Monday, March 20, 2017

A Trip to the Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom Bradley Windle Knoxville

On a five day journey through the parks of Walt Disney World, I saved the best for last and ventured out on my last day to the Magic Kingdom. It was a Friday and there was a morning Extra Magic Hour, but I had no concern of extra crowding and was glad to make use of the opportunity. I took the bus from the resort an hour before park opening and after the ride and security I hotfooted down Main Street to get to the castle right at the start. I had a strict schedule that required I be there, ready to go, and I was determined to make the magic happen, one choreographed minute at a time.

It’s easy to go the right way at the start of Extra Magic Hour, because that’s the direction you have to go, to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland (unless going left to a character breakfast). Bradley from Knoxville (above), with his somewhat easy to overlook sign, was the official notice that go that way you must. To me, the cast members have always been the best part of Disney World, so in a way Bradley, unwavering and noble, was like a statue of a liberty, tacitly welcoming all to the refuge of fantasy and fun.  

Magic Kingdom greeter Bradley Windle from Knoxville
"Give me your tired..."
Bradley from Knoxville lifts his sign beside the golden door.
Since Peter Pan’s Flight is so popular, I weaved my way around the castle and many single and double strollers to go there first. It’s a trippy ride and a good place to start things off on an early morning. Being there early, the wait time was negligible. However by the time I had finished the ride the line was significantly longer than when I arrived. Minutes count.

Walking back the way I came (Liberty Square was still roped off), I was still buzzing from thinking of the happiest things (it’s the same as having wings) and ready for the next event. Next door is Mickey’s PhilharMagic and I could tell I had time to see the show and still get to Adventureland before its opening at 9am as my schedule dictated. The cast member outside of PhilharMagic was taking off or putting on his socks, so I skipped taking a picture although it would have been a good unusual shot. Inside the theater there were maybe a dozen people in the audience, so it’s not popular with the Extra Magic throng, but I think the show and the 3d quality was worth seeing.

The wait at the entrance to Adventureland
To hit my next mark, I had to go all the way back around the castle and across the hub to get to the entrance to Adventureland. I had FP+ for the Jungle Cruise, but I wanted to get a quick run through Pirates of the Caribbean before that. Right at 9am, the cast members walked us all to the various attractions. I followed right behind a pirate and was able to get into the first boat of the day. It’s a classic ride, except for the inclusion of Jack Sparrow, which you kind of wish that maybe his audio-animatronics just aren’t working right and hopefully the imagineers didn’t really intend them to look like that. 

The Pirates merchandise store, like most of the stores this trip, didn’t have anything I really wanted, although I did like the Mickey dressed as a pirate. I might get that the next time I go back.

Next was Jungle Cruise. Even with the FP+ there was a short wait to get on boat, and the FP+ guests were out in the sun, which I didn’t care for. Once on board it was clear sailing, and though this attraction should feel very tired and old, it's still like a party boat without the alcohol. I get into the spirit of it and ride the wave of the puns. 

Fresh off the boat, I stayed in Adventureland since I don't go for crisscrossing the park to see things in priority order. I want to do one land at a time. With my schedule, I was able to fit in even some minor attractions, so the next nearby stop was Enchanted Tiki Room. This attraction also should seem old and tired, and in this case it is. Even changing it up to having the birds sing the songs from Frozen would be an improvement. 

Being done with Adventureland for the moment, I went toward Main Street for the first live entertainment of the day. The entertainment is at specific times and ephemeral, so it's important to know when and where to go. I wanted to see the 10:10 Main Street Trolley Show, but I wasn't exactly sure where it would be. Fortunately, as I get to the Hub, there's a trolley and there's a cast member with headset on, so I know something is going to happen soon.

I waited by the trolley, but it started traveling with no show yet, so I had to trail it until the performance started. I saw it at its first stop, but I didn't quite get the photos I wanted, so I had to trail it again to its second stop, further up Main Street. You wouldn't think a horse pulling a trolley with people on it could move so fast, but I had to quickstep to catch up with it. I watched it again and got my song and dance fix. I think next time I'll position myself at Town Square to see it there.

Main Street Trolley Show
Main Street Trolley Show

Main Street Trolley Show
The day was bright, the air was sweet
The smell of honeysuckle charmed me off my feet
More live entertainment followed as it was then time for Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire at the Cinderella Castle Forecourt stage. The sun was getting a little warm and I tried to stay as well as I could in the narrow shadow of a streetlamp. I'm not sure why I bothered to watch the show. Shows in front of the castle have always been incomprehensible. Characters appear, music plays, and wondering rather than wonderment ensues.

People waiting for the Friendship Faire to begin


I wandered away from the Faire, but mainly to get to the next live entertainment, which was The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History.  I'm not a Muppets fan, although I do like history. I trust the show was about history, but I couldn't follow along. I don't think it went over my head, but maybe way under it. 
Muppets providing a teachable moment, or something
Across the way was the next use of FP+, at the Haunted Mansion. It was really too fast, as I walked right in without being able to appreciate the exterior sights. The entry rooms also seemed to be over quicker than I remember them being. The ride itself is so-so for me anymore. I'm ready for an overhaul to create something really surprising. Maybe a cast member becoming possessed in a magical moment gone awry. 
Anthony goes out into the light to oversee the queue at Haunted Mansion
Near Haunted Mansion was the lunch stop, Columbia Harbour House. It's got some variety for a quick service (the fried fish plate is relatively worthwhile) and it's got some good views upstairs with a table by a window. 

View from Columbia Harbour House
After lunch, it was on to Fantasyland. The first stop there was Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. It wasn't there the last time I was at the Magic Kingdom, so I had to walk around a little bit to determine where to enter. Like probably a lot of people, I first walked up to the entrance to Meet Ariel at her Grotto. The cast member told me somewhat disdainfully that this was the entry to meet Ariel, as if I wouldn't be trying to do such a thing. True, I wanted to hang out with Prince Eric in his castle, but I felt for a moment like meeting the sea creature just to prove Miss Assumption wrong. I backed up though and found my way to Under the Sea, which like the Tiki Room was also trippy. The figures of Ariel were rather jarring though as she looked a little odd. In her wedding dress it seemed like the prince would have been better off taking out the hook and throwing her back in.

Prince Eric, big hands
Exploring some more I came to Gaston's Tavern. Friendly Noah from University of Miami welcomed visitors to have a LeFou's Brew and get a $4.49 cinnamon roll. I don't do snacks in the parks at WDW, other than Dole Whip. When I spend money on food, I get a meal. It seemed like an inviting place though.
Noah at Gaston's Tavern
At this point I was kind of done with Fantasyland and was going to head to Frontierland.

Hard working cast member in Fantasyland
One last stop on the way was It's a Small World. It's not small of a world or walkway for an old man on an ECV not to hit me with his vehicle, but outside the attraction I was struck by a hit-and-meander driver. Fortunately I sustained no injury, but I let out an exclamation that would not have been suitable for singing Small World children to hear.

From Small World, I went to Frontierland to stake a claim to a parade watching spot. I had originally thought about watching the Festival of Fantasy Parade from Main Street train station, but settled on looking for a good vantage point in the West. I wanted to a spot where no one would try to move in at the last minute or try to put their kid in front of me. So I found a shaded spot right behind a rope pole and I wrapped myself around it so that you would need to an explosive to dislodge me from there. The ploy was successful and I got the unobstructed view that I wanted.

Brian leads the parade

Pretty costumes
Prince Charming and his +1
Most important part of FofF: The Lost Boys
Keeping the parade running smoothly

At the end of the parade, I jumped behind the rope walkers and trailed the parade with them. It was tempting to wave to the spectators, but that was just a short-term thrill. I veered off to cut through the passage to Adventureland and then made my way to the hub to watch the back half of the parade again. Being in that section of the park, guests are hemmed in until the end of the parade passes the hub, and my next destination was Tomorrowland, so I had to wait no matter what.

With the parade over, I sauntered into Tomorrowland and realized I didn't really have a set schedule at that point. I had about two hours until my dinner reservation, so I looked around for what I could do. The PeopleMover was an obvious choice and I did that first. After that I did Carousel of Progress, where I was subjected to a very non-Magical Moment. Throughout the show, a giant female farm animal sat slumped in the seat next to me and used her brightly lit phone to do non-stop texting. It's difficult to understand how people can be so callous. The modern technology of the family in the final scene didn't seem so great when it was in the hands of the she-beast near me.

Connor stands guard at Carousel of Progress
Done with Tomorrowland for the moment, I traveled back to the Adventureland/Frontierland area to do stuff before dinner at Skipper Canteen. I rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, just because I could. Afterward, I looked around the area to see if there was Aladdin merchandise, since after all, he was the title character of the movie. The character merchandise strangely is all Jasmine. The princess-centric nature of Disney character merchandise is just too much. Fortunately, the real thing was at hand, although not baggable as a souvenir.

Aladdin, non-merchandise
Strolling around there, there were a number of cast members to bag and tag, figuratively.

Skipper Canteen for dinner was disappointing. It wasn't much of an experience and the food wasn't that great. I left there in time for a nearby Hoedown Happening.

Alex getting ready to start a Happening

Lucas, unzipped
After that, I killed time, blah-blah-blah, in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, riding the terrible Speedway and the lofty Dumbo, and getting some laughs at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. I then parked my behind on the ground in front of the castle and waited for the fireworks. I can enjoy the aerial display, but what I really like is the projection mapping, especially in the Once Upon a Time show. It was nice that by waiting in the park for the final show, it was less crowded exiting the park afterward.

All-in-all, the itinerary was pretty successful. I will probably repeat a lot of it the next time. My wait time was practically non-existent and I packed a lot of things in to see and do.

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