Thursday, January 30, 2014

Disney/Universal 2013 Day 6

Missed one of my Disney trip posts?  Catch up on day 1, day 2, day 3day 4 and day 5.

Day 6 was our Epcot Day.  Pop quiz!  Anyone know what EPCOT stands for?  The answer is at the bottom of the post.

We started off our Epcot day with our favorite ride - Test Track!

We loved it the last time we came and now it is even better.  Disney has updated it with an area that lets you design your own car.  As you go through the ride, you test your car on different factors such as speed, agility, etc.  Then at the end, you find out who's car did the best overall and that person is the winner.  And, of course, you store all that data in your handy-dandy MagicBand, which you scan as you are going onto the ride to load your car data.

Using my awesome Disney know-how, we managed to ride Test Track 3 times without ever having to stand in line.  Fortunately for us, we visited at a time when both the new Fastpass+ and the older Fastpass machines were both in service.  We ran walked really fast to Test Track when the gates opened.  We got on it immediately.  When we were done, we went and got a Fastpass to ride again (Fastpass line = no line).  Then we already had a Fastpass+ reserved so we got to ride it a third time with no wait.  Score!!

There was really fun area at the end of Test Track.  Really it was one big advertisement for General Motors cars, but to the kids, it was a fun place to take futuristic pictures.  You got to pick the background and features such as fireworks in the sky or what was shown on the planet next to the car.  Then you ran and got in place and it took your picture.  The pictures were then emailed to you (with some GM propaganda in there too).  Here are some we engineered together.

We visited several other rides, including Soarin', which we also had a Fastpass+ for.  Then it was on to the World Showcase.

When we came to Disney in 2011, we came to Epcot and started around the countries to the right.  We only made it halfway around before everyone was hot, tired and whiny.  So we left without seeing the rest of the countries.

This time my goal was to go around to the left and see the other half of the countries.

We started in Mexico.  And since you can't go through the World Showcase without some entertainment for the kids, we picked up an Agent P phone on the way.  Did we mention how much the kids fought over that phone the last time we came?  Guess what?  Nothing's changed.  They still fought over that phone.

But the special effects with the phone were great.  You stand in one particular spot and push a button and Doofensmertz pops up out of a pot.  Or guitars on the wall start moving and singing.  Really cool.

Mexico was our favorite, mostly because it was inside and air conditioned.  It seems like every time we go to Epcot, it's exceptionally hot that day.  It was close to 100 the day we went, and that was in Oct!  They need to build some more shade in that place!

It was on to China next, which was beautiful and serene.

 We made it over to Norway to ride Maelstrom (our last Fastpass+ for the day) and we were sorely disappointed.  First of all, we shouldn't have wasted a Fastpass+ on that.  The line wasn't long at all.  And then it seemed like a joke of a ride.  It is touted as a tame roller coaster.  I didn't find it roller coaster-ish at all.  My recommendation is that unless you really want to know about Norse history, you should skip that ride.

Well, once again we made it halfway around and everyone was hot, tired and whiny.  So, like before, we took the boat back across the lagoon and headed back to our hotel.  I guess it's just par for the course for us at Epcot to only see half the countries every visit.  And, once again, we didn't make it to the Illuminations fireworks show.  Oh well, it gives us something to shoot for next time.

EPCOT = Experimental, prototype city of tomorrow

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Disney/Universal Day 5

Read all about our recent Disney trip: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 are available.

I have to admit, Wednesday was the day I was most looking forward to.  What day was that, you ask?  Hollywood Studios day!!  I LOVE DHS (Disney's Hollywood Studios, for all the non-Disney geeks out there).  After missing out on the Jedi academy 2 years before, I was NOT going to let my kids miss out on it this time.

Following our normal Disney touring day protocol, we arrived at the park early.  Like, really early, about an hour before it opened.  We were the first ones in our line.  And seeing as this was our first day at a Disney park for the week, I was pretty nervous about just using our Magicbands to get in.  I had linked our tickets to the band myself using the myDisneyExperience website.  I had my fingers crossed that I did it right and that it would all work (I also had our paper tickets with me, just in case it didn't work).  Luckily, we met some very nice gentlemen working the gate.  We talked to them for almost the whole hour.  And they let us scan our bands a few minutes early so we could be ready to run walk really fast to sign the kids up to be Jedis.

And it worked!!

We were the second family in line to sign the kids up and we got our pick of times.  I had to make sure to work around our Fastpass+ reservations that we already had, but I got them signed up to fight Darth Vader, every young Padawan's dream.

Then we did what all good Disney patrons do while at DHS, we ran to Toy Story Mania, the best ride in all of the Disney parks.  We had to wait in line about 10 minutes but it wasn't too bad.  We also got to ride this again later with a Fastpass+.  I could ride that thing a million times and still love it.

Wearing the new Disney lanyards.

LOVE the Toy Story themed queue.
Makes waiting in line just a little bit more fun.

I had bought myself and kids Disney lanyards the day before, in hopes that we could do pin trading this time.  But, sadly, we didn't see anyone else with them on in DHS or Epcot, so we didn't get to do any pin trading.  Must be a Magic Kingdom thing...

Other fun attractions for the day:
Lights, Motor, Action stunt show - We didn't see that show the last time we were there so this was a first.  The show was awesome! A lot of really cool driving and impressive stunts.  David, especially, really liked it.

Star Tours - We, finally, got to ride the new Star Wars ride.  It was closed for upgrades the last time we were there.  We made up for lost time by riding it three times this trip.  Once with a Fastpass+, once with a regular Fastpass and once just standing in line.  The line went really fast so it wasn't too bad.  During the ride, they pick one rider to be the "the Jedi rebel spy."  David was lucky enough to be chosen the first time we rode and got his picture up on the screen.

Here's my little rebel spy riding his speeder.

And the Jedi princess...

Not looking very princess like, but that's OK.

Sci-Fi Cafe - Several people suggested that we eat lunch at the Sci-Fi Cafe.  We tried to get reservations and, in fact, we had some, but they were for 2 in the afternoon and we really wanted to eat earlier than that.  We decided to risk it and try to get first come, first serve seating.  We showed up at 11 when they opened and got seated pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, the non-reservation seating wasn't in the cool 2 bench cars that face the screen.  It was in the limo that is sideways to the screen.  It made it harder to see the movie clips.  And it was very dark which made it kind of hard to see to eat our food.  Overall, our experience wasn't stellar and I don't think we'll go back there in the future.

Then it was time for the big event - The Jedi Training Academy!!

The Padawans all met to get their robes on and to answer trivia questions about Star Wars.  That part was a little odd.  The trivia questions were given by someone who wasn't a native English speaker.  You could tell this was her first time doing this particular job.  So you have a non-English speaker trying to ask questions with weird Star Wars words in them.  It didn't go over well.  The parents ended up repeating everything she said in more plain English for the kids.

Then it was time to go out on the stage.  Every Padawan got a light saber and learned a little fight routine with it (one they would use later when Darth Vader comes out).

Then it was time to fight the evil Darth Vader.  Both kids did great!  And the professional photographer's pictures were so much better than mine that I splurged and bought some of his pictures.

I just love the tye-dye shirt under the Jedi robe, very mysterious.

David got to be the only one to use the "force push" on the storm troopers.  It worked too!

I love how his little feet are up in the air in that picture.  He's so into the whole experience that he's jumping to "force push" those bad guys back.

Pure joy!!
In the end, they all got diplomas which graduates them from Padawan learners to true Jedi!  The Jedi Training Academy experience was truly wonderful!

We loved, loved, LOVED, our Hollywood Studios touring day!  The weather was perfect.  The rides were perfect.  And we did everything we set out to do.  Two thumbs up for Disney!

Pop quiz: Anyone remember what movie this spaceship is from?
Stay tuned for Day 6!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2 months, Oh my!

Somehow I blinked and 2 months passed with no post from me.  Oops.

Christmas and New Years came and went.  Presents were opened.  Lots of food was eaten.  It was a good year.  I'll try to put up a Christmas post later this week.  Oh, and I still have to finish our Disney trip recap too, sometime.  Better late than never, right?

While you're waiting for those exciting posts, feel free to browse my newest book reviews over at my other site, Read me or Bust.  You can search for a book by title in the search box, browse by genre or just read the latest reviews on the home page.  Happy reading!