Taryn was part of a Disney Princess show as a fundraiser at school, & I had so much fun watching her & her friends! She was Cinderella, & the girls in the crowd thought she was a real princess. Watching her interact with the kids was so special. Disney is such a big part of our lives, so seeing her get to be a princess for the day was really wonderful!
Our final stop of the day was Epcot. We stopped for our traditional ball picture, then headed into the park.
We went to meet Joy & Sadness from Inside Out, & the wait was much longer than anticipated. We had been stuck near an annoying guy, who thankfully gave up & left halfway through, but then we were left near another annoying family who was letting their kids run around everywhere (one touched my butt, one kept literally running into us, one almost knocked the guard poles down). We finally got in to meet Joy & Sadness after about 20 minutes longer than advertised. By the time we got inside, I was feeling a little more like Sadness than Joy, but I was glad to see them! The meet area was cute, & we got some fun pictures.
Once we got out, it was time for our FastPass for Living with the Land. This was a new ride for us, & we actually really enjoyed it. It's a slow boat ride through the gardens at Epcot, where food for some of the restaurants is grown. We got to hear about some of the farming techniques developed & used by Disney, & see some of the innovations they've come up with. My only disappointment was that I had heard you could see their development of Mickey-shaped fruits & veggies, but we weren't able to. I think you have to go on their "Behind the Seeds" tour for that. It was still a fun experience though, & I definitely recommend it for Disney-lovers, especially since there is usually very little wait!
When we left the ride, there was some kind of fountain show happening - the water was spraying out at super high levels & music was playing. I'm not sure what it was, but I snapped a few photos!
We headed for the World Showcase, which is one of my favorite parts of Disney World. We walked around several of the pavilions, stopping for a brat & a giant pretzel in Germany. In France, I thought we were going to get another chance to see a proposal, after our missed one in Magic Kingdom! We were strolling past the gazebo, when a couple entered, & the guy got down on one knee. But then the girl yanked him back to his feet & they kept walking, so I guess he was just kidding. I saw them again later, & she didn't have a ring on her finger. If Laker had ever fake proposed while we were dating, especially at Disney World, we would've had a big problem!
We had a FastPass for the new Frozen ride, Frozen Ever After, & that was great to check out! It runs on the old Maelstrom track, for those who are familiar with that ride. It's a boat ride through the Frozen story, but it's fairly fast, & has several drops, plus spins you around backwards for part of the ride. It was fun, but my heart probably can't handle a second go-around! The technology in the ride was so impressive, though! There are lots of rides throughout the park that have animatronics & projections, but these were on a whole different level. They almost looked like holograms, but they were actually there. I wish I had gotten better photos, but I just snapped one quick phone photo because I was afraid my camera would get wet. You can probably find ride-through videos on YouTube if you're really interested, but it was truly impressive!
I can't go through Norway without stopping for a troll horn & iced coffee at Kringla Bakeri. The troll horn is basically a giant, sugar-coated cream puff, & I love them. It's one of my favorite Disney desserts!
We went to meet Anna & Elsa next, since their line was fairly short. My goal is to eventually meet every princess, & I am well on my way! They were both very sweet, & one of the PhotoPass photographers made us laugh by informing us very matter-of-factly that he didn't get me anything for my birthday. I told him I hadn't been expecting much anyway. Anna was so bouncy & energetic - I don't know how she manages it all day! I'd be exhausted. But their meet area was very well-themed, & Elsa's dress was gorgeous.
We had just enough time to run to the Gran Fiesta tour, a Three Caballeros-themed slow boat ride in the Mexico pavilion. It was cute, although the ride-through areas were a little random. There were live action videos of mariachi bands, Mexican restaurants, & other Mexican-themed things, with the Three Caballeros (animated) popping up throughout. There were Small World-type scenes with only Mexican dolls. There were scenes created to look like areas in Mexico. There were Three Caballeros animatronics. It was basically a mix & match assortment of all kinds of Mexican things, all thrown in one spot.
