Friday, October 5, 2012

Visiting Disney - Part IV


Epcot Pins

Day three of our Disney adventure found us at Epcot.  Epcot is an interesting park and not everyone's favorite.  Epcot is really two parks in one.  The front part is FutureWorld with all kinds of exhibits for techie fans and environmental fans while that back part is for fans of traveling.  The World Showcase is there, featuring such countries as China, Japan, Mexico and Canada, Norway, Morocco and Africa (which they call the Outpost), France and Germany, Italy and England.  Oh!  And the United States!  I don't think I'm forgetting anyone, but I apologize if I am.  Each of the countries has food offerings and a shop where you can buy things typical of that country.  Also, each area is staffed by young people native to that country who are bilingual.  They're very nice and it's great for practicing your language skills!  We decided to use our snack allotments here and snack our way around the world!

For some reason, we always turn left out of FutureWorld and head into Mexico.  Because of that, we've never really gotten to enjoy Canada and England!  One of these fine days I AM going to turn right and start with them.  Mexico, we usually bypass as we live so close to Mexico and can visit any time we like.  Next up is Norway, and this is the place for breakfast!  We each had a yummy pastry and juice while waiting for the Maelstrom ride to open.  It's a water ride and some people think it's getting long in the tooth, but I still love it.  After your water adventure, you exit in a small "village."  There's a small sailboat tied up to the dock on the "river."  As nearly as we can tell, it's a real sailboat.  The buildings in the village are adorable, but what excited me was looking up to see an SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) placard over one of the doors.  A dear family friend recently retired from SAS, so this one is for him:

After our adventure in Norway, we went next door to China.  (No, I have no idea how they decided who would be next to whom.)  This one really made me think.  As we approached what looked to be a beautiful temple, a lovely young lady in native dress beckoned us in for the movie, Reflections of China. This is a 360, Circle Vision film that is just this side of IMAX.  You start your tour of China on the Great Wall with one of the ancient poets as a guide.  I had no idea just how beautiful China is.  Perhaps someday I'll be able to visit there.

After visiting China, we passed through the African outpost (after all, we're STAYING in an African outpost!) and had our mid-morning snack in Germany.  Throwing caution, and possible repercussions to the wind, I made George order our pretzels, his beer and my water in German.  I thought he did quite well!  Of course, this meant that if we ate in France, I'd have to do the ordering!

Now the World Showcase lets me indulge my love for architectural photography and sketching, so here we go! Patience, please!
An adorable shop in the German area
After Germany, we found ourselves in Italy, but we didn't stop for all that long.  We pushed on to America.  There's a replica of Independence Hall there where they have a wonderful film and animatronic show, a concert given by the most incredible a capella choir, and a show given by a Colonial fife and drum corps.  Of course, we had to stay for that.  The show, The American Adventure, is hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. It's a bit corny, maybe, but I love it, too.  The choir is simply awesome.  They do American folk songs and patriotic numbers.  They end with a version of the Star Spangled Banner that never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

After America, we visited Japan.  This is one of the most beautiful areas of Epcot.  My feet were really giving me trouble, so I didn't take photos here.  We listened a bit to the Taiko drummers while my wonderful husband gave me a foot rub, we looked around the shop and then headed to Morocco for lunch!

Morocco is my favorite of all the countries represented in Epcot.  The architecture is wonderful!  It's probably the most complex of them all being a bazaar area with all kinds of twisty little turns and places to lose yourself.  This is normally my favorite place to photograph and sketch, but we were ready for lunch, so we devoted our time to a magnificent lunch at the Tangierine Cafe (what a wonderful pun!).  We would have loved to have stayed and listened to Mo'Rockin but we realized that we needed to go get ready for our Adventure of the Day!

Dive Quest

George and Me
The Seas in FutureWorld (the front part of Epcot) is a 6-million gallon salt-water aquarium.  There are all kind of viewing windows onto it and the wonderful restaurant, Coral Reef, has windows into the aquarium.  The aquarium is home to lots of sea life, including three species of shark, sea turtles, eagle rays and many, many more.  The coral in the aquarium, however, is all man-made.  Because the aquarium is completely enclosed and receives no natural sunlight, coral cannot grow.  The Disney Imagineers have created very authentic-looking coral made of concrete.

There are several extra events you can do in The Seas, but for certified scuba divers,  you can go on a 40-minute dive in the tank.  The entire event is two hours and you see parts of Epcot that no outsider ever gets to see. We all met outside the park and were taken in hand by our tour leader, Andy - a guy with the most positive attitude and the greatest sense of humor.  After a quick tour of what most visitors see of the Seas and our safety briefing and release-signing, we received our wetsuits and booties and headed to the lockers to change. We were then led to the aquarium itself to meet our divemasters and get started on our dive.

Both George and I are certified divers, but neither of us has done any diving in 10 years or so. We decided that this dive would be a good way to get back into it.  I was concerned about my left ear as I had an ear infection in it several years ago.  It has never been as easy to clear pressure in that ear since the infection.  I had a couple of problems at the beginning.  I didn't have enough weight in my BC, a situation our divemaster quickly saw.  I surfaced (actually, I couldn't keep from surfacing).  She surfaced with me and as she was confirming that I needed more weight, I was hit hard from behind by what I thought was another diver surfacing.  Nope!  It was one of the sea turtles.  We all signed releases that we would not touch the turtles, but we'd been warned that they don't sign the releases and sometimes they touch us!  I hadn't been prepared for just how much mass one of those creatures has!  I felt terrible about the encounter, but I don't think I could have done anything to have avoided it.  After our divemaster got my weights straightened out, I descended, yes, having trouble equalizing the left ear.  After a little coaxing, it equalized and off went for our dive.


I think we enjoyed playing with the humans the most.  We would swim up to the windows and wave to the visitors, both in the observation area and in the Coral Reef Restaurant.  However, I wound up doing some serious observation of the sharks.  Let me be very clear here.  I am deathly afraid of sharks.  It almost kept me from getting my scuba certification.  On my very first ocean dive, I saw a shark.  I've gradually come to realize that they have a beauty of their own, although I really don't want to get all personal with one.  While laying on the bottom of the tank, watching the marine life swim by, George and I had a very large, maybe 8' shark swim straight for us.  I decided (fearfully) to hold my ground and see what he'd do.  He broke and swam away from us, but not before I had time to decide what  stupid idea that was!  I'd never do it in the wild.  I swear those things have more than two rows of wicked-looking teeth.  I think their entire mouth is full of wicked-looking teeth!  Yikes!

Anyway, after our 40 minutes of bottom time, we surfaced, turned in our equipment and headed to our wonderful hot showers.  After meeting up again, we updated our dive logs and bought our copy of the video from the dive.  The stills here are taken from that video.

 What a fun thing to do!  I probably wouldn't do this again, as I would the Wild Africa Trek, but I'm glad I did it once.  Next time (given I get over my ear problems) we're going diving in the Keys!

We ended our day with supper in the France area of the World Showcase and yes, I had to order in French.  I think I did quite well, thank you!

After supper, we found places to watch the fireworks, Illuminations of Earth.  This has been my absolute favorite fireworks show in all of Disney.  But yes, there were changes to Epcot, many of which I wish hadn't happened.  Remember the loud music in Animal Kingdom?  There is a loud Celtic/rock band in the England area of the World Showcase.  Sigh.  And the fireworks are maybe a third of their original length.  What a disappointment!

Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios)
Hollywood Studios Pins

Our fourth and last day at DisneyWorld was at Hollywood Studios.  This is home to three of our favorite rides. As we arrived, I decided to do the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  This has been George's favorite ride and I just couldn't make myself do it last time we were here.  This time I decided that two minutes of anything probably wouldn't kill me, so off we went to get into line. Yep, this is definitely one where you don't want a FastPass.  The line snakes through the "grounds" of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.  They are beautiful as is the interior with all its interesting things to see!
Hollywood Tower Hotel
Okay, here's my last architectural photo:

Angel Statue in the Courtyard of the Hotel
After viewing the Twilight Zone preshow - yes, it's Rod Serling, but the voice is an incredibly talented impersonator - we went to the service level to take the elevator up to our "rooms."  We were lucky the first time to get seats in the front row.  (This is truly where you want to be.)  After fastening our seatbelts, the elevator took us upstairs... to see the ghosts of the five former visitors who entered the Twilight Zone beckoning us!  Then the doors closed and we went up again... and out of the elevator shaft into the Twilight Zone.  As the lights go out and you have ample time to regret ever doing this... You're suddenly weightless!  I was simply not prepared for what a beautiful, peaceful feeling weightlessness is.  The Tower of Terror is a wonderful, wonderful ride!  My first thought was that I wanted to do it again!

We ran around to the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster to get FastPasses (yep, you want them here) and then ran back to do the Tower of Terror again!!  This time we had to sit in the back (sigh) but oh such fun!

After our second Terror experience, we rode the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster.  Okay, this is my absolute favorite rollie.  Yes, it's mostly in the dark.  Yep, it does two (some people say three) inversions, the first of which is immediately after it catapults you up to 60mph.  But it's smooth and awesome and I adore it.  They say it pulls 4 G's on you, but I swear I don't feel it.  One thing.  Do put your head back into the cushions when you get into the car and keep it there.  Your head's coming back into the cushions one way or the other, but it's best that you put it there yourself.  And me, yes, I sing the Aerosmith songs at the top of my lungs while riding the coaster.  Such fun!!

And yep!  We rode the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster twice!  PS, don't eat just before this one. Just sayin'.

And our last ride was the Great Movie Ride.  I love this silly thing!  Your guide takes you through all kinds of classic movies, Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many more.  This is a must-do for all movie buffs.

Since this was our last day, we watched the parade and then left to go do a little shopping at Downtown Disney.  We also booked a wonderful dinner at Jiko.  If I hadn't been coming down with what I now know was an ear infection, I would have enjoyed it even more, but Jiko is always awesome!

And there you are.  Our trip to Disney, just two adults, with strong child-like leanings.

I hope you've enjoyed this small tour through a very magical place!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Visiting Disney - Part III

Animal Kingdom
Tree of Life

Day two of our Disney trek was at Animal Kingdom.  Again, I was surprised at how crowded the park was.  I think this was because of what has functionally become a fall version of Spring Break, but I'm not sure.  Animal Kingdom was where I saw the most changes, and the most that I'm sorry were made.  It's always been my favorite of the parks, and it's lost something of its charm. However, some good changes have happened, and there are some really FUN things to do here!

Detail from the Tree of Life
 How can you not love Discovery Island and the Tree of Life? They have several cast members interpreting animals, which is wonderful.  They're very knowledgeable and very personable.  We loved chatting with them! There are also wonderful little paths that take off and wind around.  They're often empty, even on the busiest days, as people tend to run straight to their favorite rides or such. We even managed to get in a little smooching in some of the quiet places! Gasp!!

Kangaroo seen from one of the little trails

 After exploring Discovery Island, we crossed the bridge into Africa.  I LOVE to pretend that I'm really crossing into a small (and very crowded!) African village.

African Drummers
I love these African drummers.  They've held a special place in my heart ever since our second trip to Disney. I found one of those wonderful places to get away from the crowds and was sketching a stairway when into the courtyard they came!  I didn't realize that their "escape" was through a door right by where I was sketching.  One of them, held a pose for me for a few seconds so I could do a quick sketch of him.  How sweet!

This time, George and I were both brought into the dancing.  Fun!!  Honestly, though, I'd rather they taught me how to drum!

An Architectural Shot!
 Yep!  I had to do it!  I really love the architecture in Animal Kingdom, especially in the African and Asian areas.  I just HAD to show you this one of the "hotel" where the dancers perform.

