Grumpy Old Men On Tour: Walt Disney World Day 2

NOTE: The events in this post and the following series all took place pre-COVID. Many of the rules and planning for a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW)have changed since my last trip. Be sure to do your own research as things change frequently right now at WDW and any destination in general.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resitance

Crowd at the Hollywood Studios gate waiting for rope drop
The crowds waiting before “rope drop” were pretty large and I think all were there for one reason – a boarding pass.

The alarm went off at 6:00 AM. Maybe a little earlier or a little later. I hadn’t slept that much because I was more excited that I should be for the day ahead. We needed to move quickly if we wanted to get to Hollywood Studios before “rope drop” – that magic moment that we would be allowed into the park so we could use our Disney Experience apps to try and snag a boarding pass for the hottest ticket in town: Rise of the Resistance!

We used the portable coffee pot to heat water for the instant oatmeal we had brought, checked to make sure that we had everything we would need for the day, called for an Uber and by 7:00 AM we were on our way.

A crowd of eager Star Wars fans were already there to greet us and jostling for their position in line. Because we had packed wisely, security was not an issue for us (“bags open and ready please, all electronics out of your pockets, remove your hats, etc.”). The excitement in the air reminded me of the eager anticipation at the movie theaters when a new episode of Star Wars came out.

At about 7:30 AM were were let through the gates and moved to various sections of the park. Bob and I found a spot in Municiberg (by the way, the only “berg” I know of that ends in “berg” is an iceberg. The rest, including the town I live in end in “burg.” Okay, I guess Pittsburgh ends with an “h.”) and we waited. I grabbed a roll and Diet Coke at a stand simply called “Market” (hey, we were going to burn a lot of calories – I needed to keep my strength up) and as 8:00 AM approached I readied my app.

Storm Troopers walking through Galaxy's Edge
Storm Troopers on crowd control duty.

Minutes dragged on like days, seconds like hours, but eventually my phone indicated 8:00 AM. Furiously I pressed the button on the app to get our boarding pass, I heard cheers go up all around us and the loudest may have been mine – we did it! We had a boarding pass and for a low number. We were likely to get to experience Rise of the Resistance before noon!

Now, in theory, once the app notified us that our party was boarding we had an hour to get into the queue line – not unlike a Fast Pass. So we could have enjoyed another attraction or two while we waited or even gone over to Epcot and made it back in time to get on the attraction. The operative words being “in theory.” We choose to stay close by however and enjoyed the sites and sounds of the entire land. At first we tried to enter the Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land but found that the route was currently blocked off. Not because of a problem, but because the line to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run attraction was already so long there wasn’t room for anyone to enter from that side. So we walked around and entered by the tunnel on the other side.

I have to say, even though I had experienced the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge in 2019 I was still impressed with the level of detail Disney has put into the surroundings. From the mountain peaks to the theming of the restrooms. And there were little surprises through the day. Storm Troopers are a regular site on patrol of Black Spire Outpost (as denizens of Galaxy’s Edge call their community). They seem to be constantly working crowd control and telling citizens to keep moving along. Other characters from Star Wars appear as well, including Wookies and random droids, but don’t hold your breath for any of the classic characters like Luke or Leia – they are now legends.

I did not try any of the food in this land not even the fabled blue milk nor did I get in line to purchase a custom made light saber. I guess my geekness is waning in my old age.

The attraction must have been operating pretty well the day were were there because our party boarded at around 10:00 AM. I won’t spoil things for any of you, but I was blown away by the experience. I loved the level of detail and they pulled a trick or two I hadn’t seen before. I swear that at times you could feel the ship “rumble” under foot while moving through the corridors. This attraction, IMHO, is just about as immersive as you can get while still dealing with a large crowd of people. It’s really like stepping into the movie.

Bob and I disagree on this attraction, by the way, though he was impressed I think he would have much preferred if the original legendary characters were used instead of those from the current Star Wars canon. I can’t really say I disagree with him on this point, but I also realize that I’m not the primary target audience for Disney in this case. They want the new generation of fans not those of us who won’t stand in line for a $200 display light saber or toy droid. Consarn it all!

Having accomplished our mission for the day it was time to move onto the main event: the Magic Kingdom!

The Magic Kingdom

We could have hopped a bus and gone directly to the Magic Kingdom from Hollywood Studios, but I thought that Bob might enjoy the scenic route so he could get a better feel for the scope and size of the World. We once again took the Skyliner, I think our favorite form of transportation for this trip, over to Epcot. Crossing through the World Showcase and past the construction fences we went under Spaceship Earth, pausing only for a few minutes while Bob marveled at the sheer size of this fully realized geodesic sphere, and caught the monorail.

Now maybe it’s because I grew up watching the Wonderful World of Disney as a kid and watched the sleek futuristic train zoom by on my television screen (in living color no less) or because I memorized the catchy tune from The Simpsons (monorail, monorail…hey, it put North Haverbrock on the map) but I enjoy riding the monorail. Gliding along above the Florida wetlands which make up the majority of the World’s landscape. The trip from Epcot to the Transportation Center always takes a little longer than I think it does but it is a nearly 8 mile trip and we cover it in about 14 minutes not counting the transfer to the Seven Seas Lagoon loop.

I think it was during this ride that Bob was finally able to grasp the scope and size of Walt Disney World. I tried to tell him before the trip, other friends tried to tell him, heck, even my sister told him (“start walking now Bob and wear comfortable shoes” was her advice to him when she learned of the upcoming trip)! But realizing the distances between parks really hits home when you can’t even see the spires of Cinderella’s Castle from Epcot. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are within walking distance of each other – the Magic Kingdom is almost a (Walt Disney) World away.

Macaroni and Cheese Footlong Hot Dog, Fries, and a Diet Coke
Macaroni and Cheese Footlong from Casey’s Corner on Mainstreet USA.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom we took the usual pictures in front of the castle, I pointed out the names above the shops along Mainstreet USA, and we just in general just soaked in the atmosphere. Then, since it was well past our usual lunch times we sought out food!

Casey’s Corner was our choice for lunch. I had a Bacon Macaroni and Cheese All-Beef Footlong (a foot-long hot dog topped with macaroni & cheese and bacon served with French Fries) with a Diet Coke to drink. I’m not sure what Bob chose, but I think it was a more traditional hot dog or chili dog. However, just recently he mentioned to me that it was the best hot dog he’s ever had. The snap, the seasoning, everything just worked. The french fries in my opinion are fairly standard amusement park fare, but they hit the spot and were well prepared. Not McDonald’s, but a satisfying side.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hitting a few of the Magic Kingdom favorites including:

  • The Enchanted Tiki Room
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Hall of Presidents

I’m sad to report that our experience in Pirates was less than ideal. The people in the row behind us on the boat talked through the entire attraction – at full volume. I’ve never understood why people would pay good money – and a lot of it – to go someplace like WDW and then not pay attention to the show that’s being presented around them. They probably talk at movie theaters, too.

Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow walking through Frontierland
Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle the Cow casually out for a stroll in Frontierland.

To make matters worse we had almost the same thing happen to us in the Haunted Mansion. In this case it seemed to be a group of teens or young adults who were fans of the ride and seemed to think that we would enjoy their narration more than the attraction’s. Given that the closest group to us was in another car they had to be be working at talking louder than the dialogue being given over the “Doom Buggy’s” internal speakers. Oh well.

It had been a long time since I had visited the Hall of Presidents and I’m glad that we did this one. The show has probably seen larger crowds, but who doesn’t feel a stirring of patriotic pride when each president is introduced?

Dinner was at the Liberty Tree Tavern. A restaurant right in the middle of Liberty Square which I had never eaten at before – what a meal I had been missing on earlier trips. We were seated in the Ben Franklin room, which was decorated with replicas of mementos from Franklin’s life. The meal was a Thanksgiving feast (all you care to eat and brought to your table) which had just about every home style comfort food you could want: a salad starter, rolls, roasted turkey breast, pot roast, and oven-roasted Pork with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, herb stuffing, and house-made macaroni and cheese. For desert Bob had their famous Oooey Gooey Toffee Cake which is vanilla toffee cake, chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream. I don’t do chocolate so the waiter brought me a dish of vanilla ice cream to finish my meal. We must have put away quite a few carbs though when at the end of the meal the waiter approached Bob with a dish in hand “here sir,” he said, “this is something you might like – it’s fruit.” We’re sure he meant nothing by it but somehow it seemed to us that he was politely offering Bob something he had never seen before, a healthy alternative to what we had just enjoyed. Maybe the third helping of stuffing put us over the edge.

We had just missed the fireworks and were both exhausted from the long day so we took a few evening photos of Cinderella’s Castle and headed out to catch the bus back to the hotel.

As always, to be continued…

Cinderella's Castle at night with the Partners statue in the foreground
Is there a more picturesque site in all of Walt Disney World? I don’t think so.

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Grumpy Old Men on Tour: Walt Disney World Day 1

NOTE: The events in this post and the following series all took place pre-COVID. Many of the rules and planning for a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW)have changed since my last trip. Be sure to do your own research as things change frequently right now at WDW and any destination in general.

Day 1: Hollywood Studios and Epcot

The Flight and Arrival

We got up early to catch our flight from Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). I’m always nervous about not leaving enough time and take the recommendation of arriving at least an hour and a half for domestic flights seriously. In fact, I usually try to be at the airport two hours early. By the time you park off site (the least expensive option at DTW), get your shuttle bus, check your bags (1 bag under 50 pounds to avoid fees, plus the trusty CPAP which does not count as luggage by the way), go through security (almost always quick at DTW – unlike other airports I’ve been at), and find the gate (why is it always the furthest gate from the security checkpoint?), make one last trip to the restroom, etc. and you can use up most of the two hours easily.

Anyway, after one last check to make sure that we were properly packed, that our Magic Bands were on, and a quick trip through the McDonald’s drive-through for breakfast, like Crosby and Hope we were on the road (you youngsters will have to look up this reference. Trust me, it’s funny)!

Oh those Marketing folks at Disney. They take advantage of every opportunity. Too bad they couldn’t cover the mirrors though.

A quick note on airport security and one I think that TSA would appreciate me bringing up. Even if you are a seasoned flyer and think you know all the rules take a few minutes before you pack your carry-on and look at them again (check the TSA website for the current list). In these security conscious times they do occasionally change and I’ve been in too many lines where too many people seem to be caught unaware. For those of us traveling with medications be prepared, don’t have them buried in a hard to get to spot keep them readily available. More info directly from TSA is here. Likewise with medical devices – for example, you will have to take your CPAP machine out of it’s bag.

Back to our story…

I had one primary goal for this trip and that was to get a “boarding pass” to experience the brand new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction at Hollywood Studios. Beyond this as I mentioned in my previous post (which is here and details our preparation for the trip if you haven’t read it yet) I considered this to be Bob’s trip since it was his first time. However, since he is a more avid Star Wars fan that I am, Rise of the Resistance and all of Galaxy’s Edge was high on his list too.

Our game plan for today was simple. Get to our hotel, stow our gear, get on a bus and head to Hollywood Studios to scope out the situation. Making use of our previously reserved fast passes we should be able to get onto Toy Story Mania, Smuggler’s Run, and see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.

The flight was without incident and we arrived in sunny Orlando a little ahead of schedule. I don’t know why I was surprised to see that the marketers at Disney had already figured out how to promote the new Stars Wars attraction by decorating the airport’s monorail station to look like a transport station in a galaxy far away. If there’s one thing the folks at Disney know, it’s how to market!

We collected our bags and made our way to the Disney Magical Express bus (this service is being discontinued soon by WDW, by the way which is a shame as it was a nearly magical start to our vacation) and soon arrived at the All-Star Music Resort before noon. Using the Disney app to check in we learned that our rooms wouldn’t be available until 3:00 PM (we anticipated this) so we checked our bags at the bell station made sure our Magic Bands were securely attached to our wrists and headed to the bus to get to our first park – Hollywood Studios. All this without realizing we had made a mistake that would impact the rest of our afternoon (insert ominous music here).

Hollywood Studios

My first meal of the trip.

We arrived at the gates of Hollywood Studios before noon ready to scope out the new Galaxy’s Edge and the other attractions in the park. After a few pictures on Hollywood Boulevard, we had purchased the Memory Maker photo package after all, our first order of business was to try out our dining plan and have some lunch – it had been a long time since breakfast back in Detroit! We were moving around the park counter clockwise so we stopped in Toy Story Land at Woody’s Lunch Box. I ended up ordering the BBQ Brisket Melt (Shredded Smoked Brisket, Pickles, and Tangy Barbecue Sauce between Melted Cheddar and Monterey Jack on Grilled Sourdough Bread), potato tots, and a Diet Coke. Seating was at a premium in the lunch box’s courtyard but we finally found a spot to squeeze in. I found my meal to be very satisfying if somewhat pedestrian tasting – tangy might not be the best way to describe the barbecue sauce – but I didn’t expect an adventurous menu in Toy Story Land.

We were able to fit quite a bit into this first afternoon and experienced the following attractions:

  • Muppet Vision 3-D
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
  • Toy Story Mania
Bob (right), Edna Mode (center), and myself (left).
Photo taken by a WDW photographer.

Of this group Toy Story Mania is still my favorite attraction. I have to say though that I hadn’t been on Star Tours in decades and the relatively new, at least to me, upgrades to this attraction are great! Smuggler’s Run is fun but for me the real thrill is having the experience of actually stepping onto the deck of the fabled spaceship. The detail is just that good inside. The Indiana Jones show was fun as usual, but there was an issue with one of the major effects on the day we were there and a certain boulder failed to roll. Though, the show was so well done I’m not sure if the malfunction wasn’t part of it. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me. Sadly, Muppet Vision 3D is in need of a make over. It’s still fun but given how the technology has improved over the years with 3D movies in theatres the novelty isn’t quite the same. It’s always a delight though to see Waldorf and Statler in person even if they do remind me of a couple of other grumpy old men I know.

As evening approached we decided that we better move on to Epcot where we had dinner reservations. We’d be back in the morning after all to try and get our boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance and we were both eager to see how the new Skyliner worked.


By the way, does it bother anyone else that Disney no longer capitalizes all the letters in “Epcot?” It does me. I guess I’m a purist or just old enough to remember that EPCOT is an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

There was a lot of concern regarding the Skyliner when it first opened. It seems that it had a habit of breaking down and stranding guests for hours with no way to get down. I’m happy to report that this did not happen to us and the system seemed to work exactly as intended. We both did notice the emergency pack stowed in the cabin though.

It was a fairly hot and humid day, but we found the breeze created by the motion of the cabin along the cable to be sufficient. By this time though we were happy to be off of our feet for a little bit. You may remember I mentioned a mistake back at the hotel. It was a rookie one I’m sorry to say. We had dressed for the Michigan winter when we left Detroit that morning. The Florida weather we experienced in early February of 2020 was the opposite of that. We really should have changed from our jeans to our shorts before heading out for the day. Bob regretted not switching to his walking shoes especially! I won’t ever make that goof again.

Mickey and Bob share a laugh at Epcot.
Photo taken by a WDW photographer.

Arriving at Epcot we encountered and unexpected surprise – we were greeted by Mickey Mouse himself! No line, no fast pass needed. There he was seemingly just waiting for us to come through the gate and say hello. Now, I don’t care how old or grumpy you may think you are – there is something about seeing the Big Cheese in the flesh (so to speak) that just brings out the child in all of us. I didn’t get to take a picture with him on my first trip way back in 1975 – but I’ve been getting a photo ever since! I will also say that this first character greeting seemed to whet Bob’s appetite for them and he became a man on a mission from this point on to find as many favorites as he could, including the elusive Scrooge McDuck (more on this in a future installment)!

Nightly entertainment at the Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany pavilion.

We did not do a lot this particular evening in Epcot as our main reason to be here was for our dinner reservations at the Biergarten in Germany. I had fond memories of this restaurant from a family trip in 2000 and I’m happy to say this evening did not disappoint in any way. The German buffet was bountiful and everything was fresh and delicious. Well, as fresh as a selection of sausages and sauerkraut can be that is. Seating at the Biergarten is communal so you are often paired with another group in true Oktoberfest fashion. We lucked out and were seated with a pleasant world traveling middle-aged couple and had great conversation through our meal. They had been to Greece recently which was were I was scheduled to go in just a few weeks, unfortunately COVID has postponed that trip indefinitely, so I’m glad to have had a chance to talk to some people who had been there at least. I felt adventurous and even had a beer with my meal – a grapefruit ale of all things (Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen). According to the menu description it was a “unique combination of sparkling smooth hefeweizen with grapefruit juice. Refreshing well-rounded taste with tangy character and hints of sweetness that is pleasing to the palate. The world’s first unfiltered grapefruit hefeweizen-mix.” I don’t normally drink and, frankly, have never learned to like beer but I found this one to be pretty tasty.

For entertainment there was a German polka band who played a variety of instruments and even dancing for those who wanted to do so. To finish the evening we continued our walk around the World Showcase and watched the Epcot Forever fireworks show. Then it was back to finally see what our room was like at the hotel.

All-Star Music Resort

As I said in my previous post – I’m not a believer in spending more on a hotel room at WDW than you have to because you are not going to spend a lot of time in the room. Our room was typical of all the All-Star Resorts, clean and comfortable. An interesting feature of the All-Star room is that one of the beds is a Murphy bed which folds up into a cabinet while a table folds out. Perfect for laying out maps or what not during the day or if you bring food from the food court back to the room. The rooms also come with a flat screen television, which we kept mostly to the WDW information channels, but no microwave or refrigerator (they want you to buy food remember). The bathroom is spacious by budget hotel standards and there seemed to be enough storage space for our clothes and luggage.

This first night we didn’t spend a lot of time talking or rehashing the day. We were both exhausted and we also had to get up early tomorrow to be at Hollywood Studios as soon as the gates opened. Our goal – Star Wars: Rise of the Resitance.

I pulled down my bed, plugged in my life support (the CPAP), and quickly fell fast asleep dreaming of things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

To be continued…

Me in front of the Falcon (as I call her). Note the jeans.
Photo taken by Robert J. Yoman.

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr