Today was our first Magic Kingdom day, and it dawned cold and rainy. Undeterred, we suited up with ponchos and umbrella and splashed down to the Wilderness Lodge boat dock.
We got there just in time to see the boat to the MK pull away. D’oh!
Even worse, that was the big enclosed one! When ours finally came, it was the SoakMaster 1800…
While we waited, Patrick had to photograph the cute baby duckies. Little did we know how up-close-and-personal we’d be getting with them later!
Rain or no, traveling by boat is my fave method of Disney transportation!
I think we got there a few minutes after opening, but there seemed to be hardly anyone around.
We also went into City Hall to ask about getting the redesigned Happy Anniversary pins. They didn’t have them yet. That’s OK – I didn’t like the new ones anyway. So there!
As we passed the fire station, we saw Daisy out signing autographs. Let me be clear about this: I am totally not into Disney characters. But Patrick asked if I wanted my picture taken with her because, well, whenever Disney asks me to pick my favorite character (usually because I’m about to receive an autographed character picture for my birthday) I always say Daisy cuz she’s not one of the Big Five. So far I have yet to get an autographed character picture of her – I think Mickey is the default when they don’t have who you want (the bane of Judge Claude Frollo fans everywhere!!!). There was a line, so I passed.
Next we did something we’ve never ever EVER done before, because I am a Disney Commando and refuse to dillydally at the front of the park after rope-drop when we could be out collecting FastPasses: We stopped at the Main Street Bakery and sat down to breakfast.
Five minutes inside the gate, and we were already taking a break?! Shocking! I think I may have grown a little as a person. And this unprecedented act was sort of a representation of what was different about the whole trip, i.e., we didn’t schedule (much), we didn’t hustle, we just ambled through it smelling the roses. Yes, I’ve created a grand metaphor out of a greasy egg, ham and cheese croissantwich…
It was nice to come in out of the rain! We got out of our coats, scarves, ponchos, sou’westers, Mackinotshes, swim diapers, etc. and found a table for two. It probably only took 15 minutes, and it was good to have something warm to eat.
We took the long way around the castle to get to Fantasyland (when will that @#$*&! castle show ever be discontinued so you can actually walk through the darn thing in the morning?) with the intention of knocking out all the rides before any crowds showed up.
When Disney wedding couples get their pictures taken “on” the castle, this is where they’re standing. I had Patrick get a shot of it because I think it’s funny how Disney’s photographers shoot from an extremely unflattering low angle to make it look like they’re way up on the castle.
Somehow, despite packing 10 brand-new pairs, I’d made it to the park without a single earplug (which I wear on all the rides – too loud!), so we headed over to the first aid station near Crystal Palace.
Then it was back to the original plan: Knock out all the Fantasyland attractions before the crowds arrived.
We rode Snow White’s Scary Adventures twice in a row and Winnie the Pooh twice in a row. It’s neat to do it that way because you really start to pick up on details you missed the first time.
At the Winnie the Pooh gift shop, I picked up some super-cute hair elastics that have tiny stuffed Pooh & Friends on them. I really only wanted Eeyore, but they’re all pretty cute. I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture, though! Patrick traded more pins, and then we went to explore the Ariel meet ‘n’ greet and playground they put on top of the old Submarine Lagoon.
This is Patrick’s attempted impression of Pooh getting stuck:
Here, maybe if we zoom in it will work better:
We rode Peter Pan and got a FastPass for later, and we rode Small World. It made me kinda sad because Disneyland’s version has recently been given a terrible makeover that removed all but a portion of my favorite scene, the rainforest, and replaced it with a jingoistic, jarringly un-Mary-Blair-like America scene.
Right before lunch, we rode our favorite attraction… Haunted Mansion!
As usual, it rocked our faces off (as Jensey would say…).
Lunch was at Liberty Tree Tavern. We’d never been able to eat here before because of the characters, so when I found out it was turning back into a regular restaurant, I was excited to check it out.
When we checked in they asked us what state we were from. I thought this was going to be important for later, but when no one ever mentioned it again, I asked our server. She said it’s just something they used to do for a reason but now they just do it out of tradition. I didn’t catch what the reason used to be…
As we waited to be seated, I got all excited trying to figure out which room we’d be seated in. I’m kinda particular about decor (for example, there’s only one place I like to eat in Columbia Harbor House), and I was really hoping it’d be in one of the light, airy rooms like this one:
No such luck – in fact, they lead us to literally THE worst seat in the place, at the back of the restaurant right next to the kitchen entrance, with a view of the busing station where they dump dirty plates! Gack! When I politely asked for another table (the restaurant had just opened – there were dozens of them) our host acted really confused and made us go all the way back to the lobby to wait for another 5 minutes.
What’s weird is, this ended up happening to us at several other restaurants – we’d be shown to the worst seats, near the kitchen. I wonder if it’s because we often ate right when the restaurant opened and they were filling the place from back to front.
Eventually we ended up in the dark and unappealing Betsy Ross room, but at least we could see across the restaurant to a sliver of window.
The service was OK but kinda distracted. The food was not as bad as I’d expected at a restaurant hosted by Stouffer’s but nothing to write home about.
