Today in Disney History

Walt Disney World:  May 31, 1998
The Wildhorse Saloon opens at Pleasure Island.  Located at 1630 Biena Vista Drive, the former site of the Fireworks Factory restaurant, this 27,000 square foot entertainment venue is based on the original location in Nashville, TN and features live Country-Western entertainment, as well as a retail outlet. 

Today in Disney History

Disneyland:  May 30, 1958
The cast of Walt Disney’s new TV series “Zorro” appear for a 3-day cross promotion throughout Frontierland.   The stars (Guy Williams, Gene Sheldon, Britt Lomond and Henry Calvin) appear in parades and live daily shows. Three of the shows feature a running battle between Zorro and Monastario on Frontierland’s rooftops, and sees Zorro’s foes ending up in the Rivers of America; the fourth show is in Magnolia Park, with Guy Williams appearing as Don Diego.
Walt Disney World:  May 30, 1967
Site preparation begins, requiring swamp drainage, tree removal and land clearing.   (Opening Day will come 1,584 days and $400 million later).

Today in Disney History

Disneyland:  May 28, 1960
Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland opens in Frontierland, which is a new and improved version of the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, which first opened in 1956.  The attraction features themes and scenery popularized by Walt Disney’s “True-Life Adventure” films of the 1950’s.  It is the park’s third “E” ticket attraction.
Disneyland:  May 28, 1966
It’s A Small World, completely relocated from the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York opens in Fantasyland.   A beautiful new exterior facade is designed by Mary Blair, featuring architectural concepts and landmarks from around the world; and like the park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, the attraction has real gold shimmering on the various spires.  The large animated clock in the center marks each quarter hour with a fanciful presentation.  The 18-minute attraction, sponsored by Bank of America, features 297 animated dolls, 256 toys, a canal filled with 233,000 gallons of water, and of course the famous song written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. It is the park’s first continually loading high capacity ride funneling thousands through per hour (which leads the Operations Cast Members to affectionately dub it a “people eater” given the very high throughput compared to extremely slow loading, low capacity attractions found throughout the rest of the park).  Walt Disney himself hosts the Grand Opening celebration with children dressed in traditional clothing from around the world, who then pour waters from the seven seas of the world into the canal to demonstrate the unity of the globe as the attraction’s theme song so persistently tries to convey.  (The attraction will prove to be so popular that versions will later be added at each of the future Magic Kingdoms around in the world:  Walt Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland).
Walt Disney World:  May 28, 1994
Wilderness Lodge opens . Located at 901 Timberline Drive, this 728-room lakeside deluxe resort is inspired by the great American National Park lodges of the early 20th Century and reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest.  It features an 80-foot tall three-sided fireplace in the lobby representing the various strata of the Grand Canyon.  The impressive lobby has four large teepee inspired chandeliers, and two 55′ totem poles stand guard.  A bubbling hot spring originates in the lobby and appears to continue on outside where it is transformed into a roaring waterfall that “pours” into the swimming area.  Follow the path behind the pool area to a 120 foot geyser that erupts hourly throughout the day.  Situated on the shores of Bay Lake, and only a mile away from the Magic Kingdom, the resort is surrounded by 56 acres of oak and pine trees.

Today in Disney History

Disneyland:  May 27, 1977
Just in time for the Memorial Day weekend crowds, Space Mountain officially opens.  Attending the Grand Opening festivities are the six surviving astronauts from Project Mercury:  Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra,  Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Alan Shephard & Donald Slayton space travelers, and the widow of the seventh, Gus Grissom.
Euro Disney:  May 27,1992
Disney’s Sequoia Lodge opens at the new Euro Disney theme park and resort complex (later to be renamed Disneyland Paris).  The resort is designed by French architect Antoine Grumbach, and evokes the atmosphere of the various American National Park lodges built around the beginning of the 20th century.  It includes 1,011 guest rooms and faces Lake Disney.  
Walt Disney World:  May 27,1995
The Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner, a counter service dining location found at the western end of Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom is renamed Casey’s Corner.



Southern Swing, Part 6

While my parents and my other brother Rob were headed to the Masters on Tuesday, we had planned to spend the day in Charleston.  But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. 

I’m an obsessive vacation planner.  Half the fun for me is in the planning and the anticipation of the vacation, in trying to see as much as we can without killing ourselves.  I love being able to make the decisions and run the show.

But that can also result in a trip that’s so planned out that it loses some spontaneity, which is also part of the fun.  So, we try and plan the major beats of the day and then leave time for improvisation.  And on this day, the fact of the matter was that we were all sick of driving, and the idea of 2 hours down and 2 hours back from Charleston did not sound appealing (especially with another big driving day looming on Wednesday).  So, we called an audible and stuck around Columbia for the day.  We’ll have to save Fort Sumter for a future trip.

Congaree National Park. But I guess you knew that.

Our first stop was one of the country’s newest National Parks: Congaree.  This is a large cypress swamp that was first designated as a national monument in 1976 and then upgraded to a National Park in 2003.  According to Wikipedia, it “preserves the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States.  I will award $1,000  a Captain Oblivious No-Prize to the first person who can explain in layman’s terms what that means.

*Note: I am shamelessly ripping off Barry’s gag of awarding fake prizes in trip reports, mostly because I couldn’t come up with anything better.  If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

I love this sign. I want to find one for my deck.

In any case, the park is mostly undisturbed swampland, with a 2-mile boardwalk trail that loops from the visitor center around various tracts of some of the largest cypress trees in the Eastern U.S. 

Cypress trees
The boardwalk trail

We took the trail, and the kids held up pretty well throughout.  This means that Scotty made it almost halfway through before demanding that we carry him.  We didn’t get to see much wildlife, although woodpeckers were making noise all around us.  I spotted one on a tree, but it flew away before I could point it out to the rest of the family.

The kids were pretty proud of themselves.

The hike took most of the morning, which was about all we needed to see of the swamp.  From here it was on to the Columbia Children’s Museum, called Edventure.  I have no idea why, and will award $5,000 a shiny new nickel to anyone who does.  (Note: the $0.05 will come in the form of an indefinite IOU).

After PB&J in the parking lot, we entered the museum.

The Columbia Children's Museum

Time for my mini-rant: why do “Children’s Museums” across the country charge the adults full price to get in?   This drives me crazy every time.  All I’m going to do in there is sit on a bench and watch the kids.  That’s it.  I have no interest in pretending to milk a cow or shop in a fake grocery store.  I might want to slide down the fireman pole, but the security guy in the last museum I visited said that was a no-no. 

Anyway, the kids wanted to go in, so I forked over my money.  But I made sure to give the clerk the stink-eye while I did so.  So there.

The main attraction at Edventure is Eddie, a 3-story sculpture of a child whose insides double as a playground that shows kids the various systems in the body.  For example, the stomach area contained large foam representations of ice cream sandiches.  Curiously, there was a slide leading out of the stomach to the floor behind the figure.  Every time a kid slid down, the figure made a gassy, gurgling sound, and then out would come the kid.  I found no end of amusement in this.  “It’s crapping out kids!” I declared to my wife.  She smacked me in the gut and told me to go sit on a bench.

The kids had a great time.  There was a farm area, a firehouse, grocery store, car repair garage, African village, music and TV studios, and a water play area outside.  At least they got their money’s worth. David, our most cautious child, walked around for the first half with his hands covering his ears, as though he was afraid something would be loud. I’m guessing he may not want to do the Dinosaur ride in Disney World this fall.

Dave was ready in case the cow moo-ed extra loud.
As a dad, this just scares me.
I don't imagine this would be a comfortable ride for Scotty.
I'm just glad they were having a blast.

For dinner, we found a nice local chain called the Copper River Grill which had a pretty decent BBQ bacon cheeseburger, among other things.  I only mention this because after the local BBQ place the night before, my brothers and their wives asked my parents to eat at the fanciest place in town that evening.  When they returned to the hotel that night, I asked my dad how dinner was.  He gave me a dirty look and said, “Mom and I just had a soup and salad.  It was $45.”  If looks could kill…

I’ll skip over Wednesday, since it was all driving up to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  But I can say that it confirmed our decision not to do Charleston on Tuesday.  We needed that break!

Coming Up Next: A day in the Outer Banks, complete with a little history, a little mini-golf, a little sand, and a giant roll of toilet paper.  And maybe I’ll even stop stealing Barry’s gag.