by Brittany DiCologero
Our January trip took place from January 11, to January 20, 2016. Chaz and I stayed at All Star Sports, and while the trip was primarily just the two of us, we were also able to see some of our friends including Sarah P., Nora, Anthony, Tony, Ty, Kaitlyn, and Holly. This trip was awesome because it was the first time we returned “home” since our Disney College Programs ended!
Monday, January 11, 2016:
Chaz and I left Boston on an early Jet Blue flight, arriving in Orlando at 10:00 AM. We had already added Disney’s Magical Express service to our reservation, so once we were off the plane we were able to head right for the bus pickup area (after taking a ride on MCO’s monorail– because what would a trip to Disney be like if you didn’t get to take the monorail between terminals of the airport?) Our timing was perfect, as we arrived at our bus number’s queue just before a bus was about to depart. We were actually the last ones on, so we really lucked out that it was only two of us since there were exactly two seats left on that bus.
This trip was my first time taking the Magical Express bus since 2006, and even then we only took it going to the resort, not going back to the airport. I think it is super helpful, and well worth saving the money on a cab or other shuttle service. While the bus does make multiple stops, so depending on which stop your resort is it can take slightly longer than a cab would, I think this evens out because you do not need to pick up your own luggage at baggage claim. The amount of time you’d probably spend waiting for your bags to come off the plane, is probably about equal to the time you’d spend stopping at other resorts– and I would much rather be spending that time on the bus watching the cartoons and Disney ads on the TVs than waiting around baggage claim.
We also checked into our resort online, and were receiving text alerts to let us know when the room was ready. When we arrived at the resort a bit after 11 AM, we knew the room was not ready yet, so we left our carry on bags at bell services and headed right for the Magic Kingdom. I know, I know, we didn’t even walk around the resort or anything– in fact, we didn’t even step inside the lobby when we got off the Magical Express bus. I love staying at the All Star Resorts because of the price, but they’re not the kind of places that I’d feel the need to stop and wander around when I could be at the park instead. Walking around the resort was something we’d save for later at night or early in the morning when we weren’t at the parks.
Again, we had perfect timing as we waited maybe about five minutes or so, and we were on the bus to the Magic Kingdom! Once we arrived, the first order of business was to get our tickets. And yes, I know, we could have done this in advance so here are my justifications for why we didn’t do that:
1. I was getting an annual pass, and there is no monthly payment plan for non-Florida residents. So I made my own monthly payment plan by adding money to a Disney gift card, and I paid it off (and then some) until only about a couple of weeks before the trip, so it seemed to make more sense to just get the tickets there. While Chaz did not get an annual pass, he followed me lead and saved on a Disney gift card as well.
2. “But then you couldn’t get Fastpasses in advance.” This is true, but also not important because I know how to do things efficiently and usually don’t get them until the day of or the day before anyway.
3. “Why didn’t you get tickets at the hotel then?” Because buying tickets at the Magic Kingdom is way more magical than buying tickets at my hotel. Duh.
Tickets in hand, we headed for the turnstiles and before you knew it we were right there at… Casey’s Corner! If you know anything about going to Disney with Chaz, you know that Casey’s Corner is probably going to be one of the first stops on the way to the Magic Kingdom. Since we had a relatively early lunch planned at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, we decided to order corn dog nuggets and fries and split it. We do miss the plastic cheese sauce for the nuggets, but overall Casey’s is still a favorite of ours.
Now if you know anything about going to Disney with me, you know that my first stop in the Magic Kingdom is Space Mountain, so of course that was our second stop. When I lived in Orlando, my go-to “only having a couple of hours in the park so I’ll just stay in one area and do something multiple times attraction” was always Space Mountain. It definitely doesn’t scare me anymore since I’ve ridden it so many times, as a kid and now after having lived in the area, but I still love it. I know a lot of people think the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland is dated, and it’s a fair argument especially given some of the Tomorrowlands in other Disney parks, but I actually love the more retro feel of the one in Florida.
Next up, we strolled through the hub and watched the end of Dream Along with Mickey. Stopping to watch the show was completely unintentional, but we’re glad we ended up doing it because after we came home it was confirmed by Disney that the show would be ending later in the year. While I was planning on coming back before then anyway, Chaz was not, so this trip was the last time he would get to see the show…. or so we thought– spoiler alert for our March/April trip report.
Once me made it through the hub, we were onto Adventureland, primarily to kill some time before meeting one of my friends from my college program who currently works in attractions at Liberty Square. First stop– Jungle Cruise!
The Jungle Cruise was still decorated as the Jingle Cruise, its holiday overlay, for the first couple of days of our trip, however the spiel we heard was the normal Jungle Cruise one. I’m actually not even sure if they were still doing the Jingle Cruise spiel or not because it looked like our skipper was taking her assessment (as she had an “Earning My Ears” ribbon on her name tag and there were two other skippers with her) so for that reason she may have just done the regular spiel. Anyway, I just mention this to point out that not only was the Christmas tree still up on Main Street, and the rest of the decorations, including the lights on the castle, but even the smaller things like the Jungle Cruise were still decorated during this trip, which was later than the decorations are usually up.
Next up was Pirates of the Caribbean, one of our favorite attractions that was unfortunately in very poor condition when we were last in Disney more than a year ago. By the end of our program this attraction was going down multiple times per day, and it was just announced that it would be undergoing a lengthy refurbishment over the summer. When we rode it in January everything seemed to be working properly and as far as we know there were no crazy issues with it during our trip. We also really liked how they changed the fog projection in the beginning to alternate between Blackbeard and Davy Jones.
After Pirates, we headed over to the Haunted Mansion to say hi to Ty, who had worked with me at Lights, Motors, Action! during my college program. It was really cool to see him at his new location, and as it turned out (probably because we love the Haunted Mansion and so we were always over there) we ended up seeing him almost every day of the trip. By the time we got off the Haunted Mansion it was about 2:30, which was perfect because we had lunch reservations at Tony’s for 2:45.
Upon arriving at Tony’s we noticed that it did not look like they were seating guests outside, presumably due to the “cold” weather. I asked anyway, figuring it wouldn’t hurt, and the hostess was able to find a waiter who didn’t mind picking up a table outside. While I do love the interior of Tony’s, eating outside during the parade was the best. I wasn’t photographing the parade, and we’d seen Festival of Fantasy plenty of times during our programs so it was nice to sit and relax with a meal while watching the parade from a slight distance.
The food at Tony’s was excellent, especially for the menu prices and being inside the park. I ordered the cannelloni and Chaz had chicken parm. Overall, I like Tony’s and would definitely go again, and while the food was delicious a huge draw for me was being able to watch the parade from the patio. If you’re interested in our full review of Tony’s, you can read it here.
Because we were still at the restaurant during the post-parade cattle herd, we didn’t get stuck in any kind of people-traffic jam while leaving the park like you usually would when you head out after Festival of Fantasy. We decided to leave the Magic Kingdom and hop on a bus over to Hollywood Studios. Why you ask? Well, it’s a funny story…
So before Christmas, Chaz, myself, and a couple of our friends from the college program decided to do a secret Santa. Since I work ridiculously stupid hours, Chaz offered to mail my gift for me. In addition to the secret Santa gift, which was for Natalie, I gave him a gift I needed to mail to our friend Anthony. (Natalie lives in Wisconsin, Anthony lives in Orlando.) Chaz ended up going to the post office, and mailing both gifts to Anthony EVEN THOUGH ONE HAD NATALIE’S NAME ON IT, and claiming that if I wanted them to go to different places I shouldn’t have put them in the same shopping bag. Keep in mind I did also tell him they were going to two different places, and I told him where to get both of their addresses. So anyway, we have the whole stupid fight about that, we call Anthony and tell him not to open the gift that doesn’t have his name on it, and that we’ll pick it up when we go in January.
Now that that’s out of the way… we had to go to Hollywood Studios to catch Anthony on his way either to or from work (since that’s the park he works at) to pick up Natalie’s gift from him. His family was also visiting the same week we were, so we didn’t want to take up time from that getting the gift some other time. So we went to Hollywood Studios, but it turned out we were still a little early to meet him, so of course we ended up going on some rides. We rode Rock n’ Rollercoaster and Toy Story Mania, before heading back to the front of the park and picking up the gift, so we could finally re-mail it to Natalie.
By now it was about 5:30, and we decided to go back to the hotel, since by then our room was definitely ready, and at least put our carry on bags away. While we were at the room unpacking, we called our friend Nora, from the college program, who had coincidentally moved back to Orlando the day before to see if she wanted to get together that night. She said she’d make her way over to our hotel in a little bit, so we got some gelato from the food court, and walked around the hotel while we waited for her. When Nora arrived, we stayed at the resort and caught up on everything within the past year, since we hadn’t seen her since May, and we made plans to get together with her again later in the trip.
The other thing we did, well Chaz did, when we were back at the hotel that night was he finally shaved. He had this thing going where he started growing a beard when we left Florida in May, and didn’t want to shave again until we went back to Florida, because the beard was there during our program and he “wanted it to come full circle.” I take that to mean he has post-DCP depression, and/or anxiety over moving back to his parents’ house and he’s channeling it through his facial hair, but to each their own I guess. So you’ll notice in the rest of the pictures from this trip report that the beard is gone!
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
We were up bright and early the next day because we had plans to go to the Magic Kingdom with ironically enough, Sarah P., one of our friends from home. Sarah P. and I worked together a few years ago back when I worked on the Freedom Trail in Boston. During my program, she came down and ran the Tower of Terror 10 Miler with me, and she happened to be in Disney while we were there in January since she ran the Dopey Challenge just before we arrived.
Breakfast on day two was in the food court at All Star Sports. Chaz had an omelette, and I had the bounty platter, against my own advice that the bounty platter (which has pretty much every breakfast food in it) is big enough for share. We ended up getting to the Magic Kingdom right when it opened, and we had about an hour before Sarah would be meeting us.
