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Trip Reports & Member Reviews Discuss My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9/11 in the Vacation Planning forums; The following was originally written shortly after midnight Sunday morning, 7 hours before we were to take off . . . Cast: Me (Bart) 34, 7th trip to WDW Wendy, ...
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    My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9/11

    The following was originally written shortly after midnight Sunday morning, 7 hours before we were to take off . . .

    Cast:
    Me (Bart) 34, 7th trip to WDW
    Wendy, 35, 5th trip to WDW
    Sean, almost 3, 1st trip to WDW!!!

    Meeting up with:
    Joe, friend, 32, 6 trips to WDW
    Ashley, friend (Joe's wife), 27, countless trips
    Abigail, almost 2, 2nd trip though she won't remember the first either.

    Depart Chicago, Sept. 6th, 7:00AM via Air Tran - arrive Orlando 10:30AM.

    Staying at Pop Century - preferred room - 5 nights - FREE Dining - we're meeting up with friends who got there today and according to them we're in the 70's building.

    Haven't been to WDW since March of 06 (far too long!!!) We were in California this past November and were fortunate enough to go to Disneyland for a day. Never thought I'd get there, and it was great. You can see my trip report for details.

    WDW Lover Takes On Disneyland!

    Still, even with 2 parks, DL paled in comparison to the World!

    I didn't think we'd be able to afford going back to WDW this year either. But then Free Dining came back, and I managed to persuade my DW that we needed to go. She and I have been down together 3 times now, and have stayed at POR, Cor Spgs, and Beach Club. This is our first time in a Value resort. I admit I'm a little apprehensive about it, but really what do you need besides a bed and toilet, right? I had to make it as cheap as possible to convince my Vulcan wife (again, see previous trip report!) We also decided to forgo park hoppers, since we have our little guy, and our friends have an almost 2 year old. Neither of the mothers thought schlepping the little tykes between multiple parks a day was an enticing prospect.

    So much I'm looking forward to as I prepare! There are a lot of new attractions since our last visit. Everest wasn't open. Nemo wasn't open. Midway Mania. And best of all, I get to see my son experience it for the first time!

    Anyway, I need to try to sleep as I must be up in 3 & 1/2 hours to get this house moving and drive to Midway Airport (not the finest of Chicago's two, by the way.) Just too excited and figured I'd get this started.

    You can probably expect my first installment by Sunday the 13th or Monday the 14th. I love talking (and writing) about Disney!!!

    Off we go . . .

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Day 1: Leavin' on a jet plane . . . for an evening at World Showcase.

    My alarm went off at 3:35 A.M. Sunday morning, and after only one snooze, I got out of bed to throw a cup of coffee in my eyes. Moonlighting as a DJ now and then, I'm used to operating on only a few hours of sleep.
    My wife, not so much. But I had everyone up and going by shortly after 4:00.

    Uneventful drive to Chicago Midway Airport, where I dropped them off at curbside to check-in while I parked and caught a shuttle back. The driver laughed as I got on saying he almost didn't come around by the stop where I was waiting because there was never anybody there that early on a Sunday!

    Security was a breeze, Sean actually behaved, and before we knew it we were at the gate. To be honest with you, I don't even remember any details of the flight to Orlando. Not until we were minutes from landing. I was on the window and looked down at some really nice homes with their turquoise pools. It was a beautiful, sunny morning in Orlando - the exact opposite of what Weather.com was predicting.
    We were the first to board the DMX and since were staying at Pop Century, I knew we would be the first drop-off, thank God, as Sean was starting to get antsy. The on-board video helped pacify him somewhat. I was on the bus and finally feeling like "I'm here."

    I had done the On-Line Check In the night before and there was only one other family ahead of me in that particular line in the lobby. It went so smoothly I was actually a little concerned. In the past upon checking in the CM usually goes through the welcome packet, explaining everything, etc. This was "here's your stuff, here's where you are, have a magical stay!"

    Since our friends had checked-in the night before I basically already knew where to go. We were in the 70's, building 10, room 144 (ground floor.) Less than a 5 minute walk (at least for me . . . more to come on that later) from the lobby/food/shopping/bus stops.

    Here's where I want to address Pop Century. As I mentioned in the introduction back on Saturday night, I had reservations (no pun) about staying in a Value resort. Let me tell you all, those reservations were completely gone within about 10 minutes. Our room was great, a little tiny sure but honestly I saw little difference between this room and the one's I've stayed in at POR and CS. My only complaint would be that yes, the beds are not very comfortable, but I guess I'm forgiving of that. I can sleep on a rock if tired enough.

    That aside, I will probably stay at Pop Century from now on, unless I find myself in a position to join the DVC at some point. Which in these current economic conditions, seems unlikely any time soon. I love the theme and kitsch of Pop. Every day on the way to the pool we'd pass the giant big wheel and Mickey phone, and just couldn't help but smile. As my friend Joe put it, this is what you expect when you go to Disney. You want whimsy!

    We loved the Hippie Dippy pool between the 60's buildings, especially the kids zero-depth pool. Not to mention Pedals pool bar is right there. While I tend to stick to bourbon and Cuba Libres, I did try and enjoy a Lava Lamp (or 3)!

    Anyway, we were checked in by noon and our room was ready. So we dropped off our carry-ons, and since we hadn't eaten much breakfast, walked back to the food court with our friends who were about to head to the pool when we arrived. The one mistake we made (I'm saying we, even though I had suggested it the night before) was that we hadn't put swimsuits in our carry-ons. For lunch, I had a meatball sub and salad and the sandwich wasn't bad. Messy, but then, aren't they supposed to be?

    Joe had a chili cheese dog and cheese fries, clearly not lactose intolerant, and they looked pretty good. Sadly I don't even remember what my wife or kid had.

    By the time we finished lunch, and I bought myself a refillable mug (which definitely pays for itself), our luggage was already in the room. So on went the bathing suits and to the pool we went. I must admit that I needed maybe 15 minutes at the pool, just to unwind and cool off, and then I was ready to hit our first planned park, Epcot. I had made an ADR online for San Angel Inn that evening. Unfortunately the rest of the group wanted to float around for a couple hours, which I obliged (secretly begrudgingly.) Iíve said it before, but I like to hit Walt Disney World commando style. I could step off the plane and not stop going until I had to board it again at the end of the week. My wife will constantly say ďarenít you tired? How can you still be going?Ē Its Disney magic babe; it keeps me running.

    By time we were all done at the pool and the kids each caught a quick catnap, it was already nearly 4:30 and our ADR was for 5:45. I called to try to push it back but there was no availability. I said at lunch there were 2 things I really wanted to do at Epcot, knowing how limited time would be, and that was Nemo & Friends (because we hadnít been there since its opening) and Spaceship Earth, because of the refurbishment and because prior to this trip, Joe, who has been to WDW with his in-laws now about a half-dozen times, didnít even know ďthe big ball had a ride in it.Ē

    Sidebar: Ashley, Joe's wife, has been to WDW every year since she was a toddler. Her parents are DVC members, they usually stay at least 10 days, the works. That said, they only go to Magic Kingdom, and spend half a day at Hollywood Studios. They only go to Epcot at night to eat and watch Illuminations. And thatís because they stay at either Boardwalk or Beach Club and its close. She hadnít been to Animal Kingdom since its opening because ďitís just a zoo, right?Ē I imagine some of you are finding this thinking about as frustrating as I do, especially as someone who only gets to go every few years and has to cut corners to do so.

    We got to Epcot and immediately I saw a huge line for Spaceship Earth. I couldnít believe it. Every other time Iíve come in early September, you could walk right on. They practically begged guests to ride it. Not this time. So, with a shrug I led on towards The Seas, figuring it a better choice for out little ones anyway. I was really excited about this, a new dark ride featuring Nemo, and utilizing a cool effect to make it look like Nemo and friends were in the real aquarium. This was clearly going to be awesome, right? Um, not so much. Wow what a let down that ride is. I mean I guess its cute, but I was really bored. And I think my 2 & Ĺ year old was too.

    When we exited the Seas pavilion, the Orlando sky had turned very grey, and there were loud thunder claps booming not so distantly away. Halfway to Mexico, I was taken down memory lane with reminders of the original Living Seas attraction, as it began to rain . . . and rain . . . and rain . . .. Maybe thatís a little too inside!

    We made it just in time for our reservation, like a pack of wet dogs and just as hungry. We were given a nice corner table. Here was where we had to learn exactly how to work with the ďFreeĒ dining plan. We all wanted margaritas (it was our first day of vacation after all, and we were in Mexico!) which of course are not included, and we had 2 kids who were under 3, therefore free to the parks, but not included in the dining. So we simply had two bills per couple. One for our entrees, one for drinks and each child.

