Magic, Magic! A Nov. '23 Trip Novel in 60,000 words

I … have nearly finished my trip report. Technically, the trip part is finished! But I’ve got a few notes to make here and there, not to mention editing and adding photos.

This is big. I’ve never finished a trip report. So I’m going to start posting it – one or two days at a time, because when I write, I write. This is longer than I wish it were. I apologize now. I totally understand not reading my trip report. But I wrote it, so I have to post it. Also, it was an amazing trip, filled with magic and happy tears. So yeah, I really want to remember this one!

Cast of Characters:

  • Bay, age 57, huge Disney nut who forgets to take pictures but writes a lot
  • Wesley, age 63, memorized the Tigger song the night it debuted on TV in 1968
  • Tobin, age 36, autistic trans firstborn who moved back home last year, loves Disney
  • Woodrow, age 30, Cast Member and enabler who somehow didn’t love Disney for years
  • Amy, age [mumble mumble], Bay’s sister who does not love Disney
  • Randy, age 63?, Amy’s newish husband who is game for almost anything and owns lots of timeshare points

Points of Origin:
Wesley, Bay, Tobin: Philadelphia, TN
Amy & Randy: Las Vegas, NV
Woodrow: WDW (bad kid!!!)

2 BR villa at Saratoga Springs on Randy’s timeshare points.
Check in: November 25
Check out: December 2

Plans (HA!)
Nov 24: Start driving south, LaQuinta in Ocala
Nov 25: Check in at SS, go to Disney Springs, go back to resort
Nov 26: Resort, Disney Springs, resort
Nov 27: Rope drop HS, hop to MK*
Nov 28: Rope drop MK, hop to HS*
Nov 29: Rope drop DAK
Nov 30: Rope drop Epcot, w/Extra Evening Hours there, too
Dec 1: Resort, resort, resort
Dec 2: Pack up and cry all the way home

  • HS had Jollywood the first night and MK had MVMCP the second night. We avoided both parties and enjoyed low, low crowds in the mornings!
    ** We are “always take a break early afternoon” people. ALWAYS. The nap is as important as the cuisine!!!

Without any further ado…

Friday, November 24
Travel day – hit the road, y’all! :smiley:

We made it out of our driveway around 11:30. Woodrow gave me a hard time on the phone; Wesley rolled his eyes. Tobin took Dramamine and Benadryl for sitting in the backseat with Scupper.

Stopped at Buc-ee’s in north Georgia. Tobin had never been; Wesley and I had never been inside together because we always travel with a dog! Delicious smoked brisket sandwiches, and I picked up a bag of those candy nuggets – Buc-ee’s Beaver Nuggets. Amy, Randy, Woodrow, and Wesley had enjoyed them so much on our beach trip in May, I figured they would appreciate them again. Spoiler alert: They did.

Had dinner in Lake City, FL, at a Five Guys there, and then went to Ocala to our subpar La Quinta Inn & Suites that I had reserved based on TripAdvisor reviews and inaccurate photos. It smelled like cigarette smoke and I nearly walked out.

Then I calmed down – less than $160/night, and they don’t charge for dogs, and I won’t go back to that one again. Tobin and I went to a nearby Kohl’s because Tobin had NO CLOTHING SUITABLE FOR A WDW VACATION. (I had asked about that months earlier, when I could have ordered some cargo shorts and stuff. This is life with an autistic adult child.) I bought a very expensive candle to counteract the stench in the hotel room, and we got lost in the parking lot. I’m not kidding. That was the worst parking lot of any department store I’ve ever tried to get out of. It was, like, loop-the-loops. The poor GPS couldn’t help, either.

It was very late when we got back to the stinky La Quinta (La Stinka?), and Wesley and Scupper were already asleep.
NOTE: Many weeks later: Just last night (1/23/24), Wesley told his endocrinologist that the Ocala La Quinta Inn was the worst motel we ever stayed at. He never traveled with my mother. She had a talent for finding the most terrifying motels the 1970’s ever saw. I mean… Wow. Don’t want to go down that memory lane! LOL!

Saturday, November 25
Drive to Orlando! Drop off Scupper! Check in to Saratoga Springs!

We leapt up!!! I went out for McDonald’s breakfast and coffee, and we were soon on the road to Orlando.

The neatest note from the drive was watching the northbound lanes fill up with cars leaving Orlando after Thanksgiving in the magic. I was so glad not to be heading home! That was some impressive traffic over there.

The most depressing note was that I didn’t see any crape myrtles in bloom or waterlilies on the ponds as we went southward. :frowning: These were always the things I looked for when I went to Florida in autumn, but this was the latest I’d ever been.

First we went to Woodrow’s townhouse in Davenport, FL, a town so small it doesn’t really qualify as a town; it’s just a spot close to WDW with a lot of shopping centers and very tightly packed housing developments. I used the bathroom at Woodrow’s townhouse. He rents with two other “permanent” renters and occasional vacationing renters. I wonder how the landlord keeps everyone straight. It would be a cute townhouse for a family. It is … weird… and mostly bare as a rental place.

Then we split up. Wesley and I went to take Scupper to her pet sitter’s house, also in Davenport, and Woodrow and Tobin headed for Disney Springs.

Tobin took this picture:

(Those signs are trippy in photos!)

I was so worried about dropping Scupper off with strangers I’d found on, but everything seems to have turned out all right. They had a little girl, about 5 years old, who was screaming with delight over Scupper. Literally shrieking. I don’t know how her parents stand it. But hey, they reported no problems over the course of the week and sent many pictures of Scupper and Screaming Girl cuddling and playing together, so I guess … it was OK.

Then we drove to Disney Springs on the first Saturday of the official Christmas Shopping Season of 2023, where it was a freaking madhouse. We parked in the Watermelon surface parking lot at the far end near Cirque du Soleil (laughing internally at the concept of anything being “near” Cirque in that full parking lot) and hiked up to security, where I was pulled for additional screening because I forgot to hold my umbrella WAY OUT in front of me while passing through the metal detectors. My bad. I always take my umbrella for shade, and I needed it that day.

We only made it as far as Jaleo through the mass of humanity. Woodrow and Tobin had parked at the other end of the complex, but had gotten there so much earlier that they found us practically the same time we found them. I was delighted to have lunch at Pepe, the sandwich shop attached to Jaleo. I had the long, skinny sandwich on crisp Spanish bread that comes with thin, thin Spanish ham and smashed tomatoes. Divine!!! Highly recommend!!! The rest of the people in my party got the Spanish version of a Philly cheese steak. Smelled great, but I really loved my sandwich and dream about going back to get another.

While eating (outside, people watching), Amy and Randy had landed and were making their way through the airport to their Lyft car. So after lunch, we immediately left Disney Springs and drove over to Saratoga Springs to check in.

We all met up outside the registration area and hugged, and a young man checked us in. When he told us our building, I asked him to check for something closer to Disney Springs. He couldn’t find anything closer.

Back outside, still chatting, a woman walked up to me and asked if we were just checking in. I said yes, and she held out two refillable mugs. “They still have a week left on them,” she said. “We have to leave early, but we hope they will be put to good use.”

We all thanked her giddily, so happy to already be in the magic. Spoiler, though: They were not put to good use. We never ate in the food court. We had a really hard time finding anything at Saratoga Springs, including the Carriage House and Artist Palette.

First challenge: Finding our room! Two cars and a golf cart! … Except the golf cart never had time to get Amy and Randy. It was busy. So they finally just walked to the Paddock and found our building. Amy used Google maps, I think.

It was a very pretty room. The kitchen is not big, and the dining table is tiny for a place that is supposed to hold 8-9 people. Here’s our view…

The rest of Saturday is a blur. Amy and Tobin and I went grocery shopping, which took a long time. We got lost a lot. I don’t remember what we did for dinner that night. Maybe just sandwiches? I don’t know. I had to cook sausage to prepare for Christmas breakfast casserole the next morning. Woodrow and I had to go out again because the villa didn’t have a grater for the cheese. I didn’t mind that, though; I love me a Target shopping excursion.

We picked up booze and bottles of water and yogurt and, well, all kinds of stuff. I always end up making three or four trips for groceries and stuff while I’m at WDW. That’s just what I do.

Tobin got the Murphy bed; Amy & Randy got the master bedroom, and Wesley and I let Woodrow sleep on the second bed in our bedroom. We’re givers. That’s just how we are.

Also, if we had made him sleep in the little pull-down bed in the living room under the TV, he would have broken something. D’oh!

A note about the title: A novelette has fewer than 19,000 words. A novella, as I intended to call this thread, apparently has only about 40,000 words. Well, I’m not finished with my trip report and it’s getting really close to 59,400 words, sooooo… Yeah. Novel. Sheesh.






I completely see why the pet sitter girl was squealing. Adorable.


Sunday, November 26
Christmas breakfast, Boathouse, Disney Springs

I made Christmas breakfast casserole and orange danish, coffee and pineapple juice, and after stuffing ourselves silly, we all sat around groaning, holding our stomachs, and not making plans. I started making tags to give to cast members to thank them for being awesome. I do not have a single picture. I was using cute little felt owl stickers from the Dollar Store and tags from Walmart. I can’t even remember – I think I stopped at Walmart in Ocala. ROFL!!!

I had a 1:50 p.m. reservation for 6 at the Boathouse in Disney Springs. I’ve never seriously researched that restaurant until this trip and was very surprised to find out it’s the most popular restaurant in Disney Springs. It’s considered the “best special occasion” restaurant. I hang out with people who believe that Wine Bar George and Jaleo are really the best restaurants in Disney Springs! But Wesley was happy to be trying a new place. Randy opted out, but Amy came with us! :astonished:

Then we discovered that our villa was not very close to Disney Springs at all. We walked and walked… and walked some more… Amy was using her phone to navigate. I regretted the shoes I had chosen; they were little teacup Keds. Very cute, but not great for walking miles and miles. Wesley asked me if I wanted to bring my umbrella or ponchos, and I looked at the sky and said it wasn’t going to rain. HA!

