Whoever invented the word “bittersweet” was obviously getting ready to depart for a Disney park on the last day of their vacation. Leaving your room that last day brings with it a whole slew of emotions. Obviously you are excited and happy to be going to a Disney park: It’s the early morning, the sun hasn’t fried your eyebrows off yet and the screaming children in triple-wide strollers are still making their parents’ lives miserable, but in the comfort of their own room. At the same time, you know you have to leave for home later that day and return to real life. Boo.
Ashley and I will both tell you the same thing: knowing we were going back to Disney in May made it a LOT easier to leave on this trip. It probably sounds both asinine and childish to say that we didn’t want to leave, even though we had been for eight days in August and four days in December, but it really was hard to leave. Going from this fantasy-land back to real life is hard. Leaving in May will probably be harder than our two previous trips since we won’t know when we will return; it won’t be for a while, I can tell you that.
Anyway, the last day of our trip consisted of a visit to EPCOT. While touring with the dining plan we grew to love the place. The rides are sufficient, World Showcase is always fun to walk around, but the food; the food is amazing. Now, having to actually pay out of pocket for this food isn’t amazing. BUT, when we had “free” dining we could eat practically anywhere we wanted and order whatever we wanted. But I digress…
Once again, we arrived prior to the park opening and waited to enter the park. This time though we noticed a section of turnstiles all the way to the right that weren’t turnstiles. Instead, they were gold poles with a globe on top adorned with the silhouette of Mickey’s head. They have them arranged in a “V” shape with the point sticking toward the crowd. Apparently this must allow better traffic flow.
Much to our chagrin, we were informed that only those with their park tickets on their KTTW could use that entrance. Those of us with paper tickets had to use the normal entrances. Because of the new entrances being constructed, there were fewer of the normal turnstiles.
WELL THEN! I see that Disney really values those that pay extra money to enjoy their parks YEAR ‘ROUND. You can get
20% 10% off merchandise and get a little better deal on your room but you have to wait longer to enter the park. Also, you have to continue to stick your finger on the green light that never reads it correctly the first time. Unfortunately you can’t use the new RFID technology to enter the park. Unfortunately, you can’t use the newer, nicer, quicker entrances.
After I got over myself we made our way toward Tron Track. We had good luck a few days prior going there first thing so we tried again. This time, however, the line had already started entering the ride so, even though we went single rider, there was already a line forming in the loading bay. We still only waited about 74 seconds before getting on the ride. One ride was enough for us as we were even less impressed with it than the first time we rode it. Like I said before, my next post will be about the differences between Test Track and Tron Track. It’s not really called Tron Track but it’s an easy way to distinguish between the two.
After leaving Tron Track, we headed toward The Land and made it to Soarin’ before the crowds got crazy busy so we snagged FASTPASSes and got in the regular line. We waited the shortest amount of time we have ever waited to ride. We walked through the empty queue, got to the part where the attendant tells you to go right or left, went left, walked down the hallway, turned toward the loading bays, walked to the last one, told the cast member “two” and were directed toward the last two seats in the front row. We did all of this without stopping once. About 30 seconds later Patrick Warburton showed up on screen and gave us our instructions.
Every time I ride Soarin’ I like it even more. This flight was especially memorable because a very young girl, maybe four-years-old, was two seats down from me. She had her grandfather to her left (next to me) and her grandmother to her right. She was SO scared to ride. She wasn’t putting up a fight but clung to them like the ground was molten lava. They got her strapped in and she assumed the position: legs tucked into her chest, right arm wrapped around her grandmothers and left armed wrapped even tighter around her grandfathers.
I heard a little squeal and murmurs of reassurance from the grandparents as we wooshed forward and up. Moments later we were soarin’ over California and the awestruck look on her face was priceless. If only I could feel the way she felt in those few minutes I would be the happiest man on earth. It almost melted my heart how adorable it was.
Side Note:I can be an emotional guy but I don’t throw the word “adorable” out much. This was ADORABLE.
I’ve read of somebody’s face “lighting up” but never experienced it first hand. THIS is an example of why I love going to Disney; I could just see a memory being formed that she would remember for the rest of her life: The first time she rode Soarin’.
After I reconfirmed the meaning of life we hopped on Living with the Land. We got to sit in the very front row which was actually really cool. It may be slow and boring when you are a child but I appreciate Living with the Land now. Honestly, I’d rather ride it than Tron Track.
Feeling too good about life, I resolved to becoming a hypocrite by eating breakfast at Sunshine Seasons and dragged Ashley down with me. Neither of us ever understood why you would get to EPCOT before it opens, walk to The Land with the herd of people and immediately eat breakfast. What a waste of park time.
