California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See – 2018 – La Jolla, San Diego Edition

Hello WordPressLand!

As I mentioned in the two posts before, this whole trip is along Southern California. We hit up LA for a few days then drive down to Laguna Beach.  From Laguna we drive up to Anaheim for a couple of days, and then finish off down in La Jolla, San Diego. 

San Diego is the second largest city in California, and crazily enough the eight largest in the US! I did not know that till I started doing research either! San Diego is known for its beautiful weather, the Zoo, its wildlife, beaches, and for the foodies out there, a hot spot of amazing food.  And if you are into Mexican food, like myself, then I guess this is our city.  It is a mecca of good Mexican food, and so close to the Mexico border.

So YES!! LeTzzGO!

We are planning a handful of days in the San Diego area, staying at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. We figure this is a great spot to feel like we are on a beach vacation, yet just close enough to take advantage of the downtown area.  I did get a lot of good tips from some of you on FB about San Diego, and I have added them to the list below.  Thank you btw!  I always appreciate the conversation and if anyone else has recommendations, please don’t hesitate to message me.

 

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See

La Jolla, San Diego Edition
La Jolla Shores – This is a mile long beach where our hotel is situated; so it’s a no brainer to check it out.  It is stated as the best beach in the area and looks like a perfect place to bum around like I plan to do!  🙂

 

La Jolla Cove– This is supposed to be one of the most photographed beaches in California. It just looks beautiful as it’s surrounded by cliffs and there seems to be a ton of seals and sea lions who like to take housing along the rocks.

 

The Cave StoreThe Cave Store is the entrance point to the Sunny Jim Cave, one of many caves in the area.  The pictures look amazing, and it seems like a fun place to start on our cave explorations.

 

Shell Beach This place looks super cool.  This beach is situated at the bottom of a cliff where you have to take stairs down towards.  This beach is known for its tide pools that are home to some amazing sea creatures.

 

Children’s PoolThis is an area of beach that was initially built up for, you guessed it, the children of the area.  They placed retaining sea walls so the waters would be less aggressive, safe for children.  BUT as soon as the sands built up in the space the Harbor Seals took it over!  And we need to check out these chubby guys up close!
San Diego ZooEver since I was a kid I have been dying to see the San Diego Zoo!  This is the number one zoo in the world with over 3,700 different animals! One of which, I have never ever seen in person before, the Giant Panda. The cutest animal to exist.

 

Seaport Village on the Harbor – This is a large waterfront shopping area along the harbor that seems like a fun place to spend an afternoon.

 

Little Italy San Diego is supposed to have the largest Italian neighborhood in the country, and naturally, that means I have to go.

 

Richard Walker’s Pancake House Looks like this is a breakfast place we cannot miss! Not only did I get a recommendation to go but my husband had it on our list of where we are eating!  haha And the owner is from our state, so it’s like a must eat place now that I know.
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Well, there we have it, some of our San Diego hotspots to check out. We have a lot more research to do on restaurants and stuff, but I loved looking into all the amazing spots to visit in San Diego and cannot wait for this trip to arrive.  Again, if you have recommendations please hmu!

I have always wanted to visit San Diego, and here I wrote about this awesomeness.  I can’t believe it!  (I just literally said, “YEEE”!) I am so excited for this trip!!  Bahh I can’t stand it!!

xoxoxox

 

 

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See – 2018 – Laguna Beach Edition

Hello all,

Here we are on the second installment of ‘California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See’– 2018 .  This is the Laguna Beach Edition.  It sounds so formal, but we all know I am so far from formal.

During this part of our trip we will be spending 2 nights in Laguna Beach, one of which is my husband’s birthday.  What I’d ideally like to do is to make this as much of a beach visit than anything.  Especially after running around in LA for a few days.  Plus, I need to work on a tan because by August I will probably be a smooth cool tint of white linen.  (Yup, I may be the only Sicilian woman who never tans!)

img_2650Laguna Beach is a seven mile stretch of beach between LA and San Diego, and is a huge hot spot for vacationers. Which means there are a ton of things to see and do (and eat) with lots of people around, but what do we go see and do!?  When you look at a map of Laguna, the beaches all collide into one another and look simple enough to walk to but I just uploaded the Laguna Beach app and now I am not so sure.  hahah.  But we will give it a whirl!!

The app is actually really good; it is the Visit Laguna Beach app. You can search hotels, restaurants, shops, as well as find the current weather, maps, surf and tide reports, parking information and an events calendar.  And real estate, for those of us who plan to not come back home.  (I know, my good friends keep hearing me joking about this, though I have never been to So Cal my gut tells me I will not want to come home. haha)

So far, we booked the Pacific Edge hotel, which is on the south end of the beach.  We reserved a room in the reef tower (facing the ocean!!), which looks like a dream. The amenities, and the area of the hotel, look pretty great, and we read that the waves can be heard in every room all day.. which turns me on. Haha. Falling asleep to the ocean is just what I want, folks.

Here is a list of places we discussed seeing in Laguna.  So many of you guys commented and messaged me on FB with recommendations for LA (and San Diego!), I hope to hear some for Laguna Beach, too!

 

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See

Laguna Beach Edition

 

Art Colony/Walk the TownAs I am learning, the art scene in Laguna is its primary draw, and well, it sort of reminds me of my favorite local beach art colony here in Gloucester at Rocky Neck.  And while we are at it we will take a stroll through the town to check out their shops, local restaurants and stuff.

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Heisler Park- When I looked up this place my chin literally dropped. The views are tremendous, and it looks like a perfect place to take a sunset walk.  It is an oceanfront park set up along the cliffs with walking trails, gardens, and a marine refuge with tide pools.

 

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Crystal Cove Beach Tide Pools– Researching Laguna is fun, tide pools around seem to be a running theme, and Crystal Cove is supposed to have the best ones.  Feel like we would really enjoy trekking around on some rocks checking out the oceanic wildlife in the pools.

 

Royal Hawaiian Tiki Bar–  The Royal Hawaiian is a tropical bar with super fun looking tiki cocktails, good menu, and we love that type of atmosphere, so I figured we would take a closer look.  It is a street over from Heisler Park, where I figure would be a great location to take a night stroll along the water.

 

Thousand StepsI keep coming across this as a must see place, and watched so many youtube videos on how to get there, because there is a catch!  First, this beach is gorgeous, and is the largest in Laguna. Second, there is a large cave at the south end of the beach that can be entered when the tide is out, and basically only then, because then the entrance is exposed but you have to make it back before high tide, or well, you are SOOL.

img_2668Laguna Trolley– Laguna Beach offers a free trolley service, and I love trolleys, so I HAVE TO RIDE ONE!  They actually may come in more handy than I am joking about, because they have two lines of service that hit near or on most of the spots we are looking to go. Also, that app I mentioned earlier, they have a trolley tracker in it so you can see where the trolleys are going.

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Driftwood Kitchen– This restaurant is set up along the water, and the views look amazing.  So does the food.  It gets really great reviews, and the photos I have been seeing online are surreal.  

 

Pirate Tower/Victoria Beach– Happened upon this blog while researching Pirate Tower. Gah, it’s just amazing.  The photographer takes us on a trip to find Pirate Tower on Victoria Beach…and it’s just dreamy.  Thinking my family would love to take a trip over to see the tower, and maybe just explore the beach, I know I would!   

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Let me know if you have any recommendations for Laguna.

Next up… La Jolla/San Diego!!!

xoxo

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See – 2018 – L.A. Edition

HellooooOoo everyone!

My mind has been in the gutter lately… the vacation gutter!

It is Spring after-all, which means I have lost most of my focus on pretty much everything and with talking every night about all our upcoming Summer fun events, it is hard to try to focus on much else. So far this Summer has some great things in store; local beaches, fun dinner spots, cookouts, my new outfits (ok don’t fault me for being silly), lake in Maine with our friends, maybe Montreal, but my favorite topic we talk about is.. our family trip to CALIFORNIA!!

C A L I F O R N I A

..just a touch of a California freak here. I have been to the West Coast, California four times, not with our kids ever though, and not anywhere below Los Angeles. When we have gone, I never do get enough. California knows how to party. Uhm. Ok, that slipped out but hopefully you all hear Dr. Dre’s ‘California Love’ in your heads now… But seriously, I am super excited to end the Summer in CaliForNia this year; coming home a few days before the girls start back to school and just in time for our 17th wedding anniversary. Which makes me super happy to think about. 🙂

We have never actually visited California during the Summer months before, nor have we gone there for a beachy vacation, which is why I am super excited this time.  This trip is something that I have always wanted to do, have a So Cal beach vacation.  Gah didn’t those words just feel so good to you, too?  Since we are doing something new as a family in a state the two parents have visited before, we have a lot of revisiting of some tourist spots, but also, lots of new to us sites.

Our agenda is: We land in LA, where we will be spending the first few days of this trip. Then after LA we drive to new territory, Laguna Beach.  We opted for some fun in the sun after being in the city for a few days; And it’s a great place to celebrate my husband’s birthday. From Laguna we drive up to Anaheim for a couple of days for some family fun.  Then down to La Jolla / San Diego for a really relaxing handful of days doing nothing but being the beach bums that we deserve.

WOO, I CANNOT WAIT.

Ok, LA, so I will give a run down of where we plan to visit during our three days*:

*love feedback and recommendations, so please comment if you have any.

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See

LOS ANGELES

Santa Monica Pier – We had been to Santa Monica in 2003;one of my favorite memories from that California trip was this beach visitin Santa Monica.  My husband surprised me with a stop, he grabbed tamales from Tamara’s on the drive over,then we had a sunset beach picnic in the middle of November.  IT WAS BEAUTIFUL BUT CHILLY!!  Well, with the girls in tow this time, I want to relive that evening. I looked up to see if Tamara’s is still open, and they are, so I would like to picnic on the beach with my family with the best tamales I had ever had..but in bathing suits catching some sun… and maybe some Sidecar Donuts, too!!

Eames House – My husband and I love Ray and Charles Eames.  So much so, that this trip we want to take a quick drive to the Pacific Palisades area to check out the Eames House.  The Eames’ designed and constructed a home like no other house in the late 40’s, which is now a landmark and we have always wanted to see in person.

WB Studio TourThis seems like a no-brainer touristy thing to do with kids. Especially, for us. Our kids are new to the whole Hollywood hype, they understand it’s a city where famous people live and make movies but they may not understand the gravity of how much goes on.  Our thought is to show them an experience behind the scenes of some movies or TV shows, with sights of back lots and props, it would be exciting for them.  Also, is it sad that I am excited to drink coffee in Central Perk on that orange couch? Or to see all the Harry Potter stuff?  I’m a huge Friends fan and HP geek, I know, I am just a geek.  But I have been having the girls watch Friends with me over the past few months to prep them for this moment, so they can be just as excited to see the set as I will be.  (This is why I had children isn’t it?)

Watts Towers– The Watts Towers is an art installation of a combination of towers, structures, sculptures, pavement and walls that were designed and built by Sabato Rodia, an Italian immigrant mason. It took him over a span of 33 years to complete this massive installation.  It is crude art, novice, but something is beautiful about it, and we have always wanted to see it in person.

Pasadena – “Oh Adam, it would be wonderful if you could meet a girl. One who’s not a mutant and hopefully comes from Pasadena“-  Please tell me I am not the only person who still quotes this movie when she hears this city name?…Blast from the Past? Anyone?  I used to have an enormous celeb crush on Brendan Fraser, and well, in that movie he was the bees knee. But any-who, Pasadena seems like a fun stop to hang out some afternoon, and well, it made the list since my handsome design geek husband wants to see the Gamble House, but I do too!! Everyone knows the Gamble House, right? It’s a hugely famous house for its owners but namely its architecture, it is Arts and Crafts style at its finest, my Gosh how beautiful.  But most of us know it as Doc Brown’s house from Back to the Future!, and well, we didn’t get the chance to see it years ago and we are rectifying that this trip!

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre/ Hollywood Walk of Fame -I mean, what respectable tourist goes to LA without hitting up the Walk of Fame or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre? I won’t let that happen to my kids. Everyone has to take photos with random stars on a sidewalk and place their hands in some famous handprints!

Hollywood sign from Mulholland Drive – Another great memory I have from our first LA trip is driving up Mulholland to see the Hollywood Sign on the hills. We had such a great time swirling up the road getting to one of the best views of that area around.  And we took our first photo of that trip up there that I have in my living room and look at every day.  We were so young. 🙂  We did also walk up to the sign that trip mentioned, but I don’t think our kids will enjoy that as much as a quick drive.

Drive through Beverly Hills –  I don’t know why I love driving through Beverly Hills, but there is something to driving down the boulevards lined with palm trees and seeing all the money I will never have in my life being spent on plastic surgery.  ha I am just joking. I want to take a quick go through to show the girls what Beverly Hills is all about..the glitz, Rodeo Drive, and just the mansions that are out of this world big.  And maybe have a celebrity sighting.  😀

Koreatown– This sounds silly, I know, but we are trying to switch our hotels around and may end up in Koreatown, which is great. I want to make a stop here anyways because I heard there is an awesome ice cream spot that has koi fish-shaped ice cream cones!! KOI SHAPED CONES!!!

Yamashiro Hollywood– A Sushi/California Asian fusion restaurant that is in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city.  My dearest friend from Australia went to LA twice and enjoyed this restaurant both times, last time being with his family.  Every time we talk about LA he tells us we have to visit Yamashiro for the views and the cocktails.  I looked into it, and my jaw dropped with how beautiful this location is and the food looks amazing.  So, finally, Pat, I have my calendar is marked in June to make reservations to dine at Yamashiro! 🙂

Grand Central Market– My husband went to the GCM last year, kept texting me dreamy food pictures, so I learned fast that this is the mecca of all the goodness LA has to offer.  I am dying to eat at Eggslut, McConnell’s Ice Cream, and just walk around the heartbeat of the farmers market.  Also, uhm, there is a Mexican dry goods place there named Valeria…so of course, I gotta go there to see what I can buy with my name on it. Even if it’s a bag of dried beans, idc.

Broad Museum– We are museum people, after all.  Never a trip without a museum. This museum is supposed to be set up with some great contemporary art. Plus, the architecture of this building is sick and it is near Walt Disney Concert Hall! The coolest building that I want to see!

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Up next is our rough list for Laguna Beach, and like I mentioned before, if you have any recommendations please don’t hesitate to message! I always reply.

xoxo

Walt Disney World April 23 and 24- Days 8 + 9

Day 8 

Disney Park: Magic Kingdom (open till 11PM)

Out of all the days we spent in Orlando, this was to be the yuckiest weather wise. The reports said it was to be thunderstorms from mid morning on. So we took our chances to spend our last morning in Disney walking the Saratoga Springs property to hang out down at the main pool. I am so glad we took this relaxing start. First, it was spotty with sunshine but no rain, so that was a win, and we all needed to enjoy some free time before the bustle of real life. With leaving tomorrow. 😦

Ok, no dwelling on that!!

We had great fun hanging out at the main pool, there are two hot tubs-and they were bone melting hot. Yes!! We luckily got ourselves ready AND partially packed by the time we made it to the Magic Kingdom!  We wanted our last full day to be at the MK.

The park’s attendance didn’t seem as crazy as our other two days there before, so we were thrilled. We strolled through Main Street USA, without bumping into a soul.  We kept our first FP for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride at 1:40PM. The girls and I loved this ride from the first day, and were looking forward to riding it one last time.

The queue for the ride is so darn cute. I love those seven little guys!The only thing that stunk about our ride was as soon as the mine carts hit the outside the large drops of rain started to fall.  Not a terribly big deal, I had my sunglasses to stop the splatter of water in my eyes. And even if the ride had a few minor stops along the way that got us wet, we don’t know what happened, we still had fun. That wait outside the cottage at the end was a fun opportunity to teach everyone that they can rock the carts back and forth to the music.  So, we swayed to Snow White dancing!  It was actually a lot more fun than it sounds.

About the time we got off the ride, the rain seemed over. The park was prepping for their big parade, and we wanted to get to Thunder Mountain before it was too late. But, by the time we got over to Frontierland through the bridge and roped areas, the rain had started coming down harder.  Ponchos on, we ran to Pirates of the Caribbean, which had a ten minute wait listed. I was happy to keep my poncho on for that ride as well.  The canon went off right next to our boat…  I stayed dry. After POTC, the sun came gloriously out but thunder started so all the outside rides had to pause till it was over.

The girls really wanted to have a Dole whip, because each day resulted in some fail to get one, so we raced over to grab one.  Our oldest is a huge pineapple nut, so she wanted the dole whip swirl over the upside down pineapple cake and our youngest wanted a simple vanilla, no pineapple.  The vanilla was so good, and swirled with the pineapple was pretty great.  I am a fan and not a fan of the Dole whip.  The first time I had it I got the float, which was literally so much pineapple that I couldn’t taste anything else for three hours. But our oldest remembers her very first one, in 2012, and talks about it like it was an ancient precious relic. Haha

I like rum. Maybe next time I will try the rum ones?

Since the sun was still out, and no thunder rumbles for a while, we ran over to Big Thunder Mountain which had virtually no line!  We ended up riding it twice in a row, taking full advantage of people stuck somewhere else due to the thunder.

After this, we planned FP to split up because our oldest wanted to ride Space Mountain again with her dad, and our youngest wanted to go on The Haunted Mansion with me. My ghoulish gal. We had a lot of fun splitting up! We walked through the store first to cool off from the humidity, then made our way. We laughed a lot, and the ride had a quick pause where we got spooked pretty good by the creepy skeleton that pops up out of the tombstone!

We met up after these rides in Liberty Square. The rain started again, so we ducked into The Hall of Presidents. Without too much detail or ranting crazily about my dislike for Trump. All the Presidents creep me out. They always have. Especially, the little guy at the desk behind Pres. Washington. I flashed the 8 gang sign to Pres. Van Buren, always representing Seinfeld. Cheered seeing JFK, cuz Boston. The show is a good watch overall. Our country is spectacular and we have had do many different types of leaders. My kids liked the video beforehand followed by President Lincoln’s address. I always do. Which is probably the best part of the whole show.

And, Trump sucks even as an animatronic puppet reading from a script. Ugh sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

We left the show to find blue skies and SUNSHINE! Woo! We took a walk up the side of the castle then realized each time we walked by the castle this trip it was closed for a parade or show. We saw it was open and finally made our way in!

It’s not a terribly big walk through but it is worth stopping to look at all the Cinderella reliefs. The lighting is dark, but what you can see of the mosaics is spectacular when you think about how many man hours the artist put into them. She did an amazing job. I especially like the gold tiles, so sparkly in each relief.

As we strolled down the castle paths, we realized the time. We had a FP for The Speedway and then reservations for dinner following, at Be Our Guest.

The Speedway is one of those ‘ride your own’ rides that crack me up with the girls because they can’t drive to save their lives and are overwhelmed if they bump the inner track. My husband rode with our oldest, because our youngest wouldn’t allow me to go with her. Notice how she is always with me? She is starting to attach herself to my hip. Well, we had good fun driving, or trying to drive. She was so funny because she has a lead acceleration foot and a lead breaking foot. She kept freaking out, letting go of the wheel and smashing into the inner track.

Let’s hope this isn’t her driving future.

Finally! Dinner!

We had only eaten lunch at Be Our Guest in 2014, and had a good experience. Dinner service is way different than lunch.

First, you check in at the front kiosk where you are told to await a text to enter the gates. Within seconds we got the text. We then were let into the gates, then told to await our party’s name to be announced. Every few minutes a footman would come out of the side door calling names. Once our name was called the footman walked us in the castle through the main doors telling us that the prince was throwing a party. The lunch ordering kiosks to the right were covered in lush velvet curtains and we were taken straight through the ballroom where we had sat before to our table.

We were seated in what I called the Thunder and Lightning Room. It was one the left side of the ballroom; beautiful plum wall paper, dimly lit tables and it had a lot of theatrics. The ceiling had tapestries hung that the Beast had clawed through during a fit, there was also a crackling fireplace with a painting hung above. Every few minutes thunder and lightning lit up the space, and with each clap of thunder the painting above the fireplace would flicker between the painting of the Prince to an image of him as the Beast. Super glad no other children sat in this space because the thunder and lightning was sort of loud …and spooked me a little! Also, next to the fireplace-in the corner of the room, there was the enchanted rose under glass twirling. It was a beautiful space but I wish the rose was more realistic rather than holographic.

When we got seated the Beast made a dramatic entrance into our space to say a quick hello to the room before heading to his character meet spot inside the study, the ordering kiosks area at the front. Our waitress was super nice and the atmosphere was pretty fun, though at times I’d joke that we were at the Rainforest Cafe with the lightning and thunder.

Our waitress encouraged us to take a walk around the restaurant and to see the Beast. After we ordered drinks we took a minute to check out our room and the other rooms across the way. We decided to hold off on seeing the Beast until after we ate and ready to leave.

The whole table was dressed so perfectly in a rose theme. Each place-setting was adorned with rosette napkins and a giant candle in the middle of the table. The girls loved the napkins a lot; so now I have to learn how to make rose folded napkins to surprise them.

Our experience this meal was actually nothing like the horror stories we had read. We ended up enjoying it way more than we figured we would. My husband got the salmon. Our girls got the grilled shrimp and mac n cheese. I got the roasted chicken- because I never order chicken ever but during this trip I ordered it like everyday. Haha. My husband had a beer and I had a rose champagne. We had a great time together, even if the thunder got the best of me once in a while. Hah

We, of course, had to get the grey stuff. My only meh moment of the night was this grey stuff. I’m the only one who didn’t care for it, too. It was sort of bland and the crust was so hard to get through. I took a bite and forfeited it to the big man. Which I am glad I did because I got a second round of champagne instead :).

After dinner we met the Beast. Well, he is the reason I wanted to take the girls to this restaurant; well, I had never seen him in person. Just wow. What a costume. The whole character meet was so sweet. He kissed our hands, hugged us and we were enchanted.

Now that we were all floating on cloud nine, we made our way to Big Thunder Mountain to use our last FP.  As we ran over, we noticed the park was starting their nighttime show, so the ride had virtually no line anyways.  We got onto the ride, my husband and I alone in front of the girls, who got to sit in the last seat  (which is the best seat on the whole coaster).  We popped outside to find the fireworks just starting.  IT WAS AMAZEBALLS! I mean, the locations of each display is staggered to look together from Main Street USA but from the side they are spread out so our view was literally surrounded on the right side… it was the best thing I had ever experienced on BTM.

The fireworks show is pretty long, and they continued as we exited the ride… so the girls wanted to hop back on, and I decided to sit it out to watch the fireworks.  I got to sit on top of these boxes near the water bubbler by the exit to watch the show as they went on.  It was awesome.  The best part of this stint of the night was when my family exited the ride my husband sat out the next ride to sit with me on the boxes as the girls rode again.

Kissing during fireworks that close is pretty special.  🙂

As soon as the girls exited, the fireworks ended and the rain started!  BAH!! almost perfect, right?  Well we ended up getting the girls on the carousel as we took cover near by.  We had one last FP for the night, Peter Pan.  It may have been the best way to end the night.  The girls wanted to ride it together, which was sweet, and left us alone. I know I said this last time, but I just love this ride so much.  We jetted after this ride to the Confectionary on Main Street USA to grab some last minute souvenirs for everyone.  They were shooting photos for some photo shoot inside there, which was fun to see.

Sad to say, that this was our last full day in the parks, but a pretty great last night of the trip.  The girls were wiped during the bus ride home, but so was I.  When we got back to the resort, I jumped on finishing up the packing and setting up everyone for the next day.  😦

Our last day.

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Day 9

Disney Park: EPCOT

We woke up to beautiful sunshine!  Of course, we were leaving.  We dropped off our bags to bell service to hold, grabbed a bite to eat and a few more souvenirs.  I needed my Mickey waffle key chain!  Then headed right to EPCOT.  We had to be back to the resort by 2PM to grab the Magical Express back to the airport. Which by my calculations left us not a ton of time to play.  We had one FP this day, because of the time constraints, to Test Track.  We literally got to EPCOT, took a few pictures, rode Test Track then left.

Or at least it felt that fast!

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Well, there we have it, guys!

It was a fun nine days with the people I love most on this marble creating memories, just having fun.  BUT, I think we have had our Disney Parks fill for a bit.  Wink Wink.  I will explain my winks further on Instagram sometime soon!

Hope you all enjoyed reading along.  I miss not waking up in Disney, it really has been magical.

xoxoxo

Walt Disney World April 22- Day 7

Day 7 

Disney Park: EPCOT (open till 9PM)

The forecast for this day was iffy.  Our weather apps all stated thunder showers with intermittent sunshine; so we grabbed our ponchos and headed to EPCOT!

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**This post is going to take a quick personal turn before I get back to my trip details.

When I initially arrived in Orlando on this trip, I had gotten word that one of my cousins from England was in the area visiting Florida with all her family. Her daughter and I are connected on FB, so I had shared my itinerary to see if any days overlapped to meet up while we were there in the same city.  Her daughter texted me during dinner at Art Smith’s the night before that they would also be at EPCOT till 2PM this day.

‘Well, I thought you were Italian?’

Here is a little back story to explain my English family..

I have mentioned a few dozen times how I am born to immigrant parents from Sicily, Italy.  Living here we have had just ourselves, no aunts, no uncles, though I have a pretty huge family; a total mix of 17 aunts and uncles. Most of my aunts and uncles live in Sicily, with the exception of five, one of whom, on my mom’s side, moved to the UK as a young man.  This uncle, one of my favorites, married an English woman and had five children together.  Though my mother was always very close to her brother, and would always be on the phone, skype, or receiving letters and photos of everyone often, we never had many chances to meet as kids or anytime really. I am the third youngest first cousin on my mother’s side, the second youngest on my father’s, and with such a large family the age gap is big; most of my first cousins average about 15-20 years older than me.

