A Savanna, A Wizard, and Oodles of Food - AKL/DxDP/WWoHP (New 10/21 - Yak and Yeti)
A Savanna, A Wizard, and Oodles of Food
Let the Memories Begin—A Sister Extravaganza
February 4-12, 2012
What began as a simple and fun sisters-only vacation turned into a deluxe whirlwind—eight nights at a beautiful deluxe resort, loads of delicious food, and an offsite day to my other dream Orlando destination. Let’s also throw in a dazzling evening at Downtown Disney, and unfortunately, a few Brazilian tour groups. (No vacation is perfect, right?)
First, the cast of characters:
On the left is me, Jenny. I put my theatre degree to good use in the world of banking, love to watch and go to the movies, and have never found a dessert I didn’t like.
On the right is my lovely sister, Anika. She is 15, mildly obsessed with her her iPhone, and is a competitive swimmer. She was excited to go on a parent-free vacation—but was thrilled those same parents got her out of school for a week!
Tinkerbell was nice enough to sneak into our picture. :rotfl:
About eight months before our trip, I came up with the idea that it may be fun to go on a vacation with ONLY Anika. I considered a few destinations, only to conclude that Disney World would be PERFECT. We had both been to the World and knew we loved it—and eight days of theme park rides would be great! Then I stumbled across the DisBoards and the cost of my sister-venture exploded…
“Wow, maybe we should stay at a deluxe resort—this looks awesome!”
“Wait, they have dining plans?! We could try out all those restaurants!”
“They have restaurants at the resorts, too? Yum, THAT one looks good!”
“Ooo, Cirque du Soleil sounds fun!”
“I COULD VISIT THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!”
And so on…
I’m thrilled you’re along for the ride!
Those Pesky (Awesome!) Details
Day Zero - Friday, February 3rd
And We're Off!
Day 1 - Saturday, February 4th
Where did all this snow come from?!
Welcome to the Animal Kingdom Lodge! (continued)
Chicken... and More Chicken
An Afternoon in Epcot (continued)
Chock Full of Cute Italian Waiters
Day 2 - Sunday, February 5th
Those drinks are not included on the dining plan!
Fantasyland Rush (continued)
All Hail the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake
Bring on the Mountains! (continued)
A Hammock at the Poly
I didn't wish for rain! (continued)
Day 3 - Monday, February 6th
Breakfast with the Princesses (continued)
Multiple Soars and Thrills
The Best Waitress of Our Trip
A Tour of the Lodge (continued)
Let Them Eat Steak!
A Fantasmic-less Extra Magic Hours (continued)
Day 4 - Tuesday, February 7th
Aloha! Part II
This is Why You Get There Early...
An (Un)Hollywood Experience
Nostalgia and a Few Toys (continued)
No Dancing for You!
Day 5 - Wednesday, February 8th
A Very Early Morning
Mount Your Broomsticks! (continued)
A Flight and a Challenge (continued)
Hello, Hogsmeade! (continued)
Three Thumbs Up for Three Broomsticks!
The Rest of the Island (continued)
The Other Universal Park
A Signature AKL Experience
Day 6- Thursday, February 9th
Goofy, You're My Favorite!
The Best Safari EVER
Yetis, Dinos, Bugs, and Fish (continued)
For the Love of Pot Stickers
Those Pesky (Awesome!) Details
Those Pesky (Awesome!) Details
Once we decided Disney World was the place, it was time to pick our dates and make our reservation. Although I’d initially thought to book a moderate resort (Coronado Springs Resort being the frontrunner), I decided to dream big and booked here:
The Animal Kingdom Lodge!
I had always wanted to see the resort, and the thought of being able to stay there practically made me giddy. Being in charge of the vacation planning definitely has its perks. ::yes::
My next big decision was food… we had never tried a dining plan nor eaten at a resort restaurant. The more I read (and the more I visited the Disney Food Blog) my list of “must-tries” kept getting bigger. Therefore, I thought we might have a great time trying the Deluxe Dining Plan. That led to me making a few (um, 21?) ADR’s:
Grand Floridian Café (GF)
Tusker House (AK)
Crystal Palace (MK)
Liberty Tree Tavern (MK)
Rose & Crown (EP)
Hollywood Brown Derby (HS)
Yak & Yeti (AK)
Tony’s Town Square (MK)
50’s Prime Time (HS)
Via Napoli (EP)
Yachtsman Steakhouse (YC)
Raglan Road (DD)
California Grill (CR)
Coral Reef (EP)
Teppan Edo (EP)
Garden View Tea Room (GF)
Believe it or not, we actually made it to 19 of the 21 reservations. We also ate many, many snacks. If you love food, you’ve come to the right trip report!
