June 22, 2017
A couple days after returning from our Kansas in the Pacific Northwest weekend, Mr. Karen and I left the cold and snow for Orlando, where it was so so much warmer. We flew out in early afternoon, had a long-ish connection in Salt Lake City, and arrived in Orlando well past our usual bedtime. Then we took a somewhat circuitous route to the hotel (offsite for the first half of our stay, so as to save some money), as we wanted to avoid paying tolls (well, mostly we wanted to avoid paying the fee imposed by the rental car company for using their SunPass). By the time we checked in, we were ready to crash, so it was extra unfortunate that when we opened the door to our room, we were faced with a bed that was not made up, couch cushions out of place, drawers open, the sofa bed half unfolded—I stayed in the hall while Mr. K went down to get it sorted. A while later, we got another room nearby in better shape and were starting to get ready for bed when we heard a knock on the door—they were moving us one more time as the room we’d been given was part of a block reserved for a group coming in the next night. Okay, fine. We moved. The next morning, I realized I’d left some jewelry in the nightstand of the second room. Fortunately, I was able to get into that room again and retrieve it. Then, finally, we could start our Walt Disney World vacation in earnest.
We started with the classic park, Magic Kingdom. What with the late night on our arrival day, we didn’t roll into the park until afternoon, but that’s okay. I still got to take a ridiculous number of photos of the castle when we finished the night with fireworks and the projection show.
The next day found us at Epcot, where we experienced the Flower & Garden Festival for the first time—so many topiaries and flowery obelisks! And like every other day I’ve ever been there at night, an opportunity to take yet more photos of Spaceship Earth lit up all pretty, to go with the probably hundreds of similar shots I’ve taken over the years.
Park day three found us in Animal Kingdom, after which we went to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a meal and to look at their animals, then on to Disney Springs to see Cirque du Soleil La Nouba one last time before it closes later this year.
The next day we checked out of our offsite hotel, went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, checked into our onsite hotel, had a break in the bar there, then took a boat over to Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks again. I did take many more photos of the castle, but I also like this one Mr. K took of me with my adult beverage at the Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge.
On park day six, we did Magic Kingdom in the morning (okay, mostly early afternoon) then headed to Animal Kingdom, where the highlight was seeing Rivers of Light, the much delayed nighttime show, for the first time. It was colorful but confusing (I have no idea what the storyline is).
We split the next day between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, with a detour to watch the Electrical Water Pageant from outside Magic Kingdom on the way back to the hotel. We’d missed the butterfly garden part of the Flower & Garden Festival on our first visit, so did that this time. It’s not a huge structure but there’s a lot of color and movement packed into the space.
We returned to Epcot the following day for a couple hours to revisit our favorite Flower & Garden spots, then spent the remainder of the day at Animal Kingdom, where we lucked into what might have been our best safari ever, with lots of big animals close to the vehicle, even having to hold for giraffes to get out of the way at one point (and later another animal â€¦ zebras, maybe). We also saw Rivers of Light again, and it was still colorful and confusing.
The day after that was our last day. We spent a few hours in the Magic Kingdom, then it was off to the airport for the long journey home.
All in all, it was a good trip, and we’ve certainly gotten our money’s worth out of the annual passes we bought last year. I’m not sure if we’ll fit in another visit before those passes expire this fall. Money is a factor, sure, but also I’m feeling like the parks are less fun than they used to be, with bigger crowds year round and more planning required weeks or months in advance to be able to deal with those crowds. Still, there’s a lot I like about the parks, much of which can be enjoyed without standing in lines or making reservations ahead of time, so we’ll see.
If we do go back, I’d definitely return to the offsite motel we stayed at this visit. We got a small suite for something like a third of the price of the standard room we had onsite (even after factoring in the annual pass discount we got on that), and that included full breakfast, which is not something Disney hotels do (unless you pay even more for the dining plan, which is on my bad list for making dining worse for everyone who wants to eat in sit down restaurants onsite). Driving to and from the parks, which I feel is a must when staying offsite even if the hotel runs a shuttle, doesn’t seem so burdensome as it used to now that I’m not in the car two hours a day commuting. We used Disney transportation during the onsite portion of our stay, and one night getting a bus back from Animal Kingdom, I so wished we’d just driven ourselves. We watched one bus fill up and leave, then another leave that had room for us on it but which we couldn’t get to because the big family at the head of the line just in front of us couldn’t all fit but did not step aside to let us pass, then we waited over a half hour for the bus we finally got on. We could have been back at our room in bed by then if we’d driven the rental car. (Yes, I know complaining about all of this shows my privilege.)
I do still want to see the Diagon Alley section of Universal Orlando park, and we just missed the opening of the Avatar land at Disney, but those will still be there in the future if we don’t get back to Florida this year. If not for the annual passes, I’d just as soon put off returning in favor of doing other things, like exploring my new home state (I didn’t do as much of that when we lived in Michigan as I’d like to have, so trying to avoid regrets like that when it comes to Idaho). Like I said, we’ll see.
I weeded out the hundreds of photos I took on the trip to this set of 56 on Flickr.