Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day Off/Disney Springs

Sunday was the 5th day of our trip.  After three park days in a row, we were ready for a day off!  And after a late night at Fantasmic the night before, we were ready to sleep in.  And after checking into a new resort late the night before, we were ready to do some exploring.

Our plan for the day was to sleep in, swim, look around the resort, meet my aunt, uncle and cousins at Disney Springs, and relax!  I think we were pretty successful at all of those things.

Audrey was up around 8:15 (which is sleeping in a lot for her!), but Isla was still sleeping.  So Daniel and Audrey snuck out of the room to do some exploring and to hopefully let Isla sleep as long as possible.  Isla woke up shortly after they left, but it gave Daniel and Audrey time to walk to the cafe in El Centro and get doughnuts and to stop and build a little sand castle on the beach!

After that, we went to the pool.  But I think I posted all of those pictures in my earlier Coronado Springs post!

12:00 pm-- We got on a bus to go to Disney Springs, where we were going to meet my family for lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express. 

Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) recently got a makeover and a huge new addition, which is basically an upscale outdoor shopping mall. Here's a pic I snapped as we were walking through the new Town Center section.

It was great to be able to catch up with Todd, Debbie, Rachel and Kyle over a yummy lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express!  We were having so much fun chatting, that we really didn't take any pictures.  Even Isla was talking everyone's ear off.  I'm not sure if that is due to all the progress Isla has made or due to Aunt Debbie's persistence in reaching out to Isla and making sure she can keep the title of "favorite aunt" with the great nieces!  Daniel did get a couple of pictures of Isla talking to Todd and Debbie and showing them all of our Disney pics.

We have a tradition of taking a picture with this Donald and Daisy in the Disney Pin store.  This is the 4th time for Audrey to pose in this spot.  Donald and Daisy haven't changed a bit, but Audrey sure has!

 Only the second time for Isla to pose, as she wasn't born yet in 2011 and she couldn't stand up yet in 2012.  She wasn't a huge fan of the picture in 2014, but this year...she was all about it!  Hooray!!

Then Isla walked to the other side of the store and wanted to pose with Mickey and Minnie.  OKAY!

The one thing I wanted to do at Disney Springs was try out the Cupcake ATM at the Sprinkles cupcake shop.  My girls are such big fans of cupcakes, I thought they would think it was really cool to get a cupcake from a machine.  Well, we didn't look closely enough at the map, and in the new Disney Springs area, we got a little lost!  We did some extra walking, and I think the girls were worn out by the time we got there!  That made the Cupcake ATM experience a little underwhelming.  But still, how often can you say that you got a cupcake from a Cupcake ATM?  We weren't really hungry, so we saved the cupcake til we got back to the resort.

We said our goodbyes to the Webb family, and then made a pit stop at the World of Disney store.  The girls each had $20 to spend on a souvenir.  So why not throw them into the world's largest Disney store and tell them to pick something?  That sounds like fun, doesn't?  So many choices!  The good news is that $20 didn't really buy all that much in the store, so that limited their choices quite a bit!

The store is insane.  It has multiple rooms and just about every Disney item that you could dream of.

The girls finally decided on music boxes.  But then they had to pick which one!  They both ended up with Frozen music boxes in the end.

This is Audrey being spit on by Stitch in front of the World of Disney store.

There was a small Zootopia display, and the girls wanted their picture taken here.

The skies and the radar were looking ominous, so we decided it was time to get to the bus stop and get back to the resort.  Here's where you can learn from our mistake!  The map I had said that there was a bus stop in the Marketplace section and a new bus stop in the Town Center area.  The bus that took us there dropped us off in the Town Center, but my understanding was that the bus stop at Marketplace was also an option.  We were a little closer to the Marketplace, so we walked to that bus stop.  Only to find a sign that told us we needed to use the Town Center bus stop, on the opposite side of the place!  I was so annoyed, and wish I would have known better.  Now, I do...and so do you!

We did make it to the bus stop with only a few sprinkles of rain on us.  The girls spent the whole bus ride playing their Frozen music boxes over and over again.
 It was about 4:00 when we got back to the resort.  We finally got to try our cupcake!  Unfortunately, it wasn't the cupcake we ordered.  The girls had picked  a strawberry cupcake with strawberry icing, but we ended up with a banana cupcake with strawberry icing.  It was okay, but they were disappointed that it was the wrong kind.  So maybe a cupcake ATM isn't so great after all!
Before we left on our trip, a couple at church had given us lanyards and Disney trading pins for the girls.  I kept forgetting about them, but finally gave them to the girls that night.  They immediately started trading them with each other and were excited to be able to trade with cast members on our last two days in the parks.

The pins were great fun!  Until Isla stepped on one that had fallen off a lanyard.  And got it stuck in her foot!  Yikes!!  It wasn't stuck that bad, and I could get it out, but it was very traumatic for Isla.  She refused to walk or put weight on her foot for the rest of the night.

So we sent Daniel and Audrey to get us dinner from the food court (Pepper Market, not a good experience!), while Isla and I cuddled up and watched Toy Story.
And that brings us to the end of our day!  We put the girls to bed at about 8:30, while Daniel and I stayed up and studied the weather forecast.  Tropical Storm Collin was predicted to hit the next day, and the weather forecasters were full of all sorts of dire predictions.  We finally decided to just stick with our plans and go for it, rain or shine!

Up next:  Our day at Epcot

Coronado Springs Resort Review

After three days at Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, we transferred to Coronado Springs Resort. Disney makes it pretty easy to transfer resorts.  You just pack up all your stuff and take it to bell services (or call them to pick it up) and then they move it to your resort for you!  I would have loved to stay longer at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but it was cheaper to switch to Coronado.  I think our Coronado room ended up being $178 a night after all taxes and fees.  Coronado Springs is a moderate resort at Disney, so it is a little nicer than the value resorts but not quite as luxurious as the deluxe resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort).

Here are some pictures of the entrance to Coronado Springs.  It's theming is based on Spanish Colonial Mexico and the American Southwest.  It is a huge resort and also has a conference center and a spa and a large man made lake.

The lobby

Outside El Centro, the main hub with the lobby, gift shop and restaurants

There are over 1900 rooms at Coronado Springs divided into three sections.  There is the Ranchos section, which is the most secluded from the rest of this resort.  We didn't ever go there, so I have no picutres.

This is the Casitas section.

And this is where we stayed, in the Cabanas section.  We loved our location!  We were in Cabanas 8B.  It was about 1 minute to walk to the bus stop, 3 minutes to the pool and about 5-7 minutes to El Centro. 

The Cabanas section has little beach areas with hammocks around the lake.  This was the closest we got to a beach on our trip!

Our room

It was a nice room, but not our favorite.  If we hadn't just transferred from Animal Kingdom Lodge, I probably would have loved it more.  But I felt like this room was starting to show its age, and everything just looked and felt a little worn down.  Our air conditioner also was having some issues and made some really loud sounds, even when it wasn't running.  We called to have them look at it, but I don't think anyone ever did.  

The view from our room.  Not super exciting.  That's the laundry building.  You can pay to have a water view, but I don't really think that is worth the money. 
One good thing about this view:  we had a decent view of the Hollywood Studios fireworks, right above the laundry building!

We tried out the food court, Pepper Market, one time.  It was not a good experience.  The service was terrible, and the food wasn't anything great.  I don't understand the parrot/woman thing.  It's so ugly!  The Port Orleans French Quarter has some big ugly figures like that too.  Disney pays so much attention to theming and then sticks these big ugly things in the middle of their food courts.  I'm sure there is some cultural significance, but visually, it is not appealing.
Okay, I saved the best for last:  The Dig Site, which is the pool at Coronado Springs.  It is huge and a lot of fun!

When we got to the pool, there was no water flowing down that big pyramid.  However, shortly after we arrived, they picked a kid out of the pool and held a little ceremony where everyone chanted "water, water" to get the water to come down the pyramid.  It also turned on the statue, which squirts water out of its mouth. (That is Audrey in the black swimsuit sitting on the pyramid)

The waterslide here was even bigger than at Kidani Village.  It was Audrey's favorite waterslide on our trip!  It's hard to get a picture of it, but the slide starts at the top of the pyramid, and then winds down through the trees into the pool.  About halfway down, this jaguar dumps water on your head.

There's Audrey going down the slide!  
At all the pools, Isla liked to do these "tricks" on the poles by the stairs.  Such talent! ;)

Okay, I think that is all the pictures!  It's a big resort, so it needed a big review!  Overall, this wasn't our favorite resort at Disney.  Probably one of the biggest critiques I have of this resort is the bus stops.  We were totally spoiled at Kidani, as we never had to stop anywhere else on our way to the parks, and the buses were rarely full.  Coronado Springs has 4 bus stops, and makes stops at each one going to and from the parks.  Sometimes a bus would get to the bus stop and be nearly full before they even stopped.  We had to stand up frequently to and from Coronado.  I don't think we ever had to stand up when staying at Kidani.  We still always made it to and from the parks, but the experience was less enjoyable.

If I were ranking the Disney resorts where we have stayed, they would go in this order:
1.  Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village (deluxe)
2.  Port Orleans French Quarter (moderate)
3.  Coronado Springs Resort (moderate)
4.  Art of Animation (value)
5.  Pop Century (value)

After staying at a few moderates and deluxes, it is going to be hard to ever go back to a value resort.  The values are decent places.  They are a good value, and the theming is big and fun, especially for kids.  But the values are also crazy and hectic and crowded.  I feel like staying at a value resort is like being in the middle of a theme park.  After spending a day at theme parks, I like to be able to come home to a resort that is peaceful and quiet.  And it just so happens that the order of favorites above is also the order from most peaceful to least peaceful!

Up Next:  Our day off, with a trip to Disney Springs