Of course, the moment we crossed into the reality of Disney Springs, everything was lovely and Christmasy, and I reveled in the holiday music and decorations. Disney World! I was so happy.

Once we got to the Boathouse and checked in, we were very quickly seated in the first big dining room right next to the two pianos (and pianists) who were playing Christmas music for the Sunday brunch crowd. Amy and I really enjoyed the music, but it ended very soon after we were seated. Woodrow got fish tacos; Tobin got a steak and a huge dishpan of macaroni & cheese; Wesley got a grouper sandwich; Amy got the highly-recommended filet mignon sliders, and I got filet mignon in the Oscar style with bearnaise, crab, and asparagus on top. Oh! Reminded me of the 80’s!!! Amy and I won this round of “who got the best dish”!!!

(But I need to give honorable mention to the famous rolls. So sweet and buttery!)

Woodrow and Tobin got Duck Duck Razz cocktails and loved 'em.

I drank hard pear cider and loved it. I can’t remember what Amy and Wesley got to drink, but we were all very happy with our meals and drinks. No room for dessert, of course! Tobin took a third of his steak and a huge portion of the mac & cheese back to the villa.

While we had a great time and really enjoyed it, after the trip, Wesley and I agreed that we don’t need to go back to the Boathouse any time soon. It was OK. It was just really huge and full of people, and it didn’t feel special.

Right after lunch was the first mishap of the trip: Rain. Remember when I said no, it won’t rain? HA!!! I was WRONG!!! As we stepped out of the Boathouse, it started sprinkling.

First stop: Sprinkles!!! No, no. Not the rain. The cupcakes. :smiley: :grinning: :heart_eyes: :cupcake: I bought a full dozen cupcakes, six of which were my beloved Salty Caramel. We got a mix of other flavors to fill out the dozen. Woodrow got me a 10% discount on the goodies, and we set out into the drizzle again.

Amy was on a mission to find a fabulous new Magic Band+; she had left her sparkly silver Magic Band at home. And Amy loves gadgets. We walked through a light sprinkle to the World of Disney, glanced inside the first room, and left.

Then we went to Disney’s Pin Traders, that big, round, covered kiosk over there past the carousel, sorta on the way back to the LONG LONG LONG walkway to Saratoga Springs. There were a couple of walls of Magic Band+s over there. I wanted a regular Magic Band, so I was pretty disappointed in the array. But Amy and Woodrow both found bands that they wanted, so Woodrow bought them and found out he had a 40% Cast Member shopping discount for the entire holiday.

This knowledge sorta changed my outlook on how this trip was gonna play out. I had been worrying about money for a few days. I stopped worrying.

By the time Magic Band+s had been procured, it was now not just drizzling; it was seriously raining. It was not pouring, but it was a definite rain situation, and by the time we walked to the bridge to Saratoga Springs, we were all soaked. We got in line for the boat, hoping it would be a shorter walk from the boat dock to the building that held our villa.

My seat on the boat was at the back left corner, and rain water was pouring off the roof and onto my left arm. I was already soaked when I got on the Friendship. I was … drenched when we docked at the resort. Such a short, wet ride! ROFL!!!

We got off and started off in what we thought was the general direction of the Carriage House because half of our party needed to use a restroom. A man overheard us and said, “The Carriage House is that way,” pointing vaguely toward tennis courts. We thanked him and then proceeded to get very [expletive deleted] lost.

We walked and walked and walked, in the rain, some of us getting very desperate for that rest room, until we found ourselves at a DVC model center. I begged the CM standing outside if we could use the restroom there, and he let us in and told us where to find the restroom – down a series of long, serpentine hallways. ROFL!!! Like a casino, DVC doesn’t want its victims to escape without buying something!

I genuinely don’t remember how we got back to our building; it took forever. We all got out of our wet clothes, wrung them out, and hung them up to dry. Some people took hot showers. Me, I piled into my big, comfy bed with the floofy pillows and the billowy covers, and I took a long nap.

I don’t remember the rest of the day, really, until that night when I decided to go back to Target for something. Don’t remember what. But Woodrow came with me this time, and this time I decided to have a burger at that nearby Shake Shack. Woodrow split an avocado bacon smash burger with me. It was delicious!!! We snuck back to the villa and never told anyone what we’d done!

OH!!! I just figured out what everyone had for dinner the night before! It was Thanksgiving leftovers which I’d lovingly packed up and brought with us. Turkey, dressing, the root vegetable purée that serves as gravy at my house; green beans and horseradish glop!!! And!!! PECAN PIE!!! Yum!!!

I told everyone to get up early the next day, and Wesley and I set our alarm for 5:15. We have to take our thyroid meds and wait an hour before we can eat, so we have to get up extra extra early. Ugh!!!


I usually wake up enough to take mine then go back to sleep for an hour.


I’ve loved reading so far! Thanks for posting about your trip :slight_smile:


I forgot to include my mileage on Saturday and Sunday. I keep track of this with my phone’s Google Fit app. I enjoy this. It makes me feel like I’m getting something done.

Saturday, November 25, I walked only 2.1 miles. I think most of that was in the Publix grocery store with Amy and Tobin. :rofl:

Sunday, when we walked and walked to Disney Springs and from the boat dock, I clocked 4.1 miles. Just reading that makes me want to throw things. The distance to Disney Springs was the main reason I didn’t particularly love Saratoga Springs.

I’ll try to remember to add my miles walked when I make an update to the novel. :smiley:


How cute!



Monday, November 27
Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom!!!
(Extra expenses: Genie+ and ILL’s for Rise for the whole crew!)

We relied on our Cast Member Son (Woodrow, a.k.a. Woody, a.k.a. Bunny, a.k.a. Excuse me, Custodian, can you point me in the direction of the nearest restroom?) for all of our park admission, which was very affordable but kind of unwieldy.

And finally, because Woodrow held the keys to our park admission, I had to ask him to buy Memory Maker for us. I thought I would be able to get on it myself later. No. Never did. He had to download every photo and email it to me. ARGH.

For these reasons, I am seriously considering purchasing my own park admission next time.

OK, SERIOUSLY, on with the trip report!

We got to Hollywood Studios before they opened the turnstiles, and we all got inside relatively easily – just had to make sure Woodrow scanned in first. I love that park. It’s just my favorite in terms of design, and the fat, fat garlands with their pink and turquoise ornaments – just love it!!!

We went straight to Toy Story Land and got in line for Slinky Dog Dash. As we got closer to the entry, Wesley’s blood sugar dropped dramatically. (Brittle Type I diabetes is so much fun.) Unbelievably, I was right next to the concessions stand with bananas and cokes! I bought a banana for Wesley, which he ate immediately. Wow! Keeping up with the itinerary even in a queue!
They opened up the ride right at half an hour before park opening, and we really walked right on. It was magic!!! We all loved it, of course.

Then we walked all the way back through the park and down Sunset Boulevard for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. After stopping for a Photo Pass picture, we walked right through the garden and into the pre-show. Woodrow and I went through the line with everyone but took the chicken exit just before boarding the elevators. We both agree – vehemently – that the TOT is a big, honkin’ NO.

We waited outside for the crowd to get off, and then we went to the Rock’n’Roller Coaster. A walk-on!!! They didn’t even have the pre-show going!!! Very disappointing; Amy and Randy had never seen it. Loved it!!! Love the photos, too! Woodrow always looks apoplectic, but he loves the ride, I swear.

Things were going perfectly according to plan, and crowds were low. We stopped at a Guest Relations umbrella for something – I forget what – and then Amy and Randy wanted Diet Cokes. I wanted something nicer than that, but that end of Sunset Boulevard didn’t have food offerings that made me happy. So after a break, we continued on my plan to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Walk on! We all loved it.

At this point, the crowds and the Lightning Lanes were starting to be a little more difficult. We had to ditch the Muppets 3D, but we picked up a Lightning Lane for Millenium Falcon Smuggler’s Run after our Star Tours moment. Things were working like magic! … Not sure I made this clear, but first we did Star Tours, and then we did Millenium Falcon Smuggler’s Run. I didn’t get everyone into the restrooms – I wish I had; Randy is a Star Wars geek like Wesley, and he would have loved those restrooms. LOL!!! After Smuggler’s Run, we spent a few minutes looking for the model of the Millenium Falcon that’s tucked under the big Millenium Falcon there! And we found it!!!

By this time, we were hungry and it was lunch time, so I steered everyone over to Ronto Roasters, and we all had a light lunch. Wesley and I split a Ronto Wrap; I think Randy and Amy split one, too. Woodrow got his own, as did Tobin. Nom nom nom! This day was going so well!!! The park was gorgeous; the day was cool and bright; everyone was well-fed and happy – it was like a Disney park day! I barely got to shop, but that was OK. People were having a good time!

The last attraction before leaving the park for a major nap was, of course, Rise of the Resistance. It is impossible to describe this ride for anyone who has never done it, and as usual, it overwhelmed the newbies. I love that attraction so much! Totally worth the cost of the Individual Lightning Lanes for the whole crowd!!!

After this, we walked slowly out of the park and back to the bus station by way of Echo Lake so I could show Gertie to Randy. I love the way that area is decorated for Christmas!!!

Weird note: My shoes – my black Nikes – start clicking when they’re totally warmed up; I have no idea why. They were clicking so loudly, Amy laughed about it! Back on the bus, back to Saratoga Springs! We all took naps!

