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Richard Keller -- December 2004 -- Walt Disney World (ASMoR)


The Cast

  • Richard: 35-year-old Technical Analyst. Disney veteran with eight trips to Disney World and two to Disneyland. Member of the Mousepad message boards.
  • Awilda: mmmrrffff-year-old wife and mother to two beautiful daughters. Disney veteran with three trips under her belt in the last 7 years.
  • Samantha: 4-year-old daughter. This was Samantha’s second trip to the House of Mouse.
  • Shannon: 18-month-old daughter. This was Shannon’s second trip as well, but the first out of the womb.

PROLOGUE
So, where were we?

The last time we chatted, The Keller’s had just returned from a 6-day whirlwind stay at the money vacuum affectionately named Walt Disney World. Awilda was pregnant with our second daughter at the time, and Samantha had just turned a precocious 2-years-old.

Well, nothing much happened after that. Oh, my wife gave birth to Shannon in June of 2003. Then there was the new job, which required a move from Maryland to Delaware in three weeks, Oh, there was the sale of our house in 1 day, and the hospital stay for Shannon during our third day in Delaware, and the move to a new house, and preschool for Samantha, and Shannon’s 1st birthday, and Samantha’s 4th birthday, and the slow receding of my hairline.

Like I said, nothing much.

Thunk!

Oops, sorry. I just fainted from exhaustion just writing all of that.

Being sane people we decided that a vacation was in order. Our first choice was everyone’s favorite family destination . . . Las Vegas. Our second choice was Disney World. We decided that Shannon really didn’t have her Texas Hold Em skills up to specs, so we decided to head to Orlando instead. We booked a 6-night stay at the All-Star Movies resort for $1300 (including airfare) in April, plunked down the money for the deposit and airline tickets, and settled down for the long wait.

However, once my rear end was comfortably ensconced on the sofa, a cold, invisible finger tapped me on the shoulder. It was December, who said ‘Gosh, wasn’t that fast?’. Before we knew it Thanksgiving was over and it was nearly time for us to hop on that big jet airplane.

A few days before our departure date Shannon sashayed into the living room, cleared her throat, and said, ‘Mother, Father, in order to complicate our trip preparations I will now generate a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It will go down with medicine, but will creep up again after the medication wears off. It will baffle you and the doctors, and there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it!’

Of course what we heard was ‘Poo Poo Paa Paa Bfffftttttt!’, which didn’t quite translate. The nefarious scheme our 18-month-old daughter had concocted kept us a bit worried that we would miss the trip. However, the doctors came to our rescue and gave us a clean bill of health to fly, as well as some super-strong antibiotics to kill whatever was causing the problem. By Friday night, we were as ready as we were going to be for this adventure.


SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4th

The alarm clock (known affectionately as Samantha) woke us at about 6:45. Shannon’s temperature hovered around 101, which was a big improvement. However, we didn’t leave events to chance; we gave Shannon the medicine that the doctor prescribed. As we were just getting ready to leave Shannon, um, returned the antibiotic to several locations on the family room floor as well as what she was wearing. We managed to clean everything up in record time, watched to see if anything else was coming out, and left for the Philadelphia airport by 10:15.

We arrived at PHL a little before 11:00 and went to the airport’s economy lot in search of a parking space. However, after a little reconnaissance drive, there seemed to be no spots to be had (or at least no spots close enough to a shuttle stop). A quick decision was made to exit the economy and park in the airport garage, which was double the amount per day of economy but much more convenient. We checked-in, traversed security fairly quickly, then grabbed some lunch at Burger King.

By the time we arrived at the gate they were beginning to board the plane. Our row of seats was right next to the lavatory and the trash bin (Attention all airlines – I would like these seats on a permanent basis every time we fly). We passed the time by watching the Wiggles’ ‘Top of the Tots’ and ‘Cold Spaghetti Western’ on the laptop where this very report is being composed. Other than that, the flight was uneventful.

We landed at MCO at about 4 pm and began our Magic Airport journey. The first stop was Baggage Claim Land, where we waited 30 minutes for our luggage -- along with passengers from FIVE other US Airways flights. Next was Car Rental Land, where I waited in line 40 minutes at the Alamo desk. Luckily, the $150 I was paying for a six-day full-size car rental kept me patient. Finally, it was off to Garage Land to find the last full size car Alamo had -- a four-door Buick Century (nice car!). When all was said and done, we left the airport grounds at 5:30 PM, headed towards 417 North and the Magic Kingdom.

On our drive Shannon said ‘Mother, Father, I shall freak you out a bit more’, and became very quiet. Even when we spoke with her she barely responded. Being parents of young children we began to get a little worried. By the time we got onto Disney property proper we were heading towards frantic. Thinking she was hungry or thirsty we stopped at the Hess quick mart near the Boardwalk to get her some water. While that went on my wife tried to ply her with snacks.

When we made it to the All-Star Movies we were pretty much freaking out because she was still so unresponsive and sounded like she was short of breath. I rushed into the ASM lobby and waited 15 nervous minutes to check in, then rushed back to the car, rushed to our room (Toy Story 9, floor 2, Number 9823), rushed to get her temperature taken.

It was only 100.

I collapsed on the floor.

Five minutes later, new diaper swaddling her tiny rear end, our toddler was walking around the room and talking to her friends on the phone. Needless to say, after this harrowing adventure my wife and I came to the same conclusion: children are a wonderful blessing, but they just freak you out sometimes.

After some time to calm down (and get my heart beating again) we reviewed our surroundings. Our room faced the quiet pathway that led to the small parking lot for Building 9. It also had a view, through the trees, of the Fantasia 2000 buildings. The room itself was convenient to both the small and large parking lot, elevator bays and ice machines, as well as the main building (Cinema Hall) and the Fantasia swimming pool. The room was small, but not much different (other than decor) than our room at the Coronado Springs (where we stayed in 2002). It fit two adults, two children, luggage and a stroller quite comfortably.

Once everyone was sufficiently calm we brought the luggage to the room then decided it was way past time to eat some dinner. The dining destination for our first night at Walt Disney World was the World Premiere food court at Cinema Hall. For about $18 we purchased mac & cheese for the girls, a turkey platter for my darling wife and meatball sub for Yours Truly. The mac & cheese was a little cold and very cheesy, so Samantha ate off of every one’s plate (a common practice for her). The meatball sub was surprisingly good, but gave my wife a reaction when she tried a couple of bites. This brought us to the conclusion that it WASN'T the pregnancy that caused her illness the last time she ate something with tomato sauce at the Coronado Spring's food court (see my December 2002 trip report for the gory details).

Our bellies as full as they could get, we went to the car and headed out to the second most popular destination in Orlando – the Super Wal-Mart. I got lost -- headed on 192 East instead of West – but eventually found it once I saw Medieval Times. Forty dollars later we were stocked up for the week (or so we thought). We returned to the room about 11:00 PM, and proceeded to all fall asleep fairly quickly.

TIPS TO REMEMBER: Pack your children into hermitically sealed plastic bags several weeks before your Disney vacation to keep them as healthy as possible.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5th

The Big Story: Daughter Two’s temperature was 98.2. Yipee!

There were two rare occurrences this morning. The first was when my wife and I actually got up BEFORE either of our children did. The second happened when showered, dressed and fed, we left the room at 8:30 for the Magic Kingdom. Back in 2002 we could barely make it out of the room by 9:00! This time around, we were at the park by 9:05 AM. My wife and I were in shock because we could NEVER get anywhere this quick at home.

Once inside the park, the first stop was Fantasyland. We had to go around the castle because they were recording a portion of the ABC Christmas Spectacular (which really should be recorded on Christmas Day, shouldn’t it?). This year’s Christmas Special had Mariah Carey (remember her?) and American Idol Diana DiGamo.

The first official ride was on the Golden Carousel, which both kids loved. Then, it was onto Snow White’s Scary Adventures. This ride should actually be renamed to more aptly fit what visitor’s see. Some suggestions:

The Evil Witch’s Happy Adventures
Snow White’s Friggin Scary Adventures
Cower and Hide with Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
The Emasculator
The Tear-Jerker

Seriously, this attraction is scary for both young children and adults alike. Apparently, they added a scene or two to lighten it up a bit, but it’s one bright spot amongst a lot of darkness. For the rest of the trip, Samantha kept mentioning that ‘Snow White was really scary’. I do hope that Disney will pay for my child’s therapy in the coming years.

Philarmagic, was the next attraction. This is a very fun attraction, but be warned – you will get wet during the mop scene. After this, we jumped onto the Tea Cups, a first for all of us. The kids just loved spinning the teacup. My wife and I were just dizzy.

Surprisingly, we were actually hungry when we departed the Tea Cups. A decision was made to head to our favorite Magic Kingdom lunch spot -- Pecos Bill’s. We walked over to Frontierland, stopped for some Splash Mountain Fastpasses for Samantha and myself, then headed over to Pecos Bill’s. As usual, this restaurant didn’t disappoint. After lunch we jumped over to Country Bears for the Holiday show. Samantha said hello to her favorite bear , Trixie, but Shannon didn’t appreciate the nuances of talking bears in holiday garb. We were in this attraction three times during our last visit, but this was the only visit we made during this trip.

By the time we got out of Country Bears it was time for our Fastpass to Splash Mountain. This was a first time for Samantha, and the first for me since 1997. Samantha was raising her hands above her head and screaming as we went down the drops. Needless to say, we both enjoyed this ride. We had an ice cream break once we exited, then strolled over to the Golden Horseshoe Saloon to meet Woody and his friends.

After meeting Woody, Jesse, and Bullseye, and seeing all of the other kids with autograph books, Samantha kindly requested that I purchase an autograph book (in other words, she said ‘I want an autograph book’). I stopped and bought said book and a pen and we crossed over to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. We stopped at Minnie’s Country House first and the pen I just bought broke. So, we stepped out of Minnie’s house to make an exchange. Once that was done we went back into the house, through the kitchen and . . .

She wasn’t there. Turns out, she was in Mickey’s Judge’s Tent waiting for us, and a few hundred friends. We waited for 40 minutes in the Tent to meet Minnie and Donald, which made Samantha very happy.

It was nearly 4 PM by the time the books were signed and the pictures were taken, and we decided to wrap it up. So, our final ride was a family favorite from our last visit – Buzz Lightyear. The first time we went around I got a measly 2600 points. My wife got something like 8000 points. My 18-month-old daughter got 10,000 points. The newborn sitting two cars in back of me got 12,000 points. Pathetic, I tell you, pathetic! The second time around (getting on right after the first) I didn’t do much better.

Tail between my legs, we ended our day at the Magic Kingdom. We got back to the room, swam a bit, freshened up, then went to dinner at Golden Corral off of 535. It really wasn’t the best meal – too much starchy, greasy food and grumpy servers (Old Country Buffet is much better). We were back in the room by 9:00 and I collapsed in bed by 11:00 PM.

TIP: Go to the Super Wal-Mart and pick up two 83 cent Rubbermaid bottles. Fill them with ice and water and take them to the park. They will last you for a good portion of the day. This will save you twelve dollars and change on buying a refillable mug.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 6th

WHINE ALERT: In the first few paragraphs I will be complaining about Animal Kingdom. I wish to apologize up front to you, the readers, who may have an aversion to whine, or who may have a family member who loves to whine and dine. It will be short and painless, I assure you.

Today was the most productive of our trip: Morning at Animal Kingdom, afternoon/evening at Magic Kingdom, and dinner at Downtown Disney. Because it was to be productive, I made sure we were up and out of the room by 9:00 AM.

Now, before I go on, let me just say that this ISN’T a park for little kids and little feet, especially if it is a bit warm and humid. Unlike Magic Kingdom and, to a lesser extent MGM, there are no shortcuts to get from one land to another. If you want to go from Camp Minnie-Mickey then to Africa and you are in Dinoland USA you need to walk to the center of the park, then to Camp Minnie-Mickey, then back out to the center of the park, then back to Africa. It’s a tough park. Needless to say, this got a bit tiring as our visit progressed.

In addition, because of all of the topiary in the park, and the fact that the ground is wet from the sprinklers that run in the evening, this park is a bit more humid than the rest of the Disney parks. So, with the Florida sun beating down on you, it can get a little bit uncomfortable in the park, even in the December.

Our first stop, which was pretty much a walk-on, was ‘It’s Tough to Be a Bug’. The beginning of the movie is okay (once again, you will get wet), but it gets quite scary for the young ones when Hopper appears and commands the black widow spiders to come down from the ceiling. Also scary was when all of the insects leave first through the benches.

To calm the nerves of our frazzled children we headed over to Dinoland USA. On the way we discovered the hidden Pooh/Eyeore/Tigger character meet which, compared to Mickey’s Judges’ Tent, was downright empty. We had autographs and pictures taken with the characters within five minutes. Then, it was back over to Dinoland USA for a couple of rides on Triceratops Spin. I tried to get Samantha and myself onto Primeval Whirl, but she didn’t make the height requirement. Since there was only one thing for the kids to do we made a hasty retreat back to the center of the park.

