Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Other Disneys

I previously showed you some of our visit to Animal Kingdom. We took the next couple days of our Florida residents 4 day pass to take in The Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The weather was truly perfect for the visit to the theme parks and we had a good time. There are some venues that appeal to adults, but the focus in the parks is, and has always been, families, and specifically those with kids tagging along. The images within the parks have not changed an awful lot over the years, so I just picked a few of them to share with you. But perhaps the neatest thing about all of the Disney parks is the infrastructure. People move in and through and out of the parks and the parking effortlessly. Merchandise for the shops, ingredients and produce for the restaurants and food stands, trash produced from all the activities of the parks- all move underground and unseen, as do all the utilities. Problems are solved, business is transacted without evidence. Way back when Disneyland (in California) was first built, much of the world thought it a likely model for cities everywhere because it was such a smooth flowing operation. For whatever reason, the model never really took off in "real" cities. Maybe it was the cost involved "up front." Maybe it was a perceived and/or real difficulty in retrofitting already built up cities. Maybe it was just because no one saw it as a profitable venture. But Disney "works" where many cities do not. Strangely enough, some of the most noted new cities the world over that do bear striking similarities to the ideas of Walt Disney, like Dubai, for example, are not only working well as "cities", they are also drawing business, tourists, investment, and most elements that we consider desirable. The concept is a proven one. US cities should take another look. Innovators and visionaries are in a much better position to build a workable tomorrow than politicians are. Walt Disney was just that. Cinderella's Castle, background to the statues of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse is still the mega symbol of the marvel of Disney that it has always been. It is also just plain a neat piece of architecture.
Below, this "Trash Can" mimics R2D2 outside Tomorrow Land at Epcot. Believe it or not, it was actually my favorite part of the visit. The "can" engaged kids passing by in conversation, danced a little, held "interviews" with families, and became so personable and affectionate that many people actually gave him a hug before moving on. The robot was of course controlled by a Disney employee, but it was difficult to figure out how it was operated and how it knew exactly who it was talking to- and that puts the "Magic" in the Kingdom.
Balloons are always popular, and Disney has some of the best...
The Monorail is a fast, efficient, and dependable form of transportation. AND- it's fun to ride. Public transportation: Take note!
There are 12 "countries" that you can visit, shop, and dine at within the Epcot venue. We had lunch in China, and took a stroll down main street in each of the others. This is probably the most "adult" portion of any of the Disney parks.
Planet Earth, the central design feature of Epcot (above in the background and below in close up detail) is a fantastic trip through the past and the future. The future portion of the trip is currently under renovation, but it doesn't stop the activity from being really cool- and if you haven't been in it previously, you would never know the change was in progress. Such is the magic of the Disney operations.
Characters from all the Disney cartoons, clubs, and venues can appear at any point to meet and greet visitors to the parks. Here's one you may not know as well as some of the others. Not a very scary dragon- that's the way is should be for the kids...
At the Universe of Energy, you sit in a "theater" to start the show, then the theater itself moves though the display that takes you back to the days of the dinosaurs to study the history and development of fossil fuels. We made the trip to the present and projected things into the future with a look at solar, wind, and other "green" energy sources.
Yep! Yet another 4-D film under the belt. This was one of the better ones, stink bugs and all! It's Tough Being a Bug"
In the Sea, where we were all trying to find Nemo, I found a lot of irresistible signs. Enlarge to enjoy!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Animal Kingdom to Lake Hancock

Meet Abbie and Annie who rode the train to and from the parking lot at Animal Kingdom with us. Happy Birthday, Girls! Of all the face paintings we saw in the park, they had two of the best. While we enjoyed our day in the park, we think this is a kid's venue for sure. That's not a bad thing. Just IS.Fishing with bobbers looked like fun. You think it's Mickey, Goofy and Pluto, right. I'm thinkin' Larry, Jim and Rick.
Were it not for the palm trees, you might think this was one of our shots from Alaska. Actually, it's a roller coaster. Abbie and Annie took the ride. Greg and Marilyn did not!
The Tree of Life...
They gave me a drum, so I played a rousing rendition of Wipe Out...
My rhythm was not nearly so inspirational as the bongo group's. They had the large crowd moving and grooving and taught a few African moves and dances in the "Kilimanjaro Safari" inside the African village.There was a great 4-D movie called "It's Tough To Be A Bug." If you can get there, don't miss it.
In the past we have always taken our own picture wearing those goofy 3-D glasses and posted it on the blog. Not this time. Too Ugly! Just imagine it. Maybe next time.

