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Old 12-01-2013, 04:25 PM   #1
Sydney2977
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The "Big Men on Campus" aren't too big for WDW! A trip Report

To start off my trip report, let me introduce the cast of characters:

First up is me- Sydney- 36yo wife, mom, and Disney lover! I've grown up loving Disney and was fortunate to go with my family several times as a kid. I have now passed this love on to my family.

My husband Ron is 35 and a crew chief in the Air Force. We're both from Texas but have been here in the Charleston, SC area since he joined the service. He liked Disney before we met, but I think I've pushed him into the love category now.

The "Big Men on Campus" are our boys: Taylor is 17 and a senior and Jared is 13 and an 8th grader. Both absolutely love Disney, and aren't too cool to let people know.



We have been to WDW six times as a family, but this would be our first at a deluxe resort! We originally booked at CSR, but decided to upgrade to AKL to surprise the kids, since this might be our last big family trip for a while since Taylor is starting college and will be working too.

We were able to take advanatge of a military discount for our room, and I just booked a standard view. We got four day park hopper plus waterparks and more option with the military salute ticket. Then I added the dining plan too. From experience with past trips I know we can utilize this to our advantage, pay for all our meals, and not waste food with a bit of planning. Besides, for our family eating is half the fun!

Now onto the FUN!
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Old 12-01-2013, 04:28 PM   #2
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Day 1

We had all been up late the night before leaving for WDW because Taylor had state band competition. I had gone along to chaperone, while Ron and Jared dropped the dogs at the kennel and then drove up to meet us. We slept in a little, then had breakfast, got ready, packed last minute stuff, loaded the car, and were on the road at 9:00!



It was a pretty uneventful drive down with little traffic and construction. The boys just listened to music, Ron and I got to talk peacefully, and Jared even got some math homework done.



We stopped in Jacksonville for lunch at Whataburger, per tradition (we miss these from Texas), had some leftover Halloween candy for snacks, and were ready to pull off I-4 towards the magic a little before 4:00.



We passed AK and then pulled up at the guard gate to get our parking pass. The boys hadn't really been paying attention, but started to when we pulled closer to the resort.



Ron just casually mentioned that I had to go check on our dinner reservation, and I jumped out and went in before they could see my face. I was greeted with a "Welcome Home!" and took in the impressive lobby- wow, we're actually here to stay! There was no one waiting at the check-in desk, so I was helped right away. I know the CM could tell I was excited from the huge grin on my face and she asked if this was our first stay. I explained that this was a surprise for the boys and Ron was in the car with them and they thought I was just checking on a dinner reservation. She got all our stuff together and gave me KTTW cards too, explaining that we should keep them on us in case our magic bands didn't work at any time. At this point the guys came up behind me and were saying "Are we really staying here, for real?!?" Ron couldn't keep the secret any longer- he got this shot of them when they found out:



The CM then chimed in with "And the best is yet to come!" She proeceeded to show us where our room was and we all freaked out! It was #3269 on a side section off the Kudu Trail with a Sunset Savanna view! It was so nice to be off the main hall- much quieter- and on the main level, so no elevator or stairs to take when going to and from parks. We grabbed our stuff out of the car and headed to our awesome room.



Our room looked spectacular! We dumped our bags and just checked everything out at first.



We had some towel animals from our Mousekeeper Analie. She took care of us during our whole stay and I actually had the pleasure of meeting her one morning when we were leaving later- very sweet!




We then unpacked our clothes and toiletries. There was plenty of room in the closet to hang all of our clothes, and the boys shared a big drawer and Ron and I shared the other for our pj's, socks, and other stuff. I loved that the bathroom counter was large enough for our things and had an extra ledge for extra room so we could all spread out. The tub was great as well because the rim had a wide edge so all of our things fit. Usually in hotels I'm trying to squeeze my stuff in a corner, Ron's in another, and the boys' in another. All of our things fit here.




Once unpacked we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the animals- and there were lots of them. We were amazed at our view and how close the animals got. It was so relaxing to hang out on the balcony and be so close to them.











After the animals had their dinner it was time for us to head to our 6:00 adr at Boma. I had originally planned to eat at Big River Grill or ESPN Club and hang out at the Boardwalk our first night, but after switching to AKL, Boma seemed to make sense. We'd eaten there for breakfast but never got to try it for dinner. It definitely did not disappoint. We arrived a few minutes early and were seated right away in the middle section, but not right in the main walkway. Caroline our server took our drink orders and explained what and where all the food was. Ron just got Coke but the boys and I tried pomegranate lenoade- yummy!



