NOVEMBER 2020 ROAD TRIP TO WALT DISNEY WORLD DAY 8 (HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS DAY!)

Day 8.

Our last Disney World day of the trip.

Yeah, I know.

Womp a domp domp.

But don’t fret. It’s a pretty awesome last day at Disney World, complete with two – COUNT EM TWO – new attraction experiences for us and a new restaurant (again, for us.) So like, that’s exciting no?

Great – let’s go then!

Day 8 – HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS!!

On Day 8, we had to wake up early to get a little business taken care of before heading out for the day. So we were up at around 6:30AM.

I quickly showered and got ready. Oh, and while I was getting ready, I wanted to check the WDW Today Channel to get my daily mix of Disney music and information. So I flipped on the TV.

IN MY MIRROR.

A TV in the mirror. Now THAT is luxury.

Also luxury? Cake for breakfast.

Cake for breakfast means it’s automatically gonna be an awesome day. On account of nothing else could happen all day and we would have still had cake for breakfast. So yeah, cake for breakfast.

But like I said, we had some business to attend to. And that business was securing a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group.

For those that don’t know, getting a boarding group to one of the newest (not THE newest) attractions in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a bit of a complicated affair. These days, in order to ride Rise of the Resistance, one has to be part of a boarding group. And at the time we went, we could try, via the MyDisneyExperience app, to join a boarding group at two times a day – 7AM and 2PM. And we had heard these become unavailable…extremely quickly.

So…at 6:59AM, I was on the app, refreshing and refreshing until my orange “Join a Boarding Group” button appeared. I immediately clicked on the button and look!

Boarding Group 2. Just to emphasize how awesome that actually is, all 7AM boarding groups were gone by like 7:01 AM that day. So yeah, we were kind of the big winners today.

So we sat there, now enjoying our cake not only as a breakfast cake but one that tasted of victory!

And a 1-bedroom at the Grand Floridian is a pretty awesome place to enjoy that victory. I mean, look at these plates.

Plates for lookin’ at and not eatin’ on? That’s some kind of fancy.

Soon enough, it was park time. And as has been alluded to already, today’s park was Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Posted park open time was 10AM but as the norm for the week was earlier entrance than posted at all other parks, we arrived an hour earlier to wait in the car line at around 9AM.

They let us in at around 9:20 or so and as you can see, it was a pretty rainy morning.

Even in the rain, I could still fully appreciate the awesomeness that are the Disney Hollywood Studios holiday decorations.

Now, while they let us in early, the park had not officially begun operating quite yet. Which meant we could hop in line for the park’s newest attraction without sacrificing our boarding group for Rise of the Resistance.

So into the line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway we went.

Once the line started moving, it wove in and out of covered areas, which was a bit precarious since as I mentioned, it was quite wet out there.

By the time we were halfway through the line, we looked like drowned rats. I think. I mean, honestly, I have never actually seen a drowned rat. But yeah, more than one person commented on our lack of ponchos or umbrellas. Sorry everyone. For being idiots.

All told, we waited about 30 minutes in line before hopping on our train.

Look how wet we are. Anyone have any pizza? Amirite?

Oh. You know. Because of the whole drowned rat thing. And you know. Pizza. Rats. Pizza Rat.

These are the jokes, folks.

The attraction itself was magical.

Being the first attraction focused on the Disney first couple would be enough to warrant a positive review.

But it was so much more than that. It really truly felt like we were in the middle of a cartoon. Hanging with old friends.

Believe me, I miss me some Great Movie Ride. But I have to admit this is most definitely an improvement.

By the time we exited our train, our boarding group had been called so it was time to head into Galaxy’s Edge to get our Star Wars on. Pew Pew.

We made our way to Rise of the Resistance and walked right in.

With our boarding group called, it was a quick walk to the pre-show. And I know – there are tons of recaps of this ride online. But whatever. I have a lot of pictures here. So hey look – BB8!

And Rey!

It’s no holographic 2Pac. But it’s still pretty cool.

This attraction is really something. So first, we get the pre-show and our mission. And then, still part of the queue, we walk past Poe’s X-Wing…

..and are loaded into a transport ship.

Our transport ship is then attacked and captured by a First Order Star Destroyer, pulling us into a hangar filled with stormtroopers.

I don’t know why, but it felt like these guys were going to break out into Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” at any minute.

Seriously, this hangar was HUGE. I mean there was an actual TIE Fighter. Just like, hanging out.

We were quickly ushered through and moved into interrogations with a First Order officer. These cast members are pretty great and stayed in character the entire time. Which is especially impressive, given their need to wear face shields and what not due to COVID.

Following this, we were led into a room where we were told to stand in a specific spot. In a corner. Facing this.

We were not told to turn around. I mean, should we have?

Is there something going on behind us?

After watching Kylo and Hux do their thing, we boarded a hijacked First Order transport (aided by Finn) piloted by an R5 unit.

And then…it was all about getting to the escape pods. But before I get into the pic dump, I gotta say – this attraction blew me away. I mean, we were all over that Star Destroyer. I don’t know. It felt like the Star Wars attraction I have waited for my entire life.

I mean, seriously? With these AT-ATs?

Rise of the Resistance is everything. From a ride structure perspective, it kind of had everything – it was a dark ride, had some screens, amazing audio animatronics, an incredible queue. It was more than an attraction. It was a true experience. Lasting about 20 minutes, it felt like nothing I have ever felt at any Disney park…or any theme park anywhere for that matter.

And from a story perspective, this is without a doubt the best storytelling I have ever seen on a theme park attraction. I know I just talked about how immersive Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was but this is a whole other level. I really felt like I was there. I can’t wait to ride it again and really pay attention…without the whole first-ride-shock of the whole thing.

Honestly, with the whole of Galaxy’s Edge, Disney nailed the whole immersion thing. When you step off Rise, it’s not like you immediately feel like you’ve left the story. Everywhere you turn, it’s being told.

Even the characters operate differently here, COVID or not. They are just sort of organically placed in the environment, as opposed to being at the end of a long line at a standard Disney World meet-and-greet. Much like how they do things in Disneyland, this makes it feel like these characters are just “there” like you.

It’s all kinds of organic.

The line for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run was a little long and I mean, we have already ridden that multiple times (in both Walt Disney World AND Disneyland…no big deal.) So we decided to skip.

However, the boys and I did continue our Star Wars adventure by heading over to Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. Which, look…I love being able to ride in the Millennium Falcon….but I honestly think Star Tours is a better experience. I know. Hot take.

And look, more AT-AT.

And with social distancing in place, they had the line winding through the Ewok Village. Which was new for us.

And I kind of loved how it made us stop in the queue. It’s always so hard to get pictures in here because you’re usually just moving right through.

I’ll keep an eye out for that guy.

We visited Jakku and Crait, as seems to always happen these days. And NO. I was not the Rebel Spy. I have never been the Rebel Spy. I will never be the Rebel Spy. So stop asking.

On our way out, we met up with Nickie in Tatooine Traders, did some browsing, and then headed to lunch. And lunch today was at Sci-Fi Dine-In.

And yeah, it’s inside. But also, it’s outside.

I love the whole feel of Sci-Fi. Not only are you under the stars, but you get to sit in these cars. Well, not like…real cars. Like fake cars. With tables and what not.

But Nickie and I can still sit in the backseat. And you know what that means. Hm? Hm?

Yup. NO ONE can steal our fries.

To start, I ordered a Long Island Lunar Tea (Bacardi Superior Rum, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Hendrick’s, Cointreau, and Sweet-and-Sour with a splash of Coca-Cola.)

