Disney April 2024

Flower and Garden Festival, DVC Moonlight Magic

Our last Disney trip was shortened two and a half days by a cancelled outgoing flight due to weather. So, I decided to try a longer, but more restful vacation of 10 nights at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa in late April. Normally, I would avoid April like the plague, huge crowds due to Easter and Spring breaks. But they were very early this year with Easter in March! I booked Saratoga at the 11th month mark and made dining reservations for each day exactly at the 2 month mark. We may or may not keep them all, but we have them, just in case. As an example, we had a reservation for The Boathouse for dinner the day we arrived but cancelled it a few days before and decided to eat in Epcot at the Flower and Garden Festival food kiosks.

Thursday, April 18, 2024 

We flew on JetBlue out of our small nearby Westchester County Airport. Flights were expensive, but we had a credit and this would make the traveling less stressful. Since we were traveling during lunch, we got bagels with cream cheese and buttered rolls at our local deli first thing in the morning.

Our brother-in law, Rich, picked us up at 7:45 AM for our 10 AM flight. The lines were short to check our bags and at security.

The flight was basically on time. The flight did have to wait for a captain to pilot the plane. He came in from JFK, we assume by shuttle or car. He passed us as we checked in at the agate. The plane left 8 minutes late but arrived 9 minutes early. Our plane's name was Ole Blue Eyes.

We used Budget car rental though JetBlue. Their counter had a long slow line. Enterprise had virtually no wait. The good news is that we were upgraded for free from an economy (Kia Rio) to a standard (Chevy Malibu). We were happy that Terminal C now has rental cars, but it’s still a long, long walk from our arrival gate to baggage claim, then to the garage.

We made the quick drive over to Walt Disney World. We had yet gotten a text message about our room.

We stopped at the front desk. Joel from California found us a room that was ready in Congress Park, 2nd floor. Room 2247. It was the same room we had last time in 2022! We unpacked. Relaxed on the balcony for a bit, enjoying the warm Florida weather. Then headed to Publix for supplies. We bought water, soda, cereal, milk, vanilla creamer, chips, just add water pancake mix, syrup, bacon, glade and sun block.  I had a little single plug-in pancake maker that worked great!

   


Disney includes your name on the TV

We headed to Epcot just after 5 pm.

  

Spaceship Earth had no wait, so we hopped on. It was a unique experience because our time machine vehicle was set to Japanese, and we could not change it. We enjoyed the ride anyway and it was fun randomly picking answers to the questions for the end video. As usual Kelli’s head was full of holes and looked like a crescent moon face.

 

 

We found the new Walt Disney statue behind Spaceship earth and took a few pictures.

Epcot was colorful for the Flower and Garden Festival.

Our next stop was Joffrey’s near Disney Traders for an Iced Berry Chai Latte: A berry sweet blend of chai tea, blueberry syrup, and milk topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. It was unusual but good. Kelli enjoyed a decafe iced coffee.

We made our way over to Germany, but first noticed Great Egrets in breeding plumage and White Ibis roosting in the trees away from the bridge leading to Mexico.

 

 

At the Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market, we tried the Potato Pancakes with house-made apple sauce and the Toasted Pretzel Bread topped with black forest ham and melted cheese along with a Apfelschaumwein: Apple Sparkling Wine and Apple Liqueur. They were OK.


Toasted Pretzel Bread topped with ham, Potato Pancakes, and a Apfelschaumwein: Apple Sparkling Wine and Apple Liqueur

We spent some time at the miniature trains.

We continued around the countries, taking picture of the topiaries. One of our favorites was Tiana.

We then just had to try the Frushi at Hanami: Strawberry, pineapple, and lychee wrapped in coconut rice and pink soy wrap served with whipped cream, drizzled raspberry sauce, and toasted coconut. This was surprisingly good and refreshing. Who knew you could make a “sushi” dessert. We liked the new updated deer chasers (Shishi-odoshi); water contraptions that fill bamboo poles and ring bells or strike drums.


Frushi: Strawberry, pineapple, and lychee wrapped in coconut rice and pink soy wrap

 

 

I was very happy to see music and belly dancing back in Morocco.

 

Next up was La Isla Fresca for a Coconut Tres Leches: Vanilla cake soaked with oat, almond, and coconut milks topped with toasted coconut. I was looking forward to this, but the vanilla cake was not soaked and was rather dry.


Coconut Tres Leches

In France we stopped at Fleur de Lys and tried:

·        Croissant au Fromage de Chèvre, Herbes et Ail Rôtie: Croissant with Goat Cheese, Herbs, and Roasted Garlic

·        Parmentier de Canard A L’Orange: Pulled Duck Confit with Orange Sauce and Garlic-Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

·        Gâteau au Crémeux Citron, Lavende et Thym, Compote de Fruits Rouges: Warm Cake filled with Lemon, Lavender, and Thyme-infused Cream served with Berry Compote.

The duck confit tasted like a Thanksgiving dinner. I liked the croissant better than Kelli and both thought the cake was OK. Seems like the Food and Wine Festival has more, out of this world fare.

We found a spot on the bridge leading to England to view Epcot’s new nighttime show. Luminous - The Symphony of Us; a mixture of fireworks, fountains, music and lights. We liked the show, but I kind of miss seeing the “StarGate.”

It was a long walk back to the buses and got back to the room after 10. We relaxed on the balcony for a while before heading to bed. We planned to sleep in a bit, with no alarm.

   

Friday, April 19, 2024

Stacking Lighting Lanes

We have a Liberty Tree Tavern reservation at the Magic Kingdom at 5:10 pm today.

