Saturday, July 28, 2012

Happy Belated 40th Birthday WDW! - Oct. 2011, Part 1.

September 29th through October 3rd, 2011, I was in Disney World with my former College Program roommate Michelle. On September 29th I showed up at the Raleigh Durham airport way too early and sat in the terminal forever. It seems I over planned my time and ended up waiting around for close to four hours. Eventually Michelle's flight came in and we waited for our flight together via Southwest Airlines. The awesome thing about Southwest is that there are no assigned seats. They have boarding groups. So Michelle and I were able to simultaneously order our tickets online while coordinating on the phone and as long as we stood in line together to board our flight we would be able to sit side by side. So that's what we did and we were happily next to each other despite ordering tickets from two completely different states for our two hour flight. I highly recommend Southwest Airlines. They have very affordable one way flights (which was important to me since I didn't want to have to worry about lost luggage).

When we arrived at MCO we followed the Magical Express signs to get us where we needed to go. This cross-airport trek involved us having to ride a not-quite-as-cool version of a monorail. But, as airports go, MCO is totally my favorite. The tram was actually really fun to ride and very roomy.

It was also a nice teaser for the rest of our trip. Once we reached the other side of the airport we went downstairs, through the bottom level baggage claim, to the Magical Express check in station which took up a good third of the bottom floor baggage claim area. We showed them our Magical Express passes and then got in line for our appropriate resort. There was a bit of a wait but it might have felt longer due to my excitement. We chatted with the people around us and the Cast Members nearby to make the wait go faster. Finally our bus arrived, but unfortunately it wasn't one of the adorable specially designed Magical Express buses. It was the standard yellow Mears transportation charter bus, but that was okay since they had the Magical Express video playing on the bus once we got going. That made up for the magic the actual bus lacked.

The video featured a wide variety of characters which surprised and pleased me. It was very cute and informed all of us of the advantages we had by staying on property and welcomed us to the resort. We stopped at two resorts before we finally reached Pop Century and I was very excited to see it again. I had never stayed there but it was where Michelle and I met for the first time the night before our College Program check in day so it brought back wonderful memories for us. We were ushered inside to the check in desk since we didn't have to worry about our luggage (Magical Express picked it up for us and would have luggage service deliver it to our room.) We only waited a few minutes for someone to be available to help us and check in was very quick. Michelle and I split the remainder of the room, and then I offhandedly mentioned to her that our next stop would be the Ticket and Transportation Center to pick up our Will Call tickets and the Cast Member that was helping us immediately said, "I could take care of that for you right here. Do you have your confirmation number?" He added my park tickets to my room key and then also put my Halloween Party ticket on a plastic room key card as well. However, we did end up having to go to the TTC anyway to pick up Michelle's tickets since she forgot her confirmation number.

We headed to our room in the 80's section at the back of the resort which faced the Art of Animation construction. The resort is open now but a year ago they were still working on the Finding Nemo wing. I stopped to take a couple of pictures before we went inside our room to refresh ourselves from the flight and the bus ride.

While we were in the room our luggage was dropped off so we changed quickly and then headed to the bus stop to catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom. From the Magic Kingdom we hopped on the Monorail to the TTC where Michelle picked up her tickets and then we hopped back on the Monorail to Epcot. Our plan was to ride a few things and then watch IllumiNations, but Epcot was far too crowded. That night was the official start of the Food & Wine Festival so the locals had turned out in full force to enjoy the festivities and the World Showcase was far too crowded. But we manged to ride Spaceship Earth and stop in Mouse Gear to do a little shopping. I needed a lanyard and little pouch for my room key, ticket, and Fastpasses. While in Mouse Gear I ran into one of my former coordinators who moved to Mouse Gear after I left. I spent a few minutes catching up with her before Michelle and I decided to leave in favor of Magic Kingdom.

We got a bite to eat and then rode our favorite attraction, the Carousel of Progress, before we headed to the Confectionery on Main Street and bought some yummy fudge, Celebration fudge and Pumpkin fudge.We took the fudge back to our cozy room at Pop Century and decided to go to bed a bit early since we had an early morning at Hollywood Studios planned for the next day.

