Trip Reports

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Trip Report – Part 1

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Walt Disney World is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. We were there to cover the big additions and, as the celebration rages on, it seems like a good time to go back and relive the actual anniversary date and our trip around that time.

We haven’t done a trip report in quite some time, largely because we are at Disneyland often lately. Instead of spending four straight full days in the park, I’m usually there a few nights each week! While this trip to Disney World was far more conventional, it was also more focused on new items debuting at the parks. There was certainly less time spent trying to concoct a perfect itinerary for a day and way more time waiting for things. I guess this paragraph serves as a caveat of sorts in that I don’t know if our schedule will serve as something a first time visitor should replicate. Instead, I’ll treat these posts as a way to get some random thoughts out with photos. I hope that’s enjoyable for everyone involved!

Monorail fireworks MK

Our trip started by flying into Orlando and catching the Magical Express to Bay Lake Tower where we’d spend our first two nights. It’s a little weird to think that was the last time taking the Magical Express, outside of the return trip on our way home. I’m not as emotionally connected to it as some and definitely not sentimental about those buses, but I will miss the convenience. Soon, guests will have to settle for an option that actually costs money but is far more efficient for your time.

We were at the hotel around 7 PM, after getting up pretty early on the west coast. We opted to take the night easy by walking over to Contempo Café for dinner. I had a good turkey sandwich and Melissa had a disappointing piece of pizza, although it was the kids meal so maybe we deserved a bad piece? Contempo Café has a boring menu but the food is always decent and it’s a short monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom, which has terrible counter-service options.

Contempo Cafe Turkey Sandwich

After getting a good deal on some DVC points we rented, much of our trip was spent in nicer hotels. I’d stayed in Bay Lake Tower before quite a few years ago and did like it a little more this time around. Still, I’ve come away thinking that it’s missing something both times I’ve stayed there. I touched on this in the hotel’s review, but Bay Lake Tower seems to be missing character both in the design and room décor. That said, it does have a prime location and doesn’t cost as many DVC points as some others.

Bay Lake Tower Space Mountain art

We spent a little time at the pool that evening because I need to quench my love of waterslides and hot tubs. There was a crowd sitting in the hot tub and everyone was eager to talk about the anniversary and their home DVC resorts. While it’s not quantifiable, being a DVC member and having these conversations with people who are passionate about the parks is enjoyable and something that always pleasantly surprises me.

Our plan for the trip was to take it easy on the days leading up to the anniversary, knowing full well that we’d put in some long hours once everything started to debut. That led to sleeping in for a while on our first morning, catching up after a long travel day. Once up and about, we headed over to Hollywood Studios to grab an early and light lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge. Their Cobb Salad is one of the better ‘healthy’ options in all of Walt Disney World.

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge Cobb Salad DHS

A lighter lunch is preferable when you have a date with the Twilight Zone after. Tower of Terror remains a point of contention to some of us over on the west coast, as those involved with this site still wish it existed in California Adventure. Hollywood Studios did have the superior version of the attraction and it’s a treat to go on, regardless of DCA having an alien tower or an appropriately themed skyline. Tower of Terror’s queue continues to grow on me as the years go on, especially the lobby.

Tower of Terror lobby bird DHS

The rest of our afternoon was spent on a few different attractions, notably Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Walt Disney Presents. The latter is often overlooked but has some beautiful artifacts and models of Disney history in it before a touching short film about Walt. It reminds me of the wonderful Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The former, Runaway Railway, remains a very good addition to Hollywood Studios and I’m eager to see it come to a reshaped Toon Town at Disneyland.

Pete drilling MMRR DHS

Keeping lunch light was also necessary due to our dinner reservation that evening at Yachtsman Steakhouse. There’s no need to cover that meal in full since we already have a review. After having meals at the majority of WDW’s table-service restaurants, Yachtsman Steakhouse was at the top of my list of places that I hadn’t been. It did not disappoint at all.

We left Hollywood Studios to head toward the restaurant, at Yacht Club Resort. There are so many options on how to get there at this point, between boat, Skyliner and walking. A boat was already docked so we opted for that as I do think it is the fastest option provided there’s no waiting involved. The Crescent Lake Resorts are my favorite place to stay at this point in large part because of the extensive transportation options.

Yachstman Steakhouse opened cake

We completely stuffed ourselves to the brim with steak, potatoes and dessert before heading back to Hollywood Studios. Shortly before the trip, Rise of the Resistance had moved to a standby line and I was eager to test out a strategy of getting in line right before closing. This played out almost perfectly. After a quick ride on Toy Story Mania, we got in line a few minutes before close and waited less than 20 minutes for the marquee Disney World ride. We recommend this strategy, even if Disney Genie says otherwise.

RotR Storm Troopers DHS

I guess the downside of that strategy for me is that there’s not much time to take photos afterwards! We were quickly but kindly ushered out of an empty Galaxy’s Edge before finding a few people near the park entrance.

Hollywood Studios definitely received the least amount of special additions for the anniversary but that’s not surprising considering the gains the park has made in the last 5 years. Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land and Runaway Railway all have added decent to great attractions to what a was a very lacking park. I’m not saying that Hollywood Studios is a finished product or great by any means, but it has at least been brought up to respectability and is ready for the next step. Personally, I’d like to see that next step be fresh entertainment park wide.

MMRR Chinese Theater DHS

The next day, we moved from Bay Lake Tower to Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House. We had decided not to go to a park this day as we were working and didn’t have much time to do anything besides a later dinner at Disney Springs that night. Getting from Bay Lake Tower to Animal Kingdom Lodge is a little strange but not as hard as some other hotel-to-hotel transportation. We ended up taking a bus from the Contemporary to Animal Kingdom followed by a bus from there to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We didn’t have to wait very long at either stop, thankfully.

That night we had a quick shared meal at Homecomin‘. Naturally, the meal did involve some Fried Chicken but we also included a salad because vegetables are a precious commodity in Disney World. As usual, the restaurant did not disappoint! We went back to the hotel after doing some late night shopping and getting ready for the next day at Magic Kingdom, which is where we’ll pick up the next installment of the trip report.

Bay Lake Tower fountain

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14 replies »

    • They did raise prices at some point but it wasn’t anything outside of the normal yearly raise all theme parks do.

      • Agreed. But they were the last of any theme park to resist making it a paid service. Universal and six flags parks have done it for years and years now. I’ll bag on them plenty for some of these upcharges that I wish didn’t exist, but I also think there needs to be some credit for going against the trend for so long.

      • Oh I didn’t know that Universal and Six Flags had a paid FastPass like service before Disney. I don’t pay attention to Universal Studios as much as Disney, so I had no idea they even had a FastPass system. You’re right though, we (or I at least) should give Disney credit for being the last theme park to jump on the trend. But now I’m curious, since Disney wasn’t the one that started the paid FastPass system, how did it start and whose idea was it?

      • The first one I was aware of was Universal with what they call the Express Pass. I know that’s been around for at least a decade! I don’t know when six flags parks started doing the same type of system but I would guess around the same time.

      • Huh, that’s strange. The Express Pass name sounds familiar, but at the same time, I have no memory of what it is and had no idea it existed.

        Paid fastpasses though, what a mean thing to come up with.

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