By this time it was about 10:00 AM and the lovely Florida sun was starting to bear down on us. I was wearing a summer shirt that was apparently made for winter because it was absorbing all of the heat around me. So, beginning to sweat, we made our way to Camp Minnie-Mickey. As our long march continued I began to get steadily grumpier as El Sol decided to wrap me in its glorious rays. By the time we reached Camp Minnie-Mickey, and saw the lines for the character meets, a phrase came to mind. Just three words – something so prolific that Plato and Will Rogers were all thumbs-up when I said it . . .

‘This park sucks.’

Luckily, there was no line at the ‘Shady Bench by the Restrooms’ attraction, so we all sat there to snack, go potty and just relax. When we all felt a bit better we parked the stroller and headed over to ‘Festival of the Lion King’. This was a exciting, fun show with a lot of elements and we all enjoyed it.

Once the Lion King let out we decided try one more attraction – the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Map and compass in hand, we walked back out to the center of the park then made a sharp turn towards Africa. The wait time was 30 minutes, but the queue was covered, so it was pretty manageable. The ride itself was good, allowing you to get some really closeup looks at the animals; however, there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t see at The National Zoo in Washington DC or the Philadelphia Zoo.

By 12:45 we had been to all of the attractions we wanted to do at AK. We made a steady retreat out to the bus stop. By 1:30 we were back at the room. We ate lunch and settled in for a nap. I lay down beside Samantha to try and get her to sleep. By the time I woke up it was 4:30. We got the kids up, hopped in the car and, miraculously, entered the Magic Kingdom before 6:00 PM.

The Magic Kingdom is a beautiful park to be in at night, particularly during the holidays. Out of all of the Disney World parks this one is done up the best with a lovely Christmas tree, lights and decorations down the entire length of Main Street and, as the backdrop to all of this, the Magic Kingdom, which is bathed in lights of ever changing colors. It does make you feel a little bit magical.

Pretty Poetic, huh?

Of course, we didn’t see any of that because we headed directly to Buzz Lightyear, which we rode twice. I can’t remember what scores I got, but I can recall that they were better than the pitiful ones I gathered the day before. Right out of Buzz we walked over to Carousel of Progress. This was a show my wife and I hadn’t seen since 1997 and it has always been one of my favorites, so it was fun to see once again. Samantha also enjoyed the ride, especially the way the theater moved and the theme song (“It’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow”), which has taken the temporary spot from “It’s a Small World”. I’ve read (courtesy of Mouseplanet, Mousepad, and MouseandMan) that CoP will be going down in 2005 for major refurbishment. It will be interesting to see if they do any upgrading to the last scene – the not too distant future. Maybe they’ll replace statements about “laser discs” with ‘DVDs” or something like that. I can hear it now – ‘Gee, Mom, you look great after your Botox injections.’

From CoP we moseyed over to the WEDway People Mover . . . .er, I mean the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Another favorite of my wife and I, this is a great ride to take at night because it gives you a wonderful view of the Castle as it is lit up. The only part that freaks me out a bit is when we go through Space Mountain. My first memory of this roller coaster was going on with my Dad when I was about 6 or 7. I was crying and had my eyes shut all of the ride (Everyone now in unison – WIMP!!!! Thank you.) The next time I rode it I was 28 and I still didn’t have a good sensation about it. Now, passing through the ride on the TTA just gives me the oogies (Yes, that’s a word. Look it up!). An aside: I remember going through Space Mountain on the TTA back when I was a teenager, and the ride was down and all of the lights were up. For some reason, that was even scarier than when the lights are down.

We stepped (more like glided) off of TTA and took a break at the Starlight Café to get the kids some chicken nuggets, fries and applesauce. Once fed and refreshed, Samantha and I took a ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway. Samantha drove and, being only four, her driving was a bit erratic – she slammed into the curb several times. Yet, she had fun. Dad, on the other hand, flashed-forward twelve years when she sweetly says, ‘It’s time to get my driver’s license’. I get the cold sweats just thinking about it.

After the Speedway we made a quick stop at the Tea Cups, then headed into the heart of Fantasyland in time for Wishes to begin. It was a really nice show, but would have been better if we were standing in front of the Castle to see it.

With the fireworks over and all of the rides shutting down, we headed on the last attraction of the night – the ‘Get the Hell Out of the Park With Thousands of Other Visitors’ ride.

