Sunday, February 17, 2019

Disney: Magic Kingdom

Our fourth and last day in the Disney Parks brought us to the granddaddy of all of the Orlando parks:  Magic Kingdom.

Not surprising Magic Kingdom feels the most like classic Disney of all the parks, so to celebrate I don'd my Mickey Mouse ears and went about the business of choking back my dislike for the classic Disney tropes and getting into the spirit of things.

This, of course, involved tying Mickey Mouse ears to my Tilley hat... but you likely already figured that out..

We started by getting a family photo taken in front of the Disney Castle.

All throughout the parks are various photographers that are set up to take photos of folks - ya know, for memories and stuff.  We signed up for a package that lets us have all of those images for free.  I am not sure if we had enough taken to pay for that package, but in the moment it was nice to not have to get the hard sell for tourist photos. 

Plus, sometimes, the pictures would have something extra added to them, like Tinkerbell.
 We did a bunch of rides.   I must say Disney is pretty good about making rides that fit larger people, and people with bags, cameras and other stuff.  Something other theme parks I've been to do way more poorly. 

I was surprised to find the kids loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Zeke found Splash Mountain "the best ride EVER!" (neither seem to be thrill seekers.)
 Neither kid liked the classic Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and I don't blame them.  It is rather dull.  Plus they've never seen the movie.  I have, but the ride seemed pointless.
 We hung out for the day, with the plans to get a good place in the crowd to see the fireworks show that evening.

We hung out on Tom Sawyers island, caught some extra rides, ate food, and generally did park things like park folk tend to do.

Somewhere along the way a dance party drove by.
 So I danced with the Mickster.  It was... ok.  Mickey really needs to learn the phrase "Classic rock"
 After several hours of holding down the fort at a good viewing angle for the fireworks, it was time to watch the show. 

The show lasts a good 15 minutes, and has more fireworks than shows that have fewer fireworks than this one. Fact.

It started like this:
 Along the way it looked like this.
 and ended like this.
It was a heck of a show, and well worth the wait.  A perfect way to end our Disney vacation.

The next day we flew home. If you want to know what that was like, re-read the first post in this series backwards.

Disney was actually decent.  I could actually be persuaded to return, tho if I do I am going to ensure our magic Disney Fairy, Missy, is on call.  That is the true Disney Magic.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Disney: Epcot

Day three of our adventures in Disney parks brought us to Epcot, and the world showcase contained therein.

I am not sure of all the relative sizes of each of the parks, but Epcot definitely feels like its the largest park, and by a fairly large margin.

However it also seems to be the least populated park, mostly due to the massive lake and water features in the middle - not to mention the giant ball.

The purpose of the park seems to be mostly cultural exchange, as it features a showcase of 11 nations (tho one of those nations is the USA, which seems utterly redundant).  However from what I can tell its basically just enough things to keep the kids from getting bored, plus a lot of beer.

I am not saying that is a deal breaker.

The park is beautiful tho, and serviced by the classic Disney monorail.
 We arrived just as the park opened at 8, but our first planned event was not until 9:15, so we did some rides, and hung out.
 We went to Norway's area, and hung around a waterfall.
 And Abigail made friends with a giant troll - as six-year-olds tend to do.
 Our first planned event was a breakfast in Norway that had a lot of princesses (I forget what its called, but its in Norway, and has princesses, so ya know, one of those "designed for six year old girls" thingers).  Abigail got to meet a bunch of them.  I got to eat bacon and eggs.  Everyone won.
 We did a bunch of rides and shows, and various things.  They were entertaining, but not much to write about (Nemo stuff was, ya know, fishy). 

However due to the magic of Missy, our Disney travel agent, we got some last minute FastPasses to the Test Track ride - creating a concept car, then going on a test drive. 
 Zeke and I loved it.  Abigail was mixed.  Wifey was meh. 

After that ride we started walking around the showcase of nations, but most of us quickly ran out of energy, so it was more of a death march than a fun thing.  Debbie wanted to explore more, but we didn't.  This made Epcot the first park we felt we couldn't fully experience in a single day.

We had reservations at Chef Mickeys, a buffet at one of the resorts, for supper, so we headed over that way around food time.  We ended up with an awesome table that overlooked the Magic Kingdom.  So this ended up being our first real view of the Disney Castle.
 Chef Mickey's is another one of those "encounters with characters" joints that litter the Disney landscape.    We got to re-meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto (none of them remembered me from my previous encounter in Hollywood Studios, which makes me believe these are not the real characters.  I did get a high-five from Pluto when I mentioned that he was still my favourite planet, so I have that going for me, which is nice.)
 After supper we hiked the 15 minutes over to Magic Kingdom and stormed the gates.  We went specifically to catch the fireworks, and we arrived just in time.   The crowds were massive, but we still managed to get a decent view of the show, despite being in the very back.
The upside was that once the show was over we were one of the first to exit the park and get on the bus back to our resort.

One more day left in our Disney World adventure.  What will we do?  What shall we see?  What rhetorical questions will be posed in order to generate interest in the next post?  Stay tuned to find out!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Disney: Hollywood Studios

 Our second day in the Disney parks brought us to Hollywood Studios.

Now you might ask why we picked this park to attend this day, and the answer is: we didn't.  We had  our super awesome travel agent Missy recommend a schedule, and this was part of it. Missy is awesome, and if you go to Disney, you should use her services - they were invaluable for us enjoying the Disney Experience.

So, this was a day that ended up way more enjoyable than I expected it to be.  I expected it to be a lot of movies I don't really care about. Turns out it was mostly Indiana Jones and Star Wars (with some plasticated Tom Hanks thrown in for kicks).  So it was right up my alley, and the alley of a certain son of mine.

We arrived just as the park opened, and were one of the first people in the park, so for the first half hour it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Our first stop was to sign up the kids at a unique experience later on in the day (stay tuned for details), then we wandered over to Toy Story Land for our first FastPass ride: Toy Story Mania.  The ride was very well done, and involved traveling thru a shooting gallery, and shooting toy rubber darts at targets, and trying to get the highest score.

I won ('natch).

Then we headed over to our next FastPass stop, but first we paused for an Incredibles style photo.

The next FastPass was for a Star Wars ride - a 4D thinger with comedy, action, movement, and other fun stuff. Zeke loved it and begged to do it again, but we had FastPasses waiting at our next stop, so we were forced to say "nay".

Our last FastPass was for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show.  Again, not what I expected, but it turns out it was a whole lot better than my expectations.  It was basically an entertaining demonstration of how stunts in movies are performed and filmed.  Very good stuff.

Though it did start with some classic Indy re-enactments.
 Ever since then the phrase "throw me the idol and I'll throw you the whip" has been going thru my head.

Next stop: lunch.  It was at Minnies Silver Screen Dinner, which is a buffet, with characters.  We got pictures taken with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Daisy Duck (tho personally I thought Daisy was just a person in a duck suit - cheesy! Totally real mouse tho)
After lunch we headed over to the Star Wars Launch Bay, and met the best wookiee in a galaxy far, far away. The fuzzy and totally real and authentic Chewbacca.

This day I learned that Chewie gives the best hugs. No wonder Han let him hang out for so long.
 We all gathered around for a photo, cause Chewie is great with his fans.
Now, remember that unique experience we signed the kids up for?  That was for Jedi Training at the Jedi Temple.  So we wandered over, got them signed in, and sent them to the temple (don't tell them we secretly sent them to school during vacation - our secret, OK? Shhhh...)

The kids were given some lessons on how to do lightsaber stuff, and use Jedi force pushes, and all kinds of mean, nasty ugly things that Jedi are asked to do.

Then Kylo Ren showed up.  Yes, *that* Kylo Ren.
 But wait - there's more!

James Earl Jones Darth Vader also showed up!  There was much posturing, threatening, and other mean nasty ugly things. Then shit got real, yo, and it was time for Vader to die.

So Abigail stepped up, and fought the Dark Lord... however she's cute, and sweet, and between you and me, not that tall.  So while she bravely faced her foe, she did not defeat him.

So Zeke, the Zedi himself, stepped forward.  Zeke is taller, and stronger, but lets face it, not overly rich in midichlorians, but he stood his ground, and eventually, as is written in the script, ran Vader off.
At that point the kids were declared trained, and we went on our merry way.

Now this is where the awesomeness of Missy comes into play.  As we left I send her a message to ask about getting another FastPass for that awesome Star Wars ride, and 10 minutes later we walked passed the 30+ minute wait line and rode that very same ride for the second time.

Then we went back to the hotel for a rest.  That evening we returned to the park to attend a show called Fantasma.  It was the most amazing show - excellent lighting, acting, and fireworks.  However I took no photos, so you're gonna have to trust me.

