Headed Home and #DisneySMMoms Updates

Yesterday, sadly, was our last day in Disney World.  Since I haven’t yet figured out how to earn a living by wandering through the parks, taking photos, and eating in restaurants, we need to go home.  (Once I’ve figured out how to live on Disney grounds full time and still earn a living, I’ll let you know.)

Our bags are packed and, by the time you read this, we’ll be in the airport ready to get going.  If you’re reading it late enough, we might already be in the air.

Which reminds me, I promised everyone a real photo from the air heading down to Disney World.  Here it is:


Also, I posted a couple of days ago about my Peter Shankman/DisneySMMoms inspired quest: To get four photos taken on four rides that scare me: Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, Space Mountain, and Expedition Everest.  Well, I did it.  I made it through all four one piece.  I even went on one of them (Space Mountain) alone.  Now, I just need to wait to get the PhotoPass+ photos (thanks DisneySMMoms for giving us all PhotoPass+ cards) and make them into a poster or something.

As I process the 3,800-plus photos that I took at Disney World (both at and not at the Disney Social Media Moms celebration), I’ll post more about the happenings.  Suffice it to say that it was very enjoyable and informative and I met lots of great people.

We’ll be sad to say goodbye to Disney World and will immediately begin thinking of how we could come back!

Disclaimer: We paid for our own trip to Disney World to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Though we were given an incredible deal from Disney, they never asked us to blog about this event. All opinions expressed above are my own.

My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Disney World Attractions

Having gone to Disney World a few times, I’ve come up with quite a few rides that I must go on each trip.  I could ride these multiple times in a row and still come back for more.

IMGP4037First, in the Magic Kingdom, is Splash Mountain.  I’m not a big rollercoaster/big drop sort of guy.  (In fact, I’ll discuss later on just how much and why I hate these.)  Still, Splash Mountain’s big drop is only part of the ride.  The rest involves a story about Br’er Rabbit looking for his "laughing place" and trying to escape from Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.  The animatronics turn the ride from just another log drop ride into a classic Disney attraction for me.

Just in case you are wondering: Yes, the photo on the left was taken on the ride itself.  I was feeling a bit crazy and took my DSLR on board the ride (shielding it during splash drops) and took photos of the ride itself.

IMGP5910In Epcot, I’ve got one "official" favorite and one "unofficial" one.  My official favorite is Soarin’.  The story behind this is that you are boarding a special aircraft and flying over California.  (How you get there from Florida isn’t explained.)  You sit in a special seat with your legs dangling and are lifted in the air.  Then, on a giant screen that fills your entire field of vision, you "fly" over water, golf courses, orange groves, and more.  It is a wild ride (even though you barely move).

IMGP5842My "unofficial" favorite is Epcot’s World Showcase.  I love just wandering through each country to see the architecture and sample the cuisine.  To increase the authenticity, Disney hires people from those countries to work there.  So when you meet a cast member there, you are honestly meeting someone from another country. 

Is it as good as actually traveling to those countries?  Of course not.  Still, outside of Disney World’s World Showcase, you’ll never be able to travel from Mexico to Norway to China to Germany to Italy to United States to Japan to Morocco to France to United Kingdom to Canada in a matter of hours.

IMGP3883Going to the Animal Kingdom, my main favorite attraction is Kilimanjaro Safari.  Disney went above and beyond with this attraction.  It really seems like you have traveled to the African savannah.  Animals wander around seemingly without any fences penning them in.  (The fences are there, just very well hidden.)  Most times, the animals (despite the looks) can’t approach your vehicle, but in some areas they can.  We’ve come within a few feet of giraffes and ostriches at one point.  As a bonus, every time you ride this attraction, it is slightly different.

IMGP4691Finally, we travel to Hollywood Studios.  Here, my favorite attraction is Toy Story Mania.  With this ride, you are shrunken down to a toy’s size and join Woody, Buzz, and the whole crew in some games.  You get to shoot plates, toss rings around aliens, and pop balloons.  You get points for your actions and compete against the player sitting next to you.  The attraction is in 3D but some scenes (balloons blowing by) are accompanied by a rush of air.  Small touches like this enhance the realism and enjoyment of the ride.

P1150393Now for my least favorite ride: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  I’ve only been on this ride once, but that was enough.  I wouldn’t have gone on it at all, but NHL, then 5, insisted on going on it with his grandfather and I couldn’t let him be braver than I was.

In fact, there’s a very good reason why I wouldn’t like Tower of Terror.  I have a fear of falling.  Not of heights, mind you, but falling.  I’m just fine behind the window of a 20th story building, but a second story balcony can terrify me.

Tower of Terror took us up 13 stories and then dropped us down.  That would have been scary enough, but then we shot back up and down and up and down and up and down.  There were a total of seven up-down movements.  Lest you think you’d get used to it, each time you shoot up (after the first ascent), you go up a random number of floors.  Maybe you’ll go up three stories next time.  Maybe ten.  Who knows?

So there you have it.  My favorite and least favorite Disney rides.

What are your favorite/least favorite Disney rides?

Travelogue of the Trip That Irene Canceled, Part 2

Back on September 8th, I posted the first half of our travelogue of the trip that Irene canceled.  I meant to post the second half, but got side-tracked.  So here it is:

Thursday, September 1st:

Thursday would have started with a light breakfast (either something packed with us or at the Pop Century’s restaurant).  Then, we’d head over to Epcot.  We might have gone on a few rides, Test Track and some other favorites, but our main draw would have been in the World Showcase.  Here, we’d have brought out our Hidden Mickeys guidebook and browsed through the countries, looking for Mickey shapes hidden in various places.  There would have been many photos taken as we found Mickey Mouse hidden in the most unlikely of locations.

As lunch approached, we would have headed to the San Angel Inn in Mexico.  When we last went to Disney World, we brought the boys on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.  They loved it so much that we wound up riding it two more times.  The beginning of the ride takes you through the San Angel Inn facing a big pyramid.  This seemed like the perfect spot to have a nice, romantic lunch with my beautiful wife.  (The “Grilled fillet of fresh Mahi-Mahi prepared with capers, olives, bell peppers, spanish onions and tomatoes, seasoned with white wine, and spices, served over a bed of poblano rice” sounds mouth-watering.)

After lunch, it would be time for more rides and hidden Mickey hunting.  As the day ended, though, we’d hop on board the Monorail to go to the Grand Floridian.  Once there, we’d have eaten at Narcoosee’s.  Here I’d likely have gotten the Spring Vegetables dish (Delta Asparagus with Meyer Lemon Sauce, Sautéed Baby Vegetables, Wild Mushroom Quiche, and Toasted Cous Cous with Spinach and Preserved Lemon).

Friday, September 2nd:

Friday would have likely seen us going to the Magic Kingdom.  Here, we could have gone on Small World, Haunted Mansion or any other ride and have been seated side-by-side.  (Something that we haven’t done in years.)

Both lunch and dinner would have been in the Contemporary Resort.  Lunch would have been at The Wave.  (The Vegetarian Cuban Sandwich with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Bulgur Wheat Salad sounded fantastic.)  Dinner would have been at the California Grill (possibly the Handmade Fettuccine with Sautéed Chanterelle and Summer Mushrooms, fresh Buttermilk Ricotta, Tiny Basil).

Saturday, September 2nd:

Our last full day at Disney would have been spent back at Epcot, at least for part of the day.  When considering restaurant options, I had initially written off France as not working with my dietary restrictions.  However, once I looked at the menu for Les Chefs de France, I fell in love with a few of the options.  A big contender would have been the Lasagnes de legumes du soleil a l’huile d’olive au thym (Zucchini, eggplant, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes baked into thin layers of pasta).

Dinner would have been at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.  My last dinner at Disney World would have been House-made Yukon Potato Gnocchi with Heirloom Carrots, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Fresh Ricotta, English Peas, and Sweet Corn Nage.

Sunday, September 2nd:

On Sunday, we would have packed up, grabbed a quick bite to eat and caught our Magical Express ride back to the airport.  Part of us would have been reluctant to leave, but part would have been happy to see the kids again.  We would have been relaxed and refreshed and ready to restart our parenting duties.

Ah, what could have been had Irene not ruined our plans.

Travelogue of the Trip That Irene Cancelled, Part 1

I wrote briefly about our cancelled trip before.  Normally, writing is very cathartic for me.  Yet, I wasn’t feeling any better.  After putting some thought into it, I realized two things.

One, I knew, intellectually, that there were roads closed and flooding and loss of life due to Irene.  Still, when I looked at our house, I saw a lack of damage and thought “It wasn’t that bad, maybe we *could* have made it work.”  That doubt in our decision to cancel ate away at me.

Two, I had geared myself up psychologically for this time off.  I was looking forward to waking up beside B without any little guys barging in.  I was looking forward to walking hand-in-hand with her without having to keep an eye on where the boys were.  I was looking forward to eating beside her without worrying about getting home before bed-time.  I was looking forward to going to sleep beside her without having the boys sleeping in the next bed over.  No worries.  No responsibilities.  Just B and I enjoying each other’s company for five glorious days.

Instead, the entire trip evaporated into nothingness thanks to Irene’s meddling.  I needed some time to grieve for the trip-that-never-was.  I had even intended to write this last week, but it was too painful.  Now that a bit more time has passed, here’s a quick overview of what could have been had Irene not intervened.  (NOTE:  We might not have done things exactly as described here.  I’m mostly imagining how things might have gone with our dining reservations as anchors.  With luck, we’ll reschedule soon and I’ll be able to make real blog posts with our real travels.)

Sunday, August 28th

With Irene not a concern, we packed the car up early and headed down to see my parents.  The boys hugged Bubbe and Grandpa and we had some fun shopping, eating out, and talking.

Monday, August 29th

We began the morning with breakfast at my parents’ house and then had a leisurely day together.  We ate lunch at a Greek restaurant near my parents that we love.  (Their spinach pie is to die for and I’m perpetually trying to replicate their chickpea recipe.)  As we tucked the boys into bed, we said goodbye to them knowing that this would be the last time we’d see them until we returned.

Tuesday, August 30th

We woke up very early and my father drove us to the airport.  After checking in and getting past security, we had some breakfast in the food court (or perhaps something we took with us from my parents’ house).  Then, we got on our flight and we were off to Orlando.

After landing, we boarded the Magical Express for the Pop Century hotel.  We quickly checked in and left our carry-on bags at the hotel.  Then, we headed over to Hollywood Studios for our lunch reservation at the Hollywood Brown Derby.  I ordered the Coriander-dusted Grouper with Cauliflower Risotto, fresh English Peas, crunchy Sunchokes, and a Yellow Tomato Coulis.  It was fabulous.

We spent the rest of the day in Hollywood Studios and I made good on my promise to ride the Rockin’ Rollercoaster with B.  (Given my fear of falling, I typically avoid fast, winding, flipping rollercoasters.)  We had some snacks to hold us and then saw Fantasmic.  We returned to Pop Century tired and hungry, but very happy.  A quick stop at the Pop Century food court for dinner (and Tie-Dyed Cheesecake) and then we headed to our room for the night.

Wednesday, August 31st

We woke up Wednesday morning for our first full day at Disney.  After grabbing a quick breakfast, we headed back to Hollywood Studios.  Getting there when it opened, we quickly headed for Toy Story Mania.  After quickly procuring some fast passes, we rode the ride together.  Then, once the Fast Pass time arrived, we rode it again.

As noon approached, we went to our lunch reservation at Mama Melrose’s.  We went here during our honeymoon 10 years ago so this was going to be an extra-special lunch.  I opted to get the Wood-grilled Tuna over a seasonal Vegetable Risotto, warm Vine-ripened Diced Red and Yellow Tomatoes, and Olive-Caper Butte.  Yum!

We stayed in Hollywood Studios for a bit longer and made sure to stop by Starring Rolls Cafe for a cupcake.  When we went there in March, they had, sadly, just closed for the day so I was never able to get my cupcake fix.  This time, however, I got to try not just one cupcake but two.  (B ordered one and I ordered a second and we split them.)  Delicious!  Yes, I took photos of it all.

After awhile, we left Hollywood Studios and bus hopped to Animal Kingdom (Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom lodge to Animal Kingdom).  To be honest, this is the Disney park in which we had the least number of places we wanted to visit.  We went on the safari and a few more items.  With our half-day at the park ending, we caught a bus back to the Animal Kingdom lodge.

Normally, this would mean dining at Boma.  We *love* Boma.  But we decided to shake things up so we (*gasp*) were NOT eating there!  We were eating at Jiko.  It was tough deciding between the great options, but I finally decided upon the Aleecha, Shimbra Asa, Inguday Tibs with Goat Cheese, Cream Ethiopian Vegetable “Stack”, Chickpea Cake, and Spiced Mushroom-Spinach Roll.

Stuffed, we bus hopped back to our hotel for some much needed quiet time and sleep.

Coming next week, part 2 of the Travelogue of the Trip That Irene Cancelled!

1 2 3 4 11