Friday, August 30, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 7 - Like a Grand and Miraculous Spaceship...

Spaceship Earth is one of my favorite Disney World Icons. As such, I photograph it from every angle I can as I go through Epcot. It may be a sphere, but it definitely looks different from different areas of the park! Since I had a DSLR, fancy speak for fancy camera, with me this trip, I overdosed a bit on photographing it.  I'm going to be quiet now and let y'all enjoy the beauty that is Spaceship Earth.

Do you know where I'm standing to take this photo?

What a perfect way to end this week's posts: sheer architectural beauty! What's your favorite Disney icon?

Next week we head back to Magic Kingdom and then to Disney's Hollywood Studios and back to Epcot. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 7 - Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

Commonly known as EPCOT

If you've read my blog for any time at all, you know that I adore Epcot and often call it by its full name: Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. After watching video of Walt Disney explaining Epcot and his vision for it, his excitement and passion for the park rubbed of on me! The whole idea behind the park is fabulous, and its iconic Spaceship Earth is a gorgeous piece of architecture. I could spend days in the World Showcase alone! If you've read my blog, you also might recall that I cannot resist taking a million photos of Spaceship Earth when I visit the park. Come back on Friday to see where that obsession led me!

Prior to our trip we had read that Epcot was opening earlier than advertised. Guests were arriving early and being let into the park which was making the rush to Soarin' less crazed. Wanting to take advantage of this, we arrived early... only to find the rumor wasn't true at least not that early Saturday morning. We did get to see a lot of crazy going on though: one guest was claiming she was a resort guest, so she should get to go right to the front of the queue to get in. (Everyone stands in the same line.) One man on a scooter decided his scooter should allow him to simply jump the line. (My sister kindly showed him where the line started, and he kindly told her to "shove off" and sat on his scooter practically on top of us.) No matter what, though, we were determined to not let others' "I'm starring in my own movie, everyone revolve around me" attitudes get in the way of our happiness! (For more about how to get past Disney Pet Peeves, click here!) 


Touring the parks in peak crowd conditions has become my family's skill. After we made it through the turnstiles, Randy immediately took our Keys to the World cards to go get FastPasses for Soarin'. LaRae, the kids, and I took a more leisurely pace toward the Land Pavilion to meet Randy to ride Living with the Land. There was no wait for the attraction. People are missing out by skipping it!  Less popular rides with short queues are a great way to spend the time waiting for a FastPass time to arrive.

Can you read the lettuce? 

After The Land, we strolled over to The Seas with Nemo and watched Turtle Talk with Crush.  Just like Enchanted Tales with Belle, I am a firm believer that everyone should see Turtle Talk at least once! It's interactive and different every single time. Every visit I end up laughing hysterically at something a kid says to Crush or Crush's reaction to a kid! (Hint: we often try to prep the kids before Turtle Talk: "what would you like to ask Crush if he calls on you?" That way the kids will raise their hand to be included, and they'll have a plan and not freeze if he calls on them. Katelyn has a knack for getting chosen!)

I love catching sweet family moments like this one
with Katelyn holding hands with her dad.
Another short queue is over at Journey Into Imagination with Figment. Rumor is that this pavilion and attraction are going to be shut down soon for a revamp. I hope we don't lose Figment. I simply love this attraction and its song!  As a small child I remember it scaring me, and I don't remember much about Dreamfinder (except that he's pretty awesome). I do have a soft spot for the current ride though.

Our FastPasses for Soarin' came due, so we went back over to The Land to glide over California.  Mmmmm, the smell of the orange groves makes me smile every time!  Randy, our FastPass runner, took off to get Mission Space FastPasses for everyone else right before Imagination because the window opened where we could get another, so everyone else went there.  I, however, am confident in my dislike of Mission Space, so I didn't subject myself to it.  Y'all - I'm bored on the green side, but I'm scared of a brain hemorrhage on the orange side...  I went to the World Showcase (Canada, France, and Japan) instead.

Santa could be found around the World Showcase.  Can you tell what country
I was walking through when I met this plaid clad Santa?
It was, indeed, a jolly holiday with Mary!
Another Santa!
My favorite dessert from France!

I met my family in Japan (all without using a passport). During my wait, I ate a Napoleon from France and watched the shows in Japan from a bench near the Lagoon.  We ate lunch together at the Katsura Grill and had a quick photo shoot with a PhotoPass photographer.  LaRae and I went on to Italy, Germany, and China while Randy took the kiddos to America for lunch.  (They were not fans of the Japanese Quick Service.)
Another sweet family moment. I saw Randy sneaking up behind LaRae
and snapped his shot just as he surprised her with a kiss on the cheek!
Katsura Grill
Loved my lunch here!

Photo shoot!

Together again, we grabbed FastPasses for Norway's Maelstrom because that queue is highly claustrophobic to stand in the whole way. Another short queue is usually Mexico's Gran Fiesta Tour. This ride always leaves us singing along, so we went there while we waited for our FastPass window.  Afterwards we rode Maelstrom and headed out of the park for a much needed rest time!
Katelyn found the perfect fan in China!
Germany's Karamel Kuche
Josh kept toys in his backpack to play during pitstops! Clever kiddo!

So once again, just past lunch, we made it through pretty much every attraction except for Spaceship Earth, which we knew we'd hit another day, and Test Track, which was closed for renovations.  Not bad for a peak season day when the crowds were showing as Level 8-10 on most crowd calendars!

Friday's post will be mostly photos. Perhaps you can guess what you'll be seeing tons of photos of? 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 6 - Shop 'Til You Drop!

Last week's posts shared our journey through Downtown Disney on the day after Thanksgiving. While the park crowds were large but manageable, we weren't quite prepared for Downtown Disney's crowds! Since we stayed off property, we had to drive ourselves to Downtown Disney. The traffic lights at the entrances to the parking lots have signs that tell you if the lots are full. Most of the lots were completely full, so Randy dropped us off and went on to find a spot. Turns out it was crazy far away from where we wanted to be most of the night. (That comes into play later.)

We met our parents and a family friend, Sue, in DTD. Finding parking and then finding them was a bit of a struggle, but it worked out. While we waited, the kids played in the outside Lego building area of the LEGO Creation Center. I, personally, leaned on something while they played as even with a short rest before we went out again, I was tired from the day! Really we all were.

This display in one of the World of Disney Store windows was made of dolls!

Once our crews had joined up, we went to my favorite place to eat: Earl of Sandwich. Don't be scared by the long queue in the restaurant. The place is a well-oiled machine, and even with a crowd ordering and obtaining your food is quick.

From there we shopped a while. We got split up easily by the crowds, so we'd communicate which shop we were heading to, go there together, scatter within that shop, and then find each other before moving on. This proved to be a good method, but we had to be careful that we knew where the kiddos were at all times. They tended to trade adults fairly often, so communication was key.

What we got! We traded Vinylmation in Art of Disney. 

My mom & Sue. My mom loves popcorn, so when
I traded and got the popcorn Vinylmation, I gave
it to her to put on her desk at work. :)
I believe our first stop was Art of Disney where the kids and I traded Vinylmations, and I purchased a new Jim Shore Collectible.  (I try to get one every trip.)  We spent some time ooh'ing and ahh'ing over the ornaments in Disney's Days of Christmas. Mom, Sue, and I visited the Spice & Tea Exchange looking at the flavored salts and sugars. Everyone enjoyed shopping in Once Upon a Toy. You can trade Vinylmations here, so of course, the kids and I stopped to trade.  I too way too much time deciding on a new Disney Dooney & Bourke purse in Tren-D, but it's a big purchase, so my crew was mostly patient with me. Finally we made it into World of Disney Store which has 12 rooms to shop through!

I'm telling you, shopping is goooooood at Downtown Disney! I am a big supporter of looking through shops in the parks quickly, only purchasing small items that can ONLY be found in those shops if they're must-have items, and then doing most/all of your shopping at Downtown Disney.  The World of Disney Store has almost everything the parks have, and you can get a discount by showing your Disney VISA.  I prefer to carry large purchases one evening through Downtown Disney instead of through a whole day at the parks.

The Cable Car Sundae
After World of Disney Store, we felt we needed a moment to recharge and visit before we said our goodbyes.  We stopped at LaRae's and my favorite dessert stop: Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop.  This is another location that the queue looks HUGE in, but it moves quickly. It's worth it to stand in line. LaRae and I split a Cable Car Sundae.

The walk to the West Side and Pleasure Island affords
guests a great view of the Characters in Flight balloon!

Custom Santa Mickey
From there we said goodbye to our parents and Sue and headed to D Street, the Vinylmation store on the West Side. Up until this point we'd been on the opposite end of Downtown Disney in the Marketplace area, so this was a long walk for 5 very tired people. However, DTD is amazing at night! There are bands playing, living statues, and plenty of things to look at on the way. Besides, my family had never been to D Street, and we're all Vinylmation collectors, so I didn't want them to miss it! I found quite a few Vinylmation I'd been looking for, so I spent way too much money. The kids got to pick a Vinylmation and color a page creating their own. We all loved the Vinylmation artwork in the store.  I felt like the non-Vinylmation merchandise area has expanded quite a bit since I was there last.  Also, if you trade Vinylmation here, they have more strict rules: one pick and by picking a number, you are obligated to trade. It's worth it sometimes because rumor has it that the blind box here is often stocked with some variants or chasers.
Custom Snowman Mickey Vinylmation - these
customs were on sale. Most were $500+.

One of my favorite things about D Street is all of the Vinylmation they have on display.  The Park Series are the series I usually collect the most of:
Park 1, 2 & 3 series
Park 4, 5, & 6 series
Park 7, 8, and 9 series on display

Remember how I said Randy had to park a ways away?  Yeah... I could feel every step jolting through my body as we walked to the van.  We were all pushing the limit of tired and borderline cranky, so it was good to get back to our beds for the night.  Sure, we pushed it this day, but it was definitely worth it!

So what about you?  Is Downtown Disney a must-do for your family?  What's your favorite store?

Wednesday we're heading to Epcot! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's Official!

You might have noticed something changed today when you came over to the Amazing, Technicolor Interwebs. Perhaps not because it was a subtle change...

That's right! You can now find this Disney blog at! (Don't worry: if you type the old, you'll automatically be redirected here.) I'm definitely geeking out over owning my domain now though!

As always, join me here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new posts. Tomorrow we'll go shopping in Downtown Disney!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 6 - FastPassing Fantasyland

The first half of this post is going to be about how we FastPassed Fantasyland. The last two posts took you through our first two attractions, I'm going to speed this up and give you a rundown of how you, too, can make it through most of Fantasyland, new and old, by lunch or just after. I know the MyMagic+ is changing things with FastPasses, but until the changes are in effect, this is a pretty solid plan that's worked well for my family.

To recap: we started the morning at Magic Kingdom by watching Rope Drop.  LaRae, the kids, and I made our way over to New Fantasyland while Randy took a quick route around to grab FastPasses for Peter Pan's Flight. It's essential to grab a FastPass first thing before you ride anything else. We practically walked on at Belle's Enchanted Tales and then walked straight to Ariel's Undersea Adventure which due to the early hour did not have a long line yet.

From there, we spotted Gaston but didn't stop to say hello. We did pause for a moment to watch him interact with guests, and he's a hoot! My favorite characters to watch are Cinderella's wicked stepmother and stepsister, but Gaston is quickly climbing the ladder to being my new favorite. I love it when the villains can make guests laugh without scaring the young ones!
My what a guy that Gaston! 
Where does Gaston meet guests? Right outside of his tavern near his
gorgeous likeness. ;-) 

After our first two attractions, it was already time for our Peter Pan's Flight FastPases.  We rode it (my absolute all time favorite Fantasyland attraction) and immediately got another FastPass, this time for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which came with the usual bonus FastPass but this time for Dumbo! Always grab another FastPass, and always grab one for a queue that's usually over 30 minutes long. Even in Peak Season, we don't stand in long queues as a general rule. The Dumbo FastPass was in about 10-15 minutes' time (seriously), so we went over to Storybook Circus to look around ride the new 2-sided Dumbo! Afterwards our FastPasses for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh were due, so we got to ride it before lunch.  Randy "ran" to grab a Barnstormer FastPass, and then we headed to lunch at Tomorrowland Terrace.

Storybook Circus - that's my family in the shadows (LaRae is wearing pink).
Great example of how I should have better composed some of my photos... 
Randy and Katelyn - I was riding in front of my family's 2 elephants,
raising my elephant with one hand while turned around taking photos of
them behind me! Neck strap on the DSLR was definitely being used! 
LaRae and Joshua

Now I'll pause to point out a few glaring issues you're probably noticing by now. We did not ride It's a Small World or Prince Charming Regal Carrousel because those queues are typically short, and we knew we'd stop by them at some point during our trip. Planning ahead when you're on a long trip is definitely a good plan. Our goal this morning was to hit all or most of the big attractions. We also missed the Mad Tea Party because it's not a must do for anyone in our family. It's a "maybe if the mood strikes one of us when we're passing it and the queue is really short" type of attraction for us. Even missing these, we're hitting what we love and big attractions though.

Storybook Circus

Om nom nom!
At this point the crowds were really picking up. That's one of the reasons I like to eat at Tomorrowland Terrace: it's like most of the crowd walks past and doesn't realize it's there! Besides, it has the good honey mustard (the pump not the pre-made cups), so I'll eat there all day, any day. The best part though is the view of Cinderella Castle. While it was a bit windy during lunch, we got to have a gorgeous view on this sunny day in November.
Our lunch view!

The Barnstormer Reimagined
After lunch we used our Barnstormer FastPass and then took the Walt Disney World Railroad to Frontierland. Take the time for the train, folks. It's relaxing, gets you off your feet, and gives you a different view of the Magic Kingdom.

Pirates of the Caribbean had a HUGE line, so we decided to wait. I had never been on The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (always the photographer). Randy said he'd go grab FastPasses for Jungle Cruise while the rest of us stood in line to ride together. He even took the camera to document my first ride on the Magic Carpets! (This is where our rule becomes more general because we stood in line for what felt like forever!) While in line I did discover that I could tweet, Facebook, and Instagram quicker using the free wifi than the 4G network.

I PROMISE I pulled the bun down and put it lower half an hour after this!
Look! I'm on a magic carpet!
We have a lot of photographic evidence of me on this ride. :) 
For those who are in the Cult of Orange...
I promise that Jungle Cruise is my sister's favorite ride! ;-)

Flight completed, we used our FastPasses for the Jungle Cruise. I'm telling you, we were masters of FastPasses this day! Then we walked right in to the Tiki Room, no longer under new management, and decided to head back for a rest before shopping in Downtown Disney that evening. On the way out Randy stopped in the Harmony Barber Shop for a haircut, and we all watched and begged him to let the stylist put confetti in his hair. He politely declined but was a good sport about the audience. A quick ride on the ferry to the TTC, and we on our way to a well-deserved nap at our resort!

Randy getting his haircut. She was super friendly and funny!
We all loved riding the Ferry!
Join us again on Monday for some shopping in Downtown Disney.