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Trip Report Live Trip Report: The Disney Month

First trip report!

Disclaimers: This is only my second-ever trip to WDW, so this might be a super boring report to an experienced Disney person. I'm also terrible photographer, sorry in advance for the lack of quality pictures. On the other hand, this is definitely not the type of vacation that most people take, (heck, it's not technically a vacation, were working while we're here) and we're flying in the face of almost all the planning suggestions, so maybe it'll have novelty value.

I'll try to update periodically throughout our stay, and if anyone has questions or wants me to check something out/ask a CM about something specific, just let me know.

Suggestions and insider tips are welcome, too. :)

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The People: Myself & Mr.Chernaboggles. We are in our mid-30s. He's a big Disney fan, used to go often to WDW in as a kid, up through his teens. I went to Disneyland once as a kid but don't really remember it, and I've only been to WDW once, for our honeymoon. Which was 10 years ago. I planned this trip as a kind of 10th anniversary spectacular for my husband.

The Dog: our 19-month-old yellow lab, Joules.

The Plan: Get the heck out of Pennsylvania for the entire gross, dark, freezing month of February. I'm self-employed, Mr.Chernaboggles telecommutes 100% of the time, and we don't have any kids. Thus, we aren't tied to any physical workplace. We can't just up and take off work for a long vacation, but we CAN change our location as long as we bring all our stuff and still get things done.

That's the whole of the plan. We have no ADRs, no MagicBands and are staying off-property. Basically, we went on VRBO, picked a townhouse near WDW, paid for it, saved up some money and waited until the end of January. Then we arranged a house/cat sitter, packed our stuff and our dog into the car and drove away.

We're not going back until March.

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Friday (Day 1 of Drive): We left Pennsylvania on Friday morning around 8:30. We were 13 hours to Savannah, GA, with 4 or 5 short stops to get gas, use facilities and give the dog a break. We did not stop for any kind of food, choosing rather to eat what we'd packed in our cooler, which I think made us feel generally better, no greasy stuff along the way. We ran into very slight traffic in the Baltimore tunnel, but other than that it was smooth sailing all the way down...right up until we got to our hotel, a La Quinta in Pooler, GA.

They had cancelled our reservation.

Now, I've worked as a hotel front desk agent, so I know what actually happened: they overbooked the hotel and needed to walk some guests, which is not a big deal. What you're supposed to do, if you're the hotel and you overbook, is apologize a lot and quickly arrange a room at a neighboring hotel with similar rates.

Unfortunately for us, that's not how it went down. We were told that there was no credit card or phone number attached to the reservation, so the room had been held only until 6pm, then voided. That's nonsense, of course. As far as I know, these days you can't make a hotel reservation without a credit card and phone number, and I'd provided both. They also had my email, I'd gotten a message from them the day before wishing me a good trip, etc. The kid at the desk was unbelievably rude, she didn't even attempt to find us another hotel until I flat out told her that this was not acceptable and to please start making calls.

In the end, we ended up at a Candlewood Suites one exit back, which had a $25 pet fee and no breakfast offered, but was otherwise just fine. At that point, we were too tired to care.

Note: I did get the number of the manager of the La Quinta and called them later to complain about the overbooking and rudeness. She was pretty horrified, I don't think the shady desk agent will be pulling that stunt again.

Saturday (Day 2 of Drive) We drove the last 300 miles to our rental townhouse. It's a 3 bed/3 bath in a very small, mostly residential community. It has a pool but is in no way resort-like, which is fine for us. It's a lot of house for the price, which was really reasonable. We settled in, found the grocery store, had take-out for dinner. Lots of sleep.

Sunday Morning (Day 1): Dog Park & AP Pass Purchase at Animal Kingdom we found the dog park, it's about 10 miles away at a community park, which is gorgeous. Walking trails, playground/splash pad for the kids, beautiful fenced dog area. Joules played for an hour and wore himself right out, so we took him home and then went off to Animal Kingdom to buy our Annual Passes. That was a tip from a friend who works at WDW - apparently Animal Kingdom tends to have the shortest ticketing lines. As it happens, it's also the closest park to where we're staying, so it worked out.

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It may stupid to buy Annual Passes when we live in Pennsylvania, but we're here for so long that we think we'll get use out of them. Plus, free parking is good. For me personally, the best part is that having the passes keeps me from feeling like we've wasted a ticket if we only go for a couple hours at a time.

Note: They did not offer us Magic Bands or even mention them. I asked about FastPass+, they said we could reserve 3 Fast Passes for one park a day via the kiosks. I didn't see any kiosks, but I wasn't really looking for them, either.

PeopleWatching:
There was a woman at the ticket counter next to us who stood for 20+ minutes insisting to the CM that she couldn't stand for long periods and needed front of line access. :facepalm:

Animal Kingdom was crowded and hot (it was noon), so we just wandered around and looked at things for a while. It was a pretty big (but very welcome!) shock after the snow and negative temperatures we've been dealing with at home. As soon as it started to feel overwhelming (about an hour and a half into it), we left and headed back to check on the dog, since this was our first time leaving him in the townhouse. He was fine, so we decided to chill out for a while and then go to MK to see Wishes.

