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View Full Version : It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Dec 15-22 Trip.


ruckelc
12-27-2012, 04:11 PM
I've gone back and forth about writing my first trip report but I figure that everyone has the same crisis before they write their first report, so I might as well give it a shot. The planning for our trip began during the Spring when I started convincing my parents to take another trip to Disney World. In 2010 we went, as a family, to the World for the Food and Wine Festival and MNSSHP so I told them that the only logical thing to do after that would be to go to the parks during the holidays. Luckily they bought it and we set our departure date as the 15th of December.

Here's a quick lineup of the not ready for prime time players who came along on the trip this time.
First on the list there is myself, I'm 20 and an unofficial tour guide at Walt Disney World. I know that my family and friends probably get tired of my unintentional walking tours of the parks but whenever we are just wandering around in Walt Disney World I can always be heard spouting out random "Oh did you know?" facts and anecdotes about the back stories of attractions and lands that I have picked up from the many podcasts that I religiously listen to.
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This is Kelly my DGF who is lucky enough to have gone to DLP and DL as a kid but who hadn't been fortunate enough to see Walt Disney World or any of the parks as an adult. For her this was almost a first time trip and much of my excitement about this trip came from getting to show her the parks that I love so much for the first time.
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Next is Susie my DM whose love of Disney comes close to rivaling my own. She enjoys the parks at a much more leisurely pace than myself and is typically found watching people from the Wedway or the various benches or slow-moving modes of transportation that can be found throughout Disney.
http://i1324.photobucket.com/albums/u605/Ruckelc/DSCN0102_zpsfcce9621.jpg

Last but not least was my DF who unfortunately couldn't come on the trip with us because his job as a photographer keeps him working 24/7 and he had too much work that he couldn't postpone for eight days. With the availability of wifi in the parks I could Facetime with him so there were many times that he came along with us even though he wasn't actually there.

Now that you know a little bit about everyone, here's a quick preview of the trip. For the first three nights of our trip we were lucky enough to be staying at the Polynesian but because of the timing of our trip, the room rates were switching to peak season rates which meant that afterwards we would be moving to the Pop Century. During our eight day trip we planned on hitting The-Park-That-Must-Not-Be-Named for a day because we are all Harry Potter and Simpsons fanatics, attending Mickey's Very Merry, going to Tusker House for a character breakfast, and then just enjoying the Christmas decorations in the parks.

Alright hopefully writing these posts gets a little faster as I continue this trip report and I hope that it is entertaining enough for yall to follow along!

Day 1
1. They Should Make Touring Plans for the Airport (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47008543&postcount=4)
2. Mele Kalikimaka! (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47055720&postcount=5)
3. A Series of Firsts (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47112246&postcount=6)
4. ...But No One Ever Wants to do That... (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47122130&postcount=9)
5. Peace on Earth is Misleading (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47123908&postcount=10)
6. The First of Many Late Nights (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47141679&postcount=14)

Day 2
7. Five Hours Later (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47148676&postcount=15)
8. Even More Magic (http://disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47205129&postcount=16)
9. Too Good to Be True (http://www.disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47303238&postcount=20)
10. Thanks Mr. Osborne (http://www.disboards.com/showpost.php?p=47371792&postcount=23)

ruckelc
12-27-2012, 04:14 PM
Woah it looks like I'm going to have to resize all of my images but hopefully I get the hang of this!

Grumpy's Wife
12-27-2012, 04:14 PM
Am I first? I'll gladly come along for the ride.

ruckelc
12-27-2012, 11:52 PM
For the first leg of our trip there aren't many pictures because we were scheduled for a 7:30 AM flight out of Austin with a wake up time of 4:45 we figured that we would barely be able to drag ourselves to the departure gate successfully, much less document our morning with photographs.

The morning of our departure was pretty unusual for me because it was the first time that I have actually slept before leaving to go on a trip. Typically I end up being so giddy that I wake up an hour early and start watching videos of Carousel of Progress or something of the sort on Youtube but due to a pretty stressful finals week and getting over sickness that had been caused by an overabundance of late nights, I passed out and slept like a rock.

When we woke up the next morning my family put me to work packing the car while they got ready and finally after about half an hour, or an eternity when you're waiting to go to Disney World we were ready to leave for the airport. Luckily I have the super ability to pass out in any moving vehicle that I'm not driving and I missed most all of our drive to the airport. (Note: Throughout this trip report I will fall asleep on almost every bus, airplane, and boat ride that we take so don't ask about the scenery.) Being dropped off at the airport was pretty emotional event for me because it was the first time that I have been on vacation without my father and leaving him behind at the drop-off curb felt wrong. After shedding a few tears we all hugged and then we left to go stand in the wonderful holiday lines for security that were, as I told Kelly, "Just practice for the real thing at Disney." During our twenty minute wait for baggage check-in and the thirty minute wait for the TSA lines I couldn't help but wonder if the folks that make touring plans could have been any help in reducing my wait times but I'll save those ideas for an email to them.

None of our names are on any government watch lists so the TSA screenings were unfortunately uneventful but it wouldn't be a trip with our family if something interesting didn't happen. After going through security, Kelly decided that she needed to go find orange juice to drink on the flight to MCO and unfortunately this quest coincided with our boarding the plane. Before I knew it, both my mom and I were seated on the plane with all of Kelly's luggage and her boarding pass but no Kelly. I got pretty stressed about this but luckily the stewardess was very helpful and took the boarding pass out to Kelly. This incident was really no big deal but I'm a worrier and to me this was somewhere between nuclear holocaust and the end of the Mayan calendar. After the trip down to MCO was easy but I slept for over two hours of the 2 hour and 45 minute flight so I'm a pretty poor judge of how that went.

Here is the single photo that I managed to take between being asleep and the electronics ban. Unfortunately the files from the first day of our trip have gone missing so it's pretty sparse but there are 1000 others so the content should pick up soon.
http://i1324.photobucket.com/albums/u605/Ruckelc/IMG_06571_zps37536c69.jpg

http://i1324.photobucket.com/albums/u605/Ruckelc/IMG_7653_zps5efd9ecd.jpg

ruckelc
01-02-2013, 11:29 AM
After touching down in Orlando we grabbed our luggage and ran down the familiar path from the mini monorail to the Magical Express buses where we, for the first time ever, were directed towards the bus for a deluxe resort!
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Since the early 90's, when my family first began coming to Disney, my Mom has always wanted to stay somewhere on the monorail line so on this trip she decided that we could spend three of our seven nights in the Polynesian. We arrived at the Magical Express gate with perfect timing and were ushered on to our bus without any wait. The trip to Walt Disney World property was pretty uneventful but that might have been because I was to engrossed in the movie that they play to really notice anything out of the ordinary. Is it just me or does anyone else think that the movie could use a little bit of an update? I noticed in the Pirates of the Caribbean segment that the film still talked about the addition of the Jack Sparrow animatronic and the Davy Jones projection in the mist. Both of those were added a pretty long time ago and one isn't even there anymore. It's not really a big deal because I would still watch it regardless but hopefully it gets changed to include the new Fantasyland and any of the refurbishments that have recently taken place.

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Soon we were parked outside of the Polynesian and to someone who always stays at the Pop Century, this place was amazing. The walk in to the main lobby was beautiful but my breath was taken away when we entered the main concourse. I was definitely not expecting a waterfall to be sitting in the middle of the lobby. The Christmas decorations were wonderfully themed to the Polynesian and I used the time that my mom spent checking in to explore the lobby, search through the gift shops, take pictures of everything, and most important thing that anyone can do while at the Polynesian; find Captain Cook's and the 24 hour Dole Whip machine.

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She's such a good sport for allowing me to take so many pictures of her.

We were very fortunate and got a room in the Rapa Nui building which is a very short walk to the TTC. This made our stay at the Polynesian even better because we had direct access to the express monorails to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. There was none of this waiting on the resort monorail with the commoners, we went where we wanted when we wanted! Note: I don't actually think that the resort monorail is for those lesser than me. I just thought that the TTC being a short walk away was awesome. It also goes without saying that the rooms at the Polynesian blew us away. We stayed in a garden view room and were completely amazed by the amount of space that the room provided. Unfortunately Kelly and I didn't really get to enjoy the luxuriousness of the room because our days mainly consisted of getting up around 6:30 in the morning and coming back to the room between the hours of 1-2 in the morning but my Mom said that it was wonderful to have as a place to relax.

Next up is our first trip to Epcot for the trip and one of many wonderful table service dinners that we would have.

ruckelc
01-07-2013, 01:55 PM
We arrived at Epcot around 2 in the afternoon and because we had reservations at Sanaa later that day, we decided to just wander around and get the rides with shorter lines of out of the way. The Christmas topiaries in front of Spaceship Earth were wonderful and the skill of the people who create them never ceases to amaze me.
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In thinking about quintessential Disney attractions that any first-timer should experience, I realized that I had never ridden Spaceship Earth. Saying this still hurts my heart because I considered myself a "true fan", yet I had never ridden the most noticeable ride in all of Epcot. We quickly went to remedy this problem and I must say that although I have heard that the attraction isn't as great as it once was, I really enjoyed it. My sentiments were echoed by Kelly who, during the descent, said something along the lines of, "I love that these rides are so educational." I heaved a sigh of relief that we hadn't scared her off by making her first ride at Disney a slow moving Omnimover attraction about the history of communication and led the way to The Land pavilion.

My mom has a bad knee that keeps her from walking quickly and for long periods of time and Kelly ran sprints in track so they designated me, the resident cross country runner, as the Fastpass runner and sent me ahead to try and grab some of the last Fastpasses of the day for Soarin'. I grabbed some of the last tickets of the day and spent a few minutes taking photos of the balloons before Kelly and my mom got downstairs.
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Sunshine Seasons is one of our favorite counter service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World and throughout the course of the day we had only consumed coffee and complimentary peanuts from Southwest Airlines so we decided split one of the massive sandwiches that can be found there. The sandwich was pretty good but the real star of the meal was the key lime tart. I had read on a trip report from Tom Bricker that these things were delicious but it surpassed all of my expectations. I'm not really a food critic so I can't properly review this thing but if I tried I would attempt to convey how excellent the combination of sweetness and tart limeyness, if that is even a real word, is and how everyone should try one.
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We floated on feelings of key lime euphoria over to what I believe is one of the best rides in Epcot, Living with the Land. I really love getting to see the greenhouses and the innovative ways in which Disney does agriculture in that limited space but I always wonder if the people that you see in the labs during the ride are actually doing things or if they are just "working". After disembarking, we began to head on over to World Showcase to explore until it was time to leave for AKL. On our way we got lucky and found Snow White with an incredibly short line.
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It made me happy to see that both big and little girls get excited over meeting Snow White and made me wonder how awesome it must feel to get to play one of the "face characters" in the parks. It doesn't seem like you'd run into the issue of children being afraid of you like they are of some fully costumed characters and you would be making the days of little kids all of the time. I would imagine that even if you were tired at the end of a shift, you would probably still be pretty happy from your day.

There isn't really much to report from our first excursion into World Showcase because we only got as far as France before we turned around to go to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was completely infatuated with the different garlands and wreathes in each new country and probably have around 200 photos of all of these combined. We briefly skimmed through the shops in Canada and England and chose to save them for our full day at Epcot so that we could soak up everything all at once. On the way out we did see one of the only photogenic sunsets that we would have during the whole trip, so we made sure to take pictures and were lucky enough to get some keepers.
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I'm quite partial to this one that my mom took but I really love isolation type photos of geometric stuff like the pattern on Spaceship Earth.

Disneylvr
01-07-2013, 02:23 PM
LOVE your photos and I am really enjoying your trip report so far. And that lime tart, YUM. Can't wait to read the next segment!

ruckelc
01-07-2013, 09:20 PM
Thank you so much. That made my day. I've been worried that no one liked it because there has been a lack of feedback and it's nice to hear someone finally!

ruckelc
01-08-2013, 12:08 PM
On the way to the Animal Kingdom Lodge both my mom and I were ecstatic because we had never had the opportunity to see the resort, much less see it completely decked out for Christmas. Although Sanaa is at the Kidani Village portion of AKL, we wanted to see the decorations in the Jambo House so we left Epcot early to make sure that we could fully enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of the lodge. Prior to the trip, I had made sure to keep myself on a Disney media blackout so that I would be completely surprised by the resort decorations and I must say that I'm glad that I did. Upon entering the lobby, the three of us were blown away by the scale and beauty of the decorations.

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This lobby and the Wilderness Lodge lobby are tied for first place as far as Christmas decorations but overall I think that AKL may have won because it has the savanna behind the resort. After recovering from the sheer amazement of the lobby, I recruited Kelly to be my model while I attempted to learn how to use my flash to create photos where the dark background of the Christmas trees and the subject were both properly lit. I was having terrible luck with the whole thing until I realized that some of the switches on the back of the flash had been turned while inside my backpack. I'd wasted 30 minutes of taking underexposed photographs because I had completely failed to pay attention to the settings on my flash.

Soon we departed from Jambo House in the complimentary resort shuttle where we talked to a cast member who told us about the new personalized check in experience that they were going to start rolling out into the resorts around February. He said that cast members would greet you at the curb with tablet computers and begin the process of checking you in as you walked into the resort so that there would be no more waiting at the front desk. This kind of interaction with wonderful cast members like this is what makes us enjoy and return to Disney. After arriving at Kidani Village we thanked our driver and headed down the stairs to Sanaa where we were greeted by the incredibly friendly hostesses at the check-in desk. We were seated immediately and once again the architecture of the Animal Kingdom Lodge blew me away. I loved the feeling of sitting underneath an immense canopy while we ate and I seem to remember the alcoves looking very cozy and secluded even though they were open directly to the main dining room.

Now it's on to the food. Kelly and I are both incredibly adventurous eaters and both of us have a particular soft spot for Indian cuisine. My mom does not share this same love for trying new foods and was wary of the decisions that we would make about what to order the three of us for dinner. We started off pretty tame with the bread sampler so that we could introduce her to Indian breads like naan and the dips that go along with them. I can only remember that we ordered hummus but I would recommend this as a good appetizer, especially if you have someone in your party who is skeptical about different new and different cuisines. After this we decided to get some tandoori chicken and the meat curry sampler with a substitution of paneer tikka masala instead of a second meat based curry. Our server looked at us with a puzzled expression when we requested this and then said, "Huh... No one ever requests that." I guess the idea of pairing a vegetarian dish with a chicken dish has only occurred to a few people? Paneer is just cheese cubes so it doesn't seem that weird but it's not important because it is delicious. The food arrived quickly and we were impressed with how good Disney's Indian food was. Our tandoori chicken, chicken korma, and paneer were all full of flavor and the curries were nice and creamy. The food even succeeded in convincing my mom that Indian food is delicious and not just some weird cuisine that makes your breath smell. I would suggest this restaurant to anyone who enjoys new things and can invest the time to go out to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was well worth the trip and in addition to wonderful food; Sanaa also had what was incontestably the best coffee that I have had on property.

After our wonderful dinner, the three of us boarded the Epcot bus and took quick naps so that we would have the energy to survive the rest of the evening.

ruckelc
01-08-2013, 02:31 PM
Upon arriving back at Epcot my mom told Kelly and I that she was going to take the monorail back to the Polynesian to watch Wishes from the beach and then explore the resort at night. We parted ways with her and were greeted by the friendly bag checkers. I didn't realize that this would be such a hassle on the trip but I carry one of a camera backpack that has a padded compartment in the bottom that can hold extra lenses and the camera body if necessary. This was incredibly helpful because it allowed me to protect the equipment that I had with me but the process of unzipping and rezipping all of the compartments made every bag check take forever. It took so long to check that I could create a line during off hours and frequently did. After finally getting through the turnstiles, Kelly and I rushed towards Soarin' to redeem our Fastpasses so that we could hopefully get out in time to watch Illuminations.

Fortunately for us, the line for Fastpass was completely empty and we got into the boarding area with a very minimal wait. Our small party size was helpful in getting us here quickly but it unfortunately got us stuck in the furthest right, bottom right row which was a less than ideal place to sit. Quite a bit of our view was the distorted edges of the film or just black wall but the ride was still entertaining. The scene of Disneyland decorated for Christmas, which was actually the catalyst for this trip, is still one of my favorite clips in the ride and it also served as a good primer for the show that would happen outside. Kelly loved the ride also and I promised her that we would make sure to get better seats next time so that she could enjoy it from the center of the theater. As we exited The Land, Illuminations started so we walked briskly down the back path towards Canada and found a fairly empty viewing area near the snack bar.

We arrived at our viewing area slightly after the screens on the globe turned on and I decided not to take any pictures because I would rather enjoy the show and the holiday tag without worrying about fiddling with my camera. I really love Illuminations but I was more of a Wishes person. I say was because that all changed when I viewed the holiday tag to Illuminations. Previous to the trip I told Kelly that after going to Disney World you can never look at fireworks shows the same because they typically, unless you live in San Diego, aren't as grand and this finale proved that. The finale to the Illuminations holiday tag is completely breathtaking; the number of fireworks that explode create artificial daylight and practically shake the Earth. If you haven't ever seen it, watch the finale on Youtube and then book a trip so that you can experience it in person. Alright, I'll quit gushing now but the show is seriously amazing.

After this Kelly indulged me in allowing me to explore and photograph Canada, England, and France after dark. I took quite a few pictures but here are a few that I'm partial to.

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While taking pictures of the UK pavilion I met another, very social, photographer who asked me about my 16-35 which sparked a conversation about our favorite lenses to use while shooting in the parks. Getting perspective from another photographer is always wonderful and it contributed to the elation that I was already experiencing. I was getting to take photographs in a near empty World Showcase with my girlfriend and I had 7 more days to continue doing this. Is there anything better? After finishing with France, we left Epcot and walked through the International Gateway so that we could walk to the Beach Club and use their bus to get to the Magic Kingdom. While inside we looked at their working gingerbread carousel which was very impressive.

http://i1324.photobucket.com/albums/u605/Ruckelc/Trip%20Report/IMG_7816_zps90960d5c.jpg

Disneylvr
01-09-2013, 11:10 AM
Thank you for sharing all your holiday decor photos. It has been quite some time since we have visited WDW during the holiday season. I have never seen the tree etc at AKL but did have the pleasure of staying at the WL once during the holiday season and it was gorgeous. I have subscribed to your trip report.

TowerDude
01-09-2013, 12:38 PM
Thanks for your work. I like your style of writing, a cool combination of fact and feeling. i hope you don't mind if i snag the "sunset monorail" photo for my desktop background.....

ruckelc
01-09-2013, 04:06 PM
I don't mind at all. Thanks for the feedback.

ruckelc
01-10-2013, 01:24 AM
After waking up from our short nap on Disney transportation, Kelly and I ran from the bus stop to the entrance plaza of the Magic Kingdom. Apparently I am incredibly threatening looking in comparison to Kelly because on this occasion, they just sort of prodded at her backpack before giving mine a thorough search. This didn't put a damper on my mood but unfortunately the Let the Memories Begin poster that sits in the topiaries that are outside of the train station did. I have seen pictures of the normal Christmas arrangements that are there when this is not and I would have much rather preferred less clutter and more decorations. Walking though the tunnel and onto Main Street quickly remedied my slight disappointment with the other decorations. It is impossible to not enjoy the ambiance of Main Street at any time of the year but when there are 60 foot tall trees, lit wreathes, and Christmas music the area is even more magical.

http://i1324.photobucket.com/albums/u605/Ruckelc/Trip%20Report/IMG_7872_zps3fc4cc07.jpg

While deciding where to go first, Kelly and I glanced towards the posted wait time for Mickey Mouse and there was none. It was almost as if the big guy had been waiting for us so we decided to seize our opportunity and run through the queue to snap a quick picture with him.

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Kelly and I then strolled down Main Street to soak in the feeling of Christmas, a difficult task when it's barely below 70 degrees, before arriving in the Hub and realizing that we needed a plan. I ended up choosing the one attraction that no Walt Disney World vacation is complete without. This ride, of course, was It's a Small World. We got lucky and arrived to find no wait which meant that we got a boat all to ourselves. I really love IASW because it offers so many different things to look at and the tune is so darn catchy. Kelly tolerated the ride and even appeared to enjoy herself which is good because if she protested either Small World or Carousel of Progress, I was going to have to cease talking to her. I tried taking photographs on the ride but between a combination of having a lens that is only an f/4 and a camera that only expands to 1600, few of my pictures turned out.