Well, I had the luck as a child to meet my uncle three times; he traveled to America twice.  He visited once when I was 4yo with his son, and again when I was 9yo with his wife. Then at 13yo my mother and I stayed with him at their sister’s house during a vacation in Sicily.

When I was 23, my husband and I were freshly engaged, and I took a chance to fly to London with him on a work trip. At that point, my uncle with most of my family lived in Cornwall, about 9hrs away by train from London.  I couldn’t take that trip, but one of my first cousins lived right outside of London with his family. A cousin I had never met but always felt I knew through the countless photos we had fawned over growing up. So we stayed with him for a day. I got to meet his daughters, my two beautiful second cousins and spend such a lovely time together.   Just a funny fact about this cousin, he is featured in the first scene of the 007 movie, A View to Kill, just a split second.  He worked as an actual Royal Guard for the Palace in real life, and in the movie he is the guard on horse going by the screen in the first seconds after the credits.  (Not sure why I am sharing this but I love that he is in this movie with his suit on!!) 

In the early 2000’s one of my English second cousins came to visit.  Then after I got married I had started to make some mental plans to visit my family in England, but my uncle got ill and passed away; I was devastated for a long period. BUT, let’s fast forward to my sister’s wedding in Sicily in 2007, the only two English cousins I had met attended. And that was it from England, I had met my uncle and aunt, one cousin when I was 4, another at 23.

Then this day happened, of all places at Disney . I got to meet a third cousin from England!

My cousin, guys!

 

So, I am a pretty emotional person about family, probably because I always fantasized what life would’ve been like living in Sicily with everyone close by or with anyone here at all.  So meeting my cousin was absolutely surreal for me.  We talked about meeting at Mexico in the Showcase.  When we got there, it was a bit of a seek game. I looked outside, no one.  The I went inside, no one.  My second cousin texted me that they were outside and as I walked out to check again, I saw this little woman standing across the way who looked just like my mom.  And my uncle!

It was her!!  I screamed in joy and hugged her right away.  I was very happy to make this happen. I got to meet her with her whole family- her husband, my two second cousins, and one third cousin!! People I had only seen grow up in pictures. She got to meet my children and husband. My girls loved all their accents and to finally meet extended family. They knew this was important to me.  Just surreal.

We caught up as much as we could about our families. We jumped topics but we talked about my sisters and parents, and my uncle, who had passed away, and her mom and siblings. The time flew, all I could do was dwell inside my head of how much family I have missed in my life AND how she looked like my mom and our family. We talked about a lot, but they had to move on to their next destination as they were traveling with my second cousins partner and family.

Just crazy right? It was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always hold close.

——

Just as we were parting ways, it started to rain.  We threw on ponchos then head along with our plans.  We started with a bite of school bread in Norway, which we still think they changed the recipe because of the renovations to the bakery. It just had a whole different consistency.  As we were in Norway the rain came down heavier, and we were on our way to seek refuse in Frozen Ever after, where we were headed because the lines were super low.  WERE.  As soon as we were walking over, the whole world walked over and the lines popped up to 45 minute wait in minutes.  We shrugged it off because we made a fast pass for it at 5:15PM, and decided to make our way to Germany to grab some fun foods and drinks.  The second we walked away from Norway the sun came out and the skies turned blue.   …which was awesome!

We grabbed a potato pancake (because I love to eat potatoes all the time) and a berry strudel.  The luck is that seats opened up in Germany to chill out in the sunshine.  The girls were promised a game of Agent P in Germany, and while they did that with Daddy, I grabbed a champagne at the Weinkeller.  When I got back, my husband ran to grab some caramel popcorn, which I think we ate in three minutes flat.  haha  We spent a lot of time chilling in Germany enjoying the weather and Agent P. We always had great memories of playing Agent P with the girls from our last trips.

I can’t say that I didn’t think about meeting my cousin while I was sitting with everyone, or how that it left me feeling empty.  It had for some reason. I even shed a tear under my sunglasses.  I don’t know why I felt so sad, but I did.  My husband saw me upset, and tried to cheer me up.  He understands me better than I do myself.  So we decided it was time to get up to walk around more, and I suggested we grab slushie drinks in Japan.  We liked those drinks a lot, and my kids would never say no to more sugar  haha. This time, however, my husband grabbed a frozen foam Kirin beer from a different location within Japan. It was super cool looking, and even though I am not a beer fan, it was fun to drink!

We walked over to Morocco.  We had planned to grab another drink here, but the machines were broken. Womp, so off to walk through the bizarre.  The styling of the space is so beautiful, and unique to the showcase.  The girls, at this point, saw the KidCot stations in n alley and decided to flake us to color Duffy..and rehash their obsession with talking to each KidCot station representative while coloring.  Which is great, but how they didn’t see this our first day is funny.

So. Enter rant here...   My only complaint about the Showcase is that they go through a lot of trouble to be authentic with the feel of each country, till you get to the shopping.  They don’t really sell unique items in these countries that make you want to drop cash like you should on vacation.  I know I am advocating more money to spend, but I am serious.  I like shopping, I do it all day, and most of the things I like to buy are quality things that make me happy.  They don’t sell any and it’s a shame.  Like Morocco, for example, where we are a the moment. Such a missed opportunity.  If they sold things that were real imports I would have bought them! Like some of the decor around the space were more intriguing than the actual items to buy…like one store we went into last was selling the same stuff the other stores had, the ornate dresses, the flashy fashion jewelry and shoes, etc, except they had a table set up with obscure Moroccan hair products in the window.  On the table was a small assortment of hair care things, even incense oddly enough, but there was this sole bottle of green colored shampoo that looked like it had been there for a LONNG time..I grabbed it because the label was a throwback to the 70’s.  IT WAS OLD SHAMPOO!  and it smelled disgusting to boot!  Here is an opportunity to actually sell the most coveted hair products in the world, the middle east is known for their amazing beauty products, and you are selling crappy hair shampoo and oils? Why?  And each store had the same merchandise, such a missed opportunity, guys!!

Bbah, I should be a buyer for EPCOT.  The stuff I saw was so weak everywhere.

Ok rant over.

We arrived in France.  I love this little corner of the Showcase so much because out of all the countries, this one actually feels like parts of Paris.  My husband asked us to chill by the fountain, and he grabbed tomato tartes with two la vie en rose slushies, which I didn’t know they were both for me. haha  I really loved them so I was happy.  We took a walk around the area.  The kids wanted to find the KidCot table to get stamps and color their Duffys some more.  It was inside the store/Pattiserie.  As I was shopping around, the girls were coloring and my husband disappeared; only to emerge calling me with his special whistle.  He was behind me with treats and a table for four in the corner. He grabbed Napoleons for him and the girls, and a beignet filled with hazelnut chocolate for me.

I am insane for Nutella, so this was definitely received with a smile.  🙂

Once we finished our treats, the girls decided to hit the KidCot again for more coloring, and my husband went to check the line for Aurora outside.  Within seconds I got the text that he was in line so we shuffled out and made it for the girls to meet Aurora.  We leisurely walked through England and Canada.  Weird thing, it’s a huge joke for us in the house that we had never, and YES NEVER, seen Oh Canada! with Martin Short.   Well, we rectified this and made it up the stairs and down the mountain to see it.  It was actually not as annoying as I thought it would be, on the account that Martin Short can sometimes be annoying.  And by sometimes, I mean usually.

After our journey through Canada, we trotted back over around the Showcase to Norway to get on Frozen Happily Ever After. Ok, so here I go…  I loved the Maelstrom, it was one of my favorite rides, especially the part where you thought you’d fall out of the building, and I love the changes they made for this ride.  The theming through out and the animatronics were great.  I actually liked it more than I thought I would.  The only stinky thing was we all sat second row, behind some jackass who kept using flash photography, and some dufus behind us, too! What are you taking a photo of in the dark!??!  Well the woman behind us stopped after two flashes, but the guy in front of us wouldn’t stop.  During each display the CMs kept having to slow down the ride to yell at him from above.  He was so annoying!!

But the ride was fun, we all got to sit on one row together which I like, and we even got a little wet.

After the ride, we decided to dry off by walking through China while the kids were at the KidCot table. China is pretty.  I remember loving China during my first trip to EPCOT with my husband in 2002. I made him sit there with me for so long so I could soak up the sights. We ate and hung out for like three hours or something just talking.  haha  So silly.

Finally, FOOD!  We made it to our reservations at Via Napoli in Italy starving because we hadn’t eaten in like five minutes.  The weather by the time we had our reservations was absolutely perfect.  It was hot but breezy, so we opted to sit outside.  We wanted to take a long break for dinner, so we grabbed a margherita pizza with some drinks and just talked about all the fun we have been having and made plans for the night.  We snagged some FP for test track and a character meet up…we still hadn’t met up with Mickey this trip!  (I had made a Mickey Mouse character meet FP that we had cancelled, and I was upset over it, so this FP was for me. haha)   After dinner, the kids wanted to color more and get a stamp from KidCot.  As I was hanging out with them, I noticed the CM in the space was from Sicily, so we started talking.  Then a local elderly gentleman came over to join in on the conversation, who was originally from Sicily.  He reminded me of my father; how he physically used his hands to explain things, so I enjoyed talking to him.

After this we walked over to the Character meet.  We didn’t choose to hang out for Illuminations again since we had seen it last time, and we had other plans.  The character meet was so much fun, it made up for the fact that we had to cancel the one at the MK.  Mickey is such a gentleman, and Goofy, man, I swear Goofy flirted with me!  haha We all had such memorable interactions with the group.  Minnie was my youngest daughter’s favorite she said, because she was so polite and loved all of their shirts. 🙂  So cute.

Right after that fun time we hopped on Test Track.  What great timing we had because as soon as the ride broke loose to the outside track the fireworks from Illuminations were going off in the sky around us and it was so amazing. Truly magical.  We all couldn’t believe our luck!

We left Test Track to look for a few things in Mouse Gear, then made our way to grab a Mickey sandwich for the girls.  Walked slowly to the bus.

😦  Our last full day at EPCOT.

Walt Disney World April 21- Day 6

Day 6 

Disney Park: Animal Kingdom (open till 10:30PM)

This was our first morning at Saratoga Springs Resort.  When I finally got to see what our view looked like from the room I was giddy and woke up the whole room to rejoice with me.

So to recap, we arrived for our first stay during the night hours.  Everything lit by lamps, you can’t really see much.  We were given a room in the Paddock /building 65.  Unpacked a little bit, then got right to bed..of course, after an hour of watching the Disney World parks today station.  We just found that station on a three-hour loop on YouTube, which we played all morning Sunday for nostalgia. hah  I wish I was kidding.

The view… It was perfect.  It was peaceful. It was beautiful. IT WAS JUST SO WONDERFUL!!  I should mention, that we had pretty low expectations of this resort because whenever we drove by it or saw it in print we were like..”OK, it’s pretty but where is the big Disney wow factor?”.  Well, folks, the whole property is it.  We really felt transported during this part of our stay because of the resort.  There was a lot of grassy space.  Each building was painted a different classic color, ours was yellow but next to us was a light green and blue, so pretty. There were not a ton of children, but there were a lot of kids, don’t get me wrong.  The walks to the two pools and to the main building gave us access to so many beautiful vistas of water and wildlife, and each pool are was different. The main pool had two hot tubs, a large swim area with a cool slide and a splash park, to the side there were table tennis tables and a thread hair wrapping station. The pool closer to our building had a hot tub, a main pool with slide and then a splash climbing park next to it.   They had surrey bike rentals if you wanted, which we all said if we go back we are renting them. The bus service was always on time, and there were multiple stops within the resort in case you wanted to catch it at another spot.  The property just had a real nice overall feel to it.  We didn’t regret any moment of this stay.

This day we planned to start off at the pool with breakfast and swimming, though the weather said the day would be cloudy with rain.  We took our chances! So glad we did, because as soon as we finished breakfast, the clouds broke with sun, a few sprinkles fell and that was it for the day!

We had a great experience at the hot tub, got to meet a slew of people from Massachusetts, which was a lot of fun.  We also got to hang out sunbathing in the graduated part of the pool together too.

AAhhrrg why do I live in Massachusetts!!?!?

After the pool, we all got dolled up and headed on to our second day at the Animal Kingdom.  We pre-reserved three FP for this day, but two of them we changed at the pool.  We kept our Avatar Flight of Passage.  We arrived to the park to find it was less crowded than our last visit, which was weird since it was a Saturday.  They had the Star Wars marathon happening this weekend, so maybe folks took off afterward?

We started off this trip with a fun leisure, semi-guided by me, walk over to Pandora.  haha  I just wanted to stay there all day! Plus we had our FP coming up.  That’s what I told everyone anyways.

