Disney World: Day 4

We took the kids to Disney World in March for Nicholas’ sixth birthday. If you have the opportunity to do a kid’s birthday in Disney World, I highly recommend it. Below is the fourth part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can see the other posts here.

After a quick breakfast at Captain Cook’s, Hastings picked us up at 9:00. After hearing about Tommy’s stuffed Big Puppy on Saturday, he arrived with a stuffed Pluto for Tommy, which Tommy absolutely loved. We promptly headed off to Hollywood Studios to check out the Toy Story ride. This is one of Disney’s most popular attractions. It’s a 3D shooter of sorts, in which your car stops at a number of carnival games. Your gun changes from shooting tennis balls to baseballs, to confetti and is really done quite well.

Hastings checked on the meeting times for Mater and McQueen from Cars, and it turns out they were available, so we headed over there to see them. Tommy got scared by McQueen’s engine, but Nicholas was brave enough to hang for pictures with each of them.

Nicholas shooing Mater & McQueen
Nicholas shooing Mater & McQueen

We headed back to Toy Story again, but Tommy still didn’t want to give it a shot, so Katie went on with Nicholas. On our way out at 9:45-ish AM, I noticed the FastPass times for that ride was 4:30 – 5:30 PM.

With the only good things for kids as sensitive as Tommy and Nicholas knocked out at the Studios, we headed over to EPCOT. After driving around behind the whole World Showcase area, We parked behind the Seas. We saw Turtle Talk with Crush, which is really pretty cool, although the boys didn’t want to sit in the special kids area. After that, we headed over to ride the clamshells through the aquarium. I expected this to be a little longer with more time looking at the aquarium, but alas, it was pretty short. Apparently, Disney is adding the Seas with Nemo technology to the interior staterooms on the Disney cruise lines. Since those rooms can’t have portholes, they will be equipped with live feeds from under the water and then Nemo and Dori will be superimposed onto the feed.

Nicholas in the mouth of a shark

After enjoying some more of the aquarium, we had lunch in the Land building. All of the food here is fresh, and nothing is fried, which was a nice departure for Disney world. Nicholas and I shared the seared tuna with Asian noodles, Katie had a roasted beet salad with goat cheese, and Tommy enjoyed the mac & cheese.

After lunch, it was time to ride the Land attraction, taking us on a tour of the history of agriculture. Tommy liked to see the old-time farm and even the modern “farmers” working in the crop area where they grow lots of the food for use in the Disney restaurants.

Across the pavilion from the Land ride is Soarin’. We tried to convince Tommy to hang with Hastings while Katie, Nicholas and I rode Soarin’, but he wouldn’t have it. Alas, Nicholas, Hastings and I rode. I was concerned Nicholas may chicken out or get sick on the ride, but he didn’t – in fact, he absolutely loved it! It’s a really cool ride and very well done.

After leaving the Land, we headed next door for Journey into the Imagination with Figment. I recall this being a really fun ride, but it didn’t seem the same, even after they brought Figment back. Nonetheless, the kids enjoyed it, so that was good.

Next, we headed on to Mexico to ride the Three Caballeros ride, which Tommy really enjoyed. I think he liked the fact that around every corner was another huge TV with Donald Duck on it. Next, we stopped for a quick ice cream to tide everyone over for the walk back to Spaceship Earth. Nicholas loved Spaceship Earth, maybe just for the fact that we got to go inside of the huge ball.

Spaceship Earth marked the end of our time at EPCOT for the day, and the end of our time with Hastings. He drove us back to the Polynesian and we went our separate ways. Using the VIP Tours at Disney World may be expensive, but when you consider how much you can do in a given day, you can condense several days into one. Further, because they pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, you can stay further out at a much less expensive hotel and not have to worry about catching buses to get around. Factor in the savings of a budget hotel, and you could probably get away with an amazing VIP experience for around the same price as staying longer at one of the Deluxe hotels.

Tommy Splashing Around

We got settled back in the room for a few minutes, then threw on our bathing suits for some pool time. Nicholas and I detoured to the marina and took out a SeaRaycer for a half hour, taking a spin around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. I used to love taking those out in the afternoon when my dad would take a nap in the hotel, and Nicholas had a great time seeing the area from the water.

Nicholas and I with cake

After we docked, we headed back to the pool for a refreshing swim. and then headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. Dinner this evening was back in EPCOT at Les Chefs de France. We started with the cheese plate and the pate & charcuterie. Nicholas thoroughly enjoyed the pates and the cheeses. We followed that with salmon for Katie, the tenderloin of beef for myself, and Nicholas and Tommy had a burger and pasta with chicken, respectively. I neglected to mention that we’d like a cake for Nicholas, so they didn’t have it prepared, but the waiter brought a slice of chocolate mousse cake with a candle in it for Nicholas, so we were covered there.

