Let me begin by saying that I realize the quality of the photos is not stellar. But our “good” camera died the day we got there and so I was forced to rely on my video camera ‘camera’ setting and my old standby camera. That said here we go… The members of our WDW adventure were, Me (The Dixie Pixie), DH Mark, DS Spencer (18), DD Scarlet (14), My Best Friend (Kimmie Poppins), her DH Dale, DD Kayla (21), DD Maddie (17), DS Blake (15) and family friend Chase (17).
DAY 1: We set out on our ‘Joyous Celebration’ Grand Gathering adventure to WDW on Sunday, December 18, 2011. Bright and early, well not bright as the sun had not come up as yet, at 4:30 AM! We met up with our friends and began the convoy from our home in North Carolina to WDW. The trip down was great; we made good time and had no incidents along the way. We made a few stops for gas, bathroom breaks and a snack at McDonald’s before arriving in Orlando at 1:45 pm. We headed straight to our resort to check in. We were all staying at the All-Star Sports Resort, which is our family’s favorite on Disney property. We had not been back there since 2007, having stayed at the All-Star Music on our last two trips (’09 and ’10). And we were happy to back again. I had used the online check-in (my first time doing this) on the Friday before we arrived, and had no problems at all. I walked right over to the Online Check-In station; there was no line or waiting. The cast member, Donna, was awesome. She had everything ready for us, along with great news…our room was ready and we were in the building and level I had requested. I had made the request when booking the room back in October (originally we had reservations for Thanksgiving week, but when Disney released the special rates for the end of the year we canceled that reservation and rebooked for Christmas week). I had called several times to check on the request and reiterate it, and had also faxed in a request directly to the resort on the Wednesday before our arrival. I don’t know if all that was what worked, but we were very happy when she informed us we were in building #10 on the ground floor. Our friends had made their reservations separate from ours and had 2 rooms, but we were linked together. Also, they had not used the online check-in. So they were at the regular check-in line counter, waiting for a while, but we were still all in the same building, ground level, and our rooms were right in a row with theirs being connecting rooms. And best of all, all of our rooms were ready. We were thrilled.
We did not have any tickets for the day and were ready to get unpacked and off to eat something so that was the first order of business. We headed right to the rooms to unpack and freshen up quickly. So quickly that I didn’t have time to take any pics of the room. It was a very nice room on the backside of building #10 with a wooded view. We had hoped to be facing the football field, but liked this room as it was super close to the buses and away from a lot of foot traffic. Every time we have stayed at the All-Star Sports we have stayed in building #10, it’s kind of our “thing”. Once everyone was unpacked and freshened up we were off to our favorite off-property place to eat, Giordano’s Pizza.
Giordano’s is located on Irlo Bronson Hwy. just outside of the WDW Maingate. It is the best pizza we have ever eaten! It is deep-dish Chicago style. We always get it on our trips. One our Thanksgiving week trip in 2010 we actually got it twice and then ordered two online and had them shipped to us for Christmas and the Super Bowl. We kinda like it…
After dinner it was back to the resort. We had planned to head over to the Grand Floridian Café for a dessert after pizza and then watch the water parade and fireworks from the beach. But we were so stuffed we just couldn’t. I had already called and cancelled our reservation from the restaurant. So while the kids headed to the rooms to chill out the mom’s and dad’s went by the front desk to get a surprise...
Originally we were only coming down to stay at the resort and enjoy just being at Disney and doing some things that we had never gotten to do outside of the parks and were not going to be visiting any of the theme parks while there. BUT, one of the dad’s (MY husband…) changed his mind and got the others on board to do at least one day at a park. Which kind of threw a wrench in my plans, and you don’t know me…but I love my plans, and planning….so I wasn’t too happy. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love going to the parks, it’s just that 1) I already had a plan…that now had to change (again, not making me happy) and 2) it really didn’t fit into our budget. So anyway, we head to the front to check our options and for me to crunch some numbers. The cast member that helped us, Natalie, was the sweetest, I think she could tell that a few of us were a little more excited than others (me), and tried her best to help us through looking at every option. This took a while as I have never not already had our tickets purchased and ready to go before we got there, and wanted to go over every option. Which was not helped by my husband’s child-like exuberance and wanting to do it all, which I knew we could manage budget wise, but it would be a hard stretch of our money. So end the end we decided to do a One Day Hopper Pass, that way we could hit all of our favorites and still remain on budget and my “plans” for the week wouldn’t have to change much. Our friends opted to do a Two Day Hopper, as they didn’t mind changing their plans, and my husband has pulled them into his little scheme hook-line-and-sinker. My husband and I decided we would spend the next day as our park hopping day since Animal Kingdom was scheduled to open at 7 AM and Magic Kingdom was scheduled for a 12 AM closing with an Extra Magic Hour Evening keeping it open until 3 AM! This way we could maximize our time and try to hit as much as possible.
We headed back to the rooms and told the kids, all who were super excited. And then it was off to bed, as we would be rising the next morning at 5:30 AM to hit the buses to Animal Kingdom.