Monday, May 18, 2015

Around (Walt's) World in 3 Days: Downtown Disney, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios

My boyfriend and I just got back from a long vacation that included 3 days at the most magical place on Earth: Walt Disney World! A foot injury recently forced me into a walking boot and my doctor told me to absolutely use a wheelchair to get around the parks. My boyfriend and I were both concerned that this would keep us from making good time seeing the attractions, but the opposite turned out to be true. He's taller than me by quite a bit, so the chair eliminated having to wait for me to catch up. For both of us, our last Disney trip was pre-Animal Kingdom.

Do forgive me if this series of posts is a bit disjointed; I'm doing my best to keep it in order while hitting all the highlights.

Day 1: Arrival/Downtown Disney. We stayed at the Pop Century Resort in the '90s building. The rooms there are small, but you can't beat the rate per night and we didn't spend that much time in the hotel anyway. The pool complex is supposed to be awesome, but we didn't have time. Bus service was quick and efficient the whole trip. After exploring the shops, we stopped at Wolfgang Puck Express for dinner. They serve some of the best pizza I've ever tasted outside of New York City or New Jersey. I highly recommend it, though it's quite pricey.

Pop Century gave us a coupon book that included free one-day passes to DisneyQuest. We decided to visit because admission there is normally around $48 a person. The Buzz Lightyear bumper cars were fun, but our car got stuck and took a long time to dislodge. Cyber Space Mountain, which lets you build and ride your own roller coaster via motion simulator, was an amazing experience. We built ours separately because he's a lot more daring than I am. We planned to build a coaster as a couple to ride, but the virtual reality game where you ride on Aladdin's Magic Carpet did us both in. Neither Paul or I have a tendency toward motion sickness and we were both miserable afterward. Avoid if you've ever gotten motion sick.

Day 2: Epcot/Disney's Hollywood Studios. Honestly, we went to Epcot for one reason and one reason only: I wanted to ride Journey Into Imagination. This ride was the source of some of my fondest memories of that childhood trip, though I remember only vague details: Figment the adorable purple dragon, a machine that blew bubbles at you at one point, the Dreamfinder character who resembled an oversized leprechaun on an old-fashioned bicycle. The recent makeover got rid of the older/creepier animatronics. At least for me, it retains all the charm of the original. Riding it made me feel like I was 7 years old again.

We explored World Showcase to look at the topiaries on display as part of the Flower & Garden Festival, which judging by my family pictures, was going on during my original visit. They're really something to see and coordinate with the countries represented in the pavilions (Lady and Tramp in Italy, Belle and the Beast in France, etc). We ate at a restaurant in the Morocco pavilion, where I discovered that the cuisine was just a little too "out there" for me. After, we caught a ferry to Hollywood Studios.

The Great Movie Ride takes almost half an hour to complete its journey, but it's well worth it. Our tram was piloted by a perky college intern named Patsy. Partway through the ride, our tram was "hijacked" by a Wild West outlaw. Paul and I rode it again later that day and were fortunate enough to be in Patsy's group again; however, this time we were "hijacked" by a Mafia style gangster. His tough guy New York accent needed a lot of work, but he did try.

Star Tours is jerkier than I remember and the 3-D doesn't seem to work that well. The 3-D Muppet movie I remember fondly remains a classic. If you're like me and hate rides that go upside down, do not go on Rock 'N Rollercoaster; I was terrified the whole time. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a must-do; the combination of the ambiance and the drops will make your hair stand on end. The Indiana Jones stunt show is cool, but not particularly memorable.

We used Fastpasses to guarantee we would have seats at Fantasmic! that night. We were directed to the bleachers instead of handicapped seating for some reason, and had to climb all the way down to the front to find seats together. Our only entertainment while waiting for the show to start was listening to teeny-boppers destroy classic Disney songs via Radio Disney; half the time, Paul and I had trouble telling what song it was supposed to be. Fantasmic! itself is 100% worth the wait. No matter how old or young you are, you should see it at least once. I hope they will not ruin the show in future years by adding characters from Frozen.

We finished our night at Epcot's Extra Magic Hours for Disney Resort guests. Do not try to do this and Fantasmic back-to-back. By the time we got to the bus and were dropped off at Epcot, it was almost 10:00; Extra Magic Hours ended at 11:00. We only had time for one ride: Soarin', which had been too crowded to ride earlier in the day. It was pretty cool, especially when they piped in authentic smells from California, like oranges.

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