“Weren’t you just as Disneyland?” you’re saying to yourself. Yes, yes I was. But this is Disney World. It’s totally different!
I’m currently at the beginning of a long weekend in Florida to run the Princess Half Marathon, along with a couple other races. In fact, my schedule looks remarkably similar to the Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend last month, with the added wrinkle of being two time zones ahead of Colorado and therefore in for a world of hurt when I wake up at 3:15 am every morning to get ready for my races.
I’m sharing a room with my friend Tara, and our park tickets don’t kick in until tomorrow so we spent today checking in to the hotel, visiting the race expo, and exploring the area around our resort. But the first half of my day was spent traveling. I left Denver very early in the morning and arrived in Orlando’s heat and humidity just after lunch. If you’re staying at a Disney World resort, there’s a handy service called Magical Express that takes care of getting you and your luggage to the resort. I even got to skip baggage claim; Magical Express handled taking my luggage straight to our room.
Disney World is a LOT bigger than Disneyland; even the scale of just the resorts is overwhelming. Before the bus from the aiport got to the parks, I remember thinking to myself that I could walk places instead of relying on the shuttles so much (people on message boards complained about long shuttle lines and waits). Yeah, NO. That’s not a thing that could ever happen. Even if I were interested in walking five miles between parks and resorts on the regular – there are no sidewalks! It would be like walking on the freeway. Shuttles it is!
I arrived at our resort (Pop Century, one of the “value” resorts on property) around mid-afternoon, and after dumping my carry-ons in our room in the 90s building – nostalgia alert – I caught the shuttle to the Fit for a Princess Expo.
I don’t know if the Princess expo is physically any larger than the one at Tinker Bell, but the two were set up very differently. The Tinker Bell expo was in the event space at the Disneyland Hotel, with bib pick-up in a parking garage nearby. The Princess expo took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a sprawling group of sports fields and event venues, and picking up bibs happened in a building completely separate from the rest of the Expo. The bib lines were much shorter than those at Tinker Bell, so I was in and out pretty quickly.
But the merchandise area was PACKED. I get overwhelmed in places like that, so I picked up some “I Did It!” shirts from the official runDisney booth, wandered aimlessly through everything else, and finally high-tailed it out. I did manage to stop at the 10k wall, however, and snap a picture of my name in about 8-point type. For some reason I wasn’t on the half marathon wall. Sad trombone.
I headed back to the resort via shuttle and checked out the food court (value resorts don’t have restaurants, just a food free-for-all). At first, I actually couldn’t find it; you have to walk through the gift shop to get to the food court from the hotel lobby. But I figured it out eventually, and I picked up some tie-dye cheesecake (which – spoiler alert – is just colored cheesecake) and headed back to the room to wait for Tara to arrive. And since she also needed to get her bibs, I rode the shuttle with her back to the Expo. There were still no lines, still plenty of official merchandise (horror stories of things running out had plagued us), and this time I actually browsed the booths with Tara instead of hurrying through (and picked up some fun shirts and headbands in the process). I also tried Luna’s protein bars, something I’d never eaten before, and they’re AWESOME. The cookie dough and chocolate peanut butter flavors were favorites. And I can order them in bulk on Amazon, so… yay for high-protein snacks! I also saw a shirt that would be perfect for Jason, and I’m kicking myself for not buying it.
After the Expo, we boarded the shuttle back to the resort. The Art of Animation resort is close to Pop Century, and it’s relatively new and shiny, so we hopped off there and wandered around.
Tara had actually stayed there before (she knows Disney so well, she could be a tour guide or something), so she pointed out the cool features of the resort like the movie-specific landscaping near each building.
We picked up dinner in their food court (they’re another value resort), watched the climactic scene of “Miracle” as it was showing poolside during our wanderings, and then headed back to Pop Century to tuck in for the night. Tomorrow’s 5k will come pretty early, and we’re still on Colorado time!