When we last left our adventures, I had just completed my first full day at the Disneyland Resort with a day at DCA and finished with a late night dinner at Jolly Holiday Bakery in Disneyland. From here we resume our trip report. On day two I began with a breakfast, leftover dessert from the night before, with a Matterhorn macaroon from the bakery. This was amazing! Thank you again to Lee and Becca for the recommendations on this one. It was the perfect way to start my day with a small bite to eat since I had an early lunch ADR at Blue Bayou at 11am.
I made my way to Disneyland with the goal of trying to ride the Matterhorn (fitting, no?) before lunch, but unfortunately it was down when I got there. I made a game time decision to ride Alice in Wonderland since it was a posted 10 minute wait. I figured this would give me enough time to ride and make it to my reservation in less than an hour without any trouble. I loved this ride! I am know a huge fan of the movie, but I think it is a great classic dark ride and it also has a connection to Walt. This was a great way to start my morning before heading to lunch in New Orleans Square.
Lunch at Blue Bayou was the only reservation that I made for dining and I did so only about a week and a half or so prior to arrival using the email system used by Disneyland. I sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, which you can read more about how it works here. In the email I told them that I wanted to eat at Blue Bayou for lunch any time between 8/2 and 8/8 and they responded promptly within an hour with choices. I responded with my selections and concerns with a food allergy and they again got back to me within 15 minutes with a time, confirmation number, and information about my allergy. All in all, it was a pretty simple way to make ADRs. I liked the quick response time as well as the interaction and ability to ask questions. I would highly recommend this system for any future bookings.
Since I was dining at opening at 11am, and I was by myself, I thought my chances were good for a waterside table, but requested it when I checked in at the podium, letting the CM know I was willing to wait for one. For those who are not familiar with the Blue Bayou, it is located in New Orleans Square in Disneyland and the restaurant is situated in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, much like San Angel Inn in Mexico at Epcot. The food and service were great and I ordered the gumbo and the monte cristo. Having lived in Louisiana, it was nice to be able to get some nice cajun food, although I should have asked for hot sauce to add a bit more kick to the gumbo. I was barely able to eat half of my meal, so I got the rest to go to save some for dinner later.
After eating, one of my favorite things to do is to take a nice leisurely boat ride while I digest. I opted for either the Columbia or the Mark Twain, which ever one came first, which ended up being the latter. It is a nice ride with narration around the Rivers of America, very similar to the Liberty Belle in the Magic Kingdom at WDW. Once my stomach was settled from lunch, I headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which I thought was a bit faster and more wild than the Florida version. At the recommendation of Sally, I went to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at the Big Thunder Ranch. I totally loved this area of the park that is used for character meet and greets and pin trading. There is also a small petting zoo with goats on the way to the seating area. You can even color with the Country Bears.
I was supposed to meet up with Colin and Rich again, but my phone was dying and I forgot my external battery charger, so I went to Pinocchio Village Haus to sit and charge my phone for an hour before the guys arrived. When they got there we tackled Fantasyland, starting with Casey Jr., then on to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, King Arthur Carrousel, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough and Snow White Grotto. I really liked the dark rides and thought that star effect in Peter Pan was fantastic! It was nice being able to ride Mr. Toad after almost 14 years. The walkthrough was also cool to have a story attached to the character, which gave it a bit more meaning than a restaurant that typically needs to be booked months in advance.
The guys decided they needed to kidnap me and take me on the monorail to Downtown Disney for the short walk from there to the Disneyland Hotel. There we were to go to Trader Sam’s, a tiki bar I have heard many great stories about from near and far. I was more than happy to submit and go along. They have some great nods to the Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room and the sadly defunct Adventurer’s Club from WDW, as well as some amazing details put in by the Imagineers. I would stay there as long as I could if I had my way. We had a couple drinks and they were ready for dinner, but I was headed back to Disneyland to meet up with Ryan, Sally and the rest of the crew.
I walked back with them through Downtown Disney since I hadn’t been there yet. Much like Disneyland compared to the Magic Kingdom, there seems to be a more electric, kinetic feel than the DTD at WDW. A lot of this can be contributed to the live entertainment offerings to be found there I think. After a brief walk, I was back in Disneyland and coordinated with Sally to meet them at Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland. This attraction used to be the Swiss Family Treehouse like at MK, but was switched over to a Tarzan theme shortly after the film was released in 1999.
Once we completed the walkthrough of the treehouse, we were ready for a bite to eat and the Kilpatricks introduced me to the wonderful offerings of Bengal Barbeque. They have great skewers of meat, that are pretty reasonably priced around $4 and have different options like spicy beef, polynesian chicken, bacon wrapped asparagus as well as a few others. It was a nice snack before going in to the Tiki Room. I really enjoyed this show in its full length, in additional to the pre-show with the tikis and the Dole video about Hawaii.
Tomorrowland was our next destination since we had Fast Passes for both Space Mountain and Autopia. In case I forgot to mention it, this was the Kilpatrick family and Gretchen’s last day and they were trying to accomplish 25 attractions in one day. They were well along to 20 when I met up with them, so I knew we could get five more in the hours we had left before DL closed for the night. I am not a huge fan of Space Mountain or the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway at home, but really liked their Disneyland counterparts. Space Mountain seemed much smoother and I liked the side by side seating as well as the speakers in the ride vehicles, like Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. Autopia was well themed and seemed longer than in WDW, plus the cars are much cuter. 🙂
A request for the tea cups had been made by the kids, so we made our way from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland to ride the Mad Tea Party, which is absolutely gorgeous at night with Chinese lanterns of all colors hanging over the open air attraction. We had a great time having a contest to see who could spin the fastest. We didn’t win, but we had an awesome time. At this time, it was almost 11pm, and we were ready for a proper meal so we went to the Refreshment Corner so they could get hot dogs and I finished off my leftovers from lunch. I, of course, got another fountain coke with syrup, raspberry this time, since they were the best I’ve had in a long time. Our last attraction for the night was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This was a great way to end the night with friends. It borrows some things from both the Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure at Epcot including two songs which typically make me cry in Two Brothers and Golden Dream. I stayed strong. We said our goodbyes and went to our respective hotels. Another magical day came to a close.
