Christmas at the Boardwalk + Wild Africa Trek + a week of holiday fun! (completed 1/28)

Discussion in 'Disney Trip Reports' started by DuffyForPresident, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    Hi! My name is Crit. I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of trip reports on here, but this is my first one. It was a great trip, and I’m excited to relive it a bit while sharing it with the boards. I love my friends, but I don’t know anyone in real life who would want to hear about this trip with this level of detail, but I know I’ve come to the right place to find people who do want to hear all about it!

    Let’s get some basic info out of the way so you know who and what you’re about to read about! This was a Christmas trip with my wife, Chrissy. We live just outside Boston. I’m a teacher. She’s a librarian. She grew up visiting WDW. I’d never been. But she introduced me to the magic on our first trip together in 2015. I instantly fell in love with the place, we got engaged there, we got married there, we have APs, we just joined DVC, and we just keep going back! This was our eighth trip together over the past three years. When we're not at WDW, we’re often listening to a Disney podcast, watching a Disney vlogger on YouTube, and/or planning the next trip. (Our next trip is already being planned for April. We are doing something new on that trip: bringing a few friends!) We love the history of the parks, the artistry, the design, the food, the drinks, and we are always excited to try the new things that open between our trips.

    This is us:
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    Clockwise from top left: In front of the castle on a rainy (September 2016) day; celebrating our first anniversary at Paddlefish (April 2017); mini-golfing in New Hampshire with a dinosaur; at The Attic with our free APs that we got for getting married at Disney (December 2015).


    During our seven other trips, we’ve been at different times of the year but for this trip we wanted to be at WDW for Christmas! We’ve been in January, where we were able to see the beautiful decorations, but we really wanted to wake up Christmas morning at our favorite place. We originally booked six nights (12/23-12/29) river view Port Orleans French Quarter, a place we’ve stayed and loved, but then a great deal from a travel agent came to our attention...so we called an audible and booked a standard view Boardwalk room (a new resort for us!) for the first four nights and POFQ (river view) for the last two nights. We actually paid less at Boardwalk ($300/night) than we did at POFQ ($303/night)! Both prices are pre-tax.

    We are all-star hardcore planners, so we made our dinner reservations at 180 days and FP at 60 and got everything we wanted. We used Trello to map each day out carefully, and we were ready to go. The trip was lined up with lots of our faves (Boma, Garden Grill, California Grill, Polite Pig, Flight of Passage x3) but also a handful of NEW things we wanted to do for the first time, including: Wild Africa Trek, Candlelight Processional, Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Flying Fish, Jingle Bell Jingle BAM, Sunset Seasons Greetings, Ample Hills, and Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire (VR experience) at Disney Springs!

    If that sounds like something you want to hear about, great! Because we’ve got all of that plus more to cover. Seven days of Disney World magic in all - and plenty of photos!

    (Part 1 will be up this evening...stay tuned!)
     
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  2. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    DAY ONE: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23
    travel day, Boardwalk, Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge
    9,845 steps taken
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    TO THE AIRPORT!
    We had a 10:50am Southwest flight from Providence to Orlando. We live just outside Boston but always travel out of PVD because Logan is a nightmare and PVD is a calm, tiny little airport and there’s never any wait to get through security. It also helps that JetBlue and Southwest fly direct to MCO! The weather was cold and gross, and apparently 95 was getting icy and cars were spinning out because twice we tried to turn onto 95 and both times there was a cop blocking the entrance ramp. We did a quick Twitter search to find out about the spin outs, but it meant we had to go a bit out of the way to get down to Providence. We made it in plenty of time, though, and breezed through security. Our flight was smooth and uneventful. I played Mario 3D Land on my 3DS and listened to some podcasts, Chrissy read the Disney Food Blog guide the holidays at WDW. We used Disney’s luggage services so we didn’t have any bags to pick up. We were hungry when we landed so we grabbed a quick snack at McDonald’s before hopping on the Magical Express.


    Providence weather vs Disney weather. U P G R A D E!
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    AT THE BOARDWALK!
    We didn’t get the room we requested (via Touring Plans) at the Boardwalk but we have no complaints. We got room 2292, which was amazing for multiple reasons. First, there was a king bed! (We’d paid for a standard room.) Second, it was extremely close to the lobby but a few doors down the hallway so it wasn’t noisy outside the door. Third, our balcony looked right down on a spot where we took photos before our wedding!!! It’s clear this room used to be an accessible room (Touring Plans says there’s a roll-in shower; there is not anymore) so IT. IS. HUGE. It was almost TOO big, honestly. We moved a table across the room to fill some of the empty space. And then we were ready to hit the parks!

    You can check the room out via two short clips from my Instagram story: part one & part two.

