Trip Reports

February 2019 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 4

If you missed parts 1, 2, or 3 of this trip report, click on the corresponding number to catch up!

After a couple of late nights, we woke up mid-morning the next day and packed our things to move to another hotel – The Swan. For those keeping score at home, this would be the third hotel of the trip. We were thankful to find out that bell services delivers to The Swan & Dolphin Resorts. There didn’t seem to be much experience in transferring bags to that resort as several cast members we encountered said, “I didn’t know we transferred bags there.” Neither did we, employees. Neither did we.

Now that I’ve really sucked you in with whatever that opening paragraph was, let me tell you about a perfect day in Epcot. We had a FastPass for Soarin’ around 11 and made that fairly easily. I’m ready for Soarin’ to go back to Soarin’ Over California. I don’t think that will ever happen unfortunately but every time I ride the newer version I find more flaws in the attraction. To be sure, it’s a beautiful ride but the first version was superior in my eyes.

Wall-E sidewalk art Epcot

After our ride around the world, we walked over to the Odyssey, stopping to enjoy the day’s sidewalk art along the way. Festival of the Arts was still ongoing and The Odyssey acts as a festival center. We went over there to experience the seminar for the day, John Pomeroy giving a talk on Disney Animation. I know far more about Disney Parks history than any other aspect of the company. While other areas interest me to varying degrees, I knew very little about John Pomeroy coming into the seminar.

That made little difference once the seminar started. He was kind enough to explain his history with the company, animating on several huge projects before leaving and then returning years later. A quick look through his wiki will tell you how accomplished the man is. After his introduction, he started drawing characters and answering questions from the audience. Watching him draw was enchanting and his thoughtful responses on people he’d met in the Disney company were also appreciated. It helped to be surrounded by other Disney fans that appreciated the seminar. This isn’t the type of things that appeals to everyone but for the older crowd or travelers without kids, it was a blast to watch. If you happen to be at Festival of the Arts, I couldn’t recommend these seminars enough. They occur around noon (although probably won’t be in The Odyssey next year) and typically have different presenters each day.

John Pomeroy Tigger Festival of the Arts Epcot

After the seminar, we walked around a few other festival booths that showcased artwork. Then it was time to get down to business. It was our last day on the dining plan and we had two counter-service meals plus 11 snacks to eat between the two of us. We used a couple of those snacks for breakfast but had been saving them for Epcot, as the outdoor kitchens provide the most value for snack credits. We started our eating around the world at Tangierine Cafe in Morocco. A review is forthcoming but this is one of the best counter-service meals in Epcot and Disney World as a whole.

It was a hot day and an excellent time for the Japan Pavilion’s Kakigori (shaved ice). This is at the Kibuki Stand right by Japan’s pagoda. It’s a delicious treat on a toasty day and also improves my confidence.

Melissa went with ice cream at L’Artisan des Glaces and we both enjoyed the afternoon, trying to eat our desserts before they melted all over us. It’s really nice to have an extra snack on the dining plan taking the place of a counter-service dessert. There are a few places with quality counter-service desserts but more often than not the snacks you can find are much better than the desserts.

Yacht Beach Club Lighthouse boat

With full stomachs, we walked over to the Swan to check in. We spent a ton of time around the Boardwalk this trip and enjoyed it more than we ever have. Walking through there in the middle of the afternoon was very hot but beautiful nonetheless.

After checking into our room and having a look around, we caught a bus to the RunDisney expo. I have some thoughts on the Princess Half Marathon Expo in that race recap so I won’t delve into it much here. In short, we were slightly underwhelmed with the merchandise but the event was well-organized and an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Melissa map expo

Before long, we came back to our hotel, rested for a bit and then were off to Epcot for the rest of the night. Most of our plan for the night centered around snacking and watching that evening’s Disney on Broadway concert. Frankly, it might not be very interesting to write about, read about, or think about. With that in mind, the next bit of this trip report will become very reliant on photos.

Pink Flower Japan Epcot

We did walk through the Japan Pavilion’s ‘kawaii’ exhibit for the first time in a while. It’s always enjoyable but I’m excited for a change to come there.

Epcot Festival of Arts scallop

Beef wellington Epcot Festival of Arts

Two of the better snacks we tried at Festival of the Arts were at the American Pavilion’s Outdoor Kitchen. I liked the Beef Wellington and thought it was a generous portion, especially for being a snack credit. Scallops can be a bit hit and miss at Epcot’s festivals but the one we had was good and I really enjoyed the salsa served underneath it.

World Showcase is one of the prettier places to catch a Florida sunset.

Flowers sunset Epcot

China Pavilion water reflection sunset Epcot

Sunset Epcot Swan France

I ran around like a crazy man for about half an hour trying to get a few shots of the sunset. None of them turned out quite like I wanted but that’s the way it goes. While photography has become an integral part of the parks for me, I’m not good at setting aside to take photos around sunset.

Over the next few hours, we snacked more while doing a loop around World Showcase.

Flowers SSE Epcot

Eventually we ended up at America Gardens Theatre for the Disney on Broadway concert. That night’s artists were Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald. They sang several musical theater songs each, including hits from Lion King, Hercules, and Little Mermaid. While most festivals have concerts that don’t interest in the least, this show was incredible. Both artists were spectacular performers. My only complaint about the show was that it was too short. I could have watched the concert for an hour plus instead of the allotted half an hour. We loved the performance so much that we went back a few nights later.

Festival of Arts Broadway Concert Series Epcot

It was the last performance of the night, so the show let out about 20 minutes before Illuminations started. We took the short walk over to the Japan Pavilion and watched the show from there. It’s a surprisingly good and empty spot. My guess is that other guests think the torii gate will get in the way of the view. In actuality, if you stand just to the right of the gate then it’s a great view of the fireworks show. I was trying out a few new ways to photograph the show, here’s a few that turned out.

Torii gate Illuminations red burst Epcot

Japan torii gate Illuminations gold Epcot

torii gate Epcot Illuminations bursts

After the show we spent a few minutes walking around the empty pavilions, mainly sticking to Japan and Morocco.

Japan Pavilion night Epcot pagoda

Japan Pavilion garden night Epcot

Morocco Pavilion Epcot night

After a few solid days of attractions, this was a complete switch. We hardly did any attractions the whole day but enjoyed taking in Epcot slowly. Honestly, I think I enjoyed the Epcot day more. As Epcot closed, we went back walked to our hotel stopping for ice cream along the way. Completing the Disney Dining Plan was no small task, but we made it.

After the delicious Ample Hills ice cream, we enjoyed the hot tub and watched a few episodes of Parks & Rec before going to bed. The Swan had a smart TV, letting us connect to Netflix which I didn’t know that I wanted at Disney World until I experienced it. That was an easy way to wind down.

The next morning saw us back in Animal Kingdom, starting off in Pandora. We opted for a FastPass for Navi River Journey, also known as ‘the other Pandora attraction’. We’d only rode the attraction once and were underwhelmed. Over the last year we had planned to go back several times but the long waits always dissuaded us.

Navi River Journey Animatronic centered AK

Another ride on the attraction didn’t really change our opinion. We both think it’s odd that the attraction has no real plot. On the other hand, Navi River Journey will be a really enjoyable attraction in a few years when the wait times are much lower. For now, do everything in your power to get a FastPass for Flight of Passage and then experience River Journey first thing in the morning or late at night.

Everest AK Himalayas telescopes

Needing some thrills after the slow boat ride, we went off to Everest. There are certain attractions we always FastPass at different parks. Everest fits that bill in Animal Kingdom. Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios is always a must-do, as well.

Pink flowers AK

Animal Kingdom is beautiful in the spring. The park is colorful on its own but adding the blooming flowers to the park is gorgeous. With the beautiful backdrops throughout Animal Kingdom, the whole park is photogenic. The WHOLE park.

Donald's Dino Bash AK sign

I lied. DinoLand never looks good but the Dino-Bash is pretty fun. The dance party is a weird mix of characters dressed up like dinosaurs. Since the whole land is an eyesore, the signage doesn’t make the land uglier. I think the guy in the photo above is actually kind of endearing.

We eventually ended up in Harambe to watch Festival of the Lion King followed by Burudika.

FotLK fire AK

We’ve raved about Festival of the Lion King plenty on this blog. It remains the best regular stage show at Walt Disney World, full of emotion and fantastic performances.

Burudika AK lead singer

Burudika is unheralded in comparison. The band regularly plays in Harambe and adds a good amount of energy to the area. Along with a full band, they have dancers who help get the crowd involved. Anytime you’re in the area and they start playing I recommend sticking around to watch. Just like Festival of the Lion King, Burudika is one of my favorite shows to watch in Disney World.

We slowly made our way out of Animal Kingdom in the late afternoon. After riding several attractions and enjoying a few shows, we decided to rest our legs as the half marathon was the next morning. We slowly made our way out of Animal Kingdom, bidding farewell to the park until our coming trip in June.

Giraffe waterfall Tree of Life AK

Flower water AK

That evening we were set to join our sister-in-law Amie, her mom Laurie, and niece Michaela for dinner at the Yacht Club’s Ale & Compass. Amie was there to run the half marathon with us. We enjoyed a surprisingly good dinner and then walked around the area for the rest of the night. Again, trying to take it fairly easy before the big day.

Boardwalk sunset across water

Telescope Boardwalk night

The relaxing night was a good idea, even for me as a night owl. Melissa went to bed pretty early and I went out on the Boardwalk to watch Illuminations. All in all, this was a decent spot to watch the fireworks from if you aren’t going into the parks that day. I could have gotten closer but opted for the bridge by the Swan & Dolphin for my viewing. A very small crowd gathered around but it was a pretty peaceful way to watch fireworks.

Illiminations from Boardwalk red fireworks

Illuminations from Boardwalk blue and white fireworks

I went back to the room and went to sleep. The next morning was an early one that you can read all about here.

We’ll pick up our final installment of this trip report in the hours after the half marathon. If you have any questions or thoughts then please leave them in the comments below!  Planning a trip to Walt Disney World?  Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide.  If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages.  You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email.  All of those links are on the right side of this page.  Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!

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