If you haven’t read part one of our January 2016 trip, you can read it here.
On the third day of our trip (Wednesday) we were up early per usual to get to Animal Kingdom right around park opening. Even though the parks weren’t really crowded this week, with the exception of the holiday weekend, I’d still rather get up early because the parks are less crowded in the morning, and being an off time of year everything closed earlier so it made more sense to start earlier.
Animal Kingdom is also my favorite park, and it has been ever since I worked there. I feel like I didn’t spend as much time in the park as I should have when I worked in Dinoland, so I always make it a point to spend a good amount of time over there now.
Breakfast was at Joffrey’s, because it had been so long since I’d had one of their face sized donuts. It lived up to my expectations obviously.
Ironically enough, the first stop of the day was Dinoland USA, not because I was aching to get back but because the way our Fastpasses were scheduled it just made the most sense to start over there– otherwise we’d be running back and forth, which would be very inefficient.
The first stop in Dinoland, besides noticing some little things that had changed since I last worked there (like the Disney Vacation Club kiosk near the Boneyard Cart, what? When did this happen?) was to go on Primeval Whirl. If you know me pretty well, you know I have a
love/hate relationship with Primeval Whirl. I want to love it, just like I want to love the rest of Dinoland… but I can’t. It’s just not a good ride, sorry Dinoland! Primeval Whirl looks like it has a lot of potential to be fun, but really it’s just uncomfortable and every time I ride it I can’t wait for it to be over. And also, most average sized adults have a difficult time being even remotely comfortable with the way the lap bar goes, especially when you’re squished in there with three other adults. The whole thing is terrifying, and doing something so terrifying while slowly moving over the carnival games that I also have a lo… err.. lov.. ugh fine, love/hate relationship with.
After Primeval Whirl, we decided to play some of the games in Dinoland. I don’t know what came over me– a momentary lapse in judgment on my part, or my desire to show off, because at least in theory I should be able to win. We ended up playing Fossil Fueler, and saying hi to a couple of my old coworkers who unlike the skipper at the Jungle Cruise did remember me, and of course I won a seahorse. We should have waited for a couple of more guests to play so I’d have a chance of winning Chaz a shark, but it was too early for Dinoland to be crowded enough to get more people to play. Also, paying to play Fossil Fueler is kind of depressing– when I worked there I could never imagine paying to play those games, but I guess I miss it? Hmm…
Next on the agenda was Dinosaur, which we did have a Fastpass for. Dinosaur usually doesn’t need a Fastpass, but with Kali closed (and it being too cold to want to get wet anyway) choosing Dinosaur for the third Fastpass (along with Kilimanjaro and Everest) made the most sense. Of course, since there was no line we ended up riding twice. 🙂
When we left the Dino Institute it was nearing 11:00 which meant one very important thing– Flame Tree Barbecue would be open by the time we could walk over there! So back to Discovery Island it was, because we definitely needed some ribs immediately after having face-sized donuts. Hey, we were on vacation, calories don’t count.
Flame Tree Barbecue is my favorite quick service restaurant on property, and I love it even more now that the coleslaw has been replaced with cornbread. I’ve never been a fan of coleslaw, so that works out perfectly for me. I also really like their onion rings, although we missed having them this trip because we had to have some kind of self control after the donuts we ate for breakfast.
During lunch, we mapped out the rest of the day, deciding that we’d finish up our Fastpasses for Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris, before hopping on the bus to the Polynesian for our dinner reservations at Kona Cafe.
En route to Everest, we noticed a new bar in Asia so of course we had to stop and try something from there, you know, for science. It’s such a chore to have to test out new margaritas for my readers ;). The cast members there were brought over from the Dawa Bar in Africa, so of course the drinks would be good, and pre-Everest drinks are never a bad idea… unless you have pre-Everest drinks and then go on the ride six times in a row, don’t do that. I’m not speaking from experience of course.
Next up was Kilimanjaro Safari, where we hoped to be able to get on Tony’s truck. (Tony was one of my trainers at Lights, Motors, Action!) But he turned out to be off that day, so we enjoyed the safari anyway as it’s definitely the best attraction in Animal Kingdom and we planned to come back later in the week while he was working.
