Walt Disney World: First Time, Last Time, First Time in a Long Time (2014)
Every time I get home from a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida I take some time to look back at some of the great things I got to do. Usually these are well-worn favorite experiences and sometimes they are wonderful new things I had never gotten around to in the past. But I also am constantly amazed by how much stuff I still haven’t done, or by that long neglected attraction that got past me again. As I prepare for another foray into the World of Walt, I intend to right some of these past wrongs.
Less than 2 hours after I land at MCO, I plan to be in the ideal half-day evening park for a short visit, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or as some stubborn souls still call it, “MGM.” A little secret about DHS’s reputation as a half day park: it isn’t wholly deserved. If it were, how could I possibly have so much stuff here I still have to check off after my previous trips? Yes, if all you’re interested in are rides, or if you’ve got little kids you have to keep entertained, you may find the offerings a little light, but for a single completist adult, there’s actually no way you could see the whole thing in one day. The show schedules see to that.
I’m making sure to check out a few new places to eat on this visit, and since Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano was the one eatery connected to the Fantasmic dinner package that I hadn’t heard universally average reports on, I chose to grab a seat here as my first in-park meal this time. A former cast member friend of mine actually claims Mama Melrose as one of her favorite spots on property, so despite some reports of dawdling service, my expectations are for a decent experience.
For some reason, I’ve always wandered blithely in and out of the Animation building without taking advantage of the chance to set pencil to paper in the Animation Academy. As a youngster, I spent quite a lot of time sketching cartoon books both on my own and with a good friend. My style was always pretty two-dimensional and more suited for comic strip art than animation, so I don’t imagine I’ll come out with something fantastic here, but I just have to give it a try.
I’m pretty sure I sat through the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular five or six years ago, but for the life of me, I’ve got no memory of it. With that in mind, along with persistent rumors of its eventual demise as a part of a coming Star Wars land, I’m going to make an effort to say hello to everybody’s favorite adventuresome archaeologist and see if the show is as long in the tooth as some say.
While I’m not as big a fan of Frozen as about half of the rest of the planet’s populace, I have to admit that some of the songs really stick to you, so I won’t be all that surprised if I find myself wandering in to see the Frozen Sing Along. If nothing else, the experience of seeing a horde of crazed eight year old girls singing every word like they were me at an Elvis Costello concert could prove entertaining or instructive (or both).
General consensus has it that the Fantasmic! show at Disneyland in Anaheim is far superior to the offering at DHS, and I have to admit that this has been a factor in my not making an effort to see the show the last couple of times I darkened these particular doorsteps. Well, any talk of a trip to the first Disney park out west any time soon would be seriously jumping the gun, so I’m going to go ahead and give this version a whirl.
It may say something about my enthusiasm and time spent in Epcot that there is not much there of interest that I haven’t done and recently. This week’s announcement that Maelstrom will soon be closed and replaced by a Frozen attraction will leave this trip as my last opportunity to experience this kooky voyage through Norway. There has been quite a lot of online conflict and gnashing of teeth over the coming loss of Maelstrom, which I’m betting Lebeau will cover soon. I will definitely miss the ride, but I can’t bring myself to be too upset over its impending disappearance. Maybe I’m being naive, but it seems to me that if you’ve got a cash cow like Frozen, you’d be nuts to represent it with anything lackluster. I’ll wait and see what Disney does and form my opinions then.
Not long after my brother’s family bids me adieu and heads back home, I’ll be making my first hike through Epcot’s International Gateway, and over to Kouzzina on the Boardwalk for supper. This is kind of an odd entry here, because this will definitely be both my first and last visit to Kouzzina, since it will be closed to make way for a new restaurant just a little more than a week after I eat there this coming Sunday night. That, and reports that it is a great value on Disney’s Dining plan motivated my decision to make a reservation there.
