Day 7: Walt Disney World or Bust!

Now I know you think we were crazy for taking a red-eye from Honolulu to LA and then getting right on a plane to Orlando, but it actually really helped us reset our internal clocks from Hawaii Standard Time to Eastern Standard Time FAST! At LAX, we had just enough time for an aggressively mediocre breakfast at the Gladstone’s Express (where they were inexplicably blaring disco music at 7am) before our Virgin America flight to MCO departed.

I’d debated finally using Magical Express on this super-short trip, but I just couldn’t get over that feeling of helplessness we Angelenos feel when we don’t have wheels. So we went with the cheapest rental we could find, which turned out to be Budget… which turned out to be no Alamo, that’s for sure! The pickup process took forEVER, and they got snippy with us for refusing the extra insurance, and they didn’t let us pick out our own car. Boo!

And then, we were off to Walt Disney World!

The “No Stopping” signs they installed a few years ago always crack me up—first they create these awesome gates that you can’t help but want to photograph, and then they yell at you for trying to get a good photo of them!


We were staying at the Contemporary because that’s where Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ bridal showcase was this time. (In case you’ve forgotten in the months it’s taken me to tell this story, the whole reason we cut short our anniversary trip to Hawaii and flew straight to Orlando was that bridal showcase.) Originally I’d booked a screamin’ deal for a Garden Wing room, but I got to thinking about how much more convenient my last stay in the main tower was compared to our honeymoon stay in the Garden Wing, so I ended up cutting a day off our trip so we could have a Lake View tower room instead.

NOT where we stayed


I don’t know if you can tell in the photos, but that fancy new decor they’d just installed when we stayed at the Contemporary on our honeymoon is starting to look a bit worse for wear now, five years later. We had disintegrating baseboards, marks on the walls, and a sagging bathroom door that would pinch your fingers off if you pushed it too far back on its track.

Props if you can tell me what this towel animal is supposed to be. I’m thinking it’s actually an alien lifeform…


All they gotta do is print a fireplace scene on plastic and slip it over that light—instant ambience!


It IS really really cool to stay in the main building at the Contemporary, if only because you can watch the monorails right outside your door. The Garden Wing just feels like a Moderate resort that’s putting on airs…

The bane of the concourse’s existence…



In The Future, you will be able to spend 15 minutes trying to get into your room as you repeatedly swipe your malfunctioning MagicBand over the reader they’ve installed to replace the keycard reader!

OOOooooohhhhh…. it’s a FLOWER!

Nice how the comfy, padded part of the headboard doesn’t start til well above head level!


We followed our traditional first-night plan of dinner and IllumiNations in Epcot. I wanted to shoot the show from the Canada Overlook dessert party spot so I could see if the overhanging trees obscure your view of the show. For dinner, I picked Biergarten to make it up to Patrick. He’s always wanted to eat there, and I never let him because I don’t like Disney buffets. And the one time we did make reservations there—with the Roots, no less!—he ended up having to leave Florida early to work (thanks a lot, Pee-Wee Herman!) and never got to try it.

What made this dinner even more special was the reunion with our pal Fran, a Disney bride and fan of my book who generously invited us to her wedding in the Germany Pavilion after meeting only once, at D23 Expo. As it turned out, she and her now-husband are both librarians, so they had LOTS to talk about with library-puppet-show vet Patrick—we all got on like a house afire! And someday, I promise, I will write a report about THAT trip, because it was super-awesome to finally get to be a guest at a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding.

Anyway, it was quite fitting that she joined us for dinner in Germany!

As it turned out, Fran and Patrick also share an adorably nerdy love of space exploration, so they were chattering like magpies for most of dinner. Which looked like this….

…. for somebody who wasn’t me. Holy pickled EVERYTHING!

Actually, I ended up really loving Biergarten’s food the second time around, mostly because I discovered the Smorgasbord of Starches—namely, warm potato salad, mac and cheese, potato balls, and spaetzle! My first helping of pork loin was also quite tasty, but when I went back for seconds, the new one they’d put out was dry. So maybe I just hit all the dud replacement dishes last time I was there.

“Dooooooon’t go back for any poooork loin/The verrrry best one is all gone!”


As an experiment on behalf of my pals on the DISboards’ Cake Chatter thread (and also cuz most of Biergarten’s desserts are sullied with fruit), I ordered a “podium” celebration cake—the kind you can get just by asking when you check in for your reservation. I was curious to see if the ones at Disney-run Epcot restaurants were still the glorified Easy-Bake Oven deals that taste like stale Twinkies (R.I.P.) covered in crappy whipped cream. They are not!

I’ve since learned (for those of you following along at home) that Epcot now employs a real pastry chef and has stepped up their game with custom cakes too. Hooray!

Before we headed off to Canada, I asked Patrick to try and get some better shots than the ones I have of the dessert party location in Germany. This is always when I wish I had a fancy DSLR and the talent and patience to take really good photos.

I also had him attempt to get shots of the Mexico dessert party location, but it was being used by a group that night, so he had to shoot over the dang rope.


Canada Overlook is that little turnout around the corner from the Canada Pavilion as you head toward Future World. It is one of the places they stick smaller groups who want to do private events at Epcot, and I’ve always been troubled by the overhanging trees that would seem to obscure your view of IllumiNations. As it turns out, if you stand up against the fence, you don’t really see the branches as you watch the show. But if, say, someone were taking your photo in your wedding threads in front of the show, most of the high fireworks would definitely be behind the trees.



Even the ducks drop everything to watch IllumiNations each night!


On our way out of Epcot I spotted these in person for the first time and was momentarily stricken by their over-the-top tackiness.

I can just imagine the clueless Disney “suit” hovering over a consumer products designer as she sketched the concept for these…

Suit: “Make that goblet more magic-y!”

(Designer adds fleurs-de-lis to base)

Suit: “No, MORE magic-y!”

(Designer adds fleurs-de-lis to cup)

Suit: “Not magic-y enough!!!”

(Designer adds crown trim to cup)

Suit: “MAGIC-Y, I say!”

(Designer adds banner motif with icons)

Suit: “What part of ‘magic-y’ don’t you understand?!!”

(In exasperation, designer draws an ENTIRE CASTLE around the stem)

Suit: “…Yes, but can you make it light up?”

The perfect shirt: An underused character in a classic design that doesn’t fill every square inch of the shirt front


Allllmost…. but why so many different typefaces?


In Future World, Patrick attempted to stamp out all the ground lights…

We accidentally got back to our room just as the Electrical Water Pageant was starting—and we had an excellent view!

I like how this one makes the whale look like he’s spouting FIRE!


Watch out behind you, brontosaurus!!!


And then we dropped dead from sheer exhaustion. The End!

Up Next: Exploring New Fantasyland, Dining at Be Our Guest Restaurant, and CAKE!!!

23 Responses
  • Eileen
    July 26, 2013

    Did Patrick ever stamp out all of the lights?

    • Carrie
      July 27, 2013

      Yes, and he’s never allowed back into Epcot ever again!

  • Katie
    June 27, 2013

    I don’t know if you have heard but Twinkies are coming back, lol.

    I would really love to read your review/thoughts on Victoria & Albert’s one day. You always give really honest and straightforward opinions, so I would love to read thoughts from someone who doesn’t give into hype.

    • Carrie
      June 28, 2013

      Yes! So excited! I will probably run right out the day Twinkies return and buy a whole box, eat one, and then remember that I was always more invested in the *idea* of Twinkies than the actual taste! 😀

      That’s a good idea: I should do a stand-alone review of V&A’s, since I’ll prolly never get around to writing about that whole trip. I can say I was prepared to be eye-rollingly unimpressed but did end up enjoying the food. And the service wasn’t as irritatingly officious as I’d imagined it would be.

  • nora
    June 27, 2013

    I hadn’t realized that so many spaces were available for rent for dessert parties at Epcot. Of course, one drawback is that if the spaces are rented, commoners have fewer places to watch Illuminations.

    • Carrie
      June 27, 2013

      Exactly! And it’s getting worse now that they keep building restaurants on top of viewing spots like Mexico and Morocco. 🙁

  • Carla
    June 26, 2013

    Yikes–that bathroom wallpaper looks like an optical illusion! Did you feel like the walls were moving?
    A question for you–we are finally planning a short Disney Christmas trip! It will be at the beginning of December, and we can probably only spring for two parks. We are not big fans of Hollywood Studios, but would it be worth it to see the Osbourne lights? Your pictures made them look absolutely amazing, but I’m wondering if we should give up a ticket just to see the lights. We love the other three parks and would have a hard enough time choosing two! Of the other three, I’d guess that the Magic Kingdom goes more all-out in decorations. Thanks!

    • Carrie
      June 26, 2013

      Oooh…. that’s a tough one. DHS is my least favorite park, but it’s hard to say whether I’d pass on seeing Osbourne Lights for the first time. If you guys are hobby photographers, you might want to keep it on the itinerary. Price-to-timewise, though, you’re paying an awful lot for something you’d probably only do for about an hour. You definitely have to do the MK, and Epcot does have tons of holiday stuff too. I’d skip AK on this trip, though.

  • jenn paul
    June 25, 2013

    fantastic update! Biergarten is our new first night tradition.. I do not love the food, but what a fun way to start a trip in Disney! Love the band, and dancing. Kids and bob LOVE the food too, so they have decided it is so. I also LOVE when the waiters say :”Vondervul”! My heart skips a beat every time, can’t beat a good german accent!

    OK, so that dole whip shirt was SO pricey, I couldn’t do it. I also thought it had a lot going on.

    VERY cool view! I wanna pick yer brain about some Disney bidness soon!

    Love the update as always!

    • Carrie
      June 26, 2013

      That’s a great idea, to make one restaurant your first-night tradition! And Biergarten is pretty much a quintessential Disney experience to kick things off with. Also, feel free to pick away… :p

  • Katelyn B
    June 25, 2013

    I thought the towel animal was a squished roadkill cat. Whoops!

    • Carrie
      June 25, 2013

      Hey, maybe towel animals are like cloud shapes… everyone sees something different!

  • Elizabeth
    June 25, 2013


    • Carrie
      June 25, 2013

      Maybe he can save Bronty from the crocodile!

  • Cory
    June 25, 2013

    I guess I can see the flower in the towel animal, but in the first picture it really looked like one of the chestbursters from the Alien movies (or maybe my imagination was simply influenced by Carrie’s creative caption).

    • Carrie
      June 25, 2013

      Oh my gosh, you’re right! LOL!

  • Claire (Chilly)
    June 25, 2013

    I’d always go for longer over a better room but you did have a good view.

    • Carrie
      June 25, 2013

      Yeah, and there’s just something about being able to step out your door and practically right onto that monorail…

  • Fran C.
    June 24, 2013


    I loved seeing you and Patrick again and dinner at Biergarten was fantastic! Next time, let’s meet up at the Kennedy Space Center ; ) Thanks again and see ya real soon!

    • Carrie
      June 25, 2013

      Oooh! That is a really good idea! I know Patrick would love to see it, but we never try hard enough to fit it into our trips. That would be a great motivator!

  • Hope
    June 24, 2013

    Towel flower was my guess too. The contemporary looks very contemporary. I don’t like pickles, so I guess I wouldn’t be a fan of Biergarten. It looks like a fun restaurant though. Maybe if I go, I’ll just go for the cake.

    • Carrie
      June 24, 2013

      Let me save you the 40 bucks: You can get that cake at any Walt Disney World restauarant podium (well, except Victoria & Albert’s)!

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