Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2012 -April trip to Orlando with a Disney fanatic

Yes, I'm a fan of Disney, but I wouldn't call myself a Disney fanatic.  But a good friend of mine is.  Even living in St. Louis she and her family have managed to have season passes many years.  To them, the 15 hour drive from St. Louis to Orlando is nothing.  I'm more the fly there, stay in a timeshare off property, spend 1 or 2 days at Disney, explore other areas, and enjoy the sunshine and pool type of person.   But I was fascinated at the idea of seeing Disney through her eyes.   So we decided on 5 nights in April (I have wanted to see the Flower Festival at Epcot) and I booked us the time in a 2 bedroom unit at Wyndham Bonnett Creek, we got fairly inexpensive flights on Southwest airlines, I booked a car, and off we went. 

Bonnett Creek is, or is practically, on Disney property, right across from Downtown Disney.   We managed to stay there before they started instituting a mandatory daily fee to cover things like their shuttle (which we didn't use).  (next time we went they had eliminated the daily fee.  I guess they realized charging that wasn't a good idea) But the property was very nice.  This time we were in building T2.
My room--- the master bedroom
 I don't know how they got this sheet on the bed, but needless to say, it wouldn't stay on.  I even called housekeeping and had another sheet brought to me.  It was the same.  No way is this a king sized sheet!  Other than that, the unit was very nice.  I ended up just using the flat sheet as a bottom sheet.
 Coni's room.  Her daughter happened to be managing a restaurant in Tampa at the time so she got some time off and joined us for most of the time.  So they shared the 2nd bedroom.
 Our diningroom and kitchen.
 View towards the check in building and great heated lazy river from our deck in building T2.
 from the lanai doors --- couch on right, 2nd bedroom behind couch; master bedroom to the left; front door with blue bag on door knob; 2nd bathroom and laundry to the right of front door (looking at door)---that bathroom was also attached to the 2nd bedroom making it a suite, too. 

We were doing Disney on a budget, so first thing she did, was take me to some of the Value Resort - the All-Stars--to wander around the property.  These seem to be a good value at about $100/night.  They were very much Disney and visiting them was a fun free Disney experience.  She even told me how you can often take the busses from there to the parks for free (I believe you're suppose to have a room key, but they don't always check for it.  In my case, they probably would).
Here we are at All Star Movie Resort.
 "Stay at a Disney Resort hotel that salutes the legends of Disney films—from the dotted pups of 101 Dalmatians to the playful toys of Andy's Room— with whimsical, larger-than-life décor."
 Love the way they disguise the stairways to different levels.
 As a kid, this one might have scared me!
 They even show nighttime movies out by the pool.
 Just another of the many movie themed buildings in All-Star Movies Resort. 
 Another of the Value Resorts is All-Star Sports.  "Get in the game at this Resort hotel that salutes the world of competitive sports, including baseball, basketball, football, surfing and tennis. Go the distance and don’t be afraid to celebrate your inner fan amid sporty décor starring some of your favorite Disney characters."



 Love the surfing theme!
 Then we were on to All-Star Music:  "Let the rhythm move you at this Resort hotel that pays homage to some of the world’s most popular music genres, including country, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, calypso and Broadway-style show tunes. Large-sized, music-inspired icons outside and subtle song-and dance surprises inside provide a harmonious setting for music lovers of all ages. "
 An example of the All-Star Resort pools.  This one was in the Music Resort.  And they're heated!
 Again, check out the stairwells.


 After wandering around these resorts for awhile, she decided it was time to take me to some of the Deluxe Resorts.  So using her season pass parking permit, we parked in the monorail parking lot and rode it over to the Grand Floridian.
"Victorian elegance meets modern sophistication at this lavish bayside Resort hotel. Relax in the sumptuous lobby as the live orchestra plays ragtime, jazz and popular Disney tunes. Bask on the white-sand beach, indulge in a luxurious massage and watch the fireworks light up the sky over Cinderella Castle. Just one stop to Magic Kingdom park on the complimentary Resort Monorail, this timeless Victorian-style marvel evokes Palm Beach’s golden era."  Here it'll cost you Around $500+/night.

