Friday, February 13, 2015

Rope Drop and Zebra Domes.... Day 4 of Eat, Play, and Stay

Reluctantly, my crew was up, dressed and at Hollywood Studios before Rope Drop. Our goal was to ride Tower of Terror and RocknRoll Roller Coaster as many times as possible. Immediately upon entering the park, we walked quickly to Tower of Terror, and were able to ride without a wait. This ride has become a family favorite. Since Randy was not along for Jana's first time, he was excited to be able to experience this with her. I will be honest, this ride scares the bejeezus out of me. And it is that first ride that is the scariest. You know you are going to drop, you just don't have a clue when or how far you will drop.

As soon as we finished, the guys were heading over to RnR while Jana shopped in the gift shop, and I just tagged along behind her. Before I realized that they were gone, the guys were back. RnR was down, and there goes our chance to ride multiple times. By the time that we walked back around to the entrance of ToT, the line was already a 30 minute wait, so we used our FPs for one last ride.
I seriously laugh every time I see this video. Jordan's face is priceless! And I look like a goof ball.
From ToT , we head over to the Animation Studio to go to  a drawing class with a Disney Animator. This place used to be one of those best kept secrets, but unfortunately, I believe the secret is out. The animation class was full, and a line had formed for the next class by the time that we got there. We decided not to wait, but to head over to Toy Story Mania to ride with our FPs.
Jordan choose to ride with Jana, leaving me and Randy to ride together. I think he was just scared he would get beat by his mom.Unfortunately, the girls didn't stand a chance today, and we were demolished by the guys. And I was doing so good, until the ring toss game. That part gets me every time.

We decided we were all hungry and it was getting time for lunch. As we were walking along, I realized that Mike and Sully were all alone. I dragged the family over for some pics. I don't think people realize that these characters are back behind a Disney gift shop so there is often little or no line.

and then we got side tracked again.... do you see a pattern here? We are the family that wanders aimlessly around the parks, looking as if we have just seen a shiny penny or something. Jana spied HISTK playset, and I just had to let her play. This is one of those attractions that I know there will come a time when she will have no desire to do, and honestly, I can't wait. This place is crazy! There are so many hidden passages, that you can go in one way, and come out way on the other side. When she was smaller, I would be frantic trying to keep up with her, but now that she is older, I can just stand to the side with all the other cell phone junkie adults, waiting patiently for our kids to get bored and move on.
FINALLY! we can eat lunch! We always eat at the same place for lunch here at DHS. There are really not a lot of great choices for food at this park, but we all agree that we like Pizza Planet. As far as Disney pizza goes, the pizza here is pretty good. Granted, if you are looking for amazing pizza, you probably will be a little disappointed. But if you are hungry and are looking to get filled up at a reasonable price, then this is your place. Also, Toy Story is probably one of my favorite Disney movies, and the theming of the restaurant is very nostalgic. If you are not on the Dining Plan, this would be a good meal to split. Even on the dining plan, we bought 3 pizza meals, each coming with a salad, split between the four of us, and we all had plenty to eat.
The Big Hero 6 cupcakes were soooo cute, and tasty too!

Following lunch, we had about an hour before our next FPs, and this is where I begin to realize that maybe I didn't think out the timing of our FPs very well. We kept zig zagging back and forth across the park, Thank goodness this is not a very large park. We decided to head back over to the Animation Studios because the kids and I really wanted to draw, but again we had to wait, and I started to worry about whether Jana and I would make it back in time for our Frozen sing-a-long FPs. The guys had FPs for Star Tours, so there was not a problem with them getting back for theirs, but the Frozen FPs had a specific time that you had to be there. We finally made it into the studio, and the animator chose Daisy Duck for us to draw. We all did a great job on our drawings, but Jordan's was the best.
When we finished, Jana and I had to practically run across the park to make it back to the sing-a-long, and by the time we got there, they were no longer accepting FPs, so into the standby line we went. By the time that we got into the theater, it was completely full accept for a few seats here and there. Thankfully, there was only the two of us, so we were able to score really good seats down on the 2nd row. This was such a cute show! Unfortunately, Jana would not let her mom sing along to the songs. I guess having your mom sing in public is just like really mortifying to a preteen girl, but the little boy beside me made up for it. He just sang his heart out. The looks on the children's faces as Elsa and Anna appeared on the stage was priceless! Best show of the trip!

While we were in the Frozen Sing-a-Long, the guys were riding the Star Tours. They had time to ride several times, and were amazed that they had completely different experiences on each ride. We caught up to them as they were watching the Jedi Training Academy, and then all of us decided to give The Great Movie Ride a try. This is something we have not ever done, and there wasn't a wait.
It was ok, not great, not bad, just Ok. I am glad that we did it, because there is so little left to do at DHS these days, but it is not something I would feel the need to do again any time soon.
By then, my laid back travelling companions, decided that they were ready to head back to the resort. It seems the early hours had gotten to my crew and they felt they needed a nap. GO figure!
So we grabbed some snacks, a popsicle for Jana, and a Mickey pretzel for Jordan, and headed toward the exit.
Want a bite?

As we were leaving, I realized that we had not gotten our family pics made like we do with the park icons. Looking around there were not any photopass photographers. I guess they figured no one wanted a pic in front of a half of a hat, 

Losing the sorcerer's hat as the park's iconic structure is a little sad. I know there are those who never understood why it was used in the first place, but it is the thing that I have always associated with Hollywood Studios, even before when it was Disney's MGM Studios.
Goodbye Hat! You will be missed!
Back at the resort, my family quickly settled themselves in for a long winter's nap. Too bad we were in sunny Florida, and I was not sleepy. So I headed out to the pool alone. This girl's not wasting any fun!
And sleep they did... for hours... and hours... it seemed.
When they finally decided to stir, it was getting dark, and we were all hungry, but no one had any interest in returning to a park. From the moment, we got on Disney property, I had been trying to figure out a way to get me some zebra domes, the most awesome dessert in the World. I learned the hard way on my last trip to Disney back in November, that zebra domes are yummy, but you had better eat them when you get them. I had attempted to bring some home for everyone, not realizing that they were like ice cream and they melted. Booo....
But I digress... what in the world are zebra domes you might ask? Words would not do this melt in your mouth bit of ambrosia, justice. And where in the world might you get this irresistible dessert? The only place to get zebra domes would be at Animal Kingdom Lodge, You can eat them from the buffet at Boma's or you can buy them with a snack credit at Mara's, AKL's food court.
So we set off in search of zebra domes! We checked in at the security gate at AKL, telling them that we came for the zebra domes! The guard laughed and agreed that it was worth the drive! 
At Last!!!  Zebra Domes!
We love Animal Kingdom Lodge and can not wait to stay here again. The food court is small but the food is soooo good. As Jordan says, everything he likes is at AKL, they even had Dr. Pepper. After enjoying our meal AND our zebra domes, we shopped a little in the gift shop before heading back to Port Orleans. How these people will ever go back to sleep, after sleeping all afternoon, I have no idea! But they better enjoying it while they can, because tomorrow is another Rope Drop Day!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Come Monday

Day 3 of Eat, Play and Stay Vacation
Ok, honestly, the crowds are crazy! After the past two days of trying to dodge the masses, we decided that we had no desire to do that. So "Come Monday" we are going to sleep in and just enjoy the gorgeous Florida weather and this beautiful resort.
The sleep in lasted till 10:00 am!!! I thought I was going to go crazy! How could anyone sleep that late when there was was a magical world waiting right outside our door?  But this was my family... and we were on vacation, and it was easier to go with the flow than try to mold them into something we were not. There was no way that I could sleep, so I got up, went for a run, and brought Mickey waffles back for breakfast.  Once everyone FINALLY got out of bed, had breakfast and dressed, we decided to rent a surrey bike and explore the resort. Jana has always wanted to rent one of these bikes, and I have always resisted but why not? What else did we have to do? Go to a park, maybe? Nay, let's go ride a bike!

We had the BEST time riding this bike. After strick instructions were given (the bike doesn't have breaks, can't go backwards, must stay on the trails, etc.), we were on our way. It was kinda cute watching everyone of us trying to peddle together, especially up the hills. There were a few lazy peddlers, I won't mention any names, who at times pretended to peddle but really didn't.

After our bike riding excursion, we decided to take the boat to Downtown Disney. Don't you just love how we are deciding things on the fly. The Disney planner in me is inwardly cringing, but the outside of me is smiling! We were on a mission: to find Jordan an Ariel tee shirt, to eat at Wolfgang Puck Express, and to allow Jana time to "shop". Seriously, this girl would stop at every Disney gift shop she passed, looking at everything in the store.
Wolfgang Puck's pizza!  What can I say? This is THE best pizza on Disney property, in my opinion. It is a must do for every Disney trip. I love the BBQ chicken pizza, and the Margarita pizza, and the pepperoni pizza, and practically everything they serve. The pizzas are huge for a single serving, so we only ordered two to share, and it was plenty. And Jordan was happy! They had sweet tea, something that is harder to find at Disney, than those elusive villains.
From there, we shopped for a while, or should I say we followed Jana around till we had finally had enough! We did go into the Lego Store before heading back. I can only imagine being a kid in this store. There are all kinds of Lego sets, and individual Lego pieces, and Lego sculptures. Very cool place!
One can only take DTD in small doses, and I had had my fill, so we caught the boat back to POR, where we decided to spend the day lounging by the pool and soaking in the hot tub. I think it was on this day that the reality of what we, as a family, expected from a vacation. It really isn't about how times we can ride Everest or Space, or Test Track, it is about the fact that we are spending uninterrupted quality time with one another. I am learning that time is our most precious commodity. It is very fleeting and finite, and if we do not stop and hold tightly to the time that we do have, it will too quickly pass us by. ( says the mother of a married college aged twenty something, and a 16 year old... )
All to the soon, the afternoon wore on, and it was time to head into Epcot for one of Jordan's favorite meals at Disney World, Teppen Edo.

 I really really want to like this restaurant as much as Jordan does. We eat here every trip, so it is not like I have not given it a chance but it is just very expensive Japanese food, that is on par with most local hibachi style Japanese restaurants. The food is tasty and the chefs really do put on an entertaining show, but if you have seen one onion volcano, you have pretty much seen them all. The rice is just sticky, That is all I can say about that...And the "yum yum" sauce, leaves one with a desire for a little more yum. Sounds like there is not much I do like about Teppen Edo. What I do like is watching my kids trying to eat rice with chopsticks, and seeing the looks on their faces the chef attempts to try a shrimp in their mouths. That is what I like. What Jordan likes the best is the sushi, and he would eat Japanese every day of the week if I would get it for him.
If you are not completely stuffed from you meal, I would highly recommend the Green tea cheesecake, which is very good. It is just one of those things that you would only eat at restaurant in the World Showcase at Epcot but would be glad that you tried it.
After dinner, it was getting a little chilly so we decided to head over to Soarin', Earlier in the day, I had changed our FPs so that we would at least get to ride one of my most favorite rides at Disney. This attraction is right up there with Mickey's Philharmagic  to me, and is what separates Disney from every other theme park, in my opinion. I always request to sit in the first room, even if it means you have to wait just a tad longer. I love being the highest up when you start flying because you don't see feet dangling above you. It gives you a different sense of flight. I also LOVE the way that it smells. This ride just assaults my senses in every "sense" of the word. Just thinking about Soarin'. I can close my eyes right now and almost smell the orange groves, if I try really hard.
Afterwards, Jana really really wanted to do the Nemo ride and go see the manatees, so we headed over to the Living Seas. I shot this really cool picture on our way,
                                         But alas,once inside the aquarium, no manatees. :(
We did find a Hidden Mickey!
They had already been put up for the night. We did see a few other interesting fish, but if we wanted to see the manatees and the dolphins we would have to come back.
By the time that we left the aquarium, it was almost time for Illuminations to begin so we made a group decision to head to the bus and beat the crowds instead of watching the show. I think Randy and I would rather had stayed because we love Illuminations but the kids just wanted to head back.
So, our third day at Disney World comes to a close. Tomorrow, despite our laid back plan of attack so far, I was insisting that we get up in time for RD at DHS. Stay tune to see if we make it! :)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Midnight on Main Street- Day 2 of Eat, Play, Stay

