Florida, Day 8: Epcot

After leaving Animal Kingdom we headed over to Epcot. The majority of our time at Epcot was spent visiting the areas representing various countries around the world.

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Mexico Pavillion

Mexico Pavillion

Norway Pavillion, complete with a grass roof

Norway Pavillion, complete with a grass roof

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavillion

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavillion

The enterance to the China Pavillion

The entrance to the China Pavillion

In the China Pavillion. Notice the water dragon.

In the China Pavillion. Notice the water dragon.

The Germany Pavillion

The Germany Pavillion

The Italy Pavillion

The Italy Pavillion

U.S.A. Pavillion

U.S.A. Pavillion

The Japan Pavillion

The Japan Pavillion

At the Japan Pavillion

At the Japan Pavillion

Morocco Pavillion

Morocco Pavillion

Morocco Pavillion

Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

In the Morocco Pavillion

Katra receives a Henna tattoo in the Morocco Pavillion

Katra receives a Henna tattoo in the Morocco Pavillion

Katra receives a Henna tattoo in the Morocco Pavillion

Katra receives a Henna tattoo in the Morocco Pavillion

Katra receives a Henna tattoo in the Morocco Pavillion

Katra receives a Henna tattoo in the Morocco Pavillion

France Pavillion

France Pavillion

France Pavillion

France Pavillion

United Kingdom Pavillion

United Kingdom Pavillion

United Kingdom Pavillion

United Kingdom Pavillion

Some street performers in the United Kingdom Pavillion

Some street performers in the United Kingdom Pavillion

Canada Pavillion

Canada Pavillion

Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavillion, where we had lunch.

Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavillion, where we had lunch.

Florida, Day 8: Animal Kingdom

We started our third and final day at Disney in Animal Kingdom.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life, a 14 story, 50-foot wide tree that dominates the whole park

Closeup of The Tree of Life

Closeup of The Tree of Life

Breakfast was a buffet at Tusker House, which was excellent. Because we had early breakfast reservations, we were able to enter the park before it opened, and this meant that all the Disney characters who would normally be working their way around the park were able to visit us right at our breakfast table.

Mickey visits during breakfast

Mickey visits during breakfast

Donald signs Kyle's autograph book

Donald signs Kyle's autograph book

Daisy pays a visit

Daisy pays a visit

Goofy drops by

Goofy drops by

Our waitress was kind enough to bring by a birthday surprise for Ian

A (late) birthday surprise for Ian!

A (late) birthday surprise for Ian!

Animal Kingdom is broken up into 7 different areas. Tusker House is in the Africa area, and it really does have the look of a building in an African town.

Tusker House, where we had breakfast.

Tusker House, where we had breakfast.

A sign painted on the outside of the restaurant. Good thing we were there in the morning!

A sign painted on the outside of the restaurant. Good thing we were there in the morning!

I feel like we're in Africa!

I feel like we're in Africa!

After breakfast we went on the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride. This is basically a big, bouncy bus that drives through a huge animal exhibit. It was tough to get pictures because the bus was bouncing around so much, but this was much better than any zoo. There were many animals from the African savanna that none of us had ever seen before.

A black rhino after his morning bath

A rhino after his morning bath

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Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodile

A baobab tree

A baobab tree

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Ankole Cattle

Ankole Cattle

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Eland

Eland

African Elephant

African Elephant

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

White Rhinos

White Rhinos

White Rhino

White Rhino

The elusive Cheetah. This is apparently a rare sighting on this ride. Right after I took this photo the cheetah hopped off the rock and loped off into the woods.

The elusive Cheetah. This is apparently a rare sighting on this ride. Right after I took this photo the cheetah hopped off the rock and loped off into the woods.

Scimitar-horned Oryx

Scimitar-horned Oryx

Lion

Lion

Warthogs

Warthogs

Ostrich

Ostrich

After the safari ride we proceeded around the central lake to the Asia section.

The Tree of Life from the other side of the lake

The Tree of Life from the other side of the lake

Anyone want a Coke?

Anyone want a Coke?

