Me, Katie (14) - the main if not only planner of this trip; loves Disney, writing, and basketball.
My brother, Joey (12) - absolutely obsessed with baseball, baseball cards, playing baseball, watching baseball, etc.
My mother, Julie (I'll withhold the ages of my parents being the thoughtful daughter I am) - usually the least daring member of our family when it comes to anything close to a thrill ride, and helper of lost children encountered in the parks.
My father, Bill - has all the makings of a Jungle Cruise skipper with his jokes, but after four days in WDW, he claimed the zip had gone out of his doo-dah.
We went to Disney World for the first time in March of 1994, and about a month before going my uncle lent us (me in particular) the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, which got me on my planning kick. We had a great time, and soon after we got back, I started planning our next trip.
Though I wanted to take off some time earlier, we finally secured reservations for this trip. Since our school year always starts later than most others (this year we started September 8th), we made reservations for a package at All-Star Sports Resort for the week before we start. Three weeks before we left, I found out there was a mandatory orientation for incoming freshman on September 4th, but by then there was little we could do, so I decided I would rather meet Mickey than my advisor, and our trip was still on.
This summer I really got into writing daily in my journal, and would write about four pages on an average day. It was natural for me to assume I would keep this up through our Disney World trip (instant trip report!), and since I had enjoyed reading the trip reports on Brian's site so much during my planning for our trip, I decided to see if I could post one there. Here's my thanks to everyone who wrote a trip report; I had a lot of fun reading them, and I hope this will be as fun to read for everyone as theirs were for me.
And now, the trip...
Day 1: August 30, 1997
My alarm was set for 4:01 A.M., and though it didn't go off (?), I woke up naturally at 4:03. I really have an internal alarm clock! I showered and was the only person in my family to eat a well-balanced breakfast, or any breakfast at all for that matter. Joey was pretty tired when we woke him up, and his eyes were blood-shot for most of the day.
Our limousine arrived a little before 5:00, and it was a pretty classy start to our vacation, though most of us were too tired to enjoy it. We got to the airport around 5:30 to find a huge check-in line. We had waited a few minutes when a man came by with a baggage cart and offered to check our bags. I thought it was a bit presumptuous of him to say, "You can tip me if you want," but it was worth it to skip the queue.
We looked around the airport a bit for breakfast for the others, but the prices were outrageous; a carton of yogurt was $1.95. Welcome to our vacation! We boarded our plane without incident and were seated in front of and behind the only other kids and teenagers on the plane.
The flight was fairly smooth. The family in front of us and I searched for Disney landmarks as we landed, but the only thing we all recognized was a McDonald's. We landed at about 10:10, Orlando time, and took the shuttle to the baggage claim area. The Orlando International Airport really is one of the nicest airports I've been in; I love the carpeting, shuttle to baggage claim, palm trees, gift shops, etc.
We got our bags and boarded a Mears motor coach pretty quickly. Mears is a very nice service and the driver provided us with information about all the landmarks we passed, like the largest sundial in the world and the second largest convention center in the world, the largest being McCormick Place home in Chicago (Dad's and my hooting embarrassed Joey, and he got started counting embarrassing moments - count at the airport coming home was 226). The bus first dropped off three people at Dixie Landings and then took us to All-Star Sports by about 11:30.
Joey perked up when he saw the photos of sports players (with Disney characters) in the lobby, and I got excited as I looked around the resort. I took a quick look around the resort and decided that all reports about how far away some rooms are were unfounded. I didn't think any of the rooms were too far away from Stadium Hall, though I suppose it is a bit of a walk from the tennis or basketball sections. Football and surfing are the closest, and baseball is a bit farther away. I liked the baseball diamond shaped pool, and the surfing one was okay, but pretty ordinary. I did not like the look of the arcade. I had expected it to be nicer, being Disney and everything, but it was no better than any other arcade I'd seen. I don't like arcades at all; maybe if I did, this would seen better. I did get a quarter and two pennies pressed at the machines outside the arcade to add to my collection, which would grow much larger through the trip.
We were able to check in right away, which was a nice surprise, and we were given the choice of the surfing or football sections. We chose football so we'd be between the two pools without having the noise from them right outside our room. That really wouldn't have been a problem at this time of the year, though, because all pools and water parks close at 7:00 because of the encephalitis alert in the area. I would recommend this section for proximity to both pools and the main building, but I think the other areas were more nicely themed. My favorite (and Joey's, of course) was the baseball section. The Beach Boys songs playing constantly in the surfing section got on my nerves just walking by several times a day, but then again the marching band songs got very old by the end of the week as well.
The room wasn't too small; I would compare it to your basic Holiday Inn room. The beds were *very* comfortable, and there was even room to put down an air mattress for Joey after moving the table over by the window. The room wasn't first class or anything, but we spent very little time in it anyway.
After getting settled, we had a quick bite to eat in the mediocre food court and then went to the bus stop. Buses for every other destination came before one arrived to take us to Epcot. We stopped at All-Star Music and then were on our way.
It was pretty exciting to finally see the geosphere and walk through the gates. It was hard to believe we were finally here, but as we walked into the park I couldn't help feeling a bit sad; it just didn't feel special enough.
The line at Spaceship Earth looked fairly long, maybe 20 minutes, so we continued into Future World. We stopped to watch the fountain in Innoventions Plaza put on a liquid fireworks display, which was just mesmerizing. I love fountains, and I'm sure this is my favorite one anywhere. We passed by a band performing, and decided to launch the Unofficial Guide schedule.
We went first to the Living Seas, which probably wasn't the best first attraction. The movie at the beginning was pretty good, and I liked the hydrolators. The actual ride was disappointing. It didn't feel like we were riding through an aquarium, but on the ground riding past an aquarium. I had expected us to be closer to the walls. We all did agree that this is more convincing that the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride. We didn't spend much time in Sea Base Alpha, because Joey especially was eager to go on a ride.
We decided to drop the touring plan and see what the line was like at Journey Into Imagination. We boarded in less that five minutes and were off on our exploration of the imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment. I didn't remember a whole lot of the ride, so it was a lot of fun seeing it again. After the ride we played around in the Image Works, which was smaller than I'd expected, but fun nonetheless. I especially liked "conducting" the Electronic Philharmonic. Next we went to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and only had to wait three minutes. We were very surprised at how small the crowds were, especially since I'd heard about the huge waits here, and it was about 3:00 now. We all really liked the show, especially the dog-sneezing end. I didn't think the mice would scare me, since I was prepared, but I was wrong! The effects were really great. This was one of Dad's favorite attractions in all of WDW, and a huge improvement from Captain EO.
From there we headed to Horizons (no wait, of course), which we thought was okay. We chose the sea ending, which was kind of fun. The ride did seem a little dated; even the haircuts on the animatronics figures were old.
We all liked the orange smell in the farming scene, though, and it was nice to have one last ride on this. I do remember being much more impressed with this last time I was here and I look forward to seeing what they replace this with.
We then went to the Wonders of Life and did some of the hands on activities, including the Wonder Cycles and the Met Life Family Reunion (the newsletter was fun to get once we arrived home). We saw Goofy there, too, without any crowds surrounding him! I went over and said hi. He saw my Goofy hat and kept pointing at it and then at himself; everyone loves my hat! That was one of the best moments of the day. We saw Cranium Command, which was fun to see again. I think I appreciated it more than I did three and a half years ago, but I don't know if the rest of my family liked it as much as before. Dad also found this a bit dated.
Joey really wanted to ride Maelstrom, so we walked over to Norway and braved our longest wait of the day: 15 minutes. I liked the ride but I thought it was too short and the drop wasn't any big deal, especially since we were in the back of the boat. Joey and I skipped the movie and got a turkey sandwich and ring cake at the bakery. Afterwards, Mom and Dad wanted to eat at Restaurant Akershus, but we weren't very hungry, so we agreed to meet back after an hour.
Joey and I first rode Spaceship Earth with no wait. I really like all the changes on this favorite, especially the additional scenes on the way down. They must have been having some trouble with this ride, because it stopped at least three times, playing the annoying recording about staying in our seats ("Hey, what's wrong with this? Better get out of our vehicle!") and then telling us that we were moving again ("Gee, we are? Good thing they told us that!"). I know they have to put these things on for safety reasons or whatever, but it got pretty annoying. It kind of spoils the mood at the top when they tell you that your vehicles and turning around for the descent and to stay seated ("Whoa, why are they turning us around? There must be something wrong; we'd better get out!"). I really like this ride though, and the audio-animatronics are very good, especially the sleeping monk. They really are big on video phones as the newest form of communications.
After the ride we rode the platform simulator ride through the AT&T network in the Global Neighborhood, and then headed to Mexico for El Rio del Tiempo, which we thought was better than we remembered, but still not that great. I liked the fireworks at the end.
We met Mom and Dad, who had really enjoyed their dinner, and we all went over to the Land, where we saw Food Rocks. Dad and I both loved this show. I got such a kick out of the performers and the songs, especially "Good Nutrition" by the "Peach Boys". Joey and I got a bit more to eat after the show. I had a salad and skim milk; he had barbecued chicken sandwich. He was getting pretty tired and irritable by this time, and we almost left, but noticed there was no wait for Living With the Land, so we boarded that. It was pretty good, but it was really hard to understand what our guide was saying. At the end of the ride, he asked us what Epcot stood for. "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow," I piped up. "No!" he said, looking at me like I was crazy, "Every Person Comes Out Tired." Haha, I've heard that one too.
Most of us (me excluded) were too tired to stay for Illuminations, so we exited the park at about 8:30. We took the bus back to our hotel, where I stayed up late writing most of this by flashlight. I had a little trouble getting to sleep because of people talking outside.
