April 16, 2014

 Carousel of Progress

One of the iconic attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, the Carousel of Progress takes you through the 20th century to see how technology changes and improves our lives. It’s one of my most favorite non-ride attractions (yes, I do  have to get that specific) at Magic Kingdom. It debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York then was moved to Disneyland until 1973. I never saw it there but always heard about it. It was replaced by another of my favorites, America Sings.

Anyway, never having been on Carousel of Progress when I finally went to Walt Disney World in 2007 it was top of my list. Going in August, I knew CycleGuy and BabyGirl wouldn’t mind getting out of the heat for about 20 minutes. It was a truly magical experience the first time we all loaded into the theater. Neither CycleGuy nor BabyGirl knew much about it, other than it was one of the goofy things I thought was awesome.

Every time we’ve been at Magic Kingdom, Carousel of Progress is always on the touring plan. Sometimes twice if I’m waiting for them to go through Space Mountain for the 93rd time that day. And, for the most part, both CycleGuy and BabyGirl indulged me and went with me even though I would sing along. (note: I don’t sing along if other people are in the theater, but usually that’s not an issue)

If you’ve never been on the Carousel of Progress, you’re missing out! It’s a 21-minute show about technology in the home and how it changed over the 20th century. Sounds cool, right. Well, except that it was made in the early 60s so the “future” part is a bit hokey to some degree. This is said to be one of Walt’s favorite attractions. You can tell he was greatly involved with it by the animatronics, the music, and the idea about technology in the future.

So, why won’t I visit it even though it’s one of my favorite parts of Disney? Let me ask you this. Have you ever gone to Disney and got stuck on a ride? A lot of people have. I’ve been stuck on Space Mountain so many times it’s not even funny (although I do like the old seats better than the new ones). When Disneyland had the Skyway (yet, those colorful buckets in the sky) I spent many an hour with a bird’s-eye view of the park. (I wish I had a cell phone then!) Name the ride at Disneyland and I’ve probably be stuck on it. Not so much at Walt Disney World, but then I’ve only been there about 8 times.

Anyway, if there’s one attraction you don’t want to get stuck on it’s Carousel of Progress. Trust me! See, in Carousel of Progress there is a song that plays at the beginning, the end, and as each decade progresses. Sounds simple, right? And it’s a fun song written by the Award-winning Sherman brothers. “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is a fun little ditty that you’ll easily sing along with. That is, you’ll probably only sing along with it about the first 50 times you hear it played in a row.

There we were, with about 5 or 6 other guests, in the Carousel of Progress theater enjoying listening to Father (John, voiced by legendary Country singer Jean Shepherd) and waiting for the special treat when Cousin Orville shows up (he’s voiced by the truly legendary Mel Blanc!) when there was an abrupt stop. We were stuck! And, like most Disney attractions there is a protocol and you don’t just get up and leave. For Carousel of Progress, there’s an issue with the doors since the entire theater rotates. The cast members needed to realign the doors so we could exit safely.

So we sat there. Sure it was nice and cool and dark. A welcomed respite from the heat and humidity of an Orlando summer day. And we waited patiently, while the soundtrack played through and finished. Then it started again. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. All 21-minutes of the show, for the second time. Only this time we’re just sitting there in the dim theater. Then it started again. For the third time. And the fourth. And the fifth.

If you’re counting, that’s 21-minutes of a show listened to five consecutive times. You don’t need to be a math wizard to realize that’s a lot of great big beautiful tomorrows. I think CycleGuy and BabyGirl fell asleep. I know the other family that was in there did. While the cast members were great and kept working to reset the doors, they too were probably getting tired of hearing the song. And they work there and listen to it over and over again, everyday!

With a heave-ho, some Disney magic, a little help from some walkie-talkie’d cast members outside, we were soon escorted out into our own great big beautiful … day. There were no free fastpasses, no complimentary snacks, or a “See you soon!”. No, we were ushered out with a “Thanks for being patient!” And honestly, by that point, that’s all we wanted. There are only so many great big beautiful tomorrows you can hear sung about.

