Had a 6am wake up call, grabbed some breakfast and walked over to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Was in the park by 7:30am and picked up a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance, received group 68 today. Decided to walk out and use my Fastpass from yesterday for a first experience of Rise of the Resistance. After riding met up with the rest of my group and we headed for the front of the park and caught a bus to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Walked through the Oasis and out to Discover Island. Winged Encounter was in progress so watched the finale of that then made my way to Pandora. Used a FastPass for the River Journey and then another for Kilimanjaro Safari. Stopped by the Gorilla Exploration Trail an then walked over to Asia to visit the Jungle Trek. Ate lunch at Yak & Yeti then hung out on Discovery Island and watched the Merry Menagerie for a while. Decided to take a bus to Art of Animation then the Disney Skyliner to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Strolled up Hollywood Blvd and out to Toy Story Land. Used a FastPass for Toy Story Mania and then another for Alien Swirling Saucers. Entered Black Spire Outpost and took a look around. Used single ride for Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run and then went to Rizzo's for dinner. My boarding group for Rise of the Resistance was called so returned to Batuu and went for my second ride of the day. Walked back to the Boardwalk, stopping at the Speedway for some snacks for the room on the way. Changed into warmer clothes then set off for Epcot. Decided to walk. Spent some time in the United Kingdom then found a spot for Epcot Forever to wrap up my evening.
Thoughts & Observations:
- This morning started off walking over to Disney's Hollywood Studios with hopes of getting a better boarding group number than yesterday and to use my FastPass from yesterday. Arrived at the park around 7:30 and picked up group 68. By 8am all groups were distributed for the day. We ran into a problem where one member of our group was not registering as being in the park. So we had to find a guest relations cast member who had me restart the app, still did not work, so then I made a reservation for everyone but that person then they scanned their band again and manually assigned them to the group with us.
- Yesterday my Rise of the Resistance boarding group was not called. I had group 116 and by 4:30 they notified me that I was not going to be able to ride and I was given a FastPass+ for anything in any park and a 1 day park hopper ticket. So my first stop this morning was Rise of the Resistance to use my FastPass from yesterday. This process was very smooth. I just had to enter from the side (not the main path as that was for boarding groups) and a guest relations cast member scanned my MagicBand and then directed me into the Standby queue. I spent just under 30 minutes in the queue before reaching the first pre-show room. From there it took me another 35 minutes to experience the attraction for a total time of just over an hour from entering queue until exiting.
- I will do a full spoiler filled post on my experience but some initial thoughts.. I thought this was a great attraction. The Imagineers put together a complete experience with the first scene/pre-show elements and then the attraction. They set up the story and the cast members were really into it and executed it well. The ride itself takes advantage of the trackless ride system and the Imagineers include almost every special effect you have seen plus some new ones in a multi sensory experience. The scale and scope of the attraction is impressive and it is something we have not seen for years from Imagineering. Even non Star Wars Fans in the group were impressed by the experience. There are quite a few wow moments throughout which was great. I had avoided all onride photos and video and it was worth the wait to experience it.
- I spent the late morning and early afternoon at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The park has received new Christmas decorations this year on Discovery Island, Dinoland USA and even Pandora has a few. The Discovery Island decorations looked great by day. Pandora was not that great, just a couple things around the gift shop/snack counter.
- I had a mixed result with animals. Both walking trails, Gorilla Falls and the Jungle Trek, were busts with little activity or even animals out. My Kilimanjaro Safari experience was better with quite a few animals out on the savanna and a good driver.
- Lunch at Yak & Yeti was great food and a good table with minimal wait but the air conditioning was on full blast and our table felt like you were sitting in an ice box. I failed to make reservations, I kept trying and no luck on the website. So I instead used my Landry's Select Card and was seated very quickly. That card has been a great deal over the years. If you are not a member and thinking of eating at any of their restaurants you may want to consider it. I joined when Rain Forest first opened in Anaheim and have used the rewards and seating priorities a large number of times over the years.
- The Merry Menagerie features life sized puppets that wander around Discover Island throughout the day as well as an accompanying musician. The animal puppets can vary as well as the performer. Set times are not posted so sometimes it can take patience waiting for them to appear. The puppeteers were having as much fun as the guests with the close up interactions. It was great to just sit back and watch them. Overall the concept worked really well and some guests lingered to watch, others stopped for a picture or two and interaction and others looked as they walked by (and I am sure some were oblivious that it was going on even). I really enjoyed the steel drum musician who was performing with the puppets. He was just roaming around too playing and posing for pictures.
- The Skyliner flight from the Caribbean Beach Resort to the Pop Century/Art of Animation Resorts is not very interesting. Going over the water is kind of different but you are so low its not as impressive as flying over the Caribbean Beach Resort. To get to the water a path was clear cut through the trees just like the route to the Studios.
- I was able to get same day Toy Story and Swirlin Saurcer FastPass+ reservations without much of a hassle. I had to rebook a couple times to get a better time but overall availability was surprisingly good.
- Stopped by Star Wars Galaxy's Edge in the evening while waiting for my boarding group and used the single rider queue for Smuggler's Run. I choose wisely and only four guests in front of me. Found it interesting/odd that the cast members here did not explain anything about the attraction or your roles. In Anaheim it seems you get the spiel twice many times.. once when they give you the card and once when they collect it. Others who were on board it was their first ride and they seemed a little lost and unsure what they were supposed to be doing.
- Grabbed dinner at Rizzos since it was close and I was still waiting for my boarding group. They had almost the entire upstairs closed off for the evening and it was only 5pm.
- At 5:30pm my phone vibrated and it was a message from myDisneyExperience that our boarding group was now able to experience the attraction. So we headed for Batuu and to ride (we were close since I saw the group numbers were getting close). Told the first line of cast members our group number then the second line scanned our MagicBands and sent us to the standby queue. We entered the queue at 5:33pm and reached the pre-show room at 6:08pm, so a little longer wait this evening. I exited at 6:43pm so 70 minute total time for this pass through. The boarding group process worked fairly well for us. I thought this was a good compromise vs having to wait in a multi hour line.
- As with any great attraction on a second ride through you could see more of the details that you missed the first time through. Also this time I was in the second transport which meant a slightly different path through the attraction.
- Walked over to the Speedway gas station near the Boardwalk to pick up some sodas and snacks. It was a bit of an awkward walk, the sidewalk ends before the entrance on Buena Vista Street so you have to walk in the road or grass then driveway. Noteworthy is they do not sell multipacks of soda. Only single bottles. They said the other Speedway by Disney Springs sells the multipacks, which does not help if you walked.
- Closed out my evening with Epcot Forever again. Tonight watched from the bridge near the International Gateway and it was a much more pleasant experience than last nights FastPass+ viewing. The elevated look gave a better view of the kites I thought.
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