Wednesday, September 26, 2012

[INFOPOST] Reasons Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is Worth the Money.

Disney World's prices are not cheap. Sure there are some affordable options, but generally when people plan their vacations they don't look for special events that cost extra. Park tickets and hotel are expensive enough. This is understandable, and for the most part you're not missing much. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was a bit of a disappointment for me but I'm glad I'm able to say I've been. With the Christmas Party they give you free unlimited cocoa and cookies, but the cookies and cocoa are heavy after a while (though they do warm you up when you need it). The parade is beautiful, but if you go to the park closer to Christmas you can see it (and Holiday Wishes) during regular park hours. So, the only exclusive things you're paying for when you attend the Christmas Party are the character meet and greets and the castle show.

This is not the case with Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

If you're like me and don't do well with Universal's Halloween Horror Nights then this party is the perfect spooky celebration for you. There's free candy (no matter what you're age), tons of rare characters, an amazing parade that you can only see at the party, and a castle show full of villains that are very rarely seen. Plus, there's dance parties, attractions that are decked out to look extra creepy, and special photo ops (last year they had Cinderella's Carriage out for special photo op) that more than pay for the price of the ticket. Not to mention the cast members look and act like their having a blast and so many other guests turn up in outstanding costumes.

There's much fun to be had and many memories to be made. Now how can you best enjoy all of these perks?

First of all, your party ticket will get you into the Magic Kingdom at 4 PM. Use that time to ride attractions or eat dinner. The attractions are open during regular park hours so I would skip those from the hours of 7 to midnight. The one exception I would make is The Haunted Mansion because there is something extra special about sitting in a Doom Buggy on an extra spooky night at the Magic Kingdom. Plus, there's Madame Leota's sisters who entertain guests from the lawn of the Mansion while they wait in line. They're absolutely delightful.

Second of all, go to the second parade. The crowds are smaller and it's easier to find a spot to sit down. If you want a really good view (for you or your little ones) expect to be there at least 45 minutes before the parade. Use this time to regroup or eat, if you didn't earlier and I suggest finding a spot in Frontierland. The parade ends there first so you can move on to the next activity sooner. The same concept applies to the Villains Mix and Mingle. The later the show the easier it is to find a spot. There's usually one last show after 11 o'clock, that's the one you should go to.

And finally, meet the characters you can't find any other time. For instance, if you're a fan of the princesses or have a little one with a favorite Disney couple, the Disney Princes are out with the Princesses every night. The interaction between the Princesses and their true loves is not something you'll want to miss. There's also characters like Jack Sparrow, Gaston, Jafar, The Seven Dwarves, Mad Hatter and characters you'll find in other parks (but here they're in their very special Halloween Costumes.) Some of these characters require getting in line before the party starts (the Seven Dwarves can be a monstrous wait) and some of these it's best to wait until the party has been under way for a while (the Princesses and Princes won't be out until all the regular day time guests have gotten out of line so more than like these characters won't be out until 7:30 or so.) The best suggestion if you're a character hunter like me is to start in the back of the park and work your way forward.

Something you can't miss at the Halloween Party is meeting at least one major villain. After the Castle Show, Villains Mix and Mingle, the Villains have their own special meet and greet. These characters (with the exception of The Tremaines) are almost never out. Here you'll find Maleficent, The Evil Queen, Frollo, Dr. Facillier, Cruella DeVille, Captain Hook, and the Queen of Hearts. They don't have time to do autographs or talk very much but it's a can't miss photo op that you'll talk about for years to come. Get in line as soon as the shows over. The line's build up fast and the Character Attendants will cut them off when the meet and greet time is over. No exceptions.

And the very last thing that we can't forget, is HalloWishes. Now, first off, I'm not a fireworks enthusiast. I love them and I think they look amazing, but I don't go out of my way to view them. So I decided to skip HalloWishes at my first party and then I caught it later on the beach at Polynesian Resort (where they pipe in the music. They also do this at the Contemporary.) I enjoyed much better at a distance than I did up close, but that's not to say HalloWishes isn't an amazing fireworks display. If you're going to catch it make sure you find a spot with a quick exit to make it through the crowds and get to your next activity. But I definitely suggest skipping the massive crowd as it's uncomfortable and more than like your view will be obscured. If you can work it out catch the fireworks another night at the Contemporary or the Polynesian.

Anyway, those are my tips and suggestions for enjoying the Halloween Party as well as my reasons why the party as a whole is worth the price of the ticket. It's definitely one of my favorite Disney events, and I'm getting ready to attend for my third year in a row. I absolutely love it.

Because, as Uncle Walt said, "Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

[INFOPOST] Reasons to Stay On Property

I know so many people who have gone to Disney World and stayed at an outside hotel, and that's totally fine (I've done this before too.) Off property hotels work really well for large parties (the vacation homes in Orlando are surprisingly affordable to rent) or guests who plan to visit Seaworld or Universal more than Disney. But if you want to Disney World, I mean really do Disney World, and you have a party of 6 or less then the on property hotels and resorts are really the best way to go. You're close to the magic, you have complimentary travel to and from the parks, free parking at theme parks, extra time inside the actual parks before offsite guests, and amazing staff to make your stay so much easier.

The quality of the Cast Members Disney hires and trains never fails to amaze me (even after being a Cast Member myself). Everyone is extremely helpful and they want nothing more than to make your trip as worry free as they can. Plus, they're always up for more than a little fun. I've stayed at one resort at every level except for Deluxe. Value, Moderate, and Deluxe Villa. All three experience were extremely pleasant. The first Disney Resort I ever stayed in was Old Key West in a one bedroom villa. We arrived early for check in, but we were able to check in anyway and leave our bags with Cast Members and then head out to the parks right away. When we arrived back at the resort that night our luggage and our purchases from that day were waiting on us in our room.

That was my first exposure to Disney service. I didn't have to lug my bags anywhere and while shopping inside the park I didn't have to carry around my plastic bags filled with purchases. I could just have them shipped to my room and by the next day they would be there waiting on me. It was wonderful.

And then there was Extra Magic Hours. One of the best perks to have ever been thought up. Every day, one park has EMH. Sometimes it's one hour in the morning and sometimes it's up to three hours at night. At the end of this year, that extra three hours after closing is officially changing to two (which I'm sure is a great relief to Magic Kingdom CMs, who often had to work until 4 in the morning to restock and clean the park.) But those extra hours allow you to get a lot done that the crowded general guest hours may prevent you from doing. Plus, there's nothing like experiencing the Magic Kingdom at 2 AM. It's just a whole different kind of magic.

The transportation to and from the parks is an excellent perk as well. It saves a lot of gas and a lot of money. Not to mention you no longer have to worry about finding your car at the end of every night. The only drawback is waiting on the bus after park closing. Sometimes it takes forever to finally get on one due to the sheer number of people wanting to ride them.

The next time I stayed at a resort was during my College Program when my parents came to visit. We stayed at Coronado Springs. It's a lovely quiet resort with lots of beautiful theming. This resort is home to a lot of business conferences so you'll find there aren't many families staying here. But I really enjoyed the design of the lobby. It was gorgeous. This was the trip I discovered the free parking for resort guests. As a CM I received free parking anyway but to do so I had to show my CM ID. So my parents decided to drive instead of wait for the bus and I had my ID all ready to show the Cast Member's who take the money for parking, but he didn't need it. He saw the Resort parking pass and just waved us on through. It was the best surprise of the day for me because leaning forward from the back seat to the front driver side window was very uncomfortable and awkward. So from then on we had no fear of driving and no need to follow bus schedules. It was very liberating.

The last time I stayed on property was last October. I stayed at the Pop Century resort and enjoyed every minute of it. This time I was able to enjoy Magical Express, a flawless service, and the services of the CM's who greet at the front desks in the resort lobby. These two services absolutely made my trip. Michelle and I came from two seperate states but managed to end up on the same flight thanks to the genius of Southwest Airlines (who I highly recommend by the way. Their one way flights are more affordable than connecting flights most of the time.) Because of this we were able to use Magical Express, the bus service that picks you up at the airport and takes you to your resort.

Now, keep in mind that this is not a direct trip to your resort. The bus stops at other resorts in the area too. But when you sign up for Magical Express you're sent a booklet that contains your passes for the bus and directions to the terminal where you will be picked up. Essentially Disney has had a section of the baggage claim area sectioned off for bus queues. You show the CMs that are waiting your passes and then wait in the very first Disney queue of the trip for your bus. You do not have to stop and collected your bags unless you're being picked up super early in the morning or super late at night. Otherwise, lovely cast members will pick up your bags and transport them to the resort for you. You're sent special luggage tags to mark your bags.

The wait for the bus can be lengthy, but it mostly feels that way because you know you're just so close to the Disney magic. The cast members that are there to supervise this service try to make it go by as quickly as they can. They joke and entertain and try to keep you busy. There are buses that are decorated especially for the service, but there are also average yellow Mears transportation buses that pick up as well. While on the bus you're shown a video that highlights the advantages you'll be enjoying while staying on property (all illustrated with various Disney characters).

When you reach your resort you're told to head straight to check out because your bags will be brought to your room when they arrive. Check out was a very quick process, there was basically no wait when Michelle and I arrived at the Pop. We checked in and then headed to our room to take a break and settle in as much as we could. Not even a half hour after we arrived my bag was brought to our door. Michelle's arrived a little later and we were both a little worried about that, but Disney had it all under control.

Departing is just as easy as arriving. The day before you depart your boarding passes are sent to your room (provided you're flying with an airline that partners with Disney, Southwest does.) Your bags will be checked in for you and all you have to do is take your luggage to luggage services by the drop off entrance to the resort. You don't even have to check out of your hotel. You can just leave. Michelle and I took them our bags earlier that morning and then headed off to Downtown Disney until the scheduled pick up time we were given. This service saves guests so much time and effort and it really makes things worry free. I enjoyed every bit of it.

The other part of the trip that I found to be amazing was check in. The Cast Member that was helping us really paid attention and knew what we needed before we did. All I did was mention briefly to Michelle that we needed to go to the Ticket and Transportation Center and pick up the tickets we had a will call and he immediately had a suggestion for us.

We could pick up the tickets at the front desk as long as we had our confirmation numbers. I had mine so he was able to add my park tickets to my room key and then use a separate hard plastic key-card for my Halloween Party ticket. This made my life so much easier. We still had to go to the TTC for Michelle's tickets but it eased my mind to have mine in my hand when we left to check out our room. Plus having the tickets I purchased separately added to my room key left me with less to keep up with. I was really impressed with that Cast Member and how closely he was paying attention to the guests in front of him. It was truly excellent service.

And all of the above is why I encourage people to stay on property. You will not find any company more accommodating than the Walt Disney Company. They try their hardest to make things as convenient as possible for their guests because they know people really don't want to worry or think while on vacation. Isn't lovely to have someone do all the work for you, for once? I think so. And I haven't mentioned my favorite part...

Cast Members at the resort cannot accept tips unless they are servers in one of the restaurants. There's no risk of a bellman being rude to you because he thinks you tipped him too little. Or being rushed to your room because you're not expected to be a good tipper. No one to awkwardly stand around until they've received whatever tip they deem appropriate.

Not to say that some people do not truly deserve tips because some do, but in my experience, hotels with staff that expect to be tipped do not have good guest service. Yet another reason why, if possible, I try to work out a way to stay on property on my trips to Disney World. Disney cast members are so much nicer and work so much harder and yet they don't expect a tip. Now, that's a staff that deserves to be tipped and appreciated. Don't you think?

Monday, September 10, 2012

19 Days and Counting!

As you may be able to see from my nifty little countdown nametag on the right side panel there are 19 days until my next Disney trip! I am so excited! This year my friend Holly and my mother are coming with me and we're meeting my friend Bethany, who is currently on her second CP, down there! And this year I get to be there for a whole week! Saturday to Saturday! No quick (yet so fun) whirlwind trip this year! I get to relax a bit more this year.

My friend, Holly, has never really experience Disney World as a whole. She came with me when I moved to Florida for my CP but only got to halfway experience Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. This time around she'll get to experience all of WDW and then some. We're going to The International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

We'll be staying at Pop Century in a standard room and we have the dining plan! So we get to eat at a nice table service restaurant every night! Bethany and I have already made our reservations! I cannot wait because I've never been to most of these restaurants before! We're eating at Raglan Road, La Hacienda de San Angel, 50's Primetime Cafe, Liberty Tree Tavern, The Wave of American Flavors, Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom (lunch), and The Crystal Palace (dinner).  I've eaten at The Wave and 50's Primetime, but none of the others! Michelle and I had a reservation for Liberty Tree last year but I had to cancel it due to time and budget.

I'm not sure which evening we'll be going to the party. We won't buy those tickets until the week before we leave. But I have reservations planned around either day that we might go. I already have a character plan of attack though! I'm going to try and meet characters that are unique to special events and parties and characters who's autographs I don't have yet. (Jafar, Captain Jack Sparrow, Suzy and Perla, etc. etc.) And of course we will stop and watch the parade, I will try and get my group to find a spot early so we can eat while we wait. I say forty-five minutes at most (any more than that is a waste of valuable character hunting time, haha).

Food and Wine I'm hoping to experience on Sunday morning while all the locals are at church. I learned last year that the lines are short and you can walk right up to the booths and order. I also plan to order at least three things I've never tried before (in addition to the Fisherman's Pie. I can't not get that.)

But for the most part we'll be winging it as to which park on which day. I know that whatever day we go to MNSSHP I would like to do Animal Kingdom since it's only open till 5 anyway, but that's certainly not set in stone. I'm mostly excited to be back there again. It may be crowded and hot, but something about it just breathes magic. Looking forward to another trip and seeing my friend Bethany for the first time in two years! I have missed her so much! It's going to be amazing!

And it's all just 19 days away!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Belated 40th Birthday WDW! - Oct. 2011, Part 3

Finally, we've reached the big day. Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary! I had planned to dress 70s retro for the day and brought my biggest flairs for the occasion but in my time away from Florida I'd forgotten how HOT it could be in early October. So the flairs were thrown out in favor of shorts. We reached park for opening and as we walked in we received an awesome special button and park guide for the anniversary.

After that we took our places in front of the castle for the "special presentation" that we were told about. The Magic Kingdom was very crowded so people were everywhere. We got as close as we could to the castle and patiently waited while being squished in between families and retired couples. I took a moment to take a picture of the Castle and the special banner on the front of it. All the evidence of the Halloween Party we'd been to the night before was gone, of course. Disney's very good at changing decorations in one night. They're magic.

Finally, music started from behind us and a parade of characters started which I hadn't been expecting. The Trolley singers started everything off and they were followed by characters that are rarely seen at the Magic Kingdom like The Three Good Fairies who I was totally pumped to see. In the video I have I screech "MERRIWEATHER!" a million times at the top of my lungs (because she's totally my favorite). A whole slew of characters headed toward the stage and took their places while all of us waited to see what would take place after they got there. The President of the Walt Disney World Resort, Meg Crofton, addressed the crowd and used the moment to introduce all of us to this years Disney Parks Ambassadors who were on stage with her. It was quite an amazing moment to see so many characters gathered around such an important Disney executive.

Once this presentation was other Michelle and I joined the crowd headed toward Tomorrowland and on the way we ran into Push! Now, if you're unfamiliar with Push he is the most amazing talking trash can that you will ever meet. Next time you're in the Magic Kingdom head toward Tomorrowland around 10:50 and see if you can find him. He's very popular. While we were walking behind him I captured this short video:

We rode the Carousel of Progress again in honor of Mr. Walt Disney since we both see Walt's influence the most in that attraction and then we headed to the stores nearest to the castle that had the 40th Anniversary Merchandise for the day. By 11 AM almost all the merchandise was gone. Lucky for me I was there when they first put out the 40th Anniversary merchandise back in January and already had a good selection of items at home. After that we decided Magic Kingdom was far too crowded for us and we left for Epcot. Epcot was crowded as well but it felt roomier than Magic Kingdom so we stuck it out and headed for the Patisserie in France where we picked up some delicious breakfast. I got the quiche and the almond pastry. It was the perfect breakfast.

After breakfast we headed to Future World and decided to ride Ellen's Universe of Energy. It had been a while since I'd ridden it and I was pleased to learn that it was even more entertaining than I remembered. I went around saying "Stupid Judy" for the rest of the day. We followed Universe of Energy with my other favorite Future World attraction, Living with the Land Boat Ride. Words cannot describe how much I love this attraction. The smell, the theme, the story, and most importanlty, the Greenhouse. I just adore it and I always will.

We bounced around Epcot for a little while longer and enjoyed what we could of the extremely crowded park before we headed back to the Magic Kingdom for it's extended evening hours due to the Anniversary. We made our way to Fantasyland because we'd discovered on our program that the best time to enjoy Fantasyland was in the late evening after all the family's with children had turned in for the night. We rode Small World and then met our friend Joanna outside of the ride afterward. It had been over a year since we'd seen her so we were both really excited, and thankfully it was just like old times. We rode Pirates and then we took Joanna to Country Bear Jamboree as she'd never experience it's greatness before. We were overly excited during this attraction and cheering and clapping and singing along like Michelle and I hadn't seen it a million times. 
After Country Bears we stopped to eat at Pecos Bills which is one of our favorite Quick Service Places. I love the themeing so much. Next we headed to Big Thunder Mountain which is one of my absolute favorite Disney attractions. While we waited in line I took a few pictures to pass the time and we tried to catch up on each other's lives.

 After Big Thunder, sadly, Joanna had to leave so Michelle and I ventured on to what we knew would be a sad moment for us. The very last time we would ever get to ride Snow White's Scary Adventures. At this point the closing date had been announced and Michelle and I knew we wouldn't be back before it closed so we set out to completely enjoy this ride and say goodbye to one of our favorite classic attractions.

We rode Winnie the Pooh after, which is one of our favorite late night attractions. It's a lot of fun and the perfect ride to be silly on. Once that was done we made our way to the Castle and took pictures. This was our last night at the Magic Kingdom. The following night would be spent at Epcot since we had dinner reservations at The Garden Grill. We took the obligatory late night Castle Photos from the ramps in front of the castle.

Once the night was over we headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest. Sunday would be our last full day in Disney World and we planned to spend all of it at Epcot. We woke up the next morning and got to Epcot in time for opening. We picked up Fastpasses for Soarin' and then we got a quick breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, which for me consisted of a water and a buttered croissant. Once breakfast was done we realized the line for Soarin' wasn't actually that long and just went ahead and got in line. We were in and out in a record time and then we headed to the World Showcase to enjoy the first few hours of Food & Wine before the locals got out of church and stormed the place. We were able to walk right up to every booth that we wanted with no wait. We rode Maelstrom and River del Tiempo at the Norway and Mexico pavillions as we walked around and explored the Food & Wine booths. Once we'd had our fill of Food & Wine we made our way to the Character Spot and quickly got in line to meet the Fab Five.

Mickey and Minnie were lovely. Minnie, per usual, looked very pretty in her red polka dot dress. Pluto was precious and Donald was a flirt. While we waited for the picture with Donald he looped our arms through his and swayed back and forth slightly and then once the camera was ready motioned for us to kiss him on the cheek. Which we promptly did.

The highlight of this session, though, was Goofy. The minute it was our turn with Goofy Michelle rushed him with a hug. Goofy is Michelle's favorite, and they hugged for a very long time. Goofy even motioned for the Character Attendant to leave so he and Michelle could be alone. This long hug was almost immediately followed by this:

Michelle always jokes that Goofy is her boyfriend, well, as it turns out...Goofy thinks so too. We took a picture with all of us and Goofy wrapped his arms around my shoulders as he signed my autograph book. He was absolutely adorable and the highlight of the Character Spot that day. After that we visited my old work location, Towers (near the Friendship Boats that cross the lagoon), and did a little shopping and then impulsively decided to visit Hollywood Studios. We got to the Streets of America just in time for Mulch, Sweat, and Sheers which is another one of Michelle's favorites. And then again impulsively decided to visit The Magic Kingdom again where we arrived as the Celebrate a Dream Come True parade started. We watched it from the second level of the train station. Afterward we boarded the train and rode around to Frontierland where we visited Tom Sawyer Island for old times sake and then rode Splash Mountain for the last time of the trip where I snapped a picture of our ride photo. It's a little blurry but still awesome.

After that we made our way to the Enchanted Tiki Room which has finally been returned to it's original form as imagined by Walt Disney himself. We tried to ride it the previous day but were Evac'd off the ride because one of the hanging plants nearly dropped on top of some guests. So we decided we'd try it one last time since it was one of the things we were the most excited about. This time we got to experience the whole show and it was magical. So much better than "Under New Management". We took a walk through Liberty Square to get a last look at The Liberty Tree which is one of my favorite installments in The Magic Kingdom and then we took one last ride on Carousel of Progress before we made our way back to Frontierland for another ride on Big Thunder Mountain. Big Thunder is one of my all time favorite attractions so I never miss a chance to enjoy it. After that it was back on the train at Frontierland station to make our way out of the park. We rode through the Storybook Circus station but, of course, the construction walls were up and there wasn't much to see at that point in time.

There were still some remnants of Toontown left which brought back good memories of the Judges Tent and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2010 for us.

After that we made our way back to Epcot for our dinner reservations at The Garden Grill. I was very excited for this because I'd always wanted to eat at the rotating restaurant that overlooked a scene in one of my favorite attractions, Living with the Land Boatride. It's also character dining and Chip and Dale were involved. During all my time at Disney I'd yet to officially meet Chip and Dale. So, I was pumped. The meal is served family style so the first thing that they brought us was salad and bread. Both were delicious. The rolls were excellent and the butter they used was warm and fresh and served in a little bowl in stead of prepackaged plastic containers. Michelle and I both sprang for the sangria when it was offered. It was also delicious.

When our server brought the main course, the meats (chicken, turkey, and beef), we had our first character experience. Guess who came with our server to follow the delicious smelling food?

He was followed by the whole gang with the exception of Mickey. Pluto loved my SNL shirt that featured Spartan Spirit and even reenacted some of the cheers for us. Which was hilarious. They walked away to the next table and finally, Michelle and I got a good look at the food. They'd brought the sides and entrees together and it all looked delicious. We had multiple servings of everything.

Everything was so good. All three sides and all three meats were definitely worth the price that we paid. Once we'd eaten a bit more we were visited my a very familiar face in a unusual outfit for him.

Mickey was absolutely adorable in his overalls and flannel shirt. He looked like a farmer and that seemed to really fit the feel of the restaurant. Before dessert the gang came back one more time to flirt and the end result was a fight between Pluto and Chip as to who Michelle and I loved more. They busted out some very impressive kung fu for us. It was probably one of my favorite Disney memories ever.

Finally they brought around dessert and it was delicious. Warm apple crumble with vanilla ice cream and then we also had cookies and cream ice cream with some oreo cookies on the side. It was scrumptious and the perfect ending to an outstanding meal.

It was almost time for IllumiNations so Michelle and I paid the bill and made our way out. On the way we noticed there was one last family that Mickey and Pluto were talking to and we saw the most adorable thing. Mickey petting Pluto. It was adorable and so in character that I had to take a picture.

As we reached the exit Chip and Pluto got our attention one last time and proclaimed their love and bickered over us once again. Michelle and I blew them kisses and said a very fond goodnight as we left the Land Pavilion and made our way to the World Showcase. We took our places in Italy for our favorite night time show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. It was a beautiful spectacular show of lights and lasers and fire and the perfect way to complete a short but wonderful Disney weekend.

The next day our flight is scheduled for the early afternoon and we wake up at around 9 and get ready for the day. We pack up our things and take our suitcases to the luggage service desk where they check and weigh our bags at the Resort instead of the airport and then we got on a bus and head for Downtown Disney. We stop on the way in and let Michelle have one last photo op with Goofy.

We take a slow walk through Arribas Brothers and World of Disney and make a few last minute purchases and then stop to admire the new lego statues that weren't there on our last visit to Downtown Disney.
 After that we head to the Earl of Sandwich for lunch and I have no hesitation in ordering the Holiday sandwich. It's my favorite. Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and everything good and wonderful that you will ever eat during the Holiday Season. After that we explore the Days of Christmas Store, Little Miss Matched, and then walk by The Rainforest Cafe to catch the trainers working with the birds.

And then it's back to the resort to wait for our Magical Express bus that will take us back to the airport. Before the trip I'd bought Michelle and I backpacks from the Disney Store and Michelle surprised me by actually carrying hers to the airport. She doesn't normally carry backpacks but this one actually came in handy for her. When we reached the airport Michelle and I made our way through security and then stopped at the Universal Studios store and then the Sea World Store where Michelle bought herself a very large plush manatee that was totally adorable that she named Chester.

And then, sadly, it was time to board the plane and say goodbye to Orlando. 

Michelle and I parted ways in Raleigh. Me for baggage claim and Michelle to wait for her connecting flight. But it was a very memorable trip and a great experience for Michelle and I both. I can't wait to go back this October. This time with my friends Holly and Bethany and my mom. It should be very exciting. More to come on that later, though.

In the meantime, have a magical day! And don't forget to act like a kid every now and then. Life's to short to be an adult all the time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Belated 40th Birthday WDW! - Oct. 2011, Part 2

We last left Michelle and I on our way to the Contemporary Resort for our 2 o'clock lunch reservation. Usually with Disney reservations you show up on time and still have to wait five to ten minutes but at the Wave we were escorted to our table immediately. We were seated in a very pretty dining room that was too ornate and didn't feel extremely fancy which is good since we were covered in sweat and park grime. There weren't very many other parties in the restaurant at the time so we felt like we had plenty of room and plenty of time. We had the Halloween Party at 7 so we had about 4 and a half hours to eat and get ready.

 Our server was very helpful and very friendly. Disney service always impresses me, and this was no exception. Michelle ordered the Magical Star Cocktail which looked delicious and came with a really cool lighted ice cube to make the drink change colors. For dinner I had the Multigrain Penne Pasta and for dessert I had the Creamy Indulgence trio. Everything was absolutely delicious. It was my favorite meal from the whole trip. I left completely satisfied with the entire experience.

 After dinner we caught the bus back to the Magic Kingdom and then transferred buses from there back to Pop. We went to the room and got dressed for the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. The year before, during our college program, Michelle and I had gone with our friend Bethany and we'd dressed up as girly as we could and worn tiaras so we went with the same idea for last year as well. We dressed up and I, at least, wore a Mulan headband from The Disney Store. I also wore a necklace that had a carriage and a slipper on it from Forever 21. It's my favorite so I had to wear it. Once we were ready we headed to the bus stop and prepared for an evening of fun. The main reason we go is to meet the rare characters that are out because we discovered during our program that the characters are hilarious. We looked pretty hot if I do say so myself while we waited on the bus.

We arrived at the Magic Kingdom to the awesomely spooky entrance with special lighting and fun Halloween decorations, went through the turnstiles, got our wrist bands (I still have mine), and our candy bags and then made the walk down Main Street. I love the Halloween Party decorations. They're adorable and I want to decorate my house just like them.
We made a lap around and headed toward the Haunted Mansion. The only way I could get Michelle to ride was if we rode it before dark so that's where we went first. On the way we stopped to admire the New Fantasyland construction (which is much further along now but for me it was an exciting thing to see since the last time we were there it was mud and metal frames). And we stopped again when we spotted Cinderella's Carriage being set up for photo ops for the night. And then finally we'd reached our destination. The Haunted Mansion.

We got in line for the Haunted Mansion just as the Halloween Party officially started. The fog machines started up and suddenly a woman walked out onto the Haunted Mansion lawn. She was speaking to people in line as they passed and just lounging on a bench. I'd never seen this before but I was informed that the woman was Madame Leota's sister, and that there were two sisters. They stayed around the Haunted Mansion all night and were a lot of fun.
We made it through the line and onto the ride after the usual bottle neck after leaving the Stretching Room. The ride went pretty smoothly until we reached The Graveyard Scene and then we stopped. We stopped for for twenty minutes. Yes, that's right, we were stuck in the graveyard scene for twenty minutes. I called my dad and filmed a short video (it was too dark to see anything) while we waited. If Michelle and I didn't already have the ride memorized we would have after that. We finally got off the ride and headed out the exit and guess who we ran into? Madame Leota's sister heading backstage through the exit.

She asked for my name and when I answered that my name was Logan she responded with "I love your steakhouse!" which cause a loud laugh out of me because I've been teased my whole life about the Logan's Roadhouse franchise so, of course, she would choose that to comment on. After Haunted Mansion, we took a lap around the park before we headed back to Town Hall at the front of the park and got in line for the Princes and Princesses. We'd met the Princes and Princesses before but this year Flynn and Rapunzel would be in the Town Hall with them so I was determined to meet Flynn for a third time. He's my favorite Disney Prince (followed very closely by Prince Philip). That line took forever. I'd say it was a good two hours before we made it into the room with them. Ahead of us in line were some adorable kids and once very witty guest who dressed as a Disney Parks Manager. It was brilliant. Finally it was our turn to meet the Royal Couples. First up was Snow White and the Snow Prince.

Like always they were adorable. And this guy looked a lot like the animated prince. While we were talking to them Snow White turned to the prince and teased him and then said "But he loves me, don't you?" and The Prince avoided answering. Snow was very quickly offended and pretended to ignore him as she signed my autograph book. He tried to apologize but was ignored so he smirked and added a heart on the page under Snow White's autograph and then signed his own autograph so that the page reads "Snow White loves The Snow Prince". It was completely precious and definitely something to remember. Next in the line was Rapunzel and Flynn.

Flynn was his charming roguish self and was quick to point out that we were in the presence of a very attractive man. We told Rapunzel that she'd better keep an eye on him because he was trouble and she quickly agreed. She also commented on how much she loved my head band and how she'd painted flowers like the one on my headband before. It merely reinforced why these two are two of my favorite meet and greet characters ever and really saddened me that Flynn was now only a special events character. And then we moved on to the final couple, Cinderella and Prince Charming. Brace yourself folks because Prince Charming isn't as classically handsome as the first two. Don't get my wrong he was adorable but he was more like Prince Goober (but we loved him for it.)

Adorable, right? He was very sweet and very in character, but everyone's reaction when they see him is...he's Prince Charming? Michelle made sure to show Cinderella my Carriage and Slipper necklace which she loved and gushed about to Prince Charming. They signed my book and then we took a picture and I almost walked off without my autograph book. Prince Charming caught up with me and held it out to me and said, very pleasantly, "You don't want to forget this for your Royal Library." Like I said, he was adorable but incredibly studly. All in all the two hour wait was worth it and we left with big smiles on our faces. We made our way toward the main Hub after that because I'd heard random villains were out greeting in the Hub and as luck would have it I'd heard correctly. This guy was greeting guests to the side of the Partners Statue.

He was very in character and totally hilarious. He made sure to show off for us and flirt as we posed and took the picture. He signed my autograph book with the sort of swagger you'd expect from someone who eats five dozen eggs for breakfast every morning. As we left he made sure to tell us our night couldn't possibly get better because we'd met the studliest man at the party. He was by far our second best character catch of the night. The top catch will come much later. Trust me, it's epic. After Gaston we headed toward the Fairytale Garden theater where my favorite Disney pairing was greeting guests.

We talked with Aurora about the blue light that was shining on her meet and greet location and how it made her dress look half pink and half blue. She made a comment about the Good Fairies picking the perfect spot for her to meet her new friends. She also commented on my Mulan headband and how much she loved it. I was reminded of why I absolutely adore Aurora. Every time I meet her she is so sweet and gracious and probably the Princess that hands out the most compliments. She's sweetness personified and I always enjoy meeting her. After that we headed toward Tea Cups to meet Alice and Hatter and while waiting in line we ran into some brilliantly costumed people. There was a team of puppeteers who brought their own Yips (if you have no idea what I'm talking about than please google them. They're awesome.) and there was a totally flawless Mary Poppins and Bert pair waiting in line behind us. They were my favorite costumes of the night.

Earlier in the evening when we'd walked by the Tea Cups we'd spotted Hatter headed back for his tea break and I'd waved at him as he passed which quickly lead to a stare down and a competition to see who could wave and walk the longest. He stared at me the whole time and waved and basically challenged me to keep staring and waving as well. It was hilarious. Well, when we arrived at the Tea Cups Hatter wasn't there and we stepped to the side to wait for him (which offended Alice and she pouted for a bit but quickly recovered.) When Hatter emerged and it was finally our turn to take our picture with him and Alice he pointed at me and made a face. "I saw you earlier! You were the girl who waved!" I was mostly shocked that he remembered and laughed and nodded that indeed I was and handed him my autograph book. And then it was time for our picture. Which is my favorite part of the story.

We were preparing for the picture and we had all turned to face each other and talk when the Character Attendent said "Turn around and say Tea!" which is what they'd been saying instead of Cheese. Well, we were already halfway facing the front so Hatter grabbed my arm and turned us all the way around so our backs were facing the camera and we all simultaneously yelled "TEA!" at the top of our lungs, which terrified this mom with a stroller who was standing behind us. The Character Attendant laughed and corrected herself which led to Hatter muttering "Oh, well why didn't you just say so in the first place?" We then turned and took a proper picture which still turned out blurry, but oh well. And then as we started to walk away Hatter said "Enjoy your breakfas--Oh, no. You can tell what mode I'm in." Michelle and I laughed very loudly at that. Hatter usually only appears at special events and the character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian now so clearly he was used to character breakfasts and wished us a happy breakfast without thinking. He was perfectly adorable, and consistently one of the best characters to meet.

After that it was almost time for the party to be over, Sadly, and Michelle and I noted that there was one last Meet and Greet left. Just after meeting Hatter the last Castle Show of the night ended and Michelle and I ran to catch The Villains Mix'n'Mingle. We knew the Villains didn't meet guests for very long so we quickly picked our favorite and hopped in a line. For the end of the night the line built up quickly and the closer we got to the end of the alotted time the more I worried we weren't going to make the cut off. We were close I could tell. We would either just make it or we would be the sad people that had to hear the Character Attendant say "That's it for tonight, folks!" And while we're talking about Character Attendants can I just say that they have very difficult jobs. Never had I seen more adults begging Cast Members to bend the rules than I did that night. At least five different people in line asked if they could extend the meet and greet time a few more minutes. Or let a few more people through. And each time the Character Attendants answered them honestly they were greeted with a scowl. I tried to smile and let them know I understood there wasn't much they could do other than try to get people through quickly.

However we were part of the lucky few who got through just before the cut off. There was one more group after us and then the Villains had to leave. But I got my picture. My grand prize for all my waiting and walking and character hunting. That night I walked away with my greatest character catch to date.


She was perfect. They didn't have time to sign for autographs or talk, but as I walked by to take my place I managed (despite the rushing and my obvious starstruck-ness) to say a quick, "Hi!" And the response I got was a steely low pitched "Hello." that sent chills down my spine. Seriously. Maleficent is the absolute scariest Villain ever and I got a picture with her. I can now die a happy Disney nerd. After that Michelle and I left the park and as the guests left a very talented band played us creepy songs to end the night. And then came our last, most exhausting wait of the night...the bus. It took forever to board a bus but we managed to get one and head back to our room for a much needed rest.

Saturday was going to be a big day as well. It was Walt Disney World's 40th birthday! Which I will save for the next post. Part three coming soon!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Happy Belated 40th Birthday WDW! - Oct. 2011, Part 1.

September 29th through October 3rd, 2011, I was in Disney World with my former College Program roommate Michelle. On September 29th I showed up at the Raleigh Durham airport way too early and sat in the terminal forever. It seems I over planned my time and ended up waiting around for close to four hours. Eventually Michelle's flight came in and we waited for our flight together via Southwest Airlines. The awesome thing about Southwest is that there are no assigned seats. They have boarding groups. So Michelle and I were able to simultaneously order our tickets online while coordinating on the phone and as long as we stood in line together to board our flight we would be able to sit side by side. So that's what we did and we were happily next to each other despite ordering tickets from two completely different states for our two hour flight. I highly recommend Southwest Airlines. They have very affordable one way flights (which was important to me since I didn't want to have to worry about lost luggage).

When we arrived at MCO we followed the Magical Express signs to get us where we needed to go. This cross-airport trek involved us having to ride a not-quite-as-cool version of a monorail. But, as airports go, MCO is totally my favorite. The tram was actually really fun to ride and very roomy.

It was also a nice teaser for the rest of our trip. Once we reached the other side of the airport we went downstairs, through the bottom level baggage claim, to the Magical Express check in station which took up a good third of the bottom floor baggage claim area. We showed them our Magical Express passes and then got in line for our appropriate resort. There was a bit of a wait but it might have felt longer due to my excitement. We chatted with the people around us and the Cast Members nearby to make the wait go faster. Finally our bus arrived, but unfortunately it wasn't one of the adorable specially designed Magical Express buses. It was the standard yellow Mears transportation charter bus, but that was okay since they had the Magical Express video playing on the bus once we got going. That made up for the magic the actual bus lacked.

The video featured a wide variety of characters which surprised and pleased me. It was very cute and informed all of us of the advantages we had by staying on property and welcomed us to the resort. We stopped at two resorts before we finally reached Pop Century and I was very excited to see it again. I had never stayed there but it was where Michelle and I met for the first time the night before our College Program check in day so it brought back wonderful memories for us. We were ushered inside to the check in desk since we didn't have to worry about our luggage (Magical Express picked it up for us and would have luggage service deliver it to our room.) We only waited a few minutes for someone to be available to help us and check in was very quick. Michelle and I split the remainder of the room, and then I offhandedly mentioned to her that our next stop would be the Ticket and Transportation Center to pick up our Will Call tickets and the Cast Member that was helping us immediately said, "I could take care of that for you right here. Do you have your confirmation number?" He added my park tickets to my room key and then also put my Halloween Party ticket on a plastic room key card as well. However, we did end up having to go to the TTC anyway to pick up Michelle's tickets since she forgot her confirmation number.

We headed to our room in the 80's section at the back of the resort which faced the Art of Animation construction. The resort is open now but a year ago they were still working on the Finding Nemo wing. I stopped to take a couple of pictures before we went inside our room to refresh ourselves from the flight and the bus ride.

While we were in the room our luggage was dropped off so we changed quickly and then headed to the bus stop to catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom. From the Magic Kingdom we hopped on the Monorail to the TTC where Michelle picked up her tickets and then we hopped back on the Monorail to Epcot. Our plan was to ride a few things and then watch IllumiNations, but Epcot was far too crowded. That night was the official start of the Food & Wine Festival so the locals had turned out in full force to enjoy the festivities and the World Showcase was far too crowded. But we manged to ride Spaceship Earth and stop in Mouse Gear to do a little shopping. I needed a lanyard and little pouch for my room key, ticket, and Fastpasses. While in Mouse Gear I ran into one of my former coordinators who moved to Mouse Gear after I left. I spent a few minutes catching up with her before Michelle and I decided to leave in favor of Magic Kingdom.

We got a bite to eat and then rode our favorite attraction, the Carousel of Progress, before we headed to the Confectionery on Main Street and bought some yummy fudge, Celebration fudge and Pumpkin fudge.We took the fudge back to our cozy room at Pop Century and decided to go to bed a bit early since we had an early morning at Hollywood Studios planned for the next day.

We arrived at DHS at around 8:30 the next morning and waited outside the turnstiles for them to let us in. Once they did Michelle and I bought muffins and drinks and ate them while we waited for them to drop the ropes to open the rest of the park. Once the park was officially open we made a beeline to Pixar Place and got in line for Fastpasses to Toy Story Mania. Apparently a lot of other people had this idea as well because the line was already pretty long by the time we got there. But after about ten minutes we had our Fastpasses in hand and were ready to move on to something else.

We headed into One Man's Dream, which at the time was newly reimagined. Michelle had heard that added some artifacts from Horizons and was very excited to take a look at them. This exhibit was absolutely amazing and had so many things for us to fangirl over. There was a model of the multiplane camera, a recreation of Walt Disney's office, vintage photos, posters, models of park icons, artifacts from old attractions, and most impressively for me...Mr. Abraham Lincoln.

Being able to see the inner working of an animatronic was the coolest thing for me. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is one of my favorites of Walt Disney's accomplishments and I love the legends that have formed around it. So this was the highlight of the exhibit for me. There was also a short film, and at the time we watched it Michelle and I were the only ones in the exhibit so we chatted with the cast members working that attraction a lot and had a good time being our ridiculously Walt Disney fangirl selves. We spent a little over an hour on an exhibit that was supposed to take half an hour at most but it was too much fun for us to care. After that we headed over to The Voyage of the Little Mermaid and watched that spectacular show. It's one of Michelle's favorites and she acts like a little kid every time, understandably so.

After Voyage we made our way to the newly reopened Star Tours. I was nervous about Star Tours initially because I loved the original so much, but I quickly decided Star Tours 2, while it wasn't better, was just as awesome. The queue was very well done! From the minute you walk in the themeing whisks you off to a galaxy far far away. There are droids that speak to you and windows that show well known characters walking by and references to the original Star Tours all around you. The ride itself was a lot of fun. The 3D was extremely clear and added to the quality of the attraction and Star Tours 2 actually made me less motion sick than the original. There's also a really cool interactive surprise on the ride that I won't spoil for those of you who haven't had a chance to enjoy it. By the way, the droids were my favorite part of the queue.

Next was Muppet Vision 3D, again something Michelle and I enjoy immensely. We quote it to each other quite a bit and always enjoy the "salute to all nations but mostly America." And then it was time to use our Fastpasses for Toy Story Mania which were good from 10:45 to 11:45. We got in the Fastpass line and accidentally got mixed in with the single riders due to some confusion amongst the Attractions Cast Members, but everything worked out for us and we were able to ride together. Toy Story Mania is always a blast and Michelle and I enjoy competing a bit too much. I'm not quite sure who had the better score but I remember it being an absolute blast.

Once that was done we headed straight for Tower of Terror. One of the best excuses to scream in any theme park. Michelle loves the 1930s themeing and I enjoy the fall. I always stomp my feet, shake my head, and scream at the top of my lungs while we're falling. I'm not sure why. After Tower of Terror we took a quick walk through the Planet Hollywood shop to visit the Power Ranger uniforms that were still on display (and had been repaired since the last time I saw them). While there I noticed some new additions from High School Musical 3, one of my favorites. So I stopped to take some pictures. We also noticed hand prints from Tom Selleck, Carol Burnett, and Chris O'Donnell.

From there we left Hollywood Studios and then took the boat over to Epcot and made a quick walk through the World Showcase. We stopped for a moment as we entered Future World to admire the AWESOME cranberry bog presented by Ocean Spray.

 Once we left Epcot we took the Monorail to the TTC and then made the switch to the Resort Monorail to head to the Contemporary for our lunch reservations at the Wave. Which is where I'll stop for now. We'll pick this up with our late 2 o'clock lunch on Friday, Sept. 30th, 2011.

Have a magical day! I'll be back to update you some more later!