Next, we headed for stroll around World Showcase, although we didn’t really get a chance to see much, as the lights were beginning to go down ahead of the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show. We found ourselves a spot near the United States pavilion for the show, but had to abandon our post shortly after it began because it was just too loud for the boys. So, we hightailed it back to the monorail station for the ride back to the TTC, and then on to the hotel. However, when we got back to the TTC, Katie and Nicholas wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom, so we jumped onto the express and headed that way. Tommy was asleep in the stroller, but the plan was to head up to Peter Pan, which we didn’t get to ride yet. When we got to the Magic Kingdom, however, I checked the Lines app and it showed FastPass time for Peter Pan was 2:30 AM, and Nicholas decided he wanted to just go back to the hotel. So, we hopped over to the Resort monorail and headed back to the Poly for bed.

Layer Styles

Layer Styles made its way around the interwebs today. This is really pretty cool and something I had thought about trying to pull off a couple years ago. My thought was “wouldn’t it be cool if you had an interface that would let you work in CSS effects, and then output the styles for you?”. Well, here it is I guess.

Layer Styles.

Disney World: Day 3

We took the kids to Disney World in March for NIcholas’ sixth birthday. If you have the opportunity to do a kid’s birthday in Disney World, I highly recommend it. Below is the third part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can see the other posts here.

Day Three of our Disney World adventure was a big day for everyone. To start, it was Nicholas’ sixth birthday, which was why we chose the weekend we chose to go. To make his birthday even more insane, it was also the first day we took advantage of Disney’s VIP Tour Guide service. Again, Nicholas and I were up and dressed first, so when Tommy got up, they immediately began playing and fooling around. But we were on a schedule, so in order to expedite, Nicholas and I got out of Dodge and went for a walk while Katie and Tommy got ready.

Early morning at the Polynesian is gorgeous. Nicholas and I wandered down by the beach and enjoyed the cool calm before the madness began. Nicholas enjoyed shooting the scenery, and I enjoyed watching him do it. Little Man’s six, and that’s awesome.

Magic Kingdom from the Polynesian, shot by Nicholas

We eventually headed back to the room and Katie and Tommy were ready to roll, so we headed over to Captain Cook’s (the cheap restaurant at the Polynesian) for a quick breakfast of Tonga Toast (I want to go to there!) and Mickey waffles. With our coffees filled and ready to roll, we headed outside to meet our guide.

Now, most people don’t know about the Disney VIP Tour Guides program, and I didn’t either until my brother and his family went to Disney World last year and tried this out and told me about it. The website indicates that their “team of vacation planning professionals customizes your vacation so you can spend your time playing, not planning”. Your guide is a guest services cast member who knows the ins and outs of the parks, the best way to get from point A to point Q, and can get you priority seating for parades and other events. My brother raved about it, saying he’d never do Disney World again without it, so I figured we’d give it a shot.

Our guide’s name was Hastings and he presented Nicholas and Tommy with their very own plush Mickeys, as well as an extra Donald Duck for Nicholas since it was his birthday. He showed us to his Suburban, we climbed inside and we headed to the Magic Kingdom.

Since the park had just opened, we were already ahead of the crowds and we quickly headed over to Adventure Land to ride the Magic Carpets. Nicholas enjoyed that and rode twice, once with me and once with Katie, while Tommy almost went on the second time, but then opted out at the last minute. We headed from there over to Pirates of the Caribbean, which scared both of the kids a little bit, but Nicholas warmed up to it; Tommy wasn’t too into it. In his defense, Pirates has gotten darker and gloomier since the movies came out, so it was a little crazy.

To lighten things up a bit, we headed over to It’s a Small World. Tommy was a little gun shy after the last boat ride attraction, but he decided by the end that he liked it and wanted to go again. So we went again. Next up was the Teacups, but when we got there there were a few workmen working on it and they couldn’t tell us when it would be back up, so I think we then moved on to Winnie the Pooh. This scared Tommy a bit on Thursday, so he didn’t want to go on with us, so Nicholas, Hastings and I went on and had a blast. Nicholas loves the bouncing Tigger part.

