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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!

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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