It’s been another busy two weeks and we are currently prepping to close up our Florida house, at least for a couple of weeks, as we are also eagerly planning our return. I can’t say I’ve been super productive when it comes to my bucket list except for a few categories. I’ve continued my French classes through Facetime as well as kept up my Duolingo streak (day #937). I’ve decorated our Florida house as well as entertained friends and family here. So onward and upward, let’s take a peek at the last two weeks.
My husband is here for our last week and last weekend my youngest daughter Sammi flew in. She arrived late Friday evening and departed late Sunday evening. She had expressed that she wanted a low key visit, with time for hanging out with family, relaxing and working out and I would say mission accomplished. We barbecued one evening and on Saturday we headed to Celebration Park. It’s located in Naples and is a collection of really great food trucks. It is located right off the water and has a outdoor bar at the end of the row. They offer live music. It’s usually open from 11am until 10pm. It was pretty crowded when we were there but we managed to snag a table after loitering around a bit. Mike and I ordered something off of the Cousins Maine Lobster truck. This truck was also featured on a Shark Tank episode. They also had trucks with gyros, tacos, ice cream, and an assortment of other options. We all chose something from a different truck. I would say it’s a perfect casual spot to grab food when you’re with a group with varying tastes. This was located directly across from the dock where we took our tiki cruise over our family New Year’s vacation. It would make a fun combo activity you had a little more time to spend.
Since my last post, I’ve also attended a barre class (OUCH) and a yoga class here at the fitness center. The barre class was effective, my daughters loved it, but working until your muscles shake uncontrollably is not my idea of fun. I did enjoy the yoga class though. We’ve continued walking the dogs to the dog park here, which amounts to about 3 miles a day as well as using the workout facilities, primarily for weight lifting.
I’ve been working on finishing up a few items in regard to decorating. All the remaining curtains and valances are in. I ordered 2 paintings for the den. They complete the room nicely. I also ordered a large metal hanging for the back guest room, a painting for each guest bathroom and a silver dipped feather piece of art in a shadow box for my dining room. (I know, it sounds weird but I love it!) I still need to find artwork for the long living room wall and the two hallways.
My daughter Jenna has been wanting to show us the new Star Wars ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios so on Monday, we headed out. We boarded our 3 dogs at Country Pet Ranch, which has a lovely facility nestled in a wooded area. The dogs all loved it! We decided to stay at a medium level resort for the night and had a reservation at Port Orleans-Riverside. We had stayed there with the kids 20 years ago when it was called Dixie Landings. The room was fine for the night and the grounds were nicely appointed. On Monday, we walked around the property then took a boat ride over to Disney Springs. We had lunch at Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy! This is his only fast food restaurant and it was delicious. They have a limited menu but offer over 20 different signature sauces. The place was packed. We returned to the hotel and had fun walking around the grounds before heading back to Disney Springs for dinner.
For dinner we hit Morimoto Asia. My daughter follows Disney bloggers religiously and this one was recommended as a favorite. It didn’t disappoint. My daughter and I each ordered Orange Chicken and miso soup. Beware, serving sizes are large and I wish we’d have shared the entree. After dinner we headed back to the room by boat then on to the Polynesian Resort to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. This was a fun experience. The bar is small and doesn’t accommodate a lot of people at once. We sat on the patio and had a drink before being called inside after about a 20 minute wait. Many of the pricier drinks make “funny things” happen. You might get sprayed with water, or a part of the bar area may light up. Limited appetizers are available and if you are looking for something fun to do, order a less expensive drink and sit back and watch the fun. Then, here’s something Jenna discovered, we could watch the fireworks from the beach at the Polynesian. They simulcast the soundtrack. While you miss out on a few of the holographic displays on the castle, you enjoy the fireworks in a far less crowded setting. Get there early and snag a beach chair! We were back in the room by 10:00pm.
The next day we made it to the park forty-five minutes prior to opening. Jenna had planned our day, having obtained fast pass reservations for Slinky Dog Dash, Tower of Terror and Rock and Rollercoaster. Our goal was to make it to the newest ride, Minnie and Mickey’s Runaway Railway. New rides don’t offer fast passes. We were there at “rope drop” and waited maybe 45 minutes once the park opened. The success here was the first 45 minutes of waiting were done before the park even opened. That was by far the longest wait of the day. This ride was very unique, nothing scary about it and perfect for families looking for a fun and innovative ride. I don’t want to give any spoilers but this trackless ride is one of the most unique rides that the Imagineers have come up with so far.
With Mike’s achilles still healing, he brought his knee scooter and, sanctioned by his physician, we stopped by guest services for a disability pass which allows you to bypass standing in line. Instead you are given a return time and go up the fast pass line. It worked out nicely as Mike didn’t have to stand on his feet too long. In fact, for many of the rides, his knee scooter could go all the way up to embarkation and a worker would have it waiting at the conclusion of the ride for him. Here’s tip from my daughter for getting fast passes for the rides you want:Get your passes the minute you are able to (60 days prior if you are staying on property and 30 days prior if you have your tickets and you are not staying on property). Literally, get online ASAP for the greatest chance of getting good rides and times.
The other new Star Wars ride, Rise of The Resistance, does not allow fast passes, you must virtually sign in with the Disney app and you are given a group number with a two hour window to report for the ride. There are guest services representatives available to assist those less tech inclined. There is no guarantee you will even be assigned a time, so again, do this as soon as permitted. For us it was 8am. Some people may be assigned super late times or not be able to be assigned a time at all. She signed on and we were given group #40 as our assigned group. It ended up being called around 1pm. This was another awesome experience. I would say if you have a child that frightens easily, parts of the experience could be a little scary but otherwise, I highly recommend it. Another job well done by Disney. We successfully concluded our day at 3pm, having done everything we set out to do, record time for us! We headed out for the 3 hour ride home back to Estero.
For those wondering about the impact of the Corona virus on Disney, there were still a lot of people there on a Tuesday. We asked a few workers if they were seeing a reduction in attendance because of the Corona Virus (COVID-19), they said they didn’t think so. There were several hand sanitizing stations and we used them every time we passed one. I wouldn’t say they were in abundance but I heard that they placed more in the park today. I only saw one middle aged Asian couple wearing a mask during the whole day, which I wouldn’t even say is an increase, as on previous visits we’ve encountered people wearing masks (maybe immunocompromised folks?). So on 3/11/20 there really was no observable difference in our park experience. Obviously this may change if the virus continues to spread. By contrast, my daughter Sammi did have several people wearing masks on her flight back to Michigan.
We are closing up the house this week but are planing to return for a long weekend in April and again in May. We are looking forward to discovering more fun things to do in and around Estero. The weather here has been amazing. We’ve watched the houses next to us go from shells to finally getting their landscaping. It was a fast and efficient process. They look ready for occupancy any day. Since we weren’t around to watch our own house go up, it’s been fun watching the progress on similar models. It would have been nice to meet our new neighbors but the properties haven’t closed yet. All this time spent with my daughter has been wonderful but I do miss my Michigan friends and family and it’s time to head home. “Snowbirding” has been a fantastic experience and Estero does finally also feel like “home.” As my bucket list is whittling down, I am going to keep up the biweekly blog posts as opposed to weekly. We will be heading back by car on Saturday, dog in tow. We are planning to stop in Chattanooga Tennessee for the night. Stay safe, and have a great week. See you soon from the mitten state! Now go wash your hands…