Florida October 2015
Dates: October 18 - October 24, 2015
People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth
- 10-18 (Travel Day)
- Disney Notes
- 10-19 (Magic Kingdom)
- 10-20 (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
- 10-21 (EPCOT)
- 10-22 (Disney's Hollywood Studios)
- 10-23 (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
- 10-24 (Travel Day)
SUNDAY OCTOBER 18
Went to church in the morning. Mom and Dad Witte took the boys out for lunch while Sarah and I got their van packed with our meager amount of luggage. When they got back to the house we had the boys get ready to leave as though we were going to Luke’s soccer game. We all loaded up in their van and headed north. At Eureka Road we headed to the airport. Luke quickly asked as we turned into the airport what we were doing. Sarah said maybe we were just driving through. We finally pulled up to the departures area and that’s where the questions really started. I hopped out and said, hey boys, let’s hop out here. And said we were taking a plane ride today. We gave a few clues to the plan but kept our ultimate destination a secret. We only gave them the big clue of “MCO”.
We headed in and got bags checked and then made it through security. Sarah had her bag double-checked and forgot she had a small Cabela’s multi-tool in there which we had to give up. We headed for the gate to sit. The boys then figured out we were headed to Atlanta as our gate signs mentioned. They got things out of their backpacks which we had packed for them. When it came time to board we put their boarding passes into their hands. Then Luke finally noticed that MCO stood for Orlando.
We had forgotten to check-in on time yesterday and by the time we remembered we were checking in at B22 to B26. We had some concern about finding seats together. Well when we boarded we were pleased to see that the final 12 rows or so were mostly all empty still so we had no trouble. I sat with Luke while Sarah sat in a row with Jonah and Seth behind us. The boys spent the flight mostly playing on their phones. Sarah and I used up drink coupons we had. I had a tasty rum and coke. Sarah wanted to try a Leinie’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy but they brought her an Oktoberfest by mistake. Flight arrived into Atlanta on time, may have even been 3-4 minutes early.
In Atlanta we were excited to see the Chick-fil-A until we remembered it was Sunday. They also had a Five Guys restaurant with Luke and Seth getting food there. I opted to try El Taco and was unimpressed with their nachos. The taste was average and they got my order wrong. Sarah got some nachos from a place whose name started with Baja but I couldn’t remember the rest. We ate and watched the time go by til we boarded for Orlando. We had numbers starting at B38 on this flight and again were able to get two rows together although this time we were the 2nd or 3rd row from the very back.
The crew we had on our Orlando leg was fantastic. It was a husband-wife combo and their daughter-in-law. Plus their son was a ground worker for SWA in Orlando. They sounded like lifers with SWA and their love for the company showed. They entertained in several ways on the flight. Funny horseback riding related sound effects at takeoff and landing. It was the husband’s birthday and so the wife over the loudspeaker had everyone help her “bake him a cake” with candles. We all turned call lights on with the cabin lights dimmed and it looked pretty cool. Then as we were in our descent they had us do a toilet paper race where each side of the plain unfurled a roll of toilet paper to see who reached the back first. Then both sides set their long rolls in the aisle. Then the attendant in the back pulled the edges of the paper into the rear lavatory, flushed the toilet, and it sucked the entire long strands down the aisle into the toilet. It was a hoot.
Once in Orlando we made our way to baggage claim, got our bags and then went downstairs to a really long hallway that led us to Dollar’s counter. As usual I had to listen very carefully and dodge their deceiving questions to make sure I didn’t sign up for anything extra. Once I had what I wanted we went outside, crossed a roadway, and then into a large garage where we found the Dollar cars.
I took video of ours and we headed out of the garage. As we got onto HWY 528 to head west we were surprised to run into a toll booth. We hit it within a minute and all I had on me was a $1 bill and a $100 bill. Nothing told us what the toll was until we hit the booth and found it was $1.25. Luckily Sarah had a quarter. We quickly exited before having to pay another $1 toll and took a side road all the way west to I-4 where our Quality Suites hotel was located.
The hotel had external corridors and the room was in average shape. A bit aged and not perfectly well taken care of. It had two double beds and a couch for us to sleep 5. The Cubs v Mets NLCS game 2 was but the Cubs lost 4-1. I watched this the whole time and also took Jonah and Seth to swim for an hour.
What to carry?
I carried a single backpack on me the whole week and this worked great. It gave us a place to put souvenirs and also carry snacks for the day. We also carried a pair of water bottles and some water flavoring which kept us drinking well all day without constantly buying soda and other drinks. Carrying snacks like fruit snacks, twizzler pull-n-peels, granola bars, and fruit bars also worked out great saving us on food money. Would contemplate even carrying in a lunch meal.
My Disney Experience App
This app on Android and iOS was great. It linked to our Disney account upon which was our tickets and the fastpasses we would reserve. Using this app we could keep close track of wait times on all attractions. It was interesting to see their patterns of usage. We would see popular attractions drop in wait time and it would seem it wouldn’t be long and they would jump back up as people flocked to it. We also used the map on the app to see where we were and where we were going.
Pros/Cons of Staying on Resort of Off-site
Staying off site had the advantage of cheaper overnight prices. On the downside we paid the $20 parking every day and had to spend time driving to and from the parks every day. It was nice having continental breakfast at the hotels we stayed at, I don’t know if the Disney resorts have a free continental breakfast. It is also a benefit of staying at the resorts that they give you one of the MagicBands that have all of your expenses, your room key, and your fastpasses tied to it.
You get three FP+ every day and only in a single park. Once all three have been used you can sign up for another. If you stay on resort you can reserve them 60 days ahead of time. Others, like ourselves reserved 30 days ahead. We found that only the absolutely most popular attractions needed to be reserved 30+ days out like Toy Story Midway Mania. When we changed our plans to put Animal Kingdom from Thursday to Tuesday we even found we could reserve all of those attractions. When Hollywood Studios moved to Thursday we weren’t able to get Toy Story Midway Mania.
It was helpful to have the most major attractions reserved even early in the morning. We never were able add a fourth pass because by the time we used the first three there wasn’t anything reserving later in the day. We found there are a number of attractions just not worth using an FP+ on them. At least with October crowds this was true.
We had expected very modest crowds having gone in mid-to-late October. Monday at Magic Kingdom was very busy. At certain points in the day almost every attraction there had a 30+ wait time, the big ones at 60. We expected this was due to it being a Monday and the park being open til midnight. The rest of the days still felt busy but we found wait times a bit more modest. We would wonder what a busy summer day would look like as there were always lots of people around.
We bought our tickets from Undercover Tourist which according to the Disney Tourist Blog was one of three authorized third-party sellers. Their prices were a few percent cheaper than buying straight from Disney. We bought their “5-Day Magic Your Way” tickets which were the same price as the four-day tickets. It was evident that once you hit about 4 day tickets adding more days were practically nothing. We paid $321.95 a piece for the adult tickets (including Luke) and $300.95 for the two child tickets. Tax was already included in these totals. Its possible the Disney price offerings don’t include tax. We purchased the tickets about a month ahead of time.
We purchased e-Tickets which were not refundable but we were able to access them almost immediately and start making fastpass reservations. When we arrived at the park we took a print-out of our e-Tickets to the will call office and they gave us 5 credit card like passes which served as our “tickets” and “Passes” for the whole week. I had to go onto the My Disney Experience website to link these tickets to our online accounts on Disney’s site.
MONDAY OCTOBER 19
To get to the Magic Kingdom one must begin at the Ticket and Transportation center. So we did. We arrived and immediately hopped on a parking lot tram. This took us up to the Ticketing area. I showed them my confirmation printout and they gave us five credit-card like passes which would serve as our ID/Ticket/etc. for the week. We then had the choice of hopping in line for the monorail with the majority or taking the ferry across the lagoon with the minority. We opted for the Ferry today and it was a nice smooth ride across the water.
We arrived at the Magic Kingdom and headed for the main gates. They did bag checks and then we arrived at the entrance gates where they had each of us scan our ID along with a fingerprint. Then we headed into Main Street USA. We walked through taking in the sites and decided to head into Tomorrowland.
Stitch’s Great Escape – simulates you taking training to be a security agent for the Galaxy and then the arrival of a level 3 criminal, Stitch. It ends in a circular room where you handle the arrival of Stitch and his subsequent escape. In that room Seth got scared and freaked out. This surprised us and unfortunately we think it affected him for the rest of the week. He was always scared of being scared again. It was a listed 10-minute wait and this turned out about right.
Carousel of Progress - Not really for the kids. It showed half a dozen different scenes with animatronic actors showing difference scenes of progress through American history. It was a Walt Disney classic at a World’s Fair. Practically no wait.
Tomorrowland Speedway – Seth was not tall enough to drive so he rode with me. Jonah was just barely tall enough to drive but wanted Sarah to ride along. Luke drove his own car. This is the ride where the cars are basically go-karts but have a vertical metal track to keep them in a single path. The boys enjoyed it. Listed 20 minute wait and that was about right.
Mad Tea Party – The classic teacups ride. Luke, Jonah and I rode together and they loved spinning the tea cup. Seth and Sarah rode together with a bit of spinning. Listed 10 minute wait, about right, rode this around 10:30am.
Saw that Alice and the Mad Hatter were doing pictures near the Mad Tea Party ride and so hopped in the line of roughly 30 people. Waited for about 15 minutes and Sarah was within about 4 people of the front and then the actors went on break. No photo :(
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – All five of us rode this and even Seth did okay. Riding in railcars and a decent rollercoaster with ups and downs and some twists and turns. Used a fastpass+ on this.
Lunch at the Golden Oak Outpost and Tortuga Tavern. Luke and I got pulled pork at the Golden Oak while the other three grabbed foot at the Tortuga Tavern.
Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse – Just a simple walk through, was mostly filled with people so a slow walk through.
Buzz Lightyear Space Spin – Wonderful ride we remembered from our last trip. In a two-person car with lasers which you use to shoot at small targets racking up points all the way through. Sarah was our expert shooting in getting points. Used a fastpass+ on this.
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor – Nice new attraction. Theater style seating. Characters animated on the screen and mostly led by Mike Wazowski with a few other monsters stepping in to do stand up comedy. What was interesting is it seems some of the voice animation was done on the fly with a real live actor doing the voice. The characters were able to interact some with the audience. They would also do camera shots of certain people in the audience to help with the interaction. Was some good fun. Listed 20 minute wait and this was about right. Line was short but we waiting in the holding room for awhile for the previous show to end.
Tomorrowland People Mover – Simple, yet interesting. Basically a tram that moves all throughout Tomorrowland introducing all the various attractions in the area including a ride through part of Space Mountain. Was a fun relaxing way to spend about 10 minutes. Listed 10 minute wait, might have been just short of that.
Space Mountain – All five of us went through the line for this. Along the way they had some simple screen arcade games that some groups of people in line could play to kill time. As we neared the loading area Seth got scared and so he and Sarah ended up not doing it. The other three of us rode and had a good time. Its basically an indoor rollercoaster in a lot of dark with occasional line. Good twists and turns and some small hills. Used our third fastpass+ on this.
Grabbed some ice cream. This was a lifesaver. The boys were getting restless and hot and weren’t used to the waits that were expected on a number of these rides. I think they were also somewhat adjusting still to the surprise of the whole week.
Splash Mountain – This is the classic Brer Rabbit themed ride. As we walked to this we passed the Fantasy Parade going on through Liberty Square. The wait went fast and the boys all enjoyed the ride. Even the big hill went well. There was also a small hill in the dark which we weren’t expecting. Only got a tiny bit wet and the boys all probably thought this to be their favorite big ride in the Magic Kingdom. Listed wait was 45 minutes but it turned out to be only 12 minutes. We would see later this was almost certainly due to the Fantasy Parade. Wait times in this area of the park all dropped temporarily and then spiked after the parade.
Pirates of the Caribbean – Not sure what we wanted to do next I walked us into Pirates. They had updated this some to more heavily theme with the Jack Sparrow character who appeared in several scenes. Still a fun ride. The listed wait was 55 minutes and in actual it was about 50 minutes, longest wait to this point of the day.
Haunted Mansion – Mark, Luke, and Jonah headed for Haunted Mansion. Spooky graveyard theme through all the waiting area sprinkling in some humor. The ride put all three of us in a single car side-by-side and it was a conveyor belt style ride. Plenty of spooky haunted house scenes with good use of holograms and laser projection of faces on objects. Not too scary and no fast speeds or big drops for the ride portion. Listed wait of 40 minutes, actual was 35 minutes.
It’s A Small World – Sarah and Seth did this while the other three were in Haunted Mansion
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – walked by this looking for something to do and so tried it. Simple ride with no speeds or drops going through scenes of the Blustery Day story from Pooh’s adventures. Still enjoyable for adults. Listed wait of 15 minutes.
Cosmic Rays Starlight Café – for supper. Basic American food that made it easy to pick out entrees for the boys.
Walking back to Adventureland as things were starting to hit sunset. We passed a grass area with ducks starting to come out onto the sidewalk. Very tame, walked right up to us and obviously looking for food.
Jungle Cruise – An old classic and again looking for more to do decided it was worth the wait. Ran into a family of line-cutters as we waited who got into a verbal scuffle with the group of older ladies behind us. It was dark when we finally rode it and thought this would work, but it seemed to make it harder to enjoy some of the visuals. Still a nice ride but probably better in the day time to enjoy. Listed wait of 55 minutes, actual 53 minutes, longest wait of the day.
At 7:55p we found a spot along Main Street for the Electrical Parade. It was tough finding spaces though they had them taped and roped off to help people find spots. We were an hour early for the parade and already things were mostly full. To kill the hour of wait on a sidewalk with no seats I took turns with the boys taking them into the gift shops and to the bathrooms. Parade finally started at 9pm with a theme musical background and numerous floats highlighting characters. An enjoyable parade as always. As the parade ended we heard there would also be a light-show on the front of Cinderella’s castle and fireworks. The parade ended around 9:30pm with the fireworks coming at 9:45pm. We were getting so tired of standing so we decided on another attraction.
Buzz Lightyear Space Spin – The wait was short so we hopped in line for another go. Sarah beat us all again, fun to do this one over and over. Listed wait 15 minutes.
As we got out of Buzz Lightyear the light show on the front of the castle had started. Its amazing the images they could project with laser light on the castle. Standing room was at a premium. So we watched the show and walked slowly making our way to the exit. The fireworks started up as well though we didn’t stay to watch the whole thing. Our tired legs finally won out and we headed out of the park. As we exited we found out we could still see the fireworks well even from out in front of the park. Not a bad place to watch actually! We hopped on the monorail and headed for the T&T Center. We didn’t make it to the midnight closing but it was easily 10pm.
We made the drive out to Polk City and Camp Gilead. Sarah had reserved 3 nights there but was having trouble connecting with our contact. We arrived and things were pretty dark there except for a light on in the house next to the welcome center. We waited there about 20 minutes while Sarah tried calling and even knocked on the door of the house. Finally we saw an older couple on a golf cart riding through the grounds. Sarah made contact with them. They too tried to contact the lady in charge of loding and couldn’t get her. So they figured out a room for us to stay in, cabin #11a and helped us settle in for the night. It had a double bed and a sofabed with a small kitchen. It was enough.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 20
This morning we drove in from Camp Gilead to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Sarah and I had last been here in 2005 with her parents when Luke was just a baby. We had remembered this as one of our favorite parks. We had originally slated this for Thurday because the crowd calendar said that was best. However, after our Monday at Magic Kingdom we realized we were pretty sure we wouldn’t do a second day there and were thinking Animal Kingdom would take our repeat day on Friday. Not wanting to do this two days in a row we moved Animal kingdom to Tuesday and Hollywood Studios to Thursday.
We arrived at 9:12am, almost at park opening. We had read ahead about the Wilderness Explorers program which allows kids to get a book and get sticker badges throughout the park while learning things. We entered the park, saw a few animals in the entry area and then hit the Wilderness Explorers hut to get started. This led us to grabbing a few of the early badges still close to the front and on our way to the Africa area.
Kilimanjaro Safaris – We had a fastpass for this in the afternoon but saw the line was short so we hit it right away this morning. This ride loads about 20 people up onto an oversized jeep and drives through the various enclosures with animals. Really is one of the highlights of Animal Kingdom. We saw plenty of animals including elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest and even a lion sleeping high upon a rock. Many more animals as well. Had a great tour guide/driver. The only “ride” portion of this was they drive past a road closed sign and the driver makes you think things are going wrong. They then drive over a bridge which is made to produce crunching metal sounds and several pieces look out of piece, it even starts to tip a bit as you are in the middle. This got the boys attention. From our 2005 trip I thought I could remember an element with poaches chasing us but I believe they’ve since dropped that. Listed wait was 20 minutes, in actual 10 minutes.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail- This is a nice forest trail heading past numerous animal exhibits including the gorillas. Also had several stops along the way where the boys picked up more of their WE badge stamps.
Wildlife Express Train – This train serves the sole purpose of carting people out to Rafiki’s planet watch. There are two rows of seating, one elevation, and everything faces out the same direction. Its about a 5-10 minute ride out, no more than 5 on the way back in.
Rafiki Planet Watch – Starts with a nice easy trail leading to the Conservation Station building. In here kids could get their pictures with Rafiki and also go through several exhibits displaying small insects and arachnids, also a surgery station where animals get medical treatment, with an audience. The boys got several more WE badges here. Outside is the petting zoo and a small area where they are starting up an animal show. We saw a show time was just starting. It was a pretty primitive show where the leader (a bit of an awkward guy) showed off an owl, a guinea pig, and another animal or two. Then we hit the petting zoo which was also right there. Basic goats and a few sheep.
After riding the train back to the Harambe, Africa area we hit lunch at the Harambe Market. Sarah tried some curry-style sausage under a corn-dog style breading, I had a beef gyro on pita sandwich. The boys tried corn dogs. The gyro was descent, Sarah said the sausage was a bit spicy for her taste. She also tried a nice sangria drink there.
After lunch we worked our way over to Asia grabbing a few more WE badges along the way.
Maharaja Jungle Trek - Saw great animal exhibits like bats, tigers, antelope, peacock and a birds aviary. They had several places for the boys to get WE badges along the way.
Kali River Rapids – The classic 12-people in a circular raft heading down river rapids. Goes up an initial hill where you see water spouting at the top. You figure the folks at the top of the raft will get it, but the spout stops as the raft passes over and the people at the back of the raft then get it. The raft then goes through calmer waters til it hits the major hill. Not a big drop in terms of scare factor, but at the bottom the splashes get you the most wet. On our ride today we got a moderate splash but really didn’t end up soaked at all. On Friday’s rides this would be different. We used a FastPass+ on this otherwise the wait was about 25 minutes.
On our way over to the Everest area we passed a few more WE badge spots for the boys. They were now nearing their finish with perhaps only 4-5 to go of the 31 total.
Expedition Everest – Seth didn’t want to do this one so Sarah stayed with him. The line gives some nice information on the Sherpa people in Nepal as well as some story information to build up the infamous yeti. The ride was great. At the start does a small hill and them a few easy turns and then goes up the big hill. After the big hill it goes down a small drop for a few turns and then up a ramp that ends with a spot where you think the track has been torn out. It halts there for about 5 seconds, then you ride backwards through some big twists and turns, great fun! This then halts in a room where they project the shadow of a yeti tearing up track in front of you. You then move forward again through a few dips and then the big downhill which is quickly followed with a second good downhill and some more twists and turns. Great fun! Listed wait was 20 minutes and this was about right on. I think we had a FastPass+ for this later in the day but decided to go now with the short wait.