Well, we had about 20 minutes before our FASTPASS for Soarin’ was good and didn’t have much else to do before World Showcase opened so we got a couple small things and joined the Sunshine Seasons Breakfast Club. It wasn’t anything special but it wasn’t bad either. While deciding what to get for brunch we also perused the menu to see if we could find anything we would want for lunch. I really want to like Sunshine Seasons but can never find anything on any of the menus that looks appetizing.
We actually waited longer to ride using our FASTPASS than we did 45 minutes earlier going through the standby line. Even with the longer wait it was probably only 10 or 15 minutes.
Once we left I convinced Ashley to ride Imagination even though she isn’t too crazy about the ride. Compared to our Honeymoon ride, this one was MUCH better. The cast members operating the ride didn’t look like they wanted to kill themselves and there were other people in our ride train; overall, not too shabby.
After getting off the ride we really didn’t have anything to do until World Showcase opened so we walked around to the back – or side depending on how you look at it – of Imagination to use the restroom. It’s actually a peaceful place back there. Since it was sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. the park wasn’t busy yet and because not many people ride Imagination, the area behind it was even less busy. There are a couple of benches situated with a nice view of Spaceship Earth.
We did a decent job of killing some time before World Showcase opened and only had to wait a couple of minutes before rope drop.
Since we had toured all of the countries from Canada to Germany a few days prior we didn’t spend a whole lot of time at any of them. We still had to go through China, Norway and Mexico and had to be back at the hotel in time to finish packing, eat lunch and be at the Magical Express bus stop before our appointed pickup time.
As we walked past Japan we decided to go back to the Mitsukoshi Department Store and grab a few more snacks. Ashley got these coffee hard candy things that she loved. I got a variety pack of fruit flavored gummies. The name is in Japanese (I’m assuming) so I can’t tell you what they are actually called but the name appears to be two Japanese symbols and “100.” They are horrible. They definitely aren’t Hi-Chews. We got some of those and loved them.
We continued our speed walk around the countries…
When I said we still had to tour China I meant we still had to walk past it slower than we walked past the first eight countries. We got to see Mulan though!
I actually felt bad for Mulan. She was standing there with her photographer waiting for children to come up and get pictures taken.
Three tween girls came running through the pavilion and the photographer asked them, “Would you like a picture with Mulan?”
They though about it for a few seconds.
“No,” they all answered and continued running. OUCH!
She may not know it but I got a picture “with” her. All I need is Photoshop.
We continued on to Norway with Maelstrom (and money, obviously) on the mind.
Maelstrom is easily the best ride in World Showcase, which isn’t saying much. Compared to the Gran Fiesta Tour it has a drop, backward movement and trolls; that’s hard to top that no matter how you look at it. Going as soon after 11 a.m. as possible will leave you with virtually no wait. We have been there around 2 p.m. before and the wait was 20 or 30 minutes. It’s a fun ride but not that fun.
I’m not sure if my brother actually loved this ride when he was a kid or if my dad played it up so much that he convinced him to like it but he always wanted to ride it. He’ll get to ride it for the first time in a while in May.
Maelstrom exits into one of my favorite gift shops. I know, I know; it’s a shock that a Disney ride exits into a gift shop but this one has some nice, non-Disney merchandise. Of course, most of it is meant for a Norwegian climate which is drastically different from Central Florida’s climate but you can always plan for the winter. Or just buy stuff because it looks cool, that’s what I do.
Mexico was the only pavilion left on our agenda. We love the atmosphere inside and the Gran Fiesta Tour is a fun way to spend 10 minutes.
We perused the shopping kiosks a bit but didn’t come away with anything. Before leaving the pavilion we hopped on Gran Fiesta Tour to find Donald-o.
And that’s about it for Mexico. We left the pavilion and headed toward the park entrance. At this point it was around noon and the Magical Express was coming to pick us up around 2:30 from POP Century. As we made our way to the front of the park we thought about hitting Spaceship Earth one last time. After looking at the line we laughed and continued on.
This was when fear struck. We left our bags in the room knowing we would be back to pick them up, eat lunch and wait for the Magical Express. What I didn’t think about was the fact that check-out was at 11 a.m. and our bus pickup was a few hours after. At that moment, we were still in EPCOT and were supposed to have checked out over an hour prior. OH NO.
I freaked out, told Ashley what happened and practically ran to the bus stop for POP Century. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to reassure me or was upset about my brain fart but she seemed much more calm than I. Luckily, we only waited a couple of minutes for our “motor coach” and departed shortly after. The whole ride I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking.
What if they move our bags? What if they charge us for an extra night? What if we can’t get back in the room to get our bags?
Every possible scenario was running through my mind. When we got back to the hotel Ashley suggested letting the front desk know and seeing if we could get any help. After arguing with her about it I finally agreed and told the cast member at the desk what happened. He said he would radio somebody to let us in. We walked to the room to wait outside.
Since I didn’t have anything better to do I tried our room key, figuring it wouldn’t work since we had “checked out” at 11. To my surprise, it worked! We got in our room, quickly packed our stuff and as we were finishing the guy he radioed showed up and I told him our key worked. He didn’t seem surprised and walked away. We got all our stuff and carried it to the food court.
We found an empty booth close to the gift shop and set all our belongings down. I sat with them as Ashley went and got us both cheeseburgers and fries. Since it was our last meal at Disney we went all out and got dessert too. I got my favorite: Mickey ice cream bar. I don’t know how much cocaine they put in those things but apparently it’s enough because they are absolutely delicious beyond words. Ashley found a cupcake she had read about on the Disney Food Blog: The King cupcake.
We sat around for a little while longer until moving to the Magical Express pickup area and waiting 15 more minutes. When it arrived we boarded and bid farewell to Disney. The rest of the trip to the airport was inconsequential. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare, found our terminal and gate and found two seats next to each other.
Our path home went through Baltimore. We quickly found out that the flight to Baltimore before ours was delayed due to severe fog. Our flight was schedule for 4:30 p.m. so we weren’t too worried yet. We started waiting.
About 30 minutes before our flight was to board they announced that the flight to Baltimore before us had been cancelled. There was a collective groan and lines started forming to the various Delta podiums in the area. We both started to worry. More waiting.
A Delta employee came over the speaker and said something to the effect of: We don’t know if you flight will be delayed or cancelled or not but we have to board the plane as if it were on time. We may end up having to remove you all from the plane if it does get delayed or cancelled but we have to board you as if everything is on time. More waiting.
We boarded the plan: Very last row. More waiting.
This, how do I put this, shrew of a woman brought a paper dress on the plane and was fussing about it not being wrinkled in the overhead compartment. The dress was her daughters who appeared to have been in some sort of pageant show in Florida. I’ve never seen any of the reality shows about child beauty pageants but I imagine this woman was a typical pageant mom. She bossed her battered and beaten husband around. Her daughter was a princess (read: brat). And she was the loudest, most annoying, most selfish vixen/spitfire/wench/hellion I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing.
She started arguing with the flight attendants about where to put the dress. They kept telling her it was a full flight and that the overhead compartments would most likely be full so it may be unavoidable. She kept saying it couldn’t be ruined. Eventually she threw a fit, cut off her nose to spite her face, and ordered her husband to “move it somewhere. I don’t even care anymore.” She was a real treat. More waiting.
The same Delta employee from earlier walked onto the plane, “Remember when I told you we might have to remove everybody from the plane? Well, it’s happening. Sorry” Another collective groan, this time with more complaining. We were in the back so everybody in front of us got to depart first. More waiting.
Once we finally grabbed our bags and exited the plane we heard the tail end of the announcement saying all flights to Baltimore that night had been cancelled. Crap.
We made our way to a podium to find a new flight. The best they could find was a non-stop from Orlando to Grand Rapids at 10.am. the next morning. OK, I guess that will do.
We take our new tickets and wander around. Neither of us want to stay the night nor do we want to pay for a cab and a hotel room. We go to another podium to see if maybe there was still a way to get into Detroit or Chicago that night. More waiting.
Finally it was our turn. We asked the lady if there were any flights to Chicago or Detroit and she immediately said “No” without even looking. Instead, she was looking at Facebook or something on her smart phone. So, we walked away and stood around some more. After contemplating our options we got in line at another podium. More waiting.
This time, the Delta employee, while short tempered, was helpful and found us a flight to Detroit through Atlanta that night. I quickly checked with my brother that picking us up in Detroit around midnight instead of in Grand Rapids around 11 would be OK. He said yeah. Hallelujah!
We had a couple of hours to waste now as our flight to Atlanta didn’t leave until after 7 p.m. so we got McDonald’s. We finished eating and went over to our new gate. More waiting.
We boarded the plane with no incident, took off, landed in Atlanta and only had to walk five or six gates down before waiting for our final flight into Detroit. As I was watching the Sunday Night Football game Ashley told me to look behind me. I asked why.
“Look at what that guy is eating,” she said. I turned around and immediately spotted the gentleman with a Chick-fil-A sandwich in his hand. A present from the fast food gods! I immediately stood up, asked her if she wanted one (to which she replied yes) and walked out into the terminal. I had no idea where I was going but I have a sixth sense for Chick-fil-A so it wasn’t long before I saw the glowing red box with the white chicken outline beckoning me. It was a Chick-fil-A Express so they only had sandwiches but I’ll be dipped if that wasn’t the finest chicken sandwich I have ever consumed.
After everything that happened that day – almost losing our luggage (which probably wasn’t going to happen), boarding a plane, un-boarding a plane, getting our flight cancelled, changing flights two times, waiting for almost five hours in the airport, knowing that we wouldn’t be home until probably 3 a.m. and knowing I had to get up as 6 a.m. for work – that little slice of Heaven was the redemption I was seeking.
With my belly full and spirit revived we waited a little while longer, boarded the plane, flew to Detroit, found my brother and rode home.
Our journey definitely encountered the most difficult travel situations we have ever had to deal with. Little did I know that Ashley forgetting her ID at the airport in Grand Rapids would be one of many travel hardships yet to come in those five days.
Going to Disney around Christmastime is something everybody should do. Disney and Christmas both possess magical qualities themselves. Put the two together and it’s blissful. I don’t know when we will be back to Disney at Christmastime again but I assure you it will happen. It’s hard to resist two of your favorite things in one package.
Our last full day began with an early morning “motor coach” ride to the Animal Kingdom. The turnstiles all the way to the left were completely wide open when we arrived around 8:30 a.m. so we jumped on the opportunity and were one of the first people in the park. Of course this didn’t matter because they roped us off in front of the Tree of Life for 10 more minutes until the park actually opened at 9 o’clock but it still felt exciting.
After an agonizing amount of time the rope walkers led us to Kilimanjaro Safari where we boarded the third truck of the day. I’ve always been with people who want to go on the safari first thing in the morning so I don’t how the rides would vary as the day goes on. I’ve heard its better in the morning and evening because it’s not as hot. As far as I can tell, the animals are active and pose for pictures well in the morning so I’ll stick to that.
On both this trip and our Honeymoon we had a woman driver/guide. Now, I definitely don’t have anything against women but either 1) the guides aren’t as good as they used to be (or I remember them being) or 2) female guides aren’t as good as male guides. Both times our guide wasn’t animated nearly enough; it’s like she didn’t care about her job and would rather be at home (which I can respect). There would also be long pauses of no talking. At least turn on the Swahili jams or something. The last time I remember have a male guide he talked a bunch, was very informative and was so energetic I was afraid he was going to jump right out of the truck and hug a giraffe. Maybe he was just an exceptional tour guide and maybe the last two were bad; probably.
After getting off the Safari we neglected to head to either animal trek. I’ve seen them before and Ashley wasn’t too interested so we didn’t waste our time. Because we had been on Expedition Everest a handful of times two nights prior, we also skipped over that and headed to Dinoland. We had BIG plans to eat at Flame Tree BBQ as soon as it opened so we wanted to stay in the Dinoland/Discovery Island area until 11 a.m. It was harder than we thought.
We rode Dinosaur a couple of times and meandered around the rest of Dinoland before heading to It’s Tough to be a Bug! to enjoy the 3-D spectacular. We didn’t see it on our Honeymoon and had a while before Flame Tree opened so we figured “why not?”
It’s Tough to be a Bug! is actually quite scary. If you have small children I would advise you NOT to see it. There are MULTIPLE times where children started crying or screaming during the show and I don’t blame them. Spiders fall from the ceiling, Hopper busts out a couple of times and just looks scary, you get thwacked with a fly swatter, you get “stung” (which actually hurts and is why I don’t sit back during the show) and there are many times where the entire room is pitch black. I was a pretty big sissy when I was a kid so I’m surprised I never had to be escorted from the show.
After the show we browsed the giant gift shop across from It’s Tough to be a Bug! and Flame Tree BBQ.
Because we were on a strict budget we didn’t buy anything from Island Mercantile. Instead, we saved our money for onion rings at Flame Tree BBQ!
Boy do they put on the show when Flame Tree opens. Workers come out and grab somebody in line to lead it all. The guest yells, the workers yell back and bang trays on the metal counter. The guest yells again, they yell and bang. This continues for a couple of minutes until everybody has yelled and banged a tray on some solid surface. Then, they open.
I can’t speak for Ashley but, food wise, Flame Tree BBQ is easily the best quick service restaurant. Of course if you don’t like BBQ you probably won’t enjoy it but, if you do, you HAVE to eat here. Because we are creative, free-thinking humans we ordered the EXACT same thing we did last time minus one drink and (free) dessert. Ashley discovered “bark” during this meal. It’s funny because we were just talking about it the other day but she had never eaten ribs with a true “bark” on them. Turns out she likes it!