Actually, getting out wasn’t too bad. We took the advice of many and cut through the Main Street stores to make our walk quicker. My wife had no idea what we were doing until we ended up near the Christmas tree in about 30 seconds. The walk under the WDW Railroad was a little tough since there were so many people to crowd through the passageways, but the Cast Members at the railroad station helped keep our spirits up by waving good-bye to us with their large Mickey Mouse hands, which could be used to shove us out of the exits more quickly.

Once out of the park the Cast Members did a nice job of shunting us over to the monorails. Since they were coming every minute or so after the last one departed, it wasn’t long before we were in a monorail car and headed to the TTC. All totaled, it was only about 45 minutes from exit to the car. I remember it being MUCH longer when the family used to come during the summer.

We exited the Magic Kingdom and made our way to Downtown Disney for a late dinner at Planet Hollywood. Part of my vacation package included a $25 certificate for the restaurant, but it could only be used before 6 PM and after 9 PM. The bill for two cheeseburgers, chicken finger platter, sodas and a smoothie totaled about $45 with tip. With the certificate I only had to leave $20. The food was good and the atmosphere, although a bit loud, was nice. The only thing that annoyed my wife and I were a group of people that came in around 10 PM. On the way to their tables they were singing very loudly, then they were dancing on the tables and blowing whistles once they reached their seats.

Gosh, those senior citizens can be a wild lot!

After dinner we made a quick stop at the Super Wal-Mart for some additional items. When all was said and done we were back at the room by 11:30 and in bed by midnight. A very long day indeed.

TIP: Animal Kingdom Sucks!

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7th

My wife had to wake me up at 7:45 this morning to get me going for our day of EPCOT. By the time all of our primping was done (Hey, it takes a long time to look THIS good) we were out of the room by 9:00 AM and actually in the park by about 9:45. Today was the first day we rented a stroller at the park for Samantha, whose tiny four-year-old feet couldn’t handle all of the walking. It turned out to be a great idea that we continued for the rest of our trip.

First stop was Journey to Imagination. I went on this ride solo back in 2002 and enjoyed it (I went on the original once but it broke down) and my family enjoyed it this time around. However, what the daughters enjoyed more was the Imagination Station activities, particularly the ones involving getting our picture taken and sending an email copy back home. They just loved pressing the screen and the keyboard.

The next stop was Mission:Space, which was a solo for dear-old Dad. I had heard about this ride and was told to eat very lightly before I got on. I’m glad I did because, while the launch portion of the ride didn’t get to me (even though I felt the simulated g-forces pressing against my face) the maneuvers through an asteroid belt and the landing on the surface of Mars made me a bit queasy. It’s definitely one of those ‘Not to Be Missed Rides’, just don’t go on it after a double cheeseburger from the Electric Umbrella.

When I returned to Earth we walked right on over to Ellen’s Energy Adventure. This is a pleasant ride that even Samantha enjoyed, but it was a bit LOOOONNNGGG. And, I think the movie part needs to be updated a bit.

Once our journey through the primordial ooze was over it was about lunch time, so we decided to sashayed on back to the room for some lunch and relaxation. We ate, rested a bit, then put on our swimming togs and headed off to the pool. While there we stopped in the laundry room, which was conveniently located right in the Fantasia Pool area, to wash some clothes that we would need for the rest of the trip. We swam for about an hour, then headed back to the room, clothes freshly washed and dried.

By 4:00 PM we were ready for dinner. We hopped into the car and went towards the real world for a meal at Olive Garden on 192 East. Dinner was actually less expensive than our Sunday meal at Golden Corral and tasted much better.

Once we loaded up on carbohydrates we headed back on-property to the World Showcase portion of EPCOT. This was something the family and I did not do during our last visit in 2002 because we had some bad experiences back in 1997 and a boycott was declared by my then-pregnant wife.

World Showcase was also the park where they were showing ‘Four-Year-Old Meltdown’. We didn’t intend to make that performance, but Samantha “No Nap” Keller was primed for a starring role.

We didn’t do too much in World Showcase. We walked around Canada and Great Britain, picked up two KidCot masks for the girls and got them stamped in Britain, France and China (where they write your name and year you were born in Chinese, which I think is cool). We also stopped at Boulangerie Patisserie in France for some sweets.

