Just Back from WDW – The Best and the Worst of it

It was a whirlwind trip and somewhat overshadowed by two things – a 1600-mile round-trip drive (ugh!) and leaving Joseph behind when we came home.  Knowing those aspects have a negative effect on how this trip will be remembered, I shall endeavor to do my best in giving balanced feedback.

Just Back from WDW – The Best and the Worst of it

The Great Stuff

Saratoga Springs – This was Megan’s and my second time staying here and Raymond and Joseph’s first.  We all thought our room location in The Springs section was fantastic.  On the first floor, our room was unbelievably quiet and relatively close to the bus stop and the main pool/recreation area.  We did not have to wait too long for a bus at any time.  The only negative I could see is that this is the last bus stop in the loop.  While the rooms at Saratoga Springs are a bit dated and could use an update or at least a little extra TLC, our room was clean, everything was in working order, and the building appeared well-maintained.  Last June, in The Paddock section, we had “Welcome Home” doormats which were nowhere to be found on this visit.

Festival of the Arts – If the weather had been better, this would have been a really great time.  As it was, we sampled very little food, but loved the theme and the fun photo ops.  As a bonus, we got to see a couple get engaged on the bridge in Italy and it was great.  She said yes.

Morimoto Asia for Dinner – We’ve enjoyed lunch at Morimoto’s a couple of times and thought the food and service were wonderful.  Our first dinner there did not disappoint!  We ordered a variety of dishes and all were delicious.  Raymond and I finally tried the Peking Duck for two…wonderful!

BaseLine Tap House – This new addition to the Studios is…what, WHAT?  Something NEW?  Yes, you heard me correctly!  After closure after closure, finally something new and it’s great!  We stopped in for beer then also shared a pretzel.  Both were great, but what really struck us as the best feature of this place was the music.  Thumbs up all around for the cool vibe and a libation menu that feels custom-made for us.

Moonlight Magic – We almost never get to take advantage of DVC events.  We’ve never been there when they had one before, so RSVP-ing for this complimentary Magic Kingdom after-hours event was a must!  Unfortunately, the weather was crap with constant drizzle.  We did enjoy getting to see unusual characters and the wait times for rides were super reasonable.  We had dinner at Skipper Canteen, checked in and got our wristbands, then managed to ride Pirates, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Little Mermaid, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, and the People Mover.  We left Megan practically all alone on the People Mover while Raymond, Joseph and I rode Space Mountain (since it’s off limits for expectant mothers).  There were photo ops with lots of characters and we stopped for pictures twice.  We met Louie and Balou in Adventureland and then space-Pluto and Goofy in Tomorrowland.  We got to see both Wishes and the event’s special fireworks show which had a special name, but it escapes me now, but leads me to…

The Bad Things

Raglan Road – After years (and years!) of loving this place and taking flak from folks who don’t see eye-to-eye, we were not just disappointed, we were crushed.  We had dinner there Saturday night and one of our favorite happy, fun, tasty, go-to favorites had transformed into an unrecognizable dump.  Given no option, we were seated in the bar at a very small table where we could not see the stage.  I hate those high chairs for any length of time…my short legs make sitting comfortably nearly impossible.  The tiny table made everything crowded.  The ribs we ordered for an appetizer came on a giant wooden board which barely fit on the table and made plates, drinks, utensils, etc. in danger of being pushed off.  The ribs were barely seasoned and barely luke warm.  Things went downhill from there.  The service was okay, but our server was clearly spread too thin.  A tall man, who seemed to be a manager of some sort, kept coming by and asking how everything was, but he never made eye-contact or smiled and was completely insincere.  I ordered a salad that was made up of horrible lettuce scraps and a single clump of blue cheese among the other ingredients.  Nothing was so horrible that we felt we needed to formally complain, but the overall experience was lousy enough that we all agreed to take an extended break from Raglan Road before trying it again (maybe) in the future.  On the bright side, new choices for dining at Disney Springs abound!

The Collapse of Society – Sure, people litter, cut in line, stop in the middle of walk-ways, ram you with strollers and all that.  Other people make up for it by being kind and friendly.  It’s like that everywhere.  Rude and nasty people have never made me think about vacationing someplace less crowded.

Two remarkable things happened on this trip though that have stuck with me as a sign of worsening times.  First let me add that I have a personal pet peeve about naked feet.  They’re gross.  And unhygienic.  Pool-side, they are to be expected.  In a restaurant, not so much.  Please people, for the love of all that’s holy, keep your shoes on!  It’s not okay to remove them in public indoor spaces!  There’s a reason for signs that say, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”.  I think Disney needs to put those signs on all their restaurant entrances, pronto!

The second incident was a bit more alarming.  Raymond and I were standing side-by-side at the top and towards the middle of Main Street (along with many other people) watching the Moonlight Magic fireworks show.  Once the lights go down in the park for fireworks, most people seem to either stay put, or move to the edges of the crowd if they’re trying to leave the park.  Not so with the big guy who came straight towards us, turned slightly to the side, lowered his shoulder and literally plowed between us.  I tried to hold my ground for a minute because I was both incredulous and furious, but he was too big and I didn’t want to get knocked to the ground.  I did turn back and yell, “EXCUSE YOU!!!!”, but that reaction was stupid.  Clearly, when a younger guy, built like a linebacker, feels it acceptable to shove mature fellow guests out of his way in a DISNEY PARK, something is wrong with the World.  Makes me sad that we’ve come to this as a society, but here we are, I guess.

Well, there you have it.  A very quick trip made bittersweet by our happiness for Joseph and his Disney College Program adventure and our leaving him behind when we went home.  Some of our experiences deserve blog posts of their own and some are better off forgotten forever (if possible).  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Have you had a disappointing experience at Walt Disney World?  What impact (if any) will (or did) it have on future visits?

Festival of Fantasy Parade – Favorite Viewing Spots

To me, Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade is one of the most fantastic, magical, amazing Disney creations EVER! (Totally not kidding – I’m crazy about it!)  Watch it once and tell me I’m wrong.  I love everything about it and while I may not be able to squeeze it into my schedule on every Walt Disney World visit, I make a point of seeing it as often as I can.  Finding the best spot from where to take in every charming detail can be a challenge, so let me share what tips I’ve learned.Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

Festival of Fantasy Parade – Favorite Viewing Spots

When deciding on an ideal parade viewing locale, a lot depends on the day’s FastPass line-up and what time we’re planning to leave Magic Kingdom.  Planning a little in advance, I try to minimize parade-spot-hunting time while making sure we’re well-situated for whatever’s next on our post-parade schedule.

Option 1 – Near the StartFestival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

The parade starts in Frontierland near the edge of Adventureland, so finding a place close to where the parade begins means no waiting for it to arrive further along the parade route.  Megan and I did this recently and thought it was great.  Once the parade passed, we were able to follow it to Liberty Square and ride Haunted Mansion with little wait.

Option 2 – On the HubFestival of Fantasy Parade

This one’s a little challenging on a hot, sunny day since there’s no real shade.  That being said, there’s nothing like watching Festival of Fantasy with Cinderella Castle as a backdrop.  If we can find a place to sit down, folded rain ponchos provide excellent posterior-protection from the burning hot concrete.  Tip – Claim your spot early and be ready to fend off encroachers.  This is a great spot to watch the parade if you’ll be headed to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland afterwards.Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

Option 3 – In Front of the Main Street Station

This is an excellent option if you want to make a quick getaway.  We stood facing Cinderella Castle and could see the parade as it made its way down Main Street USA before circling around right in front of us.  This location is at the very end of the parade route, so it takes a while for the magic to get there.  The ability to walk right out of the park after the last float passes by without battling the park crowds is so convenient!Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

The important takeaway here is that seeing Festival of Fantasy is worth the time and effort to find a place that fits into your family’s Magic Kingdom Plans.  There are tons of spots other than the ones I’ve listed from which to take in the action.  But do make room in your plans…you won’t be sorry!