We skipped the IllumiNations fireworks show, since we had seen the Epcot fireworks & holiday ending last December. Our thought process was that Soarin' would have a short wait time during fireworks, as opposed to at least an hour during the rest of the day, & we were right! Our wait wasn't long at all, & the little bit of wait we had was very entertaining. We were behind a little girl & her parents, who were fairly young. The little girl was maybe 3 or 4, & she was asking her parents if Tinkerbell was real, & the mom said, "Yes, I believe she is." The girl asked what Tinkerbell would do in a certain situation, & when the mom said she wasn't sure, the girl said, "I think she'd kick his butt!" So we all got a good laugh out of that. The dad leaned on one of the guard chains, but it was magnetized, not chain-linked, so it fell off the rail & the dad fell backwards. The little girl yelled, "You suck, dad!" & we all lost it. The mom said, "I probably should be upset with her for that, but I couldn't have said it any better myself!" It was too funny, coming out of this tiny, sweet-looking child. She made it up to her dad by cuddling with him in line afterwards.
On the ride, we were placed by a different family. They had a preteen, who had to wear the additional safety strap because he didn't meet the height requirement. He wasn't very happy about it, stating that he was nearly 13 & too old for that, & looked over to see how I was reacting to the situation & if I had to wear it. I glanced at the height markers, & told him not to feel bad because I was 26, & the height markers came up to just above my eye level. Not my proudest moment. He felt a little better after that though, & began chatting about the ride (He'd ridden it three times!). We rode Soarin' last December, but the ride was re-done in the spring, so this was our first time riding the new version. It was so great, & we loved it! The new version takes you all over the world, where the old one just flew over California. I could just sit on Soarin' all day & let it fly me places & pump in smells. My one wish is that they had kept the orange groves! I feel like that was what Soarin' was known for, & now that traditional orange Soarin' smell is gone.
We finished the ride just as the fireworks were ending, & joined the crowds out the monorail, where we met up with Mackenzie, Taryn, Ben, & Tenley. They had spent the day park hopping as well, & ended up at Magic Kingdom. We discussed our days on the way back to the condo.
The trip from Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom was our first experience with Disney buses. It was fairly quick & easy to get around, & not as lengthy of a trip as I'd read in other park blogs - even though we were there on New Year's Day. The whole trip took about 30 minutes total, from bus stop to unloading. I felt like that was not bad at all, considering it probably would have taken much longer to deal with trams, parking, & re-parking, had we driven ourselves.
We entered Animal Kingdom to the sound of drummers playing. One of my favorite things about Animal Kingdom is all of the street performers!
We headed straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris, since the wait was fairly short (about 25 minutes, compared to 2+ hours last time we were there, over Spring Break!). I had heard so many great things about the safaris, but ours wasn't the best. Honestly, I think our driver might've been new (she was a bit awkward & we could never tell if she was joking or serious) & I was also seated in the middle, next to a man who kept answering his phone, which dampened the experience & also led to poor photos. So maybe next time will be better. We did see several animals, & learned a few fun facts along the way.
I will say next that I really want to love Animal Kingdom. As mentioned in my resort post, I have always wanted to go to Africa, so all of the African theming in parts of the park are fun to see. I love all of the conservation efforts throughout the park, & I love meeting cast members from Africa & Asia. But I can't ride most of the rides in this park, & I can't figure out the layout (although this was only my second time there). So that meant that we did lots of walking, without actually doing much of anything.
First, I really really really wanted to see DiVine, one of the performers in Animal Kingdom. From what I've read, she is only out for about two hours each day, & doesn't have a designated area to be in. My sisters had spotted her a bit earlier in the day, so I was determined to find her. I asked one of the PhotoPass photographers if she was still out, & he said she might be out for a few more minutes, but on the other side of the park, near a gift shop. So we walked. & walked. & walked. & there was no DiVine. We did manage to get a Tree of Life photo, though.
We finally gave up & decided to find a drink Laker wanted to try. But the restaurant I had read was serving it, wasn't serving it. & so we walked some more. At this point, the crowds had grown, & we were hot & tired. We decided to just grab Pizzafari instead of searching for more authentic food. So Laker grabbed a flatbread pizza & I got some pasta. It was nice to sit in the air conditioning for a bit. One cool thing in Animal Kingdom is that there are no lids or plastic straws, because they want to avoid waste that could harm the animals.
