If you missed part 1 of this trip report and need to catch up, click here. On to part 2!
After our enjoyable couple of days at Universal Orlando it was time to head over to Walt Disney World. First came a stop at a grocery store. A couple of groceries are far from necessary when going to Disney World. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend going to a grocery store if it’s out-of-the-way at all. With that said, stopping for a case of water and a few things to eat for breakfast is a good use of $20. The water around Disney World is far from my favorite thing and the breakfast options are generally overpriced and unoriginal. So, we went to the grocery store. What a rousing way to start this trip report!
After our stop we continued on to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For these first few days we had rented a car. While I recommend saving the money if you are doing a Disney-only trip, renting a car does have some advantages. With our Annual Pass, parking comes free and that saves a bunch of time.
Starting in Hollywood Studios is a bit ironic as I make fun of it constantly and don’t think much of the park’s current state. Believe it or not, we had a great evening there!
Melissa and I were both hungry so we ate at the already reviewed PizzeRizzo. In short, the counter-service restaurant is too generic and the food is only average. PizzeRizzo is far from the worst but nothing great. We continued our Muppet adventures across the courtyard at MuppetVision 3D. As this was going to be our last trip to Disney World for the next year (at least) there were several attractions I wanted to make sure I saw, in case they are gone next time I’m there. MuppetVision 3D was at the top of the list.
While MuppetVision is safe for now, the attraction is a little old and could use a refresher. Seeing how Disney has often misused the Muppets, I worry about the future of MuppetVision. I’m glad we saw it just in case the worst happens. The attraction, even while being slightly old, is still hilarious and one of the best ‘4D’ shows in any theme park.
From one classic attraction to the next, we went from MuppetVision and crossed the park to Tower of Terror. There were a few people on the ride that were as scared as me, which is always an accomplishment. My wife just laughs at me as I cower in fear.
Next came one of the highlights of our trip, The Music of Pixar Live. We changed our vacation itinerary to fit this show in, as this was the last night of Pixar Live. The show was absolutely beautiful and well worth our change in plans. A full symphony performed some of Pixar’s greatest scores and songs. Every once in a while, a few Pixar characters would pop out on stage and do a little comedy act. For the most part this live show was all about the music.
There were several highlights, most notably the Up score with the opening 10 minute Up montage playing behind the orchestra on the big screen. There weren’t many dry eyes in attendance during that segment of the show. The Incredibles portion of the set was a favorite of mine as well.
All in all, this was one of my favorite shows that I’ve ever seen at Disney. This is they type of show that Hollywood Studios desperately needs on a permanent basis. Pixar Live was a longer show, had more adult themes and was in a large theater that was full. No, this didn’t really appeal to many kids outside of the characters on stage but the parks need shows that aren’t just geared towards little kids. I’d love to see a show of this like become a part of Hollywood Studios on a regular basis.
After Pixar Live we took a ride on Toy Story Mania (Melissa beat me and got the highest score either of us has ever gotten) and then went into what is now Walt Disney Presents. When we went in this was still called Walt Disney’s One Mans Dream. I’m excited about the new preview center that’s in here now. I think this is a welcome addition to the park.
Eventually we headed back to Echo Lake to stroll around. I’d never really took the time to enjoy the ambiance of Hollywood Studios at night. I do think there are some locations to avoid in this park at night as they aren’t lit up as well as they should be. Thankfully, that’s not the case for the Sunset Blvd. and Echo Lake. This area was beautiful and the lake was far from crowded. If you are looking for a low-key evening in Hollywood Studios I’d absolutely recommend grabbing a dessert (Carrot Cake Cookie from Sunset Boulevard) and then finding a nice bench right along Echo Lake. The area is romantic, relaxing and beautiful.
After that we watched Disney Movie Magic, Hollywood Studios latest projection show. We both enjoyed the show, here’s my review. We decided not to stick around for the fireworks as we had a long day and were both tired. Heading for the exit before the nighttime show is pretty odd for us but it did speed up getting to our hotel. All in all, we spent around 4 hours in Hollywood Studios. We rode three of our favorite attractions, had a decent dinner, saw an incredible show and another very good one, and relaxed in a beautiful atmosphere. For as much as I rip the park, that night was pretty perfect.
We checked in to Coronado Springs, grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went to sleep before too long.
The next morning came early and with much excitement as we both got our first look at Pandora – World of Avatar. While there are a series of posts coming your way this week, I’ll add in a few quick thoughts here.
Pandora is incredibly beautiful and extremely well made. The colors in the area are vibrant and immediately striking. We started off our day in a long line for this new land’s E-ticket attraction, Flight of Passage. Melissa and I were both very impressed by the attraction. This is the best ride addition to Walt Disney World in decades and worthy of very long lines.
We spent another hour or so wandering around the new land. The “floating” mountains, plants, and kinetic energy from the running water make for an amazing place to wander around. Pandora is big enough to where the land doesn’t feel incredibly crowded even when it’s stuffed with people.
Eventually we made our way to Expedition Everest, which was the last great Disney World ride addition before Flight of Passage. After Everest, we headed to Africa where Melissa was pulled aside by one of the performers. We were celebrating our anniversary on this trip and this man helped us celebrate.
Eventually he brought me up there and we all did a little dance. This was a blast and a special moment. Animal Kingdom fully takes advantage of street performers and this adds to the amazing park atmosphere. Take the time to stop and enjoy these amazing performers.
After this brief detour, we went on our Wild Africa Trek which I thoroughly reviewed the other day. The tour was absolutely amazing.
After our tour we went and dropped off our rental car at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. I prefer this location to the spot next to Magic Kingdom, as it’s a little closer to the other parks and the drop-off process is incredibly fast. We caught a bus back to Animal Kingdom and stopped for drinks at the Nomad Lounge.
If Echo Lake at night is the premier place at Hollywood Studios to relax and soak in the atmosphere, Nomad Lounge is the premier place in all of Walt Disney World. The lounge is beautiful and full of comfortable seating. There is a relaxing vibe both inside and outside on the wonderful deck. The menu is pretty solid but not the only reason to come here and enjoy a drink or snack. For those that don’t like or drink alcohol this place has a great iced tea. We spent half an hour there before heading back to Pandora.
Once inside Pandora we happened upon the end of the drum show there. This was pretty enjoyable and added some extra energy to an already boisterous land. After the show we went on the Navi River Journey, Pandora’s other ride.
This attraction isn’t close to the level that Flight of Passage is. Navi River Journey is quite beautiful but not much more than that. I’ll have a full review of these attractions in the next week. After the attraction we walked around a little more.
The blend of real plants and fake plants in Pandora is seamless. The colors are gorgeous, almost to the point of absurdity. Everywhere you look, there is nothing bland or gray. The area just pops out almost like an oversaturated photo but right in front of your eyes. Again, a full review is coming soon.
We ate dinner at Satu’li Canteen in Pandora that night and it was fantastic. A review is upcoming. After that, we went to see some dinosaurs because dinosaurs are awesome.
Flowers are nice too.
We walked over to Asia as we had a FastPass for Expedition Everest. But it started raining and then lightening shut the coaster down. After the rain and lightening came whatever is like ten times harder than rain. Torrential downpour does not accurately describe how hard it rained. We were sitting under cover and still ended up soaked.
Twenty minutes later it stopped and the day carried on. I think this is part of the charm of Florida. Sure, it can throw a wrench in your plans but getting caught in a downpour can be memorable. Thinking back on our Disney World trips, I can remember at least 5 times where we got stuck in the rain and had a blast because of it.
The rain also has benefits once it stops. For one, it clears the park out some. We were able to ride Everest twice. The first time no one was in line and then we used our FastPass. We could have gone three times but I was a little roller coastered out. By the way, Everest at night is phenomenal.
The second benefit of the rain is that the ground will reflect all the lights at night, making everything even more beautiful. Blue hour was quite beautiful that night and we enjoyed walking around in the lit up Animal Kingdom.
We hadn’t rode Kilimanjaro Safaris yet and figured it was time even though we spent a good amount of our day on the Wild Africa Trek. While riding the safari at night can be a bit of a crapshoot, we were lucky enough to get very active animals. The highlight of these were the lions running around on their rock. Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos in time but the scene was incredible. If you want to see lions active on Kilimanjaro Safaris go in the hour after sunset. This alone is worth a night trip on the safari.
The plan was to spend the rest of the evening in Pandora, taking photos and soaking in the atmosphere. The latter was achieved but the former was interrupted because the rain came back. With that said, we still had a great night and enjoyed our time there and watching a bit of the Tree of Life Awakenings. Animal Kingdom has the serene theme park night down to a science, which is right up my alley.
We headed back to our hotel, incredibly satisfied from a full, beautiful and fun day. Part 3 will start the following morning with changing hotels, a Halloween Party and lots of food!
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Categories: Trip Reports