2014 was a great travel year. So far, 2015 is looking to be a little quieter. Chris and I have our 10th wedding anniversary in 2016 and we would like to do a bigger trip to celebrate. So I am trying to keep the travel a bit more low key but I can't just stay home all year! :)
So what's ahead in 2015?
No better way to start than a Disney Cruise!! My sister and I will be sailing for 4 nights on the Disney Dream in just a few weeks!
After that travel will be pretty quiet until summer. I have a weekend trip to Washington DC planned where I will be part of a group singing at the Kennedy Center. And then our annual ladies weekend in Cape May.
In the fall, I will be heading back to Amish Country for a long weekend to run the Bird in Hand races again. And then Chris and I will be trying a Royal Caribbean cruise, leaving from New Jersey and doing a "fall foliage" trip with stops in Boston, Maine and Canada. No airfare needed which made it much more affordable.
That is all the plans for now but you never know what else may pop up. Right now I'm just looking forward to heading somewhere warm soon!!!
This was our last day at Walt Disney World. Our flight was at 7:30 pm so we still most of the day. In keeping with the theme of doing things we have never done before, we had reservations to do the “Keys to the Kingdom” tour in the Magic Kingdom. The tour is about 5 hours and ours started at 8:30 am.
We were up early, packed up and then did airline check in so that we had our boarding passes and our checked bags were taken care of. We left the rest of our bags in bell services, had a quick breakfast and then got a taxi to take us over the Magic Kingdom.
Our check in for the tour was from 8 – 8:15 am. The buses were not running early enough so we took a cab. I didn’t think about the fact that you can’t take a taxi directly the Magic Kingdom but instead to the TTC (ticket and transportation center). And from there we would have to take a monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. At that time of the morning, the express monorail to the MK wasn’t open yet so we had to take the resort line which added some more time to our travels. We ended up getting to the MK around 8:10 am.
The Magic Kingdom wasn’t open yet but there was a special check in area and gate entrance for people with early tours or breakfast reservations. They checked our name off and we were in! We then went to Town Hall to check in for our specific tour. There was a name tag and lanyard with a headset device waiting for us. There was also a menu for us to choose our lunch which would be at Columbia Harbor House. After that, we were told to help ourselves to bottled water and then wait around the hub area until our tour would start at 8:30 am.
Once again we were in a park before it opened! Another great chance for some more pictures without crowds, especially of all the Christmas decorations.
Promptly at 8:30, our tour guide gathered us and got us set up for the day. We had headsets to wear so we could hear him at all times which worked great (Adventures by Disney should invest in the same set up). We were also told that there were no photos or use of cell phones allowed on the entire tour. He said that if anyone broke that rule, the entire tour would end immediately for everyone! He seemed pretty serious about that and thankfully no one tested out if he really meant it or not. He also said that we would be “on stage” at times and “back stage” at times. While “on stage” anything that is said could potential be heard by other guests in the park so his answers to certain questions may be different “on stage” as opposed to “backstage.” For example, if we were “on stage” and someone asked “How do you become a Disney princess?” his answer would be “you would marry a prince.” But if that same question was asked “backstage” there would be a different answer. I really loved the way he explained that and how important it is for the magic to be preserved all the time “on stage.”
After all the housekeeping was done, our guide walked us to the being on Main Street. The rope drop was about to happen and he wanted us to observe what he called the “Running of the Guests.” But actually he really wanted us to observe how the cast members control the situation of park opening to keep everyone safe.
We then headed down Main Street into a side area and our guide explained the “Keys to the Kingdom.” I know that is the name of the tour but I never really gave it much more thought than the tour being a “key” to backstage of the park. But actually there are 4 Keys to Magic Kingdom and all Disney parks. They are Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. Our guide took time explaining each key and we talked about examples of each in the parks. He also said that the order is important. Safety is always the number one concern. So a procedure may be in place that could be more efficient or provide a better show but it is done in a way that is the safest for the cast members and guests. It was very interesting to hear this all explained and fun to talk about examples throughout the parks.
Our tour then moved down Main Street. Our guide spoke a lot about various details along Main Street, especially the names on the windows and who they were names for. We then moved into Adventureland for some more details and then a ride on the Jungle Cruise. We were moved through the exit and onto a boat that was just for us. Instead of the Jungle Cruise skipper doing his script, our guide took the mike and gave us details and background information about the ride itself. Having been on the Jungle Cruise many times it was great to get more details and stories about the creation of the ride.
