SH Sean Harding/blog
Back into the deluge
Monday, November 20th, 2006

We made it back from Florida, and we’re mostly happy to be home. We had a great time, but we were pretty exhausted by the end of the trip. However, the one thing we weren’t ready to be back to is the weather. Seattle is just how we left it — grey, rainy and chilly. Apparently there was quite a storm (or three) while we were gone. High winds, power outages, flooding, the works. Our house is fine, but the yard is a huge mess of leaves and branches and stuff. Joy.

But that’s enough complaining about Seattle. The trip was wonderful! This was a combination business and pleasure trip. I had a couple of conferences to go to, and we decided to make it into a small vacation too. We flew out early Friday morning. Due to the distance and the time change, we didn’t get into Orlando until Friday evening. The first few nights, we stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

Pop Century

Pop Century is themed around different time periods in the 20th century, with each building representing a different decade. It is also Disney’s least expensive hotel. We don’t usually go for the cheapest option when we choose a hotel, but we figured that we wouldn’t be spending a lot of time in the room, and we were trying to keep costs down on this trip. The hotel was fine, but we’ll probably stay in one of the nicer places next time. Little things like the size of the sink area and the quality of the towels make a big difference.

Tree of Life

On our first full day in Florida, we started out in Animal Kingdom. The weather was perfect. It was nice and warm, but not sweltering. What a great break from Seattle’s November! I loved Animal Kingdom. It’s a wonderful combination of a huge zoo with a Disney theme park.

We got to the park right when it opened, and it wasn’t too busy. We were able to get through most of the really popular attractions early in the day. The only thing we ended up needing to use a Fastpass for was Expedition Everest. Everest is extremely cool. It takes a place near the top of my list of favorite Disney roller coasters. The main thing that distinguishes Disney coasters from others is the theming, and Expedition Everest is no exception. It would be a really fun ride even as a plain roller coaster, but with the extra layer of the Everest theming, it’s awesome. After we got through the major attractions, we took our time walking around looking at the animals and exhibits. I think my favorite animals were the tigers. The meerkats were also incredibly cute, but somehow we didn’t get any pictures of them. I promise I won’t let it happen again.

Cinderella Castle

We finished up at Animal Kingdom in the late afternoon, so we decided to get in some time at Magic Kingdom that evening. The first place we went was Pirates of the Caribbean, which is my favorite attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim. Even though the line was a bit long, it didn’t take us very long to get through. It was fun, but I like the California version better. There’s just something about starting the ride by cruising through the Blue Bayou restaurant that makes it a lot more fun for me. We also hit the Tiki Room, the Hall of Presidents and Haunted Mansion that evening.

The night ended with the fireworks show, which was absolutely amazing. I’ve seen Disney fireworks shows before, and they’re always great, but Wishes is the best one I’ve experienced. Here’s a video of the beginning of the show. I apologize for the quality (or lack thereof). This was shot with our little digital point and shoot camera, which isn’t exactly designed for video (it doesn’t even let you zoom once you’ve started recording). Considering that, it’s not too bad!

Day three started out with a trip to Epcot. We were meeting up with some friends at 10, and the park opened at 9, so we decided to go a little early to try to catch some of the most popular attractions. I headed directly to Mission: SPACE, and walked right to the front of the line. As we were waiting (even when there’s no line, there’s a wait!), a group of cast members walked up to us and told us we’d won “Dream Fastpasses” as part of the “Year of a Million Dreams.” These wonderful things give you one any time Fastpass to each attraction in the park (well, those that use Fastpasses, at least). For those of you who aren’t familiar with Fastpasses, here’s how it normally works: you can go to a busy attraction and get a pass to come back to an attraction at a later time. When your assigned time comes, you can skip the main line and get right onto the ride with a relatively short wait. The idea is to allow you to go do other things in the park, instead of spending all of your time standing in line. There are two catches. First, you can only get one Fastpass at a time (basically). Second, you don’t get to choose your return time — it’s assigned by the system. The Dream Fastpasses bypass both of those restrictions. Awesome!


