Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas trip 2017, Day 1, Animal Kingdom

Our first full day in the parks this trip we started and finished at Animal Kingdom.  This park was open from 9-8 and our three fastpasses (fp, from now on) were Safari, (10:30-11:30) Kali River Rapids (11:55-12:55) and Flight of Passage (2:10-1:10.)  I was so happy that we were able to get that last fp that I think we let it get to our heads a little when we were trying to leave this morning.  That and the fact that we still hadn't realized just how far away our hotel room was from the bus stop.  Either way, we still made it to the park with the first rush of people, but we were at the back of the pack instead of the front and so knowing that we had fp for Flight of Passage later, we didn't even bother trying to get in that line.  Instead we walked right on the Na'vi River Journey, attraction #1 at 8:40.

If you don't get to the parks well before opening time, I can't stress enough how much you are missing out on.  We were on this ride 20 mins before the park was suppose to even open, and by the time the park did officially open the line here was already reaching 60 mins which of course was nothing compared to Flight of Passage.  With this line monster out of the way, we moved against the crowds back to the front of the park for our mandatory Tree of Life photo.

With the park now actually open, we ventured into Dinoland.  We tried persuading Littlecjc to visit with Pocahontas first, but our Littlecjc had a one track mind entering here and that was the  Triceratop Spin, attraction #2.

We of course walked right on here, and even could have stayed in our dino for another spin, but thankfully Littlecjc didn't hear the cast member make that announcement so we were able to move on.  We walked over to Dinosaur and took in the large dinos along the way and of course stopped for a picture out front.

We then walked right on making Dinosaur attraction #3.

Although she seemed to enjoy this ride while actually on it, she has decided that she doesn't like this ride because she doesn't like "when you go through the dinosaur at the end."  Ha!  We tried explaining that we dropped under the dinosaur and didn't go through him, but she wouldn't believe us.

Now that the dinosaur rides were taken care of, Littlecjc was ready to meet Pocahontas, character #1.

She was meeting this morning in her jacket and thankfully, she still didn't have a line.  As we came across the front of the park, Russell also had a very short line, but Littlecjc was not interested in meeting him today.  We decided to head to Starbucks for some drinks and to check out the new You Are Here mugs.  We bought this collection when they first came out, but we knew they had all changed and we wanted to see them.  We also had decided we really wanted Littlecjc to see Timon this morning and his first set was suppose to begin at 10, right outside of the Creature Comforts, aka Starbucks.  So with drinks in hand, we waited in line behind the one or two other families that had already lined up while we were in the store.

I'm pretty sure we spotted Timon here the last time we were in the parks, but this was the first time we had stopped to see him.  If you've noticed, Littlecjc had a Lion King dress on and she was excited to show him.  

At 10:00, he promptly made his appearance, and we met Timon, character #2.

With our first fp at Safari starting in 25 minutes, we didn't feel comfortable heading into Asia, so we decided to walk through the Gorilla Falls, attraction #4.

Littlecjc had to check out every single display box this time, and she loved watching the hippos.

We apparently really took our time walking through the falls this time, letting Littlecjc guide us since it was almost 11:00 before we scanned our first fp at Kilimanjaro Safari, attraction #5.


After our safari, we took the Wildlife Express Train, attraction #6 over to Rafiki's Planet Watch.

As soon as you get off the train, you are greeted by these elephant that Littlecjc decided she needed a picture with.  I think our trips to Disney have made my girl very aware of photo ops and she never wants to pass one by.  I love it!

As soon as we got inside the building, she wanted to play hide and seek.  She's mentioned this a few times already this trip usually resulting in me saying Disney World is way too crowded to play that since we may never find each other if we hide.  However, here she asked and no one was around, so her and daddy played one quick round.  I cracked up when I saw where she decided to stop and count.

Thankfully, after one quick round we were able to move on and meet Doc McStuffins, character #3.

