Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Break '14 - Trip Report: Part 2

(Don't feel like reading all about the trip?  Read just the Trip Report Tip Summary here!)

Day 3: Hollywood Studios cont., 'Ohana, and Magic Kingdom

After taking a few more pictures around the park, Alex and I left to go to our 5:00 dinner reservation at 'Ohana!

We went to 'Ohana last year, and I really enjoyed it.  However, our 5:00 reservation meant that we were there when the restaurant opened, and we waited a little while for all of the people who had checked in before us to be seated.
The view from the waiting area.  The Polynesian is absolutely beautiful.
I was so excited, though, when we were finally seated!  ('Ohana is my favorite restaurant.)  They brought us bread while seating us.  Unlike last year, the coconut and pineapple flavors in the welcome bread were subtle, but much more present than last year.
It was so hard to restrain myself
We then ordered drinks.  I got the Island Sunset, a little afraid of how big the Lapu Lapu is (it's served in a pineapple.  Maybe if Alex wanted to share.  It looked just too big for me.)  Alex got the longboard beer something or other.  He wanted something to match the feel of the restaurant, but it we realized later it's served all over Disney, so that made it a little less exciting.
The Island Sunset
"Liquid Aloha"
They then started bringing more of the appetizers.  The citrus salad (yum).  The pork dumplings and chicken wings (also yum, though I prefer the dumplings to the wings).  They brought over the peanut and sweet and sour sauces for dipping the meats in, the noodles (which are my guilty pleasure, as I ate almost the entire plate myself) and mixed vegetables.  After ALL OF THAT had arrived (and we were already so full) they started bring the meats.

The meat is served from large skewers that they bring directly from the restaurants open kitchen grill.  They sometimes vary, but we had shrimp, steak, chicken, and mini pork chops.  I didn't get the shrimp, but Alex didn't really enjoy having to peel the skin away.  The chicken was really good, as was the steak, but neither of us liked the pork.

Still, the noodles is where it's at.  Ask for extra noodles.
Citrus salad
Dipping sauces
Pork dumplings and chicken wings 
NOODLES (yes yes yes!!)...and vegetables.
They end dinner with their famous bread pudding served with bananas foster sauce.  Let me tell you, it's heavenly.  With all the other food, it's hard to save room for it, but seriously, try your hardest.

However, it's FULL of dairy, so I didn't really eat much.  Thankfully for me, they brought a congratulations cupcakes to celebrate our engagement!  Alex had the whole bread pudding to himself while I had the cupcake!
There's a cupcake behind this, I swear!
It just screams "Eat Me!"

After dinner, we decided to go back to our room.  We were really tired, and wanted to just sit on the bed for a bit.  It was around 7:00 PM, and we wanted to be back to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic! for the 10:00 showing.  We figured that gave us an hour and a half to rest, after we factored in transportation.

We had to go back to one of the parks to get a bus, since they don't do resort to resort bussing.

Tip: Disney does not do bussing from resort to resort.  If you have a dining reservation and then want to go back to your room, you'll have to connect at one of the parks.  Unless you are going from one resort on the monorail line to another.

Deciding to take the monorail, because it's just such a Disney staple, we got on and headed around the monorail loop, stopping at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Magic Kingdom.  We decided that Epcot would be closer, so we got off at Ticket and Transportation Center to transfer to the Epcot monorail.

Bad decision.
But at least we got this pretty view when we circled around inside of Epcot.

We ended up waiting at TTC for at least 20 minutes, and after waiting to board the monorail originally, then waiting for our bus back to Pop Century, we didn't end up with much rest time like we'd hoped.

Tip: Always chose the route with the least amount of transfers when moving between parks and resorts.  If you don't, you'll end up wasting more time than you realize.  We should have gotten off at Magic Kingdom and taken the bus from there to Pop Century instead of including another transfer.

Tip: Realize that Disney transportation takes a little bit of time.  We find it the most convenient, because you don't have to bring or rent a car, then pay for parking and walk to find your car after visit the park.  However, know that you will spend a chunk of time waiting for the bus/monorail/boat you need to arrive.  Usually allow 30-50 minutes to get from one place to another during peak seasons, and 40-60 during less busy times.

We grabbed our hoodies, as it was starting to get cold, and headed back out to wait for the Hollywood Studios bus!
I didn't take any pictures of just the sorcerer hat, so you get us too.
We walked down to Star Tours, again, but we didn't ride it.  I had read that after dusk, the little Ewok huts in the trees glow like they have fires lit inside, and if you are quiet enough you can hear the Ewoks laughing.

Tip: If you're a big Star Wars fan, go listen to the Ewoks at night!

On our way back, we ran into a couple who had to leave, but had 2 paper Fastpasses left!  I didn't know that they were giving any paper Fastpasses still, but I read that in some case, such as if someone is having trouble making reservations for a one day visit, they give you paper Fastpasses.  These were good for any ride, and we had just enough time to ride the only thing we regretted not going on that day before Fantasmic!

So, we went to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  The stand-by line was a half an hour wait, so we would have never made it in time for the beginning of Fantasmic!, or at least it would have been close.  We hid our magic bands under our sleeves, afraid they wouldn't accept it if they knew we had magic bands.  I felt a little bad, but it was totally worth it.  I forgot just how fun Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is.  It was a total blast, and I'll be sure never to plan on passing it up again.
I was excited.  Alex was scared.

Fantasmic! was really awesome.  The show is really extravagant and brilliant and the technology is so cool.  However, the water screens were a little hard to see the pictures on.  I'm not sure if it was our angle...but it didn't seem so, since we were right in the middle of the theater.

Tip: Sit in the "Pocahontas" section for Fantasmic!.  It's the section directly in the middle of the theater.

Tip: If at all possible, go to the 10:00 show for Fantasmic!.  We had friends that tried to go at 8:30, and the theater was standing room only.  However, for us, the theater was only half full, if that.  We were comfortably seated with plenty of room even in the middle section.

Because we hate ourselves and our feet, Alex and I decided, after the show was over, that it was only 11:00 PM, and Magic Kingdom didn't close until 1:00 AM, so we should go there.  Also, I had bought Alex a watch earlier in the day at Hollywood Studios, and only the jeweler at Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney have the tools to adjust the size.  He wanted to wear that, so off we went!

Can you tell I was tired?

We went to Casey's Corner for a snack, and got the mini corn dogs.  They were fresh and hot, and though it's hard to mess them up, they were delicious.
Mickey ears via my creativity
We then went to the back of the park to Frontierland and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  We proceeded on to Peter Pan's Flight.  We had a Fastpass+ for that on Friday, because the line is always so long.  But let me tell you, guys, don't waste your time.  It was cute.  Kinda.  But really really outdated, and definitely not worth using a Fastpass+ on.

We continued our midnight Magic Kingdom trek over to Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  That ride is really strange.  Most of what Disney does tells a story, but I just did not see it here.  But it was cute.  And you bounce with Tigger and ride in a honey pot, so if you're there at midnight, just do it!

Our next stop was Journey of the Little Mermaid.  The animatronics here are really really advanced and really really cool, and since we basically stepped right on, it was definitely worth going to.
I took this picture later as this is obviously not night time
We continued on to Tomorrowland, where we rode Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.  This is another ride that you shoot at targets, but definitely no where near as advanced, responsive, or detailed and immersive as Toy Story Midway Mania.  However, Alex enjoyed that he won that time.
Our respective "video game faces."  We take things seriously.
We then rode Space Mountain, because at nearly 1 in the morning there is about a 5 minute stand-by wait.

Tip: If you can stay up that late, you can ride a huge majority of the Magic Kingdom rides after 11 PM.  A large majority of the parents and kids have left, leaving the lines basically nonexistent everywhere.  I wouldn't suggest rides like Jungle Cruise or Splash Mountain, but anything inside will give you the exact same experience.  It was so fun to go from ride to ride and get right on.

Completely exhausted, Alex and I meandered out to the buses back to our room.

That night I changed our Fastpass+ for Dinosaur and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom in the morning to move them back.  Originally they started at 9:00 AM, but I moved them back to start at 10:30.  We still barely made it.

Day 4: Animal Kingdom and Epcot

We got up and made it to Animal Kingdom by 11.  After staying at Magic Kingdom until 1:00 AM, we were pretty tired.  We both looked forward to getting Starbucks at Epcot later that day.

Our first Fastpass+ was for Dinosaur.  Let me be honest, Dinosaur is basically terrifying for me.  It's really fun, they do a really good job with the "Time Rover" vehicle bumping about, but it's dark and intense and dinosaurs are scary looking.

It looks so cute...on the outside.
Note me in the front, and the two little kids in the two rows behind me.
At the time, Dinosaur had about a 20 minute stand-by time.  Later in the day, it went all the way up to 50 minutes.

After that, we had our Fastpass+ for Expedition Everest.  I forget the stand-by time, but it was pretty long, because Alex and I wanted to ride it again but never got the chance to.  Expedition Everest is a crazy roller coaster.  It tells a defined story throughout and goes backward on the tracks at one point.  If you go to Animal Kingdom for nothing else, go for this.

Then we went to Flametree Barbecue for lunch.  All of the online sources say that they have awesome food.  I am here to confirm that 100%.  Alex and I both have a pulled pork addiction, so we both got those.  He got baked beans as I said, I got cole slaw (which was too creamy and made my lactose intolerant self a bit sick...but was still yummy).  The dessert options were chocolate mousse or key lime pie mousse.  We got two chocolates so that Alex could have both, since the options were both full of dairy and I wanted to avoid them.

My favorite part is that you add your own bbq sauce.  They have a few different variations.  We got sweet and tangy and original, but I couldn't taste the difference.  It's nice though, because Alex likes less sauce than the typical individual.  As far as the dessert went, he said that the mousse was really good but a little too rich.
My meal, with chocolate mousse in the background
Alex's meal, with baked beans

After lunch, which was great, we had a little time to waste before going to our next Fastpass+, so we explored some gift shops.  We then went to the back corner to the Africa section to Kilimanjaro Safaris.

The Fastpass+ line here was extraordinarily long.  There was no reason for this, at least not that they told us.  It was a little annoying, because we were all lined up outside of the entrance to the queue, but once we got in, the wait was minimal.

However, while on the ride, it seemed like they didn't take their time quite as much as last year.  I wish I would have checked my phone for the total time it took, but it seemed more like 15 minutes than the typical 22.  However, we still got some really good views, especially of the giraffes, so it was still completely worth it.
A really pretty view while on the safari
The giraffe that was really close to our safari jeep

After this, we went to the trails around the Tree of Life to find the spot to meet Pocahontas.  Though I've stated that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite, Pocahontas was my favorite moving growing up. Her spot was a little hard to find, but if you are in the Africa section and go over the bridge toward the front of the park, it should be right after that on your left.  I think.  You can always ask a cast member for directions.

I was a bit disappointed that Pocahontas didn't have a Photopass photographer taking pictures of you and her, as most other character greetings do.  I thought that was just the standard.  However, I was grateful for the point-and-shoot camera that my grandma got me for Christmas for the picture, because it definitely takes better ones than my iPhone.
Be sure to greet her with "Wingapo."
After visiting Pocahontas, Alex and I decided to leave.  We really wanted to go see Festival of the Lion King, but since it is currently being moved to a different location in the park to make way for Pandora (the Avatar expansion), and since we saw Finding Nemo live last year, we decided it was time to make our way to Epcot.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the first things we did when we got there was get coffee from the Starbucks in Fountain View Plaza (I believe that's its official title).  We took a few pictures, but didn't have a lot of time of time before our behind the scenes tour of the greenhouses.

We visited during the Flower and Garden Fesitval, which meant awesome topiaries everywhere.
While waiting, we noticed that the line for Epcot Character Spot only had a 5 minute (which in reality was closer to 10 minutes) wait, and figured that, since character lines are never that short, we should probably stop by.

There we got pictures with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.  I understand that sometimes the characters rotate a bit, including maybe Pluto and Donald, but I was happy with the three we got, because my little cousin loves Goofy, and she was so excited with the picture and video I sent afterward.
The mouse!
Such a gentleman
Minnie was jealous of my ring.
Mickey just won't pop the question!

At 4:30, we were signed up to attend the Behind the Seeds tour of the greenhouses that are displayed in the Living with the Land ride.  They teach you about the hydroponics and aquaponics work that they are doing there.  As science majors, Alex and I found it really fascinating.  Our tour guide was an intern in the biotechnology lab there, and we asked her how we could apply to be in the same program.  (Nerds.)
Behind the scenes view of the boat
During the tour, we got to release ladybugs onto the strawberry plants.
(Ladybugs are natural pesticides, the eat aphids.)
See look, I'm even educational!
The tour took a little over an hour, so after that, we started to explore World Showcase.

