Monday, January 18, 2010

caution: brutal honesty ahead

So...I'm a little nervous about school starting tomorrow.

I let myself down last semester. Walt once said, "I think it's important to have a good failure when you're young." Maybe he's right, because failure brings a sense of humility.

In high school, I was not a humble person. Actually, looking back, I thought I was invincible. I don't mean to say I looked in the mirror every day and thought, "Oh yes, I am awesome," or anything. It was more of a subconscious thing. I went to the same school from pre-k through 12th grade, and while in some ways it was good that way, it also meant I was absolutely within my comfort zone. Senior year, I was an officer on the dance team, I had a steady boyfriend, I was without a doubt the best writer in the school, teachers adored me, and I managed to be popular without being one of the "popular girls." It was a good life, but I was too comfortable. And my relationship with my Father was a shallow shell of a relationship.

So by the time I got to college, I had a heck of a breakdown, because my life changed so absolutely and so suddenly. I have an issue with change...I fight it, and of course I always lose. It's one of those things I'm trying to deal with. In college, I was one of 10,000, absolutely anonymous, where no one knew who I was or cared. I dropped dancing, and that was incredibly painful. My best friend in the world moved an hour away, but it may as well have been China. I was no longer the best at anything. In fact, I discovered that I suck at quite a lot of things.

I dealt with it. But last semester, my faith in my writing abilities was shaken. Now I realize that a B might be painful, but it's not the end of the world. I can't make As all of the time in my best subject. Still, knowing these things intellectually does not mean I'm not terrified to see what this semester will bring. I will be taking 12 hours, all of them English. What if I'm in the wrong major? What if I get Bs in EVERYTHING? See, my Hermione Granger complex is starting to show.

I'm still working on my issues with change. I'm still working on my relationship with my Father. I'm working on doing my very best, and being content with that. But at least I'm out of my safe bubble. It's not pleasant, but I know it's good for me.

Here's to a new semester...bring it.

Have a magical day, everyone.

Friday, January 15, 2010

why stay on WDW property?

I've heard lots of people say, "Shoot, I'm not staying at a Disney hotel. All that money when all I'll be doing is sleeping there? I don't think so."

The truth is, you're paying for a lot more than lodging. What folks don't often consider is that if you decide to stay off-property, you still have to drive to the parks - and pay around $14. You think traffic in the big city is bad? Try driving back to your hotel after the Magic Kingdom closes.

One of the great things about the Walt Disney World Resort is that it's its own working city, in a sort of bubble, complete with its own forms of transportation. Certain resorts offer transportation to the MK or Epcot via monorail, and all resorts offer bus transportation to guests. Buses, or motorcoaches as Disney calls them, arrive at the resorts and theme parks approximately every 20 minutes. True, the motorcoaches don't always allow for the most pleasant experience - like when you're standing for the 17-minute ride back to your resort - but trust me, it beats driving your own car.

See, if you did drive to the Magic Kingdom, you'd park in a lot by what's called the Transportation & Ticket Center, which is actually across the Seven Seas Lagoon from the MK itself. You'd have to take a CM-driven tram to the actual park entrance. Not so bad, but after a long day at the park, you'd have to wait in a massive line for the tram, walk to your car, and then wait in line to get out of the parking lot onto the main road, where traffic jams await. Doesn't sound fun to me.

Another great benefit of staying on-property is the extra time you're allowed in the parks. Every day, one park has Extra Magic Hours - which are extra hours either before that park officially opens, or after it officially closes. This is only open to resort guests. You're paying lots of money for your vacation, so why not maximize the time you can spend doing fun stuff? Plus, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad looks really cool at night. ;]

If you're flying to WDW, staying on-property means that complementary transporation - Disney's Magical Express - will be provided to and from the airport. No taxis for you!

Remember that Dining Plan I talked about? That's only available to Disney resort guests, and it saves a lot of money.

The shops at the theme parks are awesome - but who wants to worry about holding packages when you're riding corkscrews on Rock'n'Roller Coaster? If you stay at a Disney resort, they'll ship your packages to your resort, no problem.

Mr. Skeptic would now say, "But I can't afford it!" Actually, if you budget correctly, you can. The original resorts at WDW are the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian. These bad boys are several hundreds of dollars per person per night, and Disney realized that this does not suit the average guest's budget, so they've added plenty of resorts since then. There are others along the same price range as those three, all grouped in the deluxe resort tier. There are also moderate and value resorts. Basically, the more expensive the resort, the closer it is the parks.

A complete list of the resorts:
Grand Floridian
BoardWalk Inn
Yacht Club & Beach Club
Wilderness Lodge
Animal Kindgom Lodge
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphins Resorts (not technically owned by Disney)

Coronado Springs
Port Orleans French Quarter
Port Orleans Riverside (formerly Dixie Landings)
Caribbean Beach
Fort Wilderness Cabins

All-Star Sports
All-Star Movies
All-Star Music
Pop Century

The moderate resorts are, obviously, moderately priced, and the value resorts are the least-expensive option.

And if I haven't managed to convince you that you should stay on Disney property, here's one last thing: staying on-property is FUN. Checking in and receiving your Key to the World card is FUN. All the resorts have various themes, and you'll notice that theme in the decorations, pools, restaurants/food courts, Cast Member costumes, and even the bedspreads.

That's it for now, folks. Have a magical day!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

welcome to the magic kingdom!

I was going to post pictures yesterday, but y'all know I'm technologically challenged, and I can't figure out how to get the pictures from my camera to the computer. I've only had the thing a year...I know, fail.

So instead, I'm gonna talk about the Magic Kingdom.

I mentioned previously that much of my blog from now on will be devoted to Disney, so I'm gonna start off with some fun facts about the original park.

Many of the rides at Disneyland were also incorporated into the Florida project. Walt himself oversaw much of the production, but unfortunately he died before the project was finished, so his brother Roy took over. The park opened on October 1, 1971, but it was officially dedicated on the 25th. In his speech, Roy O. Disney declared, "Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney...and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place...a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn - together."

The MK was designed with a hub in the center of the park leading to six lands. Main Street, U.S.A. was designed to look like Walt's hometown, Marceline Missouri. Someone once remarked rather snarkily, "Disney World's Main Street looks nothing like Main Street." Um. That's because it looks like a Main Street from the early 1900s. There's a lot to see in this "land" alone. If you look closely, you'll see that the windows of Main Street say things like "Elias Disney - Contractor." None of these names are random or made up: they're all people in Walt's life or Cast Members who were instrumental to the company. In one nook, a second-story window is painted to look like the outside of a dance studio; if you listen carefully, you will hear tap dancing and singing coming from the direction of the building. All the buildins are built with what's called "forced perspective," a trick of the eye to make them seem taller than they are. There's so much to do on Main Street, U.S.A., from shopping to getting some yummy sweets in the Confectionary, or getting your hair cut in the old-fashioned barber shop.

Walk down Main Street toward Cinderella Castle and you'll see the "Partners" statue of Walt and Mickey. This is a great photo op. (There's a similar statue at the front of Main Street by the Firestation, of Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse sitting together on a bench.) Cinderella Castle was also built using forced perspective. It was designed after the castles in Europe and soars at 190 feet tall - just under Florida's building height restriction. Also, it isn't made of stone and mortar, but steel frames, concrete, fiberglass, and plaster. However, some of that gold on the outside is actually real gold. Underneath the arch is a beautiful mural telling Cinderella's story, made of over 500 mosaic tiles.

To the left of the hub is Adventureland, which combines the feel of Africa, Polynesia, Asia, and the Caribbean for a very exotic setting. Attractions include Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management, Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, and Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats (not included with park admission). Watch out for the spitting camels and tiki gods near the Magic Carpets! A wonderful place to get a cool treat on a hot day is Aloha Isle, home to the infamous Dole Whip. You'll also find Sunshine Tree Terrace and El Pirato y el Perico Restaurante, which is open seasonally. You can find adventurous souvenirs at Pirates Bazaar, Agrabah Bazaar, and Island Supply Company.

Past Adventureland is Frontierland, which is a tribute to the Wild West, of course! Here you'll find Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, the Country Bear Jamboree, the Shootin' Arcade, Tom Sawyer Island, and a stop for the Walt Disney World Railroad. There are some great photo ops along the Rivers of America. A good place for snacks is Aunt Polly's Dockside Inn on Tom Sawyer's Island, but unfortunately it's seasonal these days. You'll also find the Golden Oak Outpost and various kiosks. The best eatery in Frontierland is Pecos Bill's Tall Tales Cafe, home of the infamous "bowl of meat!" Yum, I'm hungry now. Pick up Splash Mountain souvenirs at the Briar Patch and old-western items at the Frontier Trading Post.

Frontierland transitions smoothly into Liberty Square, the land dedicated to colonial-era America. You'll see the Liberty Tree in the town square next to the Liberty Bell that was specifically made for WDW. The thirteen lanterns hanging on its branches symbolize the thirteen original colonies. Take a funny picture in the gallows near the river! Liberty Square is home to the Hall of Presidents, Liberty Square Riverboat, and the Haunted Mansion. Some of the best MK eateries are in Liberty Square, like the amazing Liberty Tree Tavern or Colombia Harbour House. There's also a little shop that sells great funnel cake, called Sleepy Hollow, which is open seasonally. Shop at the Yankee Trader, Heritage House, or the year-round Christmas store, Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Buy a parasol from the little cart, or get your silouette done at the Liberty Square Portrait Gallery.

Walk past Colombia Harbour House into Fantasyland and you'll find yourself in a wonderful medieval dream. Fantasyland is positioned directly behind the Castle, so that you'll find yourself facing Cinderella's Golden Carousel if you choose to walk directly under the Castle's arch. Fantasyland is a small, crowded place with tons to do. Attractions include Ariel's Grotto, Cinderella's Golden Carousel, "it's a small world," Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Mad Tea Party, Mickey's PhilharMagic, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and the Fairytale Garden that hosts Storytime with Belle. There's a playground for children called Pooh's Playful Spot. See the sword stuck into the concrete slab near the carousel? It's a tribue to Disney's The Sword and the Stone, and daily shows used to occur there where Merlin would come out and choose a child to "pull" out the sword. Merlin died a few years ago and the show was discontinued, but it's still a great photo op. Cinderella's Royal Table is a lovely - and very expensive - meal inside the Castle where you can meet Cinderella herself. Other eateries include Pinocchio Village Haus, which has a window overlooking "it's a small world;" Scuttle's Landing, by Ariel's Grotto; and various snackshops, like Enchanted Grove and Mrs. Pott's Cupboard. Shops include Pooh's Thotful Shop, Tinker Bell's Treasures (where you can wake up Tink and get pixie-dusted!), Sir Mickey's, Fantasy Faire, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

Disney has recently announced plans to rennovate Fantasyland. Here's a quote from

"Walt Disney World recently announced a major expansion of Fantasyland, which will also entail the closing of Mickey's Toontown. The expansion will effectively double the size of Fantasyland by 2013. The first phase of this expansion involves the closing of Toontown, so that new areas can be built. In the first new area, there will be spots featuring Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle. Also featured will be Beast's castle, which will include a new restaurant that will be counter service during the day and table service by night. Another part of the first phase of the expansion will be the doubling of Dumbo, and a new interactive, three-ring circus tent that will effectively eliminate queues for this popular attraction. In addition, you'll be able to journey under the sea with Ariel, The Little Mermaid, in her very own attraction (which will also open at Disney's California Adventure). The first phase of the expansion should be concluded in 2011. The second phase of the expansion, which should be finished by 2013, will be the construction of Pixie Hollow, featuring Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.

For more details on this announcement, click HERE."

Gotta love Deb over at All Ears.

Since it was added after the rest of the MK was built, there's no entrance to Toontown off of the hub; you get there through Fantasyland. It was originally called "Mickey's Birthdayland" when it opened in 1988, was renamed to "Mickey's Starland" after Mickey's 60th Birthday celebration ended, and finally the name was permanently changed to "Mickey's Toontown Fair" in 1996. It's a land mostly for the kiddies, but it's definitely worth visiting because you can tour Mickey and Minnie's houses! Attractions include the Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm, Donald's Boat "Miss Daisy," the Judge's Tent where you can meet Mickey!, Mickey and Minnie's Country Houses, the Toontown Hall of Fame Tent, and a stop for the Walt Disney World Railroad. You can grab snacks at the Toontown Farmer's Market or inside the Hall of Fame. Shop at the Hall of Fame or at County Bounty.

Walk past Toontown and you'll soon find yourself in Tomorrowland, which looks sort of like a futuristic setting from an old-school sci-fi movie. Attractions include the Carousel of Progress, Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, and Stitch's Great Escape. The Lunching Pad offers delicious smoked turkey legs; Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe offers traditional quick-service options as well seasonal entertainment; and Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies offers great snacks. Get souvenirs that are out of this world (haha, I'm a cheeseball) at Mickey's Star Traders and Merchant of Venus.

Ever notice how you'll never see someone in Toontown garb walking through Fantasyland? Walt Disney didn't want the magic of each land to be spoiled by Cast Members walking through to meow get to their work stations, so the Imagineers developed a different way for the CMs to get around. When arriving at the MK, you have to walk uphill to get into the park because the MK is actually on a second level. Ground level is where the Utilidors are located, which are the passages used by CMs to grab their food, suit up, and travel. All trash from the MK also goes here.

Wishes is the nighttime spectacular fireworks show. Obviously, I love it. Fantasy in the Sky was the previous fireworks show. SpectroMagic is the nighttime parade that travels down Main Street. It's wonderful, but my personal favorite was the Main Street Electrical Parade, which sadly stopped running in 2001. Seasonal after-hours parties are also offered at the MK, including Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party was a phenomenon in 2008 and part of 2009, but there's been no word yet if it will be returning.

Well, there you have it! I could blog all day and still barely skim the surface of what the MK holds, and I'm learning more about it every day. Still, I hope if you've stumbled upon my post, that you've enjoyed reading about the most magical place on earth, and maybe even learned something.

Have a magical day!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"now it's time to say goodbye to all our company. M-I-C, see ya real soon. K-E-Y, why? because we like you. M-O-U-S-E."

Well, it's time for my recap of Saturday, January 9, which was our last day at the theme parks, and our drive home on Sunday.

