Disney

Epcot

IMG_0383We spent the last few days of the trip in Epcot. On Christmas morning I woke up feeling congested, which worsened throughout the day. By the end of Christmas day I was down for the count for the rest of my time at Disney. Unfortunately this post is going to reflect that since Epcot was basically a bust for me and I ducked out of the park early each day.

Mainly we just walked around Epcot since this isn’t a park with a lot of rides. We did go on Test Track, Soarin’, and Spaceship Earth since we had FP+ reservations.

The only dinner reservation we had was at Chefs de France for Christmas day. I don’t remember what anyone else ordered, but I just had the French Onion Soup. The soup had a good flavor I remember and wasn’t salty like a lot of onion soups, but unfortunately I only ate half since I was feeling rather lousy at that point. I actually went back to the hotel partway through Christmas dinner.

For the rest of the time in Epcot we just walked around. The big focus of Epcot is really the World Showcase. I do have to admit this wasn’t a huge draw for me. Since I’ve traveled to most of the countries in the World Showcase, the Disney version of them isn’t a big deal to me. Mainly most of the pavilions are just shops, restaurants, and exhibits (films and various cultural collections). This part of the park is really wasted on me. Now if you are in a big group and drinking around the world, that may make the experience more entertaining. In general though just walking through shops is a bit dull.IMG_4446

In the Mexico pavilion we did stop for drinks and guacamole. We all had margaritas and they did taste good. Unfortunately I could only drink a little bit of mine since I just wasn’t up to having a drink. If you know me, you know skipping out drinks is a rare occasion!

After a few days in Epcot it was time to head home. I actually was still stick when I got home. The drive back to Miami is about 3-hours, but there was a ton of traffic and it actually took closer to 4-hours to get to Ft. Lauderdale from Orlando.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

IMG_4391For Christmas Eve we decided we wanted to go to Hollywood Studios for one main reason, the Osborne Family Lights. Sadly part of this post is obsolete now since the Osborne Family Lights have now been retired and 2015 was the final year for the display.

Before we went to the Osborne Family Lights display we had reservations for dinner at the Hollywood Brown Derby. This was one of the more expensive restaurants at Disney World, but was well worth it on Christmas Eve. We did get to the restaurant a bit early so we started off at the bar and had a drink. While waiting for our drinks we were called to be seated, we told the bar our table was ready and they sent our drinks to the table instead.

The meal was not rushed and the service was efficient. We decided to order a bottle of wine in addition to the drinks. Both my Mom and I had the famous cobb salad as a starter (highly recommend), while my Dad had the crab cakes. We all ordered the same entree, the charred filet of beef, which was perfectly cooked to medium rare. The entree came with a vegetable and white truffle oil mashed potatoes. On top of the steak was a cabernet shallot butter. The meal was fantastic and the perfect choice for Christmas Eve.

Afterwards we decided to go on the Great Movie ride since we could walk right on, which was surprising for Christmas Eve. This ride is a bit hokey, but it does fit the theme of Hollywood Studios. Afterwards we headed towards the Osborne Family Lights.

Since Hollywood Studios is being expanded and going under construction to make way for Toy Story and Star Wars lands, the Osborne Family Lights was nixed by Disney. Even though the Osborne Family Lights are no longer, I wanted to share a couple videos and photos since this was a fantastic attraction and great way to spend Christmas Eve.

The light show is timed to various Christmas songs that seem to play around every 15-minutes. This was incredibly fun to watch and walk around looking at. Overall I’m disappointed Disney decided to remove this show since it was a fun part of the Hollywood Studios experience at Christmas.

IMG_4412After this we decided to head back to the hotel room for the evening since we were
exhausted. There is a brand new Star Wars fireworks show at Hollywood Studios now, which we did miss. The start time over the Christmas holidays was after 11pm and since we were tired we decided to try and visit it another night. Unfortunately I became sick the following day and never made it back to Hollywood Studios.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

IMG_4292We spent the morning at Animal Kingdom on Christmas Eve and later in the day we park hopped to Hollywood Studios for the evening. This was the only day we used the park hop option with our pass to the parks. Unlike Disneyland, we found there was really no need for the park hop addition to our park pass. This was an expensive add-on that we just didn’t utilize like we had originally expected.

Animal Kingdom did feel like a half-day park experience since we covered most of the park within a few hours. This park (along with Hollywood Studios) is going through an expansion, which should add to the experience in the next few years. Right now it is too bad the park experience lacks since this is probably the best themed park at Disney World with an incredible amount of detail in the decor. The only downside to the park is how hot it is, which is most likely due to all the foliage that makes it feel like you are in the tropics. This park feels about 20 degrees hotter than the actual temperature at the rest of the parks.

The main attraction at Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari. I made sure I had a FP+ reservation as early as I could get, which was for 10:45am. I was hoping to get an earlier time since this is an attraction best seen earlier in the day, but all the earlier FP+ reservations were gone by the time I could select a fastpass.

The Kilimanjaro Safari is an open-vehicle safari ride through a savanna that is supposed to resemble various areas of savanna in East Africa. The attraction features numerous animals including elephants, giraffes, ostriches, and rhinos to just name a few. If you go to Animal Kingdom, this is a must see that can’t be missed.

Afterwards we walked around the park and tried to get lunch. The restaurants IMG_4293were packed and unfortunately even the fast-casual restaurants were busy with no seating,
so we ended up just getting a Starbucks to last us for awhile and walking around the park. We had an early afternoon FP+ for Dinosaur, which is basically the same exact ride track as Indiana Jones in Disneyland. The Indiana Jones version though is much better I believe.

After awhile we headed back to the hotel for the afternoon to clean-up since we were spending the evening at Hollywood Studios.

Magic Kingdom (Part 2)

IMG_4279For our second day in Disney World we planed out going to Magic Kingdom. I will admit I felt 1-day in Magic Kingdom was more than ample since I’ve been to Disneyland many times. To me, both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are very similar, but I just prefer Disneyland instead. I felt like Magic Kingdom was missing all the best parts of Disneyland (For example to just name a few: New Orleans Square, full version of Pirates, the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones)

We started our morning in the park by going to Starbucks for coffee and pastries. Starbucks is a newer addition to the parks within the last few years. I found the drinks to be similar in consistency with Starbucks outside the park. One highlight is Starbucks does have a Disney collection of the You Are Here mugs for each park, which I made sure I purchased in each park.

After starting off our morning with coffee, we used our first of three FP+ reservations for the day. The first FP+ was for Thunder Mountain, which is pretty similar to the version of Thunder Mountain in Disneyland and always a great ride.

Not long after our FP+ for Thunder Mountain was our second FP+ for Pirates of the Caribbean. At that time the ride was broken down, but we were told we could come back later in the day to use our FP+ or we could use it for another ride. We came back around 5-hours later and were able to use it then instead. Now I will say we wasted the FP+ on Pirates of the Caribbean because it is not the same full version that is in Disneyland. A good 5 to 10-minutes of the ride is missing, plus one of the drops as well. In my opinion Disney really dropped the ball on this version and it is no where near as great as the original in California.

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The top one is certainly my motto!

While we had waited for Pirates of the Caribbean to reopen we decided to get lunch at one point. This is where we started to run into issues and were a bit disappointed with Disney World. Any sit-down service restaurant we tried was completely full and could not take any walk-ups. This completely frustrated us to no end and prevented the spontaneity we are used to in Disneyland. We knew this was an issue in the evenings and was the reason we made dining reservations, but I had no clue we would run into this problem at lunch. So after trying multiple places for lunch, we finally gave up (even on fast-casual restaurants that were packed) and decided on a corndog. Now the corndogs in Disneyland are pretty famous and are amazing (plus they are like no other corn dog I have ever had), but sadly the Disney World corndogs do not live up to the amazing Disneyland ones. They are much smaller and the batter does not even compare. Plus they are really expensive for what you get! Overall this part of the day was just a disappointment and made me miss Disneyland more.

After lunch and we were waiting for Pirates to reopen we went on some rides like Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World. For those familiar with Disneyland, neither of these rides have the Holiday or Christmas overlay. Another ride we went on a few times was the People Mover, which is an easy but fun no-brainer ride. We made sure we went on this a few times since it is no longer in Disneyland (Note:The People Mover was removed years ago in Disneyland and was replaced by Rocket Rods, which also later shut down unfortunately). Another stop during the day was the Carousel of Progress.

At one point we did head back to the hotel for a break in the afternoon and went backIMG_3974 into the park in the evening. In December Orlando was hot and humid, which is a bit unusual for December in Central Florida. We had really hoped for some cool weather like previous years, but 2015 was a hot year in Florida (even after living in Florida for the last couple years, I still haven’t gotten used to the heat).

For dinner I decided on the Plaza Restaurant, which is at the end of Main Street and is near the entrance to Tomorrowland. Some of the reviews online were negative about this restaurant, but we all really liked it. The Plaza Restaurant is one of the less expensive sit-down dining choices with service in the parks and is typical American food (like burgers and sandwiches). I wouldn’t hesitate to eat here again in the future, if I ever go back to Disney World. I had the hamburger while everyone else had the reuben sandwich. All the food was pretty good and the service was attentive without being over-the-top. Overall the Plaza Restaurant was a good choice for a late meal during the fireworks.

IMG_4271After dinner we walked around some more while waiting for our final FP+ time. Since we had some time to kill we rode the Little Mermaid Ride. The ride said it had a 10-minute wait, well we walked right in. The 10-minutes we realized was about the time it took us to walk through the queue though. I was surprised the ride queue was so long for this ride, especially since it didn’t seem like a popular attraction. The ride was cute and definitely for those with little kids (which is clearly not the case here).

Our final stop of the evening was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is a newer roller coaster at Disney World. The ride had a crazy long line even at 9:30pm at night and I was happy I made FP+ reservations for it. Everything I read beforehand noted this ride can have long waits and this was the case in December as well, so I highly suggest making a FP+ reservation. This was a fun ride but it does go by really quick and before you realize it the ride is over. If you like easy roller coasters and Snow White, this is definitely a fun/cute ride. I’m happy I was able to go on it once during our visit.

Afterwards we walked through some of the shops and took some pictures of the Christmas decorations at night. We watched the “snow” fall on Main Street too, which is always a fun thing to watch during the holidays at Disney. After this we then headed back to the hotel for the night.