Our birthday magical getaway

Four Walt Disney World parks, two and a half days, what could go wrong? Nothing really. We created a spreadsheet with all of the rides we wanted to ride, booked fast passes for what we did not want to miss and booked the hotel I most wanted to stay at on the Walt Disney World property, Bay Lake Tower. It was finally here, time to leave for Disney!


Bay Lake Tower is unlike most other Disney properties. You have to squint to see the traditional Mickey ears and the hotel appears to cater more to adults than children – although the pool does have an amazing slide that the children loved.


The one bedroom has two bathrooms (ideal with a family of 5), a full kitchen, laundry room, living room, master bedroom and a balcony. The living room has a queen-sized pullout sofa and a twin-sized pull out chair. The furnishings are all modern, clean and beautiful. Our room was on the 10th level and had a nice view of the lake and the pool.

The hotel can’t be beat for its closeness to the Magic Kingdom – a 10-minute walk and you are at the gate. Another bonus feature is the bridge between it and the Contemporary Resort. I found it to be an amazing place to watch the nightly fireworks at the Magic Kingdom – a perfect view of Cinderella’s castle and Space Mountain.

Despite all of these positives, there were a few negatives. Nothing that ruined the trip, but they definitely caused me to lose some sleep. I could hear the toilet in the room above us flush – a very loud high-powered flush. I could also hear a baby crying from the room above us as if he/she was in our room. Not the five o’clock wake up call I was looking for each morning. There was also a nightly 10:30 electric water parade on the lake. When reading the description, this sounded cool, but I definitely didn’t think about how loud the parade would sound!


The best part of our trip was the decision to purchase Disney After Hours. I read on some of the Disney forums that you could get in earlier than the 7 pm promised when purchased and that was correct. The problem with going in earlier is the crowds. Oh the crowds! I looked at all of the crowd calendars before we went and I naively thought that the long weekend we were going would be before Spring break crowds and, therefore, not at top business. I was completely wrong.


From the moment we walked into the Magic Kingdom at 5:30 pm, it was obvious that there were many more people there than I had forecasted. The good news is that with the After Hours tickets, there is a special “gate” for you to go through and they give you your lanyard for the evening indicating it is ok for you to be there after park hours.

Some had indicated on Disney forums that they were able to make fast passes for that evening, but that was not the case for us. Everything we thought of going to when we first got there had wait times 45 minutes or longer. We decided to have dinner at the taco place (walk up and sit down to eat) between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain. It was delicious and helped us kill time until more people left the park. We were going to go on Pirates right after we ate, but the ride went down, so we went over to the Haunted Mansion. We waited about 25 minutes, but it was fun as always.


Afterward, it was nice and dark and time for the Wishes fireworks. We found a place to stand and enjoyed. As always, it is a great show. We knew that we still had about ½ hour before the park cleared out, but went over to tomorrow land. The Toy Story Rangers Spin ride had a shorter wait time so we went on it. The kids had a blast!


Ok, now it was time for After Hours. Woo hoo! We went over to Space Mountain and they were checking to make sure anyone trying to get in had a lanyard. Success! No wait time. The kids loved it so much we went on it two times in a row with no wait time. We then went on the Tomorrow Speedway (maybe 5 minute wait), Winnie the Pooh and then we were dying to try the Mine Train ride. None of us had been on it yet. Despite the After Hours, we waited 25 minutes for the ride. It was fun, but I was disappointed that we had to wait – keep in mind that same day some waited in line three hours to go on it, but that is not my style at all!

We went from Mine Train to It’s a Small World. It was the same as always until the end. There are electronic signs as you are coming to the end of the ride that say goodbye to you personally with your names. The RFID in the bands is a bit creepy that way!


We then went to Thunder Mountain, which had a small wait and right on to Splash Mountain. We got soaking wet on Splash Mountain and then followed it up with Pirates, which was working again. I wouldn’t recommend going on them in this order again at night. Pirates is quite cool and since we were wet, I was freezing!

We had a fantastic time and then walked back to do Space Mountain again before calling it a night. Since we had After Hours, we also got to get free ice cream and drinks for the carts that are all around the Park. This was very convenient – and yummy!


The Park was closing and it was time for bed. We did the 10-minute walk back to Bay Lake Tower, and called it a night.

Next up Hollywood Studios and Epcot. I was so excited that I was up at dawn.


We brought food with us to eat in the hotel room since we had a kitchen. We had breakfast and were on the bus to Hollywood Studios by 8:15 am. The Park opened at 9 am. We did the traditional waiting at the stop line before the Park was opened. We had a plan, but it was all for naught.

While we were waiting, Cast Members walked through the crowd to tell us that Rock and Roll Rollercoaster was down. This was a huge bummer. We were going to do that one first, then Tower of Terror and then Toy Story.

Instead we went straight to Toy Story. We had about a 15 -minute wait, which was definitely the shortest it would be all day. We never did get on Tower of Tower – the ride was immediately a 45-minute wait and went up to 135 minutes before we left the Park.


After Toy Story, we did Star Wars and saw the Star Wars Imperial Star Trooper show. The boys really enjoyed all of these, but when we saw that the ride was still down and the wait time was so high for Tower of Terror, we decided to hop over to Epcot. We had fast passes for Epcot, so we knew we would get to do more over there.


