Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Florida (Page 1 of 2)

Coronado Springs Resort Review

Coronado Blue (33706136420)

For my past several trips to Walt Disney World, I have chosen to stay at Value Resorts to save money. Since this was only a long weekend trip, I decided we could level up and stay at a Moderate Resort. My first choice was Port Orleans Riverside which one of my favorite Disney Resorts. But, due to COVID-19, it was not open yet, but was scheduled to reopen a few weeks after our trip, so we had to switch our original booking to Coronado Springs.

Coronado Springs is an enormous resort with over 2,300 guest rooms set up around a 22-acre lake in the Animal Kingdom area. The resort has three pools and multiple restaurants. The resort is themed to Mexico and the American southwest and is very beautifully landscaped. This is a convention hotel so it also has a convention center and a spa. If there is a convention, Coronado Springs can get very busy. It was pretty empty when we were there for the 50th, though.

Coronado Springs pool view - panoramio There are some amenities that differentiate a moderate resort from the more budget-minded value resorts. Value resorts typically only have a food-court-type restaurant. This is an area where Coronado shines (thanks, in part to the convention center) with four restaurants and three bars. Moderate resorts each have a big theme pool. Coronado Springs’ is called The Dig Site and is themed like a Mayan pyramid with a waterfall running into the pool. The resort also has a playground themed to an archaeological dig. Transportation is a step up in the moderate resorts as well with several bus stops located around the resort as opposed to one main bus stop in the front of the resort at the values. Coronado Springs also has upgraded bathrooms in the rooms complete with a rain shower.

Coronado Springs Resort For the whirlwind trip that we did, we were not able to use most of these amenities (although the rain shower was appreciated). We were in the parks from open until close. I didn’t take a single picture of the resort. We did not make use of the pools or the lounges, although we picked up breakfast from the Mercado (the counter service restaurant) one morning. I enjoyed the breakfasts we had in the parks more, though. The additional bus stops were nice at the end of the day, but in the morning, many of the buses were full by the time they got to our bus stop. Overall, I wish we would have either shelled out more money for a deluxe resort close to the Magic Kingdom or saved and gone back to Pop Century.

Thanks for stopping by! 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! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Coronado Springs Pinterest Graphic

One Day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Walking down Hollywood Boulevard

On our third and final day of our whirlwind weekend celebrating Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, we headed to Disney Hollywood Studios. I mentioned in my post last week that Epcot has always been my favorite park. Well, the Studios (or MGM as I still think of it) has always been my least favorite park. But, in the 7 years since my last visit, a lot has been added to the park and my appreciation for it has grown.

This day started much earlier than I had anticipated. Since we were checking out, I called bell services at our resort to have them store our bags while we enjoyed our last day at the parks. I expected this would take at least half an hour. I was shocked when someone was knocking on our door less than 10 minutes later! We loaded all of our things onto a golf cart and he drove us to the front of the resort to catch a bus to the Studios a full hour before the park opened! We were one of the first buses to be allowed into the park that day. We went through security and sat down on the ground in the line for Rise of the Resistance to wait for the park to open.

Storm Troopers

Stormtroopers in Rise of the Resistance

I am very glad we chose Rise for our first attraction of the day. I have seen the original Star Wars trilogy but I am in no way a Star Wars fan. Even still, I think this ride is one of the best on Disney property! The ride itself is fun. It tells the story very well and the cast members were just phenomenal! I do know that it would have really freaked me out as a kid, so if you are traveling with an anxious child who doesn’t like to be yelled at, you may want to consider doing rider swap for this one. Sorry if that is a little vague, but I don’t want to give away the premise of the ride if you haven’t done it yet. Just trust me when I say it was great!