And for my main meal, I ordered a Drive-In BBQ Burger (A Signature Blend of Beef, BBQ Spice, Brioche Bun, House-made BBQ Sauce, Bacon, and Cheddar topped with an Onion Ring and Crispy-fried Banana Pepper.)

And yeah, pretty standard-sounding stuff. But Sci-Fi makes a real good burger. One of my favorite places for lunch at Hollywood Studios.

After lunch, we all headed to Toy Story Land.

The wait for Toy Story Mania! said over 30 minutes.

We decided the wait was worth it so we hopped in line.

The posted time was once again off as there was basically no wait whatsoever to get on. We pretty much just walked through the queue. I was paired with Myles.

Annnnd. Well.

He won.

I mean. In points. I won on accuracy. Which of course matters most. Also, I make more money than him.

Since we were already in Toy Story Land and the next ride would probably be our last, the boys and I made a plan with Nickie to meet at the exit and the three of us walked across the way to get in line for Slinky Dog Dash.

The line was allllll the way back to the Toy Story Land entrance. But again, last ride. Not only of the day. But of the trip. Slinky Dog was worth it.

I love all the little touches that tell you what’s going on here.

The whole story of how Andy started with this coaster building set but then brought in other toys to create his own unique coaster.

Also? I LOVE Rex’s original box. Like SO the opposite of what he actually is. Love me some Rex.

All told, we waited about 40 minutes total to ride. Not bad, but it WAS the longest we waited for any attraction on this trip. Worth it.

It always surprises me how fun this ride is. Looking at it from the outside, it just looks like any old small-to-medium sized coaster. But it’s seriously fun.

After hopping off, the boys and I headed towards the exit. I stopped off to fill my popcorn bucket before leaving and we bid adieu to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

On the way out, I snapped a pic of this sign. On account of tomorrow? We were driving back to Boston. So it was good to note the direction.

By the time we got back to the Grand Floridian, the weather cleared. So we headed down to the main pool.

At this point of the day, it was a little crowded. And everyone wanted to hop in the hot tub time machine hold the time machine.

So, you know. The hot tub.

So, over to the other pool we went.

They were in the middle of cleaning the hot tub (figures) so we grabbed some chairs and soaked in the view.

So nice, right? We got some actual pool time in first while we waited for the hot tub to open. And soon enough? It did open. The Cast Member wasn’t lying.

Owen and Myles look to be having the time of their lives. Also, would you look at the SIZE of that hot tub? That thing is bigger than our kitchen.

And yeah, I mean…the rides, the food, the characters…those are obviously big pieces of what draw us to Disney. But relaxing, hanging in the hot tub with these guys after a day of enjoying all those things? It’s also pretty super-cool.

I am pretty sure we spent over the recommended time in the hot tub. We had that whole humungo thing to ourselves. We weren’t gonna give that up too quickly.

But sitting in hot water for that long works up quite a thirst. So we headed back over to the main pool and sat down at a table near the Beaches Pool Par & Grill.

I ordered Nickie a Mai Tai, the boys a couple of sodas, and a St. Augustine for myself.

Oh, this thing? It was purty good. It was a frozen concoction made of St. Augustine Florida Cane Vodka and Bols Blue Curaçao, with flavors of Orange, Coconut, and Pineapple.

And it was realllly nice just hanging there with the people I love, watching the sun start to set, the monorail going by in the distance. Yeah, life was pretty good.

Also, there was a water slide. So life was even pretty gooder.

But, eventually, we had to head back up to the room to get ready for our last Disney dinner of the trip. Sad face. But I mean…dinner. So happy face.

Obviously, it was a fancy occasion. Myles wore his good socks with his sandals.

Off to Disney Springs we went.

We parked and headed into the Springs. As we walked to dinner, I couldn’t help myself. I took MORE Christmas Tree pictures. I have a sickness.

And my sickness? It’s untreetable.

Dinner tonight was at STK.

Mmmmmmmeat.

It was a really nice night. So we asked to be seated on the upstairs patio. Which offered a pretty amazing view.

And it was so cool up there. Look at the lights!

STK is sort of a hip steakhouse situation. Inside, they have a DJ that spins music and it’s a pretty loud affair. But out on the patio, things were pretty quiet. Which was nice. And they had this whole neon sign thing going on there. So still….hip.

I kept the Old-Fashioned trend going. By ordering an old-fashioned.

Look at my family. They are a good-looking bunch, no?

I mean. Ahem.

Also good-looking? This burrata (roasted beets, pickled shallots, extra virgin olive oil, crunchy sourdough) we started with.

And in addition to our starter burrata, they also brought out this delicious pull-apart bleu cheese bread with chive oil.

That sentence stirred things in me. Anyways – look at this bread.

For our sides, we ordered for the table some Tater Tots…

…Sweet Corn Pudding…

…and Traditional Mac and Cheese.

Out of those three, the Sweet Corn Pudding was the best side. The mac and cheese came in a close second. And no one was a huge fan of the tater tots. They had an odd spice to them. I mean, I still ate them. But you know…I did so somewhat begrudgingly.

Everyone but me got the filet as is with STK sauce…which they all loved. Nickie says it may be the best steak she’s ever eaten.

I went for the Delmonico and topped it with some Truffle Butter. Because if you’re gonna order a $75 steak, you might as well top it with Truffle Butter.

Now, ok. It was a good piece of meat. A VERY good piece of meat. But. I ordered it medium rare and thing came out a little overdone. I decided to tough it out…like I said, it was still good…but it did hurt my opinion of it a little. Like I would still put my steak at Steakhouse 55 in Disneyland ahead of this guy.

And I mean, this doesn’t touch the Calootte de Boeuf I had at French Laundry. But that’s not really a fair comparison.

Oh, and I paired my steak with a glass of Duckhorn.

So yeah, good-to-great meal at STK. Probably leaning towards great. And it’s partly my fault. I mean, I should have sent it back. But eh, I am just not that kind of guy. Not good with confrontation.

I’d go back though. You deserve another shot STK. You too, Delmonico.

And the company was pretty awesome.

After dinner, it was time to meet back up with our friends Kayce and Bella. YAY FOR FRIENDS!

We skipped dessert at dinner so we all decided to meet up at The Ganachery for some chocolatey chocolateness.

We got in line and the person working the door informed us they were only letting a few people in at a time. He asked the size of our party and when I told him 6, he said we could all take over the store. There was a woman inside at the moment…

…that was taking a while so he said a couple of us could go in first to scout things out and then everyone else could come in when she left.

So of course, I went in to scout things out. They had a lot of good stuff in here.

Look at these Millennium Falcon pops.

To the right as you walk in are their truffle cases. I wish truffle cases were always to the right as you walk in. Like anywhere.

And to the left, you could watch them make their signature S’mores.

Once everyone else was let in, we put our orders in. We got a couple boxes of truffles and Kayce and the kids also got some S’mores.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention there was a Mickey on top. NBD.

But yeah, the truffles. Ah. May. Zing.

I really wish I could remember the flavors but I distinctly remember loving the sea salt caramel, egg nog, and peanut butter flavors the most.

Oh, and I loved this little note that came in the box.

The S’mores also seemed to be a hit.

Even if they were a little messy.

I kind of LOVE the Ganachery now.

And while it was sad to say these were our last real Walt Disney World moments of the trip, they were good ones for sure. We said goodbye to Bella and Kayce, hopeful we would see them again on another Disney trip sometime soon and headed back to the hotel to pack up and turn in for the night.

But dear readers, don’t think things are over. We still have a whole road trip back home to get through. And while these were our last Disney World moments of the trip, we still have some Disney left.

So thanks for reading. And stay tuned!

Last Post – Day 7 (Animal Kingdom!)
Next Post – Day 9 (WDW to Disney’s Hilton Head Resort!)

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