This was to be my only completely solo day of the whole trip, so I was a little bummed starting out my walk to Disneyland in the morning. I thought I’d challenge myself by trying to do the Matterhorn, Star Tours and Indiana Jones Adventures before lunch. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, the entire trip for both parks was 10s across the board on the Touring Plans crowd calendar. I made a bee line for the Matterhorn to start my day there like I had tried to do the previous day. I was very happy to see it was up and running and that the single rider line was practically a walk on! I rode both sides of the attraction by using the single rider line withing 20 minutes of being in the park. Maybe this being by myself thing wouldn’t be so bad.
Next up I was planning to do Star Tours, but since I was by the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage I decided I
should do that attraction since it was still relatively early around 10am and the wait was under 30 minutes (thanks to Matt Parrish of Wedway Radio and Wedway Now for this tip). I was apprehensive going into the sub since I am claustrophobic and don’t like being trapped, but I kept telling myself we never truly go completely submerged, so if we have to get out we can. Also, I did the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at WDW when I was a kid and I was fine, so I knew it wasn’t too bad. I thought the ride was cute, but it is definitely not one I need to do each time I’m there.
Sticking to Tomorrowland’s original plan, I next went to Star Tours, which is pretty much identical to Florida in the attraction itself. I then headed over to Adventureland for one of the rides I was most looking forward to: Indy!!! I am a huge fan of the movies, really like the stunt show at DHS, and was hoping that the story would distract me from the ride vehicles that are the same as Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, of which I am not a fan. Thankfully, the story was so immersive and I didn’t even feel the least bit nauseous like I usually do after Dinosaur, so I really enjoyed this. My last ride before lunch was the Jungle Cruise. I liked that it was familiar, but with some differences and I liked these nuances, however I kind of missed the temple that we have in WDW.
Since I didn’t eat breakfast and it was now almost 1pm, I was very hungry and ready for lunch. I knew where I wanted to eat thanks to Nate Parrish (also of Wedway Radio and Wedway Now, formerly of Betamouse): Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Tomorrowland, which has the Count Down Chicken Fusilli. This is a corkscrew kind of pasta, similar to a cavatappi, with an alfredo sauce and nice pieces of grilled chicken. I threw on some roasted red pepper flakes and this was a great meal along with a refillable(!!!) soda for a little over $10.
Not having a boat nearby, I opted to take my post lunch digestive rest on the Disneyland Railroad for the full circle tour before going to catch the tail end of the Jedi Training Academy. It was getting a bit warm out, so I ducked in to Innoventions to explore for a few minutes and ended up at the House of the Future watching demonstrations of the latest and greatest technology. Since Captain EO was nearby and a show was starting in a few minutes, I decided to try to change the world. I walked through the Starcade on the way out and chose not to spend money on games. I kept moving to the front of Tomorrowland and got on to the Astro Orbitor. It was kind of cool being so close to the castle compared to at WDW, but I think I like the added thrill in Florida of being up a few stories above the Peoplemover.
Then there was Buzz. More precisely, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was next. This was a humbling experience to say the least. For someone who is used to being a galactic hero at WDW and maxing out the score at 999,999, it is kind of sad to only get 36,000 points on what is supposed to be an easier attraction. Cue sad music here. I timed my exit from Tomorrowland to match up almost perfectly so I was able to quickly find a spot for the Soundsational parade. I absolutely loved this! It may be my favorite Disney parade. Ever. The parade is based around different genres of music from Disney films: calypso from the Little Mermaid, jazz from the Princess and the Frog, African music from the Lion King and Tarzan, etc. I really enjoyed seeing different floats and costumes all well themed around the styles of music.
Like WDW, there are certain attractions at DL that have time constraints, so I missed them and needed to make sure I hit them during their limited operating hours. One of these such attractions is the Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes. Yes, I was there and I was going to paddle my little heart out in 95+ degree heat and humidity because I had set this silly goal of doing all the attractions. And paddle I did. One thing I wish I had done differently was think about the fact I have a bad shoulder from a car accident and I should have asked to switched sides. You get a work out with this one kids. There are no backup motors. It is you and good old fashioned elbow grease that get you around the Rivers of America by paddle power along with about 15-20 other fools, I mean guests.
Having worked up an appetite, and a thirst, I found myself drawn to the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. I heard about the virgin mint juleps and Mickey shaped beignets that could be found there and knew I had to go. This seemed like the perfect time since it was around 5pm and pretty warm. I sat briefly outside the French Market and then walked toward the sounds of jazz music coming from in front of the Rivers of America. One of the many musical acts, this one featuring jazz and dixieland, was performing. I enjoyed the sounds for a bit before moseying over to the Golden Horseshoe, where I caught the tail end of a stage performance.
From here I cut my way to the back of Fantasyland to It’s A Small World. I was very much looking forward to this ride since I had heard their version has characters from Disney films inserted in the Mary Blair style. To me, this was a great addition to the ride, and I also enjoyed the scenes that were different from the WDW version. It was also cool to start and end the ride outside. I knew I’d have to ride this one again to see if I could catch more of the characters.
I poked my head in the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire, which is basically a princess meet and greet, but the line was well over an hour, so I decided to pass and go to Toontown. For anyone who has played the Epic Mickey video game, this will be very familiar to you. When I walked in it had a deja vu feeling since I knew where things were relatively well from the game. I rode Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which was a fun twist (ha ha ha) on a dark ride. Then I quickly walked through Goofy’s Playhouse, Donald’s Boat, and got in line for Gadget’s Go Coaster (similar to the Barnstormer). After that ride I toured Chip ‘n’ Dale Treehouse, Mickey and Minnie’s houses and was ready to return to Fantasyland. Since we no longer have Toontown here, it was kind of nice to see a version of Mickey and Minnie’s houses.
It was just before dusk and I wanted to make sure I caught the Storybook Land Canal Boats before it got too dark so I could get some pictures. This was the perfect time at twilight because the sun was still out to see, but the lights were on too, which made this even more beautiful. I loved this ride and wished I would have gone back to ride it again! My last stop in Disneyland for the night was Dumbo, which was also very cool as the lights of Fantasyland, especially the lanterns of Mad Tea Party were now lit.
As I mentioned earlier, the only restaurant that I had made reservations for on this trip was Blue Bayou. However, I had it in my mind that there were a couple others that I wanted to at least try out if I had the time and money. Since I was on budget at this point in the trip, I decided to go to DCA to see if I could get a walk in reservation at Carthay Circle. I had been in the lounge the other day with Lee and knew I wanted to go back again to try at least a cocktail or two and maybe some appetizers. This is how I do dinner a lot of times to save money by not getting an entree and it also allows me to try more things by getting a couple apps.
By the time I got to the restaurant, it was about quarter til nine and they said I could either eat at the bar downstairs, which has a different menu than upstairs, or I could wait til nine to be seated in the restaurant. I opted to grab a drink in the lounge and let them know at the podium that I wanted to eat upstairs. Starting off with the Carthay Circle Manhattan in the bar (watch how they make the ice sphere if you go), and finishing up with the Brown Derby in the restaurant (another bourbon based drink), I was so ready for the dinner that awaited. I was very pleasantly surprised to be seated on the terrace outside that overlooked Buena Vista Street and facing the front of the park towards Disneyland.
I mentioned to my server that I was in a bit of a hurry and was trying to make the second showing of World of Color at 10:15. They were more than happy to accommodate me by putting in my order as soon as I was seated since I had looked at the menu ahead of time. I ordered the biscuits, filled with cheese and jalapenos and came with an apricot dipping sauce that were to die for, and the firecracker duck wings, which were a great pairing to complement the spiciness of the biscuits. My food came quickly and the service was great. I gave my server my credit card as soon as my food came so I could expedite things. While I was finishing my food, I heard music and Magical, the Disneyland fireworks, started. I had a gorgeous view from the terrace and the music was piped in, much like ‘Ohana at the Polynesian does with Wishes. This was such an awesome surprise! I watched the entire show and when I was done, my bill was waiting for me. I opened it and there was a surprise FP for World of Color! I know they have World of Color dinner packages that offer you reserved seating, but I hadn’t ordered what was necessary to qualify for this.
Once I thanked my server for being so efficient and for the extra bit of pixie dust, I was on my way to watch World of Color for the second time during my trip. Yes, I cried … again. It was a beautiful way to end my day and my solo trip fears washed away. It had been a practically perfect day despite the fact I didn’t see any friends on this particular day. This would be the only day I wasn’t with friends for at least part of the day.
Stay tuned for our thrilling conclusion next week. Same bat channel. Same bat time.
If you want to see even more pictures from my trip check them out here on my Facebook page.
Okay, so I wasn’t going to write about my trip before I went, but I am so excited, and I just can’t hide it. 😉 I am leaving in less than two days to go to Disneyland for the first time. I am a pro (or so I think) when it comes to Walt Disney World, but California is a whole new animal to me. I have never even been to southern California before and thought it was long overdue now that all the major work has been completed as far as refurbishments and park additions between DL and Disney California Adventure. Specifically, I wanted to make sure Cars Land was done and that most of the major attractions I was hoping to experience, like Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn, and Indiana Jones Adventure were going to be open.
I went into this wide eyes wide shut. As I may have mentioned before, I’ve done little to no research for this trip. It is going to be an adventure, to which I am very much looking forward. I have never looked at a park map. I don’t know what attractions are there other than by what I have picked up by osmosis through tv specials and friends tweets and foursquare check ins. This is both exciting and frightening at the same time. I’ve grown up going to WDW since 1980, so I know it better than most places I’ve lived. It is home to me. I understand DL and DCA are similar to parks we have here, but different so it will be kind of like a Twilight Zone, deja vu but not kind of experience I’d imagine.
The little homework I have done is to ask friends questions like what attractions should I not miss at night, or what food should I make sure that I experience. I have friends who are Disneyland vets, so why not use their knowledge to help make sure I get the most out of this trip. Now, this is for the most part going to be a solo trip, but I hope to meet up with at least a few friends who either live in the area or are going to be visiting on overlapping dates. I am pretty independent, so the solo trip doesn’t bother me, but I hope I get to share some memories with friends because that would just amplify the awesomeness factor.
The Adventure Begins pt. 1, Friday, August 3
My flight out of Sarasota left, or was supposed to leave around 12:30, but we were delayed about 20 minutes (foreshadowing for all of my other flights on this trip). I headed to Atlanta on my way to SNA (aka Orange County or John Wayne Airport) on a full flight with little trepidation. I am not a fan of flying and had already gotten rid of my nervousness earlier in the morning, but had a backup plan in case I started to have a moment. The flight went relatively well and we ended up getting into ATL only about 10 minutes late, which was fine because miraculously, my departing gate was only a few down from the arriving one. I had enough time to grab a late lunch in a sandwich and some chips as well as a bottle of water since you no longer can get these on planes apparently (it’s been three years since my last confession … wait no, since I’ve last flown).
Again on a full flight and with an equipment change in ATL, my anxiety crept up since they reassigned my seat to a middle seat and nobody around me would change. One of my biggest issues with flying is I am claustrophobic and being in the aisle seat helps alleviate some of the stress I feel being packed in like a sardine in a flying tin can of sorts. So it ended up being necessary to take a xanax and have a drink so I didn’t have a complete panic attack on the 4+ hour flight. Things ended well and we arrived not too long after our expected arrival time. Since I didn’t check any bags I simply headed out to the ground transportation area to catch the SuperShuttle.
I had reserved the shuttle to my hotel online with a coupon, and it only ended up being about $17 round trip after I added a tip back in. It was a nice service, but I did have to wait about 15 – 20 minutes for the shuttle to come and then another 10 minutes for the other scheduled passengers, so just be aware of this in your scheduling. We were on our way and hit traffic as soon as we were on the highway, but it was still only about a 20 minute ride to my hotel and I was fortunate enough to be the first stop. I was happy with the experience since I am used to driving myself and I am generally not a fan of public transportation, but for the money this is a really great option.
When I arrived at my hotel, the Extended Stay America on S. Clementine in Anaheim, it was a few minutes after 7pm PST, so 10pm my time. I had planned on adjusting to California time pretty quickly so I had slept in that morning to try to help the process start. Check in went relatively smoothly and quickly and I was accommodated with both of my requests for a first floor room and near the lobby. I dumped my stuff, grabbed my backpack and park gear and was off on my trek to meet up with the Kilpatrick Family in Disneyland.
The walk from my hotel was about a mile, but with stop lights and crossing streets took about 20 minutes to get to the esplanade between Disneyland and DCA. As I came around the corner from my hotel onto Disney Way, still blocks away from the park, I spotted the Matterhorn at sunset and almost started crying on the sidewalk. I held it together and got to DL without any trouble, took my picture in front of the floral Mickey by the train station and headed on to Main Street USA.
Now I’ve walked under the train tracks and on to Main Street in WDW literally hundreds of times. Nothing could have truly prepared me for what I felt that first time at Disneyland. It was the same, but different. Just like everyone says, it is smaller, but quaint. It is like an identical cousin, but not. City Hall is relatively in the same spot, but much smaller. The same with the Emporium and the Fire Station, but then there are things like uniquely named shops like the Magic Shop or the Fortuosity Shop that are totally different. The Cinema is about where our cinema used to be. It reminded me of a line from one of my favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle, “It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… It was like… magic.”
For those of you who know me well, it comes as no surprise I started crying right there on Main Street. An overwhelming surge of nostalgia for Walt and the company’s humble beginnings came over me and I shed a few tears before moseying towards the hub and Partners statue. My first impression of Main Street itself is that its buildings are shorter in stature, but felt more like an actual Main Street if that makes any sense. It had a more kinetic feel than I get at WDW, a sort of electricity. Maybe it was because it was a Friday night and a popular time for locals to swarm to their beloved park, but it felt like it was buzzing all around me.
After I finally made it to the hub to see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (it is so cute and pink), I found myself chatting up some guest relations CMs standing guard of the reserved fireworks seating section for Club 33 patrons. They were very curious about WDW and had lots of questions for me and were eager to answer any questions I had about the Disneyland Resort. One of the CMs in particular, Garrett, was very friendly and anxious to supply me with tips. Realizing I had been talking for almost half an hour, I tracked down the Kilpatricks and their friend (now my mutual friend) Gretchen to take a seat and wait for the fireworks show Magical to start at 9:30.
Ah, Magical. It truly was. We sat in the street around the hub eating churros my first night waiting for the show to start with Main Street music playing around us. Ryan, Sally, their kids affectionately known as Her Majesty, 6, and the Hobbit, 10, and Gretchen and I watched the show from the right side of the hub based on Ryan’s excellent recommendation so as to see some of the unique show elements of this fireworks production. It is something you just have to see! Tinkerbell flies, but in a different way than at WDW, and Dumbo flies. Being that it is above Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Flora, Fauna and Merriwether even get in on the act. One of my favorite moments reminded me of Shelley and me discussing cotton candy preferences as well as other things when they debate between the colors of pink and blue for the fireworks.
Once the fireworks concluded, my friends decided to head out since they had been in the parks going all day having arrived several days earlier. I told them I was going to stick around for another couple hours til the park closed at midnight, but I would coordinate with them to hang out the next morning. They went their separate way and I headed to find Pirates of the Caribbean, which is my favorite ride at WDW, but I had been told DL would blow me away. Since I was in such a daze coming in to the park and forgot to pick up a park map, and I had done no homework, I had to stop and ask a CM how to get to Pirates since the park layout is a bit different and we don’t have a New Orleans Square, which is where I at least knew it was located.
Working my way through the masses in Frontierland heading to get in place for the second of three Fantasmic shows along the Rivers of America, I finally made it to POTC. It was about a five minute wait at this time (around 10:15pm) and I tried to absorb as much detail as I possibly could. The queue is much shorter than our winding and cool caves that serve as refuge from the warm Florida sun and common showers we encounter. The setting is different, appropriately starting in a bayou with quiet sounds from nature and fireflies flickering around the boats. As you gently float on, you pass by the Blue Bayou restaurant on your right hand side, which is open to the ride, similar to how San Angel Inn in Epcot’s Mexico is situated adjacent to Gran Fiesta Tour. The ride is familiar to one coming from WDW, but longer and definitely different in parts. I thoroughly enjoyed this version, but still love the one at home.
Still not knowing where I was going or what I was doing, I found myself exiting pirates and being deposited (after the obligatory exit through the gift shop) right in front of the Rivers of America mere minutes before the second showing of Fantasmic was about to commence. I took this as a sign to go with the flow and found a spot standing right behind the roped off reserved seating area that had a great view directly facing the stage. This show, like the version in Florida is focused around Mickey and the battle of good vs. evil. There are a few show elements here that are different like the dragon, sailing ship Columbia with the pirate fight between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, we have Jafar and they don’t, no Pocahontas in California, and the Mark Twain is a much larger steamboat for the ending, but seemed to have fewer characters than ours.
I kept ambling along, sticking to the left after the show, and ran into the Haunted Mansion. The ride is pretty much the same, except for a few minor details. Next I encountered Splash Mountain in Critter Country with about a five to ten minute wait and said what the heck. Sure it is about 11:30 and only in the mid 60s, but I hardly get wet at home, so I’m sure it won’t be much different here. Wrong. I was wearing jeans and they stayed wet up until the day before I left. I had never gotten that wet on any ride at WDW ever. The primary difference is in the logs. In DL, they are singles, whereas at WDW you sit two per row. At DL the log seemed to move faster between the scenes and I got wetter on some of the smaller drops leading up to the big drop. I think at WDW there is a more cohesive story to the attraction. In California there seem to be a few scenes here and there and then fast log ride between them. Expect to get very wet if you ride this. You’ve been warned.
The last ride I had time to experience was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Again, an attraction that is pretty similar to what we have at home, but with some minor differences. I will say the Disneyland version seemed a bit trippier, for lack of a better word, than the Florida version. This was a walk on, which was a nice way to end the evening as it was now 3am back home.
I made my way slowly back the way I had come into Critter Country, through New Orleans Square, but opted to return through Adventureland as opposed to through Frontierland. The nice thing about Disneyland is that it is a bit more compact than the Magic Kingdom. You don’t have the long walkways coming off of the hub. In fact, it is kind of shocking to see the Astro Orbitor a) right off the hub to the right of the Partners statue at the entrance of Tomorrowland, and b) to see it on the ground as opposed to above the Peoplemover.
Realizing I hadn’t eaten anything since the second half of my sandwich from lunch about six hours earlier, I figured it would be a good idea to get a snack before heading back to my hotel. At the request of Shelley, I had a Mickey pretzel with plastic cheese and a cherry Coke, the good kind, with real syrup like from a soda fountain, from the Refreshment Corner. This is located about where Casey’s Corner is at WDW and offers similar fare of hot dogs, pretzels, sodas, etc. The outdoor seating area has a nice view of the castle and enjoys the sounds of Main Street. It is nice that they announce at the end of the night when the park is closing that the shops on Main Street are open for another hour for your shopping enjoyment. This came in handy later in the trip.
First Full Day – Saturday, August 4
The next morning I was pretty much already adjusted to west coast time and made my way to Disney California Adventure a bit before 10am for my first full day in the park. On my walk in I communicated with the Kilpatricks decided to meet them at California Screamin’ since they had an extra fastpass they were graciously offering me. I took my time admiring the beauty of Buena Vista Street as I entered the park. It was like stepping into old Hollywood, and I was in heaven. The details were incredible and I can imagine on my next trip I will spend much more time exploring each little nook and cranny of this section of the park. While meandering through the park, I remembered to pick up a map this time, I happened to catch the Red Car Trolley News Boys performing with none other than Mickey Mouse in front of the Carthay Circle Theatre. What a way to start my day!
While heading in to the park that morning, I decided I wanted to experience every single attraction between the two parks. On the park maps, there are almost 100 listed (96 actually) and I wanted to do it all in the time I was there. This didn’t include of course the nighttime shows like Magical, Fantasmic, World of Color or parades, those were bonuses. The only things I opted to skip were things that cost additional money like the games on the boardwalk at Paradise Pier in DCA and the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition and Starcade in Disneyland. Game on!
Eventually I found my way to California Screamin’ and met up with my friends. Ryan, Sally and I rode while Gretchen took the kids. This was probably my favorite ride at DCA! It is a great roller coaster that launches you from one side of Paradise Pier to the other towards Mickey’s Fun Wheel (of Death, okay not really, but if you’ve seen the video of the swinging cars, you understand). There is a loop and it is a really nice length on the ride, longer than most other Disney coasters it seems.
We met up with the rest of the group near Grizzly River Run to get fast passes for World of Color. I noticed that the standby queue said it was only ten minutes and asked if anyone wanted to ride. All were game except Her Majesty who needed a little convincing it wasn’t a scary ride. Luckily, Sally noticed some lockers near the fast pass machines that are free for two hours! This was perfect since most of us had backpacks or purses we did not want drenched. Sally and Gretchen were smart and decided to don ponchos for the ride, at least to sit on, while I was more reckless. Of course I ended up being the chosen one who got more soaked than everyone else. It was a fun ride and now makes me excited to try Kali River Rapids when I get to the Animal Kingdom next time.
I again parted ways with the Kilpatrick clan and Gretchen to do some exploring on my own. First I went to Cars Land to pick up some fast passes for the three attractions there. One thing I noticed about both Disneyland and DCA is that they do not tend to enforce FP times like WDW is now. This made things a little bit more flexible for me, but I wouldn’t count on this in the future. Continuing my trip the way it started, I chose to explore things organically as I came to them without using a map, so this next brought me to A Bug’s Land. I loved the theming of this area of the park and thought it was neat to have a whole land geared towards little kids. I couldn’t really think of a correlation like this in WDW, but think it would be neat to adopt something like it, maybe in an area like Dinoland. I rode Flik’s Flyers, my favorite of the rides here, which is similar to Dumbo where you are up in the air flying in a circle, but you don’t control your altitude. Next I went to Francis’ Ladybug Boogie, which is like a mini version of Mad Tea Party, followed by Tuck & Roll’s Drive ’em Buggies (bumper cars for kids). The last attraction I did before lunch was Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, my second favorite in A Bug’s Land. It is a small train that travels through some food Heimlich has eaten and they are scented. It is so cute!
For lunch I opted to visit the Pacific Wharf area of the park, which is themed after one of my favorite cities, San Francisco. There are great choices like Mexican, Chinese, Ghirardelli and where I ended up, the Pacific Wharf Cafe. They offer great salads, sandwiches and soups featuring bread from the attached Boudin Bakery, which was one of my favorite places I visited when I went to San Francisco. Their sourdough bread is amazing! You can smell it baking in this section of the park and it just draws you in with the enticing scent of freshly baked bread. I had the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at the recommendation of my friend Becca Braunstein, and it was delicious!
After a heavy lunch like that I thought it best I lay off the rides for a bit. I was also trying to coordinate meeting up with my friends Lee Dralle, Colin Buchanan and Rich Beltran that afternoon. They said they would let me know when they got in the park and we’d try to connect. I decided a post meal drawing lesson at the Animation Academy would be the perfect way to let my food digest. One thing that I thought was really cool was that they posted a sign outside the Animation building listing which characters they would be drawing in each class for the entire day. This way if you had already done a character you could skip it and come back for a different one. As I may have mentioned a few times before, I adore the Animation Academy and try to do it each time I’m at DHS, at least once. So, it occasionally (almost every time) becomes a challenge finding a character I haven’t drawn before. It gets to the point where the instructor just ignores me when polling the class to see if they’ve drawn characters before. I asked the CM about it and she said that it was something brand new that they were testing out listing them up front. I hope we can bring this to Florida as it is a great idea. I noticed they were going to be drawing Jack Skellington next, which is a character I have not yet had the opportunity to draw, but I did make him my pumpkin carving a few years back for Halloween.
When I stepped into the lobby of the Animation building, my jaw just about hit the floor. It is a huge open lobby with gigantic screens of varying sizes circling the room. Music and images play, both stills and animated, from Disney films, immediately immersing you into the environment of animation. It was breathtaking! This became one of my favorite places to hang out. It was beautiful, cool, and there are benches all around the lobby and plenty of floor space if those seats are occupied. A few moments later, I regained my focus and found my way to the Animation Academy queue. Surprisingly, there were very few people lined up only a couple minutes before the class was scheduled to start. When the time came, we filed into the classroom, which is setup kind of like a college lecture hall with tiered bench seating. A lot more guests can be accommodated in these classes, but there were only about a dozen taking the class. Unlike Florida, there are no drawing desks for you to sit at, everyone gets a lapboard. The class went by quickly and I did a passable job for a first attempt at the Pumpkin King.
