Laura and Lee's Holiday Hijinks

November 28-December 5, 2001
Part 1

It's December...time for our annual Christmas trip to WDW! Though we did things a little differently this year - actually left on November 28 and returned on December 5. Maybe that way it won't seem like Christmas comes *quite* so soon after the trip...

(Since I wrote that sentence a month ago, and it's now December 31, I can state that it didn't work, and it still seemed like Christmas came waaay too soon after we returned from Florida.)

This year, in addition to all the usual Christmas festivities, Walt Disney World is doing their "100 Years of Magic" celebration - to honor Walt Disney, whose 100th birthday would have been on 12/5/2001. Many people (particularly those under 25) don't seem to realize that Walt Disney was a real person, and there are special exhibits and activities at the parks that tell the story of Walt Disney.

Wednesday, November 28 - Travel Day

This was my first time flying after the events of September 11, and I wasn't really looking forward to it. Everything worked out ok, but it was not without its adventures...The shuttle service picked us up at the completely ungodly hour of 4:45 - we were at the airport, checked in, and through security by 5:10 - and our flight didn't leave until 7:00! We boarded the flight on time but were delayed leaving for almost an hour because the winds were shifting and it wasn't safe to take off. Once we got off the ground it was a beautiful day and we had a smooth flight, though the pilot reported they were having freezing rain in Dallas...uh oh. (We fly the southern route to AVOID problems like that!)

We were late getting into Dallas, and then they had trouble getting the jetway positioned, and then the end of the jetway was icy, making the footing treacherous. But we still had plenty of time to make our connection - even time for an Auntie Anne's pretzel (good thing, since they didn't feed us breakfast, and we learned they weren't going to feed us on the hop to Orlando, either!). Once we got aboard the plane, we sat for *two hours* waiting to be de-iced. So we were an hour and 45 minutes late getting into Orlando.

But we made it. :-)

By the time we got to Old Key West and checked in it was almost 8:00, and we were STARVED. Before we even went to our room we went to Olivia's and had dinner - it was good, but I like their lunch menu better. And we were VERY disappointed, because they have taken the chocolate chip pecan pie off the menu!!! Our server recommended the chocolate layer cake and the cognac-pumpkin cheesecake, and we got a piece of each to go, then drove over to our room. We were over in Building 18 again (I think that's the third time we've been in that building) in a one bedroom unit. Ahhh...LOVE all the space in that one bedroom unit!!! :-)

We unpacked and watched West Wing and had our desserts, which were both very good - I still miss the chocolate chip pecan pie, though.

It was a weird day - normally we arrive in time to at least go to Epcot for a little while on our first day, but not this time because of our flight delays.

Thursday November 29 - Animal Kingdom, Epcot

We slept in (it's 3 hours *earlier* for us!), but still made it to Animal Kingdom about 10:00. After our usual breakfast at Tusker House we used the FastPasses that we had gotten BEFORE breakfast for the safari...and breezed past all of those people in the standby line. I still don't understand why people don't make better use of FastPass...We had a very good driver, though we didn't see too many animals this time. Though we DID see a LOT of vultures - sure looks like they know something about this hippo that we don't...

Then we started criss-crossing the park to see the various shows - so we saw the bird show, Tarzan Rocks, and Festival of the Lion King. I made Lee ride the new "Triceratops Spin" over in Dino Land (there was no line), which was cute but definitely doesn't break any new ground as far as ride technology goes! (Think Dumbo only with a triceratops rather than an elephant.) Tigger was wearing his "Magical Moments" pin, and I'd heard that it lit up during "It's Tough to Be a Bug" so we did that. Lee was so distracted by Tigger's pin that he forgot to lean forward and got stung in the back by the hornets. :-(

Over in Camp Minnie-Mickey we noticed they had a lot of new Christmas decorations this year - including "themed" Christmas trees for Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Goofy, Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet, and TIGGER!!! I, of course, loved the Tigger tree the best :-) We went over there towards the end of the day to take pictures of the trees and there was almost NO ONE over there - the characters were out with no one to visit them. Goofy was actually stretched out on one of the benches snoring. :-) So if you're interested in characters, I'd say Camp Minnie-Mickey at the end of the day is a good place to go!

We visited the tigers in the Maharajah Jungle Trek, but they were mostly sleeping - but that's what tigers do. :-)

We saw "Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade" - the new parade at Animal Kingdom. It looked fun - especially for the people they had evidently pulled out to participate in it - each float had anywhere from 2-6 guests on it who got to sit and wave to everyone - that looked like fun. I was eating an ice cream cone which I finished just as the parade was *ending*, so I never got any pictures. (It was vanilla/chocolate soft serve swirled together in a big waffle cone - yum!)

For lunch we'd gone over to the Chakrandi Chicken Shop in Asia, but they had again dumbed down the menu - they used to have really good chicken satay and pad thai noodles, and then they turned it into more of a chicken shish kebab, and now it's just plain old rotisserie chicken. So we went to Tusker House instead - though Lee was disappointed because they only serve their "Villager's Special" (kind of an African beef stew with saffron rice) on Saturdays now. We both had the turkey wrap which was quite tasty (though Lee had to pull the tomatoes out of his), but the best part was the "vegetable chips" that came with it - instead of just plain potato chips, we had chips made of sweet potatoes, taro, onion, and potatoes. Interesting flavors! It was nice to see that Tusker House still has some foods that are a little different.

We saw two new (to us) entertainment groups over in Harambe - a troupe of acrobats (recognized one of them from the Houzali troupe that used to perform in Morocco at Epcot), and a group of drummers/dancers who were great fun to watch.

We left the park when it closed at 5:00 - we again fail to understand how people can insist that Animal Kingdom is only a "half day" park. The only ride we did was the Safari, nor did we get out to Conservation Station or Pangani Forest, and we STILL managed to spend 7 hours there. Though this reminds me of the commercial for AK we saw while watching West Wing - it showed all of these snippets of various Cast Members at AK smiling and saying "Natazu!" - sounds like some kind of a greeting, but then at the end it says "Animal Kingdom - it's Not a Zoo". :-)

After a short break back at Old Key West (hereinafter referred to as OKW) we headed over to Epcot for the evening. We had dinner at one of our favorite places, the Tangierine Cafe in Morocco, which is a counter service place. Lee had the chicken/lamb Shawarma platter (which had some yummy side dishes!) and I had the chicken Shawarma sandwich. I highly recommend either one. It's busier than it used to be, which is good for them, but it was nicer for us when there was no line! :-)

Once we were done with dinner we went over to the America Gardens Theatre and stood in back to watch the Candlelight Processional - Marlee Matlin was that evening's guest "narrator". She signed, but had an interpreter who read the words - he had a very good voice. It was interesting to watch her. We were standing outside the back of the theater right where about half of the choir comes in, so we got our own private concert as they walked by us singing. :-)

We walked the rest of the way around World Showcase, and then back over to Italy and watched Reflections of Earth (aka IllumiNations) from there. It was a pretty good spot. We closed two parks in one day - not bad, huh? :-)

We'd parked at the Boardwalk, so on the way back to the car we stopped at the Boardwalk Bakery for some goodies - their chocolate brownie with chocolate frosting is very good - nice and rich and fudgey!

Friday, November 30 - Magic Kingdom, Studios, Downtown Disney

Since we were going to Magic Kingdom, and our Rule #1 is "Avoid the TTC!", we took the bus from OKW. There was a fairly long line at the entrance where they were doing security checks of all bags (something they have been doing at all the parks since September 11), but it moved quickly. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the Main Street Bakery, then met Katie and Susan Spencer at the Christmas tree - Jeff, Brian, and Jeff's mom Sue, hadn't made it to the park yet. So the 4 of us went off and rode Buzz Lightyear, and then met up with Jeff, Brian, and Sue outside Pirates. We also did Jungle Cruise (we hadn't done this one in quite a while, and a couple of the scenes were completely unfamiliar to us - the jokes were just as bad, though. :-} ), Hall of Presidents (Brian's request - he wanted to see if the new Bush animatronic mangles words the same way the real one does - I think he was disappointed. :-) ), Haunted Mansion, and Country Bear Christmas. Somewhere in there we had lunch at Pecos Bill's.

Jeff and Sue went back to Ft. Wilderness, and the remaining 5 of us rode Thunder Mtn, though it had a pretty long line. :-( (This was the only time we experienced any kind of crowded conditions at all.) At that point Susan and Katie and Brian had to leave - Lee and I stayed to watch the new "Share a Dream Come True" parade. We actually saw most of it twice - once from just outside the Christmas Shop (not very good viewing because we got there late), and then we caught most of it at the end of Main Street just in front of the Emporium. Most of the floats were quite pretty - and at least the music isn't as insidious as the Recycle...err *Remember* the Magic parade. :-) But I hope those "globes" are air-conditioned, or it will get brutal in the sun!

Speaking of...the weather was absolutely perfect the whole time we were there - highs in the upper 70s-low 80s, and lows in the upper 60s. No rain at all. It was very comfortable, though I needed a sweatshirt or something at night.

After the parade we took the bus back to OKW, took a short break, then drove over to the Studios. We paused to look at the new Sorcerer's Hat they've erected for the 100 Years of Magic celebration - on rec.arts.disney.parks people have been saying that it's one "Big Ass Hat" (BAH), and yep, now that we've seen it, we have to say that it's definitely one big ass hat. :-) Underneath the hat there's some machines where you can test your Disney knowledge - and if you have a Magical Moments pin (Tigger was wearing his!) it lights up and does all sorts of things. Lee and Tigger got ALL their questions correct, and Tigger's pin was going crazy! :-)

We walked through the "One Man's Dream" exhibit on Walt Disney - that was very well done. Lots of interesting things to see, like the multi-plane camera, the dancing man, photos of Walt Disney, etc. (And the multi-plane camera was the answer to a Jeopardy question the other night - the question, of course, was "Who Was Walt Disney?" :-) )

By then it was about 6:30, so we hoped the crowds back at the Osborne Lights wouldn't be too bad. It was still crowded, but you could walk around. We were just glad that it *wasn't* raining, because the last two times we've done it have been in the rain. It was a pleasant evening, though. The lights were as beautifully excessive as ever, and there were a couple of displays that I really liked - like the one of *Santa* pulling his sleigh. :-)

And we closed down *another* park! :-) We drove over to Downtown Disney and had dinner at the Wolfgang Puck's Express on the West Side. Our timing was very good - by the time we left there was a line and no available tables. I still really like their butternut squash soup. After eating we wandered around for a while and got some dessert at the Candy Cauldron, then went back to OKW.

Part 2
Part 3
Tigger's Magical Moments
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Text and photographs copyright © 2001, 2002 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath
Last updated 1/3/02