The Cast: Me - Geoff_M, age 36, 7th trip Mrs. M - Diane, age 35, 4th trip Daughter - Kristina, age 9, 2nd trip Son #1 - Charles, age before 6, age after 7, 2nd trip Son #2 - Steven, age 19 months, 2nd trip Cameos by: My Sister - Sally, age 28 Her Boyfriend - Tom, age ?? Duration: 6 days (1/1/01 to 1/6/01) Stayed On-Site at Wilderness Lodge 01/04/2001 - AK, Pony Rides, and Cirque Thursday's plan called for spending about half a day at Animal Kingdom (AK), resting at the hotel, and then capping off the day with Cirque du Soleil. We woke up around 6:30 AM and ate breakfast in the room. We then drove the car to AK and got there about 30 minutes after it opened (seems that was our regular time for arriving at parks!). Today was probably the coldest it felt at Disney all week. It was still in the mid 50's as it had been in the past couple of days, but there was a wind for most of the daylight hours. It was like that too when we are at AK for the first time last year. We didn't get to see a great deal of animals then (we wrote it off to the cold), and we feared that would be true again this time. We headed right to Dinosaur. This was the only attraction that Kristina passed up going on last year. It was a bit too intimidating to her. But the fact that her six-year-old brother went and liked it seemed to gnaw at her. She declared that she was going to ride it this time. The wait was only about 10 minutes. Pretty good considering the time. Diane and Steven peeled off to wait in the gift shop. The older two and I loaded the CTX car and off we went. I've read that they toned the ride down a bit since we last rode it, but I really didn't notice anything really different. But then again I didn't think it was bad to begin with. Kristina seemed to do just fine on the ride. I knew when the big dino would pop out at the end of the ride so I looked at Kristina to see her reaction. She had a somewhat concerned look on her face, but that was it. After we met Diane and Steven in the gift shop for the baby swap. Diane asked who was joining her, Charles jumped up and down, but Kristina decided once was enough. I'll give her credit for at least trying it. So the three of us waited for Diane and Charles to return. To kill the time, I watched the "security camera" monitors in the gift shop that show video and audio of the research institute security team trying to chase down the dinosaur you bring back in the ride. Take some time to watch it, it's pretty funny! From there Kristina and Charles wanted to go to the Boneyard. So off we went. It wasn't too crowded so we went in and stayed for about 30 minutes. Kristina and Charles had fun running around the area and Diane and I stationed ourselves at the top and bottom of one of the long slides to help Steven go down it. He loves slides. We then went over to the digging pit on the over side of the Boneyard and let all three kids dig in the gravel for "bones". This was something we overlooked last time. As we left the Boneyard, we took some time to read the research institute bulletin board across the path from the exit. I read on the Hidden Mickeys web site that there were lots of funny things CM's had added to it over time. There was lots of funny material in there, most of it relating to dinosaurs. My favorite was a real quote from a university researcher that had been pinned into the board. It read "Being a paleontologist is like being a coroner. Except, that all the witnesses are dead and someone left all the evidence out in the rain for 65 million years." Diane was hoping to see some different live shows this time. We skipped Tarzan Rocks last time, partly because we didn't watch Disney's Tarzan movie until last summer. The next show was about 20 minutes away. So we got in the big line that stretched out across the bridge entering Dinoland USA. We started to move forward as a crowd of people started passing us going the other way. Then some of the people going the other way informed is that our show had been cancelled due to the cold weather. There was a sign at the entrance announcing that some of the live entertainment might be altered due to the weather, but I thought it would be limited to the animal shows. We knew that the avian shows had been cancelled. Oh, well. It was 11 AM, and it looked like a good time to grab some lunch. So we walked up to Flame Tree Barbecue and ordered BBQ sandwiches for Diane, Kristina, and me. The boys opted for the PBJ kids meals. Steven was done quickly, as usual. But this time we put his antsy-ness to use. There were a number of large black birds scrounging around for bits of unguarded food. There weren't too aggressive, but you still had to keep an eye out for them. So we turned Steven loose on them. He happily ran around our table trying to catch the birds that in turn took flight at the sight of the toddler running at them with hands extended forwards and babbling. We polished off lunch and headed over to catch The Festival of the Lion King. We arrived JUST as the show was starting. We were one of the last families admitted. I feared that we'd get stuck in the back, but we were directed to seats near the front of one of the bleacher sections where some people had scooted together. I'm not a real big fan of stage shows, but this is one that I really like. Steven really liked it this time. He wasn't too sure about it at first, but once Diane handed him up to me (I was one row higher) and he could see better the show held his attention. We did notice that they deleted the "monkey" acrobatic routine from the show this time. I wonder if this was another concession to the cold weather. On the way to lunch we picked up FastPasses for It's Tough To Be A Bug and we were now in the return window, so we headed to the Tree of Life. This was actually the first time we all got to see the 3-D film together. Last year Steven was asleep so we baby swapped, but not this year. Of all the 3-D films at WDW, this one's my favorite. We all get a kick out of it. It's really fun to listen to the first-timers shout out when the bugs run under them at the end of the film. Both Kristina and Charles wanted to do Kilimanjaro Safari so we went to the village and got FastPasses. We had some time to kill before the safari, so we did something we didn't do last time. We boarded the train for Conservation Station. We weren't too sure what we'd find there. The reviews we've read by a number of people said it was a waste of time. It was actually pretty interesting. Most of displays are inside the central building. We saw a "up-close and personal" session with a beautiful South America parrot. The kids got a kick out of watching a vet trim the nails of a lizard. But the highlight for Charles was getting to hold a dried shellaced elephant dropping (be still my heart!). All three kids enjoyed the area where some of the newborn animals were on display. We decided it was time to catch the train back to the village and skipped the petting zoo. As we reached the train station I realized Steven's good hat was missing. OH, NO! We got it from the Baby Gap store in Water Tower Place in Chicago about a month earlier and we really loved it... and now it was about to be sucked into the black hole of WDW lost and found! I quickly dashed back and retraced our steps. I didn't see it. I asked a CM were the collection point for lost items at Conservation Station was located. She referred me to the gift shop outside. I went out and asked the CM at the cash register about Steven's hat. To my relief, she reached under the counter and produced the red hat. I must have gotten there in the nick of time. I rejoined the rest of the family at the train station and we rode back to the village. We then used our FastPasses to board the Kilimanjaro Safari bus. Like I said, we expected to not see many animals due to the cool weather. But we were very surprised to see all sorts of animals. We saw a lot more than the previous January. Kristina and Charles burned up lots of film and Steven repeatedly got excited and pointed to every lion, elephant, and gazelle he saw. We agreed we needed to head back to the hotel around 3 PM to rest and get ready for our night out at Cirque du Soleil. So we headed back to the car and went back to WL. On the way back we drove around the All-Star resorts to check them out for the fun of it. Once back at the room we crashed for an hour-long nap. We woke up and went down stairs for our 5:30 PM reservations at Whispering Canyon Cafe. "Whispering" is a real misnomer. The local talent is anything but quiet. Just as we were seated the staff called all the kids forward for a stick pony ride around the dining area. All the time the adults waved their napkins overhead and "whooped" it up. The meal was served family style. There was an all-you-can-eat selection of smoked and BBQ'd meats, baked beans, and corn on the cob. The food was very good. During the meal there was a young girl who was recognized for having a birthday. She got to ride a stick pony around the room while the rest of us sang "happy birthday" to her. Charles' birthday was still two days away, but he asked our server (Jeff) if there was any way he could receive the birthday treatment a couple of days early. Jeff returned a couple minutes later and said that he could either 1) ride the pony himself while the crowd sang to him or 2) have his dad ride around the room while singing solo. Charles quickly seized on #2. So up Charles and I went. Jeff introduced us to the diners and laid out the rules. I had to ride a stick pony around the room while singing "happy birthday" to Charles as loudly as I could. At the end of the run the diners would decide if I was loud enough. If not, I would then have to ride the pony out into the lobby and around the four totem poles and then back to the my waiting son of Charles. I then rode and sang around the room. Of course I was then dispatched to the lobby, much to the delight of Charles. Afterwards I thanked Jeff to the special treatment. We had to hurry to get back to our room quickly because our KinderCare sitter for Steven was due at any time. We had Nancy K. Nancy and Steven seemed to hit it off pretty well. We stayed with Nancy for about 15 minutes to bring her up to speed and acclimate her to Steven. Diane, Kristina, Charles, and I headed to the car and departed for Downtown Disney(DD). When Diane and I went to see Cirque last year we rode the boat from Port Orleans and almost missed the start of the performance. We vowed that would not happen again this year. We got to DD about an hour before the show. We walked around and look through the stores that Diane and I ran past on the way to catch the show last year. When Diane and I saw Cirque last year, it was our "date night". My sister drove up to meet us and took care of the kids while we went to DD. We were glad we had the time to ourselves, but realized that Kristina and Charles would get a BIG kick out of Cirque du Soleil. At first we thought that seeing the show was a "once in a lifetime" occurrence. But the more we thought about it, we wanted to take the two kids to see it. So we decided to bite the bullet and go again. We made the right decision. We don't know how, but I called for tickets in late September and got great seats.... front row, dead center. Everyone seems to say that it's better to sit up higher at Cirque, so when the ticket agent said she had tickets in "the front section" I wasn't sure if I should take them. I decided to try something different this time, and said, "OK". To those who say it's better to sit higher up, I have two words: No way! I won't go into the details of the show, but I can honestly say it's one of the coolest things I've seen in my life. This time, due to the seating, it was like watching it in our living room. We could hear the performers speaking cues to one another. We could hear the sounds of physical exertion so that we could tell things weren't quite as easy as they made it look. We made eye contact with several of the troupe members. Charles and Kristina were so taken by it that they forgot to clap at times. They were in pure awe. It was definitely worth the price of admission for them. The La Nouba CD is now one of their favorites. After the show we loaded back into the car and headed back to our room. I made one of the few wrong turns while we where at WDW on the way back. It was past 11 PM and we found ourselves on a one way path into the Epcot parking lot. I went into the parking booth lane where the sole security CM guarding the parking lot was stationed. I laid out my plight and asked for the exit. He said "Pull forward and take the next left.... And then just follow the signs." You could tell he repeated that phrase about 100 times each night. We followed the car that departed as we pulled in and realized he was astray too. It looked like the guy in our rearview mirror was in the same boat too. I know he didn't mean it that way, but we laughed afterwards at his admonishment to "just follow the signs". We laughed that it was his way of saying "Dumb tourists! Just follow the plain-as-day signs next time!" We got back to the WL around 11:30 PM. As we walked into the car port area I noticed they had a lift there taking down the Christmas wreaths from under the overhang. I also noticed they had started to remove some of the railing garland too. But the central Christmas tree was still there. Steven was great for Nancy K. as we opened the room door we found Steven was fast asleep and Nancy was reading in an armchair in the corner of the room. After we left that evening, Nancy and Steven went down to the lobby for a walk and some snacks. They then returned to the room and played for less than an hour when Steven started to try and climb into the pack-n-play crib. Nancy put his PJs on and he crashed for the rest of the night. Nancy was somewhat apologetic that she didn't do much with him. To us it was great, he obviously needed the rest. We settled up with Nancy, and then crashed ourselves.