A Weekend of Goodbyes

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In order to prepare for the future of Disney Parks, the weekend of April 2, 2016 was chalk full of closures of some popular (or not-so-popular, depending who you consult) attractions. I had so wished to be there in person for the finale shows, but between fighting a cold and the consistent rain on Saturday, it just wasn’t in the stars for me this time. Since I wasn’t able to be there in person, I decided to look back and reminisce on what just closed and what is ahead. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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Over at Magic Kingdom, the popular castle stage show, “Dream Along with Mickey” had its final performance after nearly a 10 year run. The show is being replaced with “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire” which will feature Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy and some of the newer Disney friends from Tangled, The Princess and the Frog and of course, Frozen. Really not hating, I just wish Cinderella had something to do with her own castle again as it seems she is always getting the boot to Frozen lately. I mean, I know that Frozen doesn’t have an attraction of its own or anything coming…oh wait.

Enough of the snark, back on the topic of Dream Along with Mickey, I will admit, I only saw the show a handful of times as when I was vacationing at WDW, and I never really stopped to take it in with so many other attractions to get to, plus I will admit, I thought it was dare I say, childish to “Dream Along with Mickey.” BUT after  setting aside time to actually watch it, I now kind of regret not seeing it more because it really was a well executed show. I think what I learned to love most about it was that is was classic Disney. Mickey and the gang were in their classic outfits and original squad of princess royalty (Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora) and their main squeezes were there too. Not to mention, Peter Pan and some classic villainous friends joined in the fun. The message of Dreams Come True and taking a dream with you wherever you go also hits home. I hope the new show has just a catchy of a tune and a heartwarming message as well. You will be missed Dream Along with Mickey, I am sorry for taking you for granted!

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While Mickey led the chant of ‘Dreams Come True!’ one last time, over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, an entire portion of the park was closed down and walled up to make way for the new Toy Story and Star Wars themed lands. The 11 year run of Lights, Motors, Action stunt show came to an end as were the nearby Streets of America. The Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area was also closed down as was the quick service location, Studio Catering Co. The Mike and Sulley meet and greet was also shut down, I am sad I never too the opportunity to meet them! Hoping they show up somewhere else, perhaps the Magic Kingdom near the Laugh Floor.

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Not taking into account the Osborne Lights, out of everything that closed this weekend at DHS, I will most miss Lights, Motors, Action. It was always exciting and amazing to see the stunt drivers perform, but there is a lot of space back there that will need to be utilized, but I will miss walking through the Streets of America and hearing the cars zip by. And while the show was hard to catch with only 2-3 performances per day and with it being all the way in the back of the park, I will miss seeing the good ol’ fashion stunts and pyrotechnic finale, but I guess I can get my stunt fill at yet another performance of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt spectacular to fill the void.

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The Streets of America, while a fun concept for the 90’s, was now just a large area of very empty real estate, aside from Christmastime when the Osborne Lights were dazzling and dancing, there was really nothing going on there anymore, especially after the popular band Mulch, Sweat ‘n Shears ended their run. Lately, it seemed besides the holiday season, the only time I really stepped foot in the Streets of America was to get from Muppets Vision to Toy Story Mania or to catch a rare performance of Lights, Motors Action.

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Now The Osborne Lights were like nothing I had every experienced before. It was truly Christmas magic and I could sit on the curb of the Streets for an eternity taking it all in. However, I think I mourned the fact the Lights were not returning this holiday season when they shut them off for good so the fact that Streets are now officially gone doesn’t sadden me that much. I guess what I am trying to say in this rambling is that I will miss the Osborne Lights immensely, but not the “Streets” if that makes any sense whatsoever.

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And so, the period of rebranding Hollywood Studios is among us. I am looking forward to see what is to come and while it will be years before any guests can step foot in these new lands, it nice to see that one of my favorite parks is getting the refresh it deserves.

Ride. Watch. Repeat.

Watch Ride repeatWhen you are busy touring your favorite park, there always those attractions that you MUST do more than once because you just love them so much! For me, this is pretty much everything lately. However, Walt Disney World has plenty of attractions that you may want to repeat because the experience can be different every time you visit, even if you visit it more than once in a day! While I love riding Splash Mountain or Pirate of the Caribbean, I know exactly what to expect every time because the ride or animatronics do not change. Below is a list of my favorite repeat attractions because the experience can be so different based on a number of different factors!

