Our first theme park day (the 4th of July) we spent at Disney Studios, counting on most of the hordes of people to head for the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT (both of which had amazing fireworks shows). (I plotted our schedule with this handy Web site, which predicts which parks are the least crowded on which dates.) We had been to Disney Studios twice before, in 2005 on our pre-kids trip, and when Chris was 7 and Kieran 4 months old (I had a business meeting in Orlando that year). It's one of my favorite parks because of the movies theme, its smaller size, and the fact that it houses one of my favorite rides, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (you can see it in the middle of the background in the photo below).
Posing in front of Mike's favorite ride, the Aerosmith Rock 'n Roller Coaster (Chris rode both of these rides for the first time, and he especially loved the Rock 'n Roller Coaster)--its claim to fame is that you shoot from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds!:
Poor Kieran and Nick--because of our touring plan to hit the most popular rides first thing in the morning, they spent their first hour in the theme parks waiting around for us to go on these two rides! They didn't complain, though they were happy when we moved on!
Here we are posing with Minnie, right before the sudden thunder and rain storm began!
During our first few days in the parks, we were lucky to have overcast skies and afternoon rain showers, which cut down on the crowds a bit. It also kept the heat and humidity in check slightly.
We enjoyed all the rides and many shows at Disney Studios...the Beauty and the Beast show, Little Mermaid attraction, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and a new one: the "American Idol Experience." Park guests are able to audition and perform at several mini-shows throughout the day, where the audience votes for the performer they like best. The winners of each show then move onto the finale show at the end of the day. The grand prize is a golden ticket which will take the performer to the head of the line at any American Idol audition in the country. A Texas football coach named Kenny won at the initial show we attended, and then later on Kieran and I went to the finale show (with seven contestants), where Kenny eventually ended up winning the whole shebang! Very fun!
Meeting Mike Wazowski after the Backlot tour:
Poor little Nicholas regularly fell asleep during the afternoons--jet lagged and tired out from the heat. That evening we had dinner at the Prime Time Cafe, a retro 50s diner. It was our only "sit-down" meal in the theme parks, and the food was surprisingly good! Here's Nick sleeping through the early part of dinner:
And now he's awake!
Chris, our champion eater, was delighted with this restaurant. He would eat out every single day if he could. He informed us that he even enjoyed the vegetables at this restaurant (he had the fried chicken platter): they were the best he'd ever eaten. I gave him a hard time by asking whether they were even better than our cooking. Yes, he did think so! No attempts at flattery for our boy!
I often remind him about how the ONE DAY we went to Disneyland when I was a teenager, we brought in sandwiches! We rarely ate out--maybe once or twice a year, if that. He doesn't realize how lucky he is.
This was one of Nick's favorite parts of the theme parks--make your own sundaes at the Prime Time Cafe!
They even got Mickey Mouse sprinkles to put on their sundaes!
While Kieran and I went to the American Idol finale, Mike, Chris, and Nick visited the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playground and the Muppetvision 3-D movie:
Chris is such a nice older brother!
Our day was topped off by seeing the incredible Fantasmic show, which was really quite intense and scary--but Nick did fine and enjoyed the show. Mike and the boys had headed over there 90 minutes early to score some great seats! After the show we walked toward the entrance and stayed just a bit longer to take in the great fireworks, accompanied by patriotic music from the movies: