The next day of our Orlando trip saw us taking a break from Universal Studios... but not from theme parks. We were off to Magic Kingdom at Disney World. The day gave us a healthy mix of repeating things from my first visit years ago and trying out new things.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. This was maybe an odd place to start the day, but we had a fast pass reservation at the nearby Space Mountain for a certain time. This was the most interesting gap filler that was on the way... and it turned out to be way more entertaining than I expected. This 10 minute "stage show" had the characters from the Pixar film up on a screen, trying to harness the laughter of the audience. But it wasn't a canned show; the performance was very interactive with the audience. It was a fun mix of "Dad jokes," asking a 7-year-old awkward questions about his dating life, and repeatedly needling the audience members who played along. I admit, I laughed.
Space Mountain. This indoor roller coaster in the dark was a lot better than I remembered. Maybe that's just because my taste for the really intense roller coasters seems to be waning in my "advancing years." In any case, I really got a kick out of the gimmick this time -- the way you want to hunker down in your seat and brace yourself for the entire ride, not being able to see what's coming next (or how close things might be coming to you). It also helped that Disney World now gives you 3 fast passes to use with every ticket, which let us skip the line for this.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Last Disney World visit, I road Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and skipped the wait for this ride. This time, Big Thunder was closed for refurbishment. That may have made the wait for the Mine Train a bit longer, but it still turned out to be pretty good. Somewhere between a kiddie coaster and a full-blown thriller, the appeal here to me was how the ride mixed things up. There were indoor parts and outdoor parts, fast parts and slow parts, conventional coaster sections and "glide by animatronic diorama" sections. Not too shabby.
Meeting Royalty. I've never met a Disney character, and honestly it wasn't high on my list of things to do. Yet as we were crossing Fantasyland, we were drawn in by one of Cinderella's family. I've forgotten who she said she was, and her costume doesn't match up to any of the characters from the original movie. But the bottom line, she was a hoot. I don't know if it was that she was just thrilled to interact with adults rather than kids for a few minutes, or if this Disney "cast member" was just that good. She came up and asked the woman of our group how she'd lucked out to be traveling with three men, and just ran with it from there. Next thing you know, we're spending 10 minutes playing The Dating Game with her, and all perfectly happy to be doing so. She's pictured at the left with the winner. Great fun.
Haunted Mansion. Where Space Mountain seemed cooler to me than on my last Disney visit, Haunted Mansion perhaps lost a little of its luster. Still, I just love the stagecraft that goes into this ride, all the clever tricks that result in dancing ghosts. statues with turning heads, and more. (But I do wish that Disney World converted their version of the ride over to The Nightmare Before Christmas for the holidays, like Disneyland does.)
Pirates of the Caribbean. Yo ho, yo ho, you kind of have to do this ride. But my biggest memory of it this time around wasn't so much about the ride itself as it was the realization of how much more ubiquitous smart phones have become since even just a few years ago. We'd just had to yell at someone in the Haunted Mansion ride for having their blinding camera light on inside the ride, and now had to do it again in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Do people really not realize how annoying their flash lights and screens are, or do they not care?
Jungle Cruise. I had fond memories of the so-stupid-you-have-to-laugh Jungle Cruise ride from my last Disney visit, and was actually looking forward to the ride this time around. Much to my surprise, however, I didn't get all the same silly jokes as before. That's because, with Halloween now past, the ride had already been converted over for Christmas into the "Jingle Cruise." Boats were renamed, decorations were added all along the river, and many of the standard jokes were swapped for groaner holiday puns. So once again, I was more entertained than I probably should have been.
A Big Parade. We'd circled the park and wound up back in the center, in front of the castle, right as a big parade/dance party came rolling through. We were quickly encircled by the sort of wild display that's Disney's specialty.
"it's a small world." I rode this for the first time this trip. Though I knew generally what to expect, I was still a bit surprised by just how densely packed the ride is -- how many countries are represented (often in "I'm not sure how I feel about this" stereotypes). Not a favorite of mine, but certainly something to say you've done.
Peter Pan's Flight. This was one of the longest waits our fast passes allowed us to skip, and I'm not entirely sure what all the fuss was for. You hang beneath a track and "fly" through a bunch of dioramas depicting scenes from Peter Pan. That's never been one of my favorite Disney films, and it hasn't aged particularly well. Neither, I feel, has this ride.
Prince Charming Regal Carousel. The night was definitely winding down, but we opted for a twilight ride on the carousel. We don't look as exhausted in this photo as we surely were.
Christmas Lights. Just before the carousel started up, the lights on Cinderella's castle came on. It turns out that it was the very first night of Christmas lights at Disney World. Ordinarily, I'd have been annoyed at the prospect of Christmas decorations on November 2nd. But Disney prides itself on being a magical, not ordinary, place. I kind of loved that our trip had straddled two holidays; two nights earlier we were cruising through haunted houses, and now we were at a massive Christmas display. And what a display it was:
We stood there for quite some time, taking it all in. Impressive, whether you're in a Christmas mood or not.