As each year has greeted us with plans to visit Walt Disney World again, I’m gently reminded that we’re not going on Carousel of Progress. So while I truly love this attraction, I think even Walt would give me a pass for a few years.

Are there any rides you just won’t go on any more?



April 11, 2014

Family Travel With Only Child

There’s a million and one articles about family travel, and most don’t really speak to me. As the parent of an only child, family travel for me looks very different than what most people talk about. I’m not juggling multiple kids, managing different food preferences, or playing peacemaker among my tribe of small people. No, family travel when three is the magic number is very different.

BabyGirl’s been told she’s lucky that she doesn’t have to share with a sibling or do things a brother or sister like but she doesn’t. And, that’s true. But she also doesn’t have anyone to talk to or play with when Mom and Dad are planning or organizing or strategizing. And she also has to do things that many other kids may not because she is an only and there is no other option.

I have friends with large families, and others with just two kids. I don’t have but a very few who have just one child. So, I often just watch and learn because saying anything about how different it is with just one is often met with a “you have it so easy” type of response. And, sure, I get that with one child it’s not the same. But, there are challenges.

Benefit: Everyone gets to have their own “space” when we travel.

This is great because, as you likely know, downtime is good. If CycleGuy heads out for a workout or bike ride in the morning, I’ve got just one to organize to get ready and go out to breakfast. Getting ready does not involve needing to intervene to prevent World War III.

Drawback: We’re her playmates.

There’s no “go play with your brother/sister” conversation. Even though BabyGirl loves to read or will play games on her own, sometimes playing alone gets boring.

Benefit: No fighting with siblings over anything.

I’ve seen parents exasperated at playing referee. Even “good kids” get tired of their siblings once in awhile, and even if they’re not tired of dealing with a brother or sister sometimes it’s just fun to pick on a sibling.

Drawback: Sometimes she has to do “grown up” things.

Yes, BabyGirl’s had to sit quietly and patiently while CycleGuy or I handle business matters when we travel. She’s had to learn how to be a young lady at more fine-dining restaurants than most kids. Her desire to eat “kid food” is often overruled. And she has to visit places that are boring for kids but mom or dad are interested in seeing.

Benefit: We travel light.

This is both literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, with 3 people there’s often less luggage to manage. Even when there was just two of us to Italy, I got everything into one carry-on for each of us (and that included bringing her animal and own pillow). It also goes for the technology. While many families share, there are families where each child has their own technology stash. For us, packing tech for 3 (despite taking 5 phones with us when we went to New York) is less stuff than when there are more kids. For the figurative sense, while many of my friends with multiple kids are travel pros, traveling with just one child doesn’t come with some of the stress of traveling with multiple kids comes with.

Drawback: Sometimes one of the parents gets left out.

Kids have preferences. For BabyGirl, she’d much rather sit next to her dad on most roller coasters. In any situation where only two seats are together, one of us grown-ups has to sit apart. Even at dinner, there are times when one parent is left out of the conversation. There have been times when BabyGirl’s done a program when we travel, like the youth programs at Disney, and only one parent is permitted to be with her. That whole idea of “me time” takes on a new meaning for the parent left behind.

Benefit: Don’t have to do things because a sibling wants to.

Sure, BabyGirl has to do things because sometimes mom or dad want. However, this is very rare. But she never has to do things just to please a sibling. Parent’s can’t cater to just one child when there are multiple children. I’ve seen my share of upset kids because they don’t want to be somewhere or do something but the parent doesn’t have the option of skipping it and disappointing the other child(ren). Many parents divide and conquer, but it’s not always possible.

Drawback: Pleasing the child becomes a key part of parenting an only.

While there are different views on this, the fact is that parenting an only often leads to following the wants of the child. Yes, most parents do things so their kids will be happy. But when it comes to travel, few parents let their kids have as much input as those parents with onlies.

We all love our kids and couldn’t imagine our lives without them, regardless of whether it’s an only or enough for your own basketball or baseball team. Family travel with an only child is different. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Our kids are often the ones who want to play with your kids at the pool, but aren’t sure how to do it. Our kids are watching yours at restaurants, sometimes wishing they had someone their age to talk to. But our kids are also having a great time and making memories on family vacations.


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