That, and the fact that it is a good excuse to meander over to Disney’s Boardwalk resort and entertainment complex. I’ll be conflicted when I walk out of Kouzzina after finishing my meal. Epcot will still be open, with Illuminations ready to go in less than 2 hours, but there is also plenty to see on the Boardwalk. Do I take in dueling pianos and drinks over at Jelly Rolls? Do I just walk the Boardwalk and enjoy the environment? It’ll be Sunday night, so I could easily plop down over at ESPN Club and check out what’s happening in the NFL. Do you think they’d let me hang out in a corner and watch Boardwalk Empire at nine while the fireworks go off next door? Will I be able to resist a couple more hours of already paid for time in Epcot? How the heck would I get back to Pop Century from the Boardwalk after the park closes? I’ve looked most of this stuff up, but I still haven’t made a definite decision.
Whatever happens Sunday night, I will be at rope drop the next morning at the Magic Kingdom. I will once again be resisting temptation through my first few hours there so I don’t rush past some of the longstanding entertainments and icons of the parks. My first intention is to slide over to Town Square Theater and see the main mouse himself because I hear the fellow can actually talk now. It has been since sometime in the mid 80s that I made some time for those old softies The Dapper Dans. I hear they sometimes cover boy band tunes nowadays. None of that will be happening in my presence. I will be loudly requesting only the classics. You know, stuff like Lida Rose, Main Street, and Blinded by the Light.
Believe it or not, I fully intend to follow up the rope drop ceremony, talking Mickey and the Dapper Dans, with the overwhelmingly cheesy Trolley Show. Yeah, that’s right. I’m doing the Whoooooole Main Street U.S.A. thing. I’ll be walking right down the middle of it and everything.
I took a little bit of abuse when I revealed my impatience with the Swiss Family Treehouse here at the blog back in 2012. Just like the Dapper Dans, it’s been something like thirty years since I gave this relic of Disney’s early forays into live action filmmaking a chance. Just the fact that it’s standing earns it another opportunity at my affections. It had better bring its “A” game.
Surely I took a swing at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade back when I was a kid. Even at Disneyland as a true tot, maybe? Hmmmm…maybe not. This will require that I prepare for the day by placing 4 shiny quarters in my pocket at some point. I think that’s a bit of pre-planning I can handle. This attraction used to have rifles that shot real pellets, but it now employs the much safer and more historically accurate “red laser.” Can you tell I’m not a guns guy?
Here’s another classic attraction that I haven’t given the time of day since the Reagan era. Dumbo the Flying Elephant is the granddaddy of all spinner rides, and its mild thrills and iconic status used to make it one of those attractions with inexplicably arduous lines. Disney even left those lines mostly exposed to the elements. I had no time for that, but now that these issues have been resolved and improved aesthetics have been paired with a short wait in a covered queue, hey, why not? I’m kind of curious what the view up there is like now.
Considering that I have clear memories of applying crayon to the Contemporary Resort in a coloring book when I was about seven years old, it is a bit confusing that I’ve never actually set foot inside it when I wasn’t on the monorail. Part of this is, no doubt, because I’m not absolutely rolling in the kind of cash that lets a person actually stay in a deluxe resort. I’ll be fixing this particular issue of omission by having a fine steak dinner at The Wave, where Disney chefs create dishes using many locally sourced ingredients. I’m not sure why that matters to me other than the fact that maybe they’ve never been frozen. Elsa needs to stay away from my steak.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opened just earlier this year, so this will be my first chance to try it out. When I was in the Magic Kingdom last October, this part of the park was still just a big hole full of mud. I understand they’ve made some progress in the interim. Lebeau was underwhelmed when his family rode it earlier this summer, but I can’t resist what look like great animatronics, so I may cash in both of my FastPasses for Doc and the gang, one during daytime hours, and another at night after returning from supper at the Contemporary.
While I’ve always had to spend small on my overnight accommodations, I’ve never shied away from spending a little extra green on table service meals. I kind of balk at spending much time during a vacation carrying a tray. That will change a couple of times this trip, as I anticipate lunching at Sunshine Seasons in Epcot and maybe at Columbia Harbor House on my last park day before catching the Magical Express back to the airport.
I’ll be reporting on some of this on my return a week from now. Keep building stuff, Disney, and I’ll find excuses to check in with you.