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Krista Fulkerson -- December 2003 -- Walt Disney World (BWV, WL)


WHO:
  • Stephen—27, Disney Veteran, 7 trips
  • Krista—25, Disney Veteran, trip reporter, 8 trips
  • Carl—55, Disney Rookie, Dad, 1 trip to WDW and 3 times MK
  • Carol—55, Disney Rookie, Mom, I trip to WDW and 3 times MK
  • Jessica—19, Disney Rookie, Sister, 1 trip to WDW and 4 times MK

How this trip came about:

This trip was first conceived in July 2002. Stephen and I were driving home from his grandparents in Pittsburgh, PA. During the 5-hour trip, we started talking about Disney and when our next trip would be. We came back from Walt Disney World in February, so it was time to start planning again. While talking about a possible upcoming trip for us, I mentioned how much fun it would be to take my parents and sister someday. My family had been to the Magic Kingdom several times on day trips, they vacation in Florida quite a bit, so they would frequently drive over to the Magic Kingdom for the day. Of course this was during the dead of summer when it's a thousand degrees and there are wall-to-wall people. Needless to say, my Dad didn't have a very high opinion of Walt Disney World.

My parents have been to Epcot and MGM, but that was in 1989, I have 4 sisters in all (3 older and 1 younger), and in 1989 they took all of us kids to WDW. The trip was not the best; we stayed off-site, had 4 day hoppers and went to the parks every single day from the second the gates opened until the gates were locked behind us. We were exhausted and it was so hot and so crowded. I hated that this was how my parents remembered WDW, my Mom liked it and had a good time, but she still always associated it with large crowds and unbearable heat. I wanted my parents and sister to experience WDW as Stephen and I do—going in the off season when the crowds aren't so heavy, staying on-site so you never have to leave the magic, and taking breaks so you don't become exhausted.

Stephen and I presented the idea to my parents and Mom loved it, I think she started saving her pennies that week! Dad wasn't too thrilled with the idea, but tolerated it. Jessica was ecstatic. We talked about when to schedule this trip, since Jessica is in college, we could go either in December or early summer—we all voted out going in the dead of summer. We decided to go in December 2003, this would give everyone time to save money and time for us to rent points through a DVC member for a 2-bedroom villa. In the meantime, Stephen and I made 2 trips, one in February 2003 and August 2003. You can only stay away for so long!

We started looking for a possible member to rent through using the DVC Rent/Trade Board on www.disboards.com. We were able to rent a 2-bedroom villa at the Boardwalk for Dec. 14-19. Since renting points on the weekends are so outrageous, we decided to just book 2 hotel rooms for the last 2 nights of vacation. When the AP rates came out, we were able to book 2 connecting rooms at the Wilderness Lodge.

We continued looking for deals on airfare and saving our money. During the many months of planning, Stephen and I tried to prepare my family for the vacation; we knew they would be so overwhelmed. I printed off the menus of restaurants I thought we all might like from www.allearsnet.com and let my Mom and Jessica help us find places to eat. We gave them links to our favorite Disney sites (of course www.mouseplant.com was at the top of the list) so they could check out different Disney stuff. My family also watched our planning videos and our personal vacation videos trying to prepare themselves. We had a great time planning the vacation, we would get together every so often and having planning nights. We would eat dinner and after cleaning up, Stephen and I would get all our Disney books out and we'd get all of our planning material and spread everything out on the dining room table and go through everything. It was so much fun!! I truly believe that planning a vacation is almost as much fun as taking it. Almost.

Passes: Stephen and I purchased annual passes for our trip in February. We used the passes for 3 trips: February, August, and December 2003. My parents decided to buy 4-day hoppers; these were purchased at the Disney Store before we left on the trip.

Method of Transportation: Much to Jessica's dismay, we decided to fly to Florida. Jessica had never flown before and was terrified of flying. She was not thrilled with the idea of flying, but she was going to have to suck it up and deal with it. We were originally going to drive to Disney World. But in July my parents were in Florida, in Tampa Bay. On the way home, their tire rod busted and shredded the tire. Thankfully, they had pulled of to eat in Ocala and came out to a flat tire and they didn't have a blow out on the highway. They took their van to the dealership in Ocala the next morning; the Ford dealership didn't have the part, and couldn't get the part. My parents were stranded in Ocala for a week, waiting for the part they needed to come in to fix the van. The part never came, and my parents ended up trading their Windstar in and buying a Taurus so they could come home. My dad vowed to never drive to Florida again. We immediately started watching airfare the minute they finally got home from Florida.

Living in Cincinnati, we are fornuate to have access to 6 airports. We found non stop flights from Indy at $130 flying ATA. We have never flown ATA before, but after doing some checking up on them, we were completely comfortable booking our flight thru them. Plus who can pass up $130 a ticket??

General Plans:

Saturday 12/13—drive from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, stay in 2 rooms at Holiday Inn Airport for the night

Sunday 12/14—fly to Walt Disney World, check in at Boardwalk Villas, late lunch at Beaches and Cream, tour resort, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Monday 12/15—Epcot, lunch PS at San Angel Inn

Tuesday 12/16—off day, resort touring, swimming, Downtown Disney, lunch at Rainforest Café

Wednesday 12/17—Magic Kingdom, lunch PS at Crystal Palace

Thursday 12/18—MGM, dinner PS at 50's Prime Time Café

Friday 12/19—check out of BWV, check into Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom, dinner PS at Whispering Canyon Café

Saturday 12/20—breakfast PS at Chef Mickey's, relax at resort. Stephen and me dinner PS at 'Ohana

Sunday 12/21—fly home

All of the plans were made, our reservations were taken of, and we were all thoroughly excited. Even Dad was starting to look forward to it. Here's to hoping that pixie dust is heavily sprinkled on us and we all have a great time!!

Day One—Saturday 12/13

Plan: drive from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, stay in 2 rooms at Holiday Inn Airport for the night

Reality: Saturday ended up being an extremely stressful for Stephen and I. We are in the process of building our first house. Closing is scheduled for December 29, 2003. We were supposed to meet with our loan officer (Pat) that morning to give her copies of all our bank statements, cancelled checks, and other documents the bank needed for closing. We sat around and waited for Pat for call us, she was meeting with another couple earlier and apparently that appointment went over the scheduled time, into our time. Finally Pat called us and told us to just make copies of everything the bank needed and mail them to her. Now we had to find a Kinkos and make a billion copies of all the documents she needed and get it in the mail that afternoon.

Once that crisis was over, we needed to finish packing and find out when Mom and Dad wanted to leave for Indy. The weather forecast was calling for a major snowstorm to hit the tri-state area (IN, OH, and KY), so we wanted to get to my parents house, load up the van and get on the road. We finally got over to my parents house around 3:30, helped them finish packing, got everything in the van, checked a few times that everyone had their drivers license, park tickets, and insurance cards and we were on the road. Finally!!

We got half way to Indy when it started to snow, heavily. I was so glad that I wasn't driving and that traffic was not too heavy. By the time we pulled into the Holiday Inn, there was maybe a half-inch to an inch of snow on the ground. We got checked into the hotel and took a break for a few minutes. We decided that we were starving, so we headed off to Cracker Barrel to eat—our first meal on vacation!! We got back to the hotel and were all in bed by 11:00, tomorrow would be an early day.

Day 2 Sunday 12/14

Plan: fly to Walt Disney World; check in at Boardwalk Villas, late lunch at Beaches and Cream, tour resort, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Reality: We were woken to the joyous news that the US government had captured Saddam Hussein. Yeah!!! What a way to start the vacation!!

We all quickly took showers and got ready, packed up what we had used that night and we were ready to roll shortly. Stephen went out to van to warm it up and clean it off. We had gotten a couple inches of snow over night—and we're heading to Florida!! Yipee!! While Stephen was checking us out, I got our suitcase and Dad got their suitcase, we checked both rooms over to make sure that nothing was forgotten, left the keys on the dresser and went downstairs.

The snow was so pretty, it was still pretty early in the morning and no one was out yet to mess it up. Mom took pictures of us with the snow falling, as we stood shivering, of course no one had a coat with them. We had on long sleeves, jeans and jackets, but we were a bit underdressed for a blizzard!! Dad and Stephen loaded the van up again and off we were to Neverland!!

We made it to the airport and through security okay. I was secretly hoping that Jessica would get picked for the "special screening", that would really freak her out!! While waiting for the plane, we ate breakfast at McDonalds, bought magazines and walked around our terminal. Our plane arrived on time; we boarded quickly and found our seats. We had a great experience flying ATA, would definitely fly them again. The seats were large and comfy (well, large for an airline); the flight attendants were all awesome, extremely friendly and accommodating. There was a lady sitting in front of us, I heard her ask for another Coke, the flight attendant immediately came over, got her more to drink, and left the lady the entire can. I was pleasantly shocked. I think Jessica spent the entire flight praying, but she realized when we landed, that flying is really not a huge deal and it's perfectly safe.

We landed in Orlando right on time, got off the plane and walked through the airport. My parents were surprised at how nice and tropical the Orlando airport is. It's the perfect airport to begin a vacation in. We quickly made it out to baggage claim and met up with our driver from Tiffany's Towne Car. Stephen and I have used Tiffany's for every vacation, except for one—that's 4 times, and we have never had a bad experience. This time was no different. I can't remember our driver's name, but he was great. We met at the bottom of the escalator and talked to our driver while we waited for baggage claim to start up. It took several minutes, but finally the bags started pouring out. The 5 of us spread out around the conveyor belt to make sure that we didn't miss any suitcases. We got all 10 bags, nothing was damaged, and we were ready to go. We loaded into the van and we were shortly on our way to the Boardwalk.

My parents and Jessica were in awe when we pulled onto Disney property (love those purple signs ) and into the Boardwalk. I think they were blown away and overwhelmed with how beautiful the Walt Disney World Resorts are—not just the theme parks. This is the first time my parents have ever seen the "other side" of WDW and they loved it—I think we may have some converts on our hands.

Our driver pulled under the porte cochere and we hopped out, grabbing our bags and anxious to begin the vacation. There was no one at the bell services desk outside, so we paid our driver and took our suitcases inside, hoping to find someone in there. We did find a cast member (CM) at the bell services desk, he saw our bags, got wide-eyed and asked that we follow him into the checked baggage room. I was kind of disappointed with this, his whole job is to take people's luggage and put it away, I realize that we had 10 bags, but still, we, the guest, should not have had to take them to the checked luggage room ourselves. Once we got the luggage tagged and in the right place, Stephen went to check-in and I showed Mom, Dad, and Jessica the lobby. After walking around, we went outside and found rocking chairs on the porch. My dad kept saying, "you mean I can just stay here and sit on the porch or swim and relax all week long? And never have to even go in the parks?" Yes, Dad, why do you think we love it so much and come down here every chance we get? To Stephen and I, WDW isn't the parks, it's the whole resort area—the hotels, the restaurants, the shopping, the pools—everything. I don't come to Disney World to ride Space Mountain, I come to relax and get away from the real world and get the chance to become a kid again with no worries. Hakuna Matata!

While we were waiting for Stephen, and enjoying the warmth and the sun, a Friend Ship boat was out on the lagoon, we couldn't see it yet, but we could hear it blowing the horn. Jessica thought it was a car on the highway, she turned to me and said, "come on this is Disney World, why are they honking their horn?" City kid. I explained to her that it wasn't a car, but a boat and that we were nowhere near a highway or outside road. Jessica is a very smart person (valedictorian, Dean's List, ect), but she has very little common sense, which we saw many times during the week. Her words of "wisdom" were the highlight of our trip and we're still using them now, 3 months later.

Stephen came outside and found us, of course the room wasn't ready, it was about 1:00, and the villas aren't guaranteed until 4:00. We decided to walk down to the boardwalk to show everyone the pool and to make our way to Beaches n' Cream, we were starving. We walked out to the boardwalk and made a right, walking towards Epcot and then looping back down to the Beach Club. My parents couldn't get over the fact that this was Disney World, they just kept saying it, it was funny. We got to the Beach Club, it took us awhile to find Beaches 'n Cream, but we got to take nice tour of the resort in the process. Stephen and I never been to the BC either, we've been through the Yacht Club several times, but never the Beach. It is a very nice resort, but more relaxed and laid back feeling than the YC, someplace we knew we were going to have to stay some day. Stephen and I are planning on buying into the Disney Vacation Club within the next 3-5 years; we're hoping to make either the Beach Club Villas or Boardwalk Villas our home resort.

We wandered outside to Storm-a-Long Bay and finally found Beaches 'n Cream; we put our name in at the podium where we were told it would be a 30-minute wait. We found a table outside and sat there. All 5 of us hit a brick wall; we were tired and hungry and had been moving since about 6:30 that morning. Stephen decided to walk to International Gateway to get our tickets for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The rest of us just sat at the table in silence, needing energy. About 20 minutes later Stephen got back with our tickets and about 5 minutes later our pager lit up.

Once we walked into Beaches 'n Cream, we realized why it was a 30-minute wait—this place is tiny!! There's about 5 or 6 booths on the one wall, about 5 tables in the middle of the restaurant, and then a counter that sat maybe 15 people—that's all the seating available. The restaurant was decorated in the style of a 50's diner, the shiny stainless steel, pink and teal decorated everything, and there were oldies playing in the background. My dad loved the atmosphere, well, we all loved the atmosphere, but he loved it the most. We all got burgers and fries and pop (I was a dummy, I kept saying how tired I was and that I needed caffeine, so what did I order? Root beer, which is caffeine free. D'oh! I took a drink of Mom's Coke to get some caffeine ). Our cheeseburgers were all delicious, looking forward to having many meals here in the future! We were all hoping to get milkshakes or ice cream, but we were all stuffed, so we made plans to come back later in the week.

