My first vacation of the summer began on Monday, May 27 as I flew into Tampa. I spent Memorial Day with some friends, taking senior pictures for their son and getting to see the downtown area for the first time. I truly enjoyed that experience.
Tuesday began my first park of the trip, Busch Gardens Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa - 5/28/19:
Since my first trip to BGT in August of 2017, I fell in love with the park. They have a great collection of coasters and their theming is top notch. I’m also a big animal lover, so all of the animals around the park are also a cool touch.
My hotel for the first two nights of the trip was in Temple Terrace, about 10 minutes away from the park. Good thing because if you’ve never been in the area around Busch Gardens for an extended period of time, it is a SKETCHY area to say the least.
I headed over to the park just before the 10AM opening, parked my car and took the tram over to the park.
My goal (and apparently everybody else’s) was to head over to Tigris immediately. I just wanted the credit. Having ridden Phobia Phear Coaster and Tempesto already, I knew exactly what to expect. I was extremely frustrated however when we got back to just before SheiKra and the area was blocked off with a sign saying it doesn’t open until 10:30AM. I couldn’t back out of the throng of people and head over to Montu and Cheetah Hunt because it was so packed behind me, so I was stuck standing in the (already) 95 degree heat in a giant group of people.
Once the barrier was opened, a lot of people ran back there, but that wasn’t about to be me. When I got to the ride, I walked up and only waited 3 cycles before getting a back row ride. I have the same complaint about Tigris as I did about Tempesto -- those damn comfort collars ruin the ride. Also, if you have big or long legs, there is absolutely no room for them. The ride itself was as fun as the other two, but the comfort collars especially destroy your shoulders. What I do like about Tigris is the color scheme. I wish they would’ve saved the orange and black for RMC Gwazi, which could have had one orange rail and one black rail, but Tigris is a very cool looking coaster for sure.
By the time I got off Tigris, I decided to walk around and take pictures for awhile. I felt like if I got my shooting in before the midday heat hit (although it was already brutal), then I could ride for a few hours later. I had intended to meet a friend at 5pm at the front gate once he could get there, but more on that in a bit.
I think the one thing I never noticed in my previous two trips to BGT, were the amount of pathways and areas leading to either the animals or just shortcuts to get from point A to point B. Most of these had lots of areas to shoot coasters from angles that aren’t clearly visible. I got a ton of new shots of Cheetah Hunt and Kumba especially that I never had before.
I really wanted to ride Cheetah Hunt, but it was posted at 55-60 minutes nearly all day, as there were TONS of summer camp and school groups in the park.
By 12:30-1pm or so, I was feeling terrible. I had a huge headache and I was a bit dizzy. So I dipped into the barbecue place near SheiKra for lunch. I had a bbq pulled pork sandwich, fries and raspberry cheesecake. It was excellent. I stayed in there for awhile past my meal being done to cool down, but I wasn’t feeling any better otherwise. I tried quickly downing a bottle of water and a gatorade, but having dealt with dehydration issues before, I knew what was going on.
It might sound crazy to some of you, but in light of what was going on, I told my friend not to come out and decided to bail on the park at about 3pm, having taken a ton of pictures, but not really ridden anything. Luckily, I had gotten free tickets to BGT and SeaWorld Orlando from a friend, so I didn’t feel horrible about not getting to ride some of my favorites (especially Montu). I just don’t handle heat very well sometimes, and that first day was a prime example.
For the record, when I went back to my hotel, I had planned to possibly go back to Riverwalk in Tampa that evening, but I took a nap starting at 6:30pm and didn’t wake up until almost 9:30, so that never happened. I was still headachy and in pain when I woke up, so I took some aspirin, chugged a ton of water and went back to sleep for the evening.
SeaWorld Orlando - 5/29/19
I stayed in Tampa again Tuesday night, so I knew I had a drive ahead of me on Wednesday morning. I left my hotel about 7:20am, knowing that the drive is normally right about an hour, but that Orlando traffic is stupid. I hit two major traffic jams, one of which took me 57 minutes to go 19 miles. To say I was frustrated would have been an understatement. I’m fully convinced the worst drivers around are continuously on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando.
I got to the park and through security around 9:30am and just like at BGT, I decided to shoot some pictures. I got some great shots of Manta and then headed back towards JTA and Kraken. This time however, unlike previous years, Kraken wasn’t VR when I was there, so there wasn’t a massive line. Why I’m saying this is that in past years, I hadn’t been able to walk up the quick queue entrance/ride exit area to take pictures. This year I was. I got some really cool shots of both Kraken and Mako from back there. All angles that I had never shot before.
After those shots, I decided to make one last lap around the park before storing my camera and going to ride. When I got to the front, I asked several employees if they had bigger lockers because there was no chance my camera bag could fit in any of the normal ride lockers. None of the employees I asked had any clue, so I decided to run the bag to the car and come back in.
When I came back, I checked Manta and it was still at 45 minutes, so I headed back to Mako, which had a 5 minute wait posted. Now, Mako has a special place in my heart not only because it is my favorite hyper, but also because it was my 200th coaster in August of 2017.
I walked up to the station, and walked right into the second-to-last row. As soon as we got up there though, the ride went down. People had to be manually let off the train in the station as well as the train on the brake run and we were all kicked out of the station and line.
After that frustration, I decided to go eat lunch. I ate at Voyager’s Smokehouse, which had a lot of great reviews online. I decided on the BBQ brisket sampler as well as some cookies. The sampler was fantastic. I like brisket as it is, and dipped in just the right amount of barbecue sauce made it that much better. The chicken was juicy and tender and the sausage was just a little spicy, but not spicy enough that it made it not enjoyable. I was really impressed with the meal.
After my meal, I decided to go live for a bit on Instagram while I waited for Mako to reopen. I walked over by JTA and Kraken again, to find out that Kraken was now down as well. By the time I made my way back over to Mako, it had reopened. I went straight to the back row and waited one train in the station. Mako has this combination of great airtime moments and slightly different elements that set it apart from the rest of the hypers in my opinion. I truly enjoyed every minute of it. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the station for a minute or two longer that what would have normally been expected, and that caused a line to build, so I didn’t go back for re-rides.
After Mako, I started having some of the same issues I had at BGT with a slight headache coming on. I walked over to Kraken, which was testing, but had a decent line and then checked on JTA, which was still at 40 minutes. I was going to try to find Raptor Matt, but Manta at that point was still hovering around 50 minutes, so I decided to leave the park and head over behind the park to some businesses where I hoped to be able to shoot some pics of Mako from different angles. I was happy to find out that by parking by the Mellow Mushroom / Firehouse Subs / Panera, I could walk out on the sidewalk and shoot basically the entirety of the front half of Mako using my ‘grenade launcher’ lens. Had I crossed the street, I might have been able to get even closer shots, but by staying back, I could shoot above some of the trees on the property line. I imagine going to the top floor of the some of the hotels over there would offer great views as well.
I next headed to my hotel. The thought of going back to the park for the last hour or two crossed my mind, but I really just wanted to shower and sleep, so I called it a day.
Again, didn’t ride much. 100 degrees in Florida is so much different than 100 degrees in northern Ohio, even though both have humidity like crazy. I have never felt as dehydrated and drained as I did these past two days. I’m glad that Disney has so many indoor queues and rides to help keep me cooled down over the next four days.
Magic Kingdom (and Dinner at Epcot) - 5/30/19
On the morning of 5/30, I left Tampa around 7:15am to head for the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel to drop off my rental car, before taking an Uber over to the Pop Century Resort, where I would spend my next couple days.
After storing my luggage with luggage services, I headed over to Magic Kingdom for my first day at the park. Now - I made a mistake in my travel plans here. The Magic Kingdom bus line was massive, due to MK about to be open in like 15 minutes. So my initial thought was, “I’ll take the Epcot bus and then take the monorail over”. I completely forgot about the need to switch monorails at the TTC. All and all, it probably took roughly the same time, but definitely a miscalculation.
