Five Things To Do on a Rainy Day in WDW

My oh my, what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine, just as the song says, is streaming through our living room window and the warmth it brings is a marvelous thing. We couldn’t say so a week ago. For about a week and a half we were all but drowning here in the south Atlanta burbs. And the wind! And the cold! Awful. It definitely didn’t feel like your typical Georgia May weather.

I’m really glad we are on an upswing, but all that dreary rain did was keep us longing for our trips to Disney. One morning, Tim and I even discussed our favorite things to do in WDW on a rainy day. “That,” I thought, “is a good thing to post about.” Especially for people that would not call themselves Disney goers, and would think it’s a waste of a day to have rain in Disney World.

So here are the Elrods’ top five things to do if it rains in WDW:

5. Stay in the parks! If you’ve got the proper gear {i.e.. warm jacket if it’s chilly, a raincoat/poncho, and shoes that can withstand the wetness}, and the gung-ho to stick it out, I say do it! The rain clouds will send the crowds a-runnin’ for gift shops and the transporation center, leaving lines short for the taking. And since many attractions are indoors {as are many of the queues}, the fun doesn’t shut down just because of a little precipitation. The show must go on! 25057_10151360525690630_1488896517_n

4. Try out Disney Quest. Personally, we have never gone to Disney Quest, but one of my besties just got back from a WDW vacation this March and she and her husband had great things to say about. Lots to do, tons of entertainment, and every single bit of it indoors!

3. Catch a movie. I know it may not be something special that you can only do in Disney, but when you’re stuck indoors, why not catch a flick? I saw a movie there when I was a teen with my other best friend, Stacey. It was a great theater. It has since been updated and even offers some Fork & Screen showings, as well. Check it out.

2. Go bowling! Aw man, we haven’t bowled a game there yet, but the new Splitsville is amazing. Tim and I gave it a walk-through when we were there in December and really wished that the wait time for a lane wasn’t so long. Which brings me to a heads up! You may want to call ahead to see if you can reserve a lane or get on a waiting list, because when it rains, this may be a popular destination. But once you’re there, you’re sure to have a fun distraction from the lousy weather. 553533_10151358694775630_567034760_n 188733_10151358694615630_1410275144_n

1. Enjoy. Your. Resort. I don’t think I can reiterate this enough. Enjoy. Your. Resort! Even if you are staying at an All-Star. Look, Tim and I know as well as anybody that staying on property at a WDW resort is expensive. That’s why we made the jump to Disney’s DVC. But we truly believe it is worth the price, because the resorts are nice and there are plenty of activities right there to keep you busy and making memories.

At the All-Stars, we have had many a fun night in, ordering pizza, sitting in the food court playing board games and dominos, while my dad and sister got filthy rich in yellow, paper tickets from the arcade. Some of those memories have bonded us the most. I’ll never forget playing dominos with my folks in the food court of Pop Century, when up walked Tim to surprise me. I had tagged along spontaneously with my parents on their quick-trip February getaway. Tim surprised me by taking a couple days off work and drove down to be with us. These were our kid-free days. Wow, to only imagine being so spontaneous these days. Ha!329_41522195629_7908_n 329_41766850629_1147_n

During these past few days of pouring down rain, Tim and I would daydream about being back at our beloved Wilderness Lodge, sitting in rocking chairs in front of the gigantic fireplace, watching the rain come down outside. All of the deluxe resorts have children and recreation rooms. Tim borrowed a board game from the Cubs Den at the Wilderness Lodge that we enjoyed, my sister and I colored and made refrigerator magnets at Bay Lake Tower, and the boys colored pictures while my sister made a drawstring backpack at Old Key West!  No, these aren’t considered five star entertainment ideas, but they are fun and relaxing, and a great alternative to sitting in your room, imitating Grumpy while you wish the rain away. However, if you do choose to sit cooped up in your room, at least turn on Stacey! There isn’t a trip where we don’t have on our list of things to do – Watch Stacey’s Top 7 Must See’s and her WDW “Must Do’s” from top to bottom at least one time through! {Elrod WDW Tip: This is the perfect thing to have on the TV while you’re unpacking to get you super excited that you’ve finally arrived!}IMG_4365

Well, there you go! Don’t be a downer if the rain sets in, try one of our five ideas to weather the storms in WDW. And hey, fellow Disney goers, what are some of your favorite ways to beat the rain?

With love, Malorie

Sick. Just Sick.

Guys. I’m sick. Just sick.

