Grumpy Old Men on Tour: Walt Disney World Day 5

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 wait for the bus to the Magic Kingdom was always the longest.
The wait for the bus to the Magic Kingdom was always the longest.

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!

‘Nuff said.

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 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.


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

Grumpy Old Men on Tour: Walt Disney World Day 1

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.

Day 1: Hollywood Studios and Epcot

The Flight and Arrival

We got up early to catch our flight from Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). I’m always nervous about not leaving enough time and take the recommendation of arriving at least an hour and a half for domestic flights seriously. In fact, I usually try to be at the airport two hours early. By the time you park off site (the least expensive option at DTW), get your shuttle bus, check your bags (1 bag under 50 pounds to avoid fees, plus the trusty CPAP which does not count as luggage by the way), go through security (almost always quick at DTW – unlike other airports I’ve been at), and find the gate (why is it always the furthest gate from the security checkpoint?), make one last trip to the restroom, etc. and you can use up most of the two hours easily.

Anyway, after one last check to make sure that we were properly packed, that our Magic Bands were on, and a quick trip through the McDonald’s drive-through for breakfast, like Crosby and Hope we were on the road (you youngsters will have to look up this reference. Trust me, it’s funny)!

Oh those Marketing folks at Disney. They take advantage of every opportunity. Too bad they couldn’t cover the mirrors though.

A quick note on airport security and one I think that TSA would appreciate me bringing up. Even if you are a seasoned flyer and think you know all the rules take a few minutes before you pack your carry-on and look at them again (check the TSA website for the current list). In these security conscious times they do occasionally change and I’ve been in too many lines where too many people seem to be caught unaware. For those of us traveling with medications be prepared, don’t have them buried in a hard to get to spot keep them readily available. More info directly from TSA is here. Likewise with medical devices – for example, you will have to take your CPAP machine out of it’s bag.

Back to our story…

I had one primary goal for this trip and that was to get a “boarding pass” to experience the brand new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction at Hollywood Studios. Beyond this as I mentioned in my previous post (which is here and details our preparation for the trip if you haven’t read it yet) I considered this to be Bob’s trip since it was his first time. However, since he is a more avid Star Wars fan that I am, Rise of the Resistance and all of Galaxy’s Edge was high on his list too.

Our game plan for today was simple. Get to our hotel, stow our gear, get on a bus and head to Hollywood Studios to scope out the situation. Making use of our previously reserved fast passes we should be able to get onto Toy Story Mania, Smuggler’s Run, and see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.

The flight was without incident and we arrived in sunny Orlando a little ahead of schedule. I don’t know why I was surprised to see that the marketers at Disney had already figured out how to promote the new Stars Wars attraction by decorating the airport’s monorail station to look like a transport station in a galaxy far away. If there’s one thing the folks at Disney know, it’s how to market!

We collected our bags and made our way to the Disney Magical Express bus (this service is being discontinued soon by WDW, by the way which is a shame as it was a nearly magical start to our vacation) and soon arrived at the All-Star Music Resort before noon. Using the Disney app to check in we learned that our rooms wouldn’t be available until 3:00 PM (we anticipated this) so we checked our bags at the bell station made sure our Magic Bands were securely attached to our wrists and headed to the bus to get to our first park – Hollywood Studios. All this without realizing we had made a mistake that would impact the rest of our afternoon (insert ominous music here).

Hollywood Studios

My first meal of the trip.

We arrived at the gates of Hollywood Studios before noon ready to scope out the new Galaxy’s Edge and the other attractions in the park. After a few pictures on Hollywood Boulevard, we had purchased the Memory Maker photo package after all, our first order of business was to try out our dining plan and have some lunch – it had been a long time since breakfast back in Detroit! We were moving around the park counter clockwise so we stopped in Toy Story Land at Woody’s Lunch Box. I ended up ordering the BBQ Brisket Melt (Shredded Smoked Brisket, Pickles, and Tangy Barbecue Sauce between Melted Cheddar and Monterey Jack on Grilled Sourdough Bread), potato tots, and a Diet Coke. Seating was at a premium in the lunch box’s courtyard but we finally found a spot to squeeze in. I found my meal to be very satisfying if somewhat pedestrian tasting – tangy might not be the best way to describe the barbecue sauce – but I didn’t expect an adventurous menu in Toy Story Land.

We were able to fit quite a bit into this first afternoon and experienced the following attractions:

  • Muppet Vision 3-D
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
  • Toy Story Mania
Bob (right), Edna Mode (center), and myself (left).
Photo taken by a WDW photographer.

