Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Disney World

Although I don't really consider myself a Disney fanatic, I have been to Disney World over 10 times so far, not to mention 2 Disney cruises and once to Disneyland. I have enjoyed the many trips I've taken there and figure I'll be going back for more. The first time we went there was when Tim and Angie were in grade school (in about 1985). After that, I didn't get back to Orlando until 1999 when we went there again as part of a high school graduation present for Angie. A couple years later, I was in Orlando for my work's "winter meetings". That time my Dad joined me. I had gotten us an RCI Bonus time week at Orange Lake Resort. While I was at my meetings, he went to the timeshare presentation at Orange Lake Resort and bought the 5th week of every year in a 2 bedroom unit there at the resort. Thus started my annual trips to Orlando. Although we also did many other things in and around Orlando, we usually made Disney one of our destinations during our vacations. With so much time spent there, I decided to combine all my trips to Disney into one blog and make another blog for the rest of our Orlando adventures. We didn't hit every park every year, but did hit the 4 main parks (Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom) each at least once in the 8 years since he bought into the timeshare.

Walt Disney World Resort is the largest and most visited recreational resort in the world. It contains four theme parks, two water parks, 24 themed hotels, and numerous shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation venues. It opened on October 1, 1971, with the Magic Kingdom theme park, and has since added Epcot (on October 1, 1982), Disney's Hollywood Studios (on May 1, 1989), and Disney's Animal Kingdom (on April 22, 1998).

To avoid a burst of land speculation, Disney used various dummy corporations and cooperative individuals to acquire 27,400 acres (110 km², 43 mi²) of land. The first five-acre lot was bought on October 23, 1964, by the Ayefour Corporation (a pun on Interstate 4). Others were also used with second or secret meanings which add to the lore of the Florida Project, including M.T. Lott Real Estate Investments ("empty lot"). In most cases, the owners were happy to get rid of the land, which was mostly swamp.

Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, before his vision was realized.

Disney World Map:

Animal Kingdom: It was the fourth park built at the resort and is the largest single Disney theme park in the world. It spans more than 500 acres. It is even accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meaning it has met the standards in education, conservation and research.
The park is made up of seven themed areas: Oasis (the entrance and contains many animal habitats. It reminded me of a rainforest); Discovery Island (the "central hub" of Disney's Animal Kingdom, connecting almost all of the other sections of the park); Camp Minnie-Mickey (a rustic summer camp where guests can meet Disney characters and see the live stage show "Festival of the Lion King"); Africa (where the safari expedition is); Rafiki's Planet Watch (where you can get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Disney's Animal Kingdom's animal care facilities); Asia (where you can take a jungle trek, river cruise, and even ride a roller coaster through the Himalayas); and DinoLand U.S.A. (where Boneyard, a multi-leveled playground, as well as a couple coasters and another live play are).

I loved the safari ride in the Africa area. The animals had lots of room to roam about and the habitat seemed athentic to Africa.

Another of the animal habitats in Africa.

Here's another of the viewing platforms for one of the animal exhibits. We saw tigers wandering around outside the windows.

Not sure if the bird area is considered part of the Africa area or not, but they have a pretty interesting bird show.

There is also a section where you can walk through a huge bird cage like area and see lots of strange and interesting birds.

Here Dad and Angie are about to go into the "4"-D show " It's Tough to be a Bug! " in the Discovery Island section. I love the 4-D shows throughout Disney World.

This was in the DinoLand area by the huge playground, or Boneyard.

There is an interesting coaster in the Dino section.  Lines aren't too long for this ride and well worth doing, even for the non coaster riders like me.

There is also a section here that reminds me of the old fashion small town carnivals complete with the rides like "tilt a whirls".  Very nostalgic.

Next to DinoLand is Asia.  Here's were 2 of the more popular rides are.  Good idea to get Fast Pass tickets for these rides.  One is the jungle cruise.  You WILL get wet on this ride, but on a hot day that's not a problem.

The other ride is a real roller coaster.  From a distance it's made to look like the Himalayas.  It was fun, too.

This was one of the many "floats" in the afternoon parade---I believe this would be considered the Discovery Island area.

