10 November 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

This is long overdo, huh? I can't believe it's been over a month since we returned home from Disney World. So much has happened since then that I feel like it was a century ago that we were even there.

Well, we had a fabulous time and the weather? Well, it was just perfect. I told Bob, I think we deserve nice weather on our vacation after what occurred in OBX the past two years! But seriously? It was 85 and sunny the entire time with zero humidity. Like I said... perfect.

Because this post got long {as I knew it would} I decided to break it up into sections. Read what you want, just look at the pictures, or be extremely intimidated by all this text and quickly close your window. It's fine. Really, it is. I just wanted to remember this trip for what it was: wonderful.

Leaving the kids.
On the Friday night before our trip, we had to drop the kids off at Bob's parents house. I was dreading it. I knew once that was over with, I could actually start getting excited. But leaving the kids for 6 whole days?? Sigh.

Before we left, we had a really nice family dinner and then headed over to drop them off. We hung out for a bit, but then as it was time to leave, I was ready. I was sad, but ready to be on our way.

Personally, I think we both did an awesome job. Leaving them and even throughout our trip. There were no tears or anything. We did talk about them more than a few times {of course... it's Disney World! And? They're our kids, duh!} but now we just can't wait to take them back there with us =) We did awesome and we came home to two perfectly happy babies! Yay!

Here's our first picture in FL...
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We look like we can survive without them. Right?

The Hotel.
We stayed at the Pop Century Resort, which is one of Disney's "value" resorts {though I think they use that term loosely.} I really liked it. Of course it wasn't the Grand Floridian or anything, but it was perfect for our trip since we were hardly ever in the room.
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One of the reasons why we picked this resort over some of the other value, or even moderate, resorts was because it has a designated bus service to all the parks. There was no waiting or stopping at a gazillion other resorts on the way to the parks... you would just get picked up in front of the hotel and you'd be at whatever park you'd like 10 minutes later. It was awesome.
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The hotel itself didn't have any restaurants, but it did have a food court which was perfect for breakfast, coffee, or late night snacks {or even wine & beer!} There was also a little poolside bar as well.
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Oh, and I can personally comment on their Lost & Found department since I left my entire make-up bag in the room. I mean, who does that?? We called the hotel the day after we got home and they shipped it back to me a week later. In a manilla envelope.

An un-padded manilla envelope.

Needless to say, there were more than a few things broken in there, but hey, at least I got it back, right?
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The Food.

It was amazing. Seriously... so good. We did the Disney Dining Plan and I definitely think it was an awesome deal. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Bob and I both got a snack, lunch, and dinner everyday. While the plan didn't include breakfast, we usually just headed to the food court in the hotel for coffee while we looked at the park maps and planned out our day.

The lunch places were basically all the same: sandwiches, burgers, chicken nuggets, salads, etc. You could choose whatever lunch item, dessert, and drink that you wanted. I do have to say that the Seasons Food Court in Epcot {next to Soarin'} was amazing! I got Chinese food and Bob got either pasta or some sort of club sandwich. We both loved it!

Below are some of the places we went for dinner. We made advance reservations for every restaurant the first day we could {which was March. I'm not kidding.}

'Ohana:
{Located in the Polynesion resort.}
Oh. My. God. Greatest meal ever. There's no menu, you just sit and they bring you food. Lots and lots of yummy food. The first course was salad & breads. The second course was stir-fried veggies, lo mien noodles, and fried dumplings. And the main course was fire-grilled shrimp, steak, chicken, and pork that they brought out on skewers and put right on your plate. As much as you wanted. It was so damn good.
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And then? Just when you think it's over? Bread pudding, vanilla ice cream, and carmel sauce is brought to your table. And you stuff it in because you just can't stop yourself. And then we rolled on home.

This was one of the best meals I've had. Ever. I'll 100% be going back.

Le Cellier Steakhouse:
{Located in Canada in Epcot}
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This is one of the meals I was most excited about. The dinner started with pretzel bread which was oh-my-god-yummy. Bob and I both ordered filet mignon, which was also really good, but didn't come with a side dish or salad. Everything was so expensive and I felt like all we were getting {for our not one, but TWO table-service meals EACH} was a piece of steak and a soda. We had to pay extra for our side of potatoes and our shared steakhouse ceaser salad.

The desserts were yummy though.
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I personally thought this meal was not worth two table-service meals each and although it was good, I probably wouldn't go back.

Ragland Road Irish Pub:
{Located in Downtown Disney}
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The atmosphere of this place was awesome. It was very relaxed. It was a Monday night when we went, but it was packed to the brim and had a band and Irish dancers. We didn't have the best seat to see everything that was going on, but we could hear it and that was enough. Bob ordered steak {again} and I ordered chicken. We both thought the food was really good, but the atmosphere was even better. I'd definitely go back here.
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Afterwords, we walked off our meal in Downtown Disney, which I really liked. It was the first time either of us had been there and we made sure to walk around a bit in the Lego shop, the Christmas shop {because hey! Look who you're talking too!} and the largest Disney Store in the world.
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Teppon Edo:
{Located in Japan in Epcot}
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Bob and I are huge fans of hibachi-type restaurants. HUGE fans. We try to go whenever we can so when we were making reservations for Disney World we knew we had to try Teppon Edo. And it? Was fabulous.

Bob and I both got a salad, rice, lo mien, and the steak & chicken combo as our meal. Everything was delicious. We went here on our last night and sat with a family who had a 3 year old and 1 year old twins. By this time, we were clearly missing our babies back home. And to sit with a family that had 3 kids the same age as our two? Made us miss them even more. They were such a sweet family and even told the restaurant that Bob and I were there for our anniversary. Our waitress ended up bringing out our desserts with candles in them. It was very sweet.
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Overall, I loved this restaurant and would definitely go back!

The Parks
Magic Kingdom
{Saturday, October 1, 2011}
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This has been, and always will be, my favorite park. I just love it so much. It makes me so happy to walk in and see the bustling crowds shopping on Main Street. Kids {and adults} running for that next big ride. I love it so very much.

And can I just say the fall decorations? Gorgeous.
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We went to Magic Kingdom on Saturday, the very first day of our trip. Which also happened to be the 40th Anniversary of Disney World. And it? Was packed. After grabbing some lunch, the Haunted Mansion was just outside the restaurant and ended up being our very first ride in Disney World. A classic. I still love it. We hopped around from ride to ride and barely had to wait in any lines. We did have to grab a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain and we planned to head over to Thunder Mountain and wait in that line until we could use our Fast Pass. Turns out? Thunder Mountain had just closed. For the entire day. Boo. {We did end up going on when we went back to the park on Wednesday. And ironically? Spalsh Mountain was closed that day.}
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We headed over to Tomorrowland and went on my new favorite ride, The People Mover. OMG. I seriously could sit on that ride for days.
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We then went on a few more rides, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. then headed back to Splash Mountain. Love that ride. Afterwords, we took the Disney Railroad to the front of the park and just walked Main Street and went in the shops. I also desperately needed a coffee, as this was our very first day in Disney and we had to get up for our flight at 4:30am that morning! Mama was tired.

We then took a boat over to the Polynesian...
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...where we sat on the beach and enjoyed a beer before our dinner reservation at 'Ohana. {See, these are things you just couldn't do with kids!}
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We wanted to try and make it back to Magic Kingdom in time to see the fireworks, but the monorail broke and we ended up watching it from the window. Oh well.

Epcot and The Food & Wine Festival
{Sunday, October 2, 2011}
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Epcot has always been my 2nd favorite park. But after walking around during the Food & Wine Festival? It may be tied for first. It was awesome. There is just no other word for it. And if you're considering a trip to Disney in October, you need to go to this. AWESOME.

Before heading to the back of the park for F&W, we went on more than a few rides. I must say? Test Track? My favorite. I don't remember ever going on this ride before, but I really loved it. Soarin' was okay. I can see why people like it, but I'm personally not a fan of rides that just put you in front of a screen. They're like "fake" to me. I loved Spaceship Earth {a classic} and Living with the Land, which we did while waiting for our Soarin' Fast Pass to come up.

When we got in all the rides that we wanted to do, we basically ran back to the Food & Wine Festival. I was so excited for it and it definitely lived up to my expectations. We just walked around with our guide map {below... click to enlarge} from country to country and booth to booth trying new things that were on the menus.
We had two favorites: Australia's shrimp on the barbie {and their chardonnay? YUM} and Argentina's beef skewers. I want them right now.
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Oh, and if you're on the Disney Dining Plan? The food at the booths count as a snack! Nom.
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The guide map also showed which booths had different beers. Bob was so excited about that and actually? So was I. I was probably more excited to try the different beers then I was to try the wines.

The first place we went? Germany. They had a "Brewers Collection" booth just to showcase all their beers {or biers ;} and they came in a variety of sizes. I stuck with the 6oz which I think was perfect for trying what they had. And what they had? Was awesome. Bob liked their German Pilsner while I liked the Oktoberfest the best. Nom.
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Our other new favorite beer is Kirin from Japan. So good! We actually had it again when we went to Teppon Edo for dinner later that week.
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And can I just tell you how awesome it was seeing parents holding 22oz beers and walking around Epcot pushing strollers. It was very awesome.

We only made it about half way around the world before heading to dinner at Le Cellier in Canada.
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We knew we were headed back to Epcot later in the week, so we weren't too worried about rushing around to try everything. We did stop one place after dinner, however...

Hawaiian beer? Yes please!
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In the future, I'd like to dedicate an entire day {or two!} to just the F&W because I think it needs/deserves that much attention.
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Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
{Monday, October 3, 2011}
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Growing up, this was my favorite park. And that's probably because I was slightly obsessed with the Tower of Terror.
Now? I can honestly say that this is my least favorite park. Or tied with Animal Kingdom.
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We headed to Hollywood Studios on Monday, went straight back to get a Fast Pass for Toy Story Mania, went to shows and all the rides we wanted, and we were finished the entire park by 2pm.

And we still had to wait until 4pm to use our Toy Story Mania Fast Pass.

So for two hours we kinda walked around aimlessly, shopped, and went to a few shows. Oh, and we waited in line to get a picture with Mickey, since we had plenty of time.
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At 4pm we went on Toy Story Mania and by 4:10pm we were out of there.

Because our dinner reservations weren't until 7:15pm at Regland Road in Downtown Disney, we headed to Animal Kingdom. This is something we totally weren't planning on doing {we were going to just skip it} but since we had some time, we thought we'd take a ride over there.
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I'll have to admit, I did like it more than I thought I would. It was nice, clean, and very shady. We got to go on 3 rides before they closed- DINOSAUR, Everest, and the Jeep Safari {which was my fav!} Because we went so late in the day, there was basically no one there and the lines were non-existent. We walked right on to all 3 rides with no problem.
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We went into a few shops on our way out and then headed to Downtown Disney. Overall, I think that's all you need in Animal Kingdom. We were there for an hour and a half total. =)

Universal Studios
{Tuesday, October 4, 2011}
Although not part of Disney, we did make our way over to Universal Studios on Tuesday of our trip. Basically the only reason? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I refused to be in Florida and not go see it.

But first, I just have to say that it IS possible to get a shuttle from a Disney hotel to Universal Studios. I had to search high and low to find this out, and most, if not all, websites said that a shuttle does not exist. It does. So if you are looking to go to Universal Studios on your Disney vacation, book the Mears Shuttle. It's $19 round trip per person {and cheaper for kids!} It picked us up right in front of our hotel lobby and dropped us off right at the park. It then picked us up whenever we called for them. Awesome.

Anyway, back to Harry. It was everything I dreamed it would be. And more. I LOVED it.
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We arrived at the park just as it opened and ran to the very back of the park.

And there it was.

Hogsmeade.
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I felt like I was in the books/movies. It was amazing! We headed back to the castle first, because I heard that the Forbidden Journey ride had a line immediately. When we got there, we only waited 15 minutes, but when we got out after the ride was over the line was almost 2 hours long. So glad we went there first!

It was amazing to walk through the castle. The moving/talking pictures looked REAL. They weren't just TV's with frames around them, they looked like real, painted portraits. You walked through classrooms, and Dumbledore's office. Walked past the Fat Lady and the Sorting Hat and you were on your way to the ride.

It was an amazing ride. And long! It was like 6-7 minutes long. Although some of it were screens, like flying through the Quidditch field {and we all know how much I hate screens} it was cool the way they did it. Most of it was "real" {like the Forbidden Forest, dragons, spiders, dementors, etc.} so you transitioned from screens to real life. It was very cool!

