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Disney World, Life, Vacation

Disney World 2017 Day 1: Hollywood Studios and Epcot!

As I’m looking through photos to share in this post, I have some tears a brewin. Why? It was a really fun vacation and something we both really needed. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a vacation and this much one-on-one quality time. I wanted this to be a great vacation for my husband because he’s been working so hard the last few years. PT school straight into a full time job that he puts a lot of hours and energy into. He needed some time off and we had so many thing to celebrate! Graduations, anniversaries, birthdays… it was about time. I’m so glad we had this week for just the two of us; it really was incredible. Now I’m actually crying… aghh. 

To Hollywood Studios! I used the Undercover Tourist Crowd Calendar to plan out which parks what days and Monday was rope drop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Hollywood Studios is majorly under construction at the moment which really makes it a 1/2 day park. It’s almost not worth going to unless you have a park hopper… but with that being said, it does have a few of the best Disney World rides.

We were about a 7 minute drive away from the DHS gates and we arrived a tad before 8:30. We still had our magic bands from our honeymoon but we weren’t sure if they were still going to work since it’s been almost 3 years and we’d heard the batteries die after a couple years. Luckily they were still working which was a pretty exciting discovery. I thought for a second it wasn’t going to work, but the cast member was like, “don’t be sad yet!” because I hadn’t scanned my finger yet. Yay! We were in. 

Rope drop at Hollywood Studios

The plan was to head straight for Toy Story Mania since we didn’t have any Fastpasses. They opened at 8:55 and we were able to walk straight onto the ride. We did it again immediately and still didn’t wait very long. I love TSM and I’m so glad it was our opener to the trip! If you haven’t done it before, you’re traveling around Andy’s room and it’s a ride that takes you to different game screens. While wearing your 3D glasses, you’re playing different arcade shooting gallery games to earn points. I lost to Brady both games and somehow we both improved scores but lowered accuracy in the second game.

We walked over to Star Tours and again, walked straight onto the ride. After the ride we sat for a few minutes, had a couple of the drinks we’d brought and decided to do Voyage of the Little Mermaid before heading down the Boulevard.

One of the best “attractions” of the day was watching this momma duck try to nap while her two ducklings waddled and played around her.

We saw the 11:00 show of Beauty and the Beast which I think is my favorite daytime show in all of the parks. We ate some snacks we’d brought with us during the show (chex mix and cheeze its) and by the time we left, the wait time for Tower of Terror was almost 3 hours and an hour and 40 minutes for Rock’n’Roller! We decided to single rider it for Rock’n since it said 25 minutes… it was much closer to an hour. Blah. I don’t dislike this ride but I also don’t love it. It’s my least favorite of the headliners in that park and I think my least favorite roller coaster in all 4 parks. The theming outside the ride is great though!

Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios

By the time we’d gone through line, the estimate for Tower of Terror had dropped to 30 minutes so we went for it. I love drop rides and Tower of Terror is a great one! They have a really pretty set up outside of the ride while you’re going through line and you’re able to sit on the wall along the way which can make the wait more bearable.

We stopped in a couple shops on the way out and I picked up the Minnie bow ring I’d been ogling at Disney Springs the day before. 

We happened to be walking out of the park right at 2 and so we got to watch these guys come marching by. It was fun to see them break ranks for a minute and have one of the storm troopers single out a kid with a lightsaber. We ended up waiting a while for a tram to come since they only had one running at that point. We should have walked back since we were in the first parking lot. Oh well. We went back to our hotel for a couple hours and had lunch in our room and spent some time at the pool before heading off to Epcot!

Loved getting to see Jacarandas in bloom! I used to love these trees in Australia and we don’t have them in Maryland.

We started off with a Fastpass on Spaceship Earth – skipping a 30 minute line – and walking right on. This is the perfect ride to get you out of the heat and off your feet! The best part is probably trying out some of the games in the lobby as you come off the ride. I was hoping to beat Brady in the anatomy race but I think we tied.

We then had a Fastpass for Mission Space but it wasn’t too useful since there wasn’t anyone else waiting in the regular line. We ended up riding with a 9-year-old girl named Ellie and her older brother Ethan. She was an exuberant girl and really made the whole ride more fun! She was pressing all the buttons that we could press and was very talkative the whole time except during take off lol. We actually ran into the 2 of them a couple more times as we were going around the world showcase. I should mention that the topiaries and other extra florals were part of the Flower and Garden Festival that takes place annually.

Test Track had too long of a line so we started our World Showcase tour in Norway where Anna and Elsa from Frozen are a primary focus. 

We shared a school bread from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe and it was so much more than I had expected it to be! The spiced bread was delicious but it’s the custard filling that made it.

This dude landed on the table right behind me as we were snacking:

We stopped to watch the acrobatic performance on the street in China which was alright. I don’t think I’d bother to watch it again, but it was entertaining enough for us that evening. 

We stopped on the bridge between China and Germany for about 10 minutes because at first we noticed this guy hanging out on top of a tree but then we noticed down the river that there was a tree literally full of Great White Herons! It’s as if they were the flowers on the tree and it looked so cool!

Drinking around the world is a big thing for adults at Epcot but since neither of us drinks alcohol, our eating around the tour continued with stopping in Germany to pick up fresh caramel corn. So, so good! I can’t recommend it enough!

In case you can’t already tell, evenings in Epcot are the prettiest.

Our plan was to eat all the food in France before heading on to Norway for our 8:20 Frozen Ever After Fastpass reservation. We stopped at the Garden Festival booth that was set up in France to have the onion tarte……. Oh. My. Goodness. We were blown away by the flavor of the filling that was in the puff pastry crust. I can’t share a photo because we ate them so quick but they were scrumptious. We had the main part of our meal at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie. We shared a brie and sliced apple sandwich on multigrain bread as well as the spinach and goat cheese quiche and a raspberry mousse. It was good but wasn’t quite as amazing as our onion tartes.

Our last stop before heading out was at Frozen Ever After which just opened last summer and had a stand-by line wait time of 90 minutes. I’m sure it must have been even longer because our wait time in the Fastpass line was almost 25 minutes. It was a fun ride and the line coming in was also well themed as the village of Arendelle but I personally wouldn’t have waited 90 minutes to ride as it’s only a couple minutes long.

We’ve both seen Illuminations – the fireworks show – multiple times so we opted to leave before the crowd.

Day 1 down, stay tuned for day 2!

Check out our day Disney Springs and our Hotel review that was posted yesterday!

Life, Vacation

Daytona Beach, Disney Springs, and a budget hotel review

We’re back from Disney World! Well actually, we’ve been back since Sunday but it was an amazing and much needed vacation and I can’t wait to spam you with our vacay photos! We did 5 full days in the parks last week so I’m going to split them all up into separate posts so I’m going to start off with the beginning of our vacation just to catch us up. 

This post is part of a series I’m doing on Disney World – If you want to check out more posts, click here.

We left for our vacation after Brady finished work on Friday (May 5) and started our long drive down to Florida. Driving saved money on flights and rental cars so it’s what made sense. We had a room booked at the Hampton Inn in North Florence, SC on the way down which ended up being a bit over 7 hours drive because of the traffic we hit going around DC. 

We made it to Daytona Beach a little before 5 PM on Saturday afternoon and spent an hour and a half chillin’ on the beach. I wasn’t able to convince Brady to jump in the water with me so while he read, I jumped in the ocean for some body surfing and wave jumping. I will say that it took me a while to actually go out into the water because we’d just been reading about the prevalence of shark attacks in Florida… I still have all my limbs so I survived a couple hours in the ocean. As we were walking back to the car, we stopped at Zeno’s Boardwalk Sweet Shop to buy custom bag of salt water taffy and it was the best decision ever! Every single piece was jam packed with flavor and oh so yummy.

We arrived at our final destination, the Baymont Inn and Suites Celebration around 8 PM and had a quick check in. That’s all that was quick because then we got trapped by a lady trying to get up to go to a timeshare breakfast. It was frustrating because we had to go to the desk to pick up the parking pass but then we had to listen to her spiel and ended up being there way too long because my husband likes to make people feel appreciated… blah. We were finally able to get all our junk upstairs and arrange everything as we were going to need it. The room was fine but it was definitely in that 3 out of 5 stars rooms. TV was great, room amenities and counter space was great, bed was good enough for a week but not specifically comfy, bathroom itself was not the best, shower didn’t work properly and wasn’t perfectly clean either. There was a free breakfast every morning but we didn’t really take advantage of it because it was pretty eh. Good enough for a week and overall great for what we were paying.

The thing that made this almost the most perfect hotel? Location. We were a mile away from Animal Kingdom and we could pretty much see all the Disney parks from the 6th floor that we were staying on. We were near a ton of restaurants including a new shopping center that had a Super Target, Panera, Sweet Tomatoes, and a bunch of other great shops. The whole week was nice because we didn’t feel like were traveling to get anywhere everyday, it was a quick hop to anywhere we were trying to go. You’re basically on the resort without the cost of staying there. Obviously you don’t get all the perks that come with staying on a Disney Property but we knew that going in. 

