Part XV: Coast-to-Coast Disney Trip Report
The next morning was another early one with the Destination D events beginning promptly at 9:30 am. Since we had purchased a refillable mug, I was going to get as much use out of it as possible, so I headed to the food court with it.
Of course, what would a trip to the food court be without taking the camera to snap some photos along the way?! (I hope you all aren’t fed up with All Star Movies photos yet!)
Those of you who follow our exploits may recall my rather scathing review of D23’s Magic & Merriment Christmas event. After that event, I sent a similar scathing survey response to D23 in which I informed the club that I would not be renewing my membership due to the quality of the event, which meant that I would not be attending the Destination D event.
Despite this, when we saw the schedule for Destination D, it was difficult to resist. We did initially, fearing it would be a diluted version of the California event by the same name from 2010. However, as time wore on, we eventually became more and more receptive to the idea of attending Destination D.
After much deliberation and second-guessing, we ultimately decided to do Destination D when Henry told us we should (yeah, that’s really all the prodding we need). We figured we could always skip the seminars if they turned out to be disappointing, but we couldn’t go back in time and attend the events if we decided not to go, and reports came back that they were exceptional. Basically, we erred on the side of not missing something special.
In one word, Destination D was flawless (to us).
We were fairly tired from the late closing the previous night and probably still “catching up” (Sarah and I have a running debate as to whether it’s possible to catch up on sleep; I think it’s possible to a degree, over maybe a 2-3 day period, but if you don’t get any sleep on a Monday, you can’t catch up on that sleep on the following Friday) on rest from the grueling Scavenger Hunt, so we didn’t make it out right on time the next morning. This wasn’t too big of a concern, as the first segment was just a “welcome.” We knew that wouldn’t be too exciting.
Still, we wanted to be there if possible. When we arrived at the bus stop for the Magic Kingdom at 9:10 and the line was already at least one bus deep and we questioned whether we’d make it on the first bus that came, we waited a bit before I went and looked for a taxi. Right as I left, a bus showed up, so we opted to take it. We finally arrived at the Contemporary at 9:45, right in time for the meat of the wrap up of the opening seminar by Steven Clark, head of D23.
As we quietly walked in, we noticed that we were pretty much stuck in the nosebleed section. Not a big deal to us, as we planned on treating the presentations pretty lightheartedly. If it felt too much like a boring conference, we’d leave and head to the Magic Kingdom for a few hours.
Right as we sat down, Steven Clark introduced the first Disney Ambassador (I don’t remember her name), who worked in the Walt Disney World preview center while the Resort was being built. She reflected on some of her experiences, and her love for Disney. Her stories were neat, and the short segment was the perfect allotment for them.
The next presentation was called “Weird Disney.” I didn’t really have high expectations for this one, but it really floored me. It was by Becky Cline and Paul Anderson. We had met Becky previously at D23’s Magic & Merriment, but we didn’t realize just how passionate she was about Disney at that time. It was abundantly clear from this presentation.
The first thirty minutes or so of the presentation were entirely about Disneyland. Near the beginning of this segment, Henry & Kate showed up, and sat next to us. Henry later told me that everything from the Disneyland segment was recycled from Disneyland’s 55th Anniversary event, but to be fair, Disneyland did play a prominent role in Walt Disney World’s development. Plus, the Disneyland stuff was pretty outrageous. I can’t believe some of the things Walt let pass as “characters.” The Alice in Wonderland costumes (more like Donnie Darko!) were especially weird!
Once it got to the Walt Disney World portion of the presentation, the ‘weirdness’ essentially revolved around people wearing ridiculous 80s outfits. Oh, and they were ridiculous! Other aspects of the presentation ranged from a “baby” New Year at Disneyland, Ninja Turtles and Ernest at the Studios, terrifying SpectroMagic dolls, crazy EPCOT Center costumes, the Astuter Computer Revue, and many other things.
However, by far, the weirdest thing out of all was this extended advertising video for Grad Nights that was probably from the late 1970s. The video featured two guitarists dressed like…I don’t know…Peter Pan imitators, maybe, walking around strumming on their guitars as they played folksy music about Grad Nights. Weird doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Becky and Paul ended the presentation by attempting to give-away several different things they found on the grounds of the Contemporary (they were quite hilarious!), before Paul came out totally adorned with Kitchen Kaberat toys.
Yep, they are certainly geeks just like us. I could go on and on about this segment, but I’m sure the jokes don’t work quite as well ex post facto. It was definitely one of those “you had to be there” type presentations. It really was reassuring how they had no problem being frank, genuinely interested in their topic, and willing to poke fun at Walt Disney World. It was a nice departure from some of the people in Team Disney Orlando. This presentation could have lasted 4 hours and I think I would have been on the edge of my seat the entire time. Luckily, “weird Disney” seemed to be a theme that permeated the entire weekend, so we saw plenty of weird after this presentation was over.
Dave Smith was next up, showcasing the development of EPCOT Center and the Magic Kingdom from construction to opening. About 10 minutes into this presentation, Tony Baxter showed up and sat five seats away from me (yes, I counted). I guess there was some benefit to us showing up late and getting stuck with seats in the back!
As the segment continued, Dave began showing photos of extinction attractions, while pausing for applause. The audience took this cue, and began applauding to certain portions. Tony Baxter participated in this, and I kept one eye on him the entire time as he applauded–or didn’t applaud–for certain attractions. For those interested, based on his applause, it seems The Living Seas is his all-time favorite Walt Disney World attraction. You know, based on my highly scientific applause-reading.
All of this audience participation really was fun, and added some character to the presentation. Dave Smith is an awesome, awesome man, but he’s definitely not the most inspired public speaker. Luckily, he didn’t have to be, as the rare photos he presented from the archives spoke for themselves, and the audience’s reaction supplemented these nicely. Dave threw in a few jokes here and there that went over well, and made the presentation an overall success.
When Dave Smith’s presentation concluded, it was time for our lunch break. We had two hours for the break, and we had grand plans for that time. We anticipated riding rides, eating lunch, and heck, probably even hanging out at our resort’s pool. Okay, we didn’t actually expect to do the last thing, but we did figure we’d have time for at least lunch and a few rides in the Magic Kingdom.
We headed to the Magic Kingdom with Kate and Henry, and decided that we’d give the newly opened Tortuga Tavern a try for the first time. Sarah and I had never eaten there while it was El Pirata y el Perico, so it was basically an entirely new restaurant to us.
As we began walking towards Adventureland, I saw a woman wearing a Figment backpack circa 1992-1998. As these high-quality Figment backpacks can be difficult to find and hers was in exquisite condition, I raced over to her and engaged her in conversation. I really wanted to ask her if she’d sell the bag, but: 1) I don’t carry cash, and 2) that just seems sort of odd. I mean, after all, it’s Walt Disney World, not a flea market in Indiana.
I had read that Tortuga Tavern has some cool details (no monkeys!) before our trip, but since we were in such a hurry to eat and experience some attractions, we didn’t take the time to explore the place. Hopefully next trip we will get the chance to do this when we have more time.
The food was pretty average at Tortuga Tavern. It was definitely (unsurprisingly) heavily Americanized Mexican food, and it wasn’t bad by any means (and the servings were large thanks to the toppings bar!), but it was pretty forgettable. Overall bland and really mild. Of course, it does have to appeal to a broad demographic, so I can see why Disney goes for seeking the lowest common denominator rather than making the food more authentic.
We ate fairly quickly, but even eating quickly, we realized that we didn’t have much time to do anything else. We wanted to see Carousel of Progress, but we knew that would be pushing it. Instead, we went for the time honored tradition of taking a relaxing post-meal voyage aboard the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Although it does have a couple of loops and sharply banked turns, it didn’t jostle our stomachs too much.
After the TTA, we had to rush back, as our lunch break was 10 minutes from being over. We didn’t make it to the Contemporary in 10 minutes, but luckily, the next presentation started a few minutes late, so we were right on time.
Again, we were “stuck” with seats in the back. We never got to a single presentation early, but based on seeing people camped out in the halls, I’m assuming that people waited in line all through some of the meal breaks for good seats. We had fun during meal breaks, and could see just fine (and when I wanted better photos, I’d just walk forward on the side of the ballroom). To each his own.
I’m not sure how exciting it is to read about seminar presentations second-hand (my intuition tells me “not very”), so I’m trying to keep each of these as brief as possible. I was really excited for the next presentation, until Steven Nagnini and Paul Anderson informed us at the outset that it wouldn’t really be about EPCOT Center, but instead about Walt’s vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
I’m actually a bit torn about this presentation. The history was fascinating, and E.P.C.O.T. interests me, no doubt. That said, it was presented like your typical history class. It was dry, and not as lively as most of the other presentations. I’m sure rabid World’s Fair or Walt fans would vehemently disagree with me, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the presentation. Additionally, a lot of what was presented near the end of the talk seemed to be forced attempts to tie Walt’s concept with present day Walt Disney World. Yes, Walt Disney World does utilize some impressive technologies, but I don’t think utilidors really make the Magic Kingdom similar to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It was incredibly interesting to see just how refined Walt’s city-planning chops were, and I truly believe that had he lived another 10 years or so, the world might have seen its first successful utopia.
Once the presentation pushed past the discussion of Walt’s plans, it felt a little contrived. I think most people realize EPCOT Center was a substantial departure from Walt’s vision for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Rather than attempting to say, “the vision was realized in EPCOT and throughout Walt Disney World,” maybe it’s time for the company to admit that the vision wasn’t realized at all. Or if the company isn’t willing to admit that, maybe it should at least stop contending that certain systems in place at WDW are connected to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow in some tenuous way.
Up next: Past Forward: A History of Walt Disney World on Television, with Rob Klein and Tim O’Day. This one started out very strong (although I had seen some of the pieces they showed thanks to the internet!), but reached a really odd point where some musician was singing, and talking, and singing, and talking in the Contemporary. This segment seemed to drag on and on, and after a while of watching in bewilderment, I turned to Sarah and told her I was going to the Contempo Cafe to get something to drink.
Of course, no trip to the Contempo Cafe is complete without taking a few photos of the inside of the Contemporary. I attached the fisheye to the camera, and had a little fun “bending” the lines of the resort.
After spending probably 15 minutes upstairs, we returned to the ballroom, where we caught the last 20 minutes or so of the Television presentation. Again, there were some odd clips, some clips I hadn’t seen, and some clips I had seen.
The next segment was easily the highlight of the first day. The Walt Disney Resort That Never Was with Tony Baxter and Steve Vagnini. The first name should say it all. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed during this segment, and I was so overwhelmed by the Western River Expedition conclusion that I’m sure I forgot a lot of what preceded it. Here’s what I do remember.
The un-built resorts were covered in some detail. Baxter discussed the plans for some of the other resorts, and postcards and other art was shown (including those original maps that appeared in rooms at the Polynesian and Contemporary that now go for exorbitant prices on eBay) demonstrating how these resorts would have looked. Some of this was new, but a lot I had seen before. (Gotta love The Art of Walt Disney World book!)
Other plans were discussed, such as some of the plans for the Living Seas and Journey Into Imagination, a Mary Poppins attraction, and other Fantasyland dark rides, among other things, but I think it’s safe to say we were all there with one thing on our minds: Western River Expedition.
When Baxter started talking about the Western River Expedition, I got chills. They didn’t subside until about 20 minutes later, when he was finally finished. I won’t even attempt to describe the attraction (for those unfamiliar with the concept, you might want to Google it now), but this was definitely the most vivid description I had ever heard–and seen. Baxter had a multi-media presentation that was a ride-through of the attraction of sorts. Seeing the Blair artwork, along with Baxter’s commentary, all set to music and with some dialogue was an amazing experience. That alone probably would have justified the cost of the weekend’s admission! Seriously.
Next stop, dinner time! We had a tad over two hours, so we thought maybe a table service monorail restaurant would be in order. It seemed, though, that the Mashable conference’s dinner break had started shortly before ours, and there already was a pretty sizable line at The Wave. We figured we could outsmart them by heading to the Poly and grabbing a table at the underrated and typically underbooked Kona Cafe. After waiting 20 minutes for the monorail, we arrived at the Polynesian, and discovered this social media geeks were a little more savvy than your average guests, and had already found their way over to Kona Cafe, as it had a huge wait.
I relayed this information to Henry, who had somehow ended up pretty far behind us in line for the monorail, and they didn’t even get off at the Poly stop. Sarah and I walked over to the Ticket and Transportation Center from the Poly (giving us flashbacks to walking in 30 degree weather in the wee hours of the morning during our Christmas 2010 trip), and arrived at roughly the same time as Henry and Kate.
At that point, we were getting really hungry, and Sunshine Seasons was sounding really good (mind you, we had only eaten there ONCE this trip at that point!), so we caught the monorail to Epcot. Henry and Kate weren’t feeling the Sunshine Seasons vibe, so they headed to Morrocco.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite menu items at Sunshine Seasons used to be the Turkey and Monterrey Jack Cheese on Foccacia with Chipotle Mayonnaise, which hasn’t been offered since at least last fall (way to keep your menus current, All Ears…). This was a huge issue for me on our Christmas trip, as none of the new sandwiches looked like a suitable alternative. When we ate here a few days earlier, I got the roto chicken for this very reason.
As you can see based upon the photo above, the gross Reuben Panini now uses the excellent light and fluffy Foccacia bread, whereas the excellent Turkey and Monterrey Jack Cheese with Chipotle Mayonnaise is now on the dry and hard Ciabatta bread.
On this particular evening, I realized I’m an adventurous man. So I decided to take the plunge and order the Turkey sandwich anyway. I was heading into dangerous waters, I feared, but I realized that I must know whether the Ciabatta bread was truly as dry and as hard as I expected.
Luckily, it was not! Now, this isn’t to say that it was as good as the wonderful Foccacia bread, because it most certainly was not, but the sandwich was still a rousing success! It truly was a revolutionary moment in the history of Sunshine Seasons dining!!!
Sunshine Seasons was largely empty at this point for some reason, so I decided to snap some photos. I really love this restaurant, although I wish the table umbrellas and large center fountain were still around. I’m a sucker for EPCOT Center. After I took my photos, we thought we’d do a quick spin on Livin’ with the Land, but it was closed!
At that point, we had a decision to make: head back to catch the last seminar of the day (20 minutes late), or skip it. At the time, I didn’t realize it was a Tony Baxter presentation, and I thought the History of the Resort on film would be largely videos I’ve already seen. I knew Sarah was a bit tired of the presentations, plus the Nightlife Reviews were at the Epcot area resorts that evening, so it made sense to skip the last presentation. In retrospect, I sort of wish we would have gone, as I heard it was an excellent session. Oh well, you have to strike a good balance, and I feel that some breaks from the presentations were necessary.
Instead, we decided to head over to World Showcase to meet back up with Henry and Kate. On our way there, though, we saw the sunset. Wow. I couldn’t let that go unphotographed, so we spent some serious time up by the Imagination pavilion capturing the scene. Luckily, the attraction was also closed (must have been a 7 pm closing for Future World that night?), so no one was around to interfere with the shots! I was pretty pleased with how they turned out.
At that point, we headed over to Rose & Crown, where Henry and Kate were hanging out. On my way in, this clearly intoxicated man saw my camera and started asking me questions about it, as he was having trouble taking photos with his point and shoot. I showed him my LCD screen, and scrolled through a few of the sunset photos I had taken. Now, I realize it’s pretty easy to impressive a drunk dude, but this guy was absolutely floored. He immediately told me to “name my price” for taking pictures of he and his friends. Perhaps “catching himself” he quickly modified his offer, instead saying he’d pay me $100 to take some photos of his friends. I didn’t want to take advantage of this guy, and he was amusing anyway, so I told him I’d take the pictures for free. Now that I finally have them edited, I should probably email them to him…
Illuminations was starting soon, so I told Henry that we’d head over to the bridge and set up to shoot the show. The bridge was already packed, and it was a bad location anyway, so I made a lame attempt to photograph the show. Unsurprisingly, the photos I took are pretty lame. I sort of like that you can see the crowd in the lower left corner, which gives the fireworks an enormous scale, but overall these shots are definitely duds. This trip was definitely a colossal failure for fireworks. I definitely need to try harder in October!
Len texted me as Illuminations was ending and said they were at Flying Fish. So, once it was over, we headed that way, but not before I stopped to capture some photos of the Swan & Dolphin. Being in this area once again reminded me of how much I love the Epcot resorts. I can’t wait to stay in one of them again. Hopefully the Beach Club, Yacht Club, or Swan & Dolphin are in our travel plans sometime soon!
Sarah decided to photograph me, photographing the Swalphin.
Flying Fish wasn’t too busy when we arrived. I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising, as it was pretty late, but I was under the impression the BoardWalk was always hoppin’! The empty restaurant gave me the perfect chance to get photos. I wasn’t about to pass this up, so I wandered all over the place, photographing anything that was even mildly interesting. I’ll spare you the boring details shots (although I’m sure none of these are exactly “exciting!”) and just post some of my favorites. Yeah, I like restaurant interior photos.
They may be difficult to see, but this is our party–minus me, of course.
Once again, I won’t go into too much detail here, but if you want to read our Nightlife Reviews, check out an upcoming edition of The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World! I will share the photos, and they sort of speak for themselves.
