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Friday, June 8, 2012

Walt Disney World "Daddy/Daughter Jaunt" - October 1998 - Day 3

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Sunday, October 4 - Take off running

Nat and I actually woke just before our 7:00 wake-up call, so I let her answer the phone when Mickey called. "Did you hear him?" I asked. "Yeah but I couldn't understand. He talked too fast."
After express checkout we were running a bit late as we wanted to get to AK as close to the 8:00 opening time as possible. To that end I suggested we stop at McDonald's for breakfast. A lot of folks complain about McDonald's on Disney property, and I can understand why, but the restaurant they built near the All Star Resorts is actually pretty cool, with giant fries and burger. Nat had a muffin and milk while I had an Egg McMuffin, hash browns and orange juice.
We arrived at AK just a bit after opening. I had heard that the Kilimanjaro Safari (KS) was best either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon, so I figured we could do it this morning. I was a little concerned because I also heard that everyone who goes to AK hits KS first thing and that there can be long waits first thing in the morning. This turned out not to be an issue for us, and we basically walked on. I did overhear a CM at KS mention that a half hour later they would be "swamped".

Kilimanjaro Safari is a drive through a wildlife preserve - Disney style. Since this is Disney there is a story (something about poachers and a baby elephant), but the main attraction is the animals. (In fact, the poacher story thing is pretty lame.) Since you're dealing with real animals, what you will see can vary widely from one ride to another. We were pretty lucky and saw a decent collection of animals. The morning was cooler than it had been (though still quite warm) and foggy, and most of the animals were out and about for this reason. One cool thing was that most animals we saw were walking around rather than just sitting somewhere. Giraffes strolled very close to our vehicle, as did some other hoofed animals I didn't recognize. We saw egrets and storks, rhinos wallowing in the mud, alligators and, best of all, two hippos that were actually out of the water and walking around. I don't recall ever having seen hippos out of the water before.
After KS we went back to Camp Minnie Mickey because we wanted to catch the first show of Festival of the Lion King. The show didn't start until 10:00 so we had plenty of time, but I wanted to scope it out in case there was a long wait. The queue area was empty when we got there but a CM on duty informed me that they would start directing people to the theater in about 15 minutes and it would start to get crowded. He also pointed out the Pocahontas Colors of theWind show had just started, so we went to watch that.

The Pocahontas show used one live singer/dancer/actress (playing Pocahontas), two puppets (Grandmother Willow and a small tree named Twig) and several cute little furry animals (a rabbit, skunk, opossum and others) to tell a story with a preservation theme. If we had seen the show anywhere other than a Disney park I would have thought it fairly well done, but I expect more out of these shows from Disney. The actress playing Pocahontas was trying hard and did a commendable job and the kids in the audience "ooo'd" and "ahhhh'd" appropriately at the furry friends, but the show on a whole was mediocre at best.

After Pocahontas we went to see Festival of the Lion King. While we were waiting in the queue I asked Nat if she wanted to stay at AK all day or if she wanted to go back to MK and do Splash Mountain again. "Let's stay here." OK. I had planned on getting together with folks that correspond via the Internet again - we were planning to meet at the Hub in front of Cinderella's Castle at noon - but we were enjoying AK so much I thought it might be more fun to stay there. I would have been happy either way, which is why I left it up to Nat. AK it would be.

The Festival of the Lion King (FotLK) plays in a large covered "Theater in the Round" style auditorium. The show is not the best I've seen at WDW (I think that honor would have to go to the Hunchback of Notre Dame at Disney MGM, which we saw on our last trip), but it was close. And it certainly is the most spectacular. The show uses floats, large puppets and an amazingly talented troupe of dancers, singers and acrobats. There were even two dancers on stilts. This is a truly spectacular show and one I'd rate "not to be missed". FotLK and KS are the only attractions at AK that I felt really lived up to there potential (in reality, even KS could be improved by getting rid of the lame story line), but as I indicated earlier the real appeal of AK is the park itself.

When we walked out of the theater we saw Chip & Dale taking pictures and giving autographs, so we joined them. Dale took Nat's new cowboy hat off her head and they started playing around with it. When we saw them there were only a few people there, but after we were done there was a long line. We looked at the roster of characters available in the various greeting areas, but Nat wasn't interested.

It seemed like a good time to do some shopping. The shopping in AK is great. Creature Comforts, which specializes in stuffed animals, and Chester & Hester Dinosaur Treasures which is just plain fun, were among our favorites. I wanted to make some "required" purchases so we headed to Disney Outfitters. On the way we saw some incredible street performers: men on stilts with costumes/puppets that looked were made to look like they were riding huge birds. Very cool. I also wanted to pick up something for Andie but her "no character" requirement was hampering my style. I was successful with "required" purchases - A mug (cool AK design with ToL and animals on Savannah), a Christmas Ornament (same design as the mug, but dated of course) and (needless to say to anyone who knows me) a T-shirt (dark blue, "Disney's Animal Kingdom written over the right breast and the AK logo on the back) - but I was not successful finding anything for Andie. I also finally gave in to Nat and picked up that AK Barbie she had been eyeing the whole trip ("There's nothing else here I want, Daddy!").

As we were paying for our purchases Nat said "I changed my mind. I want to go to Splash Mountain." OK. If we're going back to MK may as well try to make the meet of Internet folks. I looked at my watch. 11:20. The meet was scheduled for 12:00 at the Hub. I asked the CM at the counter "Do you think I can get from here to Cinderella's Castle by noon?" "Sure." "Are you sure? I mean even dealing with TTC and all?" "Yeah, I think so. It's only a few minutes’ drive." OK, we're off.

Part 2:

360 Panorama

[The panorama no longer works and has been removed]
We left the park and went to our car (close by in the Peacock section since we got there early, luckily). As we are driving out of the parking lot I look at the clock. 11:37. No way we'll get there by noon. Hopefully they'll hang out at the hub for a while. We get to the MK parking lot. We park in Goofy. Thank goodness there is a tram waiting. It takes us to the TTC. 11:52. The monorail comes and we board. We get to the gate and make our way to the hub. 12:15. I recognize Ronnie and a few other folks. Whew! We made it.

Soon after we got there everyone decided to go to the Tiki Room. Nat wanted to do Splash Mountain again but we acquiesced to the masses. On our previous visit to the Tiki Room we completely missed the pre-show with birds named William and Morris (voiced by Don Rickles and the late Phil Hartman), and this time we just caught the tail end. (pun not intended but gratefully acknowledged). After the show some folks lingered behind because Iago has some funny lines after everyone has supposedly left the theater. I don't want to give them away, but if you see the show and have an opportunity, it's worth the few extra minutes.

After the Tiki Room we all went our separate ways. Before going to the Tiki Room I overheard Ronnie mention her desire to get a Dole Whip. I had never had a Dole Whip but had heard they're very good, and it sounded particularly appealing on a hot day. Nat was also hungry and wanted a bagel, so I got her a bagel at the Main Street bakery, went back to the Dole Whip stand near the entrance to Adventureland and we enjoyed our snacks under a ceiling fan in a covered eating area next to the stand. The Dole Whip was great and really cooled me off.

After our snack we headed to Splash Mountain again. We ran into Ronnie on the way who told us that she and Jill were on their way to (hopefully) pilot the paddlewheeler. I told her that her mentioning the Dole Whip prompted me to get one and urged her to indulge herself. We said good-bye again and went back to Chickapin Hill. There is a sign on Main Street that states the wait time of the most popular attractions, and it said the wait for Splash Mountain was 45 minutes. When we arrived the sign at the queue entrance said 55 minutes and I overheard a CM tell a guest that the wait would be about an hour. Nat really wanted to do Splash again so we went for it. Luckily the wait ended up being about 35 minutes. Once again, at the bottom of the big drop Nat squealed "Let's do that again!"

I told her we really couldn't wait in line again, and I really wanted to find a gift for Andie. I bought Andie a Hawaiian shirt as a gift while on a trip to California that she loved, and I thought I'd look for another. I figured that Adventureland held the most promise so that's where we went. I actually found one at the Adventureland Traders that I thought she might like, but they only had it in large. I asked the CM on duty if they had any others and he said "No". He suggested I try the Polynesian. No time for that. Oh well.

Nat spotted Pirates of the Caribbean and requested another cruise. This surprised me a bit because she was scared by it a little on Saturday. She said "It's only the beginning that's scary." OK. At the ride's conclusion I heard someone behind me call out "John!" I turned around and saw Randy, another of our new friends. We chatted with Randy for a few minutes in the gift store outside of PotC (he asked me if we requested the "special 16 seat Splash Mountain log ;-)" ). To see the log, courtesy of Randy Berbaum, Click Here (Note that there is no return link).
After saying good-bye to Randy I suggested Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMRR). All I had to say to Nat was the word "rollercoaster" and she immediately agreed. We had made a few attempts to ride BTMRR earlier but the line was always too long. Unfortunately, it was a little after 3:00 and there was an afternoon parade between us and BTMRR. It appeared to be the tail end of the parade so we waited it out. As it turned out the line was quite short - I assume on account of the parade. Of course Nat loved BTMRR, squealing at the conclusion of the ride - you guessed it - "Let's do that again!"

It was getting woefully close to our scheduled departure time. Originally our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30 but they moved us to a 6:30 flight. I considered that to be good news. Sure, it meant 2 hours less at WDW, but it also meant we would get home at a reasonable hour. We had enough time for one more good attraction so I suggested the Country Bear Jamboree (CBJ). I've seen CBJ at Disneyland countless times, but I've never seen it at WDW. Last year we went to see it but I had to leave just before the show started to change Charlotte's diaper and couldn't get back in. The show then was the holiday show, and I assumed the show now would be the "new" show that had been playing at Disneyland for several years. I was pleasantly surprised when it was the old original show. That's one I could recite verbatim. It brought back many fond memories for me.
After CBJ it was getting close to time to leave. We still had some time left but I didn't want to rush out of the park. We just strolled through Fontierland and down Main Street. When we got to the end of Main Street we turned around to say "good-bye" to the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World. "Can't we stay just a little longer?" "No, sweetie, we can't. Don't you want to go home and see Mommy and Charlotte?" "Yeah."

We left the park and did something I've never done - we rode the ferry to the TTC. It's a beautiful ride and a great way to end a final day at the park. At three days the trip may have been short, but we really were able to pack in a lot of fun. My main goal, that of having some fun time with just me and Nat, was accomplished and then some. We're thinking about doing another trip with my folks in Thanksgiving 1999, and you know what that means. Time to start planning!

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