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A Magnificent Week at Disney World and Universal Studios!

Our daughter, Melissa invited Shelly and me to visit Disney World and Universal Studios with her and our grandkids, Rhys and Knox.  We spent the better part of a year planning the trip and scheduled it for November 13th through 18th in 2022.  We expected fun, excitement, good weather, and great memories, and we experienced all of this!

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Day 1 - Departure to and Arrival in Orlando

We drove to Melissa's house early Sunday morning, and loaded our luggage into her minivan.  We drove to Washington Dulles International Airport, made our way through baggage check and security, and went to the United Club lounge to have something to eat before our flight.  Rhys and Knox were delighted with the free food and drinks, and they played their Nintendo Switch's while we waited.

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Our flight departed around 12:30pm, and was comfortable and uneventful.  We arrived in Orlando, collected our luggage, and took a taxi to our hotel, the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista in Disney Springs.  We looked at staying in Animal Kingdom, but room prices were over $500 per night, and for the minimal amount of time we'd spend in the hotel, we didn't think it was worth it.  Melissa had stayed at the Wyndham several times during her visits for the Disney half marathon runs, so we knew it would be nice.  We got to our rooms, unpacked, and headed to Disney Springs to get our Disney bracelets that allow us into the park and on rides.  We were also quite hungry, so Melissa and Shelly got reservations for us at the T-REX restaurant.  

T-REX is a dinosaur-themed restaurant with a large, animated T-Rex at the entrance.  There are other dinosaurs throughout the restaurant, and every 15 minutes, the ceiling lights up with a giant asteroid surging through the solar system heading toward Earth.  The food was pretty good, but expensive (which is on par for Disney Springs).  I got a Chicken Caesar Salad that was $27.  It was good, but too much for a salad.  We enjoyed the entertainment, finished our meals, and Melissa, Rhys and Knox went shopping, while Shelly and I watched a hip-hop singer and band on the main stage.  The singer was good and quite energetic.  We returned to the hotel and got a good, nights sleep.  

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Day 2 - Universal Studios!

Melissa and the boys are huge Harry Potter fans, so they were looking forward to going to Universal Studios to see the special attractions.  We started in the Islands of Adventure park, featuring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade.  We walked the attraction, and Melissa bought Rhys a Professor Dumbledore wand, and Knox a Harry Potter wand.  The wands are interactive, and can be used at various attractions points to produce actions from animatronics.  For example, they could manipulate their wand to cast a spell, and the animatronics would respond to their commands.  It was pretty cool.  The park was very crowded, but we navigated through a Harry Potter roller coaster, a simulator, and a number of shops and attractions.  

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We took the Hogwarts Express train from Hogsmeade Station to the King's Cross Station in Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.  We went through the shops and the rides at the attraction, then walked through the rest of the park.  We walked about 12,500 steps or about 6 miles, so I got my exercise in and had a wonderful time with Shelly, Melissa, and the boys.  

Day 3 - Disney's Magic Kingdom

We got up early to catch the 9:00am shuttle bus to the Magic Kingdom.  Melissa got us all Disney-themed shirts, so we were all set for a fun day.  It was a gorgeous day, beautifully sunny and not too hot.  We took the ferry from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom entrance, and spent some time on Main Street USA.  Here's a photo of us with Walt Disney and Mickey.

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We made our way to Cinderella's Castle and had pictures taken in front of it.

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Melissa had made express line reservations for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad so we headed there next.  It a great roller coaster and we had a blast riding it.  Then we waited 30 minutes to go on Splash Mountain, the water ride, log flume.  The crowd was massive, and Melissa did a great job of planning the days activities so that we could maximize the use of express line reservations.  Here we are going down Splash Mountain!

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We went to Tomorrowland and rode Space Mountain, the roller coaster that zips you through an indoor dome in the dark.  Here's a photo with Knox particularly enjoying it!

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We had lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square.  The food was served family style, and was quite good.  After lunch, we took in Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, and other attractions.  All were fun and exciting, and we had a wonderful time.  We took the tram back to the bus parking lot, and the shuttle back to the hotel.  We did another 6 miles with 12,800 steps!  

Day 4 - Universal Studios Volcano Bay Water Park

After two days of excitement, we planned a sort of down day at Universal Studios Volcano Bay Water Park.  We slept in a bit and arrived around 10:00am.  We rented a 2nd floor cabana so we could have some shade and relax a bit.  The weather was warm and partly sunny.  

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Rhys and Knox spent time in the wave pool below the volcano, and did several water rides with Melissa. Shelly did the lazy river with them.  I mostly relaxed in the cabana, then took Rhys to the wave pool again before we decided to leave.  We only did about 9500 steps or 5+ miles, and had a wonderful time!

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Day 5 - Disney's Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom's Mickey's Very Merry Christmas

On Thursday, we caught an early shuttle bus to Disney's Animal Kingdom and spent the morning.  We quickly walked to Kilimanjaro Safari and rode through the Serengeti to see elephants, cheetahs, and other African animals.  We also met up with Melissa's friend and family and had pictures taken in front of the Tree of Life.

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We visited Pandora but could not get on the ride as we could not get reservations.  So Shelly, Melissa and the boys went on a rollercoaster called Everest.  I had my fill of rollercoasters so I didn't go on it.  They loved it, but Shelly had some not so kind words for it!  Here's a photo of them on the coaster.

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We walked 7000 steps or 3.25 miles, and had an afternoon and evening to go!

After Animal Kingdom, we went to Magic Kingdom again.  We had tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas which was scheduled for 6:00pm.  It included a parade and fireworks.  Various locations also handed out free hot chocolate and cookies.  Here's some photos of our evening.

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We watched the wonderful parade and the kids had a great time.  Here's a couple videos featuring Mickey and Santa.

The fireworks weren't starting until 10:00am, and the kids were tired, so we left after the parade.  We took a tram to the Contemporary Hotel and caught an Uber back to the hotel.  While waiting for the Uber, we saw some of the fireworks.  

We walked another 11000 steps or 5 miles for a total of 8.25 miles!  We have one more day to enjoy!

Day 6 - Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot

Friday, our last day, was a day of rest for Melissa and the boys.  The boys were very tired and wanted some downtime.  They stayed at the hotel and spent time at the pool.  Shelly and I planned an easy day at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  We took the shuttle bus to Hollywood Studios around 10:00am.  We had reservations for lunch at 50's Prime Time Café.  The café is 1950's themed, shows 50's TV shows on old black and white televisions, and the servers give you table rules like no wearing hats, and no elbows on the table.  Here I am with my elbows off the table.

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We then walked to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show, and watched stunt men and women recreate classic scenes from Indiana Jones Raider's of the Lost Ark.   It's a great show, and here's a video snippet.

We saw a couple other attractions, and decided to go to Epcot for the afternoon.  We took the sky-tram to Epcot, which was a lot of fun.  

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We walked the entire Epcot circle, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  We sampled some foods and had a couple drinks.  Here's some photos.

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We walked about 10000 steps or 4.5 miles for the day.  Not too bad for a relaxing day!

That's a wrap for our trip.  We left the next day and had an uneventful flight home.  We had a wonderful time with Melissa, Rhys and Knox, and we thanked Melissa for inviting us to enjoy time with them.  

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