Are you a Festival of Fantasy Parade fan?  Where’s your favorite parade-viewing location?

 

 

In Magic Kingdom? Avoid the PeopleMover!

There’s been much too much love shared among Disney fans on social media, in blog posts, and on podcasts  for Tomorrowland’s PeopleMover attraction.  Way too much effusive praise.  I feel the need to warn you away.  Don’t listen to the hype, I say!  Why?  Well, if you’ve never ridden the PeopleMover, now’s not the time to try it.

In Magic Kingdom? Avoid the PeopleMover!

Let me give you the five best reasons to mark this attraction off your to-do list…

  1.  You’re afraid of heights.  You’re pretty high up on this ride – at times, on the very edge of the track even.  It’s straight down if something goes wrong.  Better not chance it.
  2. You like clean air.  You’d think that a birds-eye view of Magic Kingdom would be refreshing, right?  Nope!  The exhaust fumes from the Tomorrowland Speedway are toxic!  You’ll have a difficult time breathing, trust me.
  3. You’re a thrill ride junkie!  No thrills here.  PeopleMover is a total snooze-fest.  A boring, narrated, slow-moving tour of Tomorrowland’s sights and attractions.  You want thrills in this section of the park?  You’ll want Space Mountain or Stitch’s Great Escape, for sure.
  4. You (or any member of your party) are afraid of the dark.  Your ride vehicle will enter tunnels of complete and total darkness.  Like can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face pitch blackness.  And not in a thrilling way.  It’s boring and uneventful…unless it’s your biggest fear, then it will be horrible.
  5. You want to be cool.  This ride is for dorks and geeks.  Cool kids do not ride the PeopleMover.  It’s the last place you’d ever want to be caught if you want people to think you’re worldly and hip.

So, if you’ve been here before you know that I’m always completely honest, right?  I give you my opinions in a straight forward, no-nonsense way and I can’t lie to you now.  I love the PeopleMover!  It’s the only must-do Tomorrowland attraction for me on every visit.  I’ve taught my entire family to appreciate and adore this wonderful ride as much as I do, but too many people have started to notice its awesomeness!

It’s getting too popular.  Where we used to walk on no matter the season or time of year, we’ve recently started to have to wait in line.  Sometimes for as long as 20 minutes!  I don’t like this development and want you to pass up PeopleMover so those of us who love it the most can have it to ourselves.  Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so.  Re-read the list of reasons to avoid the PeopleMover, take them to heart, and keep on walking, okay?  Please?

Holler if you love PeopleMover!!!!

Disney Summer Road Trip Recap

The Epic Mother/Daughter Disney Summer Road Trip has come and gone.  800 miles to Walt Disney World for four park days and home again.  Did we have a good time?  Oh, you bet we did!  After all the planning and anticipation, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Disney Summer Road Trip Recap

We shared our plans in this post a few weeks ago.  When we hit the road at 8:00 am sharp on June 24th we were excited about our girls-only adventure.  We had our favorite Newk’s chicken salad sandwiches and plenty of drinks in the cooler.  Those snacks I’d bought at the Japan Pavilion back in April were within easy reach in the car.  We had a new podcast recommended by my friend Kelly about Unsolved Murders queued up in iTunes.  Suitcases, rain gear, GPS directions…we were ready!

The weather was great for the drive down.  In Mississippi we saw Lightening McQueen and Mater by the side of the road!  We thought this was both hilarious and appropriate so we stopped for a picture.  After that, it felt like we were on The Autobahn!  Nobody in Mississippi or Alabama seemed to care about the speed limit at all and we had to go kinda fast to keep up with the crowd.  We never once saw any troopers or other law enforcement watching for speeders…vastly different than in Louisiana.

I figured 9-10 hours of shared driving would be the maximum we could handle on day one.  I’d booked a room at the Hampton Inn in Lake City, Florida for Saturday night.  We could get a good night’s rest and tackle the last 2 1/2 hours of the drive on Sunday morning.  Everything went exactly according to plan.  I’d had a recommendation from someone on a Facebook forum to stop in Tallahassee for ice cream at Lofty Pursuits.  We cheered ourselves on by looking forward to stopping there for an afternoon snack and were delighted with the restaurant’s huge menu and quirky décor.  Guinness ice cream is a thing and it is spectacular.  I had warm chocolate ganache on mine, Megan had hers in a cone.

Our room at the Hampton Inn was perfect with super comfortable beds.  After polishing off the last of our sandwiches, we sipped wine and watched a couple of episodes of Outlander before turning in.  Hey, girl trip means we get to do girly stuff.  The next morning’s drive was a breeze and before long we’d arrived at Saratoga Springs.  Our studio was great and very close to a bus stop.  Full review coming soon.

As per our plans, we spent Sunday afternoon and evening in Magic Kingdom with a quick dinner break at the Wilderness Lodge’s new Geyser Point Bar and Grill.  We capped off the day with Happily Ever After and loved it!

Monday was my favorite day of the trip.  We left Saratoga Springs at 6:30 am and didn’t get back until 11:00 pm.  We spent all that time in Animal Kingdom and had a blast!  I’ll write individual posts with more details about Pandora and the Caring for Giants tour, but those were both amazing.  We had FastPasses only for the Na’vi River Journey in Pandora that day with a FastPass to experience Flight of Passage booked for the next morning.  You cannot get FastPasses for both on the same day.

We watched the wait time for Flight of Passage throughout the day and it quickly became 250 minutes before declining during the afternoon hours.  After Caring for Giants, we decided that if the wait time got below 100 minutes between then and our Rivers of Light FastPass, we’d wait in the standby line so we could ride Flight of Passage twice on this trip.  Normally, we will not wait longer than 30-40 minutes for anything except our most favorite attractions and only then if absolutely necessary.  While we were enjoying our Flame Tree Barbeque dinner, Flight of Passage’s wait got to 90 minutes and we had just enough time to do it.  I’ll tell you all about in another post soon, but we were so happy we got in that long line!!!

Tuesday we split between Animal Kingdom and Epcot.  We got to eat lunch at La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion which we hardly ever get to do because we’re the only ones in our family who love Mexican food.  It rained quite a bit that afternoon, but we were prepared.  We rode out the worst of the storm listening to Voices of Liberty in The American Adventure rotunda.  They are so talented and put on a wonderful show!  Once the rain let up a little, we made our way back to Saratoga Springs and then on to our dinner at Paddlefish in Disney Springs that night.

Wednesday we split the day between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  The weather was gorgeous and the Studios didn’t feel as crowded as usual.  We did all our favorite attractions, saw all the characters in the Star Wars Launch Bay, and had time to enjoy a cold beer before we headed to Epcot.  By 4:30, it was time to get back to our already-packed car at Saratoga Springs and head back to the Hampton Inn in Lake City for the night.

The drive home on Thursday was a lot more challenging than on the way down.  We left extra early since we’d seen a sign outside of Lofty Pursuits that they were now serving breakfast.  Strawberry pancakes and coffee…delicious and just the fortification we needed.  We’d been averaging 5 hours of sleep a night since Sunday and were exhausted.  We drove through what felt like a monsoon for hours along the Florida panhandle.  After we got through Mobile, things got better and we made it home safe and sound with lots of souvenirs for Raymond, Joseph, Grant, and Lyndsey.

Success!  We had an excellent trip and accomplished all we’d set out to do.  Plus, we now know about literally dozens of unsolved murders around the world.  Megan and I took on the challenge of a 1600 mile drive to have a mother/daughter adventure.  We rarely get much alone time these days, so having each other’s complete and undivided attention while enjoying our favorite vacation destination was like a dream come true.  And we’d do it again!