Walt Disney World: First Time, Last Time, First Time in a Long Time (2016)
Okay, so I’m about three weeks away from my next trip to Walt Disney World and I’m starting to get a little antsy to get the trip underway. If you’ve been reading along at home for a couple of years you know that I had the pleasure last summer of a three day trip across country to see Disneyland for the first time in 40 years. Obviously, that was a really great thing, but it also means that it will have been more than two calendar years since I spent any time in any of the Florida Disney parks by the time I leave for Orlando at the end of the month. I know, first world problems, right?
A trip of any kind will typically feature some stuff that you’re really looking forward to. Sometimes that’s because it’s something you’ve never tried before and you’re excited to give it a whirl and sometimes it’s an old standby that you just can’t get enough of. By way of working off some of my own impatience for the next few weeks to pass, I’ll be going over some of these things that I’ll be experiencing this time around. Join me after the break if you like!
Cabins at Fort Wilderness
I’m traveling with a group of five friends, so this turned out to be the most budget-conscious choice we had that still kept us on property. This will be a first time for me in the cabins and I’m both really looking forward to it and feeling a little apprehensive. The cabins are nicely themed and feature some personal amenities that most other resorts can’t boast. The most obvious thing you’ll notice is that you’re not sharing any walls with any next-door guests. If you’re one of those people who has ever found yourself in one of the All Star resorts during a cheerleading camp you’ll recognize that this could be a big advantage. You’ll also notice that the cabin has its own driveway. Now, I’m flying to Florida and taking Disney’s Magical Express to the resort and using the bus system to get around, but one of my bunk mates will be a local who lives about five minutes away from the parks (yeah, I’m kind of jealous until I remember that means they have to live in Florida), so having a personal driveway is still pretty nice.
Disney classifies the cabins at Fort Wilderness as a moderate resort, but unlike Coronado Springs (where I stayed a few years ago), and from what I understand the other few moderate resorts, the cabins include full kitchens. This not only includes a sink and microwave, but a small cook top, a small full-sized refrigerator, a four slot toaster, and a full-sized dishwasher as well! If you look through those cabinets, you’ll also find a complete set of dishes and flatware. That really makes breakfast a lot easier and more affordable if you’ve got, say, a local in your group who can bring some groceries in by automobile. Why get boxed into a nine dollar Disney breakfast or a Starbucks egg and meat sandwich if you don’t have to? If you’ve been paying attention to what’s been happening to breakfast inside the parks you’ll notice that they’ve been reducing any competition the Starbucks locations there have. Take a look at the outdoor photo of the cabin and you’ll also notice that it boasts a nice sized deck with a table and one of those fixed position grills if you want to serve up a steak or some burgers. This all means that folks staying in a cabin can make themselves a lot more self-sufficient.
So what am I nervous about where it comes to the cabin? Well, I value quick and efficient transportation around Disney property when I’m visiting the parks and compared to a place like Pop Century where I’ve stayed multiple times, it’s pretty clear that the cabins at Fort Wilderness could come up a little short in this department. The Fort Wilderness resort doesn’t just have a bus stop where the regular Disney buses come and pick you up and take you to the parks, but is spread out enough to also require an internal bus system just to get you to the main bus stop. There is also a charming boat that can take you across the water to the Contemporary Resort area which is within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom, but on all but one of our days that really won’t be much better than the multi-bus setup. I’ll most certainly be reporting back on this aspect of my Disney stay when I return home in early October.
Let’s take a look at some of the things I’m looking forward to in the various parks! –
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This park is currently in a bit of a shambles due to really extensive demolition and construction that will eventually bring both a Star Wars themed land and a Toy Story area that will feature multiple attractions aimed at smaller guests. Plenty of people are skipping this park for now, but I’ve got a few reasons why I’m not doing that.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Milkshake
While I could easily live without this opening day (1989) ice cream treat that is available at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, you can bet that I’ll be giving it a try since we will indeed be going to this park and have reservations for a meal at this restaurant. The popular treat is made with a grand total of four ingredients: Peanut Butter, Jelly, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Milk. Pretty simple, huh? I’m betting that’s what makes it good. There has been some grousing online about this treat not being eligible for purchase via a Disney Ding Plan snack credit. Well, since I won’t be using the dining plan this time around, that’s not something I have to worry about and I’ll still be spending less and getting what I want.
And of course one of the things I’ll be sure to get ahold of again is the famous Carrot Cake Cookie that is available at a couple of spots in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s mostly known for its longstanding location in the case at The Writer’s Stop, but nowadays you can also find it at Sweet Spells over on Sunset Boulevard. If we end up at Hollywood Studios on our last day instead of our first, I’ll likely be feasting on the thing on my flight home.
The Great Movie Ride
Tower of Terror
I’m lumping these two attractions together because both have been the subject of some pretty serious rumors suggesting that they might not be long for this world. Considering how fast the Tower of Terror in California got fingered for closure and how soon it’s happening (January of this coming year), I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ll be riding both of these attractions multiple times before I leave the park this time just in case it’s my last chance. That won’t be too difficult because half of the park is closed at the moment and the current state of affairs may have saved them for the time being because Disney simply can’t afford to give up the crowd capacity they provide with all of the other closures there. These are favorites, so I’m going to enjoy them when I can and hope I’m overreacting.
This will be our longest day in the parks and will feature a lot of what I’m really looking forward to.
Soarin’ Around the World
This was a long-rumored change to the very popular Soarin’ attraction which is really Soarin’ Over California, but dropped the state-specific part of its title when it was brought over here to Epcot in Florida. There have been some early complaints about both obvious computer graphics effects in the new film and a failure by the imagineers to account for the curvature of the screen it’s being projected on. People have been breathlessly awaiting this update for a long time and it doesn’t seem that anyone was prepared for the new version to be significantly worse than the original which suffered from poor maintenance on the East coast. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Snack Around the World
While “Drinking Around the World” in Epcot’s World Showcase is a widely practiced exercise in alcoholic gluttony, I’ll be attempting a slightly less “Woooohooo!”-inducing version. That means I’ll be walking the length of Epcot’s World Showcase and ingesting at least one food product in each of its eleven pavilions devoted to specific countries. I will likely be trying things like Churros from the Mexico pavilion, the American Dream slush, some Edamame at the Japan pavilion, and some Baklava from the Tangerine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion. There are a couple of other treats that I’m particularly set on scarfing down, though, including…
This is one of the more iconic snacks in all of Walt Disney World, but largely because of my predilection for enormous table service meals I have rarely made the effort to seek out anything to eat between these more formal gastronomical presentations. That means that this will be my first try of this Norwegian treat. It’s a cardamom bread filled with a sweet creme and topped with toasted coconut. This last bit is what is off-putting to some folks, but I’m intrigued by a Scandinavian snack that is topped with something I identify with a deserted Pacific island.
Fish ‘n’ Chips
Most of us are pretty familiar with fish and chips as a rather traditional British dish, and I know I’ve sampled a wide range of examples in a variety of locations, including here in North Carolina, in Chicago, and in England itself. Only on one occasion did I dislike what I was served, so even if what I get in the UK pavilion in Epcot is just average I’m betting I’ll like it well enough. No matter which way our group is traveling around the lagoon this will function as a de facto meal on a day when I’ll be stuffing snack after snack down my gullet.
Frozen Ever After
In addition to the Soarin’ update, Epcot is host to the both popular and controversial Frozen re-imagining of what was once an attraction named Maelstrom. I made sure to ride Maelstrom one last time on my last visit to Walt Disney World back in 2014 because this change had already been announced back then. The Frozen attraction opened earlier this summer, but had some technical difficulties at first. These have not been reported much lately, so I’m assuming the issues have been worked out now. You can count me as a cynic when it comes to this potential breach of theme in World showcase, so I’ll be trying to judge it both on its own merits (you know, as if it was sitting somewhere in Fantasyland) and on how it fits in where it was placed.
There’s nothing particularly new that I’m excited about at the Magic Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean my evening there won’t be a highlight. This will be my third time attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and I’ll again be dressed as a character from one of the park’s longstanding attractions. You’ll have to wait for the trip report to see just what.
And of course, since I judged Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion to be slightly inferior to the Florida version, I will be really glad to be returning to re-visit the current champ. During the party the Mansion gets a little extra attention, with more lighting and fog spilling around the building’s grounds and a special cast member sitting out front as a ghost to chatter at the guests. Three rides seems like the minimum this time around.
When we first made our plans for this trip it looked like a whole set of nighttime experiences at Animal Kingdom would be up and running for us to enjoy. Unfortunately, as things stand now, the central portion of this evening plan, the nighttime spectacular “Rivers of Light” will not be ready. This will cause the entire park to start closing early again and us to shuffle our plans to visit Animal Kingdom on our last day in the parks instead of on our first evening. Either way there are things I want to try for the first time at the newest of Disney’s Florida parks.
Dole Whip with Rum!
What else needs to be said? The Dole whip is one of Disney World’s most beloved treats, so it seems reasonable to think that adding an alcoholic element to it could be a promising idea. The fact that this has gotten positive reviews from plenty of other park guests helps to heighten my anticipation even if I’ll still have it on my breath as I head for my flight back to North Carolina. Just one certainly can’t hurt.
I’ll probably be pairing the above alcoholic Dole Whip with some sort of savory snack from Harambe Market which has been added since my last visit to Animal Kingdom. A specialty corn bread battered sausage sold here sounds pretty good, but with our large meal at-
being moved to the middle of the day, I may need to choose something lighter. After all, I most certainly won’t be holding back when the Indian-African fusion menu for Sanaa is placed in front of me. The popular bread service featuring naan bread (just thinking about this stuff is making me hungry as I type) and a wide variety of toppings will just be an appetizer as an entrée boasting multiple dishes will follow it into my belly. This gluttony will be in an environment which is located right next to the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s savannah which hosts grazing animals like zebras and giraffes which will be visible from the dining room, a key part of the already tempting experience if you ask me.
Lots of my plans center on food this time around, but yes, I’ll be riding roller coasters and gently floating boats and enjoying wonderfully themed environments punctuated by classic and new Disney music. I’m going to do it all and a little more. You’ll see.
Posted on September 7, 2016, in Animal Kingdom, Epcot, food, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, theme parks, travel, Walt Disney World and tagged Cabins at Fort Wilderness, Fish 'n' Chips, Frozen Ever After, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Peanut Butter and Jelly Shake, Sanaa, School Bread, Soarin, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.