A week or two before we left for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I received an email inviting me to two special events for attendees. The first was an optional fun run to be held on Sunday morning (which I signed up for) and the second was an attraction filming opportunity where you and your family could pick a ride and then be filmed riding it. The choices for the attractions were the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, or the Tower of Terror. Kyle and I decided we would look the least dorky on the new mine train ride although really riding anything with a camera in your face is likely to produce a feeling of, “oh no…do I actually look like that?” I didn’t realize at the time that I was snagging a coveted spot, because it turns out that there weren’t enough filming spots for every attendee and mine train was first to go, so we were lucky to get the one we wanted.
On Saturday morning we peeled ourselves out of bed and wandered down to the convention center to grab our bus to the Magic Kingdom with the other participants. A general lack of sleep mixed with tons of activity had started to catch up to us but we were excited about being in the park before it opened (something that hadn’t happened since we were working down in WDW) and I imagined all sorts of sunrise-lit photos of us in front of the castle.
‘Twas not to be.
The bus did get us to the Magic Kingdom before it opened, but we were brought in through one of the backstage entrances in Tomorrowland and walked around to Fantasyland so we were never in front of the empty castle. It was also late enough in the morning by the time we got there that the sun was up and beaming so none of my pink-lit photo fantasies came true. Even so, it was fun to be walking through the park in our special little group waving at the cast members as they got ready for the day.
The process of filming us on the ride took a little bit because only one train had camera mounts and that train was only filming two of the cars, so we settled in to wait our turn. They were filming with GoPro cameras, which was funny since I picked up a GoPro before we left and I had been using that to capture most of our trip. (You don’t get to see that video until I’m done recapping because I want to make you read all my words. No spoilers for you!!) In theory we could have held my GoPro and gotten the same effect but (1) who wants to be responsible for holding an expensive camera on a roller coaster and (2) I think the water is getting a little murky re: filming during attractions. Disney recently outlawed selfie sticks on rides because people were getting unsafe and obnoxious and although I was using a small handheld mount, I wouldn’t have wanted to risk breaking rules by trying to film us on anything more exciting than It’s a Small World.
We were the second-to-last group to be filmed and by the time we were done the parks had opened and park guests had come in behind us to ride the roller coaster. This put us all somewhat behind schedule because we had an exclusive sneak peek of Inside Out showing at the AMC theater in Downtown Disney so our bus took us over there instead of taking us back to the resort and we all filed in to the theater. From what we heard, attendees and their families got snack packs for the screening. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t know because we hit this awkward impasse and ended up leaving Downtown Disney on our own to find breakfast.
Our impasse came because the screening required that we turn all recording devices in before entering the theater, including any cameras and cell phones. Media events here in Salt Lake City have similar policies, but we’ve always been able to have them make an exception because we aren’t willing to be out of contact with whoever has Eva. In this case, it seemed silly to argue with the policy (especially when we knew how very very VERY serious they were about not letting recording devices in) since we were across the country and ultimately wouldn’t be able to do much if something was happening to Eva back in Utah.
That being said, we’re still her medical contacts, we have all of her history and can answer symptom questions forward and backward, and as I took my phone out to surrender it I got that tight-chest-tears-in-the-eyes thing that I get as an allergy mom that basically means a big cup of nope is happening. I was disappointed to miss the screening but I didn’t want to go without Kyle (and vice versa) so rather than make a big thing out of it we ducked out quietly and took ourselves to Earl of Sandwich so we could grab some breakfast and talk non-stop about our children.
After breakfast we caught the resort bus back to our hotel, changed into park clothes, and got started with our free day in the parks. We had only been to Epcot at that point so we decided to walk the trail to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which was surprisingly pleasant and allowed us to almost beat the boat that we would have caught if we had waited. Unfortunately, it was a very hot day and by the time we got to the park I was already feeling the effects of the heat so our first stop was to find some shade and purchase some very necessary iced Smart Water.
Throughout this day we had fun taking pictures of the Disney Infinity figures we had gotten in the swag bag. We thought each photo was an entry into a sweepstakes to win more, but it turned out that there was a limit of one entry per person per day so ultimately we were really just amusing ourselves. Even so, it was a fun way to document part of the trip and the next time we take the kids I think we might take some of their toys to do a similar day-in-the-parks series just because it made us think creatively while we were out.
Our first ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was Tower of Terror, followed by Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and then a nice long break while our 30-something stomachs settled a little. When we met thirteen years ago, we used to show up at the parks first thing and power ride those attractions over and over to wake ourselves up. I still love them these days but there is a whole lot of peeling myself off the ground that happens when I finally stumble off of them. Gettin’ old, y’all.
Side note: it turns out that PhotoPass captured video from our ride and automatically added it to our Memory Maker (which was complimentary as an attendee to the conference). Isn’t that amazing? Sadly, I think we had video from our last trip as well but I didn’t realize that it was personalized video and thought it was just commercials added in to our photo package. Now I’m wondering if there were videos of the kids that I let expire.
After we rested up with some eclairs, we rode Star Tours and proved that the only possible combination I will ever see on that ride (regardless of which coast I’m on) is the pod racer and underwater Naboo combination. Where is the petition to bring the old Star Tours back?? We would have tried one more time, but there was more of a line to get out of the Star Tours shop than there was to get on the actual ride thanks to all of the Star Wars Weekends merchandise and we decided it just wasn’t worth it since we’d probably end up pod racing agin. Instead, we were able to get a table without a reservation at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. Little tip: there is a nice bathroom and free ice water in the waiting area for that restaurant and we’ve never had to wait very long so if you find yourself overheated and in need of a break at DHS, that would be my recommendation.
Lunch was great but it was just too hot. Florida weather is brutal if you aren’t used to it so we decided not to push ourselves and walked back to our resort (beating the boat this time!) so we could cool off. I thought we might go swimming in the pool at the resort, but instead we fell into another amazing air-conditioned sleep and didn’t wake up until we were almost late for our 7:15 dinner reservation back at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We rushed around to get ready, caught the boat to save a few minutes, and made it just in time for Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine.
This character dining experience was a little extravagant but it’s a special thing that they’re doing for Star Wars Weekends and we’ve never been there for it before so we decided it was worth it. I’m so happy that we went, but we learned some pretty important things that might help someone else have a better time at their dinner. First, you shouldn’t rush in and grab plates of food. We went straight for the buffet when they seated us, ignoring the fact that there were characters near our table, and then we ended up waiting and waiting and waiting for those same characters to come back. I don’t really know why we rushed either…I think it took us about ten minutes to finish dinner and we were in the restaurant for an hour and a half. Plenty of time to finish eating!
Second, we spent less time with the characters than the families around us did simply because we didn’t have children with us and I feel like we were hyper-aware of how busy the characters were so we didn’t want to detain them. That being said, we got fewer pictures than we probably could have so we should have taken more time. We also didn’t get more than one or two photos together because the characters don’t walk around with handlers so there wasn’t anyone to take our photo. We did eventually impose on the table next to us, but most people were doing their own thing and it would have been obnoxious to ask over and over.
Finally, we underestimated how good the food would be. If we had known, I don’t think we would have spent the money to buy lunch earlier in the day. It was such an amazing buffet with tons of things I didn’t even get to try much of because I was full. Everything was themed and darling and I love that they went above and beyond with all of the little details and the cute touches on the dessert. So perfect for Star Wars fans!
I don’t want to suggest that we didn’t have a great time because we did. It was very fun to be there with the characters in costume and we had a great server who kept our drinks refreshed and was perfectly pleasant even though we ended up tying up his table forever while we waited for characters to make it to us. I would tell any Star Wars fan not to miss this one, especially if you’ve got kids because the kids around us were absolutely losing their minds every time the characters came over and engaged them in light saber battles. And by kids, I mean my husband.
After dinner we thought we might go down to ride Toy Story Mania, but then I decided I wanted to meet Woody and Buzz and the resulting line for that made us not want to wait in line for anything else. So, we left DHS and headed to Magic Kingdom for extra magic hours with the intent to ride all the things we didn’t get to ride with the kids in Florida (like Splash Mountain).
Splash Mountain never sounds that appealing when we’re actually there, though, because I love the ride but hate the subsequent walking-around-wet so we took the back walkway from the park gate to Tomorrowland and rode Carousel of Progress instead. We then took the other back walkway from Tomorrowland around to Fantasyland (the one that goes through the smoking section) and ended up killing time near Dumbo with a pair of frozen lemonades. This is the funny truth about park going in reality vs. park going in fantasy. In my fantasies, we ride all the rides and conquer the attractions. In reality, Kyle and I like to spend a significant amount of time just sitting around being happy that we’re at the parks.
We strolled through Fantasyland after that and I got Kyle to agree to back-to-back rides on It’s a Small World, which is a true sign of love. Since he made that gesture, I agreed to ride the Peter Pan ride (not my favorite, can’t explain it) and we hopped on the Haunted Mansion after that. We still had a little more than an hour left of extra magic hours at that point, but it was almost one in the morning and I was scheduled to show up for the conference fun run at 5:45 AM so we decided to head back to the resort. I was happy to meet up with Mindy, Patty, and another conference attendee on the resort bus and we all chatted and laughed about how we’d see each other in just a few hours to run around Epcot because life is silly and wonderful.
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