NOTE: The events in this post and the following series all took place pre-COVID. Many of the rules and planning for a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW)have changed since my last trip. Be sure to do your own research as things change frequently right now at WDW and any destination in general.
After spending so much time in the other parks we had almost forgotten how crowded and popular the Magic Kingdom is. Our first reminder was catching the bus this particular morning. The line for the Magic Kingdom bus was easily twice as long as any other queue. Fortunately, buses for the Magic Kingdom also come more often than the others do because we didn’t make the first or second bus if I recall correctly. We had seen the lines on other days though, so we were prepared for this possibility and waited patiently.
One of the benefits of staying on property is that you have ready access to the extensive Walt Disney World transportation system. However, one of the drawbacks of what is essentially free public transit is that it is very crowded. Standing up on a full bus for 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, may not sound too bad to the seasoned commuter in the morning. But at night when your feet ache and your back is feeling the pain of standing all day…well, that’s another story. However for the impatient among us there is always the option of a Minnie Van or Uber or even bringing your own car with you (beware parking fees).
Traffic to the Magic Kingdom was a little backed up so it did seem that we were in for a crowded day. But we had a fast pass for Dumbo and by golly we were using it! Our next Fast Pass was for the Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh which is an enjoyable dark ride though I miss Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride which it replaced (there is still a version of Mr. Toad in Disneyland).
After Pooh we decided that since we were in Fantasyland we might as well continue our character quest and find as many characters as we could. We joined the line to meet Donald Duck and Goofy in the “sideshow” tent. As we drew closer to the famed duo I must have been spending more time on my phone than paying attention as Donald snuck up behind me to give me a quick “scare” to the delight and amusement of everyone else in line (I only jumped a little). We were off to a great start on our character hunt and I think this was our single biggest day meeting the Disney stars. At some point during the day we also sat under the sea with Ariel, traded workout tips with Gaston, and had some playful banter, in mime of course, with Stitch!
Columbia Harbor House
We had lunch at the Columbia Harbor House along with just about everyone else in Liberty Square! Even the upstairs seating was at a premium, but we finally found a seat at a round top which sat six and decided that we would be happy to share if anyone else needed a space. It was near a window and had a nice view of the midway below and the Haunted Mansion. A nice air-conditioned oasis to enjoy our counter service meal of the day.
Now I have an acquaintance in the dining service industry who loves the Lobster Roll here and it seems to be a favorite with other various blogs and food critics. So it may be my grumpiness coming out, but I had the Lobster Roll on a previous trip and I think the secret ingredient is mayonnaise. Lots and lots of it. However, I’m not a huge seafood fan so my review is suspect. I will mention that Bob gave it a try though and came to a similar conclusion. This trip I stuck with my old stand-by when it comes to seafood – fry it up! I got the Trio Platter which is essentially all your favorites (fried shrimp, chicken nuggets and battered fish) deep-fried to golden okay-ness. It was served with hushpuppies and French fries. If you prefer something lighter you can swap out the fries for green beans and carrots but at this point why kid yourself? You’re eating the fries. To be fair, Columbia Harbor House does have an extensive allergy sensitive menu and some healthier options. Check the full menu out for yourself.
Despite the crowds we got in several attractions as well including: Mickey’s Philharmagic, which is still one of my favorites, Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, spoiler: if you’ve seen the movie you’ve seen the attraction but I’m betting you may have a little princess who will insist on riding, and, of course, It’s a Small World.
The Pan Incident: In Which I Exhibit Poor Judgement and Choose Poorly
It was after exiting It’s a Small World that I made the most memorable mistake of the entire trip. One that would cost us two hours of our lives that we’ll never get back. After making a quick pit-stop at the Tangled Rest Area, which has some of the best toilets in the entire resort IMHO (see my blog entry on where to go in Disney World for more info), I noticed that the line for Peter Pan’s Flight seemed unusually short. As in there wasn’t one. And the sign outside said, and I’m not making this up, “Stand by Time 10 Minutes!”
“Bob, we should get into the line for Peter Pan’s Flight now. Look it’s super short!” I said.
“But we have fast passes for it tomorrow,” he replied, “and there’s no way it’s only a 10 minute wait.”
“10 minutes Bob – even if the sign is wrong it’s still got to be shorter than any line we’ll find later for it even with our Fast Passes,” I explained in my oh-so-wise I’ve been here a hundred times and know what I’m talking about voice.
“Well, I don’t know,” Bob paused for a moment, “okay, what the heck. All the other signs have been pretty accurate.”
So, like lemmings to the cliff, we got in what promised to be an amazingly short line for a unique “legacy” ride that opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been on this ride since 1975 and somewhere between then and now the ride queue had been updated so that most of it was hidden behind the wall of the attraction. Based on the twists and turns and the length of the queue it may even now extend into the utilidor which runs beneath the Magic Kingdom. The Imagineers have done a nice job of theming the queue so it’s as if you are entering into the Darling family’s garden, complete with street noise over the wall, and then through their 100 room (or so it seemed) house including the children’s room. Here, where we made our base camp and prepared to stay a day or two, Tinkerbell flits around playing tricks and moving items – Peter Pan’s shadow even makes an appearance. It was all, I’m sure, delightful if you were walking through at a reasonable pace and was enough to keep anyone amused for a short time.
But, it became quickly apparent that our 10 minute wait would be a little longer than advertised as the line inched forward. Ten minutes became 2o minutes, then 30 minutes…then people started going by us back towards the exit.
“Do you think the ride’s down?” Bob asked.
“I don’t know, I haven’t heard any announcement and we are moving…slowly” I replied. While in the back of my head I recalled a previous trip when my sister and I were in line for Toy Story Mania and they kept announcing that some of Andy’s friends had come over to play so there would be a delay. Never actually letting us know that the line behind us was closed…but that’s a tale for another blog.
Thirty minutes became 40…50…and hour.
“Maybe we should get out of line. Any idea how far it is to the loading platform?” Bob asked.
“No…this is different than I remember. But we’ve waited this long” and at this point my inherent stubbornness had kicked in and overrode my common sense and weariness. We had come this far and, dagnabbit, we were getting on that flying boat and we were going to have a magical time!
We were in that line for two hours. Let me repeat: two hours. For a dark ride that recreates the events of a movie we’ve already seen. Rumors were running rampent among the guests in the queue. Whispers that someone had vomited in one of the boats. Murmurs that someone fell out and they had stop the ride to clean up the mess. Tales that the world had ended and we were all stuck in some sort of Imagineering purgatory for all eternity.
I started to doubt our purpose. Granted the ride vehicle is unique as the boat does “fly.” Granted that it’s a “legacy” ride. Granted that every true Disney buff should experience it at least once. We may never get another chance to do this again. But, two hours! And there wasn’t a coaster at the end? Who had I become? Why was I doing this? I began to lose myself completely in the futile quest to get on this ride. All while Tinkerbell flitted about the room – taunting me with her horrid, evil shenanigans. Why had I been foolish enough to believe that sign? Suddenly, unexpectedly there was movement! We were moving, it wasn’t an illusion after all.
“Please watch your step as you board the boat,” the cheerful cast member instructed as our eyes adjusted once again to the sunlight before being plunged back into darkness.
Our quest was over. We did get on that flying boat and we did have a magical time just as I knew we would all along!
Hoop De Doo Revue
The good news is that despite my blundering advice the day was not a wash by any means and the best part of it was still to come. We had reservations for the Hoop De Doo Revue over in Fort Wilderness!
This revue is one of the oldest running shows anywhere and, in fact, celebrated it’s 45th anniversary in June of 2019. It’s something that I had long wanted to see and now I was finally getting the chance. We took one of the smaller resort launches to make the journey from Seven Seas Lagoon over to the shores of Bay Lake and the Fort Wilderness campground.
We arrived in plenty of time for our reservations and had a little time to kill so we took a quick stroll around the grounds. I hadn’t been in the campground since a trip I took with my cousin Larry the summer after I graduated high school and I’m happy to say that it hasn’t changed too much. From the little part we visited it still had the same rustic flavor and “great outdoors” feel that you would expect. The lots are well spaced, plenty of trees and it felt like almost another world as compared to the rest of the WDW resort. The Settlement Trading Post (campground store) was well stocked with basic food items and the requisite Disney souvenirs. There are also a couple of dining locations on site, including Crockett’s Tavern where I could refill my Disney Parks tumbler (score!), Trail’s End Restaurant, and Mickey’s BBQ. To help pass the time I regaled Bob with tales of that graduation summer’s trip with my cousin and the memories of the now defunct River Country waterpark which used to be adjacent to the campground. I could tell from the glazed over, far away look in his eyes that Bob was hanging on my every word.
Soon the dinner bell rang and it was time to go in to take our seats. The energy of the audience was palpable and it was clear that everyone was expecting to have a good time – and I don’t think anyone was disappointed! Our table was near the stage and in the center of the hall so we had excellent seats to join in the fun. Before, during, and after the show the meal was served – and what a meal it was. Basic down home style, served in buckets, and plenty of it. Salad, potatoes, corn, beans fried chicken, BBQ ribs, and for dessert strawberry short cake. My tastes are simple it turns out when it comes to food, or perhaps it’s because my eyes are rarely bigger than my stomach, but this was probably my favorite meal of the trip. I should mention that the Revue is a separately ticketed show – be sure to book it when you make your hotel reservations. Because of this our dining plan couldn’t be used for the any part of it. This gave us an “extra” dinner to use later in the trip at a “Signature” dining restaurant. More on this in the day 7 entry.
To put it simply the show itself was what we in the theater would call a “hoot.” Okay, a hoot and half with a little holler thrown in. No description I can do would do it justice so go read the official Disney Parks blog article on the 45th anniversary here.
Afterwards, stuffed with food and a couple old songs in our heads, we exited Wilderness Hall and made our journey back to our hotel by boat and another very crowded bus. One good thing about standing on the bus and hanging onto the support bar – I was getting my arm workouts in while learning great balance control!
To be continued…
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted.
Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr