Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Disney World Reflections, Part 2
Karen: Doug wasn't the only one to go to Walt Disney World this summer. I went for 9 days with my husband at the end of August. This was my second time there, the first time being with my husband in 2009. I was amazed the first time at how much it had to offer, beyond the typical rides. I grew up in California and have been to Disneyland half a dozen times or so, but as much as I love Disneyland, there really is no comparison. Someone once described it thus: Disneyland is charming, while Disneyworld is mind-blowing.
Karen: The big difference this trip was that we would not be alone; at the start of our trip, our group consisted of twelve people! Besides my husband and me, we had two of our close friends and their teenaged girl and her boyfriend (they stayed all 9 days). For the first four days, we also had six family members: my husband's mom, his sister, her husband, and their three great kids, two boys aged 4 and 15 and a girl aged 10. So you can see we had quite a crew! One thing I learned: it's very different coordinating a trip with two adults than it is such a large group of diverse ages. But despite some difficulties, everyone seemed to have a fine time. I should give some credit here to my hubby, who took all the pictures you see here except for the family one.
Karen: We stayed at the Polynesian Resort, which I absolutely adore. I'm a big fan of tiki-style, and this place has it in droves. My husband has also become a fan and one of our pals is a major tiki guy (he even built a tiki bar in his house) so it was pretty popular with the group. It didn't hurt that when we entered the lobby they gave us -free! -fresh, hot chocolate chip cookies. Another big plus of the Polynesian is that it is on the monorail system and the transportation center is right next to it, so it is very easy to get around.
Karen: So much of the trip has blurred together, I won't give you a day by day run down, but instead focus on some highlights. First up, we had some really good meals. I know, you're probably thinking "park food?" but Disney has some very nice sit-down options. Heck even some of the fast-food options are pretty good. The hands-down favorite meal for everyone was at the Polynesian, at the Ohana restaurant. This was simply fabulous. It is served family style, and you start off with platters of pineapple bread, salad, noodles, pot stickers, and sticky wings. Then they bring out the skewers loaded with grilled meats. Steak, chicken, pork, shrimp -whatever you want, as much as you want. Delicious dipping sauces are provided. My husband and I felt the pork was the best, but you couldn't go wrong with any of those choices. The whole meal was topped off by a gooey bread pudding and vanilla ice cream desert. Can you say stuffed? Other great meals were BBQ at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge resort, Mexican food at La Hacienda in EPCOT, and burgers at the Sci FI Dine In in Hollywood Studios. The Sci Fi Dine In is an indoor restaurant designed to look like an old school drive-in theater, complete with movie screen showing trailers from old science fiction B movies, and the tables are cars! As you can see from the picture, it's a gas! They had terrific burgers and the best desert we had on the trip: chocolate bundt cake filled with warm peanut butter! Out of this world.
Karen: As Doug mentioned, Animal Kingdom always seems the most hot and humid of the four parks -probably because of all the foliage. But we got on the first safari of the day one morning and saw a ton of animals. The whole experience is really well designed (just what you would expect of the Imagineers) so that you think there is nothing separating you from the animals as you drive through their habitat. We saw giraffes, rhinos, hippos, elephants, and even the lion and lioness. It was amazing.
Karen: The Haunted Mansion is always a hoot. It seems like every time I ride it, I see something new. As you enter you have the option of going through the regular line, or a line with some interactive exhibits. These features are a lot of fun, especially for the kids. You get to interact with the spirits by pulling, touching or standing near certain items, like headstones and tombs. A great way to break up the monotony of waiting -although we rarely had a wait longer than 20 minutes for any ride. They've juiced up some of the interior scenes from years ago -for example, Madame Leota's crystal ball moves around the room now. The Bride in the attic is also a heck of a lot scarier.
Karen: My husband and I and our friends went to the Spirit of Aloha dinner at the Polynesian one night. This is a dinner show. The first part of the show is very cheesy, with 'Auntie' and her nieces and nephews preparing a going-away party for 'Leilani'. But the second half is very entertaining as it features performers in costume doing Polynesian dances. The headliner is the fire dancer -this guy was unbelievable. He spun flaming torches around and breathed fire. Absolutely amazing. The food was just OK. I don't know that I'd do it again, as it was about $50 each, but I don't regret seeing it.
Karen: The Magic Kingdom firework shows, which are nightly, are always spectacular. We saw them from both the park and from the beach at the Polynesian -it is across the lagoon from Magic Kingdom. The great thing at the Polynesian is they pipe in the music that is synchronized with the fireworks.
Karen: I saved the best for last. We got to ride the new Star Tours ride six times! Twice one day, and then four times in a row another morning. When we were at the park in 2009, we rode Star Tours and both my husband and I turned to each other and said, "They really need to improve that ride." Improve is an understatement. This ride is simply fantastic! You get a different experience with each ride, as there are now 2 different beginnings, 3 different middles, 3 holographic messages, and 3 endings. We got to experience all except one of the endings. They've incorporated many favorite Star Wars characters into the ride now and you really feel like you are in the Star Wars universe. The 3D effect is also very well done and not intrusive, nor are the glasses uncomfortable. This is a definite must-do if you go to Disneyworld.
Karen: There's so many things we enjoyed; this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even though we had 9 days there, we still didn't get to do everything we wanted. We really wanted to see Festival of the Lion King but the times never worked out. We also only spent one night at the World Showcase, and we never made it to Fantasmic either. But that just leaves some things to do when we go back. The family is already talking about a 2013 trip. Hopefully our bank accounts will have recovered by then!
Doug: Just to close out our Disney series, I just saw on the news that Disney has won the rights to build attractions at their theme parks based around the film Avatar. You can read about it here.