Day 2- MK Day
After looking at the park hours for Mk on January 18, we noticed that the park would be open till 1:00 am and I knew there would be no way that my family would make it from rope drop to 1:00 am, and I had a feeling that with the crowds, we would probably enjoying being there late. So we slept in, well let me rephrase that, my FAMILY slept in. I got up at my normal time and went out for a run. POR has a really great running trail that runs between Riverside and French Quarter. It was such a great feeling to put on a light jacket and running skirt, and feel the sun on my face, and NOT feel cold. This resort is so peaceful and I came to love getting up early to enjoy this view every morning.
Such a beautiful view! 
Our plan was to arrive at MK in time for our lunch at Be Our Guest and then use FPs for the rest of the afternoon. In order to not have to wait forever for a table at BoG,  I was lucky enough to get a FP. Yes, you heard right, you can get a FP to eat lunch at one of the most popular restaurants in Disney. Getting a FP for this lunch is a little tricky. You have to receive an invitation from Disney OR you have to know someone who knows the code. That's where my wonderful, TA, Sheri comes in. She signs me up, gets the code, and I log on to the website and request the time that I would like to dine. Also, you may also pre-order your food, so that when you arrive at the restaurant, within minutes of sitting down at a table, you food magically appears. This is a big time saver, but, the draw back is that you have to choose what you plan to eat at least 20-30 days in advance. Even I think that is a little on the crazy side, but I did it any way.
Upon arriving at MK, we made our way through the throng of people. This day was even more crowded than yesterday! There were so many people on Main Street it was almost impossible to walk. I have been in MK at Christmas when the park was closed to capacity, and I swear the crowds this day were just as bad. I was beginning to question why in the world I ever decided to come to Disney over MLK weekend. But alas, we made it to Beast's Castle, and there were two lines, one for standby and one for FP. The standby line looked as if it were a mile long, and the FP line... well we walked right up. This is when you smile at all those people you are passing who are standing in the standby line and gloat, (Well maybe not gloat, but at least you are patting yourself on the back for pre-planning,)

Once inside the castle, there are three dining rooms: The Grand Ballroom, the Rose Room, and the West Wing. I had never eaten in the West Wing, so we headed there to find a table. In is by far the most interesting of the rooms, but it is really really dark and loud, There is a storm brewing in this room and the constant sound of thunder got a little old .... fast.

