What a Difference a Night Makes

As I mentioned in the last post, we have both been very busy at work.  When you work at a school, fall can make you a bit crazy.  Kevin’s workload has, thankfully, slowed down a touch since the start of the semester.  I have not had any such luck with mine, nor will I in the near future.  It will be at least November before my department can catch its breath.

Back in August, one week proved especially awful.  I knew we needed to just get out of town.  I talked to Kevin and we agreed we were willing to spend a little money to do something different that night.  I hopped on Priceline to see what I could get for that night.  After a successful low bid, I left work a few minutes and packed a bag for us.  When Kevin came home, I told him I had a surprise for our evening activities and we hopped in the car.

We drove to Columbus and checked in to the Westin downtown.  In our first such experience, we got upgraded to a suite, which made the price we paid even better.  We got settled in our room and then walked around downtown.  One of our vendors at worked had told me about a little restaurant his son works out and I knew Kevin would love it.

Enter Dirty Frank’s.  This tiny hot dog joint easily ranks as one of Kevin’s new favorite restaurants.  Prices are cheap and the food is great – at least as long as you like hot dogs.  Kevin asked to go back at least four times that weekend.

After dinner, we walked around downtown more.  Having spent the majority of my life in Columbus, it never ceases to amaze me how much of the city remains undiscovered for me.  I was reminded why I love cities so much and how desperately I miss living in one.  There is always something new to see or some neighborhood you haven’t explored.  In contrast, there is literally no street in our town we have not been down.

We walked over to the Topiary Garden near the School for the Deaf.  All of the topiary sculptures here are modeled after Georges Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  We loved seeing students and families and all sorts of people enjoying the park.  We talked about how, while we loved our college experience, the one aspect we feel we missed out on was having a city to explore.  I would have loved having such a cool park a few blocks from my college campus and going there to study.

Once we got back to our hotel, we walked to a nearby Kroger and picked up supplies for a picnic the next day and some snacks for the night.  The snacks proved insufficient, however, and we succumbed to the temptation of room service.


As simple as it sounds, being together, eating room service, and watching HGTV was exactly what we needed that night.  It was wonderful to get away for a short time and just relax.  The next morning, we laid in bed and watched Bob Ross paint some trees on PBS.  After a lazy morning, we packed up and headed over to the Columbus Park of Roses for a picnic lunch.

Again, it was the perfect activity for the day.  It may not have been the exact time of year to see the most roses in bloom, but there were still plenty of them to enjoy.  Once again, we were so happy to enjoy the simplicity of the moment and the opportunities afforded by the city.

We were gone less than 24 hours, but we returned feeling more rested and refreshed than we had in weeks.  The whole trip really didn’t even cost that much since we chose mostly cheap activities and got a good deal on our hotel.  It was just the reminder that we needed to value simple, quality time together.


Final Florida Days

If you are super tired of reading about our time at Disney, I promise it’s almost done! I never intended to stretch out our recap of this trip for so long. But, then came the headaches and, finally, the glasses, so things have taken a bit longer than expected. This is our last post recapping the trip – I promise! We will do one post later on about our thoughts on Disney as a whole for those of you who may be thinking about going, but we’ll be back to regular life stuff before that.

Typhoon LagoonBecause we bought our Disney tickets in conjunction with the conference Kevin went to, we got a bonus free day at one of Disney’s smaller attractions. While we had several options to choose from, we knew from the start that we would be going to one of the water parks. After some research into what both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon had to offer, we settled on Typhoon Lagoon. I only have one picture from that day; I was not about to tote my camera or even my phone all over a water park.

The biggest selling point that got us to Typhoon Lagoon was an attraction they have called Shark Reef. Basically, you put on snorkel gear and swim across a pool containing a coral reef. In the water with you are a myriad of fish and some small sharks. The water is pretty cold for the sake of the animals, but it was a really cool experience. Nothing like being able to say you swam with sharks on your vacation…even if it was in a pool at Disney. The closest one got to me was probably about three or four feet away.

We got to the park right when it opened and so, as with all the other parks, we had a great advantage when trying to get through as much as possible. In that first hour, we flew through Shark Reef and most of the water slides. Once the lines starting getting longer, we settled in by the wave pool and soaked up some sun. We left in the early afternoon to get to our hotel and clean up before Kevin’s conference started that night.

The Gaylord Palms Resort & Conference Center is only a few minutes away from the Disney complex. It is enormous. Our room was much bigger than at the Gaylord Opryland and we were thrilled to be given an atrium room here. We were on the top floor right between two of the large atriums, so we had a great view.

On Friday and Saturday, we took turns manning the table at the conference. The Palms had a great adults-only pool that we both took advantage of in our free time. As with everything in Florida, it was nice and quiet in the morning and got pretty busy in the afternoons.

Gaylord Palms

Friday night, we popped down to Downtown Disney to walk around and grab a bite to eat. We ended up getting rained on, which dampened the evening considerably (pun intended). We ate in a very crowded Earl of Sandwich and then explored the area. Scotty McCreery was at the House of Blues that night, although we did not get tickets. Unfortunately, I had really wanted to see the Cirque du Soleil while were there, but the one week they vacation annual coincided with our trip.

On Saturday night, after we had torn down from the conference, we headed over to the coast for some seafood. We knew we couldn’t leave Florida without getting some fresh fish and we figured the coast was the only place to do it right. After a little research, I found a very small place in Cape Canaveral that seemed to be exactly what we were looking for.

Seafood Atlantic operates mainly as a fresh fish market. Outside their doors, though, they have a small patio area with tables and some bar stool seats overlooking the canal. They work with local fisherman who all have bios on their website. It doesn’t seem to be a big operation, but they have something very special. We sat at one of the small bar tables that looked out on the water. It was not the most beautiful site – no ocean waves, just fishing boats – but there is something incredible about eating seafood while looking at the boat it came in on. While we ate, the sun set over the horizon.

The food easily qualified as the best we had all week. We got some shrimp as an appetizer that Kevin is still talking about a month and a half later. For our entrées, Kevin got swordfish and I ordered crab legs. I cannot describe to you in words how awesome everything tasted. We did have to wait a while before a server got to us, but that was because of a miscommunication among the staff. Once our server realized what had happened, she was great. She even gave us a free piece of Key Lime Pie, Florida’s specialty dessert, as a thank you for our patience.

The experience was exactly what we wanted: casual, local joint serving unpretentious, fresh seafood. The meal actually ended up being the cheapest we ate all week! After all, the place has very little overhead. It felt wonderful to escape the tourist worlds we’d been living in for the past week. We even contemplated driving the hour back on Sunday afternoon just to eat there once more before our flight left. Any time we are near Cape Canaveral again, we will be going back to Seafood Atlantic. It comes with the highest recommendation possible by the Napps!

Sunday, we spent a few hours by the pool – together this time! – before packing up and heading home. We had an absolutely wonderful trip. It was a great balance of work and play. Having a trip last that long really helped us get all the way into vacation mode. Those first few days in Nashville we definitely had to work at relaxing. By the time we got to Florida and Disney, though, we were fully immersed and ready to have fun!

Plus, we got to scratch off a little more on our scratch map!

When You’re Young at Heart


There really is something magical about Disney World.  When you walk into Magic Kingdom, you are swept into a world made up of one man’s imagination.  Walking through the Walt Disney history exhibit at Hollywood Studios reminded me of that.  But even more than that, you are in world where dreams and fairy tales free themselves from imagination to coexist with the dreamer.  As you become an adult, most of us realize the impossibility of our dreams and give up on them.  Rare is the experience that returns those feelings of childhood wonder.

When we decided to go to Disney World, I knew that one section of Magic Kingdom held more appeal for me than anything else.  Disney opened New Fantasyland in December 2012.  It contains homages to Beauty and the Beast, my ultimate favorite Disney movie, as well as some other classics.

New Fantasyland

Anyone who knows me, probably knows how much I adore Beauty and the Beast.  There was a period in my life when I watched the Disney classic at least once a month….and, no, that time was not as a child.  For a while, my ultimate career goal was to be Belle at Disney World.  I thought it would be the best job ever.  Get dressed up, maybe get to perform in the show at Hollywood Studios, have children love and adore you.  It sounds about perfect, right?

Nearly as good, and better in some ways, was being immersed in the world of Beauty and the Beast.  A good portion of New Fantasyland is devoted to my favorite movie and, Kevin can tell you, I was giddy with excitement while in this section of the park.  They have a small replica of the village square, including an amusing monument of Gaston which he apparently had erected himself.  They also have a replica of Belle’s cottage, in which the attraction Enchanted Tales with Belle is located.  I do not think we went on a single other attraction that week that had a wait longer than 30 minutes and no Fastpass option.  But skipping anything Belle-related was not an option.

As you waited in line, you got to spend time in the little entry room of the cottage.  As with everything, Disney has thought of every detail.  The book Belle reads in the movie is there – in French! It was fun trying to read some of it while we waited.  There is a portrait of young Belle and her mother.  There are marks on one wall showing Belle’s height throughout the years.  I could have stayed in that room alone for an hour or two.  But, they move you on to Maurice’s workshop.  You are not in there for long, so I did not get a good look around.  The focal point of the room is a large mirror.  The mirror first shows a little video and then, suddenly, expands and opens into a doorway leading into the castle.  Seriously, Disney?  Why do you make everything so awesome?

In the first room, you are met by the Wardrobe, who, with the help of some human assistants, tells you about a surprise for Belle!  You are going to take part in recreating the love story between her and the Beast as a surprise for her.  Makeshift costumes are handed out.  At this point, I was praying with everything in me that I could be Belle.  I mean, I was practically having a heart attack in the corner hoping I would get picked.  Turns out, there is no Belle part.  Also, they pretty much just recruit children to act in this mini production.  Dang it.

But wait!  They were in need of a few strong knights to help with the story.  Enter Kevin.  Or rather, Kevin gets forced into this by a Disney worker and his overenthusiastic wife.  You can see how excited he was in that picture.

At this point, you are all escorted into the library, where an animatronic Lumiere offers more instructions.  Parents of children in the little show jockeyed for positions at the front to snap pictures of their little darlings.  I may or may not have pushed my way to a front row center seat.  I was not about to miss whatever happened next.  And good thing I did!  Next thing you know, Belle walked in!

With instructions from the Disney cast, the ragtag crew of actors made their way through the story of Beauty and the Beast for Belle.  I will say, the girl playing Belle did a great job.  She was wonderful with the children, even dancing with the little boy playing the Beast and taking the hand of very young girl to help her join a little parade around the room.  Kevin, meanwhile, stood in the corner and tried to be invisible.  At one point, he got in trouble for putting his knight mask away too early.  (Side note: I married a man so much like my father, it’s crazy.)  He may have hated it, but I have never been more jealous of him than when Belle spoke to him and when he got to take a picture with her.  She took pictures with all the kids.  No one offered the chance to non-participating adults, though.  As a consolation prize, Kevin gave me the Belle bookmark he got for participating.

Thankfully, the real magic of my day had already been provided next door in the Be Our Guest restaurant.  I had attempted to get us dinner reservations in the new eatery, but the place is booked six months in advance.  So, instead, we enjoyed lunch there.  To say I was on top of the world is quite an understatement.

We had to wait about thirty minutes, but it was totally worth it.  Inside, you were escorted to a computer where you placed your order.  Then, you were given a plastic rose disk and told to find a seat.  The restaurant has three dining rooms.  One room is modeled after the West Wing; one is a portrait gallery of sorts; the main room replicates the ballroom from the movie.  After checking out all three rooms, we chose a table at the end of the ballroom.

Once you find a table, the servers located you based on what I assume is GPS in the rose you have been given.  They bring your order out on a little cart.  We had a bit of a mix-up with our order, so clearly the system is not perfected yet, but it was still cool.  The restaurant serves French food; I had braised pork with mashed potatoes and green beans jardiniere while Kevin had a turkey sandwich with french fries.  For dessert, we ordered a lemon-raspberry cream puff.

The food was fine (we have lots to say about Disney food in general and we’ll get to that in another post); the experience was surreal.  About every three minutes I looked around and simply could not believe where I was.  The room truly does look like the movie come to life.  The windows we sat by had been made to look as though snow was falling outside and the mural on the ceiling matched that famous crane shot which was so revolutionary at the time.  It took everything in me to contain myself; I literally had adrenaline coursing through my body.  It was absolutely one of the top ten most magical moments of my life.

Yes, I am a complete weirdo to get this excited about the reproduction of an animated movie at 25, but what can I say?  Disney brings out the child in you.  They think of every detail and immerse you in a world that, thusfar, has only lived in your imagination.  How can you not get excited?  If you are looking for a more balanced opinion of our Beauty and the Beast activities, know that Kevin thought they were fine.  Mostly he just liked watching me be so happy.

New Fantasyland - Be Our GuestOk, enough with my Beauty and the Beast obsession.  The rest of Fantasyland had some fun things to offer as well.  We enjoyed the Under the Sea ride.  It’s basically just a tour of the movie, like many Magic Kingdom rides.  While we walked through the Storybook Circus area inspired by Dumbo, we did not ride anything back there.  That back corner of the park was sacrificed to our limited timeline.  

We actually skipped quite a bit in Fantasyland; most of our time there was devoted to Beauty and the Beast.  We passed on the Prince Charming Carousel, the Winnie the Pooh ride (which had an inexplicably long line all day), the Mad Tea Party (spinning teacups + us = bad news; we knew better), and even It’s a Small World (we’d both ridden it as children and had no desire to have the song stuck in our heads for hours to come).  

We did go on Peter Pan’s Flight at the very end of the day.  After all, we both loved Peter Pan as children.  It was cool, but nothing spectacular and I will never understand why it consistently has one of the longest lines at Magic Kingdom.  We loved Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a 3D movie which sends you through songs in multiple Disney films.  

As we made our way through the park, I could never turn down snapping a picture of the castle.  I think I have one from just about every angle.  I know Kevin got tired of my constant stops, but I am so glad to have some really great shots of the iconic landmark.  

We closed out our night by wandering down Main Street, U.S.A.  We had a Fast Pass to meet the Princesses, but it took us less than two minutes in the line of screaming children to know it was not worth it to wait.  After all, we had already met Belle; they only princesses available that day were Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel.  No thanks.  We wandered in and out of some shops while we waiting for our dinner reservation.  This time gave us a great opportunity to pick up a frame to hang next to our scratch map representing this trip.  

We ate at Tony’s Town Street Restaurant for dinner.  It’s themed around Lady and the Tramp, although there’s little connection outside of the Italian menu.  The atmosphere was crowded and loud, hardly the romantic spot I had been hoping for when I made the reservation.  Thankfully, though, our location and timing ended up giving us a perfect spot to see the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Electrical ParadeWe closed out the night with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.  We had not waited around to see fireworks at Hollywood Studios or Epcot, but I am so glad we did at Magic Kingdom.  Leave it to Disney to impress even us with a fireworks show.  We both agreed it was one of the best fireworks shows we had ever seen.  Although, Kevin was disappointed that they did not have character-shaped fireworks.  It would have been cool to see some Mickey ears in the sky.  The finale was huge, making it look almost as though Cinderella’s castle were on fire – in a cool way.

It was all a great close to a wonderful, magical, very long day.  We made one quick stop on the way out to take a picture with the Mickey Mouse shrubbery at the entrance, just as Kevin’s family did at Disneyland many years ago.  

Main Street USA


Have you been to Magic Kingdom?  What was your favorite part?  Did anything give you the same childlike excitement that the Be Our Guest restaurant gave me?


The Most Magical Place On Earth

DSCF0642Magic Kingdom!!

It’s the quintessential Disney park.  While Epcot and Hollywood Studios are great, Magic Kingdom is the park where you experience the most Disney magic.  It also holds the most attractions, so to get through everything in the park in one day is nearly impossible.  While we planned our Epcot and Hollywood Studios days as we went, I knew we would need at least a loose plan to get the most our of Magic Kingdom.


We grabbed a park map on our way out of Hollywood Studios the night before and I marked out a rough plan of action for the next day.  We knew from our previous days that getting there early would be key.  We found that the best time to get in the popular rides was as soon as the park opened.  The lines are still short and you don’t have to use the Fastpass option.  For us, that meant starting with the mountains: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Unlike at the other parks, we did not stick to general areas at the same time.  We are good walkers, especially compared to anyone with a stroller, so we bounced around quite a bit.  For the sake of simplicity, though, I’m going to walk through one “land” at a time here.


If you take a left when you get to the main juncture of Magic Kingdom, the first “land” you’ll enter is Adventureland.  We skipped the Magic Carpets of Aladdin (it’s just standard amusement park ride where the carpets go up and down in a circle), the Enchanted Tiki Room show (no need or desire to see singing birds telling corny jokes), and the Jungle Cruise (I went on this as a child and don’t remember anything but corny jokes.  Besides, the line was always pretty long.).  Instead, we spent our time in Adventureland paying homage to a few of our favorite movies.

First stop, the Swiss Family Treehouse.  Turns out we both loved this movie as children.  In fact, upon arriving at home, we immediately put it the classic on our Netflix queue.  It’s on its way to our house as I type this.

We also rode the attraction that inspired the highly-successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  Of course, since the movies, the ride has been updated to include Captain Jack Sparrow.  I remember riding this as a kid, though, and he was nowhere to be found.  This underground boat ride may not be the most exciting Disney has to offer, but it’s a classic.

As you continue on through the park, Frontierland is the natural next step.  We skipped the Country Bear Jamboree at the recommendation of dear friends who visited Disney for their anniversary last year.  We experienced everything else in the western-themed section of the park.  Splash Mountain, which we expected to be a quick up and down log ride, turned out to be a long journey through the folktale of Br’er Rabbit.  We rode it early in the day, which gave us plenty of time to dry off.  Unfortunately, the soaking we got caused my makeup to run and stain my new favorite tank top.  If that was the low point of the day, though, which it was, I can’t complain.

We took a short raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island. There is very little to do there other than explore some cave tunnels and other landmarks related to the Tom Sawyer story.  It was a quick trip for us and soon we were back on the mainland riding one of the only real roller coasters at Disney, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  I specifically remember riding the coaster with my dad as a child.  If you had told me then that the next time I would be on that ride would be with my wonderful husband, I never would have believed you.

Right next door to Frontierland rests Liberty Square, the smallest section of the park.  While we passed on the riverboat ride, we checked out the rest of Liberty Square in the afternoon.  I really enjoyed the Hall of Presidents, despite an overenthusiastic docent.  After a short video, there is a short show featuring an animatronic version of every president on stage together.  Very cool for history nerds like me.  The only real ride in Liberty Square replicates the featured building from the Eddie Murphy movie The Haunted Mansion.  Neither of us had ever seen the movie, so we did not know what to expect.  Turns out, any fears I had of the ride being scary were unfounded.  It was a cheesy, goofy ride through a story we did not understand, having never seen the movie.

If you continue in this clockwise motion, your next stop would be Fantasyland.  However, for the moment, we are skipping to Tomorrowland.  Make sure you come back to hear about Fantasyland, though.  Our experiences there included one of the Top Ten Most Magical Moments of My Life.


Tomorrowland contains quite a few attractions and we hit all but one.  We passed on the Astro Orbiter because, again, it seemed like a standard amusement park ride.  We rode Space Mountain immediately upon entering the park; we knew we could face super long lines later in the day.  It’s a great indoor roller coaster and a total classic.

Tomorrowland - Space Mountain

The Tomorrowland Speedway was actually our second stop of the day before we left Tomorrowland for Splash Mountain.  We saw a racetrack and expected a go-kart experience.  Yeah, not the case.  The Speedway has nothing speedy about it.  Basically, it’s like those old time car rides at amusement parks, but in a small race car instead of a Model-T.  In retrospect, we could have skipped this one.  It did give me a chance to take some pictures, though.  See what an enthused driver Kevin is?

We enjoyed the remainder of Tomorrowland in the afternoon as the rain misted on and off.  The Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover (a glorified train ride overlooking Tomorrowland) proved to be one of our favorites.  It offered some great views, including a jaunt through Space Mountain, and a wonderful way to get off our feet for a few minutes.  Kevin said that if he were an old man here with his family, he would just ride the People Mover all day long.

View from the People Mover

View from the People Mover

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress made its first appearance at the World Fair in 1964.  It made its home at Disneyland until the 70s, when it moved to Florida.  The attraction highlights how changes in technology have affected families over this centuries and imagines what life could be like in the future.  The Carousel was last updated in 1993, so its “modern” family life really should get a few adjustments.  Still, it’s fun to see what parts of the predicted future really came true and which remain elusive or irrelevant.

The rest of Tomorrowland featured less exciting rides.  Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin clearly meant to be a shooting game like Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios.  However, the ride broke down several times while we waited in line and once while we were on it.  The scoring was a mess and you could not really see where you were shooting.  Still, the blacklighting was cool.

Stitch’s Great Escape played along with the story of Lilo and Stitch, a movie Kevin had never even heard of. The idea was that Stitch had been brought as a prisoner back to the alien world he came from and then escaped in the room with you.  The standout moment from this attraction was the simulation that Stitch had burped his chili dog breath in your face.  It was vile.  Across the street, the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor was a live show inviting people in the audience to participate with some animated monsters telling jokes with the aim of getting energy from our laughter.  This was a fun one, mostly because it picked on people in the audience.  I’d be interested to see how they end up integration the new movie Monsters University even further than they already have.

While I have covered a lot of Magic Kingdom ground in this post, I have yet to hit on some of our favorite parts of the day.  Make sure you subscribe to or bookmark Napp Time so you don’t miss out.  For those of you tired of Disney, I promise it’s ending soon!  We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming before you know it.  We’ve been having a great summer and can’t wait to share with you about it!  In mean time, enjoy one last Disney pic for the day!  Look how cute that boy is!


It’s Showtime!

DSCF0602If you checked in on Monday, you know that we visited Hollywood Studios during our trip to Disney this May.  On Monday, I talked about the rides at that park; but Hollywood Studios, more than any other Disney park, is all about the shows.

We tried to fit in as many as we could, but the trying to work the schedules of all of the shows together is quite the challenge.  We stuck with the ones we were most interested in.

We started our day by heading over to the American Idol building.  Every day at Hollywood Studios, Disney puts on several shows based on the hit TV show, starting park guests as the contestants.  After much back and forth, Kevin talked me into doing it.  I did a quick audition that morning and was told to come back for one of the afternoon shows.  I didn’t take it too seriously and I didn’t win anything, but I did get hair and makeup done and got to sing on a pretend American Idol stage.  That’s as close as I’ll ever get to the real thing.  The ‘judges’ had nothing but positive comments; I’m pretty sure that’s their job, though.  Kevin was my always-supportive Mr. Manager throughout the whole process and is still convinced the whole show was rigged.  I had a fun time doing it, even though it took up a fair amount of our morning.


After all that time catering to my interests, we took some time out to fulfill one of Kevin’s lifelong dreams: eating a turkey leg.  Sadly, the turkey leg failed to meet his lofty expectations.  We both thought it had an odd flavor – almost like a turkey leg made with ham – and the meat was pretty dry.  We will be sticking to nice, moist, roasted turkey legs at home from now on.

We took time during that little lunch to map out our schedule for the day.  Because of the abundance of shows, we knew we could only do the ones we were most interested in.  We skipped Voyage of the Little Mermaid (my sister’s favorite as a child) and Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage.  I know, I know.  I am the biggest Beauty and the Beast fan alive, but I had seen the show as a kid and, frankly, I knew that watching it would just make me want to nitpick about all the things I would change.  Nothing beats the movie.  Besides, I had my ultimate Beauty and the Beast experience waiting for me the next day at Magic Kingdom.  You’ll have to come back to hear about that.

The first show that we enjoyed together (American Idol doesn’t count since I was on stage) was the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.  The show involves mostly physical stunts such as hand-to-hand combat.  The premise of the show is that Disney is making a movie and the audience just happens to be there to witness and participate in some of the scenes.  It’s entertaining, although, since all of the stunts are so physical, I would have liked to be closer.  It’s a big stadium and we were near the back, poised for a quick exit to get to our next show.

After Indiana Jones, we ran to the back of the park to see Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.  We missed the first few minutes, which, of course, exhibited some impressive opening stunts, but we saw most of the show.  This show focuses on stunt work with vehicles.  We found it a lot more exciting than the Indiana Jones show.  I think that we have a much better understanding of how difficult and dangerous car stunts are since we are both licensed drivers.  We were especially impressed since the stunt team did everything in a light drizzle that had to be complicating their jobs.

Not only did the stunt team execute their stunts, but they spent a good amount of time explaining some of them, which was cool.  Of course, the real attraction is seeing the stunts performed live.  At one point, a car went up a ramp inside one of those semis, flew to the roof of the next semi, and landed on a huge inflated airbag.  They also did work with motorcycles and jet skis.  At the end of the show, a car drove through a wall of flames…which I managed to miss a picture of by half a second.  You can see in those pictures above how the flames are just beginning.  Despite the wet, dreary conditions and the uncomfortable stadium seating, I would say this was our favorite show of the day.

We hit the Studio Backlot Tour near the end of our day.  I would classify this attraction as half ride, half show.  The tour gives a behind-the-scenes look into the movie making business.  The first half uses audience members to demonstrate the filming of a boat scene.  They instruct the participants how to act while they set off water cannons and drench them with tons of water.  Then, you get to see a rough cut of the scene featuring those participants.

After a quick walk through a prop warehouse – we got to see the Mr. Tumnus statue from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe! – you hop on a tram for a winding tour through prop graveyards and various departments.  I was particularly fascinated as we drove past the costume department.  While you are on the tram, you get to see another example of movie magic as they flood a canyon with water and fire.  Since I rode the Backlot Tour as a child, I knew what was coming and put by camera away before the waterfalls poured over the tram.

I did snap a few pictures of the larger props we passed in the graveyard.  Above you can see a Mickey Mouse topiary.  He’s not from a movie, but he still is cute.  The water tower from the start of the post was featured on the tour as well.  We saw two versions of Herbie the lovebug, one all cleaned up and one not so much.  We saw several Star Wars props as well.  Also in the backlot, the airplane used when Walt Disney flew over thousands of acres of Florida land and decided to build his parks there.

When you leave the Backlot Tour, you walk through an exhibit of classic movie props.  I’ll be honest, this small gallery was one of my favorite parts of the day.  I got pictures with costumes and props from some of the greatest movies ever made, including Gone With the WindThe Sound of Music, and Chicago.

As with all Disney rides, the final step was a themed gift shop.  For the first time, I was actually interested in the collection of movie-themed goods they were selling.  I could have stayed all day looking through the books about the Academy Awards, movie stars, and other things.  Kevin, not so much.  We did get a good laugh out of the mini-Oscars they had for sale boasting awards for “Best Mom,” “Best Sister,” and so forth.  Of course, nothing in the store beat the experience out on the streets of Hollywood Studios where I stepped into a scene from my childhood favorite, Singin’ in the Rain.


We had a great day at Hollywood Studios.  After having spent so much on food at Epcot, and knowing we would have more expenses the rest of the week, we cancelled our reservation at The Hollywood Brown Derby replica restaurant and hit Wendy’s on the way home.  We did not leave, however, without getting some of the popcorn I had been smelling and craving all day long.

We left before the fireworks show, Fantasmic!, because we knew the next day would be a long one.  We actually did end up seeing a bit of it from afar while driving home from Downtown Disney a few nights later.  We could have stayed, but our rational was the same as it had been regarding the Epcot fireworks show.  We’ve seen fireworks before and we would stay for the ones at Magic Kingdom.  We knew those would be the best out of all the parks.  Besides, after two very manageable days at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom presents a challenge to even the most prepared visitors.  We knew it would be a long, great day.  Make sure you follow or subscribe to Napp Time so you don’t miss out on hearing about our experience there.  It was by far our favorite day at Disney; it included one of the top ten most magical moments of my life.  You don’t want to miss it!

Headed to Hollywood Studios

For those of you who checked in faithfully last week, you read all about our adventures at Epcot in posts one, two, and three.  Today and Wednesday, we jump over to the next park: Hollywood Studios.  For us, Hollywood Studios broke into two main categories of attractions: rides and shows.  Today, it’s all about the rides!

DSCF0552Pictured above is arguably Hollywood Studios’ most famous ride: the Tower of Terror.  We enjoyed the thrill of that one.  As with everything, Disney really sets up all the details for you.  The intro to the actual ride did, I’ll admit, freak me out a little bit.  The real shock, though, was that first drop.  I expected a standard free fall where they lift you up, you hang at the top for a few seconds, and then drop.  Nope.  Disney drops you before you even realize you’ve gone high enough to be dropped.  And then they drop you again.  And again. And again.  Awesome.

One of my favorites of the day was The Great Movie Ride.  This slow-moving ride takes you through scenes from classic films throughout the twentieth century.  I remember riding this one as a kid and I don’t think it has changed at all.  I had pictures of Indiana JonesTarzan, John Wayne, and more but they turned out blurry.  Thankfully, I did have some good ones turn out, including quite a few from The Wizard of Oz.  My sister-in-law would have been beyond excited during that segment.

Hollywood Studios has the most “connections” with brands that you don’t think of as Disney.  For instance, we went to Muppet*Vision 3D and saw the gang running around on screen and in the theater.  I loved that those two grouchy old guys were seated in an opera box commenting to each other through the whole movie.  They are, without question, my favorite Muppets.

DSCF0588Another brand most of us do not immediately associate with Disney (at least not until recently) is Star Wars.  Although we were there during Disney’s annual “Star Wars Weekends,” we visited on a Tuesday, so we missed most of the festivities surrounding that event, but we did see Star Wars merchandise everywhere.  There were mini sets from the movies set up all over the park, too, so you could get your picture as if you were on Tatooine or becoming Darth Vader.  Of course, they also had a simulator ride which sent you all across the galaxy.

In line for that ride, they had replicas of C3P0 and R2D2 chatting away about something or other.  The ride itself….well, let’s remember our trip to Mars back at Epcot.  Simulators are not for me.

We thought at first that all the Star Wars stuff had been added quickly in the past few months after the acquisition of the rights from Lucasfilm.  Turns out, though, that Disney has been having Star Wars weekends for years now.  I guess their partnership with George Lucas goes back a lot further than we realized.

Of all the parks, Hollywood Studios displays the most evidence of Disney’s relationship with Pixar.  In one building, characters from Pixar movies were all spread throughout a big room available for pictures.  The line to take pictures with characters from Toy Story had a wait of nearly an hour.  We did not do either of those things, but we did ride Toy Story Midway Mania.  It easily qualifies as our favorite ride of that day.

Each rider gets a gun of sorts and you go flying through a series of games where you aim at moving targets and rack up points.  Really, it is such a simple concept, but Disney has executed it extremely well.  Had the wait not been so long and we had not been using our Fastpasses for other things, we would have ridden this one several times.  For the record, I beat Kevin.


We skipped several movies at Hollywood Studios, including one about Walt Disney’s life and one about Disney animation.  After walking through the galleries, we felt we had gotten the gist.  I did, however, take a picture with Walt’s many Oscars.

Our biggest disappointment of the day was the Pirates of the Carribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow.  We waited for nearly a half hour and then were ushered into a room with 50-100 other people and cordoned off into a small square.  As various screens and holograms asked for our participation in doing things like chanting or yelling or whatever, Kevin and I both kept expecting to then be ushered on to the actual ride.  Sadly, that measly display was the whole deal.

The last ride of our day was the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  It’s themed as though you are riding with Aerosmith through traffic on the way to a concert.  Right before you get on, there’s a whole set up where it’s as though you are in the studio with them finishing up a recording session and then they invite you to come along.  It’s not a super thrilling ride or anything, but it’s one of the better roller coasters Disney has.  Our general takeaway is that  Disney is not out to get your adrenaline pumping with most of these rides. Instead, they want to offer a full experience, with a back story and everything.

Well, that pretty much covers the rides at Hollywood Studios.  This park, more than any of the others, has a wide variety of shows to see throughout the day.  Make sure you come back later this week to hear about those!  If you haven’t already, subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss out on a moment of Disney magic (Magic Kingdom adventures and our takeaway from our whole experience yet to come!) or of what’s happening with us in general.

Around the World in One Afternoon

When we went to Epcot, I knew long before our arrival which part of the park held the most appeal for me.  The front of the park contains the two halves of Future World, but the back holds the World Showcase.  All around the lake, Disney has built a trip around the world.


There are 12 countries represented, if you include the African Outpost.  We spent our afternoon wandering from country to country, soaking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the world.

We stopped in Mexico first, right as the World Showcase opened at 11:00.  In Mexico, we rode a short boat ride, hosted by The Three Caballeros, which took us through some Mexican culture.  The ride broke down for a few minutes while we were on it, but nothing major.  Even Disney’s announcements to tell you the ride is malfunctioning stay in theme with the attraction.

We made a quick stop in Norway, but were scared off by some life-size and extremely realistic looking Viking statues.  Seriously, they were terrifying.  We did fit in a quick boat ride in Norway as well, which touched on highlights of Nordic culture from over the centuries.

Next stop: China.  The landscaping and detail here were truly beautiful.  At this point, we were expecting a cultural boat ride in every country.  China did offer a film, but we skipped out on it.  We did, however, take the chance to partake in our first culinary treat on our world tour.  Kevin loves pot stickers, so they were an easy choice.


Next came Germany.


Germany offered nothing in the way of entertainment or rides, but we did get another snack there.  We both love bratwurst and there is no better place to get it than Germany…well, probably the real Germany, not the Epcot version.  Still, we enjoyed it.  You can see that we specifically got the sauerkraut on the side.  Kevin ate that half.  We even split the bun so I didn’t have to eat anything that had even touched it.  I have traumatic childhood memories involving sauerkraut.  Ok, maybe not traumatic, but the stuff is gross.


We were amazed at how many people were filing into the German buffet for lunch.  While we love food from just about all cultures, we could not understand why you would choose German food when you had the option to go one more country over and enjoy some of the best food in the world – Italian!

We contemplated getting cannoli or, my all-time favorite, tiramisù in Italy.  Ultimately, we opted to return later for the tasty treats – and never did.  Had we not already had reservations elsewhere for dinner, I would have chosen one of the Italian restaurants in a heartbeat.  Kevin sadly does not have the same love for pasta that I do; I love their food.  Pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and other cheeses, olive oil, fresh herbs – I love it all.  Since we have Italian food all the time, though, a stop in Epcot’s Italy for food would not have been entirely justified.

We also skipped everything in The American Adventure section.  They do have a show enacting American history.  However, we consider that to be a topic we have a pretty strong grasp on.  No show needed for the Napps.

Japan had beautiful gardens.  We considered getting miso soup there, but the day was far too hot at that point.  No soup for us!  There also were no attraction options in Japan.  We did walk through the shops there and I was struck at how similar even the set up of the goods were to actual Japanese stores.  When I was there in high school, I remember being at the mall and there just being tables packed full of one item (chopsticks, hair clips, etc.).  That’s exactly how Disney had their shops set up as well.  Points for authenticity, Disney.


We made a quick stop in Morocco.  They had lots of little shops packed in on some winding back streets.  It was interesting even in these small replicas of cultures how small variations changed the feel in each country.  We timed our Moroccan visit just before Aladdin and Jasmine were to arrive for a photo opportunity.  One look at the line of crying children, though, and we were on to the next stop.

Ah, France.  My francophile heart could not contain its excitement as we reached Epcot’s version of the country.  I’ll refrain from gushing about my love of everything French here.  Suffice it to say that I was a happy camper at this point.  We watched a short film containing exclusively beautiful wide-screen shots of life in France.  The majority of the movie depicted the French countryside, which is stunning.  One comment from Kevin, “Forget the cities, that made me want to go to France for country,” renewed hope for the realization of my dream of owning a second home in a village in southern France.

In the afternoon, I got a raspberry line macaron from Les Halles Boulangerie Patiesserie.  Then, later in the night, we had dinner at Chefs de France.  We’ll talk more about our experience with Disney dining in a later post, but for now, you can see pictures of our meal.  We were lucky enough to get a window seat on a crowded, rainy night.  Kevin got Demi poulet fermier roti Pommes rissolees et broccoli (roasted chicken, rissole potatoes, and broccoli) while I ordered Plat de cote de boeuf au cabernet avec pates (beef short ribs braised in Cabernet with pasta, pearl onions, and mushrooms).  For dessert, we had Profiterolles au Chocolat (profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce).

