Monthly Archives: February 2013

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

When we sat down to plan our trip, we decided to spend six days visiting Disney parks.  Two days for Magic Kingdom, one for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, and one spare day to go back wherever we felt needed an extra day of exploring and fun.  Well…  that extra day ended up with us back at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  We absolutely LOVED this park.

For those who have never been, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is like a zoo and an amusement park all rolled into one.  And as far as it’s zoo aspect goes, it’s one like no other.  While there are lots of areas where the animals have their own private enclosures, there are also a plethora of spaces where the animals are free to wander around with a multitude of species all sharing beautifully sculpted landscapes.  It really is quite impressive.  And while I promise to share lots of animal photos at a later date, here are a few of us just taking advantage of some cool photo-ops at the park:

Epcot

By far, Epcot is the most underrated of all the Walt Disney World parks, and this is why we spent the first day there.  We figured that by starting at the most adult-centric of the parks, then the girls wouldn’t have a chance to be disappointed in it as they wouldn’t know any different.  The first park is going to be fun and exciting regardless of which park it is.  And you know what?  After being there, I don’t know why so many people skip it.  Epcot is awesome!  I only wish we’d had our WDW system in place so we could have been more efficient and seen more of it.  But we know better for next time.  LOL

My favourite attraction at Epcot was definitely Captain EO.  Sure, it’s a little corny and totally 80’s – but that’s just part of it’s charm.  I absolutely loved every minute of it, even being snotted on.  😉  It should be on your “must do” Disney list!

The girls both loved the Test Track – though I found the wait long (even with the fast pass) and there were no cast members to be found to help guide you through the design process.  We didn’t know if we each should be designing a vehicle, or if just one of us needed to do so… and we weren’t the only family who had no clue.  So we let Lily-Ann design a car, hoping that we just needed one for our group.  Turns out we each should have done one, but it was just fine.  LOL  The speed test was fun, but I could have done without the rest of the ride.  It was jarring and mostly unpleasant.  The speed though?  Seriously awesome!

This is also where we bought all of our ears.  And shockingly enough, I got complements on mine from cast members throughout our trip.  Turns out not all the ears are available at all the parks.  Oh!  Neither is all the merchandise.  We saw a Mulan playset at Epcot, but didn’t want to carry it around with us all day.  From what we’d heard of Downtown Disney, anything we could find in the parks we’d be able to find there – THAT’S NOT TRUE.  We should have bought the Mulan set, as we never found it again in any of the parks or at Downtown Disney.

Epcot was a long day.  We learned a lot about how NOT to tour a Disney park that day.  LOL  But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.  It was pretty amazing!

Character Meets at Walt Disney World

You really do need at least five or six days to properly do all the parks (not including water parks) at Walt Disney World, and a big part of the reason why are all the character meets.  Because, lets face it, even an adult only vacation to WDW has to include character meet ‘n greets!

Most of the time, you just hop in line and wait it out.  And some of those lines can be LONG.  We were there during the off season and even then there were a couple of characters whom we waited for over an hour in line to see.  Now, if you were to skip all the character meets you could chop a couple of days off your trip, but why would you want to do that?  The characters are what makes Disney the fun that it is – otherwise it’s just a bunch of theme parks.  People love Disney World and Disneyland BECAUSE of the magic that is Disney, and that is ALL about the characters.

And let’s face it!  Most of the rides are no camera rides (though some people are asshats about it and snap pictures anyway – ruining the experience for those around them), so the character meets?  They’re your very best photo ops.  And some of the cast members really are fabulous and are SOOO worth seeing.  Peter Pan pops into mind.  Seriously, he spent about ten minutes with Lily-Ann…  who happened to be in her fairy costume.  He even tried shaking pixie dust out of her.  He really was fabulous and made the girl feel that way too.  😀

So, here are a whole whack of character meet-ups from our trip!  None of the photos have been edited or enhanced.  I am not even going to THINK about that yet.  It’s going to be a STUPID amount of work considering the two or three thousand images I have.  LOL  So it was just a RAW to JPG conversion.  LOL

Disney + Nighttime = Magic!

Another “must do” at Disney are their nighttime spectaculars (the voice in my head says it with a thick Italian accent and REALLY rolls that R).  Meaning get your butt a spot to sit, or find yourself one square foot of space to stand, and ensure you’re there – because even the crappiest of spots is still magnifico!  Truly!  You haven’t seen fireworks until you’ve seen them at Disney!

But do be warned, Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios is not for everyone.  Young children, or those who are impressionable may find it too scary.

SeaWorld – just skip it

If there is one thing we did, that I’d advise you to just avoid, it’s SeaWorld.  My husband had great memories of SeaWorld from his childhood, so he considered it a “must do”.  And from my visit to another SeaWorld park when I was nine, I agreed.  We loved all that we learned there as kids.  Education was a huge part of their mandate back then, unfortunately that’s no longer the case.

Very honestly?  Knowing what we know now?  We’d have just skipped it.  It’s not worth the time.

We all enjoyed the kid zone, with it’s mini-roller coaster and other amusement park rides, but that wasn’t worth the cost of admission.  So yeah!  Planning a trip to Orlando Florida?  Hit all of Disney, plan for at least five or six days in the parks…  but erase SeaWorld off your list.  It’s not worth the time or money.  I actually found the entire place to be very disheartening.  😦  That said, we put on happy faces and did our best to act like it was awesome.  After all, it wasn’t really about us.

From Youngling to Padawan at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

If you ask Damon, he’ll readily admit to being jealous of this particular experience.  However, he was out of the running by over two decades as it’s aimed at the little ones from five to twelve (if I’m not mistaken).  So he was forced to live vicariously through Lily-Ann, whom we were ALL super excited for.  After all, how many kids get to go from Youngling to Padawan all within 1/2 hour?!?!

When you take your family to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Jedi training academy really needs to be at the top of your “must do” list.  It’s an absolutely fabulous experience!  But you do need to get there early to sign up or risk not being included.  We had arrived at the park early to take advantage of the Magic Hours (extra hours for resort guests only) and then meandered our way over to the sign-in area.  We got there at about 9:30 and made it into the 2:30 group – the last group goes at 3:30 with the training ending by 4:00 (again, if memory serves).  So yeah… head over there first thing, and get signed in before doing any of the character meets, rides, or other attractions just to guarantee your youngling’s spot.

Lily-Ann was so proud of herself.  She took her training very seriously, and mastered her fears – taking on Vader like a seasoned pro.  She jumped and skipped, thusting her diploma in the air with a strong and determined “I did it” attitude.  It really was one of those once in a life time, amazing, moments that won’t be forgotten.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort!

My next Disney World tip?  Can’t make this one any more clear or plain for you.  STAY AT DISNEY’S ART OF ANIMATION RESORT!!!  Unless it’s when we’re going back (because, yes, we need to get back) and then I don’t want it over crowded.  LMAO

Now, I could go into a really long explanation about why this is THE resort to stay at, but honestly?  This is one case where a picture really can tell a better story.  So, here’s a buttload of photographs from our time at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.  Right from that first night we arrived, until our last minutes on Disney property:

The Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan, get it, use it!  I love it!  Seriously.

Having the quick service dining plan made our lives so much easier.  We didn’t have to carry cash, or watch prices.  It was great!  And the amount of food you get with this plan is crazy!  In addition to your main course and side dishes you get dessert with every meal.  Not into sweets?  Get grapes, apples, or a mixed fruit dish.  These are super handy to take with you both in your room and at the parks.

The quick service plan includes two quick service meals and a snack daily.  And I’ll admit, before getting to Walt Disney World I was worried about whether it would be enough.  The kid and I tend to be grazers, and like to eat throughout the day.  I was concerned about the dining plan meeting our needs – but it did, with a bunch left over at the end.  We’d always pick up some fruit or other portable snack item as our dessert, so we always had something healthy to munch on whenever the urge struck.

I’m so glad Karla (our travel agent) recommended the dining plan.  It really did make things so much easier…  and we always had a ton of food, smoothies, and great snacks whenever we needed them.  If we make it back (we certainly hope to, and soon) we’ll definitely get the dining plan again.

Doing Disney the Smith Family Way

I’m a planner.  I like to know what’s going to happen and when.  It takes away the chaos that is present in so many activities when you have an AD/HD family, and just ups the enjoyment factor immensely.  So it wasn’t long into our Walt Disney World trip that I developed my own way of doing things.  And as promised, I’m going to reveal a few tips and tricks to make your Disney trip stress-free and a whole lot more enjoyable too.

I’m all about keeping things simple, easy, and stress-free.  Thus my tips are all about doing just that.  And one of the BIGGEST helpers are those kitchy little maps they have for all the Disney parks.  GRAB THOSE MAPS!

The night before you head to a park, sit down with the map and figure out your MUST HIT attractions, character meets, rides, and dining experiences:

Our must do list for day two at the Magic Kingdom park.

Our must do list for day two at the Magic Kingdom park.

I just laid on the bed in our Finding Nemo room at the Art of Animation resort, and using one of the pens from our room sketched little brackets around everything that we really wanted to do that second day in the park.  We had already spent one day there, so it a lot of our must do’s, but there were still a lot left on our list.  I tossed in a question mark on any attraction that we really wanted to do, but that wasn’t a top priority.

Then I went through the map, and drew stars beside each of the must do rides/attractions/events/dining spots, and a question mark on the want to do ones:

The Disney map, with all my notations on it.

The Disney map, with all my notations on it.

Lastly, but SUPER important not to miss, go through and mark an FP on all the places you’ve marked so far that offer a fast pass.  Using the fast pass system makes your life SOOO much easier.  So be sure to take note of which spots actually offer them and mark them on your map.  You can see them on the map above, but here’s a close up of Fantasyland and New Fantasyland:

Here you can see we have three attractions marked - two with Fast Pass.

Here you can see we have three attractions marked – two with Fast Pass.

When you first hit the park, go directly to the closest area and get your first fast pass.  Take note of what time you need to be back there, and then decide to do the remaining STAR attractions/rides now or closer to when you need to redeem your fast pass.  You can only get a new fast pass once every hour, so once you’ve gotten one, then hit some of your starred rides and attractions that don’t offer fast pass while you wait until enough time has passed to get your next one.

Having these maps, and your choices charted out on them, really is a small thing.  And honestly?  It only takes about twenty minutes to do – and is a great relaxing activity for the adults in your party to tackle after any younglings are asleep.  It’s a small thing that makes a BIG impact on your park experience.  So take that little bit of time the night before each park visit.  It saved my sanity and made our trip SOOO much more enjoyable.

Out Sick.

So, right after I promise to get y’all caught up on our Disney trip with all sorts of tips and stories I end up sick in bed…  and I’m still sick in bed.  I’m hoping in the next day or two to be right as rain, but until then I’m afraid I’m not much use to anyone.  I’m just grateful this flu bug decided to wait until we were back home before it settled in and knocked me out for the count.  😉

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