Here is The Tree of Life.  It is a 145-foot artificial tree and is the icon of Disney's Animal Kingdom. There are 325 animals carved into the trunk. Under the Tree is the theatre where It's Tough to be a Bug! is shown. I wonder how Angie appreciated this tree since she now constructs outside areas for theme parks for the architecture firm she works for.

In the Camp Minnie-Mickey area is where the "Festival of the Lion King" show is.  First time we went to Animal Kingdom we elected to skip this thinking it would be a kids show.  Next time I was told not to miss it.  It is an excellent live show for the whole family!  Do not miss it!!

This park usually closes earlier then the other parks.  I guess the animals need their peace and quiet.  So plan to get there early and spend the whole day there.

Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) : This park is dedicated to international culture and technological innovation.

Walt Disney's original vision of EPCOT was for a model community, home to twenty thousand residents, which would be a test bed for city planning and organization. The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and PeopleMovers. Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground. People would rent houses instead of buying them and everyone must be employed. Walt Disney was not able to get funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first. Disney died before the Magic Kingdom opened and his vision for Epcot was not realized.

After Walt Disney died, The Walt Disney Company decided it didn't want to be in the position of running a city and changed the plans for Epcot. In their original plans for the park, some in the company wanted it to represent the cutting edge of technology, while others wanted it to showcase international cultures and customs. Finally a model of the futuristic park was pushed together against a model of the international park, and EPCOT Center was formed.

The park consists of two sections—Future World and World Showcase.

Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology. Disney prefers to have sponsors helping to pay the bills, so pavilions without sponsors have come and gone. Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon, and The Land was sponsored by Kraft, then Nestlé. Test Track is sponsored by General Motors, Imagination! is sponsored by Eastman Kodak, Mission: SPACE is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, and Spaceship Earth (the big ball icon of the park) was sponsored by Bell System, then AT&T, and is now by Siemens.

World Showcase contains pavilions representing eleven countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, Morroco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.

My pictures of Epcot are from several different trips so they jump around quite a bit.

Spaceship Earth is the 18-story geodesic sphere that greet guests as they enter Epcot. The ride takes guests on a time machine themed experience. The 13-minutes dark ride shows guests how advancements in human communication have helped to create the future.

On the Spaceship Earth ride, the screen on your ride will ask you a few questions. After the time travel ride through communication history, there's a period of time when you're just traveling in the dark with tiny lights all about. That's also the time when your screen brings up a bunch of pictures of you doing fun things based on your answers.

Here's Coni and me in 2012.

Here my sister and I are out in the wilderness somewhere (2009). The series of pictures are really cute.

This is at the entrance to Universe of Energy. I liked the way they used mirror tiles on the building in a mosaic way.

Here's an older picture of the Universe of Energy. The current show stars Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye 'The Science Guy,' Alex Trebek, Johnny Gilbert, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It deals with energy, how energy is produced, the history of energy production, and the search for new energy resources. In particular it focuses on the origins of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas. It's a cute "Jeapardy" show with a ride that takes you back into prehistoric times. The animatronics of the dinosaurs and sights, sounds and smells during the ride are really interesting. The whole experience takes about 50 minutes.

A current (2012) view by the Energy building with Epcot in the background.

The Universe of Energy ride is well worth the time it takes to do it.

Mission: SPACE opened in 2003 and is a motion simulator thrill ride in Epcot's Future World's section. It simulates what an astronaut might experience aboard a spacecraft on a mission to Mars. The attraction is a multiple-arm centrifuge that achieves the illusion of acceleration by spinning and tilting sealed capsules during the four-minute "mission." This ride exposes riders to forces up to 2.5G, more than twice the force of gravity at the earth's surface. I have NEVER had motion sickness until I did this ride. I don't plan to ever do it again. A few months after the ride's opening, motion sickness bags were added within easy reach of riders. A couple people have even died after going on this ride. In 2006, Disney began offering a less intense version of Mission: SPACE (called Green Team, also known as Less Intense training or no spinning). Perhaps I'll try that one some day.

JAMMitors are a trio of Park custodians who perform a live percussion show using trashcans in the Future World area around the Mission: SPACE attraction and the Test Track attraction. They play for about 8 minutes and are very talented.

