Grumpy Old Men on Tour: Walt Disney World Day 7

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.

An Unsettling Discovery

I had hoped for a restful night after another fairly long day in the Magic Kingdom. I was still feeling chilled from the earlier rain and took a hot shower to warm up before hitting the sack. As usual it wasn’t long after I had my CPAP (aka “life support”) attached to my fast and turned on that I was fast asleep.

At some point in the dead of the night I awoke – feeling like I was about to freeze to death. “Who turned down the air conditioning?” I thought. But when I got out of bed to check the temp the room seemed to be at a comfortable 70 degrees. I turned the temp up to 75 anyway hoping that Bob wouldn’t notice until morning. My bed was the closest to the air, I reasoned, which might be why I was so cold. But, I had been comfortable every other night so far. I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep because I was still cold.

I searched the drawers as best I could in the dark for any extra blankets. I found pillows but no more covers. “Floridians,” I thought to myself, “never ready for the cold.” I finally put on my sweat shirt and some sweat pants I brought – I had this idea that I might actually work out while here (ha!) – and finally was warm enough to get back to sleep.

Morning for me came a little to soon. But I was feeling better overall and presumed that my chill during the night was because of a little dehydration and/or my long dormant Crohn’s acting up. I thought nothing of it until I made a rather startling discovery in the shower. My lower leg was covered in a bright red rash. It looked as if someone had taken a grater to my leg during the night. I dried off, pulled on a pair of shorts and exited the bathroom.

“What do you think this is?” I asked Bob as I showed him my leg. Bob took a quick look and then recoiling back a little he replied, “uh, I don’t know. It’s some kind of rash. How long have you had it?”

“I just noticed it in the shower. I don’t think I had it last night. Maybe I brushed up against a plant or something on Tom Sawyer Island?”

“It looks pretty nasty. Does it hurt?”

“Not really. It doesn’t even itch. I’m not going to worry about it now,” I lied, “Let’s head out and I’ll stop at First Aid to have someone there take a look at it.”

The entire bus ride to the Magic Kingdom I wondered about this weird rash. Bedbugs? No, something like those would have started biting days ago. Poison Ivy? In the well manicured confines of the Magic Kingdom where nothing grows except what Disney wants to grow? Not likely but an allergic reaction seemed likely. What could it be? Is this why I had chills during the night? Was I going to end my Disney trip at the hospital? I tend to go to worse case scenario at times like this as you might have noticed.

First Aid

David's Golfer's Rash on his leg
The verdict? Golfer’s Rash.

“Golfer’s Rash,” the nurse at the First Aid Center tucked in neatly between Casey’s Corner and the Crystal Palace, “we see it all the time. The sun reflects off of the pavement and hits your calves. Most people forget to put enough sun screen on their legs.” she handed me some ointment to put on the rash if it started to itch and we were on our way to enjoy the rest of our last full day at Walt Disney World.

Attractions New and Repeats

We had Fast Passes for Space Mountain, one of my favorite coasters, so we headed off to Tomorrowland. Now as my friends know I am (was?) quite the coaster enthusiast so some of them might be surprised to learn that Space Mountain is one of my favorite coasters. Despite the theming it is essentially a “mad mouse” style coaster in a dark room. But, heaven help me, I still like it. I will admit that I like the Disneyland version slightly better because of the speakers built right into the seats. Though the Magic Kingdom’s version has a sound track there’s something about that music blasting right into your ears that gets all the senses engaged. The Rock ‘n Rollercoaster in Hollywood Studios does the same thing as does the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit over at Universal. IMHO all coasters should come with soundtracks.

A Quick Detour Down Memory Lane – Space Mountain 1975

Space Mountain in 1975

Another reason that this coaster is a favorite is because of the memories it evokes. On my family’s first trip to Space Mountain in 1975 the ride was new and mysterious. All of us decided to give it a try. Most of us (my mom, sister, brother, and myself) liked roller coasters. My dad, as a rule, did not. As we waited in the queue the tension mounted. Was the ride as intense as they said? Can we pick which track to ride? Did astronauts really say it was like going into space (they did at the time)?

When it was our turn to go on the cast member announced that each car only head four people. Who was going to ride alone? At the same time four heads turned, my sister’s, my brother’s, my mother’s, and mine, and looked at poor dad who was taken by surprise. “What? Why me? I don’t like roller coasters?” he protested. But like the good father he was he dutifully waited for the next car while the rest of us took off into the “booster” tubes for one of the most fun rides of our young lives.

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Post

Stollers in front of King Arthur's Carousel.
So many strollers. Everywhere.

After Bob and I rode Space Mountain we felt we needed something a little slower for our next attraction. So naturally we meandered once again over to the other side of the park to find some lunch. We settled on Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn for some burritos, with a self-serve fixing’s bar, and then got back into line for our second ride on Pirates of the Caribbean. This time we did not have people talking behind us all the way through the attraction and it was a much more enjoyable experience.

We did have an experience in the queue line though. We were in the stand by line behind a couple of teen age girls who were just talking to each other when behind us there came a shout, “Oh look, it’s Jessica* – hi Jessica” and suddenly the two girls were joined by a third. No big deal right? Wrong. “Karen!” was the next shout. Then there were four, then five, then six, suddenly the two girls we were standing behind became an entire cheerleading (we presumed from our earlier experience) squad!

Now it might help to know that Bob and I used to work at another amusement park (Cedar Point) and in this park line jumping is cause for removal from the park. So the idea of a couple people being joined by an entire group ran against both our sensibilities. Bob, ever restrained as always, pointed out to a cast member what just happened. The cast member looked at the teens and said, “this man says that you all cut in front of him? Is that true?”

The teens sheepishly admitted that a “couple” of them did join the line late. The cast member then took Bob and I to the front of the group so are wait would be a few minutes shorter. It didn’t help all the other people behind us and I frankly might have just instructed the group of teens to go the back of the line. But what later became apparent, and I’m not sure why we hadn’t really noticed earlier, in other stand by lines that the idea of “line jumping” is a foreign concept to a lot of Walt Disney World guests. As from that point on we noticed at every other stand by line we were in that someone, usually several “someones,” was always being joined late by a family member or two (3 or 4 on occasion) who was going to the restroom, getting some food, or just waiting for the designated member of their party to get closer to the front of the line. I don’t know if this is just a Disney thing but it’s not the queue line etiquette I grew up with dagnabbit.

Space Mountain through the tracks of the future Tron coaster.
Space Mountain through the tracks of the future Tron coaster.

Pirates was followed by another look at the 3:00 parade, a trip on the iconic Jungle Cruise (soon to be a major motion picture), the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, Goofy’s Barnstormer, and another ride through The Haunted Mansion. Another pretty full day! I also got in an afternoon “snack” of chicken and waffles from Sleepy Hollow which was pretty good. I even had a pleasant conversation with an Ohio State fan while standing in line. Since I’m an alumnus of the University of Michigan we would normally be mortal enemies, but there are only friends in the Magic Kingdom.

By the way, Goofy’s Barnstormer had a mercifully short line which was good as it’s a very short coaster. It is a favorite with the younger set however. The queue line there gave us an opportunity to see more of the construction progress of the new Tron coaster which at the time seemed to be coming along quickly (unfortunately, it’s been delayed due to the pandemic and is behind schedule now due to open in the first half of 2022).

Citrico’s

For our final night’s meal we decided to “splurge” and take in a Disney Signature dining experience – mainly because we had an extra dinner credit to still use because of our night at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. We chose to go to the Citrico’s over at the Grand Floridian. I made sure to wear a collared shirt and khaki shorts to match the dress code. We rode the monorail to get over to the hotel but I should mention that since this trip Disney has built a new walkway so you can walk between the Grand Floridian and the Magic Kingdom along the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

The Grand Floridian is arguably Walt Disney World’s most posh hotel. The surroundings are luxurious and are designed to recall the glory days of Florida’s tourism (if you were wealthy that is). The restaurants are top-notch and dining at Victoria and Albert’s is thought by many to be a once in a lifetime treat – especially if you can afford the chef’s table experience. Citrico’s, which promotes American food with a Mediterranean flair, is no slouch either. Rated 4.5 stars out of 5 on Trip Advisor it is a fine dining experience and worthy of the “signature dining” label.

But, here’s my problem. I agree that the surroundings of the restaurant were pleasant. The open kitchen layout is effective without being obtrusive to the dining. The service was top-notch even though we did have to wait a little to be seated. I can’t recall having a single issue with my meal and it was a pleasant way to essentially finish our vacation. However, for the life of me, I cannot recall what I had to eat that night. Not a single bite from appetizer to desert. I can recall pretty much every other meal we had except the one that was supposed to be the highlight of the trip.

Maybe it’s because I have had the good fortune to eat in several other fine dining establishments, maybe it’s because my palate is refined or geared towards haute cuisine, or maybe it’s because it was just another meal at another fancy restaurant. In other words, and experience I could get pretty much elsewhere in any city in the world. Again, it’s not that there was anything wrong with the meal – the restaurant is more than worthy of high ratings – it was just, unfortunately, forgettable. Lesson learned – next trip I’ll pick a themed restaurant to finish my trip.

