Thanksgiving 2017 in Orlando with the Parks

We spent only our second destination Thanksgiving in Orlando, FL last week. Coincidentally, the first was with the Rhees in Miami Beach, FL five years ago. Our family and Elin went down a little early to spend a few days at Universal Studios. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was very close to the park.

The kids were most excited about Harry Potter, even though we already enjoyed the lite version in Hollywood over Spring Break. Orlando’s Diagon Alley did not disappoint. The weather was amazing the day we went. Our family lost steam around dinner time. We had dinner at Citywalk before heading back to the hotel. Elin, however, wanted to hit every ride and got most of them in by riding until closing time.

The next day, it was raining, but we still went to the pool anyway. It would have helped a bit if it was warmer, but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much. After swimming, we made a game time call to see Wonder. Afterwards, we had dinner across the street at The Portofino.

The third day we just had breakfast and packed up to move over to Disney. We went over to the Hilton next door to use their pool, which had a lazy river and a slide. Addy, Charles, the kids, and Dave all arrived and met us there. We tried to have dinner at Disney Springs with no reservation, but ended up just eating back at the hotel lobby.

On Thanksgiving, my plans to eat nothing until dinner was thwarted by a nice lunch at Eddie V’s. We hit the pool at our hotel in the afternoon, which had less amenities but was at least heated. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant, which is not our style, but still a lot easier for those who usually cook and or clean. Our main motivation for visiting Orlando was to see Grace’s mom’s brother, Ben, who lives there. We were happy that he joined us for our family dinner. This was Elin’s first American Thanksgiving, which she hopefully enjoyed.

Black Friday was spent at Disney World. It was my first visit there since 1980, which was before Epcot was even built. We planned this part of the trip terribly, as we just bought our tickets and had virtually no fast passes reserved among our big group. Our plan to mitigate this was to catch the first shuttle to the Disney, which meant a pre-dawn wakeup.

The main attraction Charles wanted to ride was the new Avatar-themed Pandora attraction. We didn’t exactly elbow our way into the park or run to the ride. By the time we were in line, it was already a 3-hour wait. Oof. Thankfully, everyone was patient (including the Grandparents). I don’t do well on these 4D rides. It was pretty amazing, but I’m still queasy. The kids and Elin loved it. We took it a little easier in the Animal Kingdom and did some Safari ride. Because the damage was done, even the Dinosaur ride was painful to me. We did actually have 3pm fast passes for Pandora, so Elin, Addy, Olivia, Lucas and Cameron rode it again.

We all headed over to Epcot for dinner. It was my first visit there. We then rode the monorail back to the transit center. Olivia, Lucas and Grace’s parents were done at this point, so I took them back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check it out and watch the grand finale. Everyone was impressed.

On our last full day together, we finally made it into Morimoto Asia for lunch. Afterwards, half the group went back to Disney World for another day and night at the park. Elin had a Fast Pass at 11:30pm at Space Mountain and didn’t make it home until late. The kids, Grace, Dave, Grace’s Dad and I went to the pool for a bit. We were back at Disney Springs for a healthy meal of fried everything at Art Smith’s.

Sunday, we packed up, and headed out of Disney for the last time. What we didn’t know was that our flight was going to be delayed about 4 hours, which made for a long rest at the Orlando airport. The one good thing about it was running into my long lost b-school buddy, Ted, who was on his way back to Austin.

As always, we have so much for which to be thankful and now this amazing trip  with family is also on the list.