Friday, January 12, 2018

Epic 2017 Walt Disney World Christmas Visit - Part Three


Our third full day of touring felt like a Family Circus cartoon. We walked from our hotel, the Boardwalk, to Disney Hollywood Studios, then to Epcot, then back to the Studios, then back to Epcot, and finally back to the Boardwalk at 1am. The day's scheduled events created this crazy itinerary.

Our morning itinerary for the Studios was to hit a few rides. We were finally making a rope drop and were a few rows back from the rope. We said we weren't going to try to strategically snake through the crowd to get to the front but we did. The woman who was going to be first into the Tower of Terror queue made an unfortunate pivot right at the last second allowing us to take first! While in the park we rode Toy Story Midway Mania, Star Tours and watched the Frozen Sing-a-long with holiday tag-on. The decorations around the studio were great. 1940's style with lots of silver accents (Tinseltown).

After Star Tours we visited the new Baseline Tap House to grab some beer. We split a flight of four. It was nice that they had a variety of styles vs. a ton of IPAs. We took the cups out of the tray and double-fisted our way to the park exit so we could get to Epcot in time for the remaining Festival of the Holiday shows we had not seen.

Note on the weather: it improved enough to alternate between t-shirt and hoodie during the day. At night it was of course cold, but not as bad as the previous evening.

We fast-walked over to Epcot since we had a small window to make it to Mexico, Since we had to pass the U.K. Pavilion to get to Mexico we stopped in the pub for a beer. It was packed, but fortunately Carl the bartender recognized Holly (we haven't been here since September) and took care of us right away. We even had some bench time and took some video. We caught the full holiday show in Mexico. The gospel ensemble in Future World was excellent! We caught the Canadian band - which included members of Off-Kilter - and they were underwhelming.

When the Canadian show ended we took off for the Studios. Upon entering the park we ran into the Cavalcade of Characters or something like that. Stitch, the Evil Queen, Jasmine and Aladdin, and others were available for photos with very short waits.

We arrived in time to see the start of the Tower of Terror Sunset Seasons show. Projections play intermittently on the building displaying various holiday scenes with fan favorites that include Toy Story and The Muppets.

We were booked for the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! Dessert Party. This event is usually held outside, but due to the weather (hot desserts can't be served outside) we were diverted to a ballroom behind Tower of Terror that used to house Darth's Mall on Star Wars Weekends. The snacks were lackluster as usual, but we did get to have unlimited prepaid beer and liquor drinks, plus special viewing glasses. The party gave us access to the front-row standing area for the show. We were so close to the Chinese Theater that a lot of the views of fireworks were obscured. Our special glasses turned the fireworks and other lights into Gingerbread men. This made us giggle non-stop.

Back to Epcot! We had tickets to a DVC (Disney timeshare) owner free event. Many rides were open, special character meets were available, and some locations had free food. We made it over while Epcot was still open. Dave stood on line for the Clarabell/Horace Horse Collar meet while Holly became one of the last guests to visit the Character Spot for Mickey and Friends photos.

We really did not do much during the party. We rode Test Track, ate hot dogs in The Land, listened to the DJ for a few minutes, visited Duffy (we love Duffy!) and that's about it. We left before the official end of the party making it back to the room by 1am. We packed our stuff since we were driving to Animal Kingdom then the airport the next day.

Dave hates when they hug him - even Duffy.


We decided to skip Animal Kingdom rope drop, which was a mistake. The wait to get through the parking lot till plaza was fifteen minutes. The B-Team was doing an awful job guiding cars into parking spaces. We probably lost a half hour. Today we had one goal: Ride the new Flight of Passage ride in Pandora. The last time we tried the ride was busted after we waited about 3 hours. No issues this time. The ride is fantastic! We met Mickey and Minnie in their holiday outfits. They were extra feisty that morning and decided to mess around with our hats and light-up necklaces. Holly loved it, Dave just wanted the picture snapped.

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying a few rides, dining at Yak and Yeti, and having beers in Harambe on a stone bench taking in some warmish weather (finally) before heading back to MCO.

We left Florida tired-as-heck but enjoyed the holiday season at Disney more than we thought we would. We are looking forward to finding a way to take a another trip this time of year.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Epic 2017 Walt Disney World Christmas Visit - Part Two

Loaded with pictures. Give your browser a chance to catch-up.


Today was our Magic Kingdom day. We had tickets for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the evening giving us a bit of time to take in some Christmas around the resorts. Originally we were going to drive to the Magic Kingdom area and park at a resort (which can be tricky if you are not staying at that hotel) or the main parking area. We knew we would not be back at our hotel until around 1am and tried to determine which offered less hassle. We chose the bus system.

Another day in a row we missed rope-drop. That meant we were behind the crowds and standing in long security lines. Before entering the park we rented a locker to store blankets we appropriated from the airline (for ground cover on the parade route) and to hold purchased items for the day. Our first planned event was to watch the holiday Trolley Show on Main Street.

The 4-minute show was well themed. We grabbed breakfast from Starbucks and ate al fresco at the Casey's patio. After hitting a few shops on Main Street we exited the park so we could tour the decorations at the Monorail resorts.

A note on the weather. It sucked. At nights temperatures dipped into the 20's or 30's. These temperatures in Florida feel way colder than they do back in Illinois. We were layered up all day Saturday in Epcot. On Sunday we had pleasant temperatures (50's) in the afternoon but frigid at night during the party. The few hours after leaving the park were the only chances we had to show off our matching shirts.

Both the Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts were low-key in terms of decorations. There was a cute Cinderalla's Castle gingerbread sculpture in the Grand Canyon Concourse and the Poly's lobby had tropical themed garlands and trees. The Grand Floridian is the must-do on this route with its huge tree and large-scale gingerbread house/shop. Everything covering the small building is edible.

We wanted to take the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom so we could get a boat to the Wilderness Lodge but there was a snag. The line at the Grand Floridian was backed up because they were down to one security gate. The monorails also seemed a bit delayed which allowed more people to build on the outbound platform. After a few minutes we came up with the bright idea of getting an Uber. A few minutes later we were picked up and delivered to the Wilderness Lodge. Cost $7 plus tip. Worth it. The Wilderness Lodge had an awesome tree with appropriate-themed ornaments. We lunched at the newish Geyser Point on burgers while enjoying some dark beers and cocktails. These were the only drinks of the day given we were going to be in MK the rest of the day.

Once we re-entered the park we were checked-in for the party and given our wristbands. We were directed into the Main Street bypass (area behind the hat shop they sometimes open for crowd control) for photo opportunities with props and our first cookie break. The party has several designated locations to get free pre-paid snacks and treats like cookies, candy canes, pretzels, and hot chocolate. Costs for the party vary by evening - our price was around $90 each for access to Magic Kingdom and the party from 4:00 - midnight (party starts at 7:00).

We were able to spend some time taking pictures, buying merchandise set out early, and ride a few rides. The Castle Lighting Show featuring friends from Frozen started at 6:15. Disney has updated the lighting on the castle since we last saw it a few years ago. The show was fun and the projections that aided the castle lighting were a nice touch.


After the lighting we split up. Holly wanted her photo with the Pooh characters, but did not want to miss out on a place to sit for the parade. Dave grabbed the airline blankets and nabbed an area near a trash can (after trying several) midway down Main Street. By the time Holly met him there was still plenty of curbside seating. When the party started there was an announcement welcoming folks and then the snow started on Main Street. People were losing their minds as soap bubbles were blasted from the rooftops!


The parade would not reach us until around 8:50. Sitting that long on the cold concrete at such and odd angle did a number on our muscles. Dinner came from Casey's: hot dogs and fries. Really haven't had a day of eating such generic food at Disney since we were kids. Dave almost had a meltdown when the pre-parade entertainment came out. There was a spotlight coming from a second floor window across the street: ruining the lighting for photos. Thankfully it was turned off for the parade.
This was our first time ever seeing the Christmas Parade and we were not disappointed. We actually think it is our favorite parade. It was filled with floats and characters that only come out for this parade like the wooden soldiers, gingerbread men, and reindeers.

After the parade we made our way up to the castle for Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration. This castle-stage style show features many characters, dancers, and two human hosts/performers (don't know how to put it - Peter Pan and Buzz are humans, but also characters. The hosts were singers in shiny outfits) singing songs, performing little skits, etc. Mickey and Minnie come out in Santa outfits at the end. The show was actually one of the better castle-shows. Once the show ended we made our way back to the Main Street bridge for the Holiday Wishes Fireworks. This show was ok, not really the best fireworks we have seen in Magic Kingdom. Maybe being frozen and wrapped in airline blankets didn't help.


Once the fireworks were over we beelined it to Tomorrowland where Cosmic Ray's was turned into Club Tinsel: a DJ dance party with polar bears and elves. They were serving cookies and hot chocolate (along with food you could buy). We watched the dance party fun while warming up. Dave felt great after 3 hot chocolates and was sad when we had to leave in the middle of the Quad City DJ's C'mon N Ride It (he claims it is his jam). But we had to leave in order to make it over to the Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show. Luckily it was next to Joffrey's and he could get a coffee while we watched. The show featured a lead singer/host whom interacted with an onscreen Stitch. He was trying to kidnap Santa or some such nonsense. Various Tomorrowland characters had musical numbers including Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, and finally Santa Stitch. It was a bit goofy, but the performers were very good.


For our final hour in the party we hit up a few other snack stands, caught the backhalf of the second showing of the parade in Frontierland, hit some Photopass spots, and just enjoyed being in the environment. We took our second ride of the day on The Jingle Cruise, a Christmas version of the attraction. We thought it looked better in the day time.


Dave would like it to be noted his other winter hat is causing his coat to bulge out so much.

This was our favorite party experience in The Magic Kingdom. It would be fun to repeat it within the next few years. All the show performers seemed to be better than usual and the environment is festive.

Our wait for a bus back was less than ten minutes and thankfully we departed without waiting for the bus to be full. We did not forget to take everything out of of locker. We arrived in the hotel room after 1AM and were planning a Studios rope-drop the next morning.