially since our previous trip. Although the shows centerpiece, a trip "back in time" to witness when dinosaurs ruled the Earth is left pretty much unchanged, the remainder of the show is completely re-worked. The changes that have been made to the attraction, which now features Ellen Degeneres Bill Nye the Science Guy and Jamie Lee Curtis are, I think, an improvement. I don't recall much about the attraction's previous incarnation but I seem to recall that the film portion was something of an industrial infomercial. The new film is more memorable and entertaining enough, so I guess I'd say that the changes were improvements. The old pre-show, something of a slide show integrated with a screen made up of moving cubes did impress on our previous trip however, and I did miss that.

It was getting close to 11:00 and we had early priority seating reservations at the San Angel in the Mexico pavilion, so we decided to start back toward the World Showcase. We got to the entrance of WS before they dropped the rope. Once the rope was dropped we went straight to Mexico. I checked in at the restaurant, but they didn't start seating for another ½ hour. I took Nat and Charlie and sat on a bench near the entrance ramp to the pavilion. Andie went to the jewelry store and bought a very nice beaded silver bracelet and a pair of earrings. Charlotte slept. So did Nat.

We were scheduled for the first seating in San Angel at 11:30. I was very disappointed to discover that the Chicken Mole, the very reason I had made reservations at SA in the first place, was not available for lunch (I had read in Selinger's book that, although it is not on the lunch menu, it could be special ordered). Oh well. Instead we ordered appetizers and enjoyed and enjoyed the ambiance. The San Angel, with its appearance of being outside at night and boats from El Rio Del Tiempo floating nearby, reminded me of the Blue Bayou in Disneyland.

After lunch we headed back to the American Adventure. We got there just as a show was starting, and since we had no luck getting Nat to eat anything at SA, we took the opportunity to get her some chicken nuggets and an apple in the pavilions restaurant.

After Nat had her lunch we went into the main pavilion. It was pretty empty so we found a bench to sit on. After a few minutes the Voices of Liberty came out to perform their pre-show. Andie took Nat and the two of them sat on the floor while I stayed on the bench and feed Charlie. Unfortunately I was sitting behind the performers so I really couldn't watch them, but that didn't stop me from listening. Besides, this way I was able to watch the look on my daughters face as she listened to the singers. We then went in to watch the American Adventure and all I can say is that it was as technically impressive, awe-inspiring and (ahem) relaxing as I had remembered.

After the show we strolled around World Showcase for a while and Nat had her passport stamped at pavilions we had missed on Thursday. Andie and I got a kick out of people watching at Epcot. Where else can you see tourists from Iowa in polyester shorts and loud Mickey Mouse T-shirts say things like "Do you want to go to China now and meet at France later, or should we all just go to Morocco?". At the France pavilion Nat got her one toy for the day, a Belle doll. At every opportunity we would make Charlie try on a silly hat. It was now about 2:00, we were all tired and Nat had lost interest in getting any more stamps for her passport, so although we missed a few pavilions we decided to call it a day. I think the main surprise for me at Epcot was how much Nat enjoyed it. I figured that MGM was too small for her to get bored with and I was still looking forward to taking her to the Magic Kingdom, but I was a bit concerned that she wouldn't like Epcot. Now, after being home for a while, Epcot is the park she talks about the most.

At the hotel Nat and I decided to go for a swim. By now she had started complaining about her knee hurting more, and thinking it was a pulled muscle I figures a dip in the pool and Jacuzzi would help. It did seem to help and ran around quite a bit.

After the pool Nat and I joined Andie and Charlotte in the room. By now it was almost 5:00, and we had 5:30 PS ressies at the Liberty Tree Tavern which we were obviously not going to make. I called central reservations and changed us to a later 8:00 reservation at Tony's. We all got cleaned up and dressed and headed out for the Magic Kingdom.

We originally intended to drive to the Ticket & Transportation Center and then take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. I was hoping that we could get in the front of the train and Nat could watch as the MK approached. My experience with the TTC from the morning before, however, made me realize that the ferry from Wilderness Lodge would be so much easier as to make the hassle of dealing with the TTC simple not worth the trouble. I'm not saying that the TTC is a big hassle mind you, just that walking to the lake to catch a ferry is infinitely easier. Besides, it also meant we wouldn't have to deal with monorail crowds when we were ready to leave.

I was very pleased with that decision. The ferry ride to the MK was very pleasant, and the view approaching the MK from the water is probably almost as nice as the view from the monorail.