Another treat in France was the Beauty and the Beast topiary display.  They had topiaries of various Disney characters throughout the park (you can also see Cinderella and Price Charming in the pictures above).  They were all incredibly intricate, but only Belle ranked high enough in my mind to take my picture with the display.

We flew through the United Kingdom.  At this point, things were getting crowded and we had no interest in meeting Alice in Wonderland (who was there for a photo opportunity) or watching the street performers.  The UK did have some lovely garden areas, though, which sadly did make it onto my camera.  While I could have sworn I took some pictures, I was getting pretty tired by that point.

We breezed past Canada as well.  I could not figure out why there was a castle in the Canadian area.  They had a cool waterfall, which made sense.  They also had a film about Canada hosted by Martin Short.  We skipped that one, too.

Though not every country had a formal attraction, they all had little shops selling the wares of their native land.  A lot of the countries have traditional headgear offered.  Taking advantage of this, we took a picture of Kevin in every hat we could find.

One interesting thing we noticed was the ethnicity of the workers in each country.  At all of the parks, Disney employees wear name tags with their home town written under their name.  It’s cool to see how so many cultures are represented in their staff.  At first, while perusing World Showcase, we thought Disney had just been super stereotypical in placing their employees.  By Germany, though, we realized that the people working in each area were actually from that country.  They all wore very traditional cultural costumes.  We definitely wondered if they enjoyed representing their countries that way or if they hated the clichés being perpetuated.

Even though World Showcase wore us out – Kevin was very tired of looking in the shops by the end of our tour – we really enjoyed the experience.  For people who love traveling as much as we do, I think it gave us a great sense of quite a few countries.  The architecture and decor in each country was beautiful and very authentic looking.  As with everything, Disney masters the details, giving an immersion experience like few other places.

We did wonder if visiting these countries in Epcot counts enough to scratch them off on our map.  It totally counts, right?

Back to the Future World

I think it’s safe to say that, of the rides at the three main parks we went to, we knew the least about those at Epcot.  All I knew about at Epcot was the World Showcase; Kevin did not know what the park was at all.

DSCF0458The majority of Epcot’s rides are located in Future World East and Future World West in the front of the park.  I mentioned Mission:SPACE in our first Epcot post.  Thanks to that simulator, we did not start off on a great foot with Future World.  Our trip to Mars was not our only disappointment.


Kevin fell asleep during Ellen’s Energy Adventure, a 45-minute educational journey about natural resources guided by videos of Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy from the 90’s.  The coolest part of The Seas with Nemo & Friends was easily the end where they projected videos of the movie characters into an actual aquarium, making it look like they were swimming along side real fish.  We somehow completely missed Turtle Talk with Crush (another Finding Nemo adventure).  We purposefully skipped The Circle of Life film in which characters from The Lion King teach you about saving the Earth.  Journey Into Imagination With Figment clearly was intended for preschoolers, although it still had some fun moments as you explored the five senses with an animated dragon character.  “Captain EO” hearkened back to the 1980s as Michael Jackson sang and danced his way across the universe with some strange George Lucas-created characters.


All was not lost, however!  Test Track, a ride sponsored by GM, was the closest thing Epcot had to a roller coaster.  As you waited to ride, you designed your own car of the future.  Then, you climbed in to test your design.  The ride wipes you through a series of test that involve quick turns and stops.  Soarin’, on the other side of Future World, allows you to experience flight.  As your feet hang free and wind blows on your face, you ride directly in front of an enormous screen.  The high-definition video shows aerial shots from around the world and the ride moves along, giving you the sensation of hang-gliding over mountains, beaches, cities, and more.  We almost skipped this one on our way out, but I am so glad we didn’t.  It was definitely one of the most unique rides we rode the whole week – and very well done, too.  You would almost swear at some points that your feet were going to brush against treetops.


Of course, being the huge gardening nerds we are, perhaps our favorite ride of the day was Living with the Land.  The first part of the boat ride seemed like another dud – floating through dark rooms while the narration taught you about taking care of the earth.  Then, suddenly, the boat ride entered a series of large greenhouses.  Here, real scientists are working on growing plants in new and diverse ways.

DSCF0530Everything was growing in sand.  We saw more types of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants than we could count.  Each was carefully labeled for the sake of those on the boat ride.  In some sections, you could tell they were rotating plants based on their stage of growth.  The coolest thing we saw was by far the tomato tree.  That’s right – a tomato tree.  Unfortunately, we were in such complete awe that I did not get a picture before we passed it.

DSCF0532The whole point of the research is to help create sustainable food sources in climates which currently cannot support them.  After the greenhouses, there were some fish farms as well, but nothing as picture worthy as the plants.


We finished off our day by stopping in for pictures with Mickey and Minnie.  After all, you really can’t go to Disney World and not see these two; I don’t care what age you are.  We look a bit bedraggled thanks to a long afternoon thunderstorm which stranded us in a shop in Italy.  Eventually, though, the rain seemed less of an annoyance than the loudmouth family we were stuck next to.  We braved the rain.


Minnie tried to get us to form a heart with our hands once she realized we are newlyweds.  The process proved quite difficult, though, since the characters don’t actually talk.  We finally got it…sort of.

DSCF0546Overall, Epcot has very few great rides.  It’s appeal is not to adrenaline seekers, but rather those who are interested in a slower day at Disney.  In no surprise for the man who loves activities, Kevin enjoyed Epcot the least of all the parks, although still had a good time (I asked him right now if he had anything to add about Epcot.  His words: “It was fun.  You can quote me.”).  My favorite part was, without a doubt, the World Showcase, which I’ll show our pictures from in the next post.

Welcome to Disney!

After a wonderful few days in Nashville at the Opryland, we headed to the airport and hopped a plane to Orlando.  (On a quick side note, we loved the Nashville airport.  Easily one of the smoothest airport experiences either of has ever experienced thanks to a wonderful staff.)  We arrived in sunny Florida on Sunday afternoon.

That evening, we got to have dinner with my great aunt and uncle whom Kevin had never met.  We also got to spend some time with our hosts for the next few days: a CU coworker’s wonderfully gracious parents.  We were and are so grateful for their hospitality.  We stayed with them until Kevin’s second conference started on Thursday.

First thing Monday morning, we headed to Disney World!  Just the sight of this sign set me to squealing like a six year old girl.

