Hey Everyone! So I took a little vacation from blogging. We found out that we will be expecting a little one in November and she/he has been wreaking havoc…
I have so much new content I need to share with you! Let’s just say my little hiatus, while uncomfortable, has been very productive in the research department.
So I wanted to start off with some exciting new details from Disney’s Animal Kingdom! There was a lot of construction going on while we were there in December. It was almost unbearable to walk from one place to another around the Discovery River. Well… according to recent news, those walls are down and things are happening after dark at this “half-day park”.
As I have previously mentioned, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been dubbed a “Half-Day Park”. This obviously hasn’t sat well with Disney for the past 16 years. Disney Imagineers have taken it upon themselves to change this conception with a whole line-up of nighttime experiences.
The biggest addition to the Animal Kingdom park is Rivers of Light. This is a new show that takes place on Discovery River Lagoon. Disney built a 5,000 seat amphitheater around the river in the Asia sector of the park, right across from Expedition Everest. Back in April this amphitheater was filling with media representatives who got a sneak peek at the show. Below is some concept art and the Sneak Peek the media got back in April!
Here is some back story on Rivers of Light.
I cannot wait to check this out. One of my favorite night time shows at the Disney Resort is IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot. Based off the preview, I think Rivers of Light will have the same feel.
Going along with Rivers of Light, Imagineers have also overhauled the Tree of Life. Periodically during the evening hours, the Tree of Life comes alive with light! Disney is calling these Awakenings. This is another experience I cannot wait to experience. Check it out.
My favorite experience at Disney’s Animal kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safaris and now guests can experience the safari at night! They even brought in more nocturnal animals, such as African painted dogs and hyena (these guys were adapting to their surroundings back in December when we were there). It also appears that lighting has been strategically placed for guests to get a good glimpse of the night time antics of these amazing animals. Here’s a little preview.
With the park starting to be open later, you’ll have more time to experience your other favorite rides, Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest and Primeval Whirl, in a whole new way. Even though you have ridden these rides multiple times before, riding them at night adds a whole new level of excitement. Disney is also adding some additional entertainment as you walk through the park. Street performers and nighttime dance parties will be around every corner as you walk through the park.
Most of these attractions, such as the nighttime safaris and the Awakenings of the Tree of Life will begin Memorial Day weekend! Rivers of Light has a start date that is still to be determined. In the meantime, Disney will be showing Jungle Book: Alive with Magic in the Discovery River Lagoon, which will also begin Memorial Day weekend and will run through the summer.
Sounds like an exciting summer is in store for Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
During our trip to Florida in December we also took a day to check out Universal Studios.
Universal was, unfortunately, crazy busy as well. We went on a Tuesday which is one of their “less busy” days that week but it was still nuts. Our main goal for the day was the new Harry Potter area. We had previously explored Hogsmeade two years ago.
Our first stop was Shrek- 4D. I thought our 4 year old friend, Bryce, would enjoy this. It’s a fun and silly ride… I enjoy riding it but if you have to wait longer than 30 minutes it’s not really worth it. Needless to say… we waited way more than 30 minutes… but you do things for a 4 year old you wouldn’t normally do…
After Shrek we went to find the Transformers… Bryce LOVES the Transformers so we were quite excited for him meet one. The Transformers “meet and greet” is directly behind Shrek, so it wasn’t a long walk. Bryce got in line with his mom while Bumblebee was still out… Just as they got to the front of the line Bumblebee went “to lunch”. We were kinda disappointed because Bumblebee is Bryce’s (and my) favorite. About 5 minutes had passed and the “garage” opened up again… Out came Megatron… If you all aren’t familiar with Megatron he’s a bad guy… I was a little scared myself, but Bryce was like heck ya! It was so great to see his excitement…
I was pretty impressed by these transformers… the Universal team member in the costume is on stilts! I dunno, I just thought it was super cool how they acted and reacted… I was impressed!
So after we checked out the Transformers, Josh, Jimmie, and I headed over to see Terminator. This is something I had experienced when I was 8 and hated every single minute of it. I was terrified… So again, I had to do this for my husband and my cousin. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I remember it. I guess I am a lot older now. I highly recommend NOT doing this with a child… Like I said, I was terrified when I was 8.
Our next stop was lunch. My cousin, Jimmie, had his heart set on a Krusty Burger. Now, I’m not too big on the Simpson’s so I wasn’t too excited, but I thought it’d be cool to say I had a Krusty Burger. Lunch, which we went around 1-2 pm… was crazy. This was the only time in history that I have ever had to wait in line for an hour for lunch… It was totally worth it though… I must say, Krusty Burgers are pretty darn good!
On our way to Springfield, we come across the DeLorean. I think my husband is still upset that they replaced the Back to the Future ride with a Simpson’s ride. At least he got to take a picture with the DeLorean though!
He’s such a cute nerd!!! I love it!
Once we had our Krusty Burger’s we headed straight to the Harry Potter area… There’s a small bridge you walk over and then enter “London”. I think I stopped right in the middle of the bridge in awe… It was impressive and I was only looking at the outside portion…
The first area you come across is Grimmauld Place. This is where Sirius Black’s house and the Order’s Safe House is. Universal was so meticulous when designing this. You can go up and sit on the steps and take a picture… It’s crazy how it looks exactly like the movie! If you spend a couple minutes there you can see Kreacher, the Black family’s house elf, appear in the window above the door. It’s the little things…
As you turn the corner you can see the Knight Bus. There was a Knight Bus driver there every time we walked past speaking with guests and the shrunken head, which is really good at interacting with the driver and the guests.
We got a really quick glimpse of Kings Cross Station and then entered Diagon Alley!!!!
That is the entrance to Diagon Alley. If you’ve ever seen the first Harry Potter movie you will recognize this. I was a little disappointed by the entrance. It doesn’t really look like the bricks are “folding away”. It looks more like a troll smashed through it. I know I couldn’t really get a close look at it since there was a cluster of people so I may have missed something.
And then…. you see it… everything you have ever wanted to see in real life since seeing the Harry Potter movies… Breathtaking. I knew it was going to be awesome, but it was truly unreal. It went above and beyond my expectations.
We did a little walking about, saw some kids playing with their wands (we didn’t get one), then we came across Gringotts!
I mean I haven’t seen a dragon in real life, but I bet it’d look like that! That thing even blows fire out of it’s mouth! It happens every 15 minutes… you can tell when it’s coming because there is a little blue flame that ignites in it’s mouth and the boom… it’s more like a roar-ish boom, regardless, you’ll jump outa your socks when that thing goes off. It was very impressive!
So we got in line for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. So I was expecting a pretty long line… it ended up being about 1.5 hours. I thought that was pretty reasonable considering it was the busiest week of the year… So here’s the rub… the line outside is crazy… it zigs and zags a million times and there’s almost NOTHING to look at. There are some ministry of magic posters and one of those carts used in the movie to find the vaults… I’m guessing this is probably authentic since the real DeLorean was there.
Once you loop all around in crazy circles, you arrive back to where you originally entered. This is where it gets interesting. So previously I was handed a ticket and told to get all the personals (bags, sunglasses, etc.) from the rest of my party. Once I got to the actual “entrance” to Gringotts, I was asked to leave the line and put our items in a locker. This is one thing I really like about Universal. They provide you with lockers for the length of the ride… FOR FREE!
Once I got a locker (it was way to small in the locker area and I was getting annoyed— the ride exits into there as well which makes it even more clustered) I was able to enter the line again with the ticket that I was provided. That’s when I walked into this…
I seriously felt like I was walking into the REAL Gringotts like Harry did in the first movie… It was… amazing. After you’ve had your fill of pictures, you’re asked to go either right or left… this is where you come upon Bill Weasley. He gives you a little introduction and then says we’re going down to the caverns. They call this the “pre-show”. You exit to the left and there’s an elevator. This elevator was pretty cool. I’m sure we weren’t going down a million stories… I’m not sure we even went anywhere but it sure felt like we did. It was like an “open air” elevator. The floor of the elevator moved and made it seem like we were moving pretty fast and heading down.
Once you exit the elevator you meet up with the rest of the line…. it was seriously another 15-20 minutes to the ride after we got off the elevator. So we picked up some 3D glasses… because that’s how Universal does it… and headed back up some spiral stairs… For the life of me I don’t know why we went down so far on the elevator if we were just going to have to walk back up? Universal is stepping up with their creativity and decorative ability. It honestly felt like we were down in caverns… There were stalactites or stalagmites… whichever one comes from the top. It was cool and damp too.
FINALLY we get to the loading platform. The carts were there waiting. 4 across seating… and they were decently comfortable. The ride was cool. You spun around, saw some 3D images, experienced some 4D elements…
Honestly, the ride was like 2 minutes… 2 hours of waiting for 2 minutes of ride… I mean you TOTALLY have to ride it but man… sometimes I wish Universal upped the ante a little with a longer ride… I mean their rides are crazy, amazing pieces of technology… While I appreciate the quality ALOT, I just wish they’d extend the ride a little more…
I want to look at it another way though. Maybe Universal starts the ride well before you actually get on the cart. Maybe Universal isn’t looking at it as a “ride” in the traditional sense… It’s more of an experience… The moment you walk into the main area in Gringotts is when the experience starts. When you think about it this way, the ride is actually 20 minutes long! Mind-Blown.
Ok so maybe I’m stretching it there… but regardless… Universal is no longer Disney’s lesser opponent… They are now equals.
Alright, so we Escaped Gringotts and I needed a butterbeer. YOU NEEEEEEEEEEEED TO HAVE A FROZEN BUTTERBEER… It’s AMAZING! For those of you who don’t know, butterbeer is THE DRINK to get at the pub when you’re a wizard. In the movies and books it is an alcoholic beverage. Hermoine actually gets a little toasted on butterbeer. However, Universal’s real life version of butterbeer is non-alcoholic. You can get it frozen or regular. The best way to describe it is delicious… but seriously, it’s like a butterscotch cream soda… I like neither butterscotch or cream soda and I LOVE THIS!
We got our butterbeers then explored Diagon Alley a little more. We found Knockturn Alley, checked out Weasley Wizard Wheezes and then headed to Kings Cross Station. Naturally we had to get a chocolate frog and some Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans for our journey on the Hogwarts Express.
In order to experience the Hogwarts Express one must possess a park to park pass. You walk into Kings Cross Station and they scan your ticket. It seriously looks like a legit train station. You walk down the queue a little and you can see a nice nod to the movies.
Keep on going and there are more and more decorations. I believe there is a section where you can see people going through platform 9 3/4 but I missed it. I was so exhausted by the time we got to this point of the day that I just couldn’t focus.
Finally you turn a corner and you’re there. Harry’s trunk and Hedwig are hanging out waiting for the next train. And then there she is… the Hogwarts Express.
So this was a pretty cool ride as well. You load onto a train car… 8 to a cabin. As you start to travel the window mirrors what you would be seeing outside if you were on your way to Hogsmeade Station. Then Harry, Ron and Hermoine can be heard outside your cabin door. It was very well done and a nice breather from all the other action.
This is where our journey took and unfortunate turn. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was down. I was sad. I’ve experienced it before but really wanted my cousin to ride it. I’ll give you guys a pretty good write up on the Hogsmeade area of Universal in a later post. We ended up going home after we found out the ride was closed. By that time it was almost 11 and we’d been going since early in the morning.
Overall, I feel like Universal is seriously stepping up their game. The rides are getting better and their attention to detail is almost as good as Disney’s. I’m excited to see what Universal comes up with next!
Now that I’m home, I’ve been thinking a lot about our vacation. I’ve had time to digest all the excitement and pick out my favorite and least favorite things about our trip. We did so much from day to day that I thought it would be best to break it down by day.
Day 1 at Disney was super busy. It’s literally the struggle for Josh and I to get up early when we’re on vacation. Normally the parks open at 8 or 9… our goal was to get to the park around 10 or 11. Little did I know that would cause us even more struggle.
Let’s start at the beginning of the day. Parking = Nightmare. Normally it’s not so bad, but since it was the busiest week of the year, it was a struggle. We went to Epcot in the morning. People had to park in the grass… Thank God we had a handicap sign (my grandmother was with us). My mom came a little later to the parks and still had to park in the middle of no where even with her handicap sign.
