Where the F*@! You Been?!: A Disney Vacation Explainer

Ah, friends, I am so sorry – I went and did the thing that annoys the ever-loving stuffing out of me when other bloggers do it, which is drop completely off the grid with nary an explanation for the prolonged absence.  And so I apologize, with the weak justification that I was at Disney, because of course I was at Disney!  Just trying to wring as much value as we possibly can from our annual passes (and at 20 in-park days, including a whole host of other little discounts, I think we’ve done quite well on our investment.)

Rainy Day Collage

We stayed at the Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, a quaint little resort styled like the very cutest and cleanest bits of New Orleans.  I’ve wanted to stay here since Disney built it and its much larger sister resort, the Riverside, nearly 30 years ago.  We somewhat recently soldiered on through a Disney accommodation debacle at Pop Century; the poor experience had actually soured me a bit on all Disney properties, so I was feeling a little nervous about what we might encounter at this smaller, older resort.

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I really needn’t have worried, because we wound up having a fantastic stay, and we loved every minute we were there.  The French Quarter’s older, meticulously maintained buildings and grounds – densely arranged, and occupying a fairly tiny geographical footprint – make the entire resort feel solid, protected and a little hidden.  I liked its sense of small city intimacy and the attendant quiet, both in terms of between-unit noise (virtually nil, but for the faint flushing of those insanely loud air toilets) and the general level of ambient hotel noise.  Plus it was just an adorable little cityscape to call our home for seven days, and the sea serpent water slide at the pool was bitchin’.  Also, powdered sugar-dusted beignets, fried chicken on a biscuit at the food court and swingin’ jazz gators in the streets.  Who wouldn’t love staying here when all that goodness abounds?

Resort Collage 2

We spent six days doing all of our favourite Disney things, and also trying out a number of fun new experiences.  We ate some incredible meals in-park, at our resort and, of course, at Disney Springs, which is basically a theme park of food, alcohol and merchandise.  We always try to hit up Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for night one cocktails and southern vittles; our vacations never feel as though they’ve really started until we’ve cozied up out on the screened-in porch with a basket of hush puppies and a couple of moonshine cocktails.

Homecomin' Cocktail Collage

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We tried out a number of new eateries and lounges.  We ate – and mostly enjoyed? – a lot of weird snack food.  One afternoon we wiled away a couple of rainy hours in an honest to goodness tequila cave – La Cava del Tequila – in the Mexico Pavilion.  The queso and quacamole were excellent, as were the margaritas.  And yes, I do fully cop to a Disney margarita problemo – I’m powerless in the face of vacation cocktail hour; does your sanity good!

Tequila Cave Collage

Lest you think all we did was eat and drink (and that’s certainly what both our waistlines AND wallets are currently suggesting) we also rode a record best 21 rides one cold and rainy day.  We hit up the Haunted Mansion five times over two visits and improved our scores on Toy Story Midway Mania over four total rides.  We rode Slinky Dog Dash, the newest and hottest ride in any of the parks, twice, including a last-call ride that put us in the second last dog of the night.  I had a small stroke when I saw that my favourite part of the Peter Pan ride – it’s not even part of the ride, just a small teddy tea table tucked into a corner as your flying pirate ship heads out of the waiting area and into the Darlings’ bedroom – had been removed and replaced with a jumbled pile of toys.  I burst into tears at the sight of it.  I’ve been fascinated with that little table arrangement since I was a very small child; its absence was genuinely upsetting.

Rides Collage

We met a number of cool characters, including Edna Mode of The Incredibles and Mike and Sully of Monsters Inc.

Characters Collage

Our favourite meet-and-greet, though, was with Vanellope Von Schweetz and Ralph of Wreck-It-Ralph.  Vanellope was SO excited to check out my new Wreck-It-Ralph ears, and Ralph was just excited when my husband commented that he looked as though he had lost a few hundred pounds. 🙂

Ralph Collage

Hmm, let’s see, what else?  I got You’d by Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios (I was sitting by a window having a little break when I looked up, and Darth Vader was just staring in the window at me.  I threw him a nervous little wave, and he spun around and stalked off.  That entire family is so freakin’ WEIRD, man.)

One morning when I couldn’t sleep (I get frazzled about flying days out from my actual flight, making sleep in an unfamiliar place pretty much an impossibility) I got up and filmed a solo walking tour of our resort.  Look for that video on our YouTube channel sometime soon.

We watched some phenomenal stage shows (the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom is incredible; live music, acting and puppeteering at a level that will make you question how you can be seeing something so beautifully produced and performed in a theme park) and incredible fireworks displays.  Much to Mr. Finger Candy’s delight, we played a solid 10 or more hours of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, completed two games and amassed over 20 free packs of cards.  That’s what you call dominating, kids!

Rainy Sorcerers Collage

So that’s where the f*@! I’ve been, once again with apologies for just up and disappearing on you.  I promise now that I’ve gotten that Disney out of my system for the time being, I’ll settle down and get back to the serious business of nail art, literary takes, bath, beauty and wax reviews, and of course planning for our next Disney vacation, perhaps once again at the French Quarter.  And hopefully by that point the teddy tea table will be back. 🙂

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You’re a Sorcerer, Mickey!

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Here’s a fun manicure memorializing the main magical mouse, Mickey, and an even funner video I made for our YouTube channel showcasing one of our favourite related games to play when we’re at Disney, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

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I’ve spoken about Sorcerers before – it’s the free-to-play, card-collecting, interactive scavenger hunt you can only play at the Magic Kingdom, and Mr. Finger Candy is completely obsessed.  No trip is complete without finishing off at least a couple of games of Sorcerers, and more than a couple of visits to the Firehouse on Main Street USA.

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Sorcerers is a cute, not-so-little diversion (no joke, you will walk for MILES completing a single game) that always provides tons of fun while we’re bounding about the Magic Kingdom.  If you’d like to join in on the RFID-enabled scavengering and hunting, please watch this video I recently made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, featuring fun tips on making the most of your magical Mickey.  Thank you so much for watching, and happy spellcasting!

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Sorcerers Collage

Imagine this chaotic scene, if you dare: It’s noon on Christmas Day at the Magic Kingdom.  Mr. Finger Candy and I are pinned into a tiny nook in a walkway that runs along the Rivers of America as a never-ending herd of people swarm past, shoulder-to-shoulder, Rascal-to-Rascal, eyes halfheartedly glancing over at the parade running in the opposite direction.  Up ahead, the parade stretches on and on into Lynchian infinity, each bright, branded float pumping out more lunatic Christmas carols than the one that preceded it, while Elsa and Anna, snuggled together in a cozy little sled, sweetly trill about how wonderful it is to all be together for the holidays!  Stepping out of our Nook of Exile, we immediately run directly into the back of a man on a motorized scooter who has stopped in the middle of the walkway to stand up so he can get a better view of the parade.  I give some very un-Christmasy-like consideration to shoving him into the Rivers of America.  Nearby, a pack of reindeer plushies have broken out into a manic little shuffle, as smudgy snope (artificial, soap-based “snow”) drifts down onto the restless crowd.  It’s also hot as balls, and our walkway nook provides no shelter from the blazing midday sun.  I’ve no idea how we’ve come to be marooned in this sweaty holiday hellhole, but it’s clear that Anna and Elsa have lied – this is so not wonderful (what I actually said – shouted at my husband in order to be heard above the din – was “WE’RE IN THE EPICENTER OF HELL!!!”)  It wasn’t a great scene.

Unbeknownst to us (information we were not entirely shocked to learn until much later that evening) the Magic Kingdom had actually reached capacity some hours earlier; back at the front gates they were turning away all but re-entries.  Disney is notoriously guarded when it comes to its official park numbers, but it’s widely believed that the first level of attendance throttling begins somewhere around 65,000 guests.  Which means that at noon on Christmas Day along the holiday parade route in one of the biggest bottlenecks in the park, YES, we were absolutely in the epicenter of hell.  Also in a couple of righteously – though thankfully temporary – bad moods.

A day at Disney is just far too expensive a proposition to allow it to circle the drain over a few thousand cruddily-behaved people, and I was determined to pull us out of the abyss.  And so it was decided that we would outlast AND outsmart them, by outplaying them – literally. 🙂

Sorcerers Nails

And so we marched off to the firehouse on Main Street USA and signed up for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, an interactive role playing collectible card game and scavenger hunt.  Which for the aging Sword in the Stone and Magic the Gathering nerd I’m married to was just the BEST. THING. EVER.  Bad mood?  Gone, gone, gone.  And I can’t ever be unhappy when my husband is this pleased over the acquisition of a rare Winnie the Pooh spell card. 🙂

Sorcerers Collage 1

Nerd.

Here’s how Sorcerers works: After signing up at the firehouse (it’s free to play) you’re conscripted into Merlin’s army.  Seems Hades has assembled an army of his own, joining forces with a number of classic Disney villains, from Ursula and Cruella De Vil, to Dr. Facilier and Maleficent, and the lot of them have been rampaging about the Magic Kingdom, up to no good.  It falls to you, novice sorcerer now thrust into the deep end, to find Hades and his co-conspirators, hidden in portals all throughout the park, and put a stop to their dastardly plans.

