Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Date 145 - It All Started With A Mouse!

Date: Sunday, March 1, 2015 - Sunday, March 8, 2015
Type: Vacation & Travel
Cost: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Planned By: Both

Adam and I decided to go to Orlando, Florida for our 2015 vacation. The last time we both vacationed to Disney World was in December 2008 with his parents. We had an amazing time with them, and decided we now needed to go again just the two of us. We stayed at Disney's Pop Century Resort and utilized everything Disney Resorts had to offer. We managed to visit all four parks multiple times with our park hopper passes and experience Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. This vacation was amazing check out some of our highlights.. and of course photos! Also you can find some of our tips for a great trip at the end.

Day 1: March 1, 2015
  • Woke up at 3:30AM
  • Drove through Winter Storm Sparta that decided to hit Cleveland around 1AM. Took us over an hour to drive what is normally 25 minutes to the airport.
  • Got to the airport, checked our bags, got through security and made it as they started boarding the plane. Not the first time we've been a little close for comfort. 
  • We landed in Orlando around 9AM, changed in to shorts, got our bags, stuffed our coats and jeans in them and found our way to Disney's Magical Express. 
  • Shortly after getting in line I got a text saying our room at Pop Century resort was ready (because we checked in online). We were in our room by 11AM.
  • Our first step in Magic Kingdom was around noon.
  • We has fast passes for Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Before using those we went on a bunch of rides in Adventureland and Frontierland (Swiss Family Tree House, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, etc.) 
  • We made great use of the fast pass system and continued to get more fast passes and ended up riding all but 11 attractions in Magic Kingdom. 
  • We had dinner at Peco's Bill Tall Tale Inn Cafe, a quick service restaurant. 
  • We also watched the Festival of Fantasy Parade, the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic and Wishes. By the end of the day we were exhausted!
Day 2: March 2, 2015
  • Arrived at Hollywood Studios for the 9AM rope drop. 
  • Rode Rockin' Roller Coaster First - great first ride of the day!
  • Checked out the Great Movie Ride & other walk through exhibits. 
  • Used our Tower or Terror, Star Tours and Toy Story Midway Mania Fast Passes.
  • Watched the Indiana Jones Stunt Show and most of the other attractions.
  • Went to the resort for a dip in the pool and some snacks and to change in to jeans (and flip flops which was the worst worst worst decision I made during the trip)
  • Had dinner at the Animal Kingdom Rainforest Cafe. We each had a Safari Amber Ale and some delicious food.
  • Rode Mount Everest and Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom.
  • Went back to Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic.
  • Walked from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk.. thought about going to Jelly Rolls Piano Bar but decided to check out some street performers and then walk over to Epcot. 
  • By this time I was in so much pain that we just walked straight through Epcot to the bus and went back to the resort. So. Much. Pain. Never wore flip flops again (except to the pool).
Day 3: March 3, 2015
  • Arrived at Magic Kingdom for the 9AM rope drop.
  • Met Minnie first thing.
  • We rode all the rides we didn't have time for on Day 1. 
  • Fast Passes for Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. All three were awesome especially the new Mine Train - although it would be better if it was longer. 
  • Got stuck on Carousel of Progress
  • We had lunch at the new Be Our Guest restaurant. It is highly praised in the Disney world and we agree that it is definitely somewhere worth getting a reservation for lunch or dinner. We had the grey stuff, it was delicious.
  • Went back to the hotel for a swim in the 90s section Computer Pool. 
  • Took a bus over to Epcot and got an additional Fast Pass for Nemo & Friends for after dinner.
  • We walked over to Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney's Beach Club Resort for dinner.
  • We ordered the Kitchen Sink and nothing else for dinner. The Kitchen Sink is a huge dessert including 8 scoops of ice cream, brownies, cookies, a cupcake, whole can of whipped cream, whole jar of cherries and pretty much any ice cream topping you could think of. We figured since our parents weren't there to tell us not to have ice cream for dinner we would go for it. It is normally served for 4 people. Our waitress was proud of how much the two of us managed to eat.

