Steve Picard -- July 2001 -- Walt Disney World (GFRS)
Who: Steve (46), single-dad, businessman, kid-at-heart
When: July 27-29
Where: Grand Floridian Big Pine Key, standard room
How: By air from Atlanta, then rental car
This will be my 3rd trip to Walt Disney World, and my first solo adventure there. My first WDW visit was back in 1982; I returned in 1999 with my children (ages 10 and 8 at the time). Although on this trip I will be flying from Atlanta, I live in Los Angeles . . . and was a Disneyland annual pass holder in 1997 and again in 2000 (so lots of Disney experience, but mostly on the left coast).
A couple of things came together to make this trip possible. I work for a computer services company headquartered in Southern California, with an office outside Atlanta. I fly from LA to Atlanta at least once a month. The boss recently gave me a bonus of a weekend away at someplace 'really nice' for hard work, dedication, yada, yada. His idea was some kind of golf weekend at a high-end resort in California . . . but I don't play, so I negotiated an alternative. Since I was going to be in Atlanta in July on business anyway, we agreed a weekend at WDW in conjunction with that trip would do just fine.
The air travel arrangements were easily made on Expedia.com for the LAX-to-Atlanta-to-Orlando-back-to-LA flight. Delta had recently lowered their fares, and roundtrip airfare was less than I had paid on previous trips for an LA-Atlanta roundtrip. Since the boss made it clear that I was to stay at someplace nice . . . OK so that doesn't narrow the field very much at a place like WDW where EVERYTHING is nice . . . for me that meant I could consider a stay at the Grand Floridian. On the 1999 trip, when we rode the monorail past the Floridian, I was struck by its style and beauty. I made a mental note that if my ship ever came in, this would be a fine place to dock. (My second choice for this trip was the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but I was unable to get a reservation there for the dates I wanted. AK Lodge will have to wait for another ship.) Disney wouldn't accept a reservation of less than three nights via their website, so I made arrangements on-line through Dreamsunlimitedtravel.com and they set me up with a 2-night stay at the Grand Floridian.
Although this will be a short trip, going solo gives me flexibility to do what I want to do, so I expect to see and do a lot. My first priority is to see Epcot again. In 1999, my children and I spent two days at Epcot, saw everything we wanted to see in Future World (several times), but barely touched World Showcase. (We visited the American Adventure and had lunch at the Liberty Inn, and ate dinner at San Angel Inn (Mexico) and Nine Dragons (China) . . . but that was as far as we got.) My goal is to see those parts of World Showcase we didn't see 2 years ago. Sunday would be the shorter of the two days, and since I love animals (all kinds: wild, domesticated, fur, feathers, whatever) the Animal Kingdom will be my 2nd day destination. We spent most of a day at AK in 1999 and left with a great enjoyment and appreciation for everything there, but also a feeling that, like California Adventure, AK is not a full-day park . . . so a visit there will fit my time constraints. And the Orlando Rays are in town, so I plan to catch their Friday night game at the Wide World of Sports stadium.
Day One -- Friday, July 27 -- Arrival, O-Rays Game
I caught a 2:30pm flight from Atlanta to Orlando which left the gate on time, but sat on the runway waiting for a takeoff slot for what seemed like a long time. We got on the ground in Orlando and off the plane by about 4:30pm. Rather than wait for my luggage, I went directly to the Dollar Rent-A-Car counter and found the longest line I had ever seen! All the other car queues were empty. Everyone must have seen the same Dollar deal I saw (Expedia.com again). I went back to baggage claim, picked up my stuff, and returned to the car line. It was a little shorter, but not much. By 6pm, I had the keys and was set to begin my WDW weekend.
As I drove off the airport property, a light rain began to fall. I wondered how wet I was going to get sitting outside watching a ballgame that evening. I had read on other trip reports, and it's worth noting again for Californians like me who are used to FREEways, that the most direct route from Orlando airport to WDW is by Florida toll road (417). Between those two points there are two $2.00 toll booths, and when you exit the highway, a single $0.25 charge . . . so have those singles ready, and don't forget the quarters. I entered the Disney property, and followed the signs, arriving at the Animal Kingdom . . . which is not where I wanted to go, at least not right then. Somehow I had missed the turnoff for the Magic Kingdom resorts. I double-backed, found my turnoff and approached the Magic Kingdom parking entrance. Immediately after passing the MK checkpoint, you have to slide all the way over to the right to catch the road to the Grand Floridian, dodging tour buses to get there.
I pulled into the driveway of the Grand Floridian, just as the rain let up, and was immediately taken in by the splendor of the main building . . . turn-of-the-century Victorian style, Florida coastal ambiance . . . red-shingled, gabled roofs, detailed woodwork: gorgeous. The grand lobby is very impressive--open to the roof five stories above, crowned with a stained-glass dome, with each floor looking down into the lobby over wooden balustrades . . . it was even more beautiful than the pictures I had seen.
I checked in, and although my reservation was in the computer system, they didn't seem to have a non-smoking room available. It took a little while and several phone calls, but the young lady at the desk found a non-smoking room. Apparently, the only one available was a room with a view--initially, not a big priority for me, since I wasn't planning to spend a lot of time in the room with a view, but if that's all you got, I'll take it!--in the Pig Pine Key facing the Seven Seas Lagoon.
It was now 7pm, so I quickly changed into clothes more comfortable for a ballgame and hurried out to get my car and get me to the game. Even though WDW is fairly spread out, there's no traffic, and within a few minutes I had arrived at the Wide World of Sports complex. The ticket seller had a problem processing my Disney charge card order, so rather than make me wait while she sorted it out, she gave me a complimentary ticket for a 4th row seat. As it turns out, this is the row the major league scouts sit--the guys with the radar guns. How cool is that?
What a beautiful stadium! The grandstand is minor league size, but major league design and construction. (Probably because this is the Atlanta Braves spring training facility, too.) It's a 2-level stadium in a Florida-Spanish architectural style with individual seats, not benches. On the third-base side the stadium extends only as far as 3rd base. Beyond that, is a grassy hill kids can roll down during the game. On top of the hill is an inflatable bounce house and slide for the youngsters.
Instead of the traditional hot dog and beer, I decided to be adventurous and ordered the spicy chicken sandwich and chili fries with my beer. The beer was good . . . but the chicken was only so/so--it was spicy, but an 'icky sweet spicy', and the chili on the fries was very tame. But I was hungry and had the important food groups covered--protein, starch, chili, and beer--so it was acceptable. But next time, I'll stick with the hot dogs.
I like baseball games. I try and take in a game in whatever city I visit regardless of who's playing. And while the talent isn't the same at the minor league level (usually the defense at the lower levels is pathetic), there is something about a minor league game that is appealing in a different way. The small-town between-innings entertainment is a hoot: races of different kinds, toss contests, padded sumo wrestlers . . . it's just fun. And at the O-Rays stadium, the PA announcer and the hometown crowd have this regular give and take that made me laugh . . . when a visiting batter is announced the PA announcer makes the usual announcement: "Now batting, number 17, John Smith" . . . one or several voices in the crowd will answer: "Who?", and the PA guy will come back with:
"Smith" . . . and the crowd responds: "Ohhhhh." Never heard that at Dodger Stadium.
Despite a gallant comeback attempt, the Orlando Rays lost in nine. I was back at the Floridian by about 10:30pm. I had started the day at 5am, so bedtime seemed like a good idea. I placed an order for room service breakfast before retiring, looking forward to a full day at Epcot tomorrow.
