Disney world offers an amazing opportunity for military members with their Salute Ticket available from the Ticket office at the Shades of Green on Disney World (and maybe your ITT office). These tickets have 3 options you can read about at the Shades of Green website. We’ve always done the 4 day base tickets with the Fun and More – seems the most bang for your buck and we really don’t dig on park hopping (its just too busy). FYI – you can order these via email ahead of time, get your numbers, and still register for Fast Passes in your MyDisney account. Just use the Ticket Info Form and ask how!
First on the agenda for us was swimming. I checked in, and we spent 10 minutes in our room. Just long enough to get into our swim suits. It was great to have those kiddo’s unwind in the pool after such a long driving day. After that the fun came! Since we are here I wanted to take advantage of all the FREE Disney junk-o-la, so we headed to Disney World. I parked at the Polynesian after being let in without paying; probably because it was so late in the day (like 6pm) and I was asking how to get to the Polynesian. Got a stellar spot right at the entrance, and we walked in. This is such a cool resort. I’ve always like it. The monorail was our first free fun for the night. We rode it from the Polynesian around past the Magic Kingdom and stuff to the Transpo center where we switched to the monorail for Epcot. Avi just ate this up. He nearly leapt out of his stroller when we walked under the monorail, then squealed when he saw it pull up next to us on the platform, and bounced out of his gourd as we rode around. We got a seat by the window and both kids were plastered to it. Zoe recognized stuff at Epcot; that is where her favorite attractions are. Avi pointed out boats and other trains as stuff whizzed by. Waiting in line for the Epcot monorail took about 20 minutes because 2 trains were having troubles. A Disney employee came around and gave everyone free Fastpasses (the short line at major rides) for Epcot. To bad we don’t actually have tix for going to the parks. I’ll find someone to give them too.
Once we returned to the Transpo center from Epcot it was getting quite dark and we had a half hour before the Electric Light Parade. This is a fun, old school, cheesy, water parade of lights and music that goes by the resorts on the lake near the Magic Kingdom. I remember it from my childhood, and love to watch it. We walked back to the Polynesian for the parade. Zoe loved that all the walkways are jungle-like and lit with tiki torches…she kept giving me high-fives for the ‘fire walkway’. Eventually we found the beach after lusting over the nice pool they have (though it’s likely not as warm as ours). Zoe picked a nice spot for us to settle down and began building a castle. We had about twenty minutes to kill so Avi and I wandered up and down the beach where he found a drake and a mama duck warming her brand new chicklets. He kept yelling “chick chick” at them until I said, “no they are ducks” enough times that he started yelling, “duck-he duck-he”. I had to pull him away from there, but he remembered and ran back to check on them throughout the evening. Our spot was stellar for watching the light parade. Avi was mesmerized and did not move from my lap the entire time. Zoe had fun naming the things in the row: a sea serpent, a whale, a turtle, dolphins, seahorses (Neptune), a brachiosaurus, and there was an octopus in there somewhere. She’d remember.
After those thrilling 15 minutes we had to wait another 45, until 10pm, for the fireworks to start. The Polynesian beach is just the best free spot to watch all this stuff. You have a straight shot view of the Magic Kingdom castle…which keeps changing color at night, BTW. It didn’t seem like a long wait – Zoe played in the sand, Avi terrorized the ducks, we had some snacks, and then it was time. By now, the beach had crowded out a bit and all the spare lounge chairs the kids were playing on were taken. As the music started we settled onto our chairs for the show. Avi was sleepy and had just gotten fussy 5 minutes prior. The fireworks entertained him enough to hold off the sleeping. Zoe loved it, and chatted most of the show about the different colors. I secretly hoped it irritated the old farts who had pulled there chairs almost directly in from of ours…..we just scooted ours to the side a bit and kept our amazing view.
At the end of the fireworks Zoe declared loudly that she was cold and had “goose lumps”. I plopped Avi back into the stroller and he nearly instantly fell asleep. We walked the short distance to the car and headed back to our cheapo hotel. Zoe joined Avi in sleepy land before we were out of the parking lot. Tomorrow we will sleep in!!! Then we will checkout the free stuff along Downtown Disney before driving north. Goal: ride a boat.