After dinner it was back to the hotel to pack our bags and get in one last good night’s sleep before our final attraction and the trip back to reality, aka – home.

To be continued…

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Grumpy Old Men on Tour: Walt Disney World Day 4

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.

Epcot Revisited

A diver in the Living Seas aquarium.
There are all sorts of strange creatures of the deep in the Living Seas aquariums!

By this time we were getting more in tune with how to pace ourselves through the day and how much we wanted to push to get things on our checklist done. Having already experienced most of our “must do” attractions and flexibility being key to any vacation, but especially at Disney, we decided to spend the day exploring Epcot. Having done his research ahead of time, Bob knew that this was the day and location we were most likely to see characters from plays we had both been in with our local community theatre group (the Monroe Community Players) most notably Mary Poppins (which I directed and Bob had a feature role in). So he put on his t-shirt from the show and off we went to enjoy another leisurely breakfast at the hotel – I was in the mood for some Mickey Waffles and would not be denied (why did we pack all that instant oatmeal again?)!

It was a little overcast and cooler today and that seemed to keep the crowds down a bit. We took the bus directly to Epcot and started our day with a visit to The Living Seas pavilion in Future World. I should note that getting around Epcot’s Future World section was a lot more difficult than usual, because even back in February of 2020 construction was well underway for the re-design of the park which I believe is scheduled to be complete, or at least as complete as anything ever is at Walt Disney World, for Epcot’s 30th anniversary in 2022.

Peter Pan on the wall of a United Kingdom pavilion building.
Peter Pan is also a Peeping Tom!

We did not spend a lot of time at the Living Seas as we didn’t have a Fast Pass for the Finding Nemo attraction there and the line was quite long. So we went in through the gift shop and wander around the giant aquarium tanks for a bit. I remember my first visit to the Living Seas some time ago and was struck by the sheer size of the water tanks and the exhibits. However, since Epcot has opened there have been a couple other high quality aquariums that have opened in the United States – such as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta – and though the Living Seas is still an impressive exhibit it doesn’t hold that “wow” factor for me that it once did. One attraction though, Turtle Talk with Crush, still blows my mind a little. Since the animated version of Crush from Little Nemo appears on a big screen in front of a live audience and interacts with the children – and sometimes the adults. It’s a pretty impressive attraction because it all seems so natural.

Moving on we headed over to The Land as it was time for our Fast Pass onto Soarin’ Around the World. If you’ve never been on this one it is just pure fun. The sensation that you are hang gliding over some of the world’s most impressive natural wonders – complete with breeze, spray from the waves, and smells – is amazing. If you are afraid of heights you might not want the front row as that one does lift you the highest from the floor. I won’t spoil the whole ride for you, but you start out soaring over the peak of Mount Everest and it only gets better from there.

We went to Living with the Land which is a gentle boat ride through the pavilion’s various gardens and green houses. It’s an interesting journey even if it’s showing its age a little bit.

After The Land we made our way through the maze of strollers outside the entrance and headed towards the World Showcase.

Bob with a fried turkey leg from the America pavilion at Epcot.
Bob loves a fried turkey leg! At the America pavilion in Epcot.
Bread and melted Brie from a food booth in Epcot.
Bread and melted Brie from The Art of French Food booth near France in Epcot.

By the way, speaking for strollers, I don’t know how it is now but I think one of Walt Disney World’s most often flouted rules must be regarding stroller dimensions and design. I can’t tell you how many strollers we saw which exceeded the size “restrictions” that Disney supposedly was enforcing. Also, I was amazed at the number of children I saw outside the strollers because there was so much stuff that there was no room for the child! Now, I cannot fully relate to what it takes to be able to enjoy a day at Walt Disney World with a small child. And my friends know that I have openly questioned the wisdom of taking a child who is 1) unable to walk or 2) won’t remember a thing about the trip when she/he gets older (yes, I know you’ll have the pictures) but that’s not my decision. However, for the comfort of your fellow guests, please read and try to abide by the stroller size restrictions before arriving.

Bob with Mary Poppins standing together in a practically perfect way!
Bob with Mary Poppins standing together in a practically perfect way!

Anyway, we spent the rest of the day leisurely exploring each “country” of the World Showcase starting with Canada and working our way counter-clockwise to Mexico. The International Fine Arts Festival was underway so there were food booths set up along the way in addition to the regular restaurants – I enjoyed the deconstructed Reuben near the World Showcase Gateway and some melted brie in a bread bowl near France. In addition we used our Dining Plan to enjoy some excellent fish and chips at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom. I’m pretty sure that I had some sausages in Germany and Bob got a fried turkey leg at the American Adventure. The crowds were relatively light on this day so we were able to get to all the attractions we wanted to do.

