Monday, October 27, 2008

Our Disney World Vacation--Day 1, Part 2

The evening part of our plans got off a little shaky this day. This was the only day that I planned our sit-down meal for the evening instead of at lunch. Usually, you'll see recommendations that people with the Dining Plan eat their sit down meals at supper because the menus are more expensive (and have fancier food) at supper time but they use the same amount of credits. We didn't follow that advice for two reasons: 1) We got the Dining Plan for free, so we didn't care about breaking even, and 2) We have young children, and we didn't know how long they'd nap each day. We never knew when it would be a good time to get going in the evenings. Lunch was a better time for a meal where we had a reservation and had to be at a certain place at a certain time.

Our reservation was at the Garden Grill at Epcot at 5:30. It's a neat rotating restaurant inside The Land pavillion where you over look the Living with the Land ride. It's a character meal. Mickey and some of the other classic Disney characters come around to all of the tables. The meal is family-style, meaning it's a set menu that they bring out on big platters for you to share, rather than a restaurant where you order off a menu.

Anyway, we got to the bus stop at 4:15. Disney recommends that you allow an hour when you use their transportation, and they recommend getting to restaurants 10-15 minutes before your reservation time, so we were technically cutting it close. We've never had it actually take an hour, though, so we weren't worried. Not at first, anyway. It took a while for our bus to come. Multiple buses came for Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, but none for Epcot. The buses are supposed to come at least every 20 minutes, so after 20 minutes had gone past, Chris asked a Magic Kingdom bus driver to help us, but he wasn't interested in using his radio to get us a bus. He just said, "I'm not on the Epcot circuit." Gee, thanks.

Finally, a bus showed up at 4:40. We drove around for quite a while, but when the bus stopped again, we were at the Fort Wilderness bus stop to pick up people there. I don't know how it took so long to get to Fort Wilderness. The resorts are right next to each other, and you can walk to Fort Wilderness in 5 minutes. This bus driver managed to stretch it out to about 10 minutes while driving. We picked up the people there and coninued on our journey. We got to Epcot at 5:00.

I don't really understand why, but the resort bus stops at Epcot are a really long distance from the entrance. It's seriously at least 1/4 mile. My plan was originally to get a FastPass for Test Track when we got to Epcot, but there wasn't time. We proceeded directly to the Land pavillion. I thought we'd get a FastPass for Soarin' before we reported to the restaurant, since it's in the same pavillion, but the FastPass machines were down when we got there.

(If you don't know what FastPass is, it's a free service where you can put your ticket into a machine, and it spits out a piece of paper saying when you can come back to the ride. When you come back, you get in the FastPass line, which is usually a walk-on, so you don't wait in line. Unlike the ride skipping privilages at most theme parks, it's free to everyone at Disney World.)

We checked in at the restaurant, and within 3 minutes, our beeper was going off. We had a fantastic chef at the Garden Grill. Because of our food allergies, a chef came and talked to us at each of the full service restaurants. This one was very thorough, and I didn't worry about our food at all with her. My meal wasn't all that great, though. At a regular restaurant with menus, the chefs will cook things specifically for you if you have allergies, but at buffets and family style restaurants, they don't do that if there are some foods that are safe for you already. I had to have just oil and vinegar on my salad instead of ranch, I couldn't have the bread, the catfish wasn't safe, and I had plain rice instead of the yummy mashed potato-cheese casserole that everyone else had, but it was fine. She had a special nut-free brownie for Tigger, so that earned bonus points with me. I couldn't eat the regular desert, either, but she brought me a yummy fruit cup. She also brought out applesauce for Baby Roo.

Here are some of the pictures we took with the characters at the restaurant.
Tigger and Piglet with Chip or Dale. (Which is which?)
The other chipmonk with Baby Roo.
Tigger and Piglet showing off the Mickey Mouse shirts I made for them.
Baby Roo up close.
Tigger and Piglet with Mickey.
My hair with Mickey. (We didn't do a good job getting pictures of ourselves.)

Once supper was completed, the FastPass machines were up for Soarin', so we got those, then we rode Living with the Land. It's a kind of boring boat ride where they show you how they use high tech methods to grow fruits and vegetables. It's okay for adults, but we didn't think the kids would get much out of it--we just wanted to show them the ride we'd been looking at while we ate. They loved it, though. They wanted to ride it again later.

Next we went to Spaceship Earth. That's the ride that's inside that big ball that you think of when you think of Epcot. It's a fun ride where they show you the history of communication by using scenes with very lifelike audioanimatronics (what Disney calls their robots). If you haven't ridden this ride in a few years, they've done some cool updates. At the beginning, they tell you to make sure your faces show up in a certain screen, then they take your picture. At the end of the ride, they show you what your life may be like in the future on a screen inside your ride vehicle, and they paste the picture of your face they took at the beginning onto some generic people shapes. I had Piglet in the ride car with me, and Baby Roo was in a front pack on me. It's how he's riding on me in this picture. Anyway, at the end of the ride, they used Piglet's face on one of the people, and they used Baby Roo's face on the other. It was funny because he had been sucking his thumb when they took the picture. So the story was about how people would drive, what they'd do at work, and other adult things, and we had a picture of Piglet's sweet 5-year-old face and Baby Roo sucking his thumb.

By this time, our FastPasses for Soarin' were ready, so Chris rode that with the big boys. Roo isn't tall enough. They have something called Baby Swap that makes it easy for all of the adults to ride when one person is too short, and we used that on the ride the next day, so I'll describe that later. I didn't ride it this night because it takes a long time to load the ride, even with FastPass, and we didn't want to wait around.

Next we went to The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavillion. We rode the Nemo ride first, which is really pretty lame but worth doing if you have little ones and there's no line. We did the Turtle Talk with Crush attraction next, and that's really interesting. It's like a movie with Crush, the turtle from Finding Nemo, as the star, but he interacts with the audience. He actually says things to people and reacts to their responses. It's amazing to think about how they do it.

The kids sit up in front on the floor so they can ask questions. When they asked for volunteers, Tigger shot his hand up. I could tell that he didn't even listen to the part where they said it was to ask Crush a question--he just heard that they wanted someone, and he volunteered. Crush did call on him. He said that he'd take a question from the guy with the spikey hair. So then Tigger was on the spot and didn't know what to do. He said, "Um, ah....Play with toys?" Crush was really good about it and just went with it. This turtle on the movie screen swam off to the edge and came back holding a Buzz Lightyear toy. He said that they'd found it in the ocean the other day and was wondering if the kids could help him figure it out what it was. They all yelled the answer out.

When Crush was over, we looked at the aquariums in the pavillion for a few minutes, and then we got going for the night. I know that Illuminations, the nighttime fireworks show at Epcot, is really popular, but we decided not to do it. It doesn't start until 9:00, so it's over around 9:15, and then there's a crazy mob of people making their way from the back of the park up to the entrance and then long lines at the buses. Plus, it's hard for kids to see the big ball that floats around in the lagoon, and I've heard that the ball is really in need of a refurb right now, so there are black spots in it. It's a great show for adults and people with older kids, but there were too many negatives for us. We got on the bus right around the time Illuminations was starting and were back at the Wilderness Lodge around 9:10. The kids had a quick bath and then were in bed at a decent time.

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