The best thing about the safari is that it really can be different every time you ride it. The true highlight of this ride was seeing a baby rhino! I’ve had strangely good luck the past couple of times I’ve been in Animal Kingdom seeing baby animals, and this trip was no different. I wish I had a less blurry picture, but how adorable is this rhino?!
As we exited the safari, we realized we actually had some extra time to kill before we’d have to leave to catch our dinner reservations. By some extra time, I mean we had time to get another drink, see Festival of the Lion King, walk through the shops in Discovery Island and then go.
Being that we already had margaritas from the Dawa Bar’s new competition, it seemed to be the perfect time for a Safari Amber, the beer that is exclusively made for Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the African Outpost in Epcot.
After Festival of the Lion King, we slowly made our way out of the park, wandering through some of the shops and pin trading along the way. Since we left in May, some of the parks have new pin boards on the side of trash cans that custodial cast members can use to pin trade with guests. As a former custodial cast member, Chaz was super jealous, and just wanted to come back to work for Disney again. It was definitely a great idea for pin trading, much more unique than a regular pin board, and typically with more to look at since it had three sides of pins.
We got to the Polynesian a little bit early, so of course we stopped for drinks at the Tambu Lounge over by Ohana. If you haven’t had a Mai Tai at the Poly you’re missing out, because they’re the best. By the time we finished our drinks, Nora and Holly arrived, and we were off to dinner at Kona Cafe. Holly was my roommate in the fall. It was super convenient that they were able to get dinner with us that night, and it was definitely great to catch up, especially with Holly since we would only see her that time during this trip.
Dinner was excellent of course, because Kona Cafe is one of the best restaurants at Disney. It’s hugely underrated, especially for dinner, but even with all of the crazy menu changes over the years (R.I.P. prime rib) it’s still a favorite of ours.
We started off with a Lapu Lapu, which is apparently fruit juices mixed with alcohol, but if you ask me it was alcohol mixed with alcohol. Thankfully everyone ended up having some, because if I drank that whole thing alone I don’t think I would have been able to walk out of the resort. I had the noodles which were the best obviously, maybe tied with the steak, and we got a couple of appetizers, again for science. We had to test them out for this blog, right? Check back later for a full review of Kona.
When dinner was over, we said good-bye to Nora and Holly to head back to the Magic Kingdom. While they both work in Orlando, neither of them work for Disney still, so they planned on only meeting us either at resorts or Disney Springs.
Can you guess what we did when we first got to the Magic Kingdom? Could it be…
As per usual, the Peoplemover was next. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I really like riding the Peoplemover right after Space Mountain. I know when I was younger I liked it because it’s kind of relaxing after doing a rollercoaster, but for whatever reason even now that I’m no longer scared of Space Mountain it’s still a regular thing.
Next up was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, because Chaz was absolutely determined to get a perfect score. Our scores were close for much of the ride, but I ended somewhere in the 700,000s while Chaz did indeed finish with a perfect score of 999,999, making him a “galactic hero.”
Our next stop was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which we didn’t do the day before due to my head being uncooperative. I love so many things about Mine Train, the animated details in the audio animatronics, how smooth the ride is, the mild yet not so mild thrills at the same time, and of course the re-used vultures from the original Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride are pretty cool too, but like so many people I have to agree that the ride is too short. I pretty much refuse to get in the standby line for it unless it reads forty minutes or less, because the line can get so out of hand and while I do like it, I don’t need to wait that long for it. However, while I do agree that the ride is too short, I do not feel the need to complain about it non- stop. The Mine Train was a fairly last minute addition to New Fantasyland, and if you’ve seen the area, which I assume you have, you know that there was not a lot of space to work with. So yes, the ride is too short, but at the same time it was a very last minute addition planned for a very small piece of land, so give TDO a break guys.
It was time for two more repeats of favorites from the day before after Mine Train– the Haunted Mansion, where we of course saw Ty again, and Pirates of the Caribbean. That night we also watched Wishes from Fantasyland in between Mine Train and Mansion, and while Main Street is obviously the best place to watch Wishes, behind the castle isn’t a bad backup plan.
We spent the rest of the night doing some shopping that we’d put off from the first two days. I know a lot of people save shopping at Disney until the end of the trip, but I’d rather spend the last day or so enjoying the parks. The big purchase of the night was a Nightmare Before Christmas sweatshirt that you’ll see me wearing in some of the pictures. It has Jack Skellington’s head as the moon rising over a cemetery, obviously I just had to have it.
