I LOVE the Georgia Aquarium, and we go every time I'm in Atlanta each year for Dragon*con. (but amazingly, after 20 + years of going to Atlanta, i've still never made it out to SFOG).
smart move by them putting it over by Centennial park and moving World of CocaCola next to it (tho we only do that for the store at the end. . so many Coke products!).
They used to have some cool stuff over by the touch tanks (now the pirate boat area), but there used to also be a giant whale slide, where you could slide down and come out the whale's mouth.. somewhere i have a lovely pic of my fat ass tumbling out.. LOL
we're huge aquarium buffs too, and tho the Shedd in Chicago was nice? it barely makes my top 5.
I'd go: 5) Shedd aquarium (Chicago) 4) Maui aquarium (on Maui, duh) 3) Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta) 2) Curacao Aquarium (all outdoors, and just amazing. .we did that on our ABC Islands cruise a few years back) 1) Vancouver Aquarium (in Stanley Park), Vancouver Canada
thanks for sharing your pics. . brought back some great memories!
The Monterey Aquarium is pretty something to see. We visited it only once, during it's literal first six months of opening! (1975) The kelp forests were so exquisite to watch, in the three story wave pools. And the open "horseshoe view" for seals that wandered close to it's rocky shore.
Great aquarium. Miss it and want to re-visit it. And Georgia's looks a - may - zing!
I even bought the plastic souvenir mug! (both from Sept.1975)
TBpony414 wrote:What kind of camera were you using at the aquarium? Some of your pics turned out great, animals in tanks are often hard to capture.
It's actually a very basic (and quite old) Canon PowerShot, a standard superzoom camera. It gets the job done, though it does need to be serviced (or replaced altogether!), as the low-light setting (at which all of these aquarium pics were taken) ends up with a vertical line running through the right side of the picture. I hope that wasn't too distracting.
Next on the itinerary was my first ever visit to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, GA. This park doesn't seem to have the greatest of reputations, perhaps because its collection of coasters is not exactly stellar (Cheetah, a CCI woodie, would be the highlight), and / or perhaps because it hardly ever gets anything new (its newest coaster, Viking Voyage, was added way back in 2010; I believe the only addition since this 2014 visit has been Jungle Rumble, a flying carpet-style flat ride). In spite of these shortcomings, I actually quite enjoyed Wild Adventures for several reasons:
1) While the coasters may only be so-so, there are at least a decent number of them (seven, none of which are exclusively kiddie coasters).
2) There are LOTS of other rides -- tons of flat rides and kiddie rides, two nice water rides, and the typical upcharge attractions (skycoaster, go-karts, mini golf).
3) There's a free waterpark included with admission, as well as a free concert amphitheater (I didn't take advantage of either of these, but they were certainly both popular with park guests).
4) The major selling point for me -- the zoological part of the park far exceeded my expectations (more on that with the pictures below).
5) Because of all of the above, Wild Adventures is actually a pretty HUGE park. I spent two days, and that was without the waterpark, concerts, or upcharge attractions. There's therefore plenty to do not just for first-time visitors like me but for park regulars as well, and I imagine locals are entirely content with the park experience.
6) Lastly, I noted that the clientele was friendly, the staff was professional, operations were efficient, the park was clean and well maintained, and the animals all appeared well cared for. Everything therefore added up to a very positive Wild Adventures visit.
The modest entrance belies the true size of the park, which is far larger than I had realized or expected.
Wild Adventures' best coaster, Cheetah, is an out-and-back woodie (with a sort of twister, figure 8 finale) that runs through the middle of the animal habitat at the back of the park.
One of CCI's very last coasters, Cheetah isn't quite as spectacular as some of their earlier installments, but it does seem to have aged reasonably well (its got an appropriate amount of roughness to it; definitely not excessive). An overall fun ride, and a great ride for this park.
Interestingly, the most memorable ride at Wild Adventures for me was this little piece of crap coaster, Viking Voyage. The park's newest, it's baffling how any large (or even medium-sized) park would consciously choose to add one of these to advertise as their new coaster. (Though I know it was transferred over from the closed Celebration City, so Wild Adventures must have got it cheap.)
A Miler coaster with tight unbanked turns taken by a rickety little train over rickety track, this literally had me LOLing the entire time at how craptastic it was.
Also, the weird bend following the first drop is mercilessly whiplash inducing, and I felt it might snap my neck the first time I rode. (I'll admit, the ride was so craptacular I rode twice; the second time I had better braced my upper body from being slammed around so much.) I haven't ridden many coasters in the "so bad they're good" category, but this one absolutely qualifies. (As a side note, Viking Voyage is a duplicate of the coaster that famously ended up in the Atlantic Ocean following Hurricane Sandy -- probably where Viking Voyage belongs too!)
In a park known for mostly mediocre coasters, you can bet there's going to be a Vekoma SLC.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I don't mind these the way most others do -- I guess for whatever fortunate reason the headbanging isn't too bad for me. Also of note, Twisted Typhoon seems to have the "big, scary" coaster reputation at Wild Adventures, the one people are most excited and anxious to ride and most proud of conquering afterwards. I like the color scheme too.
To go along with their SLC there's a Vekoma boomerang. Of course.
I like these far less than SLCs, but don't remember this one being too bad. It also looks kind of nice.
Then there's a wild mouse called Go Bananas.
Not too much to say about this one -- it's a Maurer coaster, but rides just like a Mack wild mouse. It's fun.
Swamp Thing is a Vekoma suspended family coaster, the third I've ridden (following Flying Ace Aerial Chase at Carowinds [which I kind of hated] and Freedom Flyer at Fun Spot America [which was infinitely better]).
Though Swamp Thing is identical to the Carowinds version (same boring track layout, same unnecessary over-the-shoulder restraints), I liked it a little more. While still no Freedom Flyer, the headbanging here wasn't as bad as Flying Ace, and the swamp setting helped to offset the otherwise slow and pretty dull ride. (I know it's a family coaster, I shouldn't complain about it being slow and dull.)
The final coaster is Ant Farm Express, a Vekoma (the fourth Vekoma!) roller skater. (Maybe I should call it the first coaster rather than the final coaster, as it's located immediately inside the park entrance.)
With Ant Farm Express I obtained all seven of Wild Adventures' seven coaster credits. Maybe not the greatest collection in the world, but a collection that fits well at this park.
The two water rides are pretty good ones. Blackfoot Falls looks like a standard boat flume, and it is, but...
...it's DRENCHING!!! Very appropriately located right next to the waterpark.
On the complete opposite side of the park is Tasmanian River Rapids.
I don't remember this one being very wet, but I do remember its most notable feature -- a really cool whirlpool effect that I'd never seen before on a rapids ride. I wasn't able to get a picture of that secluded spot, but look up a video to see for yourself. I was intrigued.
Firecracker is a standard smaller-sized S&S space shot. Standard and smaller doesn't mean bad though -- I still really enjoy these.
Rattler was definitely one of the most popular flat rides at the park, and deservedly so. It's by no means the largest frisbee you'll ever find, but it did manage to swing up pretty high and fast and lasted for a nice duration.
Like Rattler, Tailspin was also quite popular with guests. I liked its placement among the vegetation along the edge of the park's central lake.
If I'm not mistaken, Tailspin was the newest ride to be added before this 2014 visit.
Pharaoh's Fury was one of the highlights at Wild Adventures for me. Aside from the fact that it looked fantastic...
...it provided great swinging ship airtime with each swoop from up to down, even in the middle seats. Swinging ships are typically a favorite of mine, but they can be hit-or-miss. Happily, this was a hit.
Aviator is a type of ride that I don't "get", here or anywhere else I've encountered it. It seems to be marketed as a thrill ride, but it's not very tall, it's certainly not fast, and controlling the rudders does absolutely nothing toward moving the ride vehicles.
A much better ride where the rudders actually serve a purpose is Falcon Flyers. (The placement next to the lake was pretty inspired.)
Yo-Yo is another one that would work great along the lake, but alas, it's a little farther "inland". Even so, I do like these Chance chair swings, which produce a bit of force that pushes you into your seat during the upward-tilting half and provide just a touch of floatiness during the downward-tilting half.
There are plenty of other flat rides at Wild Adventures, including Kite Flyers...
...Smash Attack, and a few others. I appreciated the effort put into giving the rides unique names, rather than simply using generic names like "Bumper Cars", "Scrambler", etc.
Safari Jeeps is Wild Adventures' track-guided car ride. It's pretty much meant for the kiddies and its theming is, um, well...
...judge for yourself.
Fortunately there are plenty of real animals showcased throughout the park in a variety of venues. Alapaha Trail is an especially nice (and lengthy) walking path through a wooded, swampy setting with an abundance of animals to see.
Along the path you'll encounter birds of prey.
There's also an enclosure with lemurs (plus one or two other primate species).
Tortoises are on display.
I can't decide which are more impressive, the tortoises...
...or the alligators.
The stretch of boardwalk that passes through the alligator exhibit also passes right next to the Swamp Thing coaster.
A black bear habitat is prominently featured as well. Don't miss Alapaha Trail while at Wild Adventures -- secluded and scenic, relaxing and exciting at the same time, in my opinion it's the park's hidden gem attraction.
Right next to the exit of Alapaha Trail is the Birdhouse, a quite large aviary home to parakeets and other bird species.
This is of course one of those exhibits where you can buy a little cup of food to feed the birds. That's normally the only way to get the birds' attentions, but for whatever reason these birds flocked to me despite the fact I never even had any food.
The bird whisperer.
Just strolling the birdhouse, me and my entourage.
I'm glad this one was content to stay perched up by itself.
The next animal encounter is the Safari Petting Zoo.
Home to the full variety of critters you'd expect in a petting zoo, these animals all had notably unique and outgoing personalities.
The emu was maybe a little too outgoing, almost more aggressive than what should probably have been allowed to freely roam the exhibit with small children present. I enjoyed interacting with it though.
The pig, on the other hand, just wanted some naptime alone in the shade -- it was very hot out.
Nearby is the Butterfly Garden. These are always favorite animal attractions for me, not just to see the butterflies but also to photograph them. It's what I call "frustrating fun." Most of the pictures turn out awful, but then the one good one makes the effort worth it.
I found this dragonfly out and about in the park, not in the butterfly habitat, but thought it made a good picture too.
There are additional animals spread throughout Wild Adventures, such as meerkats.
Very cute. (Note that the meerkat exhibit does include the typical scattered grasses and dry soil mounds used for tunneling burrows. These meerkats I guess just preferred to hang out near the walls of the enclosure.)
If you like your animals a little larger and more ferocious, lions...
...and tigers both have their own separate spots. (Maybe larger and more ferocious, but still pretty cute -- like overgrown kitty cats.)
The largest expanse of animal territory is at the back of the park. Giraffes occupy once section, which you can observe up close by way of the Giraffe Overlook.
The rest of the habitat can be viewed by taking the Safari Train ride, a definite park highlight and one of the park's most popular attractions.
The train route travels the entire back of the park, encircling the extensive open area where animals are allowed to roam and graze freely.
Great opportunities to view adults...
...and juveniles too.
A few of the species are sectioned off into their own "private" areas. Zebras...
...and elephants all have "exclusive" locations within the larger overall habitat.
Cheetah travels right through the middle of the Safari Train's circuit -- this vantage point provides the very best photo op of the coaster and its first drop. Even though I didn't get a coaster train in the shot as I passed by, I still thought it made for a good pic.
The animal exhibits and encounters are by far what impressed me the most at Wild Adventures -- an immense collection of animals in a considerable number of habitats, some of which occupy significant portions of the park's territory. Add coasters and other rides to the mix, and you've got what I consider a worthwhile and rewarding theme park visit.
That concludes the first half of my August 2014 trip. Having already traveled from Atlanta to Valdosta, I bet you can figure out where I'm going for the second half...
The second half of my August 2014 trip took me back to Central Florida, the third August in a row I'd make this trip. As with the previous two years, I wanted to do some Disney World and some beyond Disney World. The only major Disney park left to visit was Magic Kingdom -- I had visited Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom in 2012 and Epcot in 2013. I'd held off on Magic Kingdom though while the new Fantasyland was under construction, but now that it had opened this felt like the perfect time to pay a visit to the original Walt Disney World park.
I have been to Magic Kingdom twice before, way back during the 1990/1991 and 1998/1999 winter holidays. In addition to the new Fantasyland rides (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Little Mermaid), a couple other Fantasyland attractions (Winnie the Pooh, PhilharMagic) had been added since my last visits, as had a couple Tomorrowland attractions (Monsters Inc., Stitch). I was also eager to revisit all of the classic attractions unique to this Magic Kingdom, some of which used to be at So Cal's Disneyland but are long gone (Carousel of Progress, PeopleMover, Country Bear Jamboree) and some of which have always been exclusive to the Florida park (Hall of Presidents). And of course let's not ignore the abundance of other Disney headliners (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, etc. etc. etc., the list goes on and on...!).
So glad to be back. While I've been to California's Disneyland countless times, this marked only my third visit to Florida's Magic Kingdom, and my first visit in about 15 years.
Even though there's so much to do at the park, it's almost hard to beat simply relaxing under the shaded cover of the train station and...
...enjoying this view! Disney magic.
Just to the east of the train station, where the Main Street Opera House sits at Disneyland, is the Town Square Theater. Instead of park history and Mr. Lincoln, this is a character meet-and-greet -- equally appropriate for Main Street.
The Town Square end of Main Street also features a unique partners statue (called Sharing the Magic if I'm not mistaken) that recognizes Roy Disney's contributions to Walt Disney World.
And at the Central Plaza end of Main Street is of course the Partners statue familiar to all.
More than double the height of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom certainly does look impressive. (No disrespect is at all intended toward Sleeping Beauty Castle -- despite its smaller size, I think it's 100% as photogenic, and I love the "secret" secluded walkthrough of that castle's interior, which is absent here.)
I can't decide which angle is more attractive, this one...
...or this one. Either way, the surrounding moat, rockwork, and greenery all make for stunning sights.
The back side of Cinderella Castle, after having passed from Main Street into Fantasyland.
Fantasyland is an especially large land at Magic Kingdom, in a sense encompassing three separate areas, each with its own distinct feel -- the "original" Fantasyland, the "new" Fantasyland, and Storybook Circus, a re-theme of the former Toontown that has now been incorporated into Fantasyland. The centerpiece of the original Fantasyland remains Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has an eye-catching queue themed to the Hundred Acre Wood, with some interactive activities to keep you entertained while you wait.
Being in the heart of Fantasyland rather than tucked away in an obscure corner of the park, this Winnie the Pooh is far more popular than Disneyland's. Interestingly, though the Disneyland version seems to get pooh-poohed (pun intended) for not being technologically innovative like the Tokyo version, the Magic Kingdom version was pretty much identical to Disneyland's. It features all the same scenes, and I'm not even sure I remember this one having Disneyland's bouncing vehicles.
To be clear, I'm not pooh-poohing -- I like Disneyland's Winnie the Pooh perfectly fine, and I felt the same about this Winnie the Pooh. It really is quintessential Disney -- a ride for the whole family based on a beloved cartoon character.
Peter Pan's Flight is also very similar to Disneyland's, both the ride experience and its crazy popularity. (As an aside, it felt a little strange having Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh as Fantasyland's lone two dark rides. No Snow White, no Pinocchio, no Mr. Toad, no Alice. Though I guess I shouldn't ignore Little Mermaid in the new Fantasyland.)
Directly across from Peter Pan is It's a Small World. Recognized at Disneyland for its spectacularly huge and elaborate façade, featuring the iconic clock tower and replicas of famous world landmarks, this Small World entrance appears exceedingly humble and modest (to put it mildly) by comparison.
However, despite its unassuming exterior, the famous façade is still present, somehow hidden within the attraction building.
The ride itself is exactly the Small World you'd expect, showcasing sets decorated as various countries of the world...
...hundreds of doll children in their traditional costumes...
...and of course the classically famous (infamous?) song.
Another Disney standard, the Mad Tea Party can also be found in Fantasyland.
And the final attraction of the "original" Fantasyland is Mickey's PhilharMagic. Being a brand new show for me, I was quite looking forward to this, and was very satisfied with it. It's actually a pretty brilliant idea, playing some of Disney's most memorable songs in a concert hall setting, and presenting some of Disney's most memorable animated scenes in 3D, all the while mixing in Donald Duck's wacky shenanigans. (I did find it to be a little dark -- not dark in tone, but literally dark. Not sure if it was my 3D glasses or if it was the screen, but such an upbeat show ought to have appeared more vibrant. Just a minor criticism.)
Let's move on now to the new Fantasyland, all of which is themed to a very attractive Enchanted Forest setting. It goes without saying that the star attraction here is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Essentially an extended junior coaster with unique "bucket" cars that swing side to side during the turns, there's also an indoor dark ride portion in the middle.
I love that the coaster is right in the center of the new Fantasyland, letting you walk around the entire ride to get pictures of it from pretty much every angle.
This might be my favorite picture -- I could see it on a Disney brochure.
The "big" drop following the dark ride part. While Seven Dwarfs Mine Train certainly has enough of a thrill factor to appeal to coaster enthusiasts, it really is meant for families and is absolutely appropriate for all but the youngest children.
A winner for Disney, Seven Dwarfs easily joins the ranks of Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain as one of Magic Kingdom's most popular attractions.
The other major addition is Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. This is a duplicate of the California Adventure ride, with a much more intricately detailed exterior and queue.
In my opinion, this does as good a job as possible at condensing a 90-minute movie into a 5-minute ride, featuring all of the characters and songs we know and love. Beginning with Part of Your World...
...the ride continues on to the showstopping Under the Sea scene.
There's also Poor Unfortunate Souls...
...and Kiss the Girl.
A wave goodbye from the cast at the conclusion. Again, I've liked this ride since its opening in California, and felt the same about it here. It works perfectly as an Omnimover-style dark ride, clamshell vehicles and all.
Also new is Enchanted Tales with Belle, the queue of which leads through Maurice's cottage.
Ultimately though we end up in Beast's castle. (Once again, all of this fits perfectly within the Enchanted Forest setting of the new Fantasyland.)
The attraction is sort of a show / character meet-and-greet combo, where Belle, Lumiere, and select children from the audience recreate the story of Beauty and the Beast.
I'd classify Enchanted Tales as the little girl's alternative to Jedi Training Academy (though boys are of course allowed to participate too [and girls are of course allowed to participate at the Jedi Academy]). It's not something I would necessarily need to do on repeat visits to the park, but it was nicely done and I'm glad to have experienced it this once. There's no denying its popularity with the target audience of families with children.
Continuing the Beauty and the Beast theme, Gaston's Tavern offers LeFou's Brew, Disney's answer to Universal's insanely popular Butterbeer. I quite prefer the fruity tartness of LeFou's Brew (and its counterpart in Cars Land at California Adventure) to the sweetness of Butterbeer.
Lastly for Fantasyland is Storybook Circus, which features a water play area, more character meet-and-greets, and two rides that, while perhaps not headliners, are definitely big deals to the little ones.
First is Barnstormer.
Though it may be a typical Vekoma roller skater, the theming of this coaster (flying in a stunt plane during Goofy's daredevil act) really does make it more exciting. I'm sure it must be a huge thrill for coaster beginners.
And then there's Dumbo.
Kudos to Disney World for adding 1) a second set of Dumbos to double the capacity and 2) a "pager" queue system that allows kids to play under a shaded big top tent rather than wait in a long and boring line.
Adjacent to Fantasyland (and Main Street) is Tomorrowland, towered over by the instantly recognizable architecture of Space Mountain.
I'd be hard-pressed to choose between Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain and Disneyland's Space Mountain. This one is the original, so it immediately gets credit for that. The trains are the major difference between the two, and while I probably prefer the more modern trains on Disneyland's Space Mountain, the Matterhorn-style trains on Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain may provide a slightly wilder feel. But let's not split hairs -- Space Mountain at any Disney park is a fantastic and iconic ride.
Since its addition about 20 years ago (over 20 years after the addition of Space Mountain), Buzz Lightyear has become a staple Tomorrowland attraction in its own right.
I remember this being brand new during my previous Magic Kingdom visit, and riding it probably half a dozen times. It was such a blast (literally), it still is, and I've been enjoying it just as much at Disneyland since its opening there a few years later.
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was new to me this visit. It was alright -- kind of the next evolution of the Turtle Talk concept. It may be hit-or-miss though from one show to the next, depending on the audience participants. We had pretty good interaction throughout, until the final participant totally flopped -- kind of a buzzkill way to end it.
Just across the way was another new one, Stitch's Great Escape. I didn't hate this, but I'm certainly not upset that it's since been removed. I think I would have enjoyed Stitch more had I never experienced the Alien Encounter attraction it replaced, which I loved. While I understand why Alien Encounter didn't last (it really didn't belong in a park like Magic Kingdom), Stitch in no way improved things -- still not great for kids, but now not great for adults either. (Speaking of replacements, and going back to Monsters Inc. for a moment, I just remembered the former Timekeeper Circle Vision show that Monsters Inc. replaced. While I recall almost everything about Alien Encounter, I recall virtually nothing about Timekeeper!)
I'm so glad this has never been replaced -- such an awesome blast from the past. From the rotating theater to the catchy theme song to the old school animatronics to the retro vision of the future, Carousel of Progress may be cheesy and outdated by today's standards but represents classic, historic Walt Disney.
Also very happy the PeopleMover is still an appreciated part of this Tomorrowland (rather than being an abandoned eyesore...).
Another vintage attraction, Tomorrowland Speedway probably wouldn't be as missed as Carousel of Progress or PeopleMover if it was ever removed, mostly because it takes up a lot of Tomorrowland territory yet doesn't really fit in with Tomorrowland. The same could be said for Disneyland's Autopia, though I definitely give the edge to that one -- it has a greater attempt at theming along the route, there's more variety to the track, there's a bit more interaction with other attractions, and there's more shade. Still, the open grassy airiness here does give this Speedway its own unique feel.
Speaking of open grassy areas, I really like the quiet, secluded path that connects the Storybook Circus portion of Fantasyland to the backmost portion of Tomorrowland. A great way to avoid some crowds and a great way to view the Walt Disney World Railroad. Let's hop aboard for a ride to the opposite side of the park (sadly, no Grand Canyon or Primeval World along the way...).
We begin the other side of the park with Adventureland and Swiss Family Treehouse.
The relaxed and peaceful yet exciting and adventurous vibe exuded here is perfect -- who wouldn't love to have this as a vacation home? And let me add that Swiss Family Treehouse is infinitely superior to Tarzan's Treehouse -- I keep holding out hope they'll change that one back.
More classic Disney, Enchanted Tiki Room offers an abundance of animatronics singing upbeat songs. This isn't something I do too often at Disneyland, but after watching it here I realized maybe I should -- it provides a nice respite from the crowds, sun, and heat.
A favorite Adventureland attraction of mine, Jungle Cruise's lush theming does perhaps the best job of making you feel you've really journeyed to the tropics.
Some of the animatronics are admittedly pretty cheesy...
...but most are quite well done.
The entire setting is what impresses me most -- the fact that the jungle vegetation and waterways completely surround you, removing you far from civilization for about ten minutes or so.
And then there's of course the guide's corny jokes and puns, which add to the fun. Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise and Disneyland's Jungle Cruise are pretty similar, with a few key differences. Most notable is the indoor section here, as the boat passes through ancient temple ruins. No piranhas during this Jungle Cruise though.
As I think everyone is aware, compared to Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, Magic Kingdom's Pirates is sort of the Cliff's Notes version of the ride -- for being so leisurely and slow paced, it kind of feels warp speed. Let it be clear that I'm not complaining -- like I said above for Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean at any Disney park is about as iconic a ride can get.
Coincidentally, the one on-ride Pirates photo I took in 2014 was of the now gone-but-not-forgotten auction scene. I'll be interested to try out the newly revamped scene (at both Disneyland and Disney World).
And finally for Adventureland is Magic Carpets of Aladdin, one of the park's three Dumbo-style rides. (The third being Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland, which you may have noticed I didn't include a picture of -- it was the only attraction not operating during this visit. If I had to pick one attraction to be closed, Astro Orbiter would certainly be a top choice. I didn't actually even ride Dumbo or Aladdin either.)
Next we enter Frontierland, home of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Although there are minor differences during the ride scenes, the major difference between this Splash Mountain and Disneyland's Splash Mountain are the boats -- the side-by-side seating here is pretty rare for a log flume, and admittedly more comfortable than straddling the center of the boat. (I can't seem to remember if there were lap bars to go along with these more coaster-like seats. If there were, they must not have detracted from the experience at all, or else I would have remembered.)
It's also intriguing that, though the drop seems huge while riding, it's not really all that big. Pretty amazing the illusions those Imagineers can create.
So extremely photogenic, Disney's Splash Mountain is the most elaborately themed log flume you'll find anywhere. There may be close runners-up (Dudley Do-Right, Timber Mountain), but Splash Mountain takes first prize.
Speaking of photogenic and elaborately themed, Big Thunder Mountain is for mine trains what Splash Mountain is for log flumes.
The layout of both Thunder Mountains (Magic Kingdom's and Disneyland's) is more or less the same, with the noted exception that the tracks mirror image each other.
Views of this Big Thunder Mountain are a bit more accessible than at Disneyland, as seen here from the Liberty Square Riverboat. (I kind of like the look of the train just barely peeking into this shot.)
Here's a view from Tom Sawyer Island, and another pic where the train just barely makes a cameo -- can you see it?
And my favorite view of all, from the Walt Disney World Railroad. Once again, let's play "Can you find the coaster train hidden in this picture?"
Frontierland is also home to Country Bear Jamboree, an attraction that entertains in a head-scratching sort of way. I am glad this still exists at Magic Kingdom, though I will admit back when it was at Disneyland, much like Enchanted Tiki Room, I rarely watched it. For that reason, although I remembered the gist of the show, I didn't remember the specifics. And the specifics are bizarre.
While the bears might be the stars, these three may very well be the most famous.
The Five Bear Rugs are the show's opening act.
Henry the M.C. sings the only song I recognize, Ballad of Davy Crockett.
Trixie sings Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine (!!!!!).
Big Al sings Blood on the Saddle (?????).
And other ditties include "If You Can't Bite Don't Growl," "All the Guys that Turn Me on Turn Me Down," and "My Woman Ain't Pretty but She Don't Swear None." WTF LOLOLOL. Country Bear Jamboree kind of defies description, and I can't decide whether it's brilliant or dreadful. Worth seeing either way I guess because...well...just because.
I make a point to visit the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade during every trip to Disneyland, so I naturally made a point to do the same here. For an upcharge attraction, this is as inexpensive as they get -- a couple of quarters will buy you a very fair number of shots. The theming is impeccable and you won't find a more well maintained shooting gallery anywhere -- the guns, targets, and effects all work perfectly, and there are tons of them. In addition, the guns' sights are so precisely aligned that the targets are kind of hard to miss. As far as I'm concerned, Frontierland Shootin' Arcade is one of Disney's sleeper hits.
Time for a quick snack break. The first day I was at Magic Kingdom was the first day they were trying out a new menu at the little eatery right on the border of Adventureland and Frontierland (I believe Golden Oak Outpost is its name). They were serving these delicious seasoned waffle fries loaded with toppings -- barbecue pork and coleslaw on the left, ranch blt on the right.
They were so good we went back the next day to sample the other two flavors -- tex-mex on the left, gravy and cheese on the right. I have no idea if these lasted on the menu or not, but they sure were tasty during their first two days of existence.
Having refueled with some food, let's now take a log raft across the Rivers of America over to Tom Sawyer Island.
Tom Sawyer Island features many classic Disney sites and sights, including Harper's Mill...
...and Fort Langhorn.
Really though, Tom Sawyer Island is one giant playground, with its dirt paths leading to all kinds of fun obstacles. I remember loving being able to play and explore and work off extra energy on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland as a kid, as I imagine kids still do today. That's not to say the island and its obstacles aren't also fun for adults -- they most definitely are.
The lengthy suspension bridge connecting the two halves of the island is probably the most popular, and might possibly be my favorite...
Or maybe my favorite is the barrel bridge...
Or perhaps it's spooky Injun Joe's Cave.
See what I mean -- spooky. With so much to do, it's hard to pick a single Tom Sawyer Island favorite. Just enjoy it all.
Encircling Tom Sawyer Island are the Rivers of America, which you can travel aboard the Liberty Square Riverboat.
I guess we're technically in Liberty Square now rather than Frontierland (hence the boat's name), though the Rivers of America kind of blur the boundary between the two lands. (It's really Frontierland -- the riverboat is docked in Liberty Square -- it doesn't even matter.)
Unlike at Disneyland, where the Mark Twain, Columbia, and canoes all share the rivers, at Magic Kingdom the Liberty Belle has the route all to itself, and the paddle wheeler sure does look attractive charting its course off into the wilderness.
Haunted Mansion looks incredible sitting atop its isolated hillside. While Magic Kingdom's appears more "haunted" and Disneyland's appears more "mansion," either way Haunted Mansion is dark ride perfection (the ride itself plus the queue room walkthroughs leading up to the ride).
Very appropriately located in Liberty Square is Hall of Presidents.
I watch Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland quite regularly, and I had just watched American Adventure at Epcot the previous year, so I was glad to be able to watch Hall of Presidents again this year.
And because this trip was in 2014, I got to watch the show back when our president was still presidential.
As far as I'm concerned, the Main Street Electrical Parade is THE definitive Disney nighttime parade.
I love the floats, the lights, and yes, the music too.
The conclusion of the Electrical Parade also concludes this Magic Kingdom visit. And a great visit it was -- I saw and did pretty much everything, which will hopefully keep me satiated until I'm able to return once again!
My 2012 WDW trip included visits to Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf. My 2013 WDW trip then included visits to Epcot and Winter Summerland Miniature Golf. Continuing the trend of visiting major parks along with smaller attractions, this 2014 WDW trip included visits to Magic Kingdom followed by DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney (2014 was prior to Downtown Disney's name change to Disney Springs).
I had long been curious about DisneyQuest (I often considered it Disney World's 4.5th theme park), but I'd never tried it out until now. I am by no means a techie, and I quite despise the industry's current VR fad, but DisneyQuest and this 2014 visit well predated the VR craze. I therefore went in with a very open mind, and quite enjoyed the entire experience. (There had been no announcements by this point that DisneyQuest would be closing in a few years -- I wonder how the park would have evolved had it made it to the "VR era.")
DisneyQuest was unique in that it was entirely enclosed within a single five-story building. It therefore didn't take up a huge amount of Downtown Disney territory, but there was still plenty to see and do, all stacked on top of each other -- each floor housed a selection of attractions and arcades (as well as eateries and shops). The theming was also apparently divided into four different zones -- Explore, Score, Replay, and Create. I couldn't really follow that organization though, as the four zones (obviously) didn't correspond to the five floors. No matter, the layout was otherwise straightforward, and I'll go through the attractions here floor by floor.
The intriguing building exterior along the West Side of Downtown Disney. Let's take a closer look at the interior.
You actually enter the park on the third floor of the building, into this futuristic Ventureport room. My understanding is there once was a spiral slide leading from the third floor down to the first floor. That would have been fun. It's now simply stairways (and elevators) between floors.
The third floor is home to two major attractions, Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam being my favorite of the two (possibly my favorite attraction in all of DisneyQuest).
A pinball-hockey combination, each guest has to rock their podium back and forth to move their corresponding puck on the screen.
It's all a little frantic, a little chaotic, and a little exhausting, but so much fun. The goalie was almost too good at blocking the shots, so I was proud of myself for scoring as well as I did (I wasn't the winner of our game, but close).
The other third-floor attraction is Buzz Lightyear's AstroBlaster.
It's a bumper car ride where you drive over and scoop up foam "cannonballs" to shoot at the other cars (one rider drives, one rider shoots). If a vehicle's target is hit, it spins around "out of control" for a few seconds.
It's a fun idea, but because you are confined to such a hot, stuffy enclosed space it pretty quickly becomes sort of claustrophobic and nauseating. (As a side note, you'll also notice in all the photos how dark it is throughout the entire DisneyQuest building.)
As mentioned, most floors have one or two arcade areas, often a classic games arcade and a modern games arcade. On floor 3 is Race Zone, which looks like an arcade game (and it is), but separated as its own attraction. This worked great -- you waited in line, and the entire row of cars was filled together. The race started at the same time automatically for everyone, so the competition was timed perfectly. Once the race ended everyone exited the cars just like you would a ride (no staying seated for another race like you might do with an arcade game), and the next group in line had their turn. Very well executed.
Down one floor, to floor 2, you'll find possibly the most popular attraction at the entire park -- CyberSpace Mountain.
It's a design-and-then-ride-your-own-roller-coaster simulator. The design is done at these kiosks, which is saved to your simulator pod. I included a bunch of barrel rolls and front and back flips, so I was surprised when my design ended up rating pretty low on the attraction's thrill scale. It was good enough for me -- I can certainly understand why CyberSpace Mountain is so popular, but small, individual simulators with the screen right in front of your face have never been my favorite. Like I said with Buzz Lightyear, the cramped space makes it a bit too stuffy and nauseating.
Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride is the other main attraction on the second floor.
This was very much a precursor to the VR attractions of today, as riders sat on their "magic carpets" and wore headsets to simulate the action. The story involved flying through the Cave of Wonders to collect treasure and rescue the Genie. It was all a little confusing (again, a precursor to today's VR!), and I really couldn't follow what was happening or what I was supposed to be doing. (As an ironic side note, it was in line for the Genie ride that I first learned about the death of Robin Williams. Yes, that's how long ago this trip was and how late this trip report is...)
The second floor is also where you'll find a bunch of the "Create" attractions, such as a song maker and a build-a-toy. There's an Animation Academy here too, which I didn't get to do (all of the sessions were earlier in the day than when I visited), but it looks like this one is done on a computer screen rather than on paper. It's a shame that both of the drawing classes at Disney World have now closed (this one and the one at Hollywood Studios). The Animation Academy at California Adventure is definitely one of the sleeper hits at that park.
Down on the first floor are two (very good) attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold is part ride, part show, part game. Kind of like everything at DisneyQuest -- an "interactive experience."
Your group stands in its own personal ship in its own private room surrounded by screens, fighting off enemy pirate ships with cannons. The smaller the group, the more challenging it is, as you have to man all of the cannons plus steer the ship. All while wearing 3D glasses.
Virtual Jungle Cruise isn't 3D (unless I'm misremembering), but it's another one where your vehicle is positioned in front of a screen. The vehicle this time though is an inflatable raft that bobs up and down with the action, as you paddle your way down a prehistoric river. (The paddles trigger sensors that determine your route.)
Lots of fun, and a bit of exercise too (I was on the right side of the raft, and after all the paddling my right deltoid was on fire!).
Okay, let's head up to the top floor, floor 5, for Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.
This was similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, only seated rather than standing (and I honestly can't remember if it was 3D or not). These are the doors leading into the individual rooms housing the spaceships and screens. I enjoyed this, but too bad they couldn't have somehow recreated the old Alien Encounter attraction from Magic Kingdom. I would have loved that.
The final major attraction, Ride the Comix, can actually be accessed from both the fourth and fifth floors. (The fourth floor also has a pretty large sports-themed arcade.) Ride the Comix was my least favorite of all the DisneyQuest attractions. Like Aladdin's Magic Carpets, this uses VR headsets, but you're standing rather than sitting. You basically fight off villains with a lightsaber-style sword, but once again, the VR makes it difficult to understand what's happening, and you have to be strapped in place (because the vehicle platforms extend out over the atrium that runs through the center of the entire building), so your range of motion is restricted. Although Ride the Comix may not have been the best, most of the DisneyQuest attractions were fun and enjoyable, and I found it to be a very worthwhile visit. I definitely noticed a lot of pre-teens having a great time -- I imagine DisneyQuest may have been more fun than any of the "big four" WDW parks for them. I'm not devastated that DisneyQuest has closed, but it would be nice to still have it around (and I'm sure it would warrant more repeat visits than the NBA exhibit that's replacing it).
To finish up, let's head over to Splitsville, the fancy bowling alley next door. I've always enjoyed bowling (I used to be quite good, though these days I'm definitely out of practice), so I was eager to check this out. (Splitsville has since opened at So Cal's Downtown Disney, though for whatever reason I haven't been to that one yet.)
More "exclusive" lanes spread throughout the building (rather than all of the lanes lined up together like at a typical bowling alley), plus food service right to your lane, are distinguishing features of Splitsville. I didn't bother with the food service because 1) we only played a couple games, so we weren't there long enough to need food, 2) the bowling was expensive enough without food, and 3) I think touching food after touching dirty bowling balls, or touching bowling balls after touching greasy food, is gross and totally messes up your game.
This is what the video monitor over my lane always showed ;)
I never saw this...I had to take a picture of the neighboring lane ;)
Where legends are born. That brings three years of Walt Disney World to a close, but my August 2014 trip to Central Florida continues beyond WDW. Coming up...
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