Homesick, that is. We are still waiting on our membership number and packet in the mail. The boys are sleeping and I’m looking at old WDW pictures and listening to music loops from the parks. I’ve already listened to the MK loop, Illuminations, Muppet*Vision 3D queue, and now I’m riding Splash Mountain…well pretending to, anyway.

Since misery loves company, here’s some lots of pictures from previous trips to make you cry and wish you were there. Enjoy!


DSCF0983 DSCF1022 DSCF1075 DSCF1088 DSCF1134 DSCF1151 DSCF1162 DSCF1198 DSCF1241 DSCF1252 DSCF1256_2 IMG_3576 IMG_3629 IMG_1449 IMG_1577 IMG_1618IMG_0618 IMG_0627 IMG_0741 IMG_0812 IMG_0828 IMG_0857 IMG_0936 IMG_1019 IMG_1081 IMG_1128 IMG_1143 IMG_1227 IMG_1245 IMG_1394 IMG_1423 IMG_1432 IMG_1443 IMG_1584 IMG_1587 IMG_1649 IMG_1653 IMG_1678 IMG_1710 IMG_1717 IMG_1767 IMG_5593 IMG_5607 IMG_5613 IMG_5670 IMG_5721 IMG_5730 IMG_4341 IMG_5903 IMG_5927 IMG_5954 IMG_5978 IMG_5991 IMG_6009 IMG_6030 IMG_6162 IMG_6173 IMG_6192 IMG_4360 IMG_6198 IMG_6272 IMG_6284 247995_10151225432075630_383336801_nAre you just sick?

Yeah…me too.

With love, Malorie

Here’s What We Think: WDW Storybook Circus-I Ain’t Down with the Clown

Y’all. I’ve given it a few days to warm up to the idea, but this is the first announcement that WDW has made about the new Fanstasyland expansion that hasn’t made me want to jump for joy. In fact, it kind of just makes me want to walk quickly the other way, avoiding eye contact, and dragging my kids behind me.

They are bringing clowns to Storybook Circus.


{photo: Disney Parks Blog}

Y’all! They are bringing CLOWNS to Storybook Circus!

[starts breathing heavy; pulls out inhaler and takes a puff]

I don’t like clowns. Never have. I mean, seeing IT at a young age did nothing to help, but just in general clowns are no bueno in my book. I don’t like slapstick. Clowns are slapstick. I don’t like feeling awkward. Clowns make me feel awkward. They make me feel awkward when I don’t feel compelled to laugh at their slapstick.

Okay, maybe this is a classic it’s-not-you-it’s-me situation, but even so, this is one Fantasyland development that I am looking to avoid. I’m already plotting out our approach. Tim will get FASTPASSES for Dumbo and The Great Goofini. When the time comes, we will jet for those lines; heads down, FASTPASS-hand waving wildly as we shuffle past the checking Cast Member. Ride the ride, get out! Flee Storybook Circus! Perhaps get one of LeFou’s Brews from Gaston’s Tavern to calm the nerves.

Yes, I’m being dramatic. But would you expect anything less?

So what’s your thoughts? Are you down with the clownin’ around?

With love, Malorie

Trip Report 2012: Day 7

Day 7. Boo hoo hoooo! And want to know something else? My mom and Hannah are back in WDW right now. As I type this. In Mk. About to have dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern.

Booo hooo hooooooooo!

So. Jealous.

Well Day 7 was our last day. We always spend our last day in MK. It’s like eating your favorite food last. You want the last taste in your mouth to be the best. Or something like that.

Seeing Wishes at Magic Kingdom definitely leaves a good taste in your mouth the night before you have to go home.

So we got up nice and early, raced through out NMR, and made it to the gates in time to see the train comin’ down the tracks! My folks met us there. We rode so many rides that morning I don’t even remember what we hit up first or in what order we went. We just went. We did get pictures of Jack loving The Great Goofini over and over. I think he rode it three times in a row. The wait was walk-on.

{Please note my son riding next to his Grandma with his hands in the air while Hannah Banana holds on screaming for dear life. Haha! She makes me giggle. I’m next to Hannah and my dad is in the back in green.}

 {My little tummy sleeper did so well. He actually fell asleep in my lap on Pirates of the Carribbean {how did he manage that?}, so we laid him down and he slept the remainder of his nap in the stroller.}

We knocked out a fair amount of the park by noon. We hit up Casey’s Corner for another chilli-cheese dog for lunch, then headed back to the Wilderness Lodge for naps and pool time.