We split the New England Clam Chowder, which they kindly put in individual bowls (you’d be surprised – lots of restaurants made us eat off the same plate/bowl).
Then we split the New England Pot Roast (braised beef in a cabernet wine and mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and garden vegetables) which was so huge—even for two—it made me regret getting the soup.
No free anniversary dessert appeared to be forthcoming, so we split the Celebrate Today dessert (can’t remember the official name), which was basically the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake – vanilla cake with gooey toffee filling and caramel sauce – sprinkled with edible confetti.
It was…. not very good. There was something fake-tasting about it – perhaps because it seemed to be made almost entirely of high-fructose corn syrup.
I try to avoid taking pictures of half-eaten food cuz I don’t wanna gross you out, but I couldn’t resist a shot of this pathetic-looking “Celebrate Today!” decoration after we’d finished celebrating today …
(We spent the whole trip mocking Disney’s hilariously generic “Celebrate Today!” theme. “Hey, everybody – do you know what today is? It’s TODAY!!!! Whoooo! Today! Right on! Today, you ROCK!”)
After lunch we staggered around Frontierland and Adventureland trying not to fall asleep. Taking pictures helped!
We rode Big Thunder. Wheeeeee!
We stopped by Splash and laughed every time a log went down the big drop and the “oversplash” hit the unsuspecting suckers passing by on the ride’s upper level. I think this must be an effect they turn on and off, cuz it didn’t happen later in the trip when *we* were the unsuspecting suckers. This day, it happened to every single log that went by!
Then we rode…
And the wait was…
The Jungle Cruise sounded fun…
You get much closer to the sets here than at Disneyland – I like it!
I was very proud to be the only one who knew who the waterfall (not shown) was named for … (Dr. Albert Falls).
And I love the temple you get to ride through at Magic Kingdom’s version. It really plusses the ride, as Uncle Walt might say.
Our Jungle Cruise dropped us at the Swiss Family Treehouse – Patrick’s favorite! (Side note: I just found out that the Swan Boats used to take you as far out as the Treehouse – how cool is that? I guess they weren’t very popular or had too many technical problems or whatever, but, like the discontinued boat ride at Animal Kingdom, I think they would be a great way to pass the time.)
This time he seems to have taken lots of shots of the walkways, maybe for a change of pace?
Patrick wanted to go by the Hall o’ Presidents and document its renovation to add Obama.
Somehow we ended up here again…
We kinda sorta wanted to go to Tomorrowland to find out why Jennifaerie & Rob went to the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor eight times, but, like Homer Simpson trying to get out of New York City before dark, we knew we had to start heading to the front of the MK if we wanted to avoid getting stuck behind the %@!#^@! parade….
However, on our way up Main Street we ducked into the glass store to see if the glass blower was working, and for the first time we found he was! I’m not really into blown glass objects d’art or anything, but it was fascinating to watch him work. For one thing, he had these two super-hot ovens going, and whenever he’d open a door, it was like looking directly at the sun – coooooooooool!
He would stick the hollow rod into one oven that just stores molten glass and pull out a blob. It looked like honey. Then he would roll the blob in crushed pigment on this metal table and kinda mush it around to get the particles to blend.
I think that’s when he’d blow into the other end of the tube so that an air bubble would start to shape the blob. Then he would roll the molten glass against some protective material he was holding and start to shape it. We asked what the material was, and he said just wet newspaper – yikes!
As mesmerized as we were by this act of genuine old-fashioned handycraft, we finally tore ourselves to attend to more pressing matters – namely, getting the H outta Dodge so we could check out the Wilderness Lodge pool!
After narrowly escaping entanglement in the parade, we hopped a boat back to the lodge. Ever since our ill-fated day at Typhoon Lagoon in 60-degree weather, we’ve had a running joke about 60 degrees being “water park weather.” Well, considering how cold it got later in our trip, this day we really did have water park weather!
So we changed into our suits and went running down to the pool, the sound of our chattering teeth echoing through the halls.
How about some more shots of Wilderness Lodge’s exterior?
We love how the river starts in the lobby, then appears to turn into a waterfall outside…
…and then appears to turn into a river that goes straight into the pool!
This was our reason for braving the cold today:
At some point, I wanna try all the themed pool slides at WDW. Unfortunately they have these stoopid rules for stoopid safety that you can’t go in them til the lifeguard’s there, and they are only open between 10am and 5pm (6pm? Wait – maybe it’s 8pm. At any rate, it’s right when we’re usually out in the parks and never when we’re at the hotel!).
The cold wasn’t so bad when we were in the water. But they need to install water-filled tubes that shoot you up to the top of the slide, cuz sprinting up there in a wet bathing suit and bare feet when it’s cold out is no fun!
But the best part of the swim was seeing these guys:
Apparently the pool is like Ducky Day Care, where mom and dad ducks dump their kids so they can get a break. While these three cuties paddled around the quiet section of the pool, the grown-up ducks were on the patio, hovering over piles of doots on one leg as they napped.
Patrick was fascinated by them, and we slowly swam up as close as we dared to see if we could get some pictures.
He even got them to “walk” on his hand by sticking it just under the surface of the water as they swam by. They were so cute – and so close! When they started to feel threatened by kids in the pool they’d go “PEEP! PEEP! PEEEEEP!” and eventually a mom came over to watch them.
The other cool thing we did was get to see the geyser go off, FINALLY! (Now all that’s left is seeing the complete Electrical Water Pageant!). It went off a few minutes early – bad show, if you ask me. What if some poor family had scheduled their entire day around it? But there was a rainbow through the spray toward the end – that was cool!
After our swim and a shower, we had a little time to sit at the table in our room and write postcards to people. It always seems weird to write them so soon in our trip, but if we wait til we’ve actually done something, we’ll get back home before they do! Anyway, it was nice to spend a little down time enjoying the comforts of our room. Patrick even remarked that I seemed a lot more relaxed on this trip – whoops! Guess I really am a Disney Commando… but I think this trip was different because, for one thing, we’d already pretty much done everything once, so we didn’t have a lengthy To Do list. (Also, being finished writing my weddings book may have had something to do with it! )
And then we got a little dressed up for dinner and drove over to the Contemporary. Our prime-time reservation at California Grill was another one I’d scored in the confusion of the ever-shifting ADR window last fall. Usually by the time I call, the only times left are way before or after the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks, but this time I’d scored a 7:35pm reservation with Wishes at 8pm! The plan was to be enjoying our meal in a fabulous window seat as the show started.
I had sense enough to get us there 20 minutes early to check in, but I forgot that CG is notorious for making you wait past your reservation time (something that didn’t happen to us last time, when we ate at 5:30pm). So we ended up standing at the edge of the bar area for 40 frickin’ minutes as I got more and more anxious that we’d miss Wishes. So much for the new, relaxed me!
And then, five minutes before the show started, they ushered us to THE most fabulous window table we’d ever seen, handed us menus and told us our server would arrive after the show to take our order – all while someone deftly slipped a basket of bread and glasses of ice water on the table. Then the lights went down, the music came up, and whoohoo!
The first two photos are from our real camera – the rest are from my iPhone. And yes, I’m bragging…
I covered part of the lens with my finger to blot out the reflection of the bar behind us – real sophisticated photography here!
I was really impressed with California Grill this time. On our honeymoon, I felt like it was good but not the height of sophistication that everyone makes it out to be. And, yeah, I’m a snob who compares everything to L.A. restaurants. But you know what? So what if CA Grill’s menu is California cuisine circa 1999 and they push sushi and flatbread like Uncle Walt himself invented them? The ingredients are fresh and top-quality, and the food tastes dang good!
Patrick started with the Roasted Baby Beets with Mache, green apple, walnuts, Goat Cheese Crostini, and apple-sherry vinaigrette.
I had the vaunted Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, shiitake mushrooms and basil.
It was good, especially compared to the tough, greasy ravioli I later had at the Brown Derby, but I still don’t get the cult following. (Oh yeah, and, if you’re taking notes, Patrick likes everything, all the time.)
For our main course we split the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with goat cheese polenta, button mushrooms and zinfandel glaze. Do you think the servers are secretly P.O.ed when you don’t order anything they told you was a specialty?
You can’t tell from the pic, but it was amazing! Actually, maybe just the goat cheese polenta was amazing, but everything else was pretty dang good too. Patrick raved about the dish maybe more than anything else we ate on the trip. And that polenta put to shame my previous favorite, the pepper-jack cheese grits at Coral Reef.
Even splitting an entree, we were pretty stuffed when they brought out…
FREE DESSERT #3!!
Once again, our perfectly good free dessert had been ruined by fruit, so I ordered my own dessert, Valrhona Chocolate Cake [minus the Raspberry] – “Warm chocolate cake with molten center, housemade vanilla ice cream [instead of raspberry ice cream] and NO raspberry sauce.”
I’ve had my fair share of (and gotten pretty tired of) molten chocolate cakes, but this one was pretty dang good. Hmm… I just read back over my review of our meal, and it appears California Grill can be summed up as “pretty dang good!”
At the end of the night the manager (maybe?) came by and said they were trying a new program where they take a picture of you and email it to you after the meal. We got ours a day later, and I was impressed by how not horrible it was!
After dinner, we engaged in one of my favorite pastimes – hotel snooping! First we poked our heads in The Wave and decided to come back for breakfast (didn’t happen).
Then I asked Patrick to take some pictures of the Contemporary’s halls near the ballrooms – since David Tutera owns all the pictures of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ Couture Collection, this is about all I can show of the receptions in my wedding book. Thanks for nuthin’, David Tutera!!!
Then we rounded a corner and discovered a whole ‘nother wing that looked like it had been interior decorated by Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice (OK, I’m talking about the old TV show here, kids, not the slick Jaime Foxx movie). I mean, it’s probably pretty new, but everything about it screamed Eighties…
On our way back out to the main entrance we came across an inviting-looking conversational grouping and sat down for a few minutes to try it out. We found it to be fairly conducive to conversation….
Finally, exhausted by our conversational-grouping testing, we staggered back to the car for our trip back to Wilderness Lodge.