Well, it was decided the previous night that we were going to hit Disney's Hollywood Studios (aka MGM-Studios) this morning to try and get another one of those Yoda T-Shirts for my nephew Collin. His mother, Julie, told us that he needs a size 4T.
So, as of bed last night the plan was to go to follow that up with a trip to Animal Kingdom to go on a photographic safari and then go to EPCOT that evening because we had a 7:10PM ADR for the Rose and Crown in the United Kingdom Pavilion.
Also, this morning, my wife had a 8:00AM appointment at the Saratoga Springs Spa. She was excited to give this a try since the Unofficial Guide rated this the best spa on property. We did the couples massage last year as a part of our Platinum Magic Your Way package and she wanted to compare facilities (Grand Floridian vs. Saratoga Springs).
I slept in a bit and got up and prepared for our day while she was off getting a massage.
After she got back, she needed to shower to get all the oils they used off her skin. She was sure if she didn't take a shower, she'd burn to a crisp as if she was coated in vegetable oil.
We made our way out to the Grandstand Bus Stop and waited for the MGM bus. We didn't have to wait long and we were off.
Well, as we would have it, the bus driver was very informative, and that is how we found out that the Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours this evening. At this point, we both looked at each other and had the same thought......We can hit all 4 parks today! So the plan was altered to include jotting over to the Magic Kingdom after IllumiNations and get in a some time and maybe do some more tripod photography. We have never been able to pull off the 4 parks feat before so we were excited to try.
We got off at MGM Studios and made our way though security and then walked as fast as we could to Star Traders to get to the Tatooine Traders shop to look for that shirt. I swear, it takes awhile to get numb to the pain in my feet, but once those blistered toes do get numb I can really fly.
We got to the shop and quickly found out that there were no toddler sizes. My wife called her sister to find out if Collin could get away with a child's small or if it would be too big. We were told unless she could find an Extra Small it wouldn't be worth buying it. So she grabbed a Cast Member to go look for her. Now we know that you cannot get a child's extra small in Disney world.
After that disappointment it was decided that since we were at the park we should try to get on Tower of Terror again if the lines are manageable. As we were making our way up the street toward the Hollywood Tower Hotel, we saw that the Beauty and the Beast Stage Show was letting out in front of us. We kicked it up a notch to try and get in front of as many of them as possible before the line for Tower of Terror ballooned up to unfavorable sizes.
We got lucky and were able to still pretty much walk right onto the elevator. I stowed my camera and we got on the ride. This ride was just as awesome as the other times we have ridden it. With the randomization that is built into the number of falls and how high you are dropped from, it's always a new and exciting ride.
After we survived the runaway elevator, it was decided that since we were going to the Animal Kingdom next, we needed to eat while we were still at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This decision was made because we have found the Counter Service choices at the Animal Kingdom to be severely lacking.
We decided that we'll just make it easy and get chicken strips at the same place we got them before near the Tower of Terror. They aren't the best chicken strips I ever had (I think Denny's makes some mean chicken strips), but it was better than the ABC Commissary.
After getting some food in our bellies, we went to the restroom and headed back out to the bus lot. You can catch a bus from Disney's Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom (a wonderful luxury).
After a nice rest in the air conditioned bus, we got to the Animal Kingdom. Today's mission was to strictly do the animal walking trails and take lots of wildlife pictures. We couldn't leave this year and have it be two years in a row that we ignored these trails.
We grabbed a map to try and make sure we didn't skip any trails and systematically made our way through them. I must say that if you are looking to take pictures of ducks, you don't really have to look hard when you are here.
The real fun came when we went into the Discovery Island trails. From here you get all kinds of perspectives of the Tree of Life and all the animal carvings. We spent a considerable amount of time walking around and looking everywhere to find the animal carvings and tried to get pictures of them all. From what I've read and heard, there are over 300 animals carved into the tree, and I can say with 100% assurance that I didn't get anywhere close to finding all of them.
After getting done with the Tree of Life, we made our way to Asia to walk the Maharaja's Jungle Trek. This was rather disappointing because the heat of the day had all the cool animals in hiding. I got some pictures of the tigers at rest, but they were only visible from one area that was behind glass and over the years, the glass has gotten very foggy from many many hands and noses being pressed up against it. Maybe by shooting in a RAW photo format, I can do some post production work to make the colors a bit more vivid and downplay the fogginess of the image. We also went through an aviary and a couple other areas where animals were being kept, but they are not under any kind of human control so they are free to make themselves visible or not. On this day, mostly not.
After getting done with this trail, it was decided that ice cream was in order. So we kept our eyes peels on our way to the trail in Africa. We found an ice cream joint across the street from where the African gymnasts perform. I got a swirl in a cup and my wife got a swirl in a waffle cone.
We sat down and watched some African performers as we ate our nice, cold soft serve ice cream.
After our ice cream was done, we headed to the African trail. A good portion of this trail was closed for one reason or another. We did get some good giggles and entertainment at the meerkat area. I got a few good pictures of a meerkat on lookout. We also got a good close view of a hippo as he made his way by the glass that was separating him from us. The "research student" (cast member) who was stationed there told us that the hippo was much more active than earlier in the day.
We eventually wandered our way to the Ape enclosure. Unless you get here early in the day, you are going to be quite challenged to get close enough to take any pictures. This is a popular place, especially amongst children. They never seem to move. They just sit there and stare for what seems like hours.
I got a couple pictures, but they were not being very photogenic today. They seemed to like to stay behind smeared sections of the glass.
This pretty much ended the trails for us. We decided to check and see if there were any pins that we wanted here so we could get the special limited edition $1 pin for Animal Kingdom. There weren't but there was some scrapbooking stuff that my wife found that could only be found at the Animal Kingdom. This info came to us from John Frost's wife, who we met earlier in the week. It turns out the place to get the scrapbooking stuff was also selling the $1 pin. So my wife was able to get her stuff and we got our $1 pin too! Awesome!
After this purchase it was off to the bus to go back to Saratoga Springs. The plan was to get a quick rest, shower and change clothes before hitting EPCOT and doing dinner and IllumiNations.
No sooner had we gotten on the bus, the skies opened up with a large rain storm.
We had to dash through the downpour to get back to our room from the Grandstand Bus Stop.
My wife decided to take a nap while I goofed around on the computer emptying my camera's flash cards and such. Meanwhile, it was still pouring outside.
When it finally came time to leave, we made sure we packed several plastic bags and ziploc bags to keep things dry and donned our rain coats. I took my tripod just in case the rain subsided.
We got lucky. By the time the bus came to pick us up and take us to EPCOT, the rain was pretty much reduced to a fine mist.
We had waited so long for the rains to subside that we didn't have any time to go exploring around EPCOT before our 7:10PM reservation at the Rose and Crown in the United Kingdom Pavilion. So, we headed straight there.
After all this rain, the humidity was stifling and it didn't seem to thin the crowds out much in the park.
We checked in with the hostess at the Rose and Crown and were pretty quickly sat down. We didn't get a window seat, but we were out of the way of general foot traffic. We had an awesome server named Ed who was very fun to talk to. He was quite taken aback when he found out that I used to play Rugby.
I ordered the Fish & Chips and my wife got the pot roast. This was the first day of a new menu at the Rose and Crown and Ed told us that everything on the menu was chosen based on diner's feedback.
Since we had burned all our Table Service credits on signature dining restaurants, this meal was not in the Dining Plan. Because of that, I just ate an entree while my wife had an entree and dessert.
After eating our dessert we found out that IllumiNations was at 9PM (as usual) instead of the odd time of 8PM we were told by the bus driver this morning. So, we decided to kill the next hour by enjoying some fine alcoholic beverages. My wife had a Pinot Grigio and I had a Imperial Pint of Guinness Stout.
When it came time to close the check, Ed forgot we were paying and brought us a bill based on the Dining Plan. He said we were the only customers that evening that weren't dining on the plan and it threw him for a loop.
We got the bill taken care of and then he escorted us to an area on the lake-side patio to watch IllumiNations.
There were some nice young ladies there who looked about college aged or mid-20's and they were pretty interested in my camera setup with the tripod. They helped me clear out a space near the railing.
Unfortunately, there was a table of Europeans behind us who weren't too happy that I was setting up shop in front of them. I made every effort to try and not obstruct their view and told my wife that I was concerned about it. She just said loudly that they shouldn't sit behind me when there were plenty of other tables near the railing. That just put a more sour look on their faces. You may be wondering why I just assumed they were Europeans. Well they had accents (first give away) and were wearing shorts with leather shoes and black socks. That, without the accents, is usually a dead give away that you "aren't from around here". Americans are all about their sneakers (trainers to our British folk) and white socks. I had a friend who lived in Australia who told me you could easily spot American tourists by their footwear. Only Americans wore athletic shoes outside of athletic activities.
Well, we had the best vantage point to date for viewing IllumiNations, but it wasn't the best for taking pictures. There was a lamp post in my line of sight and if I successfully aimed around it and pointed my lens too high, then I got the lamp bulbs in the shot.
So, a lot of my pictures have the fireworks in the top half of the shot and are definitely cropped badly like a bunch of family portraits where the people's heads are cut off.
We needed to get in front of as many people in the giant throng heading for the exit so we could get on the Monorail to the TTC to switch to a Monorail to the Magic Kingdom.
Remember, we needed to make it within the Extra Magic Hours so that we could say we went to all 4 parks today. Today Extra Magic Hours ended at the Magic Kingdom at 11PM and it was currently something like 9:30PM
At this point, the wife and I decided to try and navigate the crowd in a single-file formation rather than a side-by-side. We just "shot the gap" whenever we could and hauled butt to the main exit. This was real fun because my feet were beyond annoyed.
By the time we got to Mouse Gear, I told my wife there was no way I was going to be able to make it to the Magic Kingdom without wetting my pants. The rent was way overdue on the Guinness I had earlier.
We ducked into the restrooms near Space Ship Earth and I was refreshed for the haul to the Magic Kingdom.
We ran up to the top of the ramp for the Monorail station to find that the gate was closed and there was a small crowd there. I said that we should turn around and catch a bus but my wife said that we should keep our place in line. We were told that the Monorail was running a tad late.
After a short moment, they opened the gate and people started filling the little stalls the designated a monorail car waiting spot. It was at this point that we are told that the monorail is experiencing "technical difficulties" and was having to run at very slow speeds but it's on it's way. We found out later it had something to do with the doors but what we didn't know.
We ended up standing there for 30 or more minutes waiting for the monorail to show up. We were soaked in sweat because the humidity still hadn't broken.
Also, while we were standing there, some very young child took a back plunge onto the concrete and cracked her little head. The reverberations could be felt in the concrete and we were a good ways away. There was a cast member standing right next to the family when it happened and he hauled butt down the concourse like it was nobodies business so he could get a radio.
The parents said everything was fine, but my wife was concerned because she said in the Emergency Room and sound like we heard when that kids head hit the ground never is a good sound and the kid wasn't crying. She was also surprised to see that there was no apparent sign that an incident report was being filled out.
We finally got on the monorail and it was packed with tons of other people wanting to get to the Magic Kingdom. By this point, most people around us have heard about our quest to go to all 4 parks today. Most, thought we were nuts.
I can tell you one thing, those monorails aren't the nicest places to be when crowded and strollers are involved. The cars with the center bar in them make for really tight quarters especially when a two-seater stroller is crammed in there and we had two of them.
Once we got to the Magic Kingdom stop, my wife and I hauled butt to the security bag check. It was now 10:15PM. We had 45 minutes left! At the bag check, we had the coolest security guy. He asked me to not remove my backpack and to just turn my back toward him. He just unzipped everything and looked and rezipped it and sent me on my way.
We got our special magic after-hours bracelet and entered the park. We did it. We got our Annual Pass scanned on 4 parks in one day, but we needed to do something to make the trip count.
So, my wife stated that she wanted to ride Haunted Mansion again and I wanted some nighttime shots of it anyway.
We made our way to the Haunted Mansion and as I rounded the corner, my heart dropped. It wasn't illuminated. In fact, you could hardly see the building at all. But, it was still up and running. There was no line and we just walked right up to the door that leads you to the pre-show.
This time, I wasn't so keen on taking pictures, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. The newly refurbished Haunted Mansion just got better with each ride.
After getting off the Haunted Mansion, we decided we should just head back to the room. It was pretty much 11PM and they were going to kick us out soon anyway.
We probably should've waited a bit more because when we got to the bus stop, it was really, really packed. It was so packed that we didn't get on the first bus that showed up. We had to wait for the second. At least we were sitting.
We were crammed next to some standing girls who couldn't stop giggling and making fun of other people around them. Plus, we had one of those bus drivers that work the closing shifts that thing they are entertaining. This one thought she was funny. But, her jokes made the Jungle Cruise Skippers sound like highly polished stand-up comedians.
We did eventually get to our Grandstand bus stop at Saratoga Springs and we kind of had to force our way off the bus since so many people were standing.
When we got back to the room, it was time to pack as much as we could and head to bed. Tomorrow will be the final cleanup day, and we have to head back to EPCOT.
I'll try to get the final day's report up as quickly as I can, but the price I had to pay for 9 days at Walt Disney World is that I had to go out of town on business the day after I got back from vacation. Plus, we are attempting to get our house finalized that we are having built so we can move in next week.
So, keep checking back, I might just surprise you with a post. After the big move, I hope to get back into my regular posting patterns.
So, in the meantime, remember you aren't living unless you are making each day the most Grumptastic day ever!