Disney 2013

Disney 2013 Recap: ArrivalEpcotAnimal KingdomMagic KingdomHollywood StudiosEpcot Holidays

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FAQ's answered:
No, we didn't stay inside the park. We had suites (so we didn't have to share rooms with the kids or my parents!) and during a holiday week, it was just much more affordable outside the Disney property. We didn't need Disney Extra Magic Hours, b/c all the parks were open late for the holiday week (Magic Kingdom was open until 1 AM every night, Animal Kingdom 8 PM instead of 5, Hollywood Studios 10 PM, etc.) and my parents didn't want to be tied down to a dining plan, so we didn't need a full Disney vacay package. We didn't stress over not having a character meal scheduled, b/c honestly, Will & Annelise just aren't big into the characters. Annelise saw the two princesses she wanted in the Magic Kingdom, and we saw another in Epcot - bonus, but neither wanted to wait in line to see *ANY* others. (I was a little surprised.) The transportation from our hotel was easy, not over-crowded, & reliable. I will say, if we get to go back again, it may be worth staying inside the park: b/c it was the kids' first time (& my first time in 25 years! 1988, y'all :-D) we wanted to take our time to see everything - and we did! :-) But if we went back, we would hop around a bit more, hit our known favorites multiple times, and having the extra FastPasses you get access to with the MagicBands (bracelets that serve as your tickets, room keys, meal plan, FastPasses, etc. when you stay inside the park) would really be worth it. I totally don't feel like we missed anything not having those this time - taking our time & having complete freedom was perfect for us! - but it would be fun to maximize the features we love next time, if that makes sense. The weather was cold more often than not. Colder than we thought it would feel with the wind. But we made the best of it, the kids rocked the Falcons football/cheer jackets I made with my Silhouette for each of them, and JB made the smart choice to buy three soft & easy-to-carry blankets Wednesday night in the Magic Kingdom! :-)

And yes, we drove. We probably wouldn't drive, again, as long as it's not a holiday. :-P B/c our return day was set in stone, though, (it HAD to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, b/c we had a FL wedding on Sat, and we had to get back for school & work on Mon) the ticket prices were insane - at least $700 per person! :-O It was worth driving to not spend $3000 on airfare, but yeah...

We left Texas after our last youth football game, Saturday afternoon November 23rd, about 1:30 PM. We left it open to stop for the night wherever we felt like it, but JB powered through! The hotel let us check in in the middle of the night, we slept in, and we took Sunday easy to relax, recover, & hang out with my parents before running from ride to ride all week. ;-) We went to Universal CityWalk to hang out & watch football Sunday afternoon:

YAY FOR VACAY!!!
Surfin' Sis
Surfin' LaLa

We drove over to Downtown Disney for dinner & the evening. We just wanted a small meal...until the kids saw the riverboat that is Fulton's Crab House and HAD to eat on it! :-) Y'all know I'm not a regular seafood fan; but I do enjoy the occasional crab cake, and this was one of THE BEST: jumbo lump blue crab on top of roasted corn maque choux, a super crispy fried green tomato, & remoulade = mmmm!!!

In front Fulton's Crab House

Afterwards, we couldn't skip the Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for dessert! ;-) It smelled like pure heaven in there... Mmmmmm, Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa...

Our first day in the parks was Monday, November 25th: we did Epcot! This was a strategic choice: Magic Kingdom is slammed on Mondays, b/c most people want to begin their weeks there in front of the castle. I was thrilled to begin at Epcot, b/c quite honestly, the countries were my FAVORITE memory from my only other Disney visit 25 years ago, (1988!)

We got FastPasses to come back & ride Test Track as soon as we walked in the park...and already, they were for 7:30 PM! No matter - we began to explore everything else. :-) We went next door to Mission: Space...and it actually broke down with us in the simulator! But, again - no worries: we got extra FastPasses to use another time. :-P

We checked out Ellen's Energy Adventure... (They seriously must've updated that just a few years after I came through...& haven't touched it since! :-D It's early 90's-o-rama! :-P)

Requisite 1st pic with "the golf ball"

Onto the World Showcase!!!

One of my most vivid childhood Disney memories is the boat ride in the Mexican Pavilion. It was just as vibrant & colorful as I remembered. :-)

Love outside Mexico

Vikings in Norway

We also rode the Maelstrom, which was a fun first for me, too (it was being refurbished in '88 :-P). We ate at Norway's Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe - yummy sandwiches & a few pastries. ;-)

Now here's where the day kicked into high gear! The kids began Agent P's World Showcase Adventure: they "signed up" (it's free!) as secret agents to help Agent P (Perry from the show Phineas and Ferb) defeat the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz by completing secret missions sent to them personally over a special cell phone. It was PURE MAGIC!!! There are 4 or 5 different missions to complete in each of seven country pavilions; the missions send you searching the area to find clues. When you discover the correct spot that the cell phone message has sent you to find and press the "OK" button, the signal activates something to happen in REAL LIFE: a smoke signal appears out of a chimney, a banner rises out of a tree, a statue appears for a moment out of nowhere, a laser beam shoots across the window, etc. I would give ANYTHING to have been videoing Annelise's face when she made her first one happen by herself: it was a troll in a window in Norway that turned into a flashing robot for a few seconds when she activated her signal. She was STUNNED!!! It was spellbinding!!! I cannot say enough wonderful things about these Agent P missions; they really keep children engaged in searching & exploring these different countries. Will & Annelise had so much fun and felt empowered!

Clue reading in Norway

Making this Chinese calendar light up & give a clue in China

See their expressions?!?! These missions were SERIOUS business!!!

Victory in China! (Can you make out the little green monkey statue sinking back down under the water in the pond?)

Painted faces! The Blake kids looooove getting their faces painted, and I think this may have been the best they've ever gotten.

Grandaddo love!

Clue reading for a mission in Germany (They made those characters appear in the top of that middle building.)

Meeting Snow White in Germany: this was a surprise bonus! There just happened to be a small line, and LaLa volunteered to wait in it while the kids & I popped into Werther's Karamell-Küche (caramel kitchen) = best caramel corn EVER! (And super fun for me, b/c everyone in there was actually German, so I ordered auf Deutsch and felt super cool! ;-))

I was kind of surprised overall at how little interest the kids had in the characters. I honestly think we *just missed* the "magic age" window with Annelise & her Disney princess obsession. :-/ We're not big Disney character people, anyway, (my kids truly didn't know which one was Goofy & which was Pluto) so that part I expected; but I thought they'd get a little swept up into the character hoopla when we were actually there. Nope. :-P But since they didn't have to wait in line, & they'd already finished their Agent P mission in Germany, they were game for my mom's fave: Snow White...

She was gorgeous, and she did sign the kids' Disney shirts I made! (I knew my kids wouldn't care about the autograph books "everyone" does = more clutter; but I thought it would be awesome for the characters to sign their Disney shirts, so the signatures would actually be *seen*, again! :-D I kept their shirts & a Sharpie in my little backpack I had each day.) She was just so very lovely!

Grandaddo catching a piece of caramel corn in his mouth! Nice throw, Will! (See the corn flying through the air, against the edge of the tree?)

Close-up of Will's face painting - oh, those eyelashes!!!

The model train sign in Germany says "Würzburg" = my German hometown!!!!

The drink in my hand is a Mango Gingerita from the China Pavilion, (even though this pic is in Italy! & I know: anything "-rita" should originate in Mexico, but this sucker was so good, I forgave the poor naming. ;-)) The ginger was VERY intense! I'm still convinced it helped the nasty cold I was fighting. (Yep - I was sick all week. :-/ The stupid cough is *STILL* lingering!)

Epcot family love

"We've got the whole world in our hands..."

Will eating his fave food in Japan: sushi!

After our World Tour, we headed back to retry Mission: Space (we took the green intensity ;-)) and use our FastPasses for Test Track. It absolutely did NOT disappoint! It was JB & Will's favorite thing in Epcot. You get to design your own virtual custom concept vehicle on a touch screen based on the following test criteria: capability (handling), responsiveness (maneuverability), efficiency (fuel-saving and environmentally friendly), and power (speed). You then get in a SIM car for a test drive to see how your concept performs, as you rev through rough terrain and surprise obstacles along the winding Test Track circuit, fly through straight-aways, maneuver switchbacks through inclement weather, hug curves banked at 50° angles, and scale hills that are up to three stories high! The track is almost a mile long, with peak speeds of 65 mph.

We finished our first Disney day with the huge fireworks show, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth before heading back to the hotel around 10:15 PM.

Tuesday the 26th was our day at Animal Kingdom. Of the two "newer" parks (Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios), this was *BY FAR* my favorite!!! So impressed! My Dad would've loved it. :-) I thought the details of the "towns" in Asia & Africa were fascinating!

The kids had a blast scouring the park as official Wilderness Explorers - collecting badges & learning about nature along the way. "With each one you complete, you can collect a new sticker badge to place in your official Wilderness Explorer field guide, including:
•Veterinary Badge – Help diagnose a sea turtle’s health issue
•Dinosaur Badge – Join in the exploration for dinosaur fossils
•Animal Find Badge – Check off each of the animals you see
•Music Badge – Learn how to play an African drum pattern
•Yeti Badge – Find Yeti artifacts and hear about the folklore"
We ran our tails off to get all 31 badges!!! (The guides at the end were impressed ;-))

Accepting the Wilderness Explorers challenge

Our #1 priority upon entering the park (after joining the Wilderness Explorers) was to send JB & Grandaddo to get FastPasses for Kilimanjaro Safaris while the kids & I rode Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. This was my & Annelise's FAVORITE ride in ALL of Disney World!!!!!

Jumping for joy on the way!

LaLa took this shot of us going up, up, up... (you can see all of Disney from the top!)

Victory!

Am I slightly surprised Annelise liked it so much? Yeah, a little (it is an INTENSE rollercoaster!) but she's also more of a thrill-seeker than Will. ;-) Will rode it this first time with us, but he was a tad nervous to go back. He would have with JB, but JB didn't want to, either, so it was the GIRLS' ride later that night! :-D I have to say, I've never been "obsessed" with a ride before - they're fun, but whatever - until THIS. It's the first ride I can think of anytime anywhere that I would choose to ride over & over & over & over &... Not to mention, the mountain itself is stunningly beautiful. I was more impressed with it as a focal point than I was with Cinderella's castle in the Magic Kingdom.

After our life-changing :-P Everest ride, we reunited with LaLa, JB & Grandaddo to head over to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The kids collected badges along the way:

Earning their Yeti badge

Earning their Indonesian music badge

Earning their international exchange badge

As someone who has actually been to Africa (Kenya) on real safari, I managed my expectations for Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail...but they were FANTASTIC!!! (Disney really *does* make sure this stuff is done right!) Next, we took "the Wildlife Express Train for a peaceful 7-minute, 1.2-mile journey from the heart of Africa to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, a park area dedicated to the preservation and conservation of animals." [If there's a train going ANYWHERE, the Blake family will be taking a ride. Will's passion! :-)]

Earning an animal investigation badge with this baby gator

Pigs in the Affection Section petting zoo

Meeting Rafiki from The Lion King! LaLa & JB secured their spots in line while the kids earned 4 badges all around the Conservation Station. Rafiki was awesome - he signed the kids' shirts, as well! (Yes, even with those giant hands! It's completely legible, too! :-D)

We took the train back to "town", hit up Pizzafari for lunch, and caught the Festival of the Lion King show = delightful!

In front of the Tree of Life with LaLa

The kids dashed to the Maharajah Jungle Trek to earn their last couple badges with some bats & tigers, and then...

Success! Back at the main Wilderness Explorers station to receive their final badge of the day and take the Wilderness Explorers oath!

As the day wound down, we also hit up It's Tough to be a Bug! (ugh - 3D makes me nauseous & I *HATE* getting surprise sprayed with water! this was not my nor Annelise's thing ;-)), The Boneyard (little kids' playground - super cute, but probably the only time our kids will be young enough to enjoy for a few min), TriceraTop Spin, and Primeval Whirl...which was one of only TWO rides in ALL of Disney that you needed to be 48" to ride; Annelise is 47.5", but I told her to walk in on her tip toes...and no one said a word! ;-) :-D The height requirement for this ride in particular is ridiculous - it's so tame! (Everest is 44"!)

Speaking of, back in line with Annelise for *one more* Expedition Everest ride...at night!!! As you wait in line, you pass through the Yeti museum. Annelise wanted her pic with some of the artifacts. :-P

Annelise & me narrowly escaping the claws of the Yeti on our last ride ;-)

Animal Kingdom was the best surprise of the whole trip. (It opened 10 years after I visited Disney as a child, so this was my first time there, too!) I never expected it to be as enthralling as it was; I can't say enough wonderful things about it!

One last note: late in the week back at Epcot, I saw two girls with red "Expedition Everest Summit Team" jackets...
...and I couldn't stop thinking about what a great Christmas gift that would make for Annelise. (If you ask what her favorite part of Disney was, she'll say Everest!) I called Disney customer service the week after we were home, (b/c we didn't have time to go back to Animal Kingdom & they don't sell it online,) and they sent her size to our house! Way to go, Disney!!!

Wednesday the 27th was the day we finally went to the iconic Magic Kingdom! [Again, we strategically waited until Wednesday - the "quietest" (it was still PACKED, but ;-)) day of the week there.] We were so blessed weather-wise: it began pouring rain as we boarded our hotel bus to the park that morning. I told our driver to feel free to go slowly as he wanted ;-) ...but literally 30 seconds before we had to get off, the rain stopped and the skies turned blue! Thank you, God!!!

Arrival:

My fave pic - Will took it! ♥

Our strategy was to go straight to the back of the park to meet Ariel - Annelise's favorite - first, before crowds got nuts. On the way, Will saw that the Princess Fairytale Hall with Rapunzel (the only other princess they remotely wanted to see) was less than a 10 minute wait, and *he* urged us to stop & meet her before heading to Ariel's Grotto. I was surprised, but pleased! I was all about knocking out our two character visits up front!

JB went for our FastPasses to Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid while I took the kids into Ariel's Grotto. We learned from Rapunzel that the characters won't sign a shirt that's being worn, so in line, I had Annelise pull her arms inside her shirt; I zipped up her jacket & pulled her shirt out the top, so Ariel could really sign it! #brilliant

I can't not document this: as we walked out, Will told me he felt weird when he sat with the princesses, like electricity. :-D I said that was a good thing. ;-) He said, "Ugh!" :-P ♥

JB is stronger than Gaston!

After Under the Sea, we got FastPasses for Space Mountain (return time - 12:30 PM), rode The Barnstormer (for little kids!), and discovered one of Will's ultimate faves: Tomorrowland Speedway

I rode with Sis

We ran over to do "it's a small world", simply b/c it's iconic, there was barely a 5 minute wait, and we needed to do it before we met up with my mom...who hates it. Will thought it was awful, too, and swore he wouldn't make his kids do it one day. We assured him that oh yes, he would, and we'd be sitting in the row right behind them, reminding him of this moment & laughing together. :-D

The Sword in the Stone! Pull, Will!

Disney family!!!

Lunch: hot dogs at Casey's Corner - they were huge! - in the shadow of Cinderella's Castle while watching the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party

LaLa bought Annelise a rainbow weave! :-D (It was so fun! She wore it all week!)

Will, Annelise, & I rode Space Mountain. This was my first time, too - I was too scared to ride when I was a child! :-P Honestly, it was my least favorite coaster. I liked the dark, but it was so jerky. It actually ended up tweaking something in my neck (which is still sore 2 weeks later!) and my lower back was achy later that day. :-/ It was thrilling, though. :-P

At the base of Rapunzel's tower

LaLa rode Splash Mountain with us, b/c the Br’er Rabbit stories are our family favorite. ♥ It was chilly...but sooo worth it!!! :-)

Because our kids are so very obsessed with trains, we used the Walt Disney World Railroad to relax & give our feet a break. We rode it all the way around from Frontierland to Fantasyland to Main Street USA and back to Frontierland. We navigated a parade and headed to Pirates of the Caribbean...but it broke down after we'd waited in line for 20 minutes. :-( (There are very few things I'll wait in line for, but Pirates was one of my two happiest Magic Kingdom memories with my Dad! Worth it.) Because we stayed in line, though, and waited a few more minutes after they announced the initial delay (& after a large portion of people waiting in line exited), we got extra free FastPasses to use elsewhere in the park - yay! This was a huge bonus, b/c there are several attractions that only accept the Disney Magic Bands FastPasses for people staying inside the park, but we could use these for one of those = YAY!!! Aside from Pirates, my other most vivid Magic Kingdom childhood memory was the Haunted Mansion. The line was crazy long, but they *did* accept our bonus FastPasses, so we walked right up! Will kept announcing that this was fake, that was fake, etc. :-P I kept telling him, "Yeah, but doesn't it look so cool?!" He admitted it sure did. ;-)

Under the lanterns in Rapunzel's town

We got FastPasses for the holiday-themed-for-a-limited-time Jingle Jungle Cruise. Snuggle selfie:

And then we *DID* make it back right as Pirates of the Caribbean opened up, again, too! JOY!!! :-D We grabbed some dinner at the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We'd gotten FastPasses for this when we did Splash Mountain (right beside each other) to come back around 7 PM...and it was our favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom!!! We would've ridden it, again...except that it sprays a little water mist, and it.was.freezing. It was awesome to ride it at night, though!

We hopped back on Will's beloved Walt Disney World Railroad, got off in Fantasyland, and made our way back over to Tomorrowland for another go on Will's other fave: Tomorrowland Speedway

JB made the brilliant move to buy three light throw blankets at this point, b/c we wanted to stay for the Electrical Parade, but we were SOOO COLD! (It was ~50°F & windy.) We snuggled on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover under those blankets and had a lovely time! :-D

We got nice spots to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, and we were completely enthralled with the castle changing colors every five minutes or so and the way it looked as if it were frosted in diamonds with sparkling white Christmas lights!

The parade reached us around 9:20 PM...

And Annelise was out like a light around 9:30! :-P

JB carried her out the whole way to the monorail on his shoulders ♥

Thursday the 28th - THANKSGIVING DAY! - we hit Hollywood Studios. [No, we did not miss our traditional Thanksgiving dinner ;-) (literally or figuratively - we had it early, the Saturday before. :-))] This park/day choice was also strategic: it was the one my parents cared about least (they went to visit Hershel's dad in Homosassa) and it was the first night of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights! This park was much more about shows & experiences instead of rides.

First priority upon entering the park: JB went to get our FastPasses for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith while I took the kids to sign up for the Jedi Training Academy! Coaster: 7 PM & Jedi: 3:40 PM. On with the exploration...

Will & JB were excited for Star Tours® - The Adventures Continue, a 3D motion-simulated space flight ride. Honestly, it made me sick; I took off the 3D glasses after about 30 seconds & practiced my yoga breathing to ride it out. :-P Everyone else enjoyed, though, and I didn't want to barf all day long ;-) so SUCCESS! :-D

I shook it off, and we ventured over to Muppet*Vision 3D, an interactive 3D Muppet Show (that didn't make me ill like most 3D. ;-)) It was fun & funny!
Waldorf and Statler are *THE* BEST!!!

Next up: Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular! - watch "heroes triumph over traps, villains and epic obstacles, [as] a director explains the movie magic. Learn the difference between stunt doubles and stunt actors. And watch demonstrations of basic fight routines—how to safely throw and take punches, fall from tall buildings, and even wield whips in the midst of complex action sequences."

We checked out Voyage of The Little Mermaid - another show giving another retelling of the story, but I actually liked this better than MK's Under the Sea: this was a live blacklight puppet show that was really well done. :-)

The *ONLY* characters Will gave a flip about seeing in ALLLLL of Disney were Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz from one of the kids' most favorite movies. I was so impressed with how much time they took with us!
Here's a shot from waiting in line: it's a view from the movie that makes it look like you are stuck inside an out-of-order arcade game.
Welcome hugs!
Ralph walked up to JB, who was standing back by the photographer, took one of our throw blankets off him, and wrapped himself up in it. :-P Then Vanellope followed suit, and they had us join in for another pic. :-D
Vanellope didn't want to give Annelise's blanket back at first :-P but she was really cute about it. ;-)

We enjoyed a simple lunch from Catalina Eddie's in the warm sunshine before The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow experience. It was part show, part "pirate training".

Next up: Studio Backlot Tour - this was pretty long, but interesting. There was an effects section that presented a sea battle with fiery explosions & water bursts, followed by a long walk through the prop warehouse, after which we got on a tram that took us through the backlot, past the Earful Tower:
& the boneyard (where big old props & set pieces wait to be repurposed) and into the set of Catastrophe Canyon for an even bigger water + fire effects display.

But then we had to RUSH, b/c we were almost late for the kids' Jedi Training!!! That would have been such a loss! We came thisclose to them giving the kids' reservations away. (It's a coveted ticket!) WHEW!!!
They gave each kid a Jedi robe, and they all marched out to the training area together. There, a Jedi Master taught them "how to use The Force — and their wit — to wield their lightsabers." :-D They also each got to "fight" a bad guy (Darth Maul - so creepy! I was surprised that Annelise wasn't nervous ;-)) individually one-by-one before "graduating".

We kept the action high by going to Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show. JB loooved getting to see the amazing stunt driving. He really appreciated all the special car details.

Finally, Will (& Annelise...and JB!) got to do what they'd been waiting for all day: they built their own custom lightsabers at Tatooine Traders. (We waited so we wouldn't have to lug them around all day. :-P) They got to choose their blade colors, switches, rings, etc. (I don't know what any of those choices meant, but it sure made them happy, so YAY!)

*I* was happy that it was finally time to ride Rock 'n' Roller Coaster...and it did NOT disappoint - except for in one respect: height requirement is 48" and Annelise is 47.5". I was soooo hoping they'd let her squeak by like the one ride in Animal Kingdom did, but this FastPass lady was a stickler! She would NOT let her on. :'( (It *REALLY* stinks, b/c had it been warmer, she could've worn her 2" wedges, and there would have been no question whatsoever. She would've LOVED this coaster, too. WE MUST GO BACK!!!) Will & I rode first while JB waited with her, and then we switched, so lucky duck Will got to ride it twice. Initially, he was scared of it; he had been excited all day until the stupid lady at the lightsaber store told him it went upside down. (It *does* but it's in the dark! He may have never even known!!! Argh...) I told him he absolutely HAD to ride this...and it's now officially his favorite ride at Disney. :-D (We'll see if it usurps Everest for Annelise next time, too. ;-) I loved both, but I give Everest the edge. :-)) The best part of this one is that it goes from 0 to 60 mph almost instantly. All the signs say to keep your head facing forward, and it's no joke! :-D

Street shot

We grabbed hot dogs in pretzel rolls & pumpkin milkshakes (yes, it was cold, but I wasn't going to pass up this seasonal treat! :-D) at Min and Bill's Dockside Diner before strolling over to...

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights! Stunning!!!

We consciously chose to skip Fantasmic! (yes, I know; how could we do such a thing?! :-P Next time!) b/c JB & I were exhausted and wanted to head back to the hotel...where the kids proceeded to have the time of their lives with their new sabers...

It was *SUCH* a happy Thanksgiving!!!

Our last day at Disney, Friday the 29th, we chose to go back to Epcot for: 1) Holidays Around the World 2) Candlelight Processional 3) Soarin' and 4) the only Agent P adventure mission the kids didn't get to complete: Mexico. We did all that and so much more!!!

Upon entering, we went straight to Soarin' to get FastPasses (back at 7 PM) and then hopped right on Living with the Land: "Gain a newfound appreciation for where your food comes from on this cruise through the living laboratories of Epcot... See firsthand how Disney’s horticulturalists are using innovative growing techniques and cross-breeding high-yield crops with the goal of sustaining our growing global population." We were fascinated to see how lots of our favorite foods grow. (We like "dorky" science stuff. ;-))

We then headed back over to Test Track. The FastPasses were out for the day, and the line was over an hour long. (FastPasses let you come back later & go to the front of the queue via a special entrance; you can get one every two hours or whenever you've used your last one. The FastPasses for the "major" rides run out FAST early in the morning for the whole day when it's busy, like a holiday week. They are really worth it, b/c most of those big ride lines are about an hour long. We tried to never wait more than ~15 min for anything.) This was the *one* major ride that we voluntarily chose to wait in the loooong regular line for, even w/o a FastPass, b/c it was the last day, and it was JB & Will's Epcot favorite.

Excited to start our Holidays Around the World!

And by that, I mean *eating* holiday *specialties* around the world! We began with holiday waffles two ways: one savory waffle with stuffing in the batter topped with turkey, gravy, & cranberry relish, and one sweet potato waffle topped with pecans, mini marshmallows, & caramel drizzle. Awwww, yeah!

France: gingerbread ice cream (Glace au Pain D’Epices) from L'Artisan des Glaces - amazing. It was not cloyingly sweet, but actually refreshing!

Germany: Werther's Hot Salted Caramel Drink... Yeah. It was as decadent as it sounds.

Family love!

Norway: we each had a bonus FastPass we never used from Monday when Mission: Space broke down, so we used it to skip the 45-minute line and rode the Maelstrom, again. :-) (Those passes wouldn't be accepted at Test Track or Soarin', so this was the next best!)
We also enjoyed another turkey creation with cranberry relish, but this one on a delectable fluffy bun instead of a stuffing waffle. We were sweet & shared...mostly just so we could keep trying one of EVERYTHING!!!

The kids conquered the Mexico Agent P secret mission (they had a BLAST doing the other six countries Monday) and then we decided to walk away from the holiday treats for a few minutes to do Spaceship Earth, again.

Susie's favorite ride: STARBUCKS! :-D

We caught the ferry directly across the lake to get to America...

...in time for the famous Candlelight Processional. "Each night, a celebrity narrator tells the biblical tale of a savior born to a virgin in Bethlehem. All the while, gorgeous choral pieces are woven into the narration as an orchestra and choir provide an inspirational backdrop with songs of hope and joy." Our celeb narrator was Gary Sinise!
You can buy extra special packages to guarantee you a seat, but we paid nothing extra and had a fantastic view of the entire production from the front row of the standing crowd area. We walked right up just minutes before it began and slipped right into place. :-)

What treat did we celebrate with next? Candy Cane Cocoa :-)
Snuggles & smiles in Morocco

Fountain fun back in France!

We also stopped to eat more than just sugar. :-P Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie was delish! I had rich pumpkin soup in a freshly baked French bread bowl. Pure heaven!!!

It was finally time for Soarin' - the ride "everyone" talks about being sooo amazing. It's a hang-gliding simulator that lifts you up and lets you feel like you are soaring across California: over beaches, ski slopes, the Golden Gate Bridge, an orange grove (where they wafted a little orange scent through the air!), etc. It was just a tad overhyped for me personally, but I *DID* love it!!! (Just not more than the coasters, like Everest ;-))
Soarin' Selfie before lifting up:

We also did "all the stuff on that side" of Spaceship Earth that we never made it to on Monday: Journey Into Imagination With Figment (apparently I remembered nothing of this from 25 years ago, aside from the vivid colors & what Figment looks like :-P) and Sea Base, which houses the 5.7 million gallon Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium with sea turtles, angelfish, dolphins, rays, sharks, etc., The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride, and Turtle Talk With Crush, which was one of the cutest things ever! Dude... ;-)

Because it was the kids' first time & we wanted to see EVERYTHING in EVERY park, and we didn't have any dining reservations actually forcing us to hop around, we really didn't take advantage of our Park Hoppers. (Next time, we'll hop often to the things we KNOW are our favorites!) But since it was our last night, we really wanted to do it!

We said goodbye to Epcot...

...and hopped on the monorail around 9 PM to the Magic Kingdom (open until 1 AM our week!) We originally intended to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (our MK fave :-)) one last time...but it was so cold, again, and that one sprays a mist...so we opted for one more sail on the inside ride (& my childhood fave) Pirates of the Caribbean. :-)

We finished the night and our monumental Disney week with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show...

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