Walt Disney World: Day Two – Magic Kingdom and More!

Our first full day at the parks was a no-brainer — The Magic Kingdom!  And Halloween Time was in full swing at the parks.The first thing I noticed was just how large their Main Street Town Square was and with that space, how well they decorated for the season!  I took pictures another day of all of the scarecrows and pumpkins around but even their gas lamp decor was a step above Disneyland’s. This park reminded me a lot of Disneyland Park Paris in terms of scale and decor around Main Street.

Disneyland Paris Main Street Town Square (2008)
Magic Kingdom Main Street Town Square (2012 Halloween Time)

We had to see it all: The Chamber of Commerce, City Hall (and whether or not they had any nod to our park’s ever-burning lamp — they do not), the Car Barn (where they keep the horses, trollys, etc in plain view in a well themed barn), the Barber Shop (at which I almost got a haircut but decided against it for more time in the park), and many of the smaller shops.  We were really taking this park in.

The Car Barn
The Barber Shop
From inside the Barber Shop

We decided to do the park the right way and hit as many attractions as we possibly could.  This lead us into Adventureland and into the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  This theme on the treehouse used to also reside at Disneyland Park but was re-themed in 1999 to Tarzan’s Treehouse.  I really liked all of the details of the family living as primitively as could be.  The treehouse also provided incredible views of Cinderella’s Castle and Space Mountain.  Actually, the treehouse is not needed for an incredible view of the castle — it can be seen from miles around – towering over space and the Main Street Depot Train Station!

What a view!

Already, Adventureland was very different for us.  No Indy, a Magic Carpet ride with Aladdin smack-dab in the center, and a separated Dole Whip outlet.  Next to the Tiki Room is Sunshine Terrace at which we looked but did not partake.  Upon exiting the treehouse, we made a left and went straight onto the Jungle Cruise.

These people were just standing around. We just about walked onto the ride.

We had no clue what to expect but what we got was an amazing tour with the best skipper I have ever seen.  He kept to the classics but added very subtle twists to them that made the “veterans” to the monologue chuckle.  This version of the attraction also features an incredible cavern sequence that’s best seen at night, but was still awesome for our first trip!  This is not to be missed and the queue has a little friend to keep you entertained while waiting.

Want to know if he bites? Get close!

Continuing on through Adventureland, we skipped Tiki Room for time and daylight (I prefer to do it at night) and made a B-Line for Pirates of the Caribbean!

Yo ho!

Let’s say that this attraction really makes up for it’s much shorter and condensed ride-thru with it’s very detailed and illustrious queue.  We walked onto the ride this day, but near the end of our trip, we really got into the nooks and crannies and took some amazing shots with my new lens!  Can’t wait to share those but you’ll just have to wait a while.  As I said before, this version of the ride, while better than Disneyland Paris and very similar to Disneyland’s, is very short and missing some key scenes. One thing that made no sense to me was almost immediately, you are taken under the Jones/ Blackbeard waterfall and then into a Mermaid scene (which is GREAT by the way) and then around the shores of pirate bones.

I loved this part of the beach scene!

I have always interpreted the passage thru the waterfall to be the threshold through which the pirates then become full-fleged animatronics.  In this incarnation of the ride, it’s more like the tiny “drop” is the catalyst and that doesn’t really work for me.  As the Mermaids and waterfall are more recent additions to the ride, I think it probably made more sense originally, but I found that slightly jarring.  Also, after the town fire and going under the pirate with the dirty foot (or hairy leg), the ride is over and you see Jack Sparrow about 25 ft. away (he can jump 30 ft. so he’ll just go right over us — I kid) inside this castle-like scene.  It’s all so abrupt with numerous scenes missing and the Sparrow animatronic is so far away it’s almost a waste.  Still a must and a classic, but that’s my two cents.

Walking through the rest of Adventureland, past the shops and restaurants, we found ourselves entering Frontierland, presumably through the back entrance.  The first attraction we came to:

Splash Mountain!

While not an attraction we frequent at Disneyland and no a particularly warm day (or trip, actually), we had to see what was different.  However, since we are not familiar with the nitty-gritty details of the Disneyland version, I can say it was a great ride and nothing felt a-miss.  Things felt different and new, for sure, but we didn’t get off thinking something was drastic or inherently wrong.  Must have done something right!

Had to grab this sign. Close enough!

