Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rides for older audiences

Big thank you to Amanda McCartney Gierman for being my first non-family member "fan" to come up and talk to me about the blog.  That made my day!

Like I said earlier, the first attraction you will encounter when you walk into Epcot is Spaceship Earth.  My suggestion is to walk past this and come back to it later in the day.  If you enter the park before 11:00 AM, there are 5 attractions that you need to choose from to head to first.  These are the attractions I am going to talk about today; they are the busiest rides at Epcot.

The outside of The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Having so much fun, we felt like dancing!

            The first of these is a great family ride: The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  This is another dark ride: you board your clamobile and are moved into position to be able to view the tanks (with live fish) and the screens projecting over the tanks (incorporating the Nemo-gang).  This is a fun ride for kids of all ages, but it is very popular.  You definitely want to make it one of the first rides of the day; if you get here too late, you will be waiting.  Also, fun fact: as you’re getting near the end of the ride, pay attention to the starfish, she is hilarious.  She is begging you to take her with you because she has to hear the song over and over again.

            When the ride is over, you will be let out inside a building that contains exhibits with facts about the ocean.  Picture opportunities abound; they have a large model of Bruce the shark and your kids can get inside of him.  If you head upstairs, you can take part in another ocean attraction: Turtle Talk with Crush.  This is similar to the Monsters, Inc. attraction at Magic Kingdom which is a movie theater style setting, with a show.  Crush interacts with the crowd, answering questions about turtles and the sea.

            Ugh, I hate admitting this to you, dear readers, but these next three attractions I have never been on.  Here’s my problem, I have a young child and these are not rides for young children.  Yes, WDW has a child swap, which is a great tool to use if you are traveling with a young child.  The whole family gets in line and each parent gets to take a turn going on the ride, while the other waits with the child.  However, hubby and I like to ride the rides together, so we never use the child swap.  So, I will tell you all of the research I have heard, but I have no personal experience.  I suck, I’m sorry…

            First off, is Test Track.  This ride has the dubious fame of being broke down more times than any other ride.  However, when it is working, it is apparently one of the most thrilling rides at WDW.  The idea is: YOU are a crash-test dummy.  Not only will you be subjected to extreme hot and cold (to test how the car will do, of course), you will also be subjected to 50-degree banked curves, all while going 60 mph.  This one has a FASTPASS, so grab one and come back.

            Mission: SPACE is a fairly new attraction, but has already had to undergo modifications.  The Imagineers worked hand-in-hand with astronauts from NASA and, apparently, made the attraction a little too lifelike.  There are now 2 versions to the ride: orange or green team.  The Orange team is a more intense experience, including forces on your body of 2.4G.  The Green team does not experience the pressure, so it is a better option for those prone to motion sickness.  You and your crew are going on a space flight to Mars, including take-off.  Each team member has a job: Navigator, Pilot, Commander or Engineer.  Each job actually entails work during the ride, to ensure a successful mission.  This ride also has FASTPASS, so take advantage!

            The last attraction is Soarin’ (which also has FASTPASS, yay!), a free-flying hang glider.  You will be lifted 40 feet in the air to soar over an IMAX projection screen that wraps 180 degrees around you.  The attraction even makes you feel sensory items: smell evergreens as you go over trees, feel the wind and smell sea breeze as you go past the Golden Gate Bridge, etc.  However, it is again not for small children.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This isn't Neverland, trust me...

Emily in Epcot on a very cold day in December.  Paddington Bear was her souvenir.


            I am so excited about this next park.  Magic Kingdom is a lot of fun and it is the epitome of Disney World.  But Epcot is grow-up land.  They serve alcohol there (did I mention there is no alcohol in Magic Kingdom?).  In fact they serve many different types of alcohol from different places of the world.  Hence, why I believe this is the favorite area of every beleaguered parent who has already spent a whole day at Magic Kingdom with their kids.  And since I am always trying to give you the truth, my dear readers, children may get a little bored in this area, especially younger ones (more about this later).
            Epcot is supposed to resemble Walt Disney’s original ideas for a self-containing community.  And there are some very interesting attractions based on these ideas.  But, in all honesty, Epcot is really just a daily world fair.  There are two sections to the park: Future World and World Showcase.  Future World is all about science: energy, space, the seas, agriculture, etc.  The World Showcase brings to life 11 separate countries (plus an African outpost), featuring their exotic cuisines, customs, music, etc.
            If you’re visiting WDW for the rides, then you will enjoy Future World more than World Showcase.  Only two of the countries in the World Showcase feature a ride, the rest all have shows or movies.  However, if you are really trying to get a well-rounded vacation, then Epcot is definitely worth 1 to 2 days of your time.  Hubby and I love the fun and excitement of M.K., but one of our favorite parts of the vacation is walking through the World Showcase and trying foods from other countries.  I will warn my big-bellied fans, though: Epcot is huge.  The Word Showcase surrounds a very large lagoon and you will spend a lot of your day tracking the miles at Epcot.  Fear not, the food’s worth it!
            In every Disney park, there is one very large attraction that represents the park.  At Magic Kingdom, it is the castle.  In Epcot, it’s the large golf ball.  As soon as you turn into the Epcot parking lot, you will see it.  And it is the first attraction you will encounter once you get past the front gate turnstiles.  Inside of the ball is an awesome ride that will take you up into the sphere, called Spaceship Earth.  However, here is a tip: come back to this ride later!  Everyone gets in line for this ride as soon as they get in the park because it is literally in your line of vision.  By about in the afternoon, however, there is no longer a line for it, so you can ride it multiple times in a row with no problems.  Why wait in line if you don’t have to?
            By the way, here is an interesting fact about the geometric designs on the ball: those shapes actually serve a purpose.  Whenever it rains in Florida (which, if you remember, I told you this will probably happen daily), the triangles direct the rainwater to holes in between the shapes.  That water is then routed back to the lagoon, which the World Showcase surrounds.  Self-containing community, remember?

Close-up of the entrance to get insde of the Golf Ball

Close-up of the triangles.  Note the holes in between the triangles: they direct the water to the lagoon.

Next time, I will work on some parts of Future World.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tomorrow! I love ya, Tomorrow!

Yeah, I channeled Annie there for a minute...  I'm a child of the 80s, I can't help myself, I grew up on that movie.

Mass exodus from Tomorrowland during the fireworks...

M.K. - Tomorrowland

            Yay!  Besides Toontown Fair (which is being renovated, so I’m not talking about it yet), this is the last area of Magic Kingdom.  I left this area for last on purpose because this is the last area my husband and I usually visit.  As the day goes on, the crowds begin to thin in the park.  And once the fireworks begin, there are very few people left in any of the land areas because they usually move over to the central hub to get a better view.  My husband and I try to spend 2 days at Magic Kingdom, whenever we visit: one day to make sure we see the fireworks and the second day to ride some very popular attractions during the fireworks.  And then we ride them again because there is no wait time during fireworks.  The best area to do this in is Tomorrowland because it has a lot of attractions in a fairly small area.  Less walk time, more ride time = win-win!
            Let me give you an example: Buzz Lightyear’s Space Range Spin.  This ride is a lot of fun, especially if you have a competitive streak (which I do).  Basically, your vehicle takes you around to a few different scenes and you shoot at bulls-eyes with your lasers.  The vehicle keeps score for you.  The bigger the target, the higher the points.  This ride is, typically, around a 45 minute wait time.  We rode it 4 times in a row during the fireworks the last time we visited.  And my husband’s score was still better than mine, the jerk…
            Right next to Buzz, in the same building, is Monsters Inc, Laugh Floor.  This is a really cute show that is supposed to take place AFTER the Monsters, Inc movie.  The monsters on the screen are trying to make us laugh, to fill their canisters with energy.  The interesting part of this show is that the monsters on the screen interact with the crowd, so it is never the same show twice.  They often pick audience members to pick on or to get information from.  It’s a cute, funny show.  The other nice part about it: you won’t wait longer than the show in front of you usually.  So at most, you’re looking at about a 20 minute wait.  And it’s seated with AC or heat!  I cannot tell you how much you will come to appreciate this.  After waiting in line multiple times at Magic Kingdom, all you will want to do is sit down for a few minutes and relax. 
            Right across the walkway from Buzz and Monsters, Inc. is Stitch’s Great Escape.  I have failed you again, dear readers.  My daughter is too short to go on this ride, so I have never been on it.  Please don’t be mad at me!  I can say this, however.  Disney put this attraction in to take place of a very similar attraction, Extra TERRORestrial.  Extra TERRORestrial was a scary attraction with an alien getting loose, who breathes on your neck and drops saliva on your head.  I was 17 when I went on it, and it scared the bejeezus out of me.  They replaced the unknown alien with Stitch, to make it more Disney friendly.  Unfortunately, from what I have read in my research, they did not change enough and the attraction is still very scary for kids.  Hence, the height requirement.  Disney is trying to keep young children out.  In fact, they have raised the height requirement 3-4 times since the opening of this attraction because too many children were getting the wits scared out of them.  Chances are very good that this attraction will either be re-designed or re-imagined altogether in the not-too-distant future.

I will finish up Tomorrowland on another day.  For now, I will leave you with a joke I heard at the Monster, Inc. Laugh floor: How does Lady Gaga like her meat?  Raw, raw, raw, raw, raw!

Me and Em, sweating profusely in August, watching the fireworks from a bench in Tomorrowland.