Okay, if the photos didn’t say enough, I’ll say this: these were some of the all-around best desserts I’ve ever had at Walt Disney World. Top notch preparation and taste, all around!
The next stop was the Beach Club, and the Martha’s Vineyard Lounge. It was already getting late, and Sarah and I were dead set on making it the Magic Kingdom in time for some night shooting, so we only stuck around for one drink (another Manhattan for me, I was already improving my ordering technique!) before heading out.
As soon as we headed outside, we saw a bus for the Magic Kingdom. Right away. It was awesome, especially in light of all of the bus problems we’d been having. We took quick naps on the bus to rejuvinate, then headed into the Magic Kingdom fully charged. Well, at least one of us was fully charged…
Sarah, by contrast, was still a bit tired, but she didn’t let that slow her down (at least not until her nap in Carousel of Progress!). Not at first, at least Obviously Tomorrowland was the destination of choice, and we started, how else, but with a ride aboard the TTA. Nothing is as relaxing as that ride at night. Nothing. I think our world leaders should handle all of their negotiations aboard the TTA. All of our disputes would be resolved in 10 minutes.I know it takes at least 200 bureaucrats to make any government decision, so perhaps the ride vehicles would have to be modified.
After the TTA, we made the rest of ‘the rounds’ in Tomorrowland, hitting Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceranger Spin, the Carousel of Progress, and rounding the night out with Space Mountain. Talk about an awesome way to end the night. Even though we had spent all day (pretty much) in a convention center, and had only experienced a handful of attractions, it felt like we accomplished so much that day. I think we were both pretty pleased.
Of course, the night wouldn’t be over without a little late night photography. We started out, unsurprisingly, in Tomorrowland, where I played around with the fisheye too much. I probably should have used the ultra wide angle instead (next time!), but oh well.
Then, we headed to the Castle to get some fun shots of the two of us. We didn’t get nearly enough of these on the Disneyland leg of the trip, so we decided to make up for it a bit this evening in the Magic Kingdom. I get plenty of ‘artistic’ shots of Disney on other trips, this trip I felt the urge to get more shots of us. Especially since we wouldn’t get many during the day, thanks to Destination D.
Following our Castle shooting, it was off to Main Street, USA. Here, we got a few shots of ourselves with some of details on Main Street. It was a great time, but we were getting really tired by this point, so it was time to call it a night!
We headed towards the exit, grabbed the first bus we saw, and made haste to All Star Movies. When we arrived, I thought about doing some night shooting, but again I was too tired.
If you liked this installment of our Coast-to-Coast Trip Report and want to read about our other Walt Disney World trips, visit our trip report page! Help us spread the word about DisneyTouristBlog.com by “Liking” this post or giving it a Google “+1” at the top of this page.
Hey! I plan on purchasing more lenses, filters, and such for my camera. I have read your buying guide (huge help, by the way!) but I’m not sure what filters and such that I’d like to buy first. My goal is to get pictures similar to yours on Main Street on this installment, towards the end of the night. What lenses, filers, etc., did you use to capture pictures like these?
This is more of a general comment, but it seems best to post it with the most recent trip report…
I found your blog after you posted a link to your engagement on micechat a couple of weeks ago and loved it!! Yes, I teared up at how perfectly it all was. Congrats! Since then, I’ve been reading this entire blog pretty much all day (don’t tell my boss).
Your posts are so well-written and intruguing with wonderful photos; I usually look at TR’s only for pictures, however I have loved reading about your adventures! Sarah and yourself also seem similar to how my boyfriend and I would like to go about our vacations, which probably adds to my enthusiam in reading your blog. In particular, we love food! (and don’t always have the budget for all of the table service dining we would like to partake in).
To sum it up, I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. Keep up the amazing writing, pictures, and trips!
This trip report really had it all! I loved the info on the seminars, the different meals and unofficial restaurant reviews of the food and the drinks. And of course, the pictures really set the tone. Well done!
Another great trip report, and I loved hearing the recap of the D23 seminars!
However, if I took pictures nearly as beautiful as the ones you have deemed a “fireworks failure,” I would be a happy woman. Gorgeous pictures as always!
Agreed with Adam. Best yet. And FWIW, I really enjoyed reading about the D23 seminars. Really wish I could have gone.
I think this was my favorite installment so far Tom. Reading about the different presentations was great and made me wish I was able to attend them.
The next two installments, particularly the one after the next, should be even better.