We all felt much better, having lunch made all the difference in the world. We continued on around the Epcot resort area, past the Yacht Club and up around to the Swan and Dolphin. We stopped and looked in the shops at the Boardwalk, the Character Carnival and Screen Door Grocery Store (they are connected into one big store). We spent maybe 25-30 minutes in these stores, just wandering around and looking at everything. After everyone was finished browsing, (well Mom, Jess, and I—Dad and Stephen already bailed on us, they were waiting outside and Dad had the nerve to buy a Mickey bar and eat it without us), we walked to the Boardwalk (I'll just type BW from now, my fingers are getting tired! ) and sat in the chairs underneath the upstairs porch. I have no idea what this is really called. We had just gotten situated when Stephen decided to call the front desk and see if our villa was ready. It was ready—yeah!! So we got up and went inside to look for our room.

I was really surprised and pleased with the location of our room. When we booked a 2-bedroom villa, standard view, we had heard horror stories that these rooms are a very long walk to the elevators or lobby. We warned Mom and Dad and were preparedfor a hike. Our room ended up being very close to the beginning of the corridor, maybe 6th or 7th door down, it was great. When we got to our villa and opened the door, we were blown away. It was huge!! Stephen and I stayed in a studio in February, but this 2 bedroom was so much bigger—loved the extra space. Everyone loved the décor of the room as well, very bright and airy, lots of yellows and light blues—very pretty and beach-y feeling. Stephen called bell services to bring our luggage up and we kicked off our shoes and spread out in the villa. We all eventually took a little nap, had to get energized for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! (MVMCP). Stephen and I took the master bedroom (we did plan the trip after all ) and Mom, Dad, and Jessica took the studio part, actually Jessica ended up sleeping on the couch, to get away from Dad's snoring.

After our short break, we were all ready to roll. Everyone was dressed warmily in jeans and sweatshirts, it was getting chilly! We walked out to the bus stop and waited a few minutes for a bus to the Magic Kingdom. I can't even describe to you the happiness and excitement I felt. I love Walt Disney World, but I love Magic Kingdom the most of all, there's just something about seeing Cinderella Castle at the end of Main Street. Love it! After we walked in the park, we went to the top of the train station and got some excellent pictures of Cinderella Castle and the Christmas tree on Main Street. If you're looking for a place to take some great pictures, head up here, there are many possible shots.

We got to the MK before MVMCP actually started, so we had to go to Tomorrowland until 7:00, the official starting time. We walked over there, ohhing and ahhing the entire time, basically turning into a bunch of kids again. Once in Tomorrowland, we rode on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin—this was a first for Mom, Dad, and Jessica. They all loved it, but it took a couple times of riding it for them to get the hang of it. Stephen is the only video game guru in the bunch. I actually discovered a trick that maxed my score out, in the first or second room of the ride, there are battery packs on the ceiling, each hit of the battery packs is 100,000 points. I ended up with a score of 999,999. Stephen was quite distressed that I was a galactic hero and he was not. After saving the universe from the Evil Emporer Zurg, we headed back to one of the Christmas shows they were doing in the Starlite Theatre. Mom and Jess wanted to see this, but Stephen, Dad, and I headed to Space Mountain instead. This ride was a complete walk-on, I couldn't believe how empty Tomorrowland was, where are all the crowds? I know this is the off-season and the MVMCP, but I was expecting bigger crowds—not that I'm complaining or anything. After Space Mountain, we met up with Mom and Jessica—we found the crowds, they were all watching the Christmas show, getting into spirit. At this time it was 7:00 and the park was open for the party.

We all decided that we need some warming up, it was kind of chilly, not cold, just brisk. We went to the Plaza Pavillion and got some hot chocolate and cookies. The hot chocolate was pretty good, but the cookies were not that great, they were store bought sugar cookies, the kind that are shaped and have the red and green sprinkles on them. But hey, they were "free", so we couldn't complain. After our snack, we knew we needed to hit some rides. Our first stop was the Haunted Mansion—everyone's favorite. On the way over there Stephen and I told them all the stories and secrets we knew about the Haunted Mansion including the story of Master Graycie and Emily. Stephen, Jess, and I squeezed into a car ( hey—we're little ) and I showed her the Hidden Mickey's. I tried to show Mom and Dad the hidden Donald, but I'm not sure they saw it. After our ride, we walked over to the Hall of Presidents to have our picture taken, the wait wasn't very long, maybe 10 minutes. The photographers were great, they all had a sense of humor (including a boy CM wearing a Princess hat), I think our picture turned out pretty good, and it is now framed sitting on my sofa table in our great room.

By this time, it was getting close to parade time. We staked out spots in Liberty Square, in front of the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Mom, Jess, and I were the official spot holders while Dad and Stephen walked around, checking things out. The parade was really cute, no where near as good as SpectroMagic, but better than the Share A Dream Come True parade. Of course all the standard characters were there—Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, the Princesses, etc, but there were also some different characters that I had never seen in a Disney parade before. They a Toy Story float—my favorite one, a Song of the South float, the toy soldiers that remind me of the soldiers in Muppet 3-D—I love them too!, Santa and Mrs. Claus of course. It's basically the same parade they show on Christmas Day on ABC, without all the celebrities. After the parade, we made our way to the hub so we could watch Wishes. Oh my gosh, Wishes is the most incredible fireworks show I have ever seen. It is so amazing and beautiful, the soundtrack is awesome, I can't wait to buy it and listen to it all the time (I looked for it all week, but never found it in the stores, hopefully I can get it when we go in May). I don't even know how to describe it other than to stay that they are incredible, everyone loved them, and we made it a point to see Wishes 2 more times before we left for the week. We were all in awe. Fantastic show.

We decided to head over to Adventureland to see what we could find. On the way, we found a cookie station, so we decided to refill on hot chocolate and cookies. We were in a building that I had never been in before, in Adventureland right by the Dole Whip stand. Dad and Stephen went to get provisions while Mom, Jess, and I waited. This proved to be the entertainment of the night, possibly of the week. There was a CM stationed at the entrance of the building, her job was to make sure that people went in the in and out the out. Well, this poor girl was French and could hardly speak english and all she could say was "No please, no please, exit to the left. Do you want some hot chocolate and cooks?". We cracked up watching her trying to get everyone to exit the right (I guess I should say the correct) way. She just kept saying "no please, no please, exit to the left", I don't think she could say anything else. People would come up to her and ask a question and she would answer, "hot chocolate and cooks this way". Of course we said these phrases for the rest of the week.

We knew we had to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, we all loved this movie and the ride (wish they could work in an animatronic of Will Turner!! ). Jessica had another "classic blonde moment" here—even though she has brown hair. My parents were commenting on how well everything was themed in WDW, even the little tiny things. Stephen made the comment on how even the "Exit" signs are themed at POTC, he said, "even the 'Exit' signs are written like Pirates", meaning Olde English font. Jessica looked at the "Exit" sign with a confused look on her face and said "well, it looks like English to me". And she's supposed to be the smart one!! The night was starting to get long and we were cold and tired—isn't it funny how traveling can wear you out? We decided to start wrapping things up, there was no need to get exhausted on the first night of vacation. On the way out, we found Aladdin, Jasmine, and the Genie. I was so excited! Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, I had met all of them seperately, but not together. We got a picture with the 3 of us girls and the Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie. Since we were there, we couldn't pass up a spin on Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride. Wow was this cold!! It was an okay ride, nothing to get excited about, of course we had no kids with us—that could be the difference. I'm glad we rode it and I would ride it again, but I would never wait in line for it. After Aladdin's ride, we were ready to go, but first Jessica had to have her third "blonde moment" of the day. As we were walking out of Adventureland, we could hear the CM sweeping up Main Street with the vac-packs they use that sound like a leaf blower. Jessica looks at us and askes "why are they cutting grass so late at night". I had to stop walking because I was laughing so hard!

We got out to the bus stop and made it back to our villa shortly. While Mom and Jessica were checking out the lobby of the BW, Dad and Stephen walked to the Screen Door General Store to get milk and Coke. We got to the room, ate a little snack (we had such a great lunch at Beaches 'n Cream that we didn't eat dinner) and all went to bed shortly after we got "home".

Day 3—Monday 12-15

Plan: Epcot, lunch PS at San Angel Inn

Reality: We woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning. How awesome was it to look out your balcony door and be overlooking the courtyard to the Boardwalk and hear the Friend Ship boats toot as the traveled Crescent Lake? It was pretty great. We all got up and got ready and made it out the door in decent time. We all grabbed granola bars and put them in our backpacks to tide us over until lunch. The plan was to eat lunch at San Angel Inn and no one wants to be too full to enjoy that. My parents and Jessica aren't big Mexican eaters. To them Mexican food is Ortega tacos, so Stephen and I were both a little concerned as to how they would like San Angel Inn, a pretty authentic Mexican restaurant. We both adore Mexican food and SAI, so we wanted them to love it and not be disappointed with our choice. We would soon find out, but first it was time for Future World.

The first thing we did when we got into Epcot and more specifically Future World was to send Stephen ahead with everyone's park tickets to get Fastpasses for Test Track. We leisurely walked through Epcot and met Stephen outside of TT. This was the first time my family had been in Epcot for 15 years, they were amazed with all that had changed in those 15 years. They were also amazed with the crowd levels in the off-season verses the summertime. Mom decided not to go on Mission: Space, she suffers from pretty intense motion sickness and didn't want to risk triggering it. I suffer from slight motion sickness as well, roller coasters don't bother me, but spinning definitely does. I just took Dramamine and followed all the instructions (don't look around the flight cabin, don't close your eyes, etc) and I have been fine both times I've ridden M:S. Mom found a spot in the sun on the wall by the entrance to M:S and had an enjoyable time working on her suntan while waiting for us.

Dad and Jessica were impressed with the theming of the que line at M:S. We all thought the pictures of the astronauts was a nice touch. I didn't realize how many famous astronauts were from Ohio; I guess we Buckeyes are pretty smart and courageous. Anyway, Dad and Jessica really like M:S and were impressed with the technology. I think they both liked the take-off the best. That's my favorite part, I especially like the part when the G-forces "crush" your body and flatten the skin on your face. We all survived the ride and no one got sick or nauseous. We exited the ride (through a gift shop, of course ) and found Mom waiting for us. She told us that several people had gotten sick on the ride and one person said they vomited. Apparently these people didn't listen to the warning and closed their eyes or looked around the capsule, which really is the key for not getting sick.

After M:S, it was time for Test Track. Stephen are I both really liked this ride, I knew my Dad would LOVE it. My Dad loves cars and the mechanics of them, this ride was custom made from him. Mom was concerned that it might be too "wild" for her; we assured her that she would be fine. Actually, I told her she would be able to handle it, but it took Stephen agreeing with me for her to get on TT because Stephen "wouldn't lie to me to get on a ride". We'll see if she still believes that after Wednesday and riding Space Mountain, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Everyone really loved TT, especially the outside track and driving on the banked turns. It's funny how I drive 65 mph on the highway everyday and it's not that great, but do it at Disney World and suddenly it's phenomenal. It must be that Disney Magic at work. After our ride, we spent some time in the gift shop at the exit of the ride. Like I said, my Dad loves cars and Stephen and I both drive GM cars (Stephen drives a Chevy S10 and I drive a Saturn Ion), so we found plenty to look at.

We were now ready to ride Spaceship Earth. I truly love this ride and would be heartbroken if Disney took the ride out. It's such a classic Disney ride with the animatronics and lesson on the history of communication. Besides, I was a communication major, so of course I love it!! We were finally doing an attraction at Epcot that Mom and Dad remembered—Jessica was only 5 when she was last at Epcot, so it was all brand new to her. Of course the ride was a walk-on (have to say again, love the off-season) and we were on and off the ride shortly. Stephen and I had been planning on taking Mom, Dad, and Jessica to Ice Station Cool to trick them into trying the infamous Beverly. The time had finally come for us to be evil. We had told them all about ISC previously, my family are all huge Coke drinkers (to drink Pepsi is a sin ), so they had been wanting to see ISC. We walked over there, all the while talking about the different beverages we liked. We got in and walked over to the pop stations, Stephen made a big deal about the Beverly, "Oh, I had forgotten about Beverly, it is so good, etc", we both told them to get a glass, we got some too, put the vile stuff to our mouths, but never took a drink. They all fell for it!! The looks on the faces were priceless. Mom, Stephen's not such the saint any more, is he?? Mom, Dad, and Jessica forgave us for tricking them and we moved on to the next attraction. We walked out of ISC and saw that no one was in front of Spaceship Earth. We took advantage of this excellent camera opportunity and spent probably 10 minutes taking pictures with various cameras and various poses. If you ever stumble upon this opportunity, stop what you are doing and take advantage of it. This is one of best photo stations (after Cinderella Castle) at the WDW resort.

It was getting close to our 1:00 PS at San Angel Inn, but we decided that we had time to see The Living Seas. I had forgotten that they make you stand in the circle room for a few minutes before letting you go to Sea Base Alpha. We wasted probably 10 minutes standing in that room, watching time tick down before the movie started. We decided to skip the movie, Stephen and I had already seen and I didn't figure my parents would care too much for it. Once time hit 00:00, we headed toward the hydrolators and Sea Base Alpha. I tried to get Jessica to believe that we were really going down in the hydrolators; she didn't buy it and eveyone else standing with us thought I was crazy. Oh well, not too far from the truth. The first thing we did at Sea Base Alpha was look for Finding Nemo stuff, my nephew Tony loves Nemo and Bruce and my niece Ashley loves Nemo. No luck. After our fruitless search, we took the escaltors up to look at the fish. We were lucky enough to find the tank with the dolphins in it, we watched the 2 of them play with each other for a good 10 minutes. There was a little girl standing next to us, she was the cutest thing, I guess she loved dolphins and was delighted to be watching them. The dolphins kept getting underneath the window and she couldn't see them, we had fun helping her find them. It amazes me how people open up while at WDW, complete strangers will sit and talk, that will never happen in the "real" world.

Stephen glanced at his watched and saw that it was 12:50. Oops! Time to find everyone and start walking towards Mexico. I never have enough time to see everything I want to see at Epcot. Stephen and I normally spend at least 2 days in Epcot, and we still haven't seen it all.

We made it to Mexico and were checked in the podium by 1:00. We had a wait of a couple minutes which we used to check out the pavilion. Mom, Dad, and Jessica liked the Mexico pavilion, it's one of my favorites too. I love how it's always twilight inside, it makes for a nice break in the middle of the day. Our pager went off and we followed the hostess to our table. We were seated at a table on the water down by the volcano—awesome table! We spent the meal watching people ride El Rio Del Tiempo and smiling for their cameras when they were trying to take pictures. I'm sure they were thrilled about that!!

Our waitress (Veronica) quickly brought out some chips and salsa that we devoured while looking at the menu. I LOVE San Angel Inn's chips, they are so good! I crave them when we are home and I have to settle for Chipotle's chips. Mom, Jessica, Stephen, and I all ordered the plato mexicano and Dad ordered the mexicano ensalada. When they brought out our food, I was so jealous of Dad's lunch, it looked delicious. I'm definitely getting that next time we come here. Okay, it was time to face the music, did my family, non-Mexican eaters like San Angel Inn?? They loved it! The food, the atmosphere, the ambience—everything. Yeah!! I was so glad and relieved that everyone liked SAI. Like I mentioned earlier, Stephen and I love it, it's the only restaurant that we have eaten at everytime we've been to WDW (5 times). We love the food and the ambience of the restaurant, I could sit in there all day and eat chips and salsa and watch the volcano smolder and the one star in the sky twinkle. I really wanted my family to like SAI for a couple of reasons, the first is that it's a great restaurant that is fun to go to and the second reason is that I would have felt terrible if my parents went in there, dropped $50 on lunch, only to hate it and have to shell out another $30 to get burgers and fries because they're hungry. Thankfully this didn't happen.

After lunch, we stood outside of SAI and watched a Tejano band play Selena's music. They were very good and the music made the pavilion feel so festive. If you close your eyes, you could almost imagine that you were in Mexico. We watched the group play their set and then we got on El Rio Del Tiempo (The River of Time). I realize that this ride might be a bit cheesy and outdated, but I still have to ride it everytime, it's sort of like it's a small world. It's just not Disney World without riding ERDT (or iasw for that matter ). After our trip down the river of time, we stopped for a bathroom break, did some more roaming of the pavilion and we were ready to go.

We walked out of the Mayan pyramid into bright, glorious sunshine, I can't believe that when we left home, there was 2 inches of snow on the ground and now we were wearing shorts and capris. When we were at Test Track, Stephen saw a pair of sunglasses that he liked at the store, but of course didn't buy them. Once we walked out and saw how bright the sun was, he decided to walk back to TT and we kept walking through World Showcase. We decided to meet at the Stave Church in Norway.

We walked past the Outpost and into Norway, where I kept saying "Velcome to Norvay", I like saying that! We got in line for Maelstrom, which was pretty short. I took this opportunity to remind my parents that when we first came to WDW in 1989, I begged to ride this ride, I must have seen it on a planning video and decided that I had to ride it. Of course we went to Epcot, ran out of time and I didn't get to ride Maelstrom until my honeymoon in 2000. I'm sure their hearts were bleeding for me. My mom got a little nervous when she saw the boats pull up, but when she saw there are no seat belts, she figured she could make it. Her rule of thumb: if a ride doesn't have a seat belt, it must be safe to ride. We all safely made it through the ride without getting attacked by wild trolls or polar bears. After the ride we had to wait a few minutes for the doors to open up and let us into the movie. During this time we checked out the scenery, it's set up to look like a fishing village in Norway with store fronts and cobblestone streets. The doors opened and we walked through the theatre, skipping the movie, as did everyone else in our group. We looked around in the shops, giving Stephen some extra time to get his sunglasses. I showed everyone the Norwegian candy, the lotion that I love that is $40 a bottle and the sweaters that are $300. Is everything expensive in Norway or what?!? Stephen tried calling my cell phone ( I turned it on once I got off Maelstrom), but the reception was so bad in the store that I couldn't hear him. He took the chance that we might be in the stores and came in looking for us. We caught back up and continued on our journey of WS.

Before we left Norway, Jessica got a soft pretzel—she and Mom shared the plato mexicano and Jessica loves pretzels. I tried a bite, it was very good. We stopped in China for a quick picture and a quick look at the pavilion, we were wanting to catch the American Adventure. We kept on to Italy, for another quick picture and another quick look, we knew we were going to come back again to explore some more. We did stop to take a picture of all of us with Spaceship Earth in the background. A Chinese lady kindly took the picture for us, we all cracked up when the seagulls tried to attack Jessica, she was still holding the pretzel in her hand. Jessica wrapped her pretzel up and put it in Mom's backpack so that we could go inside the American Adventure pavllion. I love the American Adventure, I know I say that about almost every ride, but I really mean it this time. I'm a huge history buff, and really enjoy seeing the story of our nation. I also really enjoy seeing American Vybe perform. Since it was Christmas time, all the groups were performing Christmas carols. They were great. I don't know if we saw Voices of Liberty or if the 2 groups combine during Christmas or what, but again, we really enjoyed the performance. They sang classic Christmas carols and also some old Christmas songs I don't think anyone knew (oh, oh what a merry Christmas, what a happy Christmas tree!). The group was dressed in attire from the 1800's—the women were wearing the long dresses with the huge bonnets and mufflers and the men were wearing the 3-piece suits and top hats. After the group gave their performance, the doors opened and we entered into the American Adventure Theatre. We had great seats and all enjoyed the show. This was actually the first time I didn't cry during AA.

We were all running out of steam and decided to take a break in the villa. We took quick glances at the pavilions on the way past, Mom, Dad and Jessica were making notes of the pavilions they wanted to come back and explore some more. On the way out of Epcot, we stopped at the International Traveller—the gift shop down by the International Gateway. We browsed here for a few minutes, seeing what we wanted to buy later in the week. Stephen found a fleece sweatshirt that he really liked and decided to go ahead and buy it, since it was supposed to be cool in the evenings. We got back to our villa at the Boardwalk and quickly laid down to take a nap, but first we set our alarm. Stephen and I learned our lesson with not setting an alarm in August. We missed 2 PS's for dinner because we went back to the resort, fell asleep,didn't set an alarm and overslept. Oops!

We all woke up 4:30, took a few minutes to get ready ie. bundle up, the temperature was dropping and we were out the door by 5:30. We went back to Epcot, this timing making a left and stopping at England. We saw a sign that Saint Nicholas would be appearing in the Rose Garden shortly, so we went to check out all the shops in England and came back around to meet Saint Nick. Mom and I decided before we left home that we were going to meet as many different Santa Claus's as we could. St. Nick looks very different than Santa Claus, he is tall and skinny, but he wears a beautiful green velvet suit. Of course Mom and I were the only adults waiting to meet him, but St. Nick didn't seem to mind. He gave us a hug, smiled for a picture, and told us to be good. After meeting St. Nick, we walked around the gardens and did the hedge maze, Stephen and I had never really explored back here before, it must be a well-kept secret, we didn't see anyone back there at all. We continued on to Canada, Stephen and I showed Mom, Dad, and Jessica where Le Cellier is, one of our favorite places to eat, we decided to skip it this trip, it is kind of expensive and I knew my parents didn't want to go broke while in Disney World. Mom spotted one of the famous red telephone booths and had a great idea that Dad, Jessica, Stephen and I should squeeze into this tiny phone booth and she would take our picture. Somehow all 4 of us fit and Mom took our picture. I'll never be able to pass that red phone booth without thinking about that.

We decided to go back through Canada and the UK and start touring in France and make our way around to America so that Mom and Jessica could get dinner. The plan was for them to get dinner there, Dad, Stephen, and I were planning on getting fish and chips at Yorkshire County Fish Shop, we would all eat together while waiting for Illuminations to begin. While we were in France, we stopped to watch a street performance, I can't remember the man's name, but he was a mime that made balloon sculptures—that's the best way I can describe it. He was great, hiliarious in fact. I would highly recommend stopping to watch his show, you won't regret it. After the performance, we walked around France and then into Morocco. I think Morocco is the most detailed of all the pavilions. I love going back around in the back of the pavilion, it's beautifiul back there and it is never crowded. This is where I discovered the mistake I made. Before we left our villa, I cleaned my backpack out (I carry a small back pack, the size of a small purse, not a huge school back pack) I took out all of my film and then just put one roll in. I had been snapping pictures this whole time and I was on my last picture. I stopped in Morocco to change my film and discovered that I put a used roll in my back pack and not a new one. Grrrr.

We were all getting hungry and it was getting close to 8:00, so we decided to start looking for dinner. We entered the American pavilion and who do we see, but Santa and Mrs. Claus . We got in line and all 5 of us had our picture taken by a photographer and a CM. While Mom and Jessica were deciding on what to get, we stopped at the American Gardens to catch a glimpse of the Candlelight Procession. Tonight's narrator is Steven Curtis Chapman, I love him, he is one of my favorite singers. I was wanting to see CP, but didn't want to waste valuable Epcot time. Stephen was getting antsy to find a spot for Illuminations and dinner. Mom and Jessica went to Liberty Inn to get dinner. I stayed to help Mom and Jessica to carry their food and Dad and Stephen went to Yorkshire's for some fish and chips. We agreed to meet in our regular Illuminations spot, which is past France and the bridge, but before you get to International Gateway, there's a plaza on the right hand side, we usually watch Illuminations from the bottom level, but don't go sharing our secrets. Mom, Jess, and I got to the spot and spread ourselves, saving room for Dad and Stephen. Dad and Stephen came about 25-30 minutes later, apparently the line for fish and chips was long. The fish and chips were good, so greasy and crunchy!! I've never had them from Yorkshire's before, I've eaten them twice from Rose and Crown. Supposedly Rose and Crown and Yorkshire uses the same fish and chips, but I don't think so. The fish and chips from Rose and Crown is more like a piece of breaded fish where Yorkshire is more battered, with the crispy's hanging off it. Both are good, but I'm leaning toward Yorkshire's as better. We all finished our dinners just in time for Illuminations to begin.

Wow. That's all I can say about Iluminations. Stephen and I have seen it several times and it still gives me cold chills. My family loved seeing it, especially seeing it live rather than on our video tape. Tonight ended up being everyone's favorite night of the week, we fondly remember it as the night the Fulkerson's/Whitaker's shut down Epcot. After Illuminations Dad decided that he HAD to go to the bathroom, he could not wait to get back to the villa. The closest bathroom that we knew about is in the United Kingdom. For once none of us girls needed to use the facilities, so we sat on the bench outside of the Rose and Crown to wait for the boys. Since we already passed the International Gateway, we decided to just go up to Spaceship Earth to the shop that was selling the pictures the photographers take during the day. We wanted to see if the picture with us and Santa and Mrs. Claus turned out. We took our time walking to the front of the park, letting the hordes of people rush past us. We ended up taking the path by the front of World Showcase that comes out by the Imagination pavilion. By the time we got to the store it was at least 9:30. We were in the store for probably 10 minutes, the group in front of us was indecisive about what pictures they wanted to purchase. We were finally waited on, saw the picture, but decided to pass on the picture this time. By the time we got out of the store, Epcot was empty, it was kind of spooky, it felt like we were doing something wrong, like we snuck in and were hiding from security. On the way back to WS and the International Gateway, we passed by the sidewalk that has the fiberoptics embedded into the cement. Of course Stephen the engineer just had to get down and inspect the sidewalk to figure it out, let me tell how much fun it is being married to a mechanical engineer. Once he came up with a conclusion, we continued on our way. This the time I regretted not having my film with me, Mom took some awesome pictures of the arch leading to World Showcase and the Epcot Christmas tree. There was a security guard standing at the entrance to WS, she stopped us and asked if we needed some help. We told her we were staying at the Boardwalk, she was very polite and told us to have a good night. We passed 2 more security guards on the way out, they just smiled at us and we kept going, I'm assuming the first guard radioed everyone else to tell them a party of 5 was on their way to the Boardwalk. By the time we got back to the villa, it was probably 10:30. There was a message on our phone from the front desk saying that Epcot was going to be testing their New Year's Eve fireworks at 11:00. Since none of us were tired after taking the nap, we all got our pajamas on and were going to sit up and talk and wait for the fireworks. We had a perfect view from our room of the firworks, of course we could only see the ones that were in the air. It was a nice ending to a pretty much perfect day.

Day 4—Tuesday 12-16

Plan: off day, resort touring, swimming, Downtown Disney, lunch at Rainforest Café

Reality: We slept in this morning since it was an off day, but honestly, I think you do more on off days than park days. I think we all got up around 9:00 and took our time getting ready and eating breakfast. We left the villa around 11:00 and headed to Downtown Disney for some shopping. Today was absolutely gorgeous, not a cloud in the sapphire colored sky and so warm, I think it was in the 80's; we were all wearing shorts. Good thing I went tanning before our vacation, I can't stand wearing shorts and having white legs!

We got to Downtown Disney and hit the scrapbooking store; Mom, Jessica, and I are all scrapbookers. I've found that Disney offers lots of unique scrapbooking supplies and tools, and honestly their merchandise is fairly priced. When Stephen and I were here in August, I got a 2003 Walt Disney World scrapbook for $25.00, it is a 12x12 scrapbook that included pages for scrapping on, page protectors and I think 30 pieces of colored paper. That's a really good deal, if you get a scrapbook from Creative Memories, it's around $30-40 for just a book or if you go to Michael's or Hobby Lobby, they are usually $25. If you are a scrapbooker, definitely check the store out for books and scrapbooking kits. I ended up getting a wooden photo album to hold pictures from this trip (I always get doubles—1 set to scrap and 1 set to put in a photo album to keep) and Mom got some scrapbooking sets, which we sent back to our room. Dad and Stephen were bored with us already, so we decided to split up and meet at Rain Forest Café for lunch at 2:00.

Mom, Jess, and I continued shopping; our next stop was the Christmas store. This store has an awesome selection of ornaments and Christmas merchandise. I saw several ornaments I wanted, but I decided to buy them the next time we come to WDW. With moving in 2 weeks, I didn't want to run the risk of something getting broken in the move or lost before next Christmas. I made a mental note of what I wanted and helped Mom shop. We were in this store for about 45 minutes, didn't want to leave, but knew we had to move on, it was getting close to noon and we were only on the 2nd store!! Next was Disney at Home, Mom is planning on doing their upstairs bathroom in Mickey Mouse and went in to get some ideas. After Disney at Home we stopped for some photo opportunities, we have some great ones at the Pooh Bear picture spot, with the Daisy and Donald statues at the Pin Traders store, and in front of Once Upon A Toy.

I had never been to Once Upon A Toy toy store, I don't think it was open when Stephen and I were there in February and I forgot to go in during our August trip. What a cute store!! There were toys there that I wanted to buy for myself, but I restrained. I was wishing that I hadn't done all my Christmas shopping already; I saw some great Christmas possibilities for my nieces and nephews. While we were in the store, Stephen called my cell phone to see where we were if and we were at a breaking point. It wasn't 2:00, but he and Dad were starving, I told him where we were and made plans to meet in the store. A few minutes later, Dad and Stephen found us and Mom finished up her shopping, she had quite a bit of toys for the kids. She checked out and had everything sent back to the room—which was a huge fiasco. When Mom put everything on the counter, she told the CM to have the packages delivered. I guess the CM didn't hear her; she rang everything up, bagged it all and gave it to my Mom. When my Mom again said she wanted it delivered to the room, the CM gave her attitude, but then had to hand write everything Mom bought on the receipt, we're talking about $250 worth of toys. Kind of a pain, but oh well, there was no way we were going to carry around all those bags for the rest of the day.

We were all starving and looking forward to lunch. Stephen and I have eaten at Rainforest Café a couple of times in the past. It's a good restaurant and we like it, I think it's the perfect vacation restaurant, but I couldn't imagine eating at Rainforest Café on a Friday night at home before we go see a movie. The food is pretty good, the portions are huge and the atmosphere is very fun, I was pretty sure my family would like it. We were expecting a long wait, whenever Stephen and I have been here; we always had to wait at least a half an hour. I've heard of the wait being up to 2 to 3 hours before. Luckily there was no wait and we were seated shortly. We had a perfect table, right by the gorillas and close to the bathrooms (a very important quality in a table, in my opinion. ). I didn't really tell Mom, Dad, and Jessica too much about the restaurant before we came. I told them the food was good and the portions are large and the theme of the restaurant is a jungle in the rainforest, but I didn't tell them about the thunderstorms and how the animals come "alive". It was great to see their reactions when the gorillas that were 2 feet from us started jumping up and down and squealing and when the "sky" started to darken and you could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. I need to get one of those machines they have that sounds like rain. I love to hear rain hitting the roof. Our waitress was really good, I don't remember her name, I'm not nearly as meticulous with this trip report as I was with the one I wrote in August, but she was great, very friendly. The entire wait staff here seems great, everytime we have been, we have never seen a bad waiter/waitress. Our food was delicious and the portions are still humungeous. We got the sampler appetizer to share, I think it's called the great adventure, or something to that effect. It was pretty good and had a variety of different foods that is typically found on sampler platters. We all had good lunches too, I had the brave new world pizza—bbq chicken, Mom and Jessica shared the pepporoni pizza (actually we all 3 shared the 2 pizzas), Dad had some type of cobb salad (I found where I got my love of eating salads from ), and I think Stephen had the bbq ribs, again with the not as meticulous thing.

When we were eating lunch, we planned on going back to the resort to go swimming and to lay out by the pool since it was such a beautiful day. We walked out of the restaurant and our plans changed, it was getting cloudy and windy and the temperature dropped a considerable amount. So we switched to plan B, Dad and Stephen were going to go back to the villa and take our leftovers with them (almost 2 full pizzas) and relax while us girls were going to hit The World of Disney. We made plans to meet at the Contemporary at 4:00, turned our cell phones on and went our separate ways. We made a mad dash to WoD, we only had about an hour to shop and the store is huge. To make the best time, we split up as soon as we got in. Again Mom went to town buying stuff for the kids and again I was wishing that I hadn't bought their presents yet. Since I didn't have to do too much shopping, I wandered around the store, joining up with Mom and then Jessica whenever I saw them. I ended up just buying 2 links for my Italian charm bracelet and that was it. Just as we were getting ready to walk out of the store, it started raining; of course we didn't have our ponchos with us. It was already after 3:30, we knew we had to go now in hopes of making it by 4:00, so we just made a run for the bus stop. As soon as we got under the covered bus stop, the sky opened up and the rain poured down. We waited maybe 10-15 minutes for a bus (must have just missed one), the bus finally came and we were on our way to the Contemporary. Of course during this whole time my cell phone is ringing, "where are you guys?" "on our way, just be patient", of course I'm saying this as we're still in the World of Disney, but making it sound like we're waiting at the bus stop.

We finally met up at the bus stop at the Contemporary. This is the first time my family had ever truly been inside the Contemporary—I don't think zipping through on the monorail counts. They weren't that impressed with it; they didn't like the futuristic feel it has. Stephen agrees with them, but I don't; I'd really like to stay here sometime. The rooms are huge, the resort offers tons of amenities (like water activities, tennis and basketball courts, decent stores to browse through and good restaurants to eat at), and you're next door to the Magic Kingdom. The only way I would stay at the Contemporary however would be to book and be assured of a tower room, Magic Kingdom view.

We took the elevators up to the 4th Floor (love the elevators with the characters talking. That's reason enough to stay here ) to the Grand Canyon Concourse. We showed Mom, Dad, and Jessica Chef's Mickey's, where we are eating Saturday, and the shops (I especially like the BVG whatever it's called), we didn't do any shopping here, we knew we would be back. We walked out to the observation deck to check out the breathtaking view of the Magic Kingdom; I got some great shots of MK and the monorail passing in front of it. Stephen took the steps up to the 7th floor, I think, to get a better view with the video camera. We didn't spend too much time at the Contemporary, just wanted to give Mom, Dad, and Jessica a taste. We need to see the Poly and Grand Floridian before it got dark out.

We walked back inside and waited for the monorail to take us to the Polynesian, my favorite resort. When we got to the monorail station, Stephen noticed that no one was waiting to ride up front. He went up to ask the CM, the front car was open, but of course the car only has room for 4 guests. Being the gentleman that he is, Stephen volunteered to ride in a regular car. Mom, Dad, and Jessica thought this was coolest thing, you definitely get a bird's eye view up there! My only regret was that we didn't get to ride in the front car on the Epcot loop—that is best!! We pulled into the TTC, I wasn't sure at this point what to do, I've always heard that you can only ride in the front car until the next stop, but with the TTC and Contemporary being so close, I didn't know if that rule applied. We just stayed seated, figuring the CM would let us know what to do. He opened the door to get out, but didn't say anything to us, and shut the door back again. That was our cue to stay put until we got to the Poly. After everyone got loaded onto the monorail, our driver came back and we were on our way. All too quickly we were at the Poly, we got our co-pilot's license from the driver and met back up with Stephen.

Ahhh….the Polynesian resort. I love it here! It is so laid back and relaxing, the best resort on property. If only they could relocate the Poly to the Epcot resort area, I'd be in heaven then!! My family had never been to the Poly either (they hadn't been to any of the resorts until this trip) and I was anxious to show it to them, I knew they would love it. Jessica would love it because she's a Polynesian princess like me—we love all things Polynesia and tropical (in our house, our morning room is done in a Polynesian theme and so is Jessica's bedroom). Dad would love the Poly because it has such a relaxed and laid back atmosphere and because it's the next best thing to Hawaii, a place he has always wanted to go. Mom would love the Poly because it's so close to the Magic Kingdom and the TTC—right in the middle of the magic. I was right on all 3 counts, everyone loved the Poly. Now if only Disney could lower the prices of those rooms! Stephen and I showed everyone the Great Ceremonal House and 'Ohana, our favorite restaurant to eat. Stephen and I would be eating here on Saturday, but not Mom, Dad, or Jessica; Jessica is kind of a picky eater and did not like the look of the menu. When Dad saw the menu and found out that he wasn't eating there and we were…whowee was he hot under the collar!! After exploring the GCH, went outside to walk the grounds. Stephen and I showed my family the Tokaleu Longhouse, where we stayed for part of our trip in February (we split the vacation between the Poly and Boardwalk Villas). We went up the Sunset Pointe and got several pictures of us with Cinderella Castle behind us, using the timer on our camera—the best invention ever. We walked over by the Grand Floridian and took some group shots there as well.

The Grand Floridian was up next on our resort tour schedule. My family thought the GF is a very nice resort, but they have no desire to stay here. I feel the same way, it is a gorgeous resort, but it feels kind of stuffy to me. I know its just the theming, but I wonder if I would feel under dressed wearing a pair of shorts on my way to the parks, kind of like wearing shorts and a tank top to church. Regardless it is a beautiful resort, and I have to agree with my Mom on this one, very reminiscent of pictures and portrayals of the Titanic. The Christmas decorations were wonderful at the Grand Floridian, the tree in the center of the lobby was gigantic! I know some people have complained about the tree, apparently it wasn't as big as the one from the past, but for seeing it for the first time, it looked pretty beautiful to me. We also loved the life sized gingerbread house, very impressive, it was making me crave gingerbread! All they had, however was the hard gingerbread cookies, and I wanted soft actual gingerbread bread. We sat in the lobby for a few minutes, listening to the pianist play and the sounds of excited little voices. We slowly got up and went outside so my family could see the resort grounds. By this time, it was dark out, but the paths were so well lit, that we had no problem seeing what a elegant resort this truly is. Stephen and I walked Mom, Dad, and Jessica down to the dock so they could see the Magic Kingdom from here, we caught a boat to the MK and once we were at the MK, we took a bus back to the Boardwalk.

We got back to the BW and decided to go back to the villa to regroup and change our clothes, we hadn't been "home" since 11:00 that morning and it was starting to get cold out! It was only around 7:00, so we weren't tired, just needed to see what our options were. We got into the lobby and there was a string quartet playing Christmas carols, a very nice touch. See, the Grand Floridian has nothing on the Board Walk.

Once we were all warmed up, we decided to head down to the Boardwalk to see what was going on. Not a whole lot going on, since it was chilly out. Against my wishes, we rented a 6 person surrey bike. This was fun, but hard (which is why it was against my wishes ) and how we kept from killing someone, I'll never know. Dad and Stephen sat in the front and us girls were in the back, part of the problem was that Dad and Stephen were peddling so fast that we couldn't keep up and the peddles were smacking us in the shins—ouch! The other problem was that we were all laughing so hard, it was fun, but something I think we never need to do again. Ever. We made it around the loop two times with time to spare. By the time we turned our bike back in, the surrey stand had closed, another storm was brewing up. After our invigorating bike ride (we all woke sore the next day), we went into the ESPN Club to look at the store. Stephen played some video games, I think a soccer one, and we looked around the store while he was playing. We ran out of things to, the boardwalk was pretty dead tonight because of the rain and cold. Jessica decided that she was hungry, we went to the Boardwalk Bakery to see what they had. While Mom was ordering, Dad decided that he wanted ice cream, why don't we head to Beaches and Cream? Jessica was a bit miffed when she came out of the bakery with her turkey and cheese sandwich and found out we were going to Beaches and Cream.

We made the trek over to B&C and went to the take-out window. Mom and Jessica got a table for us while Dad and Stepehn ordered and I was the designated helper. Stephen got a hot dog meal, which I thought was weird because he rarely eats hot dogs, but whatever. Mom, Dad, and I each got sundaes. How great is it to eat ice cream for dinner? Must be on vacation. While we were eating, we could Illuminations start in Epcot. It was so loud because of the cloud coverage, the sound was absorbed by the clouds and then it was bouncing off Storm-A-Long Bay. It sounded like bombs going off. After we finished our yummy meal, we got up to head back to the villa. We got half there and it started pouring rain, we tried to stay under the awnings as much as we could, walking single file and when we got to the openings, we ran. We were drenched! We got back in in the room and took showers to warm-up. We were in bed shortly, looking forward to tomorrow: the Magic Kingdom.

Day 5 12-17

Plan: Magic Kingdom, lunch PS at Crystal Palace

Reality: We woke up to a chilly, overcast day with threatening rain clouds looming in the sky. We all dressed in jeans and long sleeved shirts, except for Dad, he had on a short sleeved shirt. This would prove to be a costly mistake. We got outside, it was breezy and cool, but it was still pretty early, 8:00ish and it's supposed to get warmer during the day, right? The bus for the Magic Kingdom came quickly and we were pulling up to the front gates within maybe 10-15 minutes.

We decided to head for Fantasyland first, since we didn't make it there on Sunday. We rode all the great classic kiddie rides—majority rules, so Dad and Stephen couldn't complain. Actually, they act like they are going to complain, but everyone knows that they don't mean it. As the morning wore on, the temperature continued to dip lower and lower. Dad was wearing his poncho, not because it was raining, but because it was so cold and he was using the plastic to block the wind. We decided that we would finish Fantasyland and then make our way down Main Street and look for some warmer clothes. We were hoping the weather would warm up. There was no line for Dumbo, so Mom, Dad, Jessica, and myself ran to get in line. Stephen's too cool for Dumbo, so he was official photographer for the ride. He was so mad at us, he was holding 2 cameras and 1 video camera trying to take pictures on both cameras and film us all at the same time. That's what you get when you think you're too cool for Fantasyland.

We ducked into Mickey's PhilharMagic next, it was indoors, plus I really wanted to see it. It was incredible. The best 3-D show in the parks and the best attraction in Fantasyland (sorry, Peter Pan, please forgive me ), it is so amazing how you are taken into the movies. It feels like you're really flying with Aladdin and Jasmine and celebrating with Belle and Lumiere. And the different "experiences" in the scenes are so incredible (don't want to spoil it for anybody). Definitely take the time to experience this attraction; it is not to be missed.

We saw everything in Fantasyland that we wanted to see. It was about 10:30-11:00 by this time and we were still freezing. We debated going back to the room to get sweatshirts, but no one wanted to take all the time to do that, besides it was so cold that a regular sweatshirt would not have been enough. We spent some time in the Emporium, looking for warm sweatshirts, we ended up all getting fleece shirts, the CM's were so great, they even cut the tags off for us so that we could put them on right in the store. Ahhh, so much warmer, much better. We were ready to conquer the rest of the Magic Kingdom. And Dad finally got his Disney shirt that he swore he would never buy, but had been eyeing them all week. Now he wears that sweatshirt all the time!

After our shopping expedition (and a good $250 poorer—those shirts are expensive), we made our way over to Frontierland. The first stop was Splash Mountain, one of my favorite rides. I'm not big on water rides (I hate to get wet), but the theming is so great on this ride, that I can't miss it. We had our ponchos with us, so we were planning on wearing them on the ride, we would look like a bunch of dorks, but we would be dry the rest of the day. I had really been talking up Splash Mountain to Mom, remember she doesn't like rides, but she loves the movie "Song of the South". I knew she could handle this ride; it's not that bad, it looks a lot worse from the outside than it really is. We finally got her on, and she loved it. She thought it was a fun ride, not scary at all, and it made her so brave that she wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road! BTMRR was a success as well. The best part was when we were being seated in the train, the CM was asking how many in your party and then you had to go all the way down to the next available seat, no waiting for a particular seat. Well, Stephen went first, then Jess and me and then Mom and Dad. As soon as we sat down, I looked up and realized that Mom and Dad were in the front seat of the train. Mom freaked out and wanted me to switch seats, but we were already buckled in. It was too funny. Stephen and I were both bad on the ride, I took a picture of Mom and Dad going up the first hill and Stephen videotaped some of the ride as well. We just wanted to get Mom's first big girl ride on film.

We got off BTMRR around 12:15 that gave us 45 minutes before our PS at Crystal Palace. We were trying to decide what to do, so Dad (yes, Dad of all people) suggested that Mom try Space Mountain. She enjoyed Splash and BTMRR so much and Space Mountain is really no bigger or rougher than BTMRR. We all got caught up in the "magic" and headed toward Space Mountain. Mom was uncertain about SM, but we all reassured her that it would be fine; it's a small coaster that only goes 28 MPH. Not a good idea. Mom did not enjoy Space Mountain. Mom almost got sick on Space Mountain. The jerkiness and speed was just too much. As soon as we got off the ride, Mom sat on the benches for a few minutes. I thought for sure that she was going to lose her breakfast; thankfully we hadn't eaten lunch yet! After probably 10 minutes, she was okay, but adamant about never riding it again! I did take her picture in front of SM, because she is so brave.

We got to Crystal Palace a few minutes before our 1:00 PS, we were all starving and looking forward to a good lunch. We waited for maybe 5 minutes outside on the porch and then our name was called. What a pretty restaurant. Our table was in a pretty good location, close to the buffet. The food was surprisingly good here as well; I'd definitely eat here again. The best item I had was the pork tenderloin; it was so tender that you could cut it with a fork. The macaroni and cheese was very good as well, so cheesy and creamy. The rest of our lunch was good, just those two items stood out to me as being especially yummy. The lunch at Crystal Palace is a character meal with Winnie the Pooh and Friends—the "Friends" consisted of Eeyore (Mom's favorite), Tigger, and Piglet. The characters came around to our table often, not ignoring us because we were 5 adults. We did have an incident where I was trying to take a picture of Dad, Jessica, and Pooh, while I'm attempting to take the picture; this mom is shoving her daughter in Pooh's face. My mom made some comment like "we're taking a picture" she was very nice about it, and the lady apologized. These same people provided our entertainment for the meal, the little girl was a terror, she would jump up and start running around the restaurant barefoot. We got some laughs watching the parents trying to chase her down and contain her.

After such a delicious and relaxing lunch, we decided to make our way over to Adventureland. Mom, Dad, and Jessica had never seen The Enchanted Tiki Birds: Under New Management, so we made our way over there. We just made it at the beginning of the next show. I really like the Enchanted Tiki Birds, however I have never seen the original tiki birds. My favorite part of the show is the pre-show which we missed. Oh well, we'll have to catch it next time. We stayed a few minutes after the show was over to listen to Iago, if you have time, do this, it is hilarious and worth your time. Now is the moment Dad has been waiting for, we finally made it over his favorite attraction: The Jungle Cruise. Another Disney classic that I hope is never taken out of the park. I realize that it's outdated and fake, but it's an attraction that Walt Disney designed himself (well the one at Disneyland at least) and that should count for something. I'm all for new rides that showcase upcoming technology. I love thrill rides and have no problem with them being at a Disney park, just please don't touch the classics. Preserve the history of Walt Disney as you design new attractions.

At this point it was getting close to 3:30 and Stephen and I were beat. We never stay in the parks all day long, we're usually gone by 2:00 and then we come back to the parks around 5:00 or 6:00 depending on how late the parks are open. We decided to head back to the villa and meet back up with my family at 5:00 in the Hub. My family is commando, Stephen and I tried very hard to break of them of this nasty habit, but what can you do? Stephen and I had to wait quite a few minutes for a bus, by the time the bus came, there was so many people that it was standing room only. By the time we got back to the room, we only had 15 minutes to relax before we had to start getting ready. We figured that if we left by 4:30, we should make it to the MK by 5:00. We both kicked our shoes off (that felt wonderful ) and each took an end of the couch to stretch out. Stephen nodded off, but I made sure to stay awake, tonight was SpectroMagic and I was not missing that! I watched TV for a few minutes and then got up to change, letting Stephen sleep a few minutes longer. It was so cold that morning and afternoon, I was dreading what the night would be like. I put on a tank top, a t-shirt, a long sleeved shirt, the fleece, and a jacket. And I was still cold by the end of the night! I woke Stephen up and he layered his clothes on as well, but not as heavy as me, I grabbed everyone else's jackets and we were on our way. We were running a little bit late and knew we would not be to the Hub by 5:00, I tried to call Mom's cell phone, but it just rang. We walked into the Magic Kingdom a couple minutes after 5:00 and the Flag Retreat Ceremony was being performed. Even though we were late, I had to stop to see this. Stephen and I have never experienced the Flag Retreat Ceremony, although every trip we mean to catch it. What a moving experience, I'm so glad we stopped to see this. I'm hoping to see this again.

Stephen and I finally got to the Hub at 5:15 and no family. I tried calling Mom and Jessica's cell phone—Mom's just rang and Jessica's was turned off. We circled the Hub a couple times, each going a different direction. Stephen took a walk toward Adventureland and then Main Street, nothing. Finally about 15 minutes later, they come sauntering over, they were at Mickey's PhilharMagic!! Without me!! The nerve! Now that we were all together, we grabbed some seats for SpectroMagic. We sat on the Hub, to the left of the Castle, we passed the time watching the CM's get after people. For some reason the section we were sitting in there were no strollers allowed and the CM's were constantly coming over, telling someone they had to move. As time for the parade came closer, it was also funny to watch people trying to bully their way into curbside seats. About 20 minutes before the parade, Stephen stood up to stretch his legs, he was standing right in front of the spot where he was sitting. This lady came up and tried to sit there with her little boy. I gave her a look, like what are you doing, and told her that the seat was taken. She got up and moved on, squeezing herself in a spot no wider than 6 inches. Some people! All that aside, SpectroMagic was as magical and magnificent as it was the last time we saw it. I enjoy Spectro so much more than the Main Street Electrical Parade, there is an emotional element in Spectro that I think is lacking in the MSEP. Truly beautiful and Disney magic at work.

We were freezing but knew that we had to stay to see Wishes. Leaving early wasn't an option for anyone. Since we had already seen Wishes and it was so cold outside, we decided to duck into a restaurant and buy some hot chocolate and sit down until just before Wishes started. We decided to go into Cosmic Ray's. Warning: we were bad in here, so if you think it may change your opinion of what a nice family we are, you might want to skip the next paragraph. Dad and Stephen went to the counter to order, there was a huge line, we later found out it was due to one of the hot chocolate machines being broken. Anyway, Mom, Jess, and I found a table in the room where Sonny E. Clipse is. There was a CM in there wiping down tables and cleaning up, no big deal CM's wipe down tables and sweep all day long. But this particular CM let it be known that she was not happy about people sitting in her section. She even made the comment about the park closing in a half an hour and that Cosmic Ray's closes then as well. She was trying to get people to leave by sweeping crumbs around their feet, wiping a section of the table they weren't using. Groups would come in and scoot tables together and she would give them dirty looks, it was so funny. We waited for Dad and Stephen probably 10-15 minutes and watched her doing this the whole time. Finally Dad and Stephen came over with our drinks, we told them what was going on. As we were getting up to leave, Stephen handed me his drink and said he'd be right back. He went back into the room and made a certain hidden something using 3 tables (I'll give you a hint, it was the boss man himself, or should I say mouse?). We were just creating a little Disney magic of our own.

Okay, we're back to being our wonderful selves again. Wishes was awesome again, I really enjoy it so much more than Fantasy in the Sky. There's just no comparison between the two. Kudos to the imagineers who dreamed up the concept and then finished it through until completion, it's a job well done. After Wishes we slowly walked out of the Magic Kingdom, saying good-bye for now. I think the Magic Kingdom is the hardest park to leave at the end of the vacation. But the vacation is not over; we still have 3 whole days, 2 new parks, and a new resort to experience. As we were walking out, Mickey Mouse was on top of the train station, waving good-bye to everyone. I had never seen that before, it was such a nice touch to end another perfect day.

We got back to the villa and everyone was hungry. Dad, Stephen, and Jessica decided to eat from Spoodles pick-up window. Mom and I were just going to eat the left over pizza from the day before. While Dad and Stephen were ordering, I went down to the Character Carnival and picked up our packages from Downtown Disney. We ate dinner, Dad and Stephen went to bed and us girls stayed up and talked. Stephen was quite annoyed with us since we were being so loud, but he got over it. It's vacation; I can stay up late if I want to!

Day 6 12-18

The Plan: MGM, dinner PS at 50's Prime Time Café

Reality: We got up bright and early to see the sun shining again, much better than yesterday's cloudiness. It was still cool, but not cold. We got ready quickly and were on our way to MGM. We took the walkway from the Boardwalk to the park, I think it's a nice leisurely walk and much, much quicker than the Friend Ship boats. We were standing at the gates, waiting for the park to open. Dad, Stephen, and I were headed off to do Rock 'n Roller Coaster and then the Tower of Terror. Dad had never ridden either of these before, was he in for a treat! The 2 wimps, Mom and Jessica went shopping while waiting for us. We all turned our phones on and planned to meet at the Sorcerer's Apprentice hat at 10:15-10:30.

My family hasn't been to MGM since August 1989, the park had only been open for 3 months and from what I can remember, there wasn't much here. I think there were only 2 rides—The Backlot Tour and The Great Movie Ride, pretty boring. Thankfully, there are many more attractions. Dad, Stephen, and I walked back to RNR, I was expecting a little bit of a wait, we had been in the park for maybe 15 minutes before we made it over to the ride. Surprisingly enough, the ride was a complete walk on; we didn't stop until we got to the holding room before the pre-show. I love the pre-show here, I'm a huge Aerosmith fan (in fact, I was just listening to "Big Ones" on my way to work this morning) and I love Steven Tyler. Just the fact that you can ride a roller coaster while listening to Aerosmith is pretty incredible to me. We got on the ride and zoomed off, making it to the concert on time. It was another outstanding ride, the only down side of the ride this time was as we were on the roller coaster, I felt something wet hit me in the cheek. I don't know what it was or where it came from. It was pretty disgusting, but we're not going to dwell on that right now. The next time we ride, I'll know to keep my mouth shut! We exited the ride into a store and checked out our picture, I wish I would have bought it, it was so funny. Dad and I were riding together and Stephen was in the car behind us, well in the picture, Stephen and I were both screaming with our hands up in the air and there's Dad, holding on as tight as he can to the over the head restraint and his eyes were squeezed shut. Mom and Jessica would have loved seeing that.

Since RNR was a walk on and we had an hour to meet Mom and Jess, we asked Dad if he would like to ride Rock 'n Roller Coaster again. He declined. We headed over to the Tower of Terror next. I've been trying to get Jessica to ride this, but she won't, Mom won't ride it either, she's not crazy about elevators, so being in one that rises and then falls might not be the best idea. We got to the line and it looked short, I think it said a 15-minute wait, so we decided to just wait instead of getting a Fastpass. We had an hour before we had to meet Mom and Jessica and besides Stephen and I always use Fastpasses for this ride, so we have never seen the entire que line. The wait ended up being 25 minutes, not bad; it just felt longer because we never wait in line for ToT. We got into the hotel (and I finally found the "secret" message), into the library and down into the boiler room. Dad was very impressed with the theming of the ride, in my opinion; ToT and Splash Mountain are the 2 best themed rides in the parks. Some day I'm going to get Mom through line just so she can see everything, and then she can take the chicken exit out. We were quickly seated in the elevator, and up we went and up and up and up. And then, suddenly down the hatch! And up and then down and then down and then up, it was like we were a human yo-yo. It was pretty awesome! Dad laughed the entire the time, he really enjoyed his stay at the Hollywood Hotel.

