Monday, December 14 - Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom
It was a very chilly, windy, overcast day today...but at least there was no rain!
We all drove to Animal Kingdom, ("all" being Mom, Dad, Wayne, Lee and me, since Gary and Sia flew home the night before) and had a very cold tram ride in from the parking lot. Brr. We had decided to go to the next Pocahontas show, but had some time before then, and everyone wanted a snack of some kind...so we engaged in the search for the elusive chocolate covered pretzel. :-) (Actually it was only Mom who wanted one...and we found the place easily - but they hadn't made them yet that day). I got a caramel apple (the ones in Epcot at Canada are better - and cheaper!), and here's a tip for you: If you have long hair and you're eating a caramel apple on a windy day, always face upwind. :-) And no, I did NOT learn that lesson the hard way - not on *this* trip, at least. :-)
Outside the Pocahontas show, Mom got to meet Meeko up close and personal (Mom really likes raccoons). The Pocahontas show is cute, and the animals were all well-behaved - it's interesting to see them do their thing without much human interaction.
We explored some of the animal areas around the Tree of Life, and saw the capybaras, some birds, and some beautiful flowers...Animal Kingdom has some of the most gorgeous vegetation around, and some very beautiful and unusual flowers.
A Disney photographer snapped this picture of us - we think it turned out rather well. Of course, he took one with *his* camera, too, which they wanted us to buy, but we didn't. :-)
We went back to the Pangani Falls Exploration Trail and had a nice time wandering around. There was a lot of interesting things to see - many of the animals and birds were out. And fortunately, the more dangerous animals were caged... ;-) While we were in the aviary a CM noticed Mom looking puzzled trying to identify one of the birds from the card, and he explained that this "Mystery Bird" wasn't on the card, since they had taken up residence after the cards were printed - but they sure confused people who were trying to figure out what they were! The bird was a vultured guinea fowl.
We also saw a type of antelope called "Gwebunk", or something like that,
that were walking on their hind legs. The CM there said they could walk
around like that for half an hour or so - the additional height helps
them feed off branches that are higher off the ground.
This trail used to be called the "Gorilla Falls Trail", but Disney changed the name because people complained that they didn't see gorillas. Well, on this day, as you can see in the photo, it lived up to its name - a gorilla AND a waterfall. ;-)
As we were entering the area a CM warned us to be quiet and NOT pound on our chests - the gorillas don't like that. We were fortunate because the gorillas were out in force, and we must have seen 7-8 different ones. A mom and an adolescent were chasing each other around a tree and wrestling and have a really good time playing, while her baby kept itself amused swinging around a tree. They were a lot of fun to watch.
We took the train out to Conservation Station and got educated about what the animals eat, how they are housed, and so on...but by then *we* were getting pretty hungry and ready to eat ourselves, so we caught the train back. CM George from Kenya was our conductor, and he made an origami swan for Mom while the train was on its way back to the station. He tried to convince us that his grandmother was Japanese. :-) We enjoyed talking to him.
We had a late (but good, and most importantly, WARM) lunch at Tusker House. Lee had the daily special, which was chicken stew over curried rice with a fried plantain on the side. He said it was good.
Again in search of the elusive chocolate covered pretzel, we made our way over towards Asia - and ran right into the "March of the Artimals". There was hardly *anyone* watching the parade...we felt rather sorry for the performers, because they were doing their best, but for a small audience. The floats were different...and they were somewhat decorated for Christmas and were playing Christmas music (with an African or Caribbean beat, usually), which I thought was neat. I wonder if part of the reason this parade is not popular is because there aren't any recognizable Disney characters in it. There certainly is a lot of audience interaction because many of the characters are walking around, and the kids and the performers seemed to enjoy that.
After the parade Mom finally got her pretzel...but it proved to be just a hard pretzel rod partially dipped in chocolate. They were expecting something different. Oh well. (Have I mentioned that they have turned into real Kringla Bakery Sweet Pretzel junkies? They stopped there every chance they got!)
It was late afternoon, so we made our way back to OKW to prepare for the evening's activities and get some warmer clothes! Mom and Dad almost immediately left for Epcot, because they wanted to see the Candlelight Processional again, and then have time to get over to the Studios to see the Osborne Lights.
We hadn't spent much time at Magic Kingdom, and since it was Wayne's last night and he wanted to ride some rides, the three of us went there. It was a little after 5:00 by the time we got into the park, which closed at 7:00, so we didn't have a lot of time. We did Alien Encounter (Wayne was actually the "Lucky Volunteer" until the head of X-S Tech took over the demonstration :-) ), and then got in line for Space Mountain...but the line stopped moving, and after about 5 minutes we decided not to wait. We hustled all the way across the park and rode Big Thunder Mountain (in the last row...woo hoo!), and then rode Splash Mountain, which had NO line whatsoever. It was just after 6:30, so we rushed back across the park to Space Mountain again (it's about a half mile from Splash to Space), and rode it 3 times before it closed - we got in line for our final ride at about 30 seconds before 7:00. :-)
The line for the monorail back to the TTC was really long, so we decided to take the boat over the Grand Floridian and see if we could have dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe. They weren't at all busy and seated us fairly quickly...but then the waiting began. The service was VERY slow...our waiter seemed to be working hard, but maybe he had too many tables to deal with. Anyway, we were in there a lot longer than we should've been. The manager had had complaints from others and at one point came over to our table and asked how things were, and whether the service had been slow, and we said yes. We thought maybe we'd get a free dessert out of it, but no such luck.
The food was good, though...I had the french onion soup and a salad (I'd seen the dessert tray as we were walking in and wanted to leave room!), and the soup was excellent. Lee had a steak and Wayne had the pork, which they both enjoyed. Lee and I split some chocolate mousse cake for dessert - it was quite good.