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Whistling the tune of It's a Small World, Kelly and I headed out of Fantasy Land and into Liberty Square where the spooks at the Haunted Mansion had a special surprise for our first ride. We entered the stretching room where, for the first time, I noticed the bride hanging from the ceiling when the ghost host offers his way out. Is this new or am I just completely oblivious to everything? A quick tip for those who may not know; if you stand in the back of the room and loiter in the chamber after the preshow is over, the gargoyles will whisper, "Get out," which can be very creepy when you aren't expecting it. The stretching room sort of spooked Kelly but the best part was when we got to the M.C. Escher stairway scene. At this point the ride, which was almost devoid of people, completely stopped for around 5 minutes. Although I give Kelly a hard time about being freaked out when this happened, I must admit that it was really creepy to be stuck in that dark room full of mirrored stairwells and ghostly footprints. After what seemed like an eternity, the ride began to move again and we were on our way out of the eerie scene but the ride had a significantly more sinister feel to it afterwards.

My misfortune did not end there; the hitchhiking ghosts followed me from the ride and cursed me with the foreshadowing of a future tragedy. The park was in the process of closing after our ride so Kelly and I decided to start taking photographs with the goal of being the last ones out. I wanted photos of empty parks with decorations, something I never got, and to do so we needed to be those last people that the cast members shove out of the gates. Everything was going well until, while trying to take a portrait of the castle, my camera started rotating downwards while on my tripod. After further investigation, it turned out that a stabilizing bolt in the head of my tripod was loose which was causing the camera to not stay in place while vertical. I decided to just take landscape photos after this but unbeknownst to me, this was only the beginning of my problem. I enjoy being dramatic about what will happen in my Caleb vs. Tripod story but it really isn't all that serious. The story is a cliffhanger though, so get ready to be on the edge of your seats.

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I'm not sure why but I really love this wreath and sign combination. I have probably twenty photos of it this year and when we went during Halloween I had atleast 10.

ruckelc
01-10-2013, 05:18 PM
Around 6:15 my alarm went off. I'm more than positive that Kelly wanted to punch me for only letting her sleep for 5ish hours but hey it's Disney and it's not supposed to be relaxing. My goal was to, for the first time ever, make rope drop at the Magic Kingdom and I was determined to make sure that it happened. While both of them did the whole "hygiene thing" I ran as fast as possible to Captain Cook's so that I could get everyone their respective morning beverages and breakfast. I'm positive that I looked kind of crazy running through the resort with refillable drink mugs but I was determined to get there at all costs. Despite these perfectly executed plans we missed most of the opening show but we were all together in the Magic Kingdom so the slight disappointment was negligible. As usual, Main Street was beautiful but we had some serious touring to do and we rushed past the scenery to beat the masses to Space Mountain. In their rush to get to Space Mountain, many people passed up the opportunity to get a picture with this guy so we decided that we would while no one saw him.

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Space Mountain is another one of my favorite rides at Disney and is by far my favorite roller coaster. Although it doesn't go upside down and doesn't go very fast, the combination of dark, the cars that are shaped like rockets, and the theming makes the ride a childhood dream come true. Kelly and I were lucky enough to get the back two positions in the train on our first ride and although it wasn't the gentlest ride, she loved it. By the end of the trip, Space Mountain was one of her top three in the Magic Kingdom along with Big Thunder and Winnie the Pooh. After arriving back in Tomorrowland, we continued on with our touring, determined to get as much done as possible.

Next we got on Winnie the Pooh because, unknown to me, Kelly has an incredibly deep spot in her heart for Tigger and Pooh. I think the ride is cute and enjoy the heffalumps and woozles scene because it's reminiscent of watching certain cartoons from my childhood. It's really weird and outlandish and it makes me wonder what the people who made Ren and Stimpy or the Heffalumps and Woozles were thinking when they created them. In retrospect both are really weird and seem like they should be scary to kids. Kelly, on the other hand, absolutely adored the ride and it became one of her instant favorites of the trip. One night when we were waiting to watch fireworks we played a top 5 game of various aspects of the park and I remember it definitely coming in on her top 5 rides list. After visiting the silly old bear, we went to explore the new parts of Fantasyland and get Fastpasses for Ariel's Adventures. Unfortunately Ariel wasn't working but we did enjoy going into Gaston's and exploring New Fantasyland. I was a little disappointed in it because I thought that it was supposed to have the feel of an old forest but what was there was well done.

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After leaving New Fantasy, Kelly used her hawk eyes to spot Tigger and Pooh who were out for a meet and greet so we waited in line to make sure that we would get our opportunity to take a picture with them. Half way through our wait, Pooh and Tigger went to get some snacks from Pooh's house and in a move that might be against Disney policy Tigger sort of stiff-armed an excited child who was running up to say hello. I won't say that this funny (I chuckled a little and Kelly gave me the stink eye) but seeing Tigger fend off excited children was certainly an interesting sight. We eventually made it to the front of the line and Kelly was allowed to live out one of her life goals. Here's photographic of another thing being checked off of Kelly's bucket list.

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Next we walked over to Big Thunder Mountain which it turned out wasn't operating, so we continued on to Pirates of the Caribbean. Apparently no one wanted to ride Pirates that morning so we got a boat all to ourselves which, like our Haunted Mansion experience, was incredibly creepy. We didn't stop this time but the ride was definitely enhanced by being alone in the dark with only animatronic pirates. We quickly rushed off of the ride and went towards Tom Sawyer Island to explore until BTMR was up again. While rafting across the river I told Kelly that there were paintbrushes hidden every morning by cast members and that if we found one we could turn them in. Kelly and I are really competitive so upon hearing this, she vowed to find one before I could so that she would officially be superior to me. Neither of us found a brush while on the island but we did love walking around with the whole place almost to ourselves. Our favorite part was wandering around in the dark in Injun Joe's cave and accidentally scaring a family of French tourists. Both of us had been hiding from each other and when I jumped out to scare a person that I'd thought was Kelly, I actually surprised a random woman and her family.

