Friday, December 18, 2015

National Christmas Tree 2015

Date of Visit: December 18, 2015

We kept putting off the National Tree because it just didn't rank high on Mik's priority list with the state trees being so boring last year. Honestly, if we hadn't ended up nearby for an appointment today, I probably wouldn't have convinced him to give it a chance this year.

Mik was glad we ended up visiting the trees this year, though, because they were back to normal with different schools or groups from each state or territory decorating the ornaments. He enjoyed checking out the different ornaments on the trees, which mostly honored the state's National Parks with the 100th anniversary of National Parks coming up in 2016.

Mik was most excited to get his picture with the Arizona tree this year.

The National Tree on the other hand was not as good in his opinion this year. He still likes the trains around it, but he preferred the red decorations last year to the gold this year.

Mik also pointed out that the walkway they put on the grass to visit the trees is nice.

Destination Info:
National Christmas Tree
President's Park (south of White House)
Washington, D.C.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Disney's Dream: Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats

Date of Visit: December 9-10, 2015

Having found memories of the Sorcerer at Disney’s Soda Fountain, doing the Family Challenge at Vanellope’s was a must for us. It’s also a decent deal for trying out some flavors instead of each getting our own, especially since we didn’t realize it came with 8 toppings.

The flavors we selected were King Candy Ice Cream, Butterscotch Waffle Crunch Ice Cream, Tiramisu Gelato, Key Lime Pie Gelato, Red Velvet & Cookies Gelato, Candy Cane Gelato, White Chocolate and Rhubarb Gelato, and Candy Explosion Gelato. Mik’s favorite was the Red Velvet & Cookies Gelato.

We also couldn’t resist trying some of the other treats. Mik enjoyed the Red Velvet Cupcake.

I tried the peanut butter blondie, but found it had too much chocolate and other stuff. The peanut butter Mickey cookie was very good, though.

The stuff at Vanellope’s is an extra thing to purchase, which is somewhat unnecessary with plenty of included good stuff on the ship, but they’re mostly very reasonably priced for what you get ($19.95 for the Family Challenge and $2.50 each for the other treats we got).

Disney’s Dream 4-Night Bahamian Cruise: Castaway Cay Holiday Decorations

Date of Visit: December 9, 2015

Mostly we’re not interested in Castaway Cay and Mik doesn’t even get off the ship, but this time we did get off to walk around a little to take photos of the holiday decorations.

The decorations are mostly between the ship and the first Tram station. There’s also some cool wreaths on the road past the tram station, but they’re hard to see from the walkway and I guess more meant to see from the tram.

The main thing to see is the Christmas tree right when you get off the ship. You can do photo ops with the Mickey sleigh and/or sand snowmen in the background, but we decided to do it from the other side sort of with the ship in the background because of where the sun was in the morning.

Of course, a picture with Mount Rustmore was a must!

Disney’s Dream 4-Night Bahamian Cruise: Day 2 - Royal Palace

Date of Visit: December 8, 2015

The Royal Palace was our restaurant for the second and third nights. The second night was the regular menu for the restaurant. Again, I was happy that our location had a half booth.

Mik was iffy on ordering the escargot because for once he actually read the description, which mentions mushrooms. However, I convinced him to still get them because he is always talking about loving escargot and it was on a Disney cruise he first had them. As usual, he loved them and didn’t even notice the mushrooms.

For the soup, he had the Potage Parmentier.

The entree he choose was the Chateaubriand-Roasted Filet Steak.

He enjoyed the Apple Tart Tatin for dessert.

Disney’s Dream 4-Night Bahamian Cruise: Day 1 - Enchanted Garden

Date of Visit: December 7, 2015

The Enchanted Garden was our restaurant for the first night. Walking to our table I was envying the circular booths they have saying too bad we never can have a booth with the wheelchair, but turns out they do have some half booths and we did get one of those tables. Not as cool, but I do love booths.

Mik enjoyed the North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli for the appetizer.

For the soup he choose the Cream of Green Asparagus, which he didn’t particularly like, but he did like it better than the tomato soup, which he remembered not liking last time.

Mik loved the Slow Roasted Prime Rib entree.

