Mini Trip Report May 16-18, 2016

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horizons1
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Mini Trip Report May 16-18, 2016

Post by horizons1 » May Sun 22, 2016 12:21 pm

Last week I was at Disney for a conference that was held at Coronado Springs. I've got one precious day left on a no-expiration 10-day ticket that I bought years ago, so I decided now was not the time to burn that. Plus it was raining every evening so that wouldn't have been maximum fun. Instead, I toured other parts of the resort that I haven't visited in a while, or at all.

DAY 1, Monday May 16 Evening

My work's office is up in Maitland, so I drove down after work. Although the conference was at Coronado, I was staying offsite due to a recent company-imposed travel expense thing. The Holiday Inn on 192 near Celebration has certainly seen better days. But the room was clean and I got my IHG points, plus I had a car.

After check-in, I drove over to Disney Springs. Wow, has this place grown up. There is very little left of Pleasure Island, and unless you are familiar with the old layout you'd never even know that the place used to be all nightclubs. I parked in the Orange garage on the west end near Splitsville. I've been in the structure before, but they have improved traffic flow to the point where parking is a breeze. The ramps leading into and out of the garage are convenient, and there are cool LED lights above every parking space that tell you whether the space is occupied (red) or free (green). At the end of each aisle is another digital sign telling you the sum of all the green spaces so you don't go down a row where there aren't spaces. Neat. TIP: Park on level 2 if you can as that is where the bridges are that lead straight into the Springs. On other levels (including level 1), you must take escalators first to get to level 2, then across.

It was lightly sprinkling when I arrived (around 8pm) but it was decent enough to walk around. I stopped for dinner at Paradiso 37 and had the Grilled Chicken Burrito (Flour Tortilla, Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables, P37 Cheese, Chipotle Mango BBQ Sauce, Cilantro Rice, Charro Beans) minus the rice. I also got an order of chips & salsa and a house margarita, the later making a nice uno, dos, tres picture:

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Dinner was tasty, although the burrito was small. The menu is not Mexican but rather a Latin blend. Not bad though for Central Florida.

After dinner, I walked through what was the Village. It's nice to see them re-building Fulton's - it will be nice to see the stern wheel return and the boat looking more boat-like with the remodel. The east end of the Springs was busy, but it always seems crowded given the tighter paths and more intimate layout of the buildings in the former Village Marketplace (which I sorely miss). What I was not prepared for, however, was the expansion that has gone on south of the Lego store into what was the old middle parking lot. Tons of new stores and more still unopened. However, the magic is lost on me in this new part, as it looks and feels like any other high-end outdoor mall. The shops are decisively un-Disney (do we need an Under Armour store?) and obviously nothing more than a cash grab. I got through that section as quickly as possible.

DAY 2, Tuesday May 17 Evening

Another rainy night, this one doubly-so, as a big thunderstorm rolled through around 6pm. Not wanting to get drenched, I tried to find indoor activities and settled upon the goal of having dinner in one of the resort hotels. After parking at the Grand Floridian, I took the express monorail to the MK station and then caught a boat to Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. They were running a single boat to both resorts and I knew these boats had mostly indoor seating. The boat ride was nice and allowed me to avoid the heavier parts of the storm, although I did get to watch people scramble around the MK entrance from my relatively dry position under the canopy at the boat dock.

After the boat ride, I hopped onto the express monorail again and rode to the next stop: the Contemporary. I went down to The Wave restaurant as I've always wanted to try it. There was a short wait in the dining room but immediate seating at the bar, so I opted for the latter. I had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin upon recommendation from my bartender. The first attempt was a fail - the steak arrived dry and overcooked. They promptly took it back and returned with a nice, juicy version which was delicious. Washed down with a couple Manhattans, it was shaping into a nice evening. Plus I had a nice conversation with a guy at the bar who was attending a different conference, so it was a fun, grown-up evening.

Later, much later, I hopped onto the express monorail and rode two more stops, getting off at the Poly. I wanted to see how the new overwater bungalows have affected the view from the shoreline. Unfortunately, it started raining again pretty heavily around that time so I aborted that and took the monorail back to the Grand Floridian and went back to my hotel.

DAY 3, Wednesday, May 18 Mid-day

The portion of the conference I was attending wrapped in the morning, affording me the rare opportunity to do something I've always wanted to do: visit one of the Disney water parks. Having checked out of my hotel that morning, I had my bathing suit in my car, plus I have 9 Water Parks & More options left unused on my no expiration ticket. (Man, do I miss those no-expiration tickets!) Plus admission is $60, so I really felt like I got in free.

Since I was at Coronado, the obvious choice was to go down the street to Blizzard Beach. My ticket worked, so I went in, bought sunscreen and the nice lady gave me a free towel (saving the $2 rental). I then paid my $10 for the all-day locker, changed, and was off to the fun.

Blizzard Beach is nicely-themed and has a good selection of slides and water activities. But if you're used to other water parks, you might be surprised by how small the park is. I was, especially after getting spoiled by a trip to Schlitterbahn last summer. Anyway, I rode the chairlift and went down Summit Plummet. Then rode the chairlift again and went down Slush Gusher. Both are fun, fast slides. I then hiked the mountain (taking the stairs) and rode Teamboat Springs, which is a group raft slide. At the bottom, there is a convenient entrance to Cross Country Creek, the park's lazy river. The cool thing (literally) about the river is that it flows through a tunnel in the mountain. Not just that, but there are also waterfalls inside. Not just that, but the waterfalls are ICE COLD. Disney likes to plus things up and this was a surprisingly refreshing touch.

I rode half the river (it's kinda boring by yourself) and got off to go ride the Snow Stormers which is a water slide you go down on a foam mat. That's kinda old school for me, as I remember early water parks used to be big on foam mats for all the slides, at least when I was a kid.

So I did all that in guess how long? An hour. Yeah, I know! There was hardly anyone in the park. The only big-ish things I missed were the "racing" slides which I didn't really need to do since I was alone and they're so short. I looked to see about lunch choices in the park. There are some decent selections, and if I was going to spend the entire day there I'd be happy. But I thought it'd be more fun to squeeze one more magical thing in and go over to Beaches 'n Cream at the Beach Club for lunch instead.

Like I said, I paid for the Water Park & More option on my pass years ago, probably paying $50 for the upgrade (I don't recall the exact amount). At $60 a pop, I am definitely getting my money's worth. I still have eight unused and never-expiring days left. The first one, by the way, was at Disney Quest back in 2008 which I reviewed here (viewtopic.php?f=11&t=4549&p=71368#p71368).

At Beaches 'n Cream, I had a 15 minute wait for a spot at the counter. They first tried to seat me at the last seat on the far left. Don't do this, it sucks. I've had it before, and all you do is avoid getting brushed by the wait staff as they go back and forth. I told the hostess I preferred to wait for another spot and she immediately moved me to another open seat in the middle of the counter where I could watch them make all the Kitchen Sinks. If you don't know what that is, it's the giagantic dessert specialty. When someone orders one, they make a big announcement, turn on flashing lights, and make a spiel about all the stuff that goes into it. When the waitress (or waiter) gets to the part about using a whole can of whipped cream, the entire staff shouts "A WHOLE CAN!". It's fun, and I started to shout it out too as there were a lot of people ordering these during my short lunch visit.

No Sink for me though, just a chicken sandwich and Cherry Coke. The Coke is good because they put cherry syrup into the Coke there, fountain-style.

SUMMARY

Nice trip, lots to do without paying to get into the parks (aside from the water park of course).
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Len90
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Re: Mini Trip Report May 16-18, 2016

Post by Len90 » May Sun 22, 2016 8:32 pm

Wow nice little trip you squeezed out of this. Really seems like you made the most of your time without really shelling out any money. It's interesting to hear all the stories lately of people cashing in old park passes from many years ago that never expired. It's amazing to think what a bargain that has become after all the price increases at the parks.

I personally have never been to the water parks as we usually stay at the Yacht/Beach and make great use of the pool complex there. It has everything I need in a pool... volleyball, slide, lazy river and a shallow beach end (kiddie pool).
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cy1229
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Re: Mini Trip Report May 16-18, 2016

Post by cy1229 » May Sun 22, 2016 8:47 pm

Sounds like a great time!

I've gone to Typhoon Lagoon before with the girls when they were 9 and 13, and we had a lot of fun. I enjoy water parks, and would like to try Blizzard Beach some time.

I've also always wanted to do a monorail crawl of sorts. Doesn't have to be a true crawl, just go from resort to resort, doing something fun or eating something yummy. Thanks for sharing your mini Trip!
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Amy
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Re: Mini Trip Report May 16-18, 2016

Post by Amy » May Sun 22, 2016 9:32 pm

What a fun way to round out your conference days! Sounds like you made the most of it. I hope work reimburses you some toward your food expenses ~ since you were on a work trip and all :D
Interesting observation about the cash grabby-ness of Disney Springs. The only positive side I can see to Under Armour being there is if they have Disney themed stuff. But I don't wear that brand generally anyhow so it won't really matter to me I suppose. Thanks for the tips on parking and seating at Beaches 'n Cream. I will have to remember those if we get to either of those spots in the near future :D

horizons1
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Re: Mini Trip Report May 16-18, 2016

Post by horizons1 » May Mon 23, 2016 3:21 pm

Len90 wrote:I personally have never been to the water parks as we usually stay at the Yacht/Beach and make great use of the pool complex there. It has everything I need in a pool... volleyball, slide, lazy river and a shallow beach end (kiddie pool).
Me too, Len. Beach Club is my resort-of-choice for vacations, so this was one time when I really had no excuse not to try the water park!
cy1229 wrote:I've also always wanted to do a monorail crawl of sorts. Doesn't have to be a true crawl, just go from resort to resort, doing something fun or eating something yummy. Thanks for sharing your mini Trip!
Yeah, I have friends who do the whole bar-crawl thing. Not my scene, although I do enjoy a good beverage.
Amy wrote:I hope work reimburses you some toward your food expenses ~ since you were on a work trip and all ...
The only positive side I can see to Under Armour being there is if they have Disney themed stuff.
Work does reimburse, so yay. And I doubt U.A. is anything more than a stock store. Nothing Disney about the shops going in, at least in that section.
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