Day 2: August 31, 1997
When we woke up this morning it didn't feel like we were any place special, though the Mickey wake-up call was pretty cute. We had to hurry Mom and Dad up to get to the bus stop by 8:00. We got there around 8:10, then Dad decided to go get coffee, and we almost missed the bus to the Magic Kingdom. I was worried about not being in the park at 8:30, but I really should have been.
We got a locker, took a picture in front of the castle cake, and headed to the Adventureland bridge, where we got a spot right at the front of the rope. The woman there told us not to run, but when the rope dropped Joey and I took off to Splash Mountain. There was only one teenage boy in front of us, and we could have been in the first car if we hadn't had to wait for Mom and Dad, who had gotten lost. No matter, though, we still didn't have to wait.
We got into our damp log and began our voyage. I loved all the little details and the audio-animatronics characters. All the scenes were really cute, the songs were fun, and I got a kick out of the teasing drops. "Okay Mom, here it comes... oh, never mind." The drop in the dark was just about as thrilling as the big one, in my opinion, though I loved them both. I had found my laughing place! The welcome home party room got us all (well, at least me) singing Zip-a-dee-do-dah! What a great ride. We had missed this one last time and now it was one of my favorites! I got a pressed penny at the exit, and we were off to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Joey's old favorite.
Mom waited this one out, and Dad, Joey, and I squeezed into one seat. I liked this ride so much more than I did before. The ride itself didn't get to me at all this time. It didn't seem wild at all; we raised our hands and whooped throughout the ride. I didn't remember seeing all the details before, but I really took them all in this time. I especially liked the bats at the beginning and the opossums swinging on the tree.
After that, we headed to Jungle Cruise and boarded "Amazon Annie." I remembered most of the scenes very vividly, but the jokes sounded new. I'd heard a lot about how bad the guides are, but I thought ours was good. As I got on the boat, he remarked, "Hey, that's a pretty goofy-looking hat." Haha. The puns were corny and predictable, but funny. I guess this ride is a lot more enjoyable early in the day when you're fresh and in the mood, and the guide isn't tired of repeating the same things over and over again yet.
Pirates of the Caribbean was temporarily closed (they told us to come back in an hour), so we walked over to the Haunted Mansion. The park was still pretty empty and very peaceful overall. Sunday morning is an excellent time to visit the Magic Kingdom. The Haunted Mansion was as good as I remembered it. We were all impressed with the ghost effects again, especially in the ballroom, and the tombstones outside are a hoot.
From there we went to Fantasyland. We got on Peter Pan's Flight with only a five minute wait and enjoyed our flight through this old favorite. The feeling of flight is pretty convincing, the scenes are great, especially the cars on the streets of London, and the theme song is so pretty and magical.
After that, Mom and I went to It's a Small World while Joey and Dad rode the Skyway to Tomorrowland. We waited about five minutes and boarded our boat for "The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed." I really don't think this ride is that bad, and the song didn't even get stuck in my head. It's not like they blare it at you in English over and over again. They don't even really play it in the Hawaiian room, I think. I got a kick out of the ducks harmonizing with the song. Last time we were here, I counted the rooms (I was a weird kid) and this time confirmed the count of six (I guess I still am weird).
We then met Joey and Dad and rode the TTA. It was kind of fun going in Space Mountain, but other than that it was pretty boring. Joey and Dad then wanted to do Space Mountain and got on with a 15 minute wait. I rode Take Flight with Mom instead. I did like the wind tunnel and video screens that gave the feeling of flight.
We met the others and headed for the Timekeeper, which Joey didn't want to do for some reason! The rest of us loved it. Robin Williams was hilarious (after this, every time we entered a Circle Vision 360 theater, I quoted, "I have invented rails for you to lean on. I call them, 'lean rails.'") and it was fun flying through time with Nine Eyes. This attraction was great! Dad and I both voted this way up there.
After we got out, we waited 20 minutes for Joey, who said he had gotten lost, to show up. It was getting close to our 1:00 reservations at the Crystal Palace, so we walked to Main Street. We first went to the Welcome Center, where we picked up our 1994 badges and lithographs. I noticed many people skipping the movie by just walking through the theater, and after seeing the film I wished we had too. It was really just one big commercial. Oh well.
After that we went to the Crystal Palace, where we had to wait a bit to be seated. This is a very pretty restaurant. I liked the dried flower topiaries of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore, all of whom visited us during our meal. I got pictures with all of them, and when I had trouble with Mom's camera, Tigger helped me out! The food was pretty good, especially the chicken, and I liked the dessert bar.
After our very filling meal, we left the Magic Kingdom to go to River Country. We just missed the launch, and when we finally got on the boat, it seemed to take a long time to get there. We did talk to Steve, one of the crew, who is from Chicago (whoo, whoo!) We finally got to River Country and had a great time. We all liked the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn theme. The flumes at Whoop-'n-Holler Hollow throw you around more than I expected. The tube ride was a lot of fun, but I wish it were longer. We played around for a bit in Bay Cover and then went down the steep slides in the swimming pool. We ended our visit with a stroll along the nature trail through the cypress swamp, which was short but very pleasant. We boarded a boat back to the MK without a wait.
Back there, we went to Fantasyland to see the Legend of the Lion king show. It was fun seeing the Circle of Life scene on the big screen again, and I liked hearing all the little kids sing along and enjoy themselves. I liked the show, but it wasn't nearly as good as I expected it to be. I had heard a lot about how good it was, but it was just the movie shortened and played out with puppets.
We then saw the Country Bear Jamboree with a 5 or 10 minute wait for the next show. The bears are cute and funny, and the audience was really enthusiastic, which made it all the better. These animatronics are very well done.
Joey then wanted to do Big Thunder again, so we faced a twenty minute posted wait (actually fifteen), which was our longest wait today. The wait wasn't bad, though, since Dad struck up a conversation with a nice family from England, who were also staying at All-Star. This was one of the few times the outside world was discussed; we had just heard last night on TV about Princess Diana's death, and Dad mentioned it to them. The ride was great again. I pointed out all the details as we rode along, including four or five lost hats. "Possums, goats, hat, mining equipment, hat . . . "
Next we *had* to go to Pirates of the Caribbean. On the way there I was absolutely shocked to see a cart selling, believe it or not, McDonald's French fries! This is too much. The ride was pretty much the same as I remembered, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much now. I guess all these thrill rides have spoiled me. I do like all the animatronics, though. "Yo ho, yo ho a pirates life for me . . ."
We then decided there wasn't time for another ride before SpectroMagic, so we looked for a spot. We found a table and seats by the Sleepy Hollow (closed for refurbishment unfortunately). Dad and I walked all the way back to Adventureland looking for some food and finally got some eggrolls at the eggroll wagon (where else?), which were pretty good. I also had a Mickey ice cream bar! We had a great view of the parade and it was probably the most special part of the day. The lights, music, and characters made for a wonderful experience. It was much longer than I expected and really magical. The perfect way to end a day.
After the parade, though, our day wasn't over. Joey and I got on Snow White's Adventures with hardly any wait before the fireworks. This ride has been greatly improved, telling the whole story instead of just the witch part.
We couldn't see the fireworks from our table at all (whoops!), so we hurried to Fantasyland to watch them. They were pretty good, but I liked the parade better.
Joey and I then got in line for Dumbo, where we waited about 10 minutes for a fun flight over Fantasyland. Some girl in line had one of those "invisible dogs" and was making it jump up on me. "He likes your hat," she said. "Because Goofy's a dog." I quickly removed my hat. She also asked the ride attendant if dogs were allowed on the ride. "That kind is," she replied. "He's a good dog," the girl said. We rolled out eyes.
After that we rode Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, one of Joey's old favorites which we experienced three or four times before. The train effect didn't convince me like it did before, but it was kind of fun to ride this again.
We were all very tired by this time, but Joey really wanted to ride Big Thunder at night. We waited 15 minutes again for our third ride today. We were in the back this time, which did make the ride a little wilder. The darkness also added to the thrill. We plodded to the bus stop, got on pretty quickly, and rode "home," where we finally got to sleep around 12:30.
Day 3: September 1, 1997 (Labor Day)
Today we slept in a bit, waking up around 7:45. I was worried about how things would work out since we weren't getting to MGM by opening, but that worrying was unnecessary; when we entered the park around 9:30 (we saw Chip, Dale, and King Louie outside the gates), there were still no waits posted on the wait board, except 10 minutes for the Tower of Terror. We really hadn't had to rush so far this trip, and I had really enjoyed being spontaneous and not following the touring plans.
We first went to the Great Movie Ride, which I loved even more than I did before. This was Dad's favorite ride in WDW and was right up there with Splash Mountain for me. We were on the gangster side and enjoyed the action. Our guide was pretty good, and the gangster was entertaining as well. Everyone in the tram, especially the little girl near us who was scared by some of the scenes, enjoyed themselves once we entered the Wizard of Oz scene. All of the audio-animatronics in this ride are so well done, and riding through the movies we've seen is a lot of fun. This is my favorite attraction in MGM.
Next we went over to Muppet Vision 4-D, a fun favorite. I was sorry to see we had missed the funny pre-show. After having seen Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, the 3-D effects were quite as impressive as they seemed before, but Waldo, the spirit of 3-D is as pretty good effect. This show is really good for all ages. There's nothing that would scare little kids (except a little noise, I guess), and the show is funny for anyone.
From there we went on the Backstage Studio Tour, which was a little better than when we saw it before. There's an additional segment at the beginning now where they demonstrate special effects in a water tank. There were a few additions to the tram tour as well. I liked the parking spaces for Cinderella's pumpkin, Aladdin's flying carpet, Hercules' chariot, etc. It was also fun to ride by George of the Jungle's tree house, where our guide told us apologetically that we wouldn't be able to stay long enough to hear the whole theme song. Catastrophe Canyon wasn't as exciting as I remembered. Before I thought it was kind of dumb, but this time it was just plain boring.
