River of Lights – Animal Kingdom – Disney World Vacation Day 3

Tonight, the River of Lights.

tree of life in animal kingdom disney world orlando florida
The Tree of Life in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. We had THE BEST day at this park.

I have to say, Disney World does so many things right.

First, they kept the weather amazing. I don’t know what Mickey Magic they cast, or what Avatar weather machine they activated, but the evening at Animal Kingdom was perfect. Pink skies. Long, fading clouds. A little hot, but manageable.

Second, they do the details sooooo right. There’s a whole rant about that later, but they create little worlds better than anyone, even most movie makers, though, yah, I guess, technically, they are movie makers as well.

Thirdly, they do shows well, perhaps better than anything in Vegas. Oh, sure Disney World has far less nudity than Vegas, and they’ve geared up their shows for younger audiences, or people who are secret 8-year-olds like me, but they are always entertaining and, often, spectacular.

River of Lights promised to be no exception.

But first we HAD to see the Kilimanjaro Safari in the evening. When talking to someone in the candy shop, he said it was a completely different experience at night. He also offered me a lot of candy to get into his van, so I’m a little suspicious of him, but his safari info mirrored what I’d see on YouTube.

So off we went. At this time of night, about 7:00, there were no line-ups. No line-ups! We got right on.

Oh, how I love no line-ups.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom giraffes in Kilimanjaro safari

Kilimanjaro Safari – as the light faded, many of the animals came out to say hi. Even The-Oldest found the tour ‘ok’ which is teen-speak for amazing!

And the van-guy was right. A lot more animals had come out to wander around or stare menacingly at us.

See the Instagram pics here.

I saw giraffes glide across the plains, rhinos lumber around like they’d had a hard day standing in line-ups at Disney World, and the hyenas stalk around in a dangerous-looking pack.

But the highlight was the lions.

They roared at us!

Vid here.

Even the tour guide was excited.

The lions roared like majestic thunder, which was thrilling but also oddly unsettling (mostly because I think they were saying, back in my day, we’d eat your face off.) One moron roared back, but even that didn’t spoil that moment.

I’d heard real lions roar!

Super stoked, we finished the ride & soon reached the seats for the River of Lights show.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom the river of lights show is about to start

Mount Everest overlooks Animal Kingdom’s River of Lights – a fantastic show and a perfect end to our day.

Ok, it was crowded and we had to shuffle next to our sweaty neighbours (or to quote Rorschach from Watchman, I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with ME!)

Ok, we didn’t have the best view.

Ok, despite the sun going down, it was so hot that I began to sweat out of my eyeballs.

But none of that mattered when the show started.

Giant lotuses floated across the lake and spouted all sorts of colored water. Animated creatures danced on the water spray. Big turtles and other animals crawled across the water changing color, and all the while music blared, happy and all Lion-Kingee.

What made it even better were two girls who sat behind us. They knew every character who appeared in the water spray, would sing along with the songs with unrestrained glee, and even threated to cry at least twice because of how the show moved them.

I have to confess, when I’m watching a show like this or riding something like Avatar, the Flight of Passage, all cynicism melts from me in a sweaty puddle at my feet. All sarcasm dissipates like mist. I become a goofy kid, again, giddy and bouncy and delighted.

If only I could be that way all the time.

Either way, the boys had fun, though not as much fun as me, and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, being a girl, loved the message of love, the light displays, and music.

Afterward, we made our way with the crowd to stand in line for our bus. Even that line didn’t matter. We were on a Disney World high. Even being stuffed into the first available bus like potatoes about to be mashed, we were on a Disney World high.

It had been a great day.

And tomorrow, we were sure, would be even better!

The video of the River of Lights, below, is far, far better than my own, but being there, in person, is far, far more magical. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdyKu5Eaee4

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Korean BBQ Ribs at Yak and Yeti – Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

We’d only eaten at quick-serve places in Disney World due to our epic Disney Deal, but we decided to risk a few $$$ and try Korean BBQ ribs at the Yak and Yeti restaurant. (Asian food). It was one of the best-recommended restaurants in Animal Kingdom (if not the whole of Disney World), but based on our experience at the check-in counter, our expectations had been lowered to the point that if we got plates of ribs half-eaten by yaks, we wouldn’t have been surprised.
The Yak and Yeti restaurant as we wait for our meal of Korean BBQ ribs (and a Kobe beef burger)! Best day in Disney World!

The Yak and Yeti restaurant as we wait for our meal of Korean BBQ ribs (and a Kobe beef burger)! Best day in Disney World!

A southerner from Georgia, he had that ‘southern charm’ thing in spades. He made us laugh right off the bat, and we found out he had plans to go to Whistler in February for some skiing. That perked The-Youngest up, who immediately had to tell our waiter about every single run, and how good they were and how well he’d done on them. Our waiter listened well past when he could have made an excuse (like the Yeti in the kitchen was on fire or something) and left. Simply put, our waiter was fantastic. He’s one of those guys you’d invite over for a BBQ and beer. After taking our picture about 100 times, he raced off to get our drinks. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World didn’t order anything alcoholic, (super surprising considering the day she’d had), but instead chose a refreshing non-alocholic drink with all sorts of leaves and happy juice. For The-Oldest, our waiter brought 3 children’s cups of milk so that he could have enough and get free refills. For me, a Kirin beer (no free refills). For The-Youngest, just water.
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom yak and yeti
Bring on the BBQ ribs and beer!
Then we ordered our food, the food we’d come across a whole park to eat – Korean BBQ ribs. But The-Oldest decided to try a Kobe beef burger since he wasn’t a big fan of spices or sauces or sauces with spices. He’d never had Kobe beef before so he wasn’t sure this was the best choice, but we told him to give it a try, it may be the best beef on the planet. Or in the universe for that matter since they don’t have cows on Alpha Centauri 11. The-Oldest asked how I liked the beer. Kirin’s a great beer, I replied. Want a sip? The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-world sat bolt up and shot me a look. Here the drinking age is like 80, I think, while the gun age is 4, so if I’d have given The-Oldest a gun, I’d have been fine, but a drink? I may have risked serious jail time. But whatever, we were on vacation and it was just a sip. Sheepishly, I added, “If it’s, ah, you know, ok with your mom.” She said it was ok. We looked around like we were about to rob a bank or declare ourselves Trump supporters, then, with no one looking, The-Oldest took a sip. He didn’t like it much. I mean, who really does the first few times, but he told his mom he thought he’d take up full-time drinking now, said that’s what most musicians did at some point, said it might help his creativity. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World gave me her I’m-going-to-shank-you look but I pretended not to see her. When the Korean BBQ ribs arrived, the three of us dove in like starved hyenas, even making similar sounds. The ribs tasted amazing. Simply. Amazing. Spicy, tangy, they had not too much sauce, and not too little. Plus the meat fell off the bone so easily that I think if I had sneezed, I would have sneezed the meat onto the lap of the person at the next table (and you could well imagine how embarrassing eating it off his lap would have been.) The-Oldest, when asked about his burger said it was ok. High praise for a teenager, but still, a Kobe beef burger deserves something more like “OMG, so amazing I’m going to leave home and live at the Yak and Yeti,” or “That’s so tasty, nothing else will ever be as good so I’m going to become a Tibetan Monk.” Sigh. But that dinner was one of the best we’d had in months and months, maybe the best this year. Even The-Youngest agreed. We left with each one of us satisfied and in great moods. Despite that ‘cast member’ fail, we were having the best day! The Boyz rode Expedition Everest and took a wet ride on Kali River. I got to eat Dole Whip and touch the Buddhist bells for good luck, while all of us got to see lions and rhinos and elephants.
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom yak and yeti
The Korean BBQ ribs. Soooooo good!
Then, before the adventure could become a grind, we went home to rest, returning to go on the Avatar: Flight of Passage ride, find a table at the Yak and Yeti, joke around with our utterly charming waiter, and then ate an amazing Koren BBQ ribs!!! What a great day! But that wasn’t the end. The Kilimanjaro Safari and River of Lights show would help cement this as a truly awesome day.
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Disney World Cast Member Fail – Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

The guide books said a reservation was a MUST, but a polite request and a lovely smile from The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got us into the Yak and Yeti Restaurant in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

So far, every interaction with a Disney World Cast Member had been awesome.

That was about to change.

Now, when in Disney world, every guide book, every YouTube video and every blog says make a reservation for popular restaurants.

However, we simply couldn’t pin down our dining times, so we were unable to make one.

Being Canadian, though, we thought, why not go and ask politely and smile a lot? Or more specifically, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World thought this (she’s very good at smiling and being polite.)

So, still buzzing from the Avatar high, The-Youngest and I chattering like nerdy gerbils, we marched into Yak and Yeti Restaurant and asked. Any chance you have space for 4 before the next ice age?

Turned out the answer was, sure, it’s about a 20 min wait.

20 min! That’s all?!?!?!?!?!!!

Done deal!

We settled in for the wait, excited to eat at one of the best restaurants in Disney World, famous for its Korean BBQ ribs. Yum.

But while waiting, we had our first and only cast member fail.

Now, Disney prides itself on its customer service. The cleaning staff say hi when you walk by. With a smile. The cast members hang up a phone with ‘have a magical day.’ The staff in the stores smile and say good morning even when I’m scowling and haven’t had coffee yet, so a bad experience is… shocking!

Here’s what happened…

2 young women and a young man worked the front check-in counter. Back in Canada, we’d call them hosts or hostesses, you know, the people who decide where you go and when.

Well, while we waited for our table, a friend of theirs showed up. A super chatty, outgoing friend. Now, rather than say hi, maybe talk for 30 seconds then get back to work, the three cast members suddenly started to act like there were in a staff room far away from customers.

Yikes. The three workers and their ‘friend’ (likely an off-work co-worker) giggled and talked about the customers they’d served, their co-workers and pretty much anything that came into their vacant heads. It was like they lost track of the people in the room. Like anything they said couldn’t be heard.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom goofing off meme
Yeah, you tell them kid!

It was astoundingly rude.

But to make matters worse, when The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World found a cell phone that someone had left, she brought it to them. They vaguely thanked her and went back to discussing the stupid things they’d seen customers do today.

However, when a frantic woman ran in looking for a phone, with all her Disney pictures on it, the ones with her grandson, the ones that she hadn’t yet downloaded, the three behind the counter looked at each other and shrugged. Nope, no one’s turned in a phone. Nope.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got that look on her face that usually sends us boys running because one of us has left the water running and overflowed the tub or have forgotten to turn off a burner and fried a frying pan. It’s an evil-eye glare that prisoners give before they shank someone.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World strode up to the desk and politely reminded them that she had JUST turned in a phone not 10 minutes ago. “Oh, THAT phone!” one of them said and fished it out from somewhere.

The cell-phone-lady thanked The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World who continued to glare at the idiots like she WAS going to shank them.

They were, in a word, useless.

But The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World helping that lady get her phone is one of the reasons why she is so awesome. I have a list coming, because it doesn’t stop here, but this is a great example. She saw a phone, turned it in, then made sure the poor, distracted grandmother got her phone back.

It’s why I love her so much.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Yak and Yeti Restaurant
Inside the beautiful and highly regarded Yak and Yeti restaurant.

Finally, the Disney World cast members’ friend left and the three got back to taking people to their seats.

Very soon, one took us upstairs.

We feared that if the cooks and servers behaved as badly, our meal might not be as awesome as we imagined.

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Avatar: Flight of Passage. Animal Kingdom’s most popular ride, and for a VERY good reason. That’s an actual picture of me, btw, or at least how I felt.

Like I mentioned in the previous blog, I’m not easily surprised these days, but the Avatar: Flight of Passage ride sure surprised me. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun on a ride in a long time. Perhaps ever. See, not only did Disney World do everything right getting me to the ride, but once we put on our 3D VR glasses, and the launch bay doors opened, we were taken into a whole new world. We had only a moment to orient ourselves in this new world before we immediately fell. Or felt like we immediately fell, as the ride didn’t move like a rollercoaster, it simply gave us the impression of movement. On the backs of our mount, called a Banshee, we plummeted into a world filled with other flying beasts, other beautiful creatures, towards floating rocks and amazing colors in the sky. I said, without thinking, without fear, “Oh my f***ing God! Wow!” Smells hit us as we passed into a cave, a musty, moldy smell. I shook my head in awe. “Good lord!”
avatar flight of passage 'bikes' or saddles, animal kingdom, disney world

In Avatar: Flight of Passage, we’d be strapped into what looked like bikes but what were, in reality, saddles for riding Banshees!

As the bike vibrated between our legs, like a breathing thing, we zoomed through more caverns, around trees, fought our way past some sort of angry Banshee, and then soared towards the open skies. We flew over rivers and above exotic animals, through multi-colored forests, over sparkling seas. With each dive, I whooped like a little kid. With each climb upwards, I looked around in amazement, muttering, “Wow.” With each turn, I felt the wind and smelled the trees. Incredible. Too soon, the ride came to an end. I wanted to be in that world, be on the back of that Banshee forever. I wanted to soar in the clouds, again, and feel the closeness of the floating islands as we rocketed around them. But the Avatar: Flight of Passage was over. I got off, giddy with excitement. The ride, however, would not let The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World go. As we all climbed off our ‘bikes,’ the restraints failed to uncouple on hers. Now, me, I would have loved this. I’d be able to go on the ride again and again and again, and be totally happy with that, forever locked into that world, but The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World began to get a panicky look on her face. I raced to the exit to grab a cast member to help her out, but just as I was about to drag one in, the ride released The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and she ran past me like someone had told her the Rock was shirtless in the next room. Despite that glitch, we all enjoyed the ride, me most of all. It wasn’t that it hadn’t been done before (Star Tours basically did the same thing without the 3D VR glasses) but it was the combination of everything from the whole Pandoran world we had gone through to get to the ride, to the attention to the smallest details in the line-up, to the decontamination room, to the sounds and sights, and, yes, smells of the actual ride. Avatar: Flight of Passage was the complete package. 5 stars out of 5, and just because of the vibrating between my legs. But it was after that Avatar: Flight of Passage that we had our first bad experience, at least our first bad experience not caused by us. However, during that experience, it reminded me why I’m the luckiest guy in the world for being married to The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World (and, spoiler alert, it’s not just cuz she’s pretty.) Below is what we saw, but not quite what we experienced. Not my video, but credits are in here.
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Disney World’s Pandora in Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of PassageAt my old age, it’s hard to actually surprise me.

People doing stupid things? (I have a whole top 10 from Disney World coming up), but those things hardly raise an eyebrow. Something amazing invented? Well, of course, it’s the age we live in. A twist in a movie? Ack, I saw that coming in act 1.

But the Disney World’s Pandora area surprised me.

We arrived back at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park at about 4:30, rested, good mood restored and ready for some fun in the evening. Having a Fastpass for Avatar for 5pm, we raced to Pandora.

From the moment we stepped into Pandora, I felt like I’d gone to a different world.

It started with a great mountain surrounded by floating islands. Floating islands! So cool.

Then, as we marched to the ride, I saw they had a show with the Pandora Utility Suit (pic here.) The man inside the towering exoskeleton put on a decent show, though, weirdly, I was the only one who ran to see it. The rest of the family waited patiently with their magic bands for the 5pm Fastpass appointment while I got my nerd on.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage

Ah, the details! Look at the plants on the walls, the cracks on the floor, the rust on the barrel, the dirt on the storage case.

Once inside the mountain, a ton of details, big and small, made it seem like were inside an underground complex from a different world.

From the scuffed paint on the floor to the doors that whooshed open to the posters on the walls, the attention to detail was epic.

Yes, I said it, epic.

And when we were led from the waiting area into the ride, we didn’t just jump on the scooter thingee, no, we found ourselves in a decontamination room. A person appeared on the screen and explained what would happen, and why we had to do this whole avatar thing.

They scanned us (but didn’t probe us, thankfully – that’s a whole different and somewhat uncomfortable experience), decontaminated us  (complete with 4D puffs of air), analyzed our DNA, and then we were assigned Avatars. Mine looked like he’d walked into a wall a whole bunch of times, but whatever, it was different from all the other avatars.

It was fantastic.

And it was genius.

See, the time we spent outside looking at the bulbous, alien plants, or me pointing out how even the guard rails were all Pandora-ish (which, spoiler alert, no one really cared about), to the organic-looking drums the boys drummed, to the decontamination room, it all built up the expectation.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage

A spooky, hulking plant, but look at all the details around it. They really out-did themselves in the Avatar-themed part of Animal Kingdom

They created a world (and a ride) better than anything else in Disney World. Not entirely unique, as Star Tours still had that feeling, but it’s like they took all the best things they learned and applied it here, in Pandora.

I won’t lie, I became like The-Youngest, giddy and as excited as a boy on his first date.

Then the door leading out of the decontamination room whooshed open and, like good Canadians, we followed directions, put our packs away, sat on our bikes, and strapped in.

But ‘strapped in’ isn’t the right term. As we gripped the handlebars, braces were placed against our backs and sides. It was oddly snuggly.

Like good Canadians, we put on our magical glasses and waited.

Then the bikes began to vibrate. Right on our tummies and backs where the braces had been placed.

We waited for the doors in front of us to open. My heart drummed inside my chest.

What would the actual ride be like?

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Disney World’s Animal Kingdom – Day 3 – Troubles

Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

The Boyz get ready to ride the Expedition Everest Rollercoaster

I had thought that our first day at the Magic Kingdom would be our toughest. We’d be jet-lagged, we hadn’t figured out how things worked, and we had no idea how the weather would affect us.

But I was wrong. It would be the day we spent at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

A day that almost became a disaster.

We actually managed to arrive at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in time for the ‘rope drop’ (opening time) and made our way to our first ride. We had 3 booked for today. Expedition Everest at 9:10. Kilimanjaro Safari at 10:20. Avatar: Flight of Passage at 5:00.

So, first up, the Expedition Everest rollercoaster which had terrified me when I’d gone on it in my Joe 1.0 life. Now, older, a lot wiser, a lot less comfortable with plummeting 10,000 feet, I had zero desire to risk a heart attack, complete paralyzation or listening to myself scream like a little girl. So, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I stayed behind.

The Boyz, however, were super keen to test it out.

They soon found out that this ride was not for the faint of heart. The-Oldest had to shut his eyes as it tore downwards like a rocket plunging to earth, and while The-Youngest said he had fun, he declined to go on it, again. Ever. Like never, again. That Yeti had really terrified him.

Still… First ride: A success, I say, a success!

However, by 9:30, it was already getting hot and humid, and morale began to plunge like the stock market during a trade-war with China. Yesterday’s crazy day of theme-parking and a night of little sleep had left us all weary.

Hoping to shift the mood, I talked the boys into doing the Kali Rapids (since it would get them wet and cool), while we adults chose a nice, dry bench in the shade.

The rapids weren’t that great, according to The-Youngest, but they did get SOAKED with a capital WET.

But by the time we reached the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, grumpiness was settling in like a spaghetti stain on a good dress shirt.

There’ll be lions, I said. Giraffes. Elephants. Hippies. Unicorns.

But the best I got was a shrug and a look that said I’d rather be sleeping (The-Youngest) or playing the piano (The-Oldest).

The safari wasn’t quite like the San Diego Safari, this was a large zoo, somewhat like the Calgary Zoo, but with only the most popular animals on display, (yes, I’m sure there was a survey done and those poor, ugly warthogs were left out.)

Lots of pictures here!

No matter. I loved seeing the animals, I won’t lie. The giraffes were magnificently elegant. The lions were sleepy but cute. The rhinos were content that no one was trying to murder them for their horns.

Crocodiles lurked menacingly in the water. The boy elephants play-fought each other for fun. And the hippos submerged themselves waiting for a moment when you thought they looked cute and wanted to pet them, then they’d bite your freaking arm off. Those buggers kill more people in Africa than any other animal due to them being complete assholes.

Vids here.

As well, the tour guide was lovely, if very scripted, but the real bonus was that we could do this ride sitting down.

Disney World's Animal Kingdom

Tired and hot, by 11, the boys were done, so it was time to implement the NEW PLAN

Sadly, though, the animals didn’t raise the spirits of the Boyz so we went in search of food. Food usually perks them up. A bit.

I found the Dole Pineapple Whip counter which made my day since it was on my Disney Bucket List. I had mine without rum. Maybe a mistake. It was still very yummy, even if it melted all over my hands and I became that sticky, chubby kid everyone hates.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had a dole float, which was far less messy and (surprisingly) she also had hers without alcohol. The boys, being now thoroughly in a bad mood, refused any food. They grumped at each other, at the weather, and at the food. Everything became either boring or stupid.

Oh oh.

Time to put our brilliant new plan into effect. Time to head home. Time to rest in a nice AC room. Or float in a pool. Then head back to do Avatar, maybe get some food, or maybe even see the River of Light show.

But when we got back, we found something even more fun! The arcade was open and it was free!!! (we had no idea why but weren’t going to look a gift-arcade in the coin-slot), so the Boyz played Guitar Band, raced motorcycles and zapped aliens, forgetting how grumpy they’d been.

While the boyz played, I caught up on my writing at the Pop Century cafeteria, and the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got to spend some boy-less time alone, meditating and thinking girl thoughts.

For the moment, everyone was happy.

But would it stay that way? Would the rest of our trip to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom be doomed?

Pop Century Resort Disney World Orlando Florida
The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World battle it out on an old-school game. Space Invaders. The day was saved. We were back at the resort, cool, and having goofy, good fun

As always, thanks for reading about our adventures! Please like or follow for updates.

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Disney World Vacation 2019 – Catching up

disney world in orlando florida

Welcome to the Amazing Disney World

Ok, in theory, every post I’ve done on my website, HERE, should have gone to all the people who follow my blog on this site.

It didn’t.

So, first off, I’m sorry for the technical errors.

The quick reason is that I’m old and learning new stuff is hard.

The longer version is that my blog theme is so customized that it screws up MailChimp and I have failed to fix that error (mostly because I need to figure out how to recode the site).

However, I want to catch everyone up, so below are the links to the blogs I’ve posted –  in case anyone wants to see what happened on our wacky adventures.

First up, Day 1, The arrival at Orlando, (plus the trip to our resort in Disney World.) Spoiler alert, there’s a great video in there. Find it here

Next, Day 2, the first day in the Magic Kingdom – when all our hopes were high. Here.

Day 2 –  The Realities of Disney World in the Summer. Our epic adventure continues here, as we struggle with heat, humidity, and crowds. Here.

Day 2 – Some Lessons are Learned. Here. Anyone going to Disney World needs to read this. We goofed up some things in an epic way. But, as I’ve always said, when things go wrong, it makes for a better story.

Magic Kingdom – 10 Fails on the First day. Oh, I know, there were things we should have known about before we left. Find out what the fails were HERE.

Well, we survived the first day. Sort of.

Day 3 – Animal Kingdom. Find out what our new plan was HERE.

And now you’re up to date!

Also, I’ve found a workaround for posting here, so all the next blogs will be mirrored here if you’re following me via wordpress.

The next one will be tonight, Aug 17th, around 8pm

In the meantime, here is something special for your troubles. A music video of sorts, from the Animal Kingdom Park in Disney World.

 

 

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