We were very surprised to see the Christmas decorations still up this long after Christmas (well, that's not long by mom's standards, but it is by Disney's). Holiday music was still playing as well. I assume this is due to the 13th Annual Marathon, which took place that weekend. In fact, that's why the Be Our Guest Podcast (formerly known in this blog as the BOGP group) folks were at WDW. Over 55,000 turned out for the marathon, which was a record. I respect anyone who runs a marathon, but to run in that kind of freezing cold...insane dedication. Props.

As soon as Caroline got to DHS, we rushed to the nearest shop and bought more warm clothing. Yes, even more. It may have been the coldest day we experienced during our trip, period. However, since it was our last day, I was determined to enjoy our day despite the disappointing weather.

We nabbed breakfast at Starring Rolls, which is a little cafe on the side of the Hollywood Brown Derby. The hot coffee and yummy pastries really helped get our morale up. Again, our mission was to find interesting things to do INSIDE, and we were near Animation Courtyard anyway, so we ducked into One Man's Dream. I am a sentimental fool, so it's one of my favorite attractions in all of WDW. OMD is a small museum dedicated to Walt Disney, and it's filled with artifacts from his life as well as interactive activities and models of the parks and some attractions. A video plays at the end of the walk through; it's narrated by Julie Andrews and completely captures his spirit. It's truly inspiring.

We walked along the Streets of America, marveling that the Osbourne Lights were STILL up, then headed to Muppet Vision 3D. My favorite part about it isn't the show itself, but the props and inside jokes in the pre-show room. For example, hanging from the ceiling is a net full of Jello, a nod to Mickey Mouse Club member Annette Funicello!

After the show, we headed to the Derby for our lunch ADRs. I love the Derby. I can just picture old movie stars dining's such a simple yet glamorous place. I always get the Cobb salad, and this time I tried the grapefruit cake for dessert. It was all delicious, and the service there is great. I didn't even mind the fact that it takes 2 dining credits to eat there.

Full and ready to brave the cold once again, we ambled along Sunset Boulevard toward the Beauty and the Beast stage show. Duh, I love BatB, and I never get tired of that show. I still think I should be Belle, but it's all good...

Caroline was ready to leave at that point, but of course I wasn't. So she took the bus back to Pop, while I walked around the quiet Streets of America, taking it all in and silently saying goodbye. I slowly made my way to the front of the park, took one last glimpse, and hopped on the bus back to Pop.

I went to mass that afternoon at Mary, Queen of the Universe church. It's only about 15 minutes from WDW, and it's a beautiful church that was built specifically for tourists. The rest of the day was spent packing, chatting, and laughing about our many adventures. I'm pretty sure I have Caroline hooked now. She bought a Minnie Mouse fleece, a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride shirt, a Cinderella Castle blanket, and lots of other stuff. Last night she confessed that she YouTubed Wishes. I just smiled. Welcome to the unofficially resurrected Mickey Mouse Club!

I couldn't sleep Saturday night. I tossed and turned, and finally fell asleep to Magical Mouse Radio. It sounds silly, but I always feel as though I'm leaving a piece of my heart when I leave WDW. We woke early the next morning, ate breakfast at Pop, packed the car, and sped toward home.

Did I say toward home? Just kidding. Electronics don't like me. I punched "home" into my GPS, and it promptly led us to the Magic Kingdom. I'm not kidding. I mean, obviously it knows my heart. I mean, I never want to leave, but once I get in the car, I just wanna be home already. Of course, most of the roads were blocked off due to the marathon, so it took us FORTY-FIVE MINUTES to get away from the Magic Kingdom. Then the GPS took us along the scenic route. Seriously, I just wanted the interstate. I was not a happy camper for most of the 11-hour drive.

But finally, we made it home, and the main thing was that we were safe. The Barge behaved; his cruise control might not work, but I'm thankful that that's all that wasn't right. We were sad to leave, but Walt Disney World has been there for almost forty years. It's not going anywhere anytime soon, and goodness knows I'll be back soon enough. In the meantime, I've been easing my separation anxiety with Magical Mouse Radio, Wishes on YouTube, this blog, my Castle blanket, and texts with Caro. Soon enough, I'll be planning another trip - this time to the motherland, that wonderful California park built by Walt himself, Disneyland.

Here are my thoughts on our trip, overall:

Weather: awful, obviously. However, I was determined to have fun despite the cold. Next time I will pack lots of clothes for any weather, just to be safe. I'd definitely recommend going this time of year, because it was a freak cold snap; the weather hasn't ever been that cold.

Marathon weekend: there are pros and cons to this. The roads are blocked off and bus stops are crowded, but you meet a lot of interesting people. I wouldn't let this stop me from going this time of year, because the Christmas decorations are still up, but compared to December/New Year's, crowds are low. It's a perfect time to go.

Dining plan: this is a fairly new option. I hadn't tried it before. Basically, you choose which tier of the plan suits your needs (when purchasing Magic Your Way tickets), and you pay for it when you pay for the tickets/rooms. I choose the middle package, which is the Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining; the other options are Plus Quick Service and Plus Deluxe Dining. With the Plus Dining package, we got one snack credit, one quick-service, and one table-service, per person per day, or a total of 14 of each. This cost around $200 per person, or about $30 per day. It's very easy to spend $35 at one table-service meal, so this is an excellent deal. However, you get SO MUCH food when using the plan. The quick-service credit includes a drink, entree, and dessert, and Disney's portions are huge. Unfortunately, we wasted a lot of food. I would do the DP again, but I wish Disney offered more mix-and-match options to suit your individual needs, because Caroline and I definitely could have shared some of our meals. At some point I will write a post entirely dedicated to the details of the dining plan (yay for alliteration!).

Pop Century: I was pleased with our resort. Obviously I'd rather stay at the Contemporary, but seeing as how I don't have that kind of money, Pop was great. The theme is cute, and I love that Pop has its own bus. Last year we stayed at All-Star Movies, and I was annoyed every day that the All-Star resorts share a bus. UGH. Trust me, go with Pop. Plus, you get the tie-dye cheesecake!

Magic Kingdom: Cinderella Castle was still decorated for Christmas, but the fireworks show was the regular Wishes instead of the seasonal Holiday Wishes. Honestly, I prefer it this way. Wishes is my favorite. Splash Mountain was undergoing a refurb, but who wants to get wet in January, even without a freak cold front? The Crystal Palace restaurant was also being refurbished, but it's not a favorite of mine anyway. Space was finished, and I was relieved that it hasn't been changed too much. Overall, the MK was its lovely familiar self.

Epcot: the best time to see Epcot is during the spring Flower & Garden show. It's too beautiful for words then. However, it's lovely during the Christmas season as well. I don't believe anything was being refurbished, apart from a small section of the Mexican pavilion. Apart from our experience at Marrakesh, Epcot has some of the best restaurants in all the World, so save your table-service credits for this park.

Hollywood Studios: I almost wrote MGM Studios. Old habits die hard. Anyway, the only attraction not running was Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey, and we weren't missing much. Fantasmic! only runs twice a week, Sunday and Thursday, during off-season times, so we sort of had to plan around that. As a result, the show is way more crowded than usual, but I understand that it's very expensive, so I'm just glad it wasn't cut out completely.

Animal Kingdom: Again, spring is probably the best time to visit this park because the animals don't want to interact much if it's too hot or cold. Kali River Rapids is an attraction that can really only be done during the hottest months of the year. It was colder here than some of the other parks because of all the shade, but it's definitely preferable to standing in the heat!

