Run, Princess, Run: Walt Disney World Trip Report 2/22/2017-2/28/2017

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I bet you want a newsy and detailed retelling of my Disney World Trip don’t you? (Well, you’re getting one regardless). I should note that the title of this post was almost, “Everything Takes Longer Than Reenie Thought It Would” (This also applies to why I’ve been MIA for a few weeks. I’ve also been working on other writing…and not watching things that aren’t on my DVR…and Buffy, I’ve been watching a ton of Buffy…)

Wednesday 2/22/2017: Wine and Gathering

I always consider a vacation’s beginning from the moment work or school ends the night before. So, once I exited the doors of my office and blared “How Far I’ll Go” on my car stereo, I was on vacation. I got home to find my mom, Mike, his friends Owen and Meg (who were watching Bella, Mike’s puppy for the week!) as well as Mary and my friend Dino and Meg, who were joining us as a surprise for Joe. Much wine was drank, steak was eaten, puppy care and trip plans were discussed.

Kristi showed up later, with her husband (my cousin) Sean, and we all chatted some more. Kristi was staying over because we were taking a very early flight. We didn’t sleep more than a few hours. (TOO EXCITED) and thus, set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday 2/23/2017: Be Our Guest!

Kristi and I required an Uber to the airport as my mother was NOT getting up at 4 AM to drive us. “If I wanted to do that, I’d be on the plane with you.” She has a point. After a slight panic attack because no Ubers appeared to be answering the call, I switched over to Lyft and one showed up 15 minutes later. I am converted, I’m a Lyft person now. (They also let you tip in ap! So much easier!). Our drive was pleasant and quick, as was the check and security process. (Not always a guarantee at Newark airport, let me tell you!) We settled in with coffees as we waited to board.

The flight was equally pleasant, and I watched Beauty And The Beast because it was a free option. Right as Belle and Prince Adam (NEERRRDDD) kissed and froze in time forever as a stained glass window, the plane descended, and we were in sunny Orlando.

Then came Magical Express. This was my first time using the service (it wasn’t available when we stayed at the Contemporary, Juli and I stayed off site, and it doesn’t service The Swan) and while you can’t beat the price (INCLUDED!) we waited well over forty minutes for our bus.

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Bus that finally loaded us after 40 Minutes!

It was fine, since we landed 30 minutes early, but I was frustrated. We got to Saratoga Springs Resort, handed our carry ons to bell services, got changed and headed to The Disney Health and Fitness Expo to pick up our race stuff. We basically ran through there, because we had a 2 PM reservation at San Angel Inn, but regardless, we got our bibs, snapped a few pictures and hopped in a cab to the Boardwalk.

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After getting my Annual Pass (MORE OF THESE REPORTS COMING) synched with my Magic Band, we wandered World Showcase on our way to check in to our “Romantic Lunch By Candelight.” So began the long weekend of “Are you sisters?” “No, cousins,” which tends to go on everytime that Kristi and I go someplace together.

I really liked San Angel Inn, though I liked Hacienda De San Angel for dinner better. We shared Queso Fundido (Melted Cheese!) and I had enchiladas, plus a delicious Hibiscus Margarita. The ambiance of the restaurant is unbeatable and it was a truly festive way to kick off our trip.

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Not a bad view for lunch right?

We then decided to roll the dice on Frozen Ever After, since we had nothing better to do, but then got the message from my mom that she and Mike and Mary had landed, so we decided to head back to the resort, rather than wait another half hour for a ride we planned to do the next day anyway.

Barely taking a minute to settle into our villa, we four Nayden ladies, headed to Magic Kingdom to ride Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and of course, eat at Be Our Guest! Splash Mountain gets me everytime. I’m never sure if it’s worth the time and mess, but it’s always so much fun, I leave with a huge smile on my face. I was even more excited to see Mary and Mom’s reaction Mine Train, and they were both giddy, but even more excited to share it with my dad and Joe in a few days time. (They were right to be, both were floored by it).

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Kristi was cute, the rest of us were just screaming…

Finally came Be Our Guest. We checked in, waited about 10 minutes (not bad, the hostess warned they were running 15 minutes behind, so I guess we would have gone right in had they been on time) and were escorted right to our table.

Walking into Be Our Guest is one of my favorite Disney World experiences, I always find myself inhaling sharply. But the way Mary giddily clapped when she learned that after dinner we’d get to meet Beast was even better. (I’d managed to not spoil that detail for them. I’m proud of myself). We had champagne, soups, two bottles of wine and a variety of entrees. (Seafood & steaks) We obviously shared some grey stuff and a lemon merange cupcake before moving on.

