Disney August 2019

    Kelli and I will be heading down with nine other family members. Kelli’s sister and brother-in-law invited us to stay with them in a 2-bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs. They recently brought into DVC and this is their first stay as members. The group will include my sister Ann and her daughter, our niece Samantha, Kelli’s sister and our brother-in-law Joan and Rich, two of their sons, Rich Jr (Little Rich) and Tim, along with Tim’s wife Marissa and their two little ones, Maddie and Liam.

    The night before our early flight, we had a wedding to attend! It was out in New Jersey, over an hour away. It was a great ceremony on top of a mountain with great food and music at the reception.
We did not get to bed until 11:15, and had to wake up at 3:45 Ugh!

Saturday August 3, 2019

    My brother-in-law Scott drove Ann and Samantha (aka Sam) over to our house. We took my Subaru to the airport to hold all the luggage and Scott drove it back. I was worried about the construction at LaGuardia delaying us. There are horror stories of people walking on the highway with their luggage in tow to make their flights when the traffic gets bad. As it turned out, due to the construction of the new terminals, JetBlue is temporarily using Terminal A, the Marine Terminal. It has a separate exit and road and it was easy to drop us off in front of the terminal entrance at little after 5 AM. This is a small terminal so getting boarding passes, checking our luggage was a breeze. Security had a short line, but Kelli was held up due to a can of coffee in her carry-on. She was allowed to keep it, it just looked suspicious in the x-rays. 

    We stopped for some water, soda and snacks before getting to our gate. The rest of our group were a bit late. They had to deal with a road closure in the airport due to the construction. 

    I had purchased the more room/more speed seats due to my long legs. We were able to board early. Our JetBlue jet name was Canyon Blue. Our 7 AM flight left on time and I watched Avenger’s End Game but missed the end as we landed on time.

    We all hit the bathrooms twice, once near the gate and once near Magical Express. This gave my sister Ann time for a smoke. Disney now does not allow smoking anywhere in the parks. She was able to manage this through our stay.

    We boarded the bus at 10:10 and sat for 7 minutes as more boarded. Our first stop was Old Key West before arriving at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa just before 11.

    I did receive a text that Ann’s studio room, 4512 in the Paddock was ready; but not the dedicated two bedroom for the rest of us.

    We checked in and made sure the two rooms were in the same building - building 45, ground floor. It is the first Paddock building as you enter the property. We walked with our luggage to the Paddock and stored everything in Ann and Sam’s room. We walked back to the main building for lunch.

    On our way back, we noticed a Muscovy Duck and a Little Blue Heron along the path.

    Lunch at Artist Palette consisted of the cheeseburger flatbread, lobster club, and cheese steak sandwich. My Tables in Wonderland card (TIW) saved 9.73. This was the second time I had the lobster and this time I really enjoyed it, as it was full of lobster!

    We headed down past the main pool for a Disney Hollywood Studios bus. Fish and turtles were seen in pond in back of the bus stop. This occupied both Liam and Maddie till the bus arrived.

    We made it to the studios around 1:30. Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away was finishing up at the end of Hollywood Boulevard as we made our way to Toy Story. 

We just made our Toy Story Mania! FastPass. Part of the queue seemed to be under construction as we did not go near the room where Mr. Potato Head greets riders. I had the high score on our car at 191,600. 


Then it was on to Star Tours where we saw the end of the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. After the show, I used my extra wide angle to get a good picture of the AT-AT or the All Terrain Armored Transport walker.

    Some rode Star Tours – The Adventures Continue while Maddie and others went to get pictures with Fancy Nancy in the animation courtyard. 

I was happy our Star tour included the planet Naboo; where a colo claw fish tries to eat our Starspeeder 1000. After regrouping, we decided to skip our 4 PM Fastpass for the Frozen Sing-Along to see the new Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy. We found it just past the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Maddie and Liam took pictures with Cruz Ramirez while I got a good picture of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. I was impressed with the Racing Academy. Lightning McQueen looked alive and as real as can be. 


    On Sunset Boulevard, I took a hitch-hiking pose with the Route 66 sign and Maddie did the limbo over a stretched out Slinky Dog on Sunset Boulevard. 

    We all took a group photo on Hollywood Boulevard. 

    Some people headed to Starbucks and shopped while Little Rich, Sam, Kelli and I went to the Tune in Lounge for a chocolate and two PBJ milk shakes. We all left the park at 4:45. Liam was on top of Tim’s shoulders waving and saying goodbye to everyone coming in. I noticed the 30th Anniversary of Hollywood Studios banners with different characters on each lamppost.

    We got off at the second bus stop at Saratoga, which was right in front of our Paddock building despite it being called the Carousel stop.

    The 2-bedroom studio was finally ready so we all took our luggage out of Ann’s room. Our food delivery arrived and spent time divvying up the booty. We tried Dizzy Dolphin this time as they had the lowest price. They did forget one case of water (or it was left at bell services) and some of the items did not match exactly what Kelli wanted. Most notably was instead of Fat-free Lactaid milk we got Lactaid whole milk. And we were not sure of the whole wheat bread, since Kelli is allergic to some types of seeds. Next time Kelli and I will go back to Garden Grocers.

    Tim, Marissa, and Rich Jr (Little Rich) had a 6:45 PM ADR for Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant in Disney Springs. 

For the rest of us, dinner was back at the Artist Palette. I tried the dinner special; pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and corn. Kelli had the Saratoga Salad with Chicken, which included dried cranberries, dried blueberries, apples, and spicy walnuts with a lemon-poppy seed dressing, For dessert: Oreo Hazelnut Cupcake wit h Nutella filling, topped with chocolate ears and a Rose Gold cupcake, a chocolate cupcake with strawberry butter cream filling and topping, chocolate ears, and chocolate crispy pearls. Both were delicious!


    Before heading back to the villa, Sam and I checked out the gym, WOW!, a lot larger than I expected with top of the line exercise machines and treadmills.


    We saw this snail on the way back.

    We hit the Paddock pool at 8:30. I even tried the 146-foot-long waterslide a couple of times. It was fast slide. We did not stay too long as the long day was catching up to us. Kelli and I had the pull out couch in the living room and had to put our bed together before a much-needed sleep.


Sunday August 4, 2019

    Our group had a reservation for the Wave for breakfast before heading into the Magic Kingdom. At 5:45am, Marissa was the first one up and out the door for her run. I followed with a quick shower and started coffee. As I was getting ready I chuckled as Liam was fascinated watching me shave. Our plan was to be ready at 6:45 but got an MK bus at 6:59.

    Kelli had fun playing with Maddie on bus. We needed to go through park security in order to get to the walking path to the Contemporary Resort. We were seated early for our 7:50 AM ADR at The Wave... of American Flavors. We had a great server with a British accent and everyone choose the breakfast buffet. Kelli and I think this is the best breakfasts on property. It has the best eggs Benedict that I ever had and the sweet potato pancakes are a hit as well. I think everyone in our group agreed. The TIW saved $44.

    We decided to use the monorail to get back. We saw the construction over the waterway between the Grand Floridian Hotel and Magic Kingdom. Are they connecting the walkways? 

    We entered a few minutes after opening and watched some of the Main Street Trolley Show. You know you are really in Disney when you hear Walkin' Right Down the Middle of Main Street, U.S.A.” and “The Trolley Song” on Main Street!


    It was then time to gather everyone for a group photo in front of the castle. 

    We did the Jungle Cruise using the stand-by line. It’s been a long time since we were on this queue. I do not recall the “Tarantula” in the standby line that moved or twitched occasionally, ready to scare unsuspecting cruisers. 

    Our boat was the Bomokandi Bertha. Our skipper Moses, from Brooklyn had tons of jokes.

    Maddie wanted to ride Aladdin so Kelli, Sam and I took her on while the others did the Tiki Room. After we got off, she wanted to see the Tiki Room so Kelli took her in while the rest of us did Pirates of the Caribbean. I liked the matching Pirate T shirts in the exit store that read “I be with He/She” but did not get them.

    Shaker and Wendell of the Country Bears were walking around Frontierland. Ann and Sam posed for pictures locked in the stockade.


    We all enjoyed Mickey's PhilharMagic. When we got out it was hot and humid, so Kelli and I decided to leave and got back to room at 11:30. When we arrived, I found an Anole (lizard) on the kitchen table bench. I was quick enough to catch him on the first try and let him out on the patio. We texted Joan that we hid him under her pillow.

    Meanwhile the rest of the group had Fastpasses for Peter Pan's Flight. Maddie met with Cinderella and Princess Elena of Avalor. Marissa and Maddie did the zoom photo in front of the castle while Sam and Little Rich rode Space Mountain as others waited to see Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. Ann and Little Rich noted how hot their feet got watching the parade. After that, some rode Buzz Lightyear followed by the Mine Train. Ann watched Liam as Maddie sat with Sam on the front car of the Mine Train. I think this may be Maddie’s favorite coaster now.







    Back at the room Kelli and I were happy to be out of the heat and were productive. We called housekeeping to have the egg crate mattress pads delivered to make the pull out couch more comfortable for Kelli, called bell services to deliver a case of water, and started a wash. 

    What I love about a one or two bedroom DVC villa is the washing machine and dryer in the room. If it is hot and humid, we liked to put on fresh clothing if we take a break during the day. This is only possible with the washer so you do not have to pack a ton of clothes; even though Kelli does anyway.

    There was a knock on the door. Someone was there to pick up garbage. Then everyone showed up at once, housekeeping with the pads and bell services with the water. A little chaotic but then we were done. 

    I took time to download some pictures, and then Kelli and I took a walk to Artist Pallet for shopping and lunch. We returned the long way by crossing Willow Lake using the bridge. We saw the kiddie pool area behind the man pool. We met Joan and Rich who were cooling off at the pool after coming back from the park early. In the parking lot near the pool, we saw a cool white van with storm troopers and Buzz and Woody hanging on the back, with the words “Disney or Bust.”



    The skies open up around 4. They cleared the pool so Joan and Rich came back to the room. Tim texted us that they were still at the park waiting to get on the Mine Train

    After everyone got back to the room and freshened up; Kelli, Ann, Sam, Little Rich, Rich Sr, Joan and I took a park bus two stops to Congress Park, then walked to Disney Springs. A few of us took some Holiday pictures near the entrance.

    Dinner was at Wolfgang Pucks Express and featured; chicken aioli sandwich, chicken Alfredo ricotta ravioli, BBQ chicken pizza and margherita pizza. This was an affordable and tasty meal.

    As we left I hear Joan yell “ Oh no, I got the fire, I got his fire” and thought WTH?

    Well it turns out Liam calls his pacifier, with a fire truck theme his “fire” and Joan ran off with it. Don’t worry, Liam survived the couple of hours without it.

    We split up to shop. Kelli and I were in Mickey’s Pantry where I was eyeing some salt and pepper shakers when I got a text from Ann. Sam had found this cool Jack Skellington (from Nightmare before Christmas) nutcracker. I ran over to the Disney’s Days of Christmas Shop to use my discounts so she could get the item. 

    Kelli and I shopped Tren-D and the World of Disney store. Kelli pointed out the “Well Trained” Tramp t-shirt and I liked a Jessica Rabbit Diner T. Well it was a discount for two so I got both. Kelli also liked the Zazu “I’m So Fly” for me since it has a bird on it. But I thought I’m not street enough to pull that off.


    On the way back, I ducked into Mickeys Pantry to buy the two sets of salt and pepper shakers. One was the 50th anniversary Haunted Mansion with Leota and Master Gracey Tombstones set and the other was the Seagulls from Finding Nemo set.

    It was a long walk back, but not as long as Joan and Rich, they got a bit lost in Saratoga and took 40 minutes to walk back. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

    I was up again as soon as Marissa left for her run. I made coffee and breakfast, including extra bacon to share. Kelli and I sat out on the patio to eat. We were at first disappointed that we did not have a balcony on a higher floor, but we quickly liked the patio just as much. There is no railing to block your view. Plus, I noticed some interesting mushrooms just outside.


    Today we all headed to Epcot and got there well before opening. They let people in early up to the base of Spaceship Earth. Ann and Sam took some pictures by the fountain.


    The JAMMitors entertained the crowd before opening. Our Panama Paul lookalike was leading the band. Cast members then selected some kids to help open EPCOT for the day.

    We did the stampede to Soarin and after riding used our FastPasses for The Seas with Nemo & Friends. After a quick picture with Bruce the shark, we headed in to see Crush. Maddie was selected to ask a question and asked how he can breath underwater (or something like that).

    We then split up. Sam, Ann, Little Rich and I rode Test track using the single rider line. The others shopped in Mouse Gears and stopped into the DVC lounge. Some were disappointed that they were no snacks out in the DVC lounge. Later, most of our group rode Spaceship Earth using FastPass but at different times. 


    At one point a tired Kelli mistakenly called Woody and Buzz – Buddy and Wuzz. It became a running joke the rest of the trip. I added to the silliness by accidently saying Neko, instead of Nemo. Not sure where that came from.

    Before leaving the park, some took photopass pictures in front of Spaceship Earth. We all wanted to get some pool time and rest up at the resort for tonight.


    We ate lunch in the villa, Ann and Sam ate at the pool. It was great beating the heat of the day in the water.

    Later, we headed back to Epcot. Rain was approaching so Ann, Sam, Kelli and I skipped the photopass photographer while the rest took pictures in front of Spaceship Earth. They later did the Visa Meet and Greet with Mickey and Goofy.

    Meanwhile we saw the threatening skies as we walked towards the World Showcase. 

    We exited at the International Gateway and saw the new gondolas.

    As we were passing the security area, it started to pour. We got stuck waiting it out under an umbrella stand. The rest saw the rain as they tried to leave the meet and greet. Tim ran to the stroller to get the rain gear and got soaked. After donning rain gear with the help of Mickey and Goofy, they ducked into The Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival and enjoyed that.

    The rain came down so hard that it flooded the walkway we were on and our feet got wet. The wind blew some rain under the umbrella and Ann and I got wet on one side. A huge bolt of lightning struck nearby. The storm was awesome.



