Christmas Trip Report I

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know I headed down the Walt Disney World on Sunday.  Apparently I got out of New Jersey at the right time!  My flight left on time and we didn’t have any weather issues, but later in the day the rain/ice came down.  I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit at the airport dealing with that!

Anyway, when I arrived in Florida it was sunny and warm and I had to peel off some of my many layers since it was about 24 degrees at home.  I met my friend Julie at baggage claim (Tom would arrive from the UK later in the evening) and we headed to the Disney’s Magical Express (DME) desk.  The desk seemed pretty crowded in the loading area, but we got through relatively quickly after straightening out our messed up reservation.  Since our group comes from three different airports (one of them international) we usually make the Magical Express cast members’ heads spin.  This time was no different.  It took a while, but eventually we got ourselves all straightened out and we were off to the Boardwalk!

We checked in, but since it was about 11 a.m. our room wasn’t ready yet.  We shuffled some of our stuff around and did some wardrobe change before checking our bags at bell services and heading to Epcot.  I cannot stress how awesome it is to be able to walk to Epcot’s back door!  We strolled World Showcase for a little while before heading to the Land to have lunch with the rest of the crew.  It was so nice to meet some of these folks for the first time.  After chatting with my fellow bloggers and researchers, we all headed to the wdwtoday Sip and Snack event.  The guys behind the wdwtoday podcast have attempted to eat or drink in every country around World Showcase on several occasions.  This time they took their fans to some of their favorite spots to sample some goodies.  I got a chance to meet several Disney fans and made some fast friends.  After the sip and snack was over some of us tried out the new tequila bar in the Mexico pavilion.

Le Cava del Tequila serves a variety of Mexican beers, mixed drinks, shots, and tapas.  Everyone should be able to find something in this cozy spot.  We probably stayed too long and had too many drinks, but we had a blast.  After enjoying this new favorite on my list of places to hang out in Epcot, we hit a few attractions in World Showcase.  Then, my new friends Neil, John, and Danielle joined my old friends Julie and Tom for dinner at Disney’s newest restaurant Kouzzina at the Boardwalk.  This location focuses on celebrity chef Cat Cora’s Greek heritage.  I was a little wearing going in since Greek isn’t always my favorite, but I have to say I really loved my dinner.  Half of the table tried the Fisherman’s Stew (including me) and the other half opted for the Lamb burger.  The stew consisted of several types of fish in a tomato based sauce with a bit of a kick.  The lamb burger was also quite spicy, and everyone seemed to really enjoy them.  And if the tequila bar and dinner weren’t enough fun, we all hit the Bellevue Lounge at the Boardwalk and shut the place down.  Many thanks to old friends and new friends for a great night!

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Having fun at the tequila bar!
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Dinner at Kouzzina!

Monday we decided to sleep in a bit.  Tom was jet lagged since he came across the pond to the UK and Julie and I had quite a day on Sunday.  When we eventually got up we decided to head to Magic Kingdom because they were going to have extra magic hours that evening.  This is usually a no-no for touringplans followers, but there are so many Very Merry Christmas Parties this week, we felt like we had to take advantage of the extra time.  We had a good day hitting some of our favorite attractions!  I was especially excited to hit the newly refurbished Space Mountain and Hall of Presidents; I’m sure I’ll write more about them in future posts.  After running around the park for a while we decided to take a break and visit one of our most loved resorts: the Polynesian.  We hopped on the monorail so we can lounge around and have a snack.  Then it was back to MK for the evening.  We had dinner at Tony’s Town Square where the serve was so-so, but the food was much better than I expected.  We met up with some other friends for extra magic hours and enjoyed the attractions with a good group.  Some folks headed to Raglan Road, but by the time we got there it was closed, and everyone decided to call it a night.

subjects 140On Tuesday it was off to Epcot after a little bit of a sleep in.  We met up our friends Neil and Carolyn, before they had to head home that afternoon.  We rode a few attractions in Future World and tried out the newest addition to Innoventions, Sum of All Thrills.  I’ll definitely write more about this new attraction in the future, but it was a lot of fun.  After some time in Future World it was off to World Showcase for the rest of the day.  We had lunch in the quick service restaurant in China Lotus Blossom, strolled around the pavilions checking out several performers, and had dinner at Biergarten.  I even tackled the liter of beer!  And here’s a tip on the Biergarten: if it takes you a while to finish your liter of beer, your server will give you a to go cup!  After Illuminations we headed back to the Boardwalk for the night.subjects 163

Today we had an early breakfast reservation at Kona Cafe so we actually got out of bed at a decent time.  We took a cab over to the Polynesian for some real coffee and Tonga Toast.  Since we were so close we decided to take the monorail to MK for the morning and early afternoon.  We took in some of the Fantasyland Attractions, toured Toon Town before it is shut down, and braved the mountains.  Next up, we took the boat to the Grand Floridian to check out the gingerbread house.  On our way to the Grand Floridian bus stop we discovered free warm cider and chestnuts!  From there we took the bus to the Animal Kingdom for their extra magic hours.  Evening extra magic hours in the winter months are the only way to see this park in the dark.  Not only is Expedition Everest awesome in the dark, but the whole park is beautifully lit.  We were beat, but decided to head into Epcot after we came back to the Boardwalk just to see Illuminations with the holiday tag.  We put on some more layers and headed to the International Gateway entrance to grab a couple drinks and grab a spot for the show.  As always it was awesome and now I’m trying to stay awake while I write this!

Tomorrow we plan to head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Big River Bar and Grille, and hopefully Jellyrolls.  There will definitely be a mid afternoon break in our future!

Keep an eye out for more trip reports in the next few days!  And, as always, you can follow my shenanigans on twitter @khelmstetter.  I hope everyone is having a great week because I sure am!

Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

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