Greetings friends. It's been a while since I've made a trip report; many years in fact. But I had such an amazing time in Orlando last January that I wanted to share it with the world. So, buckle up. This may take a while.Chapter I - The ArrivalChapter II - Skewered Banshee WingsChapter III - Manic KingdomChapter I - The Arrival
Eleven years ago, Megan and I met while working at Hollywood Video. We spent many years together sharing laughs, gaining valuable life experiences, traveling the country, making amazing friends, eating food, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and, of course, visiting theme parks. And on October, Friday the 13th of 2017, we enacted a brilliant scheme of getting some of our best friends to spend a week at Walt Disney World with us by getting married.
Our plan went perfectly. Those idiots were suckered in by the lure of being witness to their friends being spiritually joined as one person forever and couldn’t refuse this once in a lifetime excuse to travel to Central Florida for nearly half a month.
Over the course of a year, from engagement to wedding to the big day, planned an unforgettable Group Honeymoon that folks are talking about to this day.
There were eleven of us. Five couples and one lonely, but enthusiastic, man. Most of us originally come from the Midwest, but now many of us, myself included, live across the country in a small town off the Pacific called Los Angeles. There is a prerequisite. Our large group has taken several day trips to Disneyland with great success. But there are those who have never experience the East Beast known as Orlando. The plan was for 10 days in The World.
On January 20th 2018, the plan unfolded.
Meg and I flew out first. It’s our honeymoon, afterall. We were sure to plan a few days for us to be by ourselves, without the crew. But mostly, we wanted to get a lay of the land and prepare the hotel for everyone’s arrival. We also had a hot date planned.
The flight was fine, by the best I could remember. We both were dying to get to the resort. Everything was finally coming together.
What a swanky joint! Would ya look at all that swank.
For the next week and a half, we called Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House our home.
Do you see it?
This happy little guy served as a room signifier and wonderful greeter to our room. He seems to smirk and say, “It’s going to get wild”.
The suite was… well… sweet.
We had a pool table!
We had our own balconies, all three of these!
And it looked down at animals!
King sized bed for us Honeymooners.
And had a kick*** bathtub with jets and Mufasa can watch you while you’re naked!
We didn’t have much time to stick around. We had a bus to catch.
Enjoying Walt Disney World’s massive size is always a novelty to me, being a Disneylander. The amount of roadways and waterways and sprawling acres of (swampy) nature is fascinating to me. I love seeing it. So, we decided to hop a bus to Hollywood Studios...
…to walk along the river that leads us to the Epcot located resorts.
It was the first time we walked this way; on our last trip we realized we could take the boat from Hollywood Studios to Epcot. I thought it would be just as scenic and probably faster if we walked it. This path has become one of my favorite walks in Walt Disney World. I love how quiet and secluded it is: a rare find in the number one tourist destination. It reminds me of (and we don't have access to it anymore) the path that ran alongside the monorail and Downtown Disney in Disneyland. We used to walk that path because it was nice and quiet and would often be faster than the parking lot trams. Of course, this path in Walt Disney World is the extreme version of that. Quiet and secluded in Southern California means there’s only a few dozen people around, not zero.
Of course, today this view looks very different. I haven’t seen them in person yet, but we walked right by the Skyliner construction. We would all prefer monorails, no doubt, but I’m also interested in being dangled over the gaping maw of a hungry alligator in a tiny, swaying, unairconditioned bird cage. When those open, things should be very exciting indeed.
Meg and I finally made it over to Boardwalk. We had just been on a plane for six hours and a bus for another hour, so we were looking for a the quickest way to get alcohol into our bloodstreams. But since we didn’t pack our flask, and we also like themed bars, we waited until we could get to the newly opened Abracadabar.
I would never discourage a visit to a bar with inventive drinks and a fun atmosphere. Abracadabar had some good drinks that did their job (or did they? I don’t know it was a long day and maybe I was just punch drunk from traveling)!
It’s not to Trader Sam’s standards, but, so far, nothing is.
We stumbled back out into the night and carried ourselves across the nearby bridge. I could feel a little excitement as Epcot could just be seen in the distance. Meg and I had decided that our Honeymoon date night must include very expensive meat and found that the Yachtsman Steakhouse was just the place to get it! I have no idea if they are the best steaks on property, but the sound of a “dry aged” steak sounded freaking awesome.
And it was.
Even in writing about this I feel SO. FULL. And between traveling, the constrictive clothing (dress code), the alcohol, and the meat induced sweating, we were delirious and wanted ever so much to get back to Jambo House.
Yes, you will see food in this trip report. No, I’m not sorry.
The best way we could think to end our first night was to get in that freakin’ tub and drink some homebrewed screwdrivers. The bathtub was necessary because gravity had severely increased after one hundred and twenty dollars worth of steak and we needed to maximize our buoyancy.
We were finally able to relax and let our vacation begin. After a year of planning and waiting, it was finally here. It’s so odd to actually experience it all knowing that 10-months-ago-you has got present-day-you’s back. Apparently that guy really knew what I would want and really took care of me. The distance between Planner Me and Vacationer Me is almost a whole person different. Hell, I wasn’t even married then!
It was then time for sleep, for the party would arrive in the morning.
I can get used to waking up to this!
Meg and I started the day by immediately breaking the sacred Disney BubbleTM. We got a room with a kitchen and dammit we are going to use it. We hailed a Lyft from out front and made the short trek to Publix. I was honestly surprised to see how close Animal Kingdom Lodge and Publix are from each other. The property line is RIGHT there and Animal Kingdom Lodge is on the far, far Southwestern corner. There was a small road that led us right there, out into the dreaded “real world”.
We stocked up on supplies. Breakfast foods, liquor, beer (Meg and I don’t drink beer, but our housemates sure do), and several cases of water. Florida, I love you, but your water tastes funky. No… like… farty.
Back at Jambo House...
Entertaining ourselves until the rest of the gang arrives. And yes, my wife has a SICK tattoo of the Nautilus fighting the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Austin and Jen (not pictured, whoops) were the first to arrive! Jen grew up in Florida so was quite experienced with the differences from Disneyland, but Austin is a California boy and I was most eager to see his reaction to the pure size and scope of this place. He didn’t disappoint.
Nick and Natalie arrived next!
These two globetrotters have seen more chain-lifts and upstop wheels than I could dream. Nick is a coaster buddy of mine from way back in our days of being teenaged youths terrorizing Six Flags Great America. When he and his totally awesome wife Natalie had lived in SoCal, we would all frequently meet up to terrorize the Happiest Place on Earth.
Jackie is Megan’s best friend from childhood. There’s probably no one else on earth I would say needed to be there if you were having a party or looking to party or looking to continue a party or anything. This gal knows how to have fun. She is joined by Mikey, her ever enthusiastic boyfriend who is equally gregarious.
Have you been keeping track? There will be a quiz.
Also, they are animal lovers and were very excited to see the critters roaming around.
“Okay, half of the gang is here and the other half is coming tonight. Let’s go drink.”
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar was a treat.
Similar to Abracadabar, fun themed cocktails within a themed location. Again, not up to Trader Sam’s level, but still highly enjoyable. Especially with friends.
We laughed, we cried, we drank. At some point, those who have tattoos started comparing them.
This has nothing to do with theme parks, I just think it’s interesting. I don’t have any tattoos myself, but always find them fascinating. There are often some very skilled people creating art on a living canvas, so to speak.
It seemed to have happened naturally, but we collectively decided that our group needed a sort of signature call and response phrase. Something that would be an easy way to find every one and call out at inappropriate times. Since we were staying in Jambo House, any time one of us had joined the group or we would give a ‘cheers’ with our drinks or even when we were at a loss for what to scream on roller coasters, we would be sure to loudly shout “JAMBO!” as a group.
It was such an enjoyable phrase that we still often find ourselves calling “Jambo!” any time we see one another.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh here we go, another group of drunk tourists stumbling around Walt’s Pleasure Paradise, breaking the decibel charts, and clogging up the midway”. Well, I say to you, you are probably right! And I wouldn’t do it any other way.
So, a success for Jock Lindsey, I would say.
But we couldn’t stay out all night, as much as we’d like to. We had the rest of the group coming soon and we had an early day ahead of us, our first park day. We got some lunch at D-luxe Burger then hopped on the first bus back to Jambo House.
The sun was setting on the Vacation Kingdom of the World. Our friends slowly trickled in as the night went on.
Meg and I decided long ago that we would buy our first meal for the room. Many of us hail from the midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota). We couldn’t think of a better meal than a little taste of Chicago’s own Giordano’s Pizza.
It was quite a feast. We were sure to include some of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s famous zebra dome cakes that we bought downstairs at The Mara. It was a beautiful inauguration into Jambo House and into our honeymoon.
But there was little time to enjoy the pool table or the giant tub (we did both, but expedited), the morning was coming fast and we didn’t want to miss it. Tomorrow we would awaken the Animal Kingdom and take our first Flights of Passage...