Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wednesday: Animal Kingdom, World Showcase, and a Near Melt Down

Well, two in a row! I am doing well here. Okay, on to Wednesday. Wednesday was a really nice day because we were able to sleep in until 7 AM, as none of the parks had early magic hours that day. We didn't have to leave our room until 8 AM to be to the Animal Kingdom by 9.

Now, I had never been to the Animal Kingdom before. That made things difficult. It was hard to guess at what fastpasses to choose, or how far away things might be-and that will become glaringly obvious.

When we walked in, we chose to go on the Kilimanjaro Safari first, for two reasons. Number one, it can take a significant period of time. Number two, it seemed like the most important thing to see at the Animal Kingdom would be animals.

I will confess here, I'm not much of a zoo person. Oh, we dutifully go to the zoo every year, and we even usually go out to the Wilds every year as well. And animals are super cute and vital to our lives as humans and I know that. But-I'm just not a person who loves, loves, loves looking at animals. And that is an important caveat about a lot of this particular theme park.

Kilimanjaro Safari is a lot like a much shorter ride through the Wilds. Take that as you will. We had to stand in line for about 15 minutes to get on, first thing in the day. Then it lasts about 20 minutes. It lets you out at the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, so we walked through it. At this point, the girls picked up a Junior Ranger program thing, which sounded cool in theory, but ended up taking so much time that we had to put them away. This would be where knowing your kids interest in this would be helpful-are they really into animals and learning about their habitats? Then by all means, do this. If not, it turns into a huge time suck-and with fastpasses, we just did not have time to devote to much of it.

Then we made another ill thought out decision. We chose to go over to Rafiki's Planet Watch. This was a huge mistake. In the first place, we had a fastpass at 10:45 AM, and it was a little after 10 when we got to the train station to go over. Then we had to wait for the train-which took a long time because they only have the one train-and then riding over took 10 more minutes. Once there, we just had to hurry and see the vets working on a monkey (which was a shame, because Betsy loves watching things like that) and then hurry back to catch the train again. We then had to book it to the Finding Nemo show, which was where we had a fastpass for seating. In this summer, a fastpass for seating is probably a good thing. In October, when no one is there, it is unnecessary. So we hurried for basically no reason, and anyone who knows my husband, knows that nerves were frayed at this point.

That said, Finding Nemo is super cute and not to be missed. Then Betsy and I rode Expedition Everest (again, we had a fastpass) and it was really a lot of fun. We went and got a regular fastpass for about a half hour later for the Kali River Rapids, so we decided to go ahead and eat our lunch. We had counter service at Yak and Yeti, which we enjoyed (my kids really like Asian food a lot). We then got in the fastpass line for Kali River Rapids. This was the first (and last) time that we had to stand in a line, even with a fastpass. It took about 15 minutes for us to get through the line. Nick and Betsy got fairly wet, but Felicity and I did not.

At this point, we were late for our fastpass for the Lion King. And we were fairly far away. (I should also point out, we had on flipflops-never recommended for the amount of walking one has to do at Disney World, however, necessary when riding Kali River Rapids to keep from having wet socks and shoes all day.) So, Nick is lugging around the backpack with our tennis shoes, and he's all wet, and we have quite a hike, and he is wearing flipflops. So it's not too shocking that he got mad, insisted that he needed to change his shoes, and proceeded to do just that. And Betsy did the same. Felicity and I hoofed it to the Lion King-missing the time for our fastpass, but going in anyway-and then I spent the next half hour, while watching an amazing, not to be missed show, worried that Nick and Betsy were missing it. They weren't of course, they were a few rows behind us. But it marked a low point for us.

We then took a break to change our shoes, do some pin trading (yes, I will be writing a whole blog about pin trading soon), and calm down. We made our way over to the Dinosaur ride, which was fun (even Felicity liked it, and she was scared of a lot of things). Then Betsy and I rode the Primeval Whirl and the girls and I rode the Triceritop Spin. All good fun.

We trekked back toward Asia for Flights of Wonder, which was a cute show about birds. Then we stepped outside and got great seats for the parade, which is right along that route. Then we trekked back toward the entrance and watched the short 3D film, It's Tough to be a Bug, which scared Betsy silly. (She is overall pretty freaked out by spiders, I should say.)

The Animal Kingdom closes at 5 PM, so we drove over to Epcot for the remainder of the night. We spent the evening in the World Showcase. We rode Mexico and Norway's rides, and watched Chinese acrobats. We saw the American Adventure program, which in my opinion is one of the best things at Disney World.

But the best part of our night was that the Food and Wine Festival was going on. Oh. My. Goodness. If you get the chance, go. Everything is really reasonably priced for Disney, meaning around $5 for most food. But the kicker was that we could use our snack credits for some selections. You get a snack credit a day, and we would never have used all of them in a week if not for this.

First, we got some Chinese food, because we all love Chinese food. We also got some lemonade with snack credit. Then we got ravioli from Italy-I am telling you, it was the *best* ravioli I have ever had. Italy also has this staircase near the lagoon, and I walked over it and was surprised to find no one sitting on the other side. It was the perfect place to sit and watch Illuminations. I called April and had her family join us. It was literally one of my most favorite memories of the whole trip, sitting there with such great seats, eating melt in your mouth ravioli.

It made up for the whole flipflops, wet clothes, trek 10 miles anger earlier in the day. Almost.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tuesday: Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and A Very Important Date

So...the holidays are over, I have recovered from a horrendous bout with both the actual flu and a stomach flu, and I have a goal of getting this blog series at least somewhat done before the new year. Ambitious, considering that I'm still only on Tuesday, but we'll try.

Tuesday began like most days for the Johnson family. Up by 6 AM, out the door by 7 AM, for an 8 AM opening of the park. We chose to go to the park that opened early for extra magic hours-this is a controversial decision. Most sites recommend against it, as that park is ineveitably more crowded that day. However, as I mentioned, going in early October, there was no one there. And so, even if it was a slightly more full park, it was still worth getting up early and beating what crowd there was.

So, we drove to Epcot, parked in the front row (this always made Nick happy, to park in the front row), and got in the line to enter the park. This is where Joy's intinerary became invaluable. When the park opened, my husband wanted to go to Spaceship Earth-because it was right there in front of us. Let me assure you, you need never, ever worry about a line at Spaceship Earth. If you walk up to Spaceship Earth and there is a line, leave and come back later. You should never, ever stand in a line for Spaceship Earth.

No, when the park opened, we made a mad dash over to the Land, hurried down the stairs and into Soarin'. We were among the first people to ride this incredibly popular ride. Basically you are strapped into a seat and lifted up-the rest of the ride is a feeling that you are soaring over the most beautiful scenery but you aren't actually moving. It was a wonderful ride and the girls (especially Felicity) loved it. Felicity was scared of a lot of rides, but this one was just pure fun.

After that, we rode Living With The Land. It is a boat ride and we were the only people on it. Still amazes me. It was really interesting to see how they grow the food there, especially since we later ate at the Land for lunch. But more about that later.

Then I made what in hindsight was a tactical error. We should have gone to one of the other pavillions that was open early-but we chose to wait around 15 minutes to watch the "Circle of Life" movie about conservation. It is a cute movie, but still, we wasted 15 minutes waiting.

We walked over to the Living Seas next. The thing about Epcot is that things can take as long as you want. We rode the short ride in, then took in Turtle Talk with Crush-which is so very cute, I highly recommend it-and then we watched the fish for a while. They were feeding the fish at that time, so it's an interesting time to go.

We had fastpasses for Mission: Space and Test Track, so we had to walk over to the other side of Future World (another important caveat for Epcot-it is large and walking places takes a lot of time). Betsy and I rode Mission: Space and chose to do the tamer version. I love thrill rides, but I didn't get much out of it. Betsy liked it more than I did.

Test Track we all four rode. You are in teams of 2 and 2, so Nick went with Betsy and I went with Felicity. You get to design your own car and then test it out and compare your scores. Of course, Nick and Betsy won (Felicity was mostly concerned with the color of our car, which was pink). It was a lot of fun.

Next, I wanted to fit in the Universe of Energy. However, it was just a hair past 11 AM, and we would have had to wait 15 minutes for another show to start and then it takes 45 minutes total to view the whole thing. This was just too much time to fit anything else in, and try as I might, we never did make it back.

Instead, we walked over to Innovations and went in Club Cool, where you can sample different kinds of Coke from around the world. We enjoyed it very much, as we were quite thirsty. Then we went to Journey Into Imagination and rode it. (We were told later that it is being closed in 2014 for extensive renovations.) We did a lot of the fun, try it yourself things at the end (being there when no one is there really helps with getting to do hands on stuff at Epcot), but did not have time to see Captain EO (I'm not sure that would have meant much to the girls, as they really don't know too much about Michael Jackson-my bad).

We had a fastpass to meet the Disney Characters available at the Character Spot, who turned out to be Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. We played a game about saving money next, which was really cute for the girls. Then we headed back up to the Land for lunch. The Land is the best place to lunch at Epcot, I think, especially on the quick dining plan. There are lots of different options (it's like a food court) and very healthy ones at that. Our food was really delicious.

We then had just enough time to squeeze in that Spaceship Earth ride before we had to leave, to get to the Grand Floridian for the girls Alice in Wonderland tea party. This cost $40 per kid, which in the world of Disney is relatively cheap. It was a really nice time for the girls-it was only them and Mallory and two other girls-for one hour having a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter. They had tea and cookies, and made a craft, and just basically had a grand time (I will upload the pictures to my Facebook page, and just watch how much fun they are having). April, Jeremy, Nick, Mom, Dad, Natalie, and I hung out in the lobby for an hour, talking, while they were enjoying.

Now, again in hindsight, I should have let the girls bring their bathing suits and go swimming afterwards. The Grand Floridian has really nice pools, including a very cute Mad Hatter themed pool that Felicity wanted to swim in all week. But instead, we hurried over to Hollywood Studios in order to catch Lights! Motor! Action! This is a long show about stunt work, which I thought would be really cool for Nick. Which it probably was-but the girls would have had more fun swimming.

However, very cooly, we came out of that show and quite near a side street where they were having a practice for character greetings. This was a cool way to meet a lot of characters at once, and not common ones. We met Mulan, Pinnochio, Genie-and more that I'm having touble remembering-good thing we took pictures.

We rode the Great Movie Ride and Star Tours (Felicity was chosen as the rebel spy and the girls love that). We saw Muppets 4-D. We chose to go to the second showing of Fantasmic!, so we were able to ride Toy Story Mania with no line (which never, ever happens) and it is indeed the best ride at Disney World. Then we went to see Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, which is touching and made me cry. Then we went over to watch the second Fantasmic! It is fabulous and not to be missed.

It was a lot to crowd into one day, but again, the no lines thing was so cool. In the end, yes, I would have planned some things in a different order, but mostly, it was tons of fun.