When we woke up, ready to go to the Magic Kingdom, Amy and Randy expressed grave misgivings about going to a theme park after such a full morning, and I encouraged them to skip this one. We were pretty late, having taken a long nap, all of us. I knew that unlike the uncrowded morning, this evening was nearly guaranteed to be crowded and unhappy. So Amy and Randy stayed at the villa, and the Loftises went flying off to the MK.

And – oh, my goodness!!! So much magic!!!

The moment we walked into Town Square, we heard the train whistle as it pulled into the Main Street station, and I wheeled around with my hand over my heart, already starting to cry. And my family immediately started back to the train station, helping me up the stairs to the train, which we rode from there to the Fantasyland station, with me crying almost all the way…

It had been 17 years since I heard and rode the Magic Kingdom Railroad, and silly notions about doing modern, hip attractions on our first evening in the MK flew out the window the moment I heard that train whistle. I was just so happy.

Part of the time I was weeping tears of joy, but after an interminable stop at the Frontierland station, I was thinkin’ about cryin’ because this train ride was taking FOREVER and I had stuff to do!!! It was dark by the time we got off the train, and we had to go back through Fantasyland, going toward Haunted Mansion, which was what I really wanted to ride. That, and the Jingle Cruise. And I wanted fireworks, of course. I had stuff to do.

And one of the things to do was to get PhotoPass pictures at the Tangled restrooms with the floating lamp like the ones in the movie. Lantern? Lamp? Fireworks thingie? Whatever, the one they have there won’t float, but it makes very pretty pictures, and I wanted one. We stood in line and no one complained!!! It was crazy!!! I think we waited twenty whole minutes for that photo op! I love the results, though.

After that, we rode the Haunted Mansion, and it was basically a walk-on. Sniffle!!! And… is it darker in there, or am I just going blind? I could barely see the shivering dog in the graveyard.

It was getting late, and people (specifically, Loftis people) were getting hungry. The wait for Jingle Cruise was way too long, so we headed up to the hub to try to find a place to stake out a spot for the fireworks. We got a good spot just left of … um… Hard to describe. I really miss being able to stake out a table at Tomorrowland Terrace, but that’s the site of the dessert parties now. I will pay for it someday, just not right now.

Anyway, Tobin and I sat down on the sidewalk to hold our spot while Wesley and Woodrow went to Casey’s for dinner. While they were gone, the crowd started crowding us. Tobin was getting pretty anxious – autistic much? – but I just stretched out as if I were lounging around on a beach instead of uncomfortably subjecting my behind to a very hard, gravelly sidewalk surface. Ouch!

The guys came back with hot dogs and fries and giant drinks, and we ate on the sidewalk and waited for the fireworks.

Of course, Happily Ever After was magnificent – best fireworks show in the MK!!! Many tears were shed, many claps were clapped, much entertainment was had by all. And when Tinker Bell had flown and the whole thing was over, we turned back toward Adventureland and got in line for the Jingle Cruise.

I think this was the longest line of the whole trip, and it was really kind of … trying. Tobin distracted himself with Bluey videos on his phone, and every kid in queue who could see it was dying to look over his shoulder to watch. Some of the other kids pulled out their own phones and started watching Bluey. That must be a popular show. I saw a lot of Bluey this trip, what with phones and t-shirts and … phones.

The Jingle Cruise After Dark!!! I’ve wanted to do this for years and years and years! I think since my very dear old ex-friend Nina said it was a good overlay. And I love the Jungle Cruise in general, so – yay, Jingle Cruise!!! It was worth the wait… once. Not sure I would wait that long to do it again, even after dark.

After that, we started making our way out of the park. We were tired!! It had been a long, fabulous day, and we had done pretty much everything I was dying to do!! It felt like the whole thing had been just for me, especially the MK – MKRR, Tangled PhotoPass, HM, Casey’s, Happily Ever After, and the Jingle Cruise – it was all too fabulous. Surely tomorrow would be a disaster!!


Well, it almost was…

Edited to add: This was the night I drove to the Carriage House to buy pink ears and half-and-half. Last time I saw the joint.

And!!! Mileage!!! I walked 6.1 miles that happy, happy day!!!


Hey!!! Hi, Windsor!!! Corgi brains, unite! And run! And unite! And run some more! :laughing:


Ohhhh, I wish I could do that. I really hate waiting an hour to get coffee. I like half & half in my coffee, so I have to wait.

But, all things considered, I’m really glad that I take thyroid meds. I was just remembering what it was like before I was diagnosed. All of my weekends were lost because I was sleeping through them. I would take naps at work. And it was terrifying to drive; I just knew I was going to fall asleep at the wheel.

So I guess I have to learn to be chill with the hour-long wait for breakfast in the mornings. At least I’m not sleeping through orchestral concerts any more. (Did that. In the historic Tennessee Theatre. So horrifying.)


Can’t find photos of me and Wesley on Slinky, but here’s one of Amy and Randy.

Annnnnnnd… my people (Wesley, Amy, Randy, Tobin) on the Tower of Terror – middle row on the left. (Their right.)


It is very nice but causes its own issues. When DD got us all in to DLR on her guest passes we had to scan in everyday and then link all 5 tickets to buy G+. It saved a lot of money but was kind of a pain.

:smiling_face_with_three_hearts: I love that you get emotional just like me!


So true!:rofl:


Tuesday, November 28
Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

Disaster struck before we even got to the park. The bus was taking so long, we decided to get in our cars and drive. Woodrow and Tobin took off in Woodrow’s car, and the rest of us piled into the Loftis SUV.

Well. If you put the wrong thing in the Google Maps, it takes you past the TTC and over to some imaginary drop-off next to the Poly. As we sailed past the Magic Kingdom gates, Wesley and I panicked and started recalculating. The GPS was no help. We backtracked – way back – we turned around, we went back to the gates, didn’t go to the left, got through, got parked, started walking, and Wesley had left his insulin in the car, so he had to go back for it.

Also, this was the day that was COLD. It had been nice and cool the day before, but today, it was cold.

We boarded the ferry, which took forever, and I watched shivering tourists in shorts and t-shirts hugging each other, trying to stay warm. Grandparents in sensible clothes were enveloping little children in shorts inside their warm jackets.

Checking in with Woodrow via text messages, he and Tobin had gotten to the MK before the turnstiles were opened, and they went inside the park to go to the Emporium to get warm.

Well. That was the wrong thing to do.

When we got to the turnstiles, the lights turned blue and we were told we couldn’t go inside. We explained that we were guests of a CM, and he was inside, in the Emporium, and they said, OH, he couldn’t do that; he needs to be with his party.

So we went off to the side near Guest Relations and called Woodrow and Tobin to come back out.

Just to recap, 1) We got lost and threw away 20 minutes driving around outside the TTC, and (b) We couldn’t get into the MK because Woodrow was supposed to wait for us before going inside the park.

My touring plan was in shambles. I was trying very hard not to throw a temper tantrum and go stomping back to the resort.

Getting Guest Relations to fix Woodrow’s mistake took another 15 minutes. We walked into the Magic Kingdom with about ten minutes left on resort guest Early Entry and I shuffled around indecisively. Finally, Wesley said, “Let’s ride Space Mountain.”

This was a good decision. The line was a walk-on. The crowds in the MK were very low because it was a party day AND it was VERY COLD. But we rode Space Mountain and got beat up (good lord, that ride is rough!!!), and then we walked over to the PeopleMover. Very good choice!!! I love the PeopleMover, and it pretty much fixes my pique every time.

Woodrow and Tobin had gotten Tobin’s DAS set up while we were at Guest Relations, and it turns out the DAS is better than Genie+. We had used Genie+ the day before, and it was marginally helpful. But DAS? Oh, my. A person could almost wish they always traveled with an autistic person for the handy dandy DAS line management system. No wonder Disney is banning 3rd party tour guides who abuse DAS!

(Also, no, I don’t recommend traveling with an autistic person a lot because it really is difficult sometimes, and people really do treat autistic people like weirdos if they’re stimming like crazy and watching Bluey non-stop in the queue for the Jingle Cruise, and OMG, people can be mean.)

Anyway, while we were riding the PeopleMover, Woodrow got all of us a DAS pass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so the next thing was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Loved it! Amy and Randy loved it. I don’t know if they have that in Disneyland. I have always loved it.

Next up was Seven Dwarfs, so we headed up there. LOVED IT!!!

So much goodness in that ride! Just going through the queue is nice. The ride itself is even better, and oh, I love the yodeling dance party at the end. LOL! So far, we were impressing the heck out of Amy and Randy with our ability to pick out great rides and then get on them without waiting in a two-hour queue.

Now, I’m not really sure of the order in which we did the rest of the tour. That morning was a blur that had started off so badly. But we really pulled it out of the fire and had a great time. We went to Sleepy Hollow and got Nutella waffles with fresh fruit and lots of coffee. Amy and Randy seemed amazed at how good that little snickety-snack is. I know how they feel! It seems so simple, but the sum is better than the individual parts. Best quick service breakfast in Disney!!! (But I still give Wesley all the blueberries, yuck, LOL!!)

We went back up to Fantasyland and watched Mickey’s PhilHarmagic, which I’m happy to report entranced Amy and Randy as much as it does me. I still love that show! The new Coco section is really good!!!

There was some shopping going on in the gift shop there, but I forget what was purchased. I miss how Donald-centric that shop used to be. I got some great Donald Duck stuff back in the day. I had an “Official Donald Duck Fan Club” license plate frame until I went to a bar in Nashville to see a Rachael Yamagata show and some drunk person slammed their truck into my Prius. Sniffle! I still look for that frame on eBay every once in a while.

