Coronado Springs, Walt Disney World, 9/27-10/1/19

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 4:41 PM

We haven't done a real "theme park trip" in a very long time, and considering that we only drove three miles for this one, I'm not sure it counts either. But the situation was straight forward enough: I was overdue to take a week off, Simon missed his entire first week of school to illness so we couldn't pull him out, and I was overdue to take a week off. Some weeks ago, I saw an ad for Florida discounts on rooms at Walt Disney World, and found that Coronado Springs, a moderate resort, was down to a little under $250 per night, with tax. We had never even been on that property, but folks seemed to like it. I figured, OK, it's around the corner from Simon's school, it will be unfamiliar, and that will have to be good enough for a brief retreat.

The resort has a Mexico-Southwest feel to it, and the new tower they added made it more classy. The rooms were all recently renovated, as were a lot of common areas, and quite frankly it's all very beautiful. We stayed in one of the older Casitas buildings, but the room was brilliantly new. It follows the usual convention of tile flooring, granite surfaces, a great shower, and room under the beds to stash your suitcases. It's rounded out with an unusually large TV and LED lighting. The room wasn't as large as those we've stayed in at Beach/Yacht Club, but it was more than adequate. We had a slight snafu where the fridge had someone else's leftovers, but a manager came by and cleaned it out.

This particular property is probably best known for "The Dig Site," a centrally located pool complex that includes a Mayan pyramid and a water slide. There's a great waterfall that flows from the top of the pyramid, and a small bar and food stand sits next to it. As pools go, it's one of the best I've seen on WDW property, second only to the one at Beach/Yacht Club. My only real complaint is that it wasn't heated, but that's clearly a Florida life problem.

This is Disney's convention property, so it's huge, with over 2,300 rooms. There are a lot of restaurant and bar options, including a few places in the tower that we did not make it to. However, there's a great full-service bar right in the lobby. We had breakfast at the counter service restaurant, which wasn't bad. We had one dinner in the Rix sports bar, and it was kind of ****ty. They advertised turkey burgers but didn't have any, and the boneless wings I had instead were overcooked. The surprise was the Three Bridges restaurant that's, as you might imagine, at the center of the three bridges across the lagoon. It has a small food menu, but the food is extraordinary, as is the service and beverage options. We managed to sneak out there for a 90-minute date night while Simon watched a movie back in the room. It was a weekend highlight for sure.

Our boy strangely never had an on-property stay, so he was excited to stay there and ride the buses that he's watched for six years. They're not always conveniently timed, but we had one long wait, and others that were perfectly timed. The one night, I met a friend at Disney Springs, and was happy to have that option with the strong beverage I had at Jock's Hangar Bar, and the jug of sangria with dinner earlier. I do find it lame that the resort now charges for parking.

Overall, I give Coronado an enthusiastic thumbs up. It very much felt like a vacation, even if we were close to home.

As for our theme park outings, we finally endured a wait for Smuggler's Run at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Hollywood Studios. I think it ended up being just under an hour, but the line kept moving. The theme of that land and attention to detail is amazing. When we sat down in the Millennium Falcon, I'm not going to lie, I got a little emotional, but there are things to do immediately so no time to screw around. Simon and I were pilots, where I did lateral movement, he did vertical. Unfortunately he didn't hear that it was inverted, like a real plane, so, he crashed into a lot of stuff and we scored 20%. It was still pretty cool.

Beautiful as Galaxy's Edge is, there isn't a ton to do there. The lines for the Cantina are insane, and Rise of The Resistance doesn't open until December at best. It will definitely be a more complete experience with the other ride.

We spent a few hours at Magic Kingdom on another day, where I discovered that Pecos Bill's has a rice bowl that I'll eat, and it was delicious. More importantly, there's something I'll eat that isn't deep fried. I also have new appreciation for the air time in the back seat of Space Mountain. That was nuts.

On Monday, I met up with a friend from DC, and we did an Epcot drink-around-the-world tour: 11 drinks in 11 countries. I did this once before when Diana and I had our first child-free vacation some seven years ago, but this was planned. As I suspected, this isn't really that much of an achievement. That many drinks over nine hours probably won't even get you buzzed. But it was fun to have good company and people watch. The jerk chicken in the Caribbean stand is amazing, and I still love the cheese bread in Brazil. We had dinner at Le Cellier, which is still crazy expensive, but the food and service are great. We all had fruity drinks with glowing ice cubes, and the waitress immediately caught on to Simon's distress over this and brought one for him. We definitely reported this kindness and attention to a manager.

The big event was the last show for Illuminations. I've not seen it that crowded in a long time, and definitely not that late in the day. Rain almost made things miserable, but it stopped just as the show started. Unfortunately, they didn't really do anything special for it, but I've never heard anyone cheer for a nighttime spectacular like that. The show will certainly be missed.

So for four nights, we did Disney like tourists, and despite the familiarity of the parks, the resort made it feel like a vacation. We had a really good time. It's clear that Diana and I need another long weekend away though, and we need to figure out how to make that happen.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019 5:38 PM

Sounds like fun. I've always wonder if that type of trip allows you to relax when you live in vacation land. Mission accomplished.

My thought with the bus system is that you just have to roll with it and take it for what it is - not perfect, but very functional. Outside of closing time, I've never encountered a standing room only bus and closing time is when the $10-15 Uber/Lyft ride back to a resort is worth every penny.

The rice bowl at Pecos Bill's is excellent. We were there in 2015 on the day when they reopened with the new concept and menu and I tried it then. My only small critique is that I would probably like it a little more with white or brown rice versus the Spanish yellow rice. (As an aside, I just glanced at the menu on the app and they've added hamburgers. Odd.)

I haven't had Le Cellier in nearly 15 years, but it was probably the best restaurant I've been to at the resort. That's great about the waitress getting your kid the light up ice cube. That kind of empowerment and initiative of employees is one of the things I love about Disney. My kid took a spill out of her stroller on Main Street during her first visit and I was amazed at the quick reaction of a gaggle of nearby employees. She was fine, but it felt comforting to get the fast attention.

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Monday, October 7, 2019 9:38 PM

I’ve got to say, this photo did hurt a little

https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2019/10/07/epcots-illuminations-globe-seen-demolished-in-photos-over-the-weekend

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019 12:57 PM

Apparently, that thing was well beyond the end of its useful service life.

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