Friday, June 24, 2016

Walt Disney World Trip 2016 Day 4: Magic Kingdom and Be Our Guest

Read about Day 3 HERE.

You know you want some more music while you read this article, so click here to listen to the fantastic music from the parade we watched in the afternoon!

Our early morning was a little more relaxing, because we weren't invested in getting to the parks by rope drop. Instead, we had our only Disney breakfast on this morning!

I drove Mom and Dad to the front of Art of Animation, and we ate inside its food court, called Landscape of Flavors. While most people wanted Mickey waffles and chocolate chip pancakes (that was the longest line), Mom and I didn't have to wait at all for our omelettes! We both did make-your-own omelettes, and they were put together right in front of you. And they're HUGE!

When we finished, a double-sized bus was just pulling up, and we loaded ourselves on in no time. The park had opened by the time we arrived, but that was okay. I got through the bag check and we were on our way.

The same scenario from Day 2 continued here: we were going to cover Tomorrowland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square. The major attractions were already take care of with FastPass+, so we didn't need to run anywhere. And because the Main Street Vehicles were back, we wanted to try out another one!

We hopped in a car with a couple, and naturally, due to the small space, we got to talking. Turns out they had been in Animal Kingdom as well, but they had spent the evening at the California Grill and had gotten engaged! We were very happy for them. Our driver was great, too, telling us about all the little details of Main Street U.S.A. and some pointers about shows and attractions. When we arrived at the castle, he even volunteered to get a picture of all of us.

We veered to the right of Cinderella's Castle and toured around Tomorrowland. We did the Astro Orbiter first, and as we were waiting to take the elevator up to the ships, I got curious why Tomorrowland wasn't more crowded. So I checked the Lines app (the app made by my employer, TouringPlans.com), and it was reporting that Space Mountain was currently closed!

Fortunately for us, Space Mountain wasn't in our touring plan. However, I also saw that Splash Mountain was closed, and that was in our plan, but not till the afternoon. We'd have to keep an eye on that one.

After Astro Orbiter (which was kind of uncomfortable...), we did Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. I'm much more of a fan of its sister attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania, but Buzz is fun for what it is. I got a pretty good score, too!

This was our mistake of the day: Mom and Dad suggested Stitch's Great Escape. What we should have done was ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. With Space Mountain closed, the TTA Peoplemover would have taken us right into the attraction, and it was more than likely that the lights would have been on!

But did I think that at the time? Noooooo. Instead, I decided to give Stitch a try. I had heard negative things, but had never actually done the attraction.

Well, that was stupid. The attraction was dumb, and not worth it at all. I should have just kept it in my "never-ride" list! And this decision kicked me in the butt later, when the TTA Peoplemover decided to go down for the rest of the afternoon and evening when I was ready to ride it! I didn't get to ride one of my favorite Magic Kingdom attractions. Bummer.

After grabbing some water from the Merchant of Venus (get it?), we walked through Fantasyland and into Liberty Square. It was time to check out the Hall of Presidents! The attraction is always impressive, because the Presidents are animated! They sit and stand, but they also move their heads and hands periodically. It's an impressive sight.

We used our FastPass+ for The Haunted Mansion next. I used to hate The Haunted Mansion, but I've grown to appreciate its fandom and the way the attraction is put together. Dad has always liked it - that's probably why I went on it as a kid, even though it terrified me!

It was lunchtime, so we walked over to the Columbia Harbor House for lunch. It was very crowded, but Disney knows how to keep lines moving: give everyone that comes in a menu, so hopefully everyone has decided what to order before they even make it up to the kiosk. Oh, and have ten different kiosks from which to order. I got the chicken pot pie, Mom got fried shrimp, and Dad had New England Clam Chowder.

Now the food was delicious; don't get me wrong. But the best part of Columbia Harbor House is its seating. At first blush it doesn't look like much. But there's a second floor that stretches along Liberty Square and Fantasyland! Mom got us a table that was right up against a window overlooking Liberty Square. We could watch the crazy-long Haunted Mansion FastPass+ line (that was strange!) and see the Liberty Belle Riverboat as it went around the Rivers of America.

Since we could see the Liberty Belle as it came back to dock, we decided to do that attraction before we went over to Splash Mountain. The Riverboat is a great relaxing ride, and it was perfect for this time of the day.

As we moseyed around, I checked Lines again, and saw that Splash Mountain had closed again! This was concerning, because our FastPass+ window was closing, and we wouldn't be able to get on! Disney, fortunately, has a plan for this. They sent me an e-mail that said we could get into the FastPass+ line for Splash Mountain at any time for the rest of the day, or we could choose a FastPass+ reservation for one of a select group of attractions.