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Mount Everest (which is really a big roller coaster) visible across the lake

Mount Everest (which is really a big roller coaster) visible across the lake

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Next up was Dinoland, U.S.A.

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Kyle meets Goofy and Pluto. Pluto was kind enough to offer his nose as an armrest.

Kyle meets Goofy and Pluto. Pluto was kind enough to offer his nose as an armrest.

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Florida Day 7: Shooting photos with Kyle

Later in the afternoon, we went back to the hotel to rest a bit. Katra and Ian took a nap while Kyle and I went for a walk around the resort to take pictures. Kyle has his own camera now, so he was shooting the whole time along with me (he actually took more pictures than I did, which is no small feat). I have put some of his photos below alongside mine for comparison. Aside from holding the camera level and keeping fingerprints off the lens, I think he’s getting pretty good!

The view out the back of our hotel building. The river you see in the background runs through the whole property.

The view out the back of our hotel building. The river you see in the background runs through the whole property.

One of the many horse head post caps scattered around the property. Kyle loved these, and took several photos of each one we passed. Right now he's standing next to me saying, "Remember that? It's the horsie!"
The back of Acadian House, our hotel building at Port Orleans Riverside.

The back of Acadian House, our hotel building at Port Orleans Riverside.

Kyle's version of the previous photo. Notice he was sure to include the horsey.

Kyle's version of the previous photo. Notice he was sure to include the horsey.

Kyle taking pictures of the river

Kyle taking pictures of the river

Another hotel building at Riverside, this one with a Magnolia theme

Another hotel building at Riverside, this one with a Magnolia theme

The common area for Port Orleans Riverside. The waterwheel turns a giant axis inside the building, which spins a giant wooden clockwork device in the food court.

The common area for Port Orleans Riverside. The waterwheel turns a giant axis inside the building, which spins a giant wooden clockwork device in the food court.

Kyle dashing across the bridge to take more pictures

Kyle dashing across the bridge to take more pictures

The dock at Port Orleans Riverside.

The dock at Port Orleans Riverside.

The passageway at the back of the main building

The passageway at the back of the main building

Kyle's version of the previous photo

Kyle's version of the previous photo

Kyle on the bulldozer ride in the arcade

Kyle on the bulldozer ride in the arcade

Kyle taking a picture of his favorite part of our walk (the arcade)

Kyle taking a picture of his favorite part of our walk (the arcade)

Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

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Kyle taking a closeup of a horse head post cap

Kyle taking a closeup of a horse head post cap

Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

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Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

The dock from the other side of the river.

The dock from the other side of the river.

For the above photo I crouched down to frame the photo nicely. Kyle copied my every move, crouching down to get the same shot. My little photographer.

For the above photo I crouched down to frame the photo nicely. Kyle copied my every move, crouching down to get the same shot. My little photographer.

Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

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Well, I was *trying* to take a picture of the gazebo!

Well, I was *trying* to take a picture of the gazebo!

Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle shooting the gazebo

Kyle shooting the gazebo

Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

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Kyle's version of the above photo

Kyle's version of the above photo

Resting after a hard day of shooting

Resting after a hard day of shooting

This was my favorite part of the whole trip. Kyle really seems to enjoy using his camera. He copies what I do for some pictures, but he really does his own thing on most of them. He got some really interesting and unique photos on the trip, and I’ll be posting more of them after I have a chance to sort through them (he took almost 2000 photos on our vacation).

Florida Day 7: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We spent the morning and early afternoon of our second Disney day at Hollywood Studios. The whole park is set up like a giant movie set, with backdrops, fake buildings, and people walking around dressed like old movie stars.

The entrance gate for Hollywood Studios

The entrance gate for Hollywood Studios

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That is one BIG hat.

That is one BIG hat.

Donald Duck signs Kyle's autograph book

Donald Duck signs Kyle's autograph book

Kyle and Donald Duck

Kyle and Donald Duck

Ian shows Donald his baby.

Ian shows Donald his baby.

Hey, how did we get to San Francisco? (the section going uphill is a big backdrop)

Hey, how did we get to San Francisco? (the section going uphill is a big backdrop)

The Honey I Shrunk the Kids exhibit was set up to make you feel like you had been shrunk to the size of an ant.

