Back to Disney we go! And let’s throw in Universal for good measure!
We had had a wonderful spring break trip just this past April but of course I still wanted to go back. I had booked a good deal for the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista a year ago (for just in case ) as I had always wanted to try these “good neighbor” hotels that are considerably cheaper than Disney resorts. Plus, this Hilton is the closest in walking distance to Disney Springs, giving me the perfect opportunity to hit my vast DS dining bucket list.
DH, DD13, DS10, DMIL, and I set out on an early morning flight out of NYC. As we were still waiting to take off at 7am, I logged into MDE to try grabbing LLs for the afternoon. Alas, almost all of HS LLs were still solidly in the AM, the outlier being, of course, SDD. However, I wanted to concentrate my G+ days on grabbing LLs that appealed to our entire group as DMIL would not be joining us 3/7 park days. I grabbed a late afternoon SDD in a panic (as it felt weird to not grab a LL) and then canceled it, thinking it would make it faster for me to grab what I actually needed (MFSR or MMRR) when our flight landed around 9:30am. But when we landed, the LLs I needed still hadn’t advanced far enough for my needs. I was then kicking myself for not keeping the SDD as I would’ve been eligible for my next LL grab anyway by the time the MFSR/MMRR LLs had advanced far enough. As Homer would say, “DOH!”
After a stop at baggage claim (I really miss Magical Express ), we took a Lyft to the Hilton. While waiting for our Lyft, I obsessively refreshed MDE to watch it very S L O W L Y advance my coveted LLs to a time I could use- 1:25pm MFSR! And miracle of all miracles, our Junior Suite was actually ready shortly after we checked in even though it was only 11am or so!
Pros of the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista:
- An extremely easy and quick walk to DS Marketplace. You just walk over 2 pedestrian bridges that are above the roadways and bam, you’re in DS within 5 minutes. Granted, most of the best dining options are farther down but I would say you could get to the West Side/Landing within 15-20 min depending on your pace.
- We got a Junior Suite for considerably less than a standard room at a Disney Deluxe would cost. It included 2 double beds and a chaise (which should’ve been a sofabed but we wound up with one of the few Junior Suites with the chaise instead), as well as a writing desk AND a small dining table with 4 chairs around it.
- Double sinks (awesome as we were a party of 5)
- Chat feature in the Hilton app made it easy to request items
- Free 2 water bottles and 2 coffees daily. They give you all the vouchers at the beginning of the trip so it was easy to redeem them at the grab-and-go spot. This was a much easier system than when we stayed at the Dolphin earlier this year. I think we were also entitled to 2 free bottles of water daily there but they didn’t make it clear how you were supposed to obtain them.
Cons of the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista:
- Although the free bus shuttle did depart from our hotel as scheduled the 2 times we used it, it took us a LONG time to get to Epcot and MK. The buses are the big coach buses that Mears uses (in fact, it might’ve been a Mears) so they’re reasonably comfy. However, the bus first picks up at the Hilton across the street (Hilton Buena Vista Palace) AND each bus hits 2 parks. For instance, one bus takes guests to MK (via the TTC) and then Epcot while the other bus takes guests to HS and AK (I don’t know which order as we didn’t use it for those parks). For our Epcot trip, it took us almost an hour to get from our hotel to the front gates of Epcot (factoring in a bit of extra walking time as non-Disney buses are let out a bit farther down in the drop off areas). Similar with MK as you have to factor in the extra time it’ll take you to get from the TTC to MK front gates. For an Early Entry rope drop gal like me, this is a big deal breaker.
- DH found the beds uncomfortable. The rest of us were fine with them so your mileage may vary. Also, they are double beds so they are smaller than the Queens in Disney Deluxes.
- A lackluster grab-and-go counter service. They had very basic food options, which I guess made sense as most guests would just walk over to the nearby DS. But the one night I needed to grab food for DS10 (he hadn’t enjoyed our dinner in DS), they had run out of cheese pizzas and when I asked for a hot dog instead, the lady hesitantly said she could heat up some. None of the hot items were ready to go, making me think they hardly got ordered, which thus made me nervous about the freshness of the product.
- Insufficient towel hooks and lack of a drying line in the bathroom. There was literally ONE towel hook. This made it very hard for us to dry our bath towels and our swimsuits.
After happily dropping off our luggage in our room and taking a quick tour of our suite, we walked over to the Polite Pig in DS. We had:
Slider Trio (Southern Pig, Low and Slow Brisket, and Fried Chicken)
Hop Salt Pretzel with Beer Cheese Fondue and IPA Mustard
BBQ Cheddar Brats and Crispy Brussel Sprouts
USDA Prime Brisket with a side of Mac and Cheese
Low & Slow Brisket Sandwich
And a surprisingly strong seasonal Melon Frozen Slush. I forget what alcohol was in it, but it packed quite a punch. Delicious but dangerous.
As Disney does not provide bus service to the parks from DS (and the Hilton shuttle only runs buses to the parks once an hour between noon and 6pm), we opted for a Minnie Van to take us to HS. We had a great cast member who quizzed us on Disney trivia the entire ride. That was a fun way to start our trip. While leaving DS, my 2 hours were up so I was able to then grab a 2:25 MMRR.
Once in HS, we stopped by ABC Commissary for much needed cold drinks (Strawberry Lemonade Slush) and a dessert on our way to MFSR:
Tropical Tart (Mango Passion Fruit Curd filled Graham Cracker Tart with Whipped Raspberry Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, Toasted Coconut, and Dehydrated Strawberry and Passion Fruit)
After riding MFSR, we had to grab another frozen drink cuz we were all melting in the heat.
Pineapple Coconut Slushy
Frozen Iced Tea Lemon Peach
After the above, we redeemed our LL for MMRR. After using my last booked LL, I obtained a 3:25pm for TSMM. While waiting for this LL time to open, I left my family to cool off on a bench inside Star Wars Launch Bay with their drinks while I walked around GE looking for additional Magic Shots. I also tried the Cold Brew Black Caf:
During this time, our TSMM LL converted to an anytime LL as the ride went down. I rejoined my family, now nicely refreshed. A few minutes later, TSMM was back up so we left Star Wars Launch Bay. Unfortunately, that’s when the skies opened up and it POURED for at least half an hour. We took shelter in the overhang near the currently defunct Voyage of the Little Mermaid and watched Disney Junior Characters scuttle inside amidst the downpour. When the rain finally lessened to a sprinkling, we walked over to Toy Story Land. The standby line said 60 min but it was a LIE. As we walked through the LL line, there was NO ONE in the standby queue, right up to the vehicles! We could’ve used standby and saved our LL for a second ride! grumble
After TSMM, we got a LL and rode ASS before heading out of the park. We could’ve easily grabbed a LL for ST but my family was beat from both the early rising that morning and the heat. At the park exit, I then discovered to my consternation that Disney no longer provided buses to DS (as they usually did pre-COVID after 4pm most days). To thus get back to DS, we chose to take the Skyliner to Caribbean Beach. We then wandered around lost in that vast resort while searching for a DS bus. We finally found a bus stop that WASN’T an internal bus stop and returned to DS.
At DS, we had dinner at D-Luxe Burger. It was the second to last day of the Flavors of Florida event, so we grabbed the specials:
Lime Garage and Orange Garage Burgers- both are Beef Patties with Citrus Braised Pork Belly and Pepper Jack Cheese. But while the Lime one had Lime Avocado Crema and a Fried Green Tomato, the Orange one had an Orange and Onion Marmalade. They actually tasted remarkably similar to me.
I also had the Orange Bird Milkshake while my son chose the Vanilla:
Good food to cap off our first day!