Christmas Trip Day 2

The second day of our trip started out like any other at Disney: waking up earlier than we wanted, getting ready and making our way to the bus station. The plan was to go to the Magic Kingdom even though we had been there all night the previous night because it was the most recommended park by Josh. As soon as we walked out the front doors of the lobby I immediately doubted him. There were WAY too many people waiting to board a “motor coach” to the Magic Kingdom. On top of that there was a caravan of ECVs waiting to board as well.

After three buses and a whole lot of waiting around for the ECV people to navigate their scooters up the ramp, turn the corner, pull forward, back up into the spot, miss, pull forward again, hit a seat across the aisle, back up and miss again, pull forward and hit a different seat closer to the front of the bus, back up so far they run into the half-wall separating the upper seats, pull forward and go halfway up the aisle, back up slowly as not to hit another seat, miss the spot again, give up, get out of their scooter, ask the bus driver to park it, sit down in the seat they hit with the scooter moments before, and watch the bus driver park it in precisely four seconds, we were on our way to the Magic Kingdom.

My faith in Josh was restored once I realized we were walking through the turnstiles as the Mayor, Mickey and his gang were opening the park and there weren’t that many people in front of us. By the time we squeezed through the bowels of the train station and bobbed and weaved through the hub it seemed even less crowded than it had before. Since we had seen and/or done most of what we wanted in New Fantasyland the evening before we skipped it this morning and headed straight to Peter Pan.

We both got a FASTPASS and got in line for the ride. The young boy in front of us reminded me of myself as a child, mainly because of all the screaming and squalling (I cried once getting on Peter Pan because I wanted to sit next to my mother but somebody else was, so I threw a fit). He did NOT want to go on Peter Pan and he was letting his mother know it. By the time he boarded his vessel he was clawing at his mother and trying to abandon ship. As the cast member at the end of the conveyor belt was lowering the lap bar he was screaming “Save me! Save me!” I didn’t really feel that bad for him; everybody has to do something they don’t want to every now and then. Fifteen seconds into the ride and he was fine. He did look a little bitter when he got off though, giving his mother the stink eye.

Next we headed to Frontierland and rode both Splash and Thunder Mountain with minimal wait. When I say minimal I really mean no. We walked through the queue for Thunder Mountain and didn’t stop until we were the next to board a train. I believe this morning was the only time we rode “the wildest ride in the wilderness.” After the two mountains we hit Pirates real quick before making our way back to Retro Fantasyland to use our FASTPASSes. On the way we hit up Haunted Mansion and were forced to walk through the graveyard part of the queue since the regular part was being used for FASTPASS+ which was annoying. One thing to note about Haunted Mansion on this particular trip: The creepy doll lady at the end said “Hurry baaaaaaaaack” every time our Doom Buggy rolled under her. We hit the audio loop at the right time every time.

It was a few minutes after 10 a.m. by the time we exited Haunted Mansion. Since the plan was to eat at Be Our Guest right at 10:30 a.m. and we wanted to get in line prior to that, we found a young couple and their daughter and gave them our FASTPASSes. I forgot to mention earlier but when I got our FASTPASSes that morning there was already one sitting in the machine so we had three. I was actually surprised at how easily we gave away our FASTPASSes that morning. During our Honeymoon in August I tried to give them away multiple times and never succeeded. The family seemed excited but confused: I had to explain to them how FASTPASS worked. After a few moments they got in the FASTPASS line instead of the regular one (like they had tried initially) and were on their way to Neverland.

After my heart grew three sizes we followed the crowd to New Fantasyland. By the time we got in line for Be Our Guest there were at least 100 to 150 people in front of us.

This was our view of the sign from our spot in line. The line went around the sign, across the bridge and almost up to the front gates.

This was our view of the sign from our spot in line. The line went around the sign, across the bridge, through the front gates and almost up to the doors.

They started letting people in a few minutes before 10:30 a.m. and the crunching began. People started scooting closer and closer to each other until we could smell each others breath. Once we made it onto the bridge it got less crowded.

This is the view from the beginning of the bridge. As you can see, there are quite a few people in front of us.

This is the view from the beginning of the bridge. As you can see, there are quite a few people in front of us. Somebody was thinking because they rope off the left side of the bridge for those exiting the restaurant. Otherwise they would have to climb down the mountain, forge the moat and scale the other side.

This poor gargoyle and his buddies have to hold up all the lamp posts along the bridge. He doesn't look too happy about it either.