We walked over to the square? Circle? Hub? What's that area by the hat called? Anyway, it was probably not the best place to meet because there were probably 15-20 characters around the perimeter of the square/circle/hub and there were people everywhere. We got up on the top step to the entrance of the little pin store and tried to look over the people to see if Mom and Jessica were waiting in line to meet a character. I tried call Mom's cell phone, but it just rang, we walked around in the area a little bit, trying to spot them. Finally I see Mom's red sweatshirt coming toward us. We decided to jump in line to meet a couple of characters. Jessica loves Minnie Mouse, so we went over there first and then we met Goofy. None of us are big Goofy fans, but he was dressed like Santa Claus, so we couldn't pass that up. I think Stephen was getting annoyed that we were spending so much time meeting characters and not riding rides, we exchanged words (we usually have 1 good fight on vacation, it keeps things exciting ) and then we were all fine. The characters were leaving so we waved goodbye to some of the characters we passed. We saw the penguins from Mary Poppins, they were so cute, I wanted to meet them, but ran out of time. Many people were confusing them with Wheezy from Toy Story, not sure who they thought the other penguin was.

We made our way over to The Great Movie Ride, there was a little bit of a wait, not much, maybe 10 minutes and we spent that time watching clips of the old movies they show. I don't know why, but this ride always has a wait, maybe because it takes a while to load? Anyway, the doors opened and we entered into the room where the cars are. Mom, asked if she could handle the ride, saw that there were no seatbelts and she knew she would be fine. I've ridden this ride so many times, that I normally spend the time watching first-timer's reactions (you can always tell the first-timers in WDW) and looking at all the intricate theming and detailing. I try looking for Hidden Mickey's, but so far the only one I found was the one in the James Cagney room (Mickey's in the left hand side windows, in the upper corner. It's a profile shot). The next time we go to Disney World, I'm going to get the Hidden Mickey book to help me find them. Everyone enjoyed the GMR, especially the Wizard of Oz section (that's my favorite part) and the movie clips at the end. We spent the rest of the day humming the songs from that montage.

We decided to make our way over to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire—Play It! Stephen and I usually do really well on this attraction, for some reason. We have both been in the Top 10, one time in fact Stephen was #1 and I was #2, but we have never made it to the Hot Seat. It didn't happen this time either, oh well. We had all fun playing the game and testing our knowledge. There was a man in the Hot Seat who came to the parks by himself with the sole intention of playing WWTBAM all day long. Hmmm. Not my cup of tea, but he was having fun and that's all that matters when in Disney World, doing what makes you happy.

We were all hungry for lunch, but we wanted something small, didn't want to gorge ourselves and not be hungry for 50's Prime Time Café. We ended up going to Rosie's over by Rock 'n Roller Coaster. Dad, Stephen, and Jessica all got personal pizzas, Mom and I walked over to Anaheim Produce Co. and got soft pretzels and fruit. I'll have to remember this little stand for future trips, in my opinion, the counter service at MGM is not that great. It's also nice to get some fruit and juice, sometimes eating fries and drinking pop gets a little old. We had a nice lunch and Stephen was nice enough to share his dessert pizza with me.

We decided to hit the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. This show is not my idea of a good time, I think it's boring, but Stephen loves it and my family had never seen it, so I suffered through the show. One bright spot, the CM portraying Indiana Jones was pretty nice to look at. Jessica and I kept using the camera as binoculars with the zoom lens extended all the way out. Stephen just rolled his eyes at us. Dad and Jessica liked the show, Mom didn't care for it, I knew going in that she wouldn't and I started to suggest that she and I do something else, but I decided that maybe she would like it. Oh well.

We decided to head over to Beauty and the Beast show next. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies and I think the show is pretty good too. Not as great as the Festival of the Lion King, but much better than a typical amusement park show. We got to the theatre as Four For a Dollar were opening, I enjoy hearing them sing, I like the doo-wop sound of the 50's. Mom and Dad enjoyed them as well. We got situated about half way up from the stage on the left hand side, pretty good seats for coming late, well not late, but after the opening act started. A family came down and sat in front of us, I was hoping that the row would stay open so I could see (I'm only 5'1"), but that was wishful thinking. The family (a mom, dad, and 2 daughters) ended up scooting down, so I could see better. Then this other family comes and sits in front of that family and then in turn in front of us. This little girl had the bushiest hair I have ever seen in my life, it stuck out probably 5 feet from her head, okay I'm exaggerating, but it was huge, I couldn't see around her. She switched spots with someone else in the family and then she proceeds to stand up, right in front of the little girls in the other family. Hello, common sense here. Finally the mom of the other family asked her to sit down. The show started and I thought we were in the clear, wishful thinking again, this family came down and sat right in front of us, this family was very tall. Their son, probably close to 6 feet is wearing a Goofy hat, adding 6 inches onto his head and then is seating on his feet. I couldn't see at all. I wasn't going to say anything because it was a kid and I had already seen Beauty and the Beast before, but I sighed, the mom heard me, looked and saw that the kid had on a huge hat and was sitting on his feet. She made him take his hat off and sit flat on his bottom. Thank you very much!! Mom, Dad, and Jessica really liked the show; Stephen and I enjoyed it as well.

After BATB, Stephen decided that we was going to walk over to 50's Prime Time Café to see if the restaurant was covered under the Fantasmic Priority Seating. When we made the PS, only Hollywood & Vine, Mama Melrose, and Brown Derby were included, but CM told us to check at 50's Prime Time that day because sometimes it is added at the last minute. While he was doing that, Mom, Dad, Jess, and I walked over to Al's Toy Barn to catch Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Both of my nephews are big Toy Story fans. We took the long way around from BATB to Al's Toy Barn, I always get so confused at MGM, it's the only park that I have trouble finding my way around. We finally made it to the Toy Barn and Jessie is there instead of Woody, but it's okay, we're all big Buzz fans anyway. We waited in line maybe 10 minutes and it was our turn to meet Buzz and Jessie. Yes, I'm 25 years old and I still meet the characters, anything wrong with that?

After meeting Buzz and Jessie, we headed toward Muppets 3-D. I have been a huge Muppets fan ever since I was a little girl. I used to sleep with Kermit the Frog and I carried him with me everywhere, I even used to "feed" him, sharing my food—I remember that Kermit especially loves Fritos. As we were walking toward the Muppet 3-D, Jessica spotted something and told me to look—it was Kermit and Miss Piggy!! I had never met them before, I was so excited, I went running across the courtyard, you would have thought I was 3 years old. When it was our turn, I gave Kermit a big hug and told him that I have loved him since I was a baby. He hugged me back; Miss Piggy did not like that too much. We headed to Muppets

3-D next, I think this show is hilarious, I particularly like the pre-show, it's great! I hope the Muppets get cracking once again, making movies and having television specials, kids these days need to know Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the gang. I must say, the Pizza Hut commercials are helping, but there needs to be more.

We finally hit the afternoon lull; this always happens to us at MGM, there just isn't enough to do to fill an entire day. It was too late in the day to take a break, it was after 3:00 and we had a PS at 50's Prime Time at 5:30. Stephen volunteered to walk back to the villa to get everyone's jackets and sweatshirts, it was still pretty warm, but it was supposed to get chilly that night. After he left, we walked over to the Little Mermaid show (it just escaped me what that show is called); Jessica loves Ariel and has been a big fan of the movie ever since it came out when she was 5. We walked over there, but the show was already full and the next one was at 5:30, she was bummed, but I told her the secret of Walt Disney World is to always leave something undone, it's an excuse to keep going back.

We shopped around for a little bit, Mom was looking for pictures for the Disney bathroom she's working on. We browsed for a few minutes in the stores and then made our way over to 50's Prime Time Café. We were early for our PS, but we sat on the bench outside of the restaurant people watching and waiting for Stephen. Stephen walked up, heavy laden with jackets and sweatshirts, it was a pretty funny sight to see, he was carrying so much stuff. I bet the walk back was loads of fun! We waited outside for a couple more minutes and then went inside the restaurant to check-in. The Fulkerson kids were called to dinner probably 3 minutes later and the fun and the adventure began.

50's Prime Time Restaurant was a riot, we all had the best time. I'd gladly recommend this restaurant to anyone, the food was excellent and the atmosphere was so much fun. We had an incredible waitress (Sister Patti), which made all the difference in the world. The restaurant looks like kitchens of the 50's, being 25, I obviously wasn't alive in the 1950's, but it looks like the pictures I have seen of kitchens during that time period. The floor was light blue lineolium and the tables were blue and silver formica. We were seated in a large booth with 2 chairs at the end, the booth looked like the ones in a soda shop, the fake plasticy leather that your legs stick to and the extra chairs looked like traditional kitchen chairs. Every so often there were hanging televisions, they were all white, at least the ones in our room, and square. The t.v.'s were showing clips of various television shows of the 50's—"Leave It to Beaver", "The Ozzy and Harriet Show", "Mr. Ed", ect. In the corners of the rooms were shelves that had various Disney related knick knacks, old fashioned Micky Mouse items and paraphanelia from the Mickey Mouse Club. My parents especially loved the décor, it reminded them of the kitchens they grew up in.

Sister Patti, our waitress came over and she was a hoot. First of all, she gave everyone names: Dad—Uncle Fred, Mom—Priscella, Jessica—Prissy, Stephen—Scooter, Me—Mary Margaret. After giving everyone names and taking our drink order, she chose Prissy to set the table, she gave Jessica/Prissy a basket full of napkins and silverware. While Sister Patti was getting our drinks, I got up to use the restroom and wash my hands, when I came up, Sister Patti came over and asked me what color the soap was. I think it's light blue, but I forget now. After we were seated, another family was seated next to us, and Sister Patti had fun with them too. The family consisted of a mom and 2 boys, I'm guessing around 15 and 11, you could tell the 15 year old (that Sister Patti christened Skippy) was completely embarrased to be here. After Sister Patti had taken their order, she came back with a plastic Little Mermaid bib, she came over and said to Skippy, "Look, Skippy, I found your baby bib in the attic!", she then proceeded to tie the bib on the poor kid. We were all laughing so hard that we were practically crying. Our drinks came out and Sister Patti took our order, Stephen drank his iced tea (he's a pretty quick drinker) in about 5 minutes, so that when Patti came over to check on us (I think this was during the Skippy/Little Mermaid escapade) the glass was empty. She looked at Stephen/Scooter and shook her head and came back with 3 more glasses of iced tea for Scooter.

Our food came out quickly, and we began to eat. The food was delicous, Stephen and Dad—I mean Scooter and Uncle Fred got the meat loaf; Priscilla and me got the fried chicken, and Prissy got a bowl of chicken noodle soup and french fries. Sister Patti came over periodically to check on us and refill drinks, on her way over to the table, Scooter blew a straw wrapper at Prissy and got busted! When she saw what Scooter, Sister Patti came flying over, grabbed Scooter by the ear and marched him around the room and into the room adjacent to us, telling everyone what a bad boy he is. She then, took a sugar pack and made Scooter hold the pack up on the wall with his nose. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen, my sides were aching from laughing so hard. When Skippy saw Scooter get in trouble, he grabbed the Little Mermaid bib that he had taken off and put the bib back on again. He wore the bib for the rest of their meal.

We were all full from the huge meal, Mom and I should have shared one. I didn't finish all my vegetables, so Sister Patti came over and put every single greenbean on my fork and then she put the remaining chicken breast on the fork. I was going to try to stuff all the green beans in my mouth, but when she put the chicken breast on, it was over. I also got in trouble for tattling on Prissy, I was told, "Mary Margaret, no one likes a tattle tale". We ordered dessert, I think we got the Dad's Brownie Sundae, it was so good—we could barely move after all that food.

I was really impressed with 50's Prime Time Café, we got a delicious meal and a very magical atmosphere. Sister Patti was fantastic, she teased us just enough to make the meal an experience, but she also wasn't over bearing. I was also really impressed with how she handled a group that came in half way through our meal. It was a group of maybe 6 and 4 of them had special needs, some were in wheelchairs and a couple had oxygen tanks with them. I was curious to see how Patti would handle the table, so I kept an eye on them, I wasn't staring or being rude, but whenever Patti came by, I would glance in that direction. At first Patti just took their order and wasn't being funny or playing the part, but after a few minutes when she started to get a feel for them, she started lightly teasing them. They ordered desserts, so she made the comment, "I hope you got all your vegetables before coming here", and other "Mom" comments like that. It made the table feel a part of the restaurant, but it wasn't more than they could handle. I thought it was a job well done.

After our incredible meal, we made our way over to the Fantasmic Theatre for Fantasmic. We got seats in the center of the theatre about half way up, I don't like sitting too close to the water, I hate getting wet and while you don't get soaked, you do feel a mist. I may not be a huge fan of MGM, but I love Fantasmic, I couldn't imagine a trip to WDW without seeing it. My parents really loved it as well, we even heard my Dad yelling "Go, Mickey!" when Mickey Mouse reappeared on the top of the mountain after defeating the villians. I'm not sure what my favorite part is, I like the movie clips projected onto the water screen, I like when Malecifient blows fire onto the lake, and I love when Steamboat Willie and all the characters come out on the boat. I just love it all, I think it's…fantasmic! After the show, we took our time walking out of the theatre, letting the pressing crowds rush by us. Once we got out of the theatre and up into the park again, we tried to get up to the Sorcerer Apprentice Hat to take pictures. The security guard wouldn't let us back there, I'm assuming they had already made a sweep of that section of the park, but she offered to take a group picture of us, setting us up in the exact spot where the entire Hat would be behind us.

Mom decided that she might need to look for the kids some more Christmas presents—isn't being a grandma fun? She was looking for a talking Zurg doll for my nephew, Logan, she saw one earlier in the week, but didn't get it thinking she could get it anytime. Well, now she couldn't find the doll anywhere, I guess Zurg must be popular. We all went into a kids store to help her look. I started looking at the baby clothes (they are so tiny!!), but Stephen told me not to get any ideas. Men! The boys got tired of looking at toys and little girls clothes, so they went to a store across the street, I am horrible with the names of the stores in MGM, I guess because Stephen and I rarely go in them. The store is quite large, I'm guessing it's MGM's version of Mouse Gear and The Emporium. Dad had been looking for a snow globe for Mom during the whole week. He was specifically looking for one that played "When You Wish Upon A Star", do you know there was not one snow globe that plays that song. Dad, Stephen, Jessica, and I were all searching for it at every park and every store we went into—nothing. Dad finally found a snow globe that featured all four parks and decided to just buy that one instead. While Dad, Stephen, and I were looking through the snow globes, Mom and Jessica came into the store. I started browsing with Mom and Jess to get them away from the snow globes and then Jess and I got Mom out of the store. I think we told Mom that Stephen was buying stuff for me to explain why he and Dad were still in there. It was so funny all the covering and hiding we did all week long, trying to buy Christmas presents for each other.

Dad made his purchase and we left the park. We set the timer and took some great pictures of us in front of the huge MGM Christmas tree. On the walk back, Dad and Stephen decided to walk down to the Screen Door and get some pop to make us through the rest of the week, we got to the clown pool and split up. There was a family trying to get inside using the doors by the pool. Their key wasn't working, so I tried mine. My key didn't work either, we had to walk around the resort looking for a door that we could open. I'm guessing the resort was having troubles with their locks? Once we finally got in the building, we had no idea where we were—all those corriders look the same. After wondering around for a while, we finally found our way to the lobby and then to our room. You don't realize how large the Boardwalk Villas are until you get lost in them! We made it back to the room, Dad and Stephen shortly followed. We finished packing the suitcases, tomorrow we were going to be checking out of the BWV and into the Wilderness Lodge.

Day 7 12/19

The Plan: check out of BWV, check into Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom, dinner PS at Whispering Canyon Café

Reality: We woke up for the last time at the Boardwalk ?. It's such a great resort, we all hated to leave it. But, we were on our way to the Wilderness Lodge, which is nothing to complain about. I knew my parents would love the WL; they love being up in the mountains and away from all the hustle and bustle of life. Being at the WL really does feel like you are miles and miles away from civilization at a mountain resort out west somewhere. The theming at the resort is unbelievable. But first we had to go to Animal Kingdom. Once everyone got packed up, we called bell services and left the villa. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was so bright and the sky was so blue. It was a little cool, but definitely not cold, we had on long sleeves and light jackets.

We waited a long time for a bus that morning, there were CM's down at the bus depot asking everyone where they were going and then calling the busses. Even though it took a while for our bus to come, the wait was pleasant and the CM's were doing all they could to get an empty bus to pick us up. The bus finally came after about 20-25 minute wait and we were on our way to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Stephen's not a big fan of this park, but I just love it. The park is absolutely gorgeous and I love seeing the animals in their "natural" habitat. The park is going to be awesome when Expedition Everest opens. Mom, Dad, and Jessica were really excited about seeing AK as well. I remember in summer of 2000 when I went on my last family vacation before I got murdered I mean married , we went to Siesta Keys and then we came up to Kissimmee to go to the Magic Kingdom and Universal. Dad really wanted to go to Animal Kingdom on that trip, but for some reason, we never went—he's been waiting 3 ½ years to see this park. I was hoping he would not be disappointed.

We pulled up to the bus stop and walked right in the park, there was some congestion in the Oasis (there always is), but once we got further in the park, the crowds were incredibly light. We spent a few minutes in the Oasis looking around at the beautiful foliage and the small animals and birds. If you have a fear of birds or getting a special present, you might want to walk quickly through this part, the birds are not in cages and fly freely. We stopped to check out an animal on the right hand side of the Gardens, I'm not sure what the technical name for the animal is, but it looks like a giant anteater. When we were a few feet away, Jessica said, "Oh look at the pig", we started making fun of her, there are no pigs at Animal Kingdom. A CM that stays in the Oasis to answer questions, over heard us talking and teasing Jess, he came over and said actually the animal is part of the pig family, so technically Jessica was correct. We think the CM was just flirting with Jessica.

We decided to walk back to Kilimanjaro Safari and get a Fastpass and then head back up to Dinosaur!—they only bad thing about AK is that there is a lot of criss-crossing of the park, maybe we just tour it incorrectly. We got back to Kilimanjaro Safari and it was a complete walk-on, there was no line whatsoever. I have never seen KS without a line. We bagged the Fastpass idea and just walked in the regular line. The que was incredibly long, Stephen and I have never waited in the line, we always use Fastpass. I couldn't imagine waiting there for hours in the dead heat of summer. Within minutes we were up to the loading dock and in our jeep. This was the best safari I had ever been on; there were animals everywhere. I don't know if it was because the weather was cool or if it was because it was still early in the morning or a combination of the two. We saw hippos and crocodiles and Thompson gazelles (I want a pet Tommie!!) and flamingos and cheetahs (which I have never seen) and elephants and giraffes and lions. It was great! We took lots of pictures and you could actually tell what was in the picture because we were so close to the animals. Mom, Dad, and Jessica were getting spoiled; they are going to think every safari ride is like this.

After Kilimanjaro Safari we headed to the Pangani Forest Trail next. The gorillas were hilarious today; I could stand and watch them all day long. We didn't see too many in the inside viewing area, but we saw some in the outside viewing area. There was one that was so funny, he was laying down at the bottom of a ravine it looked like maybe inside a log, he was completely covered with grass and leaves, on his back looking up at all of us. It was so funny. I took a picture of him, but he's so well camouflaged that you can hardly see him, all you can see are the whites of his eyes. The rest of Pangani was pretty good as well, we saw lots of animals, we were getting lucky today, but we still didn't see the hippos. Every time we go to Animal Kingdom, I stand and look at the hippo tank and see nothing but murky water. Oh well, maybe I'll catch them someday. We took our time walking the trail, looking at the animals, the trail was a little crowded I think because the walkways are so narrow, but we let the crowds pass us. Everyone really enjoyed Pangani.

After our tour of Harambe, we hiked all the way across the park to Dinoland USA and Dinosaur! We talked Mom into riding it with us and we walked right on the ride. Have I mentioned that I love coming to the parks during the off-season? We were loaded into our car and we were off to save the Iguanodon. When I first rode this ride, I only saw what could be seen through my hands over my eyes. The ride is not scary; I just don't like things jumping out at me. Now that I've ridden it a few times, I can keep my eyes open and see everything and enjoy the ride. It really is a fun ride; I don't understand the bad rap it gets from everyone. Maybe because I have never ridden Indiana Jones at Disneyland or maybe I don't remember what the difference is with Dinosaur and Countdown to Extinction; I'm not comparing Dinosaur to either one of those rides and I like it just fine. It is a little jerky and the ride is pretty much dark the whole time, but I think that adds to the fun of it. Do you think chasing after dinosaurs would be smooth sailing? Everyone else enjoyed the ride too, Mom laughed through the entire attraction, but we're talking about someone who laughed during "The Ring" and didn't find it a bit scary. T-Rex came really close to us, but we were able to bypass him and we were safe. We checked out our picture at the end, but didn't purchase it, the pictures are just too overpriced in my opinion, but I'm still wishing I had bought the one of Dad, Stephen, and I on Rock 'n Roller Coaster.

We exited the attraction through a store and stopped to browse at some of the merchandise. We walked out of the store and coming toward us was a T-Rex dressed in a Santa vest and hat. I doubled over laughing at him, we came waddling over to us and started eating us, sticking our heads in his mouths. No one else had seen the dinosaur yet, so we were the only audience. I took a couple pictures of him attacking Dad, but the camera didn't do the experience justice. I don't know if dinosaur characters in Dinoland USA are a new thing that I've never seen or if it was just for Christmas, but it was great. We watched him waddle into Dinoland and all the kids attacked him. He was growling at everyone and pretending to bite them. While we were there, we picked up Fastpasses for Jessica and I to ride Primeval Whirl. Stephen didn't want to ride it, it makes him sick (wimp) and after Space Mountain, Mom was not doing roller coasters.

Up next was a trip to Asia and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This is my favorite of the 2 trails, tigers are my favorite animals, I like to watch them play, but I also love Maharajah Jungle Trek because the themeing is intricate and detailed. I finally remembered to stop at the komodo dragon exhibit, I love komodo dragons, but I never remember that they're here. So, of course the one time I remember, the dragons aren't out. The CM there told us that komodo dragons don't like cold weather and won't come out of their caves if it's less than 70 degrees. We continued on to the next exhibit, the bats, but their exhibit was about as lively as the komodo dragon's. We came around to the tigers and finally found something worth watching. They were so active! Pouncing on each other and chasing each other around, they were so funny to watch. As we continued on through the exhibit, and stopped at all the different observation stations, there were more tigers playing. Surely it wasn't the same 2 or 3 we saw a few minutes earlier, but maybe they were making the grand tour like we were. Either way, they provided lots of entertainment for us. One thing we did see a lot of on this trip was children banging on the glass in the different animal exhibits (I hate using that word, it makes Animal Kingdom sound like a zoo, I just don't know any other way to describe it). I think the animals could hear them; they would look up and toward the direction of the banging. Why would a parent let their children do that? First of all it's bad for the animals and secondly, I would be afraid some freak accident would happen and the glass would break. Obviously the glass that is used to divide the people from the animals is super strong and probably shatter resistant, but that thought would still be in the back of my mind.

We finished up with Maharajah Jungle Trek and made our way back to Dinoland USA so Jessica and I could ride Primeval Whirl. Jessica and I went on ahead of everybody and made plans to meet at the exit of the ride. I think maybe Mom wanted to look in a store(what a big shock ), but I can't remember clearly now. I think Primeval Whirl is a fun little ride, part roller coaster and part carnival-barf ride. And for the record, I like Dinoland USA as well, I know it doesn't really fit in with the rest of Animal Kingdom, but it does fit the atmosphere of the dig sites and Dinosaur! My favorite part is the parking spaces that were painted on the black top, to make it feel like a carnival was built in the middle of the street for the weekend. As always, classic Disney theming. Jessica loved Primeval Whirl, she loves the spinning rides that make everyone else sick. I like PW too, but one ride a trip is plenty enough for me, I'm just glad we hadn't eaten lunch yet. We got off the ride and found our family, the Christmas dinosaur was back out and this time he a had a friend, it was a girl with a red bow in her hair and bright red lipstick. It was funny to watch the kids get behind the dinosaurs, obviously the dinosaur had no idea that someone was behind them and boink! there goes a kid getting hit by a dino tail. It was funny and we had a good time watching them.

We were all hungry and decided to eat lunch. Stephen was wanting Flame Tree BBQ, but I think they were closed. We ended up at Pizzafari and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a very nice meal and the portions were large. I had a cheese pizza and I think Stephen had a pepperoni pizza, we had breadsticks, I'm not sure if we ordered them seperately or if they came with the meal. I was expecting cardboard pizza, but it was actually pretty decent. Now, I'm not saying it was best pizza I have ever had or that I sit at home and crave it every night, but for a quick counter service meal, it was pretty good. It was extremely filling as well, I think I only ate half of my pizza and a breadstick and I was full. I was trying to pawn off my leftovers to Stephen or Dad, but they were both full as well. I enjoyed the atmosphere of Pizzafari as well, the vibrant colors and brightly lit rooms. There were plenty of large tables, prefect for large families or small ones that need room to spread out. It was a nice, pleasant lunch and the next time I come to Animal Kingdom, I won't be so quick to scratch Pizzafari off my list.

Up next was It's Tough To Be A Bug, I didn't really tell Mom, Dad, and Jessica too much about the attraction, didn't want to spoil any of the surprises. We walked through the que with no wait, as we were walking, we checked out the Tree of Life. It doesn't matter how many times I have seen the Tree of Life, it still amazes me. I love all the carvings, the artists who worked on the tree are truly gifted and talented. We got up inside the tree and met a crowd of people waiting to get in. We must of just missed a show going in. We really couldn't check out all the cool posters hanging up, there were so people in there and they just kept crowding in closer and closer. All the people (some of them didn't smell too fresh) mixed with the annoying music that sounds like bugs buzzing were getting to me and giving me a huge headache. Thankfuly the doors opened and we were prodded in, like a herd of cattle. We got great seats in the front middle of the theatre and middle of the row—no, we didn't stop in the middle, we just ended up there. I had forgotten some of the "experiences" that occur, we didn't to It's Tough To Be A Bug when we were here in August, so it had been 10 months since we've done it—I know, I know that's a long time. Everyone enjoyed ITTBAB and thought it was great, my favorite part is the exiting bugs. If you've experienced ITTBAB, you know what I'm talking about.

We got out of ITTBAB just in time for the next showing of Festival of the Lion King. I absolutely love Festival of the Lion King, the show is amazing, the actors are fantastic, the music is terrific, and costumes are beautiful. I knew Mom, Dad, and Jess would love it. We hiked over to Camp Minnie-Mickey, criss crossing the park again. There was a line outside of the theatre, but we entered and were seated quickly. I think we were in the lion section, but I'm starting to forget things (the next trip report I write, I'm not going to wait 5 months to write it! ). Mom, Dad, and Jessica loved it, of course Stephen and I loved it as well. We were all laughing at Dad, because he sat on the bench in front of us to see better. I'm not sure what my favorite part of the show is, I see the tumble monkeys and I think, "this is the best part" and then I see the scene with Scar and the flame thrower and I think, "this is the best part" and then I see the "birds" flying in the air during "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and I think, "this is the best part". The whole entire show is the best part, if you haven't made time to see Festival of the Lion King, book a vacation and go to Walt Disney World just for that show. It is wonderful.

It was about 3:00 by now and Stephen was getting ready to leave and get us checked into the Wilderness Lodge. He was going to make sure our rooms were ready and our luggage would be coming soon. Have I mentioned what a sweet guy he is? (I know, I know where's the barf bag?). We were going to stick around Animal Kingdom for a few minutes and meet him at 4:00ish. Everyone turned their cell phones on and said good-bye to Stephen. After Stephen left, we stayed in Camp Minnie-Mickey to meet some of the characters. We met Mickey and Minnie, they were together wearing their Christmas fineries and we also met Kenaii from Brother Bear. I was hoping to meet Koda, he is so cute (say it with me Ko-Da), but he wasn't there. After meeting the characters, Mom went shopping in some of the stores around the park for Christmas presents for the kids. My personal favorite store is the one in Africa, I'm not sure what it's called, but they have some nice African-tribal looking merchandise. Mom was finished shopping and I asked if anyone needed to do or see anything before we left Animal Kingdom. All minds and hearts were clear, so we headed towards the exit. We took a couple of pictures on the way out and said good-bye to Animal Kingdom until next time.

