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…

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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. 🙂

Trip Report 2013: Day 2, Part 2: More Hollywood Studios!

So, it was nearing about 11:30 or so and we got to Star Tours – finally! Our first ride at Disney World!

D wanted to take some pics as we approached and I’m all for that so I handed her the camera.  And she took pics of the souvenir cart.  Ohhhkay.

I don't know why, but she found this HILARIOUS.

I don’t know why, but she found this HILARIOUS.

I liked this one more. Nearly got it for my son, but hey, someday he'd outgrow it and then what?

I liked this one more. Nearly got it for my son, but hey, someday he’d outgrow it and then what?

I stuck D on the speeder bike but she wasn't really sure what she should do on it.

I stuck D on the speeder bike but she wasn’t really sure what she should do on it.

So I had to show her.

So I had to show her.

When we got to the entrance to Star Tours the wait was REALLY short.  That was cool!  It turned out there was a Jedi Training Academy going on and D stopped to watch.  I expected her to ask to participate, but I had forgotten she’s gotten really shy about standing up in front of people and doing things, so it never came up. After a while she was like “This IS exciting, but… it’s also kind of boring. Can we go?”  Haha.  So there we have it.

As it turns out, pics of the outdoor queue of Star Tours are REALLY tough to get!  Some of these were by D and some by me.

Ewok village!

Ewok village! Complete with authentic FastPass machines!

Worst. AT-AT picture. EVER.

Worst. AT-AT picture. EVER. I was hoping it would look like it was walking over us, but instead it just looks badly-lit.

You can't even tell what this IS, except it's going to crush D.

You can’t even tell what this IS.

The indoor queue is not all that much easier, btw.  Lighting issues. 😛

I get geek vibes when I actually pass C3P0. EEEK!  It's really HIM! XD

I get geek vibes when I actually pass C3P0. EEEK! It’s really HIM! XD

Artoo knows what he's doing.

Artoo knows what he’s doing.

Here are your departure times for the day, non-Basic speaking humanoids.

Here are your departure times for the day, non-Basic speaking humanoids.

REX! :D This was a pretty awesome throwback.

REX! 😀 This was a pretty awesome throwback.

I'vvve been workin' on the saaaame droid... Sigh. I can't tell you how many times I've HEARD the queue for the old ride even though I only rode it like, 3-4 times.

I’vvve been workin’ on the saaaame droid… Sigh. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve HEARD the queue for the old ride even though I only rode it like, 3-4 times.

Actually I love these guys. I read somewhere that these are "naked" versions of the geese in Splash Mountain.

Actually I love these guys. I read somewhere that these are “naked” versions of the geese in Splash Mountain.

Then the robot stewardess told us there was no photography allowed so I obediently put the camera away.

Best part: when she gives a little "click" and shifts to Spanish.

Best part: when she gives a little “click” and shifts to Spanish.

This was my first ride on Star Tours 2.0.  It was GREAT!  Last time I rode it was in 2008 (it was closed when we came in 2011), and I had thought to myself “well, that was fun, but I don’t feel like I really need to ever do that again.”  They did a great job with the new version!  I don’t know, I might not have enjoyed it quite as much if I hadn’t been with D, who is a HUGE Star Wars fan and was utterly delighted with it. ^_^

AND guess what happened???

Yep, D was the Rebel Spy!  Bahahaha!  She said it made her a little embarrassed but oh well for her. ;D  No, she was happy and excited, and what a great start to our trip!  It was really the first magic moment of quite a few. 🙂  The funny thing was, things went wrong left and right, but nothing ever ruined the magic for us.  I think it’s impossible to have a truly bad time at Disney World unless something HUGE happens, or unless you’re willing to let it ruin your day.  Neither was true for us, thank goodness!

Well, stepping back for a moment, we came out in Tatooine Traders and of course D wanted to buy everything.  At first she saw what looked like Storm Trooper helmets and really wanted one, but it turned out they were giant piggy banks – lol.  She moved on from that. ;D  I looked around for something for my son, who is 4 and also a huge Star Wars fan, but nothing was jumping out at me.  D became entranced by the “Build Your Own Lightsabre” display and begged to do it, but I said no, too big, too expensive.  I promised we’d come back and do Star Tours again FOR CERTAIN, and think about buying something then, so we moved on out and headed to Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

D and vaporator. I actually expected that to be a water fountain or a mister or something and was disappointed that it's fully dry.

D and vaporator. I actually expected that to be a water fountain or a mister or something and was disappointed that it’s fully dry.

This was the point at which my battery took a hit, so the number of pics will decrease from here on out. 😛

However, this is a recreation of a picture I took last trip:

2011, age almost 5...

2011, age almost 5…

2013, age 7!

2013, age 7!

Two and a half years of difference!

So about Voyage of TLM… I have to be honest here. I love this movie SO MUCH, and it’s always fun to see this show with D, but it’s uninspired.  And although the puppets they use are good, this particular performance was even less inspired than usual.  Ariel was flat, and the final sequence between Ariel and Eric could not have been more “eh, we’re bored, we’re going through the motions” on everything. It just looked like “meet the cues, meet the cues, another show is almost over.”  I didn’t really love it the first time I saw it either, but the times in between had been OK. This time… lackluster.  If D wants to see it again next time I’ll still take her, but meh.  We ended up taking Beauty and the Beast off our list due to lack of time this trip, and next time I think I want to push for that instead. (I liked it WAY better when I saw it, but I’ve still only seen it once.)

After this, since we were right near the Magic of Disney Animation, we headed over to meet some characters and eventually get some drawing done.  I didn’t love the idea of waiting in long lines, though… by this point I was getting restless because time was ticking away and we were still down an hour.  But I didn’t want to skip characters completely, so we made our choice: Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope!  No regrets. First of all their queue was neat (though I wished these screens had actually been interactive… but they were still fun), and second it was just cool to meet them!

This is just a window to the house in Wreck-It Ralph.  Our best attempts didn't actually make it do anything. :(

This is just a window to the house in Wreck-It Ralph. Our best attempts didn’t actually make it do anything. 😦

Here's the card that Ralph and Vanellope sign in advance (since Ralph's hands mean he can't do autographs).

Here’s the card that Ralph and Vanellope sign in advance (since Ralph’s hands mean he can’t do autographs).

To pass the time, I gave D the camera. Not a bad shot really.

To pass the time, I gave D the camera. Not a bad shot really.

AACK!  Not to panic anyone but CYBUG ALERT!

AACK! Not to panic anyone but CYBUG ALERT!

Because I'm the type of person who has to be in the shot too. XD

Because I’m the type of person who has to be in the shot too. XD (D said: “Wow. Vanellope’s really BIG.” LOL.)

Then we hung around, played a few of the little games in there (you know, “What character are you?” and “Colour the picture”, those ones) until they let us into the Animation Academy.  We got to choose between drawing the Genie and Dopey; I would’ve done the Genie if I’d been by myself, but D preferred Dopey and I could tell it would be easier for her.  Plus I was outvoted anyway, as everyone else wanted to do Dopey too. 😉 Mine came out pretty well – considering I haven’t done any drawing in about a year. D’s picture… well… the problem was that she was trying very hard to follow the instructions but they just threw her off.  So she’d start at the point where the animator would say to start, but not end where she was supposed to, so everything is off.  I think she’d have done a better job just trying to copy it herself instead of following his instructions.  However, I’m not saying it’s a BAD try for a 7-year-old, in fact I think it’s really good! Only that she got turned around on placement because she was trying to do it two different ways.

This was taken at home. Purple walls = D's bedroom.

This was taken at home. Purple walls = D’s bedroom.

As it was getting on towards 1:00 we decided to hit up the Muppets and then get lunch at Toy Story Pizza Palace.  Back through wherever we went yet again, passing this window which D utterly loved:

D thought this was hilarious.  She was like "LOOK at the face he's making!!"

D thought this was hilarious. She was like “LOOK at the face he’s making!!”

Then we got in line for Muppets, and I was surprised to find that there was a LINE.  Outside!  This NEVER HAPPENS.  I figured the timing must have been just awkward or something so we settled in to wait.  I got a chance to look at details I normally don’t see, like the fact that there are eyes EVERYWHERE…

The posts are watching you too.

The posts are watching you too.

But unfortunately after a few minutes we were told that MuppetVision was down and they needed some time to fix it. 😦  No idea what went wrong (maybe the Chef shot something with that cannon that he shouldn’t have?), but we just gave in and headed to Pizza Planet for lunch.

Trip Report 2013: Day 2, We Made It!

Day 2 – 10/1/2013

D and I awoke early. We didn’t really mean to, and I had the alarm set for 6am but we were both up by 5:30. Sometimes it just happens. I guess we were like that Disney World ad, “We’re too excited to sleep!” Orrrr maybe it was just not a comfortable room. ;P

Ready and waiting to go in her 3 Caballeros shirt!

Ready and waiting to go in her 3 Caballeros shirt!

Anyway, I let D watch some TV while we were getting everything together, and I made her write a bit in her trip journal. (The trip journal was sadly neglected for the rest of the trip, really.)  She found a little Phineas and Ferb and we watched that while I packed things up and took them out to the car. It was still dark outside even after we’d picked up breakfast in the lobby and were heading out back onto the road again.

There’s a movie D took as the sun was coming up, but I am not going to share it, because it’s long and not much happens in it. However, it’s full of me saying a lot of things like “Full tank of gas, the road ahead of us, and Disney World at the end of it!” and “Palm trees… warm sand… Though sadly we just left Rhode Island! AH I made a Muppets reference!”

It didn’t take too long for the sun to come up, and initially it looked pretty promising that we’d make my schedule and get there around 9:30 as I’d planned! Sadly… fate had other plans in store. We ran into a couple of traffic jams… nothing major at first… but right after getting onto I-4 we hit a HUGE backup. There were warnings on the signs, but I didn’t know any alternate routes, so I just stuck with it. It took us about 40 minutes extra to get through it. 😛

Not her most "I'm thrilled to be here!" face.

Not her most “I’m thrilled to be here!” face.

So, instead of checking in at Ft. Wilderness at 9:30 and getting to Hollywood Studios by 10am, we got to Ft. Wilderness around 10:20 and made it to Hollywood Studios by 10:45. This meant that the tram was a necessity (normally when I drive I like to get there at park opening so I can walk to the entrance, but you do what you can). We JUST missed a tram so D went into her first “I HATE WAITING” response of the trip and schlumped around bored waiting for the next tram. The PARKING TRAM. Sigh.  Sometimes I thought it was going to be a loooong trip. 😉 Fortunately, spoiler alert! The crowds were REALLY low and we had FastPasses for the stuff we most wanted to do, so we were barely in long lines at all!

Anyway once we got onto the tram and I prodded her a little bit about the face she was making, she perked up. 🙂

That's my girl!

That’s my girl!

Then I treated the tram ride like an attraction and took pictures of some of the mini-billboards they had up to advertise their shows and movies. At this point, I had really intended to take a million billion photos and I set off on that goal with a vengeance.

Planes. For some reason I actually took two pics of this. I guess because we were sitting in front of it for a while.

Planes. For some reason I actually took two pics of this. I guess because we were sitting in front of it for a while.

Is there anyone on my Twitter list who doesn't like this show? Seriously, I can't even go on Twitter on Sunday nights without spoilers. ;)

Is there anyone on my Twitter list who doesn’t like this show? Seriously, I can’t even go on Twitter on Sunday nights without spoilers. 😉

I took this because I liked the picture. I have NO idea what this show is.

I took this because I liked the picture. I have NO idea what this show is.

Outside of the entrance of Hollywood Studios, they have a Monsters University topiary. There was even a LINE to stand right in front and get your picture taken, which I found funny. Polite, but funny. LOL. I just snagged a couple of pics of the front, and then when we went around to the other side there were topiary representations of the various frat houses in MU. I told D to pick her favourite and stand in front of it; somehow it doesn’t surprise me that she picked PNK, the girly-girl sorority. ;D

Really cool tope, but I wouldn't stand in line for a photo opp.

Really cool tope, but I wouldn’t stand in line for a photo opp.

PNK forever!

PNK forever!

Once we got inside, I started my traditional photo blast of the … well… the entire park, really. I LOVE the design of HS.

And people talk about loving Main Street USA. BAH! I say to them. BAH!!

And people talk about loving Main Street USA. BAH! I say to them. BAH!!

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I’m on the fence about the Sorceror Hat, really. I actually like it and think it’s a cool design, but using it just for pin trading etc feels like a waste, and the location sucks. I don’t like it blocking Graumann’s Theater. It just feels dumped into what was initially a really thought-out designed area.

Doesn’t stop me from getting our pics taken in front of it though! 😀

I personally think the PhotoPass photographer could've tried a little harder with this one even if he was using my camera.

I personally think the PhotoPass photographer could’ve tried a little harder with this one even if he was using my camera.

I took this one. I like it! :D

I took this one. I like it! 😀

Why, precisely, I feel a need to take pictures of the DHS wait time board is beyond me. Not only that, I have done it before… And ONLY in DHS. None of the other parks.

To satisfy your curiosity here is what the wait times were at 11am on October 1, 2013. WOW!

To satisfy your curiosity here is what the wait times were at 11am on October 1, 2013. WOW!

Anyhoo, once I’d stopped gawking at everything (plus squealing to D “We’re here! I can’t believe we’re here!” because I do that), we moseyed over to Toy Story Mania to get FastPasses. I was hoping they wouldn’t be entirely out of them at 11 in the morning, and I was lucky, they still had some! …For 6pm. Like seriously. That was actually a perfectly good return time for us, though, as it gave us a chance to catch up a bit for our late start and not worry about slotting TSM into the mid-afternoon.

Next on the list was Star Tours, but I didn’t intend to rush through the park for it (HS is sort of the only park where I feel like there are few enough attractions that we can get our must-dos done and still have time to wander). We headed off – without a map, maps are for sissies – OK, I’m lying, I did need it a few times but I like to think of myself as knowing DHS reasonably well and mostly I did fine – and D wanted to stop and see Woody or Buzz. I said we’d come back later, but we did run into a few green army guys! D was under the impression that they were my husband’s favourite b/c they were the only character he was particularly interested in getting a picture with last trip so she made sure to get several pics “for Daddy”.

You can see she's a little bit shy - she told me she was "shy" with any character she "didn't already know".

You can see she’s a little bit shy – she told me she was “shy” with any character she “didn’t already know”.

I love that you can just run into these guys wandering around in Pixar Place.

I love that you can just run into these guys wandering around in Pixar Place.

Then we just kept going… I was NOT taking the most direct route to Echo Lake, and I knew it, but I figured who cared? We were heading towards the Streets of America, I think, and that’s my least familiar area of the park. For instance I don’t think I’d ever seen these mist-structures:

Just like her mother!  Running at a giant Coke bottle with open arms! :P (Disclaimer: D doesn't drink soda, she hates it. she just likes things that spray water.)

Just like her mother! Running at a giant Coke bottle with open arms! 😛 (Disclaimer: D doesn’t drink soda, she hates it. she just likes things that spray water.)

I kept trying to get a shot of it spraying mist. Never did come out right.

I kept trying to get a shot of it spraying mist. Never did come out right.

She's waiting for the fire truck to shoot mist out... She looks like she's a little terrified. XD

She’s waiting for the fire truck to shoot mist out… She looks like she’s a little terrified. XD

And my Splash fountain! I got a pic back in 2008. I need to buy this movie. Actually I was being adorable with my pose, but you can’t tell b/c D didn’t frame it the way I thought she would. Oh well. XD (Yes, you heard me. I’m blaming it on a 7-year-old.)

Seriously, I was all rocking this adorable post... oh whatever. :P

Seriously, I was all rocking this adorable post… oh whatever. 😛

It's SAN FRANCISCO TIME, PEOPLE!!

It’s SAN FRANCISCO TIME, PEOPLE!!

This is the tallest hill in the WORLD!

This is the tallest hill in the WORLD!

And yes, they are putting the Osborne Lights up at HS already.

And yes, they are putting the Osborne Lights up at HS already.

This is as close as I've ever come to seeing the Osborne Lights.

This is as close as I’ve ever come to seeing the Osborne Lights.

D's entire understanding of phone booths is that Superman changes clothes in them.

D’s entire understanding of phone booths is that Superman changes clothes in them.

They play all these "city sounds" in Streets of America, so I was like "NO, don't run! WATCH OUT FOR THAT BUS!!"

They play all these “city sounds” in Streets of America, so I was like “NO, don’t run! WATCH OUT FOR THAT BUS!!”

Coast to coast!  Now we're in NYC!

Coast to coast! Now we’re in NYC!

Stylish little mannequin!

Stylish little mannequin!

I am *really* glad we took our time through the Streets of America, because I had a great time taking pics and it was shortly after this that I got a “low battery” alert on my camera. And… I had not brought my camera charger. I KNOW, RIGHT?? That was possibly my biggest planning hole. 😦 We had D’s camera and that ran out of batteries before mine did. (And no, I don’t have a camera in my phone, before you ask.) So while I fully intended to just go nuts with the pics, this is the nutsiest I got. But it was pretty nutsy, what can I say? So it’s OK. 🙂

Wordless Wednesday: Little Letter L

Each week when I am able to participate in Wordless Wednesday, I end up cheating reinterpreting the theme a little; I’m doing so this week too. Rather than put up pictures of Disney things themed to the letter L, well, L is the first letter in the name of my adorable son who was 1 1/2 at the time of our last (his first) visit.

Here come the baby pictures, y’all.

Family Pictures 1294

WDW 2011 160

WDW 2011 306

WDW 2011 367

WDW 2011 459

Big “Thank you!” to Deb at FocusedOntheMagic.com for hosting the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop!

Focused on the Magic

A World of Character Meet and Greets

Before we went to WDW, I was a little worried my daughter might be scared of all the characters I’d told her of so many times. She was not quite 5, and though brave and social, she had been nervous around costumed characters before in the past.  I did all of the “they’re much bigger at parks, honey”, I showed her pictures and even videos on YouTube (look up some of the ones of Donald when kids are wearing something to do with Mickey. LOL), and just generally made sure she loved the characters.  She also figured out on her own that they were people in the suits, though she went back and forth on believing that. 😉

But would this stand up when we actually got there?  I couldn’t be sure until we went, so I just crossed my fingers that all the character meals I had planned wouldn’t end in freak outs.

I really needn’t have worried.  Enjoy a huge number of pictures.  I really hope she gets to meet even more the next time we go.  Please keep in mind that booking a Disney trip with me is free, and it will help me get my girl back to WDW for at least a few days.  With that said… here we go. ^_^

The very first character we saw. And he was EVERYWHERE. This was Hollywood Studios.

The very first character we saw. And he was EVERYWHERE. This was Hollywood Studios.

Daisy and Donald had the greatest costumes!

Daisy and Donald had the greatest costumes!

And Minnie! EVERYONE loved Minnie.  What a dear.

And Minnie! EVERYONE loved Minnie. What a dear.

I like to think Mickey is kind of like "She's ... choking me..."

I like to think Mickey is kind of like “She’s … choking me…”

D was really into Woody for months after she saw Toy Story :)

D was really into Woody for months after she saw Toy Story 🙂

I don't know, some people might be creeped out by faceless soldiers.

I don’t know, some people might be creeped out by faceless plastic soldiers.

 

We came out from the restrooms and NOBODY was in line to see Brer Rabbit. She got him to herself!

We came out from the restrooms and NOBODY was in line to see Brer Rabbit. She got him to herself!

 

Minnie again! Minnie sang Happy Birthday to her. :D

Minnie again! Minnie sang Happy Birthday to her. 😀

 

Goofy liked her hat.

Goofy liked her hat.

 

I LOVE her face in this. at the Garden Grill.

I LOVE her face in this. at the Garden Grill.

 

Her she's asking Chip to dance. :D

Here she’s asking Chip to dance. 😀

 

We didn't get a lot of character time our first day at MK, but the Fairy Godmother was out first thing!

We didn’t get a lot of character time our first day at MK, but the Fairy Godmother was out first thing!

 

First time I'd ever seen Pirate Goofy! We came out and there he was!

First time I’d ever seen Pirate Goofy! We came out and there he was!

 

At the Princess Breakfast at Akershus, Belle and D were twins :)

At the Princess Breakfast at Akershus, Belle and D were twins 🙂

 

Cinderella was the BEST.

Cinderella was the BEST.

 

I love this hug with Ariel! I keep trying to get her to love Ariel best but she really does like Cinders too. ;)

I love this hug with Ariel! I keep trying to get her to love Ariel best but she really does like Cinders too. 😉

 

And Stitch again, at the Magic Kingdom this time

And Stitch again, at the Magic Kingdom this time

 

...Does this count as character greets?

…Does this count as character greets?

 

And Stitch AGAIN, at Hollywood Studios,

And Stitch AGAIN, at Hollywood Studios,

 

Then Rafiki came in! And it was like "WHUUUT?"

Then Rafiki came in! And it was like “WHUUUT?”

 

AND Mary Poppins. This party was ON.

AND Mary Poppins. This party was ON.

 

Princess Jasmine had to fix D's tiara. She's motherly like that.

Princess Jasmine had to fix D’s tiara. She’s motherly like that.

 

D was very, very taken with Jack Sparrow.

D was very, very taken with Jack Sparrow.

 

This was my favourite meet and greet of all! I may be biased.

This was my favourite meet and greet of all! I may be biased.

 

Top 5: Places to get Cupcakes at Walt Disney World

In the past few years WDW has entered into the Cupcake Game. The whole idea of oversized gourmet cupcakes has taken off and Disney has dived right in, which is… not a bad thing at all, really.

I’m going to be honest up front: I have never had one. Not a single one. I haven’t even seen them in person. I have to watch my sugar intake, so the most I’ve ever done has been to drool over pictures. I WILL have one, one day, but at this point picking one out of 50+ is like… picking a favourite child.

Meanwhile, though, there are already plenty of lists out there of the best cupcakes. You don’t need me for that, so it’s okay that I haven’t tried any. Instead, at the suggestion of Natalie from The Ink and Paint Blog, I’m going to list what I think are the Top 5 locations to get these cupcakes on WDW property. This was researched from several sources, namely the Disney Food Blog, the Ultimate Disney Cupcake Guide on A Pinch of Pixie Dust, and this post on the Disney Tourist Blog (Top 5 cupcakes. How coincidental, eh?).

Based on these and other minor inputs, here’s my Top 5 places to go to get some really good, really huge and extravagant cupcakes at Walt Disney World! As with all Top 5 lists, your experiences and tastes may vary!

Now to start out, I wanted to have the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom on here. But given that it’s closed and becoming a Starbucks… well, I can’t bring myself to do it. 😦 Now it’s SAID that the offerings will remain the same, but until the new place is open and everyone says “These are the cupcakes I remember!” I don’t think it’s fair to put this on here. Plus, I must say, the idea of having a Starbucks recommended as a place to buy cupcakes at Disney, when there are so many other great places that aren’t corporate chains (I appreciate the irony of what I just said, don’t mistake me) just sits wrong with me.

Anyway…!

Between the sugar, the chocolate, and the coffee beans, you'll be awake for a week.

Between the sugar, the chocolate, and the coffee beans, you’ll be awake for a week. Photo (c) pajamapenguinproductions.com

#5: Okay, if I had to pick ONLY one resort to go to for cupcakes, it’s going to be the Boardwalk Inn. First of all, two of the top 5 selections on the blog list I posted above (from the Disney Tourist Blog) came from their Boardwalk Bakery – the Cappucino and the S’mores cupcakes; second of all they seem to have the widest selection of any bakeries selling these sugar bombs. However, the reason this is at number 5 on the list is because, in looking around for reviews, I saw a few that suggest that the Boardwalk cupcakes aren’t always as good as they could be; whether standard experience or not, there were a couple of “dry cake” reviews and so I thought, well, what’s variety if the quality isn’t up to snuff? Not ALL were like that, but y’know. So Boardwalk Bakery makes the list, but doesn’t top the list. (Also, to be fair, Boardwalk Bakery is currently closed for refurbs and won’t open again until April 26 2013.)

#4: Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery, in Animal Kingdom.
This shop is home to three amazing cupcakes: the Cotton Top Tamarin cupcake, the White Chocolate Elephant cupcake, and the Zebra cupcake. Let me tell you an important secret: you want these cupcakes. Look at them. Now I haven’t seen these cupcakes topping any of the all-time best cupcakes list, but for style/unique design you cannot beat these. That’s some good theming, here. So Kusafiri Coffee Shop is the place to go for cupcakes you want to take a picture of before you so much as touch it.

This counts as foreign food which means I'm adventurous for eating it.

This counts as foreign food which means I’m adventurous for eating it. Photo is from a post by danicaca at Disboards.com

#3: Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary Resort
From what I have read, most of Contempo Cafe’s cupcakes are seasonal; but they appear to be really fancy-pants ones and the few that remain year-round apparently include Pina Colada, Black Forest Cherry, and Dos Leches. Now I think those are subject to availability, but honestly, if I had my choice of any one of those I couldn’t pick between them. Contempo seems to have a very appealing selection of cupcakes that is more than worth going back for. Here’s a review someone wrote of the Black Forest cupcake including photos, and some of the other cupcakes as well.

It's got fruit on it. It's healthy, right?

It’s got fruit on it. It’s healthy, right? Photo (c) MainStreetGazette.com

#2: Sunshine Seasons in the Land at Epcot.
This place has a great menu, period. Lots of variety, a good alternative to fast food, and the cupcakes – while I’m not pretending they are HEALTHY, mind you – are quite unique. Often fruit-themed, such as guava cream cheese or pineapple coconut, these are combinations you’re not going to see at an average bakery. You might need to be a bit brave to try them if you prefer the old yellow-cake-with-chocolate-frosting, though. 🙂

Here it is: Mount Butterfinger.

Here it is: Mount Butterfinger. Photo (c) DisneyFoodBlog.com

#1: Starring Rolls at Hollywood Studios.
This is partly based on my own preferences: although I’ve never tried it (and may never get to try it), Starring Rolls is known for the Butterfinger Cupcake, which just looks like heavenly death on a plate to me. They also have peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, which is a similar kind of pleasant end to meet. I hear great things about Starring Rolls, but the only reason I put it at number one is, honestly, because that Butterfinger cupcake looks like it’s got to be amazing. Plus, out of the park-based places to get cupcakes (which are predominant on this list just because I think more people spend time in all parks than at resorts they’re not staying at), Starring Rolls appears to be the best one; it’s the one I hear most about, anyway.

 

As always, leave me your own opinions if you agree or disagree!  I can only research so much. 🙂

Review: The Magic Kingdom’s Harmony Barbershop

Here’s the five-word review: I love the Harmony Barbershop.

If you feel a need to read more, however, I’ve got plenty. 🙂

This is the place!  The pole means it's legit.

This is the place! The pole means it’s legit.

So the only place I really enjoy getting my hair cut is the Harmony Barbershop.  This is too bad because it’s about 900 miles from my house, give or take 20 miles.  Everywhere else makes me nervous because the people who do the cutting always seem to feel a need to comment on how poorly I take care of my hair or something, as if I don’t know that only getting it cut twice a year leads to lots of split ends, or as if this is going to make me want to come back and be harangued again in two months.  But!  This is not so at Harmony!  Instead we talk about things I like, such as Disney World, for instance.  I have had two very nice haircuts done there, both with a pixie-dusted ending, and last time I forewent my own cut and let my kids have a go.  That was a mixed experience; my daughter loved it (and had an amusing chat with another customer while they were both waiting their turns), but my son, having his first haircut at age 1 1/2, was less enthusiastic.  The CM who cut his hair handled him extremely well and even kept him smiling and happy until about midway through.  For the record – it is STILL, two years later, nearly impossible to get him to submit to a haircut.  I have to do it myself because it takes DAYS to talk him into it and I usually have to let him watch a video of Splash Mountain on YouTube while we do it.  So Harmony Barbership is still the ONLY place he’s had a haircut, other than home.

Now for some specifics!

First of all, if this is all entirely new to you and you’ve never even heard of Harmony Barbershop, it is located on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, near the horse stables.  It’s tucked away to the side, on the left near the trolley tracks.  Last I checked, they do accept walk-ins, but it’s a small shop and if there is more than one person ahead of you waiting, you will wait for a WHILE.  This is actually the case even if you make reservations (which you can do). So don’t expect to be in and out in like, 20 minutes… it can be up to an hour.  Having said that, though, I feel it’s worth the wait so long as you know what you’re getting into.

As with everywhere else in WDW, the CMs have uniforms, which I find charming.  There are oversized novelty scissors, too.  And it’s really surprising to me that the staff is, in fact, really GOOD at cutting hair.  I guess it shouldn’t be such a surprise but who thinks they’re going to be getting a great haircut at a theme park?  Well, you know, this is Disney so there it is. 😉

I didn't specifically take any "before" pics of my hair the last time I had it cut there, but this shot includes the back of my head :P

I didn’t specifically take any “before” pics of my hair the last time I had it cut there, but this shot includes the back of my head 😛

And here's an "after" shot - cute, curly, and apparently I am infatuated with Goofy. (This was my birthday dinner.)

And here’s an “after” shot – cute, curly, and apparently I am infatuated with Goofy. (This was my birthday dinner.)

For children, there is an utterly adorable “First Haircut” package that you can get which comes with special mouse ears and a certificate. I took photos and movies throughout my son’s haircut and captured his decline from amusement to frustration to eventual “WHY ARE YOU NOT PICKING ME UP” by the end, but he was positively shaggy the first three days of our trip and looked like a delightful little man at the end.  The CM did this while he was screaming towards the end so I give her immense props, not just for being a good hair stylist but for putting up with a screaming 18-month-old. 😀  Anyway here is just a fraction of the drama as it went down:

The CM had him touch everything before she used it, to warm him up

The CM had him touch everything before she used it, to warm him up

He loved the R2D2 spinner thing.

He loved the R2D2 spinner thing.

He also loved the spray bottle - at first. He laughed pretty loud the first few times she spritzed him.

He also loved the spray bottle – at first. He laughed pretty loud the first few times she spritzed him.

Another thing - the CM encouraged my husband to hang around and distract him instead of acting like he was in the way.

Another thing – the CM encouraged my husband to hang around and distract him instead of acting like he was in the way.

This is pretty far into it and he's still reasonably happy!

This is pretty far into it and he’s still reasonably happy!

Aaand there we go.  But by this point we have achieved Small Man haircut.

Aaand there we go. But by this point we have achieved Small Man haircut.

Not a fan of the mouse ears at first. In fact it was about a month before he wanted them at all.

Not a fan of the mouse ears at first. In fact it was about a month before he wanted them at all.

See how handsome!

See how handsome!

As for my daughter, she has had multiple haircuts professionally and was more than ready to submit to this.  Not that we didn’t take plenty of photos but they’re not as entertaining. 😉  So instead here’s a before, during, and after:

My daughter is the blonde. The shorter one.

My daughter is the blonde. The shorter one.

No spinny thing for her!

No spinny thing for her!

So gorgeous! The next thing she said was "I want to go swimming now!" :P

So gorgeous! The next thing she said was “I want to go swimming now!” 😛

Prices at the Harmony Barbershop are $15-19 for adults, and kids 12 and under are $14.  You can get packages, similar to what they do at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (the basic stuff, that is – no costumes/manicures), with glitter and coloured gel.  They distract with bubbles and spinny shiny things, and even adults can get the pixie dust and Mickey stickers.  And although this has never happened to me, well, they call it “Harmony” for a reason – you can sometimes get serenaded by the Dapper Dans while you’re getting the cuts done.  I keep hoping next time will be my time. 😀