Time of Year: Fall
Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
Ages Represented in Group: Toddler, Elementary, Teen, Adult, Senior
WDW Experience Represented in Group: Frequent, Rookie
Comments: Mikki and her family stayed at Dixie Landings during their recent visit. In addition to the Anderson's, eight other extended family members and friends tagged along. Besides enjoying WDW, the group visited several offsite attractions and even drove down to Southern Florida for a bit at the end of the trip.
Oct 30-Nov. 7, 1998
Cast of Characters:
Michelle- 25 yr.old, 4th visit to WDW, commando, and planner-in-training
LaVon-31yr.old, 3rd visit to WDW, commando's hubby :o)
Janie- 3yr.old, 2nd visit to WDW, can't wait to give Mickey a hug!
Plus 8 other people: Michelle's parents, aunt and uncle, their two daughters, Grandpa and his female companion)
Had a great flight on American Airlines from O'Hare on Friday, Oct. 30th. When we got into Orlando, the weather was 85 degrees!!! Woo-Hoo! My mistake was not renting our two rental vans from an on-airport name-brand agency. We went with a small, off-airport agency, with whom we had no problem getting shuttled from the airport. When we arrived at the agency however, it was the size of a matchbox, and no one hardly spoke a word of English. To make a long story short, next time we will definitely pay the few dollars extra for renting at the airport... not worth the hassle to us to do it the way we did!
Checked into Dixie Landings...had a great CastMember help us. We had requested Magnolia Bend section, and were guaranteed four connecting rooms. We were given Alligator Bayou Lodge 38. However, I have to admit, we were very pleasantly surprised! We loved it even more than the Magnolia Bend section. The rooms were great, and the Bayou section seemed more cozy to us, and we loved the landscaping. We even had views of the Sassagoula River! And we had the standard room rate! Woo-Hoo!
The food court is one of the things I love best about DL. We immediately purchased our refillable mugs, got some great food, and totally overdosed on the Frozen Cokes and Frozen Cherry Slushies. YUM! Back to our rooms we went, for the next day was not a Disney Day, but Sea World... speaking of the walk...it was only a seven minute walk from our rooms to the Food Court! Goody!
Saturday was Halloween, so we decided to take in Sea World. Got there at 8:45a.m. Got our tickets, and onward we went. First to the stingray feeding tank, then to the Dolphin Feeding tank.... I love feeding the dolphins! Janie and I fed a lot of fish to them, while LaVon took lots of pictures! Then we found our seats to watch the Key West Dolphin Fest show... it was ok, but it seemed to be a lot shorter this time.
Next we headed to Journey to Atlantis. Janie stayed with Grandpa since she was too little to ride, and Grandpa didn't want to mess his neck and back up. I have to admit, it was a pretty good ride! The drop was more than what I expected from looking at it! I swear my stomach was in my throat! However, we got more wet from people shooting us with the water cannons, than from the actual drop!
We gathered up Janie and Grandpa, and we were off to see the other exhibits, penguins, manatees, then it was a stop at the Anheuser Hospitality Center for a quick lunch and some free beer! MMMMmmm! Hit the spot on such a warm day!
Next it was off to the Shamu show. I like the pre-show with Jack Hanna, but the main show had changed immensely from the show I remember a few years back. Not as much leaping out of the water, etc. Still, Shamu is a spectacalur sight!
Wild Arctic was our last stop at Sea World. Grandparents took Janie and did the walking section, while the rest of us did the the motion simulator ride. This simulator ride was great! And the walking part to see the Beluga whales and polar bears afterwards was nice...although the floors were extremely slippery!!! I could just see all sorts of kids and elderly people falling...I'm surprised they don't do something about that so as to not have any lawsuits????
We then headed back to Dixie Landings for a little rest time before we headed down to Downtown Disney for dinner and some shopping.
We boarded the Downtown Disney bus, and this was our first experience using the buses as primary transportation. We didn't have a problem with it, because the Grandparents all got seats, and the rest of us stood up. It was a full bus! I can't imagine going in the summertime when it's really crowded!
Dropped us off at the bus stop near Planet Hollywood. We were hoping to eat there for dinner, but of course, we had forgotten that it was Halloween night, so Pleasure Island, etc. was EXTREMELY crowded. Janie didn't know quite what to think with everyone all dressed up. We sent LaVon up to the Planet Hollywood host to see how long the wait would be. Two hours! We decided to walk back to Downtown Disney and see how long the wait would be at the Rainforest Cafe.
