I kind of had a hunch that 2011 would be a great year. I was getting married, going on a long and relaxing Disney honeymoon, and our house was getting new windows! Life just can’t get any better than that… (Seriously, we really need those windows!) But what I did not anticipate was going on two more Disney World vacations this year – officially the most I’ve ever taken in that span of time. This is how we ended up in Orlando last weekend. My husband and I should be thanking his former New York client who decided to relocate to sunny Florida. A business trip quickly became a 3-day sojourn to Mickey’s place.
So here we were going from a 12-day trip to an extended weekend. A stay in Bay Lake Tower to my first rendezvous in a value resort (Hello, All-Star Music!). Crippling August heat, four hours of sleep before a crack-of-dawn flight, and attempting to see four parks in 2 days. Honestly, like most Disney people, we were just glad to be seeing the place for whatever amount of time we could. Even a half hour would suffice just to get a fix. (Yep, we’re addicted.) In case you didn’t know, you can’t do EVERYTHING in 2 days. Nope. But we tried, which is why we slept like someone out of the Haunted Mansion for two nights in a row. Instead of a normal trip report, I decided to pull a “Stacey” and make my own Top 10 of the trip (which actually means Top 25!).
10. Losing my voice. Somehow, we managed to skip most of the major thrill rides when we last visited in March. Either the lines were too long, or we missed out on fast passes. James made me promise we would try harder this time, and I couldn’t really say no. He was the reason we were in Florida in the first place. So we waited in line for 40 minutes or so for Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, which I love even if it still scares the shit out of me. (Fun fact: Stacey’s favorite ride according to her interview with Lou Mongello.) It’s always the first few seconds when it goes 0 to 60 mph. (The first time I went on this, my neck killed me afterwards.) Anyway, I’m not ashamed. After watching 5-year old kids happily jump on this thing, I screamed my head off and had a super time. (Except our song clip was not a good one. Boo.)
My voice was pretty scratchy the next day when we arrived at Animal Kingdom and bolted toward Everest. A posted 10-minute wait was more like 5 minutes and we went on it twice in a row. I’m frightened of this ride. Terrified. If you look at pictures, I look like I am getting murdered every single time. Damn that Yeti! I called my mom afterwards and she told me I sounded like a man. Nice lady, right? The last day was pretty bad. I was on my own most of the day, and people kept asking if I was sick and giving me tea remedies. (That was a sweet cast member.) Nope, I just lost it screaming on a ride. Nope, I’m not sick, I told my coworkers when I returned. Yes, I’m sure. I think I know exactly what I need to do to avoid this from happening again: go on these rollercoasters more! Get ready, November! I’m coming!
9. All-Star Movies Resort. Like I mentioned above, this was my first time staying at a value resort. (If you remember from last week, I mostly stay on DVC property.) To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. But I gotta tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure the decor was too bright and cartoon-y for my taste. Who exactly picked out that boyish border for the rooms? Ugh. However, I did love the pools. We paid for a preferred room and were close to the lobby and the pools. There was even an outdoor bar with a great bartender named Gaston. Well James went to go fetch his ID, he was telling me all about his honeymoon to Disney World with his wife 30 or so years ago! He said that he hasn’t met Disney World honeymooners who haven’t had a long and happy marriage. Sweetest man. (Go say hi to him! He’s awesome!)
Back to the resort. The rooms were quiet at night and the pastry selection at breakfast was stellar. I would have liked a larger bed though, seeing as I fell out of ours. (Not kidding) I could see that bed getting to be uncomfy after a few days but for two nights, I didn’t care. I was so tired anyway I would have slept on a lounge chair.
Another thing I was worried about was the transportation, yet we never had to wait too long. It was just on the way back to the hotel we were crammed into some crowded buses. All-Star property is pretty close to all the major parks; the longest ride I had was when I went to Downtown Disney on Monday morning.
One weird thing was the lack of towels at the pool. You had to use your towel from the room. They gave you plenty of extras if you asked but it was unexpected. If I would have known, I would have brought my own from home.
All in all depending on the length of my stay and the state of my wallet, I would definitely stay at the All-Star Music again. (Never thought I would say that!)
8. Kona Cafe. I definitely got curious about dinner at this place after reading so many rave reviews all over the blogs. When I saw they had pineapple-teriyaki glazed sirloin on the menu, I knew my husband would love this place. We also love any excuse to explore the Poly so we booked a later dinner, and planned to watch Wishes from the beach for the first time. That didn’t exactly work out as planned because Wishes started at 10, and even though we got in after our reservation time, there was just too much time to kill after our meal and before Wishes. (I actually got to see the Magic, Memories, and You for the first time and absolutely loved it. It’s amazing how projections can change the look of the castle so much!)
Back to food. Everything was delicious. For an appetizer, James tried sushi for the first time (cucumber rolls); it was fabulous. (This was a huge picture-worthy moment.) He had the sirloin and I had the pan-Asian noodles with shrimp, paired with two great beers – Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale and the Kona Wailua (made with passion fruit). It was pretty depressing not to have room for dessert (since they showed us the samples before our meal) but I never would have fit on the boat to MK with it. This just means we have to head back! Service was a little slow, and not too personal but I like that this restaurant is off the beaten path.
7. Tusker House. Here’s another place we frequented for breakfast on our honeymoon, and decided to try out for another meal. It was tough to scrap Yak & Yeti and make a reservation at TH but I was a big girl and managed to do it. Was it better than Y&Y? I wouldn’t say that. I think a table service makes things a bit nicer, but I did like how I could sample so many different kinds of meats, salads, breads, and desserts at TH. I didn’t find one piece of food I didn’t like, and I can’t stop thinking about those mango tarts at the dessert table. (Also loved the Tunisian Couscous salad, the seafood stew, and my Tusker House Lager. Yummmmmmm.) Three plates later, I was sufficiently stuffed and still able to walk… so that was a plus. We would definitely return to TH, even though my heart belongs to Y&Y (4-eva! Got it?).
6. Star Tours. Don’t hurt me, but I’ll tell you right now the only “new” character I noticed in the upgraded version of Star Tours was Darth Vader. Oh, and Princess Leia. Yay! That’s two. Even though I’m not a Star Wars aficionado (not even close… I’ve only seen one of the movies), I think all the improvements to ST are wonderful. I really loved the old one (even after riding it close to a million times) but this one is even better. The 3D makes it fun; the whole ride is more suspenseful and it’s just everything it should be. When’s the last time WDW had such a great upgrade?
5. Downtown Disney morning. Instead of using a park hopper for only a few hours, I decided to head to DTD for some alone time while James went to work. This was fun because if you recall with number 10, I had no voice. It made it hard to order, and talk to people in general. Not that I talked to many, but still. I’m chatty with cast members when I’m by myself for a few hours. For breakfast I grabbed an iced coffee and a vanilla crumb donut from Babycakes (You. must. get. one.) and sat by the water reading. Then I shopped a lot. TrenD is one of my favorite stores in the area and it didn’t disappoint. (I bought a Cinderella tank top and some dragonfly earrings.) I also stepped into D-Street for the first time, which could have been a huge disaster for my wallet. If you are not a Vinyl fan, it’s so worth just peeking in because there is some awesome decor. I wish I could have spent all that time crafting with vinyls. Afterwards, I heard some Miley Cyrus playing on a boat to Saratoga Springs and took it as a sign. I jumped on, grabbed a quick lunch at Artist’s Palette (I heart veggie flatbreads), and took the walking path back to DTD and my bus.
4. Enchanted Tiki Room soft opening. If you follow our Twitter account (and I hope you do), you’ll know my husband was sweet enough to let me use his iPhone during the trip to tweet a bit. We were able to also keep up with the #tikiwatch. James spotted the news that people were getting in as we were eating at Tusker House, and we decided to ditch our original plans (Epcot) and run to MK! We hopped on a bus to the Contemporary and walked to MK in the rain. And we made it! I think I may have seen the “original” Tiki Room once before Iago and Zazu took over. (Ugh. I can’t even listen to that park audio. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.) I thought the show was lively, classic, and fun. Kind of glad they gave up on the group sing-a-long though. Never a fan of those. For a simple show, there is so much to see around the theater as it’s going on. It seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves, and I’m glad we got a chance to see it!
3. Our first Mickey hats! You can’t visit the Mouse’s house and not stop in and say hi. On our way out of MK, we decided to see the Mouse is his brand new home in Town Square. Loved the setup and all the details. Not much of a personal Mickey & Minnie moment, but still a nice picture. As we walked out, through a gift shop (gasp! who would have thought?), we saw they embroidered mouse ears and decided to purchase our first pair! Neither of us had them as kids so why not? Best buy of the weekend!
2. My first Dole whip. I DID IT! After our Tiki Room preview, even though I was still full from Tusker House, I knew this might be our only chance to try the infamous Dole Whip on this trip. The wait on line was worth it. (It was also so hot out… perfect timing.) And yes, everyone is correct. It was delicious. I stuck with the simple pineapple soft serve and ate it in about five minutes. It reminded me of a creamsicle, and I sadly thought of all the years I went without it. It’s okay. My life is now turned around. I am no longer a WDW outcast. You can all stop praying for me. I know the wonders of Dole Whip and I will not forget. (Do you think they would fed-ex me some? I’m a little hungry at the moment!)
1. Rose & Crown Pub. It doesn’t matter how many times I have dinner at this place. I have yet to have a bad experience. While they’ve gotten a little stricter with outside tables during Illuminations in recent years, we lucked out this time around. I tend to tell the cast members we will wait as long as we can for an outside table to open up and I have not yet been disappointed. (It was really crowded too.) James and I had a perfect view of the World Showcase Lagoon, where we sampled some beers and enjoyed a fine, fine meal. (That bread is to die for!) Illuminations is my top nighttime show at WDW and it continues to impress me. It was the perfect way to jump start our short vacation. For all of those who don’t think WDW can be romantic, I’d like to hear you say that while having a drink, listening to the pre-show Illuminations mix, and hanging out with your partner. Amazing. (It’s too bad this was the only time we got to spend at Epcot this time around, but I’m glad the time we did get was well spent!)
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And just like that we were back home. Boo. Hiss. I’m not exactly surprised the weekend went by before I could blink. Weekends at home go by fast enough when we’re just doing yard work and food shopping. So I knew. But I still did not want it to end. Every time we go back now, the more and more I want to stay longer. Forever. Whichever comes first. I was surprised that I didn’t cry on the way to the airport. That hasn’t happened in the last few trips. Maybe because I knew we’d be back in November? Or because James was driving a rental and I was antsy? Who knows? We reached the Jet Blue terminal and found out we were delayed. Sigh. I wish we knew before we left property so we could have had some extra swimming time. Oh well. We did what we do best. We took to the bar at On the Border and toasted to another great trip.
…is it time to go back yet?