Arrived at Orlando International Airport just before 5am. Grabbed some breakfast in the food court then boarded a waiting Magical Express bus to Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Checked in and had a minor hiccup with the room but eventually sorted it out and was in a room with my carryon bags dropped off and unpacked by 7am. Spent some time roaming around a peaceful resort then met a friend just after 8am and headed for Disney Springs to check out the latest construction. Walked through the Market Place, by the Town Center and out to the pedestrian overcrossing for Buena Vista Drive then back to the bus stop. Waited for a bus to the Epcot Resorts. Disembarked at the Swan and walked around the Boardwalk and into Epcot at the International Gateway. Stopped by France for a snack then made my way to the American Adventure area to meet up with the rest of my group. Decided on a quick lunch at the Liberty Inn and then caught a performance of the American Music Machine. Continued on past Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico on my way to Future World. Stopped by the Festival Center then over to Innoventions West to pick up the April annual passholder lithograph. Decided to go for a cruise on Listen to the Land then made our way to the front of the park. Boarded a Monorail to the TTC and took the ferry across to the Magic Kingdom. Strolled up Main Street USA and through the Castle to Fantasyland. Some of the group used a Fastpass+ for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train then we walked through Fantasyland and Tomorrowland and took a ride on the Peoplemover. Once back on the ground headed for the hub. Some left for the rooms at this point and the rest of us continued on to Liberty Square then out to Frontierland. Hopped on the train and took it to Main Street Station. I opted to head back to the hotel at this point to unpack a few things before heading over to the Studios for the evening. Arrived on Hollywood Blvd around 8pm and made my way out to Pixar place before they closed that are for the evening. The doubled back and around to the Muppet Courtyard. Strolled along Echo Lake and then decided since Fantasmic was to start in under 5 minutes to head down Sunset Blvd to see if there was space. Was in the standing section with an ok view of the show. After Fantasmic took Sunset Blvd to Hollywood and looked for a spot for the fireworks. Ended up near the corner to Hollywood and Prospect. After the show walked out to a waiting bus to return to Pop Century to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- The flight into Orlando today was one of the quickest I can remember. Our actual flying time was under 4 hours. We left on time and arrived early with no issues on either end. That was great except it meant less time to sleep.
- Disney’s Magical Express was no problem for us either. Walked down to the bus. We were the only guests in the line and they escorted us to a waiting bus. Spent about 5 minutes waiting and two other groups joined us then we set off for Disney. The new interchange from the airport directly onto 417 is done so that saved a minute or two on the trip too. Pop Century was the first drop off so no extra time on the bus there even.
- We opted to check in at the front desk vs online since we knew we were going to arrive early in the morning. We talked to the front desk cast members, had the area to ourselves. As luck would have it one of the two rooms for our group was ready. This was great news so we could drop our carryons and change before heading off to the parks and some could rest if they wanted to. We walked out to the far building of the 50s and had a room on the first floor facing the pool. Opened the door and lights were out and bed unmade. Not sure if someone was sleeping in it or not. Oops… so back to the front desk we went. The cast member made some calls, apologized a lot and gave us an option to move to a preferred area in the 60s at no cost and the rooms were ready, but they were not adjoining. They were diagonal from each other. We thought this was an ok tradeoff and took it. So we had an extra 20 minute or so delay checking in due to the problems but in the end all was resolved.
- Due to the rooms not being connecting we asked if our MagicBands could open both doors. They said that was not an option. The system only allowed one room per band. So they issued us a pair of traditional plastic room keys so we could open the doors.
- Since most of the group opted to take a nap, I met a friend and headed for Disney Springs to check out the latest construction as the first phase of the Town Center was to open in a couple weeks. Spent some time walking around and looking at all the work. Still a lot to finish up but the expansion is looking great and will really change the dynamics of the area.
- Spent the early afternoon at Epcot walking around World Showcase checking out some of the Flower and Garden Festival and grabbing a quick lunch. I did not make it to Walt Disney World last spring, opting instead to visit the Asia parks, so this year the number of food marketplaces and smaller gardens was all new to me. Last year they had some and it expanded this year.
- Spent some time in the Garden Center, the former Wonders of Life, which had a fair crowd but it still seemed rather quiet and subdued to walk around.
- On the way out of the park stopped by Innoventions West and picked up the free Annual Passholder Lithograph for the month. They had plenty and there was no wait. I was surprised they still had ones left the end of the month.
- Made our way over to the Magic Kingdom for the late afternoon and to use a FastPass+ or two. The return line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was really backed-up. It took the group several minutes to make it into the queue even. The long lines continued in Tomorrowland with the PeopleMover having a solid 5 minute or so wait, which was substantially longer than usual.
- I enjoy riding the Walt Disney World Railroad but waiting at their stations if you miss a train seems like an eternity. I did not time it but I want to say it was over 10 minutes. I think only two trains were in operation.
- As we were leaving the park the Omnibus and Firetruck were in Town Square waiting to make a run up the street. Due to the Street Party though they were being held. It is great to see Main Street Transportation active.
- For the evening I made my way to the Hollywood Studios with the goal of watching the Star Wars fireworks. I arrived early and had time to kill so I roamed around taking a look at the construction walls. The park is really a shell of its former self with the back portion closed off. Everything beyond the Muppets & Pixar Place is closed and being removed for Toy Story Land and Star Wars.
- It was a couple minutes till 9 and I was walking down Sunset Blvd trying to decide what I wanted to do. There was not much left open. The Great Movie Ride & Toy Story closed early for the fireworks. So I made the call to go see Fantasmic since it has been a while. I am not a fan of the WDW version of the show. I think it is the worst of the three I have seen. Disneyland is my favorite followed by Tokyo's. The WDW version is a distant third and not sure why I go see it I only frustrate myself. I ended up using the time to post some pictures so it was not a total loss.
- After the show made my way back to Hollywood Blvd and had to decide where to stand for the fireworks. I talked to friends and they suggest further back is better so I walked down toward Crossroads to find a spot. The show is titled Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular. It started right after my December visit if I remember right. It is a classic fireworks show in the sense of large shells timed to the music. There is a new version in the works for this summer that includes, lasers, lights, and projections. I thought this was a very big show in terms of the size of the shells and it was very wide. It seemed the shells were too close and you really could not appreciate them. I have seen online talk that the primary launch point will be moving back more across World Drive in fact. This should make the scale much better.
- Since I was near the exit after the show I walked out to the bus and walked right on to leave. It is a short ride back to Pop Century with no traffic. Fun note.. Pop Century is bus stop #1 at the Studios.. sounds good to be #1 till you realize they start counting at the far end so #1 is the furthest away.
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