All of the Stuff That Floored Me on Our Latest Walt Disney World Trip

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Disney World Surprises

Disney World Surprises

I’m far from a Walt Disney World expert.  These two are.  I like planning park touring strategies and optimizing time at Disney World, but I inevitably need help with it.  I enjoy and focus more on how to visit Walt Disney World for free, or close to it.  During the trips themselves, I’m still surprised here and there.  Our last trip was almost two and a half years ago.  Much has changed, not all of it good.  I was a bit anxious going into this trip, and I set low expectations for this “getting reacquainted” visit.  It went better than expected.  Here are the biggest Disney World surprises from our recent trip.

Genie+ Isn’t 100% Terrible

My confidence in Genie+ couldn’t have been lower for this trip.  I was underwhelmed by Genie+ during the MtM Diamond EPCOT visit in early December.  Even doing a bit of Genie+ homework before our recent trip didn’t have me feeling better.  Once we got to Disney World, though, I was generally satisfied with the new normal from Genie+.

This is a very low bar, but I had no WTF moments with Genie+ during our recent trip.  Picking new rides (both via Genie+ and individual Lightning Lanes) wasn’t overly inconvenient once I got the feel during the early morning hours of our first day.  Inventory replenished periodically, bringing a bit of fun to the Lightning Lane hunt – I caught myself thinking of the old FastPass+.  The Tip Board accurately refreshed, and My Day screens were fairly responsive.

Another positive for us, but maybe a mess for others, is the ability to double book (or more) in the same timeframe.  I was able to book overlapping rides via Genie+ and Individual Lightning lanes without issue.  This may seem like risky business, but with a bit of planning, we were able to ride multiple attractions in a short timeframe.  We had the same success booking attractions close to table service restaurant reservations.  FastPass+ generally prevented us from doing all of this in the past.

A New, Superb Steakhouse

I’d had my eyes on Steakhouse 71 in the Contemporary Resort for a good while.  After a full day at Magic Kingdom, the family and I took a stroll over for dinner.  We absolutely loved everything about the experience.  We enjoyed the decor, food selection and quality, service, and overall vibe here.  Disney World incorporated a modern flair to the early 70’s design of the restaurant, maintaining a casual setting.  It was fine dining without the stuffiness – shorts and tees are no big deal here.  I recommend reservations ahead of time, but try the bar for an impromptu dining (and drinking) option.

Our Favorite Resort Location, 2022 Edition

Some people call it the EPCOT Resorts Area.  Others call it Crescent Lake.  Whatever it’s called, it’s now our favorite.  We stayed at Marriott’s Swan Reserve (more on that in a separate review) across the street from their Swan/Dolphin complex and close by Disney’s Boardwalk, Yacht, and Beach Club resorts.

We previously enjoyed staying in monorail resorts adjacent to Magic Kingdom.  Now, those are down a notch.  We quickly realized how superior the EPCOT Resorts Area is for our current Disney touring style.  Four out of our six full touring days were at Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.  Each of these parks is within convenient walking distance.  Magic Kingdom transportation options are easily accessible, as well.

Perhaps I’m late to the party here, but I’m a full convert to the EPCOT Resorts Area.

Excellent Value at This New Table Service Restaurant

In my view, Via Napoli at EPCOT has been the best-value table service restaurant for years.  And, minor detail, their fare is outstanding.  A newer EPCOT option has now entered the chat – La Creperie de Paris.  After riding Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure nearby, we enjoyed an early lunch here.  Portions are ridiculously large – perhaps they didn’t get Chapek’s memo.  How big?  Let me explain.

The kids menu features choices of one galette (a savory crepe) and one dessert crepe for $14.  These items were similarly-sized to our adult portions.  Adult-sized galettes and dessert crepes are $16.95 and $9.95, respectively.  Two adults can easily share one galette or crepe and be satisfied.  Taking it a step further, there’s enough food in a kids meal for two kids (and an adult) to share.  For example, I just ordered a cappuccino, opting to clean up the kids meal scraps from my two little girls.  It was tasty but still too much food.  We’ll remember this for next time.

Disney World Surprises
On Rise of the Resistance, the thought of Animal Kingdom was in another galaxy.

We Didn’t Miss This Park Much At All

Based on our touring priorities and goals, we decided to leave Animal Kingdom off this trip’s itinerary.  We had a good fill of Animal Kingdom during our January 2020 trip, and our little ones still aren’t quite ready for the major attractions like Flight of Passage or Expedition Everest.  Also, we were drawn more to newer attractions at the other parks and wanted to leave plenty of room for error there, spending two days each at the other three parks.  We had a blast and didn’t think of Animal Kingdom much, if at all.  We’ll go back eventually, but making this initially-tough decision for this trip worked out perfectly.

No Stroller? Absolutely Sublime!

With young kids, strollers are just part of the deal at Disney parks.  We embraced it when our kids were at the age, but this was our first trip sans stroller.  Our kids were troopers throughout, and my wife and I slowed our gaits to match theirs easier than I thought we would.  Table service restaurant breaks also helped.  Liberation from strollers is pure ecstasy.  As we toured the parks, we reflected on our past trips and the stroller drama.  How did we ever subject ourselves to that?  It made sense at the time, but we can never go back.

Disney World Surprises
Drey-C was blocking my view of this.

This Cover Band Is STILL Playing Disney Springs

On our last night, we loaded up in our car for a Disney Springs visit.  Dinner at the Boathouse was delightful, the subsequent sunset walk likewise.  We took a break on the bleachers at the waterside stage.  Out of nowhere, live music kicked in.  I look up, and it’s the same cover band from two and a half years ago.  I recalled the fun mix of music by Drey-C and his bandmates from our past trip.  But this time, he opened with Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger”, and I knew I had to go.  I took the girls to the shops while the wife camped out.  Indeed, the people watching during these shows is outstanding.

Conclusion

Some may shake their heads at how we inevitably return to Disney World.  Geez, one time is too much for certain people.  Regardless, I enjoy the surprises that come along with the familiarity of repeated Disney World trips.  We can relive old memories while creating new ones.  I look forward to our next trip, and it’s safe to say it won’t be more than two and a half years away.  What Disney World surprises have you experienced on your recent trips?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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