Afterwords, we headed to get some Butterbeer {YUM} and just walk around Hogsmeade a bit. We went into the shops and headed to the Three Broomsticks to check out their lunch menu. We wanted to go into Olivander's Wand Shop but the line was too long, so we decided to come back later in the day to do that.
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We left Hogsmeade {I didn't want too... I wanted to live there!} and went to all the other rides, shows, and attractions we wanted to do in both parks at Universal. They were fun, but the entire time I couldn't wait to get back to Hogsmeade! We headed back there after dinner and just walked around some more and went in to Olivander's which was so cool. We also did the Flight of the Hippogriff ride which was totally for kids, but it just HAD to be done.
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I sadly said goodbye to Hogsmeade before heading home. I probably could have spent the entire day in there.
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{Wednesday, October 5, 2011}
We knew we had a day to go back to whatever parks we wanted too. And we both agreed that we definitely wanted to go back to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot on our very last day in Disney World.
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Wednesday was probably my favorite day of our trip. We weren't rushing around to go on all the rides or making sure we got to see everything. We already did that. We just strolled around, went on a ton of rides, saw some shows, and just enjoyed the day.
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Besides the fact that four rides broke down in Magic Kingdom while we were on them {People Mover, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain,which we got to see with the lights on... I grabbed the pic below where you can kinda see it...} It was a fabulous way to end our trip.
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After lunch we headed back to Epcot where we went on a few of our favorite rides again, including Test Track. By this point in the day the Fast Passes were completely gone and the wait was over an hour. We looked at the single rider line and it was only a 5 minute wait. HOLLA. So we went in that one =)

It was awesome because (1) I finally, after a week in Disney World, got asked to time the ride {woot! Don't ask me why I was so excited about that, but I was} and (2) I got to annoy Bob by singing "All the single riders. All the single riders" the entire time we waited {instead of single ladies ;} He really hates me.

Here I am doing my "All the Single Riders" dance on a ride I single handily helped time ;)
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We then continued around the second half of the countries and enjoyed more Food & Wine Festival, before watching the fireworks and heading back to the hotel to pack up.
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It was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.

Reunited
We headed home on Thursday morning and couldn't wait to see our babies. My dad picked us up at the airport around noon, we picked up some lunch on our way, and went straight to my parents house to see the kiddos. When we pulled in the driveway and jumped out of the car, both kids were standing at the door. Carter immediately yelled "FRENCH FRIES" {because he saw the lunch bag} and Brynn ran down the sidewalk, walked past both Bob and I {who were kneeling down with open arms} and went straight to Poppy.

Typical.

And my mom yelled out "Well, Poppy was gone for a whole hour." ;) We weren't upset at all, we were just so glad to be home with them. We got our share of hugs and kisses over the next 4 days home with the kiddos. Here are the kids with a few of their presents from Mickey Mouse...
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It was one of the best vacations I've ever had and now Bob and I can not wait to share that experience with our kiddos when they get a little older! We are beyond excited about it and we talk about it almost daily! It'll be here before we know it. =)

As this was our 5 year wedding/10 year dating anniversary trip, it seems fitting to post it on the eve of that very special day: 11.11.11. More to come tomorrow ;)

21 comments:

Suzanne said...

I read the whole thing. I am insanely jealous. We went as a couple pre-kids and it was the BEST vacation we ever look. Downtown Disney was my favorite - there was a place called The Adventurers Club where we had drinks and watched a sketch show...but the pub where you had dinner looks suspiciously like the same stage, so I wonder if they switched it out?

I can't even think about Hogwarts or I almost burst into tears over the fact that I haven't been there yet. I'm not even joking - I am THAT ridiculous.

Amanda said...

loooove disney! we just went to the food and wine festival and had the best time! spent a lot of money and ate and drank like an animal!!! so worth it! i wanted to make it to at least one other park but that didn't happen!

Steph said...

I can answer that about the Adventurers Club, Suzanne (I live behind WDW).

Sadly, it closed down, along with all of the other nightclubs at Pleasure Island on 09/27/08. It was pretty much public outrage - it was a VERY well loved club. I only remember the date it closed because my son was born the very same day, and we had wanted to go and see the last show - but obviously, that didn't happen.

Ragland Road is down near T-Rex Cafe/where the old McDonald's used to be (now a disgusting fast food chicken place). Adventurers Club is sitting all abandoned :(

Hogsmeade/Harry Potter world is ahhhhhmazing!!! We can't wait for them to put up their Christmas decorations!

