Florida trip recap edition! I had hoped to get this up last week, but I was super busy after I got home, so you get to hear all about my time in the magical land of livable conditions in February today.
1. I went to Florida during the first weekend in February with a few friends. One of them had a conference in Orlando, and we all decided that was as good of an excuse as any to escape the frozen wasteland that is Chicago for a couple days. It took us a bit longer to get to Orlando than any of us anticipated: some of us were on one flight while the rest of us were on another, and both of our flights were delayed by over two hours due to mechanical issues on the planes that were supposed to take us to Orlando. But our planes got us there safe and sound very late Friday night/very early Saturday morning, and after…definitely not eight hours of sleep, we made our way to Universal!
I had never been to Universal before, but all of us are Harry Potter fans, so stopping by both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure was a must. Another must: getting breakfast at Voodoo Donuts before going into Universal Studios. Not feeling up to going to Voodoo Donuts in Eugene was easily the second-biggest disappointment I had when I was there for five hours last summer–the first being missing NCAAs at Hayward Field–so I was not about to miss my chance again!
Once we got to Universal Studios, we made a beeline for Diagon Alley and immediately got in line for Escape From Gringotts, the main ride in Diagon Alley. It was the right level of scary and I, a non-roller coaster person, really enjoyed it!
We wandered Diagon Alley for a bit, then got on the Hogwarts Express to travel to Hogsmeade inside Islands of Adventure.
Getting on the ride inside Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, was once again our top priority, so we headed straight to the castle to get in line. I loved this ride, too! Again, just the right level of scary to be thrilling without ramping up my anxiety (ahem, Space Mountain). I also LOVED waiting in line. The inside of the castle is just like in the movie! They even have talking pictures. Really. It was AWESOME.
We were all hungry after getting off the ride, so we went over to Jurassic Park for lunch, but not before stopping for an all-important Butterbeer.
We also got pumpkin juice, which, like the rides, surprised me by how much I liked it. It’s made with apple juice and definitely tasted more apple-y than pumpkin-y, which was fine with me.
We spent a fair amount of time walking around Islands of Adventure. Everyone else went on the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride, but I didn’t want to risk getting wet so I hung back. We returned to Diagon Alley after that to get ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s, where they had sticky toffee pudding ice cream. WHAT. Sticky toffee pudding is my favorite dessert, so I obviously got that flavor. We got kicked out of the park soon after finishing our ice cream since it closed at 6 p.m. that night for a music festival, so we got dinner on the CityWalk and then returned to our hotels to rest up for Disney the next day.
2. On Sunday, we started our Disney adventures at Magic Kingdom!
I haven’t been to Disney World (or Florida at all, for that matter) since spring break 2001, so needless to say, it’s been awhile. I was really excited to go back and experience it at 28 vs. 10!
We started at Splash Mountain, which I’m pretty sure scared me more at this age than it did when I was 10, ha. We got breakfast at a cart afterwards, and naturally, I spent my entire meal staring at a White Ibis hanging out nearby:
UGH, what a beautiful bird! Its pale blue eyes are just stunning. Seeing ibises was easily one of the highlights of Disney for me. #onbrand
We went to the Hall of Presidents, rode Pirates of the Caribbean, and climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse before heading to Tomorrowland for lunch. We wandered that side of Magic Kingdom for awhile, killing time before our Space Mountain FastPass+ time rolled around. We went on “it’s a small world”:
and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which was…maybe not worth the 45 minute wait, in my not-preschooler opinion. Ha. But then we went on Space Mountain which I swear I liked at 10, but scared me so much at 28 that I had a hard time breathing when I got off from all the anxiety that dumb roller coaster provoked, so there’s that. It all balances out, I suppose 😛
We finished our rides for the day with Under the Sea, and then half the group went shopping while the rest of us went to dinner at The Plaza. Those of us at dinner left the park a little after 6 p.m. to head back to the Ticket and Transportation Center, because we had tickets to Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise.
I had read a couple reviews on Disney blogs that suggested the cruise wasn’t worth the price of admission, and meh. Maybe that’s true. The smoke from the fireworks kept us from seeing the projections on Cinderella’s Castle, and the desserts were definitely deficient in the chocolate department in my opinion. I thought it was a cool experience regardless, and I’m glad we did it.
I made sure to get my money’s worth of dessert, don’t you worry. This was plate #1 of…three? I think? Eventually I stopped filling my plate and just shoveling what I wanted into my mouth. Ha. What half marathon goals? 😛
3. The last day of the trip, we went to Epcot. I loved Epcot when I was a kid, even though it’s more “adult-y” (though, story of my life, haha. Pretty sure I was born 45 years old.), and I’ve wanted to go back for years and experience it as an actual adult. Ironically, my favorite part of going to Epcot in 2001 was visiting the countries, and this time, it was visiting the Disney characters. Apparently I’m reverse maturing.
We started the day at Soarin’, then had (what turned out to be) a totally unnecessary breakfast before hitting up a bunch of character spots, where we met Vanellope and Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph, Joy and Sadness from Inside Out, and Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie. (We also later met Donald in Mexico, Mulan in China, and Tigger randomly in the United Kingdom.)
Real talk: I 100 percent get that it sounds silly to meet characters as a grown up. I know that there’s a normal person inside that costume–a normal person who’s almost certainly younger than I am–and you’d think that would kind of ruin the magic of it all. But man, it was so fun! The people who play the characters go above and beyond to make you feel special, even if you’re a grownup with no kids in tow. I was wearing my shirt from the Life Time 5K in 2016, and when Minnie saw it, she “asked” if I’m a runner (by mimicking running and then pointing to my shirt). When I told Sadness I was SO excited to meet her (…which I was), she traced a single tear down her cheek. When I told Donald it was nice to meet him, he pretended to kiss my hand, like I was, you know, a Disney princess. I MEAN, COME ON. I know it sounds so stupid, but they just make you feel like it’s a big deal that they’re meeting you rather than the other way around, and I don’t think it matters how old you are: it feels awfully nice to be treated like that.
We went to Epcot during the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which included a thrice-nightly Disney on Broadway concert. Obviously I was interested in that, so we ended up making a reservation at Rose & Crown in the United Kingdom for lunch that came with reserved tickets to the 6:45 p.m. Disney on Broadway show. Unbeknownst to us, the reservation was for a three course prix fixe lunch, so we ended up getting way more food than anticipated (hence why breakfast was unnecessary). It was all super delicious, though, especially the sticky toffee pudding I got (in non-ice cream form) for dessert. Nomz.
We wandered through the countries all afternoon. I saw my first anhinga in Italy:
All about adding birds to my life list.
Then at 6:45, it was time for our Disney on Broadway show, featuring Gavin Lee and Heidi Blickenstaff!
Both were in various Disney shows on Broadway in the past: Lee was Bert from Mary Poppins (though more recently he was Squidward in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is why I wanted go. When SpongeBob performed its song for being a Tony nominee for Best Musical last year, the song performed was basically a Squidward solo. I figured if this guy was good enough to get to do that–especially when there had been a lot of hype about Ethan Slater, who played SpongeBob–he must be worth seeing live) and Blickenstaff was Ursula in The Little Mermaid. I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed by the show, mostly because it only lasted 30 minutes, but it was a really great 30 minutes of entertainment. Lee and Blickenstaff were both insanely good, and it was quite the treat to see them live (and from the second row, no less!).
We got dinner in France, popped by The Seas to visit Nemo and Marlin:
before settling in to watch IllumiNations:
It was quite the show, and a great end to a fantastic trip to Florida 🙂