Saturday, January 5, 2013

Disney: The Short Version

We had reservations for the Disney World TAC rally for about a year and a half.  That means we made the reservations back when we didn't have much of a trailer to sleep in!  We arrived at Fort Wilderness in early November then stayed for two weeks.  I could work up a sweat writing about all the stuff we did at Disney!  Our family does Disney in a particular, deliberate way with a couple of goals in mind.

First goal: Don't wait in line.
Second goal:  Have fun.

Think our priorities are mixed up?  Waiting in line less means we have more fun!

Fort Wilderness:  What's the big deal?
Fort Wilderness has a reputation.  With such rave reviews, we were anxious to make our own assessment.  I must admit that I have been more than a little skeptical about how "magical" a campground could be.  We've heard that this place is  "The Best" on more than one occasion.

Our first night at Fort Wilderness was a shocker.  If you stay at a Disney resort on the Seven Seas Lagoon  (ie: The lake in front of the Magic Kingdom) then you have the opportunity every evening to see the lovely, charming, quaint, nostalgic boat parade as it floats by with its lights and blaring calliope-ish music.  Fort Wilderness is tucked away in its own quiet little cove on the Seven Seas Lagoon, therefore it is the last stop for the boat parade- at about 9:45 pm!!  This is important information to know.  If we had known it ahead of time then I might have been less apt to mumble something non G-rated about the campground being the nosiest we've ever been to.

With Fort Wilderness, Disney does so many things right.   Need ice?  You can buy it at the bathhouse that is just steps from your campsite.  Need to do laundry?  Also at the bathhouse.  Forget detergent?  They have that, too.  That annoying thing you can't stand about the bathhouse at your favorite campground?  Well, that have that right, too.  There's definitely a dry place to put your towels and clothes when you take a shower.  There are enough hooks.  There's a shelf big enough for your shower soaps.  There aren't any light bulbs that need changing.  There is enough hot water.  All of those things.  They have it right.  
 It wasn't the details that were the clincher for me though.  It was when our youngest asked "Can we ride our bikes to the Magic Kingdom?"  Completely melted my heart!

Have you heard about the poor old Airstream at Animal Kingdom?  
We had to visit.

I guess if you're an Airstream stuck in one place then Disney World is a pretty good place to be stuck!


You can actually eat IN this trailer:
Though, I can't recommend it: 
(see list: Things we should have skipped)

Dining: Oh!  The Places We Ate!
We've been to Disney before.  I made dining reservations ahead of time for those trips.  This time, since our kids are a little older and we weren't traveling with any extra people, we decided to try something different with dining: winging it. I did not make a single dinner reservation before our trip.  Our plan?  Be flexible- see where we could get in for table service.  With only a couple of exceptions, we were able to get in for table service almost every time we tried...

some highlights:

50s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios)-
Our waitress brought plates, silverware, and napkins.  She stacked them in a pile in the middle of the table and told us to "do chores."  We appreciated so many things about this place, including home-style cooking.
pot roast on a bed of mashed potatoes.  delicious.

This places felt like a haven in the middle of a busy park.  We sat watching black and white TV and admiring all of the 50s knick knacks.   After looking around, I was a little disappointed that our booth wasn't adorned with wallpaper.  Then, I took a closer look.

Would you believe the wall behind our booth was Zolatone?!  

  We had no trouble getting "Member of the Clean Plate Club" stickers.

Yak and Yeti (Animal Kingdom) -
Our waiter found us a table by an upstairs window.  He recommended the ginger salmon for an entree.   I would be hard pressed to pick a "favorite meal" for our entire trip but I just might pick the food here.  

Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)-
Our napkins were folded into roses.  
Immediately, Samuel took his apart to figure out how to make it.  At every cloth-napkin restaurant we've been to since, we've had an unspoken contest to see who can make a rose the fastest- if it looks like tulip then it doesn't count. 

Our table in the ballroom faced a large window.  Outside the window it was snowing.  The snow was so realistic to that we had to go to the window to get a better look!

 My steak was delicious but I think the girls favorite part was dessert.  
Words on the chocolate say "Be Our Guest."

Tokyo Dining (Epcot)-
All of us love Japanese food.  We've eaten at Epcot's hibachi restaurant, Teppan Edo,  in the past.  It's one of our favorites.  At the Japan pavilion, we learned that Teppan Edo was full for the evening.  The hostess encouraged us to try Tokyo Dining; where she would be able to get us a table right away.  A little disappointed, we took the table.  She pointed upstairs where we were met by a hostess who escorted us to a table by the window.  It wasn't until after we had ordered our food that I realized we would have a window seat for the evening firework show at Epcot, Illuminations. Whoah!  I'm sure people make reservations months in advance to get a table like this (and just hope for a window seat.)

Oh, bento box!  You are so pretty:

Green tea pudding!  
I've had this at Teppan Edo before (it was half of the reason we came back) so I was delighted to find it on the menu at Tokyo Dining, too. 

Illuminations fireworks, from our WINDOW!

Supercalifragilistic Breakfast
at 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian Resort)-
When we hear the word "buffet" we usually run.  (Run in the opposite direction, mind you.) Not here, though.   Delicious breakfast with some of our favorite characters, too.  We've been here before but had to return. 
Lobster Benedict, biscuits with sausage gravy, fresh fruit, and bacon.  My mouth is watering as I type this.  See why this place is so hard to resist?

The Mad Hatter is always so entertaining.  He checked Samuel's watch and announced that it was two days slow but failed to noticed that Samuel actually set his watch two days slow just for his benefit. 

Spit spot.  It's Mary Poppins!

Assorted "Magical Moments"
Checking in at Fort Wilderness:
We booked a full hookup campsite (cheapest) for our stay and requested to be next to some friends.  When we arrived at Fort Wilderness with our friends they went in ahead of us to check-in.  A few moments later she skipped over to our trailer while we were still waiting to check in "It's Magic!  Just like they said!  They upgraded us [to be closer to the other Airstreams at the TAC rally!]"

All that and a bag of Ice:
After touring Animal Kingdom all day one Tuesday the kids and I came home for dinner and some errands.  We left the world.  At dinner, Brian and I discussed that the Magic Kingdom would be open until 1:00am!  Before heading back to the trailer, we stopped to get some ice for the cooler.  One interesting thing about the campground is that you have to go through the parking gate for "The Magic Kingdom" before you can get to the campground.  Well, after we got through the "Magic Kingdom" parking plaza, our car suddenly went straight instead of turning right to go to the campground.  Did I mention we had a bag of ice?  We stashed it under the car, caughed the next monorail, and skipped into the Magic Kingdom.    We arrived at 11pm when hordes of people were heading home.  Were they anxious to get home to hear election results?

I spied the Hall Presidents and wondered aloud "Think it's still open this late?"  Someone shouted "Last show for Hall of Presidents!"  We scurried in.  What a special place to be on election night- in a room full of presidents.  A proud moment, too.  Even our youngest recognized many of the presidents, I think visiting presidential libraries and houses makes us feel like we have connect with them in a personal way.  It was hard not to get a little teary-eyed.

New Fantasyland:
I mentioned earlier that we ate at "Be Our Guest" but I failed to say how fortunate we were to be able to get in.  The restaurant is in "New Fantasyland" which wasn't scheduled to be open until after our trip.  There were rumors that there would be a "soft opening" the day after our departure. On election night, New Fantasyland was open for dress rehearsal! What a treat to see New Fantasyland!  We ordered "LeFou's brew" from Gaston's tavern and sucked it down before getting on the new Little Mermaid ride.  Then, we saw The Little Mermaid herself, in her new grotto.  We took a peek at Belle's castle and the "Be Our Guest" restaurant which was just open for a preview.  I asked the cast members in the castle if there was any possibility to get a reservation for dinner.  She wasn't able to get me a reservation but she told me how to do it.   We followed her advice.  Just like that.  Magic!  We got in for dinner before it was even supposed to be open!

At the Polynesian:
There's no bones about it.  We have a thing for Hawaii!  It's been two years since our trip there and we still talk about all the time!  While at Disney, we found ourselves visiting the Polynesian frequently.  "Can we go there for breakfast one more time?" Strolling outside by the pool and the Seven Seas Lagoon, with the Hawaiian music, for the briefest of moments I really felt like I was in Hawaii.   Thank you, Disney, for that moment!

Main Street Transportation:
There's a little old fire truck that putzes around Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom.  On our last day at the park we started out at the Magic Kingdom.  We weren't really in a hurry to get to anything in particular.  We had ridden everything we really wanted to ride.  There was nothing left on anyone's "must do" list. More than anything, we were coming to the Magic Kingdom to pick up more Sorcerers of The Magic Kingdom cards. I mentioned that I might like to ride the fire truck.  Then (you guessed it)... we were at the right place at the right time, asked the right person, and rode the firetruck just before it was in a parade!


 More pictures, less words: 
Quite possibly the only picture I took of our Fort Wilderness campsite. 


Norway troll!

Sci-fi Dine-In at Hollywood Studios

going for a primeval whirl

"It's a Bug's Life"

Toy Story Mania

Another magic moment for me:  We bought one of these caramel apples.  The cast member cut it into pieces for us and they weren't sticky!
Watch out for that hat, Mickey!

Osborn Family Lights at Hollywood Studios was great! 

We had to go twice!

transportation for Seven Seas Lagoon

Tea Time:
Oh no!  Are we late?
kids in one cup

Parents in the other.  
It's the only way to do a tea party here!

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom...
Watch out!  It's addictive!

Glad to finally see this new/old parade!