While we were sitting there waiting (we did a lot of that) someone came up and knocked on the window next to our table...we were very surprised to look outside and see Brian Spencer and the rest of the Spencer family. They had had dinner at California Grill and were resort-hopping, I guess. They waved at us through the window and took off.
After our leisurely dinner we looked at the Christmas decorations in the lobby - they *always* have a beautiful tree - and caught the monorail back to the TTC and back to OKW. Mom and Dad had gotten good seats for the Candlelight Processional, and had had time to go and enjoy the Osborne Lights, too, and then had dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant. Wayne watched the rest of the Monday night football game, but the rest of us went to bed.
Tuesday, December 15 - Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Studios
Park-hopping day for me - I planned to do all 4 parks this day, for no particular reason except that I wanted to. :-)
Wayne was leaving that evening and so that had to be worked into the plans, plus we'd arranged to meet with the Spencers at Animal Kingdom that morning. Mom and Dad had decided they wanted to do something besides parks that day, so they were on their own.
Lee and I got up fairly early and drove to Animal Kingdom, and arrived about 8:30. We wandered around and did some shopping before meeting the Spencers at 9:00 (and, for the record, WE were early, and THEY were several minutes late. :-) )
We went back and did the safari - Jeff finally got us all in the left line and we walked right onto a vehicle. This was by far the best safari experience that we have had...the driver we had was really good, and she actually talked about the animals instead of going into that "monotone-spiel" like so many of them do. She told us afterwards that a lot of things didn't work - the bridge didn't, and some of the "radio transmissions" didn't, but she covered it all very well.
Most importantly we saw LOTS of animals, though no cheetahs and only a
very brief glimpse of the lioness. By far one of the most interesting
things we saw was this antelope "sparring" with a white rhino. Our
driver explained that the white rhinos are very social, and that the
two of them were playing - and they certainly seemed to be enjoying
themselves. It was quite a sight to see.
After the safari Lee talked the Spencer kids into doing Countdown to Extinction...Brian will ride it, but with his eyes closed, while I think Katie had only done it once, and didn't like it...but she would do it with "Mr. Lee". :-) Brian still had his eyes closed the whole time, and Katie had her head in Lee's lap, and there were a few tears, but she did it, and was smiling soon afterwards.
Lee and I needed to leave, so we said our goodbyes, and told Brian and Katie to talk their parents into bringing them to California and taking them to Disneyland. :-)
Lee went back to the car and drove to Epcot to meet Wayne, while I made my way over to Magic Kingdom eventually...I'd just missed the direct MK bus, but a bus to the Grand Floridian was there, so I thought I'd just take it and hop the monorail. But it unexpectedly stopped at Blizzard Beach, and then the Grand Floridian was the third stop after Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian...oh well, it was a good plan. My main objective at MK was shopping, and I did that...but ended up with enough stuff that I really need to go back to OKW to drop it, even though I was supposed to meet Wayne and Lee at Epcot in about an hour. (I didn't have time to do Package Express directly to the resort, since we were leaving the next day). Fortunately, the buses were fairly efficient, and I was only about 5 minutes late to Epcot - but Wayne and Lee were just getting out of Honey I Shrunk the Audience, so they actually walked up just after I did.
We did Spaceship Earth (I actually stayed awake all the way through it for a change :-) ) and then went and saw Ellen's Energy Adventure, and then rode Body Wars, which actually made Wayne a little queasy. We stopped and got a beavertail in Canada, and the CM made it fresh and told us all about them - it really *is* a Canadian food with a special recipe for the dough. We caught the very end of Off Kilter's show - Jamie was back, so the rumors of his defection to another group were unfounded...yay!
Lee told Wayne that his trip to WDW would NOT be complete without seeing the American Adventure... :-) Unfortunately we didn't get to see the Voices of Liberty, but we saw the show - I think Wayne enjoyed it. I'd already seen it once with my family a few days before, so must admit that I was watching the back of my eyelids through parts of it. ;-)
We wanted to go to the Studios so that Wayne could get one last ride on the Tower of Terror (and so that I could visit my 4th park of the day), so we walked the rest of the way around World Showcase and pointed the pavilions out to Wayne, only stopping in Norway to pick up a couple of Sweet Pretzels for my parents.
We did some quick shopping so that Wayne could get a Mickey shirt, and then walked back to the car and drove to the Studios. Why are they suddenly making you park WAY out in Romance when you arrive late in the afternoon??? You used to be able to park up in Western, but now they direct you all the way out to the outer lot. Grumble.
We had about a 15 minute wait for Tower of Terror, and enjoyed our final trip to "The Twilight Zone". After this trip Lee actually LIKES ToT - in the past he'd do it, but didn't really like it that much. But I've made a convert. :-)
We *probably* would have had time for one more ride before we had to get going, but decided not to push it. We went back to OKW and picked up Wayne's luggage (he'd packed before he left that morning), and drove to the airport and dropped him off.
On the way back we were trying to decide what we wanted to do about dinner...neither of us could get very enthused about anything. I wanted to do some shopping at World of Disney and some of the other shops, so we went and parked and shopped - good thing I brought an extra suitcase! ;-) We eventually decided to get a couple of pizzas from Wolfgang Puck Express and took them back to OKW.
Mom and Dad were there - they'd had a big lunch so didn't really have dinner, though they finished off our pizzas and the Sweet Pretzels we had brought them.
Final Park Scores for the Day:
Mom and Dad: 0
Back to Part 2
Go to Part 4
Text and photographs copyright © 1998, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.Laura Gilbreath, email: lgil at lgil dot net
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation Page