Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Land of the Mouse

In lieu of not being able to go to Spain for Christmas, we took advantage of some fortuitous coincidences, and made plans for a short trip to Orlando, to finally get the kids to Walt Disney World before they got too old for the magic not to work on them.

What were the aforementioned fortuitous coincidences, you ask? Well first, my youngest brother Andy and his family were already planning to be in Orlando at the same time as us. It also turns out that Jennifer's youngest brother Jonas and his girlfriend fiance Nellie Gilmore were also planning to come east from Lake Tahoe to check out WDW. And if that wasn't awesome enough, since Jonas and Nellie are both Hyatt employees, they offered to share with us their free rooms. What could be more wonderful?!

Friday night we flew from Raleigh-Durham to Orlando (with two carry-ons and a camera bag) and met Jonas and Nellie (for the first time ever) in the airport Hyatt, which is literally in the airport. We stayed there (for free) that night.

Saturday morning, we hired an SUV to take us over to the Hyatt Grand Regency, near the Disney property. We checked most of our gear with the bell boy or bell hop or porter or whatever you call him, and rode the free shuttle to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

This was the first trip to this park for all of us, and the first visit to Walt Disney World for Nellie, Tristan, and Zoe. So immediately after entering the park, we went to guest services to pick up first timer pins for those three.

As you can see, Tristan's arm was still in a cast and sling, so we were kind of curious about the things he'd be able to do at the various parks.

Our first attraction was the Toy Story ride/game

The kids were impressed, as this was the first serious theme park they'd ever been to, and up until this point were only familiar with rides at the North Carolina State Fair. Needless to say, the permanently-installed attractions of Disney are a much higher quality than those that are regularly assembled and staffed by carnies.

Right outside the Toy Story ride was an autograph and photo spot for Toy Story, including live-action Buzz and Woody. Tristan was a huge Toy Story fan as a younger kid, and had planned ahead by bringing a notepad and pen with him to get as many autographs as he could. He could not have been more excited to meet Buzz and Woody.
Buzz Tristan Woody

We hit a bunch of other stuff during the day, but most memorable was Tower of Terror. Tristan elected not to go on this, even though he would've been fine with his arm like it was. So Tristan and Jennifer did other stuff while Zoe, Nellie, Jonas, and I got in the long queue for the ride. (If you find yourself at Hollywood Studios, do yourself a favor and go right for the FastPass for this one.) Zoe was absolutely thrilled with this ride, complaining that it was too short, and wishing we could go again. It was pretty awesome.
Tower of Zoe

We had to split a little early since we had tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show over at Downtown Disney (formerly Disney Village.) We took the boat from the park over to the Boardwalk resort, and from there got the Disney transit shuttle to Downtown Disney. We hauled ass across the whole thing to get to the giant Cirque tent on the other side, arriving right at showtime.

The theater people over there were pretty clear about photography being a no-no, so not wanted to get chucked, I kept the camera in the bag. It's a shame, because the show was absolutely incredible. Words don't really do it justice, but in my opinion, it was the best show I've ever seen. . . of any kind. . . anywhere. Go see it.

After the show we wandered around Downtown Disney, eating dinner at a Disney-priced McDonald's, and checking out a few of the stores.

Not least of which was the Lego store
Another Lego Brick in the Wall

and the Harley Davidson store
Biker Chick

Making our way back to the shuttle stop, we took a bus to Swan and Dolphin where we gave up on Disney Transit and took a taxi back to our hotel.
Bus Go

We all shared a room Saturday night, with Tristan and Zoe sleeping on the floor, pretty warn out, but ready to see what Sunday held in store for them: Epcot.


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