Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

Let’s talk (more) Pandora, okay?  I recently shared an overview of Megan’s and my experience in Animal Kingdom’s newest land.  Now it’s time to get to the very best part – Flight of Passage!  With a height requirement of 44-inches, this ride is intended for everyone in the family from about age six.  Is it a perfect attraction for everyone?  Just about!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Who Would Love Disney’s Flight of Passage?

We rode Flight of Passage using the standby queue and also rode with a FastPass.  The standby line weaves through several different rooms, gradually becoming more heavily themed as guests make their way to the heart of the ride.  Unlike some of Disney’s newest queue innovations, this one has no interactive elements (that we noticed).  While I didn’t enjoy the queue nearly as much as I do the one for Expedition Everest, the final area of the line is VERY cool and worth waiting for…if the wait isn’t longer than about an hour.  We waited 90+ minutes and were pretty bored most of the time.  FastPass holders skip all of the standby – including the super interesting, well-themed parts.  Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage? Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?My suggestion:  If the line’s not too long, the lead up to the actual attraction adds certain immersive details that enhance the experience…if you like that sort of thing.

The “pre-ride show” is very detailed and includes instructions for actually experiencing the attraction.  During our first ride, I missed some of the finer details.  Don’t be like me!  Pay close attention to things like the particular avatar you are linked to and you’ll be even more amazed.Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

Riding a Banshee

When you finally take your place on the ride vehicle (think motorbike or jet ski) and are secured in place (not nearly as restrictive as Rock’n’ Roller Coaster), you’ll be facing an industrial-looking wall.  As you wait for the final link to your avatar to be complete (you can see this happening on a screen on your vehicle), you may wonder (like we did), “What the heck?  What kinda good attraction has you staring at this wall?  Why do I even need these 3D glasses?” and then prepared to be delighted and amazed!  The wall simply vanishes and you arrive on Pandora.

I can’t describe it to you, but will tell you my impression.  Flight of Passage involves all of your senses.  You can feel the banshee breathing, beating its wings, jumping into the air.  You can see, feel and smell the Pandoran environment as you explore the planet with your leader.  Megan and I both exited the ride in complete amazement!  She wore a huge, unending grin – punctuated with an occasional delighted laugh.  I know I was walking along in jaw-dropped awe.  At one point, Megan took my hand and let me along…I was that stunned!

After that first ride, I could remember so clearly the sights, aromas, and feelings I experienced.  I could not remember a single sound…not one!  After that one time, I recalled the experience as being completely silent, yet I knew it couldn’t have been!  And I believe that’s a testament to this attraction’s outstanding design!  Sensory overload in the very best way!!!Who Would Love Disney's Flight of Passage?

As with most of Disney World’s magic, I don’t care to know anything about the technology involved in allowing me to visit another planet and ride on the back of a flying animal there.  I just want to do it again!  More immersive than Soarin’, less motion-sickness-inducing jerkiness than Star Tours, no unexpectedly scary elements like Tower of Terror…yet much, much more thrilling than any of them, in its own unique way.  Unless your little one is easily scared by new experiences, I can’t imagine anyone not loving Flight of Passage.

If you’re headed to Walt Disney World to experience Pandora for the first time, I recommend Flight of Passage as the top must-do experience in this land.  While we were waiting in the standby line, Megan and I chatted up the folks around us…those who’d ridden Flight of Passage already were unanimous in their feelings about this attraction and overwhelmingly said, “Best ride EVER!”  As much as I love my favorite Disney World attractions, I’d be hard pressed to disagree.

Go! Ride! And let me know what you thought of Flight of Passage when you get back.

Magic Kingdom – Festival Of Fantasy Parade’s New Time?

What time is the 3 o’clock parade?  The answer might surprise you on and after August 20, 2017.Festival of Fantasy Parade's New Time

Magic Kingdom – Festival Of Fantasy Parade’s New Time?

I love Disney rumors and gossip – it’s fun to speculate and discuss among my fellow Disney geeks.  When I came across this brief article from WDW News Today, I had to visit Disney’s official website and check out the times info for myself.  Sure enough, the “3 o’clock parade” is moving to 2:00 pm.  Annnnnd I think that’s okay.  Pretty good, in fact.  Here’s why…Festival of Fantasy Parade's New Time

If you’ve never seen Festival of Fantasy, it’s a must-do at least once.  I’ve caught the entire 12 minute spectacle a few times because it’s nothing short of incredible.  Seriously, the floats, costumes, and music are wonderful and as good as Disney gets.  I was not a huge fan of the prior parade (Celebrate a Dream Come True) for a variety of reasons and only watched it in its entirety once because we had VIP seating.  Festival of Fantasy is everything I wanted the previous parade to be and oh, so much more.  3 o’clock can be a tough time of the day to fit in a parade…no matter how fantastic.

Mid-afternoon is the classic post-lunch naptime for legions of littles.  It’s hot, humid, sometimes riddled with pop-up thunderstorms and for lots of families their resort pool is calling.  Sometimes people want to spend a couple of hours before dinner cleaning up and enjoying happy hour (me!).  Sometimes people want to park-hop after knocking off their favorite Magic Kingdom attractions (also me!).  Moving the parade up an hour could really be a huge help for lots of folks.  The Festival of Fantasy Dining Package will also work out better for people who eat at the earliest times available – closing the gap a bit between meal and parade time.Festival Of Fantasy Parade's New Time

I think, if this time change is permanent, The Fam and I will get to enjoy Festival of Fantasy more frequently than we do now.  Our favorite viewing spots are on the Tomorrowland side of the hub and also at the end of Main Street USA across from the flagpole – easy to exit the park from there after Mickey and Minnie go by.Minne Mouse in the Festival of Fantasy Parade

Are you a Festival of Fantasy Fan?  How do you feel about the parade’s new time?Festival Of Fantasy Parade's New Time

 

runDisney – Star Wars 10K 2017 Race Recap

Race one of the Dark Side Challenge!  Having stayed up much too late eating at Narcoossee’s and watching Wishes from our table, I set the alarms to allow maximum sleep time while still allowing us enough time to get ready and walk to the event bus by 4:00 am.  I set my phone across the room with the alarm set for 3:15 am and placed a wake-up call for the same time.  The cheerful voice of Mickey Mouse on the phone would surely make getting up with less than five hours of sleep easier, right?

By 3:50 we were ready to go.  Star Wars-themed shirts, ear buds, phones, and race bibs in place, we told a sleepy Raymond goodbye and headed for the bus.  I’d brought along Cliff Bars for breakfast and we munched on those as we walked.  I’d expected to see other runners, but we were alone in the dark, making our way from the Villas at the Grand Floridian past the resort’s main entrance, past the park bus stop, and finally to the runDisney bus. We climbed aboard and found a big crowd of folks who were as tired and silent as we were.  The bus stopped for more runners at Shades of Green and then dropped us off in the pre-race assembly area.  It was probably about 4:20 by now and we could see some runners sprinting their warm-ups.  Yeah, we wouldn’t be sprinting at any point and felt no need to warm up any further than what we were already feeling from the humid morning air.  The temperature was around 70-degrees.

Runners are divided into two groups for entrance to the starting area – those with bags and those without.  We breezed on through the “without” entrance and I immediately started looking for my friends Dave and Anne.  In a sea of ten thousand runners, I couldn’t believe I spotted them almost right away.  We had only a few minutes to chat and snap a few pictures before the announcement was made for runners to begin making their way to the starting corrals.  Joseph and I wished them luck and made our way to corral A.  We had an hour to go before race-time.

runDisney does an excellent job of trying to keep you entertained while you wait.  With a stage and screen set up, live emcees alternated with Star Wars movie trailers and film clips.  Corral A is a bit of a double-edged sword.  You get to start the race first (after the wheel chair division), but you’re with the most serious runners, so there are a lot of people trying to squeeze to the very front of the crowd.  We found a relatively calm spot to wait and after the National Anthem, we were led to the starting line.  Every wave is sent off with a burst of fireworks!  All I could think about was how much the resort guests trying to sleep nearby must have been loving that!

We were off.  This was an entirely new race course and while we’d seen the course map, we didn’t really know what to expect.  At first there was a whole lot of nothing.  Pitch dark in places, we couldn’t even see our feet.  Then there would be flood lights before more darkness.  We saw a couple of character stops, but had agreed to save stopping for pictures for later in the race (if at all).  Because we had 13.1 miles to run the next day, we concentrated on keeping a comfortable pace and not pushing ourselves too hard.  That was actually more challenging than I thought it would be – hot, humid, nothing to look at in the dark, I could tell we were speeding up to get to the fun part.

At nearly four miles into the race, we finally reached Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  We entered from an area behind Tower of Terror and it struck me as a little eerie to see the Hollywood Tower Hotel but not hear any screaming.  Here’s where we got to see lots of Star Wars characters!  It was light enough out to enjoy running down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards.  Coincidentally, my playlist hit the Star Wars theme song just as we got to this part of the race.

Next we took the walkway along the water towards the Boardwalk area.  This is a narrow sidewalk!  We were able to keep running, but there was quite a bit of congestion.  Dave and Anne told us later than when they reached this part of the course it was so crowded that no one was able to run at all.  Once we reached the end of this part, we ran through the Beach Club resort area and into Epcot. runDisney - Star Wars 10K Race Recap

At this point, we had reached the mile 5 marker.  We passed the U.K. and Canada pavilions, ran past Spaceship Earth, out into the parking lot and across the finish line.  We got our medals, drinks and snack boxes and headed to the post-race area where we found some nearly-empty bleachers to sit on while we cooled off and munched on our goodies.  Joseph and I both felt surprisingly good!  We were ready to get back to the Grand Floridian to clean up and get on with the fun of being at Walt Disney World!  One race down, one to go.RunDisney - Star Wars 10K Race Recap

Here are the race stats for those of you who like that stuff.  Yes, I held Joseph back, but he insisted that running a race together meant running it together and he didn’t care about his time.  I love that kid!

Finish Time:  1:04:53

Overall Place (We crossed the finish line exactly at the same time, but clocked 5 places different!)

  • Lisa: 1994/10,895
  • Joseph: 1999/10,895

Gender Place

  • Lisa:  577/5,888
  • Joseph:  1,421/5,007

Age Group Place

  • Lisa:  33/397
  • Joseph:  69/195

 

2017 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend in Review

Last weekend’s trip to Walt Disney World was brief but packed with fun.  I’ve got so much to tell you, I thought I’d start with this post full of my impressions of the best and not-so-great aspects of our visit.  I’ll follow up with posts on the Star Wars 10K and half marathon and a restaurant review or two.  Here’s the scoop…

2017 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend in Review

We arrived mid-day Friday.  Our plan was to get to the Grand Floridian (stayed at the DVC Villas), drop off our luggage, grab a bite at the Gasparilla Island Grill (underrated quick-service), then rush over to Wide World Of Sports so Joseph and I could pick up our race packets for the Dark Side Challenge.  This part went off without a hitch.  I was very excited to see Richard (famous greeter at the Grand Floridian) looking well.  If you seen him, say hello and he’ll say, “Welcome to the Grand!”  I love that he’s in his 90’s and still enjoying his job so much.

We wanted to spend a few minutes shopping at the Expo if possible and, thanks to the event buses running often, mission accomplished!  I’d booked Magic Kingdom FastPasses starting at 4:30 (or thereabouts) for Seven Dwarfs, Big Thunder, and Space Mountain and we arrived in plenty of time!  We even managed to squeeze in Pirates and PeopleMover as well.  Dinner was at Narcoossee’s and the 8:30 dining time was my first error of this trip.  WAY too late to eat before having to get up at 3:15 a.m. the next day.

Before dinner, we managed a quick glass of wine in Mizner’s Lounge.  Joseph had never heard the Lobby Society Orchestra play before and they sounded especially great that evening.  We were wishing we’d had more time to relax and enjoy the music.  On the way to Narcoossee’s, we spotted a rather large dark-colored snake on the sidewalk.  As I’ve mentioned before (here), Joseph has an affinity for reptiles.  I wanted to take the snake’s picture, Joseph wanted to pick it up!  Raymond and I, at the exact same time, realized what was about to happen and quietly said, “Don’t do it!” just about the time the snake decided to slither off into the bushes.  I did mention to the hostess that some guests might be alarmed if Mr. Snake decided to move back onto the warmth of the walkway.

Dinner was excellent as was our view of Wishes during our meal.  As we headed to our room to catch what sleep we could, we noticed and Cast Member and a gentleman in a suit holding a flashlight searching for the snake – or at least making sure it stayed off the sidewalk.  Our room (studio #1428) was the biggest disappointment of our stay.  There was no split bathroom, just a plain bathroom with a tub/shower combo.We didn’t even know such a room type existed!  Made getting ready take much longer for the three of us as we are a decidedly anti-bathroom-sharing people.  The room overall was lovely, but felt like a plain hotel room.  If you’ve seen DVC studios at Disney’s Polynesian Village or Bay Lake Tower, you can appreciate how disappointed we were.  There’s a split bathroom at the Poly and Bay Lake Tower’s kitchenette is so large, there’s extra room (with a counter and mirror) for getting ready.

