Friday, January 12, 2018

Orlando vacation recap

I always try and do a recap post of my vacations because 1) it's nice to share and 2) I refer back to these posts myself quite often to remember where I've been and what I've done. It's also helpful when people ask for recommendations when they're visiting these same cities and I have everything already documented! It's funny how quickly these memories fade, so I always try to write about them while the details are fresh! Let's get started!

Disney Minnie Mouse ears baseball cap
Minnie Mouse ears baseball cap: Bought at the park, option here.

We spent one week in Orlando. We were supposed to go the last week of November into the first week of December with his cousin, Beth, and her family, but they had to cancel, and since the husband's work schedule got super busy all of a sudden, we decided to cancel as well. We did need to use up some of our timeshare points before the end of the year, so we decided to try and book something during the Christmas break. But, since we were only booking a couple of weeks in advance, our options were pretty limited - we looked at all resorts across the country. We kept playing with the dates until we could find one week anywhere, and we ended up finding Sunday December 31st through Sunday January 7th at the same Orange Lake resort near Orlando that we went to back in April of 2016. You can read all about that vacation here. We really had no agenda for this trip - nothing planned at all. We were just going to wing it, which is sometimes the best kind of vacation, especially when you're wanting to relax.

Sunday, New Year's Eve

Shake Shack Orlando Shack Burger

We had a direct flight in the morning, which put us into Orlando right around lunch. That meant our first stop was Shake Shack, naturally! We do have a Shake Shack now in St. Louis, but it just opened mid-December and the line has been out the door the couple of times we have tried to go! Shake Shack is my weakness when it comes to a basic burger and fries.

Check-in wasn't until 4pm, so we decided to go to Target to pick up some snacks and other miscellaneous items we would need for the week. That's the nice thing about staying at a timeshare - having a full kitchen and being able to buy food and drinks.

34oz. Ribeye: Roy's (husband shown for scale - ha!)

Roy's Hawaiian Pineapple upside down cake
Pineapple upside-down cake: Roy's

Once we got checked in and settled, I went ahead and got dressed for the evening so we could take blog photos while there was still sunlight. You can see my outfit in Monday's post here. I also mentioned in that post that we ate at Roy's for New Year's Eve. I figured I would share photos from this dinner so this all stays together in the recap post!

Dinner ran pretty late and we got back to the resort in time to watch the ball drop in NYC. We just had a few more cocktails that night before bedtime!

Monday, New Year's Day

We slept in on New Year's Day and left the resort to find some breakfast. EVERYWHERE was packed. EVERYWHERE. So much so that we ended up at a McDonald's and still waited about a half hour for our food. AT MCDONALD'S! It was insane. After breakfast, I laid on the couch and recovered all day. I also got caught up on some work and blogging while the husband continued to binge watch The West Wing on Netflix. For dinner, we decided to stay in keeping with the "let's do nothing" plan and we ordered some take-out from Carrabba's. Carrabba's is just a chain, but we don't have any in St. Louis and it's one of my favorites. No one makes chicken marsala as good as they do! Trust me on that! After dinner, we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens because we knew we were going to watch the newest one later in the week and we needed a refresher!

Tuesday, January 2nd

Lately, I've been trying to find Pilates studios to go to when I'm traveling for an extended amount of time. I had trouble finding studios super close to the resort, so I settled on Club Pilates. I had never been to this chain before and was interested to see how it would be. I've heard that you should be wary about mass chains like this but I wanted to witness it for myself. I was pleasantly surprised! They had different levels of Pilates classes, and since I had never been to this particular studio before, I decided to start with a basic beginner Level 1 class. 

I was happy because their reformers are the same kind we use at the studio I teach at back home. (The reformers at the studio I worked out at in SoCal were quite different which made me feel a bit disoriented.) The class was a mix of mat work and reformer work. It was nice that each person had their own "station" which included the reformer, a mat, a chair, a Bosu ball, wall springs, and a ballet bar. As a teacher that is nice because you can keep your clients super engaged with an unlimited amount of exercises! But anyway, maybe I was lucky with a good instructor (I had Peggy, BTW), but I enjoyed the class and would try the studio again in other cities. The exercises weren't 100% classical, but they also weren't far out there contemporary either. Though, I never did any teasers or any 100s and that surprised me.... Regardless, it was a nice in between, and I walked away with new exercises to teach my clients also.

Holler and Dash, Orlando
At Holler and Dash | Blush Cap: Nordstrom (gifted)

I picked the husband up after Pilates and we had breakfast at Holler and Dash. It's a fast casual concept, so you order at the counter and they deliver the food to your table. We were able to get a table pretty easily, though it was a random Tuesday morning around 10am. I ordered a basic chicken, egg, and cheese biscuit along with an order of beignets to share and a cup of coffee. All of it was excellent! They described the beignets as being "New Orleans style" but to me they were nothing like Cafe du Monde. They were still crazy delish, don't get me wrong, just different!

Classic chicken, egg, cheese biscuit at Holler and Dash
Classic chicken, egg, cheese biscuit at Holler and Dash

We spent another day just hanging out in our suite. The weather turned cold and rainy Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday, so I had no issues just staying in. I had some work to do and the husband was content watching the West Wing. For dinner, we went to Miller's Ale House which is right outside of our resort. It's typical bar-type food, but really good, we came here the last time we were on vacation, too. I had English Style Fish and Chips and the husband got the 35 Fried Shrimp. Mainly, I think the husband likes to come here because they have a nutter butter ice cream cake and nutter butters are definitely a fave of his.

Wednesday, January 3rd

The day started similar to Tuesday. I had signed up for a Pilates class, but this time I leveled up to a 1.5. We did a few things on the reformer and the mat, but since this was a level 1.5, she added in weights along with some exercises on the chair and the Bosu ball. I would still consider this more of a beginner class. I would have liked to see what a level 2 was like, but the class times for level 2 didn't work with my schedule.

For breakfast, we went to good ole Bob Evans. We found that the bulk of the restaurants in the Kissimmee area are chains, which I get since it's super touristy. We didn't feel like taking super long drives, so we succumbed to the chains when we had to.

We decided to schedule our time to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Wednesday since it was 100% chance of rain. We were seeing it at the AMC theaters at Disney Springs, so we arrived a little bit early to try and grab some dinner before the movie. (Valet parking at Disney Springs is SO WORTH IT, by the way.) They did have dine-in theaters there, but we sacrificed the full service dine-in experience for a theater that had recliners.

The Daily Poutine | Disney Springs

Unfortunately, every restaurant there was crazy packed, so we didn't have time for a proper dinner before the movie. We ended up finding this snack bar restaurant called The Daily Poutine, so we each ordered the classic style with gravy and cheese curds. It was ridiculously cold outside, and although we had to eat these outside, it was still comfort food at its finest!! 

We had a few minutes to spare before the movie, so we grabbed a couple cocktails from the AMC theater bar before we headed into the theater. As with the other Star Wars movies, I really enjoyed this one. The story line was great, and it kept me entertained 100% of the time.

Thursday, January 4th

Disney Magic Kingdom Castle, Express Minus the Leather Jacket

I totally was not planning on coming to Disney World this week! Disney really isn't the husband's thing. Crowded. Walking. Lots of things he hates basically. But earlier in the week, he told me he was buying tickets for us to go and I legit started happy crying on the spot. I haven't been to Disney in forever and was SOEXCITED. 

Apparently January 3rd was the last day of their peak holiday season, so if we went on the 4th, the ticket prices were a little bit cheaper. This was fine with us obviously since we had a flexible schedule. Considering this was the first day of "off-peak" you would never know. It was still pretty packed and I can't imagine (nor do I want to know) what it looks like on a higher volume day. We opted for the ferry vs. the monorail because the line was shorter, but we still had to wait for a bit - I think it took the third ferry for us to finally board. I would say from the time we got our parking ticket, to waiting in traffic to park, to walking to the ferry, to waiting for the ferry, to actually get inside the park was a good hour. That seems like a long time for off-peak, eh? It was about 9:45-10am by the time we got inside.

We found that a trip to Disney is definitely best when you plan it well in advance. Each ticket came with (3) fast passes on the rides of our choice. The one ride we both absolutely had to ride was Space Mountain, but by the time we went to book it for our fast pass, it was already sold out until 10pm at night and we knew we weren't going to be there that long. The (3) rides we ended up using our fast past on were It's a Small World, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor (which was a show not a ride), and Pirates of the Caribbean 

Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents
Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents

In addition to our fast passes, we did The Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, and The Jungle Cruise, We also bit the bullet and waited it out for Space Mountain. The wait time meter told us it would be about 150 minutes, and it was pretty accurate. We downloaded the app so we always had a snapshot of the wait times, which was super convenient! I told the husband that I definitely didn't want to wait any longer for any other ride than we had to wait for Space Mountain since that was #1 on our list. The most we had to wait for the other rides were 30-45 minutes. The only other ride that I wished we would have gone on was Peter Pan Flight, but that wait time was ridiculous all day. So. 

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the The Hall of Presidents. This was the one thing the husband wanted to do, so naturally I obliged, but I really did enjoy it! The photo above is a representation of ALL the presidents. The figures looked real and had subtle movements as if they were all alive and well. I just can't imagine the amount of work that goes into every one of these shows and rides at the park! Amazing.

As far as food, we did Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe for lunch. Randomly, I got a half rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans and it was so freaking good. For theme park food, I was pretty impressed. For dinner, we ate at Columbia Harbour House. We both got the trio dinner that had chicken tenders, shrimp, and fish. That also was delish. It could also be that it was seriously SOCOLD all day. I was freezing despite my layers. Let's be real. I didn't pack for winter. I packed for Florida. I saw the temps were in the 40s/50s, but that's basically fall here in the midwest. It did not feel like fall. it felt like cold, windy, winter and I was miserably cold any time we were outside. But I digress.

We would have liked to eat at a sit down restaurant for dinner, but like I originally said, a Disney trip involves planning and planning involves reservations. You could not eat at a full service sit-down restaurant without reservations. That bummed me out, but at least the food at Columbia Harbour House was good so it all worked out.

Disney World Magic Kingdom Castle at Christmas

Disney World Magic Kingdom Castle Fireworks

Seeing the castle lit up for the holidays really is magical. It's beautiful! We stayed for the fireworks show at 8pm, and honestly that was a good stopping point because the crowds were really starting to get to me. Nothing like watching the fireworks show and someone coming out of nowhere to stand in front of you and shove their elbow in your face so they can video on their phone! It was a bit of a nightmare trying to walk out of the park after the fireworks. I was squished in the crowd getting shoved all over the place. Despite the crowds though, it only took us 30 minutes to leave the park, catch a ferry, and get to our car. Not bad at all, and I'm thankful for that!!

Friday, January 5th

Friday was my third and final class I scheduled at Club Pilates. I'm so glad I was able to work out while on vacation, even if they were more beginner classes. Having these scheduled at 8am was a good excuse to get out of bed and not sleep my mornings away. Plus, after all the walking at Disney the day prior, my body welcomed the recovery and stretching.

After Pilates, I changed for breakfast and we were headed to NASA for the day. I had originally wanted to eat at a breakfast placed called Keke's Breakfast Cafe, but the directions took us to nowhere, and we couldn't find it, nor could I find a phone number associated with the address. After looking around in the nearby shopping centers, we settled on a place called My French Cafe. I ordered an omelette combo, which came with the omelette (I filled mine with swiss cheese and mushrooms), a coffee, and a dessert of my choice. I chose a croissant donut that was filled with vanilla cream.

Vanilla-filled croissant donut from My French Cafe
Vanilla-filled croissant donut from My French Cafe

My omelette was just ok. It was really greasy and I couldn't tell if it was from the mushrooms (maybe they were canned mushrooms and I was getting the juice?!) or if it was just buttery grease. Either way, it gave me the heebie jeebies because I didn't want an upset stomach if it really was fatty grease and I didn't eat all of it. My croissant donut on the other hand was stupid good!

We drove out to NASA, which was a little over an hour away. Unfortunately, the tours were already sold out for the day. We could have just bought a general admission ticket and gone without the paid tour, but both of us had our heart set on the tour. We went ahead and bought tickets for the next day and drove back towards our resort.

When we got back to the resort, I changed for the evening and we took some blog photos of the outfit which you can see in Wednesday's post here. We decided to do dinner at Planet Hollywood with another movie after. (The husband and I are avid movie-theater goers.) I've been to a few Planet Hollywoods around the country, and I always crave it when I'm in big touristy cities like this or Vegas. We watched Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and I LOVED it. I laughed so much! It was great.

Saturday, January 6th

Kennedy Space Center "Rocket Garden"

Saturday, we got up early because our tour at NASA was scheduled at 11am and we wanted to grab a quick bite to eat before we made the hour long drive. We just went through the Dunkin drive-thru on the way there and arrived a little after 10am. We passed some time before the tour by browsing the gift shop (because warmth) and then we were on our way at 11. There is a bus tour included with the general admission ticket, but you have the option to do a special interest tour which includes extra stops that the general bus tour does not do. We chose the Kennedy Space Center Explore Tour. 

Kennedy Space Center Explore Tour

It's a bus tour, so the majority of those 2 hours were spent driving. There were 33 of us on a big bus and the tour guide would point out buildings and explain their functions along the way. There were 3 stops where we could get out and take photos. I truly had no idea how big this facility was. I had NO idea. I'm thinking a couple of buildings. No. It is a good 15 minute bus ride from one end to the other. The tour took a good two hours, and it concluded at the Apollo/ Saturn V Center.

Kennedy Space Center Saturn V Rocket
Kennedy Space Center Saturn V Rocket

Even if you chose not to do the bus tour that comes with general admission, there is still SO much to see and do. You can see the full list of attractions here. I would say once the bus dropped us off at the Apollo/ Saturn V Center, we easily spent a good hour there. Looking, reading, learning, observing. It was after 2pm by this time and I was starting to get hangry, so we caught a shuttle back to the visitor's center to grab lunch and check out the Atlantis.

Rocket boosters and orange tank outside the home of the Atlantis
Rocket boosters and orange tank outside the home of the Atlantis

We spent another solid hour here exploring Atlantis. Similar to the Apollo/ Saturn V center, you watch a short film presentation first before they open the doors to expose the greatness of this shuttle. There are exhibits split up everywhere for you to learn more about a particular subject. There were also a lot of areas for kids to play here, including an indoor slide. By the time we were done here, it was after 4pm. That means 7 full hours of space exploration! And there were still so many things that we didn't do like watch the IMAX movie or meet an astronaut! We only did about one third of what this facility offers. If you have space buffs in your family, this could easily turn into a 2-day event!

Oh! One other thing that was fascinating to me about the facility was the wildlife! We saw alligators and armadillos and some roseate spoonbill birds! We also saw a ginormous bald eagle's nest. The tour guide told us they see dolphins a lot, too! As we were riding along, the tour guide made sure to point out all the wildlife in addition to NASA-related history, which was a nice added bonus!

Table-side guacamole from Rocco's Tacos
Table-side guacamole from Rocco's Tacos

We drove an hour back towards our resort and decided to stop right away for dinner so that when we did make it back to the resort, we'd be home for the night! We decided on Rocco's Tacos. I had the best taco salad I've had in my life along with a watermelon margarita. The guacamole was excellent, though we did need to add more salt to it after the fact. The service was amazing - we had two managers stop by our table during our visit just to check on us. I would definitely come back here again.

WHEW! That is it! You will notice that I didn't really post any outfits in this post, and well, there are two reasons for that. 1) There were no full length mirrors in our suite and 2) My outfits really weren't post-worthy. I wore the same plaid shirt (seen here) at least 3 times last week. I also wore my moto leggings a ton (also in this post) and the jacket for the week was my black minus-the-leather jacket from Express. I wore this pullover to Disney and this zip up in grey to NASA. Outside of the two days I took photos for the blog, I didn't bother doing my hair. I reached for this hat instead. I just really wasn't motivated to get dolled up. I figured that's what my first week back to work is for!

Thanks for hanging in there with me if you made it to the end of this post! Have a great weekend!

Linking up for:  Fashion Friday, Friday Favorites


  1. OMG you did so much, happy you got to try Rocco's it is one of my favorite Mexican spot.


  2. What a great trip! All of the food pics have me drooling! The desserts look especially amazing.


  3. I love Disney! It's been so long since I've been and this post made me want to go again soon and take my grandson!

  4. What a fun trip! We need to go back to Disney.