After years of saying ‘Oh well, maybe next year’, Oogie finally bit the bullet, plopped down the money and said ‘I’m Going to Disney World!!!’
After months of planning, calling the Disney Reservations line and the Disney Travel Agency more times than I can count, and several trips to Target and Costco for travel items, we left Oakland on March 28th, at 1pm on Delta Connections for our hour and a half flight into Salt Lake City. If you have never flown into Salt Lake City, imagine yourself flying along, and then having your plane go into a 45 degree dive only to level out at the last second to land at the airport. If you get air sick, I recommend never flying into Salt Lake City. Also if you can avoid it, do not fly on a Delta Connections jet. I’m 6’3” and about 280lbs, and I felt like Hagrid trying to squeeze into one of the cars on the Winnie the Pooh ride.
After the brief stop in Salt Lake, we boarded a much larger Delta jet for our 4 hour flight to Orlando. The flight was easy until we hit the Gulf of Mexico. That’s when we hit our first thunderstorm. Looking down through the window we saw several bursts of light coming from the clouds below us. It was quite pretty, but bad enough that our pilot changed course and flew down almost to Miami to try to get around it.
At midnight we landed in Orlando. Ms. Oogie and I gathered our things and left the plane only to walk into what felt like a hot sauna. Yep. Even though it was the middle of the night, the Florida heat and humidity was waiting for us. We took a quick monorail ride over to the main terminal where we got dinner at the golden arches, and made our way to the Magical Express bus and the blessed AC that it had. Luckily we were one of the first people on the bus, so we not only had our choice of seats, but the bus driver had ‘Lilo and Stitch’ playing so we got to watch it before we took off.
The bus ride took about 30 minutes (most of that time I was trying to explain to Ms. Oogie just who Stitch was), then we arrived at our destination. The Pop Century Hotel. We had heard that this was the nicest of the economy hotels, so we were looking forward to a good stay and a restful night’s sleep. When we went to check in though, we found that our luggage which was supposed to have been at the hotel with us, hadn’t gotten to the airport yet, and that our request for a king size bed was not being honored. When we asked why, they said that they had none left (never mind the fact that we had put in the request for one 3 months earlier), but they might be able to get us one on Monday. While we were standing there discussing this with the agent, a guy came in behind us, went to the agent next to us and said that he was wondering if there was any rooms available. The agent replied yes, but they only had king size beds. When we heard this, we couldn’t believe it. First they told us that there weren’t any, and now they are giving one to a guy who wanders in off the street after us? We were livid. Finally the manager came out and told us that the reason that we weren’t being offered it was because the room was only available for tonight and that there were none available on Sunday, and he didn’t want us to be Inconvenience by having to move 3 times. When we asked him shouldn’t that have been our decision, he didn’t have an answer. For all the hype, this place was not starting out on a good foot with us. Finally we got our room in the 1980’s wing on the 2nd floor and at 2am we were finally able to go to our room and get some sleep. We told the agents at the front desk that we would be down to get our luggage in the morning (fortunately we travel with some extra clothes in our carry ons) and they said that that was no problem.
At 4am we were awoken by an explosion. Thinking to myself ‘The Gods have been angered by all us celebrating’, I went outside to find that the thunderstorm that we had passed over the Gulf of Mexico had caught up with us. For those of you who have never experienced a thunderstorm in the south, it is much different than the ones out here in California. In California, the rumbling of the thunder seems to go on forever til you can’t hear it anymore. The thunder that we experienced in Orlando was more violent. It was a distinctive ‘BOOM’ that did not linger, but died out just as fast as it started. A short while after that, the skies opened up and the rains started. It was at that moment I started thinking that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
At about 11 the rain stopped and the sky cleared. After a quick stop at the Pop Century’s food court for a late breakfast, we made our way to the bus to go to the Magic Kingdom. The resort buses are fantastic. They run every 20 minutes from your resort to all the parks and to Downtown Disney. If you are planning to stay on property, Disney has made it so that there is no need for you to get a rental car. The only resort places they do not go are from hotel to hotel. To get from hotel to hotel, you have to stop at one of the parks or at the main transit area.
The ride from the Pop Century to the Magic Kingdom takes about 15 minutes. From there it took about 5 minutes to walk up to the main gates from where the bus lets you off and to pass through the security checkpoint. Also, unlike Disneyland, Disney World uses a card called ‘Your Key to the World’ that acts as your room key, your ticket to the parks and your charge card for your meals (if you are using the Disney Dining Plan). Once past the ticket booth I was greeted by an old friend and a very familiar sight.
It was then I started thinking.. ‘OK, maybe this trip wasn’t such a bad idea after all’.
We passed under the train station and walked into the ending of the ‘Celebrate’ parade.
After watching the ending of the parade, we walked through the shops on Main Street
and turned into Tomorrowland.
We tried to get on Space Mountain, but the wait time was over an hour, so we decided to ride it later and went on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (PeopleMover) and then on Buzz instead.
We then went over to Liberty Square (Florida’s version of New Orleans Square) and hit the Haunted Mansion.
*** Note *** they left the door open in the stretching portrait room, so it kinda ruined the whole 'this chamber has no windows and no doors' thing.
(singing) I don't wanna be buried.. in a pet cemetary.....
The Liberty Belle is Florida's version of the Mark Twain. From what I could tell, the Mark Twain is bigger.
After the Haunted Mansion, we headed into Fantasyland for Small World (it just didn’t seem right having the ride indoors) and Mickey’s Philharmonic.
Yep. The birds are just as fat here as they are in Anaheim.
Then we went over to Adventureland to see The Tiki Room and ride Aladdin’s Carpet. Aladdin’s Carpet is kind of like Dumbo, but there’s more room, has seats in front and back of the ‘carpet’. The front seats can control the height of the carpet, while those in the back seat can control the front and back angle of the carpet, making it ‘wave’
After that it was time to head over to the Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square for Dinner.
If you have never eaten there, I encourage you to try it on your next trip. The atmosphere and the service are great, and the food was delicious. You start with a roll with some sweetened butter and a fresh salad in vinaigrette dressing. Then comes the main course. Whipped Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, Stuffing, Sliced Turkey Breast (fresh, not processed), Sliced Roast Beef, Sliced Ham in a Mustard Sauce, and Turkey Gravy. After that we were given a hot peach cobbler for dessert topped off with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream. Oh.. in case I forgot to mention.. all of these dishes are all you can eat.
Once dinner was over, we walked outside to discover that Spectromagic was running that night and had just entered Liberty Square. We took a seat on a bench right outside the restaurant and watched the show. On a personal note.. I found Spectromagic to be a pale imitation of the Electric Parade. I liked the Fantasia floats and I loved the fact that some of the floats changed from all white lights to color lights and back again, but the music was forgettable (I had forgotten how it went about 10 minutes after it was over), The parade was full of non Disney characters (a bunch of guys running around wearing Venetian style masks ), and it just seemed like it lacked the charm that the MSEP has. (I took some pictures of the parade, but unfortunately they didn’t come out).
When the parade was over, we headed to Splash Mountain and to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Big Thunder was one of the few rides that I could honestly say I liked better at WDW. Not only is the ride longer, but there are hydraulics on the car which make it feel like the tracks are giving away in the flooded town and rockslide scenes. We rode that multiple times til the park closed and we headed back to the Pop Century.
Day 2 coming soon.