In typical Brittany and Chaz go to Disney fashion, we rode Space Mountain twice, and then browsed through the gift shop since Sarah P. said she would meet us right there. Well, it turns out we have no self control and we ended up using the D-tech touch screen station in there to design our own Magic Bands. I justified it by stating that I had an annual pass so hopefully I’d be getting some use out of it, Chaz justified it by saying he wanted it.
Once Sarah P. was with us, we rode Space Mountain again with her then hopped on the Peoplemover to get in a quick tour of Tomorrowland while we figured out what we were going to do next. Sarah P. had only been to Disney a couple of times before, so for the morning we focused more on the things she hadn’t done yet. One of which was the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, which exceeded her expectations, as it did with me the first time I saw it. We also ran over to Adventureland to visit the Enchanted Tiki Room, another first for Sarah P., but we figured she’d love it since she’s a fan of audio animatronic shows– and we were right, the Tiki Room was a hit.
Next up was lunch, I don’t have pictures to prove it, but we went to Pecos Bills to try our the new menu. (For whatever reason, we slacked on pictures the first couple of days of the trip. I think it was just because it was so weird being back that it kind of felt like we lived there again and we didn’t feel the need to take tons of pictures, but after a couple of days reality his that this was only a vacation and we actually started focusing more on picture-taking.)
The new menu at Pecos was great, and I like it so much better than the burgers. The change of menu to include burritos and fajitas is definitely an upgrade in our book, as we would generally go to Cosmic Ray’s anyway if we wanted burgers in the Magic Kingdom. The other great thing about the new Pecos is the toppings bar, because it has unlimited guacamole with no extra cost.
After lunch we headed over to another first time experience for Sarah P., the Country Bear Jamboree. I didn’t care for this show much as a kid, but now that I’m older and I get some of the jokes that I missed back then, and since I’ve become a massive Disney nerd and therefore have more appreciation for it, it’s actually one of my favorites. Chaz loves it because he loves bears and Big Al is the best.
Next on the list was Thunder Mountain since we were in Frontierland. I saw my old coordinator from Lights, Motors, Action! while we were waiting in line, and I planned on trying to get back to see him again later in the week but it never worked out. Oh well, looks like I’ll just have to move back there to see everyone again. After Thunder, we pretty much ended up just killing time filling in whatever else Sarah P., hadn’t done before. She was only there for a few days, and most of her time was taken up by the races, and she was leaving the next day so we followed her lead.
Sarah’s next choice was to hit up Fantasyland, so we were off to Mickey’s Philharmagic and Dumbo. As it was everyone’s favorite, we also went back through Liberty Square and stopped at the Haunted Mansion, where we again saw Ty. He had some time since he was greeting outside the mansion, so he gave us some quick trivia about the attraction, which was especially nice for Sarah P. being relatively new to the Disney fandom and as this had quickly become one of her favorite attractions.
By now it was late afternoon, and Sarah P. had a Fastpass to use for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so Chaz and I took the opportunity to sit nearby and relax for a little bit while she rode. (I’m sure we could have gone with her even though we didn’t make Fastpasses, but we knew we’d ride it later in the week so we decided to take a little break instead. Taking a break worked out well because it gave us some downtime to plan out some of our Fastpass selections for later in the week.
When Sarah P. came back, we made a quick run over to Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin since we did all have Fastpasses for that one. Chaz won out of the three of us, and Sarah P. and I were pretty close for second. Another theme of the trip was Chaz winning at Buzz Lightyear, but we don’t really need to talk about that…
By about 6:00, we rode the Carousel of Progress, did some shopping, and cut back through the hub to Adventureland so we could ride Pirates of the Caribbean with Sarah P. Then realizing how long it’d been since we’d last eaten, we knew food was a good idea so we went nearby to Columbia Harbor House. Again, I was slacking and don’t have food pictures (but I promise I’ll have reviews of the other places we ate at during the trip soom!) I do love Columbia Harbor House, and even though I know it’s not the best seafood by any means (trust me I know my seafood) and being from New England the theme is a little silly, it’s still a great option in the park away from the usual burgers.
While we were finishing eating I felt myself getting a headache, and I forgot to put medicine in my purse that morning of course. I did feel it coming on earlier in the day, so I bought Advil before and had already taken it, but it seemed like it was getting worse. I’m extremely prone to migraines, which is why I usually have some decent medicine on me so I can take care of it before it gets any worse, but I must have been in a rush and forgot to put it in my bag. I would have loved to close out the night at the park, but I knew that with the potential of getting a migraine it wouldn’t be a good idea. We ended up leaving a little bit earlier than planned so I could get some rest at the hotel and hopefully be good to go out again in a couple of hours.
Thankfully, after taking some Exedrin and shutting my eyes for an hour I was able to kick the migraine and head back out. It was great that I had surprisingly good luck getting rid of it quickly, because usually when I feel a migraine coming on that mean I’m in for the night.
By the time I was ready to head back out, we decided to head over to Epcot for a little bit. We got there in time to ride Spaceship Earth and Test Track, before wandering through Mouse Gear on our way out. With such little time before the park closed, it wasn’t really worth trying to do much else and I wanted to take it easy anyway since I narrowly dodged the migraine bullet earlier.