WDW wrap-up

So 3 months later I’m finally wrapping up my Walt Disney World trip report. YAY! I’ve covered what we did in the theme parks but thought I’d share some random pics and details as well.

The holidays were the perfect time to visit. All the parks and resorts were decorated and everything was so festive. LOVED IT.

We had a total of 9 full days in the parks which, I know, is A LOT of time at WDW. But seriously, we could have used a few extra days. In hindsight, I think we would have been much happier skipping Miami and staying at WDW the full 2 weeks. There’s just SO MUCH to do! While we visited each of the 4 main theme parks and played mini golf (not to mention took a day to leave Disney property and visit Harry Potter at Hogwarts), we didn’t have the chance to rent bikes and ride around the grounds of our hotel or take the segway tour around Epcot or even visit one of the water parks. I guess there’s always next time! 🙂

Since it was Rob’s first visit to WDW, I figured we might as well go all out and book a deluxe hotel (the other hotel categories are moderates and values). We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and I absolutely fell in love with it. It was a fantastic home base for our stay. Just look!

The entrance gate… seeing it for the first time got me SO excited.

First look!

The gorgeous lobby.

The grounds are so beautiful. I miss it SO MUCH.

Another great feature of the Wilderness Lodge is the boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom (in addition to buses to all parks and destinations). So even though we rented a car, we took advantage of the boat system a few times. So fun!

We also booked a dining plan for our stay. It sounds really strange, right? Like why would you want to have a dining plan for meals that would probably consist of burgers and fries? At least that’s what I thought at first. But I discovered that dining is an experience all its own at WDW. Each park and all the resorts have a variety of options that aren’t the typical theme park food you might expect.

I also learned that WDW periodically offers free dining promotions to the public for package reservations booked for specific dates. I normally like to do all the planning for our trips but tracking these promotions is a full time job in itself. So THE BEST decision I made was to work with a travel agent, Mouseketrips. They did all the legwork and when free dining was released, they applied it to my reservation and I used the savings to upgrade to DELUXE dining. It’s a RIDICULOUS amount of food but we were going to take FULL ADVANTAGE. Food is an important part of our vacation experience, after all. 🙂

We had 20 (!!!) table service reservations over the course of 10 days plus the 3 snacks we were allotted each day (we used these a lot for fruit, croissants and orange juice in the morning). There were definitely a few meals that were forgettable, some that were average but many were spectacular so I’d like to share some favorites. Beware lots of pics (I can’t help it – I take pics of food – it’s a thing)…

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the magic kingdom

ARGH. Work life has been UNBELIEVABLY busy. With the exception of a quick weekend trip to Las Vegas recently, in the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve spent at least 90% of all waking hours working. I wish I was joking.

Revisiting my Florida vacation takes my mind to happier places so onward with my Walt Disney World trip report…

The last of the theme parks we visited was the Magic Kingdom. We spent 2 days touring the park, 11/29 and 12/6, and 1 night attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on 11/30.

If you’ve been to Disneyland, then the Magic Kingdom will be familiar to you. It’s just that nothing is in the “right” place (I kept wanting to go in specific directions because “that’s where it is at Disneyland”) and everything is bigger (just look at how HUGE Cinderella’s Castle is compared to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland). It’s like the most bizarre feeling of “déjà vu.”

SQUEE. The main entrance.

On our first Magic Kingdom day, I made reservations for breakfast so we could get into the park earlier than the general public. I wanted to get photos of the park without the crowds! This was before they installed the enormous Christmas tree in Town Square. So empty!

For the record, here’s the Christmas tree a few days later.

Back to the empty park. And the first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle!

Getting closer to the castle. I love it!

GORGEOUS. I absolutely loved the gardens surrounding the castle.

For the most part, all the rides and attractions are similar to those at Disneyland with just a few exceptions —

Space Mountain never had more than a 5-10 minute wait. UNHEARD OF AT DISNEYLAND.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is normally a favorite but OMG, it was such a disappointment at WDW. The guns are attached to the ride vehicle and you can’t move them around. GAH.

There’s no Indiana Jones ride but there is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover!

