Another summer has passed (although it’s still in the 90s here in Florida!) so it’s time for our annual Labor Day Weekend vacation trip to Walt Disney World. To avoid the holiday weekend traffic that is typical on I-4 over to Orlando, this year we left Thursday evening and checked into our hotel room in the Gran Destino Tower at the Coronado Springs resort.
Once again we tried the online, contactless check-in and had issues. This time we got our room number notification in the app, but our phones (with the My Disney Experience app) wouldn’t unlock the door. Luckily we had also brought a Magic Band with us and that did work. I checked with the front desk but they didn’t know why it wasn’t working so we ended up using the Magic Band all weekend. We had driven my wife’s EV6 over, so we tried the (not free) ChargePoint chargers in the parking lot (six spots!). We can get from home to Disney and back on a single charge, but in case we ended up driving around more during the weekend, we added some juice while parked at the hotel. Once settled in and unpacked, we went for a late light dinner at the Three Bridges Bar and Grill at Villa del Lago … I recommend the sangria flight! After dinner and a nice evening walk around the resort, we were in for the night.
We came over a day early to avoid the traffic, but we still had to work Friday so we did that from the hotel. To keep out of my wife’s way, I spent most of the day working down in the lobby of the tower. I even found a nice high table that worked as a standing desk. 🙂 Once the work day was done and the weekend had officially started, we hopped onto the bus from our resort over to Epcot. Once in the park we checked the virtual queue for the Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind coaster and were amazed that slots were still open and we were assigned a boarding group! We suspected we were one of the last groups since the estimated time seemed to be very close to park closing. Epcot didn’t seem that crowded, which seemed odd for the start of a big holiday weekend, but we took a loop around the World Showcase and had dinner at some of the booths for the International Food & Wine Festival. Our ride time for Guardians slowly crept up and we ended up getting into line around 8:30pm. Man, I love that roller coaster (we got a song that was very appropriate for September 1). When we came out it was raining (no surprise there) and since we’ve seen the Harmonius show before, we headed for the busses and went back to the hotel to beat some of the crowd.
We got up early on Saturday and bussed over to Hollywood Studios for rope drop (and early access hours since we were resort guests). We had an amazingly productive morning: by 8:30am when the park opened to the public, we had ridden both Slinky Dog Dash (and got the first row!) and Rise of the Resistance. And by 1:30pm we had used the standby lines to ride the Hollywood Tower of Terror, Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster (back stage passes, anyone?), Toy Story Mania, the Alien Spinning Saucers, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (just me in the single-rider line, and afterwards I finally tried the blue milk), and Minnie and Mickey’s Runaway Railway. Like last night, the park just didn’t seem that crowded, but maybe people weren’t up as early as we were. It wasn’t quite park-hopping time, but after the character parade down Sunset Boulevard we decided to take a bus over to Disney Springs. What we discovered, however, is that the busses to Disney Springs from the parks don’t start until after 4pm. So instead we got on the bus to Saratoga Springs, got off in Congress Park, and then walked over to Disney Springs from there (hey, we’re here a lot, we know how to get around). After doing a little shopping (without buying anything, so is that still shopping?) we found some open seats at the outside bar at Polite Pig and had some afternoon drinks. Now, you can’t get to the parks from Disney Springs but we were headed to Epcot so we took the bus to the Beach Club resort and then walked to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot from there. Shortly after we arrived, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain … it wouldn’t be a Labor Day Weekend at Disney without getting wet. Once the rain was “manageable” we continued our walk around the world and rode the indoor rides like Ratatouille, Soarin’, Figment’s Journey into Imagination, and Spaceship Earth. Dinner was, of course, the Food & Wine Festival. The rain continued on and off but for the most part we avoided getting too soaked. Still, it was a chilly (air conditioned) bus ride back to Coronado Springs at the end of the evening.
Sunday morning: another early wake up (seems like I get up earlier on vacation than I do on a workday), this time for rope drop at the Magic Kingdom. Today was going to be a little different, though, since we decided to pay for Genie+ and use the Lightning Lane for the more popular attractions (Magic Kingdom is always more crowded than the other parks). We were right at the front for rope drop, but unlike 98% of the people there, we weren’t rushing to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train since we were going to use the Lightning Lane later. So while the majority of the crowd went left, we went right. Our plan was to cut through FantasyLand (which was eerily empyt) and go to the back of the park to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We discovered, however, that the back portion of the park was not open for the early access hours. So that turned out to be a waste but we still managed to ride the TomorrowLand Speedway and Space Mountain without any major lines before the park opened to the public. Using Genie+ efficiently, we were able to ride all of the major attractions we wanted (Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Dumbo, the Mine Train, It’s a Small World, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, even Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh). Genie+ can be used all day at any of the parks, so once park hopping was open (at 2:00pm), we took a bus over to Animal Kingdom and headed for Expedition Everest, but right as we arrived the ride shut down. We cancelled that Lightning Lane reservation and switched it to ride the safari before taking a break for drinks and a snack at the Nomad Lounge. After that we split up: I went to Avatar Flight of Passage while my wife went to the Festival of the Lion King and then we met up again and went back to Everest (which was running again). After that it was back on the bus to the Beach Club and into Epcot via the back entrance (no luck with the Guardians virtual queue this time) for dinner again at the Food & Wine Festival. Whew!
We weren’t planning on another rope drop on Monday morning but we did wake up at 7:00am to try and snag a spot in the virtual queue for the Guardians coaster again (and were successful with a relatively early boarding group). After checking out of the hotel we got into the car and drove over to Epcot and got a really close parking spot! By the time we got into the park it was still early access time so we were able to get in and walk the mostly empty paths over to the Frozen ride in Norway and basically walked right on. After that we walked over to France and did the standby line for Ratatouille which was still short. After our boarding group for Guardians was called (did I mention how much I love this new coaster?), we did one more loop around the world, rode Test Track, and then called it a successful holiday weekend, went back to the car and drove home (no rain this time!).