And so you go through a bit of in-firehouse training in which you learn how to identify the portals (they’re semi-hidden in what might otherwise look like a shop window or a cabinet or simply a plain old wall all throughout the Magic Kingdom), how to open them (by tapping your enabled MagicBand or card against a nearby lock-shaped RFID reader) and how to stop the misbehaving meanies (by standing on a Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom seal centered on the portal and casting an attack spell with one of your reader-enabled spell cards.)

Sorcerers Collage 2

NERD!

New players are given a free pack of cards to kick off their spellcasting journey, and returning players who present at the firehouse are given a free pack for each day they’re in the park.  Additionally, if you complete all of the multi-part missions in one day (there are nine missions to complete in total, each with five or six sub-missions) you’ll receive another set of spell cards.  Each spell card (there are 70 base cards in total, with a number of limited edition extras) corresponds to a different Disney character and is assigned a rarity, a strength and a set of attack stats.  Each card is also embedded with a tiny chip that interacts with the portals’ RFID readers, which is what casts the spell, specific to your chosen card and character, and defeats the villain.

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NERRRRRDDDDDDDS!

There are also, of course, booster packs available for purchase at select locations throughout the park.  These packs contain a mystery assortment of cards from the regular offerings, as well as rarer, slightly more valuable picks.  Mr. Finger Candy could not contain his glee upon discovering that not only were there more, better cards to be had, but that there was a snazzy spellcasting book in which to house them, no less!  Manna from collectible card game heaven, I tells ya. 🙂

Sorcerers Book Collage

It was in the single booster pack we bought that we found this wicked powerful Winnie the Pooh card, which trounced any and all enemies it ran up against with a thick, smothering layer of smackery honey and extra stingy bees. 🙂  Mr. Finger Candy traded spells with a number of other players that day, and there was a fair bit of jealousy over that high performance Pooh card, let me tell you.

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Of the other cards we received, my favourites were Tiana’s Hot Sauce (Tiana of The Princess and the Frog being our resort’s official/unofficial princess) and Rover’s Christmas Carousel of Progress, a limited edition card given out at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (which we did not attend…this time) themed to the Carousel of Progress, a weird throwback of an animatronic stage show starring John the oven-killing idiot and Rover, a VR headset-wearing dog.

Sorcerers Carousel Collage

And so on Christmas Day, this is what we did – ran from one end of the park to the other and back again defeating villains, looking like dorks in public, making new friends, exploring hidden spots, trading spells, following clues, deciphering riddles and just generally confusing everyone we (politely) asked to move out of the way of one of our portals (“Excuse me, could you please move your arse off this thing that absolutely looks like a fireplace but is actually about to burst into villainous life?  Thanks!” always proved to be a bit of a non-starter.)

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This is actually what we did for about eight solid hours on Christmas Day.  And if you’re thinking to yourself, “What a waste, you could have been riding the rides,” keep in mind that what drove us to Sorcerers in the first place (aside from the parade from hell) were the hour-and-a-half, two-hour wait times that were being posted for every single attraction in the park.  And when given the choice between waiting statically in an infuriatingly long lineup with 3,000 other frustrated people or getting out there to actually explore the park, we chose exploration.  And adventure!  And so. much. walking.  If you’re trying to complete all nine missions in one day, as we were (of course we were trying to complete all nine missions in one day; I think we’re incapable of going to Disney World without turning it into a challenge of some sort) it will take you to every corner of the park twice and then back again, and then a third time just for good, tootsie-aching measure (actual foot note footnote: I believe this is how I hurt my right foot Christmas Day.)  I’ve been only half-joking that I need to create a diet and exercise plan around this thing; you’ll walk miles a day and hardly even notice it.

Sorcerers Maps Collage

And not for nothing, but in addition to almost (oh, it was by the skin of our teeth!) completing all nine of the Sorcerers missions, we also rode 13 rides, watched the fireworks, hit up numerous PhotoPass locations, suffered through that godforsaken parade and had a nice, leisurely dinner at Be Our Guest.  We’re no slouches in the Gettin’ ‘Er Done Department.  It’s just that neither one of us cared to blow our entire day on endless lineups for attractions we had already experienced.  Also, sitting in line for hours on end runs completely contrary to our general vacation mantra and battle cry of “Park or perish!”  Also-also, odds are by the time you return to the attraction later on in the evening, having spent the afternoon dashing about the park having a blast, the wait time will be halved or better, even on that most insane of days, December 25th.

In the end, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom proved to be so much more than a nifty little diversion.  In fact, plans are already in place to return as soon as possible and complete our game!  Someone needs to defeat Hades, you know, why not a couple of Disney nerds from Canada? 🙂