Of this group Toy Story Mania is still my favorite attraction. I have to say though that I hadn’t been on Star Tours in decades and the relatively new, at least to me, upgrades to this attraction are great! Smuggler’s Run is fun but for me the real thrill is having the experience of actually stepping onto the deck of the fabled spaceship. The detail is just that good inside. The Indiana Jones show was fun as usual, but there was an issue with one of the major effects on the day we were there and a certain boulder failed to roll. Though, the show was so well done I’m not sure if the malfunction wasn’t part of it. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me. Sadly, Muppet Vision 3D is in need of a make over. It’s still fun but given how the technology has improved over the years with 3D movies in theatres the novelty isn’t quite the same. It’s always a delight though to see Waldorf and Statler in person even if they do remind me of a couple of other grumpy old men I know.

As evening approached we decided that we better move on to Epcot where we had dinner reservations. We’d be back in the morning after all to try and get our boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance and we were both eager to see how the new Skyliner worked.


By the way, does it bother anyone else that Disney no longer capitalizes all the letters in “Epcot?” It does me. I guess I’m a purist or just old enough to remember that EPCOT is an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

There was a lot of concern regarding the Skyliner when it first opened. It seems that it had a habit of breaking down and stranding guests for hours with no way to get down. I’m happy to report that this did not happen to us and the system seemed to work exactly as intended. We both did notice the emergency pack stowed in the cabin though.

It was a fairly hot and humid day, but we found the breeze created by the motion of the cabin along the cable to be sufficient. By this time though we were happy to be off of our feet for a little bit. You may remember I mentioned a mistake back at the hotel. It was a rookie one I’m sorry to say. We had dressed for the Michigan winter when we left Detroit that morning. The Florida weather we experienced in early February of 2020 was the opposite of that. We really should have changed from our jeans to our shorts before heading out for the day. Bob regretted not switching to his walking shoes especially! I won’t ever make that goof again.

Mickey and Bob share a laugh at Epcot.
Photo taken by a WDW photographer.

Arriving at Epcot we encountered and unexpected surprise – we were greeted by Mickey Mouse himself! No line, no fast pass needed. There he was seemingly just waiting for us to come through the gate and say hello. Now, I don’t care how old or grumpy you may think you are – there is something about seeing the Big Cheese in the flesh (so to speak) that just brings out the child in all of us. I didn’t get to take a picture with him on my first trip way back in 1975 – but I’ve been getting a photo ever since! I will also say that this first character greeting seemed to whet Bob’s appetite for them and he became a man on a mission from this point on to find as many favorites as he could, including the elusive Scrooge McDuck (more on this in a future installment)!

Nightly entertainment at the Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany pavilion.

We did not do a lot this particular evening in Epcot as our main reason to be here was for our dinner reservations at the Biergarten in Germany. I had fond memories of this restaurant from a family trip in 2000 and I’m happy to say this evening did not disappoint in any way. The German buffet was bountiful and everything was fresh and delicious. Well, as fresh as a selection of sausages and sauerkraut can be that is. Seating at the Biergarten is communal so you are often paired with another group in true Oktoberfest fashion. We lucked out and were seated with a pleasant world traveling middle-aged couple and had great conversation through our meal. They had been to Greece recently which was were I was scheduled to go in just a few weeks, unfortunately COVID has postponed that trip indefinitely, so I’m glad to have had a chance to talk to some people who had been there at least. I felt adventurous and even had a beer with my meal – a grapefruit ale of all things (Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen). According to the menu description it was a “unique combination of sparkling smooth hefeweizen with grapefruit juice. Refreshing well-rounded taste with tangy character and hints of sweetness that is pleasing to the palate. The world’s first unfiltered grapefruit hefeweizen-mix.” I don’t normally drink and, frankly, have never learned to like beer but I found this one to be pretty tasty.

For entertainment there was a German polka band who played a variety of instruments and even dancing for those who wanted to do so. To finish the evening we continued our walk around the World Showcase and watched the Epcot Forever fireworks show. Then it was back to finally see what our room was like at the hotel.

All-Star Music Resort

As I said in my previous post – I’m not a believer in spending more on a hotel room at WDW than you have to because you are not going to spend a lot of time in the room. Our room was typical of all the All-Star Resorts, clean and comfortable. An interesting feature of the All-Star room is that one of the beds is a Murphy bed which folds up into a cabinet while a table folds out. Perfect for laying out maps or what not during the day or if you bring food from the food court back to the room. The rooms also come with a flat screen television, which we kept mostly to the WDW information channels, but no microwave or refrigerator (they want you to buy food remember). The bathroom is spacious by budget hotel standards and there seemed to be enough storage space for our clothes and luggage.

This first night we didn’t spend a lot of time talking or rehashing the day. We were both exhausted and we also had to get up early tomorrow to be at Hollywood Studios as soon as the gates opened. Our goal – Star Wars: Rise of the Resitance.

I pulled down my bed, plugged in my life support (the CPAP), and quickly fell fast asleep dreaming of things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

To be continued…

Me in front of the Falcon (as I call her). Note the jeans.
Photo taken by Robert J. Yoman.

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

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.


“Do you want to go to Disney World?” my friend Bob casually asked.

“Always, you know that,” I replied.

“No, I’m serious. I think that I’ve waited long enough and I’m ready to give Disney a try,” he said.

Did I hear that right? Has Bob finally given in? Is he ready after all these years to head down to the land of the mouse? I looked across the table at him. He seemed sincere. But Bob is a good actor. I looked at his face carefully for any signs of deception. No, I really think he means it.

Just to give you a little background, Bob and I have been friends nearly our entire lives having first met in the fifth grade (he says it was the fourth). We grew up together, participate in the same activities – mostly community theatre – enjoy Star Trek, Star Wars, anything with “star” in the name really, comic books, and pretty much everything geek. If we diverged in our geekness at any level it was that I was a Disney kid and he was, I thought, indifferent. I’m also DC and he’s Marvel, but that’s not the point of this story. However with every trip I took to Walt Disney World one thought often popped into my head, Bob would enjoy a trip here. Finally, deep into our middle age, the time had arrived.

“I just think that what with the new Star Wars land opening and all that I’d really like to go,” he continued, “You’ve been several times so I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather go with. So, do you want to go to Walt Disney World?” he repeated.

“Absolutely. When do we leave?” I said as I did a little happy dance in my head.

The Planning

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is like planning an expedition into the back country. The more you know before you go and the more you’ve planned the trip out the better your results will be. It’s not something most of us can do spur of the moment for a couple reasons.

We set a date several months out, nearly a year if I recall correctly, and decided on February 2020. Bob took to researching the hotels, attractions, food, shows, everything we could think of. My mantra during this process was “it’s Bob’s trip, I’m just along for the ride.” I have had the good fortune of being able to visit both WDW and Disneyland many times over the past 40 years or so starting with a family vacation to WDW and Florida in 1975 (pictures from that epic vacation below). So I enjoyed watching Bob digging in to find out as much as possible about the “world” before we left. I was more excited that I thought I might be – I may be a veteran but I’m not jaded – and it had been about 20 years since my last dedicated trip to WDW. I had been mostly tacking on a day or two at the resort to various business trips and other visits to Florida and a few trips to Disneyland since then.

It has never been easier to research going anywhere today, but especially to WDW. Not only is there the official Walt Disney World website but there are a variety of “fan” sites and blogs that can tell you almost anything, and almost too much, about every aspect of WDW. A couple of my favorites are The Disney Food Blog and Helping you plan your Disney Vacation is an industry unto itself these days.

Money: Walt Disney World is expensive. Yes, you can save a buck or two here and there even on your hotel stay by researching discounts and promotions that might be available when you are planning to go. In our case we doubled up and stayed in the same hotel room, but food and park tickets couldn’t be shared. We figured that we were looking at $2,000 each for our trip easily. Which in terms of Disney wasn’t bad especially when you considered we would be staying 7 nights which gave us nearly 8 full days to enjoy the parks and Downtown Disney.

Hotel: My preference has always been to stay on property because of the access to transportation and not needing to deal with traffic around Orlando on a daily basis. Bob was in agreement and we settled on the staying at the All Star Music resort. I’ve stayed at a couple different resorts at WDW and the Fort Wilderness campground in the past. For my money the All Star resorts are the best on-property hotels to stay at. They have the same amenities as most budget motel chains and are only missing a “free” breakfast in the morning, a microwave, coffee maker, and refrigerator (hint, hint powers that be at WDW). They have pools for that sometimes needed down time and reasonable on site dining. The only disadvantage is that they are a little far from the parks themselves so you do have to plan on at least a half-hour to an hour to get anywhere if you are using the on-site transportation, which I recommend. Driving and parking around WDW can be a hassle. Even if you arrived at WDW by car you will likely find it easier to keep it parked (there is a parking fee) than to hop between lots all day.

Some people really like to stay at a more upscale resort. This is fine if you really want the additional room decor or whatever. However, to my way of thinking there’s no need to spend extra money if you aren’t going to be spending much time in the room anyway.

Food: We also decided on something I had never done before and that was to get a Dining Plan (which worked out to 1 sit down meal, 1 quick service and 2 snacks per day). Doing the math we realized that we would not likely save any money doing this but we liked the idea of not worrying about paying for meals while at WDW. In my opinion this turned out to be one of the best choices we made and this old dog learned a new trick. Because of this we went to several restaurants I never would have gone to on my own and because we could make reservations well in advance of our trip the only decisions we made each day was were to eat lunch and get our two snacks a day! Breakfast wasn’t included in the plan so we also packed some instant oatmeal cups and a variety of granola bars along with a small travel sized coffee pot for hot water so we didn’t have to buy breakfast each morning at the hotel.

