Christmas Trip Day 3

After two straight nights of holiday delight, we were ready for a big day full of EPCOT fun. It wasn’t until day three that not taking a break in the afternoon really started to effect me. Right around 3 p.m. I was almost sleep walking. But, before all that we had plenty to do!

The haze surrounding the ball would have looked much better had somebody who knew what they were doing took this picture.

The haze surrounding the ball would have looked much better had somebody who knew what they were doing took this picture.

The night before at dinner Josh had enlightened us to the fact that the single rider line at Test Track was significantly shorter since it’s renovation. The reason being that people in the normal line have to take five to 10 minutes to design their ride vehicle before actually getting on the ride. In the single rider line, you can skip that whole part and go right to the loading dock. With this in mind, we headed straight for Tron Track when the park opened 15 minutes early, right on cue.

There’s nothing quite like being at a Disney park when it opens. There is inspirational sounding music blaring from the speakers throughout the park. Cast members are smiling, dancing and waving. The park is still mostly empty and the intense Florida sun hasn’t honed in yet. The best part, though,  is all of the people running. I never get tired of watching a family run, trying to keep everybody together as their backpacks and sunglasses bounce and fall off, yelling and screaming at each other like they are running from mortar shells, only to see them three groups in front of us in line for the ride everybody and their brother is heading to.

This morning Tron Track must have had a few issues because by the time we made it back to that area the regular line hadn’t started moving yet. Because of this, the line extended all the way out to where the JAMMitors play outside of the “tunnel” between Innoventions East/Electric Umbrella and Mouse Gear. I think this helped us in the long run.

As we headed toward the single ride entrance I snatched Ashley’s annual pass and got two FASTPASSes. I grabbed the passes and joined her as she was heading into the single rider line.

The new queue inside Tron Track is sleek and modern. All of the fake auxiliary tests and car parts are gone. There are no more royal blue pyramids sticking out from the walls. Instead, there is a lot of stainless steel and a few concept cars on display. While it looks at lot more modern, it’s not as fun as it used to be.

This is the only decent picture I have of the new queue. I was hurrying through the line so I'm going to call this one an "action shot."

This is the only decent picture I have of the new queue. I was hurrying through the line so I’m going to call this one an “action shot.”

We didn’t get to see much of it as the single rider line peels off to the left quickly after entering the building. You walk through a few hallways and through the design lab for single riders where you can creep-ily peer down on the normal line people creating their vehicle. Ashley and I plowed through this room and headed to the loading bay.

To our surprise there was no line. NONE. We kept going forward and were sent right to numbers 4 and 5. The couple in front of us had 1 and 2. Our vehicle arrived, looking very much like the old ones with a few Tron-like decals glued on, and we hopped in. We didn’t know it at the time but we, and the couple in front of us, were the first ones on the ride that morning. Crazy stuff.

This is the RFID reader by the loading docks. You scan the RFID card storing your custom car so the ride knows which vehicles NOT to display as you go through the ride.

This is the RFID reader by the loading docks. You scan the RFID card storing your custom car so the ride knows which vehicles NOT to display as you go through the ride. This was from another time we rode, when we weren’t the first ones on the ride.

The only real difference inside the vehicle is the screen in front of the middle seat of both rows; they show you different stuff than before. As far as differences with the ride, there really are too many to go into great detail here. Ashley gave me a great suggestion: Once I’m done with all of the days of our trip, I’m going to write another post about Tron Track and the changes from the old ride, hearkening back to the original idea of this blog.

For now I will say there is a lot less going on in the ride and a lot of neon lights. The outside speed run is essentially the same.

They redesigned the show room at the end to include a ton of interactive games you can play using the car you designed at the beginning. There are still a good amount of Chevrolet cars on display and an even greater amount of Chevrolet/Disney merchandise for sale.

You may have noticed there aren’t many pictures of Tron Track. Well, I didn’t take a ton because the ride itself is either dark or shaky. Some parts are so dark the only real light comes from the neon Tron lights, and a picture with my poor little ELPH would look terrible. Other parts you move around so much that, even though there is enough light, the picture would still be terrible. I’m sure you can find better pictures on other Disney websites. Kenny the Pirate has some great ones.

After Test Track we headed toward Soarin’ via Mouse Gear. We got to Soarin’ and the line was already 30+ minutes and FASTPASS was over two hours out. We knew we would be back in a couple of mornings and could do it then so we left and headed for The Seas with Nemo and friends before going to Sum of All Thrills.

The manatees were very active that morning.

The manatees were very active that morning.