I like that they added Doc's meet and greet here, but I think it's funny that you exit her area and find yourself instantly in line to meet Rafiki, character #4.

 This was the first time Littlecjc was interested in exploring the rest of the room, and we found ourselves watching a monkey getting a check-up.  Behind these windows they actually perform surgery and check on animals six days a week.  There are TVs set up so you have an aerial view of the animal on the table and there is always a cast member standing in this hallway to explain what is going on.  We were informed that the doctors come out after the surgery to answer any questions, but we did not hang around long enough to see that ourselves.


When we left this area, although we did get held up a bit at the gift shop outside, we were able to bypass the petting zoo area.  I appreciate that Disney has this area for kids that otherwise could never get that experience, but for us I'm always thrilled when we don't enter here.  So, before long, we were back on the Wilderness Express Train, attraction #7.

When we made it back to the mainlands, we headed towards Asia and our next fp at Kali River Rapids, attraction #8.

We got absolutely soaked this time around on this ride.

After playing on the bridge soaking others a bit, we decided to try the online mobile ordering.  We ordered our food from Sa'tuli as we walked that way.  This worked great and I highly recommend the online ordering.  When we reached the restaurant, we checked in and got our food.  

We enjoyed our food (if you're interested in pictures check out my last post from AK here.  When we finished eating we caught the Drum show, which we would end up seeing many times this trip.

This is a fun, energetic show that Littlecjc never got tired of seeing.

After the show, we were in search of a photographer to get our Pandora picture.

It was now time for us to use our third fp on Flight of Passage, attraction #9.  Since Littlecjc is still too short for this ride, we got a rider swap and I rode first this time.  Some people argue that this is cheating the system by getting a rider swap and using the fp line, but I will continue to do this until Disney stops allowing this.  Both Patrick and I had fp for this ride, even Littlecjc for that matter.  However, you never know when something might happen causing the second member of your group to not make it into line before your time slot expires.  Not to mention, that even if everything runs smoothly here, this ride still takes at least 30 minutes to get through the fp line and attraction.  Once I did finish this attraction, we switched places and Patrick rode Flight of Passage, attraction #10.  While I was on the ride, Patrick got Littlecjc to take some adorable surprise pictures for me.

While Patrick was on the ride, Littlecjc played at the drum circle area.

I don't have any photo proof, but I'm pretty sure when we left Pandora we took in It's Tough to be a Bug, attraction #11.  I always worry about this attraction as it can be too dark and scary for kids, but Littlecjc has never had a problem here.  

At some point after using our fp at Flight of Passage, we were able to score new fp for the River of Lights show.  Since the park seemed a little crowded today, we thought that seemed like a good idea.  The seating in this arena is very limited for standby guests and we've always had the dinner package before so we thought we should hang on to those fps.  We were excited to find these, but that meant that we weren't able to pick up a fp for anything else.  So, we decided to go wait in the standby line for the 4:00 Finding Nemo show.

We made it inside the theater and scored seats for Finding Nemo: The Musical, attraction #12.  I actually thought Littlecjc might fall asleep here, but she was really into the show.  We highly recommend this show and it makes me so happy when I hear my little girl singing "In the Big Blue World."  When the show ended, we decided we needed to retake some pictures.  We stopped at the tree first since Littlecjc wasn't really looking at the camera in our first set of pictures.

This worked out well for us because we also got this magic shot...

...and got to use this frame.

We also went back to Pandora to retake our pictures there.  Although we loved Littlecjc's surprise pictures, we didn't like our family shots thanks to one particular lady in the background who chose the wrong moment to bend over a stroller.  The photographer was in a different area this time, but that still worked for us.

I don't remember what we did during this hour.  This is the other possible time that we could have watched It's Tough to be a Bug, but otherwise, I can't come up with anything that we're missing from the day, so I'm not really sure.  Regardless, we eventually made it over to the concession stand next to the River of Lights entrance.  We stocked up on some snacks for dinner and entered the seating area.

We got great seats since we were a little early and we were able to eat our snacks.  By 6:15 a few performers were roaming the stands keeping us entertained.

The show then started at 6:30.  I think I enjoy this show more with each viewing.  It really is beautiful, and I think these may have been the best seats we've ever had here.

When the show ended, we decided to head back to Pandora.  We didn't do anything special here, but we enjoyed taking in all the special lighting effects.  This was the first time we were able to explore Pandora at night.  Nothing showed up well in our photos, but it was fun and a relaxing way to end the evening.  As we were heading out, we stopped to watch the tree come alive.

We also stopped outside the ticket booths to take pictures with the large Christmas tree here.

This tree really was beautiful and it was a great way to end our fun day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas trip 2017, Arrival, Magic Kingdom

For our 2017 Christmas trip to Disney, we were actually there November 25 - December 2.  Crowd levels were nice and low, and everything was completely decorated for Christmas so this seemed like the perfect week.  I do say that with the one exception of our very first day, this arrival Saturday.  I've always heard that Thanksgiving was crazy in the parks, and this Saturday proved that.  It's amazing the difference in crowds between the weekend and the week that followed, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We arrived at our hotel, Art of Animation by 4:30.  This was our first time staying here, and I'm sure I will write more about it eventually, but for now I will say that the room itself was exactly what we expected and we loved the large characters and decor around the property.  We unloaded the car and unpacked some, and by 5:30 we were at the bus stop heading to Magic Kingdom.

As I stated above, we expected it to be crowded, but I had forgotten what a packed Magic Kingdom looked like.  We've been there during peak summer times, over the holidays, and even New Year's Eve before, but lately we've been there during less crowded times so we were a bit shell shocked walking in the park.  By the time we got to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, it was 6:50.  We had planned ahead and arranged for three fastpasses this evening.  We decided if that was all we accomplished this evening that was fine.  (One of the perks of now being an annual passholder.)  So here's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, attraction #1.

Since we made it here right at the end of our fastpass time slot, by the time we got off and crossed the crowded park, and stopped in at pin traders to look for the Red Head pirate pin, it was already time for our second fastpass; Big Thunder Mountain, attraction #2.

Unfortunately, we didn't find the red head pin, but Littlecjc did show interest for the first time in some Mickey ears.  To be more specific, some fairy ears.  We said no at this time, but we'll come back to this later.

We took the long route from Frontierland through Adventureland, but everything still seemed busy there, so we opted instead to wait in line at Sleepy Hallow for some chicken waffles.  So good and worth the wait in line.  Our final fastpass was for Peter Pan's Flight, attraction #3.  We quickly got on the app to see if we could pick up any other fastpasses and grabbed some for Mad Tea Party, attraction #4.

We again looked at the app, and picked up fastpasses for Barnstormer, but we had a little time first.  I think Patrick had Gaston's Tavern in mind, but as we passed Eric's castle, Littlecjc decided we needed a picture.

We of course then needed to ride Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, attraction #5.

I don't remember if Patrick ever made it to Gaston's, it probably had too long of a line for his liking, but we ended up at Storybook Circus to use our final fastpass of the night on Barnstormer, attraction #6.

At this point we had been going back and forth on whether or not we were going to try to watch the fireworks, but with the crazy crowd, we didn't really think it was worth it.  Patrick wanted to try another store in Tomorrowland, still in search of his pirate pin, so we decided to go there instead.  Littlecjc saw her fairy ears again, and we decided it made more sense to buy this at the beginning of our trip instead of the end.

She was so happy!  Unfortunately, Patrick had no luck again with his pin.  He had been looking on the app now and even on our last trip, but even though it shows up as in stock, no one can ever find it in the store.  Thankfully, we had already made the decision to leave instead of watching the fireworks, because as we left Tomorrowland, we were directed toward the front of the park via the terrace and then the back passageway around Main Street as the front of the hub and Main Street were already at capacity.  There were actually people standing inside the tape on this side street as well.  I didn't even know they put tape down there.  When we reached the end of Main Street, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but we decided to take this quick picture and then continued to exit.

We made it to our bus stop just as the fireworks were starting, which provided our entertainment while we waited.  We actually had a good view so it was nice.

When the bus did come Littlecjc quickly grabbed her seat in the very back where she could watch the fireworks until the bus decided to leave.  Aww, sad face that she was missing the end of the fireworks.

We may not have had a crazy first day in the park, but we had a great time and were happy to spend any amount of time in the park.  Before being annual passholders, we never would have gone into the park for just a few hours, so it was a nice change and something I will probably miss if or more likely when we decide to get rid of our passes.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Day 5, EPCOT, Food & Wine festival, Sept 2017

Our final day of this trip was spent in Epcot.  Last year was our first time at Epcot during the International Food and Wine Festival and we loved it.  I was so excited that we were able to visit during this festival again.  Unfortunately, it was opening weekend for the festival and Labor Day weekend, so it was the busiest crowd I had ever seen while walking around the world showcase.  That being said, we still had a blast and accomplished everything we really wanted to get done.  As usual, we arrived at the park early and were admitted inside the park by about 8:30 where we were able to take our first pictures.

In case you can't see our shirts, here's a close-up.  I was super proud of these.

When the park actually opened, we were already in line to meet our first characters: Joy and Sadness, characters #1 & #2.

Naturally, we also stopped to see Baymax, character #3 who only had one person waiting in line.

We then made our way to Soarin around the World, attraction #1.  This line grows long quickly, but it wasn't too bad yet.  This was another one of those rides that Littlecjc was finally tall enough to ride.  I really expected her to like this one and she said she did, but I feel like she spent more time watching the seats move, trying to figure out how it all worked instead of the screen.  

We opted not to ride Living with the Land, thinking we might come back, but we never did make it back into the Land pavilion.  Instead, we opted to go against the crowd, back to the front of the park to use our first fastpass at Spaceship Earth, attraction #2.  From the beautiful stars to beyond, we then moved to Mission: Space, attraction #3.

Littlecjc was so excited for this one.  She is only tall enough for the Green mission, but she felt special with her lanyard that the CMs gave her to indicate that she needed the special booster seat.  It was nice to experience the new video, but I'm glad to hear that they didn't change the orange mission, because I think it is still more exciting.  Even after our vacation, she says that the ride with the booster seat was her favorite new ride.

Since we were close to the Food and Wine Festival Center, we decided to check it out.  I'm so glad we did this, because otherwise we would have missed these beautiful chocolate displays.

These pictures obviously don't do them justice.  We also spent some time here looking at the festival merchandise and collecting our passholder festival pins.

As we moved on around the World Showcase, it was time to go on a Remy scavenger hunt.  Much like the Easter eggs we searched for on our last trip to Epcot, this time we were searching for little Remy statues each holding a different ingredient.  Littlecjc was super excited to start this, but ironically we really struggled at our first location, Mexico.  After a while we told her we would come back and moved on to Norway.  Here, we found Remy high up at The Puffin's Roost.

Here he is with his bread.

The Remy in China was also atop a building, holding his pepper shaker.

At the Outpost, we found Remy on the Germany side of the festival merchandise building, with some onions.

In Germany, surprise, Remy was located on the porch of Kunstarbeit in Kristall with a squash.

By now, we had noticed a trend, and were not surprised to find Remy in Italy atop the Tutto Italia Ristorante with some Olive Oil.

We stopped at one of the festival kitchens here, Italy, to get some calamari.  Yum!

Continuing our Remy search, we reached the American pavilion and found him high above the Fife and Drum Tavern with a skillet.

The Americans that we are, also stopped here at the Hops and Barley festival kitchen for some Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese.

Thankfully, the Remy in Japan was not on the top of any buildings, but instead, he was sitting on a rock at the back of this pond with his carrot.

At this point, we took a break from our scavenger hunt and made way toward our second fast past, Finding Nemo, attraction #4.  En route, we passed this awesome Figment.

After the ride, Littlecjc had to explore the play area and the inside of Bruce's mouth.

We then stopped for some more yummy Piggy Wings at the Flavors from the Fire festival kitchen.

After our snack, we were able to ride Frozen Ever After, attraction #5 with our third fastpass.

Unfortunately, when you sit in the back, you get lost if you're little.  Keeping with the Frozen theme, we moved next door to meet Elsa, character #4

and Anna, character #5.

At some point after scanning our bands at Frozen Ever After, we got on the app and started looking for another fastpass.  We were able to pick up Test Track at 3:15, meaning we had just a little time to kill first.  We used that time to go back to Mexico and find the Remy we missed earlier.  Coming from this direction, we quickly found him on the kitchen across from the Mexico pavilion, with his peppers.

We then made our way to Test Track, attraction #6 and used our fourth fastpass.  Littlecjc loves to accessorize her vehicle.

Littlecjc really liked Mission Space this trip and asked if we could do it again.  The green side usually doesn't have much of a wait, so we agreed making Mission Space attraction #7.

With a few more rides done, we started back around the World in search of some more food.  We stopped first at The Almond orchard for a Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae.  Unfortunately for you, it was really good so we forgot about taking a picture until it was empty.

Littlecjc had fallen asleep in her stroller, so we took advantage and tried more food.  Next up was Scotland.  We got the Fresh Potato Pancake and the Tipsy Laird.

We continued to snack around for dinner and hit up Brazil for some Crispy Pork Belly and Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread.)

The pork was great.  The bread was ok, but nothing amazing.  After we used our fastpass at Test Track, we were able to pick up some for Soarin so we turned around and started walking back that way.  We wanted Littlecjc to get a good nap in, but we didn't want to miss our fp time either.  While en route, Patrick and I stopped for a picture since this photographer looked so bored.

When we made it back to The Land, we woke up Littlecjc and rode Soarin, attraction #8.

After leaving The Land, we decided to take advantage of our special meet and greet that is offered here for Disney Visa cardholders.  The characters are always a surprise here, but we've always met some combination of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, or Pluto.  Today, we met Mickey and Goofy, characters #6 and #7.

Now that Littlecjc was fully awake again, she realized that she hadn't found all of the little Remys and our search continued.  There were several marketplaces set up here on this side of Future World so we started there.  At Flavors from the Fire, we found Remy at the back corner of the building with some garlic.

We found another Remy on the Earth Eats building, this time with some cucumbers.

On the walkway from Future World to the World Showcase, we found the Cheese Studio where Remy was again on the roof with some herbs.

Finally back to the World Showcase, we found Remy in Canada atop another marketplace with some salt and pepper shakers.

We also stopped here in Canada for the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup that someone had told us we had to try.  This was good, but it seemed like a very small portion.

By now we were on a roll finding Remy so we quickly moved on to the UK and found him above the Rose and Crown Pub with some vinegar.

In France, he was back by the Impressions of France with an eggplant.

And our final Remy was on the Morocco marketplace with a tomato.

As you can see, we decided to get some chocolate baklava here.

Littlecjc was so excited to finish her Remy Hide and Squeak.

I guess she was proud of herself too, because she wanted to show everyone as we walked around the world to redeem our prize. 

The prize this time ended up being a key chain.  Here is the one Littlecjc chose.

At this point, we decided that we didn't need to stay for Illuminations this evening, so we started making our way towards the front of the park where we stopped to get this picture.

I've mentioned before that Littlecjc enjoys coloring on her signature cards, but this evening she decided that she was a princess and that Daddy needed her signature.  I found a little secluded space where we were able to have this adorable little moment.

We finished our day back at the Festival Center before heading out for the night.  Even though the World Showcase was crazy busy today, we had such a great day.  This was the perfect ending to our mini vacation.