Not long after we had sat down, our food that I had pre-ordered appeared at our table. How does that happen? It's magic! I had ordered the smoked turkey sandwich, the roast beef sandwich, the Croque Monsier, which is basically a ham and cheese sandwich, and the Braised Pork. I let the kids choose which of the meals that they wanted. Jordan chose the roast beef sandwich, Jana chose the Croque Monsier, Randy chose the Braised Pork and I was left with the Turkey Sandwich. We also ordered a cup of French Onion soup, which we were able to use as a snack credit (one of the best uses of the snack credit),  The sandwiches were just ok, nothing special. The Braised Pork was very good, and the French Onion Soup was excellent.
Next time I think I will just order the soup!
For desert, I ordered one of each of the offered cupcakes, The Master's Cupcake was topped with the famous grey stuff, which trust me... the grey stuff is most definitely not delicious! The strawberry cream cheese cupcake was my favorite,
Overall, I am glad that we had the experience of eating at Be Our Guest, but I would not be disappointed if on our next trip, we were unable to get a FP to eat there. And I definitely would not wait in the standby line. It was a LOT of food, and had we not been on the dining plan, we could have easily shared and had plenty to eat.
Next up, we had FPs to ride the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train for the first time ever! As we walked up to the FP line, the standby line was 120 minutes! PLEASE! If I waited in line for 2 hours, no one would be able to stand me for the rest of the day! So for as much as I have grumbled about FP+, it truly is the only way to go, despite the fact that you are only able to get 3 rides a day, but on a day as busy as this, there would have been no way we would have ridden anything without them.
The anticipation of riding the Mine Train has been building for years as we watched the construction slowly take place behind the walls in Fantasyland forever it seemed. And the time had come for the family to enjoy the thrills. Jana insisted upon riding with Jordan, and as you can see, she is super excited, where as Jordan... not so much, but just you wait!

Here we go!!
One of the things I splurged on for this trip was Memory Maker, the new photopass program that Disney is offering, and I am so glad I did! We had the most fun, looking for our ride pics, and as in the case of the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, there are videos of your ride added. Just take a look....

After riding we had a little time before our next FP, so we headed toward one of my most favorite attractions at MK, Mickey's Philharmagic. This attraction is quintessential Disney to me. When I think about Disney World, I think about Mickey Mouse, Disney movies, and magic, and this attraction has it all! The wait was less than 10 minutes, but honestly, I have never seen this theater at capacity, but it was on this day. But knowing what I know, we made our way to the last door of the theater, and found our way to the middle of the last row of seats. Best seats in the house! This 3D show is fun from start to finish! After Mickey's Philharmagic, we headed over to an attraction that I have never done before, Swiss Family Treehouse, and up we went to explore this massive tree. I admit, I have never seen the movie, The Swiss Family Robinson, but I know the story, and it was neat seeing all the unique things that this family did in order to make this island their home.
By the time we finished it was time for our Space Moutain FPs. So we   trekked all the way over to Tomorrowland. When planning my FPs, I didnt take in to consideration how much we would be dodging the crowds, so therefore, we were back and forth all over the park. Tons of walking, but worth it for the fun! Space Mountain is probably one of our family's favorite rides. This was Randy's first time to see how much Jana enjoyed riding it, so we look forward to riding many more times on this trip. Again, we took crazy ride photos. There was never a time when all of us were looking at the camera at the same time, but it was fun to look back and see who made the craziest  face.

We wanted to ride the People Mover, aka the TTA, but seriously.... there was a line!  I have never waited in a line for the TTA. So what do you do when you don't want to wait in line, ride the Carousel of Progress.  The family had never been on this attraction, but no one fell asleep, so that was a good thing. Jana actually said that she enjoyed it."It's a great,  big beautiful tomorrow!"
It was almost time for the afternoon parade, and since Disney had recently changed it, we decided to walk over and check it out. Now, trust me. there are people that will wait forever to save their places for a Disney parade, but we are just not like that. ( Remember 15 minutes is my wait limit!) But I knew where the best place to watch the parade is, so we headed to Liberty Square in hopes of at least getting close enough to decide if we wanted to stay. There were people everywhere, but we climbed up on the gallows, and had just enough room to look through the holes and had a great view of the parade. It would have been nice to be on the opposite side of the gallows, but hey, we had just walked up, what could we expect!
The parade was great! Any character that you would have wanted to see was in this parade. Lots of fun music as well. Here are a few of my favorite pics from the parade:

After the parade, we had a little time to kill before our next FP, and we really weren't up to seeing Hall of Presidents (probably the only attraction nearby without a wait) so we hopped aboard the Liberty Belle Steamboat, another first for us. This would have been a great place to sit and relax, because it was a slow slow moving boat, however, there was no where to sit. :( 
So instead we just hung out by the rail, and enjoyed not being among the crowds of people.

