During our first week at Disney World we had covered the water parks, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, WonderWorks and Disney Springs, so our second week was spent at Epcot, enjoying a show and revisiting some of our favourite places that we’d seen so far… plus one or two adventures outside of Disney World!
Day 7: Epcot and the circus!
All public transport buses and transfers arriving at Walt Disney World seem to congregate at Epcot, so when you’re travelling to Disney World, the first place you’re most likely to see is the huge Epcot structure.
From Epcot you can then take other means of transport (monorail, Disney bus etc…) to get you to other parts of the park, which can take longer than you think.
For example, when we visited Magic Kingdom, we had to take a monorail from Epcot followed by a ferry – all in all it took an extra 40 minutes from Epcot to reach Magic kingdom. I have mentioned before that Disney World is absolutely massive!
Anyway, as we were visiting Epcot today, it was nice to be dropped off and not have to get on another form of transport.
We headed straight for a ride called Soarin, which had some great reviews and it didn't disappoint. In fact, it was Granny Mac Ma’s favourite ride!
We were taken on a voyage around the world and it felt like we were flying… there were some beautiful views of famous landmarks and we were all left really impressed, especially as it was a 4G experience where we could smell Africa and feel the wind in our hair.
The ride was the highlight of my day and I could have gone on it again and again.
So the top tip here is: go experience Soarin – even if the queues are huge, it’s worth it!
Straight after that it was good timing for our first Fast Pass ‘Spaceship: Earth' which offered a track ride through the ages.
The ride took a photo of us as we set off and our faces were then used as part of a film. Afterwards we had the option to have our pictures emailed to us, which was a great idea.
An educational adventure
After lunch we watched ‘The Circle of Life' – an educational film about looking after our earth to protect the circle of life.
Then it was time for our second fast pass ‘Living with The Land' – a boat ride highlighting how we lived off the land in the past and how we're learning to look after our land once again.
This ride is actually housed inside the big Epcot structure that you can see a mile off and features the voice of Dame Judith Dench.
We enjoyed viewing the edible garden and learning all about the flowers that you can eat – even the adults learnt some new things as we sailed around.
All the rides so far at Epcot seemed really educational, so it was great for the kids to experience.
On the way to the ‘UK' at Epcot's World Showcase (where 11 countries are represented and are centered around a huge lake, we went into Journey Into Imagination, another slow moving ride that encouraged riders to use their imagination.
After the ride we exited into a large interactive room where kids could play games and complete tasks. It was a chance for the adults to sit down for a rest while the kids ran around.
And once we were back outdoors, the kids wanted to play with the jumping fountains; it was such a hot day so it was nice for them to cool down and have some fun.
Then it was time to take a long walk around the lake at the World Showcase. We got the kids an ice-cream to pacify them (they were moaning a bit about the walking!)
By the time we had finished the walk (well over a mile all the way round), my feet were aching too1
By this time it was just gone 4pm so while I was tweeting Ant and Dec (they were filming Saturday Night Takeaway live from Disney!), we headed over to the final fast pass of the day, The Seas with Nemo & Friends – an aquarium with an attached dark ride attraction devoted to oceanic study.
Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba
After that we jumped on a Disney bus to Disney springs to go and watch Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba show, which was included in the tickets we had purchased from Attraction Tickets Direct.
La Nouba was brilliant; I love anything that Cirque Du Soleil produces; the detail that goes into the show and the acts is absolutely amazing – and when you’re watching the show, you’re sometimes wondering where to look as there is stuff going on left, right and centre, which is one of the things I love.
I had two favourite acts – the break dancing (I'm a secret break dancing fan!) and three little girls with their Diabolos (a circus prop consisting of an axle and two cups spun using a string attached to hand sticks).
After the epic show, we got the buses back to International Drive and grabbed a Subway (Girlwrighter's favourite restaurant!) before heading to the hotel.
My legs (left foot and right knee) were in bits when I got back, so I headed straight for bed. At least I was burning lots of calories with all the walking we were doing!
Day 8: Boggy Creek Airboat Ride
Weeks before we were coming to Florida, we had decided that one of the days we would go on an Airboat Ride through the Everglades.
It looked like so much fun – and inspired by seeing it on TV shows and in films, we thought we’d grab the opportunity to do it too!
We had booked it with HAT Marketing, who look after Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, which offer prices starting from $27.95 for adults and $23.95 for kids for a 30-minute tour.
Tickets can be purchased before you go at Attraction Tickets Direct (along with other attractions and offers such as WonderWorks and Kids Eat Free)
The attraction is around a 35-minute ride from International Drive, so we had booked an uber to pick us up at 9.25 as our ride was booked for 10.45 and we had to be there half hour before – presumably for a safety talk as there were plenty of alligators ready to gobble us up if we decided on a quick swim!
When we arrived we went straight to the ticket booth to get our wristbands. We were a little early but that was great as we had the opportunity to check out the welcome area.
This consisted of a small alligator area (for baby alligators), a shop and a Native American Village where we learnt how Americans used to hunt and cook years ago. We also learnt about the local fauna and flora which was really educational.
Our ride was booked for 10.45 and we had an hour's tour in Lake Tohopekaliga (or Lake Toho for short). Tours operate year-round so it doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit.
The ride itself was excellent (and thrilling – especially when the driver put his foot down!)
I'd definitely recommend it if you're staying in Orlando or Kissimmee – it's one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences that you’ll be glad to have done – and the memories will last a lifetime.
We saw a whole range of wildlife on our hour-long tour including an otter, a few herons, loads of alligators and plenty of species of birds.
After our ride we decided to have lunch at the park – a real American feast and I even managed to polish off homemade Key Lime Pie, which the scales won't thank me for.
Then it was time to come home, so we called the Uber guy who brought us back to the hotel. After an eventful morning we rested in the hotel for the afternoon which was much needed, before grabbing a bite to eat at trusty old Miller’s Ale House.
Day 9: Back to Epcot & The Epcot Fireworks Display
For some reason I woke up at 4am this morning and was unable to get back to sleep – it looked like the jetlag was making a reappearance!
Anyway, it wasn’t all bad, as the early start allowed me to check my emails and do some blogging. We ate a late breakfast and then got the 10.15 transfer to Epcot where we spent the day.
Today we went straight back on Soarin as we liked it so much – even though this time the queue time was 90 minutes (it was an hour the first time we went on it).
By the time the ride had finished it was almost time for lunch (we only got in the one ride before lunch which goes to show that having a Fast Pass is definitely worth it), so we sat on a wall in the shade for a while and did some people watching.
The kids then found some water fountains to play in and before long it was time for our first fast pass, Mission Space.
The ride was crazy (3G force as we opted for ‘intense training') and I have to say, it really wasn’t my cup of tea. In fact, all the adults felt quite queasy for a while afterwards, but the kids loved it!
As we felt a bit dazed following the ride, we found a wall in the shade to sit on outside and spend the next hour relaxing and people watching. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit and relax while the world rushes by…
After that we decided to head over to the showcase area to have an early dinner – at Lotus Blossom Cafe – a Chinese restaurant.
We had a quick look round the temple in ‘China' before heading to our next Fast Pass, Test Track, where we ‘designed our own car' then raced around the racetrack in it to test drive it.
This was a great ride and despite it being a little rough for grandma, the rest of us enjoyed it, although the ride could have gone a bit easier on the breaking!
Finally it was time to head over to see the fireworks. We had done a bit of research during the day beforehand to see where the best viewing spots were and we got a great spot at the Canada showcase, as we were elevated so we could see over the lake.
The fireworks kicked off at 9pm and we were leaving the park by 9.20.
Instead of having to get our usual two buses back, we had the hotel transfer bus booked for 10pm which made a nice change as it was direct from Epcot back to the hotel.
By the time we got back and into bed it was coming up for 11.30pm, so we all just flopped straight into bed!
Day 10: The (No) Shopping Day
Following our long day yesterday, this was going to be our relaxing day. My mum (Granny Mac Ma) and I kept hearing about something called the Premium Outlets, but earlier in the week (while we were doing the Boggy Creek Airboat Ride), mum did a recce on the nearby premium outlet and said that the prices were ‘extortionate'.
For example she found a young girl's top (in Nadja’s size) reduced in the sale to $30 – just less than £30. I'm guessing the Premium Outlets sold designer gear, whereas we were interested in the high street stuff. Well, I wasn't really clothes shopping anyway; I was on the hunt for home interior accessories!
We had heard of Factory Outlets which sounded more like our cup of tea, so we hitched a ride with the boys (and kids) in the morning to Disney to then catch a bus back out in search of the outlets.
Well, that was the big idea anyway. The kids, VIP and my dad were off back to Typhoon Lagoon (as the kids loved it so much), while mum and I planned to go shopping. It turned out we wasted 3.5 hours trying to get to a premium outlet and then just ending up going back to the hotel.
Trying to navigate your way around Orlando on the buses is nothing short of a nightmare. We would have been better off getting an Uber, going straight there and coming straight back. Don't make the mistake we made!
On the bright side, I guess we saved money by not spending it in a mall – and coming back early also gave me the opportunity to catch up on my emails and Disney Diaries!
When the rest of out party got back in the afternoon, they only had an hour to spare before dashing off to a ‘Medieval Times’ dinner and show, which they said was well worth it.
Meanwhile, mum and I had a quick snack to eat at the hotel before relaxing in our rooms until everyone else returned. Well, I didn’t rest really – I’m busy typing this to keep up to speed with what we’ve done (I have a shocking memory so I have to write it down as I go!)
Day 11: Hollywood Studios
I have been looking forward to this day since we arrived. I’m not sure why, but when I visited Disney World when I was 15 (over 25 years ago!), I’m pretty sure it was the Hollywood Studios Theme Park that stuck in my mind.
I remembered it being really good – I only hoped that I wasn’t setting myself up for a disappointment.
As soon as we got in the park we headed for the ride that we couldn't get on a Fast Pass – The Great Movie Ride which celebrated famous films with animation.
I couldn't believe in – we practically walked straight on with no queues! It was quite a long ride as well and gave us the opportunity to sit down.
Straight after that we headed for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride – it was definitely one of the better rides I've been on and comes highly recommended.
The ride is in a haunted hotel and it's an elevator drop – but it doesn't just drop you once, it does it a few times – and for a long time so you really feel it in your tummy!
Nadja in particular loved it. When we got on the queue time was 60 minutes and by the time we got off it was 90 minutes, which goes to show how popular it is!
In fact, this seemed to be the case for most of the popular rides at all of the Disney World parks. So if you haven't got a Fast Pass for a ride you really want to go on, head to that ride first thing in the morning – without stopping!
By the time you get there, all being well the queue time will be 60 minutes or less… as the day goes on the queue times seem to increase.
And to prove my point, when we'd finished on the Tower Of Terror we headed straight over to Toy Story Midway Mania where the queue time was 90 minutes.
The attraction is a shooting game and Luis and I were excited and determined to beat each another. Luis won though – by quite a mile actually.
We couldn't believe our luck; when we came off the ride there was a couple of picnic tables and chairs in the shade (it’s a rare sight finding a free one at lunchtime), so we sat down to eat. And then a toy soldier came out to say hello which was nice!
Then it was time for our first Fast Pass – a stunt show called Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
It was great to see all the special effects and brought back memories of when I came with mum and dad when I was a teen. Granny Mac Ma must have been tired though as I caught her having a sneaky sleep while the show was on!
After the show had ended we found a bench to sit on near a live Star Wars show to eat ice-cream, and then it was straight on to our next Fast Pass – Rock and Rollercoaster – a rollercoaster themed on rock music.
When we got there we were told that the ride had a technical fault and was closed.
As this was to be our last ride of the day, we were all disappointed. I spoke to one of the staff to ask him for more detail, and I asked him for his personal opinion; he told me that if it were him, he’d wait around to see if it opened.
I’m glad I convinced the family to wait; as luck would have it, within a few minutes of waiting, down went the chains and we were allowed to access the Fast Pass.
I'm so glad we waited because this was my absolute favourite ride of all the Disney Parks by far! It was a fast and furious indoor rollercoaster in the dark with more twists and turns (and loops!) that we could wish for.
It also went on for much longer than we expected which made it even better. If there's one ride you have to go on at Hollywood Studios (if you enjoy thrill rides) it's this one – by a mile!
In the evening VIP had a night off from the kids (thanks mum & dad!) and we went to a really nice restaurant called Café Tu Tu Tango, which was within five minutes’ walk of our hotel. It was a lovely meal in a quirky restaurant and well worth a visit.
Day 12: Back to Magic Kingdom
As we only covered a fraction of Magic Kingdom on the first day of our holiday, we decided to head back there to go on more rides.
When the transfer dropped us off at Epcot Luis spotted a sign that the monorail was closed (we were all too busy chatting to notice the sign!) so he saved us some valuable time.
Instead, they had put extra transfer buses on to take people to Magic Kingdom – or that's what we thought anyway! It actually dropped us at the Travel & Transport Centre and we then had to take a ferry.
By the time we got to Magic Kingdom it was 9.30am and we headed straight for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which already had a queue time of an hour and a half.
If we stayed in the queue it would mean that we’d miss our first Fast Pass, but VIP said the queue for this attraction would only get bigger throughout the day, so we decided to wait.
However, as we were stood in the queue we were watching the ride and decided that it didn’t look thrilling enough for us adrenaline junkies (it was more for families with young children) so we headed for our first Fast Pass of the day – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
We got there at just before 10am and our Fast passes didn't work. It was only when they told us it was booked for 10pm did we realise we were 12 hours too early! Oops.
We decided to queue in the standard line as it was only a 50-minute wait. For some reason it felt longer than 50 minutes, but it was a great coaster ride once we were on it – and the ride time was a lot longer than expected too. I think we get short changed on the ride time at UK theme parks in comparison!
After the ride, we popped into a shop – Briar Patch – to have a quick look around (we hadn't had a proper look around a shop before!) and to cool down, before heading to Jungle Cruise.
When we got there it was a two-hour wait (crazy eh?!), and Granny Mac Ma made a point about spending hundreds of pounds on the entrance tickets to only get to go on a few rides during the day – just because of the crazy long wait times. She had a point, but I guess everyone’s in the same boat, pun intended.
Opposite the cruise attraction was a show called Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room where we could watch tropical birds and colourful flowers come to life. We decided to head there instead – and it gave us the chance to sit down – and cool down.
Okay, so the show was a bit pants (I’m guessing it’s aimed more at families with toddlers), but the music was catchy and we all managed to get 10 minutes to catch our breath.
I noticed that we’d often do this in between our Fast Pass rides – and it's a good tip. Otherwise you can spend hours queuing in the heat to get on a mediocre ride, when some of the less popular rides are just as enjoyable with really short queues.
Afterwards the kids played in a tree house for 10 minutes then we headed back to the Jungle Cruise as VIP noticed on his app that the queue time was now 60 minutes – and in the two minutes that it took us to walk there, it had gone down to 50 minutes.
After the cruise, we went in search of gems for Nadja (she loves them) and ended up in the Trading Post shop in Frontierland where she bought three gems for $15.
She couldn't understand why the total amount wasn't $15 and we tried to explain the sales tax to her. I had forgotten about it myself to be honest, and it’s quite annoying when the total amount comes to more than what is advertised – it always catches me out!
While we rested, VIP and Ata went off to buy ice-cream and came back with pineapple sorbets. And although us adults found them very refreshing, the kids didn't like them much.
By this time it was approaching 2pm and our next Fast Pass (for Pirates of The Caribbean) was due, so we headed there.
The water ride showed animated pirate scenes and we got a tiny bit wet – not complaining of course because it was so hot! It wasn't as good as I thought it would be – I'm definitely an adrenaline junkie seeking the thrill rides!
We walked into Tomorrowland (passing a singing Mickey and friends at the famous castle) to head to Monsters Inc Laugh Floor – a comedy show. The app showed that it was a 20-minute wait, but it was more like half an hour.
But the wait was worth it. Cartoon characters interacted with the audience – and put them up on the screen as part of a story-telling comedy routine.
Getting the crowd engaged like this gave everyone a laugh – and it was even funnier when Ata got picked, which I managed to capture on video!
By this time it was 3.30pm and we had a Fast Pass for a car ride booked for 4.30pm. But the kids were flagging and they wanted to go back to the hotel for a swim, so we decided to wave goodbye to Disney World one last time.
In the evening we went out to TGI Friday's and we all agreed that the food (and service) was better in the UK – who knew?! And then it was back to the hotel for one last ‘midnight swim'.
We had such an amazing time in Walt Disney World; it was one of those holidays that none of us will ever forget.
It has given me the adrenaline bug though – I’d love to return to Orlando to try out some of the other theme parks – Busch Gardens, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando to name a few – maybe when the kids are teens. I had better get saving now then!