TBpony414 wrote:Bill I have a very serious question to ask... how long have you known and been dating Brit for, yet you never knew she hadn’t had a S’more until this point in time?!!
Almost 10 years now. I know, I know...
Anyway, time for another trip report!
Per usual it looks like I'm super backed up on these things so I guess now that it's almost June I should probably start writing a trip report for our Florida trip in January.
As everyone knows, we go to Florida all the time but we were never really "Disney people". We liked the Magic Kingdom but I hadn't been to Epcot since I was little and the Universe of Energy was all the rage and I had never been to Animal Kingdom period. I've still never been to Hollywood Studios (I know... I know...).
A few weeks before Christmas I was shoveling mountains of snow out of the driveway (which was starting to seem like a daily occurrence) and realized I was already at the point where I'd had enough of winter's bullsh*t. When I finally got back inside to defrost and I could finally feel my fingers again I hopped on the computer to check and see if Frontier had any good deals down to Florida. As luck would have it, they did (surprise... lol) so I scooped up a couple of $35 plane tickets for late January.
We weren't sure where we were headed yet... obviously SeaWorld and Busch Gardens are always a given and we knew we wanted to spend some time visiting friends in Tampa but we still had some extra days to play with. We had been to Universal about 6 months prior and they hadn't really added anything new, and we have no interest in Legoland so we figured it was the perfect opportunity to finally end the Disney drought and we agreed that (in lieu of traditional "surprise" Christmas gifts) we would drop about $500 on 2, 2 day park hoppers to Disney World.
A few days later I mentioned our plans to mom and she was blown away by the airfare. She'd been hesitant to hop on the Frontier bandwagon for awhile but after much hesitation she kind of invited herself to tag along on the flight since she was as sick of winter as we were. She was headed down to visit some friends while we split off and went to Orlando but we did talk her into meeting up with us on the last day of the trip for a day at Busch Gardens Tampa.
After weeks of anticipation (and weeks of refreshing the mdx app hoping for the elusive "Flight of Passage" Fastpass to pop up with no luck), the day finally came, we went to pick up mom and we made the trek out to the miserable, traffic hellscape that is Long Island.
It was actually our first time flying out of ISP, but it's definitely my kind of airport... small terminal, reasonable economy parking within walking distance and a security line that probably never exceeds 10 minutes. I had no complaints and we've actually flown out of that airport a few times since and had the same good experience each time.
The flight itself was uneventful and we landed early in Tampa. We had a great time hanging out with our friends down there but I'm fully aware that nobody here gives a sh*t so let's fast forward a few days. I'd say we should hop in the Delorean but this is a Disney report, not a Universal report. They don't play that sh*t. They just use pixie dust or whatever...
After a few days in Tampa we finally said our goodbyes and made our way east to Orlando. Robb and I had been messaging back and fourth for a few weeks prior to the trip and had planned to meet up for a drink that night. TPR had a crazy night with updates flowing in from the Harry Potter event at Universal and from the Dr. Phillips Center so I knew we'd have some time to kill. I-4 was (for some reason) moving great on a Friday from Tampa to Orlando and we found ourselves in the Orlando area in no time. This Disney trip was already off to a magical start .
As we breezed into the Orlando area right after sundown I knew we had tons of time to kill and I knew exactly where I planned to spend some of it. Brit was lost in her phone so she hardly noticed when I pulled off in Kissimmee for seemingly no reason. A few minutes later she caught on to me when some shady looking carnival rides covered in wonderfully gaudy lights came into view.
Since it was the dead of winter I hadn't been on a coaster in about a month and I definitely had the itch. Thankfully I also had the perfect way to scratch that itch.
We didn't plan on staying long, but since we had time to kill anyway and some extra ride credits on a Fun Spot card that had been burning a hole in my wallet for months I couldn't say no to a night ride on Mine Blower. The park was bustling but after waiting in about a 15 minute line, we added a few extra credits to our card and made our way over to Mine Blower.
This wasn't a credit stop or anything, we had ridden the spinner a few years prior and we rode Mine Blower during our fall trip. This was just me wanting to ride an awesome, supremely underrated coaster on the way to dinner.
As is usually the case at this place there was a solid crowd but lines were totally manageable. The big draw really seems to be the Go Karts so we had no issue walking right into the Mine Blower station. Since we were paying per ride, we figured we might as well make it a good one and we waited an extra train for the front.
A few minutes later we were locked and loaded and were (once again) treated to a super smooth but totally insane and awesome ride. I've heard the complaints about this thing but I don't get them at all. This ride is aggressive for sure, but it's a blast (get it... get it). I can't believe how much track they managed to cram into such a small space. It feels like it goes on forever. Thumbs up for Mine Blower!
... so good.
After getting our Minds (or... Mines) blown we decided to head out and grab something to eat. Robb had suggested Player 1 bar and I was down, but I knew that convincing Brit to go to a video game bar would be a tall order so we eventually settled on Bahama Breeze since I had a gift card anyway.
Backstory: Feel free to skip. This has nothing to do with anything...
I work with this older woman who's so sweet but... well... old. We live near route 52 in Fishkill, NY and there's a local shithole restaurant called "Seasons". We're talking stuck in the 80's... hanging lights over the tables that have those glass covers on them with floral designs and shit. Like... shithole. We could walk there but we've only been there once. Anyway, she's a snowbird so while down in Florida she found a gift card to some place called "Seasons 52". Not thinking about the fact that it's sort of weird that she could buy a gift card in Florida to a shit hole restaurant called "Seasons" on route 52 in a small town in central New York, she happily handed it to me for Christmas. It says "Seasons" and "52" after all. She's adorable, and I never had the heart to tell her but I was so confused. It was only after she started asking about Seasons in Fishkill (where I thankfully lied and told her it was great) that I put two and two together. I laughed all the way home...
So anyway, the good news is that this place is in the same chain as Bahama Breeze (which I have heard of) so we figured it was a good opportunity to finally use this thing. Truth be told I always thought Bahama Breeze sort of sucked, but it also has a fun tropical atmosphere which is fun if you're a tourist in Florida in January. They had plastic covers up on the deck, heaters and a fire pit because evidently 68 degrees in January is "cold" when you're in Florida and it's sort of located in a Golden Corral parking lot but whatever... it's "tropical" and it's free.
Dinner was... fine and they had Landshark on draft and a steel drum band so the atmosphere more than made up for the food and we were loving life. We hung out for a bit before we got a text from Robb suggesting we meet up at Disney Springs. I was up for whatever so I opened the map app and realized we were basically right there and that I should probably head for the orange garage. A few seconds later I got a text from Robb saying "park in the orange garage". Ooh... I'm proud of myself. I'm not as much of a Disneytard as I thought.
After parking the car we made our way over to the Splitsville bowling alley where we met up with Robb who promptly wagered the entire TPR empire on a single game.
... okay, that didn't happen and we didn't bowl (and if it did he might have aimed for the gutter on purpose depending on how the Youtube comment section was looking that day). We actually just went there for the upper level bar and it was a really neat place. If you want to bowl it's insanely cool looking inside, but even if you don't the second level bar is awesome and a great place to have a few drinks and hang out. We had a great time and it was nice to finally meet Robb. Honestly we could have stayed a lot longer but a little after 1 in the morning we finally decided to head out and back to the hotel on I Drive. We had a big day ahead.
Obviously we crashed pretty hard and seemingly in a flash we woke up to the sound of the alarm clock. Normally I hate that sound, but I happily welcomed it knowing that we were on our way to the "Happiest place on earth".
Our first stop of the day was Epcot. I've got to say it's weird that we were voluntarily headed to Epcot at the very beginning of our Disney vacation. When we were kids, Epcot was never really something to get excited about. I didn't go to Disney World to learn, there were very few characters and I spent most of my time at Epcot wishing I was at the Magic Kingdom instead.
That said, Epcot has totally blown up since then. Test Track, Soarin', Mission Space, Frozen Ever After... what a stacked collection of rides! This definitely wasn't the Epcot of my childhood and I was more than okay with that.
After making our way to the front gate, going through security and pounding on the portable Purell dispensers (it was awesome of Disney to put these things EVERYWHERE during the height of flu season) we made our way straight to Test Track.
We knew about the single rider line but we wanted to experience the park together so we decided to head to Test Track first and then make our way to Soarin' later. Since we got there early, the posted wait time was only about 10 minutes and we were dumped right into a pre-show room of sorts where we were tasked with designing a car.
Since I didn't know much about the ride we decided to do what any two morons would do and give the car the most insane power ratings imaginable with no consideration whatsoever into anything but speed. I think we succeeded.
I'm actually pretty surprised that it's efficiency rating isn't an even zero since I think we strapped rockets to it or something. PS: Chevy... call me.
I avoided watching any povs of this ride (as is usually the case with dark rides) so I really had no idea what to expect but this ride really blew me away. I knew about the final section but the indoor dark ride portions were actually really neat. I totally get why people rave about Test Track. It has a little bit of everything and it's surprisingly fast and thrilling for a Disney ride. Test track gets a huge thumbs up from us.
After Test Track, we made our way to Mission Space for our first Fastpass. You're only able to reserve one "Tier 1" Fastpass and I was sure to reserve Frozen Ever After 30 days out and we ended up with Nemo and Mission Space for our other two.
I haven't heard many good things about Mission Space to be honest, but I was open minded and the alternatives all seemed dumb. Everyone hates Journey to Imagination, Spaceship Earth would be a near walk-on by the time we left anyway, the Land wasn't really known for it's wait times and I didn't much care about "Turtle Talk with Crush" so Mission Space was really a pretty obvious choice.
Apparently there's an intense side and a tamer side, so obviously we picked the intense side even though we still had no idea what type of ride this was or what to expect. We boarded the super weird ride vehicles but honestly... I still didn't really know what the hell we were about to ride. They're very cramped and there's a screen in front of your face along with a few knobs. Those were really the only clues and they weren't much to go on.
The ride started and I spent the first few seconds trying to figure out what exactly I was riding. It's a super weird ride... I feel like it's sort of a combination of a Gravitron and a Motion Simulator but I don't know. After wondering about this for awhile I eventually decided to stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the ride and I have to say, I kind of loved it (and I should specify that this is coming from someone who would happily vote to dedicate an absurd amount of taxpayer money to round up every Gravitron on earth, send them into orbit like the spaceships they're supposed to be and have them crash land on the surface of the sun).
The effect is really convincing and the interactive elements are pretty cool too (though I don't think I was actually doing anything by pressing buttons or doing whatever they told me to do). I'd really only heard bad things about this ride but I'm putting myself out there and saying that I actually found Mission Space to be generally awesome. I feel like it probably makes a ton of people sick since it's a little on the intense side for Disney but it's still a fantastic attraction and I really don't get the hate. This ride blew our expectations away!
Up next was Soarin' which was on the other side of Future World in the Land pavilion. We didn't have a Fast Pass but the line wasn't too awful with the new theater. As crazy as it was, we got to talking with the people next to us in line and it turns out they live about 5 minutes away from us. For the first few hours of the trip I would always respond to people who asked where we were from with the standard "New York... about an hour north of the city" but eventually I just started giving ultra specific answers once I realized that the entire state of New York got sick of shoveling white bullsh*t at the same time and all of them were at Disney World. Seriously... the whole state.
Anyway, Soarin' was awesome. I feel like this is going to be a bad report since I pretty much liked everything over the course of two days but since everyone on here was so helpful in telling us what to ride and what to avoid we really didn't have many duds. Soarin though... yeah, that ride is phenomenal. I had never seen a theater with moving cars like that but it was a really awesome concept and overall just a stunning attraction. I definitely see why this ride gets so much praise.
After exiting the ride was opted to stay in the Land pavilion and ride "Living with the Land". Obviously this ride existed when we were kids but we somehow never rode it. I felt like I had reasonable expectations and I knew it was an "edutainment" ride but curiosity got the best of me and we hopped in line. The wait time was actually posting at 30 minutes but I pulled out the Disney app and after agreeing that neither of us really gave a sh*t about Nemo, we cancelled it, booked a Land Fastpass and walked right on. Score!
Living with the Land was actually a really neat ride and it was even cooler to learn that it was a fully functional lab. They basically took something that they might have had anyway and made a ride out of it which is truly a stroke of brilliance. Obviously this ride is what it is... a slow moving boat ride through a garden... but I liked it. It's unique and enjoyable.
By that point it was late morning / early afternoon and we were running short on time at Epcot. Our initial plan was to spend Saturday at Epcot and Magic Kingdom and Sunday at Animal Kingdom but since Sunday was now showing a chance of rain we decided to swing by Animal Kingdom on Saturday to make sure we rode Everest and Primeval Whirl in nice weather since while I know they run in the rain, I also knew they would be much more enjoyable otherwise. Unfortunately that meant we didn't have much time at Epcot, but we had enough time to hit all of the essentials.
We were both a bit hungry and since we could choose any type of food in the world and since it was early and we wanted pastries there wasn't much to think about. Go to France, go directly to France, do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
As an aside, please remember that we know jack sh*t about Disney World. We're getting better, but I can totally see some locals banging their head on the keyboard in response to our food choices or ride choices. Please, please try to remember that we don't know d*ck and it's nor our fault we're Disneytards.
That said: I actually really did enjoy the french pastries. That's not really a surprise... how can you screw up french pastries? We also really enjoyed sitting by the lake in the sun and eating them. World Showcase actually gives me some SeaWorld vibes. My favorite thing about the place is the relaxed atmosphere, large central lake and ample amount of places to sit, eat, drink and enjoy the fact that all of your friends back home are freezing their nuts off at the gas station getting gas for their snowblowers.
After enjoying our pastries, we looked at the time and realized we had better make our way back over to the other side of World Showcase. I could have sat there all day, but we had a date with an awesome, awesome boat ride. That's right... the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros!
I knew that this ride would probably be garbage, but I'd never ridden it and wanted to try it out. You pretty much have to walk through a Mexican restaurant to get to it, and I guess it never has a line since there's not even an option to use Fastpass on it.
In my head, I had played this up to be the ultimate drunk ride. While I was totally sober at that point, I had aspirations of loving this ride, coming back in the fall, drinking around the world, and riding the Mexico boat ride when I was about 10 drinks in. Luckily, the ride was so ridiculous that I feel like it lived up to those expectations quite well. At this point I'm convinced that the only reason this ride even exists is to entertain drunk people who've spent the day drinking themselves stupid in World Showcase. This ride also exists to give Universal fans a counter-point when Disney fans complain about how many unnecessary screens you'll find at Universal. The The Three Caballeros must have heard that complaint and said, "Hold my Dos Equis".
I didn't take any pictures, and honestly that's probably all for the best.
While I was really looking forward to that dumb ride more than I should have been, the real reason that we rode the stupid boat ride was to kill time until it was time to use our Fast Pass on the not-stupid boat ride nextdoor.
I remember riding Maelstrom once as a kid. It was... "fine". I was surprised to see the absurd amount of fanboy rage that happened when Disney announced that they were putting Disney characters in a Disney park (especially since I didn't remember Maelstrom being anything special). I guess I get it though, it's "Norway" and the rides are supposed to be "edutainment". I've heard from multiple sources that Maelstrom was a very educational and authentic experience. It's well documented fact that most Norwegians begin their day with a cup of coffee, then read the paper, then get in their cars and go to work, then encounter a 3 headed troll on the way to work who's pissed off that they're there, then they have a spell cast on them, then they almost fall down a waterfall and then they run from polar bears and fall into the ocean or some sh*t.
So yeah, I know I'm late to that discussion but I was super excited to ride the attraction that caused the Disnerds to lose their collective sh*t.
Anyway, we entered the ride building and the first thing we noticed was how awesome the queue was. We didn't actually have to stand in it, but I'm glad we had the chance to see a bit of it because they really did a spectacular job.
I feel like I don't really need to give a play by play of the ride since I'm probably the last person on this site to ride this thing but I really, really liked it. The animatronics were some of the best at the resort and the whole ride has a really fun, whimsical vibe to it. As is the case with any Disney boat ride, it's not going to blow you away with any big, specific holy sh*t moments like a Universal ride would, but it's loaded with details and it really immerses you in another world and hits you with an endless amount of small, subtle details that probably makes it very re-rideable.
For the first time in forever, Maelstrom doesn't suck.
I do think this is my favorite of the Disney World slow moving boat rides (oh shut up, Disney "purists", Pirates is great but give me a break). Pirates has more going on and Navi River Journey is more visually appealing (and the Mexico boat ride, Living with the Land and Small World are... well... boat rides), but this ride combines nice visuals with a LOT of great animatronics (including that insane Olaf one), a slow drop and fun music. It's a brilliant, "Disney style" attraction. It's amazing that they managed to turn Maelstrom into something so awesome.
We exited Frozen and saw that it was early to mid afternoon so we decided it was just about time to head out. We were tempted to spend more time in Epcot and have a sit down meal (since I mean... it's Epcot) but with the next day's forecast being questionable we opted to hurry over to Animal Kingdom instead to make sure we got a ride on Everest when it wasn't pouring outside. There was still one more ride we needed to hit though so we made our way back up to the front (reserving Primeval Whirl on the way since Everest wasn't available).
Obviously the icon of Epcot is Spacehip Earth. I remember riding it as a kid and liking it, but I remembered from our recent trip to Magic Kingdom that certain Disney attractions didn't age all that well and I sort of felt like this "futuristic" one might fall into that category. It seemed worthy of a ride though since it was now afternoon and the hour long line had shrunk down to 10 minutes. I wasn't expecting much, but how could you go to Epcot and not ride Spaceship Earth?
The line absolutely flew (probably because I spent it refreshing the app over and over again until I snagged Expedition Everest and cancelled Primeval Whirl), and a few minutes later we were up inside the giant golf ball from outer space and headed on a journey through time (or... something). I have to say, I actually really, really like this ride. I expected it to be dated, but I didn't really feel that it was. Could they brighten up a few scenes and update some small things? Sure... but does it "need" it? No.
The ride has a TON of animatronics and some really cool scenes. It's a really long ride which was also pretty neat. Maybe it was a case of low expectations, but we both left with favorable opinions of Spaceship Earth and it seemed like a fitting way to end our time at Epcot.
When I was a kid, I really didn't care for Epcot. Sure, there were one or two good rides but it seemed like a huge waste of time when we could have been at Magic Kingdom. I don't know if it's a case of me getting older, a case of Disney adding tons of awesome attractions to this park or what but I feel much differently about this park now.
If I had to critique anything at Epcot I guess it would be that I DO feel like Future World is a bit dated and basically every building there aside from Spaceship Earth, Mission Space and a few others looks like they're stuck in the 80's but I feel like Disney will update that over time. Plus, does it really matter when the rides themselves all kick so much A$$? Oh, and more importantly... World Showcase is stunning. Disney is doing a great job with Epcot. My opinion of that place has changed dramatically for the better.
Epcot was awesome, but as we hopped in our obnoxiously ugly Kia Soul rental car I was over the moon excited for Animal Kingdom. I've been hearing great things about the park for years and recently I'd heard about how great Pandora was almost nonstop so after almost a decade of anticipation I was definitely pretty hyped.
Unfortunately I did have to make a quick pit stop on the way though... I recently brought some new sneakers that sucked balls, and while I planned to bring them to Disney to "break them in" I realized at that point that they were pure trash and that was never going to happen so we decided to leave the bubble real quick and hit up a CVS on 192 so I could grab some of those gel things and be "gellin like a felon" so we figured we'd just grab some fast food while we were out there and save a buck.
We grabbed the gel things and (not wanting to waste much time) we decided to hit up a nearby Burger King. As we pulled up to the drive thru, I pulled my phone out and started messing with the app again. The first few times I didn't see anything that made me want to change my reservation, but eventually my persistence paid off and "Navi River Journey" popped up. Holy sh*t! An Avatar ride? Same day??? God, once you get the hang of this app it's really quite awesome.
I didn't think it was possible going in, but somehow we were now even more excited for our afternoon at Animal Kingdom than we were before.
Up next: Animal Kingdom