A Final Look Back at Our Disney Vacation

Here’s one final look back at the Disney portion of our vacation, focused specifically on a few pictures that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else, starting with me at Epcot’s World Showcase at the two places in the world I’d most like to visit: Germany and England (with Eeyore, of course!):

I managed to get a selfie with each of my daughters on a ride they really liked (the teacups, Dumbo, and the carousel):

And another pair of pictures of me at the Magic Kingdom…same day, but with an outfit change!

I think that’s about it for things I wanted to share…it certainly was the trip of a lifetime!

EARidescent Evenings

Time for one last look back at the beautiful “EARidescent Evenings” at the parks of Walt Disney World in celebration of the 50th anniversary. The color scheme is so pretty, and everything just glows with happiness!

We didn’t see the Animal Kingdom in the evening because we spent less time there in general, and they’re not open as late in the first place, but I assume the Tree of Life has something fantastic, as well! It’s a perfect visual representation of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration!”

Hidden Mickey?

We had such good intentions of finding “Hidden Mickeys” while we were at Disney World. We were prepared to look everywhere, and we even had a a list of some of the known ones as a starting point. But…I guess we were just wrapped up in the experience, of being there (we is actually a good thing!), because for the most part, we forgot altogether, and even when we did remember, we couldn’t find them. Except for the one on this manhole cover we spotted our first day at EPCOT.

Does it count? I mean, I think it does? If you weren’t looking down at the right moment, it would be easily missed. So I say it counts, and at least we have evidence we found one of them!

Summer School 2022

What can I say about this year’s summer school? One thing is for certain…I know I’ll never top it!

Yes, we had a reading list, and there were some amazing choices on there (Ladybug in particular really enjoyed many of the titles), but this summer was all about travel and experiences, including visits to Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. It was like four days of field trips on steroids, where we went on rides, built things, and even learned things! (And let’s not forgot the three days of field trip equivalents in Washington D.C., where we visited monuments and memorials and museums, toured the US Capitol, and walked the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon! Plus the day at Kennedy Space Center after our Disney fun concluded!)

Back at home, we kept the Disney magic going with art projects:

And games:

And lots and lots of cooking! We had 12 “Disney Dinners” at home over the summer (plus the one we indulged in at The Hollywood Brown Derby), which let us sample copycat recipes from the theme parks and the Disney World resorts:

Ladybug and Bunny especially enjoyed baking and decorating some Mickey Mouse cookies:

It wouldn’t be summer school without a Lego build, and we found the perfect set to reflect our summer fun!

And we squeezed in a few craft projects, including an amazing pumpkin coach, a cupcake liner lei modeled by Stitch, and a string art Mickey Mouse head that left glitter everywhere!

We also watched a ton of Disney documentaries (thank you Disney+) and classic Disney movies, some we had seen before, and some that were new to us. I especially loved the mid-century documentaries from when the theme parks were just getting their start, but the more modern ones, that focused on attractions we saw at Disney World (and their California counterparts) were fascinating, especially after we had the experience of seeing them first-hand.

Like I said, there won’t ever be a summer school like this again, where we were able to blend fun and learning and so many experiences together, but I’m really glad we got to do it once in our lifetime!

Around the World at EPCOT

Without question, my favorite thing about EPCOT is the World Showcase. It’s the thing I most remember from my childhood trip to Disney, and it was just as cool as in my memories! Here’s a look at the various countries, starting with our neighbor to the south, Mexico. I think it’s really cool that the two ports of entry are the countries that border the US to the north and south!

I loved the stave church that represents Norway:

China’s architecture is unmistakable:

I might be biased but I think Germany was my favorite country to visit:

Italy looks just like I imagine the actual country does:

We breezed through America pretty quickly because, let’s face it, we already live here!

I loved the blue accents in Japan:

Morocco is the country I remember the most from first Disney trip, but we didn’t get to walk around it too much this time because our time in that country was spent huddling under an archway during a storm:

France is as charming as you would expect:

After we visited France, we crossed the “channel” and entered the United Kingdom. If Germany wasn’t my favorite country, the U.K. definitely was!

We ended our around-the-world journey in Canada, which is a mix of native design, and something vaguely similar to the U.K.

This may be as close as I ever get to international travel, but at least I got to see some really cool things (and eat some regional foods) at EPCOT!

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

I didn’t realize until fairly close to the beginning of our trip that we were going to be at EPCOT for the tail end of the International Flower and Garden Festival…I’m so glad we were there! In addition to beautiful flowers, there were topiaries everywhere in the park. Most of them were of Disney characters, but there were a few others, as well.

The festival takes place EPCOT, but the Magic Kingdom had topiaries of the world’s most famous mouse couple out front, as well!

EPCOT has festivals of different types running pretty much year-round, and I think this was a particularly fun one to attend!

50 Years of Disney World

The sliver lining in the cloud that was us having to postpone our Disney World vacation for a year is that we were there for the park’s 50th anniversary, the “World’s Most Magical Celebration.” The celebratory atmosphere was everywhere at the parks, but especially with the golden statues of Disney characters scattered throughout the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom. We didn’t see all of them, but we also didn’t do too badly!

There were other hints of a celebration, including cakes with “50” toppers:

There were other 50s here and there, as well, including on the castle, in the landscaping, and on the lamppost signs:

And the main characters have special anniversary costumes…I got pretty close to Donald Duck in his!

