We had spent the night in Tifton GA and managed to get started at a fairly reasonable 8:30 that morning. By the time we got off of the Florida Turnpike northwest of Walt Disney World (WDW) we could see thunderstorms brewing. We opted to sneak over to WDW via the west side of the park rather than going into Orlando and taking I-4.
When it started raining, Louisa (6 years old) started a chant to herself "Rain, Rain go away!" very fast. She then interrupted herself with "Louisa, that's annoying!". She could see this little comic act was having the desired effect on her parental units as we were unable to keep from cracking up.
We arrived at WDW around 1pm. Upon check in at the Wyndham Palace we were told that there were no rooms ready yet but there would be within the hour. We were assigned a room with a view of the parks so we would be able to see the fireworks, but we would have to either store our luggage until the room was ready or take our luggage with us to whatever park we would be visiting. After some negotiation (because we needed to change and shower) they found another room that was available immediately - room 2232.
We unpacked, showered and decided to throw our original touring plan out and head to the Magic Kingdom.
We got lost trying to get to the theme parks and ended up at the Cast Member entrance. We doubled back to the main roads and decided not to get off the main roads again.
While we were passing the sign showing the exit to Epcot, Marie made a last minute decision to take advantage of all the time we had for rest of day and NOT do the Magic Kingdom this day. Instead we proceeded directly to Epcot. This would allow us to save the Magic of the Magic Kingdom for a later day in our trip as we had read that the other parks could be a letdown after visiting the Magic Kingdom with kids. We also decided we would not visit Disney/MGM studios at all because the girls really were not familiar with movies. The only disappointment with this would be that we would miss the Mulan parade.
We pulled into the Epcot parking lot and marveled at Spaceship Earth ahead of us with Mickey's magic wand spelling out 2000 arcing up one side. A Monorail whizzed silently by. Was I dreaming? This was it!
click to enlarge
the strollers and headed to the tram. We then had to refold the strollers
to get on just a few seconds later and settled in for the first of many,
many, many tram rides.
click to enlarge - left to right - Louisa (6.5), Julia (5.5), Mary (barely 3)
Through the turnstiles we entered into the background music of Disney. Absolutely everywhere you went there was background music. We passed the Leave a Legacy sculpture and I took a quick look at the tiny picture $35 would purchase.
After picture taking in front of Spaceship Earth (the big golf ball!) we rolled closer to it.
There was NO line for the Spaceship Earth ride so in we went. I noted that the ride vehicles were variants of the tried and true omnimovers developed in the 60s for Adventures thru Inner Space in Disneyland and perfected by the Haunted Mansion.
We got in and entered the dark and were surrounded by audioanimatronic figures. Julia started sobbing. Louisa was startled. Mary did not know what was going on. I think they were expecting to be scared. I was impressed by the ride but the girls did not like it at all. Julia did not want to go on ANY dark rides after that without a lot of coaxing.
We continued between the Innoventions buildings. Our goal was to visit the China Pavilion and see what else might happen. We particularly admired the big fountain in the Innoventions plaza. Little did we know it had a secret that we would discover later that day.
We came to the World Showcase lagoon and hung a left. Looking across the lagoon, I was impressed, but it seemed smaller than I thought it was going to be. The various country pavilions were right next to each other. I had originally thought that there was some buffer space. The pavilions were also much smaller than I had thought they would be.
The older girls had disposable cameras to play with. They were mesmerized by a topiary display of Disney characters. Here is a picture of them admiring the topiary Pluto.
Click to enlarge – Julia and Louisa with Pluto Topiary
We also made the discovery that there was a food and wine festival going on with "Taste of Chicago" type booths scattered everywhere in the World Showcase selling little samples of various cuisines. Aha - dinner might be easier than we thought it would be.
We approached the Mexican pavilion. Marie asked me what was in it and I told her that there was a "Small World" like boat ride. We brought the idea of a boat ride up to the girls and they liked the idea, although they did not expect it to be inside the building.
The front of the building is fashioned to be an Aztec pyramid. The detail was incredible. This was the first time I had a chance to see the Disney detailing at work and I was suitably impressed.
Inside the building was mainly a gift shop, but the impression was that it was twilight and you were in a courtyard outdoors. A volcano smoldered in the distance.
We found the entrance to the ride, Rio Del Tiempo (the River of Time), and encounterd practically no line. We were on the boat in less than a minute. The girls were apprehensive but settled down when it did not really get dark.
I particularly liked the one place where we passed three projections disguised as a marketplace. A shopkeeper ran from screen to screen begging us to stop and look at his stuff for sale. I was disappointed that the promised "skeleton costumed band" turned out to be foot tall puppets.
We managed to leave the pavilion without even looking at the shops. Julia was getting hungry. I purchased some quesadillas at the Food & Wine booth outside. She did not eat hers, as she was distracted by everything else going on. We also purchased iced watermelon juice and passed it between everyone. That actually seemed to quell the complaints better than the food.
We passed by the Norway pavilion and I pointed out that this one had a boat ride with trolls in it. It would probably be too scary for some.
Next was the China pavilion. The first thing I saw on the lagoon side of the walk, was another Food & Wine booth. I left the stroller by Marie and ran over to check the menu. All meat. Oh Well.
Then we went under the archway to take a look at the pavilion. My first impression of the Temple of Good Harvests reproduction was...
It was too puny!
It was way too small. I knew that they had not constructed the full size Temple, but this was weird looking. The blue character sign was missing as well. You could see the brackets where it was supposed to be.
The REAL Good
Harvest Temple (from our second trip to China in 1996)
click to enlarge
The FAKE one
click to enlarge
We entered the building and the greeter beamed at us (having noticed the girls) and said "Welcome to China". I responded "Been there!" and she chuckled.
It was beautiful inside the building and nice to actually step inside. We could look through the doors of the real building in Beijing but were not allowed to go in. The detail Disney puts into everything is amazing. This is obviously one of the reasons why the ticket prices are so high.
we had about 20 minutes until the next showing of the 360 degree film "Wonders
of China" so we stepped into the ethnic minority museum next door. I pointed
out to the girls on a large wall map of China the cities they were born
Click to enlarge - Mary knows what city she was born in. Nanning.
The film was beautiful. It was neat to see it and think "I've been there" for many of the locales. As the camera swooped in toward the Great Wall I commented out loud "Badaling" as it was the regular touristy Great Wall location just northwest of Beijing that we had visited on our first trip. The city views were interesting as the fashions were still very plain. A lot of Mao suits. The 360 degree view along the Bund in Shanghai was interesting as well. Marie pointed and asked me "What's missing?". The TV tower and all the development across the river from the Bund, that's what.
We decided to have dinner right there at the China Pavilion at the counter service restaurant. It was OK but Louisa complained that the fried rice is better at the Chinese restaurants at home. Mary had a field day feeding her Mommy. I had a cold noodle salad with a sesame dressing that was excellent.
Marie disappeared into the shop. The girls were bored by shopping but stayed with me while I wandered around looking for Monkey King items. I found absolutely none. I asked several cast members and they did not understand what I was talking about. I even said "Sun Wukong"(the Monkey King's real name) properly. It did not occur to me until later that I should have mentioned that he was featured prominently in at least three scenes in the 360 degree movie. Everytime they showed an example of Beijing Opera it turned out to be a scene from "Havoc in Heaven" and had the Monkey King in it.
I shooed the
girls outside of the shop when they started getting too close to the breakables.
I glanced over at the main path around the lagoon and saw that the Tapestry
of Nations parade was going on. The girls were fascinated by it. The giant
puppets were great and I liked the enormous rolling drum. Julia liked the
music so much we purchased the album the next day.
click to enlarge - Here is a quick shot of the parade as we saw it.
While wandering around just after the parade I ran across another CCAI family. They recognized us. In fact they knew one of the families we traveled with. This was the start of an ever increasing number of our families encountering each other in the parks.
Once Marie had finished shopping we got some ice cream at a place between China and Germany (the Outpost) and decided to head over to the Imagination pavilion.
We had an
enjoyable time in the Journey into Your Imagination ride. Since I had never
seen it with Dreamfinder I had no preconceptions. We made sure to put earplugs
in Julia as we knew there was a very loud part of the ride. This ride pretty
much made up for the dissapointment of the Spaceship Earth ride, although
the afforementioned loud section was pretty intense. Everybody liked the
upside down room.
click to enlarge - In this picture the entire family has just been scanned to see what is in our imaginations. That can't be right! We can't have a vacancy in our imaginations! (I am with Julia in the front. Louisa is right behind Julia. Marie has her arm above an amazed Mary)
ride we found the interactive imagination lab. The girls had a field day!
They even had one area to themselves where there are pictures on the floor
that light up. Step on the picture when the light is on to hear the sound
the picture would make (airplane, etc.). They ran around in circles laughing
and triggering noises.
click to enlarge - Julia and Louisa running in circles in the imagination lab
We went from
the imagination lab to the 3D film "Honey I Shrunk the Audience". It was
funny, spectacular, and way too intense for the girls. Louisa took her
3D glasses off midway through and Mary started crying during the snake
sequence. The two of us with legs long enough to reach the floor loved
the feel of the mice running through the theatre. The sneezing dog at the
end was the effect the girls loved best! (yecchh!!)
click to enlarge - 3D Glasses can be neat!
Right outside the theatre was the famous Epcot jumping water fountain. The girls tried and tried to catch the water as it leapt over the sidewalk but just could not quite reach it.
As we were
leaving the park about 9 pm it was beginning to spit rain. We wanted to
see the Illuminations fireworks show but did not want to sit in the rain
to watch it. As we passed through the plaza between Innoventions we happened
to pass by the big fountain right as it exploded into activity with an
accompanying soundtrack synchronized to the water. It was a delightful
surprise. We sought shelter from the rain and watched. (In later visits
to Epcot we discovered that this fountain does this many times a day and
after awhile we surprised ourselves by marching by it while it was in full
performance mode and ignoring it).
click to enlarge - Julia and Louisa are the small figures right up against the railing of the fountain.
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Last modified 11/10/00
This document copyright © 2000 Kirby A. Bartlett-Sloan