Saturday, November 4, 2023

Orlando, Florida (Fall 2023)

Thursday, October 19, 2023

This year was a little different from previous trips because I only had a long weekend off from work instead of a full week.

Ike and I stayed in the cities Wednesday night with plans to take the 4:30 AM shuttle to the airport for our 6:05 flight. Anxiety-ridden as we are, we were up and ready to go by 3:30, so we ended up getting a Lyft. TSA went pretty quick, but I think we would have been cutting it really close had we taken the shuttle instead of the Lyft. Especially since TSA Precheck wasn’t even open.

A funny moment: while waiting to board, one of the workers called for someone over the intercom. She announced the name, then said “or something like that.” I know this is a you-had-to-be-there joke, but it was too funny. The whole airport cracked up!

I tried my best to sleep most of the three hour flight because I knew I would get antsy and uncomfortable if I didn’t. 

The flight was uneventful and we landed shortly after 10AM. Unfortunately, as soon as we landed  I got the notification that our group was able to board for the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. We weren’t suppose to be called up until 11AM, so we were pretty sure we weren’t going to make it.

There were technical issues in getting the paperwork completed for the rental car, but eventually it was figured out. I had reserved a small car, but they gave us a midsize SUV. The first one we took was a RAV4, but the low tire light was on, and I have LEARNED MY LESSON. So we switched for a Toyota Venza, which worked out well since I’d just been looking at them - now I got a test drive!

We headed straight for Epcot and got there about 11. We had indeed missed out virtual queue spot for Guardians, so I bit the bullet and got us Lightening Lane passes for the afternoon instead. Then, we started eating. We ate as much as we could, taking breaks to ride The Three Caballeros (5 minute wait), Journey Into Imagination with Figment (15 minute wait), Spaceship Earth (5 minute wait), Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmos Rewind, Test Track (60 minute posted wait time, actual wait time was 30 minutes), and the Finding Nemo ride (no wait). 

We ended up staying until nearly 7, and while we probably could have made it until the fireworks at 9, we were stuffed and figured we should fine our hotel sooner rather than later.

Our food for the day:

🇲🇽 Mexico: Pastel Impossible (Layers of Traditional Mexican Flan and Tres Leches with Guava and Cajeta) 4/5⭐️

🇲🇽 Mexico: Taco de Costilla (Slow-braised Beef Short Rib on a Corn Tortilla with Salsa de Chile Morita, Avocado Mousse, and Spring Onions) 4.5/5⭐️

🇨🇳 China: Crispy Duck Bao Bun (with Hoisin Sauce) 4.5/5⭐️

🇨🇳 China: Pan-Fried Chicken Dumplings (with House-made Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce) 5/5⭐️

🇮🇳 India: Curry-spiced Crispy Cheese (with Mango-Curry Ketchup) 2/5⭐️

🥤 Refreshment Outpost: Dole Whip 5/5⭐️

 Shimmering Sips: Guava Cake (with Whipped Cream and Coconut) 4.5/5⭐️

🇨🇦 Refreshment Port: Traditional Poutine (French Fries with Beef Gravy, Cheese Curds, and Curmbled Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs) 4.5/5⭐️

🇨🇦 Canada: Canadian Filet Mignon (with Boursin® Black Truffle & Sea Salt Mashed Potatoes and Boursin® Black Truffle & Sea Salt Whipped Butter) 2.5/5⭐️

🇮🇪 Ireland: Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake (with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard) 5/5⭐️

🇫🇷 France: Beignet aux Trois Fromages (Warm Beignet filled with Three-Cheese Blend) 2.5/5⭐️

🇮🇹 Italy: Focaccia Ripiena (Freshly Baked Focaccia, Beef Meatballs, Tomato Sauce, and Burrata Cheese) 3.5/5⭐️

🇨🇭 The Alps: Dark Chocolate Fondue (with Berries, Pound Cake, and Meringues) 5/5⭐️

Friday, October 20, 2023

I was wide awake by 6AM this morning which was super annoying, because I was really banking on sleeping in. I did get us an early slot in the Guardians virtual queue once that opened up, which was good because lightening lane passes were much more difficult to get today. 

We headed to the park a little before opening, and got there just after 9. I wanted the Liege waffle, so we went to Starbucks in the park first. It also happened to be one of the only places open to get Food and Wine Festival treats from this early. Our Guardians virtual queue time was originally 10:30, but luckily I looked when we were at Starbucks, because it was 9:30 and our time had moved up - we had to be there by 9:45! 

Thankfully we were super close and headed straight there. Because our time slot was so early, there was hardly anyone in the queue when we arrived. We were off the ride by a little after 10. The song we got today was “Conga” by Gloria Estefan. Four times we have ridden Guardians, and we have had a different song each time!

The lines were definitely longer today, and there were more people than yesterday. We went on Soarin’ right after Guardians. The posted wait time was 50 minutes, but we only waited 20. We also rode Test Track again (posted wait 60 minutes, actual wait 85 minutes), and Living With the Land (there was basically no wait….and I think I slept the whole ride). 

Food we ate today:

⭐️ Starbucks: Remy Liege Waffle (Cream Cheese Liege Waffle with Cream Cheese Icing, Graham Cracker Crumbs, and a Remy Chocolate Garnish) 3/5⭐️

🌸 Hawaii: Kālua Pork Slider (with Sweet-and-Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise) 4.5/5⭐️

🇮🇪 Ireland: Roasted Irish Sausage (with Colcannon Potatoes and Onion Gravy) 4/5⭐️

🇺🇸 Flavors of America: Freshly Baked Carrot Cake (with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Icing) 5/5⭐️

🇮🇹 Italy: Cavatelli (with Sweet Sausage Ragout and Crispy Applewood-smoked Bacon) 4/5⭐️

🇮🇹 Italy: Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake (with Vanilla Cream and Strawberry Compote) 4.5/5

🇫🇷 France: Boeuf Bourguignon, Pomme Dauphine (Braised Short Ribs in Cabernet with Puffed Potatoes) 5/5⭐️

🌀 Swirled Showcase: Mickey-shaped Liquid Nitro Cake 4.5/5 ⭐️

🍟 The Fry Basket: Adobo Yuca Fries (with Garlic-Cilantro Aïoli) 4.5/5⭐️

🔥 Flavors From Fire: Spiced Chocolate Tart (with BBQ Potato Chip Crust, Salted Whisky-Caramel, and Smoked Sea Salt)  4.5/5⭐️

🔥 Flavors From Fire: Chimichurri Marinated Skirt Steak Taco (with Crushed Avocado, Grilled Corn Salsa, Pickled Red Onions, Queso Fresco, and Cilantro-Lime Cream) 2.5/5⭐️

🔪 Char & Chop: Meat Assorti Trio of Shaved Meats (with Baby Arugula, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Truffle Oil, and Grilled Ciabatta) 3/5⭐️

🥤 Refreshment Outpost: Watermelon Dole Whip 4/5⭐️

We ended up leaving around 6, because we were tired and full!

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Today was an intentionally early morning since Universal opened at 8. We left the hotel by 7:30, parked, and got in right away. We headed straight for Diagon Alley where we hopped on Escape From Gringott’s with less than a 5 minute wait. Even had time to squeeze in some pictures with no one around!

After the ride, we got our first butterbeer of the day. Diagon Alley was still pretty empty, so I’d say right away is the time to go - it gets so busy later! 

We left the Wizarding world and went to ride The Mummy. It was only 8:30 and we couldn’t go to Islands of Adventure until 9. The Mummy had a bit of a wait, but as soon as we were off we were able to head to King’s Crossing where we arrived on Platform 9 3/4 just in time to board the Hogwarts Express.

When we got to Islands, the posted wait time for Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure was 120 minutes, but the wait ended up actually being just under 90. The nice thing about the Hagrid’s line is that is keeps moving the whole time, and there is plenty to look at. 

Again, we left the Wizarding world and adventured into the wild to ride Kong, and from there Spider-Man. 

One of the rides we most look forward to in Orlando is Velocicoaster at Islands of Adventure. The downside is that usually coasters of this magnitude give me a massive headache and then I’m done for the day, so I didn’t want to do this one too soon. That being said, I didn’t want to do it AFTER we ate lunch either. It was already after noon, so we got in the 90 minute line for Veloci-coaster. The line sucked (it’s so hot in the outdoor part and so cold in the indoor!) but I didn’t get a headache, which was a miracle! My favorite part of Veloci-coaster is the flip over the water.

Then we headed to The Three Broomsticks for lunch. They changed their ordering process in the last year and now you have to order on the app which was annoying, but we managed. PRO TIP: have a credit card saved BEFORE beginning your order.

Ike had the ribs and chicken platter, and I had the chicken platter. I thought the chicken was dry, but the corn on the cob was juicy, and those potatoes…YUM! But my favorite part was the apple pie. OH. EM. GEE. Probably the best apple pie I have ever eaten, which seems bizarre considering it’s mass produced. 

We were SO FULL we couldn’t even fathom going on rides. I couldn’t even finish my pie which made me super sad. Next time I’m just getting a side of potatoes and an apple pie! We got back on the Hogwarts Express to head back to Diagon Alley to do some shopping, followed by deciding we were still too full for rides, and after 3 full days of being on our feet, we were okay with heading back to the hotel.

We got back to the hotel late evening and collapsed onto our beds, just chilling the rest of the night.

I ordered from our favorite pizza place, Giordano’s, for dinner so we wouldn’t have to leave!

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