Sunday, November 13, 2016

Orlando Memories

Five years and one month ago (or thereabouts), we went to Orlando with the primary goals of seeing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and stuffing our faces at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. It was our first time at both, and although the days were long and busy and exhausting (tons of steps!), and A unfortunately got sick, we had a really good time.

Now that we've finally finished recapping the trip, here's a summary recap of everything we did and some reflections, since our memories of this trip have been spread out on this blog over the last five years.

We left in the morning from Newark, grabbing a breakfast of cinnamon pretzel sticks, chili, and a Jamba Juice smoothie for breakfast before our flight. (Oh, to be young(er) again.) The flight from NYC to Orlando wasn't long, only a few hours, and we got there in time for a late Chick-fil-A lunch. (Since we wrote that post two years ago, Chick-fil-A has opened a couple of stores here in NYC, so it's no longer so hard to find.) Then we were off to rent our car and check into our hotel and get settled in at Disney.

Most of the time when we've stayed on the Disney World premises, we've stayed on the Epcot side. That made sense this time especially since we were pretty much going to spend all of our time at the Food and Wine Festival, but we've always preferred staying there to not take buses. It's a short walk to Epcot, a short water taxi to Hollywood Studios, and then our preference was usually a walk through Epcot to the monorail to get to Magic Kingdom. No easy way to get to Animal Kingdom, but three out of four is pretty good. This time, it was tough to get a room because of the festival, and we ended up on the Vacation Club side of the Boardwalk. It was fine, and the location was good, but pretty expensive.

After checking in and relaxing a bit, it was time for dinner. We were really excited because we had made advance reservations for Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We love Boma, which if you're unfamiliar is a buffet of African dishes. We like it mostly because it's different, and we always end up trying some dish we've never had before. We're glad places like Boma exist, since in many parts of the country and world, it's not really that easy to try food from different regions in Africa. We're lucky here in NYC to have done some exploration, but even here, it's not that easy, and so much of the continent isn't covered, so there is so much we still haven't tried. Boma is a great way to push out of your comfort zone, and it's on our must list for Disney visits. It's even easier if you have a car since getting there by bus could take forever. (We've done it.)

We spent our first full day in Orlando at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal's Islands of Adventure. I love Harry Potter, so I had been wanting to set foot in Hogsmeade and Hogwarts for a long time. We were pretty excited about our lunch at the Three Broomsticks - fish and chips, Cornish pasties, pumpkin juice, and butterbeer. It was fun getting to try things that they always talked about in the books and the movies, even if the food/drinks weren't that exciting on their own. We also checked out the shops and went on all of the rides (although only A rode the Dragon Challenge).

We spent a lot of our Universal Day doing Harry Potter stuff, but we also visited the other "islands" (mostly Marvel Super Hero Island, Jurassic Park, and Seuss Landing), going on more rides and picking up a few snacks along the way (chicken fingers and ice cream). Universal's fun, although the price keeps climbing, and we can imagine that buying tickets for a family to both halves of the Universal theme park (which you'd now have to do if you wanted to see all the Harry Potter stuff, since the new half we haven't seen yet is in the other park) could be really cost-prohibitive these days. Our first day concluded at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs with a late dinner at Raglan Road, enjoying the music and food at the Irish pub.

For the next 2.5 days, we spent our time at Epcot, which is our favorite part of Disney World, eating at every single kiosk at the Food and Wine Festival, going on rides, visiting the pavilions of the World Showcase, and soaking up the hot Florida weather. Some of the kiosks and dishes from 2011 are still around in this year's festival, but others have since rotated out. The ones we visited were (in alphabetical order):

Brewer's Collection
Craft Beer
Desserts and Champagne
Fife and Drum
Hops and Barley
Japan (parts 1 and 2)
New Zealand
South Africa
South Korea 

As we mentioned in our final post on the Food and Wine Festival, some of our favorite kiosks were Scandinavia, Hops and Barley, and New Zealand. There are also some more notes in the overview and some tips in the post about the 2012 festival. We tried every kiosk since it was our first time and we weren't sure when we would be back next. We probably could have had more self-control but we wanted to eat everything. It was a fun challenge trying to hit all the kiosks, and we succeeded!

After our short Orlando trip, it was time to go home, with one last meal at the airport before leaving Florida. We haven't been back to Florida since then, and we're not sure when we'll be back there next. Disney is always a fun place to go, but it's gotten really, really, really expensive. Hopefully someday we'll make it back and also back to the Food and Wine Festival.

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