Sunday, September 16, 2012

Disney Day #1: Disney's Hollywood Studios

You're going to laugh when I tell you that I had these touring plans. I'd been reading The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World, and it had whole lists of plans--where to go first, what to walk to immediately afterwards, what to then get a Fastpass to and what to go to next, etc.--that if you followed them, you wouldn't have to stand in the two-hour lines for each ride that everyone had been telling me about.

So I had these touring plans, I had all the advice in my head from all the many WDW guidebooks that I'd checked out of the library over the past year, I had a year's worth of lurking on the Disboards to think about, and I had print-outs of detailed descriptions of crowd levels at every park every day from EasyWDW... but I didn't need the touring plans. There just weren't any crowds to have to negotiate a strategy around.

We got inside the park about 20 minutes after opening (due to a stint at Guest Relations to fix up a kerfuffle made by the cast member who'd issued our tickets the night before--one of the very few negative things about the YES Program is the fact that since so relatively few tickets are issued through them, the workers seemed to have some trouble figuring them out at first), admired everything there was to see on our way to the back of the park--

--and were pleased to see that the line for Toy Story Midway Mania was still at just 20 minutes; my guidebooks had suggested that after a half hour on, the line for Toy Story would be so long that we might want to just Fastpass it and come back later.

Little did I know that 20 minutes was about the longest that we'd ever wait in line for anything during our entire trip!

Of course, the queuing areas for all the rides are pretty great to ease your wait, so much so that often we'd let other families pass us in ride lines so that we could stop and enjoy things. For instance, the Toy Story queue is designed as if you're toy-sized, with giant toys and games all around you:

With lines so short, it didn't take us long to get into the habit of riding our favorite rides several times, either popping right back into line when wait times were listed as 0-10 minutes, or, as with this one, Fastpassing a later ride because who wants to stand in line for 20 whole minutes, right? Because both Matt and I have more fun seeing how our kids react to things than experiencing them ourselves (of course!), it was a good way for each of us to get to ride with each of the kids--

--and very rarely, to even ride with each other!

Hollywood Studios seems to have the most thrill rides of all the parks, so we did a lot of rider swapping here, since Willow is mainly uninterested in thrill rides. Disney has a great system for this--if you're with a group and one of your kids can't or won't ride, you just tell the CM who's at the entrance of the ride to greet you, and they'll tell you how to rider swap for that ride. In the Magic Kingdom, that mainly involved the other parent getting a sweet group Fastpass to come back later, and then wandering off to do something else with the non-riding kid for a bit, but in Hollywood Studios, the entire group got to stick together throughout the line, then when it was time to get on the ride, the non-riding people got escorted to the exit, where they'd meet the rest of the group after they'd ridden, swap off whoever didn't want to ride at all, then pop back in through the exit and get escorted right onto the ride! I liked this latter method quite a bit better, because going through the line was fun for Willow, even though she didn't ride, and it occasionally convinced her that maybe she would ride just once, after all. 

The other thing about rider swapping is that Sydney got to ride SO many times! A CM would escort Matt and Willow through the exit while Sydney and I rode, then we'd meet them at the exit after our ride. I'd take Willow, Matt would take Syd, they'd go back through the exit, and the CM would put them both on the ride, allowing Syd to ride everything twice in a row with no waiting. 

Syd was definitely our thrill ride addict on this trip, and because of her I did something that you are NOT going to approve of, I know. You see, Rock n' Roller Coaster, the Aerosmith-themed roller coaster--

--that goes from 0 to 57 mph in less than three seconds, has two inversions, and puts you through over 4g at times, has a minimum height requirement of 48". 

Sydney is 46" tall.

She rode Rock n' Roller Coaster twice.

Yes, I snuck my too-short child on an inverted roller coaster TWICE! For what little credit you'll give me, I did make sure that she kept her head well back in the headrests to avoid whiplash, and I clutched her leg very hard. 

I would have snuck her on a third time, but a CM finally spotted her and measured her that time, so Matt and a pouting Sydney sat the ride out while I rode with Willow, who had gathered her courage and decided to give the coaster a whirl:

She both loved it AND didn't want to ride it again.

We rider swapped again so that Syd could ride Tower of Terror with me while Will sat it out--

--but while I LOVED Tower of Terror (I love free-fall rides), Syd did NOT want to ride it a second time in a row when I swapped with Matt. This was a good thing, because poor Matt ended up STUCK on Tower of Terror for about 20 minutes, poor guy. Fortunately the ride broke down after it was back on the ground, just before the exit, so he didn't have to worry about falling to his death for reals, but he rode with a large contingent of international folks, and the break-down announcement was only given in English, so he said that he found himself a sort of unofficial sign language spokesman to his fellow riders, to assure them that their mutual captivity would end at some point.

We rode a ton more rides, including Star Tours, which we rode at least five times (the line estimate ranged from 0-5 minutes each time), including one time in which Matt was picked to be the rebel spy--

--saw a ton more shows-- 
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
The Little Mermaid
 --ate some ice cream--

--watched a parade, getting our first experience of how truly interactive all the characters, even the singers and dancers are (Sydney was thrilled when a dancer that she was beaming at came over and danced just for her!)--

--window shopped--
I still sort of think that I should have bought myself this Indiana Jones fedora.
--looked around--

--and met Mickey, of course!

After we'd seen a lot and ridden a lot, we meandered by the Jedi Training Academy. I hadn't really considered it earlier, both because I'd been led to believe that the entire day's spots would fill up too quickly to bother with, and because both girls can be reticent, sometimes, so I wasn't sure if they'd enjoy it, but as we walked past a Jedi Training Academy show in progress after our fifth time on Star Tours, the girls did not have to tell me twice that they'd like to do it, and before they could change their minds, there my younglings were in their robes, ready to take the stage:

This was easily my favorite part of our entire vacation, and I filmed it as thoroughly as only a fangirl + stage mom could:

Syd's true allegiance may have been in question (oops!), but there is no doubt that my Willow kicks the crap out of Darth Vader!

I can't BELIEVE that they won't let adults do the Jedi Training Academy!

We fed the girls their packed dinner (Matt and I planned to eat frozen pizza back at the condo for our dinner), rode Star Tours one more time, bought the girls DIY droids at the Droid Factory, took Sydney back to the Tower of Terror gift shop so that she could buy a ridiculous lollipop (each kid had $80 to spend, representing the sum total of their Christmas and birthday money from grandparents), bought frozen lemonade (well, I had a frozen margarita, but it was so hot out that I kind of got a headache from the tequila and then I regretted it as much as one can regret a margarita, which is not very much), and then zipped inside the stadium to snag great seats for Fantasmic.

If you've been to Disney World, yourself, you're probably going to hate me for saying this, but I wasn't that into the nighttime shows. We only went to Fantasmic and IllumiNations, and even with those two I spent basically the entire time fretting about how late the kiddos were going to get to bed versus how early I'd like to get out of the condo the next morning. To me, it was better to go to bed early every night and arrive fresh and happy at park opening than to stay out late, get overstimulated by a show, and slog, exhausted, all the way back across the park and off to bed two hours late. And yes, we WERE exhausted! I know it's just walking, and slowly at that, but it's a lot of walking, and it's also still pretty hot; I can't speak for anyone else, but it was Day Four before I felt really used to the exercise and the temperature combined.

Another inevitable fact about Florida in September is that it rains for a little bit almost every day, and so although Fantasmic was pretty amazing (the dragon! the fountains of water! the princesses on boats!), I wasn't too broken up when a downpour started just a few minutes before the show was over and we were all let out early.

Although the rain couldn't have lasted more than 15 minutes, we were DRENCHED, so there were hot showers before putting the kids to bed, then cable TV, frozen pizza, and an early bedtime for ourselves, with the alarm set for EPCOT in the morning!

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