Okay, I just want to give the few of those reading this a fair warning that this post could probably qualify as a novella. There are also a ton of pictures because my friends are really pretty. It’s long, but I wanted to cram a lot of fun into just one post, so #sorrynotsorry.
Unlike the rest of the lovely ladies I traveled with on this trip — Liz, Sudie, and Berkeley for those of you keeping up at home — I hadn’t been to Disney World in 15 years (15! God, I’m old). Naturally, I wanted to do all! the! things!, time on my feet and resting before a half-marathon be damned. My off-the-charts excitement combined with a type-A penchant to plan things led me to do lots of research in the weeks leading up to the trip (two invaluable sources were Disney Tourist Blog and Parkelogy, in case anyone is wondering). Yes, I’m a joy to travel with. Pinky promise.
We went in with a loose plan — where we were going — and booked FastPasses. We all had a few things that we wanted to make sure that we did, but all in all, I think we were all on the same page about park visiting. No one wanted to spend a ton of time waiting in lines. No one necessarily wanted to hunt down specific characters or parades. We all just wanted to have a magical time. I can’t believe it took me this long to make that joke.
One thing that made Disney more enjoyable as a grown up was the fact that we could drink in most of the parks. Magic Kingdom still isn’t on board (I think you can have a drink if you eat in the “Be Our Guest” restaurant, but no where else), but in MGM, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot, we all enjoyed our fair share of adult beverages. I think my parents would have enjoyed Disney more when we were kids if that had been the case.
Friday: Magic Kingdom
I love the Magic Kingdom in a way that I didn’t realize until I went back to the park last month. It’s been so long since I’ve been there, so I guess I just blacked it out? Never again! After Sudie and I got back to the room from the 5K/roused Liz and Berk/got ready and caffeinated, we headed to the Magic Kingdom. I’m the first to admit that I was probably pretty annoying — I was just so excited! Our first FastPass of the day was for Space Mountain, so I practically skipped there, babbling about how it was a perfect “first ride” because it was the first roller coaster I’d ever ridden, blah blah blah. We got there, and the ride was shut down for maintenance. Okay then. We hopped into Buzz Lightyear, and I was handily beaten by Liz who left the first room with 100,000+ points. Sorceress. Next, we headed over to Big Thunder Mountain after checking the MyDisneyExperience app and seeing it had a short wait, and it was also closed for maintenance.
Things were not going according to plan.
Ultimately, we regrouped, and hit some oldies but goodies that morning: Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents. We tried to ride Pirates, but it was also closed. On the app it said Space Mountain was open again, so we trekked all the way back to Tomorrowland to find out that the ride was closed down again. Welp. People Mover it is. At that point, we headed to our lunch reservation at Tony’s on Main Street, thanks to Berk’s fabulous recommendation.
While we checked in at lunch, Berk went to customer service to extend her ticket to a three-day, and when she mentioned the trouble we’d been having with rides all morning, they gave us a fancy FastPass to be used on any ride by the end of the day! It was a Magic Fastpass. Lunch was delicious — nothing better than chicken fingers, diet coke, and french fries while watching a parade out of the window — and at that point, things were looking up ride-wise. We were able to go on Space Mountain, followed by Carousel of Progress, and a super-sweet dance party in Tomorrowland hosted by the Incredibles.
Randomly saw our favorite Nanny at the train station.
Sudie and Berk abandoned Liz and me that afternoon (for very good reasons), but we didn’t skip a beat. We hit the Peter Pan ride (a letdown after waiting in line for an hour), the Tea Cups, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, and a few others. Splash Mountain just isn’t the same now that they’ve removed the politically incorrect narration; it doesn’t make as much sense. Funny story about Splash Mountain. There were tons of men riding the ride in their hats around me, so I didn’t think anything about wearing my sweet new Disney hat on the ride, especially since it was anchored by my bun. Well, we were going down the big drop, and all of a sudden, the hat flies off my head. I was understandably heartbroken, and Liz and I rode the Disney Railroad back to Le Chapeau on Main Street to see if I could get another. I happened to mention to Scottie, the nice boy from Georgia Southern, what had happened, and he/his manager gave me the hat for free! So nice. So awesome. And yes, I took it off for every other thrill ride we rode the rest of the day.
When Berk met back up with us, we went to dinner at Cosmic Rays, where we found one of three outlets in the place and guarded it pretty intently. It was nice to sit, eat, and recharge (both the phones and us). There were extra Magic Hours in MK that night, so we still had a lot of time to go. After Cosmic Rays, we headed over to see the new “Be Our Guest,” which was awesome — and the cinnamon roll was huge and delicious — where we also found outlets. We had decided to use the “magic” Fastpass on Seven Dwarves, so we were working our way that way, before attempting to do Big Thunder and Pirates of the Carribean.