Day Two -- July 28 -- Epcot
Room service promptly delivered my breakfast at my requested time of 8:30am. With coffee and orange juice, I enjoyed a fruit bowl (which was quite good and I could have easily eaten a second) and two of four muffins in a basket. My room was on the 2nd floor overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon. At the shore line, was a large pine tree that created a screen between the hot morning Florida sun and my east-facing window. I moved my breakfast onto the table on the balcony, where I could read the morning paper and take in the early morning sights and sounds. I was treated this morning to the appearance of at least 8 different species of birds, most roosting in the pine tree, flying and tittering about. The most interesting fellow, traveling solo like me, was a heron-kind-of shore bird who landed on a large rock at the waters edge, and while standing on the rock, stretched out his wings (at least 4 feet tip to tip) to the warmth of the morning sun, and remained there motionless for the half hour as I watched him from the balcony. (I wished I had my mother's Audubon encyclopedia to know exactly who I was looking at.) Soon, I was joined by another feathered friend, this one a large, black bird, who landed on the edge of the balcony, and nonchalantly hopped, from the far right where he had landed, to a position about 2 feet in front of me. He stopped, checked me out, and then . . . just quietly waited. His manners were impeccable . . . no noise or impatience about him. But I knew I would be tempting fate if I left the balcony for even a second, that this gentlemanly avian would revert to a common scavenger, and I'd be minus one muffin.
Breakfast finished, I said goodbye to the friendly fowl-types and headed out to Epcot. Leaving the Big Pine Key via the back stairs (I hate waiting for elevators), I walked past the pool area back to the main building, and up the grand staircase (which it truly is) to the 2nd floor landing to catch the monorail to the central ticketing and transfer station where I would board a second monorail to Epcot. While it is convenient to board transportation right at your hotel, and monorail transportation gives you such a great view of the surrounding area, and is so uniquely Disney . . . from a practical point of view, it would have been faster to take my car and drive to Epcot.
I got to Epcot at 10am straight up, and there were no lines to speak of at the Epcot ticket windows. (Today is Saturday, in the middle of summer . . . no wonder my Disney stock is languishing!) I purchased an annual pass, as I knew I would be returning with my children during their Christmas vacation . . . and I expect to make at least one other side trip to WDW on a business trip east sometime in the next year.
Since World Showcase wouldn't open for another hour, I decided to visit one of the pavilions in the Future World area. I enjoyed them all two years ago, but felt a pull to visit the aquatic creatures in the Living Seas. (Did I say I like animals?) I had forgotten about the pre-show area display of early and imaginative under-water diving apparatus, and historical accounts of early attempts at underwater travel and exploration. I found the pre-show displays fascinating. The ride through the aquariums was cool and relaxing. Upon disembarking, I walked through the whole pavilion, observing the beauty of each undersea display. My favorite is the manatee tank . . . those creatures are so beautiful . . . in their own way. The former Eagle Scout in me understands the importance of conservation and care for the environment, and it's emphasis in a presentation such as Living Seas--I guess there are some people who really are still clueless about such things. But as I was leaving, I felt like I had just graduated from a Greenpeace re-education camp.
It was now almost 11am. I headed toward World Showcase to the right side. (Supposedly, you should start your tour to the left, as more people tend start to the right, but right is the direction of lunch . . . and it wasn't at all crowded.) First stop, Canada.
I followed the trail past the various shops to the theater for "O Canada", a nice piece of filmwork . . . and an enjoyable beginning to my jaunt through World Showcase. I had read in Sheri Niklewski's trip report about her fondness for "Off Kilter", but was disappointed that Saturday is one of their "off" days. Oh, well . . . now I've got the first item on the 'list of things to see next time'. And on to the United Kingdom.
I was a bit early for my 1pm priority seating at the Rose and Crown, but they weren't crowded and I was hungry so I stepped up and was seated outside on the patio right away. It was warm, but not hot yet, and the outdoor dining area was very comfortable, with a nice view of the lagoon. First order of business was a beer. I'm not sure how I feel about the British custom of blending their beers, but a pint of Golden . . . half Harp lager and half Bass ale sounded really good . . . and it was . . . so I ordered another. I also ordered some fish and chips to go with the beer, since it was lunchtime after all . . . very tasty. I couldn't tell how busy the pub was inside, but outside there were still several empty tables . . . certainly not a reflection of the quality of food or service, in my opinion . . . but an indication that attendance is down for the park as a whole.
As I passed the edge of the English garden I could hear Beatle's tunes from British Invasion. I made my way through the crowd to the far side of the park-like area and positioned myself under the sparse shade of maple sapling and listed to tunes from my childhood. I've heard a few Beatle look-alike bands, but British Invasion's lead singer sounds more like Paul McCartney than anyone besides Paul, in my opinion. A very enjoyable show. I noted that one of the benefits of traveling solo is that I could sing the harmonies to myself without hearing, "Dad, you're embarrassing us again."
From the United Kingdom, I made a detour and exited Epcot via the International Gateway and headed toward the Boardwalk . . . which until recently, I didn't know anything about. I walked around the waterway to the right, and rather than crossing over to the Boardwalk I continued to the right around the lagoon past Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts, which seemed to have a lot of activity around the pool areas in the heat of the day. Crossing over the waterway in front of the Dolphin and Swan resorts, I entered the Boardwalk area from the far side. I quickly added two more places to my 'list of things to see next time', under the sub-head of evening entertainment: Jellyrolls and the Big River Grille and Brewing Works. I continued around the lagoon crossing over the canal and re-entered Epcot, with the feeling that I might have worked off one of the two beers from lunch and that the current priority was a seat in the shade. It was the middle of the day and gone from warm to hot, so there wasn't a lot of activity around the Boardwalk, but I'm looking forward to returning some evening on a future trip.
"Impressions de France" is described as "inspirational music and stunning, panoramic views of France, in relaxing comfort" and that sounded really good right then. However, a first favorable "impression de France" was cast member Miriam, who welcomed the crowd and educated us as to the location of her home in Normandy in relation to Paris and the rest of France. (Beauty, intelligence, wit, and a melodic French accent . . . I'd have fallen in love on the spot . . . if only I was about 20 years younger! C'est la vie.) The film itself turned out to be my favorite experience of the day . . . the combination of exceptional visuals perfectly complemented by the emotions of the music make this the best travel/cultural film I've ever seen. (I put this one on a new list: 'must see again before I leave today'.) Outside of the faux French village a crowd had gathered in the area of the Imaginum . . . the statue mime. (If the statue is a 'she' do you change the 'um' to an 'a'?) The costuming was perfect . . . the actress in white face and white attire with closed eyes, really looked like a statue . . . and her performance was witty and very entertaining Since I would be dining in Morocco this evening, I elected to pass by at this time and keep moving toward the American Experience. I enjoyed the attraction two years ago and looked forward to seeing it again. It was about 45 minutes until the next show, but the time seemed to fly by, because entertaining the crowd as it gathered was an amazing a capella group (accompanied by an upright string bass) singing a medley of American jazz and swing favorites. What an unexpected treat! The harmonies were tight, and the acoustics were very complimentary--the building has a dome in the foyer that enhances the sound. I could have listened to them all afternoon.
After seeing the American Adventure--a walk through American history with audio-animatronic hosts Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain--upon exiting the building, I noticed that a performance of "The Power of Blast!" was about to begin in the American Gardens Theatre. Not knowing that I was about to hear selections from a Tony award-winning Broadway hit, if I had to wait any amount of time, I might not have done so, but since the show was about to begin, it seemed I was in the right place at the right time. The outdoor theater was mostly full, but I was able to find an empty spot to the right side that offered a little shade. I enjoyed this show a lot . . . high energy brass and percussion, excellent musicianship and choreography . . . great entertainment.
From the American Gardens Theater, I continued counter-clockwise on toward Italy. Some refurbishing of the outside of main building is in progress--it is wrapped in a canvas painted to resemble the building's facade . . . pretty clever. It was getting close to 5pm by now, and there was no way I would be able to take my time through the rest of World Showcase and see everything at the pace I'd like to take. I decided I would go directly to Norway and experience Maelstrom . . . I don't know why we missed this in 1999--maybe the line was too long, I don't remember. The indicated wait time without a fast pass was only 10 minutes, so I got went in. The queue area is plain and without detail, except for several small Norwegian flags along the wall, and a large map illustrating various Viking explorations . . . about the best thing I can say about the queue is that it's indoors and out of the sun. Maelstrom was fun, I liked the theming inside the attraction . . . it reminded me somewhat of Splash Mountain . . . without the drop.