The show really began when we stopped at the ‘The American Experience’. The performance didn’t begin for 15 or 20 minutes, and Samantha thought that the rotunda of the building was for running around. I had to stop her several times, and once actually walked her out to calm down. Once we got into the presentation itself, which I hadn’t seen whole since the 1980's (it broke down during my 1997 visit), Samantha would keep asking if the theater was going to move – like Carousel of Progress – or when the show was going to end. The final straw was when I caught her eating her sandal, while her foot was still in it. I pulled the sandal away and she complained loudly. So, having enough of that, I grabbed her, walked out of the theater, plopped her in the stroller, and proceeded to make my way out of the park. The meltdown was quite exquisite and Samantha is up for several Golden Globe nominations.

After everyone calmed down and had some pastry we decided to wait for Illuminations to start. Once again, this is another show I hadn’t seen since 1997. Once it started though we decided that the best thing to do was to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible to avoid the rush. So, we continued around the lagoon towards Future World, watching the show as much as possible. We got to the Future World fountain just as the show ended and the mass exodus began. However, because we actually had a car in the park’s lot, we were able to get out of EPCOT fast. We were back to the room by about 9:45 and in bed by 10:15.

TIP: Lindsay Lohan will be portraying Samantha in the national production of ‘Four-Year-Old Meltdown’. Get your tickets early.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8th

‘Four-Year-Old Meltdown II: Parent’s Meltdown.’

Woke up at about 7:10 this morning and jumped right into the shower. The kids and wife were up not soon after. Samantha and I ventured out to the Cinema Hall to get some pancakes for Shannon, who was not eating at all this trip. Samantha didn’t particularly like this and had a tantrum. Daddy didn’t like this. Samantha had a meltdown. Daddy had a meltdown. Mommy, who tried to referee, had a meltdown.

Shannon ate some pancakes and happily read from a Blue’s Clues books.

By 8:30 we were all sufficiently grumpy (after threats of staying in the room and actually going home). So, of course it was a good idea to head out to MGM Studios. We were at the park gates just about 9 AM and we headed straight for Tower of Terror. I was the only brave soul to enter and enjoyed it once again, but kept my eyes closed during all of the drops. I did get a bit queasy during the drops, most likely due to no breakfast and being generally upset.

Our next stop was the 10 AM show of Playhouse Disney. This was the first of two highlights at MGM. Both daughters enjoyed the show immensely: Samantha was up and dancing through most of the show while Shannon enjoyed the bubbles that fell during the ‘Rollie Polie Olie’ portion.

After the show we sat down, had some snacks and mended some fences. We all took a solemn vow to not be grumpy for the rest of the vacation. The oath involved a ritual ceremony with flowing robes, the blood of a young goat, and a Disney Annual Pass. Needless to say, I’ll skip the lengthy explanation of the six-hour event.

With the ceremony over and the robes put away we headed over to ‘One Man’s Dream’. My wife and I love this story of Walt Disney. I find it utterly amazing that one man had so much initiative and imagination to develop so much over so short a period of time. It gives inspiration to us worker bees to strive to do something else.

We stopped for another snack (we weren’t as filled up as we thought we would be) and sashayed over to MuppetVision 4D. As usual, another excellent performance from Jim Henson’s creations (now there’s a man who died WAY before his prime). From MuppetVision we jumped over to Millionaire. Between the first and second contestants I had reached the top three on the tote board, but completely dropped off after a question about a soap opera that became a novel.

We stepped out of Millionaire and, after a few bathroom breaks, got in line right across the walkway for the second highlight at MGM: an actual meeting with JoJo and Golaith from Playhouse Disney’s ‘JoJo’s Circus’. We waited about 20 minutes in the sun, but were 2nd in line when JoJo and her pet lion Goliath stepped out of their trailer. There was much excitement from Samantha as she got JoJo’s autograph and a picture taken. When this was done it was 2:00 PM and we decided to call it a day at MGM and head back to the Magic Kingdom. On the way between the two parks we stopped at the McDonalds on Buena Vista Drive for a fairly pricey (for a McDonalds) meal.

We got into the Magic Kingdom at just about 4 PM and headed over to Adventureland to ride Aladdin and then Jungle Cruise. Our Boatman for this journey was just full of corny jokes and really not that good. We rode this attraction three times during our last visit, but this was the only time we rode it during this vacation. After Jungle Cruise we stopped at Aloha Isle for a delicious Pineapple Float (soft-serve ice cream on top of a glass of pineapple juice).

Refreshed, we crossed over to Tomorrowland and rode Buzz Lightyear twice (if you’re counting, this is six times in total for this trip). This time around I managed to pull a score of 50,000; hence, redeeming myself from the pitiful performance on Sunday. Once our second trip to Sector Nine was done it was nearing 7:00 PM and Wishes. So, we high-tailed it out of the park as quickly as we could in order to avoid the washed masses. We were at our car by 7:15 and headed out.

We stopped for dinner at Chipotle’s on Kirkman Drive, near Universal Studios. Chipotle’s is Mexican fast-food that features burritos the size of a small child’s head for about five bucks. For two burritos, chips and guacamole the total was $13.50 with tip. It was the best dinner we had the whole trip. When we were done we headed back to the room for a early night. The kids were in bed by 9:00 PM. I stayed up to update the trip report (no thanks needed), but finally succumbed to exhaustion and fell asleep by 11:00 PM.

TIP: Hey, Chipotle’s! We could use a location or two here in Northern Delaware. Give me a call and we’ll chat.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9th

Today was our last full day at the resort and we decided to celebrate with a Character Breakfast at O’hanna at the Polynesian. This was the first time for all of us at this restaurant (although I had been there many, many, many years ago when in another incarnation). We decided to go here because, well, there were no priority seatings available at Chef Mickey’s.

Our seating was at 9:40. We left ASM at 9:00 and took the bus to the Magic Kingdom, then took the resort monorail to the Polynesian. I thought this would be easier than driving to the resort, but we barely made it in time for the meal. Luckily, we made it and got seated in about 10 minutes.

We were given some absolutely delicious pineapple bread as we were brought to our table. Our ‘cousin’ came by fairly quickly with orange juice and a bowl of fruit to snack on while we waited for the main meal. Within a few minutes Mickey Mouse came right to the table to the delight of our children. Then, Goofy lined the kids up for a parade around the restaurant.

Once the parade wound through the restaurant’s tables a few times we sat down to our lazy susan of eggs, Mickey waffles, biscuits, home fries, and various heart-clogging pork products. My wife and I enjoyed the home fries, but thought the eggs were a bit salty. Samantha enjoyed the heart-clogging meats and Shannon had some waffles. In the end, the damage was a fairly Disney-inexpensive $53 with tip.

We jumped back onto the monorail headed towards the Magic Kingdom for our final day of adventure. We traversed down the left side of the hub to Tomorrowland and we landed smack-dab in a middle of a Buzz Lightyear meet-and-greet. Out came the autograph book and the camera to save the moment for eternity. Then, it was off to the Buzz Lightyear ride for Fastpasses. We had 30 minutes of time to kill and we spent it on second visits to Carousel of Progress and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. When this was all done it was time for our trip to Sector Nine. I did much better this journey as I began to find some of the ‘sweet spots’ that racked up the points.

When that was all done we came to the conclusion that we were actually hungry and ready for some lunch. We decided to head for Pecos Bill’s. On our way we took a side trip back to Philarmagic, which was enjoyed throughly once again. It was then off to a nice-and-empty Pecos Bill’s (it was right before the afternoon parade), where we enjoyed hamburgers, french fries, and hot, melted cheese. Mmmmm, artery-hardening good!

With lunch out of the way we headed towards the home stretch of our Magic Kingdom visit. We cut over to Adventureland for Pirates of the Carribbean. The beginning portion of the ride – before the drop – was pretty scary for Samantha. She calmed down a bit until the ride stopped for 10 minutes during the last town scene. During that time we listened to the ride soundtrack over, and over, and over again until they mercifully shut it down. I also was able to gaze lovingly at ‘The Hairy Leg’ (that one’s for you NJMike).

We finally disembarked from PoTC and crossed over to Fantasyland, where we grabbed Fastpasses to Winnie the Pooh. Then we walked into Tomorrowland for our final two rides on Buzz Lightyear (I believe it was NINE rides in total – a new family record!). On the last ride around I was able to pull a score of 180,700 by hitting one of the targets on Zurg’s spaceship during the last scene. Once the 2nd Buzz Lightyear journey was over we trotted back to Fantasyland to ride Winnie the Pooh. The last time we went on this ride Samantha and my then-pregnant wife was not particularly enthralled with this attraction. This time it was much more pleasant and enjoyed by all of us. Once this ride was done we were done with the Magic Kingdom.

