Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 2016 Walt Disney World Trip Highlights

Every few years we'll take a long trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. This was our first long trip in three years. The long trips allow us to actually take advantage of other things to do on property without feeling we are sacrificing park time. We'll just hit some highlights vs. a full blown daily report.

Logistics: We flew into Orlando early Thursday evening and rented a car for the entire trip. We spent 6 nights at Bay Lake Tower in a Magic Kingdom View room followed by 5 nights in a Boardwalk View room at The Boardwalk. We used our DVC (Disney timeshare) points for booking our rooms in the 11 month booking window. We used Uber a few times to make traveling easier, especially for dinners at other resorts or to-from Disney Springs.

Top of the World flatbreads

Magic Kingdom After Hours: WDW started a new add-on event that keeps the Magic Kingdom open for three extra hours to guests willing to pay. For $150pp guest get 3 hours more in the park with most rides open (no shows with performers) with virtually no waits. Also included were ice cream bars and bottled beverages. The event wasn't selling well at that hefty price tag so Disney has offered discounts. We took the bait at half-price. Since we booked this for the day we arrived we unpacked quickly, grabbed a beer at The Wave, ate dinner and had drinks at Top of the World Lounge, and made it in the park in time for an attraction or two and nighttime spectaculars.

At the $75pp price-point this was a worthwhile event. We believe we hit 18 rides during that time including a 2 minute wait to meet Anna and Elsa. We had our own Splash Mountain boat and were asked if we wanted to stay on for a second ride. Peter Pan, Mine Cars, Space Mountain all walk-ons. Having our own boat on Pirates allowed us to really hear the attraction without other people talking over the track. We walked out with a couple bottles of Coke to drink later in the trip and had a few ice cream bars.

Signature Dining: Usually on a long trip we'll have 14+ ADRs (dining reservations) booked. This trip we decided to scale it back to allow for more relaxed-pace grazing and impromptu moments. Our first dining event at The California Grill was a disaster. We had a horrible server - served our wine and appetizers while Holly was not at the table, all within 3 minutes of taking the order. We didn't get to test the wine first. We both ordered filets and when they came out it looked like Disney had changed the quality of meat we were used to. What we think actually happened is we were served the bison filet because the filet mignons at the pass were good looking. The menu lists traditional filet and bison on the same line so we guess she entered it wrong in the system. Even after complaining to a manager no guest recovery was attempted. The soup was good though.

Brown Derby

Jiko did not disappoint. We both knew what we were ordering before arriving: wild boar appetizer and the filet mignon with the "secret" Mac and cheese side. Our sever was great and dinner was well-paced.

We had a lunch at Brown Derby mainly so we could have the seasonal soup. Zellwood corn is seasonal and usually available in May at Disney restaurants as ingredients. Brown Derby makes an incredible triple corn bisque with shrimp fritters. Our entrees were the Cobb Salad and Andouille-Crusted Chicken Sandwich.

In Disney Springs we experienced the new Morimoto Asia. The restaurant is beautiful and modern - has that big city dining feel. We got a great table and tasty meal. We shared baos and the hoisin rib appetizer. Entrees were Chicken Pad Thai and Ramen. All that and a beer each kept the bill pretty reasonable. Only complaint about the place is they have giant Connect 4 board games around the restaurant and it creates a bunch of noise that detracts from the atmosphere.

Other Dining: We have a ton of food photos we won't post. With Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot several lunches or dinners were provided by the food booths. At Disney Springs we had a fun lunch with friends at The Boat House (great food and atmosphere), sushi at Splitsville, and drinks at Jock Lindsey's. Of course we got a pie and calamari at Via Napoli in Epcot and had a some wines and light snack at Tutto Gusto a couple nights. We tried lunch at Magic Kingdom's Skipper's Cantina - worth the visit for the food and the amount of detail in the restaurant. We had appetizers for dinner one night at The Territory Lounge for dinner one night (Wilderness Lodge), another night we had mussels at Narcoosee's and then other appetizers at Trader Sam's (Grand Floridian/Polynesian). We split a sandwich at ESPN Grill at the Boardwalk, got a free preview of the new ice cream shop (Ample Hills), and did a character breakfast at Garden Grill in Epcot. Animal Kingdom lunches came from the Yak and Yeti counter service. On two occasions we split a sandwich in France for dinner.

As much as we love sitting down and having a great meal in a fantastic environment we actually enjoyed the pace of our dining this trip. It was a bit spontaneous and keeping to smaller meals allowed us to experience more options.

Entertainment: Epcot's Flower and Gardent Festival has headliner concerts on weekend evenings. The first weekend we watched a set from The Gin Blossoms - who we liked in the 90's - just forgot every song was slow except for "Hey Jealousy". The next weekend we watched Darlene Love. We did not know too much about her other than "(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home", and ended up enjoying her show. Great performer and easily wins the crowd over. Epcot ditched the Lumberjacks and has been adding temporary bands in Canada. We saw a set from Alberta Bound, and enjoyed their show. We went another day at a different time and found it was the same set - ok, they must rotate them per day and we'll get a new set in an hour for the next show. Nope - same set each show. This was disappointing, but we think it's by design so they don't recreate the fan frenzy that existed for Off-Kilter. While in Animal Kingdom we enjoyed many sets from the Harambe-based band Buradika (on Spotify as Wassalou) They vary their sets per day but always end with "Waka Waka". We watched Finding Nemo the Musical (still enjoy it) and Festival of the Lion King (still hate it).

Activities: We tried a few new things this trip. After a lunch from Captain Cook's at the Polynesian we each rented a water sprite. The little boats don't go too fast but they are a fun way to tool around the lakes. With our discount (annual pass or DVC) we paid around $55 for two boats for 35 minutes. Dave got his haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop in the Magic Kingdom, including Rip Taylor levels of glitter. In the Land Pavilion of Epcot we took the Behind the Seeds tour of the green house. Well worth the ~$18pp price except for the fact that Dave now wants a backyard hydroponics kit. We visited Typhoon Lagoon one day for a few hours. In our two visits to Animal Kingdom we completed the Wilderness Explorer badge game. Players perform tasks or answer questions to earn stickers. We got them all.

Photopass: Our Annual Pass included Memory Maker/Photopass. The photos taken by in-park photographers would be available to us almost immediately online. When we got home we could edit them and add special borders and stickers. This saved Dave the frustration of getting pictures with our own camera.

Overall, another great trip. A good mix of park time and relaxation.


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