 After wandering around the Floridian grounds for awhile, we jumped back on the monorail and headed to Magic Kingdom stop where we caught a boat ferry and headed over to Disney's Wilderness Lodge. 
 " Escape to the rustic majesty of America’s Great Northwest. Inspired by turn-of-the-century National Park lodges, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge celebrates American craftsmanship and honors the beauty of the untamed wilderness. Soak in the splendor of the great outdoors, from nature trails through pine forests to rocking chairs that overlook a murmuring creek. Inside, discover towering totem poles, headdresses and more, and sink into a plush leather armchair in front of the roaring fireplace.
Here's the ferry dock at the lodge as we were coming into it. "
Having been to Yellowstone National Park a couple of times, this is the Resort I was really looking forward to seeing.
I was not disappointed.
 Rooms here start about $300 (in 2014)
 We even took a little time to enjoy a beverage from the bar there.  We thought about trying to have dinner here, but the line was too long.
 AFter our yummy drinks, we retraced our trip by ferry back to Magic Kingdom.  By now it was getting dark and a different view.  We had thought of stopping in at the original Disney World REsort, Disney's Contemporary Resort.  The monorail goes right through this resort.
But we were pretty hungry and decided to grab a bite to eat at the Polynesian Resort, so we continued on.  Got back on the monorail at the Magic Kingdom.
We rode the monorail past the Floridian to the Polynesian Resort.  Rooms here also start around $450+.  "Celebrate the spirit of the South Pacific at this tropical oasis of coconut palms, lush vegetation, koi ponds and white-sand beaches. Village longhouses flank the Great Ceremonial House, where torch-lighting, drums and a traditional fire-knife dance welcome the night. On the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, Disney's Polynesian Resort invites you to savor "Ho'Onanea"—the passing of time in languid tranquility."
We looked into eating at the Ohana, but without reservations, we couldn't get in.  Looked like my kind of place, though---Hawaiian!
 Coni knew this was also one of the best places to catch the Electrical Water Pageant (which I'd never heard of).  So we wandered down to the beach (yes, a real beach at the Polynesian resort) (I'm wondering if this is the beach where a little boy was killed by an alligator in 2016.  Yes, there is a little beach here, but this is Florida and alligators make their way into ponds and canals all over Florida.  Tragic, but be aware---letting your child play in natural inland waterways in Florida is not a good idea!)  and joined the 3 or 4 other people there to watch the parade.  It was really cute.


Ended up grabbing dinner in one of the Polynesians quick cafe's.  It was very good and only about $15@.
That was day one.  We spent the whole day at Disney and only spent money on our drink and dinner.  Knowing the ins and outs of Disney does make it a lot more interesting!
In casual conversation that night, I asked her if she had ever been to Silver Springs Nature Park.  What I had read about it sounded interesting.  Of course, she had, and said it was a neat place, so the next day--Aprill 23rd, 2012, we headed there.

 Silver Springs, one of the largest of Florida’s 33 first-magnitude springs, is made up of a group of springs that occur in the headwaters, coves, and edges of the Silver River. The Silver River is the largest tributary on the Ocklawaha River.  I understand this is now a State Park and a lot of the exhibits that we saw when it was the theme park are now gone.  It wasn't busy when we were there, so I'm not surprised, but it is a shame.  I really enjoyed our day here.
 The water was extremely clear.  The glass bottom boat rides were really neat.
 They even had animal quarters back then.  I understand most of those are gone now, too.

This area of shops was all but closed down when we were here in 2012.
 Don't know if the alligator area is still there, but it was pretty neat.  Especially seeing the turtles climbing right up there with the alligators---I'd call that a dumb turtle.
 One of the boats, and yes, the water in this section was that beautiful milky blue.
 The 2nd of our boat rides.
 Stopped for ice cream on the way back.  Don't remember what dinner was.  Then spent a couple hours at the heated lazy river at Bonnett Creek.

 April 24th:
This day we decided to check out a couple reciprocal gardens of our Missouri Botanical Gardens.  Along the way, Coni said we should have breakfast at this cute little German looking restaurant, Chalet Suzanne, that they've eatten at before.  "  The essence of the Chalet's reputation is its cuisine, food that Gourmet Magazine calls "glorious" ... served in a unique setting of five quaint rooms on many levels, overlooking the lake. Every corner glows with antiques, stained glass and old lamps from far away places."
 Breakfast was really good and the view (which for some reason I didn't get a picture of ) of the lake just out the window was really nice.
 The menu
 We continued on our way to Bok Towers.  "In 1921, Edward W. Bok was spending the winter months in the residential Mountain Lake community located adjacent to one of the highest hills on Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge, at 298 feet above sea level. He enjoyed taking evening walks to the top of “Iron Mountain,” among the virgin pines and sandhill scrub, to enjoy Florida’s dramatic sunsets and bird life. The idea came to him to preserve this hilltop and create a bird sanctuary – a place of beauty, serenity and peace.
Having made arrangements to buy land on the hilltop, Bok commissioned Olmsted to change this arid sandhill into “a spot of beauty second to none in the country.” The first year was spent digging trenches and laying water pipes for irrigation, after which rich black soil was brought by the thousands of loads.
With the proper conditions for a subtropical garden in place, the planting of bushes and trees began to provide food for migrating birds. Today, these plantings provide shade to visitors as well as refuge for squirrels and 126 bird species."
 The center of the garden sports a carillon.  "A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze bells that are precisely tuned and arranged in chromatic progression so that music in any key can be played. Unlike other types of bells, carillon bells are fixed in a frame—the bells do not move. Instead, the clappers inside strike the bells to produce a considerable range of sounds up to five or six octaves. Because of its weight and size, the carillon is one of the largest of all instruments. A carillon is played from a keyboard on which the keys are depressed by the player’s closed hands and feet. The keys are connected to the clappers by vertical and horizontal wires."  This carillon at Bok Gardens is 1 of 4 carillons in Florida with concerts at 1 and 3 p.m. daily with short selections played on the hour and half-hour.
Close up of detail on the carillon.
  I had been to Bok Garden a few times.  It was just as beautiful as always and love the ride from Orlando to get there.
Speaking of ride there, we saw these from the road---
highway art---
Another reciprocal garden is the Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg.  "Sunken Gardens is a botanical paradise in the midst of a bustling city. As St. Petersburg's oldest living museum, this 100 year old garden is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region."  I hadn't been to this garden before.  It was well worth the effort to get to.




This was when Coni's daughter joined us for the rest of our trip, too.  It was nice seeing her again, too.


 Since we were so close to the beach, when we were done with the gardens, we headed straight to the beach for a little lunch and R&R.
 For some reason, fish always taste better at the beach!


Then we headed back to Orlando.  That night, Justine treated us to a meal at the Orlando sister restaurant of hers in Tampa---Seasons 52.   Dinner was fantastic!

 We started it off with wine.
The idea of Seasons 52 is a fresh grill and wine bar that "invites guests to discover the sensational flavors of a seasonally-inspired menu and award-winning international wine list in a casually-sophisticated ambiance".
 Finished it off with a Skinny Chocolate Martini---yummmm!
 We didn't stop there, though.  Then it was time to hit Downtown Disney.  Ended up at Raglan Road for awhile where we had a few more libations.  Good thing our condo was right across the road!


April 25:  Finally---Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival time!  Although we got a little later start then expected, thanks to Raglan Road the night before!


stroller parking!

 LOVED all the extra flowers during this time!!!!


 Coni even made reservations for the 3 of us to eat at the French restaurant-Chef's de France in Epcot's World Showcase.  This is the fanciest restaurant I've ever eatten at in Disney World. 
 It was a very neat experience and the food was great.



Always love the Epcot ride with the little film they put you in.

I had never checked out the Turtle Talk with Crush in The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  I thought it was for kids.  In a way, it is, but it's a really cute interactive "talk".  It was very funny and well worth seeing.
 Back out to the beautiful landscaping.
 They even had a lot of special eshibits for gardening and such.  Loved this one of the landscaped dog house!

 Did a few of our favorite indoor rides, too.
 Even sunset in Epcot was fantastic!

 Stayed all the way to closing time.
 Loved the fireworks and lasers.
I believe this was the night we stopped at a gas station and got deli sandwiches for a late dinner.  My dogs were barking by then!



April 26, 2012:  Animal Kingdom---
I had been here before, but didn't realize it was as large as it is.  In fact, it's the largest of the Disney parks.  I imagine most of that is the land the safari ride goes through.  For some reason, when I went here with my Dad, we totally missed the whole side of the park with Kilimanjaro and the Dinosaur area. 


First thing we did was go to Kilimanjaro to get Fast Passes, then walked back towards the Safari ride.  On our way, we came across the stadium where the bird show is performed.  I also hadn't seen the bird show before, so we stopped to see it.  It was cute.

We also passed by the River rafting ride which I hadn't seen before.  We did make it back there later, too---and got quite wet.


Another show my Dad and I had passed up was the Lion King performance thinking it was for kids, too.  Big mistake!  This show was fabulous!  Loved all the acrobatics in it.

Just one of the decorations around the park.


This was from the Safari ride (which we took a few times).  Love all the "upside down" trees and realistic landscaping.

Not to mention all the animals!



The way they landscaped the place, it was hard to tell that some of the animals were really contained.  Looked like they could come and get us at any time.  Instead, this one just stuck his tongue out at us.

On our way back to Kilimanjaro.  It's really a roller coaster.  A pretty neat one, too.  Part of the ride is even backwards.  We rode it a couple times, too.




Just another view of Kilimanjaro as we walked back that way.

In this Asian's area were a bunch of monkeys.

Not far from Kilimanjaro is the Dinosaur ride and retro area.  This was another neat ride that I'm surprised I didn't know about.

One of the retro rides.  Made me remember all the traveling carnivals I went to as a kid.  Don't seem to see many of them anymore.

There is also a large area where the Tigers are housed with large viewing windows.   It's really like a  big beautifully landscaped zoo.

Another walk through area that really captivated me was a bird habitat.  Loved seeing all the different birds that I've never seen before.

Animal Kingdom closes earlier then the other parks---guess the animals go to bed early.  So we were out of there at closing time (7pm) and ate at the Rainforest Café right outside the front gate of Animal Kingdom.

It was another relatively expensive dinner, but it was unique and fun.
From there, we headed back to the condo.  At that point our trip got a little dramatic.  I wanted to hit the pool again and they wanted to go back to Downtown Disney.  I was fine with them going without me, but she wouldn't do it.  We both threw hissy fits and ended up going to the pool.  Not that I really got my way!  By the time we headed to the pool it was 10:30pm and I had already showered and was ready for bed.  Needless to say, things were a little tense the rest of the  night.  Next day we flew home.  Are we still friends, yes!  She and her husband have since gone to Kauai with us and will be going to Oregon with us this summer.  I do look back on this trip fondly.


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