    Iíve been to Mexico many times and eaten authentic Mexican food, I must confess all I really wanted that night (and in fact was craving) was a plate of tacos and rice and beans. These are not to be found on the dinner menu of San Angel Inn. However, what I did have, and three out of four of us had, was the Filete Motuleno. Grilled beef tenderloin over black beans and melted cheese, ranchero sauce, Poblano pepper strips and fried plantains. It was delicious! We all agreed. The ranchero sauce was a little spicy, but I loved every bite. One of those ďlick the plate cleanĒ kind of meals.

    For dessert I had the Capirotada de Chocolate Blanco: white chocolate and golden raisin bread pudding served with Mexican milk caramel. Wendy had a mousse with berries that I donít remember the name of, and Ashley had the flan. Of course the kids had ice cream. Dessert was underwhelming. My bread pudding was dry but I scooped some of Seanís ice cream over it and it was a decided improvement. That said, I couldnít have been happier with our dinner, and every one left satisfied.

    I really wanted to eat at Le Cellier but could never find an opening. And at one time had reservations at Coral Reef, but that was when we just thought it was the three of us going. Couldnít make it work for six people. While I do want to get to Le Cellier someday, San Angel Inn was a great choice.

    After dinner we hopped on the Gran Fiesta boat tour. I hadnít been down that river since the 80ís when it was essentially a really boring (and dated) travel film for the Mexican Department of Tourism. The changes and addition of the Three Caballeros is much better. Itís still a bit slow but fun and Sean being a big Donald Duck fan really enjoyed trying to spot him throughout.

    Hereís one negative: This is the second time, in two consecutive visits, where we were waiting on a CM in the Mexico pavilion and she (both times female) turned her back on us because she had friends appear and she had to hug them and catch up. It was so weird that my wife and I looked at each other and said ďthis same thing happened last time.Ē When she and I went there for lunch 4 years ago we had to wait while two young people in plain clothes jumped ahead of us and the hostess hugged them and they carried on a 5 minute conversation in Spanish. I donít know if they were from home, or just CMís on their day off, but it was off putting. The exact same thing happened waiting for Gran Fiesta. At least this time the catching up was much quicker and they actually got on a boat. Do you know what would happen if I turned my back on a client to catch up with a buddy who dropped by? Still, it was a little thing I guess Ė you just come to expect a little better at Disney. Not like it ruined my day. Itís just weird that it happened twice, four years apart, in the same place.

    It rained on and off for a little while after dinner, and once it finally stopped, it got so humid that my shirt couldnít even finish drying, between rain and my sweating. We tried to jump on Maelstrom but there was a 30 minute wait, again a first for me. Future World was closed at 7, so there was nothing else to do but wander through World Showcase, which is fine with me, even with the heat. Others in our party constantly wanted to sit, or just go into an air conditioned shop which made the trek around a little slow. And again, these are not Epcot people, hard as I tried to convert them. The elements and Future World being closed were not helping my cause. All they wanted was to see Illuminations. When you travel with others, you reach a point where you just have to do what you want to do and let them do what they must. So my wife and I left them on a bench and headed for Morocco where we both knew favorite guilty pleasures awaited. Thereís a little stand outside the pavilion for liquid refreshment that she and I fell in love with years ago. Wendy goes for this tangerine daiquiri type thing (the name escapes me now and I canít find it online) and I always get a Casa Beer. Itís a slightly bitter, slightly citrusy beer and Epcot is the only place Iíve ever seen it. Although that might be because apparently Iíve never actually looked at the label. I walked up and ordered, as Iíve always thought until this September 6th it was called, a Casablanca beer. The CM knew of course what I meant and he laughed and asked me if Iíd been to Morocco or to Casablanca. I said no, only seen the movie, though one day I would really love to go. Thatís when I looked at the label and realized my error. Durr.

    We eventually found a nice spot to camp out for Illuminations, just between the U.K. and Canada. I will try to come back in and post some pics, but this was where I saw something amazing and at the same time spooky. It was dark now, and there were some gray clouds in the black sky. And across the lake, the big, orange, full moon looked like it was literally hovering just above the Mexican temple. And it was framed by the burning torches around the waters edge. I scrambled for the camera and tried to capture it but our Sony Cyber Shot only zooms in so far, and it really didnít come out that clear. So then I got the video camera out and just started recording it. As the display went from STBY to REC, I zoomed in on this beautiful shot, and the narration for Illuminations kicked in and it just made for an awesome scene. I held tight on it until the old man blew the torches out, then panned over to record the rest of the show. It was just a ďyou had to be thereĒ to see it moment. The Imagineers couldnít have created a better effect for Halloween than nature did that night.

    Once Illuminations ended, great as always, we began the arduous journey to the front gates along with the rest of the park. A joy, I discovered, that is only enhanced now that I find myself fighting the throng with a stroller before me.
    I was a little sad that this would be my only time at Epcot this trip. Didnít get to see the new ending to Spaceship Earth. No Test Track. No Soariní. Didnít get to take Sean on Imagination, though wasnít really sure how heíd take to it yet anyway. I really like Epcot and it is definitely a whole-day park for me. And due to our budget, we only had single-day/park tickets this time so the odds of coming back were slim. We had 4 more full days and those days were accounted for, and Epcot was not in the mix again. Or so I thought.

    We made our way to the bus, discovering another slight drawback to staying at Pop Century. You are always the last bus stop. And it is usually packed, especially if you do wait til the very end of the night to leave. No matter. I was tired but happy to be in Walt Disney World again. Sean was content in his stroller. And tomorrow morning we were off to the Magic Kingdom. The world was as it should be . . .

    Back to Pop, and quickly into bed, after a few minutes of watching my girlfriend Stacy (shh, donít tell the wife) and her list of Must-Do's! It took me a while to fall asleep, even after only a couple hours of rest the night before. My mind wouldnít slow down, thinking of the next few days to come. I had to tell myself, as I did often this trip, to stop thinking about tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week. Enjoy the very moment, in a Disney hotel, on Disney property, at Disney World. No better place I know.

    Tomorrow, breakfast early at the Crystal Palace with Pooh, and then we storm the Kingdom!

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Great trip report.

    We've also traveled with others with little ones back when and also when the kids were older. Can't wait to see how that worked out for you guys in the end.

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Very thorough report, nicely done.

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Day 2; Part 1: By Kingdom come . . .

    Monday morning, Labor Day, we had 8:15 AM reservations at The Crystal Palace. Sean's first character dining would be with the crew of the Hundred Acre Woods.

    I got up around 6:45 (thinking aren't I supposed to be on vacation???) and showered and got ready, letting Wendy and Sean sleep a little longer.

    We got to the bus stop and there was no Magic Kingdom bus yet so I, being the coffeeholic that I am, decided to make a dash to fill my mug. Let me forewarn any potential Pop-ers that the food court is a hot mess around breakfast time. It gets really really crowded and expect a wait to check out. And using the main beverage lanes can be a nightmare.

    Thank God I discovered that when you go into Everything Pop from the outside door and hang a left, there's a coffee filling station kind of set away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the food court. In fact most mornings there was nobody using it when I'd fill up. What a Godsend. It doesn't have the cream dispenser the others have, which I like, and you have to use the little individual creamers which is ok except a little more time consuming when you know the bus will be there any second. As I was snapping the lid on my mug, I felt my cell buzzing in my pocket which I knew meant "the bus is here!"

    I sprinted out the door and right onto the MK bus. Perfect timing. With a cup of joe for the ride. I have to say I love the coffee in the resort food courts at WDW. And the funny thing is, it's just instant coffee. I never drink instant at home, but when I'm there it tastes like Juan Valdez climbed down from the mountain with his burro, dried, roasted, crushed, and brewed a batch of beans just for me. I am well aware its simply the state of mind I'm in. But I long for that instant coffee often during the years between trips. Call me crazy.

    We got to MK a few minutes after 8:00 and got through bag check really quickly. There is a stillness and magic, for lack of a better word, about being on Main Street before the park opens. It's quiet, and yet there's a hum of energy you can feel building. It's mystical stuff. Its those moments where I really feel Walt's presence. Doesn't hurt to have a clear view of the Partners statue and the castle behind, without a hundred people in the way.

    Wendy went in to check in and I had to run after Sean who decided the ropes meant nothing and he was going to head over to Liberty Square early.