Jenni - reading your trip report was awesome. You really did well the whole time! Seriously, you missed so many major crowds. And I think you brought the nice weather with you, because October is CLASSICLY disgustingly hot. And my weather for my marathon the first night you were here? PERFECTION. So, thank you for the goooorgeous weather, mama!! <3

Andrea said...

That sounded like an amazing trip! And can I just say you seriously look amazing!

Tessa said...

Wow, it looked like an amazing time, and what a great recap. I would like you to know, I read it all. :) Our 5 year anniversary is next year, and you have me very tempted to go here! I may be e-mailing you for more ideas! ha ha

Melissa @ Filling Our Bucket said...

Read the whole thing because I am leaving to go in 10 days and cannot wait.

Awesome post! Awesome pictures! Awesome, awesome, awesome.

One thing. I am shocked that you had to pay extra for sides at Le Cellier. That's pretty lame. I agree, not worth the 2 dining credits. We had wanted to go there on our trip, but nixed it when we saw it was 2 credits now. Glad I did!

Leanne@lifehappenswhen said...

I am so jealous! But we will be heading to Disney very soon! Disney is most definitely my happy place and I am so glad you guys had a great time! You deserved it!!

Sarah said...

Read the entire thing and LOVED it!!! Looks like you guys had a wonderful time! Makes me so excited for our vacay in August!!!

Jill said...

Great post Jenni!! Gets me excited for our trip in 3 weeks, I have you beat though, I still need to post about when my whole Family went in August for my 30th!! I'm a little bit behind, huh? I think you might of just inspired me to do it!

Sarah @ It's a Vol said...

Ok I just read that whole thing and I am soooo jealous!

I too have seen Space Moutain with the lights on! It was on a cheerleading trip! I felt special!

Also, I'm pretty sure you would have had to drag me kickin and screaming out of Hogsmeade. Harry Potter is my one true love. It's ok. My hubby knows.

Glad you had such a fabulous time and made wonderful memories!

PS You look fantastic in your pictures!

The BOAT said...

I am so glad that we are going back in January...because if not, I would not have been able to keep reading your post! ; ) We take the kids...but we also take both sets of parents, so we have the best of both worlds...we can ride the grown up rides & the kiddie rides. The only bad thing....I have to run 13.1 miles and Troy has to run 39.30 miles during our trip! ; ) Any excuse to get to Disney works for me.

We do the quick meal plan, which is AWESOME...w/the kids, we don't worry about the nice sit down restaurants...also, if you plan to take the kids, go right before Brynn turns 3 - she's free, but still old enough to enjoy most of it.

That place is magical....and helped completed our little family!

Jeremy, Censie and Jude said...

Wow! What a trip!! So jealous! Read it all and loved the pictures! Glad you had a good adult Disney Trip!

dixiejulep said...

Sounds like you guys had an amazing time! You are so right that October is the best time to go. The Food & Wine Festival is amazing, and the crowds and weather are usually best that time of year too.

P.S. I love the wide-angle shot of Main Street. Looks like it was a beautiful day!

The Chandlers said...

I read the entire post. Because I can't wait to go to Disney. I am so jealous!! I WANT TO GO!

The Mrs./The Mom said...

I too read the entire post and you guys look like you had a wonderful time. That pineapple from 'Ohana's is HUGE! What was in it? Please don't say pineapple juice...

From Mrs. to Mom

jenni said...

@ The Mrs/Mom- Come on girly, you know that's NOT pineapple juice ;)

I forget what it's called but it was a FABULOUS mixed drink that I couldn't even finish!

Kristin said...

This makes me miss DW so bad! DH and I went (with his fam) two weeks before our wedding. We totes barhopped Epcot. It was AWESOME. Looks like you may have too ;)

Steph said...

That's a Lapu Lapu - a drink so nice, they named it twice. ;) It’s a real pineapple, pre-hollowed for efficiency, into which the bartender poured rum and, um, more rum. And juice.

Jodi said...

Such a wonderful post, it looks like you had a really fun time.. lots of great info here too. i really want to go to universal for the harry potter park alone! :)

Erin said...

you guys look like you had an awesome time! i am 26 and have NEVER been to florida. people think i'm nuts. we live right outside of philly like you and the furthest south i have been is virginia! this really makes me want to go! the value resort looks so cute too! almost reminds me of a cute jersey shore motel!

Limo Boston said...

This is a good one.
I am happy that you shared it with your readers.
I love the Harry Potter park!

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