Walt Disney World - Trip Review
2018 brought a lot of wonderful experiences and also added a lot to my plate! Unfortunately that meant that my Etsy shop and this blog had to be sidelined for a bit. However, today I am back to bring you a huge post I have been working to get out, which will be the first of many posts I have lined up for you guys! Thank you for your patience & support!
(Also just as a quick announcement: We will be making a trip to the one and only DISNEYLAND here in a few weeks!! I will be posting a trip review of that trip as well - and you won't have to wait as long as you did for this one! Also be sure to follow us over at Facebook, because we will be posting live periodically from the park!)
|We had such a fun time with this big group!|
First off - Magic Bands.
|Jack sporting his Darth Vader Magic Band|
Speaking of spending, shopping was also a breeze. I bought four Disney-themed board games (we love games in our house), but of course I didn't want to cart them around all day, so we were able to have them hand-delivered right to our hotel room! Now Disneyland does offer this service to guests staying on property, but with cheaper hotels right across the street, we rarely stay on property. (However, for you Disneyland goers reading this, you can have your items checked at Guest Relations right up front and you can pick it up on your way out before they close!) It was awesome being able to buy something and not having to worry about it for the rest of the day. Something that I wish we would have learned before our second to last day is that they will ship it home from the register for a lot cheaper than you pay shipping through UPS or FedEx, so you don't have to worry about checking an extra bag at the airport. We didn't know that, so after two hours of trying figure out how to cram it all in our carry on, we ending up having to check that extra bag. Save yourself the stress and ship it home! (Or bring a bigger bag to begin with...)
As for our hotel, we stayed at Port Orleans - Riverside in the Royal Rooms. They were pretty amazing! I thought the resort was really pretty, and we stayed right in front of the river, so we could see that from our windows. Our room was decked out in all things Disney Princess - mostly Princess and the Frog. I loved all the "Easter Eggs" from the different movies - our rug was the Magic Carpet, our bench was the footstool from Beauty and the Beast, and our faucets were Genie's Lamp! We even had a firework show built into our headboards. The room was absolutely magical. I loved the atmosphere at this resort, but I thought that our neighbors over at Port Orleans - French Quarter had a much prettier exterior. Overall though, I would totally stay here again! I thought the offerings were really nice, food service was really delicious, and the restaurant at the resort was fantastic! I also loved getting to use my wristband as the hotel key because it meant less fumbling around in my bag to find the key card at the end of the day like I end up doing at most other hotels!
|Magic Carpet Rug!|
|Our bench was the footstool from Beauty and the Beast.|
|Genie's Lamp Faucets! This was seriously the coolest thing!|
|This was the beautiful painting in each of the headboards. When you pushed a button, fireworks would go off in the picture!|
|I love the Snow White frame around this picture. It was a subtle touch, though I think it would have been a more fitting movie reference if it was framing a mirror...|
|The resort was beautiful, but I felt like the French Quarter had so much more personality. Still, this was a great place to stay!|
|The river was beautiful, and I loved waking up to this view every morning!|
Now for the FastPass System
I gave a review about the pre-trip FastPass process several months ago (you can read that here), and after going, I can confirm that that there are definitely strong pros, and strong cons to having most of it done before the trip.
The Pros - You have guaranteed access to the big ticket rides if you plan well enough ahead of time. You never have to worry about those tickets being gone by the time you get to the parks, and you never have to show up an hour early to grab them (like you do for several California Adventure rides!) That makes life a LOT easier.
The Cons - I scheduled all of our FastPasses for as early in the day as possible. The whole point of doing that was so we could still schedule FastPasses later on each day. That didn't work so well as there were rarely decent FastPasses for later in the day once your three FastPasses were up! While I do think it is nice to have three guaranteed rides, we seem to be able to FastPass a lot more rides throughout the day using Disneyland's good old system of getting one ride at a time, the day of. It just leaves everything fair game.
(Disclaimer: We did have 12-13 of us most days, so that definitely made it more difficult. However, even when two or three of us broke away to do our own thing, we still couldn't get on much. We did give it a fair shot!)
All right - now for the entertainment and food!
I'm sure you are wondering: what were our favorite rides in each park? Have no fear, we have a comprehensive list here just for you curious cats.