Everyone stayed outside by the Lego Imagination Center, while me and my two younger cousins ran down to the Rainforest to see if we could get a table. We saw the line snaking back and forth, and were immediately discouraged. I couldn't remember...did Rainforest Cafe take priority seatings? Or was it super-crowded because of the holiday? Well, I nabbed a host who was seating people, and she said the wait was a good two hours at least. Then she asked how many was in our party...told her eleven. I told her thank you, but we didn't want to wait that long, so we'd find somewhere else to go. Well, to my surprise, she said that they had a large party just leaving, so if I wanted to go back, get the others, the table would be ready for us in ten minutes! Woo-hoo!
Got the others, were seated at our table, and ordered! So much for the two hour wait! Still can't believe it! This meal would prove to be our best the entire trip! I had the chicken stir-fry, which was so huge, three people could have split it! We ordered two appetizer plates for the table to share...one is the rib plate, the other was the combo plate...great! Everyone loved the coconut chicken, and stuffed potato skins! MMMmmm..and the servers messed up, and gave us two additional appetizer plates (at no charge when they realized their mistake!). Our tab for eleven people, including drinks, and two appetizer plates was $198.00. Not too bad, considering the atmosphere and the excellent food!
Back to our hotel via the bus, with which we had no problem whatsoever. A quick stop at the food court to fill the mugs with Frozen Cokes,and off to bed we went. Tomorrow is Epcot Day!
Sunday we had decided to dedicate to Epcot. The last time we were there was right after it had opened, and we weren't that impressed with it. So we had high hopes for Epcot on this return visit.
Got there at 8:45a.m. Got in on our 4-day hoppers, and off to Universe of Energy. This is still an excellent ride. I think Ellen fits quite well with the show. Onto Body Wars. Now some of the guides say a lot of people get motion sick on this one, so we were quite leary about this... I don't understand what all the fuss was about. Actually, I didn't care for this ride at all...seemed to me just like a bunch of red blood/cells on the screen for most of the ride. Definitely liked the simulator ride at Sea World better.
After Body Wars, got to get an autograph and picture with Goofy. Janie had went and seen Cranium Command with Daddy while I did Body Wars. Daddy doesn't fare too well on simulators, so he thought they would enjoy the Cranium Command show, which they did.
Next was Horizons. I love this ride! The orange smell is the greatest. However, a lot of the video footage does need to be updated. Still, it's one of my favorites!
We stopped over at Ice Station Cool, to check out the flavors of Coca-Cola....wow! Never knew there was so many! Visitors beware! The Beverly is absolutely, positively, the worst-tasting coke product ever! Just like drinking straight cough syrup. YUK!!! Did really like the Ginger-Ale one. When we saw all the snow, we felt like we were back home in Wisconsin!
From there we headed to the Living with the Land boat ride. So far, we were having great luck with lines...none at all! We waited about ten minutes then we boarded our boat. This is an excellent ride. I love seeing how they grow things. If we'd have had more time, I would have loved to do the walking tour. Next time definitely!
We decided to take a lunch break, because Janie and Daddy were hungry, along with the rest of the group. Janie had a kids PB&J meal, while I had a Veggie Wrap...lots of veggies, dressing, etc. wrapped in a spinach tortilla. Delicious! LaVon said his sandwhich and soup were really good too. I won't even begin to try to remember what the rest of the group ate!
Off we were to the Living Seas. After seeing Sea World, this didn't impress us too much, so we headed to Honey I Shrunk the Audience movie. This was spectacular. We were a little concerned about how Janie would react to it, but she loved it as much as we did! The rest of the day she told everyone she saw how the dog sneezed on her!
We had planned on touring World Showcase in the afternoon, but after we had walked half way around it, we were all so tired that we decided to call it quits for the day. Back to our hotel, where we were pleasantly surprised to find our hotel room decked out with our towels all in different scenes...sitting in front of the windows with hats sunglasses on, etc. Very fun! To bed we went, as tomorrow brings our first trip to Disney-MGM Studios!
Monday brought more glorious warm weather as we headed for Disney-MGM. I should note that every morning we ate breakfast at the food court. I got hooked on the croissants and fresh fruit cups.
