Oh What Fun!!!
Just back from an awesomest vacation to Orlando, Florida. I am still in awe.
During our Alaska trip last year, I heard my parents talking about our upcoming Florida trip in Feb, 2018. I did not pay much attention at that time as I was so lost in our Alaska trip. Also since it was not time for our spring break yet, I thought I might have heard something wrong. But during my birthday week, my parents confirmed that we are going for a week long vacation to Orlando for my extended birthday celebration. Boy Oh Boy!!! The best birthday celebration ever!!!
We visited so many parks, we did so many rides, we watched so many shows in that week, it is a huge task to recollect all and pen it down. But luckily, my mom took some notes during our entire vacation. With the help of those notes and with the unlimited number of pictures that I captured in my tiny camera, we are able to recollect our vacation piece by piece.
Day 1 – Animal Kingdom
On the wee hours of one Saturday morning, my dad woke us up. We got ready and headed for the airport. Our flight was on time. We were so excited about our trip that we could hardly catch up on our sleep in the flight. I kept thinking what is in store for today? Which park are we going to visit first?
At the Orlando airport, after collecting our luggage and rental car, we headed for Animal Kingdom. The temperature was in 60s that day, a little chilly for Orlando weather. So we were comfortably dressed in full sleeve shirts and full pants. We did not have to change into our summer clothes.
As we were driving towards the park, Mickey and Minnie greeted us at the Walt Disney World gate
After reaching Animal Kingdom, my dad collected the tickets. Apart from Tickets, my dad also took two more things which I thought is pretty cool.
The first one is Magic Band. These are colorful, waterproof wristbands and looks like a watch. The bands allow you to unlock the door of your Disney Resort hotel room, enter the theme and water parks, check in at FastPass entrance, connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account, charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room. Overall, this is a nice to have thing, a magic key to the world of your dreams. This makes your wallet lighter. You can find more information about it here. These are valid for 5 years. Also serves as a nice souvenir. You can either purchase them online before your travel or you can purchase them inside the park.
The second one is PhotoPass and Memory Maker package. This package lets you keep the heavy DSLR, or the selfie stick at home and travel light. Professional photographers are located throughout the park. They will scan you magic band or magic card and take your photos which are then linked your account. This way entire group can be in the picture. They also take cool magic shots, in which the photographer will ask you to pose as needed and then digitally add a character like Tinker Bell. The digital photos are available for 30 days. Another cool feature is you can overlay the picture with many available Disney theme. Also you get all the ride photos and some videos. A sample magic shot is below. See the Olaf? That was added later.
We saw the iconic tree of life as soon as we entered the park.
Animal Kingdom is mainly divided into 6 sections. At a glance :
- Oasis – Guests enter the park through Oasis.
- Discovery Island – located at the center of the park. The “Tree of Life” – an iconic 145-foot-tall (44 m), 50-foot-wide (15 m), sculpted and man made baobab tree is located in this area. Also you can find “It’s tough to be Bug” 3D show here.
- Pandora, The World of Avatar – A themed area based upon James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” and features floating mountains, alien wildlife and bioluminescent plants. Two main attractions in this area are “Avatar – Flight of Passage” and “Na’vi River Journey”.
- Africa – This section is based upon fictional east African port village Harambe. Festival of the Lion King show and the Kilimanjaro Safaris is located in this area.
- Asia – This area is based upon Asia’s most exotic and intriguing countries such as Nepal, Mongolia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and India. Main attractions in this area are : Finding Nemo – The Musical, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, Rivers of Light show.
- Dinoland U.S,A – It features a 50-foot tall skeleton of a Brachiosaurus that spans the “OldenGate Bridge.” Main attractions in this area are : Boneyard, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, Primeval Whirl, Dinosaur, TriceraTop Spin.
After a quick breakfast of homemade “methi paratha” and “corn flakes chivda”, it was time to begin the fun. The very first thing we did was watch The Lion King Show (Festival of The Lion King). What a great way to start the day.
Festival of The Lion King
Inside the theater, all the guests were seated in four sections : one each for elephant, warthog, giraffe and lion. We were giraffe. Four larger than life size replica of the animals were wheeled near each section. The funny thing is we were asked to make sound like our respective animals. Everyone knew how to sound like an elephant or a lion. But to sound like a giraffe or warthog was quite some challenge. But luckily we got some help from the hosts.
The Festival of Lion is a Broadway like theatrical live performance. The complete show lasted for about 30 minutes. It’s a true festival of jaw dropping gymnastics, mind blowing performances, melodious singing and explosion of colors. It’s a must watch show if you visit Animal Kingdom.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Bus Tour
Next stop was Kilimanjaro Safaris tour. This African savanna at animal kingdom is home to many exotic animals. At the starting point we boarded an open air vehicle along with other guests. The bus took us for a tour of simulated African veld habitat. We spotted many animals along the way like zebra, giraffe, rhino, hippo, crocodile, lions, elephants. The highlight of the tour was fight between a group of elephants. Our bus driver informed us that this is a very rare feat.
After this awesome bus tour and few more pics, it was time for lunch. We had lunch near Lion King theater. We had tomato soup, Mediterranean flat bread and garlic knots. Yum Yum Yum!!!
Being recharged, we headed towards Pandora, the land of Avatars. This is a themed area spanning about 12 acres, inspired by James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” and features floating mountains, alien wildlife and bioluminescent plants. The “Imagineers” at Disney did a fabulous job of imagining, designing and implementing the fine details to bring the movie to life.
There are two major attractions in this area : Avatar, Flight of Passage & Na’vi River Journey.
Flight of Passage
We did the Avatar, Flight of Passage ride first. It’s a 3D flying simulation ride. The set up of this ride is an ACE (Alpha Centauri Expeditions) lab where guests are linked to an “Avatar” and fly aboard a banshee (also known as Ikran, a flying creature that must be tamed by a Na’vi) across the valey of Mo’ara.
The minimum height requirement for this ride is 44″. By the time we reached the entry point of this ride, my little sister was fast asleep in her stroller (remember we were awake since 3 am that day?). She was still sleeping when my dad helped her stand on her two little feet to prove that she is 44 inches tall. Even though she met the minimum height requirement, we were not sure if she would be able to do the ride. For one, she just slept and went into a deep sleep immediately (we thought she is gone for 2 to 3 hours) and two, this was her first ever 3D simulation ride.
Somehow we reached the ACE lab. We were all settled down on our simulated flying creature, banshee and matched with our “Avatars”. My little sister was wide awake by this time. The 4 min ride though the valley of Mo’ara was just breathtaking. In my sister’s words “This is soooooo cool, can we do this again?” She never fails to amaze us. This is a must do ride if you are visiting Animal Kingdom.
Na’vi River Ride
Next stop was Na’vi river ride. The setup is the Kaspavan River of Pandora showcasing native animals and bioluminescent flora from the movie Avatar. It’s about 5 minute slow boat ride over the river (no chances of getting wet though). The replication of flora and fauna of Pandora is breathtaking and the Shaman of Songs audio animatronic towards the end of the ride is really captivating. Overall, the ride was good, calming and relaxing. My recommendation would be to get a FastPass for this ride if possible.
We took a quick snack/coffee break after this. Also clicked many pictures taking advantage of the Photo Pass in the Land of Avatar’s before heading towards our next ride. There were professional photographers with big cameras in every nook and cranny.
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Next stop was Expedition Everest Coaster ride. This is a metal coaster based on an idea that an Yeti is protecting the forbidden mountain next to Mount Everest. In 2011, this was listed in Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive roller coaster on the world. It’s total cost is estimated to be more than $100 million US Dollars which includes sets and extras. It took Disney about six years of planning and construction to make this a reality.
The journey begins at the fictional “Himalayan Escapes” travel agency and village of Serka Zong. Towards the end of the line, there is a Yeti museum filled with artifacts from Nepal and also a mold of Yeti footprint.
The coaster experience itself is very unique. Part of it travels in reverse direction. Guests are seated two per row. My sister sat with dad and I sat with mom. The coaster stated travelling forward, there were a few twists and turns. As soon as you think it is going at a very high speed, all of a sudden it stops. Why, because there is not way to go forward. The tracks have been ripped apart by an Yeti. Then we started going backwards at a very high speed.