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This might be my favorite picture of the whole trip. We Nayden ladies clean up pretty well, I think.

Moving On wound us up seeing the tail end of “Once Upon a Time” the new projection show and heading back to the villa for, what else! More wine. Most of our group had rendezvoused by this point and it was quite the fiesta. It had nothing on the next day though.

Friday 2/24/2017: But, this one goes to 11

So, Friday morning, Mike, Joe and Dad had decided to play golf, and Mom decided to sleep in a bit, and Meg and Dino headed to Magic Kingdom, so Mary, Kristi and I headed to Epcot, missing park opening by a breath because of BUSES being SLOW, with one thing on our mind, “FROZEN,” we didn’t bolt, but worked pretty quickly, back to Norway and lined up for Frozen Ever After and this time, DID NOT bail halfway through the line, which, I should note moves very quickly, at least in the morning. We waited about 45 minutes, which for a ride this new and popular is not bad at all, especially given the cuteness of the line. You weave through Kristoff’s ice house, Arrendell’s town square and Oaken’s Tokens before boarding. But remember, we were there before 9:30 AM, which I get is a dealbreaker for a lot of people.

Anyway, the ride itself, really is great. On Sunday, Meg and I would chat about how her trip to the Wizarding World that day reminded her of being a kid at Disney, and I said Frozen Ever After did the same for me. The storyline that you’re on a boat to Elsa’s ice palace to celebrate the anniversary of her coronation is perfect, the animatronics are SUPERB (Olaf and Sven in particular are impressive) and the fact that it keeps the structure of Maelstrom makes it somehow able to be both nostalgic and brand new at the same time. It’s a real triumph. Worth a 2 hour wait? Absolutely not. Worth 1 hour? For SURE.

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Kristi and I Disneybounding Anna and Elsa. I love these topiaries.

After our Frozen adventure we walked around admiring the topiaries (Flower and Garden didn’t start officially until the day after we left, but we got the benefit of all the pretty!) shopped in World Showcase and met Belle.

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Bonjour Mademoiselle Belle!

By this time we met up with Mom, and waited on the others by more shopping. (Mom even bought Mouse Ears! I’m so proud!) We also registered for the Express Bus, which is meant to cost $19 for a single day and $29 for seven days. This is a very good service that takes you from park to park, by passing the gates and security, at specific times on every hour for each park. It was AWESOME, and I highly recommend it, except I hope that most people don’t do it, because the buses not being crowded was one of the best parts. Once we met up with everyone we headed over to ride test track. Knowing that we’d never beat the boys in power, Kristi, Meg and I decided to focus on making our car environmentally friendly and cute. We did so. I was proud of us. After that we rode Nemo, which is a cute ride and gets you into The Seas, and since aquariums are in Mary’s top 10 favorite things in the world, I knew we wouldn’t be allowed to skip it. Then we began our drink around the world.

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At the beginning of our boozy, boozy journey. (Note Mom’s mouse ears.) This is a close second to the hugging on Mainstreet Pic when it comes to favorites.

Let’s just say, we finished, but it was a bit of a rush, it was very sloppy and there were a few tears (mostly from me.) (They weren’t the nice emotional kind) (they were the mean drunk trying to make the people I love feel bad about themselves kind) (I’m very sorry) (I was VERY drunk) We had lunch at Yorkshire County Fish Shop (YUM!) and dinner at Spice Road Table (SUPER YUM). We then headed to the Boardwalk, hit Abracadbar and then Jelly Rolls and then took like 2 hours to get home because of BUSES being THE WORST.

Saturday 4/25/2017: Animals, A Galaxy Far, Far Away & A Start of A Challenge

Getting 10 grown ass, hung over adults out the door in the morning when there are only two bathrooms is a challenge, but we did it! (YAY!) We did miss extra magic hour (booo) but were in the gates at Animal Kingdom by 9:30, and on Kilamanjaro Safaris by 9:45 and it was, and I say this in all seriousness, the best version of the ride I’ve ever been on. The weather was hazy and cool so all of the animals were out and about. We saw the baby giraffe and baby elephant, as well as an adolescent elephant and 3 of the lions walking around their rock. It was really, very, very exciting.

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Puppy Elephant! (This is an ancient It’s Always Sunny reference…)

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Just LION around!

Next came Everest, which we all rode single rider and then we all split up a bit. I needed to eat, so I went over to Harambe Market and picked up a chicken skewer (delicious) and a few people hopped on Kali Rapids (It was too cold for me). We then hopped on the Express Bus over to Epcot, which was great because we ran into an old friend, Matt Ban and his wife Erin. We had a lovely catch up with Matt and then headed into The Seimens VIP Lounge, courtesy of Joe’s coworkers. This was excellent, in caffinating us, and getting us right on to Spaceship Earth as we exited. Then we headed to Studios and to Backlot Express For Lunch.

I had a Diet Coke and the Darkside Chicken and Waffles because A) Chicken and Waffles are delicious. B) I tend to eat quicky southern food when I find it, because it’s not always readily available in the burbs of NYC where I live. I am also a sucker for sausage gravy, chicken fried steaks and grits! C) These waffles had Darth Vader on them! I also got the BB8 Souvenier cup because I want nothing more than to walk around a convention in my Poe cosplay drinking out of BB8’s head. (I know, I have weird goals.)

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VADER. On WAFFLES. Also, Joe looks very serious in this picture.

As we sat eating lunch, and watching Trials of The Temple (Nothing better than those kids fighting Darth Vader) (Except maybe Mike and I explaining who The Seventh Sister is to everyone else) (Mike is also pretty into Rebels. This warms my heart) Mary and Joe mentioned maybe going to Magic Kingdom after dinner and I pointed out that 4 park day is something Disney Geeks strive for. This made the decision for them, pretty much . After eating, we opted to head over to Muppets 3-D while we waited for our Star Tours Fastpasses to kick in.

I love The Muppets and so much of that comes from family memories involving them, so it was nice to share this show with my family for a change. Next some of us rode Star Tours. We were taken to Hoth, and intercepted by Porkins, which, YAY! Porkins! (Which I exclaimed, quite loudly and embarassingly.)  Then, after our spy was revealed. (Maybe one of these trips I’ll just ride Star Tours over and over again, until I’m the spy) we were taken to Naboo by Yoda’s orders and escorted by Gungans to our final landing place.

I really enjoyed a completely different ride from the last time I rode. Though I wouldn’t have minded the Jakku scene as I never object to BB8 or Finn. Also, this one involves gungans and I mean, REALLY?

Anyway, after that we hit Tower of Terror and Star Wars Launch Bay, including a very fun visit with Chewie and a discussion with Mike about how Ahsoka’s light saber being in the case with the others was awesome, (we are less impressed by Ezra’s, because, it’s Ezra, but his Saber/Blaster combo is a cool design.) (Talking about Star Wars with my brother is one of my favorite things in the world and we did a lot of it on this day) it was time to head back to Saratoga Springs.

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It’s weird they only have one of Ahsoka’s sabers, as she fights with two. (Yes I’m using present tense.) (#ahsokalives) (I’m in denial)

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We were all really psyched to meet Chewie!

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So scared of The Tower of Terror!

We had an early dinner planned since Kristi and I had to go to bed at like 8 o’clock for race day. From everything I’ve heard and seen in pictures the 4 park day was a hit though, and I went on to have my own later. Dinner was at The Turf Club Bar And Grill at Saratoga Springs and while I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to eat there, if you’re staying at the hotel, it’s worth one night’s relaxed meal. I had steak and a glass of wine.

This was followed by a hasty trip back to the villa, where Kristi and I prepped for the next morning, watched the first of half of High School Musical were asleep by 9:00 PM.

Sunday 2/26/2017: Run Like The Wind! And May All Your Wishes Come True

My alarm went off at 2:30 AM and by 3 Kristi and I were on a bus to the race. After getting coffee, waiting in line, and then using the facilities, we opted to head to our corrals. And thus began the crying. (The good kind this time) I met and chatted with several of the women in my corrall, and waited about an hour after official race time to get moving. I really enjoyed the race itself, despite it taking a very long time. I wrote on facebook later that day about how amazing it felt to be running up Mainstreet USA, hearing my family cheer for me. I really, really adored the whole experience and I’m all about trying to go for this again.

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Crossing the finish line! I was BUSHED, but I did it!

After the race, there was another quick detour to the villas, where we showered, changed and then headed to Magic Kingdom. We ate hotdogs, rode The Jungle Cruise (which is bizarrely the most important ride to my family.), rode the Mine Train, which did in fact, garner the enthusiasm I expected, and then split off. Kristi and I decided we didn’t want to wait on the half hour line for Big Thunder Mountain, so we headed over and rode Pirates of The Carribean, which is always a treat, and we got front row seats, so SUPER BONUS treat. We got coffee, wandered through Tomorrowland, considered getting on the Peoplemover, but discovered that it had a line, so we refused to ride on principle. We were planning on meeting the rest of the group back in Fantasyland to get on Small World with Fastpasses, so we decided to head to the Carousel, as neither of us had ever ridden it before. (It was super fun, especially because we were already dressed for dinner.)

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Small World is a secret favorite of mine and I was worried that we weren’t going to get on it this trip, so I was happy that Mom requested we get the fastpass. (None of us were willing to wait more than a half hour and Magic Kingdom was VERY crowded.) Pointing out our favorite dolls was great as was singing the song over and over again. After that, we did some shopping on Main Street and headed over to the Contemporary to have dinner, not until after we’d said good bye to Joe. He assures me that he had a great time on his first trip, and as he has a work commitment out west for the next year, he and Mary are already talking about going to Disneyland at some point. (I am very jealous…and would NEVER crash their vacation. Also I probably can’t afford it…) He boarded a bus back to Saratoga and an Uber to the airport and it was all over for him.

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Favorite people and favorite place! I’m a lucky girl!

The rest of us hopped on the Monorail and we checked in to California Grill and rode up. This was probably the non race, non introducing my family to new things, part of the trip that I was looking forward to the most. Ever since I entered a constant state of Disney Planning I’ve been DYING to eat at California Grill and watch Wishes from it’s fabled decks.

We settled in at our table, enjoyed the sunset over Seven Seas Lagoon, as well as some amazing sushi, charcuterie, and cocktails and then the main meal…I had scallops which were perfect, we tried a wine variety that we hadn’t before and then each got a desert.

We were finished by around 6:45 and after a bit of hemming and hawing, decided that our best bet was to hang out at the bar until 8, rather than go elsewhere and rush back. Meg and Dino rejoined us (they’d spent the day at Universal) and we made friends with some regular Disney runners, who were happy to encourage Kristi and I in our pursuit of more Disney races. And then Wishes.

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Pretty good view, right?

I’m really going to miss these fireworks when they go, and I’m even more grateful that I’m going to have one more shot to see it before it’s retired. But seeing them from this new vantage point was incredible, and watching them with the people I love so much was even better. Having space to breath sing and even dance a little bit took our breath away. After the fireworks, Dad and I headed back into the park, to ride The Haunted Mansion and I was reminded, as we wound along the path from The Contemporary to Main Street, of one of my all time favorite Disney Memories.

When I was in seventh grade we took a trip and stayed at The Contemporary. We were never a “at park opening” family. For a lot of reasons, we often stayed off site, Mom, Mary and Mike are not early risers by nature and we never went at super busy times, so it wasn’t really necessary, but after missing out on Space Mountain and a few other rides, Dad woke me up early on our last day and we went to the park, just us. We saw the opening show, which we did not previously know existed. (“Really?” Juli’s reaction to that when I mentioned being excited to see it again to her.) This quick trip back into the park was a lot like that. We hopped right on Haunted Mansion, pointing out our favorite ghosts and gags. We also talked about planning strategies for next years trip. (Yes, really, my “we’re not going back until we have grandchildren” parents are now considering a second trip inside of two years.)  Then, the rest of the group met up with us at the buses and we split off between people who wanted to get another drink at Disney Springs and people who had run a half marathon that day and needed to sleep.

We watched bits of the Oscars as we fell asleep, and planned for our four park day the next day.

Monday 2/27/2017: 4 Parks, 1 World, and STKs

We got up earlyish in an attempt to get to Studios first thing and ride The Great Movie ride. We were once again thwarted by BUSES, and absurdly long security lines. But we still managed a relatively brief wait for the ride.

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And a fun pic in front of it!

We went to find out the Express Bus situation. We had a 1 PM reservation at Tiffins, and it was now about 11:30. So our thought was to go to Epcot (I had some souvenier pick up that I wanted to do in France) and then head to AK for lunch. We’d just missed the Epcot bus, so decided to try our luck at Animal Kingdom, and checking in to lunch early. It was absolutely the right call. We got on the Animal Kingdom bus, walked right over to Tiffins, checked in, settled in at Nomad Lounge, and waited maybe a grand total of 25 minutes for our table.

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Also more pictures!

Tiffins was number 2 on my “I can’t wait for this” list after California Grill, and I was so glad we were able to fit it in. Nomad Lounge is really cozy and beautifully themed, and the food at Tiffins was sublime. Mom and I split a fish entree, Kristi & Mom both had salad an I had the lobster popcorn soup, which GUYS, OMG yum! I really like the concept of this space too, that it’s inspired by the travels of Imagineers designing Animal Kingdom. It’s subtle in the same ways that Animal Kingdom is.

We then circled back to Epcot, heading to France to get me a tee shirt and everyone some ice cream. It was our quickest stop, but it counted because we ate food.

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Then it was on to Magic Kingdom. We had fast passes for Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, rode them both and then headed back to the hotel to get showered and dressed for our second girls night (this time minus Mary, who’d left that morning. This whole day was just Mom, Kristi and I).

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Hooray for meeting goals!

Mom had expressed, way back in our ADR making days wanting to eat at “not a Disney restaurant.” Kristi and I were shocked by this request, bubble dwelling Disney people that we are. Juli suggested STK, where she ate with her sister Jenn, and which is, a high scale chain, including spots in Manhattan and Vegas, but we wouldn’t have to worry about a cab, as it’s at Disney Springs. The food was excellent. I really love steakhouses, I think there’s something special and communal about that style of eating. You pick your meat, your group chooses your sides and everyone shares, and everyone’s wallets are a little lighter (Often a lot lighter, depending on the place) and pants a little tighter. This was a very fun night, we ate on the patio.

Our next mission after dinner was shopping. Hitting World of Disney is always a treat, even if we were in a bit of a rush this go round. We also went to the D-Co Op, which is my favorite shopping spot in the whole of WDW.

2/28/2017: Dig a Little Deeper

It was back to just Kristi and I on Tuesday, we once again missed the opening (stupid buses!) but were on line to meet Cinderella and Elena by 9:10, and then Rapunzel and Tiana by 9:45. It was really fun. I like meeting the princesses, and have made it a staple of my trips, but I really love meeting Rapunzel, I’ve never had a bad or boring or awkward interaction with her. This particular go round however, was exceptionally fun, all four.

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Her crown is very shiny.

I know very little about Elena but she talked with us a lot. (The group ahead of us had a bunch of kids, all for autographs, so she was filling). We were again asked if we were sisters. We then talked to Cinderella about the race. She congratulated us, and mentioned that she could never run that much, she’d lose all her glass slippers and the Prince would be going crazy.

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We wished Tiana a happy Mardi Gras and she chatted with us about the special food she was making for the day.

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And then Rapunzel. Seriously, I love this meet and greet. We mentioned that we’d met Eugene the other day, and she also congratulated us on our run. We talked about the smoldering (“He does that to everybody. He knows it doesn’t work on me.”) And then took a selfie.

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Another top five picture from the trip!

This was basically our, “wander around and take in Magic Kingdom” day. We also grabbed coffee and breakfast at Gaston’s Tavern, and then did Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is adorable, and made us wish we’d worn our medals, because we were pretty sure we would have then been in the show and gotten a pic with her. AH well.

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My favorite thing about this restaurant? The background music is the song “Me” from the Broadway musical version. Seriously, such a delight!

Next up we hit Main Street and watched Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, which I liked a lot. It didn’t move me the way that Dream Along With Mickey did, but I appreciate the focus on the newer characters and music. It’s always nice to see Tiana get her due, and the costumes on the dancing cast members really blew me away. (This is kind of like how my mom and I get obsessed with wigs on TV. I fixate on costuming…go figure) Then we checked in with our fast pass to meet Mickey.

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Seriously, I LOVE these costumes.

Being more prepared for the talking Town Hall Mickey this time around made the whole thing way less awkward than when Juli and I met him. He performed his card trick for us and then we realized that we needed to eat.

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My eyes are closed, but I love the Big Guy!

I suggested making our way to Liberty Square and going to Columbia Harbor House. (I had a hankering for a Lobster Roll) but we went via Adventure land, and decided to see what the wait would be for a table at Skipper Canteen. The hostess said 20 minutes, so we decided to do it, taking menus so we could order right away once we sat.

It way have been the best decision we made all day. The wait was much closer to 10 minutes than 20, and comfortable in rocking chairs on a fanned porch in front of the restaurant. And as for the restaurant itself. Can I say, wow? The space is really beautiful, and it’s got the killer Jungle Cruise wit.

I also know that the decision to serve beer and wine at sit down restaurants in The Magic Kingdom is controversial. While I logically understand the rule, and the reaction against breaking it, the part of me that was tired and hot and happy to be in air conditioning, was even happier to be given a cold can of Blue Moon and a frosty glass to drink it out of. I also had the Char Siu Pork, which was incredible.

We next finished out our trip by riding The Little Mermaid. Kristi said, “that ride is way better after a beer.” She would be right. We were singing and dancing the whole time. Then it came time to leave. The ride back to the airport on Magical Express was much nicer than the ride in. We only had one other stop and I was at my gate with about 30 minutes to spare.

So ends the trip report. I’ve spent two weeks putting it together and I’m pretty proud of it. Next trip is a solo jaunt for Dapper Day, so I’ll be there from April 28 to May 1. The to do list includes, Rivers Of Light, Sunset Safari, lunch at Be Our Guest and one last hit of Wishes.

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