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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Trip Report: Newbies!

Day 1

Good evening! It's day 1 of a new kind of Disney World trip for me (and I'm blogging from my phone, praying to the sweet patron saint of social media that this works the way it's suppose to)! I've been on the road awhile, actually. Like almost 3 weeks and 3,000 miles awhile. On my way back to Florida I gained 2 extra munchkins along the way. We were, quite certainly, packed into my Chevy like a perfectly crammed suitcase. If anyone had gained a single pound we wouldn't have been able to shut the door. However, we made it! Disney World or bust!

There are 6 of us in all. Choosing our resort took finesse, I tell you. Basically, my choices were: Fort Wilderness Campground...I didn't want to fuss with camping gear after the long trip. The Fort Cabins...a possibility. A DVC 2 bedroom place ...too pricey. A family Suite...we've stayed at Art of Animation twice, but never at All Star Music. I decided to try something different and do a little comparison. Checking in was awesome and all the Cast Members I've come in contact with have been wonderful! So far, the room is not quite as exciting and brilliantly planned as A of A, but it fits us well. With 6 girls, we are thankful for 2 bathrooms and room to spread out. Unpacking has even been a pleasant experience.

©Disney-Goddess Pool games!

We didn't arrive until early evening, so we spent the rest of the day by the pool. We got a pizza for those who handle gluten and veggies and hummus for those who don't. It was relaxing and a great start to the trip. I may have even sampled a Mai Tai…maybe.

All tucked in, but too excited to sleep!

I just tucked the kiddos in. They told me they are "too excited to sleep!". As lovely as that is...they better sleep! We have a super duper early breakfast!

Good night! See ya real soon!

Day 2

Magic Kingdom, here we come!

6:30 alarm.  Early, but I heard no grumbles as girls started rotating in and out of showers.  Again, having two bathrooms is a Godsend!  We are heading to our first park.  For two of us, our first park EVER!  Naturally, it has to be Magic Kingdom.  I booked us a reservation at Crystal Palace for 8:10.  Not as much for the food and characters as it was for the ability to get into the park before opening.  I wanted their first view of Main St. and the castle to be unobstructed.  When they started talking about how the castle was the most beautiful thing, and "Oh how I want to live there!"  I knew I'd been successful.

An empty Main St

Well, what do you know!?  It was Friendship Day at Crystal Palace!  Funny how we always time that right! We thought that was so appropriate.

Friendship day!

A few of the Gluten free options

From there, we went park commando.  Fastpasses were our very best friends and our newbie girls learned how they worked real quickly!  We managed to do the better parts of Fantasyland, Adventureland and Frontierland before our early morning caught up with us and we headed back to our resort for a rest.  One of the highlights for these girls was Fort Langhorne on Tom Sawyer's Island.  An oldie but goodie!  Always fun to explore!

Fort Langhorne

A couple hours was all it took for these excited girls.  We went back to tackle Tomorrowland and bits in New Fantasyland that we didn't get to before…not to mention Wishes!

Now, no park day is complete without at least one "Oh, my goodness" moment….and I don't mean the good kind.  If you have a sensitive stomach, you may wish to skip this paragraph.  We stopped in at Cosmic Rays for dinner.  It was a late dinner, at that.  My oldest daughter was in the restroom.  She had her phone attached to her headphones which were around her neck.  Something pulled on them as she reached over to flush and in one swift movement….her phone kerplunked into the swirling water of germy theme park-ness.  After a moment of shock, she rescued her phone with a love only a teenager can have with a phone, and pulled it out with a wad of TP as protection.  She turned it off, dried it, washed her hands, washed her hands again, wrapped it up with more paper towels, washed her hands again, then used hand sanitizer for good measure.  The dinner she ordered…really didn't get eaten.

Well, Disney is truly a magical place, because after a night, sitting upside-down in paper towels…that iPhone lived.  Nobody wants to put it up to their ear anymore, though.

This evening has a good ending.  One of my newbie girls loves Belle.  We went to Enchanted Tales, which is a mind-blowing magical experience anyway, and she had the honor of playing a character!

That night, we went back to our hotel…

                                                         And SLEPT!

Day 3

Energy is still high as we roll out of bed this morning.  The girls know my least favorite ride in Epcot is Mission Space, so for some crazy reason, that is the first thing they want to do!  Yeah, I'm feeling the love.  I agree to do the "less intense" version with them.  Which, was actually really fun.  It had been a long time since I rode this, so I am thankful they got me on it again.  However, as soon as we were done, they were set on riding the "more intense" version.  Uh…no. Thanks anyway. I did walk them through the line, duck out the chicken door, and wait for them at the exit, though.  When they came out the exit not able to walk in a straight line, I knew I had made the right decision!

Where to next?  Test Track, of course!  I've heard a lot of mixed reviews on whether folks enjoy the old Test Track or the new one.  Personally, I love the new one.  It is so beautifully high tech and I'm crazy about how they integrated the RFID system.  It's so cool to be able to see your very own car design up with all the others and be able to play with it afterward! One thing that isn't new…is how often the ride stops.  We had technical difficulties throughout.


The ride stopped- but at least we're sitting!

Next we rode Soarin'.  Wonderful, amazing Soarin'!  Where else can you hang glide over the entire state of California, smelling pine and oranges and nearly dipping your feet into rivers?  ….Or being almost clobbered with a hidden Mickey golf ball?  This ride never fails to impress and I love taking first timers!

This is day 3, and it occurred to me that these girls have not had their first monorail ride yet!  What better way to remedy this than to head over to the Contempo Cafe for lunch?  I am convinced they have the best flatbreads in Disney!

First monorail ride EVER!

Which lead to….

Biggest cupcakes ever!!!! (yes, they ate lunch first)

Well, after that, we had to walk off lunch and sugary goodness.  There is no better place than World Showcase (after a stop in Spaceship Earth…and maybe a sip of Beverly, of course)!

Ok, I'm not that mean…I did warn them first!

The Chinese Acrobats always impress!

Admiring China's details

Stave Church in Norway

Princess in Mexico

Fish n Chips in the UK

We headed back to our resort after the gorgeous Illuminations.  To say we were tired may have been an understatement…

Until tomorrow!

Day 4

We're moving a little slower today.  Luckily we have a motivator.  My oldest daughter has decided to audition for American Idol!  After we're all up, we try our best to hustle so we can get there before it fills up.  Of course, this is the only day we have trouble with a park ticket!  We still make it in time.  I send the other girls to Writers Stop for breakfast and to wait on my call.

The American Idol Experience is so well done!  Even if you don't sing, you may want to audition just to be able to go backstage!  My daughter (who recently turned 17) sang a Pat Benatar song for her audition.  We soon found out that they had already filled all but 2 spots for the day!  Still, she made it!  After meeting with the producer, she ended up with "I Need a Hero" as her on stage song.  We called the girls back over, and we spent the next 30 minutes or so being followed around by a TV camera!  All the girls thought that was pretty exciting!

She sang her heart out, got good reviews from ALL the judges, even the cranky "Simon" one!  She didn't make it to the final round, but that was ok…we had some exploring to do!

One of our favorite restaurants in all of Disney is 50's Prime Time Cafe, so of course we had to bring our friends there!  We love the theming and love that "Mom or brother or Auntie" comes by and tells us to clean our plates and keep our elbows off the table!  I didn't realize until that day, that not everyone would find this amusing.  One of our girls really didn't like being scolded by the Cast Member, even in jest.  And she really didn't care for our homework assignment; which was to name 9 countries beginning with the letter "I."  That was hard without any "Googling" as Mom instructed!  She did, however, find her lasagne delicious!

Gluten free salmon

Gluten free vegetarian

Top shelf Margarita- hey, it's me with 5 girls.  I need this!

We were able to get 7 easily, we managed 8 on our own…we had to google the last 2…after we left the restaurant so Mom wouldn't know!

The rest of the evening was spent riding and exploring everything possible and being soaked in quite the impressive thunder storm.  It was rumored that Fantasmic would be cancelled due to weather, so we agreed that we had accomplished quite a bit, despite our late start, dinner reservation and several hours spent being American Idols.  We took our soaked selves back to the hotel.

Playing in the street!

Next stop, Animal Kingdom!

Day 5

Knowing that, not only was this our last park, but that it closes earlier than all the rest, we got up and going pretty early.  Animal Kingdom is my middle daughter's favorite park, and she was very excited to share it with her friend!

As we were getting off the bus, that friend excitedly proclaimed that she was ready to ride, ride, ride!  As much as I loved her enthusiasm, this gave me pause.  We slowed our walk to the front of the park, as I began a conversation I should have had days ago.

I told her that Disney isn't really about the rides.  It's about an experience and the rides make up a facet of that experience.  She looked at me like I had a third eye, but still, I pushed on.  I asked her to go into Animal Kingdom with her eyes open.  Disney is not an amusement park, I explained, it is a theme park.  Each area you enter is themed to submerge you into something carefully planned.  As we enter Animal Kingdom, how do you feel?  When you get past the turnstiles and look into the park, you do not see crowds…you see trees and slightly upward sloping pathways.  It's shady and it compels you to walk slowly along the path of your choosing.  It prepares you for discovering many lands and animals…and yes, even rides.  I asked her to look at the ground and see how it changes in all the different areas.  Look at the details in the architecture, the artwork and carvings, the costumes worn by cast members.  Even the sounds change.  No detail has been overlooked.  Every one tells a story.

As it turned out, she was fascinated by the lamp posts.  Which, in fact, are pretty spectacular.

After enjoying all the animals along the trek to Discovery Island and Tree of Life, we got in line for, in my opinion, the best show in a Disney park! The Festival of the Lion King!  Every time I see it, I can't help but get misty-eyed.  The entire performance is breathtaking and it did my heart some good to share it!

Of course, next on our agenda was to hit some rides!  We don't want to miss the rides, while looking at the details….not seeing the forest for the trees, you know.  However, we did take our time getting places and pointing out many things we've noticed over the years (like the students hangout on top of Restaurantosaurus and the prayer flags in Asia, noting which prayers have been answered) and noticing the things that popped into vision today.

Some of the favorites, of course, were Dinosaur, Expedition Everest and the African Safari.  We closed out the day with the last performance of Finding Nemo, the Musical.  Another top notch show!

Primeval Whirl turned into a water ride…we didn't need Kali

Coloring outside Dinosaur was a huge hit.  Who knew?

Speaking of details, I was able to check out the new allergy kiosk in Animal Kingdom.  It is so fantastic to have a place where I can trust the snacks to be safe and get information on the other places I can safely dine!  It is only open until 3, though, so go early!

Pamphlet expelling other dining options

Since we were again wet…We headed back to our themed like Jazz room in our totally musically themed resort.  Again, the sights, the sounds each change from rock- to country- to jazz -to broadway- to calypso!  We needed to change for dinner.  Because, speaking of attention to detail, we are headed to the Art of Animation Resort and Landscape of Flavors!

I do love this place!  I had hoped that the food court at All Star Music would be on a similar level, but it just wasn't.  The ability to order pizza that first night was awesome (and inexpensive), but we really didn't want burgers and fries and mac n cheese every day.  The menu wasn't all that innovative.  Landscape of Flavors, however, IS!  The Tandoori Kitchen is awesome for Gluten Free Vegetarian, the Create-your-own-Pasta bar is fabulous for the rest of us in our party.  Not to mention all the different types of burgers, salads, soups, sandwiches, etc that they have!  Then you add in the ability to sit "Under the Sea" or in Africa or on Route 66, and the place just gets more magical!

We explored some more, then visited the Gelato Bar and slowly walked toward the exit, noticing the different sketches and the pixilated color palette on the floor.

It was a good day.  Tomorrow, we say goodbye to one of our Newbies.

Day 6

It's a bittersweet day.  This week has been jam-packed with so much magic and so many firsts!  We slept a little late.  The one girl heading out today was already packed and ready, so we slowly meandered through showers (Love the 2 showers in a Family Suite- have I mentioned this?) until we were all ready for Downtown Disney.  One of my girls had a dream of going to the Rainforest Cafe so, of course, we had to make that happen.  This is the place where dreams come true!

My daughter drew this while waiting on our lunch

Always an adventure.  The chef here wasn't quite as knowledgable about food allergies as most in Disney are.  He tried telling us that a Morning Star Veggie burger was gluten free…um, no.  He checked.  It wasn't….that could have been bad…yet still adventurous!

Still, we all ended up safe!

A special treat!  I got to visit with my friend Lori!

After an hour or so, shopping like lunies and getting our requisite Ghirardelli chocolate square, it was time to take our youngest newbie to the airport and send her back to her family.  I'm so thankful that they allowed her to spend this week with us!

The rest of the trip I'm constantly looking for her!

This afternoon, I had a treat for my oldest daughter who had been so helpful to me (always, really, but for the last few months in particular).  She had a massage appointment at the newly refurbished Saratoga Springs Spa.  I met her over there, sipped some amazing cucumber basil water and took a few pictures, naturally.  I think mama needs a massage next!

These are heated!

Little hair ties for your convenience

Waiting Lounge

All the supplies to get you ready

Pretty light fixtures

We finished out the evening with a visit to the incomparable Wilderness Lodge for dinner.  Complete with jaw drop from our remaining newbie.  Oh Disney just makes me giddy!

Where to next?!

Day 7

It's our last full day in Disney.  Sigh.  You know, even though at this point I have been on the road a solid month and my introvert self is on the verge of tremors, it's still sad to leave my happy place.  I fully admit to being nutty as a fruitcake.  It's ok, I'm not alone in this nut house.

We aren't doing any parks today, so I tell the girls to sleep as late as they wish.  Basically, that meant we were ready to head out around lunch time.  Since nobody was budging when I got up, I took that opportunity to grab a cup of tea and explore our resort on my own.  This is one of my favorite things to do in Disney.  I honestly think I love the resorts as much as the parks.  There is so much detail, time, work, patience and creativity put into every nook and cranny…it would be a sin not to notice them.  After making my way back to our Jazz building, I sat on a bench in the courtyard right outside.  This spot is reminiscent of New Orleans, complete with iron fence and stone fountain.  It is so unexpectedly understated in this resort with over-the-top theming, that it begs to be appreciated.  So I sat and took it all in.  A woman walked past and told me I had the best spot in the whole resort for having coffee.  Yeah.  I did.

When my girlies finally adjusted to the light of day, we took off to Port Orleans French Quarter for some wonderful beignets.  I called ahead and asked them to get the dough and fryer ready because there would be some hungry beignet wanting Celiacs in the house! Yes, you read me right!  POFQ has gluten free Beignets now!  Woot Woot!  They've only had them a month or two and, admittedly it's been forever since I had a beignet, but I thought they tasted like slices of heaven covered in powdered sugar.  Now, I will post some pictures here, but these babies deserve their own blog post!


After covering ourselves in sugary goodness, we took off for our Tee Time.  Well, our mini tee time.  The Fantasia course didn't know what hit them.  We were terrible golfers…but we had fun hacking it up all the same.

Churnabog magically appears- spooky!

We were better at climbing than golfing apparently

To close out the trip, we decided to head to Disney's flagship resort for dinner.  The Grand Floridian Cafe was a wonderful host to us, the band played and the Water Pageant glittered.  Oh and that Shrimp and Grits?  Oh Lawd that was some buttery, cheesy, shrimpy goodness!  Please don't tell me how many calories I consumed that night, 'cause I just don't want to know!

THE shrimp & grits

GF vegetarian pasta

Splash area IN the Grand Floridian pool

Bittersweet.  Last night curling up in a Disney bed.  I always fight sleep that last night just to make it last longer.  Tomorrow morning I take my last newbie girl to the airport and tomorrow afternoon Cheerleading starts for my daughter back home.  Life kicks it into high gear real fast!  I am so thankful for the memories and the experiences.  I hope that this trip report is a fun read for all those interested, but I also hope that it serves as a memoir for those who experienced it with me and for their parents so they have an understanding of the adventures they sent their daughters on.  Again, I thank them for trusting me with their precious babies…who were mine for the week in heart and mind.

XO, Ami


  1. Looking forward to this report! The veggies and hummus sounds delicious.


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