The hubs, kid, and I took to the skies to travel to Disney last week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Masks, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, frequent handwashing, and steering clear of other people helped keep us safe during our adventure. The airports, parks, and resorts had most guests wearing masks properly and abiding by social distancing rules. You always have those folks that think they don’t need to follow what has been asked of them, but that doesn’t fly at Disney or onboard an airplane. Disney’s Cast Members (employees) are very quick to correct anyone they see with a nose out, mask completely off, or wearing a non-compliant mask (neck gaiters just don’t cut it there). The airlines are the same way, including banning you from flying in the future if you don’t comply. As Nike says, “just do it”.
The plan for this trip was short and sweet, with some resort exploration and a day at Hollywood Studios soaking up the sun in Batuu. We ended up with two full exploration days, which was great for us, and allowed for more free time and some shopping at Disney Springs. We flew in on Tuesday evening and spent the night at Disney’s Art of Animation resort in one of their Little Mermaid themed standard rooms. These rooms have been renovated to now include two queen beds, laminate flooring, and spruced up décor. I love the move to laminate flooring in the resorts. It feels so much more hygienic and modern than carpet that quickly looks like it has seen its better days. The queen beds are a nice upgrade from the original double beds that had been here since the resort’s opening days.
We enjoyed our overnight here and spend the evening strolling around and enjoying the larger than life decorations in each section of the resort. Our personal favorite is always the Cars section, as the kid was a huge Cars fan when she was little, so we hung out over there for quite a while. When dinner time rolled around, the pizza combo meal from the Landscape of Flavors food court at the resort hit the spot. Large cheese pizza, family size salad, breadsticks, plus the drinks we added on, made dinner under $50 and quite delish. Mobile ordering at the food court was a breeze, I actually placed the order on the MyDisneyExperience app walking to the food court and then selected ‘I am here’ when we arrived closer to the building. After a brief wait while they prepared the food, we were instructed where to enter and what table to collect our order from. A quick stop over at the drink station, where Cast Members were filling drinks for guests, took care of our liquid refreshment needs on the way to our table outside. Eating outside at the resorts is super easy, no matter if you’re in a value, moderate, or deluxe level property. Mobile order your meal from the food court or quick service location, pick it up, and head outdoors!
The next morning, we moved our belongings to Disney’s Boardwalk Villas resort, where we moved into our deluxe studio room for the remainder of the trip. We had early dinner plans at Raglan Road at Disney Springs, so we went ahead and hopped on a bus to the Springs to spend some time shopping, enjoying the Christmas Tree Stroll Scavenger Hunt, and wrapping up with dinner. If you pickup a free map for the scavenger hunt, you can mark each decorated tree found at Disney Springs and return the map for a small prize!
Dinner at Raglan Road was excellent, as always, and enjoyed on the outdoor patio this time around. What a lovely place to relax and enjoy amazing food in an open-air environment! Service was excellent too, with a five-layer mask worn by our server! After dinner, we headed back over to Boardwalk to get settled in for the evening. We took Disney bus transportation to Disney Springs and back, as well as other times during the trip, and had no safety concerns. When you board, the driver tells you what marked section to sit in, based on your party size, and each section is separated by dividers. No more standing! The emergency exits on the roof are open as well, to allow for more airflow when the bus is in motion. At no time during the trip did we have to sit close to any other party and, we were actually on buses completely by ourselves several times.
Speaking of transportation in general, we rode every form of Disney transportation on this trip to see how each piece was setup. The boats had dividers between rows of seats and were restricting you to one family per row (or two guests per row, depending on the size of the boat/row.) The monorails had separated sections of each train car, and the monorail attendants took your party to an available empty section. Skyliner gondolas are already setup for an individual party to ride in each gondola and there is no longer any mixing of parties in each gondola. I don’t know about you, but I love being separated out like this and have no complaints if it stays this way for awhile. I’m sure as capacity is allowed to increase and pandemic safety concerns get more under control, these types of precautions will go by the wayside, but they’re nice to have right now!
On Thanksgiving, we spent the day exploring resorts and transportation. We started by walking from our resort over to the Epcot International Gateway entrance, where we hopped on the Skyliner over to the Riviera resort. We LOVE Riviera so walking around there was so nice. We grabbed a snack of amazing Romano and herb fries from Primo Piatto and enjoyed those by the water while watching the Skyliner gondolas zip by. After stopping for some photos, we hopped back on the Skyliner over to the nearby Caribbean Beach resort where we switched Skyliner routes to head to Hollywood Studios. At the Studios, we boarded a bus to the Fort Wilderness resort and campground. At the Fort, we spent some time looking around at the different types of campsites, the wilderness cabins, and some of the amenities (great stores and the main pool is so nice!) The resort was bustling with activity from guests enjoying the Thanksgiving Day scavenger hunt, renting canoes and bikes, and gem mining! We actually went to the Fort just to try out the gem mining experience and had such a great time! It had a nominal fee of $9 per bag of ‘paydirt’ that you then took to the mining station where you sifted through the dirt to find the goodies! We had so much fun that we bought a third bag to enjoy!
After our time at the Fort, we took a boat over to Magic Kingdom where we stopped to snap a few pictures before walking over to the Contemporary resort. There, we did a little shopping and took a break outside under the monorail tracks to gaze longingly at Magic Kingdom. Dinner time came around pretty quickly though, and we headed back inside to The Wave, where we had an incredible dinner. Tables spaced very appropriately, servers with masks and face shields, etc. Though indoors, I felt perfectly safe here. Grabbing a holiday Linzer cookie from the Contempo Cafe upstairs on the way out, we grabbed a ride on the monorail to make our way to the Grand Floridian resort. You have to take a picture of the Christmas tree setup at the Grand for the holidays! I so missed the Gingerbread houses this year, especially the big one at the Grand, but it is just one of the many things that we have to look forward to for 2021! Since it was getting late, we decided to take the new walking path that connects the Grand back to Magic Kingdom. A lovely 15 minute or so walk, we enjoyed having this ‘transportation’ option for a great evening stroll. Once back at Magic Kingdom, it was time to board a bus ‘home’ to the Boardwalk to rest our feet and get ready for our Hollywood Studios day!
It was finally time for Hollywood Studios, what these Star Wars fans had been waiting so (im)patiently for! At 6:55am, I logged in to the MyDisneyExperience app, starting the cycle of endless refreshing to try to grab a boarding group for the newest ride, “Rise of the Resistance” in Hollywood Studios’ Galaxy’s Edge section. Boarding groups are required to ride this attraction, due to popularity, and they literally completely fill up each morning at 7am in SECONDS. Not to toot my own horn too much, but BOARDING GROUP #1 BABY! We were in the park, which officially opened at 10am but unofficially opens closer to 9am, and had ridden Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad when our boarding group was called at 9:40am to ride Rise.
Now, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride is very new too and SO.MUCH.FUN! I wasn’t sure quite what to expect but this trackless ride will blow you away! Great for families and adults only, I could ride this ride over and over! I can only hope that rides like Rise and Railway are the future of Disney attractions because these two are simply incredible experiences.
We spent a ton of time in Batuu, as usual, the Star Wars planet you’re visiting when entering Galaxy’s Edge. Technically you’re at Black Spire Outpost there, and any Star Wars fan will be blown away by the detail that went into creating Batuu. The hubs, the kid, and I have spent hours upon hours in Batuu East (Hollywood Studios) and West (Disneyland) and could easily spend so much more time there. The marketplace was reconfigured for social distancing in a really cool way. You line up to enter the marketplace as a whole. When your turn to enter comes, you then choose which market stall you want to go to first (creature stall, toy store, Batuu merch, clothing, etc.) and wait in that stall’s line. Each market stall only allows one party/family in at a time! So it is basically like a private shopping opportunity where you can actually see all of the merchandise without having to look over and around other guests. Love it! Mobile ordering food in Batuu is even easier now too, especially over at Docking Bay 7. When your food is ready, you enter the building, are given your food, and then you are directed to a table to enjoy your meal (inside or outside). Wait, what?!? No fighting for tables or cramming around one that doesn’t really fit your party? Nope. Directed to a table. Ah-mazing!
After a long day at the Studios, we took a boat back to Boardwalk and ordered some pizza and salad from the delish Giordano’s. Deep dish pizza for dinner, why yes, I think I will! They deliver to Disney resorts and are very cost-effective. Enjoying the pizza by the Boardwalk pool made for a nice break and al fresco experience. Since it was Friday night, that meant only one more thing to cap off the perfect day… The Mandalorian!! Of course, we had to bring the Chromecast along so we could stream Disney+ to our room and be able to see The Mandalorian’s new episode before spoilers filled our newsfeeds. I won’t spoil it for you, if you haven’t watched it yet, but that episode was superb! Our dreams were filled with beloved Clone Wars characters and a name drop that we weren’t expecting at all!
The next morning brought a yummy breakfast, sans characters, at Trattoria al Forno at our resort. Trattoria is the home of the Bon Voyage Princess breakfast with Ariel and Rapunzel in normal times, but no characters have returned to the location yet. The bonus right now though is that the food is still just as good and the price is very scaled back without the characters. Win-win! After a short flight home, we were back in Virginia and changing out of our shorts into long pants, greeting the chilly evening with a scowl.
Until next time!