Sunday, June 19, 2016

Walt Disney World Trip 2016 Day 2: Magic Kingdom

Read about Day 1 HERE!

Day 2 was no less exciting, because we would be going to one of my favorite Disney parks: the Magic Kingdom!

Need some audio to get you in the Magic Kingdom mood? Click here!

Even though we had determined that taking our rental car was the fastest (and least tiring) way to get from our resort to the parks, the Magic Kingdom park is a bit different. They have people park at the Ticket and Transportation Center, take a tram to either a monorail or ferry boat, and use that to get to the park entrance. So actually, the fastest mode of transportation is the bus.

We walked to the front, and my parents were now wearing their Anniversary buttons that I'd gotten for them the day before. Before the "permanent" marker wore off, it proudly displayed that they'd been married for 37 years. (Or they will be, in July.) My dad was also wearing his new hat, which looked very smart.

The bus wait didn't take long, and we were making our way into the Magic Kingdom! My first big surprise of the trip: the bag check was HUGE! I was nervous that I wouldn't make it through in time for the opening, but as long as Mom and Dad saw it, I guess that was okay. Fortunately, there were lots of security guys, so even though they were being very thorough (and with recent Orlando happenings, I can be very thankful for that), I got through with 5 minutes to spare.

We positioned ourselves right in front of the train station, instead of being right next to either of the tunnels. The reason for this was simple: we had two days at the Magic Kingdom, and our Fastpass+ reservations would easily help us cover the most popular attractions without having to speed off at rope drop. So our first attraction of the morning was actually to go right of Town Square and meet Mickey Mouse! My mother wasn't terribly thrilled with this idea, but little did she know that this Mickey was the talking Mickey, who would have conversations with you! (I decided not to tell her, so her skepticism lasted for a few hours. I just smiled and tolerated it.)

The opening show is glorious, and I love seeing it. If you go to Walt Disney World, make sure to be early at the Magic Kingdom so you can see it. It just puts you in the right mood, and (to be honest) the sight of Casey Jr. coming down the track and blowing its whistle brings happy tears to my eyes. (Want more examples of Disney bringing happy tears? Read this!)

Sure enough, Casey Jr. came down the track and brought with him many of our favorite Disney friends! We all counted down from ten and then made our way into the park. We didn't have to rush down Main Street U.S.A., so our first sight of Cinderella Castle would have to wait.

The queue for Mickey was nonexistent, though we had to wait in the warmup room for a minute or two before we were let into his "dressing room." Mom and Dad got to see a couple of people ahead of us interact with Mickey, and then it was their turn! They immediately got hugs, and Mickey noticed their anniversary pins and asked Dad what the secret was to a long marriage. He said, "Listening!" Mickey thought that was swell. Then they got a picture, and I got to be in one as well.

Mom was pleased with the encounter, and her trace of skepticism vanished.

Since the mad rush was over, Town Square and Main Street U.S.A. were down to moderate crowds, and the Main Street Vehicles were parked in Town Square. Apparently, my parents had thought for all these years that you had to pay to ride these vehicles, but you don't! I saw the firetruck and made a beeline for it. We sat in the back, and were able to enjoy a nice leisurely ride down Main Street U.S.A. Mom even figured out that the bell in the back worked!

I got some great shots of the two of them right in front of the castle, without a crowd of people around. Then we walked through the castle into Fantasyland!

We hung out for a little bit in some of the shops, and then our Fastpass+ reservation for Peter Pan was ready. I got a little mixed up with where the attraction was located; I was thinking of Disneyland's Fantasyland instead of the Magic Kingdom's!

We enjoyed the ride, and then went across the way to it's a small world, which I didn't realize was Mom's favorite attraction. She had ridden it way back in 1964 at the World's Fair, when her family went to New York! Color me jealous.

The ride was very pleasant, and imagine their surprise (not mine; I knew it was coming) when, at the very end, there were some screens in the final room, where there are usually signs in different languages telling people "Goodbye." Well, now the screens show people's names! They use the Magic Bands to read who is in the boat, and then they'll display those names! I hadn't seen it used, but it was neat to see.