At a more leisurely pace we took a paddle with the Cosmic Cousin Kayakers who are once again "living next door," this time at Thousand Trails, Orlando. The shots below are taken at Lake Hancock. Below, Bob and Susan...
and Susan and Marilyn.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Florida Temps Hit Record Low To Start Year 2008

In the final days of 2007 we made our "usually annual" trek to Cocoa Beach and the very famous Ron Jon Surf shop. Woodies outside, a live "beach"band playing inside, lots of retro stuff, color, excitement- it's a great place to buy that new t shirt or pair of Crocs or shark's tooth on a chain.
Down at the pier and on the beach, the surfers play in the surf and there's plenty of people soaking up Florida rays of sunshine. Bikinis are the uniform of the day....or
Wet suits to protect from the somewhat cooler wasters this time of year. Dudes wax their surfboards and test the application hour after hour. Great fun to watch, and you can fish or grab a bite to eat on the pier while you check out the surfing action.
Under the was cool in the shade, perhaps a warning for the cold front headed our way.

But surely no one was expecting this! 9 degrees in Orlando a few days later? Well, actually there was a cold front that blew through on the third day of the new year sending temps down somewhere near 29 degrees. But is was truly, actually, and verifiably only 9 degrees inside the Gaylord Palms Convention Center ICE show. We wore our own winter (Alaska Ready) warm clothing, but they passed out heavy parkas to everyone who was less prepared. Being the travel turtles that we are, we pretty much carry everything around with us in the old "shell."
Inside, you will find 2 million pounds of carved ice. The ice is frozen here. The ice is dyed here. The ice is carved here. The display is put together here. In Orlando. So you would think it was an all American proposition. But if you did, you would be wrong. Because, in actuality, the Gaylord Palms brings in 30 ice carvers from northern China each year to create the display. What started out in China as carving ice for use as lanterns, has turned out to be a huge ice carving extravaganza. So while the show is technically "Made in the USA," it is actually "Made by Chinese in the USA." Go figure!
Some of the ice is frozen fast so that it appears white and translucent. Some is frozen slowly so that it is crystal clear. And lots of it is dyed bright colors to make the designs in the exhibition. But EVERYTHING is ice. Sold ice. And yes, it really was 9 degrees in there, and if you don't think so when you go in, you WILL think so when you come out. Trust me on this one. The price of admission includes a big cup of hot chocolate so that when you come out of the exhibit, you can hold it to warm up your hands, whether or not you want to drink the hot chocolate. I did both. My "camera hand" was so cold I was beginning to wonder if it was part of the show.

The bears were life size. The candy was huge- maybe 15 or more feet high.
There was an ice slide at the Penguin display for the brave of heart...and the young and foolish. You don't see a picture of me on the slide, now do you??? That's because I figure those that are ONLY young at heart should not ride the ride.
Even the Train was to scale and you could walk right through from one car to the next. We did. All aboard!
Despite plenty of signage similar to this below, there was a lot of all three of the "no-nos." Perhaps the security was a bit lax on this, the last day of the 45 day show. But to tell you the truth, at 9 degrees F, all 200,000 of the people attending could lick the ice and nothing would happen to it. Marilyn said she was thinking that a "Lick the Metal Pole" display, might get the point across to a few disobedient souls, but not on this day! Interesting thing about an ice carving show in Florida on what will probably be the coldest day of the year here in Orland0- it felt quite warm when we came back outside. But not THAT WARM!