October was once again upon us, and thus began the descent into the worst possible time of the year. Yes, the Christmas Season has started. However, before November 1st when we start hearing “Rocking Around the x-mass tree” five times a day, there is time for one Glorious, Wonderful holiday that is Halloween. And we aren’t talking about cutting holes in an old sheet and wandering the neighborhood for last year’s leftover candy type of Halloween, either.
This year, we did Halloween at Disney World. Of course, we did it last year too, and the year before. I love Disney Halloween. You get to dress up, get candy, the lines are shorter, and they have a special parade and fireworks.
First, though, was the food and wine festival at Epcot. Unfortunately, most people seem to go for the adult beverages, and Disney encourages this with shirts like the ones below. “Drink around the world” they say. Sure, so a dozen or more foreign cultures will know what jerks drunken american tourists can be.
One of our first stops was the Festival Center, and if you went to Disney in the early 90s you might remember this as the Wonders of Life Pavilion. The only good attraction here was the Body Wars flight simulator, sort of a “fantastic voyage” type ride into the human body. Not quite as good as Star Tours, but still an interesting ride. The only other thing I remember from here was “The Making of Me” movie, which sounds exactly like what it really was… a film that maybe your 6 year old shouldn’t see at Disney World. Now it hosts the Food and Wine festival and the Flower and Garden festival with a large domed exhibition space.
Of course, no food and wine festival would be complete without plenty of food. We sampled strange stuff from several countries, but Kaylee’s favorite was definitely our old standby, Boulangerie Patisserie, in France. The cookie was mine…
If you’ve never done the Food and Wine thing, it’s worth it, even if you don’t go to the Halloween Party the next night at the Magic Kingdom. Its a lot of fun. But as the evening wore on and dusk approached, people became more and more rambunctious, and the park got very crowded. The party crowd shows up later and everyone wanders back to the lake for the fireworks at 9, so we decided to skip the rest and head back to the hotel.
A word here about the Hotel. We stayed this time at the Port Orleans French Quarter, which I really liked. We used the online check-in and room notification. I only had to go to the front desk to pick up our parking pass, but that was AFTER we parked and walked right to the room. Very convenient driving down I-4 and being texted by WDW that “Your room is ready, it is number XXXX”
I’m not telling you what our room was, but we were in throwing distance of the food court, and a short walk to the car, pool, and boat ramp. Definitely going back to this place. I don’t know if I could go back and stay in the “Disney Ghetto” at Pop Century again.
One other thing I learned on this trip, which should help weary travelers:
Air Conditioning Over Rides. One of the most AWESOME things EVER on YouTube.
Disney, like a lot of Hotels, has motion sensors on their thermostats. Once you leave the room for the day, or go to sleep, after 30 minutes or so of you not moving, the thermostat shuts off. So if you’re like me and like a fan running so the place won’t get stuffy, or if you don’t want the room hot or cold when you come back after a day in the parks, having the A/C shut off (the A/C you PAID for!) is kind of a pain in the ass. So I looked up how to disable the Thermostat on YouTube, and with a couple of button pushes, my A/C was running how I wanted it to. Welcome to VIP mode!
Watch it HERE
So – after disabling the sensor we had a grand time. The one thing on our mind at this point was South Carolina. It’s where we live, and while we were enjoying a nice mostly sunny time in mid-Florida, my home state was getting pounded by a thousand-year flood event. People in my town were reporting heavy rain but no flooding to speak of, while the coast and the center of the state were getting washed away. It was a bit nerve-wracking for a vacation.
The following day, it was time for dress-up. After a quick jaunt to Downtown Disney, we ate lunch, put on our costumes, and headed to the Magic Kingdom. Along with 100,000 other people. The traffic was bad, the monorail was packed, and thanks to my wife getting blisters from hell, I wound up rolling her in a wheelchair until we could get on the monorail. Thanks to Lunch and the trip back taking a bit longer than expected, I had about 45 minutes to do halloween makeup for me and my daughter, and thanks to it being 85 degrees outside, some of mine started sweating off and peeling pretty quickly. I was sort of a zombie pirate with a bullet hole in my forehead. Halloween makeup is fun…
Of course the park was decorated like usual, with all the trimmings and details that make Disney World fun.
But Nature put on the real show at dusk. With a front moving through that left half the sky bright and the other dark and red as fire, Disney couldn’t have been any more perfectly decorated for a ghoulish evening.
We even danced with Monsters (2319!) before seeing the parade.
After the fireworks, the last part of the evening was the Boo to You “not so scary” parade. There are some scary parts interspersed with characters, so it doesn’t frighten the little kids too much, but it’s a nice different parade than the normal one.
With that over with, we hightailed it back to the Hotel and checked the conditions back home. Interstates were shut down all over the state, and the Broad River even crested over the I-20 bridge near downtown Columbia, something I never thought I would see it do.
We were now Disney Refugees. We even contemplated staying another day and hoping the flood waters would subside. Instead, we decided to head towards home. We live near Florence, South Carolina, in the northeast corner of the state, and normally its a nice 7-8 hour drive from WDW right up I-95. But since that was closed, I put out a plea to the Facebook people to give me better directions based on what my friends knew.
We wound up seeing a lot of backwoods towns and new parts of Florida and Georgia. My father was able to make me a reservation at a hotel in Greenville, SC while I was driving, and After going through Lake City, Florida and Athens Georgia, we finally made it around dusk. The following morning we crossed through Spartanburg, saw the Peachoid in Gaffney SC, and then headed across the state off the interstate. After a total of about 14 hours over two days, we were home.
Although saddened by the damage to our state, it was nice to be home where it was mostly drying out. There’s always next year for Disney World.