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Photo TR: The Kiwis Do Texas Midwest 2013


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Glad you enjoyed your visit to Seaworld Orlando. I liked the park as well on my first visit. Yall really did hit up like all the big parks on this trip.


We sure did. Between this and previous trips we've covered much of the country (still have some big omissions to attend to though!).


Thanks for your comments all.

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  • 3 weeks later...

A new year, and the TR goes on, bringing us to the Disney portion of our trip. We decided to do Walt Disney World Resort in style, staying with friends from back home at Disney's amazing Polynesian Resort. I am a fan of all things Tiki Modern, so the resort really worked for me in more ways than one. It was an absolutely gorgeous and relaxing place to stay - obviously so close to the parks - but expensive! I was also surprised to find the bar closed so early. I was ready to spend a fortune on tropical cocktails, but there weren't too many punters hitting the bar, so I'm guessing the resort is mostly a destination for families with kids... Well, duh... But can anyone tell me if there is a more 'adult'-oriented resort at Disney World? Something a little more 'late night'?


Anyway, after spending too much time enjoying everything else on offer at Disney's Polynesian Resort we completely messed up our first Disney park day - Epcot. We arrived around midday and that was our first big mistake. I had forgotten that you really have to HUSTLE the Disney parks to have a more thorough, enjoyable day. It seems that there is no longer any time of the year when the Disney World Resort parks are quiet and you have to go in expecting big crowds each and every time. You then have to RUN to the most popular ride first, then fastpass and fastpass again until you've hit up the most popular attractions before all the fastpasses run out (and they will).


I had also completely forgotten that it rains in Florida every day without fail, usually around 3-4pm. The tropical thunderstorms usually pass pretty quickly, but they will inevitably close certain rides, such as Test Track. And sometimes, as on the day of our Epcot visit, the thunderstorms won't pass as quickly as you might like... For us that equalled a two hour wait to get ONE ride in on Test Track. Bloody hell!


Despite totally messing up our Epcot visit, I did enjoy the park. It was beautiful, and it had some great attractions. I was even able to overlook the two hour wait for Test Track as the ride really delivered a very fun experience. In Future World, Mission: SPACE and Spaceship Earth were other highlights, and I was very surprised by Universe of Energy: Ellen's Energy Adventure. We all groaned when they annouced the 45 minute ride time, but I loved the experience of the theatre seats elaborately moving through the various scenes - which was kind of like the Carousel of Progress on acid. Alright, so everyone else in my party fell asleep, but I couldn't get over how the moving theatre worked!


Walking around the World Showcase we briefly sampled the various areas before getting rained out. Epcot is definitely a theme park experience I will have to repeat in the near future. I was very interested to sample more food (and alcohol!), give some of those rare Circle-Vision 360° movies a try (I'm fascinated by this old fashioned innovation), and check out some more of the Future World pavilions, but we simply ran out of time.


We did catch the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show, which was spectacular, but before it had even ended we hustled our way back to the monorail to beat the insane crowds. By our next park - the Magic Kingdom - we had learned our lesson and ended up having a very full day there. But lesson learned at Epcot: If you're an international visitor with one day to do a Disney park, you have to work a little harder to make it a successful visit.


This is the sight that greets you as you enter Disney's Polynesian Resort, opened 1971. It's pretty amazing!


We stayed in the 'Aotearoa' longhouse (that's the Maori name for New Zealand, an unfortunate coincidence...).


I am a fan of Tiki Modern and wanted to steal so many things.


Some of this furniture would look great in my house.


The resort is right on the lagoon - just across is the Magic Kingdom, a short monorail ride away, with a station by the hotel entrance.


The resort had a beautiful outdoor pool!


Speaking of the monorail, we went all the way around the lagoon and southwards to Epcot.


We'll get to you tomorrow Magic Kingdom...


A view of the best Space Mountain of them all (because it's two credits!).


The monorail cuts straight through Disney's Contemporary Resort.


Nice mural.


The monorail finally reaches Epcot and runs around Future World. Here's a view of Test Track from above.


Looking out over to the World Showcase.


I loved the retro vibe of the place straight away.


The Seas with Nemo and Friends.


And here's the amazing Spaceship Earth. Hard to believe there's a ride inside this thing...


For the rest of our Florida trip we were joined by some good friends from back home, Kevin and Craig!


I don't like the look of those clouds one little bit...


First up we rode Mission: SPACE which is basically a giant centrifuge with fantastic motion simulation effects.


The queue was great too.


Very 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Of course we did the 'intense' version of the ride, and holy crap did we feel those G forces!


I was looking forward to Spaceship Earth, which is now narrated by the lovely Judi Dench.


Mural outside.


Spaceship Earth uses Disney's Omnimover system, which works except when people are too stupid to get on the damn ride in a timely fashion!


From the neanderthals to the Phoenicians...


...the Middle Ages to the Renaissance...


And into my favourite period - the mid-century, where everything's retro!


I love that episode of the Simpsons when Marge describes a "World of Tomorrow" ride - "what the people in 1965 thought the world would be like in 1987"! I was kind of getting that vibe here...


We thought it might be time to check out the rest of the park before those ominous clouds turned into rain.


I love these old school buildings!


It was looking increasingly stormy over the World Showcase.


But we made it to Mexico.


I thought this was a good pavilion showcasing the country.


This reminded me a little of the Blue Bayou Restaurant inside Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.


While we were here we gave the Gran Fiesta Tour a whirl...


I've never seen The Three Caballeros, and I'm not sure I will ever get round to it!


Alcohol is everywhere at Epcot, which is a good thing for lushes like me.


Not the first - and certainly not the last - mobility scooter we saw in Florida...


Argh, those clouds!


The beautiful Norway Pavilion.


I do believe there's a log flume here. Cue the inner log flume enthusiast!


Maelstrom was okay, but there's wasn't much 'fluming' - it was more of a boat tour with a fun backwards section.


The gate outside the China Pavilion.


I believe this is where one of the park's Circle-Vision 360° movies is located. These shows are disappearing fast so I was disappointed to miss it!


The Germany Pavilion.


They had some great architecture here.


But none more so than the Italy Pavilion. We really needed more time to explore the World Showcase...


But the rains finally came, and then some...


America gave us shelter!


We weren't planning to eat at the American Adventure, but the weather swayed our decision. I have to say the food was awesome (and came with a show!).


The park got quite a soaking.


Unfortunately we left our TPR ponchos at home.


Seriously, it looks like a hurricane has blown through!


We decided to try something indoors. So why not ride Universe of Energy: Ellen's Energy Adventure...


What do you mean it takes 45 minutes?!


I loved it! (And it helped that I managed to stay awake!)


It was finally dry enough for Test Track to re-open.


We sucked it up and got in the stand-by queue.


A bit of themeing.


The wait was long... Plenty of time to check out Facebook...


Did I mention I hate waiting in queues for anything whatsoever?




But you know what, Test Track was awesome!


By the time we finally emerged it was nighttime.


Time for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.


It was a spectacular show.


We had fun taking photos.


The huge rotating globe was particularly impressive.


We decided to leave before the end of the show to beat the massive rush to the monorail...


Oh Epcot, I will be back to visit again soon... I didn't sample anywhere near enough craft beers today.


Next up: Hustling the Magic Kingdom!

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What a shame that you only had a little time for Epcot. It still looks like you guys had fun, but that's a park that needs to be taken at a slow pace and just enjoyed. Hopefully you get back for Food and Wine sometime, because, correct me if I'm wrong... I think you and Andrew like to drink alcohol...

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What a shame that you only had a little time for Epcot. It still looks like you guys had fun, but that's a park that needs to be taken at a slow pace and just enjoyed. Hopefully you get back for Food and Wine sometime, because, correct me if I'm wrong... I think you and Andrew like to drink alcohol...


Yes we do Thad! I will definitely get back to Epcot sometime soon and give it a few days if I can. The Food and Wine Festival would be great!

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Matt, try one of the resorts in the Boardwalk area next time. I'm partial to Boardwalk, but Yacht & Beach also skew a bit older due to convention traffic and proximity to Epcot instead of Magic Kingdom. Certainly a lot more late night venues in that area as well.

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Matt, try one of the resorts in the Boardwalk area next time. I'm partial to Boardwalk, but Yacht & Beach also skew a bit older due to convention traffic and proximity to Epcot instead of Magic Kingdom. Certainly a lot more late night venues in that area as well.


Thanks for the advice Elissa, that sounds ideal!

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I was very surprised by Universe of Energy: Ellen's Energy Adventure. We all groaned when they annouced the 45 minute ride time, but I loved the experience of the theatre seats elaborately moving through the various scenes - which was kind of like the Carousel of Progress on acid. Alright, so everyone else in my party fell asleep, but I couldn't get over how the moving theatre worked!

I can't tell if you're just very behind the times, or just that gay, but I would hardly say this ride is anything more than a great place to take a mid-day nap and escape the hot, hot sun. But hey, gotta have the love for Ellen's Big Gay Energy Ride.


I was looking forward to Spaceship Earth, which is now narrated by the lovely Judi Dench

Ehem... it's the lovely DAME Judi Dench.


Clearly I joke.

Please come back to Florida! I miss you guys!

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Another great update! Sorry about the weather there -- that's Florida in the summer for you.


I never cared to spend that much time at Epcot when I was younger, but the last time I was at Disney World (2012), I realized I was actually kind of interested in the "other half" of the park (World Showcase). It's definitely worth budgeting extra time for . Glad you got to see most of Illuminations too -- probably my favorite night show at any park.

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Awesome report. I really like Epcot, especially during the Food and Wine festival. Also the shops at the World Show Case are really great. I could spend a whole day at those shops.

I also liked the Ellen ride. I was fascinated by the ride system and during the complete ride I too was trying to figure out how it works.

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I also liked the Ellen ride. I was fascinated by the ride system and during the complete ride I too was trying to figure out how it works.


The ride system is the most interesting thing about Ellen's Energy Adventure.

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I also liked the Ellen ride. I was fascinated by the ride system and during the complete ride I too was trying to figure out how it works.


Haha, so now you are glad I made you sit through that preshow!


Epcot is an amazing park and I realy need to get back there when I get the chance.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Next up on our Florida sojourn was the one and only Magic Kingdom, the world's most visited theme park. After a mistimed trip to Epcot, we were determined to do the Magic Kingdom right, and arrived before opening, ran straight to Space Mountain, immediately re-rode, then fast passed our way around the park.


It made all the difference. Our day was very full...but relaxing. Once we knew we'd grabbed our fast passes for the next ride we could wander around and enjoy the park, just thinking slightly ahead about what we wanted to fast pass next. Simple really, but you DO have to think about it and hustle if you've only got a one-day visit planned.


I was last at the Magic Kingdom in 2008 and could detect quite a few improvements. Fantasyland, which seemed a bit disjointed then, has expanded and I look forward to seeing how New Fantasyland continues to unfold. We rode Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid and ate at the Be Our Guest Restaurant, which was 'quick service' but pretty good. I also thought Storybook Circus was a good improvement over Mickey's Toontown Fair - it really seemed a better fit for the park.


We enjoyed other perennial favourites like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, and so on. Some of these rides are just ageless. Take Splash Mountain for example, based on Song of the South. Disney won't even release the film, but the ride brings the characters to life, fuses it with memorable tunes and a really fun and inventive flume layout. It makes for an awesome overall family experience and reminds me why Disney are so successful with their theme parks.


As with Epcot (and every day in Florida!) there were thunderstorms around 3-4pm, but we took shelter and rode a few indoor rides before heading back outside.


Quick question about Space Mountain: Apparently both sides of the ride have the same top speed (27 mph) but I felt one (Omega) was a bit more intense than the other. Have I just been fooled by the Imagineers?


Anyway, onto the photos, and thanks for following along our journeys. I'll try to do the next update a little quicker!


Day 2 at Walt Disney World Resort was the Magic Kingdom, accessible by a quick monorail ride from our hotel, Disney's fabulous Polynesian Resort.


This really is a great way to travel. Why haven't monorails caught on?!


Looking over to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.


It's great to be back at the Magic Kingdom. My last - and only visit - was in 2008.


Main Street, U.S.A. really is quite beautiful.


The postcard shot.


I think Cinderella Castle is my favourite Disney castle. It's certainly the most iconic.


Space Mountain is still the Magic Kingdom's most popular attraction, so we raced over there first.


It's a still a great ride. And two credits are always a bonus. But is one side more intense than the other?


The Tomorrowland Speedway...we didn't take a spin today.


Most popular ride conquered, twice! It's going to be a great day.


I always thought this corner of the park was quite pretty and peaceful.


We were on a mission to conquer another popular attraction...


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!


View from the queue, which was already pretty full.


Big Thunder is a really fun coaster, showcasing what good themeing can do for a ride.


There are so many details that are easy to miss!


We wandered through Liberty Square, a themed area unique to the Magic Kingdom.


I experienced the Hall of Presidents during the Bush era, so this was a "no thanks" from me!


When I was last here, the Rapunzel/Tangled Tower was the old Fantasyland Skyway station.


I have to say, I do prefer the Disneyland It's a Small World facade.


But the rest of 'old' Fantasyland still looks fantastic.


This view is a little different now. I'm intrigued by Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!


We decided to have an early lunch and try out the Be Our Guest Restaurant, themed to Beauty and the Beast. I liked how they handed out umbrellas to people queueing in the heat.


The interior was gorgeous.


The food was pretty good too. I tried the nicoise salad (mostly for the sake of having something healthy at a theme park for once!).


The interior of the Be Our Guest Restaurant consists of a ballroom...


...with a slightly nicer decor than a Cedar Fair/Six Flags Johnny Rockets...


The West Wing where the rose is kept...


And the gallery with the music box featuring Belle and Beast.


Nearby is Gaston's Tavern.


We queued for Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid.


I thought it was a particularly good queue, and I hate queues!


Lots of details to enjoy while you wait.


The ride featured Disney's Omnimover vehicles.


It was a colourful dark ride...


In the original Hans Christian Andersen story, the Little Mermaid goes through excruciating pain in order to become a human...


The original tale also has a tragic ending, but all of that is absent here!


Moving on, we had lots more to see...


I love how to get to Tom Sawyer Island, you have travel by raft.


We came back to Frontierland to ride Splash Mountain!


It was a great ride, as in all its incarnations.


The themeing inside is second to none. And who doesn't love Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah? (Well, maybe except when the logs get delayed at the station and you have to hear it over and over again!)


We got a little wet!


This corner of the park does get rather bottlenecked...


We decided to watch the Country Bear Jamboree, a show I had never seen.


I enjoy anything with singing audio-animatronics!


Definitely a classic attraction.


We rode the Haunted Mansion next. I prefer Disneyland's New Orleans/old plantation mansion, but the Magic Kingdom's Dutch Gothic style makes for an amazing show building too.


Again, the queue is just awesome.


There is lots to see and interact with.


The stretching room...


The great thing about the Haunted Mansion is that even with an enormous queue, you will likely get on in short order, due to Disney's amazing Omnimover system. Also, it's a really fun ride!


Next up was Adventureland, where I paid my respects to the Enchanted Tiki Room.


I LOVE Tiki Modern! Walt was a man of good taste!


Pirates of the Caribbean is another Disney ride that can handle even enormous queues.


Ahh! Stroller overload!!


Pirates was as good as ever.


Can I just say though: F**k all those complainers who made Disney censor the ride and modify their overweight wenches.


The truly classic moment remains unchanged.


I will say I think Disney have done a good job incorporating the Pirates of the Caribbean feature films.


Around the corner from Pirates is another favourite where we bumped into Gary aka TPR's own carolinacaniac turned Jungle Cruise skipper! Hi Gary!


Our skipper was a particularly funny girl who was also quite bitchy. We got bossed good!


I love inanimate animals.


Another classic Disney scene.


The Jungle Cruise is a nice diversion.


Silly but fun.


Exotic Adventureland.


The Magic Carpets of Aladdin looks nice, but I've always thought it's a bit 'Dumbo, mark 2'.


One thing I had never done was the Swiss Family Treehouse.


I hadn't seen Swiss Family Robinson either until quite recently. There was a lot of very inappropriate animal racing going on - elephants, ostriches, zebras, you name it!


The 'ride' was hilarious. It was basically a very long queue.


But the themeing, as always, was great.


I thought this was a nice, unique attraction.


Beautiful building back over on Main Street.


Main Street is definitely worth exploring.


We sampled some food.


The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor had some nice offerings.


Gorgeous structures everywhere you turn.


We decided to wander back to the front of the park to ride the train...


It passed right by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Again, the details in the themeing are just amazing.


The train takes you through various scenes...


Some of a cultural nature...


When our train arrived in the Storybook Circus area, Florida decided to pour down upon us once more, so we looked for some indoor attractions.


Getting to them was a bit of a challenge.




Wet and a little tired, we had to give Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress a spin.


Personally, I enjoy this attraction, mostly because of the retro value.


I also enjoyed the PeopleMover ride, but I'm still not quite sure why?


The rain subsided enough for us to look around the Storybook Circus.


I preferred this over Mickey's Toontown Fair.


The credit is still here.


And I didn't get it last time!




Our Kiwi friends Kevin and Craig went for a ride on Dumbo.


Another iconic Disney attraction, much replicated around the world.


The man and the mouse.


What a day.


Thanks for reading. Next up: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in One Day.

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