travel

Day 3: Magic Kingdom!

Mickey Mouse Day!

Thursday was our designated day for Magic Kingdom for a couple of really lucky reasons. That was the day boyfriend had managed to snag a coveted reservation at Be Our Guest, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) was also scheduled for that night. I hesitated on buying tickets to the party because 1) it’s extra and kind of expensive, and 2) because I was worried it would be too kid-based.

It’s definitely worth the splurge at least once. The closer to Halloween you get, the more expensive the tickets are, so you might want to take that into consideration if you’re planning on being at Disney during those times. We would’ve had to leave the park at 7 if we hadn’t bought tickets to the party; party tickets kept us in the park until 1 a.m.

I had never been to Disney during the fall, but the park is decked out in its harvest colors and pumpkins are everywhere!

We arrived at the park before it officially opened, like good little Mouseketeers, and while everyone else was making a beeline for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we ran to Space Mountain. I was well into my teens before I actually rode Space Mountain (and would like to apologize to my parents for all the times I denied them the joy of riding this because I was too chicken). We were a few of the first people on the ride and should’ve ridden it again because when we went back that evening it was…you guessed it! Broken.


We skipped by the entire Storybrook Circus area. It’s mostly for small kids.

Our next stop was Ariel’s Grotto area which was new to us, and we hopped on Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. Boyfriend must have a thing for princesses because this was another ride he requested to do a second time later during the day. We didn’t have a wait, but there are some interesting activities in the queue if you are in a long line. I now can’t get “Under the Sea” out of my head.

After “oohing” and “ahhing” at Beast’s Castle, I dragged boyfriend to Enchanted Tales with BelleThis is a reenactment of the story, and we were BY FAR the oldest people there without children and being there was the only real time I felt kind of creepy. I still wanted a part in the play but got denied. Little kids will freak out over this, but unless you’re there with a bunch of adult friends, your time might be better spent elsewhere.

In Belle’s house waiting for Enchanted Tales

Like Gaston’s Tavern.

The “manliest of manly places” according to the Disney site.

We had only completed three activities and were already hungry. We kept seeing people with giant cinnamon rolls walk out of Gaston’s, so going inside for food seemed like the only logical thing to do. The next logical thing to do was order a giant cinnamon roll, a ham and cheese pretzel, and LeFou’s Brew (it’s frozen apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow, topped with passion fruit-mango foam). I know, I know. What a weirdo combo – but TRUST ME. Freaking amazing.

I want to go back just for LeFou’s Brew.

We got in a ton of rides before finding our parade spot and basically just worked our way from Gaston’s Tavern counterclockwise around the park. We had a FastPass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (thank goodness!) – when we passed the ride around 10 there was already a 2+ hour wait. We got in “it’s a small world,” Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, the Country Bear Jamboree (so many sites say to skip this, but I think it’s hilarious and boyfriend had never seen it), and we rode the boat over to Tom Sawyer Island which I had never done (and won’t do again).

The only picture from the Festival of Fantasy Parade – clearly Beauty and the Beast is my favorite movie.

We had a perfect spot for the parade and it was nice to stand there and dry off from Splash Mountain.

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After the parade we needed refueling; I had a plan. Boyfriend did not. Since we were super close to the Sleepy Hollow kiosk, I opted for a Sweet and Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich which was pretty tasty! Boyfriend wanted something from the Pinocchio Village Haus, so I took my waffle there. There’s plastic glass on one side of the restaurant facing “it’s a small world,” so we entertained ourselves by watching the boats load.

After our lunch break we fit in most of our other rides: Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise (we waited forever in this line), and the Enchanted Tiki Room (my mother HATES this show; boyfriend had also never seen this one – one time every ten years might be enough, tbh). Then it was time for my first Dole Whip! It was a perfect late-afternoon treat to help us cool off (no pic because I ate it so fast).

After a show at Mickey’s PhilharMagic we came back to Adventureland for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (totally a kids ride, but hey, I’m a kid at heart).

While we were riding the magic carpets I saw Aladdin and Abu! I wasn’t about to pass up a photo op! And again, the oldest people in line. No shame.

Pirates of the Caribbean lit up for Halloween

We found some prime space for the Boo-to-You Halloween Parade which usually takes place twice during the party. We opted for the later parade – everything I read said to avoid the early one because all the kids were there and left by the time the later parade happened. I loved this parade because it featured a lot of characters, especially villains, you can’t typically find around the parks (the hyenas from The Lion King, below, were hilarious), and the parade begins with the Headless Horseman riding through the streets. Warning: the song they sing throughout the parade WILL get stuck in your head forever.


Earlier in the day we had picked up our wristbands for the Halloween Party. When you get your wristband you also get a bag for trick-or-treating around the park (that already has candy in it!). We hesitated to actually go to the trick-or-treating stations, but nobody looked at us weird, other adults were doing it (and dressed up in super impressive costumes!), so we jumped right in! Who doesn’t like Disney + free candy!?

It was FINALLY time for our dinner reservations at Be Our Guest! (hear about that here!) We missed the Happy HalloWishes fireworks, but stay tuned to hear why we were ok with that…

Before the final show we hit up Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, a peaceful ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover where we could see a lot of the park lit up, and then a nighttime ride on Splash Mountain. I highly recommend riding Splash Mountain at night because the park is beautiful to see right before the big drop.

Cinderella’s Castle decked out in Halloween colors for the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular

And then at midnight we had the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular in front of Cinderella’s Castle featuring the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus and all their Disney villain friends! I highly recommend this show, especially if you like seeing the Disney villains!

The park was open for a couple more hours, but we were absolutely exhausted. I have no idea how some of those kids were making it. If you’re debating on whether or not to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, I highly recommend doing it at least once! Even if you’re adults without kids!

*Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was closed for refurbishments during our trip (so sad!).

 

 

 

Day 2, Part 2: Islands of Adventure

After getting off Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure park, we were like two little kids – I just can’t get over how amazing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is! 


After exploring some of the stores we hit all the rides in this section – Flight of the Hippogriff, Dragon Challenge, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Flight is a family-friendly coaster, so it ended up being a bit anti-climactic. The Forbidden Journey is AWESOME though. Boyfriend and I agreed that it was probably our favorite ride of the day. We had a lengthy wait, but like Gringotts, there’s so much to see and explore that having a wait is kind of a good thing. We even got snowed on in Hogwarts!

Boyfriend didn’t realize Dragon Challenge has two different coasters, so we ended up just riding the red coaster…on this trip 😉.

The Forbidden Journey is in Hogwarts! How impressive is this building?!?

After a frozen butterbeer break, we crossed over the bridge into the Jurassic Park area. We played around in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center and then jumped on board the Jurassic Park River Adventure. I didn’t get as wet as I expected, but I was still jealous of the little girl beside me in a poncho. 

I also apparently stopped taking pictures at this point. 

We passed by Kong because of the long line and ended up at Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, which I wasn’t excited about (I hate walking around with wet pants!). We had a lengthy wait PLUS the ride broke down for a while (seriously, what the heck?), and yes, I ended up walking around in soggy shorts. Gross. 

I perked up after a 3-D ride on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, a low-key and calm ride as the oldest people on The Cat and the Hat ride, and then an adrenaline rush on The Incredible Hulk Coaster, which may have been second on my favorite ride list. The whole park probably heard me scream from that initial blast-off!

Before returning to Kong we grabbed dinner at the Three Broomsticks. I had my second frozen butterbeer and the chicken and ribs combo. The chicken was ok, but the ribs were pretty good! Boyfriend had the fish and chips. 

Frozen butterbeer is a must!


We finally made it to Skull Island: Reign of Kong. This was definitely our longest wait since the ride is new, which was fine until we entered the main waiting area. In this room there’s a tribal woman(?) who talks to/chants/threatens(?) everyone, and after hearing that at least five times, I was over it. But the ride was enjoyable, especially because it was dark and made the initial safari ride outside with the torches eery. 
What did we learn? 1) It might be better to stay at one of the Universal affiliated hotels that offer a free unlimited express pass with your stay. We were really hating on those people who were skipping to the head of the line. 2) Butterbeer should be a food group. 3) Even with my scheduled plans it wasn’t possible to do everything at both parks, but next time we have a better idea of rides we’re ok skipping. 

Where’d we go on day 3? Check back to find out!

Day 2, Part 1: Universal Studios

Based on my crowd calendar research, Wednesday was supposed to be a low-crowd day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. That wasn’t quite accurate. October must be a prime vacation time for Europeans?

Anyway. It was crowded, and we had a blast nevertheless. During October, Universal has Halloween Horror Nights which looks terrifying. They actually just released the dates for 2017, so if you’re into that thing, you can start planning! American Horror Story will be one theme according to their website. Since that was going on while we were there, Universal was closing early which is why we chose to do that park first. We arrived right before the park opened and made a beeline for the Despicable Me ride since it’s at the front of the park. Boyfriend loved that one. 

Shrek wasn’t working, and we passed by it several times to check throughout the day with no luck. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster was supposed to be next; I wasn’t able to get up the nerve for that one and when I had finally decided to be brave, it was also having technical problems. This gal doesn’t get on things that fling her through the air if she knows it hasn’t been working, so we had to cross that off our list, too. I felt guilty but also super relieved! 

I made a quick pose with Bumblebee on our way to the Transformers ride (that line also went quickly). Boyfriend really likes Transformers but didn’t seem to enjoy the ride as much as I did. It’s been years since I’ve been to Universal; I loved how the rides now have a combo of 3-D with actual movement (the website describes them as 3-D/4-D experiences, but rather than being in a seat the car moves through the building to different screens – do I sound old being in awe of this?).

My favorite ride, other than Harry Potter, was Revenge of the Mummy. It’s a little intense (in an exciting way! – think fire and drops), and when our cart came back to the loading station there was an old woman in a wheelchair waiting in line (insert wide-eyed emoji). I’ll admit I was a little concerned…

Our next stop was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley! This area is hidden behind a brick wall, and if we hadn’t seen people walking through the narrow entry, we would’ve walked right on by. 


Despite being a book nerd, I resisted the Harry Potter mania when it first happened, but boyfriend made me watch all the movies before our trip (and I’m so glad I did!). Be sure to take some time to walk through the shops and find the hidden alleys…and definitely watch out for random spurts of water from people testing out their wizard wands. 

The Escape from Gringotts was such a fun ride! We didn’t have a terrible wait (30 minutes?), but the building/atmosphere is so amazingly impressive that waiting in line actually provides opportunities to take everything in and snap a few pictures! I was too busy looking to get pictures, but I can’t imagine that pictures do justice to actually being there. 

Lunchtime! I probably looked at the menus for every restaurant/food spot multiple times (this is no surprise to those who know me well). Unfortunately, I don’t think Universal has the same level of dining as Disney parks. We ended up splitting a burger and fries at Krusty Burger in The Simpsons area. It was fine, but I really can’t remember anything about it. 


HOWEVER, ya see that little building behind me in the picture above? Lard Lad Donuts is where the magic happens – the donut sundae (cue the angel choir).


You know that feeling when you find the Holy Grail of food and the crowd parts while everybody stares at you with admiration and jealousy? Yeah, that happened. You need a donut sundae. If you’re with somebody who doesn’t want a donut sundae, get one anyway (and maybe get rid of that person because who needs that kind of negativity??).

After our donut delight, we opted to separate for The Simpsons ride and both got in the single rider line to cut down our wait. If you don’t mind doing that you can get through some of the longer lines a little quicker. We followed that with Men In Black Alien Attack (I get super competitive at shooter rides) and ended up waiting at the end because the ride broke (that seemed to be a theme for the day?) and then E.T. Adventure, which is cute but extremely outdated. I’ll be anxious to see how much longer that one lasts. If you’re short on time and have rides that are high on your must-do list, I recommend leaving this one out. 

At this point we were ready to take the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure. The line for the train took quite a while, and it probably would’ve taken a lot less time to just walk, but we had to ride it at least once!

Although we missed/skipped a couple rides and didn’t go to any shows, it was a successful 1/2 day at Universal. Stay tuned for Part 2 at Islands of Adventure, ya muggles! 

Epcot and the new Frozen ride 

One of my main goals whenever I travel is to get up early so no time is wasted. Disney parks frequently open their gates before the official opening time (Epcot opened about 15 minutes early), so if you’re there as soon as they open you can race to one of the rides that gets busy before the line gets out of control. 


I wasn’t able to get a Fastpass for the new Frozen ride, and the lines are often crazy long for it (when it opened in the summer I saw on the Disney app up to a four hour wait time…no thank you). However, I can speedwalk like nobody’s business, and I had no shame in racing tiny children to the line. We got there in time for a 30 minute wait, which wasn’t bad, and the line wrapped around several buildings not long after we got there. 

Once you get inside the waiting isn’t too horrible because it’s decorated like Arandelle, so it’s fun to look around. The ride is also cute and enjoyable. The animatronics are extremely impressive, there’s a surprise backward surge, and be prepared to get a little wet at the bottom of the drop!

Boyfriend hadn’t seen the movie, but he wanted to ride it again later that night. Since we were staying at a Disney resort (Port Orleans – Riverside), we got to enjoy extra magic hours that night and found an even shorter line for a second trip through Frozen!

Living with the Land ride

In between the food and wine sampling (see previous post for details on that) we managed to get on every ride. I was excited to introduce boyfriend to several rides he’d never been on such as Living with the Land, Journey into Imagination with Figment (how do you miss out on Figment?!), and the Gran Fiesta boat ride in Mexico. 


And don’t forget the fireworks show, Illuminations!

I know a lot of adults think it’s weird to go to Disney without kids, but we had so much fun, and we’ve already started talking about our next Disney trip…

Epcot Food and Wine Festival – October 2016

I thought this Disney trip would never arrive, and now I feel like it’s been so long since I went (because it has been)! I spent the entire summer planning – where will we eat, what will we ride, which park should we visit on each day – and I definitely think that thorough planning paid off.

Hurricane Matthew hit our part of North Carolina the weekend before we left. I felt incredibly guilty going on a fun trip knowing so many people had lost everything. It ended up being a good for us though since we didn’t have power for most of the week.

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Grape Stomping at Irvin House Vineyards

Back during the days when Nick-at-Nite was awesome, I was a huge fan of the I Love Lucy show. One of my favorite episodes was “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” where she went to work at a vineyard stomping grapes to “prepare” for a movie role (that ended up being completely unrelated to grape stomping). Imagine my excitement when I found out that Irvin House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island, SC has a Grape Stomp Festival!

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Pigging Out in Charleston – Swig & Swine

If it isn’t obvious by now, my family loves food. Since I basically spent all of June staying with my sister in Charleston, we had plenty of opportunities for eating. If you’re a bbq lover like we are, you need to try Swig & Swine.

What’s not to love about a place where the servers are wearing shirts like “I like pig butt and I cannot lie” and “My brisket brings all the girls to the yard”?  Continue reading

Weekend Getaway – Wilmington, NC (Part I)

Earlier in July, I went to Wilmington for the first time with my two best girlfriends. We’ve been friends since college, and I love these two so much. I’m really blessed to have them both in my life.

None of us had been to Wilmington, so we were really looking forward to the trip. We booked a little apartment above the stores downtown through Airbnb. It was a convenient place to stay, but I didn’t sleep much the first night because of all the downtown/bar noise.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t on my blog game and didn’t get very many pictures. But that doesn’t mean I can’t share my food suggestions!

If you visit Wilmington, I suggest an evening stroll on the riverwalk.

If you visit Wilmington, I suggest an evening stroll on the riverwalk.

Circa 1922 – We had dinner here on Friday, and it was really good! All three of us ordered a hot small plate (spring rolls, pork croquette, and stuffed piquillo peppers), and I highly recommend all of them. For my entree, I had the duck confit, another winner, and for dessert I talked them into splitting the croissant bread pudding (<– get that right now).

The Dixie Grill – We stopped here for breakfast before heading out to the beach, and all three of us were glad we did. I honestly don’t remember what the girls got because I was too focused on my sweet potato pancakes – I didn’t even care if I had pancake belly at the beach!

The Pilot House – Later that evening we wanted something to nibble on and some refreshing drinks, and luckily Wilmington has several options that include a beautiful river view. The Pilot House has a fantastic patio right on the river, so we munched on some Brie and carpaccio, watched the boats go by, and had a perfect sunset.

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Food brings out the worst “I’m so excited about digging in” faces in me.

Our Crepes and More – Definitely two thumbs up! Like the name says, this restaurant focuses on crepes, both sweet and savory. I chose the Versailles crepe (strawberries, bananas, Nutella, whipped cream, strawberry syrup, and ICE CREAM). Add this place to your Wilmington list!

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What are some of your suggestions for my next visit to Wilmington? It’s less than a two hour drive from me, so I’ll be frequenting this fun place!

Travelin’ Tuesday – Charleston

Like most people, I love Charleston, South Carolina. Luckily for me, I have family there, and my sister (I’ll refer to her as  “E”) just moved there this summer (lucky dog!), so I have plenty of reasons to visit. After getting my sister settled, I stuck around for about a month (a huge advantage to teaching at a college) and gained plenty of weight trying out all the food stops. I regret nothing.

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One of the great places we tried was 82 Queen. We’d had our brunch eyes on this cute little place, so after church one Sunday, we headed down to the historic French Quarter.

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