Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Walt Disney World Trip 2016- Days 8 through 13- Free Days and Driving Home!

Day 8 was Saturday, March 5th and we made a visit to Disney Springs, ran errands and spent some time at Fort Wilderness

We went to Walmart for food, Lowe's for items to fix the camper, and Whole Foods for Kombucha. After all of those errands we went to Disney Springs.

It is a huge outdoor shopping center with everything Disney. I spent a fair amount of time in the Disney Christmas store and bought a personalized ornament. We then ate lunch at the Boathouse with a nice view of the water. We had the raw tuna poke for an appetizer, two beers and two glasses of wine, I had the chopped salad with wild shrimp for lunch and Brian had the crab cakes and we split truffle fries. It was a ton of food! Plenty for leftovers.

After lunch was more shopping; we went into the mega Disney store to find a shot glass, and then right after that we went into the glass store and found an even better shot glass and a trinket for my display box at home. After that we were shopped out so headed home for relaxation. We drove the golf cart around awhile, walked around for a while, sat at the picnic table outside, played on the playground and checked out the Chip n Dales campfire. We decided to come back and meet Chip n dale on our last night, so we headed home to eat dinner, watch a movie and play the Wii.

Day 9 was Sunday, March 6th and we had fast passes for the Star Wars ride, Tower of Terror, and The Great Movie Ride and spent some time at the Fort

We slept in after all staying up too late playing Wii and coloring. I made breakfast and we got ready to go back to ride Star Tours and Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, as well as the Great Movie Ride, which we hadn't done yet. We didn't bring any bags or stroller, so we got in and out really quick. We came back to the campground and drove around in the golf cart, then took Jack for a pony ride, played on the playground and hung out at the beach for about an hour. We took the cart around for another drive and then headed back to the camper for dinner and the Oscars. 

Day 10 was Monday, March 7th and we rented a pontoon boat

In the morning we slept in a little bit then I made breakfast. Brian had to work, so I took the golf cart on my own down to the beach and around to take pictures. After Brian was done, we went down to the dock to rent the pontoon boat for a couple of hours. They gave us the low down and we were off.

It was a 21 foot pontoon boat with a very small motor on it, so there was no speed racing. We had to watch for all of the resort/Magic Kingdom boat traffic, but it wasn't too bad. We tooled around and checked out the other resorts from the lake for a while, then headed back in. I definitely like the pontoon life, so I think that will be our next boat.

After we were done with the pontoon rental, Brian took Jack out on the little two-person Sea Raycer (actually made by Sea Ray- our boat manufacturer). They said it was fun- probably because it had the same size motor as the pontoon boat! I relaxed on the beach and soaked in the sun.

After they were done with that, we came back to the camper to eat lunch. After lunch, we walked the nature trail over to the Wilderness Lodge. It was paved, so Jack practiced riding his bike while we walked.

We explored the Wilderness Lodge a bit- they have great scenery and a nice pool. We walked back and went to the camper to relax before dinner at the Hoop De Doo Musical Revue at the Fort. The dinner show is really fun.

We had great seats- second row, center stage. We ate delicious cornbread, salad, ribs, chicken, beans, corn, mashed potatoes, and a bite of the strawberry shortcake. You can also have all you can drink wine out of mason jars! It was a family friendly musical hoedown with a little audience participation. I would do it again, and it wasn't even that expensive by Disney standards.

After the show, we came back to the camper and Brian and Jack played Wii and I fell asleep.

Day 11 was Tuesday, March 8th and it was our last day at Walt Disney World

We started the day with our last three fast passes at Magic Kingdom.

We caught the boat over and got right in because we didn't have any bags. We headed straight to our first fast pass- Big Thunder Mountain- and we got right on. On our way to our second fast pass, we stopped at the Haunted Mansion because there was no wait. It's a cute ride. We still had some free time before our next fast pass window, so we rode The Peoplemover over Tomorrowland. We then headed to Space Mountain- definitely Jack's favorite ride. I think mine is still Star Wars or Tower of Terror. After that, we headed back to catch the boat back to the Fort to grab lunch at The Trail's End Cafe.

We hadn't eaten there yet and decided to do it since it was our last day. The food was actually really good- Brian had the chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and I had the spicy shrimp and grits with andouille sausage. Service was pretty slow, but maybe that's because we were in a hurry to be out of there. We packed up a bit, then headed to the pool. We spent almost 2 hours there, then Jack decided to be a dare-devil and climb up the slide and gave himself a pretty good goose-egg on his face, so we were done at that point.

We went back to the camper to get cleaned up and do one last memory ride on the golf cart while it was still light. After that, Jack wanted to take his bike out, so we circled the campsite loop two times. Jack got really good at circling back instead of stopping when we're walking. He's actually pretty good and daring on the bike now. After the bike ride, we hopped on the cart one last time to return the cable bag and stop by the Chip and Dales sing a long to meet Chip and Dale.

Then it was back to the camper for the rest of the night. We called it early because we were getting up at 4 A.M. to get a head start on the drive.

Day 12 and 13 were Wednesday, March 9th and Thursday, March 10th

These two days were filled with driving home. We stopped again at the Manchester, TN KOA for an overnight. Because we got an earlier start, we were able to check the place out in the daylight. It wasn't too bad for an overnight.

And that's all folks! It was one of the best trips we've even taken. And because of that, we're doing it again in 2017! Same time, same place! Site has been reserved, golf cart has been reserved, and planning is underway!

Walt Disney World Trip 2016- Day 5 and 6- Magic Kingdom!

Day 5 was Wednesday, March 2nd and it was our "early" day at Magic Kingdom

We had an 8 A.M. reservation for breakfast at the Crystal Palace with Winnie Pooh and Friends. To get there that early from Fort Wilderness we had to take a boat from the beach to the Contemporary Resort and then walk over to Magic Kingdom (we had done a dry run the night before). When we got there we were basically the first people in line and got some good pictures of the castle without other people around. 

We were actually the first people called into breakfast. 

It was a buffet with lots of options, so Brian and I got custom omelets, bacon, fruit and smoked salmon with capers, and Jack got a mickey pancake, bacon, strawberries and cheese. We got to meet all the Winnie the Pooh characters- Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger.

 After breakfast we headed over to the Little Mermaid ride with no wait, then to the Winnie the Pooh ride with no wait, It's a Small World with no wait, and Peter Pan to use our Fast Pass. It had started sprinkling so we decided to go to the show- Mickey's Philharmagic- it was actually really good. 

When we came out it was pouring, but we had our ponchos and the stroller was covered and we had fast passes to go to, so we went for it. Our shoes got soaked, but we made it to Big Splash Mountain just as the sun came out. We kept our ponchos on because we knew we were going to get wet again, and we did, but the ride was still pretty fun. We had time before our next fast pass window, so we went to Pirates of the Caribbean, another indoor boat ride with tons of animatronics. Our next fast pass was for Big Thunder Mountain, which is a train-themed roller coaster. Jack loved it. 

It was still to early to eat lunch, so we went to the Haunted Mansion and then over to the Jungle Cruise. The Jungle Cruise was the only ride we had to wait for- maybe 20-30 minutes. To be honest, I didn't like waiting, but the ride was still good- lots of animatronics and stuff to look at. 

Then it was time to eat lunch. We went to Pecos Bills Cafe with Mexican nachos and salads and an all you can eat toppings bar (even guac!). It was ok. It would have been better with a margarita :) We were going to watch the afternoon parade from our lunch spot, but we still had an hour to go so we headed to the Swiss Family Robinson walk-through tree house. It was really neat and no people and really well decorated. 

After the tree house, there was still 30 minutes before the parade and it looked like it was going to storm; we had to take a boat back, so we decided to postpone the afternoon parade for tomorrow and headed out. We took the boat straight from Magic Kingdom back to the Fort Wilderness. Easy peasy. It rained a little bit on our way back. We got back to the camper and Brian and Jack played the Wii and I prepped dinner, and breakfast and lunch for tomorrow. We ate dinner and then went for our nightly golf cart ride. We ended up at the Trading Post where I bought a fancy blanket for the camper, four Disney hot wheels for Jack and a special throw blanket/bag combo. Back to the camper we went for TV and relaxing before bed.

Day 6 was Thursday, March 3rd and was our "late" day at Magic Kingdom

I had scored us dinner reservations at Be Our Guest restaurant, so we decided to arrive at the park later in the day and stay late for the fireworks. We got to sleep in, drive around the Fort a little bit and eat lunch at the camper. After lunch we caught the boat to MK from the Fort and arrived around 1 PM. The entrance is a little more crowded later in the day.

We shopped for a little bit then headed to Tomorrowland for Monsters,Inc., an audience interactive show. It was ok, but they singled people out in the audience, and I would have been mortified if they had chosen me, so we won't be doing that one again. Then we had our first fast pass- Space Mountain.

It ended up being Jack and I's favorite ride of the day. Dad didn't get to enjoy it as much because he was busy worrying about Jack freaking out, so I snagged us another fast pass for another day. After that we went to Main Street to watch the mid-day Festival of Fantasy parade. We had to wait 30 minutes before we saw the parade, but as per Disney norm, it was worth it. The floats are so detailed. 

After that, we did our next fast pass- the Tomorrowland Speedway. It's a ride exactly like the old cars at Worlds of Fun, except with race cars. It was very outdated and the steering didn't work at all and the people in front of us were very slow. It was probably the worst ride by far that we did. Next was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover- a slow moving, 10 minute ride above Tomorrowland that goes though Space Mountain. We actually enjoyed it.

Then we did the Carousel of Progress- a moving theater with animatronics. Another ride that we all enjoyed. After that it was time for dinner at Be Our Guest. We got a table in the ballroom next to the windows that showed a snowy scene outside. Brian ate the shrimp and scallops and I had the rack of lamb. Both were delicious. I gave Brian my polenta and it went perfectly with his shrimp broth. And a bottle of wine of course. The only place in the Magic Kingdom that sells alcohol. 

After dinner was our last fast pass for the day- the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. Jack loved the ride and even put his hands up, but it's definitely for kids and didn't last long enough. I wouldn't want to wait for it without a fast pass.

Next it was time to get a spot for the Electric Light Parade. People line up early for parades, but we got a decent spot on Main Street. Brian and Jack kept the spot and I went looking for a fast pass kiosk to see if I could snag one last fast pass for the day for Space Mountain, but they were all gone. I went back and the parade started- it was awesome. Lots of floats, lots of light. 

After the parade, we zoomed over to get in line for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and luckily with it being so late, we only had a 5 minute wait. 

After the ride it was perfect timing for the fireworks.We caught a spot on the bridge to the right of Cinderella's Castle, which isn't the most perfect view, but none of us cared to be in the middle of the mass of people. After the fireworks, the standby line for Space Mountain was still 30 minutes, so we left. Tons of people all leaving Magic Kingdom at the same time is annoying, but there is a boat directly to the Fort, so we only had to wait about 10 minutes for one. We came back to the camper to relax and get ready for bed. Our last official planned park day is tomorrow- EPCOT.

Walt Disney World Trip 2016- Day 3 and Day 4- Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom!

Day 3 was Monday, February 29th and I had plans for us to go to Hollywood Studios

We were up at 8am due to campground noise. Our site backed up to the main road so we heard a lot of noise from the bus stop, work trucks, regular traffic, etc. If we had been running the air in the camper we would have been fine. We ate breakfast, cleaned up and ran to the Meadows Trading Post (small general store at the Fort Wilderness Resort) to buy an autograph book (when you meet a character, it's a great way for little ones to interact with them and have a souvenir to take home) and drive the golf cart around a little more.

After the Dinosaur ride, we had a fast pass for the Safari so we headed over there. We got there with 40 minutes to hang out, so we decided to relax and take a break at the Dawa Bar and listen to the traditional African live music. 
When it was time, we headed to the Safari Ride. It's a slow-moving outdoor ride on a big truck through the "safari". We saw the traditional African safari animals. 
After that ride we took the train to Rafiki's conservation station and looked at a bunch of bugs, snakes, and of course met Rafiki. We also got to pet some goats. After the petting zoo it was time for our character lunch. It was an all-you-can eat buffet with a lot of traditional African dishes. It was pretty good. Of course the best part was meeting Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Daisy.
After lunch we could have gone to see a few more animals, but we decided the weather was awesome for some pool time so we went back to the Fort. The Fort has a decent pool with a pretty big slide, but it's nothing spectacular. It's not crowded, so that's really all that matters to me. It's also heated to 84 degrees which is nice. After the pool we decided to do a dry run of the trip over to Magic Kingdom. 
We didn't go in, but decided to check out the monorail and took it over to the Polynesian and had dinner on the deck at Captain Cooks. It was a very casual eatery with the right prices (Brian and I split the Hawaiian Pulled Pork Nachos and Thai Meatballs). It was ok, but we had a glass of wine and we were outside, so it was nice enough. After that, we took the monorail back to the Contemporary to catch the boat back to the Fort. We stopped by the Meadows Trading post for a toy for Jack and a bag of ice, and back to the camper for relaxing and prepping for an early morning breakfast and a day at Magic Kingdom.

Our first fast pass (ride reservation) for Hollywood Studios was at noon, so we had a little time. We drove to Hollywood Studios at 10 A.M. and got to the parking lot about 20 minutes later and took a tram to the entrance. Security backs things up a bit, so it took about 15 minutes to get through (they have to look in every nook and cranny of every bag, so avoid bringing a bag if at all possible), but we had plenty of time before our first fast pass. It was perfect weather- upper 70s and partly cloudy. We walked around the park to check things out, and happened to get our picture with Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

After that we had our first experience with Disney's stroller-parking "system". Somehow I never came across anything about how strollers were dealt with in the Disney parks. When you get in line, you are supposed to park your cart in designated stroller parking areas, along with hundreds of other strollers. As strollers are taken out, cast members will move strollers around to take up the empty space, sometimes even moving them 50 yards away! So anyways, we go to get our stroller, and it's gone, and we thought it'd been stolen! So we're frantically looking for our stroller, seriously running around angry for 10 minutes, only to find it in the middle of the stroller parking area. After that crisis was over, we went back to Star Tours for our first fast pass. It was a Star Wars themed 3D motion simulator ride. We all loved it! 

After that we went to the Muppet 3D Movie, which was also cute and a lot of fun. It was then time for lunch so we ate at Backlot Express and had Grilled Chicken Salads for us, chicken and waffles for Jack and a drink called the After Burner (hard apple cider with fireball- pretty good). Next up was the Indiana Jones stunt spectacular. The stunts were really good, but a 5 year old gets bored with the explanations of how they stage the stunts. It was short enough though, so it was enjoyable.

After that it was time for another margarita because we had a few minutes to kill before our Toy Story Midway Mania fast pass. We walked around with our drinks and then got on the ride. The ride was a blast- you rode a twirling, fast moving car while wearing 3D glasses and it would stop every few feet and you would use a "gun" to shoot at different targets in different games. It's no wonder those fast passes are sold out weeks in advance. After that we went to check out the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play set, and Jack had a blast but it was packed with kids and hard to keep track of Jack, so we didn't stay long. After that we went to the Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show. It was awesome! A little more entertaining for Jack than the Indiana Jones show. Even the Cars characters made an appearance.

By that point I had on my plan to go on the Great Movie Ride, but it was a 25 minute wait and I don't think Jack would have cared, so we headed for our last fast pass- Tower of Terror. Jack had been looking forward to this ride, but was also nervous. The set up for the ride is really cool (the queues for all the rides were very detailed with tons of stuff to distract you while you wait)- scary twilight zone stuff. The ride is this: you get into a seat in an elevator that takes you through a hotel and then the elevator "breaks" and you get thrown up and down (sort of like the Detonator) all while the doors to the outside open and shut. Jack was freaked out, but it was awesome and he ended up loving it.

That was it for the day, so we left. We got on the tram and got back to our car. The park looked crowded, but there were definitely areas that were open. Most people seemed to congregate around the Tower of Terror/Rock n Rollercoaster and the Star Wars ride. We got back to the camper and had to drive around in the golf cart. There were loops we hadn't explored! We finally headed back to the camper and cooked dinner, relaxed, got Jack bathed, drove the golf cart around again and came back to relax before bed.

Day 4 was Tuesday, March 1st and we were headed to Animal Kingdom

The day started with a semi-restless night of sleep. It rained pretty good and at one point Brian had to mess with the awning due to the rain, so our 7:30 alarm came a little earlier than we wanted on vacation. Our first fast pass was Expedition Everest at 9:30 AM, so we left the camper at 9:00. Again, we drove to the park and took the tram to the main entrance. There were a lot of people again, but it didn't feel oppressively crowded (I think the beautiful, partly-cloudy, upper 70s with a slight breeze weather helped). Expedition Everest is the "big" roller coaster at Animal Kingdom. You have to be 44 inches and I made a tough call to use up a fast pass for this because at the time I made the reservations, Jack was only 43 inches, but today he's 45 so we made it! Jack was scared at first, but he ended up loving it. It goes backwards and forwards and through the dark. 

After Everest was an indoor, slow, but exciting, Dinosaur ride. It was awesome. Jack was so scared before it even started he was tearing up, but he ended up loving it, of course. 

We took the boat to the Contemporary Resort and then walked over to the entrance to Magic Kingdom.