Month: January 2016

#TripReportTuesday – Taking on the Springs & the High Seas – “Late” Nights in the Kingdom

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Feeling incredibly refreshed after our mid-afternoon swim and nap, we got ready for our dinner at The Wave which is found inside the Contemporary Resort right next to check in desks. This was our first visit to The Wave. We love trying new restaurants, but when we would vacation, we always want to eat at our favorites and sometimes never try anything new! This is definitely one of the many perks of now being local–we can try as many new restaurants as we want without feeling like we are “cheating” on our favorites because we can visit there whenever we want, well, so long we have a reservations – I am looking at you ‘Ohana!

The Disney official name for this eatery is The Wave…Of American Flavors, even though the signage in front of the restaurant says otherwise. Something unique about this restaurant is that they build their menu based on seasonal local and regional ingredients so the menu changes each season, which is a nice change of pace.

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We arrived a little early for our 7:45 reservation, so we checked in and sat in the swanky lounge area right off the bar which you can almost see in the following photo:2015-05-09-19h53m15

Soon we were seated and enjoyed a very delicious meal. I had the Herb-Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin – which reminded me of a fancy pot roast. Here is the description from Disney’s official menu online:

Herb-Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin – Caramelized Crimini Mushrooms, Garlic-Green Beans, Whipped Potato Purée, and Sauce Bordelaise

It was so flavorful- but apparently I was too hungry to take pictures! Unfortunately, I do not remember what the husband ordered, but I do know that we ordered the following decadent dessert:

German Chocolate Cake Contemporary-style – German Chocolate Cake, Caramel Sauce, and Heath Bar Caramel Ice Cream

Give me Heath bar anything and I am a happy camper! This dessert was amazing and my mouth is watering thinking about it!! To see The Wave’s menu, click here. They are also open for breakfast and lunch which I would love to try one day. Definitely don’t be afraid to include The Wave in your future dining plans!

We were so full after our dinner, that I could’ve gone back to Coronado Springs and crawled into bed, but Magic Kingdom was calling our name and was open until 2:00 AM for Extra Magic Hours. Since we had just eaten a lot of food, which is common for us on our Disney trips, we opted to walk from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom. That is my favorite feature of this resort, I love being able to walk myself to a theme park and not be reliant on other modes of transportation, ie: Monorail, boat, bus, parking lot tram. Plus, it is good exercise and we needed it! The walk only takes about 8 minutes, so it is not bad at all!

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Soon we were here:

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There is just something so special about Magic Kingdom in the evening. I love how Main Street and the Castle are all lit up. It just looks so enchanting.

We didn’t have any FastPasses this evening since we had used all 3 at Hollywood Studios earlier in the morning. If we wanted to, we could make an additional FastPass by visiting the kiosks in the park, but in our experience we have found that nothing worth FastPassing is ever available this close to closing, but we had Extra Magic Hours and could soon ride everything our heart desired.

Where did we head first? See if you can guess:

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PeopleMover! Such a relaxing trip around Tomorrowland. What other attraction lets you put your feet up? All that is missing a cocktail.

Next, we staked out our spot for Wishes in front of the castle. They were still constructing the new side Turrets as part of the hub expansion at this time, so that is why there is a overly large box ruining my fireworks shot.

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After crying through Wishes (I always do), we headed into Fantasyland and rode the Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed, or as most people call it, It’s a Small World.

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Love it or hate it, that ride is distinctly Disney and should never be touched!

After this, we rode another distinctly Disney attraction: The Haunted Mansion, however this would be our last ride of the night. That is correct: we were in the Magic Kingdom for about 90 minutes before calling it quits.

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While on Haunted Mansion, I started feeling really sweaty and sick. The ride was not overly warm or anything, I just didn’t feel right at all. It was only about 11:15 and the park was open until 2:00, I couldn’t believe I was going to call it quits with nearly 3 hours to go! So much for our late Magic Kingdom night! However, these things often happen at Disney where things do not go according to plan for one reason to another, but you just go with the flow and hope for the best. I am a major planner by nature, so when things don’t go according to plan, I sort of freak out! I was hoping that a good night’s sleep would help me get over the sickly feeling because we had a breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest the following morning that I certainly did not want to miss!

With that thought, we said goodnight to the Magic Kingdom as many other resort guests were just arriving to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours!

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#Overlooked@WDW: Rafiki’s Planet Watch

DSC_7377With so many things to see and do when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, it is easy to overlook certain attractions simply because you are busy trying to enjoy the popular mountains or meet those Arendelle sisters. This new blog series focuses on the attractions which may not draw in the masses making them overlooked by the typical guest at times. Just because it is not a high demand attraction does not mean you should steer clear of it because you may be pleasantly surprised! Hopefully on your next trip, you can experience one of these Disney gems!

Have you ever been to Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Not sure? Did you ride a train at Animal Kingdom? If you did, then you ended up at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, the remote themed land which focuses on all things conservation.

The only way to reach Rafiki’s Planet Watch is by the Wildlife Express Train which is accessible in Africa near Kilimanjaro Safari and Pagani Forest Exploration Trail. All aboard!!

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On your short voyage, you will see some of the backstage animal holding areas for the Kilimanjaro Safari. It is pretty amazing to see how much space they have dedicated to this that you cannot see from the attraction itself.

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Once you arrive at Rafiki’s Planet Watch there are 3 areas to explore. There is a fairly long trail which is known has Habitat Habit. Along the trail you will see tamarin monkeys and a small exhibit dedicated to how we can better share our habitats with animals.DSC_2410

The next area you will encounter is known as the Conservation Station- an indoor facility which houses various conservation exhibits, character meet & greets and veterinary care. You can’t miss the building with its bright and huge animal murals found outside and right as you enter the building. Also note that right outside the building, you will sometimes find Chip and Dale meeting guests. If you have your heart set on meeting them, check the daily times to guide for confirmation.

Once inside the Conservation Station. you may be lucky enough to catch veterinarians treating some of the very animals you encounter in the park! I have not been lucky enough to witness this myself as I do not believe the veterinary schedule is posted anywhere. In addition to this and the hands on exhibits, Cast Members are on hand to answer any questions and you may even catch an animal encounter! Since this area of Animal Kingdom is named after him, Rafiki, from The Lion King, is often meeting guests in this location as well, just be sure to check the times guide.

Outside of the conservation station, you will find a small area with a stage. Several times a day the conservation staff will host a short and cute show featuring various animals such as pigs, owls, and porcupines.

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The final area of Rafiki’s Planet Watch is my personal favorite and known as the Affection Section, which is Disney’s adorable name for a petting zoo. Here you can get up close and personal with the likes of cute goats, sheep, donkeys, cows and pigs. I could seriously spend all day in the Affection Section. Disney makes it easy to wash hands by providing a large sink area before and after you enter the enclosure, making this feel like the cleanest petting zoo in the world! If you don’t want to use your bare hands to pet the animals, they provide large brushes too! If you have any animal lovers in your home, be sure to visit the Affection Section on your next visit!

Just look at all this cuteness!!!

No Disney area would be complete without merchandise, and you can find a small shop right outside the Affection Section too. I wish this shop sold the actual animals from the Affection Section because I totally use a pet goat in my life.

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Once you done exploring Rafiki’s Planet Watch, just follow the signs back to the Wildlife Express Train to take you back to Africa in the main area of the park. Something to note, if you are planning on visiting, figure you will need at least 1 hour to explore the areas if not more. Just keep that in mind if you are dealing with FastPass return times or dining reservations.

Happy exploring!

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#TripReportTuesday – Taking on the Springs and the High Seas – Park Hopping

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I am attempting to get this report back on track seeing that is now 2016–it is about time!

Since we were only at the parks for 4 short days, which was our shortest trip to date, we had to do some park hopping in order to fit everything in. We decided on spending our morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, taking a mid-afternoon break to swim and rest and then head to Magic Kingdom after our dinner at The Wave which is located at the Contemporary Resort. It helped that Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours until 2:00 AM, so we would really need that mid-day break in order to make it that long!

We enjoyed a quick breakfast along the water at Coronado Springs where we spotted some real live Florida wildlife. I was hoping to see an alligator since I had never seen one in the wild before, but a turtle was good too. He kept us plenty entertained while we enjoyed our breakfast and coffee.

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Since we had later morning FastPasses, we made it to the park at about 10:45 AM. I know lots of people debate FastPass+, but one of the perks is definitely being able to sleep in a little later because you don’t need to be at the park at rope drop to snag a FastPass to the headliner attractions.

