Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear Disney...

I'd like to thank you, Walt Disney World, for providing the environment that brought my eldest boy back to me.  At least for a while.  I laughed.  A lot! Thank you for providing for a wonderful family fun experience.  And for completely exhausting all of us!

Yes, we've just completed a fast and furious Disney vacation.  I'm a rather well experienced Disney vacationer, so even though we only had 4 days, we knew in advance exactly what parks, attractions and eating establishments we were going to visit and when.  We knew were were not going to see it all.  We knew we were at the mercy of the weather to a certain extent.  We did not stay on property, but had a wonderful (and much less expensive) Villa mere minutes from Disney Property.  I was armed with experience, apps, weather radar, two hyper-excited children, one somewhat skeptical husband and my parents with season passes and rain ponchos!  I had my touring plan.  We know how to 'work' the system.  We knew what the crowd predictions were.  We know how to use the weather, magic hours and fastpasses to our advantage. We were well-prepared!

My biggest problem was getting them all out the door at the appointed time each morning.  *sigh*

Day 1:
Animal Kingdom.  We got there just as the park opened.  My mother who does not ride the 'thrill' rides was our fastpass runner to the Safari.  We went directly to Everest.  My youngest was beyond psyched to ride the 'mountain range' at every park, since he was finally tall enough!  We chose the stand by line. We waited about 10-15 minutes.  Not bad at all. Disney does a great job with their waiting queues of decorating and giving you something to look at.  My tallest enjoyed ringing the bells as we made our way through the maze of a line.  The kids loved it.  The Yeti did not get us!  Phew.

Next, it was Kali River Rapids.  We walked right on.  Yes.  We got wet.  It's Florida.  It is 80 degrees by 10 am.  Not a problem!

We then went to fastpass Everest for later in the day and went to the Safari.  We had a great Safari.  Lots of animals were out and about as it was still relatively early.  Even though the boys were not keen on the safari, they really enjoyed it.

Then, on to Dino Land.  We had an early lunch, no line!  I purchased princess ears!  We were going to ride Dinosaur, but the stand by line was too long, so we got a fastpass and went to ride Primeval Whirl (I think it should be primeval hurl) and Triceratops spin.  Yes, the Dumbo of Dinosaurs.  Boys are funny.

Back to Everest for our fastpass ride and then to Dinosaur for our fastpass ride there.  Holy carnatorus, Batman!  I rode it 14 years ago and was scared out of my mind.  I don't like to be scared!  Even though I knew what was coming, I did the exact same thing I did 14 years ago.  When it came time for the picture, I am invisible!  Both my eldest boy and I dove for the floor and you can't even see us!  It was hysterical.  Sadly, I think I lost my Fitbit on that ride.  I called lost and found and they don't have it, still, 3 days later.  So sad.  :-(

Next up, Festival of the Lion King!  Such a great show.  My husband, who has never been to Animal Kingdom and hates musicals (and Disney movies) was even impressed with the show.  They do such an amazing job. It's a must see if you haven't seen it before.  When we went in, it was starting to rain.  We came out to sunshine, but it was to be short lived...

We decided to split up at that point.  My parents taking the boys to the Magic Kingdom for their next mountain range adventure.  We wanted to stay at the Animal Kingdom to do the walking trails and actually see the animals.  Go figure.  It is called the animal kingdom after all...

We went back to Dinosaur to inquire about my Fitbit.  By the time we came out, a mere 8 minutes later it was really dark.  Thunder was starting to rumble.  Then, the skies opened and it poured.  Holy torrential downpour! We had quite a classic summer Thunderstorm.  We took shelter under a little overhang that barely covered us, ponchos on.  It lasted about a half hour before the rain let up and the thunder and lightning stopped enough so we could venture out.  We strolled around in the light rain.  We had a snack.  I jumped in the puddles.  What the hell, I was already soaked!

The only rides open were the Safari and Dinosaur, and I sure as hell wasn't doing that one again!  We walked right on the Safari since the park emptied out when the storm started.  What a great Safari!  The hippo was actually out of the water!  We saw the baby elephants playing in the water!  So cool!  The truck stopped for a long time to let us watch, since there was no one behind us for quite a while.  The cheetah's were actually visible and the Lion had emerged to preside over the plain.

We tried to do the animal walking trails but they were closed, too.  Another storm was close.  The animals were actually all 'hiding' according to the guide, so there wasn't much to see.  So we headed to the Magic Kingdom to meet up with the kids and my parents.

We got to park in Zurg!  The first lot.  That park had a mass exodus with the rain, too, apparently.  Yay for us!  The boys had already ridden several rides in the 2 hours they had been there.  We met them at Space Mountain.  Small boy rode it once and had a fastpass for all of us.  We were one person away from getting -on and it broke.  They had us all exit the ride.  I felt really bad for the people who were in the stand-by line for 90 minutes and didn't get on!  They gave us all a fastpass on the way out to be used on any ride in the Magic Kingdom through the following 2 days.  It was a nice peace offering.

The boys were hungry so we went to eat, then rode Buzz Lightyear (fastpass), Tomorrowland Transit Authority, the teacups and flying horsies for Meggie (carousel) and the Tomorrowland speedway, all with little to no wait.  Then it was time for Wishes.  We watched the new projection show on the castle.  That was cool.

We saw Tink fly, but were not well positioned to watch the fireworks, so we moved to by the teacups. Having seen Wishes from Main Street USA many times, I was OK with our less than ideal positioning.

This worked out well, despite the lack of the 'magical' experience of the castle backdrop, since as soon as it was over, we went to Frontierland and walked on Thunder Mountain.  It's fun to ride at night! The boys wanted to do Splash Mountain again, but I didn't want to get wet right before leaving, so we opted out. We walked right on Pirates of the Caribbean on the way out, too!  We made our way down Main St. just as the 11 pm parade was coming down.  Most of the crowd had left after the fireworks, so we walked on the monorail and got out of the park fairly quickly all things considered.

The rain ended up being the best thing in the end.  It cleared out much of the crowd, at least temporarily, and cooled it off.  We were wet, but prepared with ponchos and shoes that could get wet and dried quickly.  Even band-aids for the blisters we anticipated (and I got!).  It was a long and whirlwind day, but we knew it would be our longest and busiest day.  My husband's Fitbit said we walked 15 miles and over 30,000 steps that day!

Day 2:

Saturday, it was on to EPCOT.

Soarin' was up first.  We opted to stand by as it was only a 20-30 min wait.  Then on to test track.  We opted to stand by there, too, because we had an early lunch reservation.  The sign said 40 min but it was actually an hour and 10 minute wait.  The re-design of the waiting area is really quite nice and much better than it was before.  The re-design of the ride is also very cool.  The boys loved being able to design their car and then see their stats along the way.  My husband enjoyed his first test track and Soarin' experience!

Then, we split up.  The kids were off to the rest of future world with my parents and he and I were off for our EPCOT World Showcase adventure date!  Lunch at Via Napoli.  Oh.  My.  God.  The food was amazing!  The service was outstanding.  It might have been the best meal ever.  And then, the tiramisu.  Do you remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Meg Ryan demonstrated how women can fake an orgasm?  I had nearly the same response to the tiramisu, but it was all real.  Holy Italian dessert bliss!  I'm SO eating my way through Italy someday.  Seriously.  It's on my bucket list.  Very close to the top.  I think for my 50th birthday or 5th wedding anniversary.  Honey, are you taking notes?  :-)

From Italy, we ventured to the American Adventure and took in the Fife and Drum, the Voices of Liberty in the rotunda (the acoustics in the dome are fantastic.  You MUST be sure to take in this brief performance by this abundantly talented co-ed acapella group) and the show.  I might have had a nap during the show.

We toured Japan and then headed to the UK for the British Revolution.  A mini British rock concert.  They were great!  We continued our concert tour with Off Kilter in Canada.  A great Celtic rock band.  We even got up and did some swing dancing.  It was in the 90's, we were outside and wearing sneakers.  Longest, hottest dance we've ever done!  Holy cow.  Next up, Morocco!  I am now the proud owner of a belly dancing scarf or two.  :-)  We had a blast getting all decked out in authentic belly dancing gear and learning a few 'moves'.  I've taken belly dancing before  It's not as easy as it looks, but what a fantastic ab workout!

On our way to meet up with the family for dinner, we happened upon a concert by an Eagles cover band.  Lo and behold, my family was there!  Off to the Biergarten we went for dinner with prime seats right by the stage.  The kids loved the show.  My oldest said to me after we all raised our glasses and sang the tiki taki tiki taka  Hoy!  Hoy!  Hoy!  song, "Mom!  I love this country!"  We sat with a couple that fit in well with us.  The woman was pregnant with her 3rd child, her husband was a urologist!  We had plenty enough in common to chat about.  They were doing Disney without their kids.

After dinner, the kids were back to Future world for a fastpass ride on Test Track and then back to the hotel for a swim and we sought our spot for Illuminations.  I did eye what I could of the half-marathon course in EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom in preparation for my next visit in January for the Half!  The full supermoon shone spectacularly in the sky.  The photos don't do it justice.

My husband enjoyed our date around the world.  We didn't see every country, but we knew we wouldn't.  Especially with 2 ADR's.  We didn't do most of Future World, but we also knew we wouldn't be able to do that either.  EPCOT is a 2-day park.  We had a leisurely day taking in mostly musical events that were of the most interest to him.

Day 3:

Hollywood Studios.  This one was for my man.  First up, my youngest got razzed by the fellow at the ticket gate for wearing a Batman shirt to Disney!  LOL.  Then we high tailed it to Toy Story Mania. We rode stand by with a 30 minute wait. This ride is a blast!  Fun for all ages.  Much easier for little kids to play than Buzz Lightyear in the Magic Kingdom. The queue is awesome! The fastpass return at 9:30 am was already at 3 pm so if you don't want to wait, fastpass it first thing in the morning or you will have to wait in a standby line.  I imagine the fastpasses were gone by 11 am for the day. The standby line at 4 pm was 90 minutes!