I love being part of a celebration, and no one knows how to celebrate like Disney!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Eleven

Animal Kingdom; 28,465 steps

Our final day at Disney included visiting all four of the parks, starting with our first trip to Animal Kingdom:

Every Disney park has a central, iconic location…at Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life:

We headed straight for the Kilimanjaro Safaris upon our arrival.

We got to see a lot of animals in fairly realistic habitats.

After the safari, we walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (and saw an adorable baby gorilla!), and then walked around the park a bit:

We got to listen and talk to a talented musician who played the kora:

There was a cool kite show on the water:

We didn’t forget to take a family photo!

We only went on one other ride (we had talked about the Kali River Rapids, but at that point, I was just over being wet and wearing a plastic poncho, and the Expedition Everest roller coaster, which some of us thought about riding was closed)…the TriceraTop Spin, which I thought was fun.

We only spent a few hours at Animal Kingdom, because we had some other things we wanted to do. We drove over to EPCOT so we could hop on the monorail to visit a few of the resorts that had anniversary pressed pennies we wanted to add to our collection.

One of those resorts was the Contemporary, which is home to a fantastic Mary Blair mural (details to come later).

While we were riding the monorail, we passed by Donald Duck in his 50th anniversary finery:

Once park hopper hours began, we stopped by the Magic Kingdom to collect a few more pressed pennies…and see Eeyore, who waved his ears at me (I was really good at frantically waving at characters by this point!):

We then headed into EPCOT, where we finally found Goofy:

At this point, we split up so we could maximize our penny finding. Bunny and I headed off in one direction, and I’m pretty sure we had the best time, starting with the views on our route:

And then I finally met my favorite Disney character, Daisy Duck!!!

Bunny and I decided we would take the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios while everyone else drove. I feel bad that they missed out, because it was a really fun ride, and we even got to make a transfer at one of the hotels!

At Hollywood Studios, we found Donald and Daisy (again). I told you I had the waving thing figured out, because they definitely noticed me!

Since Bunny and I had a little extra time, we shared yet another Mickey-shaped treat:

And took a look at The Hollywood Tower Hotel. I had no interest in riding The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, but I did want to see it.

Once we regrouped, we got in what I think was our longest line of the trip, to ride Rise of the Resistance, which was really, really cool.

We also rode Star Tours twice, and Darth Vader showed up both times, which was very exciting. A few members of our family actually managed to ride all three Star Wars rides that day, which was quite an accomplishment given their popularity! Plus, those who were interested also managed to squeeze in a ride on the previously-mentioned Tower of Terror, and they had a great time, especially since they got to ride it as the sun was setting!

It was really had to leave, because we knew that even though we still had a few days of vacation left, our time at Disney was over.

Up next: Kennedy Space Center!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Seven

Epcot; 24,760 steps

We thought this day would never come! We finally made it to Disney World and EPCOT (this would be the last and only time before my final park entrance that I didn’t get flagged by the metal detector)!!!

The had a really cool camera set up at the front of the park that took a very unique photo of the Fab Five:

I was so excited when I realized that the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival would still be going on while we there…there were amazing topiaries everywhere!!!

My family tells me I ran to hug Minnie Mouse…I thought I was walking at a perfectly normal speed. I don’t know what actually happened, but I will say that I was not expecting to be so excited to meet Minnie…it was a total thrill!

After going on the Frozen ride in Norway we went on the new Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind roller coaster (our song was “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”). I was not prepared for how, um, intense the ride would be, and I can’t say that I’d go on it again. I’m glad I got to experience it with my family, though, and I’m really happy they all loved it (except for maybe Chickadee, who was about as thrilled as I was).

We then made our way back to the World Showcase, which is definitely my favorite part of EPCOT.

We tried to experience something special in each country. I was surprised to discover that one of my very favorite things was the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in Mexico. It was such a chill, fun boat ride, and it inspired us to watch The Three Caballeros pretty much as soon as we got home!

We saw a mime in Italy:

We didn’t eat a full meal at EPCOT, but we sampled foods in several different countries…here’s a look at a few of of the things we tried: Kringla in Norway, a Mickey Mouse shaped pretzel in America, and a ni├žoise sandwich in France (not pictured: pretzel bread with ham and cheese in Germany, chicken potstickers in China, and fish and chips in England):

This may be as close to Germany as I get!

There was quite a bit of rain while we traveling the world (although we did get a chance to dry off a bit while we waited to ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure), so we were still pretty soggy for the rest of our visit. We enjoyed walking around the rest of the park, anyway, and took in the sights inside and out:

The geodesic sphere that houses Spaceship Earth (which we road before the fireworks show) looked beautiful as the sun was going down:

And stunning reflecting off the water after dark!

The fireworks were amazing…the whole show was choreographed so well, the musical choices were excellent, and the reflections on the water were gorgeous! It was probably the best of the fireworks shows we saw (although it’s hard to compete with the display over the castle at the Magic Kingdom!).

One last look before we left:

Up next: Our most hands-on day at Disney World when we visited Hollywood Studios!

Chickadee Thursday

Maybe this is the last picture of Chickadee at Disney…I came across this “magic shot” one of the Disney PhotoPass photographers took at EPCOT, and it really tickled me!