Friday, August 2, 2013

Flash Back Friday: Disney World 2008 Part I

( I took this picture as well as a few others from the internet)Considering that this week has been busy with not so good news, work and no vacation trips in the near future, I had to think hard about what would be a REALLY fun trip to Flash back too. A trip that was unforgettable and a time when worries were far far far from all of our thoughts. 2008 had to be one of my best years ever. We were all settled in the new house (our past foreclosure behind us) I was working in private practice making great money, Mark was doing well financially as well. Kids were all doing great! We were all healthy and positive about our future. The Disney trip was our very last whole family trip and had been planed, re-planed, re-booked, canceled,  re-routed, re-decided and finally made a reality during the kids spring break of that year. I had planned so well with the finances, we all had our admission tickets paid in full at Christmas time, I had also pre-paid the hotel well before we left and had read multiple books on maximizing our Disney vacation through books by Forbes and Disney on a Dime. We were ready.  (Please bear with the pictures, Most have been scrapbooked already. I had a CD made of all pictures but it somehow ended up in the pool and destroyed. Someone played Frisbee (no one has admitted as of this date) with it, and someone else (me) was not so happy. Plus there is no CD drive on this computer anyways.)
Considering that the cheapest way to go was to drive, we decided to leave in the afternoon, grab some quick dinner on the way out and drive straight through to Daytona. We stopped only to get a snack, use the rest-room's, stretch, change drivers see the lights of South of the Border (it was like 4am when we got there, but the lights were still on and welcoming) and eat a BIG Brunch breakfast somewhere in Georgia. The drive was not to bad, with the kids sleeping most of the way, and Mark and I changing shifts, although I will admit he drove 90% of the trip, we made good time and there were no problems. Funniest thing I remember about the drive down was stopping at rest stops around 2am. People with their make shift curtains (towels) hanging on their car windows as they attempted to sleep. I just thought it looked strange.  We arrived in Daytona somewhere around 3pm were able to score a hotel suite, kitchen, living room and multiple beds for dirt cheep (off season) and right on the beach. Tired or not we were BEACH BOUND and couldn't wait to dip our toes in the sand. 
Daytona Beach is AMAZING! If I had planned better I might have decided to stay a little longer. The beach was beautiful and it was fun to see the dune buggy's, and other cars crossing along the beach drive. I think this might be the only place where they can still do that, but I am not sure. What can you say about a beach but lets dig in the sand and lets swim...and we did ...for hours. And even when beach swimming was done the kids had to get in the hotel pool.

We had dinner on the shore as the sun set. All slept well and we were soon back on the road the following day towards Orlando for Fun with Mickey. We stopped briefly at Daytona Race Track so Mark could get his thrill (although nothing was open) and we were again off!

This was my fifth trip to Disney World, and multiple trip to Florida. First Disney trip I had to be around 5 or 6 with my parents and there was only The Magic Kingdom back then. I remember It's a small world ride and meeting Winnie the Pooh the most about that trip. I still love Pooh and had a giant stuffed bear until a not so good friend's stupid dog ate his eyes out. (On to happier thoughts) I went again when my oldest was about three. We only made it to The Magic Kingdom on that trip as well but for the exception of my son's father, we went with great Company; Aunt Jeanine, Lynne and her boys; Tyler and Troy, and Jeff, Lynne's brother. My best memory of that trip was Nick's excitement and fear in the Haunted Mansion and my own excitement and FEAR in the Alien ride (which is no longer there) now it is Stitch's ride and not so scary. That Alien ride was terrifying. I was back again in 2000 with my mother and two oldest children. We had the best time on that trip, we stayed on Disney property and MAXED ourselves out on everything DISNEY!!! I fell in love with the Fantasmic show. I was back again in 2008 or 2009 ( I so cannot remember) this time with Close to My Heart for the Convention. We stayed at the Gaylord Hotel. (That was an amazing adventure in itself and so Flashback Friday in the future). I only made it to Downtown Disney on that trip. And then this trip.
I had researched hotel prices and examined the pro's and con's to on property vs off and found that we would maximize the funds if we stayed off property at Holiday Inn Sunsports resort. Although one big room, there was a divider for the kids with four bunks, a kitchenette, dining space and lots of kids activities right there at the hotel; pool, movies, arcade, play ground, basketball court, and even a bar in the pool area. They also offered transportation to and from the theme parks, but we drove as it was right around the corner to all four theme parks and downtown Disney, which was were we went to on our first day in Disney World.
 (picture of Gavin at the Hotel Pool with a cocktail, later that night they had a pool party with games like limbo and showed a  Disney movie and the kids watched it in the pool). It was so much fun!
Downtown Disney is not a theme park, but is actually multiple stores, cafe's, restaurants, theaters, attractions,  and once home to Pleasure Island (Disney's own night clubs). Pleasure Island was closing up their doors and making their last appearances as we were there on that trip. I think they closed down the following year. I am not sure why they said goodbye.
My daughter poses with Rapunzel outside one of the many stores in Down Town Disney. Favorite parts of Down Town Disney has to be LEGO's. Nick was always a fan and he was possibly of all four kids the one most impressed with this gem of a store. They played with the lego's for at least an hour after posing with the impressive Lego statues found both on the boardwalk, in the store and in the bay. Loved the loch nessy creeping up from the water.

