Saturday, August 08, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 1 - Epcot

Day 1 - Epcot

Aha, you all were expecting something else? For the last day, I choose ALL of Epcot. A whole park you can't find anywhere else! Of course, the first thing people think of when they hear Epcot is the iconic geodesic sphere housing the Spaceship Earth attraction. I know it's the first thing I think of.

Epcot is divided into two parts: Future World, consisting of most of the ride-based attractions in the park featuring primarily science and technology; and World Showcase, featuring 11 pavilions representing countries from around the globe. The pavilions of the World Showcase span around the aptly-named World Showcase Lagoon. What I love about it is that Disney has done such an amazing job theming each country, it's almost as if you've taken a small trip around the world. Most of the countries have at least one attraction, though most of them are some sort of interesting movie-based show, most are pretty good. Though, no doubt by design, the United States pavilion is at the center of the showcase, and contains I believe the best attraction in the showcase, an show featuring an audio-animatronic history of the US entitled "The American Adventure". Or as I also like to call it "the best 30 minutes of air conditioning you'll find in Epcot."

Disney is also known for its spectacular nighttime shows, and Epcot has one of the finest in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Fireworks, lasers, fire, and water, all synchronized to another amazing soundtrack. (Hey, I'm a musician, a good soundtrack means a lot to me.)

Tonight I'm on the redeye out of Seattle (with an intentionally ugly layover to coordinate flight times), so I'll be in Florida by morning. Updates to follow later.

Friday, August 07, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 2 - Tower of Terror

Day 2 - Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


What: A one-way ticket to The Twilight Zone in a broken elevator.
Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios

Only 2 days of WDW left, and we reach the only ride in WDW to make me legitimately scream everytime I ride it. Like Splash Mountain, this ride is so elaborately themed it's hard not to love it. Even if you're deathly afraid of the ride, I believe that everyone should "survive" it once, just to see how amazing it is inside.

The ride itself, well, for those of you who haven't ridden it or its much younger (and vastly inferior) brother at Disney's California Adventure, I won't spoil too much of the magic. But it's not hard to assume that the centerpiece of the ride is a 13-story drop in a runaway elevator car. As if that's not bad enough, for you physics majors out there, the car actually falls faster than the pull of gravity, and you literally would fly out of your seat if not for the fact that you are securely (and they double-check that you are) belted in.

When this ride first opened, it was terrifying. Then they made it scarier. In a fit of Imagineering genius, they reprogrammed the entire drop sequence to be random. I've ridden this ride countless times, and sometimes it's FAR more terrifying than others. Maybe I'm an adrenaline junkie afterall. It's fantastic.

One day left... tomorrow night I leave for Florida. What will be the last day of WDW anticipation? We'll see...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 3 - Expedition Everest

Day 3 - Expedition Everest

What: A thrilling roller coaster through the Himalayas.
Where: Animal Kingdom

Our only stop at the Animal Kingdom in the 9 Days of WDW takes us to the newest mountain on the Disney landscape: Expedition Everest. Last time I was in WDW, this was heavily under construction before opening in April 2006.

Since I haven't actually been on this ride yet, I have no idea what to expect. Other than it should be a pretty exciting roller coaster, like the Matterhorn only crazier! OK, I don't really have much more to say. There's nothing to compare this ride to, there's nothing to explain about it, so I'll just be excited about it.

And the fact that there are only 3 days left! WOOHOO!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 4 - Splash Mountain

Day 4 - Splash Mountain

What: Log flume ride based on the Song of the South.
Where: Magic Kingdom

Finally, after 5 days of WDW, we actually make it to the Magic Kingdom. One of my favorite rides at any Disney park, and not because of the excitement of the big drop. What makes Disney attractions the best in the world is the stories they tell, and how well the ride is integrated into the story. Splash Mountain takes a fantastic ride and wraps it throughout a great story, told through even better music, to make the ultimate ride.

There are slight variations between the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland versions of the ride. As is usually the case, the Disneyland ride came first in 1989, then was replicated at WDW in 1992. Some improvements were made, yet some corners were cut. First and most obviously, the logs at WDW are 4 rows of 2 across, rather than the single file 6 down the log that Disneyland has. This makes it immensely more comfortable to ride in, and less of sliding around the seat feeling like you're going to fall out of the log. As for the ride itself, a few differences of little consequence, except that it has just over half the number of audioanimatronic figures that the original version has.

As to which one is better? I guess I'm partial to the Disneyland one, but overall it's pretty much a toss up. This is one where the second version isn't vastly inferior to the first, and I look forward to it wherever I am.

Only 4 Days to go...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 5 - Soarin'

Day 5 - Soarin'

What: Ride that simulates flying over California.
Where: Epcot, The Land pavilion

This first-and-only-of-its-kind ride originally debuted as "Soarin' Over California" with the opening of Disney's California Adventure in 2001, and was replicated simply as "Soarin'" at Epcot in 2005. As far as I'm concerned, this ride demonstrates the sheer brilliance of Walt Disney Imagineering. Unlike roller coasters that jerk you around and give you the thrill of speeding through the air, Soarin' gives you the same thrill of flying all while completely seated and with nothing but gentle movements carrying you.

I think what makes this ride such a success is that it really appeals to people of all ages. Young or old, everyone feels comfortable on this ride (with the possible exception of the severely acrophobic).

I've actually ridden this ride more times than I can count, primarily at DCA, but also several times on my most recent visit to Epcot, just after that version opened. Despite the fact that the experience is identical each time, it doesn't affect the repeatability for me. It's just fun!

Not to mention the soundtrack that was composed for the ride is absolutely amazing. Just how a soundtrack can define a movie, the majestic soundtrack here enhances and defines the ride.

Just 5 days left! Almost here...

Monday, August 03, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 6 - Toy Story Midway Mania

Day 6 - Toy Story Midway Mania

What: A ride through a world of 3D interactive carnival games.
Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Pixar Place

One of the latest additions to WDW (and also at DCA in California) is Toy Story Midway Mania. Opening just last year, it features the next generation of ride technology. Since the ride is fully interactive, it's like being in a carnival game each time, so you could ride it infinitely and have fun each and every time.

Obviously, the ride is themed around Pixar's popular Toy Story movie franchise. Just from the picture above you can see that you are intended to be toy-size and in your own world of toys and games. I like toys... I like games... should be fun. :)

In fact, I have not been to Disneyland or WDW since this ride debuted, so I have NO IDEA what to expect. All I know is from what I read, which makes it sound pretty darn cool if you ask me. At least worth a ride or two.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 7 - Universe of Energy

Day 7 - Universe of Energy

What: An Epcot pavilion devoted to Energy
Where: Epcot

OK, so this probably wouldn't make any sane person's top 9, top 10, or even top 40 lists of attractions at WDW. But I had to pay homage to the Epcot pavilion from which my web site's name is derived.

The building itself is a model of smart energy use, as the entire roof of the building is covered in solar panels, which actually supply a large amount of the power used by the attraction, and are also used as an architectural feature. Fear not folks, a little science while you're on vacation wouldn't kill you.

The lone attraction that consumes the entire pavilion is Ellen's Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. This ride/show originally opened in 1996, at the height of Ellen's first rise to mainstream stardom, and probably would be "old and played-out" if not for Ellen's resurgence as an (even funnier, IMHO) talk show host. Even Bill Nye is probably a bit dated at this point, but he's always funny to me. Again, this is a quirky, cheesy show, but I find it a welcome break, mainly because it's nearly 40 minutes of air conditioned, sitting down and riding through the Universe of Energy and being entertained. In the middle of a hot Florida day, it's hard to go wrong. Oh, the point of the show? Who cares, it's funny. But if you must know, it's all about the history of energy, where energy comes from, and oh yeah, there are probably some of the largest and coolest animated dinosaurs you'll ever see, short of watching Jurassic Park.

One week to vacation... the excitement builds...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

9 Days of WDW - Day 8 - Port Orleans Resort

Day 8 - Port Orleans Resort

In all fairness, I had originally planned Day 8 to be a salute to Disneyland Classics, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. But then I decided that rather than spending countless words comparing and contrasting the rides at both Disneyland and WDW's Magic Kingdom, I'd focus on something that exists only at WDW, and happens to be the resort I'll be staying at.

Port Orleans is divided into two parts, Riverside (formerly Dixie Landings) and French Quarter (formerly Port Orleans, before the two joined together and jointly kept the name). I've stayed at Port Orleans Riverside twice before, and I find it to be one of the coolest resort Disney has. The theme of the resort is the antebellum South along the Mississippi River. So as expected, the hotel rooms are divided among 4 buildings designed to look like classic plantation homes (though much bigger, as each building has about 250 hotel rooms). On the other side of the Riverside resort is a section called Alligator Bayou, with smaller buildings designed to represent rustic lodges in the bayou. The neighboring French Quarter is themed much more towards New Orleans and the real French Quarter.

Why do I stay at a Disney resort when I go to WDW? Aren't there other cheaper "regular hotels" you could stay at instead? Of course there are, though considering how I only go to WDW when I can get a too-good-to-refuse deal, the cost difference isn't usually too great. But the bigger reason is what I've found consistently every time I go to WDW. You get there, and you're completely immersed in the "world". No highways outside the hotel room, no worrying about what's happening on the outside world, it's all in one place! It's the ultimate vacation for relaxation and fun... well, to me anyway. There are also some great perks to staying on property, including "Extra Magic Hours", where each day one park will open an hour early and one will stay open 3 hours later, exclusively for those staying in Disney resorts. Plus Disney will whisk you and your luggage to and from the airport for free, so you're saving there too. No thought required, and I definitely don't want to think when I'm on vacation. Except maybe at Epcot. :)

This will be the first time I've gone to WDW in August, though I've gone in September twice before. I expect it to be hot, but what do I care? I'm on vacation, there's plenty of air conditioning when you need to beat the heat. And a little sun won't kill anyone (though a lot might). 8 days left... wooo...