Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Animal Kingdom, glass slippers and "Wishes"

Friday, April 30

Our last day at Walt Disney World. I still had a ton of things that I wanted to do and see, but there was no way we'd fit it all in today! I kept saying "just give me a few more days here and I'll be happy!" - the rest of our group thought I was insane. My parents claimed they were "Disney'd out" (really, is that even possible? I think not!).

We decided to get up early, eat breakfast at the resort and head back to the Animal Kingdom. I have no idea why...but it took forever to get a bus to the AK and once we did it was PACKED! I knew this was an indication that the park was going to be packed too.

And it was. I am guessing here...but I think Fridays are not a good day to visit the AK. I will keep this in mind for our next trip.

Once we were in the park, Kevin and Emma headed to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride to grab a FASTPASS (I really wanted to ride it again. Silly me....you'll read why soon!). Olivia and I headed back to Camp Minnie Mickey to see if we could find any characters. It was still early (the park had just opened when we arrived) so no characters were out. But then, as we started to leave the 'meet-and-greet' area, Pocahontas appeared!

This made Olivia's morning, I think. She had been wanting to meet Pocahontas since our trip in 2007 -- and to make the moment THAT much better....we were the only people there to greet her!

The other 'person' Olivia wanted to find was DiVine. She had seen her photo in one of my tour books and finding Divine had become a mission. So, I asked a friendly cast member if he knew where we could find Divine and (looking very confused) he walked over to another cast member who proceeded to tell him (1) who DiVine was and (2) where she would be.

We walked over to the area between Asia and Africa and suddenly ... there she was! DiVine walked out of the bushes right in front of us! If you weren't paying attention you would walk right past her. Olivia was thrilled!!!

We then headed over to the Safari ride to get in the FASTPASS line (love that!!!). A mere 5 minutes later we were in our safari vehicle, headed out. And then it happened...right past the elephants we stopped. I mean completely stopped. At first our driver said there was an animal in the road up ahead and we'd be on our way soon. Ten minutes later he told us another vehicle had broken down and they were sending in a tow truck.

At this point, I should mention that the land for the safari ride is equal in size to the ENTIRE MAGIC KINGDOM! More than 40 acres. Yeah. Not exactly a short trip for the rescue truck. This was going to take a while.

After about 15-20 minutes we were FINALLY on our way. At least we didn't get stuck near the lions.

Mom and dad met us at the AK -- my sister and her family decided to hang out at the pool for the day. We wandered around a little more (and totally missed the tigers in Asia - I have NO idea how this happened). Around lunchtime we decided to try the Flame Tree Barbecue. We had passed up this counter service restaurant earlier in the week because we thought there was no seating. Ha! We were wrong - I had done a little research and discovered the seating area was a bit "off the beaten path."

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich (it came with baked beans and cole slaw) and key lime pie for dessert. Let me put this out there: this is by far one of the BEST counter service meals at all of WDW! And the seating....let me give you a tip: Head down the path to the left of the restaurant until you see a covered area right on the water. Sit there. It's quiet. And lovely. And you have a perfect view of Expedition Everest. (Check out this blog - a great post about the Flame Tree Barbecue!)

After lunch we wandered a bit more (darn this park! I will conquer you....don't underestimate me!) and decided we wanted to get an up close view of the Tree of Life. Here's a tip - to get access to the trail that wraps around the Tree, head toward the line for "It's Tough to be a Bug", and presto! you're suddenly walking around the trunk of the tree.

This tree is amazing! The trunk is covered with hundreds of carved animals. And the tree itself is huge. This is a not-to-be-missed experience.

Later in the evening we were headed to 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort for Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner (with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the evil stepsisters). For months I had been planning on ordering the Glass Slipper Dessert -- and three hours before dinner I realized I had forgotten to order it!!! See, the 'rule' is you're supposed to order it 24 hours in advance (this dessert can only be ordered at the Grand Floridian or Cinderella's Royal Table at the castle).

So, in a slight panic, I called the bakery and essentially told them we were coming to dinner at 6 p.m. and I had forgotten to pre-order the Glass Slipper Dessert and was there anything they could do -- and to my surprise, the voice on the other end of the phone said "yes" (after talking to the head bakery person, of course). And so, I put in my order for two glass slippers and made a little magic for Olivia, Emma and Madysen.

[The glass slipper is this: a white chocolate slipper filled with mousse and served with fruit and berries. The cost was $15 and it was so worth it....just to see the look on the girls' faces when it was served!]

OK...so before dinner we headed to the Magic Kingdom for a little while. We rode the train (round trip, of course) and did a little shopping on Main Street.

Then we boarded the Monorail and headed to the Grand Floridian. And let me tell you, that resort is GRAND. Wow. That's all I could say when we walked in. Wow. Wow. Wow.

1900 Park Fare was a perfect, magical way to end our trip. We had a group photo taken outside the main dining room and then, after we were seated we met Prince Charming, Cinderella, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella. The step-sisters were a HOOT! Our table was smack-dab in the middle of the dining room -- which ended up being the perfect location.

About halfway through the meal, Cinderella and Prince Charming started to waltz right next to our table and the next thing we knew, the three girls (Olivia, Emma and Madysen) were dancing with them! It was the most magical moment -- to see these three little girls who LOVE Cinderella holding her hands and dancing with her...well it was just incredible. Amazing. True Disney magic at its best!

After our magical dinner, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom to squeeze in a few more rides and watch "Wishes".

We rode it's a small world, the Haunted Mansion, and Cinderella's Carousel before it was time to find our spot for Wishes.

I have to say, Wishes is my absolute favorite fireworks display at WDW. The song makes me cry every single time. But to see the fireworks behind the castle....it's just amazing. As with any fireworks/parade at WDW, it would be in your best interest to find your "spot" at least 45 minutes before the show starts.

Earlier in the week we had watched Wishes in front of the castle - this time we sat on the side of the castle (on the walkway/bridge to Fantasyland). A good spot...but I still prefer to sit in the hub area in front of the castle.

And then, Wishes was over. And so was our magical vacation.

We took the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge and did some last minute packing. The next day, after a somewhat crazy busy breakfast at the Roarking Fork Cafe, we checked our bags, boarded our bus to the airport and started planning the next trip.

May 2011. Disney World here we come. Chaos, party of 10.

Overall thoughts:
- for some reason, the Animal Kingdom is very busy on Fridays
- while in the Animal Kingdom, look for DiVine

- if you will be eating at the Grand Floridian or Cinderella's Royal Table, you really should pre-order the Glass Slipper Dessert -- it's so worth it
- don't wait until the last minute as I did -- you might not be able to order it
- ride the WDW train round trip -- it's a nice 20 minute way to relax

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