By now I'm hungry, and it's still a while before my 6:50pm dinner priority seating. I decided to make my way to Marrakesh and see if I could get an earlier eat time. The distance from where I was to where I wanted to be was about equal either left or right, and having a bias against leftist approaches, I went to the right (through Canada, United Kingdom, and France again), which turned out to be the way to go at that time of day . . . because as I approached Morocco, I could see the beginnings of Tapestry of Nations making it's way around the 'left' side of the lagoon. Looking at my Epcot map, I figured out that the parade route would continue up to Morocco and exit World Showcase through the gate between Japan and Morocco. I wasn't planning on watching this parade, but I found the music irresistible, and my interest was peaked. I easily found a place to stand near the termination point. I liked this parade with it's colorful, part-kite, part-marionette kind of figures moving with the music. I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time (again).
As the last Tapestry figure exited the parade route, I walked through the streets of Morocco to Marrakesh, and was seated right away. The dining area is a beautifully decorated room with tables seated around a central open area for entertainment, with raised seating areas against the walls on either side to afford those seated a little farther away a better view. I ordered a Moroccan beer, called Casablanca, which hit the spot, while I perused the menu. I love Moroccan food, and it had been a while since I had eaten at a Moroccan restaurant, so I was really looking forward to this. I ordered the Moroccan salad plate, which is a sampler of several salads, the two main ones are a diced cucumber-tomato combination with olive oil and spices, and the second is a mashed tomato-eggplant (I think) combination. Both were cool and delicious. For dinner I ordered the Lamb Meshoui, which was very good--the lamb was 'melt-in-your-mouth' tender--even if it was a little tame. (The traditional Moroccan seasonings are toned down to appeal to a typical American pallet.) A second Casablanca completed my repast. From the time I arrived (about 6:45) until I left around 7:30pm, Marrakesh was never more than about three-quarters full--again, certainly not a reflection on either the food or the service . . . but possibly the entertainment? . . . which included traditional Moroccan music and belly dancer. The dancer in costume was nice to watch, but it seemed her entire repertoire involved inviting patrons to come down and shake their booty with her. The visual of heavy, pasty-white, good-ol'-boys was a definite appetite suppressant I would have gladly skipped if given a choice . . . . I passed on desert and beat a retreat.
I walked back to France to check out another showing of "Impressions de France", and spent the half-hour before the next show watching Imaginum (the statue mime) again. Of all that I saw and experienced today, these two French features were my favorites. I almost fell in love with Miriam again, and on leaving Impressions, I did some shopping in the store near the exit for my children. For my son, I bought a T-shirt with 'see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil' gargoyles; for my daughter, I bought a children's French-English picture dictionary that she'll have fun with.
I had about 20 minutes until Illuminations was to begin, so I found a soft-serve ice cream vendor and snagged some dessert and settled onto a bench in front of the 'undeveloped' area between Morocco and Japan, and did a little people-watching. It seems to me that Epcot was a lot less crowded (and, as I mentioned, this was a summer Saturday) than I remember it being two years ago, and certainly a lot less crowded than a summer Saturday at Disneyland (which, quite honestly, I avoid). Where I was, folks didn't start moving to the railings for a view of Illuminations until about 5 minutes before the show was to start, and for as far as I could see, the crowd was only about one deep! Illuminations was a nice way to end the evening, and as I walked (to my left this time!) I took a last look around the World Showcase Lagoon, and appreciating the chance to visit again, I began to look forward to a return trip in December.
The monorail ride back to the Grand Floridian was easy . . . again, the crowd seemed light by comparison to my visit two years ago, and after a 5-minute wait, I boarded the very first monorail to come into the station. The monorail was full; I gave up my seat to a mother carrying her sleeping 3-month old (more Boy Scout training). Even with a transfer to the resorts monorail, I decided that the return trip by monorail was more convenient than driving. I disembarked at the Grand Floridian and headed to Big Pine Key. As I made my way across the pool area, the Magic Kingdom fireworks began to light the night sky. I stood and watched the entire show, grateful for the unexpected good timing . . . not only for this fireworks show, but throughout the day, how much really fine live entertainment I had experienced . . . without expecting any of it . . . just being in the right place at the right time. I think the word is serendipitous.
