As promised, MouseBoss is excited to introduce the very first FRIEND FRIDAY post.
Without further adieu, the Hardiman Family Trip Report:
Walt Disney World Trip Report
January 30, 2014 – February 6, 2014
Who doesn’t love Walt Disney World?!?! My husband and I LOVE Disney, and we are raising Disney World loving girls, ages 7 and 4!! We are aware there are other parks in the Orlando area, however we love Disney so much, that we are not willing to give up a minute of time in the World. This was our 9th trip to Disney World for both me and my husband, and the 3rd trip with our children. For our last 4 trips, we have stayed at Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans Riverside and really love it there. We often travel as a family of 4 when we go on vacations. This time, we traveled with my parents as well as good friends of ours and their girls (ages 9 and 4 y.o. twins). In all, we were a party of 11. I was the primary planner for this large group of 11. I am a planner by nature and the more experienced WDW traveler, so it was natural that I would take the lead. Like I said before, I am used to traveling with just my husband and 2 girls. So, traveling with 11 people made me nervous. I wanted everyone to be happy and enjoy their vacation. With that being said, it worked out wonderfully. We flew in together, we stayed at the same hotel and we made lots of plans together, but we all had a little time on our own too.
Something I should mention, I hate lines. Anything more than 20 minutes seems ridiculous to me. So I try to plan accordingly to avoid lines as much as possible. One of my top planning strategies is going in early February, which I have done 5 times. This has always been known as off-season. However, that blew up in my face this time, as it was the busiest I have EVER been to the world. Crazy crowds!! I am starting to think there are no real downtimes in Disney anymore. My second biggest planning strategy is using fast passes. However, just weeks before we arrived, Disney World went to strictly Fast Pass Plus (FP+). This limits you to 3 fast passes per day, and only one park. I was not a fan and it took me until 4 days in to realize how much you could truly change. More on that later.
I mention our dining reservations below. We did have a standard Disney dining plan and I made all reservations about 3-4 months before our trip (when we booked it). I made some mistakes this time. I booked way too many character meals. At some point, you just want to eat undisturbed. We also had a dinner reservation every night, and that was way too much. Sometimes you didn’t want to rush to a reservation as you were enjoying the park, or you were just too tired and preferred something more casual like counter service. Next time, we will limit character meals to 2 or 3 and I will also only do a few dinner reservations and make the rest breakfast and lunch.
Port Orleans Riverside:
Port Orleans Riverside is one of Walt Disney Worlds moderate resorts. We keep coming back to this resort because we love the gorgeous landscaping and overall set up. It is a New Orleans theme with old southern plantation style mansions as well as the rural bayou cottages of Louisiana. The Sassagoula River (Disney made) runs through the center of this resort and transportation via boat is available to Downtown Disney from the resort. We have always stayed in the mansion buildings. This time we stayed in one of the newer themed Royal Guest rooms. Our girls enjoyed the touches left by each princess throughout the room. However, my husband and I didn’t feel the theming of the Royal Guest room was truly worth the extra money. It was just ok to me. Being in a Royal Guest room also means you are often further away from the main building based on the locations of the Royal Guest rooms. We are just as happy in a standard room as we don’t spend much time in our room. Check out www.portorleans.org for more information on the resort.
Magic Kingdom is by far our favorite park and the most visited on each trip. During this trip we went to MK on four separate days. It is always our first park, and walking down Main Street for the first time, each trip, ALWAYS takes my breath away. I get so excited as the castle comes into view! Don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of the Photo Pass photographers and get several family photos from different angles around the castle. This time, we purchased Memory Maker, which means all photo pass photos, ride photos and restaurant photos were available on our account for our download. This was a fantastic extra. We paid $150 for it before we left, and it was great knowing we already owned every picture that was taken of us.
Typically, our first MK ride is ALWAYS Pirates of the Caribbean. It is a family favorite. However, we broke tradition this year and headed straight to the new Fantasyland. Don’t worry, we hit Pirates before we left the park that first day.
We loved how the new Fantasyland came together. It is a very seamless addition to the old Fantasyland. I didn’t miss Snow White’s Scary Adventure – but I was truly sad that The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train wasn’t ready quite yet. This was the only new Fantasyland attraction not completed. We were able to see the train on test runs and it looks like it will be a blast. We made sure to see everything new as well as enjoy our old favorites. For the new attractions, Enchanted Tales with Belle was fun for the whole family. We did have a Fast Pass Plus (FP+) for this. This was a great Disney addition with plenty of Disney magic and is not to be missed. Also new, was Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, it was very cute, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was the same as the The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride at Epcot, only it was better!! We walked right on to this ride. Then there is the new Princess Fairytale Hall for meet and greet with princesses. There were two meeting option, Cinderella and a visiting princess on one side and then Rapunzel and a visiting princess on the other side. Both of these are separate lines and the visiting princess changes from day to day. We got a FP+ to meet Rapunzel and skipped Cinderella, as we had already met her a few times. Using the FP+ was important to us, as typically the wait for Rapunzel was running 85 minutes or more. With the FP+, we walked right in.
So with that being said, it was hard to appreciate all of the little touches and details set up throughout the queue area. It was very pretty inside and nicely set up to meet each of the princesses. Snow White was visiting with Rapunzel on the day we met them, which worked out well as my youngest LOVES Snow White.
Also new on the list was the Storybook Circus area. The Dumbo ride now resides here, which has been doubled into two identical side by side rides. We ended up needing a FP+ for this as we found the wait was never less than 60 mins. Goofy’s Barnstormer is in this area as well. We didn’t have a FP+ for it and we waited 40 minutes – in the blazing sun. But it was a must do for my kids. There is also a character meet in greet here under an air conditioned big top circus tent called Pete’s Silly Sideshow. The meet and greet dumps you out into a new store…one of Disney’s smartest marketing schemes throughout the parks. We actually spent a lot of time and money in this store. Disney is no fool!! The Storybook Circus area also includes a new splash pad for the kids, but we skipped this. I have to admit, I did not love the theming of the new Storybook Circus area. It felt so “un-Disney” to me, more carnival like. However, with that being said, as always, Disney did not miss a single detail in creating this new themed area.
Stepping outside of Fantasyland, there were a few other new experiences for us at MK. We met the new talking Magic Mickey at Town Square Theater. We did not need a FP+ for this. If you time it right, the wait is really reasonable. The worst wait times are early in the day and late in the day. Talking Mickey was a great experience – my kids LOVED it and so did we.
Another new experience for us, but not new to MK at all, is the opening day ceremony. Yup, it took us 9 trips to make it to MK before it opened to see this. Now that I have seen it once, I will never miss it again. It was awesome – and I highly recommend everyone has to see this. My kids loved when the train came in with all the characters on it…heck who am I kidding, I practically shed a tear out of pure joy!
During our 4 trips to MK, we rode 85% of the rides here. Without having the unlimited fast passes, I did find we skipped several rides as the lines were too long. In most cases, we were only able to ride each ride one time (which was not typical in the past). With the creation of FP+ also came a much longer list of attraction available for a fast pass. For instance, Pirates of the Caribbean never had a fast pass before FP+, now it does. However, we feel something went wrong here. Pirates was a ride that was almost always walk on, now it often had a standby line of 45 minutes. We saw this happen with a few rides. Another issue we ran into with the FP+ system, that we never saw before, was that there was a 15 minute line for FP+ users to get to the turnstile at Big Thunder Mountain. In all, with a FP+, we waited 30+ minutes for this ride. Otherwise, we had no other issue with the FP+ system in MK, besides being limited to three options.
We ate at a few restaurants in MK, including dinner at Be Our Guest and breakfast at The Crystal Palace. Be Our Guest was a fun experience. Great food and amazing theming. The Crystal Palace had a nice atmosphere, the food was good, however it took the characters a very long time to circle the restaurant. We also ate at, 1900 Park Fare, Cinderella’s Happily Ever After dinner at the Grand Floridian. Although this is not in MK, it is closest to this theme park. Since we were leaving from our hotel for this, we decided it would be easiest to take a taxi to and from, as Disney transportation between hotels is a pain and time consuming. Besides Cinderella who was kind of a dud in terms of being in character, we found the step sisters, Lady Tremaine and Prince Charming to be wonderful in their characters and they were all great with my girls. The food was good, but not great and it was very crowded.
Our must sees at MK: Town Square Mickey, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Fairytale Hall, Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Carousel of Progress, Celebrate the Magic and Wishes.
We spent one full day, and one evening in Epcot. For our full day, we had FP+’s for Spaceship Earth, Soarin’, and Living with the Land. I was not at all excited about these options, however, Epcot is tiered in the FP+ system, and didn’t allow us to have both Soarin’ and Test Track. Our original plan was to get to Epcot early and ride Test Track first, before the line was unbearable. Our plan didn’t work out because both myself and my youngest woke up with fevers – so we medicated up and it took us a little longer to get out the door. We still got to the park around 10, but by then, the wait was already 65 minutes and we never saw it go below this time. So sadly we didn’t get to ride Test Track. We never even used our Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land FP+. We rode both of these rides at times that there was no wait and we were able to walk on.
I found out two days later that if you do not redeem a FP+, you can go in and reschedule it that day at the same park. With FP+ being so new, I thought if you skipped it or missed your time, there was no going back. I also learned 2 days later that you could very easily change the times of your FP+ selections too. I was able to set up one day that was completely tailored to us and picked all the times and attractions we wanted. But it took me 4 days in to figure this all out. Ok, so back to Epcot. Epcot definitely has less rides, but there is far more walking and plenty to see.
We lucked out at the Character Spot in future world as we had the characters all to ourselves. They spent a lot of time with us, and Goofy even photo bombed my girls photo with Minnie Mouse.
We spent the morning in Future World and the afternoon in the World Showcase. We like skipping lunch and having a few snacks around the World Showcase. My husband swears by the fish and chips at the Yourshire County Fish shop in the United Kingdom, I always love the crepes in France and we both agree the frozen margarita’s in Mexico can’t be beat for the price. We had dinner reservations in Epcot at Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast at the Garden Grill. The food is served family style and was excellent. The atmosphere of the restaurant is lacking. It does slowly spin and you can see some of the scenery from the Living with the Land ride, but still not what you expect for Disney theming . We also found it to be a bit cramped. The next time we came back to Epcot, was for a dinner reservation at Akershus Banquet Hall in Norway. Everyone enjoyed the cold appetizer buffet available, including the kids. After dinner we watched Illuminations from the lagoon edge just outside Norway, and had great viewing.
Our must sees at Epcot: Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Turtle Talk with Crush, Living with the Land, Soarin’, Test Track, Maelstrom, Illuminations and enjoying strolling through the World Showcase.
I will be honest up front, and tell you that Animal Kingdom is my least favorite of the four parks. It always seems congested and hot here. We did one day in Animal Kingdom, and truth be told we left before 3pm. Our FP+ for this day included Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest and Dinosaur. We didn’t like the time of our Safari FP+ (late day) and didn’t know we could change the time as of yet, so we decided to head straight to Kilimanjaro Safari first thing and ride it standby. We had a lot of luck during our Safari as the animals were all very visible and most were extremely close to the truck. I do miss the old elephant poaching scenario that used to add a little drama to the ride. Now it is a straight forward animal viewing. I look forward to see if AK can draw me in more with the addition of the new Avatar Land.
Our must sees at AK: Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Dinosaur and It’s Tough to Be a Bug.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
I have always enjoyed Hollywood Studios, but I do feel there is a lot of room for Disney to improve and add to this park. We visited this park on two days. In addition to all of our favorites, we tried out the new The Legend of Captain Sparrow. They gave us tickets to come back 5 or 10 minutes before the show started. This attraction fell flat and we all walked out feeling like there should have been something more. We took the two oldest girls into The Magic of Disney Animation where they teach you how to draw a Disney character during a 20 minute class. They chose Daisy Duck for our class. This was a first time for me and I really loved it. My 7 year old was not happy with how her Daisy came out and nearly let it ruin the rest the of her day. Beware to those with perfectionist children. This same child loves fast rides, and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of her favorites. She talked me into riding with them this trip, since we had someone our 4 year old could stay with. I agreed and wished I hadn’t. The drops of that ride are way too much for me. But she couldn’t wait to go again!!
On our final night in Disney World, we did the Fantasmic Dinner Package, where we ate at Mama Melrose and got passes to preferred seating for the Fantasmic night show. We all enjoyed our meals at Mama Melrose. The theme of the restaurant fit nicely with the menu. The dinner package worked out well and I would highly recommend it as we did not need to arrive super early for seats for Fantasmic and we still got great seats up front. I hadn’t been to this show in a few visits so this was the first time for the girls and they loved it. My youngest lit up when the boats with characters came out. It was a great ending to another awesome trip to Disney World!
During the trip, we also had breakfast at Hollywood and Vine – Disney Junior Play and Dine at Hollywood Studios. This was definitely one of the best breakfasts I have had in Disney. The food was excellent and the little girls in our group loved the newest editions of the characters, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, and our waiter was amazing.
Our must sees at Disney Hollywood Studios: The Great Movie Ride, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Beauty and the Beast stage show, Disney Junior – Live on Stage, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Toy Story Midway Mania, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Backlot Tour, Muppet Vision 3D and Fantasmic.
Disney is always such a memorable trip for us and it was nice reliving it again as I wrote this trip report for the ‘Mouse Boss’. If you are looking for more information about something we did or I mentioned, feel free to contact me – Lorihardiman@comcast.net .
Thanks, Lori! Sounds like a great trip!
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