This poor gargoyle and his buddies have to hold up all the lamp posts along the bridge. He doesn’t look too happy about it either.

Another picture of the entrance. I went a little overboard here.

Another picture of the entrance. I went a little overboard here.

The entrance is straight ahead. The door to the left is the exit.

The entrance is straight ahead. The door to the left is the exit.

Close-up of the mosaic work above the entrance. They let a handful of groups in at a time then close the doors for a few minutes.

Close-up of the mosaic work above the entrance. They let a handful of groups in at a time then close the doors for a few minutes.

We only waited for 15 or 20 minutes before being granted access inside the castle. I was impressed with how quick and smooth things went. The detail on the outside was amazing so we were pretty pumped to finally step inside.

A blurry picture of a Minotaur holding up the entire restaurant.

A blurry picture of a Minotaur holding up the entire restaurant.

This is your view as you first walk in the doors. To the left is the exit. To the right is the corridor leading to the ordering room. Straight ahead is the ballroom. If you walk past the Minotaurs then turn left you will find the restrooms.

This is your view as you first walk in the doors. To the left is the exit. To the right is the corridor leading to the ordering room. Straight ahead is the ballroom. If you walk past the Minotaur(s) then turn left you will find the restrooms.

The corridor leading to the ordering room. The doorway at the end leads to the ordering room. The knights on each side of the rooms talk and have conversations with each other. There are electronic menus posted on a couple pedestal screens in the middle.

The corridor leading to the ordering room. The doorway at the end leads to the ordering room. The knights on each side of the rooms talk and have conversations with each other. There are electronic menus posted on a couple pedestal screens in the middle.

Once you walk in they make you choose one of two lines. As far as I could tell neither was any faster than the other. If you are in a big hurry, you may get frustrated as it will all come down to how quickly the people in front of you can figure out the electronic ordering system. Unfortunately for us, the two couples ordering before us most likely got AARP The Magazine delivered to their home. And you don’t get a choice in the matter either. After you get your RFID rose you wait for a cast member to tell you which ordering station to go to. You can’t scope out the room and get behind the youngest looking people there.

After a few (or 10) tense minutes it was our turn to order. I know my family wants to go here in May but some of them may have a hard time finding something they like. It’s not that the menu is  outlandish but it’s definitely not hamburgers, chicken strips and fries. I went with the Croque Monsieur and Ashley, after much deliberation, chose the Grilled Steak Sandwich.

After what seemed like five minutes (which was probably more like 10 or 15 since I was busy taking terrible pictures) a “waiter” came out with a cart full of meals and guess what? Ours were on it!

Mine was a fancy grilled cheese with some ham on it but was very yummy. Ashley’s wasn’t bad but I was expecting a little more from this godsend of a restaurant. We ended up splitting our sandwiches and eating half each. I took pictures of our food but the quality is so bad even I am embarrassed  Also, as we did with most meals this trip, we shared a drink as there are unlimited refills here: One definite perk of this place. Enough of the food though because really, who cares? It’s all about the AMBIANCE PEOPLE.

Here is an absolutely terrible picture of the ballroom. I love my little point and shoot but it does NOT do well in low light situations and Be Our Guest is most definitely a low light situation.

Here is an absolutely terrible picture of the ballroom. I love my little point and shoot but it does NOT do well in low light situations and Be Our Guest is most definitely a low light situation.

It snows outside the giant windows at the end of the ballroom which is very magical.

It snows outside the giant windows at the end of the ballroom: magical.

Here's the room from the other direction. We didn't sit along the edge of the room but still got as close to the windows as we could.

Here’s the room from the other direction. We didn’t sit along the edge of the room but still got as close to the windows as we could.

After we gobbled up our meals we explored the place a bit. There are three dining rooms and, unless you move your half eaten quinoa salad, you can only eat in one. First we visited the West Wing.

The West Wing. I thought the Ballroom was dark. Holy cow this place is hard to see in. As usual though it is expertly themed.

…and I thought the Ballroom was dark. Holy cow this place is hard to see in. As usual though it is expertly themed.

I think we all feel like tearing up portraits of ourselves every now and then.

I think we all feel like tearing up portraits of ourselves every now and then.

The enchanted rose and magic mirror. There was a big line to take a picture here.

The enchanted rose and magic mirror. There was a big line to take a picture here. Being an arrogant American I didn’t wait and pushed my way to the front. I paid for my vacation and I’m going to get my money’s worth damn it!

On the other side of the Ballroom is the Rose Garden. If you like to eat in light places this is the room for you. It also seemed more family friendly for some reason.

The left side of the Rose Garden room.

The left side of the Rose Garden room. This was easily the least busy of the three dining rooms.

Belle and Beast adorn the center of the room with their beautiful dancing.

Belle and Beast adorn the center of the room with their beautiful dancing.

On our way out we stopped to check out the bathrooms. There is also one more gem waiting for you right before you leave.

Tale as old as time.

Tale as old as time.

By the time we left the restaurant it was almost 11:30 a.m. and the park was starting to get busy. We decided to head toward the exit via Tomorrowland. On our way out we hit a couple Tomorrowland staples: the TTA and Carousel of Progress. The TTA Peoplemover has always been a family favorite. As they say on the ride, “The Peoplemover is great for people watching.” As they don’t say on the ride anymore, “Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow. Your party from Saturn has arrived, please give them a ring.”

Ashley has grown to like this ride. I always have. It's one of the rides still left at Disney that makes me feel like I did when I was a child. It's like Walt is still behind the controls, making magic like he dreamed.

Ashley has grown to like this ride. I always have. It’s one of the rides still left at Disney that makes me feel like I did when I was a child. It’s like Walt is still behind the controls, making dreams come true with his magic.

She really gets to the core of the apple.

She really gets to the core of the apple.

Besides, it's not going to rain today. My lumbago isn't acting up.

Besides, it’s not going to rain today. My lumbago isn’t acting up.

Our dog Rover over here keeps the water in the drip pan from overflowing.

Our dog Rover over here keeps the water in the drip pan from overflowing.

Hey everyone. I'm done programming our new voice activation system.

Hey everyone. I’m done programming our new voice activation system.

Don't worry dad. Someday, everything will be automated. You won't even have to cook another Christmas turkey again.

Don’t worry dad. Someday, everything will be automated. You won’t even have to cook another Christmas turkey again.

Oh no! You're not going to tell us about the old days when you didn't even have a car phone.

Oh no! You’re not going to tell us about the old days when you didn’t even have a car phone.

After our journey through the decade we left the park with no incident. As we were walking to our bus stop a “motor coach” was sitting at the Art of Animation stop and the Pop stop was empty. We didn’t get to explore much the last time we visited AoA because I was bitter and we could simply walk across the Generation Gap bridge to get back to our room: let’s go!

The guard stand.

The guard stand.

The Art of Animation is similar to Pop Century in a lot of ways. Obviously it is themed differently but the bones of the resort are practically the same.

We've seen this before but it's still SO COOL.

We’ve seen this before but it’s still SO COOL.

Christmas tree in the atrium.

Christmas tree in the atrium.

The staircase covers for the Finding Nemo building.

The staircase cover for the Finding Nemo building.

We headed toward the Lion King section first. If you walk out of the food court towards the back it is to your left.

Asante sana, squash banana.

Asante sana, squash banana.

The log is higher up than it looks. You can see the entrance to one of the buildings below it.

The log is higher up than it looks. You can see the entrance to one of the buildings below it.

At the end of the Lion King section is the Little Mermaid section. Well, not really at the end. Once you leave the Lion King area you have to walk a couple of minutes THEN you are in the Little Mermaid section. Poor Ariel is so far from the main buildings; we didn’t go visit her because we are lazy.

Instead, we doubled back and headed for the Cars section. Oh, my, gosh; this place is crazy. It is easily the best themed section and if Cars Land in Disneyland is anything like this sign me up!

Most of the section in one view.

Most of the section in one view.

Seems safe to me.

Seems safe to me.

Why wait in line at Hollywood Studios to see inanimate cars when you can see them anytime at Art of Animation?

Why wait in line at Hollywood Studios to see inanimate cars when you can see them anytime at Art of Animation?

The cozy cone pool. One of the "quiet" pools at Art of Animation.

The cozy cone pool. One of the “quiet” pools at Art of Animation.

Each cone is a cabana. In the summer I imagine you would have to stake one of these out pretty early. It was in the 60s this day so there were plenty available.

Each cone is a cabana. In the summer I imagine you would have to stake one of these out pretty early. It was in the 60s this day though so there were plenty available.

The cozy cone motel actually exists. Unfortunately, all it seems to be is a covered walkway to get into the pool.

The cozy cone motel actually exists. Unfortunately, all it seems to be is a covered walkway to get into the pool. There could be more to it that I didn’t notice. Maybe pool towels are stored here?

It's OK though, they have no vacancy.

It’s OK though, they have no vacancy.

Another entrance to another building. Tow Mater annoys me.

Another entrance to another building. Tow Mater annoys me.

Of all the sections of the resort, the Cars section makes you feel like you are in the titled movie the most. It’s incredible how well themed it is. I don’t remember ever feeling so immersed in a movie, even when we ate at Be Our Guest earlier that day. We walked through the Finding Nemo section on our way to Pop Century.

Mr. Ray is so colorful. Everything in this section is so colorful.

Mr. Ray is so colorful. Everything in this section is so colorful.

The kiddie pool. I'm guessing the urine content is higher than chlorine content here.

The kiddie pool. I’m guessing the urine content is higher than chlorine content here.

When we walked into one of the buildings I was immediately turned off. Ashley agrees with me that indoor corridors just don’t feel like Disney. There’s something about walking outside to get to your room in 90 degree heat at 10 o’clock at night that feels like Disney to us. Something about opening the door to your room and immediately getting smacked in the face with 100 degree heat that feels like Disney. This place just felt like an extremely well themed hotel that could be located anywhere. It’s nice to have that extra 30 seconds of air conditioning I’m sure but still prefer outdoor corridors.

Finding Nemo section from the Pop side of the bridge.

Finding Nemo section from the Pop side of the bridge.

We took a very short break before heading out again. This time Hollywood Studios was our destination. I never realized it before but I NEED that mid day break. Not only is it nice to avoid the crazy crowds and crazy heat but my poor little body needs a nap while at Disney. I was really dragging during the afternoons this trip, deprived of my nap.

A big Christmas tree outside Hollywood Studios.

A big Christmas tree outside Hollywood Studios.

Our main objective at Hollywood Studios was to see the Osborne Lights. We skipped Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania this trip. It was the afternoon so lines were long and FASTPASSes were either gone or for later in the evening when we would either be looking at the lights or already gone for dinner at Downtown Disney.

Looking good.

Looking good.

While checking on FASTPASSes for Rock 'N' Roller Coaster I came across this young man. He was pitching a fit and nobody in his family seemed to care (which I commend). He would cry, look up, see that nobody was paying attention, think about it some, then cry again. I took a picture because I found it not only hilarious but commendable parenting as well.

While checking on FASTPASSes for Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster I came across this young man. He was pitching a fit and nobody in his family seemed to care (which I commend). He would cry, look up, see that nobody was paying attention, think about it some, then cry again. I took a picture because I found it not only hilarious but commendable parenting as well.

Even though we didn’t go on any of the BIG rides at Hollywood Studios there was still plenty to do. We checked out the Magic of Disney Animation for the first time which was cool. There are lots of things to look at, a BUNCH of characters to meet and a little show in one spot staring Mushu. I know, I was surprised too. I love him but never see him at Disney.

Fix it Felix arcade game. I don't believe you can actually play it.

Fix it Felix arcade game outside the Mushu show. I don’t believe you can actually play it.

After the little tour we headed for another: The Great Movie Ride. Our journey through the movies was the busiest I remember in a long time. They used BOTH CARS. I know, it was crazy. We even got to see the Western bank robbing scene too. I was getting bored with the gangster one. I had to laugh because Ashley didn’t know the Western scene existed. I had almost forgotten about it myself. In fact, the ride was so busy we even had to stop a couple of times to let the cars in front of us finish the movie at the end. At least we got to hang out in Oz longer than normal.

Oh, it's definitely spectacular.

Oh, it’s definitely spectacular.

Follow the yellow-brick road.

Follow the yellow-brick road.

Emerald City looks so nice. I might consider moving there.

Emerald City looks so nice. I might consider moving there.

My only complaint about the ride this time was that the bandit who stole our ride vehicle was so short she couldn’t reach the gem in the Indiana Jones section. Now, how is she going to be killed by the gem if she CAN’T EVEN REACH IT. Horrible casting on Disney’s part there. That should be the number one requirement for bandit/gangster on the Great Movie Ride: tall enough to reach the glowing stone in the Indiana Jones section. My golly.

We walked around for a bit after the ride, making our way through Pixar-land where we laughed at the people in line for Toy Story Mania.

To improve Hollywood Studios I think Disney should expand on the Pixar area. Heck, why not make the entire park Pixar themed?

To improve Hollywood Studios I think Disney should expand on the Pixar area. Heck, why not make the entire park Pixar themed?

In our continued meandering through the park we walked through One Man’s Dream. While there I saw another kid lying on the ground pitching a fit! BONUS. What a great day for children at the park.

Not even a parent in sight: brilliant.

Not even a parent in sight: brilliant.

Oh, Horizons. Horizons....Horizons.

Oh, Horizons. Horizons….Horizons.

We didn’t see the show at the end because I didn’t want to cry. Actually, I don’t know why we didn’t see the show but if you are an “emotional” person, you may just cry during the video presentation. At this point it was getting close to lighting time so we made our way to the Streets of America. We saw Pizza Planet on the way.

I may have said this before but I am not a fan on this place. It's cool and all but it's the same pizza you can get anyhwere else on Disney property, it;s always busy, it's always loud, there are always children screaming and running around and it's not exactly cheap.

I may have said this before but I am not a fan of this place. It’s cool and all but it’s the same pizza you can get anywhere else on Disney property, it’s always busy, it’s always loud, there are always children screaming and running around and it’s not exactly cheap.

You remember when I talked about crying a few seconds ago? Well, I honestly was on the verge of crying when they lit up the Osborne Lights. It’s so overwhelming and so magical that the waterworks almost turned on. But, I’m a man so I held them down. I have a video of the lighting ceremony that I will add later. The lights are stagnant some of the time and synchronized with music the rest of the time. If you go to Disney around Christmas time you HAVE to see them.

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“Tilt shift” just for good measure.

And a picture of us to boot.

And a picture of us to boot.

After gawking at the lights for a half hour or so we made our way to the park exit and headed to Downtown Disney. We took the Port Orleans bus to make our transfer in hopes of seeing more Christmas decor at the resort we adored on our Honeymoon. Other than some trees and wreaths they don’t do a whole lot. This, coupled with the fact that the Downtown Disney “motor coach” was loading people up, meant we got on the Downtown Disney “motor coach” and headed there for our dinner date.

Since our buddy was late because he forgot to charge his camera, we had some time to roam around. We bought a ton of merchandise on our Honeymoon, plus we only took carry on bags, so we didn’t buy very much stuff this trip. Downtown Disney is nice during Christmas too. Everybody is all decked out in Christmas decor and the spirit is more jolly than normal. We made our way down to Splitsville to check it out from the outside since it wasn’t open at the time. I’m sure it’s extremely expensive but I’m also sure it would be a lot of fun to hang out there for a night.

A Christmas tree of Mickey heads outside Fulton's Crab House.

A Christmas tree of Mickey heads outside Fulton’s Crab House.

Eventually Josh made it and we decided on Earl of Sandwich since we were already in the area. The line was incredibly long but they are incredibly efficient so it couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes to order our food. Because there were people playing Uno at booths – For real, they had NO food, they were just playing cards at a table inside a busy restaurant, some people – we had to sit outside. Besides the cackling wench sitting somewhere behind us it was a very pleasant meal. I once again ordered the Full Montagu. Ashley went with the Earl’s Club. Josh had the holiday surprise (not its actual name). It had turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and other holiday favorites all wrapped up in a toasted bun.

Sitting there for a couple of hours talking was actually very relaxing. We had a short trip so we were on the go the entire time. These couple of hours were a little respite for us. Also, talking with my wife and Josh was pleasant, definitely less awkward than our last meal with him when we were strangers. Well, I suppose we are still somewhat strangers now – I read his blog, comment on it, email him when I have questions and we have eaten two meals together: we’re practically dating!

After a cast member asked us what time it was we got the hint and left. Josh had to catch the last bus out of town as well so it worked out. Ashley and I went to Goofy’s Candy Co. so she could get a custom Mickey crisped rice treat. Once acquired we headed for the bus station. Our “motor coach” arrived and we went back for a good night’s sleep. As with day one, day two was quite eventful and tiresome.

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Honeymoon Trip Report: Downtown Disney

The boss cracked down on personal devices at work so I apologize to all four of you for the enormous delay between the last post and this post. Last time we spent time together I promised some musings about Downtown Disney. Well, here they are.

I was so focused on spending other people’s money while there that I didn’t take too many pictures. So, unfortunately, those that choose to suffer through the next five minutes of their life will have to read more of my mediocre grammar than usual.

We went to Downtown Disney two times during our honeymoon: once at night and once during the day. Both times we took the ferry from Port Orleans to the dock between Cap’N Jacks and Rainforest Cafe: Downtown Disney style.

Of all the restaurants on Disney property I probably know the least about this one.

So this is the first thing you see on the left as you exit the ferry. I think it’s Rainforest Cafe under construction?

You always cruise past Fulton’s on your way into dock. It looks much more festive at night.

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