We did the Haunted Mansion and took some group shots outside, and we rode the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Even though we had a Boarding Group for TRON, Woodrow and I were talking it down as hard as we could to try to keep expectations low. It turned out that it was Amy’s favorite ride of the whole trip!!! She loved it!!! I was happy just to fit into one of the vehicles. ROFL!!!

After TRON, Amy and Randy left.

The rest of us found restrooms and chilled out a bit. I found a CM to give a “thank you for making the magic” tag to.

Wesley asked me if I wanted to go to Casey’s for lunch, and I said no, I wanted to find the egg roll cart, but I couldn’t find it on the map. We started wandering around, through the hub and toward Adventureland, with me just sure we wouldn’t find the egg roll cart.

But lo! And behold! There it was! We got in line and all ordered egg rolls. Woodrow, Tobin, and I got the cheeseburger egg rolls, while Wesley got the pastrami. … Pastrami? Maybe it was Pepperoni. I’m not sure. He shared a bite of his, so I shared my cheeseburger egg roll with him. SO GOOD!!! Those cheeseburger egg rolls are just as good as everyone says they are!!! My bad kids thanked me for being such a good researcher, because they never would have said, “Let’s get egg rolls for lunch,” if it had been up to them.

And after that, it was time to leave the Magic Kingdom. We stopped for some pictures on Main Street USA, and then we all started the long trek back to the TTC. The morning had not been a disaster!!! It had actually been really great!!! I was so happy!!!

As usual, back at the resort, we all crashed for naps, and when we got up, it was almost time to go back to Hollywood Studios.

I had no restaurant reservations until 9:50 at Oga’s, and I was really hoping to impress Randy with the coolness of the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge after dark, after park close… but he and Amy again said “no” to the evening’s festivities. Boo.

(Randy may have been a little out of sorts. He lost a pair of Oakley sunglasses in the MK that morning. More on that later.)

However, I did have a plan, and it now included Fantasmic!, which I hadn’t seen since 2006.

By the way, it was still cold. We rode the bus to HS. I wanted to shop, so that’s what I was doing. The “plan,” which had been very loosely based on “what’s available with a short wait,” was pretty much toast when we arrived, so shopping was what was left. And I love shopping in Hollywood Studios. Shopping is my favorite!!! Well, if I can’t get on Slinky Dog Dash (too cold) or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (line too long), then at least I’m going to shop. :smiley:

I bought a blanket!!! I was picky, too. I found one with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Pluto all over it. The background was really pretty sunset colors. I thought if it got too cold while waiting for Fantasmic to start, I could use the blanket to keep warm!!!

This is a good time to point out that there were LOTS of people wearing blankets for coats all over Disney World. It was so cold that day. I work in downtown Knoxville, so I’m accustomed to seeing homeless people wrapped in ratty old blankets, but it is weird to see that much blanket apparel in Disney World. ROFL!!!

Then we went around the corner to Sunset Boulevard, and that’s when I experienced the faux snow and magical holiday projections on the Tower of Terror. OMG!!! Y’all!!! This was so magical and amazing and cool and awesome!!! I made my family stand there with me and watch the shows until they started re-running projections I had already seen!!! This is… the coolest little holiday extra in WDW, in HS, in my personal opinion. Love it so much!!! I know I am pretty easily entertained, but seriously, I could have stood there for hours more, just watching those projections and the fake snow flakes.

But… there was still Fantasmic! to be seen, so…

It wasn’t any time before we headed up the hill to the Fantasmic! stadium. We were seated waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy over to the left. I don’t think I’ve ever been seated over there before! We all got popcorn and hot chocolate to help keep body and soul together. I was surprised that there was no pre-show entertainment. In 2006, there were people keeping us entertained and leading “the wave” as well as an actual stand-up comic to make us laugh. What happened to the pre-show?! Was it the pandemic that killed it, or had it gotten the axe in the before-times while I wasn’t there?

Anyway, I never got cold enough to unwrap my pretty new blanket.

And in my opinion, Fantasmic! wasn’t as good as it was 17 years ago. I think they must have cut out some good stuff. And the dragon…? Not cool. It used to be so impressive! Now I could see the between-parts and people’s legs under there. :confused:

Anyway, very few tears of happiness were shed. (I’m not saying I didn’t cry at all, but it was not the sob fest that I remember from last time… 17 years ago…) We sat and waited for a good while after the show as the audience exited the theatre. While we waited, I made a reservation for 50’s Prime Time Café. We were hungry!!! I had planned to dine at Woody’s Lunch Box, but no one wanted to sit outside to eat, and I thought that was reasonable. I can’t remember what time the ressie was for, but we walked over there and checked in a little early.