As soon as I got to MK, I headed to Splash Mountain. First off, it is my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom, secondly I knew that being near 100 degrees, the line would be even longer than the normally long line. Sure enough, it was posted at 15 minutes when I got in line. I waited maybe 7 or 8 minutes and it was already at 40 when I got off the ride. Splash seemed to be in pretty good shape although I’m not sure if they weren’t working or they were eliminated in the last refurb but the water spouts that used to shoot over your head were gone.
After Splash, I headed over to Pirates, which I knew would be a pretty short wait. It was posted at 25 but took maybe 15 tops. It was my first attempt at photographing a dark ride. It didn’t turn out as good as I would have liked, but I did get a couple keepers. It was weird seeing Pirates without the “take a wench for a bride” auction scene, but I totally understand in today’s world why it was removed.
After Splash, I made the walk over Haunted Mansion, which was posted at 25 minutes, which would lead directly into my FastPass on Space Mountain. Haunted Mansion might be my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom besides Splash. There’s something about rides that Walt had a hand in originally designing the concepts for. Plus, every time I’ve ever ridden it, the effects all seemed to work great and have only been updated or upgraded over time. I got a couple of good pictures here, but the moving vehicle made it tricky, especially when it is constantly turning each way to show you the show scenes.
After leaving HM, I headed to Space Mountain to use my FastPass. The posted wait was 70 minutes, so I’m glad I booked it as one of my FP reservations. I walked in (basking in the cold AC) and was immediately sent to the right side to board. Now, Disney is unusual in that they allow bags on rides, but on Space Mountain, my giant camera bag couldn’t fit by my feet. So I had to ride with it on top of my lap and the lapbar, which was terrifying. Luckily, it didn’t even move one bit during the ride.
After exiting Space Mountain, I decided to use the first of my three counter service credits at Cosmic Rays. I would have loved to sit inside where Sonny Eclipse is, but it was PACKED being right around noon by this point. I took advantage of the mobile ordering option on the app, which is AWESOME. I had my food within ten minutes, found a booth outside and ate. I didn’t want to be picky at this time, so I ordered a burger, fries and drink. It was fine - nothing special. I knew going in I would have some great meals later on, so I didn’t mind.
After lunch, I went to Barnstormer to use my FastPass there. I purposely booked that FastPass because it was a credit I was missing and I didn’t feel like waiting. Prior to riding, I took some pictures in Storybook Circus and Fantasyland in general and also was able to get some pictures of the new Tron coaster coming in the future. Barnstormer was fine. Typically kiddie coaster.
Once I finished up over in Fantasyland, I cut back across to the Hall of Presidents. First off, I always enjoyed the nostalgia of the show and since I hadn’t been to WDW since 2013, I was interested to see how it was with Trump in it. Trump’s animatronic is quite terrifying actually. It looks SOMEWHAT like him, but not that much. I was expecting a bunch of cheers and a bunch of boos when he was introduced, but it was literally just one hillbilly lady shouting “WOOHOO!” and clapping. The show was great as always, and I got a couple really good shots while enjoying the AC.
After HoP, I decided to finally go and watch the Country Bears Jamboree, which I had never seen before. I really didn’t even know the premise besides a bunch of bears playing instruments and singing. I was pleasantly surprised at how I enjoyed the bland humor and the catchy tunes. Not something I would do again I don’t think, unless I was trying to get out of the heat.
After CBJ, I walked around and took a few more pictures before deciding to head back to my resort. I knew that I needed to wash some clothes (I always budget for a full outfit for every day of the trip, plus two or three more, but I neglected to remember that I would likely wear two outfits a day because of sweating through them. So after searching for the poorly labeled laundry building near my hotel room, I set up my load of clothes to wash (and later dry), which caused me to nearly miss my dinner reservation.
I got to Epcot about 6:12PM, with a 6:15PM reservation. I still had to get through security and the gates, plus walk to Coral Reef, which I had no idea where it was. I made it over there about 6:23PM and checked in. After waiting about 15 minutes, I was seated in the middle of the dining area. I was clearly able to see the fish tank and was given a guide with all the various fish in the tank, which I thought was a nice touch. My server Daniel was an awesome young man who took great care of me. I had a medium-well sirloin steak with loaded mashed potatoes and a coca cola. The steak was a little too well done for my liking, but it was still delicious. The mashed potatoes were also great. For dessert, I ordered cheesecake with raspberry syrup, which was very good. There was a big problem with the restaurant’s computers crashing, so they couldn’t directly deduct the meal from my MagicBand, but Daniel took the number off my band and reassured me that he would personally take care of it as soon as the computers came back up. He went well out of his way for me, and I made sure to tweet that to @WDWToday with the hashtag #CastCompliment so they would know. If you ever have a cast member that needs recognition, I suggest you do that as well.
After dinner, I headed back to MK for my Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass. I also planned to quickly meet up with Matt from @adrenaline_overdrive and to get some evening pictures. 7DMT was a ride I had been anxious to ride for awhile. It was still being built the last time I was at WDW and I had heard mixed reviews. The ride itself is fun but nothing special. I liked the mining scene as I thought it was kinda cool. The independently-swinging cars were definitely something new and I saw people rocking them back and forth on their own several times. I would give it a 7/10 if I was rating it. Its fun and well-themed, but not overly exhilarating.
Because I got back to MK so late, I wasn’t really able to get a good position for the fireworks. I met up with Matt and his friends briefly to say hello, took some pictures of the first part of the fireworks, and then decided to beat the crowds and head back to my resort. I got to the bus stop just as the fireworks were ending and my bus was showing up.
My only regret is that I didn’t get to see Carousel of Progress or to ride Buzz Lightyear. I thought going by myself with 4 days would be enough time, but it clearly wasn’t.
Epcot - 5/31/19
I decided to “sleep in”, which for me usually means like 8am at this point. I didn’t want to fight the rope drop crowds, so I ended up arriving at Epcot at around 9:30AM. I spent the early part of the day photographing the Flower and Garden Festival topiaries, flowers and insects.
While I was back in the Land area, I decided to ride Nemo because it was a short wait and the heat was already beating down on me. I got some interesting looking pictures of the screens on the ride, if nothing else.
Afterwards, I walked into The Land pavilion with the intention of riding Living with the Land, since I’ve never done it before, but I noticed that Soarin’ was only listed as 40 minutes for standby and figured that if I were going to do it on this trip, that would be a good chance. I ended up only waiting about 25 minutes, got picked up by these two older women that I was talking to in line when the cast member asked for “a group of three” and we got on the ride. Now, this was my first time since they changed the film and I will say that I did not like this version as much as the original. I thought the movement was far less and while the film was much cleaner and covered more areas, it didn’t seem to have the same intensity as the old ride. (I use “intensity” loosely, but you get the point).
Once I left Soarin’, World Showcase was finally open, so I decided to walk and take pictures. For whatever reason, I always traverse World Showcase in a clockwise direction, so I started at Mexico. I’ve always loved the tacos de pollo at Cantina de San Angel, so I decided to use one of my counter service credits there. The limited amount of seating is the only thing that frustrates me there. Being by myself though, I was able to find a spot, but I always feel bad for the larger families that can never find enough seats.
While walking World Showcase, I decided to see some of the shows/films that I have never taken the time to watch. I watched the Circle Vision 360 show in the China pavilion which was good, but probably needs an update. I found the “Li Bai” character to be kind of a huge stereotype of older Chinese dynasties, but whatever. In this day and age, I’m literally offended by nothing.
The other Circle Vision 360 show in the Canada pavilion was slightly more entertaining, as I’ve always liked Martin Short as a comedic actor, but still also could use an update. Martin Short is still young enough that he could film a new one for you Disney, or you could go with a younger Canadian actor.
I tried to see the American Adventure but we were told the show was “down for the day”, which was unusual to me. I did get to see the choir members singing in the lobby, which is always a treat.
I took some pictures at each of the other pavilions as well. Here are some of the better ones:
By the time I made my way back to the front of the park, my first FastPass reservation was available, which was for Turtle Talk with Crush. Now, Turtle Talk hardly ever has a wait but when I picked my Fastpasses, I couldn’t get Soarin’ or Test Track and I don’t usually ride Mission: Space anymore, so it was one of the few things left to choose from. I always find the show funny, especially since it changes each time based on the questions.
Once Turtle Talk was over, I decided to walk over to Test Track to try to take some pictures, but on the way, I stopped at Club Cool for my date with Beverly cola. I had never tried it before and everyone said it was awful and that I needed to do so. I tried it, and didn’t think it was nearly as bad as people said. I wouldn’t drink it again other than doing a “taste test” thing with people who haven’t had it before but as my friend David put it, “it tastes like a slightly sweet alka seltzer”. The aftertaste sucked though.
When I walked over towards Test Track to take pictures, I realized the Single Rider line was only about 25 minutes, despite the regular wait being over an hour. So I decided to go ride while awaiting my next FastPass on Spaceship Earth. This was more terrifying to me than Space Mountain was the day before because I again had to ride with my camera bag on my lap due to lack of space.
After Test Track, I went over to Spaceship Earth for my FastPass there. It has always been one of my favorite attractions at Epcot, maybe just because of my love of history and innovation. I also find Judy Dench’s voice to be perfect for describing the scenes. I’m both sad and excited for the massive (and reportedly 2 ½ year) overhaul coming to the ride and the other areas of the park.
When I was finished, I had a few minutes to kill before my Frozen Ever After FastPass reservation. Since I was walking that way anyways, I decided to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour. Now mind you, I consider it to be among the worst (if not the absolute worst) ride in Epcot. I was able to get some nice and colorful pics, kill some time and relax in the AC for a few minutes though, so I didn’t mind.
Finally, it was time for my FastPass for Frozen Ever After. Now, I truly miss Maelstrom, so I was kind of sad seeing what had become of it for the first time in person. That said, I really enjoyed the ride. I think that while using the same ride track and layout should have caused issues - they did a great job with telling the story of Frozen within that layout. I thought some of the effects within the ride were incredible and made it worthwhile for sure. So while I miss Maelstrom, they did a great job with Frozen Ever After.
After Frozen, my dinner reservation at Via Napoli was up. I had eaten here before and loved it, so I was happy to come back. I checked in and was seated pretty quickly. I ordered the personal pepperoni pizza, which was delicious. I followed that up with tiramisu, which is my favorite dessert and was amazing.
Almost immediately after I was done, I walked out to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth starting up, which is another attraction I was happy to see before it goes away later this year. I had an ok spot in Italy to see from, but I couldn’t set up my tripod and get clean shots, so everything I took was handheld. I got a few keepers, but not many.
On may way out, I snapped a couple night shots that I really liked.
Hollywood Studios - 6/1/19
Day 3 in Florida I spent primarily at Hollywood Studios. I was looking forward to this because the last time I was here, the Sorcerer’s Hat, Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show, Backlot Tour, and many other attractions were still there that have since been removed. Even with the Toy Story Land expansion, the park still felt smaller without Galaxy’s Edge opened yet.
I got over to the park about 9:30AM. When I arrived, I took the time to walk to the Chinese Theater to take some pictures. I loved the Great Movie Ride and was really sad to see it go. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway better be good.
After this, I walked over to Toy Story Land to see it for myself firsthand and to take some pictures. My first thought was “if I were a kid, this would be sensory overload”. There’s so much stuff going on and so many visuals, it was incredible. I also saw more characters in one place at any one time back there as I ended up going back there three separate times and Buzz, Woody, Jesse or some combination of the three was always out taking pictures. I was hoping to run into Brett from @guybehindthemagic, but he wasn’t there that day or at least I didn’t see him. I took my pictures, mostly of Slinky Dog Dash, and then I walked to the small area near where the remnants of “One Man’s Dream” are. I realized at this point that I had forgotten to put on sunscreen, so I had to go buy some from one of the carts. I’d rather pay outrageous prices than deal with sunburn. While I was paying for my sunscreen, Frozone came out and started interacting with the crowd. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but he did high five me as he went by. Guess it didn’t matter that I’ve never seen The Incredibles or The Incredibles 2.
After this, I walked down to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid to get into the AC and take some pictures. It actually was a really cute little show that I can’t wait to take my niece to if its still there in a few years when we take her. Despite where you exit the show, I did not go into the Star Wars theater. I am not at all a Star Wars fan and have never seen any of the movies, so didn’t care. I did take some pictures of the Stormtroopers marching later in the day however.
After Voyage of the Little Mermaid, I had my last table service reservation of the trip at Mama Melrose’s in the back of the park. My friend Drew had recommended it to me and told me that it’s kind of a “hidden gem”, especially now based on where it is located. He was spot on. I had the chicken parmigiana and spaghetti, followed by tiramisu in a glass. All were incredible.
After lunch, I decided to go see MuppetVision 3D while I was right there. I made it in just as the theater was closing for the current show. Having seen the show many times, I can almost recite it word-for-word, but I’m really afraid that it’ll get cut in the very near future. I wish they would put a new film in, with a new script, instead of getting rid of it, but I’m not hopeful. I still find the show funny, but in a corny way.
After MuppetVision, I walked over towards Rock N’ Roller Coaster to take some pictures and to get a look at Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. When I went over there though, the wait for the show was less than 10 minutes, so I decided to go watch the show. I even put it on Instagram Live for some to see. It was pretty cool. The Lightning McQueen animatronic car thing is pretty awesome. Outside the theater, guests can take pictures with Cruz Ramirez and DJ.
I will say that I was sort of dismayed with the lack of Cars merchandise in the park. I even asked park workers and they said there wasn’t much. I wanted to get a friend of mine a souvenir and they only had youth apparel and some diecast cars. I saw one pin in a different park.
Once I got out of the theater, I walked over to Tower of Terror to use my FastPass. It was threatening rain and thundering in the distance, so I was worried it might shut down if lightning flared up. I got in line, waited about 7 or 8 minutes total and got my ride. Now, keep in mind they are only running at half capacity right now because of refurbishment work going on in two of the shafts. Apparently, while the drop sequences were supposed to be randomly selected, it is rumored that only one of the four shafts was truly randomized. All of the effects seemed to work and I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. My drop sequence was actually the best I’ve ever had. I think we went up and down five separate times. I’m hoping that even if they drop the Twilight Zone theming over royalties, that they keep the creepy hotel/runaway elevator theme.
Right as I was walking out of the ToT store, the skies opened up. Luckily, I was right by a roof, which of course everybody nearby crowded under. The brief downpour only lasted about 10 minutes though and everyone was back at it in the park.
I walked over to Rock N’ Roller Coaster for my next FastPass and got on almost right away. It was every bit as good as I remember it. I’m glad I got to experience it because I feel like it will become something different in the very near future, maybe Iron Man/Avengers like the Paris one if Disney ever gets the rights to do so in Florida from Universal.
After Rock N’ Roller Coaster, I walked around for a bit taking pictures, stopped for a snack and just explored for a bit, as the park has changed so much since I was last there in 2013. It was still blazing hot, so I decided to go see the Frozen Sing Along show. It was actually pretty cute and well done for being 75% screen-based. Seeing hundreds of kids, teens and adults singing "Let It Go", "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and other hits from the film was really cool
My last FastPass for the evening was on Slinky Dog Dash. I had been looking forward to this for awhile. The queue, ride props, theming, etc. is all unbelievably well done. The ride itself was pretty meh. Calling it a family coaster is probably the best thing they could have done, as the launches aren’t forceful and most of the ride you just creep through slowly. Not saying it wasn’t fun, it just wasn’t exciting.
After Slinky Dog, I went into some of the stores looking for some merch for family and friends and then I decided to quickly go back to my hotel to drop off my camera bag and head over to MK for a few. I originally intended to go do Carousel of Progress and Buzz Lightyear, but it was already starting to get packed for the fireworks by that point, so I decided to just do the shopping I wanted to do before heading back to my hotel for the evening. I got back to the hotel around 9:15-9:30PM and had time to start packing up my stuff, knowing I had to have it all ready to store with luggage services in the morning. That took a bit to get squared away, but by the time I went to bed around midnight, I was ready to go in the morning.
Animal Kingdom - 6/2/19
I got up early on Sunday to head over to AK. I wasn’t planning on rope dropping it, so I just headed over around 9am once the bus lines at my hotel died down some. I immediately headed over to Dinoland USA to get at least one of the Primeval Whirl credits since I had a FastPass for it at 10am anyways for the other. Knocked that out really quickly before walking around taking some pictures.
I walked over to Expedition Everest to take pictures of the train coming down the drop and around the turn. Also looked in the stores some to finish up my shopping.
While I was waiting for Expedition Everest FastPass window to open, I dipped into Finding Nemo: The Musical to cool down and kill time. I got some great photos during that show, as I finally seemed to be able to figure out what I was doing wrong by that point.
After the show let out, I walked over to EE and got into the FastPass line. I was on the ride in about 10 minutes. I love the concept of the ride and the idea of a much-more-intense-than-usual runaway mine train. I do feel lucky to have ridden it when the Yeti was still in A-mode back in 2007. It was much more terrifying with the thing swinging down at you than “Disco Yeti” B-mode.
After Everest, I decided to finally walk over to Pandora. I have never seen Avatar and while I intended to watch it before the trip, I just never got around to it. That said, Pandora BLEW MY MIND. It is one of the most beautiful, immersive theme park areas I’ve ever been in. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and even both parts of the Wizarding World didn’t cause my jaw to drag on the ground like Pandora did. I made several laps around, taking pictures and trying just to process all the detail put into it. It honestly made me want to go watch the movie now, which I will as soon as I have a chance.
While I was eagerly awaiting my FastPass on Flight of Passage, I used my last quick service credit on Satu’li Canteen in the back part of Pandora. I ordered online right when they opened, clicked “I’m here, make my food” and it was ready by the time I walked up to the counter. I ordered a beef/chicken bowl with salad, some kind of hearty dressing mix and then some weird looking fruity things I’ve never seen before. The meats were incredible and the salad and dressing mix were also fantastic. I poked around at the other stuff, but I’m pretty picky and it looked too weird to eat.
After I finished up, I still had about a half hour to kill, so I walked around taking more pictures of the details. Finally at 1:10PM, I walked into Flight of Passage. After about 10-15 minutes of waiting and then instructions, we were taken into the simulator room, stored our bags and items and got onto our vehicles. The ride itself was the most amazing non-coaster ride I’ve ever been on. I’ve heard it described as being somewhat like Soarin’. I would describe it more like Soarin’ on cocaine, while you’re sitting on a motorcycle. You don’t even realize it is a simulator while you’re riding it. I got off and thought, “wow, now I understand why people will wait 3+ hours in the standby line for it.” I have never experienced anything like that.
After FoP, I left Pandora and ran into a couple of the shops to finish up buying gifts and then I headed out. Went back to the hotel, dealt with some shenanigans from Disney’s Magical Express, some further shenanigans from Delta, and finally made it home around 11:45PM Sunday night.
It was a great trip, but I definitely need more than 4 days to experience everything next time. Hopefully when we (meaning my mom and I) plan our next trip down there like we’ve been talking about, we will plan for a couple extra days.