Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Disney Dining Packages

For our 27th wedding anniversary, my wife and I headed to Disney.  After all, when you are married to a princess, sometimes you have to take her back to her kingdom!  With just the two of us, it felt like we could afford to spend some time and money on some upgraded dining.  Let's star with our Frozen lunch package at Carthay Circle.

Carthay Circle, located in Disney's California Adventure, is a restaurant that many overlook.  The outside of the building is a replica of the theater where Snow White premiered.  It's not flashy, and blends in nicely with the surrounding architecture.

As you enter, you are quickly approached by cast members in suits and formal attire.  You check in at the front desk, then take a seat in one of the many leather chairs in the lounge area.  The lighting is subdued, drinks are available for purchase if you are so inclined and it's quiet.  I immediately felt relaxed and looked forward to a slower than Disney paced dining experience.

When our table was ready, we were ushered to the upstairs dining area.  We were quickly served some ice cold water, our drink order was taken and we were looking over our menu.  Since we had opted for the Frozen lunch package, we didn't have a lot of choices, other than our main dish.

Honestly, I felt a bit like an uncultured buffoon.  I had to look over the menu later to even know what I had eaten.  But it was tasty!

The meal began with warm bread.  We then had what appeared to be small, round bread balls with lingonberry jam.  I wasn't really sure how to approach this.  It seemed I had more jam than bread.  And how do you get jam to stick to a small, round surface?  I did my best.

We then had a small portion of soup and a salad.  Both were so tasty.  Again, I'm not entirely sure what was in either.  The salad had a spring mix feel to it, with tomatoes, spinach and a vinaigrette dressing.

For our main entree, we both went with the beef.  It was so, so yummy!  It was herb crusted, with a blue cheese risotto.  It sat upon some unique potatoes.  There might have been a vegetable or two, but I was caught up in the steak.

The meal ended with "Olaf's Dream Summer Vacation".  It was so cute, I felt a bit guilty digging in.  But once I realized it was a cream puff, with chocolate sauce and a white chocolate Olaf head, I dug in.  I even ate his chocolate arms.  Who knew a snowman could be so tasty?


If you can afford around $100 a person, I highly recommend this dining experience.  I felt pampered and well taken care of, and the food was amazing.

The dining package included passes that put us on the front row for the Frozen show.  Even on a day when the park was not crowded, folks were lined up for this show hours before it started.  I think the value of not having to wait in line for that long factors into this package.  For me, it was worth every penny!

Our second splurge was the Fantasmic! package at the Blue Bayou.  Have you ever been on the Pirates ride?  Well, you surely noticed the restaurant on the right side as the ride begins.  That's Blue Bayou.

Again, we were well taken care of.  We checked in, and within minutes were seated.

My only complaint is with my old man eyes I could not read the menu!  It's pretty dark in there.  I had to take out my phone so I knew what I was ordering.  Trust me, no other complaints!

We started off with breads.  I believe we had sourdough and some sort of cornbread.  For starters, we chose between soup and salad.  I chose the New Orleans Gumbo.  I would have been happy if the meal had just been a huge bowl of it.  Chicken, sausage, spices and white rice all combined for a tasty warm-up for the taste buds.

For my entree, I chose the portobello mushroom.  It was served on a bed of Louisiana popcorn rice.  It was spicy, but not uncomfortable.  I was very full by the time I polished it off.  Again, I'm pretty sure there were vegetables, but it was dark....

The dessert was "Sorcerer Mickey Fantasmic Dessert".  Milk chocolate mouse with a chocolate glaze.  It was great!

The meal came with a cushion for watching the show.  We lined up at 8 pm for the 9 pm showing.  We were pretty far back in the line, but still ended up with great spots, smack dab in the middle.  By the way, the new Fantasmic! is incredible!

Just as an FYI, the dining package seating went in three waves.  First, they positioned the Riverbelle terrace folks to the right of the show.  Blue Bayou was then put in place front and center.  Lastly, the Hungry Bear crowd was placed to the left.  Those poor souls didn't have cushions.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Anniversary Trip 2017

For our 27th wedding anniversary, I planned a trip for Lori and me to Disneyland.  Now, I did get some odd looks and scoffing from some, but if you are married to a princess, doesn't it make sense to take her back home every now and then?

I love taking vacation notes.  It helps me do better and avoid repeating mistakes.  It also feels like someday, my posterity might look back and get a glimpse of who I was and what mattered to me.

I was nervous about Lori's back after her surgery back in January, so I wanted to eliminate a long car ride.  Allegiant Air burned us back in December of 2015, but they were by far the cheapest, so I gave them another chance.  When I first bought the tickets, we were set to fly out after work on Friday, then return Monday afternoon.  Allegiant decided not to burn us and cancel a flight this time.  Instead, they adjusted the times dramatically.  We ended up flying out early on Friday morning and SUPER early on Monday morning for our return.  It worked out that we went from 2 days in the parks to 3, so the change was a win this time.  I would say that when flying with Allegiant, keep your head on a swivel!

We arrived at LAX on time.  It took us a while to figure out that Super Shuttle has their own stop, but we found them and off we went.  This part of the trip was painful.  It's not that Super Shuttle wasn't good.  I'd use them again.  It's that we had several stops, and it felt like our turn would never come.    I think the trip from LAX to our hotel was longer than the flight.

We stayed at the Tropicana.  They are just finishing up remodeling every room, so the one we were in was crisp, clean and new.  I loved how close to the park we were.  It was about a 5 minute walk from the hotel to Disney security lines.  I would definitely stay there again.

With the new and improved Disneyland mobile app, I decided to do our tickets on my phone.  It was slick.  I bought our tickets while we were walking over.  I also opted to pay the extra for park hoppers and the new MaxPass.  Let me tell you, MaxPass did not disappoint!


Immediately as soon as our tickets were activated, MaxPass was ready to go.  I was able to get fast passes for rides in either park.  I could monitor their status and get new ones as soon as we were eligible.  When Soarin' and Indiana Jones had issues while we had fast passes, they seamlessly converted those passes to "Multi ride experiences", which is kind of like a fast pass wild card.  The only down side is you couldn't use these for Guardians or Radiator Springs.

MaxPass also includes PhotoPass.  We could have gotten a lot more use out of this.  As it is, I was able to get our exciting photos from some of the rides, so that was still fun and added to the MaxPass value.

I definitely would not do MaxPass without park hoppers.  We hopped a lot!  Basically, we did California Adventure fast passes until Guardians and Radiator Springs were gone, then we'd hop over to Disneyland.

The one downside to MaxPass is Disney's lack of Wifi in the park, combined with a whole lot of cellular data dead spots.  I frequently had to walk around to find a sweet spot where the app could work.  These network problems also contributed to killing my battery life.  Luckily, I was aware this would be a problem, so I had a battery pack case for my phone, as well as a portable charging pack.  Still, I was pretty much on battery fumes by the time we arrived back at our hotel room.

This was our first time experiencing a few things.  First off, Guardians of the Galaxy - Best.  Ride.  Ever.  From the line to the exit, it rocked.  There is so much to see while in line.  Rocket is a great as the host.  And the ride is off the charts.  The music is pumping (we had a different song each time we rode).  The ride never stops.  Even when it "stops" on a floor, you are still bouncing.  I was hesitant about the change from Tower of Terror, but I can safely say, this was an incredible upgrade.


Soarin' Around the World - again, this is a win.  It was great to see Patrick still doing the orientation.  The logos is similar, and the music is also very similar.  The sound and picture quality are so much better now, and including the actual Matterhorn and what looks like the inspiration for Cinderella's castle were nice touches.  The only odd thing for me was, if you are not seated in the middle, the Eiffel Tower has a major curve to it.  I didn't notice this on other landmarks, but it was almost comical for the Eiffel.

The remake of Fantasmic! is incredible.  I had watched it on YouTube, but to be there and feel it was something entirely more fulfilling.  We did the Blue Bayou dining package, which put us smack dab in the middle and also came with a cushion to sit on.  It looked like the other dining packages were to the left and right of us.  The location could not have been better.  We did arrive an hour early, and I would not have wanted to be any later.



The remake itself was great.  I enjoyed the introduction of Pirates into the show.  Again, the show and music were still very similar to before, but the changes were positive.

