Orlando – January Escape

To cap off the end of the year vacation season, it was time to cash in our trip to Orlando to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon! We had a 7 day trip planned out with another couple – one of Bae’s friends from high school and her boyfriend. The trip got off to a rocky start – all set to catch our red eye out of Seattle, our flight was delayed an hour and a half due to damage on the wings as a result of a birdstrike. Luckily we had a couple hour layover in Boston, so we did’t miss our connecting flight, and just like that we were in Orlando right on schedule!

Disney World

Magic Kingdom

Our first real day in Orlando was spent at the one and only, Disney World. We got there early – before the park opened and had breakfast at Be Our Guest. Our reservation was at 8am, allowing us to get in the park an hour before everybody else. This is a pro tip to everyone out there, get a reservation before the park opens and you can get in an hour early! It was a decent breakfast, but nothing too special. The dining hall was big and everything was automated, which was good because it made the experience quick and rather seamless. Plus, it allowed us to get in and out quickly to get in the park!

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Mandatory Magic Kingdom Photo

Our first ride was the 7 Dwarves Mine Train. Being a new attraction, we decided to hit it first to avoid being stuck in a long line. It was a fun ride, and something you should definitely try and do first (like maybe even before the park opens to the general public). Next, we decided it was mountain time! We had our fast pass all set up for Thunder Mountain later in the day, but the line was currently at a 10 minute wait, so we couldn’t pass that up! This was my first real time at Disney World (the previous trip, I came as an obnoxious crying 2.5 year old). Bae on the other hand, was a seasoned veteran. So she knew what to expect, while I was like a kid in a candy store. Thunder Mountain was a blast!  Bae then led us over to Splash Mountain. I was familiar with Splash Mountain, because who hasn’t seen Splash Mountain?! I didn’t, however, know exactly when the big drop occurred, so I was still anxious and excited the whole time. We plunged into the water and stayed (mostly) dry and got off and headed to the next adventure!

7-dwarves

Hands up in PC’s vacation shirt!

We then wanted to knock out some of the “must do’s” in Magic Kingdom. This meant we hopped from Pirates of Caribbean, to the Haunted Mansion, to It’s a Small World. I venture to believe that there’s approximately $100,000 worth of money floating around the waters of It’s a Small World. I may be wildly wrong, but that’s my estimate and I’m sticking to it.

UPDATE: according to google, I’m right. Score one for the good guys!

Our final stop for round one of Magic Kingdom was Space Mountain. Bae had all of our fast pass stuff set up ahead of time, so we breezed right to the front of the line. Space mountain was awesome!!! It was my favorite ride by far (up to this point).

Animal Kingdom

Ready to take on the next park, we hopped on the shuttle to Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is a cool place that reminds me of a Rainforest Cafe, but way less cheesy and more authentic (authentic in the sense of a tourist attraction). They also have great adult slushies to help combat the heat (okay it was a sweltering heat in January, but they were still a great treat). We decided to take on the giant roller coaster that towers over the entire park – Everest Exhibition. Now I know earlier Space Mountain was my favorite, but I reserve the right to change that, and I am doing so now. Just being at the top of the peak and having a split second view of everything from so far up was amazing. This ride is a must do for anybody checking out Disney World.

After Everest, we wanted to check out the animals of animal kingdom! We first trekked through the Jungle Trek, which was neat. There were some birds flying and walking around, and it was a nice little attraction to check out. We also got to walk by some of the viewing areas of some of the bigger animals, but they seemed to more or less doing their own thing and none of the viewing areas were too prime when we went. We wanted to check out more animals, so we got in line for the Kilimanjaro Safari. The line was a bit of a weight (maybe 40 minutes?) but worth the wait. The safari was a really cool ride and we got to get a good glimpse of some sweet African animals. Bae loved the baby elephant which was hiding around the feet of a few older elephants, presumably it’s momma and some other protectors. We also saw cheetahs, lions, rhinos, longhorns, antelope, ostrich, wildebeest, and many other animals along the way. We had a pretty good safari guide who was well spoken and fun to listen to. I hear that in August, most of the tour guides are brand new and sometimes have some hiccups along the way, but luckily our tour guide had been there a few months and everything went smoothly.

Epcot

Approaching dinner time, we hopped back on the shuttle and headed to Epcot! Naturally, we wanted to try foods from all around the world, so we started with what else but our favorite… Nachos! The nachos weren’t bad, and now we were revitalized to take on the world! Bae snapped her favorite pic of me in Japan when I had my Japanese sunrise drink. We also had wine Italy, beer from Germany, and pastries from France! All around it was really fun walking around the world being served from native people from those countries. Disney does a good job recruiting students from the different countries represented at Epcot for internships to spend time in the US.