When our Liberty Belle ride was done, Splash Mountain was back to running, and we decided to take advantage of the FastPass+ unlimited window. And man, did it feel good to get wet! Right before we got on, I instructed Dad to put his electronics in the Zip-lock bag I'd been carrying around all trip. He resisted at first, but I knew that they increase the water on Splash Mountain during the summer months, and we'd probably get wet. He did it, and I was glad I'd been so insistent! I was front row on the right, and that ended up being the wettest seat in the log!

The train stations itself right above the queue for Splash Mountain, so we saw it come in as we were exiting the ride. We decided it was a good idea to get on the train and go to the front of the park again for some confections from the Confectionery! I didn't think we would get on that train, since we were still exiting the Splash Mountain area, but to our delight, the train was still waiting for us after we climbed the stairs!

We enjoyed a leisurely trip to Main Street U.S.A., and then hit the Main Street Confectionery. This was a lot of fun for me, because I don't get to watch the cast members creating their delicious treats very often. But I got to see them dipping strawberries in chocolate as well as decorating caramel apples and making them into Mickeys!

Mom went here to purchase some fudge, I got chocolate covered marshmallows on a Mickey straw, and Dad actually went outside and got a chocolate covered banana. We were all pleased with our chocolate choices.

As we exited the Confectionery, we heard the dulcet tones of the Dapper Dans! We had missed them our first day in the Magic Kingdom, but caught the second half of their act this time around. They were fabulous, as usual.

Another show I wanted my parents to see was Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial in Adventureland. After a brief stop in the Hub to snap a cute picture of Mom and Dad in front of the castle, we arrived right at the beginning of the show!

I had seen it before, and they was in need of some water, so I left them and searched around for a table service restaurant. Rancho del Zoccolo is often not open, and even though it was very crowded, it wasn't open on this day. However, it shares table space with Pecos Bill's in Frontierland, so I managed to maneuver my way through a bunch of different rooms and to the counter at Pecos Bill's to get us some water and ice.

I got back for the second half of Captain Jack's show, and even gave him a high-five! (Not many people can say they've done that.) This was the heat of the day, and usually at this point we are heading back to the resort and taking a break for a few hours. However, our plans were a little different this day, because I really wanted to see the Festival of Fantasy parade at 3pm. (Plus, we were going to call it a night a little earlier than the first three nights.) We chilled out for a few minutes in the Rancho/Pecos Bill air conditioned seating, and then went looking for a spot to view the parade.

I could take full credit for this, or I could just admit that I lucked into the following scenario. The parades in the Magic Kingdom go one of two ways: from Frontierland through Liberty Square and into the Hub and Main Street U.S.A., or the reverse of that. On Day 2, the Main Street Electrical Parade was going from Main Street U.S.A. But on Day 4, the Festival of Fantasy parade was starting in Frontierland. And where was I leading my parents? Out of Pecos Bill's and right into Frontierland.

We ended up finding a fantastic parade viewing area just 15 minutes before the parade began, and it was in the shade! Most people choose parade viewing based on where they are at the time (and usually right when a parade begins) or they go to Main Street U.S.A. and park themselves for 45-60 minutes. For us, we found a great place with little problem. My parents praised me. I knew it was just dumb luck.

The Festival of Fantasy did not disappoint! It is far superior than its predecessors, and the tune is incredibly catchy. The floats are gorgeous, and it mostly covers movies that have been released within the last 20 years, like Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, and Brave. The most impressive float, though, is the steampunk Maleficent dragon - and it breathes fire!

We needed to get back to Tomorrowland, and trying to dodge people after a parade can be difficult. So I implemented a strategy I learned in Disneyland when navigating the post-parade population: follow the parade! Right after Mickey and Minnie's float, there were cast members lined up, picking up rope and pillars that kept the crowds at bay. We just started walking right behind them and followed the parade all the way down into Liberty Square! (It wasn't as much fun as when I followed the Paint the Night parade in Disneyland, where we were dancing all the way to the back of the park, but it was still enjoyable!)

We searched out some air conditioned attractions in Tomorrowland for a bit. First we watched the Carousel of Progress. Unfortunately, Father's audio animatronic in the first scene wasn't working quite well. He was talking, but his lips weren't moving! But the rest of the attraction was fine. And who would have thought the Virtual Reality part of the last scene would actually become even more appropriate nowadays?

Next, we went to Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. This is very similar to Turtle Talk with Crush, where they characters can interact with people in the audience. Including That Guy! At the beginning they shined cameras on people and assigned them things. The guy right in front of us was "Going to buy the whole audience churros after the show." They also told the story of Monsters, Inc. using people from the audience, and the kid they chose to play Randall was spot-on! We were very impressed.