Right next to Splash was a seemingly misplaced while at the same time appropriate Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Talk about a mountain range!

The wildest ride in the wilderness!

This version of the ride may be better than Disneyland’s in terms of thrill.  It has all the close calls you have come to love at DLR with some additional “features” that I really liked a lot.  There’s a section of the track that makes it seem as if the rails below you are collapsing and you really move through that section.  I can only describe it as being similar to the collapsing mine scene (which they also have) but imagine rolling through that at 35 MPH!  That part also happens through their mining town on the backside of the mountain.  The front near the queue has a great snow-capped looking range and the dinosaur bone “tunnel.”  The queue is setup differently, as well.  Imagine our mining “station” but about 10x larger.  Nearly the entire queue goes through the station and you board below it as if you’re already inside the cavern.  It’s a tough description, for sure, but it’s a very effective method.

Now it was time for a slight break.  We wanted to take in the sights, analyze the differences, and really take in what we were experiencing.  Luckily, right after exiting Big Thunder, there’s a boardwalk from Frontierland all the way around the Rivers of America to Liberty Square.  I would say Frontierland is sort of where Disneyland’s New Orleans Square and Critter Country are and Liberty Square is more where Disneyland’s Frontierland is.  It is a slight change in configuration but it all flows together so well.  On our way down the boardwalk, we saw a lot of the native birds that seem to love the Rivers of America and Frontierland.

In my memory, a first for me!

En route to Liberty Square we stopped at Country Bear.  I don’t remember ever doing this as a child and I love seeing the three left-over busts from Disneyland’s version hidden away inside Winnie the Pooh in Critter Country.  I had a ball!  It’s a well maintained attraction that I wish we still had.  Pooh is great though!

Jammin’.

Passing the Diamond Horseshoe (they just HAD to out-do our Golden Horseshoe!) we came upon Liberty Square.  I loved this land the most.  The look and feel, the detail and the sights — I was in awe.  I loved the costumes the cast wore, I loved the liberty bell, the liberty tree, the Christmas Store, and most of all:

The Hall of Presidents!

Maybe not most of all because The Haunted Mansion technically falls within Liberty Square but this attraction is absolutely stunning.  WDI really outdid themselves when coming up with this attraction and the cast member inside introducing the show really knew his stuff!  I could sit there all day and listen to him.  It has a little of our Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and a LOT of animatronic presidents!  Truly a marvel topped off with a short speech by our sitting president Barack Obama.

Awe inspiring.

We then took a trip around the Rivers of America by steamboat, naturally, aboard the Liberty Belle.

While not nearly as grand as her west coast cousin, she certainly packs in the sights.  I wish the narration were louder as I struggled throughout most of the trek to find a spot where I could clearly hear it.  Unfortunately I was unsuccessful.  Getting older, maybe?  Their Tom Sawyers island looked absolutely incredible (and it was!  We went later in the trip).  Their Native American village had some nice detail and their fort is still operational and kids can still shoot guns from the windows!

How!
Bang bang!

 

Next up was just about the main-attraction for me:

Boy did this ride deliver!  It had an interactive queue, a terrific sound system, extra scenes, and some stunning effects!

Interactive Queue

As you may already know, the line divides into two sections — one which goes through the graveyard next to the mansion, and one that leads you straight to the front door. The cemetery offers some fun entertainment as you play music, dodge water, and solve riddles with some grim grinning ghosts.  A lot of fun and something WDW has really mastered.  More and more rides at Magic Kingdom are being outfitted with these play areas to keep guests entertained while in line.

Leota’s tombstone. Keep a close eye on her!

Inside there’s a breezeway and the foyer with a terrific portrait of Master Gracey himself. This is where the attraction begins.

The master.

You are then brought into the stretching portrait gallery.  The sound system, while a little overdone and erratic at times, is really well designed here.  They even added some reverb effects to the ghost host that really give him an eerie aura.  Be sure not to be too quick to exit the room as there’s some outstanding sound design you may miss urging you and your party to stick together.  The scenes here are condensed slightly as you almost immediately board the doom buggies here.  What’s neat, however, is you then ride through three scenes we do not have: a staircase scene a la M.C. Escher, a library scene where you may recognize a stalking bust or two, and a phantom pianist scene.  This all skillfully blends into some blinking eyes which become the wallpaper and you are lead down the changing portrait hallway.  It’s really an interesting journey through a new yet familiar territory.  Plenty of pictures from inside in future posts.

