A Once-in-a-Childhood Trip Report

@UnPocoLoco Uh oh! Looks like you are in for some more light sabers! I can’t say that they consistently use what they learned in training but, at least we have the reminders in our back pocket for when the whacking gets too out of hand.

@Cgerres I hope you have good luck on Christmas party days! I feel like early November might be a good time. (I also thought my little guys would be too worn out for fireworks but they were able to push through at Disney. We honestly planned to watch from the ferry dock at TTC but were having too much fun on rides and then got kind of “stuck” because it seemed like it was too late to walk out without swimming through crowds.)

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Day #8, Sunday, August 14: Hollywood Studios (evening only)

Genie+ Booking Summary (had difficulty booking right at time once in park because of poor cell service at some attractions)

7:00: SDD (5:30-6:30)
10:30: Tower of Terror (2:50-3:50)
12:30: RnRC (4:00-5:00)
2:30: MFSR (7:30-8:30)
4:40: TSM (6:40-7:40)
6:45: MMRR (8:20-9:00)

Touring Plan (Genie+ primarily using BG1, crowd level: 7, approx. 4.5 miles of walking)

4:00-6:30: front of the park

  • Tower of Terror (G+ booked at 10:30, return window: 2:50-3:50, tap in around 4:10)*
  • Rock n Rollercoaster (G+ booked at 12:30, return window: 4:00-5:00, tap in around 5:15)**
  • Star Tours (posted wait: 10 mins, actual wait: 5 mins)

*While adults rode ToT, kids went to Star Wars Launch Bay to meet Chewbacca (wait time posted: 30 mins, actual wait: approx 25 mins) and Darth Vader (posted / actual wait: 35 mins)

**While adults and older son rode RnRC, younger son met Pluto (wait time: 10 mins) and caught the end of Pixar cavalcade

6:30-9:00: Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge

  • Slinky Dog Dash (G+ booked around 7:20am to get later return time, return window: 5:30-6:30, tap in; 6:45)
  • Toy Story Mania (G+ booked at 4:40, return window: 6:40-7:40, tap in: 7:15)

7:45-8:15: dinner at Docking Bay 7

  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (G+ booked at 2:30, return window: 7:30-8:30, tap in: 8:20)
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad (G+ booked at 6:45, return window: 8:20-9:00, tap in: 8:55)

***While grandparents, husband, and older son rode SDD, younger son and I did standby Alien Swirling Saucers (posted / actual wait: 40 mins)

On Sunday, we planned to spend the morning at the pool before our local family had to head home. The grandparents were staying and would head to Hollywood Studios with us for the evening. My original touring plan was not to buy Genie+ but to hit all of the attractions we had missed on our first day and that had lower standby waits (mostly shows, character visits, etc.). The one grandparent request was Rock n Roller Coaster. As my kids excitedly told them about riding the Millennium Falcon, Star Tours, Toy Story Mania, we realized it might be better to re-ride favorites and visit some characters. I do wish we could have done some of the shows – especially MuppetVision 3D and Frozen Singalong – but this new touring plan seemed to make it more of a family affair, enjoying attractions together within the time constraints of arriving so late in the day. We all ended up buying Genie+, so I set my two-hour timer and stacked Lightning Lanes for the evening. It was a little tricky because times didn’t advance for those first few rides (we knew we wouldn’t make it into the park until 4pm or so), but we ended up with quite a decent stack by the time we entered the park.

My updated plan for the evening was to first hit Star Wars Launch Bay / attractions on Sunset, head over to Star Tours, then loop up around through Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge. This didn’t help us minimize steps, but we had to work with a few parameters – staying within Lightning Lanes windows (I had read about the grace periods but didn’t want to test it too much on the grandparents’ one chance at Hollywood Studios), getting to the Launch Bay within the first hour before it closed, re-riding Star Tours, and ending in Galaxy’s Edge to try for Rise (my husband was determined for my boys to experience this). I went back and forth about whether to do table service at 50s Prime Time or go with quick service to give us more time for rides. Ultimately, we went with the latter and aimed to have dinner at Docking Bay 7 so the kids could experience a little more Star Wars theming. This was a good decision for maximizing our time.

My husband and the grandparents wanted to do Tower of Terror but the kids and I weren’t interested and preferred to do Star Wars Launch Bay, so we split up when we got into the park. Crowd levels definitely felt heavier than when we were there earlier in the week. Along the way, we even got to see Chip and Dale in front of Hollywood Brown Derby! The Star Wars character meet lines were about 30 minutes each, and the queue was boring for the kids but the characters were so cool that it was worth the wait. The boys and I met Chewie, and even I – admittedly not a Star Wars fan – was a little awestruck by him. My husband was off ToT in time to jump in line to see Darth Vader, which he was looking forward to. While in line, I also started to have trouble with cell service and booking my Lightning Lanes. I tried using Disney wifi but ultimately needed to get out of line and go outside to book our next Lightning Lane. By trying to switch to wifi, I unknowingly set myself up for MDE problems that would plague us for the next 24 hours…more on this in my next post.

My oldest wanted to ride RnRC and was able to do this twice – once with the grandparents and my husband, then again with me using his little brother’s card. I took the little guy to meet Pluto, which was exciting. I didn’t realize the Pixar cavalcade was about to come by and we were halfway down Sunset before I realized it and ran back. We caught the Pixar friends as they marched away from us. This sucked up a bit of time while we waited, but, unfortunately, the little guy refused to go see Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy (he was convinced this was a roller coaster and there was nothing we could do to convince him otherwise), so we took turns waiting with him in front of RnRC. There seemed to be a little trouble with RnRC when I rode with my oldest – we got stuck waiting in the room to go into the preshow for about 15 minutes, but we did get to ride. The big guy simultaneously loved and was terrified by this roller coaster, and he ranks it as one of his favorite rides at Hollywood Studios.

We crossed the park for Star Tours, then crossed back to start redeeming our Toy Story Land Lightning Lanes. This doesn’t make logical sense, but our kids wanted to do the ride Star Tours with their grandparents and we didn’t want to save it for the end of the night because we were hoping to be on Rise. So, we criss-crossed a bit. As our oldest, my husband, and the grandparents rode Slinky Dog – my little guy couldn’t wait to get back on Alien Swirling Saucers! SDD had been down and the standby was long, so we were sure that they would wait longer than us. Sadly, that was not the case. The wait for Alien SS was posted at 40 mins when we entered the queue, and people were actively exiting in frustration as we were joining. We seemed to be stopped for long stretches and then moving up only incrementally. My little guy is pretty upbeat and was content to wait. As we got closer, it became clear that the problem was that they were only running one side. Once we were “on deck”, the second side came back up, but we waited for all 40 minutes. The rest of our family was able to watch and wave from the rail, and the little guy counts “Saucers” as a Hollywood Studios favorite. I also consider it lucky that this was the longest wait of our whole Disney trip!

Throughout the night, my husband was keeping an eye on the Rise wait time and noticed that it went down, came back up with an incredibly long wait, and then went down again pretty quickly. This was not boding well…meanwhile, my phone was not loading updated wait times and seemed to be having a hard time showing our LL reservations. It was somewhere around this time that I got MDE to work long enough to book a LL for Runaway Railway as a bit of “insurance” that we could end the night on a high note if Rise didn’t come back up. We strolled through Galaxy’s Edge and again enjoyed the ambience of it being lit at night. We had mobile ordered and got to Docking Bay 7 just as some light rain moved in. Food was decent, but the real highlight was the theming. We couldn’t linger because we had a LL for MFSR. By the time we finished dinner, the rain had stopped and we could just pop over to the Falcon. With six people, this ride was especially fun. The boys, having ridden it on our first day, gave marching orders to the grandparents. After MFSR, we walked past Rise, which was still down, and hustled to MMRR with 10 minutes before park close. While my husband was disappointed that the kids wouldn’t experience Rise, we never told them we were trying to ride it, so they didn’t know what they missed. The kids loved MMRR and were happy to re-ride. This ride was so cute, family-friendly, and fun that it was a nice way to end the night.