Our first ride was the Great Movie Ride. We all liked how they added live action within the show. At the end I wish it hadn't been over so quickly. Everyone loved this ride, especially since we are big movie buffs!
Next was the Indiana Jones Stunt Show Spectacular. This was great! The preshow with the audience members was really funny. I suppose this varies from show to show...the more animated the audience, the better the laughs are. There was a lot of humor in this show..much more than I would have ever expected. I would definitely see this again.
Onto Star Tours we go. Once again, I'm not impressed too much with the simulator ride. Here is our first long wait...a whole fifteen minutes!
We decided to do MuppetVision, then have lunch. MuppetVision was good, the preshow area we really liked. But we still picked Honey I Shrunk the Audience as the better 3-D/4-D movie.
Grabbed a quick lunch, then onto the Backlot tour. My two cousins were chosen as the two volunteers in the water special effects show. They loved it. Hope we got some good pictures! I loved Catastrophe Canyon, and seeing the house facades from the Golden Girls, Empty Nest, etc.
It was then time for the Mulan parade. What a sight! It was terrific! And the music was incredible also. After the parade, we hiked over to Tower of Terror. No wait here either! Woo-hoo!!! All I can say is AWESOME! Wish we would have had time to do it over and over...best ride at Disney!
It was 4 o'clock, so Daddy decided it was time for Janie to go swimming...he took her back to hotel to do that, with the rest of the clan, while me, my uncle, and two cousins hopped the bus to Animal Kingdom.
I was anxious to see what this park was like after hearing so many mixed reviews about it. We arrived around 4:20p.m. Just going through the entrance, I knew I was going to love this park. The lush foliage was incredible, and different sweet smells everywhere you turned. We hiked it over to Kil.Safari, and again, no lines! This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The sun was setting, and all of the animals were out!!! WOW! We really liked the African music in the middle of the trip...just seemed to add something more to it. After this ride, I can't wait until the day when I can really go on a safari in Africa!
Next was the "It's Tough to Be a Bug" movie....no wait! Walked right in! EXCELLENT! Glad Janie was with Daddy, because this would have scared her I think. It was after this movie that I was saddened by the fact that we didn't devote an entire day to AK. I would have gladly traded a day at Epcot for a day at AK.
It's astounding all the detail they put into this park...from the gigantic tree of life, to the pathways, buildings, etc. Just wonderful. It was only 5:20, so we decided to ride Countdown to Extinction. Again, no line! The Unofficial Guide is really right on the money about touring tips, IMHO. Great ride!!!! People sitting on the left side of the vehicle get more dinosaurs I think! It was not what I expected!
Sadly, it was time to leave AK. I think that when Asia opens, this park will be one to rival with. Beautiful, great attractions, etc. I loved it. I would gladly pay the full admission price to this park (just don't let the Disney people hear that!)... I was disappointed too, that the rest of the family hadn't experienced this park...oh well, there's always next time, right?!
Back to the hotel, for a quick soak in the tub, bite to eat, and then it was time to hit the sack. Janie had had great time swimming! Again, the maids had done up our room very nicely, with Janie's dinosaurs, and stuffed animals arranged in zany ways! Tomorrow, our last day at Disney, is Magic Kingdom!!!
Our last day at WDW :o(...... We headed for the Magic Kingdom. First stop was on Main Street for pictures and autographs with the Seven Dwarfs. Janie was hesitant at first, but then she got right into it, I don't know who was having more fun, her or Mommy! Daddy was snapping away with the camera left and right... Did I mention that the rest of the family got right into the swing of things? We were all running around with our autograph books like a bunch of lunatics! Who cares! We were at Disney!
Off to Fantasyland.... Rode Peter Pan, It's a Small World, Cinderella's Carousel, and Snow White without any wait at all. Then we trucked it over to the Haunted Mansion. No wait here either! I was so happy we decided to vacation this time of year.
Onto Splash Mountain, while Janie stayed with Daddy and Grandma to watch a show at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon... I had never been on Splash Mountain before. Neat! It was great!!! Much, much better than Big Thunder Moutain Railroad, which we rode right after.
Got Janie and the rest of the gang, and headed over to Pirates of the Carribean. No wait here either. Geesh, were we lucky or what?! Hold on, next it was Jungle Cruise, and here we endured the longest wait of our trip....25 minutes. Our skipper was a female dud...not a good spiel at all...so no one was very impressed with this ride. By the way, does anyone know why the river is red????
