1998: April at WDW
Quick long weekend trip to see the new Animal Kingdom theme park

Early 1998 was a tough one for me.  In March, Broadway actress Laurie Beechman passed away- I run a website for her and I'd admired her both professionally and personally for quite some time.  So, it was  (and still is) understandably tough for me to deal with the loss.  Throughout the month of March, I found myself drained of energy- between grieving and running around to the funeral (in Phila.) and memorial (in NYC).  Not to mention all the effort I'd put into turning her website (which I'd run since 1996) into a place where people could gather to pay tribute to her memory.  I felt totally run down- like I didn't want to move at all of go anywhere.  However, after a weekend of total relaxation, I began to regain my desire to do stuff.  I had been so incredibly out of touch for months, that it wasn't until that point that I thought "Gee, wasn't Animal Kingdom supposed to open around this time?"  Through a simple internet search ,I found out it was opening within the coming week.  And then I thought how wonderful it would be to go to WDW and see the new park-  and to just walk around in the sun, bask in the Disney magic, and smile.  I ended up booking a very last minute solo trip for the weekend after the official opening.  I didn't tell any of my friends because I wanted it to be my private treasure, at least for a time.  I splurged and booked the BoardWalk because I'd dreamt of staying there since the first time I saw it- it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and spoil myself this trip because it was only for 2 nights.  

The following is based on 3 trip reports posted on rec.arts.disney.parks when I was in WDW.  

Laptops are a wonderful thing. :) I get to share my excitement without having to wait until I get home and have time.

The day started by getting up ridiculously early at 4:30. By sheer random luck, I was up to my Lion King B'way cast CD in the car (I have a 12 CD changer)- I'd listened to the first 2 songs yesterday, and the rest of the CD lasted most of the ride to the airport. As I was listening to the music, I realized it was real! I was going to WDW!!! Yippeeeee! :) I was crying at some points, cause I do that when I'm happy. :)

First great news of the day: my plane arrived 15 minutes early! I'd gotten a little sleep on the plane, but I was getting excited and was awake for the latter half of the flight.

2nd great news of the day: I got into BoardWalk and I was told they upgraded me to a garden view. Gee, I hate when that happens. ;) This is after I called long distance yesterday and had to argue with them because they'd booked me in the Villas when I'd clearly asked for the Inn.... and they were going to put me in a garden view room and charge me for it. At any rate, I was practically bouncing with excitement when I checked in and I was thrilled with my room, my view, everything!  My room was far from the elevators (I'd heard that BW rooms can be far), but I didn't mind at all.

I didn't take much time to enjoy, as it was off to the parks. My mission:  Conquer Animal Kingdom! As I got on the bus, the driver was really doing his best to convince everyone not to go to AK. He said that the animals wouldn't be out so people should come in the morning.  A family of 4 indeed got off and went to MGM on his advice. However, I figured 1) there is more than just the animals and 2) I can come again in the morning if I wanted. I was a bit concerned when he emphasized how quickly the park had been filling up. But, I seriously wanted to see AK and nothing else would do

I'm glad I thought for myself! There were no lines in AK. The longest line was probably when I went into the only restroom in a WDW park with only 4 stalls. ;) I decided to go and do the things that were tops on my lists first, and then take my time to wander more leisurly once I calmed down. :)  In actuality, I never did calm down- I ended up touring the park in the craziest way-going from one end to another to catch attractions at my whim. But I was having fun and that was the most important thing.  Plus, the excitement of being at WDW kept me energized.

I went on CtX 3 times- no line at all. The first time, the ride paused at 2 points near the end and broke the mood. (we were basically sitting still, but the car was still bouncing and scenery was moving a little) It was a great ride-much like Indiana Jones in DL. After my first ride, I went to It's Tough to be a Bug, which was as fun and cute as I'd heard it would be.

Then, I debated eating vs. the Lion King  stage show and the latter won out. By a last minute whim, I snagged a seat up in the front of my section- which was the Lions (each section is a different animal). Great thing #3 of the day- I was picked to lead my section in roaring! :) In all my trips to WDW, I have always wanted to be picked for something- anything- since I've always loved performing. So I was beyond thrilled!! :) I loved the show in its own right- the 2 women that I'd convinced to go (they thought it was just a kids' show and were going to skip it) seemed to be glad they didn't skip it. I was crying again at some points because it was just too beautiful!  Pictured to the right is the totally wonderful CM who picked me to lead the lions' roar!  :)

After a tasty lunch at Pizzafari, I went to the Kilimanjaro safaris. There were enough animals that I didn't feel gypped, and it was cute enough. However, I rode again at 6pm for comparison, and that time was better. The highlight of the 2nd trip were 2 giraffes that stood in front of our vehicle.  (picture further down on the page) We had to pause for a bit until they decided to move. They couldn't have scripted it better! :)  There were indeed more animals at 6pm, and they were more active and closer to us.  (some animals were still M.I.A. though the CM who was our tour guide told us where they would be if they were out)  Since there was no line either time, I don't regret doing it twice. But if there are lines, I'd skip it mid-day.