We got off the ride as the park was officially opening for the day and we headed to Ronto Roasters for breakfast. I had pre-ordered on the app so we just had to walk to the counter and pick it up. The downside of the over-the-top theming in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is that the signage is nearly non-existent. As a first-time visitor to this part of the park, even with the app open, we passed Ronto several times before we found it! This was a big problem when Animal Kingdom first opened and they ended up having to disrupt the theming for clear signage and I think this may end up being necessary at Galaxy’s Edge.

Slinky Dog Dash

From there we headed to Toy Stoy Land, the other new area of the park since my last visit. Toy Story is one of my favorite Disney movies so I loved the theming in this part of the park. Slinky Dog Dash is a fun addition to the park!

I was very excited to ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, but it didn’t live up to the other new attractions, in my opinion. Runaway Railway uses the same Trackless ride system that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in Epcot uses. While it is exciting to finally have a Mickey and Minnie attraction in the parks, the animation is not the Mickey and Minnie from my childhood. They are based on the 2013 animation style. The train cars that you ride in seat four and so I was seated next to people I don’t know. When the ride gets to the Daisy dancing scene, our bare legs touched and that was kind of weird. Overall, it was a fun attraction and if you have kids that are used to this more modern animation, they will love it. I just wasn’t rushing back out to do it again.

Inside Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater RestaurantFor lunch, we ate at the Sci-Fi Drive-in Theater Restaurant (left). Sci-Fi is located on Commissary Lane, not far from Galaxy’s Edge. The theming of the restaurant is an old Drive-In. Diners sit in booths that look like cars from the 50’s and enjoy their dinner while watching trailers for ridiculous sci-fi movies and commercials for the concession stand. We ate here once when I was a kid and I really enjoyed it so I wanted to bring Chris. While the food is good, expect burgers and fries, you choose Sci-Fi for the theming.

Sunset BoulevardThis day we waited in the longest lines of the weekend, but with the Studios being such a small park, we still ended up riding everything we wanted multiple times. We did Rise of the Resistance twice, Slinky Dog twice, Midway Mania twice, and Smuggler’s run twice. I even finally got to ride Rock n Rollercoaster (I could never justify the wait last trip), but it didn’t live up to Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Storyland.

Overall, this day greatly improved my opinion of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Hopefully, I will be able to get back down there and check out Animal Kingdom again (I still haven’t seen Pandora-The World of Avatar) and maybe come up with a new ranking of the parks. Be sure to check back next week as I review our stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort!

Thanks for stopping by! 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! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Hollywood Studios Pin

Hollywood Studios Pin

One Day in Epcot

Figment Fab 50 Statue

Epcot has always been my favorite park in Walt Disney World and on typical trips, it is the first park that I visit. I’ve always loved the Edutainment aspect of the park and it makes me sad that they are slowly fading it away in favor of more Disney characters. Figment has always been one of my favorite characters and I loved discovering his Fab 50 statue (above)!

Unlike the Magic Kingdom, a lot has changed at Epcot since our last visit to the parks. In 2014, we knew Maelstrom was closing and were able to get a final ride through before the transition to Frozen happened. Soarin’ Around the World was also new to us as the original closed in 2016. And the big attraction of the day was Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure officially debuting the day before.

Rattatouille Sign

After a long day at Magic Kingdom celebrating the 50th Anniversary, we got up early and got in the virtual queue for Remy’s (above). Even though I signed in right at 7:00, we were in boarding group 64 (if I remember correctly) with an estimated boarding time at 3:00. Being its second day officially open, it broke down a few times during the day. I think it was closer to 5:00 before we were able to enter the actual queue. This was my first time ever using Disney’s virtual queue system and I was surprised by how long the actual line was once our group was called. We probably waited almost an hour before getting to board our mouse vehicles. Overall, I really enjoyed the attraction. I liked it a lot better than Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios which uses the same trackless ride system. I probably wouldn’t wait that long to ride it again, though. I tend to draw the line at a 45-minute wait.

This was by far our longest wait of the day. Just like on the 50th, wait times were much lower than I expected. We probably ended up riding Soarin’ five times, Gran Fiest Tour four times, Living with the Land three times, Test Track three times, and Spaceship Earth three times. The only other attraction with a long wait was Frozen Ever After which I don’t know that I will ever need to ride again.

Gusteau's Sign in Remy's Rattatouille Adventure

This was also my first time at Food and Wine Festival in Epcot and it was the first weekend day where all of the booths were open. I was told it is best to avoid weekends at Food and Wine if possible because the park fills up with locals, but we were only there for the weekend, so we had to make the best of it. It was definitely crowded but we started with lunch at the booths before it got too busy. Everything we tried was good, but none of it lived up to dinner the night before at Skipper Canteen.

As much as I was ready to crash before the fireworks, we made a point to stay to see Harmonious. Harmonious combines a typical fireworks show with fountains and lights combined with music from popular Disney music. Unlike Illuminations, which was the epitome of Epcot nighttime spectaculars in my mind, Harmonious is hard to appreciate if you don’t have a good view of the lagoon. Where Illuminations told a moving story that fit into the theme of World Showcase, Harmonious just kind of stings a bunch of fun Disney songs together. From what I was able to see, it was a fun show and I will probably watch it the next time I’m in Epcot, but I wouldn’t park hop from another park to see it as I had done with Illuminations.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week to read about our time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! 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! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Epcot Pin

Wordless Wednesday: Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle's 50th Anniversary Makeover

50 Years of Walt Disney World

The view down Main Street on October 1

I remember walking down Main Street USA in 1996 toward the infamous Castle Cake that marked Walt Disney World’s 25th-anniversary celebration. As an eight-year-old girl, I thought it was awesome, and looking at pictures of that pink monstrosity still brings a smile to my face. Fast forward to 2011, Magic Kingdom was celebrating 40 years and I was very involved in the Disney online community at the time as a co-host of the Generation Mouse podcast. Some of my co-hosts were heading down to the celebration, but I was planning a wedding while doing my student teaching and a Disney trip just wasn’t in the cards. But, I promised myself I would be there for the 50th! I marked Friday, October 1, 2021 down on my calendar as a date to remember.

We booked this trip 500 days out, as early as Disney lets you book because I knew it was going to be a popular weekend. We booked flights using the last of our Spirit credit and of course, they canceled it and put us on a less-desirable flight that had us land in Orlando at Midnight on Friday. I heard people online talking about getting to the Magic Kingdom by 5 am and I knew with arriving so late, something was going to have to give. My plan was the get to the park for the early resort guest hours at seven, but traffic was insane so we got there right as it opened to everyone at eight with the bus driver taking us the back way to the park.

Waffle from Sleepy Hollow

Waffle with Nutella from Sleepy Hollow

We walked through the turnstile and just hit a wall of people (top). There was a cast member standing outside the Emporium explaining to people that the store is on a virtual queue and at park open it was already full for the day. This was our first time in the parks since 2014, I wasn’t going to waste my time standing in line all day for merchandise. We headed to Liberty Square to pick up our breakfast from Sleepy Hollow that I had ordered in advance on the app. I was really glad that I had ordered in advance because the line went a ways back from the ordering window, almost back to the castle.

Selfie in front of the castle

Exhausted Selfie in front of the Castle

We finished our breakfast and headed to Tomorrowland for our first ride of the day, bracing ourselves for the long lines that were predicted. The line for Space Mountain wasn’t bad, in fact, after riding once, we got back in line and did it again. I think in total, we rode Space Mountain 5 times, Splash Mountain 4 times, and Big Thunder twice with plenty of other rides in between. The longest wait of the day was for Jungle Cruise in the afternoon. It was listed as a 40-minute wait, but I think we waited close to 60. On one of our runs through Space Mountain, one of the cast members yelled “You should be happier! It was supposed to be busy today!” My travel agent even texted me at one point asking if the wait times on the app were correct because she couldn’t believe it.