After Expedition Everest, Mark, Luke, Jonah met up with Sarah and Seth by the Nemo Theater and enjoyed looking at all the different Finding Nemo sea gull souvenirs at a street vendor. We then walked on into Dinoland USA and headed into the Boneyard
The BoneYard – A kids play area simulating a dig site. It also has a bridge which heads over the public walkway that heads to another play area which has some mock fossil bones and a big gravel pit (sorta a big sandbox, only the material was larger than sand) for kids to play in. Here the boys got another of their WE badge stickers.
The boys picked up another WE badge sticker on the way out of Dinoland and we headed on to Discovery Island where they got their second to last badge at a small exhibit behind the large Tree of Life. At this time it was about 5:20pm and we saw we were starting to run out of time. We did have enough time we figured to see the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show.
It’s Tough to be a Bug – Only showed a 5 minute wait so we walked right on in to their holding area where only a half dozen people waited. However, we must have been early in the previous show as we stood in the holding area for 15 minutes which then started to fill up with people. The show was in 3D and was mostly led by Flick. On screen they show different bugs coming out and for various reasons they shoot objects in 3D out at the audience. Hopper then interrupts things and starts to “attack” the audience with smoke, bees (which the seats kinda lightly poked you with) and even spiders which dangled from the ceiling. Seth got scared at all of this. All in all a pretty fun show.
We headed to the bridge going south off Discovery Island back to the main WE stand and there got the last badge (for finding animals) and then a special badge for collecting all 31 badges and they were sworn in as Senior members of Wilderness Explorers. After this it was pretty much park closing so we took a look through the gift shop and then headed out.
For supper we drove over to Disney Springs. Our legs were pretty tired but we still walked through most of the area trying to figure out supper and also to hit the LEGO store. The LEGO store had most all of the currently available sets as well as certain individual pieces for purchase. They also had a make your own minifigure area which the boys each did and then purchased. We didn’t end up finding any food affordable enough in Disney Springs so we drove out and hit a Chick-fil-A on our way back to Camp Gilead. We stayed there awhile as the boys played in a playplace and I listed to the Cubs-Mets NLCS game.
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 21
We made the drive in from Camp Gilead this morning to EPCOT. We made it in about 9:15am. We had FastPasses for Sorain’, Mission: Space: and Nemo & Friends. They wouldn’t let you get FastPasses for both Soarin’ and Test Track. So we headed immediately to Test Track.
Test Track – Starts with everyone heading into a room where groups of 2 or 3 gather around a touchscreen where you modify elements of your own vehicle. You start by desigining the “line” or shape of the vehicle. This then gives you a vehicle that mimics your “line” and then you can modify colors and trims and wheels. This is sync-ed to your card of MagicBand. Then you head into another line to wait for the ride. Your group and another group (up to 6 people) are in each car. Every car is actually the same. As the ride begins you drive through different rooms where they’ll test the specs you designed for efficiency and handling and the like. Some of this involves swerving and stopping and then you head outside for the speed test on the long track that heads around the whole building and this was fun. At each of the tests they show your specs compared to the others in your vehicle. At the end your specs are compared to other’s performance from the day. After the ride they have a laser simulation game where your car is projected onto a screen and about 8 people have steering wheels where they can drive their projected car around a little course. This was fun for the kids. They also had a final show room where folks from Chevy were actually displaying (even selling?) real cars. This area had a photo area where you could get your picture taken with a projection of your modeled car. Great attraction! Listed wait was 45 minutes, actual was 38.
Mission: Space – Starts with selecting either the orange or green line. Orange gives you a fuller experience with spins and G-force. We opted for green with the kids. They walk you through as though you are an astronaut in training. The ride begins with hopping into a simulator that is somewhat confined and that you are simulating a mission to Mars. They did a nice job with the movements to simulate some G-force with the liftoff which also made a nice visual on the screen in front. Along the mission each person in the simulator had a pair of buttons to push. Even Seth, with some apprehension, enjoyed this one. Had a FastPass+ for later in the day but went in line without it. Listed wait was only 5 minutes.
Advanced Training Lab – After the Mission: Space ride they have this lab where the kids can have a play area and also join in on some group games simulating a space flight with various buttons for them to push.
We had lunch at the Electric Umbrella around 11:55am. They had an excellent French dip sandwich. While we had lunch a 10 minute shower hit outside.
Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure – To make the World Showcase more interesting for young people they started this Agent P (Perry from Phineas and Ferb) game. We were given a Windows Mobile smartphone (mostly locked down and useless except for the game) to carry on to the England area of World Showcase. There in England we hit the start button on screen and this walked us through several elements of a storyline the phone would display. We would be given clues and even a picture and have to find different parts of the England exhibit. At a few of them there was something we would interact with. At a toy shop, we looked in a window and as we hit a button on the phone screen Doofenshmirtz appeared on a small screen in the store window. It was quite interesting. This took up a good 30 minutes. If we had wanted to we could have continued on to a few other missions at other nations in the World Showcase.
In Canada we found the KidCOT area and the boys enjoyed a good 30 minutes of coloring. We had our second rain shower of the day while in there. While the kids were coloring Sarah and I figured out there was a Passport system they had going as part of the KidCOT exhibits all throughout the WorldShowcase. I went to the nearest gift stand and purchased a $10 passport for each of the boys. These had picture stamps and looked like a Passport that could be used at each of the nations in the World Showcase. At each nation they had individuals who would sign, date and stamp the kids passports and then put a special note in there. We started with the Canada one and then proceeded on.
After Canada we did the Agent P mission in England and then got the England KidCOT passport stamp. By this time our afternoon FastPass+ times were coming up so we walked back to the main EPCOT area.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends- I think they have revamped this a lot from when we were last at EPCOT. Its now a conveyor type ride where you are treated to several nice holographic and projected visuals from the Finding Nemo story. Then you are brought into the SeaBase where you can get wonderful underwater viewing of the coral reefs, manatees, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and numerous fish. There were several room of undersea viewing to take in. They also had a fun kids room highlighting the Sharks from Finding Nemo with things for kids to play on. We didn’t end up doing the Turtle Talk with Crush exhibit while we were there. Used a FastPass+ on this at around 2:30pm
Soarin’ – this attraction we definitely remembered from last time. You get seated into a row of about 8 seats and are then lifted up off the floor to hover in front of a huge screen with feet dangling. Unfortunately we were in the third row which meant we were towards the bottom of the screen and had others feet dangling above us. I’m pretty sure the show is the same as it was in 2005. You fly/soar over several beautiful places in California including orange groves, canyons, a river, Yosemite and even Los Angeles with it all ending at the Magic Kingdom. They even have some special smells put into the air along the way. We all loved it. We did read along the way somewhere that this attraction was closing in January 2016 until late spring 2016 for renovations. We used a FastPass+ on this.
In the World Showcase they were in the midst of their 20th annual Food and Wine Festival. We decided to use this to our advantage. In each of the typical nations of the World Showcase they had even more nations highlighted with small food stands each with their own featured entrees, beers, and wines. At the Belgium stand the boys tried Belgian waffles. One with a chocolate ganache, one with a berry compote, both looked delightful. In America we tried big Mickey-shaped soft pretzels with cheese and they disappeared quickly. Supper tonight basically became a buffet of trying things from different nations. In Germany we tried a pair of bratwursts with some apple strudels and this was all good. In China Sarah had supper at the Lotus Blossom Café. Along the way the boys were getting Passport stamps at each of the locations we passed. In Italy we stopped to watch a neat street performer who was juggling and doing other tricks with soccer balls. Surprisingly, Luke and to some extent the other two really enjoyed the whole World Showcase thing with the food. In Norway we went into a building that had an interesting exhibit explained the influence of Norwegian culture on the movie Frozen and the ties between the two.
In Mexico we went into the large ziggurat building which had exhibits and a big marketplace with a restaurant. We also found a ride in there called the Gran Fiesta Tour highlighting Donald Duck and two other animal characters as the Tres Caballeros. This was a simple boat ride going through different rooms with visuals, simple and entertaining enough.
It was about 8pm when we finished the World Showcase. We decided there was time for one more big exhibit. We walked back over to Soarin’ with a listed 40 minute wait. Thankfully it turned out to only be 25 minutes. It was just as much fun the second time and we held out at the line to get the front row this time which made the visuals even more amazing. After Soarin’ we hit the gift shop for the boys to look around a bit. Were in there till the fireworks began at 9pm. We went outside and walked a bit towards the World Showcase lagoon where we could see the Illumination Lights show that was being put on on a globe in the America area at the south end of the World Showcase.
After leaving tonight we headed back to Camp Gilead for a quiet and restful evening.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 22
This morning was our last at Camp Gilead. We had asked about staying extra nights but iw as going to be $100 for the first night and $60 every after. So we packed things up, left a nice thank you note and made the drive once more back to Orlando. Today we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We arrived there right around 9:00am.
Star Tours - We decided to head straight to Star Tours. We had planned to hit Toy Story Midway Mania first as we didn’t have a FastPass for it but the line was already 60+ minutes. At Star Tours you are given 3D glasses and then put into a starship shaped simulator with 5 rows of about 8 seats. Everyone faces a screen in front as though the ship you are in is a bit of a taxi service. This ride is fascinating in that it had two different openings, which would then take you to one of three different planets for an adventure, you would then get a special distress message from either Yoda, Leia, or Ackbar, and then go to a second set of three planets where the adventure would end. The use of 3D in the flying visuals and the motions were very well done making for a pretty realistic experience. On our first Star Tour we had the Tatooine first adventure which involved joining in a Podrace and then finished on Naboo where you fly into the planet core with a Gungan ship. Along the way one of the Sea Monsters grabs hold of our your ship and their tongue (in 3D of course) is stuck to our front windshield and you see into their mouth. You end by flying up out of the water and into a Naboo Starfighter base where you crash into an N1 fighter whose rear tip crashes through the windshield in 3D. Very fun!
Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Area – This is a typical kids play area where we spent 20+ minutes until our next fastpass would kick in. Sarah and Seth would stay here longer.
Rock-n-Roller Coaster with Aerosmith - Mark, Luke, Jonah went on to the big rollercoaster. It starts with meeting Aerosmith in a holding room where they invite you to their concert and provide a limo in the back alley to get you there. You then move on to the loading area where the coaster cars are supposed to be a stretch limo. The ride starts with zooming from zero to 60 in about 2 seconds. The ride is all inside and dark for much of it but it was the only coaster in all four parks with some upside down loops. A fun coaster with good twists and turns and Aerosmith music playing in your head restraint the whole time. Even Luke and Jonah enjoyed it. We used a FastPass+ on this around 10:15am.
Star Tours – While Mark, Luke and Jonah were on the coaster Sarah and Seth did Star Tours again and they got Hoth for their first planet and Geonosis/Death Star for their second.
The Great Movie Ride – We all did this next. It is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and puts about 20-30 people in a very large moving car through different scenes from different classic movies. Some were older like Singing In the Rain or Casablanca or even Mary Poppins, some were modern and fun like Indiana Jones, Alien, and a Star Wars mention. All in all a decent ride but a bit of a commercial at the end for TCM. Listed wait was 25 minutes, actual was 21.
Had lunch at the ABC Commissary. After lunch we spent some more time at the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area to wait for the Stunt Show at 1pm.
Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show – We used our 2nd FastPass+ on this but what a waste. They tell you the FP+ is good for 12:40p-12:50p. We started into this FastPass+ which quickly merged right into what looked like the general public line. When we got into the stadium seating at about 12:44pm it was half full already. ??? We thought there would be priority seating or something. Oh well. While we waited for the show to start we enjoyed playing trivia games on the big screen.
The show itself was fun. They acted as though it was a movie set with a film crew filming different stunt scenes with cars. They explained some of their filming tricks as well as how the stunt cars were specially modified. There was even a brief appearance by Lightning McQueen which was a nice tie-in. The show lasted about 30 minutes.
Star Tours – Being close by and walking through large crowds after the stunt show this seamed like a great choice. It was also time for our FastPass. This time through we got the Kashyyk first screen with the Naboo ending again. Kashyyyk had us flying through the trees chasing several different things.
Tower of Terror – Spent a few minutes deciding outside the Star Wars gift shop what was next. Luke really wanted Tower of Terror and I as willing to try it with him. Jonah was undecided and ultimately he went with Sarah and Seth back to HISTK again to play. Luke and I waited through line which took us into the Tower Hotel. The ride puts you into an elevator with three rows of seating with each row having about 8 people. It is all tied in to the old TV show “The Twilight Zone”. They explain of a group of people that entered the elevator and the hotel got struck by lightning and then I kinda lose the story from there. The ride ascends up a few levels and then the car moves forward into a dark room with starry lights and some other effects. It moves to the front of the hotel. There the fun begins. The car gets lifted up a few floors and then dropped a few floors. This happened 3-4 times. Towards the top of the ascent we would get to an open air window where we could see out over the park. With our eyes having adjusted to all the darkness this was quite bright. The car finally descends back down to the basement where they let you out. Pretty decent fun and not quite as scary as we had anticipated. Listed wait was about 30 minutes.
The group was back together near the HISTK play area and went shopping at Watto’s Grotto Shopping which had more Star Wars paraphernalia. And big surprise we decided to head to Star Tours again for more fun.
Star Tours – This time we got Hoth for our first planet and then ended for a third straight time on Naboo. The wait was 20 minutes.
Star Tours - As we departed we saw the wait was down to 10 minutes and we were still hoping to hit another ending, so we hopped right back in line for another go. This time we got Hoth again for the first planet and finally got the Coruscant ending.
Toy Story Midway Mania – With the day starting to wane we finally hit the long line for this amazing attraction. The wait line goes through a room where the line winds back and forth amidst many large classic toys as from the movies. The listed wait was 40 minutes, though we no more than got in line and saw that jump towards 60. Sure enough, the actual wait was 65 minutes. It was worth it. The ride puts you in a two-person car, similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at Magic Kingdom. This time you have a gun which has a ball and string pull on the back side. You also have 3D glasses. The carts move through several different rooms with screens where you shoot 3D project balls at various target, Midway-style, racking up points. It was a blast.
After Midway Mania we saw the time was after 6 and headed out to go and get supper. We left the park early at 6:25pm and headed to Cici’s Pizza which was on the way to our hotel. The boys loved Cici’s. We stayed at Clarion Inn & Suites.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 23
We were a little slow in getting left from hotel and we made a stop at Publix grocery on the way to get more fruit snacks so we could have some snacks in the park. We finally made it to Animal Kingdom at 9:55am. At least this was our second day there. We started at DINOSAUR which we had missed on Tuesday.
DINOSAUR – This ride puts you into a moving vehicle with about 12 others. It simulates a travel back in time to get a type of dinosaur with a catastrophic meteor strike impending. You go through several dark rooms seeing certain dinosaurs pop out and some bumps along the way. Finally as the meteor is about to hit you see the dinosaur you’re supposed to find and time travel back. The darkness in the waiting area and the impending dinosaurs scared Seth and so he and Sarah skipped the ride. Listed wait was 20 minutes, 15 in actuality.
Finding Nemo the Musical - This was a true musical with human puppetry and helpful images on a backdrop screen. From a technical standpoint it was really well done. Sarah loved it. It told the story in a condensed version from the movie with lots of songs along the way. The show was about 35 minutes.
Expedition Everest – We had a fast pass for this within about 15 minutes of the musical ending so Luke, Jonah and Mark headed over quickly. The ride was even more fun the second time as you knew what was coming and could enjoy it.
Triceratops Spin – Sarah and Seth rode this while the others were on Expedition Everest. It’s a basic county fair ride where you’re on a flying dino flying in circles with a handle that you can use to fly up and down.
The Boneyard – After our rides the boys had some time to play in the Boneyard and enjoy.
We had lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue sitting in their seating area near the small lake. We could see construction going on around the edges of the lake which looked like seating areas. Not sure what they were building. I’d also read that they are building an AVATAR land on the southwestern area of the park which will include new attractions and possibly more animals.
Kali River Rapids – We got even more wet this time on the big hill that you head down. Was 85 outside and so we really enjoyed this one. We had a fastpass+ for this one today.
Maharaja Jungle Trek – Walked this loop again to enjoy the bats, tigers, and the like. Got some good views of the tigers today.
Flights of Wonder – Saw the 2:45pm show. The show leader was really good. They showed off various exotic birds which would fly from different parts of the show area often just a few inches above audience members heads.
Kilimanjaro Safaris- Had a fastpass+ and so we headed over about 3:55pm to ride this one. Missed a few animals being mid afternoon and didn’t see a lion, but still had some great views and enjoyed the ride.
After the safaris we found some cold water in Harambe. Sarah wasn’t feeling well so she grabbed a seat at a table. The other four decided to hit the Kali River Rapids again. On the walk over the show leader at Flights of Wonder was showing off a great horned owl which we stopped to see. Jonah was able to answer several questions for her.
Kali River Rapids – Hoping to get wet again, Luke, Jonah, Seth and Mark made another go. The listed wait was 40 minutes and actual was 35 minutes.
Sarah joined up with us after the water ride and took Seth. Mark, Luke and Jonah headed on for another ride on Everest
Expedition Everest – Even our third ride on this was a blast. Listed wait was 30 minutes, actual was 15 minutes.
The Boneyard – Having done everything we had wanted to do we headed back to the Boneyard thinking the boys could play for 15 minutes. At 6pm I realized the park wasn’t closing yet and figured out a number of attractions were actually open til 7pm today. The boys were having fun so we ended up letting them play til almost 7pm.
We finally headed out of the park at 7:10pm for our last day at Disney. We had supper tonight at Golden Corral. It was even more expensive than I had expected but we enjoyed it.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 24
Up about 7:15am to start getting things packed up and ready to go. It was close to 7:50am by the time we had our bags packed and the car ready to go. We drove up to the front of the hotel and had breakfast in the lobby and then were on our way. The drive over to Tampa went without trouble and we were there filling up the rental car just shy of our target of 9:45am.
Bag check went easy and we rode the tram out to Concourse C where we hit their security and went through without trouble. We had just over an hour to wait at the gate. As departure neared we grabbed the boys an early lunch from Quizno’s which they would eat on the plane.
The plane left Tampa on time despite being delayed by an angry passenger who had been in an early boarding group and must have caused trouble. We were in the B20’s for boarding and luckily still found seats together. We arrived into Atlanta about 20 minutes early which was a blessing as that gave us 60 instead of 40 minutes while there. In Atlanta I quickly hopped into a busy line at Chick-Fil-A to grab Sarah and I lunch. We ate quickly just as board starting for Detroit. We left Atlanta on time. Flight to Detroit also ran early and we arrived in Detroit about 10-15 minutes early. The boys spent most of the flights today on their phones. I spent time reading and watching a few shows on my Surface. Nancy Gross was kind enough to pick us up from the airport saving us a week’s worth of parking. Fantastic trip!