This 5-day trip to Disney was a lot of fun! We did Epcot for 3 days till we were so full of the park that we didn't have anything left to do. We did all the movies we'd never done (Canada, France, etc.) and discovered parts of the pavilions we didn't know existed like in Morocco, Norway, and Japan. We didn't do everything in Japan or China, so we did leave some things for later visits. Plus, Epcot is always changing up stuff in Futureworld (at the front of the park). They had a really cool educational Piggy Bank game to play.
Next time, I think we want to spend more time in Hollywood Studios. We did one 3/4 day there, as usual, and that's never enough; we've never done the outdoor shows or The American Idol Experience. Hollywood Studios is more geared for older kids and adults than the Magic Kingdom. We spent one full, full, full day in the Magic Kingdom - till like 1AM. When you stay on Disney property, the parks provide extended hours so you can be in the parks - either before/after the parks are officially open; they're called "Magic Hours". During the Magic Hours, the ride lines go down and you can get on EVERYTHING till your heart's content (you have to flash your hotel/resort key). We went on It's a Small World 3 times, I think, and Space Mountain 2 times (well, Matt did - my back was out). In Tomorrowland, we were all able to go through Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (a definite precursor to Toy Story's Midway Mania) about 5 times.
It's always fun to do the parks with the kids, too. They know the parks really well, too. Michael (11) and Samantha (13) have been probably 25 times and Gianna (5) has been probably 7 already; Gianna got her first haircut there - at about 8 months old!! We always do at least 3 character meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) where characters come to your table for pictures and autographs. Yes, the characters sign these little autograph books - great marketing for Disney!!
Disney is always starting up new collecting schemes. The one that Michael and Samantha slowly got me
into was the pins and lanyards. All over the parks and in all the Disney stores, there are these great quality pins of all the characters (hard to find Winnie the Pooh, though), signs, vintage signs and park names, elements of the parks - like Cinderella's castle, the monorail, a turkey leg (it's a thing at the parks), the rides, the areas of the parks (Adventureland or Tomorrowland, etc.). Some of them are so cool, but stepping outside the Disney frenzy and fervor, you realize they're absolutely wasteful. Still, I've bought like 12 of them over time. The kids have EASILY 100s of them. 100s. OH! And AT the parks, the characters (any employee working around the park) will have their own lanyard with pins that only characters can purchase. The characters have them to trade with the kids running around the parks. Then the kids get the coveted "character pins". It's a great marketing scheme. The pins that the characters get from the kids, then go back on the shelf for sale! They're making money hand-over-fist at the parks.
One thing that's always fun to do - for us - is to wear our Pride Mickey. When we wear those, everyone comes out of the woodwork. We strike up conversations we'd never have otherwise. Sometimes, we also get a little special-er treatment, such as getting a roll of stickers to win the kids' sticker contest
or get seated in a restaurant without reservations (happens more often than we realize, actually). We also found "family" throughout the parks on rides with their families or at the tequila bar in Mexico - that was a fun evening for sure! We were told every time we came across a "family" member that we were there a week early. LOL Gay Days are June 2-4 this year.
I catch myself feeling the pull of the Disney fervor more and more. And by the end of each trip, I'm sick of Disney stuff but still wanna look at it and shop around. It's a love-hate relationship. The Disney stores spread around the country's malls and outlet centers provide very different stuff than you find at the parks. That stuff is not nearly as good as what you get in the parks, either - from quality, quantity, and selection. They want you to be at the parks because they make SOOOO much money off every person or kid that goes there.
They even make money off the seniors that go. Matt's Aunt Jenny (who loves Donald Duck - below at Chef Mickey's
) went with us this time without
her daughter - she's probably 83 now. Matt's sister rented her a little scooter that she could use every day and get recharged overnight for the next day. She drove that thing around the parks all day. Granted, you have to have a little finesse to drive them and park them, but at least she wasn't thoroughly exhausted every day and could keep up with the clan more easily. At the parks those scooters rent for $75 a day - on top of all the other fees - hotel, food, park entry. This scooter Tricia rented was about $25 a day and was really sturdy. Thing is, if your scooter's not Disney property and your battery dies in a park, you're really screwed. But, thankfully, that never happened!
Notice the sidewalk pic (above)? That picture was taking moments before Jenny almost whacked off her head on a chain! Yeah, that's the picture of Jenny entering what we now call, the "Death Trap For Scooters". She rounded one of the inner corners and got spooked when the scooter jolted a bit. Instead of releasing the accelerator, she clamped down, speeding the scooter INTO a section of chain! It took FOUR BIG BURLY MEN - including Matt and me - to move her on her scooter and the scooter away from the chain to a safe place. Jenny had grabbed her neck, releasing the accelerator (thankfully) and one of the men quickly threw off the scooter key (so it wouldn't move anymore). From where I was standing with the kids, it looked like Jenny was having a seizure and we all jumped into action. She's OK, but beyond her purchases for the weekend, she's got some pretty bruises on her arm, shoulder, and neck to prove she had a fight with a chain and won! That was surely a scary Disney moment!
Getting there and being in the hotel alone is pretty pricey. You can get a meal plan which is - in the grand scheme - economical (I think you can get this even if you're not staying on Disney property - somehow tied to your park passes). If you're paying to be on Disney property, you can take advantage of lots of "free" things - like Disney's Magical Express (AWESOME!), which takes your bags when you arrive in Orlando and transports them to your hotel room within 3 hours of your arrival, and when you arrive at the airport, they transport you
to your resort. Same when you leave, but you can check in for your flight at your resort and you don't see your bag till you're at your home airport. Matt and I did that and took off to Epcot for almost the full day before we boarded the plane to come home! We squeezed in a couple more things - like lunch in Morocco (EXCELLENT!) and a couple of beers in England. We found out this time around that the restaurant in the Japan pavilion is AWFUL! AWFUL! AWFUL!
Very memorable trip indeed. I took many fewer pictures this time around, too, than in times past, because I've now got them all - except the new goofy pictures of us in the parks, with each other, with the kids, around the characters, etc. Oh, but at Epcot, this weekend we were there was the last weekend of the Epcot Flower Festival! Many, many Disney characters were highlighted around the park and World Showcase as topiaries. They were (most times) really well done. The peacock under the Epcot ball was hard to photograph, but was really breathtaking. I was pretty disappointed with the Bambi topiaries in a butterfly net house, though, because they weren't made of any flowers or plants at all! But all the major ones were pretty good. There's also a Mickey topiary at Hollywood Studios that I captured and show at the end below.
When I'm at Disney, my inner kid comes out - fully. Even the kids told me that I'm a bigger kid in Disney than they are!! LOL I think that's fun. When I get on the plane to go to Disney, I completely shut off from work and any stress around town that I've been feeling leading up to the trip - it's all gone. It's truly always a de-stressing trip!!
We probably won't return to Disney World until 2014, when they finish the NEW FANTASYLAND! They removed Toontown, which is probably good - it was very much a little kid's place. The new Fantasyland looks like it's going to be really cool! They're also expanding a section of the Grand Floridian Resort, where we've not stayed yet. The picture below shows the expansion. There's also a video of our time in Spaceship Earth at Epcot and here's a link to our game you can play
that we posed for (if our game doesn't show up, enter the code KQCQ2FMXMMRH8Q
for our game). Enjoy!