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 there...it'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!