Two summer trips to Disney are done… almost time for a third!

Hi! Amber here! This post is coming to you direct from the kid. She’s going to give her perspective on our two Disney summer trips so far including a teenager’s point of view of Toy Story Land. Enjoy!

Hello, once again! This is Hailey, and I’m going to be sharing with you my thoughts on the new Toy Story Land! Plus some details on our party of seven, family trip! Here we go!

So for our first trip of the summer we left on the 9th of June, driving in the van, with seven people, three rather large suitcases, backpacks, and a couple snack bags for the twelve and a half hour drive to Orlando. What a ride! Lots of naps, taking videos of my cousin and I doing funny things, dancing, and LOTS & LOTS of singing! (We love to sing “Love is an Open Door”! That’s a favorite!) When we finally got there, we went to SeaWorld. The Dolphin Show was pretty cool, and so was feeding the fish, sea lions, and seals; but the rest of the park was very crowded and just overall meh… We didn’t ride any of the rides, plus I didn’t really desire to lose my lunch… I just prefer Disney World, and all of it’s rides!

When we went to Disney World, we rode lots of fun rides, including Expedition Everest for my second time!! I LOVE that ride!!! Definitely a favorite of mine, now that I have ridden it!!! We also went to the Happily Ever After Dessert Party, which is ALWAYS a fave! So many delicious desserts to try, and the sparkling cider is delicious! (I may have had more than I was supposed to!) And, as always, the fireworks were amazing! During that trip, we stayed at Disney’s Old Key West Resort, which was very nice! There were a lot of bus stops though, and we had to go to the third stop, which took awhile to get around to some nights… but I still REALLY, REALLY enjoyed that trip!!!! I was counting down the days, and so were my cousins! And we can’t wait to go on the next vacation together! Oh! And, on the way home, we stopped at the Catty Shack Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida, Which was SOOO COOL!! I loved all of the cats and we even adopted a resident there! While he will still remain in the care of Catty Shack Ranch, we sponsor him and can providing funding to give him the best vet care possible! I definitely recommend stopping there for a night feeding, so check their calendar, and make sure to stop by when once is offered! Ok, now let’s go into the more recent trip, the opening of Toy Story Land!

My mom and I had a normal flight, not delayed, not canceled, which was really nice! Then, we were the FIRST people to get on the Magical Express bus and we had to WAIT and WAIT for the rest of the people to come. And then we were the LAST stop! The first was Pop Century, THEN Art of Animation, THEN Boardwalk, THEN FINALLY Caribbean Beach, which was the resort we stayed at. We had ordered Giordano’s pizza delivery, while we were on the bus, and it had said that it would come to the room in 60-70 minutes, which we thought to be plenty of time. Let’s just say Ubers and Lyfts were considered, but not taken, then we got to the resort, AND HAD TO TAKE THE INTERNAL SHUTTLE!!! Like SERIOUSLY?!?!? MY DEEP-DISH PIZZA IS SUPPOSED TO ARRIVE SOON AND WE ARE GOING TO MISS IT!!! But we finally got to our stop then went to the room, the luggage was delivered, and LUCKILY the pizza guy was running late, so it was PERFECT timing!! Mmm… that pizza was DELICIOUS!!! But we only ate half and had to stick the box in the mini fridge… difficult tetris…

The next day we went to check out the situation at Hollywood Studios. We went back to the to-be Toy Story Land entrance, and there were a lot of people bunched around there. We went from there to ride Toy Story Mania, which said the wait was around 70 minutes, but my mom and I think we only waited 20-30 minutes. And she BEAT me!! HOW?!?!??! She, I am pretty sure, got a cat, and I got a beaver. 😦  But the next time we played/rode it I beat her by a little 🙂 , but we both got beavers. After we were done there, we went and rode some other rides and shopped, and we just so happened to sit down on a bench, under an umbrella, when it started to downpour. Perfect timing!! It started to rain harder and harder, so we had to get out our umbrellas and hold them in front of us or beside us to keep from getting completely soaked! Just before we were about to get up I saw someone step in a LARGE puddle of water in the direction we were headed, to get to our Hollywood & Vine lunch reservation, and made sure not to step in it but I assumed that my mom had seen it also, but she had not, haha!

Our lunch was delicious! I really like the food and desserts there! It continued to downpour buckets and buckets of water, and it never completely stopped for the rest of the day. We pretty much just shopped and such after that, and then left, and went back to Caribbean Beach. We went to the “buffet” which was a DISASTER. It was in a pop-up tent sort of thing, since that building and the bulk of the resort was under construction. But they didn’t really have a kitchen, it seemed like, because my mom asked when they were going to get more salmon, because it is one of my favorite foods, and the lady behind the counter said “I don’t know,” and sort of looked back to the door behind which the food was coming from, and we sort of looked confused. The buffet was ok, but I don’t think I would get it again. The breakfast one was better food-wise, but the line was longer. And they had Mickey waffles, which was a plus! And they had real plates! Not paper ones like they had for dinner. We also ate at the Spyglass Grill in the Trinidad South section of the resort, we were in Trinidad North, so we had to walk over farther to get to it. But the pineapple and banana pancakes were delicious!!! I loved them!! Mmm… so good!

We booked a VIP tour to explore Toy Story Land and the top attractions at the other parks. The morning of the tour, we went to eat at The Wave, located in the Contemporary Resort, which was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! I LOVE the sweet potato pancakes, Tillamook cheddar and bacon grits, and the smoked salmon!! And don’t forget the Mickey waffles! The breakfast was delicious, as always! Then, after the breakfast, we split off into three groups and went to vans with the VIP Tour Guide that was assigned to our group, Leslie, and went to Toy Story Land! After getting our bags checked backstage, we walked from the Backstage area near Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster over to the Toy Story Land entrance. By that time, we had heard that Toy Story Land had been closed off, and was only allowing those with FastPasses or with VIP tours into the land. Luckily, we had a VIP tour, so we didn’t have a problem getting in!

The only major problem we had was the low level of shade. There were umbrellas set up throughout the land, but it still was SOOOO hot! My mom had an umbrella, and so did I, so she put hers up for more shade, and all of the people in the group were trying to get in her shade! Anyway, the first ride we rode was Alien Swirling Saucers. I LOVED it! It reminded me so much of Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, which is in Disneyland, and one of my favorite rides! And then after that we rode Slinky Dog Dash, which was also REALLY fun! My mom didn’t expect to like it that much, but after riding it, she liked it a lot! I also really liked it! The lap-bars were really nice too, they had hand-grips on either side of the bar, which was nice! (Even though my hands were always in the air!) After riding the new rides, we rode Toy Story Midway Mania! After finishing in Hollywood Studios, we rode over to Animal Kingdom. In Animal Kingdom, we rode Na’vi River Journey and then we had lunch at Satu’li Canteen. Lunch was delicious, but we had to wait FOREVER to even get our order placed! And as always, I recommend the blueberry cream cheese mousse! Mmmm! After lunch, we rode Flight of Passage, which, as always, was really REALLY fun!

After Animal Kingdom, we went to Epcot! First, in Epcot, we rode Soarin’ Around the World, which was fun! And then we got back in the van and drove around to Norway, to ride Frozen Ever After! Frozen Ever After was as fun as ever, and we got wet, which felt delightful in the hot weather! And after riding Frozen Ever After, the group hopped back in the van. We decided to go back to Hollywood Studios to ride Slinky Dog Dash once more! After getting off of Slinky Dog Dash, we broke off from the rest of the group, who decided to go ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, before five o’clock, when the tour was over, so we said our goodbyes, and went to look at some Toy Story Land merch! After getting some opening day pins and such, we headed over to Magic Kingdom for our reservation at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, which was delicious! We got caprese salad, which was AMAZING, and we each got a different kind of pasta. My mom got gnocchi in pesto with veggies, which was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G; and I got a sort of Alfredo sauce covered ravioli, which wasn’t nearly as good as her gnocchi… so after she was done eating hers, I sort of ate a lot of the leftover veggies in the pesto that she didn’t want. Mmmm!!!! Good!

After eating dinner, we went and rode some rides. And OMG!!! I got my mom to ride Tomorrowland Speedway!!! She NEVER rides it!! But it is one of my favorite rides!! She always think that it makes her smell funny, and doesn’t normally ride it because of that, but she DID ride it!!! Haha! Well anyway, we also rode The Little Mermaid ride, it’s a small world, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. This past trip was a quick one, but we have one more trip to the Mouse House coming up!

–Hailey

 

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Toy Story Land grand opening!

I’m back from another trip to the Walt Disney World resort in Florida! I visited at the end of June to celebrate and enjoy the grand opening of Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What a fun new land and great addition to the park… if Disney would just add a little shade there though…

First up, lodging. I stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort to see how the construction there was coming along. In a word… slowly. I haven’t been recommending this moderate level resort to my clients for some time and it looks like that’s not going to be changing. With the construction of the new Riviera Beach resort adjacent to Caribbean Beach, the Skyliner station, the complete renovation of the Old Port Royale section of the resort, and the always clunky Custom House check-in area, this one just can’t be on my list right now. Once the Custom House/check-in moves over to the centrally located (and eventually re-opened) Old Port Royale and the Skyliner system is up and running, this resort will be hugely improved. Until then, no-go.

Caribbean Beach food court in a tent

Current food court option at Caribbean Beach resort

No exaggeration, the ‘food court’ is currently a buffet breakfast and dinner, some type of grab and go for lunch. Granted, the buffet is pretty cheap as far as Disney pricing goes, but eating in a tent on paper plates with tiny little plastic cups is just weird.

On to the good stuff. Toy Story Land! First, grand opening days/weekends are NOT for the faint of heart. It was a mob scene on 6/30 when the land opened. We’re talking hours and hours in line just to be allowed into the land itself because it hit capacity very early on. Not to mention the hours in line for the two new rides: Alien Swirling Saucers and Slinky Dog Dash Coaster. Swirling Saucers is very similar to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree at Cars Land in California Adventure, with different ride vehicles, a ceiling, and fun ride music. Great for families and little ones, which is what Hollywood Studios really needed. Toy Story Mania’s entrance moved from the Pixar Place side into Toy Story Land itself but the ride remains the same (always fun for everyone!)

The highlight attraction is the Slinky Dog Dash coaster. This ride is a family-oriented coaster with a 38″ height requirement, just like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom. I like Slinky a lot better though, for several reasons. First, the ride is so much smoother. This is one of the smoothest coasters I’ve ever ridden. The theme too is just so cute and the way you come down the first big hill into Andy’s backyard really makes you feel like you’re about to re-enter the crowd! The ride stops midway to rev up and take off again across Slinky’s mini-hills, making you really get the ‘walks down stairs’ effect of a slinky toy. Big bonus! You can see into what will be Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge while on Slinky Dog so take a glance to your right!

I also love the ride vehicle! Slinky is so cute and the ride cars are so much more comfortable than Mine Train’s. They are more spacious inside and they have a split pull-down lap bar. That means each guest can pull the lap bar down to the desired height on their waist and there is no bar system that your legs must fit into. For those who are familiar with Mine Train, the lap bars are individual there as well but they are in sort of a frame where your legs/knees must squish between them. Since I’m Pooh-sized and not short, riding Mine Train can be extremely uncomfortable. Not so with Slinky Dog! I actually wish they’d close Mine Train for awhile and replace those ride vehicles with some like they’re using for Slinky. Gigantic improvement!

Slinky getting ready to 'go, go, go!'

Slinky getting ready to ‘go, go, go!’

Alien Swirling Saucers

Slipping and sliding in your saucer!

I can’t wait to go back later this month and visit the land at night. All the lights and effects look amazing! One huge negative is the shade. This new space has virtually no shade, no indoor stores/spaces, very small bathroom area, and no indoor restaurants. There is a quick service food option called ‘Woody’s Lunch Box’ that I’ll be trying on my next visit — this visit was just too hot and packed to even consider a stop. One good piece of advice is regarding merchandise. You can get merch for the land where Sweet Spells used to be, on Sunset around the corner from the Hollywood Brown Derby. This is a new merch location and much easier to navigate than trying to get to the carts in the land itself. Another tip, head to the land early in the morning or late at night (or both.) Trying to do Toy Story Land midday (unless you have a FastPass) is going to be a hot mess for awhile.

How did I get so lucky to be in Toy Story Land on grand opening day? Not to mention that I didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes (except for a backup on Alien Swirling Saucers that kept us in line for probably 15 minutes)? VIP Tour, that’s how. Was it free? Heck no! I get a lot of comments about how it must be nice to be a travel agent and travel for free but I can assure you, that’s not the case. We pay for everything, just like a regular consumer and VIP tours are an expensive experience. A small group of agents and their families got together and booked our own VIP guide to experience Toy Story Land on opening day as well as hit the most popular rides in the other parks in the seven hours we had the guide. The result?

  1. Hollywood Studios for Alien Swirling Saucers then Slinky Dog Dash
  2. Animal Kingdom for Na’vi River Journey, lunch at Satu’li Canteen, Avatar: Flight of Passage
  3. Epcot for Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After
  4. Back to Hollywood Studios for another go on Slinky Dog Dash and then some of the group wrapped on Rock n’ Roller Coaster. The plan was to go to Magic Kingdom but Slinky Dog was calling for a repeat!

The benefits, other than having a guide to take you into the FastPass lines of these insanely popular rides without having a FastPass? Private transportation backstage to each park, no bag check every time you needed to go into a new park, no turnstiles, drop off right at or very close to the ride entrance backstage, snacks/water/ponchos, etc. It was amazing! These tours are for up to 10 guests, minimum of 7 hours, theme park admission is required (including hoppers if you’re doing more than one park) and the per hour rate varies from $425 to $625/hour. You also tip the guide after the tour is complete. So yes, that’s about $3k-$4,500 for the tour. (I can set these up for my clients as well, just ask if you’re interested and we’ll come up with a fantastic tour plan for you!) These are completely custom and the guide will take you to do literally whatever attractions you want, based on their availability. We were going to ride Test Track in Epcot as well but a thunderstorm shut the ride down. You’ll want to allot very little time to eating and shopping during your tour because, let’s face it, you’re paying a premium to have the guide act as your personal FastPass and who wants to waste that shopping?!?

After the tour was over, we went to Magic Kingdom for dinner and were able to get in a few more attractions before the park closed. Four parks in one day! 14 attractions! Super exciting!

Whew, what a busy few days! We’re headed back later this month to do “Toy Story Land — the sequel” where we’ll play a little more in the evening, see what has changed since it first opened (hopefully there’s some shade!), and then check out a few new offerings. We’ll be at a different resort for that trip so stay tuned to see what resort I visited and thoughts on that one.

Happy July!