Remember our initial pool slide experience? Well, Jack asked to do it again while we were swimming after his nap. I was really nervous to concede, but I really don’t want to turn into one of those over-protective mommies, so I nodded yes while Tim shrugged his shoulders, “Sure, buddy, if you want to…”

“Yeah, I go down slide. Das fuuun, Daddy.”

Ooookay. Tim took him to the top and I did the catchin’. He came down spinning just as before. I caught hold of him {or did he catch hold of me?}, and I waited for a reaction.

“I do again?”

Whaaa? Yes. My little roller coaster, Pirates of the Carribbean, two-year-old thrill seeker decided he enjoyed the pool slide and went down at least five more times. I’m pretty sure my dad did a little happy dance when we weren’t looking, to celebrate the promise of a future wild-ride companion.

After Cole woke up and splashed around the pool for a second, we all got dressed again and headed over to the Contemporary Resort for our dinner reservations at Chef Mickey’s. 

We really like Chef Mickey’s. We have suggested it to many friends that have booked trips with kids. We love that you can meet ‘n greet Mickey and the gang during your meal, so you don’t have to waste time standing in lines in the parks to see them. Also, we have unanimously decided that Chef Mickey’s has the best food of any of the other character buffets. It is all around just really good!

Our reservation was right at the opening time of the restaurant so we were one of the first to be seated, one of the first to meet the characters, and we were leading the charge down the fresh, steaming-hot line of food.

{Every so often they have a restaurant-wide celebration where you are invited to get up, dance, and swing your napkin with the gang. How much fun is that for a little sanguine child? I’ll answer that: tons.}

The dessert bar at Chef Mickey’s is by far the best of any character buffet, as well. Soft serve ice cream with all the fixings, cakes, cookies, Mickey mousse domes, rice crispy treats, fruits…and it’a all fantastic!

After filling our tummies and our huggin’ love-tanks, we headed back to MK to enjoy our last evening in the park and see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. We stopped first to get our picture in front of the castle.

Elrod WDW Tip: Wait to get your group picture in front of the castle in the afternoon/early evening. The placement of the sun tends to cause squinting in the morning; and nobody like squinty pictures of themselves because the sun was in their eyes. Also, utilize the Photopass cast members instead of asking a stranger to take your group picture. Getting a Photopass card doesn’t mean you are obligated to buy the pictures, and they will always take a shot with your personal camera, as well. Photopass photographers do a better job than Joe Shmoe walking the park because they know how to operate most cameras, and they know the best angles to get a great picture the first time.No matter what time of day, you will most likely have other guests in the background of your picture, but hey, that’s kind of fun too! I just love this story of a couple that realized, while looking through old family photos, that they were both at WDW in the same picture when they were toddlers! Check out the whole story here. So cute!

We had a blast during our last few hours in MK. So much so, that we totally forgot to stake out a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade! [slaps forehead] Ugh! So stupid!

Elrod WDW Tip: For a good viewing spot for parades, shows, and fireworks, it is wise to save your spot at least forty-five minutes beforehand. If it is a seasonal show or it is a particularly crowded day at the park, I’d recommend getting your spot one to one and a half hours beforehand. Grab a snack and take turns saving the spot while the rest of the group browses gift shops or visits attractions.

Luckily Tim was able to find a spot just big enough for himself, Jack, and Hannah behind a rope on Main Street. I’ve seen the parade many, many times, so I was not concerned with having the best view. I just wanted Jack to experience it. My mom, dad, Cole, and I strolled up and down the Main Street Emporium while the rest enjoyed the parade. Tim snapped some shots with his iphone.After the parade, I headed to the baby care station to warm Cole’s nighttime bottle and feed him in the quiet, nursing mother’s room. The rest of the family migrated into the middle of Main Street to claim a spot for Wishes. Once I finished feeding Cole, I met back up with them. They had gotten a great spot in the middle of Main Street right outside of Casey’s Corner.

Jack loved Wishes {“I see Tinka Bell flyyy!”}, and surprisingly, so did Cole! No tears at all. I just love my boys. They know Disney Magic when they see it. Jack also had a great time playing with all of the glow toys we had brought along.

Elrod WDW Tip: There are lots of glow vendors during nighttime shows, parades, and firework displays. To cut back on souvenir costs, buy glow items before you go. We got rings, bracelets, necklaces, and a sword from the party section at Walmart before we left for about 97 cents apiece! I didn’t show them to Jack until that night once the vendors starting coming out and he never knew the difference. They were new, they were glowing, they were fun! He didn’t care that they were cheap!