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We fled the island after this and ran through an empty queue for the recently opened Big Thunder. BTMR was another favorite of Kelly's but it kind of goes without saying that it is awesome so I won't talk about it. After disembarking we began to walk back to Fantasyland to view Mickey's Philharmagic but we were derailed by these two. Kelly thought that Chip and Dale wearing cowboy outfits were too adorable to pass up so we stopped and grabbed a photo with them.

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We arrived at Mickey's Philharmagic where we were greeted by a cast member with what is probably one of the worst jobs on property. This certain cast member was stuck with the task of giving a long winded speech about how the automatic doors could hurt you if you stood close to them and every time a new group entered the waiting room she would repeat it. We heard the same thing at least five times while waiting for the doors to open and it got kind of old to us, so I imagine she was probably tired of saying it. Kelly loved that most all of her favorite Disney films were included in the film so it was a hit with her. For her, the Aladdin portion of the movie was the best part and after we got out of the theater she gushed about how much she had enjoyed it. So far Disney was doing a good job of winning her over which has me excited because I am currently trying to convince her to go to Disneyland or Tokyo Disney.

At this point in the day both Kelly and I were very hungry so we called my mom, who was off enjoying the park at her own leisurely pace, and invited her to meet up and eat with us at the Columbia Harbor House. I had read on the Disney Food Blog that the restaurant has wonderful lobster rolls so eating here was a serious priority. Before talking about how much I loved the lobster roll I will offer a quick disclaimer and say that I have only eaten two lobster rolls in my life so I'm not really sure what constitutes good and bad. This roll was very tasty and had sizable chunks of lobster but, although it was enough for Kelly and I to share, it was a little expensive. We were on the dining plan for the first few days of the trip so we didn't mind ordering it but I don't think that I would pay cash for it if that were my only option. While eating we asked my mom how her day had been and she told us that she had been enjoying the Walt Disney World Railroad and the Peoplemover for most of her morning until going to ride Ariel's Adventures. After finishing our meals, I began the task of convincing my mom to ride the Haunted Mansion with Kelly and I. She has a love/hate relationship with dark rides so this was a little difficult but after telling them that they could ride together, she finally agreed.

Our second trip to the Haunted Mansion was uneventful but my mom said that she actually kept her eyes open for the whole ride which is a first and a step in the right direction.

ruckelc
01-16-2013, 02:03 AM
After our ride on the Haunted Mansion, Kelly and I headed back towards the New Fantasyland so that we could hopefully snag a Fastpass for Ariel's Adventure. We were in luck and found the return time to be only about an hour out so we left to do two of the most important rides for any first timer.

Kelly and I decided that the obvious first choice was a ride on the teacups because it would be much more fun after eating. When we got on the ride I gave Kelly the job of doing all of the hard manual labor while I attempted to take photos and keep my lunch down. Luckily neither of us got physically ill on the ride but we were a little nauseous as we stumbled out of our teacup. After our spin we still had over half an hour until our trip under the sea so we went for what we thought would be a quick ride on Dumbo.

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When we arrived at Dueling Dumbo's the line appeared to be almost nonexistent until we discovered the playhouse/waiting area. Even with only a 15 minute wait this place was crowded and I can't imagine it during the busier times of the year. The room was incredibly loud but the kids seemed to be having a good time in the play area. I didn't think that they'd let me use the playground, which seems like discrimination to me, so I can't vouch for how awesome it was. Unfortunately the wait stretching much longer than its posted time and the noise level caused Kelly and I to leave before we could ride but we vowed to come back.
Kelly and I rushed back to Ariel's Adventure where we then took our sweet time walking through the queue. Both the exterior and the interior of the ride building were well done and the ride, as a whole, was my favorite of the new additions to Fantasyland. The ride was a pretty solid dark ride and I loved the little touches like the cold blast of air that blew into the clam cars as they were completely submerged under the ocean. There were many other aspects of the ride that I loved but I won't go over all of them and I will just say that the ride was beautiful and very enjoyable.

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After surfacing from our adventure, Kelly and I strolled to Tomorrowland to take a leisurely ride on the Peoplemover together. While on our trip around Tomorrowland, we had one of the best ideas of the trip. We decided that we would use our table service credits on the dining plan to visit the signature restaurants at the deluxe resorts around property. After this revelation we called my mom and deliberated over which restaurant we would visit and it was decided that our first meal would be Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge. Here's quick advice for anyone that is trying to use the reservation phone number in while in the parks; just ask to be forwarded to a real person rather than the automated service because it is awful to use. I spent 15 minutes fumbling to use this system which caused me to miss a picture with Buzz but eventually our reservation for 3 were booked and everything was in order.

With our reservations in order, I decided to show Kelly my favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World, Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. I'm not sure why I adore this ride in the way that I do but it is my must do attraction.

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I can't really say if Kelly enjoyed the show or not but I was happily whistling Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow as we walked down the Avenue of Planets. She knows that it is one of my favorites so I don't think she would say that it's boring so I'm going to assume that it was her favorite also. I mean who doesn't love CoP?? After this, we exited the park but not before I could show Kelly the majestic cinnamon rolls that can be found in the bakery and the sheer beauty of the display case in the Confectionery. Even the Christmas trees in the Confectionery looked delicious.

