Also known as the "it's been way too long since we were there and I didn't take any notes" trip report. :-) So this isn't going to be a blow-by-blow description of the trip - more of the highlights, or whatever looking at the pictures made me remember.
We flew from San Diego to Orlando and back, and rented a car so we'd have our own transportation to/from the parks - we generally don't use Disney transportation to anywhere except the Magic Kingdom, since we try to avoid the TTC whenever possible. We flew American through Dallas this time - the flights from San Diego to Orlando were the smoothest flights I have experienced in a long time - I don't think there were any bumps except when touching down on the runway! The trip home was a completely different story, though - we had to get through a very large storm, and the pilot had the flight attendants prepare the cabin for arrival and stay in *their* seats when we still had an hour and ten minutes left in the flight! We had 40 minutes of very choppy air, but the last 20 minutes we broke out of it, and it was clear and pretty smooth for our landing in Dallas.
We had breakfast at the Roaring Forks (the snack bar place) a couple of mornings, and at the Whispering Canyon one morning. We had fun watching the ketchup get passed from table to table - I think there were 13 or 14 bottles that people had to move when the "Where's the KETCHUP???" call went out. :-) One table made the mistake of trying to surreptitiously grab a bottle and were shamed for being ketchup thieves - and the table who reported them was shamed for being tattletales! :-) We managed to avoid any undue attention, though.
From the beach behind Wilderness Lodge you can watch the Electrical Water Pageant (for non-Disneyphiles, think parade floats that actually *do* float as well as light up and play music). This was something that we had never actually seen *all* of, and we did that after our dinner at Artist Point. We were able to sit on a couple of lounges on the beach. The only problem was that I got several mosquito bites, which I had a reaction to, and I still have one that's red and sometimes itchy even though it's been over 3 weeks since I got them. Ugh. There's something about Florida mosquitoes that's very different from California mosquitoes!
We took the boat transportation to Magic Kingdom two different mornings - that was pretty convenient. The Wilderness Lodge area is kind of remote from everything but the Magic Kingdom - we missed being able to walk to Epcot and the Studios as we did in December when we stayed at Boardwalk Villas.
The rooms were very nice and quiet, but I think Villas at Wilderness Lodge will probably be the #3 choice for us behind Boardwalk and Old Key West just because it is so remote.
Le Cellier - just as good as always, and we had our two favorites - mushroom stuffed filet for Lee, and maple-glazed salmon for me. And a very good (very sweet) wine. Lee had the creme brulee for dessert, but I had the kid's chocolate mousse cake, which in addition to being very cute, was VERY good - I was surprised at how big it was considering the price and that it's for kids. I would have been happy with half (though that didn't stop me from eating almost all of it. :-) ) We had noticed in our several meals here that the servers here didn't seem to be quite so busy as at other restaurants, so we asked, and our server told us that they only give them 3-4 tables, so they really do have a little more time just to hang out and visit with guests.
Teppanyaki - This is the "cook-it-at-your-table" place in the Japan Pavilion. Tables seat 8, so you are likely to be dining with another party. We'd never eaten here before, but Kenny suggested it for Friday evening. The three of us had a nice dinner with a family of 5 from Houston who were visiting for the first time. Our chef was named Tom - we gave him a bad time about his not-very-Japanese name, and also that he was from Hawaii and not Japan. :-) Illuminations was starting just as we paid the bill, and we watched most of it from the balcony outside the restaurant - that's a pretty good spot.
California Grill - We walked in and were seated immediately - that was a surprise. They put us back in the Wine Room, though, which meant there was no chance of seeing fireworks from our table. But the room was VERY quiet, and that was a nice change, because California Grill is always VERY loud. There were only 3 other couples seated in the room until a party of about 10 businessmen arrived - and they were kind of noisy, but still quiet compared to the main dining room! Dinner was fine, but I don't think we'll return there for a while...our favorite server, Kendall, is no longer working there, and he always made dinner an event. The food, though it's good, has just gotten a little too weird for me - there's less and less on the menu that I find appealing each time I go. We did have a really yummy wine, though - a sparkling Moscato from Italy. Of course it was also only about 7.5% alcohol, so I was able to match Lee glass for glass with no problem - normally a glass and half and I'm done. The chocolate quake cheescake was off the menu since our visit in December (why does CG change their dessert menu so often???), but the mocha torte was pretty good.