Once I had all the package components in place, it was time to decide on a few fun extra excursions. Anika’s request was an event she watched during her last vacation:
Cirque du Soleil La Nouba
As for me, there was one other Orlando destination calling my name…
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!
I am a Harry Potter fanatic, and was SUPER excited about seeing the Wizarding World. I ordered two One-Day/Two Park tickets, and our Universal Day was all set!
We also booked our transport on the Magical Express, reserved a rental car from the Disney Car Care Center (for our Universal Studios day), and pre-ordered our Photopass CD.
With these details confirmed, I needed to find a good way to keep myself organized while I was in the parks. Inspired by many of you on the Dis, I took my detail oriented nature to the next level and created this:
This color-coded beauty was used multiple times a day. I also made a “daily schedule,” which had a more detailed schedule, a few park touring plans, and details for all of our ADR’s. Both folded nicely and fit into the back pocket of my park bag.
We were ready to go! :woohoo:
And We're Off!
Day Zero—Friday, February 3rd
With our bags packed and our Magical Express tags in place, we were off to Omaha to begin our vacation!
Our plan was to leave in the late afternoon and grab dinner along the way. We would then settle in for the night at the Holiday Inn Express—a mere 1.5 miles from the airport. This plan was developed since our flight from Omaha was at eight o'clock in the morning, and I wasn't excited about waking up before five in order to make it on time. More importantly, the forecast called for a rather large winter storm to hit the entire central Midwest… starting tonight. Great. :sad2:
We started off on time and had a very nice (non-snowy) drive. We met a friend for dinner, and then checked into our home for the evening. I had packed an extra overnight bag for us, so all we took into the hotel was the duffle bag and our carry-ons. Our two big, heavy suitcases stayed in the trunk where they belonged, and we would just add a few things to them in the morning. I took a few photos of our room to get my camera warmed up for a week of major picture-taking:
Despite our excitement, we managed to get to bed fairly early. Just before turning in, I checked to see if our flight was still on time… it was. So far.
(Do you smell the foreshadowing?) :rolleyes1
Up Next: A Very Snowy Morning
Where did all this snow come from?!
Day 1—Saturday, February 4th
We jumped up when the alarm went off—no need for the snooze button today! Two showers later, we gathered our bags and headed outside to rearrange the suitcase, and found this:
Snow, snow everywhere! I cleared several inches of wet, heavy snow off the car and rearranged the luggage and toiletries as fast as I could. Anika cleared off the car again as I worked, but by the time I finished with the suitcases the car was completely covered again.
We went back into the hotel to warm up and enjoy our complimentary breakfast. It was nothing too exciting—your typical continental breakfast fare, but it was filling (and free!). Anika enjoyed pancakes while I had cereal and yogurt.
Once breakfast was done and we could again feel our fingers again, we ventured back into the snowy outdoors. After clearing the car a third time we started on our 1.5 mile drive to the airport…
That was the longest "short" trip of my life. I’ve always lived with snow and consider myself a pretty good winter weather driver, but combination of the early hour, unplowed streets, and massive amounts of still-falling snow made it a VERY slow trip. I think it took almost 15 minutes to get into the airport parking area, and I never topped 20 mph. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Thank goodness we’d come the night before—we never would’ve made it this morning!
I chose to pay extra for the covered parking ramp—no lugging suitcases through the snow for me! Check-in was quick and painless and soon we were looking at our very snowy plane:
I was questioning if we would get out on time (did you see the plane?!), but they actually boarded us early. We taxied from the gate and were informed we were third in line for de-icing (de-snowing?). The process took quite a while, but it was pretty fun to watch!
We had a great view of the de-icing guy:
Finally, around 9:30, we were off! The lovely steward came around quickly with drinks and snacks. I almost never buy airline snacks—I had plans for us to grab food once we arrived in Orlando. However, our belated departure meant we would get to MCO closer to two than noon, and we would be hungry. Snacks it is!