Imagination! holds various imagination-based attractions. Like most of the other pavilians in Epcot, this one also went through several changes throughout the years. Currently it houses a short ride featuring Figment (of your imagination) and another really cool 3-D movie, "Honey I Shrunk the Audience!" The exterior is interesting, too, with the "falls" going up instead of down and dancing water fountains by the entrance.

I believe this was from the outside of the The Living Seas. It was the largest man-made underwater environment in the world at its completion (since surpassed by the Georgia Aquarium---which Angie is now actually working on at the architecture firm she works for). In Nov. 2004, the old ride through The Living Seas was replaced with one containing elements from the film Finding Nemo were . In 2005, The Living Seas closed for its extensive Finding Nemo lay over, which included removing the hydrolators and changing the Seacabs ride. The pavilion reopened in October 2006 with a new name, The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion. The new Nemo ride is a cute short ride through the aquarium with Nemo and his friends journeying through it. It's interesting how they show these fictional characters in with the real fish in the huge aquarium. I'm a sucker for aquariums so I really enjoy this pavilian.

Another show in the Seas that I never went to before 2012 because I thought it would be for kids is Turtle Talk with Crush.  Coni made me go and I will never miss it again.  It is hillarious and being live, different each time.

Also inside the The Seas with Nemo and Friends section are the usual shops and educational areas associated with the section. Here there was also a little play area for kids---young and old.

I got a kick out of this area outside of the Seas. This was even during a non-prime time season!

On to the World Showcase area:

The first country is Canada.  Canada's attraction is "O Canada," a 360-degree CircleVision visit to the country.  I love the gardens landscaping the grounds since they remind me of Butcharts gardens near Victoria which I have visited a 3 or 4 times.

The United Kingdom Pavilion comes next and is designed to look like a typical British village complete with an english garden and hedge maze. Within the pavalian are the usual shops and restaurants of the nation.

The World Showcase Players (a Roving comedy show), comes to the United Kingdom pavilian to perform a really cute Holy Grail interactive skit. Every since we discovered it on this particular trip, we make a point of not missing it on future trips. Although the theme of the skit is the same, there's always some really funny impromptu things that go on depending on the crowds reactions. Here's my Dad and his buddy Curt enjoying the show.

There is also a Beatles tribute band called "The British Invasion" that performs regularly in the United Kingdom Pavilion. They have several shows a day and each show is different. They not only perform Beatles songs, but also other English artists songs of that generation. We usually make a point of catching at least one of their shows, too.

I don't remember if this act was done by France or Italy, but it was fun to watch. I'm not even sure they still have it. If they don't, they should consider getting it back! The "statue" was really a person all in white. When people came up to her to have their picture taken with her she would slowly change her stance---sometimes even swiping girls purses and such.

When you approach France from the United Kingdom, you stroll over the Pont des Arts inspired footbridge. This spot is reminiscent of the the Seine waterfront, complete with flower carts and streetside artists.   The "Impressions de France" film is shown throughout the day in the Palais du Cinema. On many occassions we have stopped to partake in a great pastry from  the Boulangerie Patisserie

The Germany section contains replicas of everything German from the medieval castle to the fairy tale Bavarian style buildings.  There is a new shop, Karamelle-Kuche, in Germany. It features Disney cast members making fresh caramel corn, caramel apples, strawberries, marshmallows.

Germany is where the one real restaurant my Dad and I ate at in Disney is. I know, so many great places, why haven't we dined at more? Maybe because we're cheap, or too busy. I choose to believe it's because we're too busy. But my Dad and I did really enjoy the Biergarten Restaurant in the Germany pavilian. It is a buffet restaurant designed to look as though Oktoberfest is being celebrated there. Schnitzel, strudel and beer offer a taste of Bavaria at the Biergarten Restaurant. It features live entertainment and beer served in one liter steins. The dining hall is actually in the entrance area for the never built boat cruise down the Rhine. Dinner and the entertainment were both excellent!

I'm happy to say I got to eat in the French restaurant in 2012 with my friend Coni.  Lunch was great, albeit expensive!

The ambience was impressive, too.

