We got an early start in order to get to Kissimmee at a decent hour. Our 2 1/2 hour drive from West Palm Beach consisted of more girl talk, plenty of karaoke, and GPS directions. When we arrived at the condo where my family was staying, we headed to the main pool for a barbecue and some more Cupid Shuffle (Sharon and I couldn't resist)...
Then we started on the Cosmopolitans, and did some sunbathing.
We headed back to the condo for dinner in the early evening, chatted for a bit, then said goodbye to Crystal and Sharon, who had to get back to their real lives. Sharon just got hired at a law firm in D.C., and Crystal had to work the next day as well. But my vacation was just getting started.
The evening concluded with card games Rummy and one we call "Bino" (also called "31" and "Scat").
Very early rise for EPCOT in Disney World, where the International Flower & Garden Festival was taking place. We were delighted by topiaries and beautiful flowers all day long.
We got there just after the park opened and headed to Soaring, a simulated flight over California, complete with the smell of oranges while passing over orange groves, and other fun surprises.
Next, we ventured over to Test Track where, after the ride, a GM representative offered to mail dad some information on the latest Cadillac (backhanded compliment?).
Arriving at Mission: SPACE, I convinced my sister to take the "more intense" trip to Mars with me, for which she claimed I owed her a consolation prize later.
Mom and dad rode the green "less intense" version.
Sister and I also picked up some of our favorite astronaut ice cream in the gift shop on our way out.
Then sister and I made a quick visit to Innoventions, always one of my favorites. Inside Innoventions West, we became the stars of our own video game, which you can play here!
Venturing into the countries, mom, sis and I stopped for some lunch in France and met Princess Aurora (my favorite princess)!
After France, we had a rendez-vous (hehe) with the grandmas and dad, and one of the Photo Pass employees took a beautiful picture with my camera of the whole group of us.
We all watched "Off Kilter," a Celtic rock band outside Canada. I even got a picture onstage after the show :-p
Just passing through, we saw the Beetles in the UK, watched the "Impressions de France" film, then caught part of a parade. I snapped this cute shot of sis:
Next up: China, for our favorite: The Dragon Legends Acrobats (we actually watched it twice it was so good).
We even watched the world pass us by between Germany and China, as Disney set up the firework display for later that night.
After a full day, we enjoyed an entertaining dinner at the Biergarten Restaurant in Germany. I tasted all four of the beers and then danced the Polka with grandma...
On our way out, I spotted Snow White and Prince Charming. At first, I wanted to meet Prince Charming but the line was too long so I stood to the side and caught a few (utterly) candid shots.
Somehow we ended up back at China for some gift shopping and a second acrobat show, which we had a prime location for viewing this time. We also watched the "Reflections of China" film before staking out a spot for the "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" fireworks.
My view of the water was partially hidden by another guest for most of the show, but this photo came out kind of cute (if you don't realize that the girl wearing the ears is actually about my age).
On our way out of the park, we were all mesmerized by how thousands of guests could leave in such a bottleneck without so much as a push or a shove. I think the NJ Department of Transportation could use some Imagineers. (The things you notice when you get older, huh?) Or maybe some big, gloved Mickey hands waving the traffic on with a smile :-D
Back at the condo, I enjoyed a quick dip in the hot tub before bed.
I love the way Magic Kingdom is its own private destination, accessible to the public only after a monorail or a ferry ride. It makes the whole day feel like such a departure from reality.
The first sign was a few little princesses who had visited the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - a place where parents spend tons of money for their daughters to get all dolled up (wonderful marketing concept)! Despite the cookie-cutter princess ideal, I thought the little girls we spotted throughout the day looked very cute. Also, the Disney Photo Pass (another great concept) ensured some great shots in front of Cinderella's Castle.
We began our day a little later and started off at a leisurely pace with the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.
Then we hopped in line for Stitch's Great Escape, formerly the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (that I loved). I was a bit disappointed that, rather than an entirely revamped attraction, Disney tried to tone down the scare factor by using a fluffy, funny character Stitch (from Lilo & Stitch) in place of an evil alien, but with the same storyline. This was somehow supposed to make the loud noises, total darkness, and painful shoulder braces more bearable for younger children, but I'm pretty sure all it did was cause more screaming children who will be scarred for life and fewer entertained adults. Even if I had never been on the ExtraTERRORestrial ride, I think something would have still felt very non-Disney about the way this was all thrown together.
Moving on to another attraction that had been revamped since my last visit, Space Mountain was next on the list. We were happy to have Fast Pass for this one, but the lines wouldn't have been so bad with their newly-added video games along the queue. Rickety and thrilling as ever, dad emerged from the ride with a wind-blown hairdo. Stopped for a bite at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café, then got on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin where we battled Emperor Zurg to determine who would buy the next round of drinks.
Venturing out of Tomorrowland, we set the grandmas in a shady spot to enjoy a parade while we rode Splash Mountain, a ride that never changes and always delights! With only a little time before our dinner reservation, we met back up with the grandmas and ventured onto the Jungle Cruise, then enjoyed our family-style dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Delicious and filling.
Next was Pirates of the Caribbean. We boarded our ship and floated through a dark tunnel as sis joked, "and here comes the drop!" Little did we know - there actually is a 14-foot drop which surprised us all! We waved hello to Johnny (Captain Jack Sparrow) and the other pirates, then waved goodbye as the ride came to a quick conclusion.
As dusk approached, we rode my sister's favorite "it's a small world" (and the tune would not leave our heads for the rest of the night).
Mom, sis and I took a spin on the Mad Hatter's teacups.
As the crowd thinned and guests took their places for the evening firework display, we got right on Snow Whites's Adventures. There was an equally short wait for a new show called Mickey's PhilharMagic, a 4D musical show with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse which I absolutely loved (but I love everything 3D and 4D is even better).
We slowly made our way through the crowds on our way out of the park, enjoying the lights of Cindrella's castle and along Main Street USA.
Dad had the idea to take the ferry back to the car, and we caught the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks as we arrived on the shore opposite the Magic Kingdom. A truly magical end to the night!
Woke up a little late (no rush on a rainy day) then headed to Downtown Disney for some serious gift shopping. We also had an early dinner at Planet Hollywood where I discovered a new favorite mixed drink called Gorillas in the Mist:
- ¾ oz. Malibu Coconut Rum
- ¾ oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
- ¾ oz.Kahlua
- ¾ oz. Banana Liqueur
- 1 ½ oz.Ice Cream
- ½ Banana
Next, we entered the West Side Arena for Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba - front row - I almost got run over by a bicycle (or so it seemed)! I had no idea what to expect but it was an amazing and exciting show.
After that, sis and I walked through Pleasure Island and met up with the family back at Ghirardelli's chocolate shop, which you could smell from miles away, mmmm. We ate outside next to the water.
Dad and I went for a morning walk through the condo complex, and so I could see the sparkling new Welcome Center. There is so much new development there. We headed back just in time for the rain and pretty much vegged out for the rest of the day with some Cards and Cosmos. Isn't that what vacation is for, anyway?
Saturday was spent by the pool sunbathing and doing some reading. Mom and dad did a swamp tour, for real. Then we all had dinner in Celebration at Colombia Restaurant with a truly delicious assortment of tapas and entrees. We went home full and hit the hay early.
Early rise for the airport. Goodbye, Florida! It was a long trip home and we had been worried that our flight might be canceled because of the weather. We arrived to flooding and road closures, but at least we arrived. When I got back to campus, I had a marathon group meeting in the Tech Center which kept me on campus until about 1:30 am - back to reality, I suppose...
Until the next update!