Fantasyland is one of the areas that looks completely different. I didn’t care for the exterior facades. I mean, It’s A Small World is indoors (on the right side of the picture above)! It kinda loses its grandeur.

And there’s a Liberty Square (so patriotic) instead of New Orleans Square.

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2 days at EPCOT

Hi Everyone! THANK YOU all so much for your thoughtful comments, cards, texts and calls. It’s been a really emotionally draining week and a half and I’m so grateful for all the support. YOU ALL ROCK SO HARD.

I’m more than ready to get back to normal, though, and I’m going to continue on with my Walt Disney World trip reports. I have about 3 or 4 more entries planned. Bear with me. 🙂

Today I’m revisiting the 2 days we spent at EPCOT on Mon, 11/28 and Sat, 12/3.

You know you’ve arrived at EPCOT when you see the park’s icon, Spaceship Earth.

The first area of the park that you come across is Future World. I have to admit that a lot of the rides & attractions in Future World are either boring or SUPER outdated. But we gave (almost) everything a chance and found a few that were particularly memorable…

Like Test Track. My favorite EPCOT ride. It’s a vehicle simulation ride that ends in a high-speed drive around the exterior track. SO AWESOME.

Living with the Land is a boat ride through the Land pavilion’s greenhouse where you can see the various crops grown on site. Look at that 9 pound lemon! I have really distinct memories of going on this ride when I was 10 with my parents so I love this ride for the nostalgia factor.

Over at the Innoventions pavilion, we went to Club Cool to sample Coca-Cola products from around the world. Free of charge!

Krest Ginger Ale from Mozambique (much stronger ginger taste than I’ve found here in the US) and Lift Apple from Mexico were the stand-outs to me. Stay away from the Beverly (Italy). Trust me. It is TERRIBLE.

Innoventions also features various interactive exhibits and rides, one of which is a video game playground where we created a game starring… ourselves.

Here we are on screen. LOL. We had to perform a series of actions (running, jumping, dancing) that were then inserted into the game. HILARITY. We got such a kick out of this.

Spaceship Earth (aka the ride inside the giant golf ball) was a pleasant surprise. The ride itself is ok at best (it takes you back in time to track advancements in human communication) but the end is pretty entertaining. The ride is equipped with interactive touch screens where you answer various questions and somewhere along the way your image is captured. Then your future is revealed to you in a series of images. Ours were HIGHLY AMUSING. Well, technically, it was Rob’s future because my picture didn’t get taken for some reason. It ended up being MUCH better this way.

OH MAN. This was THE BEST. We could NOT stop laughing.

After we had our fill of Future World, we made our way to the World Showcase, which is my favorite part of EPCOT. I LOVE to travel so this part of the park is right up my alley. Plus, there’s such a wealth of dining options. There’s only 2 rides in the World Showcase (in Mexico and Norway) so we did lots of exploring. Just taking in the sights, checking out the food & drink offerings, and browsing in the shops (that actually sell non-Disney merchandise!). Some of my favorite pics…

The Canada pavilion is so beautiful.

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a day at the animal kingdom

In today’s installment of my Florida trip report, we’ll be visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Our park of choice for Fri, 12/2.

I LOVED Animal Kingdom.

There will be a ridiculous amount of photos in this entry.

Like Hollywood Studios, this park doesn’t have a huge number of rides or attractions but there is such an INCREDIBLE level of theming and detail that it more than makes up for that deficit.

I pretty much walked around in a constant state of awe. Like with my jaw to the floor. It’s AH-MAY-ZING.

We made a beeline to Asia to hit Expedition Everest first thing in the morning.

I had a feeling I would LOVE this ride…

And I did! It’s a roller coaster but it doesn’t throw you around like some older coasters do. It’s a very smooth ride. The ride vehicles even go forward AND backward! So exhilarating. It catapulted to my Top 3 rides EVER (for the record – Space Mountain at Disneyland, Forbidden Journey at Wizarding World of Harry Potter and now Expedition Everest).

GAWD. THIS PARK. It’s just gorgeous.

We made our way to Dinoland to ride DINOSAUR.

Hated it. It uses the same ride vehicle and track layout as Indiana Jones at Disneyland but it is NOT nearly as fun or exciting. Not to mention that the “storyline” is also pretty lame. Oh well.

Each of the Disney parks has its own “icon” — and at Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life.

Again, so much detail. Look at the animal carvings on the bark!

We even found Simba as we were admiring the tree. 😉

Over in Africa, we experienced the Kilimanjaro Safaris where we toured the savanna to see various African animals.

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off to hollywood

Happy New Year Everyone!

I’m good at making New Year’s resolutions buuuut not so good at keeping them so I’m not going to bother this year. Instead, my “theme” for 2012 will be to use what I have and try to rein in any extraneous purchases (unless I have a gift card :)). The goal is to save more money that we can use on the house, to travel or to keep for a “rainy day.”

So that’s the plan for 2012.

Now let’s go back to 2011 again to continue on with my Florida trip report — this time I’ll get started with our time (10 nights!) at Walt Disney World. Specifically Disney’s Hollywood Studios which we visited on Mon, 12/5.

Again, this will be a pic heavy entry. I think all of my planned WDW entries are going to be.

I’m starting with DHS because it’s my least favorite of the 4 main Disney theme parks. While it’s nicely themed (come on, it’s Disney), it doesn’t have the same charm and depth that the other 3 do. At least to me. The park is supposed to evoke Hollywood in the 1930s/1940s and while it may look the part, it also feels a little thrown together. Like all the pieces make sense individually but not so much together. I DON’T KNOW. AM I EVEN MAKING SENSE?! There’s also significantly less rides and attractions in this park so it feels lacking in that way too. But we still managed to have a great time. 🙂

The main entrance…

Instead of Main Street, we walked down Hollywood Boulevard and saw the park’s icon…

Mickey’s Sorceror Hat! YAY.

We arrived right before the official park opening in order to join the HORDES of people heading to Toy Story Mania in Pixar Place. This was INSANE. I think 99% of people in the park were headed there too. I wish I had a picture of the crowd because it was RIDICULOUS. But once it hit 9am, the Disney cast members led the entire mass of humanity over to the ride in a (fairly) orderly line. I knew that Rob & I wanted to get on the ride at least twice that day but I wavered over riding first and then getting a Fastpass or vice versa. If you get there at park opening, my recommendation is to RIDE FIRST. The Fastpass line gets long immediately because people are cramming multiple tickets into the machine. The standby line is still walk-on at this point.

We were in such a rush to get on the ride that I didn’t even get a chance to really admire Pixar Place until later in the day. It’s amazing how much it resembles Pixar’s headquarters in Emeryville, CA (I used to live right by it!).

Next we headed to Sunset Boulevard and…

Tower of Terror!

Of all the rides that are duplicated in Disneyland & Walt Disney World, I FAR preferred Tower of Terror at WDW (all the other rides are the same or are better at Disneyland, in my opinion). Tower of Terror had an amazing “pre-show” before the drop sequence where the doors open and the entire ride vehicle moves forward into the hallway. SO COOL. I’m pretty sure there are more drops too. LOVED IT.

Other rides/attractions we checked off our list that morning…

Star Tours (after which Rob found this Boba Fett hat to try on, hehe)…

The Great Movie Ride (this was kinda lame, I’ll be honest)…

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this year’s travel

My friend Sebastian linked to some awesome travel-themed videos on his blog. They’re so great I wanted to share them here too. But for some reason I can’t embed the videos. GRRR. So I’ll have to settle for the links.

My absolute favorite is MOVE. But EAT is a very close second. It also makes me supremely HUNGRY. They’re only a minute each so… no excuses. Watch them!

I LOVE to travel so these videos give me a serious case of wanderlust. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds or the time to travel often. FAIL. My ultimate dream is to go on a Round the World trip. Someday…

For now, though, Rob and I have 2 trips planned before the end of the year. First off, we’re heading to Vancouver at the end of the month for a belated third year anniversary trip. We loved it so much last year (see my trip report here and here) that we really wanted to spend more time there. And this time we’re going to spend a day in Whistler! Then after Thanksgiving, we’re taking a longer trip to Florida where we’ll spend 10 days at Disney World (with a side trip to Universal Studios for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and 3 days in Miami.

So much to look forward to… CAN’T. WAIT.