OK, this will be the final post about Disney, and then I'll drop it. I promise. Dive made a good point—not everyone knows what the place looks like, so I've got a few pictures. First, I want to explain how we arranged for the trip.
I planned it through AAA, which gave us a package deal that I paid for ahead of time. It included hotel (Wilderness Lodge) and a meal plan that gave us so many snacks, quick-service meals and table-service meals. It's a good deal because some of the table-service meals can be pretty pricey, while others are reasonable. It all balances out in the end and is a cheaper than paying per meal. Disney had a promotion when I made the reservations that included a $200 gift card to cover souvenirs and stuff not included in the meal plan like wine and appetizers. And because we stayed more than four nights, we got the fifth night free.
I chose the Wilderness Lodge because it's on the lake beside Magic Kingdom, and you can take a ferry boat to get there instead of having to hop on a bus or the monorail. I also love the feel of the place and the music that plays in the lobby—lots of great horn lines in songs like How the West Was Won and Magnificent Seven. Here is the lobby as seen from our floor:
and the huge fireplace on the main floor:
and the hotel as seen from the back:
The focal point of the Magic Kingdom is Cinderella's Castle, and all the "lands" branch out from there. There is a restaurant in this castle—reservations have to be made at least six months in advance.
At night, there are fireworks timed to music and a typical story of good vs. evil.
On this trip, we went to the Animal Kingdom park where we had never been before except for a quick visit with the marching band a couple of years ago. We explored this time and went on a "safari" where a driver takes you through a big open range. The animals are sort of free to roam, so if they choose to hide, you're out of luck. Among many things, we saw elephants. I'd show you all the other photos, but that would be just too dull.
The park employees perform a parade every afternoon that has some ingenious contraptions. This guy was our favorite—it was a hot day, and we caught him at the end of the parade.
We also spent some time at Disney's Hollywood Studios park, which used to be called MGM Studios. By far the highlight was a new attraction based on Toy Story. Disney is masterful at herding people, and the waiting area for this ride was one of their best, filled with giant versions of classic toys.
Inside, you ride these rotating carts equipped with pretend paint guns that shoot "paint balls" at arcade screens with Toy Story characters either encouraging you or taunting you, it's sometimes hard to tell. And you wear 3D glasses to make it all seem more real. It was a great sensory experience and impressively creative.
For dinner, we did something pretty campy—we ate at a drive-in restaurant where you sit in a convertible and watch '50s cartoons and trailers from classic sci-fi movies like Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. It was weird and fun and nostalgic all at once.
To wrap it up, here is the partner photo to the one I posted the other day of Eustacia taking a photo of me in "Paris." This is me taking a photo of her at the same time (no face paint on the mom).
And this is mother and daughter sporting our snazzy Mickey hats. Eustacia's is a classic, and mine is the original Steamboat Willie.