Sunday, August 29, 2004

Slow September

Since I've devoted my last several blog entries to the ongoing Yard Wars, I thought I'd slip in something about the good side of living in Celebration (if you're looking for the jungle photos, scroll down to the entry below this one). Making sure that my grass is kept below a foot and preventing the weeds from turning into something out of Little Shop of Horrors is only a small part of the overall Celebration experience.

And now that it's almost September, we're entering one of the very best times to live near Disney World. Although I titled this entry "Slow September," the dead season at the parks and tourist attractions really starts in the last week of August. The kids are heading back to school, and Mom and Dad have used up all their vacation time. The restless hordes of vacationers slow down to a trickle. And while the tourist-cats are away, the resident-mice will play.

If you are a Florida resident, you can even purchase a heavily discounted annual pass that is only good during the off-season. Since my husband and I like to go to the Disney water parks all summer, we opt for the mega-gold-good-every-day version, but if you are a casual parker, the pass with blackout dates is a great deal.

This Saturday, we drove over to Disney-MGM around noon to have lunch at the Brown Derby and see what the line situation looked like. For the most part, we didn't see anything over 30 minutes, but we grabbed Fast Passes for Rockin' Roller Coaster anyway, since the return time fit nicely into our lunch plans.

Having had a lot of fun wearing our crazy headgear (Stitch ears for me and a monorail running through my husband's head) last time we were in the parks, we had donned it once again. If you haven't already seen the infamouse Bunny Brigade photos in which we are modeling it, click here. One of our house guests gifted us with a picture frame in the shape of Cinderella's castle that will hold a number of photos. We decided to take advantage of various photo ops around the parks wearing our headgear to fill up the frame.

Our first photo of the day was snapped on the main drag after we entered the park. After indugling in my favorite Cobb salad (no other restaurant minces up the ingredients), we headed to Rockin' Roller Coaster. For the first time ever, we were actually in the front seat. I know they snap the picture just as you rocket out of the station at 60 m.p.h., so both my husband and I got a death grip on our "ears." We figured we could hold them on for the launch and then whip them off after the photo. It came out pretty decent, so we bought it for the collection.

We spent the rest of the day bopping back and forth between Tower of Terror and the roller coaster, and the crowd grew more minimal as the afternoon wore on. Soon the posted ride times were only 10 minutes. We were still doing Fast Passes when possible, but often the stand-by line was just as short as Fast Pass. Ah, the wonders of the off season!

On the Tower of Terror, getting a good picture took a couple of tries. The first time around we were in the back row and the people in front of me all had their arms in the air. You could barely see me peeking through a forest of extended limbs. The second time we were in the front, so we had another photo for our collection. Amazingly, with all the bouncing up and down, we didn't have to hang on to our head gear and it never came off.

As we were exiting the ride the first time, we noticed that someone had lost their lunch in the store. I don't consider Tower of Terror to be a vomit-inducing ride, but the brown puddle on the floor was a gross testament to my erroneous thinking. Later, when we were buying our photo, the cast member told me he had seen the vomiter exiting the ride and looking decidedly queasy. He had asked the man if he was okay, and he responded that he'd eaten some barbeque that was not agreeing with him.

We also managed to fit in The Great Movie Ride, Millionaire, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. I was very disappointed in Voyage, as they have shortened the show. It was already a Cliff Notes version to begin with, but now even a person with a raging case of ADHD would be screaming, "Too short!"

My only other agenda item for the day was to get a photo of Lilo and Stitch. I have been stalking them on our Disney cruises, but although I did manage to get a shot wth Stitch once, Lilo had remained elusive. This time, there was no escape...I knew they would both be in the Animation Courtyard, and I wasn't going to allow a little thing like an anti-stalking court order to stop me!

Since we had forgotten to bring our digital camera, I had purchased a disposable just in case. I needn't have bothered, as there was a professional Disney photographer on hand to capture the moment (for a price, of course). The line was practically non-existent, so it was fun to watch Lilo and Stitch interacting with the kids. With the minimal crowd, it wasn't so rush-rush. Just another reason to love Slow September!

We got some great photos to add to the day's booty. What could be better than a shot with Stitch while wearing my Stitch ears? We got one alone with Stitch, since Lilo had slipped off to the side to interact with a cute little toddler who wasn't quite sure he should approach the characters. Suddenly Lilo realized that she was missing from the picture, and she hurried over while we posed for another shot.

On our way out of the park, we purchased our morning photo and the character pictures. The crowd had started to build again, since it was getting close to Fantasmic time, and the ride times were edging up to the 20 minute mark. Quite a change from the summer 1 to 2 hour levels just a week or two before. Although we love Fantasmic, we had decided that we would head over to Artists Point to fulfill my craving for their heavenly portabello mushroom soup. The angels cook it up in huge vats in Heaven and then fly it down to the restaurant fresh each day.

Usually your chances of finding a parking spot at the Wilderness Lodge are only slightly better than being struck by lightning. But now, with the crowd levels drained by the off-season, there were empty spots as far as the eye could see.

After a good meal, we headed home so I could whip out my scissors and fill in our castle frame with a photographic record of the day's adventures. Next week I'll scan the pictures and post a link in another blog entry.

The dead season doesn't last for too long. As September wanes, the crowd density increases steadily through October. There used to be another off-season in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that has shortened considerably as people have discovered the secret: Enjoy the parks with minimal lines, and have the added bonus of seeing them decked out for the holidays.

Oh well, I'll still enjoy it while it lasts. If you are at Disney World during Labor Day week and see a man with a monorail running through his head, accompanied by a Stitch-woman, be sure to say hello.

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