DSCF0455Neither Kevin nor I had been to a Disney park since our childhood, so we (ok, maybe just me) were so excited to have the chance to go this year.  When we bought our plane tickets back in the spring, I may or may not have marched around our kitchen singing the theme song from The Mickey Mouse Club.

DSCF0457After some research into which parks are busiest on which days, we decided to start with Epcot on Monday.

IMG_0124We got to the parks every morning right when they opened, which proved to be absolutely key in getting in some of the most popular attractions before the crowds arrived.


The very first thing we rode that morning was Mission: SPACE.  It’s a simulator ride which gives you the sensations of taking a trip to Mars.  It served as a great reminder for us straight out of the gate that we aren’t 16 any more.  Neither one of us, but especially not me, does well on simulator rides.

Since the World Showcase was not open yet at that point in the day, we opted for Spaceship Earth.  That’s the ride inside the iconic Epcot globe.  You board a never-ending train of cars and travel through the history of mankind’s innovations, each depicted with Disney’s famous animatronic figures acting out the scenes.  Below are just a few pictures I took on the ride.

While we wandered around Future World that morning, we saw a quick street performance by the Jammitors.

DSCF0471At all of the parks, Disney has sporadic street performances throughout the day.  We rarely stopped to watch, but these guys were so entertaining.  They played their trash can drums and even did a little rap about Disney.  Maybe the best part for us was imagining how much that older guy in the middle embarrasses his children when they are out in public together.

We were incredibly impressed with the landscaping throughout Epcot.  It was easily the finest landscaping we saw on our trip – including our stays at the Gaylord resorts.  Maybe we got lucky since we were there the day after the annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival had ended.  Many of the installations seemed fairly permanent, though.  Whatever the reason, we enjoyed the beauty!

DSCF0460Because I turned into a crazy picture fiend during our time at Disney. we have so much to share.  I took more than 400 pictures at the parks alone!  We won’t share even close to all of them here, but I am going to continue breaking the trip descriptions into multiple posts, just like I did for Nashville.  There’s just too much to tell all at once!  Make sure you subscribe to Napp Time or bookmark us so you don’t miss any of the action!  And, for those of you who aren’t big Disney fans, we spent four days in Florida after the Disney days and will have some posts about those days as well – including one about the fabulous seafood restaurant we visited!

In the words of Mickey Mouse, see you real soon!


It’s no secret that the Napps love food.  We experiment in the kitchen at home, we grow our own food, and are always in hunt of a great new restaurant.  Whenever we leave our small town and its limited food choices behind us, we know that discovering new places to eat will be one of the best adventures of our new city.

If that city happened to be Nashville, we can say with certainty we would not complain about the food.

DSCF0428We ate at some great places while we were down there a few weeks ago, including several restaurants at Opryland.  We got the chance to try three local Nashville eateries and would happily return to any of them.  Of course, I only remembered to take pictures at one.  Sorry about that…

Thursday night, we met up with two of our favorite Nashville-ites, Taylor & Rachel.  They took us to a fantastic little burger place, The Pharmacy.  They have these awesome, unique burgers and some really amazing fries.  The ambiance tops their food, though.  You can see pictures on their website, but they basically have this backyard area full of picnic tables and strung up with lights.  So fun to go and hang out and grab a bite with friends.

DSCF0424Friday, we had the privilege of seeing my cousin Matt and his fiancée, Alyssa.  These two are getting married in just a few weeks!  They both went to school in Nashville, so they know the area.  They very kindly drove over two hours from their new home in Alabama to spend the day with us.


For dinner, they had actually been hoping to take us to The Pharmacy as well!  That’s how good those burgers are.  We ended up at Silly Goose.  It was, in Kevin’s words, the ultimate hipster restaurant.  All the pictures from the post are of our time there, including that cheese plate we started with.

DSCF0432That’s the sandwich Kevin got.  They call it the “Bird” sandwich: grilled chicken breast, sun-dried tomato, avocado, bacon, and peppered goat cheese on wholegrain bread.  He loved it.  I even had a bite, despite the presence of avocado, and enjoyed it as well.

DSCF0430Now, I know the picture there may not look that appetizing, but my entrée was delicious.  I got “Commander.”  It’s cast iron flat iron steak, rapini, roasted grapes, gorgonzola, caramelized fennel, celery root, rosemary smoked pine nuts, a madeira demi glace, and gremolata.  I’ll be honest; as much of a foodie as I am, I had never tried most of those ingredients and had never even heard of some of them.  Perfect food adventure and it paid off.  The roasted grapes were an especially nice sweet note in the midst of the richer flavors.

DSCF0427You can see a little from this picture what I mean by this place being a hipster palace.  We drank from Mason jars, the menus came on clipboards, we had bandanas for napkins, the food has a strong push toward natural ingredients, both menu items and the restaurant itself had quirky and nonsencial names, and our server had wore a flannel shirt, skinny jeans, and a beard.  It was so cliché, and yet so good.  We would definitely go back if given the chance.

Saturday night, we went out with Taylor and Rachel again and they took us to Soulshine Pizza.  Once again, I forgot pictures.  Let me paint the scene for you: indoor and outdoor seating on two levels.  Upstairs on a crowded patio there’s live music.  Down on the street level, we sat enjoying the evening breeze with more light strands hanging above us, each bulb reflecting on the modern art of the colored glass windows in the storefront.  The pizza was great, but the company was better.

So that’s what we ate in Nashville.  And we feel as though we just scratched the surface.  We drove down several streets where we said, “If we lived here, we would make it our goal to eat at every restaurant on this strip.”  That’s the kind of people we are.  No shame.  I don’t think our wallets or our waistlines could afford goals like that, but we would be very happy residents of Music City.  Maybe someday?

IMG_0109Oh and for one last glimpse into my penchant for the indulgent, take a look at this amazing used book store Matt took me to.  He shares my adoration for the written word.  It’s called McKay and I would like to set up a cot in the back of their store.  This picture shows a part of their immense inventory of used books, movies, and music (including vinyl!).  It was a great thing we were on a schedule and I was restrained by packing space because I could have spent weeks and hundreds of dollars there.  I escaped with only 4 books, although Kevin probably wouldn’t use the word ‘only.’