Saturday, August 22, 2015

Disney Day 4 - Hollywood Studios and Downtown Disney

When we first started planning our return to Disney this year, I actually debating skipping Hollywood Studios.  We went last year and managed to hit most of the big rides and big shows. I figured there wasn't that much more to do there and we could spend the day somewhere else with more rides.  Well, all that changed when Disney announced that Hollywood Studios would be ground zero for their summer of Frozen fun!

More Elsa and Anna?!?!  Yes, please.

Even before we could get in the gates, it was very apparent that all our favorite friends from "Frozen" would be there...

Since most people run for Toy Story Mania, we decided to skip that early morning chaos and use our FP+ for that later in the morning.  Our bus driver (who was full of fun facts) said that Toy Story Mania is the most requested FP+ in any of the Disney parks.  Since we had the Magic Hour advantage, Nick and I ran to ride the Rock n' Roller Coaster, which is one of my favorite rides in any of the parks.  

Don't I look like I'm having fun!??!?!

Mini-tip --- If you are taking advantage of Magic Hours and are a fan of thrill rides, immediately go right as you enter the park and you can typically knock off the roller coaster and Tower of Terror before the park opens for general admission.  The lines for both of these will be VERY long later in the day.  So, hit them first or use a FP+.

Georgia could have cared less about rides since she was much more into all the "Frozen" hoopla happening around her!

Gotta love the Disney magic at work, even in pictures...

Nick was excited that Georgia was just as excited about the "Star Wars" props on property...

Even Nick found some Mickey ears that he could support at Hollywood Studios...

We had a few minutes to spare before making our FP+ reservation at Toy Story Mania, so we explored the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" play area.  I've said it in past posts and I'll say it again, Disney playgrounds rock!

Mini-tip --- If you have little ones, take advantage of the Disney playgrounds.  They are typically shaded, near big ride attractions, and are a great way to unwind and let kids be kids for a little bit while parents can sit and relax for awhile. They are typically fenced in with a clear exit/entrance, so kids can't escape either!

Georgia might not be familiar with the movie, but a cool playground is still a cool playground!

Next up, one of the coolest rides in any of the parks... Toy Story Mania!  While we were at Hollywood Studios for the day, a Disney conference was happening out in CA and they actually announced that a brand new Toy Story Land is in development for Hollywood Studios!  This area of the park will be massively expanded over the next few years...

Mini-tip --- Use a FP+ on Toy Story Mania or RUN there when the park opens (just follow the crowd!).  

Immediately after riding Toy Story, we headed back to the main street area to watch the "Frozen" parade.  We were about 20 minutes early, so we claimed our front row spot and waited.  It was a tad warm... and by warm, I mean sweltering!

Mini-tip --- If you are traveling to Disney in the summer, be sure to pack multiple outfits per day, including underwear, socks, etc.  We would wear one outfit in the AM, go back and shower/rest/nap in the afternoon, and then return to the parks for the evening. There was NO WAY I was putting on the same sweat soaked outfit from the AM!

Love the photobomb kid behind us!

Luckily, our seats paid off in a HUGE way and we got to see all of our friends...

Mini-tip --- If you want great parade viewing, plan to be along the route (in any park) at least 15 minutes ahead of time!  We were mobbed with about 5 minutes to spare.  Parents have no shame - they will push their kids to the front, sit on top of you, etc.

My personal rule with parades is that I have no problem squeezing in for little kids.  However, I draw the line with parents (get in back - you're taller!!) and their gigantic strollers!  I also have a problem with people who don't listen to cast members and ignore the rules....repeatedly... and go beyond tape/rope lines!  Don't be that person!!  Get there early, claim a spot and be polite.  Keep karma in mind - we saw some people from our hotel with little ones so we helped squeeze them up into the front with us.  Let's just say that it paid off for us the next day!!

After the parade, we made our way over to the "Beauty and Beast Live Show" since we hadn't seen that one the year prior.  It was a nice chance to cool down and sit for awhile!

Waiting for the show to start

Next, we headed over to Hollywood and Vine for our lunch reservation.  However, we had a few minutes to spare and I'd like to name this segment - When Animals Attack!  Within minutes, Georgia got bit by a duck and my mother got stung by a bee!  Georgia was feeding the ducks and reached down to grab a dropped Cheerio when a duck decided he wanted it immediately.  Thank goodness it didn't hurt and she had a cool story to tell for the rest of the day.  My poor mom was just sitting waiting for lunch when she was bit.

Lunch involved meeting some of our favorite Disney Jr friends...

Princess Sofia and Jake the Pirate

Handy Manny and Doc McStuffins

Like with every meal, our reservation was flagged for a food allergy, so a chef did walk me through the buffet.  I nicknamed him Chef Grumpy since he wasn't the happiest camper, but he won me over by telling me that he had a special dessert that was safe for her - a brownie!  He didn't mention that it was the size of a full plate and Georgia inhaled 90% of it.  Of course.

Mini-tip --- If your child has severe allergies, ask the chef to bring you food directly from the kitchen.  I witnessed a child using the same serving utensil to help himself to all the different food on the buffet (hello, cross contamination) and then saw another child helping himself using his fingers (GROSS!) while his mother happily watched her little angel.  Since there were no peanuts on the buffet, I was okay serving Georgia from the buffet.  But, I definitely re-thought it after witnessing those acts!

Georgia loved meeting all of the characters from Disney Junior shows!

Since we missed our bus back to Shades of Green, which only comes every hour on the hour, we hopped a Disney transportation bus to the nearby Polynesian and walked home from there.

Mini-tip --- Know the Disney transportation system!  There is always a Plan A to get home and a Plan B.  The Disney buses run like clockwork every 20 minutes or so.  There's also boats, the monorail, and your two legs!  Know which resort is near yours and if it is walkable to your hotel.  You can also grab a bus to another park (aka - Epcot, Animal Kingdom) and grab transportation from there.

We had plans to return to Hollywood Studios later that evening for the Fantasmic show and Frozen fireworks, but rain and thunder impacted our plans for the SECOND YEAR in a row!  We missed Fantasmic the year before too!  So, instead we re-routed and headed to Downtown Disney, which is currently being transformed into "Disney Springs."

Downtown Disney was HAPPENING!  Completely and utterly packed.  We grabbed some dinner from the food trucks and strolled along exploring all the restaurants, stores, and sights.  Lightning flashed in the distance all night long, but we somehow managed to escape the storm.  My goal of the night was to find the famous Erin McKenna's Bakery.  About a year ago, I started hearing amazing things about this vegan bakery that was TOTALLY SAFE for Georgia!  I did my research and although they cannot claim to be totally nut-free (due to a very minor cross-contamination risk for hazelnut and almond, which is why I did those challenges before we left for Disney).  It was amazing to walk into a bakery and let Georgia pick our whatever she wanted!!!!

Georgia promptly inhaled a chocolate cupcake because that is how we roll when it's 9pm and you are on vacation with an already sleep-deprived 4 year old.  Keep the sugar coming!  We left with one of everything and 3 giant boxes of goodies for her to snack on for the rest of the week.

We were so impressed with this area of Disney - you could really spend a whole day exploring all the shops and restaurants.  It's definitely on our to-do-again list whenever we return to Disney in the future!  

Mini-tip --- Many restaurants in Downtown Disney accept the dining plan, so definitely investigate this area if you want to explore the area and grab lunch or dinner!  The food trucks were also a fabulous find.

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