Friday, March 22: Day 1 – Arrival & Epcot
On this chilly day in March, my alarm went off before the crack of dawn. We were catching a 9:30 AM flight out of JFK, and my car service was supposed to come at 7:15. I waited… and waited… it was starting to get late, so I called the dispatcher. Turns out they had put me in for a 7:15 PM pickup. Eek! After much pacing and sweating and being reassured a car was on its way, I was finally picked up at 7:45. Floor it, man! I got to the airport, met up with DF, and through security we went. (Well, he has precheck, so he went through quite a bit faster.) They were already calling my boarding group number by the time I got to my gate, so I hurried on, sat down, and finally exhaled. We were on our way to the most magical place on earth!
We ended up landing almost 30 minutes early – yeah! I hadn’t checked my bag, but DF had, so I waited for him and tried to remember where the Alamo pickup counter was. (Why is MCO so weirdly confusing?!) Once his bag came out, we were off to the races! I stopped by the Alamo kiosk, printed off my reservation slip, and over to pick up a car we went. (Sidebar: Since we both live in NYC, we take public transportation everywhere… so, while Disney transportation is nice, it’s even nicer for us to have our own wheels, and to be on our own schedule. We also like to resort hop a fair bit.)
Once we got into the car, it was a quick drive over to the Dolphin. Man, their self-parking lot is SO far away from the entrance to the hotel. We parked, dragged our bags into the lobby… and got into the longest check-in line I’ve ever seen. Woof! We were in line for a good 30 minutes, but finally got to the front. We got two rooms pretty near each other, on the 7th floor. From the category we booked on hotels-dot-com, I figured we’d have a fairly crappy view… but I was super pleasantly surprised! Here’s a picture from my window:
We each threw our stuff in the rooms, I changed into my park clothes, and donned the all-important Mickey ears. By now it was about 2:00, and we were itching to get over to Epcot. But first – a stroll through the Boardwalk. When we were staying at the YC last year, I’d gone out for an amble around the lake while DF took a nap one day, so he’d never gotten over to see the Boardwalk up close. Our first goal was to get an ice cream at Ample Hills. (DF actually used to live less than a block away from the original Ample Hills, and you guys, it’s truly the best ice cream ever. EVER.) Once we’d secured our all-important sugary, creamy sustenance, over we went to the International Gateway. We had tickets to upgrade to Annual Passes.
We stopped at the Guest Relations booth, told the very nice lady we wanted to upgrade, and it all went super smoothly! I had my calculations for how much it should cost, factoring in our gate price (vs. the discounted price we paid), plus the pre-paid memory maker (which we’d paid for using Disney gift cards DF got for free from cashing in credit card points). The total came out exactly to what I expected! APs in hand, we went into Epcot. The sun was shining! We were full of ice cream! We were annual passholders! Could life get better?!
Now, this trip had been planned last minute, as more of a “let’s go warm up and decompress” trip, rather than a “we have to see every single thing and do all the things!!!” trip. So my touring plans were all kind of loose – researched to infinity and beyond, but more so that I knew what our options were and could be, depending on where our whims took us. The first order of business was to amble super leisurely towards Soarin’ for our 3:55pm FP. We walked towards England, and I decided it was high-time for a beer. With a Bass ale in hand, we poked into the gardens in England… only to see that the British band was about to start playing! It was such a perfect Disney moment – I hadn’t planned this at all, but there were were, sipping on beer, basking in the sunshine, and bopping along to some British classics. Heavenly.
We listened to four or five songs and decided to continue on our way. The last two times we’d never gone into Canada, so this time we wouldn’t let it get the short shrift. It’s so pretty back there! Next time I guess we’ll have to actually go see the O Canada film… but I had my eye on a pineapple beer flight, so on we ambled, stopping to look at all the F&G topiaries and food stands. Once the pineapple stand was located, we ordered our beers (DF just got one regular-sized one; I got the flight), and plopped down on a bench looking out over the lake. Beers finished (they were very tasty and quite refreshing), it was time to head to FW and ride Soarin’. But on our way, it looked like the line to meet Baymax wasn’t very long – I absolutely LOVE Baymax, so we took a detour and got in line.
I mean come ON! seriously how lovably squashy is he! (I got flustered, meeting such a celebrity.)
After meeting Baymax it was high time to get to Soarin’, so over we went. I’d never noticed the distortion, but now that I was looking for it, I did see it… next time I guess I’ll ask to wait for B1. But still – a completely enjoyable ride. After that, our FP for LwtL opened up, so we hopped on that. (I think this is just such a pleasant ride – not the most exciting, but so relaxing…) My original plan was to modify our Spaceship Earth FPs to an earlier time, so that we could get right on that after LwtL, but it was super busy that day (CL predicted 8 // actual CL was a 9), so no dice. Instead, we each got one of the meatless ball things at the Garden stand – delicious! And just the right amount of food to tide us over before our 7:30 dinner at Chefs de France. Then off to SE we went – truly it’s one of my all-time favorite rides. I have such fond nostalgia for riding it when I was little.
After our SE FP, I didn’t have any real plans, other than to walk around World Showcase on our way to dinner. We thought about riding the Mexico ride, but the wait was crazy long – no thanks. Instead, we just sort of meandered – DF got himself a very cute F&G shirt and had that sent back to the Dolphin. We also stopped for some MM pictures:
By then it was getting close to our reservation time, so we picked up the pace and hoofed it to France. It seemed like there might be a bit of a wait to be seated, judging by the number of people waiting out front. We sat down next to a grandma and a baby, and I made faces at the baby and discovered that the grandma is originally from the neighborhood I live in now! Small world.
Eventually we were called in – the interior of Chefs de France really does look like a French bistro! (Albeit much, much bigger…) We both got the three-course prix fixe – I had the lobster bisque, the chicken, and the sorbet. By the time the sorbet came I was STUFFED, so I only had a few bites of it. I was keeping an eye on the time, knowing that we wanted to get out to find a halfway-decent spot for IllumiNations. We paid the check and went off in search of a good vantage point, eventually settling on the bridge just past France, near the IG. It was a pretty good view!
After IllumiNations, Day 1 was done. I’d walked 19,833 steps in all by the time I got back to the Dolphin.
Phew! The first day was a complete success – everything went so smoothly, we navigated through the crowds with no problem at all, and did all the things we wanted to do. Truly, a perfect and lovely day!
Next up: Rope Dropping the Magic Kingdom!