This was the best six dollars I spent that day. When you’re delayed… buy the snacks!
The rest of the flight was rather uneventful, minus one rather annoying incident. Anika and I were pouring over my new Disney World book discussing attractions we’d like to see again or try for the first time. The next thing I know, a woman got up from across the aisle, walked over, and said:
“I don’t mean to be rude, but you need to stop talking about Disney. This is my son’s first trip, and you’re ruining it for him!”
Uh, seriously? As half of our airplane was likely headed to Disney World, I'm sure we weren't the only ones talking about it! Your son learning that Peter Pan’s Flight exists will hardly ruin the magic for him! Good grief.
I shrugged off the crazy lady, and soon we were landing in sunny Florida. We were headed to our first monorail of the vacation!
Since we had our snacks on the plane, we sped past the food court and headed right for the Magical Express. Anika had never been on the Magical Express before and she was quite excited about it! (I’m sure her knowing about it beforehand probably ruined part of the magic for her, but I digress…) :rotfl:
Here we are! The Magical Express!
After a very short wait of ten minutes or so, our rope was removed and we were headed for our bus!
Up Next: The Animal Kingdom Lodge
Wow a great sister bonding time for you. Flying in snow, ummm can I have a few drinks first please. Great start and better yet blue skies.
This looks like a fabulous trip, I am so in! Happy you weren't snowed in and what was up with that rude lady. I honestly don't think she would have said that if you both weren't so young looking (hey, old lady here...wish I was young looking. But I am sure she wouldn't have made a comment like that to me; however, possibly would have to my sons). I am GLAD you didn't let it ruin your day! You are a great big sis! :goodvibes
I was a little nervous when I saw all that snow... I can't believe we were only delayed two hours!
As for the drinks... the adults in the family next to us did just that! In fact, I believe they each had two! :rotfl:
I took a peek at the wonderful stories about your daughter - it just warmed my heart because I actually have congenital heart disease, too! I've had five open heart surgeries and four pulmonary valves due to tetralogy of Fallot. You'll have to look for my scar in upcoming pictures! ;)
(Tell your daughter to be super proud of her scar - it shows how tough we are.) :goodvibes
UGH, Driving in snow doesnt seem like so much fun. I'm in SC and we hardly ever get it.. LOL
I can't believe the woman on the plane was so rude.. What is there to ruin? :rotfl2:
Can't wait to read more!
Thank goodness we didn't have far to go! In regard to that lady, I know! At first I worried I was overreacting... but, nope! Everyone I've mentioned it to thought she seemed ridiculous! :rolleyes2
A new post is coming up shortly!
Welcome to the Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Day 1—Part II
With the rope out of our way, we walked outside to our glorious Magical Express… er, cruise bus?
Oh, well. At least it wasn’t the waterpark bus that was parked next to it! :lmao:
Anika and I got the second seat behind the front door. Someone just beat us to the front seat but we still had a great view. Here we are, excited to be in Florida (and far away from the snow!):
We settled back to watch everyone’s favorite welcome video and we were on our way! Our driver was a very friendly guy, and added a lot of comments about his favorite attractions and restaurants. It wasn’t very long before we saw this:
WE WERE OFFICIALLY IN DISNEY WORLD!!! Hooray! :dance3:
After dropping off excited travelers at Caribbean Beach and Pop Century Resorts, we headed to our home for the week:
Jambo, everyone! We passed through the front overhang and through two sets of doors to enter the resort:
Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t think I can possibly explain (and my photography skills sure don’t illustrate!) just how BEAUTIFUL the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge is! Even though I’d seen plenty of pictures online, I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped a bit when we walked into this lobby:
WOW. And wow some more. This is where we were staying for nine days? :yay:
We headed over to the registration desk to check in, which is on the west side of the lobby:
Our CM was a lovely gal who was earning her ears. We had done online check in as I wasn’t too picky about our room selection—I’d booked a pool view room and my only request was for a 3rd or 4th floor. Our folder was ready, and we had our resort information, dining plan booklet, and Key to the World cards in short order.