Y’all. Seven Dwarves Mine Train, which is one of the newest rides in the park, is flipping amazing. One of the best roller coasters I’ve ever been on, and I wish that I could have ridden it 10 more times. I had scoffed at the line being so long for most of the day, but I understand it now. We were tempted to try and do it twice, but it was getting close to the end of our FP window for Big Thunder and there was no single-rider line.
After our amazing ride on Seven Dwarves, we were able to use our last Fast Pass on Big Thunder Mountain — amazing at night, by the way! — and after a ride through Pirates, we ran (hobbled?) over to Space Mountain to ride it one last time during the parade. After that, we realized just how beat we were, and so after a stop to take our picture and watch the show on the Castle, we grabbed a bus home.
Saturday: Animal Kingdom and
MGM Hollywood Studios
Our day on Saturday was not nearly as planned as our day on Friday. We knew that we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom and
MGM Hollywood Studios (last time, I promise) but that is about the extent of it. After figuring out that Hollywood Studios had extra Magic Hours in the morning, we decided to go to AK first, thinking we’d miss some of the crowds. That actually worked out fairly well for us, at least for our first stop of the day.
We got there just a little bit after opening, and we headed straight to Expedition Everest. The line was only about 15 minutes, and it went super quickly. The line area leading up to the ride (through a backpacking shop in the foothills of the Alps) was so cool, and there was a ton to look at. I’ll give it to Disney; you may have to wait in line for a while, but at least that is entertaining (another one that was super fun was Peter Pan in MK).
The ride itself is up there with best in the Disney parks — I have a hard time ranking them, just due to nostalgia, but this is easily Top Five. I’m not the only one that felt that way, either. We immediately jumped back into the single rider line, and we were back up to the front in about 10 minutes.
While we were in line for Expedition Everest, and I don’t remember how it came up, I said something about how I wished I had my Tusker shirt to wear because it had “Let the Good Times Roll!” on the back in Swahili. For those of you who don’t know, Tusker is a delicious African beer, and it’s one of my absolute favorites. It’s also really hard to find in the States (at least the place that I’ve looked; if you have a source, please let me know!). After our second time on Everest, we wandered to get food, and we ended up in Harambe (the Africa part of the park). Imagine my shock and joy when Tusker was available at the first place we stopped.
That smile is genuine, folks. I obviously ordered
one two, and as my boss said, carb loaded like the Kenyans. It was just as glorious as I remembered.
After other people ate food (well, ice cream), we decided to hit up Dinoland USA for a few rides. We were able to get into Dinosaur pretty quickly — Sudie was super excited to be given the time card to measure how long people waited in line. I had read mixed reviews about Dinosaur, but I loved it. The theming was great, and the ride was really fun! That may have been because I had no expectations of it, but I’m glad we wandered over to try it.
One weird thing that we all noticed about AK was how much was closed during the time that we were there. Not rides, all the ones we wanted to ride were open (it was a short list), but food stands. I guess it is because we were hungry (no one ate a real breakfast that morning), but it seemed like every restaurant or stand we came to was closed. Initially, I wrote this off as it being early in the morning, but even as we were walking out of the park at noon, not much more was opened.
After Dinosaur and meeting Donald, we made the executive decision to head on over to Hollywood Studios for lunch/some more ride action. I had been really nervous that transport to the parks would take forever since we were dependent on buses, but I don’t think we ever waited longer than 10-15 minutes; this may have been an instance of being more lucky than good, and I’ll definitely take it.
We had decided to use Hollywood Studios as our FP+ park for Saturday, and while we had some of the same rides, our times didn’t necessarily overlap. I had a FP+ for Rock ‘N Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and the Frozen show (we didn’t use that one), and I think those were good choices. I know the hot ride right now is the Toy Story Midway thing, but I’ll be honest in saying that I just don’t get the appeal.
First priority was lunch — obviously chicken fingers and french fries — and then we started to wander before our Tower of Terror Fast Pass. We rode Star Tours — the line wasn’t that bad, even without a pass!
After that, we rode the Great Movie Ride, wandered around parts of the park, and rode Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N Roller Coaster.
Other than that, I don’t remember much. I know there was a beer, I know there was popcorn, and I know that there was some time resting. We were all pretty tired, we had the race coming up the next day, and a good amount in Hollywood Studios was under construction. After Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, we went back to the hotel to charge cell phones/change into real clothes for dinner, and then it was off to Downtown Disney for dinner!
