The "Big Men on Campus" aren't too big for WDW! A trip Report

Discussion in 'Disney Trip Reports' started by Sydney2977, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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.

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    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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  3. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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:

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    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.

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

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    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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

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    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.

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    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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  4. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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!

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!
     
  5. Britard

    Britard Mouseketeer

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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!
     
  6. LB1122

    LB1122 Life's full of tough choices...Disney is not one o

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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.
     
  7. wiigirl

    wiigirl DIS Veteran

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    Following along. :goodvibes
     
  8. John's Mom

    John's Mom Jambo Wildbunch Gang

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    I'm in. :goodvibes
     
  9. JAMIESMITH

    JAMIESMITH DIS Veteran

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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!
     
  10. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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!

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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    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!

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    Ron's favorite movie star!

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    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.

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    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.

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    Ah, the classics.

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

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    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.

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    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.

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

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    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!

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    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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  11. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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.

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

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

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

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    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.

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    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:

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    The ribs with baked beans and coleslaw:

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    The shrimp pasta:

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    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:

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    Ice cream sundae:

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    Turtle cheesecake:
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    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.
     
  12. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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.

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

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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

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

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

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    The cast did an amazing job as always!

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    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.
     
  13. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    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!

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

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    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!

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    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!

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

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    Ready for check-in!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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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  14. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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

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    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.

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    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!

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    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.

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    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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  15. EastYorkDisneyFan

    EastYorkDisneyFan DIS Veteran

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    Just stumbled on your TR and was wondering why your oldest DS has his arm in a sling?
     
  16. JMBB216

    JMBB216 Earning My Ears

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    Great trip report. Joining in.
     
  17. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    He was playing flag football in JROTC the week before, flipped over someone, and landed right on his elbow. After x-rays from the ER, wearing a splint for four days, then more x-rays from a specialist a few days later, they determined it thankfully wasn't broken but just badly bruised. The specialist just wanted him to keep it in the sling during the majority of the vacation since he wanted to make sure it healed properly. He's all back to normal now- thanks for asking though!
     
  18. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    I was determined not to set an alarm this trip and just go with the flow. I did make a breakfast adr at Olivia's for our down day for 8:30 and was worried we might be late, but I woke up by 7:15 and everyone else got up soon after me. I made coffee for me in the room just to try it and it was good- better than the other kind they used to have at the resorts.
    Originally we were going to go to Blizzard Beach this day, but since the weather felt too cool for us we said we'd do mini golf and resort hop during the day, and decided to drive. I was excited to check out some other resorts we'd never seen before. We pulled up at Old Key West Resort and I was pretty impressed.

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    It was pretty but had a laid back look too. We parked right up front and were on our way to breakfast.

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    We were warmly greeted and seated right away at a nice table by the window. It wasn't crowded at all and our server Janet got our drinks right away. The boys got chocolate milk and Ron and I just had water with lemon. We are both used to drinking a lot of water at home and I did not want to be getting dehydrated on vacation.

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    The pictures from DVC members decorating the walls were very charming and made you feel welcome, like being at a friend's. There were crayons on the table and Jared actually asked if there was anything to color on. Janet got a kick out of this and brought both the boys coloring sheets, which they both proceeded to color while we were waiting for our food. They said it was relaxing.

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    The funny thing to me was that there was a family seated next to us with 3 kids about 3, 5, and 7, and the parents were giving them their phones to play with and one had a tablet, yet my teenagers were having fun coloring and just talking to their mom and dad. It made me remember why I love them so much!
    Because it looked big enough we ordered two of the Olivia's breakfasts to share, and it was plenty, and very tasty too! I had my two eggs scrambled and Taylor had his over easy. Rona and Jared had the breakfast potatoes, but I had a bite and they were good. We got biscuits, which were light and fluffy, and bacon and sausage too. Great meal in a warm comfortable palce.

    After breakfast we looked around a bit. It's a beautiful resort but very inviting and not "stuck up" feeling at all. The area around the water is lovely and we liked the look of the buildings. The boys had fun goofing off.

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    Although we may not ever stay here because we don't really need the bigger room and space, if we did I would consider OKW for the comfortable feel.

    Next up we drove to Fantasia Gardens to play some mini golf.

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    We had been years ago, but it was a night, so I was happy to see it during the day. We arrived right at 10:00 opening and were given a "tee time" and got to start.

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    There are so many fun holes here! They are challenging but make you laugh. Taylor got a hole in one on the very first hole! And Ron got one on the fifth hole. I would highly recommend taking a little time to enjoy a round of golf here!

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    You have to read all the intros to the holes to get what you're supposed to do, and they're really cute. There aes surprises along the way too!

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    This hole was the hardest for all of us. The fence thing is kinda in the way so it's hard to get the ball up the hill.

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    The last hole features Yensid- the sorcerer! As you probably know, his name is Disney backwards. But I've always thought it was cool that if you rearrange the letters it also spells Sidney, which is my grandpa's middle name, and I was named after him since I was born on his birthday, and the first time I went to WDW was with him!

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  19. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    Since we were right across the street I wanted to go in to see the Swan and Dolphin. Ron and Jared weren't interested but were totally fine just waiting for me to look around, and Taylor was up for joining me.

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    Ok, so we were acting silly playing in the revolving door.

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    I was going to have Taylor take my picture by the fountain, but a nice chef walking by volunteered to take a shot of us.

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    We walked around inside and then went outside to head over to the Dolphin.

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    The inside of the Dolphin is equally beautiful to the Swan.

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    We had to look around the art gallery here. Some amazing arists are featured.

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    We headed back to the Swan and decided that while they are both nice, the Swan had a better overall feel. Neither had a real Disney magic feel though, and we thought they felt too much like hotels and not the resort atmosphere we enjoy, so we wouldn't choose to stay here.

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  20. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

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    Two other joined resorts we wanted to visit were Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter. We were going to eat lunch at Blizzard Beach, but we had eaten at POFQ for dinner once before and we decided to try it again- especially since we hadn't been able to stop in New Orleans for lunch on the way home from Texas last summer and the boys wanted some beignets. First stop was Riverside.

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    The overall feel is very southern and reminded us of the plantations here in South Carolina.

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    We looked around inside and then walked around a bit outside enjoying the grounds and pool area. They're nice, but we probably wouldn't choose to stay here because there aren't queen beds and the overall feel is so similar to what we have here at home.

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    Then we hopped back in the car for a second to drive over to POFQ.

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    The other time we came here was a night and just for a quick meal. We were happy to be greeted this time by the friendly gentleman at the door who gave us all good luck coins and chatted with us.

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    My grandpa was from New Orleans originally so we used to visit there with him when he'd visit us growing up, and our family has visited too. It's a fun atmosphere at this resort, and my boys both play jazz, so they liked it.

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    Taylor plays trumpet and his nickname is Scat Cat, so he was happy to pose for this picture.

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    After looking around were ready for lunch.

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    There are different stations to order at and everyone got their own paper ticket and waited just a few minutes while their meal was prepared fresh. I like that there are lots of great choices here. We got our drinks and were going to get dessert but the CM at the bakery told us we could just bring back our receipts later when we were done eating so our desserts would be fresh. We grabbed drinks, paid with our credits on our magic bands, and grabbed a table which was easy since it wasn't crowded at all.

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    Taylor got the shrimp poboy with homemade chips and vitamin water.

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    Ron got the beef poboy, chips, and tea.

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    Jared got the fried shrimp, french fries, and vitamin water.

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    I got the muffaletta, bean salad, and a tea.

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    Mine was delicious and very filling- I would definitely recommend this meal! The guys really liked theirs too and said we should make this a regular stop on future trips.
    We still had some room for dessert so the boys and I each ordered beignets and Ron got ice cream.

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    The weather was nice so we sat outside to eat dessert taking in the charm of the resort.

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    We took a walk to look around. It is also a nice resort, but we'd probably not stay here since it also has smaller beds, and we can stay in New Orleans on trips if we'd like. But I would recommend these resorts to others since they have a great overall atmosphere and layout.

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  21. Sydney2977

    Sydney2977 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2013
    Messages:
    359
    We got back to AKL around 2:30. We went up to our room to relax and unwind. Jared did some homework and Taylor went down to get drinks for all of us, then they just chilled out. Ron and I spent the afternoon hanging out on the balcony enjoying the animals.

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    The boys had fun watching the animals too.

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    At one point some CM's came to clean out the pond. It was funny that the animals didn't seem to mind or run off.

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    We still got to observe them throughout the afternoon.

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    We named this antelope Ashley because it reminded us of how our older dog lays.

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    This one we named Hannah because she was chewing on her foot like our younger dog. It's mannerisms were hilarious to watch.

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    We really fell in love with the resort for it's great views and relaxing atmosphere.

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    This bird was really cool to watch as it built it's nest.

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    Later before we went to bed I asked Ron what his favorite part of the day was, and he said getting to enjoy the animals. I think we've found a new fan of AKL!
     

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