We slept in but I did wake up just before 7 AM to buy and start setting up Lightning Lanes (LL’s).  Since we will not be going to Magic Kingdom till the afternoon, I tried the strategy of stacking them.  Basically, setting up multiple LL’s for the afternoon and evening.

First, at 7 AM, I purchased an Individual Lightning Lane for me to ride TRON Lightcycle/Run for a return time of 3:30-4:40pm. I then booked LL’s for both of us for Peter Pan’s flight for 2:10-3:10pm. I then was able to book another pair of LL’s at 10 AM (2 hours after park opening) for Jungle Cruise for 5:40-6:40 pm. Then 2 hours later at noon I booked The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for 3:05-4:05pm. Then 2 hours after that, I booked it’s a small world for 2:20-3:30 pm. So far, I have:

2:10-3:10 pm Peter Pan’s flight

2:20-3:30 pm it’s a small world

3:05-4:05 pm The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

3:30-4:40 pm TRON Lightcycle/Run 

5:10pm Liberty Tree Tavern Dinner 

5:40-6:40 pm Jungle Cruise

There is no problem with overlapping times, as long as you can make the rides within the time limits. Notice that the first three rides are near each other in the park.

When we rode Peter Pan’s flight. Using up a LL, I was able to book Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin for 4:10-5:10pm

Later as we used up the LL’s, I was able to book LL’s for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid for 6:30 and 7:30 respectively. So, after Tron we now had:

4:10-5:10 pm Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin 

5:10 pm Liberty Tree Tavern

5:40-6:40 pm Jungle Cruise

6:30-7:30 pm The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

7:30-8:30 pm Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid

OK back to our day. I dropped back into bed after making the LL’s for another hour sleep. We were up at 8:15 AM! That was a new experience for us rope droppers! For breakfast I made pancakes and bacon, Kelli also had cereal. And our favorite part of owning DVC, had breakfast out on the balcony!

 

We then headed to Disney Springs using the walkway and shopped. In Basin we brought some soaps to bring home, at the register I notice a bargain, 5 smaller broken pieces of soap in a bag. I bought that and used one of the pieces for our stay.

 

 

For Lunch we tried Guy Fieri's Chicken Guy! Restaurant. We shared the chicken tenders and fried pickle chips. Sauces were bourbon brown sugar bbq and special sauce. Very good chicken and great fried pickles. 

 

As we walked back to our room, we listened to a choir performing at the waterside stage.

We rested for an hour back at the room, we wanted to stay out of the mid-day heat. The temperature and humidity were unusually high for April, with a “feel like” 100 degrees.

Just after 2 pm we headed for the Magic Kingdom bus. We took a few photos on Main Street and near the castle. On our way to Peter Pan, we were passed by the two Stepsisters.

   

We rode Peter Pan’s flight, it’s a small world and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in quick succession. Next was my individual Lightning Lane for TRON Lightcycle/Run. I was able to fit on the cycle, but it was a bit uncomfortable.  I still enjoyed the ride. I might try the back seat next time.

 

 

We had just enough time to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin before our 5:10 pm ADR for Liberty Tree Tavern. I maxed my score at 999,999 after the second room, then told Kelli what to aim for. We both maxed out our scores.

Liberty Tree Tavern again did not disappoint. We had a great meal sitting in the Jefferson room. The salad and dessert were especially good. 


Oooey Gooey Toffee Cake - Vanilla Toffee Cake, Chocolate Sauce, and Vanilla Ice Cream

After dinner we rode Jungle Cruise, then The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. When we came off Aladdin, we saw a cool bird fly over. It’s called a Swallow-tail Kite.

     

 

     

 

We shopped in the Frontier Trading Post then ran across a hoedown in Frontier Land with Chip and Dale, Wendell, Big Al, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar dancing with CM’s in the street.

 

   

 

A Great Egret was hanging outside of Columbia Harbour House hoping for some dropped food.


Great Egret

We had time before riding Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid, so we watched Mickey's PhilharMagic. Then rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.  We tried to make our way to the front of the castle, but it was already getting packed. We were directed by CM’s to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks on the pathway from the hub to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. We could not hear the music, but the fireworks were close and Tinkerbelle flew right over us.

 

 

It was crowded heading out of the park, but it kept moving. We had a short wait for the bus and even got seats. My App said I walk over 20,000 steps today.

 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

We have friends visiting from Melbourne, Florida arriving today and staying at Port Orleans Riverside and will spend the next two days with them. We woke up late and had breakfast out on the balcony. A Brown Thrasher was exploring the bushes for meal below. We could see the resort’s yoga class doing their poses on the walkway near the water. 

 

We took the boat from Disney Springs up to Port Orleans Riverside just before noon. 

 

As the boat was docking, a lady hooked into a fish on a boat and reeled in a nice Large-mouth Bass. We met our friends and had lunch at Riverside Mill Food Court. Kelli and I split the Pimento BLT with French Frie and a Thumper Carrot Cupcake.

 

We checked on their room. It seemed larger than ours, but without the kitchenette. We liked the Princess and the Frog curtain in the room. After helping bring up their luggage and provisions, we caught up with them having not seen them in a few years.

We have a dinner reservation with them later, so all headed back to our resort to rest for a couple of hours.

We had an ADR for 4 at Boma - Flavors of Africa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. We took our car and picked up our friends at their resort and drove over to the lodge. We first checked out the animals out the back of the great hall. Pinked-back Pelicans and Zebras were seen. 

