Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 5

sci-fi-dine-in-car-over-processed


We had the Star Wars Character Breakfast scheduled for that morning (click here to start from the beginning if you haven’t read the previous parts of this Walt Disney World Trip Report), but fortunately I had booked one of the later seatings—props to me for actually looking at the park hours calendar before arbitrarily booking at early seating. I’m finally getting the hang of Walt Disney World trip planning 101!

I’ve already covered the Star Wars breakfast in our full review, but suffice to say, we really enjoyed the experience. The food was good, but it was more about the ambiance and quality of interactions that made it worthwhile…or at least close to worthwhile. In terms of value for money, both Star Wars meals required great experiences, as the food alone did not even come close to being “worth it” at either venue. Obviously our thoughts on these Star Wars meals are moot since Star Wars Weekends have concluded and now the meals are over, but I strong suspect they will return next year. If not sooner…Star Wars meals have many guests screaming “PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY, DISNEY.”

We were at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater until right about the end of breakfast, getting our moneys’ worth both in terms of experience and food. When we finally left, I think it was around 11:30 am, at which time Sarah came to the conclusion that she wasn’t feeling well, and needed to head back to our hotel to take a nap. We had switched to the luxurious All Star Music Resort (& Spa?) for the final two nights of our trip, and I didn’t want to mess with getting back there, so I just decided to stay in the park, despite being fairly tired. (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 4

star-wars-weekends-fireworks

We got close to a full night of sleep that night (if you missed our previous installment at Epcot, click here to start from the beginning), but I was still up fairly early the next morning. Unfortunately, Sarah had some work-related stuff to deal with, so we couldn’t get an early start on the morning. While she was doing this, I went out and wandered around the Contemporary, trying to find some interesting photos. Once you get past the cool a-frame building, there isn’t a ton of photographic interest, so I basically just wandered. Sort of like the rooms themselves, it’s just a modern looking hotel with a really cool hook in the design.

As a kid, I always thought the Contemporary was about the coolest hotel ever, an impression formed entirely as we whisked through it on the monorail. Even when we first returned to Walt Disney World as adults, it was a dream to stay there. Now that we have stayed at many other nice modern luxury hotels around the world, the luster of the Contemporary has sort of worn off for me. Like I mentioned in the first installment, Sarah really liked it, and I love being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom, but it just isn’t a top hotel for me on a list of Walt Disney World hotels at which I’d personally want to stay.

For me, where Disney excels is in the creation of hotels that blend nice accommodations and interesting themes, with an emphasis on the themes. You can get luxury hotels anywhere in the world; frankly, many brands and boutiques do these types of hotels much better than Disney does. Themed hotels are rare, and themed hotels that are well-executed (rather than just a light bit of window-dressing to differentiate the supposedly ‘themed’ hotel from countless other hotels in an area) are exceedingly rare. For this reason, I’d much rather stay at a hotel like Port Orleans Riverside or Wilderness Lodge than the Contemporary. I still liked the Contemporary, but Sarah is enamored with the hotel, and it just doesn’t quite do that much for me.

We got a really late start that morning, and headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends just before lunch… (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 3

fountain-nations-night-epcot-spaceship-earth

After all of the excitement of leaving the Magic Kingdom and waiting for the monorails (if you haven’t read the previous installments of this Walt Disney World Trip Report from the 24-Hour Party in the Magic Kingdom, click here to start with those), then getting back into the room and getting ready for bed, it was just after 8 am. Yet, some “genius” had decided it was reasonable to make a lunch ADR for us in Epcot for 1:30 pm. In defense of that person, after the last two 24-hour parties at Disneyland, we had gotten up around noon each time and headed back to the parks. So maybe it was entirely reasonable for that person to make a 1:30 pm ADR, and maybe you should all just get off his back, okay?!

Ultimately, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. While we both were tired and probably could have slept a little longer, we both have a difficult time sleeping while it’s light out, so the quality of our sleep would have been low. Instead, we quickly got ready and made our way over to Epcot. We even made some FastPass+ reservations on the monorail; admittedly, it was pretty nice being able to make these in advance and not having to run around picking up paper FastPasses.

I’m actually looking forward to making some further in advance of our next trip. We don’t typically do much advance planning these days, but I don’t consider spending 10 minutes to make a Toy Story Mania, Soarin’, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ reservation all that much work.

Lunch was at Restaurant Marrakesh, a spot we had decided on after much deliberation. We debated doing it, Teppan Edo, Monsieur Paul’s, Rose & Crown, Nine Dragons, or Chefs de France. We settled on Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch and Chefs de France for dinner. For as many Walt Disney World restaurants as we have experienced, we actually have not done several in World Showcase, with Restaurant Marrakesh being one of those restaurants. This has nothing to do with the ethnic nature of these restaurants (we are open to just about anything), but more to do with lukewarm reviews for many spots. (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 2

wishes-tomorrowland-bridge-near-finale

It was mid-afternoon during the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party, and despite being up since 4:30 am and only having had about 4 hours of sleep the night before, I was feeling pretty good. Everyone has always told me that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my “hyperactive pace” as I got older, but since graduating, I’ve found that I’m now able to sleep even less. Not that any of you care about that, but I pride myself in forcing myself to push the limits, so humor me. I’m sure it will catch up to me at some point, but hopefully by that time science finds a way to replace the weak parts of me with robot features.

Sarah, on the other hand, was not doing so well. She had met me in the park after 10:30 am, and was already feeling like she needed a nap to make it through the night. In fairness, she didn’t slept until 10 am, but she takes longer to get ready and wasn’t in much of a rush to get to the park. I guess sunrise photos present a challenge when taking iPhone photos for Instagram! ;)

We decided to grab some coffee and cola from Auntie Gravity’s (their iced-coffee is small and disgusting, for what it’s worth) and wander around Tomorrowland for a bit to see if that worked as a pick me up before she decided whether she’d walk back to the Contemporary for a nap. We did the Peoplemover a couple of times, getting off in between because there was actually a line for it! I’m not sure how many times we did the Peoplemover total during the 24 hour day, but I’m going to go with “a lot.” I have some roughly hour-long gaps in between some photos, and most of those gaps can be explained by relaxing on the Peoplemover. For the record, neither of us fell asleep on the Peoplemover. It really was just a matter of relaxing and chatting. I’m a staunch ‘no talking during attractions’ person, but the Peoplemover is one exception to that rule, which is partly why we do it so much.

After these rides, Sarah decided to play it safe and head back to the room for a nap so she could make it all the way through the night. I hadn’t been taking many pictures during the afternoon, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to wander around and get some shots. Here’s what I came up with… (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 1

walt-disney-world-entrance-sign

Thanks for joining us on our Walt Disney World Memorial Day 2014 Trip Report. It’s been a while since we did one of these for Walt Disney World, and a lot of trips have occurred in between, so we figured it was time to get back to our roots with a Walt Disney World trip report…like we used to do in the ‘good ole days.’

We are fortunate in that we are able to travel regularly, a result of a dedicated effort we made a few years ago to make travel our #1 priority at this point in our lives, with any necessary spending sacrifices made elsewhere. Because we travel so regularly, it may seem a bit disingenuous when I say I was really missing Walt Disney World, because I hadn’t spent a full day in the parks since last October (I spent 2 hours in Epcot earlier this year and Sarah was down for a few days with her sister this year, but my last full day in the parks was the beginning of October 2013). I know it certainly reads like a “First World Problem,” and it is. But that’s how I felt. Even when we could only afford to go to Walt Disney World once per year, we went through ‘withdrawals’ only a couple of days after our trips were over, so I don’t think it reeks of entitlement too much that I missed the place after being away from the parks for 8 months.

In that time, we weren’t exactly taking a hiatus from Disney, so I can’t even begin to complain. Like I said, we’ve been fortunate to be able to travel a lot, but there really is something about going to Walt Disney World that I just can’t explain. For me, it’s my “home” resort and I have nostalgia for no other Disney destination besides Walt Disney World. Even though I think the parks in Tokyo are far superior to the ones at Walt Disney World, nostalgia is a powerful drug (even for me). Besides, there’s something I find legitimately, truly special about visiting Walt Disney World. Maybe I am hopelessly sentimental, but I still have a passion for Walt Disney World that I don’t think I could ever have for any other parks. I don’t know…maybe that just makes me a fool, because I have seen what the other global parks have to offer.

Still, there’s something about riding around the TTA Peoplemover as the sky turns deep blue and the neon lights illuminate Tomorrowland that just makes me smile. No matter how many times I’ve seen Impressions de France, I still get goosebumps from seeing its sights and hearing that score. I still look up at Spaceship Earth as we close down Epcot, and just marvel at its grandeur. I still tear up during the Kiss Goodnight. We may visit Walt Disney World less in favor of other places, but we still love it. Is a lot of that love rooted in nostalgia and our memories? Sure. I see nothing wrong with that, as that’s not the only reason I love Walt Disney World, and each of us do things on a daily basis grounded in our memories and attachments.

That should give you an idea of why I was approaching this trip with a good amount of excitement. I was looking forward to being back “home.” It was also nice to have plenty of time to plan and tweak our Advance Dining Reservations, and to give serious thought to what we wanted to do. Suffice to say, we packed a lot into the 5 day trip. Good thing one of those days was going to be 24 hours long! (Well, they all would be that long, but…you know what I mean!) Unfortunately, I did not have an active Annual Pass, so we couldn’t book FastPass+ in advance. Long story, but I let mine lapse and waited for our Disneyland Annual Pass to also expire so we could start fresh with Premier Annual Passes instead of having separate Annual Passes for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

My normal ritual of getting McDonald’s from the Indianapolis Airport had to be skipped because we cut it a little close on time, so let’s fast-forward to our arrival. We were staying at the Contemporary to start our stay, and unfortunately, we had to wait about 15 minutes before even getting on a Disney’s Magical Express bus, then another 20 minutes for it to fill up, and then nearly another hour as we were the last stop for the bus. There was nothing magical about the experience, and it really has us rethinking our staunch “no rental car at Walt Disney World” policy.

Fortunately, we built some cushion into our first night schedule and didn’t schedule our ADRs at Chef Mickey’s until 9:15 pm. Unfortunately, when we got to our room, we found that our MagicBands didn’t work to open our room, so we had to go back to the front desk and spend more time with them troubleshooting the problem. Not the first problems we have had with MagicBands, and not the last, either.

To their credit, every Cast Member was incredibly nice and patient in dealing with these problems, and I can only imagine the abuse the frontline Cast Members deal with on a daily basis–despite them having no say over how the MyMagic+ system operates.

They were able to get us in the room, nixing my plans of setting up a tent in the Grand Canyon Concourse and falling asleep to the peaceful sounds of monorails gliding overhead. Also nixing my plans of having to figure out where to buy a tent in Orlando and how to convince Security (and Sarah) that sleeping in a tent in the middle of the Grand Canyon Concourse was an okay idea. (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report

Over Memorial Day weekend, we headed down to Walt Disney World for the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party, Star Wars Weekends, and just some general good times. During our first trip to Walt Disney World of 2014, we dined at a variety of restaurants including Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table, both Star Wars Character Meals, and more! We also took a ton of photos, and tried out new-to-us things at Walt Disney World.

This trip report takes a look at our experiences during our 5-day Memorial Day weekend trip. This trip report has all of the classic elements of a Bricker trip report: little sleep, lots of photos, tons of eating, and an incredible adventure with Nicolas Cage to kill the ghost of Osama bin Laden. Okay, that reference probably only made sense to SNL fans, sorry, but it if awkward references and unfunny jokes aren’t your thing, it’s probably time to close out this browser tab!

We hope you join us on this exciting* and terrific* trip report! Bookmark this page as it will be where we organize the updates in one convenient location. Links will become active as the Parts are posted. Click the links below to go to each installment… (more…)