Lights on the River Show
Finally with pizza and fries in our hand, we sat down on on the benches near the lagoon river to watch the spectacular “Rivers of Light” show. The show began with four gigantic color changing lotus blossoms that later changed into colorful fountains. Also at a distance, we could see the fireflies and shadows of animals on the tree. Then came the storytellers on their lantern sailboats. Apart from these, also came four gigantic animal shaped colorful lanterns : Tiger (representing Fire), African elephant and her calf ( representing Earth), a sea turtle and it’s offspring (representing Water) and a great horned owl with her owlets (representing Air). It also features other elements like mist screens, fire effects, lasers, lights, fog, projection mapping and live performances. Overall the show was very pleasing to the eyes and melodious to the ears.
With the music of the show still ringing in our ears, we boarded the tram which took us to the parking lot. Finally it was time to go back to our hotel room and crash for the night.
There are many other attractions and shows in this park including meet and greet Disney characters like Mickey, Minnie and friends, princesses etc but due to lack of time we could not cover it all. Nonetheless, I felt we covered a lot. We were so tired by the end of the day that needless to say we fell fast asleep as soon as we were buckled up in our car seats. The drive back to our hotel was about 20 min. As usual, my dad had to carry my little sister back to the hotel room.
Day 2 : EPCOT
Next morning, feeling recharged, we got ready for another fun filled day. We had breakfast at dunkin donuts – Veggie egg white flatbread and (needless to say) donuts and munchkins. When you are outside, you need those extra sugar to keep you going, you know (wink wink).
We reached Epcot around 10.30am. Parked our car and boarded the tram to the park entrance. Here is one quick tip about the parking lots. In all the disney parks, the parking lot has a specific names like in Epcot they are named as “Discover”, “Amaze”, “Create” etc. Make sure to click a picture of it before boarding the tram. Trust me, you will thank yourself for doing that. It will come handy at the end of the day to get down at the right parking lot.
After reaching the park entrance and entering the park through the regular security check, it was time for us to begin the fun. Since we were already loaded with our magic bands and photopass, we directly went for the rides.
A Brief History of EPCOT
We were just googling about EPCOT and came across some interesting facts, So thought about sharing it with our readers.
EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Originally, Walt Disney’s vision was to create an actual city for people to live and work with the best technology. But after the death of Walt Disney, the company decided against building the city without his guidance. After much consideration, they ended up making a theme park showcasing combination of Future World and World Showcase.
As soon as we entered Epcot, the first thing that caught our attention is a gigantic ball. That ball is actually Spaceship Earth, a 18 story high sphere. Inside, there is a slow moving ride, which takes the guests on a journey through time to depict evolution of human communication starting from prehistoric man to today’s modern communication advancements. We skipped this ride, so can’t give you more information than this, sorry.
We started our Journey in the Future World. The day started very bright and sunny. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and memory maker package and clicked quite a few pics including some incredible magic shots.
Soarin’ Around the World
The very first ride we did in Epcot was the Soarin’ Around the World ride. It’s a hang-gliding 3D flight simulator ride with a mechanical lift system. There is a 80 foot tall dome shaped movie screen. The idea of this ride is to fly the guests over 6 continents like we flew over Switzerland, Sydney Opera House in Australia, spotted a herd of African elephants, almost landed on Great Wall of China, Got a glimpse of Egyptian Pyramids, Tajmahal in India, almost touched the Eiffel Tower in Paris finally ending in Disneyland. In those 5 short minutes, we conquered the entire world.
Living With the Land Show
Our next stop was Living With The Land Show. This is a slow moving boat ride which lasts for about 15 min. The ride starts with a storm scene in a tropical rainforest, then glides past a dessert scene and American prairie. The ride then glides past The Land’s Living Laboratory, which showcases the future of agriculture. There are many green houses where we saw some common fruits and vegetables like tomato, lettuce, cucumber. We also spotted some exotic variety. There is even a section for farming fish. The scientists at the Laboratory are constantly experimenting on ways to improve the future of agriculture. In some of these sections, plants are grown in less space with very minimal water. Some plants are grown horizontally and some plants are grown vertically. Even though this is different from the cuteness of Disneyland, we all liked this ride very much.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
As per the WDW website,
“Go under the sea—without getting wet—on this attraction based on Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo which finds Nemo lost again.”