Obviously the fact that Caro got sick set us back a lot. Time is more precious than gold at WDW. Please, buy trip insurance if and when you plan a trip there. She only had food poisoning, but what if it had been much more serious, or what if someone had died? Insurance costs about $130 per person, but I will gladly pay that for peace of mind, because if you have to cancel last minute without insurance, you don't get your money back, and you will cry.

Overall, we had a fabulous time! It'll take a lot more than a little cold weather to scare me away from the most magical place on earth. Thanks to everyone who stayed with us here and on Twitter!

I've decided that from now on much of this blog will be dedicated to Disney tricks, tips, trivia, and planning in general. If anyone needs to plan a trip, I will be more than happy to help!

Have a magical day, wherever you are!


Monday, January 11, 2010

"don't let your heart be filled with sorrow, for all you know tomorrow the dreams that you wish will come true."

Time for my recap of Friday, January 8th!

I woke up super early just for you guys that morning, to post another blog. As you can tell, I have lots of catching up to do, so I got a head start then. I woke up a grumpy Caroline (she’s so not a morning person, even at the most magical place on earth), and we actually made it to Everything Pop in time for breakfast! I know, astounding. I had a famous Pop waffle, which was cute on top of tasty. The sun decided to grace us with its presence, so it was a perfect morning to jet over to Epcot!

Epcot is so massive that it requires two days, at least. We still didn’t get everything done, but that’s okay. The first thing we did upon entering the turnstiles was get our pictures taken with Daisy Duck! She is so freaking precious, with her lavender bow. She’s a ham too, really shows off for the crowd. We ate it up, and skipped over to Spaceship Earth in high spirits. Spaceship Earth is inside – yay! Warmth! – and features cool scenes depicting the progress of technology from the earliest civilizations to today.

We’d knocked out most of Future World on Tuesday, so we got FastPasses for Test Track and ambled to the Imagination Pavilion. I’m not a big fan of either the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience 3D show or the refurbished Journey Into Imagination with Figment, but I love the jumping fountains in the courtyard. I could watch them all day. We ambled along the pretty rose path – though it looked nothing compared to Epcot in its Flower & Garden show splendor – to World Showcase. We started at the other end this time, exploring Canada first. Canada’s one of my most favorite pavilions. The gardens in front are gorgeous, and the Niagara Falls replica is incredible. The movie “O Canada” is great, too…it reminds me of my mom. My great-grandfather came from Nova Scotia, so Canada holds a special place in my heart!

Next we hit up the UK. I’m obsessed with England…I have no clue why. I just think everything British is fascinating. The pavilion is adorable. We saw a little “King Arthur” street show put on by some British Cast Members; I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. I got my LeJeune coat of arms printed out at one of the shops! It’s fancy and awesome. After we had our fill of jolly good British fun, we checked out the France pavilion. The first thing I saw was Marie from The Aristocat taking pictures and signing autographs; I literally ran screaming to her line. I feel foolish, but in all my trips I’ve never seen her in the parks! She was adorable and I was happy.

It was time for our lunch ADRs at Les Chefs de France. I truly love that restaurant. The French waiters are so cute, the way they call us “mademoiselle.” The maître d’ said, “Oh, you haf a French last name!” He was so excited. I laughed.

The food at Chefs de France is wonderful. I’ve gotten the escargots before, but I went with the soupe a l’oignon gratinee (traditional onion and cheese soup – made me think of Julia Child!), croquet monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich with salad), and of course the crème brulee. Every bite was heaven. Then Remy from Ratatouille visited us! It was adorable. Caroline said, “I wish I knew how to say ‘como estas’ in French..” ……I laughed a lot. She will never live it down. Although it had begun to rain, we left Les Chefs de France stuffed and happy. The best part was, nobody got food poisoning! Yay!

After lunch, we meandered back to Future World to use our Test Track FastPasses. Fun fun, even in the cold. It was raining on and off, so we stopped in at the Art of Disney store very briefly to check out the sculptures before taking the monorail to the TTC then the MK. We arrived at the MK in time to see the Dream Along with Mickey Castle-front stage show. I’ve seen it several times, but it doesn’t get old! Then we headed to Adventureland to visit the birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room. I knew it would be our last night in the MK (sniffle), so despite the cold I got a Dole Whip Float from Aloha Isle in Adventureland. Dole Whips are a Disney specialty – they consist of pineapple- or orange-flavored soft serve. The floats are soft serve in pineapple juice! It’s really different and yummy.

Of course, I was freezing after eating the ice cream, so we headed into Pirates of the Caribbean to stay dry and warm. Then it was on to the Haunted Mansion, Caroline’s favorite attraction. It was dinnertime at that point, so we walked back to Frontierland to Pecos Bill. That place has the best Quick Service meals for cold nights, like their “bowl of meat,” as the BOGP calls the taco salad, and their chili.

After dinner, we headed back towards Main Street to do some last-minute shopping at the Emporium. The MK was running a special: buy $40 worth of stuff, get a Cinderella Castle throw for $15. The throw is BEAUTIFUL. It features CC lit up for Christmas, and boy is it warm. Caro and I both found $40 worth of crap to buy (like that’s hard…I’m only obsessed with Disney merchandise) and got our pretty blankets!

It was nearly time for Wishes at that point. We napped our Tomorrowland spot, but for some reason it was so smoky that you couldn’t even see the fireworks! You heard the crackle, the saw bursts of light behind the thick smoke. At one point, even CC looked murky. It was weird, but I cried anyway, because it was our last night there. I pretty much cried all the way out of the park and on the way back to the resort, because I’m weird.

Yeah, we actually went straight to the resort that night without any extra adventures, because we were tired. We stayed in, eating candy and watching the show Criminal Minds, which is addicting, by the way. We didn’t go to sleep early, even though we were planning on hitting up Hollywood Studios early the next day.

Stay tuned for my recap of our final day!

See you real soon!


"the era we are living in today is a dream of coming true." -WED

Oh, hi. I just wrote half of this post and then deleted it, because I rock at life. I'm at work right now, and not happy to be here, though I have lots of happy memories to tie me over until my next Disney trip.

Without further ado, here's my recap of Thursday, January 7, when we went to …a lot of different places, actually!

To be honest, AK is my least favorite park. Animals are cool and all, but at WDW I'm all about fantasy and magic. One thing I really admire about the park is the effort Disney puts into their conservation program. Part of Disney property is actually devoted to a wildlife rescue, and plastic straws aren't sold in AK because they could be harmful if they got inside the animal pens. Pretty cool, right?

We slept late, again, and it was cold, again. Thank God, Caroline woke up feeling normal, so we set off for the park in a great mood. Let me tell was weird to be staring at the Tree of Life in its green springtime splendor while wearing a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. AK is set up in the style of the MK, with Discovery Island the Tree of Life as the hub leading to the various lands: Africa, Asia, Dinoland U.S.A., and Camp Minnie-Mickey. This was the first time I was able to maneuver AK without a guidemap. It was a proud day for me. We headed to Flame Tree Barbecue for lunch first thing, since we were starving. I'm not much of a carnivore, but for some reason I turn into a cavewoman when presented with a platter of ribs. And I dream about Flame Tree's ribs. Mmmm.

