After 5 weeks of crazy life back in Portland we flew all night to Orlando to rejoin our car and take on Walt Disney World. It was Sunday, July 31.
|Celebrating WDW's 50th year|
Day 22B: Animal Kingdom
I probably don't have to put together exhaustive posts on Disney World like I did six years ago with Disneyland. Most of you have been to the world of the anthropomorphic mouse or have no desire to go, so here's this is a somewhat condensed version of us at WDW:
The 31st was our day at Animal Kingdom. Keep in mind we hadn't really slept after spending three days at Northwest Youth Conference and immediately boarding a redeye from one corner of America to the other.
So what about Animal Kingdom impressed? Avatar Flight of Passage. Yes, I got motion sickness due to the previous four days, but it was still an amazing experience and was chased down with the 15th best meal of the trip at Satu'li.
Expedition Everest and Festival of the Lion King were solid as was a kids party with Kevin from Up, but we were honest enough with our expectations and energy level to tap out in the late afternoon and head for the room. Which brings us to this commercial for Disney nerds:
|Pop Century Resort has 30 ft tall versions of all the toys|
Pop Century Resort might've been the greatest choice of the entire trip to Disney. It's fun, cheap and located right on the Skyliner. If you want to stay on the grounds, don't need a pool with nine different water slides and *love* murphy beds, you need to stay at the Pop. Art of Animation (next door to the Pop) is too expensive and ESPN's All-Star Resorts are pretty much located in Tampa.
EXTRA PRO TIP: Don't go to Animal Kingdom after a three-day youth conference and all-night flight. Unless you're part of our family. We're down for whatever.
Animal Kingdom Radical Score: 7/10
Day 23: Magic Kingdom
We had the distinct advantage of the aforementioned trip to Disneyland, which is kind of the same as Magic Kingdom. We hit all our favorites. Space Mountain, Small World, Thunder Mountain and (the inferior version of) Pirates. We found a new favorite in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is the smoothest, quietest roller coaster I've ever ridden on.
Dole Whips, funnel cakes, parades. Everything was going along as effortlessly as the Mine Train when we were walking to catch our Fast Pass at Splash Mountain and we got whacked with a thunderstorm that closed everything for an hour or two. This included closing Splash Mountain for the rest of the night. This was our last chance to ever ride Splash Mountain before it becomes Tiana's Bayou Adventure of Amazing Creole Fantasticness. I was a little *too* disappointed. It's my favorite.
The good news is that the storm let up 25 minutes before close and since, most people just went back to their hotels, we got a chance to run through and meet various princesses that I've forgotten by now and ride Winnie the Pooh. As we were exiting WTP, one of the Disney employees ran up to us and let us know we had a chance to ride the Mine Train one more time before the park closed with no wait. So one more time we got to glide through the rocks and tunnels.
An evening spent mostly staring out the front door of the Frontierland gift shop was capped with spontaneity and unexpected blessings. What more could you ask for at Disney?
PRO TIP: If you've already been to Disneyland, prioritize what's different at Magic Kingdom. A lot easier for a guy like me to get back to Anaheim than Orlando.
Magic Kingdom Radical Score: 8/10
Day 24: Hollywood Studios
This was the day Elisha was waiting for. We bought our advance tickets to Rise of the Resistance as soon as they were released and geared up for the ride of our lives. After Mariah got stopped by stormtroopers in the plaza, we got our ride and--trust me--RotR lives up to the hype. If you haven't been it's a dark ride, walking tour/interactive drama and virtual ride all in one. Best ride in any of the four parks. No more spoilers.
The main event being over early, the rest of the day was us running from Toy Story Land to Rock 'N' Roller Coaster to Grand Avenue, back to the hotel for a nap and back for more rides and the nighttime animation show.
PRO TIP: We think Hollywood Studios is the best of the four parks. It has less rides than the others, but every single ride is a winner.
Hollywood Studios Radical Score: 9/10
Day 25: EPCOT and Goodbye WDW
We had to choose the park that would only get a half day and EPCOT became the unfortunate victim of time restraints. I didn't realize EPCOT was the largest park (for how far you have to walk) of all the Disney parks. We got a workout. Pro tip: there's a *huge* manmade lake in the middle of the park that forces you to pick a specific path. It's a mile to walk around it. All the walking made our attempts to get up early, pack and check out a bit futile.
We made the best of it by prioritizing a ride on Frozen Ever After in advance of the big crowds arriving. We made it on the ride, but it got stuck halfway through. The giant snowman threatened to smash us for 20 minutes, but our boat was stuck. They threw a special "gangplank" across the gap to get us out a side door, and for the first time in my life, I got a Disney backlot tour. They told me not to take video, so I only took pictures.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is easily the second best ride at either of the Disney Resorts (Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure is third). Cosmic Rewind is like Space Mountain, but your car spins 360 degrees through a series of giant LED screens. No more spoilers. So much fun, but over in three minutes.
Also, it was the International food festival, which allowed us to eat samplers of all kinds of crazy food for cheap.
PRO TIP: Test Track is a great ride that has a single rider line, so you can ride it three times in a half hour. And (spoiler) it's the same ride as Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure, just not as fun-looking.
EPCOT Radical Score: 7/10 (but underrated by most, if only for the wackiness of the whole thing)
And, yes, after that craziness, we drove straight to Charleston, South Carolina. Not straight there, because--as I mentioned in the last post--we enjoyed an incredible meal at Steffan's in Kingsland, Georgia, which is the ONLY thing we did in that state, but we've been to Georgia!
Staying too late at EPCOT and eating to much in Georgia, put us on a lonely state highway to get out to the Carolina coast, but we fought through it and arrived at Charleston's French Quarter long after our bedtime.
Day 26: Charleston
It had been more than a week since the start of Northwest Youth Conference and we were overdue for a down day.
We slept until 10 or 11 and spent all day at Folly Beach. I didn't take many photos, but instead walked up and down the beach on a beautiful Thursday afternoon and thought about how grateful I was.
The kids and I put our toes in the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time and that alone was worth the trip across the country.
Day 27: Charleston to Baltimore (Drive Day)
The twenty-seventh day was going to be a long one, but we had just enough time to stop at Bitty & Beau's (again), check out the City Market and hit the road. Charleston is the place of all the places that I want more of. We didn't stay long enough, and I regret it.
|Just a taste of the stunning beauty of Charleston|
Charleston Radical Score: 9/10 *stunning*
We stopped at a mostly forgettable burger place in North Carolina, got out of the car for a minute to say we were in Virginia and powered through--for the second night out of the last three--to Anthony and Erica's house in Baltimore.
We drove to Baltimore from Charleston in a single day. We did that.