Our first destination with our silly ears was Downtown Disney. We love to check out gift shops and this place did NOT disappoint! Although we were novices, there were a few things we did right on this trip. After checking out a few shops, we stumbled across the Earl of Sandwich. If you ever get a chance to go, it's the most reasonably-priced Counter Service of all Disney property and you can't beat the tasty sandwiches!
When I was in high school my choir had taken a trip to Chicago and we had gone to a place called DisneyQuest. It was a teenager's virtual gaming dream! I really wanted to relive that cool experience, especially with my new husband. When we exchanged our tickets, I cheerfully explained to the woman at the window how I was disappointed the DisneyQuest in Chicago no longer existed and thrilled to find out that there was another one right HERE! She said, "Enjoy it, this may be the last year it's open". (Thankfully it hasn't closed yet, but I often wonder how much longer it will be there.) The inside of this place is hard to describe, but it's basically 5 floors of virtual reality video games.
The ride I vividly remembered was this jungle river raft game.
Once you get seated in the raft and grab your paddle (which has wheels on the bottom for rowing), the raft gets raised in the air a few feet, like a giant air mattress. As the video takes you through a rough river, you must paddle and steer (somehow there are sensors when you paddle the wheels against the mattress) to get to treasure. Throughout the journey, the air mattress is inflating and deflating taking you on a rocky ride and making you feel as if you're white river rafting (especially those sudden drops!). At certain moments, real splashes of water shoot towards you. Definitely one of my favorite attractions in there!
I don't remember the order in which we visited all the parks (mainly because I didn't start extreme planning on spreadsheet until a few trips later). We did not know about the Disney Dining Plan on this first trip, so all meals were out-of-pocket counter service meals, except for one. I am a Francophile, so we knew we wanted to have dinner at the France pavilion in Epcot. We ate at Bistro de Paris, which was on the 2nd floor. We were lucky to make our reservation the same day for a late dinner. It worked out well because we had a great spot to view Illuminations (the nightly fireworks show at Epcot) from our table. I do remember we sat near another couple who was celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary.
Another thing that stuck with me on this first trip were all the couples we met who said they came back to Disney World every year. Sometimes multiple times per year! As I wasn't a total convert on this trip, I thought it was a tad bizarre to keep coming back so often. I mean, there is a whole world out there to see. But time and again, waiting in line, riding buses, at dinners, it seemed every time we turned around there was a couple sharing their love of the World and stories about how they kept coming back. Many people said they wouldn't end their vacation without booking the next one. I think all these folks were planting that seed in me...
What we did right on this trip: Bill is an early-riser, I am not. As it was still fairly warm at the end of October, we decided to get up early each morning to get into the parks right away to take advantage of the cooler temps. Then we would come back to the hotel in the middle of the day, when it was hottest out, for a nap or swim and a shower to head back out in the evenings. Little did we know, this is actually a great touring technique. Most guests at the parks let their kids sleep in and show up around 10am. If you arrive for Rope Drop (they used to hold a rope to keep the arriving crowds back, then drop it when the park opened), and hit all the headliner rides, there is hardly a wait at all for the rides. You can get a lot of the big attractions done before the parks get really crowded. It was definitely worth it to get up early on vacation, even if Bill said this is me when I don't get 8 hours of sleep:
What we did wrong: We didn't know about Photopass, thus we only have 2 pictures of both of us from the whole trip. Disney has photographers all over the parks who will take your picture and the picture goes on a card they give you. You can then register the card online and order your pictures at the end of your trip.
What we loved: Bill's favorite ride was Peter Pan in Magic Kingdom. I loved Tower of Terror (we dropped so fast Bill's hat flew off his head and he caught it mid-air!). We both really enjoyed the safari at Animal Kingdom and Soarin' at Epcot. Philharmagic, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Station, and Fantasmic were a few experiences we talked about long after we came home.
(This isn't Disney-related, but we did leave property 1 day to go to Universal Studios and although the park didn't remotely compare to Disney in terms of cleanliness and customer service, we had a blast on the Spiderman attraction! And the Hulk roller coaster was the first time in my life I almost walked away from a thrill ride. Hulk Coaster)
But we still hadn't seen it all yet....