As you exit the Animation Academy, you are funneled past an area called Character Close Up, which is currently featuring a Toy Story Zoetrope. I was instantly mesmerized by the spinning animation and stopped for a few minutes to watch as it slowed down. I could see the characters carefully positioned slightly differently around the circle so when it spun it appeared as if they were moving. This was so cool showing some of the early stages of animation and movie making.
About this time I was getting texts from both Lee and Colin trying to track me down. I met Lee outside the Animation building before we headed to Dancin’ with Disney to find Colin and Rich. I liked this attraction for what it was, a fun dance party inside in air conditioning with some of your favorite and some more obscure characters. Why we have something like Club 626 outside in Tomorrowland invading the entire land and not something cooler inside in Florida, I have no idea. We briefly met up with Colin and Rich and then decided we would meet up later as Lee and I were heading to go see the Aladdin show and they opted not to.
Oh my goodness, the Aladdin show was incredible! The production quality is unlike anything we seem to have at WDW. I would love to see something of this caliber come to DHS with either Tangled or the Princess and the Frog. The show follows the basic plot of the movie and includes some of the more popular musical numbers as well as some that were cut from the film. If you get the opportunity, I would highly recommend catching this show at some point during your trip. Genie is hilarious and injects current pop culture references, which keeps the show fresh and new each time.
Lee was craving a snack after the show so we popped in to the Carthay Circle Lounge to grab a light bite and a beverage. He ordered the Spicy Chicken Roll and the Vietnamese Twice Cooked Beef Taco and I tried a bite of each. I loved the cilantro flavor of the chicken roll, which was similar to a Vietnamese spring roll served cold. The tacos were awesome! The beef was marinated and served with a fantastic pineapple-mint salsa. I knew I would be coming back to visit again after having tried these great appetizers. Keep in mind that the menus downstairs in the lounge/bar area are different than the one upstairs in the restaurant.
Following the practically perfect rest and food stop, we decided to head to The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure since I had yet to check this out and I’m anxiously awaiting ours opening here in the next few months. I really enjoyed this dark ride and it was a nice way to help me get more pumped up for the one we are getting at the Magic Kingdom. Lee and I explored the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, bounced on the bridges, I almost fell, and a good time was had by all. Next we headed back to Hollywood Land and rode another fun dark ride Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the rescue. This attraction follows the plot of the Monsters, Inc. movie and did a nice job staying true to the story. One of my favorite details is that you can smell the ginger and soy sauce when you are passing through the Harryhousens scene!
Next we went back in to the Animation building for a bit to explore the Sorcerer’s Workshop, which is where you can go into the Magic Mirror Realm, Beast’s Library, and Ursula’s Grotto. Here we were able to see animation, experience which personality yours matched up with of classic Disney characters, and could record voice overs for classic scenes. Colin and Rich wanted to meet up, so we headed towards Cars Land since I had a fast pass for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. This may have been the sleeper hit and possibly my favorite in Cars Land. You sit in the back of tractors with 2-3 people total and go in circles and then get flung onto another circle, similar to the tea cups, but you are whipped around the turns. It was so much fun! Lee and I went in one tractor and Colin, Rich and their friend went in another. Since there was space between Lee and me at each turn we would slam into each other. At first it was unintentional, but then we kind of played it up a bit. So much fun!
Colin and company were ready for dinner so they went to Flo’s V8 Cafe. Lee and I weren’t ready for dinner yet since we had our afternoon snack, so we walked to the nearby Blue Sky Cellar, which typically shows what Imagineering is planning for the future. At this time, however, they were showcasing information all about Cars Land. They were even showing one of the cute shorts featuring Mater and the story of how Radiator Springs was founded, which I believe can be found on the Mater’s Tall Tales dvd or blu ray. After walking around for a bit we decided to go hang out with Colin and Rich while waiting for Shboom, the lighting of the neon in Cars Land that takes place each evening right around sunset.
Once the neon was lit, I said good night to the guys and made way to meet up with the Kilpatricks and Gretchen (I feel like this is a band name from the 60s, anyways) to get our spots for the World of Color. Now this was one of the things that I was most anticipating on this trip. I had been on media blackout regarding it. A friend once started playing the music from it and I just about put my fingers in my ears to get him to stop so it wouldn’t be ruined. I watched no video, listened to no music, and wanted to just experience it, so I did something very hard for me, I put my phone away. I took no pictures, video, didn’t tweet, facebook, whatsapp or text. I just was. I had been warned that I would cry, again I’m a bit of a sap. The show did not disappoint, and yes, I did cry, three different times (as well as the two subsequent times I watched the show). It was incredible! The technology is absolutely amazing. I was entranced by the fountains at the Bellagio when I went to Vegas, but this, no pun intended, blew that out of the water. We watched from the yellow section in the wet zone, and thanks to Ryan and company getting there early, were only the second row standing behind the railing against the water. Oh yeah, and you do get wet, even if you aren’t in the wet zone.
I hadn’t done Luigi’s Flying Tires yet and the FP line for Radiator Springs Racers was over an hour wait, as opposed to the standby line at three hours, so we all went for a spin on the tires. This ride was more fun than I had anticipated. It definitely takes teamwork and coordination to move together with the person in your tire. Think of it kind of like a Segway, except you are sitting down, and you lean in the direction in which you want to go. Then they throw large beach balls in the mix and you are on what seems like a giant air hockey table with jets of air coming from below to help you fly. I have heard in the last few days that they have since taken away the balls, which seems interesting to me. Hopefully they will bring them back as they were often the motivators for people to move in one direction or another.
Having completed the other attractions in Cars Land, we then returned to see how the FP queue was doing for Radiator Springs Racers. My friends had done it already during the day, but had wanted to try it at night, which looked infinitely cooler to me, so this is why we waited to try it out after dark. The line was slightly shorter, but it still took us a good 35-45 minutes to get through the FP line. The ride was great! I loved having different elements of the Cars films, especially loved the loop by the waterfall with the score playing from when Sally and Lightning are going to the Wheel Well for the first time. You get to travel through Radiator Springs and see all your favorite characters and then you get lined up to race another car side by side. We won our race, which made the waiting all the more worth it. The only bummer was the camera on our side of the ride wasn’t working so we couldn’t get our in ride pictures. Oh well, it was still a blast, especially since we took up the entire six person car.
On our way out of the park we had the Photo Pass photographer take a few pictures since the Kilpatricks purchased the Photo Pass Plus (a great deal at $70, especially if you are doing a character meal where the pictures there are usually $30 each). We parted ways again and I decided at 11pm I was hungry and Disneyland was still open so I went to get a very late dinner. I made my way to the end of Main Street to the Jolly Holiday Bakery to get a combo that Katie Siloac-Lotoczky and Lee had both recommended: the toasted cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Now I don’t know what they do to this sandwich that is essentially a grilled cheese sandwich cut into strips, but it was absolutely heavenly. They are perfectly designed to be dunked into the tomato soup for your eating enjoyment. It was the perfect meal to end another magical day.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my adventures coming up in the next few weeks!
In the last few months I have had somewhat new experiences to me: touring the parks with guests who had never been to Walt Disney World before. It was also a bit unique in that last month was with my mom and my 86 year old grandma and the following week was with a friend from school, her husband and their eight and a half month old son. Previously I had met up with friends with young kids and others with parents and grandparents, but had never really spent the entire day with people this far on either end of the age spectrum. With these ages there are certainly considerations that must be taken into account when planning.
Back in December I had what I consider to be a major coup: I was finally able to get my dad to go to WDW after 30+ years of resistance. I think the fact that I told him he wouldn’t need to pay to get in the parks and that I could get a discount on the rooms helped. This was the man who had never set foot on Disney property until January of 2011 when he came to visit while I was around for marathon weekend running the 5K. On that brief visit, he did not want to purchase a ticket, so he asked the front desk clerk at the Wilderness Lodge, where we were staying, if he could go in for a few hours and try it out for free. I left the front desk dragging him away and shaking my head in disbelief. He did take a trip around both monorail loops and claimed he technically went to Epcot since he was in their air space (okay, sure dad), but we mostly visited resorts.
So we planned a trip for my dad and his wife, Debbie, to come down and make a side trip to Disney World since they were coming to Florida for my brother’s college graduation anyways. Debbie had been to WDW, but it had been well over twenty years since her last visit, so it was all pretty much new to her. Trying to plan a trip for someone has never been before presents the challenge of how much do you want to and can you get done in one and a half days of park time. You don’t want to overwhelm them with every single bit of minutia, but you do want to give them a good taste of the parks and the magic they hold.
With my dad, he wanted to have nothing to do with planning other than he expressed a mild interest in visiting Epcot. Since we were traveling in December, we were able to experience the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on our first evening. Both my dad and Debbie were visibly impressed with the presentation as we were fortunate enough to be there as the switch was flipped to turn the lights on for the evening. The only attractions we rode were Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, Toy Story Midway Mania and the Great Movie Ride. I think this gave them a nice overview of the park since we didn’t get there until around 5pm and the park was closing at eight that night. My dad appreciated the theming and neon luster of the Studios at night.
The next day was our most challenging as they hoped to fit in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot both. We first stopped for breakfast at Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian and then made our way to MK shortly after park opening at nine. We hit mostly classics between Dumbo, It’s a Small World, the Haunted Mansion, the Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. A lot was accomplished in a short period of time before we made the jaunt to Epcot. The afternoon was spent mostly exploring World Showcase and a bit of Future World with Soarin’, Test Track, Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth. The fact that they are both morning people and were up a bit earlier than I was, factored in to us not experiencing any fireworks or nighttime parades while they were here.
Overall, a good time was had by each individual. My dad was continually amazed by the sheer size of the WDW property and the inner workings and mechanics of how things were operated and went so smoothly. There is a ton that we didn’t do, but for the short period of time I had to work with, I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to introduce my dad to Disney World and to have a good time. My mission was a success insomuch as he admitted he really enjoyed himself and wants to come back. Score!
Fast forward a few months to March of this year and my trip with my mom and grandma. This was a bit different from the previous trip in that my grandma wanted to know what there was to do in each park, wanted to see maps and plan out for the most part what she wanted to see and do in each one. She had been to the Magic Kingdom many times over the past forty years, but it had been quite a while for her and she had only been to Epcot once or twice in the past twenty years or so. My mom is an annual passholder and typically makes it to the parks every three to four months. The impetus for this particular trip was the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.
The first day of our trip the first order of business was Epcot. If we had any additional time we determined we would try to made it to the Studios as well, but there wasn’t much there of interest to my grandma, so Epcot was definitely the priority. Unlike the relatively slow time I had visited with my dad and Debbie in the beginning of December, the middle of March was smack dab in the middle of peak season and spring break. This was very evident when we arrived at Epcot and it literally took 30 minutes from the time we arrived at the line for security to the time we entered the park. The time was pretty much evenly split in waiting between the security and entrance lines.
While my grandma is generally in good health, she does have some mobility issues having had hip replacement surgery a little over a year ago. So, we thought it in everyone’s best interest for her to have a wheelchair for her park touring at least. When we arrived at Pop Century to pre-register for their room (I arrived the night before), we inquired at the front desk about a wheelchair to use while on property. They directed us to bell services who kindly provided us with one to use free of charge for the duration of our stay. We were even advised we were able to take it to the parks. This was great as it saved us $10.+ per day for wheelchair rentals. The only caveat to this is it can be kind of a pain hauling the chair around and having to lift it in and out of your car everywhere you go if you are driving yourself. I became quite a pro at it after two full days.
Now being the klutz that I am, I have experienced several of the parks in wheelchairs, with ECVs and on crutches, but have never accompanied anyone for days in the theme parks who was using any of them. Let me tell you, it is a totally different experience. You have to take into consideration not only energy to push someone up hills (okay inclines) and ramps, but also to be able to hold them back to keep them from careening down them and running over unsuspecting guests. Very quickly you learn the turning radius of wheelchairs and that you do need extra clearance from the guests in front of you as they do tend to stop abruptly to study that park map you may have memorized. I honestly think the wheelchair is more work for those traveling with the guest in the chair than for the mobility challenged guest themselves, but I didn’t really realize this until we were well into the day.
