Saturday, May 28, 2016

Foodin' and Winin' 2015: Trip Report Index

Below are the links for the various days of the Mushfam's 2015 trip report to Walt Disney World during Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival.


Pre-Trip and Arrival Day

Only 1 Part

Day 2, The Actual Foodin' and Winin'

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Day 3, Ridin' and Tourin'

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Foodin' and Winin' 2015, Day 3: Ridin' and Tourin', Part 4

Part 3 can be viewed HERE

Wanna go back to the beginning of this day?  Click HERE

We made our way back up Main Street so I could face my adversary, Dumbo (long story…refer to this excerpt from our 2007 Anniversary trip for the backstory).

All joking aside, this is one of those attractions that is better at night (Moose folks…quiet).  We experienced it (complete with Facebook laughs from the Lodge/Moose).

After that, I snuck in a really quick attraction that only requires a picture…Casey Jr. Splash and Soak Station.

…and Sheri returned the favor from my Kilimanjaro Safaris pic a couple of days ago and getting a pic of us getting a pic.

With FP #7 done, we headed to the Village Haus bathrooms for a quick break.  I pulled out the Lines app to check on posted/actual wait times on a couple of attractions and then grabbed a couple of dusk pictures and then (after seeing a mob still present at the kiosks there) made our way back to Tomorrowland to see if there was the chance of anything more available at the kiosks.

We hopped in line and immediately chose the wrong one.  After about 3 minutes of not moving (due to a family not quite understanding what the kiosks were for), we jumped to another line and got behind a guy who, when it was his turn, couldn’t comprehend why there were no FPs for Space Mountain left for the day (it was about 7:30 pm, and the park was closing in 3 ½ hours).  The cast member did an absolutely amazing job dealing with the irate customer, who pretty much expected him to give him whatever he wanted simply because he paid the money to get into the park and wanted to ride Space Mountain without having to stand in line.

When it was our turn, I looked at him and said, “Dude, you need a raise!  You handled that guy better than ever would have.”  He cracked a smile and we talked for a quick second to help him collect his thoughts.  We assured him that we were low-key and knew what was going on.  He looked at hour FP history, and his eyes widened that this was our 8th FP for the day (we got a high-5 for that accomplishment).  We saw an 10:00 FP for Pirates; after discussing with Sheri a bit (she wasn’t going to miss Wishes, which started at 10), we decided that we were good to go with that time for Pirates (we could ride it afterward).  We wished him well and were on our way for the next attraction.

We all agreed that it was dark enough to really enjoy the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (forever known as the TTA), so we got on there.  Lines had a predicted wait time in line with the posted wait of 5 minutes, but I could tell that it was essentially a walk-on.  I timed an actual wait, and we were on our way in just about one minute…

…until we were right in front of the stage where the Incredibles dance party was going on…

…and then we stopped…

We were stuck there for about 6-7 minutes…

You know, I technically could count this as an additional attraction, because viewing it for 5 minutes is the threshold for it to count in an ultimate plan.  Granted, I don’t think the powers-that-be at Touringplans meant for an experience to be while you were stuck on another attraction.  You know what?  Since I DIDN’T count the Pirate Tutorial, I’m counting this one!  I saw at least five minutes of it…and it's not even an official attempt at an ultimate plan...again, my rules!

(if this is the last blog post you see from me, it might be because I wasn't supposed to share that last pic)

We eventually did start moving again (though I don’t mind being stopped on the TTA…there is so much to look at around you that you’re still entertained), and we were back on Tomorrowland pavement not too long afterward.

I pulled out the Lines app to check on posted vs actual wait times for a couple of attractions (FYI: here is a really good situation to optimize remaining steps while in the park).  After seeing the numbers, I decided that up next was going to be at least one Mountain that we hadn’t done yet…Big Thunder.  I actually wanted to do the standby line on this one since we haven’t yet experienced the new interactive features that they added.  Disney had a posted wait of 45 minutes, but Lines predicted something more along the lines of 30-35 minutes. The actual wait submitted was 24 minutes.  Honestly, it didn’t seem long at all – they did an excellent job with the interactive elements that both children and adults were taking part in.

With that done, Splash was right there with a 20 posted wait time, and TouringPlans was predicting only 10.  We timed it for them, and it was only a 7-minute wait from entrance to the log starting its journey (with most of the wait being the walk).