We Had A Fabulous Meal!!! OMG!!! Our server, er, I mean, cousin Brynne was amazing. So fun!!! We had not eaten there since, I’m pretty sure, 2000 or 2003. It’s been a long, long time!!! And we just walked in like it isn’t usually a pretty hard ressie to get! I had the fried chicken (OMG, yum); Wesley had the pot pie; Tobin had the roast beast; and Woodrow had the Blue Plate Special, which was a Creole shrimp thing. None of us had room for dessert. Wesley cleaned his plate, though! We brought Tobin’s and my leftovers back to the villa with us.

But then! We had our Oga’s reservations!!!

Walking back to Galaxy’s Edge, we were re-directed by cast members not to go to the left… Well, it’s hard to describe, but we were going to take the long way around. CM’s sent us to just barely left of the Chinese theatre. We still got to Galaxy’s Edge and found Oga’s… after going to the BEST THEMED RESTROOMS IN DISNEY WORLD. Sorry. I keep yelling that. In 2021 when I had late Oga’s ressies for just me and Wesley, I made him stop so I could go, and then I ran out of the ladies’ room yelling, “DID YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM??? YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!!!” (Because they’re so cool!) Then he was in the men’s room for a very long time, and it turned out he was calling his best friend from high school (and fellow original Star Wars nut) Bart from inside there. ROFL!!!

I gave an “OMG you’re the best” tag to a custodial CM in the ladies’ room in Galaxy’s Edge. She was so cute!!! That was fun.

Of course, Galaxy’s Edge was nearly empty. I mean, like, really, really empty. Only cast members and a few straggler guests were anywhere to be found. It was gorgeous and, honestly, breathtaking. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Oga’s after the park closes, but I will never get tired of that empty, empty park.

Then there was the reality – the experience – of Oga’s Cantina, and it was awesome. It was not totally full! We ordered cocktails and chatted with the young couple next to us who had brought very little children in with them. One was a baby; one was a toddler. That little family was so happy, and they were having such a good time. I have to confess, I love seeing happy people having a good time.

I was drinking a Fuzzy TaunTaun and getting numb lips, so that was fun. It was actually a really good time in there, not like the last time I went. I actually asked the server if it was frequently like this after hours. (Our first after-hours experience was not this lovely. We had some really horrible young adults at a stand-up table with us, and when Wesley tried to make polite conversation, they laid into us like we were freshmen geeks and they were the cool athletes in the locker room. I don’t remember everything that was said, but as they were leaving, their leader lingered at the table and sort of halfway apologized. I told him I hoped that when he is our age, young people treat him more decently than he treated us.)


Our server told us that this week – the week after Thanksgiving – is the best week for crowds, equaled only by the first week of February. People take note!

We were full from dinner, so we really didn’t stay long; only had one drink each. Wesley picked up all the coasters he could find, of course. ROFL We now have a stack of 8 on the bar at home! I need to shellack them and mount them on cork!

Then we went outside and took pics of the Millennium Falcon without crowds. I love Galaxy’s Edge after closing; it’s so cool!!! We found a diaper bag and turned it in for Lost & Found, hoping someone would get their bag back soon. Woodrow had already told Randy that his Oakley sunglasses, if turned in, would be at Guest Relations in Disney Springs later in the week. If they were turned in. We had our fingers crossed for Randy.

We slowly made our way out of the park, just really enjoying how empty and beautiful it is. I adore the mid-mod-century Christmas decorations and music in that park. It’s just my favorite. It was magical. Just completely magical; I love the parks after closing.

But Hollywood Studios really is the most beautiful.

(NOTE: I’m re-reading this, having written it a few weeks ago, and I’m brought to tears again, thinking about how beautiful Hollywood Studios is in general, but especially after dark.)

Back at the villa, Amy and Randy were already asleep. I had texted them during the evening about how early to get up. This was the point at which Amy stopped going to parks. She really didn’t want to get up early enough to hang with me! Perfectly fine. Although I missed her while we were doing stuff she would have liked (roller coasters and thrill rides), she was happier sleeping in.

And I just really wanted her to be happy. Anyway! Off to sleep! Perchance to dream about Disney’s Animal Kingdom? You bet!!!

Miles walked: NINE! Point! OH-FIVE!!! YEAAHHHHHHH!!! (9.05) MK and HS, y’all!!!

P.S. – Wesley’s t-shirt! That’s a picture of Scupper and the legend, “I LEFT SCUPPER BEHIND FOR THIS… and, man, I miss her!” I had that made for him and gave it to him after we got to Orlando. Only 4 or 5 people asked him about it. LOL!!!


Love Wesley’s shirt!


OK, I’m finally going to say this now: Why isn’t WDW popcorn better??? It is so not good. It is not great. It is barely ordinary.

Why is popcorn considered such a quintessentially Disney snack?! I make much better popcorn at home. I should not be able to eclipse Disney in snack preparation, y’all. I can’t make Dole Whips. I should not be able to make a salty snack better than Walt Disney World.

I’m not kidding.

That is all.




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I know!!! I get it!!! But … that popcorn is not good enough to be beloved!!! At least in my experience. Is there a good place to get it? I need to know!!!

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