Exiting the mansion, you can hang a left into Fantasyland.

An Interior Small World

We rode this classic which is similar yet different.  No Pixar characters in this one and it’s on a much smaller scale at the Magic Kingdom.  I enjoyed the differences and again, nothing felt a-miss.

Michey’s Philharmagic

Philharmagic was a great show and I don’t tend to like the 3D shows.  2 minutes in, I forgot all about what I liked and didn’t and just sat back and enjoyed Donald’s antics.  Very charming!

Now, it was getting late and we were hungry.  We were victims to the horrendously handled New Fantasyland debacle on the WDW website and were unsure whether or not we were going to be allowed into the land.  We had heard they were doing dress rehearsals but were not sure when or how we would get in.  Fortunately, we lucked out and never once had an issue getting into the New Fantasyland — but not without some due diligence.

We approached the entrance to a sign turning people away.  However, after talking to a cast member denying us entry, he all of a sudden added “…unless you want to eat at the Beast’s castle?  If so, then it’s all open to you!” Well in we went!  Not knowing protocol and it being completely empty, we wandered toward what we thought was the Beast’s castle but found ourselves in the queue for Enchanted Tales with Belle.  Do yourself a favor – DO THIS!  It’s a technological marvel at every turn!

I’ll have to post video soon but you walk THRU a mirror, into a room with an INCREDIBLE animatronic Wardrobe, and then into the library where the most incredible puppetry I have ever seen was performed (or was it an animatronic?)  I had to do this three times during our trip because I had to know how the mirror and Lumiere were done!  Also, participate as much as you can!  They take PLENTY of photos and give everyone that participated a photopass at the end.

The Wardrobe!
Just wow.

Before dinner, we wandered through the rest of New Fantasyland’s Phase 2.  Since there was a Halloween Party in a couple hours, we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to miss anything because we spent too long in the restaurant.  Boy was I glad we did.  The first thing we came upon was Gaston greeting women and children around the fountain. I had to be not only the only guy there but probably the most excited person there to meet him!

~ 1 Barge.

This face-character really had Gaston down!  A pure delight.  We then wandered into Gaston’s tavern just to look around.  Now, I have not been keeping up to date on things posted to the Disneyland Parks Blog as of late because of work, but I was glad to have stumbled upon LeFou Brew!

Nailed it

This drink was super tasty!  Highly recommended.  I hear that Cars Land at DCA has the same drink.  Just must be marketed better at WDW.  Seems to fit better with the theme.  If this is, in fact, the same drink then get yourself over to the Cozy Cone and have one because WOW!  It’s basically a frosted apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow topped with a passion fruit-mango foam. YUM!

Then came Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid.

While identical to the DCA Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, the queue is to die for.  Great details with interactive elements and animatronics.  So much to see if there are longer lines.  We would have taken more photos but there just wasn’t much time before we wanted to eat dinner.

So much to see!
The projections seemed more vibrant here.

And just like that, we were on to dinner!  We put our names in and took in the sights to be seen.  The construction of the new Snow White mine ride opening in 2014 right across the trail (future noise pollution issue?), the Beast’s castle high atop the hill, the gargoyles guarding the bridge and doors of the castle — everything just pristine and ready to go!  We were truly lucky to be able to eat here because I’m sure these tables will be really tough to get after the December 6th opening!

Beast’s Castle
These guys have names, you know!
Don’t mind if I do!

This higher priced restaurant offers amazing food and the decor to match.  There are three dining rooms as far as we could tell.  There’s the Ballroom which seems to be the main dining hall, the West Wing, and the Rose Gallery. There were some other places curtained off but they looked like buffet stations and register areas.

The Ballroom
The West Wing
The Rose Gallery

Dinner and dessert were great and the waitress was a delight.  She truly knew how to make us feel special!

Chocolate Cupcake for Dessert!

The Magic Kingdom was now closed to the public for Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party.  We had tickets for Nov. 2nd so we were escorted out of the park by a ghost (held and lit by a cast member). That, however, didn’t stop us!  It was off to EPCOT via the Monorail!  I would say this was the biggest transportation “miss” for WDW.  I always assumed we could take a monorail from park to park.  You can only take a monorail to EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom.  Also, those two monorail lines are not connected.  The best you can do is take an express monorail (no resort stops) or the ferry to the Transportation and Ticketing center across the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom to then board an adjacent monorail to EPCOT.  I found this a bother because you’re made to walk more than necessary.  I should have looked for an EPCOT bus — that would have almost been quicker, in my opinion.