The dessert Mik selected was the Apple Cinnamon Crunch Sundae, which is one of his favorite sundaes.

I don't know if the Dream really is different than the Fantasy or if we just weren't paying attention or it was our location, but the Enchanted Garden didn't seem to have the flowers open up or the sky ceiling change as you went through dinner like I remember on the Fantasy. The Animator's Palette also didn't have you draw yourself to be animated, which I was thankful to not have to do, but it did make it seem like the restaurants weren't as much of an experience beyond the different menus.

Disney Dream: Stateroom 9170

Date of Visit: December 7-11, 2015

This stateroom was pretty much the same as the one we had on the Fantasy (see review here). Of course, we most love that the door automatically opens when you touch your Key to the World card to unlock it. Although, it is slightly hard to open from inside manually, but that just meant we all used the button to open it to go out and not just when we were pushing Mik. I still want this for our condo, but at least we have gotten something similar installed for Mik to get into our building.

I don’t think it was any different on the Fantasy, but somehow this time Mik found the slightly ramped exit to the bathroom troublesome and kept face planting and getting a rug burn when he crawled out of the bathroom. Dad told Mik he needed to work on his push-ups.

Of course, my favorite part of the room was the verandah even though it was unusable part of the trip when it was raining.

We did enjoy some On Demand movies, but for some reason the selection seemed more limited this trip. I was particularly disappointed they didn’t have all The Santa Clause movies, but at least we could watch the first one and it’s not like we don’t own them to watch at home.

Monday, November 30, 2015

U.S. Botanic Garden: Season's Greenings 2015 - Pollination Station

Date of Visit: November 30, 2015

We originally were going to visit the exhibit on Thanksgiving, but we decided to instead take advantage of Dad's off day to get his help putting up the Christmas tree and go ourselves during the week, especially since Dad had already previewed the exhibit. Mik ended up not being happy about this change because today turned out to be cold and rainy. However, really the weather only got to him because when we got to L'Enfant we found the elevator to street level barricaded off and had to get back on the Metro and ended up walking from Archives (We used Federal Center SW on the way back, which really is actually the closest to the Botanic Gardens.). Very same thing happened when we went last year...

This year's theme for the model train exhibit is "Pollination Station." It features a variety of plants and pollinators as part of the display.

Mik enjoyed the train exhibit, but he couldn't pick a favorite because it just wasn't as interesting as last year's theme to him. My favorite part, though, was the bats on the cactus.

Near the end there are two different paths to take. One is a shorter one I guess meant for kids because it's so short even I had to duck. Mik wouldn't go through it because of that even though he was short enough sitting in his chair and I think he really would've liked the miniature scenes in there.

Mik's favorite part was actually the tree we happened to find in the Tropics area.

We also both found the tree in the West Gallery to be way better set up than last year. Last year the display was off in the corner, but this time it's prominently in the center. This allows you to walk all the way around the tree and better enjoy it.

Destination Info:
United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20001

Monday, October 26, 2015

Disneyland: Mickey's Halloween Party 2015

Date of Visit: October 25, 2015

After being disappointed by Halloween at Magic Kingdom last year, we decided to take advantage of currently having Premier Passes (and use the last of this year's DVC points) and do another Disneyland trip this year specifically to enjoy Halloween time at Disneyland. I was a little worried that the only reason we preferred the Disneyland Halloween party was because it was less crowded and had not been sold out like all parties were this year. However, it turned out to not feel as chaotic as Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party last year even though it was more crowded than last Mickey's Halloween Party experience in 2011.

We got in line to enter Disneyland for the party around 2:30pm. The lines weren't very long and they started letting us in early, so we had our wristbands, treat bags, and were actually in line for Buzz Lightyear by 2:50 p.m. To kill time until the pre-party in Mickey's Toontown started at 5pm, we did the full circle tour on the Disneyland Railroad (really missing not having 'it's a small world' to kill time this trip) and Buzz Lightyear again.

At 5pm we went into Mickey's Toontown for the pre-party, which featured three treat trails and some photo ops. Mik enjoyed that two treat trails went through attractions we haven't done in years (Minnie's House, Mickey's House, and Donald's Boat).

The first trail we did was Minnie and Mickey's houses. The entrance for this one queues over the trolley tracks some, but we got in it before it got long enough for that to be an issue. Mik especially enjoyed being able to go through Mickey and Minnie's houses without having to do the character thing, which is why we never do them.

The Donald's Boat trail was the only one with a truly accessible queue as it didn't go over the trolley tracks. It does end where there's no cutout on the curb, but as long as there isn't people parking strollers where they're not supposed to like we experienced it's easy to follow the sidewalk to the cut out.

I'd say that I wish we skipped the trail over by Roger Rabbit's, but then it was the only one in Toontown with my favorite Werther's candy. The accessibility of the queue is absolutely horrible though because it has switchbacks around the trolley tracks where the tracks are crossing each other making it very difficult to avoid getting stuck in the tracks, which we did for a second at one point. I really don't get why they have it set up that way because not only are there a lot of wheelchair and scooter users at these events, but the treat trails are lines that strollers can actually go through so more than half the groups have some sort of wheeled vehicle.

After hitting each trail in Toontown, we decided to head over to Critter Country because Mik had been wanting to try the pulled pork dog and it seemed a good place to start the party at 6pm. We got there right as they were opening the treat stations there and hit one before getting dinner, which was perfect timing as we got our food before the Hungry Bear started to get quite busy.

Once fed, he was ready for hit the treat trails. We started in Critter Country and worked our way back towards Main Street hitting the trail in New Orleans Square and the one along the Rivers of America. The one along the Rivers of America was particularly enjoyable because the water is "spookily" light up and has fog.

Walking down Main Street after dark was fun as they had projections on the buildings and Halloween music playing.

On Main Street we got our Annual Passholder treat, which was a drawstring bag with a Disneyland 60 logo and a brownie pop.

Next we did the treat trail that goes behind the buildings on Main Street towards Tomorrowland. This was our favorite trail because the walls have a lot of attraction posters on them.

In Tomorrowland, we were going to start with the Space Mountain trail, but the line was all the way back up the ramp to the ride entrance. Thus, we decided to do the one near Autopia and check back later. The Autopia one is rather long with you hitting one station and then taking the long ramp up to the Monorail platform before hitting the other stations, but it was also one of the best in that the line moved steadily because of that long gap between the stations.

Next we headed to Fantasyland. The line for the one by the Matterhorn was very long and barely moving, so we skipped it and went to the one that goes through Pixie Hollow, which was another area that was fun to go through without the character aspect.

We then took a break to enjoy the seasonal projections on Sleeping Beauty's Castle and visit the Dwarfs Fountain.

Next we did the trail at the Fantasyland Theatre. At this point, Mik was getting tired and worried about getting out of the park before the parade. Thus, we decided to head out via Tomorrowland checking to see if the lines had gotten shorter at the ones we had skipped earlier.

The Matterhorn one was even longer than before, so we again skipped it. The Space Mountain one we would've done even if it was long because we knew it had the Werther's, but it was actually much shorter than it had been earlier.

On the way out of the park we stopped to take some pictures of the decorations on Main Street and hit one last trail in the square on Main Street.

Overall we really enjoyed Mickey's Halloween Party. Mik particularly enjoyed the experiences of the different treat trails, especially when they went through areas we don't typically go. While it was crowded, the trails definitely got shorter other than the Matterhorn one as it got closer to parade time. Also, even when the lines went past the Trail Entrance signs it always was easy to find the end, which is the main problem that made us hate the Magic Kingdom party last year.

Mik said it just seemed better laid out and organized. Plus, the giant Mickey Pumpkin on Main Street is just totally a necessity. Also, since I had visited Disneyland Paris last week the daytime decoration game seemed much weaker here and I really did need to see the nighttime lights on Main Street to be impressed with Halloween at Disneyland again.

We also really liked that it seemed much easier to collect the snack/healthy options this time including some stations being just apples and carrots. Of course, we still also got a lot of candy, but Mik is happy to have some snacks for the plane trip home tomorrow.

Destination Info:
Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland
1313 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802