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Friday, June 8, 2012

Orlando August 2010 Part 1

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Day 1, August 15 - Arrival, Check in and Epcot

In August 2010 I went to Walt Disney World (WDW) and Universal Orlando (UO) with my 2 teenager daughters Natalie and Charlotte along with Charlotte's friend Gabby and Natalie's friend Marie. Although we would be spending most of our time in WDW, the main impetus for the trip was the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) at Universal Islands of Adventure (IoA). All of us are big Harry Potter fans and were very excited about visiting the new park.

OK - a confession. It is now nearly two years after the trip and I am finally getting around to writing this blog. I am working from pictures, notes and memory. There were some specific highlights, memories and observations that I'll point out but this is probably won't be a real detailed blog.

First, I should say how I ended up on a trip to Orlando with 4 teenage girls. Like I said, we are all HP fans and wanted to go to WWoHP. If you look at my other blog posts it's obvious I'm a WDW fan, and my kids enjoy The World, but my wife Andie is not a big fan. She enjoys it when we go, but she can take it or leave it. So, when we planned this trip Andie opted to stay home.

I bought our tickets ahead of time through my job. Using "tickets at work" I was able to get 5 day Park Hopper passes for the price of 3 day passes. This saved about $100. I also bought the UO tickets there getting 4-day passes for the price of 2-day passes. This did not really save anything as we were only planning on visiting UO for 2 days but I figured I may as well get the 4 day passes in case we changed our mind.

I decided that I wanted to avoid renting a car on this trip. Getting to and from WDW was no problem - we would just use Mickey's Magical Express (MME). I used my Disney Vacation Club (DVC) ownership to book 6 nights in a 2 bedroom villa at Disney's Boardwalk Villas (DBV - 258 points). I had queried the girls what they would want for food and order the groceries online to be delivered to our villa at Garden Grocer. As for getting to UO, I arranged a car service. More on that later...

Before the trip I told the girls that they did not have to stick with me if they didn't want to. I told Nat and Marie that they could pretty much feel free to do whatever they want. They didn't even have to come to the same parks with us if they didn't want to. For Gabby and Charlotte I told them I wanted them in the same park with me, but if they wanted to go off on their own while in the park that was OK.


We had a ridiculously early 7Am flight out of LaGuardia. The bad news was that we had to rise before the sun came up to catch our plane. The good news was that - if all went well - we would have pretty much a whole day in the parks our first day. We had breakfast at the airport, getting pastries and fruit at Starbucks. The flight was no problem. One of the great things about MME is that Disney sends special tags for your luggage so that all you have to is check your bags and they will be in your room when you check in. So after our flight landed we looked for the MME boarding area and took the bus straight to DBV. Once we arrived I went to check in and asked about getting the grocery delivery. I was concerned because we had some refrigerated items and I wanted to know when they arrived. I was told not to worry about it - it seems that at DBV has a refrigerated closet and that they would put the groceries in the closet when they arrived. So after we checked we headed out to Epcot and were at the World Showcase entry at 10:40.


Sombrero!

Gabby, Charlotte, Nat and Marie

The first thing on our agenda was to get FastPasses (FP) for Soarin'. We were also all hungry so I figured that, while we were in The Land pavilion, we could have an early lunch at The Garden Grill. We got our Soarin' FPs just fine, but Garden Grill was closed. So, instead of Garden Grill we ate at Seasons. I have to say, as counter service eating locations at WDW go, Season's is one of the better ones.

After eating we hit a bunch of the Future World (FW) attractions including Nemo, Spaceship Earth and Ellen. We got a FP for Test Track (TT) went on Soarin' using our FPs. We headed to the World Showcase (WS) and turned left toward Mexico where we road the Grand Fiesta after which we went to Norway and road Maelstrom. While there we also got some pastries at the Norway pavilion. After (around 3:30) that we headed back to FW to use our TT FPs. At my suggestion we got additional TT FPs. The kids did not think they'd want to ride TT again but my attitude is it doesn't hurt to get the additional FPs even if we don't use them.

We then decided to go back to BWV to check into our room. The BWV staff had our luggage and the groceries delivered to our room so we settled in. I felt a little guilty taking the main bedroom with the king-size bed while making the kids share the second second bedroom with the queen-size bed and fold out couch. But not too guilty. And the kids decided to split up anyway with two taking the second bedroom and two taking the fold out in the living room. Since we were staying there 6 nights they agreed to swap off half way through our stay.

We hung out in the room for a while. I went to the pool and was joined by Nat and Marie while Charlotte and Gabby watched a movie in the room (they watched "The Goofy Movie" which ended up playing frequently on The Disney Channel while we were there - and they ended up obsessed with this movie, watching it several times during the stay.)

We all napped a while and, as I suspected, nobody was interested in going back to use out TT FPs. If FW were to stay open past 7:00 we might have gone back - we had a 7:30 reservation at La Hacienda de San Angel (LGdSA) and we headed back to Epcot just in time for the reservation. We had been to the San Angel Inn previously, but the Hacienda had recently opened and I wanted to try it out. I picked the 7:30 reservation time specifically so we could watch IllumiNations after dinner. Unfortunately we waited about 45 minutes to be seated. Luckily the lobby at LHdSA is very pleasant and I was able to keep myself occupied with a margarita.

We were finally seated. The menu at LHdSA is a bit odd - not really your typical Mexican fare. Several of us, including myself, ended up getting appetizers. I got the Ribeye tacos. The food was quite good and the margaritas were excellent (of course I needed a second with dinner).

By the time we finished dinner it was 9:15 and IllumiNations had alreadyy started. We watched the show while making our way back to the International Gateway (IG) on the other side of WS. I should say a bit here about how much I love staying at BWV and what a great location it is. It is a short walk to IG in Epcot and a somewhat longer - although very pleasant - walk to Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS). You can also take a boat to either location - also a wonderful and relaxing way to travel. And of course there is bus service to pretty much anywhere. I've also walked from DBV to IG and through Epcot to catch a Monorail to The Magic Kingdom (MK). Interestingly I recently heard a discussion on the DIS podcast (http://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-podcast/) where they claimed it was faster to catch a bus to Epcot if you want to go to the front. Of course in that case I would just catch a bus to MK if that's where I was going. Still, interesting. And still, even on days when we're going to Epcot before FW opens I prefer to walk or take the boat, it's simply more pleasant.

Anyway, we walked to IG and the boat was right there so we caught the boat back to DBV. The kids all settled in for bed while I went out on the Boardwalk and sat sipping a glass of Scotch. Absolute bliss. A great way to end a fun first day.

The view from our room

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