Magic Kingdom:


 

  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Since this ride is score based, you are always trying to compete to beat your highest score to eventually obtain Galactic Hero status! It is also fun to complete with your ride mate. Your score will usually never be the same!

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  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: While the “tale as old as time” Belle tells is the same, the audience participation makes this one a must repeat! We have seen some of the cutest “Beasts” in this one who all have reacted to their time with Belle differently and sometimes in hilarious ways!

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  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: The audience participation make this one a great one to see again and again. You never know what crazy antics are going happen and the jokes change.

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Epcot:


  • Turtle Talk with Crush
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Once again, the audience wins this one! Because the little ones are asking the questions, you never know what will come out of their mouths! We have witnessed some hilarious questions in the past. Kids do say the darndest things and this show proves it! Clearly I am need of seeing it again because I have no pictures of this attraction.

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  • Test Track
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: While the track and ride stays the same with each ride, the car you design in the studio is always different and can score differently on the track. We like revisiting this one to make different cars to see how efficient, powerful, capable and responsive we can make our car thus bragging for the rest of the day whose car performed better.

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Hollywood Studios:


  • Toy Story Mania
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Just like Buzz Lightyear Space Range Spin,  this ride is score based, so you are always trying to compete to beat your highest score or beat your ride mate, car or high score for the day/month! This one has the added fun of hidden Easter eggs that you may find by accidentally hitting something! It seriously is never the same experience, but if you are competitive like we are, your arm will always hurt afterwards!

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  • Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: I recently saw this show for the first time and I think it is definitely worth a repeat just to see the kids’ faces when they face Darth Vader or other villains, plus if your child or someone you know is it, it so much more fun and will always be a different experience for them too.

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  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: This show has been around since 1989 is just about as old as the park itself, but it is worth a repeat visit for the audience volunteers. Always funny because apparently adults say the darndest things too!

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  • Star Tours
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: The ride sequence is always different and will randomly choose which planet to visit in addition, there are also different end scenes. Currently, I believe they are only operating the Force Awakens scene, but the ride should return to taking people to the different planets soon!

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  • Tower of Terror
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Simply because the drop sequences are different every time, you never know how many smaller drops you may get or how many times its going to launch you up and back down.

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Animal Kingdom:


  • Kilimanjaro Safari
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: This is my absolute favorite ride to repeat because I have ridden it a million times and no two safaris are ever alike. Some are spectacular with Giraffes pretty much inside your ride vehicle or you might a catch a glimpse of Simba and Nala nuzzling on Valentine’s Day. No joke, the picture below was taken on Valentine’s Day and our truck pretty much freaked out! When dealing with animals who have minds of their own, the experience is going to always be different!

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  • Maharajah Jungle Trek / Pagani Forest Trail
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: These self guided walking trails also help you get up close and personal with some animals such as bats, tigers, and gorillas. Just like Kilimanjaro Safari you never know if the tigers will be awake and on the prowl  or if you will see a gorilla feeding its young or munching on some leaves. Many times they are just basking in the sun sleeping, but we have gotten lucky in the past that is worth visiting again and again!

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  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: If you decide to take the train over to this remote area of Animal Kingdom, you may find different speakers inside the Conservation Station or even witness a live vetinerary exam in full swing. There is also the Affection Section petting zoo, where you may find a new goat friend for the day or you may visit and they want nothing to do with you. Both have happened to me, but I know every experience has been different!

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I am ready to go do all these again! Which attractions do you love repeating?

#TripReportTuesday – Dining with Dinos

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Keeping up with our Animal themed day, we had made reservations at T-Rex Cafe located in Disney Springs, which back then was known as Downtown Disney.

Since we were staying at Saratoga Springs we had plenty of transportation options in getting to Downtown Disney. You can take a bus, boat or my favorite option when it is available: Walk! Of course we chose the walking option.

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Here is the boat option:2015-05-11-15h09m15 As we were walking, we saw some lucky folks taking one of the new amphicar rides! How fun! I love this view!2015-05-11-15h06m30The path we took led us to the Marketplace side of Downtown Disney and T-Rex is more toward the middle between Marketplace and the West Side, so we walked some more until we saw the giant T-Rex Fossils! We quickly checked in and were told to enter the restaurant where we would be called shortly.