Tommy & Pinocchio

We headed over to check out Peter Pan’s Flight, but that was “101” (closed). Hastings informed me that the usual cause of a ride closure is what they term a “protein spill” (someone threw up). Since they can’t clean the ride while it’s running, they need to evacuate everyone from the ride, close the whole thing down, turn the lights on and get cleaning. Instead, we hit the Carousel (Tommy’s favorite ride anywhere in the world) and rode that twice.

Tommy on the Carousel

I think, while we were on the carousel, Hastings ran over to the teacups to see if they were running again, and they were, so we went over that way to hop on board. Tommy really wanted to go on the tea cups, but when we finally got there, he decided he didn’t, so just Nicholas and I went.

Phew! We got through that stuff by about 11:30 or so. We entered Tomorrow Land to check out the TomorrowLand Speedway. This was one of my favorites as a kid, and the boys loved it. After our race, we grabbed ice cream and rested for a few. We actually skipped lunch on this day so as to maximize our time with Hastings, so the kids snacked throughout the day. On our way to the bathroom, a trash can rolled up to Nicholas and sang him Happy Birthday.

Up next was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. This ride was pretty cool, where you shoot lasers at little targets as you zoom through space. The boys loved that as well, so we rode twice and then moved on to a relaxing cruise on the Wedway People Mover (I’ll never call it the TomorrowLand Transit Authority People Mover). The PeopleMover goes through the side of Space Mountain which is always cool. This time, Space Mountain was closed and the lights were on inside, so we got to see the whole superstructure inside. Pretty cool, actually!

Inside Space Mountain

To close the rest of the day out, we headed back over to Adventure Land to ride the Jungle Cruise. The kids enjoyed this since it’s so mellow and fun, and it was another nice rest. Once we finished here, the plan was to finish the day out on Splash Mountain (the big log flume). I love log flumes, and I figured Nicholas would really enjoy it as well. Tommy was too small to go, so he and Katie went to a meeting spot to grab a snack and hang while we rode Splash Mountain. Nicholas was stoked to ride until we were literally in the little queue area where you’ll get into your log, at which point he said “I don’t want to go!” I told him we couldn’t back out now, and that the only way down was on the ride, so he got on, but he was freaked out. “It’s too dark!”, “It’s too steep!”. And then we finally made it to the 50′ drop at the end and we got soaked and he was pissed. Talking to him now a few weeks later, he said he really liked it, but that he was just scared that he was going to fall out on the big drop. I think he’ll dig it next time we go.

We met Katie and Tommy over by Liberty Square and grabbed a quick hot dog. Nicholas was grumpy, Tommy was sleeping, and it was just about time to head out anyway, so we opted to do that. Hastings guided us back toward Tomorrow Land as we avoided the 3:00 parade, we exited out a door marked “Cast Members Only”, and we drove back to the hotel. Since we had him booked again for the next day, we decided on 9:00 again the following morning and we went our separate ways.

Now, we did a ton of stuff in six hours in the Magic Kingdom on what was deemed by the guide blogs as a busy day at the Kingdom, so we were all pretty beat. But we weren’t done yet! Now it was time to get ready to get over to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. We had tickets for the 5:00 show and they ask you to get over there 30 minutes ahead of time. We called the front-desk and they said it could take an hour to get there by the time you catch the ferries, etc, which means leaving by 3:30. We looked at our watches and it was 3:45 so we freaked out. We got dressed super quick and high-tailed it over to the dock to catch the ferry to the Magic Kingdom, in order to transfer to the Fort Wilderness ferry. We just missed the MK ferry, so we waited for a bit before deciding to head up to the monorail and go that way to the MK. We only wound up having to wait for about 5 minutes for the ferry to come, so we wound up being in pretty good shape.

Nicholas turned six!

We arrived at Pioneer Hall and waited in a short line before heading in and being seated. The Hoop Dee Doo is a good old time: All-you-can-eat salad, fried chicken, ribs, potatoes and vegetables served up in metal buckets; unlimited Bud Light in frosty mason jars; old-timey singing and dancing, and a fair amount of hooting and hollering. One of the Pioneer Hall Players sang Happy Birthday to Nicholas, and a good time was had by all. Tommy even played the washboard!

Before we knew it, the show (and our strawberry shortcake) was coming to an end. After a half hour or so of the kids playing on the playground at Fort Wilderness, it was time to head back to the ranch. We opted to take the resort ferry back to to the Contemporary, and then take the monorail back to the Poly from there. The line was much shorter, and the journey was considerably quicker.

Once again, all were sufficiently exhausted, and we were all in bed before 9:00, almost too tired to consider the craziness that was in store for the following day.