Friday, April 21, 2017

Epcot, October 2016

If you've been following along on this trip, you know that we had briefly visited Epcot the evening before.  This in no way lessened how excited we were for this day.  I had preplanned this day to the max.  We had a breakfast reservation before the park opened at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, and 4 fastpasses between the three of us.  Since Littlecjc is too short to ride most of the rides here in the top tiers that need fastpasses, we were able to split up our fastpasses and take advantage of a rider swap pass for these attractions.  So, going into the day we all had fastpasses for Character Spot and Turtle Talk with Crush.  At one point, we all also had fastpasses for Frozen Ever After.  However, once we snagged the early breakfast next door at Akershus and Soarin reopened with Soarin Around the World, I dropped my Frozen pass to pick up a Soarin pass just to guarantee that we would get it all in.  Even with all this planning, we really changed this day up due to staying with our friends.

The park did not open until 9:00 this day, but we were outside of Epcot by 8:00 because we had breakfast reservations at 8:15 at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  We love this restaurant.  If you've read my post from our June 2016 trip, you know that we had lunch here during our last trip.  Both meals were great, we've had great service (actually the same waiter both times), and the princesses were always present and fun to meet.   First, Belle, character #1 greeted us as we entered.

Once seated we were shown the buffet to take advantage of while we waited for our homestyle breakfast to be brought to our table.  I didn't get a picture of the buffet, but here is the breakfast that was delivered to our table.  PS. those cheesy potatoes were amazing.

 Within the time it took us to eat, we then were able to meet Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, and Snow White, characters #2, 3, 4, and 5.

We had hopes of being done with our breakfast by this time, so that we could get a jump start on the mad rush heading to Frozen Ever After when the park opened.  This worked out perfectly.  When we left the restaurant, we saw the rush coming and we joined right in with the front runners and were among the first riders of the day.  By 9:05, we were completing attraction #1, Frozen Ever After.

When we got off the ride, we went right next door to the new meet and greet area of the Arendelle royalty.  Already on character #6 and 7, we met Elsa and Anna.

By this point, we had met up with our friends and we all headed to The Land and straight to Soarin'.  Littlecjc is still too little for this attraction, so after walking to the Soarin' line and getting our rider's swap pass, Soarin' became attraction #2 for most of our party, while Littlecjc and I headed over to the empty Living with the Land, attraction #3.  

Even within the first hour of the park opening, Soarin' had a line, so Littlecjc and I knew that we had time to head upstairs and watch The Circle of Life, attraction #4.  

This video is one that we usually skip, but it was nice to have something to do while we waited for the rest of our party to finish riding Soarin'.  The timing worked out perfectly.  We met back up with our party as soon as the video was over.  We were fortunate enough to have another friend that lives in Gainesville drive down to join us all for the day.  So, we met up with them and took a little time to catch up.  While the guys were all talking, us ladies took the kids into the Character Spot to use our fastpasses and meet some characters.

This hour was all about the characters.  Moving through the character spot, we met Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie, characters #8, 9, and 10.  

After joining back up with the guys, we split up again.   Instead of using my fastpast, which only would have gotten me on Soarin, I took our two latecomers to Soarin', attraction #5, where we used the rider swap to use the fastpass entrance.  The rest of our party waited in line to see Baymax, character #11.

We of course all got together when we were done with our separate activities.  This was the first time for all of us to be in Epcot during the Food and Wine festival, and we were all ready to partake in that fun.  We snacked off and on all afternoon, never having an actual lunch or dinner.  Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures from this afternoon, since we spent a lot of time simply visiting with our friends and exploring the world showcase.

This hour started with our first samplings of food and beverages, and ended with another ride on Frozen Ever After, attraction #6 for those of our party that had this fastpass.

During these 3 hours, we enjoyed food and friends around the showcase, while Littlecjc took a great nap along the way.

By 4:00, we were meeting up again, this time over by Figment.  It was a random occurrence as far as I'm aware, but we noticed that Gaston was meeting off to the side of the building so we headed that way.  I know that character training happens frequently at Epcot (in the American pavilion), but I had never seen anyone here before, and he was all by himself (minus his escort of course.)  So, we finally met Gaston, character #12.

Since everyone started their day at different times, and those of us with kids made the dash to Frozen, we then headed back to the front of the park to get our iconic Epcot pictures.


At this point, we needed to ride Spaceship Earth, attraction #7, since my little one loves it. 

  As a bonus, the younger ones all loved playing the games at the exit.

After a while, we decided to head to the next space attraction.  The great thing about this ride is that there is an indoor play area for those that are too little to ride.  So everyone besides Littlecjc and one of our other friends rode Mission Space, attraction #8.  

After again playing the games at this ride exit, we moved on to Test Track.  Since Littlecjc was too little for this ride, we got a rider swap while a few went ahead and rode Test Track, attraction #9, through the single rider line.  

This is a best place to take advantage of the single rider line.  Because of the design of the cars, two rows of three seats, the single rider line actually moves pretty quickly.  So when the first group returned, three more of us went through the fastpass line using our rider swap making Test Track, attraction #10.  Check out this amazing car design.

By this time, we were ready for another lap around the world and more food.

Of course, no day at Epcot is complete without viewing Illuminations.  As always there is a mass exodus after any of the nighttime spectaculars, so we always take our time and usually take a walk through the shops.  I think all the kids were asleep by the time we made it to the front of the park.  I know Littlecjc was as she didn't make this picture.

Overall, this was a great day! We enjoyed our first Food and Wine festival and look forward to attending again.  We also enjoyed visiting with friends.  In total, we saw 12 characters and got in 10 attractions, 11 if you count Illuminations.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Wall-E

"I don't want to survive, I want to live" - Captain

This week, Deb prompted us to post a picture of nature.  Here's the Mickey sandpit at Disney's Magnolia Golf Course.

Focused on the Magic

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hello Monday

Weekend Update

On Friday, Patrick's parents came in town to visit for Easter.  While we ate dinner, the Easter Bunny visited our back yard to hide some eggs and left something special for Littlecjc.  She hunted the eggs for a bit, and then she noticed her basket and took off running.

This year, the Easter bunny left her a Doc McStuffins ambulance and her basket had some snacks and a small Little Mermaid lego set.

On Saturday, we started our morning at the local VFW post for another Easter egg hunt.  Here, Littlecjc was given popcorn and a drink while everyone waited for the hunt to start.

This hunt was a lot smaller than the one we went to last weekend, but there were still several kids that showed up.  Littlecjc had fun and ended up with several eggs.

After the egg hunt, everyone went back inside where pictures could then be taken with the Easter bunny.  Littlecjc wasn't interested in getting her picture taken and since I already had a picture of her with the Easter bunny last weekend, I was fine with that.  So, after visiting with my grandpa for a bit we decided to head out.  Littlecjc was also given a treat bag when we left that had additional, and larger candies inside.

Our final community egg hunt this year, was at the Knights of St. John's.  I was impressed with the amount of kids here, but it was still a pretty calm hunt.  Littlecjc probably ended up with the most eggs at this hunt, but her most favorite part was that everyone got a hotdog lunch after the egg hunt.

When Easter Sunday finally got here, we went to church and then out to my mom's for a brunch with my grandparents.  I can't believe that I didn't take one picture on Easter Sunday.  I know I took one on Patrick's phone and I think my mom might have taken a few, but I personally don't have a single photo to share.  

Hello Monday
Here's your peak at this week.  If you pay attention, you will notice something exciting next weekend!  We have a Wall-E theme this week, since I figured we'd be eating fast food while traveling.

Hello Pippin
I'm so excited to go see Pippin this evening.  My brother and sister-in-law gave Patrick and me tickets for this show at Christmas.  So, they are watching Littlecjc this evening while Patrick and I get a little date night.  I love all theater, but especially musicals.  Broadway across America is one of the best ideas ever in my opinion.  I have been fortunate enough to get to Broadway for many shows over two different trips to New York, but I've seen just as many shows both in Chicago and here in our own town thanks to these traveling companies.

Hello New Do
On Tuesday, I have a hair appointment, to chop off a lot of my hair.  This is a big deal for me, because I'm that person that only cuts my hair maybe once a year.  I usually chop it all off every few years and then just occasionally trim it up until it gets way long again and then cut it all off again.  In fact, this will be the first time for Littlecjc to go with me, and if she will sit still, she may just get a little trim herself.

Hello Binge List
So last week, I mentioned that Patrick and I started watching a new Netflix original called The Killing.  Well, we are now almost finished with the third season, and I'm sad that there are only four seasons because I am so into this show.  I do need to correct myself though.  Apparently, this show did not originate on Netflix, but after it was cancelled from AMC, Neflix picked it up for a final fourth season of only 6 episodes.  I have also finally made it to the final shorter season of Gossip Girl.  I doubt I will finish both, if either this week, but I definitely don't think I'll be starting anything new.

Hello New Reads
Last week, I did finish Beautiful Ruins, which was enjoyable but nothing too memorable for me.  I decided to start Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell.  This is a book that I heard a lot about last year, but to be honest, I'm not too impressed yet.  I guess time will tell.

Hello Pavement
A while back, I mentioned my thoughts about running the Disney marathon.  Well, last week, I made it out twice in attempts to start jogging.  My first day out, I jogged for 20mins and I was thrilled to have made it through the whole time without needing to walk.  The second day was harder, but I mostly jogged through 25 mins.  I was so excited after my first day, and I was proud after the second.  I need to get out today for 30 mins and we'll see how it goes.  I have a few more weeks of this run/walk training where my time will gradually increase, before dropping back down to 20mins of actual running.  So, I feel like I'm on track.  We'll see how it goes.

The only other thing I can think of going on this week, is that I need to start packing for our trip and making sure that we have everything ready to go.  

Happy Monday Everyone!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Magic Kingdom bonus, October 2016

Originally we had planned this day to be a rest day, but late the night we decided to add another day.  It wasn't going to be much more for us to add another day in the park to our tickets, but while waiting in line at the concierge, we talked with a friend who is a castmember who offered to get us into the park.  Castmemebers have a set amount of days that they are able to get three people into the park as long as they enter the park with them.  Our friend agreed to meet us at the park entrance early enough to watch the welcome show since we missed it the first day due to our early breakfast reservation.  Keep in mind though, that by using these passes we were unable to get fastpasses until the park opened and we made it to a kiosk.  This applies to every fastpass after your initial three as well.  However, these gate passes are hoppers and once you've entered the park in the morning with the castmember, they do not need to be with you the rest of the day even if you do decide to go to a different park.  Since this was truly a bonus day, we tried to still make it more of a restful day and just go with flow more than the determined park goers we normally are.

We opted to stop in at Town Square Theater as soon as we entered the park, so Mickey Mouse became character #1.

After visiting with Mickey, we took our time up Main Street, again stopping in front of the castle to take another one of those iconic pictures.

Our next step was the fastpass kiosk in Fantasyland to get our three initial fastpasses.  We ended up with Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and Barnstormer.  Our friend had a long day of work still ahead of her, so she did not stay with us in the park so we also spent a few minutes catching up and making plans to meet up again later in the week before we left town.  Once she left, we headed to Peter Pan's Flight, attraction #1.  This is another example of the fun, interactive lines that Disney has to help pass the time.  Here's Littlecjc's shadow trying to catch some butterflies.

We left our pirate ship and went next door for another boat ride.  It's a Small World, attraction #2 is a classic and little ones love that there is so much going on all around them.

Since we bypassed the Carousel so many times the first day in the park, we gave in today and let Littlecjc ride her horse.  Carousel, attraction #3.

When we dismounted our horses, we headed to the Mad Tea Party, attraction #4, for a spin in a teacup.

We seem to have good timing with this ride, as we have been able to catch a few somewhat rare characters at it's exit.  This time, we met Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, characters #2 and 3.

After this fun interaction, it was time for our first fastpass.  We made our way to Winnie the Pooh, attraction #5.

We had spent 2 hours in Fantasyland and decided it was time to move on to Tomorrowland.  Astro Orbitor always has a line unless the park has just opened or is closing.  The line itself never seems that long, but it moves slowly.  Littlecjc really likes this ride, so we decided to wait it out.  We were even chosen to monitor the time.

If you've been to Disney before, you've probably seen these red cards either being held by someone in line or maybe even a casstmember has given you one before.  These help monitor the wait times.  Castmembers scan these at the start of the line and then hand them off to a guest entering the line.  When that guest gets to the attraction they hand them off to another castmember who scans the card again.  I don't know the specifics of how these work, but by the castmembers doing this so many times each hour, they are able to keep the wait times listed pretty accurate to the actual wait time.  So, Littlecjc held onto her red card while waiting in line for Astro Orbitor, attraction #6.

When we made it back to ground level, it was time for our second fastpass at Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, attraction #7.

By the time we finished defending the galaxy, it was almost 11:00 and we decided to stop at Cosmic Ray's for a quick service lunch.

Littlecjc really enjoyed watching Sunny Eclipse perform.

When we were done eating, we made our way back to the Storybook Circus at the back of Fantasyland.  We started at Dumbo, which has a great play area for kids to have fun while waiting in line while parents can rest inside the AC.  You are actually given a buzzer like you would get at a restaurant that holds your place in line. Littlecjc was playing in the toddler area when we ran into a friend.

Remember the friend that got us into the park today?  This is her husband.  It was fun being able to see him in action since he is a newer castmember.

Once our buzzer went off we got back in line and headed back outside to ride Dumbo, attraction #8.

Inside Storybook Circus, there is a big circus tent set up in the back called Pete's Silly Side Show where you can meet Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Minnie.  We've met all these characters before in other locations, but this was the first time meeting them here which is so fun since they are themed for the area.  The boys are on one side while the girls are on the other.  The boys had a shorter line at the time, so we jumped in their line and met the Great Goofini, character #4 and the Astounding Donaldo Snake Charmer, character #5.

Before just stepping next door and visiting with the girls, we needed to head to the Barnstormer, attraction #9  and use our fastpasses.

After riding the plane as Littlecjc calls it, we went back to the big top to meet Daisy Fortuna, character #6 and Minnie Magnigique, the poodle trainer, character #7.

We decided to leave Storybook Circus by taking the train.  Poor littlecjc was so excited to ride the train, but she didn't even make it to the front of the park.  Regardless, the Walt Disney World Railroad was attraction #10.

Since she crashed, we decided to continue to ride until we got to Frontierland.

After disembarking in Frontierland, we casually strolled through the park making our way to the front of the park and guest relations.  We knew that Magic Kingdom was closing at 7 due to a Mickey's not So Scary Halloween party.  We also knew that Epcot had evening extra magic hours, so we were debating hopping over there.  However, we wanted to verify whether or not we would be able to take advantage of the extra hours since yes we were staying in a Disney hotel, but we had used a castmember pass to get in the park on this specific day.  Guest relations was pretty busy at this time since I think many park goers were getting information and possibly tickets for the party that evening and I'm not sure the cm completely understood my question, but he did say that as long as we had hotel reservations synced to our magic bands we should be fine regardless of how we entered the park.  (In all honesty, we didn't end up testing this answer.)  With this info we decided that we would go ahead and hop over to Epcot after the Festival of Fantasy parade.  We did still have some time before the parade began, but Littlcjc was still sleeping so we casually strolled through the Emporium taking some time to check out all the new inventory and in particular deciding if we would be interested in any of the Halloween items.  We left the Emporium about 2:00 and crossed the street for some Starbucks (also a good place to buy juice in the park for Little ones.)  With drinks in hand, we picked a curb spot along Main Street and took a seat.  Although those with tickets to the party that evening couldn't enter until 4:00 without a park ticket, there were still many people walking up Main Street in costume, so we enjoyed watching the people, castmembers selling balloons, and made some phone calls back home.  At about 2:50 the Main Street Philharmonic Band came marching down the street.

Littlecjc started to wake with the help of the band which worked out well as she was able to drink her juice while we waited for the Festival of Fantasy parade to begin.  After waiting so long to watch this parade, we were super excited to see it and I'm counting it as attraction #11, Festival of Fantasy Parade.

As stated earlier, we decided to leave with the masses after the parade and we headed towards Epcot.  We rode the monorail for an easy and fun transfer.

We arrived at Epcot with one goal in mind, to ride Frozen Ever After.  We had been watching the app, and knew that the ride had been down for a while, but we figured worse case scenario we would just get dinner somewhere and head back to the hotel.  We made our way to Norway and discovered a line behind a rope stating that the ride was currently down.  We explored the new pavilion and discussed our options.  By 5:30 we had decided to sit in the line for a while and see what happened.  

During the 6:00 hour we continued to sit in this line.  There were only 2 groups ahead of us and an extremely nice family behind us.  We took turns exploring with Charlie and had some great snacks from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe.

Littlecjc remained well behaved and had a lot of fun playing with the girl in line behind us, so we stayed in line.  

During this hour, the two groups in front of us gave up and we became the first group in line.  As long as Littlecjc continued to behave, we knew there was no way we could leave now that we were at the front unless they told us it wasn't going to open again that evening.  Eventually, probably about 7:45 we found out that it was going to open again, even though it wasn't entirely fixed, but first for those that had fastpasses at any time that the ride was down or for the current hour.  We were a little bummed but hadn't totally given up and some people behind us started asking more questions.  A few minutes later, they opened the gate saying we would be stopped further up but that we could enter.  We rushed through, while taking in the decor the best we could while not getting ran over and continued to walk right on to the ride.  No one ever stopped us and we rode in the very first row, completing our day with attraction #12, Frozen Ever After.

When we got off the ride, we noticed that they had closed off the standby line like we were originally told, and only those with fastpasses were able to enter.  My guess is they closed the line once off once everyone entered that had been waiting while it was down.  Either that or someone messed up and wasn't suppose to let us enter, but either way it worked out in our advantage.  We debated staying for Illuminations and the extra magic hours, but the ride lines were all long and knowing that we would be returning the next day we opted to just beat the crowd out of the park to return to our hotel.  We maybe didn't get as much in today as we only got in 12 attractions (including 1 parade) and 7 character meet and greets, but it was extremely successful as we rode the new Frozen ride and had a blast at Magic Kingdom.  We originally planned on this being a rest day, so we said from the beginning that we didn't want to rush around wearing ourselves out like normal.  We were very happy with our decisions this day and didn't feel like we had missed out by not staying at Epcot until close.