I just love Wishes. I’m such a sap that I usually end up tearing up atleast once. There is just something about the music and the beautiful fireworks and being surrounded {nice and close because of crowds!} by the ones you love most. It just feels like a little piece of Heaven on Earth. We’re all together. Everyone is happy. Life is good.

Life is good. And I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that the Lord has given my family the opportunity to make these type of bond-strengthening memories. These are the best days of our lives, and we don’t even know it.

With love, Malorie

Trip Report 2012: Day 6

“Good morning, Disney Wooooooooorld!” I might have actually woke up less grouchy that morning. Waking up six days in a row in WDW does something to your soul. Jack and Tim were getting used to their morning “walks” down to Roaring Fork every morning, too. Whenever one of us would try to bring up the fact that the next day was our last full day, the other would “Shhh!” the said Debbie Downer immediately. “I’m trying not to think about it!”

{Taken from Tim’s phone coming back to the room after the NMR bottle warming. Love this resort. So peaceful and calming.}

We had it on the original agenda to spend this morning bumming around the resort and enjoying a little more pool time, but last minute Tim decided that {since it was literally dirt cheap to add} it would be better to add one more day of park tickets to our package and go into Magic Kingdom again.

So we did. We got up, packed up the stroller, and took a cruise across the Seven Seas Lagoon to MK. Once again, we made it in time to watch the opening ceremonies…after I spilled my whole mug of coffee in the bag check line. Ugh. The security guard was so nice, though, and helped me clean up the mess and gave me a towel to dry our belongings, as well. 

We didn’t get too crazy or go too fast. We took our time. We hit up some of Jack’s favorite rides and added in a few new ones {Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the People Mover — ahem! the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, excuse me!, the train, etc}.We even had time to watch Dream Along with Mickey again, which Jack was thrilled about. This time, though, instead of breaking out our pre-packed snacks, we got a turkey leg! Whoooo!Y’all. We’ve been trying to get a turkey leg for how many years now? Well, we finally broke down and bought one. We usually end up not getting one because we are on the dining plan and the turkey leg doesn’t fall under that unless you use a whole quick-service credit. {When using a quick-service credit to get a turkey leg, you will also get a drink, chips, and a cookie.} It was totally worth it. Totally yummy! And I am the type of girl that is totally picky with her meat. {Like, can I totally say totally again?} I don’t do veins, fat, gristle, skin…so you can see why it would be a big deal for me to say that it was yummy. The only negative thing we had to say about it was that it was piping hot! Which is good, unless you are sitting in direct sunlight watching a show for the second time. It was hot, we were hot, Jack and Cole were happily watching Mickey sing and dance…we were trapped in a hot, sweaty, turkey-flavored mess. At least it tasted good.

After browsing the gift shop and catching the tail-end of the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! parade, we headed out for naps.

Incase you were wondering, my folks had decided to spend that morning in Animal Kingdom. They said they had a blast. My dad {being the only thrill-seeker out of their small party} got to walk on Expedition Everest five times in a row using the single rider line!

The boys took a really long nap that day. Tim and I enjoyed our time together out on the balcony. We did a lot of Disney dreamin’ over cups of coffee, and even played Buzz Lightyear Operation, a game Tim had borrowed from the Cub’s Den.

{How’d ya like those terrible pictures Tim took? I have no shame. Oh, and Tim beat me.}

After the kiddos woke up we got dressed for dinner in Downtown Disney. We had a reservation at T-Rex. We had never eaten there before, so I was half-excited/half-nervous about the boys reactions to the restaurant. Before we headed out, we stopped for their “growth chart” pictures by the gift shop totem pole. 

I just love that we do this! Look how much Jack had grown since last year!So fun.

Finally, we made the trek over to Downtown Disney’s Marketplace and bummed around there a bit before meeting up with my parents outside of T-Rex. For those of you that don’t know, T-Rex is a dinosaur version of the Rainforest Cafe. There are five different “dining rooms” {they are all connected and you can kind of lose where one ends and the next begins}, and every fifteen to twenty minutes a meteor shower takes place. During the meteor shower, the life-sized dinos come to life by moving, growling, and roaring, lights flash and dim, and the ice-aged room changes colors. Jack seemed okay with the dinosaurs, but he was not a fan of the meteor showers. Every time one would start, we would coach him through it saying, “Ooo! Isn’t this cool? Don’t worry, it’s almost over.” When it was over we would cheer. 