Someone looks as if they are not enjoying the boat ride!

Once off the boat, we used our last FP of the day to ride Peter Pan's Flight and then it was time for Jana's transformation to a Princess at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. Jana has been fortunate to have had this experience many times, and perhaps this will be her last time, but each time I think what a special experience it must be to be pampered by a Fairy Godmother and made up to look like a Princess. It would have to be any little girl's dream. This is a major splurge, but for a family with a little girl who dreams of being a Princess, I highly recommend it. This year Jana chose the original Princess look, and how the fairy godmother got all of her hair into that tiny bun, I have no idea.

Princess Jana before

Princess Jana after

Now that we had a Princess among us, we needed to have a royal dinner, so we caught the resort monorail from MK heading toward the Grand Floridan, where we would dine with Cinderella and her family at 1900 Park Fare. We have eaten here several times, and as far as character meals go, it is pretty good. There are several seating areas within the restaurant. Because we were late getting to our reservation, we were put in the very far room. That is a good thing if you want to be in a quieter environment while you are trying to eat, but it is not a good thing if you really want to be a part of the character experience. At 1900 Park Fare, Cinderella and Prince Charming , along with the stepsisters and Lady Tremaine danced in the main dining hall. The stepsisters are hilarious! They are the main reason that we dine here because they fall all over Jordan, and if the two sisters happen to be in the same room at the same time, will actually fight over who gets their picture made with him. Being stuck in the far outer room kept us out of the main action, but it really wasn't that big of deal.
There are lots of really good items on the buffet. My favorite is the strawberry soup, which is to die for! 
Character interaction is ok here. Like I said earlier, the stepsisters were awesome, but most everyone appeared to be rushed. I think that is because the restaurant is huge and even at 7:30pm, it was completely filled.I chose this restaurant because I wanted a princess meal for after Jana's makeover. Out of the three princess meals, Cinderella's Royal Table ( which was closed while we were there), Akerhaus, and 1900 Park Fare. this is my least favorite. If I had to recommend one of the Princess meals, my favorite is Akerhaus for breakfast.
Here are a few character pics:

And one last look at Princess Jana before she starts to pitch a fit over her head hurting from her new Princess do.

 Less than 3 hours after her makeover, she is done with the Princess look. 
And because MK is open to 1 am, we head back into the park to see if things have gotten a little less busy, but unfortunately it has not. Yes, these crowds are cramping my Disney style! 
We stopped in at the Laugh Floor to see if the Monsters could make us laugh, and thoroughly enjoyed the show. This is one attraction that we tend to overlook when it is less crowded, but it was nice to do things that we do not typically do. We moved over into the new area of Fantasyland on our way to see Ariel in her new grotto, and ride her Undersea Adventure. But the allure of Dumbo was way too strong, and Jana begged for us to ride. As we started to get in line, we realized it was time for Wishes, so we sat down on a planter right at Dumbo, and I am so glad we did. There was no one there. We had the whole place to ourselves, and the fireworks burst open right above our heads. It is our new favorite place to watch Wishes. 
Check out the finale

Once Wishes was over, we had a few moments in Fantasyland where it seemed like old times. There was no one around and we walked on to Dumbo and rode a couple of times. Then headed over to Ariel's Undersea Adventure and saw Ariel at her Grotto without a wait! Now this is my way of doing Disney!

Give me a squishy squishy Ariel says

Jordan has found the perfect girl! She is beautiful and she has a fin!

Unfortunately, the park had come alive again while we were visiting with Ariel, so my idea of being in a park till close with little crowds wasn't going to happen. We were able to ride Pirates with very little wait, and Jana was able to ride one of her favorite rides, Magic Carpets, with very little wait.

By then, it was midnight and we were tired! Our day at MK was over as we did the death march back to catch the bus at MK. Despite the crowds, we had a very full day and made the most of capturing the magic!