Friday, August 17, 2012

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom isn't a park we normally visit.  However, since the greatest in laws on the face of the earth were along for vacation, and they wanted to visit, it was easy to work it into our plans.  Once we got there, I had forgotten how much I really like it.  We even saw Devine.  Devine is a lady who dresses like a vine, is REALLY tall, and sticks herself into the greenery.  If you notice her, it's awesome.  She sort of obscure and is usually out for an hour or so a day.  Darragh spotted her and pointed her out to me.  I wish I had gotten a picture.  
Anyway, when we got to AK, it was just in time for the Festival of the Lion King.  Since it was looking like rain, we headed to the show and got in just as the doors were opening.  I absolutely love this show at Disney.  I love the music, the costumes and floats are amazing, and it's so fun!  I love how they get the crowd involved and each section is a different animal and makes sounds.  The performers on stilts, impersonating giraffes, are amazing.  I can't imagine how they can walk and dance on those things.  But, it's Disney, right?  

After Festival of the Lion King, we got in line for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.  Love this one!  It's one of our favorite things at AK.  You get in a safari bus, and it takes you out into an African savannah with a ton of animals.  

We saw giraffes, lions, rhinos, elephants, etc.  They can't come up to your bus, but you sure can get some good pictures of them.  We had bought the boys each a disposable camera.   I think they used the majority of their pictures on the safari ride!  Of course, Natalie slept through the entire ride.  
We headed out toward Asia to get something to eat.  The boys ended up eating corn dogs-who knew?  I've never known the two of them to eat a corn dog in their life.  But whatever.  Anyway, we grabbed something to eat from Flame Tree BBQ and then it was off to ride the Kali River Rapids.  This is a huge, round boat and you get so soaked.  Well, we had our handy dandy ponchos (and it wasn't raining at that moment), but you better bet I put mine on!  Derrick sat out with Natalie, planning to use our rider switch pass for Kali River later.  Little did we know, it would start raining (and NOT stop) so he never got to ride :(.  Well, it was a super fun ride, one we had never done before.  When we exited the ride, it was kind of raining, but that didn't stop us.  
We made our way to Expedition Everest.  First, it describes the tale of the Yeti.  And if I answered the question once, I answered it a million times-No boys, the Yeti isn't real!  But, as you are waiting, there are some really cool artifacts and drawings of the Yeti and climbs of Mount Everest.  Suffice it to say, no amount of bribery could get Matthew on Expedition Everest, and Lucas only rode because of some serious encouragement from Grandma Patty and a bribe of a pin from me.  He was NOT thrilled, but he rode it anyway! 
By the time we exited Everest, it was raining pretty steady.  Like, coming down in sheets and it was very cloudy.  Pretty sure it wasn't going to stop.  Anyway, Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade was about to start, and I was determined to see it.  I've never seen it before, and we had a good spot to watch it.  Even though it was raining, I still really wanted to wait to see it.  Then, it got delayed for like 20 minutes.  But, we held firm, and squished, in our good front row spot.  Totally worth it.  Every character that came down the parade route, who was walking, gave the boys and/or Natalie a high five. The parade vehicles are like cycle rickshaws, and there were the giraffe people on stilts again.  Awesome!  We tried to do Kali River Rapids again, but it was closed because of the rain.  

So, we headed down a walking path, hoping to catch a glimpse of some animals.  Matthew REALLY wanted a picture of a komodo dragon, and we found one to take a picture of.  He was beyond excited.  It was getting to be late afternoon, so we decided to call it a day.  In the down right pouring rain, we made our way to the exit, but not without a stop at It's Tough to be a Bug.  Now, if any of you may recall, this attraction pretty much ruined our very first trip to Disney, when the boys were four.  We knew nothing about the attraction back then, and assumed the boys would love it.  WRONG!  It freaked them out and we had to leave a few minutes into it.  After that, it was tough bribery to get them on ANYTHING dark at Disney.  Fast forward to 2012.  We told them we were going to see It's Tough to be a Bug, and they got in line without any fuss.  Granted, a huge spider and bugs crawling under your back side can be a little freaky.  And not to mention when the stinkbug lets out his gas.  However, they did enjoy it, without their 3D glasses on.   After that, we hit the buses and went back to the resort.  

We ended up ordering pizzas that night and hanging out in the room.  Even Wishes, Illuminations, the Main Street Electrical Parade, and Fantasmic were cancelled or delayed because it was storming so very badly.  This was the most rain we've had on a Disney vacation, and it didn't really get sunny until our last days there :(.  

EPCOT-Our First Park

The first park we toured was EPCOT.  We could take the monorail from the Grand Floridian to EPCOT.  This was a really neat experience.  We've ridden the monorail route almost every trip.  But, it was fun to take it from the resort to a park.  What's kind of fun about the monorail route to EPCOT is that it actually goes through part of the EPCOT park before dropping you off.  

The day started.....and ended....rainy.  But oh well.  We ponchoed up and carried on!  Our first stop was Spaceship Earth (aka the "big golf ball").  There was practically no wait for this, and that was the case for most of our trip.  After Spaceship Earth, we made our way to The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  I have to be honest-I love that ride!  You feel like you are under the sea, with Nemo and his friends rushing along to tell you the Nemo story.  Riding in the clam shell is so fun.  When we exited, we looked at the manatees and other sea animals in the Living Seas building.  

The boys holding up the ball.  Love looking at pictures of this same pose from every trip.
Next, we hopped on Living with the Land.  Not gonna this one too.  This is a boat ride where they show you how they grow different plants and crops in unique ways.  Disney actually grows the majority of their vegetables and fruits that they serve in the parks.  The boys love Living with the Land-it's chock full of information, that's for sure!

We also hit Club Cool.  This is sponsored by Coca Cola.  It's kinda fun, because you can sample Coke from all over the world.  And let me tell you, it doesn't all taste the same!  It was funny to watch the boys take a sample, then after making a face that they didn't like it, put on a straight face and try to get one of us to drink it.  Natalie and I were particularly enjoying the Mezzo Mix from Mexico.  It was orangey, fruity Coke.  The Italian version-Beverly-is nasty.  Just to forewarn you.  But, I think everyone should try it :).

It was raining soooo very hard for part of our day at EPCOT, and rained off and on all day.  Finally, after making it through World Showcase, we gave in and bought ponchos.  Good thing, because we wore them for the next three days.  It got to the point where I would cringe if I felt even a small drop of water because we were so tired of being wet.   
Matthew and Grandpa
Lucas not very excited!  Matthew is all smiles.

While Grandma, Grandpa, and Darragh stayed with Natalie, we rode Soarin'.  Love this ride!  And I recently learned it was modeled after an erector set.  Cool!  Anyway, it's a simulator of a hang glider. It was brought here from Disneyland, so when you are "soaring", you are hang gliding over the Pacific Ocean, orange groves, mountains, gold courses, and it ends with the fireworks show from Disneyland....right in front of your face.  Lucas isn't a huge fan of this ride, but he went on with good spirits.  Actually, there was bribery involved, too.  I told him he could get a Soarin' pin for his lanyard if he went on it without too much fuss.  

World Showcase is getting more fun as the boys get older.  They, especially Matthew, are getting more interested in world history and other countries.  So, they weren't too bored this time.  Since it was raining, we did more walking in the shops than we usually do.  As we walked through the United Kingdom shops, we saw a line of people waiting for a character.  Well, come to find out that Mary Poppins was going to make an appearance in a few short minutes.  So, I put Derrick in line to wait for Mary, and the rest of us stepped a few feet over to meet Alice in Wonderland and Pooh and Tigger.  It was so fun!  Alice noticed that the boys were twins, and referred to them as the Tweedles, which we do at home sometimes.  She chit chatted with Natalie a lot of the time, and was so sweet to her.  
Finally, after I was waiting on the edge of my seat, Mary Poppins came out.  I was soooo pumped!  Mary Poppins is my FAVORITE Disney movie that has live actors.  Sweet!  Admittedly, I really wanted to meet Mary, so that's why I made Derrick stand in line for me :).  Mary was so perfect!  She almost had my father in law singing Chim Chim Cheeree while we were getting pictures taken with her.  The boys could've cared less, but I was so in my element.  One thing I loved about it was how she chit chatted with it when Disney involves the adults, too.

We stopped in Norway for a cinnamon roll treat for the boys, and ventured our way around the Lagoon.  Mexico is my favorite pavilion-mainly because of the decor and the pretty fountain.  You feel like you are in a Mexican street market.  Someday, I want to eat at the restaurant in there.  After some dinner, we got a sweet spot to watch Illuminations.  The kids and I hung out and saved our spot while Derrick and his parents grabbed some dinner.  The boys had Mickey Ice Cream bars, and Natalie and I broke out the glow bracelets.  

Overall, even though it started out rainy, it was a super awesome day.  Now that I'm writing about it, we sure did do a lot at EPCOT!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dinner at Chef Mickey's-Awesome!

So after our resort relocation, we explored the Grand Floridian and got settled in our rooms before heading out to dinner.  We had reservations for Chef Mickey's for dinner.  We always say we want to do a character meal when we are at Disney.  Finally, after three times of saying it, we actually did it!  I didn't make our reservation until about 60 days out, so I was super excited to get a dinner time.  Typically, Disney suggests you make reservations for character meals, or any other table service restaurant, 180 days in advance.  So, I was beyond excited to get a dinner time, at a decent time (7:40) for Chef Mickey's.

Chef Mickey's is in the Contemporary Resort, just outside of the Magic Kingdom.  So after dressing in our Disney themed t-shirts {Derrick and I had made a trip to the Disney store before we left for shirts for all} we hopped on the monorail and took it over to the Contemporary.  Upon arriving and checking in at the reservation desk, we were led to a statue of Mickey in a chef costume.  A photographer took our photo, and then we were seated at our table.  This was a dinner buffet, so there were plenty of options for everyone.  There was also a dessert buffet, and the boys thoroughly enjoyed their ice cream sundaes!

Part way through dinner, they start playing a fun song and the characters come out and dance.  Also, everyone gets into the spirit by waving their white cloth napkins in the air.  It was pretty cute.  Then, the characters start to make their way to each table to pose for pictures and sign autograph books.  At Chef Mickey's, it's the Fab Five-Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy.  Such fun!

Anyway, Donald Duck was the first one to our table.  The boys and Natalie quickly made sure he signed their books, and posed for the mandatory pictures that I was taking.  Natalie was absolutely thrilled about Donald, as Derrick had just gotten her a stuffed Daisy, so she was a bit on the "ducks" kick. 

Next came Goofy.  Natalie wasn't sure about him.  He's pretty tall, and of course his nose sticks out.  She kinda kept her distance, but the boys were very excited.  Goofy even got Darragh and Grandma Patty out of their seats for a picture.  

Along came Minnie.  Then, Natalie was pumped.  I had dressed her in a red with white polka dots dress from Gymboree.  It look just like a Minnie dress, and I had gotten it just so she could wear it to dinner at Chef Mickey's.  Well, Minnie made all over Natalie for being dressed just like her.  It was so cute that Minnie noticed right away that she and Natalie had on a similar dress.  We had some awesome interaction with Minnie.  I love Natalie's face while Minnie was at our table.

Mickey, Natalie's second favorite character, made his rounds next.  The boys were pretty excited about him, too.  Even Darragh got a picture with the Mouse.  I have to say, I love Mickey. I always have!  

Finally, Pluto came to our table.  He was so cute.  I love how he holds the autograph book on the end of his nose to sign.  So fun!  

All in all, it was a wonderful dinner, and super fun experience for the kids.  We for sure made a good choice by starting our trip with a character meal with the classic Disney characters.  It made some awesome memories!  

Finally, we ended our evening back at the Grand Floridian.  At the boat dock, just outside our resort building, we could watch Wishes.  It was so wonderful, because they pipe the soundtrack and Jiminy Cricket's narration through the speakers at the Grand Floridian.  That's part of the awesomeness of the fireworks.  
Natalie enjoying Wishes with grandma.  I hope they both remember that forever.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Walt Disney World 2012-Our Arrival at the World

Lucas, Natalie, and Matthew at the Wilderness Lodge.
So, after our fiasco with the Hampton, we were more than ready to get to our Disney resort.  We were also super ready to start our vacation.....Derrick's parents and his youngest sister had also made the drive to vacation withs us, and we were going to meet up with them later in the day at our resort-Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Disney's Wilderness Lodge.  This view is from the pool area.  There is a huge lake, Bay Lake, behind me.
So, we packed up from the Caribe Royale and made our way over to the Walt Disney World Resort.  Our rooms were at the Wilderness Lodge.  We had adjoining rooms, one with bunk beds and a queen for us and the other with two queens for Derrick's family {aka the best in laws EVER!}  Disclaimer:  I am not just saying that, I truly love his family.  I have been wanting them to take a Disney vacation with us since forever....and was sooo glad they did.  And yes, I still love them even after a week of vacation with them!
Part of the lobby at the Wilderness Lodge.
Since our rooms weren't ready yet-we were there shortly before lunch and check in wasn't  until 3-we spent some time exploring the Wilderness Lodge.  The pool area was awesome, and there was so much greenery and "wilderness" growing all over the property.  It was gorgeous.

Natalie hitching a ride on Daddy's shoulders.  
Matthew, Lucas, and I on the "beach".  
We found the boat dock that would take us to the Magic Kingdom, and walked along the "beach" area.  Natalie wasn't so fond of walking in the sand....we'll see how that goes next summer on our vacation with my family to the beach :).  We roamed the gift shop and found where the restaurant was.  I can't tell you how gorgeous the inside of this resort was!  Soooo beautiful!

Lucas and Derrick relaxing in the rocking chairs.
You really felt like you were in a lodge somewhere in Yosemite.  It was awesome!  Finally it was time to check into our rooms.  We were so pleased with our rooms, and we set the kids to work decorating the sliding glass window with some Disney window clings I had picked up before we left.  Derrick's parents finally made it and we greeted them with huge smiles and hugs.

Lucas drew a heart in the sand and wrote "MOM" in the middle.  Love that kid!

Natalie and Daisy making another run across the bridge while we were waiting for our room.
After we were fairly settled in our rooms, we had some lunch at the Roaring Fork Cafe.  And then, it started to rain.  A lot.  So, I took the boys to the indoor play area where they do crafts and games for the resort guests and Derrick took Natalie to the room to nap.

Lucas killing time while it was raining.  That day's craft was a crown.  
When he got back to the room, he realized our air conditioning wasn't getting any cooler.  So, he called the desk and they sent someone to look at it.  While we were hanging out and Natalie was napping, Derrick's dad mentioned that he had always wanted to stay at the Grand Floridian, which is a landmark of Disney resorts.

Lucas, Natalie, Matthew and I hanging out in the lodge.
Gorgeous, just around the corner from the Wilderness Lodge, and one of the stops we were going to make while resort hopping.  We had just been talking about resort hopping some of the monorail resorts that were right there in our area.  Since we were staying at Wilderness Lodge and having dinner later that night at the Contemporary, that just left the Polynesian and Grand Floridian to explore.  As we were talking about this, the phone rang in our room.  It was a cast member from the resort telling us that our air conditioning unit in our room was in need of being entirely replaced and that Disney could move us to the Grand Floridian if that was okay.  OKAY???  Heck yes!  We packed up ASAP....not that there was anything wrong with the Wilderness Lodge, and it was one we had always wanted to stay at.  But, we needed to vacate our room, and they were offering to send us over to the GF.  We didn't argue about that!
The lobby of the Grand Floridian.  There is a live jazz band on the second floor every day.  

The Grand Floridian is a Victorian theme resort.  It's where a lot of weddings take place at Disney, too. There's a wedding pavilion and a small beach area where people come to get married.  In fact, while we were there, we saw two weddings being photographed.  It's also a monorail resort, which means we could take the train to the Magic Kingdom & EPCOT.  
This little cutie was waiting for us in our room. 
One of the buildings at the Grand Floridian.  This is the view straight out of our balcony.

It's a resort we often long to stay at, but can't justify the cost-not gonna lie, it's the most expensive one at Disney, and when it comes down to it, we choose something else.  So, we felt super privileged to be staying there.  Disney was so awesome with it.

If we looked out, leaned over to the right, we could see Cinderella's Castle from our balcony of our room.
They moved all our stuff for us, and the sleeping arrangements were great.  We had adjoining rooms, each with two queen beds, an junior day bed, and a pack and play for Natalie.  We had plenty of room to spread out and the boys took turns sleeping in Grandma and Grandpa's room each night.  So, we got to explore the Widerness Lodge-which we still want to stay at sometime-and stay at the Grand Floridian.  Sweet!