I’m back with Part 2 of ‘My Trip to Florida’ series! If you want to know more about our travel day, stay at All-Star Sports Resort, and our first trips to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, make sure to catch up on my first post here. But for now, let me walk you through our first trip to EPCOT, some cool Disney Resort extras, and our time at Islands of Adventure.
Wednesday 6th November – EPCOT
We woke up to another beautiful morning at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, so jumped on our resort bus straight to EPCOT. EPCOT is the Disney theme park most based in technology and culture, complete with a World Showcase of eleven countries. During our trip, EPCOT was hosting their annual Food & Wine Festival (great!), and as we were visiting out-of-season, a lot of building work was going on (not so great!). Despite the building works, and closure of a lot of restaurants and attractions, EPCOT was still a lot of fun.
We had a FastPass very first thing for Spaceship Earth, the ride that’s actually in the EPCOT ‘golf ball’. It’s a pleasant track ride that takes you from the creation of earth, all the way to the present day (well, until the nineteen-eighties, when the ride was built). It’s narrated by Dame Judi Dench, and it is such a Disney classic. From then on in, we explored Future World! We rode The Seas with Nemo and Friends (a cute track ride that takes you through the SeaBase aquarium with some Nemo inspired action), and then spent a good chunk of time in said aquarium. We loved the Observation Deck; a circular room in the middle of the 5.7 million gallon aquarium that lets you come close to the dolphins, sharks, rays, and fish.
Now, although my boyfriend and I holidayed in Disney World, we are not really your ‘classic’ Disney people (you know the ones). We’re not a fan of the kitsch stuff and really aren’t into meeting characters. That being said, we did jump in the line to meet Baymax. It was a surprisingly cool experience! The suit was so intricate, and it was really interesting to see how they represented one of the newer, non-human characters.
After meeting Baymax, we made a big mistake. And that mistake was called Mission: SPACE. Mission: SPACE is a simulator that takes you to Mars, complete with G-force and drops. As roller coaster lovers, we initially thought this was going to be a joy, so we chose the Orange trip – the more intense one. The cast members kept repeating ‘if you get motion sickness and hate small spaces, please swap to Green side’, and warnings flashed at every opportunity. Still, we went on. As soon as we saw sick bags available in the ride, we knew this was not going to be fun. I had to close my eyes half way through the ride and focus on my breathing to keep myself calm. As soon as the doors opened, we rushed out of there, and had to sit down for a good twenty minutes. Never. Again. I’m feeling queasy just writing about it…
Once we had our stability and appetite back after Mission: SPACE, we made our first stop at the World Showcase (don’t worry, we come back to World Showcase in our final week for a proper look around). We hopped on a boat, went across the Lagoon, and stopped at the American Pavilion for one reason and one reason only – funnel cake.
One of the most clear memories I have of my trip to Walt Disney World as a child was eating that sweet, crisp, nut-free funnel cake, and I just had to relive it. Thanks to Rory’s love for Oreos, and my (bad) idea that lactose-intolerancy doesn’t matter on holiday, we went for the Cookies n Cream funnel cake. Topped with vanilla ice-cream, crushed Oreos, and chocolate sauce, this was sweet and indulgent. Funnel cake instantly became our favourite food of this trip and it certainly wasn’t the last time we had it.
We decided to end our day early, as we were actually coming back to EPCOT that evening for a meal at Coral Reef, but not before riding Soarin’ Around the World. You settle down in front of a huge IMAX screen, and sit in rows of chairs that are lifted up. Your feet dangle, and the rows move to simulate hang gliding around the world. They use artificial scents, wind, and water to really build up the experience. I will be honest, it can be a bit nerve wracking if you are afraid of heights or having dangling feet, but it is honestly one of the best rides in EPCOT.
As is tradition, we went back to the hotel for a nap and a dip in the pool, and then got all dolled up for our posh meal of the holiday. We meandered through a now dark EPCOT to the Coral Reef restaurant. This restaurant is situated next to the large aquarium, so you can watch the fish and sealife as you eat. I requested a table close to the aquarium windows, as the restaurant is quite big and although everyone can see the aquarium, the views may not be that good. Eating at Coral Reef was hands down one of the best experiences of the holiday. The service was lovely, and as they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Little Mermaid, we had speciality menus that we could take home. As per most of Disney World, the staff were excellent in my allergy, and made us feel so welcome.
We decided to forgo a starter (as we wanted dessert), and went straight to cocktails and main courses. Rory had the rib eye steak, and I had the herb crusted chicken, and instantly called it as the best meal of the trip. It was so wonderful to see the sharks and manta rays up close, and even saw the divers coming through the aquarium. Yes, the meal and restaurant itself was wonderful, but it was a double dose of Disney magic that really made it…
If you are staying at a Disney Resort and opt out of housekeeping, you get a $10 giftcard per night of your stay (you can still ask for new towels, new linen, and for your bins to be emptied though). As we requested this a day or two into our stay, this meant we had $110 dollars of a giftcard to spend on whatever we wanted, so we chose to spend it on this meal. The second dose of Disney magic came in the form of a free dessert, complete with ‘we’re celebrating!’ topper! When I booked this restaurant, 180 days before our trip, the cast member on the phone asked if we were celebrating anything, and I mentioned I was booking this meal close to our anniversary. Lo and behold, everytime I made a booking or swiped my Magic Band, cast members thought we were celebrating! It was so sweet of them to give us this dessert, and we felt so grateful. I won’t lie, dinner at the Coral Reef was on the pricey side, but if you are celebrating something or want a romantic meal, I would 100% recommend booking.
And with that, we got back on the resort bus, feeling tipsy, full, and happy, and settled in for the night.
Thursday 7th November – Typhoon Lagoon & Disney Springs
After a nice lie in and and gander at the temperature (what a surprise, it was hot), we decided to head to Typhoon Lagoon! This is one of WDW’s two water parks (Blizzard Beach is the second, and was closed for refurbishment when we were there), and is themed like a tropical island that’s been hit by a typhoon. Out of the water parks, this is definitely more one for the adults. We relaxed in the lazy river, went down the water coasters and slides, and got tackled in the most fun ways by the largest wave pool in the USA. We stopped for some lunch at Leaning Palms; it had the usual theme park fare, and the most delicious and refreshing frozen lemonades I’ve ever had. In all honesty, we did the entire park in a few hours, so left at peak heat time, around 3pm.
After getting out of the sun, which was hitting highs of 30 degrees, we spent the afternoon relaxing, before heading out to Disney Springs for dinner. We made the rookie mistake of heading out at peak time, around 7pm, which meant there were queues for food everywhere. We ended up going to D-Luxe Burger, a fantastic burger joint. We shared a Duo Deal, and sat outside overlooking the Springs, and listening to the live music that came along the breeze. We then walked around Disney Springs, mainly window shopping and looking at the live music they had dotted around the place. We then made our first pit-stop at World of Disney, the largest Disney Store in the world, and admired all of the gorgeous (but overpriced) goods. And with that, we went back to the hotel for an early night, as the next day was going to be a little different..
Friday 8th November – Islands of Adventure
Goodbye Disney, hello Universal Studios Resort! Well, not quite, as we were still staying on property, and still had Disney tickets – but goodbye to Disney for a day! Universal Studios Resort was about a twenty minute car ride from our hotel, so we booked an early morning Uber, and made our way there. We were quite lucky with our park ticket deal – we paid for two days and they gave us an extra three days on top for free. We made our way to CityWalk, and hopped into the line for Islands of Adventures. We made sure to get there extra early; although we wanted to experience the park, we had one big goal, and that was to ride the new coaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorcycle Adventure. Although we were super early and got in relatively quickly, the queue turned to a wait that was over three hours before we even got there, so we abandoned the idea of going on it first thing, and turned to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We walked through the village of Hogsmeade and made our way up to Hogwarts. Yup, I wept when I saw it. Our first ride of the day was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey; a motion-based dark ride, with screens and real life sets. The queue itself was amazing, as you get to walk through various areas and classrooms of Hogwarts. Magical paintings speak to you and it’s truly an immersive experience. For the ride itself, you sit in school benches (with lap restraints) that have been ‘enchanted to fly’ by Hermione. Then, you speed around Hogwarts, join a Quidditch match, and end up in the Forbidden Forest and Chamber of Secrets. It truly is an exceptional experience, thanks to the indepth theming and the intricacies of the ride. We both came off the ride totally giddy with excitement – as two millennials growing up with Harry Potter, what would you expect?! It was then we checked the Universal App, only to find out that Hagrid’s roller coaster was completely down. Ouch. We’d end up checking the app every half hour or so, and it stayed down. So, we rode the small coaster Ride of the Hippogriff as the queue was only five minutes, and then headed off to another section of the park.
Next up, we rode the Jurassic Park River Adventure water ride, and were the only two people there! I put it down to Floridians finding the 25 degree weather cold, and everyone else waiting for the Wizarding World. It was a fun track ride with a few drops, and we were glad to have worn our ponchos, as the splash at the end was huge. We then moved on to Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which was a huge surprise of a ride! You board a jeep style vehicle and are given 3D glasses to wear at certain points. What starts out as a tour of the island, turns into simulated drops and jolting thanks to screens and setpieces that surround you, and ends with encountering a six metre tall animatronic of the head of Kong himself. We knew nothing about this ride going in, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Then came Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Sigh. We were the only two people stupid enough to go on it. Ripsaw Falls is a coaster meets flume ride that gets you beyond soaked. Our ponchos simply didn’t save us. There’s moments where you get splashed, buckets of water pour over your head, and a drop hill where your boat ends up being full of water. Every inch of me was soaked, Rory’s bag was sodden, and I had wet shoes for the entire day. Despite that the dampness of it all, it was still incredible fun.
In order to dry off, we walked around Hogsmeade, looking at the shops and theming. I got myself a Hufflepuff pin, and have no regrets at all. We then decided on The Three Broomsticks for lunch. There was a considerable queue, but when would we ever be able to eat there again? We had pasties and fish and chips, and I decided to splurge on a frozen Butterbeer. I know people are pretty split on Butterbeer, they either love it or hate it, but I loved it. I’ve got a sweet tooth after all, and boy oh boy was it sweet.
After our Hogsmeade meal, we went to Marvel Island and hit The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
We ended up queuing for about an hour and half for Hulk, as the ride went down for a significant amount of time. In all honesty, the queue itself is Hulk themed (you are in Thaddeus Ross’ research centre and see a lot of mentions to Bruce Banner), but it’s all a cover for the coaster. The coaster is incredible, with drops, rolls, and hitting speeds of 67 mph. We came off feeling shaky and pumped with adrenaline, just how you should feel after a good roller coaster. Spider-Man is a 3D motion and dark ride that takes you all around New York City, where you battle it out with Spider-Man’s enemies. The queue is themed like the comics, and the little nudges to other Marvel projects is great to look at. Overall, we really enjoyed the ride; it wasn’t anything mind blowing, but as two Marvel fans, we had fun.
After checking Hagrid’s once more, we decided we had done everything we wanted to do, and made our way back. After a few stops in shops near the exit, we got to the barriers to leave. Thanks Heavens Rory thought about checking the app again – Hagrid’s was now working! We ran across the park to join the queue, and ended up only waiting 45 minutes. Like The Forbidden Journey, the queue system was fantastic. You walked through the Forbidden Forest, old churches, and Hagrid’s classrooms. The ride itself though was on another level. You end up riding on Hagrid’s motorbike; someone in the side car and someone in the seat. There are drops, shakes, spins, and you go backwards at one point, all the way through the Forbidden Forest, passing various magical creatures. It’s hands down the best rollercoaster I have ever been on. After that, it was definitely time to go back to the hotel.
Saturday 9th November – Mini golf and Day Off
This day was truly needed. We’d hit all of the Disney theme parks and Islands of Adventure without a real day of rest. Although we were having the time of our lives, our feet were sore and we needed a moment to just relaaaax. Cue a lie in, leisurely breakfast, and some free mini golf! That’s another perk of staying at a Disney Resort; you get free mini golf each day at either Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland. We took the bus to Hollywood Studios, and then hopped onto a ferry boat to take us to the Swan Hotel where Fantasia Gardens was based.
Fantasia Gardens has two courses; Fantasia, which is your fun mini-golf course, and Fairways, which is a traditional golf course on a miniature scale. We started off with the fun course, which came complete with spurting water, music, and excellent theming. It was another glorious day so we ended up getting a damn good tan after this. After stopping for an ice-cream, we then tackled Fairways, which was branded the hardest in Florida by one of the cast members. This was just as fun as Fantasia, but I do think that was down to the fact we are both adults who enjoy golf. We ended up spending about four hours at Fantasia Gardens, and had so much fun. We took the boat and bus back to the hotel, and settled down for an evening of swimming, eating, and drinking.
So, that’s my second post on My Trip to Florida! My final post will be about our trip to Universal Studios, and catching up on more rides and experiences in Walt Disney World. Let me know if you’ve been to FLorida and what your favourite thing to do was!