Sunday Night (Day 1): Wishes at Magic Kingdom

We left the townhouse at 6:45 pm and were on the monorail by 7. Lines moved pretty fast for everything, including bag-inspection. We had no difficulties using our APs. We got to Main Street right as Cinderella's pumpkin carriage was going by. We waved. :)

The goal for the night was ONLY to see Wishes and then go home. We were too tired from the drive and a little too overwhelmed by how huge Disney is to jump right in and go on rides. With that in mind, we headed towards the castle and -amazingly- found two chairs and a little white table on a low patio to the right of the main walkway, sort of between the walkway and the Tomorrowland Terrace. We parked ourselves there and Mr.Chernaboggles got us a couple of pretzels and a coke.

We'd only been there for about 5 minutes when they announced that Celebrate The Magic would be starting shortly. I remember reading about that on this board but I had completely forgotten about it, so the whole thing was a wonderful surprise. We oohed and ahhhed and I may have sung along with the Let It Go sequence, which was awesome. By this point, there were more people around us, but it was by no means packed. Wishes was up next. I love fireworks, so this was a big high point for me.

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After Wishes, we were ready to be done for the night, so we followed the crowd towards the exit. On the way out, I noticed some people veering off to the left, and CMs guiding them, so we went that way and ended up taking what I think is a the shortcut I read about on this site. It's kind of a back-alley thing, definitely "back of house" and not themed. There were CMs with lighted batons directing people through, though, and they all had clickers keeping track of how many people went by.

PeopleWatching: So many tiny, adorable, totally exhausted children. We saw half-a-dozen kids faceplant, knock their heads on their own strollers and randomly fall over. It was like being surrounded by very small drunks. Poor things. I made a mental note to carry a pocket first aid kit in case someone needs a band-aid.

I wasn't a big fan of the monorail - too crowded, and there was a pretty pervasive unpleasant smell, so we opted to take the ferry back. Still lots of people, but more moving air. We were home by 9:10 pm. We made some sandwiches (having totally forgotten about dinner) and gave the dog a snack, and that was it for Sunday.

Monday (Day 2): Regular Workday + Rides at Magic Kingdom
Yesterday was our first "regular" day. We got up, got ready for the day, then Mr.Chernaboggles went to his "office" (luckily our townhouse has a decent desk and chair, we brought all our own computers). I took the dog to the park on my own, did another round of grocery shopping (is it just me, or does the Publix on 192 put things in very illogical places?) and then came home and settled down at my laptop. We ate a late lunch together (normal for us) and finished the workday by 6:00. We fed the dog and geared up for Magic Kingdom.

Having learned a bit from Sunday night, we opted to go bagless - just carried essentials in pockets (including band-aids!), plus a small bottle of water with a carry-strap. (We put the strap in a pocket and carried the water through by hand, then wore it once we were in the park). We zipped over to MK and were able to park closer this time, so we just walked across the parking lot to the transit station instead of waiting for a tram. We took the ferry across, which was a lovely view with the very end of the sunset, the lights and the castle. Beautiful. We sailed through the bagless line, had no trouble getting into the park.

MagicBand Note: It's very clear that the system is still new to a lot of people. The lines were moving, but it was slower than it needed to be because guests were very tentative about the readers. I think once people get used to it, things will speed up considerably. I didn't notice any big problems.

Once we got into the park, the first parade float was appearing so we dove into the crowd, heading for Mr.Chernaboggles' favorite ride: The Haunted Mansion. With two adults, no bags and no strollers, it wasn't too hard to get through, but I have a lot of sympathy for anyone trying to do it with a stroller or a wheelchair. I'm not sure if we made a wrong turn or if this is just the way you're supposed to go, but we ended up in Fantasyland, walking passed Prince Eric's castle. There was no line for The Little Mermaid ride (Journey Under the Sea? Can't remember the name) so we took advantage and walked on.

Motion Sickness Note: I have some trouble with motion sickness. I didn't expect this ride to bother me, but as soon as we got in the shells started jerking this way and that, which I did not expect (or enjoy). I felt better as we went along, though, I think my first reaction might have been a combination of general excitement and having just hurried quickly through the very long, twisty line area in order to get to the ride.

The ride stopped for a minute or two right near the "kiss the girl" scene, but Sebastian the Crab told us it would be fixed in a moment, and it was.

Next stop was The Haunted Mansion - again, we walked right on. We took the entry slower this time, and I had no troubles with that ride, it was great. Crowds were so light we decided to try and hit a couple other favorite things to see if we could walk right on, and indeed we could: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise (Skipper Anna was great, good deadpan delivery of terrible jokes).