  • We walked back over to Epcot and rode Nemo & Friends, sat through Crush's Turtle Talk and walked around the aquarium area.
  • We stopped at Club Cool to try all the free international pop flavors. 
  • We found a decent spot to watch IllumiNations Reflections of Earth in the World Showcase then booked it back to the bus.
Day 4: March 4, 2015 
*I did not bring my camera to Universal, all photos were from my phone :(
Background info: Adam and I went to Universal's Islands of Adventure a couple years ago as an excursion from our cruise.. you can check it out by clicking here for that blog post.
  • We woke up super early for our 7:25AM Mears Shuttle (which we booked through Pop Century's concierge service in the main building) over to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (which opened at 9AM). 
  • We started on the Universal Studios Florida side and rushed over to the new Diagon Alley to get on Escape From Gringotts early. They had some trouble getting it started so we didn't ride it until about 9:30 but it was worth the wait. The special effects were amazing and Voldemort was super scary!
  • We quickly walked through the shops then made our way back around the rest of the park.
  • We rode almost everything very quickly because the waits were pretty short. We really enjoyed the Revenge of the Mummy ride and the new Hollywood Rip Ride and Rockit coaster. And I hated the Transformers ride. 
  • For lunch we shared the Beef, Lamb and Guinness Stew, a Butterbeer and the Chocolate Potted Cream at the Leaky Cauldron. It was all very good, especially the Frozen Butterbeer.
  • After lunch we took more time to check out the shops like Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and Borgin and Burkes. We sadly didn't buy a wand.
  • Next, we were really excited to take the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure. It was a fun ride with a cute video/special effects during the trip.
  • We rode all the Harry Potter Rides in the Hogsmeade side - except Flight of the Hippogriff because for some reason it had a long line and we remembered it being more of a kid coaster the last time we were there. 
  • Then we went over to the Marvel Super Hero Island and rode all the thrillers and roller coasters. 
  • We skipped the Dr. Seuss section and the water rides. We rode all the Dr. Seuss rides a couple years ago and didn't think it was necessary to repeat.
  • We walked through the Hogsmeade shops and took the Hogwarts Express back over to Diagon Alley and made sure we didn't miss anything. 
  • The last ride of the day was Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and it was really cute!
  • For dinner we walked over to Margaritaville in the City Walk. We both enjoyed burgers and margaritas.
  • We also stopped over at Fat Tuesday for a frozen concoction.
  • We took the Mears Shuttle back to Pop Century where we played a card game and enjoyed some drinks.
  • Next, we went over to Downtown Disney to check out some of the nightlife. Because we were there in March we decided we had to check out the Raglan Road Irish Pub. We got the Four Provinces Flight of Beer which included Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp and Kilkenny. We drank them out on the outdoor patio which was very refreshing. 