Well, for our last day at the resort we had a reservation for brunch over at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We checked out of our hotel, stashed our luggage in the car and drove over. The Lodge is incredible, and very fancy! Brunch was great; the goat cheese and chive eggs were my favorite. We walked around the lodge to see the animals on the safari that is right there. Very cool. We also spent some time at the playground before heading back to our Pop Century resort. Zoe and I changed into our swim stuff in the bathroom and went out for an afternoon of lounging around. Sue and Dave caught their ‘Magical Express’ back to the airport which seems to work out great. Zoe loved splashing in the kiddo pool and then donning a life preserver for the big pool. She swam amazingly; we spent a long time in there. We also used our free coupon for a few games in the arcade before using our last Quick Service meal for dinner and driving home. Zoe slept most of the way home and cried when she realized we weren’t at Disney anymore. I think we were all sad to go; it was such a great vacation that went by quickly. We got home around 9ish. Arlo was happy to see us!! He spent the week with Taylor; a college girl who is a live-in dog sitter. I’m sure they had fun, too.
Today was our final day at the parks. Bryan and Dave woke early for a tee time at the Oak Trail golf course; a free round is included with the Water Park and More tickets. Sue, Zoe and I bussed over to Magic Kingdom where the park seemed super crowded, but lines were surprisingly short. We rode Aladdin’s carpets, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and were at the Country Bears Jamboree when Bryan and Dave showed up. It was a great morning! We also waited in a short line so Zoe could see Princess Jasmine and Aladdin. She was excited to get their signatures in her book since Jasmine was the only princess on the cover that she hadn’t seen at our Princess Dinner in Epcot. After a quick lunch we booked over to the Meet and Greet area. Again, the line to see the fairy’s was an hour long!! well, since Zoe wore her fairy costume to see them we weren’t going to miss out. It’s the few characters we were willing to wait for, but it was a rough wait. Sue and Dave spent the time on their own out in the park since it was so crowded. We got to see Rosetta, Tinkerbell, and Silvermist. The wait was worth it!!! Zoe was so excited to see them and they each spent so much time with her chatting and taking pictures. Rosetta even fixed Zoe’s wings since they were on upside down. Tink thought her ‘painted’ wings were gorgeous and wanted to try painting Rosetta’s. Silvermist loved Zoe’s flower petal skirt and compared it to her own. What a time! Not much longer wading through the increasing crowds forced us out of the park and onto the monorail and bus to Hollywood Studios. Bryan and I rode the Aerosmith coaster while Zoe slept in the stroller with Nana and Pappy; it is a super fun coaster inside the dark. We also hit up the car stunt show and then some dinner at the Sci-Fi Drive In. It’s a cute restaurant where you eat in these cars facing the big screen with cheesy old-school horror movies in black and white. Really funny; Zoe seemed enthralled. She also like a visit to the Honey I Shrunk the Playground and we all like the new Toy Story ride / 3D shooting game. At the end of the day we saw the second showing of Fantasmic – the evening show – and it was great! A giant dragon and lots of characters, couldn’t quite follow the plot but it was still impressive. We got rained on for about 15 minutes of the show, but it let up for our walk out of the park and onto our bus. Again, Miss Zoe fell asleep on the way back to the hotel.