Luckily, we didn’t get too wet (that was one of Sheri’s stipulations on riding this attraction…I prayed to the water Gods that we didn’t get soaked).  As we headed past Big Thunder and back towards Adventureland, I was almost hoping to see the Main Street Electrical parade passing by (it was about 9:10…we were a couple of minutes early as the parade had started at Town Square).  We were allowed to scoot across the parade route, where we did another (unscheduled) bathroom break by Pirates.  As the last person walked out, the start of the parade was just reaching our vantage point.  We could have had really good spots, since they just closed the walkway from Pirates to Big Thunder.  We talked it over for a minute and decided to forego the parade and hit Pirates instead (if we wanted to do Pirates again, we still had the Fastpass, and, if we wanted to watch the parade, it was going to be shown again at 11:00).  It was a 25 minute posted time, and we timed it at 17 minutes.  This was another recently refurbished attraction, with new lighting, props, costumes, etc.  It’s always one of our favorites!

We exited and knew that, if I was to remain married to Sheri, we’d have to high-tail it to Main Street to have a chance at seeing Celebrate the Magic and Wishes.  Luckily, the masses had already either started heading out of the park or were already packed in Main Street.  Flying through Adventureland was a breeze; we made it past the Adventureland Bride just as Celebrate the Magic started.  We were then slowed to a a crawl as we made our way across Main Street in the walkways.  This actually wasn’t a bad thing because we got to see the entire show on the castle while we walked.  Eventually, we made it to the Tomorrowland bridge where we saw some daylight to stand and watch the end of Celebrate.

It’s not the best vantage point, since there was a tree nearby; however, we could see through the tree pretty well.  One thing I knew…we’d have a great view of Tink when she flew overhead…and she flew DIRECTLY overhead.

Sheri and I differ on the best night-time show.  For me, it’s Illuminations; Sheri, however, still loves her some Wishes, and I made sure I glanced over a couple of times to see the smile on her face.  I didn’t take any more pics of the fireworks.

As soon as Wishes was done, I knew we had a window of opportunity to get on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, since there’s a transition after Wishes…a LOT of people exit, while others are quite a distance away from the attraction entrance.  We made our way to the next “spoke” of the hub, took a left at the Mad Tea Party, and hopped in line for Mine Train.  The standby line barely crawled by, and I noticed that the FastPass return line was jammed with people.  A Cast Member nearby explained that, since the attraction was down for a while earlier in the day, those with FP+ reservations were given an open return time.  Nope, this one wasn’t going to work.

The boys seemed to be okay with missing that one.  We all agreed to start making our way towards the exit via Tomorrowland for one last attraction…we wanted to do the TTA again.  There was no wait, and we decided to let the boys have their own car.  They sped away with us not too far behind.

Of course, the attraction came to a halt just after we entered the Buzz building.

I think they enjoyed the time away from us LOL!

After what probably seemed like 20 minutes for Sheri (and 40 seconds for the boys), we were back moving in about 4-5 minutes, and we met back up at the bottom of the moving walkway.  The boys tried talking us into one more ride on Buzz, but we were all starting to drag a little bit, considering we had been in the park for over 14 hours.  We pulled them out of Tomorrowland and down Main Street.

We wanted to get something for our neighbors, who were taking care of our Hellcat, so we popped into the Confectionary.  As we looked around, the Main Street Electrical Parade started in Town Square, and I popped out every couple of minutes as another float made the turns around the square.  We saw just about the entire parade, and I contemplated trying to talk the rest of them into sticking around for the end to get juuuussst onnnnnnnnnnnee  mooooooooooorrreee attraction added to our list.

(from the Cinderella section of the parade)

We saw most of it, but I won’t count it.

We all did our goodbye to the Castle and headed out.

The total?  Here we go:

Opening show
it’s a small world
Mad Tea Party
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Space Mountain (FP)
Royal Majesty Makers
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Cinderella Castle
Mickey’s Philharmagic
Peter Pan (FP) (# 10)
Hall of Presidents
Haunted Mansion (FP)
Pirate Tutorial…didn’t count
Pirate Adventure
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Jungle Cruise (FP)
Stitch’s Great Escape
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
Festival of Fantasy Parade
Aloha Isle/Dole Whips
Casey’s Corner Pianist (# 20)
Journey of the Little Mermaid (FP)
Carousel of Progress
Cosmic Ray’s Starlite Café (Sonny Eclipse)
Tomorrowland Speedway (FP)
Meet Mickey in Town Hall
Dumbo (FP)
Casey’s Splash Zone
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Incredibles Dance Party
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (# 30)
Splash Mountain
Pirates of the Caribbean
Celebrate the Magic
TTA (repeat) …not counted
MSEP…most of it…not counted

Total: 34 attractions!!!!!!

Now, here’s the real kicker…Fred Hazelton, the primary statistician for, told me that the crowds were trending a lot higher than anticipated and that we completed these attractions with an actual crowd level of ‘9’ on the day we were there.  That more or less meant that the day fell (for lack of a better term) in the top 20% of the busiest days that year.

Imagine what we could have done had I not screwed up the order of attractions with the second entry.


A 2010 New York Times article mentioned that the average guest was able to experience nine attractions on a given day at the Magic Kingdom.  This was based on data that most likely included the Great Recession in 2007-2008, when park attendance was most likely lower.  There has been a surge in attendance over the past couple of years (thanks, economy), which means that a crowd level of '6' back in 2010 would more likely equate to a '4' or a '5' with today's larger average crowds.  I reached out to Len Testa, the mastermind behind the concept of and Lines, and he confirmed the crowds are definitely increasing.  According to Len, "(t)he average crowd back then was around a '6' on our calendar, and in 2016 so far, it's closer to an 8."  This essentially means that having a plan before entering a park is even more valuable now than it was when the crowds were lower.

Here's the short version:  In a busier time (like what we were at), not having a touring plan probably would have allowed us to see 7-9 attractions on the day we were there.  The touring plans allowed us to see nearly quadruple the number of attractions.  Granted, we were veterans of the parks, we knew exactly how to get to the attractions, and we had FastPass+ at our disposal, where, in 2010, the traditional paper method of Fastpass was being used.  Okay, so we also counted the Dole Whips as an attraction, and the Royal Majesty Makers was a bit of a stretch (though we did see 5 minutes of the show).  Still, 30-35 attractions on one of the busier days of the year is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Keep in mind that we were not running around like crazy; we took an average pace between attractions.  We did not skip meals, either, and we had several snack and (subsequently) bathroom breaks throughout the day.  We spent a couple of minutes browsing some of the gift shops, and we left before the park closed. Oh, and there's my screw-up of hitting "optimize" on the first attraction, too.  Had I been in my 20s and still in my U.S. Air Force Academy physique, I think that 40+ attractions were easily attainable.

The best part is that the folks behind the software are constantly tweaking the app to help maximize one's time in the parks. For example, one of the biggest wrenches that can be thrown into a plan is an attraction unexpectedly closing.  A recent entry on the blog announced an update that estimates a rides downtime during a closure and will take that into account on a reoptimization of a plan.  I have not yet had the chance to utilize this update, but I'm sure that it will definitely help someone who has an attraction set up early in their plan go down!

This undoubtedly reaffirms my recommendation of Touringplans software when taking a Disney trip (or Universal Orlando...that's the next trip report muahahaha), and I am going to continue to gift this to my clients who want help with itinerary planning in the theme parks.  The benefits that my clients get from this software far outweigh the minor expense I incur by purchasing this for them.

We did spend one more night in Orlando.  The following morning was a quick packing up.  We grabbed a few pics of our 1 Bedroom unit at Vacation Village:

It's a nice place with a great location!  I wouldn't have any reservations about recommending this place.

We checked out, but, before we made our way up to Orlando Sanford airport, we drive back to Walt Disney World one final time.   We were able to meet up with some friends that we had not seen for many years over at Animal Kingdom Lodge:

Dan, Brian, and was great seeing you again; I wish we could have stayed longer!

This actually concludes the trip report for this quick vacation. Don't fret, though, because I'm already working on another trip report...this next one will be our inaugural trip to Universal Orlando!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Foodin' and Winin' 2015, Day 3: Ridin' and Tourin', Part 3

Part 2 can be viewed HERE.

We staggered out of Stitch’s Great Mistake and into Mickey’s Star Traders (or was it Merchant of Venus?) to gather our senses.  It was about 2:15, and it was decision time: do we squeeze in one more attraction or grab a spot to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade?  The crowds were way above a 6 now…thinking more of high-7 to a low-8, so I knew that the parade route would be crowded.  For the middle of the day in central Florida, the temps weren’t too terribly bad (about 82 degrees), but the sun was going to wear us down quickly.  I lobbied for another attraction, and we opted for another inside queue that has us off of our feet for a bit: Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor.

I still consider this one as sort of a sleeper hit in the Magic Kingdom.  While it doesn’t really fit in the Tomorrowland theme, per se, it’s a funny show and makes good use of the space.  It’s definitely a people-eater with the long queue line, the pre-show holding area, and the 400-500 seat theater (all air-conditioned).  We lucked out and were able to just barely make it into the pre-show area without having to wait another show.  I’m sad to say that being “that guy” is still on my bucket list; I’m going to have to research a bit more to see if there’s a particular area of the theater to improve my chances of getting selected.

We exited MILF (yeah, I still laugh at that acronym, too) and became salmon swimming upstream to try crossing the hub through the throngs of people who staked out their parade viewing spots the hour before and were currently locked in battle with people trying to shoehorn into their viewing spots.  We eventually got to the Adventureland bridge, and, for the first time the entire day, I went into commando mode and tried to egg everyone on to move just a bit faster.  It was about 2:50 now, and I knew that even the Frontierland area was going to be fairly full to watch the parade…or so I thought.

We sneaked through the small breezeway by Aloha Isle and found ourselves near the entrance to the Country Bear Jamboree…with a lot of unclaimed space.  Thanks to my wife’s Miller/Bargmann genes, the boys were tall enough that we didn’t have to worry at all about trying to be in the front so they could see (another reason why we didn't stake out our spots earlier).  We hung back about three-deep where there was a lot of room and then lucked out when a family pulled up to our left with a stroller; we weren’t going to have any NBA all-stars blocking our view!  The time: 2:55.  Parade start: 3:00…starting in Frontierland.


This once again confirms the advice I offer to my clients who want to see one of the parades in the Magic Kingdom.  Everybody wants to see a parade on Main Street USA; this means that the Frontierland and Liberty Square areas are usually a little less-crowded and that you can often find a spot to view the parade much later than you could on Main Street.  The added bonus of Festival of Fantasy is that it normally enters the park from Frontierland, so we will have seen the parade in its entirety before the first float will have likely made it to Town Square.

Sure enough, the parade reached us at around 3:05:

I've always liked Anna more than she doing the robot?

"You were looking for me for a Meet-and-Greet without consulting the Times Guide?" words...

The movement on this float is outstanding!

Put the frying pan down...we love your restroom area!

"You know, all these other people think I'm waving to them, but I'm really just waving to you!"

"You know...all these other people think I'm waving to...."   Wait...already used that line.

Yes...timed it right!

Cue the Jefferson Airplane song...

Another float with a lot of great movement on it.

We normally take an afternoon break, so this was the first time we had a chance to see this parade.  The pictures don’t really do the floats justice – they’re awesome to see, with all the energy and movement going on around (and even on) them.

After the parade was finished, we snuck back into Frontierland and decided to sugar ourselves up a little bit.  This ended up being the longest wait for an attraction at that point in time: Aloha Isle and the famous Dole Whip!

We were in our return window for Mermaid, so we started to make our way over to Fantasyland via the hub.  I knew that our timing was going to be pretty close for the pianist at Casey’s Corner (it was about 3:30 when we left Aloha Isle).  The timing was actually perfect!  We made a detour over towards the Crystal Palace and walked up to the piano just as Jim Omohundro emerged and sat down.

Seriously, folks, if you have not yet heard Jim tickle the ivories in the Magic Kingdom, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to do so.  Jim is a 30+ year cast member, and he’s easily one of the most hidden treasures in the park.  This is probably the third or fourth time I’ve seen him perform, and I think he has done at least one different song every time.  I wish I could remember the songs that we listened to, but they were simply amazing; I want to say he did a song from Dumbo, a song from Pinocchio, and perhaps Sweet Georgia Brown!  One of the best memories of him was back in September of 2012…we were listening to him when Smokey Miller, the Chief of the Main Street Volunteer Fire Department, walked up and sang a funny tale of woe with Jim accompanying him.

We waited until after he completed the third song in his set before we offered our thanks and went on our way.  It was great hearing the next song start up as we started crossing Main Street on our way to Fantasyland.  Now, I have to fess up here; for some reason, for years, I have struggled with trying to remember the east entrance to Fantasyland.  In the past, every time I tried getting into the new Fantasyland area (specifically the Journey of the Little Mermaid), my mind kept telling me to head to Pinocchio Village Haus and turn right, past Be Our Guest and around to the entrance to Mermaid.  This time?  We went through the hub and headed towards the Mad Tea Party.  A quick left turn, an immediate right, and we made it to the shorter route past Dumbo!

I think I like the longer way better.

Okay, hear me out, for a second.  It’s an odd transition from the Storybook Circus portion of Fantasyland to the more “Fantasy” area.  By entering from the Village Haus side, you have the amazingly-themed castle walls; you have Cinderella Castle nearby and, in the distance as you pass by Be Our Guest and cross the bridge, Beast’s Castle appears; finally, Gaston’s Tavern then appears (another location we have yet to try), followed by some excellent theming as you arrive to the queue line for Mermaid.

Oh well…live and learn.

There was a minor wait to get on Mermaid from the FP return line, but we were out of the sun and in the A/C.  The posted wait time was up to 50 minutes, and FP cut that time down to about 9 minutes.

With Mermaid done, we now could get another set of FastPasses.  We went through Fantasyland and HOLYCRAPTHEREISATWENTYMINUTEWAITTOGETAFASTPASS!!!  Sheri and the boys toured the Tangled bathrooms again while I hopped in line for the FP kiosks.  Oh boy…the line was moving at a snail’s pace.  I had moved about 5 feet when the rest had come back from the bathrooms.  I made an executive decision to head to another kiosk.  We made our way over to Tomorrowland, where the line for the kiosk was about 3 minutes (WOOHOO!!!!).  I was hoping for Meeting Mickey, but those were already gone for the day.  I opted for the Tomorrowland Speedway, and we had them set up.

For those keeping track, that’s FP #6 for the day.

The time was about 4:30 now, and we had taken in 21 attractions (if you count t he Dole Whips, which I am nyaaahhh).  The crowds were nearing insanity levels everywhere, so I pulled another fantastic afternoon attraction out of my pocket, and it was nearby: Carousel of Progress!

We just about had the entire section to ourselves, but we had a couple more enter at the last minute.  I bugged the boys by singing the song at every scene transition.  The family in front of us bugged me by being on their phone the entire attraction.  The last scene bugged everyone because it is 30 years dated.  Even with that odd last scene, this is an attraction that I think does not get the love it deserves.  The concept of moving the people around different stages back in the early 1960s…wow!  This attraction has Walt’s hands all over it. The Sherman Brothers’ song…I’m humming it as I’m writing this, and it will probably be stuck in my head for the next three days, too.  It epitomizes the idea of a classic attraction, and I try to ride this one every time we are in Magic Kingdom.

After we burnt the turkey and ordered pizza, hunger pangs were setting in, so we made our way to our next attraction…Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray’s Starlite Café.  It appeared that we were still ahead of the dinner rush (just after 5:00), because it looked like around 60-70% of the tables were open.  We got our food, sat down, and just chilled while we ate and listened to the crooning of Sonny and his Space Angels.  All were a bit tired, but we all seemed to be doing pretty well, still.  We probably spent about 30 minutes or so in the restaurant talking, eating, laughing…it was some good family time.  It was well worth getting away from the crowds for a little while, and it recharged us for the evening touring.

Around 5:40, we headed out and made the long trek to the Indy Speedway (all of about 50 feet).  We were surprised that the posted wait time for the Speedway was only 20 minutes; I made sure I reported that one to TouringPlans (that was probably the 15th posted time submitted by me that day…I also actually timed about 7-9 waits for them by this point).

Hey…that’s another FastPass down, right?  You know what that means, right?  Time for another one!!!  #7 for us would be Dumbo with a return window starting at 6:45. We easily had time to go see Talking Mickey for the first time.   We headed to the hub, where I snapped this pic of the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play it! street party, which was just arriving in the hub.

With two teen/tween boys, this one just doesn't have the draw as it would if we had girls; however, with the right crowd, this can become and insanely popular place!  They've updated it several times over the past couple of years, with new social media interaction and new characters.  We watched for a couple of minutes as it got going and then walked down Main Street to Town Square to hop in line for Mickey.  I think the posted wait time was 20 minutes, and we got the red card of timage for this one.  We got in line and then proceeded to not move for the next 20 minutes.


Then it dawned on me.

I should have paid more attention when we saw Move it! Shake it! going.  Mickey was performing in there, and, with it being a 20 minute show, along with the commute to the hub and back to Town Square, it still probably had a good 15 minutes before it was fully done.  Mickey performs in that street party, so he couldn’t meet people in Town Square (yes, folks, they even take that into account).  The boys wanted to skip out after about 25 minutes of waiting, but, by then, the line had started moving again, and the wait should only have been a few more minutes.  It ended up being around a 35-wait.

I love everyone else's faces in this one.  Me? Not so much…I’m looking more like I’m constipated there.  I will warn you that, for those who are used to the characters not talking, Talking Mickey definitely takes some getting used to.

(continued HERE)