2015-05-11-15h23m55The inside of this restaurant is so cool! It is like Rainforest Cafe except with Dinosaurs. They are actually both owned by Landry’s Restaurants and not Disney. When you first walk in, there is a giant T-Rex animatronic and a decently sized gift shop with all the dinosaur merchandise one’s heart could ever desire!2015-05-11-15h28m04There are different themed dining rooms. The underwater one holds the bar, but there are also dining tables to be found within it.2015-05-11-15h28m10There is also a fern forest room toward the back of the restaurant. This one is my least favorite because it looks too much like Rain Forest Cafe and just doesn’t have the same WOW factor as the other rooms!2015-05-11-16h38m56The ice cave room is my favorite mainly because the baby Woolly Mammoth is just so stinking cute!2015-05-11-16h38m052015-05-11-15h34m522015-05-11-15h39m26 2015-05-11-15h39m54I wished I could take the little Woolly Mammoth home!2015-05-11-16h38m15We were seated in the middle of the restaurant, in the volcano/lava room so we had a pretty good view of all the dining areas from here. On of the fun things about this restaurant is that ever 20 minutes or so, a meteor shower takes over the restaurant with very loud and eye catching effects. Be warned it gets really loud to the point of not being able to carry on a conversation, so if you are looking for a quiet meal, skip this place! 2015-05-11-15h28m18 2015-05-11-15h34m42

Once we were seated, we perused the huge menu! No matter the pickiest of eaters in your group, there will be something they can eat within the menu because there is a great variety! Check it out HERE.

They have a good cocktail selection here, so I decided to indulge a little and go with a Cotton Candy Martini because when you are on vacation, this is what you do.

Here is the menu description of the drink I got, they also have a tropical fruit version:

Candy Apple Cotton-tini

Featuring Sobieski Vodka, DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker Schnapps and a splash of sweet & sour

Below is a picture of the drink. The cotton candy has obviously became part of the drink, but when they bring it out it is all fluffy on top! Please don’t mind that I look exhausted and hungry in this picture. You can also see the souvenir drink shaker that this drink came with.

2015-05-11-15h42m08 As mentioned, the menu is extensive, but I had finally settled on the meatloaf/mashed potato meal which I think is a seasonal or special offering because I do not see it on the menu. It was really tasty and filling though!  I think Justin ended up going with a New York Strip steak because he was feeling carnivorous given his surroundings.

Overall, our experience at T-Rex Cafe was a great one! The servers were attentive, the menu has plenty of options and the food is prepared well. I don’t know of anywhere else on Disney property that you can get a cotton candy martini, so that is a bonus!

If you have any dinosaur fans in your group, make sure to get reservations to this place! We have since returned to T-Rex Cafe and it was still wonderful and even have reservations for this summer when we have family coming down for a visit, mainly because one of the children in our party is a die-hard Dino fan! I cannot wait to experience this place with him!

After our meal, we walked around the restaurant a little bit, checked out the shop and decided to walk by the Boathouse restaurant to check out an amphicar launch! I so want to do this one day!

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The plan for the rest of the evening was to head to Hollywood Studios for some Fantasmic and Extra Magic Hours. Join us next Tuesday!

We had a Blast at the DVC 25 Year Anniversary Party!

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Disney Vacation Club is celebrating its 25 year anniversary and as a result, they are throwing some special events for their members all throughout 2016. The first of which was last night which was a complimentary Magic Kingdom party! Reservations needed to be made in advance and you had to show your DVC Member card or be a DVC Member’s guest in order to receive a wristband.

The party’s official hours were from 9:30 – Midnight, however wristband distribution and admittance began as early as 7:00 PM. They didn’t really advertise a whole lot of what was going to be happening at the party other than select attractions in Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Haunted Mansion would be open and there would entertainment and complimentary refreshments. I must say, we were pleasantly surprised with the entire experience! Going in not knowing what to expect, we planned on riding all the rides they were offering just to see if we could do them all, but our plan changed once we saw characters they had available to meet! Keep reading to see who we mingled with!