I enjoyed the food, however it is very similar to your average Hard Rock/Planet Hollywood kind of menu. But when traveling with a larger group, this is nice because there is usually something for everybody on the menu. Our waitress was great! She explained the menu and how our dining plan worked in their restaurant thoroughly, and was very attentive to our needs; even when it came to heating a bottle for Cole.

My mom and Tim shared the sampler appetizer {which did count as an entree on the dining plan} and the nachos. My dad got a steak, Hannah ordered a hamburger, and I got a chicken salad sandwich. 

It was a good thing our waitress was so explanatory, because dessert worked a little strange there, too. There were a couple of desserts that counted for one person’s dessert credit on their meal plan, and then a few that counted for two to four people’s credits. For example, the Meteor Bites would have to be shared by two people, and the Chocolate Extinction by four. It felt a little bit like playing Tetris, trying to figure out what everyone wanted, along with making sure it fit within the meal credits. My dad ended up being the one a bit unsatisfied. He wanted the Chocolate Extinction, but Tim and I had already decided to share the Meteor Bites, my mom wanted the Cosmic Key Lime Pie, and my sis wanted plain ol’ ice cream, so he had no one to share it with. I think he may have ended up settling on the Ice Aged Indulgence, but the hit of the table was definitely the Meteor Bites.Ohmigoodness, these were sooo good! Imagine warm, soft, fresh vanilla and chocolate Munchkin doughnuts, rolled in powdered sugar with a caramel and chocolate dipping sauce on the side. Oh my watering mouth; I could eat some right now! There were so many of them that the whole table shared. Tim and I decided that we would definitely go back just for those in the future.

After dinner we shopped and strolled for a bit before heading back to the Wilderness Lodge for baths and bed. [Sigh] The next day would be our last full day in WDW {I know! Don’t think about it!}, and we wanted to be sure it was the best day yet!

With love, Malorie

Moms Panel and a Little Fun Facts ‘n Trivia Friday

I applied for Walt Disney World’s Moms Panel!

I have wanted to apply for years, but our WDW vacations always occured on the week of applications, and until this year, there was never Wifi in the rooms for me to get online and apply.

{Yes! Fun Fact Friday: Now WDW Resorts offer free in-room Wifi, not to mention free internet connection in their parks and Downtown Disney!}

Oh the irony, right? I can’t apply to be on WDW Moms Panel because I’m always in WDW! Well, thanks to my little sister’s school schedule, we booked our trip a week later this year. So I did it. I applied.

And I’m nervous. Super nervous.

And excited. Super excited.

And let me just say, this application was for no Disney-knowledge-wannabes! They asked some tough questions!

Who is Margaret Kerry? What are the names of Ariel’s sisters? Oh, and don’t forget the trick questions; Which of these is found at WDW: Big Thunder Railroad, Mickey’s Philharmonic, Space Mountain, Main Street Neon Parade.

But they can’t stump me! Just so happens that Peter Pan is my all-time favorite everything, so I totally knew that Margaret Kerry was Tinker Bell’s body model, and that Ginni Mack was her face model and both were present at this year’s Desination D event! I’ve also watched The Little Mermaid enough to know the lyrics to Daughters of Triton (who loved them and named them well…) Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Atina, Adella, Allana!

As for the trick question? Well all of those are alluding to an attraction at WDW, but Space Mountain is the only correct one. The others would be Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and the Main Street Electrical Parade! Tricky, tricky, tricky!!

Wow. There have been lots of little Fun Facts ‘n Trivia in here today! Welcome back Fridays!

So wish me luck, say a prayer, cross your fingers, think happy thoughts…all of those little things people like to do. Thanks!

With love, Malorie

WDW Backstage Magic Tour – Guest post from Tim!

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to take the Backstage Magic Tour at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. I work in production at our church, and we took a trip to learn from the best, Disney! The majority of our trip was spent in Gainesville, Fl, but on Monday, we headed out to Disney. We left our hotel at 6:00am and arrived to EPCOT Center at 8:15am. As soon as we got there, I got that feeling. You know, the one where you are home? My wife and I often talk about retiring in Orlando and getting jobs working at Disney World. Her dream job? Be a face character. Mine? Drumming for the jazz band inside of the Grand Floridian. You can always dream, right?

When we walked up to guest relations one of our tour guides, Monica, immediately spotted our group of eight and said, “You must be the last of our group!” Now honestly, I had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know if we would be the only group on the tour, or if there would be other groups. In fact, there was about twenty two other people on our tour, mostly made up of older couples on vacation. This was a bit odd to me. I assumed that there would be other business type groups there to learn from the Disney Institute like we were there to do, but most of these people were there on vacation just wanting a little more magic.
As soon as they checked our government issued ID’s and passed out our Backstage Magic badges, we were off to load up on the Mears bus. They handed us radio packs and ear pieces so we could hear our guide well all throughout the tour without having to be in a tight circle around one person yelling out facts while people whisper to their neighbor, “What did she say?”  They also passed out safety goggles that we would be required to wear in some of the places we would visit. Then, we drove out of EPCOT Center and around to the back entrance, backstage behind the World Showcase. It was interesting to see the countries from their backsides. When you are in the park, you imagine the buildings looking the same all the way around, but it’s not so. Once the buildings are out of eyesight of in-park visitors, they all just look like regular warehouse buildings. Nothing fancy.

We entered on the side where Mexico starts, and drove all the way around to America. Once we unloaded off of the bus, we entered the backstage area of American Adventure. The amount of audio/video and technical gear that was backstage in order to run the show was astounding. All of the animatronics are attached to a huge chassis that moves throughout the auditorium during the show to make it happen. This chassis that it moved on was about the size of two tractor-trailer beds, and was completely silent when it moved. It was amazing! We also got to see one of the faces of Thomas Jefferson and the real hair wigs that they use on the animatronics. This attraction and the Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom are the only two in all of WDW that use real hair on their animatronics. It crazy how real they look, and I have to admit it was borderline creepy seeing a very life-like head of a deceased president looking back at me.
We then moved outside to the front of the American pavilion and talked about the forced perspective they had to use in order to make the building not look as big as it actually is. The building is five stories tall to hold all of the show features, but from the front it looks as though it is only three stories. At this point, we were instructed that we were only allowed to take pictures on this trip when we could see “babies in strollers”, or in other owrds, only when we were out in the park when it was operational. The World Showcase doesn’t open until 11:00am, so there were work trucks out pressure washing and people getting it show ready. It was pretty weird seeing it with no guests.

After EPCOT, we loaded up the bus and headed to Hollywood studios. Once there, we arrived at the shops where they make all of the costumes for WDW. The amount of detail that goes into developing costumes for cast members and characters is out of this world. We even got to see a costume being made that had been commissioned by a third party. Someone had asked Disney to make a full, fur costume for a party they are having. I can’t even imagine how much that would cost! There is a part of the Studio Backlot Tour attraction in Hollywood Studios that passes by the costume shops where riders can see seamstresses working on costumes. While we were there, each time a tram rode by with park guests, cast members would cover up that costume that was being made for the third party. Super secret, and sort of strange all at the same time. We also got to see the new technology they are using to take cast member’s measurements for costumes. They are now using a computer that takes the measurements via lasers instead of using a typical tape measure.
After walking through there, we loaded up and drove around behind the Tower of Terror. We got to walk under the tower, and stand next to one of the ride cars. Then they told us the story of how Disney developed the ride, and how it has been through different phases of drops. It started out having only one drop. Then, it moved to phase two with two to three drops. They are now in phase four which allows a computer to randomly pick the drops, so technically, no two rides are ever the same. Also, a fun little fact. The small Tower of Terror model that is out on Disney property to advertise the ride has the number four on the tower, which changes to coincide with which phase of the ride they are currently in. Interesting!

The next place we visited was the Disney garden and nursery, where Disney grows everything from trees to plants to flowers. It was a pretty cool place, but nothing jaw dropping. They did, however, have a bunch of old topiaries that were dying off. We saw an old Pirates of the Caribbean Mickey Mouse, which got nicknamed Zombie Mickey by our group.

After this stop, we were off to lunch! If you know me, you know that meal times are a big favorite of mine, but it was especially awesome that day! We were scheduled to eat at the Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge. Although I have been to the Wilderness Lodge many times before, I have never actually stayed there. But we are booked there this coming September, so I was excited to get another look at it before our trip. Lunch was awesome! Since I had eaten there once before, I knew all of the little fun tricks about it. When it came time to order our drinks, I told our waitress I was soooooooo thirsty and wanted the biggest Coke Zero they had. She then proceeded to bring me a mason jar the size of my right leg. It was huge, and our group had some fun laughs about it. We were served the Canyon Skillet, which is served all-you-care-to-eat style and comes with smoked pork ribs, oven-roasted chicken, and pork sausage served with cowboy beans, corn on the cob, creamy coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and fresh-baked cornbread. Needless to say, we were all ready for a nap afterwards.

From the Wilderness Lodge we trekked over to The Animal Kingdom. We proceeded backstage to the big warehouse where they store all of the cars and puppets for Mickey’s Jamming Jungle Parade. It was pretty amazing. Did you know, the huge hand puppets that the cast members pull in this parade were made by the same person who made the puppets for the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics? I didn’t either! Also, this parade is unlike the parades in the other parks when it comes to sound. In the other parks, speakers are located throughout the parade route. In The Animal Kingdom, they weren’t able to do that because of the nature and animals, so there are speakers hidden on each float covered in wire mesh that are triggered by sensors along the parade route as they go by. Pretty neat!
Next we proceeded to Central Shops, which is located right behind the Magic Kingdom. This building is where they refurbish all of the ride cars in WDW, paint buses, make name tags, test out prototypes…it was INCREDIBLE. We absolutely were not allowed to take any pictures in there. We saw the whole set of new Dumbo ride cars painted and ready to be installed on the second spinner, a complete car set for the new Goofini roller coaster still in plastic wrapping, a HUGE Ariel sculpture ready to be installed at the new Art of Animation hotel, and a statue of Beauty and the Beast dancing that was taller than me being painted for the new Fantasyland expansion.
Our final stop on our journey was, yes, The Magic Kingdom. As soon as we arrived we walked through the backstage area, through some secret doors, and right onto Main Street U.S.A as the 3:00pm parade was starting. They let us just be “guests” and observe the parade. It was so neat. After spending all morning seeing all of the work and detail that goes into all of the costumes and floats, learning how the floats work, learning about forced perspective and noticing it on the buildings of Main Street; it all just kind of culminated and was amazing. After watching the parade, we headed through another set of secret doors, down some steps, and suddenly, we were below Main Street. Some people call them tunnels, but to cast members they are known as the utilidors. In Florida you can’t dig too far underground because of the water table,spo they are actually on ground level and are the first “floor” of the Magic Kingdom. To alleviate many of the problems experienced in Disneyland, Walt decided that they would build “underground tunnels” that the staff could move around the park in, so guests would never see cast members “going to work”. It drove Walt nuts see a cast member in a Frontierland costume walking through Tomorrowland. It is pretty amazing under there. It’s like a small city.

After exiting the utilidors, we handed over our gear and goggles, and loaded up the buses to head back to EPCOT where we started our tour. Our group decided that even though we got to see some of the magic during the parade, we really wanted to go into a park to better observe the results of all of the work Disney does behind the scenes. We decided to purchase tickets to Magic Kingdom since it was having extra magic hours that night and would be open until 11:00pm. We rode rides, saw shows, and watched Wishes. It was a pretty amazing day. There were so many facts and knowledge to absorb, I have to admit that at the end of the day I felt a little mentally drained. Disney does everything with excellence in mind, which is a good model to follow in anything you do. If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend taking the tour. It definitely exceeded my expectations. Now my wife wants to do it, so I’m sure I’ll be taking it again one day.

Below are some pictures from our time at the Magic Kingdom that night.
Thanks for reading along!

Fun Facts ‘n Trivia: Name that Ghost

In honor of the fast-approaching Halloween holiday, I thought I’d do a little spooky trivia today.

What are the names of the three hitchhiking ghosts in the popular Disney attraction, The Haunted Mansion?

Do you know?

These much beloved ghosts are said to be named by Disney cast members that worked on the attraction. Their names are Ezra (the prisoner), Phineas (the skeleton), and Gus (the traveler).

These hitchhiking ghosts have always been my favorite part of the The Haunted Mansion. However, even though I have ridden this ride, oh…a gazillion times (!), I have never had one of these fine fellows actually follow me home…

Walt Disney World at Fifteen Months

Tim and I have been to Disney way too many times to count, but this September’s trip was so different having Jack with us. It was a learning experience and very eye-opening to what our future trips are now going to look like. And you know what? We loved it. Doing Disney through the eyes of your fifteen-month-old is so much fun!

Today I wanted to share our trip through Jack’s eyes; the things that Jack enjoyed the most!

By far his favorite part of the vacation was the characters. He loved every meet ‘n greet, every character dinner, you name it. I thought he would like the characters, but I didn’t predict the bouncy, giggly, silly, head-bobbing, dancing boy he would become when he was around them. This is definitely going to affect the way we plan our future trips. Bring on the character dinners for the Elrods!

Up next, rides. But more specifically, boat rides. The two rides he came alive on the most were It’s A Small World and (oh my goodness, the excitement that was had!) The Three Caballeros in Mexico in EPCOT. Who knew, right? The rest of the attractions he seemed mildly entertained; more often than not, he would just sit in stunned silence, taking in what was going on. However, we were just glad that he enjoyed them. We had no crying fits. Not one. Not even on Pirates of the Caribbean, which is fairly dark in most of it, and contains a short drop in the dark. His heart was racing after the drop, but his face remained calm, thumb in mouth.

Another high-ranking activity was walking through the interactive queues at a few of the rides. His favorite was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I think he enjoyed the queue (or line) more than the actual attraction. We rode this ride more than one time, and each time the line was never longer than five or ten minutes. However, we would just take our time and let others come around us as Jack played in Pooh’s Thoughtful Spot, drummed on pumpkins in Rabbit’s garden, walked through Eeyore’s house, and watching the gofers pop up out of the ground. There was also the interactive wall of honey that you can draw on, but he wasn’t as entertained by that.

Playgrounds. What kid doesn’t like playgrounds? We had a playground at our resort that he loved running out some energy on, but the playground that took the cake was Honey I Shrunk the Kids. He ran and climbed while Tim ran and climbed after him. Bless that man. He probably could have spent all day there. I look forward to breaks there in the future when our kids are old enough to run around without one of us having to trail behind their every step.

Something else that Jack loved was water features. Oh, fifteen-month-old’s…so easy to entertain. He could sit and watch any fountain we passed for as long as we’d allow, not to mention the ones he could actually play in. Among these were the water features in the Marketplace, the squirting totem poles in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom, the random water features in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, and the gun-squirting Three Caballeros at our pool back at the resort. Which brings us to Jack’s next vacation love…

…swimming! Need I say more? Kids, young and old, love to swim…or float in Jack’s case, I guess.

His next favorite thing was a bit of a surprise to me. Shows! I expected him to be mildly entertained by the shows in Hollywood Studios, namely the Disney Junior Show, but I didn’t expect it to keep his attention the whole time! He squealed and danced and clapped. He even sat through The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and stared in amazement at the opening Under the Sea performance of black light fish. Another show he loved was the short, park-opening performance that happens daily at Magic Kingdom.

Parades! Of course he loved the parades! Especially since we had a great spot at the parade that we saw in Magic Kingdom, where many of the characters came right up to us! He also loved the lights of the Main Street Electrical Parade, and I would deem these must do’s with young kids.

Last, but not least, the Monorail. Jack loved the monorail. He would point and “Ooo!” every time it slid smoothly by us, and he enjoyed riding it just as much. He would turn into a ham and entertain the people in our car with games of peek-a-boo, or silly faces.

All that to be said, doing Disney with a fifteen-month-old was not only doable, it was fun! We made sure to keep at Jack’s pace. We did most of our activities in the morning and evening during his happy times, most days we went back to the resort for mid-day naps (which ended up being nice breaks for Tim and I), and didn’t stray too far from his 8:oo-ish bedtime at night. Like I said, it was much different than our sun-up-to-sun-down trips we took previously, but we really enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend it to any willing parent!

Fun Facts ‘n Trivia: D23 Expo Info

Hello! Today I will be guest blogging about a Disney fun fact for my wife, Malorie. I’m not sure if this is the last time she will let me take over the blog, so enjoy it while you can! 🙂

This weekend in Anaheim, California, the 2nd ever D23 Expo is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center. The D23 Expo is a part of D23, was introduced on March 10, 2009 by Robert Iger during the company’s annual meeting in Oakland, California. The name D23 refers to Disney and 1923, the year the company was founded. The goal of D23 is to communicate with Disney fans by “placing them in the middle of the magic.”

This year, The D23 Expo presents special panels and presentations, movie screenings, celebrity appearances and autograph signings, plus new insights into movies, TV shows, theme parks, animation, Disney history, and more. Celebrities that have appeared in the past include John Travolta, Patricia Keaton, Johnny Depp, Robin Williams, Selena Gomez, Tim Burton and more!

Some of the anticipated announcements from Disney lovers at this years Expo include the possibilities of a Monster’s Inc. Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a new Disney Vacation Club at Disney’s Grand Floridian, and more artwork and details on the new Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.

Here are a few sneak peak pictures from the Expo center floor this year:

Entire Seven Dwarfs ride vehicle mock up!

New Fantasyland Model

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree vehicle for Disneyland

The new Minnie Mouse statue to be place in Fantasyland

Our good friends over at wdwnewstoday will have live coverage and streaming all weekend long at Feel free to check it out!

Until next time!