I had really wanted to ride the TTA Peoplemover as well, but like I mentioned before, it was closed for the rest of the day. Bummer. So we walked back to the Hub and grabbed more water instead. We were waiting for it's a small world to come back online. We had a FastPass+ reservation for it (Mom wanted to do it again), but it was closed as well! We were hoping it would open up soon, but while we waited, we watched the Country Bear Jamboree. I have no idea when the last time I saw it was, but it was not as short as the show we saw! They only did snippets of the songs instead of the whole thing. I guess it was okay - I'm not a country music fan at all. The only thing I wanted to see was "Blood in the Saddle," and Big Al sang it wonderfully!

As we passed by it's a small world, we noticed that it was back up and running! So we got to enjoy it a second time through. Something I had never noticed before was the people who were eating dinner at Pinocchio's Village Haus. There are some seats that overlook the it's a small world attraction, and at that time, cast members were handing guests signs to display to the people in the boats and in the queue. Some I can recall were "Give someone a high-five!" and "Cheer!" They were pretty fun!

The last thing for the day was probably the most special part: our dinner at Be Our Guest. This is a new restaurant that opened just a few years ago, and you dine in Beast's Castle. This has been a hard reservation to secure, and I was thankful we snagged one for 6:15 on a Saturday night!

We checked in outside the castle, and they asked if anything was being celebrated. I mentioned it was my parents' first time, and they were celebrating their anniversary! They weren't quite ready to seat us, so we were going to get a text notification when they were ready for us.

Instead of waiting in the heat, we walked over to Gaston's Tavern and found a table there at which to sit. We scrolled through pictures and even saw previews of some of our PhotoPass shots (which were too expensive to actually purchase)! A cast member at Gaston's was cleaning tables and we struck up a conversation with him. He was originally from Puerto Rico, and had moved to Orlando not knowing much English. But he had been working at Walt Disney World for a few years, and he spoke great English! I'm glad we got to talk to him.

I got the notification that our table was ready, and we crossed the bridge into Beast's Castle. It's supposed to look very small in the distance thanks to depth perception, but in reality it's very close by.

The cast members call each group one by one, and they fling the doors open before you. As your eyes adjust, you are ushered into the ballroom, which looks exactly like it did in the movie! Like, exactly. They even have magic windows, where it looks like it's snowing at night. You can dine there, or you can dine in the Rose Room and the West Wing. Mom was thrilled when we were seated in the ballroom.

The place setting was beautiful - our napkins were formed into roses that none of us wanted to take apart! I was tempted to take it home, but resisted the temptation. (I'll just figure out how to do it online.)

Our server was very nice, and gave us some good recommendations. I got the Lamb Chop, Dad got the Shrimp and Scallops, and Mom got the Braised Pork. We had delicious rolls first, and all the entrees, were very good, but mine was the best. The lamb was perfectly done - I was almost gnawing on the bones to get every bit of meat! (Scratch that, I did gnaw on the bone to get every last bit of meat.)

Mom and Dad ordered dessert - Mom's Triple Chocolate Cupcake was incredible, and Dad's Grey Stuff torte was good, too. But because it was their anniversary, they got more Grey Stuff shaped into a Mickey head! (It was delicious. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!) And Dad thinks that they didn't put the desserts on our final bill - how cool is that?!

We ended our meal by paying the Beast a visit in the study. He enters the ballroom with music blaring and everyone applauds their host. We saw it twice, and it was very cool. There was a little girl dressed as Belle as the Beast entered, but she was not keen on meeting the Beast at all - she shrank away quickly!

After one last dance by Mom and Dad in the ballroom (awww...) we headed reluctantly out the door. It was time to say goodbye to the Magic Kingdom - something I always hate doing. I found myself throughout the day just looking at the castle from wherever I was and just smiling. I see it in pictures so many times, but for those two days I was actually there, seeing it with my own two eyes.

We went through the castle to exit the park, and there were already people sitting down and getting ready for the evening parade. But we just waltzed out of the park, and I made sure to stand on Main Street U.S.A. one final time, silently saying goodbye to Cinderella's castle before slowly turning to leave. Ugh. What a bummer.

There was an Art of Animation bus waiting, but we thought we were way too far away to catch it, so we didn't run to it. However, it just stayed there, and stayed there, and suddenly a little girl ran from behind us to catch it, her family running up behind us. Because of her, we knew we wouldn't have to wait for a bus! And by golly, we were right! What a pleasant way to end the day.

Dad's Magic Kingdom Top 3:
Bronze - Festival of Fantasy Parade (great location!)
Silver - Hall of Presidents
Gold - Dinner at Be Our Guest hosted by the Beast

See Day 5's post HERE!

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