Our Honeymoon was the first time on Sum of All Thrills for either of us so we were both excited to go on it again. This time, we designed the most insane rocket ride we could. We always picked the most intense option and it turned out just as we wanted. I don’t know about Ashley but I felt a little queasy afterward. For some reason I can’t remember what we named our ride this time. All I remember is that the ride was crazy and the teenage boy behind us in line kept TOUCHING ME. He obviously had no feel for person space because he was all up in mine. Apparently he even bumped into Ashley a couple of times. I was about to whoop some ass.

Hidden advertisement at it's finest.

Hidden advertisement at it’s finest.

At this point we still had over an hour until World Showcase opened and had already hit the three main attractions. Since we were right by it we went on Ellen’s Energy Adventure. It’s obviously not the most exciting ride but it’s inside, you sit down for most of it, it’s dark and it’s a great place to rest for 45 minutes. Because of this, and our lack of enthusiasm for the new and improved Tron Track, we never used out FASTPASSes.

We got off Ellen with almost half an hour to spare but we made our way toward World Showcase anyway. They let you walk into World Showcase as far as the bridge between the UK and France on the one side. I’m not sure how far you can get past Mexico on the other side. We had a reservation at Biergarten around 1 p.m. as part of the Candlelight Processional Dining Package so we knew exactly how much time we had to get from the UK to Germany.

The UK pavilion. Rose and Crown is behind me.

The UK pavilion. Rose and Crown is behind me.

Looking back at UK with the colors blown out.

Looking back at UK with the colors blown out.

To waste 15-20 minutes we sat on a few benches, watched a squirrel run back and forth across the walkway, checked out the gift shop by the International Gateway and laughed at all of the people coming from the Yacht & Beach Club, Boardwalk and Swan & Dolphin resorts.

My family has always understood that to effectively tour Disney you have to arrive before the park opens, stay until early afternoon, go back to the hotel and take a break until evening, then go back for a while. Well, these people don’t get it. They are rolling in around 10:45 a.m. and wonder why the lines for everything are so long already. Naive cluelessness I suppose.

From "across the pond"

From “across the pond”

Right at 11 a.m. the incredibly dorky cast member decked out in Perry the Platypus gear lowered the rope and the stampede toward France began. Since we had a late lunch we stopped at the bakery and split a ham and cheese sandwich. Per usual from the bakery, it was delicious. Fairly soon after our trip ended they expanded the bakery. Now it’s HUGE! Check out the Disney Food Blog review of it.

It was so much nicer going right at 11 when there weren't 500 people cramming into the little building.

It was so much nicer going right at 11 when there weren’t 500 people cramming into the little building.

After our brunch we soldiered on. First, we made a pit stop at the infamous bathrooms of Morocco. I couldn’t muster up the courage to go in (actually, I didn’t have to go). Instead, I took pictures of flowers!

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From outside the bathrooms in Morocco.

From outside the bathrooms in Morocco.

The big tower in Morocco.

The big tower in Morocco.

At this point we hadn’t spent any significant time in any of the pavilions. This ended when we arrived in Japan and headed for the Mitsukoshi Department Store. We experienced the joys of the food market in the rear last time and had to go back to get more intriguing goodies.

The glowing aura created by the sun in a lot of my pictures annoys me. I have no idea how to fix it. I haven't done that much research on it though so I'm really the only one to blame.

The glowing aura created by the sun in a lot of my pictures annoys me. I have no idea how to fix it. I haven’t done that much research on it though so I’m really the only one to blame.

And now begins a showcase of the many treats available in the department store.

This was a "cookie"

This was a “cookie”

"Potato treats"

“Potato treats”

I'm assuming the look on the rabbit and gorilla's faces are how you are suppose to feel after eating these.

I’m assuming the look on the rabbit and gorilla’s faces are how you are supposed to feel after eating these.

If that same rules applies to this snack I would avoid it.

If that same rules applies to this snack I would avoid it.

And a kitty mug for good measure...

And a kitty mug for good measure…

The Slayer of Vanity. Reminds me of a Metallica song.

The Slayer of Vanity. Reminds me of a Metallica song.

One our way out of Japan I took an obligatory shot of the ball.

If those damn trees weren't in the way it would be a better shot.

If those damn trees weren’t in the way it would be a better shot.

Soon after we went to our homeland, The American Adventure. And boy was it ever an adventure…

I had convinced Ashley to see The American Adventure inside The American Adventure but the stupid thing was having technical difficulties and wasn’t running yet. Since we had plenty of time to waste before lunch and were only a couple pavilions away, we perused.

They had a Hanukkah exhibit. If you can call it an exhibit. I don't know a lot about Hanukkah but judging by the picture it must have been either the sixth or seventh day of it.

They had a Hanukkah exhibit. If you can call it an exhibit. I don’t know a lot about Hanukkah but judging by the “candles” on the menorah it must have been the sixth day.

They also had a small museum of sorts on the right side of the room as you walk in. It highlights a handful of important people in American history.

They had a Purple Heart on display. HOW COOL IS THAT!

They had a Purple Heart on display. HOW COOL IS THAT!

We spent a good 30 minutes in The American Adventure without actually seeing The American Adventure. Heading toward Italy we still had an hour or so to kill.

I think I said this when I wrote about our Honeymoon but Italy just doesn’t do anything for me. There are a few (I’m assuming nice) restaurants and a few small shops that sell expensive Italian goods. My dedication to my feeble blog led me to take some pictures though.

A big tower. I'm sure it has a proper name.

A big tower. I’m sure it has a proper name.

We both want to eat here. The giant pizzas look AMAZING.

We both want to eat here. The giant pizzas look AMAZING.

A view from the other direction. Everybody looks WAY too tan.

A view from the other direction. Everybody looks WAY too tan.

At this point we were done with Italy and still had too much time before our reservation with only Germany ahead of us. Luckily, Germany had enough things to do or look at to eat up 20 minutes or so. Right as you enter the Germany area from Italy there is a huge model train set. This thing is incredible.

There were two people in ECVs riding abreast taking up the entire path I was on. It took almost 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other when it should take a couple.

There were two people in ECVs riding abreast taking up the entire path I was on. It took almost 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other when it should only take a couple.

Most of the pavilion.

Most of the pavilion.

Proudly presented in Vista Vision.

Proudly presented in Vista Vision.

After looking through the shops and scoping out what to get at the Karamell-Kuche later in the evening, we got in line for Biergarten. After probably 10 minutes we got to the podium, received our buzzer and waited for our hostess to seat us.

I would like to have a beer garden in my backyard some day.

I would like to have a beer garden in my backyard some day.

Ashley and I fell in love with this place. The theming inside is absolutely stunning. I’ve never been to Germany but I imagine this place is very similar.  It feels like you are sitting in the middle of a small German village at night, enjoying a giant buffet with hundreds of your closest friends. At first it was a bit awkward because you sit at the same table as people you don’t know but after a few minutes of awkwardness it goes away. If you have a party of eight though you get your own table.

You can't see much because of the picture quality but this place is so cool.

You can’t see much because of the picture quality but this place is so cool.

Underneath the garland and doorways is where the buffet is. There are two sides with the same stuff.

Underneath the garland and doorways is where the buffet is. There are two sides with the same stuff.

We got a table way down at the bottom, close to the stage that halfway into our meal turned into quite the spectacle. The band was surprisingly entertaining and played a special show because it was so close to Christmas.

Polka!

Polka!

Riiiiiiiiicolaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Riiiiiiiiicolaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Everything about this place is pure awesomeness. The food is good, not great, but it’s a buffet and a cheap Disney buffet at that. They have almost a dozen different cold salads, a giant vat of beer cheese soup with pretzel bread rolls to dip in it (DELICIOUS), an assortment of pasta and potato dishes and the finest assortment of meat I’ve ever seen. Seriously, if you like meat and potatoes, eat here. Even if you don’t, there are PLENTY of other things to choose from, including decadent German desserts. I wish I could eat there right now!

The atmosphere, food and entertainment make this place a no-brainer if you are looking for a family buffet. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back here in future trips. And to think, we completely looked over it when deciding our restaurants during our Honeymoon: silly us!

After rolling out of the buffet we breezed right past the other three countries, knowing we would be back in a couple of days to explore them, and headed to the International Gateway.

Some World Showcase action.

Some World Showcase action.

In lieu of a mid-day break we spent the few hours between lunch and the first Candlelight Processional by wandering around the EPCOT resorts looking at Christmas decorations. We had toured the resorts a few months earlier so there wasn’t a whole lot of new stuff to see except the Christmas decorations. This time though the weather was much more pleasant.

Beach Club light post garland.

Beach Club light post garland.

Fully operational, gingerbread carousel. Crazy.

Fully operational, gingerbread carousel. Crazy.

And a little gingerbread tower to go with it.

And a little gingerbread tower to go with it.

The Boardwalk resort from Beach Club.

The Boardwalk resort from Beach Club.

Stromalong Bay.

Stromalong Bay.

More garland.

More garland.

Winter train set.

Winter train set.

Reverse angle.

Reverse angle.

And a Christmas tree with boats on it! How festive!

And a Christmas tree with boats on it! How festive!

Once again, we walked past Swan and Dolphin but didn’t get anywhere near them. At one point during our trip we did stop at one of them to change buses though.

By the time we got to the Boardwalk I was soooo pooped. We had to sit on a bench for a while.

By the time we got to the Boardwalk I was soooo pooped. We had to sit on a bench for a while.

This little guy kept slipping on the rail when we were sitting on the bench. Every time it happened he had a mini-freak out but regained his composure. Animals are so cute.

This little guy kept slipping on the rail when we were sitting on the bench. Every time it happened he had a mini-freak out but regained his composure. Animals are so cute.

I guess you could call this the courtyard area?

I guess you could call this the courtyard area?

After our quick Christmas tour we trekked back to EPCOT and wandered aimlessly for an hour or so. Aimless wandering lends a hand to mediocre picture taking.

Big Christmas tree between Future World and World Showcase.

Big Christmas tree between Future World and World Showcase.

So much color!!!

So much color!!!

Another guide animal bathroom area. This one is between the bathrooms by Test Track and the entrance to Mouse Gear on that side.

Another guide animal bathroom area. This one is between the bathrooms by Test Track and the entrance to Mouse Gear on that side.

As the sun started to set we made our way toward The American Adventure via Canada, UK, France and Japan.

As the sun started to set we made our way toward The American Adventure via Canada, UK, France and Japan.

After a lot of wondering we found the line for the Candlelight Processional. It was HUGE. Luckily, about five minutes after we got in line, which was about 40 minutes before the show started, they started seating people. I can tell you one thing for sure: the benches surrounding the stage are not particularly comfortable.

Finally, the show started and it was so spectacular. There are multiple choirs up on stage, full of color, holding a single candle. The narrator for our show was Lea Salonga, the singing voice for Jasmine and Mulan. Everything about the show is magical. The Christmas carols themselves are magical. The hundreds of children and adults on stage singing in unison are magical. The soft glow of the fake candles is magical. Magical, magical, magical.

This was the only decent picture of the show I got.

This was the only decent picture of the show I got.

By the time the show got to the last few songs I was on the verge of crying again. It was very emotional. The only thing I didn’t like was, because we went to the 5:00 show, it didn’t get dark until the very end. BUT, it would have cost a lot more to have dinner with the package instead of lunch so we took it in stride.

After the show we stopped at the Karamell-Kuche and got some treats. I don’t remember what either of us got but we both loved it!

Since we had visited the resorts that afternoon, instead of after the show like I had planned, we didn’t have much to do after the show. We wandered around a bit and ended up leaving shortly after the Processional ended.

You can still see a bit of daylight on the horizon. This was probably 30 minutes after the show ended.

You can still see a bit of daylight on the horizon. This was probably 30 minutes after the show ended.

The awesome light-up sidewalk around Spaceship Earth. I want a driveway like this someday.

The awesome light-up sidewalk around Spaceship Earth. I want a driveway like this someday.

We may have gone on Spaceship Earth before we left. I know we went on it at some point that day. It’s my fault for waiting so long after the actual trip to write about it.

So pretty.

So pretty.

We ended up catching a “motor coach” to the Caribbean Beach Resort to check it out since we didn’t want to go back to our resort at six at night. We got off in Jamaica and walked across the bridge, around the island in the middle, around the pool and through the main building. I must say, the food court here is very cool. The theming, as usual, is stunning. As we were looking at stuff Ashley noticed that Animal Kingdom was open later than usual that night. So, we ran out to the bus stop and got on the next “motor coach” to Animal Kingdom.

We arrived with about 45 minutes until the park closed. We managed to ride Expedition Everest five times and Dinosaur once in that amount of time. AND it was the first time I had been in Animal Kingdom at night: it’s beautiful. I can’t stress enough how EMPTY Animal Kingdom is at night. If you are sitting at your hotel around 5 p.m. with nothing to do, pop over to Animal Kingdom for a couple of hours and hit as many rides as you can. On a future trip I’d like to go on the last Safari of the day to compare it to the early morning ones.

I can’t remember if we did anything after leaving Animal Kingdom or not. I doubt it since it was somewhat late. Our third day was VERY productive and, as usual, I was more tired than usual at Disney because of the lack of a mid-day nap. This short Christmas trip was shaping up to be one of the best ever.

One thought on “Christmas Trip Day 3

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