Friday, March 08, 2013

The House of Mouse!

Chinese acrobats at Epcot
In my lifetime, I've traveled to lots of interesting destinations. I've been all over the southeast U.S.; overseas to the U.K., Scotland, Lebanon, France, Spain, and Italy; up to New York City; out to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, etc. But in all my travels, I'd never been to Disney World. Neither had hubs. And, of course, neither had little man.

We decided to remedy that. At 5, we thought Clay was the perfect age for a first trip. I bought my customary three guidebooks, did some research, and booked us a week on property for early February.

We chose the week BEFORE the week Presidents' Day falls in because it was supposed to be a fairly low-crowd time. (And, having been, I'm sure I'd HATE to see it at peak crowd time. Yikes.) Disney World was also offering a discount - 30 percent off room rates - that we took advantage of. We also booked one of the dining plans: one snack, one counter service meal, and one table service meal per day.

(I was flabbergasted to learn how far in advance I had to make table service reservations. I plotted out our whole itinerary, though, and did it. Lucky thing, too. During our trip, we saw some of the wait lines for those diners without reservations. Yeesh.)

Luckily, Orlando is only one direct flight away from Jackson. We breezed through the airport at home, and two hours later, we were in sunny Florida. We'd checked our bags all the way through to Disney's Magical Express, so we didn't pick them up at the Orlando airport. We just found our way to the shuttle, and we were off.

Hubs and little man at Coronado Springs
Check in was a bit long-ish, just because the nice woman at the front desk was explaining a lot to me. Our room keys were also our meal plan cards and our park tickets, so guests who'd booked vacation packages really only had one thing to keep up with during their stay. (Handy, no? I thought this was brilliant.)

We chose to book a room at Coronado Springs. It offers rooms with two queen beds in them, and it is also one of the hotel/resorts on property that serves conventions and business travelers. (For me, this was a plus. After being in the parks all day, I thought I could use a quiet retreat in the evenings.)

Because we got the 30 percent off rate, we upgraded a club-level room. This room was very close to the #1 bus stop on the property, and it also gave us access to the club lounge, where we enjoyed free breakfast every morning (baked goods, fruit, coffee, cereal, yogurt, etc.) and snacks (chips, dip, bottled drinks, etc.) late in the day. We absolutely loved this resort and the club lounge. Coronado Springs also has a fun pool, but we never got around to using it.

We arrived shortly after lunchtime, so we checked in and then decided to explore Epcot for a little bit. Since the World Showcase opens later than the rest of Epcot in the mornings, we figured we'd start there that afternoon and perhaps return early the next day to see the other parts of the park.
We ambled through all of the countries, riding Maelstrom and checking out the stave church in Norway. Clay loved the big stone calendar in Mexico, and we caught a performance of Chinese acrobats in China. (We also loved the Reflections of China movie there. I was amazed by the 360 effect. Very immersive.)
Goofing off in Canada
We had dinner at Biergarten that night to the music of an oom-pah band. I thought the food was good (lots of variety, and who doesn't love apple strudel?), but hubs wasn't completely won over. (Clay, however, gobbled sausage and potatoes like it was going out of style!) Afterwards, we caught the O, Canada! film in (of course) Canada, then staked out a spot near the entrance-side of the lagoon for Illuminations, the fireworks show. It was amazing, but I hated fighting crowds and packing in like sardines to see it. So many of the best viewing spots were reserved for private parties that it was disappointing.

Due to our careful positioning near the entrance, though, we quickly made it out of the park and onto the shuttle. We returned to our rooms to find our luggage waiting for us, and we gratefully sank into bed.

More to come . . .

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