Live Oak, FL to Orlando FL via TTO
From Wanee we headed south to Orlando. We planned for two weeks in Orlando. The first week at the Thousand Trails Orlando (TTO) resort while I headed back to Wisconsin for a week or work and then on to Disney's Fort Wilderness for a week of Disney Magic!
TTO is one of the more popular parks in the Thousand Trails system and can be very busy during peak season. Fortunately, we weren't here during peak season! In fact, we'd planned our Orlando and Disney visit at this time quite deliberately. It's too late to be anyone's Spring Break, too early to be anyone's Summer Break and it shouldn't be all that hot out yet. Warmer than winter, yes, but not asphalt melting summer heat either. For the most part this strategy worked (we misjudged the weather, it was too hot!), and TTO was over half empty and Disney wasn't all that crowded either. If you're planning a trip to Orlando, the first week of May is pretty close to ideal!
Most Thousand Trails parks allow you to pick your own site when you get there, but we arrived at TTO to find that they we no longer assigning sites, which they do during peak season to limit the number of RVs just wandering around looking for the perfect site. So we checked in and found a site we thought might work well. It turned out to not have as much shade as we'd hoped and our week here was a scorcher with mid-90s pretty much all week. We did have a good omen right off the bat with a visit from a Tortoise friend!
Being a larger park, TTO has lots of amenities including two pools. Crayton LOVES to spend time at the pool, in part because they're kind of a kid magnet so he generally can make some friends. The next morning, though, it was time to head to the airport and send me back to Wisconsin for the week. Pam and Crayton spent the week swimming, doing some chores, swimming some more, watching movies to stay out of the heat and then swimming again. I was super-jealous. I got to fight airport crowds and sit in an office all week. It was nice to see my co-workers in person, though, and catch up in ways that are only possible in person. I also had the chance to visit friends including what's-his-name who had a going-away party as he prepared to spend the summer doing seasonal work in Alaska's Denali Park.
Jake? John? Jeff?
I flew back to Orlando on Saturday and we spend Sunday just relaxing and staying out of the heat as much as we could. Saving up our energy for... Disney! Monday we moved over to the Fort Wilderness Campsites at Disney in what was our shortest moving day ever at 17 miles. That morning as we were packing up and going through our routine, though, I noticed our left rear tire on the camper was a bit low, but as that sensor on our Tire Pressure Management System (TMPS) had been flaking out a bit, I assumed it was a false reading and figured we only had 17 miles to go anyhow.
Fort Wilderness is amazing. Without a doubt the nicest campground I've ever been to. Disney is known in their theme parks for their over-the-top customer service, maintenance, cleanliness, and attention to detail. This very much carries over into their RV park. The sites were large and private, a bus service shuttles you around the campground or to any other resort or theme park. There are two pools, one of which has a nice water slide, snack bar, arcade, etc. There are general stores, restaurants, horse rides, a lake with boat rentals and a ferry service to the Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary hotel (from which you can catch the monorail). Everything was Disney-perfect. Our first night there we had tickets to see the Hoop-Dee-Doo-Review a wild-west themed song and dance show right there at Fort Wilderness. It was fantastic fun. Even the food was pretty good! We even (finally) saw an Armadillo after the show! We've been on the lookout for one since Texas and have only seen them 'sleeping' on the side of the road so far.
Our awesome campsite (at which we spent very little time)!
We Finally Saw an Armadillo!
Tuesday we went right for the Magic Kingdom. We took the ferry and got there fairly early to beat the crowds and the heat. We got in a ton of rides right off the bat and then things started to fill up a bit. Even so, we never waited more than 20 minutes for any ride. I'm telling you, the first week of May is the time to go! We were fearful that the park would kind of overwhelm Crayton and he might get grumpy, but for the most part he was pretty good unless he got hungry (hangry) or over tired, pretty much just like his Dad. So we split up the day a bit and headed back to the camper for a couple hour nap in the early afternoon before heading back in for the late afternoon and evening. That worked out great and is a huge benefit of staying right at a Disney resort. At the end of the day, we asked Crayton what his favorite part was and he couldn't decide and just said "All of it!" I think he liked It's a Small World as that's the one ride we did twice and the train. He always likes the trains. Watching Crayton take it all in was a real treat.
Obligatory Castle Selfie (with muffin)
Watching the monorail from the steam train!
Fireworks at the end of the day
Wednesday we took it easy and hung around the pool most of the day. For some odd reason I appear to have no photos of the pool area. In the afternoon we took the ferry to the monorail and rode it over to the Polynesian for our Spirit of Aloha dinner show. It was a good show, but not as much fun as the Hoop-Dee-Doo-Review. After the show we walked down to a little beach at the resort and played in the sand until the lighted boat parade and the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, then headed back to camp for rest.
Before you think we were feeding Crayton rum drinks... Pam ordered it but he thought drinking out of a coconut was so fun looking we swapped his juice for Pam's rum drink and it became 'his'. The coconut is now one of our camper mascots.
Crayton's amazing Hawaiian dance moves
Thursday we headed to Epcot. We almost didn't go as it's not so much geared toward little kids. But we figured there were enough kid friendly things, like the Finding Nemo ride, that we'd be able to keep him engaged between things that interested us. We're glad we went. There were plenty of things to keep his interest and even a small playground with shaded seating for tired parents when his energy needed to get out. We knew nothing about the ride 'Soar!'going into it, but once we got in and saw what the ride was and got separated such that I had to sit in a different row, we assumed Crayton would be terrified, but he loved it! He kept talking about it for quote a while afterwards. By coincidence, friends of ours from Wisconsin were vacationing here at the same time and we'd planned to meet at Epcot. It was nice to see the Fanshaws and enjoy a cold treat while catching up with them for a bit. We then went over to the World Showcase and to our surprise Crayton seemed to enjoy it a bit. He wasn't thrilled mind you, but we kept him entertained looking for Phinneas-and-Ferb themed decorated platypus eggs that the park had hidden throughout the exhibits. We really enjoyed the Morrocco and Norway exhibits, but Canada had the best beer. For some odd reason, we didn't take many photos this day... I've noted that I take fewer photos the more fun I'm having. I just forget. I guess it's a good thing I only had a few from this day, then!
Watching the garden-scale trains in "Germany"
Friday was another down day where we slept in and hung out at the pool most of the day. In the evening, they usually have a campfire singalong and movie at the campground, but with the fire danger high, they didn't have a fire, but we still got to meet Chip and Dale and saw the Pete's Dragon remake. We started to run out of steam part way through the movie, so we walked back to camp and watched the rest of it in bed off our media server.
Crayton Loves Chip (or is it Dale...)
Saturday we were off the Disney's Animal Kingdom. This was really neat, reminding us a bit of the San Diego Zoo's Safari park, but with more rides. Crayton loved Dinosaur-land and we even rode the Dinosaur ride they have. Again I thought it would terrify him with all the dark and scary bit and dinosaurs leaping out at you, but he really enjoyed it! He still won't ride a roller coaster, though, after the experience in Aberdeen, SD. The musical shows there were really nice as well and a great chance to cool off indoors. We saw the Lion King show and the musical version of Finding Nemo. We didn't get a chance to do the Safari ride as the FastPass was already full for it by the time we got around to signing up and the wait was up to two hours. Guess we'll have to come back some day.
Riding a Dinosaur (skeleton)
Our budding ornithologist
Sunday we went to Hollywood Studios. By now we were pretty tired. We've found that full days in the park need a full rest day afterwards, at least for us old farts. Pam wasn't feeling particularly well and Crayton was grumpy, so we cut our visit here a bit short, even cancelling our dinner reservations. Fortunately there wasn't much to do as this is the smallest of the Disney parks. We saw the Muppet Show, rode the toy Story and Star Wars rides and saw a couple of the Star Wars shows. Crayton really enjoyed that. It's weird. He knows most of the characters and loves to talk about and 'play' Star Wars, but doesn't have the patience to sit through an entire Star Wars movie.
Some other kid having a great time
If we were good parents that planned these things, that would have been Crayton up there battling Darth Vader.
And with that, our vacation time at Disney was over. All-in-all we had a great time. Pam in particular was surprised at how much fun she had and how nice the stay was. She does a good job, though, at keeping her expectations low so when things are nice, she's pleasantly surprised. This was no exception. We'll definitely be back and will plan to stay longer at Ft Wilderness and enjoy our 'down days' more. We'd also like to go to the Disney water parks, Legoland and Universal the next time around. It was an expensive vacation, though, and not something we can do annually, so it may be a couple of years. I can't wait, though!