Go See Do Explore

Travel by Any Means Necessary

Riding the Rails: Amtrak’s California Zephyr

Red Rocks in Colorado

Red Rocks in Colorado

Peering out the window, you watch as the majestic Rocky Mountains give way to the arid deserts of Nevada, and the towering Sierra Nevadas loom on the horizon. The gentle rocking of the train lulls you into a state of tranquility as you take in the ever-changing landscapes. This is the magic of train travel – the opportunity to truly experience the grandeur of America at a pace that allows you to savor every mile.

Amtrak’s legendary California Zephyr route from Chicago to Emeryville (near San Francisco) is an iconic journey that epitomizes the romance of the rails. At over 2,400 miles long and traversing seven states, it’s one of the most scenic train rides in the country. From the craggy cliffs of Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, this transcontinental odyssey promises endless vistas and a window into the very soul of the American West.

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Our adventure started in the bustling metropolis of Chicago (above), where we stayed in the lavishly appointed Allegro Royal Sonesta, near the train station. Before boarding the train, we stopped for lunch at Sarah Grueneburg’s wonderful Monteverde for some of the most fantastic Italian food I have ever had. After lunch, we headed to Union Station where we boarded the distinctive double-decker Superliner train. Having the option to book sleeper accommodations made the prospect of spending multiple nights onboard far more appealing. While the traditional coach seats offer a no-frills experience, the first-class sleeping cars provide a welcome oasis of comfort and privacy.

From cozy roomettes to spacious bedrooms, the sleeper options range from functional to more comfortable. Our quaint roomette may have been compact, but it came equipped with seats that converted into beds, access to a shower, and turndown service each evening. Best of all, meals in the dining car were included – a welcome perk that added to the indulgent experience.

As the miles rolled by, we soon discovered that one of the biggest draws of long-haul train travel is the opportunity to take in vistas that are simply impossible to witness from the air. The California Zephyr’s route is a veritable showcase of America’s natural splendor, from the snow-capped peaks and winding rivers of Colorado to the otherworldly desert landscapes of Nevada.

Observation Car on California Zephyr

Spending time in the glass-enclosed Sightseer Lounge observation car, we were transfixed by the passing panoramas. The train’s leisurely pace allowed us to fully appreciate the subtleties of light and shadow playing across the rugged terrain. We watched in awe as the train snaked through narrow mountain passes, canyons, and long tunnels bored through solid rock. This disconnection from the hustle of daily life was not only welcomed but essential to fully embracing the unhurried rhythms of rail travel.

Amtrak’s long-haul routes are a throwback to a more elegant era of travel. Gone are the hassles of airports, the indignities of cramped planes, and the impersonal sterility of it all. In their place is an almost nostalgic experience that encourages you to relish the simple pleasures of the journey itself. Mornings began with a hot breakfast in the dining car, where the gently rocking motion of the train added an extra dimension to the experience. Midday meant whiling away the hours with a good book or enjoying conversations with fellow travelers over lunch as the landscapes rolled by. As evening settled in, we would adjourn to the dining car once more for a leisurely three-course dinner accompanied by a glass of wine. The ambiance was warm and convivial, with strangers quickly becoming friends united by a shared sense of adventure.

California Zephyr with Union Pacific Engine in Emeryville, California

California Zephyr with Union Pacific Engine in Emeryville, California

It is important to note that Amtrak is infamous for delays. While we arrived in Denver ahead of schedule, shortly after leaving, one of our engines was out of commission and we sat in Granby, Colorado for several hours while they disconnected it from our train. We were delayed once more when we pulled into Grand Junction and they hooked up a Union Pacific engine to our train to help pull us through the Sierras. All-in-all, we arrived in Emeryville about 3 hours behind schedule, which is not too bad for Amtrak time. If you are planning a journey on Amtrak, patience is key, and give yourself more than enough time to reach your destination.

As our train finally pulled into the Emeryville station, there was a tinge of melancholy at the journey’s end. The California Zephyr had worked its magic, immersing us in the grandeur of the great American landscape while connecting us to the romantic spirit of rail travel’s halcyon days.

Long-haul train journeys aren’t just a way to get from one place to another – they’re an enchanting opportunity to embrace the thrill of the open road from the comfort of rolling accommodations. If unhurried indulgence, spectacular scenery, and a touch of nostalgia are what you crave, then all aboard! The adventure of a lifetime awaits on Amtrak’s transcontinental routes.

Tips for the Long-Haul Traveler

Dever Union Station

Dever Union Station

While the allure of a multi-day train journey is undeniable, amenities are limited, and a bit of preparation can go a long way toward ensuring your comfort:

  • Pack minimally and organize your belongings neatly to avoid clutter in the compact sleeper spaces
  • An eye mask and earplugs are essential for quality sleep amid the motion and ambient light
  • Bring entertainment like books, magazines, or downloadable content, as WiFi can be spotty
  • Have a portable battery pack to keep devices charged, as outlets are limited
  • Be sure to get out and stretch your legs frequently by walking the sway-friendly aisles

Most importantly, embrace a mindset of patience and unhurried living. Delays are common due to the freight rail priorities (or as in our case, equipment failures), but rushing defeats the purpose of this relaxing mode of travel. Slow down, savor the experience, and create lasting memories from a bygone era of exploration.

California Zephyr in Glenwood Springs

California Zephyr in Glenwood Springs

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Top 10 Places to Return

Top 10 Places We Want to Return

We’re travelers at heart, always seeking to uncover the hidden gems that make destinations unforgettable. Recently, we had a conversation about the places we would most like to revisit on the Go See Do Explore Podcast. While our wandering feet have carried us to incredible corners of the world, some places linger in our memories more vividly than others – calling us back to rediscover their charms. From rugged islands to vibrant cityscapes, these are the spots that ignite our wanderlust anew:

Jordan Pond House

Acadia’s Coastal Majesty
The craggy cliffs and crashing surf of Maine’s Acadia National Park have a magnetic pull that’s impossible to resist. We were instantly enchanted by the park’s windswept trails and sweeping ocean vistas during a visit in 2019. With more hikes beckoning, we yearn to return and delve deeper into Acadia’s untamed beauty on Mount Desert Island.

 

Sylvan Lake

Black Hills Grandeur
An oasis of lush pine forests amid South Dakota’s arid landscapes, the majestic Black Hills left an indelible mark on us. From the chiseled granite faces of Mount Rushmore to the bison-dotted meadows of Custer State Park, this region warrants a longer sojourn to uncover its myriad wonders fully. Camping under star-studded skies tops our must-do list.

 

Enjoying a Glass of Wine at Bonobo

The Siren Call of Traverse City
With its sparkling beaches, award-winning wineries, and vibrant arts scene, Traverse City exerts an irresistible pull on us. This idyllic Lake Michigan town has become a home away from home, its natural splendor and culinary delights providing a welcome respite from everyday life. No matter how often we visit, we find ourselves longing to return.

 

U.S. Capitol Building

Washington D.C’s Monumental Allure
The cherry blossoms in peak bloom, the world-class museums of the Smithsonian – Washington D.C. is a cultural powerhouse that we would love to experience in full. A whirlwind day trip years ago only whetted our appetite for the nation’s capital, with its dazzling diversity of cuisine and history beckoning for a more immersive exploration.

 

L.A. Cetto Wine Barrel Fountain

Valle de Guadalupe’s Vinous Paradise
An off-the-beaten-path gem, Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe wine region left us spellbound with its sun-drenched vineyards, olive groves, and world-class vintages. From savoring robust reds to wandering medieval-style villages, this Baja California valley promises an immersive experience unlike any other wine destination.

 

Marigot from Fort St. Martin

St. Martin’s Joie de Vivre
The mere mention of St. Martin conjures up memories of languid days spent beach-side, sipping crisp rosés and feasting on Nicoise delicacies for us. The island’s dual Dutch and French personalities infuse it with an irresistible je ne sais quoi that has us dreaming of a return to soak up more of its inimitable charms.

 

Toledo train station

Toledo’s Timeless Romance
Like stepping into the pages of a historic novel, the ancient Spanish city of Toledo casts an unbreakable spell. We were utterly captivated by its winding cobblestone lanes, Moorish architecture, and centuries-old traditions during their visit. To fully immerse ourselves in Toledo’s living museum is a dream we are determined to realize.

 

Lagoa do Fogo

The Azores’ Wild Allure
Adrift in the Atlantic, the remote Azores islands are a nature-lovers paradise that stole our hearts. From hiking kaleidoscopic crater lakes to savoring wines with a hint of sea salt, this Portuguese archipelago is a feast for the senses. After a tantalizing glimpse, we yearn to immerse ourselves in the full Azorean experience.

 

Paseo del Morro

Puerto Rico’s Vivacious Spirit
Pulsing with an infectious energy and vibrant culture, Puerto Rico has us hooked on its charms. Whether strolling the azure streets of Old San Juan, kayaking through bioluminescent bays, or savoring mofongo, the island casts a spell that has him fantasizing about putting down roots in this Caribbean paradise.

 

Quinta das Carvalhas on the Douro

The Douro Valley’s Vinous Serenade
Rolling hills cloaked in lush vineyards, charming quintas plying world-class ports – the Douro Valley is a wine lover’s dreamscape that left us spellbound. After a tantalizing day trip from Porto, she’s intent on returning to fully savor the region’s old-world hospitality and scenery that seems plucked from a storybook.

The world is overflowing with extraordinary destinations, each weaving its unique tapestry of sights, sounds, and experiences. While the journey continues, these are the places calling us back to get intimately reacquainted – and we can’t wait to answer their siren songs.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Must-Have Apps for Travel

Apps for Travel

This blog post was inspired by Episode 10 of the Go See Do Explore Podcast. Listen to it here!

Travel is an adventure, full of wonder and possibility. But let’s be honest – navigating unfamiliar places, finding the best experiences, and staying connected can be daunting without a little help. That’s where travel apps come in, acting as indispensable digital guides on your journeys. From curating once-in-a-lifetime activities to translating foreign languages, these apps are modern explorers’ best friends. So pack your bags and download these must-have apps – they’ll have you seeing, doing, and exploring like a seasoned pro.

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra. 

Transportation and Navigation Alls

Getting there is half the adventure, but a smooth journey makes the destination that much sweeter. Start your travels on the right foot with apps like FlightAware to track flights in real time or airline apps for stress-free mobile boarding. Once on the ground, Google or Apple Maps attached to a smartwatch can keep you from staring at your phone while navigating in a new place. Apps like Obi and CityMapper become your urban scouts, deftly guiding you through the concrete jungles via public transit, rideshares, and more.

For road trips, Roadtrippers and iExit spotlight all the quirky roadside attractions and essential pit stops along your route. GasBuddy ensures you never overpay for fuel with its price comparison powers. Parking apps like ParkMobile and Park Whiz make finding parking in cities a breeze. Having the app for one or two rental car companies can save you time and hassle if you need to rent a car in a pinch.

Outdoor Adventure Apps

The great outdoors is calling, and these apps are your entry into the wild world of adventure. Camping aficionados will fall for the Ultimate Campgrounds app, a comprehensive database of public campsites from national forests to local parks. Booking campgrounds can be done through a variety of apps including Recreation.govReserveAmerica, Campendium and HipCamp. RV Life is a great app for campground reviews, especially when it comes to a park’s connectivity.

Plan epic hikes with Topo Maps or use AllTrails to discover nearby routes. For paddling pursuits, the Go Paddling app, reveals the best put-ins and waterways.

And no outdoor adventure is complete without exploring national parks. With the National Park Service app, you can virtually tour parks before arriving, with insider tips, trail maps, and the ability to track your conquered parks. An indispensable companion for your bucket list adventures.

Tourism & Experience Apps

One of travel’s greatest joys is discovering the unique heart of a destination. But how to find those off-the-beaten-path gems? Tap into the wealth of apps designed to connect you with authentic local experiences.

For an immersive cultural experience, nothing beats free walking tours booked through apps like FreeTour.com. These passionate guides, often locals themselves, offer an unvarnished look at their cities through fascinating storytelling. GetYourGuide and Viator are great resources for finding great tours in your destination, as well. For the flexibility of self-guided tours, Rick Steves’ Audio Europe provides a free virtual docent in your pocket all over Europe. Guide Along is a GPS-based driving tour app that is a great way to get the lay of the land.

When you want to dive into a destination’s top attractions with ease, turn to apps like Klook and CityPASS. These brilliant bundlers offer discounted admission to major sights and let you skip the line. Prefer to wing it? Apps like Yelp and OpenTable make it easy to read reviews and snag last-minute reservations at buzz-worthy restaurants and hot spots. Don’t forget Groupon for discounts on attractions. Unsure about tipping culture in your destination, check out Globe Tips.

Practical Travel Apps

Of course, no epic adventure is complete without a few inevitable snags and stresses. But apps like these can help you sail through travel turbulence like a pro.

Revolut is a multi-currency mobile banking app that eliminates pesky international transaction fees, giving you the best exchange rates on-the-go. Need to decipher signs, menus, or conversations? Google Translate provides real-time audio and text translation in over 100 languages. WhatsApp is important to have while traveling to communicate with hotels, restaurants, and tour guides as standard SMS texting is uncommon outside of the U.S.

For those travel hiccups, having the right app can save the day! MyTSA will let you know security wait tims so you know when to head to the airport. Mobile Passport can help you breeze through customs, while apps like Bounce and Luggage Hero offer a temporary place to store your luggage between trips. The ingenious Timeshifter app is designed to help you conquer jet lag by creating a customized sleep schedule for your routes.

With these travel apps in your carry-on, every journey becomes an inspired adventure waiting to unfold. So pack that smart suitcase and get exploring – the world is yours to go see and do!

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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6 Tips for Travel while Working Remotely

Inspiration from this post came from Episode 6 of our podcast. Listen to it here!

As travel bloggers, we’re often asked how we manage to travel so frequently while still getting work done. The truth is, with some strategic planning and the right tools, working remotely from almost anywhere in the world is possible. On our latest adventure through Europe, we put our digital nomad skills to the test – and today, we’re telling you how we did it.

From tapping into time zone differences to finding the ideal workspace, join us as we dive into the heart of combining work and wanderlust. Get ready to be inspired to embrace the remote lifestyle and take your office off the beaten path.

Mastering the time zone game

One of our top tips for working on the road? Use time differences to your advantage. When heading west to mountain time, Chris was able to start his workday bright and early, wrapping up by mid-afternoon. This allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in exploring destinations like the Black Hills in the evening hours when most of the crowds had departed.

Heading east provides its perks too. In Europe last summer, we found ourselves with crowd-free mornings to wander cobblestone streets before Chris clocked in. With a 5-6 hour time difference, he could work until the late evening hours just in time for a leisurely European dinner.

Strategizing your schedule for flexibility

Of course, making remote work a success requires careful coordination with your employer. Before any big trips, Chris makes a point to arrange his schedule around our travel plans as much as possible. This ensures he can be fully present for meetings and deadlines while still leaving room for epic adventures.

It’s also crucial to build in breaks that allow you to actually experience your surroundings. For Chris, this means taking short walks every few hours – whether it’s strolling to the beach in Traverse City, grabbing coffee in Custer, or simply stepping out on the balcony to soak in views of the Douro River in Porto.

Choosing the right home base

Where you stay can make or break the remote work experience. When traveling together, we prioritize accommodations with dedicated workspaces separated from the main living area. This ensures I’m not inadvertently photo-bombing Chris’s video calls!

One standout was the Roosevelt Inn & Suites in North Dakota, which featured full kitchens and separate living rooms – the perfect set up for Chris to work uninterrupted. Other stellar options are extended-stay hotels like Country Inns & Suites with living room alcoves.

Don’t forget to check reviews and listings for bandwidth speeds too. While Chris doesn’t need ultra-high internet for his daily tasks, a stable connection is crucial for video meetings and large file transfers.

Choose travel-friendly gear

Just like packing his favorite travel gear, Chris is selective about the tech equipment he brings when we travel. A few must-haves? A lightweight laptop with long battery life and a portable second screen solution like a trifold monitor or an iPad that can double as a secondary display.

A travel router with VPN capabilities to keep his online activities secure across public networks is a must. This proved invaluable during our transatlantic cruise when we could share a premium internet package across devices. Having multiple cellular data options through different carriers ensures Chris has the power and connectivity to work from anywhere that has cell signal. Don’t forget, international power adapters are a must when traveling overseas.

Cruising into productivity

Speaking of cruising, our recent transatlantic voyage allowed us to truly test the limits of remote work at sea. While the ship’s traditional satellite internet proved challenging for video calls and large file transfers, Chris was able to participate in meetings by calling in using a VoIP service.

He also got resourceful by remoting into a cloud server when bandwidth was too low for uploading and downloading files directly. This allowed work to progress smoothly, even in the middle of the Atlantic with zero cell signal.

For the best connectivity, cruise lines are rapidly rolling out SpaceX’s Starlink internet which provides higher speeds and reliability. Chris experienced the benefits first-hand on a previous cruise and can’t recommend it enough for aspiring cruise-working digital nomads.

The remote work mindset

More than any specific strategy or gear, the most important element of working remotely is the right mindset. It requires flexibility, creative problem-solving, and a willingness to adapt to different environments – but the payoff is worth it.

As Chris says, “I want people to know that I can do my job wherever I am.” With thoughtful planning and a bit of tech-savvy, you too can embrace the nomadic lifestyle.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Presidents Day at Hollywood Studios

Storm Troopers

After two straight days of rain, the sun finally came out for our last day at Disney World. As it was the only park we hadn’t visited yet, we planned to spend the morning at Disney Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Studios has always been my least favorite park at Disney World, but my opinion changed about it during our trip in 2021. After recently riding Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland, I wasn’t as eager to return to Hollywood Studios (partly because it was forecast to be 10/10 for crowds due to the Holiday) as I expected after our last visit. After going back and forth about it for a while, I finally decided that we would start the day at Hollywood Studios and then utilize our Park Hopper to head back to one of the other parks after lunch.

We got up early on our final day to head to the Studios, but first, we made our only Individual Lightning Lane purchase of the trip for another ride on Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind at Epcot. We headed to the Studios for early park entry and got right in line for Rise of the Resistance (top). After riding it multiple times, the theming and immersion of that attraction and the whole Galaxy’s Edge area are amazing, but the cast member interaction was noticeably less than on my first ride.

After our first ride of the day, wait times were already high. We headed to Toy Story Midway Mania, which is always enjoyable. After that, we waited in a long line for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, because I was not too fond of it on our last visit to the Studios and I was hoping it would redeem itself with another ride through but it did not. This is a controversial opinion within the Disney Fan Community, but I prefer Remy’s Rattatoi Adventure at Epcot for the same ride system. Runaway Railway is very jerky and I just do not like it. It’s safe to say that I will skip it the next time I’m in the Studios like I did in Disneyland. Finally, we went to Muppet Vision 3D (which needs an update, if you ask me), and by that point, it was 45 minutes before our lunch reservation and all of the waits were higher than that so we ended up sitting on a bench outside 50’s Prime Time Cafe just waiting to be able to check-in.

This was my second time dining at 50’s Prime Time, the last one being when I was about 10 years old and the waiter yelling at you schtick gave me anxiety so I have avoided it since. People online love 50’s so I figured we would give it a chance. I considered telling our server that we were not interested in getting yelled at, but instead, we just followed all of their rules and were able to eat our food in peace. The food at 50’s Prime Time is old-school classics, as the name implies. I had the Chicken Pot Pie and Chris had a sampler with meatloaf, pot roast, and fried chicken and the food was all good, but it was honestly boring compared to the other places we had eaten earlier in the trip. If you have picky eaters in your family, or you want your children to get yelled at on vacation, 50’s is a great choice, but in the future, I will probably skip it for more adventurous cuisine.

Journey of Water inspired by Moana

After lunch, we hopped on one of  Friendship Boats for a leisurely ride to Epcot. It was the final day of the Festival of the Arts so we spent some time wandering around appreciating the art that was mostly covered up during our Epcot day because of the rain. We also walked through the new Journey of Water inspired by Moana. It is a walkthrough attraction and it will be an enjoyable way to cool off in the hot Florida summers. It was a beautiful illustration of the water cycle and had some great photo ops as well. In my opinion, this was a great addition to Epcot’s World Nature neighborhood.

Livin' with the Land

We rode a few of our favorites including Livin’ with the Land and Spaceship Earth again and then it was time for our Lightning Lane. Once again, Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind was so much fun! After that, it was time for us to head back to Pop Century, grab our bags, and make our way to the airport. At the time, I was disappointed by the crowds and the high wait times of visiting Disney World during a holiday weekend, but looking back on it, with the exception of Monday, we were able to ride pretty much everything we had wanted to. We said we were going to take a couple of years before heading to Disney World again, but Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (R.I.P. Splash Mountain) opens next month, so we will see how long we can stay away!

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

A Rainy Day at Animal Kingdom

Pandora at Animal Kingdom

Our third day at Disney World started bright and early with Early Entry to Animal Kingdom at 7:30 am and the rain was still coming down. We had not been to Animal Kingdom since our trip in 2015, so the whole Pandora section of the park was new to us. We headed to Flight of Passage for rope drop and the line was already pretty long by the time they let us in despite the early hour and the weather.

Flight of Passage is a Soarin’-like attraction where you ride on a Banshee over Pandora. The ride vehicle is more complex in that it appears to breathe underneath you, which is interesting. It is also in 3D which really affected my motion sickness. I had a headache for the rest of the day. If you get motion sickness from screen-based rides, you may want to consider skipping this one. Chris enjoyed it, though, and probably would have gone on it again if the line went down.

Pandora at Animal Kingdom

After getting off Flight of Passage, we noticed the wait for Expedition Everest was short so we headed over there for a wet roller coaster experience. We love that ride so much that when we got off, we went right to the single-rider line and rode it again.

At that point, Kilimanjaro Safari opened and had a ridiculously short wait so we ran over there and had probably the best safari experience that I had ever had at Animal Kingdom. Because it was early in the day and it wasn’t hot, all the animals were very active. The lion even roared at us as we drove by.

After our safari, we headed back to Pandora to ride Na’vi River Journey, which was the final new attraction for us on this trip. Na’vi River Journey is a calm boat ride through Pandora’s bioluminescent rainforest and the Na’vi Shaman of Songs sings as you float by. The wait was long but at this point, we were just glad to get a break from the rain. While we were waiting, the ride broke down so we ended up waiting for much longer than anticipated, but the other rides also had long lines at this point so we decided not to leave. Maybe the long wait affected our anticipation for this ride or maybe it was the fact that we had just experienced true bioluminescence in Puerto Rico, but I was not impressed with Na’vi River Journey. While the attractions in Pandora aren’t my thing, I have to appreciate the immersive storytelling in Pandora. I wish we had time to explore more of the land when I wasn’t getting soaked to the bone.

Acrobatic Monkeys at Festival of the Lion King

After leaving the Na’vi River, we headed to the Festival of the Lion King. In general, we are not big show people in Disney, but on our last trip to Animal Kingdom, I lost my glasses and we went to the Festival of the Lion King, but I really couldn’t see anything. I was glad we made a point to go back because it was visually spectacular and I really did enjoy it!

After the show, we had pretty much seen everything we wanted to see in Animal Kingdom so we stopped for lunch back in Pandora, at what may be my new favorite counter service restaurant, Satu’li Canteen. Their menu is inventive and has lots of healthier options. We picked one of the less healthy, the cheeseburger bao buns and they were really good!

After lunch, we utilized our park hopper and went back to Magic Kingdom to ride a couple of attractions that we didn’t get to on Friday. Due to the rain, the wait for Big Thunder Mountain was short so we headed there and rode it a couple of times until we were too soaked for comfort. Then, we hit Space Mountain again, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Peoplemover and we were getting cold. We had a dinner reservation at Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village so we headed there early and hung out in the warm, dry lobby until our table was ready.

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Sanaa specializes in African food with Indian flavors and their food is not something we can find easily where we live. They have an extensive wine list featuring African wines and I was most excited to try their bread service. The bread service was wonderful and so much food! For my entree, I had the pork shank and Chris had the Potjie Inspired with the Goan Seafood Curry, Pork Vindaloo, and Lentil Daal. While we had many delicious meals on this trip, this one is at the top and it has inspired us to use some Indian flavors in the kitchen at home.

While I had originally planned to go back to the parks after dinner, we were tired and wet. We headed back to the resort, dried off, did some laundry, and watched Harry Potter on TV to prepare for our final day of Disney madness before heading home.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read more about this trip, be sure to read our Long Weekend at Disney World Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

A Rainy Day in Epcot

The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Our second day in Disney World was spent at Epcot. We got up early and were able to secure our Virtual Queue Reservation for Guardians of the Galaxy, another new to me attraction. Then we hopped on the Skyliner to the park for early entry and the rain had already started. We headed right from the International Gateway to ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. We rode Remy during our last trip on the day after it opened and I loved it! I have to say it lived up to my memory. I would have loved to ride it again, but by the time we were done with the ride, it was already up to a 45-minute wait so we headed to the Land and a short wait for Soarin’, which is another of my favorites in Epcot. Because of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration, Soarin’ Around the World was replaced with the original Soarin’ Over California (Soarin’ Around the World returned to Epcot after our trip). It was great to experience that version again and I would’ve ridden it again, but once again when we got off, the line was already long so we had a stop for breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, which was my favorite Quick Service in Epcot before COVID. It is pared down now, but it served its purpose.

We got a quick ride on Living with the Land and then headed to Test Track to ride single rider, but by the time we got there, it shut down due to the rain. At this point, everything else had longer waits than I would typically wait for any attractions, but we to get out of the rain, we waited 30 minutes for the Seas with Nemo and Friends. I’m not proud of it, but at least it was dry. From there, we headed to the Canada Pavillion to see the updated film with Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy of Schitt’s Creek fame. The film had me reminiscing about our 2022 trip to Vancouver and realizing there is way more of Canada than I have seen. I did miss the funnier Martin Short version of the film that we saw last time, though.

After that, it was about time to get some lunch and we decided to try some of the Festival of the Arts booths. First, we went to Pop Arts and had the grilled cheese and tomato soup, which was delicious but we realized that eating at the booths in the rain was unpleasant. Our sandwich got soaked and the soup was watered down, but overall it was pretty good. While we were eating and trying our best to stay dry, we got our notification that it was time to join the Virtual Queue for Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind.

Just like with Tron, it was a long wait with the virtual queue, but all of the other attractions had long waits at the time and we were enjoying getting out of the rain and drying off a little. Before this trip, I had never seen a single Marvel Film and didn’t know much about the Guardians of the Galaxy. The exhibits in the queue told a lot of the story and I was excited to see Terry Crews, who is always funny. The attraction itself was amazing (and is the most expensive roller coaster ever built)! We got Conga by Miami Sound Machine and I think that song has the best energy to accompany that ride. If you don’t mind rollercoasters, I highly recommend you ride Guardians of the Galaxy. We enjoyed it so much that we actually bought an Individual Lightning Lane for it later in the trip and we watched the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies when we got home.

I was glad we didn’t eat too much before riding Guardians, but once we were off the ride, luckily the rain let up and we enjoyed more of the festival booths. Since it wasn’t raining we went back to Test Track and were able to ride it. Wait times were still pretty high for everything else we wanted to do, so we decided to head back to Pop Century to rest and dry off before dinner.

Dinner was at a restaurant I’ve always wanted to try in Epcot, San Angel Inn. If you have ever been to Epcot, this is the restaurant inside the pyramid in the Mexico Pavillion where you can watch the boats of the Gran Fiesta Tour float by while dining, similar to Blue Bayou in Disneyland. San Angel Inn gets very mixed reviews online, but we have been having a lot of authentic Mexican food at home lately and this lived up to our expectations. I do not understand the hate this restaurant gets online. It is not TexMex; there are no free chips and salsa, but everything we ordered was wonderful! I would dine there again in a heartbeat.

Luminous

After dinner, we rode Gran Fiesta Tour and headed to find a spot for the fireworks. The cold, rainy weather really worked in our favor this time because there were not a lot of people left in the park at this point. We were able to find a spot on the bridge from England to France, with only a few umbrellas blocking our view. This was my first time seeing the new Luminous show. I was not a fan of Harmonious in 2021, if you didn’t camp out to get a spot right by the water with the right angle, you didn’t get to see the projection screens. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like wasting my precious theme park time camping out for a fireworks spot so it didn’t work for me. Luminous greatly improved on Harmonious, in my opinion. While our view was slightly blocked by umbrellas, we were still able to appreciate the show. I also enjoyed that the show is a mix of music from Disney films and original music. I think this show does a good job of blending what people enjoyed about Harmonious and my all-time favorite theme park firework show, Illuminations into one, modern show with good music. I recommend you don’t skip Luminous when you’re in Epcot!

Luminous

Since we watched the fireworks from the Bridge by the International Gateway, we were able to get out of the park fairly quickly and were able to get on the Skyliner before a line formed. If the weather was better, we probably would have headed back to end the night in Magic Kingdom, but at that point, I was just looking forward to taking off my wet shoes and getting some sleep before an early morning at Animal Kingdom the next day.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read more about this trip, be sure to read our Long Weekend at Disney World Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Holiday Weekend at Magic Kingdom

Rope drop at Magic Kingdom

For our first day at Disney World, we woke up early for rope drop at Magic Kingdom. Before we even left our hotel room, we got on the My Disney Experience app to try to get a virtual queue reservation for the newest attraction in the park, Tron. Unfortunately, all the spots filled up in one second. We still had a second chance to get a spot at 1 pm or we could buy a Lightning Lane reservation for $30 per person. This was the first inkling that we had that the parks were going to be busy this weekend.

Sunrise over TomorrowlandOnce we got to the park, we headed for tomorrowland and waiting for the park to open, so we could get our first ride on Space Mountain! We caught a beautiful sunrise over Astro Orbiter while we waited (left). We got on Space Mountain pretty quick, but when we got out, the line was already 30 minutes long but Buzz Lightyear was only 10 so we saved the galaxy and then headed to Fantastyland and walked right on Journey of the Little Mermaid. From there, the wait was short for Haunted Mansion, so we headed there and got through the stretching room and it broke down. We were stuck for probably ten minutes in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the loading area. We eventually got on the ride and then it was time for our breakfast Nutella Waffle at Sleepy Hollow. We got all of the done in the first hour and half the park was open.

After the first hour of so, the crowds got bigger and the waits got much longer. The good thing about Magic Kingdom is there are plenty of attractions that large capacity, so even when the headliners get busy, there is still plenty to do without too much of a wait. We headed back to tomorrowland and got our first ride of the trip on the PeopleMover and then rode Carosel of Progress and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor (I got picked which caught me off guard). We did a loop on the Walt Disney World Railroad and then got lunch at Casey’s Corner (corn dog nuggets and pulled pork fries were delicious). At that point, there wasn’t much with short waits, but we needed to be in the park at 1:00 to try again for a Virtual Queue for Tron, so we waited a bit for the PeopleMover again and managed to score a Virtual Queue right after we came out of Space Mountain.

Happily Ever After from Fantasyland

Virtual Queue acquired, we hopped over to EPCOT so I could get the Festival of the Arts Figment Popcorn Bucket. We went on a few rides and then took our first Skyliner ride back to Pop Century so we could drop off my popcorn bucket and rest a little before dinner. It felt like we were barely back in the room when it was time to head back to Magic Kingdom for dinner at Skipper Canteen, which is the best Table Service restaurant in Magic Kingdom, in my opinion. It was almost time for the fireworks, but we are not ones to stake out a fireworks spots hours in advance, so we rode a few more rides and then found a spot in Fantasyland, near the carousel for the show. Now, this was probably not the best spot to see Happily Ever After for the first time. You can’t see the projections on the castle at all. But, it was a really cool perspective with fireworks being shot off all around us.

Happily Ever After from FantasylandAfter the fireworks, the park really emptied out. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain before our Virtual Queue was called and we headed to Tron. Even though we had the virtual queue reservation, we waited about an hour for the ride and the ride itself was very short. Tron has an interesting ride vehicle which is kind of like if you were securely attached to a bicycle on a rollercoaster track. The launch has probably the most intense of all Disney Rollercoasters (possibly excluding Rock n Rollercoaster), but the track was incredibly smooth. All-in-all, I am glad we rode it, but I don’t know if it was worth the wait and I’m glad we didn’t pay for a Lightning Lane to ride it.

Afterward, we had time for one more attraction before the park closed and we practically ran to Jungle Cruise for the last boat of the night. I felt like we were riding with a bunch of Jungle Cruise nerds. It was one of the best Jungle Cruise experiences I have ever had. After we made it back, we stumbled exhausted to the bus stop for our ride back to Pop Century for a few hours of shut eye before another day of Disney craziness.

Overall, even with the crowds, we were able to do pretty much everything we wanted to in Magic Kingdom, with the exception of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which we hit later in the trip, and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, which I wanted to ride again but after our experience in 2010, I will only ride with a short wait. Be sure to check back next week as we enjoy a rainy day at Epcot.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read more about this trip, be sure to read our Long Weekend at Disney World Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Long Weekend at Disney World

Hanging with Walt at Dreamer's Point

Hanging with Walt at Dreamer’s Point

In 2021, we took a long weekend trip to Walt Disney World for the 5oth Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom. While it was crowded, we had a wonderful time. A few years had passed and some new attractions had opened up, so we decided it was time to head back to the most Magical Place on Earth. Because of my teacher’s schedule, we decided to visit during President’s Weekend. After booking our trip, I read several articles about how it is one of the busiest weekends of the year at the parks. I renewed my TouringPlans.com subscription and read all of the tips I could find to beat the crowds, but I figured it wouldn’t be as busy as it was for the 50th Anniversary.

On our last trip, we splurged to stay at Coronado Springs, a Moderate Resort, and we didn’t think it was worth the money for the way we visit Disney World, so this time we went back to the value resorts and stayed at Pop Century. There have been some updates since we last stayed at Pop almost 10 years ago. Now, there is the Skyliner, a gondola transportation system that takes guests from Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera Resort to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Since Epcot is my favorite park, we figured spending a little extra (over the All-Star Resorts, the other Disney Value Resorts) and staying on the Skyliner made sense.

Skyliner at Epcot

Skyliner at Epcot

Back in 2021, we only had three days in the parks, and we devoted one day to Magic Kingdom, one day to Epcot, and one day to Hollywood Studios. Since we had an extra day on this trip, we decided it was time to go back to Animal Kingdom. We also added on the Park Hopper this time so when we accomplished everything we wanted to at one park, we were able to leave and enter another park on the same day.

It had been a long time since I visited Disney World in February and the weather was much different from June or October. It was chilly (highs in the upper fifties, and low sixties) and it rained for two days straight. I am used to Florida’s afternoon showers, but this was something else. Everything was soaked. I am still recovering from walking two days in wet shoes (rookie mistake, I know).

Here is a preview of what is to come:

Day 1: Magic Kingdom

Day 2: Epcot

Day 3: Animal Kingdom

Day 4: Disney Hollywood Studios

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back in the next few weeks as I recount our days in each of the parks. Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Domes Beach

Domes Beach

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