One of the entertainment features in the American Adventure pavilian is the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps. It is a band that plays marching music in the spirit of the American Revolution. All the instruments played by Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps are 18th-century reproductions. We also go inside the pavilion for it's main attraction, an Audio-Animatronics stage show of American history. It is narrated by figures of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The show is presented in a comfortable theater-like auditorium, with sets and characters rising out from the stage floor to represent scenes from different historical periods. The characters provide insight into American life of the past through conversations in which they discuss the current events of their time. The show lasts about 30 minutes or so and is a great place to get out of the heat (or cold) for a while and rest weary feet while being interestingly entertained.

The Mexico pavilion resembles a Mesoamerican pyramid. Inside the building is a low light marketplace, a restaurant overlooking a lagoon, and a cute little boat ride.

From the boat ride inside the Mexico area.

A large Chinese gate is an impressive entrance into the Chinese pavilian. In the courtyard is a Chinese temple, the Temple of Heaven (where the entrance to "Reflections of China" is , a Circle-Vision 360° movie exploring China's history and scenery), as well as a museum containing several ancient Chinese artifacts. The courtyard is bordered by shops and two Chinese restaurants. The pavilion is beautifully decorated with ponds, crossed by bridges. Chinese acrobats also perform frequently in the pavilion.

THis is a picture from the acrobats performance in the courtyard of the Chinese pavilian. It's well worth seeing! Note that the performers are all youngsters.

That is just a few of the countries to explore in the World Showcase.  We can easily spend the whole day just exploring the World Showcase

As a photographer, I enjoy going to Disney at all times of the year.  The landscaping and decor changes with the seasons.

Just a wintery view in Epcot one pretty Jan. day.

The landscaping throughout all of the Disney parks is unbelievable! Some 4,000 acres are landscaped for the 47-square-mile resort's theme parks, hotel properties, golf courses, and campground. Disney's 750 horticultural professionals plant three million bedding plants annually and tend 175,000 trees and more than four million shrubs. Some 200 plants have been sculpted by topiary experts and there are at least 800 hanging baskets. Plants found on Disney's property come from 50 countries—from every continent except Antarctica. The resort even has a large nursery staffed by 30 professionals. In 2010 we were there shortly after Orlando suffered a rare ice storm, but you couldn't tell it by the looks of the plants in Disney World.

One of the 2 times we were in Orlando in early Jan. for my work's winter meetings, the parks were still decorated for Christmas. They really went all out with the decorations. It was quite a sight! I understand in 2009 they downsized the decorations. I'm glad I got to see them when I did.

In the Springtime, they have the International Flower & Garden Festival  which runs from mid March to mid May.  I finally had the oppurtunity to get to it in 2012.  Epcot is always beautiful, but during this time they add even more flowers.

They also add more topiaries.

And special gardens like this pixie garden.

They even have backyard landscaping ideas.

It's definately a beautiful time to be there!

Back to the 3-D movies (or 4-D, as they sometimes call them). Before entering the auditoriums, we picked out our fashionable special 3-D glasses. They always make for an fun photo op---especially when the one you're taking a picture of is my jokester brother!

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth started in 1999 and is an award-winning show performed nightly at Epcot right before the park closes. The show uses fireworks, pyrotechnics, laser lights, and fountains to create a visual production on the park's World Showcase Lagoon. The centerpiece of the show is the Earth Globe, a 350,000 pound globe housed on a barge. The Earth Globe's LED screens turn on in part 2 of the show, showing images of the natural world and famous man made structures. Near the end of production, the globe opens like a flower and a torch rises high above the lagoon. 1,105 firework shells are ignited during each show and are launched from 750 mortar tubes and 56 firing modules at 34 locations around the lagoon. Lasers are also used in the show, emanating from the American Adventure, Canada and Mexico pavilions. The whole show lasts an all too short 12 minutes or so.

My favorite part of the display includes the laser show.

The monorail system opened in 1971. It's a fun way to move from the ticket center and Epcot or Magic Kingdom. It also runs to many of the resorts in Disney. Not to mention it makes a great photo op!

The views are even fantastic after the sun sets.  So for a camera buff like me, I keep on shooting.

And don't forget to check out the entrance for a photo op on the way out!

