"It's Because This Wand CHOSE Me!" Sept 2017 TR *COMPLETE* 3/1 x2

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by khertz, Oct 21, 2017.

  1. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    "It's Because This Wand CHOSE Me!" September 2017 TR

    Hello, everyone, and welcome to my very first Universal Orlando TR! I’m no stranger to TRs or to Universal Orlando, but it has usually been a small part of a larger trip to WDW. This time, though, it was the main reason for our trip!

    But I’m probably getting ahead of myself. Many of you may not even know who we are!

    First up is me, your TR narrator. I’m a Disney & Universal loving wife and mom of 2 wonderful kids. I fund our vacation habit by working as a pediatric oncology RN. This was my 12th visit to Universal Orlando, and I absolutely love it! My Universal favorites include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, frozen Butterbeer and the smell of the E.T. queue.

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    Next up is my wonderful DH, who helps fund our trips by juggling radiation sources a la Homer Simpson in the oilfield and enjoys his hobby of photography. He will be responsible for 95% of the photos you’ll see on this TR. His Universal favorites list would include Springfield, Halloween Horror Nights, Incredible Hulk Coaster, endless Coke Icees, Tales of Beedle the Bard, and the Horror Makeup Show.

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    And finally, rounding out our traveling group was DS. He is 6, turning 7 next week (late October), and this trip was to celebrate his upcoming birthday. He was very excited to be somewhat “in charge” on this trip, as we gave him a lot of leeway in deciding what we were going to do every day since we had the benefit of time. He also got to experience a lot of new things this trip as he had hit 48” tall, and he got lots of recognition in the parks for his birthday. His list of Universal favorites would include Forbidden Journey, Pteranodon Flyers, strawberry Icees, Hashtag the Panda, Transformers, Krusty burgers, and Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

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    As an honorable mention, there is a 4th member of our family, DD, who just turned 2 in August. She didn’t join us on this trip mostly because there was only a handful of things she could do between the two parks and would spend most of the time waiting it out in child swap areas. We thought she would have more fun staying home with the grandparents, which turned out to be true! Here she is on her first school bus ride going on a field trip with my mom’s preschool class.

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    So now that you know who we are, here’s some quick details about our trip:

    We stayed for 5 nights at Royal Pacific Resort in a standard room. We had 4 day park-to-park tickets, so 4 park days to enjoy, plus we added on (at the last minute!) a MNSSHP over at MK. Our travel dates were September 19-24.

    This trip came about last year as our WDW/Universal trip was winding to an end and I felt like we had still so much we wanted to do. I suggested that we take a Universal-only trip so we didn’t feel so rushed to get it all done in two days, and thought we could time it with a week DS would have a day off of school because of a teacher in-service day so we could go for a few days but he would only miss a couple of school. When I got his school calendar, he had a teacher in-service day in September and one in October. October would have been the ideal time for us but I couldn’t take those days off of work. So we booked for September and it ended up that for the same price as 4 nights in October, we could stay for 5 nights in September. So in the end, I think it all worked out perfectly!

    Enough rambling now, I hope you will stick around for lots of Magic, Minions, and Mayhem!
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
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  2. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Tuesday September 19th

    Day 1 Part 1: We're Comin' For Ya, Harry Potter! But First, Some Disney Halloween Magic
    Day 1 Part 2: Grim Grinning Ghosts
    Day 1 Part 3: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    Day 1 Part 4: This Is Halloween, Everybody Make a Scene


    Wednesday September 20th

    Day 2 Part 1: A Not-So-Forbidden Journey
    Day 2 Part 2: Encountering Zulu
    Day 2 Part 3: Living the AP Life
    Day 2 Part 4: Milkshakes & Minions
    Day 2 Part 5: E.T. Phone Home


    Thursday September 21st
    Day 3 Part 1: Yer a Wizard, DS!
    Day 3 Part 2: The Fountain of Fair Fortune
    Day 3 Part 3: Oh The Stories You'll Hear
    Day 3 Part 4: Seuss & Spider-Man
    Day 3 Part 5: Goodnight, IOA!


    Friday September 22nd

    Day 4 Part 1: Wet & Wild Morning
    Day 4 Part 2: Just Beat It
    Day 4 Part 3: IOA Evening


    Saturday September 23rd

    Day 5 Part 1: A Most Magical Morning!
    Day 5 Part 2: The Tale of the 3 Brothers
    Day 5 Part 3: Immigration Tour
    Day 5 Part 4: All Aboard!
    Day 5 Part 5: The End Is Near


    Sunday September 24th
    Day 6: Mischief Managed

    Final Thoughts

     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
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  4. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Day 1: Tuesday September 19th

    The day before we left had been a mostly normal day. I had worked all day, DS had gone to school, and DD to daycare but DH had taken the day off to finish up some laundry, pack up the vehicle, and do a couple other errands we needed before we could leave. He got the kids from school and had them bathed and fed when I got home from work, then we made the two hour drive to my parents’ house for the night. We had a later flight the next day, but thought it would make our travel day less stressful to already be near the airport instead of trying to make it in the same day and running into unexpected delays.

    So Tuesday morning we were up pretty early after a restless nights’ sleep, but we took our time getting ready. My dad was able to go in to work late, and my mom had found a sub for her at her preschool, so we were all going to breakfast together at the IHOP across from the airport. Since we would be flying during lunchtime, we wanted to make sure we had a nice big breakfast before getting on the plane. My sister was even able to come join us, so it was fun having a nice meal with everyone before we left.

    We got to the airport pretty early, just a little after 9 am even though our flight wasn’t until 11:50. It was probably a good thing though, because we encountered a really long line at security, which we don’t normally have to deal with at the New Orleans airport. There was only one TSA agent checking IDs and boarding passes, and she was balancing the regular guests with the TSA pre-check guests, so it was slow moving until another agent showed up to help. After that, getting through security was a lot less stressful with just the three of us and not a lot of stuff. It was probably the first time since we started traveling with kids that I didn’t feel like we were lugging tons of stuff through the airport and taking forever at security.

    Once we got to our gate, we killed time until boarding by doing all of DS’s math homework that his teacher had sent home with him. It was nice to have that chunk of the work done before even leaving. We also placed our Amazon Prime Now order and set a delivery time for the resort between 2 and 4 pm. There were a couple of hiccups with our first time using this, but they all worked out.

    Luckily I found out before we actually left that there is a minimum order of $20 because the site doesn’t really tell you that except when you go to check out. All we had been planning to order was bottles of water and a few breakfast items. We weren’t at the $20 minimum with just those items, so once we realized that, we decided not to pack our huge container of sunscreen and big can of shaving cream that were taking up so much room in our suitcase and just bought them through Prime Now instead. The second hiccup was when we realized at the airport placing the order that since we share a Prime account with my parents, it was going to be delivered under my dad’s name. It was no problem to fix this either though, as I called the resort from our gate and let them know what was going on, and they were able to add my dad’s name to the reservation so that it wouldn’t cause confusion when they tried to deliver our order and couldn’t find that name on their list of guests. Just some things to consider if you do a Prime Now order. Other than those two minor “issues” it was really easy and convenient to use!

    The flight was uneventful, though I had hoped to be able to sleep a bit since I hadn’t slept much the night before, but that didn’t really happen. We landed at MCO at 2:30 pm and took our first monorail ride.

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    DH went ahead of us to baggage claim, while I decided to take a little extra time for DS to stop for some photo ops that we never seem to stop for.

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    Once we had picked up our one suitcase, we requested an Uber. Within a few minutes, our ride had arrived and we were on our way to Royal Pacific Resort! We arrived right around 3:40 pm.

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    We went to the desk to check in, but they told us they don’t officially start check in until 4 pm. I had really been hoping our room would be ready a little early since we wanted to go to the party as soon as possible. It was nice to find out they had gone back to using room keys as Express passes instead of having to print separate ones! It was nice not having to have so many cards to keep track of. We decided to hang out in the lobby and wait for the text that our room was ready.

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    Right at 4 on the dot, we got the text and went to the desk to get our room number. We ended up in Tower 3 which was a pretty perfect location. It was right near the pool, which meant we were also close to the water taxi launch and the walking path to the parks, so it was super easy to come and go every day. We were on the 5th floor. We went up to drop off our luggage, then DH went to pick up our Prime Now order from the business center where it had been left while DS and I unpacked. DS didn’t even notice that DH and I had changed into our Disney Halloween shirts, since he still didn’t even know we were heading to the party that night!

    We requested a ride on the Lyft app once DH got back to the room and hurried down to the front of the resort, telling DS we were going somewhere for dinner. Which was true, he just didn’t know we would be having dinner at MK and staying for the party!!

    We kept the secret until we were going under the gates!

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    To explain why we had kept it secret, we had been trying a new incentive program to keep DS on track with his behavior at school. He had been behaving really poorly since the beginning of the school year and punishments were just not working, so we switched gears to setting up a rewards system. We had been planning on skipping out on the party which was really killing me inside! With 16 days to go, we set what we thought was a totally unrealistic goal that if DS was good every single day until the trip, we could add on the party. I really thought for sure he would blow it on day one, but he didn’t! And he kept it up!! In fact, he was good at school every single day from the day we set that goal until the trip except one, the Thursday before we left. We let him believe he had lost out on the party but decided he had shown such a huge improvement that he had still earned it.

    I say all this to let you know that it came as a true surprise to DS when we went under the WDW gates and told him we were going to the party! I was recording to catch his reaction, and he even looked right at me and whispered, “But I didn’t earn it!” So we explained that he HAD earned it by showing such a huge and dramatic change in his behavior, even though he had slipped up that one time. He was happy after that, but didn’t have a big reaction like I had been hoping to see.

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    Our Lyft driver dropped us off near the bus stop at the Contemporary and we took the walking path over to MK, stopping along the way to change DS into his Hogwarts robes for the party.

    Once we were inside the park, we had to go over to the lockers to rent one to store his backless booster seat. We probably could have gotten away with not bringing it this night, but it stressed me out to take the chance. I had done some research on locker options at MK and had found mixed information. WDW’s own website said they only had small lockers there, which I found out through a Disney friend the dimensions and it wouldn’t be big enough for the booster. But he also mentioned you could pay the same fee and they would hold the item for you at the counter, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. Turns out the blogs I had found with information differing from WDW’s site were correct. With the changeover to the electronic lockers vs. the lockers with keys, they had added a large and jumbo size to their choices. We went with the large size for $10 and it fit the seat just fine. With that little bit of business taken care of, we headed into the park and got our party wristbands.

    Just like last year, as we came into the park, there were CM’s directing us down the backstage path they have re-done to the right behind the Chapeau. There were several Photopass photographers available there with the character statues dressed in their Halloween costumes.


    Most of the photographers had long-ish lines, and since we didn’t have Memory Maker or anything and because we wanted to get our evening started, we didn’t want to wait in line. But there was a photographer who was just finishing up with a family and no one else waiting, so we stopped there for a quick photo with our camera.


    I was really bummed to realize I forgot a safety pin for DS’s robes to keep them closed, but oh well. It wasn’t even really that I forgot to bring a pin, I had actually totally forgotten that the robes don’t come with anything to keep them closed and that we had pinned it closed the year before! So it didn’t look the best, but it was fine.

    After our photos, we picked up our Trick or Treat bags and got our starter pack of candy. It was all fun sized candies instead of the full sized ones we had gotten the year before.

    We discussed our QS dinner options and although Columbia Harbour House is one of our favorites, we were already right there on the Tomorrowland side once we had exited the backstage path, so we decided to head over to Cosmic Ray’s.


    It’s funny to me looking at these pictures because when I had mentioned a year ago to my sister that we were taking this trip, she had laughed and said she just knew we were going to add on some kind of time to spend at WDW and I had insisted we wouldn’t and that it was going to be Universal only. She was totally right!

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    Checking out his candy stash on the way to dinner.

    Once we were at Cosmic Ray’s, we ordered a few burgers and went down to sit by Sonny Eclipse per DS’s request while we ate. While we were eating, I poked around on the MDE app to see what the wait times were looking like so we could decide what we wanted to ride before the party officially started. I had tried several times to book FP+ for the 4-7pm timeframe once we had booked our party tickets, but it would never let me. I didn’t try too hard or stress about it though, as rides were not really our primary focus anyway.

    With full bellies, and somewhat of a plan, we were ready to head out into the park for a little fun before the party kicked off!


    UP NEXT: Pre-Party Fun
     
  5. Princess Leia

    Princess Leia DIS Veteran

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    :wave: I'm here -looking forward to hearing about your adventures at Universal.
     
  6. schumigirl

    schumigirl It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts

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    Oh goody......a new trip report.......

    Excellent start.......looking forward to reading about your time at Universal and RP.......:thumbsup2
     
  7. Princess Leia

    Princess Leia DIS Veteran

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    My goodness he's going to be 7 already. What a great way to celebrate his birthday. He looks so happy in all of the photos.


    That's great he got to do lots of new things. My two loved all the big rides early on. That's great they were good about recognising his birthday.

    That must have been great having the extra time at the Universal parks. The longest we have stayed is 2 nights.

    There is definitely not so much that they can do at that age. Peter was 3 on our first trip to Universal - he loved some of the character dining at the Royal Pacific. How was Delilah at being left with her grandparents?

    I've found positive reinforcement works really well. Glad to hear it's making a difference in your family. Sounds like Paxton really did deserve a special treat.
     
  8. PoohIsHome

    PoohIsHome Wizard momma living in a muggle world.

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    What a great start to your trip!!
     
  9. DLo

    DLo DIS Veteran

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    I mean how can you be in Orlando and not go to MNSSHP ? I ❤️ that party. This year I added a da so I could go .
     
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  10. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily DIS Veteran

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    Excellent choices!! Most of these are also on my list. Smell of E.T. queue! Love it!

    Yay for DS! That's a big one!

    DS has a pretty good list, too! But I can't believe he likes the Pteranodon Flyers! Those things are scary!

    Woohoo! We had a good stay there when we went. :)

    YAY!

    Seems like a sign to me! That's a great deal :)

    What a great surprise!

    Aww that's awesome that DS really rose to the challenge so well! Positive reinforcement seems to be super helpful for him! I'm so glad you all got to go to the party, even if DS did have one slip.

    What a beautiful sight! It makes me want to be right back here now!
     
  11. dizneedoll

    dizneedoll Curioser and Curioser

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    Alright! This is off to an awesome start. Those are some beautiful castle pics with the clouds. Looking forward to more!
     
  12. amazingact21

    amazingact21 Upendi

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    I'm here and can't wait to read all about your Universal fun. I remember seeing all your facebook posts throughout your trip, and I kept wondering where DD was. Eventually, it clicked in my head that she was taking a vacation of her own so you guys could tackle Universal sans baby.
    I feel like I say this at the beginning of every TR, but Paxton looks so grown up now! He really must have hit a growth spurt or something between your DL trip and this one.

    I'm glad the reward system worked those few weeks. It can be hard figuring out what works best for a child.
     
  13. afwdwfan

    afwdwfan DIS Dad #460

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    Seems like a really great idea. Hadn't ever considered that service before!

    ::yes:: It seemed like it was so much stuff to keep track of there before!

    Well played!

    Ok, so you mentioned Uber from the airport and Lyft here. Was there a reason? Free rides to use up or something?

    That's great! I'm glad that he was able to step up and do better for this reward.

    I wondered how you handled the seat issue for him. Good information to know! :thumbsup2

    :rotfl2::rotfl::lmao: It's so hard to resist. I don't think there's any surprise that it played out this way.

    I've heard that they aren't allowing FP on party tickets this year. I haven't really followed that information very closely though since I'm not going to be there for any.
     
  14. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Welcome! Thanks for joining in!!

    We had a great time, so hopefully it translates well to the TR.

    I know, I can't believe it! I feel like we just brought him home from the hospital. This was definitely an awesome birthday celebration. He loved being the only kid again for a few days.

    I was a bit surprised about the things he liked and didn't like. I don't know that he will be a full on thrill seeker when it comes to rides, but it was still fun getting to try new rides with him.

    It was amazing! We usually only stay up to 2 nights also, so it was nice having a much more relaxed pace, getting to do new things, and getting to do our favorites as much as we wanted to.

    She had a great time and didn't seem to miss us too much, honestly!! lol It was way more fun for her than Universal would have been. DS was closer to 4 before he could really do anything.

    He definitely earned it! I couldn't believe how quickly his behavior turned around after switching to the reward method after many times threatening to take the trip away with no change.

    Thanks! It was great to start off with a little Disney magic.

    I know! It was killing me to be so close and not go to the party. It's my absolutely favorite thing to do in WDW! I'm glad you were able to add it on to yours!!

    If I could just bottle up that smell...

    Yes, it opened up a lot of new opportunities for him, which was a lot of fun for all of us.

    I know, I have only done it once and it is definitely nerve wracking! But he totally loves it

    As much as I love HRH and PBH, for the minimal amount of time we spent in the room, it was perfect for our needs this trip.

    It was a no brainer!!

    Even with the one slip, it was wonderful to see such a huge change, and he has really kept it up even after the trip ended.

    ME TOO!!!

    Thanks for joining in!!

    It's hard to take a bad pic of that beautiful castle. lol

    Yep, she stayed behind and it ended up being the best for everyone. She was bored and antsy, and she got some quality time with the grandparents. We missed her, but it was definitely a good decision.

    I know, he has definitely lost any trace of baby face he's ever had.

    It has been challenging to say the least. DS has a lot of personality traits that I think will serve him well as he gets older, but are really tough in school. But we are finally getting there!

    It worked so perfectly! I will probably use it every trip as long as I can find everything I need because it was so much easier than making a grocery run.

    Yes, the paper passes were a pain. It was nice having the room key and EP in one. Now if they could just get the tickets on there and it would be perfect.

    Yep, I had never used either service so I signed up and got discount ride codes.

    He really made it happen, and I am still so proud! He has even been doing great after the trip.

    Yes, I spent a long time kind of stressing about the booster seat situation, but it ended up working out really well.

    I KNOW I KNOW! The draw of Boo to You was just too much. lol I really think that had we been there any other time we could have resisted the urge to stop at Disney World, but during the Halloween season it was pretty much mission impossible.

    Yeah, I have read a lot of conflicting info on it, but it was all people with multiday tickets and MNSSHP tickets. It wasn't really a big loss though as everything was pretty much a walk on anyway, which surprised me. Usually that 4-7 period can get busy since party people are arriving and day guests are still in the park.
     
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  15. Dugette

    Dugette DIS Veteran

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    Looking forward to hearing about your Universal adventures. Also fun to see your MNSSHP, as we were just at one and had a blast.
     
  16. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    So glad you had fun at the party!! It's my absolute favorite thing to do in WDW, so I'm really glad we were able to add it on to our trip.
     
  17. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Day 1 Continued: Tuesday September 19th

    After dinner, it was about 6 pm and Small World still looked manageable, so we headed over there and got on with a 10 minute wait.


    We decided to head over to Haunted Mansion next, even though it wasn’t officially party time. DH really wanted to do it, and it was walk on right now but I figured the wait time would jump during the party hours.


    We passed through the walkway from Liberty Square to Adventureland and found the enormous line for Moana. I was SO glad we had been able to meet her at Disneyland after waiting less than 10 minutes! While walking past, we noticed that even though it wasn’t yet 7 pm, people were already trick or treating, so we went down to the Jungle Cruise candy stop.


    Then we did our favorite Trick or Treat stop at the Enchanted Tiki Room.


    Then we headed over to what had been our original destination before we got sidetracked by candy.

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    All the boxes and boxes of candy! We saw them continuously refilling the candy barrels as we went through the different stops.

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    Continued in next post...
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
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  18. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Day 1 Continued: Tuesday September 19th


    I have in my notes at this point that DH and I remarked to each other how perfect the night was for a party. It wasn’t humid at all, so as soon as the sun started going down, it felt really pleasant outside. I was absolutely dreading the weather for this trip since we have never gone in September before, and I have to say, I was surprised over and over again the whole time we were there how comfortable it was! Also, as the night went on, it really felt like the most lightly attended party we have ever gone to. We typically go closer to Halloween though, so that’s not too much of a surprise.

    We continued on to Frontierland and did the trick or treat spot by Splash Mountain, then let DS play in the play area under the train station bridge while DH and I took a few minutes to sit and relax.

    There was a CM out with a ring toss game that DS wanted to stop and try.

    Then we hit the trick or treat spot by the ferry to Tom Sawyer Island. I tried to convince DS to do Big Thunder since he was planning to be so brave once we got to Universal and try some new things he was tall enough for like Mummy and Forbidden Journey, but he stoutly refused and I wasn’t in the mood for an argument, so we dropped it.

    We talked about going over to Tomorrowland, but decided to go the long way because DH wanted to pass by in front of Haunted Mansion now that the atmosphere would be more party-like. As we were walking through Liberty Square, we actually saw Carlotta leaving the Mansion and walking by herself. Someone said, “That’s the lady from Haunted Mansion” and she replied something like, “Ooh thanks for calling me a lady!” It was a funny exchange as she stayed perfectly in character, but she came up on us too quick for DH to get a picture.

    While passing through Fantasyland, we stopped to trick or treat at Mickey’s Philharmagic and saw this family with really great costumes.

    The trick or treat setup here had you go through the entire queue and then the barrels were down on the floor area where you would normally wait for the next show. All of the theater doors were open and after getting candy, you could walk through the back of the theater to exit or sit down and watch the Halloween cartoons they had playing. As we walked into the theater they were showing The Legend of Sleepy Hallow cartoon, and since DS had been complaining about his feet getting tired, we decided to stop and watch for a little while to let him rest.


    There was a CM loving his job at the exit of the theater who literally never stopped dancing the whole time we were sitting in there. He was waving and saying goodnight to every single person that walked past him out of the theater and giving high 5s to all of the kids. It was so fun and sweet! DH even got a video of him. He’s one of those great CMs you come across every once in awhile that really seems to love their job! He had switched out with someone else by the time we were ready to exit the theater, so no high 5s for us, but he was fun to watch.

    We hit the trick or treat stop in Pinocchio’s Village Haus before continuing on to our original destination of Tomorrowland and getting on the Peoplemover.

    Once we came off the Peoplemover, we were ready to go look for a parade spot. We checked out Main Street as we crossed the hub and it was crowded, but it wouldn’t have been impossible to find a decent spot to watch from. But we continued on to our regular viewing spot of Frontierland anyway.

    I have to say, I was not a fan of the parade being so late this year, as it didn’t start until 9:15. It has gotten later and later the last two years, and I didn’t really like having to wander around for so long before the parade and then having to hurry over to find a spot for fireworks which were at 10:15. I liked having the parade earlier and some time in between to trick or treat or ride something.

    We managed to find a spot right across from Country Bear Jamboree where some grandparents and their grandkids were sitting at the rope with no one behind them. We filled in behind them and hoped they would stay sitting once the parade started so we could stay sitting too. Luckily, they did! We ate some candy while waiting for the parade, and soon enough, the Headless Horseman was making his ride.

    UP NEXT: Boo to YOU!
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  19. dizneedoll

    dizneedoll Curioser and Curioser

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    907
    Judging from your pics (which are awesome btw) it really doesn't look too busy at all. I've only been to Mickeys Halloween Party out here in DL and it's always sold out every single night and sooo crowded, I would love to go to an early MNSSHP one year but we always go in December. Great report, looking forward for more!
     
  20. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2003
    Messages:
    85,820
    I'm in for the read

    You have the cutest boy and looks like he was having a fun time
     
  21. Dugette

    Dugette DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2009
    Messages:
    5,584
    Looks like a fun party! We liked the Tiki Room treat trail too...stopped to sit in the A/C for a bit (I'm guessing it was hotter at our party than yours). Fun "mine, mine, mine" costumes! And, wow, that CM must be exhausted by the end of his shift!
     

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