The bus took a while to come, but finally one came (we had to remember to get on the bus for Wilderness Lodge and not the Boardwalk). Once we got on the bus and started off towards WL, I called Stephen's cell phone to let him we were on our way. He said we were checked in, 2 connecting rooms, the luggage had been delivered and he would be waiting in the lobby. Mom, Dad, and Jessica were blown away by the WL—I knew they would be, it is a gorgeous resort. We walked up from the bus stop and into the doors by the Mercantile, as soon as we came into the actually lobby, we saw Stephen sitting in a chair by the fireplace. There was a choir of CM's singing Christmas carols, it was a nice touch and it gave the Lodge such a festive feel, especially for guests walking into the Wilderness Lodge for the first time. With such warm weather, we kept forgetting the Christmas was only next week. The choral ensemble singing Christmas carols helped to remind us.

My favorite part about the Wilderness Lodge is the lobby, I could sit in there, in one of the comfy chairs and watch people come and go. You can hear the joyous laughter of the people eating at Whispering Canyon, enjoying the antics of the CM's. You can see the faces of guests who are beginning their vacations, feeling the magic for the first time. You can the smiles of the adults and children as they rush off to the parks. You can see wet eyes of the guests who are getting ready to leave and they don't want to. I love watching all of that. The CM's are fantastic at WL (although in all honesty, I have never encounted a bad CM in all of Walt Disney World), in our experiences they will do any thing to make your vacation magical.

We met up with Stephen and he took us to our rooms. What great rooms! We were booked at a woods rate and we were over looking the otter pond and a forest of trees. We discovered that we could catch glimpses of the monorail through the trees and hear the train whistle on Main Street as well as the music for Wishes. I'd gladly take this room again. We both had basic rooms with 2 queen beds. I warned Mom and Dad about the bed posts that stick out too far and the tendency to stub your toe on them. We decided to show Mom, Dad, and Jess around the Lodge before our PS at Whispering Canyon. We took them outside and showed them the pool area and the geyser and the walk way to the boats for the Magic Kingdom and Contemporary. We didn't have much time to explore, but we were planning on spending the whole day at the Lodge tomorrow, walking around and seeing the sights. We went back to our rooms to get ready for the night, our PS at Whispering Canyon and then Epcot. We got down to WC and checked in, Stephen grabbed a menu for us to look at. I am so glad he did that! The menu was different and the prices were astronomical I think dinner prices were around $15-$20 an entree. Stephen asked the CM at the host stand if the menu had been changed recently, he was told it was changed last night. We're guessing that the prices were raised for the huge crowds coming for Christmas week. We all decided to cancel our PS and just eat whatever we found at Epcot.

I love Epcot at night, I love all the parks at night, but Epcot is my favorite. There's a certain feeling in the air, almost like electricty. I know that sounds corny, but it's the best way I know how to describe it. The first thing we did was send Stephen over to see if there were any fastpasses for Mission: Space or Test Track. The rest of us went into Mouse Gears and we planned to meet in there. I didn't expect to him to find any fastpasses, the park was crowded tonight, I'm glad we were leaving soon and not starting our vacation. The entire week, I have been trying to figure out what to get Stephen for Christmas. I had the majority of his shopping done, I just needed to spend about $50 more (we try to spend the same amount of money on each other). I looked at shirts, but I couldn't find anything he would wear. I thought about golfing merchandise, but I knew there was no way Stephen would go on a 18-hole course with Mickey Mouse head covers. I was stumped as to what to get him. Then, like a revelation in the middle of Mouse Gears, I knew what would be perfect: a monorail set. Why didn't I think of that before? He had been looking at them all week long, planning on buying one in the future, playing with any he found set up around the parks or resorts. I had Mom and Dad cover for me while I grabbed the box and stood in line. Stephen came in the door, Mom saw him and grabbed him, telling him she needed help fitting all the Mr. Potato Head pieces in the box. I paid for my monorail, filled out the paper work to have it shipped home, and walked up to Stephen, acting like I just in another room. By the way, Stephen loved the monorail and is planning on buying extra accessories every time we go to WDW.

We were all starving and went on the hunt for dinner. Stephen and I decided on Cantina de San Angel and Mom, Dad, and Jessica decided on Liberty Inn at the America pavallion. We told them we would get our food and walk over so we could all eat together. Stephen and I got our food (I had the nacho platter and Stephen had a taco salad) and started on the long trek to America. You don't realize what a long hike it is until you're carrying a tray full of food and drinks trying to dodge people. We got to the Liberty Inn and found Jessica saving a table for all of us. Mom and Dad were in line—that place was like a zoo, people were everywhere. Stephen and I decided to just go ahead and eat since our food was hot. There was a lady sitting in the table behind us, when she saw what we were eating, her jaw dropped, she said something to the man sitting with her and jumped up and practically ran to the counter. We saw her come back a few minutes later and say "I didn't see any taco salads up there, I wonder if they ran out", I wanted so bad to lean over and say Cantina de San Angel, but I didn't. To this day that poor lady probably thinks the Liberty Inn sells taco salads and nacho platters. Mom and Dad came over shortly and we ate our dinner together.

We decided that instead of camping out for a good spot for Illuminations for an hour that we would walk around World Showcase and see the countries we didn't get to yet and then just find a place to watch Illuminations right at 9:00. We walked back to Germany so that Jess could get a pretzel, she had to buy it from the Beck's booth because the other pretzel kiosk was out of pretzels. We got a picture of her standing in front of a Beck's sign with the beer taps, she goes to a Christian college (Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the best college, by the way. No, I'm not an alumni ), we told her we were sending a copy of the picture to some of her professors. We made our way through Italy, Japan and France taking our time in each pavalion, going in each and every shop. While we were in France, Dad and Stephen mysteriously had to go to the bathroom at the same time and were gone for a long time. When they came back, and thought I wasn't looking, I saw Stephen slip Mom a bag to put in her bag. He thinks he's so slick!! It ended up being a Christmas present for me, a long sleeve shirt with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it—I love Paris/French things. We heard the announcement that Illuminations was going to begin in a few minutes ("Because GE brings good things to life…"), we walked over to Great Britain and stood along the fence past the Rose and Crown. The spots weren't perfect, but we could still see everything and it wasn't our first time seeing Illuminations, so it didn't really matter if we had a spectacular spot.

We left Epcot, not saying good-bye, just so long for now and walked to the bus. There was a long wait for the bus and by the time the bus got there, there were so many people waiting. Thankfully, we were near the front of the line and made it on the bus. We were all seperated on the bus, but at least we didn't have to wait in the cold. We got back to Lodge, went to our rooms to get out of some of our layers of clothes and went back down to Roaring Forks to get some snacks. I had a Mickey shaped rice krispy treat, surprisingly enough tasty and fresh. Stephen got a gigantic brownie that could feed a family for a week. Neither one of us finished our snacks that night. Every one was pretty much exhausted, so we decided to go to bed pretty early. We could hear Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party going on in the Magic Kingdom and it made us sad that our vacation is almost over.

Day 8 12/20

The Plan: breakfast PS at Chef Mickey's, relax at resort. Stephen and me dinner PS at 'Ohana.

Reality: We woke up to our last day at Walt Disney World. ? It was another sunny, but very chilly day. We had a PS at Chef Mickey's; we were all looking forward to that. We all got dressed and headed to the boat launch to catch a boat to the Contemporary. It was freezing down on the water; everyone was huddled together for warmth. Those who had hoods (thankfully I was one of them) had their hoods up. We waited for a boat and waited and waited and waited, watching the minutes tick closer to our PS time. We waited 50 minutes for a boat to the Contemporary!!!!!! We were all so mad, I'm guess there were 15-20 people waiting for the boat just as long as we had been and some waited even longer. I thought transportation was supposed to run every 20-25 minutes? We were of course late for our PS; Stephen ran ahead of us (our little track star) and checked us in at the podium. He started to tell the CM about the super late boat from the Wilderness Lodge, but the CM said that was fine and gave us the papers to have our pictures made. We had our pictures taken while we waited to be seated; we were seated very quickly. We had a great table right by the buffet and directly across from the door to the kitchen. Our server was wonderful, bringing freshly squeezed orange juice, hot chocolate, coffee, and Coke (for Jessica).

We grabbed our plates and hit the buffet. The food was pretty good, pretty much your basic breakfast buffet. The atmosphere however was out of this world! We had our pictures made with all of the characters and they visited us multiple times. The best part was the napkin twirl—I love that! Jessica was having hard time twirling her napkin; Stephen and I had no problems at all. We are both huge Steelers fans, we're used to waving our Terrible Towels. Breakfast was great and I'm ashamed to say that we all ate way too much. We stopped for a couple pictures with Goofy Santa on the way out. We stopped at the shops at the Contemporary; I got some Mickey Mouse ears for a co-worker whose wife was pregnant. They told me I could take the ears into the Magic Kingdom and have them personalized for free as long as I kept my receipt. We finally left the Contemporary and headed back "home" to the Wilderness Lodge.

We saw that the seating area on the 4th Floor was open, so we ran back to our rooms, grabbed our Uno deck, some paper and pens, and some pop. We sat in that area and played Uno for a good hour and a half. People would walk by us and be envious because we were in that great spot. After our intense game of Uno we took our stuff back to the room and went down to explore the Lodge. Stephen went to the front desk to get the Hidden Mickey list—that baby is hard!! I think we only found 2 of the Hidden Mickey's, the one in the fireplace and the one of the 4th floor. I know we spent at least an hour if not more looking for HM's.

At about 4:30 Mom, Dad, and Jessica decided that they were going to head to Downtown Disney for the evening while Stephen and I were eating in 'Ohana. We agreed to meet at Polynesian at 8:30ish to watch the Wishes fireworks from the beach. Stephen and I decided to go to the Magic Kingdom and get the mousketeers ears personalized for Rich (my co-worker). The Magic Kingdom was an absolute nightmare. There were people everywhere. We waited probably 10 minutes in the hat shop just to be waited on. We just kept saying, "I'm so glad we're leaving". The hat was personalized in about 30 seconds and we were on our way down or up or whatever Main Street. We went to the tip board just for kicks to see what the waits were, they were insane. All the mountains were up to 2 hour waits, everywhere you turned, there was a crowd of people. We decided to jump on the train and ride it around the park. By the time we got off the train, it was about 5:30, we decided to just leave and check into 'Ohana early.

'Ohana was just as crowded. When we checked in, we were told it would be at least an hour wait, that's with a PS. We said that was fine, (it always pays to be nice, especially to hostess who has the power to seat you in either a n awesome table or a terrible one ). We stood around for a while and watched Hawaiian dancers (the Luau was cancelled because it was so cold), finally some chairs opened up and we sat down to wait. We ended up waiting a total of maybe 45 minutes, but it was completely worth it, our table was great. We were facing the window and looking at Cinderella Castle. 'Ohana is my favorite restaurant at WDW, one of my favorite restaurants of all time. The food is so delicious and filling. I always eat way too much when I come here!! The only thing that was disappointing was the slight menu change; they took out the stir-fry vegetables and replaced them with green beans. I didn't care for the green beans, they were practically raw and very crunchy, and to me green beans are slow cooked in a pressure cooker all day with chunks of ham and onion. Cincinnati is close enough to the Mason-Dixie line that I have some Southern tendencies in me. But everything else was great. The honey coriander wings are the best, and the funny thing is, I don't even eat chicken wings, but I can devour an entire bowl of those. I don't eat rice or wonton, but Stephen says they are delicious. Now, onto the meat—yummy!! I'm not a huge meater, I eat meat, but I can't sit down and just eat a couple of steaks or chicken breasts, however at 'Ohana I'm like a cave-woman: meat good. I always give Stephen all the tiger shrimp, I don't eat seafood, but I eat enough of the pork and turkey that I don't miss the shrimp one bit. After all that fantastic food out comes dessert, pineapple and caramel dip come with the meal, there is also an additional dessert menu. We also just get the pineapple and caramel, we're too full to eat anything else. Another great meal at 'Ohana, aloha eh, aloha oy, until we meet again.

After our delicious meal, we went down in the lobby to wait for Mom, Dad, and Jessica. They came in about 5 minutes; we checked out what they bought, well not all of what they bought, some of the presents were for Stephen and I. Since we had a few minutes before Wishes started, we went upstairs to watch the luau dancers. Jessica was drooling over the men dancers, we tried to get her to go up and talk to one of them, but she wouldn't. We walked out to the beach and grabbed a hammock and waited for Wishes to begin. It was neat watching Wishes from this view, you could see some of the shapes better, it was also cool because you could catch faint bars of music and hear people clapping and cheering. Definitely a nice way to end the vacation. Once Wishes was over, we took the monorail to the TTC and hopped on a bus to the Wilderness Lodge. We got back to the room and started packing and straightening up the room, getting everything ready to leave tomorrow.

Day 9 12/21

The Plan: fly home

Reality: We woke up to another gorgeous day, why is always so pretty on the day you're leaving? We packed some loose items and made our way down to the lobby. We waited maybe 2 minutes and our Tiffany Town Car pulled up. The drive to the airport, the flight, and the drive from Indianapolis to home was very uneventful. Stephen and I headed to our new house the night to make a punch list for the supervisor, our walk through was the next morning and our closing was the following Monday. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's to us!!

Conclusion

What a fantastic trip. I can't even convey to you what a terrific time we had. The weather was great, the parks were empty, the resorts were clean and beautiful, and all the CM's were friendly. What more can you ask for? Stephen and I are headed to Walt Disney World in May (as I type this, we're getting ready to head off, our flight leaves tomorrow morning). Another December vacation is booked with Mom, Dad, Jessica, Stephen, and myself. This time we are staying at Old Key West and the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me. Aloha eh, aloha oy, until we meet again.

Krista Fulkerson

krista_fulkerson@yahoo.com


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