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The wall at the candy store.
LATE NIGHT ON MAIN STREET:
-At park closing, I never actually LEAVE the parks- there's few better chances for "Park Ambiance" than to hang out on Main Street after dark. NOTHING feels more "Disney" than this, to me- nothing in Fantasyland, Adventureland or Frontierland. Just lots of crowded streets and crowded shops as the people who waited all day to buy stuff finally invade the stores. I broke my 2021 routine, which was to go to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor every single MK night. There, I got recognized the 4 times I did this by the staff, and it was a great "Magical CM Moment" kind of thing. This time around, I didn't see them- they might have gone or moved to other departments. I got a waffle-bowl once but generally ate elsewhere at this time.
Despite the great candy store being here, I almost never buy stuff from there- a lot of park snacks are a very bland kind of chocolate to me, and they just cake it over plainer materials to make the treats look larger. Yes I'm a candy snob, lol. I got something the first day, and I think cotton candy more than once, but that's about it. It's definitely one of the best-looking stores on property, though. The Emporium on the other side is one of the most epic Disney Stores ever, though, with the occasional bits of merch you'll only find here (oddly laid out and spread EVERYWHERE, so good luck finding it). There's a hat section (I went looking for the phone where you could hear conversations on Main Street, but never found it).
Sadly, one big chunk of Main Street was taken up by roadwork on the ground- this killed the "sounds of Main Street" section in that little alcove that usually had a stand or two, but mostly side entrances to other shops and a lot of ambient noise to make this look like a real place.
The "Disney Jail" YouTube video that recently dropped detailed what actually goes down in the upper sections here, which fascinates me. Various park VPs actually have their offices above these shops, while "Disney Jail" (just a few chairs and a desk with a computer) sits above the Gibson Girl- that's where they take thieves, drug-dealers and ruffians, giving them their lifetime bans and handing them over to the "real police".
DAY THREE (MAGIC KINGDOM):
-Another fifteen-hour park day after the previous one! Unfortunately, today I made the cardinal mistake of forgetting my sunscreen. And of course had to wait for parades and the Magical Friendship Faire repeatedly through the day, so I just BAKED on this one. Like a pure, agonizing Florida sun just killing you from directly overhead. I would have brought a hat, but I didn't feel like lugging one around, nor dealing with the tanlines that happen when you have no hair and have to wear one. In retrospect, I might as well just do it next time because this is murder, lol. "But Jabroniville" you ask, "Why didn't you just buy sunscreen at the park?" Well, see, I was a dope and didn't want to pay the exorbitant fee, plus carry it around all day, just in case it rained or got cloudy at points.
I again saw the Magical Friendship Faire repeatedly, which is probably why I mega-tanned (in the way a lobster is tanned) this day. Thankfully I avoided the worst of the peeling- it took a few days and was more flaky than full death.
Today the Mine Train got a huge line immediately (I was a trifle bit behind getting in the line), so I bailed and went to Peter Pan instead- despite being old and infamous for its own line, I do enjoy this more than almost anything in the park- no dark rides bring you THIS CLOSE to stuff- the twirling movements and going from scene to scene makes it feel more immersive and "alive" than any of the other rides, and it has that great scene of shooting over London's streets. I like looking over the edge of the boat to see the tiny moving lights to indicate moving cars.
The neat castle decorations appearing all over on the projection platforms that are disguised as random castle bits in front of the big castle.
I tried to get a Lightning Lane pass for the Mine Train, but curiously found that Genie+ never worked for this ONCE- not during my entire trip in any park. Every single time, it would let me get all the way to trying to pay, then suddenly go "This has sold out" or whatever and make me go back to the beginning. The best theory Guest Relations could come up with was that I was on the park wifi... since I'm Canadian I couldn't just turn that off, so I was hooped. Thankfully a CM just gave me a free LL pass for this day for any attraction (at HS later I just paid for a Star Wars: ROTR one at the GR booth).
Tomorrowland by the PeopleMover.
The PeopleMover is fun as always- some great views of the parks and a great "quality of life" thing- it's a huge people-eater and gobbles up crowds that would otherwise be clogging up other stuff. Disneyland has been cursing removing its PM ever since. The narrator's voice is ridiculously soothing... though it occurs to me the poor shop people and stuff beneath the speakers can hear the same comments being uttered EVERY TEN SECONDS OR SO, which has to be annoying. Imagine here "Except for actual stars. Those are no longer sold" that often.
I don't remember the two horse guys.
So today I finally did many of the "things I'd missed last time" (two attempts at a COVID test in 2021 diminished my "afternoon time" in the parks), which included going to see the Country Bears show (it's kind of funny this is the only real thing involved on this one stretch of road on the way to Splash Mountain)- I actually missed the line that caused the host to say "Yes, folks, we only have high-class stuff on this show" and wanted to go back, but always had something else to do (... for the three additional days I was at this park. Yeah, I know). Turns out the line is "Mama, don’t whup little Buford/ Mama, don’t pound on his head/ Mama, don’t whup little Buford… I think you should shoot him instead."
I also did Tom Sawyer's Island and did the cave exploration, which... was fine. Though I THINK I went through all of it but it still felt a bit smaller than it was on past trips. Either they got rid of stuff or I'm just remembering wrong (or mixing it up with the Paris park's). I can't remember if they had that deep cavern or not this time around, or I missed it. I'm just big enough that I kept slamming into walls trying to get around . The fort on the other side of the bridge has more stuff than I remembered (I only remembered the sleeping guard, not the horses and horsemen), but I was still checking around corners trying to see if I was missing anyting. It'd only been three years since I was here, but I still doubted myself at times. Around this time (it was near-closing time for the Island) I saw the back end of one of the Cavalcade parades that happen later in the day (more on those later).
I caught one of the "Mickey Parades", which is just the Big Six (Mickey & friends, if you include Daisy).
The only decent picture of the interior I got- iPhones hate strong lighting.
BE OUR GUEST RESTAURANT:
-So 60 days before my trip, I checked the site and was surprised to see EVERY DAY of my trip had popped up, not just the immediate day ahead. Turns out your entire vacation's booking window opens up for every restaurant. No wonder people have issues booking these things if people with long vacations can book so far ahead. In my case, Cinderella's Royal Table AND this were both booked up all through supper! All they had was lunch, which to me wasn't QUITE ideal, but it's actually a kind of better thing for park travel, as you can get the heavy, time-consuming meal earlier when it's busier and then be more free for 6pm.
So BOG is my big go-to- I'd missed out in 2014 in favore of CRT, but every time thereafter I went here, as it's much nicer-looking and has better food. I remember not being too into the lamb that I had in 2019, and went with the filet mignon in 2021, but this time around I went with a weird pork cutlet thing, just to be different. But I STARTED with something truly weird... ESCARGOT.
Yeah, I ate a plate full of snails (the server told me it was brand-new to the menu and they were hearing good things about it). I always wonder who the first dude was to be like "Hey, I wonder what THESE things taste like?" looking at this horrifying, wriggly gastropod. But it's snooty French food and this place mimics a snooty French place, so what the hey? I mean, it was the appetizer- what did I care if it sucked? But it turns out that escargot is mostly about the sauce (in this case, a very green "herbed-garlic butter") and the meat is just the delivery system for it. So I read a website on "how to eat escargot" rapidly like a total pleb and had at 'er- pretty good stuff! Wayyyyy crunchier than I expected- I was expecting more like a mushroom (a tactile experience I despite, hence me never trying escargot before), but it's solid food.
Yes, those are PORK RINDS. On a meal that cost $65, lol.
The pork thing (pork tenderloin?) was interesting- it's 3-4 different ways of cooking pork, cut all small and fancy-like so you know you're in a class grub joint because they're little squares and someone probably measured this stuff. And it has PORK RINDS on it. Super-interesting! Like... fancy pork rinds, cuz they just fried up small bits of it at a time instead of giving you a bag of it. The dessert tray is different now- you no longer eat an effigy of Chip full of "the grey stuff"- you get a PILE of it in this chocolate-looking ring slab. Like, there's quite a bit of it.
The Chip design is now one of those "discs". Plus there's a macaron "hamburger" and one of those "chocolate things with nuts on it" which I wasn't that taken by.
Also my drink was rad- a blue slush with a glowing "ice cube" that reflected lights through the drink! And I got to keep the cube! It was decked out with the Nautilus and other 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea stuff. I was the envy of every child who walked by my table and marveled at my $12 slushy drink, going "I want that!". Because nothing says Disney like eating like a five-year old with limitless money.
The best pics of him I could get- I swear.
Another plus of this place: The BEAST comes to visit you! It was a meet & greet with PhotoPass in 2019, then he just kinda walked by once in a while last year, but this time he'll actually come up and greet you. All my pictures look like total butt since I can NOT figure out how to take pictures in here with an iPhone, much less of someone who's constantly moving, but he came up and I GOT TO SHAKE HIS PAW, YOU GUYS!!! Came right up to my table and looked me in the eye (probably the performer's forehead was pointing at me) and he shook my hand! When I was checking out the den (the dark room off to the side), trying to stay out of servers' ways, he actually came by again, noticed me, and put his paw on my shoulder in a "heya, man" kind of way, lol.
A primary issue with having lunch at a big restaurant is one I'd soon figure out... you miss a parade! And a Fantasy Faire or two! In fact, I actually left a bit earlier than I otherwise might have in order to catch the MFF again... though it was actually rather busy in the restaurant, to the point where I couldn't go up against the amazing "windows looking into the snowy courtyard", lest I disturb other diners. Too bad the tables are parked so close there. The side room was mostly empty and I took some pictures there (not that I didn't take a billion on my last two trips, of course...), and I checked out the Beast's Den as well. I'd kind of like to eat here at some point, though I don't know if they have single tables. And it's VERY packed in there, with a lot of servers bolting to available stations and moving trays around.
The only bad thing was I didn't see my old waiter- it was fun seeing him again in 2021 after my 2019 trip. Shorter Latino-looking guy.
I did catch at least one performance of the parade. And probably 3-4 Magical Friendship Faires, lol. Enough to memorize the choreography and thus know the perfect times to wave to characters to get them to wave back!
This one is suspiciously good, but I swear it's actually off my phone camera, because I have the lamer pics surrounding it, lol.
See? The surrounding pictures!
I met Cinderella & Elena, probably twice each! And the Tiana & Rapunzel side, too.
And look- a PETER PAN sighting! The only wandering character in all the Parks! I've never actually seen him before, which was weird. He didn't really have a line- he just kind of bolted around and engaged with kids.
Almost a decent shot of the castle in the rain.
LATE NIGHT RAIN:
-So here the rain finally happened- and it POURED. Just flattening, pounding rain for a solid hour or so. Annoyingly, I couldn't find an outlet for my phone (my extra battery was already empty), and the families around me had gobbled up every available chair, so I had to eat my taco trio on a garbage can at Pecos Bill's. I moved around that and the adjacent Tortuga Tavern while the rain pounded down before finally getting sick of it and heading to I think the Fairytale Hall or something.
FIREWORKS (and the non-existant fairy):
This night was my second time seeing the fireworks show, and I wanted to see Tinker Bell come out of the castle... so of course it rained and rained and rained, lol. At first it merely delayed the show (though wouldn't cancel it- only if there's wind do they cancel it), but then about 9:17... it started up for 20 seconds and then the projections FROZE on the castle! Then they had to delay it again. A woman beside me, desperate to bring her friends over to her position (lifting an umbrella up and down to "signal" them in a crowded area) muttered that "this would be the perfect end to a terrible day" as I wonder who these people are that manage to have a crap time HERE of all places. A disappointment or two, sure, but like... LOOK at all this stuff!
Thankfully, the show started up again, and I had a GREAT position to view it, as the crowd had cleared out in the massive wait until it finally started after 9:30 at night... and I then realized that the projections look fuzzy and worse during the constant sprinkling rain, haha! Aaaaaaaaaaand then Tink didn't pop out at all near the end. Well, good thing it was a 15-hour park day, or I'd have been choked about blowing nearly an hour waiting around for all this. As it stood, it wasn't the BEST, but whatever.
DAY FOUR (ANIMAL KINGDOM):
-So with my "Big Two" parks down, I set up for a day at Animal Kingdom! Granted, after two straight 15-hour days at Magic Kingdom I was like "UGH" about waking up at 6 in the freakin' morning and rope-dropping the Avatar ride, but the heck with it. Grabbed my energy drink and was off... rope-drop went off without a hitch, though I got on Flight of Passage so quickly I missed the floating Na'vi avatar floating in the room! The ride's still amazing, though. I got Genie+ again- not something I usually do at this park (which has only a few measly rides), but...
An obvious highlight: seeing the rhino up THIS close.
I bolt for Kilimanjaro Safaris- experience taught me that one gets busy quickly and never lets up, and the WiFi over there cuts out so the line is AWFUL. Thankfully A) there was not much of a line, and B) the WiFi works now! They somehow fixed it! The Safaris has gone down as something I do endlessly if I can- at least twice on each trip (though I think I managed only one last time)- this was why I grabbed G+, because otherwise the lines for this are DREADFUL, and this allows for repeated journeys, and it's often a very different experience each time. And this one REALLY paid off- between the three trips I managed that day (an early-morning, G+ and a rainy visit), I saw giraffes passing in front of the vehicle, elephants not too far away, and a ton of rhinoceros sightings. Those aren't that common, and this time there was a baby bustling back and forth while it's mom tried to control it. Lil' dude had the "scoots" something fierce and was just tearing all over the place.
One of the drivers mentioned the fact that the roars in The Lion King are all TIGER roars, "one of many ways Disney lies to you" or whatever he said XD.
THE OTHER STUFF:
-So I singled rider'd Expedition Everest this time around, and then found the Kali River Rapids (which were closed last year) with a really short wait. I must have FP'd this in the past because I do NOT remember this queue at all- I walked in there and was like "LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF!" with giant tiger statues and all sorts of other cool stuff. The weird thing was this area was a total walk-on (my entire wait was because I was standing around taking pictures of this winding, incredible queue)... but when I checked by later, the line was 40-60 minutes! Like everyone had crammed onto every OTHER attraction in the park, leaving this until all that was done, finally leaving it with lines.
The Okapi! You don't find these in zoos very often. One of the most unique animals in the world.
I went on the African Trek next- a great series of enclosures, though I was starting to feel wiped out. Three coast-to-coast park days in a row, with about 42 hours in three days in the parks, and maybe four hours of sleep the night before, and I was like "dang...". So next to the building with the naked mole rat exhibit, I parked on a bench in the shade and just sat there for like 30 minutes. I wasn't QUITE asleep (a bit too much movement around you for that) but it was good enough to handle the rest of the day without issue- I just shut straight down on that spot. There's something magical about being able to veg out in a park with thousands of people surrounding you .
The mole rat room is cool, as always- I got a good view of them and a keeper was talking about how to take care of them. When I asked why this was the ONLY place I ever saw them, she pointed out the difficulties like how if you take one away for veterinary care, the others will reject it, as it no longer smells like them (they have to rub it in pee from the colony to make it smell "right"). I saw the Hidden Jafar (now a bit covered by plant matter), the gorillas (the baby is now toddler-ish- last year I saw him he was a big-headed lil' baby), and more.
I did the Maharajah Jungle Trek next. This is something I sometimes think of doing twice, but as always, ya just run out of time (especially doing the Safari repeatedly). The tiger pen remains an all-time zoo habitat- VERY big and sprawling, with great deatils throughout. Too bad there's only ever one tiger in here, it seems- they don't seem to split up the different areas.
The huge Neytiri is one of the coolest things found this close in any Disney shop... maybe the most risque, too! There are presumably good angles you can find for pictures of the floating rocks, but I couldn't find them this trip, haha.
I went back to Pandora once or twice, admiring the landscaping and went on the River Journey. Oddly the first time I went here in 2019 I managed to ride this three times with only a 40-minute wait one time... every other trip has been "once only" beacuse it's jam-packed now. The animatronic at the end is Disney's best for sure, though. Pandora itself looks great but manages to be a bit of a maze that the crowds don't help, so I often feel like I'm missing out on something that I accidetally skipped over. I also finally saw the "Three Handprints" of James Cameron, Jim Rhode (who built this park and Pandora) and the producer of Avatar whose name I'm too lazy to look up.
The handprints and initials.
Dinosaur! Which... I only do as a last kind of thing. The whole dino area looks really bad with all the stuff taken out, and this is SO far out of the way. I only went on it when the whole park was just ANNIHILATED by a torrential downpour. I ended up soaked to the skin again (one day I'll bother to actually bring one of those ponchos), drying off a tad in the queue, which I likely LL'd. I skipped most of the museum stuff here, so probably. The ride is full of rubbery, non-moving dinos- I think it's seen better days. The skeletons are really the hightlight of the area.
Kevin! Sadly I don't think the bird show is back yet.
Overall, I didn't eat fancy today- I had the... ribs, I think, from the African area's food court. Then at the Pandora area I went with the old standby- the rice/meat dish with the little jelly spheres in it. Honestly I only did Yak & Yeti once- in 2014. I liked it, but I never went back because it just seems to take a while.
This time around, I tried to enjoy the sights of the Africa area a little more. This is something that's easy to "miss" while criss-crossing this giant park, so I try to spend some time just appreciating the details in it, like the chintzy Mickey painting on the wall and how "fake weathered" everything is. I know I did bits of this last year as well, but it's always worth just living in it for a bit.
I THINK I did some of the animal exhibits around the Tree of Life, but not all of them. It's a very winding path and I think by the time I was getting around to it, stuff was roped off.
Half hour of waiting and I think this was the best Pocahontas shot I got.
THE SAGA OF TRYING TO SEE BOAT CHARACTERS:
-So there's about 4 boats that drive by around the Tree of Life- each with a different set of characters. There's a Mickey one, a band one, a Carl one from Up!, and Pocahontas. I REALLY wanted to get a pic of Pocahontas (the only princess that's so hard to find; there's no meet & greet right now) but for whatever reason the boat was impossible to find. Nobody around seemed to know just when they all came out, and I think she skipped one, but I sat there for like 20-30 minutes waiting before she FINALLY arrived... and of course was too far away for a clear shot, haha. Naturally I realized she was on one of the MK parades a day later so this was pointless. But I managed to at least stand in the shade and try to tan the underside of my arms so the tops being beet-red from the sun wouldn't stand out so much.
Near the end of the day, it started raining- not that hard, but enough. The last trip I took on the Safaris was thanks to this, as the wait time seemed suspiciously short and I wasn't sure if they were running it... so I went over to check and they were like "Yeah, nobody ever comes on because they think it closes in the rain" so I got a trip with only three people in the truck! However, this makes things a LOT bumpier. I think all three of my Safari hosts were pretty good- they obviously relay a lot of the same information, but it was three very different trips each time- a true rarity and I think what keeps people coming back here.
I saw one of the last showings of the newly-returned Finding Nemo musical- one of the former Elena/parade performers I follow now does a side role in this show, after waiting for years post-COVID to re-enter the Disney family (I've found this is quite common). I missed the first song or two owing to poor timing but made it down. You have to re-tell the whole movie in a small handful of scenes, so it's more of a "you've seen it before, right?" experience, but okay enough. The puppets are really impressive, but I was never as taken with the songs (which are by the same duo who does all the Frozen stuff).
-AK is such a weird park- in 2014, I called it "a mediocre theme park mixed with a mediocre zoo" and I still KIND OF hold to that, but it's now a bit more full of an assortment of things and has a few more attractions. It struggles with limited things still, though- resulting in an extraordinarily vast park with only a handful of rides, which means it has huge lines all the time and it's hard to criss-cross things to minimize that. I appreciate the scenery a lot more these days, though even then I feel I have to force myself to do it.
BACK TO EPCOT:
-So Animal Kingdom closes super-early these days once again, meaning I usually have hours left at the end of the day. Like I did last year, I ended up going back to Epcot, though unfortunately I left AK around 7-ish and then the buses took a THOUSAND YEARS to arrive for some reason. Seriously, it was like a 20-30 minute wait for anything to come to bring us to Epcot, so the night was rapidly winding down by the time I got there.
I mostly only got a single ride in on Frozen Ever After or two before I had to leave again. Thankfully this time Elsa actually sang the song- I was worried it'd still be down or something, haha.
In retrospect I should have gone to the Mexico Pavilion or something, too, but time was of the essence.