Although the map didn’t appreciate the re-sizing process (sorry for the blurriness!), you can get a general idea on where we were placed, thanks to the blue dot:
We were given Room # 3452, which is a 3rd floor room on an offshoot of the Zebra Trail. It was a straight shot from the lobby (which is also on the “3rd floor”). We headed down a hallway (even the hallways are pretty!) and were soon looking at this adorned door:
(continued in next post)
(continued from previous post)
And, here we are!
We each had a bed to ourselves that week. Isn’t the detail on the headboard incredible?
The table and chairs were great for arranging park bags and paperwork:
This cabinet held the refrigerator, along with the coffee pot and assorted accessories. Our park bags and KTTW cards spent a lot of time on this cabinet!
There was also a nice closet and dresser, which was useful for storing all of our clothes, shoes, and suitcases. There were also several hangers to hang coats and dresses.
The bathroom area was really nice:
This is quite an upgrade from the value and moderate resorts where we’ve previously stayed. We especially loved all of this counter space for our toiletries—it was never this clean again! :lmao:
Disney Mousekeeping had left THREE towel animals for us: pixiedust:
Anika LOVED that mouse. I think she would’ve put it in her suitcase if I had let her. :rolleyes1
Now it was time to see our balcony and our view! I opened the balcony doors and found this:
Not bad! Since we were on the corner we had a lot of extra space. Then I turned around to see our view:
Hmmm… not quite what I’d pictured! :confused: I learned you could see the pool, though, if you squinted through the trees! :lmao:
As the week went on, I actually grew to love our room location. We were close the lobby and just a floor removed but really close to the Mara and the pool. Our room was also super quiet since we were on the corner—we never heard any other guests the entire week we were there.
Room tour completed, we switched clothes and went to scout out the Mara for something to eat. We were starving!
Up Next: Lunch at the Mara
Chicken... and More Chicken
Day 1—Part III
The Mara is the quick service location at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It has a variety of items, including hot meals and to-go items and treats. This is also where you refill your refillable mug. It has a few options that are unique to the lodge, but they also have the usual favorites of chicken nuggets and Mickey waffles. It’s located right next to the Uzima Pool. Here are a few pictures of the inside of the Mara, including the drink station and the seating area:
Having read over menus before we left, I knew what I wanted to try! I got the chicken pita, which is roasted chicken, greens, tomatoes, cucumber, hummus, and a yogurt sauce, all wrapped up in a pita:
Yum! What a delight to eat something this good from a counter service spot! I would highly recommend this choice, but would get it with couscous instead of fries. (I actually ordered couscous as my side but was given the fries by mistake.)
Anika was not feeling too adventurous yet, so she ordered the chicken fingers and fries:
She thought her meal was just fine. We also picked up these beauties:
With our stomachs happy, it was time to drop off our mugs and head to our first destination of the vacation!
The bus station at Animal Kingdom Lodge is located in front of the resort on the east side. Here’s the trusty, blurry map again to show our room (blue), the path to the bus stops (green), and the five bus stop locations (red):
That path looks really long, but I promise it seemed quite short! I know we’ve walked longer distances at our other resorts, and those didn’t have the advantage of being indoors or covered the entire way. There are also a few ways to cheat, such as walking through the Zawadi Marketplace gift shop or through the “secret” door to the Giraffe Trail. The only negative is the buses are shared with Kidani Village—they go to Kidani first and Jambo House second. We never found this to be a problem and always had a seat.
Here are a few pictures of the bus stops (taken on the morning of a different day when it was a bit dark, but you get the general idea):
I know some people hate to “waste” a park visit on their arrival day, but we can’t imagine being in Disney World and not visiting our favorite park!
Epcot, here we come! :jumping1:
Up Next: Epcot
I have joined in your trip report and loving it so far - the lodge looks wonderful!!
Looking forward to the rest.
Joining in!!! :goodvibes
Oh boy, you are so lucky that you stayed near the airport the night before your flight! When I saw your picture of the plane, I never thought you were making it out that day! :eek:
(Side note: hugs for being open-heart surgery buddies! (Mitral valve repair here!) :hug: )
Your room at AKL looks awesome! We love visiting there, and I actually sometimes forget that you can actually stay there! :rotfl: And your lunch at the Mara looks really good too!
Oh, Epcot on the first day is pretty much a must-do for us too! :thumbsup2
Joining in! Your trip looks so fun!
I can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventures!!:goodvibes
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