Along the way we saw plenty of characters including:

  • Mary Poppins (Bob had a long chat with her about the musical)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Alice (from Wonderland)
  • Donald in his Latin American outfit near Mexico
  • Goofy hanging out by the International Entrance


We also saw the following attractions and shows:

Astro Boy Action Figure in the Japanese Culture exhibit at Epcot.
Astro Boy Action Figure in the Japanese Culture exhibit at Epcot.
  • Canada Far and Wide
  • The American Adventure
  • Voices of Liberty
  • Reflections of China
  • Le Serveur Amusant (street mimes and acrobats)
  • The Japan Culture Exhibit

I also enjoyed the shops and paid close attention to the candies and treats from around the world. I only ended up buying some of those maple sugar leaves in Canada though. At some point, either on this day or the first day we arrived, I did get a blueberry coffee from Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company. It came with a blueberry doughnut on top!

We finished our afternoon at Epcot with a walk through the Epcot Experience which highlighted all the changes that will be coming to the park in the next two years or so.

Then it was back to the Skyliner – which had become our favorite form of transportation in the park – to head one last time to Hollywood Studios were we had reservations for dinner at the 50’s Prime-Time Cafe!

Prime Time Cafe

I have wanted to eat at the Prime Time Cafe ever since I first heard about it when the studios opened. The idea of a dining in a fifties style kitchen while a TV mom fussed over you and urged you to “eat your vegetables or no dessert” sounded like fun to me. I have to say that the restaurant is very well themed. All the furniture appears to be appropriate to the era and I have no idea where they found some of the lamps and knick-knacks that adorned the walls, tables, and every flat surface. The energy in the dining room is very much like a diner while the seats and tables look very much like an outdated kitchen. The cast members include cousins now instead of just mom, who is presumably in the kitchen making everything. We were seated without too much of a wait and greeted by a friendly “cousin” who treated us like he had known us for years. I ordered A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes which included golden-fried chicken, fork tender pot roast, and traditional meatloaf with all the fixin’s (mashed potatoes and green beans). We discovered here that milkshakes counted as one of the beverages with our dining plan so you can guess what we washed our meal down with.

The food was basic and filling, though mom may have been having an off night as my chicken was a tad too golden-fried and the meatloaf was a little bland for my tastes (maybe that’s how Donna Stone made it though – look her up under Donna Reed, kids and she’s not the poet). For dessert we had the traditional apple crisp a la mode and that certainly hit the spot.

With our meal finished so was our day. We were now past the half-way point of our trip and tomorrow it was back to the Magic Kingdom!

To be continued…

Stave church replica at the Norway pavilion in Epcot.
Did you know that there is a replica of a Stave church in Moorhead, Minnesota, too? I’ve been to both!




Grumpy Old Men on Tour: Walt Disney World Day 3

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.

The Animal Kingdom

After the long day at Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom we took a more leisurely approach to this morning by sleeping in until almost 8:00 AM. After a shower and a quick guzzle of the Diet Coke left over from last night in my refillable insulated Star Wars souvenir tumbler (still cold!) we headed over to the food court to grab breakfast. We made sure to take our tumblers with us, of course.

I neglected to mention earlier that one of the first things we did after returning to the hotel after our first day was to purchase a refillable souvenir tumbler from the food court. We could choose the less expensive generic one of course, but we opted for the somewhat costlier (I can’t remember how much) Star Wars tumbler. These tumblers were good for unlimited refills at the Disney hotels – but not in the parks. However, it was worth taking them along in Bob’s back pack as we could refill them in the parks with water if needed. And they did do a good job of keeping the beverages hot or cold.

Today was planned to be a relatively slow day and our only fast passes were for the Animal Kingdom. High on our list was getting onto Flight of Passage in Pandora (the world of Avatar), the Kilimanjaro Safari, and one of my favorite coasters in the country – because of its theming – Expedition Everest! Little did I know as we boarded the bus to begin our ride to Animal Kingdom that Bob had a secret mission of his own in the works…(insert ominous music here).

