Saturday, April 11, 2020

International Spy Museum


Date of Visit: March 9, 2020

Visiting the International Spy Museum has been on our list to do since it moved to its new location  in our quadrant. All these years living here, we never visited the old location because I always thought we had done it sort of recently one of the years we visited DC when Mom went for a work trip. Turns out that Mik doesn't remember going, but Dad and I do so I guess we went a lot longer ago than I thought (probably 2006 when I was at American University and they visited for Rodeo Weekend).

The day we went ended up being one of the first good weather days of spring and one of the last chances for us to go do something in DC for awhile since everything shutdown by the next week and my trip to look at options for us to move to a new state seems to have turned into I've moved.

Getting to the museum can be difficult/confusing, especially in a wheelchair, the way it is located in L'Enfant Plaza. Their website appears to have good detailed directions for the metro exit, although not sure how well they work out since we walked from home and even if we used metro these directions require escalators. They do have a good suggestion that if you need to use the elevator to exit the station that you can then take the free Southwest Shuttle, which stops near that exit of L'Enfant Plaza and the museum.


The way that was the shortest for us to walk there was to end up coming from the south near The Wharf, which meant going up a big hill. I had been this way before on my own and knew there was a reason I needed to remember if I ever took Mik this way. I thought it was just about it being steep, but it was actually that you have to remember to cross over to the middle when you get to the top as the sidewalk on the side is not really meant for walking and thus we had to back up to get back to the crosswalk when we realized it was too narrow to go that way.


The museum visit starts with everyone taking elevators up to the 5th floor. They direct wheelchairs straight ahead instead of entering the queue for the elevator. I guess it makes sense compared to having to wind through the queue, but really it feels unnecessary to end up then skipping to the front of the line when the elevators are part of the normal museum experience.


You exit the elevators into the Briefing Center. Here you get your cover, which you can then use at various kiosks throughout the museum to have a spy experience. In theory, this sounded interesting, but we ended up skipping almost all of them because Mik didn't have the patience to wait 15 minutes for a screen to open up to use at most of the spots.


After a Briefing Film, you enter the exhibits. The first area had some interesting displays that showed videos featuring stories about some spies in history. This ended up being one of our favorite parts of the museum.


Mik, in particular, enjoyed the area in the back that had a film called "Agents & Handlers," which had a nice bench style seating with an area for him to roll up next to nicely.


The one interactive thing we were able to do without waiting too long for a turn was the Decision Room. This was an interesting reenactment of analyzing intel to find a terrorist leader.


There was some interesting things in the Covert Action area. Mik tried out the Spy Catcher, which was a button that you pushed to "catch" the people trying to discreetly crawl in the ducts above.


We both also ended up with the same thing when we spun the Covert Action Wheel of Fortune.


After the Covert Action area, the exhibits continue by going down to the 4th floor. The elevator is well-labelled for whether you're headed to the rest of the exhibits or using it for when you're done to get back to the first level.


We found the George Washington and American Revolution exhibit area interesting except Mik was disappointed that the area around George was unlevel and he couldn't really get to the interactive "Find the Formula" part.


Our favorite part of the whole museum was the Cold War Berlin area. It really reminded me of the Warsaw Rising Museum and the sewer part, which after I went to last year with grandpa mostly using a wheelchair is finally on Mik's list of things he wants to do.

Overall we enjoyed the International Spy Museum. However, it was annoying that we couldn't experience the interactive Undercover Mission part without waiting at least 10 minutes in each area and it was definitely a light crowd day, so I can't imagine how it works out as worthwhile for anyone when they actually have groups and such in there. Glad we finally got there, but certainly if we're going to pay for a museum we'd rather go to the National Building Museum (we actually pay to be members even though we end up going once a year at most...) or even the Museum of the Bible (not necessarily worth going again, but certainly worth visiting once).

Destination Info:
International Spy Museum
700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20024

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Disney on Ice: Celebrate Memories at Capital One Arena

Date of Visit: February 15, 2020

Mik and I decided to check out Disney on Ice when a few weeks ago we noticed tickets were only about $25 each. We weren't entirely sure how much we'd enjoy it, but figured it was at least something different to do when this time of year we tend to not feel like going places and even if the weather was bad at least the metro station was right there, which since it was in the 30s we did end up appreciating.

Mik has been to several basketball games and a concert at Capital One Arena and we've still always find it confusing to figure out the elevator situation. This time, though, we used the F Street entrance and the ticket taker actually suggested we go up the elevators right there instead of entering on the main concourse level. That ended up working out well except they call buttons don't seem to light up and operate as expected, which was extremely frustrating at the end of the event that as it took forever with the call button not staying lit and it seems you have to hold it until an elevator comes.


We ended up with tickets in the exact same section (416) we sat in a few years ago for the Carrie Underwood concert. Just like the concert, they block the seating in front of the wheelchair section and the ushers were proactive at keeping people from blocking the view. They also have fixed the issue of people coming through the wheelchair section to exit as there is now a barrier so that those coming down the steps can't enter the wheelchair row.


Overall we liked the side view of the ice from this section. However, it did make it difficult to impossible to see the screen above the ice to the right as the parts of the sets from above blocked it from our angle. For the most part we were too bust watching the performers on the ice anyways, but Mik did feel like he was missing part of the experience at times.


Mik's favorite was the aerial acrobatics done by Ariel.


I thought the Tangled aerials were more interesting.


Of course, my favorite part was the Sorcerer's Apprentice.


Mik enjoyed the Frozen part while I felt that this part was too long and boring as we've seen Frozen performed in other ways so many times such as on Disney Cruises and the sing along at Hollywood Studios.


The Moana pyrotechnics was another highlight for us.


Overall we really enjoyed Disney on Ice: Celebrate Memories  and would very likely go if we noticed Disney on Ice in another variation in our area again. We would maybe try to sit lower, but not sure we'd want to pay more to see it when we still really enjoyed it from the cheap seats.

Destination Info:
Disney on Ice : Celebrate Memories
Capital One Arena
601 F St
Washington, DC 20004

Friday, February 14, 2020

2020 Epcot International Festival of the Arts


Date of Visit: January 17, 2020

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts has become probably our favorite festival, although  the only reason we like it slightly more than the Flower and Garden is that we have managed to attend most years by lucking out that it ends up at least partially during our annual family trip. This year we only managed to catch the first day of the festival as our last park day of our trip.


We started our trip through the festival with a stop at Joffrey's near Canada as it was open before the rest of World Showcase and I wanted to end up trying all the Latte and Donut pairings. In the end, this one (Impression Pairing - Blackberry Iced Latte with Blueberry donut) was my favorite mainly because of the donut.


In order to get as much in as possible, we were in line for the France booth when it opened at 11am. The Creme de Brie en Petit Pain ended up being our favorite. Mik also enjoyed the Tomato stuffed with ribs and we shared the molten chocolate cake. The macarons were a good snack for later that we picked up for others in our group, especially considering in the evening when we came back to Epcot for dinner we discovered many booths ran out of things by 6pm.


Next Mik had the Sushi Donut in Japan. He enjoyed it, but didn't feel like it was anything special other than the presentation, which actually made it harder for him to eat than normal sushi.


Mik enjoyed the Musical Float from the Fife & Drum Tavern in The American Adventure Pavilion.


He also enjoyed the red velvet donut that was part of my second latte and donut pairing (Baroque Pairing - white mocha latte and red velvet donut). At this point we were full and also had fastpasses to get to in Magic Kingdom.


After our fastpasses in Magic Kingdom, we returned to Epcot and started with my third latte & donut pairing (mocha latte and glazed donut).


For dinner, Mik didn't end up with any more festival food because what Mik wanted to try was sold out. I did, however, get my final latte and donut pairing (Modern Pairing - coconut iced latte and chocolate donut) and picked up our annual pass magnets.

Destination Info:
Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Walt Disney World: Epcot - Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience


Date of Visit: January 16, 2020

Mik and I used to enjoy the Blue Sky Cellar preview exhibits at Disney's California Adventure. Thus, it was a must do for us to check out "Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience" this trip.


The experiencee ended up exceeding out expectations with the projection show on the Epcot model, which made it so Mik didn't feel like he was actually missing anything on the Circle Vision screens because he missed it more due to focusing on the model than because he can't turn around easy.


The Moana water trail is one of the new experiences we are looking forward to.


Mik is looking forward to maybe trying the Guardians of the Galaxy ride.


We are curious to find out what the reimagined Spaceship Earth experience will be like, but not entirely interested as it's likely to remain a transfer required ride.


The Ratatouille ride is probably what we are both most excited about as I remember enjoying the one at Disneyland Paris. We also expect it to be an accessible ride as it appears it will be similar to the Paris attraction, which is accessible. However, we aren't counting on it as we've been disappointed in pretty much every new ride in the past five years requiring a transfer and, in particular, had really expected the Avatar boat ride to not require a transfer and still don't understand why they got lazy on follow through for that one.


Of course, I'm excited about Cherry Tree Lane coming to the UK Pavilion. Mik not so much. Apparently, he's had enough Mary Poppins for a lifetime ever since Mom took away my Mary Poppins VHS because I watched it constantly when he was a baby.

Destination Info:
Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience
Epcot
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Walt Disney World: Epcot - Coral Reef Restaurant

Date of Visit: January 16, 2020

We decided to try the Coral Reef Restaurant this trip as we'd thought the aquarium aspect would be fun, especially since the five-year-old loves aquariums. It also appealed to us that it wasn't a fixed priced like the character dining and we could eat only some courses if we preferred instead of feeling like we have to get the most for our money and making sure we're hungry enough for all the courses at the fixed priced dining.


We were immediately disappointed in the restaurant as they tried to sit us at two separate tables. Not only did we want to eat all together, but the way the tables are was difficult and crowded for the wheelchair.


Luckily, when we asked if we could sit more all together at the booths they were fine with that. That at least allowed Mik to roll up to the table more comfortable. However, it was two rather large tables that we still basically ended up feeling like we were dining as two entirely separate groups rather than as one.

The main disappointing thing, though, was the restaurant has a stepped tier design and the only accessible seating is in the back area farthest from the aquarium. Thus, we really couldn't enjoy the whole point of the restaurant, especially Mik as he ended up with his back to the aquarium, although that was our choice and probably the reason they didn't try to seat our group with a wheelchair where we decided to sit. Honestly, though, the view did seem better from the booths than the initial tables they tried to seat us at as we were farther from the wave wall and could somewhat see over it. Really though if that wave wall was just more level with the tables or a clear barrier if they want it higher for safety reasons, then it would have been better.

Overall we did enjoy the food, but there is so much different cuisines to enjoy at Epcot that it seemed a waste in the end since we didn't end up with an aquarium view experience as part of the dining as we had expected. The fact that the restaurant was very empty did make it a nice relaxing break in our day, though.

Destination Info:
Coral Reef Restaurant
Epcot
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village Accessible 2-Bedroom Villa

Date of Visit: January 11-18, 2020


This was out third time staying at Kidani for our family trip, but it was out first time getting a 2-Bedroom rather than a lock off. For the most part it is the same, however, there is some key differences that make it a little better and a little worse.


The kitchen and living room area is the same.


The bathroom when you first come in is also the same in that it is not really accessible, although it sort of has a roll under sink.


The master bedroom sleeping area is also the same.


The bathroom, however, was unexpectedly not accessible as we have never encountered an accessible room that didn't at least have the master bath as accessible. For us, it didn't matter and was definitely preferable to if it had been the only accessible bathroom, but also kind of disappointing to not have the flexibility and a big reason why a dedicated 2-bedroom is second from the bottom of our list of choices for our family vacation.


The other bedroom has two beds. This means less floor space for Mik as we're used to a studio and not needing the sofa as a bed so he ends up with plenty of floor space. As Dad joined us this year, it was nice to each have a bed and we were able to rearrange the suitcase bench to be by the desk and sort of give Mik his own area to the left of the television.



The bathroom for the second bedroom was the only truly accessible one as the toilet area had room for a wheelchair to roll up next to and grab bars.


The roll in shower was good for both regular and accessible use. However, I found it disappointing that the decor wasn't Lion King or as fun decor as the other two bathrooms.


Just like on the cruise, we are a fan of the change to larger toiletries even though that means we don't end up with toiletries for home anymore. However, sadly they didn't have it for the lotion. There still was a little bottle. It'd be nice if there was also a dispenser size for that, too, and not have to worry about running out of any of the toiletries, which we did use to have to worry about for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash since they don't restock except sometimes on the cleaning day in the middle of the weeklong stay with DVC.


The verandah and savannah view is the main thing we enjoy about Animal Kingdom Lodge, although we didn't spend as much time out here this year as we have on past trips. Having one large verandah instead of two separate ones when in the lock off was one difference that was better. However, we felt like we had less chairs, although I think we've felt that way for the verandahs at all the resorts we've stayed at on our family trip.

Overall we prefer the lock-off style 2 bedroom at Kidani, but still works for our family trip and definitely was the right choice for this particular year. In particular, Mik prefers the extra floor space we end up with in the studio area of the lock off. However, our overall favorite for the family trip is the 2-bedrooms at Boulder Ridge.

Destination Info:
Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village
3701 Osceola Parkway
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios - Millenium Falcon: Smuggler's Run


Date of Visit: January 15, 2020

Mik and I initially didn't go on Smuggler's Run as we weren't sure if it was too much of a thrill ride for us. Later in the trip, after the rest of the group was able to assure us it was worth trying, we decided try it.


Mik wasn't much into the queue, but only because it was right after we had done Rise of the Resistance and had been in the park over 9 hours. Later he realized it was the kind of experience we always feel like we miss when we do Star Tours because the wheelchair access for that ride skips the regular queue entirely and only gives a brief look down at it.


When you get to the front of the line, you are given cards with your role (pilot, gunner, or engineer). As there are only six per vehicle, our group had to split to two groups (5 and 2 paired with others).


We then waited for our color group to be called for our mission. This is interesting designed waiting area and as we had to wait about 15 minutes for the one spacecraft that is easier for transferring, we had plenty of time for playing/photos.


The ride is a simulator pod. I assume the middle aisle is smaller on the other pods and the reason we had to wait it that this one has a wider middle aisle to roll into and transfer to the ride. It is a very easy transfer as the seats don't have armrest to even have to move, although that then means there is on armrest. Again, after our Jimmy Fallon simulator experience we just don't see how this simulator couldn't have been designed as a non-transfer ride, especially considering the Rise of the Resistance has a simulator part that you can freely roam on.

The actual ride experience of a mission and working together is interesting and I actually enjoyed this Star Wars attraction. I was one of the engineers and had to press whatever buttons lit up. Mik was one of the gunners, which we actually did some trading of role cards for him as those that had been on before explained it was the easiest (at least if done on auto). He probably could have done engineer also, but it would have been harder for him to reach everything and enjoy the view part of the ride. He wouldn't mind doing either gunner or engineer now that's he's been on it, but he doesn't want to even try pilot as it seems hard to reach the controls as our dad had to reach over to push one button when needed for the five-year-old.


And the best part of the attraction, the elevator at the end. Not really as we actually enjoyed this attraction, but different themed elevators have been a favorite thing for us to discover ever since Mik was little and we used the ones to access the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. One of these days maybe we'll actually put together our list of favorites in order that we keep meaning to do.

Overall we really did enjoy the ride as it was like simulator game. In particular, it was amusing how our pilots (our dad and the five-year-old) ended up calling each other bad pilots and we were all yelling at our dad when the button needed to be pushed. While we really feel you could still have been a very fun non-transfer ride experience without the movement if they had done something like how the movement can be turned on or off for Winnie the Pooh, this is one of the very few transfer rides I can see us doing on the WDW trips Mik and I do on our own.

Destination Info:
Millenium Falcon: Smuggler's Run
Hollywood Studios
Lake Buena Vista, FL

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