Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
Day 1: On our first day, we woke up at 4 to head to the airport, and we arrived at about 8:30 am, making our way to our resort, Bay Lake Tower. I received my birthday pin, and we went over to the Wave for breakfast. Their buffet is absolutely wonderful, including everything from pastries and waffles, to eggs and spectacular sweet potato pancakes. These sweet potato pancakes are a huge highlight, being soft and delicious. They pair well with the honey butter that is included, but is strangely placed towards the end of the buffet away from the pancakes. If you ever make your way to Contemporary, definitely give this restaurant a try! From the Wave, we travelled to Epcot immediately getting fastpasses for Soarin. To our surprise they were at 2 pm, when we only got their around 11. We accomplished pretty much everything in Future World, including Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Mission Space, Living with the Land, The Circle of Life, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Imagination. It was a bit weird to not be able to go on Test Track, but I’m certainly anticipating this new version. This was my first time seeing Captain EO, and I have to say that I was very impressed and loved the show. Now when we went on Soarin, we were thrilled to be placed in the coveted first row, where the illusion does not get disrupted by dangling feet. However, there were huge, noticeable black spots over parts of the screen that looked like massive dust bunnies. Honestly, for such a popular attraction, they should probably clean the screens more often. We ended our day at Epcot fairly early, but accomplished the entire Future World side in a short time. We ate at the Contempo Café, a delicious quick service restaurant filled with a little more than ordinary theme park food. They feature delicious flatbreads, salads, sandwiches, and an amazing Pasta with Chicken and Basil Cream Sauce.
Day 2: We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on this day, where we started off our day heading to Toy Story Midway Mania to retrieve fastpasses. Unfortunately, we found out that are admission cards were demagnetized, but instead we received fastpass cards. Before we went any further, we headed to Guest Relations to retrieve new theme park admission cards. We told them we got the free fastpass cards, but were allowed to keep them, giving us 2 sets of fastpass retrievers. We got another set of fastpasses for TSMM immediately. From there, we rode Star Tours, and the Backlot Tour. On the tour, my brother participated in show, being the captain of the ship. As for shows, we saw American Idol with a brother and sister duel (the other girl in the 3 contestants won), The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Muppet Vision, and Indiana Jones. Now I’d like to make a note on Muppet Vision. The show is becoming hopelessly decrepit where the chairs are falling apart, and the sound to show synchronization was not spot on. One thing that really irked me was the water spray effect not working. I found this to be extremely disappointing. After we went on TSMM (where I lost both times), we got two more sets of fastpasses for later than evening! Now who can say they rode TSMM 4 times in a day, without waiting more than 10 minutes each time? For meals this day, we ate at Backlot Express and Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner. Backlot Express has standard theme park fare, but Min and Bill’s has some excellent sandwiches including the Chicken Caesar Sandwich. The sandwich takes a salad, but wraps it up in a baguette, creating something like a submarine sandwich. I received a free cookie from here, being my birthday week and all. For dinner, we ate at our standard favorite, 50’s Prime Time Café. This restaurant was unusually not busy inside, and we were seated 10 minutes prior to our reservations. To our surprise, there were multiple empty tables. Our waiter was lots of fun, as this normally determines the direction of most reviews. We gorged on Peanut Butter and Jelly milkshakes, Wedge Salad, Fried Chicken, and Chicken Pot Pie. The meal was fabulous as always, with the exception of the Southern Greens. I later received a special birthday dessert that was covered with whipped cream. It turned out to be those darn Southern Greens again…
Day 3: We go to Magic Kingdom in the afternoon, immediately jumping into the attractions. We start off in Adventureland where we ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and experience the Enchanted Tiki Room. This is my first showing of the old Tiki Room as well. I have to say I enjoyed it much more than the Under New Management version. Of course no visit to Adventureland would be complete without a Pineapple Dole Whip float. We head next to Frontierland, where we got fastpasses for Splash Mountain. Everything seemed to be in order on the ride, and we got very wet! I don’t think I was this wet on Splash Mountain in a long time. We head to Country Bear Jamboree, and then off to Liberty Square to enjoy the cool air in the Hall of Presidents. Following the Hall of Presidents, we head to the Haunted Mansion for a ride with our ghost host. Ultimately, we have decided to head back to the hotel for a little bit around 3:30, as we have ambitions to stay till 2 am. We head back around 8, refreshed and ready to explore the rest of the park. By this time Thunder Mountain is down, and Space Mountain is out of fastpasses. We head to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the People Mover, and see a hilarious showing of Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. We head to Cosmic Ray’s for a quick bite of chicken nuggets and burgers before we head to Fantasyland. Dumbo is as magnificent as ever, with a stellar kid’s play area. The ride at night was superb with the water fountains and lights. We end our Fantasyland excursion with a viewing of Mickey’s Philharmagic, and rides on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it’s a small world, and Mad Tea Party. We wrap up our day about 1 am, with a stop at Main Street Bakery for some goodies for breakfast, including the massive Cinnamon Roll.
Day 4: After spending the night out at MK till 1, we go to Downtown Disney for some shopping and dinner. We go to some of our favorite stores like Team Mickey, the Art of Disney (where I found some of the coolest pieces of Disney art, look up Brian Rood’s The Curse, Randy Noble’s Disneyland Castle, and Brian Crosby’s Forbidden Mountain), Mickey’s Pantry, Mickey’s Fun Finds, Goofy’s Candy Company, and Disney’s Days of Christmas. We would have to come back to World of Disney due to it being overcrowded at the time. After exploring the shops, we headed for an early dinner at Rainforest Café. I thought this was much better presented than the overly loud, obnoxious T-Rex Café. We started with the Amazing Appetizer Platter which was quite amazing. It featured everything from chips with guacamole or spinach and artichoke dip, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and the delicious Chimi-cha-chas. The chimi-cha-chas consisted of a fried tortilla rolled around chicken, black beans, lettuce, onion, and cheese, served with an amazing coconut curry sauce. We were less thrilled with our entrees, although the Mojo Bone ribs were a standout among the bunch, which included pizza, Rasta Pasta, and a BBQ burger. We ended our meal with a mango sorbet, topped with raspberry sauce and real mango chunks…delicious. After dinner, we headed to our first viewing of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. It was an incredible show filled with excellent acts and performers. The story line is witty, and funny, but still remains a serious and exhilarating tone at points. After never being to the West Side before, I have to say it was an absolute treat. We walked through a few non-Disney shops, had Haagen Dazs ice cream, all while experiencing several musical entertainers. There was probably about 8 all together, performing in different areas, and at different restaurants. It was a really cool experience, and I would highly recommend this for young adults or teenagers who want to experience a nightlife side to Disney.
Day 5: Animal Kingdom, here we come! We annihilated Animal Kingdom, circling the entire park in just less than 5 hours. I think this is the fastest we have ever gotten everything done that we wanted to experience. We literally jumped on the Kilimanjaro Safari, with a superb and knowledgeable guide to our tour. We got quick fastpasses for Kali River Rapids, and Expedition Everest (whose yeti seems to look more depressed). We saw the show, Flights of Wonder for the first time, receiving a pleasant surprise. The show is lots of fun, and shows off some magnificent birds doing awesome flight tricks. We got to ride DINOSAUR, and saw Finding Nemo the Musical, and the always wonderful Festival of the Lion King. The girl, whose name translates to “princess”, was spectacular. She was a phenomenal singer who deserved much better than to be placed at a theme park. We ended our day here with another round of the Amazing Appetizer platter at the larger Rainforest Café. Basically the same thing, but we gorged on this appetizer adventure for our dinner this time. As night fell after our rest, we returned to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic at 9 pm. Before watching the show, we got some dessert at Writer’s Stop (carrot cake cookie, yum) and saw Mulch Sweat and Shears. Before going into the theater, we stopped by Tower of Terror to get fastpasses, for my first time on the ride. Fantasmic was amazing as usual, but I can’t help but like the Disneyland version (from what I’ve seen in videos) with the non-holey Dragon much better. We conclude our day with Tower of Terror. Basically, I’ve never gone on this due to the intense up and down motion. The theming and special effects are awesome on this ride! I screamed my head off the entire way down, but found myself laughing at the end. I can’t believe I waited so long to try this ride, but it was well worth the wait!
Day 6: On my actual birthday, we returned to, of course, Magic Kingdom. We had breakfast at the Crystal Palace, to please the little kid inside of me. It was a delicious breakfast filled with Pooh’s French toast puffs, orange muffins, and breakfast lasagna. We had a spectacular waiter, who made the day get off to a very special start. After breakfast, we began our Keys to the Kingdom Tour with our wonderful tour guide, Landon. Landon was smart, funny, and knew a ton of outside information about Disney and the Magic Kingdom. He was attentive and answered all of our questions to the best of his ability. I asked him several questions about the Disney Internship program, which he highly recommended. The journey of the tour starts off by walking down Main Street USA introducing you to the 4 keys of the kingdom: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. He tells us how they are implemented in everything in the park including the doors, pathways, and the windows of Main Street. We head to the two sculptures (the Partner’s Statue and Sharing the Magic, finding out that they are done as a singular piece that is meant to react to one another. We continue our tour finding out about synergy between all of the lands, as we walk into Adventureland. We take informational ridings along Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion on this tour; arguably 3 of the best Magic Kingdom rides. The tour takes a break with lunch at Columbia Harbor House, my absolute favorite, where I was surprised with a cup of my favorite mac and cheese with my fish in place of the typical side of fries. The tour then ends revisiting Main Street and heading down to the utilidoors. Honestly, it is what I expected; just a plain and simple break room style set of pathways. However, there are some unique things, such as color coordination, and motivational pictures that are set here. It was really quite amazing to see how all the backstage Magic does work. We head to do a few more rides (Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain), and just take it easy soaking in the park after our extensive tour. Dinner reservations are at 7 for the Plaza Inn, another first that we are trying on this trip. Our waiter was a little less enthusiastic that the waiter at Crystal Palace. The menu is short, but kept fairly simple, sandwiches and salads. The strawberry chicken salad was a huge disappointment for me, having about 6 strawberry halves, warm chicken, a small amount of cheese, overabundance of dressing, and so many carrots. The salad mix was something I could have grabbed at my local grocery store, while I thought it would have been something a little more green and leafy. The White Zinfandel vinaigrette was very overpowering and drenched the entire salad. I think I’m just used to better versions of a similar salad, but this one could have been done a lot better. The sandwiches, which consisted of BLT, steak sandwich, and a burger, were well liked in comparison to my salad. Concluding our night was a trip to the Top of the World Lounge for Wishes Fireworks. We got our drinks after about 20 minutes, with my virgin raspberry infused pina colada half melted by the time that I received it (it was still delicious tasting). The food took an unreasonable amount of time, almost 40 minutes. We ordered the soft pretzel sticks which failed in comparison to Disney soft pretzels. I almost wish we stayed for the dessert party, because the crème Brule was nothing special. In fact it was taken when we were outside watching the fireworks, after we requested it to be left there by each of the two waiters. After a very special time here last year, I have to say I will not be returning here anytime soon as I was disappointed by the service and the food.
Day 7: Our last day at the parks, filled with sadness of returning the next afternoon. I have been anticipating going to Epcot’s World Showcase all week. I think this has grown to be my favorite park, even though it could use a facelift and many more countries. The shopping and dining are always fun here. Where else can you get tacos for lunch, iced green tea slush for a drink, and pretzels (Raspberry from Norway, Soft from Germany) for snacks? I love the boat rides, Maelstrom and Gran Fiesta Tour. A low point of World Showcase is the decrepit American Adventure. The speaker system is shot, the seats are falling apart, and the animatronic motions are off. We could not hear parts of the show because the sound faded out at points. The cast member was muffled during each of their speaking parts at beginning and end. The closing handshake between Twain and Franklin was way off to the point their hands weren’t even on the same level. Is this really how America should be represented? If a reimagination of World Showcase ever happens, I would highly suggest replacing this show of failing grandeur with the Hall of Presidents. We continued the trip around World Showcase until 7, when we made our reservations for Via Napoli. This new pizzeria was the highlight dining experience of our trip. While the ambiance in the side rooms is off, being noisy and cold with many fans, the food was spectacular. I would suggest asking for a table in the main dining room. The aqua frescas are a wonderful way to begin your meal coming in strawberry and blood orange flavors. I would recommend asking for the bread that is offered with the olive oil. For pizzas, we had a traditional cheese and peperoni, and Carciofi (a pizza that included mozzarella, pecorino, truffle oil, and artichokes). Both pizzas tasted very authentic, having a brick oven taste. The later was amazing, my favorite meal of the entire trip. For the finale of our meal we had Zeppole Di Catarina, essentially fried donut balls served with chocolate sauce. They were moist, and a super sweet ending to our meal. We concluded our vacation with a viewing of Illuminations, and made our way out of Epcot and back to our resort. We all knew what was coming tomorrow, the trip back to reality.
Thanks everyone for reading my review of Disney World 2012
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