Some quick thoughts on other things I did as I kept crisscrossing the park. The Pocahontas show was cute, but not great. Junge Book (pictured to the left) was good, but not nearly as good as TLK. I'm glad I waited until there was practically no wait for the Discovery River Boats (at one point, it was a 45 minute wait- and was practically the only attraction with a wait). It was pleasant, but definitely not worth waiting over 5 minutes for. I did the Gorilla Falls trail mid-day and I'm sure it's better in the am or later in the day. I liked the booths in Conservation Station where they simulate the mood of a Rain Forest: they let about 6 people go into a booth, and you wear headphones with great stereo sounds of rain forests. I'd recommend closing your eyes, because I could feel the mood so much more fully with my eyes closed, rather than being able to see out into the waiting area.

As I think others have said (on r.a.d.p.), the landscaping is great. The tree of life looks so much more impressive in person than I'd expected- photographs don't do it justice. It was a lovely day- not too hot- and it was so pleasant walking around the park. (and, with the crazy order I chose for doing things, I did *a lot* of walking) They still had opening day T-shirts so I snagged one, along with another shirt. I am not looking forward to seeing this charge card bill. ;)

At 7:30, I decided it was time to leave, but I was still hyper. :) I almost went to EPCOT to see Illuminations (even though I knew dinner would be better for me as I hadn't eaten a meal since 12:30). However, in my excitement, I forgot to get my hand stamped. So I went home to BoardWalk, walked around a bit and ate a  delicious 2 course meal at Flying Fish Cafe, possibly my favorite WDW restaurant. (have I emphasized the fact that I am not looking forward to my credit card bill? <g>) Then, I saw some of the fireworks from Illuminations from the view on the boardwalk, and did some more walking around. The pool is a must for tomorrow- I'd seen it before, but I didn't remember exactly how enticing it looked. Perhaps that's because it had been rather chilly out last time I saw it. ;)

And now I am back, still too hyper to actually go to sleep! It's been such a marvelous Disney day! :) I'm on my own here, but I've done WDW on my own before and I still totally enjoy myself. Let's put it this way: I have a 3 day weekend. I could spend it alone at home, or I could spend it going solo to WDW.... gee, tough decision. ;)

I still haven't told my friends I'm here, though my parents know and actually called and left me 2 messages. I'm trying to figure out when to tell my friends (they're mostly online cause we live all over)... but no one has yet asked me about my wknd plans. <shrug>

Is there such a thing as enjoying yourself too much? <vbg>

I am not as hyper today as I was yesterday. But it was another magical Disney day nonetheless. :)  Of course.  :)

I slept in today- which meant getting up at 8am (as opposed to 5am for work and 4:30 to catch my plane the day before). It felt wonderful! :) However, I must say that the hotel rooms here at the BoardWalk Inn could stand to be a little more sound-proof . I could hear people in the halls, and I think it woke me up once (it definitely made it harder to fall asleep) I don't know if it's just because this hotel has more energetic children than usual (usual for the hotels I have visited, that is) or if there really is something lacking in the design of the rooms.

I took the very slow boat to MGM- BoardWalk was the first stop, so it took awhile. But it was a nice ride. I knew that I wouldn't get to do everything today since I also wanted to do EPCOT... maybe that's why I was less hyper- I felt more relaxed about just seeing some highlights, knowing it wouldn't be a comprehensive visit (unlike AK where I wanted to see it all) I've been to MGM and EPCOT many times, and I fully intend to go back to WDW for a more comprehensive visit sometime in the next 12 months.  So, it would be OK if I missed a few things.

I started off by grabbing some much-needed breakfast (I ate outside, which was lovely) and then off to The Great Movie Ride, which had about a 5 minute wait. Then, I hit the Beauty and the Beast stage show (10:30 show which wasn't full), and The Little Mermaid (one of my favorite WDW attractions!) I did Star Tours which had a 10 minute wait- which, surprsingly to me, was longer than any of my CtX waits over at AK. I also had to wiat for Muppetvision- I had to wait in a line outside until the pre-show area cleared. Usually, I've gone straight into the pre-show area. The board had said there was no wait, so I was surprised I didn't get to go right in.

