Sunday, February 21, 2016

Open Live Writer!

I can’t say that I’ve had a ton of free time lately for composing blog posts, but part of the reason that I wasn’t doing it was that I no longer had access to Windows Live Writer. I used it for years on my PC and then ran Paralells on my Mac so that I could continue using it. Then Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP and I was stuck with no PC operating system. I’ve now got Windows 7 up and running, but Microsoft no longer supports Windows Live Writer and it can no longer be used with Blogger. So, I found Open Live Writer which rose form the open source ashes of Windows Live Writer. It’s still a Windows only program, but I’d love to see a Mac version one day.

Who knows when I’ll have time to craft the next post here, but now I at least have a good way to do it. All of the blogging software out there for the Mac is terrible.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Disney 2013: Day 10 – Flex Day

When I first planned this trip, I thought that this flex day was going to be spent at Universal Studios. On our last trip, we didn’t get through both parks in two days and I was worried that this might be the case again. We had much better luck this time around and visited both parks on both days. That left the flex day open for us to add even more new experiences to our trip.

While we had done some of the Agent P World Showcase Adventures on our Epcot day, I completely forgot that the France adventure allows you to obtain a special pressed penny that 101_0516you can’t make just by walking up to the machine. We got to Epcot right when the park opened and started off the day with our FastPass at Soarin’. From there, we went to the Imagination pavilion since we didn’t make it here earlier in our trip. We followed up the ride with a visit to the returned Captain EO 3D movie. I’m not sure why, but the 3D didn’t work for me at all during the movie. While it was great to travel down memory lane, I think we’d skip this movie if it were still there on our next trip. From there, FastPasses at Test Track awaited.

At this point, the World Showcase had opened and we made our way to France to foil the evil plans of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. We completed the adventure without getting the part of the mission that gives you the special pressed penny. That was a huge bummer and we didn’t have time to try it again because it was now time for our lunch reservation at Chefs De France.

This meal came close to becoming a disaster. Cassidy went to pick something up outside the restaurant and smashed her head on the menu sign when getting up. Once we were at our 101_0521table, Cass discovered that she had lost one of the decorations from her MagicBand. As much as I love the MagicBands, those MagicBandits do a good job of describing the person at Disney that came up with them. They are only connected to your band by one peg in a hole and they’re going to get lost with all of the climbing into rides and moving around the parks that you do. Both Jenne and Cass lost one during the trip and that’s ridiculous.

What ended up saving the meal was a little bit of Disney Magic that is no longer available. That Magic was a visit from Chef Remy. This was a very cool part of the meal. Remy looked awesome and the person pushing his cart around the restaurant was very funny. One person called Remy “Ratatouille” and was told, “That is not his name, that’s a meal in France. You’re from America and we do not call you ‘Mac and Cheese’” The food was yummy and the service was great. It’s a shame that there will not be any more Remy meet and greets. Remy is getting his own ride, but you have to go overseas to check it out. It looks like it is going to use technology similar to what SeaWorld used for their Antarctica ride. I’d love to see Disney put that technology into one of the Florida parks. An Avatar ride with that technology would get me to ride even though I could care less about the movies.

After lunch, we split up for a little while. Jenne made her way to the Disney Lost & Found to see if they had the camera that she had lost (we think on Soarin’) earlier in the trip. When she called to find out about the Lost & Found, they made no mention of the time limit in place in order to claim items. Once she got there, they weren’t much of a help for her which put a bit of a damper on things. The Disney Magic does not extend to that part of the park.

Meanwhile, Cass and I were calling an audible and changing plans slightly. We had originally planned on starting at Epcot, going to Animal 101_0144Kingdom to finish some Wilderness Explorer stuff, and then finish at the Magic Kingdom, but that didn’t flow so well. We decided to cut Animal Kingdom from the equation and spend a little more time in the other two parks. That gave us time to stop by Canada and see O’ Canada with the awesome Martin Short. When we got to the waiting area and saw that it was 15 minutes until the next show, I wanted to leave, but Cassidy convinced me to wait and I’m glad that I did. This film is funny and does a good job of showing the diversity of Canada. Cass enjoyed it and I enjoyed it so it was time well spent.

On our way out of the park we grabbed some Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars and relaxed for a little while with our snacks. There was some browsing to be done in the Art of Disney store on the way out. There are so many amazing things in that store. If I had a huge house and tons of money, so much of it would be mine, but I’ve got neither the space nor the funds to have my own little Disney art museum.

We hopped on the monorail for the trip to the Magic Kingdom and met a nice family during the ride. The son 101_0526was a little older than Cass, but was in the middle of his first trip to Disney World. He was having a blast just riding the monorail and taking in the whole experience. I remember being the exact same way 30 or so years ago.

We arrived at the Magic Kingdom and made our way directly to the Fire House on Main Street. We picked up two packs of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards and started on our first adventure. This game is a lot of fun and is a perfect way to spend part of the day in the park. We started with an adventure on Main Street, then fought the forces of evil in Liberty Square, again defended the Crystal of the Magic Kingdom in Adventureland, and conquered our final rapscallion in Fantasyland. Along the way, we had two different people stop to talk with us and give us some of their extra cards since we were brand new to the game. This is something to try at least once during your next trip to the parks. A single adventure only takes 15-20 minutes depending on how busy the portal locations are.

Jenne had arrived at the park during our fourth and final adventure. She took advantage of that time to take a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean 101_0533since Cass was suddenly terrified of the ride and wasn’t going on. She was lucky that she went on when she did because the ride wasn’t running properly when she was on it and was shut down for most of the rest of the day. From there, she made her way to Fantasyland to meet up with us. We made another stop at the Rapunzel themed bathrooms on our way over to Adventureland.

There’s another game to be played in Adventureland and this one was right up Jenne’s alley since it was pirate themed. This thing was extremely cool. You start off at The Crow’s Nest where you begin your adventure. This was designed for use with MagicBands, but there are cards that you can get which will also work (just like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom). You are given one of 5 adventures, you take the corresponding map, and then head off to the first destination that you are given. Once you find that location, you tap your MagicBands to the icon that you’re looking for and a recording will start. There will also be something cool that happens such as a cannon firing or a ship appearing that corresponds to the location that you are at. You get your next clue and then continue on to the next location. Each adventure has 4 or 5 locations that must be found before you discover that adventure’s treasure. Unfortunately, we only had time for three of the five missions before we had to call it a day.

We stopped at the Art of Disney store on the way out with the intention of purchasing two statues to be shipped home. They had the Roger and Jessica Rabbit statue that I wanted, but didn’t have the Jack and Sally NBC statue that Jenne wanted. After what seemed like forever, we had the 101_0547statue purchased and ready to ship home. Once that was finished, we had to hustle over to the Contemporary for our reservation at Chef Mickey’s.

Chef Mickey’s is fun and it’s a great way to meet the Fab 5 all at once, but it’s not a culinary delight. It’s a buffet, so there’s plenty to choose from, but not much of it is any good. Cassidy had a blast waving her napkin around and dancing with the characters. They all come right over to your table which is a pleasant change from waiting in line. It also made the whole autograph book thing a lot easier since some of the characters had a tough time holding the book while they were signing it.

The Contemporary is my kind of hotel. They had a bank of 6 pressed penny machines in the lobby and I grabbed a bunch for my collection. We experienced more Disney Magic while waiting for the monorail back to the parking l…Transportation and Ticket Center. One of the Cast Members manning the monorail platform had a little LED light that he used to do some quick little magic tricks for Cassidy that brought a huge smile to her face.

We returned to the hotel, but Cass and I weren’t ready to call it a night yet. We made our way back to the main hotel building and spent some time in the arcade. They had a bunch of cool games in there including a Pac-Man air hockey game that was awesome. Much fun was had and Cassidy ended up with some cool prizes when all was said and done. Midnight pounced upon us quickly and we had some credits left, so Cass made a plan to show Jenne her favorite game the next morning after we finished breakfast. This game was a more fun version of Spider Stomp. There were three colored buttons to step on and also three colored button to hit. It’s one of those games where it wants you to move so quickly by the end of it that you’re tripping over yourself and hilarity ensues.

This was an awesome day to end our trip. 4 new experiences for our list and a chill day to send us home on a relaxed note.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 9 – Universal Studios

 101_0436The weather report for our final two days in Florida was not looking very good. You know that there’s a good chance that it’ll rain for an hour or two on any given day that time of year, but they were calling for heavy rain for a majority of the day for both Tuesday and Wednesday. We were pretty well prepared to deal with the rain, but we weren’t looking forward to it.

A light drizzle started when we got to the front gate of Universal Studios 15-20 minutes before park opening. That turned into a heavy drizzle right before the park opened. Jenne and Cass 101_0438 ponchoed up and we were ready to go.

Since we skipped it the previous day, we made a beeline to the back of the park so that we could ride MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack before it got busy. We stuffed our belongings into lockers and dashed off to the ride.

We got to enter through the Express line which was a little disappointing because we ended up missing all of the cool theming inside of the ride building. It did get us on the ride quickly though which allowed us to make a second trip before the free time on our lockers ran out.

On the way off of the ride, we decided to sign up for the Universal Photo Connect which took longer than it should have and did cause me to run out of time on  my locker. I showed the employee manning the lockers 61203_092413_120835my receipt and figured that my $60 purchase would get me out of the $3 that I’d have to pay for the locker. I was correct. Signing up for the Photo Connect deal ended up being one of the best things that we did during our trip. I had no clue that the service even existed. We ended up getting some great pictures and had fun doing so. I would highly recommend it for anyone making a trip to Universal Orlando.

Next up was Springfield which I was ridiculously excited about. I’ve been a big Simpsons fan since the days of the Tracy Ulman shorts. This addition to the park did not disappoint. I already 101_0451 was a fan of The Simpsons Ride and now the whole area is tied together nicely.

The Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl ride was a nice way for them to add another Simpsons ride and add another kiddie ride (which is something Universal is a little lacking on). It’s a simple spinner with an added feature of having to move your spaceship up and down to “attack” the citizens of Springfield.

In addition to the new ride, you’ve got a food court disguised as Krusty Burger and Cletus’ Chicken Shack with an additional room themed as Moe’s Tavern. You can have a drink at Duff Gardens or grab a taco at Bumblebee Man’s Tacos food truck. This area isn’t too shabby for a park that people love to bash for being “just warehouses and soundstages.”

At this point, I noticed that the Hollywood Rip Rock RideIt Coaster was up and running and I made my way over there while Jenne and Cass got a 61320_092413_076007 snack. I was a line for a little while before they stopped loading cars and were running the coaster in test mode. I decided to bail and it turned out to be a good decision since the ride was shut down around 5 minutes later. I met up with Jenne and Cass in line to meet Donkey and Shrek after they had already met Optimus Prime. Donkey does all of the talking in this interaction and he was very funny while we were there.

The Transformers meet and greet is right across the way from the Shrek meet and greet. Every time a Transformer comes out, warning lights go on and sirens blare. That led to Donkey shouting, “Shut up Transformers! Nobody cares!” When it was our turn to have our picture taken, we had the following exchange:

Donkey: Hi Cassidy, what’s your mom’s name?
Cass: Jennifer.
Donkey: Well, hello Jennifer. What’s your dad’s name?
Cass: Michael.
Donkey: Hi Stinky.

When it came time to smile, instead of “cheese,” Donkey told us to say “Red Sox stink.” Yes, it’s definitely not Disney fairy dust, but it definitely 62300_092413_119599 suits the character and was a very entertaining time. The next big thing is going to be costume characters that are able to communicate with guests and this one is pretty good. Disney has a certain mouse that also talks now and I think you’ll see more and more characters like this in the years to come.

The siren that had annoyed Donkey announced the arrival of Bumblebee, so we hopped in line for that meet and greet. These characters look amazing. We didn’t get to see Megatron, but we did see Optimus Prime and Bumblebee and they look great. Cassidy immediately fell in love with Bumblebee when we rode Transformers, so this was another awesome moment for her on the trip.

Now it was time to visit Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone. We spent way too much time here on our last trip waiting for and then watching the A Day in the Park with Barney show. Never, ever again. We did stop so that Jenne and Cass could get their picture taken with SpongeBob and then we made a beeline to one of Cass’ absolute favorite rides: Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. This is a fun kiddie coaster that lets Cass put her hands up and act like a daredevil. Yes, she’s been on Everest twice, but she can’t put on her brave face for that ride yet. On this ride, she’s got swagger. There was no line so we rode it three straight times before moving on.


Our last stop in this area is the only other thing worth checking out if you don’t have a toddler and that’s the E.T. Adventure. I feel like this ride was already dated the first time that I rode it back in the 90s. Now that it’s 2013, this ride feels really old. It’s a classic dark ride, but it’s got a cheesiness factor to it that keeps it from being a classic ride. If this was in any other part of the park, it probably would have been bulldozed a long time ago along with King Kong, Jaws, and (soon) Disaster. I think I ride it each time that I go because I think it might be the last time I get to do so before it disappears. They did add a cool photo opportunity in the gift shop at the end of the ride. This is the last we saw of Cass before she rode off in the moonlight with E.T.

370570_43416775 Once Cass came back down to Earth, we started to make our way back towards the front of the park to re-ride some of the things that we did the previous day. That’s when I noticed that Hollywood Rip Rock RideIt was running again. We made a beeline over there and I was second to hop into the single rider line. It took another 5 minutes or so, but once the ride started up, I was on the second car out of the station.

This ride has some great moments, but the fact that it slows down 4 times during the ride at spots where the cars can be stopped if there’s an emergency kind of kills the thrill. The start of the ride where you go straight up and then crest the first hill is awesome. The loop with a corkscrew at the top is very cool. The drop down through a building facade in the New York section of the park is nice as well. What’s not nice is that this is almost like 4 mini-coasters. (What’s also not nice is that the ride breaks down frequently or is just shut down because of weather and that’s when people aren’t getting stuck on the first lift.)

101_0477 Now it was time to hit up some of our favorite rides a second time. We started with Minion Mayhem and it was just as funny the second time around. We decided to skip a second ride on Shrek since it was getting late quickly and another ride on Transformers seemed like the thing to do. On the way off of the ride, we figured that a Bumblebee souvenir for Cassidy would be pretty appropriate. She picked out an awesome baseball cap that she wore proudly for the rest of the trip.

Since the wait time for Minion Mayhem was kind of high (20 minutes if I remember correctly), 101_0482 we only had time for those two rides before it was time for lunch (if you consider 1:40 time for lunch). We decided to check out Krusty Burger since it was new and seemed like it would be very cool. While it was very cool, it was also VERY expensive and not very delicious or filling.

Part of the reason why it was so expensive was that we went for all of the bells and whistles. I ordered a Flaming Moe which is really just an apple juice with dry ice bubbling through it. Jenne got a Buzz Cola which was a mistake because we didn’t notice that it was a diet cola and most of it was still in the cup when we were done eating. Other than that, the potions were small and the cheese on the burgers was kind of nasty. As much as I love The Simpsons, I don’t think I’ll be eating here again unless they drop the prices once the newness wears off.

The day was quickly coming to a close and we still wanted to check out some rides back in the other park, so we said goodbye to the Studios and headed back over to Islands of Adventure. It wasn’t until later that I realized that we completely missed Revenge of the Mummy (a decent ride, but nothing special), Disaster!, (wanted to ride it one more time before it closed), and Twister…Ride It Out (Jenne loves the movie and tornadoes in general). No big losses, but it would have been nice to have seen everything. I think we had more fun heading back over to the other park though.

We zipped around the park quickly focusing on our favorite rides and any photo opportunities that we saw. We sped through Seuss Landing with Hogsmeade as our destination. We finally got to see the show in Olivander’s Wand Shop. This also led to Cassidy adding another wand to her collection. She went in wanting one of the character wands, but ended up buying one of the other wands which I think was a lot cooler looking. I took one more ride on Forbidden Journey and was pleasantly surprised to exit the ride and find out that Cassidy wanted to ride Flight of the Hippogryph. It’s another kiddie coaster, but it’s a step up on the thrill meter from Woody Woodpecker. Cass loved this one as well and wanted to ride it again, but at this point we were pressed for time.


We zipped through Jurassic Park with a brief stop at the cool automated picture opportunity they have there. I kind of wish we had taken the time for a few more pictures since there was no line. You scan your Photo Connect pass and get a countdown to when the picture will be taken. You are posing in front of a car, but a ton of other cool stuff is added to the picture as you can see to the right. I was tempted to hop on the River Adventure again so that I could have a ride picture, but I didn’t feel like getting wet and didn’t want to hold us up at all.

We zipped through Toon Lagoon as well so that we could take another ride on Spider-Man. They have a cool photo opportunity in the line for Spidey if you’ve got a Photo Connect lanyard. You end up walking right by it and they won’t pull you out of line if you aren’t wearing your lanyard. Once that was done, we called it a day at Universal. We did some shopping at the big store near the entrance to the park and got sidetracked by a survey on the way out of the park. This was a thorough survey that took a while. I expected at least a $10 gift card or something like that, but we got nothing.

Our dinner reservation for the evening was at the Coral Reef restaurant in Epcot (another first time experience), so we made plans to meet up with friends in Epcot to hang out for a little while and catch up. Since it had been three years since our last trip to Florida, we tried to pack a lot into this trip which didn’t leave as much time to visit. Hopefully it won’t be as long before our next trip and we’ll be able to have more non-park time for visiting.


Dinner at Coral Reef was awesome. Thanks to having an adorable, little girl with us, we were able to get a table right next to the tank. Having all of the fish swim right past you while you eat was really relaxing. It probably wouldn’t be relaxing for the fish if they knew what the people outside were eating.

We had a great meal that ended after the park was over so we made our way home and called it a night. Cass was passed out, so I got to work off my dinner by carrying her from our table in the restaurant to our car which must have been at least a half mile walk, if not more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 8 – Islands of Adventure

While the main reason for this trip was to visit Walt Disney World, there were a bunch of other of other reasons we made this trip. Discovery Cove was one of those reasons and another was that I was very excited to check out all of the new stuff at Universal. I’ve seen tons of people on the Disney message boards who can’t stand the Universal Parks. I never visited back when it was just the one original Studios park, but maybe it was so bad back then that it caused lots of hatred. I don’t understand how people who like good theme parks could dislike Universal, especially Islands of Adventure.

We arrived at the park right after opening and made our way right to Hogsmeade. Part of the reason was to beat the crowds to Harry Potter and the other reason was to make sure that we 101_0390got to see the parts of the park that we missed on our last trip due to the monsoon and thunderstorm while we were there.

They captured the look and feel of the Harry Potter movies perfectly in this part of the park. The only disappointment is that they had to cram this into a tiny corner of the park, but that is being rectified while also boosting business for Universal. Since the Harry Potter ride boosted ticket sales for Islands of Adventure, but not necessarily Universal Studios they made the decision to put a Potter themed ride in the Studios as well. There will also be a Hogwart’s Express train travelling between the school and platform 9 3/4. This just might challenge the monorail as the coolest interpark transportation in Florida.

The wait time for Harry Potter was just 10 minutes, but I decided to try the single rider line. It’s fast, but you miss all of the cool theming in the queue as well as appearances by Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, and Ron. I felt a little motion sick after the ride which I don’t remember from the last trip. That wasn’t surprising since this ride does such a good job of immersing you in the action. Amazing ride.

We backtracked a little so that I could ride both sides of the Dragon Challenge Dueling Dragons coaster. Jenne and Cass checked out the shops in the area while I was riding. Since they were still browsing, I decided to add another first to my list: using the bathroom in Hogsmeade! This is a cool experience because there’s an audio track of Moaning Myrtle that plays in the bathroom. It doesn’t play constantly so it would catch people off guard. Make sure you’ve got a TacoCorp Pee Bib handy!

Next up was Jurassic Park. We skipped the Discovery Center since we spent so much time there on our last trip to escape the rain. The only ride that we did this time through the park was 101_0394the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Awesomely themed ride with some great dinosaur animatronics. It’s sad to see Jaws go, but this is kind of a flume version of Jaws so it makes up for it a little bit. After I rode, Jenne and Cass spent some time in the splash zone of the ride cooling off.

Right now, I feel this section is lacking a little bit. I miss the Triceratops Encounter. The animatronics were so complicated that I’m sure that problems with them is what led to the elimination of the attraction. There are rumors of a new Jurassic Park ride coming to the park in the next few years. Universal isn’t messing around. They aren’t on even ground yet, but they are quickly closing the gap between them and Disney.

The next section of the park was Toon Lagoon. We were flying through the park because everything was walk-on at this point. No one really goes to Universal on Monday (the Magic Kingdom is the usually the most popular park by far on Monday) and lots of the people getting there early were still in Hogsmeade. I walked right onto Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls which is a hilarious log flume ride. I was already soaked from the River Adventure, so this was no big deal. River Adventure gets your top wet and this ride focuses on sending big waves of water into your log to soak your bottom to complete the job. I love all of the corny jokes on this ride; they perfectly capture the feel of the cartoon.

101_0400 I decided to skip Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges this time around since it was just going to be me riding. I was already soaked and I feel this kind of ride is best when you’re on there with people that you know and laughing at each other getting soaked.

This was the first time that both Jenne and Cass had seen any of Toon Lagoon so we took some time to walk around the area and check it out. Cass tried walking Marmaduke, but that didn’t go so well. We didn’t do any pictures with the word and thought balloons, maybe next time.

Next stop: Marvel Super Hero Island. Disney has got to loathe the deal that Marvel signed with Universal giving them exclusive rights to their characters east of the Mississippi. While you can look at it as Universal advertising for Disney’s characters, you also have to acknowledge that Universal’s Spider-Man ride is cooler than the majority of the rides currently in the Magic Kingdom. It will be interesting to see what Disney does when they start making Marvel attractions. It looks like the first one will be overseas.

The highlight of this section of the park is definitely The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Even though this ride is almost 15 years old, the technology still seems cutting edge and it’s one of the best rides to be found in Florida. Cassidy didn’t want anything to do with this ride on our last trip which caused Jenne to miss it as well. Cass was a little hesitant at first, but once she saw all of the cartoons playing in the queue, she was ready to go. What I didn’t know was that this ride was refurbished in 2012 to add digital projectors. You can definitely notice the upgrade as this ride is beautiful. This ride is now one of Jenne and Cassidy’s favorite rides as well.


I was by myself for my visit to Doctor Doom’s Fearfall. This ride is short and simple, but I still love it. Tower of Terror is a better experience, but you can’t beat the view from the Fearfall. There wasn’t any wait for this as they needed a single rider right when I got to the point where the line stopped moving. I got out so quickly that I found Jenne and Cass still playing games in the arcade. I helped them finish off the tokens that they had and it was a good thing that I did because we exited the arcade to find Storm and Rogue outside. This is where Disney is really missing out. Even if they didn’t have any attractions, meet and greets with the Marvel characters would be huge (and the costumes would probably be better looking).

We skipped the rest of Super Hero Island. I’m not good on spinning rides and Storm Force Accelatron is like tea cups on steroids. I’ve been on this once and that was enough for me. I also skipped the Incredible Hulk Coaster. The past couple of times that I’ve ridden this, the coaster has given me really bad neck pain so I decided that it wasn’t worth it with a large chunk of the day still to go.

101_0423 Seuss Landing was last up for the day. It started to drizzle right around the time we entered this part of the park, but it wasn’t heavy at all. We did The Cat In The Hat; Caro-Seuss-al; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. This section of the park already has a bunch of fun rides and it rumored to be getting a Lorax ride as well. I love the look and sound of this section of the park. This is right up there with anything that Disney Imagineers have done.

While in line for the Trolley Train Ride, we had our first experience with the new photo system at Universal. They’ve added a bunch of photo experiences around the park and for $60 you get all of those along with your ride photos. That’s not a bad deal since Disney charges $50 just for their ride photos and $150 for PhotoPass. We didn’t sign up for the package at this point because I wanted to see how many photo opportunities there were, but I did get one of the temporary cards. While I was chatting about the photo deal, the sky decided that it was time to open up.


That wasn’t too big of a deal since we weren’t too far from our next destination: lunch at Mythos. While most of the food choices at Universal suck (I think they want you to go eat at Citywalk), this place is awesome. The decor inside is really cool and the food is delicious. We took our time eating since the rain had gotten really heavy and had a great waiter who made it a great experience even with some bumps along the way. I think when all was said and done we ended up with two free desserts because of the kitchen being out of one thing and messing up the waiter’s special request on the other. When the rain let up a little bit, we pulled on our ponchos and made our way over to The Studios.


Based on the layout of the park, we knew that our first ride would most likely be Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. On my first trip to Universal, this was a Hanna Barbera ride. That was changed into a Jimmy Neutron/NickToons ride. This new version of the ride is definitely my favorite. The preshow is funny, the ride is excellent, and there’s a dance party at the end! I pressed some pennies and then had to dash back into the ride when I realized that I left my hat on the ride.

From there, we dashed across the road to Shrek 4-D. This story is considered canon which is always cool. It’s a fun and funny motion simulator. I’d make sure to see it once per trip, but I wouldn’t spend time checking it out more than once.

Playing things by ear brought us to the entrance for Transformers: The Ride – 3D. Even though this ride employs the same technology as Spider-Man, it’s awesome technology and this ride is its own unique experience. Anyway, it’s not like Universal has 5 spinner rides or anything like that. I have steered clear of the Transformers movies completely due to Michael Bay, but after going on this ride, I may have to check them out. One interesting effect of this ride was that Cassidy fell in love with Bumblebee. While this version is not as cool as his 80s counterpart, he’s still the coolest Transformer. I remember how I felt as a kid when it came to Figment, so I encouraged this as much as possible.

We made our way to Men In Black, but we didn’t want to stash our stuff in lockers and then get soaked walking over to the line so we skipped it for now. Instead, we jumped into the line for The Simpsons Ride. I’m a huge fan of The Simpsons and this ride does a great job of capturing the comedy from the TV show. The wait was about 20 minutes, but it kept us out of the rain so it wasn’t too bad. I guess this was the first time that we had a car down on the very end and I hope it’s the last. When you are down on the end, you aren’t as immersed in the experience. I noticed for the first time that you are in what’s essentially a big IMAX theater and all of the cars are there around you. It probably did the same thing when it was Back to the Future, but I never noticed then or on my previous rides since it has been updated to The Simpsons.

Since we were all wet, we decided to leave a little earlier and head back to the hotel before dinner. We got changed and then made our way to the Wilderness Lodge for dinner at Artist Point. This place was awesome. The restaurant was beautiful and nice and quiet. This wasn’t anything like the loud restaurants that you find in the parks. Our waitress talked us into trading one of our desserts for the artisanal cheese selection, but that turned out to be a mistake. We only really ended up liking one of the cheese, but it’s always fun to try something new. I had the seared diver scallops which I wasn’t thrilled with and ended up wishing that I had tried something different. This just gives us a reason to head back there on our next trip.

A very cool thing happened while we were waiting for our table. Cassidy was doing some pin trading and was looking at the pin cart there. She asked me if she could buy the “World’s Best Mom” pin as a surprise, which I quickly agreed to. She grabbed the “World’s Best Dad” pin and got that one too for good measure. She also constantly thanked us during the whole trip for bringing her to Disney. She’s so amazing.

We looked around the resort a little bit and browsed in the gift shop. We got Cassidy another charm for her necklace and called it a night.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 7 – Hollywood Studios

People like to complain on Disney message boards about Animal Kingdom only being a half day park, but I can’t recall a time where I’ve left that park before closing. Hollywood Studios is a park from which I’ve left early on evenings where there wasn’t a showing of Fantasmic! This is the one park where you should have plenty of time to revisit your favorite rides if you’re spending the whole day there.

We got to Hollywood Studios pretty early which was good because there was a Monsters University topiary out in front of the park complete with PhotoPass photographer. We stopped to get some pictures there and still had plenty of time before the park opening. Even though we had a FastPass for Toy Story Midway Mania! at 10 AM, we decided that we were going to hop in that line first while the wait time was relatively short. I think we waited 30-40 minutes, but it seemed to pass pretty quickly. This trip through, Jenne had the high score from our bunch. Cassidy has yet to master the intricacies of the launcher and you’ll hear, “Please allow the cord to go all the way back in” for half of the ride. While I do love this ride, I couldn’t see waiting more than an hour for it. This is the ride that I’m most interested in seeing what happens once FastPass+ goes live. There won’t be any relief until Disney adds a Cars Land and/or Star Wars Land, but that’s a long way off.

With our first ride on Midway Mania completed, we made our way up Sunset Boulevard so that I could hop on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. No one ever uses the full names, but I think that Hollywood Studios easily takes the cake for longest ride names. I’ve always been a fan of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, but it has been even better on the last two trips when I’ve been wearing contact lenses. I can actually see everything inside of the ride. I was a bit bummed out because they didn’t have the cast member go into the studio and grab the guitar, but that doesn’t happen often during the “slow” season. That’s minor though. I got right into the inside line courtesy of the single rider line and was done in no time at all. From there, we made our way over to Tower of Terror where the listed time was 30 minutes. I don’t think the actual wait time was anything close to that, but I could be wrong.

I checked out of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and we made our way back to Pixar Place to use our Midway Mania FastPasses. This time though, I had the high score and I think my highest score ever on the ride. The wait time to meet Buzz and Woody was ridiculous so we decided to skip that for now. We made our way towards the back of the park and saw that Mike Wazowski was out for pictures. We hopped in line and once we had been in line for a minute, James P. Sullivan came out and joined the fun. This area has been completely redone for Monsters University and feels a little more complete than the previous picture area.

101_0369 After a brief stroll through the Streets of America, we came upon the Phineas and Ferb meet and greet area. It looks cool, but you can tell that the whole thing could be taken down in a couple of hours. Even though this is their most popular TV property, possibly ever, the company is still unwilling to put a Phineas and Ferb attraction in the park. It’s kind of disappointing. I’d rather have one P&F ride than a whole Avatar Land.

The interaction here was awesome though. The cast member running the line was singing along with all of the songs from the show and he and Phineas banged out the beginning of “Ready For the Bettys.” When it was our turn, we got to spend a good amount of time with the characters. One of the cast members noticed that I had Ferb on my MagicBand, but there was no Phineas to be seen. That sent Phineas off to wallow against the fence while Ferb celebrated with me. The only bad part of this experience was that “There’s a Platypus Controlling Me” didn’t come on the fake radio station.

We didn’t have to go far for our next destination as the Cars meet and greet is right around the corner. There was one person in front of us and before long we were saying goodbye to Lightning and Mater and were off again. Since we were right there, our next attraction had to be MuppetVision 3D. I was very excited to see this show because it had just come out of refurbishment and I was expecting it to look like new, but I didn’t notice anything different. Then again, it’s been three years since I had last seen the show so it could have been in bad shape before the closure. We got to see the whole pre-show which is great. It gave us plenty of time to check out the net full of jello and the rest of the great decorations in the room. They did such a great job on this attraction; I always get bummed out that the proposed Muppet Studios never came it be.

It was now time for our next FastPass (12 PM – 1 PM). so we made our way over to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. I probably haven’t been on this since 2006 since it was closed on our last visit and I don’t think we went on it when we had a 2-year-old Cassidy with us. The new version of this ride is phenomenal. There’s somewhere around 54 different versions of the ride film that you can get, so there’s a reason to visit this ride again and again. There’s also an added fun aspect of one of the people on the ride showing up as the Rebel Spy stashed away on your spaceship. It’s still pretty much the same simulator ride and even feels a little smoother than I remember. I’ve always liked this ride, but the new version is leaps and bounds better than the original.

At this point we were all getting hungry so we decided to grab some lunch. We’ve always had good luck with the ABC Commissary and decided to eat there again since it was close and would likely have something that all of us would enjoy. We ate, rested, recharged, and watched a bunch of previews for last season’s ABC shows. Nothing fancy, but we had plenty of fancy booked through the rest of the trip.


Our next stop was the The Magic of Disney Animation. How this attraction has been gutted kills me inside. I’m pretty sure that on one trip I saw the animators working on Lilo & Stitch. Now, there’s no more pen and ink animation done by Disney and the Orlando studio had been closed even before that terrible decision was made. After watching the short film with Mushu (I preferred the one with Robin Williams myself), we made our way into the main building and got in line for the drawing class. He can use a little more work and would look better once inked, but I surprised myself with how good my Mike Wazowski ended up looking for a quick drawing. Cass didn’t win the teacher’s drawing (in spite of me giving her the answer: What is Boo’s real name?), so I gave her my drawing to cheer her up.

101_0372 From there, we made our way to Game Central Station so that we could visit the Sugar Rush game where we would meet Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz. I loved this movie. I probably would have loved it just because of the video game theme, which Disney did a great job with, but they also put together an amazing cast. Jack McBrayer (Wreck-It Ralph, Wonder Over Yonder, Phineas & Ferb, Despicable Me) is quickly becoming one of my favorite voice actors and then you’ve also got John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. This was the only meet and greet that we did since the lines for Sorcerer Mickey and The Incredibles were very long. I’ve met Mickey lots of times and we did The Incredibles on the past two trips.

We left Animation to a light drizzle. As we started walking, the rain started getting harder and then the thunder and lightning began. Our original plan was to check out Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, but a ton of people had the same idea and this attraction had a line quickly. I like to take my time to check out the exhibits before the movie and a crowd in there would annoy the crap out of me, so we passed. Since we were still on the lookout for new experiences, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow caught our attention. Jenne is a huge fan of the Pirates films and the attraction had a huge, covered queue area, so we hopped in line. The line moved quickly, but that didn’t matter since the current downpour made staying dry the priority. I’m glad we hopped into this line though. This seems like an attraction that most people would end up skipping (I skipped this ever time it was just a collection of movie memorabilia), but they’d end up missing a cool attraction. Disney employs technology very similar to what Universal uses on the Harry Potter ride to make it look like Jack Sparrow is right in the room with you fighting evil pirates. There were some cool special effects and humor that added up to a fun experience. It’s a nice little addition to the park.

This was the perfect place to wait out the storm and when we exited the attraction; things had slowed down to a drizzle once again. We walked past the gutted and neutered Studio Backlot Tour. Catastrophe Canyon is cool, but it’s not worth spending 35 minutes on the rest of the boring tour just for that. I miss the old 2 hour long tour that showed you active soundstages and actually had something to do with the creation of movies and TV shows. That time has passed for the park and this ride needs to be one of the first things to go so that space can be made for Cars Land.

There were new pressed pennies to be had at the gift shop near the exit to the Backlot Tour, so we hung out there for a little while. This little shop used to be so cool back when I was a kid and it was full of Roger Rabbit stuff. They got rid of most of it to make space to sell more merchandise and now it’s just another generic shop. At least I’ve got my awesome picture from when I was a kid of myself sitting in Benny the Cab with Roger along for the ride. The photoshopped pictures that they do now just aren’t as cool and they aren’t even that popular any more.

We came across a random cast member with hula hoops, so we stopped and wiggled our hips for a little while. It was well worth it as I walked away with a Woody sticker. From there, it was time to ride Star Tours again. The wait time was listed as 10 minutes, but we walked right on. This trip was even better than the first. We had to flee from Darth Vader to star our journey and Cassidy was revealed as the Rebel Spy. The only unfortunate thing was the picture that they took while she was itching her nose made it look like she was knuckle deep. (It wasn’t a pick, it was a scratch!) After the ride, this led to me taunting Cass with “Gold!” as a walked down the hallway in my best prospector imitation.

After purchasing the “I Am the Rebel Spy” shirt for Cassidy, we were greeted by another downpour. We got out our ponchos and made our way through the rain. We stopped at the nearby bathrooms and the rain promptly stopped. Away go the ponchos again. It was now pin shopping time under the giant Sorcerer Hat. On some trips, I’ve had problems not buying every pin in sight, but on this trip there weren’t as many pins of the characters that I like (that I didn’t have at least). We checked out the hand and foot prints in the concrete and then hopped on The Great Movie Ride. We had the gangster version of the ride which I like better. While I like this ride a lot, I can’t help but to wonder what the proposed Great Muppet Movie Ride would have looked like.

There was still more time before dinner, so we made our way back to Sunset Boulevard because we had to spend some time browsing in the Villains shop. I also took second trips on both Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Had a great cast member in the Tower. “But you’ll want to sit in the front row, that way you’ll have a shorter distance to fall.” “Don’t worry, I’ve only lost 5 people today. That’s pretty good.” The best reaction was on my first ride. The cast member leading us into the library said, “We’re sorry, but your rooms aren’t ready yet. Please wait here in the library and when it’s time, we’ll lead you to your dooms… rooms.” Little kid: “What did he say?”

101_0379 At this point, it was getting close to our 6:25 dinner reservation at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, another place that I hadn’t eaten at before, so we trekked back across the park again. We got there a little early, but were told that they were running 15-20 minutes late. This didn’t bode well for our Fantasmic! FastPasses, so we started to stress out a little bit. Luckily, we were called just 5 minutes after our reservation time and our waitress was awesome about taking our order right away and getting things out as quickly as possible. She earned herself a huge tip. I had the Chicken Campanelle which was good, but not great. We took our Tiramisu to go and booked it over to the theater for Fantasmic! We got there just before our FastPass time of 7:45 ended, but we were still able to get great seats. The FastPass section is right in the middle of the theater which is awesome. There was a long wait to grab a couple of snacks, but I got back to my seat right as the show was starting.

I love Fantasmic! and was bummed that we didn’t get to see it on our last show. That being said, they either need to invest some money into improving this show or they need to replace it with something else. There was no big steamship at the end of the show which bummed me out. I’d much rather see the show improved and invested in, but Disney doesn’t seem to like it. After getting rid of it almost completely for the ridiculous American Idol attraction (which they have to beg people to go to now, trust me, we saw it) to stripping bits of the show here and there. It’s sad how much of this park has been stripped away through the years.

After the show, we did our usual browsing on the way out of the park and got some PhotoPass pictures taken. From there, we called it a night and got ready to visit the competition.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 6 - SeaWorld


Since we got home so late from the Magic Kingdom the previous night, we slept in and got a later start at SeaWorld. It definitely was the right decision even if it meant that we missed out on some of the attractions. We kept things relaxed all day and moved at a slow pace. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wasn’t feeling that well to start the day and remembered getting heat stroke the last time that I was at SeaWorld.

The first thing that I noticed was that SeaWorld put in a lot of trees when they built the Manta coaster. This was a welcome change from the last time I was at the park (approximately 10 years ago) when it seemed like there was no shade to be found. The other thing that I noticed was that SeaWorld has a ton of pressed penny machines. They’re all over the place, but not many of the designs are memorable. I got a couple of dolphins and penguins as well as pennies of the rides that I liked, but I passed up most of the pennies that were available.

101_0302 We started our day at Stingray Lagoon feeding and petting the rays. After a timid start, Cass was soon petting the rays along with Jenne and I. She had passed up the opportunity a few times previously at other locations. The line was already long for the next dolphin feeding opportunity, so we kept going into the park. We checked out the dolphins underwater for a little while before making our way to the Dolphin Theater right before the show started. It’s a cool show that combines aerial acrobatics and diving with dolphins doing tricks.

SeaWorld can be a pain in the ass to experience. You have to keep an eye on all of the different show times and then fit everything else in between those times. It’s not exactly my idea of fun. It’s one thing to pick a time for a FastPass+ and dining reservations, but scheduling my day around a bunch of arbitrary show times is no fun at all. Part of it was that I really didn’t do any research at all on SeaWorld. It was kind of an afterthought compared to everything else. We had a great day, but with more knowledge it could have been better.


TurtleTrek was our next destination. Having seen this once, I would probably skip this on the next trip. It’s a 3-D movie in a dome showing you the experience of a turtle from birth to adulthood. For what it is, it’s really not worth the wait and the waits can get long at SeaWorld because there really aren’t a lot of attractions to occupy the people in the park. Outside of the ride, you can see turtles, manatees, and alligators. They shouldn’t be missed, but the ride is something you can skip.

From there, it was my turn to check out Journey to Atlantis while Jenne and Cass checked out the Jewels of the Sea Aquarium. Thanks to the single rider line, I was on and off of the ride in no time. This is a fun flume ride with a little bit of a coaster added to the end, but the themeing is terrible. If I understand it correctly, a seahorse guides you to the lost city of Atlantis. This same seahorse squirts water in the wrong place and pisses a lady off who exiles you from Atlantis. Lame. Fun ride, but just keep your eyes closed for the beginning of it.

It was now time for lunch so we walked over to the Terrace Garden Buffet for pizza, pasta and salad. The food was ok. The quantity made up for a lack of quality. Since it was a buffet, we were in and out quickly and able to continue our day. We checked out the sharks and walked through the awesome underwater tunnel at Shark Encounter. We then made our way to the Seaport Theater for the animal show. This show was funny and entertaining. It was a nice rest in air conditioning as well. From there, I got in line for the next dolphin feeding while Jenne and Cass visited with the rays again.

Although I’ve done it before, feeding the dolphins was very cool. This was a better experience than it had been in the past where food was always for sale and there were a ton of people 101_0327around Dolphin Cove. Now they have a separate area for the feeding, it’s not crowded, and they direct you on how the dolphins have been trained to be fed. You put your hand on the bottom of their head and then put the fish in their mouth. They don’t give you a lot of time because they want to bring in the next group of people at $7 a head, but it’s enough time to snap a few pictures and hang out with the dolphins. The only disappointment was that the SeaWorld photographers didn’t get any pictures of Jenne or Cass feeding the dolphins. They’ve got a great perspective from across the water and take some pictures that usually come out really well. They got some nice pictures of me and we ended up buying one with a couple of the pictures that they took of us upon entering the park.

Cassidy had her heart set on seeing the Shamu show while the prospect of watching a killer whale swim around for a half hour didn’t interest me at all. Since Cass was freaking out about going on Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, we decided that I would go and wait in line for the ride while Jenne and Cass went to watch Shamu. The wait time was listed at 40 minutes, but that wasn’t accurate. I think it was around 20 minutes before I got on the ride. Unfortunately, on the way to the Shamu Show, Cass started feeling badly and decided that she wanted to go on the ride after all. At this point it was too late, but Jenne had a hard time getting her to the show.

The Antarctica ride has a really cool ride system that is kind of wasted. I don’t know if it is due to space limitations, but the ride is really short. Very cool, but very short. The ride vehicle is 101_0347round with two rows with four seats each. There’s no track, instead the vehicles are programmed on their course around the ride. You spin and slide around a pretty looking room and then go past a couple of screens where your ride vehicle becomes a motion simulator moving in time with the action similar to Star Tours. The best part is the end where you find your way back to the rest of the penguins and your ride vehicle turns around to reveal the awesome penguin habitat. The habitat is 0ยบ and wide open, so you’re going to be cold. It’s amazing how close you are to the penguins. Even if you don’t like the ride (and there is a mild version for those who don’t want the bumps), it’s well worth it just to go and see the penguins.

Since I got through the line a lot quicker than anticipated, I started to make my way over towards Shamu Stadium. I thought that I might get there in time for the show to start, but I didn’t get through the ride that quickly and had spent some time in the gift shop looking around. SeaWorld may have a ton of pressed penny machines, but they don’t have a lot of pins; not pins that interested me anyway. Oh well, we spent enough money on food to feed the animals there.

On the way to meet the rest of the family, I contemplated going on the Manta lay-down coaster since there was just a 5-minute wait, but my neck had been bothering me all day and I was already a little nauseated and decided to skip it. I didn’t realize that there was a manta aquarium there to look at until spotting it on the map after the fact. Oh well, we know that there would be things that we would miss due to the late start and since we had already spent a good chunk of time petting rays, just looking at them swimming around probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal.


I stopped along the way and spent some time at the Dolphin Nursery. You don’t get to stand that close to the water which limits your visibility of the dolphins. It’s done to protect the baby dolphins, but maybe they should move the viewing area back a little further and then elevate it a little bit so that you are looking down into the water. No one really wants an exhibit that you can’t really see.

At this point, the Shamu Show was about to end, so I just waited outside for Jenne and Cass to come out and meet me. Cass loved the show and seemed to be in better spirits so that was good. We made our way out of the park after a little shopping and a quick purchase of some pictures from our day at the park. They’ve got a great deal at SeaWorld for 3 pictures with frames for either $30 or $35 (I forget) which we couldn’t pass up for the shots that they got.

101_0561 This was far from the end of our day though. Jenne’s sister, Patrice, had decided to stay an extra day in Florida since we’d have some time after SeaWorld to hang out with her. Our plan was to have dinner somewhere at Downtown Disney, but it was ridiculously crowded once again and so after checking out a couple of shops, we made our way back to Pop Century with Patrice and made the trek across the bridge to Art of Animation for dinner and to check out the resort. Before I get to that, I’ve got to share a picture of the awesome Sorcerer Mickey statue that I got in the Arribas Bros. store. I could easily spend thousands of dollars in that store, and that’s just on Sorcerer Mickey merchandise! I’ll post all of our cool stuff after I’m done with the trip, but this statue was too cool to save until the end.

The Art of Animation resort is awesome and I think it would be the perfect place to stay on a trip with grandma since they have family suites. The choices at the food court for dinner were much better than those at Pop. I ended up going for a cheeseburger with bacon and popcorn shrimp on it which was delicious. I had a delicious dessert as well, but I don’t remember exactly what it was at the moment. I’ll have to see if I can find it on my receipt. It’s not on any of the food review blogs that I see.

Once our meal was done, we browsed around the resort gift shop. Even their shop was cooler than ours. There was a bunch of resort specific merchandise while there was none to be found at Pop. They also seemed to have cooler items at AoA instead of the junky items at Pop. Jenne found an awesome white 2013 sweatshirt that we hadn’t seen anywhere else that I told her had to come home with her. We looked around the resort a little bit more and then sadly made our way back across the bridge to our room at Pop Century. Cass and I got ready for bed and called it a night while Jenne took Patrice back to her car at Downtown Disney.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 5 – Magic Kingdom (Part 2)

Now that we had our party wristbands and had found Patrice, we were ready to get started on the second half of our day. Our first stop was the Fire House on Main Street so that we could pick up our special Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom Halloween card. With Haunted Mansion cards acquired, we grabbed our costumes from our lockers and got changed for the party. Cassidy was Merida, Jenne was Mabel Pines, and I was Dipper Pines. Patrice was already in her Esmeralda costume so we were all set for some Halloween fun.

Our main plan was to take advantage of the shorter wait times during the party to power through the rides that we hadn’t gotten to earlier in the day. While the parade and fireworks are both very cool during the party, we’ve seen both before and sitting around for those things just feels like a waste of money to me. Last trip, we spent the majority of the party sitting in Main Street eating our dinner, staking out a spot, and watching both the parade and fireworks. After that, we had time for a visit to the Princesses and that was about it. This time around was going to be different.

We had a little bit of time before our 7:10 dinner reservation at the Liberty Tree Tavern so we made our way to Adventureland where we hopped onto The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. When our carpets landed, we made our way to Frontierland so that I could purchase some of the special MNSSHP merchandise. I’m sure they had stuff last time we were here, but I knew nothing about it. This year, I picked up the special event pin and one of the blind boxes of Disney characters dressed up as characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas for Jenne. The items went on sale at 7 so it was cutting it close to our reservation, but since it was just a couple of buildings away, we didn’t have a problem. We once again arrived for our reservation right on time.

The Liberty Tree Tavern serves a meal that is very close to Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s family style and all you can eat salad, roasted turkey breast, carved beef, pork brisket, mashed potatoes, veggies, stuffing, and mac and cheese. This was a ton of great food. I think I finally found a table service restaurant that I like in the Magic Kingdom. The service seemed a lot slower than it should have been for a meal where everyone is getting the exact same thing, but it wasn’t bad and gave us time to rest up for the remainder of our night. We finished eating while the first Boo To You Parade was going on, but we were able to get from the restaurant to the bathrooms at the shortcut to Adventureland without any problems.


I led us over towards the back of Frontierland because I figured that it would be smooth sailing to get on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There wouldn’t be a line, but getting across the bridge to that area proved to be a pain again. This time it was due to an awesome photo opportunity. The full moon was perfectly framed between the spires of Cinderella Castle. After trying a bunch of different settings on my camera, I was finally able to get a decent picture. It’ll look even better once I get a chance to crop it.

Big Thunder Mountain is a good ride, but it’s better at night than it is during the day. If you haven’t ever checked it out at night, give it a chance. This ride and Splash Mountain both become something special if you ride them during the fireworks. Haven’t done that yet? Give it a go on your next trip.


The parade had finished by the time we started making our way through Liberty Square to Fantasyland. Most of these wait times were still ridiculous so we skipped most of the dark rides there. Mickey’s PhilharMagic is one of my favorites and Cassidy wanted to make sure that her Aunt Patrice saw it so we walked right on and waited for the next show. This ride just simply celebrates Disney Magic. You’ve got Disney classics Mickey and Donald combined with some of the great Disney music from the 90’s. This is always on my must-do list. Upon exiting, Cass made sure to show Patrice where Donald landed after getting launched out of the tuba at the end of the show.

We exited the gift shop just as HalloWishes was starting. At this point, a lot of the attractions in Fantasyland were closed due to the fireworks so we made our way back to New Fantasyland. Cass had been eager to see the new Enchanted Tales with Belle all day, but when we checked earlier we saw wait times of 40, 30, and 40 minutes which seemed too long to wait. The wait time was now 20 minutes so we jumped into line. While we were waiting for the show, we found out that Maurice’s cottage is a great place to watch the fireworks. The main fireworks are right in front of you, the rooftop fireworks are behind you, and the perimeter fireworks are all around you. Somewhere towards the back of New Fantasyland might be an even better spot to watch from.


I’m not going to discuss this attraction. I went in knowing nothing about it and I think you should as well. I’ll just say that this attraction, more than anything I’ve seen at Disney as an adult, reminded me of the magic that I felt going to Disney as a kid. All of the thrill rides that Disney has added are cool, but it’s the attractions such as this one that separate Disney from all of the other theme parks out there. Universal matches and at times exceeds Disney when it comes to themed thrill rides, but they don’t have much when it comes to these sort of attractions. The closest was Poseidon's Fury back when it was new.

If you go to Disney with little ones, you have to check out this attraction. You still want to see it if there aren’t kids with you, but if you there are then this will definitely be one of the highlights on their trip. I know it was for Cassidy.

Now it was time for some Trick or Treating! Instead of going from candy location to candy location, we decided to save time and just do the Trick or Treat trail leading from Tomorrowland back to Fantasyland. No line for Buzz Lightyear meant it was time to ride that again and this time we had our ride photos added to our PhotoPass+. It took a while because the two people working there were tied up for a long time and the guy restocking the shop didn’t seem to care that a long line was forming.

The long wait almost cost us, but we just made it in time for the last Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor show of the evening. We didn’t get a chance to submit a joke (last trip one of our jokes was used), but I was Randall in the show. I’ve seen the show so many times that I know how to disappear so I didn’t get the usual mocking that people get when they can’t figure it out. I’d have to say that this was the funniest Laugh Floor show that I’ve seen.

On the way out of the park, we hopped into like to see Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Midnight arrived and the line was still long and we were all fading quickly. Everyone was willing to stay so that Jenne could do the meet and greet, but with a wait of possibly another hour to go, we all decided it was time to call it a night.