After the Jungle Cruise, we stopped and shared a Dole Whip (the float kind). It was every bit as good as all you people say it is! Thank you for alerting us to its existence.

We almost rode Aladdin's carpets, but I decided to save all the spinning rides for daytime, so the lights wouldn't contribute to any motion problems. We rode It's A Small World instead, which I had never been on. It's kind of terrifying, actually.

After IASW, we went to see Mickey's Philharmagic, which we really loved on our honeymoon. It's still fun. We probably could have walked on to any ride in the park, but we just kind of wandered around going on whatever took our fancy as we passed it. The one ride that DID have a long line was Peter Pan, but by the time we got out of Philharmagic, the line was only about 5 minutes, so we did it.

PeopleWatching: a random group of 3 adults and a child let themselves in through the ropes and cut in to join a person farther up in the line. The people in front of us were annoyed, but the line was moving so fast that cutting it seemed more weird than rude. I mean, they saved themselves maybe a minute. Strange.

Once out of Peter Pan, we were tempted to try Space Mountain (or rather, Mr.Chernaboggles was, I KNOW how I feel about Space Mountain. I feel that other people should enjoy it without me.) but it was nearing closing time and the dog was waiting at home. Despite the Dole Whip, we were starving, so we took the monorail back to the parking lot (less pleasant but faster than the ferry) and caught a tram to the car. We were home within 20 minutes and had another round of sandwiches for dinner.

The interesting thing about yesterday was that we ended the day feeling like we'd had a whole day of vacationing, even though we were actually in the park for less than 3 hours. I don't think that what we're doing would work at most times of year - if the crowds were heavier, we'd never have been able to just bop around the park riding whatever we felt like. It also wouldn't work with children, who'd want to eat at sensible hours and wouldn't like having to wait around all day before hitting the park. For 2 fairly laid-back adults, however, it's working out fine.

Today (Tuesday, Day 3) is a no-parks day. We both have work to do, I'm also doing laundry and cooking ahead a bit so we have something besides sandwiches to eat at whatever weird hour we end up having dinner. A local friend is coming by to visit this evening. Tomorrow, we may try to slip over to AK as soon as it opens to ride a couple things before starting work, but not sure yet. We'll probably go to Epcot tomorrow night to see Illuminations.
 

disneypearl

Well-Known Member
How did you find a townhouse near WDW that you can rent for a month at a time? I would love to do this sometime and also have a large dog, a Golden Retriever, that makes it more difficult. Any suggestions on where to look?
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
We went through VRBO (vacation rental by owner). HomeAway is good too. There are a ton of rental properties around the WDW area and most love long term rentals. Many will offer significant discounts if you're staying that long, we basically got 1 week for free. Average rental prices I saw were about $500-$800 a week, but we were looking on the modest end of the rental spectrum. If you want to go higher, you can get a house with a private pool, all kinds of stuff. You can also refine your search by amenities, including "pet friendly". That's how we found ours.

So far, we've stuck pretty closely to the "Disney After 6:00 pm" model on weeknights - we go to Epcot if we just want dessert and IllumiNations, we go to Magic Kingdom if we want to do rides. We haven't touched FastPass+, it's all been walk ons (except Peter Pan & Soarin, which always have at least 20 minute lines). On weekends we do multiple parks, morning and evening. We just schedule things so we have a long break in the middle of the day to play with the dog. Last Saturday we did Epcot in the morning, took the dog to the park in the afternoon, saw Fantasmic at HS and then went on to MK for Wishes (and still made it home by 11:30). It was crazy, but so fun.
 

jlsHouston

Well-Known Member
Wow..I just found your TR. And I love it.. I love this plan you concocted to spend a month in Florida and so near WDW you can bop over daily if you want. It's giving me ideas, since I am self employed too. However I would probably want to do it the month of December...which might mean some of the spontaneity of park touring might have to be a bit different for me. But still the possibilities....
Have you done any dining at any of the resorts? Have you been to DtD? Were you planning on hitting the beaches at all since you are spending a month in Florida! Ahhh I think your month is half over today!
If I read your intro correctly, you specifically picked Orlando and a vacation rental near WDW in order to visit WDW as much as possible?
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
WDW was the primary draw for Orlando. My husband really loves Disney, but we're not great at high-impact vacationing (we both need a lot of downtime and I'm not a big fan of crowds). We tried the "do it all!" approach on our honeymoon and got burned out quickly, so I was trying to find a way we could both enjoy this place that he really loves. And I did - we're having a total blast!

Orlando has some other perks: great weather, budget-friendly winter rentals (more so than, say, the Florida Keys). It's also EASY. We live in a rural-ish area. More than 10 miles from a grocery store, more than 30 miles from a decent mall. It's beautiful and I love living there, but it's not at all convenient. The WDW area is extremely convenient - shopping, chain restaurants, outlet stores, all that stuff that people find tourist-y and obnoxious is fun for us because we don't have much of it at home.

We haven't yet done DTD, non-Disney Orlando stuff or any of the resorts. Because of the long drive on either end of the visit, a lot of driving around isn't terribly attractive. We also paid a lot of money to get easy access to the parks via the APs, so we're mostly focused there. BUT...

...we've already decided to come back next year.

We'll either add two weeks (staying for 6 week instead of 4) or just move the trip up into January so we get a couple weeks of WDW before our APs expire. Once they do, we'll set our sights on stuff you don't need Disney tickets for: DTD, the boardwalk area, the restaurants, other area attractions. There's so much to do around here that even with a month you can't cram it all in, and we want to take time to enjoy things.

Next week is "No Disney" week: Mr.CBs has to travel for work (one of the pitfalls of this whole "working vacation" thing - the work does intrude sometimes, but we're lucky: next week is the worst crowd week). I've made plans to see some old friends, but they're not into Disney so it'll be a nice change of pace. For the last week, we'll be rested up and ready to go back to WDW. We'll do anything we haven't done yet and revisit all the favorite things before we go.

My favorite part so far has been the fireworks. Having the ability to go see fireworks every night seems like the ultimate luxury to me.
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Update! I wasn't sure people would be interested, but since a couple of you are, here's an update on what we've been doing.

Disney Month: Days 5-9

Wednesday, Feb 5: First visit to Epcot!

We had a normal workday and made it to Epcot around 6:45. Still very impressed with how easy and fast it is to get to the parks. We got very close parking, which was nice. We went bagless again, so we sailed through security and walked right onto Spaceship Earth since there wasn't any line. We wanted to ride Maelstrom, too, so we went on to World Showcase to see if we could get right on - and we could! After Maelstrom, we wandered through the countries, got a snack at the Spice Road Table (good food, but overpriced for what you get, even for Disney). We got out just in time to grab pastries in France before IlumiNations started. (Sorry again for terrible pictures)

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Thursday, Feb 6: RIDE ALL THE RIDES!
Had planned to take the morning off to do AK early, but the weather was wet and weird. Too wet for the dog park, but we took him for a quick run anyway and got breakfast at IHOP because it was close. Had a regular day. Decided to brave the chilly wet weather and hit Magic Kingdom anyway. Slightly regretted this decision on the Ferry over, the monorail closure is very annoying in the evenings. People were leaving the park in droves. Tonight's destination was Tomorrowland, so we rode the Peoplemover (which is when the rain started coming down in sheets), splashed over to The Carousel of Progress which was warm and dry. By the time we got out of that the rain was easing off, so Mr.CBs rode Space Mountain while I browsed in shops and watched some of Wishes from under the Peoplemover.

If you look closely, you can see the tops of the topiary trees at the bottom left of the picture.
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After that, it was RIDE ALL THE RIDES, because there were no lines for anything. We rode Winnie the Pooh, the Carousel, The Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean. Coming out of Pirates, we literally ran into the 9:00pm Electrical parade. There was no real crowd, so we stopped to watch.

I have some concerns about how the Dwarfs let Dopey drive the mining cars full of treasure.

After the parade, we headed for home, let the dog out, ate a snack and went to bed.

Friday Feb 7: REST NIGHT. Took the night off so we'd be rested for Saturday.

Saturday Feb 8: 3 parks in one day! (4 if you count the dog park)
Weather still cold and wet, so the dog got his run first thing, before it could rain him out. Went to Epcot next to do the front part, tried out FastPass+ and found it stupid and restrictive. Rode everything standby again, the only thing we missed out on was Soarin' (at 10:00am, they gave us a fast pass for like 1:30, which didn't work for us). Rode Nemo, explored The Seas area, which was awesome. Rode Living With The Land & Figment (no waiting). Ate brunch at Sunshine Seasons which is every bit as good as all you people said it was. Thank you for the tip!

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Rain started up again so we headed out around 12:00. Went home to the dog and took a break for a few hours, but by 5:30 we were off to HS to see Fantasmic!. Weather was still cold and rainy so again, people were leaving in droves. We saw MuppetVission, Mr.CBs rode Star Tours, we did some shopping and then found really good seats for Fantasmic! - fortunately, the weather had cleared. I absolutely loved the show...nobody does spectacle like Disney.
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After Fantasmic! we were supposed to go home, but it was still early and we didn't want to, so we hightailed it over to Magic Kingdom in the hopes of catching Wishes...which turned out to be an hour later than I thought, so we ended up with plenty of time. We shared a pork shank & a cinnamon roll at Gaston's and called it dinner.

Wishes was kind of a bust because it was just too foggy: you literally couldn't SEE most of the fireworks. We were facing the castle head-on and only the very front-most fireworks were visible, everything else was just noise and flashes of light behind the clouds. As the smoke from the fireworks got thick, it actually obscured the castle so the whole thing almost disappeared. A little girl in front of us summed the effect up nicely:

"LOOK! The fireworks made the castle HAUNTED!"

Here's the castle, pre-haunting.

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I'm sure people were disappointed by the fireworks problems, but for us it was actually kind of interesting. The effect was, if not the desired one, still pretty cool to watch. After the fireworks we were totally out of energy, cold, a bit damp (it was misting again) and knew we ought to get back to the dog, so home we went.

Sunday, Feb 9: No Disney. We slept in, took Joules to the park. Did some grocery shopping and then went to visit with some of my Orlando-area relatives. Awesome homemade Italian food and good company.
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Update: Days 10-14

Monday, Feb 10: Play Day!

Took the day off so we could go to AK early. Went right to the Safari (no waiting), which was awesome. Lots of animals.
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Skipped Kali River Rapids because, while sunny, it wasn't all that warm. Mr.CBs rode Everest a couple of times. There were short waits (5-10 minutes standby), but as a Single Rider he moved fast through the lines. I browsed shops & watched people go screaming down the drop. It was fun. After Everest we smelled delicious funnel cake coming from somewhere but were unable to track it down. Instead, we decided to give our feet a break and go see the Finding Nemo stage show. We must have had the best seats in the house because a CM very politely asked if we'd mind moving since a Disney VP (she didn't say which one) was coming to the show. I don't like being moved for stuff like that -we paid to be there, after all- but there were plenty of great seats and it wasn't worth arguing about. I didn't see which VP it was, apparently there are a lot of them.

Nemo was technically stunning- again, GREAT spectacle. I've been a professional puppeteer (yes, really) so I know exactly how hard those actors were working. To do all that while singing, dancing, flying on wires and also acting with their faces shown takes a some massive talent. Very cool.

After we got out of Nemo the crowds seemed to have quadrupled, so we went home for lunch instead of eating at the park. Took the dog out walking and had a few hours of downtime.

By evening we were heading back to Magic Kingdom, with the sun going down over the lagoon as we ferried across.

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Breaking the parks up into sections so we have a goal each time we visit has been working out well. Our destination of choice on Monday night was Adventureland. They were roping off streets for the parade so we rode the MK Express train over. Still no real lines for anything. We went to the Enchanted Tiki Room. We rode the Magic Carpets. We did Pirates of the Carribean (again). As we came out of Pirates, the fireworks were going off, so we watched the end of Wishes before moving on. We browsed a bunch of shops, Mr.CBs rode BTMR (again). We tried for Haunted Mansion but it was closed while they were fixing something. We ended up having burgers at Peccos Bill, which we realized was a restaurant that we’d eaten at on our honeymoon. By the time we finished dinner it was getting late, so we called it a night and went home to the dog.

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Tuesday Feb 11: Ice Cream & IllumiNations: Long workday to make up for the play day, so we were pretty tired. We ate dinner at home and just ran over to Epcot for ice cream at L'Artisans des Glaces and IllumiNations, which we watched from a new vantage point: a little terrace down below the Fish'n'Chips shop in England. It was a much better view than last time. We could actually feel the heat from the flaming barge, which was neat.

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Wednesday Feb 12: Holy thunderstorm, Batman! No parks on this day, it was too wet, too windy, and too cold. We got takeout (all the restaurants were jammed with people who probably would have been at the parks in better weather) and watched movies at home.

Thursday Feb 13: Magic (But Chilly) Kingdom: Chilly enough for coats! We layered up and went to Magic Kingdom with no real purpose in mind except maybe eating dinner. We rode the Peoplemover again. There was a 20+ wait for Space Mountain, so we skipped it and rode Dumbo instead. We ate fish'n'chips at Columbia Harbor House and made it out just as the fireworks were starting. We watched from a new place: behind the carousel, so basically they were going off directly over our heads, spectacular! Our new spot also solved a mystery or us: we now know why the buildings over there are always dripping with water at night. We keep noticing it, and it's been driving us crazy trying to figure out why only a few buildings seem to be hosed down at night- well, now we know. It's to protect the roofs from stray fireworks. Makes perfect sense.
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After Wishes we were going to ride The Haunted Mansion, but someone got sick in the line and they closed it to clean up. That squicked me out so we decided to call it a night.

Tonight is Friday February 14th. I somehow managed to get us a same-day reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh (on Valentine's Day, no less!), so we're heading over to Epcot in about half an hour. Tomorrow we plan to go to Magic Kingdom for rope-drop (I'd like eat early lunch at BoG if we can manage it). Crowds are expected to be much heavier because of the President's Day holiday, it'll be interesting to see how our experience changes with the crowds.
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Wow a life revolving around visits to WDW....I am totally in awe.

It's really fun, but I'm glad we're taking some time off to do other stuff next week. Whenever we leave the parks in the evening, it FEELS like we're doing nothing but vacation, but in reality we've only taken 1 day off from work. We're always more tired than we think we are!
 

DAKOTADISNEY

Active Member
Loving your trip report! I love the concept of a month near wdw and coming and going there as you wish. Makes me think ahead of when our girls are out of the nest and we are looking for a warm place to hang out in January. Have you thought about sneaking in a 3 or 4 day Disney cruise while you're down there?
 