Then we saw Super Star Television, which was fun to see even though none of us were chose to be in it. I guess we're just not the enthusiastic type. After the show, I dragged my family into the Soundsations booth in the interactive area at One Saturday Morning. This is fun and very convincing, especially when your hair gets cut.
It was getting close to our Priority Seating (by the way, when I called for it, the reservationist did explain the priority seating term, although the Unofficial Guide said they wouldn't), so we headed to the 50's Prime Time Caf. This was a really fun meal, and we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of our food. We were served by Sister Cheryl, who made us se the table and pass out drinks ourselves, saying she wasn't going to do everything for us. She made Dad stand against the wall for putting his elbows on the table and had us all scold, "Bad, bad, boy!" We left a hat and bag there and she came out after us with them and scolded us again for always leaving our "toys" out. This is a really fun restaurant and I would highly recommend eating here. You don't go to Disney World for good food. You can get that elsewhere, but at Disney World you can get a unique dining experience.
After lunch, it was raining pretty hard. I got a Mickey Poncho, and we caught the Hercules parade. It was a fun parade, albeit short, and I liked the theme song.
Dad wanted to do Tower of Terror (or the Terror of Tower, as some cute little English kids on the bus called it), but the rest of us were still too full from lunch. He did it anyway (20 minute wait now) and Mom and Joey left for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular while I waited for him. When he got out, we headed over to the show and just missed it by about thirty seconds! I was kind of upset because it was almost 4:00 and I had only seen four attractions. We stopped to get a frozen lemonade and had a nice conversation with the man from New York working there. He told us about the three times rule at WDW, where you have to refuse a tip three times before you can accept it.
We met Mom and Joey and went to the Hunchback of Notre Dame stage show. Matt the juggler was very entertaining. He is quite talented (well, he did spend four years at college as a humanities major, of course!), and his banter was amusing. The show was very well done and captivating. I really like this movie, and the show was possibly even better. Disney has chosen to go to simple effects appropriate to the time period, and the show works surprisingly well.
After the show, we were getting tired, so we caught the bus back to our hotel, which was one of the best rides of the day! Our driver was very funny "If you enjoyed this ride, my name's Nick," he told us. "If you didn't, it's Gladys." He also told parents that if their kids were misbehaving, they could send them to the bus stop at midnight to clean out all 650 or so busses with a garden hose and a toothbrush. "Thanks Gladys," my brother said as we got off the bus. "I'll see you at midnight," Nick replied.
We went for a swim in the baseball pool, which is cute. Goofy pitches water from the mound in the center of the pool. We then walked over to the music resort, and I was sorry we weren't staying there. The atmosphere seemed much more pleasant and the grounds were much nicer landscaped. Oh well, now we'll know. We ate dinner in the food court there, and it was terrible! If you think you'll be eating in your hotel a lot, do not stay at All-Star. This has to be the worst fast food in all of WDW. Luckily, this was one of our only meals here. We got to bed early tonight.
Day 4: September 2, 1997
We planned on going to Typhoon Lagoon today, and I hurried everyone up to try and get there before opening. I was annoyed that we didn't get to the bus stop until 9:00, but then the bus driver told us the park wouldn't open until 10:00! I had called before we left and was told it opened at 9:00. Oh well, at least we were getting there early now, though through the day I realized getting a jump on the crowds wasn't necessary here either. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for any of the activities.
All in all, we had a great time here. This park is beautifully landscaped, probably the pretties water park in the world. All the flowers and trees and plants, as well as the shops and snack bars, and even the railings on the way up to the slides fit into the theme.
The water slides and tube rides themselves weren't too wild, except for Humunga Kowabunga, which I chose not to go on (major wedgie slide). We even got Mom to go on Keehaul and Gangplank Falls, and she actually enjoyed them! I did think both of those slides were very tame and fine for anyone. Mayday Falls is wilder, bumpier, and more fun, in my opinion. We also rode the storm slides several times. Those are fun; I liked the Stern Burner the best, though they're all pretty much the same. The only one of all these rides that seemed to build up much of a line was the family raft ride (though we didn't wait at all when we went there early), so I would recommend going here first. You also have to carry your own big raft.
As enjoyable as the slides and tube rides were, I liked the other attractions even better. Castaway Creek was very relaxing and beautifully landscaped, and the waves at the wave pool were great for body surfing, but too overwhelming if you're not really into that. The kiddie areas also looked very well done.
Possibly my favorite thing there was the Shark Reef. There were no crowds, so Dad and I went through three times in a row, and then Joey and I went through twice. I had a little trouble getting used to breathing through the snorkel at first, but once I got the hang of it, the reef was great. I saw several small sharks swimming right below me, and whole schools of colored fish swam past me. I had read that the fish were behind Plexiglas, so I tested that claim and reached out and actually touched a fish. I suppose the sharks could be under glass since they never seem to swim above a certain level, but I know that the fish swim freely.
Anyway, we had a lot of fun here, and even the bus service was good, which I hadn't expected from all I'd read in guide books. If there's one thing I've learned from this trip, it's don't believe everything you read.
We left the park around 3:00, had a short rest in our hotel, and headed to the MK at around 5:00. We went right to the train station and rode to Mickey's Toontown Fair. Along the way I noticed the only tribute to Pocahontas in the park; apparently the Native American scenes there are now Pocahontas and her tribe. Oh, and if you "listen carefully", you can hear her singing to John Smith.
Once at the fair, we walked through Mickey's house, which was cute but nothing too special, and then Joey and I rode the Barnstormer twice with less than a five minute wait each time. The ride was very short but pretty zippy. It was fun, but I did suffer a bit from whiplash as we made sharp turns in our little cars. The fair wasn't as improved as I thought it would be, though I'm sure it's a lot of fun for young kids who are really into meeting the characters.
Joey wanted to ride the Teacups after that, so he did that and I wandered into the Starlight Caf and watched the audio-animatronic Sonny Eclipse perform. After Joey was done we looked around for the talking trash can in the restaurant, but couldn't find it. Once outside, though, we saw one not only talking, but moving around and even playing the Macarena!
Joey and Dad finally convinced me to ride Space Mountain. I was nervous at first, especially with that warning they flash at you over and over again in the waiting area, but once afterwards I couldn't believe I had been. The ride was that dark (you could see the roller coaster structure), and the ride itself wasn't that much wilder than Big Thunder. It was fun, but actually something of a disappointment for me after all the hype it gets. I expected to feel a little more like I was flying through outer space. Maybe people think I'm a real killjoy for saying this (my brother does), but after it was over, I said, "Is that it?" For those who aren't sure they're up to this, my words of advice: if you can go on Big Thunder several times with no problems, you'll be fine on Space Mountain. If the line's really long, don't wait. It's just a roller coaster in the dark with some little lights, er, stars, on the ceiling. I'm probably going to get kicked for saying that, so I'll add that the ride still is a lot of fun with some good drops and turns if you sit on the left and a cool red tunnel you go through.
We ate dinner at the Columbia Harbor House, which was surprisingly good. My vote for best fast food in the Magic Kingdom. I had the clam chowder in a bread bowl, which was delicious. That atmosphere was also nice and relaxing. After dinner we hopped on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (left side this time) and I spotted the almost naked lady.
Dad and I then experienced Alien Encounter, which Joey didn't want to do after hearing that the alien slobbers on you. I can't understand all the warnings about how horrible and intense it is that I read. I can see how young kids would be scared, but nothing frightened me. The animatronics and special effects are very good, and I thought the show was even more funny than scary. "It's the alien!" "It's my mother-in-law!" I felt sorry for poor little Skippy in the pre-show though. He was so cute, and then S.I.R. has to go and fry him. This attraction isn't as bad as some people say it is. Most kids over ten or eleven can probably handle this okay, unless they get really scared of aliens or the dark.
After that we walked on (yes, walked on!) to Peter Pan's Flight, and I loved it again. Then, what else but Big Thunder Mountain Railroad again for Joey. When the ride was over, there weren't enough people to fill the cars, so we stayed on again and again and again. Oh the last time around we could see the fireworks from the ride, which was really special. I could tell I was getting a little tired of this ride when I was staring at the fireworks and almost forgetting we were on a roller coaster. If you've already seen the fireworks, it's a lot of fun to see them again from this ride. The park was now closing, so we exited with the masses and caught a bus back to our hotel to end a great day at WDW.
Day 5: September 3, 199
We slept in a bit and without rushing at all, made it to Epcot by 9:20 or so. We waited about three minutes for Spaceship Earth, which is unbelievable at this time, since people usually walk into the park and right on to this ride. I really like this attraction, and Mom and Dad hadn't seen it yet this trip.
We watched the fountain show again, probably the best thing in the park, and then went to the Garden Grill for our 10:00 priority seating. We used our Flex Feature for this meal and we all had a great time. We were on the second level, so we couldn't see the scenes very well, but we got a lot of character attention. We were visited by Mickey and Dale twice and Minnie and Chip once. I had such a great time with them all, and the food was pretty good too. This was one of the best meals of our trip.
With full stomachs we headed to the World Showcase. When we passed by Mexico, we saw Donald Duck and visited him for a bit. We then walked on to Maelstrom and skipped the movie. Joey bought a ring cake, and we moved on to China, where we had just missed a showing of "Wonders of China" and had to wait for the next one. Did likes this movie; the rest of us don't care too much for it, but I tolerated it more than last time. This is not a good movie to take children to. All the little kids in the theater were running around and goofing around, and some left before the movie was over.
We walked through Germany, where we saw Dopey, and Italy, then saw part of a character stage show (a must for parents taking their young kids around the World Showcase) before watching the American Adventure. These animatronics are so impressive and the films are very moving.
We then walked through Japan, and I got a shaved ice with rainbow syrup, which was very good. It was raining some now, but it slowed down after we visited Morocco. We then saw the movie in France, which we all like, and got some pastries in the bakery.
On the way to United Kingdom, we visited with one of the dormice from Cinderella. In the United Kingdom, we saw a performance of "Romeo and Edna" by the World Showcase players, which was very funny. We then saw "O Canada" for the first time, which was surprisingly good. I liked it a lot more than "Wonders of China" and about the same as "Impressions de France."
We saw yet another fountain show and then saw Ellen's Energy Adventure, which I absolutely loved. This has been so greatly improved. The dinosaurs are still good (the Ellen animatronic isn't too convincing, though), but a very funny story line has been added, staring Ellen, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Alex Trebec, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Albert Einstein, who didn't answer a single question. It still teaches about energy (probably now better than before with the boring films), and all in all was a great show, probably one of the best things in Epcot.
We ate dinner in Mexico. I had a taco salad, which was good, and a milk, of course. Joey and Mom then went to Maelstrom again, while Dad and I went over to Innoventions Plaza to see Kristos. On the way, we watched the Junkanoo Bus Band performing. It was funny to see the other guests get up and dance. The performance of Kristos was also very good. The positions these people, excuse me, aliens got into were amazing.
We met up with Mom and Joey and saw the Circle of Life, which I thought was very good and really delivered the right message about protecting our environment. I got depressed during the footage of factories and landfills polluting our world, but the movie is very uplifting when it shows all that people are doing to help.
Now we'd seen everything in Epcot except Body Wars, which I figured would make most of us sick. We got a great place to see Illuminations on the bridge by the Mexico pavilion just 15 minutes or so before the show was to start. I don't know if it always is like this, but the show seemed very smoky and the fireworks were hard to see at times. My family enjoyed it, but I was disappointed. I'm sure I would have liked it more if it were clearer, but maybe I had just expected something more. We caught a bus home and didn't get to sleep until fairly late.
Day 6: September 4, 1997
We slept late for us and made it to Blizzard Beach for the 10:00 opening. Mom got us a shaded picnic table, and Dad, Joey, and I took the ski lift, which is a fun ride itself, up to the top of Mount Gushmore and rode down Teamboat Springs. This is a great family raft ride and very long.
We then did Runoff Rapids on a three person tube, which was fun but not special in any way, and then the Downhill Double Dipper. I got the fastest time in our family: 7.2 seconds. I won again in Snow Stormers, but Dad beat everyone in Toboggan Racers. This is one race where weight really helps.
We spent a bit of time in the wave pool, which is pleasant since the waves don't slam you down like at Typhoon Lagoon.
Dad then did Summit Plummet, a.k.a. "Big Giant Wedgie Slide" according to one of our bus drivers. I took Mom on Cool Runnings (way too short), and then we persuaded her to come on Teamboat Springs, which she actually enjoyed!
We relaxed on Cross Country Creek and repeated a few slides. Joey and I decided to try the Slush Gusher with Dad. The ride was fun, though it hurt a big banging around in the slide on the final drop.
We then ate lunch, which was decent fast food, and took the bus back to the hotel. I thought the bus service to the water parks overall was great and I'm glad we didn't rent a car. I got sunburned today, but had fun anyway. I think I like Typhoon Lagoon better because of the scenery and Shark Reef, but Blizzard Beach was a lot of fun too.
After a short break in our hotel, we got a bus to MGM. It was about 4:30 at this time, and we were the *only* people on the bus! Once at MGM, Dad, Joey, and I waited about 10 minutes for the Tower of Terror.
I was a little apprehensive beforehand, like I always am with thrill rides, but I really liked it. It's a pretty short ride, though. There's a short per-show, then you board the elevator. You see the five hotel guest ghosts and a star field, along with some clocks and other floating objects, then you see a lightened wall and there's a short drop, then zoom up to the top, pause, picture taken, drop, up again, drop, and it's over. The drops are a lot of fun though, and the intense feeling of free-fall is great. When we got out, our picture wasn't that good, so we went again with no wait. Still not that great, so Joey and I walked on one more time and then got the picture. Nobody looks to terrified in these pictures because when they take them you're just at the top waiting to drop. They show figure out a way to take them as the car is dropping to capture the true feelings of terror. Joey and I raised our arms and smiled for the camera, then grabbed bar on the way down.
Okay, we had accomplished what we came to MGM for (and three times, too!), so we headed back to the MK. We took the bus to the Contemporary Resort to get the monorail. We looked at the restaurants here, but decided against eating at one of them. None of us liked this hotel much, and we're glad we didn't spring for it. I'm sure the rooms are very nice, but the hotel itself is pretty ordinary. We got to ride up front in the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, but it started raining on the way so I don't think the video footage came out too well.
Once there, we saw the only major attraction we've never seen, Carousel of Progress. It was a little dated, but not a bad show. "It's a great big beautiful tomorrow."
We were getting hungry and tired, so we voted to go back to our hotel for pizza; however, it was almost parade time and I wanted to see it one last time. We got a place for SpectroMagic right at the beginning of the route and high-tailed it out of there when it was over. The parade is a great way to spend the last night of your trip. For those who look for good parade spots, this is one of the best. It wasn't as crowded as the curbs on Main Street, and by being at the very beginning of the route, you don't have to wait for the parade to make its way to you, plus you can get out of the park before the major exodus of guest.
Back at our hotel, we got dinner and ate it outside near the surfing pool, which was very pleasant, since the pool was still closed. The pizza wasn't that great, but it wasn't as bad as most of the food in the food court. I have to say I do like the self serve soft serve machines. We did a bit of packing and set one last wake up call for early the next morning before turning in for our last night's sleep in our comfy beds here.
Day 7: September 5, 1997
We woke up early to one final call from Mickey, got packed, and arrived at the MK at 8:50. We got a good position again at the Adventureland rope, and Joey and I were the very first people to Splash Mountain. There were *no* other teenagers here! We had to wait a bit for Dad to catch up, but we still got in the first car of the day.
The drops didn't seem nearly as intense after having ridden the Tower of Terror, but they were still a lot of fun. I caught more of the details this time, like the adorable opossums swinging from a tree above you in the room before the drop in the dark. When our ride was over, there was still nobody there (!), so our whole car got to be sent around again. The picture was great this time, so we bought it. The songs from this ride stayed in my head long after we arrived home. "How do you do, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, how do you do, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo . . . .", "I'm visiting my laughing place, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, laughing place, a laughing place, a laughing place, a go-ho-ho . and you'll find yours we know-oh-oh!" and of course, "Zip-a-dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my oh my, what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine, heading my way, zip-a-dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!" I love this ride so much! The songs, audio-animatronics, story line, and drops make for a great attraction.
After this, time for one more ride on Big Thunder. That makes #8 of the trip, which is way too many. I was getting really tired of this one. On to the Haunted Mansion again, the Peter Pan, Snow White, and Mr. Toad, all with hardly any wait. I noticed It's a Small World was closed; I wonder what they're doing to it.
Next stop, Space Mountain. Joey went alone once while I enjoyed a soft serve and strawberry swirl, and then I joined him for two more rides (one on each side) with about five minute waits. I like the left side better because it has more drops, for those who are interested, but other than that the ride is pretty much the same on both sides. Even this ride was starting to seem tame now.
We rushed over to the Hall of Presidents, where we and a few others were let in through some closed doors, even though the show had just started. The first part of the show is just okay, but the presidents are as impressive as ever.
We ate lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern, which is a nice, relaxing, sit-down restaurant. I had the turkey, which was pretty good. I was disappointed that the characters don't show up for lunch, though.
We visited Tom Sawyer Island after lunch, which was fun to see again, but I think this is more fun for younger kids. We then got a spot in the sun for the parade. No sunscreen either. Ouch. I was also getting a bad headache at this time, and the heat didn't help. I thought the parade was pretty good, but the magic moments didn't work very well.
We stopped to get Mickey Mouse ears with our names stitched on, then said one last good-bye to the Magic Kingdom and took our last bus ride to our hotel. I bought a few final souvenirs in the gift shop before we caught a Mears shuttle for a quiet and sad ride back to the airport. We boarded our 7:00 plane without any trouble and flew back to real life.
Some Final Thoughts:
This trip was great. Although we had some fights and bad moods, almost everything went perfectly. A week was the perfect amount of time to stay. We really did do just about everything. This time of the year was also a wonderful time to go. I doubt we could have seen as much in a week in, say, July, but the parks were very uncrowded at this time. It also helped to avoid the early entry park, and we found we could see plenty in a day at the other parks without having to get up early. The heat wasn't even as oppressive as I expected. We put on sunscreen and carried a fan/spray bottle around with us and encountered no real problems except the sunburn at Blizzard Beach and the heat of the afternoon parade. Staying at All-Star and not renting a car worked well for us. We didn't spend too much time in our hotel, and the rooms are adequate for a family of four. The bus service was great from this hotel, even to the water parks. For people on a budget, this is the place to stay.
My advice to those who are planning a trip: First of all, go in the off-season (very important!), and don't be too compulsive about planning. It's a lot of fun to just be spontaneous, but at least have a basic idea of where you're going to go to every day. Don't be afraid to try the thrill rides unless you get motion sickness really easily. Trust me, none of the rides at Disney World are that bad, and you'll feel bad if you miss out on these, especially Splash Mountain. Most of all, get in the Disney mood and have a great time!
Writing this trip report really helped me relive my trip and the great times I had. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me. I hope you enjoyed reading this!