When we arrived, around 7:45, we were given our wristband and a map highlighting the event. We noticed there were many spots for character Meet and Greets, a dance party, a DVC Executive meet up, and a special fireworks show never before seen called the 25 and Beyond Blast!  In addition there were plenty of locations to get some complimentary refreshments. We were pretty excited about all the offerings because it truly had the feel of of one of the hard ticket events such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the only difference was that half the park was not accessible and there was no special parade.

DSC_8562 DSC_8613 DSC_8628 Since we arrived just before Wishes, we watched that first then headed to Adventureland for some Pirates of the Caribbean. The park didn’t officially close until 9:00 so we thought it would be a good way to get some of the attractions that would not be offered at the party in. We then headed to Big Thunder Mountain, contemplated riding Splash Mountain, but it was too cold and I did not want to risk being uncomfortable until midnight in wet clothes!

DSC_8631There was a second showing of Main Street Electrical Parade at 9:00 so after Thunder Mountain, we were able to catch that in Frontierland.

DSC_8642 DSC_8672 DSC_8690 DSC_8699Once the parade was over, it was officially party time so so we we headed to Fantasyland where we got our first glimpse at just how awesome this special event was going to be! Louis from Princess and the Frog was out meeting guests right near Philharmagic! He did not have a long line so we hopped right in to meet him!

DSC_8711After this, we knew we needed to check out who else was out and quickly spotted Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and King Richard meeting and greeting near the castle wall leading to New Fantasyland. This was the longest line we waited in all night mainly because there were three of them and they were signing for autographs and you can imagine for those who collect autographs, this was a big deal-so the line moved pretty slowly. It was fine though because while I waited in line, Justin went and found some snacks for us. Throughout the park they were offering lemonade, water, hot chocolate, cookies, chips and even Mickey ice cream bars! Yum!

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After meeting the rare trio, we noticed Aladdin and Jasmine were meeting at the other castle wall, but decided to skip them since you can meet them during regular park hours. Instead, we walked into New Fantasyland  and saw Belle was in her village dress meeting guests near Gaston’s Tavern which was pretty rare because she is usually in Maurice’s Cottage telling stories in her ballgown. We skipped her too though because we caught wind that some very rare characters from our childhood were in Storybook Circus.

DSC_8719 Launchpad McQuack from DuckTales was out and about and so was Darkwing Duck! I couldn’t even believe it as I have never heard of these guys out and about! Darkwing’s line was pretty long and if we got in it, we would have missed fireworks, so after meeting Launchpad, we hopped on the Barnstormer like two 5 years olds because there was no wait whatsoever!

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We then made our way back to the castle to watch the Fireworks and oh my goodness, they were amazing! I do not have pictures or video but you can definitely check out YouTube because I am sure someone posted it! Just know THEY WERE AMAZING and LOUD! Disney really made them special just like they do for their other hard ticket events! It was such a treat even though it was pretty cold!

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Since the fireworks were at 11:30, there was a little more time and I really wanted to meet Darkwing Duck, so back we went to Storybook Circus and found that HE HAD NO LINE! NONE! Everyone must’ve been watching fireworks and then started heading out of the park. I am so happy we decided not leave until midnight because otherwise we would have missed this rare opportunity!

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As we walked out of Storybook Circus we saw that Wreck it Ralph and Venellope has NO ONE in line either so of course we met them! With 5 minutes left to spare, we had enough time to hop the Mine Train and barely waited 15 minutes for it which was terrific since that one is easily over an hour any other given evening!

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We headed out of the Magic Kingdom after the Mine Train and there was one last surprise. Mickey and Minnie were out at the front of park waving to everyone and being all sorts of adorable! They were even dressed all fancy for the event!

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I wish the party was longer so we could’ve made it over to Haunted Mansion because I heard the Cadaver Dans (Dapper Dans) were out and also a special guest from the Haunted Mansion portrait was out and about. We passed through Tomorrowland too and we saw they had Baymax, but you can find him in Epcot any time so we didn’t meet him.