Epcot definitely has a slower pace than the other parks. Most of it is about exploring and learning about things. We spent the first part of the day looking around, checking out the food and wine festival and going on some of the attractions. The most popular attraction turned out to be Soarin’. It’s a fun ride, but I was pretty disappointed that it was exactly the same as the version in California Adventure. I was hoping for a new experience, especially since Soarin’ over California has been around for several years now. I’m kind of surprised it’s still generating so much interest (and such long lines).

After we were done with Epcot, we headed to Disney-MGM Studios. The weekend we were there turned out to be the ABC “Super Soap Weekend” or something like that. Neither of us have ever watched soaps, so we were pretty oblivious. But it was apparently a pretty big deal. There were a lot of people there for it, and they didn’t appear to be interested in anything besides the soap stuff. So, despite the fact that the park was fairly full, it wasn’t very hard to get onto the attractions. After we’d been in the park for a while, we heard a familiar voice coming over a speaker…


Yes, it was Rosie O’Donnell. She was interviewing Susan Lucci live for the Soap Weekend. Despite our aversion to soaps, we hung out and watched for a while. It’s not often you get to see Rosie in person! We saw a few other soap stars, but neither of us knew who any of them were. We weren’t interested in standing in line to meet them, but I couldn’t resist taking a picture of a soap fan having her picture taken with one of the stars.

By the end of day two, my feet were killing me. It’s amazing how much walking you end up doing in theme parks! I really have to find a better pair of shoes for our next visit.

We spent all of day three (our last Disney day) in Magic Kingdom. We got there right when it opened, and we got to see the really neat opening ceremony they do. Then we headed right to Tomorrowland to get onto Space Mountain as quickly as possible. We spent the rest of the morning hitting all of the other major attractions, and we walked onto all of them with little or no wait. It was great. We were both pretty tired, so we took our time for the rest of the day, enjoying the park and doing some of the less popular things. The whole park was decorated for Christmas, which seemed a little early, but it was also neat to see.

We stayed through the fireworks show and then headed out to change hotels. I spent the next four days in my conferences. Becky worked and met up with some other friends in the area. The conferences ended Friday afternoon, and I was pretty worn out by then. But we still had Saturday open for some sightseeing, and we were meeting Tori and Kevin that night!

Saturday morning, we slept in until about 10, which was great. Then we decided to go get breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, since Becky loves them and I’d never been to one. I ended up getting lunch instead of breakfast (it was noon by the time we got there), but I really liked it. After we ate, we headed out to Cocoa Beach.

I had never seen the Atlantic Ocean, so it was neat to finally be there. It wasn’t as warm as I’d expected Florida to be, but it wasn’t too bad. I really liked the beach, and the little towns along the water were fun. We also drove by the Kennedy Space Center (and had an encounter with a security guard at the gate), but we didn’t actually go in. By the time we got there, it was getting to be pretty late in the day; that’s what we get for sleeping in so late! The Space Center hadn’t officially been on our agenda for the day anyway, so I wasn’t really disappointed (and Becky has already been). It’s just something we’ll have to do next time!

When we got back to Orlando, we changed and headed out to the shopping center to get some food and look around until it was time to meet Tori and Kevin. Even though I’ve talked to Tori a ton online, I was a little nervous to meet them. What if they didn’t like me? What if we couldn’t find anything to talk about? What if I spilled beer in my lap and made a complete fool of myself? Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Tori and Kevin we incredibly cool, and we had a great time chatting with them. I think all four of us were pretty tired, so we only lasted for about two hours. I would have liked to be able to spend more time with them. I’m sure we’ll have that chance some time in the future, though! Here’s photographic evidence, taken with Tori’s camera by Becky.

Tori and Sean

When we got back to our room, we packed as quickly as we could, so we wouldn’t have to do it the next morning. Anyone who has been to a Disney theme park knows how much merchandise is available, and we certainly bought our fair share. On the way out, our bags had been pretty full, but on the way home they were busting at the seams! We had to pack very efficiently to get everything in, but we managed to make it work. After a few hours of sleep, we headed off to the airport and made our way home.

I’m so glad I got to go on this trip. It’s always fun to see a new part of the country, even when it’s a business trip. Starting it with time at Walt Disney World and ending it with meeting Tori and Kevin really made it great, though. I’m already excited to go back to Florida again, and see some of the things we missed this time around!

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