Sunday, March 18, 2012

Disney 2012, Day 1: Hollywood Studios

Welcome to my Disney 2012 recap! Um, yes, it's almost a year late, why do you ask? So sorry about that! I cannot believe how completely ridiculously busy this last year has been, truly a crazy roller coaster of a ride. Things are no less busy now, but they are also a bit more stable (for the time being; we'll see how long that lasts). As I was gearing up for our 2013 trip to Disney, I was really regretting not getting to a trip recap last year. I started going through pictures to jog my memory on anything new we had learned, and the next thing I knew, I'd spent several hours editing and prepping pictures for my blog. May as well put them to good use, yes? :-)  So for those of you who do not enjoy my Disney recaps, I will apologize in advance. If all goes well, you will get one batch here in February, and a second batch (for this year's trip, 2013) in late March or early April. For those who do enjoy them, here's the start of a double helping!

Disney 2012, Day 1: Hollywood Studios

With Luke now fully engaged in first grade, we didn't feel we could afford to pull him out of school for very long, especially given some of his struggles in terms of reading and such. He had a random Friday off in early March, so we decided to pull him from school just for that Thursday. That way, we could be gone 4 days but he would only miss a single day of school. I know he won't be able to miss school for much longer, but for now, we're okay with him missing a day for something that is important to our family as a bonding experience. However, it also meant bonding with our chairs all day at work, only to then bond with the seats of the car for about 8 hours, all in one day. We arrived somewhere between 1AM and 2 AM, I believe. (It's been almost a year; it's hard to remember for sure.) Thankfully, Mom had already checked in, so we just had to walk in, find our room, and collapse into bed.

Thursday morning came painfully early. I doubt we set an alarm (I have something of a rule about that on vacation; I don't set one if I can help it!), but I know we didn't sleep all that late. We had our favorite hotel waffles for breakfast, sunscreened up, and headed out to the parks. First up was Hollywood Studios.

I had downloaded three different Disney apps to test for things like ride time wait accuracy. I was hoping to check on ride wait times before we entered the park, just so we'd know where to go first. One app didn't work at all (whether or not we were inside the park). One app was somewhat accurate. But by far and away, the most accurate app was the official Disney one. However, it only works when inside the parks. And by inside, I mean *inside.* I even tried checking wait times for rides while in line at security (you know, about 50 feet from the gate), and it still would NOT show me any useful data. Once I was about 20 feet down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, they were accessible.  The official Disney app also tells you if FastPasses are left for FP rides, and what return times are currently being assigned. Armed with this information, we marched straight back to Toy Story Midway Mania to grab some FastPasses, which already had afternoon return times! We couldn't get more FastPasses for another 2 hours, and the lines for both Rockin' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror were over an hour (according to both the app and the central tip board), which was longer than we cared to wait (we try not to wait more than 40-45 minutes for those in stand-by).

How about we kill some time on The Great Movie Ride? I know it's "slow and boring," but as a huge movie buff, I still love it. It just thrills me to be "part of" some of the most famous scenes in history. It is also one of the few things Luke talks about year after year (the Indiana Jones scene). Check out what the spiffy low light setting on Dad's amazing higher end point and shoot camera can do:

Click to biggify.

I thought I would keep an eye on the ride wait times while in the queue, but I could NOT get a signal once we went through the doors at The Great Movie Ride. I mean, less than 5 feet away, and I had noting. Not just no 4G or 3G, but no signal whatsoever. I couldn't have even sent a text message. Disney was notorious for having lousy cell coverage for many years, and though things have improved quite a bit in that department, it's still not the best. Just keep that in mind if you're trying to stay in touch with other members of your group; you may not have signal everywhere, especially in interior queues (Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, Pirates, Space Mountain, Maelstrom, Soarin', Test Track, etc.), and if you're in line for an hour or more, that could cause issues.

(My favorite picture from The Great Movie Ride!)

I lost my notes from last year (2012), so I'm having to base this report mostly on memory (haha) and pictures. (This year's notes will be kept electronically on my phone, so I won't lose them!) I have no idea if we did anything else after The Great Movie Ride before lunch. I doubt it, given that TGMR is over 30 minutes long, and we had lunch reservations to keep!

I had made it a point this year (2012) to try and do some new things. We had been playing it fairly safe the last year or two, and of course we had been introducing Luke to new things as he got tall enough and old enough. But recently, I had been hearing from friends, "I can't believe you've been to Disney so many times but have never done [fill in the blank with awesome thing they love but I had never tried]." So guess what? We're going to do some new stuff! For the grown-ups, that mostly meant new food places. So, next up for us was an eatery that is the favorite of my friend and fellow Disney-geek Heather. She recommended we try the 50s Prime Time Cafe.

(I had a bit of camnesia this trip. I usually try to be very good about taking photos of at least signs and such of new things we do, but I forgot most of the time this year (2012). I'm also trying not to post the same photos you've already seen over and over of the castle and whatnot. I'd hate for y'all to get bored! But it also means there aren't as many photos as usual for most of these posts, sorry. I'll try to do better this year (in 2013)! We also did not get a single shot of all four of us together during the whole trip. BAD ME!! They're going to revoke my mom-arazzi badge.)

The entire restaurant is done in 50s/60s kitchen kitch. It was so much fun! Reminded me so much of visiting my grandparents and great-grandparents when I was young. The colors and patterns and styles were all spot on (as if you'd expect any less from Disney). Your server is your "aunt" or "uncle." They make sure you mind your manners, insisting that you wash your hands before you eat, and reminding you to keep your "walkie talkie" (i.e. cell phone) off the table or it will be confiscated. My friend Heather is great at improv, so I know she really loves that kind of thing. Luke wasn't quite sure what to make of it, though. I was hoping we would get to eat at one of the "kitchens", but we ended up at one of the wall tables instead. This table was the closest to us, though, and gives you an idea of what these tables are like.

The food was pretty good, though I will say, not as good as I was expecting. Well, except the fried chicken. I have only had better at one place (Piccadilly, believe it or not), so this was quite good. The pot roast was also very good, but the meatloaf and pot pie were just good. Please understand, it was NOT bad by any means! It was quite yummy, just not fantastic (I know, I'm picky).

Click to biggify.

We all ended up eating off everyone else's plate. As I said, the fried chicken was the clear winner. Oh, except for the hot fudge sundae that Mom got (not pictured). It may well have bee the best hot fudge sundae any of us had ever eaten. Wow! It better have been; our "uncle" made Mom eat a green bean (which she doesn't care for when they're still crisp, which these were) before he'd let her have it. The worst part was that we had all swapped plates by then, so the green beans were really mine, but since the plate was in front of her, she had to eat one! LOL Luke was allowed to have his milkshake free and clear, though.

After lunch, there was only time to head down to the auto stunt show. It would have been fine with me to skip it, but Luke loves it so. We also had a couple of new faces in the show this year. Bye-bye Herbie the Love Bug, hello Lightning McQueen!!

And finally, a decent shot of the explosion!

Next up was another first for both Luke and me: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. (I'll wait while everyone now shouts, "You'd never ridden it?!!" at the monitor.)

DH doesn't like heights (that is actually his main problem with roller coasters), so ToT was out for him. I've ridden a similar ride called The Free Fall at Six Flags, which I actually did not care for at all, so I had also chosen not to ride this one up to this point. Luke, however, had reached the height limit and was asking about it. "Mommy, do you like this ride?" How could I honestly say no if I hadn't ridden it?

Mom had tried for several years to convince me that ToT was much better than The Free Fall, and I was going to feel a little bit silly sending my 7-year-old to ride it while I sat on the sidelines, so we grabbed FastPasses with a return time of about an hour away, then hopped in the queue. It really is as beautifully themed as everyone says. I never cease to be amazed at the level of detail Disney puts into all that they do.

And yes, Mom was right. It was fun, and I did like it. So much so that I had no problem riding it a second time right after. I did feel a little queasy after the second ride, though, enough that a third ride didn't sound good right then, so we headed off to do other things. We thought we were going to eat dinner at the Backlot, but they closed at like 5 PM for no reason we could figure out. I think we ended up at The Commissary for the first time in several years, but I honestly don't remember for sure. Afterwards, we got our annual picture of Luke:

Looking at this a year after it was taken, he looks a bit small, but seeing him on it at the time, he looked absolutely huge!! Compare to previous years:

Click to biggify.
(The speeder bike was not there in 2011.)

Where did my toddler go?! Anyway, by this time, we could finally use our Toy Story FastPasses, so we trekked back to the other side of the park. (Yes, we did a lot of back and forth, which I usually try to avoid, but it was the best use of our time to get onto the rides we love.)  Seems like everyone broke 100,000 on their scores, even Luke. After that, we hit the Rockin' Roller Coaster, which rocked the g-forces, as always. I don't care how many times I ride it, it never gets old! Darkness had fallen now, and Luke wanted to ride Tower of Terror again, which we did twice thanks to the fairly short line. I genuinely don't remember how the rest of the evening played out. I know the park closed at 8PM, so we called it an evening fairly early. We'd had a long day (and an even longer night the night before).

I had always heard that people walk 5-10 miles a day at Disney, so out of sheer curiosity, I had brought a pedometer with me this year (2012). It said we had clocked 4.98 miles. Note, that was only of actual walking; it does not include the length/distance of most ride queues. My particular pedometer doesn't really "register" that you are taking steps unless you move 3-5 steps at a time, so shuffling forward slowly by only 1-2 steps isn't going to be recorded. Also, Hollywood Studios is a rather small and compact park. I was expecting us to easily do 6-7 miles at Epcot the next day.

Next up - Disney 2012, Day 2: Epcot

Currently feeling: in need of a parachute for the Tower of Terror

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