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We exited the park and boarded the resort monorail, which soon brought us back to the Polynesian. While in the lobby, Kelly and I parted ways so that she could go get ready for dinner while I explored the Great Ceremonial House further.

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Although I'm not 21 yet, Tambu Lounge looked like an awesome place to hang out. After seeing a Lapu Lapu, I must say that I am very excited to indulge in one of these after I run the Disney Marathon for my 21st Birthday. Maybe I can get them to pour it on me as I cross the finish line? After a while Kelly had to call me to get me to return to the room so that I too could change into the appropriate attire for our nice dinner. Apparently taking a shower and changing clothes is more important than Disney in these situations so I decided to listen. Soon we were all ready to go and I will pick up when we arrive at the Wilderness Lodge.

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This photo is way too dark but...

Grumpy's Wife
01-16-2013, 09:47 AM
I love CoP too. It's just not the same if I don't go on it at least once.

ruckelc
01-17-2013, 05:46 PM
Yeah! When I saw the show for the first time, it was because I actually thought that the ride was some sort of weird indoor carousel and I loved it so much that I have returned every time we go back.

Disneylvr
01-19-2013, 08:19 AM
I love CoP too! The first time I visited WDW, way back in 1985, my sister thought she would get motion sick on CoP and didn't want to see it. She thought it spun around really fast I guess!

ruckelc
01-25-2013, 11:04 AM
Our boat ride from the Magic Kingdom was pretty uneventful unless you count my falling asleep two minutes into the trip as exciting. In that case I must say that the 10 minutes or however long the boat ride is were a thrill a minute. As we docked at the Wilderness Lodge it was everything that I could do to not shove people out of the way so that I could get inside. I absolutely love the Wilderness Lodge and seeing the resort decorated for Christmas was one of the things that I had been dreaming about since I knew that we would be going to Disney for Christmas. The lobby of the Wilderness Lodge is breathtaking at any time of the year but at Christmas it's practically faint worthy. The tree is massive and very well themed and there are just many different areas filled with Christmas decorations that you can spend 45 minutes to an hour just seeing everything. This doesn't even include relaxing on the upper balconies, sitting by the fireplaces, or standing outside and watching the sunset from the balconies that look out over the front of the resort. I'm just going to say that we did all of this; it was a wonderful way to relax before our wonderful dinner and I would suggest it to even the most commando vacationer.

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After our thorough exploration of the lobby, it was finally time for our first dinner at one of Disney's signature restaurants.
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Our server was incredibly friendly and helpful, especially with my mom who was slightly skeptical of some of the dishes that were on the menu. We started off with water, coffee, and the "complimentary" bread that the restaurant serves. The bread was pretty delicious although they could have brought out a loaf of wheat bread and a stick of butter and I probably would have said the same thing. I was really surprised that the coffee wasn't better than Sanaa's because it was french pressed and we were at such a nice restaurant but it was thousands of times better than Nescafe so that's only a minimal complaint. For our entrees Kelly decided on the buffalo steak, my mom ordered the buttermilk chicken and Brussels sprouts, and I ordered the cedar plank roasted salmon. When our food arrived, the three of us cut servings for the others to try so that we could compare and see who ordered the best dish. My salmon won which isn't really a surprise because it's Artist Point's signature dish but the surprise hit was actually the Brussels sprouts that came with my mom's chicken. The chicken that came with the sprouts was very good but the Brussels sprouts were just so crispy and salty that they became a favorite with all of us. Surprisingly the buffalo steak was the weakest of the dishes that we ordered but that isn't to say that it wasn't good. We all enjoyed it but I would say that if you go to Artist Point, like salmon in the least bit, and are on the dining plan or have no qualms with spending 40 dollars on a slab of fish then the cedar plank salmon is a must-have.

Salmon, buffalo, and chicken are tasty and everything but the following part of the meal was the real reason that we went to Artist Point. For dessert we ordered the berry cobbler, vanilla bean creme brulee, and the chocolate sculpture. I'll go ahead and say that the two that weren't the cobbler were good but the seasonal berry cobbler is the real reason that you should go to Artist Point. The cobbler is served with raspberry sorbet and the two together are mouth watering. When the cobber was gone the three of us were fighting for who could scoop the melted sorbet from the bottom of the dish. At this point dinner got interesting.

I have to preface this part of the story with an earlier event from our trip before I can explain what happens next. When we arrived at the Polynesian on the first day the front desk gave us your typical welcome to Disney packet and inside there was a receipt that showed that we had 9 table serive credits. This excited us a lot because we thought that we each had 9 credits. We, in fact, only had 9 credits between the three of us.

Flash back to the present and when our server came to the table to collect our payment she only asked for one of our KTTW cards. We thought this was a little odd but we just dismissed it and waited for her to return. When she returned I glanced at the check and found that it said that we only had 3 dining credits remaining. I remember being shocked and thinking, "Whoa that was a good meal but it was not worth 6 credits each!" Before she could leave we got her to explain the situation and we learned of our mistake. The receipt that we had gotten when we arrived was our bank of total points, not how many we each had. We had to laugh at how dumb we had been and the fact that if we had unknowingly used the points before this dinner, we would have had to call my Dad who was at home and explain the 200ish dollar charge on the credit card. He, most likely, would have killed us and made us eat churros for the rest of the trip.

After the excitement of dinner, the three of us decided to board the bus for Hollywood Studios where there were extra magic hours that night.

pattyw
01-28-2013, 01:27 PM
Great TR!! and CoP is one of our family's favorites as well!!:thumbsup2

rdkeim
01-29-2013, 08:48 AM
Enjoying your trip report! Sounds like you were having a wonderful time showing your GF the wonders of Disney. CoP is one of my favs too! I'm partial to rides/attractions that are Walt originals. :love:

ruckelc
01-31-2013, 09:46 PM
We arrived at the Studios after the sun had set and were excited to see the park in its holiday finest. Although Hollywood Blvd. isn't dressed up much for Christmas, we spent quite a while just strolling down the street and enjoying the nighttime atmosphere. I think it's safe to say that I love all of the parks at night but at DHS the ambiance of the park after dark really outweighs the daytime.

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This is on my regular rotation of Disney podcasts so this was really exciting for me.

Moving slowly and stopping for lots of pictures, the three of us moved towards the Osborne Lights but before arriving we had to make two essential stops. The first of these detours was to ride Star Tours 2.0. I love Star Wars on close to the level that I do Disney so I was very much looking forward to riding the updated version of the ride and I'm glad to say that it did not disappoint. Kelly and I looked forward to the prospect of the random sequence and I really loved that they had the submarine section from Episode 1 as a scene but I grew up with the new trilogy so I may be alone on that one. After arriving back on Earth, the two of us walked outside to what was probably one of Kelly's favorite parts of DHS.

Kelly and my family are all huge fans of the Muppets, so much so that Kelly and I went to the midnight premiere of the movie when it was released in theaters. It goes without saying that we really love this area of the park and Muppetvision. Kelly had been looking forward to seeing this part of DHS since she'd seen some photos of it on the Disney Tourist Blog and when we finally arrived she began the task of documenting the awesomeness of the entire area. After reigning her in, we walked into the very empty queue for Muppetvision where we were lucky enough to see the whole preshow. Muppetvision is on my must-do list in the Studios because I'm always noticing something new when I view it and everything about the building makes me laugh. Luckily Kelly liked it also because, like I would have with CoP, if she didn't, I may have had to disown her. When we exited the theater I made everyone stop because I needed to change my camera lens with another that could handle the darkness better and we walked towards the lights.

To say that the Osborne Lights are overwhelmingly amazing is an understatement. Pictures fail to do it any sort of justice and, like the Christmas tag to Illuminations, it's worth booking a trip just to see them. It snows, there are lights synced to music, Santa is there, and it exudes Christmas cheer and happiness. For a while after our arrival we just stood at the mouth of the tunnel of lights and gazed in wonder at the insane amount of lights that decorated the Streets of America. Eventually we resumed walking and began to examine the many details that filled every storefront and alleyway. Unfortunately we couldn't spot the infamous cat while we were there but we were lucky and spotted something almost as amazing.

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This guy! We found Santa Goofy over near the breezeway to the Backlot Tour area and although he had a pretty long line, we knew that meeting him would be worth it.

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After meeting Santa we continued to soak up the Christmas atmosphere of the Osborne Lights and taking photographs.

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Eventually my mom caught up with Kelly and I to tell us that she would be going back to the Polynesian, so we walked towards the entrance with her and then took a left at Sunset Blvd. Kelly and I were hoping to find Tower of Terror with low waits but unfortunately the posted time was around 30 minutes. Tower of Terror is a great ride that I think gets even better at night so we decided to brave the wait. The line wasn't too bad but in the pre-show room I noticed something that disappointed me. Quite a few of the people in the room with us were just facing towards the exit door, waiting to run out into the next section of the line. They were completely missing all of the awesome theming and the film which is part of what makes the ride so great. To me it seems like the ride would be incomplete without really enjoying this part but I realize that everyone is different but in this case it's borderline sacrilegious. Despite her fear/love of heights, Kelly enjoyed the ride. Apparently she was unaware of the random drop sequence so when it didn't drop in the typical manner that other rides like this do, she got kind of freaked out. By kind of freaked out I mean came off of the ride with tears in her eyes but I'm happy to report that this did not occur on any of the other trips to the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

After disembarking we went around to ride again but the line had grown so we decided to return to the Polynesian and enjoy our walk out of the Studios. When we arrived at the bus directory was when we saw it. The line for the misfortunate people staying at the Art of Animation filled their whole queue and stretched past 5 other bus stops. Worried about our own predicament, we ran to the shared bus for the monorail resorts and found it to be full but nowhere near as bad. Disney transportation felt the need to make it much worse though because they sent only 3 buses in the hour that we stood there. This seems a little ridiculous because these buses are shared by all of the guests who stay in the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. Kelly and I made the best of our time in line and eventually we got to be one of the lucky few who could board the crowded buses. The ride back to the Polynesian was a blur of crying children and headlights but I remember being incredibly happy when they finally arrived at our stop. I also remember thinking that this would be a perfect time to go explore and photograph the resort but the prospect of sleeping quickly won out and I returned to the room with Kelly. An early morning at the Studios meant another 6:30 alarm but that's what a Disney vacation is all about!