After lunch, Caro and I wandered over to Asia. We looked up at Expedition Everest, towering over the park. She took one look at the people screaming as their train barreled down the mountain, and decided that she didn't want to risk any thrill rides with her iffy stomach. So, she shopped for her sisters while I jumped in the Single Riders Line. Every Disney attraction has a "backstory," and EE's is that you are part of an expedition to Everest (duh), but your camp is disturbed by the legendary yeti. It is without a doubt one of the best rides at WDW. The train starts off slower than one might guess, but doubts are vanished when the train approaches what appears to be a broken track. What?! Suddenly, your train switches tracks and goes BACKWARDS, in the dark, very fast. It's a screaming good time. Then your train goes forward again, down a massive drop the size of Splash Mountain's, and into the mountain, as the yeti takes a swipe at your train! It's awesome.

Actually...right now the yeti is in B mode. A mode is the way the yeti was designed, with his arms moving realistically. B mode consists of strobe lights flashing to give the appearance that he moves. The Animatronic is so large that most of the time, the moving mechanisms break down. It's rather disappointing, but scary all the same.

After I got off EE, I found Caroline and we headed back to Flame witness a recording of a Be Our Guest Podcast with Mike, Rikki, Pam, Steve, Danette, Jake, "Kidani" Katie, Jillian, and the rest of the gang! It was so awesome. Mike, who runs, and Rikki are the hosts of the bi-weekly podcast, and the rest of us commented on the magic of Disney, our personal trip experiences, and how amazing it was to all be together! We are a Disney family. I'll be posting the link to the podcast episode sometime after it's broadcasted.

Next, we headed to Dinoland, which is mainly for children but has one great attraction: DINOSAUR. Formerly known as Countdown to Extinction, it was renamed in 2000 to go along with the Disney movie Dinosaur. It’s an extremely scary ride because it takes place in the dark, the Time Rover cars are obnoxiously jerky, and the dinosaurs are very LOUD. I rode this one alone as well. It used to scare me to death, but now I pretty much know when to expect the big dinos.

After I caught up with Caroline, we headed to the Finding Nemo musical show. It’s such a cute show, and so very colorful. Adults as well as children love it. “In the biiiiig bluuuuue world…” Ahem, after Nemo, I used my FastPass for EE, and we left AK. There’s a lot we didn’t do, like Kilomanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, and the coaster Primeval Whirl, but it was just too cold for some things. Plus, Caro isn’t a fan of spinning, so PW was out of the question for her.

Next, we took advantage of those Park Hopper Passes and hopped to Disney’s Hollywood Studios! It’s such a wonderful place, full of the spirit of old Hollywood. In his dedication speech on May 1, 1989, Michael Eisner said, “The world you have entered was created by the Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood – not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where wonder and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” If you know me at all, you know that I’m obsessed with old black and white films starring actors like Clark Gable and Audrey Hepburn, so DHS fascinates me.

After gawking at the massive Sorcerer’s Hat that serves as DHS’s symbol, Caro and I made a beeline for the Great Movie Ride. It’s an attraction that’s housed in a building built to look like the Chinese Theatre, complete with famous stars’ handprints and signatures captured in cement in front. It’s a long ride that features scenes from famous classic movies like Footlight Parade, Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, Alien, and the Wizard of Oz. It’s a classic ride I never get tired of.

Because of the cold, we were desperate for attractions that took place inside a warm building, so we skipped to Animation Courtyard to watch The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, a 22-minute musical based off The Little Mermaid. Ahh..Prince Eric! It was dark when we got out, and time for our 6:30pm ADRs at ‘50s Prime Time Café!

DHS has some of the best restaurants in the World because the themes are so over-the-top. PT was designed to look like a typical suburban house in the ‘50s, and there are black and white TVs in every room that play clips of shows like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Furthermore, all the servers have names like “Aunt Debbie,” or “Cousin Fred,” and they love to scold. “Keep your elbows off the table!” “That table sure isn’t gonna set itself, honey!” “NO CELL PHONES AT THE TABLE!” I got punished there once…yes, they punish. One man had to sing “I’m a Little Teapot” for not eating his green beans. Last year I was caught texting at the table and had to stand in the time-out corner. It’s all jolly good fun, and the food is excellent. I had Mom’s Old-Fashioned Pot Roast and Caro had Dad’s Traditional Meatloaf. I cleaned my plate in ten minutes flat. Dessert was s’mores….yum.

As fun as dinner was, I realized upon leaving that I’d made a fatal mistake. I was ashamed, because every Diser knows that one does not schedule dinner reservations at 6:30 on a Fantasmic! night. If one does do something so asinine, they will get extremely crappy seats, because it’s common knowledge that people begin lining up for the 8:00 show at 7. Of course we didn’t get out of PT til 7:30…and the crowds were backed up like crazy.

Fantasmic! is an awesome nighttime spectacular show. Though fireworks are included, they are not the focal point…after all, this is Hollywood Studios we’re talking about! Disney puts on a real show, complete with water and pyrotechnics effects, and many Disney characters star in the show. I can’t even describe how incredible it is…but it makes me bawl every time. You can YouTube it if you haven’t seen it.

The show takes place in an amphitheatre built specifically for Fantasmic! The amphitheatre entrance is located next to the Beauty and the Beast musical pavilion, and the path winds for what seems like forever; the actual theatre is located far behind Tower of Terror, which appears to be the border of the park when standing on Sunset Boulevard. The theatre can hold more people than Tiger Stadium, and frequently does, as the show is now only done twice a week to cut back on costs. It’s insane. Crowds are insane. I cannot begin to describe the madness that is entering and exiting the amphitheatre. Only a show as spectacular as Fantasmic! would keep me coming back to it year after year.

Anyway, of course our seats sucked because I forgot about the unspoken rule. Oh well. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and it’s not like I won’t ever see it again from the front row. I still cried and screamed and clapped at the end, and I was too happy to care that we were the very last people leaving. The amazing thing about Mickey Mouse is that he is timeless. Though only a fictional character, he does the same thing today that he was created for in 1928: he inspires hope.

Of course, the bus stops were nuts by the time we got to them. For some reason, a ton of people were staying at Pop Century (probably due to the marathon – I’ll get to that later), and the line was RIDICULOUS. I’m talking winding past TWO OTHER BUS STOPS. I took one at that line and headed for the Old Key West stop, which had hardly any people in its line. We boarded the bus and headed for yet another unexpected adventure.

Old Key West is a deluxe Disney resort, and it’s also a DVC resort. DVC stands for Disney Vacation Club, which the timeshare program. I’m not explaining how it works, because that would take too long, but it suffices to say that it’s way too expensive for me now but I hope to be a DVC member, someday. Because it’s a DVC resort, the theme is incredible, and the gift shop rocks. It includes a minimart grocery store type thing, which cracks me up. I bought a DVC shirt and Mickey Mouse underwear…was that TMI? Oh well, they are cute, so be jealous.

Our adventure didn’t stop at Old Key West. We jumped on a bus to Downtown Disney, to explore Pleasure Island the West Side. We didn’t do much shopping (for which my bank account is thankful), but walked around and looked at the crazy sights, like the massive Disney hot air balloon parked on the lake. (I know that didn’t make sense – I’ll have to post a picture later.) Then, exhausted, we climbed on the bus bound for Pop. Then we climbed into bed, where we promptly fell asleep.

Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures! I have lots of time now to embellish, so be patient with my word-vomit detail.

Thanks again to everyone who followed me on Twitter while I was there! It made me happy to share the magic!

See you real soon,

Friday, January 8, 2010

"it's a small world after all!"

Hello guys! Here's my recap of Wednesday, January 6, which was day 3.

I woke up on Wednesday with the hope that Caroline would feel better. We slept really late, until maybe 10 am or noon, so I knew she was well-rested. She felt about the same as Tuesday night, unfortunately. She stayed in bed all day while I explored our resort.

An interesting fact about Pop Century is that it was supposed to be separated into two sections: the Legendary Years and the Classic Years. The Classic Years is the section where we're staying; the Legendary Years was never completed. Construction halted after the 9/11 attacks because tourism was down. For some reason, Disney hasn't done anything with the half-constructed buildings. Across the Hourglass Lake is the Generation Gap Bridge, which ends abruptly with shrubbery behind it. Behind the shrubs, clearly visible, is the main building, decorated with faded signs reading 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940. Not far away are the abandoned buildings.

There's been a lot of talk on the DISboards about run-down Disney property like the old water park River Country and Pop. Some guy managed to get past the barriers and get up-close, awesome footage of these buildings. It's sad, really. Perfectly good buildings, going to ruin, when they could be housing guests. Anyway, I grabbed my camera and camcorder to play a little Nancy Drew. Of course, it's all blocked off, so I couldn't get more than a few close-up photos. But it sure was fun to poke around!

After checking on Caroline, who was alternately asleep and miserable, I decided to head into the Magic Kingdom. Caro pointed out that she'd just be sleeping and we'd paid for the park tickets, so I went on without her. I took it at a more leisurely pace since I was by myself, hunting down our Magic Kingdom family brick and chowing on a cinnamon roll at the Main Street Bakery. I could spend all day on Main Street alone; there's so much to look at and smell and do. Plus there's the sentimental aspect of all the detail Walt put into the original Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland that carried over to the Florida park.

I continued my people-watching with the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Tomorrowland continued its glitches, and the TTA stopped in the middle of its journey through Space Mountain. Of course, I did what I've been doing this whole trip when I'm forced to wait on something: I Tweeted. Then, my feed starting filling with complaints about the TTA stopping. The Tweets were from some friends from the Be Our Guest Podcast/Magical Mouse Radio, including the show's host, Mike Rahlmann! I got super excited when I realized we were on the same ride at the same time. I knew they were coming in for Disney's 13th Annual Marathon Weekend, but WDW's such a huge place that I never dreamed we'd run into each other. Sure enough, on the next train, I saw Mike, Rikki, Pam, Steve, Denette, and their kids waving at me!

After we finally got off the ATT, we formally introduced ourselves - we'd only been friends through Twitter and the BOGP message boards - and there was a lot of excitement in general. We chattered and rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger spin together, then hit up one of my all-time favorites, the Carousel of Progress, and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. It was dark at that point, so we trekked over to Frontierland to eat dinner at Pecos Bill. There was a lot of food, laughter, and Disney magic. Then we all watched Wishes together.

This made my trip especially magical, because it's the first time I've met Disney friends. Besides my parents, I don't really know anyone who considers Disney an actual hobby, a passion. We're generally the weird people. On the boards, I can be myself; no one thinks anything of gushing over the little details the way I do. To meet the people who think like that as well, was incredible.

Giddy from my "celebrity encounter," I hopped on a bus to Downtown Disney. I'd been lusting after this amazing Dooney & Bourke for Disney handbag that Caroline and I had spotted in the Emporium on Main Street. I pretty much had to have it, so I stopped at TrenD, which sells Disney Couture, to buy myself a Christmas present. I knocked most of my souvenirs out at DD as well.

I was pretty tired at that point, so I headed back "home." Caroline was feeling slightly better by then. She amused herself with Hercules on TV and my Nancy Drew game on my laptop. We chatted and watched TV, then turned off the lights with the hope that our 4th day would not be a waste of any precious time.

Stay tuned for our 4th day at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

I recently reached 100 followers on Twitter: thanks to all who've been following!

"with each rising run, to a new day, we go on."

I haven't forgotten about blogging! Just been busy, busy, busy.

Tuesday, Jan 5, Day 2

Since we did the MK on Monday, we went for the second park to open at WDW: Epcot. Walt originally designed EPCOT: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow to be an actual working futuristic city. That didn't happen, but the Epcot theme park is still a wonderful place. It's often termed the "adult" park, because it manages to be educational AND fun. It's also a science geek's paradise.

As usual, I was running late, but we managed to hop on over to World Showcase in time for our breakfast with the princesses at Akershus, the Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway pavilion. I wore the Belle tiara I'd bought specifically for the occasion, and Caroline wore her red Snow White headband. We looked pretty princessy, even if we skipped Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

Belle greeted us as we walked in. Of course, the freakish weather continued, so a blast of freezing air rushed in every time someone opened the door; Belle wore a beautiful gold cape over her ball gown. She was breathtakingly gorgeous. I'm pretty sure I stuttered when she told me that she liked my tiara. Akershus has a cold bar with fruit, yogurt, muffins, bagels, etc that we helped ourselves to, then our lovely waitress brought us a big plate of hot food for us to share. The food was delicious, but we were almost too excited to eat when we spotted Cinderella making her way across the room.

You always see the princesses in show and parades, but it's nothing compared to seeing them up close. Cinderella's gown was a gorgeous powder blue brocade. We got pictures with her and watched as she interacted with the children at the next table. Next was Aurora, Caroline's favorite. Flora won out that day - her dress was pink. Then came Snow White - and I've never seen a more convincing Snow White. She was wide-eyed and cheerful, and her voice sounded exactly like Adriana Caselotti, the voice of the original Snow White. She was my childhood favorite, and carrying on my tradition, I said to her, "Please watch out for those apples over there!" to which she replied, in all seriousness, "I only eat the green ones!"

Ariel came to our table next, in a lovely turquoise dress that set her red hair off to perfection. We pretty much gawked at them all for the rest of the meal, excited as five-year-olds. It was pure magic.

We ambled back to Future World where we stopped in at Mouse Gear to buy some warmer clothing. I picked up a really nice gray fleece with Mickey and Minnie embroidered on the chest, and a pair of cozy furry pink socks. Finally warm, we headed over to Ellen's Universe of Energy. I can honestly say I learned more about energy from this ride than I did in school. (Actually, I've learned more from Epcot than I have from all my science classes put together. Money on Epcot well spent.)

We went for Mission: Space next. A Cast Member randomly gifted us with a FastPass for the Orange Team, which is the more intense version of the ride. We got up to the pre-ride briefing when Caroline decided that she didn't like the look of the spinning simulator capsule, so we chicken-exited out of there. That ride isn't one of my favorites, anyway.

Test Track was next on our list. The standby wait time was 110 minutes!...but that's okay, because we were holding FastPasses for it. :) Thank goodness for those things. I can't stand to stay in the TT queue for very long because of all the crazy noise. While in line, a weird dude asked if he could take his picture with us...I guess because we were wearing princess headpieces? I'm not sure. Then it was time for the ride! Caroline loved it, and I'm a big fan of TT myself.

By that time we'd burned off our breakfast, so we headed to The Land for lunch, stopping at Club Cool along the way. Club Cool is a little place sponsored by Coca-Cola that offers free samples of beverages from around the world. Some of the drinks, like the ones from China and Costa Rica, are awesome. Others, like the awful drink from Germany, make you want to gag. I got some very interesting pictures of our faces when we tasted it.

We skipped on Soarin' because Caroline's not a fan of heights, and we lunched at the Garden Grill, which is The Land's healthy food court. We each had Chinese food; she had cheesecake and I had strawberry shortcake. It was all delicious. The perfect ride to do after lunching at The Land is Living with the Land, the behind-the-scenes boat tour of Epcot's greenhouses. They use a system called hydroponics, which is way of growing crops using water and air, but no soil. It's one way Disney conserves on their property. All of the food grown in those greenhouses is shipped throughout the World! I like knowing that when I eat here, I'm getting good vegetables and fruits grown without pesticides.

After that, we headed to the Living Seas pavilion, to find Nemo. We checked out the aquarium tanks and watched the Turtle Talk with Crush show, which is a big hit with kids and adults alike, duuuude.

World Showcase was next on the agenda. WS consists of eleven country pavilions, beginning with Mexico and ending with Canada, with the U.S.A. in the center. We rode the boat ride in the Mexican pavilion and had our pictures taken with 3 Caballeros Donald Duck; shopped a little in Norway; tried some nasty chocolate in Germany before going on a Kim Possible mission there; admired the Venetian masks in Italy; and defrosted in the American Adventure. The sun was beginning to go down, and it was cold. Tuesday and Wednesday nights were the worst yet. It was time for our ADRs at Merrakesh in Morocco, so we skipped a few pavilions to get there on time.

I've only eaten at Merrakesh one other time, one year ago, and I loved it. The atmosphere was very ethnic and cool; the food was great; and we were entertained with actual bellydancers! This time, however, I wasn't as impressed. They were crowded. In fact, our table was set up in the middle of a walkway, so we were constantly in the way of traffic. Behind us was a storage closet, and the waiters kept grabbing extra tables and chairs from there and setting them up like ours. Um...maybe you should just tell people you're full, because that's probably a fire hazard, and it certainly doesn't make for an enjoyable meal.

I ordered the lamb shank with couscous, and Caroline got the beef kabobs with hummus. My lamb wasn't as tender as it was a year ago, but the couscous tasted better than I'd remembered. Strange. Caro liked her food fine. We ordered baklava and some other dessert to share, and that was the absolute best part.

We stumbled out of there into the freezing cold and sought shelter in the France pavilion. There's a pretty nice video of France in the theatre there, and the shops are nice. My favorite part about the French pavilion is the beautiful stained glass window designed like the artwork in Beauty and the Beast! We waited around for Illuminations, then traveled through the UK to find a spot to watch the show.

I hadn't seen Illuminations in a very long time. Not remembering made the effect even greater. In addition to the usual WDW fireworks and amazing music, the tops of the pavilions light up in homage to those countries (all except for Japan and China, which are exempt for those countries' religious views). A barge is brought out on the lake with a giant, spinning metal globe with LED lights covering it. The globe lights up in wonderful colors, depicting scenes from all over the world as it revolves. It's a wonderful show, and of course I cried. "We Go On" is one of the best songs ever. I looked behind me for Caroline, but she wasn't there. I figured she was cold and not in the mood for fireworks, so I didn't think much of it...

...Until I found her in the bathrooms. We are pretty sure it was food poisoning at Merrakesh that did it. Poor thing was sick for a long time, even on the bus and past midnight that night. What started out as a wonderful day turned into a nightmare. We prayed that she'd be okay the next day, because who wants to be sick at Walt Disney World?

How did she fare the next day? Stay tuned for my day 3 recap!

Until next time, see you real soon!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"haha, see what a little wishing can do?" -jimminy cricket

Again, didn't get to recap day one because we were tired. It sort of comes with the Disney package."Magic-Your-Way Park Hopper Ticket Plus Dining Plan and Exhaustion!" Um, anyway, here we go.

I always start my WDW trips out with the Magic Kingdom. It's a sentimental thing. Walt essentially built that park himself, so it was the first to open. The first thing most people think of when they hear "Walt Disney World" is Cinderella Castle, so there's something to my logic. We overslept by a couple of hours, so we woke up at 9...right as the Rope Drop was happening. Oh, well. It happens.

By the time we got there, walked down Main Street, oohed and ahhed over everything, and had a quick ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, it was nearly time for our ADRs at Liberty Tree Tavern. I'd made them for 10:40, which is early for lunch, but that was the time the computer gave me. Well...they start serving lunch at 11:30, so they told us to come back. We hung out at Liberty Square for a bit, then headed back. LTT is a crazy popular restaurant, so we waited a while before we sat. It was totally worth it, though. Of course it's designed to look like the colonial era, and the characters that came by our table were dressed for the period. We saw Minnie, Dale, Chip, and Pluto! Caroline was super excited, and I was pretty happy myself. The food is basically Thanksgiving dinner: different meats, mashed potatoes, macaroni, dressing, green beans, and apple cobbler. I gave LTT 5 stars.

We meandered over to the Hall of Presidents to escape the blustery cold and to let our food go down. This was the first time I'd seen it since it was refurbished last year to add in President Obama. I definitely appreciated that attraction more now that I'm older...totally got all teary and patriotic. Walt himself was fiercely proud to be American, and it showed.

We moved on to Fantasyland next, to it's a small world. (I didn't capitalize that on purpose - that's how it's supposed to be!) I think everyone has a love/hate relationship with that particular's a classic and totally adorable, but on the other hand...that SONG. I especially enjoy it, knowing that it was renowned artist and Imagineer Mary Blair's greatest achievement. She died in '72, I believe.

Next we tackled Toontown. This was bittersweet, because starting in 2011 the Imagineers are giving Fantasyland a makeover, which includes taking out Toontown. Although it's mainly a kiddie place, it's still wonderful to see Minnie and Mickey's houses and imagine them actually living there. After touring their houses, we stood in line forever to get pictures with Silvermist, Tinker Belle, and Rosetta from Pixie Hollow. This was a new experience for me because Pixie Hollow is a fairly recent addition to the realm of Disney. The fairies were beautiful, perky, and charming, and we got very cute pictures with them. Then we stood in line for another eternity to meet Mickey and Minnie, the King and Queen of Disney. They are so lovely. Minnie was very sweet, as always, and Mickey kissed our hands! I definitely have a crush on him. Our pictures came out great.

Giddy from our character encounters, we skipped on over to discover that both the Carousel of Progress and the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor were both experiencing technical difficulties! Boo. I know nothing about the technical side of WDW, but I assume that the Tomorrowland attractions run off the same server, which would explain the problem. We swallowed our disappointment and boarded the TTA, or Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Classic Disney fans will empathize with me when I saw how disappointed I am that the old-school audio, complete with "Tom Morrow, paging Mr. Tom Morrow, your party from Saturn has arrived," has been replaced. I agree with progress...but don't fix it if it isn't broken, Disney.

We strolled down Main Street, peeking in at the shops. We watched a glass blower in the crystal shop and freaked out over the adorable, insanely expensive Disney figurines and art. Then I found the Dooney & Bourke for Disney bags and nearly had a heart attack. We stopped to watch the "Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party Parade." I hadn't seen it; it was cute and fun, but rather short and definitely not Disney's best.

It was getting darker and 7 pm was approaching, so we hung out around Main Street to wait for SpectroMagic. Caro staked out our spot while I hunted for turkey legs. I encountered a Cast Member who seemed a bit confused...I would be more than happy to take her place if she hasn't bothered to learn basic info about the park where she is employed. After ignoring her unhelpful directions, I snagged some turkey legs and sodas from The Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland and managed to maneuver back to Main Street. Those smoked turkey legs are good...but massive, and incredibly messy.

SpectroMagic was great, as always. There aren't many places in the world where you can find giant floats with millions of LED lights on them, but you can at the Disney parks. After the parade, we literally ran across Main Street, around Tomorrowland, and through Fantasyland to use our FastPasses for Peter Pan's Flight. Peter Pan is my second favorite Disney movie, if you couldn't tell by this blog layout...;] Then we ran back to the bridge connecting the hub and Tomorrowland to snag a prime viewing location for Wishes.

I've always seen Wishes from directly in front of the castle, along with a thousand of my closest friends. The Tomorrowland walkway is much less crowded, and the view is still superb. The fireworks aren't centered to be symmetrical with the castle, but Tinker Belle flies right overhead, which is super cool. I listen to Wishes pretty much every day, and I tear up every single time I hear it. Experiencing the show at my favorite place always blows me away, and I just stood there in the cold as tears rolled down my cheeks. It was a "pinch me" moment. I realized how lucky and blessed I am to have experienced Walt Disney World at all, let alone ten times.

I really wish my parents and Christian could be here with me...that's the only thing that could make this better. My mom is exactly like me (or rather I should say I'm exactly like her) and we just cry together during the fireworks...I missed my crying buddy! And I miss my dad eating Mickey bars all over the place. Christian's never been, can you believe it?

Anyway, we were super hyped up from the Magic Kingdom awesomeness, so we zipped on over to Downtown Disney. I am in love with that place, because it combines two of my main obsessions: Disney and shopping. Umm...hi. I don't usually buy things the first night, though. If I'm still obsessed with it days later, I buy it then. We browsed and tried hard not to freeze to death. We made it back to Pop around midnight, so we were exhausted.

A day at the Magic Kingdom is hard to beat...but there were more adventures in store for us on day 2! Stay tuned for my Epcot recap!

(And seriously, give yourself a gold star if you actually read this novel.)

Prayers & pixie dust be with you! xoxo

Monday, January 4, 2010

"to all who come to this happy place: welcome." -wed

Right now I'm posting this from my BlackBerry, from the Judges' Tent in Toontown! We're about to meet Mickey Mouse! Yep, I'm blogging from Walt Disney World!

I'd have posted last night, but there was just no way. See, after getting about 3 hours of sleep on Saturday, Caroline and I left her apartment a little before 3 am. We stopped 3 times along the way and made it to. our destination in about 10.5 hours, which is a personal record, by the way.

We're staying at Disney's Pop Century Resort, which is turning out to be my favorite of the value resorts. The theme is great, the service is just as good as that in Coronado Springs, it's not as spread out as some resorts, and it's the only value resort with its own motorcoach. Plus, the tie-dyed cheesecake is funky and tasty!

After settling in and showering, we headed to Disney's Hollywood Studios to watch the Osbourne Lights. If you haven't seen them, Google it...they are incredible. The show consists of 5 million lights covering the area of the park known as the Streets of America, synced to music. We rode Star Tours (only a 10 minute wait!) and walked around the park, soaking up the magic.

One thing we didn't savor was the cold. It baffles me. I've been to WDW during the winter months before, and it's never been this bad. We bundled up, grabbed hot chocolate, and got over it, because it's hard to be miserable in the place where dreams come true.

We got in the colossal line for a motorcoach bound for the Transportation/Ticket Center, and waited forever. Finally we made it to the TTC and hopped on a monorail bound for the Magic Kingdom, that glorious place where adults become children.

We arrived right at the end of Wishes, the fireworks show. I totally cried, because I am a baby at the MK. The sight of Cinderella Castle all lit up literally takes my breath away, and the general atmosphere fills me with an indescribable feeling. It's a feeling of combined nostalgia, hope, sadness, joy, and pride, topped off with that fluttery magical Disney feeling.

We rode Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Walt Disney World Railroad. The park had Extra Magic Hours that night (which is when a theme park stayes open a few extra hours exclusively for resort guests), but we barely utilized them because we were so exhausted. It was 11 pm when we got "home" and around 12:30 before we were able to sleep.

We managed to do quite a lot considering we were only there for about 6 hours! Caroline and I went to bed dead tired, but exhilarated.

We are back at the Magic Kingdom today, currently in line for the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Stay tuned for tonight's recap!

You can follow me on Twitter at for insant Disney updates, if you want. Lots of the cool people over at the DISboard sure are!

Wherever y'all are, have a magical day!


disney world

Right now I'm posting this from my BlackBerry, from the Judges' Tent in Toontown! We're about to meet Mickey Mouse! Yep, I'm blogging from Walt Disney World!

I'd have posted last night, but there was just no way. See, after getting about 3 hours of sleep on Saturday, Caroline and I left her apartment a little before 3 am. We stopped 3 times along the way and made it to. our destination in about 10.5 hours, which is a personal record, by the way.

We're staying at Disney's Pop Century Resort, which is turning out to be my favorite of the value resorts. The theme is great, the service is just as good as that in Coronado Springs, it's not as spread out as some resorts, and it's the only value resort with its own motorcoach. Plus, the tie-dyed cheesecake is funky and tasty!

After settling in and showering, we headed to Disney's Hollywood Studios to watch the Osbourne Lights. If you haven't seen them, Google it...they are incredible. The show consists of 5 million lights covering the area of the park known as the Streets of America, synced to music. We rode Star Tours (only a 10 minute wait!) and walked around the park, soaking up the magic.

One thing we didn't savor was the cold. It baffles me. I've been to WDW during the winter months before, and it's never been this bad. We bundled up, grabbed hot chocolate, and got over it, because it's hard to be miserable in the place where dreams come true.

We got in the colossal line for a motorcoach bound for the Transportation/Ticket Center, and waited forever. Finally we made it to the TTC and hopped on a monorail bound for the Magic Kingdom, that glorious place where adults become children.

We arrived right at the end of Wishes, the fireworks show. I totally cried, because I am a baby at the MK. The sight of Cinderella Castle all lit up literally takes my breath away, and the general atmosphere fills me with an indescribable feeling. It's a feeling of combined nostalgia, hope, sadness, joy, and pride, topped off with that fluttery magical Disney feeling.

We rode Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Walt Disney World Railroad. The park had Extra Magic Hours that night (which is when a theme park stayes open a few extra hours exclusively for resort guests), but we barely utilized them because we were so exhausted. It was 11 pm when we got "home" and around 12:30 before we were able to sleep.

We managed to do quite a lot considering we were only there for about 6 hours! Caroline and I went to bed dead tired, but exhilarated.

We are back at the Magic Kingdom today, currently in line for the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Stay tuned for tonight's recap!

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Wherever y'all are, have a magical day!