Trip Report 2013: Day 3, Part 6: A Night At Epcot

Yes, it’s been a while. I’m going to finish this report up before it’s next October!  I swear! 🙂 Anyway, when I left off, we had left Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village to return to Epcot so that we could make our Test Track FastPass+ reservations.  That went smoothly and we had another good ride – slightly better, in fact, because we got our car’s data into the system this time and actually managed to be ranked. 😀

After Test Track, we headed over to Soarin’, and even with the FPs I can say we had a bit of a wait.  Not a long one, not really.. just enough to get D pretty bored/complainy.  But we made it in! And it was Soarin’, which is to say, great. 🙂  Next we backtracked a little and headed for Spaceship Earth, since we’d had to skip that so far to stay on track with the FPs.

I love Spaceship Earth.  I preferred Jeremy Irons’s narration, but I love the updates to the animatronics and I do like Judy Dench. Just not as much. 😉 Anyway D remains afraid of cavemen, but she didn’t mind them in this and was fascinated by the idea that they painted stories onto the walls.  Her favourite part of the ride is also my favourite: the part when you reach the very top, and you come out to see the Earth from a distance. 😀  Then on our descent we played the game and chose our future!

 

I love it when the heads have hands sticking out of them. XD

I love it when the heads have hands sticking out of them. XD

 

So it was now already 7:30 and we had just a half an hour left to get to Maelstrom.  We also needed to eat dinner.  I picked out a couple of things I thought maybe she might like among the Food and Wine kiosks, but they were ultimately too spicy – we got them from Terra.  Some Chili Colorado and home-made chips for D, and some Trick’n Chick’n Curry for me.  IT WAS DIVINE.

Here's the Terra menu - this is courtesy The Disney Food Blog (www.disneyfoodblog.com) and used without permission.

Here’s the Terra menu – this is courtesy The Disney Food Blog (www.disneyfoodblog.com) and used without permission.

The Trick'n Chick'n Curry which I looooved. This pic is from blogs.undercovertouris.com and used without permission.

The Trick’n Chick’n Curry which I looooved. This pic is from blogs.undercovertouris.com and used without permission.

And you know what? I didn’t actually get that this was vegan.  I did not realize it wasn’t meat! Looking back I should have; now that I know it I recognize the texture of meat substitute (which I quite like, honestly. I’m a fan of non-meat).  But I totally didn’t figure it out at the time.

Anyway, D liked the chips but not the chili, not surprisingly.  And she was not into the curry at all (didn’t think she would be). She was tired and didn’t want anything else to eat just then, and suddenly when I mentioned that her tooth was loose enough to come out and that it would be really cool if she lost it at WDW because maybe the tooth fairy would bring her something super-special, she had a breakdown.  She sat down and started crying that she didn’t want her tooth to come out and she was really upset and all kinds of things. 😦

It was one of those moments where I had to figure out what I needed to do.  So I offered her a legitimate choice of going back to the resort and taking it easy the rest of the night; or sticking to our plan and going around the rest of the World Showcase. She calmed down and really didn’t want to go back to the resort yet so we decided we would take our time going around the World Showcase, not hurry for anything, and finish colouring Duffy and getting our WS flags done.

To this end, we missed our Maelstrom FastPasses. That was really OK.  D doesn’t love that ride, and I have done it before so I can live without it. So instead we took our time and headed to Mexico, rather than the original plan of running to Norway and then doubling back after riding Maelstrom.

Mexico was great because D had not been inside the pavilion before.  So showing her how it was suddenly outside nighttime, inside a building, really amused her.  She did ask me if we really were outside even though we were inside, and then if outside was really inside of a large building too. XD  I think she was kidding, lol.

It's a 3 Caballero! Panchito is my son's favourite. :D

It’s a 3 Caballero! Panchito is my son’s favourite. 😀

You can hardly see Jose, which is a true shame, because he is da beeeeest.

You can hardly see Jose, which is a true shame, because he is da beeeeest.

 

We got our Mexico flag on Duffy, then got in the very very short line for the 3 Caballeros Gran Fiesta Tour. I had done this once before, and I love the Caballeros and have done my level best to get D into them as well.  Side note: when it comes to their changing the original Rio Del Tiempo ride and making it a 3 Caballeros ride instead, well… I normally think that not all rides need to be tampered with to have characters added. But I LOVE this one.  They kept most of what made Rio Del Tiempo good, and livened it up, and I’m sorry but the Caballeros are awesome.  Anyway, we got right on to a boat and got started, and about a minute or so into the ride – after we’d gone past the restaurant and into the temple – the ride kind of shut down.

The lights and the visuals stayed on, but the audio cut off, and so did the boat.  We just drifted.  We slooooowly drifted through the ride, watching Donald run about and Jose and Panchito look around for him, and every so often a recording came on saying that there was a technical problem and that a CM would be by to help us exit later.  We were expecting at any minute to come to a complete halt, but somehow we did keep moving the entire time… just slooooowly. 🙂

And then, unexpectedly, the ride came back on! JUST after they got Donald back!  So we got to hear the song a few times.  D and I debated on getting on the ride again to experience it properly, but we ended up deciding against it, since we had no idea if it would just shut off again.  And we had SEEN the whole thing, just not heard it! 🙂  Besides, it was now just after 8pm, which is actually D’s bedtime. I had known I would be keeping her up a bit late, but I didn’t want to push it.  And I wanted to catch “American Adventure” before we left, if possible.

So we went on to Norway.

Maelstrom was at a 20 minute wait when we got there, so we skipped it.  Instead we went inside the shop to the Kidcot stop so that we could get our flag done.  This didn’t take too long, so we moseyed to China to do the same. This one DID take a little while because there was quite a line at the Kidcot stop! By this point we had pretty nearly finished Duffy so we were just getting the flags done and moving on.  I was also starting to notice that the Kidcot stops were getting a lot of, um, “extra” traffic.

I don’t normally begrudge people collecting things at Disney. I do NOT mind if people take a long time meeting characters and getting a lot of autographs done, I have no issues when adults do things intended for kids, it’s all good.  In this case I’m going to gripe slightly, though.

We got held up a lot because of a high number of people who were collecting Kidcot flags and passport entries.  I can see the appeal, but in this case we’re talking about groups of people who all had one of each.  Not kidding, we honestly had at least one group of three people and each one had a Duffy AND a passport, and had to get the flags AND the stamps on each.  Like I said, I am all for collecting things but I think coming as a group and maximizing the time of the people there is a bit much. I’m not going to preach about it b/c I know there are always reasons to complain about everything, and people who do this can easily come back with an experience they had of a parent or a kid doing something they found objectionable. So I’m just putting that out there.  No offense. 🙂

Here by the way is the completed Duffy!  Sorry some of these are super blurry. I didn’t have good light when I took these, after the trip was done.

We coloured nearly all of him.  We kind of thought leaving him some white spots would be cool, and we were also lazy. :)

We coloured nearly all of him. We kind of thought leaving him some white spots would be cool, and we were also lazy. 🙂

Stamps and handdrawn flags or images! I love how so many of the countries incorporate a Mickey in the flag :D

Stamps and handdrawn flags or images! I love how so many of the countries incorporate a Mickey in the flag 😀

Stamps again!

Stamps again!

Anyhow… after China we went to Germany, where after the Kidcot stop I had to do a little shopping. My husband had requested a souvenir from Germany and since he collects beer steins I thought an ornamental stein would be perfect! (Apparently he expected something to do with the Seven Dwarves. I fooled him!)  So I got this cute little thing here, which he says he likes and I have decided to believe him. 😉

It's the central object. As you can see he likes various little knick-knacks so this fit in well. And look! I was not lying about Lum! :D

It’s the central object. As you can see he likes various little knick-knacks so this fit in well. And look! I was not lying about Lum! 😀

In Italy, since D had not really had much in the way of dinner, I took a page from my friend Amanda’s tradition and suggested we get some gelato. I LOVE gelato!  D went for simple chocolate, but I picked out my favourite, chocolate chip cookie dough. I have a weakness. 😀  At this point it was really getting late, nearing Illuminations time in fact. My plan had been not to wait around for Illuminations and I still wasn’t entirely sold on it. For some reason I had this sense that I would be able to beat the departing crowds if we skipped it.  But on the other hand, we still had to get to American Adventure!

