Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Line, Lines and More Lines at Disney World (Part Three of Five)

Any doubts we had about choosing Bay Lake Tower for our trip to Disney World quickly vanished once we actually arrived. Not only was the staff super friendly, but the kids loved the room - even before I pulled them out to the balcony to show them Cinderella's Castle and Space Mountain across the parking lot. Very quickly, we were heading across that same parking lot for the Magic Kingdom and some lunch. (Hunger was quite enhanced by the fact that we'd been up since 5 am to catch our flight to Orlando.)  Figuring that the kids would rather eat at the park than at the resort cafeteria, we headed to Cosmic Ray's in TomorrowLand.  I had already prepared myself mentally to spend close to $50 for fast food burgers, and come to grips with it as part of the price. The burgers and chicken nuggets were nothing fancy and fine; not sure we needed the two pounds of fries they gave the four of us.  But whatcha gonna do?

This was the FastPass+ line for
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
Cosmic Rays met my main criteria for lunch: first, it had something acceptable for everybody and secondly, it was really close to our first FastPass reservation: Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. We had heard all of the horror stories about lines at DisneyWorld, but nothing quite prepared me for the FastPass line for the Buzz Lightyear ride.  I had assumed that FastPass allowed you to go to the front of the line, but it turns out, it actually just gets you into a shorter (?) line.  And on that first afternoon, the line for Buzz wrapped around the queues and all the way over to the next ride.  Now, I had worked to set up a personalized schedule from, a site that tries to fit as many of the things that you want to do into an order that they call a "touring plan." (I'm not sure I'd use the word "touring" to describe a day at DisneyWorld, but OK...)  The expected wait time to get in was supposed to be about five minutes, but the line was actually over a half hour long.  (The "standby" line for people without passes was posted as an hour long; I suspect it was even longer than that.)  Once we got on the ride, we had a blast... in fact, I dare say that was our favorite ride at Disney World.  I think we rode it at least six other times the rest of the week!

Afterwards, we manually started to shuffle our "plan" and moved straight to watch the parade. My 10 year daughter loved it (especially when Merida pointed at her and mouth a complement about their red hair); my seven year old son didn't until after all of the princesses had passed by.  After that, it was off to more rides and activities. I felt bad for my son: he had FastPasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain, but because of the lines, that's all he got to do that afternoon. My daughter did get a couple of character meets and a ride on the carousel (because that line was only 15 minutes long) in. Needless to say, we weren't exactly feeling any "magic" at Disney's Magic Kingdom that afternoon, and so we headed back to Bay Lake Tower.  The kids went swimming while I did something that's probably sacriligeous to the Disney-obsessed.

I ordered pizza for supper.  From a non-Disney restaurant.  This was all planned, as I also was waiting for a delivery of groceries.  Since we had a kitchen with a full size refrigerator, we figured we'd eat breakfast and snacks in the room as we got ready each day. And as long as we were going to be getting pizza delivery, beer to wash it down.  And it was good pizza.  Damn good pizza.

Giordano's Deep Dish!
Best meal we had.
Giordano's.  The Chicago-style deep dish.  Yes, it's a chain, but the nearest locations to Omaha are 300 miles away in Minneapolis. I don't know if Giordano's is better in Chicago, or if Lou Malnati's is better than Giordano's in Chicago.  All I know is that Giordano's was the best meal we had in Orlando...and since we ordered extra for leftovers (again, we had a kitchen), it actually was the best two meals we had.

The other benefit of Bay Lake Tower? All we had to do to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks was walk out onto the balcony. No lines, no mass of humanity.  And five minutes later, the kids were in bed. (After a 16 hour day, that's a good thing.)

The next morning, the plan was to hit Animal Kingdom and then hop over to Epcot. That plan hit a snag when exhausted kids slept in later than the "touring plan" suggested, which was then complicated by a 45 minute wait for Disney to send a bus to our resort. We watched three buses come and go to Epcot (two left empty) and a couple for Hollywood Studios before we finally were able to head to Animal Kingdom.  That resulting delay meant that when we got to Killimanjaro Safaris first thing, we had to stand in line for an hour. The Safari was marginally interesting, but since we usually head to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo several times a year, wasn't worth the time we spent waiting for it. (People who don't have a good zoo nearby will almost certainly have different opinions.)

Disney does shows extremely well, and after the Safari, we hit the "Festival of the Lion King" and "Finding Nemo: The Musical."  Both shows were impressive performances.  In between, we had lunch at the Flame Tree Barbeque, which might have been the best Disney restaurant we ate at on our trip. Comparatively speaking, it also was one of the better values, as we were so stuffed afterwards that we just had snacks the rest of the day instead of actually having supper.  We also watched "It's Tough to Be a Bug", which absolutely freaked my 10 year old daughter out.

Our day at Animal Kingdom could have been better if we had planned FastPasses for that day, but we decided to take advantage of our Park Hopper that day and use our three FastPasses at Epcot that evening. Epcot tiers their FastPasses, and only allows you to select one of their top three attractions each day. So by spending parts of two days at Epcot, we were able to get FastPasses for both Frozen and Test Track.

Half hour in line with a FastPass+ for Frozen
105 minutes for standby. Yikes.
My daughter absolutely loved the first part of the new Frozen ride at Epcot (even though the FastPass line took over a half hour to get through). Then she hit the small waterslide part in the boat, and just about lost it; she hates any sort of thrill ride, which ended the ride on a bad note.  The kids really liked the interactive "Turtle Talk with Crush" show, where "surfer dude" Crush from Finding Nemo interacted with all the kids in the audience.  Great fun that leaves you wondering "how do they do that?"  "The Seas with Nemo and Friends" next door was a huge disappointment though; it's a ride through an aquarium, but it pales in comparison to the aquarium at Omaha's zoo.  Although we were exhausted after a full day of hitting two parks, we found enough strength to get some pretty good (and expensive, even by Disney standards) ice cream at L'Artisan des Glaces while we waited a few minutes for the Illuminations show, which features iluminated floats and fireworks on a lake.

Tuesday, we had already planned to make that a "sleep in" day, so we had a late breakfast planned at the "Kona Cafe" at the Polynesian Resort.  We love Hawai'i, and thought that some "POG" (Passion fruit/Orange/Guava juice cocktail) was hard to resist for a little splurge. The POG was good, but much of the rest of the breakfast was rather mediocre.  We then headed to Hollywood Studios for the day.  Many people suggest skipping Hollywood Studios, as many rides and attractions have closed as a new "Star Wars" land is under construction. That wasn't our experience; in fact, I think our kids rated Hollywood Studios as our second favorite park.  The Indiana Jones Stunt show was very entertaining, and my son loved seeing all of the Star Wars characters.  My daughter preferred the Frozen sing-a-long, though.  Everybody got a big kick out of Toy Story Midway Mania, though; it's another shooting arcade game like Buzz Lightyear; we even rode it a second time without a FastPass just before supper because the lines were starting to dwindle.

We finished our day at Hollywood Studios with a "character dinner" at Hollywood & Vine, which featured Mickey and Minne Mouse with Donald and Daisy Duck. Some reviewers have panned this restaurant elsewhere, but frankly, we thought this was the best buffet we had at Disney World. We picked this as part of a dining package which also gave us preferred seating for the nighttime Fantasmic show, which the kids loved. As we left, we did see the Star Wars fireworks in the distance; we could have stayed later and moved closer, but figured we were better off grabbing the first available bus back instead of getting stuck in the fireworks crowds.

Wednesday morning, we headed back to Epcot with the hope of getting there early enough to ride Soarin' in the standby line, but thanks to monorail issues, we got there too late to do that.  Instead we checked out Spaceship Earth (the huge 18 story globe), which was pretty interesting (and thankfully didn't set off my claustrophobia).  My son and I went on Ellen's Energy Adventure, which while interesting, is just a touch too long at 37 minutes.  After that, we hit Test Track, which allowed guest to design their own car, and then head on a 65 mph spin in a convertable around the building on the test track. You're going faster than any other ride at Disney, but it's more thrilling than putting the top down on a highway because of the banked turns. (My son and I loved it; my wife and daughter didn't.)  Afterwards, it was nearly impossible to get our kids out of the pavillion where you can experiment with all sorts of car wizardry.  But there was an issue to all of this:  remember the "Touring Plans" schedule that I had set out?  Well, the schedule was based on spending about a half hour or so at Test Track, but we ended up spending well over an hour.  And that schedule?  Pretty much trash at that point.

My wife and son rode Mission Space while my daughter and I started manually reworking our afternoon plan for Epcot. Lunch at La Cantina de San Angel was pretty good, though my kids were starting to hit the exhaustion stage.  We attempted to start touring the World Showcase, but I eventually came to the realization that it's mostly shopping with an exhibit here and there.  Even though we were about halfway through the World Showcase, we made another audible.   My wife wanted to continue looking, but my son was clearly done, so I decided to take him back to the room.  On our way out, I located a secret character meeting spot only for Disney Visa cardholders. The look on my son's face when he turned the corner to meet Mickey and Goofy did wonders to reset his attitude.

Getting back to the resort and the pool helped even more. Our original plan was to spend the whole day at Epcot, but we'd had enough.  My wife and daughter joined us back at the room an hour or so later; eventually they hit that exhaustion stage as well.  Thankfully, we didn't have any reservations at Epcot that night, so supper became the leftover pizza from Sunday night.  And after that, we were refreshed enough to head back into the Magic Kingdom to catch the fireworks from just outside Cinderella's Castle before heading back to bed.

The Disney World Trip Report

  1. Planning a Disney World trip
  2. Where to stay at Disney World
  3. Waiting in Line at Disney World
  4. The Magic Kingdom
  5. My Takeaways & Tips for Disney World

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