We went back to our hotel and I went to Cinema Hall to grab some grub for the family. Freshened up and full of food we made our journey to Downtown Disney. We spent most of our time walking around and window shopping at the various shops. We stopped at Disney’s Days of Christmas and attempted to find some tree ornaments with the year of our visit. Alas, they only had 2005 items. So, we settled for some non-dated items. We then stopped at World of Disney, but it was too crowded to really peruse the items for sale.

Hunger came upon us once again, so I got in line at Ghiradelli’s Soda Fountain for a ice cream sundae. Afterwards, we headed out of the Marketplace towards Pleasure Island and the West End. We had decided to go to the Comedy Warehouse (improv is one of my passions), but the next show wasn’t until after 10 PM. We walked a bit further and I made the declaration that I was just dog tired and wanted to go home. We went back to the hotel room and I petered out at around 11 PM.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10th

Our last day at WDW. Hurray....er, I mean darn.

We woke up around 8:00 and finished packing for our trip. After a breakfast of what was left in the refrigerator we stopped off at the pool at about 9:00 and stayed for 45 minutes or so. Returning to the room we were dressed and ready to go as the Checkout Police came around at 11:00 AM. We stopped for gas at the Hess by the Boardwalk and then headed to Downtown Disney.

Our first stop was the Lego Imagination Center at the Disney Marketplace. While the kids built, I purchased a Dora Lego set for Shannon. By that time it was almost noon and we were getting hungry. So, we stopped into Earl of Sandwich for lunch, which was a refreshing change of pace from the burgers we were scoffing down during the week. For a measly $23 dollars we were able to purchase three sandwiches, potato chips, and beverages.

My wife and daughters each had the Cannonball (the daughters split their sandwich) which was small meatballs in marinara sauce with melted provolone and mozzarella cheeses. My, my, it was quite delicious (even cold). I had The Full Montagu, which was turkey and roast beef with cheddar and Swiss cheese. Very tasty, especially on the toasted bread. We were all quite full when we were done.

The restaurant definitely has a future. Only open eight months it is quite popular, with long lines and full tables for meals. They are looking to branch out. Hopefully you will see one in your local area shortly.

After lunch we jumped over to Disney’s Day of Christmas, where we purchased a box of ornaments of which two were to be for my daughters pre-school teachers. Then, it was time for one last stop at Ghardelli’s, since my eldest daughter was sound asleep when we made the stop the evening before. She had a strawberry cone (which was HUGE) and my wife, Shannon, and I split a Very Berry Sundae.

As we were finishing up our ice cream I looked around and noticed that the skies were turning a lovely shade of bluish-black. I encouraged my table mates to conclude their desserts and head forthwith to the car before a typical Florida shower occurred. OK, actually I said ‘We’ve got to get the heck out of here before we have to swim over to Lot F.’ So, we made a hasty retreat to the car. Just as I was putting the stroller into the trunk the deluge began, and continued until we reached the airport.

We dropped the car off at Alamo by 2:30 and we were checked in and through security by 3:00. We were at our gate by 3:15, in time for a 4:10 boarding. Unfortunately, the low ceiling above the entire Northeast Corridor delayed our flight. By the time we were cleared for takeoff it was about 5:45 in the afternoon.

Once we got in the air the ride was uneventful (other than the constant admonishment of the cranky, tired children) and we landed in Philadelphia by 7:30. However, our luggage seemed to land a little bit later, because it didn’t appear in baggage claim until at least 8:10. Luckily, our luggage came off the belt fairly quickly after that. We were in our car and on Route 95 South by 8:30. After stopping for some take-out dinner at the local WaWa, we were at home and putting the kids to bed by 9:30. My wife and I ate our dinner and were in bed by 11:00.

EPILOGUE
So, what have we learned?

  • Little children are S-M-A-R-T and will find the most innocuous ways or making parents panicking masses of jello;
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures makes grown men cry;
  • If you ride on Mission:Space several times consecutively you can avoid costly plastic surgery; the G-Force will pull your face back and remove those nasty worry lines;
  • Food at WDW is expensive, but not that expensive. If you don’t eat at every priority seating meal during your trip you can do pretty well;
  • Animal Kingdom . . .never mind.
  • All-Star Movies is a great place to stay with the little kids. They don’t need an elaborate theme experience, they just need a large pool;
  • Walt Disney World – Despite all of the money and the waiting and the sweating . . .it is still magical.

Richard Keller

richsk@juno.com


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