We headed over to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh next, and waited for 15 minutes or so. However, the standby queue was interactive, and it had things to turn and move and pop so that kids could stay entertained. They also had big screens where honey was dripping down, and you could wipe it away to reveal a character! Out of all the attractions in the original Fantasyland area, Winnie the Pooh is my favorite, I think.

We walked right into the start of Mickey's Philharmagic next, which is a 3-D show next to Peter Pan. I love that show - it incorporates a lot of Disney Animation's second golden age movies, like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. It is different to see those animated characters in CG form, though.

Mom grabbed us some ice water for our waterbottle, and then we used our Fastpass+ for an attraction I was a little nervous doing: The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I wasn't worried about Mom - she's done coasters before and loves them. However, Dad is not a roller coaster kind of guy, and I wasn't sure how well he'd take this one. I had done it before, and knew it was tamer than most of the other things in the Magic Kingdom, like Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

I sat with Dad, and Mom went by herself. Dad told me the attraction was pretty much his limit, so that was good. I love that one! It's a very smooth ride, but the mine carts actually sway a little bit - you only notice it if you pay attention! Mom really enjoyed it, too.

It was time for lunch, so we walked over to Adventureland by way of Liberty Square. We passed the new bathrooms that are based on Tangled, and Dad and I also tried out the stocks. (We voluntarily tried the stocks - it wasn't like they caught us climbing Rapunzel's tower to see if we could watch the Wishes fireworks from up there or anything...)

I wanted to treat Mom and Dad to a meal at the Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen, which had only opened earlier this year. I love the Jungle Cruise and it's painfully punny jokes, so when there was a restaurant based on that attraction, I wanted to give it a try! It was indoors, cool, the theming was great, and our server was great. Mom got the "A lot at Steak" salad, Dad got the Skip's Mac and Cheese, and I decided on two appetizers: the Falls Family Falafel and the S.E.A. Shui Mai. In my opinion, the S.E.A. Shui Mai was the winner!


Our next attraction took us back to Fantasyland and Under The Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. It's just a dark ride - nothing special - but it's well done. We also managed to catch the tail end of the Main Street Philharmonic as they finished their concert in the Storybook Circus area.

Since we were at Storybook Circus, and we were pretty tired, we decided to catch the Walt Disney Railroad back to the front of the park and do some monorail hopping! We exited the park and took the monorail (“¡Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas!”) over to the Grand Floridian Resort. Mom has always mentioned staying there sometime, but she had never seen the inside! So we walked in and spent a few minutes enjoying the lobby and sitting area. Unfortunately there wasn't a band or piano player at the time, but it was nice to enjoy the solitude and quiet.

We got a bus back to the Art of Animation, and Mom and I did another swim while Dad napped. We were a little earlier than the previous day at Epcot, and got back to the Magic Kingdom right around 5:30. (Our wait for the bus was pretty bad, and there wasn't any shade! Next time we had to take the bus, we decided that I would drive us down to the main building and park there. It would save us some time.)

We walked down Main Street U.S.A. and entered Casey's Corner, which is famous for its hot dogs and corn dog nuggets. I knew Dad would like the hot dogs, so that's why we went there! I got my delicious BBQ Slaw Dog, which I get every time I'm at the Magic Kingdom. Dad and Mom each got the Chili Cheese Hot Dog, which I'm sure was tasty.

The trickiest part of Casey's Corner is the seating! We didn't want to eat outside, but all the tables were taken. But we got some nice Disney courtesy by two other sets of park guests, who said that we could join them at their tables! We sat with a couple who were from Philadelphia, and they were very nice. It was great to enjoy our meal in the air conditioning.

We waltzed over to Adventureland again, and I had gotten us a Fastpass+ reservation for the Jungle Cruise after we'd used our first three Fastpass+ reservations. Our skipper was named Anthony, and he had the driest dry humor ever, but he was also hilarious. I've had some average cruises, but this one was definitely above average.

We checked out the Enchanted Tiki Room next, and I hadn't seen it since it had been reverted back to it's shortened "original" form. The last time I'd seen it, Iago and Zazu were still "Under New Management," but a fire in 2011 allowed it to return to its original script, and I liked that version much more!