I see I didn't include pictures to a lot of the other places---such as the Land. This holds another of our favorite activities--Soarin' (a simulated hang glider tour over California). It only lasts about 5 minutes, but the wait for it can be very long. We've learned to go straight there when we get in the park and get a Fastpass ticket to come back later. Fastpass is the way to go with the most popular rides! It lets you leave and do whatever you want and come back later. Then you get to enter a special line. But you can't just run around getting a bunch of Fastpass tickets. Once you get a Fastpass ticket it tells you on the ticket when you can get another one. Another fun short ride is the Fast Track ride. That's another one that we try to get a Fastpass ticket for.
Epcot is often open longer then the other parks. In the winter, it's usually open from 9am-9pm (not counting the Illuminations show). The World Showcase usually doesn't open until about 11, but there are plenty of things to do in the Future World until then. We often go for the whole time and still never see it all in one day. This is our favorite park to go to, so we've been here 6 or 7 times. But as many times as I've been here, there are still shows and rides I still haven't discovered.

Hollywood Studios: Its theme is show business, drawing inspiration from the heyday of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. It is the third park built at the resort and opened in 1989 as Disney-MGM Studios. It's name was changed to Hollywood Studios in 2008.
The park consists of six themed areas: Hollywood Boulevard (the park's main entrance is lined with shops. It also is where the Block Party Bash and other live entertainment is held); Echo Lake (Surrounding it are numerous attractions and services, some in structures designed to mimic the "California Crazy" form of architecture from Hollywood's Golden Age. This is also where the Indiana Jones set is, as well as the Star Wars ride, and where the live stage show "Jedi training" takes place); Streets of America (where street sets resembling San Francisco and New York City are. The Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is also there, as well as the playground Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure); Animation Courtyard ( here are attractions based on Disney characters of yesterday, today and tomorrow. One such attraction is the really cute "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" show which uses glow-in-the-dark puppets, lasers, music, projectors, human actors and water effects to re-create favorite scenes and songs from the animated Little Mermaid film); Pixar Place (this newest section includes many of the original soundstages used when the park hosted actual production facilities. Its sole attraction is Toy Story Midway Mania!, an interactive 3D attraction inspired by classic carnival midway games. Unfortunately we missed this attraction); Sunset Boulevard (here there are two outdoor amphitheaters for live stage shows--the cute "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage" and the late night fireworks, lasers and water effects show "Fantasmic". It's also home to another favorite ride of mine " The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror", a thrill ride based on the classic television series, another ride not for weak stomachs and good for using Fastpass for. The other big ride there is Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, an indoor roller coaster in the dark with three inversions and a high-speed launch--which I haven't found anyone to go on with me yet, but I'm not a huge coaster fan, so that's OK).

Here is the entrance gate that greeted us.

This is Sunset Boulevard on a beautiful early Feb. day. After a couple weeks of cool weather and lots of rain and even some ice, people flocked to the parks. I've never been in any of the Disney parks when it's been this crowded!

We got our Fastpasses for Tower of Terror and headed out to check out other areas of the park. It is a drop thrill ride (in the dark) that takes place in an old Hollywood hotel that is struck by lightening on Halloween in 1939. The cast members wear a costume that resembles that of a 1930s bellhop. At over $1000 per uniform, it is the most expensive costume in the various theme parks. The Tower of Terror is 199 feet high because of FAA regulations that require a fixed red light beacon to be added to the top of any 200-foot or taller building. They thought the beacon would detract from the theme. I don't think my brother and sister-in-law enjoyed the ride as much as I did. My brother left with more of a headache then he started with and my sister-in-law seemed a bit nauseous. But I enjoyed it, as did my Dad, Angie, and I in years past.

On our journey through the park, we even passed the real Goofey---as opposed to my brother!

In 2009, "The American Idol Experience" was launched. Visitors 14 and older are invited to audition before a Disney "producer" who will judge singers based on their ability to sing and perform in front of an audience. Throughout the day a number of preliminary shows are done before live audiences, with one finals show in the evening. Using electronic keypads at their seats, the audience vote for their favorite singer. The favorite of each show perform in the finals. We attended one of the preliminary shows and really enjoyed it. There were only 3 performers then, but they were all very good---even the 14 year old girl that was in our preliminary show. Would have liked to have gone to the finals, but it was at the same time as the Fantasmic Show.