We came off of Jungle Cruise and headed towards our first backstage experience. We went through a gate to the left of Splash Mountain and immediately I thought this looks familiar. Yes, it did… the route for the half marathon goes through that gate as you exit the Magic Kingdom part of the course. In this backstage area, we were able to see the float storage area for the all the parades and the back side of Splash Mountain and were all the water is recycled through. There was a yellow line just beyond the gate that is a “guest sight line.” That is the dividing line between “on stage” and “backstage.” We would get a better example of this line in action later in the tour.
As we came back into the park, it was time to go to Columbia Harbor House for lunch. We had all ordered our lunch earlier, so we were taken to an upstairs area and the tables were already set with name cards and our lunch waiting for us. Very efficient! Inside our name cards was our special “Keys to the Kingdom” pin that you can only get from doing the tour. Our lunch stop was about 30 minutes and then we were back out in the park.
We moved over to a side area outside the Haunted Mansion. We were about to ride the attraction but first our guide gave us some background information and things to look and listen for inside the ride. We then got to go through the exit and straight into the stretching room. Having been on the Haunted Mansion so many times, it was really fun to have new things to notice and look for.
We then headed back down Main Street, which was a bit of a challenge as the park was quite crowded. We stopped just passed the Crystal Palace and once again went backstage. There was a parade about to launch and we could see the dancers and floats getting ready. It was very funny to see Woody and Jessie on the float just standing around waiting. And as the gate open and the parade started, we got to see the full effect of the “yellow line.” All the characters and dancers would be just standing / walking or talking to each other but as soon as they hit the “yellow line” it was game on! They would go right into their dance routine or movement routine on the floats. Very fun to watch!
From there it was time to go down to the Utiladors!! The utiladors are the tunnel system underneath the park for cast members. It was quite a maze. I’m sure it isn’t too hard once you get used to it, but there is even a map for the cast members so they can see where they are and where they need to go. There was also a lot of memorabilia down there. Sets of pins throughout the years and photos from Walt Disney World history were along the walls. We didn’t really see very much.. but it was cool to be down there and see how things work.
As we came up from there, we were back to Town Hall where we started. Our guide said that we had talked about all the Keys of the Kingdom but we hadn’t yet talked about Disney magic. He then shared a story. I cannot write it as well as he told it but I wanted to share it anyway. Several years ago, his mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. When she was undergoing her treatments, she was told that she could listen to whatever she wanted with headphones. She always chose the music to Wishes. When her treatment was finished and she was awaiting results, her doctors encouraged her to go on vacation and relax. Of course, she chose Walt Disney World. And of course she had to see Wishes. When she returned home, her doctor informed her that the success of her treatment was unlike anything he had ever seen before. She and her son (our guide) of course know that was because of Wishes and Disney magic. I just loved that story and it was the perfect way to end our tour.
I would highly recommend the tour. Especially for folks who have been to the Magic Kingdom many times and want to experience a different side of things. We ate lunch with a mother and son. The mother explained to us that with all of their children, taking the Keys to the Kingdom tour was a rite of passage for them on the 16th birthday (the minimum age for the tour). So this was her son’s 16th birthday and his chance to experience the tour. Sounds like a great way to turn 16 to me!
It was not only the end of the tour but pretty much the end of our trip. We went back to the resort and had some time to grab a snack and relax a bit until the Magical Express bus arrived to take us to the airport. It was a great trip and, of course, I can’t wait to go back!
Our plan for this day was to spend most of the day at the Magic Kingdom and then head over to Downtown for dinner and shopping.
As we were on the bus, I realized that so far this whole trip I had yet to set foot in the Magic Kingdom. It is my favorite park and often the first one I go to but it hadn’t worked out that way this trip. So I was getting all excited and happy to get there!
Our plan was to make a bee line down Main Street to get to the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. We didn’t have a fastpass so we knew we would have to do stand by and wanted to get on line before it got super crazy. However our plan got derailed when I walked in and saw Main Street was decorated for Christmas!! I had to stop and take pictures and then the trolley show was going on and it was holiday themed. And then I had to take more pictures of the castle because I only have about 20 of them already!
