Here's the Disney recap. I took 250 photos and I was bummed that when we arrived at the Animal Kingdom on our last day my camera battery was almost dead. Oops. I missed out on a TON of great photos that day. My SIL bought an instant camera so I will have a few pics from the park, but not nearly as nice as what my camera could have captured. =-(
My brother and SIL left their house at 4:00 AM, arrived at our house shortly after 5:00 AM and we took off for the airport by 5:30 AM. We arrived in Orlando around 4:00 PM. The first thing that stuck us is HEAT! It was nearly 90 degrees every day, humid and sunny. I'm not complaining but having left Wisconsin in the 40's it felt quite different! By the time we got to the hotel we were all pretty beat. We parted ways for dinner. We and the kids went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner, and then we met up with my brother and SIL afterward for swimming in the hotel pool. The sun had gone down and the pool was deserted. A great way to end our first day.
Tuesday we went to Hollywood Studios. Our first stop, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This was the ride I was most scared about. You enter sort of a twilight zone mansion. After a short wait we were instructed to stand by a large elevator. I remember the creepy guy (who took his role quite seriously) pointing at a couple and told them to get in line "Your time has come!" he stated. We were prompted into the elevator and seated and strapped. Gulp. From there the elevator rose and then entered a dark room lit only by small white twinkle lights. I don't remember specifically but I know there was a warning about "no return" at this point. We were pushed forward and suddenly plummeted 13 stories. It didn't stop there. We were bounced up and plummeted back down about 6 times before the ride stopped. We were in total darkness except for when we bounced "up" there was a window that would open showing you how high you were. I swore that one more bounce and I'd be losing my breakfast. Thank God it was over, but I survived and secretly loved it after I stopped shaking.
Our next stop was Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. I had REALLY wanted to do this. The ride takes you on an adventure with the Aerosmith band late to a gig and rushing to get across the city. You are seated in a limo with Aerosmith music blaring while flying through the air on the roller coaster. This one not only did turns but went upside down too. I know my tummy wouldn't handle that at this point so only Hubby and my brother went on this one.
Our morning quieted a bit with the Journey Into Narnia: Prince Caspian Attraction. Here we got to meet Prince Caspian (who was quite attractive, I must say) and see some of the Narnia props and costumes. It was a pretty quick walk through.
Toy Story Mania! was next, and it was a long line...around 45 minutes. I hear we went at a great time because most attractions we could get right into. This one was our longest wait. Inside we rode in a two seated car and used a ray gun to shoot targets on screen while wearing 3D glasses. It was very fun, put the pumping (pulling, actually) really started to hurt my arm. Little Girl and I rode together and she beat me!
We ate lunch at Hollywood & Vine, a "play n dine" experience. The buffet style restaurant had characters dancing and coming around to greet you as you ate. There was JoJo and the lion from JoJo's Circus and two characters from the Little Einsteins. We took lots of pictures but were shocked at the price for our meal. Guess I wanted to put that one behind me because I can't seem to find the receipt!
Next stop: Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Here we got to see some of the stunts performed in the movie in live action. The guy was Harrison Ford's actual stunt double in the movie. Pretty cool photos on this one, especially since it was nearly constant action.
After that Hubby, the Kids and my Brother went on the Star Tours - the Ultimate Star Wars Thrill Ride. Reports were disappointing on this one.
My brother was a huge Muppet fan when he was younger so I knew that the Muppet Vision 3D movie would be a must-see. This movie contained many of the original Muppet characters, along with the two guys who always sat in the balcony who were seated in the theater's balcony for a "live" performance. Everyone was in a good mood:
We took the kids for a little playtime at the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure. This was a huge play area where everything was enlarged making us feel like a bug would feel in our world. It was pretty cool! There was a big, leaky hose that squirted water, and a squirt gun that my brother and Little Boy got soaked from:
My brother is a bit goofy, in a good way, of course! =) On our way to the next event he spotted the face paint area and dared Hubby to get one with him. The deal was that if Hubby got the unicorn face paint my brother would get the rainbow frog. Never one to resist a challenge, they ended up looking like this:The Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt Show was one of our favorites. The most memorable portion was the ballet chase where four cars literally performed twists and turns in very close proximity to each other. The cars would literally turn a 180 on a dime. One of the cars drove backwards at very high speeds. I don't know how they did it all without crashing. There were motorcycles and a huge stunt with one of the motorcycle drivers sliding through fire and catching on fire himself. Even though I'm not a big "car" person this was also one of my favorites because it was so well done and awe inspiring. We later learned that part of the car's success was that the engine was moved to the middle of the car; this allowed them to be able to turn so quickly. The emergency brake was also rigged to be used quickly. And the guy that drove backwards like a maniac? Well, it turns out that the car was altered so that the driver was actually facing the rear of the vehicle so while it looked like he was driving backwards he really wasn't. This was so cool!
We had dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. We were seated in a convertible car where the sound was piped in on speakers just like you'd see at a drive in movie theater. Movies and commercials from the 50's played while we dined. I had a yummy bruschetta chicken sandwich.
Our last experience of the evening was Fantasmic!, an amazing spectacle of lights, music, fire and water.
Tuesday we went to Epcot. Our first stop was Soarin', an amazing ride where you are suspended 40 feet in the air with a movie screen ahead and you go over a land and sea scape that actually felt like you were flying. There was a pine smell as we flew over the forest and when we went over water it looked like you go so close that your feet were about to touch. It was my very favorite of Epcot. We had wanted to go back and do this again but we never did make it.
Turtle Talk with Crush was so fun for the kids. We went into a small theater where Crush from Finding Nemo was on screen talking to the kids who sat down front. Both Little Boy and Little Girl sat up front and Crush asked some of the boys and girls questions. Little Boy was one of them. When Crush asked him if he had a question he said "Hi," Crush paused for a second and said "That's the opposite of low." Then asked Little Boy if he had another question and his response? "Hello." Yup, that's my boy!
On our way to lunch there was floor to ceiling aquariums.
We went on the Living With the Land Boat Tour through Epcot's fruit and vegetable gardens, vegetation, fish farms and a rainforest and saw experiments in energy sources, hydroponics and other ways to improve plant growth. They had some new tomato trees. The cool part of this was that the fruits and vegetables are served in Epcot's restaurants. Pretty neat, huh?
We had lunch at the Coral Reef Restaurant which also had floor to ceiling aquariums (the reverse side of the photo above). Hubby had trout ($19.99) and a root beer ($2.69), I had Lobster Ravioli ($24.99) and a Lemonade ($2.69), the kids each had a cheese pizza ($4.09), an ice cream sundae ($1.99) and apple slices ($1.99) and they both had kiddie cocktails; Little Boy ordered a special light up car cup for $4.99.
Mission: SPACE was awesome! We got to be space recuits and man the space shuttle to Mars. The ride shot you up and had you weave through space debris. There was bumps and acceleration. It felt as "real" as I would like to experience. I am glad we took the "green" experience because the "orange" experience was much more realistic.
The boys went on Test Track where you got to race a car at 60 miles per hour. It was disappointing because you didn't really drive the car.
Maelstrom was a fun ride on a Norwegian viking ship. Afterward we got to watch a video about Norway culture and we spent some time shopping in their gift shop. They had lovely jewelry, sweaters and perfumes.
Dinner at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall was the worst as far as cost goes - $259.39 for the four of us to dine with Jasmine, Ariel, Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. It was an appetizer buffet, an entree for each of us, and a dessert sampler. I chose to split an entree with Hubby but still had to pay full price.
IlluniNations: Reflections of Earth was their nighttime light show. Really cool though we had some irate people around us because once the show started most people in front of us stood up to watch, and that left lots of kids and anyone sitting unable to see much. The fireworks at the end was my favorite!
Wednesday we went to Sea World. The kids got to feed several animals including sting rays. We saw a cool pirate ship show that had a really funny mime at the beginning mimicking people who were coming in and generally causing mischief. They had some seals as the starts of the show. The highlight of the day though was getting to see Shamu. Oh boy is he big! (Actually I'm not sure if it's a he or she...) We ate lunch at Mango Joe's--three kids hot dog meals (hot dog and a bag of Lay's potato chips or apple slices) for $7.29 each served on a collectible Shamu plate, a small Shamu bowl of watermelon for $3.39, and Hubby had a chicken sandwich meal for $8.29 and four cookies for $4.69.
Thursday we went to Magic Kingdom.
We started our day with the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride. We got to see electric powered pirates (including the ever adorable Jack Sparrow) all along the underground water way. They sang, they drank, they battled, and we had a few drops of the boat along the way. All in all a pretty tame and unremarkable ride.
Splash Mountain scared me. The end involved a 50 foot drop and a near guarantee of getting soaked. I braved it and LOVED it. We actually did this twice because I had so much fun! As you were just dropping your picture was taken. Had some pretty funny screams and expressions on our faces. :o)
The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was another train-type roller coaster. This was fairly jerky and nothing remarkable.
The Haunted Mansion seemed like it would be awesome, but ended up not being scary at all. The coolest part was at the beginning when we entered into a large round room and it appeared as if the domed ceiling was rising right before our eyes, to make a really large room.
We ate lunch at the Crystal Palace. This was a buffet style lunch with visits from Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore. The kids had a great time here and the cost wasn't too outrageous. Probably my favorite meal because we were all in good moods and the kids really got into the characters.
