A half term trip to Florida

This is quite a long post – sorry! 

Last week on Friday we got the train to Gatwick, and then flew to Tampa on the Saturday. The flight was fine (lots of films to watch including a couple of new ones with Hearts Beat Loud and Leave No Trace, plus some Disney classics of Moana, Inside Out and The Lion King to get me in the Disney mood), but we must have queued for a good hour at immigration after. Anyway, after picking up the car and a quick supermarket stop, we drove to Orlando and checked in to our first hotel- Pop Century, which is themed around the culture of each decade.

Thanks to the wonder of jet lag, I was awake pretty early on Sunday so treated myself to a run around the hotel grounds- there was a big lake with signs for the running route so I ran around it a few times, avoiding the path closest to the water because of all the signs about alligators and snakes. There are signs all around there about different things that happened (from when certain films were released to when toys were first marketed and technologies invented and so on) so it was good to keep me entertained while I ran around. I was worried about it being hot but it was fairly cool at that point before the sun came up. I then managed to get lost, because although I had remembered the room number, I had forgotten to check the building number. I messaged Andy but he didn’t see it, and so in the end I had to just try my luck (thankfully I was right first time).

We had to check out that morning as we were transferring to the Contemporary resort (the one that the monorail goes through) and so one w had checked in there, we had the luxury of being able to walk to Magic Kingdom. Because of it nearly being Halloween, there were pumpkins and decorations everywhere (this also meant that the park closed early unless you had tickets for the party, so we had to plan which day we would see the Magic Kingdom fireworks).

The decorations were very impressive, and we managed to get on a lot of rides too. We used the Disney app which meant we could book Fast Pass tickets 3 (?) months in advance (and for the big rides, they go straight away)- then once you had used your final one of the day, you could log on and book more for that day. Andy spent a lot of time in queues getting us more passes!

Philharmagic is one of my favourite attractions- it’s a 3D theatre show with clips from some of the classics- Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin, but we also went on Pirates, Small World, Peter Pan and the classic Tiki Room. We could not resist getting a dole whip float- you can only get them at Disney or  in Hawaii- it’s sort of pineapple soft serve  on top of pineapple juice and it is so refreshing (but huge- we shared it although our philosophy with snacks is to share them so we get to try twice as many things…)

The park was hosting a Halloween party so we went back to the hotel, popped to Disney Springs for an Earl of Sandwich and a pootle around the shops, and then headed to Epcot for the evening- it’s my favourite park, especially for the fireworks (which sadly are ending next summer). We had time to do the Nemo ride, see the manatees and watch the fireworks.

I also found a Totoro bag in the Japan shop <3 (also how cool are the Minnie Vans? Sort of ubers for getting around Disney…)

Monday was time for Animal Kingdom as we had passes for one of the newest rides, a boat ride through the Avatar land- very pretty and relaxing. I haven’t been there for years as for our last few trips to Disney we have missed that park out, so it was good to go back and see The Lion King show (live singing and dancing). We did some of the walks around the animal enclosures and the safari ride, and even got some lunch there. Veggie options were always so poor, but we found a place that did hummus with veggie sticks and mini pitta breads so we shared that. Then it was back to Magic Kingdom as it was one of the days there wasn’t a party so we could stay for the fireworks (plus rides on Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh, Jungle Cruise). We had a photo pass included in our booking, so we could get photos by the Disney photographers. We had seen online that in the newish land there were all these lanterns (like at the end of Tangled) and it was a good spot for a photo at night, so we queued for a while there to get a picture taken.

It always looks so pretty at night. The fireworks show was a new (to me) one, about dreams coming true. They had some cool music medleys with various Disney songs, and lots of projections into the castle as well as fireworks.

On Tuesday morning we were off somewhere, which I’ll get to another time (I’ll stick with Disney today) and then in the afternoon walked back to Magic Kingdom. This time our treat of choice was a cookie sandwich- the bakery on the Main Street does them with fresh chocolate chip cookies and your choice of ice-cream (we went for pumpkin).

We sat there and shared it while the parade was going past, and then had a bit of a chilled out afternoon going on some of the classics like Carousel of Progress, the  People Mover, Philharmagic, the Muppets outdoor show about the  declaration of independence, before going out for dinner and then going to Epcot for Soarin’ (which had changed- it isn’t just California any more, it goes all over the world with lots of CGI and so in my opinion isn’t quite as magical as it was before) and the fireworks.

On Wednesday we went to Hollywood Studios in the morning for the Toy Story ride (so much fun), I watched the Beauty and the Beast show while Andy did Rock and Rollercoaster and the Tower of Terror, we both went to the Little Mermaid show, saw the Muppets show and went on the Star Wars ride and then queued up to meet BB8.

Then it was back to Epcot for more fun (Soarin’ again, because I still love it even if it isn’t as good), the Canada show and the ride in Mexico.

The Food and Wine festival was going on while we were there, and I thought it might be interesting to see, but it surpassed by expectations. There were loads of food stalls (but they looked permanent) dotted all around the world showcase, each with 3 food offerings (plus lots of drinks)- they were sort of tasting plates, so usually around $4 which isn’t too bad. After looking at some of the menus the other day, we had decided to have a small breakfast and then share a few items for a late lunch/early dinner. We got some lovely sundried tomato hummus with little almond crackers, a gigantic German pretzel, some shaved ice,  and then some amazing guacamole and chips.

The decoration was brilliant too, and it had the atmosphere of a Christmas market or something, with people milling around and eating/drinking.

Of course we watched the fireworks too- I shall never get tired of that show.

On Thursday morning I’d pencilled in a run, as we had booked a breakfast in the Kona Cafe at the Polynesian hotel, but I didn’t realise it was quite that early (8.30am) so I saved my legs for walking around the parks. Breakfast was amazing and I have no doubt we will go there again. We shared two dishes- I got the tropical fruit plate, and Andy got some banana-stuffed French toast (they even put the bacon on the side so it wouldn’t touch the food) which came with the most amazing fruity sauce.

After getting the boat across the water to Magic Kingdom (noticing that overnight the pumpkins had gone, being replaced by Christmas decorations!), we walked back to the hotel, checked out (we were moving to Coronado Springs) and drove out to the Wide World of Sports for the race expo.

The expo was just on such a huge scale- number pick up was in one building, t-shirt pickup was in another, with vendors in one place and Disney stuff in another, there were signs for the queues for the merchandise… crazy. It only started on the Thursday so I think we were lucky to get there before it got too busy.  Our race shirts were long sleeved, and I also got myself a Run Disney vest and jacket, as well as a cool little pouch thing to use when my leggings don’t have pockets.

Then we had a speedy shop- visiting Bath and Bodyworks in one shopping mall for me to top up my supply of hand sanitsers, and then a few clothes shops in another (some trainers, leggings, a penguin Christmas t-shirt and jumper for me) before racing to Animal Kingdom as we had passes for the other new Avatar ride. This one was really weird- a bit like Soarin’ where you were looking at a big screen, but instead of being in a seat, you sat on a sort of bicycle thing and were clamped in from the back. The idea was some sort of dragon ride around the Avatar planet, and it was so realistic that you could feel the dragon “breathing” between your legs. I was very nervous as I don’t like rollercoasters, but I would do that ride again. Another safari visit and the Up bird show, and then it was time to go to Magic Kingdom (we did park hop a lot!) for the fireworks (and managed to fit in the Buzz Lightyear ride and the Haunted Mansion too- up until now the queues had been crazy, and then once we were at the front of the line and the whole ride got evacuated so we did wonder if we’d ever make it). I was so shattered by the time we checked in to the hotel and then I saw the signs for the race buses- runners had to be on them before 4am on the Saturday morning. I did wonder if we had made a bit of a mistake at that point.

On Friday we had an early Fast Pass for Test Track but then before we were leaving got an email saying the ride had stopped so our passes would be valid all day if it was fixed, or on something else if not. This meant we could have a slightly later start. Earlier in the week we had looked at the Norway bakery and seen some amazing looking foods, so had decided to head there for breakfast, sharing an almond Kringla (a bit like a soft pretzel I suppose)- we kept seeing people buy school bread, so after googling them, decided to share one of those too. This was a very good idea. They are basically cardamom spiced buns filled with confectioners custard and topped with toasted coconut. So good.

More rides (Nemo/ seeing the manatees/ Spaceship Earth to hear Judy Dench say “math”) and then a quick whizz over to Disney Springs to look in the art shop and get a few gifts for family, plus an Earl of Sandwich for dinner, and then we went back to the hotel for a rest and to pack as much as possible, plus get our race bits out. This was the only rain of the week- it poured as we drove back to the hotel from Disney Springs, so we had to make a run for it from the car- perfect timing as by the time we were packed it had stopped. It was our last night and there were Star Wars fireworks at 8.30pm and Hollywood studios and then the Epcot ones at 10pm, so we decided to see both of them, especially as it would be our last chance for Illuminations and we both really love that show. We even managed to do the Toy Story ride again. We did have our most disappointing snack- we’d seen a peanut butter cupcake in the bakery at Hollywood Studios and decided we would share it, but it turned out to be chocolate, with weird white icing and then just sort of peanut sprinkles covering the icing, so it looked like peanut butter icing but it was just weird white stuff in disguise! Ah well, at least we know not to bother with a cake next time!

I’ll save Saturday and the race for another post as this has gone on rather a lot!

Have you ever been to Disney? If so, which is your favourite park? While the Magic Kingdom is very Disney (and yes, magical), I think Epcot would win if I could only go to one. What type of rides do you like? I don’t like rollercoasters so I think Disney is pretty good for me as they do thrill rides but in such clever ways, so there aren’t too many rides I won’t do. Do you get disappointed by snacks?  That cupcake did annoy me because it just looked and sounded so good, but it was really just OK.

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10 thoughts on “A half term trip to Florida”

  1. I feel tired just reading this blog. It sounds like you had an amazing time in Florida, the photos are stunning. I’ve never been to Florida but now really want to go. As for rides, I can’t go on cup and saucer type rides or anything that goes round and round, I start to feel really sick. I’m fine on rollercoasters and more hardcore rides, my favourite has to be The Smiler, slightly controversial I know. I was really disappointed by a slice of cake I bought from the canteen at work on Monday, it was incredibly dry and didn’t actually seem to taste of anything.

    1. We do end up going a bit hard-core when we go to Florida because once you buy the tickets you just think that you may as well make the most of having them by squeezing in as many rides and fireworks as possible!
      Such a shame about the cake too- I feel your pain!

  2. I love everything about this post. I know WDW well enough that I could picture everything you described.
    I probably like Epcot the best as well, but right now I’m feeling like an MK visit next summer. I’m not much of an AK fan though and haven’t been in the Studis in a while because of all the renovations.
    I don’t mind roller coasters but not my favourite and I find the ones outside of Disney a little wild for my liking.
    I don’t think a Disney snack has ever disappointed me. Next time, I suggest the Boardwalk Bakery. If you’re in Epcot, go out the International Gateway and walk along.

    1. Thanks – I shall remember that for next time 🙂
      I think it was the first time for about 3 trips that I’d been to AK because the last few times we’ve had 3 day passes and no park hopper option so we thought the other three parks were better value as they are open longer and have more to do. The new rides there were good though, so I’m glad we went this time. Andy is very excited about the new Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios so once that opens we will be back there fore sure 🙂

  3. Ahh you packed so much in! Sounds like so much fun. It’s interesting how different people can be. I do like Disney but I much prefer all the fast roller coasters to the more thrill and experience ones that you went on. Which is why I love the Universal parks more than Disney, but I do love the magic and the atmosphere of Disney. I love Disney Springs too! That sweet shop there… ahh 🙂
    the friends who I’ve been with twice before (and seem to go every year, I kid you not) are quite obsessed by it and watch vlogs about the new rides and the food. I feel quite knowledgeable in their presence haha.

    1. Ah yes, so many sweets in that shop!
      When we googled the school bread we found a Disney eats blog which recommended it- it persuaded us to give it a go.

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