Lunch at the Plaza Pavillion (I think?!) and then it was off to Space Moutain.... Janie was sleeping, and Grandpa, Auntie, and Daddy, decided they wanted to just rest awhile, so they stayed there at the pavillion, while we went to Space Mountain. Only endured a 5 minute wait here...terrific! Better than what I remembered it!!!! Only thing was that I had an instant headache when I rode. This is still a classic Disney ride.
On towards Alien Encounter. Wasn't near as bad as what I thought it was going to be...the anticipation of what was going to happen was worse than the actual attraction itself.
I can't believe it, but I totally forgot about Buzz Lightyear, so we didn't ride that...RATS! Next time!
We found the others, Janie had just woken up, so we were off to Mickey's Toontown.....Got lots of autographs here...Mickey, Minnie, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Donald, Chip, Dale, Pluto, Goofy, etc. Great fun! This is what we came for... Pluto took Janie's Minnie Mouse hat off her head, put it on his, walked over to Minnie, showed her, she shook her head and finger at him, he came back, paraded around the others that were in the room with us, gave Janie back her hat, and gave her a big lick on her face. She loved it!!!!!!!!!!! Hope the pictures turn out. Now was when I was cursing myself for not lugging along the video camera!!! ARGH!
Our feet had about had it for the day, so we decided it was time to go...on our way out by the castle, the DisneyMania show was just getting ready to begin. We decided to sit down, and watch it. EXCELLENT! This is what Disney is all about. The Characters, the music, it was an absolute delight. I wish we would have taken in more of the shows. But I am glad we got a chance to see this one!
Back to the hotel, and a quick shower and change of clothes, and we headed to Planet Hollywood for an early dinner. At 5:30, we walked right in, no line at all. We were seated on the second floor. The food was mediocre, but what I really disliked was the way that hurried you right along...most of us weren't barely finished with our meal when our server took our plates away....it was very obvious that they couldn't wait for you to leave so that they could seat their next guests. Hmph! Don't think we'll be visiting there anytime in the near future...Rainforest Cafe was so much more enjoyable!
Headed over to DisneyQuest to check that out. Disney has a way to make you pay for everything, don't they! I thought it kinda stunk that everyone had to pay to get in....oh well, that's the brakes. We bought our admission tickets, and tried out a few rides. I could see how younger people could enjoy this, but it wasn't our cup of tea. So after an hour or so, we headed back to DL.
A quick swim and shower, and we were as snug as a bug in a rug in our beds, Janie had conked out in the van on our way out from Disney Quest...she had had a long day. Oh, I forgot to mention, that on our way out from the Magic Kingdom, she got an autograph and picture from Belle. Don't know who liked Belle more, Janie or Daddy! Have to admit, she was gorgeous...I've never seen eyes so big and brown!
The rest of our trip was not on Disney Property, but I have decided to include it anyway, just in case someone is interested!
Wednesday morning we ate breakfast in the food court one last time before we headed down toward the Florida Keys. Also, had to make sure we refilled our mugs one last time with those Frozen Cokes!
We were half way down to Florida City/Homestead, when Janie threw up in her carseat. At first we thought she had gotten carsick, but then later in the day she had a fever. Gave her some Tylenol, and after and hour or so, and a good nap, she seemed to be feeling lots better. We decided to stay in Key Largo at the Holiday Inn.
When we checked in, the staffers were handing out print-outs of the weather update...Tropical Storm Mitch was going to produce heavy rain and strong winds. Oh goody. Oh well, what were we gonna do? It was supposed to be better by the next morning, so we decided to weather the storm. We didn't know then exactly what that statement would mean!
We got our rooms at 2p.m., and we decided to go eat supper at a local supper club, two miles up the road at 6p.m. When we stepped out of the hotel room, to get into the vans, the sky was lighting up with lightning like I had never witnessed before. Unreal. It was constant!
We got to the supper club, and the manager seated the 11 of us next to two walls (which consisted of huge glass pane windows overlooking the water). The tv above the bar was tuned to the Weather Channel, and they were predicting a tornado to go through the area of Key Largo. The manager jokingly said that if that were to happen, we were more than welcome to go into the kitchen for safety.
I had just placed my drink order of a Banana Daquiri when the lights went out. All of a sudden we heard a terrible noise that was getting louder and louder each moment. I jumped out of my seat, grabbed Janie, and ran into the kitchen, with everyone else following me. There were two huge prep tables, and I slid my way underneath one of them, with the rest of the family also around.
It only lasted a few minutes, but the tornado definitely hit. It ripped the doors off, and part of the roof as well. You could just feel the pressure in the back of your head. We all just kept praying over and over. The staff was EXCELLENT....they kept asking where the little one was, was she ok...(Janie).....they gave us lots of folded tablecloths to put over her head, our heads, to sit on, etc.
When it was over, we couldn't leave because it was raining to hard to see anything outside, and we had to wait for the police to come to direct traffic around all the debris on Highway One. The staff had lots of flashlights and candles, and were giving out free beer and pop......The tables and chairs were all soaked with water. They pulled the hurricane folding doors, in case another tornado should hit. After twenty minutes, we finally left... thanking the staff for all they did for us...we couldn't have asked for them to be any better.
We drove over downed cables, around downed trees, and around boats that were in the middle of the highway, three miles back to our hotel. Still extremely high winds, 70 mph....and no electricity anywhere. We sat in the hotel lobby for and hour or two...lots of candles, free beer and soda from the bar, free sandwhiches from the kitchen...etc...the hotel manager came around and talked with everyone...telling them to let him or other staff know if we needed anything....they were terrific as well.
Finally decided to take some candles back to our room, and try to get some sleep....didn't get much though...the wind blew so hard all night long, the door was rattlinga lot...so mostly sat there with my eyes wide open...praying another tornado was not going to hit.
Had electricity by four a.m....thank goodness...watched the Weather Channel...it was going north of us now, so should be pretty easy getting to Key West...... My mom spent the three hours before we left for Key West, outside, picking up storm debris...to her, that meant coconuts that had been blown off the palms, big branches of palms, lemons, etc.
We were going to have to stop at a post office so that she could ship these back home, because there was no way she was going to pack this stuff in her suitcases! Dad thought she had gone insane.
Left for Key West around 9a.m., after we had driven back up to the supper club to take pictures of all the damage. Unbelievable. This was a tornado that hit in a three mile strip...just exactly where we had been. I am just so glad that we weren't in our vans on the road when it hit.
Janie was feeling fine now, so we were glad about that. Driving was tricky on the way down, still very windy. Got to the Hyatt and checked in around noon. Walked around Key West, running into many ParrotHeads...Jimmy Buffet's fanclub convention was this weekend. Went to Margaritaville of course, and other shops, bars, along the way.
Think we finally got to bed around midnight. I could easily stay in Key West for a month or so. Love that town. Such a carefree attitude!
Tomorrow we drive back up to Miami, hopefully stopping for an airboat tour in Florida City.
Friday morning.... ate breakfast in Key West, at at great little cafe. Walked down Duval Street one more time, then packed up and headed for Miami.
We stopped in Florida City to take an airboat tour of the Everglades. I even held a baby alligator! It was great fun....although, not Disney of course!
By the time we had reached Miami, Janie started screaming in the van. She said her throat hurt, and she wanted something to drink every 5 seconds. When we got to our hotel, we had the front desk call for a physician to come to our room. 20 minutes later, we had a Spanish-speaking doctor at our door. This was interesting.
She couldn't speak much English, and she kept asking me every other minute how old Janie was. She looked at her throat, although I don't know how she could see anything, the room was dimly lit, and she didn't even have a penlight to see with. She prescribed some antiobiotics, and told us to see our physician when we got home.
Then it was to find a pharmacy to fill the prescription. We found one close by, with the help of the hotel manager...I was certainly surprised at the friendliness of the people in Miami... :o)
Got the prescription filled, but since I didn't feel to comfortable when the dr. had to look up the medicine in her english/spanish pharmacy book, I called the pharmacy at our local hospital to double check that the dosage was correct...it was...so then we gave her the meds, and to bed we went.
The next morning we flew out of Miami Int'l Airport back to Chicago O'Hare. It was a great trip...although it's unbelievably tough to try to squeeze in just one park per day. Next time I would just concentrate on one or two parks if my time were limited. If anyone has any questions, please don't hesistate to ask!