Long Memorial Day Weekend at Disney

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Last Wednesday night my Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Washington Capitals, so there will be no Stanley Cup Finals games here in Tampa this year. 🙁 Go Vegas?

With the end of the hockey season also came the end of the school year for my daughter. So with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend, we headed over to Orlando for a mini vacation at Disney World. The 2018 hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1 but already the first named storm of the season (subtropical storm Alberto) was threatening to rain out our plans!

We drove over mid-Thursday morning and went right to Hollywood Studios where we saw the gondola track poles going up in the parking lot. After riding the Aerosmith Rock’n’Roller Coaster we stopped by the new Baseline Tap House for some snacks (and a California beer flight). The FastPass lines were longer than normal, but moved pretty quickly so after watching the Indiana Jones stunt show we rode Star Tours and Toy Story Mania (the new Toy Story Land opens at the end of June). Utilizing the My Disney Experience mobile app we were able to make new FastPass reservations right after we used our last one, so we also rode the Tower of Terror and picked up our Donald Duck passholder magnet. Then it was a late lunch at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano before heading out to check into our hotel.

For the long weekend we stayed at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. We had planned this trip a while ago and now figured that if we were going to be rained in, better to hang out in a cabin in the woods rather than a regular resort hotel room. We even brought our bikes to get around the campground (the cabins are the one Disney resort where you can drive right up to your “room”).

While my wife and I were unpacking and settling into the cabin, my daughter got us FastPasses for the Rivers of Light nighttime show over at Animal Kingdom. This was only the second time we’d been to the Animal Kingdom after dark and it was pretty cool. We waited in the FastPass line for Rivers of Light and had somewhat decent seats. We were settling in for about a 30 minute wait before the show when a Disney employee walked by looking for a party of three. My Daughter volunteered us and we ended up in the second row center! Fantastic seats, and the show was pretty cool (illuminated floats, projected images on water screens, music, boats, etc.). It looked like it was going to threaten rain (some dark clouds and remote lightning were moving in) but the weather held for a very pleasant evening. Disney uses projection technology everywhere now, so the entire Tree of Life is covered in moving animals. We weren’t able to ride Everest at night but we did go on another night safari (with no rain this time, like back in 2016) before heading back to the cabin for the evening.

Waking up Friday, we expected to get wet as TS Alberto continued to move into the Gulf of Mexico so we packed our umbrellas, ponchos, and proper footwear. But the morning so far was bright and sunny as we took the boat from the Settlement Post over to the Magic Kingdom (and in fact, the weather held … it was a beautiful day and never rained!). We spent the entire day at the Magic Kingdom and pretty much did everything we wanted to: Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad, the teacups and Dumbo rides, Belle’s Story Time, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Philharmagic, the carousel, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Sawyer Island, etc. For food we sampled the chicken and waffles for a light lunch and Be Our Guest for dinner. Tomorrowland is all decked out for the upcoming release of Incredibles 2 (my daughter was hoping to meet Edna Mode but she only appears on the stage show and doesn’t do photos/autographs). We ended the night with the evening projection shows and fireworks. On the boat ride back to Fort Wilderness we even got to see the electrical water pageant.

We spent Saturday morning and early afternoon at Epcot (still no rain!). This was the last weekend for the Flower and Garden Festival so we hit a few of the food kiosks we hadn’t yet tried during previous visits for lunch. Our FastPasses got us onto Frozen, Soarin’, Mission Space (orange), and also to see Mickey and pals. We watched the new SpectacuLab show in Innoventions as well. Since we’d been to Epcot a lot recently for the F&G Festival, we didn’t feel the need to stay very long so after lunch we went back to the cabin. While my daughter took a nap, my wife and I biked around the campgrounds and after that even took a nap ourselves until we were awakened by a golf cart parade in our cabin circle! For dinner we all biked over to the campfire area and then experienced our first rain of the trip. It was light, though, and didn’t stop the campfire! We had dinner from the food truck and actually got a s’mores kit by winning the Disney trivia contest! So that was dessert, roasting marshmallows over the fire. From the campfire area we biked up to the front of the campground, locked up the bikes, and hopped on a bus over to Hollywood Studios for the evening Disney Movie Magic and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular shows. After the shows, we tried the new Minnie Van service back to Fort Wilderness, then rode the bikes back to the cabin.

Sunday morning we drove over to Animal Kingdom and saw our first real rain of the weekend. It was on-and-off all day, but luckily never heavy enough to be miserable (or require ponchos). We rode Everest, did a daytime safari, saw the new UP! bird show (not as good as the old one) and Festival of the Lion King (always great), and also got to ride Avatar Flight of Passage for just the second time. Late afternoon we headed back to the cabin to rest and clean up for dinner. We then drove over to Disney Springs and walked around a bit before our dinner reservation at STK. The food was fantastic and the ambiance (including 80s music supplied by a DJ) made for an overall great experience. We got back to the cabins in time for the 4th quarter of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. The Cavs won 87-79 and advanced to their fourth Conference Finals in a row. They’ll have to wait until Monday night to find out if they’ll face the Golden State Warriors (again) or the Houston Rockets.

Monday morning: time to go home. We spent the morning packing, loading up the truck, racking the bikes, etc. Then we drove over to Magic Kingdom for a bit (I got an end spot in the close parking lot!). My wife and I went to the Haunted Mansion while my daughter went hidden Mickey hunting. We met up at the Jungle Cruise and then went to the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen for lunch.

After that we left and went back over to Disney Springs for a little more shopping. By the late afternoon, the dark clouds were rolling in again so we hit the road home. We drove through the heaviest rain of the weekend on the way home, so all in all we were pretty lucky weather-wise. It was a very nice holiday weekend vacation!

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