For those who don’t know, Animal Kingdom is by area the largest park at Walt Disney World but it never feels that large to me. I think this is because much of the land is taken up by the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction and the other animal enclosures. It would be easy to say that this park was *ahem* inspired by Busch Gardens in Tampa. However, whereas Busch Gardens seems to have embraced its thrill ride side over the past several decades (do they still have the brewery in the middle of the park with free samples? That should tell you how long it’s been since I’ve visited Tampa) Animal Kingdom very much a zoo that happens to have some other attractions and shows inside it. Like Epcot, it is unlike any other Disney Park in the world. Some people claim it is a “half-day” park and I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever spent an entire day there before this trip. But if you like zoos you can certainly do it.

Expedition Everest and Bob’s Secret Mission Revealed

A shrine at Animal Kingdom which resembles the mountain of Expedition Everest
I love the detail in the parks at Walt Disney World. Notice how the peaks of the shrine match the peaks of the mountain.

Our first stop was Expedition Everest. As I said earlier this is one of my favorite rides because I’ve been fascinated since I was a kid with the idea of climbing Mount Everest (not going to happen – I’d probably die on the climb to base camp) and with the infamous Abominable Snowman, aka the Yeti, of the Himalayas. The queue line for the attraction does, in fact, take you through a museum of sorts dedicated to the history of the world’s most famous Cryptid. Well, top three at least. The ride itself is also well themed and though tame by most standards has enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep everyone on their toes. The only issue I had with the ride on this day is that somehow we were not in our ride picture. I’m not sure who the people are in our Memory Keeper photo but at least they seem to be having a good time.

“Okay,” Bob said as we got off the ride, “that’s over with. Which way to Dino-land?”

“Don’t you want to wander around Asia for a bit? We’ve got time until our next Fast Past and there’s several…”

“No,” Bob interrupted me, “we need to go find Donald’s Dino-Bash.”

Somehow other people got in our ride photo on Expedition Everest
I have no idea who these folks are but they sure are having a good time. I suspect Bob and I are in the back row.

“Why?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” he said.

So we headed off to Dinoland. Once there Bob started looking anxious. “Do you see Donald’s Dino-Bash?” he asked.

“No, but why are you so anxious to get there?” I replied.

“Because, he might be there.”

“He? You don’t mean?”

“Yes, him. Look there’s Launchpad!”

Sure enough in a little shelter stood Launchpad McQuack from Disney’s Duck Tales. And where there’s Launchpad…

“I see him! I see him!” and I swear Bob took off in a sprint. Sure enough just ahead of us was the Holy Grail of characters – at least for Bob – the richest duck in the world: Uncle Scrooge McDuck in his full adventuring attire. Bob was ecstatic and, as you can tell by the accompanying photo, I may have been less ecstatic at least on the outside. On the inside I was just a little shocked. Bob had done what I thought was impossible – he found Uncle Scrooge. Our day was made right there. But there was much more to do.

We were off to Pandora to scope it out before our fast passes to Avatar: Flight of Passage later in the day. Passage in my opinion is the single best attraction of any park anywhere. Along the way we bumped into another character, Kevin from Pixar’s Up! and even saw a trained bird demonstration. Once in Pandora I immediately got lost – as usual. The land isn’t that big, but the lushness of the foliage and the layout of the trails make it easy to get turned around. Especially when there’s a crowd. We eventually found the entrance to Flight of Passage.

After finding the entrance and memorizing how we got there, it was off to the other side of the park to take in the Kilimanjaro Safari. The queue line here, though fitting for the attraction, isn’t very entertaining despite TV monitors that give you an introduction to the wildlife you may see on your “safari.” But the ride through animal exhibit went well and our guide was knowledgeable and I think we saw all the animals we were supposed to see. Afterwards we walked the Gorilla Falls trail and saw more, you guessed it, animals.

We had lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. I’m sorry to say that this meal wasn’t up to the standards we had come to expect and I didn’t even take a picture of it (I at it all though). The view from our table looking over Discovery River was nice and relaxing. There was an odd “whooping” noise that I had trouble identifying which was very loud – then it occurred to me. We were hearing the Howler Monkeys doing their thing, no not that thing – the howling thing, from across the river. They sounded like they were at the table next to us they were so loud.

After lunch and looking at a few more animal exhibits we ran into Kevin again – man that bird gets around – and then made our way back to Pandora for our Fast Pass time.

Flight of Passage and Dinosaur

Floating mountains of Pandora
I didn’t care for the movie Avatar, but I have to admit that Disney did a great job creating Pandora in real life.

Even with the opening of Rise of the Resistance over in Hollywood Studios, the line for Flight of Passage is always long. Even with a Fast Pass you can expect to wait an hour or so. This line seemed even longer than usual but not because of the number of people in the line, it was because of the type of people in the line. Here’s where some of my grumpiness started to manifest itself. It seems that while we were at Walt Disney World there was some kind of international cheer squad competition or festival going on. So the parks were filled with lots and lots of cheerleaders. Now, I have nothing against cheerleaders in particular. I have many friends who were cheerleaders in the past, I enjoy joining in a rousing cheer at a football game, and so on. But one thing about groups of them that you can’t fail to notice is that they like to, well, cheer. A lot. Like for an hour and a half non-stop while standing in a well themed but enclosed space that really, really echoes. If you can’t imagine what that’s like then you have indeed lived a charmed life and should count your blessings.

Despite the wait, which was made easier because the good folks at Imagineering, bless them all, realized that they should put restrooms about half way through the queue. Every ride, every where with a line longer than an hour should have these. I still thoroughly enjoyed this attraction. It is a combination of Soarin’ and a ride simulator. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but the immersion in the world of Avatar on the back of a Banshee is so real that you feel the beast breathing as you ride!

Bob and I with the other guests on Dinosaur!
I don’t know why we all look like we are posing for the picture. I think the surprise may have been real.

Though it was getting late in the afternoon, and we had dinner reservations at Sanaa over in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we had time for one more attraction – Dinosaur. Now when it first opened I liked this ride a lot, but unfortunately, I think it’s showing its age. Either that or my eyes are. Everything seemed dim or dark to me. To the point that there was a section of the ride that was just pitch black when the narration said we were supposed to be seeing meteors falling to earth. The ride still has a couple good frights though and the cars are the same kind as used over in Disneyland for the Indiana Jones Adventure – so you feel like you’re in a real off-road vehicle. And the ride picture actually had us both in it this time!

After the ride we had about two hours left to make our reservations. Just enough time to go back to the hotel to drop off our bags, freshen up and get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for Dinner.

Sanaa

It is worth noting that Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most remote of the Disney property resorts and even from our hotel it was probably about a 20 minute bus ride – at least if felt that way. We arrived at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and found our way to the restaurant, with only a brief pause to apologize to a cast member who I accidentally closed the elevator door on before she could board (the elevator could only go down one floor so we waited a minute for her to arrive). She, of course, said that no apology was necessary. But having worked in the service industry myself I have to think that she appreciated the small gesture.

We arrived a little early for our reservations and were invited to wait outside on the patio if we liked to look at the animals outside. Though it was night the Lodge had heat-sensitive binoculars we could use to spot the animals out in the mini-Savannah which makes up the “backyard” of the hotel complex. Soon we were informed our table was ready and we made our way inside.

I had heard good things about Sanaa from a friend and was looking forward to an African/Asian/Equatorial region inspired meal. The decor of the restaurant is probably best described as African chic with plenty of earth tones, ample foliage, and very few straight lines.

We started our meal with what the server described as a “bread flight” (btw, appetizers are extra and not included in the dining plan) which Bob and I both thought was very good. It was simply a variety of pita style breads and a generous assortment of Indian-style sauces ranging from mildly sweet to extremely spicy. We both chose beef entrees. Mine was “potjie” inspired braised beef. Potjie is a South African dish which is traditionally prepared in one pot and not stirred. My entire main course consisted of Braised Beef, Cilantro-Coconut Vegetables, scented Basmati Rice and I recall some sort of small sausage. I thought my meal was pretty good but somehow I expected it to be more exotic in the sense that there was nothing on my plate that I could not have prepared at home.

The best part of the meal was definitely the desert. I had Serradura is a Portuguese dish which is also known as sawdust pudding or Macau pudding. It taste much better than its name might imply. Sanaa’s version is a butterscotch pudding topped with almond coffee streusel, pineapple, mango, and Breton Shortbread. I know that I finished all of this! Bob had an African Triple Chocolate Mousse that was both pleasing to the eye and the palate (or so I was told – I don’t really do chocolate and did not taste it myself).

All in all, I was glad for the meal and the dining experience.

Disney Springs

It was still relatively early when we finished our meal so instead of going back to the hotel we decided to make our first foray to Downtown Disney – oops, sorry – I meant Disney Springs. Despite the re-branding I think Disney Springs can best be described as an upscale shopping mall. It does have several restaurants you may not find elsewhere and the world’s largest World of Disney store as well as several other decidedly Disney themed shops you won’t find elsewhere except maybe at Downtown Disney in California. If you were to compare it to Universal’s City Walk, Disney Springs is the clear winner as it’s more expansive and has a greater diversity of shopping. But, if you’re not really into shopping as entertainment I wouldn’t budget a lot of time to spend here. An evening or afternoon is plenty to see what’s what. Bob was, of course, just thrilled to be there as the accompanying picture of him at the World of Disney suggests.