Magic Kingdom - Mine Train
|The Photo Pass pictures from this ride were amazing. Pictures from two different photo spots and a movie of your ride are linked to your magic bands! I think this was my favorite out of all the ride photos we received.|
We rode this more than just about everything else in Magic Kingdom. The rocking carts, the interactive queue, the fact that it isn't just your average Dark Room Ride...It was amazing. I would love to see this ride come to Disneyland! I actually would love to see more interactive queues in general come to Disneyland. I think that was my favorite thing about most lines in Disney World was the fact that many of them had fun things to DO in line rather than just standing there. But more on this subject later.
Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest
|This ride was so much fun!|
We rode this a good 7-10 times during the two days we spent at this park. Expedition Everest definitely has the thrill factor, and it was probably our over-all favorite ride of the entire vacation. I do love the Matterhorn, but it would be awesome if we could find room for both the Matterhorn and Expedition Everest in Anaheim! (Maybe call it Expedition Hoth and find a way to put this in Galaxy's Edge? Come on Imagineers, I'm full of great ideas here!)
Epcot - Frozen Ever After
I wasn't even half expecting this ride to be as good as it was! I was imagining something like the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros - just a little water ride featuring Anna and Elsa. It was so much better! There were small drops similar to those in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, and towards the end there was this *spoiler alert* dead end room and it spun you around to the left. I totally expected a door to open to let us go forward but the next thing I knew we were propelling backwards (quickly I might add) down a slope. It was so much fun, I wish we could have ridden it again!
Hollywood Studios - Tower of Terror
The Tower of Terror will always hold a special place in my heart. I dearly miss the Tower of Terror in Disneyland, and so this was by far my favorite ride in Hollywood Studios - especially knowing that it was my last time to ride the Tower of Terror in what will probably be several years. I am very nostalgic!
Our least favorite rides?
(This list doesn't include sit-down show-like attractions. I don't like those types of attractions in general, so that would be a major bias.)
Magic Kingdom - Pirates of the Caribbean
Okay guys. If you know anything about me you know Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland is - in my opinion - the heart and soul of Disneyland. There is nothing more to be said other than Disney World BOTCHED Pirates of the Caribbean. It isn't even close to the wonder that is Pirates at Disneyland. That is all.
Animal Kingdom - Na'vi River Passage
This ride was just an Avatar dark ride. It wasn't nearly as exciting as I wanted it to be. Really, it wasn't a bad ride at all, it was cool to see and the scenery was really beautiful, but I just don't feel like it was worth all the hype it received. Kind of like another Small World, but instead of singing dolls it was Avatar characters and animals. It was all right.
Epcot - Journey into Imagination with Figment
|Figment Socks can be purchased at many stores in Disney World|
While Epcot does have it's share of exciting rides, a lot of them are slower, and several are more "educational" than rides at other parks. However, out of all the less exciting rides they have there, Figment took the cake. It was weird. Not much more I can really say, but we never did it again, so that about sums up how we all felt about it.
Epcot in general wasn't my favorite (unpopular opinion, I know.) That's not to say I didn't like it, it was extremely neat to see everything, but after one day filled mostly with shopping, I was pretty Epcot-ed out. My mom, who could shop all day long and never get bored, LOVED this park, especially since every store in every country had something different, so it wasn't just the same souvenirs every three shops - which was pretty awesome, I'll admit. Personally, I loved seeing everything day one - it was a beautiful park, and as a geography major I could really appreciate getting to "travel the world" for a bit - but after that there really just wasn't much left to do. My husband and I spent a lot of our group's "Epcot Day 2" at Magic Kingdom.
Hollywood Studios - ...Star Tours?
Actually, I don't know on this one. Hollywood Studios doesn't have many rides to begin with. I guess I'll just give you the least favorite of my favorites: Star Tours. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Star Tours, it's just the least exciting of the rides in Hollywood Studios. That's pretty much it.
Magic Kingdom - Gaston's Tavern
We really only stopped here for a snack one day and breakfast the next, but it is my favorite restaurant because of how well it was themed. We ate in a little round nook in the back with a large antler chandelier, at a big round wooden table. The atmosphere was truly like we had stepped into the movie! All of the decor was spot on, and the area around the restaurant is just so neat (including the Gaston and LaFou Statue). I also really liked Gaston's Brew (a really sweet apple flavored drink), though it was too sweet for most of my family.
Animal Kingdom - Rainforest Cafe
This one has been one of my favorite restaurants for years. This one used to be located in Downtown Disney at Disneyland until just recently! Nothing beats dining in a low-light rainforest with a starry sky overhead, animatronic animals moving nearby, and the occasional thunderstorm with flashes of lightning occurring every few minutes! Be sure to look up, you may spot a shooting star!! Our favorite menu item here? The Volcano!! You know the Volcano is coming when you hear shouts echoing throughout the entire restaurant calling "VOOLLLCANOOOOOO!" Placed right before your eyes is a tower of ice cream surrounded by warm brownies, "fudge" lava running down the sides, topped with a mountain of whipped cream and a silver streamer! Feeds the whole table. Could anything be better? No. The answer is no.
Epcot - Biergarten
This is the place where I discovered my love for German food. YUMMY. This buffet, located in the Germany Pavilion, is heavenly. There is live music, the theming and atmosphere are positively enchanting, and the food is delicious. I don't think there was really anything I tried that I didn't like (except for the red cabbage - which I did NOT try, thank you very much - though it is a favorite of my cousin's, so I guess maybe it's good if you're not Little Miss Picky...) I think this is probably one of my favorite restaurants of all time - definitely worth it!!
Hollywood Studios - SciFi Dine-in!
|I love the old-time feel of this restaurant. And the shakes are DELICIOUS!|
|I love eating in the cars and watching old cartoons. They left nothing out to make this experience realistic and unique.|
|Now Playing at the SciFi Dine-in...|
Holy Cow this restaurant is amazing. You want to talk about theming? I don't think it gets better than this. At the SciFi Dine-in you are seated in old cars all facing a huge movie screen projecting old cartoons, movie trailers, and commercials from way back when. All around you is a starry night sky, the large fence around the "out-door" theater, and a concession stand in the back (not real, but cool looking.) The food is fantastic as well! I think this place has some of my favorite burgers and shakes! If you get the chance, order the cookies and cream shake - it is absolutely delicious!
I should also mention our close second favorite restaurant at Hollywood Studios - 50's Prime Time Cafe. In this restaurant, you are stepping into Mama's Kitchen circa 1950 - and Mama doesn't like it when you don't finish everything on your plate! You are waited on by your "cousins" who keep a close eye on your plates and your manners. Are your hands washed? Keep those elbows off the table! Did you eat all your veggies? Well, you're not getting up from your seat until you do! The cast members here were hilarious, and they even remembered us when we came back. It was like being part of the family. The food was delicious as well!
|Cousins Chimene and Jenn were so sweet, and so funny.|
|Cousin Jenn got tired of refilling Dad's drink every time she came around, so she finally just gave him the entire pitcher with a GIANT straw.|
|After Cousin Chimene saw Dad with the pitcher, she made sure to supply him with the "Bed Wetter's Guide", highlighting the location of every bathroom in Hollywood Studios!|
|Cousin Mark joined us for dinner the second night, and made sure to text Cousin Jenn a selfie with our family to let her know that he was the new favorite Cousin. We loved Cousin Mark!|
Least Favorite Restaurants?*
I'm not gonna lie, I actually don't have any! I found something I liked pretty much everywhere we went, and I don't feel like we ate at enough places for me to put a decent list here. We did our research and pretty much only ate at places that were guaranteed to be good!! :D
*Restaurants based solely on those we tried. As much as I would have loved to do it, there was no comprehensive examination of all restaurants.
Alrighty, you've made it this far, and you're almost done!!
The last thing I wanted to PRAISE about Disney World is actually something I think they do WAY better than Disneyland (which is saying something, I'm pretty biased towards Disneyland).
A lot of Disney World's attraction lines are covered or indoors due to the almost-daily rain they get there. Because a lot of it is indoors or covered they are able to do a lot more with interactive queues. They are also busier, so lines are generally longer, meaning they need something there to keep people entertained. I have never enjoyed lines more. There was always something to read, look at, play with, etc. I think my favorite interactive queue was Big Thunder Mountain followed closely by Winnie the Pooh and The Mine Train. Big Thunder Mountain was LOADED with posters and blueprints to read, fun little videos of miners to watch, little canary cages, and my favorite - large windows that overlooked the ride with dynamite detonators that would set off special effects & explosions near the ride! It was like the queue was becoming part of the ride. Mine Train had things like a musical water station and barrels of gems that each show a different dwarf on the ceiling when you spin them (try to get all barrels spinning at the same time and Snow White will appear in the center!!) Winnie the Pooh had these really cool walls that followed your "shadow" so you could wave your hand in front and "draw" in the honey to find characters. They also had a little kid play area so the kids could play while the parents waited in line. It was so fun to have standing in line become part of the attraction. Maybe Disneyland can use some of it's Star Wars Land profits for some interactive queues? Just a thought...
|Tyler and Jack sitting in Eeyore's House in line for Winnie the Pooh!|
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