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Lou’s September WDW Trip Report – The Final Chapter

k.a. Princess Marion’s First Trip “Home”

The Final Chapter

Day Seven- Thursday, September 23rd

Disney-MGM Studios

We decided to head back to MGM, so that Marion could hit Playhouse Disney (PHD) again, and we could to RnR, ToT and a few others we missed. We started by heading over to PHD, and walked in with no wait (perfect timing!). We had better seats (floor?) this time, closer to the stage, which was good for Marion. Again, she loved “dancing” (bouncing) to the music, and clapped when she saw Bear, Stanley and Rolie Polie Olie. Eating our way around WDW, it was now time for lunch, so we went to the Backlot Express near Indiana Jones. Tired of the everyday burger and fries, we had the Grilled Turkey & Cheese with arugula and red peppers (with fries, of course). The sandwich was actually quite good, and we didn´t feel too fat or stuffed (leaving room for dessert somewhere, of course).

We hit WWTBAM next along with Jenn and Ed, who met us as we were eating at the Backlot. I won´t bore you (again) about how I just missed the hot seat. This is getting beyond frustrating now. So, we walked next door to the next Soundstage to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Are you tired of hearing how my daughter wasn´t scared of anything in the show? OK, then.. I´ll move on…

We grabbed some cashews and a drink from a cart outside the GMR, and watched the Stars and Motor Cars parade a bit before heading over to Beauty and the Beast. The last time we were here to see the show last year, it was during a lightning storm, and they actually took the performers off stage in the middle of the show. Not this time – the weather was great, and so was the show. We were about four rows from the front, on the right hand side of the theater. We browsed and shopped for a while on Sunset Blvd. before leaving to go back to the room. On the way out, I met up with Jon, a CM security Guard who had contacted me online with a WDW trivia question. We got to talking and he told me when and where he worked. He is a friend of Peter Renaday, a voice-over artist who can be heard in current and format attractions in Disney parks, including Henry in the County Bear Jamboree, and the original voice of Abraham Lincoln in the hall of Presidents. We chatted a while and then went back to OKW to relax and clean up before dinner.

Time to make our way over to Pioneer Hall over at Fort Wilderness for our 7:15 p.m. seating of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (notably the longest running stage show in the country). W had a little time to kill, and I was feeling curious. So, I headed towards the old Treehouse Villas, which are located not far from OKW. The sign for the villas is still there, but there is now a gate and security camera station “guarding” the entrance. I parked the car and got out to snoop and get some pictures. I could see into some of the villas, as the curtains were pulled back. I couldn´t tell if they were being occupied or not, as I surmised that they may be used for CM or College Program (CP) CMs. I wandered in a little further into the verse densely wooded area, then decided to leave on my own, before the scary black security van with no windows picked me up and I would never be heard from again.

The lot for Pioneer Hall was a short drive away, and we parked and boarded the Disney bus to the Hoop Dee (HDD). You have to take a bus through the Fort Wilderness Campground to get there – you can´t drive there directly, so be sure you leave at least an additional 20-30 minutes to get there after you arrive! There was quite a crowd by the time we got there, and we went over to the Pin Station just to look around (and try and see if anyone wanted a DisneyWorldTrivia.com pin to trade).

Standing in front of the booth was a tall man in shorts and a tank top, although it was hard to tell he was sleeveless from a distance. Something about this guy makes me think I´ve seen him somewhere before…. Looking at his face, I´m still not sure… let me see… maybe it´s the 1650 Disney tattoos covering him from neck to ankle! Yes, it was the “Disney Tattoo Guy”, George C. Reiger Jr. I introduced myself to him, and asked him some questions ala “mini-interview”. We exchanged information, and I gave him a pin as well. Maybe we can get him to come to the site for an interview or chat night.

We checked in and were seated upstairs in the corner just as you walk in. It was great, so Marion could look down and see everything. We had a great, unobstructed view of the stage (I doubt there´s a bad seat in the house!). We sat on tall stools at a table facing away from the stage area, covered in a red checkerboard tablecloth. The pewter plates gave it a down-home BBQ feel. It´s all about the atmosphere! We were treated to a big bowl of salad (it´s all served family-style) along with our jelly jars of iced tea. The butter for the bread was to die for! So sweet and delicious!! Our “main course” consisted of a bucket of fried chicken and a bucket of ribs, with a plate of baked beans and another of corn on the side. I wasn´t expecting much, but the food was once again excellent! We polished off almost all the chicken and ribs (how are we not 250 pounds each?), but left room to taste the strawberry shortcake (accompanied by a song) for dessert.

The show itself is what you would expect – cute, funny and fun, but a little bit (pardon the pun) hokey. No matter, though, we all got into it by singing, clapping, stompin´ our feet and waving our napkins at the appropriate times! The show lasted over an hour, and we really enjoyed it. It´s not something I would do every trip, or more than once in a long while, but it made for a nice evening. We schlepped the stroller and sleeping baby onto the crowded bus back to the lot, and headed back to OKW. Any thoughts we had about hitting Pleasure Island tonight and meeting up with Dan (FastPass) and his wife wnet right out the window.

Day Eight – Friday, September 24th

Swimmin’, the Magic Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios
(quite busy today)

We woke Friday morning with every intention on spending the morning at Blizzard Beach. We had a little breakfast in the room, with Playhouse Disney and news reports about Jeanne in the background.

I went to the Front Desk at OKW to get my tickets, even though the skies were a little hazy. After talking a bit to a CM, and realizing that without anyone else with us, we couldn´t ride any of the slides, etc. together, we decided to go to the pool. Since the OKW main pool was being refurbished, the CM said we could use the Saratoga Springs pool. Perfect opportunity to check the place out! We made out way over and drove around the property a bit before heading to the pool. The place is HUGE, with many buildings still under construction. It has a very clean, modern look to it, with an equestrian flair. The pool is just beyond the main entrance to the resort´s main building. It is surrounded by rock work, waterfalls, and a water slide built into one of the formations. There is also a hot tub located off to one side in a corner. The main entrance to the pool looks like a beach, with no steps – just a walk-in shallow area that gets deeper. Maybe it was me, but MAN was that pool cold!!! Had it been raining recently, I could have understood, but it was a little to cold to just wade in – you either had to cannonball in or do the delicate dance to walk your way in.

We spent about an hour at the pool, but it wasn´t very sunny and we were getting a little hungry. A quick trip to the room for a shower and bath for DD, and we were headed back to the MK, and Casey´s Corner for a couple of really good dogs! We chatted with some women who were there for a Teddy bear convention as we sat outside and watched the people and just took in the atmosphere.

We wandered through Fantasyland, and even though I just ate, that pretzel with cheese just looked to good to pass up. Tomorrowland was our next stop, and yes, we ate again. We stopped at the Enchanted Grove for some ice cream and frozen raspberry lemonade for the girls (OK, maybe I had a taste ). One more time on Space Mountain for each of us, and it was back to the Haunted Mansion for just one more ride.

Back to the car, it´s time to go to MGM for some dinner (is that we ever think about? Food?) and Fantasmic!

Our first stop was RnR, and there were no more Fastpasses available. Why? Because there was absolutely no wait. You could get on as fast as you could run through the queue! Deanna went first, as I patiently awaited my turn. AS much as I love that ride, you can easily forget how short it really is. Plus, do they have any black t-shirts in the store at the attraction´s exit? (sarcasm intended – the place is littered with them, nary a white shirt in the bunch!)

The line for ToT wasn´t too long, but we figured that we would (shocker) grab something to eat and get in line early for Fantasmic! to get a good seat, since we were already on Sunset. We sat right on the wall next to the exit, about the 10 th in line. Knowing full well that we didn´t bring our ponchos (it was a perfect day weather-wise), the skies quickly blackened and Deanna warned me to get some ponchos. I scoffed at the notion of a third set of ponchos and headed off to Tolouca Legs to grab a 1.5 lb. turkey leg. As I walked away, the skies opened up, and I grabbed the girls and tried to find a dry spot under the umbrellas. We fed the baby and spoke with a lovely couple from the U.K. for the 20 minutes that it absolutely downpoured. He even gave me his card and address, inviting us to visit him if we ever make it across the pond. As soon as it let up, we headed across the street and made our way into the stadium (it´s so big, that´s what it feels like!). I grabbed some popcorn (my favorite meal in all of WDW) and parked the stroller. There were multiple warning about the weather, but everything looked good from where I was sitting (right in the center, about 10 rows from the top. Perfect spot). Well, a little drizzle came down, and Deanna gave me the “please go get us ponchos” look. I gave in (only for Marion´s sake – Deanna could have sucked it up a bit). 😉

I ran to the cart, and stood in what was become a rapidly forming line of angry parents (long day, tired parents, screaming kids… you get the idea). Literally as the money changed hands between me and the harried CM, the rain stopped, and the skies brightened. It was eerie and at the same time funny and frustrating. A total of $36 spent on plastic in just a few days. Wonderful.

I got to the seats and sat on my new, $12 cushion. Right about the time I got a call from Jason (TrendyMagic – a CM who is a member of my forums) who was coming by to meet us, my wife and the 3 girls behind us noticed a familiar face sitting two rows ahead of us. I wouldn´t know him if I ran him over, but I recall the face from my wife´s People/Us, etc. magazines. It was Joey Fatone from the NSync or the Backstreet Boys or Menudo or one of those boy bands). Jason found us (even without my DWT shirt on – couldn´t´ have every picture of me in the same outfit, right?) and we loved the show. The weather was perfect after the rain. Deciding not to try and fight the crowds, we sat and talked, then leisurely made our way out. We said goodnight to Jason, as the girls were pretty much spent, and went back to OKW where I caught up on some email, etc. We also decided to pack up tonight, so we could enjoy our last day tomorrow and not feel pressured to get ready. We realized we missed one of our favorite meals, so Lou made a last minute PS for breakfast tomorrow! With all the channels on the TV to choose from, you could either watch the “Top 7 Things to Do in WDW” on the Resort TV channel, SportsCenter, or 400 channels talking about Hurricane Jeanne. All week, that´s all that was on TV, and tonight was no different, with Jeanne looking to hit central Florida tomorrow night. We´re getting out of Dodge just in time. (Our sympathies to the people of Florida who were so badly hit by 4 hurricanes in such a short period of time).

Day Nine – Saturday, September 25th

(happy birthday to my brother, Fred)

Time to go home. 🙁

I can´t believe it! It seems like it was just Sunday, and now it´s time to go home. And, with WDW food in the forefront of our minds at all time, we packed up the minivan and headed over to the Polynesian´s Kona Café´ for some Tonga Toast (banana-stuffed french toast. Sounds really delicious and Atkins-friendly, right? It´s great. Trust me.) Marion was having nothing to do with her Gerber stage 3 stuff-in-a-jar, so she got some Mickey-shaped pancakes, which she loved (of course).

Rather than head to a park, we went to Downtown Disney to do some shopping at the World of Disney. Due to the sheer size of the store, we wanted to give ourselves enough time to leisurely shop. I won´t bore you (anymore) with what we bought, but that store is great!!! (OK, we did get some more peices for our holiday monorail setup, including the Castle and MGM Sorcerer Mickey hat… and a few other things… OK. A lot of other stuff).

Over to the Earl of Sandwich for some lunch (is that we ever do is eat???) and the food was quite good. Sitting outside, we watched the sky blacken, and noticed the nice teddy bear ladies from the magic Kingdom sitting next to us (sing it with me – it´s a small world, after all”). They mentioned in passing how their Sunday flight had been cancelled already, prompting me to call Continental to check on my flight. Lucky for us that we did – it was going to be the last flight out of the day before they shut the airport down, and was leaving 40 minutes early!! D´Oh!!

A quick trip through Once Upon A Toy (and a quick purchase, too) and we were on our way to Orlando International Airport. It started raining and we explored the possibility of our flight being cancelled and getting stuck in Orlando. There are worse places to be stuck in my opinion. Of course, if it got so bad, we couldn´t head back to Disney, having turned in the rental car and not wanting to drive through the bad weather anyway. I´d cross that bridge as I came to it. Long story short (too late, Lou… way too late), we let my parents know about the time change so they could pick us up, and made our flight on time (5:00 p.m.). We flew back 1 st class using my miles, which was very nice – big seats, lots of room to stretch out and unwind, and a nice(r) meal.

We landed, pretty exhausted, and Lou became the Dad that he used to make fun of for years – the haggard guy with the backpack, baby bag, stroller, HUGE World of Disney bag (that weighed about 2500 pounds), etc. Thank God my daughter wasn´t screaming her head off (like the twins heading towards the baggage claim).

It was only more laughable after we got our bags – I now had all of the above, plus a cart with our luggage, Deanna holding the baby and pushing the stroller in tow. Thank God dad was waiting by the curb. By now, all I wanted was a pair of sweats and to sleep in my own bed.

A few hours later, I was in my bed, my girls were fast asleep. As I reflect on the trip, it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable of my life. It was my first time going to WDW with my own family, and was a very different experience. I think it may have even made me appreciate more the time and memories I have of going with my parents and brother for so many years. I wanted to give my wife and daughter the same feelings and experiences I have, and I hope that our first trip was an unforgettable one of many more to come.

See more pictures in our Photo Gallery Here

Be sure to read Day One, Part Two , “Episode III” and The Final Chapter