I’m back! Back from my week’s vacation with Debbi and, well, her entire immediate family visiting DisneyWorld and her parents in Florida.
We flew out last Saturday, and the trip was fairly uneventful other than a delay with our connecting flight out of Dallas. We got in a bit late, but we picked up our car and got to our hotel with no problems. Sunday morning we drove over to meet Debbi’s relatives who flew in from Boston: Her two sisters Dianne and Janine, Dianne’s husband Shawn, and their three kids. Then we caravaned towards Orlando to meet Debbi’s parents (well, father and stepmother) for brunch at Cracker Barrel. Deb’s parents have a time-share near DisneyWorld, so we checked into two rooms in the afternoon. Shawn, Dad and I went shopping, while everyone else went swimming. With all the people, Debbi and I were fortunate to end up with one of the king-sized beds to sleep in. And we needed it because, it was a long and busy week!
DisneyWorld (officially “Walt Disney World Resort”) is an odd place, even odder, I think, than Disneyland. It’s spread over a much larger area, and you have to drive on myriad roads to get to any of the four parks within, and you’re surrounded by swampy Florida landscape along the way.
The “main” park, the Magic Kingdom, was completed in 1971, and is basically laid out the same as Disneyland. However, it has fewer rides in a large space. So you have more space to walk around without bumping into people, but there’s not as much to do. The park feels cleaner and more polished than Disneyland, but by the same token has a lot less character. This may be because the design aesthetic of 1955 has less in common with our modern aesthetic than that of 1970. But it might also be because the restrictions of space in Disneyland force the Imagineers to be more creative. Or it might just be that Walt Disney personally oversaw Disneyland and gave it an attention to detail which the forces which created DisneyWorld – mostly after Walt’s death – just couldn’t attain. (After all, the 60s, 70s and 80s are not exactly remembered as a golden period in Disney’s history.)
We started the week at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which has a few good rides, such as Expedition Everest (basically a variation on Big Thunder Mountain), but which is mainly notable for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, which travels through a refuge with elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, and other animals. It’s actually quite scenic. The Flights of Wonder show is also quite cool. But overall the Animal Kingdom is not a terrific park.
(click on an image for a larger version)
Tuesday we went to the Magic Kingdom, which as I said is very similar to Disneyland’s main park. Overall I felt the rides were at best the same, but often not as good as those at Disneyland. The Haunted Mansion, for instance, is missing the nifty walking corridor at the beginning. While some of Pirates of the Caribbean benefits from the additional space, it’s missing the initial ride through a Lousiana swamp. Space Mountain is just as good, but its veneer feels a little old, since the Disneyland Space Mountain was completely renovated in the last few years. The Enchanted Tiki Room at DisneyWorld was converted to The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), a pointless revision which is not only not as much fun, but is probably incomprehensible if you’re not familiar with the original. Tomorrowland has the old Peoplemover (rechristened the Tomorrowland Transit Authority), which is a fun and relaxing tour of Tomorrowland, but it also has the execrable Stitch’s Great Escape, which is a pointless and gross non-ride to be avoided at all costs. Ew.
DisneyWorld is missing several Disneyland rides, such as Indiana Jones, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. Some of these aren’t exactly essential rides; nonetheless, despite its size, it feels like there’s less to do at the Magic Kingdom than at Disneyland.
Debbi’s family went off Tuesday late morning to a character breakfast, so Debbi and I got to do a number of things without the eight other members of our party. Which was nice since we could go on several rides less appropriate for kids. Debbi was able to go on all the rides she really wanted to go on, which made her happy.
Wednesday we went back to the Magic Kingdom for part of the day, and then went to EPCOT for half a day. We didn’t see a whole lot of it, and apparently the park bears almost no resemblance to Walt’s original vision. We did ride the Test Track ride, which is quite cool, in that you get up to around 65 MPH in the little car. But we weren’t too impressed with the World Showcase, and we didn’t have a chance to ride Soarin’ or Spaceship Earth. We did see the fireworks show, which was fun. But overall we weren’t too impressed with EPCOT.
Finally, on Thursday we spent the day at Disney MGM Studios, the fourth theme park. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is quite cool (although perhaps not much better than California Screamin’ at Disney’s California Adventure next to Disneyland). Lights, Motors, Action! is a pretty neat demo of how car stunts are staged and performed for films. More than the other parks, this park packs more into a fairly small space, and we were all a little surprised that we managed to pack a full day into this park.
Our days were long, however, and we were regularly getting up at 6 and going to bed at 11 or midnight, so we were pretty exhausted at the end of it all. The kids had a great time, though. I don’t know whether they’ll remember much of it when they’re older, but they had so much fun that I don’t think it matters. I think the adults got worn to a frazzle from time to time, though.
Thursday night we drove to Debbi’s parents’ house where we spent the next couple of days. Sleeping arrangements were, uh, suboptimal, with me on an aerobed, and Debbi on an uncomfortable couch (she didn’t seem to think doing it the other way around would be any better, though I offered). We did enjoy hanging out at the pool, and playing dominoes until midnight on Friday.
Debbi and I wrapped up our trip leaving early Saturday afternoon. We got to the airport three and a half hours early, which is good because we found that our flight to Dallas was delayed over an hour, so we’d miss our connection. But we were able to act promptly and get rebooked on a flight to Chicago, then switching airlines to fly to San Jose. Despite the longer flight, we took off 2 hours earlier and got to California at the same time we’d been scheduled to arrive. We only had a long dash across Chicago O’Hare to make our connection, but otherwise we and our luggage arrived safe and sound (much to my surprise). Debbi was completely exhausted, but Subrata and Susan picked us up, so all turned out well.
The cats were extremely happy to see us.
Sunday we relaxed. Indeed, Debbi took a long nap in the afternoon. I did some work in the yard, did some housecleaning, and cleaned the grill (and boy did it need it) before grilling hamburgers. A pretty successful end to the whole vacation – even if it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation ever.