This ride, as it’s name suggests, is based on the famous movie “Finding Nemo”. The guests board a clam shaped vehicle called as “Clamobile” and ventures into undersea exploration of magical world of Nemo and his friends. After settling down in our very own “Clamobile”, we joined Marlin in search of Nemo. We met many characters along the way who helped us find Nemo. Mr. Ray and his students, Dory, Squirt, Crush all helped us locate Nemo. We also met a few not so good characters who tried to stop us from finding Nemo like Bruce, a white shark and Chum, a mako shark. Finally Nemo is reunited with his friends in a giant aquarium and the show concludes with the song “In the Big Blue World”. This is a high-tech ride in which the animated characters co-mingle with the live fish and put up a fantastic show.
By the time we came out of the Nemo show, the bright sunny morning turned into a gloomy, rainy afternoon. Our next destination was supposed to be the Chevrolet Test Track but due to rain, they had to stop the ride. What a miss. We have to go back to Epcot just for this ride.
For those who are curious to know what Chevrolet Test Track is, here guests get a chance to design their own concept car and then test them on the track. It gives a glimpse how the engineers at Chevrolet evaluate a concept car. The guests finally get to have a high speed drive around the exterior of the attraction.
Take a look at this youtube video for an idea about this attraction :
Mission : Space
Okay, since we could not design our own car and test drive it, we shifted our focus on becoming an astronaut and headed to Mission Space ride.
If you want to be a part of Mission SpaceX and want to be a part of Martian colony, go for a test drive in this simulated mission.
Mission Space is a centrifugal motion simulator ride which gives us a taste of what an astronaut might experience during a mission to Mars. There are four guests per capsule. Each guest is assigned a specific role : Navigator, Pilot, Commander and Engineer. Each role is given two tasks to perform during the mission. (Here is a little secret. All you have to do is press a specific button when asked to. But due to some reason, if you miss to perform the specific task, the spacecraft’s on-board self-automated pilot will come to your rescue. So sit tight and enjoy the ride) .
The ride starts off with launch from earth, slingshot maneuver around the moon, simulated hypersleep for a short duration (to simulate passing long time required to reach Mars) and landing on Mars. During the entire ride you also get to experience some bumps, g-force and unexpected twists and turns. Overall, we all liked the ride.
After Space Mission, it was time to eat lunch. We had lunch at Electric Umbrella Restaurant. We ordered Veggie Naanwich, Cheese Pizza and Fries.
Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
Next, it was time to meet some of our favorite Disney Pals, Mickey and friends. We met Mickey, Minnie and Goofy at the Future World. What a great way to begin our autograph book. My sister was sooo happy to meet Minnie, as though she was meeting her lost pal after a long time…LOL…
After lots of hugs and tons of pictures with our favorite pals, it was time to take a walk in the rain.
This is Disney’s attempt at making a permanent World fair. This is one of the very few places on the face of earth, where people can travel around the world, on foot, without needing a passport or reservations or transportation. (I call this Around The World In 1 Day… 🙂 ). Here, 11 countries from around the world showcase their food, music, culture and architectural excellence. The pavilions are staffed by the citizens of each country. These countries are :
You can start walking from either side. But if you are planning to watch the IllumiNations show at the end, a little bit of planning ahead of time will save you some extra walk at the end of the day (More to come on this later).
It started raining pretty heavily when we started to take a tour of different pavilions in World Showcase. So we were all dressed up in our colorful ponchos. It was an amazing experience walking in the rain. Only flip side to this was since it was raining, all the professional cameramen were taking only indoor photos. So we missed some good outdoor pictures.
Since there are no rides in this side, if you happen to have a rainy day during your Disney trip, Epcot is a better choice because, in other parks you run the risk of cancelled rides.
We started our journey around the world from Canada. One of the best restaurants in Epcot, Le Cellier, is located in Canada. Then we walked past UK over the cobble stoned streets of London, spotted the iconic Eiffel tower in France and reached Morocco. In Morocco, we met Princess Jasmine. We went back to France to meet Princess Belle. Needless to say, we took pictures and autographs with both the Princesses. Guess who was the happiest person on earth? My little sis, of course!!!
Entry to Japan courtyard was through a blue-roof pagoda modeled after 7th century “Horyuji Temple”. Here we watched taiko drumming played by “Matsuriza”, traditional taiko drummers located at the base of pagoda. Next stop was USA, where a single 5 story high building (which appears to be only 3 stories high from outside) designed in Colonial style greeted us.
In Italy, Venetian, Florentine, and Roman style buildings caught our attention. For example, there is a 83 foot high bell tower which is a replica of original campanile in St. Mark’s Square. It seems the angel on top of the tower is covered in real gold leaf. Pretty impressive!!! In Germany, a fountain with the statue of St. George slaying a dragon takes the center stage. Other notable features are a medieval castle, Bavarian style buildings and a clock tower. Also you can meet Snow White here. We couldn’t meet her as she was busy paying visits to the other parks. What a miss!!!
We entered China through a triple arched gate modeled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. We also watched the “Reflections of China” show here. It’s a 360-degree circle vision theater with rails for guests to lean against. The show features many important parts of China including Great Wall, forbidden city of Beijing, the Gobi Dessert and so forth. It was quite amazing.
Next stop, Norway, was a replica of a 14th century fortress found in Oslo. Here we did the “The Frozen Ever After” ride. It’s a boat ride which features some of the scene from the 2013 animated movie “Frozen” and 2015 animated short film “Frozen Fever”. We also met Princesses Elsa, Anna here. I was thrilled at the sight of our autograph book getting filled up with memories that will last a lifetime. My darling sister was ecstatic on meeting all the Princesses from her fairy tale book. For her it was a dream come true.
In Mexico, a gigantic mesoamerican pyramid with steps leading up to the pavilion greeted us. It seems the pyramid is also the control room for the illuminations fireworks and laser show.
By the time we reached Mexico, we were hungry and exhausted. All I could think about is food and a place to sit down. We made ourselves comfortable at “Cantina de San Ángel”. It’s a lakeside counter-service eating joint with outdoor seating. We ordered cheesy nacho and empanadas, authentic and yummo !!!
After dousing the flames in our stomachs, we ventured out to find a spot to watch the IllumiNations show. Thank God, the rain stopped by this time.
At the climax of the day, IllumiNations show at Epcot is a spectacular display of fireworks, water fountains, fire effects, lasers, searchlights accompanied by music on the World Showcase Lagoon.
Before selecting the viewing spot, do some research on your own to find the most convenient spot so that at the end it is easy for you to exit the park. We found the below article very resourceful.
We settled down at “World Showcase Plaza” to view the IllumiNations show. This is where the Future World meets World Showcase.
The show began with torches lit around the lagoon and introduction by Jim Cummings (He is the voice behind Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and many other animated characters). The show is divided into 3 main parts :
Part one : Birth of Earth
Show begins with scenes of colliding starts suggesting Big Bang. Fiery flames and fireworks erupt from the lagoon. At the culmination of part one, a glowing globe glides peacefully across the waters.
Part two : The Triumph of Life
This part depicts the history of mankind and our achivements.
Part three : Hope for the Future
At the end of the show, the torches around the lagoon are re-lit, the earth globe blossoms like a lotus flower revealing a torch ablaze with our dreams and hope for future. A final launch of fireworks marks the end of the show which can be heard from several miles outside of the park.
Boy oh boy!!! What a magnificent way to end the day. With memories of the day in our heart and dreams of tomorrow in our eyes, we happily boarded the tram to go to our parking lot. Needless to say, I was the happiest person in the entire Epcot to see our car. As soon as we buckled up, we were fast asleep. Mom dad woke me up when we reached our hotel. My sister got a royal ride in her stroller back to the hotel room in her sleep. Once in the hotel room, I quickly slipped into my PJs and went straight to bed. In no time, I fell asleep and started dreaming about tomorrow.
Come back soon to see what was in store for us the next day.
Since there is a lot to blog about, we thought it will be better to write about each park every week. So please bookmark(Press Ctrl + D) this page and come back next week to find out which park we covered next. You can also follow our blog so that you don’t miss a bit of our amazing trip.
List of Things that might be helpful during your trip :