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Got back from a few days at Walt Disney World. Mostly so that Kate could run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon, in which you run through the various parks ending up at EPCOT. She did, and shaved 10 minutes off her previous half-marathon time.

Then we proceeded to blast through the parks.

EPCOT. We love EPCOT. We love the boat cruise through Mexico (it’s The Three Caballeros), we rode the Maelstrom ride at the Norway pavilion (and watched the film afterwards – judging from the fashion and computers, the film hasn’t been updated since the 1980s), and ate at the Akerhus Banquet Hall (fish, fish, and more fish. Also gjetost, the peanut butter of cheeses.). And rode Soarin’ -- the greatest motion simulator ride of all time (Or is it? See below), where you hang-glide over California. The OMNIMAX screen wraps not only around you, but UNDER YOU.

Disney Hollywood. The big deals here are the new Star Tours ride and Toy Story Midway Mania. With Star Tours, it's never the same ride twice because the films you see are randomly shuffled through a variety of elements to fill four plot beats. Both times we crashed on Hoth in the middle of the AT-AT attack and ended up going through the asteroid field and the uncompleted Death Star. We had differing opening scenes and different emergency transmissions. I was happy because I’d rather see these Original Trilogy events than, say, a podrace from The Phantom Menace. Toy Story Midway Mania is another ride with 3D visuals. Here you play a bunch of old-style carnival midway games like ring toss and knocking things over with balls…but you’re shooting from the gun on your car “into” the virtual world that goes by on the screen. Would make a great home video game.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure. There is only one reason to go here and that's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We were there on a Tuesday in February. I can not imagine what it would be like at the height of summer. Yep, crowded. Which only underscores the importance of getting to all of these parks an hour before they open. We were able to hit all the big rides right off the bat, have a snack, and go a second time before we had to wait in any sort of line. The constructed Hogsmead village is truly brilliant, and Hogwarts Castle is fantastic. The ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is the most sophisticated ride on the planet. You are locked into a seat on a robot arm that creates actual motion (including shifting you 90 degrees onto your back) as well as viewing the standard IMAX images that flow around you. You fly through Howarts, the forest, a quidditch game… It really shakes and turns you. Not recommended for the weak of stomach. I still prefer Soarin'.

Magic Kingdom. For February 29th, leap year, the MK was open 24 hours. 6 AM on the 29th to 6 AM on March 1st. We got there at 6:30, and proceeded to just walk on to any ride you care to mention. Space Mountain, Peter Pan . . . all the biggies. I liked seeing the folks who made a special trip of it. The two teen girls in t-shirts reading something like: "Becky and Hannah. The Challenge: Ride Space Mountain 24 Times in 24 Hours.” Or the family I saw taking a picture in line at the Haunted Mansion. It was at 9 AM, and one of the kids held up a sign reading 9:00 while another took a picture. My guess is they were posting hourly updates on Facebook or something. Cool.

It looks like the time to go the MK is going to be next year. Fantasyland is being expanded to include a Little Mermaid ride and a very long Seven Dwarfs mine ride. Dumbo is being expanded to two Dumbo rides running simultaneously in a new circus-themed land.

See you real soon.




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