To wrap up Epcot, we decided to check out the giant golf ball (that’s what I like to refer to it as, even though it doesn’t have the dimples like a golf ball). We went on a ride called “Spaceship Earth” which was a gentle ride that took everybody through the history or mankind and it’s technological advances over the centuries. It was a very relaxing ride and cool experience. Bae and I love learning new things and educational experiences, so it was a really cool way to wrap up a day full of excitement, laughing, long lines, good food, and fun experiences.

Magic Kingdom Part 2

We made our way back to Magic Kingdom to wrap up the day, this time we took the ferry in. Looking across the water was quite the site to see – the Magic Kingdom illuminated at night. It was very peaceful floating across the water back to Magic Kingdom on the deck of the ferry. We came back and went on a couple more rides – Buzz Lighyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the Mad Tea Party. Before the final cap to the evening, we decided to hop on the Merry-Go-Round just for old time’s sake. The ride was much shorter than I remember as a kid! We then witnessed the Nighttime Spectacular It was really amazing watching the fireworks show. The castle changed colors, there were shining images from Disney Classics accompanied by music, the whole show was truly incredible to watch. It brought me right back to my childhood! The first show was Frozen themed and of course everybody loves the tune to “Let It Go”. The second show was more of a look at the Disney body of work over the year’s and was my personal favorite. It was a great way to cap off an extremely adventure and Disney filled day.

Overall Disney World was a lot of fun, and surprisingly clean. They do a great job of keeping all the walkways clear of trash and litter. Most people don’t attempt to do more than one park in one day, but then again, we aren’t most people. 30,000 steps later, we were all tuckered out and ready to head back to our hotel after bouncing around from park to park.

Life at the Marriot

Our stay in Orlando was plagued with a bit of bad weather. Luckily, the first couple days we saw weather above 60 degrees. Which means on the day it was in the 70’s we spent a lot of time poolside sun bathing. We had 3 different pools to choose from at our hotel (which we found out about during our morning run around the neighborhood). It was extremely relaxing to lay back and soak in the warm rays with colorful slushy drinks, especially coming from the northwest where we haven’t seen the sun in quite some time now. While we bronzed we also read books that we picked up from Powell’s Books in Portland on our way down to 5 Pines. There were also a couple species of turtles that I was fascinated by that were swimming around where we were laying out. This led to an old man on the nearby chairs telling us about when he was “my age” him and his friends used to catch turtles and write their initials on them and set them free. I hope he underestimated my age, because I hope he wasn’t still playing with wild turtles in his mid 20’s (26 is still mid 20’s).

The next day it was a bit chillier outside, but Bae insisted on going in the pool. She even bought a blow up beach ball at the nearby CVS for us to play with. Who am I to disappoint Bae? We had the entire pool to ourselves and ended up playing a game of our own version of  volleyball where we aimed to just volley back and forth over the net as many times as we could. I think our record was 20, so try and top that!

The last of our main hotel activities was spent playing cards with the other couple we were vacationing with. We didn’t just play cards, we played Rook. Rook is a game similar to Spades or Hearts but slightly different and uses its own deck. I love playing Spades and Bae loves Hearts (and so do I), so this game was right up our alley. After picking it up rather quickly, we were obsessed with it! Games got quite heated, and being competitive as Bae and I each are, there was some intense interactions back and forth. But even though we’re both competitive, we know to leave it on the field and there were no hard feelings. I think the other couple got the best of us in total, but we had our moments and will be back for blood next time! But seriously, Bae had me order a deck from Amazon very shortly after we got back and I know Rook will be in our future for the long run. We’ll be pros in no time, and you better believe we will be taking on any and all challengers who wish to try and take us on!

rook

The glorious game that is, Rook

Islands of Adventure

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure was another necessity for us during our time in Orlando. We started off by heading straight to The Incredible Hulk Coaster! The only problem was that it was a bit chilly and they were still doing test runs when it opened… Not to worry, we then headed off to the Jurassic Park ride! The ride got stuck while we were on it, and we were delayed about 25 minutes (but it eventually worked and was awesome!). Next we headed to the newly opened Skull Island: Reign of Kong, King Kong ride… where we proceeded to wait in line for 30 minutes, board the ride, get off the ride, then wait 20 more minutes and get told that we couldn’t ride it. Safe to say that we were off to a HOT start at Islands of Adventure.

But from there it definitely picked up. We were able to do the Doctor Doom Fearfall, which was exhilarating! Short and sweet, a solid ride. We also got to hop on the indoor rides with the 3D glasses (a guy in line ahead of us couldn’t stop telling everybody that “every time they give you 3D glasses, you get wet!” like he cracked Universal’s grand plan). Spiderman was first and I really liked it. It was my first taste of that kind of ride and it was a low impact fun ride.

We then headed back to the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which was a bit of a debacle clearing security and making sure we had everything stored in lockers and NOTHING in our pockets. After a couple tries we figured it out and were pros for the rest of the day. I surprisingly LOVED the Hulk Coaster. I think its because it’s so quick, you don’t really get a chance to get nauseous on any of the loops or hard corners.

Next, Bae also insisted we attend the Poseidon’s Fury show, which was a cool change of pace, and entertaining and worth a few laughs!It was a good time to catch our breath and let everything settle before we took on the next big adventure!

Hogsmeade

Bae and I are both big Harry Potter fans. Me, more of a movie guy (I did read the first 4 though). Bae, everything, but specifically the books! We made sure to come equipped with our HP shirts and everything (we didn’t go full blown all out with robes, that seemed a bit hot and inconvenient). I represented #TeamHufflepuff while Bae naturally represented #TeamGryffindor.

We were stoked to get to experience HP in real life! Starting off in Hogsmeade, we started off with some butter beer slushy treats (looking back, we had a lot of slushy treats, I guess that’s just our thing on vacation). They were like a cream soda flavor, mixed with an icee, but better. We decided to next hop on the Dragon Challenge ride! We decided to go with the blue dragon, while the other couple went red. Blue was supposed to a little slower, and more jerky. Personally, this was a bad decision (that I made). I felt a bit seasick afterward. But I rallied and had a good time on the ride. It was full of hard turns and twists, waaaay more than I was expecting when I first hopped on.

Next we hung out in Hogwarts. Waiting in line for the Forbidden Journey ride, we were snaking through Hogwarts in line. It was really well done and full of a bunch of things to take in while in line so the time goes fast. A ton of detail was put into that place and it shows. Very cool. When it got time to hop on the ride, I strapped in, not expecting much, something similar to the Spiderman ride in my mind. Boy was I wrong. I’m not sure if it was because of the previous battle with the racing dragons, but I was a struggle to make it through that ride! From what I remember though, it was really cool! We were in a bookcase that Hermoine enchanted that took us all around the campus, through a Quidditch match, and all around the Womping Willow and back through the castle. It was again, very well done!

We decided it was time to take the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley (we misplaced our portkeys). The Hogwarts Express was a cool simulation of the actual Hogwarts Express. It was just like the movies, we had our own little cabin and it was a good time to decompress (and catch our breath while letting our stomach’s settle (just me) before diving headfirst into more action).

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley was the newer portion of the HP world at Universal Studios. It was Hogsmeade on Steroids! Absolutely incredible! It had everything! A real-life dragon (sorta) that sat atop Gringotts and spit fire, Gringott’s safe, tons of food, shops, sweets, magic wands, the whole 9! We needed to hop on a ride, so we headed for the Escape from Gringott’s 3D ride. It was a lot of fun, and much better than the Forbidden Journey (for me anyway).

diagon-alley-us

Hanging out in Diagon Alley, right outside Gringotts, NBD

Universal Studios

After all the HP excitement, we needed to refill our bellies with food! Luckily, there was a whole food court near the Simpson’s. We stopped there, re-fueled, chatted, and just relaxed. Bellies full, we wanted to go take on the big roller coaster in this park. The big coaster being the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit! Now I know that this has been thrown around a lot so far, but this was my favorite ride. It was such a great coaster. You got to pick out a song that was pumping in your ear during the ride, and it was great for the adrenaline! Getting ready to take on loops, corners, turns, twists, and at all blazing fast speed, while Kanye sung “Stronger” in my ear was so awesome! This was my “must-do” recommendation (besides HP of course) to anybody heading to Universal Studios!

After the roller coaster, we went on a couple more 3D rides – Transformers and the Mummy, both of which were well done. Nothing over the top or to die for, but just some solid fun rides. Before we heading home, we decided to try our luck back at Islands of Adventures to see if we could check out the Reign of Kong ride. Low and behold, the line wasn’t too bad and we finished up with another 3D ride, this one being the one that gave us the most grief during the day. It was a fitting end to an amazing day. The parks were both so much fun, and I couldn’t have been happier. The day started out rough, but it was a minor setback for what turned out to be a great, jam packed (which we wouldn’t have any other way) kinda day!

Orlando Highlights

Bae and I are both fans of challenges that make you think, and as I mentioned earlier, we are both quite competitive. That being said, we both enjoy escape rooms. Escape rooms are games that consist of riddles, puzzles, challenges, and finding clues in order to escape a room – where you typically have 60 minutes to complete the challenge. They typically have a fun theme (zombies, mummies, historical incidents, etc.). We completed one in Seattle in December with the couple we were vacationing with as well as some other friends, so we were no stranger to these games. We decided to try our luck while on vacation in Florida. Bae did her research and signed up for the ‘Shanghaied’ game put on by Escapology. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it has a difficulty rating of 9.1/10 (their most difficult game) and we finished in about 35 minutes (no big deal). We didn’t find it to be the most challenging game we’d done, but nonetheless, still fun and a great idea for those looking for a quick challenge.

escapology

Courtesy of the fine people at Escapology

Another activity we decided to do was mini-golfing! Bae and I have been talking about going mini-golfing (along with bowling) for quite some time now, and we finally did it! We drove by Pirate’s Cove a few times and decided we had to stop by at night (it was well lit up) and give it a go! It was a pirate themed golf course (duh) and was well kept. We decided to do couple’s teams and have a friendly little competition (I hope you’re sensing a theme here). When the dust settled after 18 holes, Bae and I came out on top by about 8 or 9 strokes. Bae had the best score by far (she’s basically a ringer at everything) and I was tied with their best golfer (I am the mini-golf equivalent to 3.8 star rating on Yelp, not great, but definitely not bad, a safe bet that you can rely on to get the job done), so it really wasn’t even that close! She may put off being a doctor and hit the mini-golf circuit for a couple years… ya never know, it could happen! Bae is sneaky good at just about everything, she won’t admit it, but she is. Pirate’s Cove was a great course and the staff was quite friendly, highly recommend you check it out if you’re in the area and up for some mini-golf!

While we were in Florida, it happened to also be Wild Card weekend in the NFL. My Seahawks played on Saturday night, and Bae’s Packers played Sunday afternoon. One of our first night’s in town, we stopped in at the Tin Roof for dinner (which was pretty darn good, and would probably be a lot of fun on the weekend; they have a stage and looks like they generally have live music quite often, so if you’re into that, this would be the place for you!) and noticed a Yard House in the same area of I-Drive. This was our destination for the Seahawks game. It was a fun evening of good beers and good food and a decisive Seahawk victory.

The next day we met up with Bae’s aunt, (who lives in Orlando and got us the hookup on quite a bit of stuff ranging from the hotel and local eateries to Universal Studios tickets!) to watch the Packers take on the Giants. We met up at Miller’s Ale House – a cool restaurant and bar that is a chain in Florida, comparable to a Bob’s Burgers in Washington. There were a surprising number of Giants fans around which was a bit odd and annoying. But it ended up being sorta nice there were so many fans there cause it made the Packer victory that much sweeter! Bae was happy, so I was happy.

Whenever we travel, we enjoy taking in what the local area has to offer, and it was nice getting to try out different restaurants, activities, food, beer, and everything else that Orlando had to offer.

Disney Half Marathon

So as I mentioned above, this trip was planned so that we could run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon – something we signed up for back in April the moment tickets went on sale. Well, that didn’t happen. There was a 5k, a 10k, and a full marathon that all occurred, but no 1/2 marathon. I also mentioned earlier that we ran into some troubling weather while we were down there. The night before the race, the race was canceled due to concern around lightning. It was not the greatest of news to hear, but we understood that Disney wanted to keep everybody safe. It was a downer on the trip, but we stayed positive and didn’t let it keep us down for too long. They did offer to allow us to transfer our race to a different race in the next 24 months. With Bae starting residency, it wasn’t ideal to have to decide on another vacation without even knowing where her residency will take us, but we signed up for the Wine and Dine 1/2 Marathon taking place in Orlando in November of 2018. Rest assured, we’ll be back ready to rock and roll (in about 23 months)!

wdw-12

Race Swag

Overall, it was a great trip and nothing to complain too much about because we got to be together, with good friends, and in a new place, stress free for an entire week. We had a great time, and we’ll be back in 2018 – ready to kick butt at the Wine and Dine 1/2 marathon!

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