Artist Point - We were actually pretty adventurous, and *neither* of us ordered their salmon! Lee had the buffalo steak, and I had the sturgeon - which they only have for maybe two months a year. (No, I don't know if it was virgin sturgeon...but it was very fine fish. ;-) ) It was very different, but very good. Mild, but with almost a smoky flavor (not smokehouse flavor, but actual smoke). Hard to explain, but it was delicious. For dessert I had the triple chocolate cheesecake that I had thought was so wonderful in December. But something is different - before it was "Mary's Triple Chocolate Cheesecake" and now it's only "Triple Chocolate Cheesecake" - this was good, but Mary's version was a lot better.
Other meals - We *really* like the Tangierine Cafe at the Morocco pavilion in Epcot, and ate there a couple of times. I think it's our favorite counter service place there - surpassing the Japanese Yakitori House. The chicken wrap and the Moroccan flatbread are pretty good, but the chicken Shuwarma sandwich is still my favorite. We had a very nice (but late) lunch at the Big River Grill and Brewing Works on the Boardwalk. Their house salad was quite tasty, with lots of stuff in it, and the chicken sandwich was good, too. Also had lunch at the aforementioned Yakitori House one day, and a couple of very quick lunches at the Bakery in France - though my ham & cheese sandwich ended up being ham only.
We learned that Downtown Disney is NOT the place to go for dinner on a Sunday night - I've never seen so many people there! We were hungry for some butternut squash soup from Wolfgang Puck's Express, but the line was out the door at both of them. Though we did get our exercise walking from the West Side to the one at the Marketplace and then back. But wow...there were waaay too many people around! We gave up and went to the Tangierine Cafe at Epcot instead - but we did go back and get our soup and pizza fix on Tuesday night, and it was MUCH less busy! :-)
Magic Kingdom is not a place you go for interesting dining, but we had lunch there at Pecos Bill's with Kenny. They have a really good topping bar for their burgers, which is what the guys had. I got the Kit Carson chicken salad, and it was HUGE, and actually very good - there was no way I could eat all of it, though, and even with Lee eating part of it too, I still think we left almost half of it!
I'll start with the Studios, since that's where we spent the least time...
We visited on Sunday and did all of our usual favorites - Tower of
Terror, Rock n' Roller Coaster, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and
Hunchback of Notre Dame,
but there just wasn't anything new and
different - though Matt the Juggler's pre-show before Hunchback has
changed a little bit. We didn't take time for the Animation Tour since
we were there on a weekend and probably no one would have been
working. That was about it for the Studios! :-) (As for the
picture...just call it the Geordi Laforge look. :-) (Taken outside
the Sci Fi Dine-In) )
We actually made *3* different visits to MK - that's got to be a record for us! :-) We met Kenny there on Friday morning, and did Timekeeper and Buzz, then had lunch. We were on a quest for rocking chairs (for Lee's "Rocking Chairs of the World" page :-) ), and found several of them over on Tom Sawyer's Island - I don't think we'd ever been over there before! We played around on the fort and on the rope and barrel bridges (all the guns have disappeared from the fort, though) - I think there are more things to do here than on Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland. On our way out of the Park we watched the Recycle...err...*Remember* the Magic parade from the end of Main Street.
Saturday night after our dinner at California Grill we walked over to the MK from the Contemporary, took some pictures of the castle at night, rode Big Thunder Mtn (always better at night!), and saw the Main Street Electrical Parade. Since we saw the second parade (and because we watched it from Frontierland) we were able to walk right up to the rope only a couple of minutes before the parade started! Lee says that Minnie was flirting with him...
I like MSEP better than SpectroMagic - some people say the "Baroque Hoedown" music in MSEP drives them crazy, but I enjoy it. There's something very happy and innocent about it. MSEP has completed its run now, and SpectroMagic is back - I'm glad we got to see MSEP one more time. I don't dislike Spectro - I just like MSEP better! :-)
Wednesday morning before we left I wanted one last shot at Buzz Lightyear (Lee had beaten me badly twice), so we took the boat over to MK from Wilderness Lodge. We got on Buzz and got stuck in the first room - cool! :-) From where I was, I had several good targets to shoot at, so I had maxed out my score before we got moving again. Even though Lee was next to me, he didn't have a very good angle at any targets, so he couldn't do as well. But I was happy to get to be a Galactic Hero again! :-) We rode the TTA - and Space Mtn was down at the time, so we got to see it with the lights on. We also rode Pooh and Splash that morning.
Buzz, Pooh, and Splash - the only real reasons to go to the MK! :-) (At least for those of us who are frequent visitors to Disneyland.)