I saved ToT for last. It had been listed as a 45 minute wait earlier, but I noticed only one of the towers was in use- I waited for the 2nd one to be operational. The sign still said it was a 45 minute wait, but it was more like 30-35 minutes, inlcuding the pre-show. I always get so scared the first time I go on ToT if I haven't been to WDW in awhile- I almost chickened out. But I'm so glad I didn't- it was so much fun! As usual.  Once I got over the first small drop with a huge smile on my face, I was fine!  I would have gone on again, but it was too long a wait and I had so much else I wanted to do as well.

I went back to the hotel to go swimming. I went to the main pool which was full of kids- but I had to go on that water slide! I'd wanted to go on it ever since I heard about it. And what fun it was! I especially liked the view from the top of the slide. :) As I was in line, a little kid asked me if I was cold and then advised me it was better to dry off for a bit before you on on the slide. ;) I still was a bit too hyper to stay in one place long, so I soon drifted over to the BoardWalk Bakery and got myself a cheesecake brownie to eat on the boardwalk. :) And then I went over to the quiet pool, which was a little more subdued than the other- and relaxed in the hot tub before taking another dip in the water- I don't think it was heated, as it was cooler than the main pool but pleasant nonetheless. And definitely more relazingt than the main pool area.

After washing up and talking to my mother (who called from Israel when I happened to be in), I went over to Epcot. I barely had any time there, as I go in at 4:30 or 5.  I did some of the rides in future world (I skipped Honey I Shrunk the Audience, even though I love it, because I was getting sick of 3D and I had such limited time). I looked at Test Track- GM has a little display out front with some vehicles. There is also a snack or drink place with a test track theme- it was like a car wash, and at some points water sprayed out and kids had fun with it. They were selling Test Track souvenirs at another place.  Eventually, they may even have a Test Track ride to go with the merchandising.  ;)

The International Flower and Garden Festival was happening at EPCOT.  It isn't really my thing, but it was nice to see some it in passing.

In Horizons, I noticed the orange smell was back- or maybe it hadn't left. But I don't remember it being there last time. Body Wars had a very brief wait-but again, I think it was longer than CtX has been. To give everyone an idea about how compulsive I am about my Laurie Beechman webpage, I checked its guestbook from Innoventions. ;) (and it indeed contained a lovely new entry <vbg>) When I was done with Future World, I headed over to Norway. The Maelstrom was my 2nd longest wait of the trip so far, I think- 20 minutes. Afterwards, I bailed on the film (I've seen it enough, not to mention the fact that I've been to Norway... beautiful country BTW) and headed to get something to eat.

I went to the counter service restaurant in Japan- I hadn't been there in years because if I'm with anyone, they usually don't want to go there. Another advatage to travelling alone! :) I was starved so I had yakitori and a side of udon soup. Then, I got some Japanese snacks in Mitsukoshi. I tried one of them and was thrilled that it tasted like something one of my suitemates in college (I lived in a Japan interest house) used to make. I hadn't eaten it in 6 yrs and had been missing it! So I went back and got 7 more of them (they were $1 each). :) Yummmmmm! :)

By that point, it was time to scope out a spot for Illuminations. I was so picky that it was annoying me. I figured that the more time I spent looking for a spot, the fewer spots would be available. But at 8:30 I found a spot I was happy with- at the railing by the water, in front of Canada. And I did have an excellent view! I've only seen Illuminations a couple times before- a lot of times, I was either too cold or too tired by that point. And, though I already knew I liked the old version better, I greatly enjoyed it! It was magical- just like WDW is about. :)

I really appreciated the fact that I could walk to and from EPCOT from BoardWalk. I've never stayed in walking distance of a park before, and I definitely want to do it again. In fact, I didn't travel on a road at all today, which made me feel completely immersed in WDW. :) I lingered on the BoardWalk a bit- I joined the crowd surrounding a little comedy show that was going on and then I finally came up here because I was tired.

It's been wonderful to be here- such an unexpected treat! I'm not at all looking forward to going home tomorrow night. I'm hoping MK won't have huge lines so I can do as much of it as possible. I've overheard people saying MK had huge lines Friday and I'm sure it had huge lines today (it always doeson Sat.; I've gone there on Saturdays in the off season to see Spectromagic but it wasn't being performed tonite). I'm debating a pre-MK jaunt to AK to see the safari in the morning. :) We'll see if I can drag myself out of bed so early.

I ended up getting up in time to go to AK first thing in the morning. I didn't get an express checkout at BoardWalk because they deliver them by 7am. I pointed out that they should maybe think of delivering them a little earlier since people will want to go to AK at 7am on checkout days. They didn't take to my suggestion. :) (When I worked at a hotel, we had the expresses delivered by 5am- usually a lot earlier)

I got to AK at about 6:50, taking the first bus of the day.  I'd been surprised there hadn't been an earlier bus- I believe the first bus was supposed to come at 6:30.  At any rate, when I arrived, they weren't letting people on the Safari yet, so I went to CtX again. No line. :) I tried to get another cookie dough brownie at Restaurantosaurus but they weren't serving them at breakfast. :(

The ride board on the righthand side as you enter the park (near Dinoland) listed KS at a 30 minute wait even before the ride was open. It still said 30 minutes, but I was rightly skeptical. It was practically a walk on. Moral of the story: don't trust that board! (the one to the left of Tree of Life-toward Camp Minnie Mickey- was generally more accurate) I think I saw somewhat more animals than at the 6pm one I'd taken. But I still preferred that one because of the giraffes- pictured to the left- that had temporarily blocked us. :) I think the experience on the ride is partly random luck. But I'd caution against going mid-day, especially if there is a long line.

I caught Tough to be a Bug again on my way out- it was still very fun. :) One of my favorite parts of that ride is the preshow area, containing posters like the one on the right.  Being a huge lover of broadway shows, I got a kick out of the creative play on words in the posters.  I lingered in the Oasis on my way out, and we saw an animal behind the bushes at one part- I'd also seen some deer near the Tree of Life. I was probably the first person to leave the park (the guy wasn't prepared to give me a handstamp... "Oh, you're leaving?" the CM said incredulously as I stuck my hand out to be stamped). But I wanted to get to MK by the time it opened. It took me 30 minutes or so to get there- you have to transfer to a monorail at the TTC.

I got there at just before 9am and I managed to hear them make the opening announcement.  Then, I headed straight for Space Mountain. About 10-15 minutes worth of people got there ahead of me. ;) I managed to tour the mountains and do Alien Encounter all before 11:30am or so. Not bad. :) When I went on Splash Mountain, it advertised a 25 minute wait (which was more like 30) When I got off, it was already at 45 minutes! I have a theory that MK is always crowded- I hope they will have an E-ticket nite when I go back... that sounds like it would be the coolest thing.

I'd been very hyper all morning, but then I got tired all of a sudden at about noon.... That would be when I was in the new Tiki Room. ;) I could barely keep my eyes open! I wasn't all that thrilled with the old version, but I think I liked it better- it was kitsch. I tried to go on Pirates after that, but the ride broke down while I was in line and I didn't feel like waiting too long (I gave it 5-10 minutes before I left). I'd overheard someone saying that a lot of the rides broke down in MK on Sat; CtX was listed as being temporarily closed when I exited AK. (The souvenir photo thing at CtX hadn't been working well all day Friday. Once I think it missed getting a photo of my vehicle and another time it was totally down... Also on the subject of photos, our Splash Mountain picture was gone from the display practically as soon as we had a chance to get to the exit and take a glimpse at it!)

I knew I coudln't fit in everything. But honestly, I enjoy just wandering around in a Disney park, soaking up atmosphere. I was so glad the castle was back to "normal" (v.s the way they ruined it for the 25th anniversary) though they were doing some work on the moat. I went on a few more rides, saw the parade (always a must! though I was disappointed that it was still the same parade as the 25th, only with a different name), and then at 4pm, I made the fateful decision to go back on Space Mountain as the last ride on my trip (it was that or Haunted Mansion + It's a Small World). During the wait, I convinced a woman not to be so scared of it- and she ended up having a great time ! :) I'm rather glad she was scared, though, because she didn't want the front seat --so it was mine! I'd also sat in front for Splash Mountain-I always get nervous before I go on that one (like with ToT), but then I have a blast!

I was exhausted on the planes home, and got in way too late for getting up at 5am the next morning. But it was all worth it! :) I loved BoardWalk, and I loved staying in that area. And I swear I crammed a week's worth of vacation into 3 days. ;) I was, of course, so sad to go home. But I felt so lucky each moment I had in the most magical place on earth.

And after having been so worn out, sick, and stressed that I barely had energy to get out of bed 2 wknds ago (and for the month or so before that), it was glorious to spend so much time walking around in the sun and smiling. I felt about 10 yrs younger than I am-and I never want to lose that feeling.

I finally told my friends that I went away and I've been seeing how long it takes for them to guess where. hee hee. :) It's ranged from a first guess to a whole string of guesses plus hints to think of a "popular vacation destination" and- when that didn't work- to "think rodents".... and finally "think of a famous rodent" :)