Monday, September 29, 2014

A Magical Trip of a Lifetime - Day 1 (Arrival) & 2

Since B was conceived I had a dream to take the kids, however many we may have at the time, to the most magical place on earth before they were out of the 'character' age. When Ans' came spaced 2 years and 4 months apart from B, we decided we thought 5 and 3, near B's turning 6, would be the perfect time, and thus the saving began.

Last week, we finally got to take the trip we'd been saving (and planning) for for so long. I've literally done 100's of hours of research over the past 10 months to choose good and appropriate meals, to schedule fastpasses for the most coveted attractions, and to learn all the good and important tips for all the things you'll never think of.

Take the planning and a WHOLE LOT of Disney magic, and what you have is a family vacation that won't soon be forgotten.

This series of blogs is the documenting of our trip (because I can't wait to share, and there may be a few of you who want to know).

We arrived at Pop Century Resort Saturday evening, hungry and ready to settle in. After a good amount of research (and that magic or 'pixie dust' I'd mentioned), I had requested a room on the back side of the 50's or 60's building with a view of Hourglass Lake. Hourglass Lake overlooks the Art of Animation resort and a bridge connects the two. The reason I requested a room here was due to a.) noise, but mostly b.) there were rumors of having a fantastic view of the Hollywood Studio's Frozen fireworks every evening.

We were not disappointed! We were one room away from the end of the row on the 4th floor, PERFECT for fireworks viewing. Here's a view directly off our balcony.

Take ten steps to the kid's left and you've got firework viewing front row seats!

So - for the evening, we decided to hit the Pop Century 'food court' and grab dinner. Here's where I put my plug in for the Disney Dining Plan. (Stay with me, it's important.) If you plan on eating and everyone eating their own thing, and if you'd rather not count pennies, I highly encourage utilizing the Disney Dining Plan. Now, it's fair to say, we went during a Disney Dining Plan promotion, so our dining plan, for all intents and purposes, was free. I only paid a small per person fee (ahead of time) to upgrade us from a 'quick service' plan, to a 'regular' dining plan. The difference= the dining plan provided with our value resort as part of the promotion was only for 2 'fast food' type meal experiences a day + a snack. Our upgrade, around $200 total (if I remember correctly, it's been a few months since I paid it), allowed us a sit down meal every day, a 'fast food' type meal and a snack. May I mention, you also receive a refillable mug for each person of your group, and your meals all include your drink and a dessert.  You'll hear more about this as our journey together continues, but the bottom line is -- IF you can go during free dining... DO IT. If you can't, and you are a foodie like me, who wants the relaxation of sitting down for some decent meals - it's worth purchasing, really. (Our 'fast food' type meals, with our drinks and desserts all topped $50 for our family. Had we NOT been on dining plan, I'm certain we would have split many meals and opted not to try fun desserts and things.)

Ok, off my dining soapbox. Here's dinner: :)

The kids each received two sides with their meals from our resort, and the food, for quick service was surprisingly good! I had the pizza twice and once had the chicken parmesan. It was fantastic. No, really!

From there, we went and explored our resort:

And Art of Animation: 

We finished off the night with Frozen Fireworks and a semi-early bedtime for our next day - Epcot! 

Do you see our newest family member in the bottom right corner? Here's where I put my props in to the memory maker option. You see a ton of 'photopass photographers' at Disney, all more than willing to take your picture and make your vacation all the more magical. Now, I will say, we are missing some coveted pictures from our account, but Disney is working on finding them for us, however, we had 140ish pictures when we got home, some of those 'magic' shots like these with a Disney character popping up. Worth it? Yes.

We spent Sunday traveling around Future World, riding rides and learning our way around. Favorites were Soarin':

Test Track (Ans is next to me in the back):

And of course, the character Spot with Mickey, Minnie (two of those missing pictures...) and Goofy:

We did mosey over to the World Showcase to have lunch at La Cantina De San Angel (all free dining, of course):

We sampled sodas at Club Cool. Peru was our favorite. Here are the kids enjoying "Beverly":

And we finished out the day with our sit down meal, Garden Grill.  Garden Grill is located in The Land portion of Future World, where Soarin' is located. It is a character meal in a rotating restaurant, and it overlooks Living with the Land, a boat ride that shows how our food is grown and harvested, etc. The coolest part of the meal, for us adults, is that a great portion of the food that we ate that evening was grown / harvested right there at Disney. (And, it was gooooood.)

Dinner included beef tenderlin and garlic mashed potatoes, tilapia and veggies, turkey and stuffing, and chicken legs, mac n cheese and sweet potato fries for the kiddos. It was all you can eat and came with bread. Dessert was this berry masterpiece below, yum! It was my favorite thing we ate all day.

And the important part, the kids with the characters (who come right to your table, sign autographs, give hugs, and ultimately interact very well with the kids).




The kids did great with the characters! The one funny moment we had happened this night between Ansley and Pluto. Pluto tried to get Ansley to kiss his nose, she scrunched her nose, pulled away and pressed as far into me as she could. As he laughed and walked off we asked her why the weird reaction. She replied, "His mouth was open!" HA!

She is our little perceptive one. She realized very quickly that 'stuffed' characters don't talk and often times their mouths are open. When we met face characters (princesses, etc), she was so excited they could communicate with her!

That concluded our Epcot day. We rode Soarin' two times that day, the kids loved it so much. Test Track was another favorite (but not 'favorite enough' for mom and dad to wait an hour to ride it again, we had a fastpass planned for Wednesday).

We arrived at the hotel in time to watch Frozen fireworks again and go to bed! Little did I know, Ans would wake up with a fever around 2 am, Aaron would make a middle of the night run to Walgreens for fever reducer, and I'd spend most of the rest of the trip medicating her...

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