So while everyone else was getting their Illuminations seats, D and I made it to the America Pavilion and approached American Adventure, which neither of us have ever seen, in the hopes of catching the last show.  But it turns out…

There WAS no last show! 😦 Technical difficulties had closed it for the evening.  D wanted to look around inside the building so I asked if we could just poke our heads in to peer around the lobby area, and the CM said sure.  I think we confused a few other people who wanted in, but we just looked and left. I did feel bad, because it was my decision to leave it for later, and D had been pretty set on it.  But she was OK with it, and there will always be a next time. 🙂

We got our final flag and country stamp on the Duffy, and then sat down just inside the America pavilion so that we could call home and say goodnight.  As we did this, the lights dimmed and the introduction for Illuminations started.  It was later than I’d thought. 😀  D was in the middle of talking to her father when the show itself started, and she was ENTRANCED.

She was also exhausted, so I decided to stick to my original plan of leaving during Illuminations… KIND OF.  First I let her stand up on the benches to see what she could of the show.  Once it was about halfway through we held hands and started to leave.  Now, I myself have only seen Illuminations once before.  And it’s good.  It’s very, very good.

But it is just a fireworks show, right?  I’m not all that moved by fireworks.  I remember when I saw it I liked it a lot, but you know, JUST FIREWORKS…

Well, okay Disney, I concede you this one.  I had misremembered.  Illuminations really is not JUST fireworks.  It’s extremely inspiring and even, dare I say it, moving.  We did start walking towards the exit while the show was going, but we did it slowly, and stopped every so often when we could manage a good view so that we could keep an eye on the show.

I may have cried a bit.  And I definitely started singing “We Go On”.  I’m not actually sure what I was slightly crying about; whether it was the rousing music, or the love of Disney, or just sharing the moment of being there with my girl and her loving it as much as me… Well, it was moving, and I’ll leave it at that. We’ve all had our moments, I guess. 🙂

We were nowhere near the exit, not really, before the show was done.  So I took D’s hand even more firmly and told her to just stick with me no matter what, and we waded through the crowds – which lessened as we got back into Future World, because a lot of people weren’t actually leaving yet, just dispersing.  And then we bade a fond farewell to Epcot, and schlepped our way back to the car, and left.

Coming up next I’ll talk a little bit about our night at Animal Kingdom Lodge (but not too much, since I already reviewed the resort) and then our Magic Kingdom day!

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Trip Report 2013: Day 3, Part 5: And Now a Resort Break

If I haven’t mentioned it before (I have, but oh well), staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge has been a dream of mine.  It’s the Deluxe resort I most want to stay at.  (It still is, despite having stayed for a night!)  So if nothing else, even if I don’t get to go back, I can scratch one off my Bucket List! 😀

Getting to Animal Kingdom Lodge was a tiny bit tricky, but I figured it out. It was a lot easier, it turns out, than getting to the Magic Kingdom *from* AKL – but I’ll get to that later… 😛  Anyway, I have some advice for anyone who stays at Kidani Village for the first time: Don’t park in the first part of the garage.  Keep driving until you see the entrance to the resort.  That’s all. (I think everyone who isn’t me could probably figure this out.)

An incredibly awful picture of the main entrance to Kidani Village, taken the next morning.

An incredibly awful picture of the main entrance to Kidani Village, taken the next morning as we were leaving.

The fact that they had covered garage parking enticed me, so once we got there I parked at the far end of the garage, in the Zazu section.  We left our bags and things in the car so that we wouldn’t have to lug everything in at once to check in, and so I thought once we had our room I’d come back and get the bags we’d need overnight. Right? Sounds good huh?

It turns out that it was like a five-minute walk from where we parked to the lobby.  Not joking. I don’t know why I didn’t keep driving, but I was just in a hurry to get parked and check in! Lack of judgment on my part. 🙂  It was just walk and walk and walk, door after door of rooms of the resort but no idea how much farther it was to the lobby!  Door after door after door and at this point we suddenly needed the bathroom again.  So once we got to the lobby, before we could check in we had to duck into the (single room) bathroom first.  And there was a line. 🙂

Check-in itself went quite well.  D sat and watched a couple of cartoons and I tried to look around the lobby a little, but the check-in was so quick that I didn’t really have a chance!  They had a sitting area for kids with the afore-mentioned cartoons, and then just behind that an outdoor porch area with rocking chairs where you could go watch the animals.  I was immediately a little chagrined by the fact that I would obviously not be taking full advantage of what was clearly a BEAUTIFUL resort. 😦  Animal Kingdom Lodge needs at least an afternoon of exploration!  I’m not saying I regret staying there, not in the least, but I regret not having more time to take it in!  I hope it’s not my only visit there.

So we got our room number and it was even farther from the car. Ahem.  We were up, I want to say, on the 9th floor (I’m not looking at my room info right now) and since we had checked in we took a little bit of time to look out onto the animals.  We could see some zebras and just barely, a baby giraffe that wasn’t officially “out” yet for the public.  Then we found our room and I had D get settled in, before I went back to the car for our things so that she could get her swimsuit on and we could go to the pool.

As for the room, we were in a Deluxe Studio, which came with a heck of a large bathroom, a queen-sized bed, a pull-out sofa bed, a kitchenette, and the other standard amenities.  The Studio rooms have a balcony, but ours didn’t overlook the Savannah – rather it was looking out on the parking lot front of the resort.  The pics I took were limited because of my low battery, and don’t do the room justice at all, so I recommend you visit the AllEars.net gallery (or your favourite picture collection for WDW) to see some other pics.  Meanwhile here are mine!

Here's all my stuff on the bed! Because that's worth seeing.

Here’s all my stuff on the bed! Because that’s worth seeing.  Note the Mickey towel art!! 😀

The kitchenette!  I actually did like two dishes!! :D

The kitchenette! I actually did like two dishes!! 😀

This is the pull-out couch, pre-pull-out.

This is the pull-out couch, pre-pull-out.

I discovered three great things: 1) the balcony was AWESOME.  I’m sure seeing the animals would’ve been even better but I LOVED just having one! It was waaaay too hot to sit out there at that time, though, so I just stepped out and back in. Sigh.

Here is the view from our balcony, though this is actually the next morning.

Here is the view from our balcony, though this is actually the next morning.

2) we were very, VERY close to the Samawati Springs pool – across from it, in fact.  And 3) we were really close to an elevator that went all the way down into the garage.  So when I took that elevator back down to the lobby floor, I took note of which one it was (I want to say it was Rafiki) and – ten minutes later – was able to park RIGHT by it and get back up to our room almost instantly.

The unfortunate part was that it was already after 3:30, closing in on 4pm.  I had scheduled our afternoon break to be from 2:45-4:30 and then to return to Epcot at 4:45, but obviously that wouldn’t happen.  Fear not for I am not Rigid Planning Momma, but Flexible Momma!  It just meant we’d have to be careful not to miss our Test Track FastPass which was 5-6pm.

The Kidani Samawati Springs pool was awesome. It was large and the play area was even better than the one at Fort Wilderness. Here are a few pictures I didn’t take:

From www.aklresort.com, used without permission.

From http://www.aklresort.com, used without permission.

From www.mouseplanet.com, used without permission.

From http://www.mouseplanet.com, used without permission.

From www.ownerslocker.com, used without permission.

From http://www.ownerslocker.com, used without permission.

D completely avoided the water slide this time, but she did love the actual pool itself and preferred being in there over being in the play area. I’m not sure why because I would have given my arm to get to run around that spot! 😀

We played for about 45 or so minutes, and I felt bad cutting D off after that, but we needed to get back to the park.  She was disappointed but agreeable, and we got back by 5:15 or so and made our Test Track FPs. Our other two FPs were for Soarin’ between 6-7pm, and for the Maelstrom between 7-8pm.  I had scheduled it to try to get around the other half of the WS by 8:30 and to leave before Illuminations, because D is not a Night Owl by any stretch of the imagination and because I hate trying to navigate thru crowds.

But how did that plan pan out?  Stay tuned to see…

Trip Report 2013: Day 3, Part 4: Half of the World Showcase

Starting towards World Showcase meant, of course, that – again – we had to stop and watch the Fountain of Nations. I honestly don’t think we were ever able to pass it without stopping to watch. D managed to get just close enough to get coated in a fine mist from the spray-off, which tickled her pink. 🙂 Then moving on, we stopped off at the cranberry bog right before entering WS. This was TOO COOL, y’all! Though I would not want to be standing in there all day, I can tell you that. It was HOT in the direct sunlight!

I wonder how many times that day people asked if they could come in too?

I wonder how many times that day people asked if they could come in too?

D asked, as I’m sure everyone did all day long, if she could go in too. She was told that unfortunately since she hadn’t brought her waders, it was a no-go. I put in that I’d TOLD her to pack them. I think I confused her. 😉

Once we were officially inside the World Showcase, we were SURROUNDED by Food & Wine kiosks. It’s been a while since I’ve been at Epcot for F&W and I’d forgotten how thickly they were peppered throughout!

I really wanted to try everything, but that’s just not going to work when you’re doing the parks on a budget. Unless your entire budget is FOR Food & Wine and that’s a different trip. 🙂 In this case, I wanted to find something I’d like that D might like too. We passed several kiosks before I settled on the Kalua Pork Slider from Hawaii.

If I could go back to one thing it would be this. Pic is from www.disneyfoodblog.com and used without permission.

If I could go back to one thing it would be this. Pic is from http://www.disneyfoodblog.com and used without permission.

OH MY GOSH. This was heaven on a bun. A tiny, tiny bun. A tiny, delicious bun full of meaty heaven… now I’m getting strange. But the pork was really well-seasoned and well-cooked, and the chutney sauce was delicious. AND, I was able to scrape the sauce off some of it and give a few little bites to my moderately-picky 7-year-old, who deemed the pork and the bun both delish, as well. 🙂

We still needed something more for her, so I cast about and ended up buying D a blueberry Greek yogurt from Greece, a cup of Cheddar Cheese Soup from Canada (and she took the opportunity to tell everyone that her father is Canadian), and I want to say she got some pineapple juice. I know it was some kind of juice. Anyway, she loved the yogurt and at first spoonful liked the soup, but it’s a very strong flavour and after the second or so spoonful she had changed her mind. I finished that off and we made do with snacks we’d brought, after that.

We picked out one of the Marketplace Discovery Passports, where you can get a stamp for each country you buy from, but unfortunately we didn’t get to do that much tasting (for budget reasons). Still, I’m so glad to have been able to go for Food & Wine again!

Photo is from adventuresofthefoodaholic.blogspot.com and used without permission, but I can't find mine to photo it.

Photo is from adventuresofthefoodaholic.blogspot.com and used without permission, but I can’t find mine to photo it.

Getting back to our itinerary, and settling into the World Showcase, we headed to Canada first. As mentioned, D is half-Canadian, and she made a point of wanting to see the Canada Pavilion and watch the movie. I love the look of the Pavilion. We went down to the Kidcot stop first, and she and I started colouring our Duffy. The Canadian flag on the one she got was STAMPED on – lazy Canadians. 😉 We decided we’d colour a little bit, together, at each Kidcot stop and not finish it officially until the last one. 😀

Then we headed back up and followed the waterfall across the bridge, to get to the O Canada! theatre.

If you've got no idea where this is, GO TO THE CANADA PAVILION.

If you’ve got no idea where this is, GO TO THE CANADA PAVILION.

Waterfalls are everywhere in Canada. (Not really. Well, kind of.)

Waterfalls are everywhere in Canada. (Not really. Well, kind of.)

I’m not a huge fan of Martin Short, to be honest, but I think he’s a sweetie and genuinely classy. Also I’ll take him as The Cat in the Hat over Mike Myers any day. I mean if I have to choose. 😉 We got there around 1 o’clock, watched the movie (which I enjoyed, because I luv Canada and I get even more sappy over it when I see it celebrated), and when we got out our further exploration of the pavilion was cut short in the search for a bathroom. The URGENT search. XD

We booked it to the UK, and once the urgency was taken care of, we got to wander around a little. D really liked the phone booths, and when I suggested she get in and we take a picture, she turned it around and said *I* should go in! I am all for posing (as we’ve seen), so I was up for it! 😀

It was really hot in there.

It was really hot in there.

We took our time wandering through, found the Kidcot station, and kept an eye out for characters; we couldn’t find Mary Poppins but we did bump into Alice. Since she’s a face character, I figured there would be a conversation opportunity so I told D to think of what she’d like to say to Alice.

D asked Alice if this was her house.  Alice answered that no, it was the White Rabbit's house, but he wasn't home and he had locked the door so she couldn't get in to explore. I liked this Alice. :)

D asked Alice if this was her house. Alice answered that no, it was the White Rabbit’s house, but he wasn’t home and he had locked the door so she couldn’t get in to explore. I liked this Alice. 🙂

Couple of cute blondes! :D

Couple of cute blondes! 😀

As we made our way towards France, we passed some CMs drawing on the ground with chalk. They were writing “Supercalifragialisticexpialidocious” and things like that, and D suggested that maybe it meant Mary Poppins was coming, but I didn’t see her so I said we should keep going and we’d try to see her later. Spoiler alert, we never did… I feel kind of bad for it now… but on the other hand, I think if we’d lingered more than we did, we’d have missed getting to see all the pavilions. It’s amazing how time flies at Disney!

As we made our way around the lagoon, we kept trying to meet more characters, but they were always either leaving soon (so no more people in line) or they were coming soon, but I didn’t want to spend more than 15 minutes waiting and hanging around. It was getting later than I’d wanted it to, and my goal was to get halfway around World Showcase before leaving to check in at Animal Kingdom Lodge and take a rest. So we went as far as we could, without stopping for characters or attractions, but still trying not to rush and making a point to find all the Kidcot stops.

Somewhere on this fountain in Morocco is a Hidden Mickey. I don't think it's in this photo, though.

Somewhere on this fountain in Morocco is a Hidden Mickey. I don’t think it’s in this photo, though.

In Japan D picked up an origami sea turtle from the CMs working at the Kidcot stop! She wanted to make a crane, but they said instead she could take whatever she wanted. Then we *had* to go into the store, which also houses their cultural display. Right now the display is on mythical animals, both in traditional legends and in current culture. IE, in anime, video games, and so on. This was REALLY interesting and D and I took our time at it. I went in especially wondering if they’d have any Lum representation, since she’s an Oni, and they DID! My husband and I have always loved “Urusei Yatsura” and he’s a big Lum appreciator so I had to get a pic for him.

Lum! :D

Lum! 😀

By the time we got out of the Mitsukoshi Department Store, where I looked with interest for gifts but didn’t find anything I loved that was priced low enough for cheapie me, it was past 2:30. That was the time by which I had hoped we’d be checked in and going to the pool, so I told D we’d move American Adventure from the afternoon to the evening on our itinerary and make a point of seeing it that night. I have never seen it, and it was D’s other main “TO DO” in the World Showcase. We turned around and headed back to the car so that we could head over to AKL.

Trip Report 2013: Day 3, part 3: Characters, Imagination, and Beverly.

I need to step it up on this Trip Report… I keep taking longer and longer between updates!  Anyway, when I last left off, D and I took a spin into the Universe of Energy… and it was invigorating!! (Or I don’t know, maybe not. LOL!)

When we got out of the ride, it was past 10 o’clock already.  I intended us to head over towards the Land and/or the Imagination Pavilion, but with the possibility of poking about at whatever we saw on the way, too.  This is where D discovered the Fountain of Nations. She was entranced.  It was the first of many times throughout the day that she stopped and watched the show going on.  And the thing is, until she did that, I hadn’t realized that I have NEVER stopped and watched the FoN show.  Not once.  I just never paid enough attention to notice how it’s all synched with the music playing.  Well, I’ve seen plenty of it now, and it’s well-worth standing and watching for a while!

Here’s a video I found on YouTube.  This is NOT taken by me, it is by WDWLive.

I dragged D away from the water and we got in line for some character greetings.  I was on a mission this trip to find Chip and Dale for a good friend who loves them, and I had read that they were sometimes at the Character Spot, but no luck this time. However, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy were there!  And I havent’ said this yet in this trip report, but I love Goofy. He’s not my favourite Disney character but he is my fave meet and greet!

Doesn't it seem like Mickey ought to be the last one you meet? Like let the excitement build or something? OH well, he was first, the end.

Doesn’t it seem like Mickey ought to be the last one you meet? Like let the excitement build or something? OH well, he was first, the end.

This is the first time I noticed Goofy wearing suspenders and his shirt being too short. LOL! See something new every time. ;)

This is the first time I noticed Goofy wearing suspenders and his shirt being too short. LOL! See something new every time. 😉

Two girly-girls!  Minnie is my favourite girly-girl (because D isn't really one after all).

Two girly-girls! Minnie is my favourite girly-girl (because D isn’t really one after all).

THREE girly-girls! :D

THREE girly-girls! 😀

Emerging from the Character Spot, I noticed we were close to Club Cool.  And thus began my nefarious plan to trick D into drinking the Beverly.

I didn’t want to completely put her off all the sodas, so I warmed her up with a couple of other flavours. A lot of the dispenser stations were low on sodas (which I’d later learn was because they were discontinuing nearly all of them), so I had to pick and choose.  But there was a wrinkle in my plan, something I had forgotten: D doesn’t like carbonated beverages. The bubbles irritate her tongue. She never, ever drinks soda.

