Friday was another early morning for us as we rushed over to Hollywood Studios after a very quick breakfast at the resort, so we could could hopefully fit in the entire day there before our dinner reservations at Ohana.
One of the things we were really excited for at Hollywood Studios was the re-vamp of Star Tours to feature characters and locations from the new movie. We immediately made our way to Star Tours, and ended up riding it twice in a row because it was still early enough that there was no line. Both times we got one of the old locations and Jakku, the new location, and we also had some of the new characters both times we rode. We assume, at least at the time, the new parts were probably featured in every ride, and the older parts changed between different locations like they usually do, so the ride would still have some variety and also promote “The Force Awakens.”
As we exited Star Tours the second time, I took out my phone to post the above picture on Instagram, when I realized I had a bunch of Facebook notifications. This was the day that is was officially announced that Lights, Motors, Action! (LMA) was closing permanently to make way to Toy Story and Star Wars Lands. Conveniently enough, I was already in Hollywood Studios, and though it was only about 10:00 AM and LMA was obviously not open yet, we headed to the back of the park to take some pictures.
LMA was honestly never my favorite show as a guest, at least not until I worked there. I’ve never been a car person, and I had only seen the show once before I found out that was my location for my second college program. Like many CPs who are placed at shows rather than rides for attractions, I was initially disappointed (especially since I had requested Tower of Terror on my extension application). The more I learned while working at LMA, and the more times I saw the show, I found myself with a much greater appreciation for it. Where Dinoland, my work location in the fall program, felt like a test of how much of something I didn’t like I could take, LMA (another show that I did not particularly like before working there) really grew on me, and became my home during the program. I enjoyed going to work every day, and while at the most basic level I worked crowd control, the show really did become special to me. I met some amazing people there, some of which I’m still good friends with, and I learned to look at things with more than just their face value. Even though myself, and everyone else at LMA, all knew the end of the show was likely just around the corner, it was definitely a little bit more sad than expected when we heard the official announcement.
When I felt I had a sufficient amount of photos in front of my CP home that I might never see standing again, we decided to head next door and meet Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc. Ironically enough, although I had worked right near their meet and greet location, I had actually never met them at all while I was in Florida. With the announcement of LMA closing, it was clear that their meet and greet would also be closing, so we figured that was probably the best time to meet them.
While the rain picked up a little bit, and we were already in the area, we decided to walk through Watto’s Grotto since that would also not be there once the Streets of America part of the park closes. Even though this shop was set up during Star Wars weekends, it was still a little bit weird to be shopping where the Backlot Tour’s exit used to be.
Outside the shop, we met a nice PhotoPass photographer who was taking pictures in front of some of the Star Wars props from the Backlot Tour that were still near the rides’ exit. He was one of our favorite cast members of the trip, and he actually ended up taking about thirty pictures of us, all with different poses and props, as he knew we were in no real rush to head back out into the rain, and there was no one else anywhere near us waiting for a picture.
By this point, we were getting hungry, but we didn’t want to eat too much since we were saving ourselves for dinner at Ohana’. We decided to do what all of the marketing at Hollywood Studios seemed to be telling us to do, and we headed over to the Backlot Express to order a Star Wars themed lunch. We split one of the Royal Guard burgers (with the black buns) and we also split one of the specialty drinks, that we couldn’t help but get one of the light up Star Wars themed ice cubes for. The general consensus– the burger was surprisingly good, especially for quick service in Hollywood Studios, a park that is normally lacking, and sharing one between the two of us would probably have been enough food even if we weren’t planning on having a huge dinner later that night. The drink left something to be desired, although this might just be a matter of my opinion. It was really strong, which I guess is typically good because you think you’re getting a good value. But it also was in a fairly small cup and cost $15 with the ice cube. Now I know we paid more to have the light up ice cube in the drink, but regardless I felt like it was a little too much of everything going on– too sweet, and too strong, if both flavors were toned down a bit it would probably be good. If you really want a Star Wars themed alcoholic beverage, I’d suggest going somewhere with a full bar to get more of a mixed drink, as the ones at the Backlot Express come out of the lemonade style machines with alcohol mixed in after. Unless you like your drinks to taste like liquefied Pixie Stix, in which case I’ve found the perfect drink for you.
Speaking of Darth Vader, when we went to the Disney Visa meet and greet after the regular one it was.. um… also Darth Vader. I mean, I guess since it’s behind a different door, you could easily make the argument that he greets on both sides, but like… character integrity? Just a thought…On leaving the Launch Bay, we circled back to LMA to make it in time to see the second show of the day. As I was aware that you don’t need to show up to LMA early at all (unless it’s Christmas week or something crazy) to get a seat, we arrived only about a half hour before the show started. While walking into the stadium we stopped and talked to a couple of my coworkers, which was kind of nice and convenient that I happened to be in the park on the day when the closing announcement came out. (For anyone who doesn’t know what happens when attractions close at Disney, don’t worry, they won’t be out of a job. They’ll just be moved to a different attraction).
When we found out that LMA’s last show would be April 2nd, I decided right then and there that I would be there for it. At the very least, LMA was my home for the second half of my college program, so it does really mean a lot to me and if I couldn’t work it I at least wanted to be in the audience for the last show. (Almost immediately after coming back from this trip, I booked my airfare and hotel room to be there on April 2nd, but more on that later).
After my second to last time seeing LMA, we still had some time to kill before we would need to leave for dinner so we walked down Sunset Blvd. Although I used to really not like any thrill rides, I’ve become weirdly comfortable with Rock n’ Rollercoaster. The only part I really still hate is the launch, and I know it goes by super fast so I just plan on dealing with it and enjoying the rest of the ride. Tower of Terror on the other hand, I will probably always hate, which is kind of a shame because I love the theming and the story behind the ride, but the drops horrify me, and the fact that it doesn’t follow a set pattern makes it even worse. Still, I tolerate it being the good friend I am to whoever I’m with, and I’m sure my screaming just provides them with some extra entertainment.
By that point, it was time to make our way out of Hollywood Studios for our dinner reservations at Ohana. We took a bus from Hollywood Studios to the Magic Kingdom, and then hopped on the monorail to get to the Polynesian for dinner. I know some guests probably would have taken an Uber to avoid the multiple forms of transportation to get to dinner, but it really doesn’t take long all that long, and considering the Disney transportation is free, we’re completely okay with it.
Unfortunately my phone was acting up, so we have no pictures from dinner at Ohana, but if you’ve eaten there before you know that the food is amazing, and pictures would just make you bitter that you’re not there eating it anyway. Kona Cafe has always been our favorite restaurant at the Polynesian, but lately Ohana has been catching up.
When we were finished eating, we decided to head over to the Magic Kingdom for a couple of hours, since you know we were right there. We hit up our usual attractions, like the Peoplemover and Space Mountain, before going back over to Liberty Square for another favorite, the Haunted Mansion. While at the Haunted Mansion, we saw Ty again, and took the opportunity to take a ghoulish photo:
We spent the last hour or so of the park being open re-riding some attractions and wandering through the shops, making mental notes of things we’d buy through the app after we got home.
After a couple of days of waking up super early, we finally got a late start on Saturday, when we slept in just a little bit and decided to go to Disney Springs before visiting any of the theme parks.
Disney Springs is something that, especially while on vacation, I would overlook in turn for visiting the theme parks or resorts instead. It was convenient that when I lived in Orlando, I would just go to Disney Springs pretty much when I wanted to either go to the movies or go to a specific store, but even then most of my time was spent at the parks. With some of the recent additions of Disney Springs now being complete, we did want to take some time to at least walk through and look at everything that had been finished since we finished our college programs.
The Boathouse, which just opened during the last week or so that we were there, was impressive, and somewhere I’d like to dine in the future. Not on this trip, or even on the next trip, but some day when I can justify spending the extra money I would definitely like to go. And the Amphicars look like so much fun, but again, I just don’t have the kind of disposable income to justify the cost of something like that at the moment. I have no problem waiting for a later trip to ride in the Amphicars though, it’s such a costly experience that it really seems more like a special occasion sort of thing to me anyway.
One of the new storefronts that we both absolutely LOVED was the Joffrey’s tea shop. For obsessive tea drinkers like the two of us, this little store was amazing. Not only did they have a huge assortment of teas that you could purchase to brew at home or drink there, but they also had tea pots, cups, mugs, kettles, recipe books, and even a counter of tea themed or flavored desserts. We were originally going to try one of the new restaurants at Disney Springs, but we couldn’t help ourselves and ended up getting breakfast from Joffrey’s, so an early lunch just wasn’t in the cards that day.
We had originally planned to spend the day in Epcot, so in sticking to that original plan, we decided to make our way out of Disney Springs, and to a bus or boat to a resort so we could switch to an Epcot bus or boat. (In case you’re not aware, and it sounds weird that we’d need to do this, there are no buses that go from Disney Springs to the parks. Basically Disney Springs offers free parking, and the parks do not, therefore no buses between the two because people would take advantage of the free parking. Technically you could still take a bus to a resort and a bus from there to the park, but that’s a lot of effort that most people probably wouldn’t do just for the free parking).
Since we needed to go to a resort first anyway in order to get to Epcot, we decided to go to a resort we had never been to before. Also for the sake of relaxing a little bit, we decided to stop at a hotel that the boat stopped at, just so we could enjoy the little boat ride.
We got off the boat at Old Key West, and walked around the resort a little bit before going to the bus stop. Old Key West was a beautiful resort, and I’m definitely going to make a point to stay there eventually. We also checked out the menu for Olivia’s, which according to many of my Disney foodie friends is one of the most underrated resort restaurants, so we’ll be trying that in the next trip or so too.
During the bus ride to Epcot, Chaz had mentioned that he really wanted to eat at Le Cellier. By that point we figured we’d be hungry in about another hour or so, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check My Disney Experience to see if we could get a reservation there for a later lunch. To our surprise, we were able to get reservations at Le Celler for just about two hours later from when we made them!
Once at Epcot, with a relatively short amount of time before our new lunch reservations, we rode Spaceship Earth of course, and then decided to visit the Epcot Character Spot. Ironically enough, we had never been in the Character Spot, but with some time before lunch checking out the Disney Visa meet and greet area seemed like a good idea.
The Disney Visa meet and greet was awesome because you get to meet two characters at the same time, and the characters you get to meet change frequently. The day we went, we were able to meet Mickey and Goofy, which made for some nice pictures with the two of them:
After our meet and greet with Mickey and Goofy, we decided to start walking to World Showcase for lunch, stopping at Figment’s along the way as it is Chaz’s favorite attraction.
Lunch at Le Cellier started as it always does, with pretzel bread and cheddar cheese soup. We used to get a soup each, but eventually we realized that we never actually finish all of the soup, we just dip the pretzel bread in it– so having a bowl each doesn’t make sense. The one soup was perfect, just enough to serve as a dipping sauce for the bread.
I ordered the filet mignon, with (the world’s best) mushroom risotto, and Chaz went a completely different route and ordered bison. Le Cellier is still one of our favorite restaurants, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for our full review and another review, of my attempt at making the soup at home!
After lunch, we continued through World Showcase, stopping for drinks here and there and watching the American Adventure. By the time we had reached Mexico on the other side of World Showcase Lagoon, it had begun raining a little bit, and we decided to stop back at the resort to grab an umbrella and change into dry clothes. Since rain is, well, water… and water really isn’t going to hurt you, we did the opposite of what most guests seemed to be doing, and we went right back out to the Magic Kingdom for the night.
Another reason why we needed to spend the night at the Magic Kingdom was because Splash Mountain had been closed for its annual refurbishment during the first half of our trip, and this was the day that it opened! Splash Mountain is one of our favorite attractions, and even though we purposely put on dry clothes after the rain we couldn’t help but rush to it once we got to the park. Thankfully we didn’t get too wet, and we were able to spend another couple of hours in the park without freezing.
In lieu of avoiding the rain, we made sure to spend some time on indoor attractions like the Country Bear Jamboree, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and Space Mountain, all of which never get old.
As it was getting late, and we were beginning to realize that we had worked up an appetite from not eating since lunch, we decided to split a burger from Cosmic Ray’s. If you know me, you know I love Cosmic Ray’s because of Sonny Eclipse, he’s one of the many reasons why I love Tomorrowland so much. The food is good too, but Sonny makes the whole Cosmic Ray’s experience. I didn’t go nuts with pictures here, because aside from the toppings bar, the burger is pretty standard, but I’ll have a full review of Cosmic Ray’s up sometime soon.
We stayed in the park until it closed, visiting some Fantasyland attractions like it’s a small world and Peter Pan’s Flight after dinner. While we didn’t catch Wishes, we did also stay for the Kiss Goodnight that night, which reminded me of how smart of a decision it was not to watch the Kiss Goodnight before leaving to drive home from our college program.
Avoiding the usual closing crowd, we took our time exiting the park through the emporium and the confectionary, and picked up some rice krispie treats to pick on the next week when we were back from vacation.