Our longest queue of the entire vacation came next, when we decided to do Pirates of the Caribbean. I'd say we waited 35-40 minutes, but that is a queue that is indoors, so the air conditioning was very welcome. The addition of Klaus Badelt's score from The Curse of the Black Pearl is amazing for the attraction. But there's always such a backlog of boats in the final two scenes - it kind of takes me out of it. And this has happened to me quite a few times. Is that just going to be the norm?

My favorite part of the evening came next. We walked over to Aloha Isle and got Dole Whips! Thanks to Aloha Isle switching places with Sunshine Tree Terrace, the line to get Dole Whips is now greatly reduced. (It's over behind the Tiki Room now.) Mom and Dad each got the regular Dole Whip, which they had actually eaten at the Dole Plantation in Hawai'i before this! (I'm jealous.) I upgraded to a Dole Whip Float, which not only has the pineapple ice cream, but also pineapple juice. Seriously guys, this is the only pineapple thing you'll ever get me to eat.

Our final Fantasyland attraction was Enchanted Tales with Belle, an attraction definitely intended for children. However, it's still pretty magical. You enter from Maurice's cottage, and you are shown a mirror that actually transports you to the day that Belle and Beast fell in love (I still can't quite figure out how they do the effect - you just have to see it for yourself!) Then you go through the mirror into a room featuring the wardrobe, and children are selected to play parts in Belle's story. Then you meet Belle in the library, and she helps you tell the story of how she and Beast fell in love. It's very cute.

It was getting close to the "witching hour," AKA that time when everyone starts parking to view the evening parade. I didn't want Mom and Dad to have to try and find a spot on Main Street U.S.A. because I knew that other areas in Liberty Square and Frontierland would be far less crowded. So I was walking down Liberty Square when I noticed a magical sight: behind the Hall of Presidents was a porch, with two empty rocking chairs!

I raced over to claim them as our own, and my parents were very happy to find a shaded, secluded area that would be nice for parade viewing. (It wasn't perfect, but the porch was up a few steps and allowed us to see the floats above everyone's heads.) So for the next hour, we chilled out. We had covered all the attractions in Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Main Street U.S.A. that we wanted to do, so we just people-watched!

There were quite a few people that pointed out our seats and said, "Best seat in the house!" We even had a seven- or eight-year-old boy come up to Mom and Dad and ask, "Do you guys live here?" Mom and Dad were polite and said no, but I snorted and had to look away. But there was a front door behind them and everything - it was an honest mistake!

The sky grew dark and the Main Street Electrical Parade introduction started. I have always loved that parade since 2000, and I even bought the soundtrack on that trip and play it frequently! They have upgraded the floats since then and have softened the music a bit, but it's still lovely. I especially love how Tinkerbell starts the parade, and from her float and onwards an occasional string of yellow "pixie dust" lights run through!

We abandoned our seats and headed back to Main Street U.S.A. in order to view the "Celebrate The Magic" show - it is video that is projected onto Cinderella's Castle, and the best place to view it is from the front of the park. We managed to squeeze our way into the middle area, and had a (relatively) unobstructed view. However, the show was great! The way they project stuff onto the castle is pretty incredible - it's not just a projector onto an uneven surface. Go on YouTube and search "Celebrate the Magic Disney World Magic Kingdom" and you'll see.

Instead of staying in those same places for the "Wishes" fireworks show and then dealing with the giant mob that was exiting the Magic Kingdom and waiting for buses all at the same time, I actually took my parents out of the park. We went all the way to where the ferryboats dock and turned around. The train station was off to our left, and you could see the top of Cinderella's Castle. This is the perfect spot to view Wishes. Almost all of the fireworks are visible from this point, and they pipe in the music so you can hear all the audio perfectly. (I kind of wish they would do this at Disneyland!)

And guess what happened when it was done? We just turned around and caught the next Art of Animation bus and didn't have to wait in a giant line. It was magnificent.

Dad's Magic Kingdom Top 3: 
Bronze - Having Mickey Mouse personally wish us a happy anniversary
Silver - Mickey's Philharmagic
Gold - Celebrate the Magic

Stay tuned for Day 3, where Animal Kingdom tries to redeem itself from being a below-average theme park in our eyes! Does it succeed? You'll just have to read to find out!

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