The next day, it was (finally) time to spend the bulk of the day in Epcot, my other favorite park- tied with Animal Kingdom. Like the Magic Kingdom, we have a tradition of sorts, in that the first thing we usually do in Epcot is head right for Spaceship Earth. It’s our favorite ride at Walt Disney World, and even though it’s still a little tough for me to tolerate the “new” ending, I still love it.
One slightly random thing we did while we were spending some time in Future World that morning was taking pictures in front of some of the ODV (outdoor vending) carts. We probably looked really strange to people walking by taking pictures at nine in the morning in front of empty carts that weren’t open yet, but Cristian, our friend from the college program who used to work Epcot ODV requested that we do so. Being the good friends that we are, we obliged, and had some fun with it.
In case you can’t tell, the above cart is Taste Track, which means we were of course, right near Test Track. We had a Fastpass for Test Track, which was kind of perfect because Soarn’ was closed for refurbishment during this trip, so we didn’t have to deal with the whole Test Track/Soarin’ Fastpass dilemma. (When both attractions are open, Epcot uses a tier system for Fastpasses and you can only use one for Soarin’ or Test Track, you can’t book one each for both. This usually means that I just pick Test Track, but sometimes whoever I’m with would rather do Soarin, and so goes the Test Track/Soarin’ Fastpass dilemma).
Have I mentioned how nice it was during this trip to not have to ride Test Track by going through the single rider line? When I lived down there, it almost never failed that I was either visiting Epcot alone, or I was with friends who just opted for the single rider line since we didn’t plan and get Fastpasses and no one wanted to wait. We had good luck getting Fastpasses for Test Track during this trip, so we were able to ride it together every time. It really is way more fun when you’re sitting next to someone you actually know, and you’re not just in the way ruining a random stranger’s ride photo.
As per usual, we tried to design the most ridiculous car. Did we succeed?
After Test Track, we cut through Mouse Gear over to the other side of Future World, where it was time to go on one of Chaz’s favorite rides, Figment! I love Figment too, however it’s more so because I’m a Disney history nerd and I really liked the older version of the ride with Dreamfinder. It’s still cute, and I’ll still do it every trip, but there is so much missing from the current ride that really added a lot of charm to it before it was refurbished in the 90’s.
I will say though, that even with the changes to Figment that I’m not so thrilled with, I still love the character. Figment is so classic EPCOT Center, and it’s nice to see a character from way back when still sticking around like that. He’s even been the focal point of some of the event specific merchandise for the Food and Wine, and Flower and Garden Festivals in recent years, as well as having not one, but two, revived comic book series, maybe Figment will get some kind of attention soon in terms of restoring the more memorable parts of the old attraction, who knows…
Next up we decided to head to World Showcase, as we had lunch reservations at Biergarten so we’d have to end up in that direction sometime soon anyway. Although we were on the side of the park with Figment, we did a bit of a zig zag and started back in Mexico. I don’t know what it is, we just like starting in Mexico better.
We were very excited to go to Mexico too, because right before this trip the audio animatronics of the Three Cabelleros were recently added to the ride in the Mexico pavilion. Before they were added, the ride just featured the characters in their cartoon form on a screen, however the last scene of the ride currently shows them in their audio animatronic form. It’s also neat how the animatronics are actually leftover from the Mickey Mouse Revue (which was the old show that was in the building that currently houses Mickey’s Philharmagic in the Magic Kingdom) so it’s interesting to see some historic figures be brought back to the parks. It also really did add a lot to the ride, at least in my opinion, the screens got kind of dull after a while, and the “new” audio animatronics give the boat ride a bit more life.
We also met Donald in Mexico, who is one of my favorite characters to meet, although he was not a fan of my Mickey shirt.
Next up was Norway, where we didn’t really stop to do much of anything as I still had cookies from the gift shop from my last trip and the Maelstrom obviously isn’t open (R.I.P. Maelstrom). I still love the pavilion though, and I plan on spending some time here regardless of what’s open when I get my new camera so I can get some nice shots of the pavilion regardless. Norway is also tough because whenever I walk through there I have to try to resist the urge to get a troll horn…
Yea, we all knew there was no way I could resist getting one. I must have momentarily forgot that calories don’t count on vacation.
By the time I had irresponsibly consumed a troll horn, it was already time for our lunch, so we were off to Germany! Apologies for the lack of pictures, I knew the lighting in there wasn’t having it and I was only using my phone for pictures during this trip– time time will be better, promise! But Biergarten was delicious, as it always is, though I do slightly prefer lunch to dinner. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Epcot, and it’s always nice for somewhere different as I can’t find anywhere with authentic German food at home. Favorite parts of the meal– the show obviously, wine (Dr. Loosen Riesling) and sausage/noodle grautin. Least favorite parts– paying the bill, and the feeling of regret in my stomach for the rest of the day.
The rest of the time in Epcot we spent wandering through the shops in World Showcase. We didn’t buy too much of anything really, until we got to Japan where we bought a bowl. I started collecting them during my college program, and now I’ve been buying one per trip, so we’ll hopefully have a whole set of different bowls from the Japan pavilion by the time we move out. We also stopped in the American Adventure, saw the show and the Voices of Liberty, which Chaz had never seen before somehow until this trip.
This was the night that we planned on seeing Fantasmic, so after the American Adventure show we breezed quickly through the rest of World Showcase and hopped on the boat by the International Gateway to get to Hollywood Studios.
Once there, we rode the Great Movie Ride, and Rock n’ Rollercoaster (I could post the picture, but I’ll spare you) and then went to see Fantasmic. On the subject of Rock n’ Rollercoaster, this was my first time riding it with my glasses on– usually I’d be wearing contacts, but I had switched to glasses on our way over to Hollywood Studios. I didn’t know how they’d stay on, so after the launch, I instinctively ripped them off and held onto them for the rest of the ride. The problem with that, is that I actually can’t see anything without my glasses. I just see shapes and colors. So let it be known that going on Rock n’ Rollercoaster when you can’t see is probably one of the most terrifying things ever, there were street signs and lights and everything just coming at me, and I couldn’t tell where we were going or what anything was, never again, haha! Oh, and for the record, I rode it again later in the trip, and my glasses stayed on no problem, so I basically brought that upon myself.
When it was time for Fantasmic, we ended up sitting towards the front, because we got there sort of on the late side and the options for seats for slim. I was fine with this however, the last couple of times I had seen Fantasmic I was working it, so sitting down anywhere (especially with a beer) to watch the show was fine by me.
When Fantasmic ended, we stayed around in the stadium a little bit to let the crowds clear out. I knew from working there that leaving immediately after Fantasmic isn’t even worth it because of the crowds. Sitting down and waiting a little bit worked out well, because we used the time to plan the next couple of days of the trip.
Once we did finally leave the show, we caught one of the FriendShip boats outside the park, and planned to get off at the Swan and Dolphin. We walked from there to the Boardwalk, went through some of the shops there, and got a bus to Disney Springs. While we don’t typically spend too much time there during vacations, being an off week the parks were all closing pretty early, so we thought going to some of the shops there would be nice. We ended up getting an ornament from the Christmas shop, which we decided would be a new tradition, to get one ornament per trip, and some soaps and things from Basin.
Around 11 PM, we went to the bus stop for our resort, which was for whatever reason being shared among the other All Star Resorts, and it was the only time we ran into problems with the bus during the trip… or actually any trip, I might just have really good luck, but I’ve never had issues with the buses. Anyway, right in front of us for the bus was a group of cheerleaders, easily at least 100 of them, waiting for the Disney bus to one of the All Stars. After twenty minutes or so, it became clear that Disney had re-routed other buses to drop off at the All Stars instead given the situation, and while it was still really crowded the backup was getting resolved. It was a little frustrating because Disney had done everything they could have to make the situation better, the problem was really the cheerleaders, who for such a large group, should have arranged for their own transportation. On the plus side, as soon as they started cheering, a nearby security guard stopped them. (Thank God!)
As an aside, I have nothing against large groups, just don’t chant, and don’t cause me to have to wait for six or seven buses. The whole situation probably wasn’t even the cheerleaders’ faults, as I assume their chaperones or whoever told them to just take the Disney buses, but regardless, being stuck behind a massive group of them is just annoying.