My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 6: “So, What’s The Plan?”

March 25: “What Are We Looking For?”

While a day at The Magic Kingdom needs to be almost meticulously planned lest you find yourself hanging around the hub saying, “What do we want to do?” and then you wind up eating the sub par chicken nuggets at Tortuga Tavern and seeing The Country Bears 4 times because all the other lines are too long, trying to over structure an Epcot day is in exercise in futility.

So I try not to overthink it with Epcot. What I hadn’t considered, with Epcot’s COVID hours is that those first two hours walking around in Future World and getting all the rides done are pretty key in that lack of structure. But we’ll get there. I started the day around 8, knowing that Epcot wasn’t opening until 11, and knowing that I was just going to get a coffee and a pastry for breakfast anyway, I decided to take The Skyline (MY LOVE) over to Art of Animation and get my coffee and pastry there.

I love it so much. The transfer station at Carribean Beach is well organized and signed and my god, the ride from Caribbean Beach to the Pop Century/Art of Animation is wonderful. When you dip down over Hourglass lake it is just so magical. I’ve always pushed Port Orleans over Pop and Art, for my own preferences, as it’s usually not much more expensive, but I think the Skyliner changes that calculus quite a bit.

I got a coffee cake and a cold brew. (Me to the nice lady getting my coffee, “Is, is there almond milk?” Her response, “Oh my goodness! Yes!” I was so relieved. I don’t like asking for it when it isn’t clear, but not starting my day with a giant swig of dairy is much better on my stomach) I then got on line to head back to Epcot, and the line was long, it took about 20 minutes to board. Then the line to transfer at Caribbean beach was another 10. I was getting stressed as my parents were texting me that they were heading for the boat.

I got back in time to head to my room and get cleaned up and we still made out 11 o’clock opening, and I’m very glad I did the Skyliner ride, but I probably should have considered the loading delays.

We scanned in at International Gateway and got Mom’s wheelchair and headed towards the front of Future World. Unsure of what the deal was going to be with the wheelchair, our first step was Spaceship Earth, which has a back entrance and loading. We happily rode our time machines and then headed to The Seas, visiting with Nemo and then walking around the tanks and looking at the various fish.

We had a lunch reservation at The Garden Grill and then decided to ride Living With The Land before checking in. I love Living With The Land, it’s such a fun time capsule of what they thought they were doing with Epcot, and probably the last of that strange, boring and silly thought experiment. Then we checked in for a lunch at Garden Grill.

Mom had requested a character meal if they were happening. This seemed a good choice, with it’s traditional American Menu and social distancing wise, having Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale walking around on one rotating platform while we sat on the other made for a fun and more spontaneous experience than I could have even imagined.

But let’s talk about the food. My god, this is a wonderful meal. Roasted turkey and beef, stuffing, seasonal vegetables, a big old salad, macaroni and cheese, and then a berry cobbler for dessert. (Also a cupcake for the birthday girl.) All incredibly executed and served quickly and effeciently. Plus, it’s a slowly rotating platform and you get to see all of the Living With The Land biomes again! (Or for the first time if you didn’t ride the ride.)

After lunch we got on Journey Into Imagination and then Mom declared she wanted a nap/pool time. I was still raring to go, and decided to head back over to Studios to do some Star Wars based shopping. Wandering back into Battuu I felt giddy, and I headed to Doc Andar’s Den of Antiquities to get myself a holocron, and to pick up a couple of Kyber Crystals for Jess. She also requested a First Order pen and while waiting on line I decided to get a Green Milk. (I went green rather than blue because I will always pick citrus over berry) and then found a bench at Ronto Roasters and just, looked around and watched people.

It was pretty great. Because I was with company most of this trip, my quiet moments where I could just be in the parks were fewer this time. I do love them though. It’s a big part of what brings me back over and over again.

Aside from the rides and restaurants and good service, these are incredible spaces to simply be in. After that I hoofed it out to the boat dock, and waited a little while for the boat and quickly hopped in the shower.

My hope for the evening was to do a little mini “Drink Around The World” crawl, hitting Italy for Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, Mexico for La Cava and UK for Rose and Crown before our dinner at Chefs Du France. After a misunderstanding about timing. (I’d said I wanted to be back in the park at 6:30, which my dad took as, “get to the boat by sometimes around 6:30.”) ANYWAY, while I waited for my parents I decided to head in and check out the lines for the bars. La Cava was wrapped all the way around the pyramid, so I decided to hop on.

After fifteen minutes and finally hearing from them, I was only just in the lobby and we were told that because of a sanitation need, it would be another 15 minutes before anyone got back in.

After checking in with my parents, we opted to meet in Italy instead. Turns out Tutto Gusto CLOSES at 7. I was, not happy, to put it mildly. We landed on grabbing an outdoor cafe table and get wines from La Bottega Italia.

This is part of why I don’t make strict plans for Epcot when I’m with other people. (When I’m by myself it’s because there’s such a fun sense of discovery when you’re just wandering around) I always wind up disappointed and pouty. This is not helped when I’m with my father, who was trying to coax me out of my pout. I assured him I would be fine a minute, I just wanted to be disappointed for a minute and needed to rethink the evening.

We decided to keep the same trajectory, but stick with the outdoor bars. So after finishing our wines, we headed over to Mexico to go to La Choza De Margarita (good as an alternative, but not nearly as interesting a menu as La Cava) stopping to admire the Topiaries for The Flower and Garden Festival as we went.

At La Choza, I got the Mint Cucumber Margartia (delicious), Mom got the Mango Frozen and Dad got the classic Frozen. A Good time was had by all, as we perched on a ledge outside of the patio.

Our final bar crawl stop was Rose and Crown, which had no line and we walked right up to the bar, and then found seats on that patio, where we talked with a couple of girls about my age, who were visiting from Queens. Dad got a Guiness, Mom got a Harp and I got my traditional Rose and Crown Snakebite. Watching the sun set over Showcase Lagoon is wonderful, but seeing the braziers remain unlit hurt my heart a little.

I’m never going to super miss Fantasmic, I’m always happy when I go, but it’s not a show I go out of my way to see every time. Yes, I cry every time “Touch The Sky” kicks in while I’m watching Happily Ever After, and I missed that, but sitting with a beer in the dark in Epcot without the stirring strings of Illuminations (Or whatever Harmonius is going to sound like) really drove home how strange this trip was.

After finishing our beers, we went and checked in to La Chefs Du France. I’m a fan of this restaurant and was happy to return, even though, were it not for my mom’s birthday, I might have pushed for a different venue where I haven’t yet eaten. But we had a wonderful meal, complete with another fantastic server.

After dinner we contemplated our next move. It was just about 10 o’clock, and the park was open for another hour. I suggested we could either go on Soarin’ or, if we wanted, we could walk over to one of the bars at the hotels for a night cap.

“We could go back to Abracadbar!” Dad exclaimed, and laughing Mom and I agreed, so off we trotted, grabbed the exact same table and got our whiskey’s and enjoyed being in until last call (11).

I assured both of my parents that there was no reason for us to rush to Animal Kingdom in the morning, I was not interested in rushing to pack before 7 AM, in order to check my luggage and head to the bus stop in time for an 8 o’clock opening. We decided to aim for getting to the stop around 8, rather missing the opening for a smooth check out experience.

We parted ways and then headed back to our respective hotels for bed.

Tomorrow! We head to Animal Kingdom, and head back south.

My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 4: “TO THE SPIRES”

Alright, here we go! No preamble (Except to Apologize for the lateness, this took longer to write than I thought it would)

Tuesday, March 23: “Bright Suns, Traveler!”

I didn’t sleep super well, I was pretty stressed out about getting to Hollywood Studios early and also getting us on Rise Of the Resistance. I woke up around 5:30 AM (as you may know from previous trip reports or your own experiences, it is not really possible to get coffee or breakfast that early, I was able to MAKE coffee in my room though, so yay?)

Anyway, after drinking coffee and showering, and then running down to The Marketplace to get some biscuits (preorder on the app! As recommended by social distancing guidelines!) I set my countdown for Rise of The Resistance boarding groups.

I didn’t get it.

Womp womp.

Relaxing then, I texted my parents to check in on their timing, and was told that they would be ready to get on the boat at my “8:00 or I’m leaving without you” timeline. So I began walking over to the Dolphin, and got to their room.

We were to the boat dock at The Swan and Dolphin by 8:15 and at the turnstiles by 8:30. And thank God we were.

Hey, y’all, if you’re going to Disney World while the reservation system is still in place? Make sure that the reservation covers your whole party. Because our reservation just covered me.

So, we were then sent over to guest services where the wonderful Rachel did some clicking on her magic tablet and got all of us into the reservation. It was a very stressful and guilt inducing fifteen minutes. But Rachel was great and were it not for her, we would have had a much more difficult week.

Once we arrived back at the turnstiles and got through we headed straight on back to Galaxy’s Edge and got right on line for Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. I did manage to keep it together, sobbing wise as we walked through but then, oh, then we got to the room where the Hondo animatronic was talking to Chewie and I just lost my shit. As a Star Wars fan and a theme park fan this is an incredible moment. The robot is perfection, moving with ease and smoothness that is nearly human and it’s Hondo! Who doesn’t love that guy?

Then you board the Falcon. Mom and I were pilots and Dad was a gunner. We did not score well, but I did almost poop my pants when I learned I was the one got to “punch it” as Chewie does. Seriously, it’s a magical moment. The ride is, I agree a little bit too short and relies a little too heavily on the video game mechanics, but there’s enough good about it that it’s still super fun.

This is probably my 5th? Version of Poe. Sorry Not Sorry

After that we walked around Batuu, as there wasn’t enough time to get on another ride before my build a lightsaber appointment. We did a few Photopass stops and I cried a few times and Mom and walked through the market place, while Dad attempted to buy a coffee. (He couldn’t because Ronto Roasters requires the app, and my father does not put apps on his phone)

I love Batuu, it really does feel like you stepping into Star Wars and it’s awesome. Then my lightsaber appointment came up. Once again I miscalculated and it turns out each builder is only allowed one witness, so Dad came with me, and Mom once again went in hunt of some caffeine for Dad. (Wound up with a Diet Coke).

Saavi’s Lightsaber Workshop was probably the Galaxy’s Edge experience that had been most hyped up to me. Every blog praised it. Jess and Margarita both talked about how it made them cry. When Melvin and Lora got back from their trip, Melvin practically tripped over himself to show us his.

It did not disappoint. The Imagineers did a wonderful job of using that nuclear grade John Williams music to set you in the mysterious and powerful zone of the Force, and The Cast members guide you through your experience with calm and excitement.

After this we decided to grab lunch at Docking Bay 7. Mom and I both got the chicken and dad got the ribs.

Once again, a huge hit. The restaurant itself is very cool and full of ambience and the food is fabulous. It’s also a reasonable portion, which for a theme park, is a big deal, because you are usually either given way too little food or like a giant pig trough. This is actually the correct amount of food for a grown adult to eat. Fascinating and great.

After lunch we got on line for Slinky Dog Dash, and while waiting tried for Rise of The Resistance again. We didn’t get it. It’s fine. It’s a reason to go back. I really very much enjoyed Slinky, but I’m always going to like a Disney Coaster. I like harder and more intense Coasters too, but there’s something just so great about going just fast enough for a thrill, while also getting a cool view and something of a story. The final moment where Wheezy sings, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” is about as fun a moment as any.

After Slinky, we headed to try out Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. *Sigh* Here’s the deal kids. This is a good ride. The trackless vehicles are fantastic. The mix of screens and animatronic show scenes are great. There’s a really incredible moment involving often neglected Mickey & Friend’s character Daisy Duck. (I stan The Duck crew, but you all know this) but it’s not good enough given what it replaced. It simply does not live up to the magic and perfection of The Great Movie Ride, which, if it were in another park would have been considered an untouchable classic, I’m just saying.

After that we decided to get in line for tower of terror which was 2 hours and OMG, I love that ride but 2 hours is way too long to wait for it. However we were killing time before we headed to our ultimate destination, Oga’s Cantina. So it worked out.

But Oga’s! It’s very fun! I got the Bespin Fizz (I was dressed as Poe, so I got to rep my other fave, Lando, this way) , Mom got the Fuzzy Taun Taun, Dad got a beer. (Unless it’s mostly gin, my dad is not really a cocktail guy) We walked around and luckily stayed long enough for the music to loop around to the Cantina Song. I definitely want to head to this place with fellow nerds. While Dad was awed, and I am the Star Wars fan that I am because of him, I can only imagine how much fun I’d have had in this space with my friends.

After that, we decided to take a break, before dinner, our reservation at Toppolino’s Terrace at The Riveria, with a meet up at The Abracadabar on The Boardwalk. Watching my Dad fall in love with a Disney bar warmed my heart. I like Abracadbar fine, though it will never replace River Roost in my heart, it’s a lot of fun and has the location going for it. After drinks, and Dad making best friends with our server (AND LETTING ME PAY!) we walked over to get on The Skyliner to The Riviera.

Please note that I did not realize my mask was upside down until we were on the boat back

Is it possible to enter into a monogamous romantic relationship with a transportation system? Because I think it’s true love between me and The Skyliner. The veiws! It’s so fast! And comfortable! It takes you to International Showcase, which I love! Just, I adore it. We’ll talk even more about my love of it in a few days.

“I give to you and you give to me, True Love, True Love…”

We arrived at The Riviera and walked around a little before getting on the elevator to Toppolino’s Terrace. While I still need to check out Dahlia Lounge but I would pick Toppolino’s over California Grill, if I was ranking rooftops. The view, of the entire resort and even out to I-4 is incredible. The menu is limited but beautifully executed, we had some good wine and even a free champagne toast. (Those Celebration buttons really will do you good.)

After dinner, we decided to take a quick stop over at Epcot. We got on Frozen Ever After and then headed back to the hotels. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was nice to take a walk around World Showcase at night, and to have Frozen Ever After Knocked Out.

TOMORROW! Mom realizes not being in constant pain is worth more than her pride, we find a world of laughter and world of tears, plus Dad tries The Grey Stuff, which is as advertised, delicious!

Revenge Of Dapper Day Disney Trip Preview!

Guys! I’m off to Disney World again this week. (SHUT UP! YOU HAVE A PROBLEM! I’m FINE!)

So, as always I thought I’d do a rundown of what I have planned, what I’d like to do and then when I do the trip reports, we can all laugh about the plans going off the rails, sound good?

First of all, named the trip “Revenge Of Dapper Day” since it’s the third one. My third Dapper Day and the third time I’m going this weekend in April.  (It’s a Star Wars joke!)

Anywho, here’s my thoughts:

Friday April 27: Arrival Day

Hooray for arrival day! I’m not taking my customary 5/6 AM flight for a lot of reasons, but mainly it was because I wanted to actually do a Disney Springs night, and that tends to not happen when I arrive in the morning and want to rush right to the parks. SO! My flight is at 2, I get in at 4:30, which means I should be arriving at Port Orleans: Riverside by 6:30 at the latest. I have a reservation at Maria & Enzo’s at 7:45 after which I plan to just wander around a little before going to The Edison for drinking and dancing. That’s also the official Dapper gathering. If I’m not enjoying myself, there’s a NON ZERO shot of me hopping a bus to the Poly and hitting Trader Sam’s.

Saturday April 28: Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom opens at 8, so I plan to be at the turnstiles at 6:30.

I’m kidding. I‘m not doing that again. In REALITY, I’d like to be there by 7:30, that way I can rope drop over to Fantasy Land and get Mine Train and Princess Meets knocked out. (I’ll be dapper bounding as Cinderella so she’s a must, and obviously I have to see my buddy Rapunzel.) I have a bunch of morning fast passes (Space Mountain, Peter Pan & Splash Mountain) plus I’ll hit the other heavy hitters with lighter lines (Pirates, Mansion, Small World, Jungle Cruise) and then I’m thinking I’ll go over and do a brunch type meal at The Grand Floridian, after checking out the Dapper Day pop up shop there. I don’t have a reservation, but I doubt I’ll have trouble getting a table at Grand Floridian Cafe, there seem to ALWAYS be reservations for that day of!

I’ll probably pick up a fast pass and maybe ride the riverboat after that before my afternoon break, where I FULLY PLAN on spending at least an hour sitting by the pool. I never do pool time on these trips and I always regret it. I’m hoping to then either do Riverside Mill quick grab or maybe head to Springs for a late lunch/supper type meal depending on timing, before going back over to MK for the evening (Aiming for around 6).

I love evening at The Kingdom, so I’ll likely wander, do a few rides, maybe character meets, but the one thing I absolutely want to do this trip is head to The Contemporary around 8 and see if I can get to California Grill Lounge for Happily Ever After. Then I’ll head back to the park for my absolute favorite time of day post nighttime show park time. God, I love it, I love the lighting and swimming upstream from the crowds leaving at Main Street (or Hollywood Ave, or The Oasis, Or…I’ve actually never stayed at Epcot post Illuminations…) There are a few things I SPECIFICALLY want to do in these two hours (Dumbo, People Mover & Big Thunder Mountain) but mostly again, I think I’m just gonna grab a Dole Whip and walk about. The park closes at midnight, so I likely won’t go out afterwards, but if I’m SUPER antsy, I MIGHT go to Jellyrolls, (Which stays open until 2) or Sam’s (open until 1 I think?)

Sunday April 29: Epcot Dapper Day and FRIENDS GALORE!

I’m really looking forward to Sunday. I’m hoping to get up and over to Studios for it’s Extra Magic Hour, and hit it’s 4 rides being done by 9:30-ish (this is a truly non difficult thing to do over there at the moment…) I don’t feel the need to over indulge at the Launch Bay or do any of the shows, since I’ve done them all a few times, and I want to get to Epcot for Dapper Day festivities.

I have a 9:30 Frozen fast pass (PSYCHED!) so I don’t have to worry about rope dropping it, and I left my third open, (second was for Spaceship Earth) so that I can hopefully pick up Soarin’ after that. As y’all know, I prefer light scheduling for Epcot days since it’s a wander around and find your fun park (as opposed to Magic Kingdom, where I hyperventilate if my morning isn’t SUPER STRUCTURED because otherwise SO MANY LINES). I haven’t decided on my bound, I’m too fat for the dress I initially wanted to wear, the thing I put together instead looks a bit too casual, though is still very period and I’m waiting on a few pieces I ordered from Amazon as a third alternative, which isn’t a bound at all, just dapper. (I’m hanging out with Juli today, I’m sure she’ll help me decide)

BUT most excited of all for this day, my brother Mike and his girlfriend Megan are going to meet up with me here. They’ll be at a wedding in Sarasota on Saturday and were looking for something to do for the rest of the weekend, and this just sort of worked out. We’re also meeting up with our friend Nick and Jen and their kids (YAY! BABIES!) (Also Nick and Jen!) and Meg’s cousin. We’re doing a late-ish lunch at Biergarten (2PM) and an 8:15 PM drinks/desert/small plates at Spice Road Table (Though I’m continuing to look for Pub reservations throughout the week. MAYBE WE’LL GET LUCKY!) I’m excited for Biergarten, and Mama loves her Hummus fries so woo!

Because we’ll be with Mike, we’ll likely wind up back at Springs for the night festivities, as he feels about Raglan Road how I feel about Trader Sam’s. It’s his all time favorite Disney Spot. I haven’t done the pub properly, so I’m sure this will be super duper fun!

Monday April 30th: ANIMAL KINGDOM HOORAY!

Mike’s dying to go to Pandora and I’m never in a million years going to say no to time at Animal Kingdom, so that’s what we’re doing in the morning. My flight isn’t until 10 PM, where as Mike and Meg head out at 7, so I’ll have the late afternoon/early evening to myself and I’m torn between MORE ANIMAL KINGDOM, and Studios or Epcot or Springs, but I’ll play it by ear…I’ll definitely do a good meal, where to be determined, but hopefully somewhere new, around 6, before getting a Lyft to the airport around 7:30 or 8. (Suggestions welcome, someplace with bar/lounge seating preferred…just because solo dining…)

I’m excited for a lot of things this trip but mostly I’m excited to get bits of a solo trip and hang out and share new memories with people I care about. It’s the best of both worlds! Honestly, if I had one thing I would have changed about my November trip it would have been insisting on splitting off and doing my own thing a bit more (or changing my flights so I had some solo time…) just because I’m so used to doing things on my own in the parks that I bristled a bit at being on someone else’s time table the entire time.

Overall I’m excited to head back, and I love that this has sort of become my little welcome the good weather back tradition. (And that it happens to coincide with Dapper Day now is extra fun.) Seeing Epcot done up for Flower And Garden Festival is sooo lovely, it’s my favorite time of year there, aesthetically. (Though I haven’t done Festival Of The Arts…maybe next year…)