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.

Today in Disney History

Walt Disney World:  May 26,1986
Spaceship Earth, at EPCOT Center, reopens in a revamped version, with an all-new narration by venerable newsman Walter Cronkite.  In addition the attraction has a new sponsor, AT&T, and introduces an all-new finale song titled “Tomorrow’s Child”.
Walt Disney World, May 26, 1990
At the Magic Kingdom, the exsiting “temporary land” Mickey’s Birthdayland (opened in 1988 in honor of Mickey Mouse’s 60th) is rebranded Mickey’s Starland and opens with some revisions and modifications.  (It is later renamed Mickey’s Toontown Fair).

Today in Disney History

Walt Disney World:  May 25, 1973
Walt Disney World’s Country & Western Spectacular kicks off for the first of three days at the Magic Kingdom. This special event is included in regular theme park admission, and the special guests include Freddie Hart, Anne Murray and Faron Young.
Walt Disney World:  May 25, 1990
Here Come the Muppets, a live-action and puppet stage show starring Jim Henson’s loveable Muppets, opens at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park(Its’ run will be short-lived, however, and it will be replaced by the Voyage of the Little Mermaid in 1992.)
Walt Disney World:  May 25, 1998
The Walt Disney Company expands their animation operations eastward, with the opening of Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida at Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.  The new Magic of Disney Animation tour includes an expanded viewing area where guests might meet Disney animation artists and see ongoing work on future animated releases, including animation clean-up and the ink and paint process. 

Today in Disney History

Hong Kong Disneyland:  May 24, 2004  

After the first official announcement of the new Disneyland theme park to be built in Hong Kong, an 18-month publicity campaign for the newest Disney theme park is begun.  The park will be closely modeled after the original Anaheim location, including using an identical copy of the more Midwestern-style Main Street, U.S.A. (vs. the more Victorian-style found in Orlando, Tokyo and Paris), as well as the more intimate Sleeping Beauty Castle (vs. the larger and more imposing Cinderella Castle).  The park is slated to open during the second half of 2005 and the worldwide celebration of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary. Once opened, Hong Kong Disneyland will become the 11th Disney theme park around the globe.


Today in Disney History

Disneyland:  May 23, 1983
After more than a year of construction, Disneyland celebrates the grand opening of the completely renovated “New Fantasyland“.   28 years later, the children of the original kids that first crossed the castle’s drawbridge in 1955 are the first to enter the newly renovated land. In the presence of Walt’s widow, Lillian Disney, the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty Castle is lowered for only the second time in the park’s history! A completely new and unique attraction joins the Fantasyland roster – Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, an all-new “dark ride” joining such classics as Peter Pan’s Flight and Snow White’s Scary Adventures.  A brand new Dumbo the Flying Elephants, now soaring above a ring of water, has replaced the original; and a relocated Mad Tea Party is better situated located next to the Alice in Wonderland attraction.  The entire land has been rethemed from its’ original circus-tent facade feel, to better fit in with the charm and theming of each story told – European architecture is found throughout the land.  The all-new dining facility Village Haus, similar to that found in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is now located next to Pinocchio’s Daring Journey.  Additionally, a brand new path to Frontierland, the Big Thunder Trail has been opened up, taking guests behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, improving the flow of guest traffic between both lands.
Tokyo Disneyland:  May 23, 1983
In a record yet to be rivaled by any Disney park worldwide, Tokyo Disneyland welcomes its 1-millionth guest in less than 2 months of operation.  (Disneyland by contrast welcomed its’ one millionth visitor after just 11 weeks,  The Magic Kingdom after more than 3 months)

Disneyland:  May 23, 1997
After a highly touted year-long retirement campaign for the venerable, world-famous Main Street Electrical Parade throughout 1996, the highly anticipated (and marketed) replacement “nighttime streetacular” Light Magic premieres.   The floats are all covered with fiber optics, and move along the famed parade route, stopping in two “performance corridors” – one along Main Street, U.S.A., the other in the “Small World Promenade”.  The music is celtic-inspired.  The films depicted in the streetacular include:  “Bambi”, “Beauty & the Beast”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Mary Poppins”, “Cinderella”, “Pinocchio”, and “The Little Mermaid.”   (It opened to extremely poor reviews, and was quickly removed from the park a mere four months later, never to be seen again).

Walt Disney World:  May 23, 2001
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin soar to life in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom