Category Archives: In the Parks

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure

Agent P's World Showcase Adventure

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure

Epcot has a reputation for not being kid friendly, but on all of our trips one of my daughter’s favorite things to do is Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure in Epcot.  (There was previously a similar adventure based on Kim Possible from the Disney TV show, but was reimagineered a few years ago based on the popularity of Phineas and Ferb.)

Phinneas and Ferb is one of the few shows on the Disney channel that I can stand to watch and the only one that I actually enjoy.  Agent P is the secret code name of Perry the Platypus, the googly-eyed pet of Phineas and Ferb.

Agent P

Agent P

The missions are set up as an interactive scavenger hunt using a cellphone-like controller called a F.O.N.E. (Field Operative Notification Equipment.)  There are 4 stations where you can sign up for a mission: Continue reading

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The Cheapest Souvenirs at Disney World (less than $1!)

In a place as well known for being expensive as it is for Mickey Mouse, it’s easy to spend a fortune on souvenirs at Disney World.  I’ve read lots of articles on strategies for saving money on souvenirs, such as buying items outside of the parks, giving each child (or adult) an allowance that they can spend however they want, and waiting until the last day to purchase all souvenirs so that the items don’t add up to a huge expense a little at a time over the course of the week.

After visiting the parks many times, it’s easier for us to cut back on souvenirs, but even so we probably spent $75 on the last trip.  My husband got a new visor and (several) Minnie’s Bakeshop cookies to bring home and I got a scarf plus a few antenna toppers.  My daughter’s tastes are a little less expensive.  We gave her a $50 gift card to spend however she liked and it was split between pins for her pin trading and Goofy’s cherry sour balls (those are addictive!)
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The thing about hidden Mickeys…

Since we’ve been to Disney several times over the past few years, sometimes we get to the point of been-there-done-that, which takes away some of the magical feeling we love about Disney.  It doesn’t happen all the time, but it most recently happened on a long holiday weekend trip where we didn’t plan our daily itinerary very well and we ended up wandering around aimlessly and left disappointed.  When planning our latest vacation, which we had the luxury of staying for 8 days, we knew that we needed to plan some new experiences to keep us excited and engaged in the parks for an entire week.  My husband has always wanted to search for hidden Mickeys and we figured that was a good way to see something ‘new’ in the places we’ve seen many times.

So before leaving on our trip we purchased Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets by Steven M. Barrett.  I was excited because it was the newest version including the new Fantasyland – little did I know when I bought it, Fantasyland would be where we found the best one!

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Back From Disney!

We just got back from our weeklong trip to Disney and it was awesome!  Our goal for the vacation was to relax which is not always easy on a Disney vacation!  But we accomplished what we set out to do and I’m excited to write down all my thoughts about the trip before they become faded memories, not to mention sorting through the 1,000+ pictures we took!

In addition to relaxation, our second goal on vacation was to try new things.  The more trips we make to Disney, the more comfortable we feel trying different things because we finally know what we’re doing.  It’s so overwhelming on the first few trips that we usually stuck to the parks – not to say that’s a bad thing because there is so much to see you can’t really cover it all in one trip.  Now that we know the lay of the land, we don’t feel as pressured to get on every ride, see every show or have table service reservations every day.  We pick and choose our favorites, which allows us time for new experiences!

A few of the new things we did on this trip were:

  • Stayed at a new resort – Port Orleans Riverside
  • Dinner at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Golfed at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course
  • Looked for Hidden Mickeys with the help of our handy guidebook
  • Did the Pirate’s  Adventure scavenger hunt at Magic Kingdom
  • Had a LeFeu’s Brew – so yummy!!
  • Used the My Disney Experience app for the first time
  • Drank a frozen beer in the Japan Pavilion of Epcot

A few things that weren’t entirely new but still surprised us:

  • Got into HS early and rode Toy Story Mania before the park officially opened
  • Ran for our lives through the most treacherous thunderstorm I’ve ever been in

And one thing we expected, but it was still shocking to the system:

  • The HEAT (but I loved it!)

Once I get everything from the trip organized I’ll write about it in more detail.  My brain is still unwinding from the overstimulation of all that time spent in the bubble!

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4 Parks, 1 Day

Mickey Monitor – Monsters University Edition!

Epcot’s Keep Moving Forward Segway Tour

In November 2012, my husband and I went to Disneyworld to celebrate our anniversary.  We wanted to take the opportunity to experience something that we can’t do when our daughter is with us, so after some research on the Disney website I found the perfect activity – a Segway tour!

*Note: as of earlier this year, it looks like the tour has been cancelled.  Hopefully they’ll bring it back someday, because as you’ll read below it was awesome!

I was both excited but hesitant, since the last time I was on a motorized vehicle by myself was Spring Break ’00 when I crashed a moped into a fence in a parking lot in the Bahamas.  I feel I have to explain the crash – it wasn’t as easy as it looked!  The handlebars on the moped controlled the speed, so once I got nervous and started gripping the handles it caused me to speed up and I lost control, flew over a curb and crashed directly into a fence.  After paying $200 in damages, tending to a bruised arm (not to mention my wounded pride) it’s no wonder I waited over a decade to try something like it again!  I was hoping I would fare better on my Segway experience.

Keep Moving Forward Segway Tour

Keep Moving Forward Segway Tour

The tour took place in Epcot and was scheduled for three hours.  We met at the guest relations building and our tour began at 9am.  The group of about 15 people was escorted over to the Innoventions building where the first hour was spent in a combination classroom/hands-on training session to learn the workings of the Segway as well as practicing on the indoor course.  We learned mounting and dismounting, speed control, maneuvering around cones and how to ride up and down inclined surfaces.

Segway practice course

Segway practice course

Segway training

After our training session, everyone was anxious to get on the road and try the real thing.   The tour included breakfast, so the first part of our ride was over to The Land pavilion.  We rolled through a side door that lead into an alleyway with a backdoor entrance to the Sunshine Seasons restaurant.  It was odd to see the back alley since it’s something that is so carefully hidden from guests at Disneyworld.   We had picked our breakfast when we signed in before the tour so once we were seated at the tables, which were reserved just for us in a quiet area of the restaurant, our food was served within a few minutes.  After breakfast the tour was ready to begin!

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Parking behind The Land pavillion

Parking behind The Land pavilion

You might think it sounds kind of dangerous to have 15 inexperienced Segway riders speeding through the crowds at Epcot, but like everything else at Disney, it was completely well organized to keep everyone in check.  Cruising in a single file line, we had a tour guide in the front who spoke to us through earpieces that we each had that hooked around one ear.  Our in-class instructor pulled up the rear shouting ‘Ducks in a row!’ when anyone got out of line.

Segway tour group

Segway tour group

We learned about countries in the World Showcase and how the pavilions were chosen for Epcot.   We learned a few cool tidbits of insider knowledge – the pillars and façade in front of Italy were built from a photo slide and when it was created, the slide was backwards so everything is transposed from the real thing!  Another interesting fact is that if you look across the lagoon at Morocco (you have to be in one exact spot close to the ferry dock), one of the buildings in the pavilion is actually the Tower of Terror!  They painted it to match exactly and you’d never know it was even there because it blends in so perfectly.

Once we maneuvered back and forth through Italy’s pillars the guides set up a coned off area for us to freestyle.  After free time was over, we moved on to Japan for our next obstacle.  Rolling up and down the narrow inclined path around the coy pond and ducking below a tree branch may look easy… well, easy for me, hard for my 6’3” husband!  The tour guide was a lot of fun and he showed us the pavilions in a new way.

Freewheeling in Italy

Freewheeling in Italy

Celebrating 10 happy years at our favorite place!

Celebrating 10 happy years at our favorite place!

Overall the tour was one of my favorite experiences at Disneyworld to date.  Like I mentioned earlier, it’s cancelled as of now, but there is a Segway tour offered at the Wilderness Lodge which I may need to check out at some point.  One of the fun things about going back to Disneyworld time after time is that there’s always something new to learn, see, or do in the bubble!

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Golfing at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course

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Holidays at Disney (Scary – and I’m not talking Halloween!)

When I first heard about the Monstrous Summer All Nighter, I had a little itch to go.  I’m always looking for a reason to go to Disneyworld and what better reason than 24 straight hours of fun! Sadly, I didn’t attend the all nighter – I was probably home in bed by 10pm when the fun was just gearing up (okay – I was watching the live stream online!!)  But that’s not the point.  Why didn’t I make the trip?  It wasn’t because I couldn’t get there – I actually found a really good deal on flights.  It wasn’t because of ticket prices – I have an annual pass.  So with a cheap flight and a free ticket, what would keep me from going?? A holiday weekend!!  The all nighter was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.  Deal breaker.

I’ve been to Disney on two separate holidays over the past 6 months:

  1. Disneyland in California for New Year’s Eve 2012 – of course a crowd is to be expected
  2. Disneyworld on Presidents Day 2013 – crowd was NOT expected, at least not by me

With the experiences of back to back holiday trips fresh in my mind, I decided it’s just not worth it to go during any holiday where a large part of the general population is off work! In case you’re not convinced, let me enlighten you with a few details.

Let’s start with New Year’s Eve. Of course the parks will be crowded. Everyone knows this.  I guess my idea of crowded was longer-than-usual lines and a little more weaving through the crowd – but it would be worth it to celebrate the new year with Disney fireworks in the background as I joyfully kissed my husband at the stroke of midnight, right?!  I rarely admit something like this, but I was WRONG! It was not nearly as romantic or magical as I had imagined.  I should have known on Day 1 of our trip when we went to Disneyland and were not let in because the park was at capacity.  We were told to return around 5pm and there ‘might’ be room after the parades when people exit the park. Lines for the most popular rides, normally a 60 or 90 minute wait were upwards of 340 minutes!!!! 5 hours? Really?

The next sign that something was different was when people starting laying in the streets – it felt like I was at a concert with people getting their spot for the show.

Disneyland NY Eve 2012

Disneyland NY Eve 2012

New Year's Eve

Camping in front of Aurora’s Castle – New Year’s Eve 2012

As it got later, the crowd got thicker and it felt like there wasn’t enough air for everyone! (Maybe that’s my claustrophobia talking or just the fact that I’m shorter than everyone and couldn’t see anything but bodies!)  It got to the point where strangers around me were touching me on all sides, my legs and feet getting hit with stroller wheels and we were literally moving like a herd of cattle. I felt some minor panic until I got to an opening.  I’ll say it wasn’t too magical for me.  This picture looks like the crowd is watching something but we’re not – that’s how we were walking. MOOOOOO!

Crowd at Disneyland

Crowd at Disneyland

We ended up leaving before midnight and I was glad when we finally made it to the exit (I know, blasphemy!)

Camping out on Main Street at Disneyland- NY Eve 2012

Camping out on Main Street at Disneyland- NY Eve 2012

For my father in law, who was in a motorized scooter, things were frustrating to say the least. He really couldn’t move anywhere because of the crowd so he remained parked along the side a lot of the time.  Not how I envisioned starting the new year!

The following day, New Year’s Day, was much less crowded and we got to enjoy California Adventure.  I was still a little traumatized from the night before, but I loved seeing Mickey’s Fun Wheel and things started to feel a little more relaxed.

Mickey's Fun Wheel & California Screamin'

Mickey’s Fun Wheel & California Screamin’

That was an extreme example of a holiday at Disney.  But even for a much less notable holiday, things were still pretty crowded.  For President’s Day, the lines weren’t quite as long but they were longer than I’m used to and since we were only there for a long weekend it felt magnified because we wanted to fit everything in. The mistake we made for that weekend was thinking that we would be able to come in and wing it and get on all the rides we wanted – we should have known better! So we ended up walking around but not riding a lot which was disappointing.  Factor in that it was only about 40 degrees and it was even more of a bummer – uh, oh, discontent in the bubble – how could this be? This was a first.  On both of these trips the care-free, relaxed vibe that is the essence of why I love going to Disney was diminished.

So on the heels of that visit, I decided to pass on the Monstrous All Nighter. For all the money that goes into a trip to Disney why waste it when you can’t get to go on your favorite rides!?

That’s not to say you can never go around holidays – we went the week after Thanksgiving and saw all the amazing Christmas lights, shows, and attractions and it was just about the closest it was like a ghost town in the parks! What a difference a few weeks can make!  From now on I’ll spend my holidays at home and plan to pick ‘ordinary days’ to stay in the bubble!

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Picture Gallery of Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival

I’ll admit it – I don’t have a green thumb.  I see my neighbors every weekend diligently pruning bushes, planting flowers, pulling weeds, but it seems like such an unforgiving hobby.  All you need is a bad storm, a local bunny or even the neighborhood kids to rip through and ruin hours of tedious labor!  My husband does 100% of the yard work at our house and for that I am so thankful!  Otherwise we’d be living in mile-high grass and the only flowers we’d have are the ones no gardener wants to see – dandelions!

I like enjoying the view of a beautiful landscape, I just don’t like doing the work.  And after seeing how much work goes into a small yard with modest landscaping, I can’t begin to imagine the hours that go into the amazing displays of horticulture at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival – not to mention the sheer volume of plant life needed to pull off this magnificent display!

The event is sponsored by HGTV and it turns both Future World and the World Showcase into an amazing wonderland of perfectly manicured flowers, topiaries and Disney characters made from plants.  For those who love HGTV, the weekends have special events where personalities from HGTV and DIY have demos in the dome that’s in Future World over towards Ellen’s Energy Adventure.

Epcot Flower and Garden Sign

Epcot Flower and Garden Sign

Here are some of the HGTV celebrities who were there for the 2012 show.

HGTV Personalities at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival 2012

HGTV Personalities at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival 2012

The flowers throughout the park were amazing, with floating bouquets on the lake area by the Odyssey Center where you cross between Future World and the World Showcase.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Floating Flowers at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

But the most amazing part was the characters.  It was really incredible to look up close and see how the different colors were incorporated and everything was done with such precision – it was hard to believe that these were live plants!  To make it fun and engaging, there was a scavenger hunt throughout the park to locate all the different topiaries.

Epcot's Topiary Scavenger Hunt

Epcot’s Topiary Scavenger Hunt

I think we found most everything on the scavenger hunt – we may have missed a few photos, but not many!

Mickey & Minnie Topiary

Mickey & Minnie Topiary

Aurora & Prince Phillip

Aurora & Prince Phillip

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Cinderella & Prince Charming

Cinderella & Prince Charming

Snow White

Snow White

Fantasia Ostrich

Fantasia Ostrich

Pluto

Pluto

Daisy Duck

Daisy Duck

Lady & the Tramp

Lady & the Tramp

Woody

Woody

Magician Mickey

Magician Mickey

I have yet to see any garden outside the Disney bubble that matches the perfection of the Flower and Garden Festival in terms of amazing arrangements.  It’s definitely a must-see for everyone, whether you are an avid gardener or just the owner of a chia pet – prepare to be amazed!

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Epcot’s Keep Moving Forward Segway Tour

Holidays at Disney (Scary – and I’m not talking Halloween!)

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