In the "Honey, I Shunk the Kids" exhibit.

In the "Honey, I Shunk the Kids" exhibit.

Ian near a slide shaped like a giant leaf

Ian near a slide shaped like a giant leaf

Kyle goes down the leaf slide...backwards

Kyle goes down the leaf slide...backwards

Kyle and Katra stand next to some giant plant shoots

Kyle and Katra stand next to some giant plant shoots

If you think YOU have ant problems, you ain't seen nothin'.

If you think YOU have ant problems, you ain't seen nothin'.

A giant tonka truck and a giant scrabble tile. The truck was probably 5 feet tall.

A giant tonka truck and a giant scrabble tile. The truck was probably 5 feet tall.

Kyle strikes a pose with Lightning McQueen

Kyle strikes a pose with Lightning McQueen

The Muppet exhibit (which was really just a big gift shop)

The Muppet exhibit (which was really just a big gift shop)

An entire store themed to the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"

An entire store themed to the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"

Mama Melrose's, where we had some excellent Italian food for lunch

Mama Melrose's, where we had some excellent Italian food for lunch

That's one big frog.

That's one big frog.

So THAT'S how it all works!

So THAT'S how it all works!

Suddenly we found ourselves in New York

Suddenly we found ourselves in New York

If this was really New York, there would be a dozen angry cab drivers trying to run those people over.

If this was really New York, there would be a dozen angry cab drivers trying to run those people over.

See if you can spot where the backdrop begins

See if you can spot where the backdrop begins

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I know I asked for a large Coke, but this is ridiculous!

I know I asked for a large Coke, but this is ridiculous!

Inside the Toy Story theme ride/video game.

Inside the Toy Story theme ride/video game.

This little alien was wandering around seemingly by himself (there was probably someone in a nearby building controlling him)

This little alien was wandering around seemingly by himself (there was probably someone in a nearby building controlling him)

The Playhouse Disney show

The Playhouse Disney show

On the way out we ran into a bunch of people dressed as actors from old movies.

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Florida Day 6: DISNEY!!!

On the sixth day of our vacation we headed over to Walt Disney World. We checked in at the Port Orleans Riverside resort (photos to come later) then headed up to Magic Kingdom for our first day of fun.

Driving into Disney World

Driving into Disney World

The parking lot for Magic Kingdom is actually across the lake, so you either had to take the monorail or a ferry to get to the park. We took the monorail on the way in, and the ferry on the way out.

The monorail pulling into the station

The monorail pulling into the station.

Riding on the monorail

Riding on the monorail

The front gate for Magic Kingdom

The front gate for Magic Kingdom

Kyle was just a *tiny* bit excited about going to see Mickey Mouse.

Kyle was just a *tiny* bit excited about going to see Mickey Mouse.

City Hall, just inside Magic Kingdom

City Hall, just inside Magic Kingdom

There aren't many places in the world where a marching band can just come along out of nowhere.

There aren't many places in the world where a marching band can just come along out of nowhere.

This horse-drawn trolley came along, a bunch of dancers jumped out, and music started playing. Only at Disney.

This horse-drawn trolley came along, a bunch of dancers jumped out, and music started playing. Only at Disney.

Some of the street dancers

Some of the street dancers

Katra, Kyle and Ian in front of Cinderella's Castle

Katra, Kyle and Ian in front of Cinderella's Castle

Karl, Kyle and Ian in front of Cinderella's Castle

Karl, Kyle and Ian in front of Cinderella's Castle

A topiary of... a snail? a swan? A guy holding his fist in the air?

A topiary of... a snail? a swan? A guy holding his fist in the air?

Some random evil step-relatives

Some random evil step-relatives

Pete's Garage, where they sell not gasoline or cartoon vehicle services, but food.

Pete's Garage, where they sell not gasoline or cartoon vehicle services, but food.

Minnie Mouse's house

Minnie Mouse's house

Mickey's bedroom, which was oddly right inside the front door of his house.

Mickey's bedroom, which was oddly right inside the front door of his house.

Mickey's mouse-shaped tomatoes

Mickey's mouse-shaped tomatoes

Mickey's mouse-shaped pumpkins. At this point I was beginning to detect a pattern. EVERYTHING at disney is mouse-shaped.

Mickey's mouse-shaped pumpkins. At this point I was beginning to detect a pattern. EVERYTHING at disney is mouse-shaped.

Everything, that is, except for the Goofy-shaped cactus.

Everything, that is, except for the Goofy-shaped cactus.

Kyle meets Mickey and Minnie

Kyle meets Mickey and Minnie

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Cutest. Picture. EVER.

Cutest. Picture. EVER.

My favorite photo from the entire trip.

My favorite photo from the entire trip. Yes, it really does look like that.

We had lunch at the Crystal Palace, and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger dropped by to see the boys.

The Crystal Palace, where we ate lunch on the first day.

The Crystal Palace, where we ate lunch on the first day.

Kyle and Ian meet Winnie the Pooh

Kyle and Ian meet Winnie the Pooh

...and Tigger, too!

...and Tigger, too!

Tigger signs Kyle's autograph book

Tigger signs Kyle's autograph book

Tomorrowland!

Tomorrowland!

Kyle imprisoned with the Evil Emperor Zurg

Kyle imprisoned with the Evil Emperor Zurg

Liberty Square, designed to look like 18th century New England

Liberty Square, designed to look like 18th century New England

Kyle shows off his hula-hooping skills

Kyle shows off his hula-hooping skills

We headed back to the hotel in mid-afternoon to get moved into our rooms and rest a bit before heading out to dinner.

A ferry coming in, with the Grand Floridian resort visible in the distance

A ferry coming in, with the Grand Floridian resort visible in the distance

The ferry we took back to the parking lot. This is an alternate to the monorail.

The ferry we took back to the parking lot. This is an alternate to the monorail.

Remember when I wrote about everything being mouse-shaped? This was waiting for us on our hotel room bed. The maids do this as a special treat for customers.

Remember when I wrote about everything being mouse-shaped? This was waiting for us on our hotel room bed. The maids do this as a special treat for customers.

Dinner was at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge resort. This is a really fun place to eat. If you make make certain requests of your waiter, the results can be pretty unexpected. If you ask for ketchup, the waiter will yell “I NEED KETCHUP!!!” as loud as they can, and soon you will have several dozen ketchup bottles brought to your table by every waiter in the place. Asking for a refill of your Coke will result in a GIANT bell jar full of Coke. The food was excellent, too – we ordered an “all you care to eat” barbecue platter, and received some of the best bbq we have had anywhere. We left stuffed, and ready for more fun at Magic Kingdom.

The entrance to Wilderness Lodge

The entrance to Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge

The view from our table at Whispering Canyon Cafe, in the Wilderness Lodge.

The view from our table at Whispering Canyon Cafe, in the Wilderness Lodge.

The view from the dock at Wilderness Lodge as we waited for the ferry to take us back to Magic Kingdom

The view from the dock at Wilderness Lodge as we waited for the ferry to take us back to Magic Kingdom

The big attraction in the evening at Magic Kingdom is the parade followed by the fireworks display. The night we were there they had a special presentation of Spectromagic, where they turn out all the lights in the park and the parade floats come through all lit up with Christmas tree type lights. The lights alternate between pure white and multicolor, and the effect is really amazing. After the parade comes the fireworks show. We had seats right next to Cinderella’s Castle, so the fireworks were exploding right above us. It was truly an amazing experience.

Cinderella's Castle lit by the setting sun

Cinderella's Castle lit by the setting sun

While we were waiting for the fireworks, the castle was lit by a progression of different colored lights

While we were waiting for the fireworks, the castle was lit by a progression of different colored lights

As it turns out, doing a 4 second hand-held exposure of a fireworks display with an excited 5 year old sitting in your lap is no small feat. I thought this one turned out pretty well, though.

As it turns out, doing a 4 second hand-held exposure of a fireworks display with an excited 5 year old sitting in your lap is no small feat. I thought this one turned out pretty well, though.