Thursday, January 19, 2006

Day Two AM - Magic Kingdom

Promptly at 6:00 AM, I picked up the phone and was greeted by the annoying sound of the character Stitch urging me to wake-up. Fortunately, a few seconds later the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, interrupted to wish me a magical day at the resort. In spite of less than 5 hours of sleep the night before, I jumped out of bed, eager to start the day. After showering and dressing, we headed over to the food court to fill our mugs, and then went back to the room.

Two Double Bed RoomAt 8:00 AM we left our rooms and walked to the bus stop. On our way, we noted some interesting towel animals that were displayed in windows of a couple of room. Prior to booking our trip to WDW, I had never heard of towels animals. If you’re lucky, occasionally the maid will leave you towels that have been twisted into animal shapes, somewhat like balloon animals. Apparently, they are very popular and the subject of much discussion on one of the message boards I frequented while preparing for our trip. I hoped we would be lucky enough to get towel animals sometime during our stay.

We arrived at the bus area, located out in front of Classic Hall. Each theme park had its own stop and we joined the line for the Magic Kingdom. At 8:07 AM the bus arrived but by the time we boarded, all the seats were taken and it was standing room only. The Magic Kingdom Park was the furthest away from our resort and it was a good twenty minute bus ride to get there.

We stepped off the bus and headed to the main gates. Earlier this year, WDW had begun using a biometric finger scan to try to cut down on the practice of people selling or giving away their tickets with unused days left on them. To enter the park, you insert your ticket into the machine and place your index and middle fingers into the biometric scanning device. Contrary to what many people think, the machine does not record your fingerprints. Instead, it takes a measure of the two fingers and associates it with the bar code on your park ticket. The next time you enter one of the parks, the system checks to make sure that the same person is using the ticket. Jason sailed right through without problem, but it took me a few tries to get the hang of the machine. Finally, I was allowed to enter.

We still had a few minutes until the park opened and everyone gathered in the esplanade area to wait. Shortly before park opening, a brief ceremony was held up above at the train station ending with the train rolling into the station with many of the characters waving and dancing.

Cinderella's CastleFinally, the gates opened and we stepped onto Main Street for our first look at the Magic Kingdom Park. It was very similar, yet different from Main Street in Disneyland. The buildings looked taller and the street seemed wider. At the end of the street was the hub with the very familiar “Partners” statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Beyond the hub stood Cinderella’s castle, very different than Sleeping Beauty’s castle in California.

Before reaching the hub, we stopped to have our pictures taken by one of the PhotoPass photographers. The PhotoPass system is great and is wish Disneyland would use the same system. Situated at different locations through each of the theme parks are professional photographers who will take your picture in front of some of the more popular picture taking spots. The first time they take your picture they issue you a PhotoPass card, similar to a credit card. During your stay, whenever you wish to have your picture taken, you give your card to the photographer and they scan it in before taking your picture. This is a spot at each park where you can view and purchase any of the pictures that were taken, or you can view them online when you get home. There is no obligation to buy and it was a great way for us to get pictures that included the two of us. After we returned home, we checked out our pictures and weren’t very pleased with how they turned out. This was through no fault of the photographer. I looked hot and sweaty in each picture, which come to think of it, was exactly how I felt.

We spent the first part of the morning exploring Fantasyland. Many of the dark rides seemed to be better than their counterparts in California, especially Peter Pan, which was a FastPass attraction. Peter Pan in California really needs to be a FastPass attraction as well. It is very popular and long lines form very quickly and remain long for the rest of the day. The exterior of It's a Small World was disappointing. It was completely enclosed so that you don’t have to stand in line outside in the heat. However the exterior resembled a strip mall and I half expected to see a dry cleaners and a 7-11 around the corner.

My favorite ride in Fantasyland, and probably in the Magic Kingdom itself, is Mickey’s Philharmagic. This is a 3-D musical extravaganza, featuring characters from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. We watched this quite a few times during our visit and never tired of it.

After Fantasyland, we quickly toured Mickey’s Toontown Fair. This area of the park is mostly geared toward the younger crowd and we didn’t find much to do there. If you want to see characters, the Toontown Hall of Fame Tent is the best place to go.

Continuing on clockwise around the park, our next stop was Tomorrowland, which seemed infinitely better than its counterpart at Disneyland. It seemed larger, with more to do and see. We picked up FastPasses for Space Mountain, then went on to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which was very fun. As you move through the attraction in your Star Cruiser, you use a laser cannon to shoot targeted items and rack up points. Last March, this attraction opened up in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and I’m looking forward to riding it when we go in December. After Buzz, we used our FastPasses for Space Mountain. The ride vehicles are different than those at Disneyland. Instead of sitting two across, you ride single file. It also seemed very jerky and not quite as fast as I remembered from Disneyland. Next stop was the Carousel of Progress which had been moved from California. I love this ride and was very happy to be able to ride it again.

Lunch at Cosmic Ray'sBy now we were getting hungry as we hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning. We decided to eat lunch at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland. We each used one of our counter service dining credits and ordered the double bacon cheese burger, which came with fries, a piece of cake for dessert (chocolate for me, carrot for Jason), and a bottle of Dasani water. Lunch was delicious, but we were both stuffed afterwards. Too late we realized that we probably should have split one meal as we had late afternoon reservations at the Brown Derby restaurant at the MGM Studios Park.

After lunch we rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is like the Peoplemover ride that used to be at Disneyland. It was fun to travel around and get a great view of everything in Tomorrowland.

It was now time for us to return to the resort for our afternoon rest. We had decided to make time every day to go back to the hotel to rest and reenergize before returning for the evening. We headed to the bus stop only to find that the bus stop for the Pop Century was located at the very furthest spot imaginable. We found this to be true for most of the theme parks. The bus stops for the value reports were further away than those for the Deluxe and Moderate resorts. There wasn’t much a line waiting to go back to the hotel, so we were able get on the first bus that arrived and in about 20 minutes we were back at the hotel. After refilling my mug, I showered and settled down for a short nap.


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