But then we did make it to the Mine Train. The stand by was up to an hour wait but that was fine. I spent the time playing around on the My Disney Experience app trying to move around our fastpasses to as early as possible so we could get more. I managed to do that and we were set for the day.
We finally got on board the Mine Train! I really enjoyed the ride. Of course, I would like to ride it more to take in all the details but this was the only time we were able to ride it this trip.
The rest of the day was mostly just leisurely strolling around the Magic Kingdom. We did our 3 fastpass attractions by lunch time and went to a kiosk to choose a 4th. That system worked out pretty well. It was crowded but there were also cast members with IPads that could help you also. We ended up using 5 fastpasses that day and could have gotten a 6th but there was nothing else available that we were interested in.
For lunch, I wanted to try the specialty macaroni and cheese from the Friars Nook. It was right in the middle of the lunch crowd but the line didn’t look too long. But it actually took a really long time! There was one cast member working 2 lines which is typical of a counter service, but that same cast member was also responsible for going to get all the food items. That wasn’t the best system and then there were several guests that had questions or didn’t understand how to use their dining plan there. But after my long wait, I really really enjoyed the macaroni and cheese with pot roast on top. Very yummy and filling.
We did some more attractions and then walked over to the Contemporary from the Magic Kingdom to get a bus to Downtown Disney. I don’t know why I had never thought to do that before. I usually take a bus to any resort and then switch to a Downtown bus from there. It is only about a 10-15 min walk and we were lucky that the Downtown bus was just pulling in when we got there.
We wanted to try a dinner from a food truck at Downtown. We saw one near the World of Disney store so walked over. I know there are different trucks so I asked if any other trucks were out and they said that was the only truck available for that day. It was the “World Showcase” truck which basically had similar offerings as the Food and Wine festival but that was fine. I had pierogies and kielbasa and it was very good.
We did a little shopping and then called it a night.
I had definitely hoped to sleep late but by 8 am I was awake. I relaxed for a bit in bed but I was HUNGRY! Then it dawned on me that I had nothing to eat after the half marathon except a powerade so it wasn’t too surprising that I was starving. I got ready and headed for a nice big breakfast at the food court.
With the races over, Chris and I had 3 full days to enjoy in the parks. We wanted to do some things that we always say we want to do but never seem to get to. This day we were headed to Epcot and had a 2 pm reservation for the Behind the Seeds tour there.
We did a few attractions and then went to see if we could hit some Food and Wine booths for some snacks to serve as our lunch. The lines didn’t seem quite as bad as the day before so we got on line at the Greek booth. I got the griddled cheese which I thought was just ok. It was kind of stuck to the bottom of the paper container it was in so I had to pry it off. I think that was the turn off because the cheese itself was pretty good.
We did still wait about 25 minutes for that “taste” and we decided we didn’t have enough time to do enough booths to make it lunch so we went to Sunshine Seasons in the Land pavilion to get something more substantial. I had a tasty veggie pita and then a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. It was nice to take a sit down break too and our tour started right in that pavilion so it all worked out.
We checked in at the counter right next to Soarin and were giving name tags that would be our “ticket” to the tour. Right at 2 pm, our tour guide came to collect us and we were on our way backstage.
The tour lasts for about an hour and you walk along a path in the greenhouses that you see on the Living with the Land attraction. In fact, boats from the attraction were going by the whole time we were on the tour. The tour guide gives you some more information than you get from the attraction but I think the biggest plus to the tour is that you have the ability to ask questions.
There were some interactive elements of the tour, like getting to taste a cucumber that was grown there and smelling jars that had various plants / herbs in them and having to guess what they were. We also got to search for all the hidden Mickey’s inside the greenhouse.
Overall, I thought it was a good tour. Something definitely worth doing once.
After that, I wanted to check out the Disney VISA character greeting location. This is something else that I have known about for a while but never got a chance to experience. In one of the Innoventions buildings, there is a character greeting area that is only for Disney VISA cardholders. You get your picture taken with the characters and then you are entitled to a free 5x7.