Whenever we go to Hollywood Studios, we usually attempt to complete what we like to call “The Trifecta”. The trifecta includes the best 3 rides at the park, in our humble opinion: Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Whatever else we can accomplish is a bonus. Luckily we had Fast Passes for Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror. Since this park is on a FP+ tiered system which means you can only pick one attraction from Tier 1 and Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania are both in that category. We usually opt to get Toy Story Mania because the lines are typically so much longer, then we just ride Rock ‘n Roller Coaster standby. Our final FastPass was for Star Tours because it was the only other ride which may need a FastPass since everything else is for the shows-which, in our opinion, you don’t really need FastPasses for anyways.

The first thing we noticed upon entering Hollywood Studios was the absence of the gigantic Sorcerer’s Hat. It looked so weird at first, but I have grown to love the old-new view!

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Our first FastPass was for Star Tours! Obviously, this trip was pre-Force Awakens so not everyone had Star Wars on the brain just yet. On the way, I stopped for the obligatory Walt picture:

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Soon we were in line for Star Tours for a spin around the galaxy. This ride has grown on me over the years, although one time is enough for me because otherwise I feel motion sickness. 2015-05-09-10h57m13

Since we were dressed for the occasion, the next stop was Muppet Vision 3-D.

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One of the best parts of this attraction is the queue waiting area. There are so many fun Muppet-y details in every nook and cranny that no matter how many times you visit, you will always find something new and zany. I just love the Muppets!

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By this time, our Toy Story Mania FastPass was approaching, so we took a walk through the Streets of America and saw Cinderella’s carriage from the live-action movie. There was quite the line to get a picture so we opted against waiting in the sun. Looking back, I kind of wish I would’ve gotten a picture since the carriage was only there for a limited time.

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It was now Toy Story Mania time, which is one of our absolute favorite rides even though we usually leave with sore arms from all the rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ fun. We take it very seriously! I don’t remember the score, but I am sure I lost because Justin has to beat me at everything. In Toy Story Mania, I usually start off really strong, but by the second game, he usually runs away with it.

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At this point, we had two more goals to accomplish:  Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Since it wasn’t quite time for our Tower of Terror FastPass return time, we headed to Rock ‘n Roller Coaster instead.

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STUDIO_ROCKNRCOASTERRIDE_7323175461The above picture is pretty much proof of how much we love that coaster! By the time we were done partying with Aerosmith, it was time to use our final FastPass for our favorite Hollywood Studios ride!

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Notice how our ride mates look so not amused, except for the guy on the right, he knows how to do Tower of Terror like a boss. C’mon people! This is Tower of Terror, at least look like you are having fun or something.

At this point, it was about 1:30 and we had accomplished our Hollywood Studio goals for the day. The sun was starting to get pretty darn hot, so it was time to pay a visit to the pool back at Coronado Springs since we were going to be checking out of there the next day.

Coronado’s main pool is known as the Dig Site. There is a huge Mayan pyramid waterfall, a jaguar water slide! According to Disney’s website, it is also home to the largest hot tub on Disney property holding up to 22 people! While it was definitely too hot to visit the hot tub, we were ready to take on the slide and pool!

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I wish I had more pictures, but we didn’t bring the camera and only had our cell phones which we really didn’t want to get wet. It was pretty busy and the daily pool party was going on, so if you are looking for a peaceful rest by the pool, stay clear of the resort main pools around 2-4 PM because this is when they typically do the pool parties for the kids. If you are looking for a more quiet, relaxing atmosphere, most resorts have smaller “quiet” pools spread out among other areas of the resort which are typically not busy at all.

One of my new favorite things to try is the different water slides at the resorts and the jaguar slide at Coronado Springs did not disappoint! The only problem was that when I came down the slide, I got so much water in my eyes that I ended up losing a contact lens. We had to go back to room so I could get a fresh one because I am basically blind without them! Since our room was pretty much on the other side of the resort, we decided to check out one of the quiet pools instead of having to trek it back to the Dig Site. The quiet pool was true to its name in that it was pretty quiet allowing us to enjoy a nice afternoon nap near the pool. That is what vacation is all about!

If you are able to fit in a mid afternoon break on any of your days, I highly suggest it! It is a great way to get the most of your resort and feel refreshed for an evening of fun! Also, I think it makes your vacation feel longer because sometimes it feels like two separate days, especially if you are visiting two different parks and taking a nap in between!

Once we awoke from our slumber, we got ready for our dinner at The Wave and Magic Kingdom which was open until 2:00 AM!

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