This past weekend, I took a quick weekend trip to Orlando. And I stayed at a non-Disney hotel for the first time in forever. Why? Well, because the focus of this trip wasn’t on being in Walt Disney World. At least, not yet. You see, this weekend, I was in Orlando looking for apartments. That’s right, come this August, I hope to move to Orlando. I’d say my move is about 80% likely at this point. The only sticking point will be whether or not there is availability in August at either of my top two choice properties.
I flew to Orlando after work on Friday night, got my rental car, and drove to the hotel. I didn’t arrive until after midnight, so not much happened Friday other than sleeping. On Saturday, I began touring some rental properties that I’d found on rent.com. The first one was acceptable, but only just. The buildings were VERY close together, the grounds were not well maintained, and the buildings were just flat out old. The second was actually very nice, but a little farther from WDW than I wanted. It was an apartment complex, however, not individual homes. So I put that one on my list, but still hoped to find something better. Before I left that one, however, the leasing office woman told me they had a sister complex that was much closer to I4 (and therefore closer to both Disney and Universal). The third one I went to can only be described as a slum, and was not even open, despite their website saying they were open on Saturdays. So that was an instant “no”. The fourth was the sister property of the second, and was virtually identical. That’s the one that is now my #2 choice. The fifth and final property I looked at was actually a set of condominiums, not apartments. I didn’t realize at the time, but the contact info on rent.com was for an individual real estate agent, not the property manager. She really didn’t have her act together, and I felt absolutely no desire to enter into any kind of business agreement with her.
After looking at these properties, I drove back to the hotel and changed into some more appropriate Disney attire, and then set out again. By happy coincidence, my cousin Anita and her family were in WDW this whole weekend, so I was able to meet up with them. When I got to the Magic Kingdom, they were in the Pirate’s League, where Anita’s husband Brad was getting made up as a Pirate. Their son Memphis had already gotten his makeover, and was thrilled. I stayed with them while they went into the secret treasure room and got their booty. Afterward, I went and got some lunch at El Pirata y El Perico. Then I started visiting the attractions, starting with Pirates of the Caribbean.
I went over to Haunted Mansion to experience the new additions and updates they made since the last time I was there. First, the have a brand new interactive queue that is just awesome. When I heard they were making the queue interactive, I feared they were going to take out the pun-ny tombstones and replace everything with touchscreens. My fears were unfounded, thankfully. Not only are the tombstones not removed, there are in fact more of them. Plus a variety of other exhibits and props within the queue, including a giant musical organ that plays the Haunted Mansion theme song in various instruments when they are touched. There’s also an interactive book that encourages the reader to finish the mostly-obvious rhyme before it’s written. Then within the Haunted Mansion itself, the final scene of “Hitchhiking Ghosts” has been redone, and is pure AWESOME. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s planning on being there soon (you can watch YouTube videos if you want spoilers), but I give this update two GIANT thumbs up.
I continued to visit attractions in the MK, including Space Mountain, Buzz, Hall of Presidents, and Carousel of Progress. For dinner, I went over to one of my favorite buffets, Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness. The only downside of this restaurant is how long it takes to get there, since you have to take a boat to and from the Magic Kingdom. After dinner, I went back to the MK, to watch the new show on the castle (for the third time total. It’s still phenomenal.), and then to watch Wishes. Unfortunately, the best spot to watch the castle show is the worst spot to watch the fireworks. That’s right in front of the castle, behind the Partners statue. You miss maybe 85% of the fireworks when you sit here. By this point, however, I was dead tired and didn’t feel like wading through the massive crowd after the castle show, so I just sat there and dealt with it. After the fireworks, I left the park, which took absolutely FOREVER. The waits to get out of the park, to get on the monorail, to get to the TTC, to wait for a tram, to take the tram to your stop…. UGH. It was about 45 minutes between leaving the MK gates and getting to the car. Nasty. Anyway, I drove back to the hotel and went to sleep.
On Sunday, I planned on visiting a few more apartments, but being Sunday, the places weren’t open until 1pm. So I got in touch with Anita and found out where they were, and joined her and the family at Animal Kingdom. I met them at the end of the Safari attraction. I then presented Memphis with a gift of a pin lanyard and 6 pins. I took him to trade his first pins at the nearby gift shop. As luck would have it, the second Cast Member we ran into had a massive pin board with her, probably 50 pins on it. Memphis made two trades, one for Stitch and one for Boo. I successfully passed my addiction on to the next generation! I then joined Anita and her family for rides on Everest and Dinosaur, neither of which had Anita done before, which was awesome. I had lunch at Tusker House, and then departed WDW to look at more apartments.
The first one I drove to wasn’t open, but from the looks of it, I had no desire to live there anyway, so that’s no great loss. The second was the Key Isle at Windermere, in Ocoee. This place is beautiful. It’s also in a very non-touristy area, but is only 25 minutes from Disney property. I put my info in their system, and am keeping my fingers firmly crossed that they have availability come August. It is by far my #1 choice. After finishing up at Key Isle, I went to the nearest Best Buy to get myself a car charger for my iPhone, and then headed back to WDW.
I parked at the TTC again, and stopped at the Lost & Found building before going to any park. I’d lost my sunglasses in the park yesterday, and Anita’s little daughter Marylou had lost her hat from the Pirate’s League. I told the L&F this, and he came back a minute later with the hat (no idea if it was THE hat that Marylou lost, but it looked the same, so good enough) and an entire tray of black sunglasses, probably 25-30 of them, all of which had been lost in the MK the previous day. I found a pair that may or may not have been mine (they’re cheap plastic dollar store things, nothing distinguishing about them). I then took a bus over to Hollywood Studios. I went on Tower of Terror and Great Movie Ride, and then went to a performance of the American Idol Experience. Next I walked the path from DHS over to Epcot and went to dinner at San Angel Inn in Mexico for the first time ever (usually when I’m in Disney, the person I’m with dislikes Mexican food). I thought it was VERY good, and was quite happy with it. Having a friendly server who doesn’t mind your incompetent attempts to speak Español doesn’t hurt either.
I got in touch with Anita again, and she told me they were going to head to DHS to watch Fantasmic. So I took the boat back to the Studios, and spent an hour or so pin trading and shopping. I found a poster that Ange had been looking for on our last trip. When Anita and her family arrived, we got in line for the second showing of Fantasmic. The line was only mildly insane, but still ridiculous. The wait was worth it though. When it was over, Anita’s friends (who had never seen the show) were blown away, saying they wanted to see it again, immediately.
We went to the bus stops to head over to the Magic Kingdom, as it was open until 3am with EMH that night. When we got to the stop, there was a bus for the Contemporary right next to our stop, so we got on that bus and took the monorail from there rather than waiting for the bus to the TTC. Anita took Marylou to get some dinner at Cosmic Rays, and I took Memphis along with Brad’s sister and mother over to Buzz Lightyear, and then to the Peoplemover. While on the Peoplemover, Memphis realized he left his light-up Tinkerbell toy on Buzz, so we went back there, and fortunately the CM had no problem finding it for us. We met back up with Anita and Brad over at Cosmic Rays, and then I departed (after getting myself a Dole Whip float…). Back to the hotel, and to sleep.
On Monday, I worked a half-day from the hotel, until it was time to check out at noon. I went to lunch at a random wing place in Orlando, and then went to Downtown Disney to get some dessert at Babycakes NYC, and do some pin trading. I also decided to go on the Characters in Flight helium balloon ride for the first time. Kinda cool, but not worth spending $18 on most trips. I then headed back to the airport and eventually got on my flight back to Albany, where my roommate picked me up.
Overall, it was a whirlwind weekend. I’m very excited (and a little bit nervous) at the prospect of moving to Orlando, but I think it’s the right thing for me. My boss has already decided he’s okay with me moving and continuing to work from home, so why not take advantage of that opportunity? I’m going to make another quick trip in June to look at some more places – hopefully at that point there will be more definitive availabilities at various properties and I’ll be able to make some actual plans.