This is taken in the theatre on Sunset Boulevard of the "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage" performance. The outdoor theatre has 1500 seats and the performance lasts about 30 minutes. I had actually never seen the movie and found the play really interesting.

The Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark show is another interesting live interactive performance. The stadium is huge, but often does fill up. Along with the pyrotechnics, there's also alot of humor and stunt work. It seems to be a favorite show for all ages.

Quite by accident we wandered into the Streets of America section. The backdrops were really quite impressive, especially with noone else around.

Here we are in San Fransisco with my brother acting strange again. We wondered where all the people were, although we were enjoying the empty cities. We soon found out where a bunch of them were---they were at the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. That stadium holds about 5000 people and it was almost full when we arrived there. The stunt show lasts about 40 minutes and includes pyrotechnics, jet ski chases, and physical stuntwork among the car driving stunts.

Did I mention it was crowded the nice Feb. day we were there in 2010?!

In the winter (not sure about the summer), the park is open different lengths of time on different days. We happened to be there on a Thurs. when it was open late (until 8:30). If I understand the guide correctly, Fantasmic isn't shown every day, just days it's open late. They had 2 shows this day. We thought we got there plenty early for the first of 2 shows and were sent to the standing room only area. The views weren't the best, but it's still worth checking out. The show lasts about 22 minutes and costs the park approx. $30,000 per evening. Between 2007 -2010 the show has been going through extensive refurbishment. We were there in Feb. 2010 and it appeared to be in great shape, maybe they've completed the work now.

My favorite part of all the shows are the laser parts, closely followed by the fireworks. The laser part of this show isn't very long, but I did enjoy it -- as short lived as it was.

I believe I've only been to Hollywood Studios 2 times (one of those times it was MGM Studios). Just like with all the parks, I haven't seen much of what it has to offer.

Magic Kingdom: This was the first of the Disney World Parks. In 2008, the park had about 17 million visitors which made it the most visited theme park in the world.
The ground level contains a system of tunnels so the employees can move about without being seen. The tunnels couldn't be lower because of the high water level of Florida. The park is actually the 2nd level. Epcot and Pleasure Island also have a smaller network of tunnels. The parking lot for this park is about 1 mile away---across Seven Seas Lagoon, so either a ferry ride or monorail ride is required to get to the park.
The park has forty-eight attractions in seven themed "lands." It is designed like a wheel with the hub in front of Cinderella Castle , pathways spoke out across the 107 acres of Magic Kingdom theme park and lead to these seven lands: Main Street, U.S.A. (The iconic Cinderella Castle is just past the far end of this street. Lots of shops selling merchandise and food line the street. The decor is early-20th century small-town America); Adventureland: (themed to resemble the remote jungles in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and the South Pacific, with an extension resembling a Caribbean town square. It contains classic rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise); Frontierland: (Frontierland relives the Wild West and contains attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Tom Sawyer Island, Splash Mountain, and the Country Bear Jamboree); Liberty Square: (an American Revolutionary town with the Liberty Belle riverboat, my favorite ride of this park--Haunted Mansion, and the Hall of Presidents); Fantasyland: (themed in a medieval-carnival style with fun little rides of "it's a small world", Peter Pan's Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mickey's PhilharMagic, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Cinderella's Golden Carrousel, and Mad Tea Party); Tomorrowland: (themed to be an intergalactic convention center with a roller coaster in the dark--- Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Speedway); and Mickey's Toontown Fair: (home to attractions such as Mickey's Country House, Minnie's Country House, Goofy's Barnstormer, and Donald's Boat. This area will soon be demolished to make way for the Fantasyland Expansion to be completed in 2013).

After crossing the lagoon, here's the entrance to Magic Kingdom.
In the distance, beyond the end of Main Street, stands Cinderella Castle. Though only 189 feet tall, it benefits from a technique known as forced perspective. The "fake" second stories of all the buildings along Main Street are shorter than the first stories, and the third stories are even shorter than the second, and the top windows of the castle are much smaller than they appear. The resulting visual effect is that the buildings appear to be larger and taller than they really are.

The rides typically let you out in a themed gift shop. This shop is obviously the exit from the Pirates ride. Even grown kids can have fun in the gift shops!

More beautiful landscaping. Love the Nessie topiary!

We all loved the the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland! Here you get to play with laser guns and spin the cars. When we weren't racking up points by hitting the targets throughout the ride, we were shooting each other.

The Haunted Mansion ride was a tour of a haunted house, preceded by a walk-through show in the queue. The attraction showcases advanced special effects and spectral Audio-Animatronics that are pretty amazing.

SpectroMagic is an evening parade which incorporates elaborate, brightly lit floats, a musical score, and many sound effects. The floats are populated with Disney characters and represent scenes from Disney's movies and short films. Well worth the time to see it.

Mickey Mouse's House is a themed attraction at several disney theme parks around the world. It is a walkthrough attraction through Mickey Mouse's home in the Mickey's Toontown themed area. I'm sad to read it's going to be demolished.

Back to the Buzz Lightyear ride. Here Angie's showing her Grandpa the objective of the ride.

Originally, a suite was built for the Disney family and executives in the castle, but since Roy Disney died shortly after the park opened, it remained unfinished, and eventually was turned into an office.
The restaurant, Cinderella's Royal table, is on the second floor of the castle.

There use to be an aerial tram, "Skyway", but it was removed in 1999. It was an interesting way to get from one "land" to another, even for a young Donald Duck.

Space Mountain is a themed indoor roller coaster where you ride in the dark, with lighting and other special effects. It was closed from April 2009 - November 2009 for extensive renovations. I haven't been on it in a few years, but did enjoy it even though I'm not really a coaster enthusiast.

The Liberty Square Riverboat is a 17 minute trip on an authentic 3-tiered paddlewheel steamship that journeys in a circle around the Rivers of America for a scenic, half-mile tour of Frontierland, Liberty Square and Tom Sawyer Island. It is a reproduction of the highly ornate vessels that ferried people and cargo up and down the mighty Mississippi River. A working steam engine turns the massive paddlewheel that propels the ship forward.

So what can you do if you don't have mailto:$100@day to spend to hit all the parks?  You can always Disney resort hop!  They have some really interesting themed hotels.  Coni showed me how to see them by car and by hopping free on the monorail and ferries.  We spent hours going from resort to resort and didn't see half of them. 

 First we started with the value resorts---the All Star resorts.  They're colorful and whimsical with their oversized themed decor.  Here's the All Star Movie resort.

Here are just a few of the Disney movie themed areas.

Then we were off to the All Star Music Resort and were amazed at these:

Of course they all have fabulous pools, too!


Then we were on to All Star Sports Resort:

Love how they hid the stairwells in themed items.

With time running out, we skipped Pop Century and Animation Resorts and headed to The Grand Floridian, One of the Delux Resorts.  Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a Victorian-style hotel that conjures the splendor of the Sunshine State's golden era.

From there we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom entrance where we caught a ferry boat to Disney's Wilderness Lodge in the Animal Kingdom area.  Disney's Wilderness Lodge captures the adventurous and romantic spirit of the grand National Park Service lodges found in the Great American Northwest.

After we quenched our thirst in the bar there, we headed back to the ferry.  By then it was already getting dark.  We had planned to stop at the original resort, the Contemporary, but it was getting late and we were hungry, so we elected to skip it, too.

From the landing at Magic Kingdom, we got back on the monorail and continued to Disney's Polynesian Resort.  It celebrates the captivating sights, sounds and culture of the South Pacific.  We had dinner in the casual cafe Kona Cafe (the higher priced Ohana Cafe was fully booked).  Our dinner was excellent.  This is actually the entrance to the Ohana Cafe.

We were also able to go out to the "beach" by this resort and watch the light parade on the water for free.  Not a fancy parade, but cute and a nice way to spend a few minutes on a nice evening.

This blog barely touches all the attractions within the 4 main parks and a few of the resorts, not to mention the water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach; or the other attractions like: Downtown Disney, Disney's Boardwalk, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, or Walt Disney World Speedway! I can see why some of my Disneyholic friends go there several times a year. Perhaps I'll turn into one of them one of these days!