Another bus trip to the hotel, a quick refill for my Diet Coke nightcap and it was off to dreamland to recover from our “lazy” day at Disney.

To be continued…

Bob in Mouse Ears being grumpy
Have you ever seen a man this happy to be at Walt Disney World?

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Grumpy Old Men On Tour: Walt Disney World Day 2

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.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resitance

Crowd at the Hollywood Studios gate waiting for rope drop
The crowds waiting before “rope drop” were pretty large and I think all were there for one reason – a boarding pass.

The alarm went off at 6:00 AM. Maybe a little earlier or a little later. I hadn’t slept that much because I was more excited that I should be for the day ahead. We needed to move quickly if we wanted to get to Hollywood Studios before “rope drop” – that magic moment that we would be allowed into the park so we could use our Disney Experience apps to try and snag a boarding pass for the hottest ticket in town: Rise of the Resistance!

We used the portable coffee pot to heat water for the instant oatmeal we had brought, checked to make sure that we had everything we would need for the day, called for an Uber and by 7:00 AM we were on our way.

A crowd of eager Star Wars fans were already there to greet us and jostling for their position in line. Because we had packed wisely, security was not an issue for us (“bags open and ready please, all electronics out of your pockets, remove your hats, etc.”). The excitement in the air reminded me of the eager anticipation at the movie theaters when a new episode of Star Wars came out.

At about 7:30 AM were were let through the gates and moved to various sections of the park. Bob and I found a spot in Municiberg (by the way, the only “berg” I know of that ends in “berg” is an iceberg. The rest, including the town I live in end in “burg.” Okay, I guess Pittsburgh ends with an “h.”) and we waited. I grabbed a roll and Diet Coke at a stand simply called “Market” (hey, we were going to burn a lot of calories – I needed to keep my strength up) and as 8:00 AM approached I readied my app.

Storm Troopers walking through Galaxy's Edge
Storm Troopers on crowd control duty.

Minutes dragged on like days, seconds like hours, but eventually my phone indicated 8:00 AM. Furiously I pressed the button on the app to get our boarding pass, I heard cheers go up all around us and the loudest may have been mine – we did it! We had a boarding pass and for a low number. We were likely to get to experience Rise of the Resistance before noon!

Now, in theory, once the app notified us that our party was boarding we had an hour to get into the queue line – not unlike a Fast Pass. So we could have enjoyed another attraction or two while we waited or even gone over to Epcot and made it back in time to get on the attraction. The operative words being “in theory.” We choose to stay close by however and enjoyed the sites and sounds of the entire land. At first we tried to enter the Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land but found that the route was currently blocked off. Not because of a problem, but because the line to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run attraction was already so long there wasn’t room for anyone to enter from that side. So we walked around and entered by the tunnel on the other side.

I have to say, even though I had experienced the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge in 2019 I was still impressed with the level of detail Disney has put into the surroundings. From the mountain peaks to the theming of the restrooms. And there were little surprises through the day. Storm Troopers are a regular site on patrol of Black Spire Outpost (as denizens of Galaxy’s Edge call their community). They seem to be constantly working crowd control and telling citizens to keep moving along. Other characters from Star Wars appear as well, including Wookies and random droids, but don’t hold your breath for any of the classic characters like Luke or Leia – they are now legends.

I did not try any of the food in this land not even the fabled blue milk nor did I get in line to purchase a custom made light saber. I guess my geekness is waning in my old age.

The attraction must have been operating pretty well the day were were there because our party boarded at around 10:00 AM. I won’t spoil things for any of you, but I was blown away by the experience. I loved the level of detail and they pulled a trick or two I hadn’t seen before. I swear that at times you could feel the ship “rumble” under foot while moving through the corridors. This attraction, IMHO, is just about as immersive as you can get while still dealing with a large crowd of people. It’s really like stepping into the movie.

Bob and I disagree on this attraction, by the way, though he was impressed I think he would have much preferred if the original legendary characters were used instead of those from the current Star Wars canon. I can’t really say I disagree with him on this point, but I also realize that I’m not the primary target audience for Disney in this case. They want the new generation of fans not those of us who won’t stand in line for a $200 display light saber or toy droid. Consarn it all!

Having accomplished our mission for the day it was time to move onto the main event: the Magic Kingdom!

The Magic Kingdom

We could have hopped a bus and gone directly to the Magic Kingdom from Hollywood Studios, but I thought that Bob might enjoy the scenic route so he could get a better feel for the scope and size of the World. We once again took the Skyliner, I think our favorite form of transportation for this trip, over to Epcot. Crossing through the World Showcase and past the construction fences we went under Spaceship Earth, pausing only for a few minutes while Bob marveled at the sheer size of this fully realized geodesic sphere, and caught the monorail.

Now maybe it’s because I grew up watching the Wonderful World of Disney as a kid and watched the sleek futuristic train zoom by on my television screen (in living color no less) or because I memorized the catchy tune from The Simpsons (monorail, monorail…hey, it put North Haverbrock on the map) but I enjoy riding the monorail. Gliding along above the Florida wetlands which make up the majority of the World’s landscape. The trip from Epcot to the Transportation Center always takes a little longer than I think it does but it is a nearly 8 mile trip and we cover it in about 14 minutes not counting the transfer to the Seven Seas Lagoon loop.

I think it was during this ride that Bob was finally able to grasp the scope and size of Walt Disney World. I tried to tell him before the trip, other friends tried to tell him, heck, even my sister told him (“start walking now Bob and wear comfortable shoes” was her advice to him when she learned of the upcoming trip)! But realizing the distances between parks really hits home when you can’t even see the spires of Cinderella’s Castle from Epcot. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are within walking distance of each other – the Magic Kingdom is almost a (Walt Disney) World away.

Macaroni and Cheese Footlong Hot Dog, Fries, and a Diet Coke
Macaroni and Cheese Footlong from Casey’s Corner on Mainstreet USA.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom we took the usual pictures in front of the castle, I pointed out the names above the shops along Mainstreet USA, and we just in general just soaked in the atmosphere. Then, since it was well past our usual lunch times we sought out food!

Casey’s Corner was our choice for lunch. I had a Bacon Macaroni and Cheese All-Beef Footlong (a foot-long hot dog topped with macaroni & cheese and bacon served with French Fries) with a Diet Coke to drink. I’m not sure what Bob chose, but I think it was a more traditional hot dog or chili dog. However, just recently he mentioned to me that it was the best hot dog he’s ever had. The snap, the seasoning, everything just worked. The french fries in my opinion are fairly standard amusement park fare, but they hit the spot and were well prepared. Not McDonald’s, but a satisfying side.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hitting a few of the Magic Kingdom favorites including:

  • The Enchanted Tiki Room
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Hall of Presidents

I’m sad to report that our experience in Pirates was less than ideal. The people in the row behind us on the boat talked through the entire attraction – at full volume. I’ve never understood why people would pay good money – and a lot of it – to go someplace like WDW and then not pay attention to the show that’s being presented around them. They probably talk at movie theaters, too.

Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow walking through Frontierland
Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle the Cow casually out for a stroll in Frontierland.

To make matters worse we had almost the same thing happen to us in the Haunted Mansion. In this case it seemed to be a group of teens or young adults who were fans of the ride and seemed to think that we would enjoy their narration more than the attraction’s. Given that the closest group to us was in another car they had to be be working at talking louder than the dialogue being given over the “Doom Buggy’s” internal speakers. Oh well.

It had been a long time since I had visited the Hall of Presidents and I’m glad that we did this one. The show has probably seen larger crowds, but who doesn’t feel a stirring of patriotic pride when each president is introduced?

Dinner was at the Liberty Tree Tavern. A restaurant right in the middle of Liberty Square which I had never eaten at before – what a meal I had been missing on earlier trips. We were seated in the Ben Franklin room, which was decorated with replicas of mementos from Franklin’s life. The meal was a Thanksgiving feast (all you care to eat and brought to your table) which had just about every home style comfort food you could want: a salad starter, rolls, roasted turkey breast, pot roast, and oven-roasted Pork with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, herb stuffing, and house-made macaroni and cheese. For desert Bob had their famous Oooey Gooey Toffee Cake which is vanilla toffee cake, chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream. I don’t do chocolate so the waiter brought me a dish of vanilla ice cream to finish my meal. We must have put away quite a few carbs though when at the end of the meal the waiter approached Bob with a dish in hand “here sir,” he said, “this is something you might like – it’s fruit.” We’re sure he meant nothing by it but somehow it seemed to us that he was politely offering Bob something he had never seen before, a healthy alternative to what we had just enjoyed. Maybe the third helping of stuffing put us over the edge.

We had just missed the fireworks and were both exhausted from the long day so we took a few evening photos of Cinderella’s Castle and headed out to catch the bus back to the hotel.

As always, to be continued…

Cinderella's Castle at night with the Partners statue in the foreground
Is there a more picturesque site in all of Walt Disney World? I don’t think so.

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr