Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Matejkas Take Disney

This is probably one of the longest blog posts that I've ever written, so bear with me.  I can at last say that it will help you along in your planning for your visit.

Before we even get started with the overview, please know that you can send boxes of snacks and other necessities at least two weeks ahead of your visit.  I sent two boxes down through UPS that we intercepted upon our arrival, costing $34, but for the amount of money that would have been spent on snacks, it was worth the expense. You CAN take snacks into the park.  Probably one of the smartest moves I've ever made for Matthew did not like most of the food at the parks, so he relied upon the snacks I had in my backpack.

We left June 15th, 2013 on the trip of a lifetime.  We booked our complete Disney vacation through Disney's website, therefore, our flight was booked with the entire package.  Our flight from Richmond was a direct one.  We boarded at 11 a.m. and arrived at Orlando Airport around 1 p.m.  Our flight was also through AirTran.  It was the perfect flight—timely and smooth, however I was not happy with the $25 charge per suitcase.  Through our booking, we also accepted the Magic Express transportation.  Our plane landed at the A Terminal, and Disney's Magic Express was at the B Terminal. We promptly took the shuttle to the B terminal and took the elevator to the third floor.  The entire process of boarding the bus to our resort was quick and painless. 
Our resort was the Boardwalk Villa.  I loved our stay here.  Birnbaum's guide describes it as follows: "The enchantment of a bygone era is recaptured in the BoardWalk.  The resort combines a waterside entertainment complex with deluxe hotel accommodations and vacation villas" (87)

With our vacation package, we also reserved the Quick Service Dining Plan.  The plan includes two meals and one snack per day, per guest. This includes a refillable mug for each member of our family.  I have used my mug religiously since I've gotten home….so cute.  Several of the "fast" restaurants at our resort were on the plan, but will talk about that in a bit. We killed the snack allowance by mid-week, but our meals, not so much. A snack includes water, Coke, Coke Zero, etc. No Pepsi products at the parks . We came home with approximately 13 meals left on our plan.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were welcomed by a greeter.  Our room was still not available, so since we were starving, we grabbed lunch/dinner at the ESPN club on the property.  This is the sports bar extraordinaire.  There are actually televisions in every bathroom stall (well, at least in the women's room).  I ate a Caesar salad with chicken, Matthew had the chicken tenders with fries (he loved), and John got the grilled tuna sandwich.  It was fantastic.  We received a text message that our room was ready, so off we went. 

Interestingly enough, our dining plan, purchases, and entry into the parks was all on a credit card individualized to each of us.  We also opted upon arrival for the park hopper ticket, another $181, but well worth the extra money.  We would do one park per half day, rest at our room, and then visit a different park in the afternoon. The card was convenient, but I did not like the fact that Disney "fingerprinted" us every time we entered a park.  My ticket into a park is not a sheriff's office booking area, it's a park!  I refused to allow them to fingerprint me, which caused some problems for us and entry into the Magic Kingdom, but those of you that know me…..

Another favorite at the resort that included our dining plan was the Boardwalk Bakery.  YUM.  Birnbaum's description—"A popular stop that offers fresh baked goods, sandwiches (I LOVED the turkey sandwich!), espresso, and cappuccino.  Huge display windows allow passersbys to watch bakers at work" (88).  The lines are slow here, but they have wonderful foods.  John loved the lobster sandwich here as well.

For those of you that know me, I am a running fool, so the fact the resort had a running path from our hotel to the Yacht and Beach club (full circle), encompassing a beautiful .8 miles, had me giddy!  I did between 7 and 8 miles per day.  Mornings were wonderfully cool, but a little humid. The resort also had a fitness center called The Muscles and Bustles Health Club.  I used this on Tuesday afternoon of our stay because our morning included breakfast with Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. The health club is stocked well with fitness and cardio equipment.  It also had free wi-fi, so I could track my Weight Watchers points during our stay.

Tuesday morning we walked over to the Cape May Café (reservations required) at the Yacht and Beach Club resort.  The buffet breakfast had a wonderful assortment of eggs, potatoes, sweet breads, and Danishes.  Matthew is the pickiest 5 year-old eater EVER!  He would not touch his food, so smart momma packed some of his favorite mini-muffins.  Matthew's pictures of giddiness and happiness upon meeting the characters (Minnie, Donald, and Goofy) was worth every dime, however, my mouth hit the floor with the bill of $78.  This did not include tip.

The BoardWalk also had the Screen Door General Store.  We bought some snacks here for our room.  They had a wide selection of Disney merchandise and toys.  I also bought a piece of jewelry here for $27 (silver necklace). 

One last tidbit about our resort, and we participated in this twice, is the Surrey Bike ride.  You take a trip around the lake (same as the running path) in a pedal-powered surrey for the price of $20 for a half hour.  Matthew loved this because he sat at the front of the bike and rang the bell to make people move out of your way.  Super cute experience! This is a true BoardWalk with live juggling and magic acts every night.  Matthew and I were able to participate twice in some of the shenanigans.  Both the bike ride and the entertainment were one of my favorites of our trip.

About the Parks
Magic Kingdom

This is probably one of the most iconic parks of Disney.  We visited the Magic Kingdom twice during our stay.  I HATED this park.  It was overcrowded, and HOT.  Trying to find a place to eat on our meal plan was another not-so-happy experience.  We visited some really neat places while at the park, but if we could have avoided this park, we would have.  The Haunted Mansion was broken on our first visit 

Both visits we took the bus over to the park. The walk just from the bus to the entrance of the park is quite long, so if you have young ones, pack a stroller or rent one! 

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (loved!) - This is a midway ride like Dumbo, but with magic carpets instead of elephants.  The books I've read advise to avoid this ride because the lines move slowly, but actually the lines moved rather quickly.  Matthew and I loved it once we got up into the air. 

Jungle Cruise (Fast Pass) - This is an outdoor-safari themed boat-ride adventure.  The tour guides are silly.  Passengers encounter animatronic elephants, lions, hostile natives, and menacing hippos.  Some people feel this ride is old and past its prime, but we loved it, especially since the hubby is a robotics engineer.

Pirates of the Caribbean (loved!) -This is an indoor pirate-themed boat ride. This was a quick moving line, and we really enjoyed it. This is an indoor cruise through the different sets that depict a pirate raid on an island settlement.  Some people think it is too vulgar for little kids, but Matthew thought it was a riot.

Swiss Family Treehouse (hot and yucky) - Matthew hated this.  This is an outdoor walk-through treehouse.  If your child is afraid of heights, it's not for them. Matthew is petrified of heights, and he couldn't get down fast enough.  

Country Bear Jamboree (cool and cute) - Since John is an engineer, we had to pop in on this one.  Matthew LOVED it.  Chuck E. Cheese robots meet country life? :)  A cast of animatronic bears sings and stomps in a Western-style hoedown.  On a hot day, it's the perfect place to stop in for a good laugh.

Haunted Mansion (loved!) - First visit here, it was broken.  Second visit, our wait was about 30 minutes, but the lines moved quickly.  Make sure to go through the "cemetery" entrance, the thematic silliness is one not to be missed.  This ride definitely has some of the best visual effects.  "Doom buggies" on a conveyor belt transport you through the house from parlor to attic, then through a graveyard.  Matthew was anxious at first, then we were all in a fit of giggles by the end of the ride.  

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (Fast Pass, and we used it!) - This is a silly travel-themed indoor ride.  It is based upon the iconic character Buzz Lightyear from the movie Toy Story.  Buzz must save the universe and you have been recruited to fight the evil Emperor Zurg. It is an interactive ride and you shoot cannons at Zurg and his minions.  Another air conditioned ride and my kid loved it.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (loved!) - This is where we went waiting on our Fast Pass time for Buzz's Space Ranger spin.  It was air conditioned and fantastic! Children's laughter is used to create a source of energy.  A comedy club has been set up by the monsters to capture as many laughs as possible.  It is interactive and they chose various people from the audience to pop up on the screen.  I laughed as much as the kids!

Hollywood Studios

This was one of my favorite parks, next to Epcot.  It had a ton of personality, and was overall pretty crowded as well.  The husband didn't give us nearly as much time as I would have liked to have explored the park.  We enjoyed Sunset Boulevard and the different relics of the era.  

Tower of Terror (Fast Pass) - This was John's ride.  I was having NOTHING to do with this ride at all.  Anything that drops down, I would have peed in my pants.  This is a sci-fi themed indoor thrill ride.  The idea of the ride is that you are touring a once famous Hollywood hotel gone to ruin.  John got a fast pass, and we returned later on in the evening.  Matthew and I waited in the air conditioned gift shop for his return .  John actually purchased a picture of himself on the ride (a reminder of his younger years of riding as a child).
Star Tours (Fast Pass) - We loved this adventure so much, we did it twice.  At the end of the ride, you can also build your own R2D2.  This is an indoor-flight simulation ride where you use 3-D glasses to a Star Wars adventure, based upon the Star Wars movie series. C3PO was our pilot both times.....he needs major lessons!  From my understanding, R2D2 is quite the driver if you are so blessed to make his acquaintance.  You will never have the same flight experience twice, so ride as much as you'd like.  The lines move quickly, and I loved the feeling of flying in outer space and beating up the bad guys!

Studio Backlot Tour - I wanted to do this so badly, but broken.  It seemed every ride I was interested in, had some sort of mechanical issue.

Animal Kingdom
Another one of my favorite parks, it was shaded and much cooler than some of the hotter joints at Disney.  The ride from our resort however, took a while to get there, so make sure to allow enough time for transportation from your resort to the opening gate of the park.

Tree of Life - This is a tree, obviously, that hovers 14 stories above the park.  It's probably like the castle for the Magic Kingdom, but a tree with etchings carved into it of wildlife, and characters from Disney.  The Tree of Life houses a theater attraction inspired by A Bug's Life.

It's Tough to Be a Bug! (loved it!) - This is a 3-D theater show.  Lines moved quickly.  This was a funny presentation about bugs and how hard it is to be a small creature.  The 3D effects were spectacular and Matthew kept trying to reach out and touch the butterflies.  Some of the loud noises spooked him at times.  Be ready to hold onto your pants at the end, and I'll leave it at that. 

Kilimanjaro Safaris (loved!) - Supposedly the wait time was only 30 minutes, so we opted to stand in line for the tour.  It took more like 45 minutes to get to the line we needed to be in for our adventure.  This is a brief, actual imitation, of an African photo safari.  We saw zebras, wildebeests, impalas, gazelles, some lazy lions, and rhinos.  We also saw a group of alligators hanging out in the water.  Our driver and guide was fantastic as she gave us a wealth of information on all of the animals that we saw.  Matthew's favorite, of course, were the giraffes.  

Dinosaur (loved, Matthew hated) - (Fast Pass)-we didn't need it.  This is a motion simulator dark ride that moves along a hidden track.  It moves around quite a bit with the visual effects.  You travel back in time on a mission of rescue and conservation.  This ride is a bit much with dinosaurs eating other dinosaurs and is dark.  Matthew was not a happy camper, so to make him happy, I bought him a small stuffed dinosaur after the ride.  Poor kid said, "I did not like that ride." 

This was by FAR, my favorite park.  It is gorgeous and decorated like the various countries represented.  It was also in walking distance from our resort OR we could take the Friendship Boat over (which also went to Hollywood Studios).  The boats went into shutdown mode when storms appeared, which was quite frequently.  (Matthew took this picture of the boat! They really don't tilt like that!)

Spaceship Earth (loved!) - This is an educational ride through the past, present, and future of technology.  The ride moves through the 18-story interior of Epcot's landmark, taking visitors past animatronic scenes depicting mankind's developments in communications from cave paintings to printing to television to space communications and computer networks. The ride shows the coolness of the sphere's interior (Sehlinger and Testa, 555).  The ride was not frightening for our little guy UNTIL our car turned around backwards.  I turned his focus to the on-board interactive computer/television that had a touch screen.  That got his mind off the scariness of the situation.  

Innoventions - We loved exploring this area of Epcot.  This is a huge arena of hands-on exhibits relating to products and technologies of the future.  They are sponsored by various corporations. Since the "hubs" is a robotics engineer, he was all over the stuff that was in there.  We wish Matthew had been old enough to participate in the Sum of All Thrills ride, which is a roller coaster simulator in which you design the track.  He has a few more inches to grow before he can participate in that one.

We avoided Mission Space because of the deaths that have occurred on that ride.  It is extremely intense, so we wanted to put our health first!

Test Track - Our intentions were to do this ride.  Typical bail out General Motors style (ha), it was broken. We got a Fast Pass, returned two hours later, and were turned away because it was broken.  Our second visit to Epcot, the ride was open, we waited an hour in line, and almost got to the car to be tested, and were informed the ride was broken.  Lovely, I was not happy. (Picture of a Test Track future car).

Soarin' - Fast Pass, but we didn't need it.  We went right to the front of the line. This was my favorite out of all the rides we did at Walt Disney World.  This is a flight simulation ride where it feels as though you're flying over the state of California and are experiencing its visual beauty.   You're a hang glider and embark on the journey of a lifetime.  Matthew was a little intimidated by it and informed us he "did not like it," but I think he enjoyed it more than he will ever admit. The ride moves quickly, so lines are truly not a huge issue.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends - Beautiful!  We toured the Seas Main Tank and Exhibits.  This is a saltwater aquarium with exhibits on oceanography, oceanic ecology, and sea life.  Supposedly divers conduct marine experiments while there, but we never observed that.  We did get to see the manatees....awesome.  Matthew thought "Crush" was the huge turtle in the tank, but there were actually three turtles mulling around.  The sharks were amazing as well.  I think that it made the aquariums I have visited in the past seem mediocre in comparison.  We had an awful time trying to get Matthew to exit the building (in a good way).

Turtle Talk with Crush - This is a cooperative animated film based upon the movie Finding Nemo.  Turtle Talk is an interactive theater show starring a 153-year-old turtle surfer dude.  This is a surprise interactive encounter as the on-screen turtle begins to have conversations with guests in the audience (Sehlinger and Testa 567).  This is an amazing show and the computer technology is beyond substantial.  John and I sat on one of the rows, while Matthew sat in the front with the other children.  He loved the fact that an actual "movie" character was talking with the kids.  His happiness was beyond description!  If there is one part of Epcot you should visit, this is one not to be missed!

Character Connection- Across from Innoventions, don't miss the opportunity to have your picture made with some of the Disney characters.  Matthew said this was his favorite part of Epcot!

World Showcase - Another one of my favorites of Epcot, is the reinvention of the countries throughout the World Showcase.  The countries represented include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. We loved Germany. Matthew met some of the folks here and played a game of soccer with them.  I did 

not know that Disney has an actual year-long exchange program with the true countries represented, so they do an internship in our country through the Disney program.  We ate at a lovely restaurant in Italy. Our server was a true Italian (adorably cute), and while I understood

most of what he said, I also had difficulty in some of his diction.  The restaurant was Tuto Italia Ristorante.  It was "high dollar" but was well worth the air conditioning for a while.  I got a Chicken Caesar salad and John made his own pizza.  Cooling off on that hot day was worth the money! The restaurant was not on our meal plan.

Downtown Disney
This ultimate Disney Marketplace!  We enjoyed our visit here one night during our stay.  This however included the bus ride from hell. We were supposed to only have two stops back to our hotel, instead there were more like six.  Our bus ride also took almost an hour...ridiculous.  We walked around the whole outdoor mall taking in the various shops.  We ate at Earl of Sandwich that night.   

Earl of Sandwich - This is a historic little sandwich spot that reflects the history of the family that created it. I found the food to be outstanding, but it was messy!  Glad I carry my Wet Wipes with me.  It specializes in high end deli cuisine, with hot and cold freshly prepared sandwiches.  A snack of a chocolate chip cookie kept our little guy happy.  

World of Disney - This is one of the largest Disney stores in the United States, so take a minute to go visit while there.  It contains twelve colorful rooms of goods for purchase.  My favorite was the "kitchen" area, but someone , wouldn't let me browse as long as I would have liked.  Plus, it was air conditioned!  Characters are found on everything from watches, to luggage tags, to muffin pans that look like Mickey ears.  

Lego Imagination Center - This was probably our most financially damaging visit to a store.  The center has every Lego imaginable available for purchase! We bought Matthew a Star Wars Lego set ($50) with which you can create several different robots.  He loves it and managed to make it home in the suitcase through security!  The emporium also showcases larger-than-life Lego models.  It also contains a computer area that allows guests to design Lego structures and play games.  It was VERY busy when we visited.

1 comment:

-J.Darling said...

LOVE reading your trip report! Looks like you learned a lot about Disney, and had an amazing vacation! I can't wait until we have kids and can see the World (Disney World, of course) through their eyes! :)