Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trip Report: [Day 4] Hitting 3 Parks and 2 Character Meals in 1 Day

Breakfast - Crystal Palace

We love Disney breakfasts. When I booked some initial dining reservations and shared them with my family, asking for their input, the first response was a unanimous - "NO BREAKFAST!?!?" So I went back and booked two - Grand Floridian Cafe (which we dined at on Day 1) and Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace is a family favorite. We dined there for the first time in 2002 and have been going back ever since. And I believe this is the only restaurant on Disney property that we've dined at for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What keeps us coming back? Perhaps it's the convenient Magic Kingdom location, or maybe the bright and airy atmosphere. It might be because we all quite adore Pooh and friends (Rachel and I grew up watching the 30-minute Winnie the Pooh VHS tapes religiously). But if I had to pinpoint a single reason, I'll go ahead and specify Pooh's Puffed French Toast.

Crystal Palace



The breakfast offerings at Crystal Palace include fresh fruit and cheeses, standard American breakfast fare, breakfast casseroles, and pastries.  They also serve made-to-order omelettes and pancakes (which are delicious)!  And do not overlook the lower-level children's serving station - some of the best breakfast items - Mickey waffles, breakfast pizza, and the delicious Pooh's Puffed French Toast - are found there!

Crystal Palace

Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet rotate the restaurant at a good pace.  The server told us to allow 50 minutes for the full location, but we saw them all within half an our.  Timing of characters depends on when and where you are seated.  They also stop every half our or so for the Friendship Day Parade.  Coincidentally, we always happen to eat at Crystal Palace on Friendship Day - what are the chances?

Crystal Palace

Dad's favorite character is Eeyore.  He told Eeyore that when he visited which made gloomy Eeyore very excited.

Crystal Palace

For his birthday, dad received a birthday card autographed by all of the Winnie the Pooh characters.

Crystal Palace

And also a birthday cupcake which was surprisingly good.  Normally, I have found the celebration cupcakes to be dry and flaky, but this one was on point.

Crystal Palace

Magic Kingdom Morning

I did a "drive-by shooting" through Magic Kingdom that morning.  That's the term that the photographer I work for uses when referring to taking photos quickly and inconspicuously without checking the viewfinder.  Max refers to this as "no scope" photography.

Fantasyland

Splash Mountain

Liberty Belle

Frontierland Shootin Arcade

Pecos Bill Cafe

When Lightning Strikes at Disney World...

We had a FastPass+ for Splash Mountain and used it just in time.  Check out the dark clouds that appeared while we were on the ride!  When our log returned to the loading station, they made an announcement that the attraction may close at any time due to weather.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

After getting off Splash Mountain, we realized that lightning has been spotted.  All of the outdoor attractions closed.

Emporium

Even water transportation to the Grand Floridian and Polynesian had been halted due to the quickly approaching storm (water transportation using the larger, enclosed boats to the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Lodge continued).

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

I've said it before, but we sure had great timing on this trip.  Just as soon as we returned to the Grand Floridian, the bottom fell out of the sky which erupted into one of the more serious Florida summer storms that I've seen in a while.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

We waited out the storm at the resort.  Dad was bummed that we never got to use the pool in the afternoon because it always stormed.  Perhaps we should have gone to the pool that morning and waited until the afternoon to visit the park one day.... definitely something to keep in mind for future planning.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

That evening, we headed to Epcot for dinner at the Garden Grill Restaurant.  We had a little time to kill, so we decided to spend it by first choosing our complimentary 5x7 photo (which we had taken earlier that trip) from Disney Visa.  Having more time on our hands, we found ourselves entering the giant golf ball iconic of Epcot (the actual structure is known as a geodesic sphere).

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth is located inside of the "Epcot Ball".  It's the first attraction that guests encounter after entering the park from the main entrance, so it often accumulates long wait times in the mornings.  It is not worth the morning wait.  Come by in the afternoon or evening, and you can walk right on.

You might wish you didn't, however, because once you've loaded the slow-moving train, you're in for 15 minutes of history taught by some of the creepier animatronics at Walt Disney World and narrated by a slow and calm-talking woman who could easily be the female version of Rusty Cartwright from Greek.

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

In attempt to update the attraction a few years ago, Disney added an interactive portion at the end of the attraction, allowing guests to see themselves in the future.  We enjoy seeing ourselves looking stupid.

Spaceship Earth

Garden Grill Restaurant

A few weeks before our trip, I had read reports on the message boards and a few unofficial Disney sites that the Garden Grill was no longer rotating.  I was disappointed because I had just made our reservation, and I enjoy the rotating dining room.  However, the stop to the rotating must have been temporary or quickly re-decided because the restaurant was rotating when we were there.

The Garden Grill Restaurant overlooks the Living with the Land attraction below and slowly rotates, providing different views over the course of a meal.  It is also a character meal, and guests are visited by farmer Mickey, Pluto, and Chip N' Dale.

Garden Grill

Looking a bit rougher than this morning...

Garden Grill

Garden Grill

The Garden Grill is served family-style and is all-you-can-eat.  The server will bring out a dish to share of everything and bring more of requested dishes.

We were first brought warm bread and the Farmer's Salad -

Warm Bread

Another unique feature to the Garden Grill is that the salads are made using produce grown downstairs in The Land's garden.

Farmer's Salad

The Harvest Feast -

Harvest Feast

Our waitress also brought us the Macaroni and Cheese from the kids' menu, topped with goldfish.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The Garden Grill has the one of the best character-to-guest ration of all of the character dining restaurants.  All four characters came by three times while we were eating.

Garden Grill

Garden Grill

Garden Grill

The Seasonal (strawberry) Skillet Dessert was quite good.

Seasonal Skillet Dessert

And we also enjoyed the Cupcake Cones from the kids' menu.

Cupcake Cone

Frozen Summer Fun

We wanted to catch the Frozen Fireworks that evening, but our timing aligned right with Illuminations.  Because the boat service from Epcot did not resume until after the fireworks show, our only option was to walk to our third park of the day, Hollywood Studios.  I tried to convince Dad that we should cut through the Boardwalk Resort because it's faster, but he insisted that we walk its entire perimeter because the last time we cut through, we ended up in a parking lot (but now I know what we did wrong!).

Yacht & Beach Club

We arrived about 20 minutes before the Frozen Fireworks, but we were able to get decent spots by just continuing to push our way forward in the crowd.  The Frozen Fireworks show also incorporates live actors Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff on the stage under the Sorceror's hat.  However, they are projected onto the large LED screen, so don't worry if you don't have a great view of the stage.

Arriving so late, I didn't have time or a location to set up a tripod, so I took a few hand-held photos, and this is the only one which wasn't absolutely terrible...

Frozen Fireworks

And I also took a bit of video (for Snapchat... hence the short clips) which I've strewn together to give you a better idea of the scale of the fireworks.


It's definitely not the most spectacular fireworks production, but if you're a Frozen fan, it's a must-do.

Frozen Fireworks

Fantasmic!

The park closed after the Frozen Fireworks, but we were able to watch the second showing of Fantasmic.  We got seats on the fourth row.  The trick to finding good Fantasmic seats is to just keep walking forward.  For some reason, people only like to sit on empty rows and congregate towards the middle or the back of the amphitheater.  I prefer an up-close view towards the center, so the Mickey and Pocahontas sections are my favorite.

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Fantasmic

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Due to the storm earlier, our FP+ for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had been extended until midnight.  It was unfortunate because had been looking forward to riding it during the day.  I guess I'll just have to see it in daylight on my next trip!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

We spent a bit more time in Magic Kingdom before saying good-night.

Cinderella's Castle

Main Street USA

Grand Floridian Turndown