I seriously could not be more happy with this special event that Disney put on for its DVC Members. The Cast Members were all amazing, there were plenty of snacks and they made this an experience you could not get any other time especially with the rare characters and fireworks. Also, the rides had such short wait times, so that was definitely a plus especially for those who don’t care to meet characters. I also liked the element of surprise of the entire event because not a lot about what would be offered was advertised. There is another party March 3, 2016, and I called this morning in hopes of registering, but I think the word is out that the party is amazing because it is now sold out!

I am very much looking forward to the other special DVC Anniversary events throughout the year and will post reviews here on The Magical Escape!

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#TripReportTuesday – Uncooperative Animals

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It was a new day and we were headed to one of my favorite parks, but lets face it, they are all my favorite at one time or another! This AM, we were headed to Animal Kingdom for just our favorite rides.

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Our first order of business was Kilimanjaro Safari because we had a FastPass that was itching to be used, meaning it was about to expire. To our surprise, the FastPass line was weaving outside the queue, apparently some of the animals were being disruptive and blocking the road so the trucks couldn’t pass and caused quite the backup. This happens pretty often on this ride, so just be prepared if you have a FastPass and this happens the line will move slowly. I only mention this because so many people were complaining in the FastPass line that they could’ve rode standby if they wanted to wait this long. Sheesh. It’s not FastPass or Disney’s fault that the LIVE animals decide to move into the road. What do they want the CMs to do? Run them over? That doesn’t exactly scream family friendly attraction to me. Oh well, rant over. Soon enough we boarded our rugged caravan.

I prefer to be in the seat farthest away from where you board, I feel you get the best pictures this way, but we weren’t and the animals were just in a weird mood this day and I didn’t get too many great shots, but a couple of good ones. That is the thing with Kilimanjaro Safari, it is really never the same experience twice. We recently rode it on Valentine’s Day and got the best shot! I honestly am going to do a separate post on it soon! Anyways, sometimes you get a lackluster safari ride, but always fun just the same.

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After our Safari we headed to Dinoland USA. Since it wasn’t time for our Dinosuar FastPass, we filled the time with riding Primeval Whirl. This one gets mixed reviews amongst the Disney community, but I think it is fun. People complain about the theming and how it looks cheap, but the idea is that that area is supposed to look like a sad little parking lot carnival! If you look closely, you will even see parking spots on the ground in the area.

Primeval Whirl is a little rough if you aren’t expecting it, so just brace yourself because it definitely whips you around!

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By the time we we made it through the queue and rode Primeval Whirl, we headed to Dinosaur, aka: the Disney ride I have never seen the ending too because I am covering my ears and eyes. I am really a 5 year old adult.

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Yup, nearly every ride photo in the Time Rover of ours looks just like this.

Edited to add: On Valentine’s Day, I actually did it! I saw the end of the ride, of course, we don’t have Memory Maker being locals, so I don’t have photographic evidence, but I promise, I actually saw the entire ride!

Next, we went to walk through one of my favorite Animal Kingdom attractions, Maharajah Jungle Trek. This is the walking trail where you can see the bats, tigers and bird area among others. The animals must have been on strike this day because here is the best view we got of the tigers, which happens to be my favorite part!

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A paw! That is all they were giving us!

Good thing these guys were out and active:

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The birds were especially photogenic too!2015-05-11-13h12m26

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Feeling cheated out of the tigers, we found this display and figured this would just have to do for our tiger photography this go around.

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With some time to kill before we took on the Yeti on Expedition Everest, we decided to get some PhotoPass pictures have ourselves an Everest photoshoot.

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Soon we were on the other prettiest roller coaster in the world. (7 Dwarfs Mine Train is the other one if you are keeping score).

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We were trying to be cute and do the “Nameste” greeting, but as you can see the couple in front of us rudely put their arms up and blocked my dear husband. It happens. The poor girl in the front looks like she is holding on for dear life, I feel like her dad/grandpa doesn’t even care that his daughter/granddaughter is about to get thrown from the train. Am I the only one that makes up stories for the other guests who appear in your photos?

I am pretty sure we also rode Kali River Rapids as our final ride before heading back to the hotel to get ready for an early 3:40 dinner at T-Rex Cafe at the then Downtown Disney now Disney Springs. If I am not a 5 year old adult then I am definitely a senior citizen given this dinner time. There is no in between.

Tune in next Tuesday for our T-Rex experience!