Disney in February

February brings a lot of my favorites with it! Valentine’s Day…Disney’s Princess Half Marathon…my birthday… follow along with me as I go through my magical birthday weekend!

The Hotel:

I stayed at Art of Animation this time around! AoA is a value resort (along with the All-Stars) and bursting with theme! It’s broken down into four areas: Cars, The Little Mermaid, Lion King and Finding Nemo. I stayed in a Little Mermaid room.

As you can see, both outside the room and inside are very Little Mermaid. This is definitely what I expect at a Disney resort. Unlike the All-Stars, the theme doesn’t really carry into the room.

I’ll fast forward a bit. I spent some time on my last day in the lobby. You’ll find a large gift shop, arcade, food court and entertainment area – perfect for anyone’s needs either coming from or going to the airport.

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A free activity also takes place in the lobby. Everyday at 11a, 2p and 5p, the resident artist comes out and will teach you how to sketch a Disney character. I got to partake in the 2pm session on Sunday. We learned how to draw Jafar…

Artist I am not, but I enjoyed learning! I did make it back for the 5pm session as I waited for my bus to the airport. We drew Jasmine during that session however I made Jasmine look like an alien so that sketch will remain hidden 🙂

Friday:

My birthday!! After volunteering, I started MY day at Magic Kingdom. I scheduled the Keys to the Kingdom tour for myself. Unfortunately, I got to the park seconds before the rope drop and that is an experience I am not sure I want to have! So many people! I made my way through the crowd to the Main Street Theater. I checked into the tour, received my name tag, bottled water and sound equipment, picked my lunch and then got ready for the magic to begin.

I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to ruin the tour for you if you haven’t done it but it was awesome! Starting at Main Street, small details were pointed out to the group. Some of those details are just fascinating!

We were a little ahead of schedule once we got to the central hub so we got to pause and watch the new Welcome Show!

We then made our way to Adventureland and the tour continued. Throughout the next few hours, we covered Frontierland, Liberty Square and just a touch of Fantasyland. We were only in Tomorrowland while we ate lunch which was at Tomorrowland Terrace.

We did go on a couple rides and went to backstage areas. I don’t want to ruin it but I thought the tour was well worth the money.

Tip: I would recommend to a solo traveler, a couple or a family with older kids – I’m not sure if a family with younger kids would get as much out of it (mostly because I don’t think the little ones would be entertained enough).

After the tour, it was time to use my fastpasses, character photos and Tiana’s Riverboat Ice Cream Social!

Tiana’s Riverboat Ice Cream Social is a brand new (ok in February, a 3 months old) experience! It’s a special ticketed event – like most dessert parties – on the riverboat! We checked in at the riverboat landing.

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Once it was time, we were let onto the landing. We received Mardi Gras beads and then were free to help ourselves to ice cream, desserts, drinks or finding a seat.

I helped myself to a scoop of ice cream and picked up the 3 desserts that were offered.

I totally scored a seat in the shade (and I totally was that person that dragged a table to me – oops). However, I was quickly joined by others so the idea crossed other people’s minds but I’m the one that acted 🙂

As refreshments were served, Tiana and Prince Naveen joined us on the landing. We were able to take pictures with them and were handed autograph cards.

Once it was time to board the riverboat, Tiana and Prince Naveen left to join the parade and we boarded the boat.

Once on board, the Mardi Gras theme continued and there were all you could enjoy snacks. I helped myself to some popcorn, apple slices and water then headed to the top to find a place to camp out for the parade.

My vantage point was in the shade and had a nice breeze. I made myself comfortable on the floor and settled in. I was soon joined by other guests. As parade time drew near, we moved away from the landing (where cast members had donned Mardi Gras masks and noise makers to send us on our way). We moved maybe 50 left from the landing and were in place for the parade.

Once the parade started, we could hear the music from the speakers along the route (it is not “piped in” like at other events). We also had a tree that was in the way – but it did not block the view of the floats.

As the parade ended, we headed back to the landing. Tiana and Prince Naveen joined us again on board. They led a Mardi Gras parade on the lower level of the boat and guests could interact with them freely. We also went on a cruise around Tom Sawyer Island. Cast members handed out a scavenger hunt to any guests who wanted to participate.

I don’t know when it was I last took a ride on the riverboat and I just enjoyed the breeze and the ride. I did eventually make my way to Tiana again. I wanted to try for a better picture.

Tip: totally recommend! It’s an all you care to enjoy experience -from the ice cream and desserts on the landing to the snacks on the riverboat. Snacks included popcorn, candied popcorn, apple slices, Mickey bars, Mickey sandwiches, Uncrustables, and various drinks. There is very limited seating on the landing and limited seating on the riverboat. Also, no bathrooms on board! However for the best view of the parade, you want to be on the top level (and I just sat down on the floor). The tree is annoying but it does not ruin the view. I loved this event!

Next up was dinner at Disney Springs and then back to Magic Kingdom for the Wishes Dessert Party!

I attended the Wishes Dessert Party a few years ago and loved it. However a few changes have happened since and I think it just enhanced the experience. Anywho!

Checked in and was taken to my table. After dropping my stuff, I made friends with all the delicious desserts that were out! I noticed some sparkling cider and helped myself. I also saw they had milk along with the water, tea and coffee. After helping myself to a plate, sparkling cider and milk, it was time to sit down and enjoy the show!

I love this dining experience. Wishes is my favorite and combining it with desserts (and a seat with an awesome view) just makes it worth it to me. They have also added a little extra pixie dust which is a really nice touch!

hahaha…and you thought my birthday was over! Not! A friend of mine who is DVC got me into the after hours, DVC party that was taking place! I decided I wasn’t going to stay too long since it had been a very long day already. I am glad I stayed! I got to meet: Cinderella and Charming, Princess Elena, Ariel and Eric, Belle and Beast!

And with that, this birthday girl went back to the room and fell into a deep and happy sleep!

Saturday:

After my very busy birthday celebration, Saturday was a very tame day!

For the first time ever, I got to attend a spring training game! The Atlanta Braves use the Wide World of Sports at Disney for spring training. I missed my O’s by a few days but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

My seat was in the grassy area of the stadium – which was fine with me! I took my shoes off and enjoyed the sun and breeze as I watched the game.

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Only bad thing was I couldn’t really tell what was going on! It was still a very enjoyable way to relax and spend a few hours.

My last scheduled activity was a pedicure. I went to the Yacht and Beach Club this time around (I’ve now been to all 4 spas on property). While a little hard to find, it was great once I got there!

The salon/spa overlooks the HUGE pool. Big windows let in natural light and the staff was very welcoming. I was shown to the lounge after I checked in. They had spa snacks (pretzels, candy, dried fruit) and citrus water out for guests to enjoy. I made myself a little snack and got comfy in one of the over-sized chairs.

I was the last appointment of the day and it was wonderful! Justin was my tech and his level of service was above and beyond! I will definitely be going back next time I go.

As I paid, I was gifted with the polish they used, my nail file and some Disney chocolate. I also got a little bag of spa snacks and off I went 🙂

See! I am totally capable of having a low-key kinda day!

Sunday:

Well after my morning didn’t go the way I wanted, I didn’t know what to do with myself. As described above, I did attend 2 of the animation classes. I was also able to get a round of mini golf in.

I got to play at Winter Summerland. I chose the summer course (I didn’t realize there were 2 courses – I will need to play winter next time!).

It was a really great trip besides the craziness of my morning on Sunday. I am loving adding some free activities into my Disney trips as well as paying for some additional experiences. Time and money well spent!

Off to plan the next trip!

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Disney’s All Stars: Movies

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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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:

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On my way out, I walked to red carpet and then was whisked off in my limo…I mean bus to the airport.