We picked up where we left off the last time, in France, and wove our way through the shops (including the very potent perfume shop) before heading over to Morocco.  I love baklava, so I stopped for a piece.
Yummy!  And really large.
We then continued on to Japan, and stopped in the shops there.  We then found ourselves a bit crunched for time for out 7:15 dinner reservation, so we skipped American Adventure, Italy, and Germany.  We had dined in Germany last year, so I wasn't too disappointed about that, but I would have liked a little more time to visit Italy.

Tip: If you plan on really exploring the countries in World Showcase (or "drinking around the world") give yourself a few hours to do so.  There is so much to see in the countries, and I only wish we could have taken more time to do so.

We skipped past China (but went back to it after dinner) so that we could check in for our reservation at Akershus in Norway.

I wouldn't particularly recommend Akershus for its food.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't really anything all that special.  The entrees are small because there is a cold buffet with various salads, meats, cheese, and fish that are native to Norway cuisine.  Alex couldn't really eat much of that because of his vegetable issue, and to me, the salads were all pretty strange tasting.  Not bad, just very different than I'm used to.

The real draw of Akershus is that it is Princess Storybook Dining.  Four of the princesses walk around and visit each table throughout the meal to interact and take pictures.  Another princess (typically Belle, but I personally wonder if that will be changed to Anna and Elsa since it's in their home turf of Norway) greets you at the door for a photopass picture.  I really enjoyed this, because all of the princesses made a big deal over our engagement.  Alex was just happy to not have to wait in lines to meet them all.  I had a lot of fun, and Ariel almost took a selfie with us (before my phone died.  All of the regret.)

I forgot to take pictures of the food.  I'm sorry!  But Alex got the meatballs, which were served with mashed potatoes, and really liked them.  I got the chicken, which was served bone in and tasted really good, but was too much work than it was worth.  It was served with brussel sprouts and risotto, both of which were okay.  Ultimately, this restaurant really isn't for tame palates.  Dessert was good though.  There was an apple spice cake, which was okay, a chocolate mousse something or other, which Alex really liked, and "rice cream" which was basically whipped cream and rice with a raspberry syrup.  I couldn't really eat it (dairy), but I liked it.  It was weirdly yummy.  They are all three served as a sort of "tour" of Norway desserts, I guess.
You can probably figure out which is which

We left there about 20 minutes before the fireworks.  Like I said we stopped into the China pavilion then headed over to the Mexico pavilion, where the shops are located inside the pyramid.  Also in the pyramid is La Cava de Tequila.  You can smell the alcohol from feet away from its entrance.

About 5 minutes until the park closed and the fireworks began, Alex and I hopped in line for Test Track.  There was a "5 minute wait," but only the single riders stand by line was open, and I think it actually took us 25 minutes to get on.  The closed the line exactly at 9, though, so we were some of the last people to ride it that night, and were lucky enough to at least be placed in the same car.

We were leaving the park right around 10.  This much later after the park closes, do not expect cast members to be conducive to your desires.  We tried to have a Photopass photographer take our picture, but they refused.  Which is fine, really.  When it's time to get off the clock, you want to be off the clock.

We went back to the room at Pop Century and started packing up, since we had to leave the next day.

Day 5: Magic Kingdom and Home

Sadly, the trip must come to the end at some point.  We finished packing our things that morning and went to the lobby to check out.  The check out process is really simple, especially since they typically have someone with an iPad that can check you out on that if they line is fairly long.

We then took our bags outside to be put in storage until we were done in the parks that day.  If you are checking a bag for your flight, you can also do that right at your hotel!  I had checked in to the flight on my phone the night before, so at the baggage check counter, I asked the lady to print our boarding passes, which she was happy to do.

They really just make everything so easy.

We boarded the bus to Magic Kingdom, and got there sometime after 10.
Such a sweet sight
One of the first things on our agenda was our Fastpass+ to Meet Rapunzel in Princess Fairytale Hall.  If you are going to do this (especially since Anna and Elsa are going to be there starting April 20), get a Fastpass+.  The wait is always really long.

Princess Fairytale hall really makes you feel like you're in a castle.  A warm, welcoming, perfectly Disney princess castle.  Though I didn't meet Cinderella here (there are two options for the Fastpass+), I did get a picture of her slipper from our queue line.

We went in to see Rapunzel with very little wait, and she was really fun to interact with.  She jumped and ran around the room with excitement when she saw our "Just Engaged" buttons.  Snow White was the visiting princess with her that day.  She wasn't very good, honestly, and especially in comparison to the girl who played Snow White the night before at dinner.  You win some, you lose some, I guess.  I was just glad I wasn't really there to see her.
You can just see the excitement
Hugs galore!
You can just see Snow White's...not excitement

We had lunch at Sleepy Hollow because I really wanted to try the waffle sandwiches.  They did not disappoint, they were delicious.  They were pretty big and really filling.  Alex got ham, egg, and cheese.  I got the spicy chicken (which had coleslaw and I didn't know, but I took a lactaid to combat the dairy!).  The combination of the savory chicken and the sweet waffle was really different.  Not something I would want all the time, but probably something that I'm randomly going to crave throughout the year.  (Kinda like the 'Ohana noodles.)

Sleepy Hollow has quite a few delicious dessert-only options, but with the waffle sandwiches, you got a chocolate chip cookie.  Prepackaged, nothing special.  They also gave apple slices as a side.
This one wasn't as weird, because it was all "breakfast food."
Doesn't this look interesting?  It was.  It was awesome.

After this, we had a Fastpass+ for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad again.  Originally, we had a Fastpass+ scheduled on this day for Pirates of the Caribbean, but changed it since we rode it on Tuesday.  (Didn't read about Tuesday?  Read Part 1 here.)

For some reason, the Fastpass+ line was still pretty long.  It was pretty sunny, and we hadn't expected it to be so warm, so we were pretty hot standing in line.  This was the time we rode in the front car.  It was our least favorite time riding it of the three that we did.  We then headed over to Tom Sawyer Island to explore a bit, but we didn't stay long because our feet hurt so bad.

We then had our last Fastpass+ of the trip, and our first Fastpass+ for Space Mountain.  This Fastpass+ line was ALSO REALLY LONG.  Apparently their system went down, and they had to compensate for all of the Fastpass+'s that didn't get to go earlier, but it was sort of a pain to have another Fastpass+ wait be long.  Before getting in line there, we decided to hop on the Peoplemover, which was just pretty chill.
Showing off the bling.

Afterward, we walked back through New Fantasyland, taking in all of the scenery because we knew we would be leaving soon.  We stopped at Big Top Souvenirs, which is my favorite souvenir shop in Magic Kingdom.  It has a little bit of everything, a lot of candy and other sweets, pins, clothes, name it, it's probably there.

We then continued back through all the way to Adventureland to stop and get some Dole Whips.  Because it seems to be an unspoken rule that you can't go to Disney and NOT get Dole Whips.

Alex's vanilla ice cream with pineapple juice float
My (dairy-free) pineapple whip

From there, we headed to Main Street to do some final souvenir shopping before going back to Pop Century to board the bus to the airport.

Looking back at Cinderella Castle, before we even made it to the first gift shop, I cried.  I cried last year too.  I can't leave Disney without crying.  It's too perfect and happy and magical, and going back to real life makes it seem so mediocre.

But we did it.  We got a few souvenirs for ourselves and others, then left the gates of the magic place to go back to Pop Century.

There, our bus to the airport was about 20 minutes late.  We got to the airport with about 90 minutes to our flight.  We stopped in the food court (which is inconveniently located outside of security) and had some Chick-fil-a before heading for the security line, going through, and hopping a plane back home.

Tip: Security at Orlando International always seems to take longer than most.  The time of day doesn't really seem to matter.  Just make sure you allow extra time to account for that once you arrive at the airport.

Was that enough information for you?

To recap, here are the tips from this post:

  •  Disney does not do bussing from resort to resort.
  • Always chose the route with the least amount of transfers when moving between parks and resorts.
  • Realize that Disney transportation takes a little bit of time.
  • If you're a big Star Wars fan, go listen to the Ewoks at night!
  • Sit in the "Pocahontas" section for Fantasmic!
  • If at all possible, go to the 10:00 show for Fantasmic!
  • If you can stay up that late, you can ride a huge majority of the Magic Kingdom rides after 11 PM.
  • If you plan on really exploring the countries in World Showcase (or "drinking around the world") give yourself a few hours to do so.
  • Security at Orlando International always seems to take longer than most. 

Missed the first post?

Want to read about my Fairytale Engagement in Disney?  Visit this link!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip to Disney, and got some valuable advice or ideas out of it.  Be sure to comment!  Let me know your thoughts or what you did differently on your trip!

Next up: Lion King Themed alcoholic beverage?

Until then! <3

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