 

We checked in at Boma, they had drummers open the restaurant and we were seated quickly. Kelli had a Boma Oasis – rum, raspberry rum, blue curacao, lemonade with a glowing Lotus Flower, the rest of us had the African Rum Runner – rum, banana liqueur, orange, pomegranate, and pineapple juice.


Boma Oasis

We all enjoyed the buffet. Highlights for me were the sweet corn pudding with spinach and chakalaka jam, spiced pork ribs, peanut rice with coconut milk, soy sauce and ginger, West African black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes, passion fruit mousse and of course Zebra domes.

On our way out an artist was working on one of his animal wood carvings.

We drove them to our resort to continue to “catch up” and show them our accommodations. They hopped on the boat back to their resort. Later, Kelli and I stopped by the Artist Palette to shop and get some much-needed Bengay and a Bullseye peanut butter cupcake.

We will take them to explore Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive tomorrow morning.

 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

We picked up our friend a little after 7 for the half hour drive up to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  We had a great time looking at the birds, alligators, and other wildlife. The highlight of the day was a Bobcat crossing the road in front of us.

   
Great Blue Heron

 
Purple Gallinule                   Tri-colored Heron


Gator and Lunch?

 
Anhinga

We drove back to our resort for lunch. Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto were out in front of the Artist Palette interacting with guests. Pluto was playing giant checkers. 

 

 

For lunch Kelli, Kurt and Margaret had a delicious Hot Ham and Cheese Panini and I had the Saratoga Salad with Chicken, Mixed Field Greens, Feta, Dried Cranberries, Apples, Spiced Walnuts, Crispy Ciabatta Croutons, and Lemon-Poppy Seed Vinaigrette. I only ate half. I did save room for both of us to share a Derby pie for dessert.

In the afternoon we enjoyed a trip to the pool before meeting our friends for dinner at the Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant in Disney Springs. We again enjoyed their company along with some great performances by the Irish dancers, music, and food.

 

 

 

Kurt and I had a Guiness while Kelli enjoyed a Strawberry Fields Mimosa, and Margaret had a strawberry cucumber martini. Kelli had a salad and the Cider House Belly - Cider glazed spiced pork belly with pickled red cabbage slaw, butternut squash & maple puree. I went with the Chicken Pie Do Try. Kurt had the Sheppard’s pie and Margaret had the salmon

We all skipped dessert and got a dole whip ice cream cup at Swirls on the Water and sat at the tables nearby. We got to see the volcano at the Rain Forrest Café go through its whole show. Our friends took the boat back to their resort. Kelli and I relaxed on the Adirondack chairs by the water at our resort. A little later we took a sunset walk out to the gazebo.

 

 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Today the temperatures will be more comfortable, with a high of only 77 F. At seven I purchased an individual lightning lane for Rides for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind from 3:30-4:30 pm. We have a 4:25 PM ADR for Space 220.  Epcot has extended hours from 9-11 PM for deluxe resort guests.

We drove up to the Riverside Mill Food Court to have an early lunch with our friends before they head home. We were early enough that one station still had breakfast. Kurt, Margaret, and I had the bounty platter with an orange juice and Kelli steel-cut oatmeal and kids Mickey waffles with apple slices and yogurt.

We said our good-byes then shopped in Fulton’s General Store before heading back to our resort.

We relaxed on the balcony before heading to Epcot around 3. At the bus stop we noticed that the resort had a Purple Martin Nest Check program at 9 AM on Sundays and Thursday. We never did get the chance to attend. I do monitor Purple Martin nests at my work at Benjamin Moore Paints in Flanders, New Jersey. We have five martin towers.

We made our way over to Guardians taking a few pictures of topiaries and butterflies along the way. Kelli sat nearby as I went on. This was my second time on the ride and loved it as much as the first. I was able to pick up more details on the ride and the narration. I did get the same song; September by Earth, Wind & Fire, but was fine with that since it’s a “Kelli’s and Mike” song. We shopped in the Treasures of Xandar. I tried on an Iron Man Infinity Stone Gauntlet and a Loki helmet.

 

 

We made our way over to Mission Space to the entrance of Space 220 restaurant. We checked in and got our “boarding pass” for the Space Elevator “up” to the restaurant. The elevator was cool. When we entered the restaurant, we could see earth out the main windows. The “windows” by our table were dark, otherwise we would have seen astronauts floating by.

We started with sharing a drink. The Shuttle Crew is a mixture of peach and orange vodka, vanilla, tangerine, Red Bull with a Tang foam. The meal is $79 per person and consists of appetizer, entrée, and dessert for each. For appetizers (Lift-Offs), Kelli chose the Duck Confit with a lentil salad of butternut squash, bacon crisp, and walnut with a citrus dressing I ordered the Starry Calamari, fried calamari, Italian cherry peppers, spicy marinara, and roasted pepper citrus aioli. Most of the calamari were cooked to perfection!

 

 

 

 
Duck Confit   and   Starry Calamari,

For entrées (Star Course), I had a new item, Cioppino - fennel-crusted swordfish with Mediterranean couscous, and creamy puttanesca. Kelli had the 8oz Angus Beef Filet Mignon with creamy mashed potatoes, haricot vert, and red wine reduction.

 
Angus Beef Filet Mignon                          Cioppino - fennel-crusted swordfish 

While we waited for our food our waiter took a picture of us in the center of the restaurant overlooking earth.


Space 220

The appetizers and entrées were excellent, and we finished this great meal with dessert (Super Nova Sweets). Chocolate Raspberry Cake and a Carrot Cake with candied walnuts, and toasted pepitas.

 
Chocolate Raspberry Cake and a Carrot Cake 

Cost with tip was $211, but well worth it. We can’t wait to do this restaurant again. The ride down was just as great, but quicker.

We made our way over to Journey of Water. This is a lovely walk-through experience. Very well done. If you have the extra time, it is worth it and should be a hit with kids!

 

 

 

 https://youtube.com/shorts/pVAsy5vpEiM?si=A0NR_xpFEYWsA15z

We next did The Seas with Nemo and Friends, then Soarin’, and we were in the preshow in 16 minutes. Next was Living with the Land at night, followed by Awesome Planet, then Journey into Imagination with Figment. After the ride we played the game similar to Simon where the light panel creates a series of tones and lights and requires a user to repeat the sequence. Working together we were able to play to the end and get all eight tones right.

 

 

When we came out, Luminous - The Symphony of Us had just started and we watched some of the fireworks while making our way to Mission Space.

It was now Extra Hours, and they checked my MagicBand before I headed into the orange side of the ride.

Very few people were in line. I got to ride by myself and made myself the commander. The computer overrides got me through the mission. I next rode Test Track while Kelli shopped, and people watched. I quickly tried to get some nighttime shots of the Mission Space area. We started leaving just after 10 and took some selfies with Spaceship Earth and got back to the room just before 11.

 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024
DVC Moonlight Magic

We slept in again since we will have a late night at Animal Kingdom as we have tickets for DVC Moonlight Magic from 7 PM - 10 PM. The park closes at 6 PM. I got up just before 7 AM to buy an individual Lightning Lane for Avatar: Flight of Passage. I also was able to change our ADR for Tiffins from 12:35 PM to 12:55 PM to give us more pool time this morning. I started to stack LL’s starting with Na’vi River Journey, then Kilimanjaro Safaris and It’s Tough to be a Bug.

We headed to Animal Kingdom around 11:30 and a bus pulled up right away. Since we were now early, we took our time. I looked at some of the animals and found a Paroon Shark Catfish. It was huge, about 4 feet long. Then Rabbit and Pooh quickly walked by.  When Kelli joined me, I showed her the catfish. Others started to come in and see what we were looking at.

We checked in at Tiffins early, but they seated us right away. We sat in the Rivers of Light Lanterns room.

Tiffins is a signature restaurant, and this was another fabulous meal. They gave us some favorable naan bread with a delicious spread. We let them know Kelli had a sunflower seed allergy. We shared the Pineapple-glazed Pork Belly with Guajillo Chili Sauce, Chicharrónes, Spice Pickled Vegetable Slaw. Kelli had the Butter Chicken with chickpea-rice croquette, English peas, young squash, and pickled onion. I had Shrimp & Grits with South African mealie pap with roasted corn and goat cheese, peri-peri shrimp, green tomato-apple chutney.

 
Pineapple-glazed Pork Belly                       ,


Butter Chicken with chickpea-rice croquette                                   Shrimp & Grits

For desserts Kelli ordered the Champurrado Chocolate Bar, spiced chocolate ganache, modelo negra mousse, dulce de leche, passion fruit-lime sauce, and chili meringue. I ordered the White Chocolate-Orange Crème Brûlée with blueberry cardamom curd, amacula ice cream, orange chutney, sellou cookie, ras el hanout candy crunch.

When the desserts came out, our waiter informed us that the chocolate bar contains sunflower seed. I guess in the ras el hanout candy crunch. So, we switched desserts. The waiter thought I had the allergy since I spoke up about it first. He was a little upset he got that wrong. But no harm, no foul. As a memento and collector’s item the restaurant gave us an elephant sketch. Cost with DVC discount was 154.08 with tip

We explored the land of Pandora, the World of Avatar, taking some nice daytime pictures, along with the hug Pandora bugs.

 

It was now time for our LL for Na’vi River Journey. We enjoyed that with the song stuck in our heads. Kelli sat and people watched as I used my individual LL for Avatar: Flight of Passage. I had trouble fitting in my seat, they had me switch to a different one and I jammed my leg in as far it would go with my bad hip. Bad idea, the restraints finally clicked in, but I strained my leg. I still enjoyed the ride but had pain walking out of the ride. It bothered me all evening.

We took the back way to Africa. We briefly watched the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe near the Mombasa Market Place. 

We enjoyed Kilimanjaro Safaris using our LL’s. We sat in the front row. I switched my camera to a shorter lens but many of my pictures were not sharp due to the vehicle movement.

     

It was now after 4 PM so we checked in for DVC Moonlight Magic. We each received three snack certificates and two fossil fun game certificates along with our wrist bands. Kelli was hankering to use a snack certificate on a hot fudge sundae, but we will be getting free Mickey ice cream later in the evening.

We tried to use coupon at Harambe Market for the chicken dumplings with seasoned fries, but they had closed.

We hurried over to the last show of The Lion King using our LL’s. We enjoyed the show in the Lion section.

I was thirsty so stopped for a Blue Powerade and a water at The Feeding ground. At Mr. Kamal’s food stand we used our first two snack credits for the chicken dumplings with seasoned fries. The fries were good. Mr. Mallard hung out by us hoping for some food.

The park was officially closed. With our wrist bands we were able to head into It’s Tough to be a Bug. The effects were quite noticeable in our seats.

We headed over to Restaurantosaurus to try their Elephant cupcake – graham cracker cupcake with pineapple filling topped with a chocolate elephant, in a jungle of matcha buttercream and crispy pearls. It looked fantastic but the flavor was just so-so.

In Dinoland USA we waited on long lines to play our free games in Fossil Fun. We did the water pistol game and one where you had to toss balls trying to get it into a prize cup. There were cast members going around with their own question games. It seemed easier to win but we were too slow to jump out of line. We really didn’t need a small dino plush anyway.

Next was the free Mickey novelty ice-cream. I got the chocolate bar and Kelli the ice-cream sandwich.

I then rode Everest while Kelli rested in the old stadium seating for the now defunct nighttime show. I joined her for a rest as well.

We made our way back over to Pandora, but first stopping to get cinnamon-glazed pecans with a snack certificate.

We loved the luminous sidewalks in Pandora.

 
Glowing Walkways - Pandora at Night

We used our last two snack certificates in Satu'li Canteen for two Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse with passion fruit curd.

Before heading out we spent time taking nighttime pictures in Pandora, trying all different camera settings. Another couple were doing the same and gave us a tip that the portrait mode worked well.

 

Back on Discovery Island we enjoyed the Tree of Life show and left early around 9:20 pm.

 

 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

We slept in again, but I still got up at 7 AM to buy us both an Individual Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and to start stacking LL’s. After a late breakfast out on the balcony we headed over to the pool around 10 AM. It was empty at the time with only one or two other people.

 

We had a late lunch of leftovers from my salad and ChickenGuy back in the room. During pool time and lunch I was able to stack lighting lanes for Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway before our 5 PM ADR for Roundup Rodeo BBQ. 

 
Stacking Lightning Lanes

We headed out to Hollywood Studios around 2:30 PM. With the lighting lanes set up we easily rode Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania! Kelli videoed us on Alien as it swung our bodies back and forth while we laughed.

The Green Army Men drummers passed by us as we headed towards Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. We were early for our LL’s, so we explored the footprints, handprints, and signatures in the concrete pavement in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater replica. My favorites were Roger Rabbit, Carol Burnett and Steve Martin.

We enjoyed Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and shopped the kiosk outside.

We headed over to Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Toy Story Land. We had a wait, outside, for 15 minutes, before our table was ready. This is an all you can eat barbeque. One plate was way too much food for two people. 

 

 

Once in while there would be an announcement about the toys or updates on Andy. If Andy does come by everyone freezes in position till he leaves which I think kids would enjoy. 

I started with a drink, Rum on the Range with chocolate rum, RumChata liqueur, chocolate, and toasted marshmallow. Sweet and OK, but I would try something lighter next time.

We first had the Prospector’s Homemade Cheddar Biscuits with Sweet Pepper Jelly. We agree with all the reviews that these are great. They may have been the highlight of the meal.

The two salads were very good. Rootin’ Tootin Tomato Salad with cucumbers, pickled red onion, white balsamic vinaigrette and the Wheezy’s Watermelon Salad with supposedly fresh-torn mint. The watermelon chunks were ripe and delicious. My only complaint is that it’s just great watermelon and NOT a salad. I really didn’t pick up any mint. In any case we finished both.

The House-Smoked platter had:

Evil Dr. Smoked Ribs, great dry rub and very tender. I did not need any of the three barbeque sauces on the table for the ribs. More on the sauces later.

Buttercup's Beef Brisket – decent.

There’s a Sausage in my Boot - Fire-grilled Pork Sausage. I was not a big fan. I would have liked them more grilled.

BBQ Chicken - with Style! Just chicken, no style, kind of plain and needed something else, like the BBQ sauces.

Buckin’ Baked Beans - Ok

We were also given some salmon, which was very good. Best protein of the meal.

For sides:

Potato Barrels – typical potato tots for kids.

The Claw! Veggie Slaw – better than expected, nice kick to it.

Slinky Doooooooooog's Mac & Cheese - typical better mac and cheese for kids. I liked it but barely touched it due to the volume of food.

Cowpoke Corn on the Cob – Grilled Street Corn. I loved this, seasoned like Mexican street corn and I finished them! Kelli had one.

For desserts, even though full, we tried the Billy’s Chocolate Silk Pie and the Gruff’s Peach-Strawberry Pie. Both were in mini cups and were good.

 

The three BBQ sauces were Spicy, Classic, and Sweet. Nothing special. The sweet was the best but tastes exactly like what you get with chicken nuggets at McDonald’s, which would please the kids.

Fifteen different things to eat! We felt a little bad wasting so much food. Like the Whispering Canyon Café, this is better with a larger group which might include some very hungry people.

Cost for the two of us with DVC discount and good tip was $124.31.

I like how Disney marks some of their cast member only areas at different themed places. Here the sign says, “Andy’s Toys Only”. I think at Cosmic Rewind, it’s “Xandarians Only”. I have to look for more of these next time.

We waddled over to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and entered through the LL entrance. The line came to a stop, just as we got inside a long narrow tunnel. It was deafening with a kid in front of us and about a dozen young teenage girls. After about 25 minutes of not moving, we could not take the noise anymore and we backed out a few people to wait in the line just outside in the open air. A few people were leaving the line with no information. We waited another 15 minutes and gave up. The ride does break down a lot and can be done for the evening. At the end of the day we stopped by customer relations near the front of the park and got refunds for the paid LL’s. Other people were online for the same reason.

We watched MuppetVision 3D entering just as the pre-show ended. We always enjoy this. We stopped at Gonzo’s Royal Flush Restrooms before moving on to Star Tours – The Adventures Continues. I was quickly on and off. There were new scenes and characters, it featured Ashoka, the Wookie planet, and a new crash-landing ending.

 

We made the last showing of Vacation Fun - An Original Animated Short with Mickey & Minnie. Potato Land here we come!

 

Back in Toy Story Land we got the Raspberry Tart and the seasonal Blueberry-lemon Tart at Woody’s Lunch Box and saved them for later.

We had just enough time before the park closer to hop on Alien Swirling Saucers with no wait. 

The park was officially closed so we spent time before our 9:30 PM ADR for Oga's Cantina, taking night photos of Toy Story Land and some in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

 

We checked in early, and were “seated” right away. Actually, two standing spots at the bar in this notorious Black Spiral outpost local watering hole. We partook in their unique libations and eats while enjoying the musical entertainment courtesy of droid DJ R-3X, a former Starspeeder 3000 pilot.

 

We had the Batuu Bits, crispy galaxy snack bits with spiced dip (various deep fried veggie chips). Kelli had the Carbon Freeze, Powerade Lemon Lime, Wild Strawberry, Blueberry, and Green Apple Popping Pearls. And I, the Yub Nub, with pineapple rum, spiced rum, citrus Juices, and passion fruit BUT without the Souvenir Endor Mug.

Damage at the end was only $ 47.50. Next time we might stay for more drinks but we were tired.

We took more night pictures in Galaxy's Edge. We could not exit through Toy Story. At the main street we did hit people leaving the nighttime show, Fantasmic! We stopped at customer relations for our LL refund. We had a bus waiting for us. We had good luck with the buses overall this trip.

 

 

 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Slept in and decided not to go to Magic Kingdom till dinner! We are getting in a more relaxing vacation! We had breakfast on balcony, then did a bird walk around the resort. We found a couple of Great Blue Heron nests in the same area and saw a pair of Mottled Ducks in the water.

 

Then enjoyed the pool for the rest of the morning.

Lunch was at eet, in Disney Springs and features modern Indian food by Maneet Chauhan, of Food Channel fame. Eet is a short walk since it is right after the security point.

Kelli enjoyed the Tandoori Chicken Poutine- chaat masala fries, tandoori chicken, white cheddar curds, rich tomato butter sauce. I had the Build Your Own Bowl and selected cumin basmati rice, basil cilantro shrimp, in a golden coconut curry sauce. Both were very flavorful and delicious. Cost was $50.86. We brought home leftovers.

 

On a whim, we decided to check out The Spice & Tea Exchange. We are so glad we did. I first spotted some favored sugars, great for a baker, as well as teas of course. I figured they must have salts, and they did. Kelli got the Roasted Espresso Sea Salt. She will try to use it and elevate her delicious brownies.  I got the Bacon Smoked Sea Salt and the Hickory Smoked Sea Salt. I love adding a smokey flavor to my grilled meats. They also had a variety of peppers. There was a Bread Board I liked but knew it would not fit in with the luggage. But I did order almost the same thing online when I got home online.

Next, we shopped in Goofy’s Candy Company. We both bought some flavored popcorn for our co-workers back home, some other gifts and a chocolate cupcake.

Back in the room we relaxed on the balcony and downloaded tons of pictures from my camera. For dessert we ate the cupcake and the tarts from Woody’s Lunch Box. We also cancelled our Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch reservations for Chef Art Smith's Homecomin. We plan to eat at Epcot.

We left for the Magic Kingdom at 4:45 PM for our 5:45 PM ADR at Tony's Town Square Restaurant. We avoid Italian while down here. Nothing can beat the Italian food in New York, plus it tends to be a heavier meal that doesn’t go with heat and humidity. However, we wanted to try the restaurant.

   

   

We were seated in the semi-outdoor atrium. We could peer outside and see the town square. A high school marching band did pass by while we ate.

We split the House Salad and tried their Chicken Parmigiana and Spaghetti and Meatballs. The marinara sauce was watered or oiled down tomato sauce with no seasoning. The meatballs were seasoned well. I thought that the breadcrumbs on the chicken was seasoned, Kelli thought it lacked flavor and salt.

The pasta was al dente and we both left most of it. For desserts we did the Tiramisu Berry – in a cup, refreshing but not real tiramisu and the Chocolate Gelato. WOW, the gelato was great! I liked the signs on the restrooms, just Lady or the Tramp on the doors. Cost $109.

We headed over to Tomorrowland and had to stop for a selfie at the purple wall.


The Purple Wall

Laugh Floor had a show about to start, so we hopped on in. Always a funny show. Next was the Carrousel of Progress followed by the People Mover. We did not want to deal with the crowds and left before the fireworks, using the back way out to the front of the park, behind Main Street USA. We also have an early start tomorrow with Breakfast at the Garden Grill.

 

Friday, April 26, 2024

We work up early and skipped breakfast out on the balcony as we have an 8:30 AM ADR at Chip 'n' Dale's Harvest Feast Breakfast at Garden Grill in Epcot.

I forgot to buy an Individual Lightning Lane for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. We arrived before the park opened but we were let into the far right side in front of Spaceship Earth. Just before 8 AM we were able to go further into the park, near the Land Pavilion. They roped dropped at 8:30 and we went directly to the Garden Grill. We were seated shortly thereafter. 

We started with a plate of ripe watermelon slices and a skillet of apple cinnamon rolls.

Later they brought out a platter of Mickey-shaped Waffles, Backyard Grilled Steak with Farmer’s Ranchero Sauce, Smoked Bacon, Scrambled Free-range Eggs, and Skillet Potatoes. We ate almost everything!

 

Chip was the first to visit us. Followed by Dale, farmer Mickey and Pluto.

 

  

 

I got up and took some pictures of Living with the Land down below. The pictures came out great. Our waitress said they upgraded the lighting on the ride.

She later mentioned that the bedroom in the farmhouse that can only be seen from the restaurant was decorated inside like Walt’s boyhood bedroom. What detail.

 

\

We waited till each of the characters visited again then rode Living with the Land to capture more of those themed tables.


The Little Mermaid Table

 

 


Snow White Table (Red Apple)                            Winnie the Pooh Table


Winnie the Pooh Table                     Alice in Wonderland Table

 

Next was Turtle Talk with Crush. We barely started the quiz in the waiting area when they let everyone inside the theater. They are always updating Crush’s performance, making it repeatable every time.

Afterwards, we explored the small tanks in the aquarium.

     

 

Next was Butterfly Landing. All the species of butterflies are native to the area.

We enjoyed the three films at the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival. As we walked through the first waiting area, we saw Mickey and Minnie greeting guests. 

We took a few more Flower and Garden photos.

 

It was now noon so we tried the Cubanito with mojo-marinated pork belly, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and stone-ground mustard sauce along with the Florida Strawberry Shortcake at the Florida Fresh kiosk. The Cubanito and the shortcake were just OK.

At Northern Bloom I tried the seared Scallops with French Green Beans with marble potatoes and bacon vinaigrette and we shared the Chocolate Maple Whisky Cake. The cake was as great as expected. Whisky and chocolate do go together!

At the United Kingdom pavilion, we brought some tea and two British chocolates, Munchies and Galaxy Ripple. We did not get to try these till we got home, and Kelli loved the Munchies, she wanted more.

 

We made our way over to the Citrus Blossom in the Odyssey building and ordered the Orange Sesame Tempura Shrimp with orange-chili sauce, an Orange-Lemon Smoothie in a souvenir Orange Bird sipper cup, and the Beer Flight which consisted of:

  

Southern Tier Brewing Company Orange Twist Imperial Ale

Left Hand Brewing Lemon Drop Shandy

Stone Brewing Tangerine Express Hazy IPA

We got a little pixie dust as we got a second helping of the shrimp. All three of these were a hit. We both love the Orange Bird sipper cup.

We headed out after shopping the festival shop inside the Odyssey building but stopped by the Leave a Legacy pylons to search for Kelli and her mom’s picture. We found the location using our phone and a QR code provided. The tile’s panel number, row number, and column number were 051-24-16. But it was located on the far, other side of the entrance and we were too tired. Next time we will visit it.

We arrived back at the resort around 2 PM and enjoyed the pool and the hot tub for a while. At 5 pm we left for the Boathouse for our 5:45 PM ADR.

I started with the delicious Duck Duck Razz made with Stoli Razberri, Peach Schnapps, Blue Curacao, lemon Juice, and simple syrup. Then had four Oysters on the Half Shell with Gibson’s Bombay cocktail sauce, and cucumber mignonette. Two from Prince Edwards Island, and two from Massachusetts. 

     

   

Dinner was the Dockside Shrimp Boil with corn on the cob, red potatoes, Andouille sausage, with Boathouse seasoning.  Kelli had her three Filet Mignon Sliders with Maitre d' Butter and a side sweet potato. 

   

It was another great meal and we brought home leftovers. On the walk back we paused to watch the Rain Forrest Café animatronic alligator.

 

 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Our plan was to get up as early as possible and enjoy the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive once again, and take a day off from visiting the parks. We were there by 7:30 AM. We had many of the same birds, but I was able to get more great photographs. We did get great looks at two Sedge Wrens and added Gray-headed Swamphens, White-winged Dove, Little Blue Heron and a Peninsula Cooter (turtle).


American Alligator


American Alligator


American Coot


Common Gallinule


Gray-headed Swamphen


Snowy Egret


White Ibis


Cattle Egret


Sedge Wren


Peninsula Cooter


Anhiga


Boat-tailed Grackle


Glossy Ibis


Common Gallinule chicks

On our ride back we spotted a pickup truck pulling a boat. The name of the boat was in script and we both thought is said “Moo Boo Women” and thought that was a strange name. At a light we caught up to it and were able to read the real name “Mrs Bee Haven”.

Lunch was at our home resort at the Artist Pallete. Kelli had her Hot Ham and Cheese Panini again and I was adventurous and tried the Plant-based Gyro. Kelli said her panini wasn’t as great the first time. The plant-based "sausage" in my gyro was a bit dry but passable. Otherwise it was delicious. For dessert we split a Milk & Cookies Cupcake- vanilla cupcake filled with edible cookie dough topped with sweet cream and freshly-baked cookie. It was good, but we’ve had better cupcakes.

We spent the afternoon back at the pool. It was great relaxing and giving our tired bodies a rest. A real vacation!

We had a message on our phone from the resort stating that the boats from our resort, as well as Old Key West and Port Orleans were not running due to low water. 

Dinner was leftovers, still good the second time. We walked over to Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop for dessert. We did see the boats docked and the water seemed to be about one and a haft foot down; however, the Vintage Amphicar tours were still running. We shared a Magical Hot Fudge Sundae to end our day.

   

For Sunday Kelli decided to sleep in and relax at the resort for the morning. She encouraged me to go to Epcot to explore on my own. We will finish our vacation by seeing the fire works together at the Magic Kingdom.

 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

I headed to Epcot for rope drop and set up an individual Lighting Lane for Guardians. Kelli slept in, took a peaceful walk by the water, and relaxed at the pool till I came back.

I timed it perfectly and arrived at the rope drop just as it opened at 8:30 AM near the water fountain. Everyone took off in a hurry to Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. By time I got there everyone from the rope drop, plus the rope drop from the back entrance were all in line. 

The line started past Chefs de France. The CM said it was a 45-minute wait. I thought it would be quicker than that, but it was right on target. I did not get out till 9:30. But is was worth the wait. It was my third time on the ride, my first two were in 2022. I was able to see and take in more as I knew a bit what to expect. In the early part of the ride it makes sense to look up since you are now the size of a mouse running through the wall of a restaurant.

 

 

I slowly made my way back to Guardians. Stopping at the English tea Garden, the Purple Martin Houses and Songbird Meadow. 

 

 

 

 

Songbird Meadow is presented by Wild Birds Unlimited. It is where you can discover simple steps that you can take at home to help your feathered friends thrive.

  

My ride on Guardians included a new song called Disco Inferno. It was another great ride. I relaxed more and just let the ride take me along a great adventure.  I was able to pick up and remember more of the dialog. I loved how Drax got hungry after hearing Star Lord and Rocket used phases like “Piece of cake’” and “We’re Toast”

I explored the Treasures of Xandar shop and purchased a futuristic coffee mug. Outside I waited patiently to get the perfect picture. I captured Spaceship Earth, the monorail, and the Xandar’s Nova Corps Star Blaster.

The festival food kiosks were now open and I had the Seared Pork Tenderloin with corn risotto and roasted red pepper sauce and the Grilled Street Corn on the Cob with savory garlic spread and plant-based cheese at Farmer Feast. Both were so good!

I checked in with Kelli and still had some time so I then had the Avocado Toast with marinated tomatoes and plant-based cheese crumbles on toasted ciabatta and the Fried Cinnamon Roll Bites with cream cheese frosting and candied bacon at BRUNCHCOT. Both were great as well. My last four festival foods were the best of the vacation and I realized that plant-based cheese can be rather good!

 

I had time so as I left I walked to the far side of Leave A Legacy and found Kelli and her mom’s (Rosie) picture.

 

From 1999 to June 2007, Leave a Legacy offered Guests the opportunity to have their pictures taken and etched onto steel tiles, which were mounted on panels, creating a beautiful representation of our global community. Leave a Legacy continues to celebrate the spirit of optimism.

Back at the resort, Kelli finished her leftovers for lunch so when I got back we spent another great afternoon at the pool. We again had a Swallow tail Kite fly over us. We saw this bird just about everyday on our vacation,

We headed to the Magic Kingdom for both supper and fireworks. On the way there I spotted one of the first love bug pairs of the season.

Lovebugs are an invasive species of march fly found in Central America and Florida. In late April and May and again in late August and September females come out in swarms for the mating season. They are also known as the honeymoon fly, kissing bug or double-headed bug. Lovebugs don't sting or bite, don't transmit diseases and they're not poisonous; they are just a messy nuisance. Glad we will be gone before they get numerous.

Kelli had trouble with the finger scan going into the park. She had no problem all vacation, but something went wrong this last time into a park.

We decided that the perfect way to end the trip was dinner at Casey’s Corner and finish the night with fireworks. Thanks Kelli for the idea!

I was worried that they may close soon and quickly ordered through the Disney mobile App. We split a Foot long hotdog and Corn Dog Nuggets. Both came with fries. We also had chili and two Baseball Brownies.

The hotdog and nuggets hit the spot! We could have passed on the brownies as we were now stuffed.

We had just enough time to see the Tiki Room, then position ourselves at the foot of Main Street, in front of the flagpole. The 45-minute wait wasn’t too bad since we could sit/learn on the wrought iron fence behind us.

 

This location is perfect if you want to hear the music better and see the projections on Main Street. The firework booms are far enough away that they don’t drown out the music. It also gave us a quick exit to get to the resort buses before the masses exit.

 

 

Monday, Apr 29, 2024

We had a midday flight thanks to Jet Blue moving the departure time later, two or three times since we booked it months ago. We did not have to get up early, but still had time to pack.

Breakfast was at Artist Palette; bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich, side of bacon and steet-cut oatmeal. We also brought four chocolate croissants, one each for the plane ride and for when we get home. These are a “must do” when we are in Saratoga Springs Resort.

We finished packing and relaxed on the balcony one last time. 

  

We left at 10:30 AM and had no issues getting to airport and dropping off car. The TSA pre check had no line. There was still a long, weird walk from the rental car lot to the terminal. We had to walk across the lot, up an elevator, walk across the lot again and go up another flight (elevator or escalator). Then a long walk to check -in and a long walk to the gates after security. Again – one of the least friendly airport terminals for the traveler.

The new Universal Studios store was open, They had animated walls and ceiling. At one point a dragon flew in and tried to burn the place down. I also liked the round table with wands for each of the Harry Potter characters. I posed for a picture on Hagrid’s bike.

 

Kelli grabbed bagels and cream cheese for both of us at Epstein's Best Bagels. The plane at our gate had the name Don’t Hate Me because I’m Bluetiful. But it turned out not to be our plane as JetBlue changed the gate to the adjacent gate. At least we did not have to move our seats. The flight was also delayed from 1:40 to 2:14 PM.

Another strike against this new terminal - filled and overflowing trash bins.

Our plane arrived. It was named Bravo Lima Uniform Echo. We have been on this plane before.

The flight was uneventful. We landed just before a big thunderstorm hit the airport. Our brother-in-law, who picked us up, wondered why we took so long to get curb side after landing. There was a long, long wait for luggage.

We had rain going home and were happy we landed before the inclement weather.

 

Thanks for reading.  

Michael and Kelli

 

Read our other trip reports at Kelli and Mike's Adventures

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