Sunday was a chill/recover from road tripping day. Brady had some paperwork to get out of the way in the morning so I picked up a few last minute items while he did that and then we went to Disney Springs for the afternoon! Navigating the parking situation was frustrating because signage wasn’t clear but once we were in I was really happy! They’ve really changed that place for the better. Parking at Downtown Disney was horrendous and the shopping wasn’t that great. Now, it’s a beautiful complex that they’ve developed and I love the new vibe. It’s almost unrecognizable! This was our view coming out of the Lime Garage:

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Ghirardelli was first on the menu because a Nob Hill Chill is the bomb.com. We also spent a lot of time in the World of Disney Store which I think is a great place to start a Disney Vacation! Brady got a new hat that he ended up wearing the rest of the week and I found a Minnie Mouse bow ring that I ended up buying the next day at Hollywood Studios after thinking on it. I picked up a cute button to add to my collection as well.

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

Tren-D and Marketplace Co-op were another couple great shops to browse through and I found some adorable Disney love stuff.

We didn’t buy anything, but Amorette’s Patisserie is worth going into just for the looks.

Disney Springs, Walt Disney World

We took a break back at our hotel before going to On the Border for dinner. Unimpressive on the whole, the free chips were probably the only good thing. Our dinner really wasn’t great. We watched HGTV and went to sleep – we’re pretty boring people hah! Monday morning is rope drop at Hollywood Studios and then an evening at Epcot and trying out the new Frozen ride so stay tuned!

Happiness, Life, Vacation

Our Disney World Honeymoon

After we got engaged in March 2013, we quickly decided on a July wedding the following year because there was a natural break where my husband would be out of PT school for a week. We looked into a lot of places for our honeymoon with some of the top contenders being Hawaii and St. Lucia. The reservation with either vacation was the amount of time it was going to take to travel compared to the amount of time we had total. 8 months after getting engaged we looked at each other and said, “Disney World Honeymoon?” It was the perfect solution since it would come well under budget (ie: lots of spending money), quick travel, no language barrier, and it would be a lot of fun. 

We decided to stay off property and rented a nearby private vacation home with our own pool. This saved a lot of money in comparison to staying in a Disney resort as well as being quiet and private. The company we rented through no longer exists, but Trip Advisor and Air BnB are great places to start your search. Some people feel that we were missing out because we didn’t stay on property, but having this place was magical enough for me!

Vacation Home in Florida near DIsney World

We flew from Maryland to MCO around midday on July 21st, 2014 (the day after our wedding) and we picked up our Chevy Spark rental car for the week since we weren’t staying on property. Renting a car gave us the freedom to go out for dinner, visit all the local outlets, grocery shop, etc, and the size of the car was perfect for the two of us!

I used Touring Plans to create personalized plans for each of our days in the park after using the Orlando Crowd Calendar to choose which park for which days. This helped to keep wait times down while waiting for rides which was great since we were there in the summer. To some people, this may sound like over planning/taking the fun out of Disney World but, trust me, it really helps. We deviated from the plan if something else caught our eyes and then we’d use the accompanying app to catch our plan up to where we were. It made our touring more efficient and I’d definitely recommend at least checking it out.

I ordered “Just Married” Disney buttons on Ebay since they didn’t offer them in the parks anymore. It was worth it since the replacement button said “Happily Ever After” and I saw kids wearing those while we were there. We got a lot of congratulations from cast members and a good bit of advice too. Ha!

Magic Kingdom Disney World Honeymoon

We did use the PhotoPass+ so we could get all the ride photos and we took advantage of any photographers we saw inside the park. We did it because it was our honeymoon and we knew we’d want the photos but I don’t know if we’ll pay for it again until we have kids with us. I’d still say it’s worth it either way unless you’re willing to lug around a professional camera all day and forego the ride photos.

Day 1

We went to the Magic Kingdom in the evening of our first day in Florida. I hadn’t been to the MK since I was a baby so this was really like my first time. We started with Peter Pan’s flight because we had a Fastpass+ since it’s apparently an awful wait without one. I was underwhelmed slightly but I think it’s because it was so hyped up and I was expecting more. I loved Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and it’s a small world though. It was a rainy evening and they were having a dance party out on the plaza in Tomorrowland where some of the Incredibles characters came out to dance.

The drizzly evening made the park less crowded and the lights even more glittery! We decided to leave during the fireworks so we weren’t competing with all the crowds. We stopped in to see Tinker Bell on the way out and since there was absolutely no one in line, we got to meet her without anyone else being around! It was pretty cool.

Meeting Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom

Even though we weren’t staying on the resort, we decided to get magic bands and glitz them up with some wedding “Band-its”.

Day 2

Tuesday was a Hollywood Studios party which was another park I’d never been to. I was on pain meds for a back thing that had exploded in the week before we got married. I had nerve issues in my leg that also gave me a limp which a cast member noticed and offered us a wheelchair! Since she’d offered it, we got to use it for free! We were actually planning on getting one but we had rushed in to make it to our first Fastpass+ on time.

I was really impressed with the Beauty and the Beast show – they did all the best songs and fit in the whole story into a 30 minute performance! The voices and acting were great too! Loved it.

Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror were my absolute favorite though! 

Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios

Rock'n'Roller Coaster Hollywood Studios

Day 3

We got to the Magic Kingdom gates on Wednesday morning about 20 or so minutes before it was supposed to open but everything was already running so we got going! But first… his and hers macarons! They were a bit bland and grainy but they were shaped like Mickey ears… so good enough.

Since we’d gotten there early, we got to ride a lot of rides in the first couple of hours we were there. Of course we partied with Dole Whips – aka the best Disney treat! Somebody cut in front of us just as we were about to order and when we finally got our floats, the guy handed them to Brady for free and told him happy honeymoon since we’d been cut in line. 

Magic Kingdom Dole Whips

One of the things I was really excited about was having a Fastpass+ to meet Cinderella and Rapunzel! As my two favorite princesses, it was kind of a must and luckily Brady humored me in my childish moment. Rapunzel was pretty awesome and was really excited when she found out we were on our honeymoon.

We did all the big rides but we passed on Seven Dwarfs because the lines were way too long due to it being the newest ride at the resort. We were supposed to have a Fastpass+ on Monday but it was cancelled due to rain.

We took a break for a few hours in the afternoon before we park hopped over to Epcot for the evening. 

We watched Illuminations from the wheelchair seating area before leaving.

Day 4

We went to Epcot again mid-afternoon on Thursday after spending most of the morning and early afternoon shopping and relaxing in our pool. We rode Mission Space, Nemo and Friends, and Soarin’ before heading off to the world showcase for dinner. Soarin’ is one of my favorite rides in the parks! I love that floating and flying feeling you experience. We had our romantic dinner in Via Napoli which is a great spot for dinner! We had awesome service and it was a nice little romantic dinner for us in Italy. 

Via Napoli Epcot pizza dinner

Via Napoli Epcot pizza dinner

Via Napoli Epcot pizza dinner

Epcot Photopass

We picked up some gorgeous Asian dishes from the enormous gift shop in Japan – my favorite store on the whole resort! We also picked up some Mr. and Mrs. wedding mugs which are still our favorite mugs.

Day 5

Notice we still hadn’t been to Animal Kingdom… the main reason being that we’d gone with my family the summer before for a day and had done almost everything to the fullest. So despite it being one of our favorite parks, we decided to live it up on the last day.

We got to Hollywood Studios pretty early and though we were among the first 50-100 people at the gate, we still waited 30 minutes for Toy Story Mania because of ALLL the people and not being in the right position at rope drop. People are pushy! We still got to ride which is probably our top rated ride for both of us in all the parks. Close behind and also in the top 5 Tower of Terror! I think we waited about 30 or so minutes for this ride but it was worth coming just to do these couple rides again! I should also mention that this ended up being the hottest day of the whole week. I think we stopped every time we saw a cart selling frozen treats.

We hustled over to Animal Kingdom after a couple hours in DHS and went straight to Kilamanjaro Safaris to use our Fastpass+ reservation. I’d definitely recommend doing this ride as early in the morning as possible due to the animals being more alert and active. It was pretty cool because we got to see the rhinos walk all the way up to the bus we were riding in!

Some of the best experiences in Animal Kingdom are enjoying the exhibits around the park. I personally love the gibbon enclosure in Asia! It’s a lot of fun to see them swinging around their island treehouse.

Expedition Everest is another one of the top 5 rides at Disney World and it makes a really strong case for being #1! We love that ride! If you don’t have a Fastpass+ reservation, use the single rider line! Sure, you’re not together, but 10 minutes instead of an hour is great.

I had been really excited to ride Kali River Rapids since my family didn’t want to do it the year before but just as we were about to enter the line with our Fastpass+, they got a call that the storm was coming in and that the ride was closed. Of course it started to pour and since we had been planning on leaving after the ride anyways, we decided to dip out then. 

Saturday consisted of floating in the pool, getting Ghirardelli at Downtown Disney which was fully under construction at that point, and a final dinner at Uno’s before packing up to leave the next morning. 

It was the perfect Disney World Honeymoon and I wanted a special place to show off all our photos so I created a Shutterfly photo book with a coupon

Shutterfly Disney honeymoon book

If you’re on the fence about doing a Disney World Honeymoon, then I hope that this has helped you make up your mind or has given you some ideas! If you are headed to Disney for your honeymoon, Happy Honeymooning! You’re going to have a great time!

 

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