Animal Kingdom Ride Pins
The two rides I've always loved are the Kilimanjaro Safari and the Kali River Rapids.  We didn't do Kilimanjaro for a very, very good reason!

Wild Africa Trek
Our special treat in Animal Kingdom was the Wild Africa Trek.  This is at an additional cost and you have to make reservations ahead of time, but it is SO worth it! If you don't do anything else at Animal Kingdom, do the Trek. In fact, don't do the Kilimanjaro Safari and do the Trek instead! The Trek takes you "backstage" through the Kilimanjaro route. You do have to be in good enough shape to walk over unimproved trails for a couple of hours. Lack of fear of heights is a good thing, too, which you'll understand shortly.
George suited up for the Trek
The first thing that happens, after signing release forms and all, is that you put anything that can't be tied to you in a locker.  No kidding.  This means cell phones and everything! If you want to take your camera, be sure it has some way - a wrist strap or something - of being tied to you. After putting your things away, you're fitted out in a safety harness. This will be used to be sure you don't pay any unexpected visits to certain animals.  You'll also get a water bottle to fill and keep with you, which is one of your souvenirs of the Trek. Lastly, you're fitted out with a receiver and earpiece so you can hear the guide's commentary no matter where you are.

Next you'll be taken to a small plank-and-rope bridge to try out your bridge-crossing skills. It's only about five feet above the ground, and it does sway.  You step from plank to plank, carefully avoiding the gaps between planks.  Such fun!!

After the safety briefing and instructions as to how to use the large carabiners to clip into safety lines, you go with two guides, both of whom are totally awesome. You'll start out on the Pangani Forest Trail, but you won't make it far inside.  You'll take off on a trail off to visit the hippos.

Hippo, and we're actually this close
You'll be at the top of a small cliff above the hippo pool. You clip into the safety line which allows you to get to the edge of the cliff and look down at the hippos. We had a researcher there to talk to us about the hippos.  He was as awesome as everyone else and very knowledgeable. He tossed some lettuce to the hippos, one of whom came to dine right below us.  Such fascinating creatures!

Hippo Arriving for a Snack (Not Us!)
 After spending time with the hippos, you're off on the trail again and you come to...

The Bridge!
 Okay, actually, the photos are of the second half of the bridge.  This one was taken while I was waiting my turn to cross the first half. Only two or, at most, three people are allowed on the bridge at any one time.  I don't think it's a weight consideration.  I think it's because several people will cause it to sway more, which can easily frighten the Trekkers. I discovered that it's hard to get photos from it because it does move, even when you're still.

The first bridge crosses about 20 feet over the Kilimanjaro Safari river.  The trucks are below you, but the riders can't really see you much because of the tops of the trucks.  There are "broken" planks on the bridge and it's a little dance step to go from plank to plank.  However, you're clipped into the safety line above and there's a net below just in case...

The Plank Bridge Again
The first bridge ends at a small pavilion.  One of your guides will be there to help if you freak out and to space Trekkers across the second bridge.  The second bridge runs beside the river and over the... 

Nile Crocodile
Oh yeah!  Nile Crocodiles!! We were lucky in that the crocs were out and about as active as they get (when they're not eating). Fascinating creatures they are.
After visiting the crocodiles, you hike a little further and come to the Kilimanjaro Safari road where a truck is waiting to pick you up.  You shed your safety harness (about five pounds!) and your sound system and retrieve  your camera and water bottle.  Then you load up onto the truck where there's a frosty towel awaiting you.  After the heat and all, it feels WONDERFUL!  The truck heads out to the Boma (Swahili for safe or protected place) where your snack will be served. Before  you get there, you can see all kinds of the animals visible on the Safari.  This time, though, you can stop and watch them and take photos. Here are some photos of the animals we saw.
See the Kilimanjaro truck in the back?
Probably my favorite photo!

A real elephant, not an animatronic one
At last you make it to the boma, a lovely permanent camp with bathrooms (yea!), tables, ceiling fans, and most important... Lunch!  They advertise it as a snack, but you get quite enough food for a meal, even after the walking you've done. Your nice, cold lunch comes in a two-tier pail.