Day 5: March 5, 2015
  • Arrived at Epcot for rope drop at 9AM.
  • We were lucky enough to visit during the Flower and Garden Festival. There were pretty flowers and character topiaries everywhere. 
  • We started out at Test Track and then made our way through all the rides (except Ellen's Energy Adventure because it is just too long). We had fast passes for Soarin', Mission Space and Space Ship Earth. We also got a fast pass for Test Track for later that night. 
  • We went back to the resort to rest before our big night at Epcot. We ordered a large pizza for lunch in the food court - which is a much better deal than getting individual pizzas or slices.
  • Then we both enjoyed a nice afternoon nap (we were starting to feel the exhaustion of vacation).
  • After the nap we got hyped up for our evening in Epcot where we would be Drinking Around the World Showcase (we shared most of the drinks.. they were rather large)!
  • Started the tour in Mexico where the extremely nice bartender ended up giving us a free margarita on top of the one we ordered because we had a little bit of a wait! We also walked around the pavilion and rode the Gran Fiesta Tour.
  • The next stop was Norway where we enjoyed a Carlsberg Beer. 
  • Country number three was China. We got the Tipsy Ducks in Love cocktail. It had an interesting taste of chocolate, coffee and bourbon. 
  • Germany was next in line and we had a Schofferhoffer Grapefruit Beer. It was delicious.
  • Country five was Italy. We enjoyed the Under the Tuscan Sun wine flight in the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar on a cute little couch.
  • Number Six was the USA where we ordered a Red Stag Lemonade. It was frozen and very refreshing. 
  • The next stop was Japan. We had a frozen Strawberry Amasake which mostly tasted like a strawberry smoothie.
  • In Morocco we each had a Casa Beer. 
  • Number 9 was France. We didn't want wine again so we went for the Citron Grey Goose Slushie. Another frozen drink that was very good!
  • For country 10, the United Kingdom, we went in to the Rose & Crown Pub. Adam got a Black and Tan pub blend and I ordered a Strongbow Cider. While in the pub the live band started singing a version (mostly about beer) of Do Rae Me (Sound of Music) that I had only ever heard my dad sing. It was amazing and hilarious!
  • Number 11 and the last stop of Drinking Around the World was Canada. We got a Moosehead beer. 
  • Next, while a little intoxicated we rushed over to Test Track for our fast pass where I designed a lovely flower decal-ed car.
  • Then we went back over to the Wold Showcase to see IllumiNations. 
  • The rest of the night was a little crazy. As you may have (not) read, we didn't eat dinner. I meant to order us snacks at a few of the countries, but that didn't end up happening. Adam got a little hangry, but we HAD to get to Magic Kingdom before it closed.
  • We took the Monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and made it to the turnstile two minutes before closing. You may be wondering why this visit was so important.. 
  • The Kiss Goodnight! We knew there was little hope in us staying up on Friday and Saturday passed park closing (12AM and 2AM respectively) so this was our last shot. We watched the end of the Main Street Electrical Parade and got a seat on the pavement right in front of Cinderella's Castle. From my research it was supposed to be every half hour after closing, which was 10PM this night. Well, the parade wasn't over until about 10:15 so we had to wait until 11PM. I definitely think staying was worth it. The Magic Kingdom Kiss Goodnight was very special and I'm happy we made time for it in our busy schedule. 
Day 6: March 6, 2015
  • Arrived at Animal Kingdom around 7:30AM for our early morning breakfast reservation at Tusker House for a character breakfast with Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy!! 
  • Tusker House was an amazing buffet style breakfast where we got to meet and take photos with the characters. It was delicious and tons of fun.
  • Next we rode the Kilimanjaro Safari where we saw elephants, a lion and tons of other animals. 
  • The weather deteriorated some and it was chilly and sprinkling on and off so the lines were super short.
  • We saw Finding Nemo The Musical which was excellent.
  • We also rode Dinosaur and Mount Everest twice (yes that makes three times for Everest).
  • We even rode Kali River Rapids even though we were pretty much the craziest looking people in the park wearing shorts in the 60 degree weather.
  • We went on all the other rides and saw the other shows before leaving around 1PM to go back to the resort for nap.
  • We tried the Pop Century popular Tye Dye Cheesecake. It wasn't any better than regular cheesecake, but it was pretty!
  • In the evening we went back over to Magic Kingdom for dinner at The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street USA. We had a nice view of the castle while eating.
  • We took a stroll around Magic Kingdom and rode some of our favorites again including Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise. We didn't stay too late because we were tired and knew the next day would be pretty busy.
Day 7: March 7, 2015
  • Woke up early to get to Hollywood Studios for the 8AM extra magic hour. We rode Tower of Terror, Rockin' Roller Coaster and Toy Story Mania all within a little over an hour. We walked through a bunch of the shops and saw The Voyage of the Little Mermaid - we were disappointed that Kiss The Girl was not included. 
  • We went back to the resort for Pizza, Lilo & Stitch and a nap. We also went to the Hippy Dippy Pool for a little while. 
  • We went back to Hollywood Studios to catch the Beauty and the Beast performance which was very good, but Nemo was better. 
  • We went to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios for dinner. The decorations were amazing. It is supposed to be like a Drive In and they have car-tables and a big screen showing old movie previews and cartoons. 
  • After dinner we said good-bye to Hollywood Studios and went over to our last night in Magic Kingdom. 
  • The crowd was much worse than any other day because it was Saturday and the first day of Spring Break season.
  • We took a ride on the Liberty Square Riverboat.
  • We had fast passes for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (which I was terrible at), Space Mountain (for the third time) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. 
  • Seven Dwarfs at night in the back of the coaster was much better than during the day in the front. Don't get me wrong though, the ride is great at anytime and any seat.
  • We took some time to attempt to get some cool fireworks shots during Celebrate the Magic and Wishes. We sat behind the castle and I used my flexible tripod on a fence. Little did we know we were actually in the middle of the fireworks so I mostly got the fireworks close to the castle since the big ones were far behind us. I'm still very proud of my images. It was a great location and we had a seat and only waited about 40 min for the show.
  • We rode Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean for the third time each.. they are Adam's favorites. 
  • We also tried a Dole Whip Vanilla and Orange Twist in a cup at Aloha Isle.. This was hugely recommended during research and it was good, but it wasn't that special.
  • We stayed until about midnight even though extra magic hours gave us the possibility to stay until 2AM. 
  • It was sad to say good-bye.

Day 8: March 8, 2015
  • Slept in until about 8:30AM
  • Packed our suitcases and cleaned the room.
  • Left our luggage with the front desk.
  • Went to Downtown Disney. 
  • Had lunch at T-Rex. I had the Guac-asaurus Burger and Adam defeated the Giganotosaurus Burger. 
  • We then had to go shopping which we had been putting off all week. Neither of us like shopping and we kept getting flustered so we didn't end up getting much stuff. We did get ourselves a Mickey shot glass, a magnet and an ornament.
  • We then had to go back to the resort. We ended our resort stay with a Mickey cupcake while we waited for the Magical Express to take us away from our magical vacation and back to the Orlando Airport. 
  • We landed in Cleveland around 7:40PM and got home about an hour later. 

Overall, this was a magical vacation. We hit some bumps along the way and both ended up exhausted and cranky during some portions of the trip, but it was all worth it. We got to meet a bunch of our favorite characters, ride some of our favorite rides multiple times, eat at super cool restaurants and watch fantastic Disney shows! Some people find it a little strange that two grown adults decided to go to Disney without kids, but Adam and I are kids at heart and still enjoyed everything that Disney had to offer!

  • Get fast passes for mid morning/early afternoon (10-11, 11-12, 1-2) then make additional fast pass selections as you go. A couple days we ended up using 6 fast passes!
  • If you are staying at Pop Century or Art of Animation they are a short walking distance away over the lake. When leaving parks take whichever one comes first or whichever one you can get a seat on. I think we ended up taking the AoA bus more often than Pop Century. 
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Get a large pizza to share with the family rather than personal pizzas or slices at resort food courts.
  • Get to the parks early, leave in the afternoon and go back after dinner to avoid chaotic lines. 
  • Get the park hopper pass if its in your budget. 
  • Stay on Disney property - the extra magic hours and transportation to all the parks is extremely convenient.
  • Try out a character breakfast. Its an easy way to meet a bunch of characters quickly and have a good meal.
  • Try some unique dining experiences.
  • Don't waste a fast pass on Fantasmic - there isn't special seating.
  • Have flexible day plans.
  • Possibly take a day for relaxation.
  • Take lots of photos. Also you can ask any photopass photographer to take a photo of you with your camera or phone. They are all super nice about doing it, too!
  • Download the My Disney Experience app and get familiar with it before vacation.
  • Using your magic band for everything, including paying for things, is extremely convenient!
  • Also its cool to paint your magic bands. I did mine purple and green with to inifity and beyond written on it. I made Adam's a Finding Nemo theme. I used acrylic paint and clear nail polish top coat. They chipped a little bit. I would recommend only painting the colored portion and doing at least 3-4 top coat layers. 

For more of our fascinating trip reports check out these posts:
I Need a Vacation! - Carnival Pride Cruise to the Bahamas and Orlando
I'd Rather Be In Bermuda. - Royal Caribbean Bermuda Cruise
Life's A Trip! - Vacation to Miami and Key West

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