This is my first time posting a trip report on this forum. I hope it's not too long. Enjoy! Pretrip: Being fairly new DVC members; we knew our next trip should include the Food & Wine Festival. Due to our schedules and other commitments we could only head south for the last few days in October and the first two weeks in November. Kelli wanted to celebrate her birthday at home and we wanted to be home for Halloween so we booked a studio at Saratoga Springs Resort from Sunday November 4 to Saturday November 10. We planned on visiting friends on the coast on the weekend we arrive or the weekend we leave. We also waitlisted (we knew it would be a long shot) for Beach Club or The Wilderness Lodge. What we didnt know was that it would be Jersey Week when, due to Election Day, a two day conference for teachers and Veterans Day weekend many New Jersey families head down since they can take a week off and the kids would only miss a couple of days of school. This led to many unavailable flights or very high airfares. Since the difference in airfare for arriving on Thursday would easily pay for additional accommodations for the 3 extra nights we book Delta leaving LaGuardia Airport in NY on November 1. To get the cheapest airfare would also mean arriving back at a different airport, JFK on Saturday the 10th. We booked Thursday and Friday night at Pop Century (annual pass discount) and the Saturday at a Holiday Inn Express in Melbourne, Florida (AAA rate). We will use Alamo for the first time since the best deal was the DVC discount with them. Another perk on arriving on the first is that we could go the last Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party on the 2nd and enjoy Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party on the 9th. We also paid for reservations for two Culinary Demonstrations: Wendy Bazilian and Jon Ashton, Driscoll's Only the Finest Berries (Turkey) and Cristobal Lopez, Portobello, (Pork). And lastly we signed up for one of the DVC member previews for Fantasy Land. My wife wants to relax more on this vacation, - so little park storming for us but as usual I may get up early and ride thrill rides at opening while she sleeps in. Another wonderful surprise was that Kelli decided to take swimming lessons now we can both enjoy the pools together. And yes, I know the pools are only 3 4 feet deep in most areas, but this has relieved a lot of the apprehension she had. Im really looking forward to that. A week before leaving we heard that Hurricane Sandy will be heading our way. On late Monday October 29 the storm hit. The winds were incredibly powerful and our lights flickered for hours. Oddly we did not have a lot of rain, less than 2 inches. We saw the power lines arcing across the street, sending sparks to the street and lighting up the night sky but somehow our power never went out. Our arbor tipped over in the yard but the house had no damage. We were very lucky, many other people were not. Kellis work was closed Tuesday but they got power back and she went in Wednesday. My work place in northern New Jersey was hard hit and I did not have to go to work Tuesday and Wednesday since they had no or limited power. (I latter learned that my work was without power for ten days!). On Tuesday we found out that Delta had cancelled our Thursday morning flight. LaGuardia Airport was under water! They rebooked for Friday night; we would miss the Halloween party and lose 2 days of vacation. I re-booked it so we could get in Friday evening, missing half the party. Not happy I re-rebooked it from a small airport north of us going from NY to Detroit to Atlanta then to Orlando, but we would get in by Friday afternoon. On Wednesday night we heard on the TV that LaGuardia would partially open the next day (Thank God we had power!). I was then able to re-re-rebook the flight out of LaGuardia on a direct flight AND it was the same time as our original flight that was cancelled! We then had to quickly finish packing and hope the flight would leave the next morning. Stay tuned for how it went. Thursday, November 1, 2012, Art of Animation Resort Tour We woke up early and our niece and nephew picked up us for the short ride to LaGuardia Airport. The airport wasnt busy at all. They were officially opening at 7AM after being closed for three days. We tried to check in curbside but the porter said he could not check us in and to see the inside counter. This didnt look good. Only one person was in front of us and after a short wait there was no problem checking in and getting our boarding passes whew! The line at security was non existent and we made it through in record time. While we waited at the gate we noticed a number of Delta employees lining the exit to the gate across from us. They were celebrating the re-opening of the airport by cheering on the arriving customers of the first arriving planes. Nice touch. Our flight was only 40 percent full, not surprising since the news just announced that the airport was reopening the night before. Many people dont have power anyway so they wouldnt have known to check. The flight down was smooth and uneventful and our luggage was waiting for us at baggage claim. We made our way over to Alamo. We chose Alamo this time due to the DVC discount we got from them. We were next in line with about 5 representatives taking care of customers and thought the wait would be short, WRONG. Now I remember why I like Enterprise better. The clerks do a hard sell with everyone trying to up sell everything, gas, insurance, upgrades, GPS etc. When it was my turn I was firm and polite and was quickly on our way. Our first stop was the Disney's Character Warehouse in the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue, a short distance from Downtown Disney. We found some bargains on T-shirts and vinylmations and we were on our way to the Pop Century Resort. We decided to have lunch at the Everything Pop Food Court before checking in. We had the Mediterranean Flatbread and the Beef Chimichurri Burrito. Kelli also wanted a new refillable mug. We remembered that the Tables in Wonderland card gives the 20 percent discount here. We checked in and were in the 50s section, facing the 60s section. I turned on the TV and watched Must Do Stacey while unpacking . . . . Oops, Freudian slip; I mean Must Do Disney with everyones favorite host Stacey. After resting a bit we walked to Hour Glass Lake and across the Generation Gap Bridge and into the new Art of Animation Resort. We were immediately impressed by the varied and colorful 3-D fish adorning the Finding Nemo buildings and surrounding flora. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/art1.jpg We then explored the Lion King section. I really liked how the middle section looks like an African savannah. All the characters from the movie were represented and I positioned myself beneath Scar, posing in a similar manner. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/art2.jpg Next was The Little Mermaid section where I posed as one of the lined up fish. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/art3.jpg We back tracked to the Cars section where I posed as if I was waxing and buffing Doc Hudson. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/art4.jpg We decided to eat at their food court, Landscape of Flavors. We split a Kids Macaroni and Cheese and a Surf and Surf Burger - Crab Cake topped with fried popcorn shrimp, tomato, lettuce, and Cajun reoulade on a brioche bun with house-seasoned fries. The crab cake overwhelmed the shrimp. I would suggest eating the shrimp alone then eating the rest as a crab cake sandwich. Next was the obligatory shopping in the Ink and Paint Shop. It looked like they had a fair amount of Ariel merchandise; well have to let our niece know. We grabbed Gelatos that came with a souvenir Donald Duck Halloween cup and enjoyed them on the other side of the bridge as the sun was setting. Our last venture was a quiet and romantic walk around Pop Century at night, mainly along the lake where I tried to take some night shots of the resort. We also stopped in the food court for a late night snack, a cookie and the kids meal mac & cheese. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov1b.jpg http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov1c.jpg Comments: We had a terrific day. It was great to escape from NY and the chaos. We were very impressed by the Art of Animation Resort. It seems like Disney does not rest on it laurels. Each new project/attraction/resort outperforms the last, even if its a value resort. Friday, November 2, 2012, Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party We slept in so we were sure to be rested for the Halloween Party later tonight. Breakfasts at the food court were pancakes and waffles with bacon. Then it was off to Epcot by car. First was the coffee stand near Innovations East for some real coffee, then onto Epcots International Food & Wine Festival Center. Some demos were taking place and we stopped and listened for a bit. We also perused the gift shop areas but decided to come back and buy on the way out. We stopped by the Cranberry Bog and chatted with the lady standing in the bog (did not jot down her name!). She was great in explaining the way they are grown and harvested. Nearby they were handing out packets of Ocean Spray Craisens, one of our favorite snacks; theyre great in salads too. The watermelon patch near showcase plaza explained how to pick a ripe watermelon, useful since I just successfully grew a few in the back yard this year. It was just after 11 AM and the World Showcase had just opened up. This is the way to do the food and wine festival, on a weekday, just after opening. There were short or no lines everywhere and were able to quickly sample a number of items. We went clockwise and were full halfway around. We then made notes on what to get on the next visit. We also took our time exploring the miniature train set near Germany and we took pictures with Pluto since there was no wait. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2f.jpg Our Lunch consisted of sharing the following Argentina Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree Australia Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry Citrus Glaze Grilled Lamp Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies Hops and Barley Pumpkin Mousse with Craisins and Orange Sauce Angry Orchard Hard cider South Africa Seared Filet of Beef with Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Braai Sauce South Korea Lettuce Wrap with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw Mung Bean Pancake with Shrimp and Kimchi Sauce Poland Tyskie (a beer) Hawaii Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise Everything was great. Our favorite was the grilled lamb chop from Australia Next was back to the festival center to shop. We also visited the Chase lounge where it was great to sit and relax a bit with some free soda to rehydrate as well. Just outside of the lounge they had a fabulous display of chocolate molded into elaborate scenes. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2b.jpg We headed back to Pop Century and headed down to the bowling pin pool. Kelli is taking swimming lesson and did great practicing. It is wonderful that we now can enjoy the pools together. We had a 5:20 PM ADR for the Kona Café at Disney's Polynesian Resort. We first took the bus to the Magic Kingdom and we admired the Halloween costumes, both young and old were wearing, while waiting for it to arrive. We then monorailed it to the Polynesian Resort. After a short wait we were seated. We skipped appetizers to save time and we enjoyed the Teriyaki Style New York Strip - sirloin strip grilled with pineapple teriyaki glaze served with sticky rice and stir-fried broccolini and the Coconut Almond Chicken - breaded and baked chicken breast served with a salad of Asian greens fresh fruit and almonds. For dessert we shared the Kilauea Torte - An explosion of warm liquid Chocolate inside Chocolate Cookie Volcano and Kelli got the French pressed 100% Kona Coffee. We headed in for Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party at 6:30 PM. First on the agenda was to pick up the Special Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card (it featured Chip & Dale); then we headed to the Haunted Mansion. We waited under the outside part of the queue under the canopy till the extra ghost came out. She sat down on a bench in the grass and was in good form. We let people pass us as we listened to her comment and talk to people coming by. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2j.jpg Kelli was wearing Halloween Mickey ears and a Halloween T-shirt and the ghost said to her. Looks like you spent a lot of time on your costume! We took the longer queue into the interactive area and I showed Kelli the Finish the Poem station where the ghost recognizes your voice if you shout out the correct ending to the poem. In the stretch room I told Kelli to look up during the dark sequence she had never seen the hanging corpse effect. After a quick rest room break we found a prime spot for the parade; outside the shooting arcade. While waiting; the Cadaver Dans (the Halloween version of the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet) sang to the crowd nearby. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2k.jpg The parade was fantastic as it was in 2008, the last time we saw it. Everybody cheered the headless horseman leading the parade. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2l.jpg http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2m.jpg We made our way towards Main Street but the chairs on the Crystal Palace veranda called our names. We sat and people watch while the castle changed colors. For the Happy HalloWishes fireworks; we stood at the top of Main Street. Some of the costumes in the crowd this year were terrific; we both liked the foursome dressed as Alice in Wonderland Characters. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2n.jpg After the fireworks we let the crowd thin out and checked out Mickeys Star Traders in Tomorrowland for any special merchandise. Then we made our way to the buses. This worked out great as only 12 people were on our bus. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov2o.jpg Comments: Another great day. We looked at the past two days as a bonus, since our first rescheduled flight would have had us arriving tonight. It was still a strange mix of emotions. We were happy to have gotten away from all the bad news, the stress on us was diminishing greatly, but did feel a little guilty being down here with all the hardships people had to deal with the aftermath of Sandy back home. November 3 & 4 Saturday & Sunday, Visiting Friends on the Coast We ate at the Pop Century food court, French toast and the bounty platter, checked out, and headed to Melbourne to visit friends. I wont go into details here but we did visit two nice areas for birding and wildlife viewing; the Helen & Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary in Rockledge for Scrub Jays (which were not seen, maybe next time) and Sebastian Inlet on Sunday. Highlights were Gopher Tortoises at both locations, dolphins, Brown Pelicans, Sandwich Terns, a species Kelli has never seen till now, and some great beach combing for shells. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov3a.jpg http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov4a.jpg http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov4b.jpg Another highlight in its own was the small Sebastian Fishing Museum at the Inlet. It tells the history of the area's fishing industry. It also included a lot of other information such as what seashells are found there and their names; how the area has the most species of fish in the US because its where the ranges of northern and sub-tropical species meet. I also learned about Slipper Lobsters and more. We also had some nice lunches and dinners; most notable were The Shack Seafood Restaurant in Palm Bay, the New England Eatery & Pub in Melbourne Beach and TooJay's Original Gourmet Deli in Melbourne. We drove back Sunday evening, shopped at Publix for food supplies and arrived at Saratoga Springs Resort at 8:45 PM. Our request for a high floor in the Congress Park section was granted but we did not get a view of Downtown Disney, just some trees that obscured the parking lot. One little thing that struck me were the differences in the shampoo bottles between Pop Century and the DVC resorts. Both are the H2O brand but the bottles at Pop have whimsical Mickey Ear caps on them. http://www.hras.org/disneynov2012/nov4d.jpg We took a walk to The Artist's Palette just before it closed to look around. Back at the room we now heard that a Noreaster might hit the northeast; bring rain, snow and more wind.