As many of you know, I spent last week in Florida (pretty much) on vacation. Thanks to Mary O’Keefe for doing a stellar job not only overseeing the office and putting out the paper but also in writing my column.
The first comment I want to offer about Florida is the heat. I now totally understand the term, “It’s a dry heat,” when referring to California’s weather because Florida’s temps are not at all dry. The 90-plus temperatures are accompanied by a heaviness that feels like the air itself is pregnant with dampness. And if there were any doubts, the almost daily thunderstorms that dumped torrents of water on us were reminders.
Our first full day was spent at the Walt Disney Resorts. We spent most of the day at the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – EPCOT – a place truly filled with wonder and innovation with some gut-wrenching adventure thrown in for good measure. Specifically, the Mission: Space ride was particularly gut-wrenching – or for me, at least, almost gut losing. But I was able to hold onto my dignity and my lunch.
One of the most interesting attractions at EPCOT was a ride called Living with the Land. It offers a glimpse into some ways to address global hunger. For this city girl, Living with the Land was particularly eye-opening and provided a peek into futuristic farming that could answer problems posed by geographically challenged areas.
From EPCOT, our group headed over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I had no experience with Animal Kingdom, which was opened in 1998. Stepping into a Disney park without any expectation in itself is an adventure. I think that Disney does a great job of putting together a theme park and I was excited to step onto the grounds of Animal Kingdom for the first time.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Animal Kingdom is part zoo, part theme park. Like EPCOT, there’s an opportunity to learn while enjoying the many attractions, most of which focus on wildlife and global environments. Highlights for us were the Tree of Life located in the center of the park. Carved within the trunk of this mammoth tree – it stands 145 feet tall, 50 feet wide – are 325 animals. It is spectacular. Another favorite was the Kilimanjaro Safari. This pseudo-safari takes riders through the savannas of Africa. We saw cheetahs, lions, Ankole cattle with enormous horns, giraffes … all really fantastic.
From Animal Kingdom it was off to Magic Kingdom – yes, folks, this was all in one day.
The similarities between Disneyland and Walt Disney World were many, so I didn’t feel the need to visit Walt Disney World, however I was with my kids who were ready to go. So we boarded a ferry and traveled across to the theme park.
As expected, walking onto the property was like walking into Disneyland, however the Main Street Electrical Parade was underway and for me that was like a welcome from an old friend. I remember the years that the parade was in Anaheim – 1972–1974, 1977–1982, and 1985-1996 – so seeing it in Walt Disney World was nostalgic.
We were some of the last ones to leave the park around 12:30 a.m. On the way out, vendors were selling those iconic Mickey Mouse balloons that light up. I mentioned that I had never gotten one when I was a kid – my parents were no way going to spend more than a buck on a balloon. My son Matthew promptly walked over to the vendor and plunked down $15 for one. It was a lovely gesture and a wonderful way to end our day at Disney.
If you’re interested in reading more of our Florida trip, including our visit to the Kennedy Space Center, go online at www.cvweekly.com and click on my column.