My trip to Orlando is over and done, but I'm still riding high on the fumes of awesomeness. I can barely get out of my mouth how great the vacation was when people ask. I'm going to take a couple of posts to explain everything, but if you want to know the trip on a whole, this is the post you're looking for!
Day 1 - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
New Area I was Anticipating: Everything, but mostly The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
I had gotten in to Orlando pretty late the night before thanks to airline and luggage delays, but I finally made it to my hotel at 2am and crashed. Universal opened at 8am the next day, so I was up by 6 and out the door by 7 to make sure I got there on time.
At 8am I wandered my way through the rest of Universal and made it to the back of the park - pretty much where everyone else was going. You can't see Diagon Alley from the other areas of the park - instead, you can see various buildings from London (including King's Cross Station). You need to go through a brick archway to finally see Diagon Alley lay before you, and WOW. That is an amazing view!
I knew I'd have more time later to enjoy the sights, so I headed straight for the main attraction of the area: Escape from Gringott's. They have lockers (which you can use for FREE for a certain amount of time) so I stuffed my stuff inside and made it to the single rider line. It didn't take much at all, and I was in a Gringott's cart ready to pick up my galleons.
I'll leave the story of the ride for you to find out on your own, but I'll just say that it was my favorite ride of the day. Great effects and a great story! I actually came out of the attraction and got right back into line! I would have done it again if the line hadn't started getting longer.
I wandered around Diagon Alley (sampling butterbeer for the first time!) and eventually took the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade Village, which is actually located in Islands of Adventure. This section has been open for a few years, but it is still awesome. I wandered down the path and made it to Hogwarts Castle. The ride there - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - is good, but made me a little motion sick.
I ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks, which was pretty great, and then kept on wandering. My little brother suggested I go ride the Hulk roller coaster, so I did that twice and just kept doing the loop. I passed Dr. Seuss Land, Marvel Superhero Island, the Lost Continent, and Jurrassic Park Land before getting back to Hogsmeade and taking the train back to Diagon Alley. There are effects and video projections on the train that really make it feel like you're traveling in England in the world of Harry Potter!
I tooled around Universal Studios next and rode the Mummy, Transformers, Shrek 4D, and finally saw Terminator 2: 3D after hearing about it for so many years (it was just as good as advertised). The new roller coaster, Rip Ride RockIt was working (though it had to shut down twice while I was in line to clean up vomit), and I rode that one and really enjoyed it!
Eventually I went to Diagon Alley one more time and rode the train to Hogsmeade and got some great shots of Hogwarts at dusk. The park closed at 7, so I was out of there around 6:30 and ate at one of the restaurants found in CityWalk, a late night area that you walk past to get from your car to the parks. The restaurant I chose was Vivo, and it was really good!
This was my only early night of the trip - I got back to the room around 8:00.
Day 2 - Epcot and the Magic Kingdom
New Area I was Anticipating: New Fantasyland and Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!
I read on TouringPlans.com that if you're visiting two parks, park your car at the park you'll be at for the end of the day. So I drove to the Magic Kingdom, parked at the Transportation and Ticket Center, and took a monorail from there to Epcot to open the park.
Future World is the only thing open in Epcot for the first two hours, so I did Soarin', The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Test Track, Mission: Space Orange (queasy!), and Living with the Land before venturing over to the Food and Wine center (which used to be The Wonders of Life pavilion...RIP). There I found a Ghiradelli booth with drinking chocolate (MELTED CHOCOLATE FROM GHIRADELLI) that was cheap and amazing. My first food from F&W was incredible.
I didn't do too much in World Showcase on this day, only venturing around one-third of the park before heading back to see Spaceship Earth. While I was there, I ate food from a Fresh Fare cart (pepper hash - yum!) and China (steamed bun - double yum!). You pay a couple of dollars and you get a small amount of food, but put it all together and you have a delicious meal in many courses!
My phone battery was low, and I'd heard there was a charging station in the American Adventure, so I walked all the way to the back of the park and found the Chase Lounge - an area in the pavilion only for Chase Visa cardholders. I was one, so I was able to charge my phone in there, take a load off my feet, and enjoy some free pop!
It was time to head back to the Magic Kingdom for the Halloween Party, so I hopped on a monorail, changed into my costume (Fantastic!) and entered the Magic Kingdom. The decorations down Main Street were amazing to finally see in person, and I wish I'd spent more time on Main Street during the party.
My destination before the party started (I was there by 4:30, the party started at 7) was to see New Fantasyland, since the last time I was there it was all construction walls. It was beautiful - lots of greenery and atmosphere to put you in the right mood. I rode the new Little Mermaid attraction and visited Belle in the library of Beast's castle, and even got a hard-to-get reservation at the Be Our Guest restaurant!
Eventually the hordes of people left and we partiers were the only ones remaining. The music turned spooky, and the party started! There are tons of trick-or-treating stations, and they give out handfuls of the good kinds of candy. My bag was full in no time!
Of course, I couldn't stock up on candy because I was eating in the Beast's castle! They led me into the ballroom, which looks exactly like the one in the movie, and I had ratatouille and the grey stuff. (It was delicious!) I ended the meal by touring around the creepy West Wing and got my picture with the Master himself!
The rest of the night was spent trick-or-treating, viewing a villans show, watching some incredible fireworks, and seeing the wonderful Boo To You Parade, featuring a section devoted entirely to the Haunted Mansion! I loved seeing that section so much, I ended up racing to another section of the park to see it all over again!
The night was fantastic, and I'm so glad I was able to go.
Day 3 - Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios
New Area I was Anticipating: Most of this day was just doing the awesome stuff I'd done before!
My time in Animal Kingdom was short because, as much as I try to embrace the idea of the park, I still can't enjoy it. I did Expedition Everest twice, walked around the Asia and Africa areas, saw an amazing show called Finding Nemo: The Musical, and ate lunch. Then I was hot and done with the Animal Kingdom!
I took a bus back to the Studios and enjoyed my time there immensely. The Studios is my favorite park because there's always something new to view. The Citizens of Hollywood are improv actors that appear every hour or so to make wisecracks and be genuinely funny. I saw the Public Works guys rib each other, and it was hysterical!
I did also fit in a few rides. I did Star Tours, The Great Movie Ride, The Magic of Disney Animation (which I'd never done before!), MuppetVision 3D, and the Animation Academy (I drew Minnie!). I saw three shows - the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular (and I got to be an extra in the second scene - more on that later!), the Frozen Singalong, and Fantasmic! - my favorite nighttime show ever.
I loved just wandering around the Studios, too, and catching all of the inside jokes that are all around. I made sure to go right back the next day!
Day 4 - Hollywood Studios and Epcot
New Area I was Anticipating: Epcot's Food and Wine Festival
I started in the Studios so I could catch all of the major attractions I didn't see the day before, like the Tower of Terror, Rock'n'Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Midway Mania. All three were stellar and I'm glad I got to do them all again!
I also visited Star Tours again, and then headed over to Wandering Oaken's Trading Post (yoo-hoo!), where you could visit the shop and then play in some snow! (Yes, snow!)
I took a friendship boat between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, since they are connected by waterway, and entered Epcot through the International Gateway. This was the day I would enjoy F&W, and I did!
First was France, where I went to the newly refurbished Boulangerie de Patisserie and got a carmel/chocolate torte that was INCREDIBLE. Then I stopped at the Brazil booth and got some cheesebread. In Japan I got a stuffed beef teriyaki bun (probably my favorite food of the F&W festival!), and then I stopped in the Chase Lounge again to drink some pop and put up my feet.
I was able to watch the Voices of Liberty twice (they did different songs both times), and they are incredible to listen to. I also watched the American Adventure movie/show, which is always a great experience for me.
I continued my food journey by eating a gelato cookie standwich in Italy, a pork lettuce wrap at the South Korea booth, a potato pancake with smoked salmon at the Scotland booth, a chicken gyro at the Greece booth, and wrapped it all up by going to the Refreshment Station and getting "adult Dole Whip": pineapple Dole Whip with creme de cacao liqueur! (AMAZING!)
My tummy was satisfied and my time was almost up, so I quickly saw the video in Canada and toured around the shops in Great Britain before finally heading out of Epcot. I rarely have spent much time in Epcot, but I am learning to appreciate and savor the experience of World Showcase!
My car was at the Studios, so I took another friendship boat back to that theme park, hopped in my car, and headed back to the airport for my trip home.
Needless to say, the trip was fantastic. There is soooo much more I want to talk about, but I'll save those for different blog posts. Stay tuned!