Snack - Top Tier
The top tier has curried chicken salad, fresh fruit, and air-dried meats.  It's topped with a lovely, edible dendrobium orchid flower.  I put my flower in my shirt pocket and brought it home.  I put it in a glass of water and it lasted until the end of our stay.

Snack - Bottom Tier
The bottom tier has pita bread, a spicy hummus, a sushi-type roll and two spicy, yummy shrimp. The food is prepared by the Tusker House Restaurant, which is linked to the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, so you know the food is good!  Your snack is served with passionfruit / orange / guava juice, which just totally hit the spot for me!

After your snack, you load back up on the truck to visit the last animals of the day...
The Rhinos!
It's so sad how many animals are in danger of extinction by poaching.  Rhinos are valued for several things, but primarily their horns.  Animal Kingdom has re-introduced two (I think) rhinos back into the wild.  Long may they live where they belong!

Which brings me to a wonderful change in Animal Kingdom.  The first time I visited was about five years after they opened.  They were struggling at that time to be taken seriously as a zoo.  They have come so far in the decade or so since I made that first visit.  They are now a breeding zoo.  This is a major step forward for them.

Kali River Rapids
I didn't get any photos from the Kali River Rapids. This is one of my favorite rides, but for some reason, it seemed a little long in the tooth this time.  I think that was just my imagination, however, because we were so enchanted with the Wild Africa Trek, I'm not sure anything could have lived up to it.  This is one to consider not getting a FastPass. The lovely buildings that the line passes through are definitely worth seeing!  Oh, and we got turned just right during the drop and got totally soaked!  Which was just fine.  Let's hear it for quick-dry clothes from the skin out!

Expedition Everest
Expedition Everest is a new ride in the Asian section of Animal Kingdom.  We'd been looking forward to it, but both came away with mixed feelings.  This is definitely one to think about not getting a FastPass.  The approach to the rollie itself is SO worth going through.  My camera was beginning to run out of power, so I didn't get many photos.  Here's one of the "temple" area:

The Yeti "Shrine"
After going through the "shrine," you go through an outfitter's store with all kinds of wonderful things to look at.  Then you go through the "research area" for Yeti, the Monster of the Himalayas. After that, you find yourself waiting to board the train to take you up Everest.

From a rollie point of view, Everest is okay.  There's not much to see on the ride itself. It starts off like a relatively gentle train ride.  Then you climb a huge hill to see that the tracks have been pulled up and you're going to plunge down the side... except that the train stops.  Honestly, the best thing to see here is that there's apparently a place where girls take the ties out of their hair and throw them to the side of the train.  I thought about it... for about a second or two.  You stay stopped for longer than I would have thought.  Apparently, they are changing the track behind you so you don't go backwards the same way you came up.  From here for about half of the ride, you're riding backwards and mostly in the dark.  There's very little to see and you have no idea what's going to happen.  Both George and I became a little disoriented.  I think this is where he had the problem.  Strangely enough, I had it when we reversed direction and went forward again.  The ride isn't really jerky, but it's just totally uninteresting from a story point of view.  Also, this is the only time I've become a little disoriented on a rollie.  Neither of us were sick enough to want to lose our lunch, but neither of us really enjoyed the feeling. Both of us decided that we'd do the line again to see the wonderful things and then bail at the chicken spot!  (All Disney rides have one.)

Here's a little shrine on an island near the Everest ride.  You can't walk to the little island, but I love it anyway.

Maharajah Jungle Trail
I love this walking trail.  It goes through areas that look like abandoned temples and buildings in an Asian environment.  We were very close to closing time when we did this one and we fell into conversation with a very knowledgeable interpreter at the Bengal Tiger exhibit.  By this time, my poor battery was about done, so this is the only photo I got of the kitties!

And this brings me to the last changes at Animal Kingdom that I really didn't like.  When I've come here before, the background music is gentle and meditative.  Mostly, the music is now either completely gone or drowned out.  I expect the African drummers in the African section, although I swear they perform more frequently now.  I did NOT expect the Indian rock and roll DJ music blaring out from the Asian area.  It's constant - no breaks and there's a dancer performing.  She's good, but it's right in the middle of the walkway.  Argghhh!!!  It's almost impossible to get away from it.  When we've been here before, every vendor in the Asian area would greet you with "Namaste!"  That's gone now as are the wagons where you can get chai.  Oh, there's a tea vendor, but it's not the same and they will NOT serve the chai over ice.  You want iced chai, you get a frozen drink thing.  Sigh.  Not the Disney I remember.

What a full day!  Here's one last photo from Animal Kingdom.  It's the view of Everest from the bridge crossing into the African area:
Although I know it doesn't really look like Everest, it makes me want to visit the base camp of the Goddess Mother one of these fine days!

Stay tuned for the fourth (and probably last) installment of our Disney Adventure!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Visiting Disney - Part II

Magic Kingdom
Statue of Roy (not Walt!) Disney and Mickey

So we got up bright and early... okay, we got up Monday morning and after a wonderful breakfast at Mara, we headed out to Magic Kingdom.  Wow!  Did I say crowded?  I think it was the first (or one of the first) days of Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween event and the place was packed!  But still wonderfully fun.  It was all decorated up for Halloween.  I didn't get too many photos of the decorations, but here's George with one of the Mickey Jack-o-Lantern decorations on the lampposts.

George with Mickey
We had been selected to be part of the FastPass+ test.  At the moment, it's only available in Magic Kingdom and only for certain rides.  They send you cards, which you register and then choose two rides from each of two groups.  Sadly, I wanted three rides in one group, but they're kind of sneaky-smart about such things. You set up your ride schedule before you come, with the understanding that you can change it at any time.  We chose the Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.   Honestly, I didn't think it would work since you're basically setting up your day ahead of time, but it works beautifully!  I hope they expand the idea to all the parks.

Since we got there well before our first ride was scheduled, we wandered around (away from the show in front of the Castle) and found ourselves in Liberty Square.  The Liberty Belle riverboat was just coming into service for the day, so we hopped aboard and went for the first ride of the day.  Everybody else boarding the boat went up, so we went out and got to stand at the extreme bow of the boat, Titanic-style. Such fun!

Okay, now I'm admitting to a weakness. I love the architecture at Disney.  I bring along my sketchbook, but seldom take the time to sit down and sketch, even this trip.  But I photograph buildings and the boat ride has some of the best photo-ops.  I'll share a few.
Becky Thatcher's House (?)

Across the landing where the Liberty Belle docks, you can see a lovely little yellow house.  I think it's Becky Thatcher's house, but I'm not really sure.  Anyway, it's on Tom Sawyer's Island.  We meant to get over there, but never did make it.

Harper's Mill
 Also on Tom Sawyer's Island is the beautiful little watermill.  Next time, for sure we have to go over to the Island!
Yet another pretty thing on the Island!

Indian Village
Okay, Disney is the absolute master of animatronics.  I love them!  This little Indian village, across from the Island is one of the best.  If you look carefully, you'll see the train tracks on the other side of the village.  The steam train runs on the other side, around the perimeter of the park and passes by here.  And yes, we DO ride the train every trip and we rode this time as well.

There were other photos from the trip, but I won't post all of them!

In addition to the steam train, we did the most rides here at Magic Kingdom. Oh!  Another confession.  I adore Disney pins.  I seldom trade them, but I do collect them.  This trip was the trip of ride pins.  I collected as many ride pins after the rides as I could.  So here's the lot from Magic Kingdom!
From the top, clockwise, Pirates of the Caribbean (the wheel is hinged like a door and shows the skeleton at the wheel underneath), the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain

The Jungle Cruise
If you've never done this ride, do it.  It's not scary although there are plenty of animatronic headhunters and critters.  You board an African Queen-inspired boat with a driver who is totally committed to packing in the most puns possible during the ride.  I never did figure out how our guide breathed.  It was one pun after the other.  We laughed the whole way around.  You get to go through a cave with what looks like Asian temple ruins.  There are elephants threatening to spit water at you, snakes all around, it's just such fun! Sadly, there's no pin for this ride, or at least none that I could find.

Pirates of the Caribbean
We hadn't planned to do this ride, but we'd heard it had been revamped after the movies, so in we went.  It's awesome!  Again, not scary but such fun and yep, there's Captain Jack Sparrow at the end, rocking in a chair with a bottle of rum and talking.  It's always a winner.

Splash Mountain
I love Splash!  The backstory is from the movie Song of the South and the story of Brer Rabbit and his antics.  The first time I ever did this ride, I didn't even notice the story because I was dreading the five-story drop.  This time I thoroughly enjoyed the build-up AND the drop!  This one is a good one to put your hands over your head.  Such fun!

Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion from the Liberty Belle
This is a must-do!  Some of the best Disney magic is in here.  You're first shepherded into the gallery to await your train through the mansion.  Be careful in here.  It's dark and people have started bringing in wheeled carry-on bags.  Thus far, the Disney people are allowing those, but they can be dangerous.  I almost tripped over one in the dark.  Anyway, you're shut into the room with no obvious means of egress and then you notice that the portraits are growing... or are you getting smaller???  At last the door opens and you (at your normal size) exit and board your waiting car for the trip through the house.  There are all kinds of animatronics in here, singing statues, graveyard ghouls and all.  But the best thing are the ghosts.  I know how they do them, but they're always effective.  And either I notice different things on different rides, or they change up the ride now and again.  Anyway, at the end of the ride, you can see that you have your very own personal ghost with you!  Wooooo!!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (The Runaway Mine Train)
This is my favorite of all the Magic Kingdom rides and vies with the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster for my favorite ride, period. Enjoy the walk through the line here.  There are lots of things to see, many in unexpected places.  The ride has lots to look at as well (for the split second you can see them as you go careening past!).  The rollie isn't jerky, although it does do some ups and downs and fast turns.  Except for a few times through the "tunnels" it's all outside so you can see where you're going.  Love it, love it love it!

Space Mountain
Ah, Space Mountain.  This was our last FastPass+ ride of the day and I forgot that it shouldn't have been.  Either they've changed the ride, or it is aging, but I don't remember it being as jerky in the past as it was this trip. And sideways jerky, too, which is the worst for me.  I also remember more things to see as you go careening (not all that fast) past.  However, the FastPass curse may have come into play here.  With a FastPass, you go to the head of the line.  In the case of Space Mountain, that means you don't have time to allow your eyes to adjust to the dimness.  Not necessarily a good thing.  Hopefully, we just caught it on a bad day and the next time we ride Space, it'll be awesome again.

Places to Eat
Since we were on Disney's Dining Plan, we used one of our Quick-Service meals for lunch and a snack allotment.  We had lunch at the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe in FrontierLand.  George had a cheeseburger, but I had their signature barbecue pork sandwich.  DO get it!  Since you're on the Dining Plan, you get dessert with your meal.  We had carrot cake.  Okay, the icing was a bit sweet, but it was otherwise very good!
Aloha Isle

This is THE place to burn your snack allotment!  Get yourself over to AdventureLand, to the Aloha Isle and have yourself a Dole Whip Float.  I had mine in pineapple softserv in pineapple juice and it was absolutely magnificent!  Next time, I'm going to try the pineapple softserv in orange juice, I think.  Anyway, allow yourself some time.  This is well-known as the must-do snack and I've never seen fewer than 15 people in each line!

Two Sets of Tired Feet
Whew!  We're getting old or something.  We were so tired by about sunset (after realizing that we missed the last boat for Tom Sawyer's Island) that we decided to skip the fireworks and go home.  This is a first for me since I love the fireworks behind the Castle, but I was just SO tired!  However, dinner was back at the Lodge at Jiko, so how upset could I be?

See you next time for the Report From Animal Kingdom!