Arrived at MCO just before 6:00am, a bit earlier then scheduled and had to wait for a gate. Grabbed a quick breakfast in the foot court and were on our way to the Riverside via Magical Express. Arrived at the Resort and checked in, the room was not ready so changed clothes and checked our carryons and decided to head to the park. Took a bus to EPCOT and went to guest relations up upgrade our Disneyland Pass to a Premiere. Entered EPCOT around 9:30 am and wandered around Future World and over to the Festival Center (Wonders of Life). Circled the interior then headed back to the front of the park and caught a bus to the Art of Animation Resort. Walked through Lion King and Mermaid Areas, strolled along the lake and back to the Nemo area and wrapped up in the Cars area. Received a text that our room was ready so made our way back to the Riverside, by way of EPCOT to transfer busses. Grabbed a quick burger and dropped the carryons in the room and was off again in under 30 minutes to meet some friends for the afternoon at EPCOT. Walked out to World Showcase and spent some time taking in the Food and Wine Festival including a return trip to the Festival Center. Walked out the World Showplace to register for tomorrows D23 event. Then continued on around to the American Adventure. Waited in the lobby then headed upstairs to the lounge for a media event for the Food and Wine Festival. Spoke with some Disney Folks and other website friends then headed for the Dolphin and dinner at Shulas. After a great meal made my way back through EPCOT to the busses (could not use the Studios because of the Tower of Terror run) and returned to the Riverside to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- The flight into Orlando was uneventful. We actually left on time and got in a few minutes early. Of course the gate was occupied so our early arrived was sucked up waiting for a gate. The Magical Express was no problem again and we arrived bright and early at the Riverside. Our room was not ready so we ventured off to the parks.
- We had a single night for Saturday then checked into a plan on Sunday (thanks to how the free dining promotion dates ran). I learned you can get your park tickets a day early if you have a continuing reservation. So I was able to get my park tickets that started on Sunday on Saturday which was great to get a head start on things. I was going to upgrade my Annual pass back to the Premiere pass so it really worked out nicely for me.
- Headed to EPCOT to do the pass upgrade and then go check out the Festival Center since I had some time extra time this morning. The Festival Center and the park as a whole were quiet this morning. Unfortunately the lounge was not open yet due to a media event so we did a circle of the area then headed back to the buses and off to my next destination.
- Stopped by the Art of Animation Resort now that it is completely open. I was really surprised at how crowded Landscape of Flavors was. We arrived around just before 11am so I figured the breakfast crowd would be gone and a little early for lunch. I was wrong. One thing I had noticed (and I forgot from the preview) was they have real silverware and plates unlike the other resorts.
- We circled the resort. First walking through the Lion King section then out to the Little Mermaid back along the lake to Nemo and finished up in Cars. My first impressions - The Lion King section was ok. Seeing the characters was nice but it was basically a pathway to get to the Little Mermaid section, it did not feel like a destination to me. The Little Mermaid section is basically Pop Century with a Disney twist. Considering what they had to work with it works, but it is not overly impressive. The Nemo section I explored during the preview and the pool area and central courtyard are impressive. The Cars area is great and by far my favorite. I think if I had not been to Cars Land I would have felt as if I were in the movie. For a value resort it is impressive and well worth checking out. And if you (or your kids) are a fan of Cars it is definitely worth thinking about staying there.
- After touring the Art of Animation it was time to find our room at the Riverside, drop off some gear, and quickly regroup for the afternoon. Then back on a bus to EPCOT.
- This afternoon the park was much more crowded, especially World Showcase. This was the opening weekend for the International Food and Wine Festival and the park was alive with activity. All the booths/kiosks had healthy lines as we walked around. Even the hot humid weather did little to dampen the crowd.
- Spent some more time in the Festival Center and made it into the Chase Lounge. I was disappointed in the execution of the lounge. I thought the concept was great but they used a small room on the first floor, not the large corporate lounge on the second floor. So it was very tight inside. I heard a cast member say only 40 guests at a time allowed in. I thought the execution of the Annual Passholder lounge several years ago in the Land worked much better.
- Checked into the D23 EPCOT 30 event in the late afternoon. There was no line and the process took only a couple of minutes.
- Stopped by the American Adventure for a little A/C and to meet some friends and was disappointed to see the new Cast Member costumes have rolled out. They are much more modern, I always thought the traditional/colonial costumes looked great. The new ones almost seem like they should be on Soarin or something.
- I was able to attend a Food & Wine Festival media event thanks to our friends at allears.net. At the event they had some food to sample as well as an opportunity to talk with some of the team that puts on the festival. I learned that about 25% of the food offerings this year were new. They talked about the challenge of creating interesting dishes that can be prepared at the scale and level they need out in the park. They had already begun taking notes and planning for next years festival based on the launch and initial feedback of this years. They said it takes over 600 CMs to pull off the festival.
- Dinner this evening was someplace new for me, Shulas Steak house at the Dolphin. It has been on my list to go there and seems trip after trip I find some excuse not to. No clue why. I had a great experience there. The steak was cooked just as I liked it and it ranked right up at the top of the list for my WDW steak houses. I would put it right next to Yachtsman. This trip actually it may have been slightly ahead on the steak but I give the edge the fries at Yachtsman. I may have to add this to my steak house rotation. I thought it was better than the last couple I have gotten from Narcoossees, Fultons, and Le Cellier.
- Due to the festival EPCOT stayed open till 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday and after 9pm as I was walking through World Showcase it was still full and alive with activity.
Pedometer Information for the day: