Monday, November 14, 2011

Spontaneous Disney World Weekend

Main Street USA all decorated for the holidays!
We decided to do a spontaneous trip to Disney for the weekend about mid-day on Friday.  We had gone to a Queensryche concert here in town Thursday night and I liked it so much, I wanted to see them again at the House of Blues in Orlando on Saturday night.

I kinda jokingly emailed the wifey to say let's go to the concert in Orlando to see what she'd say and surprisingly, she was all for it.  The original plan was that I'd owe her any concert of her choice on demand anywhere within a 3 hour radius, but she saw this as an opportunity to change it up.

She agreed to the concert, but she's been wanting to visit Mickey lately, so she said as long as we can go to Epcot, she's in and that would get rid of the future concert obligation.  The key to a happy marriage is compromise, give and take, so we both agreed and put the plans in motion.

I lined up the pet sitter, got the concert tickets and after that I tried to book a room for Fri/Sat at one of the value Disney resorts.  Much to my surprise, when I called them directly, they only had 1 room left at all of their resorts and it was an Animal Kingdom villa for $750.  Umm, no I don't think so.

There were rooms for Saturday, but none for Friday.  That was surprising, but I guess because it was Veterans day, lots of folks had off and everyone decided to go to Disney.

It wasn't a major deal, but we usually prefer to stay at one of the Disney resorts due to the free and abundant fast transportation to the parks/Downtown Disney, easy ability to grab just about any type of food any time you want it quickly and it's always worked very well.

We instead stayed at the Hilton directly across the street from Downtown Disney and it was ok.  Nothing great, but it was a good location since we were going to Downtown Disney for the concert and they also had free bus transportation to the parks as well.  We still would have preferred to stay at one of the Disney locations like Pop Century or All Star Sports for cheaper.

Hilton Downtown Disney
We arrived Friday night and the hotel was decent, it had a Benihana restaurant, Italian restaurant, Sports/Lobby bar, place for breakfast/lunch and a 24 hour store with soft drinks, snacks, bagels, etc.  We had eaten a little before we left and we were kinda tired from seeing the concert the night before and then working Friday and driving there, so we just grabbed a quick sandwich and watched some TV and called it a night.

We got up Sat AM, spent a bunch on breakfast and caught the bus over to Epcot.  When we got the park tickets, we decided to make them park hopper passes, thinking it might be real busy since all the hotels were booked the previous night and since this was the last weekend for the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot and the weather was a perfect 75 and sunny with a nice breeze.

We definitely made the right call there.  Around 1pm the lines for people sampling the food and beer/wine were nuts, I'd say about 40 people deep in most lines and it was quite crowded in that area.  Luckily, that was not why we were there, we did the beer/wine/food last year and we were there more to just leisurely wander the park and hit a ride or two that we missed out on last time.

View of the Epcot globe from the other side of the park
We did just that, checking out the Captain EO Michael Jackson 3D show that they recently brought back after his death and that was cool.  Then we walked around all of the worlds, grabbed a pastry at France and hit the leisurely water ride in Mexico and the crowds had started to form so we jumped on the Monorail and a Boat Ferry over to the Magic Kingdom.

Ferry from the transport center to the Magic Kingdom
View of Saratoga Springs Resort from the Ferry

The Magic Kingdom was all decked out with Christmas decorations and music and that makes it look real nice and festive.  That really get you in the holiday spirit!

The park was quite busy, but not crazy busy like Epcot.  We hit up several rides that we missed last time around, the Haunted Mansion, Disney Motor Speedway, Buzz Lightyear shoot-em-up ride and the people mover.

That brought us until around 5pm and we definitely wanted to see the park all lit up after dark, so we headed over towards Cinderella's castle not knowing exactly when the lights would go on.  They had a parade circling in front of the castle and one of the workers told us the castle lights up at 6:15pm, so we hung around there for that and it was so worth it.

It really was amazing to see the lights.  I got a few pictures with the phone camera and they look great, but it is quite Magical, as they say, to see it in person!  Main street is all lit up as well, so after we checked out all the lights, we headed on out.

Haunted Mansion
Disney Motor Speedway, wifey in front of me
Castle as the sun is going down
Castle at dusk

Castle at night
Castle with colored lights
Castle lighting event...Amazing!
Main Street USA at night
It was around 6:30pm I think and we weren't exactly sure where the pickup for the Hilton hotel was at the Magic Kingdom, since we were dropped off at Epcot.

We were planning to just take a bus to Downtown Disney, but from the parks you can only go to hotels and then from the hotels to Downtown Disney.  So we jumped on the Monorail instead and got off at the first hotel, which was the Contemporary, the one the Monorail goes right through.

We got off there, had dinner real quick in their cafeteria and then headed to their ourdoor bus pickup spot around 7pm.  Keep in mind we wanted to get to the House of Blues in Downtown Disney by around 8:30pm when the opening band starts, shouldn't be a problem right?!

Typically at the larger Disney Resorts we've stayed at we wait no more than 5-10 minutes for a bus, 15 mins max usually.  Well, 45 minutes later and having seen 6 buses arrive to drop people off at the hotel, one finally shows up.

This was after getting swarmed by literally thousands of mosquitoes at the Contemporary bus stop.  I have no idea why it was SO bad, we've never seen anything like it.

Everyone was swatting at mosquitoes the whole 45 mins we were waiting and I was getting quite pissed at the delay.  We didn't see one other mosquito anywhere, they were all in that one spot.  We finally departed, but not without first stopping at the Polynesian hotel.

Due to the delay and mosquitoes, I'd never stay at that hotel, plus that hotel is one of the highest price Disney hotels anyway, so we wouldn't have stayed there anyhow.  But it is cool to stop there and check it out inside, not outside.  

View of the Monorail going through as we ate at the Contemporary
We got to Downtown Disney, booked it across the street to the hotel to grab the concert tickets, change and head back over to the concert.

We got there around 9pm after power walking what was probably 2 miles from the Hotel to the House of Blues and apparently the opening band was over.  No biggie, it was just a local band that we didn't know and someone said they were terrible, so even better.

The House of Blues is an interesting venue.  It has several downstairs bars, an upstairs bar and a standing area that overlooks the stage on the upper level.

Since we were kinda late, we didn't have a huge choice of where to stand, but eventually found a decent spot just to the side of the stage on the same level, which was neat.

However, the concert was much louder and better sounding, with a much better view from the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, where we were on Thursday night.  It was still an excellent show and since that was the reason for bringing us to Disney also, it was well worth it!

I'm not too sure we would return to the House of Blues for a concert, the sound wasn't great and there are just too many spots where it's real hard to see. 

I'll save the few small things we did after the concert/Sunday for tomorrow.  Did you do anything Magical over the weekend?  Let me know! 


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