Then we split up.  The boys went to Star Tours while my mother and I were fastpass runners to Rockin' Roller Coaster.  They met us at the roller coaster for our fastpass ride.  I don't like roller coasters.  I don't know what possessed me to go on this one.  I think the fact it was in the dark helped.  My youngest is the adrenaline junkie.  He got the front seat!  I sat with my older son.  We are both chicken.  As we awaited our 'launch' (and I do mean launch, holy crap!), he turned to me and went "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"  I returned the same.  We both screamed like teenage girls the entire ride.  The picture was a hoot.  The smile on my youngest's face was precious.  He was psyched.  Loved it.  The terror on my and my eldest son's face as we screamed was hysterical.  Bottom line.  I survived.  We all had fun.  Once was enough for this mom.  :-)

Lunch was at Mama Melrose. Another wonderful meal.  We chose the Fantasmic Package.  Our $35/person price included an appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverages for everyone and VIP seating at Fantasmic, the evening show.  So worth it!  A lot of food for lunch, but so amazingly good!  I highly recommend it as a must try restaurant.

The ADR process is smooth.  I want to give a shout out to Disney for how they handle food allergies.  I indicated when I booked the ADR's he has a peanut allergy.  At every restaurant we had an ADR for, the chef came out and talked to us.  Told us what was safe and not safe for him to eat and answered any questions we had.  They accommodated changes/requests easily, happily and without extra charge.  Even more impressive, everything he ordered came out with a little flag that said 'allergy' and all of his food was delivered individually to him so there was absolutely no chance of cross contamination with anyone else's food.  Restaurants everywhere should take note of how seriously Disney takes food allergies!  So impressed!

After lunch, we took in Indiana Jones, the Backlot Tour, the Lights, Motor, Action stunt show, Muppet 3-D, the Great Movie Ride and our adrenaline junkie rode Tower of Terror Twice!  Dinner was at the Sci-Fi Dine in Theater.  The experience was unique as it's like an old-school drive in complete with cars and speakers and sci-fi clips on the big movie screen, but the food menu was limited and so-so.  For counter service quality food, the price was outrageous.  I wouldn't do it again.  My boys enjoyed it, though.  We had managed to ride just about every ride and see the shows we wanted to, despite the 2 ADR's.  It's a small park and easily done in one day.  Especially if you have a plan and don't spend 3 hours eating!  :-)

Because of our late dinner time, we did some shopping and then we were off to Fantasmic.  I'd never seen it before.  It was OK.  My least favorite Disney Park closing show.  Our seats were fantastic.  Definitely too scary for little ones.  If you've never seen Fantasia, you might not understand the references.  It involves sorcerer Mickey and all the Disney Villains.  It's a light, water, and limited fireworks show.  My favorite part was the end, where they blended old and new together.  Then, the 5000 person theater empties out and you herd like cattle to the exit.  Par for the course at Disney if you stay for the closing show.

Day 4:
Our last day was Blizzard Beach.  The kids of all ages had a blast!  We did all the slides except summit plummet.  Lots of stair climbing although the ski lift to the Summit Plummet slope was nice.  It's funny how those who have never ridden a ski lift before were confuzzled and many little kids scared of it!  They even had a gondola for those who needed a wheelchair or unable to use a conventional lift.  We spent a long time in the wave pool and took a few floats along the lazy river.  We brought a bunch of drinks and snacks with us, so aside from lunch and a cold beverage and funnel cake to share, it was a day we spent little time and money on food!  We were there about 6 hours, which was enough.  The kids would have stayed longer, but a storm was brewing and we were sunned out.  Blizzard Beach is really more about the slides where Typhoon Lagoon has a much bigger wave pool and is more geared to younger kids.  Personally, I prefer Typhoon Lagoon, but we had a really fun day.  It was a great way to end our Disney Experience.

Then, we were off to the Village!

It was wonderful to get back to Disney with the kids after a 3+ year hiatus.  The opportunity if afforded me to bond with the kids, especially my oldest, who was more interactive and affectionate than he's been in a long time.  It was such a gift.  It was nice to share the experience with my husband, who is generally anti-Disney and dreaded it.  I think he had more fun than he thought he would.  Of course, having my parents along was great!  They love Disney and well, we, as a family, have been coming to Disney every few years since the 70's, so there was that nostalgia, too.

It would have been nice to have a few more days to explore the parks, but we decided ahead of time how many days we wanted to spend and could afford and how we wanted to spend that time, knowing we wouldn't be able to see/do it all.   The kids were able to see/do pretty much everything they wanted to.  We were able to do quite a lot of what we wanted to.  We had fun!

Now, a vacation from our vacation!


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