After lunch, I went to meet Tarzan. This was a really odd meet. There was no PhotoPass photographer. Also, Tarzan was super awkward. Instead of seeming like he was new to the human world & learning things, he just kind of seemed like a dumb surfer dude. He kept asking if I got bananas for my birthday. Also, I always wondered how all of the Tarzans were so tan (& why, for that matter, because Tarzan isn't super tan in the movie), but after seeing him up close, I see that he is actually painted that orange-ish tan color. I mostly just felt kind of uncomfortable, but the pictures turned out well. Very Tarzan-y.
Flik was a little better. His weird ant backside was funny, & Laker actually agreed to be in the photo with me!
We went to DinoLand USA next, & rode the TriceraTop Spin (basically the Dumbo ride, but with dinosaurs instead of elephants, & it can tilt a little). It was cute, & Laker had some fun with my camera.
When we came to Animal Kingdom over Spring Break, we tried to explore Rafiki's Planet Watch, but we ran out of time, so we basically rode the train straight there & back. This time, we got to explore it a little more thoroughly. Fair warning: There is a snake photo coming up. I've been told I need to warn people about these things (*cough*cough*Tanya*&*Taryn*).
Rafiki's Planet Watch was actually my favorite section of Animal Kingdom that we visited. Since I can't ride many of the rides in this park, it had mostly involved a lot of walking up to that point. But I loved learning about all of Disney's conservation efforts on Rafiki's Planet Watch.
We went by the vet station, which is neat to see. We got to watch the vets working on a large bird's foot. The bird had some swelling & developed a condition, & we were told this was from putting too much weight on one foot. The bird had been in & out of the vet station for the condition.
Other windows showed us different labs & stations where scientists were doing research towards animal health & conservation. There were videos, posters, & presentations about different efforts. I got to pet a snake (a boa), which is one of many animals that are at the Animal Kingdom park. Animal Kingdom is actually the largest of the four Disney World parks, simply because they have so much space for the animals. There are signs everywhere on Rafiki's island, teaching you how to make butterfly gardens, or bat homes, & other simple things you can do anywhere that protect animals & wildlife.
We met Rafiki, & he was a lot of fun to watch. He would just plop down on the floor with the kids, & when Laker & I got up to the front, he kept tickling our necks & poking us to make us laugh. The family after us had two toddlers, both dressed in Lion King attire. One was very small, no more than two years old, & had a little Simba hat on. Rafiki got down on the floor, cross-legged. She just crawled in his lap, & he cradled her in his arms. It was the most precious thing.
We headed back to the main park area, taking some photos of the park theming & listening to another street performer, before loading the bus a little before 4:30 to head to Epcot.
On New Year's Day, we all had Park Hopper tickets to Disney World. It was a great way to spend the first day of 2017! Since Laker & I had already spent a full day at Magic Kingdom, we decided to spend this day at the other three parks, with our first stop being Hollywood Studios.
We arrived in time for rope drop, which is where the cast members - carrying a rope - walk everyone into the park at opening time. This one was a bit unusual, because they led everyone straight to Toy Story Midway Mania, & didn't let anyone go anywhere else in the park. At most other parks I've been to, everyone is led into the parks, & then it's a mad dash to the most popular rides after rope drop. But here, no one had any choice but to go to Toy Story. Which was fine with us, because that's where we were headed anyway.
Toy Story Midway Mania was so much fun! This was our first time riding it. I got a blurry photo of the queue area as we were dashing through. The line was decorated with over-sized toys, making you feel like you were in Andy's room. We hardly had to wait at all once we were at the ride. The ride itself had several carnival-style games, where you would go through & do a ring toss, throw darts, & do other shooting-type games. We had a great time (& Laker won, as usual)!
Next, Laker stopped for a Mickey pretzel, & I went next door to explore One Man's Dream, a mini Disney museum within the park. After browsing through the exhibits, I went to the temporary Moana meet in the back. There was no wait at all, & the cast member gave me a Moana sticker for my birthday! Moana is such a great film, & if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it. You'll be listening to the soundtrack for the rest of your life.
We went to meet Sorcerer Mickey & Hollywood Minnie next, again, with very little wait. I always enjoy meeting Minnie, & Mickey was especially fun to meet this time, because I was Disneybounding as Sorcerer Mickey that day. We got some fun pictures out of it!
While leaving the meet & greet, an Aussie cast member stopped me & asked where I got my ears. When I told her I made them myself, she said she assumed I'd gotten them on Etsy & said that I looked like I'd had lots of practice, because everything was very well put-together & coordinated. I told her my sisters & I always made ears to coordinate with our outfits, & she loved the idea. I always love getting compliments on my ears, because my sisters & I have so much fun putting them together!
We saw Chip & Dale waiting outside, so I ran over to meet them, since I never had before. They started tugging on my arms & pulling me back & forth before finally posing for a photo. Then they squished me in a big hug, so close that you can barely tell I'm in the photo! They're so fun.
Since we had some extra time, we went by to meet Olaf, & I'm so glad we did! He is so cute, & his meet area was so fun. Holding hands with his little four-fingered twig arms was a little weird, but as soon as I got a hug from Olaf, my first thought was, "I like warm hugs." He's just such a great character!
Of course, we had to watch the March of the First Order. I won't lie, I would probably be a Sith if I was part of the Star Wars Universe (Darth Sithney just has such a nice ring to it). It was so cool (& a little intimidating) to see all of the Storm Troopers marching down the street together, & I couldn't wipe the dopey smile off my face during the entire show.
We rode the Great Movie Ride, & got the mobster track. I loved the cheesiness of the whole thing, & enjoyed having our boat hijacked!
At 11:00, we went to the Beauty & the Beast stage show. We had never been to any of the live shows at Hollywood Studios, so I figured starting out with my favorite story was a good way to go! We had good seats towards the front, & I enjoyed watching the story play out. There was also a little New Year's cake (or something?) added in as a special for the day.
I had heard that the Butterfinger cupcake was the thing to get in Hollywood Studios, so since we were passing Starring Rolls on our way out, I told Laker we should stop in & grab one to share. I'm so glad we did! It was so good. It was about twice the size of a normal cupcake, chocolate with chocolate filling, creamy icing, & covered in Butterfinger. We were not disappointed!
After scarfing down our cupcake, we headed to the bus to go to Animal Kingdom.
On the 29th, we spent the afternoon & evening in Disney Springs, a huge shopping district full of restaurants, Disney-themed stores, & every other kind of shop you can imagine. We were greeted with a giant Christmas tree, & then split up to do some exploring (Side note: Laker was here for all of this, but managed to avoid being in any photos).
Taryn & I grabbed booklets to start the Stitch Holiday Gift Scavenger Hunt, which started on Black Friday. The scavenger hunt takes you to every district in Disney Springs, with stops in a few different stores. The idea is that Stitch is Christmas shopping for people on his list, & the goal is to find little cardboard cut-outs of Stitch in various stores, which show the items he is looking for. The booklets have stickers inside, corresponding with the cut-outs, which must be placed in the correct pages in the booklet. Once the booklet is correctly finished, it can be turned in for a Stitch button. Spoiler alert: We spent too much time trying to get this done (partially because we kept forgetting to look for cut-outs inside the stores, & partially because we had to travel all over the Disney Springs area).
Laker & I made our first stop at The Daily Poutine, where we tried poutine for the first time. We got a traditional version with gravy & cheese curds (I HATE that word), & it was okay. Not the best thing I've ever had, but not the worst.
We explored more shops & purchased a few things. My favorite store in the Disney area is Basin, a shop that sells natural bath products (There's a Disney Springs location, as well as a location in the Grand Floridian). I always stock up on tubes of bath bombs while we're there! They had a super cute Olaf soap sculpture this time - I assume for the Christmas season.
We got to see the sunset over Disney Springs, then stopped to watch the Tree Lighting Ceremony. Disney Springs had chosen a family of the day, & they got to help light the tree. It was a fun little ceremony to watch, with Christmas carolers & decorations (although way too many stilt-walkers were around - another thing I hate - & they also had some sort of creepy Christmas king & queen mascots out).
Dinner was at Earl of Sandwich, which we always seem to stop at while we're in Disney Springs. The food is just so good! I wish we had a location nearby. My aunt Tanya came by with my cousin Emma (& Emma's boyfriend), & it was nice to catch up with them.
We all went to the lake area to watch the new Disney Springs Holiday Drone Show (I keep accidentally calling it a droid show, which would be way cooler. Maybe someday). Honestly, it's neat that we're at a point where we can fly drones around as a form of entertainment, but it was not as impressive as I expected. Maybe it was just an off night, or maybe the skies weren't clear enough, but honestly... The Christmas tree was super cool, but the rest of the show just looked like patches of light, or weird constellations. We thought it was supposed to be abstract art until the next day, when I saw that the Disney Springs Instagram had posted (what I assume to be photo-shopped for clarity) a photo of the show, clearly depicting a bird. Emma's boyfriend said he read that you had to be at a certain vantage point to get the full effect of the show, so maybe that was the problem. But I will say - We saw the tree perfectly, & we were also in the area where most people were watching, & where the announcement said to watch. So if there's a better place to watch, that should be clarified. Until then, I'll stick with my opinion that it's a cool technological advancement, but it will probably be much more impressive in 5 years when we've perfected it a bit more.
We stopped for coffees & hot chocolates at Ghirardelli, & got a free chocolate sample from their candy shop while finding a Stitch cut-out. Taryn & I also went into the WonderGround Art Gallery, another favorite shop of mine. I bought some gorgeous postcards to send out to friends. The artwork there is always so impressive, & constantly changing. I love stopping in to see what's new each time we go!
The Tree Trail, a new Christmas feature this year, was another highlight of the evening. There are 15 Christmas trees, each decorated for a different Disney movie. It was super crowded, so I just put my camera on "auto" & snapped a photo as soon as people were out of the way - So I apologize for the not-so-great quality of most of these. But we loved seeing the details put into each tree's decorations! My favorites, of course, were Beauty & the Beast & Alice in Wonderland, but I also really liked Princess & the Frog. Another fun moment was experiencing the fake snow. I had always assumed, when seeing fake snow in parades & events on TV, that it was just white confetti or something. But it is actually snow! It is cold & wet, just like real snow. How crazy is it that we can make snow now? I also liked seeing the fun chalk art on the trail. Disney is so great with details.
Taryn & I (finally) finished the Stitch Scavenger Hunt at the very end of the night. It was not easy though - We had one especially weird clue in World of Disney, which is a HUGE Disney store in the central part of Disney Springs. It's about the size of a Walmart Superstore, for reference, & we were looking for a Stitch cut-out that was smaller than a clipboard. We finally asked a cast member for a clue, & she said something along the lines of, "Go to where you check out, & there's a compass on the floor. Look to where it's pointing south. Stitch loves leather, & likes to climb." Uh... what? So we went to the main checkout lines. No compass on the floor. We found the compass on our phones & started going south. We looked up at the ceiling art (amazing, by the way) & saw a giant John Smith with a compass above him. The compass was pointing south to his leather shoes, & he's on the ceiling, so if Stitch loves to climb, he must be nearby, right? No. We looked & looked, & then we just looked like crazy people. We finally found Stitch in the next room, over by a random checkout counter on a shelf by some purses. Not sure what that clue meant.
When we turned in our booklets, a very un-enthusiastic guy, probably in his early twenties, flipped through our booklets. I have no idea if he actually had the booklets' answers memorized & was really checking them, or if he was just pretending to check them to discourage cheating. Regardless, he gave us our buttons, & in a monotonous voice, said, "Congratulations." We were super excited (mostly just because we were done) & snapped a selfie before heading out.
We stopped by Sprinkles cupcakes on our way out of Disney Springs. I had a coupon for a free birthday cupcake, & I'm a big fan of Cupcake Wars, so I wanted to give it a try. I got a s'mores cupcake, & bought Taryn one too, to celebrate our scavenger hunt victory. I can't claim to have a 100% accurate opinion on Sprinkles since this is my only time having been there, but based on my one cupcake that I got during this one time there, I would say it's a bit overrated. The ordering system was a bit weird - Although I could see that they had dozens of s'mores cupcakes ready, I still had wait in line to order, then go wait in another long line behind dozens of people waiting for bigger orders to get my two cupcakes. The cupcake itself was not good. The bottom was graham cracker, but it was super salty, to the point that I took it off. The cupcake was chocolate with a thin layer of marshmallow on top (I assumed the whole domed top would be marshmallow, like most frosted cupcakes). The chocolate part was nothing special, & the marshmallow was good, but there wasn't enough of it. However, there was a chocolate ganache inside that was super bitter & not made well (& that I was unaware of), so when I bit into the middle, the entire bitter center came out in one bite. It was chewy & gross, & I actually had to spit it out. My sister didn't like her's either, & was disappointed that it didn't have Sprinkles' trademark dot on top - which isn't a huge deal, but it's part of the fun of going to Sprinkles (Most of the other cupcakes did, so I don't know if they forgot, or just don't put them on this flavor?). It was also just an average-sized cupcake. Definitely not worth almost $5 per cupcake, especially in comparison to the amazing Butterfinger one I got at Disney World a few days later, which was the same price, twice the size, & way tastier...
Anyway, *end cupcake rant* I will say, I would be willing to give Sprinkles another try. We skipped the Cupcake ATM because of its long line, & I would like to see how that works next time!
Overall, it was a busy, fun, eventful night at Disney Springs. I had a lot of fun shopping & seeing all of the holiday festivities. I am excited to see that Disney Springs is still growing & adding new things! It has been fun to see the transformation from Downtown Disney, to the small, one-neighborhood Disney Springs, to this huge shopping area that it is now. It'll be interesting to see where it goes next!
On the 28th, we toured the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, & Animal Kingdom Lodge Resorts. We always enjoy touring the Disney resorts because the theming is so unique at each one, but it's especially fun to tour the resorts during Christmastime. The Christmas decorations are gorgeous! Everyone got to pick & choose what all they wanted to do on this trip, so for this outing, it was me, my mom, Mackenzie, Taryn, Ben, & Tenley. Click the pictures to see full photos.
We started out our day with our first tram & monorail rides of trip. We had a photo bomber on the tram, which I thought was pretty funny!
Our first stop was the Grand Floridian. This is such a beautiful hotel! We looked at the Christmas trees & stopped for a few photos, then went downstairs to admire the giant, 16-foot-tall gingerbread house. There are actually people inside selling real gingerbread! We then took photos in front of the massive Christmas tree in the lobby (I believe it's 60 feet tall). Our PhotoPass photographer was great, & got a cool panorama of us as well. In the lobby, we could see the NYE balloons hanging on the ceiling, ready for the balloon drop. Mackenzie, Tenley, & Ben came back to celebrate NYE here later in the week! We had lunch at Gasparilla Island Grill, which consisted of flatbread pizzas for most of us. Then we explored the grounds a bit before heading off to the Polynesian.
The Polynesian might be my favorite resort. It's just so different from anything we see in Oklahoma! Our first stop was grabbing leis at the reception desk, & then going to Pineapple Lanai for Dole Whips, which are a favorite Disney snack. We ate these on beach, with a view of the Magic Kingdom castle. Afterwards, we went to the Christmas tree for photos. I love the Christmas decorations at the Polynesian! The tropical theming is so fun.
During our monorail stop, we saw a cute Christmas topiary, & had to stop to admire it!
This was my first time visiting Animal Kingdom Lodge, & I absolutely loved it. I have always wanted to go to Africa, so seeing a resort with so much theming set around Africa, as well as meeting cast members from Africa, was a lot of fun. The tree was gorgeous, & I wish the pictures did it justice. The lights were somehow set up in what looked like zebra or tiger stripes. I had never seen anything like it before! We got there just in time for a free culinary tour, which started at Boma. Our tour guide for the first section was named Clementine, & she was from Namibia. She spoke several different languages, including one that used some clicking sounds. It was really neat to hear!
I loved hearing about the theming in Boma. We were told that the lamps were made to look like the night sky, & fire, as villagers in Africa often gathered around a fire at night to talk. The cloths on the ceiling represent the wraps women use to carry things. Each seat in Boma is unique, & all of the tables are made so that they can fit together. There is a row of "royal tables," where the family of the day at Disney sits. The rest of the tables are for the "village." This is similar to the village leaders, who preside over the rest of the village during meals. Along the walls, there are coins from each African nation.
We tried carrot ginger soup, which was sweet with a kick of spiciness at the end. It was interesting, but not something I'd like to eat every day! We also got to try Boma's signature dessert, zebra domes, which we were told had a popular elephant food in the middle. We walked through the whole restaurant & were given descriptions of the rest of the food, too, as well as an introduction to one of the chefs.
The Jiko part of the tour was less organized & personable. We weren't really given any descriptions of the restaurant, or our guide's home country. Although two of the chefs were there, neither really said anything to us, although they did answer questions when asked. No one really told us, either, that we were just supposed to leave when we were done eating, so there was some awkward standing around for a bit until we figured it out.
The food was super good though! We two types of bread, as well as some kind of chips. There were four dips to go with it - a mango chutney, a pineapple something, a lime cilantro something, & lamb hummus. I couldn't tell you specific details about any of it, but all of them were great, & I would definitely recommend them all!
After our tour, we watched the animals hanging out around the resort. They weren't too far from us at all, & the resort itself was so peaceful. It's neat to see so many animals just hanging out, knowing they're just outside someone's hotel room. I'd love to stay somewhere like that someday!
Laker & I went on a quick getaway to Kansas City, Missouri over Fall Break. We managed to cram in a lot of activities in the few short days we were there, so it was a fun (although tiring!) trip.
We started off with a BBQ lunch at Fiorella's. The one thing we kept hearing from everyone when we mentioned going to KC was that we had to get some good BBQ. My parents recommended Fiorella's & raved about the burnt ends, so Laker & I each got an order. The beef was amazing! Although in my opinion, a good BBQ experience always includes fried okra... But I'll let it slide this time.
Next we checked out Disney's childhood home & his very first studio, Laugh-o-Gram. Mickey Mouse was created here! It was so cool to see a bit of Disney history, & such an iconic place for the founders of animation. Not only did Disney get his start there, but Ub Iwerks, Friz Freleng (who developed some of the most famous Looney Tunes), Hugh Harman & Rudy Ising (the founders of MGM & Warner Bros.). If you want to learn more, there's a movie called Walt Before Mickey that shows a (slightly dramatized) version of the studio's history, & I believe it is currently on Netflix.
Next, we went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This is a free art museum in KC, & it's got a great collection! Inside, there were paintings ranging from centuries old to modern art. We even got to see a painting from my favorite artist, Van Gogh! There were other collections too - I particularly enjoyed a collection of teapots from various time periods & countries, & the section of ancient Egyptian art & artifacts. There is also a sculpture garden outside that was really fun to explore. The shuttlecock sculptures are a trademark of Kansas City. We went through a glass labyrinth, too, which was harder than it looked!
We stopped by the Red Bridge in Minor Park, which is covered in love locks. I had come prepared with one of our own, & we added it to the bridge.
We ate pizza at Minsky's, which is a local chain. I definitely recommend it if you're in the area - so good! I got basil & feta, & Laker got a 5-cheese pizza. Both were super cheesy & wonderful.
Next, we stopped at Glace for ice cream. We got there about an hour or so before close, so they didn't have all of their flavors available, which was a bit disappointing (they had a goat cheese something or other & another lavender flavor I wanted to try, but they were gone!). I sampled several - including a really weird lime basil one! - & ended up deciding on bananas foster & purple sweet potato, which were both good! Laker got salted pretzel & dark chocolate, which were also good.
Afterwards, we checked out Trader Joe's (neither of us had ever been before!) & bought a few snacks to try later, before going back to our Airbnb house, & heading to bed early to prep for our next day in KC.
On our last evening in Orlando, Laker, Taryn, & I went to Disney Springs. Disney Springs is a large shopping area with tons of cool shops & things to do.
I had been researching before the trip & found out one of my favorite Disney artists was going to be meeting in Disney Springs while we were in town, so our first stop of the night was the Wonderground Gallery. Jerrod Maruyama designed the hipster Mickeys & several other cute pieces. His work is so fun, & I was glad to have the chance to meet him!
After leaving the gallery, we explored the shops. We ate at Earl of Sandwich, visited Disney's new TAG travel store (which opened that week), & had Ghirardelli coffees. I'm looking forward to trying the AristoCrepes shop next time we visit!
Disney Springs is always a great area to explore if you're visiting Orlando!
We had a girls' day the day after our Disney World day (notice: we're already pre-sunburned). We toured a couple of the Disney resorts, starting with the Polynesian. We had breakfast at 'Ohana, where we were able to meet several characters. I Disneybounded as Lilo (Lilo & Stitch is one of my favorite Disney movies!). She was the first to come to our table, & was very energetic, dancing & moving around. Mickey was next, dressed in his island attire. Next was Pluto, with his lei. This was my first time to meet Pluto - Donald is the only one of the classic 5 characters I haven't met now! Finally, Stitch came through. I loved getting to meet him!
Breakfast was served family style & was all-you-can-eat. We had eggs, bacon, potatoes, biscuits, Mickey & Stitch waffles, & sausages. There was also a tropical bread with pineapple & raisins.
You can see Cinderella's Castle from the beach outside. We took the monorail to the Grand Floridian, & on the way back, Mackenzie & I grabbed Dole Whips for the ride home.
The Grand Floridian is the prettiest hotel I have ever seen. We stopped to get bath products at Basin White, one of my favorite bath stores, then explored the hotel.
I was so excited to see that they already had their Easter eggs on display! Disney makes incredible Easter eggs, & I have wanted to see them for some time now. There is so much detail put into each egg, & they're made with edible products. I was so impressed!
Our third stop during our fully-packed Disney day was Hollywood Studios. Laker & I had never been to Hollywood Studios before, & I don't think Ben had either. We were so excited to see all of the Star Wars stuff! I made Kylo Ren / Darth Vader ears, & Taryn did my nails for the occasion.
I had heard of Character Palooza, an unlisted meet & greet that changes daily. There are different characters every day, & the cast members aren't allowed to tell when or where the meet & greet will take place each day. I desperately wanted to go, though! We were lucky enough to walk right into Character Palooza as we entered Hollywood Studios. I did a quick scan of the characters & noticed Robin Hood was out, & since he doesn't meet anywhere in the parks other than Character Palooza, I made a beeline for him. We were also able to meet Mulan & Tiana! There were other characters out too, but I had met most of them before.
We split up at this point, & Laker & I explored a bit, went to see the Muppets 3-D show, then decided to go meet Mike & Sully. Monsters Inc. is a favorite of ours!
Next was the Launch Bay! We rode Star Tours (which nearly killed me - do not ride if you have a heart condition!), then hung out with some jawas & went to meet Kylo Ren & Chewie. Kylo Ren singled me out & questioned my faith in the resistance. Chewie didn't like me much - My Dark Side ears were a turn-off for him, & he actually moved Ben so he wouldn't have to stand by me in the photo!
As we were walking around, we saw two storm troopers. They snuck up behind this lady & stole her park map!
We had a quick dinner, then Mackenzie shared the magic of Fantasmic with me. I won't share too many photos, because the show was a surprise to me, & I want it to be a surprise to anyone who might go!
No one does fireworks better than Disney. I had seen the fireworks at Magic Kingdom & Epcot, but this was my first time seeing them at Hollywood Studios. They were set to Star Wars music, & Disney somehow made the fireworks look like outer space, galactic battles, & even planets. It's amazing!
Our last stop of the night was Magic Kingdom. I only got one photo here, since this was pretty much the only time we stopped to pause while we were there. In Magic Kingdom, we walked through to see where Mackenzie works, then went to her favorite attraction - Disney's Philharmagic, which is another 3-D show. After that, we came back for a castle photo & headed back to the house! It was exhausting, but a great day!
Christ. Laker. Lily. Padfoot. Puns. Polar Bears. Travel. Tea. Tattoos. Tigers. Books. Belle. Buffaloes. Wonderland. Creativity.