So what did I do when I wasn’t running the Wine and Dine Half Marathon or tasting my way around the world at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival? I played tourist of course!
After going to expo on Friday, I headed to Disney Springs to explore the changes (since April). Totally different! Lots of shopping – for Disney and non-Disney gifts.
Once I got my bearings, I stopped by my usual places – Ghirardelli for a free piece of chocolate (yum!), Basin to wash my hands (sounds silly but you must go in and play in this store! You can use their hand scrubs to wash your hands and they leave your hands super soft; I also normally treat myself to a bath bomb and I buy my Epsom salt here), and lastly, Bibbity Boddity Boutique to be pixie dusted by a fairy god-mother in training. Oh and since it was a race weekend, I stopped by Fit2Run to pick up my race freebie and make sure I had all race necessities covered.
I stopped by Pandora to design a new princess themed bracelet (it’s so much fun seeing the charms in person!) and wandered over to Alex and Ani to see their Disney line in person. I would have liked to visit the Ugg, Sephora and Vera Bradley stores but by the time I found them, it was time to head back to the hotel.
I did have dinner at Splitsville with Kellsie’s Krew. The food, atmosphere and service were stellar! I highly recommend!
On Saturday, after my volunteer shift for the 10k, I headed over to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I have never been to this resort but heard great things and wanted to see it for myself. This resort did not disappoint!
Before getting to Disney, I did a little research and found out what kind of activities the resort offers. I made a list of things I wanted to see, try and do and set out to spend my day at the Lodge.
First up was a flamingo activity at Jambo House. Unfortunately, the activity didn’t happen (either the cast member forgot or no one was there so the cast member took care of the flamingos and left). This activity was a discussion on what flamingos eat and how they are fed.
With this activity crossed off the list and time to spend before the next thing I wanted to do, I spent some time walking around the resort.
There was a shuttle that would take guests between the two resort buildings so I grabbed the shuttle and headed up to the Kidani Village.
Animals were just starting to make their way out to the savannah. It was a beautiful morning and the resort had many comfortable vantage points for you to view the animals. My favorite was around the fire pit that made you feel like you were right in the middle of the animals.
I also enjoyed sitting on the patios around the resort which were shaded and had rocking chairs. There was just the right amount of warmth and a slight breeze – I am pretty sure I passed hours this way!
Around 1pm, it was time to head back down to Jambo House to attend a cookie decorating activity but first, some cast members were teaching guests how to play the drum – I had to try (I now understand why my parents didn’t want me to take up the drums lol). Super fun and completely unexpected.
Now back to the cookies: It was a free activity geared towards children but who am I to turn down a free cookie? Cast members handed out animal shaped sugar cookies and put out different icings and candy toppings. There was a kids table that cleared out pretty quickly and an adult table. At the adult table, we ran over in the activity mostly because we were too busy talking to our cast member – I called her “T”. I wish I wrote down her name because she was just awesome!
After I ate these delicious culinary treats, I headed out to another activity that was geared towards kids. It was an arts and crafts activity featuring safari animals. You could make a picture with the animal stamps and then the cast members would teach you the name of the animal in their native language – how cool! So here’s my picture:
I know – it’s the most amazing art you have ever seen! The language is Setswana. I stamped an alligator (kwena), a leopard (nkwe), an elephant (tlou) and a giraffe (thutwa). Again the cast members at this activity were also awesome!
Around this time, it was time to head back to Kidani Village to finish off my day of activities at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The first of my last activities at the Lodge was cake decorating (free…cake…need I say more?). Again, cast members handed out animal shaped cakes along with icing and topping choices.
My last activity was a free tour – African Inspired, Disney Designed. I had no idea what to expect from this tour. I figured from the name of the tour we would be talking about how Disney designed the Lodge based on African cultures. If you ever get some time to experience this 30 minute tour – it is a must do!
The tour started outside the lobby store. Our guide, Mosa, told us a little bit about herself and then away we went. We started outside of the resort. The resort is designed to resemble how houses are made in Africa – with natural walls and a hatched roof. The entrance of Kidani Village also has lit lanterns because a light is a sign of welcome, come in.
The resort has 800 artifacts from Africa. Each lobby is like a small museum about African culture. I didn’t take pictures of all of them because I truly think you need to see them for yourself.
After taking us through the lobby and pointing out some of the artifacts in the building, we were taken to the library (were no books are allowed – the African culture passes its history down through the generations in the oral tradition!). This room had some of my favorite things in it. A king’s ceremonial robe and belt were on display as well as ancient spears that are now used in dance and not in hunting.
After talking to us about this room and what was on display, Mosa answered some of our questions and then it was time to say goodbye. She left us with a parting gift a card with facts about her country:
I really can not express my gratitude to the cast members at Animal Kingdom Lodge enough. Each and every cast member I spoke with was so warm and friendly. They spoke about their homes with so much passion. I really wish I wrote down every cast member’s name. Talking to them truly helped make my day at Animal Kingdom Lodge much more memorable.
Oh and I almost forgot, I headed over to the Polynesian to pick up my first ever Dole Whip! I opted for the Dole Whip float and I will be making this a regular Disney treat! YUM!
Tip: whenever you go to Disney, check out your hotel’s activity guide. Each resort offers free activities or things you can do at a small cost. You can also resort hop which is what I did this trip and take part in activities at another resort.
On my last day, Monday, I hobbled a little bit around the property. My first stop of the morning was Magic Kingdom. I wasn’t going into the park but I did want to catch the morning’s Welcome Show which happens about 10 minutes before the park opens. I got there much earlier than I had anticipated but that also meant I had my pick of the “best” places to view the show.
When the show was about to begin, the fire chief came out and greeted everyone. Then in usual Disney fashion, there was singing and dancing while we waited for the mouse himself to get to the park! Once Mickey arrived, there was a little more singing and dancing and then it was time to open the park for the day!
This is a really cute show. This is the second time I have watched the show and it was just a little different which makes me believe the show is different each time. You also see characters you don’t typically see in the parks (like Cinderella’s evil stepsisters!).
After the show, it was time to head back to my resort, All Star Movies, to finish packing, grab a quick nap, and explore my resort. I managed to get a private Disney van back (have no idea how that happened but it was a very pleasant surprise). My driver didn’t have any of the collectible safety cards:
One thing about the All Stars is how themed they are. Of all the resorts, these are over the top Disney. But this also makes them a lot of fun! I stayed in one of the Toy Story buildings (Andy’s room was between the 2 buildings!!):
The food court and lobby area are also very on theme. I waited for my bus back to the airport in the mini theater watching Disney movies after picking up a Diet Coke to go from the concession stand:
On my way out, I walked to red carpet and then was whisked off in my limo…I mean bus to the airport.