Finally! Sorry for the delay! I already covered the travel day, so I’ll skip to when we arrived at the Boardwalk on our lovely Magical Express chariot (we = me and my newly 3 year old son traveling alone for the first time, whew exhausting).
We used all remaining available points to book 3 nights at the Boardwalk in a Boardwalk view (initially a Garden view, but with the Boardwalk you should check availability frequently and you’ll see that the other views open up randomly as your trip approaches, and you can switch your booking online). We actually over borrowed from next year and they were nice about letting us exceed the 50% borrowing limitation in place right now because we had initially borrowed the points before the limit was in place and it was unclear if this reservation would get cancelled since the points were sent back to next year when we cancelled an earlier reservation, then reborrowed, so they put a note on the reservation not to cancel it. So we got our three nights to celebrate together for my birthday and as a last hoorah before the kiddo heads off to preschool (😢😢) for the first time in two weeks.
We got a text on the Magical Express that our room was ready, so we bypassed the lobby and headed straight up. This was just before noon on our Sunday arrival day. This was consistent with our arrival at Polynesian in July when the room was also ready early. When doing online check-in I always select that they prioritize having the room ready early over other requests, and that always seems to help. This room had the same sign noting “enhanced cleaning” and also had the remote in plastic wrap, otherwise seemed the same as usual. Awesome Boardwalk view, right over the (closed) basketball hoops game). The lake is SO quiet and still with no boats running. We dropped our bags and headed right over to Epcot where we had a late lunch reservation at Garden Grill. I always try to have a character dining reservation right away when we arrive to set the tone for the trip and reward my son for a good travel day.
Before making it into Epcot, my super excited son spotted the Skyliner running, so we had to ride it to Caribbean Beach and back. It is hands down our favorite mode of transportation in Disney. We had only ridden it in November previously though, so I was very curious to test it out in the 100 degree summer weather. Everyone has been so quick to write it off as a mistake to not have air conditioning on the gondolas…. but let me just say …. they were COOL!! So breezy and refreshing ! One of the coolest places we got to sit and cool off all trip without being inside in the AC! Honestly probably one of the safest places to cool off during a pandemic since you are alone with your party and the ventilation is purely from the wind. It’s amazing. No sweating at all. There were a couple times during our trip that it briefly stopped (less than 30 seconds), and the breeze slowed down significantly, making it apparent that they would get warmer if you were ever stopped for 10+ minutes, but otherwise we were easy, breezy the whole time. This is one of the only places, including buses and the monorail, with no recording reminding you to keep on your face covering. They don’t explicitly say you can take it off, but they saw us take ours off and did not comment. Since you are alone with your party, it is a perfect opportunity for a little mask break. We also saw the individual gondolas being cleaned during our stay and they always seemed completely spotless. So so so in love with the Skyliner, I can’t say it enough.
Anywho, then we made it into Epcot for our reservation at Garden Grill and we checked in on our phones, as is required now. It was ungodly hot walking from the back of Epcot to The Land FYI, and it kills me that stroller aren’t allowed inside. They need some indoor stroller parking in there. I hate parking the stroller and then carrying my 36 lb sweaty toddler from the stroller up the ramp into the building. I know I sound like the biggest whiner, but that is a serious workout on the tail end of a sweaty walk through the park.
Neutral review of Garden Grill this time. We ate there in November and loved it. I still loved the food and the characters… but the service was shockingly slow. I’ve never experienced bad dining service in Disney so this was a first. The modified character experience was really quite great still. Mickey and Pluto walk around on the top level of the restaurant while you dine on the lower level. They stop by each table for photos. The kids love it. They let you take plenty of photos. Then Chip and Dale come around as well. For some reason we saw Mickey and Pluto three times and Chip and Dale only once. I think they missed us the first time, which was a bummer because my son was impatiently waiting for them. They usually are pretty flawless at making sure they hit every table. Combine that with the oddly slow service from our waiter, and we ended up sitting in there for over an hour, which is insane since we can easily be in and out of a restaurant in 30 minutes with just the two of us. We like to be quick these days since indoor dining makes us a little uncomfortable, safety wise. Speaking of which, there are additional plexiglass dividers between the tables now which are subtle, but definitely an extra safety precaution. Last comment on Garden Grill, for anyone unfamiliar, it is family style, so you don’t really order from a menu, they just bring everything out to the table and you all share. The food is DELICIOUS, so no complaints there.
We were seriously running out of steam at this point. It was about 2:30 or 3 and we had been up since 6am for our 8am flight in Newark. After a car, a plane, a bus, a Skyliner, a sweaty walk, and a Mickey meal, we didn’t have much left in the tank, so we headed back over to the Boardwalk for a nap. I decided to be a massive idiot and suggest we take the long way around the World Showcase in case there were any character cavalcades. We had been so spoiled in MK in July with the non stop cavalcades, that I really was optimistic that we would see Princess Anna and Elsa on our walk back to the Boardwalk. No such luck. All I did was add a mile to our walk and absolutely wear both of us out from the heat (he was in the stroller, but the heat still takes it’s toll). The one positive of taking the long route was that we saw cool little trains that we had never seen before in one of the countries on the far side of the World Showcase. Maybe Germany? Super cool little train tracks if you have a train obsessed kiddo like mine. He was asking about them the next day and I had to explain we can’t go to a park just for the tiny trains…. (Have I emphasized how much I miss park hoppers?)
Nap nap nap, snooze snooze snooze … ready for round 2 of Epcot !!! Lol we took a good snooze all the way until 6pm, which was fine because Epcot fortunately is still open until 9pm right now (which changes in a couple weeks unfortunately). I told Copper (fake blog name for those who haven’t read the about me section) that he was going to get to have a big boy night and stay out late in the park, and we headed back ! For anyone who is curious, by the way, he has outgrown the pack and plays/cribs in the rooms at this point (in my November trip report he was still comfortably sleeping in them), so on these past two trips he has been sleeping in the big bed with me, which I must say is just awful. He is a kicker and a sweater. I don’t sleep at all. He is just so dang cute and cuddly though, so that makes up for it. For size reference, he turned 3 in July and is 39.5” long and 36 pounds. When we come for our real family trip in December he will have to sleep alone on the pull out couch for sure. I can’t survive a whole week of this sleeping arrangement.
Whenever we left the room I made sure to have my Magic Band and phone (this is where my list used to end), our face coverings, our popcorn bucket and refillable mug, and an extra pair of shorts for Copper in the stroller, just in case (he’s been potty trained for months, but the sleep deprivation/excitement combo of Disney is a whole different ballgame). I also carry my annual pass in case there’s an opportunity for discounts. Pretty short list. I have always liked to travel light in the parks to make security quick and easy. The stroller really helps because you can bring some necessities but bypass the “bag” line at security. I should note though that the bag lines are probably a thing of the past with the new security scanners they introduced at HS this week … but more on that later.
Back to Epcot. At this point my son started saying “no rides…. just Boardwalk.” Which was pretty concerning considering we just arrived in Disney for a 4 park day trip and I was so excited he could ride the 40” height restriction rides now. I think I spooked him before the trip by showing him a YouTube video of Test Track. I had read somewhere that moms got their kids comfortable with rides by showing them YouTube videos. Big mistake here. Totally spooked him. He headed into this trip completely nervous and wanting nothing to do with any rides. I talked him into trying Imagination (0 minute wait) and he said it was “a bit fun.” Sadly no characters outside. I was hoping to see Joy 😞. I think they probably stop at a certain time in the evening. We fully struck out on Epcot characters. Then I talked him into trying Nemo, although he was getting increasingly hangry at this point and was pretty adamant about the “no more rides” party line. His review of Nemo was “not a lot of a fun” lol. He did enjoy looking at the dolphins in the Seas though (and riding the escalators… so escalators > Nemo).
At this point he was being so difficult and cranky (refused to ride Spaceship Earth, which he historically loves) that we needed a food break, so we mobile ordered dinner at Seasons and sat and ate for a little bit. I used this time to continue talking about how Soarin was a totally awesome, not scary ride and how it was Daddy’s favorite and yada yada. He was not at all convinced until a cast member walking by commented that she thought his Donald Duck stuffed animal would really like Soarin, but he probably wasn’t tall enough to ride it without Copper, and that seemed to get him interested.
Review of Soarin for a Toddler :
So once he was full of food and a bit happier, we went to Soarin which had a 15 minute wait time posted. My poor little kiddo was actually excited as we walked through the queue of the “pretend airplane” after he happily got measured (40” woohoo!!!) for the first time ever. I say poor little kiddo because of how this ends. We saw another kid his size who apparently had been on Soarin before and loved it, so that made me feel optimistic. I figured he loves all forms of transportation, including real airplanes, and the Skyliner, so this would be great! The line was much shorter than 15 minutes. We were sent over to our boarding area within maybe 2 minutes. We stood there for another 5 and then we were sent in to our seats. We were in the 3rd row in the middle. Ideal for his first ride since the 3rd row is the lowest (normally 1st row middle is the best seat for Soarin). I wish I got a picture of him buckled in his seat holding on tight to Donald Duck. He was so freaking cute and excited. He made sure Donald wasn’t scared, and then he hugged him tight. The Donald Duck gimmick was totally great for getting him willing to do the ride by the way. He was totally refusing, but as soon as we made it about Donald he changed his tune. Since Donald wasn’t tall enough, he needed Copper to ride with him. Total success in getting him excited for the ride.
Then…. liftoff. I watched him very carefully. For the first few moments his eyes were just big. The motion and the screen didn’t cause any issues. The issue arose when the damn whale jumped up and “splashed” us. I never noticed that pretty much all of the transitions between scenes are quite startling. He was startled to the point of the saddest, most scared face ever by that damn whale. I had to hug him and tell him it was pretend, and then he calmed down a bit, just in time for the next startling transition, then the next, then the next. His body was so tense and shaking with fear, I felt terrible. He wasn’t crying, but he was terrified. Then… the clincher… as I was saying it’s over it’s over…we flew up above the Epcot ball, into the sky… into fireworks. My son is scared of fireworks!! The only saving grace is that they are always far away, up high in the sky… but in this case we flew up right into them! His worst fear ! Oh boy. I’m a terrible mom. He held in all of his crying and screaming until we landed safely back on the floor, and then he was hysterical. I took his mask off as soon as we got outside, and he calmed down in a minute or two.
He was screaming “NO MORE RIDES!” at that point, so that is where our park day ended. I had every intention to return to Epcot on our 4th day at this point since we had skipped Spaceship Earth and Frozen. Plus we hadn’t seen Anna and Elsa. You will see that that is not how things pan out though …