Day eleven – Monday, October 8, 2012
have to give credit to that 1994 guide book I talk about every
so often. There is one thing it mentioned that I marked down as
“we have to try this” for Chris and I.
those of you that have not experienced it… think thick cut sourdough
bread, prepared as French toast. And, oh yeah, it gets sliced
and stuffed with bananas, and then includes a cinnamon-sugar coating
before being served with butter and syrup.
is as amazing, brilliant, sinful and beautiful as it sounds.
must caution you though… there is ONLY ONE PLACE TO GET TONGA
TOAST! And that is at the Kona Café, on the second
floor of the main building of Disney’s Polynesian Village.
yes… go ahead and make it at home. You will enjoy. (And in 2004,
Terry, Ellen, Richard and I enjoyed a fabulous different take
on French toast while in Las Vegas at Treasure Island, which featured
strawberries and cream cheese and custard and… lord I’m getting
honestly, if you are at Disney and chasing a legend like Tonga
Toast, don’t settle for second best… get the original, the one
and only, the Kona Café Tonga Toast.
and I went bonkers for it back in 1994… Terry and the boys loved
it during our first family adventure in 1997… and we have, as
our trips have allowed, sought it out as part of our visits ever
have tickets to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic
Kingdom tonight. Planning on early admission, we have set up our
schedule to meet Donna and Joe roughly around 3pm at the park
now, it’s after 9:30am, we’re showered and ready… the quest for
Tonga Toast using Disney transportation is about to begin!
at a Disney Resort has its advantages. Of all of them, one of
the reasons we decided we could visit Disney on this trip was
very simple -- by staying on property, we wouldn’t need to rent
a car. Ellen and Richard have always been fantastic to us. Once
they dropped us off at the Art of Animation, we were done needing
a vehicle for this trip. Disney has shuttles, monorails, ferries…
and basically getting around Disney World would be easy to navigate.
And on the day of our departure, the Magical Express would take
us from the resort to the airport.
was just one question I had about the shuttles… how long would
things take to go from point a to point b.
the basics? Disney World covers more than 40 square miles. Four
theme parks… two water parks… roughly two dozen separate resort/hotel
properties… Downtown Disney… and, during a tour back in 1999,
a Disney Cast Member explained that at virtually any time of day
there are roughly 250,000 people on the Disney World property.
read someplace that they are running more than 270 buses… and
that number came from five years ago, so I would bet they are
comfortably over 300 by now.
today we are going to the Magic Kingdom. We have no plans to return
to the Art of Animation resort before attending Mickey’s Not-So-Scary
Halloween Party. For the Tonga Toast Quest we are on right now,
we need to get from the Art of Animation to the Polynesian Village.
walk from our room to the main building at Art of Animation, and
specifically the shuttle bus area in front. The shuttles departing
each resort target a specific large destination… basically a theme
park, water park and Downtown Disney. Since we would be riding
the shuttle bus back at the end of the night… and the monorail
goes to the Polynesian Village… I suggest we take the shuttle
to the Magic Kingdom (so we’ll know the general loading area later
in the evening). From there, we could hop on the monorail and
go to get our breakfast.
move to the section labeled for the Magic Kingdom shuttle and
start our wait.
understand, I am not complaining. Disney is an amazing organization.
From shipping things to your room to other amenities, the shuttle
service is just one of several very impressive perks that come
with a Disney resort stay. But this is not a fast service. In
other words… don’t plan on them being able to get you from your
hotel room to a theme park in five minutes or less. That’s just
before 10am as we arrive in the shuttle bus loading area… and
we don’t need to be to the Magic Kingdom until about 3pm to get
in line for the party. (More on that in a minute.) The only question
is when the Kona Café stops serving breakfast. I forgot
to check… but I’m figuring about 11am… giving us slightly over
an hour to make it.
waiting for the bus, we watch four shuttles arrive and leave for
the Hollywood Studios. This sort of makes sense… since it is the
closest park to Art of Animation. Still… we don’t believe any
of the buses were the same. And, while talking, we begin to wonder
why the Magic Kingdom doesn’t have more buses running. After all,
it is the most visited park in the world. Here are some interesting
numbers to consider while we wait for our ride…
Theme Park Attendance figures
the world rankings, Disney theme parks regularly occupy spaces
1 through 8. For Disney World properties, the parks place the
Magic Kingdom 1st (always) and the other three in some order fit
in between 5th and 8th. Disneyland and the Disney international
parks (Japan, France) occupy positions 2nd, 3rd, 4th and then
either 5th or 6th. The order of parks has not really changed much
during the years noted here, or by going back to 2008 (not shown).
The Magic Kingdom is pretty much always the most visited theme
park in the world each year since they opened the main gates.
Other than the Magic Kingdom, only Disneyland… in Anaheim, California…
has ever topped 15,000,000. (And Disneyland actually crossed over
16,100,000 in 2011.) And it looks like no park other than a Disney
park has ever crossed the 10,000,000 plateau.
never thought about this… but Disney shuttles are equipped to
handle wheelchairs and scooters. What happens is that they flip
a seat up and have the unit park in that area. So… one scooter
takes up the space of a 3-seat bench.
our shuttle is here… back to the journey.
get on and set off for the Magic Kingdom. As we are pulling into
the area in front of the park where all transportation converges,
we have invested about an hour into our travels. Not bad, especially
if you include the possibility of the shuttles taking additional
time into your estimates. But for us…
today it means we are beginning to draw closer to 11am. And, as
we get off and head toward the monorail station, we learn that
the monorails aren’t running to the resorts at that time. That
means our next option is to get on a ferry, and the one we need
heads to the Grand Floridian before continuing to the Polynesian
I happen to like hopping on a boat and venturing out onto the
Seven Seas Lagoon. Relaxing, visually impressive, and just fun.
But we’ve got Tonga Toast in our sights, and… well… yeah… it’s
not Tick-Tock going tick tock right now. We’re going to arrive
at the Polynesian Village dock after 11am.)
get off in the Polynesian Village and are walking quickly along
while trying to organize our bearings. (You can almost hear “recalculating…
recalculating… recalculating…” in the air around us.)
of us has ever arrived here by ferry before, and so figuring out
for certain which door of which building leads into the main hall
is quite a trick. It seems like it should be easy enough… but
toss in several palm trees, outdoor seating, sand and funny viewing
angles as you approach the buildings can make it a bit of a trick
even when you are convinced you are moving in the right direction.
out we are moving in the right direction, and within a few minutes
we have reached the second floor and the desk of the Kona Cafe.
We made it in time… and got our Tonga Toast. (Awesome… delicious…
always a treat.)
while talking to the hostess and waitress, we mentioned that we
were celebrating our anniversary and had been engaged at Disney
World. That led to a surprise at the end of our meal…
a tremendous breakfast, we head over to the Polynesians Village
monorail station. It’s barely past noon, and they are running
between the resorts now. We’re supposed to be meeting Donna and
Joe at the Magic Kingdom entrance around 3pm. As was the case
when we attended the Christmas Party, we’ve heard they have an
early admission that begins roughly around 4pm even though the
party technically begins at 7pm. So we’ve got a bit of time to
invest in a few things. We decide to head over to the Contemporary
stop in two stores (Fantasia and Bayview Gifts), and look around
a bit. We even add an item or two to our collection. And while
walking around Bayview, I realize I can probably pick up our admission
tickets for the party while we’re here. So I head downstairs to
the concierge desk, where I’m helped out and do indeed get the
now, admission tickets for the Halloween party in hand, and we’ve
still got more than an hour to go. I’ve heard one of the monorails
has been decorated to promote The Avengers and wonder
if it’s still running. Terry and I decide to head to the station
and watch a couple of the monorails pass to see if it is around.
(It is.) And, after deciding not to burn ourselves out, we hop
on The Avengers monorail, figuring we’ll ride a lap or two.
finish two complete laps, and during the third we get off when
we arrive at the Magic Kingdom station. We’re heading down toward
the special event line before 3pm, and yup… we are the first ones
the early admission for the parties is one of the best kept non-secrets
around. Granted… we’ve only been to two of these things -- the
Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s
Very Merry Christmas Party in 2011 and now
Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in 2012. So do
your homework on it to gather details of your own. Still… for
us… it’s happened the same way twice, and our experiences matches
details I’ve seen elsewhere… here’s what happens…
section of the check-in area -- I call it that because Disney
has been moving to new ticketless possibilities, so I don’t know
how the entry area may have changed or will change -- is blocked
off for event entry. So, let’s say the gates to the left remain
open for standard park entrance, but a block of them off to the
right are set up for those arriving early for that night’s event.
The actual stated admission time is noted as 7pm, and that’s when
the park makes its full transition to the special event. However…
most likely to make sure everyone can get in smoothly by 7pm for
the festivities… Disney begins letting people in a bit ahead of
7pm. (On this night and in December of 2011, we were walking down
Main Street within minutes of 4pm.)
the best part… once you’re in, you’re in. Sure, you bought a ticket
for… in today’s case… Mickey’s Not-So-Scary event -- once you’ve
been admitted though, you can still go on any of the rides and
such that are operating even though the special event hasn’t officially
started for the night.
roughly 3:30… Donna and Joe have arrived… and we’re waiting for
the entry to begin. (They have all sorts of special memorabilia
for the event. And to say people take it seriously would be a
major understatement. We had bought a set of ears for Terry and
I already. I have no clue how many people dressed up in costume…
and I mean full-on costumes… but it was a huge percentage of those
4pm arrives, the four of us go through the gates and are heading
into the park. We’re the first ones through for the event (congrats
to Tigg on being the first), and the
trick-or-treat bags haven’t even arrived yet. As one of the cast
members is explaining to us how to get the bags later, boxes arrive,
and we are on the Main Street and heading toward the castle with
my watch only seconds past 4pm.
stop at the bakery to grab some water (and a cookie) and catch
up a bit more. Donna and Joe moved down to Florida more than a
year ago, and it’s been quite some time since we’ve been able
to talk in person. After a few minutes we grab our things, make
a group decision to head off toward Adventureland, and hit the
stop is made at the Dole stand for a pineapple Dole Whip for Terry
and I to share, and then we begin with the rides.
of the Caribbean… the Haunted Mansion (we are planning to visit
this one twice… this time before the party and then definitely
during)… “it’s a small world”… and even at our leisurely pace
so far, it’s only 5:30pm as we get off the boats with that song
embedded in our heads.
the trick-or-treat portion of tonight’s event, the Magic Kingdom
on this night will have eleven different stations. So as we pause
for a moment, I ask if anyone’s hungry… pointing out that in order
to circle the park (Terry has indicated she wants to stop at every
trick-or-treat station with her goodie bag), it might be a good
idea for us to get back to Adventureland or over into Tomorrowland
for 7pm so we aren’t lapping the park several times for candy.
Terry and I have been able to visit the Magic Kingdom three times
in less than two years, we aren’t concerned about not getting
on a few of the rides, and Donna and Joe indicate they’re fine
with the same approach.
we discuss dinner possibilities, we are passing Mickey’s PhilharMagic,
which Donna can’t remember ever seeing… so in we go. We follow
this up with a stop on the Tomorrowland Speedway, and then figure
it might be time to actually grab something to eat instead of
getting distracted. We stop in to catch Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic
Ray’s Starlight Café. From there it’s over to Stitch’s
Great Escape!, the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and Buzz Lightyear’s
Space Ranger Spin.
taking my revenge on Terry… she won the last time we visited Buzz
at the Magic Kingdom, and I take this round… it’s just after 7pm
and time to begin trick-or-treating.
said it before, during the Christmas event… and I find tonight
that the thought is still true… if you are just looking to get
on rides, these special events are awesome opportunities. We came
for a special event, got in early, and the hit on the wallet was
less than a full-day pass costs. After 7pm, it will be exclusively
party guests inside… but we’ve already been on eight attractions
in three hours. If we really wanted to push it and see the entire
park, there is a very good chance that as the lines thinned out
during the special event, we could have covered just about all
of it. But…
do have trick-or-treating ahead of us, and a parade to see.
begin winding through Tomorrowland, hit the first station on the
map for our full-loop-of-the-park intentions, and then move along
to a couple of the other stations with our bags. Terry and Donna
discover two things that they love: (1) The cast members handing
out candy are not stingy. They reach into the barrels and place
handfuls of treats into your bag. (2) The cast members also don’t
care if you want to walk through the line a second time. The lines
move very quickly… and if you see a barrel has a favorite or two
in it, this is an easy way to earn some extras.
I know… we didn’t need the candy. So here’s a twist on the concept
for you to take from this. Let’s say you have children, it’s been
a big day in the Magic Kingdom, and they have worn you out. They
still want their candy… and you want the main gate in your rearview
mirror and a ride back to your hotel room. Send them through a
line two or three times and presto, they have enough candy, and
you can begin making your plans for a great escape to get to sleep.
All you need to do is control the map so they don’t go seeing
the other marked locations.)
move over to the circle in front of Cinderella’s Castle for the
parade. The Headless Horseman rides past us, and here’s a warning
for you… if you didn’t know he was coming ahead of the parade
and weren’t paying attention, you could easily miss it. He rides
past before the parade… keep that in mind… and be ready!
year’s theme is Boo-to-You… and the parade is standard Disney
magic. There’s a variety of floats and walking characters, with
the music is synchronized to match up with the sections of the
parade passing you. We had been told to expect a slightly more
adult parade… in that it’s Halloween and the parade doesn’t shy
away from the undead and a good ghost story. You get dancing corpses…
the three hitchhikers from the Haunted Mansion on a float… and
the grave diggers. (We had been told to be especially aware of
looking for the grave diggers, as part of their routine involved
dragging their shovels across the road and creating sparks. It
is pretty cool to see… in fact, on the phone when I ordered our
tickets, the representative told me that after each parade they
actually have to dull the shovel blades because they are sharpened
by the routine.)
the parade, we meander into Fantasyland and are kind of aimlessly
moving around. All four of us want to see what we can of the new
sections that are still two months away from premiering… and we
want to see the areas that have opened… and we are trick-or-treating.
Still… the only ride we hit at this point is The Barnstormer.
(Which was surprisingly awesome.)
to think over all the memories I have of Disney World and the
Magic Kingdom, I have never been in the far sections of the park
for fireworks before. I’m thrilled to have been able to see Magic
Kingdom fireworks fairly often in my life… and I am excited about
the possibilities of seeing them again many times in the future.
Up until now though, I can only recall being on Main Street (or
fairly close to it). (Probably the idea of catching Tinker Bell
flying across the sky, or having the castle as the central feature
with the fireworks going off behind and around it.)
though… for the Happy HalloWishes show… we are behind the castle…
and wow! Terry looks at me and asks why I never brought her here
to see the fireworks before. And I’m honestly not sure. I still
would say… especially for a first-timer… get the Main Street view.
But this is something special and different.
the fireworks, I suggest heading back to the Haunted Mansion for
our second visit. But first… into the Briar Patch.
of the stations marked on the map is just past Big Thunder Mountain
and near Splash Mountain. It’s set up as a winding path… actually
uses a portion of the Splash Mountain queue… and is filled with
funny surprises, as it becomes the only area we visited with multiple
barrel points. There are three different points for stopping along
the trail where candy was handed out.
to the Haunted Mansion. I had asked, and was told that the cast
really goes crazy once the Halloween party starts. And yes… they
do. Some things I can tell you are that makeup gets added as a
significant part of the appearance and the cobwebs come out, but
I know there are so many things that my notes don’t reflect.
almost time for the second parade… and an interesting concept
is beginning to take shape as a challenge for finishing our visit.
– Again, Terry wants to get to every one of the trick-or-treat
stations. We’ve been to nine… there are two to go.
– Remember my warning about the Headless Horseman? Well, I almost
missed him. I’m telling -- he doesn’t ride as part of the parade,
or even right in front of the parade. He rides first… parade second.
So if you’re near the end of the parade route, he could easily
pass you several minutes before the parade is even vaguely in
sight in the distance. We’re right near the start of the parade
route, and I’m wondering about trying to get a couple of additional
shots as he rides past.
– All of us have agreed we’ve seen everything we wanted to see.
So other than trick-or-treating and the Headless Horseman, we’re
good to go.
I’m waiting, I’m seeing the parade begin to take shape along an
access road, and there’s no Headless Horseman around. (Turns out…
later I would learn that after turning just off of Main Street
on the first ride of the evening, the horse slipped very near
the end of the route and threw the rider. There was no Headless
Horseman for the second parade. Glad my pictures came out.)
mentioned a challenge though… and here it is… we are going to
be in a race with the parade.
got to go through Adventureland to get to the last two candy stations…
while the parade winds through Liberty Square toward the castle
and eventually Main Street. There’s a really good chance we could
arrive near the entrance after the front of the parade reaches
that section, and end up being behind the ropes. I suppose it
could be worse… we get to see the parade again or wander through
the shops. Still, not good for our plans… since a large group
of people has likely waited for the second parade to finish their
visits and will also be heading to the exits with us once the
ropes are dropped and foot traffic can move again (instead of
us being in front of them).
wandered through a few shops already, it turns out we make great
time getting to the front of the park. We arrive on Main Street
before Boo To You, avoid the packed sidewalks by cutting through
a row of connected retail stores, and get to the main gate… where
we find a twelfth trick-or-treat station!
good night to Donna and Joe. We’ve made plans to see them tomorrow
and head into Downtown Disney, so it isn’t a tear-filled goodbye.
They are off to the monorail and the transportation center. Terry
and I walk over to the shuttle buses and get on the one for Art
closing things off for today… I want to point out that the Disney
transportation was very easy. Of course, having never relied on
it to this extent before, I had some apprehensions. Still… a few
questions and looking for the right signs… everything fell into
place. About the only thing was accounting for those hundreds
of thousands of people on property… meaning simply do not expect
you will be in a short line that gets you on the first bus back
to your resort, or that the buses will always be waiting just
for you, or that a ten minute ride can possibly be completed in
under five minutes. Be reasonable and your expectations will be
night. Great friends. Great party.
twelve – Tuesday, October 9, 2012
try to sleep a bit later this morning. Even though we didn’t stay
in the Magic Kingdom for the second parade, we were getting on
the shuttle bus around 11pm, and it was well after midnight when
we finally drifted off to sleep.
and Joe are heading in to meet us at our room, with Donna’s mom
(Nancy) joining us for the afternoon. We’ve decided to head into
Downtown Disney, get lunch, and walk around a bit.
going to use the shuttle buses again, and they work out great.
We get dropped off at a bus station section near what I have over
the past fifteen–plus years begun to associate with Disney art.
One of the stores in the section is actually now called The Art
of Disney… but a few content changes have taken place over the
years. Basically… for those of you that are familiar with it or
can find a map, think of Downtown Disney this way… the Marketplace
area runs from the World of Disney store around to the Rainforest
Café. The shuttle bus section I’m talking about here is
to the Rainforest side.
of the other stores are fun and nice… it’s a great way to spend
some free… and nothing to really report. Lunch though…
cannot recall having ever stopped in Earl of Sandwich before.
Of course… it has only been at Disney, I believe, for just under
10-years. Still… kind of a surprise when I began reading about
it a few months ago. I mean, I’ve passed it before. I even knew
where it was. Just couldn’t recall ever stopping inside or hearing
many people discuss it. But just before this visit…
I’m going to say “Holiday Sandwich”… and one of two things is
going to happen. Either you’re going to have no clue what I’m
talking about, or, you are going to become incredibly hungry and
start craving one.
Holiday Sandwich is unbelievable. I mean… words cannot do justice
to its perfection. Just awesome. Assembled and designed without
spoke with a couple of people while we were there, and Earl of
Sandwich is notorious for long lines. However, everyone says it’s
more than worth it… especially for the Holiday Sandwich. (And
I would agree.)
a bit more shopping, we wind our way back toward the shuttle stop
to pick up the bus back to Art of Animation. For a last stop in
Downtown Disney though, we walk into The Art of Disney, and Terry
and I decide to purchase a print of Dumbo with his feather. Pretty
cool… and very affordable, even framed and shipped.
get off the shuttle and say our goodbyes. With an early morning
flight, we won’t see Donna and Joe again on this visit.
also like to mention Nancy again. She had been a guest at our
home before, and always an incredibly kind and wonderful person.
She passed away shortly after our trip, and she is missed.)
and I head back into the hotel room and settle in for a bit. We
decide to take it easy and eat at the resort’s cafeteria.
wish I could tell you something good about the food, but I can’t.
Neither of us was too impressed. (We had last stayed in a Disney
hotel back in 1999… Ellen and Richard have spoiled us with Orange
Lake. Back then… same thing… we ate a meal at the resort cafeteria-style
outlet and it wasn’t worth remembering.)
until this point, we hadn’t really walked into the Cars area,
since it is on the opposite end of Art of Animation. So we decided
to stroll around it, and ended up disappointed I had left the
cameras in our room. It’s very well done. Again… for establishing
a setting and filling it… nobody matches what Disney can reach.
thirteen – Wednesday, October 10, 2012
early morning as we wait for someone to come and help us with
our bags. I had set up the seats on the Magical Express as well
as the early morning luggage run previously… and even called the
night before to confirm both (which was recommended to me by one
of the cast members). So it was a bit strange when about 15 minutes
after the scheduled time, no one was at our room yet.
sun is just rising, making for an interesting dilemma... there
aren’t many desks with people at them, answering their phones,
before 6am. Someone arrives and we find out it was a timing problem,
with only one person trying to cover the grounds for helping with
check out and move over to where the Magical Express is supposed
to pick us up. Once the bus arrives, we learn of a different problem.
Apparently we were supposed to have a pass written for us so we
could board the bus -- basically, no one on without a ticket.
So back in to the front desk where we checked out, only to find
out that the vouchers are locked up.
entire process had me wondering if we were going to miss the bus…
since what had been set up as getting to the check out and bus
area thirty to forty-five minutes early was now me waiting at
the front desk with the bus in the loop. But we did indeed wind
up on the bus with a ride to the airport. (Terry had stayed with
our bags and the bus, telling me not to worry, it was not going
anywhere without me.)
that said… look… the system is great… but wow, did it seem like
the bellhops, front desk, and Magical Express contacts hadn’t
been working with each other for long. (And honestly… in retrospect…
that could be true. Remember, Art of Animation had only opened
a few months earlier, with Little Mermaid only a few weeks before
our arrival. Perhaps they weren’t caught up on the routines of
covering that much ground with a luggage cart… perhaps some of
the staff was new, or switching shifts and not used to elements
such as passing people from checking out over to the shuttle…
and ultimately, it could be a massive “your experiences may vary”
concept where things go smoothly for you. For us… worked out fine…
but a few bumps in the road.)
video is played on the bus, and of course even in the early morning
hours we pay enough attention to it that we can’t wait for our
next visit. The airport drop goes perfectly. The Magical Express
stops right at our terminal and airline.
get on the plane and settle in for the flight. It’s been an amazing
trip. Ocala… Savannah… Orlando. And, with or without the video
to nudge us along, Terry and I are already itching to see our
friends (and Disney World) again soon.
~ ~ ~
case you’ve landed here as a starting point and really need some
background, there have been three travel diary entries so far
for this trip…
All Around Florida –
Days One, Two and Three
Welcome to Savannah
– Days One, Two, Three and Four
Around Florida – Days Eight, Nine and Ten