Arrival Day: We spent most of Thursday enroute. Our flights were on Delta, so we "changed planes" in Atlanta. I put that in quotes because we took the same plane the whole way -- we even had the same seats on both legs -- but they still made us get off with all our bags and get back on again. The movie was "Lemony Snicket", which was cute. Jim Carrey was an excellent Count Olaf, and the kids who played Klaus and Violet were good, too. That night, we met the whole gang (E, S, and S's parents (referred to here as Mom and Dad for simplicity's sake), along with a co-worker that Dad picked up at his conference). We ate at the California Grill, a four-star restaurant in the Contemporary Resort. The food was good, but pricey, and bad restaurant policies meant that we had to eat in the lounge even though we had a reservation. So I am hard-pressed to actually recommend the place to anyone. We did get to see the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom, which were nicely done although not particularly special.
The next morning, we arrived at MGM around 10:30am. I got my first look at the FastPass system as we went right away to pick up passes at The Tower of Terror. Then we went to ride the Aerosmith Rock-n-Roller Coaster, which is next door. The line was quite short, so I was on my first Disney World ride within moments. It was a good coaster, enhanced by being in the dark and a cute pre-show that sets you up as being on your way to an Aerosmith concert. (According to Disney lore, they wanted to get the Rolling Stones to do it, but they were too expensive. Since I've always thoughts that Steven Tyler is a Poor Man's Mick Jagger, I find this quite appropriate.) We then returned to The Tower of Terror and skipped a 45-minute line, showing me the joy of FastPass. Every amusement park should use this system. TToT is a drop ride, but that's an understatement -- by far the best drop ride I've ever taken. S says it's her favorite thrill ride ever, and I can see why (although I think I still reserve that honor for Disneyworld's Space Mountain, or maybe Top Gun at Great America).
Most of the rest of the day was spent at shows, since those are MGM's main attractions. The most memorable was probably the sound effects show, which takes place largely in the dark -- you wear headphones and follow the exploits of a bumbling police detective all through sounds. It was cute, and very effective -- I almost had to tear my headphones off when a swarm of bees got involved. Lunch was at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. The food was mediocre; we were there for the atmosphere, which consists of 50's country kitch, televisions everywhere, and a waiter who makes you eat your vegetables and keep your elbows off the table. It was good for a laugh, and fortunately our party was fairly good-humored about the whole thing. We also went back to TToT.
The main thing that struck me about MGM was its size. The whole thing could almost fit in your pocket -- you can walk all the way across in a few minutes if you are so inclined. It seemed much smaller than Disneyland, which has also always felt rather small to me. They pack quite a bit of stuff in there, but if I ever go back I could probably do it in less than a day, easy.
And then, inevitably when you're visiting a theme park with a group of six strong-willed people: the first argument. Before we left, E had made a reservation at the Brown Derby, which he likes a lot but S had a bad experience with once. We dropped by to look at the menu, but neither T nor I were particularly inspired by it. The reservation was quite late, 8:30ish, which admittedly I had preferred because the park closed then and I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything I was dying to do. But lines were generally quite short, so we got through everything before 7pm. Pretty much everyone else was ready to eat right then, and Dad was able to get a 7:20 reservation at an Italian restaurant in Muppetville (I don't know if it's called that, but the area was definitely Muppet-themed). E made some alternate suggestions, and there were some stressful cell phone conversations -- at one point, I was being used as a go-between by E and Dad, and eventually I got fed up with it and handed off the phone -- but in the end we ate at the Italian restaurant. It wasn't anything special, but it was there, which was the important thing at that point. We hadn't been snacking throughout the day, which seemed very odd to me for an amusement park visit, and I resolved right then that every other day, I would have a snack at some point to avoid the low-blood-sugar dinner arguments.
A portion of the group went out for ice cream after dessert, and after an unsuccessful attempt to find T a jacket (he accidentally left his windbreaker in the Atlanta airport, and it was a chilly night), we headed home. Literally, since E rented a vacation home about 10 minutes from the World. It was a nice little house, but T and I were in a full-size bed, which never works well for us.
More to come...