Saturday, August 31, 2019

Orlando 2019 - Relax and enjoy the resort

A much needed lazy day!

Today is our first day off, at least until later tonight. 
We are enjoying our two-bedroom unit at the Orange Lake Resort and we are taking advantage of the full kitchen and the resort's pool area.

Wonderful Lazy River

The morning was lazy but we still got to the pool around 10. They have a significant lazy river, and we floated around for the better part of two hours, before breaking for lunch in the room. 

Ah, There is something to be said for being able to have a homemade meal or two. Soo good.

Can we take a moment to talk about Dorian? Come on, that guy is the worst... no, seriously we are keenly aware of the current category 4 Hurricane churning its way towards us. We are less than halfway throughout the trip and at this point are expecting to see Dorian to some degree in a few days. When and how much of him will be left we don't know yet. But we filled up the good ole rental car yesterday, and we stocked up on water and some non-perishable food as well, just in case. We will be in another timeshare starting tomorrow and should be there through whatever storm we get.
My current favorite comment about Dorian is that waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.

After lunch we lazed! A lot. Tried not to get sucked into looking are weather forecasts, as it's our relaxing day, but again, it's hard not to think about that turtle stalking us ;)

Glad we stayed here - the River was delightful

Once things settled a bit, Hubby and the kids returned to the lazy river for a bit. I wandered out and watched in a comfy lounge chair until the weather turned rainy. We are getting pretty familiar with the mad dash to cover... so we did it again, back to the room.

We all dried off and got dressed for the evening. After dinner, we decided to head into the Studios park and see Star Wars land. We didn't ride Smugglers Run but enjoyed walking around Batuu. We got on Midway Mania and tried the new Lighting McQueen Racing Academy. Hubby rode Tower of Terror and the kids and I had a bit of Ice Cream. All in all, we got a lot done in a little bit of time.

Entering the Studios after dark 

Walking into Star Wars Land... also known as Galaxy's Edge... also known as Batuu

The Millennium Falcon!!

Holding her thermal detonator... I mean Sprite bottle 

These ships look soo cool lit up at night! 

Are these the droids we are looking for? 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Orlando 2019 - Epcot!

Walking into Epcot! 

Truth be told, Epcot is my favorite park.
Today we started our day with rope drop and an early ride on Soarin'.
We had reservations for a character breakfast at the Garden Grill inside the Land Pavilion so riding Soarin' first made good sense. We also popped onto Living with the Land and it was time to eat when we got off.

We have breakfasted here once before and at that time decided it was a good fit. So we tried it again. And again the food worked really well for our group. But it is clear we are outgrowing the Character Meal experience. The young lady and I still did pictures and had fun with it. She and Mickey even shared a laugh when he colluded with her to sneak up on me from behind. The mouse gave me a kiss on the cheek and it startled me soo much I yelped... loudly! They both laughed, to funny.

Hmm. this reminds me of something...

Hey Mickey! 

After breakfast, we worked our way around the rest of Future World. We liked the update to Mission Space: Green. And by the time we got to our Test Track fast pass the weather was starting to turn. Apparently, Test Track shuts down in bad weather and they were making announcements to warn people in line that it could happen at any minute. We stayed the course and got through before the water started to fall. In fact, we made it to the Mexico pavilion before the rain started.

After the ride, we waited a bit in the pavilion before venturing out. But it wasn't long before everyone was back outside walking around.  We worked our way around World Showcase and even picked up a few items to try from the Food and Wine Festival booths. So far, we like the Indian food booth and the Japan booth. Another day we might try more.

Great views all around World Showcase! 

We saw the CircleVision in China and the movie in France, followed by a sweet treat from France. Then it was time to leave. Leaving only one attraction left unridden, but we know we will be back for it.

Side note: We are in hurricane season and Dorian, the impending storm is on everyone's mind. These little rain bursts we have been getting are typical Florida weather, But the upcoming storm will be more. I overheard a half dozen conversations about it the last day or so.
On the way home, we made a few stops. Filling up on gas as well as picking up some more water and food for the storm/weekend.

Our evening consisted of dinner in the room, planning for storm contingencies, and getting off our feet.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Orlando 2019 - Magic Kingdom and more

Last night was rough.
But we all slept and that was good.

Walking towards the Castle... great clouds today! 

We were up and to TTC to catch a monorail to the Magic Kingdom by 10:40 am. The young lady is sporting two-finger splints today, she says she isn't in any pain, which is awesome and she had a great attitude, although she is hiding that hand in photos.

posing at the famous Purple Wall... seriously, it has a following! 

This morning was funny as 2 of the 3 fast passes we set, broke down before we got to them, which landed us with 2 extra fast passes (Nice). Then the first two rides we got in line for both stopped temporarily while we were in line.  Crazy.
But we were able to get on everything in the end. In no small part to hubby's mad skills with what we now affectionately call "the FastPass game".

We rode rides, had an easy lunch at Pinocchio's (thank you mobile ordering), and rode more rides!
The rain popped in to remind us it could mid-afternoon and we enjoyed the updated version of Hall of the Presidents while the rain did its thing.
We got through a lot of rides and decided mid-afternoon to head over to the Animal Kingdom, so we took the monorail back to TTC and drove our rental car to AK for a few hours.

We got on the Safari and then found some iced drinks before hitting Pandora. The theming is really good. We are really late to the story of Avatar, we just saw the movie last month, so we now understand a bit more what the land is all about.
After the river ride, the young man and I headed to the car and the adventurous ones rode Flight of Passage before joining us.

We ordered dinner from Panera online and stopped by to pick it up before going home.
Tomorrow Epcot!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Orlando 2019 - Moving offsite

Two resorts, three parks, and more rain

We have arrived! 

Breakfast today: Disney's Hollywood Studios Early Morning Magic event.
We heard about this several months ago and decided to get tickets - it's a sperate ticketed event that lets you have access to Toy Story land before that park opens, plus you get breakfast.

We arrived before our 7:50 am ticket time, and were let right in. We followed the crowd but realized people were going to breakfast first. We ended up going in and getting some small items to eat on the way to Toy Story Land.

First time in Toy Story Land

We got in line for Slinky Dog Dash and had less than a 15 min wait - not typical for this ride. After, we did the Alien Saucers and Midway Mania. Then we couldn't help ourselves and hit Slinky Dog twice more before committing to breakfast.

Slinky Dog Dash... a new favorite! 

Plus, the park was about to open to the general public so our short lines were almost gone.
A comment about the breakfast options for this event.... the menu seemed to be catered to Millennials or hipster foodies. We like a variety of food, but when it comes to breakfast we tend to be more traditional. Chicken and Mickey waffles with Sweet potato tater tots, or Avocado toast with oven-baked egg- were not really what we had been expecting. We don't eat pork so the other options were not going to work for us. However, they had a nice assortment of bread and fruit.
And overall we are very glad we got tickets for the event.

At this point, we left Hollywood Studios to get back to our hotel at Universal. Today we check out and we have about 90 mins before check out time.
When we got back to the car our young man asked where his bag was... uh oh.  With the crowds of people trying to get into the park and the timeline we were on, the decision was made that hubby would go back by himself to try and find the missing bag. It was left at breakfast and turned in. Lucky for us Hubby talked to the cast member who had handled the bag and she was able to get it for him.  Despite the missing bag, we got back to the hotel with plenty of time to get packed up and check out.
And the rest of the day we planned to spend at Universal parks.  Last chance to ride things at Universal so go now!

Great view of Portofino Bay plaza

Hubby finally got to go on Hulk and we all got a little snack. The kids and I hit the Seuss Island rides again and we met hubby after.
We grabbed a second ride on the Hippogriff and then the adventurous half of us went for the last ride on Jurassic Park while the young man and I found some food. Lunch today is snack as you go... and he found something that looked good, so it worked well.

Again we popped on the train to the Studios park and re-road the Men In Black ride and ET.  Hubby and I shared a Beyond Burger at Mel's before we rode Minions on last time.
On the way out of the park, we hit the Today Cafe and shared a few goodies.

This wraps up our time at Universal. We headed off to check into the Orange Lake Resort an IHG property.

Bye Universal, It's been fun! 

This is a timeshare, but we paid cash for our stay. The unit is great - two bedrooms with a king and two queen beds. A full kitchen, full washer and dryer, two baths, and a living room. The price was good. We booked a unit at the building by the pool/lazy river.
Upon check-in, hubby got mild pressure to schedule a 90-minute timeshare presentation to join. He politely declined and we got settled into our unit.

The living room at Orange Lake 
dining area
second bedroom 

We had our Owner's Locker delivered here, which Owner's Locker handled great. The resort was not nearly as sure about it. But despite that, Hubby found the locker and we were able to get into that too.

After a rest in the new room, we decided to try Disney Springs again and specifically try to get to Earl of Sandwich. Wanna guess how it went?  Not bad through dinner, but about halfway back to the car park area it started to pour again. Now we are used to the whole afternoon rain thing at this point, but this was another downpour. And despite carrying raincoats around with us all day in the parks, we didn't bring any to the Disney Springs.  We once again found ourselves sprinting from cover to cover and getting a wee bit wet along the way.

This was the sky, just before the rain......

this was my weather app when I took the picture of the sky (posted above) 

this is the young man and me after we found shelter from the downpour. 

Once back in the car we decided to head to Publix for some grocery items since we now have a kitchen... this is where things went bad.
Our brave young lady got her fingers caught in the car door. It wasn't good.
We freed her ring and middle finger and found our way to an urgent care clinic. (a few years back she broke her pinky finger and the state of her fingers looked a lot like that. Plus she was reacting very similarly, although that happened in a very different way).
The boys dropped us off at CentraCare and we got x-rays ... nothing broken!! Yay!!!
The boys spent the time doing that grocery shopping that we had to abandon earlier, and came back to pick us up.

Didn't think a pic of the fingers would be helpful to anyone.. but Thanks to CentraCare for taking good care of us. 

We got back to the room around 11 pm. We decided not to do rope drop the next day and pushed back all our FastPasses.

Our sweet young lady is ok, but a good night's sleep is needed by all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Orlando 2019 - volcano bay and universal

We are up earlier today
It is really in prep for tomorrow, but we will get to that....tomorrow.

We ran down to the lounge for another quick breakfast. The options aren't bad, and this is working out pretty well. 
Our first order of business today is water slides! We are off to Universal Studios Volcano Bay park, which is huge and fairly new.
Volcano Bay entrance
Since we are staying on-site, we have early admission and get in an hour before the general public.

Two of the four of us really enjoy water slides. One of us is a huge lazy river fan and the holdout will tolerate it for a limited period of time. So we went forth! 

The park is beautifully themed. Crazy lush and very tropical.

soo much greenery
We found the lockers pretty easy to use and were in the "Fearless River" almost as soon as they opened it up. This one is far from lazy, you have to wear a life vest, then just let the current pull you through. Fun!! 
Our young man sat this out to play in the sand. After a lap, we decided to split up into our typical groups... the adventurous two and the young man and me. 
The brave among us hit a bunch of slides, while he and I did the typical lazy river and explored all the nooks and crannies of the park.

The volcano! 
After a few hours, we met up and decided to work our way back to the room. The brave took one more lap at the river and we met back in the room. 

After showers, we knew it was time for lunch and more park time.

Toothsome's for lunch

For lunch, we tried Toothsome's Chocolate Emporium. I know it doesn't sound like lunch, but the menu looked quite good and the steampunk-inspired decor was fun.

this bread was not sweet but it was delicious... if you come across the recipe, I want it! 

Almost ate it all!!!

We ate real food and split dessert. Then before we got too full, went into the Islands of Adventure to see more of the park. 

We made it through Seuss Island and the Lost continent  - when the rain decided to show up. Even with the waterworks, we made it to Hogsmeade. After exploring we took the train back to the Studios park to re-ride some favorites from yesterday.

At Citywalk, we got some random food to take back to the room for dinner. 
These days have been really fun, I expect we will return to Universal in trips in the future

back at the resort for the evening.... just a little wind. 

Every evening on the plaza, something like this happens. It was delightful

Monday, August 26, 2019

Orlando 2019 - Here comes the sun...and the rain!

Woo Hoo!
Our first full day!
We had a plan to get up in time for the park opening.... but we are west coasters in Florida, we overslept. We still made it and started our fun at Universal Studios Park.

Universal Studios here we come!!!!

Our young man has been looking forward to riding Minion Mayhem for well over a year, so we did that first... And it was fun.
Next up Race through NY with Jimmy Fallon. Also fun.

Jimmy Fallon ride! 

So here is a note on the majority of the rides we rode at the park today - Lots of motion simulators. We rode 11 rides today and  5 of them were not heavily focused on large scene motion simulator type technology.
I will say they use the tech very well and most screens are amazing. The transition between screens and other elements is impressive.
But its a lot of screens. and a couple of them are downright jerky to ride. So I have mixed feelings on this.
Now that I have said my piece... we rode everything in the Studios we wanted and then caught the train to Islands of Adventure.

Train to the other park - Soo fun. 

Once in the other park, we decided to check out the new Hagrid roller coaster. It has had insanely long lines since opening and sadly our front-of-the-line passes (came with the room too) didn't work on this one ride. One of the workers implied to us that we should get in line for the ride. That it wouldn't be a shorter wait than it was now. So despite the 120 minute wait time listed, we got in line. And one hour later we got off the ride! It was great.
This coaster was one of the smoothest coasters. We all really enjoyed the ride and are so happy we didn't have to wait longer for it. Several of us would have easily ridden a second or third time, but that wait kind of takes that idea off the table, so much to do.

After our great ride, we decided it was time to head back to the room. Our timing was perfect. Just as we got to the boat dock the rain started to fall. We got a little bit wet getting from the boat to our room, but really it wasn't bad.

Just a little rain shower

Our evening plans - Disney Springs.
We needed to activate some annual passes and planned to eat dinner at a personal favorite, Earl of Sandwich.
But mother nature had other plans.
Once we parked and started walking to Guest Services, it once again began to rain. We ran for it and took shelter while we got the passes all set. Then we had some decisions to make... Earl of Sandwich is at the other end of Disney Springs... and without any raincoats or umbrellas, getting from here to there without getting soaked through, wasn't going to happen. So we started looking to see what was closer to guest services.... we settled on the new Wolfgang Puck restaurant. And with a few mad dashes from covered awning to store overhang, we made it to the restaurant. We were not dry, but we were not soaked through either, and it didn't seem to phase the hostess, so we were seated.
The menu had lots of options for our picky party and we were happy to not be outside - the heavy rain continued.
Leaning into the full table service meal we ordered appetizers and entrees and settled in. The appetizers were delicious and then before our meals came out the lights started to flicker... and the power went out.

The wait staff were relaxed and asked that we give them a little time to see what the kitchen can still do and to see if the power comes back.
After a few more minutes two of our four entrees turned up, we were told they wouldn't be able to prepare the other two - they were very apologetic and brought us some focaccia bread to help.
By candlelight, we shared the entrees - which were very tasty.

dining by candlelight

After eating we settled up - they still had one of those old school credit card imprint things.
Not all of Disney Springs was dark and the rain had let up, so we ventured over to a family favorite - Goofy's Candy Company for a sweet treat to take back to the room.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Orlando - Theme parks trip 2019

It's that time again. Time to jet across the country to the land of sunshine and mid-afternoon rainstorms.... oh and lots of theme parks.

Our flight was early. Left the house at 5:30 am.
But despite there being more people than I would expect at the airport that time of day, we got on our flight and made it all the way to Orlando.

The kids think the Orlando airport has expanded since our last visit... I am not convinced, nor am I curious enough to look it up ;)

First ride in Florida... the airport tram ;)

This trip we are adding Universal! I know we are Disney people, but with the kids being teenagers we decided to add to our repertoire.
We are starting our trip at the Universal Portofino Bay resort. We decided to lean into the Universal experience and got the 4-day tickets, the dining plan, and have access to the hotel club lounge.

Almost to Universal! 

The resort is lovely. Really beautifully themed.
Our room is fairly standard, but very nicely sized - has a small table and a nice lounging chair. Also a tub and shower.

Walking to the room at Portofino Bay

After we got settled into the room, we hit the lounge, which puts out an evening "reception" during the dinner hour. We snacked a bit and then decided to hop on the water taxi to the park area.
The boat takes you to the CityWalk area, and the entrance to both parks is a short walk.

View of Portofino Bay Resort from Boat Launch 

Tonight we headed into Islands of Adventure. We had no plans beyond maybe some more snacks. But thought a look around might help us plan the next day.

Will we dare a ride on "The Hulk" coaster today? 

The Spiderman ride was the one that got us.
The ride itself is an interesting mix of the car moving through space, movie projections, motion simulator, and additional effects.  The closest the kids had been on something like this was the Ratatouille ride at the Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Paris. But this ride is quite a bit more intense.

After the ride, the young man and I grabbed a snack and started back to the boat. But the adventure crew (Hubby and our brave young lady) decided to go find some dinos and rode Jurassic Park.

We all met up in the room when it was over.