I found the location and there was about 10 people on line ahead of me. A cast member saw me get on the line and came down to talk to me. She asked how many were in my party (just me as Chris was building his own rollercoaster in the other Innoventions building) and then I had to show my Disney VISA card. She told me that there are 2 Disney characters inside and she could not tell me what ones. They were very serious about that part. While I was waiting, several people came along and were really pushing to find out what characters were inside. None of the cast members would tell. I guess a surprise is kind of nice and I thought maybe that allows them to switch out characters and not worry about people on line waiting for a specific one. But I can also see the guests wanting to know because they would probably not want to wait for a character they or their child doesn’t want to see.
I didn’t really care so I waited and found Minnie and Pluto inside. I was wearing my medals and they were both pointing and admiring them. Pluto pointed to his wrist and the cast member said “Pluto wants to know what your finish time was.” Hey Pluto.. I’m slow ok! I said I was slow but I finished and it was cold and wet! So Pluto put the hood of sweatshirt over my head to keep me warm. Very cute and then I took a picture with them and I was on my way.
Before we did our tour, I asked Chris if he wanted to see what we could get for a dining reservation in one of the countries for that night. I went on the My Disney Experience app and found a reservation available in the Moroccan restaurant. We had never eaten there so we decided to give it a try. So after my picture we took another stroll through World Showcase. It was much quieter at the food booths further back.
We still had some time to kill so we did another thing we haven’t done before…. We checked out the Disney VISA lounge above the American Adventure. Again I had to show my VISA card and then we were able to go upstairs to the lounge. It was really a good place to find. There was soda and a few other beverages available for free. There were tables to sit at and charging stations for your phone. There were video games set up for the kids as well. It was also neat to look outside from the top of the American Adventure building. Definitely would be a good spot to escape the heat and rest for a bit.
We stayed for about 20 minutes and then headed to our reservation. The restaurant was very well themed and we were coming in at the end of the belly dancing performance. I believe I had lamb but I am not sure. I do remember that we enjoyed the meal but didn’t rave about it. Again, I am glad we got to try it but probably wouldn’t be on the top of my list to return to.
I wanted to get a dessert at the ice cream place in the France pavilion. YUM!! I had an ice cream sandwich that was made with brioche bread. I chose caramel sea salt ice cream that was then placed on brioche bread, drizzled with chocolate sauce, sandwiched between another brioche piece and then pressed in what looked like a waffle maker. It was a little odd… sort of like bread and ice cream.. but I really enjoyed it.
On our way out of Epcot, I had to stop in the photo store to pick up my 5x7 photo. There was a huge line but it moved along pretty quickly. I was able to look at the photos that I had taken with Minnie and Pluto. I chose one and they printed it for me.
All in all, it was a nice day in Epcot.
So when we last left off, I was heading to bed at 3 pm to try to get a little sleep before I had to get on the bus to head to the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. I had a hard time falling asleep but ended up sleeping for about 90 minutes.
I got up around 6 pm, had a muffin and started to get ready. Seemed to be no doubt that it was going to rain, so I pulled out the garbage bag that I had packed just in case. I also found 2 others that I had in my suitcase from past race weekends so I threw those in my pockets too.
I headed to the bus around 7 pm and was on my way to the start line. Again, I hung around with the Mickey Milers until it was time to head to the corrals.
As a matter of a little background, it is still a challenge for me to maintain the 16 min mile pace requirement of the Disney races. I was swept at Mile 11 in the January half in 2013 but I finished the Princess Half this past February. I was starting in corral I so I had a three corrals behind me which gave me a little extra time. I had trained and I was ready but I was nervous! I have never done a night race. What if my legs didn’t have enough strength in them after walking the 5K and through Epcot today? What if it rains and that slows me down too much? What if I couldn’t do it?!?
But me and my nerves headed off to the corrals. It wasn’t raining yet so the ground was dry. There was still time to wait so I had a seat on the ground. About 15-20 minutes before corral A was set to start, it started to rain. I pulled out my garbage bag and was happy that I had it. There were a few people around me that had nothing so I gave out the other two garbage bags that I had in my pockets. I was very happy that it didn’t rain the whole time we were waiting and that I had the garbage bag for protection until we got started.
As the corrals got started, I was obsessively watching the time between corrals. It was exactly 3 minutes between them. I figured I had about 10 extra minutes… which didn’t seem very comforting.
It was raining a bit harder but I ditched the garbage bag and got my Garmin watch ready. Chris had wrapped it in a Ziploc bag which he has done before for me and it has worked fine. I had been having trouble on and off with the watch but it found the GPS signal and seemed ready to go. I had my Ipod with me but didn’t think I would use it because of the rain. But at the last minute, I decided I would use it and hope for the best.
It was finally time to get started. AHHHH!!! My goal for this race was to finish and be able to stop for one photo somewhere on the course. I have never been fast enough to do that at any of the other Disney races. My plan was to monitor my pace and after the halfway mark determine if I had enough time to stop.
We were off and running! I had my gymboss set to :30 / :30 intervals to start with… with plans to change to more walking if needed. I crossed the start, started my iPod, started my Garmin and hit the road. I had a light jacket on because of the rain and a long sleeve running shirt under my Mickey Milers t-shirt. It wasn’t long before I took off the jacket and tied it around my waist. It also wasn’t long… about ½ mile… when I heard my Garmin watch beep. I looked down and it had stopped. UGH!! I tried to restart it but it wasn’t working… plus in the dark and in the rain, it was really hard to see exactly what was going on. So now I had no way of knowing where I was at for time / pace.
I will admit that I got a little panicked. But there was nothing I could do about it. So I decided to just focus on my intervals, listen to my podcasts on my IPod, put my head down and just go for it. I figured at that point, my idea of stopping for a picture was done but I could still finish.
So yes, it was raining. But honestly to me, once I was all the way wet, that couldn’t get any worse so it really didn’t bother me that much. As with most Disney races, there was a lot of time on the highways around Disney, so having podcasts to listen too paid off in terms of keeping my mind occupied. Every time there was a turn where you could see how many people were behind you, I would strain to see as far back as I could to try to spot the balloon ladies (they are the 16 min pace that you must stay in front of).
We went into Animal Kingdom at around mile 3.5. I really liked seeing the Tree of Life lit up at night. There were characters but mostly really a lot of construction as I had seen in the day time during the 5K. Oh yeah and there were nice puddles that were hard to see in the dark so my whole sneaker took a bath a few times…not pleasant.
We came out of Animal Kingdom and had quite a few miles on the highways before we would get into the parks again. My podcasts were still going strong. And to my surprise so was I. Despite the weather, I felt surprisingly good. I had been working a lot on nutrition in my training runs and it was paying off. Now I had no idea of my pace so I thought that maybe I felt good because I was going too slow… but with no balloon ladies in sight I kept moving.
We headed into Hollywood Studios and I was so ready for the Osbourne Lights. Little did I know that we had some detours around the park before we were hit that area. A guy came up to me as we were in the Rock n Roller coaster area and said ‘No worries from here. There are no more sweeping buses now.” I didn’t believe that and I said I think there is one more. I told him that but he insisted that wasn’t the case. Oh well. I wasn’t about to stop now so I kept going.
I was still feeling good and still doing :30 / :30 intervals which was really surprising. In training, I have always had to add more walking after mile 10.
I finally got to the Osbourne Lights and running through there was very cool. I looked ahead and saw a photo op with some Christmas elves. There were only 3 people on line so I decided to go for it! Most times, they take your picture on the race course and you can find it later online by your bib number. That is what I was expecting but then I noticed that this stop was only a cast member using each person’s phone / camera.
I wasn’t happy about having to pull out my phone that was tucked away to avoid the rain, but I did. I looked down to get the camera ready and saw a text from Chris. He said “Keep going. You have an awesome pace going. 16:13 at the 15K mark.” (He was set up to get runner tracking information). What?!!? That was my best pace ever by that point in a half. I was so happy and thought I could actually get a PR!
I was also really happy to get my picture with the Christmas elves. It took me a few minutes while I was walking along to get my phone back in its safe spot and then I went right back to my intervals. I was so happy with my pace and that I felt really good.
As we came of out Hollywood Studios and headed for a path that would go to the Boardwalk area and then Epcot, there were sweeper buses! So there was one more sweeping point. But they weren’t getting me!! As that point, I knew I was going to finish and I had taken my photo. Goal accomplished!! Now to go for that PR!
Unfortunately, it didn’t take too long until I realized the PR wasn’t going to happen. The path I was on was about wide enough for 3 people. At this point, a lot of people were slowing down and walking. It was hard to get around people and I ended up walking most of that. I got to go back to some intervals in the Boardwalk area.
(A side note of a very odd experience: There was a Disney person at the bottom of the bridge as you turn right into the Yacht / Beach club area. She was cheering for all the runners. And then all of a sudden she yells “F***king finish!” I thought maybe I heard that wrong and then the woman next to me said “Did she just say what I thought?” and then another guy said “She must be new.” Bizarre!)
As we headed into Epcot, another guy started talking to me and we just ended up chatting our way to the finish. I knew that meant no PR but I was ok with that. Of course, when I saw my time and that I was only 3 minutes shy of that PR, I was a little annoyed!
I was so happy to finish and finish feeling good. Yes, I was wet and then cold once I stopped running. And yes, it was then a long walk to the bus to get back to the resort. But I couldn’t have asked for a better race for myself.
I got back to the room and took a hot shower. I got into bed around 3:30 am. It was only then that I really started to shiver and feel the cold. Seemed odd that it took that long but I put on every blanket I had and tried to get some sleep. No morning plans so I could sleep as late I would like… even though that didn’t work out…
I’m going to divide Day 2 into 2 posts.. because basically it felt like 2 separate days. It was race day so I had the Jingle Jungle 5K in the morning and then the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at night.
Disney races often require an early wake up. In comparison to other races, the Jingle Jungle time wasn’t as early as some others, but it was still early. I set my alarm for 4:15 and was on the first bus to the start area by 5 am.
I met up with my fellow Mickey Milers and we hung out waiting for the start. To me the waiting is always the worst part of Disney races, but it is better when you have friends to chat with. My friend, Sandie and I had planned to walk the 5K. So after we left the Mickey Milers, we headed to our corral to wait a little more. It was pretty cold while standing around but luckily we warmed up as we started walking.
I always enjoy the 5Ks at Disney. There is a posted 16:00 minute mile time requirement but I have never seen that enforced. I like being able to walk with friends and just enjoy it, rather than being concerned with time. The Jingle Jungle 5K has a holiday theme and there were lots of very cool costumes by fellow runners. The course was about a mile in the parking lot heading into Animal Kingdom, then some time around Animal Kingdom and then back out to some more time in the parking lot before the finish. I hadn’t been in Animal Kingdom in about 6 months. I was surprised by all the construction. Almost everywhere you looked were walls blocking construction areas. There were characters out for the pictures but the lines were really long so we didn’t stop. We just chatted and walked along and enjoyed ourselves. After collecting our finisher medallion, we went to the buses to head back to our separate resorts.
I got back to French Quarter and had some breakfast. I was planning to meet up with Team All Ears alumni at noon at the Boardwalk. Chris wanted to have a “rest day” at the resort (what is a rest day at Disney?!?!) so he wasn’t going to come with me. So I decided to take the bus over to Epcot, take my time walking through to the back and then walk over to the Boardwalk. Yes, it had dawned on me that all that walking might not have been the best idea with a half marathon coming up that night….but I still decided to do it.
It was the last weekend for the Food and Wine festival in Epcot and it was CROWDED! The lines to just get into Epcot were crazy. I stopped in a few stores and looked around and then thought I would go see what I could get a taste of at the festival. Well, that didn’t happen. The lines were crazy long.
I have mixed feelings about the Food and Wine festival. Do I like trying different food and wine items from various countries? Absolutely. Do I like waiting 30+ minutes to get one taste? No. Do I like paying at least $5-6 a taste? Not really. Chris and I have done it a few times and, when it isn’t crowded, I can enjoy it but that was certainly not the case today. So just made my way through the crowds and met up with my Team All Ears teammates at the Boardwalk Bakery.
It was great to see everyone again. The Team officially ended last year (and some people, including myself, have moved over to the Mickey Milers team). Mickey Milers is fun but there is still nothing like Team All Ears to me and it is always great to get together with them. We chatted and took a picture and then it was time for me to start my walk back through Epcot to take a bus back to the French Quarter.
My plan was to have a big lunch and pick up something to have before I headed to the buses for the race. I was hoping to nap or at least rest for about 3 hours. I met up with Chris at the French Quarter food court and we had a good lunch. Then it was time to go to bed for a bit. It was really an odd day with the early start, and then going back to bed only to get up a few hours later to go run a half marathon. As much as I enjoy the 5k, I don’t think I would do this one again just because of the logistics of it all happening in one day. But it sure made for an interesting experience.
So only 2 ½ short weeks after returning from California, Chris and I were off to Walt Disney World in Florida for a long weekend. The purpose of our trip was for me to participate in two runDisney events.. the Jingle Jungle 5K and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Both races were on Saturday and we decided to extend our trip a few days to do some tours that we have always talked about doing but have never made the time to do.
Day 1 started off with a very early morning flight down to Orlando. Everything went smoothly and we were on the Magical Express bus and checked in to our resort by 10:30 am. We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter. This was our 4th time staying at this resort. It is one of my favorites! Our room was ready so we got to stop there for a quick regroup. We had a great location. We were in building 4, right next to the main building. If we went to the right when exiting our room, we would go down the stairs and be right at the entrance to the food court. If we went left, we would go down the stairs, walk across a small parking area and be at the resort buses.
When I booked our package (I wasn’t yet a travel planner), I used the runDisney package. It was a very affordable rate that included a 4 day park hopper pass for Chris. I did not need a pass because my annual pass is still valid until January. The down side was that we would not receive his pass or even a ticket number for him until we arrived. Which meant that I could not make any fastpass+ reservations before our trip. Yes, I could have made them for just myself but that isn’t nice J. I wasn’t real happy about that and did call several times to see if anything could be done about it. The only option was to remove the ticket from our reservation and purchase it separately at the full price. If this was our first and maybe only trip to WDW, I probably would have done that. But since we have been many times before, and we will be there many times in the future, we decided to just leave it and deal with it.
At check in, I received his pass and when we got to the room, I loaded it onto our My Disney Experience account. Loading it was easy and then I started to play around with seeing what FastPass+ reservations I could get. I couldn’t get most of the “E ticket” attractions, which I had expected, but I got enough to get us started.
We then headed out front to hop on a bus to the Expo. Typically I don’t like to go to the Expo early on the first day because it is usually crowded. We thought about waiting until later but we want to just get what I needed and be done there for the day so off we went.
And yes, it was crowded! Picking up my number for the 5K was easy. The lines for the half marathon were long but they did move along so it wasn’t too bad. We ran into a few friends from Team All Ears which is always excellent!! And then we headed to the next building to get my tshirts. No lines there so it was a quick pick up. I’m not really into looking around at the expo and it was crowded. So we just made our way out and back to the French Quarter.
Our bags from Magical Express had arrived so I was able to get us a little organized and then we went over to Hollywood Studios.
Another difference on this trip was that we decided to not make any dining reservations. We wanted to just be free to do what we wanted and were fine with grabbing food when we felt like eating where ever we happened to be. And overall, that worked out fine.
We did some rides in Hollywood Studios and enjoyed walking around. We made sure to do the Frozen Sing a long for a few reasons. Yes, I like Frozen and I know all the songs. Also, I like to check out anything new that I haven’t done before. But I mainly wanted to see the reactions of the girls in the audience. My opinion in general is that the show was just ok. I had expected more of the actual characters being on the stage but most of the “sing a long” is done with movie clips on the large screen with the words underneath so you can sing along. Meh. But the little girl sitting in front of me made the whole experience worthwhile. In general, there was some singing for most of the songs. But when they got to “Let it Go” you could hear everyone. The little girl in front of me not only sang out the whole song at the top of her lungs, but she did every hand motion and body movement of Elsa in the movie. She was so into it and it was so cute to watch.
Since our Fastpass+ selection was limited and Fantasmic was available, we decided to see what that was like and then we could compare it to the Disneyland version which was still fresh in our memory. With the fastpass, we had a return time and a seating area that was reserved. The seats were fine and we only waited about an hour for the show to start. Chris and I were split on our comparison. He thought the California version was much better than WDW. I enjoyed both but thought the WDW was slightly better. It might have been because the part at the end when all of the characters are on the boat did not happen in California due to refurbishment of the boat and that is one of my favorite parts. And the space in WDW is much bigger. Either way we were glad we stayed for it and got to see both versions so close together.
We grabbed some popcorn for the road and headed back to the resort. I had an early wake up for the 5K in the morning.
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.