Walt Disney World Resort: 2013
Saturday, 9th November
My first Christmas trip to the Magic Kingdom! I was staying at the Polynesian Resort, which meant I also had my first experience using a Magic Band. Aside from repeated problems matching "Mickey to Mickey" I have no complaints about the new system. In a trip of firsts, this was also my first time using a Disney Dining Plan.
I arrived at the hotel with just the right amount of time to get checked in and then head to the beach to watch Wishes before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for a couple of hours - just in time to catch the Main Street Electrical Parade and then meeting talking Magician Mickey Mouse, visiting the new Princess Fairytale Hall and the Haunted Mansion. By this point I'd been up for pretty close to 24 hours so figured I should really drag myself away and back to the hotel!
Oh, and of course I finally got to see this in real life!
Sunday, 10th November
Started the day with breakfast at the Kona Cafe before heading off to Epcot, which was in the last couple of days of the International Food & Wine Festival. Of course being the weekend (and the last weekend of the Festival) the stalls were all very crowded and my sole Festival purchase was a boozy Orange Dole Whip!
The first part of the day was spent meeting characters - Pluto, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy in Future World, before joining a long and hot queue in Norway for Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Bearing in mind the film had yet to be released, there were a remarkable number of little Elsas wandering around the parks!
I had an ADR for lunch ay the San Angel Inn, my first time eating there. I nearly gave up the reservation after what seemed like forever (but was probably 10 minutes) waiting in a cramped area being climbed on by a pair of particularly badly behaved children but ended up with a nice table near the "river". The meal was lovely too, so I'm glad I stuck it out!
After lunch I headed away from the crowds of World Showcase for a peaceful ride on Living with the Land (aka it' a small world with vegetables), which I hadn't been on since my first visit to WDW back in 2004 and followed that up with my first visit to Journey into Imagination with Figment before heading to the TTC and catching the ferry over to the Magic Kingdom for a couple of hours before my ADR at the Grand Floridian. Just enough time to meet some more characters (the circus themed Donald, Goof, Minnie and Daisy in New Fantasyland and Tinker Bell and Periwinkle in Pixie Hollow) and catch the castle being lit up in Celebrate the Magic!.
This was my first visit to the Grand Floridian and I had plenty of time to look around before my reservation. The resorts were yet to have their full Christmas decorations up, however the Gingerbread House was in the lobby.
Monday, 11th November
Back for another day at Epcot but first up (and sadly for my diet, not the last time that week) Tonga Toast!
I should mention at this point that my room was in the most wonderful location (Rarotonga), right next door to the Great Ceremonial House and the resort bus stop, so an easy walk back laden down with food from Captain Cook's! I then went for a brief wander around the hotel before heading to Epcot
In the photo below, you can just see the area fenced off for the new DVC.
With some time to kill before World Showcase opened, it was time for another Epcot first for me - Test Track! I followed that up with my first visit to Mission: Space since 2004 (when I'd absolutely dreaded going on the ride!).
Finally the Food & Wine booths began opening. Having canceled an ADR at Le Cellier, my first stop was at the Canada booth to try the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup and Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce. Definitely a worthy use of snack credits!
I had an early lunch reservation at Coral Reef but still figured there was time to try a couple of drinks from the France and Belgium booths!
One more purchase after lunch, from the Cheese booth, although I wasn't quite so sure about this one!
I had a ticket for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party that evening so headed back to the Magic Kingdom and before the party began, had a quick look around New Fantasyland and a ride on an almost deserted Dumbo. Now I'm someone who usually camps out way in advance for parades but by the time I headed back to Main Street it was already packed so I decided against trying to find a spot there and went to Frontierland which was still relatively empty. I did, however, get a spot on Main Street for the second showing.
Below: Holiday Wishes viewed from The Crystal Palace after securing a second helping of free cookies and cocoa!
Fortunately, I stayed around to catch the final showing of "Celebrate the Season" as by the time my second evening's party came around the weather had deteriorated and, honestly, I was too tired to stand around!
Tuesday, 12th November
Eating Tonga Toast for breakfast would possibly kill me but in any event, a Disney holiday should really include at least one Mickey waffle!
I'd decided that I could manage to skip Illuminations this trip and similarly, wih my priority being a first viewing of the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, I'd decided to skip Fantasmic! It's quite liberating to spend a day knowing you won't be camped out for an hour or so ahead of a show! With that in mind, the only thing I had to plan my day around was my lunch ADR at the Hollywood Brown Derby. As it turned out, I spent a lot of the day queuing to meet characters
Wandering around Sunset Boulevard. Tower of Terror is one of the few rides that I absolutely have to go, despite having ridden it countless times previously.
Frozen concept art in Animation Courtyard.
Baby Sinclair keeping a watch over the Streets of America.
Not a great photo, but this starter at the Hollywood Brown Derby is possibly one of my favourite things I've eaten at a Disney park so I have to give it a mention!
Andouille-crusted Prawn over Black Diamond Cheddar Grits, Wilded Greens, and Ancho Oil if you're interested!
Upon leaving the restaurant I discovered that a showing of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular was about to start. I'd only seen the show one time before, on my first visit in 2004, so decided to head on over for a much delayed second viewing.
Exciting times on Star Tours where I was unveiled as the Rebel Spy! Downside to being on your own is there are no family members to laugh when your picture appears on-screen, although maybe that's a good thing?!
After a trip round the Backlot Tour and a visit to Voyage of the Little Mermaid (I thought I was going to be able to resist, but failed!) and meeting The Incredibles, it was finally time to head over to the Streets of America to see The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Without question, this was one of the highlights of my trip. I'm not sure how long I wandered around for no doubt I could easily have stayed twice as long!
I had planned on getting away well before park closing to avoid the crowds heading for the buses but spent far too long looking at the lights! One final stop on the way out to meet Woody and Buzz for heading back for some sleep prior to another highlight of my trip - the Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Wednesday, 13th November
The Kilimanjaro Safaris has always been one of my favourite attractions at Walt Disney World but of course it’s very hit and miss as to what animals you’ll get to see. I’d been tempted to book the Wild Africa Trek on a previous trip but ultimately decided against it. This time, however, I decided to go for it. I booked the 9.30 am tour and as the park opened early had a bit of time to wander around (and visit Expedition Everest) before heading over to be kitted out with harness, water bottle and headphones. I wish I could remember the names of our two wonderful tour guides, but here’s a photo of them anyway!
I’ve posted a large number of photos from the tour on this site, including a couple of our wonderful guides. They were informative, funny and took great photos of the tour group and the animals throughout the trek – and I wish I could remember their names!
The first proper stop was at the hippo pool and I have to say this was enough to convince me that the trek was money well spent. It was feeding time and it was amazing to see them so close up.
After crossing a couple of rope bridges (one by one, so with 12 people in the group this takes a little bit of time) the next close encounter was with the crocodiles before joining a safari truck.
As the truck essentially follows the same path as the regular safari ride of course there are no guarantees as to which animals you’ll get to see (big cats, I’m looking at you – or not!). However, there is the advantage of added stops. In addition, the trek includes a meal out on the savannah (see it in the distance below) which provides an excellent opportunity to cast a relaxed eye over some of the animals.
Perhaps the only downside was that it was a rather overcast and windy day and most people ended up reaching for the hot chocolate as opposed to the jungle juice!
Whilst I took lots of photos, the price of the tour actually includes a number of photos taken by the tour guides, so you're free to focus on the animals and surroundings. These were available online within 24 hours of the tour.
Once the trek was over, I passed the time before Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade meeting some characters.
That evening I had my first visit to the California Grill in the Contemporary Resort. I managed to be there during Wishes but have to admit to be lazy and watching from my table instead of venturing outside!
Thursday, 14th November
Just one aim for today – get into Be Our Guest! I’d failed at making an ADR for dinner which left me with queuing way in advance for lunch. However, with the park opening early at least I had time for my first proper look around New Fantasyland before heading for the queue!
It’s ridiculous to feel this much love for restrooms! But how gorgeous is the new Tangled area?
I’d ridden the Little Mermaid ride so many times in Disneyland that I was content with just visiting the WDW version once.
At about 10.15am I headed back to Be Our Guest to start queuing. Needless to say, I was far from the first person there! I usually spend a considerable amount of time waiting an hour or so in advance for parades and shows but actually (Christmas parties) aside did very little of that this trip and I can’t recall any particularly long waits for rides either (the Frozen meet and greet was probably the longest I waited for anything) so I figured I could afford to spend an equivalent amount of time waiting to get into a restaurant. Of course, once inside, I had to try the grey stuff!
Actually, after lunch (more brunch I suppose!) I found myself in a couple more long queues, to meet Merida, Jasmine and Aladdin.
Staying in Adventureland after meeting Jasmine and Aladdin, I hit the Jingle Jungle Cruise (a tad underwhelming, to be honest), met Tiana and caught the end of Dream-Along with Mickey before finding a spot on Main Street to watch the parade. Parades used to be my number one priority at the parks, so I’m a little surprised that I only watched this one. Has food become my number one photography interest?!
I used FastPass+ for the first time on Big Thunder Mountain (I’d picked up a pass for Enchanted Tales with Belle but hadn’t needed to use that). BTM was closed the last time I was in Orlando and the California version was also shut when I visited Disneyland in April so it was nice to finally get back on that runaway train, which is definitely one of my favourite Disney rides.
Ah yes, back to food! I had a reservation for dinner at Citricos and was a little thrown to discover the monorail wasn’t running. Fortunately I’d left plenty of time and had a pleasant walk from the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian. And after a three course meal, it was probably for the best to walk back again as well!
Friday, 15th November
As much of my previous day at Animal Kingdom had been taken up by the Wild Africa Trek, I headed back to enjoy some of the other attractions and have a general wander around the park.
Actually, I’m not sure “enjoy” really applies to Dinosaur! I really do not like that Carnotaurus!
The first of the day’s encounters with Winnie the Pooh & Tigger!
I always love seeing the Gorillas on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail…
…and the tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
The last time I visited WDW, I had a great meal at the Yak & Yeti and whilst I was eager to try new restaurants, couldn’t resist going there again. I’d cancelled my lunch ADR when I booked the Wild Africa Trek but fortunately was able to get a table straight away.
As well as Be Our Guest, I’d also been unsuccessful at making a reservation at Ohana (for breakfast or dinner). Disappointing, but at least I could get my first Lapu Lapu at the Tambu Lounge before heading back to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Having seen the parade, fireworks and Celebrate the Season show earlier in the week, the priority for my second visit to MVMCP was to meet characters. While the park was still open to regular guests, I had my second encounter of the day with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.
Then it was time to hit the queue for the Seven Dwarfs. I was relatively near the front and so whilst I started queuing some time in advance, really didn’t have to wait that long.
My one regret is missing out on the Country Bears but I can’t really complain.
And yes, one more photo of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and friends.
Unfortunately, the weather had taken a turn for the worst and it was raining on and off throughout the evening. I was also having some trouble with my leg and found it very uncomfortable waiting around for and watching the parade so ended up leaving the party a little bit earlier than I would have liked. Overall, however, I probably enjoyed this second party more than the first as I didn’t feel the pressure to wait around waiting for parades, shows and fireworks and could have more of a wander around (once the character photos were taken care of, of course!).
Saturday, 16th November
Sadly, as demonstrated by Belle, my last day at Walt Disney World was another wet one. It was my first visit to Epcot since the Food and Wine Festival ended and Christmas was slowly creeping in to the park.
I had a wet wander around World Showcase, culminating in finally making it to La Cava del Tequila.
There was a short line at the character spot in Future World so I made a final visit to Mickey, Goofy and Minnie before heading over to the Magic Kingdom. I didn’t really have much time for anything and settled for meeting Marie, getting a must have corn-dog and then visiting Big Top Souvenirs in New Fantasyland for one last tempting Disney snack!