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Old 03-09-2011, 11:39 AM   #1
Colleen27
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A Taste of Spring - 30 million blooms, 1000 pics, 6 wonderful nights

We're back home and mired in winter again after a lovely taste of spring at Disney World, so it is time to kick off the trip report. (Once that's done, I think it'll be time to plan the next trip... )

First, a little about the who and when:

The Cast

DD9, aka Pocahontas – She used to be my little princess, but she’s always had a tomboy streak and now she is so over the delicate princesses waiting for their prince to save them. She’s very into the modern Disney princesses, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana, who take control of their own lives and adventures, but she still wants to see the classics “for the baby”.

DD2, aka Boo – The happiest toddler you’ll ever meet, this one has skipped the “terrible” part of being two entirely. She’s a delightful baby to be around, sassy and articulate and just cuddly enough without being clingy. Thanks to her big sister, who introduced her to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when she was just a newborn, she’s Mickey’s biggest fan. Every castle she sees, even her big brother’s Legos, is “Mickey castle”. Her nickname comes from her current favorite game – after seeing Monsters Inc. she decided it is the Most. Hilarious. Thing. Ever. to jump out from under tables or behind chairs and yell “Boo”.

DM – My mother and frequent traveling companion, newly retired and looking forward to even more great trips. She loves Disney as much as I do but doesn’t like to travel solo, so she often joins us on our trips. My parents divorced when I was very young and the financial pressures of being a single mom got in the way of taking my brother & I to Disney when we were kids. Now she’s really enjoying experiencing things with my kids that she couldn’t do with us.

And last but not least, yours truly – 30-something SAHM and relatively new Disney addict. I only went to Disney once before having children, but all it took was the first trip with my two oldest kids and I was instantly hooked. I love travel in general and planning is half the fun, so a WDW vacation is the perfect trip for me! This will be our fifth trip with me at the wheel, and each one is an adventure all its own.

Also appearing in passing mention but not joining us on this trip are DH, my enabler, and DS12. They couldn’t be less interested in the Flower & Garden Festival so this one is going to be a girls’ only weekend.

The Plans

When: March 2-8, 2011.

Where: Pop Century. Our first value stay and an adventure I went into with a little trepidation, which proved to be entirely unnecessary.

For more on the planning and backstories of our journey, you can find my pre-trip report here: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2622309
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:04 PM   #2
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On the road

Let me start this entry by making it very, very clear that I am NOT a morning person. I don't think there should be a 5am, and I pretty much only see it when we are flying out to start a vacation. So don't expect any cute pictures of excited kids riding in the car or waiting at the airport - I wasn't awake enough to take them, and my girls were much to tired to do anything cute anyway.

Our flight down to Orlando was scheduled for a 9:25 takeoff, which sounds like a reasonable enough hour until you add in the 2 hours they recommend allowing for security and check-in and the 2 hours it takes to get to the airport from my house and it makes for an obscenely early start to the day.

We flew Spirit, which is something I seldom do because all the fees generally add up to more than flying a more full-service carrier, but this time the fare was so good even the fees couldn't erase the savings. I didn't pay for our seat selections, though. When I checked in online we were assigned four seats straight across in row 29, but upon checking our bags three of us were upgraded to "big front seats". As it turned out, the seats we were originally assigned were missing their backs for repairs!

So the girls and I took the front seats and DM kept her original seat assignment. The extra room was nice, but I certainly wouldn't pay extra for those seats when traveling with children - there are no trays because there are no seats in front of you, and there's also no under-seat storage for a carry-on for the same reason. So we had to stash all the things I brought to entertain the kids on the flight in the overhead bin.

The girls amusing themselves waiting for take off:





The arriving flight was late coming in so we took off about a half hour late, but somehow we landed just about on time. Magical Express is wonderful for slow-day check-ins; it took about 10 minutes from checking in to being on the bus headed for Disney. Our flight landed a few minutes after noon, we boarded the ME bus at 12:45, and by 2 we were swimming in the bowling pin pool at Pop Century.
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Old 03-09-2011, 01:01 PM   #3
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Looking forward to your report. Cant wait to see what pics you took. I thought the topiaries this year were fantastic. We never did see the CARS topiary as it was not up yet. Also, we did not get to see the finishing touches to the huge cats sand sculpture so please post those too.
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:41 PM   #4
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Pop! First impressions

I spent a lot of time second-guessing the decision to downgrade to a value resort for this trip. With it not being our big whole-family trip for the year I was working with a much tighter budget than I'm used to and Pop fit that budget well, but I'm a bit of a hotel snob in the real world and reviews comparing the values to a Disney-fied Motel 6 made me wonder if I'd hate it.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. The girls loved the resort, and I found it more than adequate (and nothing like any Motel 6 I've been to!).

Playing with the blocks out front





Check-in went smoothly and quickly. My Diapers.com order was waiting for us when we arrived, having been delivered earlier that day (yay for text delivery notification!). Our room was ready, which I had hope for but not really expected because room availability was so slim for the early part of our trip.

The girls enjoyed the kids' area while I was at the desk. They both love vintage Mickey shorts, so they could happily spend hours here.





I was quite disappointed to learn at check-in that not only was the kiddie pool closed due to the Hippy Dippy pool rehab, but the Goofy jets were closed as well. I'm not sure how accurate this is, but according to the CM I spoke with down at the pool all three of those facilities share some pump equipment, so with the flower pool closed the jets couldn't be turned on.

Before we went to the room we spent a little time checking out the lobby decor. I only got pics of a few of my favorite shadowboxes because the girls were hungry and eager to grab a bite and head to the pool!

I'm a huge Doors fan so I had to take this one.



This one is for DS13 the Star Wars geek, and a little for me because I used to play Magenta in a RHPS shadow cast when I was in college.



And of course vintage Disney.



I told myself I'd come back one night to get some shots without the glare from the skylights but I never did get around to it.

With check-in complete and our deluxe dining credits burning a hole in our pockets, we headed over to Everything Pop to grab a quick bite from the food court and then we were off to check out our room and enjoy the Florida sun.

(For more on our dining adventures, you can find a full dining review packed with food porn and a detailed financial breakdown of the DxDDP here - Flowers, Fun and FOOD!)

Our room was about what I expected. I've seen a million pics of the rehabbed rooms, so everything was familiar from the moment we stepped through the door.

I'd requested to be first floor near a pool on my reservation, and we got one of the two - third floor, but right near the bowling pin pool in the Lady building, 50s section. It turned out to be a fabulous location, right near the elevator and high enough that we didn't hear any pool noise.

Boo checking out Lady.



I'd read some posts just before leaving from someone who felt that the 50s might now really have been rehabbed, and I saw what she was talking about. While the room had the new look - the plush new carpet, the flat panel TV, the modern dresser - the grout was stained in traffic areas of the bathroom and there was purple marker on the wallpaper. Nothing that really bothered me, but it didn't scream "fresh and newly renovated" if you know what I mean. Aside from those deep-cleaning issues, the room was clean and nice enough, though a bit on the small side once we got the pack-and-play delivered.

I didn't take a ton of pics of the room, but I snapped this one before we made a mess just because I really liked the color scheme.



The view from outside our room.



While the girls got ready to swim, I walked around to take some pics of the resort. The oversized icons were really cute. Boo loved the "big puppy dogs" that let her know we were "home", and I really liked how bright and colorful the resort is. Rather than feeling tacky it was perfectly over-the-top Disney, and while it lacked the beautiful landscaping and quiet themeing of the higher end resorts it was just an all around fun atmosphere.









Then the camera went up to the room so I could enjoy some swim time with the girls. I was bummed that the kiddie water play areas were both closed, but Boo ended up really liking sitting on the ledge that runs around the pool and splashing, and by the end of the week she was jumping in (with a lifejacket on of course)!



We really couldn't have asked for better weather, and as it turned out that continued through the week. Considering that back home we were in the middle of a warm spell that was just warm enough for freezing rain and sleet instead of snow, 78* under the Florida sun felt like heaven on Earth!
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:43 PM   #5
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Our first evening in the World

Day one, part two... Had to break it up to get under the pic limit.


Around 5 I dragged the girls out of the pool to get ready for dinner. Well, there wasn't really that much dragging involved - Boo uttered for the first time the phrase that would be her trademark this trip, "I'm hungry", and we all got dressed and hopped a bus over to the Magic Kingdom. We don't do a park on our arrival days, but we had dinner reservations at Kona and a loose plan to watch Wishes from outside the park to get the trip started.

At this point I first got to experience something that turned out to be one of my favorite things about staying at Pop - only one bus stop! At CBR it felt like we'd circle the resort for an hour before actually heading off to our destination, but there's none of that at Pop. It was so nice to get on a bus and simply be on our way. I hope that is something that remains the same for Art of Animation, since the original site plan was so similar to Pop.

Because I'd read so many recent reports of stalled monorails, and because my mom has some knee problems that make ramps uncomfortable, we decided to hop the boat over to the Poly instead of the monorail. I just love this ride, so peaceful and lovely!





We checked in at Kona a little early and spent a little time checking out the beautiful Poly lobby. I would love to stay here someday, but with my kids getting to an age where they want a little privacy and not to share a bed I think it'll wait until DH & I are planning solo trips. For right now, family suites and DVC villas are looking much better than a single room that sleeps 5.









Boo doing her impression of this silly fellow:



After dinner, pleasantly stuffed and more than a little tired from the day of travel, we decided not to stick around for Wishes from the beach. We took the boat back to Magic Kingdom and were heading for the bus stop just as the fireworks started. It was a neat view from this vantage, with the fireworks exploring over the train station rather than the castle.







As the girls settled down for the night, I headed out to refill our mugs and discovered something else I really appreciated about Pop. It is never really quiet or isolated, any time of day or night. At the moderates we've stayed at the walk to the food court at night was always dark and a little creepy, but at Pop the grounds are well lit and there seems to be people out and about all the time. In some ways that might fall into the "cons" column, but for a girls-only trip where I was making a lot of late night runs to the food court it was nice.







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Old 03-09-2011, 06:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mama03 View Post
Looking forward to your report. Cant wait to see what pics you took. I thought the topiaries this year were fantastic. We never did see the CARS topiary as it was not up yet. Also, we did not get to see the finishing touches to the huge cats sand sculpture so please post those too.
I don't know what is up with the Cars topiary - it still wasn't up as of Monday, much to my disappointment. There's the arch and the flags, but just floral towers where Lightning and Mater are supposed to be. I think I got pics of all the others, though!
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:50 PM   #7
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I'm here and I'm second! YAY!
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Completed Trip Reports:


The Frump Takes Over the World: Food Edition! A DR with Extra Magic!A Frump's TR: "Me Gusta Epic Mealtime! Stop Thinking My Thoughts: I'm Five."

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Old 03-10-2011, 09:35 AM   #8
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Great first day!!! I'm also subbing in on your food report since I love to eat!

That's great that Pop ended up being a great place to stay! Like you, I'm kind of a resort snob. Although if we take Emma, Pop might be a place to stay while she's still little.

Can't wait to read more!
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:30 AM   #10
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What a great first day! YOur girls are so precious !

I love all your pics...they make me want to stay at POP but DH is not digging it

subbing & can't wait to see how your trip went!
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:46 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amandaluvsgoofy View Post
That's great that Pop ended up being a great place to stay! Like you, I'm kind of a resort snob. Although if we take Emma, Pop might be a place to stay while she's still little.
I really, really wanted to like it but deep down I expected I wouldn't. I'm very glad I did, though! We'll officially be a family of 5 when Boo turns 3 this July, and having one good value resort experience under my belt makes me much more comfortable with the idea of trying the Art of Animation suites for our 2012 trip (assuming they open on schedule).

I'm uploading day two pics now, I should get around to the next update when Boo takes her nap.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:23 PM   #12
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Wow, you are on the ball! I will be checking out your full dining review as well. There are so many restaurants we haven't tried yet, because we continue to re-visit favorites.

The view from your room is amazing. Too bad the values and mods don't have balconies. I can understand your attitude of being a resort snob, because staying in DVC rooms a few times makes the regular resort room feel so small, and we missed the amenities.

Glad you had a great time at Pop! We enjoy staying at Pop, and walking around the grounds checking out all the fine details along the way.

That is definately a bummer that the main pool was closed and goofy jets weren't working. Did you venture over to the playground?
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Old 03-10-2011, 05:50 PM   #13
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Subbing! Yeah, we weren't sure what was up with the Cars 2 topiaries either. The weirdest part is that they're on the map in the festival guide. If they weren't in the guide, we wouldn't have been so confused about them not being there. Off to check out your food report!
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:45 PM   #14
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Off to the parks at last!

Boo had a bit of a rough night on our first night at Pop. She woke up around 5, her normal "restless" time at night, and was completely disoriented. At home, she just tosses and turns a little bit and goes right back to sleep but without her familiar crib and room, she really woke up. And she was not happy! She came in bed with me but was upset Daddy wasn't there, and then she wanted to go downstairs to watch a favorite show on Netflix. It really didn't sink in that she wasn't at home and she just thought I was being SO mean by not letting her do the things she gets to do at home when she wakes up too early. Still, it only took about 15min to find Radio Disney on the TV and she drifted back to sleep in my bed.

Even with the middle of the night interruption, we were all up and raring to go bright and early. I had hoped to get moving by 8:15 to make rope drop and we were close; we headed down to the bus stop at 8:30 and waited just a few minutes for the AK bus to arrive.



We got to Animal Kingdom just in time to join the tail end of the rope drop rush.



We only planned on being in the park for a few hours, so the to-do list was short - Everest and Dinosaur for me & Pocahontas, Triceratops Spin for Boo, and the safari all together. I pointed DM in the direction of Dinoland and we were off to Everest.







And there we hit our first hiccup of the trip - Everest was down! I grabbed fastpasses and we headed back to Dinoland to see what Boo and DM were up to.



I know a lot of people don't like it, but I adore Chester and Hester's Dinorama. It is just colorful, playful fun and the thoroughness of the theme is something only Disney could pull off. Maybe it is one too many childhood road trips talking but I love campy roadside attractions and obscure tourist traps, and this area captures that bit of Americana perfectly.





Triceratops Spin was a walk-on, so we joined DM and Boo for another go-round on it.



Then we came across these guys with almost no line, so we had to stop.



Pluto got down on all fours so the girls could pet him.





Boo had big hugs for Pluto especially!



Then Boo and DM headed off for one more ride on Triceratops Spin while Pocahontas and I hit Dinosaur.







We grouped up for a quick picture before heading off to breakfast.





Pocahontas found this Hidden Mickey.



I love the signs in the Animal Kingdom. I wouldn't rate it as my favorite park overall, but it ranks right up there with Epcot as my favorites to photograph. The little details are just fabulous.





Notice Pocahontas lack of footwear? She decided that her Calis were rubbing wrong, so after breakfast we made a quick detour to pick her up a new pair of flip flops that she deemed much more comfortable.



I'm at the photo limit again so I'm going to break here. Next installment, breakfast at Tusker House and wrapping up our Animal Kingdom morning.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:08 PM   #15
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A breakfast safari and off to the ballgame

Up next on the schedule was breakfast, with this guy waiting for us in the courtyard.



Boo spent weeks looking forward to this moment, a big kiss on the nose for Mickey.



Last trip, Boo was very shy with the characters. I was thrilled to see how well she took to them this time. In fact, she was so intent on hugging and playing with them that I got an awful lot of pictures of the back of her head.











After breakfast we decided to skip the safari in the interests of getting to the ballgame on time. It was rather warm already, and none of us were really all that excited about the safari at the moment. Skipping Everest, on the other hand, was out of the question.

So we split up and took our own ways out. Pocahontas and I ran over to Everest to use our fastpasses, while DM and Boo got a head start towards the buses. On the path from Africa to Asia we caught one of my favorite Animal Kingdom performers.







We stayed to watch for a few minutes then resumed our trek to Everest.

Some people put their hands up to show their lack of fear on a ride. Me? I take my camera on rides I'm comfortable with, and this was my first time shooting on Everest. Next time I'll be more prepared with where to aim, but I still managed to get a few good shots.













This one is my favorite. Click on it for full size and see if you can spot Spaceship Earth!



After leaving the park we met up with DM and Boo, who just barely beat us to the Pop bus stop after taking a moment to grab a couple bottles of water for the game. Between the wait for the bus at AK and the wait for the Wide World of Sports bus at Pop, it took almost an hour to get over to the ballpark.

And now it is time for another commercial - er, photo limit break. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of day two!
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