Going right at opening afforded us the opportunity to sit wherever we wanted. I knew exactly where I wanted to sit…
There are somewhere between six and 10 pavilions to eat in around Flame Tree BBQ. This could be a downside if it’s a hot July day. At least they are all covered and have operational fans. As far as I could tell, every pavilion is essentially the same. The only differences are the size and view.
Another great aspect of Flame Tree is the wildlife trying to steal your food. Obviously there are signs up telling you not to feed the animals and obviously nobody pays them (the signs, that is) any attention. I paid for my vacation, darn it, so I will do as I darn well please. COME AND GET IT BIRDIES.
After our meal we left the park. I don’t remember what happened between then and getting to the Magic Kingdom but apparently we stopped at Downtown Disney???
We wanted to do a little more shopping Downtown and figured mid-day would be less busy than at night. Well, we were wrong. I’ve NEVER seen the World of Disney as busy as it was when I took this picture. It was wall to wall people and walking around was a struggle. Obviously these people didn’t know to get out of our way. Obviously they didn’t know how much we paid for our vacation…
After saying “screw this” we made our way to the Magic Kingdom. Once again, I don’t remember how we did this. I think we stopped at POP Century to grab something from the room. Makes sense.
Our first stop at Magic Kingdom was Main Street Bakery. The scuttlebutt on the internet was that the bakery was changing into Starbucks. We had read a lot about the place so we had to try a few things.
Being our last night in the parks we wanted to get the most out of the evening. What better way than to enjoy a Dole Whip in Adventureland? And I’m not talking about the Dole Whip Float. I mean a real Dole Whip: vanilla and pineapple ice cream (or frozen yogurt or whatever it is) swirled. No pineapple juice. No funny shaped cup.
To our dismay, the pineapple/vanilla machine was BROKEN. Yeah, I know. I waited 15 minutes behind a smelly grandma to get my Dole Whip and the machine is BROKEN!? I had to settle for either all pineapple or pineapple and orange swirled. If we had been thinking I would have got all pineapple while Ashley got all vanilla. Like I said, if we had been thinking. Instead one of us got all pineapple and the other orange and vanilla swirled. Convenient that the orange/vanilla machine works but not the pineapple/orange machine, eh?
Since we were walking past it we went on Pirates of the Caribbean. We skipped the Jungle Cruise, Swiss Family Treehouse, Dumbo: Aladdin-style and the Tiki Room on this trip. We went on the Jungle Cruise and the Treehouse during our Honeymoon. We haven’t gone on Aladdin or the Tiki Room in a while. Aladdin is a waste compared to Dumbo and the Tiki Room, while a gem in my eyes, does not resonate as well with Ashley. I haven’t actually seen it since they changed it back to the version from my childhood, finally nixing the New Management/Iago fiasco.
Since we hit all the big attractions two mornings prior we spent our evening going on the less popular rides and generally doing whatever the heck we felt like.
While in the Frontierland/Liberty Square area I convinced Ashley to see The Hall of Presidents (YES!). Afterward we ate dinner at Columbia Harbour House. I wasn’t too crazy about the place as our last dinner at Disney but fish did sound good and Ashley was ready for a lobster roll so we bellied up. The fish was very good while the “chips” left a lot to be desired. I have definitely had better Disney fries in my life. Ashley’s lobster roll was good but a bit runnier than the one she had on our Honeymoon. We both left full and satisfied but wanting a little more.
We continued around the park in our clockwise fashion…
By the time we got to Tomorrowland it was starting to get dark, which meant the Christmas Party was starting soon, which meant we would be coaxed out of the park. After sampling most of the attractions Tomorrowland has to offer, we decided on the TTA as our last ride that evening. It was perfect, as ushe.
Since we had to be out by 7 p.m. we decided to tour the Monorail resorts and check out the Christmas decorations. First, we hopped on the monorail and headed for the Contemporary Resort. They don’t get crazy Christmas-y here but they do enough. The gingerbread display was one of the best.
The monorail station was packed with people trying to get to the Magic Kingdom for the Christmas party. The guy standing next to us while we made our way to the Polynesian was watching the Steelers/Cowboys game on his iPhone. I was envious. Except for the fact that he was at Disney with his family, who were at the Christmas party, and he wasn’t with them…except that part.
The Polynesian also wasn’t as Christmas-y as I was expecting but it gave us a new-found appreciation for the resort. The first time we visited neither of us really like the place because it was so darn loud. Well, this visit it wasn’t raining so we walked outside a bit. WOW, what a big difference. While the main building can be loud and hectic, walking around the resort as night is very peaceful. I still doubt we will ever stay there because of the price but I don’t dislike it as much as I did in September.
We were getting tired and still had the Wilderness Lodge to go so we skipped the Grand Floridian. Neither of us regret it. When we exiting the Monorail outside of the Magic Kingdom we made our way to the boat dock/launch for the Wilderness Lodge and waited. And waited. And waited a while longer until the boat finally showed up and we were off.
This was the resort I was most looking forward to seeing decked out for Christmas. I had heard rave reviews of the place at Christmas and couldn’t wait.
The place definitely didn’t disappoint. If we have $300 a night to spend on a hotel the next time we visit Disney during Christmastime I would love to stay here. If you want REAL pictures of it at Christmas, check out Tom Bricker’s review of it.
Through some concoction of “motor coach” rides and stops we made our way from Wilderness Lodge to POP Century before collapsing in our room. Four days of Disney touring with no breaks was rough. The only thing left to do was a morning at EPCOT before heading home. We had no idea what was in store for us the next day.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
And now begins a showcase of the many treats available in the department store.
One our way out of Japan I took an obligatory shot of the ball.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second day of our trip started out like any other at Disney: waking up earlier than we wanted, getting ready and making our way to the bus station. The plan was to go to the Magic Kingdom even though we had been there all night the previous night because it was the most recommended park by Josh. As soon as we walked out the front doors of the lobby I immediately doubted him. There were WAY too many people waiting to board a “motor coach” to the Magic Kingdom. On top of that there was a caravan of ECVs waiting to board as well.
After three buses and a whole lot of waiting around for the ECV people to navigate their scooters up the ramp, turn the corner, pull forward, back up into the spot, miss, pull forward again, hit a seat across the aisle, back up and miss again, pull forward and hit a different seat closer to the front of the bus, back up so far they run into the half-wall separating the upper seats, pull forward and go halfway up the aisle, back up slowly as not to hit another seat, miss the spot again, give up, get out of their scooter, ask the bus driver to park it, sit down in the seat they hit with the scooter moments before, and watch the bus driver park it in precisely four seconds, we were on our way to the Magic Kingdom.
My faith in Josh was restored once I realized we were walking through the turnstiles as the Mayor, Mickey and his gang were opening the park and there weren’t that many people in front of us. By the time we squeezed through the bowels of the train station and bobbed and weaved through the hub it seemed even less crowded than it had before. Since we had seen and/or done most of what we wanted in New Fantasyland the evening before we skipped it this morning and headed straight to Peter Pan.
We both got a FASTPASS and got in line for the ride. The young boy in front of us reminded me of myself as a child, mainly because of all the screaming and squalling (I cried once getting on Peter Pan because I wanted to sit next to my mother but somebody else was, so I threw a fit). He did NOT want to go on Peter Pan and he was letting his mother know it. By the time he boarded his vessel he was clawing at his mother and trying to abandon ship. As the cast member at the end of the conveyor belt was lowering the lap bar he was screaming “Save me! Save me!” I didn’t really feel that bad for him; everybody has to do something they don’t want to every now and then. Fifteen seconds into the ride and he was fine. He did look a little bitter when he got off though, giving his mother the stink eye.
Next we headed to Frontierland and rode both Splash and Thunder Mountain with minimal wait. When I say minimal I really mean no. We walked through the queue for Thunder Mountain and didn’t stop until we were the next to board a train. I believe this morning was the only time we rode “the wildest ride in the wilderness.” After the two mountains we hit Pirates real quick before making our way back to Retro Fantasyland to use our FASTPASSes. On the way we hit up Haunted Mansion and were forced to walk through the graveyard part of the queue since the regular part was being used for FASTPASS+ which was annoying. One thing to note about Haunted Mansion on this particular trip: The creepy doll lady at the end said “Hurry baaaaaaaaack” every time our Doom Buggy rolled under her. We hit the audio loop at the right time every time.
It was a few minutes after 10 a.m. by the time we exited Haunted Mansion. Since the plan was to eat at Be Our Guest right at 10:30 a.m. and we wanted to get in line prior to that, we found a young couple and their daughter and gave them our FASTPASSes. I forgot to mention earlier but when I got our FASTPASSes that morning there was already one sitting in the machine so we had three. I was actually surprised at how easily we gave away our FASTPASSes that morning. During our Honeymoon in August I tried to give them away multiple times and never succeeded. The family seemed excited but confused: I had to explain to them how FASTPASS worked. After a few moments they got in the FASTPASS line instead of the regular one (like they had tried initially) and were on their way to Neverland.
After my heart grew three sizes we followed the crowd to New Fantasyland. By the time we got in line for Be Our Guest there were at least 100 to 150 people in front of us.
They started letting people in a few minutes before 10:30 a.m. and the crunching began. People started scooting closer and closer to each other until we could smell each others breath. Once we made it onto the bridge it got less crowded.
We only waited for 15 or 20 minutes before being granted access inside the castle. I was impressed with how quick and smooth things went. The detail on the outside was amazing so we were pretty pumped to finally step inside.
Once you walk in they make you choose one of two lines. As far as I could tell neither was any faster than the other. If you are in a big hurry, you may get frustrated as it will all come down to how quickly the people in front of you can figure out the electronic ordering system. Unfortunately for us, the two couples ordering before us most likely got AARP The Magazine delivered to their home. And you don’t get a choice in the matter either. After you get your RFID rose you wait for a cast member to tell you which ordering station to go to. You can’t scope out the room and get behind the youngest looking people there.
After a few (or 10) tense minutes it was our turn to order. I know my family wants to go here in May but some of them may have a hard time finding something they like. It’s not that the menu is outlandish but it’s definitely not hamburgers, chicken strips and fries. I went with the Croque Monsieur and Ashley, after much deliberation, chose the Grilled Steak Sandwich.
After what seemed like five minutes (which was probably more like 10 or 15 since I was busy taking terrible pictures) a “waiter” came out with a cart full of meals and guess what? Ours were on it!
Mine was a fancy grilled cheese with some ham on it but was very yummy. Ashley’s wasn’t bad but I was expecting a little more from this godsend of a restaurant. We ended up splitting our sandwiches and eating half each. I took pictures of our food but the quality is so bad even I am embarrassed Also, as we did with most meals this trip, we shared a drink as there are unlimited refills here: One definite perk of this place. Enough of the food though because really, who cares? It’s all about the AMBIANCE PEOPLE.
After we gobbled up our meals we explored the place a bit. There are three dining rooms and, unless you move your half eaten quinoa salad, you can only eat in one. First we visited the West Wing.
On the other side of the Ballroom is the Rose Garden. If you like to eat in light places this is the room for you. It also seemed more family friendly for some reason.
On our way out we stopped to check out the bathrooms. There is also one more gem waiting for you right before you leave.
By the time we left the restaurant it was almost 11:30 a.m. and the park was starting to get busy. We decided to head toward the exit via Tomorrowland. On our way out we hit a couple Tomorrowland staples: the TTA and Carousel of Progress. The TTA Peoplemover has always been a family favorite. As they say on the ride, “The Peoplemover is great for people watching.” As they don’t say on the ride anymore, “Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow. Your party from Saturn has arrived, please give them a ring.”
After our journey through the decade we left the park with no incident. As we were walking to our bus stop a “motor coach” was sitting at the Art of Animation stop and the Pop stop was empty. We didn’t get to explore much the last time we visited AoA because I was bitter and we could simply walk across the Generation Gap bridge to get back to our room: let’s go!
The Art of Animation is similar to Pop Century in a lot of ways. Obviously it is themed differently but the bones of the resort are practically the same.
We headed toward the Lion King section first. If you walk out of the food court towards the back it is to your left.
At the end of the Lion King section is the Little Mermaid section. Well, not really at the end. Once you leave the Lion King area you have to walk a couple of minutes THEN you are in the Little Mermaid section. Poor Ariel is so far from the main buildings; we didn’t go visit her because we are lazy.
Instead, we doubled back and headed for the Cars section. Oh, my, gosh; this place is crazy. It is easily the best themed section and if Cars Land in Disneyland is anything like this sign me up!
Of all the sections of the resort, the Cars section makes you feel like you are in the titled movie the most. It’s incredible how well themed it is. I don’t remember ever feeling so immersed in a movie, even when we ate at Be Our Guest earlier that day. We walked through the Finding Nemo section on our way to Pop Century.
When we walked into one of the buildings I was immediately turned off. Ashley agrees with me that indoor corridors just don’t feel like Disney. There’s something about walking outside to get to your room in 90 degree heat at 10 o’clock at night that feels like Disney to us. Something about opening the door to your room and immediately getting smacked in the face with 100 degree heat that feels like Disney. This place just felt like an extremely well themed hotel that could be located anywhere. It’s nice to have that extra 30 seconds of air conditioning I’m sure but still prefer outdoor corridors.
We took a very short break before heading out again. This time Hollywood Studios was our destination. I never realized it before but I NEED that mid day break. Not only is it nice to avoid the crazy crowds and crazy heat but my poor little body needs a nap while at Disney. I was really dragging during the afternoons this trip, deprived of my nap.
Our main objective at Hollywood Studios was to see the Osborne Lights. We skipped Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania this trip. It was the afternoon so lines were long and FASTPASSes were either gone or for later in the evening when we would either be looking at the lights or already gone for dinner at Downtown Disney.
Even though we didn’t go on any of the BIG rides at Hollywood Studios there was still plenty to do. We checked out the Magic of Disney Animation for the first time which was cool. There are lots of things to look at, a BUNCH of characters to meet and a little show in one spot staring Mushu. I know, I was surprised too. I love him but never see him at Disney.
After the little tour we headed for another: The Great Movie Ride. Our journey through the movies was the busiest I remember in a long time. They used BOTH CARS. I know, it was crazy. We even got to see the Western bank robbing scene too. I was getting bored with the gangster one. I had to laugh because Ashley didn’t know the Western scene existed. I had almost forgotten about it myself. In fact, the ride was so busy we even had to stop a couple of times to let the cars in front of us finish the movie at the end. At least we got to hang out in Oz longer than normal.
My only complaint about the ride this time was that the bandit who stole our ride vehicle was so short she couldn’t reach the gem in the Indiana Jones section. Now, how is she going to be killed by the gem if she CAN’T EVEN REACH IT. Horrible casting on Disney’s part there. That should be the number one requirement for bandit/gangster on the Great Movie Ride: tall enough to reach the glowing stone in the Indiana Jones section. My golly.
We walked around for a bit after the ride, making our way through Pixar-land where we laughed at the people in line for Toy Story Mania.
In our continued meandering through the park we walked through One Man’s Dream. While there I saw another kid lying on the ground pitching a fit! BONUS. What a great day for children at the park.
We didn’t see the show at the end because I didn’t want to cry. Actually, I don’t know why we didn’t see the show but if you are an “emotional” person, you may just cry during the video presentation. At this point it was getting close to lighting time so we made our way to the Streets of America. We saw Pizza Planet on the way.
You remember when I talked about crying a few seconds ago? Well, I honestly was on the verge of crying when they lit up the Osborne Lights. It’s so overwhelming and so magical that the waterworks almost turned on. But, I’m a man so I held them down. I have a video of the lighting ceremony that I will add later. The lights are stagnant some of the time and synchronized with music the rest of the time. If you go to Disney around Christmas time you HAVE to see them.
After gawking at the lights for a half hour or so we made our way to the park exit and headed to Downtown Disney. We took the Port Orleans bus to make our transfer in hopes of seeing more Christmas decor at the resort we adored on our Honeymoon. Other than some trees and wreaths they don’t do a whole lot. This, coupled with the fact that the Downtown Disney “motor coach” was loading people up, meant we got on the Downtown Disney “motor coach” and headed there for our dinner date.
Since our buddy was late because he forgot to charge his camera, we had some time to roam around. We bought a ton of merchandise on our Honeymoon, plus we only took carry on bags, so we didn’t buy very much stuff this trip. Downtown Disney is nice during Christmas too. Everybody is all decked out in Christmas decor and the spirit is more jolly than normal. We made our way down to Splitsville to check it out from the outside since it wasn’t open at the time. I’m sure it’s extremely expensive but I’m also sure it would be a lot of fun to hang out there for a night.
Eventually Josh made it and we decided on Earl of Sandwich since we were already in the area. The line was incredibly long but they are incredibly efficient so it couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes to order our food. Because there were people playing Uno at booths – For real, they had NO food, they were just playing cards at a table inside a busy restaurant, some people – we had to sit outside. Besides the cackling wench sitting somewhere behind us it was a very pleasant meal. I once again ordered the Full Montagu. Ashley went with the Earl’s Club. Josh had the holiday surprise (not its actual name). It had turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and other holiday favorites all wrapped up in a toasted bun.
Sitting there for a couple of hours talking was actually very relaxing. We had a short trip so we were on the go the entire time. These couple of hours were a little respite for us. Also, talking with my wife and Josh was pleasant, definitely less awkward than our last meal with him when we were strangers. Well, I suppose we are still somewhat strangers now – I read his blog, comment on it, email him when I have questions and we have eaten two meals together: we’re practically dating!
After a cast member asked us what time it was we got the hint and left. Josh had to catch the last bus out of town as well so it worked out. Ashley and I went to Goofy’s Candy Co. so she could get a custom Mickey crisped rice treat. Once acquired we headed for the bus station. Our “motor coach” arrived and we went back for a good night’s sleep. As with day one, day two was quite eventful and tiresome.