There really is something for everyone here, from more traditional palates like Ron and Jared, to more adventurous tastes like Taylor and I. I took full advantage of all the excellent offerings, trying a little of this and that. My favorites were the seafood stew, curried pasta salad, spicy bbq and sweet mustard sauces with the meats, the salmon, and the fruit salad.



I also made a dessert sampler and finally tried zebra domes!



For us this was really a great use of dining credits and an excellent way to start off our trip!

After stuffing ourselves we went outside to enjoy the fire for a while. This was such a nice touch to the resort.



The boys decided they'd like to do Disney Quest tonight. I checked with the concierge to find out how we could activate our military vouchers. SHe said we didn't need to go to a park first because there was a guest services window right next to DQ- perfect! We waited less than five minutes for a bus and were on our way to DTD!

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Old 12-01-2013, 06:14 PM   #3
Sydney2977
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DAY 1 cont.

After getting off at the second stop for Pleasure Island/West Side we walked towards DQ. There were two families being helped at the guest servies window, but when one was done it was our turn. The CM was very knowledgeable and took Ron's id, our vouchers, and had me write down everyone's name and birthdates. She thanked me for writing everyone's names on the vouchers so she knew who was linked to which one. She entered all the info, issued us "real" card tickets: Mickey for Ron, Minnie for me, Goofy for Taylor, and Donald for Jared. She let us know that all of our fp+ selections had transferred so no further action would be needed for those- sweet! We were on our way to DQ!



We were sent up to the 3rd level where we discovered a cool game! It was just like to movie.




There are so many games and activities here- really something for everyone. The guys found some shooting games while I played some of the classic games.



Jared loved the unlimited skee ball, and right behind that was the pinball machines- I was doing awesome on those!



We remembered from the time we went years ago that there were cool interactive games too. We loved Pirates of the Caribbean- we got the second highest level and vowed to come back to win the top level.



We also did the Aladdin one- this one is individual and we were all able to win on our turns. It's cool, but I think I'm getting old since it makes me kinda dizzy like the other simulator rides. We did some other activities like Sid's Create a Toy. We got some big laughs out of who could make the silliest stuff.



Taylor and I got into a "best out of..." contest with one of the car racing games, and I finally gave in and conceded that he won. Jared and Ron got really far on a jungle quest kind of game during this time. We played a few others till it was 10:00 closing time. As we headed back to the bus we got to see the balloon up over DTD.



We didn't have to wait but a few minutes for a bus and we were back to the resort. The boys showered up while Ron and I looked for animals, and we all went to bed. Super first day!
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All-Star Music April 2002All-Star Movies September 2003Pop!Century February 2006All-Star Sports January 2007

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Old 12-01-2013, 06:29 PM   #4
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Great report so far! I love how you surprised the kids, and ended up being surprised with a savannah view! Awesome!

Never done Disney Quest, but now that the kids are getting older, I may have to change that. Looks like fun!
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2010- February (POP), April (ASMu), May (ASMo), September (POP), October (AS sports), December (ASMo)
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Old 12-01-2013, 07:12 PM   #5
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Joining in to read all about your trip. Love that your boys are manly enough to admit there Disney love! Love the view from your room.
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Old 12-01-2013, 07:25 PM   #6
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Following along.
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Old 12-03-2013, 10:35 AM   #7
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I'm in.
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Old 12-03-2013, 04:45 PM   #8
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I followed over from the AKL FAQ thread. We're planning to stay at the resort a little over a year from now. I'm really enjoying your trip report so far!
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Old 12-04-2013, 02:52 PM   #9
Sydney2977
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Day 2- dhs

Monday morning we slept in a bit, but as usual I was the first one up. I was concerened about the bathrooms at AKL at first, because in the values there's a curtain and at CSR there's sliding doors, so I wasn't sure how much privacy the AKL ones would give and how much noise it would be. But since ours was on the left once you entered the room and then the bedroom area was past that with the beds facing sideways, there was room for me to change and get ready after showering and I didn't even wake the guys. Ron got up and got ready too and by then the boys were up.
I had to laugh, cuz Ron asked me what park we were going to that day and I said DHS. He said ok, he just wanted to make sure he wore the right shirt! This coming from a guy who wears uniforms to work and is usually not a slave to fashion! He meant that he wanted to wear his grey Star Wars shirt. Coincidentally I was wearing my grey Toy Story shirt, and both boys not meaning to wore something grey. I rpomise we are not the super matchy family!



We headed out to the lobby and down to Mara for our first breakfast. Aaaah, I could get used to this! We got down to breakfast about 8:30and got our refillable mugs and ordered 3 bounty platters with eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, biscuits, and Mickey waffles which was perfect to share between the 4 of us. We also got to pick 3 drinks with this, so the boys grabbed Powerades to take to the park with us and we just got drinks in our mugs. Ron mostly got sodas for breakfast, I got coffee, and the boys got like lemonade or fruit punch or cocoa.

After breakfast we looked around the lobby and surrounding areas. There's a great little room that would be great for reading or just relaxing that had some cool artifacts.



We went back to our room to wash out the mugs, brush teeth, and say hi to some animals.





There was a DHS bus waiting when we got down to the bus stop so we hopped right on and were on our way. We said hi to some monsters on the way in.



The weather was looking a bit overcast and it was slightly cool. But nothing was going to deter us from a fun day!



Normally we are running to get a fp for TSMM then running to ToT and RnR, but I had already made fp+ selections for those later in the day. So it was a nice leisurely stroll in for once. I love the old Hollywood feel and getting to really see all the details in everything.



We grabbed a map and time guide and decided to do The Great Movie Ride first.



It was a five minute wait and lucky us got a "time checker" as my kids call it. They always feel lucky to get picked to take these to the next CM to gauge wait times.



Now that the kids are older they've seen most of the movies in this ride and can appreciate the history in it. They also like singing somgs from the movies as we go along. Seriously, they don't get embarrassed!



Ron's favorite movie star!



Our tour got taken over by the western bandit, which was a nice change since the last few times we've had the gangster. I think the boys actually forgot this other version and were confused when we went through the gangster part and nothing happened.



Another one of our favoirte movie series! It's funny how movies we loved watching growing up are now some of our kids' favorites too.



Ah, the classics.



I have always been a huge Wizard of Oz fan and now I've got my family loving it too.




The movie clips at the end are funny cuz we sit there and try to call out all the names of the movies. Kinda makes me tear up too. We had super CM's on this ride and enjoyed it.

Next we were going to do the Indiana Jones stunt show, but as we approached it was already full 15 minutes before show time. The next show would be while we were eating lunch, so we made sure we'd come back for the later show. Muppets 3D only had a 5 minute wait so that's where we went.



We got front row seats right in the middle- perfect! Always some good laughs from this show. I used to watch the Muppets Show when I was a kid so it brings back memories for me.



Since we were right there we did the Backlot Tour next- less than a 10 minute wait.



The people chosen to be in the boat scene were hilarious. Last time the weather was bad so they skipped this part. It was nice to see it this time. Loved how they updated this plane!



Catastrophe Canyon is always cool. I don't know how, but Taylor always ends up sitting on the side that gets wet!

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Old 12-04-2013, 03:12 PM   #10
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DAY 2 DHS cont.

After the Backlot Tour we enjoyed checking out all the neat movie memorabilia. The boys were interested in reading all the stuff about the props and costumes from their favorite movies.




This was Ron's favorite artifact- a check from Walt.



Even though we wouldn't be seeing the Osbourne Lights this trip we still liked seeing all the Christmas decorations up.




Lunch time was at 12:20 at Sci-FI Dine-In. We've been several times before and love the food and fun atmosphere.



Even though we had an adr we still had to wait 10 mintues past our time, then when we got in it wasn't even that busy. Our waitress also kept mentioning that she was new there and didn't really know a lot. She was very slow with our service and those of the other cars around us. But it was still fun to watch the "movie" as we waited.



The guys got oreo shakes to drink but I just got water- I wanted to save room for food! We again ordered 3 measl to share knowing we'd get dessert as well.

The NY strip steak with potatoes, veggies, and onion rings:



The ribs with baked beans and coleslaw:



The shrimp pasta:



I had some of the steak and pasta and they were delicious. The guys liked the ribs too, and all the sides were just right. Dessert was superb too- I tried them all!

Candy bar dessert:



Ice cream sundae:



Turtle cheesecake:


All in all, it was a good meal, even though it took more time than we expected and the service could have been better. We will probably still come back other times, but I would like to try something different next trip.
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Old 12-04-2013, 03:31 PM   #11
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DAY 2- DHS cont.

