I SWEAR I had this post all written up and ready to go on a note app on my phone weeks ago, but then I cut the text to paste it and deleted it by accident =(  So here we go again!

The 3rd and final Disney installment covers our trip to Hollywood Studios.  The admission is the same as the other Disney parks: $99.00 for those age 10 and over, $93.99 for ages 3-9, and free < 3.  We had purchased both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios tickets online at the same time, so when we previously went to the Mickey Halloween party, they loaded both admissions conveniently on the same reusable card.  The day was very hot, perhaps 32 degrees Celsius, and not rainy (at first).  A little trick we do is to tell the ticket person that it’s our first visit every time and then you get a cute “1st Visit!” button to wear, so you can imagine how big our collection has grown =)  Hey – at $99 admission, I feel entitled.

As we entered the park, we were given Olaf cardboard fans to cool off.  They were much needed.  Our first stop was to the “For the First Time in Forever” Frozen sing-along show.  We had to get an advance ticket and pick a show time, and then wait in line (about 30 minutes).  The show consisted of a male and female host, with special appearances by Anna, Kristoff, and of course Elsa at the end.  Basically, it was a gigantic screen that played the entire Frozen soundtrack, complete with lyrics, dazzling lights and special effects.  It was about an hour and it was “so-so.”  Nothing too exciting.  It was cute hearing all those young voices singing word-for-word, though.

After that, we headed to the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground.  Overhead was a giant “spider web,” or jungle-gym type rope maze for kids (and parents) to climb through.  There were slides and even a gigantic “Antie” just like in the movie.  It was one of my favourites as a kid, so I definitely wanted to check this one out.  I always dreamed of being a child actress and starring in such an adventurous film as this one.  As the day was getting progressively hot and expectant mommy was starting to get hungry, we headed to the nearby food court to grab sandwiches, hot dogs, and ice cold soft drinks.

We spent the rest of the day on pregnant- and toddler- friendly rides and shows such as Muppet Vision in 3D, the Great Movie Ride, and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (this was my favourite of the day – who didn’t love Indy in the 80s?!).  We had wanted to take Dani to the Jedi Training Academy, where apparently kids get to do Jedi training with light sabers and all, but she was too young and/or short.  I had always wanted to check out the Tower of Terror, so perhaps we’ll need to come back once the bun is out of the oven =)  Also, there was a 2-hour wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, so we said forget that.  By that time, it had begun to rain (yes, we donned the Disney ponchos yet again), so we called it a day.

All in all, I’d still prefer the excitement and crowd participation of Universal Studios, but maybe when Dani is at least 6 or 7, because DHS proved to be the more toddler-friendly option.

Until next time, Mickey fans… hope you got something useful out of your reading and enjoy your next trip to the happiest place(s) on earth 😉


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And now down to the nitty gritty, the meat, the FUN stuff – the Disney Parks review!

Our trip was planned in late September, so after googling Disney information, I came across an interesting alternative to the usual Magic Kingdom visit: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!  As a family, we had been to the Magic Kingdom (Orlando) once and to Disneyland Paris once, so going was nothing new, but this Halloween party was intriguing!

Tickets cost $62 per adult versus regular $99 admission for the Magic Kingdom.  Kids under three are free so that was a plus for us!  Regular park hours are usually 9a to 9p, but the “official” Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (I’ll refer to it as MNSSHP from now on) hours were from 7p-midnight.  They actually let you in the doors at 4p, however.  You are given plastic loot bags (but you can bring your own, and believe me I’ve seen people carrying SACKS around) to collect candy at various stops throughout the park for trick-or-treating.  A map is provided to show you just where each stop is, and trust me, they do NOT chintz on the candy!  Each stop is marked with a lit-up pumpkin sign, and we didn’t wait more than 5 minutes in each fast-moving lineup.  They will put handfuls of the GOOD stuff into your bags – all kinds of mini chocolate bars (Aero, Kit Kat, Smarties, Mars, etc.) and the typical candy as well (Laffy Taffy, lollipops, etc.).  Unfortunately (?) for us, it started to rain HARD as soon as we had parked the car, but this disadvantage proved to be quite the opposite.  Because of the incessant downpour (which didn’t cease until 10p, may I add!), we didn’t wait in line for any ride longer than 5-7 minutes!  WOOHOO!

A couple of days earlier, after checking the weekly forecast, we bought ponchos to wear to the Kingdom (Phineas and Ferb for daddy, Minnie Mouse for mommy, and Mickey for little Dani) for $7.99 each at the nearby Walmart.  The selection of Disney stuff there is AMAZING and way more affordable than anything in the actual parks, so we also picked up a couple of Mickey shirts as Hollywood Studios attire for later in the week.

Cleverly outfitted in our ponchos and flip flops (John wanted to wear sneakers but I said NO WAY – they’re going to get ruined and stanky), we opted to take the ferry over from the parking lot to the Kingdom instead of the monorail as there were only a few handfuls of people in line.  It was our first time ever riding it, so it was a nice little trip on the water.

Although I would never turn down (free) sweets, after two candy runs we opted to prioritize the rides instead to make use of all the time we had there.  Every ride in the park was open, so we rode pretty much every Dani-friendly attraction:  It’s a Small World, Enchanted Tales with Belle, the Dumbo ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, etc.

We dined on the usual fast-food fare of hot dogs, fries, and chips, as most (I’m not sure if all) of the concession stands and restaurants were open that evening.  To ease the spending, we brought in a small soft-shelled cooler filled with water, juice, fruit snacks, Lunchables, etc. to keep Dani happy.  Generally, you are allowed to bring in your own food from outside, as long as it isn’t anything dangerous like metal silverware (particularly knives), glass bottles, and liquor (obviously).

The night ended with an amazing fireworks display at around 9p, which Dani found way too loud and so we had to cover her ears.  Also, we caught the 2nd Boo to You Halloween parade at around 10:30p, with the 1st beginning around 8p, if I’m not mistaken.  It was an awesome display of Disney’s regular cast and villains on floats, with dancers in the streets giving out Mickey lollipops and candy.  Though I had read about the Headless Horseman appearing at the end of it, he wasn’t there that night =(  I wonder if he appears in the dates closer to Halloween itself…

Our fantastic Halloween excursion began at around 4:30p, and by 11:30 I was ready to conk out, so we took the monorail back to the parking lot and headed to McDonald’s for a late dinner (they had $2 Big Macs on special at the time.. score!).  Then off to bed to rest up for the next adventure!

I would recommend MNSSHP to anybody who prefers to travel to Florida in the early fall – I always find it the best to go around when school starts, because it’s not as hot as in the summertime and crowds tend to be lighter.

To come:  Disney Hollywood Studios review… stay tuned =)



fam at LEP

Happy 2015 everybody!  Thank you to all my visitors all over the world.  I haven’t been posting nearly enough as I should be, but that’s one of my resolutions for the new year.  Thank you again for all your support.

Orlando Florida family vacation:  September 20-27, 2014
There’s just something so happy and exciting about Disney Magic, and Dani just can’t stop talking about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

The weather was just perfectly suited to my taste: high in the mid 30’s (but not often) and low in the mid 20’s (mainly due to the rain, which came down 5 out of 7 days of the week).  In the dead heat of sunlight, I felt particularly suffocated because I’m not a “summer person.”  Plus, being pregnant, I’m always hot.  I welcomed the cooling sensation the rain brought, and strolling the air-conditioned malls almost every day was fun too, not to mention the swimming pools at the Orange Lake resort complex where we stayed for the week.

I shall rewind to day one and the adventures of happily married couple, adoring almost-three-year-old daughter, and 4-month-old baby swimming around in utero.  Leaving home at 5:30 am, we crossed the border and arrived at Buffalo International Airport around 8:00 am.  Flying out of BIA saved us at least $300-400 off typical fares out of Pearson.  We also parked across the street from the airport at the Hampton Inn for $5 a day, opting to take the $2.99 cancellation insurance (if something happens and your flight is cancelled or you can’t arrive within the next 24 hours, you’re not charged a late fee).  A 24-hour on-demand shuttle was ready at the door to take us over, and they provided us with a phone number to call a driver upon our return.  We were very pleased with the polite and efficient service.

Our first flight was to Atlanta, with a little over an hour to catch our connecting flight to Orlando.  No complaints or remarks to make here, as the flights and transitions were both speedy and smooth.  The first flight was under 2 hours, and the 2nd was just about one hour.  Even the wait at the rental car counter was fairly quick, although I’ll heed a warning here.  Car insurance for the week cost over $300, which was a surprise to us since we paid a third of that the last time we rented in Orlando.  Perhaps booking your car rental separate from a flight package and opting for their insurance is the safer bet.

After collecting the car seat and installing happy Dani into our black 2014 Ford Fusion (John wasn’t happy with the choice at all), we headed to Orange Lake West Village.  Our room exceeded our expectations.  We had used RCI exchange points to book and, listed as a Studio, it had a full kitchen minus the oven (stovetop, mini fridge, microwave, kettle, pots and pans, dishes, etc.)  To save some valuable shopping/Mickey dollars, we bought groceries at the nearby Target and Walmart stores and cooked a few dinners and even more breakfasts.

If you’re an Orange Lake timeshare owner, beware that you’re whisked to a separate desk to book your “return visit update” (aka Timeshare sales presentation).  The incentive was 50% the resort’s play-all-week package: mini golf, use of tubes for the lazy river, etc. for one hour of your time (we didn’t even end up buying it).

We dined at Ponderosa for our first evening (my how it has changed – pricey, and they eliminated the full buffet, boo hoo) and checked out some nearby stores i.e. Ross and Target, heading to bed early to recover from the 2.5 hours of sleep we had gotten the night before.

We were up early to catch our 8:00 am sales presentation, which we wanted to book first thing in the morning to just get it over with.  I’m extremely proud of Dani lasting the entire time, and of John and myself not upgrading or buying anything.  The last time we had attended such a presentation, we walked out with a timeshare =)  We had breakfast buffet at Sizzler, and after resting a bit that afternoon, headed to downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola Park.  We saw some swans and plenty of baby lizards (BUTIKI!  My favourite word!  LOL) and did some more shopping in the evening.

The next afternoon, after sleeping in again, we headed to Walmart to grab some groceries for the day: a barbecued chicken, salad, and some bread, and drove about 1.5 hours to Daytona Beach.  It was a perfect day: not blazingly hot or sunny, and quite empty on the beach.  If you’ve never been before, it costs $3.00 to park directly on the beach for the day.  Because it was overcast and rainy, there were only a handful of other cars nearby, which was just fine for us =)  On the way there, we passed the Daytona International Speedway and Vince Carter’s high school, for all you millions of Raptors fans out there.  =P

It was a lovely time.  Dani enjoyed playing in the not-so-packable sand and wading in the waves, although she caught and swallowed a mouthful of saltwater and vomited up some mushy strawberry remains (gross).  Afterwards, we headed to Toys R Us to pick up Dani’s Cinderella princess dress and the much coveted Shopkins, which were hard to find in stock back in Toronto and almost never available online.

I realize I’ve written quite a lengthy passage here, so I’ll save the rest for parts 2, 3 and maybe even 4 =)

Happy reading… don’t forget to come back!