It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! Like many people out there, we had plans to travel all over the place in 2020. There was a Disneyland trip planned for nearly every month along with a long trip to Japan in the works. All of that obviously went down the drain about a year ago. We did fit in a quick trip to Walt Disney World in September before there was another spike in cases but this site wasn’t all that active at the time so there wasn’t much written about it. All of this to say, the world is slowly getting back to normal when it comes to travel and I just got back from Walt Disney World. If I can remember how, I’m now going to write about it!
Living on the west coast, we left for Orlando on a Tuesday afternoon and arrived around midnight. I’m not going to get into wearing a mask or the politics of traveling in this post. Wearing a mask doesn’t really bother me so if you’re worried about that aspect of a vacation then you might want to seek other opinions. I do find these masks breathable and comfy. As far as traveling at this time, we were on the fence and decided to go for a number of reasons. We’re hoping that in a few months there won’t be anything to really consider with vaccinations widespread at that point. I probably won’t bring any of that up again in this trip report, there are people better and smarter to read about those issues from, but if you have any questions leave them in the comments.
The flight arriving late at night is kind of nice since it doesn’t feel like you’re missing a day in the parks. There’s one issue with arriving at midnight and taking Disney’s Magical Express – there’s no food anywhere! We were staying at Pop Century and knew that the restaurant there was closed. After some brief research and wandering around the airport, it was clear that nothing was open there as well. So, it was time for a new experience! Uber Eats delivers food to Pop Century after midnight. Eating cold Chicken Nuggets from Wendy’s just before 2 AM is one way to start a vacation. Maybe not a smart way, but definitely a way.
We had a park reservation at Hollywood Studios the following day so that meant an alarm just before 7 AM to get a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Thanks to some fast thumbs we got that without any trouble and then slept for a couple more hours before going about the day. Pop Century continues to rise in our resort rankings thanks to the Skyliner access and the cheap prices you can find relative to other resorts. We found an especially good deal for this trip on Hotwire. Coronado Springs was also available for about $20 more but I opted for Pop Century’s location over the nicer amenities of Coronado.
After getting ready, we hopped on the Skyliner and continued a relaxing morning with breakfast at Primo Piatto. In case you missed the review, this is easily the best counter-service breakfast we’ve had. After that delicious meal we were off to Hollywood Studios. Rise was loading pretty slow that day so we still had some time before our boarding group. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway had a decently short wait for it being the middle of the day so we hopped in line there. The attraction isn’t perfect by any means but it’s a great addition to the park. I’m looking forward to it coming to Disneyland as it will add a great piece to Toontown.
Toy Story Mania also had a short-ish wait so we hopped in there before heading to Rise of the Resistance. The Toy Story Mania queue took us into some backstage areas as they tried to keep guests out of the inside portion as much as possible. Both Toy Story Mania and Runaway Railway had fairly short waits during our visit despite pretty high crowd levels. Maybe Hollywood Studios is finally seeing the effect of having more quality attractions?
Rise of the Resistance is as impressive as ever, although the preshow portions do lose a little bit of magic because of safety protocols. The ride is still full of ‘wow’ moments though and seems to be running much better than it did a year ago.
I bought a new camera lens right before the trip so I had some fun with it in dark rides and, well, everywhere. I was pretty proud of the above shot of Lieutenant Bek. I’ll be sure to hide it from the First Order though.
Once we escaped and made it back to Batuu, we decided it was time for lunch at ABC Commissary. There will be a review in the next week of this counter-service option but the current menu is very good while the atmosphere is terrible. Environment doesn’t matter a ton right now to us because we were eating outside when the opportunity presented itself.
With stomachs filled, we walked around Hollywood Studios for a few minutes before getting back on the Skyliner and heading for Epcot. I won’t try to hide it, a lot of this day was about eating. In the name of research, you know. I realize that might not be the most exciting thing to read about in a trip report so I’ll hit the highlights.
We were in Epcot quite a bit during the trip enjoying the Flower & Garden Festival. The park is still a bit of a disaster, with most of Future World behind walls. But sticking to World Showcase and food is a nice option right now. I plan to write a post in the future about my favorite topiaries but I’ll spoil some of that now by saying the UK really hits my sweet spot with Winnie the Pooh and Muppet character topiaries.
The plan was to spend most of the evening snacking but we weren’t very hungry yet so we did some exploring first. The festival center is a nice area to relax and enjoy some more food. Not to mention, they have these beautiful Mickey and Minnie topiaries outside of it!
While wandering, we caught Pooh hunting for some butterflies. This is even more fitting during the Flower & Garden festival since the Butterfly Garden is just across from this grassy patch by the Imagination Pavilion. A special thank you to Pooh for posing for me! I love these character interactions far more than your standard meet & greets and I hope they stick around post-COVID.
We got a drink in the DVC Lounge and planned out what festival foods we wanted to try that night before heading off to the American Pavilion. The Voices of Liberty and Mariachi Cobre perform in the ampitheater there regularly so we stopped to watch a set. While I don’t love acapella music as much as some, hearing live music was wonderful. There’s no doubt that Voices of Liberty are incredibly talented and they have some very fun arrangements.
We began our snacking after that and I’ll spare you some of the details since we’re going to have a post about all of those snacks before long. Along the way, we stopped in the American Adventure to look at the new Soul-inspired jazz exhibit. The exhibit was quite small but it was very cool to see one of Louis Armstrong’s trumpets and a Charlie Parker used saxophone. It’s well worth stopping in there really quick to check out the exhibit.
Coming back outside, it was nice to find this bird tormenting people as they tried to eat.
A few of the garden exhibits in the different country pavilions were really pretty and interesting. I especially enjoyed the mini gardens in Germany. This little Snow White one was very cute.
It was a nearly perfect day from a weather perspective and the breeze picked up enough in the evening to put a sweatshirt on. Spring break crowds were about to descend on Disney World but it was early enough in the week to where the walkways didn’t feel overly crowded. In other words, it was a pleasant night made even more beautiful by this sunset.
I often think about my first time getting to go back to Disneyland. You know, daydreaming. I’m curious about which parts will make me emotional. There are definitely certain things with certain people. One surprising thing that always comes to mind is the ducks on Main Street. I’m thinking of it now because of this duck that was camouflaging in the World Showcase bushes.
The night was filled with snacks, snacks and more snacks. Eventually, once we were completely stuffed, we explored the new Ratatouille area (the small portion that’s open) in the France Pavilion. I’ll have better photos in the day, but I do like these lamps and the tree line.
The area so far is simple but fits in well with the France Pavilion. I can report that the bathrooms are very nice and we all know that’s the most important thing! Until the full expansion is open, this little area adds a quiet respite from the busyness of the World Showcase promenade. Crazy how fast that will flip once the attraction opens.
With next to no one left in the park, we hurried over to Soarin’ before park closing and essentially walked right on to the ride. It was astounding how much all of the parks cleared out at night. Without the allure of a nighttime show to keep people there, so many guests left once the sun set. We addressed this in a recent post, but I’d recommend staying until close even if that means taking a break in the middle of the day. After Soarin’, I took a few pictures around the park before heading for the exit.
We rode the Skyliner back after waiting in line for it for about 20 minutes. Even if the line looks incredibly long after Epcot close, that line moves very fast. We were past the bridge that leads guests to the Beach Club and were still back to Pop Century in just over half an hour. Granted, that may feel like a long time after a full day in the parks but I’ve waited much longer for a bus where I have to stand very close to a stranger. I’ll take the Skyliner over that every time.
Unsurprisingly, this is running a little bit long so I’m going to pick up the next installment with the following day at Magic Kingdom!
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Categories: Trip Reports