This was the first time we had to go through the new security check points when entering the park. Naturally it took a little while for the Disney Police to check all our bags. If you don’t need one, Don’t bring one! After your bags are checked they will randomly choose people to go through the metal detectors. This was a very confusing process because no one told you what was going on. It appeared that many people assumed everyone had to go through the metal detector. It is a natural reaction when I see one as well. I guess society has us brainwashed like that.
This was the day I forgot to set up our Fastpass… worst mistake of the trip. We tried to ride Spaceship Earth… it was an hour and a half wait… Not worth it… then we went over to the living seas and rode the clam shells with Nemo… I really enjoyed that. We had a 4 year old in our party so I thought he’d like it too. One other thing that I have always wanted to check out was Turtle Talk with Crush. I always thought it was such a neat idea to have an interactive conversation with a character from a Disney favorite. I have to tell you, I was mildly disappointed… Crush asked the audience (the kids sat up front) for questions. Maybe we just had some really crappy questions… but I expected it to be funnier, or cooler? To me it was mediocre at best.
After we checked out Crush and Nemo, we headed to the world showcase. It was time for Drinking Around the World. I had everything planned out as you guys saw in my previous post. Well… the plan was changed at our first country, Canada.
I wanted to try a beer in Canada. The one I planned was a very unique brew that is only found at Epcot unless you are in Quebec, Canada. Well, I couldn’t find it… I didn’t look at the sit down restaurant, and i wasn’t about to go all the way into the sit down restaurant at noon to wait in line for an hour for a beer. So I got a recommendation from the beer cart attendant. La Fin du Monde was the winner. It’s 9.5% alcohol. It was pretty good and I don’t like beer.
Our next stop was United Kingdom. Success!!!! We had a Welsh Dragon. It was delicious and cheaper than expected!!! Here’s a picture!!!
Next we hit up France… Again Success! We had the Orange Slush… It was fantastic… The only thing that made me mad was that the girls at the cart would not give me extra glasses to split the drink!
We headed to Morocco next, no luck there… I found the stand that sells the drink we wanted but they told us the drink wasn’t ready? Ok? Morocco failed us.
I don’t know what was going on in Japan. I found the “Garden House” where the drinks are, but they didn’t have our planned drink! We had to get a Tokyo Sunrise… which is basically a sex on the beach… Japan was a partial fail.
America came through!!!! So we had planned a Red Stag Lemonade. Their Lemonade slush machine was broken, so we got it with a frozen red Fanta… IT WAS SO GOOD! Seriously one of my favorites of the day!!!
Italy and Germany were fails! I couldn’t find what I was looking for… well I did find the drink at the Italy pavilion but the line was like a mile long… We skipped that. Germany however, was a true fail. I couldn’t even find Hovels. I was soooo excited to have this authentic German beer that could only be found at Epcot and Germany… no such luck.
China was a success. We had our Tipsy Ducks in Love… It was fantastic… I very much enjoyed the spiked iced coffee… YUMMY!
Norway and Mexico were also failures… Lines were astronomical, we had a bored 4 year old and half of my party was missing. We rode the boat ride at the Mexico pavilion and said farewell to Epcot.
After our mild disappointment at Epcot, we headed over to Hollywood Studios. Honestly, we were beat. I didn’t think we were all gonna make it. Once we met up with the other half of our group, we immediately bee-lined for Star Wars Launch Bay. I must say I was very impressed with this attraction. I’m going to have my husband write a review for us on all the Star Wars attractions at Hollywood Studios (he’s been a Star Wars fan since he was born… 30 years ago). I’m a new Star Wars fan but I have to tell you, the details… it was just something very special. I can’t say enough good things about it.
After that, and after my husband and cousin got their light sabers, we went over to an old favorite, the Great Movie Ride. My favorite rides are the ones where the “operator” has a huge part. Like the skipper on the Jungle Cruise or the driver on Kilimanjaro Safaris. The Great Movie Ride has a tram driver. This tram driver has a very large part to play during this ride. They have a huge script… good acting is a must, or at least a personality. Our tram driver didn’t have either… she wasn’t even sarcastic. I was so disappointed… at one point during the ride, a “gangster” hijacks the tram… our gangster was terrible. She had the gangster accent but that was it! I was just soooooooo disappointed with the whole experience on this ride… It supposed to be an experience, it was just a dull, air conditioned ride… worse than It’s a Small World…
I have to say, we had some really good food at ABC Commissary. I cannot complain. There was plenty of seating inside and out… I mean we waited a while, but that was the norm for the week.