    Breakfast at the Crystal Palace was also delicious. And I found it to be a great selection without being completely overwhelming. The only thing I had that I didn't love was their sausage gravy. But I'm partial, my grandparents were southerners and my Grandmother still makes the finest biscuits and gravy in the world.
    I'll drop another tip here: don't overlook the kids buffet just because you're an adult. They had these little pastry puff things called Pooh's puffed french toast, or something to that effect. They tasted like a soft, light donut, covered with sugar and cinnamon and pure deliciousness. And they make a breakfast pizza for the kids that I was also addicted to, when it was fresh.

    Now, as for the character interaction, well, not quite what we'd hoped for.

    First came Tigger, a friend in our house. Or so I thought. But as my wife held Sean and Tigger tried to shake his hand and give him a hug, I noticed my Son seemed wary. But he dealt with it well enough. Soon after though, Eeyore appeared. This is where things went south. Sean did not like Eeyore. His lip began to quiver and he furrowed his brow. When Eeyore just reached out to pat his back, Sean gave him a light but meaning full shove.
    By the time Piglet tried to come over and my wife asked "do you want to meet Piglet?" Sean gave a resounding "NOOOO!"

    He never cried, but he was not pleased with meeting the Pooh characters. Abby, the real little one did ok with them all, but she stayed in her high chair across the table so there was a safe distance.

    As we left I was holding Sean and he kept wanting to know Tigger's location with every turn. I guess the lesson is Tigger is fine as long as he's a few inches tall on the television, or foot long bath toy.

    My usual m.o. at the MK is to start in Adventureland and work my way around. No big strategy or secret. It's just natural to make that initial left. But apparently Abby had been up (and therefore so had her parents) since about 4:30 that morning. So they wanted to head straight to Fantasyland because they planned to leave early for a nap.

    Then the girls decided they wanted to get those silhouette portraits done of the kids. So we stopped at the cart near Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Actually it provided a perfect opportunity because I wanted to get Sean a set of ears from WDW. He already had ears from Disneyland, which my wife wanted to just bring with us, but I felt he should have a set - one from each coast.
    So I power-walked back down Main Street to The Chapeau. They had a nice selection, and I especially liked the Halloween ears. In the end I just went traditional, black cap, black ears with the Mickey logo on the front and his name embroidered on the back. I'm amazed at how quickly they run that operation. I was gone and back before they had paid for the silhouettes. Wendy was so proud of the deal, as it was buy one, get one, and the frames were only $8.00. Remember this for later. She had gotten two, with frames (including glass obviously) so we could give one to my mother.

    Since we were so close to Frontierland, we decided to just check the waits on Splash and Big Thunder Mountain. Both were basically no wait at all. Here would be a test. Sean has ridden a small roller coaster here at a local tiny amusement park called Kiddieland (legend says Walt visited it when he was planning DL and asked the owner for advice and the owner told him to go scratch. Interesting to note, Kiddieland is closing this year. Nice choice.)
    And Sean has seen footage of Thunder Mountain on television, and freaked out because he loves, LOVES, trains. He kept asking if we'd see the "fast choo-choo." We decided to see what he would do if we took him on it.

    Sean is exactly 40 inches tall now so we were ushered in and found a great spot mid-train. I video-taped the entire ride. Sean loved it! Laughed the whole way!
    Afterwards, we went right over to Splash, which he wasn't sure what it was. He kept asking "we go on a boat ride?" We got splashed almost immediately by another boat taking the plunge, and he wasn't thrilled by that. But as we took each little drop, I would prep him for it so he enjoyed them and would clap and hoot with me. Still, there was that "slight drop" at the end to contend with. I put an arm around him snugly and said "get ready buddy."
    His eyes were wide as down we dropped, but as soon as we leveled out, he was clapping and laughing and asking to go again. I was so happy! My kid loves thrill rides and not even 3 yet. In fact we created a monster because he just kept asking to ride both over and over again.

    We made our way to Fantasyland and pretty much stepped right on to Small World. I'm not a huge fan of this one, but both girls are, and I figured Sean would be fascinated. I was disappointed though because I thought with the refurb they had slipped in a couple classic characters like they did at DL. Apparently I thought wrong.
    Then we walked right across to Peter Pan and that was also a very quick line. We broke down momentarily, looking straight down at Nana and her doghouse. Which of course Sean got a kick out of.
    After brief break on a bench between Pinocchio's Village House and the carousel for water and Popsicles, it was decided Joe and I should take the kids on Dumbo. The girls wanted to dart into a gift shop. I should mention it was around 11 - 11:30 now and it was getting HOT! The Florida sun was beating down hard.
    The wait time for Dumbo said 20 minutes and I think it ended up being even a little longer, and both kids were not amused. We wrestled two sweaty, crabby little ones throughout the que. By the time we boarded our elephants we were a couple sweaty, crabby fathers. But once Dumbo was flying and we were soaring high above Fantasyland creating a wonderful breeze. I found a new appreciate for that ride, and Sean laughed and grinned through the whole flight. I am so curious to see what they do to Dumbo in the coming FL renovation, in making it bigger and more interactive.

    When we got off, air conditioning was an immediate requirement and Mickey's Philharmagic was going to begin in 5 minutes. Just what the doctor ordered. At first Sean wasn't keen on wearing the glasses, but once he figured out the trick, he left them on and loved the show. There is just an inherent joy when you watch your own kid reaching out to grab one of Ariel's jewels floating in the water or a dancing pastry. And again, he loves Donald so this was a perfect choice.

    It was getting close to 12:30 so we decided to get the kids some grub. Pinocchio's smelled fantastic, but the menu looked kind of limited, at least the one posted outside the door. So we ended up at Cosmic Rays, along with apparently half the guests at MK. It was packed. There wasn't a single seat in the main area where you can watch Sonny Eclipse. The girls (and Joe) scouted out for a table. I had to hang back because Sean found a roped off area full of hula hoops and was fascinated. Obviously he didn't know what they were but loved dropping them around himself like a human ring toss.
    Lunch was ok. Counter service fare, but it hit the spot. I followed Joe's suit from the day before and got the chili cheese dog. Wife had the burger. Sean a hot dog. I will say that the single serving Chocolate cake for desert is really good, and I don't like chocolate cake, so that's saying something.

    After I ate I slipped off to the lil' buckaroos room and by time I was back, Joe and Ashley were already gone, heading back to Pop for a swim and naps. Sean seemed ok and was satiated so we decided to take a stroll to Toon Town. In the past Wendy and I just kind of breezed through it or skipped it all together, since we didn't have little ones.
    We had a great time in there! Sean and I rode Goofy's Barnstormer which he of course loved. I can't believe how short that ride is. I suppose it has to be since its geared for kids, but it's a blast. We browsed the gift shop for a while. Then decided to take a train ride. We took the whole lap around the park, where I discovered for the first time that the train passes over/through Splash Mountain. I never noticed it from the boat, but the train looks down over the ferry boat celebration at the end of the ride. Of course the next we'd ride SM it seemed so apparent to look up and see those windows.

    Now to this point, I was disappointed that we hadn't even seen Mickey Mouse anywhere. Well we rode back to Toon Town and decided to pop in to Mickey's house. We wound our way through and for the first time I noticed the tent that said meet Mickey. So we went in and got in line, watching the old cartoons, still not entirely sure what we were waiting for. Until we were told it was our turn, and were ushered in to another room, then around the corner . . . and there they were. Mickey and Minnie, giving a brief and private audience to each family. Sean gave Mickey multiple high-fives and kissed Minnie right on the nose. He was in his glory. And I think he truly has a crush on Miss Mouse.
    It was the complete opposite of our breakfast encounters.

    Wendy wanted to catch the Parade of Dreams so after Toon Town we crossed over, back past Cosmic Ray's toward the hug. We stopped so Sean could chase some bubble coming from a CM's bubble gun. As he was running around, the talking trash can rolled up to where we were and began to mess with the CM. A small crowd had gathered to watch. This was one time where I actually got to see behind the Wizard's curtain, so to speak. I was watching my son and just kind of looking around, as I always do in crowded places (a little paranoia is good for you!) That's when I noticed a guy about my age, wearing a brown t-shirt, shorts, plain ball cap and sunglasses, and he had a shoulder bag. But the thing that caught my eye was his half-closed hand cupped around his mouth and he looked off the other direction. Call me Sherlock Holmes, as it occurred to me that I could just faintly here him talking to himself, at the same time the garbage can was talking to the CM. He was the guy running it, the puppeteer I guess you'd say. He noticed that I'd noticed and kind of smiled but then moved away.

    We found a spot in front of the Bakery and camped out for the parade. It was fine. Sean really enjoyed it and my wife loves parades. Personally I can pretty much go the rest of my life outside of Disney without ever seeing another parade, and in Disney there a few I will watch. That said, it was nice. I'm kind of jaded after seeing the Pixar Play Parade at California Adventure. That was the best parade I've ever seen and will compare all others to.

    When it was over, we fought upstream towards the exit, but not before a ducking into the Confectionery shop! My wife loves the carrot cake cookies. Sadly they didn't have any. They told us to try the bakery, where we just were, so we made our way back, and they were out! Wendy said it was a sign and so we made our way out.

    She wanted to put Sean down for a bit and rest herself. I was just so hot and sweaty and I wanted to take a dip in the pool. So we loaded up onto the bus.
    Oh well, right before we did, there was a small tragedy. I started taking things out of the stroller to collapse it and Wendy said "there's not many people waiting, just take it on as is." I reminded her of the sign that said it was against Florida D.O.T. regulations and I was just going to fold it up. She took the few bags we had and Sean and boarded. I tried folding it up but it just wouldn't lock. I didn't know what I was doing wrong, but being a guy, all things can be fixed with a little extra pressure, right? I put my weight into pushing down on this thing, and it still wouldn't catch. Frustrated I just grabbed it and held it together and got on.
    Once I was seated and bus was en route, Wendy said "oh, did you grab those portraits out from the bottom of the stroller?"

    Um . . . .

    Now I knew why the stroller wasn't closing. After a few moments I said, "Honey, I have a really bad feeling that when you open the bag, it might be bad."

    She unwrapped the first frame and it was just fine. Thank goodness, I thought with a sigh. Then she simply lifted the second and we could here the melodic tinkling of tiny shards of glass. Oops.

    Actually, while the frame was toast, the silhouette was undamaged and she said she wanted to get a different frame for hers anyway. So I wasn't in trouble after all.

    We got back and she gave Sean a shower and put him in bed. I headed over to the Computer Pool at the 80's and 90's courtyard. It was smaller but also a little quieter. I just kind of waded for a while. It was peaceful and refreshing. Then I took a stroll around the campus, checking out the Bowling Pin pool at the 50's side too. And made a stop at Pedals Bar, getting a Lava Lamp for myself, something with rum, Blue Buracao, Grenadine, and little Sprite over ice. It's delicious and in technicolor! And I got Wendy a Pina Colava. It's a Pina Colada but with a raspberry flavored rum as well as coconut. Don't usually go for blended drinks, but I did steal a sip and it was tasty!

    I went back to the room and while my wife was sawing logs, Sean was wide awake and had been the whole time. I grabbed another quick shower and just chilled for a bit.

    We had a dinner ADR for 7:00 at Liberty Tree.

    At least, I thought we did . . .

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    disneycrazy1956's Avatar
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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Great trip report!! We leave the 24th and reading your report I can hardly wait to get there.
    "I just want it to look like nothing else in the world... and it should be surrounded by a train" -Walt Disney.
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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    "At least, I thought we did . . ."

    dum da dum da, dum da dum ta dah....

    love cliff hangers

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    GREAT trip report!!! We are going in November and will be staying at the Pop. I have learned quite a bit from your report. Thanks!! You sound a lot like me when I'm at WDW, hit it HARD (commando style). I just hope the family can keep up! This will be the first trip for my little ones as well and I can't wait to see them experience WDW!



    You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Thanks for the encouragement everybody! Firemedic, have a great time. I wish I could go back already. I feel like my trip was incomplete. Well, we'll get to that . . .

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Day 2; Part 2: Take These Broken (Demon) Wings!

    So around 6 or so we gathered and caught the bus back to the Magic Kingdom. By time we got through the gates (traveling with kids really adds a new dimension!) it was already getting close to 7 and our Liberty Tree reservation. The rest of my caravan were moving particularly slow so I kind of sprinted ahead to check in. I'm a firm believer that if they say be there 15 minutes before your reservation, that you should try to do just that. I confess I'm something of a rule-follower. I guess in this day and age that's considered a bad thing.

    Sidebar: I was accused of everything from "running", "speedwalking", "rushing", you name it throughout this trip. I take exception. I simply have a long gate, and while in Walt Disney World, an "enthusiastic gate." Besides, they're all sloths!

    Anyway, I got to Liberty Tree and stood in line to check in. I know they're going for that old world, pre-central air conditioning theme, but my lord it was nearly as warm in the waiting area as it was outside. Not helping the sweating issue! But what really got me to sweating was when I approached the podium, gave my name, and was told it could not be found.
    I told him I'd made 2 reservations, one for 6:45 and one for 7, and then cancelled the 6:45. After further research the CM told me he did see me in for Thursday the 10th at 7:00. I told him I was certain it was for this night, but I'd left the confirmation I'd printed back at the room. The manager stepped in and asked if I had the email confirmation and I told him I could look with my phone but it would take me a while as I'd made it back in July. Now mind you they were very polite and seemed genuinely concerned, and I stayed completely cordial. It makes me crazy when people flip out over things like this. I guess I go by "don't sweat the small stuff" especially when you're already sweating. The manager immediately just said "I've changed your reservation back to tonight, here's your pager. We'll buzz you when your table is ready."

    Exactly what you expect from Disney. Perfect. Of course, in the meantime I found the email on my phone and the reservation I had made was in fact for 7:00 . . . on Thursday, Sept. 10th. I'm an idiot! I forgot we were originally debating going to LT on Monday or Thursday. I guess I got my own wires crossed. I felt like a buffoon. But of course, being a man I never admitted the mistake. Not til after we'd eaten anyway!

    Well we might as well have waited til Thursday night because it turned out to be a dinner from H@#% with the kids. Neither one was in the mood to sit nicely and eat. Sean wanted to lap the restaurant and was furious that we forced him to sit in a highchair to keep him at the table. He was throwing things, pushing his plate away, screeching, basically being a 2 & 1/2 year old. Abigail finding this a good way to gain attention decided to follow suit. And we were gaining plenty of attention from the other tables around us. Our server was a soldier and never showed a sign of annoyance. We still ate a little faster than we would have liked and the girls took the kids outside while Joe and I settled up, and honestly snuck a few more slices of ham and roast beef. The food is so good at Liberty Tree! Honestly people, if you haven't enjoyed a dinner there yet, do yourself a favor. It feels and tastes like Thanksgiving dinner! All that's missing is is the cranberry sauce and my uncle sleeping in front of a football game with his belt undone.

    The reason we decided on a 7:00 dinner was so that we could time it to be walking out right on time to claim a good spot for Spectromagic! And at least that much of our plan worked. We found a nice spot right behind the rope just to the left of LT. Before dinner I was starting to feel a crick in my neck, which throughout dinner (and I'm not blaming the kids' behavior) began to creep up into my skull. By this point I had a dull throbbing headache. It occurred to me I had barely drunk any water all day in the heat and humidity (and yes I'd had that Lava Lamp earlier.) I was probably a little dehydrated so I wandered off for a couple bottles of water. Another tip: if you go in the really hot months, get a pallet of water for your room and either rent a fridge or keep some on ice to take in to the parks with you. I don't know the official policy on bringing in beverages, but after Tuesday we got wise and started taking a couple bottles in with us and never heard a complaint from the bag check guards. And we didn't try to hide it either. Again, I follow rules whenever possible! You've got to stay hydrated and bottled water in the park is either $2.75 for Dasani or $3.25 for Smart Water (which apparently has Electric eels or something.)

    I received a text while in line for water at the popcorn cart in front of the Liberty Bell replic to get Sean a box of popcorn. My son, always surprising me, decided he liked popcorn on this trip. This was the first of many popcorn purchases I'd make this trip. I will tell you now, another reason to bring store bought water if at all possible is, not only is just cheaper, if you're on the dining plan, it counts as a snack. Seemingly a good idea, but both couples in my group blew through our snack credits pretty quickly on just water (and popcorn.) Kind of frustrating when I wanted a $7 turkey leg (which also counts as a snack) and I'd used all mine up on $3 water.

    I returned to our spot and learned I wasn't the only pushover dad. Joe had dropped the $15 on a light up Minnie Mouse toy that spun around and her dress lit up. Not to be outdone, I reached into Sean's Lightning McQueen backpack and removed his little Lightning McQueen plastic wand with a spinning lights inside a ball at the top-thing. Joe asked "Oh cool, where'd you find that?" I felt almost guilty saying "Target, a couple weeks ago. $3 bucks."

