Week In Review (February 25 – March 3, 2013)

I’m sorry that this post is up a bit late, but I wanted to take some time to make a special trip recap edition.  Don and I had such a wonderful time at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida last week and I thought some of you might be interested to hear a bit about how we spent our vacation days post race.

My knee was feeling better after a good rest, lots of ice, and some Advil on Sunday after the race (see my last Week In Review post for more about that if you missed it), so we decided to proceed with our usual Disney plan of visiting a park in the morning the next day.  We like to go to whichever park is having Extra Magic Hours that morning.  This means that the park opens to resort guests one hour before the general public.  It’s a great way to enjoy the parks before they get crazy crowded and allows you to get on your favorite rides without waiting in super long lines.

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We went to Animal Kingdom Monday morning.  Following our usual AK protocol, we booked it over to the Kilimanjaro Safaris to get fastpasses for later in the morning, then trekked all the way over to the other side of the park to get on Expedition Everest, a pretty awesome roller coaster in my opinion.  We were able to ride it twice in a row, which ended up not being the best decision for me as I got a little dizzy afterwards.  We slowly made our way around the rest of the park while I recovered, visiting another of our AK favorites, the DINOSAUR ride and stopping for a delicious Mickey pretzel.

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We ended our time at AK with the Safari, which is by far the best ride in the park.  You are guided on an open air bus through a real animal reserve, which offers up close views of African savanna wildlife.  My personal favorite is the giraffes, and we’ve always been fortunate to get great up close views of them.  We were lucky to see a lot of the reserve’s population out and about feeding on this particular morning, which made for a memorable experience.  Don and I usually walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail afterwards to see gorillas, monkeys, and other animals.  AK never disappoints!

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As much as we love Animal Kingdom, we usually choose to finish our time there before lunch and head somewhere else to eat.  We decided to go to one of our favorite Downtown Disney restaurants, Raglan Road, which is an Irish pub and restaurant.  We make a point of having lunch here every time we visit Disney World.  Don loves beer and decided to branch out and try Arrogant Bastard Ale while we were there.  He loves their Fish and Chips as well!  I had the Prosciutto and Chicken sambo with Parmesan Garlic Truffle fries.  Super YUM!  We ended the day at Victoria & Albert’s for dinner, which entails a lovely prix fixe dinner.  This is fine dining at its best at Disney World!  It is a special celebratory treat we like to indulge in during our Disney vacations.

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We rose bright and early Tuesday morning to make our way to Epcot to enjoy the Extra Magic Hour there.  We spent most of the morning in Future World.  Don and I procured fastpasses for the newly updated Test Track before making our way over to Soarin’.  This ride is exactly the same at both Disneyland and Epcot, but we still went on it again even though we just enjoyed it in late January in Anaheim.  It never fails to thrill us!  I am particularly fond of the The Seas with Nemo and Friends, which is one of those classic Disney slow moving rides where you are transported through a story line.  The ride actually ends at SeaBase, which houses an aquarium.  I love visiting the manatees whenever we are there.  We also managed to fit in Spaceship Earth, an Epcot vintage classic, as well as Ellen’s Energy Adventure, a longer show-type ride (perfect for giving tired legs a rest), before our fastpass time at Test Track.  This one has been recently updated to a new design, although it still uses the basic structure and layout of the original ride.  Don loves it!

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We headed over to World Showcase and made our way to Japan for lunch at Teppan Edo, a traditional Teppan style restaurant.  So delicious!  I was super excited to find green tea soft serve ice cream on their dessert menu as well.  We had hoped to spend more time at World Showcase after lunch, but the afternoon turned rainy, so we headed back to the hotel to rest.  We actually returned to Epcot that evening for dinner at Le Cellier Steakhouse, a Canadian restaurant (and one of our Epoct must-go’s!) for a delicious meal and stayed to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, a fire and laser show that you can catch nightly at World Showcase.

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We were in Orlando for such a long stay that we decided to make time to visit the Universal Orlando Resort.  It’s only our second time visiting these parks!  We went to Islands of Adventure first thing Wednesday morning and made a beeline to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to jump in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  This is possibly the most awesome ride Don and I have ever been on.  We went on it last year for the first time and were blown away!  I don’t know how they engineered the ride to be so spectacular, but it literally feels like you are flying around Hogwarts in a mad dash to get to a Quidditch game.  I recommend checking out the Wikipedia link for more information.

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We decided to ride the other big attractions before heading back to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for shopping, Butter Beer, and riding the other, more traditional roller coaster, the Dragon Challenge.  In the interim, we rode The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk Coaster, both of which I refer to as “big boy” rides.  They make the Disney rides look so tame in comparison!  That was about all of the crazy rides I had left in me, so Don went on Doctor Doom’s Fearfall without me.  He was pretty disappointed with that one, but the rest of the rides certainly made up for it!  We had lunch at Mythos before heading to The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show.  Don and I both agreed that the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is far superior.  Universal may have more “big boy” rides, but Disney’s got the show arena down pat!

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We ended our day at Islands of Adventure with a whirl on the Caro-Seuss-el.  I have loved carousels ever since I was a little girl and would ride the one in Central Park with my grandfather when we visited my grandparents in NYC.  Whenever I see a carousel now, I cannot resist!  I don’t think there’s an age limit to being able to enjoy the kind of simple, nostalgic pleasure that a carousel provides.  The added bonus of being Dr. Seuss themed was the icing on the cake!  Check out those happy faces! 😀

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We ventured back to the Magic Kingdom later that afternoon to try out the new Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland.  I must admit that Don and I haven’t been huge fans of the character dining type park restaurants in the past.  We decided we couldn’t pass up trying out the newest place, especially since it’s Beauty and the Beast themed, which I love.  We did not have high expectations, but we were really impressed!  The food is much better than other comparable park restaurants we have tried before.  The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated and, as with all things Disney, there is so much attention to detail that you are continually entertained just by looking around.  Another fun element was being able to meet the Beast after dinner and have photos taken.  The menu has some nice selections and an added bonus is that you can actually order wine and beer there, which is different from all other Magic Kingdom restaurants.  What’s not to like?  We were able to watch Wishes again (we had gone on the first night of our trip the previous week) after dinner, but this time from the back of the castle in Fantasyland, giving us a different vantage point than ever before.  Fun times!

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We actually returned to the Magic Kingdom the next morning for the Extra Magic Hour to enjoy our favorite rides and explore the new Fantasyland section further.  We bit the bullet and waited in line for almost an hour for the new Enchanted Tales with Belle, which turned out to just be a glorified Belle meet and greet for children only.  Anyone older than 10 was really just a spectator.  I would’ve loved to have had my photo taken with her, especially after such a long wait, but it was truly geared just towards children.  That being said, I think it is a must-do for young Beauty and The Beast fans out there.  It was a cute interactive experience where the kids play parts and help act out the story of when Belle and the Beast fell in love with Belle herself.  The design was incredible and we were really impressed with the cast members involved.  Afterwards we headed to Gaston’s Tavern to split one of the infamous warm cinnamon rolls.  We also checked out the new Storybook Circus in Fantasyland and rode the family friendly Barnstormer, which would be great for kids new to roller coasters.  We spent more time than usual in Tomorrowland and enjoyed the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Space Mountain (we NEVER miss this ride!).  The only other ride we did at the MK was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  We missed out on some of our usual favorites, including Mickey’s PhilharMagic, the Haunted Mansion, and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  We decided it was worth spending our time at the park trying new things this time around.

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The reason we had to leave the MK by lunchtime was to make a special dining package reservation at The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood Studios for a lunch that would qualify us for special passes to see Fantasmic that evening.  We saw this water and light show for the first time last year and decided it was definitely worth seeing again.  Plus, any excuse to have lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby is fine by us!  We always enjoy that meal!  The dining package is a set price three course meal with a nonalcoholic beverage of your choice.  I recommend the famous Cobb salad!  We actually spent the previous Saturday morning at Hollywood Studios to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour and go on our favorite rides there, so we didn’t stay after lunch.  We returned later that evening to enjoy Fantasmic with a pint of beer and fresh popcorn.  Yum!  Afterwards we went to Todd English’s bluezoo for a tasty late dinner.

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On Friday morning we returned to Universal Orlando to spend some time at the Universal Studios Florida theme park.  It was our second time ever at this park, as well.  We thoroughly enjoyed the new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride (I can’t believe we haven’t seen that movie yet!) as well as the Shrek 4-D show.  Don was excited to go on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster again, which I remembered feeling not so well after last year.  I braved it all the same.  It’s definitely the biggest of all the “big boy” rides I’ve ever experienced!  We enjoyed a leisurely pace around the rest of the park, hitting up Revenge of the Mummy, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, The Simpsons Ride, and the E.T. Adventure.  I can’t believe it took us so many years to finally try out the Universal Orlando theme parks, but I’m happy we’ve made them a part of our WDW experience now!

We spent out last evening back at the Epcot World Showcase and ate our way around the world, enjoying the sites we had missed when we were rained out earlier that week.  We indulged in nachos and margaritas in Mexico, potstickers and eggrolls in China, and crepes and champagne in France.  It was the perfect last night to spend together hand in hand exploring “the world.”

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After packing up all of our belongings and new acquisitions Saturday morning, we made one last stop at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop for a burger, hot dog, and ice cream.  What a sendoff!  We never miss this favorite stop of ours when we’re at WDW.  I like that we saved it for last this trip.

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Now that is the face of one happy camper!  What an amazing vacation!  The best part of all is that I was able to spend it with my favorite person and the love of my life.  We love visiting Walt Disney World, because we can just be kids together, have some good old fashioned fun (and some new high tech fun with some of those crazy rides!), eat great food, and just enjoy each other’s company.  If that isn’t the perfect vacation, I don’t know what is!

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Of course, I was more than a little happy to come home and be reunited with my favorite furry critter on the planet.  I sure had a great time on our vacation, but that didn’t stop me from missing my Winnie terribly!  I am fortunate to never have to worry about her while I’m away, because she is in the capable care of her beloved Aunt Julie.

We’re happy to be home now, having thoroughly enjoyed our trip and all it entailed.  Hopefully there will be more WDW adventures in our future together!  Check out MHWL for my WDW Travel Vlogs, which I am posting every day at the moment, if you’re interested in a more in-the-moment look at our trip.

*I am not affiliated with Disney, Universal Orlando, or any of the places mentioned in this post.  All opinions are my own.*

37 comments

37 thoughts on “Week In Review (February 25 – March 3, 2013)”

  1. What a wonderful vacation!! I love that you share these wonderful times with us. Hugs to you, Don and Winnie. 🙂

  2. Looks like a great time. We go every year but like you have not ventured out to other theme parks. Maybe we will try them this year!

  3. Great pictures! I haven’t been to Universal Studios yet, still need to go there. All the food looks YUMMY !

  4. Sounds like a great vacation! My husband and I are actually going to WDW in October to celebrate my 40th birthday (big kid at heart) and will also be going to Universal Studios also. Do you think you can do Universal both parks in one day? I will also be trying to get reservations to Be our guest but have until mid-April before I can make any of those reservations.

    1. I think so, but I would definitely start with Islands of Adventure & the Harry Potter part and then go to Universal Studios later in the day. I also recommend paying up for the express pass option.

      Be Our Guest ADRs fill up super fast so you’ll want to make that reservation as soon as possible.

      1. Thank you! I will definately look into that can’t wait to see the rest of the vlogs from this trip makes me so much more ready to go. We have decided to stay at the Port Orleans-Riverside resort.

        1. We stayed there last April and had a great time. If you stay there make sure you look into the princess rooms. They are beautifully decorated and the headboards light up with fireworks made of special led’s or fiber optics. The best part is you can get to Downtown Disney by boat ride. It was a very nice experience. The horse drawn carriage rides are a must. Have fun!!!

  5. Fantastic blog Jen! Glad that you guys had such a great time. Did you ever visit Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach? We are going to Disney in June and we are thinking of visiting one of the water parks. How did the Wilderness Lodge compare to the Grand Floridian? We like the lodge a lot but we have been staying at the Polynesian the last few times because of the monorail. The Kona Cafe there is fantastic! Best Asian food we have ever had! You guys would like it there. Thank you for always sharing with us Jen! I love reading and watching all of your adventures 🙂

    PS: I found a great tea blend by Rishi Tea called Organic Black Tea China Breakfast. They sell it loose in a canister. I found it at Wegmans. It rocks 🙂

    1. Don & I aren’t huge water park fans, but I know people like the Disney ones. It might be nice to try especially in June when it’s hot & humid! We absolutely loved the Wilderness Lodge 🙂

  6. Great post! Thanks for sharing photos from your trip to Orlando and congrats on completing the Princess half-marathon. I am a big fan of Disney parks and resorts (especially Animal Kingdom Lodge, but I couldn’t really pick a favorite – love them all!). I haven’t been to the parks in a while so this brings back great memories 🙂 Best wishes

  7. Thanks for the great recap and all the links. I am heading to Disney this summer for the 8th time and going to Universal for the first time, so I will am loving all your Disney Vlogs and this post as well. I love hearing how someone else plans their days while there. Gives me lots of new ideas. Plus, I am very interested in trying that cinnamon roll in Fantasyland. I have never seen that before. This year I am planning to get the whole kitchen sink at Beaches and Cream. Have you ever done that?

    1. I’ve seen it before! I don’t generally like all of those toppings & different ice cream flavors all jumbled together so it’s not for me, but I know plenty of people thoroughly enjoy it 🙂

  8. Looks like you had a fantastic trip! We’ve always done Universal when we’ve done either Disney and that always just extends the fun. You and Don look like you were having a blast.

    You might want to consider doing an African safari at some point. Our family did it last summer (winter in South Africa) and it was an unforgettable experience. The lodges are totally geared toward luxury (we did Singita Boulders) and it is amazing to see the animals on a real game reserve. I’m sure you and Don would have a fantastic time.

    Thank you for taking us along! xo

  9. Love the Disney recap! We are huge Disney fans and try to get there as often as possible.

    We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge over the race weekend and the number of giraffes, zebras and other wildlife we saw from our balcony was amazing. There were afternoons I didn’t want to leave the balcony, just so peaceful out there. You guys should consider staying there sometime. It’s very similar in feel to Wilderness Lodge. It’s sort of out of the way but I know you guys usually have a car anyways. Animal Kingdom Lodge has become one of our top resort picks now.

    Thansk again for the great trip report! 🙂

  10. ah! your pictures are taking me back to my trip from earlier this month as well!
    i have to agree about the new test track, i kind of missed the old version…i wasn’t even aware it had been refurbished and was shocked when i got there!

    i miss harry potter. i’ve been craving butterbeer for weeks!!!

  11. Hi Jen!
    When I was younger, my family and I visited Animal Kingdom. We went to Camp Minnie Mickey and a random Disney Employee asked if i wanted to plant a tree. they led me to a small area in the shape of a circle near the entrance to Camp Minnie Mickey. When you first walk in you can see it straight ahead. It was such a great experience! Now each time we go we always go and “check” on my tree. Which is now over 20 feet tall! 🙂 By any chance did you go to Camp Minnie Mickey and see it? Thanks Jen! I LOVE Disney World!!! 🙂
    Love,
    Bella 🙂 ((HUGS))

  12. Looked like you had a blast! Being from Australia I’ve only ever done the West Coast Disney and Universal, but I’m positive I need to see the East Coast ones now! xx

    1. We did it one year when it was a free promotion. Don doesn’t think it’s worth if for how we eat the WDW, but I know a lot of people throughly enjoy the plan!

  13. Love your videos! Thank you for sharing them with us. Watching your hotel room orgainzing video and I have an etiquette question. When you are in a hotel for 3 or 4 nights do you tip the maid each day or at the very end?

    1. I prefer to leave a tip every day. You never know when the staff changes shifts and if they share tips or not.

  14. Congratulations on Princess and Coast to Coast! I recently ran Goofy’s Challenge and will earn my first Coast to Coast medal at Disneyland in the Fall! :0) Your dessert from Beaches and Cream looks amazing!

  15. I can understand wanting to go to WDW once or maybe twice, but nearly 10 times? There are so many incredible places to see in the world (even in the US) – what a waste of a vacation. Aren’t you even curious to see the pyramids or the Great Barrier Reef or the Dead Sea? Going to Yellowstone National Park was one of the best vacations I ever took…and it did not include consumersism or shopping. Get a grip girl and look around you. There is a whole wide world out there that does not include makeup, expensive handbags, or buying,buying, buying.

    1. Where and when Don & I prefer to take our vacations is our own decision. We are fortunate to be able to travel as much as we do and have visited many places aside from Disney World. We’ve traveled there the past two years specifically for me to participate in the Princess Half Marathon. I do not assume I have the right to tell others what they should or should not do with their time and money. Consider what your words imply before you share them. To each their own.

  16. Jen, I enjoy your videos so much esp. your trips to WDW. I am so pleased that you like to share your experiences with us. Honestly, your and Don’s sweetness is contagious! Love his hair. For my 60th in a few weeks, I am camping at Fort Wilderness at WDW in a pop-up camper! It’s my nirvana.

  17. I love your travel vlogs but I fell way behind on my blog reading. I am so glad to finally catch up! I was also so glad to see your “spinach square” face attacking the cinnamon roll. I love it and it cracks me up every time! Thanks for sharing these times in your life. You live well and it’s a delight to watch.

  18. Hey Jen I love watching all your follow me round vlogs especially the ones when you go to Disney World in Florida I’ve watched them over and over again. I’ve been to Disney World when I was younger I’m now 17 and hoping to go next year with my mum and best friend who’s never been before so I hope to make it special. However we would like to spend a reasonable amount of money on the holiday and would like to try to book it all together which would make it much easier. We’re planning on staying at one of the moderate hotels. I was just wondering what tips and tricks you have to maximize the whole experience without spending a lot??

    Asia xx

    1. WDW is definitely pricey. There are lots of great bloggers out there who share tips about doing Disney on a budget. I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask, honestly! I think if you search for Disney World on a budget you’ll find some useful info.

  19. I am loving this entry. I am browsing the archives because I just discovered you last year. I’m a recent Disney fan and going to Universal to see Harry Potter the first time in May! I loved the video about what you wear at Disney too because those are some tough decisions sometimes!!! I am curious though that you must love Snoopy/Peanuts because I saw the Tom Everhart prints in your recent video in your exercise room…. and a Snoopy shirt for Disney. I am a huge Peanuts fan!! I hope you’ve been to the Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa, CA. It’s quite an experience! All the best!

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