We arrived at DHS at around 8:30 the next morning and waited outside the turnstiles for them to let us in. Once they did Michelle and I bought muffins and drinks and ate them while we waited for them to drop the ropes to open the rest of the park. Once the park was officially open we made a beeline to Pixar Place and got in line for Fastpasses to Toy Story Mania. Apparently a lot of other people had this idea as well because the line was already pretty long by the time we got there. But after about ten minutes we had our Fastpasses in hand and were ready to move on to something else.

We headed into One Man's Dream, which at the time was newly reimagined. Michelle had heard that added some artifacts from Horizons and was very excited to take a look at them. This exhibit was absolutely amazing and had so many things for us to fangirl over. There was a model of the multiplane camera, a recreation of Walt Disney's office, vintage photos, posters, models of park icons, artifacts from old attractions, and most impressively for me...Mr. Abraham Lincoln.

Being able to see the inner working of an animatronic was the coolest thing for me. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is one of my favorites of Walt Disney's accomplishments and I love the legends that have formed around it. So this was the highlight of the exhibit for me. There was also a short film, and at the time we watched it Michelle and I were the only ones in the exhibit so we chatted with the cast members working that attraction a lot and had a good time being our ridiculously Walt Disney fangirl selves. We spent a little over an hour on an exhibit that was supposed to take half an hour at most but it was too much fun for us to care. After that we headed over to The Voyage of the Little Mermaid and watched that spectacular show. It's one of Michelle's favorites and she acts like a little kid every time, understandably so.

After Voyage we made our way to the newly reopened Star Tours. I was nervous about Star Tours initially because I loved the original so much, but I quickly decided Star Tours 2, while it wasn't better, was just as awesome. The queue was very well done! From the minute you walk in the themeing whisks you off to a galaxy far far away. There are droids that speak to you and windows that show well known characters walking by and references to the original Star Tours all around you. The ride itself was a lot of fun. The 3D was extremely clear and added to the quality of the attraction and Star Tours 2 actually made me less motion sick than the original. There's also a really cool interactive surprise on the ride that I won't spoil for those of you who haven't had a chance to enjoy it. By the way, the droids were my favorite part of the queue.

Next was Muppet Vision 3D, again something Michelle and I enjoy immensely. We quote it to each other quite a bit and always enjoy the "salute to all nations but mostly America." And then it was time to use our Fastpasses for Toy Story Mania which were good from 10:45 to 11:45. We got in the Fastpass line and accidentally got mixed in with the single riders due to some confusion amongst the Attractions Cast Members, but everything worked out for us and we were able to ride together. Toy Story Mania is always a blast and Michelle and I enjoy competing a bit too much. I'm not quite sure who had the better score but I remember it being an absolute blast.

Once that was done we headed straight for Tower of Terror. One of the best excuses to scream in any theme park. Michelle loves the 1930s themeing and I enjoy the fall. I always stomp my feet, shake my head, and scream at the top of my lungs while we're falling. I'm not sure why. After Tower of Terror we took a quick walk through the Planet Hollywood shop to visit the Power Ranger uniforms that were still on display (and had been repaired since the last time I saw them). While there I noticed some new additions from High School Musical 3, one of my favorites. So I stopped to take some pictures. We also noticed hand prints from Tom Selleck, Carol Burnett, and Chris O'Donnell.

From there we left Hollywood Studios and then took the boat over to Epcot and made a quick walk through the World Showcase. We stopped for a moment as we entered Future World to admire the AWESOME cranberry bog presented by Ocean Spray.

 Once we left Epcot we took the Monorail to the TTC and then made the switch to the Resort Monorail to head to the Contemporary for our lunch reservations at the Wave. Which is where I'll stop for now. We'll pick this up with our late 2 o'clock lunch on Friday, Sept. 30th, 2011.

Have a magical day! I'll be back to update you some more later!

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