Well, she was willing to try the first one, to see if she still didn’t like it.  So I gave her the VegitaBeta flavour first. Too strong, she said. I tried the Smart Watermelon flavour next – I really thought it was a little less bubbly.

But this is the face she made.

But this is the face she made.

I said “Try just one more?” because I evidently want my daughter to never trust me again. I even poured the Beverly and took a sip, saying “Oh, it’s really okay!” She backed away shaking her head.  A firm NO.

I know when not to push.  But this was on my “MUST DO” list. SOMEBODY was gonna drink the Beverly.

So I handed D my camera, and I took one for the team.

I regret nothing!

I regret nothing!

Never doubt that I am devoted to my plans, folks. 😉

After this there was a little bit more staring at the Fountain of Nations, then I dragged us into Innoventions West. I picked West largely because we were on that side of the park at that moment, and because I wasn’t sure which was which; if I’d actually known, I’d have gone to East, because West was the only side we did LAST trip.  The last time, D and I had done the Great Piggy Bank game and the fire safety game, and there wasn’t a whole lot else in there; well, this time she was up to do the Piggy Bank game again, so we did, but otherwise once again – not a whole lot to do.  We played a bit of video games (Toy Story) and left, heading to the Imagination Pavilion.

By this time I have to admit, I was getting into a bit of a hurry.  Off and on I’d do that – let us linger someplace, then feel like I had to make up the time.  So, unfortunately, we did not get the chance to take in the Imagination pavilion… which is too bad, because it’s actually among my favourites in the park!  Yes, I mean just for the jumping fountains. 😀  Anyway, I kept telling D that we had to “book it” across the park to get to whatever I had my mind set on. XD  That became a mantra for the rest of the trip, recurring whenever I felt like there was a time crunch, so probably about 2-3 times each day.

In spite of D’s wish to do Captain EO, we did end up just hopping onto Journey Into Imagination.

In MY imagination, this picture looked a lot better.

In MY imagination, this picture looked a lot better.

I’m so torn on this ride – I like it every time I do it, but I also feel like it could just be SO much better.  The song isn’t in it nearly enough. And in spite of having a huge soft spot for Eric Idle, I miss Dreamfinder. Although I also have to admit that I really like the ending.  The first time I went on the ride was the first time I ever heard “One Little Spark”, and with it being sung by Eric Idle, I thought perhaps he had written it!  Yeah, yeah, don’t kill me.  Eric Idle writes some very singable songs!  Anyway, I like the original MUCH more now, but I’m just happy every time I hear it no matter who is singing it. 🙂  Even if it’s a hideous puffy moon face! 😀

In any case, D loves the ride, and I’m more than happy to take her on it.  (I conveniently “forgot” to ask her if she wanted to go on Nemo this time around.)  Afterwards we hung around the ImageWorks area for a while and she built her own Figment, we hopped around on the musical instruments floor, and then we moved on to the Land.

Our FP+ for Soarin’ was still hours away so this time was just about getting onto Living With the Land, which is one of my favourites, and which D consistently mentioned having liked on our last trip.  I wasn’t completely sure if that would hold up, because I didn’t know if she remembered it accurately – but she enjoyed it just as much!

I have only waited in a line for this ride ONCE.  That was in May 2008.  Otherwise it’s been walk-on every time and today was no exception. We got right on and started our tour of different ecological systems… This was the part of the ride that D really remembered.  She finds the part with the buffalo on the prairie to be completely fascinating.  And she was also pretty convinced that it was really raining in the rainforest. XD

AND, I discovered a month or two before our trip – rather by accident – that she loves the song “Listen to the Land”. You know, the song that is no longer a part of the ride? LOL!  But I put it onto a CD for our trip and every time it came on she asked to listen to it again immediately after.  So in honour of D, I’m going to share another of my fave videos by someone else – this one is by Joanna (of the Amazing Technicolor Interwebs), and I love it!

We saw a bunch of the hidden mickeys inside the greenhouse portion, which was great!  A lot of the time, we are going too fast for D to see them. This time she pointed a few out!  She also really liked the baby alligators etc.

Once we were finished, we went alllll the way back out (honestly – the only downside of the Land pavilion is how long a walk it is from entrance to rides, and back!) and then since it was already past noon, it was time to hit up World Showcase!

2013 Trip Report: Day 3, part 2: Off to Epcot!

I love how she looks like she's about to fall backwards into the fountain

I love how she looks like she’s about to fall backwards into the fountain

All right!  So Epcot! I’d wanted to get there before the park opened, but the tent slowed us down some, and so did my reminding myself not to rush D. Nobody has fun if we’re nailed to a schedule.  Meanwhile, I was pretty excited for the Food & Wine Festival, but I knew not to assume D would want to eat much from it.

D and the Food & Wine signage

D and the Food & Wine signage

I OWN THIS PLACE! (I can dream.)

I OWN THIS PLACE! (I can dream.)

D’s favourite ride from before was Test Track; I had FastPass+ selections for Test Track, Soarin’, and the Maelstrom for the evening, so we decided to do whatever we could in the morning and just have fun. 🙂  I also had a (somewhat rough) itinerary in hand, with our FP+ times on them as well as a schedule for the earlier part of the day.  I’ll be honest: most of the times on the schedule did get shuffled around. And I honestly think that’s how it should be. 🙂  FLEXIBILITY!

But our first priority for the first ride of the day was still: New Test Track!

A quick side note to mention that one of my favourite things about this trip was running, hand in hand, with D to get to our destination.  Except for the times we skipped. That was awesome too. 😀

Test Track’s new ride is very, very streamlined.  It was weird to be in there and try to remember what the queue used to look like!  It’s a completely different experience now.  The interactivity is neat: getting to design your own car is a fun way to pass the time while you’re waiting to board.  Low light levels made it very hard to get a good set of pics on this ride’s queue, but just remember, I was trying FOR YOU. 😛

Uggggh, I really can't believe I'm letting you guys see this awful pic.

Uggggh, I really can’t believe I’m letting you guys see this awful pic.

It's the lighting making the pics look like this. REALLY.

It’s the lighting making the pics look like this. REALLY.

TOUCHSCREEN TECHNOLOGY!  Is there a child alive who doesn't love this?

TOUCHSCREEN TECHNOLOGY! Is there a child alive who doesn’t love this?

Here is the car that we designed. (Mostly D but I love touchscreen technology too.)

Here is the car that we designed. (Mostly D but I love touchscreen technology too.)

Once we’d designed our cars and we were allowed into the next queue area, it wasn’t a long wait to board our ride simulator whatsit, whatever they called it.  Simulator was in there somewhere (unless it wasn’t).  There was a little boy who was very, VERY sad that the car he designed was not the car he got to ride in.  He was crying and we heard him shout “I HATE this ride!” as that family departed… poor baby!  I wonder how much disappointment that ride can create. XD

The ride was certainly fun, and D *loved* it, so I was glad I already had FastPasses to ride it again in the evening; however, speaking for myself, I have to be honest that I preferred the old version.  As clunky and unattractive as it was in parts, you knew what was going on in each test.  I found this version hard to follow, especially because we didn’t properly load our car’s data on the first time we went through, so it took me a while to figure out that they were ranking the specs of the cars.

Tell me this is not one ugly car. And I will call you a liar. :)

Tell me this is not one ugly car. And I will call you a liar. 🙂

What they do is, as you design your car the computers rate that design on certain areas of performance.  Then when you go through the ride, as you’re having fun being bumped around on the track, they run your car’s data with the cars from the other riders, and rank them in each area.  Then at the end they rank each car overall.

Personally, I miss the heat, cold, and corrosive acid rooms.  But, that’s me. 🙂  I mean hey! Tron is fun too. ;P  No, but seriously, it’s still a fun ride and other than missing what’s not there anymore, I don’t think there’s much to complain about.  Plus that fast loop at the end is still there. XD

The cheap way of getting your ride photo!

The cheap way of getting your ride photo!

Having finished the necessary step 1 for the day, we moved onto my second one on the itinerary: Ellen’s Energy Adventure. I was a little bit on the fence about it, since it’s VERY long, but I had a couple of reasons for choosing it: one, I was honestly trying to do the science-type stuff while we were there so that D would pick up some information.  (In fact, I made her write a tiny little report about this ride later.) Two, D loves dinosaurs but I knew “Dinosaur” would be beyond her – too much scary things jumping out at you in that ride.  And three, I hadn’t done it since 2005 and it really does deserve SOME attention.

It's a pavilion of ENERGY!

It’s a pavilion of ENERGY!

On the walk, I explained to D that the lady starring in it was the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo (D: “Oh. Wow.”), and also that the animatronic dinosaurs were only in one part and that they kind of snort at you but not much else.  We got to the theatre just about five minutes before the next pre-show started, and we’d just gone inside when D asked more about the dinosaurs.  Somehow she got it into her head that it was a movie only, and that the animatronics would come *into* the room and like, sit near her and mess with her or something. I’m not clear on this. 😀

She nearly kiboshed the whole thing and in fact got herself into a slight panic so we had to leave the building, but outside I explained to her that it’s not scary, it’s no worse than the Great Movie Ride, and I’d be there with her the whole time.  She finally relented and we’re both glad she did!  The movie is fun, it honestly is – though largely because Ellen DeGeneres is such a delight. 🙂  And Bill Nye the Science Guy was just cute in the 90s. 😉 She did indeed write the report on the attraction.  I’ll look for it later and see if I can put up a picture.

For what it’s worth, as a frequent Disney-goer, I don’t recommend going on Energy Adventure every trip.  If you’ve never done it, DO IT.  If you have, but you’re on a long trip and will be spending at least 2-3 days at Epcot, do it.  If you’ve done it and you’re only going to be at Epcot for one day, skip it.  It doesn’t change.  It may or may not be there next time you come, but at least you’ve done it in the past.  I say this with love, but it’s just so LONG, and there are other things at Epcot to discover if you’re limited on time.  But DO make an effort to see it if you haven’t before; D and I sacrificed nearly an hour of our single Epcot day for it and neither of us regret it. 🙂

Trip Report 2013: Day 3, beginning at Fort Wilderness

Before we officially start Day 3, let’s backtrack a tiny bit to the night before…

I haven’t talked a whole lot about our campsite yet, other than putting up the tent. However, there isn’t actually a whole lot to say about it.  Every campsite gets a sand/gravel patch with a little driveway leading into it for your car (should you have one).  As long as you have a hammer to get the tent pegs in, the ground material is very easy to set up in. (Don’t laugh. I didn’t know I needed a hammer on my first trip and I had to be rescued by neighbours who knew more about setting up a tent than I did. :P)  Many of the sites also have small trash cans and even some recycling stands with different partitions for newspapers, bottles/cans, etc.  All sites also have a picnic table and a water hookup with hose; this is super useful, as a lot of other campsites I’ve been to don’t have these.

Home Sweet Home! (Image from Wikipedia)

Home Sweet Home! (Image from Wikipedia)

We were also very close to the comfort station, right around the corner, which was a big help when we got in after dark that night. “Comfort station”, by the way, means bathrooms and showers.  There are also electrical outlets, suitable for hair dryers and charging cell phones, AND – best part – they are AIR-CONDITIONED.  So they ain’t kidding about the comfort part. 🙂

Exterior of a Comfort Station. This is from http://bigbrian-nc.livejournal.com/11409.html and used without permission. (He's got a great review post there, go read it.)

Exterior of a Comfort Station. This is from http://bigbrian-nc.livejournal.com/11409.html and used without permission. (He’s got a great review post there, go read it.)

D had a real knack for finding squashed things (bugs mainly) outside every comfort station we went into. She thought it was the same one each time.

And this here is the interior (partially) of a comfort station, courtesy of this page: http://home.hiwaay.net/~jlspence/photogal.htm

And this here is the interior (partially) of a comfort station, courtesy of this page: http://home.hiwaay.net/~jlspence/photogal.htm

When we got back, around 8:30 or 9 or so, I hadn’t yet blown up the air mattress (because I R SMRT), so I did that and then D got to carry the flashlight over to the comfort station and we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed.

So I wasn’t able to tell if I had just not inflated the mattress properly or if it had a hole in it, but boy did that thing deflate quickly once we were on it.  The worst was not just that it was going flat – I’m willing to sleep on the ground – but the way it was inflated in SOME spots but not others, and if you moved at all, it readjusted the inflation areas. GAH. Plus I had not put any blankets down beneath it – dumb move. Didn’t sleep well for the third night in a row.

Even better: we were ready for bed by about 9:30, which isn’t TOO bad for D though I’d prefer 8:30… and it took her a while to wind down, because she’s hyperactive and her brain is always going a mile a minute unless she’s EXHAUSTED.  Well, she’d drifted off and I finally was getting there too, and then the first strains of the Electric Water Pageant floated gently and unmistakably into our tent. XD  So I guess we probably fell asleep somewhere closer to 10:30 or even later, in the end.

The next morning we kept up the trip’s unintended tradition of getting up before 6am. 😛  Not really on purpose – I didn’t wake her, we were just both up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I HAD  actually planned on getting up early though, because I wanted to try to get a run in… I hadn’t factored in the late sunrise so it was pitch black!  I told D we would go on a walk instead, so after pulling on some clothes and using the bathrooms we walked around, bringing the flashlight.  We killed about a half an hour and it was finally starting to get light by the time we got back.

Because I'm at work and can't find my own map that they gave me. This is from Disneydrawingboard.com.

Because I’m at work and can’t find my own map that they gave me. This is from Disneydrawingboard.com.

During the walk, I managed to figure out where the Meadow Trading Post was – it’s really tough to figure out based on the map, which I actually did have with me – and although it wasn’t open yet, we needed to pick up a few things because neither one of us had our toothbrushes.  Believe it or not. 😛  So I decided we’d be needing to pop by there on the way out to Epcot.

One of my regrets about the shortage of time on this trip was that, especially due to our resort-hopping, we really didn’t have time to explore ANY of the places we stayed at fully.  Most of our downtime between parks was taken up checking in and sometimes setting up the tent.  Next time we come to WDW, our first day we will just hang out at the resort rather than head immediately to the parks.  All the resorts deserve a little bit of exploration, and Fort Wilderness is one of the BEST ones to do that with!

Well, anyway, at this point we got showers and dressed, ate some light breakfasts (mostly muffins) and set about taking the tent down.  I’m not as good at that as I am at putting it up, so it didn’t QUITE fit into the bag, but that’s OK… I only had to stick it into the trunk of the car. 🙂

The Meadow Trading Post; photo by Jack Spence at AllEars.Net, used without permission (and I will remove it if asked).

The Meadow Trading Post; photo by Jack Spence at AllEars.Net, used without permission (and I will remove it if asked).

Interior of Meadow Trading Post; photo from the useful site CB4GO.com (http://cb4go.com/Free/Attractions/AttractionsDisneyWorldOrlandoResortsFtWildernessCampground.htm), used without permission

Interior of Meadow Trading Post; photo from the useful site CB4GO.com (http://cb4go.com/Free/Attractions/AttractionsDisneyWorldOrlandoResortsFtWildernessCampground.htm), used without permission

Once we’d loaded up for the day, we drove over to the Meadow Trading Post – which had pretty much just opened – and picked up the toothbrushes and a couple of little souvenirs, namely a box of different teas that I’d tried out on our last trip.  They’re quite good and my husband loves tea, so I decided to pick up another.   So here’s a tip: Don’t forget that the Meadow Trading Post (and the Settlement Trading Post) is there.  Most things that you may forget to bring, you can pick up at the shop and it’s not really your standard gift shop; it’s more of a general store.  There’s a variety of food, basic first aid items, diapers, and other necessaries.  Are they more expensive than they would be outside Disney property?  Oh my, yes.  But I didn’t feel like I was being gouged.  There was a markup but it was not excessive.

The two women who were working the store were very nice and noticed D was wearing her Captain EO shirt, so they made a point of chatting with her about it.  She told them that we were going to Epcot that day and that we’d be seeing it (this is after we had agreed repeatedly that we would NOT be seeing it, because the Supreme Leader makes her nervous in 3D, so it was not on our schedule).  They also told her alllll about the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and how she really should go to that – thanks, ladies. 😉

When we got back into the car D discovered that there was a tiny frog on the side door.  We named him Kermit. 🙂  Then we checked out and headed off for a day at Epcot!  D had said she wanted to ride the horses, and I felt bad that we hadn’t even so much as *seen* them yet, but I already talked about my regrets.  One thing we DID see while driving to the campsite the day before: a deer running along a trail!  We see deer at home all the time but somehow, at WDW, I consider it far more magical and exciting. 😀  Kind of like, you know… EVERYTHING at Disney!

A Few Disney News Bites

Hello everyone!  There are a number of little Junior News stories about Disney from the past week or two, so I’m going to toss them at you and ask: what are you most excited for?

1: The Jingle Cruise!

Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom will both be giving a holiday makeover to the classic Adventureland attraction, The Jungle Cruise. The holiday theming will begin “in early November”, so presumably sometime in the next week or two?  From Disney’s description:

In this new seasonal storyline of the attraction, the Skippers have grown homesick for the holidays, so they’ve added holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise queue and boathouse with decorations that have been mailed to them from home (plus a few they’ve created themselves). The Skippers have also added a slew of new jokes to their tours that are the perfect way to get guests in the holiday spirit. Additionally, Jungle Cruise boats have been renamed with the holidays in mind, and if you listen carefully, you may hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background.

My thoughts: I love the idea of a Jingle Cruise – I’m not sure why, I just do – but I’ve always been struck by how the Skippers on the Jungle Cruise are such smartasses. ;D  Somehow it seems weird to me that they’d be so sentimental as to get “homesick” and decorate for the holidays!  But that’s just me.  I’d still love to see this!  What do you think, are you for or against this makeover?

2: New Lounge at Hollywood Studios’s Brown Derby restaurant!

One of the nicer restaurants at Hollywood Studios, the Hollywood Brown Derby is now opening an outdoor patio lounge area for guests.  The area is shaded with umbrellas and menu offerings include beverages (alcohol included), small bites – that’s “fine dining” for appetizers – and some really luscious desserts:

Small bites are on the menu and include artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, duck confit tacos, steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, Derby Cocktail with jumbo lump blue crab, black tiger shrimp, avocado and a horseradish-tomato juice, and two Derby Sliders – a Wagyu beef slider with cognac mustard aïoli, smoked gouda cheese, bacon and avocado; and a house-made chorizo slider with chipotle mayo, manchego cheese, pickles and crispy onions.

You can also just stop for dessert, with Chocolate Three Ways (praline milk chocolate cream, crunchy ganache and orange-chocolate mousse), a banana-white chocolate toffee tower on a cocoa-almond cookie and bananas Foster, or strawberry Champagne cheesecake.

Reservations are not accepted and the lounge won’t take the Disney Dining Plan – this is important to know.  The Brown Derby is on the DDP for *meals*, but not lounge.  However, if you have Tables In Wonderland, it applies!

My thoughts: I’m boring and I don’t go to lounges. I should! but I don’t.  I’m a park commando most of the time, because I need to fill up on Disney experiences while I’m there. Then I think of all the things I missed once I’m back home. 😉

3: Reimagined Disney Magic!

Image (c) The Walt Disney Co./Disney Cruise LInes

Image (c) The Walt Disney Co./Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Magic has been relaunched (cautiously!) with new sailings out of Miami, Florida.  The ship has not been just refurbished, but reimagined, with new spaces and activities and experiences all over the place.  Among the most exciting are the AquaDunk, a water ride that begins with a VERY sudden drop – the floor opens beneath you! – and the Avengers Experience, a kids’ section of the boat with activities and Marvel Comics characters such as a Captain America meet & greet!

My thoughts: They had me at “Cruise ship”. 🙂

So?  What are you most excited about?  Are there any that inspire a yawn and a pass?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Trip Report 2013: The last of Day 2! For reals, now.

After redoing Star Tours, we headed on over to Toy Story Mania to finally use our FastPasses.  It was the same ride it always is, which is to say, FUN as heck and fast-moving but I will not ride it without a FastPass.  I used the standby queue ONCE, on soft open in 2008.  It was 45 minutes and honestly?  It was WORTH it, because I was alone, the ride was fun, and Mr. Potato Head was awesome. It is a great queue! But I wouldn’t wait 45 minutes now, with my kids, and I’ll tell you one more thing: the line is never, ever as short as 45 minutes. I never see it less than 60 and sometimes up to 90 minutes.  No deal.

So long story short, I haven’t seen Mr. Potato Head in 5 years. His loss, really.

He's been waiting for me to return, all this time.

He’s been waiting for me to return, all this time.

Anyway after TSM, it was past 6:30 so we were off after dinner.  I had picked out Fairfax Fare as our dinner place, because D loves herself some mac and cheese and they have some really interesting gourmet hot dogs.  I hadn’t paid much attention to where Fairfax Fare is located but I knew it was on Sunset Blvd, and had a pretty good mental picture of where I thought it was. Because I am awesome, I was pretty nearly EXACTLY right. 😀  (Still no maps, people! I didn’t pick up a map of HS until the next day!)

Sunset Blvd is my favourite area of the park, and normally I snap a ton of pictures as I walk down it.  This time I was trying to conserve batteries, so I didn’t, but you know – it’s kind of the same most times, I’ll admit.  So here are a few from my 2011 trip. 😀

Lovin' this walk!

Lovin’ this walk!

And lovin' this view!

And lovin’ this view!

Ever buy any produce from here? I'm sure it's very Anaheimy.

Ever buy any produce from here? I’m sure it’s very Anaheimy.

I have nothing special to say about this picture!

I have nothing special to say about this picture!

Ever found this luggage?

Ever found this luggage?

I'm almost sure that when I was here in '08, this same woman was assisting a director. I'm NEARLY sure it's her. Way to climb the ladder to fame, honey! :D

I’m almost sure that when I was here in ’08, this same woman was assisting a director. I’m NEARLY sure it’s her. Way to climb the ladder to fame, honey! 😀

The downside of being on Sunset Blvd is you’re staring down Tower of Terror, which you love like whoa, and on your left is Rock N’ Roller Coaster, which you also love like crazycakes, and your daughter is scared of both so you can’t do them this trip. Ohhhh, wellll. 🙂

 

This is from 2011, but I just can't resist sneaking in a pic of this view!

This is from 2011, but I just can’t resist sneaking in a pic of this view!

 

We picked out our meals at Fairfax Fare and moved off to the side to wait for them.  My plan for dessert was to pick up a cupcake from Starring Rolls that we could split; they had a limited time Halloween Minnie carrot cupcake at various counter service places that looked delicious and I’d eyed it but decided not to go for it this time, mainly because carrot cake normally has walnuts and D is allergic to nuts.

Well, our food took a little while to come, and while we were waiting the CMs told another couple of guests that they’d get the turkey legs that they had ordered for free if they gobbled like turkeys.  I had heard this as a rumour but never actually seen it demonstrated!  Sadly, the guests declined, and paid for their food.  Ahhh, well. 😀  They must have needed to give something away for free, though, because when our food came the CM looked at the time on our receipt and said “You guys have been waiting too long – be right back” and she came back with TWO full-sized Halloween Minnie cupcakes.  D asked “Do they have nuts?” and guess what?  They DIDN’T! 😀

So a quick food review: D got mac and cheese with carrot sticks and grapes, pretty standard.  I decided to get one of these fancypants hot dogs, so I got one covered with mac and cheese, bacon, and truffle oil. Yep – TRUFFLE OIL.  To be completely honest, I… don’t know what I thought of it. 🙂  Everything on it was good, but maybe I just don’t like hot dogs enough.  Or it might be the combination of the quick serve mac and cheese WITH the hot dog, I don’t know.  Either way, I have to admit I don’t recommend it.

Gourmet hot dog from Fairfax Fare: Mac&cheese, bacon and truffle oil. I give it 2 1/2 stars.

Gourmet hot dog from Fairfax Fare: Mac&cheese, bacon and truffle oil. I give it 2 1/2 stars.

The cupcakes, on the other hand – oh, myyyyy.  Neither of us could finish them (not even one, let alone both!), but they were wonderful. The frosting is orange – and is actually orange creme flavoured cream cheese frosting.  It’s topped with a little chocolate witch’s hat, in purple and orange.  D ate the hat, and some of the cake, but she said the frosting was too sweet and she didn’t really have much more than a few bites of her own.  I ate about half of mine, and D ate more of just the cake on mine before we had to toss them both; we were too full, and the frosting on them was melting in the heat!  She really enjoyed the cake part though.

Minnie Mouse Halloween Carrot Cake cupcakes!  4 stars! :D

Minnie Mouse Halloween Carrot Cake cupcakes! 4 stars! 😀

Absolutely wonderful, though, and worked out perfectly since I was going after cupcakes and no allergies got in the way. I do LOVE carrot cake.

By now it was getting dark. I decided that it would be fun to do a little shopping for ME; and for years now I’ve been looking for a particular shirt. I saw it in 2008 and thought “Nah, I’ll get it later” and then couldn’t find it in 2011.  It’s a Tower of Terror shirt.  So in the waning light I had D follow me to the gift shop for Tower of Terror – this was neat because she was able to see the entrance, some of the spooky decor, and the sign lighting up with the attraction logo on it – and we FOUND MY SHIRT! 😀

We also browsed around for some other gifts and I got into a discussion with a CM about Star Wars Episode 7.

At this point I was lugging around several bags, and it was dark, so we decided that MuppetVision 3D would be our next, and last, attraction before we left.  (We never did make it to meet Woody or Buzz, nor several other things I had said we would “consider”. That’s OK though.  We have no regrets.)

MuppetVision is the same each time, and yet each time I laugh like I haven’t seen it before. It’s such a goofy, lovely show.  The fact that it’s one of the last Muppet projects that Jim Henson worked on, and completed, may be part of why I hold it in high regard.

So you know how D got a little acknowledgment from the Tin Man in the Great Movie Ride?  Well, Statler and Waldorf picked on me. 😉  “Hey Waldorf! Look at that guy in the Goofy mask!” “That’s not a mask!” “Oh. Sorry, lady!”

Honestly I really do feel like they're actually really up there. :D This photo is by Jack Spence @ AllEars.Net: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/08/i_know_i_heard_it_someplace_qu_2.html

Honestly I really do feel like they’re actually really up there. 😀 This photo is by Jack Spence @ AllEars.Net: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/08/i_know_i_heard_it_someplace_qu_2.html

I noticed during this that they were looking approximately in our direction, so I said to D, “Hey! I think he meant me!  Statler, you’re a jerk!”

D took this seriously and kept reminding me afterwards that Statler heckled me. XD

One of my big joys was that I got D to start pointing out where Bean Bunny was.  There were not many people in the audience, and even fewer were kids; plus she’s not really a big “participation” kid, but when the voices come in saying “I see one! Over there!” I kind of said something like “Hey yeah! Up there!” to go along with it – this is how we’ve always watched “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” too, with me answering the TV first and then her picking up on it.  Well, it worked this time too and she jumped right in. “Up there!  He’s right up there!”  Ahhhh, I like to think it’s probably kinda gratifying for the Sweetums guy when kids actually join in. 😀

D was also super-impressed by the state of the theatre as we left, and by the fact that by the time we were nearly out the doors, it was miraculously “fixed”. “How’d they DO that?!” she wanted to know.  Sometimes I tell her (usually if it’s something kind of scary), and sometimes I just say “Magic!” 😀

…So.  It was now nearing 8pm, and that was our time to leave.  We walked through the Muppet Stuff store in search of Fraggle Rock memorabilia (spoiler alert: there is none), then just wandered about a little bit.  I hated to leave, because I really do love this park.  Does it need some TLC?  Oh, yes.  I want it to be about the movies and Hollywood the way it used to. Kick out American Idol Experience – kick it to the curb!! – nobody likes that one.  (Now I’ll get comments from people who love it. In fact I’ll be sad if I don’t, b/c the idea that everyone really DOES dislike it is sad.)

Take out Lights, Motors, Action.  I love Indiana Jones but that show could be replaced or even removed.  I’m trying to resign myself to the reality that they will likely take out MuppetVision, even though I will cry if they do, and I hope it is still there for at least one more family trip so that my son can see it again before it’s gone… he doesn’t remember it from last time.

Star Wars Land would be fine but I would be happier if they’d revamp the Backlot Tour. I never do that anymore because frankly… what backlot?  And if they take out Graumann’s Chinese Theatre to put in Star Wars Land, I am going to kick some shins.  I’m serious.  SHIN-KICKING WILL HAPPEN.  Update the Great Movie Ride but don’t you DARE get rid of it! 😛

And that, my dear friends, is Day 2. And we can say farewell to Hollywood Studios now. 🙂

A slightly-late look at Avatarland

Hey there!  Have you heard?  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is adding a massive park expansion and theming it to James Cameron’s recent film “Avatar”.

What’s that you say?  Of course you’ve heard, because you are a Disney fan and have not been living underneath a rock for the past few months?  Ah, yes, I AM a little late reporting on this. 😉

Oh wait, what’s that from the person in the back?  You say you DIDN’T know, because you don’t live under a rock but you just don’t follow Disney news obsessively?  Ah, well then, glad to help!  So yeah.  Animal Kingdom.  Avatar.  Happening.

…Yeah.

*crickets*

NO WAIT, there’s more!  (Don’t go! I’ll stop deprecating myself now and put up some real info!)

James Cameron et al and a model of the planned expansion. (C) The Walt Disney Company.

James Cameron et al and a model of the planned expansion. (C) The Walt Disney Company.

First things first: after months of rumours and unconfirmed buzzing, Disney finally confirmed the Avatarland expansion a few weeks ago at the D23 Expo in Japan.  A short while later (still like, two weeks ago), they released concept art and a few details of what would be included in this expansion.  Here’s an excerpt:

Disney is working with James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment to bring the land of Pandora from the movie “AVATAR” to life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.

Apparently everyone will get the chance to “encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants that are alive with light and sound. Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.”

Bioluminescent plants.  Huh.

Bioluminscent... like THIS??  Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company

Bioluminscent… like THIS?? 😀 Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company

So, I’ll take a moment here to relate that I have not seen “Avatar”, nor do I have plans to.  As such I wasn’t excited to hear the rumours confirmed, but at the same time, I’m not qualified to say “That movie is AWFUL what are they thinking?!”  I will say that I have reservations about this expansion for one reason I think is legit, and even that can be argued, so I’ll just put it down here and say it’s fine by me if you feel differently, I’m just admitting my bias: I don’t think Animal Kingdom is the place to have such a major, heavy movie tie-in.  Animal Kingdom has been dedicated to the theme of Earth, conservation, and nature.  And while Pandora/Avatar do promise to keep the conservation and nature themes going, it severs the ties to our planet; it takes you out of the Earth and its history, and into a work of fiction.  Even the abandoned “Legendary Beasts” concept for DAK was based in our own historical mythology, not a recent work of fiction by a Hollywood creative team.

But, your mileage may vary. 🙂

I will also admit that if they can pull off the “awe-inspiring floating mountains” in a way that lives up to their pictures, I will be impressed enough by this to bake them cookies.

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Meanwhile, the concept art and announcements actually strangely lessened my resistance. A little.  More so though, did this:

As part of the largest expansion in the history of the Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will also offer all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River …. The Park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island® and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris®.

New nighttime spectacular!  This is a big deal; for many years they have held off on having nighttime entertainment at DAK due to not wanting to upset the animals. (Like fireworks are OUT.)  Water screens and swirling animal imagery sounds perfect!  And live music… isn’t that a first for a Disney nighttime show?  That actually sounds really impressive!

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Concept art (C) The Walt Disney Company.

Nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, I’m not sure of.  I just mean I need to find out what that is all about, because it’s hard for me to imagine it. I’ve done the Jungle Cruise at night, is it like that?  Is it just that the drivers will go off-script? 😉  No, I keep faith that Disney will put research into finding out what they can or cannot expect the animals to do at night and build the nighttime safaris around that, rather than building the show and forcing the animals to be out in it.  Animal Kingdom has been dedicated to its animals and I expect them to keep that up.

So, if there are new opportunities and entertainment at Animal Kingdom, I realized, that really isn’t a bad thing.  Would I like it more if it were not tied into a specific movie I don’t plan on seeing?  Yes, yes I would, but it’s not up to me to decide now is it?  And I would like to hold out hope that fun is fun and, much as I ignore Terk every time I see her walking around DAK, I can ignore any blue people. 🙂

Concept art (c) The Walt Disney Company.

Concept art (c) The Walt Disney Company.

So you know what?  I’ll probably end up OK with this. I usually end up OK with the stuff they do once I get there.  But I hope they keep the hardcore movie references to a minimum because it’s not really fair to go to a DISNEY park and be all “what, you’ve never seen Avatar??  You won’t get this then.” ;P

Construction on Avatarland will begin in 2014, and right now the expected open date is 2017!  Are you wary, or excited about Avatarland? Or mixed feelings, like me?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Magic Bands: the Return of the Revenge of the Plastic Bracelets

For those of you who are regulars, you may recall that about a month or so ago I got Magic Bands for my upcoming trip (two weeks ago) and promised to update on how they worked.  And now the time has come to update!

This is not my picture, it's a Disney-issued one. However this is not that far off what it's like using the bands.

This is not my picture, it’s a Disney-issued one. However this is not that far off what it’s like using the bands.

Here’s the ending first: I actually really liked them. I found them very useful. 🙂

Ordering and customizing them was pretty simple.  I got a notice that I would be participating in the testing phase, with instructions on where to login to order the bands.  I did so, got to customize them (which basically just means picking out colours for everyone, not much else to do) and they arrived two days later.  Right now there is a limited number of colours available, but Disney is already selling accessories like covers and little  knickknacks to stick into the peg holes so there is plenty you can do with them.

Now, this is the testing phase, and I’ve heard from a few people who have run into trouble with the Magic Bands.  I’m here to say that I didn’t.  Pretty much all of it worked out the way it is supposed to, and better than I expected.  I’ll give a reasonably quick run-down of what I liked, and then mention any negatives at the end.  There aren’t many.  Ready?  Here we go!

1) This is my favourite part.  In the past one of the things that got me was all the stuff I ended up carrying around: Key to the World cards, paper FastPasses, dining reservation confirmation numbers, PhotoPass cards, and potentially even more.  With the Magic Bands, all of that is on your wrist.  Since you can get charging privileges to your room, you can even charge your dining and shopping expenses with your Magic Band.  Seriously, I could leave EVERYTHING behind and travel without my wallet if I wanted to.

This is huge for me. Especially because I don’t let my kids carry their tickets/FastPasses by themselves in case they lose them.  So I keep them, hand them over to enter the parks or get FastPasses, and then take them back and store them again and inevitably get them confused with my own.  Now that they are WEARING their park passes (and by extension, their FastPass+ reservations), I don’t have to worry about THAT, either.

On this particular trip, the Magic Band was a blessing for just this reason.  We were resort-hopping and stayed each night on a different reservation – Ft. Wilderness campsite, then Animal Kingdom Lodge, then a different Ft. Wilderness campsite.  I got a new Key to the World card with each check-in.  However, since the Magic Band was activated with our AK Lodge stay, I only had to use the first set of KttW cards and after that I didn’t need any.  Which is a real relief, because here is what I was travelling with:

2 sets of room keys, Halloween party tickets, and a PhotoPass card.  And actually there were two other room cards that I let myself "misplace" in the car somewhere.

2 sets of room keys, Halloween party tickets, and a PhotoPass card. And actually there were two other room cards that I let myself “misplace” in the car somewhere.

Since the first set was still active the entire time and had the tickets on them, I kept them with us.  We did end up using them for extra FastPasses (this will not continue to work once FastPass+ completely takes over).  But I have to tell you, it was a relief not to be pawing through my wallet constantly for everything. (I did not charge to the MagicBands b/c I had everything either cash or on gift cards. But having the option was even more convenient, and next time I come and actually use my credit card, I’ll MagicBand it.)

2) FastPass+.  I have heard the very real complaint that this removes spontaneity from your trip, and this is true.  But it also gives you the option to decide in advance what you absolutely cannot miss, and make SURE you don’t miss it.  Our first day, Magic Bands were not active yet so I couldn’t do FastPass for Hollywood Studios.  We got to the park at 11am and Toy Story Mania FastPasses were already for return times of 6pm.  Over Columbus Day weekend, though, they were gone by 10:30am!  Meanwhile, I was able to get FP+ reservations for most of the rides I wanted – at times of the day I wanted – at Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom.  Yes, there is something about being able to check a line first to see if you NEED a FastPass for it, and making a decision based on that, but… I didn’t really miss that.  Instead I had peace of mind in knowing that I would DEFINITELY be able to get onto the rides I had picked out, and since I knew the time windows in advance, I was able to plan my day around them.

3) The fit was better than I thought it would be.  You may remember from my earlier review that the plastic was harder than I thought it would be, and I was having a hard time getting a fit I liked.  Well, I played around with it and I did end up getting it more comfortable… still not ideal, but OK. Then I got used to it.  Meanwhile, my daughter wore hers the ENTIRE TRIP.

D wore her Magic Band the entire time, from the moment I showed it to her. Even though we wouldn't use it for two days.

D wore her Magic Band the entire time, from the moment I showed it to her. Even though we wouldn’t use it for two days.

Plus it was kind of stylish. 😉  I felt all punk rock, in a kind of weird “slave to the system” kind of way.

A few minor negatives:

1) The small inconvenience of not being able to get FastPass+ for our first day.  Since the Magic Bands were assigned to our Animal Kingdom Lodge stay, they were not activated until then, even though I had all my reservations linked on the My Disney Experience page and my tickets were from a Magic Your Way package starting the day before.  I had 4 days’ worth of tickets I could choose FastPass+ for – but that was starting on 10/2, no earlier, and we officially arrived on 10/1. 😛  That was OK and obviously will not be a problem when ALL resort and park media is Magic Band oriented, but it was a hiccup for me this time. That’s OK though.

2) FastPass+.  I know I said I liked it, but it gets a little mention here anyway, for the reason that it will be tricky for people who don’t research their trips in advance but want to use FP+.  You have a few options to do this: You can do it well in advance on your My Disney Experience, or you can do it via the MDE app either at home or even in the parks, or you can do it from a kiosk in the parks.  Let’s say that you don’t know to go to My Disney Experience before you get there, and you don’t have a smartphone so you can’t use the apps (don’t say “Everyone has a smartphone!” because I don’t.).  But you get there and you see a tip about getting FastPasses and that they’re free and everyone can get them… what do you do?  You have to track down one of the kiosks and do them from there.  If you’re in the park and you want to make changes to your FP+ selections – which you can do right up until the time it becomes active – you’ll have to use the app or the kiosk, too.

I just feel like it was easier and more accessible for everyone to get the paper FPs – sure, some people didn’t bother/didn’t know about them, but at least if you did find out about them it was relatively easy to get them.  FP+, it’s a bit more complicated and if you’re not tech savvy you might end up confused.  I only saw one kiosk and it didn’t seem obviously marked to me, nor did it seem clearly to be staffed with a CM to answer questions (though it might have been – I will admit that since I didn’t need it, I wasn’t looking for any).

You will also want to write down your times for your FastPass+ reservations, because I’ve heard a few people say that the My Disney Experience app can be buggy and slow.  Have that info with you with old-fashioned paper to make sure you don’t miss it, just in case!

3) There IS room for confusion.  I’m not speaking about myself personally since things went smoothly for us, but just like anything where you are relying on technology there are opportunities for mistakes, glitches, and just plain confusion.  Things can be reset, things can still be lost, it’ll happen.  This isn’t a negative so much as a reality.

4) The procedure to use the Magic Bands is very, very precise.

Here’s the thing: there is a Mickey Mouse head on the flat front part of each Band. In order to “check in” with the Bands, you have to hold them to the round Mickey sensors. Once they connect, the sensor lights up and then the light spins in a green circle. (For adults entering the park, you still ahve to do the finger sensor as well, but it’s only a second; kids don’t have to do this.)

Anyway, it’s really easy. EXCEPT that you have to do it just the right way, with the Mickey on the Band flat up against the Mickey on the sensor.  If it’s not flat, the sensor won’t read it. This is not so hard for adults, but it’s tricky for kids. I kept telling my daughter “You have to make the Mickeys kiss”, which made her giggle, but I was trying to make her remember that they had to be flat together.  She held up a few lines getting through – not a problem, not really, but if you don’t know what the problem is, it could go on for a while.  It did take her 2 or 3 tries sometimes, especially checking in on the FPs.

This photo is (c) www.adventurevacationcruiselineblog.com

The box that the bands come in. ELASTIGIRL, you guys!! This photo is (c) http://www.adventurevacationcruiselineblog.com

Now here is the single biggest negative for pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to: You can only get FastPass+ reservations in one single park, per day.  You get up to 3 but they are ONLY eligible in one park.  If you’ve got park-hopper tickets, right now at least, you have to pick which park you’re going to use FP+ in.  This may change – most people hope that it will, because if you’re parkhopping it’s a major drawback!  I will say, we were NOT parkhopping, so it was not an issue for us. But it’s undeniably an issue for anyone who does.

The other part of this is the limited number you can get.  Under the old system it was possible to get more than 3 without bending any rules; it just depended on your timing, what crowds were like, what rides you picked, etc.  Having a solid limit of 3 per day can be a letdown.  Adding the single park rule makes it downright inconvenient at times.  There are probably some ways around it, and we are still in the testing phase (this is optimism, folks!) so expect tweaks and alterations as we go.  I’m crossing my fingers that these two restrictions will lift sometime within the next year, at least.  Does anyone remember how many bumps Magical Express used to have?  It always takes a little while to get a system working perfectly, tests or no tests.

Optimism!

I think that covers everything!  All in all, I give my experience a high rating, and I hope it continues to get smoother for everyone.  If there are things you don’t understand, I’ll be happy to take questions! 🙂