    When the rain subsided, we made it to the Beach Club. The resort had towels waiting at the entrance to help dry off guests. I brought some socks at the Marketplace that I was planning to buy anyway, gave a pair to Ann and Kelli, and used a pair myself.

    The other group had dinner at the Biergarten Restaurant in Germany. We were seated early for our Cape May Café dinner and enjoyed the seafood buffet, along with a Blood Orange Margarita for me. 


    Some of the very varied desserts included Cheesecake with Whipped Cream, Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Puree, Key Lime Chiffon Cake, Individual Caramel Flan Cookies, Cupcakes and Brownies. The TiW card saved another $44.20.

    After dinner we let Ann smoke out on the resort walkway on Crescent Lake as the skies started to clear.

    We headed back into the park with Kelli eyeing some foam pink and blue swords in Canada that she thought Maddie would enjoy playing at our house. We waited in Norway for Maddie and Liam to finish their meet and greet with Anna and Elsa before all of us riding Frozen Ever After with FastPass. In the merchandising experience (aka gift shop) after the ride, Maddie and Liam had fun trying on Viking hats and playing with foam swords and shields.


    After they left, Kelli and I brought the foam shields and will go back for the pink and blue swords.

    Tim and Marissa took Maddie around the world to complete the Kidcot stations and had some photopass pictures taken in Morocco.

    We stopped in China to look for the famed cotton candy. It was in the store in the back. What we did not know is that a cotton candy artist makes them in front of you. We got two Butterfly Dreams and an Aurora Blossom. It was cool to see them made.

    We tried to catch up with Maddie to give her one but as soon as we hit the outside air, the humidity started to disintegrate them!

    We met Joan, Rich and Little Rich enjoying beers outside of Germany. Maddie was long gone. It did not matter. The cotton candy had all but obliterated with colorful dots all over our hands and clothes. 

    We backtracked stopping at the bathroom in Norway. We again found Joan Rich and Little Rich staking out an excellent spot for IllumiNations between Mexico and The Showcase Plaza.

    We continued on so that Kelli could get the foam swords in Canada and Ann and Sam could get a key chain bottle opener for Amanda, back home, at the Crown and Crest in England. Then headed back to everyone else.

    I got a Strawberry Margarita at Choza de Margarita to enjoy during IllumiNations

    This will be the last time any of us will be seeing this spectacular. After a 20 year run the firework and laser show will be retired. It will temporarily be replaced by “Epcot Forever”. and eventually be replaced with yet another new unnamed nighttime spectacular. I will admit I got just a little teary eyed near the end knowing it will be gone. However, I am looking forward to what replaces it.

    On our way out after the show, there was an Illumination farewell sign near Electric Umbrella. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

    Today we head back to the Magic Kingdom. We arrived before opening and they let the crowd in early before 9 AM, but stopped us at the entrance to Adventureland. It was already hot. The plan was for some of us to ride Splash Mountain but the ride was down. Maddie was not happy as she was looking forward to riding this for the first time. So we rode Thunder Mountain twice since the lines were not that long. On the first ride Sam and I got the last seat for the greatest thrill.

    Meanwhile Kelli took Liam onto Aladdin and he loved it and said “AGAIN!” so rode a second time. Then big Rich, Kelli and Liam went for a third go-round. We all met at Aladdin.

    Kelli and I wanted to try some of the new Dole Whips. At Sunshine Tree Terrace we tried; Redd’s Revenge, Strawberry dolewhip with Fanta Strawberry and chocolate pirate hat and an Orange Dole Whip float.

    We then headed to Tomorrowland. Tim, Marissa, Sam, and Little Rich went to ride Space Mountain. Joan, Liam, Ann, Kelli and I rode the People Mover; Liam loved it. We had a good view of the Tron coaster construction.


    Kelli, Ann and I did the Carousel of Progress while Joan tended to Liam who was now sleeping.



    Meanwhile, Tim and Marissa did Tomorrowland Speedway on its newly opened shortened track. Big Rich and Maddie went to ride the People mover.

    Most of us started to head out but not before some selfies at the Purple Wall. Maddie met with Rapunzel and Tianna.

    Near the resort buses, I noticed this Daisy bus for employees.

    On the way back our bus made a funny noise as it rounded a corner. The bus driver pulled onto the grass and I was afraid we would be stuck for a while. After a few minutes he continued on. We made it back to the resort. I asked the driver about it as I got off. He said he had to reset the systems on the bus and it seemed Ok for now. I told him good luck, he appreciated the thought.

    Back at the villa, Maddie took a picture of me with my big camera. A Little Blue Heron was parading in the area outside grassy courtyard.

    At three we left for Disney Hollywood Studios. Just inside the gate, we met with Chip and Dale at Sid Cahuenga’s Antiques and Curios.

    I noticed more 30th anniversary flags on street poles while waiting for people near the bathrooms.

    We split up with six heading to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. The others along with Maddie met with Vampira, Doc McStuffins; Tim and Marrisa met with Olaf. Kelli treated herself to a Mickey pretzel. They then did the Disney Junior Dance Party! The coaster people crossed the park to do two rides on Star Tours. Sam remarked that she did not know they change scenes with each ride. In Tatooine Traders I had to treat myself to a Star Wars Porg. Kelli helped me name her Jetta; named after Joan Jett and still sounding like a Star Wars name. Everyone met back at Doc McStuffins, then headed to the Backlot for dinner.

    I had a Frozen Golden Margarita – gold tequila, triple sec, sweet and sour mix. Kelli and I split a Backlot Burger - topped with barbecued pork and pepper jack cheese. For dessert, we tried the Celebration Key Lime Pie Verrine - layers of key lime custard and graham crackers garnished with whipped cream and white chocolate served in a verrine cup and a Mickey Celebration Cake - chocolate sponge cake with chocolate cream, vanilla marshmallow and crispy pearls.

    Ann, Sam, Kelli and I headed to Muppets but it was closed for the day. We headed to Toy Story Land to search for Forky, but could not find him. We asked a pair of cast members. They said he was in the trash. I guess they removed him, since technically he could not be in Andy’s backyard.

    As we waited for everyone to gather, Tim took Liam to meet with Jessie.

    We split up; half have FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash and Kelli and Ann rode Alien Swirling Saucers. On dash with Sam, Little Rich and myself, a fourth passenger posed as if reading a book.

    After we all met again, we thought we could do the Saucers again. But the line took longer than stated. Apparently, half the ride went down after we joined the line. We jumped off the line after 40 minutes since we all have fastpass for Fantasmic! As we were leaving Toy Story Land we briefly saw Woody and Bo Peep.

    Fantasmic! Fastpass seats you to the far left but with a good view of the third water screen. Most of the stadium was already filled. People still get here an hour or two early to stake out seats. It was nice to see the show since the last time Kelli and I saw it was in 2007.


    After the show we were reminded why we haven’t seen it in 12 years. The crowds streaming out all the way through the park and out to the buses.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

    After another satisfying and relaxing breakfast on the patio of cereal, bacon and English muffins, it was off to Animal Kingdom at opening.

    Tim and Marissa did the big frame picture at the entrance. Some of us ran to ride to Expedition Everest as others took their time to Kilimanjaro Safaris. We were first stopped at the bridge to Asia, then stopped 3 more times along the path till we reached the entrance just at 9 AM. We had a good ride and we hustled over to Kilimanjaro Safaris to regroup and uses our 9:15 fastpasses.

    The animal were only so cooperative and I did not get many great new pictures. Some of the giraffes were hiding in the trees, but we still saw at least a dozen of them.


    We had the usual bathroom break across from the Dawa Bar. This gave me an opportunity to get a Ngumu Jungle Juice made from Snow Leopard Vodka, Bols Peach Schnapps and Tusker's famous Jungle Juice. It was delicious. Marissa went and got the map for the Lion King Scavenger Hunt. She eventually found them all and got a nice wooden magnet. We all saw the 10AM Festival of the Lion King and sat in the Elephant Section.



    Our next FastPass was for Kali River Rapids. Ann and Sam got the most wet.

    We ate our packed lunches at the topmost area of Flame Tree Barbeque. I had my second drink of the day, a Mandarin Orange Vodka Lemonade. It featured Skyy Mandarin Orange Vodka with ripe flavors of Tangerine and Lemon Zest. I also shared an Onion Ring Basket and a Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Cupcake with Kelli. The vanilla cupcake had apple pie filling, caramel buttercream, salted caramel drizzle, streusel crumbs and a house-made apple chip. It was the BEST cupcake of trip.

    A few White Ibis paraded the eating area begging for scraps along with a very tall Great Egret.

    Little Rich left us to head to Magic kingdom to get on some other thrill rides. The Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party was in full swing across the path as we waited for others to visit the restrooms.

    Ann, Sam, Marissa, Tim, Maddie, Liam and I went to Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama as Kelli. Joan and Rich shopped.

    Primeval Whirl (aka Primeval Hurl) was not running so Maddie and parents did TriceraTop Spin. I brought 7 tickets form the Dinorama cart for $20 to play some of the carnival games. 

    I won a little pink loch ness monster with the three of us playing the water pistol game. I game it to Kelli after we met up again. I sacrificed the extra ticket by playing the same game but letting the kid win who played with us the first time (since I felt guilty beating him). Three of us played the skee ball game that races dinosaurs and Sam won a blue tiger.

    We headed to Pandora to meet everyone but stopped briefly to see the parrots fly in for the Winged Encounter show.


    Once we regrouped in Pandora six of us did Avatar Flight of Passage and the others rode the Na'vi River Journey. It was Sam’s, Rich’s and Little Rich’s first time on the ride and only my second time. Sam was blown away and hoped we could ride it again sometime. I noticed the guy in mechanical battle suit after we exited.


    Joan and Rich stayed in the park and later went to Wilderness Lodge to get a tour of the new DVC rooms. The rest of us headed back to the resort for a short respite. Sam went to the gym, others to the pool, Kelli and I relaxed indoors.

    While we freshened up, it started to pour. We went outside and saw the rain start to puddle up and creep onto the bottom walkway. I pretended to act like a little boy and splashed my way through the massive puddle.

    We decide to take Minnie Vans to the Wilderness Lodge. We needed two of them so I started playing with the Lyft App to see how to order one for Sam, Ann, Kelli and I. I could not find a link to the Minnie Vans but Marissa and Tim could on their phones. I decided to see if I could simply get the regular Lyft service. I could and accidently ordered one and it said it would be there in ONLY 3 minutes! The App showed the car was already in Saratoga. Kelli and I scrambled to finish getting ready and met Sam and Ann outside. The car arrived and I had to call Ann and Sam over who were waiting at the bus stop. 

    It was quick trip to the lodge as the driver told us he only does Lyft on Disney property. He was quick on the road and knows the property well. He was a very pleasant driver. 

    We met Joan and Rich outside the main building and waited for the others. Tim and Marissa did take a Minnie Van. The vans carry at least two child car seats and are very careful drivers on the road. 

    We had time so we shopped in the Wilderness Lodge Mercantile and tried on some coonskin caps. I got some allergy medicine since I had started to unexpectedly sneeze the day before. It took care of it.

    We checked into Whispering Canyon Café. We played with some Lincoln Logs as they set up our table. I took some pictures of the Indian headdresses nearby.

    For drinks, Tim tried the 3 Daughters Bimini Twist IPA; Rich the Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale; Little Rich the Full Sail Session Lager and I had a Magical Star Cocktail (mango and passion fruit liqueur, coconut rum, pineapple juice). I used the glow cube later to entertain both Liam and Maddie, as well as the rest of the table.



    The coleslaw and corn bread were great. We ordered a few different platters:

    The Traditional Oak-smoked Mustard-Barbecue Beef Brisket, Maple-Chipotle Pork Ribs, Slow-smoked Pulled Pork, Citrus-Herb Chicken, Western-style Sausage, Mashed Yukon Potatoes, Buttered Corn, Sautéed Green Beans

    The Pig - Braised Pork Belly, Maple-Chipotle Barbecue Pork Ribs, Slow-smoked Pulled Pork, Mustard-Barbecue 'Piggy Wings', Western-style Sausage, Mashed Yukon Potatoes, Buttered Corn, Sautéed Green Beans

    The Land and Sea - House-smoked Salmon, Citrus-Herb Chicken, Spicy Vegan Sausage, Charred Portobella, Barbecue Cauliflower, Roasted Potatoes, Sautéed Green Beans, Oven-roasted Carrots

    Little Rich had the Char-crusted New York Strip. Honey-roasted Carrots, Crispy-fried Red Potatoes, and Whiskey-Onion Butter

    Liam and Maddie had the Grilled Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla and Marissa order a platter off the Gluten Free menu.

    We enjoyed the food as well as the antics. We did order Ketchup, whoop and hollered a few times, participated in the pony parade and did the hokey pokey. We had a fun server named Landon. The restaurant knew three couples were celebrating anniversaries and Sam her recent graduation. We received glasses of Champaign with a cherry and Sam a graduation cupcake.

    Unknown to us, Marissa preordered a Mickey Mouse Cake for the table for the celebration as well. It look as good as it tasted.


    We were stuffed. The TiW saved $88.58. We waited for the boat back to the Magic Kingdom while Joan and Rich took the kids back to the room by bus. It was a long wait for the boat. People in front of us ended up waiting nearly an hour. They were on a guided tour. We all made it onto the boat and it was quickly nearing 9 pm. I thought we would miss the fireworks. Security was great, working quickly and efficiently to get everyone through and we just made it to the foot of Main Steer to see the Happily Ever After fireworks. The coolest fireworks were a couple that formed large dragonflies during the Princess and the Frog sequence.




    The good thing about seeing the fireworks where we were is that it was a quick trip back to the buses and the resort. Back at the resort Little Rich was up late since his flight for tomorrow was cancelled and had to rebook the flight and Disney’s Magical Express a few times.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

    Ann, Sam, Kelli and I took it easy in the morning. We wanted more pool time and needed to rest up for a possibly long evening at Animal Kingdom for DVC’s Midnight Moonlight Magic. Little Rich packed as he was heading home later today.

    We wanted to go to the quiet pool in Congress Park. The pool has more room to swim. We took a bus two stops and made it to the pool at 9:40. The most western building was undergoing a full renovation. We are looking forward to these rooms in the future.

    Meanwhile, based on the photopass pictures; Maddie rode Pirates of the Caribbean, met Alice in Wonderland and Rapunzel. She also finally got to ride Splash Mountain with Tim, Marissa and Big Rich, and another trip on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; then took more pictures in front of the castle.


    Our lunch was back at Artist Pallet and included a Pepperoni Thin Crust Pie, a Calzone with Italian sausage, broccolini, and a three-cheese blend, and the Saratoga Salad with chicken and field greens, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, apples and spicy walnuts tossed with lemon-poppy seed dressing and crispy ciabatta croutons. Desserts included the peanut butter chocolate bullseye cupcake and a delicious fruit tart. Ann and Sam got the chocolate hazelnut and the Rose Gold cupcake. We just made it back to the room after lunch when it started to pour. We seem to have a mid to late afternoon rain every day.

    The others had dinner at the fun 50's Prime Time Café where we heard Maddie got a clean plate sticker. We will eat at Animal Kingdom since the Midnight Moonlight Magic includes free dinner vouchers. 

    Kelli, Ann, Sam and I arrived at Animal Kingdom at 6 pm but it had just started to rain. We stayed under the bus stop to prevent us from getting wet and waited it out. We were rewarded with a rainbow. 

    At the entrance, they had separate lines for Midnight Magic and as we entered, we received our dinner vouchers along with 4 free dinorama game tickets. We decided to eat at Restaurantsaurus. 

    We found Pluto dancing outside along with Chip and Dale in their dinosaur costumes and briefly joined in the fun. 


    Restaurantsaurus had basic fare. We all ordered burgers but only ate some of the fries; we paid for the Elephant Cupcake – Yellow cupcake with cookie dough buttercream topped with chocolate elephant. It was OK but nothing like the other great cupcakes we had on this trip.

    Dinner was followed by shopping in Chester & Hester's Dinosaur Treasures where Kelli found a much sort after talking Bo Peep! It was the last one. (Funny, we found plenty of the new talking Toy Story toys back home in Barnes and Noble; and at a lowest sticker price!)


    We looked at the funny mirrors and found that we could not use our game tickets until 9:30. We decided to see “It’s a Bugs Life” followed by shopping in the Discovery Trading Post until it got dark. I got a T-shirt that says, "It’s kind of fun to do the impossible – Walt Disney."

    We were all looking forward to riding Kilimanjaro Safaris at night. But it really wasn’t worth it. The few animals out were hard to see. Maybe a twilight trip would have been better. At least we can say we tried it at night.

    When we got out, Midnight Magic had just started. We spent time at the Moonlight Magic dance party in Harambre. Sam and I danced with Goofy that included some bad ballet by Goofy and me. Ann and Kelli danced with Pluto. Sam did a mean Cotton Eye Joe.


Dancing ballet with Goofy


    Kelli and I grabbed a pineapple Dolewhip and a Simba Sunset (new raspberry and lime swirl Dole Whip.) at Tamu Tamu Eats and Refreshments.

    Sam and I rode Everest at night and we all saw some of the night-time water show as we made our way back to Dinoland USA. The area was crowded and none of us won at the games with the free tickets. Sam and I rode Dinosaur. Meanwhile Ann and Kelli enjoyed the dance party again with Dino Chip and Dale. Kelli then hopped on TriceraTop Spin. 

    We ended our night by heading to Pandora hoping the crowds would be lighter than normal since the rest of the park was empty. Not so, this was where all the people were. Kelli saw a couple’s T-shirts, that read “One more trip to the mouse before I make her my wife/him my husband.”

    Kelli and Ann rode Na'vi River Journey with a relatively short wait. Sam and I got on line for Avatar Flight of Passage but the line ended up 50 minutes long. Kelli and Ann headed back to the resort. We waited until after midnight to ride. Nevertheless, it was awesome to ride this twice in a couple of days. I got to bed around 1:30 am.

Friday, August 9, 2019

    A few of us decided to go to Epcot at opening to get on Test Track since Maddie had yet to ride it. Kelli, Ann, Joan and Liam headed to Disney Springs around 10 AM. We will meet them there later.

    We arrived at the park at 8:42am. They had construction walls up on the left side where the “Leave a Legacy” monoliths used to be; so they let people in up to under Spaceship Earth on the left side. The JAMMitors still performed.

    Maddie designed her vehicle to closely look like her daddy’s SUV. I have a grimace on the ride photo; might have been the sun.

    Sam and I did Mission to Mars, Orange Intense side. I then found the Farewell to Illumination T-shirts in Mouse Gears. Sam and I were the last ones to leave the park. We all headed to Disney Springs.

    We got off at the Congress Park bus stop in Saratoga and walked to the springs. The others were in Starbucks and they kindly texted us for our orders. By the time we got near Starbucks, they had already left so we met them at Vera Bradley. I wanted to get some of Morimoto’s delicious ribs so Kelli and I went to Morimoto Asia Street Food to take out. The lady behind the counter was super slow and it was taking too long so I gave up. Note to Morimoto – don’t be so cheap to have only one person taking orders and preparing the food at the same time, bad show!

    We hit Goofy’s Candy Company looking for cotton candy, popcorn and a cookie that eventually came home with us. Next was Disney Days of Christmas for some last minute purchases. We saw an Anhinga on way back to the villa. 

    The group headed to Magic Kingdom midafternoon. Marissa, Tim, Maddie and Liam left early to catch the 3 PM Festival of Fantasy Parade. We arrived later at 3:27 PM and found them waiting outside The Chapeau still waiting for the parade. This is when people ask “When does the 3PM parade start?”

    I was very glad we got to see it as it is the only parade right now and is one of the better versions in a while. Plus, the steampunk dragon is back!




    It was also brutally hot. I felt sweat dripping down my legs just standing still.

    After the parade, Marissa, Maddie, Tim and Liam met with Tinkerbell; then did the zoom picture in front of the castle with Maddie in her princess dress. Those four headed to Fairytale Dining at Cinderella's Royal Table, while the rest of us will dine at Be Our Guest. 


    This was the best meal of the trip for me. 

    Appetizers included Maine Lobster Bisque, French Onion Soup, Mixed Field Greens with drunken goat cheese, hazelnut brittle, and asparagus with a stone fruit vinaigrette, and Ann shared her Assorted Meats and Artisanal Cheese Selection with chicken liver pâté, shaved serrano ham, chorizo sausage, pleasant ridge cheddar, truffle tremor, and stilton blue with seasonal garnishes.

    Drinks included a couple of Kronenburg 1664 beers and I tried a Belgian Hoegaarden Wit. The bottle came with instructions on the label! Open, pour 2/3’s of it, swirl the bottle, then top it off.

    Sam had her beverage in a Light Up Castle-themed Souvenir Goblet. 


    Entrees included Herb-salted Pork Tenderloin for Kelli -crispy pork belly, corn purée, fava beans, and green garlic pistou. Ann and Sam had the Center-cut Filet Mignon with robuchon yukon potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and cipollini marmalade with a red wine glaze.

    I had the Spice-dusted Lamb Chops - roasted sunchokes, baby squash, romanesco, and royal trumpet mushrooms with a lamb demi. All the entrees were delicious.

    We each got the trio of desserts; Almond Macaron with lemon jam and raspberries, White Chocolate "Chip" Cup with grey stuff and crisp pearls, and a Dark Chocolate Truffle filled with dark chocolate Grand Marnier ganache. Even the decorated rice paper plate liner was edible.


    Kelli wished they had a choice for dessert. She cannot eat almonds, does not care for the grey stuff, and she thought the truffle might contain hazelnuts.

    They also brought out more grey stuff in the shape of a hidden Mickey for those having celebrations.

    After dinner, we all headed to Tomorrowland. Kelli, Maddie, Ann, Liam and Joan rode Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Rich, Sam, Marissa, Tim and I headed for Space Mountain to use our fastpasses. The line was out the door. It looked like it would be a while so I decided to skip the ride to meet Kelli after she rode Buzz.

    Kelli and I were tired from the late night and decided to leave, but not before taking some pictures in front of the castle

    The rest rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and later Liam took pictures with birthday Mickey and Minnie

    When everyone returned to the villa, I realized that no DME papers were yet delivered. We had to call bell services for all three groups, Papers did not arrive until late that night. We packed our suitcases so we can take our time in the morning.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

    Other have Fast Passes for The Barnstormer, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom and have a late afternoon flight out. Kelli, Ann, Sam and myself have a 12:19 flight back to New York. We left the room first and bell services picked the four of us up with our luggage and dropped us off at airline check in. Check in was a breeze. We kept our carry-ons, did some last minute shopping in the store, and relaxed. Ann and I tried the massage/torture chairs in the lobby. We saw the rest of the group arrive to check in for their flight then head to the parks.

    Our bus was on time, but we stopped at Old Key West and Caribbean Beach Club to pick up more people. This took a while as some did not have DME papers, like we did last night. We were still at the airport well before our flight. I grabbed a picture of Pluto that adorns the DME buses for Kelli, her favorite character.

    We checked out the Universal store at the airport where I happily purchased a bendable Bowtruckle. Ann stopped at one of the stores after the monorail to get some keepsake Florida magnets. 

    Our JetBlue plane was called “A Little Blue Will Do.” I saw some other jet names and they included: “Indigo Blue” and Ole Blue Eyes.”

    The flight was uneventful. We could see Citi Field as we were coming in for the landing. It took a while for our luggage to come out. We used Westchester Limo and was pleased with their service.


Michael and Kelli

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