We saw the 3D movie, Mickey's PhilharMagic. Donald Duck steals Mickey's wizard hat and attempts to conduct the orchestra to disastrous results. I loved this show and we went back to see it later on in the afternoon once my brother and SIL arrived. One of my favorites.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was much like the Toy Story ride in Hollywood Studios but not nearly as cool.
The Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor was a live show featuring Roz (on video) and Mike Wazowski. This show was so funny partly because it got interactive with the audience by picking out a few audience members and shining a spotlight on them. One audience member was picked as a crazy dancing dude, another for a mind reading trick and a child. Mike told jokes, including jokes that were texted in by audience members. My brother tried to text one in but it did not get put into the show. We actually saw this twice also, once before lunch and once after when my brother and SIL were there.
The Swiss Family Treehouse was a walk through replication of the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse.
Hubby and the kids rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. The carpet shaped cars went up and down and spun around like a carousel.
Then they rode Cinderella's Golden Carousel which was right next door. Hubby had far too much fun on this ride!
Then we all went on Peter Pan's Flight. The cool part of this ride is that we actually lifted off the ground as if our two person pirate ship was in flight. We saw many of the Disney scenes and characters along the way.
What is a theme park without bumper cars? Tomorrowland Indy Speedway was a must do. I rode with Little Girl. She wanted to drive but was such a sissy about stepping on the gas that I took over. Pedal to the metal baby! But she still couldn't steer so we kept bouncing around on the track, so I tried to steer from the passenger side for a bit, but that didn't work so well. I got a little involved in bumping into my brother's car...oops. ;o)
Stitch's Great Escape was very, very cool. We were recruited to guard dangerous aliens, Stitch being the most dangerous that they ever faced. We entered into a round room and seated into a jump seat with a shoulder restraint coming over our heads. We got to see Stitch transport in front of our eyes, a terrible smoky stink and maniacal laughter all around us. Sparks flew and the lights went out COMPLETELY for a good 30 seconds. It was pitch black and honestly a bit scary. It was just a surprise what this was all about and that's what made it fun.
Thursday night Little Girl, my brother, SIL and I went to Downtown Disney. We had a quick meal at McDonald's and shopped the Disney Store for a couple of hours. This store is one of my all time favorites...it's H-U-G-E! I bought a t-shirt for Hubby, a charm bracelet for Little Girl and a sweatshirt for Little Boy. I also bought a necklace for my coworker who was covering for me. Guess what? I did not buy a thing for myself. Boo hoo! LOL.
Friday we did Animal Kingdom. We started the day with the Kilimanjaro Safari. We got to see many live animals but the coolest for me was the giraffe that our jeep went right next to as he was eating leaves from a tree. We were so close I could have reached out and touched him (and I really wanted to). This safari was made pretty real by the driver and "communications" to the base about poachers up ahead, driving through muddy ponds and over rickety bridges. Neat.
It's Tough to be a Bug was another really cool 3D movie. I really can't do 3D because of the severe difference in sight between my left and right eye, but this one really got intense for me, I think because we were sitting in the front row. I thought there was something right in front of my face, but it was on the screen. They had dung beetles in this show that blew out at the audience, and at the end there was little cockroaches and other bugs running to leave the theater and they went through our seat cushions making it feel like there really was crawling things right underneath you. Gross. This was creepy but in a good way.
The Tree of Life was a centerpiece of this park. The trunk had over 300 intricate animal images hand carved into it.
We did the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see hippos and gorillas.
We took the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch.
The Habitat Habit!, Conservation Station and Affection Section were all in the same area. We got to see snakes and turtles, then we got to see a hawk being x-rayed by the animal keepers and we waited to witness a python eating but he was playing around with his food even though he hadn't eaten in days so we did not stay to watch. We got to brush and pet goats and a cow named Kitty in the affection section.
We had a quick lunch at Tamu Tamu. Three cheeseburger meals at $6.59 each, and a tuna salad sandwich for Little Girl for $7.79. Drinks were $4.38 for two root beers and $2.19 for lemonade.
Flights of Wonder was a really cool live bird and dance show. We got to see a huge crane, a bald eagle, and several smaller birds fly right next to us. They had performers dance in costume. So neat!
We walked along the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see tigers, giant bats and Kimodo dragons.
My SIL and Little Girl went on TriceraTop Spin while the boys went on the Dinosaur! ride. (I stayed behind.) Apparently Dinosaur made it seem like you were being chased by dinosaurs as you blast through meteors. TriceraTop Spin was a slow ride similar to the Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride.
On our last evening in Florida we ate dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. Hubby had steak ($29.99) and a Mai Tai ($7.00), I had a chop salad ($15.99) and Rainbow Colada ($7.99), Little Girl had a cheeseburger ($6.99) and Little Boy had a cheese pizza ($6.00) and each kid ordered a slushie in a collectible cup for $7.99 each.
What else to say? I'm sure there's a lot I'm forgetting but right now I'm ready to share this much with you.