Category: Reviews

Ride. Watch. Repeat.

Watch Ride repeatWhen you are busy touring your favorite park, there always those attractions that you MUST do more than once because you just love them so much! For me, this is pretty much everything lately. However, Walt Disney World has plenty of attractions that you may want to repeat because the experience can be different every time you visit, even if you visit it more than once in a day! While I love riding Splash Mountain or Pirate of the Caribbean, I know exactly what to expect every time because the ride or animatronics do not change. Below is a list of my favorite repeat attractions because the experience can be so different based on a number of different factors!

Magic Kingdom:


 

  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Since this ride is score based, you are always trying to compete to beat your highest score to eventually obtain Galactic Hero status! It is also fun to complete with your ride mate. Your score will usually never be the same!

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  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: While the “tale as old as time” Belle tells is the same, the audience participation makes this one a must repeat! We have seen some of the cutest “Beasts” in this one who all have reacted to their time with Belle differently and sometimes in hilarious ways!

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  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: The audience participation make this one a great one to see again and again. You never know what crazy antics are going happen and the jokes change.

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Epcot:


  • Turtle Talk with Crush
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Once again, the audience wins this one! Because the little ones are asking the questions, you never know what will come out of their mouths! We have witnessed some hilarious questions in the past. Kids do say the darndest things and this show proves it! Clearly I am need of seeing it again because I have no pictures of this attraction.

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  • Test Track
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: While the track and ride stays the same with each ride, the car you design in the studio is always different and can score differently on the track. We like revisiting this one to make different cars to see how efficient, powerful, capable and responsive we can make our car thus bragging for the rest of the day whose car performed better.

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Hollywood Studios:


  • Toy Story Mania
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Just like Buzz Lightyear Space Range Spin,  this ride is score based, so you are always trying to compete to beat your highest score or beat your ride mate, car or high score for the day/month! This one has the added fun of hidden Easter eggs that you may find by accidentally hitting something! It seriously is never the same experience, but if you are competitive like we are, your arm will always hurt afterwards!

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  • Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: I recently saw this show for the first time and I think it is definitely worth a repeat just to see the kids’ faces when they face Darth Vader or other villains, plus if your child or someone you know is it, it so much more fun and will always be a different experience for them too.

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  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: This show has been around since 1989 is just about as old as the park itself, but it is worth a repeat visit for the audience volunteers. Always funny because apparently adults say the darndest things too!

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  • Star Tours
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: The ride sequence is always different and will randomly choose which planet to visit in addition, there are also different end scenes. Currently, I believe they are only operating the Force Awakens scene, but the ride should return to taking people to the different planets soon!

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  • Tower of Terror
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: Simply because the drop sequences are different every time, you never know how many smaller drops you may get or how many times its going to launch you up and back down.

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Animal Kingdom:


  • Kilimanjaro Safari
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: This is my absolute favorite ride to repeat because I have ridden it a million times and no two safaris are ever alike. Some are spectacular with Giraffes pretty much inside your ride vehicle or you might a catch a glimpse of Simba and Nala nuzzling on Valentine’s Day. No joke, the picture below was taken on Valentine’s Day and our truck pretty much freaked out! When dealing with animals who have minds of their own, the experience is going to always be different!

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  • Maharajah Jungle Trek / Pagani Forest Trail
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: These self guided walking trails also help you get up close and personal with some animals such as bats, tigers, and gorillas. Just like Kilimanjaro Safari you never know if the tigers will be awake and on the prowl  or if you will see a gorilla feeding its young or munching on some leaves. Many times they are just basking in the sun sleeping, but we have gotten lucky in the past that is worth visiting again and again!

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  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
    • Why Should I Repeat It?: If you decide to take the train over to this remote area of Animal Kingdom, you may find different speakers inside the Conservation Station or even witness a live vetinerary exam in full swing. There is also the Affection Section petting zoo, where you may find a new goat friend for the day or you may visit and they want nothing to do with you. Both have happened to me, but I know every experience has been different!

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I am ready to go do all these again! Which attractions do you love repeating?

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We had a Blast at the DVC 25 Year Anniversary Party!

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Disney Vacation Club is celebrating its 25 year anniversary and as a result, they are throwing some special events for their members all throughout 2016. The first of which was last night which was a complimentary Magic Kingdom party! Reservations needed to be made in advance and you had to show your DVC Member card or be a DVC Member’s guest in order to receive a wristband.

The party’s official hours were from 9:30 – Midnight, however wristband distribution and admittance began as early as 7:00 PM. They didn’t really advertise a whole lot of what was going to be happening at the party other than select attractions in Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Haunted Mansion would be open and there would entertainment and complimentary refreshments. I must say, we were pleasantly surprised with the entire experience! Going in not knowing what to expect, we planned on riding all the rides they were offering just to see if we could do them all, but our plan changed once we saw characters they had available to meet! Keep reading to see who we mingled with!

When we arrived, around 7:45, we were given our wristband and a map highlighting the event. We noticed there were many spots for character Meet and Greets, a dance party, a DVC Executive meet up, and a special fireworks show never before seen called the 25 and Beyond Blast!  In addition there were plenty of locations to get some complimentary refreshments. We were pretty excited about all the offerings because it truly had the feel of of one of the hard ticket events such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the only difference was that half the park was not accessible and there was no special parade.

DSC_8562 DSC_8613 DSC_8628 Since we arrived just before Wishes, we watched that first then headed to Adventureland for some Pirates of the Caribbean. The park didn’t officially close until 9:00 so we thought it would be a good way to get some of the attractions that would not be offered at the party in. We then headed to Big Thunder Mountain, contemplated riding Splash Mountain, but it was too cold and I did not want to risk being uncomfortable until midnight in wet clothes!

DSC_8631There was a second showing of Main Street Electrical Parade at 9:00 so after Thunder Mountain, we were able to catch that in Frontierland.

DSC_8642 DSC_8672 DSC_8690 DSC_8699Once the parade was over, it was officially party time so so we we headed to Fantasyland where we got our first glimpse at just how awesome this special event was going to be! Louis from Princess and the Frog was out meeting guests right near Philharmagic! He did not have a long line so we hopped right in to meet him!

DSC_8711After this, we knew we needed to check out who else was out and quickly spotted Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and King Richard meeting and greeting near the castle wall leading to New Fantasyland. This was the longest line we waited in all night mainly because there were three of them and they were signing for autographs and you can imagine for those who collect autographs, this was a big deal-so the line moved pretty slowly. It was fine though because while I waited in line, Justin went and found some snacks for us. Throughout the park they were offering lemonade, water, hot chocolate, cookies, chips and even Mickey ice cream bars! Yum!

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After meeting the rare trio, we noticed Aladdin and Jasmine were meeting at the other castle wall, but decided to skip them since you can meet them during regular park hours. Instead, we walked into New Fantasyland  and saw Belle was in her village dress meeting guests near Gaston’s Tavern which was pretty rare because she is usually in Maurice’s Cottage telling stories in her ballgown. We skipped her too though because we caught wind that some very rare characters from our childhood were in Storybook Circus.

DSC_8719 Launchpad McQuack from DuckTales was out and about and so was Darkwing Duck! I couldn’t even believe it as I have never heard of these guys out and about! Darkwing’s line was pretty long and if we got in it, we would have missed fireworks, so after meeting Launchpad, we hopped on the Barnstormer like two 5 years olds because there was no wait whatsoever!

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We then made our way back to the castle to watch the Fireworks and oh my goodness, they were amazing! I do not have pictures or video but you can definitely check out YouTube because I am sure someone posted it! Just know THEY WERE AMAZING and LOUD! Disney really made them special just like they do for their other hard ticket events! It was such a treat even though it was pretty cold!

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Since the fireworks were at 11:30, there was a little more time and I really wanted to meet Darkwing Duck, so back we went to Storybook Circus and found that HE HAD NO LINE! NONE! Everyone must’ve been watching fireworks and then started heading out of the park. I am so happy we decided not leave until midnight because otherwise we would have missed this rare opportunity!

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As we walked out of Storybook Circus we saw that Wreck it Ralph and Venellope has NO ONE in line either so of course we met them! With 5 minutes left to spare, we had enough time to hop the Mine Train and barely waited 15 minutes for it which was terrific since that one is easily over an hour any other given evening!

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We headed out of the Magic Kingdom after the Mine Train and there was one last surprise. Mickey and Minnie were out at the front of park waving to everyone and being all sorts of adorable! They were even dressed all fancy for the event!

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I wish the party was longer so we could’ve made it over to Haunted Mansion because I heard the Cadaver Dans (Dapper Dans) were out and also a special guest from the Haunted Mansion portrait was out and about. We passed through Tomorrowland too and we saw they had Baymax, but you can find him in Epcot any time so we didn’t meet him.

I seriously could not be more happy with this special event that Disney put on for its DVC Members. The Cast Members were all amazing, there were plenty of snacks and they made this an experience you could not get any other time especially with the rare characters and fireworks. Also, the rides had such short wait times, so that was definitely a plus especially for those who don’t care to meet characters. I also liked the element of surprise of the entire event because not a lot about what would be offered was advertised. There is another party March 3, 2016, and I called this morning in hopes of registering, but I think the word is out that the party is amazing because it is now sold out!

I am very much looking forward to the other special DVC Anniversary events throughout the year and will post reviews here on The Magical Escape!

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#Overlooked@WDW – Flag Retreat Ceremony

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With so many things to see and do when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, it is easy to overlook certain attractions simply because you are busy trying to enjoy the popular mountains or meet those Arendelle sisters. This blog series focuses on the attractions which may not draw in the masses making them overlooked by the typical guest at times. Just because it is not a high demand attraction does not mean you should steer clear of it because you may be pleasantly surprised! Hopefully on your next trip, you can experience one of these Disney gems!


 

Filled with magic, enchantment and fantasy, it is no wonder Magic Kingdom Park continues to be the most visited theme park in the world. With so many attractions to enjoy and characters to meet you may have never even noticed the Flag Retreat ceremony taking place on Main Street USA in Town Square.

Each evening, at 5:00 PM, the American flag is lowered in what is a moving and patriotic ceremony. They even choose a United States Veteran to help with the ceremony and a lucky child from the audience. I recently had a chance to watch the Flag Retreat for the very first time and I cannot believe in all my times visiting the Magic Kingdom, I had never seen it. I am so glad I had the opportunity to watch it!

As mentioned, the ceremony takes place at the flag pole in Town Square, right near the Roy Disney & Minnie “Sharing the Magic” statue. I arrived about 20 minutes early and Cast Members had begun already blocking off entrances to this area to prepare for the ceremony.

Security prepared the flag and other Cast Members were talking with the United States Veteran about what to expect. All the while other Cast Members positioned around Town Square politely told MANY people that they could not pass through or get that picture with Roy and Minnie right now. Most people were fine with it, but others were visibly annoyed that they had to actually around to get to whatever their destination was – I presume the park exit. People watching is an activity in and of itself when at Walt Disney World and I highly recommend it especially when waiting for something to begin!

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Soon, the Main Street Philharmonic marching band arrived and took their positions as did the Dapper Dans.

They announce over the loud speakers that the ceremony is about to begin and more and more people begin to stop to check it out. The band begins to play from the Train Station!

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The Dapper Dans are the MCs of the ceremony and explain the Flag Retreat tradition. They introduce the child(ren) they chose from the audience to help lead the Pledge of Allegiance. DSC_8013The National Anthem is played next as the flag is lowered.Flag Retreat Ceremony-1DSC_8024

DSC_8023The flag is then folded with the help of the Honorary Veteran and they invite everyone to sing along to God Bless America with the Dapper Dans.      DSC_8016DSC_8017DSC_8008DSC_8029I really love that Disney chooses to do this ceremony each day, it is a great way to honor our Veterans, Service Men and Women and country. I think it also sends the message and reminder to all that we should be honoring our country and those who fight or have fought every day and not just on Veteran’s Day or Independence Day. And yes, we can even do that when on vacation at Disney World! It was amazing to see all the people who decided to stop and take in the ceremony, many of whom where on their way out of the park.

So next time you are at the Magic Kingdom, take a little time out of your day and head towards the front of Main Street USA to catch the Flag Retreat ceremony. Since it is just about 10 minutes, it should be easy to fit into your day’s plan and really is a special moment within the hustle and bustle of Disney’s busiest and most popular park!

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Have you ever seen the Flag Retreat at Magic Kingdom Park? Leave us a comment!
You can also hop on over and visit us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
Be sure to check out other #Overlooked@WDW articles such as Rafiki’s Planet Watch!

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#Overlooked@WDW: Rafiki’s Planet Watch

DSC_7377With so many things to see and do when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, it is easy to overlook certain attractions simply because you are busy trying to enjoy the popular mountains or meet those Arendelle sisters. This new blog series focuses on the attractions which may not draw in the masses making them overlooked by the typical guest at times. Just because it is not a high demand attraction does not mean you should steer clear of it because you may be pleasantly surprised! Hopefully on your next trip, you can experience one of these Disney gems!

Have you ever been to Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Not sure? Did you ride a train at Animal Kingdom? If you did, then you ended up at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, the remote themed land which focuses on all things conservation.

The only way to reach Rafiki’s Planet Watch is by the Wildlife Express Train which is accessible in Africa near Kilimanjaro Safari and Pagani Forest Exploration Trail. All aboard!!

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On your short voyage, you will see some of the backstage animal holding areas for the Kilimanjaro Safari. It is pretty amazing to see how much space they have dedicated to this that you cannot see from the attraction itself.

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Once you arrive at Rafiki’s Planet Watch there are 3 areas to explore. There is a fairly long trail which is known has Habitat Habit. Along the trail you will see tamarin monkeys and a small exhibit dedicated to how we can better share our habitats with animals.DSC_2410

The next area you will encounter is known as the Conservation Station- an indoor facility which houses various conservation exhibits, character meet & greets and veterinary care. You can’t miss the building with its bright and huge animal murals found outside and right as you enter the building. Also note that right outside the building, you will sometimes find Chip and Dale meeting guests. If you have your heart set on meeting them, check the daily times to guide for confirmation.

Once inside the Conservation Station. you may be lucky enough to catch veterinarians treating some of the very animals you encounter in the park! I have not been lucky enough to witness this myself as I do not believe the veterinary schedule is posted anywhere. In addition to this and the hands on exhibits, Cast Members are on hand to answer any questions and you may even catch an animal encounter! Since this area of Animal Kingdom is named after him, Rafiki, from The Lion King, is often meeting guests in this location as well, just be sure to check the times guide.

Outside of the conservation station, you will find a small area with a stage. Several times a day the conservation staff will host a short and cute show featuring various animals such as pigs, owls, and porcupines.

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The final area of Rafiki’s Planet Watch is my personal favorite and known as the Affection Section, which is Disney’s adorable name for a petting zoo. Here you can get up close and personal with the likes of cute goats, sheep, donkeys, cows and pigs. I could seriously spend all day in the Affection Section. Disney makes it easy to wash hands by providing a large sink area before and after you enter the enclosure, making this feel like the cleanest petting zoo in the world! If you don’t want to use your bare hands to pet the animals, they provide large brushes too! If you have any animal lovers in your home, be sure to visit the Affection Section on your next visit!

Just look at all this cuteness!!!

No Disney area would be complete without merchandise, and you can find a small shop right outside the Affection Section too. I wish this shop sold the actual animals from the Affection Section because I totally use a pet goat in my life.

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Once you done exploring Rafiki’s Planet Watch, just follow the signs back to the Wildlife Express Train to take you back to Africa in the main area of the park. Something to note, if you are planning on visiting, figure you will need at least 1 hour to explore the areas if not more. Just keep that in mind if you are dealing with FastPass return times or dining reservations.

Happy exploring!

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#TripReportTuesday – Taking on the Springs on the High Seas – Flowers, Cheddar Cheese Soup and the NBA Playoffs?

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Day 1 continued: Flowers, Cheddar Cheese Soup and the NBA Playoffs?


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The first park we visit always seems to vary when we vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort. It doesn’t matter at all to me which one we visit first because I am just so happy to be there! If you read the last post, you will know we were headed to Epcot this evening. Our main goals this afternoon were to:

  1. Hit up our favorite rides
  2. Check out some of the Flower & Garden Festival
  3. Stuff ourselves silly with dinner at Le Cellier
  4. Score an awesome viewing location for Illuminations
  5. Somehow keep up with the NBA Playoffs
  6. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (EMH) until 11:00 PM

As you can see, we hoped to accomplish a lot and it was almost already 3:00 PM. Our first order of business was Test Track because we had a FastPass+ reservation between 3:05-4:05. Of course, we stopped to take some pictures first because the topiaries at the park’s entrance and throughout the park are amazing! If you ever have a chance to check out the Flower & Garden Festival, definitely make it a point to see all the creative topiaries, it amazes me how detailed each one is, not that I would expect anything less from Disney. After admiring the adorable displays at the entrance, we made a beeline for Test Track, which happens to be my favorite Epcot attraction!

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2015-05-08-15h00m02Wasting no time at all, we scanned our MagicBands at the Fastpass+ entrance and headed in. Soon, we were designing our own vehicle seen below to be put to the test on the Sim track. This ride is necessary for anyone who is a car enthusiast! 2015-05-08-15h13m33And we’re off! I don’t remember our vehicle performed compared to the others in our car, probably because of the adrenaline rush. EPCOT_DPIRIDESYSGMTT_7301943749People with long hair, beware–this is what happens to you!EPCOT_DPIRIDESYSGMTT_7323127995Such a beautiful couple. 2015-05-08-15h28m09

We had some time before our next FastPass+ which was for Spaceship Earth, so we decided to check out the Flower & Garden Festival building which was near the Universe of Energy in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion. Being a Disney nerd, I could not believe I had never been in this building before.

2015-05-08-15h40m182015-05-08-15h40m37 2015-05-08-15h39m21 2015-05-08-15h39m55The building is used for festivals such as Flower & Garden for demonstrations, exhibits and festival merchandise. I wondered if the fact that the building’s skylights are shaped like a flower have anything to do with why they keep this building around for festivals and not convert it to another attraction.

2015-05-08-15h41m06We walked around the entire pavilion, they had some kind of horticulture presentation going on, but we didn’t stop to watch. We did like seeing all the cute merchandise though!2015-05-08-15h43m02 2015-05-08-15h43m51A very neat exhibit was toward the back of the pavilion and showed how Cast Members go about making the amazing topiaries. It was very cool to see all that goes into these works of art!
2015-05-08-15h52m22Feeling informed, we decided to take a break from the flowers and paid a visit to the Seas with Nemo & Friends. EPCOT_LIVINSEAS_7302059992 2015-05-08-16h11m05We also stayed for Turtle Talk with Crush, which is such a fun little show because it is always different and depends on the participation from the kids in the audience. The show is HILARIOUS! I don’t want to ruin the magic, but definitely check it out if you have never stayed to watch it! It is located in the pavilion that houses the Seas with Nemo & Friends. In fact, the entire Seas pavilion is worth exploring. You can see dolphins, manatees and tons of other fish. There are also educational presentations throughout the day! It is such a great place to take a break from the Florida heat and sun!

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It was now time for our Fastpass+ reservation to Spaceship Earth (The Ball as it is known in non-Disney circles).  We decided not to try and photograph anything this time around and just enjoyed our slow paced ride through time. As it was nearing our dinner reservation for Le Cellier, we headed to the World Showcase part of the park to explore a bit before dinner.

2015-05-08-17h32m27Here is a hint to the country we ended up in:

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If you didn’t guess Mexico, I cannot help you. Definitely the best World Showcase pavilion in my opinion. Not only is it beautiful inside because it looks like you are outside, but you also get to ride on a Grand Fiesta Tour with the 3 Caballeros! Trust me, it is not as wild as it sounds! After our visit with the 3 Caballeros, I resisted the urge to get a churro because it was dinner time and we were off to Canada!

We checked in promptly at 5:40 which was our reservation time and were seated in no time. This is a pretty small restaurant and popular, so I recommend getting a dining reservation 180 days in advance if you have your heart set on eating here.

Le Cellier is a delicious steakhouse, but I honestly go for the ever popular Canadian Cheddar Cheese soup!! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, heaven in a bowl:2015-05-08-17h55m29
Dip the pretzel bread in that soup, and I swear your life will be changed forever.
For our main entree, we both got the Le Cellier Filet Mignon: here is the description from Disney’s website-

AAA Canadian Beef Tenderloin, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Heirloom Toy Box Tomatoes, Truffle-Butter Sauce

Is your mouth watering?

Dinner was wonderful and we were extremely full. We made the smart decision to skip on dessert because it was our first day of vacation and we had many more days ahead not to mention a cruise with unlimited desserts coming up.

After dinner, we leisurely made our way back into Future World taking some beautiful pictures along the way. Epcot always looks to peaceful from this angle.

2015-05-08-17h34m36 2015-05-08-17h34m48 2015-05-08-17h34m562015-05-08-18h54m07We had a FastPass+ reservation ready to be used at Journey into the Imagination with Figment and our full bellies were happy that the attraction is pretty close to the World Showcase so we didn’t have far to walk! After a journey into the imagination with our favorite purple dragon, we played in the Imagination fountains as any normal adults in their thirties would. I think this is why we love Disney so much – there is never any judgement to completely grown adults acting as children.

2015-05-08-19h13m31 2015-05-08-19h15m09Feeling like we did pretty good on the rides this afternoon, we were ready to stake out a spot for Illuminations and seeing that it was only 7:30, we would definitely get an awesome spot. We found a spot front and center right past the Mexico Pavilion.

You may remember, one of our goals for the day was to stay informed of the NBA Playoffs, now normally, when I am at Disney, I tune out the entire real world and do not want to any communication with it! But, in our house, we are big Chicago Bulls fans and they were in the second round playing their arch-nemesis LeBron James & the Cleveland Cavaliers and I had to know what was happening. We contemplated walking over to the Boardwalk to catch the game at the ESPN Club, but I really wanted to see Illuminations, so we did the next best thing…we streamed it on our phones using Disney’s free Wi-Fi. What a technologically advanced world we live in! This really made the time fly by though and we made some friends along the way as they would ask what we were watching or what the score currently was.We could just tell some dads were jealous of our little setup. In between our NBA watching, we took this beautiful picture of the World Showcase Lagoon. Dusk around the World Showcase is one my happy places!

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Soon, the sun was gone and an ominous voice came over the speakers wishing us a “Good Evening” alerting us that Illuminations was about to begin.

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While many people headed for the exit, we had two more goals to accomplish during Extra Magic Hours: Soarin’ and another ride on Test Track.

Remember that Extra Magic Hours is a perk for Disney resort guests which allows to stay in select parks two hours after regular closing or enter one hour before opening. Check Disney’s official park hours for the Extra Magic Hours schedule.

2015-05-08-21h29m20Soarin’ is my husband’s favorite ride and since we already rode Test Track, we decided to ride Soarin’ first. The Bulls game was still going on, so we watched the game while in line, making more friends with jealous dads along the way. The game actually ended up going into overtime, so once we were done soaring, we took a seat on one of the benches at the exit to watch the final minutes. The game went down to the wire with Derrick Rose hitting the game winner! We literally jumped up screaming and people thought we were insane!! With the game over we needed to calm our nerves, so naturally, we hightailed it to Test Track for a 65 mph ride in a car. EPCOT_DPIRIDESYSGMTT_7323142612With such a full & exciting afternoon/evening and an upcoming day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, we were ready for some shut eye. And with that, our evening came to an end & we said goodnight to Epcot!

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