LisaBelle

Well-Known Member
So glad I found your TR. Just read the post from @DAKOTADISNEY and I am thinking the same thing. Sounds like you are having a great time. Love that you are already making plans to go back again next year.
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Loving your trip report! I love the concept of a month near wdw and coming and going there as you wish. Makes me think ahead of when our girls are out of the nest and we are looking for a warm place to hang out in January. Have you thought about sneaking in a 3 or 4 day Disney cruise while you're down there?

Cruising in general has never really appealed to us, but these snowbird people are definitely on to something. I really underestimated how dramatically my mood would improve with better weather.
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Update: Feb 14-17

Friday, Feb 14: Valentine's Day at Epcot's Restaurant Marrakesh!

We haven't done a lot of sit down dining s because we've been out riding rides and exploring, so this was a really fun change of pace. Restaurant Marrakesh is tucked way in the back of Morocco, and the theming is really fun back there. There are little shops and a place where they do photos with Jasmine and Aladdin, though they weren't there at the time.

(Tip: if you like the metal-cut-out, stained glass Moroccan lanterns, buy them on Amazon for $10, not at Disney for $40. Just do a search for "Moroccan lanterns", we have a couple on our porch and they're great.)

Dinner at Marrakesh was fantastic. We got there about half an hour before our reservation but were able to be seated with only about a ten minute wait. The whole atmosphere of the place is lively and fun, the tile work is beautiful and you do feel like you're in an warm-climate, exotic place (and I say that as someone who has been to exotic places, though never Morocco). They had a couple of older gentlemen playing live music (sorry for the blurry picture!), and a (very family friendly) belly dancer did a set, after which she invited the young girls in the audience to come up and try some moves, which was adorable. If you don't like loud, this place may not be for you - the high ceiling does make it echo a bit- but we really enjoyed it.

Sorry the photo is so blurry. I should have titled this: The Trip Report Full Of Terrible Pictures.
2.14.Marrakesh21.jpg


Better picture, sans musicians.
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Service was prompt and attentive without being pushy. The "Moroccan Sunrise", which is a non-alcoholic mix of fruit juices, was delicious. I ordered (and highly recommend) the "Moroccan Feast", which is an all-inclusive thing that includes soup, appetizer, main course and a trio of little pastries for dessert. Mr.CBs just ordered an entree, but he shared my appetizer, soup and dessert, which worked out well. The food was amazing. Even things I didn't think I would enjoy turned out to be completely delicious. I think this restaurant may be something of a hidden gem - it's off the main area, but it's definitely worth a visit. Portions were generous and I was surprised by how reasonable it all was - I think our bill came out around $80, not including tip. Your mileage may vary, though. (We aren't much for alcohol, so I'm sure that would change things.)

This trip is a kind of 10th anniversary celebration for us, so we were wearing pins (we decided to only wear them on special occasions). Not only did everyone wish us a happy anniversary, but the guy who was handling the water glasses and such brought our desserts and lit a candle for us in honor of the occasion. It was all just lovely.

Saturday, February 15th: Magic Kingdom With Tens Of Thousands Of Our Very Closest Friends
We had planned to get up for MK rope-drop on Saturday but that didn't end up happening. We did make it there by about 9:15, and this time we were going with the crowd. Usually we feel as if we're running towards Godzilla or something, since all the people are coming out of the parks when we're going in, but this time it felt a bit like we were being chased by all the people crowding in behind us. Very different!

The goal for Saturday was to eat at Be Our Guest, so even though lines were still short for rides, we bypassed them all and went to the FastPass kiosk by Philharmagic. This was where I made an error - I had been under the impression from reading posts here that anyone could get a FastPass for BoG lunch, but it turns it's only for resort guests, and even for them it's a lottery (at least, according to the CM I spoke with). The backup plan (and the reason we'd come early) was to just get in line right when the restaurant opened at 10:30 and do BoG for brunch, so that's what we did instead.

(I think we confused the CM rather badly - when we found out we couldn't do FastPass for BoG, we just told him "nevermind" and didn't schedule any other FPs at all - we weren't sure how long we'd be at lunch or what we'd want to do after.)

We only had to wait about 15 or 20 minutes to get into BoG, and I have to say that I felt it was worth the wait. The castle is SO fun, it really is like being in the movie. We ordered croque monsieurs for both of us, potato-leek soup for me. He got The Master's Cupcake & I got the Strawberry cream cheese one - everything was delicious, including the grey stuff. (Didn't need to ask the dishes.) The food was out very quickly. I don't love the order-by-kiosk thing because it seems slow and unwieldy, but the little carts they bring the food on were a nice touch. We ate in the West Wing, which was perfect. Loved the rose, the thunder, the portrait - everything. We're definitely going back, so we can eat in the ballroom, too. (NONE of my BoG pics came out at all, I'll try again next time.)

After lunch we went back out and crowds were a LOT heavier than we're used to. It was kind of fun though, a bright, sunny day, lots of happy people...but 90 minute standby line for IASW seems kind of insane to me, and not just because IASW freaks me out. We walked around looking at things for a while - a lot more street entertainment going on during the day, music trios and the like- which was fun. We road the Riverboat around Tom Sawyer's Island so we could just look at everything and enjoy the weather. This was a good decision because there was hardly anyone on the boat. Tom Saywer's Island looked very uncrowded also, we made a note to do that next time we needed a crowd break.

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After the boat, we went up in the Swiss Family Robinson's tree and listened to all the parents trying to explain to puzzled children who the Swiss Family Robinson was and why they lived in a tree. I felt old.

We stopped for Dole Whips afterwards and then started heading towards the entrance - it was past noon and we didn't want to leave the dog cooped up too long. On our way past the castle we stumbled onto some kind of dance party. They had stilt walkers, four or five big floats with dancing characters on them and costumed characters in the crowd dancing with people. It was great! I loved the whole thing, so we stopped to watch for a while.

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People Watching: Goofy was dancing in the crowd and held hands with a young girl in a wheelchair so they could dance together. I think her mom was crying, but that little girl was the happiest person in the whole park.

We had a long break during the afternoon and didn't go back to Magic Kingdom until about 7:00. Crowds were still very heavy, you could get around, but it was hard. We watched Philharmagic again and had a churro, and watched Captain Jack Sparrow & another pirate do a little show across from Pirates of the Caribbean. They brought up little kids and taught a few swordplay moves (and how to distract your enemy and run, which was fun). They guy doing Jack did a great job - he had the voice and mannerisms down, and looked the part very well. (and like an idiot I accidentally deleted those pics so I can't even show you terrible photos of him.)

After watching for a while we had intended to go get some kind of dinner, but we didn't want Columbia Harbor House or Peccos Bill's and couldn't cross over to the other side of the park because of all the ropes...and all the Twirlers.

Now, this is a thing I've never even heard of. Around 8:30 all these girls (and women, including a group of grandmother aged ladies) in sequins and glowing accents came marching along twirling lighted batons. I'm familiar with gymnasts, dance squads, color guard and cheer, but twirlers were new to me. There must have been a couple hundred of them! It was way too cold to be wearing twirling costumes, but they all seemed to be having a wonderful time, which made them fun to watch.

There was one other challenge to the evening besides the crowds and twirler parade, and this one ended up causing us to end the evening early: the mulch. They must have just mulched the entire freaking park because everywhere we went was this thick, pervasive smell of mulch (which smells very like horse manure). I had noticed it in the afternoon but we were mostly inside, (or on the water or up a tree) so it didn't really affect us much. That night? It was really bad. I heard a lot of people complaining, most people didn't know what was causing the smell. It gave me a terrible headache and made the otherwise clean park smell somehow dirty. After trying unsuccessfully to get away from the smell by switching lands, we decided to head out before Wishes to beat the crowd. Thanks to a bit of luck pixie dust we were able to watch some of Wishes from our car in the parking lot. That as such a pleasant surprise that it ended the evening on a high note.

Sunday, February 16th: we woke up tired and didn't want to deal with the crowds again. We spent a long time at the dog park and went out to breakfast (after dropping off the dog at home, of course) instead. We did a few errands. By evening I wasn't feeling very well, so we had a quiet night and went to bed early.

Today is Monday, February 17th - The Transition Day. I woke up feeling fine. We're using today to kind of change gears: Mr.CBs has his work trip this week, I have a friend flying in with her baby, so we're getting organized. I went through the townhouse closets to find things like the patio sun umbrella and the baby gear, and figured out how to set up a Pack 'n Play (that thing really ought to be called an Unpack 'n Swear). We did a trial run to the airport so we'd know how to manage travel time and had lunch at a Thai Place somewhere off I-4.

We might go to Epcot tonight for dessert and IllumiNations, but after that it's no parks until the weekend. Honestly, it'll be nice to have a change of pace and a rest from all the people. I don't think, having experienced a couple really crowded days, that I would ever want to come in summer or during any of the high season weeks. Kudos to anyone who can do it, it's just too overwhelming for me.
 

jlsHouston

Well-Known Member
How funny...I have never been to WDW except when it was summer or a holiday with crowds.....Sounds like you had a great anniversary dinner and a fun weekend. Have fun with your friend this week!
 

FlaggNL

Well-Known Member
Wow a whole month!! And we are proud to go just for 7 days :) We are so jealous!!! Enjoy the stay and love your TR!!!
 

Chernaboggles

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Update!

Took a few days off from the parks to visit with an old friend while Mr. CBs was on a work trip. My friend brought her baby and I have my dog, so we spent the whole visit going "awwww" and taking pictures like these:

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Awww.

Disney stuff resumed on Saturday, February 22: Epcot Again. We slept in and tried to go out to breakfast, but everyone in Orlando was already at all the restaurants by the time we arrived. Instead, we picked up pastries at Publix and ate at home. Mr.CBs didn't get in until super late the night before and we'd been up until the wee hours talking, so we went back to bed for a while and didn't hit the parks until evening. I forgot my camera that night, so no terrible pictures, but we went to Epcot and had dinner at the Cantina de San Angel. We had intended to eat there and watch IllumiNations from the patio, but the food wasn't very good and there were so many drunk people playing table vulture that we didn't feel like staying after we finished dinner. Instead, we got ice cream in France and found a great spot to watch IllumiNations near Germany.

I'm not sure if it was because of the marathons going on or what, but there were a lot more noticeably (and obnoxiously) intoxicated people this time. I mean, people laying randomly on the ground until security made them get up, people weaving on their feet, crashing into people and yelling a lot. I got the impression that a lot of young adults (and not so young adults) were getting hammered at Epcot and then heading over to take advantage of late hours at Magic Kingdom.

The best part of the evening was seeing (and smelling!) all the new flowers and topiary springing up all over, as Epcot gets ready for the Flower & Garden festival. Lots of new stuff to look at, which was fun.

Sunday, February 23: Kali Gets Her Due
Animal Kingdom! We got up early and went over right around the time the park opened. We had intended to be sensible and ride Kali River Rapids last, because we knew we'd get wet, but it's my favorite ride so we said screw it and ran over to get on before any lines could form. We went bagless as usual but brought ziplocks in our pockets for our phones, which worked out fine. We were so far ahead of the crowds that we road twice without having anyone else in our raft. Mr.CBs got really soaked on the second go-round, but it was so much fun we didn't care.

After Kali, it was over to Everest so my soggy husband could ride that (twice). I stood at the overlook taking video of every train that went down the drop, later one I was able to go back and find the one with him and grab a still photo of it.

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After Everest, we stopped for a snack and then went to see Flights of Wonder, which was really a lot of fun. The CM-comedy stuff is a little corny in places but they had good comic timing and the guy playing Guano Joe was genuinely entertaining. The birds themselves were terrific, I really enjoyed the free-flight stuff. Probably the most impressive thing was in the pre-show, when they had a pair of birds do several flights outside the theater right over the path to Africa. Good times!

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We left AK around 11:30, (stopping on the way out to do a bit of shopping, of course). We ate lunch at home, took the dog walking, and generally skipped the hot, crowded part of the day. It was 5:00 before we knew it and suddenly it was time to get ready for the evening.

Our evening destination was Hollywood Studios to see Fantasmic! one more time. We got there around 5:45 and pretty much went straight to the amphitheater in the hope of getting good seats (which we got, much better than last time). We had a while to wait but they did a pre-show, and the CMs running it were lively and did a good job entertaining the crowd. Fantasmic was all-around better this time, I think the first time we saw it a couple effects didn't go quite right, but this time it all worked great.

I love the big snake.

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After Fantasmic, we went home for dinner and called it a night with intent to get up for the opening show at MK today.

Monday, February 24: Return To The Magic Kingdom!
Neither of us slept well so we missed the welcome show (barely, we got there at 9:05). We watched some of the trolley show and rode The Haunted Mansion and the Little Mermaid ride (no waits at either). We got in line for BoG at about 10:15 and were seated in the first wave of people. I took this shot from the bridge.

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This time we sat in the ballroom.
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We had a table near the windows. I like projected snow because nobody has to shovel it ever.
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I had the braised pork and he had the roast beef sandwich. Both were delicious. We're working our way down the dessert menu, so we had the tripple-chocolate and the lemon meringue cupcakes for dessert. Both were excellent but so far we both agree that the best of the BoG desserts is the Strawberry-cream-cheese cupcake.

After brunch, we did some shopping (I have a 4-year old niece & a 1 year old nephew) and then headed back home because it was getting hot and crowded. Everything is suddenly Springtime here in Florida, the flowers are exploding all over and it makes things really pretty. I took a couple shots of trees and things on our way out.

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As we were getting on the parking tram, the attendant asked why we were leaving so early and gave me a high five when I replied: "So we can come back happy later tonight!"

This afternoon had an unexpected bonus in it: I've been checking the website for open dining reservations every day during our downtime, to see if anything great opens up due to a cancellation (remember, we've had no ADRs on this trip at all). Today I scored a good one: we now have reservations on Wednesday night for dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table!!

I may have to wear a tiara.

Tonight we're heading back to Magic Kingdom to watch Wishes and ride rides now that the crowds are down again. I MIGHT ride BTMR (I am not a roller coaster person, but I had so much fun on Kali River Rapids that I might give Big Thunder a try). Tomorrow we're probably going to Epcot. We have to go back to the frozen north on Saturday morning, so this week is our last hurrah...

...until next year. Because it's possible that we already booked January in the same rental so we can get another month of fun out of this year's APs. ;)
 

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