Then we went back to the hotel for the second and final time that day, fell into bed, and drifted off to sleep, with the magic of Disney (and one too many root beers) dancing in my head.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Disney: Animal Kingdom

On our first proper day of going to Disney Parks last week we went to Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom was, by far, my least favourite of the parks we visited (the others being Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom).

It feels like a half baked thought.  I imagine some vice president musing "we should have a park with animals", and signing off on whatever the interns came up with.

Its not a Zoo, as there are few animals on display.  Its not really a theme park, as, aside from zoology, there isn't a theme, and its not really a safari park, as there is only one small "ride" to drive thru to see animals, that lasts about 10 minutes.

However we managed to have a lot of fun there.  The largest feature of the park is the massive Tree Of Life in the center.  It is a fake tree, but truly massive. For a sense of scale those birds in the following photo are 4-5ft tall.

There are a few animals in the park, some free range, like this bird, who just sat in the shrubbery a few feet from where we sat to have a snack.
 Timon, Pumba, and the kitten king were there too.  So we got our photo taken.
 One of the areas of the park were themed after the movie Avatar, and this was a cool place. All of the landscape was modeled after the film.  In the middle of the area were drums and other instruments built into the landscape that one could make music with.
 It was at the Avatar section that the youngest got her face painted.
 After going on a few rides, we went on Safari.  It was one of the few times we saw actual live animals. 

The ride was actually done in a real truck, which was odd for a theme park, but it was nice.  We sat in the very back, and managed to squeeze off some photos between bounces and jostles.  It is the one ride I had that day that I wish was a lot longer, as its almost impossible to appreciate animals of this size without stopping for a while.

In the Asian section we stopped for some more photos.  It was a snake.  Oooh.
 In the mid-afternoon the girls went back to the hotel to rest.  Zeke and I went on one more ride to chase down a dinosaur.  This image was captured along the way.  Zeke looks unimpressed because his motion sickness kicked in, however aside from that he liked the roller-coaster style ride.
 That evening we headed over to Epcot to check out some of the night lights and other things.
Thats pretty much it for day two.  Not a lot to tell really. Some fun was had, but not a lot of stories to tell.  The rest of the week gets a little more exciting, so stay tuned, if you dare.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Traveling to Disney

This past week was a Disney week.

I was never a big fan of Disney growing up - it never really tickled my fancy.  However now that I have kids I figured they'd enjoy it.

Disney is now the owner of both Star Wars and Marvel, so their offerings extend well beyond the mind numbing Mickey and Friends, and their unhealthy princess fetish.

So we contacted a friend of my wife's, Missy, who is a travel agent for Disney, and started making plans.

Last Sunday we headed out to the airport on our way to Orlando, and the Disney World resorts contained therein.

It was the first time either of my kids flew on an airplane, or really even seen any part of an airport aside from baggage claim, so it was a new experience for them.

Zeke found the moving walkways fascinating.
It is only a 10 hour drive to Orlando, which for us is a simple days drive (we drive 12.5 hours to Canada a couple times a year), but we decided to fly to give the kids a chance to experience flight early in life (I was in my 30s before I flew anywhere on a commercial airline).  It was also a chance to introduce them to the constraints of air travel, baggage allowances, TSA checks etc. before we subject them to more travel in the future.

Both kids handled it wonderfully.

Disney handled all our checked bags, so once we checked in to our flight in Charlotte, we didn't see our bags again until they were delivered to our resort room in the hotel. 

We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside resort, which is a Disney property located on their land, but not directly connected to the parks.

This was the building we stayed in.
We arrived mid-afternoon, and our parks passes didn't take effect until the next day, so we took a water taxi to Disney Springs, a publicly accessible shopping area run by Disney.
 Disney Springs is busy, full of shops, restaurants, bars, and other things like fountains and balloon rides.
 It also contains a LEGO store.  I was immediately attacked by one of my muses... Hulk.
 We had supper at Planet Hollywood, in the middle of Disney Springs.  It contained several movie props, including this fellow:
The weather was nice, but a rain storm came in while we ate.  Luckily it quickly blew over, and was the only sign of bad weather we had all trip.
After that we took the water-taxi back to the resort to settle in for the night.

Tomorrow we hit our first park - should be exciting!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Iron Man Joins Studio Dave

Hot off the presses.  I have returned from New York City to find that Iron Man has joined Studio Dave as a model.

Specifically a Hot Toys 12" Diecast model is now in my possession, and should get a lot of camera love in the not to distant future, I am sure.