Ok, so here is one of my favorite experiences of the day… The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. I CANNOT tell you how much I LOVED this! I am so sad they will no longer be having this, (Star Wars land better be EPIC). Let me tell you about these lights… It’s like walking down a city street completely covered in christmas lights… Not only are there lights, but the lights dance along to the Christmas music. Oh, and there’s SNOW! Yes, SNOW in 90 degree weather! I was blown away. I have never seen anything so spectacular in my entire life. I almost said I was blown away again! That’s how great it was! I am so happy we got to see if before it was over.
The night just got even better from there. We rode Star Tours. It was awesome. Evidently there are over 100 different experiences you can have on Star Tours! You basically will have a different experience every time you ride it… unless you ride it over 100 times of course. Our experience was filled with Fin, BB-8 and new scenes from the movie. We were also sent on a mission by BB-8. It was well worth the hour and a half wait (why did I forget about Fastpass?)
After enjoying Star Tours, we got a good seat in the middle of the park to wait for the grand finale… Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular. As the name suggests, it was SPECTACULAR! Disney is the best when it comes to story telling with fireworks. The score from Star Wars is Epic… Disney fireworks are epic… and when you shoot fireworks off in time with the Star Wars score… you can’t go wrong… I can’t even put into words how amazing the experience was. I literally stood there for the entire show with my mouth open. It was the BEST end to a day at Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
After a week long hiatus we’re back! I decided that I would try to fully enjoy my week in Florida and “un-plug” while we were there. Now I have a lot of catching up to do, so fasten your seat belts and hold on.
I wanted to start off with an overall impression of the past week. I thought this would be the best place to start. As you all know, I am a planner… So I had a plan… but as we all know, things don’t always go as planned. I am very proud of myself for being able to go with the flow and rearrange plans as we went. When I was younger I would have a panic attack if I had to change plans last minute… Now I’m more laid back (thanks hubby).
I had a “working itinerary” which is just the fancy way to say a schedule not set in stone. This itinerary outlined what day we would be visiting the different parks and what days would be downtime. Thanks to the internet, I could maximize our days in the parks by picking which days of the week is least crowded for each park. How is this possible? Undercover Tourist. I have relied on this website since we went to Disney in 2009. Their crowd calendar is the BEST! I would highly recommend it.
Despite my plan to go on the “least” crowded days, we still hit crowds… I mean we went to Disney during their busiest week of the year… Here’s what I came away with from this trip…
Be Flexible — You may have a plan, but plans change, especially when you have a group of 10… don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan.
Don’t forget to use your Fastpass — I forgot to set these up the one day we were there and we ended up not getting to ride much of anything and when we did ride something we waited in line for over an hour… Lesson Learned
Patience — There were literally people everywhere! I couldn’t believe how many people were there. I mean I knew it was going to be busy, but this was just on another level.
Take a break — with so many people everywhere it was necessary to just sit down somewhere for like an hour and chill out. We tried to do this as much as we could. Normally you can leave the park and come back later, but with the parks reaching max capacity every day, we had to stay where we were.
Don’t forget to hydrate — water, water and more water! It’s important. We usually brought in a bottle of water and then kept filling it up at water fountains. A bottle of water is $2.75 in the park. This is actually rather reasonable, I’ve been places where a bottle of water is over $4!!
Use the Disney App — there are several different apps you can download on your phone. Some are just for apple, some of just for droids. The one that I found most helpful came from Disney. It shows you accurate wait times. I mean, it never hurts to just walk past the stand-by entrance, but the app helps a lot.
Last, but not least, Don’t visit Disney the week between Christmas and New Years — unless your ultimate goal is to be there for New Years Eve, just pick a different week. I have honestly never seen so many people in all my years of visiting Disney and Universal. They had to close down the parks because there were so many people… If you’re like me and can’t deal with a lot of crowds… just pick a different week. Save yourself the frustration.
Well guys, those are the big take-a ways from our trip to Disney and Universal. Stay tuned for some exciting posts about everything we did while we were there. I’m so excited to share all the details!
Not only will we be visiting Disney for 3 or 4 days but we’ll also be spending a day at Universal Studios! I feel like I haven’t given a lot of love to Universal so far… It’s just… The best part about Universal is HARRY POTTER! It’s sad to say but that’s the ONLY reason why we’re going to Universal…
Last year, Universal expanded on their Harry Potter Themed Area… I’m always blown away by how amazing Disney’s themeing is but Universal outdid themselves with Harry Potter…
I obviously bee-line for the Harry Potter area… unfortunately it’s not at the front of the park… so it’s a bit of a walk… but sooooo worth it!
My husband and I had the privileged of visiting the original section of the Harry Potter area in 2013… I fell in love… The atmosphere, the food, the attention to detail… I just can’t even begin to explain everything.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan you’ll know what I’m talking about with the names of the attractions. For those of you who are true Muggles (non-magic folk) I do some extra explaining for you.
Here are my top things I need to see or do at Universal/Islands of Adventure
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts — If you’re a Harry Potter fan I don’t need to say anything more… for those of you who aren’t… I can’t even describe to you my excitement. Gringotts is the Wizard Bank… and there’s a fire breathing dragon on top… This is what I would consider a “dark ride”, lots of special effects, twists and turns… I’m super excited!!!
Diagon Alley — Where wizards go to get their school supplies and go shopping in general. This is where you can find Ollivander’s (where you buy your wand), Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions (you need a robe/uniform for school or the Yule Ball), and other shops where you can get Quidditch (a wizards favorite sport) supplies and other fun things. You can also find Knockturn Alley (a street with shops dedicated to the dark arts)
The Knight Bus — This interactive attraction showcases the wizard world’s emergency transportation… a purple triple-decker.
Butterbeer — MUST DRINK FROZEN! this is a non-alcoholic beverage… butterscotch-esq but SO DELICIOUS!
Platform 9 3/4 and Hogwarts Express! — This is how you get to Hogwarts (wizard boarding school). Platform 9 3/4 is located at Kings Cross Station (train station in London) between platforms 9 and 10. You have to walk through a brick wall to get there. Then you get a seat on the Hogwarts Express and travel to Hogsmeade! (you must have the park hopper option to enjoy this attraction!)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey — So I’ve ridden this before (make sure you take some Dramamine prior to riding) but each time I ride it I notice more things. I’m also excited to have my mom and dad ride. You basically get onto this “cart” and it simulates like you’re riding on a broom. It’s pretty cool!
Dragon Challenge — This is a traditional suspended coaster. You can choose between two dragons, the Chinese Fireball or Hungarian Horntail. One is a little more intense than the other.
Now I don’t doubt that there are more things that I want to experience at Universal but these are the main things… I’ll let you all know how Diagon Alley is!
Last night we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens…. It was spectacular! I loved it. I mean it’s Disney now… how could I not like it?
With the new movie out and Disney gearing up for Star Wars Land, I thought it would be cool to discuss some Star Wars facts and Star Wars things I’m looking forward to seeing at Disney!
Star Tours — Rumor has it Star Tours has been updated with some new scenes… Star Tours has always been one of my favorite “adventures” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, even before my husband “trained” me to be strong with the force.Star Tours is a 3D, motion simulation adventure through a galaxy far, far away. R2D2 and C3PO are our guides. A normal “tour” turns into an exciting mission filled with the antics of our favorite droids. As you get in line you walk through an Ewok village and see an AT-AT… The Ewok village is my favorite! I love Ewoks!
Star Wars Launch Bay — this is a new attraction this year. I was actually surprised at how quickly this got built! My husband is super excited to check this out. The attraction is more of an exhibit. It features movie props, games, behind-the-scenes videos and character interactions! This is probably the ONLY place we will wait in line to meet Chewy and other Star Wars characters… I foresee us spending way too much time here.
