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We’ve upgraded!!!

I photographed a beautiful wedding today.  The brides are so much in love that it just radiated off of them.  Their joy was infectious.  And even me dragging them into the snow in -30something temperatures couldn’t dampen their spirits.  I do have to admit, jumping back into the car after being out in that cold made me think about how great the temperatures in Florida are going to feel this January.  LOL

It was a freezing cold Yule, and today was just as frigid, but like our two brides?  Nothing is going to put the chill on the excitement I feel about our upcoming Disney trip.

Our big reveal yesterday didn’t go exactly as planned.  Mostly I think the girl was just overwhelmed and didn’t really process the news.  Damon took a video, and I’m hoping he’ll get it to me so I can share it before too long.  It really was cute.  And honestly?  We may have surprised the kid, but she surprised us right back!

We thought all along that staying in a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation was HUGE for her.  It’s all she’s talked about whenever we’ve talked about Disney World.  So we booked at the AoA resort, in an Ariel room.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I knew it would make her sooo happy.  So when we told her where she’d be staying we were both shocked when she asked if we could stay at a different WDW resort “with different things to explore” we were shocked.  But I have to admit, I was kind of excited.

As of last night we have upgraded from a value resort to a moderate one.  We couldn’t afford to get the Royal Room at Port Orleans (which the girl fell in love with) but we were able to get a standard room – and they are just beautiful.  So grown up, with the most beautiful linens…  and a double vanity (two sinks and mirrors).  It’s going to be a dream come true.  And with the free dining plan that is being offered it only ended up being an extra hundred dollars or so over what our stay at the Art of Animation would have been.  And get this!  Instead of the quick service dining plan, we get the regular dining plan.  Know what that means?  CHARACTER DINING!!!

I am over the moon!  We are going to be eating with Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, some of the princesses, the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood…  it’s going to be amazing!  I was excited for this trip before.  But now?  Now?  OMG!  Waiting just got a whole heck of a lot harder!  LOL

Shiny New Shoes

More than any other item you pack for a Disney vacation, your shoes have the potential to make or break your trip.  You will be walking more than you’ve likely ever walked before.  Disney is not a lay around on the beach vacation, it is a get up and move and don’t stop until you drop vacation.  You will come home exhausted (yes, you may need a vacation after this vacation).  And your shoes will either keep you in good spirits or have you grumbling and miserable.

We are a DAWGS family.  The classic beach/garden clog is ugly as sin… seriously, they are the most butt ugly shoes out there, but they are so stinkin’ comfortable.  And they have gotten a whole lot better.  Half the time when I’m in DAWGS, only other DAWGS fans even recognize them.  They’ve come a long way from that first ugly shoe (though they still make them, and we still love them for putzing in the back yard or at the lake).  So when I decided the girl and I needed new shoes for our January Disney trip, the DAWG store was where we went.  And seriously, how cute are these?!?!

And yeah…  get yourself some new shoes for WDW, but break them in BEFORE you go.  Trust me!  😉

WDW Here We Come… again!

We are now one month our from our second trip to Walt Disney World.  We loved our first trip (in January/February of 2013) sooo much, that shortly after returning we began planning for a return visit.  This time we’ll be heading off on January 14th, once month from today, and will again be staying for ten days (two of which are devoted to travel).  Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to bring my sister along this time, but I’m sure it will be just as magical though very different without her.  Oh!  And the girl doesn’t know about the trip yet, so don’t spill the beans.  We’ll be revealing the surprise on Yule!  hehehe

Anyway…

To get in the spirit of things I’m planning to blog “30 Days of Disney”.

I realized in my WDW posts from our last trip that I had barely scratched the surface.  There was still SOOO much I hadn’t shared, and just a ton of pictures that never made it onto the blog.  I can’t wait to start talking Disney with the kid, but until the 21st I’m stuck trying to keep my excitement bottled up.  I’m hoping y’all won’t mind being a bit of an outlet for me.  I am crazy excited about this trip.

So this is the first of 30 Walt Disney World posts.  For now, let’s just recap where we’ve been and what we’ve seen:

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/disneys-magic-kingdom/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/disneys-animal-kingdom/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/disneys-hollywood-studios/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/epcot/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/downtown-disney/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/disneys-art-of-animation-resort/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/character-meets-at-walt-disney-world/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/from-youngling-to-padawan-at-disneys-hollywood-studios/

https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/disney-nighttime-magic/

Each of the above posts is graphic-laden.  Tons of photos!  And I highly recommend clicking on the pictures to see them a little larger than the thumbnails allow.  They are worth it!  I promise.

And just for good measure, here’s a favourite post of the Pinterest crew:  https://td365.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/doing-disney-the-smith-way/

Downtown Disney

I have to admit… after listening to folk rave about Downtown Disney, I found the shopping district to be a HUGE letdown.  Most of what you find there are your typical stores that you can find at any mall in any city.  I’m shopping at Downtown Disney because I want to find DISNEY stuff.  So while yeah, you’ll find things at Downtown Disney that you won’t find at any of the Disney parks it’s because it’s not Disney related.

Lily-Ann loved the princess store.  She bought herself a purse and gloves set (courtesy of Karla Amaya, our travel agent, who gave the girl some Disney Dollars to spend), and I bought her a tiara.  We also found a thank you gift for my sister and her girlfriend who watched over our furry and feathered family members while we were gone – a very cool mad hatter tea pot and tea set.  Seriously, if we could have afforded two of them, I’d have got one for myself.  LOL

The other cool shop was the Lego store.  It really was neat to see that many sets all in one place – and I loved the create your own figures center as well as the bulk lego pieces.  That was pretty awesome.  And I adored the amazing lego dragon they had built out front.  It was seriously incredible!

Other than that, there were little bits and pieces here and there…  but overall?  It was a pretty underwhelming experience.  We were glad when we decided to head back to our resort.  It was a MUCH cooler place to spend the remainder of our last day.  🙂

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The last of the four Walt Disney World parks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I realize it’s cliched to say it, but while it’s the last it’s not the least.  Hollywood Studios is AMAZING!  I’ve already shared the photos from the girl’s Jedi Training School experience, which was totally incredible and jealousy inducing, but that was just one small part of our day.

There are just a TON of character meets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the lines were minimal compared to many of the other parks.  There’s a bunch to do, yet this park doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as the others (of course, by this point we had our system pretty much perfected – which really helps).  And it’s not totally kid-centric either, which was great.  This park definitely had the broadest appeal, with everything from Star Wars to the Muppets to Phineas and Ferb to Pixar’s greatest hits to classic Disney as well.  We loved everything about this one.  It was fabulous!

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!

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:

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