OK, so while the main purpose of our November 2019 trip was my niece Shannon’s wedding, as discussed here and here, you all know there is NO WAY I am going to be in Florida and not get some kind of Disney in.
That’d be like going to the Cawker City, Kansas and NOT seeing the biggest ball of twine.
Or going to Darwin, Minnesota and NOT seeing the biggest ball of twine.
Or going to Branson, Missouri and NOT seeing the biggest ball of twine.
What I am saying is there are lots of biggest balls of twine. What a wonderful world we live in.
So yeah, we snuck in a few days (3 days, 2 nights to be exact) at Walt Disney World following the wedding. And despite it being such a short trip, we did manage to get a lot in – three parks, Food and Wine Festival, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, east coast Galaxy’s Edge, some new dining experiences, AND a whole new resort for us.
And this post will be super useful for those planning an upcoming Disney vacation since it focuses strongly on the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival.
Which has ended for 2019.
Let’s get on with it though…shall we?
So we woke up on Day 5 still in Sarasota at the Hampton Inn. And we did so pretttty early. Especially considering we spent the night before with ties on our heads drinking Irish Car Bombs.
We got our stuff together and decided to just grab the free breakfast in the lobby.
Wait, did I say “just”? Because the free Hampton Inn breakfast never disappoints. I ended up having a western omelet AND a waffle AND a hard-boiled egg AND some bacon AND coffee (of course).
Plus, my sister-in-law Carrie and my niece Matilda ended up meeting us down there for breakfast. Which was fun. Until I upset Matilda. By hugging her.
Kids love me.
And bonus – my brother Chris came in from getting some coffees for my other sister-in-law Paulette and he had an extra iced caramel. Which I charitably took off his hands. On account of I am a hero.
And soon enough, we were off FOR DISNEY!!
The drive from Sarasota to Walt Disney World took about an hour and a half. And really nothing of interest happened on the ride. I mean, unless you count fighting over whether it’s too early to be playing Christmas music interesting.
We pulled up to our home for the next few days at around 10AM – Old Key West!
We were excited because we have never actually stayed at Old Key West before. Typically, we have just seen it as too inconvenient. We like staying somewhere usually that offers some level of added convenience to at least one of the parks. It’s why we typically end up around Crescent Lake or on the Monorail loop.
But since we had a car anyways and the trip this time around was so short, it seemed a great chance to try it out.
And after spending a few days there, my overall reaction to the place is that it’s a very pretty resort with relatively large rooms but I don’t see us staying there any time again soon. The resort is HUGE and it has sort of a townhouse/condo feel to it. Not just the rooms, mind you. The whole place has a condo development vibe to it. It feels very…erm…Del Boca Vista Phase III.
But still, pretty stuff.
Our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived (like I said, it WAS like 10AM) so we parked and took a look around. First things first, we grabbed our refillable mugs (we were on the dining plan) at Good’s and got some drinks.
I loved the new designs.
For this trip, we were only doing two ACTUAL park days worth of tickets and since we wouldn’t be arriving until close to noon anyways today and tired on our other park day (due to the Christmas party the night before), we decided to do the whole Mid-Day Magic thing. That meant we did have a little bit of time to kill at the resort. The boys grabbed a basketball from the community center and hit the court.
While Nickie and I walked around the resort for a little bit.
At around 10:45 or so, we decided to see if maybe we could get in a little early to EPCOT so we jumped back in the Nissan Rogue and drove over. Which was a relatively novel experience for us.
We ended up getting a pretty good spot in the lot right near VIP so we decided to walk to the entrance instead of using the tram.
By the time we got through security and to the gate, it was about 11:30. Technically, the mid-day tickets start at noon so this was sort of a moment of uncertainty. Would we be let in or would they turn us away like some sort of garbage people?
But though – SUCCESS!
Right away, place looks different. No more gravestones when you walk in.
Right? Weren’t those things gravestones? Some people called them “Leave a Legacy”, but I knew the truth.
My only concern now is whether they “LEFT THE BODIES AND ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES!!!” Because, according to Craig T. Nelson, that’s like super bad.
We were at EPCOT! And we had like this whole half hour for free. Which is like a big deal at Disney. What would we do with it?
Would we create lasting memories? Hrm. I mean, maybe. But it’s only a half hour, man.
Would we use that time to ruminate on life’s big mysteries and debate philosophical principles? Erm. Nope?
Would we take that time to solve the hunger problem? Well. Sort of.
Yeah. We were STARVING. Like, high levels of HANGRY. And while we did want to spend the day eating our way around the Food & Wine booths, we had a couple Fastpasses to get through in Future World. So we decided to grab something to eat at Sunshine Seasons.
Owen ordered pizza and Myles got some kind of pork loin situation.
Myles being Myles, I did not get to try his pork loin but Owen’s pizza was surprisingly good. It actually tasted like real pizza. Not the typical Walt Disney World pizza facsimile.
Nickie and I split the Sweet and Sour Chicken with Jasmine Rice. Which was super yummy.
After we ate, it was time to make use of our Fastpasses. Now, fair warning. We originally had three sets of FastPasses for today but only ended up using one. The timing just had us sort of in different places.
But we DID use these FastPasses, which actually had the four of us splitting up. Myles and Nickie had one for Living With the Land and Owen and I had one for the perfect post-sweet-and-sour-chicken attraction – Mission: Space.
While I do love me some Mission:Space I do miss Gary Sinise. I don’t think I have ever seen anything with Gary Sinise and been like, “oh this could use less Gary Sinise.” Dude is Lt. Dan, guys. I’d much rather have Lt. Dan telling me “Those who are prone to motion sickness or made uncomfortable by enclosed dark spaces, simulators, or spinning should bypass this experience” than some rando.
But Owen and I made it to Mars thankfully. It did look a little dicey there for a minute.
Also. Favorite part of Mission:Space? Hypersleep. I wonder if that’s because I am old.
After Mission:Space, we had a little time before our next FastPass so I told Myles to meet us over by Test Track to see if we could hop in the single rider. But single rider was like 45 minutes long. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Since our next FastPass – for Spaceship Earth – was still like an hour away, we decided to just head over to World Showcase to start our Food & Wine adventure.
Well, we had a couple little detours. We stopped first at The Donut Box because, honestly, do you expect me to NOT stop at a place called the Donut Box? It’s like you don’t even know me.
I had the Black and White Coffee Cocktail garnished with a Fresh Yeast Donut with Chocolate Espresso Bean Crumbles.
I LOVED this thing. Nickie, on the other hand, was not a fan of the crumbles on top of the donut. She didn’t even attempt to try the cocktail portion this early in the day. On account of, I guess, she still had enough tequila in her system from the wedding the night before.
We also stopped at the EPCOT Experience to get a break from the heat and a sneak peek at all the awesome coming to EPCOT.
Place was pretty cool. I think this was the same EPCOT model they were showing at D23 but this one was surrounded by a giant 360 screen further making me WANT IT ALL NOW.
It talked about all the cool stuff coming to EPCOT – Moana, Ratatouille, Guardians of the Galaxy, Mary Poppins, a new Spaceship Earth, Harmonious. It really puts into perspective all the work they are doing to this park.
Also? Fun pics!
Before heading into World Showcase, we stopped at Port of Entry to pick up Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak maps.
For those that don’t know, Hide and Squeak is this scavenger hunt thing where you go to every country in the World Showcase looking for little Remys hidden about. And as you find them, you check them off via stickers in your map. At the end of your quest, you come back to turn in your map for a prize.
It’s a lot of fun. Though the woman behind the register asked me, when I purchased the map, if I also wanted the prize then and there. Which seemed an odd thing to ask me. I haven’t earned said prize. Is this where the “participation trophy” generation has gotten us? I, of course, turned her down. My kids were going to EARN their prize. Or die trying.
Into the World Showcase we went, starting at Mexico. And ay dios mio, the crowds.
The kids found Remy but because of the huge crowds in Mexico, we skipped any treats here and went right into Norway. It was there, I found this thing of beauty…
This right here is the Frozen 2 Caramel Mousse. We found it at Kringla Bakery og Kafe. So yeah, technically this was not a Food & Wine treat but once I saw this thing on the Disney Food Blog, I knew I had to have it.
And it did not disappoint. Aside from being hella-Instagrammable, it was really good. Sea salt caramel mousse. Vanilla cake crust. AND a white chocolate Nokk piece (from Frozen II). All four of us had a taste and all four of us agreed it was yumtown.
The Remy in Norway was super hard to find, especially given the hint we received from the cashier in Norway was simply that he was “outside.”
But find him we did and off we went to China.
As I said, the crowds were a little much today and the heat was…erm…well, it was hot. And as we walked into China, we noticed Reflections of China was just about to start. It worked out, especially since we have actually never gone in and seen the 360-degree film before and it’s going to be replaced soon.
We liked it. I mean, it definitely seemed a bit dated and what not, but I am glad we got a chance to see it before the new film comes in.
China also did have some real interesting food booth items but the line was super long so we kept on walking. We made a quick stop in Germany to find Remy, but while there we got the text saying our room was ready. Nickie was anxious to get back to Old Key West to check out our living situation so we decided to leave the park.
Wellll…actually. We had to make one stop. My main objective this time around at the Food & Wine was to hit the Italy booth after hearing from multiple sources it was THE WINNER of the festival this year.
I got in line (Italy actually had two separate lines…that’s how popular it was this year) and waited while Nickie took the boys into the pavilion to find Remy. The line was long but it moved quickly, which gave me hope for hitting more booths later on.
Once up at the register, I ordered the Pollo (Crispy Chicken with Marinara Sauce), the Costine di Maiale (Balsamic-glazed and Oven-roasted Pork Ribs) and two Peronis.
And yeah, the legends were true. Both the chicken and ribs were really good. Yeah, I know. The chicken just looks like chicken fingers, but the breading had some nice flavor to it. And the ribs were amazing. Like fall off the bone amazing. And both snacks were perfect for sharing.
NOW, we were ready to leave.
We walked out and hopped a bus back to Old Key West and drove straight to our room. I will say, that was a nice perk of Old Key West. If you do have a car, you drive and park right outside your room, which is nice.
The room was nice and spacious for sure (note: these pics were taken a little bit later in the trip. Hence, Myles in his pajamas.)
And we had a balcony overlooking the river.
We quickly unpacked and threw our bathing suits on for a quick jump in the pool. I believe I also had a cocktail. I don’t know this because for some reason I have no pictures of this afternoon. Bad blogger! Bad!
But yeah, we had some cocktails, took a dip in the pool, a soak in the hot tub, got changed, and headed back to EPCOT for the night.
I promise I will have pool pics in a later post. And since they’ll be a few days in, I’ll probably be even fatter. So I mean, get excited.
Plus, there is another huge reason to get excited. We were meeting friends back at EPCOT!! Our friend, Missy and her adorable daughter, Olivia, were meeting us that night. So super duper yay to that shizz.
This time around, we parked a little ways away from the gate.
So we decided to take the tram to the gate. Well, we thought it was to the gate. The tram simply brought us like twenty feet away from where we were, still leaving quite a bit to walk. I don’t mind the walk, but that tram is pretty useless. Tram? More like trash. Amirite?
So on we walked. Until we finally reached this bad boy.
We. Wuz. Excited.
We met up with Missy and Olivia and walked over for a spin on Journey Into Imagination.
Olivia was a bit unsure of the whole situation but by the end, she was a Figment fan.
To celebrate her new love of purple dragons, we visited The Cheese Studio food booth to get a taste of the Braised Beef “Stroganoff” with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushrooms and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce.
Sooo frikkin good. This one was up there. The beef was incredibly tender and flavorful and that sauce. Oof.
This sort of kicked off our food booth tour proper. Because soon enough, we were at the Hawai’I booth to get a couple Kalua Pork Sliders (with Sweet-and-Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and spicy Mayonnaise.) These were very good as well. I mean, they were pork sliders with pineapple chutney. Did you expect them not to be good. They were so good, my excitement caused me to take the blurriest picture in the history of mankind.
We then walked over to Refreshment Port to try something that was at the top of my list.
Of things to try.
I present to you – the Duck Confit Poutine.
With a fig demi sauce and brie cheese fondue, this was my favorite of the fest. I love me some duck confit.
But life can’t be all duck confit and pork. Fun pics are also a life need.
Not content to only focus on Food & Wine items, the kids really wanted to get some ice cream at L’Artisan des Glaces. And I know Missy got a brioche ice cream sandwich, but I have no idea what anyone else got. And I took zero ice cream pictures. I did, however, take a picture of this wreath for some reason.
I probably neglected to take pictures because I was busy over at the Champagne and Wine kiosk buying a bunch of these beautiful, beautiful things.
Yup. The Grand Marnier slushie. Well, actually, Nickie got a Grey Goose slushie but both Missy and I had a Grand Marnier. I mean, have you really visited EPCOT if you didn’t get one of these slushies?
But after partaking in these couple of EPCOT “staples,” it was back to Food & Wine. We were soon in Japan, which was home to the Teriyaki Chicken Bun (Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki Sauce).
We ended up getting a bunch of these because they were such a hit. I know they are pretty simple and all, but it’s definitely a good option especially when you have some relatively picky eaters. This is a good “dip your toes in it” kind of snack.
I mean, don’t actually put your toes in the thing. It’s a saying meaning it’s a relatively low-risk way to try something new. Jeez.
Now, you would think with all this eating, we would be done by now. But also, you obviously haven’t been paying attention. Because in the words of John Bender, we were…
Next up was the Hops & Barley booth in the American Adventure. There, I grabbed a New Brunswick Slider (Slow-braised Beef Brisket “Pot Roast Style” with Horseradish Cream and Crispy Fried Onions on a Potato Roll with Pickled Vegetables on the side.)
Which I paired with a 3 Daughters Brewing A Wake Coffee Blonde Ale.
This was real nice. I would have been happy eating that beef on its own but between a potato roll served with horseradish and fried onions? Dreams answered.
I also got some dessert at Hops & Barley in the form of the Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. And when they say icing, they MEAN icing.
As we were finishing our snacks, we heard the sound of swing music off in the distance. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy had taken the stage as part of the Eat to the Beat series of concerts for Food & Wine. We walked over to listen for a bit.
It was cool seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy again. I went through a bit of a swing phase back in the late 90s. Bowler shirts, wallets with chains on them, Swingers viewings every weekend. You know. The whole thing, daddy-o. And Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was probably at the top of my list of all the swing bands that came out around that time. I saw them a couple times in concert back then and while they didn’t really play any of their hits during this little show, it was still cool seeing them.
Being that we hadn’t eaten quite enough food, Owen was in the mood for a pretzel the size of his head. So off to Germany we went.
His head actually ended up being smaller than the pretzel so I ate the difference.
It was getting close to fireworks time and we were all in agreement that we wanted to be able to exit the park quickly following the show so we walked over to the entrance to World Showcase to find a spot.
It ended up working out because we were right near Port of Entry so the kids could claim their Remy Hide & Squeak prize. Nickie and Missy took the boys and Olivia in while I looked for a place to stand.
The prizes were super cute. They had a choice of 4 different tumblers. Owen chose the Remy version and Myles went with Figment. Check em out…
Then we settled in to watch the newest EPCOT nighttime spectacular – EPCOT Forever! Being that this one just recently started, this would be our first time seeing it and being that it’s only around for a limited time until the proper EPCOT fireworks show – Harmonious – starts in 2020, it would probably be our last.
Yay for fireworks.
This show focused on EPCOT’s history with music and effects focusing on different EPCOT attractions and shows throughout the yers.
At a couple points throughout the show, they had kites on jet skis. And not only did they have kites on jet skis. They had kites ON FIRE on jet skis. Which is obviously better.
As someone who loves EPCOT, I dug all the nostalgia on display.
So overall, I liked the show but if you’re wondering whether it holds a candle to my beloved Illuminations, which has always been my favorite of all the nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World…well. It’s….
While this show was really fun, it lacked the emotional punch of something like Illuminations. Though that is to be expected a little. It’s only a temporary show. I have high hopes for Harmonious.
When the show was over, we and the entirety of humanity walked towards the exit.
We said our goodbyes to Missy and Olivia (womp) and made the long walk back to our car. By the time we got back to our room, we were EXHAUSTED. We pretty much went right to bed. Well, I mean, I may have had a tiny bit of whiskey. I mean, the bottle was just sitting there.
So that was Day 5. Pretty fun, right? Stay tuned for Day 6 in which we visit Disney Springs and do some Christmas-ing with Mickey. See ya then, pal!