We had several really good visits to Animal Kingdom, and we spent quite a bit of time there. We were there almost all day on Thursday, as well as Monday morning, Tuesday afternoon, and briefly on Wednesday morning to see Tarzan Rocks again.
Our usual routine is to arrive in the morning, get a FastPass for the Safari, and then have breakfast at Tusker House - and by the time we finish it's about time for our FastPass, and we just blitz on by all those poor souls in the standby line. :-) One of the times we did it we did have a 5-10 minute wait even with FastPass, though. Oh horrors. :-)
We had two different morning safaris, and saw a pretty good variety of animals, but our best safari was one we did about 4:45 in the afternoon. The driver was named Blessing, and he was from Zimbabwe, and he was just awesome. Made the whole thing exciting and fun - even the lame poacher story that I dislike so much. We left a comment for him at Guest Services saying how much we had enjoyed our safari with him.
On that safari we saw a cheetah and both lions, but the really interesting thing was that there were several animals (elands, maybe?) up on the ridge and just across the moat from the big male lion - and it looked like they were taunting him, knowing that he couldn't jump across to get at them. Of course, the lion was sleeping and didn't care, but it was still a pretty funny moment.
Lee had brought his "good" camera with the 200mm telephoto lens, so he got some pretty nice animal photos - even with all the bouncing around in the safari vehicle. (Most of the photo links in this report are links to his pictures.)
We went out to Conservation Station - or "Rafiki's Planet Watch", as it is now known, late one afternoon. There weren't too many people out there. Lee spent quite a while talking to a Cast Member in the "Animal Nutrition" area about a lot of different things - did you know they cut the heads off mealworms before they feed them to the animals so that they don't start chewing through stomach linings? Ewww...
We enjoy wandering around the Tree of Life and seeing the various animals they have in the enclosures there - like the capybara (World's Most Giant Rodent), Galapagos Tortoise, lemurs, cotton-top tamarinds, and flamingos.
We finally saw the red kangaroos that they have in the large grassy area - that particular area is inhabited by species from all over the world - kangaroos from Australia, birds from Africa, something else from South America - interesting.
The otters put on quite a show for us one day - they were up playing on the grass, sliding around, sliding down into the water, and generally having a good time. They are such fun to watch - otters always seem to be enjoying life!
One afternoon we caught an animal training session for the Pocahontas show, which we found much more interesting than the usual show. :-) Though the Pocahontas show is different than the usual animal show - there are no animal trainers on stage, and the animals come out and do their behaviors without any human interaction for the most part - there are a couple who interact with Pocahontas.
Since this was a training session one of the trainers came out and explained what they were doing - in this particular session there were two raccoons that have "issues" that they were trying to work through. One refused to even come out at all, so that was unsuccessful. The other one they had been using in shows, but he hadn't quite been performing the behavior they wanted, so they were trying to nip it in the bud before his misbehavior became habit. He did well. They also brought out a possum with the same kind of issue, and she did what she was supposed to do. Then there were a couple of pigeons that they were trying to train to fly from the back of the audience to a person on stage - they did fine when they tried it from 3 rows back, but when they moved a couple rows further back, one did it, and one didn't. Oh well. :-) These trainers obviously have a lot of patience, and it was interesting to hear them discuss their training techniques.
At various times we were there we saw all of the other shows at Animal Kingdom - Flights of Wonder, Festival of the Lion King, and Tarzan Rocks (saw that one twice since it's one of Lee's favorites.)
Believe it or not I didn't take very many flower pictures at AK this time - there actually weren't nearly as many flowers in bloom as there usually are - I guess it was more "winter" than it has been on our other trips.
This is where we spent most of our time. Hmm..I think we were there, at least for a little while, every day! On my last few trips it seemed to me as though I'd hardly had any time to spend in World Showcase going from country to country seeing the different performers and shows, and I wanted a chance to do more of that this time. And we did. :-)
But we started out in Future World late on Friday afternoon with Kenny - we took the monorail over from MK. I wanted to visit every pavilion in Future World, though we didn't have time to do something in all of them. And I made the guys pose for pictures in front of each one. :-) They had fun figuring out how they were going to stand - as you can see, they positioned themselves differently at each place. :-)
We rode Spaceship Earth, and got to see them feed the manatees at the Living Seas, did the singles line at Test Track...the singles line was out the door and we were standing right under the track for a while - we were amazed at how much the track moves when a car goes by! It flexes a couple of feet! Let's see...we also did Ellen's Energy Adventure, and had the first row of the first car all to ourselves - there weren't very many people in there. We never did get to the Imagination Pavilion or Wonders of Life on this trip, though we went back one morning to The Land and saw the Circle of Life and did the boat tour through the greenhouses. (That was the longest line we stood in all week - about 25 minutes. They are putting in FastPass for that - it needs it!)