    TO THE MAGIC...KINGDOM!
    First stop: Magic Kingdom Guest Relations to buy Tables in Wonderland. We did the math and it made sense for us to buy it, so we did that first since there was no line at GR. We went into the park and walked slowly down Main Street enjoying all the Christmas decorations. MK always looks nice, but it’s just next-level at Christmas. We had a FastPass for Buzz Lightyear, so we made our way to Tomorrowland. I actually won! Chrissy always wins, but not this time, thanks to a ride stoppage where I found a target that was worth 10,000 points and just kept hitting it. We came out of Buzz and watched the second half of the Tomorrowland Christmas show with Stitch as Santa, and then we rode Stitch’s Great Escape, which was the first and last time for me, since we knew it was closing for good in a few weeks. I knew people detested the attraction, and now I can see why. It’s just...weird. And when the lights went out, they were out long enough that I started to wonder if they were supposed to be out so long. At one point I wondered out loud “is this really happening?” Enough said! Then we hit up our second FP, Peter Pan, and emerged from the attraction to this gorgeous sky.

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    8.5 million Christmas lights on property, but the one big light in the sky gave us this view. Nice.

    Then we slowly made our way over to our third FP, the Jingle Cruise.

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    We’d never done JC at night! We got a skipper from Boston, and he was good. He had some fun with a family who didn’t quite understand what was going on and kept interruping him. It was good to see the rhino is back! He wasn’t around the last few times we’ve done the attraction. Then we tried to make another FP but there was nothing available and we were hungry. We took a few pics of the Christmas lights on our way out.

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    POINT US TO THE GEYSER!
    We aren’t crazy about much of the quick-service food in MK so we took the boat to Wilderness Lodge to go to one of our very favorite spots, Geyser Point! They had a host table, which we’d never seen before, but we only had to wait 5 minutes for a table. We had dinner and a cocktail, then we walked through the WL lobby to see the tree. What a wonderful lobby. I think WL is my favorite resort. I also bought a shirt that I wanted on the last trip but they didn’t have in my size at the time. (It’s in the Shop Parks app, but available to purchase ‘in store only’) - I was so happy to scoop it up!

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    DESSERT TIME!
    We then took an Uber back to Boardwalk, and went to Ample Hills for dessert. We got a brownie sundae with baked unbaked ice cream. It was delicious, and everything inside Ample Hills was super cute!

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    The Boardwalk was busy and lively and we enjoyed sitting outside and eating it.

    And that was it for Christmas Eve Eve!
     
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  4. dnllmz

    dnllmz DIS Veteran

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    Following! We just stayed at the Boardwalk in Nov/Dec too. Your ice cream pic has me craving the Ooey Gooey Butter cake ice cream from Ample Hills. So good. I couldn’t get enough. Can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip!
     
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  5. gopack

    gopack Mouseketeer

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    Enjoying your report! Thanks for the beautiful picture of the WL lobby-my favorite Disney hotel.
     
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  6. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    DAY TWO: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24
    Hollywood Studios, Epcot
    20,127 steps taken

    AT LEAST IT’S STILL CALLED HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS...FOR NOW
    We loved that our room was so close to the boardwalk! We could be on the boardwalk in under 30 seconds. We hopped on a Friendship Boat to Hollywood Studios to start the day.

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    DHS is definitely not my favorite park, but the Christmas decorations looked Fan. Tas. Tic.

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    We walked around for a bit and saw Gertie looking great with the decorations around Echo Lake.

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    Our first FP of the day was Star Tours. I really enjoyed that the final scene is Batuu aka Star Wars Land. Of course we knew what it was, but I definitely think they should find a way to point out what it means. I’m sure thousands of guests ride this every day and maybe don’t follow Disney Parks news closely like I do and I'm sure a lot of you do, and they don't realize that they just saw a short preview of what Star Wars Land is going to be in a few years. (Not that Disney is asking me for advice, but it feels like a missed advertising opportunity.)

    We came out of Star Tours and went over to check out the Muppet fountain, because it’s a fountain again! Yay!

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    Next up was our Toy Story Mania! FP, and unlike Buzz, I always win this one. (Thanks to Flight of Passage, TSM is now only my second favorite attraction at WDW.) After that we went over to try Baseline Tap House. We sat outside and shared a pretzel, Chrissy enjoyed her cider and I enjoyed my Wild Strawberry Lemonade. This is a nice little addition to DHS, which need anything it can get right now. I loved the nod to Writer's Stop. See if you can find it while you're in there!

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    We also checked out Grand Avenue for the first time. It’s fine but it seems strange because it just makes me think of Streets of America which just went away! They should have just called it Place to Stand While Waiting to Get Into Galaxy’s Edge. Then we went into Walt Disney Presents to check out the models for that and Toy Story Land. We can’t wait for those lands to open! Speaking of Star Wars, we caught some of the stage show as we walked over to Tower of Terror for our third FP. I had a coffee, Chrissy got a peach iced tea, and we shared a donut at Joffrey’s and enjoyed those in the shade across from the Tower before heading back to the Boardwalk.

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    A BOARDWALK CHRISTMAS
    We’d noticed how great the Boardwalk lobby looked when we arrived but we actually took a few minutes here to check them out. The gingerbread bakery was so awesome!

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    No decorations, just me. Hi!