We took the convenient boat at the front of the Park. It stops at several beautiful Disney Resort before heading over to Epcot. Conveniently, the boat drops you off near France at Epcot. No need to walk the huge distance over to the countries from the front of the Park. I did have my first instance of problems with the magic band here. I had a similar problem at Animal Kingdom the next day. All Cast Members were very nice about the issue, we cleared it up and started moving.

The Flower and Garden festival was at Epcot. The flowers and exhibits were truly amazing. We checked the app and again, the wait times were terrible.


We walked over to the Mexico and Norway side of the lake. I had a fast pass for 1 pm for Frozen, so we searched for a place to eat before it was my turn. I was able to find something at China, but the kids were a little bit more difficult.

Frozen was amazing. It is the same track and ride overall as the previous Norway ride, Maelstrom, but the animatronics and overall ride was really beautiful and well done. I really enjoyed it.


Meanwhile, the rest of our party had a fast pass for Test Track, but you guessed it, the ride was down. We headed over to have a snack and then do Imagination, which is always a family favorite. We had really no wait. We did Ellen’s Energy Adventure afterward. I had never done this ride. It was funny, there was no wait and it was nice and cool in it – a win!

Then the family did Mission Space with a fast pass and finally Test Track was back up again. The rest of our party had the fast pass, so they got right on. I did single rider and came out of the ride five minutes after they did – so that was perfect timing. We all love Test Track so that was fantastic!

We ran into a lovely Cast Member at Starbucks while getting coffee. She was so nice and asked if we were having a magical day. I said we were, but my one regret was that we couldn’t get a fast pass for Soarin! and the line was too long for me to get on it. She told me to wait where I was and came back with a fast pass for all five of us. I love Cast Members!!!

Getting to see the new movie on Soarin! really made my day! The movie takes you all over the world. It was beautiful.


We had dinner reservations at the San Angel Inn in Mexico for my birthday. Dinner was delicious. There was only a short wait. The service was good, the food was excellent (I had a Chicken Mole) and the price, well, it’s Disney!


We had a long day and decided to take the Monorail back to the hotel. It’s a bit convoluted to get back from Epcot – much more so than I thought it would be anyway. You take the Monorail back to the transportation center. Then at the transportation center, you get off and go down and around and back up to another platform for Disney resorts. It then stops at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and then goes to the Contemporary. Every one was happy to be back.


The pool at Bay Lake Tower has a long slide, which the kids really enjoyed. While they went to the pool, I went to the Contemporary Shops to see what they had for me to get for gifts. At 9 pm, we went to the bridge between the Contemporary and Bay Lake to view Wishes at Magic Kingdom. It’s a fantastic view, but a bit windy so if it is cool out, it isn’t very comfortable. I still enjoyed getting to see the show again.


We went upstairs and tried to get some rest for our big walking day at Animal Kingdom. Here’s where the Electrical Water Parade barged into my dreams (sorry, couldn’t help the pun). It was so loud. If the kids had still been up, we would have gone out onto the terrace to watch, but it was an exhausting day.


We were up early the next morning because there were extra Magic hours at the Animal Kingdom. We got down to the front of the Contemporary early, but we had just missed the bus. We waited about 20 minutes for the next bus to Animal Kingdom. We were able to get in right away and made a beeline for the Safari. We had a short wait and then got right on.


We always love the Safari. Because it was early in the morning, they were all out. We saw so many animals. We walked around the area in front of the Safari where all of the animals were around and it was great to see all of the gorillas and other animals.


We had a fast pass for Everest, so we headed in that direction after the animals. There were so many people!!! The wait time for Everest was already 55 minutes – luckily we had the fast pass. It was awesome!

We then headed back a bit and did the Kali River Rapids. We brought ponchos so no one got wet. There was about a 35-minute wait. Luckily it is mostly in the shade.

From there we headed quickly over to the Finding Nemo show – we had a fast pass. It was beautifully done, but the adults agreed that the Lion King show, which we had seen five years before was better. If you are only there for a short time and only have a choice of one of the two shows, choose the latter.

We were close by to the Dinosaur area and as there was a shorter wait time for it, we waited for Dinosaur. It said 30-minute wait, but we definitely didn’t wait more than 20 minutes. It’s a great ride!

We then ate lunch at the nearby restaurant where you get hamburgers and hotdogs. It’s so expensive, but hit the spot.

We also had a fast pass for Primeval Whirl. No wait, we just walked right on. You really get whipped around with that ride, but had fun!

We decided to head to Disney Springs at this point. The crowds were large and we were done. We walked over to Earl of Sandwich shop (huge wait, but reasonably priced). There were more people at Disney Springs than I had ever seen there before. We had a decent meal and then went into the Star Wars shop and others to get gifts. We found what we wanted and headed back to the hotel where the kids went into the pool again.

Overall, we had a great time. We’ve decided not to go back again anytime in the near future – can’t take the kids out of school and other times the wait times are just too long. However, the After Hours event was really the winner of the whole trip. That’s a must do again at some point!

Have any Disney questions? Comment here or send me an email at Samantha.kappalman@gmail.com




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