We also did the Frozen lunch package at Carthay Circle.  This gave us front row seats for that show.  We were so close that you could see Anna did not look like Anna should, so that was distracting.  However, this show was amazing.  I missed Aladdin, but everything about this show felt like an upgrade.  When Anna gets frozen, you can literally see it.  It snowed, ice appeared, Elsa transformed into an ice queen, etc.  Well done Disney.


The food at Carthay and Blue Bayou was amazing.  Be prepared to pay some serious cash for it, but I felt like, for our anniversary, we could splurge on a couple of the meals.

The fireworks were good, but "Remember" wasn't as awesome as I remembered.  Also, the Soundsational parade was meh.  Mickey and the Magical Map is feeling old and dated now.  Also, Star Wars Path of the Jedi feels like a waste of space.  Bring back Captain EO or Honey I Shrunk the Audience.

The train changes are amazing.  It really opens up now where it can.  You can see where the entrance to Galaxy's Edge will be.  You can see the huge cranes at work building the new land for us.

We were a bit too aggressive with our time in the parks.  We were over 16 hours on day 2.  Lori's FitBit had us over 10 miles per day.  Even on the 3rd day, when I said we'd "take it easy", we were over 10 miles and 22,000 steps.  Lori had some shoe issues, and had what looked like a piece of raw hamburger for a toe at the end of the 2nd day.  I really should have ramped it down on day 3, and I really thought I was.  Next time, definitely everyone should make sure their shoes are good to go.  And I probably should be more disciplined about figuring in down time.  Like real down time, not just what I imagine as down time.

Oh, I need to tell the story of Lori's phone.  On day #2, as we sat down for the train, Lori let out an "OH NO!".  Her phone was nowhere to be found.  By this point, we had eaten beinetts at Orleans Square for breakfast, been on Indiana Jones and Star Tours, as well as Small World.  We had no clue where it might be.  We went to City Hall on Main Street, where they made a few calls and could not find any phones that had been turned in.  They did give us a card, with a number we could call later to see if it had been found.

Lori called the number later, and it turns out they actually needed to create an incident for it and take down a lot of information.  We left them my cell phone number.  I was not too optimistic, but I hoped that some Disney magic would prevail.

Well, as we stood in line for Soarin', I received a call from Disneyland.  The phone had been found!  We went to the lost and found, located just outside the main entrance, and there was a joyous reunion!  The phone was no worse off than before, Lori had really tried to not let the lost phone bug her, but the sense of relief was apparent when they were reunited!



Don't worry, I had two jalapeno pretzels, a churro and a corn dog.  Yum!


Here are our ride totals:
Guardians (4)
Radiator Springs (2)
Mater's Junkyard
Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters
It's Tough to be a Bug
Little Mermaid
Soarin' (4)
Indiana Jones (3)
Jungle Cruise
Pirates (2)
Peter Pan
Mr. Toad
Storybook
Small World
Star Tours (4)
Buzz Lightyear (2)
Toy Story Midway Mania (2)
Train (2)
Fireworks
Frozen
Dumbo
Tiki Room
Winnie the Pooh
Mickey and the Magical Map
World of Color
Fantasmic!
Star Wars Path of the Jedi
Snow White
Pnnochio

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Longing for Disneyland

It's a slow day at work.  I'm sitting at my desk, and Lotso is staring at me.  My Toy Story collection is close at hand, as our my Disney villains.  I took my car for a wash today, and had to remove the Mickey antenna ears so I didn't lose them.  My Mickey sticker in the back window is nice and clean now.  Our trip to Disneyland for December is booked, and I have a countdown up and running on my phone.

I'm trying to decide what some of my favorite moments are at the park.  I get a bit cranky, edgy and excited finding my way to the parking lot.  I willingly hand over a king's ransom for parking, then want to sprint to the shuttle line.  Upon exit from the tram or bus, it's another full on sprint.  I am not patient if you lag behind, so if you are with me, let's do this thing!

I endure the baggage screening, making sure the entire party has made it through.  Now it's off to get into the park!

I love handing over my ticket, having it scanned through and getting in.  Don't forget to grab a map and a show schedule!  I'm in the park now!  Characters are generally roaming around, and families are trying to get that perfect photo op.  If I'm lucky, the Santa Fe will pass as I'm standing there!

What to do first?  You pass under the railroad, and there you are!  I always enter to the right, by the way.  Are there characters waiting here?  I love the looks on my kids faces when they get their photo ops!

Let's walk down main street now.  How often do you stop into these shops?  I can't wait!

A few of my favorite things you ask?  Oh, pretty much everything.  But here, in no particular order, are a few of mine.

- On a hot day, the moment when your frozen lemonade thaws enough that you can start shoveling it in.

- The first bite of a Mickey jalapeno cheese pretzel.

- The mess a churro can make as it spills cinnamon all over you.

- The feel of the GetAwayToday lanyard around my neck, and adding a fast pass or two into there.

- The look on my families faces as they exit a favorite ride.

- The rare time when you outwit the crowds and find a short line.

- Sitting down for a rest and watching a great show, like Aladdin or Mickey and the Magical Map.

- Soarin'.

- The feeling like I'm home.  Knowing every path, every shortcut.

- The sounds and smells.

- Knowing that, worst case, Bug's Land is never crowded.  Someday, Traven will outgrow that, but for now, it's a life saver.

- Using a FastPass and blowing by all the people standing in line.

- Picking out souvenirs.  Spending entirely too much on them.

Family and friends, what do I need to add to this list?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Phoenix Vacation

I'm not feeling too great, and sitting here is actually quite painful, but I still want to get down a few thoughts that have been shuffling around in my head.

First off, I would just like to thank my family for a great vacation.  We spent over 8 days together, and there was no fighting.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and get along.  Braden and Kaylee had an introduction to LONG drives, and they were troopers.  Spanish Fork to Phoenix is a long drive.  Braden drove his Grandma's car, with her and his Grandpa.  Kaylee drove my little Focus with Alyssa and Emily.  And Lori, Traven and I were in the Pilot.  Everyone did great!  The exact amount of time Emily slept is still open to debate, but I figure that's up to that car!

Our vacation rental was sweet!  Well, the master suite was enormous, so I lived like a king.  Traven ended up with his own room, as Braden preferred the air bed to having T sleep on his head.  Kaylee took the other air bed, while Emily and Alyssa shared a bedroom and the grandparents were in another.

We only ate out 3 times.  The rest of the time we cooked at the house.  It was such a relaxing vacation!  The one time we did eat out was at China Red.  Holy smokes, it was so good and the portions were gigantic.  We had leftover Chinese food into Tuesday!

We bought the POGO pass, which got us in to many events for a way discounted price.  Great idea if you are ever down in Phoenix for a week!

We did Makutu's Island, mainly for T, but it was actually Alyssa who got our money's worth out of it.  And she made Braden climb and slide along with her, so that was good.  Even Kaylee and Lori took a turn sliding.

We went to the Phoenix temple.  That helped with the relaxation part of the trip!  Of course, no POGO required for temple work.....

Some of us went to a Diamondbacks MLB game, and I loved it!  Ok, baseball games are too long, but for the part I was there, I loved it.

We did some laser tag, which was fun.  Traven really got into that.

The Phoenix zoo was a great time.  It was a lot bigger than I figured it would be.

Castles and Coasters was fun, although Lori and Kaylee ended up getting sick from a ride, so that sucked.  But some of us stuck it out, rode the rides and went miniature golfing.

On the way home, we went to the Grand Canyon.  What an incredible sight!

Sunday started the journey home.  Well except for me.  I'm in Las Vegas at a database conference.

Did I mention I love my family?  I think this was a great vacation.  Definitely more relaxing than many others I have been on.

Mike

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Time at Disneyland!

I am a Disney addict.  I'm not ashamed to say it.  I love the parks, the movies and the characters.  My home features many Disney decorations.  My home office is wall to wall with Disney decor.  I fancy myself a bit of a Disney expert.  No, I can't recite numerous Disney facts, but I know quite a bit, and of importance to this blog entry, I know my way around Disneyland!

When my wife Lori first approached me about a trip around the holidays to Disneyland, with her brother Glenn and his family, I of course was on board.  It meant we'd have to go without our other children - Kaylee, Braden, Jason and Alyssa - which would be painful, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.  I imagined it would be different, but I was not prepared for the vast number of nuances and changes.  I have to say, Disney nailed it once again.  My Christmas may never be the same!

Before I dig right into the park experience, let me give you a run down of the drive from Utah down to California.  This was our youngest Traven's first time driving, and it had been years since Lori made the drive.  I have to say, they both did great!  Traven watched a lot of movies, played on the iPads, and for the most part was an angel.  Lori and I listened to a cheesy audio book, when she wasn't sleeping.  Honestly, she was out from Spanish Fork to the Arizona border!

We stayed at the Ayers Inn, the one a few miles from the park.  I enjoyed it.  There were not a large number of fellow park visitors.  It was more a mix of business people and other travelers.  It didn't feel as rushed as some of the other places we've stayed.

I have to say a bit about parking.  I know, who cares right?  I learned a couple of things.  First off, the Toy Story parking lot is quickest for getting in and out. Second, the Mickey parking structure opens earlier than Toy Story.  Third, Mickey is TONS busier, but we didn't really have to wait very long.  And fourth, Mickey is awesome for buying the customary souvenirs then taking them back to the car.  We did our shopping around lunch time, which was a phenomenal idea.

On a related note, booking with Get Away Today was once again a no-brainer.  We had our park tickets in hand.  No standing in line to swap a voucher or something lame like that.  The hotel worked flawlessly.  Get Away Today is a well oiled machine.

Now, a bit about the holidays at Disneyland.  Absolutely wonderful!  There was a giant Christmas tree at the start of Main Street.  Wreaths and lights everywhere.  Carolers randomly singing everywhere.  All the characters in their holiday attire.

The holiday fireworks show featured not only holiday music and fireworks, but snow.  Yes, Disney made it snow at Disneyland.  The lighting at the end of the snow highlighted each snowflake, making it feel like a winter wonderland.  I loved how Disney featured not just secular music, but some Silent Night, Joy to the World and other more religious fare.  Our initial strategy for fireworks watching was to arrive 2 hours early and get a seat.  Two hours before, it was already packed.  We opted to take a bench with a completely blocked view of the castle.  Strange, you say?  Well at about 10 minutes before, we simply walked into the street with those that had been standing for two hours, with fresh legs and ready to take in a show!  It worked out brilliantly.

World of Color got its Frozen on!  Olaf was the host.  He even led us in a giant sing-a-long.  And they didn't mess around, either.  Disney knew the vast majority of the crowd would want to "Let It Go", so BAM!  That was the show finale.  They didn't try to work it into the show or anything forced.  They knew it wasn't really a holiday song, but with Olaf hosting and other Frozen songs already having been played, it needed to be done.

They did away with the World of Color lunch special, so we sprung for lunch at Carthay Circle.  $40 a plate, $20 for children under 9.  And plan on about two hours to complete your dining experience.  I felt for the food it was a bit overpriced, but I actually enjoyed just relaxing and enjoying a good meal!  One thing about a trip to Disneyland, you need to plan in rest times!  Even with that, by the end of three days I was ready to be done.  Of course, I'd love to be back TODAY, but that's a problem I just have to live with.

The lines were non-existent.  We were so spoiled.  The longest we waited was for Toy Story Midway Mania and Peter Pan, and both waits were under 30 minutes.  We pretty much walked onto rides.  The only fast passes we really needed were Radiator Springs Racers, and we did that twice.  By the way, what an amazing ride.  I think I liked it even more at night.

My favorite holiday themed ride has to be Haunted Mansion.  It is pretty much completely different.  The music and sound effects all seemed so crisp and clear.  The decorations, down to the smallest detail, are all done just right.  Did I mention it's all based off The Nightmare Before Christmas?  So cool!

It's a Small World is also worked over for the holidays, but it just doesn't measure up to Haunted Mansion.  I mean, it's still way cooler than normal, though!

A word about positive peer pressure now, if you don't mind.  We vacationed with Lori's parents, her sister Emily, and her brother Glenn with his family (Allison, Annie, Eric, Eli and Caleb).  Traven is a just a bit younger than Caleb, and when they weren't fighting, they were best buddies.  And Caleb was up for any ride.  Traven had in the past vowed to never ride a LOT of rides again, but when paired with Caleb, he found a new level of braveness!  And it turns out he loved Big Thunder Mountain, Tower of Terror and the Matterhorn.  He was not really crazy about Indiana Jones, and still refused Splash Mountain and Space Mountain.  But all in all, he did great!  He now says Tower of Terror is his favorite.  And on a related note, vacationing with the extended family was wonderful.

