Disney World and Kennedy Space Center - February 2008
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One of the things we had promised Clara and Lucy as way of making the return to the states a little less painful, was a trip to Disney World. However, they had pretty well given up on us, and were despairing that most of their friends had been at least to Disneyland in California. So they were truly surprised when they opened their last Christmas present to find a trip to Florida was in the cards for February! We took them out of school a week before mid-winter break (to try and avoid the worst of the President's Day week of crowds) and headed southeast. We had a good trip down, and easy check-in (our first night hotel was in the airport, 2 floors above baggage claim!) The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast, got our rental car (3 floors down) and headed towards Lake Buena Vista and Disney World. Our condo checkin wasn't until later in the afternoon, so we headed off to Animal Kingdom, and began our exploration of all things Disney. We headed first to one of the two main attractions at AK, Expedition Everest - a roller coaster on, around and through a model of Mt Everest, with Yeti, torn up track and lots of screams.
Heading towards Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest
There was a bit of a line, so we got Fast Pass tickets (a neat feature at Disney that allows you to essentially move to the head of a line - at a later time). So then we wandered back to Dinoland U.S.A and took in the Dinosaur ride - which involved a home town personality and former Boeing engineer, Bill Nye (known as The Science Guy to the PBS audience in Seattle).
In line for Dinosaur
Then it was back to Expedition Everest, which the girls really enjoyed (it was their first real roller coaster!)
Starting the climb End of the line!
After Expedition Everest, we journeyed inside the base of the signature icon of AK, the 145 foot tall Tree of Life; there we watched It's Tough to be a Bug, complete with sound, smell and tactile effects.
The Tree of Life
Following this, we wandered about some more, admiring the park's detail, consuming giant fried turkey legs for lunch and watching "De Vine", one of the roaming characters, in this case, dressed as a set of vines, who may just be lounging against a tree or wall, or flowing slowly through the crows. We also caught the Flights of Wonder show, a very well done show involving birds, a very knowledgeable naturalist, and a legendary explorer who was deathly afraid of birds (at the start of the show).
Flights of Wonder at Animal Kingdom
Then we decided to head to our condo to check in and get groceries. This went quickly and smoothly (other than having to say No very firmly and repeatedly to their desire to sign us up for a condo sales pitch, which quickly escalated like a late night sales pitch - more and more freebies were thrown into the pot.)
After dinner, we headed back to AK to catch the show Festival of the Lion King - which was fantastic - and of course one more ride on Expedition Everest! Then it was back to the condo for a restful night, and watching a few fireworks in the distance.
Tuesday, we were up relatively early for breakfast, and then headed off the Diney Studios, the second of the four parks. Over the course of our trip, we tried to follow the three major rules we had picked up for a good Disney trip - start early in the morning (many people think since they are on vacation, they are allowed to sleep in - but this means the parks are much less crowded in the mornings!), use the Fast Pass system whenever possible, and follow the general rules about which park is least crowded on which days (based on historical averages and when special events are scheduled). It worked well for us, especially since we followed the fourth rule as well - take your time, take breaks during mid day and come back late afternoon/evening when everyone else is either leaving or packing the Disney restaurants. Since we arrived before opening time, as recommended, we got to see the opening ceremony.
Disney Studios Opening Ceremony
Once in, we headed straight to the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (one of Tim's high priorities) and the Tower of Terror (one of Clara and Lucy's). Since they were side by side, we grabbed a fast pass on the Roller Coaster, and got in the short line for the Tower of Terror.
We had a great time - the crowds and lines weren't nearly as bad as we had feared, especially given the rules we used (mentioned above.) We can't wait to return - and about the only thing we would change is to try to be a little more in the off season, rather than in the shoulder season (actually, the week before one of the tradionally busiest weeks of the year!) We highly recommend a few resources we used - one is the Unofficial Guide to Disney World, which generally gave very good advice and reasonable descriptions (and their website is very good as well); another is the Mousesavers website and newsletter. Finally, Disney themselves have a good website, and have a variety of information (included personally-customizable maps) that they will send you for free.
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Last web page update was May 10, 2008.
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