After lunch we figured we'd missed the Indian Jones 1:45 show and the Lights, Motors, Action 1:20 show. Everyone voted to skip the LMA show and make sure we saw the 4:00 IJ show. In the mean time we checked out One Man's Dream. They boys are really more interested in the history behind Disney now. We all really enjoyed this exhibit and spent quite a bit of time here.



They were saying a lot of "Mom, did you know...?" and "Dad, did you see this?"




I always love miniatures and scale models. So interesting to see things from a different viewpoint.




We had some more fun on the Streets of America and looking through the shops. I love being able to relax and not feel like we have to rush around. We just had a good time hanging out as a family.






It was just about time for our 3:!0-4:10 fp+ for TSMM. We headed over to Pixar Place and made some new friends.



There was a line to meet the Green Army Guy, but this guy was just walking around and came right up to say hi to Jared!



Yey- onto one of our favorite rides! Last trip we didn't get to do it since it had gone down the first half of the day and then there were no fp's left and over a 2 hour wait.



The boys chose to ride together so Ron and I paired up.



Of course he beat me but I think I did pretty well!



We made sure to get to IJ next to get a seat for the show.



The cast did an amazing job as always!







Love this show and it's a must do at least once! It's got the action and comedy of the original movie that everyone will love.
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Old 12-04-2013, 03:55 PM   #12
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DAY 2- DHS cont.

We headed towards Sunset Blvd. and enjoyed more of the sights and shops. I had to make sure I looked in one of my favorite shops- Villains in Vogue- to check out Maleficent stuff. We found a cool Maleficent shoe ornament that Ron got for me!





We had a fp+ for Rock-n-Rollercoaster from 5:10-6:10.



Jared decided not to ride so he waited in the gift shop for the three of us to ride. Whew- what a rush! We LOVE this ride, singing all the way!



While he was waiting, Jared did find a Stitch pin that he got with a gift card. It was kind of robotic looking and I thought it was a good choice.

Ron and Jared didn't want to do Towe of Terror, but it's one of Taylor and I's favorites, so we wanted to ride before we ate dinner. The line was only 10 minutes- woohoo!



It was getting to be dusk and clouding over, so the ominous weather added to the creepiness of the ride- perfect!



Ready for check-in!



We had an awesome time as always. I love that the pattern of drops changes so you never know what to expect.

We were ready for dinner by now and wanted to eat before seeing Fantasmic! We chose Fairfaxe Fare, which we'd never tried before.



Ron and Jared grabbed a table while Taylor and I got the food. We ordered 2 of the chicken and ribs combos with Sprites to drink. I just ate the chicken but the guys had both meats. We thought the chicken was a bit dry but flavorful and they liked the ribs and bbq sauce. Jared and I ate the coleslaw which was just saucy enough, and Ron and Taylor liked the flavor of the beans.



When it came to dessert the CM, who was really impressively friendly and efficient, said we could get the carrot cake, chocolate cake, or the specialty cupackes if we liked- pumpkin spice. Of course we picked the special ones- so cute! They were perfectly touched with pumpkin and cinammon, not too sweet and a great fall taste.

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Old 12-04-2013, 04:12 PM   #13
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DAY 2- DHS conclusion

After dinner it was time to walk across the street to see Fantasmic!



I had picked this as a fp+ to get in between 6:25 and 6:45. But when we were entering for our time, they were letting everyone in too and there was no special seating. Oh well, we still got a good seat and weren't trying to get in a certain spot or super close.



There were some funny CM's doing silly games and sing alongs before the start and trying to get the wave all the way back and forth around the stadium. This was the first event we got to see the Glow With the Show ears. They flashed on and off with the songs and the kids around us that had they seemed to enjoy them. This is Taylor's favorite show in all the parks so I'm glad we got in to see it. I will agree it is a must see for everyone at least once! Very awesome effects. Plus you get to see lots of characters- including my favorite Maleficent!








After Fantasmic! the boys decided they didn't want to do Star Tours after all. Ron and I get sick on the simulator rides, so we weren't going to anyway. Taylor wanted to do the single rider for RnR again, so we let him do that and it only took about 10 minutes. Deciding that we'd done everything we wanted for the day we strolled back to Hollywood Blvd.



We only had to wait about 5 minutes for a bus back to AKL. We had a nice walk back to our room, watched some animlas while the boys showered up again, and went to bed. Wonderful first park day!
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Old 12-04-2013, 10:23 PM   #14
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Just stumbled on your TR and was wondering why your oldest DS has his arm in a sling?
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Old 12-05-2013, 04:56 AM   #15
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Great trip report. Joining in.
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