This morning we woke up late and headed over to Typhoon Lagoon water park. What a perfect day for it! The weather started a bit chilly, but warmed up fast and the park was fairly empty. We all enjoyed the wave pool; especially Zoe. She loved jumping over the waves. The kiddy area was nice, but all the spraying water was a bit cold compared to the heated wave pool. Bryan and I took some time to ride the speed slides and snorkel with the sharks while Sue and Dave played with Zoe in the sand. It was a blast; no lines at all!! After a quick lunch we drove back to the resort for a nap while Sue and Dave spent some more time swimming and sliding. In the evening we rode the Disney busses to Magic Kingdom and arrived just in time for the flag ceremony at 5pm. It was neat. We then went to the character area and realized the lines were just too long, so we rode the Teacups a few times and Zoe went with Dave on the car ride. Bryan and I then left Zoe with Nana and Pappy for the evening and took a ferry ride over to the Polynesian resort for our date night! We had reservations at Ohana Restaurant, checked in and then got some sushi for an appetizer at the sushi bar. We were seated near a window where we could just barely see the castle. It was cool, like a Brazilian restaurant, they bring meats on skewers around to the table. Delicious. There were a few luau dances for the crowd to participate in. We both got lei’s since we were chair-dancing and waving our ‘shakas’. From there we wandered down to the beach to watch the evening fireworks over the castle. What a great vantage point. As a bonus we got to see the Electric Light Pageant; I remember seeing this as a kid. It’s a bunch of boats with cheesy old-school light boards of animals and goofy music. Quite fun. We then sauntered to the Grand Floridian along the lagoon; it is a super-fancy hotel. Took their ferry back to the Magic Kingdom and hopped our Pop Century bus. Zoe, Sue, and Dave spent the evening on a couple more rides and then had dinner with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet at the Crystal Cafe. I guess she didn’t take to Pooh but liked Eeyore and Tigger again. She fell asleep on the ride back to the resort. Another long, fun Disney day!
Animal Kingdom Day! Today we woke early to get to AK right after opening. Zoe wore her dino outfit, so Dinoland was our first stop. There were no lines at the Triceratops Spin so she rode twice. We then walked around to check out all the cool dino bones and dino’s hidden in the jungle. The ride Dinosaur was a blast…Zoe couldn’t go…with good reason as it was fairly scary. Our next stop was the Dino Dig playground where Zoe ran around like a nut playing and sliding. At one point she was climbing up a net rope and couldn’t get over the rubber top so I reached down for her hand, she reached up but slipped a bit and my fingernail caught her nose. So, if you see a lovely little scratch on her nose it’s from me. She got over it quickly as we ran over to watch the Nemo show. It was amazing!! We all loved it. After snagging some FastPasses for Expedition Everest we had lunch at the Tusker House. It was a great buffet with all kinds of yummy African food. This trip we splurged for the Disney Dining Plan, so each day we had reservations at a sit-down restaurant and credit for a quick-service restaurant. It worked well, but I know we could’ve easily spent less by not eating at the sit-down places all the time. The Disney portions are large, so we could’ve gotten one adult meal and one kid meal to share between us three and still be stuffed. The dining plan also forced a restaurant reservation schedule on us and took up more time that we could’ve been out….of course, they were delicous though. It was a fun trial. While Bryan and I ran to our Everest Fastpass, Zoe Dave and Sue did the Safari and then we switched. Zoe and I walked through the Pagani forest and got some ice cream. She found an amazing stick, but then hit a kid with it so it had to go. She fell asleep in the stroller so we bussed back to the Pop Century for a nap. In the evening, Sue and Dave went over to Downtown Disney to eat at a special restaurant while we had dinner at the hotel cafeteria. For ‘quick service’ food, it was quite good and varied. Then, we drove to DisneyQuest to play at the giant arcade. Zoe loved the kid games section and especially the tiny kiddo roller coaster sim. We all liked the ‘rafting through the dinosaurs’ sim and had to do it twice for Miss Z! My favorite, though, was the Pirate sim. Bryan steered our ship while Zoe and I pulled strings to shoot our cannons. It was a blast. We all had to work together to pirate the other ships for their gold. In the end, a big pirate ghost ship attacked us. We almost beat it! What fun. Sue and Dave came over to meet us before we headed to the hotel for the evening. Zoe has been having fun sleeping with Nana and Pappy at night.
