When the clock strikes 8am, though, watch out! The cast members move the crowd towards the main rides, going left for Toy Story Mania and right for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, where we headed. Jackie claimed they stayed with us all the way to the rides, forcing us to walk and preventing a stampede, but I was too far back to see them. I just thought we were a rational enough group of people to limit ourselves to speed-walking and occasionally jogging. Jackie's explanation sounds more likely.
Anyway, at the end of the street, the cast members bailed and the crowd let loose. Half booked it for Tower of Terror (Jackie included) and half for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (yours truly included). Jackie had given me her key-card ahead of time, so I got us FastPasses for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and then jumped in the incredibly short line for a solo ride while Jackie lost her stomach on Tower (I had zero interest in riding that). I made it through the line in record time and found myself on the second car to leave the station. I have never been that close to kicking off a ride before!
After my ride, I met Jackie at the exit (she was in the first car to be dropped on Tower and had already made it back), and we immediately got back in line for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. We learned that whenever there was under a 30 minute wait for a popular ride, you get in line. Once again, we made it through the queue in record time. I tried to warn Jackie about the zero to 60 start, but she must have thought I was exaggerating. The look on her face when they snapped the picture (which they do right at the beginning when you blast off) is beyond priceless, especially given the stonewall expression on the kid's face in front of her.
When we got off the ride, our window for FastPasses was open, so we ended up getting right back on the ride. I'm almost surprised the people working the ride didn't roll their eyes when they saw us (or at least me) coming. We practically became experts, riding in the front, middle, and back of the car (unlike Big Thunder, you want to be in the front for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster).
After my third ride and Jackie's second, we decided to explore the rest of Hollywood Studios - but not before getting more FastPasses for later that afternoon. The problem is, there's not much else to do in that park. We're not big "show" people - they're best for sitting down and enjoying some AC - so nothing really struck our fancy. We scoped out Toy Story Mania, but the wait time was about two hours, and all the FastPasses were already gone. I'm sorry, I wouldn't wait two hours for any ride, especially not a kiddie ride.
Eventually we settled on Muppet Vision 3D, since we both had fond memories of it as a kid. It's a cute show, but I found it more nostalgic than actually entertaining. By the same measure, we wanted to see Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, but that show no longer exists! The attraction has been turned into a giant playground with large blades of grass and ants to make you feel small. Um, no thank you. Not cool, Disney. Shows > playgrounds.
We continued wandering, snapping some pictures of the city backdrops and hoping to stumble upon an attraction that caught our eye, but the only other two shows we were remotely interested in - Indiana Jones and Sounds Dangerous - weren't running. Indiana Jones didn't start until 11am (we'd barely made it to regular park hours at this point), and Sounds Dangerous is seasonal - and we weren't in season. Seriously, Hollywood Studios? Not very magical. With nothing better to do, we returned to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and waited in line, which at this point was more sizable, but still not too bad. For the first time, though, we actually had to wait in each room. Turns out it's pretty cool inside. Who knew?!
After what was now my fourth ride and Jackie's third in about a three hour span, we decided it was time for food. We'd foregone breakfast in order to dominate the queues (and clearly we were successful), so we pushed up lunch. We had reservations at 50s Prime Time Cafe later in the day, but we were hungry and anxious to get out of Hollywood Studios, so we switched things up. Remember what I said about Disney being accommodating? We went to the restaurant, asked to be seated right away in lieu of our reservation, and they could not have been less phased. If anything, they were probably glad to have the open table for later. Thanks Disney!
The 50s Cafe is set up like a 50s kitchen: lots of linoleum and old black and white TVs. The waitresses wear cute dresses and aprons, and all the food is supposed to remind you of mama's cooking. The main schtick, though, is that they treat you like family. They ask where you're from and then announce to the surrounding tables that their "cousins from *insert where you're from* are here." They make you say hi to everyone, and it's sort of embarrassing, but if everyone plays along, it can be pretty hilarious. Our waitress was only a few years older than we were, which I think helped tone down the scolding, but often they'll yell at you to get your elbows off the table and to use your manners. If you go to the bathroom, they'll even ask you what color the soap was to check if you washed your hands. It certainly keeps you on your toes.
I wasn't overly impressed with the lunch menu - it was a bit lacking - but the sandwich I ended up getting was pretty good. Basically, I wouldn't go to the 50s Cafe for the food (all the food in Hollywood Studios is a bit meh), but if you're looking for a funny and potentially mortifying meal, it's a good time.
After lunch, we headed back once more to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster to cash in our FastPasses. Unfortunately, the ride had broken and was going to be down for a while. Since we weren't sticking around, we tried to find two people to give our FastPasses to, but sadly were unsuccessful (never would have thought that was possible). Then we headed for the exits, having spent just over four hours in the park. Pathetic.
When we got back to Pop Century, we planned to hit the pool again, but we never made it. We ended up passing out instead. Some might say napping is a waste of good Disney time, but I loved it. I think we were both looking to recharge after two early mornings and late nights. When we were all rested up, we headed to Downtown Disney for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli. Oh. Em. Gee. It was death by chocolate in the absolute best way. I could live off the smell of that store alone.
Anywho, after checking out a few more shops, we moved on to Epcot. Once again we wandered the World Showcase, this time sampling some food and drinks from each country. I only wish my stomach was bigger. I will say, the patisserie in France has some tasty treats, the cider from the United Kingdom was beyond delicious, and I will forever regret not finding room for teriyaki chicken from Japan.
When we'd gorged ourselves fully, we settled on the bridge between the UK and France to wait for the fireworks show, IllumiNations. We were befriended by a mom and her two young daughters, which actually made for a great way to pass the time. Finally, it was time for the show. The bridge provided a great view of the lake where the magic took place. A giant globe floats around showing images from all over the world, while the countries light up and contribute to the spectacle. Then of course there are fireworks and pyrotechnics. There was so much fire, in fact, that I could feel the warmth from where I stood on the bridge. Jackie and I tried to get some pictures, but then we decided to just enjoy it.
After the show, we followed the masses out to the bus stops. May I just say, Epcot ran a much tighter ship than the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps it was because the park was closing, so they brought in extra busses, I don't know, but after just a few minutes we found ourselves on a bus back to the resort. Thank you, Epcot.
Next, we have stories from Day 4, our final day in Disney. :-(