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    CHRISTMAS EVE AT EPCOT
    We made a Land FP as we walked over to Epcot. By now we were just so thrilled that we were staying at Boardwalk these nights, because walking into two parks is just so convenient! We saw the holiday themed decorations on The Land which were nice, and then we went upstairs for one of our favorite meals: Garden Grill! Chip and Dale are always lots of fun, and the food is just solid. It’s never the best or fanciest meal of the trip, but everything is always just so good. (One of my all time favorite stories is the time Chip scolded me for being on my phone while he came to our table, so he put his hand over mine, opened Instagram, went to post, flipped it to selfie mode, took the pic of us, and then had me post it on Instagram.)

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    Then we headed on over to Candlelight Processional, something new for us. CCH Pounder was our narrator for the evening. I was surprised that the role of narrator is actually a very small role! We enjoyed the show quite a bit. We got there about 30 minutes before the show and the theatre was already pretty full. Sitting and enjoying talented musicians and singers at our favorite theme park was just a perfect way to spend Christmas Eve.

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    After CP, we walked through World Showcase with a stop in Mexico. There was no wait for Gran Fiesta Tour so we did that before trying out Choza de Margarita, which should have opened a few trips ago, but was finally open! We each had a Fiesta Margarita, and they were great.

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    We went back to our room for a short break after that before going right back to Epcot. We’d managed at some point to make a FP for Soarin’ so we did that before finding a spot in Canada to watch Illuminations. We’d never seen the holiday tag, and we loved it!

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    Great ending to a wonderful Christmas Eve.

    Coming soon: an amazing Christmas Day. Two great meals at two resorts + Wild Africa Trek!
     
  7. Lesley Wake

    Lesley Wake May the force be with you!

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    Following along!
     
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  8. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    MONDAY, DECEMBER 25
    Animal Kingdom Lodge, Animal Kingdom, Contemporary
    13,344 steps taken

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    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    Just as we wanted, it was pretty great to wake up on Christmas morning at the Boardwalk. Our schedule for the day was pretty special, two of our favorite meals plus one big new adventure!

    We grabbed an Uber over to Animal Kingdom Lodge to eat at Boma. We eat at Boma just about every trip. We can’t get enough of the POG/jungle juice, and I love how many options the buffet has. The scrambled eggs with goat cheese is my favorite item, and of course I had to get a Mickey waffle!

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    We took a few minutes to enjoy the amazing lobby and then we hopped on a bus over to Animal Kingdom. We arrived just before noon and the lines to get in were massive. Even the lines to buy tickets were crazy. Not great planning on the part of those folks to be buying tickets then and there! We had a FP for Kilimanjaro Safaris so we headed right back to do that.

    And then it was time for our fun adventure: Wild Africa Trek! (We had originally planned to do this the day after our wedding, but I woke up sick that morning so we had to cancel.) We were a few minutes early so we hit the bathroom because we know it’s a three hour tour, and then we just waited and watched the crowd. Around this time we got a notification that MK had hit capacity, and we were even more glad to not be there at that moment!

    A WILD TREK THROUGH AFRICA

    If you’ve ever been sitting on the Kilimanjaro Safaris truck and thought ‘I really wish this ride was longer!’ then you need to call right now and sign up for Wild Africa Trek. We’d had that thought mutiple times, and that’s the quickest way to describe this tour, though it’s even better than that! Wild Africa Trek is a three-hour privately guided tour through the safari with groups limited to 12. It’s expensive, but the rate varies based on season. AP and DVC discounts are usually available, though they were not for us because it was Christmas Day. Shoutout to our amazing guides Katie and Becky! If you do this, I hope you get them, you’ll love them. We checked in, they went over the guidelines (stuff like: phones must be secured, take MagicBands and other loose articles off and put them in the provided lockers, close toed shoes must be worn, you must be at least 48” tall and under 300 pounds. Yes, you are weighed!) We were all given an earpiece and a vest, and a guide helped us get in and get it tightened. We also each got a nametag and a water bottle - which you get to keep!

    All dressed up and ready to go!
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    The guides introduced themselves to everyone, gave a short speech and then we were off! One guide led us through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail while the other snapped some photos of us. I didn’t mention it above, but they take A LOT of photos of you during the tour, and at the end everyone gets a link and a code to download them all. And then it gets real good - they led us off the path and up behind the hippo pool! There was another guide waiting for us there to tell us more about hippos. (Chrissy was wearing her Fiona the Hippo shirt, and the guides were SO excited about that. We also learned that Fiona’s grandfather, Henry, lives at AK - and that Fiona’s mom Bibi was born and grew up at AK before moving to the Cincinnati Zoo! We love Fiona but had no idea!) You’ve probably been on the Safari and seen groups of people standing over the hippo or crocodile pool - that was this tour!

    Overlooking the hippos - there's Henry!
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    This is what it looks like when you turn around - you're clipped in and very secure.
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    The guides were full of information and were happy to answer questions as we walked further up the path and soon we came to the two bridges you've driven under on the Safari, and they carefully explained how they’d hook us in one at a time and let us cross the bridges.
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    They got lots of photos of this and told us to take our time crossing if we wanted to take our own photos or videos.