Monday was our first park day, so we headed over to Epcot. We bought the special military discount tickets from ITT before we left. They are $100 for a 4 day ticket, plus $50 for park hopping and water parks. An amazing deal! Epcot was great. Zoe freaked out that she finally got to see the giant ball, so we rode that first. Then we headed over to the Land. Bryan and I stood in line for a new ride Soarin’ while Sue, Dave and Zoe went over to the Seas to watch Nemo. Soarin’ was alright, but not worth the long wait. I guess Zoe loved Nemo and the aquarium. Zoe also liked Ellen’s Energy Adventure because it had dino’s. The new Race Track ride was really cool, and we all loved the Mission: Space ride. It’s an actual fuge that pushes you to 2 G’s. Rad! After that, Bryan and I ran over to our special Behind the Seeds tour. I wanted to check out the hydroponics greenhouses with a detail tour. It was super fun. We got a lot of info, some cucumbers, fed the fish, and got to see way more than the regular boat ride. It was well worth the $16. Zoe, Sue and Dave played in the fairy garden and then Zoe fell asleep. They headed up into the World Showcase, so Bryan and I walked around the different countries on our own. They are all so fun and detailed. We met the gang at China where Zuzz finally woke in a grumpy mood. To the point where she didn’t even want to see the Princesses. Surprising, but after we went into our special Princess dinner at the Akershus in Norway she was enthralled and so excited. She had a special photo session with Belle first, then we ate and during dessert Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel and Snow White all came to the table individually to sign her book, chat a bit, hug, and take pictures. It was great, too that we were right beside the door they came out of! After dinner, we rode the Norway boat ride and the Mexico boat ride then found a great spot for the fireworks show. A big day at Disney!
Whew! What a week. This past week found us driving to Disney World for a much anticipated family vacation. This is going to be a long blog entry….I’ll split it by day…
We stayed at the Pop Century Resort on Disney and had a blast. It’s themed for different decades, and we stayed in the 1960’s near the Hippy Dippy Pool around the corner from a giant Play-Doh. We’ve stayed at Shades of Green before, which is a bit nicer with micro-frig’s, big rooms, and free internet. However, their rates went up when Disney lowered their own special military rates so we saved a couple hundred at Pop Century. It was fun to stay at a themed place anyway. Of course, we are frugal (um, yeah, cheap) so we didn’t splurge the $10 DAILY for internet. Not sure if I would’ve had the energy to blog anyway. We arrived Sunday after a 3.5 hour drive in the rain. Checked in early and then toured around the World. Took the bus to Epcot and hopped the monorail for a ride about. We got off the monorail at the Contemporary; I have a memory from childhood of riding through the Contemporary resort and HAD to do it again. The rain finally let up, so we walked over to the Magic Kingdom and rode a boat to the Wilderness Lodge. We wanted to check out the fancy resorts and see the geyser erupt. If it was nice we were going to walk around Fort Wilderness (again, I have childhood memories), but it was yucky out. We boated back to Magic Kingdom, and bussed back to Pop Century. Bryan’s parents, Sue and Dave, arrived and checked in. Then we all drove over to Downtown Disney for some dinner and pre-vacay shopping. Zoe loved looking at the Trex restaurant and checking out all the goods in the giant Disney shopping complex. That evening Zoe decided to sleep with Nana and Pappy.
Zoe and I flew out to Tampa to meet Bryan who has been there on TDY for a week. On Friday Bryan worked in the morning so Zoe and I went shopping to get snacks and a stroller for our Disney trip. In the afternoon we went swimming with Bryan and played on the beach. On Saturday morning we headed to Disney World; it was amazing! We had 3 1/2 days to see everything, which was tight but really fun. Zoe was a great team player, and woke us daily in time to catch the first shuttle. In the evening she would fall asleep on Bryan on the way back to the hotel, which was usually around midnight. We took advantage of every open hour the parks offered. Zoe loved the petting zoo, safari, and dino playground at Animal kingdom. Her favorite at Magic Kingdom was pooh’s play spot, and she also enjoyed Small world. Typhoon lagoon was also a highlight; there was an amazing kid area where she could run around and play with bubbling water and kiddo water slides. And she DID run! Epcot we did in the late afternoon and evening so she napped a lot, but did have fun at the Seas with Nemo, Oktoberfest in Germany, and clapped at the fireworks. At Hollywood Studios there wasn’t much for tiny tots, though the Shrunken playground proved fun. Finally, we went to pleasure island and disneyquest one night where Zoe played skee ball and watched daddy onstage at the comedy club. We had such an amazing trip. The flights home also went well; Zoe is a good traveler. Oh, and she finally got her first tooth!