Day 3 -- July 29 -- Animal Kingdom, Home to L.A.
I woke early on Sunday morning so I could attend early (7:30am) Mass at Our Lady Shrine, and say 'thanks' to the good Lord for this great weekend and for other blessings too numerous to mention here. The church is located on Vineland, with Exit 27 being the closest exit off Interstate 4. Everything was quiet and still around the Floridian as I walked across the grounds before 7am. It only took about 15 minutes to get from the Grand Floridian to the church. The Disney map must be a little out of date (or just wrong), because it shows a jog to right and a quick left to get from the I-4 exit to Vineland, when it's really a 'straight through'--you continue straight from the offramp to Vineland. (Also, for future note, there's a Bahama Breeze to the left as you come down the offramp . . . I really like the one in Duluth, Georgia, and will hope to check out this Orlando version on a future visit.)
On returning to the Floridian, I changed clothes and packed my bags for the trip home. I snacked on the 2 muffins I had saved from yesterday's breakfast . . . they were still delicious. An itemized bill had been slipped under my door with instructions that no checkout was necessary if the bill was correct. It was, so I grabbed my stuff (I dislike waiting for porters even more than elevators) and headed out. As I walked through the lobby, I took a last look at the stained glass dome above, and how beautiful the lobby looked with the diffused, natural light. I found my car, threw my gear in the trunk and took off for the Animal Kingdom. (One of the other advantages of using Disney resort transportation over a rental car, is you don't have to remember where you park . . . not one of my strong suits.) I stepped off the AK parking lot tram at 10am. I was in need of a coffee fix, and since it was already warm, I purchased an iced coffee from a vendor in the entrance plaza. OK, ready to go now.
I headed to Africa to the Kilamanjaro Safaris. My plan was to get a Fastpass and walk the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail while I was waiting for my time, but the stand-by line was only a 10-minute wait, so I went on the Safari directly. I enjoy this attraction a lot. I've already mentioned my fondness for animals of all stripes, and I really like the theming of the attraction queue area . . . and am amused by the 'story line', yet relieved that Little Red is safe (every time!). This morning there was ample wildlife to be seen, but very few were close to the road, the few that were moving were doing so slowly, most were resting, a few were asleep . . . in fact, the lions, both the male and female, looked dead. (Two years ago with my children, we rode the safari twice, with close animal encounters each time: the first time, a rhino stopped in the road right in front of the vehicle; the driver, to the chagrin of all us passengers, nudged the rhino with the transport to get her to move along . . . hopefully, Disney is employing smarter rhinos now; on a second trip, when the vehicle stopped for a closer look, a giraffe wandered right up and stuck it's head and neck inside the vehicle . . . and moved on only after she was convinced we weren't hiding any leaves or twigs.)
After my safari, I walked to Pangani and spent the next half-hour there. The highlight was watching one of the younger gorillas sitting in the stream to keep cool, munching on some leaf stalks. Watching the gorilla reminded me it was close to my feeding time.
I had only a light snack for breakfast, so an early lunch is completely justified. I walked over and checked out the menu at Tusker's--a turkey wrap sounded good. There was no line to order food, it came to the pick-up counter quickly, and there was all kinds of room to sit down in the inside eating area and enjoy. The turkey wrap was delicious, I'll order it again . . . but truth in advertising would suggest a more accurate description: very tasty vegetable wrap, with a hint of turkey. As I finished up, I noticed it was approaching noon. I thought I'd swing over and get a Fastpass for Kali River Rapids, then hurry and catch the noon presentation of "Tarzan Rocks". I got my Fastpass, but arrived at "Tarzan Rocks" at 12:03 and discovered there's no seating once the show has started. Nuts.
But no worries, hakuna matata. I headed back to Asia, and noticed the KRR standby line wait was 20 minutes, which isn't bad for this ride. I figured even with a fastpass, I'd probably wait at least 10. I got in line with the plan that I'd get wet here, dry off standing in line for the next Tarzan show, then head over and catch the "Festival of the Lion King" after that.
The queue for Kali River Rapids is really well done, with a lot of attention to detail. The raft ride itself was fun . . . and I got very wet. My kids give the edge to Grizzly River Run at California Adventure over the Kali River Rapids as the best Disney water ride . . . and they're both great water rides, but now I think I agree with my kids . . . GRR is a little wilder . . . though I reserve the right to do more research just to be sure.
I wasn't just wet . . . there wasn't an inch of me that was dry! I sloshed over to the line for "Tarzan Rocks" and started to dry off. At "Tarzan Rocks" there is an free-standing awning that accommodates probably the first half of the waiting crowd, but the rest have to queue up in the hot Florida sun . . . standing on pavement. For me, that was OK, I needed a high heat setting, but for most in line that day, I'm sure it was uncomfortable. By the time the line started moving, I had progressed from soaked to damp . . . needing maybe 20 more minutes on the dry cycle. "Tarzan Rocks" . . . rocks. This show is "must see!" I wish I could have packed it up and brought home for my kids. The choreography was enthusiastic, especially the in-line skaters--a great concept. I've been a Phil Collins fan since Genesis' "A Trick of the Tail", so I think the Tarzan score is the best of any of the recent Disney musicals . . . which probably explains my only criticism of this show: Phil Collins' vocals on the soundtrack are the basis for comparison for that score; the lead singer in this production was competent, but his style and range didn't come close to Collins' . . . it's not a fair comparison, but it's unavoidable. Despite that minor shortcoming, "Tarzan Rocks" is definitely on my 'list to see again next time.'
From Tarzan, I made my way across the park to Camp Minnie-Mickey and the pavilion for the Festival of the Lion King. I was curious to see what this production would be like. I prefer stage shows to parades (sitting inside is better than standing outside), but I thought the Disneyland Lion King parade was extremely well done and enjoyed it every time I saw it . . . so I was interested to see how the Lion King would adapt to a sit down venue. I wasn't disappointed. The singers were inspired, the dancing was lively. I thought the trapeze monkeys were a nice touch . . . but I wasn't sure how the fire twirling baton guy got in there--I thought the milieu was 'Africa', and the fire thing struck me as misplaced 'Polynesia'. For the finale, the leads invited little kids from the audience to assist with percussion and dance, and that was really cute. While I liked this show a lot, I'd still consider the Disneyland Lion King parade as the better presentation.
It was now 3pm, and I needed to start thinking about heading to the airport. I bought some ice cream in a cup and enjoyed my treat as I walked back to Discovery Island, around the Tree of Life admiring its many animal images one more time, then headed back toward the entrance plaza. I boarded the tram, exited at the right spot (Dinosaur 36), and started looking for my rental car . . . which I found . . . eventually. My trip to WDW was now complete, and it was time to begin the journey home to the big zoo called Los Angeles . . . .
Although, I had a general plan of what I wanted to do and see, the best part of this short trip, I think, was the many entertainment surprises that being at the right place at the right time allowed. I knew I wanted to spend a day exploring World Showcase in Epcot, and I had made priority seating arrangements at the Rose and Crown and Marrakesh because I knew those were two meals I'd really enjoy. But I was not expecting the impact of "Impressions de France" or the quality of the live entertainment throughout: like British Invasion, or the jazz vocal ensemble in American Adventure, or "The Power of Blast!" or "Tapestry of Nations". I was disappointed at not seeing "Off Kilter", and I have to experience the Big River Bar and Grille brew pub and Jellyrolls, and I didn't even make it around to the Germany side of World Showcase. The Animal Kingdom was enjoyable, too, with "Tarzan Rocks!" as my favorite event of that day.
Traveling solo was not a problem either. The Disney parks are great entertainment whether you are with your significant other, your kids . . . or none of the above. Although my next scheduled trip will be with my children during their Christmas break, I expect I'll drop in for another solo weekend between now and then.