I have to say that Norma, my grandma, was a trooper. We were in Epcot around 9:30am, didn’t leave to go to the Studios just see give her the old Hollywood feel and ambiance until around 7pm. After an hour of wheeling her around DHS, we went to get dinner at Downtown Disney at Wolfgang Puck Express. We didn’t get back to the room to eat dinner until after 11pm and they had been up since before 6am to drive up from Bradenton.
The next day we were back up and at it and heading to the Magic Kingdom before 8am, arriving there by way of sightseeing at the Polynesian shortly after 9. Again, there are things that I really didn’t think of ahead of time. Very simple things like the path I usually take from the parking lot to the lobby of the Polynesian has a large pole in the middle of it, making it inaccessible for wheelchairs (lesson learned). I also tend to favor taking the boat over the monorail, but it is much easier to travel the highway in the sky with a wheelchair and ramp as opposed to stepping several feet down (and subsequently back up) to get in and out of the boat, also having to fold and carry the wheelchair.
We had a great time once we got to the MK and stayed until late afternoon before making a last minute decision to make a side trip to the Animal Kingdom before returning to MK for Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. The only two things we were trying to do were Kilimanjaro Safaris and then the Festival of the Lion King. Based on the lateness of the day, we knew there was a chance that we wouldn’t be able to do both as there was only one more Lion King show by the time we arrived and you never know with the animals. We went straight back to the safari and were in for a treat. We had the best safari experience ever! The animals were all out, even both the male and female lions. As soon as we disembarked the vehicle, my mom started off for the Lion King, leaving me to push my grandma, making a mad dash for Camp Minnie – Mickey from the outskirts of Harambe. I thought I was going to die, but you can actually push someone in a wheelchair from the safari exit to the entrance of the Lion King in seven minutes!
I got to do some things that I hadn’t before over the two days with my mom and grandma. I learned there are boats for
Gran Fiesta Tour and It’s a Small World where you can just drive the wheelchair on and you basically have a private boat for your party as long as you are willing to wait. There is some great seating for guests with wheelchairs in many of the shows like American Adventure, the Hall of Presidents, Impressions de France, Mickey’s Philharmagic, the Carousel of Progress, etc. Some attractions are more challenging with constant loading via conveyor belts and speedramps that can’t be stopped like the Peoplemover. All throughout though, I have to say the Cast Members were great. They were very understanding and patient and helped us in loading Norma in and out of ride vehicles as necessary.
After that trip, I needed a break and wasn’t planning on visiting the parks for a couple weeks at least. That was until I got a message from a friend from elementary school, Laura, whom I hadn’t seen in 20+ years. She was going to be in Celebration visiting her mom and was down for a few days with her husband and son. We decided we would get together last minute on a Thursday since I had the day off and I offered to get them into the parks. Laura had not been planning to visit any of the parks since her son Riley was so young, she said she couldn’t justify the expenditure of tickets for the day for her and her husband Matt of almost $200. I totally understood, but told her I would take care of that if they wanted to go.
We met at the Polynesian mid morning since Laura and Matt decided they wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. Matt had never been to WDW before, other than to run the half marathon earlier this year. So he had never experienced any attractions in any of the parks, nor had their eight and a half month old son Riley. The length and schedule of the day was going to be dictated by the boys since we had no idea how long Riley was going to last and what Matt was going to want to do. Laura had been a CM years ago and I’m in the parks practically weekly, so we had no problem ceding control to them.
Matt’s first ride ever was Space Mountain, and it is probably good we got that out of the way first since everything else was tame in comparison. Laura waited with Riley while I took Matt on what is admittedly my least favorite of the mountains. I tried to help assuage Matt’s fear of the unknown by pointing out the numerous kids in line and even striking up a conversation with the eight year old girl in line in front of us. I think she convinced him to ride more so than I did as his anxiety level was increasing as we neared the ride vehicles and could hear screams.
After Space, Matt decided the tamer Dumbo was something he could definitely handle. It was very cool seeing the park through his eyes for the first time. He appreciated the theming and attention to detail on rides like Winnie the Pooh. The only rides Laura and Riley got to experience with us, partly due to timing and choice, were Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. He did really well on Pirates until the drop when he got a little wet. We had discussed the drop and they were comfortable with his security on it, but we failed to consider how he would react to getting wet. After just a momentary break in composure, he returned to his wonderful smiling self and was fine. He did great on the Jungle Cruise as well. Boat rides tend to be soothing for young children, so I think JC was a good choice to end the day with.
Riley was a champ throughout the day. Aside from the getting wet on Pirates thing, he did not let out a single cry in the almost eight hours we were in the park. He did well waiting with his mom and people watching and even got to ride a couple rides. Later in the day, thanks to Riley, I was introduced to the Baby Care Center at the Magic Kingdom. It is tucked away in the corner by First Aid between Casey’s and Crystal Palace. There are small private rooms for parents to take their children to for changing or just for a quiet place to get away from the noise and sometimes crowds of the parks. My friends found this to be a great refuge even though it was only needed as a place to change Riley’s diaper.
These three different groups of newbies of different sorts taught me many things. One thing is I don’t tour the parks like I do when I’ve got others with me who haven’t been before. By this I mean, I tend to go through the parks at a relatively leisurely pace when by myself or with my friends who are annual passholders. Since we go often, we are rarely compelled to have to do anything. If we don’t get to do something, it will be there next week or the week after. With guests from out of town who have never been, you want them to be able to soak in as much of the magic as possible. I certainly don’t force people to go at breakneck speed, but if they want to keep going, I’m not going to be the one to quit either (see the stupidity of me staying up for the entire 24+ hours of Leap Day in the Magic Kingdom). You live and learn. Next time with each group, things will be different. Everyone will be a little older, a little wiser, and have some more experience under their belts. We can go back and hit favorites or focus on the things they missed last time. I don’t know anyone who has done it all. Things are constantly changing in the parks, and I wholeheartedly believe that the experiences are made just as much, if not more so, by those you are with as opposed to just the parks themselves.