So I love this ride to pieces.  It was even more exciting this day, maybe because I knew what to expect again but I just enjoyed every moment. And I kept my eyes open to my surroundings to see how it all worked out with us floating up to the screen.  SUPER COOL.  We exited the ride somewhat hungry, so we stopped in at the Satu’li Canteen for these bao buns we saw before. I hung outside to reserve a table, while the big man ordered the food.  The best surprise was that he brought me a pretty blue drink to go with everything, a dreamwalker sangria. The drink was pretty.  That’s really all I can say about it.. I love blue?

From Pandora we went to Asia for the Maharaja Safari.  But first, as if my kids didn’t just eat they NEEDED a dole whip and ice cream.  SMH, with all this junk!!   We got to Tamu Tamu in Africa, but the dole whip machine was down, so our daughters opted for chocolate chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches and my husband grabbed a malva cake to share (it’s a spice cake). We found a great hideaway spot to eat with lots of shade and seats.  So, the kids’ ice cream sandwiches were the biggest things ever, so both my husband and I grabbed knives to cut off at least a quarter piece.  I was full from the piece that I had eaten that I couldn’t go near that malva cake… Oh, but, our oldest daughter could.  HOLY EATER! And she is so thin, I don’t know where she puts it all.  (She eats like a machine every day)

We got ourselves to the Maharaja Safari and had the most pleasant time walking around.  The girls were finishing up with their Wilderness Explorer books that they started on the first trip; collecting stickers, talking to all the guides and drawing.  Such a great idea to get people involved with their surroundings.  After this we swooped down into Asia for more WE stops, then made our way to It’s Tough to Be a Bug.  Something our youngest didn’t remember at all. So seeing her flip out over the 4D stuff was funny.  To me anyways.  haha

 

I forgot to mention that our kids had been pestering us all morning to get over to Dinoland to ride Primeval Whirl.  When I say pester I mean bother me till I explode! Which takes a lot.  So after the 4d fun, we made our way to Dinoland.  We had a FP to ride PW, we gave them ours so they could ride it twice in a row. They got three turns because the lines were super low.  Then they darted over to TriceraTops before we got to leave the park.  We were heading to Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ in Disney Springs for dinner.

Ok, so this was one of the few restaurants I booked that I was actually excited to try out.  From our experience being checked in by the cheerful staff, to our so friendly waiter, whom we talked like we were old friends with all night, we just had great vibes this place was going to be good. And, well, it did not disappoint!  What a fun night.

We all ordered some type of fried chicken dish; whether straight forward chicken or a sandwich, then the girls ordered ice cream and donuts for dessert.  My husband and I had great moonshine cocktails that we ordered in these funny restaurant 22oz sippy cups.  So, no dessert for us, we decided to keep drinking our moonshine instead. I got 2 moonshine margaritas and he mixed it up; first he had a single of a berry lavender.  Then, per our waiter’s recommendation, they mixed a concoction of one berry lavender and one blueberry bliss.  A big purple drink emerged.  Then his third, yes his third, he opted back to the original one. The sippy cups can be refilled anytime during your stay there.  Love moonshine, kids!  The kicker is that they have a bar set up outside so you can get those same moonshine refills while walking around all day and all night..for like $10-$12 a refill!

I know, let’s move to Disney Springs..or better yet, let’s get Art Smith to open a place up here!!

Our meals were delicious, not a thing left on a plate. I even ate some of my husband’s food!  YES, ME!  Everything was cooked perfectly and seasoned just right.  The donuts at the end may have been the best ever too.  Crisp and tasty.  Just like a warm hug of vanilla.

We ended up walking around after dinner, shopping for souvenirs and being silly. It had started to rain just as the stores were closing for the night.  We grabbed some souvenirs, and those that we couldn’t find we found on the app at the other parks we were visiting next.. So we decided it was time to pack it in and walk back to the resort.  Saratoga Springs, particularly our building within the resort, is literally a five-minute walk from Disney Springs.  Super convenient.

Well, there is day 6 out of 9.  😦 I really loved this night of our trip.  We felt like we were away yet at home with all the good food and walking around.

Also, my moonshine margarita was amazing.  Got a refill without ice to bring to the pool the next day, too!  :)~

Walt Disney World April 19- Day 4

Day 4

Disney Park: Animal Kingdom (open till 9:30PM)

🎂 This day was my eldest sister’s birthday, the one who lives overseas in Sicily. Our daughters wanted to make her a birthday video from the pool first thing to make her day bright.  Something we seem to make offsite for her annually as her birthday always falls during our school vacation weeks.

Like I just mentioned, we got to the pool before hitting the park today; we had a FP starting at 11:55AM for the safari. It was a perfect 80F start with the sun shining and the pool glimmering… and oh look, friends from home!  Yup, we saw more friends from my husband’s hometown at the pool.

Apparently, Bay Lake is the place to be during April vacation.

Because the weather was spectacular, we were willing to sacrifice the first FP for pool time since we had another FP for the safari another day at night.  This day we also reserved FP for Primeval Whirl, for the girls to ride it for the first time, and then Avatar Flight of Passage, for all of us to ride it together.

Going to the Animal Kingdom this day was our first shot at the bus system since our last visit. The buses for Bay Lake arrive at a station on the Contemporary side of the house.  We arrived to the Animal Kingdom only to be greeted by a handsome stranger approaching me.  He was fast talking with his family while holding a paper ticket, basically, asking if we wanted it. It was a free pass to ride Avatar Flight of Passage any time that day (kid swap).   So yea, I took it and thanked him, it was a great start to our day already!

On top of this we were hungry. We went to grab a quick bite to eat at the Flame Tree BBQ (one of the first spots where I had ever eaten at Disney World in 2002); so for nostalgia and love of BBQ’d meat, we have to eat there first each time.  The girls split the mac n cheese topped with pulled pork, my husband the pulled pork sandwich with a beer and me the BBQ chicken salad with a vodka drink!   So, just a heads up that portions of food at this location are crazy out of whack. Like, way too big. My kids split a KIDS MEAL and my husband had eaten some of it too.  I ended up splitting my dish with my husband, and leaving some behind.  As you may be understanding by now, my husband is an eating machine.  haha  He is a pretty big guy, and always ends up eating my food.  Sometimes I feel bad but he doesn’t seem to mind.  🙂 And I love sharing my food and everything with him anyways.

We flew to our first FP, the Kilimanjaro safari! They changed this experience a little. It no longer used the radios or anything that had to do with the chase of finding poachers along the route, which was actually pretty ok. I mean, the last time we rode it there was a little confusion on the ride because the driver didn’t set up the chase quite well and we had to explain it to a family the whole time.

Our next FP was the Primeval Whirl.  A ride the girls were too little to get on during the past two trips to AK.  We all got on it together, which was fun.  I had never ridden it either!  Another ride we didn’t make it on ever in my Disney life, shock and awe.

Is it horrible to say that I didn’t care much for this ride?  I liked the theme and it was silly fun and all, but the jerkiness of the turns at the end of each corner was bothersome.  I felt like an arcade pinball getting whacked around and spun. The girls loved it! Which is all I can ask for because they have been talking about this ride for months! We walked around Dinoland a bit after the ride, but I was pretty excited to get to our next FP… Avatar Flight of Passage!! So I basically forced everyone to get going!!

C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!!

Arriving at Pandora is pretty surreal as you are walking over the bridge.  Especially if you are a fan of the movie, which we all are.  The transformation from Discoveryland to Pandora is done in the most subtle way, then bam right after the river you are engulfed in this new world; so different from the others in AK.  The floating mountains in the valley of Mo’ara looked just like the movie, I wanted to fly up and touch them.  We all couldn’t believe it. The sounds of the animals, and the lush surroundings, all seemed so real.  Disney created such an amazing land, so beautiful.  We walked all around the space before our FP; from the leafy reaches of the Na’vi River Journey to the stone drums to the hidden stores.

Then we got on the Avatar Flight of Passage ride.  AFOP is probably the best ride I have ever been on in my life.  And I am a super scaredy cat of the unknown fast, high swooping rides and stuff, but this ride was so well done that I couldn’t get enough. The seats were super cool. The views were intense, and the 3D was the best I had ever experienced. That smell of the ocean was refreshing and I can still smell it, but my favorite part of the ride, though, was how I could feel the banshee breathing between my legs.  It was a whole lot of amazing details after another.

Never had I been so disappointed for a ride to end than that one.

After we rode the AFOP, we grabbed some fun drinks from Pongu Pongu.  We got a Rum Blossom, which had Passion fruit boba mixed in with two sized straws, for good reason! The drink was yummy and refreshing. Those boba balls were so good!

With drinks in hand, we went over to Discoveryland to grab the girls some Mickey bars (and a frozen margarita for me!) but within minutes we ended up going back to Pandora to ride AFOP again, using that pass from the kind stranger. After riding that twice, and the hour, we decided it was a great time to start making our way over to Asia because we had to be at our dinner reservations within the half hour.  We had made reservations for Yak & Yeti!

OK, I AM NOT COMPLAINING IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH BY ANY MEANS…

But our experience at Yak & Yeti was ….  meh.  The place itself was pretty.  I loved the Asian aesthetic.  And I am only saying our experience was ok because our oldest daughter has an all nuts allergy (which the place was fine for her) but my husband has a sesame seed/oil allergy.  Both cases are pretty clear. They go into anaphylaxis if they eat the actual food, but cross contamination isn’t usually a problem.  Our youngest got the chicken fingers with corn and jasmine rice, our oldest got tuna nachos, my husband got the blackened tuna and I got the tuna salad.  Simple tuna dishes for the most part, right? Well, for some reason it was terribly complicated for the chef to understand not just for my husband but also our dishes, as we stated, treat the entire table as if we have a sesame allergy.. So what happened?  He treated the appetizer, lettuce cups, as a gluten allergy, though it didn’t have sesame..weird, but ok, safe. THEN.  My dish and our oldest daughter’s dish came out riddled with sesame seeds.  SMH.  It was fine, we don’t have any issues, but sucked cause I know he wanted to try those nachos. My husband said his dish was fine in the end, blackened tuna with double jasmine rice, but also that it was not terribly exciting, and that the blackening seasoning was kind of burnt or smokey tasting…which I know he isn’t fond of. We grabbed a few drinks there.. beer, yak attack, a margarita and a sangria, they were nice.

While at dinner, we made a few more FP for the night.  We forfeited our River of Light FP to split up our time because my husband and oldest daughter wanted to ride Everest, but our youngest did not.  So I took her to Dinoland to ride whatever she wanted… TriceraTops and Primeval Whirl. So glad we did this, because as soon as we got off TriceraTops the other arrived and the kids rode Primeval Whirl two times on their own.

I had this great idea to paint everyone’s faces with UV glow body paint before heading back to Pandora for night-time. It was fun to draw the designs on. Though the paint from the bottle was messy, I also used a plastic fork, and the paint wasn’t as brightly lit up as I wanted it to be, everyone looked cute when it dimly glowed or when we got into regular light. Eh. Just goes to showya. Some ideas aren’t worth the cost or time… this was one!!

With faces painted, we went back to Pandora to close out the night.  At this point, the River of Light was just starting so we got a good tip to hit up the Na’vi River Journey, which would have shorter wait times. We couldn’t get FP to this ride at any point before our trip, and wanted to get on it at least once during our two days at the AK this trip.  So. We kept an eye on the app right from dinner, the lines were so long, but we saw the numbers drop little by little.  When we made it to Pandora, we raced right there.  It stated 45 minutes, so we took the leap of faith.

THERE WAS NO WAIT AT ALL!   We were all so glad to get on the ride because it ended up being the last moment to ride it for the night!

We left the Animal Kingdom super tired, but happy.  We did get on the bus to take us home, but someone got an ill tummy, me, and we got off at the Wilderness Lodge.

The best part of our night was actually this stop. Funny enough.

We remembered that the resort had a ferry service to the Contemporary Resort.  We walked to the dock out back to find the ferry-boat just arriving to pick up riders.  The night was perfect, the boat was basically empty.  First stop the boat went to was Fort Wilderness, which was actually pretty cool from this view-point.  It looked like a quaint camp site set on the water, set up in the middle of nowhere. Then we ferried right to the Contemporary, which was about 10 minutes.  It was beautiful.  The warmth.  The breeze.  The view of the resorts from the darkness.  The girls sat arm and arm, and, we did, too.  Well, with my shoulder on his, as well.  I was sleepy.  🙂

Also, this could also be funny for others, but, the driver of the boat was, to say the least, amusing. He was sort of dressed like a boat captain but messy. He was lanky with a 5 o’clock shadow, and spoke slowly, almost like a bit of a Scooby Doo creepy character. We docked at the Contemporary at the same time as another ferry.  The ferry captain of that other boat came over to ours and looked like The Skipper from Gilligan’s Island.  With all these old school show references I had a ball. (I love the TV shows I grew up on!)

Our full day at the Animal Kingdom was a lot of fun.  We loved Pandora, the kids loved all the fun foods and getting on Primeval Whirl, and despite some minor set backs, we ended the night on such a magical note.