    Here are a few short videos I took from the bridges: one & two.

    There were also multiple chances to refill our water bottles throughout the door. I think three in all. And then it was time for the crocodiles! Another guide met us there to tell us all about them as we looked down at them.

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    Soon after that it was time to take our vests off and get in a truck, which was waiting for us right at the upside down tree you come to just before the savannah. We were able to do something on this tour that those regular trucks can’t do - stop and look around! Binoculars were provided. We did that multiple times between there and the boma, where we’d soon be stopping to eat. Again, if you’ve been on the truck and just wanted to sit there and enjoy the savannah, this is the tour for you. It was nice to casually park just off the regular path and just take in the view.

    And then it was time for a snack! We stopped at the boma (across from the flamingos) and had a chance to use the bathroom and they brought us each a two layered tin with some food, and they had POG/jungle juice too for anyone who wanted some.

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    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
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  9. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    View from the boma:
    Wild Africa Trek 165 copy.jpg

    The food was tasty, and then the guides came around with truffles for us, since it was the holidays. They were also tasty. They made sure we all had a chance to get our photo taken if we wanted it, and then we got back on the truck. We were probably there for about 20-30 minutes. At this point, the tour was close to over, but not quite! We stopped by to see the cheetahs, rhinos, and lions before it was time for it all to end. We departed the truck at a separate exit from the attraction, and we were told that a portion of our money would be donated to the Disney Wildlife Conversation Fund. We were each given a stone to place in a box that would tell them which type of animal we wanted our money to be donated to. After a short walk back through the crowds it was time to get our stuff out of the lockers, get the download code, and we were also given a Conservation Fund pin. While getting ready, we overheard another guest try to tip our guides but they said they were not allowed. (We had prepared some cash to tip them, so we were sad to hear that, especially because they were so great and they were working on Christmas!) We asked anyway, but they said the same thing. I thought guide was a tipped position, and I’m very disappointed to hear that they couldn’t accept it. I gave them a #CastCompliment on Twitter, which I know is a good way to recognize great work from a CM and we also completed an email survey about the trek and gushed about them there too.

    SIVAKO!

    After Trek we immediately went over to Pandora for our Flight of Passage FP. We went the back way up past Lion King to avoid the crowds, which weren’t too bad until we actually got into Pandora. We did FoP three times during our trip in June, and this was the first of three FPs we had for it this trip. It’s just so incredible. Now my favorite thing about the attraction is listening to first timers talk about it on the walk off the ride. Just a great feeling to experience it for the first time! (A bit if advice: if you can, sit towards the middle of your row. There are 16 seats in each row, somewhere between seat 6 and 11 is the best. We think whether you’re on the top, middle, or bottom row doesn’t matter quite as much as being towards the center of the row. If you’re on the ends, it’s still great but it’s not quite as good. Kind of like how the further you are away from the center of Soarin’, the more the Eiffel Tower bends...and if you’re on the end, it reallllly bends!)

    Pandora was so packed, Satu’li Canteen had a sign that said their seats were only for guests who were eating food from there. We had a FP for Expedition Everest but we decided to just head back to Boardwalk to change before grabbing an Uber to the Contemporary for our dinner.


    CALIFORNIA GRILLIN’

    Ah, California Grill. The food, drinks, and service are always great at CG. The view isn't too bad, either. This trip did not disappoint! We each had a Blackberry Lemonade, I ate the filet of beef and Chrissy got the chicken.

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    Photos really don't do this view justice, but I just love it.

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    I love the Contemporary.

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    Everything was delicious. We usually get dessert and stay to watch the fireworks but I wasn’t feeling great so we walked over to the MK bus station to head back to the hotel. The Boardwalk bus left just as we were approaching, but a few minutes later the Swan/Dolphin bus showed up so we took that to the Swan and had a short walk back to our room from there.

    Next up is 12/26: Epcot, we try two new Boardwalk-area restaurants & see two fireworks shows!
     
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  10. Lesley Wake

    Lesley Wake May the force be with you!

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    2,886
    That is so cool! I love Fiona, and I have that same shirt! I may need to wear it in March, though I probably won't do the Wild Africa Trek until December (it's a short March trip but I may try to squeeze in Caring for Giants).
     
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  11. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    TUESDAY, DECEMBER 26
    20,077 steps taken

    BEACH AND YACHT AND EPCOT
    We slept in til about 10 because neither of us were feeling that great but then it was off to Epcot. We had FastPasses for Test Track and Spaceship Earth so we were off to Future World.

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    After that we took the long way through World Showcase to stop in at Mitsukoshi (Chrissy’s favorite shop) before heading to the Yacht Club for lunch at the new Ale and Compass. I had a lobster roll (it was good, though I always feel weird traveling from New England to Florida and buying Maine lobster!) and the Seaworthy Breeze, Chrissy had the BLT and didn’t really like it; the bacon was not salty at all. We stopped to admire the little train village in the Yacht lobby and then over to the Beach Club to see the amazing chocolate carousel. Somehow I didn’t take a single picture of either! The chocolate smelled so good in that lobby. We then tried to book a DVC tour for the afternoon but there was no availability, but we made one for tomorrow at Boardwalk. (We took the tour on our last trip and had no plans of purchasing direct through Disney but then we were offered 50 points...and that changed our mind, but we didn’t buy because we really did not like our guide.)


    MONORAIL CHRISTMAS CRAWL
    From Beach we took a bus to MK to do some monorail resort hopping. First stop was the Contemporary gingerbread display, followed by Grand Floridian’s gingerbread house, which is just amazing. Really not a fan of GF, it’s just not our aesthetic, but at Christmas it’s nice to walk through that lobby and look at that house.

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    We stayed at the Poly in January a few years ago so we’ve seen it all decorated, so we skipped it on this monorail crawl.

    TO DHS AND BACK, VOL. 1
    Then it was time for an Uber back to Boardwalk, because the rest of our plans for the day were in that area. We hung out in the room for a bit and then walked down to Hollywood Studios to see Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! which was new for us.

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    We liked it alright, the story wasn't great but we like fireworks and Christmas music so no real complaints here! And then as quickly as we arrived we went right back out and walked back to change quickly before dinner at Flying Fish, another new restaurant for us. I loved the scallop pasta. The pasta was cooked in squid ink so it was black, which I’ve never heard of before. We got the Under the Sea for dessert and it was delicious.

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    I love the flying fish at Flying Fish! It's really nice in there.

    TO DHS AND BACK, VOL. 2
    We hung out in the room for a bit after dinner and then it was right back to DHS to catch Sunset Seasons Greetings on the Tower of Terror. This is something we were skeptical about, but we have to say: it looks cool. As just a little added bonus to add some more Christmas to the park, it’s nice. We especially loved the one where the Swedish chef destroys a gingerbread house. Swedish chef rules.

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    We got a drink and then got in position for the Galactic Spectacular fireworks. This was our second time seeing them, and they are just so awesome. That music is just perfect to go along with fireworks. And then another walk back to Boardwalk, and that was that.

    The view on the walk was nice:

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    Coming up next: we transfer to POFQ, spend more time at AK, and buy DVC!
     
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  12. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

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    WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27
    17,054 steps taken

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    GOODBYE BOARDWALK...BE RIGHT BACK

    Our time at the Boardwalk was about to come to an end (though we would be back in a few hours for our DVC meeting) but we were very glad to have stayed there. Chrissy has always loved the Beach Club, and Boardwalk has the same amazing perk that Beach has: walking to Epcot (and DHS) and being able to get back to the room quickly from both parks. If the price is right, we’ll definitely stay here again, and may even try to buy some DVC points here. We packed everything up, dropped our bags at bell services to be transferred to French Quarter, and we were off to Animal Kingdom for a few FastPasses and some lunch.

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    NA’VI AND DINOS

    Pandora was somehow even more packed than it had been a few days earlier. Flight of Passage was a four hour wait, which isn’t terribly surprising, but Na’vi River Journey was at exactly three hours. Dang. We wanted to walk around Pandora a bit to admire it but it was just too busy. We had a FP for Flight so we went right up to that, and again, we just loved hearing our fellow riders talk about the incredible experience as we all walked out. We were hungry and wanted Satu’li Canteen, but as we got off FoP mobile ordering was down. We hopped in line but then tried again and mobile ordering was working again so we did just that. I got the cheeseburger pods which I love so much, and Chrissy got the cheese quesadilla, which was fine but nothing to write home about. Next up was our FP for Dinosaur so we made our way over to that, and it took forrrrrrrever to get there because the park was just so busy. Posted wait time as we got on was 105. Ooof. We wanted to go see the baby tigers but we didn’t think we’d have time to enjoy them, plus we knew we’d be back to AK in a few days, so we instead headed for the buses to go back to Boardwalk.


    HELLO BOARDWALK MY OLD FRIEND

    We had a few minutes before our DVC meeting so we grabbed a snack and coffee at Boardwalk Bakery before walking over to the model DVC unit on the Boardwalk. Someone there showed us to the Community Hall (near the Boardwalk pool) to meet with our guide. As I said before, we previously took the DVC tour at Saratoga Springs where we saw the model units, but we really didn’t like our guide. He seemed annoyed that we had done the research and knew all about DVC, and wasn’t honest with us about a few things.) Our new guide Cesar was much better, and we knew what we wanted, so it was a quick meeting. We bought 50 points at the Poly! Hooray! They offered us a ride so we had them bring us to our new resort for the last few days of our trip, Port Orleans French Quarter.

    Showing off our new DVC MEMBER bag:
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    FRENCH QUARTER, OUI!

    We love POFQ. We booked a river view, and requested building 2 but we got building 6, room 6246. It was further from the lobby than we would have liked, but luckily nothing is TOO far from the lobby at POFQ. Nice view of the Sassagoula. We had bell services bring our bags up to the room and then headed back to Animal Kingdom.

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    WE ARE ONE

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    Our final FP of the day was Rivers of Light, a show we love. We did what we always do - and by always, I mean all four times we’ve seen it now - grabbed drinks at Thirsty River before going into the theatre for the show. I know a lot of people think it’s boring, but we love it. We were way over to the right of the theatre so our view was not great, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

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    We then tried to use one of our three anytime bonus FP (from the DVC tour) to ride Expedition Everest, but apparently they were not actually loaded onto our account and the CM at the tapstile yelled at us. Oh well.


    SPRINGS

    Then we went right back to the buses to head to Disney Springs. We didn’t have to wait long. It was time for a meal I’d been wanting since the first time I had it: pork shoulder at Polite Pig. It’s just so good. I got the beer flight and it came on a pig!

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    The line was out the door, and Springs in general was insane, but once we ordered we found a table right away. The food was delicious. We stopped at the Co-Op and Chrissy tried on and bought the Small World dress, and then we hopped on the boat back to POFQ to end another great day.

    The crowd calendars said it would be bananas starting on Christmas, and that was correct. We went into the trip knowing that we might not do much beyond whatever we had FP for, and that really was true for the second half of this trip. Chrissy often had to wait in line to use the bathroom, every kiosk of every kind had a line. It was our first experience with extreme crowds and it really made everything frustrating, from getting around to going to the bathroom. We loved being here at Christmas but probably wouldn't do it again and instead will plan to visit when crowds are lighter.

    Coming up next: met a dancing reindeer, our first visit to the DVC lounge, and Hoop-Dee-Doo!
     
  13. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2016
    Messages:
    92
    THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28
    13,931 steps taken
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    RING RING

    We woke up a little bit late on this day but we weren’t really in a hurry. We had a few quick calls to make. Chrissy called DVC to bank our 2017 points (which we basically got for free because we bought so late in the year - sweet!) and I called to get our 3 bonus FP put on our accounts.


    DANCING REINDEER, THE REAL MVP

    We were off to Magic Kingdom for the first half of our day, and on the way towards Adventureland for our first FP of the day, we saw something that literally stopped us in our tracks. In one of the hub grass areas, there was a reindeer photo op. We had watched a few videos of Disney YouTubers at the Christmas party and noticed the dancing reindeer. We both loved them and we had been sad to not be able to attend a Christmas party and see them for ourselves. But then, there in the grass, was a reindeer! And the castle stage show was going on in the background, and this guy was rocking out to the show. He was having so much fun with the people in line to meet him and had obviously been working on his moves to “Let it Go.” We stopped to watch and then jumped in line. I wish I had video of his moves, but he even did a half split! I hope he’s around every year, because he’s just so entertaining.

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    ADVENTURELAND AND LIBERTY SQUARE

    And then we were off to the Jingle Cruise.

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    Our skipper had a couple good jokes that we hadn’t heard before, which is always extra fun. We needed a snack after that so we went to Aloha Isle for dole whips. I tried the upside down cake for the first time (loved it!) and Chrissy got the float, a classic.

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    After that delicious treat it was time for our next FP, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The line was long and confusing out in front of the attraction but we made our way through to the FP line and got in and off the attraction quickly. We made our way over to Liberty Square to use one of our anytime FP to ride Haunted Mansion, which we’d actually had an early morning FP for but didn’t make it to the park in time. On the way out we saw that Great Moments in American History was about to start so we stopped and waited for it. We’ve seen each show once and love both. This was the Paul Revere one.

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    We’re glad the Muppets are represented in the park and that everyone seems to love this show. Bye, MK. See ya in April.


    MONO TO ‘COT, MARGS AND TACOS

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    We took the monorail over to Epcot for a bit, mostly because we wanted to go check out the DVC lounge above Journey Into Imagination. It was exciting!

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    We had wanted to go up there for awhile. They were bringing the snack cart around so we grabbed a snack for later and headed out because I was hungry and wanted to try the tacos at Choza de Margarita. I got another fiesta margarita to go along with them.

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    The tacos were good, the side of corn was great, and the margarita was great (again). We sat there for a few minutes and it was time for another one of the big events of our trip...


    HOOOOOOOP DEEEEEE DOOOOOOO

    We walked to Boardwalk to get a Minnie Van to Pioneer Hall for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. (For those that don’t know, Minnie Van is the easiest way to get to Pioneer Hall. Uber can only bring you to the front of Fort Wilderness and you’d still need to catch their bus to get back to PH. Our driver explained that he got to use an exclusive back entrance that was a back road between Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge.) We saw some of the horses on the way over to the Hall!

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    We checked in and got our tickets for the show, and then we went for a walk around the campground to see some of the Christmas decorations that people had set up. Some people really do go all out, it made for a really nice walk! As it got closer to showtime/dinner, we headed back and waited outside Pioneer Hall. We saw a booth for people to check in - and we thought we were checked in because we picked up the tickets - and I wish it had been made clearer but we checked in again and now we were actually ready to go.

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    Someone came out and rang a bell to announce that they were ready for us! We got table 13, which is right up against the stage and next to the piano player. If we could have picked, we would have been a table or two back but despite being so close, the show was phenomenal. I had a lot of ribs, Chrissy ate a lot of chicken, we each had some cornbread, mashed potatoes and corn, neither of us touched the beans. It was all good. The strawberry shortcake was also very good. We both really enjoyed the show. It’s just plain fun, and I recommend it for anyone coming to WDW. I think it would appeal to everyone from kids to grandparents. I can’t wait to see the show again sometime.

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    This is the only photo I took of the show. Here's a short clip from my Instagram story.

    We had been planning to take a boat over to Wilderness Lodge to eat but Chrissy was still not feeling very well so instead we got a Minnie Van back to POFQ. The first time we tried to call one, the request timed out, but the second one went through pretty quickly. We walked back over to the pickup spot and were soon picked up by Donald, who had been one of the original Minnie Van trainers. He told us a little about that process, and how he and the other trainers took Ubers and Lyfts around property and talked to the drivers to see how much they knew about Disney. Often, they knew little or nothing about it, which is just another plus for getting a Minnie Van: you can talk Disney with them!

    Alright, one more day to go. Our final day will be up soon, including baby tigers and the Star Wars VR experience at Disney Springs!
     
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  14. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2016
    Messages:
    92
    FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29
    15,022 steps taken / total steps: 109,176 (15,596 per day)
    ---
    DO WE HAVE TO LEAVE?
    Final day. Sadness. We took our bags to Resort Airline Check-in, and then went to the front desk because sometime during the night we realized that we never got the DME envelope, but luckily it only took them about five minutes to make sure we had a ride to the airport. We dropped our carryons at bell services for the day, and then we only had to wait a couple minutes for the bus to AK to pick us up.


    A VERY CROWDED AND COLD ANIMAL KINGDOM
    We planned to spend a few hours at Animal Kingdom and then hop over to Disney Springs to finish the trip off. It was crushed. That was a theme of the last few days of this trip: just an overwhelming number of people. The lines for everything were crazy, even the bathrooms and Joffrey’s (as we’ll see in a few moments) and that made things a lot less fun. Looking forward to coming back in April when it won’t be nearly as bad. First FP was Flight of Passage for the third time this trip. We sat all the way to the right, and it was noticeably worse from that angle. But again we enjoyed chatting with people and listening to people talk about their first experience on the attraction. Pure joy. I also really love just walking around Pandora and looking at the details, big and small, but it was just too crowded to be able to enjoy that.

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    I wanted an iced coffee so we tried to stop at Joffrey’s on the way over to Everest, but the line was insane so we skipped it. Next FP was Expedition Everest, one of our favorites. I haven’t thought of it the past few times I’ve been on it, and again didn’t think of it until we got to that part of the ride, but I love sitting in that front seat so when you get to where the track ends, you can look out and see Spaceship Earth. I just love that view. On our way to our next FP we actually did stop at Joffrey’s because the line wasn’t quite as bad as before. Mm, iced coffee. It was only 50 degrees on this day, and despite wearing jeans and hoodie we were chilly, which was funny because we knew we would be flying home that night to 0 degree weather. We enjoyed our drinks for a few minutes and then we had to go see the baby tigers on the Maharajah Jungle Trek! We picked a good time to go, because the cubs were out and they were playing! They were running around for a bit and chasing each other. They were adorable. We wanted to spend all day just watching them, but we had other things to do and it would have been rude because lots of other people wanted to see them too.

    Babies!
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    I just love this wall.

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    Our next FP was Festival of the Lion King. This is the second or third time seeing the show, and it’s just so much fun. That was our last regular FP, but still had two bonus FP from DVC leftover so we decided to use one more and then head out, and we rode Kilimanjaro Safaris to say goodbye to the animals.

    Hello there, Mr. Giraffe.
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    Then it was time to head over to Springs. We remembered on the walk over to the buses that the Springs bus doesn’t start running until 4pm, so we did something we’ve done before (and might be a helpful tip for you!), we grabbed a bus to Saratoga Springs and got off at the Congress Park stop, because it’s just a short walk to Disney Springs from there. While on the bus, I decided I’d like to sit down and eat something before heading back to POFQ for the Tragical Express, so we tried to see if there were any last minute reservations available. The answer was no. (We had originally had a Paddlefish res but had to cancel it after finding out that DME was picking us up FOUR hours before our flight rather than three. The timing just wouldn’t have worked.) But then Chrissy remembered that some places are on OpenTable, so we checked that out. Planet Hollywood had some availability, and even though we weren’t super interested in eating there, it was something, so we booked it.


    WE’RE STORMTROOPERS!

    To finish off the trip with a bang, it was time for the Star Wars VR Experience!

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    Neither of us had ever done anything with VR before, and we were excited. We got checked in and got our wristbands ten minutes early, but they told us to come back in ten minutes, right at our time. We walked over to PinTraders and browsed for a few minutes and then we were able to check in, which really just meant getting in the line and waiting.

    Sooo rebellious.
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    After a few minutes we were brought into a room with six other people, and everyone walked up to a podium in front of a big screen. There were two screens, four podiums at each. A video started to play about our mission, and it seemed to cut off halfway through and then we were brought to wait in another line to get fitted with all our gear, and we were paired with two guys because you do the mission as a group of four. Someone helped us put everything on and explained how the helmet worked; we could hear the other three people in our group through the helmet and as soon as we put the visor down...we were all stormtroopers! I had a little bit of trouble seeing everything just right, because the helmet pushed my glasses down a bit so I had to tilt my head upwards a little just to see straight out of the visor. I don’t want to spoil the experience, but if you like Star Wars (and probably even if you don’t!) you will love this. You get to do some shooting, a couple old friends are involved, and it feels pretty damn real. The only drawback was that it was kind of awkward to be working with two other people that we didn’t know, and I wasn’t always sure which stormtrooper was my wife and which was the other guys. If you go in with three friends, I think it would be much better!

    Planet Hollywood Observatory, you are one interesting and overwhelming place. Our table was off in a corner and right near a door, so it was a little chilly and we couldn’t see the gigantic screen, but that was fine. We just wanted a place to sit and have a snack. We got the World Famous Chicken Crunch (see photo, they are served in a chicken!) and Potato Wedge Dippers. Everything was good, but there are so many great places to eat at Springs so this is not high on my list of places to return to.

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    On the way back to the boat, we stopped in at PinTraders to buy a passholder exclusive Epcot35 pin, and that was all, folks. We took the chilly boat back to POFQ, sat down for about 15 minutes and then hopped on the DME. Four hours was wayyy too early to be brought to the airport for an evening flight. Our flight was at 11pm. If they’re going to bring people four hours early again next year, I hope they customize it somehow for the busier parts of the day when getting through security actually can take awhile. The posted time to get through security was 5-9 minutes. It took us 4. And then to make things worse, our flight was delayed 35 minutes. So we were at the airport for hours. But I did eat delicious street corn from Cask and Larder. This is now twice in a row I’ve eaten there while waiting to leave, and it’s great. We got home around 2:30am, it was 0 degrees out, and we drove home and have been planning our next trip since!

    Goodbye, POFQ. Goodbye, trip report.

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    ---

    Our next trip will be in April, and we’ll be doing something different and exciting: bringing friends! My friends came to me and basically said “we went to Disney once but we didn’t really know what to do there, so we had fun but you guys go often and know your stuff, let’s go together sometime?” and we said “yes please!” And it just worked out that we were going in April and they were able to join us. We’re going April 14-21 and staying at POFQ again.


    I’ve enjoyed writing this up to help me remember and relive it, and I will probably refer back to this if I need to. I think I will likely do it again for the next trip, but I will try to take more photos! One thing I love reading others reports is all the photos.

    If anyone has enjoyed reading this, been entertained, learned something, or found something new they’d like to try next time - even better!
     
  15. ohsoblessed

    ohsoblessed Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Messages:
    28
    I have been following along and have enjoyed your wonderful TR. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us. Look forward to reading all about your April Trip.

    Sheila in Mobile, Alabama
     
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  16. DVCjj

    DVCjj Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2015
    Messages:
    446
    Loved your Trip Report!! (and your avatar name, by the way)

    Your pictures were great and I've learned some new things and were reminded of old favorites.

    Thank you so much for spending the time in writing and posting it.
     
  17. Lesley Wake

    Lesley Wake May the force be with you!

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2017
    Messages:
    2,886
    I just got to do this 2 days ago at Downtown Disney in Anaheim! It was so much fun! We were also a group of 2 (my dad and I) and paired with a couple. We were able to use the colors of the armor to figure out who everyone was though. But during the button part, it ended up being me and the man in the couple trying the buttons while my dad and the woman were shooting. Of course I would look up occasionally and miss a color so it took forever! But I totally want to do it again!
     
  18. DuffyForPresident

    DuffyForPresident wants to live at Epcot

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2016
    Messages:
    92
    Thank you Sheila!

    Thanks! Always glad to see another Duffy fan around. One day I will make it out to Tokyo to meet him and his whole crew.

    Ahh yes, I forgot about the colors. The guys we were paired with had done it before and seemed to know what was going on, I now remember them asking the person helping us about the colors. They briefly left right before we went into the experience and when they came back someone did say something about the colors, but I didn't know who was which color. I think they said that you usually pick the colors in the first room, where the video didn't get to finish for whatever reason.

    I can't wait to do it again either!
     
  19. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    May 26, 2003
    Messages:
    3,810
    Enjoyed your TR! We love BWV and how easy it is to get to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Hopefully will be staying there in April and December this year.

    Loved your pics especially of the baby tigers! I could have stood there watching them for hours too. Being at the parts for Christmas eve and Christmas Day has always been a wish of ours but the closest we'll get to those dates is staying the middle of December.

    Thanks for sharing your adventure! Anxious to see what fun you'll have with friends in April :)
     
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  20. cheryllarsen

    cheryllarsen DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Messages:
    843
    Wow, awesome trip report!
     
  21. cheryllarsen

    cheryllarsen DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Messages:
    843
    Thanks for posting. Enjoyed the read!
     
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