Watch for a full report on the Star Wars 10K in the next few days.  Let me jump straight to our post-race activities…

At 180-days out, I’d booked a reservation for lunch at Beaches & Cream (Beach Club) and then cancelled it the day before we left home.  I should not have done that.  The recently opened Polite Pig in Disney Springs seemed just our type of place and we all wanted to try it.  Arriving at Disney Springs around 10:00 a.m., we had about an hour to shop before the restaurant opened and we were among the first in the door.  The atmosphere is neat and the employees were perfectly polite.  But, in spite of our love for barbecue and smoked meats, we were (all of us) disappointed in our food.  Such unanimous agreement is practically unheard of!  I ended up feeling sorry we didn’t get to try Beaches & Cream.  Next time we visit the Polite Pig, it’ll be for the bar instead of the food – our beers were very delicious and their drink menu is vast.

After lunch we were off to Epcot for the Disney Exchange Podcast Meet-up!  Nick, Dave, and I, (and our families) were excited to see friends of the show and spent an hour visiting and laughing a LOT!  We felt very humbled and special to have listeners willing to interrupt their Disney vacation to spend time with us.  Thanks especially to “Aunt Sandy”, Dave J., Victoria, Olivia, Linda, and Phillip (a.k.a. Duke).  After the meet-up, Raymond, Joseph and I headed off to use our FastPasses.

Frozen was down, so we used our first FastPass for Soarin’ followed by Spaceship Earth (we got stuck for a couple of minutes by the garlic hat guy and it was great!).  Our last FastPass went unused (Nemo) when we realized how nice it would be to go back to our room for a few minutes before dinner at Il Mulino – our now-traditional-pre-half-marathon-go-to restaurant.  If you are not on the Disney Dining Plan, I urge you to give some of the Swan and Dolphin’s restaurants a try!  This was our fourth visit to Il Mulino and our experiences have all been consistently excellent.

Immediately after dinner, we got back to our room as quickly as possible and were out as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

Sunday morning, there was that little matter of the Star Wars Half Marathon.  (Full review soon.)  Raymond was waiting for Joseph and me when we finished the race and the three of us, along with Dave and his wife, Anne, enjoyed a few minutes of the post-race party before getting on with the rest of our day.  Animal Kingdom was on the agenda and by the time we got there, a bad case of “hangry” had struck so we decided to grab some small plates at the Nomad Lounge.And ended up staying for three hours once Nick and Dave (and their wives and friends) found out where we were and joined us.  If you haven’t been to Nomad Lounge, go!  It’s about as perfect a place to relax as exists on Disney property.  The beverage selection is great, the food is yummy, and the atmosphere is tranquil.  Unbelievably, we left Nomad Lounge and spent a few more minutes together at the Dawa Bar.

Eventually we needed to excuse ourselves in favor of FastPasses for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest.  We strolled along the Gorilla Falls Trail between attractions and then caught a bus for Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village section for dinner at Sanaa.  We were early and spent time out on the savannah overlook sitting in rocking chairs and enjoying the lovely weather.  Sanaa’s manager was kind enough to find us a table about 30 minutes before our reservation and we were delighted to introduce Joseph to the restaurant’s famous bread service.

To wrap up the day, we met our Disney Exchange friends back at Animal Kingdom for Rivers of Light.  It was our first time to see it and typically, Raymond, Joseph and I had completely differing opinions about this new show (more on that at a later date).  By this time, even with all the rest and relaxation, the trackers on our Fitbits had passed 20 miles for the day.  It was time to turn in so we had enough energy to squeeze in a last little bit of Disney in the morning.

We were awake and busy packing by 6:15 a.m.  We had breakfast scheduled at Kona Café (another tradition) followed by one last FastPass in Magic Kingdom for Space Mountain at 9:20.  Our ride to the airport was scheduled to pick us up at 11:00 a.m.  Dave met us in Magic Kingdom and we had time for a last ride around Tomorrowland on the PeopleMover before blasting off into Space.  It was time to go.  One last bit of pixie dust found us as we went back to our room for our luggage – Cinderella’s horses, carriage and footmen were on the path around our building and we got to see them up close as they passed by.  Then we found ourselves leaving Walt Disney World behind to get home for some much needed rest!

For a very short 72 hours, we had an amazing (exhausting) time!  Joseph completed his first runDisney events.  Nick, Dave and I managed (finally!) to have our first podcast meet-up.  Family, friends, and LOTS of Disney magic all around…we could not have asked for a better time.