Just back from an amazing 10 night trip, July 31st – August 10th (LOOOONG)
My wife and I and three kids, DD16, DD14, and DS11, along with my parents.
Straight up beautiful. 90-92 every day, and humid. It probably rained somewhere in WDW every afternoon, but we managed to miss virtually all of it. It was amazing. The kids only put their ponchos on one time in 10 days, and that was simply to walk from Buzz Lightyear to Carousel of Progress at MK. That’s it. We used our umbrellas for shade, not rain. J We did early August in 2016 as well and had similar weather. Weather won’t make us shy away from August
POP Century, with two connecting ground floor rooms. We were in the 50’s building and the rooms mostly faced the lake and 60’s building. We loved it. Quiet, and it also felt like a short walk to the main building. We hadn’t been to POP since 2011 and it was a nostalgic return for us. We absolutely LOVED the new refurbished rooms. Clean, modern, huge TV, great shower, queen beds, and loved that the murphy bed could easily fold up to be a table. The fridge held a case of pop/beer easily. The rooms are small, but very well laid out. They really did their homework when designing the new rooms. Having connecting rooms made the living arrangements feel much larger. The only downside was the flushing of neighbors’ toilets. There is no getting around hearing the flushes. This can be bothersome in the morning or late at night when folks are returning from the parks if you are trying to sleep.
The common areas were all clean and well maintained. I miss the times when the quiet pools were open all hours, at your own risk. They closed at 10pm (main pool at 11pm) while we were there, which felt super early considering sometimes you don’t even get back in the parks until after that. It’s for safety reasons, since all the pools have lifeguards and fences now, but it’s still a bummer.
We prefer the AoA food court, so we wondered over there a few times and had the make-your-own-pasta on a few occasions. (Very tasty and one entrée can easily feed two).
We also loved the dedicated bus service. Best bus service we’ve had, by far, in the last 6 years. On average we waited less than 5 minutes. We also loved the fact that we could hop on the AoA bus if it showed up sooner at the park and just make the walk from AoA to our room at POP. This is especially helpful around park closing when buses are taking a while to show up.
Parks and crowds:
First, crowds felt like what we are used to late September, if not better, which means low to medium. We averaged 4 out of 10. Our busiest was a 6 out of 10, and the lowest a 2. VERY happy about that. I wouldn’t skip early August if you are worried about crowds!
The parks and bathrooms were all clean and well maintained. Cast members were friendly.
We did all the popular attractions, with two that were new for us. Slinky Dog Dash, and Flight of Passage. Slinky was fun, and it will be nice when the hype dies down so that you can more easily get a FP. I’m not completely sold on the new Toy Story land. It felt small, with limited stuff to do. Maybe it’s me but the foliage around the area felt overgrown IMO. There is also this weird walk past the area of the old TSMM entrance with nothing to see or do. I love how it helped with opening up FP availability for other attractions at HS though, especially TOT and RnRC.
Flight of Passage was amazing. The immersion is awesome. It doesn’t have the emotional connection for me like Soarin does (still my overall fav in all the parks), but FOP does live up to the hype. Pandora has incredible theming. The area feels a little cramped, but it’s super well done and very immersive. For our family there is little repeat factor at AK anymore, and even with Pandora added in it’s still a park that we are done with my mid afternoon, and that includes doing Pandora, the Safari, both LK and Nemo shows, EE and Dinosaur.
Having spent enough time in the parks by now, we are much more laid back. We’ll hit the top 3 with FP’s by early afternoon and then head back to the resort to rest and setup our next FP when we return in the evening.
We had one free QS meal per person per day. This was an offer that Disney was running for a while, if you stayed at select value resorts. It worked out great. Many of our trips were with the full free dining plan, so we did have to adjust. I really tried to mix up our TS and QS meals with something new this trip. Also, since we were paying OOP for TS meals, I was looking for more economical options.
Nine Dragons: Our first time. This place gets super mixed reviews, but we tried it for lunch and everyone loved it. The chicken bao buns and potstickers were great appetizers, and the Happy Family and Chef’s beef special selection were big hits. We went back a second time because we liked it so much. It is typical Chinese fare but well prepared and flavorful, plus the lunch menu is very reasonable price-wise.
Sci-fi Dine in: Our first time. I did a review in the restaurant section, but this place just wasn’t for us. Didn’t like the seating arrangement, how dark and quiet it was, and the burgers were not good. The shakes, my wedge salad, and fries were very good. It was great to try it once though.
The Plaza: Great place for an economical meal. Love the cheesesteak, Reuben and wedge salad. The shakes and ice cream desserts are nice options as well.
Cape May’s (our one big splurge) – a personal favorite of ours and a wonderful way to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary together. Great food and desserts as always. We walked from Epcot to the Beach Club and soaked up the amazing atmosphere of the Boardwalk/Beach Club area. My favorite location in all the parks.
Captain Cooks QS: Our first time. A fun way to get away from the park and enjoy a nice QS at the Polynesian. Loved the curry seafood bowl, and the pan Asian noodles with shrimp. Good flavor, and LARGE helping.
Be Our Guest: We’ve eaten here many times for lunch and the braised pork is great every time. The beef sandwich with the au jus was also very good.
Katsura Grill: Our first time. Japan pavilion, Epcot. The Japanese garden setting is beautiful and lots of outdoor seating available. We love sushi and nigiri. Even though it is prepared ahead of time it was still great for a QS. The shrimp and chicken teriyaki would have been great, but the chicken was dry and flavorless. However, the shrimp, rice and salad were good though.
Satu’li Canteen: Our first time. Wow. The protein bowls are amazing. We tried all of them, and depending on your preference, they are all fantastic. Loved the fun drinks as well. This and Be Our Guest are the best two QS’s in the parks IMO. The only other runner up is Wolfgang Puck Express but that’s over in Disney Springs.
Worked great once I realized that using MDE on the Disney website was W Y faster than the APP. The app was essentially useless for me in the parks, incredibly slow. (Hardware: trusty ‘ol iPhone 6 with Verizon). I won’t rehash the “refresh” method, but it is very useful. My tip: when looking for your FP, choose the FP for the attraction you want even if it’s not at the time you want. Then keep refreshing by tapping on your desired time so that the screen refreshes with the available times. If you’ve already selected the attraction (even if it wasn’t your desired time) it will show up as the first attraction in the list. This is very useful, rather than refreshing and having to scroll down every time you refresh to find the available times. I felt so sorry for folks waiting in standby lines when I literally walked up to an attraction like “It’s a small world” and within 60 seconds had a FP for almost immediate entry. Of course, the more popular the ride, the more work it will take but persistence typically paid off. The 5 minute before, and 15 minute after, grace periods still seem to be going strong.
All in all an AMAZING vacation. WDW is still the wonderful vacation destination that it’s always been. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have