I've already talked about our dinner at Teppanyaki on Friday night...and we saw Reflections of Earth from the balcony outside the restaurant. We also had watched RoE the night we arrived - that's a "first night" tradition - and we saw it Sunday night, also. Hmm...did we only see it twice? Yikes...we're slipping! :-)
Tapestry of Nations made a change while we were there - there were 3 different segments of the parade originally, but starting on Monday they cut it down to two, and eliminated the one between Morocco and the UK. I think that's just as well, because that area was always a bottleneck especially if you come and go via the International Gateway like we do. We saw it twice - both times while we were eating at the Tangierine Cafe at Morocco. :-) Their patio was a good place to watch it, but now it's no longer on the parade route. It's always fun to watch the puppets interact with the audience.
As I said earlier, I wanted to see all the different entertainment in the various countries, so we spent the better part of Saturday and Monday afternoons doing that.
One of my favorites is the World Showcase Players, who perform short street theater acts with the help of audience members. We saw "King Arthur and the Holy Grail" in the UK, and "Cyranose de Bergerac" in France. In Cyranose, Lee was selected to play Count Somebody-or-other, who challenges Cyranose to a duel with invisible swords - and loses. He did a very impressive death scene. :-)
There are two singing groups who perform in the American Adventure now -
Voices of Liberty, who sing patriotic/folk song music, and American
Vybe, who perform more upbeat 20th century music. They are both
terrific, and I think we saw them 4 or 5 times each. :-) We noticed
that we aren't the only ones who come back again and again to hear
them, though. Both groups had new songs we hadn't heard before -
American Vybe's version of "Fever" was especially steamy. The two
groups are quite a contrast - American Vybe singing things like "Fever",
and "I'm Just a Gigolo", while Voices of Liberty Sing "Oh Susannah" and
"This Land is Your Land". Both groups have wonderful talent, and we
enjoy them tremendously.
We finally saw the Houzali acrobat troop at Morocco - they've been performing there for a long time, but we'd never managed to see them. They have one guy who must be a human pretzel...it hurts just to watch him contort himself the way he does.
France has a new (to us, at least) duo called "Les Melodies de Paris", who perform on violin and accordion, and we saw them a couple of times.
At China, a pair called "Xi Xuan" perform "Chinese Silk Music" on the harp and hammer dulcimer - we'd seen them before, but it's beautiful and rather restful, and then we watched the "Wonders of China" Circle-vision film afterwards.
We also saw Off Kilter at Canada - that was an interesting show. They
had an 11 year old kid performing with them for a couple of numbers - he
was dressed like Jamie, the bagpiper, and he also played the bagpipes.
Jamie mumbled something about being out of a job in 7 or 8 years. :-)
And we saw British Invasion in the UK. I wonder if they get tired of
always playing the same music, and never anything that's new.
There was a group performing at the America Gardens Theater called Barrage. 7 violinists accompanied by keyboard, bass, and drums, who literally dance, run, and bounce across the stage, never missing a note on their violins. Amazing. According to the description on their web site:
"We wanted to create a unique violin concept - one that combined music, showmanship, choreography, youth, athleticism and energy. Barrage isn't about the preservation of a certain style of music or a particular type of entertainment experience. What we try to do is trace the roots of the violin in different cultures and bring forth the ethnic components in a contemporary theatrical way."
They certainly got the youth and energy part right! :-) Lee especially
enjoyed them (mostly because of the blonde violinist, I think ;-) ), and we
saw several of their shows. They play lots of different kinds of music
- we saw selections inspired by music from the Ukraine, China, Irish reels,
and American Big Band Music.
We had two breakfasts at the Fountainview, but we didn't too many opportunities to watch the fountain, since it was not "dancing" on most days we were there - even on days that didn't seem particularly windy. But we understand that Florida is in the midst of a drought, so maybe it was part of a water conservation effort. (Hard to believe that *Florida* can be short on water, but I guess it's true!)
Tigger's Animal Kingdom Adventures
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Text and photographs copyright © 2001 by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. All rights reserved.
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Last updated 5/21/01