California Here We Come Part 1: Heaven Is A City Much Like San Francisco

Hey everyone! So I’m nearly a month back from my trip to Northern California, my first time on the west coast, and just an absolutely transformative experience, and full of learning and family bonding etc.

So, I figured, let’s write about it!

The trip started on February 22, when I left work at lunch time and headed to Newark Airport for my first cross country flight. I’ve flown to Vegas, but I had a Layover then, so I was nervous about the length. It wound up not being bad at all. I didn’t sleep, but I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and A Few Good Men, so that was pretty cool.

After I arrived, I grabbed my bags and hopped in an Uber to the Sheraton at Fisherman’s Warf, where Mom, Mary, Dad and I were staying. The hotel was nice, a chain in a tourist area, so a little bland, but nice, clean, the room was big and the breakfast buffet was sufficient the next morning.

The only thing I didn’t totally love about San Francisco is that the town shuts down relatively early. Even the wharf, most restaurants shut their kitchens at nine. (Even in the tourist no mans land of  Midtown Manhattan you can get a burger at midnight!) Since I didn’t even LAND until 8, this was a struggle, but we wound up at The Tonga Room, a tiki bar in the basemant of the Fairmont Hotel.

It was the kind of “secret touristy” kind of thing that I’ve always loved, plus I’ll always take Asian fusion food and a rum drink.

We had a great time, and I lost my phone, but I was exhausted and figured that I’d be able to get it back. I’d recommend the Tonga Room for sure. It’s a big place, and there’s live music, so it was pretty great. Also it was nice to see the Fairmount. I have a certain soft spot for big old hotels. (Can’t imagine why!)

In the morning, we had plans to take the Love Bus tour, but first I had to retrieve my phone, so Dad and I grabbed an Uber over to the Fairmount to get it. That was quick, and easy and we had a chatty fun Uber driver.

BY the time we were back at the Sheraton, Mary and Mom were having breakfast, but we still had a bunch of time before our plan for the day, so we mostly just sat around the hotel room, before wandering down to the corner of fisherman’s wharf, where we would be picking up The Love Tour.

Dad found the tour online, basically a painted VW bus picks you up and you get driven around different San Francisco neighborhoods and taken to a few really good photo spots.

I very much enjoyed the tour and it seems like everywhere in that city has the most amazing view you’ve ever seen.

After the tour we went to lunch. I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant, because it was great. My dad found it. (Dad was in the driver’s seat of this whole trip, which was hard for me, normally the trip planner. Really hard.)

After lunch we gathered our things at the hotel and got on a ferry to Napa County. There was a bar on the ferry, so Mary and I obviously befriended the bar tender which was great, because it got us to the top pours on our wine! (YAY!)

The ferry went from Fisherman’s Wharf to Vallejo, and our house was in Fairfield. We got an uber, (SO MUCH UBER this trip!) and got to the house. After unpacking, another Uber took us to a shopping center where we ate a Thai restaurant and then bought snacks and stuff at Safeway. I got a pumpkin curry that was delicious but waayyyy too spicy for me. Well, just the curry and chicken were, when I actually got a bite of the pumpkin it cut the spice perfectly, but there wasn’t a lot of actual pumpkin pieces in it.

We were all completely wiped at this point, jet lag being what it is, and being on our feet most of the day. So we basically just went back to the house and crashed. Just, completely passed out.

Next up, we start our day drinking, light eating journey through wine country. It’s amazing.

I’m behind on EVERYTHING

So you guys, I know I’m way way behind on stuff.

I’m planning on writing some fun, in detail trip reports for my week in California, I hope to get to them soon. (I’m still adjusting to East Coast Time, and I’m VERY BUSY at work getting caught up.)

But here are some highlights:

  1. I am wildly in love with the city of San Francisco. It’s my favorite city I’ve ever visited. I’ll detail why, but it’s so beautiful, and I don’t think I encountered one grumpy customer service person!
  2. You all don’t know this about me, since I changed before I started writing this blog, but I used to pretty much only drink Chardonnay and Miller Lite and the occasional margarita. After a while I just stopped drinking Chardonnay. BUT I REDISCOVERED IT THIS PAST WEEK AND I LOVE IT VERY MUCH.
  3. 10 days of togetherness and wine drinking would have at one point driven my siblings and I to murder. Now we just had a lovely trip. Growth!
  4. I have a fun new hobby where Mary and I pose like we’re on the cover of Vanity Fair as a joke, and some of those pictures actually turned out cool!

So those are coming! As are book reviews. (Though I barely read on this trip! Too much wine!) And more Supernatural. And hey, Captain Marvel comes out this weekend, that one snuck up on us, huh? And Winter Is Coming one last time, so we’ll have winners to track. And an ultimate winner. (I promise not to cop out and insist that we’re the real winners for having been given the blessing of Game Of Thrones…) There’s a few new projects to breakdown and start.

Seriously, with what may be the final movie season, my renewed interest in my own literacy, an unrelated project and finally, finally cracking the creative code on that family memoir I’ve always wanted to write, plus this blog just changing shape as I change as a person. (I went back and read some old posts, it’s a cool thing to do. What I’ve learned? I’m much much better about vocalizing anger than I used to be.)

 

 

Revenge Of Dapper Day: Favorites

It’s time for favorites! You guys, seriously, I’m so fortunate, but in reality, this one was hard this time. Only because so much has become old hat for me, that the standouts stand out even more than usual! Seriously, I can’t believe that I have “routines” at Disney world now. I’m grateful for it, but it’s weird.

Ride:

I think Frozen gets the cake this time. If only for repitition. That I rode it three times within a day feels completely surreal. Also, I just love it so much. Because I rode it so many times, getting to really focus on Sven, he who is my favorite Animatronic, was a delight. Also, when I went on it with Mike and Megan, we took a really good pic.

Show: 

This was tough. “Happily Ever After” finally left it’s impression. And obviously, I will always and forever love “Illuminations,” but I think I have to give it to the floor show at The Edison. There’s the dancers, and the band and acrobats, and it’s really, really special. If you’re of age, give it a shot.

Meal: 

Biergarten. For sure. While it’s hard to dispute me devouring half a lobster in under 20 minutes due to not eating food on an MK day (not my greatest decision) I can’t get in the way of excellent German food, a liter of Heffewiezen, a baby grabbing at said liters of beer, and children dancing to German music.

Also seriously, the food. The pork schnitzel. HOLY CRAP. The warm potato salad, YES! The spatzel, the best I’ve ever had (sorry Uncle Mark!) and obviously the apple streudel. I mean obviously. 

Drink:

I DRANK A LITER OF HEFFEWEIZEN! Though the Martinis at the Edison are a very close second.

Snack:

This isn’t even mine. I didn’t  even snack much. (#costumeseasoniscoming and all…) But, I have to tell this story and I forgot about it while I was writing up my Animal Kingdom trip report. Mike was basically running a fever the whole time we were there. But this did not stop him from while we were sitting on line for Safari, turning me and saying, “hey is there someplace here that I can get a Dole Whip, or do I have to go to Magic Kingdom?” I replied, “Oh no, you can for sure get one here, you can even get it on a rum float!” He sighed, “I’m not feeling up to that, but that sounds AWESOME for next trip.” Before we left the park, Mike got his Dole Whip and Megan got a Mickey Bar (I’d already had my Mickey Bar at Magic Kingdom on Saturday) So that wins for favorite snack.

So that’s what’s happening there. I’m going again for a weekend this summer (still working on a date and plans! But it’s looking like mid July) I’ll get everything lined up for that soon. As for life here. We’re about to dive into the heart of movie season, with costume season nipping at it’s heels, I’m pushing through the end of Don Quioxote, which means, I’ll be picking up the new Trials of Apollo.

See you real soon!

Cosplay Corner: Cinderella Dapper Day Disney Bound

Since my decision to go to Spring Dapper Day was relatively short notice. (Within 60 days, so short by Disney World standards!) I was a bit worried about my dapper attire, but not overly worried, since vintage and vintage style clothes are kind of my thing.

Truth be told, I’d probably never wear true vintage to Dapper Day, I’d be far too nervous about tears, stains and other damage. Plus, I tend to be more comfortable in reproduction, and sucking in and wearing a full girdle for a wasp waisted 50’s dress at the Magic Kingdom just seems kinda dumb.

Anyway, my Magic Kingdom outfit was a done deal, as my Easter dress this year was a lovely 50’s looking light blue lace sundress, that needed very little extra to become a Cinderella bound.

The key was in the shoes which were great, and a huge hit, but not quite as comfortable as they should be.

They’re sparkly jellies with wedges. I found them on Wish.com, which is also, incidentally where I got the dress. And the red dress I wore on Friday night to Disney Springs…and both of my crinolines…I really love that site. They actually didn’t beat up my feet too bad, but just didn’t have the support I needed for a whole day at the park. So, I switched to saddle shoes for the afternoon/evening.

If you’re into vintage clothes and events, I really can’t recommend a pair of saddle shoes enough. You can find them online at Amazon, or sometimes even at DSW, and they’re super comfortable, go with most vintage looks, and always get a great reaction. (My pair were pilfered from one of Mom’s productions of Bye Bye Birdie…shhhh….)

I also wore my Black Canary choker and tossed my hair in a bun (my preferred MK hairstyle anyway, especially with it’s length these days…) and voila!

Sadly, because of flights and drinks and eating schedules, I didn’t quite make it to Midnight, but I think I did my girl proud.

Revenge Of Dapper Day 4/30: It’s A Jungle Out There

You know you’re getting old when the third day of your long weekend excursion, everyone’s sick and wiped out, but you soldier on and have a good day anyway.

I was feeling a bit hung over, though not too bad, Mike had caught a killer cold, and Megan was in great shape, when Megan and I headed to Animal Kingdom to get on Flight of Passage during Extra Magic Hour.

The ride is great, but because of my hangover, I hadn’t eaten, and you know, I threw up. It was awful, and it took about an hour to recover, but Animal Kingdom has lots to look at and wander and see during that recovery time. We also met Flick!

Then Mike met up with us and we waiting on line for a while for Na’Vi River Journey, but decided to bail and just do other stuff instead. We wound up doing the Safari, Everest and Kali, as well as lunch at Nomad Lounge. So, all in all, a pretty good day before Megan and Mike had to head for their plane.

I picked up a Tower of Terror fast pass and hopped on a bus to Studios, where I happened to arrive just as The March Of The First Order began. This really is such a cool fun experience. Then I headed to meet Star Lord and Groot, because, you know, I needed to know they were OK. (SOB)

I still had some time before the FP came up so I headed to Star Tours and then grabbed an ice cream for my walk over to Tower of Terror, which I rode, and then decided I was done. It was after 4, so I hopped on a bus to Springs, and then went to Homecomin’, didn’t eat nearly enough of that delicious chicken I loved so much last year and then hopped on the boat back to Riverside, before grabbing a Lyft to the airport.

I was completely wiped out you guys, I had no energy, and was deeply frustrated because only 1 security line was operating. But I got to the gate in plenty of time, slept for most of my flight, and then was happily flopped in my bed by 1 AM.

It was a great weekend, but I’ve come to the conclusion that these “Fit it all in” long weekends just aren’t sustainable. I still plan on doing weekend trips, but I think from now on I’ll stick to one park on them (maybe 2) and not do parks on arrival or departure days. (Or fly at 7PM instead of 10, and only do a morning).

Up next, we’ll talk favorites. No hotel review, because I’d stayed in the hotel already. (Update, I still love it. 10 out of 10, will stay again.)

Revenge Of Dapper Day 4/29: A Dream Can Be A Dream Come True

I don’t know why I ever even tell myself that I’m going to go to Studios for Extra Magic Hour on Sunday. I never wind up doing it. It just doesn’t happen. This time, I was actually ready, but missed the bus and I decided rather than rush it when the next bus came, I’d take my time, get some breakfast and rope drop at Epcot.

This wound up being a much better choice, in the long run, I think. While waiting at the turnstiles I made some friends (YAY!) with two girls who were bounding as Rey and Kylo Ren, we parted ways quickly, but I was happy to have talked to them. Once we got in to the doors, I reconnected with them and there was again, a bunch of chatting, giggling and explaining of dapper ware. We wound up riding Soarin together, before I was off to Norway, ready to redeem my Frozen 9:30 fast pass.

There wasn’t much of a line, so I decided to wait for it on standby and then ride again with the fast pass. This worked awesomely, and by 10 I’d ridden the ride twice.

I had a bunch of time to kill, since I was waiting to meet up with Michael and Megan, and with our friend Nick, and his brother in law and his girlfriend (We had quite a crew), so I decided to wander around a bit. I stopped for photopass pictures, I met Baymax, I rode Spaceship Earth & Imagination (had to, you know, the bound..) Then I heard from Nick, and we met up with him and his baby daughter Eva. (His son Matty was sick, so Matty and his wife Jen stayed home). We rode Nemo, which was Eva’s first Disney ride. (She’s not even 1, she was such a trooper all day.) We then met up with Nick’s brother in law Mike and Mike’s girlfriend Gabby, headed to Mexico to get La Cava Margaritas, before Mike and Megan finally got to the park.

So, we were supposed to eat at Biergarten at 2, but by the time we’d met up with everyone, it was closer to 3. (Notes on a theme) Luckily, we still got our table. The German buffet was delicious, the music was really fun, and I heartily reccomend this restaurant for larger groups. (We were seven including baby…) especially if you like meat. Pork in particular.

Then we just got to wandering in World Showcase, stopping for drinks in Italy, France and The UK, before the locals decided to split. We took some group pictures in front of Spaceship Earth, and then Mike, Megan and I decided to ride it.

I teased Mike that this felt exceptionally like when we were kids and our dad always took us on Spaceship Earth in the evening before the fireworks. He nodded, “Dad, really loves this ride.” After our trip through time (I should note both times I rode, no breakdowns. HOORAY!) Then we decided to go for Margaritas (TWICE IN ONE DAY! BLESS!) then Mike said he wanted to try for Frozen.

Wait was about a half hour, and we got right on. (3 times, I rode Frozen 3 times this day, if you’re keeping track.) Then we headed to Morocco to check in for our Spice Road Table reservation. We settled at a table, ordered Hummus Fries, (YESSSS) Rasberrie Brie, Fish Croquettes and a pitcher of Sangria, and watched Illuminations. It was lovely. As always.

Next stop was The Beach Club to grab a Minnie Van to Springs, where we had drinks at Enzo’s Hideaway and then Raglan Road before heading back to the room and basically pass out.

Stay tuned for Animal Kingdom, light Studios, and a quick AF trip home!

Revenge of Dapper Day: 4/28 – So Much Pretty

WARNING: This Trip Report Contains VERY Light Infinity War spoilers. No details but some sketchiness.

I’ve complained in the past about feeling largely cut off and unwelcome at Dapper Day events, not on a macro level but on a micro one. People were just not willing to engage with the weirdo stranger there by herself.

That was not the case this trip. Seriously, I talked with TONS of people, exchanged contact info and even enjoyed some serious ride time with the folks. The first was Rob, who I’d met at the Edison the night before. We teamed up for Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom.

I was a few minutes late, but we managed to hit The Barnstormer, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear and take some pics by the purple wall before he had to head to work. I then picked up my touring plans, and ran around riding just about everything, and taking lots of pictures, before my feet gave out.

See, the night before, I’d gone for 4 inch heels. (HUGE MISTAKE) They looked great, but it got me started at a disadvantage for Saturday, and I was wearing these adorable jelly wedges, to play on the glass slippers. (We’ll get into that in the cosplay corner!) They were adorable, but KILLED my feet.

So, I decided to head to the Grand Floridian for lunch. There were no tables available so I headed right to Springs instead. I opted to treat myself to a Minnie Van, because I wanted to try the service.

My driver was wonderful, we chatted about the Studios expansion until we eventually hit the most fraught topic of my weekend.

“Have…” he exhaled, “have you seen Infinity War yet?” I exhaled and said that I had, and we went on to commiserate about our various levels of NOT OK, and speculation for the future of the franchise. We also both cried.

It may have been the weirdest, most wonderful moment of nerd bonding I’ve ever had with a stranger. (Except for that time a girl I was working with asked if I was a Doctor Who fan, but you all know how that one turned out.) I then hopped on the water taxi and popped to the Boathouse, where I ate half a lobster, downed a ton of water and a couple of Bellinis.

Feeling much better, if I do say so myself, I had two options, but not time for both, sadly, I could explore Springs a bit more, or head back to the hotel and hit the pool. I decided on exploration.

I headed to Amorette’s and picked up the Millenial Pink Champagne…which is a light Kir Royale. It’s delicious, and very pretty, just not like, revolutionary. I also got a pastry, that I wound up not eating because I was never hungry at a time that was convenient to eat it.

Then I shopped. I only bought one thing, and it wasn’t even for myself. Well, I also bought these baller Cinderella Havianas, because they’re very cute, and seriously, my poor feet couldn’t take it anymore.

Finally, I reached the boat dock to get back to Riverside and headed first to Fulton’s for some aleve and a bottle of wine, and then back to the room and watch a different forty minute stretch of My Cousin Vinny than I’d watched the evening before, while enjoying said wine. Delightful. 

My next big plan was to go on Jungle Cruise and head to California Grill to try to get up to Lounge for a fireworks seat.

I did get on the cruise, where I had an AWESOME skipper (Jordan, she was really great) and then hoofed to the Contemporary. Couldn’t get up to lounge, so I rode the monorail over to the Floridian, thinking I could at least get a drink at Mizner’s before the show.

It was packed.

So I got BACK on the monorail and headed to the park, got a Mickey bar and managed to find a really nice spot on the Hub.

I’m falling in love with Happily Ever After. It’s a beautiful show. I cried a whole bunch this time. Then I quickly zipped over to Tomorrowland and hopped on the People Mover. It’s fun at night.

Next came a ride on Dumbo, which, while fun, I would probably not do again. Finally I hopped on line for Big Thunder, and that closed my night. I was hoping to stay until close, but I was completely beat, so I headed back to the hotel, poured another glass of that wine, and watched some TV again before passing out.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Epcot, family, friends and Figment!

Revenge Of Dapper Day Disney Trip Preview!

Guys! I’m off to Disney World again this week. (SHUT UP! YOU HAVE A PROBLEM! I’m FINE!)

So, as always I thought I’d do a rundown of what I have planned, what I’d like to do and then when I do the trip reports, we can all laugh about the plans going off the rails, sound good?

First of all, named the trip “Revenge Of Dapper Day” since it’s the third one. My third Dapper Day and the third time I’m going this weekend in April.  (It’s a Star Wars joke!)

Anywho, here’s my thoughts:

Friday April 27: Arrival Day

Hooray for arrival day! I’m not taking my customary 5/6 AM flight for a lot of reasons, but mainly it was because I wanted to actually do a Disney Springs night, and that tends to not happen when I arrive in the morning and want to rush right to the parks. SO! My flight is at 2, I get in at 4:30, which means I should be arriving at Port Orleans: Riverside by 6:30 at the latest. I have a reservation at Maria & Enzo’s at 7:45 after which I plan to just wander around a little before going to The Edison for drinking and dancing. That’s also the official Dapper gathering. If I’m not enjoying myself, there’s a NON ZERO shot of me hopping a bus to the Poly and hitting Trader Sam’s.

Saturday April 28: Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom opens at 8, so I plan to be at the turnstiles at 6:30.

I’m kidding. I‘m not doing that again. In REALITY, I’d like to be there by 7:30, that way I can rope drop over to Fantasy Land and get Mine Train and Princess Meets knocked out. (I’ll be dapper bounding as Cinderella so she’s a must, and obviously I have to see my buddy Rapunzel.) I have a bunch of morning fast passes (Space Mountain, Peter Pan & Splash Mountain) plus I’ll hit the other heavy hitters with lighter lines (Pirates, Mansion, Small World, Jungle Cruise) and then I’m thinking I’ll go over and do a brunch type meal at The Grand Floridian, after checking out the Dapper Day pop up shop there. I don’t have a reservation, but I doubt I’ll have trouble getting a table at Grand Floridian Cafe, there seem to ALWAYS be reservations for that day of!

I’ll probably pick up a fast pass and maybe ride the riverboat after that before my afternoon break, where I FULLY PLAN on spending at least an hour sitting by the pool. I never do pool time on these trips and I always regret it. I’m hoping to then either do Riverside Mill quick grab or maybe head to Springs for a late lunch/supper type meal depending on timing, before going back over to MK for the evening (Aiming for around 6).

I love evening at The Kingdom, so I’ll likely wander, do a few rides, maybe character meets, but the one thing I absolutely want to do this trip is head to The Contemporary around 8 and see if I can get to California Grill Lounge for Happily Ever After. Then I’ll head back to the park for my absolute favorite time of day post nighttime show park time. God, I love it, I love the lighting and swimming upstream from the crowds leaving at Main Street (or Hollywood Ave, or The Oasis, Or…I’ve actually never stayed at Epcot post Illuminations…) There are a few things I SPECIFICALLY want to do in these two hours (Dumbo, People Mover & Big Thunder Mountain) but mostly again, I think I’m just gonna grab a Dole Whip and walk about. The park closes at midnight, so I likely won’t go out afterwards, but if I’m SUPER antsy, I MIGHT go to Jellyrolls, (Which stays open until 2) or Sam’s (open until 1 I think?)

Sunday April 29: Epcot Dapper Day and FRIENDS GALORE!

I’m really looking forward to Sunday. I’m hoping to get up and over to Studios for it’s Extra Magic Hour, and hit it’s 4 rides being done by 9:30-ish (this is a truly non difficult thing to do over there at the moment…) I don’t feel the need to over indulge at the Launch Bay or do any of the shows, since I’ve done them all a few times, and I want to get to Epcot for Dapper Day festivities.

I have a 9:30 Frozen fast pass (PSYCHED!) so I don’t have to worry about rope dropping it, and I left my third open, (second was for Spaceship Earth) so that I can hopefully pick up Soarin’ after that. As y’all know, I prefer light scheduling for Epcot days since it’s a wander around and find your fun park (as opposed to Magic Kingdom, where I hyperventilate if my morning isn’t SUPER STRUCTURED because otherwise SO MANY LINES). I haven’t decided on my bound, I’m too fat for the dress I initially wanted to wear, the thing I put together instead looks a bit too casual, though is still very period and I’m waiting on a few pieces I ordered from Amazon as a third alternative, which isn’t a bound at all, just dapper. (I’m hanging out with Juli today, I’m sure she’ll help me decide)

BUT most excited of all for this day, my brother Mike and his girlfriend Megan are going to meet up with me here. They’ll be at a wedding in Sarasota on Saturday and were looking for something to do for the rest of the weekend, and this just sort of worked out. We’re also meeting up with our friend Nick and Jen and their kids (YAY! BABIES!) (Also Nick and Jen!) and Meg’s cousin. We’re doing a late-ish lunch at Biergarten (2PM) and an 8:15 PM drinks/desert/small plates at Spice Road Table (Though I’m continuing to look for Pub reservations throughout the week. MAYBE WE’LL GET LUCKY!) I’m excited for Biergarten, and Mama loves her Hummus fries so woo!

Because we’ll be with Mike, we’ll likely wind up back at Springs for the night festivities, as he feels about Raglan Road how I feel about Trader Sam’s. It’s his all time favorite Disney Spot. I haven’t done the pub properly, so I’m sure this will be super duper fun!

Monday April 30th: ANIMAL KINGDOM HOORAY!

Mike’s dying to go to Pandora and I’m never in a million years going to say no to time at Animal Kingdom, so that’s what we’re doing in the morning. My flight isn’t until 10 PM, where as Mike and Meg head out at 7, so I’ll have the late afternoon/early evening to myself and I’m torn between MORE ANIMAL KINGDOM, and Studios or Epcot or Springs, but I’ll play it by ear…I’ll definitely do a good meal, where to be determined, but hopefully somewhere new, around 6, before getting a Lyft to the airport around 7:30 or 8. (Suggestions welcome, someplace with bar/lounge seating preferred…just because solo dining…)

I’m excited for a lot of things this trip but mostly I’m excited to get bits of a solo trip and hang out and share new memories with people I care about. It’s the best of both worlds! Honestly, if I had one thing I would have changed about my November trip it would have been insisting on splitting off and doing my own thing a bit more (or changing my flights so I had some solo time…) just because I’m so used to doing things on my own in the parks that I bristled a bit at being on someone else’s time table the entire time.

Overall I’m excited to head back, and I love that this has sort of become my little welcome the good weather back tradition. (And that it happens to coincide with Dapper Day now is extra fun.) Seeing Epcot done up for Flower And Garden Festival is sooo lovely, it’s my favorite time of year there, aesthetically. (Though I haven’t done Festival Of The Arts…maybe next year…)

 

Merry Dapper Day: 11/21/2017: “The Wilderness Mus Be Explored”

I’ve gone on seven trips to Disney World in the past 2 years, and the one thing that surprises people more than, “and you don’t have children?” is when they ask what my favorite thing to do is, and I say, “Walk around Animal Kingdom.”

PhotoPass_Visiting_AK_406513642186 (1)

My Disney trips have had me fall head over heels in love with the Animal Kingdom, and this was even before Pandora opened and gilded the lily as it were.

And this day, this magical wonderful day, had us (mostly because Juli is something of a genius.) really diving into exploration of the park.

We started the day in Pandora, at 8 AM sharp. We had a 9:10 fastpass for Flight of Passage, so we started on Na’vi River Cruise, which I really love riding, it’s such a beautiful and peaceful and lovely experience. I also love the woven queue, the explanation of the various animals you’ll see on the cruise, and of course, the incredible Shamaan Audio-Animatronic.

Then we did some running around and exploring, before our fastpass came up, and then we did Flight Of Passage.

I’d wondered if maybe, maybe I’d with the long wait, and hype for it, been overwowed by Flight Of Passage.

I no longer feel that way. This ride is exceptionally wonderful. It’s beautiful, well executed and didn’t even make me queasy this time around. Hooray! Then we stopped by Pongu Pongu, to get some snacks. I was excited to try the Lumpia, and I also grabbed the Mo’Ara High Country Ale, since I’d tried the Grog Ale last time, Dom got the Grog Ale, and Juli got the Night Blossom, for the Insta of the thing, and also, because it did not occur to me when I ordered it, it wasn’t yet 10 AM. (Our early start had my internal clock off by a bit.) Ah, whatever, it was vacation, if you can’t drink at 9:30 in the morning on vacation, when can you?

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Juli with her Night Blossom

The Lumpia is really good and I get why people were freaking out about it back when Pandora first opened. I’m a sucker for anything desert-y with a cream cheese base. I also liked the beer, again, I’m a sucker for an Amber. Though I preferred the Grog Ale. And if I had a choice, I’d go with a Safari Amber instead.

We then decided to begin the “Wilderness Explorers” part of our day, which allowed for much of the exploring that we did. This was something Juli insisted on, and she was absolutely right! We chatted with the Explorerer troop leaders in Pandora and took a boatload of pictures, before making our way to Harambe to check in for our brunch at Tusker House.

Tusker House has a mixed internet reputation but it’s Kristi’s family’s favorite and my friend April also counts it as a stand by for her family. Plus in these seven trips in two years, I hadn’t yet done a character meal.

really loved this restaurant. The layout is a market style for the buffet with lovely thick wood tables where we sat. And of course there’s the characters in their safari finest!

During the meal we met with Goofy, Daisy, Donald and Mickey. This was our third encounter with Goofy and we were thrilled about it. Specifically though, I was psyched to meet with Donald and Daisy, since I was wearing my Webby Vanderquack Disneybound this day.

The food is really interesting and cool, and we specifically book at 10:45 so that we could get a taste of both the breakfast and lunch options. Also, the drink options at Tusker House come from Dawa Bar, which means I got to have a Sugar Cane Mojito, which, as I’ve stated before, is my favorite bar made mojito I’ve ever had. (Disney is one of the few places I let myself have rum, because my opportunities to be ah “friendly,” the way I tend to get when I drink rum, are limited.)

Once we finished there, it became clear that it was about to rain, and we decided to head in to Festival Of The Lion King. Neither Juli nor I had done this show before, and I think that I’m going to fit it in to every itinerary from now on. It’s truly spectacular.

Then it was on to more Wilderness Badges, this time, by going to Gorilla Falls again, then after that, we had Everest Fast Passes, and completed those badges. It was then on to my favorite (very super favorite) thing in Animal Kingdom, The Maharahja Jungle Trek. Unlike Gorilla Falls, the trek is almost never crowded, it’s tucked back in a weird back corner of the Asia section, rather than in a highly trafficked ride exit dump, and it’s residents are a bit more subdued. We talked to a cast member about the tiger cubs. (I was really hoping we’d see them.) He explained that they’re not on display yet, as they want to limit human contact with them. Disappointed but understanding we were happy to at least see their proud papa wandering around.

We had a truly magical moment, however, as we reached the aviary. I’ve walked the Jungle Trek many times and never, have I seen this area so alive. Birds were zipping above our heads, skittering around on the ground and perched happily singing in the trees. It was exceptional.

Post Jungle Trek we headed to Disney Springs where we all did some shopping, and then back to the hotel, where we picked up dinner and relaxed in the room. (And had one of those quiet exhale moments that I’m so crazy about.) We headed back over to the park to experience Pandora at night and Rivers Of Light.

I was head over heals for Pandora having only seen it during the day. Seeing it at night just further cemented my love for Animal Kingdom. Seriously, I’m obsessed. Maybe someday I’ll have an Animal Kingdom trip, where I stay at lodge and only go to Animal Kingdom, except for one night when I go over to the Poly to have drinks at Trader Sam’s. (This is not a logistical reality, just something that I fantasize about.)

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Then it was off to Rivers Of Light. We stopped by the Thirsty River Bar first, where I tried to Himalayan Ghost, which is, I must say, incredible. I really do need to incorporate Guava Juice into my home mixers.

The show was spectacular. I really like it, and I think the only reason that it will never eclipse Illumiations as my favorite is because I don’t have childhood memories of it. (And for the moment, it’s sort of a pain in the butt to see.)  It’s so beautiful and interesting and well done and the song is great.

After that, it was time for our party to part ways. Juli and Dom were getting up super early to begin their drive home, and still had packing to do. The park was still open for about an hour, so I decided rather than be in their way while they packed to further explore at least in some fashion.

I knew I had a few options, but I landed on heading to Nomad Lounge and having a night cap, and then hopping on line to ride Na’Vi River Journey one more time.

Settling in at Nomad I had a Night Monkey and chatted with the bar tender, before settling up and heading over to River Journey, where I talked to a family as we wound through the cue, and then headed out to the bus and back, where I crashed out.

BONUS Departure Day:

I had a 9:42 flight. I didn’t book it that way. I’d booked in the afternoon hoping to get in a morning at Studios to do Star Wars stuff. (Juli and Dom have no care for a galaxy far far away and I wasn’t going to force my super-fandom on them) But, American Airlines changed their flight times, so, here we are. I skipped Magical Express, since it was picking up at 5:35 AM for the Holiday rush, and I knew I didn’t need that much time.

I got up, took some pictures of the room, and grabbed a Lyft to the airport and then it was home, with no hiccups.

Overall, this was an incredible trip. Longer than I usually do, and much more strenuous. Coming up later in the week, we’ll do a hotel review & favorites, and then I’ve got a special, things I’ve learned in my Disney Year post!

But for now, well, as they say, See You Real Soon!

Merry Dapper Day Trip Report: 11/17/2017 “Most Merriest Day!”

Hey everyone! It’s time for a trip report, who’s excited? (ME! I am!) I’m recovering from both the trip and the eat a thon that is Thanksgiving which makes lazing around in yoga pants talking about the trip sort of great!

So, day 1. Travel days are, as I’ve said before, tricky! I flew out of JFK this time instead of Newark because it would up being about $200 cheaper (in a “time and aggrivation as money” analysis however, MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE). I had a 10 o’clock flight, so I left the house at 6 AM to get parked and to the gate by 8:30. It was an uneventful but lovely flight, I even landed early at 12:45, and, true to form, was in my room at Pop Century, an hour and a half later. (SHORTER Magical Express trip than ever.)

Juli and Dom had driven down and arrived the night before, and had headed over to the monorail loop for lunch, so I got to the room to change for our evening at Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

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After Juli and Dom got back to the room I headed to the food court and picked up a flatbread.

Before the party, from 4 to 7, we had a few fastpasses, Splash Mountain and the Tinker Bell meet and greet. Both went well, Splash being just refurbished, it looked amazing.

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I love meeting Tink, too. She’s definitely on my list of people to shoot for most trips! We also stopped by to say hi to Peter Pan, as he’s Juli’s favorite, and since she was wearing her pixie dust outfit. (I’m sure she’ll be discussing this in detail on her blog, during her “Fashion Friday” pieces.)

Then, 6 o’clock, and then 7 hit and it was party time. We walked on to Pirates and Jingle Cruise, after Juli changed into her Elsa Disneybound and we walked around, eating cookies, drinking hot chocolate and marveling at the Christmas decorations, and snow on Main Street. Sometime in there we grabbed dinner at Pecos Bill’s, which was a new one for me, and even though I generally try to avoid Magic Kingdom counter service, I liked my chicken taco quite a bit. (Shocking, that I enjoyed a chicken taco, I know!)

We met Judy Hopps and Nick Wylde, which was also super fun, and paid a visit to Goofy dressed as Santa. Then we hopped over to wait to meet Donald and Uncle Scrooge and, sadly, for my current Duck obsessed self, decided to bail when it was getting close to fireworks time. Then we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave main street and all it’s glory before watching the parade.

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But first I want to talk about Holiday Wishes. I’d never seen it before (obv) and tried to avoid videos of it. But I’d heard about the “Oh Christmas Tree” section in various places, and I’ve got to tell you, it did not disappoint. It’s a breathtaking combination of pyrotechnics, music and lighting, that of course, made me cry like a baby.

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Then the parade. Overall, I preferred the experience of the Christmas party to the Halloween party, and really really enjoyed the Christmas parade, but it can’t touch Boo To You. That said, taken on it’s own, it’s spectacular, and the Christmas costumes on the characters are great, and I’ll always love a visit from Santa.

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Post parade we wound back, rode The Haunted Mansion and then bough some party exclusive merch at the Emporium, before heading back to Pop to sleep.

Up next! Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom, and other thoughts and joys.