June 2021 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 1

It’s been a minute…since I’ve posted on this blog, but even more so since I’ve written a real trip report! (Do people still write trip reports? Here’s a tangent, but miss them….Can we start making them more of a thing again? Back in the pre-social media days, I used to love reading trip reports on Disney forums. They’ve definitely gone a little out of style these days, but since it’s been a while since I’ve been to Walt Disney World and since I’ve written a trip report, I figured why not?!

Jump to…

Before I really get into it, here are some quick details about the trip:

When: June 3-8, 2021
Where: Copper Creek Villas at Wilderness Lodge / All Star Movies Resort
Who: Me, my boyfriend Josh, and his family
Why: Josh’s first visit!

This was obviously kind of a weird trip just because it was my first since the before times. My last Disney trip was in August 2019. I thought about planning a Disney trip sooner than this one, but I kept talking myself out of it. In the end, this trip happened because Josh’s sister was already planning two days in the park with her family, and she invited us to come along.

While his family was only doing two days in Disney, we decided to add two more days onto the trip and finally take a much-needed vacation. I’m really happy we went of course, but I’m not going to lie…buying regular tickets hurt a little, mostly because I’m assuming now that we’ve gone, we’ll probably be back within the year, so financially an annual pass probably would have made more sense but Disney still isn’t selling them with the capacity limits. You can call and ask to be placed on a waiting list for them, so I’ll probably do that if it seems like another trip is in the works sometime soon!

June 3, 2021 – Travel Day

I normally would not cover travel to/from Orlando in a trip report because well, it’s boring. While I loved old trip reports, I hated hearing mundane details of a person’s flights or what kind of rental car they got. I think this trip being our first vacation after the pandemic though could come with a couple of quick thoughts on our travel day….

We flew JetBlue from Boston to Orlando, using my credit from a cancelled 2020 trip (thanks, JetBlue!) Going through security in Logan was the easiest it’s ever been. I’m not sure if that’s an at least somewhat normal thing arriving at the airport around 10 am on a Thursday or if a lot of people still aren’t traveling, but I’ll take it!

After landing in Orlando. As evidenced by the bags under my eyes we were very tired.

One note though on the process of flying/navigating an airport, or traveling in general right now especially to theme parks- If you’re still uncomfortable given the pandemic, I don’t think it’s the best time to take this kind of trip yet. A lot of people seemed to just take their masks off after passing through security in the airport and on the plane. On both flights people sitting in surrounding seats to us were not wearing their mask for most or all of the flight. It didn’t bother me personally (aside from the fact that I feel I’ve spent over a year following the rules so of course it’s frustrating when people don’t) but if that’s something that would make you uncomfortable I think I’d stick to road trips a little while longer.

When we arrived in Orlando, I was expecting a huge line for Disney’s Magical Express. I saw some posts on social about long lines getting to the Magical Express at the airport, so I cleared the rest of our first day (aside from a late dinner) under the assumption that I had no idea how long the bus would take. 

Contrary to some of the Twitter horror stories I’ve seen, the bus took about 10 minutes from the time we arrived at the Magical Express podium to the time the bus left. There was no line at all when we arrived, and only about three other parties on the motor coach with us. The route the bus took was odd, so much so that I wondered if we had gotten on the wrong bus as the first stop was to Coronado Springs. We were staying at Wilderness Lodge for the first two nights of the trip, so this seemed noticeably wrong. I’m guessing that was a pandemic change, because there were so few people checking in for the Magical Express when we were there, they probably put people at further away hotels on the same bus. In any case, Wilderness Lodge was the second stop so it was a pretty quick ride!

One thing to note if you’re taking the Magical Express while things are still weird- They are currently not offering luggage pickup (I’m assuming staffing is the culprit there), so plan on either packing just a carry on (like we did) or stopping at baggage claim and grabbing your own bags when you arrive in Orlando.

On the Magical Express bus, for what I assume will be my last time. (Disney’s Magical Express is being discontinued after this year.)

We definitely did the split-stay thing backwards on this trip, as we went from a deluxe resort to a value and normally I’d suggest doing that the other way around. (We started at Wilderness Lodge and switched to All Star Movies this trip because we had originally just booked All Star Movies but a friend let us use a Disney Vacation Club reservation she had that she wasn’t using for the first two nights at Copper Creek. Thank you again, Karen!) Starting at Wilderness Lodge definitely worked out for the best for this trip though because our first park day was Magic Kingdom and we had dinner already booked for Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge the day we arrived.

While I’ve been to Wilderness Lodge plenty of times, I don’t think I’ve ever been to one of the guest rooms there. Due to COVID, we had to use online check-in so we skipped the front desk and were off to our room when we arrived. I normally use online check-in anyway when I stay at one of the All Stars or Port Orleans, but I’ve never stayed at Wilderness Lodge before and quickly realized we had no idea where we were going.

Our room was on the first floor of the Copper Creek Villas and for some reason after realizing the elevator right off the lobby didn’t go to the first floor we decided that heading outside made the most sense (it didn’t) so we ultimately got a little lost. It had to be that we were just super tired from traveling that day, because once we actually went back inside the lobby we quickly realized there was another elevator beyond the gift shop that you need to use to go down to the first floor!

During a normal Disney trip, I’d drop the luggage in the room and head to whatever park is open the latest, but 2021 still isn’t normal times. You need to make a reservation for the park you’re going to visit, and without an annual pass we would have had to pay for an additional ticket to go to the parks the day we arrived. With our flight already landing close to 4:00 and the uncertainty over how long the bus would take, we didn’t think paying for the park ticket would have made sense.

Instead, we grabbed a quick kids meal from Roaring Fork, the resort’s quick service restaurant, and set off in an Uber to visit Josh’s family at their hotel off property for a couple of hours. Roaring Fork, like any quick service restaurant we saw during our trip, was mobile order only. This was our first experience using mobile order in Disney since the pandemic, and even though it was a relatively quiet restaurant at the resort it definitely gave me some tips on how to best use it in the parks.

Basically click “I’m here” a few minutes before you’re actually there to pick up the food. Even without a lot of people waiting outside the restaurant things were moving pretty slow, and once we knew how to get to our hotel room it was probably only about two minutes away. (I don’t mean this to be a knock on any of the restaurants or the Cast Members at all, just while there are definitely some staffing challenges right now I’d recommend working with Mobile Order a little to shorten your wait time when you arrive.)

Josh’s family was staying at the Sheraton Vistana, which if you’ve done the Disney College Program in the past you may remember as the resort/timeshares across the street from Vista Way! Our Uber driver got a little lost (another theme of this trip was lost Uber drivers, not sure what that was about, if it was just a lot of new drivers, or what) but thankfully even being off property I was able to help on our way to his family’s because I’d know that Dollar Tree and Dunkin’ anywhere after living in Vista Way! It’s crazy to think that today’s CPs are living it up in Flamingo Crossings, which looks…nicer than anywhere I have ever lived in my life, never mind in college!

We got back to Wilderness Lodge a little after 8:00 and went to Whispering Canyon Cafe to see if we’d be able to check in early for dinner (our reservation was at 9:05.) Disney restaurants are currently checking guests in via QR code at the entrance, and if you arrive too early it will tell you when you scan it that you need to come back within a timeframe closer to your reservation. We went up to the check-in counter multiple times though to see if we could be seated earlier and while there’s no guarantee it’d be doable we were able to every time.

The food at Whispering Canyon Cafe was delicious as always, a little different without the definitely-not-COVID-safe ketchup bit, but the food was just as good and all of the Cast Members were still having a great time! Whispering Canyon now offers a few different kinds of all-you-care-to-enjoy skillets along with an a la carte menu.

We went with the Traditional Skillet, which is essentially the OG skillet that was offered before they came out with the seafood and vegan options. So ours came with pulled pork, brisket, ribs, smoked sausage, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and cornbread. They do change these up a little bit (sometimes they come with salad or beans instead of the other sides) but this was perfect for us. We ordered more of the pulled pork, sausage and potatoes, and had to use self control from not ordering one of their milkshakes (which I love!) because I just don’t have the stomach space and honestly we were probably a little dehydrated at that point so water it was!

After dinner we had just a short walk across the lobby back to our room at Copper Creek, where we went to bed pretty early to be ready for a packed day at the Magic Kingdom in the morning!

June 4, 2021 – Magic Kingdom

We were up bright and early for the Magic Kingdom, and I was really excited to take the boat from Wilderness Lodge to get to the park! I usually stay at one of the All Stars, Port Orleans, or Shades of Green, so my routine transportation to the Magic Kingdom is a bus (which not going to lie beats parking at the Transportation and Ticket Center and having to get on the monorail or ferry…except at Shades of Green when the bus just brings you there anyway!)

It was a really peaceful morning at the Magic Kingdom. We arrived before the park opened, and rope drop is definitely not how it was in the before times. It was a quick and easy walk into the park, without being stopped by the crowd waiting for the opening show in front of Cinderella Castle (though I would love to see the opening show again…)

While we waited for Josh’s family to meet us, some of the characters came out to greet guests by the train station. I wondered if these kinds of distanced character interactions would feel strange, like how some modified parts of the real world feel a little off, but they actually didn’t. Even with the knowledge of how things would normally be, all of the distanced character set ups were still really fun! Josh’s family arrived just in time to see the characters, and with that we were off to our first attraction in Adventureland.

His nephews had a list of their must-do rides, so based on that we were on our way to the Jungle Cruise, but they got sidetracked by the Swiss Family Treehouse on our way over. Now that is an attraction I think I’ve done maybe twice in my life. I thought it was kind of fun though, I definitely would have enjoyed it a lot as a kid (though I’m not sure my parents would have), and it’s always a fun little walk-through attraction you can do that never has a line.

When we got to Jungle Cruise we realized they had not yet opened (I’m unsure if it was a normal delayed opening or if it had something to do with the reimagining of the Trader Sam scenes that was taking place during our trip), but while we waited for it to open we hopped over to The Magic Carpets of Aladdin instead.

I have to say, Magic Carpets is probably my least favorite of the spinner rides. Dumbo is a classic, and Triceratop-Spin fits the theme of Dino-Land, but Magic Carpets…I mean it’s fine, the kids enjoyed it and that’s obviously why it’s there, but it doesn’t feel like it works with the area the same way the others do. The camel outside the attraction wasn’t spitting water while we were in the park, though I think that may be a COVID precaution as I’m sure on hot days crowds form where the water sprays to cool off.

Jungle Cruise still wasn’t open when we got off the Magic Carpets, so Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was next on the list. I love the Enchanted Tiki Room and always have a good time seeing the show, and it actually turned out to be one of Josh’s favorite attractions so that was really fun to experience with him.

When we left the Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise was running with a 25 minute wait. In 20 minutes, we were on the ride, cruising through exotic locales with no guests in the boat’s middle seat and plexiglass keeping us separated from other parties and our Skipper. Jungle Cruise was a lot of fun, as always. The new Animatronics in the scene with the crew climbing up the pole looked really nice, and even without a replacement already set up for Trader Sam our Skipper kept the joke’s coming so it didn’t feel like anything was missing.

By the time we got off the Jungle Cruise, Josh and I realized we were in serious need of coffee. We didn’t get breakfast or anything before coming to the park (a mistake on my end, but we wanted to be in the park early and getting breakfast at the hotel seemed to be cutting it close). Everyone else was all set on the caffeine, so we split off to go back to Main Street to see what the line for Starbucks was like. It was loooooooonnnnggggg, probably longer than some of the attraction lines honestly. I’m not sure how long it actually would have taken though, because although it wasn’t a full six feet, people were definitely more spaced out than they’d usually be so it was really hard to say. We didn’t want to chance taking too long, so we made our way over to Tomorrowland to stop at Joffrey’s instead.

The line for Joffrey’s was longer than normal times but not bad at all. We were originally both just going to get an iced coffee but then we saw that they had this Smores frozen latte on the menu so we both switched to that! I wish I took a picture of it, because it was delicious! It was sort of similar to a Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks but with less of the syrupy sweet flavor and the added hints of marshmallows and graham crackers. It looked like it might be a seasonal drink, but if it happens to be there next time you’re at Joffrey’s in Tomorrowland we’d definitely recommend it!

Once we were caffeinated we walked back through the hub to meet back up with Josh’s family. On the way we caught one of the character cavalcades, this one featured Goofy, Max, and Panchito. The cavalcades were a lot of fun. For someone who would usually plan around parades and shows, it was kind of nice to not have to plan to see that stuff and still get quick glimpses of some of the characters. (I can’t wait to see Festival of Fantasy again someday though…)

By that point, we planned to head over to the Haunted Mansion but the line looked like it might have been too much for the kids. Like many lines all around the parks this trip, it was really hard to say. The wait time only said 25 minutes, but the line stretched outside the Haunted Mansion’s queue almost to the riverboat landing, so certainly not a 25 minute wait in normal times, but with the distancing it was really hard to say. We decided to keep walking and check back on the Haunted Mansion later, and we headed over to the Country Bear Jamboree instead.

Some of the Country Bears were hanging out on the balcony above the show, and that’s a temporary change that I kind of hope sticks around! I know they come out onto the streets of Frontierland on occasion for the area’s dance party, but as a child-less adult who isn’t always into a totally sober 11:30 am dance party, I don’t know…I’d be kind of okay with it if they hung out on the roof more often. It was fine to just wave at them and grab some photos before heading into the show.

We would have probably gone on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad while we were in Frontierland, but it was down for most of the time we were in the park. Of course, when Thunder Mountain is down, Splash Mountain’s wait goes up so we skipped that one too. It was about time for lunch, anyway so we headed to Cosmic Ray’s to see my favorite Audio-Animatronic alien, Sonny Eclipse!

I love a Disney quick service burger. It pains me a little when there are more interesting things on the menu, but I don’t know, sometimes you just have to go with the basics. I do miss the toppings bar at Cosmic Ray’s though. The burger came with lettuce and tomato, but the toppings bar used to have sauteed mushrooms and onions that always hit the spot.

After lunch we headed toward Fantasyland to get on “it’s a small world,” Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic. The Carrousel was first, we made it on just in time as it started to rain. PhilharMagic was next as it was a short sprint through the rain to get into the theater. The show was off to a delayed start as the exit area was being used as a rain shelter, but it cleared out after a few minutes and the show started. Josh really liked PhilharMagic for the crossover between multiple Disney movies and the added details off the screen with Donald flying into the back of the theater.

It was still raining when the show was over, but we ran to “it’s a small world,” where thankfully the line was not in the extended queue so our wait in line was covered. It was only a 20-minute wait or so, and we did notice this was one of the attractions that seemed to have more COVID protocols in space than the others. Tall plexiglass made the queue rather narrow and they weren’t filling every row of the boats (not sitting right on top of strangers is definitely something I’m going to miss when things are normal!)

Once the rain quieted down a bit, we continued through Fantasyland to ride Dumbo and the Barnstormer. This was the first time I really missed character meet and greets. I think the meet and greets in Storybook Circus are lots of fun, and I always find cute souvenirs in the Big Top (which was closed). The plus side of having gift shops either closed or have lines is that I probably spent less on souvenirs this trip… Dumbo is always so much fun though. It doesn’t matter how old I am or how many times I’ve done it, Dumbo is always just pure magic.

The Barnstormer on the other hand…eh…The kids wanted to do it, otherwise I wouldn’t bother, at least as an adult. It’s a tight squeeze to fit two adults on there and the ride is over so quick. It seems fun for kids though and I do love the theming.

The kids were starting to get pretty tired at this point (it was probably around 5:00), so Josh’s family was getting ready to head out for the day, but first…Haunted Mansion! The line had quieted down a lot and we probably waited 10 minutes or less to get on the ride. The pre-show still wasn’t playing (a change due to COVID, not anything to do with the ride), so I was a little sad Josh wouldn’t get the “full” experience, but it turned out to be his favorite ride!

His family ended up going back to their resort after we rode the Haunted Mansion (but we’d be seeing them the next morning at Animal Kingdom). I asked Josh what he wanted to do, and right away he said he wanted to ride Haunted Mansion again! We ended up riding it three times, and he probably would have done it a few more if we didn’t have more of the Magic Kingdom to see.

Another COVID change that I think worked out to our favor was that there was less to do. That sounds strange, like it would be a huge disadvantage, which I guess it is at least in terms of value for your park ticket and whatnot, but for showing Josh as much of the Magic Kingdom as you could see in one day during a first visit without totally wearing ourselves out, I think not having the parade, fireworks, and character meet and greets and even streetmosphere entertainment really freed up a lot of our time. We walked to and from attractions pretty leisurely, and even without FastPass didn’t encounter too many long lines. We ended up doing everything he wanted to do with an hour to spare before the park closed.

Before the park closed, we also managed to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, the Peoplemover, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. I think Josh finally gets the hype about the Peoplemover, which he never quite understood before going to the Magic Kingdom.

And we had such a good time on Buzz Lightyear’s, especially because I won, of course. It was a bit of a challenge though- I let him have control of the steering, so while I know where to aim to get the most points, we were hardly ever facing the right direction, and I guess without hitting the high point targets I’m actually not very good at it. He was leading me the entire ride, before I beat him by just about 1,000 points right as we entered the last room.

We would have had time for a few more rides or to do some shopping on the way out of the park, but it was around 8:00 by the time we were feeling pretty tired and ready to head out for the day. We did a lot, though. I really don’t think it would have been possible to do as much as we did in one day at the Magic Kingdom if all of the entertainment, meet and greets, and FastPass were back, so it really kind of worked out for us that we had so much time to do everything in one day.

It wasn’t time to turn in for the night though, because we had a dinner reservation at Kona Cafe! The monorail station was being renovated at the Polynesian, so we took one of the resort launches to the hotel from the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. Like Whispering Canyon the previous night, we arrived too early for the QR code outside the restaurant to check us in, but after checking with a Cast Member at the entrance we were seated in about five minutes.

Inside the Polynesian definitely felt a little off, but it was still so nice to be back. Tambu Lounge was open and lots of guest were hanging out there having some drinks, but there was no entertainment and the whole area felt different without the hustle and bustle of ‘Ohana in the background. The resort’s gift shops and Trader Sam’s tiki bar were also closed. Pineapple Lanai was open, though, if I had room after dinner I would have stopped in for a Dole Whip!

For dinner, we decided to just do drinks and appetizers, and I’m really glad we did! We got a round of Backscratchers (one of my favorite Disney drinks, made with Bacardi Superior Rum, Plantation Original Dark Rum, and Guava-Passion Fruit Juice topped with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey with an actual wooden backscratcher on the side.)

For eats, we split a spicy tuna roll, sticky wings, and potstickers. I’ve had the wings on most of my visits to Kona Cafe, and they always hold up with their sweet and savory soy based sauce. The potstickers were different since the last time I had them.  Again, I was terrible at taking pictures this trip, but they had a sweet mustard drizzled around the edge of the plate that just made the whole dish. The sushi was the standout though. Kona’s sushi menu is a little toned down at the moment, but in normal times they have some really interesting specialty rolls. The spicy tuna was still delicious, it’s something I wouldn’t have tried if there were more unique options on the menu, but now that I’ve had it, it might just be some of the best sushi I’ve had.

We did notice another table appeared to have ‘Ohana bread pudding, so I asked about it but by the time we were on dessert they were sold out of it. (They did have it though earlier in the evening! So if you are at Kona Cafe but wanting a taste of ‘Ohana, definitely ask to see if it’s available- You won’t find it on the menu so you’ll need to check with your server.) It was probably for the best anyway as we didn’t really have room for it, it was just tempting seeing it from a distance.

After dinner we went to head back to the resort. We opted to take an Uber back to the Wilderness Lodge, we felt sort of silly because the hotel is so close (but not walkable…I mean I guess the distance is technically walkable as it’s about a mile away, but it’s not walkable in the sense that you’d be walking by the woods/water at night without a sidewalk and that doesn’t seem very smart.) We probably could have taken the boat back to the park and gotten the Wilderness Lodge boat there, but an Uber seemed quicker so we went with it.

There was a ton of construction happening at the front of the resort while they reworked the monorail station, so much so, that you actually could not walk out the front doors of the lobby to the area where you’d normally pick up an Uber. Assuming we’d still need to go in that general direction we walked out the back of the lobby and around to the front of the building where a kind Cast Member informed us that the temporary Uber pick up was a good distance away. He ended up getting us on a golf cart with another Cast Member who was going that direction and saved us a ton of walking!

Once at the Uber pickup, our ride came pretty quick and we had another sort of early night (it was about 10:30 by that point, so early for Disney standards I think.) We had another busy day ahead of us though as we planned to rope drop Animal Kingdom in the morning!

Check back later for Part 2, where we see some animals, sip Safari Ambers, and do some unexpected park hopping!

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