Once we got there the Magic Kingdom was, not surprisingly, quite crowded. We only had about an hour and a half to kill before we had to go to dinner, so we just strolled around. The wait for Bear Country turned out to be reasonable so we decided to go for it. They were also showing the Christmas version, which I had never seen. Unfortunately, jus as we were entering the theater it became (ahem) painfully obvious that Charlotte needed a change. I explained my predicament to the nearest CM and he escorted me out. After changing Charlotte's diaper, however, I wasn't able to convince another CM to let me back in (no surprise, but I had to try…). So I put Charlie in her stroller, found the exit of Bear Country, sat on a bench and people-watched.

We still had a little time to kill so we checked out the waits at Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, but both had waits of an hour or so. So we just walked around taking in the ambience and doing a little window-shopping before dinner.

As we walked down Main Street I was taken by how different the Magic Kingdom is from Disneyland. I think those differences present themselves in the two park's Main Streets better than anywhere else. I found myself searching for the right words to sum up this difference. Then it came to me. Charm vs. Elegance. Elegance may seem a strange word to describe a Disney Park, but I think it's the perfect word for the Magic Kingdom. Elegant and self-assured. Disneyland, on the other hand, is more charming, more whimsical and perhaps even more mischievous. Whereas the Magic Kingdom seems to say "Welcome. Come in and have a wonderful time", Disneyland seems more to be saying "Hey! Look at this! Isn't this cool!? No no, look at this!"

There are three main ways these differences manifest themselves to me. First and most obvious is, as I mentioned earlier, is the fact that the MK is more open and spread out than DL. To those who measure the success of a theme park in the number of attractions I suppose this is a bad thing, but as I'm sure you've figured out, that's not how I measure it's success. Secondly, everything in the MK seems to me to be better integrated as a whole. I'm not putting DL down here, I love DL. It's just that DL seems somehow more like a patchwork quilt than the MK. I have no doubt that this is because many more changes have occurred there. Finally, while in both parks "the beauty is in the details", the details of MK seem to me to be more subtle. I want to emphasize that I don't really prefer one over the other, I just enjoy trying to get at what it is about each park that makes them unique.

Well, we got to Tony's for our 8:00 seating when it occurred to me that the tables on the patio in front of the restaurant were the perfect place for watching Spectro Magic at 9:00. I wish I could take credit for planning it that way, but it was pure dumb luck. When we put our name in I requested a table outside and the CM on duty said she would see what she could do. Meanwhile we waited in the lobby. I sat and, as usual, people-watched. Andie and Nat sat on the floor in front of a TV and watched "Lady & the Tramp". Charlotte slept.

Our table was ready at about 8:30. As we were lead through the main dining room to our table outside I felt a tinge of regret that we had requested outdoor seating. The dining room at Tony's is gorgeous. It is themed after "Lady & the Tramp" but the execution of this theme is very subtle. Once we got outside and I realized what a great view we would have of the parade, however, all regrets were forgotten. When the waiter came to our table to take our drink orders I ordered a glass of wine almost out of habit (it is an Italian restaurant, after all). The waiter, of course, informed me that they don't serve wine. "Of course" I realized, "no alcohol in the Magic Kingdom". Andie and I ordered diet Cokes, something of a sacrilege with pasta if you ask me. For dinner Andie had penne pasta with sausage and I had turkey primavera. The food was, by a long shot, the best we had on this trip. It was actually quite good. Nat ordered the kid's spaghetti. Charlotte slept.

The Spectro Magic parade started at 9:00. The start of the parade route was actually right in front of us across the plaza. Conveniently, our table was directly in front of a set of stairs that led to the patio, and a CM was posted there to keep people from standing on the steps (fire regulations, I assumed). This meant that we had a pretty clear view of the parade. Spectro Magic was a lot of fun, somewhat reminiscent of the Main Street Electrical Parade at DL although more high tech. I found myself thinking how we had nearly as good a view as people who had parked themselves on the curb for well over an hour, and all we had to do was purchase a (somewhat overpriced) meal. It's pretty typical of the WDW experience; it's always easier if you're willing to pay.

We had had a long day and we were all pretty bushed. Also we weren't looking forward to the mass exodus that would occur after the fireworks. Since we were at the beginning of the parade route we had an opening after the parade and finishing our meal, so we decided to take the opportunity to make an early escape. Quite a few people had the same idea, but I have no doubt that the crowds leaving a half-hour later would have been infinitely larger. As luck would have it the fireworks started as we waited on the dock for the ferry so we got to see at least a little of the display.

Needless to say, none of us had trouble sleeping that night.

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