Jedi Training – Trials of the Temple — This is an interactive show for the kiddies. Kids from the audience are chosen to become Padawans (Jedi’s in training). They are “trained” in the forces and then their powers and skills are put to the test when the face the Dark Side! (I don’t have any children so I may skip this)
Tatooine Traders — Tatooine Traders is a gift shop themed after Anakin and Luke’s childhood planet where you can get all your Star Wars goodies!
Star Wars: Path of the Jedi — Disney’s website says this is coming soon, so I’m not 100% certain if we’ll get to experience this or not. Basically what the Path of the Jedi is is a 10 minute movie summarizing the fall and return of the Jedi and giving you a looking into what’s to come.
Watto’s Grotto — this is another gift shop based around Tatooine.
Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular — THIS IS WHAT I AM MOST EXCITED ABOUT! STARTING TODAY at 11pm and nightly (check the schedule!) there will be an epic firework finale featuring music from Star Wars! JOSH I KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO READ THIS AND I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU TO EXPERIENCE THIS! I AM FREAKING OUT!
I CANNOT WAIT!!!!!!!!!! I’ll share all my first hand experiences with all of you of course!!! 1 week and counting!
So yesterday I worked on my “plan” for my grandma and I (and whomever else in our party that wants to go) to tour the different resorts on the Disney property. The plan seems simple, you park one place and then take Disney transportation everywhere. I’m a little nervous about actually executing this plan. There are a lot of moving pieces… hopefully my grandma is patient with me…
So here’s the plan:
Park at the Main Gate
Take Resort Monorail to Contemporary Resort
Take Resort Monorail to Polynesian
Take Resort Monorail to Grand Floridian
Take Monorail to Magic Kingdom
Take boat or bus to Wilderness Lodge
Take boat or bus back to Magic Kingdom
Take bus to Boardwalk Area
Walk to Swan and Dolphin
Walk to Yacht and Beach Club
Bus to Animal Kingdom
Bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge
Bus to Magic Kingdom
Take a car ride though Fort Wilderness Campground
There are also resorts around the Disney Springs area that you can visit. I was thinking we’d do this the day we went to Disney Springs.
It’s normally recommended that you allot 3-4 hours for this tour… we’ve allotted a whole day just in case it takes longer since we are going to a very busy week. I’m looking forward to seeing everything first hand and sharing it with you!
So I came across this awesome idea on another blog… Drinking Around the World. Unbeknownst to me, Disney sells alcohol! I don’t know why this is so shocking to me…. maybe I just never thought about it… I’ve never really wanted an alcoholic drink walking around Disney. Since this is my last Disney hooray before we have children, why not?!
So here are the basics:
Visit each country at Epcot
Buy an alcoholic drink at each country
Have the Cast Member write on your “passport”
So I went totally nerd on this venture. You can purchase “passports” for $2.99 each online but I’ve decided to make them. (click here to purchase online)
Mexico —- Wild Passion Fruit Margarita $13.00
Norway — Aquavit $9.00
China ——-Tipsy Ducks in Love $8.50
Germany – Hovels (beer) $8.50
Italy ——– Italian Sangria $8.00
America — Red Stag Lemonade $8.50
Japan —— Strawberry Amasake Mist $7.50
Morocco — The Habibi Daiquiri $8.99
France —– Grand Marnier & Grey Goose Orange Slush $9.34
UK ———– The Welsh Dragon $10.50
Canada —- Blonde de Chambly (beer) $8.50
So I know these prices were from 2013 but it at least gives me something to go off of. I was thinking my husband and I could share the drinks and it’d be more reasonable.
My husband and I like mixed drinks better than beer, but I had to throw some beer’s in there since Epcot is the only place you can get some of these beers outside of their originating country. I’m super excited about this! I can’t wait to share pictures with you all!!!
I admit it, I’m a total Disney nerd. I love the movies, I love the parks, I just LOVE anything Disney. Every time I go to Disney I always notice some guests and a lot of the cast members wear lanyards with pins on them. Of course I was interested and did some research on this…It’s called Disney Pin Trading.
So I did a lot of research on pin trading and I want to share it with you. If you’re like me there are only so many stuff Minnie’s or Disney t-shirts you can own before it gets weird… especially when you’re 26 and don’t have children. So I thought this year we’d “collect” a new souvenir… Disney Trading Pins. Officially Disney pin trading started during the Millennium Celebration in 1999, even though pins were always available at the resort.
What exactly is Pin Trading? Here are the basics… You visit any Disney resort location with your lanyard and pins. Locate a Cast Member wearing a lanyard with pins. If you see one you like, offer one of your pins for one of their pins (it’s in the handbook that they cannot decline a trade). And that’s it!
WHAT YOU NEED:
Official Disney Trading Pins (you gotta start out with some so you can trade them)
So what constitutes an Official Disney Trading Pin? Here are some guidelines.
Pin must be metal
Pin must show a Disney, Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort affiliation. (other business units, such as ESPN, ABC, etc. are allowed)
Pins may not be plastic, rubber, or other non-metal material.
Pins must be in good, undamaged condition.
Pins may not be “Name pins”
There are a couple other rules as well…
Pins are to be traded one pin at a time, hand to hand.
When trading, keep the back of the pins attached.
Refrain from touching another person’s pin or lanyard.
Certain pin sets must be traded as sets.
When trading, offer the Cast Member a pin that they do not already have on their lanyard.
Trade only pin for pin, no monies or gifts are to be traded.
You can only trade one pin of the same style with a Cast Member.
Seems like a lot of rules… but the Cast Members are well aware of the rules and are sure to direct you in the proper manner. I have honestly NEVER met a Cast Member that was rude so if you do something wrong, I’m sure they’ll be polite about it.
You can purchase a starter kit when you get to the parks or online. I saw one that was more kid oriented, it featured the Mickey Mouse Club House. You got the lanyard and 4 pins for $27.95. You can also purchase a lanyard by itself and pins. Lanyards are about $10-$12 and pins start from around $8.99 each. There are sets available as well.
Since we know that you’ll pay a pretty penny for your lanyard and pins at Disney, I’ve read about a shortcut… it’s called eBay!
So I ordered a lanyard off eBay… Then I ordered a “lot” of official Disney pins… I think I got 25 for $12. All together I spent $20 for both the lanyard and the pins… Now I can just take the pins with me and trade for all the ones we want… I’m sure Josh has his eye on Star Wars…
Over this past weekend we had the pleasure of visiting one of our favorite cities, Pittsburgh. We find ourselves in Pittsburgh often during the spring/summer months, but not often in the winter. Saturday night was a treat and I’m so excited to share it with you.
The main draw in Pittsburgh during the holiday season is the Mass Mutual Ice Rink at PPG Place. The Rink first opened in December of 2001. The first time I visited was on New Years Eve in 2009.
Since our first visit, many upgrades have taken place and many new additions.
The Rink Facts:
25% increase in skating area this year. The Rink is now 67% bigger than the one at Rockefeller Center!!
New cooling system, dashboards, and ice mat this year
New Skates this year
The new rink is 2/3 the size of a regulation NHL rink
It is truly a sight to behold. My husband took such an amazing picture.
Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to skate even though we came prepared with our own skates and everything! It was such a gorgeous night Saturday that everyone has the same idea. The initial line at 8pm was over an hour… After we walked around for a couple hours we came back and the line was still 45 minutes. Then they brought the Zamboni out… we just gave up by that time, it was already 11pm. Josh was very disappointed.
Like I said before, the area around PPG Place has been expanded and has several other holiday attractions to enjoy.
In Market Square there is a holiday market. This was the fourth year for the People’s Gas Holiday Market which features holiday shopping from around the world. Market Square is filled with alpine chalets housing gifts for the holidays. There were many vendors, some sold jewelry made from coins from around the world, there was a photographer selling his pictures, and a couple vendors selling unique Christmas tree ornaments. In the middle of Market Square there is a spectacular “tree” made up of lighted orbs that danced to the music.
We also visited the Wintergarden at PPG Place. It was really cool as well. There were two exhibits at the Wintergarden… Spirits of Christmas Giving Around the World (which is a set of statues that depict the “Santa Clause” from different countries along with a small story) and a HUGE gingerbread house display. This is the 13th year for the gingerbread house display. The exhibit is intended to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund. More information can be found on PPG’s Website.