November of 2020, Justin and Jordan comprised the idea to take a guy’s trip down to Disney in the near coming months. Bringing me into the fold turned out to be easier than they imagined, being that I was once known as a pessimist. “Disney is for little kids’ used to be my signature punch line, and boy was I wrong! After a short conversation with me and very little deliberation, we had a resort booked and park reservations locked in. Now we had to play the waiting game! Our trip was slated for February 5-7 in a preferred room at Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
Nestled on the Skyliner route along with a few other resorts and theme parks, Pop Century is great for a budget trip. Early Friday morning, we set out on I-95 south to I-4 and make our way into Orlando by mid-day. We head straight to the room being that we did early check in on the My Disney Experience app and were able to skip the concierge desk, get our luggage piled into the room and head off to the Skyliner.
Stepping off the Skyliner into the International Gateway of Epcot, we realize the reality that we really made this trip happen! We set off to get a drink at Rose & Crown Pub and make the journey into World Showcase. We stopped for a quick snack at the Refreshment Port, poutine to be exact which I highly recommend. After our quick stop we set foot toward the Mexico Pavillion to enjoy a flight of tequila shots at La Cava de Tequila before boarding the Three Caballeros Gran Fiesta Tour.
We manage to walk on nearly every ride in Epcot, including Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. By this time, we were feeling hungry once again and decided to stop at the Germany Pavillion to indulge ourselves in a Dunkel Lager and a giant pretzel with beer cheese. Taking in the remainder of World Showcase we opt to head back to the room and get a quick dip in the resort pool.
Once again, we felt the need to eat, so after getting showers we jump back on the Skyliner in route to Disney’s Riviera Resort. A suggestion made by Jordan we stop at Bar Riva tucked away in the corner beside the resort pool. Consistent with the theming, Bar Riva has a French flare with lots of rustic colors and artwork. All three of us ordered the oven roasted wings and paired them with the drink of our choice. By the time we finish eating it was nearly 11 PM. We leave with full stomachs and tired knees and decide it’s time to head back for some shut eye for the big day we had the next day.
Early rise Saturday morning, we fire up the coffee pot and snatch our phones up for the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance at Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. At the stroke of 7AM on the dot, 2 out of 3 of us manage to get boarding groups meaning we were slated to all experience this attraction for the first time…. TOGETHER!!! We quickly slam our cups of coffee get dressed and book it to the Skyliner. As we transferred at the Caribbean Beach Station and board the line to Hollywood Studios, we begin to see the spires that enshroud the Galaxy’s Edge area. This built up the anticipation tenfold.
Arriving at Hollywood Studios we make our way down the main drag which is Hollywood Boulevard and hop in a short line for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Such a cool attraction with autonomous vehicles in a train formation following none other than the Goof on a topsy turvy adventure of antics and nonsense. Once that was out of the way we all agreed it was time for a solid breakfast. Being that our boarding group was approaching soon, we slide over to Galaxy’s Edge to grab some eats at Ronto Roasters. We down our Ronto Wraps, a flour tortilla with smoked sausage, eggs, cheese, and a peppercorn sauce that is very reminiscent of a sausage gravy and wash them down with drinks of our choosing.
Walking into the queue for our boarding group, we notice how immense this experience is about to be. The theming is so on point down to every single detail, even atmospheric sounds! Not to spoil what the ride consists of; we leave Rise of the Resistance in complete awe of how much thought and creativity Disney’s Imagineers poured into this attraction. And to cap off that experience we mosey over the Baseline Tap House for a quick snack and some drinks. The beer cheese pretzel with any of the craft beef offerings is a sure way to please any adult looking for a quick break at Hollywood Studios. Such a classy, laid-back setting, a place where you can easily hit the reset button and get back at it.
Then it was time for Toy Story Land, a highly anticipated box to check off on this trip. Leaving Galaxy’s Edge, you begin to see giant K’nex and Jenga blocks with Christmas lights and many other brand specific toys in a large scale, making you feel small like a toy. The queue for Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster is easily some of the cleverest theming I have yet to see in any theme park! It looks as if Andy himself stacked different Milton Bradley board game boxes along with blocks, books and other things around his room to create this roller coaster he rigged up for good ole’ Slink. After a short 20 min wait in line, we experience its greatness and follow that up with Toy Story Mania, a fully immersive 3-D midway style game that I seem to always get the highest score on whenever I play. You’re welcome, thank you!
It was then time to head to the resort and get some relax time before venturing into Disney Springs for dinner and night life. We take an hour-long swim and have a few beers before getting showers and grabbing a bus. Getting into Disney Springs we had no plan, just walk until we saw something we liked and claim our stake there. Jordan put us on the waiting list for Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar before realizing Wine Bar George had an open table at that moment. We quickly cancel our name on the list and scamper over the Wine Bar George and the rest is history.
Nestled into an intersection between Hangar Bar and Gideon’s Bake House, Wine Bar George has a classy, swanky vibe, much like its menu! Our waitress takes our drink orders and makes small talk to get to know us a little and the guys mention we are celebrating our time together and also my birthday that was just a few days prior. Following the suggestion made by our waitress, we all order an old fashioned. Packed with American whiskey, aromatic and orange bitters, and a twist of orange peel this old fashioned absolutely slapped!! To take our dining experience to the next level, our waitress even added a birthday candle to my drink. She even lit it and led the guys in singing me happy birthday, such a wonderful touch! We all order something different as we agreed to have a table style feast to provide a vast selection of the menu’s offerings.
Jordan ordered the pork Pluma, a tender cut of pork tenderloin seared and drizzled with a sweet plum sauce with a slaw garnish. Justin snagged the crispy mac & cheese bites, cheesy battered and fried balls of creamy mac & cheese with a robust marinara for dipping. Making a clever move, I saw the family-style plate offerings that serve 2-4 people and chose the skirt steak version with roasted potatoes, seasonal veggies (asparagus at the time), and a chimichurri sauce on top. Everything was absolutely magnificent. The steak was tender enough to cut with a spoon, and the veggies all seasoned and roasted to perfection. The plate weighed in at $76 and the fact that it fed three grown men says a lot about the economics we kept in mind for this meal.
We waddle away from Wine Bar George completely satisfied and comatose and hear live music across the way at House of Blues Bar and decide that’s a place we need to be. We settle in at the bar and share a round or two or five of Yuengling’s while taking in the music and the people watching. We end up being there long enough that we order some smoked brisket mac & cheese to really put us in a grave for the night. Once we regain the ability to breathe, we head towards the bus loading area and catch an Uber back to the resort. Our Uber driver was a really cool guy and we struck up a conversation about investing in Cryptocurrency and other things, making the ride very pleasant and comfortable.
To take away from this experience, I am thrilled these guys got me in the loop on this whole thing. It really has become something special and gives us a reason to talk every day and just give us a chance to be together and do something we all love. We have lots more adventures ahead of us I am certain, and we cannot wait to share everything with you guys. So, for now, cheers to each and every one of you and here’s to many more fun times ahead!! Stay safe and take care of each other in the meantime.