    We watched Spectromagic in it's entirety. Now that I will say is a cool parade. I do enjoy it, and the kids and wives love it. I will say there were a couple issues though. FIrst of all, while I know they're creepy, what happened to the weird white faced masks on the characters that led the parade, playing the horns and riding the balls around? Now you can see the actual CM's faces, but they're slathered with white make-up (whatever's not running down their faces with sweat that is) and wearing these weird Tin Man like noses and chin pieces. I never thought I'd say this but bring back the creepy babyface masks, please!
    Other than that, the Chernabog float which is my favorite piece in that parade wasn't working. His wings wouldn't open. So if you didn't know that parade, you'd probably think "Oh, I see, it's a float of a volcano that hisses and steams. Ok."

    But of course I'm being nit-picky. Spectromagic is fantastic. One of the few parades in the universe you'll ever hear me say that about.

    When it was over we pow-wowed about our next course of action. Originally the wives wanted to stay for Wishes. I know it's great but I've seen it, and we knew we'd be back on Thursday so we could always catch it then. We agreed to head out, but we'd cut around through Fantasyland and Tomorrowland to avoid trying to get through the castle mob. As we headed that way I looked up at the beautiful Haunted Mansion in its purple glowing splendor. I knew it was a long shot but mentioned there'd been a recent refurb and I'd sure like to see the added additions. The response was a resounding "NO!" As my wife put it, "our son is already asking about monsters in his room. We are not taking him on the Haunted Mansion at 10:00 at night and then expecting him to go to sleep!!!"
    Ok, point taken. There's always Thursday!

    In Fantasyland we discovered virtually no wait for Winnie the Pooh so it was an instant no brainer. We all hopped on for a quick ride. I do miss Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and in fact was so happy to discover it still exists in California last year. That said, Pooh is just fun and the design and animatronics are so much more modern and sophisticated than Toad, yet still hold that classic Disney ride feel. It just seems to go by so fast. Plus it was somewhat diminished when I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirrored walls of the Heffalump room and saw how badly I need to lose weight! Ok, anyway, the ride is great.

    Once we got off Ashley decided she did want to watch Wishes anyway, so they got as far up as they could on the walkway between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland that leads toward the hub. I saw that Sonny Eclipse was currently playing inside an empty Cosmic Rays and ducked in to catch a few minutes. I've never been able to just stand and watch and it's actually really cute. And because Sonny has such a regular guy voice it is possible to forget you're watching an animatronic and think you're actually enjoying an alien lounge singer. I saw the group had gathered outside the glass doors and learned staying for Wishes wasn't the best idea afterall as both kids were completely freaked out by the loud booms.

    We made a retreat up and around the patio side of Cosmic Rays to get outta there while the show was still going on. Sidebar: on one of the decks behind Cosmic Rays you can rent it out for a Private Dessert and Fireworks Party. What a great idea if you've got a decent sized group. It's positioned so that you have a perfect, unobstructed view of the castle and Wishes.

    We timed our exit perfectly as we were cutting through the turnstyles as the grand finale sounded behind us. We got to the bus stop to find only a dozen or so waiting in front of us. By time we boarded, there were what seemed like hundreds waiting behind us.

    Back at Pop Century. Wendy took Sean to the room and I ducked into the food court for water and chocolate milk for the morning (a must for a certain little one). It was a long day and I hardly remember getting into bed. Our plan for Tuesday was MGM . . . sorry, Hollywood Studios (old habits) whenever we decided to get there. As long as we got there by noon because we had a lunch ADR at Hollywood & Vine. And don't worry, I didn't make this one, so odds were it actually was for that day!

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Loving the trip report. Sorry your family and friends don't get the crazed Disney cravings! Haha.


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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Day 3; Excerpt from my upcoming "Man's Guide to Doing Disney: Skip Day Three!"

    We planned to just sleep in and take our time getting going on Day 3, Tuesday. As many of you know, when you have a little one, you can plan all you want, but don't plan on it working out the way you planned! Sean was up at the crack of dawn for whatever reason and wanted to watch tv. And he wasn't taking no for an answer.

    And through the adjoining door we could hear activity in the other room. Turns out Abby woke up at 4:30 and would not go back to sleep. In fact by 9:00 they Joe, Ashley, and Abby were already gone on their way to Hollywood Studios. We still took our time. I got coffee and ate a Pop Tart for breakfast while the others got showered and dressed.

    Sadly by time we got our lazy butts to the bus stop the DHS bus line was packed. Including 2 passengers waiting on ECV's. We ended up having to stand the whole way, me with one hand on the folded-up stroller and one on my son who also had to stand due to the lack of seats.

    Sidebar: I've been debating even bringing this up as a Disney trip report seems like it should be sunshine and rainbows, but I think I just have to. I was fine standing, I'm a big boy, but I must admit it irked me that none of the able-bodied men offered their seats to my wife and child. Chivalry is clearly lacking in our world. Call me old school, but I still hold doors and I still give up my seat no matter how tired I am.
    I also just wrote a whole paragraph about the legitimacy of some people's need for an ECV but figured that would be inconsiderate and unfair, I guess. So I deleted it.

    Anyway, we got to DHS and made it inside very smoothly. I have to say while its not my favorite park by any stretch, I do love walking into Hollywood Studios. Almost as much as walking down Main Street USA. I just get a good feeling. In fact, this is one of those parks where I could almost not even ride a ride and still just love spending a day walking around. Just being there is almost enough. I got a similar feeling at California Adventure last year. And it's clear the latter was inspired in some parts by the former.

    Once inside the first order of business was a little shopping while waiting for Joe and Ashley, who'd texted me that they were in The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. I forgot to mention a slightly embarrassing story.
    As I may have said a few times, it was really hot this week. As soon as I walked out of our room, I'd start sweating. Well, as we were waiting for the bus at Pop, I caught a rancid smell. And it was clearly close. It didn't take long to realize, this sour odor was coming from ME! It was my shirt. I had put on a prized Jimmy Buffett shirt from last summer's tour. But apparently it had been left in a load in the washing machine for a tad too long at some point. You know that smell. Ugh.
    I was not spending the whole day smelling like my dog had lifted its leg on my shirt. Plus, any excuse for another Disney souvenir!

    I browsed the shops on the immediate left on Hollywood Blvd (my apologies for not remembering the name.) It was Wendy who made the best score of the day. She found the vinyl Lightning McQueen plush hat on CLEARANCE for $10 bucks! Being a very creative person her wheels began to turn putting together a Halloween costume for Sean. So Sean will be trick or treating as everyone's favorite Piston Cup racer this year!

    I found a great Mickey T-shirt. It doesn't say Walt Disney World, sadly, but it does look like one of those awesome 1960's concert posters for the Dead of Jefferson Airplane, but with Mick in the middle and it says The Path to Enlightenment, . . . Peace, Love, Mickey Mouse. I loved it and surprisingly so did the wife. So shirt was purchased, and away I stole to the bathroom for a quick change.

    In the meantime a CM asked my wife if Sean would like to send a message to a Disney character. So they filled out a cute little postcard to his very favorite character of all, Lightning McQueen, letting him know he'd be dressing as him for Halloween and telling McQueen how awesome he was 'cuz he "goes fast!" Kachow!

    We got a little certificate stating Sean had sent a message to Lightning. It was pretty cool. Oh, and free!

    By the way, anybody who is going anytime soon, if you spend $20 on merchandise, there's a great Mickey watch you can get for $12.95. I really wanted it, but I have a watch that's considerably more expensive that Wendy gave me a long time ago when we were just dating. Apparently I'm not allowed to buy and/or wear any other watch. That said, anybody who wants to grab that watch for me, I'll wire you the $13 bucks!

    Ok, so after our shopping excursion we walked toward "the Hat" and Sean got to meet Donald and Pl;uto. I won't bore you with the details except to tell you that, when I was shirt shopping Sean also got a plastic Monorail car, and he proceeded to show it to Pluto, and even let Pluto play with it along the ground. It was such a cute moment we were lucky to catch on video.

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9...D720/ry%3D480/

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9...D720/ry%3D480/

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9...D720/ry%3D480/

    Afteward we met up with Joe and Ashley. Here's where thing started to, maybe not go south, but definitely veer off and point in a southerly direction. Ashley was not dealing with A.) the heat, and B.) Abby's cranky, tired behavior in the heat. I understand that. But meantime, all I wanted to do was ride Tower of Terror, Rock & Roller Coaster and Toy Story Midway Mania. Unfortunately I couldn't get anyone else off a park bench! I knew Joe was up for rides, but also that judging by the moods of his party, he didn't dare try to walk away. I bit my lip and waited (and sweated) while they got the kids snacks and water, but couldn't help but hear an inivisible ticking of the clock, as though the Croc were creeping up behind me with his jaws wide, while we stood around on a beautfiul day inside an amusement park doing absolutely nothing. Is it possible I'm the crazy person? Me being me, while I don't like to be confrontational, on the inside I was starting to steam and wanted to scream at these people for just sitting around. We were at Walt Disney World. That's when it occurred to me, it was day three. Every time I've gone, it always seems that, by the third day, after two days of walking and adventures, every one is a little tired, and a little cranky, and little things can boil over into seemingly big things. I decided in that moment that going forward, I must be sure to book enough days that, on Day 3, we can just do nothing. Just sleep in, go to the pool, just recoup. Maybe go mini-golfing in the afternoon. Just do nothing high-adventure all day, but still have enough days left that I don't feel like we wasted one.
    Remind me of this the next time I announce we're going, will ya?