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Day #9, Monday, August 15: Epcot

Touring Plan (No Genie+, approx 8 miles of walking, crowd level: 6)

8:45-12:15

  • Frozen Ever After (posted wait: 65 mins, actual wait: 30 mins)
  • Frozen Ever After (posted wait: 45 mins, actual wait: 15 mins)
  • Gran Fiesta Tour (walk on)
  • Journey into the Imagination with Figment (posted / actual wait: 15 mins)
  • Meet Venelope, Joy, and Mickey Mouse in Imagination pavilion
  • Turtle Talk with Crush (posted / actual wait: 10 mins)

4:45-9:20

  • Spaceship Earth (posted wait: 15 mins, actual wait: walk on)
  • 5:20-6:45: Biergarten
  • Living with the Land (posted wait: 5 mins, actual wait: walk on)
  • Soarin’ (posted wait: 20 mins, actual wait: 10 mins)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (wait until preshow: approx 20 mins)*
  • Harmonious (watched from walkway between Creation Shop and main walkway to the entrance of World Showcase)

*Younger son did The Seas with Nemo (posted wait: 5 mins, actual wait: walk on) and Seabase

The grandparents were still with us for our first Epcot day. My plan was to rope-drop Frozen Ever After and do smaller rides in the morning. After our break, we’d have dinner at Biergarten and then do rides in the front of the park until fireworks. We were saving Remy and World Showcase for our second Epcot day. After reading the discussion forums and blogs and plugging wait times from ThrillData into my spreadsheet, it seemed that we could avoid high wait times with this plan without having to buy Genie+. The morning started off with some hiccups. I tried for a Guardians of the Galaxy boarding group right at 7am but was still having trouble with MDE (which impacted BG1). By the time I got in, the morning boarding groups were gone. Then, on our ride to the park, I told my husband to follow Waze instead of, as he more logically suggested, following the Disney signs to Epcot. Apparently, Waze’s directions were for the actual Epcot ball, not the parking lot, and took us to some service entrance. By the time we figured it out, we’d lost about 15 minutes.

While we got through security easily, we couldn’t figure out the most direct way to the Norway pavilion. With the construction walls up, we ended up taking the long way around. The wait time for Frozen Ever After kept clicking up as we walked over. I was feeling fairly defeated because these mistakes were foiling my best laid plans! FEA was posted at 65 minutes by the time we got there, and we were queued outside to start. I was feeling a bit bad that I convinced my family that we didn’t Genie+ as we stood in the sun watching other families cruise through the Lightning Lane. My husband even suggested buying it, but I asked him to trust my strategy. It had gone well on other park days, and this would likely be our longest wait of the day.

The queue itself is pretty and air conditioned once you get inside and, in the end, was only a 30-minute wait! My luck was beginning to turn around! I actually am not a big fan of Frozen, but the way they transformed Maelstorm was so incredibly smart that it was one of my favorites. When we got off, the posted wait had dropped to 45 minutes. We had all loved the ride, and the line didn’t look too bad, so we decided to ride again. It turned out to only be about 15 minutes! (I had noticed this with Mine Train too – my spreadsheet using ThrillData info shows that wait times start a bit higher in first 30 minutes of opening, then dip about 30 minutes after, before climbing again… I wonder if, as the original rope drop crowd moves through, the wait drops for a short window before the crowds arrive to the park in force – just a theory…) We swung into the Mexico pavilion to ride Gran Fiesta without a wait and headed to the World Nature part of the park. We had planned to do the smaller rides here and then take our break. Wait times still weren’t loading right on my phone, but it seemed quite crowded. So, we did what we could, including some character meets. We finally got Mickey’s autograph (and a full family picture, including grandparents)! We ended our morning with Turtle Talk with Crush. I wish I had known to let the kids sit on the floor so they might have had a chance to ask a question, but just seeing Crush interact was cool!

The grandparents decided to stay and check out World Showcase, since they were heading home the next morning and weren’t joining us for our second Epcot day. I decided to stop by Guest Services at the front of the park to see what was going on with my app. Apparently, when I clicked over to Disney wifi at Hollywood Studios, it made it so that my phone was bouncing between wifi and data. This toggling back in forth was preventing the app from loading properly. Turning off wifi when I had decent cell service solved the whole problem. And just in time! I was able to book a boarding group for GotG when the virtual queue opened at 1pm!

When we returned to the park, Spaceship Earth was a walk-on so we did that before heading to dinner. The kids were really looking forward to going “inside the big ball” and are pretty interested in history, so they liked this ride. Then we headed to Germany for our dinner reservation. I have fond memories of going to Biergarten as a kid. The rest of the family had never been, and I thought the show would be entertaining for the kids. When we got there, we were seated right in front, which was great! The kids loved being able to pick food from the buffet – especially dessert - and the big eaters in our family left full and satisfied. It turned out to be a perfect choice for a larger party with a wide range of tastes.

Post 9a

We headed back to World Nature to do the rides we had missed earlier in the day. The grandparents’ one request for Epcot was Soarin’, and this was a short wait. We also did Living with the Land, one of my favorites, and even the kids were interested in seeing how Disney farms. At this point, we realized it was getting late, and it was time to head to GotG to be wrapped up in time for fireworks. My husband, the big guy, and the grandparents headed that direction, and I took the little guy on The Seas with Nemo. Not only did we walk on, there were no other families in the queue. We were in a line of empty clam shells and had the ride practically all to ourselves. We checked out some of the sea creatures – he was disappointed that the manatees were asleep for the night but liked checking out the dolphin and creatures in the other big tanks. Then, we went out and watched the ball change colors. We had about 20 minutes until fireworks, so I made our way over to a spot that seemed like a good option. Some Liners recommended watching toward the back, that there were some places with decent sight lines and an easy exit. We headed out to the bridge walkway under the monorail and found a great bench. He and I sat and people watched. I was so proud of our spot, and the rest of our family could easily join us when they got off GoTG. They were heading our way, but with 3 minutes before the start of fireworks, little guy declared that he had to go to the bathroom and could not wait. So, I had to abandon the bench. (I did discover that the bathrooms over by whatever the building is with the blue roof next to Mexico has a decent view of the fireworks too – not sure how well you could see the projections but some people were standing along the wall there too).

My husband found another spot on the path between Test Track and that big center path to the entrance to World Showcase. I ran back with little guy in the stroller in attempt to catch the show. This ended up being a good spot too. We couldn’t really see the projections, but the kids were happy with the fireworks. My husband and I were tired, so we headed out before the grand finale . While we had heard that Harmonious was the best of the nighttime shows right now, we lost some of the magic in the rush between GoTG, the bathroom, etc. Oh well! Even with the heat, the crowds, and the little bumps along the way, we made the most of our day.

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Day #10, Tuesday, August 16: Epcot and departure

Touring Plan (No Genie+, approx 5 miles of walking, crowd level: 5)

8:30-1:00

  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (posted / actual wait: 30 mins)
  • World Showcase and all Kidcot Fun Stops
  • Gran Fiesta Tour (walk on)
  • The Seas with Nemo (posted wait: 30 mins, actual wait: walk on) and Seabase

When we woke on the morning of our last day, my husband and I were torn about whether to go back to Epcot or have a relaxing morning at the pool. My husband’s old injury was getting more aggravated as the trip went on – he was an absolute trooper and said he’d do Epcot if we wanted, but I could tell he was in pain. World Showcase is my favorite, but I wasn’t sure whether the kids would like it. Also, I realize that, when I added the extra park day to our tickets, I forgot to extend our stroller rental. - We could rent a stroller from Disney, but I wasn’t sure if it was worth the extra cost and thought it might be better to relax on our final day. We had promised a few Epcot attractions, so we decided to pose it as a choice for the boys. Can you guess what they picked? Epcot, of course! And we’re glad they did!

I reached out to Orlando Stroller Rental via their text message line to see if we could keep the stroller for a few more hours, and they got back to us quickly saying that this was fine. This was a huge relief! My husband and I also made the plan that he would walk World Showcase with us but find a shady spot to sit while I explored the pavilions with the boys. We had originally planned to do some Food and Wine booths for lunch but decided to forgo these and just have a lunch of leftovers back at the condo before we napped, packed, and headed to the airport.

Everything about Epcot on our second day was so much smoother than on our first. We parked closer, got through security just as they were taking the ropes down for guests without Early Entry, and were able to head to Remy right at 8:30. The wait was 30 minutes, and we loved the ride! We also seemed to be the only ones in World Showcase. Our first stop was Morocco, and I took the boys to check out the exhibits and the architecture of Fez House. We literally had the place to ourselves. As we were checking out some of the artifacts, we heard “You must be my palace guards!” and were shocked to see Princess Jasmine behind us. She took the boys by the hand and led them back to her meet and greet area. I had left all of our things with my husband, so I rushed back to get our Disney card to get PhotoPass pictures and he came with us to meet the princess. This was magical! Let me reiterate – I would not consider myself a Disney “fan” – and I felt a bit awestruck. I never imagined we would have such a private, personal experience. What a great moment on our last day!

We had collected a Mexico postcard from the Kidcot Fun Stop station the day before, and I remembered this as we got to the Japan pavilion, so the boys picked up postcards for our collection. The department store wasn’t open, but the boys liked exploring the beautiful Japanese garden and exhibits. As we made our way through World Showcase, we continued to pick up postcards. We didn’t stay for any shows or movies, but the boys really liked countries with exhibits. We also stopped to watch the trains in Germany and for some chocolate and caramel treats at Karamell-Kuche. While these might not have been the best choice on a day with a “feels like” temperature of 104, the treats were delicious and gave us a nice little break in the shade! We also did Gran Fiesta one last time! (This was one of my youngest’s favorite rides in all of Disney – he’s still talking about Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros).

Once we collected all of our postcards and my husband, we headed to back to The Seas. We were ending our trip with Nemo and some manatees! We walked right on to our clamshells, then spent lots of time checking out the tanks upstairs. Our youngest was in love with the manatees and was thrilled to just watch them slowly munch lettuce. On our way out, we “splurged” on one last souvenir – the boys each got a manatee stuffed animal. Our youngest had spotted these in the gift shop the night before and had been talkimg about them constantly ever since. My husband and I were happy to get them something that made them so happy. And – what luck! – there was a PhotoPass photographer to take their picture with their new manatees right in front of our final Disney attraction. We walked out of Epcot in the sweltering heat but riding high! We had done Disney our way and truly maximized the fun!

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How special for your littles!

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Really enjoyed your trip report. You made some great memories for the whole family. Good work!

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I can’t get over the interaction with Jasmine. Amazing! That’s something you’ll never forget.

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What an awesome experience with Jasmine! Lovely way to end your trip.

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What a great last day! I’ve really enjoyed following your trip!

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What a great trip!! I have loved following along

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Thanks so much for following along with our trip and for all of your kind comments! We really did have a great trip. This will be my last formal post, with some closing thoughts.

Epilogue:

We executed our plan after Epcot as designed – lunch, naps, packing, airport. The plane was slightly delayed due to mechanical problems (but not cancelled!). We got in late but with all of our luggage and sanity intact! And we stayed COVID-free! And we did not have a single meltdown, child or adult! The closest we came was at the Budget rental counter on arrival but, otherwise, we could roll with the punches and keep the big picture of a joyful trip in mind.

Given my tendency to overplan and overanalyze, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to relax or enjoy some spontaneity. Having a plan and then having done a lot of research allowed us to be spontaneous without regretting anything later. It also helped us pivot when things weren’t going as expected. And surprise, surprise… my husband and I decided this won’t be a once-in-a-childhood trip. While it’s not in the budget to go every year, we are talking about going back in three years!

Some offsite thoughts:

We never once we regretted staying offsite. The combination of Genie+ and seven park days allowed us to make up for “lost time” from not having Early Entry. While we spent more on a few extra days and car rental, I think we saved it in accommodations and dining. In the end, it was probably the same price as a week-long trip at a moderate. I don’t think driving in a car 10-15 minutes was any less convenient than waiting for Disney buses (because, while we’d love to stay at a monorail resort or in walking distance to Epcot, those were not in our budget this trip). The true perk was being able to travel in a way that maintained some normalcy for our kids. They could sleep well in their own rooms and eat food they were used to eating. We could rest when needed and have some extra space to spread out. I think this was a big contributing factor for keeping everyone happy all 10 days.

Favorites

Animal Kingdom Attraction

  • Oldest son: Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Youngest son: Na’vi River Journey
  • Husband: Expedition Everest
  • Me: Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond

Magic Kingdom Attraction

  • Oldest son: Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (he can’t pick just one!)
  • Youngest son: Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Husband: Splash Mountain
  • Me: Enchanted Tiki Room

Hollywood Studios Attraction

  • Oldest son: Rock n Rollercoaster and Star Tours
  • Youngest son: Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
  • Husband: Rise of the Resistance
  • Me: Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Epcot Attraction

  • Oldest son: Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Youngest son: Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros
  • Husband: Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Me: Frozen Ever After (and just walking around World Showcase is my all-time favorite)

Favorite Park

  • Oldest son: Hollywood Studios
  • Youngest son: Epcot
  • Husband: Hollywood Studios
  • Me: Epcot

Restaurant

  • Oldest son: Chef Mickey’s
  • Youngest son: Skipper’s Jungle Canteen (we didn’t eat at San Angel this time but he’s already scoped it out for our next trip because he wants to eat next to “the Three Cabelleros ride”)
  • Husband - food: Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Husband – experience: Medieval Times
  • Me – food: Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Me – experience: Biergarten

We truly had the best time! I think a lot of that can be owed to the great tips and tricks I read along the way and going through the effort to think through the logistics. Thanks Liners – for helping me plan a trip for my kids that was more magical than we could have ever expected!

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This is me, I think :rofl: I joined Touring Plans, have the bug and have a feeling our January trip won’t be the last, even if it’s just me with my boys haha.

No meltdowns is a huge feat! And love to hear that despite all of the planning - you were still able to be flexible when needed AND have an excellent time. :heart_eyes:

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I never thought I’d see the day that anyone would pick Tiki Room as their favourite attraction :joy: Thanks for sharing your trip. I’m glad you’ll be back!

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While not our favorite by any means, its a must do. Our kids have always enjoyed it.

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Tiki room is a must do for me. I have such wonderful memories from my childhood. My DH also really enjoys it. The history plays a big part too, knowing animatronics started with the Tiki room and wouldn’t be what they are today without it makes seeing it important and special.

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But is it your very favourite?

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It could be depending on the day and my mood. I don’t generally have an absolute favorite in a park. I have favorites and must dos. Of MK rides my favorites are TR, HM, PotC, IASW and Philharmagic. :woman_shrugging:

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@missoverexcited :joy: My son has watched a video of the Tiki Room almost daily - he loves it! As for me, I definitely like nostalgia so the Tiki Room kind of feels like going back in time… something about the animatronics and the theming. (I even like how you can hear the animatronic eyes blinking at Country Bears Jamboree - it’s like a different era of attraction). At MK, I also love Pirates, Small World, and Splash and I think it’s because they’re all so heavily themed. Something about those tiki birds and all of the animatronics kicking in as the song crescendos - that whole vibe is what I like most about Disney World.

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@UnPocoLoco I told my husband - I definitely need to get off the forums because reading everyone’s trip reports without having a trip planned is so tough!

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Controversial opinion of mine: the old Snow White ride was better than 7DMT.

I said it.

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