Author Archives: Steve

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

It does!  I think the last update I made to this blog was last year!  There’s a reason for that, although mostly I’ve been kind of lazy, a common problem that many people will recognize.  But i also haven’t had much to write about, and that can be a common problem too.  But now, I have something to write about.  Callie is graduating from college, and as a graduation present (self serving, I admit), we’re going to Disney World.  If you’ve read this before you know that WDW is one of my favorite vacation destinations, and I would add that there are certain times of the year when WDW is a little more special than usual.

When you think about seasons that would lend themselves to WDW festivities, there are some that are unique to Disney, like Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, which is a hoot if you like landscaping and exotic flowers, topiary, etc. (doing this or looking at it, either way).  I’ve been to Epcot for this uniquely Epcot festival, and it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a gardener or just like looking at gardens–which is okay, right–no judgement!

Christmas is a FANTASTIC time to visit WDW, although the last two weeks of the year are among the busiest of the year, and although Disney ramps up big time to deal with the crowds, you’ll rarely see bigger crowds at Walt Disney World than you will those last two weeks.  Some good news about this, Disney generally starts decorating for Christmas in the first two weeks of November, so you can enjoy Christmas cheer just a couple of weeks into November, and the crowds aren’t as intense then.

Incidentally, you might not change your vacation plans based on crowds, but it’s always good to know what you’re getting into.  A really useful website is, where you can look at the crowd level at several parks in the Orlando area, even a couple that begin with ‘U’ for Underachiever….  Another good one is at, which has not only crowd calendars but lots of other good information on planning your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation.

To get back to the original subject of WDW seasons, they put on a really fun Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom in October/November (maybe a couple of days into Nov).  Epcot has their Food and Wine Festival in the fall, which overlaps the Halloween festivities at the Magic Kingdom.

Taking these grossly out of order, then in the spring, in addition to the Epcot Flower and Garden festival, they have some running events, like the Princess Half Marathon Weekend, and they start their Star Wars Weekends which continue into summer.  For summer they have their Sounds Like Summer concert series, and of course–it’s summer!  So the park can get busy with families on summer vacation.  One thing that is I believe to be true, that is also kind of a consolation for those really busy days is that generally the busier the park, the more entertainment and special events you’ll see in the parks.  Going on those fall days when you can’t see another guest anywhere can be fun, but you won’t see much live entertainment, and parade schedules and shows are generally cut back when they know business will be slow.

So in case you wonder what the point of all this is, we’re going to WDW for Halloween!  It’s about the only time and place where adults can get away with trick-or-treating, so I’m in!  Nancy is going, and we’re meeting Paula and Bob, and we’re feeling extra lucky because Paula’s daughter Donna and her family are coming up for a couple of days, so we’ll get to see family that we see occasionally and love to see whenever we can, and in the case of Donna and her clan, it’ll really be extra special since they don’t live in Orlando and so we don’t get to see them nearly as often.  Anyway, it’s all very cool and fun and exciting!

So i’m warning you, I’ll post again in a few days and start talking about our planning process for WDW.  Everyone probably approaches this differently, but you really HAVE TO plan to avoid disappointment and frustration.  You don’t have to be crazy about it, but you need some idea of what you want to get out of the trip, and how you’re going to do that.  So strictly for Callie and I, I’ll show you all of our tricks, original old-time tricks, and new tricks we’ve stolen from smart friends, that allow us to plan WDW vacations the way we like to do it.  If you see something you like, feel free to use it, and if you think the whole process is crazy and overkill, well, point that out in the comments!

Disney Studios

We hit the park fairly early, but not early enough to avoid a few thousand of our closest friends, seen below:


We rode a lot of rides, of course. In particular we went on Star Tours not once, not twice, but eight times! The ride is computer-randomized, so we only saw a little bit of overlapping plot, and what the neck, it was fun!

And it wasn’t always this busy, but I love this picture because the line was so long they had to have a guy hold a sign to show where the fast-pass line was!


And we ran into this guy a LOT:


We also saw a couple of shows we enjoyed, one old favourite and one new show that really wowed both of us. First the old favourite–Callie and I have both seen professional Broadway-style productions of Beauty and the Beast but none that we have liked as well as the 30-minute version they have performed at the Disney Studios Park for years. Some really fun musical entertainment done as professionally as you could possibly imagine!



And the other show was called The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but this is a simple and close-up show performed for a small audience but it is pure MAGIC, and kids and adults will love it and that’s all I’m gonna say…

You may have heard of a little movie called Frozen. Some studio made that, who was it?. Let’s see… Well never mind. We tried to get into the Frozen sing-along but apparently the entire population of Manhattan (not Kansas) had the same idea at the same time!. BTW, they are doing a little Frozen merchandising at Disney…..


And they are even RATIONING Frozen merchandise!. Glad I got my Olaf early!



Any trip doesn’t really seem real to me until you’re on the airplane and headed out, or in the car driving down the road or doing something else that makes it seem more like you’re actually underway, and of course we finally got to that point today!

And now in the Orlando airport we realize that we’re not in Kansas any more! Okay to be fair we never were, but we did have the fun of leaving 50° weather and get into some of the 70° weather (at 9 o’clock at night) that is just reassuring in that we will probably won’t have to be chipping any ice during this trip! Here is a view of the Orlando terminal-



So we get to the hotel and what’s the first thing we do? wait for it… Can you guess? Of course we eat! After all, that’s what you do! Right? Hmmm, well anyway…


image image image


And of course if you’re staying at the port Orleans resort at Disney or anywhere else south of the Arkansas border I suppose you have to try a beignet! and they’re pretty good, or at least one of those things that helps you realize that you’re finally on vacation and eating food that you would never eat at home



So tomorrow is Disney Studios we have a pretty full day planned so we’ll see if we’re up to the pace of our usual Disney adventure- I’m sure it’ll be a great day



Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Ok, this is likely the best ride I’ve experienced anywhere, no matter how you rate it. Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel through the front gate. Guests may notice that the cast members (dressed as bellhops) are very solemn and ominous. Throughout the entire queue area in most parks, typical 1930s jazz music can be heard, hauntingly echoing through a cracked, serpentine pathway which leads to the hotel proper. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel, past signs pointing to the stables, bowling green, tennis courts and swimming pools. The queue meanders to the west of the hotel entrance, past disheveled and crumbling statuary and a vine-covered pavilion. Eventually it leads to the lobby from the left. Inside the doors, the Hollywood Tower Hotel appears frozen in time, everything in it draped in decades’ worth of dust and decay. There is a yellowed copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases abandoned near the front desk, a long-extinguished fireplace, an unfinished game of Mahjong at a table accompanied by a few rancid cocktails, a concierge desk with a hat and cane left behind,a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers acting as the centerpiece of the lobby, and what appears to be an elegant couple’s dinner, with the last bottle of champange still unopened.

Behind the front desk is the elevators, one of which its sliding doors partially detached from their grooves. A sign in front of the elevator still reads “Out of Order.” Everything in the hotel has apparently been preserved and left undisturbed ever since it closed that fateful night all those years ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready, in the meantime, guests are ushered into the hotel library. The library is home to not only books, but also the hotel’s collection of antiques and exotic curiosities, an old television set, and various pieces of Twilight Zone memorabilia scattered about the room. Through the window, guests may observe a fierce thunderstorm raging outside.

With a bolt of lightning the power suddenly goes out, save for the television which crackles into life, apparently of its own accord. The opening sequence of Season 4 of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly “lost” episode hosted by Rod Serling. Serling fills in some of the blanks regarding the closure of the Hollywood Tower Hotel back in 1939. The episode shows the hotel on that night all those years ago. A ferocious thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where four guests accompanied by a hotel bellhop board the elevator. The elevator ascends normally at first, but then lightning strikes the hotel, causing an entire wing and the guests to vanish Bringing the episode back to the present, Serling comments the particular evening’s weather is eerily similar to the one on the night the five people disappeared. He also refers to the one elevator in the hotel still in working condition, which is the maintenance service elevator located in the basement boiler room. He invites the guests, if they dare, to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The television then shuts off and is followed by a brief moment of darkness.
With that, a back exit from the library opens. The guests exit into and move through the boiler room, past quietly humming boilers, furnaces and engines, at the end of which they are placed upon a row to stand on a marker of their choice, awaiting the service elevator’s arrival. This is the idea:

There seemed to be quite a number of gaily attired hotel guests the day we were there…


But we waited in line anyhow…


Our library bellhop, Elizabeth was particularly scary and added greatly to the sense of foreboding leading up to the ride.


The technical workings of the ride are phenomenal–The ride system of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios employs specialized technology developed specifically for Disney, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cabs are self-propelled automated ride vehicles, termed “AGV” for autonomous guided vehicle, which lock into separate vertical motion cabs. The cabs can move into and out of elevators horizontally, move through the “Fifth Dimension” scene, and on to the drop shaft.
In order to achieve the weightless effect the Imagineers desired, cables attached to the bottom of the elevator car pull it down at a speed slightly faster than what a free-fall in gravity would provide. Two enormous motors are located at the top of the tower. The motors are 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, 35 feet (11 m) long, and weigh 132,000 pounds. They are able to accelerate 10 tons at 15 times the speed of normal elevators. They generate torque equal to that of 275 Corvette engines and reach top speeds in 1.5 seconds.
After the elevator cab has completed the ride, it propels itself to the unload dock and then back to the show shaft. The ride exceeds 30 mph VERTICALLY. You really need seat belts for this ride!

Walking Around Disney’s Hollywood Studios

One of the pleasures of vacationing at WDW if you can get off the fast pass treadmill for. A few minutes is just wandering around the parks. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there is quite an unbelievable variety of places to go! Here’s a very un-December scenes from what? Sunset and Vine?


And here’s Callie on some New York street or another…


And here’s some goober standing near a peculiar fountain filled with Muppets!


And I don’t know where this is, but you know it’s gotta be Disney because there are people actually cleaning the streets! What the what?

So we had a blast checking out the park, which is really a big part of the fun.

The Great Movie Ride

This is, as we’ve seen, the starting point for the entire park, but I hear rumors occasionally of a refurb or elimination of this ride, which would be a shame from my point of view. Maybe an update here and there, but don’t take a wrecking ball to it!







Really a boffo bit of fun! Hooray for Hollywood!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Is that the right name? That’s an interesting story.


In 1985, Disney and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer entered into a licensing contract that gave Disney worldwide rights to use the MGM name and logo for what would become Disney-MGM Studios, which included working production facilities for movies and television shows and a satellite animation studio, which began operation prior to the park’s debut. In 1988, MGM/UA responded by filing a lawsuit that claimed Disney violated the agreement by operating a working movie and television studio at the resort. On May 1, 1989, the theme park opened adjacent to the production facilities, with MGM’s only affiliation being the original licensing agreement that allowed Disney to use the brand name and lion logo in marketing, and separate contracts that allowed specific MGM content to be used in The Great Movie Ride.
Disney later filed a countersuit, claiming that MGM/UA and MGM Grand, Inc. had conspired to violate Disney’s worldwide rights to the MGM name in the theme park business and that MGM/UA would harm Disney’s reputation by building its own theme park at the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. On October 23, 1992, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe ruled that Disney had the right to continue using the Disney-MGM Studios name on film product produced at the Florida facility, and that MGM Grand had the right to build a Las Vegas theme park using the MGM name and logo as long as it did not share the same studio backlot theme as Disney’s property. The 33-acre MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park opened in 1993 at the Las Vegas site and closed permanently in 2000.
Disney was contractually prohibited from using the Disney-MGM Studios name in certain marketing contexts; in those instances, the park was called The Disney Studios.
On August 9, 2007, Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced that Disney-MGM Studios would be re-branded as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, effective January 7, 2008, saying, “the new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today’s Hollywood has to offer—in music, television, movies and theater.” So I had it right, whew!



So the park that started as a concept to build a Great Movie Ride at EPCOT became one of the most entertaining properties at WDW, called Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And I know we had fun there!


Dole Whip

Yes, we stopped for a famous Dole Whip at the Polynesian (no lines). It, along with the pulled pork sandwich and Asian slaw was worth the trip!



I forgot to mention the ginger black cherry scone! Delicious!

So, Merry Christmas from Disney’s Polynesian Resort!