As if people cannot guess and Disney has not skipped a beat with this, marketing towards what is current and hot and on this particular year it was all about the Pirate. Thanks to Johnny Depp or Jack Sparrow (depending on who your more attracted to and on what day), there was Pirates everywhere and my kids did not miss out on the action. Gavin wanted ONLY pirate stuff and we convinced him to get a few souvenirs that had a cheeper price tag as well. Little tip on this. At two of the stores they sold items that you could stuff with as much stuff as you could stuff in for one price. If you are good packers and play your skills right you can stuff a Mr. Potato box of accessories and have a vast assortment of outfits. Ours included a pirate patch, sword, boots, and booty and  so much more. To do it as cheaply as Mr. Potato head before your trip at a discount store. No one says you have to have Mr. Potato in your box. I think they also had my pretty pony and you can do the same thing. We filled that box to the top with items for our pre bought Potato. We did a similar fill your box with treasures at another store. My youngest got his own Pirate gear by stuffing his own pirate attire in a small treasure chest. Here is his final look!
there are so many stores and so much fun stuff to buy a parent and a compulsive lover of all things Disney can go broke in a place like this,  to combat going broke each kid got an allowance of funds for each day on the trip. They could save it, spend it stock pile it till they got home for all I cared, but once it was gone it was gone. The kids actually did very well with this. Ben stashed his most of the week and still figured out how to convince dad to buy things anyways, but the other kids were crafty enough to max their green. In addition to preventing Poverty on our trip I had pre-purchased items Disney items through out the year. Some I got at deep deep discount prices both at the Disney Store and online. At the end of each day they got a special treat with something Disney on it, so even if they didn't get that one more stuff item, they had a Peter Pan hand fan or a glow in the dark Buzz Light Year. This did not work so well with my elder two kids, but they did not loose out on Disney themed clothing.
With the Pirates.
We had a nice lunch at Planet Hollywood. If you have never been to a planet Hollywood restaurant before I recommend it. There was so much to see. We could have spent an entire afternoon just walking around the huge domed building full to the brim with movie themed items. I wish my pictures came out. From the ceiling there were life boats of people from the titanic, there was the giant Fly from the movie The Fly they even had star hands outside like Hollywood Blvd and Forest Gump's boat. It was pretty cool. It was a fun filled day at Downtown Disney.  
Our first full day at the Parks was set for Hollywood Studio's. This choice of the four Disney Theme parks was based upon research I found on populated days at the Parks. It was also scheduled around pre-reservations for dining plans.
We had reservations for lunch at Hollywood and Vine that included front row seating for Fantasmic. We missed the parade however due to our scheduled lunch hour. It was not a favorite for the family either. Would skip this in the future, but the SHOW was great and we did have the best seats ever. Only thing was that my camera would not corporate and so I missed multiple pictures of the characters. Anyways....
Hollywood studios was where all by preplanning came into play. We arrived at every park early and this is an ABSOLUTE if you want to maximize your Disney experience. We did have to wait at the gate every time, but it is so worth it when you have ridden all most all of the attractions and people haven't even entered the park. Once inside, Mark went right with Nick and Lexi to ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller Coaster.

While Gavin, Ben and I went to Star Tours. We rode Star Tours twice before the Star Wars show started where we gained access to front row seat. Gavin even got chosen to  go on stage and become a Jedi. He had so much fun. After the jedi lesson they were to fight Darth Vader and Gavin said I got to fight Darth Vader. He was so proud.

Getting lessons and learning to be a Jedi. He also go a certificate of Jedi training.
The boys enjoyed star tours. Basically it is a simulated ride where you fight the rebellion while in seats that move with the movie. I don't know how they do it to make it all seem so real.
We met up with the rest of the family as we were watching the Jedi training. They enjoyed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rocken Roller Coaster. Mark got a picture of them falling in the tower. He reported that the women next to him (some stranger who interestingly enough looks like me) apologized for her behavior before they even lifted to the top. Apparently she had grabbed his hand and squeezed so hard Mark was in pain. 
 I am a chicken so I would never have gone on this ride. I really hate rollercoasters too, (Although I did go on Everest at Animal Kingdom, I'll talk about that one later.)
Next up we made our way to Muppet Vision 3-D. This is a 3-D movie with the Muppets and they have all kinds of Crazy antics that they get into. The theater seats help with the fun air blows, noises are made, bubbles appear. It was a lot of fun.
Next stop was at the Honey I shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, which is essentially a playground with giant leaves, grass and of course BIG bugs. The kids spent some time climbing on these fun jungle gym like activities before we made our way to the Lights, Motor Action Extreme Stunt Show.
Not a great picture for blog, but here is Gavin on a giant ant. See the blades of grass in the background.
When it comes to shows, Disney is the best, and although I have seen a fair share of stunt shows featuring cars, things that blow up etc,(Six Flags Jersey has the Batman stunt show, and we saw a Stunt show at Paramount in Canada) I have to say this Stunt show was the most impressive. Unlike the other two mentioned, there was no story line, the show simply presented to the audience HOW these stunts were preformed. Some of the techniques were things like false seats, cars that drove backwards, cars that were driven by remote, and they even presented how Herbie the Love Bug split in half in the movie. It was actually pretty neat.
After the Stunt show, we were all feeling a bit weary, and hungry, but we were right next to the Backlot Tours and we also got to see The Cars Characters. One of Gavin's favorites. So quickly the kids posed with Tow Mater and we were off to the Studio Backlot Tours.
The Studio Backlot Tours is basically a bus that takes you through all of the artifacts used in Disney Movies, as well as offering the riders an opportunity to be in some pretty DANGEROUS situations. Like what is the likihood that we would run into an EXPLOSION? Well we did on this tour and it was all kinds of CRAZY FUN! (TAKEN RIGHT FROM WIKIPEDIA)
As guests exit the prop building they are boarded onto a tram for the main part of the tour. As the driver brings the tram through different areas, a prerecorded narration explains what is found there and tells the guests facts about it. Guests first travel past the Earful Tower, the former icon of the park. The tram ride is the closest that guests can get to the tower in the park. After the tower the tram drives through the costume and materials building, which has a thru-way for the tram and windows for guests to see the costumes and people working. A highlight in the building is the room full of tires used for the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.
When the tram leaves the building it brings guest through an outside area named the boneyard (named after an aircraft boneyard). In the boneyard are vehicles which were featured in many films. Props include the genuine steamroller used by Judge Doom during the climax of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, ships from the original Star Wars films, the duo motorcycles from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the escape pod from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, cars used in the Herbie the Love Bug films (the ex-parade vehicle Herbie was taken away from the All-Star Movies Resort [on account of children kept climbing on it] and is now on display here), bone cages from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Spaceship from Flight of the Navigator and boats and other vehicles used in other Disney-produced films.
After leaving the boneyard guests are told that they will be entering a current movie set while the cast is on break. It enters into an area known as Catastrophe Canyon, a rocky area with a fuel truck and water tanks inside of it. While the tram is stopped filming starts suddenly. An earthquake shakes the tram and causes the fuel truck to explode, sending a fire ball into the air. Then a flood of water comes rushing down from the canyon and from above the tram. When the earthquake subsides and the water stops, the set begins to reset for the next tram and the host on the tram tells guests how it was done as the tram goes around behind the set to show the back of the set.
After exiting the canyon the tram travels through parts of the boneyard again. Guests go past the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show stadium and practice areas. The tram also passes Walt Disney's private airplane. After this part the tram pulls to the exit and that part of the attraction is finished.
This sums it up nicely with some additional detail.
Onwards to Lunch at Hollywood and Vine. This was not my favorite meal and we missed most of the Block Party Bash because we were eating while this party was going on. Hollywood and Vine restaurant was picked as we were allowed early access and better seating to Fantasmic, but the meal wasn't anything special.
After lunch we headed to the Indiana Jones Epic Spectacular. This was a GREAT show and we all enjoyed the recreations from the movie. We also caught Sounds Dangerous  where Drew Carey narrates a lesson in sound effects. Just a few more rides and our day will have been maxed. We rode on the Great Movie Ride, which is a seated tram that runs through the history of Hollywood. Some classics featured was the Terminator and of course the Wizard of OZ.  It was getting close to time for admission into Fantasmic so we caught one more ride/show in Animation Courtyard, and were able to enjoy Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

And then it was time for FANTASMIC! When my older children and I had come in 2000 with my mother, Fantasmic was one of my fondest memories of the trip. I grew up on Disney Movies and I love the characters. I also remembered going to see Fantasia at the movie theater with my Mom and my Grandmother, so something about this show and my own youthful memories had me sucked right in. We waited for quite awhile for the show to start with our early admission, but we really did have some of the BEST seats in the house. Right up front. When Mickey Mouse arrived with his Sorceres hat and the dancing brooms, the crashing waves, the explosions and Oh MY!!!! The dark Dragon!!! The traditional EVIL climax resulting in a rescued by a HERO and all of the Princess are saved by their Prince. It still gets me every time. I struggled with pictures and most were blurred. Someday I will get my camera lessons. It is still one of my FAVORITES in DISNEY!!!
(I took a bunch of pictures off the internet)

My rated best of the day at Hollywood Studios and MUST NOT MISSES
1. Fantasmic
2. Jedi Training especially if your child is picked to learn Jedi Training
3. Indiana Jones
4. The Lights Motor Action shows
Muppet Vision 3-D and Voyage of the Little Mermaid came in at a tie for #5.
The older kids might have made The Tower and Rocken Roller coaster up on the list, but since I personally did not ride either of them I did not include them on my list.

I honestly do not remember what we did after the Fantasmic show we were all BEAT and it is entirely possible we fell out in our hotel room. Tomorrow's adventure...(and my next Friday Flashback) Our first day of Two at The Magic Kingdom.