Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Weekend RunDisney Trip

I wanted to go ahead and talk a little bit about our trip to Disney World for the Star Wars Dark Side race since my race recap just talked about the race itself.  When we planned this trip, we knew the main purpose was the race itself and the rest of the trip would just be a whirlwind.  We weren't even sure if we would have any park time at all.

The way it worked out, we took the first flight to Orlando Saturday morning and took the last flight back on Monday.  This meant maximizing our time with only having to take one day off work and only having to pay for two hotel nights.  The race was Sunday morning, so right in the middle of our time in Orlando.

We stayed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort.  This is part of their time share, Disney Vacation Club.  We were able to rent points to stay there from an online broker, which is a bit more cost effective then booking it as a hotel room directly with Disney.  This worked out really well for us but you have to read the fine print going in.  There is no cancelling so you have to be pretty sure of your dates. But we knew our dates were set because of the race and we knew we wanted to stay onsite given how short our trip was going to be.

We really liked the resort.  It's beautiful and felt really peaceful.  It's across the river from Disney Springs so you can walk there (a long walk depending on where your room is) or you can take a quick boat ride.  It's really spread out but we lucked out with a pretty good room so things weren't too long of a walk.  It also seems to be pretty well organized with bus stops, pools, and food outlets throughout the resort so it shouldn't be too long a walk from anywhere.  It also has a golf course on site in case that's a bonus for anyone.  I know my dad and brother would have loved it for that!

The other handy perk of staying at a Disney resort for a quick trip is the Magical Express from the airport.  Once we landed, we were able to walk down to the Disney bus location and get in line for a bus.  We didn't even have to pick up our bags from the carousel, Disney picked them up and delivered them to our room later.  That can take a couple hours so make sure you have everything you need right away with you.

View of Disney Springs during the sunset

Once we got to the hotel, we checked in but our room wasn't ready yet.  So we checked our carry-on bags and walked over to the bus stop to go to the expo.  Another perk of staying onsite is that they have bus transportation to all the race events.  When we got to the bus stop, the employee working there mentioned that the buses had been a bit messed up that morning and it could be a long wait.  We were contemplating calling a Lyft when the employee said wait, there's the bus right there!  So we got lucky with hardly a wait at all.  The bus took us right to the expo and in we went.

The lines weren't too bad at all.  I think that's probably because it was around 11am on the last day of the expo so a lot of people had already been through.  I was surprised at how crowded it was still, but I didn't have to wait too long in line for anything.  I ended up buying an extra Star Wars shirt, a Yoda headband, and a mini body glide I could carry in my flip belt, which I was really happy for on race day!


After wandering around for about an hour, we were pretty hungry.  We hadn't got a text saying that our room was ready yet so we decided to just get in a taxi to go to Disney Springs for lunch instead of taking a bus back to our hotel.  It was a quick ride and we headed straight to a restaurant Mike wanted to try, the Polite Pig.  It's a barbecue place which might be a weird choice for a vegetarian.  But they had a lot of vegetarian sides that ended up being delicious, so I was happy to go along with the choice :)  I had mac and cheese, brussel sprouts, a broccoli salad, and we shared sweet potato tots.

Fun RunDisney banners all over Disney Springs

We wandered around and checked out some stores, and then decided to walk back to the hotel since we had gotten us the text telling us where our room was.  This was a mistake since I wanted to stay off my feet for the race the next day.  It ended up being a long walk, and it took us around 30 minutes to get back to the lobby to pick up our carry-on bags.  Thankfully, they offered us a ride in a golf cart from there to our room.  Once we got to our room, our checked bags were already there as well.

We decided to check out the main pool after that.  It was a really fun pool area with lots of games going on for the kids, a poolside bar for the adults, and a nice water slide.  It was also conveniently close to the cafeteria style restaurant so we had an early dinner there after we dried off.  They had a runner box with a special deal for runners but I decided to just stick with a veggie flatbread.  It wasn't anything special, but it served it's purpose of fueling for the race the next morning.  And then, it was an early bed time for me.  I was asleep by 8pm but Mike went back to Disney Springs to explore a bit.


I woke up at 2:30 or so for the race the next morning and you can read more about my race experience here.  After the race, I had scheduled a brunch for us at the California Grill.  I was super excited about this brunch as I had read a lot of great reviews about it.  It's in Disney's Contemporary Resort and it has a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom.  We got up to the restaurant and were greeted with mimosas (included in the price) as we were escorted to our table.  It felt really decadent to have drinks in hand before we were even seated!  They also had a non alcoholic offering of juice with a really pretty grape garnish.

A photo of the view since I was somehow so hungry I forgot to take photos of the food

Next, our waiter came and explained the brunch set up to us.  There was a buffet for the appetizers (which really could have been a meal on it's own) and you ordered an entree from the menu.  I'm happy to report that they were pretty accommodating to vegetarians.  For example, they had sushi on the buffet but made me special veggie sushi.  And they had deviled eggs with bacon on top, but offered to make me some without the bacon if I wanted.  The buffet also had a yogurt bar, fruit, several different salads, pastries, cheese and charcuterie, etc.  There were several choices of entrees and I asked if they could make me the frittata without meat, the answer was yes!  And for those that wanted, you could get bacon or sausage with your entree.  Our waiter also came by and offered us more mimosas as they were unlimited!  It was all soooo delicious but it was definitely a lot of food.  It was all included in the price, except if you wanted alcoholic drinks other than the mimosas.  Mike's eyes did get a bit wide when he saw the bill.  Oops, I guess I forgot to mention the price to him.  It was $80 per person ($48 for kids) so not a cheap meal, but worth it in my opinion.

A fun Star Wars Easter Egg display at the Contemporary Resort

We went outside to check out the view from their balcony and walked around the resort a bit to walk off some of the food.  Then we got a lyft back to our hotel for a nap.  After the nap, there was more pool time.  This time, we checked out the quiet pool that was right by our room and that was perfect.  There weren't a lot of people there so it felt pretty relaxing.  Afterward, we got ready and went back to Disney Springs for dinner at another new restaurant, Frontera Cocina.  We had some delicious Mexican food and also wandered around exploring more stores.  I love the art galleries they have down there.  We also stopped for drinks at the Indiana Jones themed Hangar Bar and grabbed cupcakes from sprinkles to eat back at the hotel.


 Monday was our departure day and also the only day we had to spend time at the park.  We chose the Magic Kingdom and were up bright and early so we could be there right at opening to maximize our time.  We went to the lobby to check out and drop off our bags and then went to the bus stop.  We had to wait around 15 minutes for a bus but we were the only ones on there, which was kind of nice.  We got to the park about 30 minutes before opening and they were letting people in but not letting people further than the castle.  So we waited there a while and then right at opening time, we were all let in to start hopping on rides.  We made pretty good use of our time and had pre-booked three fast passes so we got on a good amount of rides without having to wait too long for anything.  We had lunch at the Jungle Cruise themed Skipper's Cantina.  The food was really good with some nice veggie options.  We split the noodle salad to start and then I had the veggie curry as my entree.  I would definitely recommend this place to vegetarians looking for somewhere to eat in the Magic Kingdom, though Mike thought it was overpriced.  We hit a couple more rides, saw the parade, and then headed back to the hotel to get our bags and head to the airport.


So that was our whirlwind RunDisney weekend.  I wasn't sure at first if it made sense to just go down for a long weekend for a race but we made pretty good use of our time and had a lot of fun!