We figured that it would be easier to get a dinner reservation at Downtown Disney the night before the race, and with carb-loading in mind, we ended up at Portobello. I talked about it yesterday, but I just want to reiterate that it was delicious. I couldn’t have been happier with our choice. I’d actually never been to Downtown Disney, so it was funny to hear Sudie and Liz talk about how it was a place they wanted to “go out” when they were kids. It seems like a cool area, but we didn’t really do anymore exploring than what was on our way to and from dinner.
Well, first things first. On Sunday morning, we ran a little race. After refueling like champs with champs (+ Sea Salt and Pepper kettle chips) and becoming a little more presentable, we headed to Epcot to attempt another sort of half-marathon: drinking around World Showcase. There are lots of articles out there about it — we used Disney Tourist Blog and Thrillist as our strategic guides. Adorable “Bippity Boppity Booze” shirts were courtesy of the lovely Liz, and we definitely got a few fun comments about them.
We knew that we wanted to start in Mexico — and we appreciated the tips to go inside the Mexico pavilion for the margaritas. I consider myself a fairly seasoned drinker, and I’m not ashamed to admit that was a stout drink. The bartenders made them all by hand, and the drink was served on the rocks. It was a wonderful way to start the day.
I’m not going to wax poetic about everything I drank, but we did hit all the countries except China (that was our one mulligan, and we should have gone to get the plum wine slushie! Next time). Three particular highlights for me where the grapefruit beer in Germany (Schofferhofer), the the white wine spritzer in Italy, and the Snakebite (Guinness and cider) in the UK. There were no real low points for me, but I know that others may not have felt the same. If I’m remembering correctly, Sudie hated her Moroccan beer.
Our route took us from Mexico to Norway, skipping China, then to Germany, Italy, and the States. We sat in “America” for a while, then headed to Japan for a snack. After a Sapporo and sushi, we powered through Morocco, France, United Kingdom in short order. Finally, after several hours and a few snacks, we finished in Canada with a celebratory Labatt Blue!
I think our keys to success were taking it slow, hydrating when necessary, and having snacks — obviously. I ate nachos in Mexico, sushi in Japan, and chips in England — all of which were delicious, and I’d love to be eating right now. Sticking to beer/wine/champagne were also necessary. I don’t think that we could have done this with liquor drinks, even though some of them sounded amazing. We also took a mulligan on one country — China — and that was a good strategy. I was telling my brothers about this experience, and I think they want to do it. Should I start training now?
Tips and Tricks
I’m far from a Disney expert, but there were a few things that I learned on this trip that I thought I would share in case anyone is curious.
- Charging your phone
- This was by far the biggest issue that we had in the park, largely because we used our phones all day between Instagram, Snapchat, and the MyDisneyExperience app. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of places to charge your phone in Disney World, though I imagine that will change at some point soon. Imagine that you could “check-in” your phone as you got in line for a ride to charge — it’d be amazing, and it’s a service I’d definitely pay for. We did learn that you could ask cast members where the nearest plug was to charge a phone, and they’d let you know. There are also a few hidden spots in restaurants in all the parks.
- One thing that we started doing was turning our phones on Airplane mode and then using the free Disney wifi to send iMessages, post pictures, and check the app. This was a lifesaver.
- From what I’ve read on some of the Disney blogs, there is a lot of controversy around this new program. If you don’t know, you can only get three FPs in advance, and you are limited to one park. Once you ride all three FP rides, you can get others, but they are limited (i.e., you won’t be able to get one of the super popular rides).
- We did find that Cast Members were willing to let us through when 3/4 had the same FP, but the fourth’s time was wonky. They were great about that, and most of the time, didn’t even bat an eye about it.
- If you want to ride one of the super popular rides — Seven Dwarves, Toy Story (?), Soarin’ — make sure to book your FP as soon as the window opens. Those go like hotcakes.
- MyDisneyExperience App
- This app was amazing. It tells you wait times, ride closures, restaurant reservations — pretty much everything about Disney World. We used it all the time (probably why our phone batteries all died so quickly), and it made the day go by so much smoother. If you have a smartphone, it would be dumb to not download it (see what I did there?)
- Always ask…
- Disney is known for its customer service, and as a “grown-up,” I so appreciate that. Everywhere we went, people were just awesome. Scottie replaced my hat, people let us special order off the menus (like making chicken fingers for Sudie and me at an Italian restaurant…), and we were given a FastPass for our inconvenience. Disney’s just great.
Congratulations! You made it to the end! Only 3300 words about three days at Disney World. Thanks for letting me prattle on, anonymous internet friends! That’s it, and now life is a little bit closer to normal.