Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Adventures of Kyle and Joanna (Part II)!!!

After a long series of Pre-Trip Report and Trip Report posts, I find it's nice to have them all put together in one place. Kyle and I went to Walt Disney World in Decemeber 2011 for our second trip together.  We decided to make the most of the Christmas season by attending as many of the special events that we could.  If you've always wanted to go to WDW for Christmas but have never had the chance, you've come to the right place! 

Pre-Trip Reports are a great read for anyone traveling to Walt Disney World. They're a fun place to get ideas for your trip and to read about how to plan for a great experience. Check out my second pre-trip report below:
Two Months from Today - Joanna & Kyle announce their 2nd WDW Vacation!
Wanna go to Walt Disney World... Again? - How did these two crazy kids decide to go to WDW again after leaving it only 6 months ago?
Tie Dye Cheesecake Makes All the Difference - Really, when planning what resort to stay at, it kinda does.
This Trip is Going to be Legen... wait for it... - December offers numerous special event opportunities. Find out which ones we decided to plan for our trip.
I Can't Wait to EAT!!! - In June I didn't get to eat much, find out how our food conversation went this time.
Where Do You REALLY Want To Eat? - Food conversation: Take 2, where we decide to change up our dining reservations.
Snacks To Try - Doesn't everyone drool over WDW snacks before they head out on their next trip? We sure do! See what Kyle and I are eager to try.
DIY Disney Craft Project and Giveaway - While counting down the days until WDW, sometimes a craft project helps pass the time. Check out what craft project I completed with WDW napkins!
And the Winner Is... - Alas, the giveaway is over, but it's never to late to congratulate the winner!
My Disney Bag of Tricks - Time to start packing for Disney World! What do I always make sure to take with me?
Choose Our Adventure (Again)! - Kyle and I decided that we would head to Epcot first on this trip. We let our readers pick which attraction we'd ride first (like we did in June 2011).
Follow Our Adventure! - Love reading about Kyle's and my adventures at Walt Disney World? This post details how you can follow along with us for future fun!

Our Trip Report had to be split into two parts per day because of all of the amazing meals we had as well as the pheomenal events we attended! These posts are FULL of videos and photos!

Day 1 - Do You Think Those Rocks are for Fantasmic? - Join us as we go to Epcot on our first day back at Walt Disney World! Tons of videos in this post!
Day 1 Dining - Let's Just Walk Over There! - Thinking about dining at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue? We loved it!
Day 2 - Tea Parties are More Fun When No One Stabs You! - Magic Kingdom brought on bird attacks and violent stabbings!
Day 2 Dining & Events - Wait for It! - Find out more about Japan's Teppan Edo in Japan, join us at the Candlelight Processional narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, and take a trip to Downtown Disney for some Vinylmation trading!
Day 3 Dining - You're Like a Bratz Doll, but You're a Sexy Platypus! - A day at Animal Kingdom brings us some rainy fun on the Safari, a cupcake you have to see to believe, a meal at the Yak & Yeti, and the Jingle Jungle Parade.
Day 3 Event - Why is it so Difficult to Get to Naboo? - Our third day ends with a couple of Christmas spectaculars: the Osborne Lights in Hollywood Studios and IllumiNations (with the holiday tag) at Epcot.
Day 4 Dining - They Bring it in a Pineapple? - A morning at Hollywood Studios (complete with hilarious ride pics) and a scrumptious lunch at Kona Cafe.
Day 4 Events - You Can Never Have Too Much Glitter! - One post completely dedicated to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (the MVMCP): includes lots of photos, details, and a video!
Day 5 - Oh d-d-d-d-dear!! - Our last at at WDW included breakfast at Wilderness Lodge, a video of Beverly-tasting in Epcot, lots of beauty shots of Spaceship Earth, and Kyle and I butchering a song on video!

After I finished writing the trip report, I realized all of the attractions that Kyle and I somehow missed on this trip.  I reflected on them in Things I Missed But Actually Didn't.

Sprinkled throughout the trip report are some videos that Kyle and I made throughout the trip. I compiled them into a playlist on YouTube which you can find below. This trip the videos were much shorter, and we knew what we were doing a bit better. As a result, the videos are a bit better in my opinion.

When we got back from our trip, Be Our Guest Mike from the Be Our Guest Podcast asked Kyle and I to join him in Episode 399 to share our stories from our trip. You can hear the podcast by clicking below.  If the player doesn't work for you, click here.

Just like our last trip, I can't say enough that it was a BLAST! Going to Walt Disney World with Kyle is one of my favorite things.  I had hit a point in my life where I felt I would always be stuck traveling alone or as a tag along with my family or some of my couple friends.  Then Kyle and I started planning a trip, and that bleak future changed.  While we won't always travel together, I do hope we'll go again sometime. Friends like this are hard to find.

Monday, April 23, 2012

WDW Trip Report - Things I Missed But Actually Didn't

Every trip I make (either with Kyle or my family), we always miss riding some of the attractions.  This trip was no exception to the rule.  There were numerous attractions we missed, and surprisingly most of them were big ticket attractions.  Usually missing attractions doesn't bother me.  I mean, I going to visit the parks again.  I will get the opportunity to ride those attractions some other day.  Unless this is the ONE trip your family will take to Walt Disney World, you need to be ok with the reality that you will miss out on some attractions.  Instead, focus on the awesomeness that is the attractions you see.

Four months after our trip, here's my thoughts on what we missed:
    Toy Story Midway Mania: While I LOVE this highly interactive ride, I don't love the long wait times. I understand the desire to want to play the game because I so want another chance to beat Kyle at this (since he's still undefeated), but I think we used our time better by not doing this ride this time.

    Space Mountain: I'm not sure how we missed this. We meant to do it during MVMCP, but I think we hurried off to eat when we were in Tomorrowland and then forgot to go back.  I enjoy this roller coaster, but there are others I like more.

    Carosel of Progress: No, this isn't a big ticket attraction, but it is one of my favorites.  Anyone who has "ridden" it with me knows I sing along the entire time. Who can help but join along? It was closed during MVMCP, and we missed it the day we spent in Magic Kingdom. I'm mildly sad that we missed this.

    He looks cute here. I think I need to experience this.
    Stitch's Great Escape: I put this on the list because it's one of the few attractions I still can't get up the courage to visit. Maybe I'll do it in November. I'm not sure, but this time I had no desire to smell the "chili burp" or whatever it is people whine about. Kyle definitely wasn't going to drag me onto this ride, and I'm not sure I could drag him on it even if I wanted to ride it!

    Soarin': This is another attraction I'm actually kinda sad we missed.  The times just didn't work out for us.  We were either at Epcot after FastPasses were gone, or we didn't want to stand in line for 3 hours. We were at Epcot every day but one, so we should have checked for FastPasses one morning, but we didn't. We did get to ride numerous rides more than once there, so I still count myself as lucky!

    Test Track: I enjoy this ride, but I'd like it more if it had different sequences every time you rode kind of like Tower of Terror.  I don't need to have this experience over and over again.

    Mission Space: I don't understand people's love of this attraction. I refuse to go on the "I volunteer for an attraction to kill me" orange side, and the green side is boring. I didn't push going on this ride since I didn't care for it. I'm betting Kyle's a little bummed we missed it, and I always offered to play at the end of the ride while he rode, but we never got there.

    Cool ride but very wet ending!
    All Water Rides (Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids): Who likes to walk around theme parks soaking wet?  Raise your hand! OK, let's add wearing jeans to that mix. Any takers? No? Didn't think so. I don't have to get soaked to feel like my trip is complete. I still have not experienced Kali River Rapids, and I'm not sure I ever will.  As for Splash Mountain, I do want to ride it again, but we never got over there.

    The underlying theme here is "we never got over there."  We were having so much fun and enjoying so many of our favorite attractions and places that we didn't make it to some others, and that's ok.  I found this trip to be more relaxing than usual because we weren't rushing around nonstop.

    A note on the super low crowds: Even with very very low crowd levels, the top attractions can still have 2-3 hour waits and will run out of FastPasses quickly.  The low crowd levels allowed us to ride most other attractions with 0-20 minute wait times (heavy on the 0-10 minute section). 

    What attractions on this list are you shocked that we missed?

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    WDW Trip Report - Day 5 - Oh D-d-d-dear!

    It's always a sad day when you wake up at Walt Disney World and have to take your baggage down to be checked in for your flight home.  Thankfully Kyle and I like to balance this with having late flights home, so we got a little over half a day to enjoy at Disney before saying goodbye. 

    One last look at the Vinylmation window at Pop

    I don't know if I didn't get enough sleep or was in denial, but I had a hard time at check in.  I started by turning into the shrub, like usual, and then it went downhill from there.  Something about them making me leave my suitcase way behind me on the sidewalk while they did paperwork checking me in really messed me up.

    A bird hopped on the boat with us at Magic Kingdom
    (I swear it was following Kyle!) and rode most of the way
    to Wilderness Lodge with us!
    Confusion over, we embraced our tradition (we've done it twice! It's TRADITION!) of going to Whispering Canyon Cafe for breakfast on our last day.  Here's a video of our morning boat ride:

    We had a little time at the Wilderness Lodge to look around, so we went into the gift shop.  There I traded a Vinylmation for a Park 7 that I'd been looking for.  I traded Vinylmation fairly nonstop on this trip, but I didn't take many photos of them as I traded.
    The tree at Wilderness Lodge was exquisite!
    Our breakfast server was a HOOT!  He hurried by and tossed some coloring pages and crayons at us and told us "entertain yourselves!"  Always ones to go with the fun, we did:

    I finally had a Mickey waffle, so my trip was now complete!  I also got to taste all of the other food here that  I missed last trip.  If you love breakfast, the breakfast skillet here is a must-do!

    I had heard of a geyser at Wilderness Lodge that erupts every 15 minutes or so.  As we were leaving, it was close to time for the geyser to do its thing, so we stopped to watch.  The day was bright and gorgeous, sun shining, mild temperatures, and wind blowing... about 5 seconds after I said, "oooooh, wow! Look at that!" I turned into Piglet (much to the delight of those around us) saying, "oh dear! Oh dear! Oh d-d-d-d-dear!"  I could not vocalize my chagrin at this happening:
    L to R: Geyser starting up, wind catching it, & where we
    were standing when we started watching it!
    As the wind shifted, the geyser blew water on us, and I could not figure out how to get away from it! At one point I was pushing Kyle in front of me and hiding behind him. Everyone around us had a good laugh, and it cheered me up on our last day.

    Gorgeous day to wait for the boat back to Magic Kingdom!
    We got off of the boat at Magic Kingdom to transfer
    to the Monorail to Epcot. I snapped a quick pic
    of me with the Vinylmation I traded at
    Wilderness Lodge.
    Waiting for the Monorail. It's quite possible that my parents have a
    pic from the 80s that looks just like this. Thanks, Instagram, for
    helping me make my photos look old. ;-) 

    I bet you can guess where we went for our last hours in the parks: Epcot!As the Monorail went around the park, I could not get enough of Spaceship Earth! In fact, I quickly became the SSE paparazzi!  Here's a few of the best shots (and believe me, there's a ton more!):

    Keep in mind that all of these were taken from a MOVING Monorail
    with the camera on an iPhone 4S.

    You got me! No SSE here, but it was still gorgeous!

    I am obsessed with natural light flares!

    As we entered the park, Kyle turned to me with a mischievous smile and said, "You haven't tried  Beverly yet!"  I agreed to go into Club Cool to finally try the dreaded drink.  Here's what happened:

    It's not bad going down, but the after-taste is horrible! It wasn't quite as bad as I had expected, but I was pretty grossed out by it.

    I am a fan of the calmer rides at Epcot, so I made Kyle join me on the Finding Nemo ride.  (I have to ride it every trip because it reminds me of my niece and nephew.)  Just a hop, skip, and a jump away was the Land Pavilion, so we lived with the Land once more and then journeyed into our imagination with Figment.

    Never quite got this picture, but can you read it? Coolest one
    I've seen them do so far!

    We made it around to the World Showcase and stopped in France for some apple tarts.  I've always wanted to try one, but I never can pass up my favorite: the Napoleon.  I loved the tarts!  They would have been a bit better if they were warm from the oven, but they were a nice treat.

    Apple Tart
    Kyle was always ready for a Vinylmation trade
    with this handy pocket on his backpack!

    Kyle wanted to make our last stop the American Adventure, so we caught the show before leaving Epcot.  It was a calm day in our favorite park to end a peaceful trip.

    Once back at the resort, the mood was very different than the end of our June trip. In June I wasn't sure I'd see Kyle again. I could *not* stop crying, and I couldn't bear leaving.  This time, I knew I'd see him again as we are really good friends, and I was holding back my tears quite well.  We joked around as Kyle had a snack, and I bought the pink WDW sweatshirt that I'd been eyeing the entire trip.  Here's a video we made saying "goodbye":

    Excuse our singing and butchering the song!

    Kyle stopped in the gift shop to buy a Vinylmation and ended up with the exact same one he kept getting: the Holidays #2 jester! He ended up with 3 of them! Since I traded a couple of my extras for him, he gave me one of the jesters which has a place of honor on my work desk now.  We sat together, talking and taking self portaits until my bus arrived (his was coming a little later).  It was a nice ending to our second trip together.
    Final photo before we said "see ya real soon"!

    On the ride to the airport, the Magical Express music was playing the old "Listen to the Land" song that I love.  It made me smile as I thought about our trip.  Funny that I finally did hear that song (and not just in my head) before I left Disney World!

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    WDW Trip Report - Day 4 Events - You Can Never Have Too Much Glitter!

    *If you've always wanted to attend the MVMCP, you're in the right place! TONS of photos in this post!*

    It's safe to say that this trip had TONS of events that I was looking forward to prior to going.  I can't even begin to rank which one I was most excited for, but Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, or the MVMCP, in the Magic Kingdom was greatly anticipated!  This was going to be my very first party event at Disney, and I wanted to dress up a little for it.  Prior to the trip I told Kyle glitter would be involved & involved it was!  I ended up in a fully sequined top, with a blinged out headband, and a giant black crystal cocktail ring that was in the shape of a bow.  Top all that off with a red cardigan and red lipstick, and I felt very festive!

    My ring was my favorite detail.
    You all know that I have no sense of direction, right?  Every time we left our room and got off of the elevator at ground level, Kyle hung back to see which way I'd turn.  Every time I turned in the direction that would have run us into some shrubs.  Every. Single. Time. *face palm* This time was no exception, but I stopped about 2 steps in the wrong direction to look back at a grinning Kyle and told him my shoes hurt and sheepishly admitted I wore the cuter shoes instead of the practical ones and needed to go back for the practical ones.  He kindly went back with me.  Second time down the elevator in 10 minutes, and I AGAIN turned into the shrubs.  I'm convinced that Disney would be better served by bus stops over by those shrubs...

    As soon as we got into Magic Kingdom, Kyle said he was hungry.  I knew he'd been waiting for a Dole Whip, so I wasn't surprised.  As soon as we got into Aloha Isle, another bird attacked him.  (I asked Kyle's permission before I blogged about this one because I didn't want him embarrassed.  He laughed about it and said to go ahead.)  While standing in line for his tasty treat, I heard an odd noise, and turned around to realize a bird had relieved itself all down the front of Kyle's shirt!  He was standing there in shocked disgust, quite frozen really.  He looked at me and exclaimed, "I need to go to the bathroom!" and literally BOLTED out of line and down the walk towards the bathrooms.  I slowly followed him, and at one point he did look to see if I followed.  What he doesn't know is that I stood outside the bathrooms and looked like a CRAZY woman because I kept bursting into giggles!  Y'all - the look on his face when that bird got him was priceless!  I couldn't help it!  It was funny!  Keeping in mind that I would be annoyed if he laughed at me if the roles were reversed, I quickly calmed my giggles and composed myself before he came out from cleaning up. ;-) After that brief setback, he had his Dole Whip and a place to sit to enjoy it and calm down a bit before we moved on.  I don't know what he did to the birds in the Magic Kingdom, but they really had it out for him this trip!

    The Jungle Cruise was close and a favorite attraction, so it was our next stop.  While Magic Kingdom still had regular park guests in it, the crowds were already starting to thin.  We had Skipper Miranda on our cruise, and she was great!  All of the skippers are usually good, but her delivery was even better than usual.

    Pirates of the Caribbean was our next stop, and the crowds were thinning out more as the afternoon went on.  By the time we ended our visit with Captain Jack Sparrow, night had fallen, and we were seeing MVMCP wristbands on everyone we passed.  The cast members were beginning to stop guests without wristbands from going on attractions, and the hot chocolate and cookies stands were being stocked.

    it's a small world had its typically short queue, so we stopped in so Kyle could see his kinfolk: the platypi!
    This would be easier to see if I used a flash, but PSA time:
    Don't use flash on dark rides!
    Before going much further, I realized I was getting really hungry, and we were right by the Mickey Pretzels stand.  I'd seen pictures of these seemingly mythical pretzels that are bigger than a small child, but I'd never had one.  Much like most all Disney food, the pretzel was wonderful!  It was the perfect hot pretzel: soft, chewy, and salty.  The hot cheese that came with it was a nice addition.  The cast member pointed out that the pretzel is one of the best values on the Disney Dining Plan because it's one of the highest priced snacks you can get for a snack credit, and lots of people can share it.  I couldn't finish it myself!

    This is my favorite part of the Haunted Mansion queue.
    Now that I love the Haunted Mansion, evening rides on it are my favorite as you get to go through the dimly lit queue!  With the crowds now being so small, we took our time playing with each interactive item in the queue.  I really like being able to take time to play.  These queues aren't just for the kids!
    Kyle taking time to figure out the riddle on the busts

    Love this photo of me playing the organ!
    It really plays when you touch the keys.
    (OK I do look a little possessed, but it's ghostly!)

    On the way to find some complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, we walked on to it's a small world for a quick ride.  As usual, I ended up with the song stuck in my head for a while.  There was a hot chocolate station in Pinocchio's Village Haus, so we sat down for refreshments.  Some people rave about the cookies and hot chocolate, but I was not a fan.  The hot chocolate was basically Swiss Miss, and it wasn't hot enough for me.  I like my hot chocolate steaming hot.  I can understand why it needs to be a bit cooler for the party though.  I found it sickeningly sweet though.  The cookies were snickerdoodles, but they were cold and had a slight freezer burned taste to them.  It was like they had been frozen after baking which seems odd to me since Disney does so much fresh, and they hadn't been taken out to thaw for long enough prior to the event.  I expected warm cookies.  Honestly, though, I was ok with all of that.  The cookies and hot chocolate weren't the expected highlight of the party for me anyways.
    The cups were cute! :)

    As we walked through Magic Kingdom, we saw numerous characters dressed in their holiday finery.  That was where the crowds seemed to gather, so instead of waiting for photos, we watched the characters interact with guests and then moved on.  Sometimes a mental picture is just as nice as an actual photo. 

    I love riding the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and I made Kyle hang back with me as I played with every single aspect of the interactive queue!  There were no children playing, so all these people walked by this single, adult woman playing alone.  I didn't care!  I was having fun!  There's a rope that I never saw anyone pull in June.  I'd tell you what it does, but I really think you should go give it a pull yourself.  :)

    Tomorrowland is so pretty at night as it's full of lights.  We went over to ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, and this time Kyle was safe from the birds.  I like riding most of the rides at night, but this one is pretty special.  It gives you a higher view of the lights of the park and Cinderella Castle.  I don't know why more people aren't in love with this attraction!

    In June Kyle beat me at Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.  This December it looked like that would be the case again:
    You're reading that right. I only score 18K. Embarrassing.
    However, I begged him into riding it again (this was yet another walk on ride), and I surpassed all my old scores and his!  I think I found a sweet spot and hit it a handful of times.  After the first room I was 1000s down, but I had a sudden score jump that made us both do doubletakes when we looked down!
    I always get a wide-eyed, cross-eyed, crazy look in this
    ride photo. No idea why, but it makes me cringe.

    Around 8:30 we were both finally hungry for dinner, so we went to one of the few places that was open: Cosmic Ray's.  I was surprised at how many people were eating dinner at the same time as us!  Inside they were having a dance party.  I just don't get the Disney obsession with dance parties.  I guess kids like them?  There were a couple of elves dancing as well and various characters.  It was nice to get to watch.  The male elf MC could *not* do the YMCA which gave us lots of laughs.

    The MVMCP has a special fireworks show: Holiday Wishes and the Magic, Memories, and You show has a little Christmas cheer added to it.  We claimed a spot on Main Street, USA with a great view only to have a couple plant themselves in front of us.  It wouldn't have been a problem, but the woman kept cleaning out her stroller and purse and moving to throw stuff away during the show which kept blocking Kyle's view.  It was a very "I'm starring in my own movie" moment for that woman.  I kept wondering if she was even noticing the beautiful show going on in front of her!  Not ones to let other people destroy the magic for us, we viewed it all the best we could and ended up with some neat photos.  I couldn't pick just a couple of photos, so I'm going to post a handful here.
    Love this angle!

    Gingerbread Castle

    We had enough time before the Christmas Parade for another ride on the Haunted Mansion.  I am finally getting to the point where I can say the narration along with the Ghost Host.  Never thought I'd be able to do that!  (Keep in mind I was deathly afraid of the Haunted Mansion until a couple of years ago!)

    The MVMCP Parade was amazing!  I can't say enough good about it!  I started to broadcast it on UStream, but then I realized I really wanted to take photos instead:

    Streaming live video by Ustream
    The music, the characters, the close viewing seats we got... oh wow!  It all added up to a phenomenal experience!  Enjoy some photos of the parade:

    We missed Big Thunder Mountain in June, and it's a roller coaster Kyle enjoys, so we went over there after the parade.  We got run over by some teens who forgot life isn't a race, and after some pointed looks from us, they let us get in front of them.  No trying to be a witch, but it was late, and they were rude.  I started feeling a little ill after that ride, and we were both exhausted.  I'd love to be someone who stays in the parks until 1 AM, but when I get up at 8 AM, that's just not possible.  Maybe one day I'll sleep in until 10 AM and then stay super late in the parks.  As we headed out, we did a little bit more shopping, so I could find a Christmas pin for my work lanyard. 

    Snow on Main Street, USA!

    So the question I get a lot is this: is it worth the extra money to go to Mickey Very Merry Christmas Party (especially for a larger family)?  In a word: yes.  I say do it at least once to have the experience.  The parade itself makes it worth it.  On top of that the crowds are much much smaller, so you get shorter queues and better views for shows.  There are more characters out, and the lines to see them are shorter too.  If your kids (and you) can stay up late to enjoy the festivities, go ahead and pay for the splurge.  Make it a part of your Christmas presents if money is tight.  After this experience I would love to go to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party! 

    When we got back to the room, we immediately started packing to go home.  In the middle of it we remembered that we needed to exchange Christmas presents.  Instead of bringing a gift from home, we decided to buy souvenirs for each other in the parks, and put them under the tree until our last night together.  I kept dropping hints for Kyle who said I was impossible to shop for, but really anything pink and glittery would have been fine.  He got me this great to go cup I'd been eyeing:

    I had him show me 3-5 things he really liked and then picked 2 to get him.  Ended up buying him a Vinylmation laptop skin and a DuckTales comic book.  It was a fun twist on a gift exchange. (Oh, we set a $20 limit which was pretty smart I think.)  Now every time I use my cup, I think of this trip.  It's a neat memory tied to my souvenir. 

    Next posts detail our last days in the parks.  Teaser: I finally tried Beverly, and Kyle got my reaction in a video!