    After a few minutes I announced I would go check the wait time on Midway Mania, knowing it would likely be long and offerred to get Fast Passes for everyone, and along the way I'd check show times for Playhouse Disney Live, which was really our big goal for the day. I simply wanted to walk. I don't stand still for long very well. Perhaps I have ADHD or something.

    Fortunately this idea spurred some action within the group. Joe and Wendy decided to follow along with the squirts so Ashley could just chill (on a 90 degree day . . . isn't it ironic . . . don't you think?).

    Finally, we were moving again. Checked times for PHDL - pretty much every hour so we were good, as long as they didnít decide to cancel any as happened to us in California. Hour wait for TSMM. No worries, FP's for every one. The day was getting back on track. I felt my chest loosen again. It was around 11:00 at this point I guess because when we got to Ashley she told Joe he should go with us to ride Rock & Roller Coaster before they went to see Beauty & the Beast on stage, which I had a feeling I might have to see too. Don't get me wrong, I love the story. Beast is one of my favorite characters, as I see him as a kindred. But, again, the heat, outdoor theater . . . umm, no thanks. Not this year.

    Ashley who was really not handling the temperature well took Abby in search of Air Conditioning and we took the boys, Sean and Joe, and headed down Sunset. Wendy grabbed a child-swap ticket at R&RC (another great tip some people still don't know about) and Joe and I went on first. The "10 Min wait" was more like 5, as we practically walked right through and into the alley. It's been 3 & 1/2 years since I've felt that take-off! What a blast. I giggled through the whole ride, and we caught the live version of Sweet Emotion which just added to the whole experience!

    Joe and I got off and since Joe being the excellent guy that he is offered to hang with Sean, I was able to go again with my wife. We got to go through the FP lane with our child-swap ticket but it really wasn't that necessary. The lines were still short. Two great rides on R&RC within a 20 minute period. Those are the moments where I really feel like I'm getting my money's worth!

    Afterwards Joe went to join Ashley and Abby at the Baby Care Center where they were cooling off. We said we'd just hook up with at the Hollywood & Vine buffet where were eating lunch in about 45 minutes. Which I realize makes this next sentence sound like great parenting: We stopped and got Sean a bucket of popcorn. He wanted to see the dinosaur so we just took a leisurely stroll around Echo Lake and stopped by to see Gertie. "She" wasn't open yet so thankfully Sean didn't ask for ice cream too.

    As we circled around Wendy saw the American Idol Experience was about to begin. I'd rather shove a meat thermometer in my ear, but we agreed that she could go check it out, as she's loves the t.v. show and I would take Sean on the Great Movie Ride, which I thought while somewhat boring would keep him occupied without a great deal of exertion. I was mistaken though because he started getting antsy very quickly. He liked the old west set. The car that's supposed to drive out and begin the gun fight with Mugsy was apparently not working properly. I was in the front right so I could see the car, behind the wall, headlights on and gangsters shooting, but if never came forward, so Mugsy and his boys were essentially fighting an invisible enemy to the last half of our tram. I will say this is the third time I've ridden it and yet the first time I've ever seen the second alien appearance in the Alien sequence. I've always only seen the one looking down from above. I guess we were always past it by the time she came out of the side.

    By time we reached the finale with all the film clips, Sean was ready to climb over the side of the car. And honestly, I was too. I think unless they do a major refurb on that ride, I will probably skip it from now on.

    We came out to a text from Wendy saying the show was still going and she'd meet us at H&V. This was our first time eating here. I really wanted to go to Sci-Fi and see what Sean would think of it. And we've eaten at Prime-Time and dug that too. But with the meal plan not covering the kids, a buffet did seem like a logical choice. I was a little worried because I read some not so great reviews on H&V. Usually the highest compliment I saw was "fair" or "okay." Well we all really enjoyed it. Everything I ate was good. I will say this, it's not your typical buffet selection. Here in the Midwest we have a big chain called Old Country Buffet (not sure how far across the country they reach) and its what I would call your standard buffet. Salad bar, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, pastas, some form of roast beast, and desert. H&V really had an eclectic selection. Grilled flank steak, a chipotle lime chicken, seafood pasta alfredo. Nice selection of different salads and anitpasto, fresh mozzarella & tomato. Cheeses. Breads. I'm not saying it was "gourmet" but it was really good. The only thing I can remember not really enjoying was some kind of chicken that was in kind of a teriyaki meets BBQ sauce (to me anyway) that had a good flavor but they used very fatty thighs. (I donít think it was the Baked chicken thighs with Pinot Noir and blackberry listed on their menu.)
    We all left happy and stuffed to the gills, even the kids.
    Plus unbeknown even to me was that it's a character dining, even at lunch. Leo and June from Little Einsteins and JoJo and Goliath from JoJo's Circus were there while we ate. Now here's a tip/warning: they also have two human performers with headset microphones who seem like they've just slammed 8 cups of espresso and they walk around, leading songs and recruiting dancers of the PA system. It gets loud in there. Every kid in there seemed to love it, but I noticed a nice older couple eating at a two-top who looked like they'd just found themselves launched to Mars! This was clearly not the luncheon experience they'd anticipated.

    I walked out with a full tummy just in time for our FP return time on Midway Mania. No better way to let your stomach settle from a big lunch than to do a little spinning!!! I must admit I wasn't as excited as I should have been for this one. I had the chance to ride it in California but figured Sean was too young and I just wasn't that into a Buzz Lightyear redux that made you look at video screens. Boy was I waaay off!!! What a great ride! The Imagineers really did it again! The que is so original (sadly when you go through the FP line you don't get to see Mr. Potato Head so if the lines aren't bad I'd go Stand By next time.) I loved entering into Andy's Room for the boarding area. Sean and I rode together. I just laughed through the whole thing. Sean had a blast pulling the string on his gun. I tried to show him how to aim a few times but realized its a lost cause and he's having the time of his life so why bother?

    When we all got off we couldn't wait to go back on. The Stand-By line was still like 40 minutes and honestly, no one really planned on still being here in 40 minutes. We decided to just head on over to Playhouse Disney Live.

    We were inside the theater within about 15 minutes and since we'd been the first ones in line were right up near the front center. Sean made a friend immediately. I won't even bother complaining about sitting on the floor. If you're over the age of 25, you know. That said, it was worth it. That show was everything we've expected it to be since we first saw the Behind the Ears promos for it last summer! As as expected, Sean lost his mind over it. He loved it. He couldn't believe how close he was to Mickey's Clubhouse! The only problem we had was keeping him from running right up the steps to get onstage, which he made it clear was his intention if I let go of his t-shirt. There were moments where he was literally leaning further forward than gravity should allow as I desperately gripped his shirt-tail. I'm sure our little scene was as entertaining for the parents around us as was the show. But he wasn't being bad by any stretch. I just laughed about it.

    If youíve got little ones do not skip Playhouse Disney Live! Itís great, and the puppets are a nice change from animatronics or costumed characters, and very well done. But of course, it is Disney. And I donít care how cool you are, you canít help but find yourself singing along, calling for Toodles with the kids, and just plain having a good time.

    After PHDL, Joe and Ashley decided to head back to the hotel for a swim and a nap. We said weíd see them there, debating ourselves if we should stay for the Block Party Parade or just head back as well. Once we got to Hollywood Blvd, Wendy saw everyone lined up and we happened to see a perfect spot to park the stroller so she decided to stay. I decided that if they were going to watch the parade, I wanted to at least see if I could get a quick ride on Tower of Terror. I asked a nearby CM in a ToT bell hop costume if the tower was running again (as earlier that day it was out of service) and she told me it was up again. I think the combination of the Tower being down for a big part of the day, and the parade about to start worked in my favor. Once again, I had no wait time. I even got to take my time slowly walking through the lobby without holding anybody up, and also in the study. I was able to actually look around at what was on those dusty shelves. In fact I wanted to stay in there longer (thanks Lou, this is your influence!) but the CM was looking at me like "Dude, are you planning on getting on the ride today?"
    I donít know if this is really a tip, or if I just hit it at the right time, but in the boiler room when the que splits off and you can either go right or keep on straight, I went straight as the group in front of me turned.
    There were 4 people in front of me, and none behind. I got the front row of the left side (as your sitting in it) to myself. In fact, I had that whole side of the car to myself. Which almost made it feel even a little creepier. The others were sitting at the back on the other side so my perspective made it seem like I was all alone. I donít know if an engineer would agree or dispute, but I think the lack of weight in our elevator made a difference in the ride. I never really felt a major plummet, but what was amazing were the exhilarating lunges upward, that seemed faster and more powerful than I remember in the past (with full elevators.) It was simply amazing.
    I considered trying to grab a quick second round but figured the parade was probably close to over and Wendy would want to get going. I did make a quick stop in the Villains shop of course, and had a quick debate with myself about buying a really cool Pirates sleeveless black tee. But it was one of those shirts that would look awesome at Walt Disney World, but I probably wouldnít wear much in public back in Chicago, aside from mowing the lawn, so I passed. Man, growing up is a drag. You get these uncontrollable bouts of responsibility and rationale.

    Anyway, I made it back just in time to catch the tail end of the parade, which Wendy said was pretty good, but still not quite as good as the Pixar Play Parade at California Adventure.

  13. #13
    CaptainFiz13's Avatar
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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Day 3 cont.

    We got the Pop bus stop just as one pulled up and saw Joe and Ashley up ahead of us in line. They had stayed for the parade after all. We got back to the hotel and tried to lay Sean down but he was not into the idea, so to the pool we went. As we walked over to the kidís pool I pointed out some dark clouds not too far off. We got about a good hour in before the sky got very and the rains came down. We all huddled under a table umbrella. It was nearly 5:00 and Wendy ordered pizza from a local place, not Peace Pizza, the resortís own delivery source. Wendyís Stepfather has a sister in Orlando who wanted to see us and meet Sean so she was coming to the hotel that night. I admit I was in the mood to entertain, but she was very sweet and brought us a pallet of water, a couple jugs of Gatorade, and a case of Bud Light (so I how could I not love her???)

    The pizza was good. I will get the name from her and post it in here later in case any one ever wants to give it a spin. However we got wings too and they werenít impressive. Very fatty and greasy and little flavor. Though in their defense, Iím sure my wife ordered Mild and I find you gotta go for Medium at the very least. While we ate Renee mentioned a Disney Outlet store not far from the resort. I told Wendy to go ahead and Iíd hang out with Sean. I ended up just hanging out in the room, watched Hellís Kitchen with good olí Gordon Ramsey (figured one less thing Iíd have to catch up on the DVR at home!) But after 3 hours in the room I was getting a little stir crazy. Fortunately Wendy got back. I took a walk and stopped by Petals bar and called my boss/friend to see how things were going at work. I know, Iím sick like that. Iím the guy who logs on from home on his day off to make sure they donít need me for anything. Imagine how Iíd be if I actually liked my job.
    It was a good day overall, with just a shaky start. After my walk, I stopped into the food court and brought Wendy a rice crispy flip-flop with chocolate icing, which she said was delicious. I didnít try it. I had my desert at Petals.

    Tomorrow was the day I was really looking forward to. Animal Kingdom, and my first ride on Expedition Everest. I made it clear, in no uncertain terms, I was walking into the park and straight to EE. They could follow me or not. I wasnít diverting from this plan, regardless of heat, crabby kids (or adults), hurricanes, or even animatronic dinosaurs coming to life and rampaging through the park. I had a date with a Yeti.

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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Keep up the great reports Bart! They're extremely entertaining!



    You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
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    Re: My long over-due return (and son's first trip) to the World: Pop Century, 9/6 - 9

    Day 4: There's a Cowboy in the Jungle

    I woke up Wednesday morning with a little more spring in my step. I love Animal Kingdom. In fact it's gotta be my favorite park, after MK.

    Sidebar: When people ask me which of the WDW parks is my favorite, I usually take Magic Kingdom out of the equation altogether. It's kind of like I heard someone say about movies and how from now on everyone should agree to just take Citizen Kane out of the equation and rate every other movie because we all know film buffs all think Kane is the greatest movie ever made. Personally, I find that movie tedious, and will watch Casablanca any day of the week. But still, the analogy makes sense. In the same way I look at it like, yes, Magic Kingdom is the best because its Walt's park and closest to Disneyland and the most "Disney"-like and features the characters, yadda yadda yadda . . .

    So if I rate the other 3, Animal Kingdom is my favorite.

    I was showered, dressed, and had been to the food court for coffee and chocolate milk before my roomies were even out of bed. In anticipation of a hot day, I put on the new sleeveless Mickey shirt my wife found for me at the outlet store the night before. That's right, sun's out, guns out.

    They pulled themselves together and Joe and Ash were getting it together next door and we made it to the park right at 9:00. Once again, Ashley told us all how she hadn't been to AK since opening year and all they did was ride the safari. "My family just thinks it's boring" was said. I could probably live with "thought it was boring" but to hold the same judgement a decade later, knowing there've been changes and additions irks me. But again, it's my favorite so I'm defensive. More so just because I know she's not the only one who thinks this way without actually having been to check it out in a while. The funniest thing to me is, no matter what park we're in, she's never ridden anything faster than Peter Pan. We've been to WDW once before with Ashley and her family, before she was married or had a little one, and she still spent the majority of the days riding a bench with a drink or shopping. So how boring can any park really be??? If anything, AK is the best park for just chillin' out on a bench in the shade. It's got more trees than the other 3 put together and it's beautiful. Sorry, that was a sidebar without warning! Thank god she doesn't read this site!!!

    Ok, back on track. We got in and I immediately scouted out our path to Everest on the map. I was pushing Sean in the stroller, and as mentioned, I have an "enthusiastic gate" so soon enough I looked around to realize I was all alone. I spotted Wendy coming up around the bend into Asia not too far behind, but already Joe and Ashley had vanished. I asked where they were and she said she didn't even know. I waited around another minute but saw a large wave of people working their way toward us and it was clear they were following the same plan I was. Their destination: the same forbidden mountain. We continued our trek toward Everest and I sent Joe a text asking if we'd lost them. A moment later I received the following message: "Ashley slipped. Taking a break."

    I asked if she was hurt and he said she'd just twisted it and needed to sit for a bit. Undaunted I carried on. The mountain has claimed many a visitor in her time. It's the risk we accept when we take her challenge. Sadly in this case, it was shopping that claimed today's victim. Apparently she ducked into a gift shop to look at something and somehow managed to step in a wet spot on the ground as she was leaving and her foot slid and buckled under her. To her credit, as they sat on that bench, her ankle starting to throb, she told Joe to go on ahead and meet up with us and she'd head back to the resort. And Joe to his credit said no, he was going with her. So they compromised and she sat for a little longer to see if the pain subsided and Joe texted me he was on his way.
    At this point we'd already grabbed a child swap and I had just entered the que to go on first. I waited a minute or two because honestly there no was no wait time, but as more people started to pass me, I was too anxious to wait any longer. Joe would have to take his own chances with the mountain. I had to go it alone!

    Once again the line moved so fast I had no time to actually look around at all the detail the Imagineer so painstakingly put into the que areas. It was beautiful too and really tells a story so vividly. You really can let your imagination transport you to Nepal. Well, Nepal on a 90 degree day. I was assigned to row 10, just about the rear-center of the train and had no one around me. The train pulled out and off I set on what could be the last adventure of my life . . .!
    I have to admit, all jokes aside, that a funny feeling began to set in. I've been waiting to see this animatronic Yeti for almost 4 years now. I've seen it on t.v. and in pictures online many times, even watched how it was made. But as I found myself locked in to that train seat, I actually began to get nervous. Especially when we stopped at that peack where the tracks had been ripped up you can hear the mysterious sounds and growls. In that moment, I began to remind myself I've seen the gears and wires and controls; the Yeti isn't real!

    Then fortunately the train went flying backwards and up into the mountain and I gotta say it felt like we were almost going to go right over in a loop. It was exhilerating. We straightened out, saw the shadow of the beast, and raced on. With every twist, and turn, and dark tunnel I was certain we'd encounter the Yeti at any moment and I was bracing myself emotionally. I didn't want to miss it, even though I knew in that moment, real or not, it was going to be terrifying. We rocketed through one last dark cavern and then . . . sunlight.
    The train slowed and we were back at the station. The ride was over? I looked around at my fellow passengers to see if they were as confused as I was. Where was the Yeti? I hadn't seen literally hyde nor hair of any Abominal Snowman. Was he on a Union 10? Did he start late on Wednesday or something? Maybe I just blinked at the wrong moment or something. I thought I saw something move in the darkness for a split second but could that have been it???

    Don't get wrong, the ride kicked all kinds of butt and when I got off I was woozy and my heart was racing. But I couldn't help but be a little let-down that I never saw the Yeti. Wendy and Joe took the child-swap ticket and rode. I waiting with Sean near the exit and we watched for mommy. By they way, my 2 & 1/2 year old was beside himself that he couldn't go on the ride. He wanted to tell them what they could do with their 48 inch high rule!

    They were on and off within 10 minutes tops and Wendy said "you and Joe go ride it again real quick." Don't have to tell me twice. In line I asked Joe what he thought of the ride and he just said "it's pretty good." We sat in car 11 this time, just behind where I'd been. Apparently he and Wendy were much closer to the front - a spot I find is usually less exciting on roller coasters due to the lag time. Right before we took off I asked, "Did you see the Yeti?" and he also said no, they hadn't noticed, other than the shadow appearance halfway through. Before I could ask the CM about it we were on our way again. This time my eyes were peeled. When we reached that final cave where I knew he had to be I strained to see into the darkness. We were both on HYE (High-Yeti-Alert)! As we entered I pointed up and the following words left mouth exactly as I'll write them: "He should be right, he's right there OH GOD!!!"

    Needless to say, he was there. Albeit very hard to see. There was only a faint strobe light behind him, so dim we really didn't get a good look . . . on top of flying by at break-neck speed of course. But I saw enough that it was terrifying for a split second, and I loved it. And Joe loved my reaction, as he reminded me all day of it. Not that this is any big secret to roller coaster lovers, but Joe having sat closer to the front and then to the back, said further back was way better. He said he didnít understand why I was so wobbly when I got off the first time, but after we rode again he totally felt it.

    After Everest we found Ashley and Abby, who were ready to soldier on into the heart of dark . . . I mean continue on into the park. I led on toward Dinoland. I had mentioned to them that we should use a Counter Service meal to have lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. Iíd never eaten there but heard good things. As we passed by all of us were immediately drawn in by the delicious smell of barbeque and smoke. Everyone instantly agreed with my idea!

    Since it was my attention to go right to Dinosaur, the ladies took the kids to ride the Triceratops Spin. There was no line again. We got right in to the Dinosaur Institute and just waited for the doors to be opened so we could go see Mrs. Huxtable.
    Joe asked if this ride was as scary as Jurassic Park over at IOA. Personally I think it blows JP away, and told him so. The dinosaurs alone are so much more realistic (the big ones anyway.) I remember last time I rode JP, I noticed that when the big dinosaurs outside (Brachi0saurus and Stegosaurus) opened their mouths, they were still connected by black rubber, plus had no teeth which I donít think is anatomically correct even for these plant eaters. Iím a dino-nut so I found that lame but ok, it may be a picky detail. Even so, Dinosaur itself is so much more kinetic and exciting. Iíve seen a lot of people on line criticize it and say they donít like it. I donít know how you can not like it, unless itís just too intense for you.

    And just as on Everest, there are moments where for a brief second you forget those dinosaurs are mechanical and programmed to stop before they actually eat you. Oh and anyone who tells you Indiana Jones at Disneyland is better (they use the same vehicles) is out of their mind.

    Afterwards we came off to find Goofy and Pluto taking pics just outside of Dinosaur and the girls were waiting in line. Then we jumped on Primeval Whirl. Well Joe and I did. I took Sean with thinking thereíd be no problem with him riding it. I didnít know this was another 48 incher. Once again, I had an unhappy child.

    The girls and kids had probably indulged us long enough, so we decided to get them out of the sun so they could sit for a bit. We headed over to Itís Tough to Be a Bug. As we would our way down into the tree, I have to admit I considered warning them about some of the ď4DĒ effects in the theater. But then I thought, hey, nobody ever warned me! Besides, whatís a hornet sting in the back now and then? Itís good for you. Builds character. And as I expected, they loved it. Plus watching Joe (who by the way is like 6í 3Ē and 350 lbs) nearly leap out of his seat when the smaller bugs exited the theater at the end was priceless. At least he couldnít see my face when I saw the Yeti!

    We had lunch at Flame Tree after. It was really good. I had the ribs though it was a debate for a while. The chicken sounded good too. Wendy just got a fruit plate (zzzzz!) The ribs had a good flavor, but I wouldíve liked a little more sauce. I like Ďem wet, but thatís just personal preference. I also sprung for a side of Onion Rings (which are not part of the meal plan, FYI) which were good too. And the deck area is nice and shady and peaceful, however it is teeming with ducks and a few other avian friends. Personally it doesnít bother me, but I know a few people who are so skeeved by birds they wonít eat in a restaurant if they see a bird outside the window. And please, DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS!!!

    I shouldnít share this but will. First off, a big table next to us had a kid that was constantly feeding bread to the ducks, which isnít good for them. Plus itís just disrespectful when youíre literally sitting under a sign that says not to do it and you do it anyway. But then, Ashley, who was sitting at the next table behind me, started feeding them too for Abbyís amusement. Well, she gave Abby a piece of bread to feed to a duck, but then looked away for a moment. Apparently while she is college educated and well-bred, she never learned or else forgot that ducks, like many winged birds have the uncanny ability to leave the ground when it suits them. The duck lept up into the air to snatch the bread being cruelly dangled overhead and out of reach. When it clamped its beak down, it caught a little finger on both mother and child.

    What upset me most was, I missed the whole thing!

    Neither was really hurt, just startled. Still we had a few minutes of crying and drama. Whatever. Personally, I couldnít help but secretly chuckle later.

    After lunch we were going to catch the train to Rafikiís Planet Watch, which is something weíve never done before. I canít remember why but halfway to the train Joe and Ashley decided to do something else. So Sean, Wendy, and I boarded without them. It was a nice, albeit not entirely exciting ride, though it was cool to see some of the animals night time enclosures. I have to say the final destination was a little disappointing. The petting zoo was a few goats and sheep, and a lot of empty pens. And the exhibits inside were just kind of . . . eh. At least now we can say we did it. And it was yet another ďchoo-chooĒ ride for Sean. And thatís the most important thing. That kid loves him some trains!

    The plan after this was to catch Festival of the Lion King. However along the way there were stops for snacks, drinks, and of course to go potty. Well by time we got to Camp Minnie Mickey the show was 10 minutes in. So scratch that plan. I knew this meant the girls would want to leave. Admittedly we had done what Iíd wanted to do at AK, but, I still wasnít ready to leave. I was just enjoying being there. As Iíve said, itís a park I could just be in and even if I didnít ride anything, Iíd still have a great time. And itís a park that quite honestly, I could walk around in all alone and be perfectly content.
    Which I tried to imply and was met with one of those classic wife responses where they tell you itís fine if you stay behind for an extra hour or so of alone time, and then remind you how theyíd really like an hour of alone time too at the pool, but they guess they wonít get it. So I accepted that Iíd be leaving with the rest. But somehow as I walked on ahead (again, long gate . . . though not as enthusiastic when leaving a park) it was worked out that Joe and I would stay because he wanted to ride Kali River Rapids and the girls would head on to Pop ahead of us.

    Well, at least that was something, I thought. Of course, Iím not stupid. As Joe and I walked away I told him ďI donít know about you, but Iíll be paying for this later, some way or another.Ē He smiled and said ďYeah, me too. So letís just enjoy it for now.Ē

    A task made not as easy by the 40 minute wait for Kali. Everybody was looking for a way to beat the heat. The ride was good and bad. Good because when we took that plunge after the big deforestation scene, Joe went down backwards and got SOAKED! The bad was that I came off the thing bone-dry, and also, I forgot how quickly that ride goes by. I have to say its one ride at WDW that I donít feel is worth a 40 minute wait. To be honest, itís not worth much more than a 4 minute wait.

    When we got off I asked Joe, ďHow much trouble do you think weíd get in if we tried to jump on Everest one more time before we left?Ē We figured whatever the answer, it was worth it. But when we saw the standby wait was at 35 minutes, we knew better to bail.
    We just left and went back. I snatched Sean from the kids pool so Wendy could have some down time and took him back to the room to lay down for a bit. While my day at Animal Kingdom was over already, a little sooner than I would have liked, there was still more to be excited about.

    We had dinner reservations for 7:00 at T-REX Cafť in Downtown Disney. I was almost as excited about this as I was about riding Everest for the first time.

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