Parks: We chose the park hopper option (currently limited) so we wouldn’t be tied down to any one park and could be flexible if we decided to go somewhere else on any given day. Though the park hopper option is more expensive to me having the flexibility to go to any park we chose or more than one park on any given day is priceless. This may not be true of a one day spur of the moment visit – though I once visited three parks in one day – but is definitely worth it on a longer stay.

Other Considerations: We arranged for an early flight on our arrival day since our park tickets were good when we arrived even though our room wouldn’t be ready until later in the day. Likewise we were catching a late flight out on our last day as our park admissions were good all that day, too. Though we planned out our Fast Pass choices (currently unavailable due to social distancing) for most days we left the last day open as a “catch whatever we might have missed” day. At the time we traveled WDW still had the Magical Express, which as of this writing is scheduled to be discontinued, so transportation from the airport to our hotel was taken care of.

We also made sure to pack ponchos in case of rain, I was taking my trusty “fanny” pack to hold a portable phone charger, my phone, emergency credit card while in the park, sunscreen, and a couple granola bars. Bob was taking a larger backpack for a refillable water bottle, the aforementioned ponchos, and room for souvenirs. We also made sure that we had extension cords for our respective CPAP machines. In my experience you can’t always count on their being a power outlet conveniently located near your bed.

After a very long January and counting down the days to the trip, finally the time had arrived.

Our adventure was about to begin.

To be continued…

Where to Go When You Have to GO at Walt Disney World

When you suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as I have for most of my life (Crohn’s) you become very familiar with restroom facilities where ever you happen to be. As a relatively frequent visitor to Walt Disney World (WDW) over the years – since 1975 – I think that I can safely say I have seen a majority of the restrooms in each park at WDW. So, with the understanding that I speak strictly from a male point of view and as a single childless person I don’t pay attention to things like baby changing stations, here are my observations:

The Good News:
In general, as with so many things, WDW on the whole does a great job with their restrooms. They are cleaned frequently and you rarely encounter an “out of order” sign on any given stall. I cannot even recall an single incident or time where I visited a restroom at any of the parks and found that the stall I chose was out of toilet paper or, worse, clogged up by the previous occupant. Given the number of people who must use the facilities at any of the parks on even a slow day this is an impressive feat.

Also, in all the parks the restrooms are spaced out fairly regularly and are generally well marked so that they are easy to find. Given how sudden the urge may strike for those of us with IBD this is a blessing. Even during my most recent visit to EPCOT (February 2020) with construction closing off the usual walkways between Future World and the World Showcase I still found the restrooms to be located in good proximity to each other.

The Bad News:
Yes, you will find the occasional wet seat because some nervous dude was afraid to lift the seat before he tinkled (trust me guys, in case your wife hasn’t clued you in yet your aim isn’t as good as you think). This is by no means the fault of the cast at WDW, however, but it’s still disappointing. Can you guys who don’t want to lift the seat maybe try doing it with your foot? Oh, you wear flip-flops exclusively…sigh. You know you can wash your hands immediately afterwards, right? You DO wash your hands immediately afterwards, right?

Moving on…

Part of the Tangled restroom theming – if you saw the movie you know.

The Best of the Best
In my humble opinion the best restroom at WDW is the one in the Magic Kingdom’s Tangled Rest Stop. This is one of the newer facilities and it is large and roomy. There always seems to be a seat open when you need on even when the area is packed full of guests – as it usually is. This location is also nicely themed in keeping with the character of the area. A close second are the restrooms over in Galaxy’s Edge (near the Market Merchants). These restrooms are more industrial and utilitarian in appearance but again fit nicely into the theme.

The Best Placed Restroom
The restroom which is best placed is without a doubt the one about halfway through the queue line for Avatar Flight of Passage over at the Animal Kingdom. Given that even with a Fast Pass you may be standing in line for over an hour having this restroom was a true blessing. It’s a one seater though so you may have to wait if someone else is using it and, of course, the line will keep moving while you are doing your business so to avoid angering your fellow guests your entire party will have to wait for you there (fortunately, there was only one person with me last time I visited).

If I were king of the Magic Kingdom I’d be looking into how a restroom can be added into any line that stretches more than an hour in length (I’m talking to you Peter Pan).

The restroom is where now?

The Worst Restroom
This one is a bit of a surprise, but in my opinion the worst restrooms are over at the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland between Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies and Star Traders. Usually crowded and, though it might be my imagination, an unusually narrow passage way between the stalls and the wall. I’ve had to use it several times and for some reason it always seems to be a less than stellar experience – but in port in a storm as they say.

So there you have it. My opinion of the restroom situation at Walt Disney World. Like I said, overall pretty good. The fact that I don’t recall most of my visits to restrooms is a very good thing and just how it should be.

These are my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours!