On Monday, we also did one of the water parks - Blizzard Beach. We got the whole shebang when it came to tickets, adding the dining plan, park hopper and water parks. I'm not sure we got our money's worth the the "water parks and more" option, although it really wasn't all that much more. We were so busy with the regular parks, and the pool at the resort was so nice, we hardly had time for the water parks.
But we headed over to Blizzard Beach for a few hours. It was, not surprisingly, packed. We barely found a single chair to toss our towels onto. And the lines for the various "rides" were pretty long - no FASTPASSes here! We tried a couple and, to be honest, were not all that impressed. I found the toboggan run to be hard on the neck. You go down on your stomach using this polyurethane "sled" but you have to keep your back arched and your head up, which put a strain on my neck and back.
There was a group ride down on a big raft that was fun, but hardly worth the long wait. And the huge water slide actually was tough on the tailbone. Even my girls complained of it hurting their back and butts after coming down it. And that was the shorter of the two, as Blizzard Beach claims to have the highest water slide in the country. But its extra long lines discouraged us from trying it and getting banged up enough of the shorter makes me think I'm pretty glad we didn't try that one.
But the big wave pool was fun, as was the lazy river ride that went all around the park. Just grab a tube and float along. For obvious reasons, that was my favorite. So it was a fun few hours and, as it turned out, the only time we went to a water park.
For dinner, we had another late night meal, this time over at EPCOT. It was nice to walk around the park at night, with lighter crowds. We ate at the Marrakesh, in the Moroccan ""quarter" and had a lovely "chef's choice" meal, with a bunch of courses and delicious chicke, lamb and vegetable dinners. The girls enjoyed their ribs (they have become real rib fans) and another busy day drew to a happily stuffed ending.
So it was up and at'em early on Monday morning. I had warned the family that this was not going to be one of those 'laze around by the pool' vacations. This was Spring Break at Disney World and half the eastern seaboard was going to be there, so we needed to beat the crowds. The one suggestion I took to heart the most was to get to the parks early to beat the crowds. And as I'm a morning person anyway, this wasn't too hard a decision.
In addition, 3 of the parks had "Extra Magic Hours". During these hours, which come both before and after normal park hours, at different times at different parks, only people who are staying at a Disney World resort can get in. Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom each had Extra Magic Hours one hour before the normal opening at 8am (!). So my plan was to get to the park by 7am and get some riding in before the predictable massive crowds descended.
Lucky for us, the weather today (and, indeed, the entire week) was perfect - 100% sunshine, predicted highs around 90. We of course got a later start than planned, as we rolled out of the resort room at around 7:30am, but the temps were already in the 70s, so for these cold-hardened new Englanders,it was t-shirts and shorts time.
And no lines. It was so empty, we decided to forgo getting a Fast Pass and just jumped right onto our first ride - the Tower Of Terror. The theme of this great ride is a Twilight Zone episode where some people got transported to the twilight zone from a ritzy 30s hotel due to a lightning strike. A cool little video presentation, replete with cast members dressed up as bellhops, set the atmosphere. About 15 people get into the "car", with an opening about 40 stories up, overlooking the rest of the park.
Then it just drops you. They've added a randomizer, so that each ride is a little different as far as how far it drops you and how often and how far you come back up. It was a blast! As we were going down the first time, I noticed a baseball cap floating in front of me, so I grabbed it. Turned out it was R11.9's hat! You fall, stop, go back up, fall, go back up, the doors open for another view of the park, then you fall again. I loved it, because I'm just not up to spinning rides and this was perfect scary fun.
When we came out, we went to the Fast Pass dispensing machine and talked about whether we wanted to get a fast pass for it. The girls were undecided if they wanted to go back on but then a very nice cast member stepped up and gave us a key piece of advice for the effective use of the fast pass.
A Fast Pass basically gives you an official ticket to cut to the front of the line. There's a special entrance and line for Fast Pass holders that pretty much dumps you at the front of the line. But there are a couple of catches to the Fast Pass:
You can't use it until the time printed on it. This time gradually gets later and later as the number of ticket holders expands.
You can't get another one, for any ride, until another time printed on the ticket, usually an hour later (but sometimes a couple of hours later)
The trick the cast member explained to us is that, although the ticket has a time range, usually an hour, printed on it, you can use it any time after the printed start time. You are not limited to just the hour or so shown on the ticket. And you can have as many Fast Pass tickets as you want, even to the same ride. The only limit is the other time printed, which tells you how long you have to wait before you can get another Fast Pass anywhere in the park (and maybe even anywhere at any of the parks - we didn't test that).
This makes things much more flexible. So we got the Tower Of Terror Fast Pass, went on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, which features a great intro by Aerosmith and an amazing 0-60 in 2 seconds launch into a bunch of swirly loop the loops in the (mostly) dark. R11.9 had one of the more memorable quotes after the first time on it, when she remarked "If you open your eyes, it looks like you are about to hit some of the obstacles!". Not sure how often she opened her eyes, but they both loved the ride.
We also did the Indiana Jones show (loved it),"Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey" (you listened in on headphones as he has an adventure - interesting), the Toy Story ride (great fun, if tiring, shooting at targets by pulling a string - I won naturally:) and had a great day walking around. I would have liked to do The Great Movie Ride, but I don't yet have any other movie buffs in the family. We did the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster again but for the only time at Disney World, the girls weren't interested in riding a ride again so we went on the Tower Of Terror ourselves and it was still great. We gave away the other 2 Fast Passes we had.
So a big thumbs up to Hollywood Studios. We had fun, the weather was great, the rides were a blast (even if the girls wouldn't go on Tower Of Terror again!) and the crowds manageable. By getting there early, getting a few rides in and a few Fast Passes into our hands, we were able to avoid any waiting. Something we did for most of the time at Disney World - a winning formula!