I am going back in two years with the whole family.  It will be epic!  I can't wait to experience it with all my kids!  And it would be great to have the rest of the family there as well.  Something tells me Lucy might have a good time there.




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Disney World Review

Well, I know I already have one Disney World post, but this one is more just general notes for me on things that worked and things that didn't.

1.  One sit down lunch was wonderful, something I'll be doing on all subsequent trips to Disney.  It took over an hour, but it was amazing.  Just sitting down, away from the crowds, in an air conditioned environment was energizing.  And enjoying something other than the typical burger or chicken sandwich was a nice change of pace.

2.  My Disney Experience, with FastPass+, was beyond cool.  I could book my fast passes before hand, so rather than bouncing around the park, we could be more organized.  I could see the wait times in the app and adjust my passes accordingly.  Shoot, the thing will work as a compass and take you to the nearest bathroom!

3.  The Magic Bands are genius.  Honestly, I still feel a bit naked not wearing one.  It was the key to our room, our entry to the park, and it controlled our Fast Pass entrances.  You can even set them up so you can pay with them.

4.  Did you know some of the lines at Disney World have built in time killers?  We waited 40 minutes for Pooh, but T played the entire time.  It worked really well.  And the line for Space Mountain has a giant video game.  I tell you, Disney is a well oiled machine.

5.  Staying on a Disney property has me spoiled.  I don't know if I can go back!  Not paying for parking should be taken into consideration.  $17 a day down there.  Wowzers.

6.  A backpack, with supplies such as a water bottle and snacks, worked well.  There were plenty of places to fill up the bottles, and staying hydrated is important.  I had those 99 cent rain ponchos in there as well, so when the rains came, we were prepared.  I also took some zip lock bags to hold my wallet and phone, and a pair of sandals for the water ride.

7.  I say this every time, but a down day is nice.  Our fifth day was very relaxing.  We spent just a few hours in Magic Kingdom, then shopped, swam and packed up for the return trip.

Well, that's it for this short entry.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Disney World

I realize my children, along with one  particular sister in law, are probably the only people that will read this entire thing, but so be it!  This will be a work in progress as our vacation progresses.

Day one was a travel day.  We left for the airport around 8:30 am.  We paid a bit extra to have 4 of our party of 10 board early, and that was a stroke of genius!  We were all able to sit together.  Well, except for Grandpa, who chose to sit alone.  Well, not so much alone as with strangers.  But, on a somewhat related note, I have not witnessed a Grandpa vs. Grandma argument yet on this trip!

We did use the Disney Magical Express, and their luggage service.  My first clue that something was amiss was when I noted most of the tags were for "Unknown Elquist".  When we went to board the shuttle, that's when we found out our Magic Bands were non functional.  They assured us they could straighten it up at the hotel.

No.

The desk clerks said to come back at 9 in the morning, that their wholesale department would have to negotiate with Travelocity in order for our reservations to get fixed.  And when we got to our rooms, no luggage.  There we were, no Magic Bands and no luggage.  It was a dark time.  However, luggage showed up around 1:40 am, so that was a good sign.

Cut to 9:00 am in the morning.  That's when we met Todd, the most amazing Disney worker EVER!  He saw me there with my 10 bands, a look of despair on my face.  Todd went to work!  In about 15 minutes, our bands were good, we had 10 "Family Reunion" pins, 10 "First Time Visiting" pins and 10 bonus Fast Pass tickets for use in Epcot.  I've never wanted to hug another man quite like Todd.  Love is a strong word, but I think most of the family is feeling a little for Todd!

After a questionable start, the day took off from there.  We went to Epcot.  We first rode Spaceship Earth, which Traven described as "the best ride ever".  He did feel the Romans were actually Lamanites, but at least I know he listens in Primary.

Next was Nemo.  Same ride as Disneyland, but no submarines.  But at the end, there is this whole real aquarium.  Again, Traven was a big fan!  Toad fish = ugly, that's all I've got to say.

Soarin' was identical to Disneyland, which is fine.  Never mess with perfection.

We also rode Living with the Land, which Grandma loved.  This is a very green ride, with lots of talk about how we can grow things differently to help the earth.  It pretty much sails through greenhouses.

We ate lunch in "The Land" building.  The turkey sandwich was good, and some went with Chinese, which was also ok.

Our family favorite for the day was next.  Test Track!  I thought it would be more like Radiator Springs, but it was a lot more thrill ride than that.  Lots of speed and turns.  AWESOME.

Mission Space was next.  We split half and half for Orange and Green.  Orange was amazing.  Disney, how do you make me feel like I'm pulling several Gs on blast off.  Seriously, I could feel my face sucking back!  What an incredible, unique experience.

We next rode Ellen's Energy Adventure, which added up to nap time for several of us.  Not me and Traven mind you.  We continued our day long conversation!

Two hours.  That was the line to meet Anna and Elsa.  Um, no thanks.

Maelstrom was the most overrated, boring ride I've experienced.  Big disappointment.

The whole countries thing in Epcot is not a big win for me.  But others in the family loved it.

The short 3 Cabbelleros ride was fun.  It felt a bit like Small World.

Dinner was at Mexico, which was basically chicken tacos for all.   Again, it was good.

Traven and Jason bailed to go swim, and the rest of us watched Illuminations.  Great show.  There's a freakin' giant globe that comes out, lights up and has all sorts of effects.  It's literally the size of a small planet.

All in all, for a day that started with a feeling of doom, it was a great day!  More to come.......

DAY TWO:  Hollywood Studios

We started the day with Tower of Terror.  Just different enough here to have you a bit more in suspense, a bit more nervous, all adding up to a bit more fun!

We followed that up with the Rock and Roller Coaster.  Sweet mother of monkey milk, that was a fast, exhilarating ride.  Aerosmith music blasting, going 0 to who knows what in the blink of an eye, corkscrews, twists, dives, turns - WOW.  Loved it!

We hit a bit of a snag here, with some health issues and the temperatures.  Combine that with Braden accidentally giving T his bedtime pill, and T needing a Benadryl, we were in for some grumpiness.  But we persevered and had fun.

Beauty and the Beast was a very nice production, and I'm told Little Mermaid was as well.  We loved the Indiana Jones stunt spectacular.  Some of us even took in Muppet Vision 3D, which is a classic.  Alyssa took Traven on the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playset, and took him to meet Phineus and Ferb as well as Mike and Sulley.  Oh, and we even got a photo with a green army man.

We paid a kings ransom for lunch at Mama Melroses, but it was worth it.  The pace was slower, there was no crowd and we just had about an hour to relax and enjoy some incredible food.  We did the Fantasmic Lunch!, which came with appetizers, entrees and two dessert plates.  Unlimited drinks and bread were included as well.  And VIP seating for Fantasmic!

As a bit of a Disney fan, I find it amazing that this was my first Fantasmic! performance. They do it in a stadium here, with seating kind of like you'd find at Sea World.  We were smack dab in the middle.  It was like World of Color meets a fireworks show, with a bit of parade tossed in.  We simply loved watching Mickey's imagination run wild, then the villains trying to take it over.  But in the end, Mickey triumphs (oh sorry, spoiler alert!), a ton of characters come out on the steam boat, fireworks erupt and I left feeling like it was a highlight for this trip!

Oh snap, I forgot at least two!  The Great Movie Ride was fun, as we got to see highlights from several films.  I'm a bit shocked that some of us did not recognize Ridley and a face sucking alien, but I did!

The backlot tour was LAME.  Hard pass on that one next time.

Oh, and of course Toy Story Midway Mania.  Rock solid, identical experience to California Adventure.

DAY THREE.  First off, a couple of lessons learned.  First off, the wait times can be deceiving.  Jungle Cruise said 15 miutes - we were in line around 70.  Second, Stich's Escape is far and away the worst ride in existence.

Today was a day with a lot of rides in common with Disneyland.
Peter Pan felt identical.
Small World was similar, but did not have the built in Disney characters.
Pirates was about 50 percent shorter.  Lame.
They have two Dumbos, both identical to Disneyland.
The train has three stops and is much shorter.
 Buzz Lightyear was identical.
The Tomorrowland Speedway was pretty much the same as Autopia.

It was a nice pleasure to see the Country Bears again.  I loved it.  Still funny after all these years.

Aladdin was a fan favorite, in particular for Kaylee.

The People Mover was awesome!  What a great, simple ride to kill a few minutes.

Mickey's Philharmagic was a lot like Muppet Vision, but was still cool.

Nighttime was amazing.  Electric Light Parade, followed by the show on the castle.  How they make the castle look like a movie screen is unreal.  And they've already factored in some new family favorites, such as Tangled and Frozen.  Traven was signing "Let it Go" at the top of his lungs.  And "Wishes" fireworks had some of the same music as the original in Disneyland, but was somewhat shorter.  Still it was a magical end to the day.

By the way, as soon as one raindrop came down tonight, people started scurrying.  It was odd to say the least.  I mean, it wasn't even a proper storm!

Lunch was at the Tortuga Tavern.  I had a taco salad.  It was nice to basically build my own.  Dinner was at the main cafe by the Speedway.  Bacon cheeseburger.  Yum.  I think it's the Starlight Cafe?

The Magic Bands are finally working like a charm.  We had to fix Eric's / Grandpa's at Hollywood yesterday.

DAY FOUR.  Today, it rained.  We had about every type of rain you can imagine.  Sprinkles, down pours, wind driven - we had it all going on.  This made for a wet day, but the lines were pretty much not there.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom around 9, and jumped right on the Primeval Whirl twice.  It's like the old Wild Mouse at Lagoon, but with some spinning tossed in.  We then rode some sort of Dumbo-esque Dino ride, which was still fun.  After that, Finding Nemo the Musical was next.  It was well done.  I don't think I'd drop everything to do it again, but I'm glad we went.

Ah, next was Dinosaur, which sent Traven into a screaming fit.  Honestly, he was screaming like he was near death.  I think the rest of us liked it, but not poor T!  We did the Whirl again, then went to Expedition Everest.  Well done Disney!  This is another winner.  Fast, twists, backwards, dark - it had it all working.  Loved it!  We then did the Khali River Rapids, which is not on par with Grizzly Rapids.  We finished off our rain soaked adventure with the safari, which I think most of us enjoyed.

Tonight, we had some go to downtown Disney, while some returned to Hollywood.  We were able to get in two trips to the Tower of Terror and a ride on the Rock and Roller.  Finished off our adventure with some pretzels and called it a day.  On day four, this was a good day to have less to do and be at a slower pace.  I think we are wearing out the Grandparents.

DAY FIVE.  Today was a nice and slow day.  This is good, because Magic Kingdom was beyond  crowded.  Like, you almost couldn't move in spots there were so many people.  We did Splash Mountain, which to me seemed a bit longer and better than at Disneyland.  We then lost Traven's MagicBand, which was ok since we are on day 5.  Probably, if I did this again, I might not let Traven wear his own band.  We then did Haunted Mansion, which seemed a bit longer as well.  It definitely has a different look on the outside.  We then journeyed to Space Mountain, which it turns out I am not a fan of.  Grandpa took Traven on the Speedway again, and Traven, Grandpa and I went on the Astro Orbiter.  That ride actually soars above the park, which was pretty awesome.  You ride an elevator up to get on the ride.  We then split up, with Traven, Alyssa and I going to the Pooh ride.  The line was long, but there were things for T to do the whole time.  He had a blast.  Drumming, spinning things, moving bees along a line, playing a touch screen thing, etc.  It was great for him.  We then came back, with Traven, Jason, Braden and Alyssa swimming.

All in all, a great trip.  The MagicBands are very convenient, once they are up and working.  FastPass+ with My Disney Experience is wonderful.  They need to let you reserve more than 3 attractions a day.  Oh, and staying on Disney property is the way to go.  I think I'd try a meal plan next time as well.  Probably have an extra rest/laundry day.

I can't believe it's over.  I can't wait to gather up our photos and relive the magic over and over again.  I really treasure these times, having all the kids together.