Besides merchandise, the quick-service food was also insanely busy on the 50th. We had pre-ordered our lunch from Pecos Bills in the morning and when we got there to check-in, we were told it may be another hour before we could get our food. Luckily, I was able to cancel that and we walked over to Columbia Harbor House and got our food almost immediately.

Watching the sunset from the Tommorowland

Watching the Sunset from The TTA/Peoplemover

We had a really hard time getting a dining reservation for any restaurant in the park that day even with my travel agent getting on the phone bright and early on the day we were able to book. I kept checking the app every day, though, and the night before I managed to get us a reservation at Skipper Canteen. The downside of this reservation is it was at the same time as the fireworks. We weighed the options and with the busy day and very little sleep, we opted for the sit-down meal and I cannot tell you how glad I am that we made that choice! The theming in Skipper Canteen is so much fun as it goes along with The Jungle Cruise, but the food was amazing! Being able to wind down at the end of a busy day in the Magic Kingdom with a glass of wine was a great bonus!

Overall, it was a wonderful, exhausting day, in my favorite place. Main Street was a zoo the whole day so we just avoided it and enjoyed the shockingly short lines for the popular attractions. We got back to Coronado Springs late and did it all again the next day at Epcot! Check back next week to read about that!

Thanks for stopping by! If you are thinking of planning a trip to Disney, reach out to my friend and travel agent Allison at Adventures Away Vacations. 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! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Magic Kingdom Pinterest Graphic WDW Pin

2021: Year in Review

Logan Pass

Glacier National Park in June

2021 goes down as one of our best travel years yet. Despite COVID and all the precautions that go along with it, we were still able to get out there and explore these United States. Yes, my passport has been gathering some dust (that’s the nature of traveling during a pandemic) but I was able to see some sites this year that I have been dreaming about for a long time!

This year started off with a bang, and by bang, I mean snow and a cold snap in Texas.  We tasted Texas wine and visited the home of a former president. Of course, the fun was only just beginning when our connecting flight got canceled and we were stuck in Orlando for two days! This whole ordeal still has me kind of nervous to fly. Not so nervous that I won’t do it, but nervous enough that I build in extra time and buy trip insurance before I get on a plane.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park

Of course, in 2021 we took the biggest trip of our lives spanning three weeks. We visited 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We saw Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Glacier, places I have been dreaming about seeing for myself for a long time. It was a wonderful journey, but I hope I can say that it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I want to continue traveling like that and seeing all the places that make America beautiful!

Disney World 50th Anniversary

I don’t know if I can call the big trip the highlight of the year though, because I also got to be in the Magic Kingdom on October 1 for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. This has been a dream of mine for the last 10 years. It was a whirlwind trip where we had a hotel room we barely saw and got by mainly on caffeine. We also got to see Galaxy Edge in Disney Hollywood Studios. I know it’s not super new, but this was the first time I had seen it. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I have to say, it was so cool! I still have to recap it officially on the blog, so that is all I will say about it for now. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for the details!

Runaway Camper Setup

We took some weekend trips around Michigan in the spring and summer and spent some time in our new mini camper. We finally kayaked out to Turnip Rock and walked across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. We have some big plans for 2022 as well! I can’t wait!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our latest trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. 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! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

A Surprise Day in Tampa

Tampa Riverwalk

Skyline from the Tampa Riverwalk

Our trip to Texas was booked using a flight credit from a spring break trip we canceled right when everything was shutting down due to COVID. At the time, Spirit told us we only had six months to use it (they have since pushed that as many people have not yet felt comfortable getting on a plane) so we booked a trip to California last summer. That was canceled and we booked this trip to Texas after Christmas. Initially, we booked a direct flight but of course, with fewer people traveling, the direct flights were canceled and we were routed through Florida. On the way down, the trip was great, we got to spend time in the Fort Lauderdale airport and eat some Cuban food and we made it to Austin without issue. In the past, I have not had a great experience with Spirit and this went so well, I was singing their praises.

After our final day exploring Austin, we headed to the airport. Security was smooth but our flight ended up being delayed about an hour because Jacksonville air traffic control was shut down to be cleaned due to a COVID outbreak. This wasn’t really a big deal, we had a long layover ahead of us in Orlando. By the time we deplaned in Orlando, the terminal was jam-packed with people waiting to get on delayed flights. And not to mention there was only one restaurant still open in the terminal. We sat there and watched our flight get pushed back and pushed back. Eventually, it was saying we wouldn’t arrive back home until 7 AM.

Not long after that, we got a notification that our flight was canceled. We went up to a gate agent at a nearby gate. She was as surprised as us and directed us back through security to the check-in counter. Somehow, we ended up being the first people from our flight to reach the counter and no one working there had any idea. They directed us to the international check-in desk where a very surprised employee dealt with a planeful of angry, trapped people. To make matters worse, the earliest flight they could get us on was two days away and because they claimed it was “weather-related” they didn’t have to give us hotel vouchers or anything, just replace the flight.

We were lucky in that we had family in the area so, at about eleven o’clock at night, we got a rental car and headed to Tampa, about an hour drive away. It was nice to have somewhere to go and to see family we hadn’t seen in a while and the weather was beautiful, but it was stressful being because we were both supposed to be at work that day. That night we had dinner at Disney Springs (you can’t get me that close to Disney and not let me step on property), got a hotel close to the airport, and caught our uneventful, early morning flight home. It ended up working out OK, but we had booked another trip for the winter that we ended up canceling because I didn’t want a repeat performance of being stranded at the airport for several days.

I’m not trying to complain. I don’t want to get anything from this post. I’m just sharing the story of the stressful end of our Texas trip. And if you are planning on flying for your summer vacation, be aware that even though COVID cases are currently low, this could still happen and derail your plans.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road 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! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Flashback Friday: Jumping Through Hoops

2020 Travel Goals

Chris photographing the Grand Canyon

In 2019 we went on a cruise that we had initially booked back on our last cruise in 2015. I had literally been looking forward to that trip for 4 years. Before we took that trip, we booked our Maine trip. Shortly after that trip, we booked our winter Finger Lakes escape (more on that trip to come). Now, we are home with no travel plans for 2020 and with nothing planned, I go stir crazy.

Last year, our Phoenix trip really helped break up the cold, Michigan winter. So, on New Years Eve we began searching for flight deals in February. We found a ridiculous deal on a flight to Austin, Texas so we will be spending a few days there next month! I have never spent any time in Texas, unless you count our 3 hour layover in Dallas early last year. So, I’m excited to explore a new place and I hope it will be warm (unlike Phoenix). We will only be there for a couple of days, but if you have any Austin must-dos, please let me know!

We are also planning to visit Chris’ family in the Tampa area for Spring Break. I haven’t spent much time in that part of Florida. I’m hoping to spend some time on the beach, but to also see the sites. It looks like there are a few interesting museums over there as well as some natural sites to explore.

We don’t have any plans yet for a summer trip, but I’m kind of hoping for something epic. It has been 15 years since I’ve been to Europe and I would love to explore more places over there. But, honestly, I would be happy with more time to see the Upper Peninsula, especially the Western UP. Of course, we feel the pull to return to Maine as well. Who knows where we will end up, but I’m sure I will update you when we have something booked!

Of course, I’m also hoping to do some more Michigan camping trips this summer. Spending time in the Great Outdoors really helps to center me and give me perspective. I would love to revisit some of our favorite campground, whether it be Wilderness State Park, Straits, or D.H. Day. There is also talk of re-visiting the Finger Lakes area next fall, which I can’t get enough of that place so I am definitely up for it! You’ll have to come back here to find out where we end up!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Apollo Flags

Apollo Mission Flags hanging in the Saturn V building at Kennedy Space Center

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