Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

We’re calling it the “Epic Mother/Daughter Disney Summer Road Trip” and in just a few weeks, we’ll be on our way!  Packing lists are made.  FastPasses are booked.  Like all great Disney vacations, new things are in store and include quite a few Disney firsts for us.  Megan and I are more excited than I can describe and are constantly texting each other about our plans.  Speaking of plans…

Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

Let’s start with the firsts:  First time at Saratoga Springs, first time on the Quick Service Dining Plan, first time driving to Orlando, and (the most exciting!) first time to see Pandora!  We’ve also booked the “Caring for Giants” tour at Animal Kingdom and are looking forward to seeing the new Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular in Magic Kingdom.

Here are the plans we’ve made day-by-day…

Arrival Day:

Magic Kingdom:  We’ll get there for lunch and grab what sounds good at the time.  We have FastPasses starting right after lunch for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain.  Between FastPasses, we’ll fill in with the usual favorites depending on wait times.  Those attractions are usually PeopleMover, Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Country Bear Jamboree.  For dinner we’ll catch the boat to Wilderness Lodge to try Geyser Point before returning to Magic Kingdom and staying for Happily Ever After.

Day Two:

Animal Kingdom as early as possible.  It would stress me out to shoot for an exact arrival time, but it will need to be early.  FastPasses start at 9:00 am with Na’vi River Journey in Pandora.  We’ll grab breakfast there at Satu’li Canteen either before or after the ride.  Then we’ll have plenty of time to explore all of Pandora at our leisure.  Our next FastPass (Expedition Everest) isn’t until early afternoon.  We’ll do the Caring For Giants tour mid-afternoon then be able to roam around Animal Kingdom at a lazy pace, eat dinner, and use our final FastPass for Rivers of Light at 9:15.

Day Three:Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids

Animal Kingdom again first thing.  Our FastPasses are all in the morning:  Flight of Passage, Primeval Whirl, and Kali River Rapids.  We’ll be hopping to Epcot for the afternoon – so many great quick service options for lunch in World Showcase!  Dinner that night will be at Paddlefish in Disney Springs after which we’ll call it a day.

Day Four:Entrance for Toy Story Midway ManiaWe’ll start by rope-dropping the Studios to ride Rock’n’ Roller Coaster before using our three FastPasses for Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Star Tours.  The unplanned afternoon will be spent at either Magic Kingdom or Epcot before we start the first part of the long drive home that evening.

Yes, we have solid plans for much of the time, but I think we’ve allowed for plenty of free-styling along the way.  Primarily we’ll be focused on exploring Pandora since it’s new, but we’ll also be able to enjoy many of our must-dos in every park while trying a few new restaurants too.  Mother/Daughter time should include a nice mix of new experiences and old favorites while making lots of happy memories.

While we’re away, Joseph has decided he should stay at the house and keep Raymond (and Junior) company.  So while they won’t be going to Disney World, they’ll be guys home alone doing guys stuff.  I think they’re pretty excited about it.

Are you headed to Walt Disney World this summer?  What are you the most excited to see and do?

 

If The Great Movie Ride Has to Go

Nearly three years ago I wrote this article about the rumored demise of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, which so far has remained unscathed.  The newest Studios scuttlebutt predicts the replacement of The Great Movie Ride with something completely different.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this one.  Let’s discuss!

If The Great Movie Ride Has to GoThe Great Movie Ride

Like much of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in recent years, The Great Movie Ride hasn’t received a whole lot of love.  New intro, change in narration, and nothing else.  The scenes are stale, some of the animatronics don’t work, and the scripts on the two versions are exactly the same…every. single. time. The Great Movie Ride

The premise of this attraction makes it perpetually ready for awesome updates and theme/action changes at regular intervals.  So much Hollywood greatness to be showcased, incredible potential for an infinite number of scene changes and movie genres to explore.  None of that has happened and I still ride it on nearly every visit.  Why?  Nostalgia mostly.  I have a love/hate relationship with many of the scenes.  I love the Casablanca scene, hate Tarzan, love John Wayne and Mary Poppins, hate The Public EnemyThe Wizard of Oz is my absolute favorite and so well done!  If other fans are like me, nostalgia alone probably isn’t enough to keep this ride alive.

If the Rumors are True…

According to speculation from August, 2016, The Great Movie Ride may be replaced by The Great Mickey Ride.  Think about the possibilities!  Trackless vehicles moving guests through the history of Mickey in all his lovable forms.  He’s recognized world-wide and has yet to have his very own attraction!  The original spirit of the Studios would live on and new generations of Mickey fans would learn the story of the world’s most famous Mouse.  Makes sense as Mickey will celebrate his 100th birthday in 2028.  With so much to showcase, this could easily be one of those attractions guests would ride again and again to see what they might have missed on previous visits.The Great Movie Ride

With money and resources currently allocated for Star Wars and Toy Story lands, it seems doubtful that anything will happen in the near future.  Goodness knows, the Studios can’t handle anymore closures without new attractions to fill in the gaping holes.  I can see how the long-term survival of The Great Movie Ride in its current form is unlikely though, and I’m prepared for it to go away.  In the meantime, I intend to ride it a few more times and enjoy one of the last vestiges of what Disney’s MGM Studios originally used to be.

How about you?  Are you a fan of The Great Movie Ride?  Are you ready to see it replaced?

 

Disney Dining – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

In theory, the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater in Disney’s Hollywood Studios sounds like a winning place to enjoy a casual lunch or dinner.  A tribute to the drive-in theaters of old along with those cheesy horror movies from the ’50’s, ’60’s and ’70’s and a menu of classic American entrees and sides…it’s bound to be great, right?sci-fi-dine-in-menu

Disney Dining – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

We gave this place a try for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  Here’s the verdict:

What we liked:  This place is certainly unique.  We thought the theme was fun, the movie clips hilarious, and the menu broad enough for everyone to find something they were happy with.  Our server was good – she was taking the orders of seven people split between two cars and managed to make us all feel like she was sincere and attentive.  The beer was cold and delicious and our meals arrived in a timely manner.  The food was okay.  Better than typical fast-food, which is good because it was a little pricey (and hard to photograph in the dark!). sci-fi-dine-in-sandwich

What we didn’t like:  The waiting area and the hostess left much to be desired.  Our first impression wasn’t a good one.  We didn’t wait long afraid ter we checked in, but the area we sat in was disappointing compared to other places like 50’s Prime Time Café.  The hostess was so bland and monotone, I thought maybe it was some sort of act.  I’m still not sure, because she never smiled, made little eye contact and spoke in a deep voice devoid of inflection.  She walked us to our car-tables as if she was headed to the gallows.  This made us feel rather like a burden.sci-fi-dine-in-darkness

Our tables were split between two cars with Raymond and I in the back of a car with a random family of four – this seemed weird to me and made me wish I’d done more research on how a party of our size would be handled.  The other five in our group were in the car next to us, but far enough away that conversation with them was impossible.sci-fi-dine-in-ticket

What would get us to eat there again?  We’d go back again if we were with someone who would get a big kick out of the movie clips and drive-in experience.  Ideally, we’d be with an even-numbered party of four or six so we could all eat in one vehicle.  sci-fi-dine-in-signProbably the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater will now be in our once-and-done category simply because I expect the Star Wars expansion to bring with it new dining experiences for us to try.  And I like the food at 50’s Prime Time Café better.

Have you tried Sci-Fi Dine-In?  How was your experience?

Looking Back: Star Wars’ Rebel Hangar Lounge at DHS

Hooray for the weekend!!!  Today let’s go back with Nick to last year’s final Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – specifically to the ultra cool Rebel Hangar: A Star Wars Lounge Experience.  I like to believe that while Star Wars Weekends are no more, the Rebel Hangar was a preview of the most excellent experiences we can expect in the future at the Studios as Star Wars Land becomes a reality and Star Wars is not relegated to a few weekends each year, but becomes a fully immersive adventure we can experience any time we visit.

Looking Back: Star Wars’ Rebel Hangar Lounge at DHS

By Nick

The Rebel Hangar Lounge at the Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios was held nightly through the end of Star Wars Weekends on June 14th, 2015.

This new spot to hang out and have appetizers, cocktails and sweet treats was originally only slated to be open during Star Wars Weekends…on the weekends, but interest was so high, it was made a daily offering!

Let me relate my experience with not only booking during the initial weekend period, but also the very lucky sneak peak I got of this great experience.

When it was first announced on the Disney Parks Blog on May 5th, just a little over a week before my trip, I immediately got on the phone with Josh, one of the 2 friends I was going to be traveling to Walt Disney World with to have a guys geek out weekend, and asked if “The Lounge” would be something he would be interested in, and if I should call our other friend, Joe. He said “Book it, Joe will be fine with it.” I got on the phone to make an ADR. I was told it was already sold out! This was only a few hours after it was officially announced! This didn’t stop me from trying though. I went online to the Disney’s official dining page, and found Rebel Hangar Lounge. As I talked to Josh, telling him we should periodically call or check the dining page, I absentmindedly clicked on different days and times, and BOOM-there was an opening for 820PM for Sunday 5/17 and I immediately booked!

Fast forward to the first day of our trip, Thursday 5/14, and Joe, Josh and I were walking towards the back of the park after a very filling buffet, Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine, which I will be reviewing in the coming days, so please stop back. There was a couple of people talking to Cast Members behind a podium at Backlot Express, home of the Rebel Hangar. I walked over to check out the decorations, and started taking photos.

A very nice man, (I really wish I’d gotten his name, in fact, I wish I could remember every Cast Member’s name, as they were all wonderful) asked if we’d heard of the Rebel Hangar. We told him we had indeed, and would be visiting that very weekend. He then explained they were having a preview for executives, and asked if we’d like to see the menu.

We said certainly, and as we looked, he asked “How would you like to come in and check it out, maybe have a bite to eat and a cocktail?” Um, yes!

As we entered, we explained we’d just eaten, but would love a cocktail, and he said that was fine.

We were seated, and within moments, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, aka, the Cantina Band, came out to entertain us. As there was literally only 2 other guests, excluding the executives, who were in another area, they spent several minutes with us taking photos and showing off their musical instruments and skills!

 Me and Dan. At least, I think that’s Dan.
Joe and his new friend. (Joe is on the right, by the way.)
 Joe, Josh and me with the Band.

We were all given menus, and each of us chose a different drink.

I got the Imperial Blue – Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Cointreau, Bols Blue Curacao, and sweet and sour topped with Sprite, which was $10.25 on the menu.

 Joe chose the Dagobah Swamp Juice – Midori, Tito’s handmade vodka, sweet and sour, topped with lemon-lime Fomz, $14.75.

Josh had the Tatooine Sunset – Stoli Vanil Vodka, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, pineapple juice and grenadine, $9.25.

As we were enjoying these, the hit being the Dagobah Swamp Juice, when Sabine and Ezra, from the Star Wars Rebels animated series, came out.

We were also convinced to give a couple of food items a try, despite being so full, and we chose the 2 selections that had the most visual appeal, Chips and Sith, chickpea and lentil hummus with roasted red pepper coulis, black sesame dust and multi-colored corn tortilla chips, which is $8.49 on the menu, and the Yoda Key Lime Cake, $7.99. The hummus was very good, the Key Lime Cake was amazing!

We were also offered another round of drinks! How could we refuse? This time, I got the Rebel Red – Grey Goose vodka, Chambord, sweet and sour, and grenadine, priced at $15.25 on the menu. This was good, but very sweet.

Finally, as we were finishing our adult beverages, that bounty hunter with the bad eyesight or slow trigger finger, depending on which version of Star Wars you are watching, Greedo, came out!

As we exited, I stopped and took some pics of the various decorations on the walls and tables.

 

So, after an experience like this, how could our Sunday visit possibly match up? Well, to put it bluntly, it couldn’t.
For one thing, there was barely a character to be found. We spoke to our Cast Member friend from our previous visit, who explained that there had been more members of the Star Wars galaxy roaming the lounge earlier in the evening, but the reason Disney was not promoting this as a character dining experience was these visits were random. As he was saying this, the only characters we saw that evening, 2 Jawas, came out.

The other problem was where we were seated. The corner we were in faced the ramp leading to the Backlot Express area, which was clearly visible, somewhat detracting from the experience.

This table is also directly under a vent, so cold air was constantly blowing on us, which not only made us chilly, but quickly cooled down the hot food we’d ordered.
We all got our favorite cocktail from the previous visit, the Dagobah Swamp Juice. This time, it came with a clip on X-Wing Fighter. Note: You can order the drinks without the X-Wing, even though that isn’t advertised, which knocks about $5 off the price!

For food, we ordered several of the small plates to share. The highlight was the Lightsaber Bites for $11.49. These are hand-dipped and corn-battered knockwurst sausages with house-made chips and honey-mustard dipping sauce.

These were delicious, as were the house made chips, which also came with the Slider Sampler: The Sith and the Jedi, Barbecue pulled pork brisket with coleslaw and barbecue pulled chicken with arugula for $9.99. The pork was good, but the chicken was just so-so. I wouldn’t get this dish again.

At $11.49, the Trio of Thermal Detonators, pork wings with spicy piquillo pepper sauce served with coleslaw were also pretty good, but again, I likely wouldn’t order these on another visit either.

The Pilot’s Pommes Frites , aka French Fries, which came with a garlic aiolic and cost $5.49, were really tasty, but did not stay warm long under the vent. I would certainly get these again however.

Would I recommend this experience. ABSOLUTELY. For one, it isn’t outrageously priced. You can enjoy the experience for under $20, depending on what you order. And I would love to try the other items we didn’t order, especially the Ilum Fruit and Cheese Sabers, skewers of Tillamook cheddar, mild brie, goat cheese, olives and seasonal berries with crostini and cheddar cracker $12.99 and The Dark Fried, crispy chicken and mini-Darth Vader waffles served with maple syrup and barbecue sauce $14.99.

But I highly recommend you ask to be seated in an area that immerses you in the theme, or even outside on a nice evening.

Want to read more about Nick’s Disney adventures?  Visit the Disney Musings Blog and follow Nick on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Pinterest.  You can also listen to Nick, our friend Dave, and me on The Disney Exchange Podcast where we talk about….well, I bet you can guess.