First of all, Toy Story Midway Mania in Disney's Hollywood Studios is far and away the best attraction in the whole complex. It's deceptively simple: It's a light-gun game where you ride in a motorized cart, much like the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland, but instead of using a visible laser pointer to aim, the targets are on a big 3D screen and you launch virtual projectiles. The cart stops at one screen after another, and the characters warn you when your time has almost run out. Basically you're playing a series of giant-sized carnival games.
It is also far and away the most popular attraction. All of the other major-draw rides, like the Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, and Mission: Space, drew long lines during the course of the day, but gradually enough that we could get back in line and ride again without too much hassle. With Midway Mania, the line was already too long by that point on an early-opening day. In the off season. I can't imagine what it must be like during the middle of the summer. Then again, I think you'd have to be nuts to go to Florida in the middle of summer anyway.
Before we left, my cousin, who had just been there recently, told me about a thing at Disney Quest where you can design your own roller coaster and test-ride it in a crane-mounted VR chamber. Turns out there's another ride just like it in Epcot, called "Sum of All Thrills." I found it to be rather underwhelming; I built what I thought would be a pretty extreme ride, but it turned out to be quite tame. After trying it twice, I decided to stop making my family wait.
The one thing I was genuinely looking forward to the most was actually the Main Street Electrical Parade, which I only knew existed thanks to Paw Dugan's "Top 9 Underrated Disney Songs" video
. It didn't disappoint, although both times we saw it we were positioned in just such a spot that there was a long wait between when the theme music (which plays on the park's hidden "atmosphere" speakers) started and when the floats (which have their own speakers that play individual sub-themes) actually got to us. The second time I was actually close enough to faintly hear the intro play again
on the speakers behind us.
All in all, there was only one ride we didn't get to go on at all — Peter Pan's Flight, which is being refurbished — and one thing I missed out on because everyone else was too scared, the original "Orange" version of Mission: Space (the one that simulates realistic G-forces when the rocket takes off). We were originally going to spend eight days there, but ended up finishing with an extra half-day at the Studios (mainly to go on Midway Mania a couple more times), touring Downtown Disney that evening after going off-site for lunch, and then checking out a day early. We never expected to get through Animal Kingdom, which is very spread out and closed earlier than the other parks, in one day.
- Playing "spot the out-of-state license plates" is a lot harder now that about half the cars on the road have license plate holders that cover up the state and/or county names.
- "DeKalb" is the kind of name that looks like something spelled backwards, especially if you see it in all caps and don't know the "K" is capitalized.
- There are a lot of rides that were designed or redesigned to funnel guests through a gift shop on their way out. Surprisingly, the newest rides, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Toy Story Midway Mania, do not; I wonder if this was a policy change John Lasseter instituted when he took over as head of Imagineering (most people have probably forgotten he has that job).
- I had been planning on getting a used iPod Touch before the trip, to use both as a decent camera (I may have mentioned before that my current one is borderline unusable) and to keep me busy waiting in line. Because the trip was sprung on me so suddenly, I didn't have the opportunity. While I did see a lot of things I'd like to have photos of, thanks to the Internet you can always just find photos that other people have taken and look at those instead. And we only stood in a super-long line one time (again, Midway Mania, which we decided to try going on after Fantasmic ended; turns out 80 minutes worth of other people had the same idea).
- I don't get a chance to eat adventurously much since college, so I made a point of trying new foods whenever possible, so I wound up getting Mongolian beef at The Land's food court, beef lo mein at the Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom, empanadas at La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexio pavilion, and splitting up to try the Morocco pavilion's lamb shawarma platter while the rest of my family headed to the UK pavilion for fish and chips and to wait for a live band that would be performing. The shawarma was excellent... but I could not stand the tabouleh that came with it.
- All of the parks have attracted their fair share of local wildlife, mainly ducks and ibises. The ducks in particular hang around the outdoor dining areas looking for scraps, and will come right up to people. The signs say "Do not feed the birds", but obviously everyone ignores them. And when my family was waiting for me to get back from the Morocco pavilion, they encountered a squirrel that would go up to them one by one and beg like a dog.
- Max, the animatronic deer head at the Country Bear Jamboree, is way cuter than he has any right to be.
I realize the mass exodus from LiveJournal in the past few years has led me to forget that it exists myself, but the trip I just got back from is the most eventful thing that's happened to me in ages and is likely to stay that way for some time, and I have a lot to say about it.