Anyhow, we were off to EPCOT and I was very excited to ride Spaceship Earth!  When I was a kid and saw it on TV, I always thought it was just a cool thing at the park.  Learning that it housed a ride made it SUPER enticing!  And that anticipation paid off in a very neat trip through time and how we as the human race evolved into the knowledge banks we are today!  A little bit of education via a fun journey clearly laid the theme of the park out for me.

Below the “large golfball” is the entrance to the “ship”
This guy was sleeping on the job!

It was then off to the Seas with Nemo and Friends.  It’s similar to our submarine version but less effective and impressive as ours.  It’s an omni-mover system so the waits are undoubtedly shorter than our turtle of an attraction.  The coolest parts of the ride are at the end when your sea-shell buggy rides through a real aquarium with the Nemo characters projected into the tank a la the Pepper’s ghost effect.  Very cool to see Nemo with other real fish and it’s very clean and believable!

The Seas!
There’s also dolphins, manatees, and sharks upon your exit!

Along with full access to the aquarium, there’s a play area featuring Bruce the shark and a Turtle Talk with Crush theatre.  This is one of the few attractions we did not visit during our trip.  Onto The Land!

The Land

The Land features Living with the Land, a boat cruise through some incredible greenhouses and farm environments, Soarin’ which we did not ride as it’s the same as Soarin’ Over California at DCA however I hear their interactive queue is not to be missed, and The Circle of Life movie featuring Timon, Pumba, and Simba of The Lion King.  I think Living with the Land was the best attraction and unfortunately the Circle of Life film was being projected onto the curtain so it took me out of it a little but I laughed and enjoyed the message.  For Halloween, they had some great pumpkins out on display:

Pumpkins!

While we briefly visited Journey into the Imagination featuring the lovable purple dragon Figment and the Captain EO theatre, I did not take any pictures of that facility worth posting.  The exterior is pretty cool, though.  It was then to Mission Space!

Mission Space!

Unfortunately Ellen’s Energy Adventure was closed for the evening and Test Track was down for refurbishment (bummer!) but Mission Space made up for that 10-fold!  This is unlike any ride you have ever experienced!  In fact, it was developed along with NASA!  There is an extreme version (natural choice) or a less extreme version.  My eyes were watering and my face was stretched and I loved every minute of it.  While not for the faint of heart, we also went on the less extreme version and it was still pretty awesome.  So awesome I would have been happy if that were as crazy as the ride got but I REALLY loved the extreme version and am glad they offer it!

You sit in a pod with three other people and you are all assigned tasks to complete your mission to Mars.  You are then closed in with a joystick and viewer screen inches from you.  Your trip is a take off and landing on Mars, but the technology involved in making that strikingly believable is astounding!  You’re in a huge room spinning on a huge axis and your pod (1 of 5 spinning in this one huge room) tils up and down and side to side all while spinning around a single point.  It’s a tough explanation but an incredible thrill!  I can’t speak highly enough about this ride!

We then walked through the World Showcase and took full advantage of the Extra Magic Hours for the evening.  First was the Three Caballeros in Mexico:

Mexico
It’s like It’s a Small World with Donald, José, and Panchito. Super fun!

The only thing I think this attraction lacked was at the end, there’s a concert that the Three Caballeros play on a huge stage but they make no use of the stage and rather project them playing on a screen.  Why not take advantage and make some great animatronics?!  A miss but still a fun ride!

It was then off to Norway to ride Maelstrom and while I did not take pictures, it was probably out of sheer and utter confusion and amazement.  There were trolls, backward-moving boats, oil rigs, and an empty movie theatre.  We watched the film later and it’s very good but this ride is a trip — I can’t put it any other way.

The night wound down and the wife and I grabbed some drinks at the Rose & Crown pub in the UK.  I had a guinness and she had a Strongbow (a new favorite cider, BTW) and before taking our first drink, I noticed this little detail.

Well done, EPCOT. Well done, indeed.

Now to rest up for tomorrow’s Hollywood Studios journey!  Enjoy the full gallery of photos from day 2 below:

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