Saturday, June 15, 2013

Taking a Toddler to Downtown Disney's Car Masters Weekend 2013

When my daughter was about two months old we were looking for something to do one weekend and noticed an advertisement for a new event in Downtown Disney called Car Masters Weekend so we decided to go check it out. It was a pretty small event back then and there was little more to do then get photos with some Cars characters and see a few cars on display but we still had a good time. My daughter is two years old now and I have taken her to this event every year since and it continues to grow and grow.

The event takes place in the West Side of Downtown Disney, between where Planet Hollywood and Cirque Du Soleil are so you will want to park as close to that area as possible or you can ride the free water taxi over from the Marketplace area if you find the parking lot is already full. My biggest piece of advice to you would be to get there really early if your child has their heart set on getting their picture taken with the Cars characters. The event officially starts at 10 am (Downtown Disney opens for walking around at around 8 am). We arrived at 10:45 this year and although there were still plenty of empty spaces in the parking lot, the line to meet the Cars characters was huge! I asked the gentleman at the end what the approximate wait time was and he said about 45 minutes. By the time we left about three hours later the line had grown and the Cast Member at the end said the wait time was a little over an hour. It was no biggie to us since we can see the Cars characters anytime we want at Hollywood Studios and the wait time there is usually pretty short (the only one they have at Cars Master Weekend that they do not have at Hollywood Studios is Flo). One thing I did notice this year though is the way they had the Cars set up it would be really hard to get a picture of your child with the Cars in the background, which is what I did last year when the line was equally as long (the first year we went we stood in line and waited because it was only about 25-30 minutes). I tried, but they are so far back it really didn't come out very well.

The line is also set up out in the hot sun, which is another reason I'd suggest getting there early and doing the Cars line first. The way the line is set up if you have more than one adult with you one adult can wait in line while the other adult wanders around with the little one(s). This is not usually very good etiquette when you are in the theme parks, but it was very hot, and the long line was out in the open in the hot sun, and I saw tons of families doing just that. I can't imagine my own two year old waiting patiently in this line for an hour. If you do choose to wait in the long line they did have a cart occasionally come and move up and down the line selling drinks to the people waiting and Disney's Photopass photographers are available to take your picture so it is okay if you left your camera at home. The three cars they have available to take your picture with are Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and Flo.

Instead of attempting to go and see the Cars characters when we arrived (since I knew from past experience it would probably be crazy) we stopped to take pictures first with the topiaries of Lightning McQueen and Mater. They are set up near where the Planet Hollywood/Fork and Dine theater entrance is.

We also stopped to snap some pictures of the Lone Ranger and Tonto (statues), who were up on the side of Planet Hollywood promoting their upcoming movie. Near Planet Hollywood they had a Lone Ranger movie backdrop set up and they gave my daughter a paper Lone Ranger mask to wear and keep. I managed to snap one really quick photo of her wearing it against the backdrop before she decided that the mask was too big and refused to put it back on.

This entire area had cars, cars, cars on display everywhere throughout the promenade. The brochure/map they give out said there were over 150 classic, muscle, and exotic cars on display and that number definitely seemed accurate. There were plenty of interesting cars to look at in this area but I am not a huge car fanatic so we made it thorough this area fairly quickly.

Near the bridge to the former Pleasure Island they had a monster truck on display with its really huge wheels. There was a man in front of it signing autographs and my daughter insisted on getting one even though I have no idea who the guy is. There really wasn't much of a line so we got our autographed postcard quickly, snapped a few photos, and moved on. I had to take a picture of my daughter next to a wheel on the other side of this truck just because I have one of her next to the same truck last year. When we were leaving later on I noticed they had put caution tape all around the wheels so you no longer could get too close for a photo(I have no idea why...if it just got too hot, too many people were touching the truck, or too many people had the crazy idea that their children should climb inside the wheels to take a photo, which we witnessed several times while we were standing there).

After we left that truck we started wandering towards Cirque Du Soleil. We saw Herbie the Love Bug and a few other interesting cars. We walked past the grassy area where the Cars characters are on display but it is really hard to snap a decent photo from this side without actually entering the grassy area, which you can not do without waiting in the long line.

My favorite car (which was actually a truck!) was on display outside the entrance to the movie theater. In that area they had a Monsters University truck with Mike and Sulley. There was a short line to get photos with it so we joined the line and waited less than ten minutes. While we waited one of the streetmosphere groups that usually walk around Hollywood Studios came out to entertain everyone. We were rewarded for our wait with a cute Monsters University Bumper Sticker. If you do not want the bumper sticker and do not mind that Mike and Sulley's front sides are not in your photo it is very easy to snap a photo of the back side of the truck with no waiting in line at all. My daughter was more interested in Mike Wazowski than she was in Sulley or the car.

After I took my daughter's photo with the Monsters University truck we walked towards the lake. The line to meet the Cars characters runs along the lake but if it is exceptionally long it will also stretch back up along the side of Bongo's Cuban Cafe (which probably means the wait is over an hour). At this point in the day it had not made it that far back but it did by the time we left later in the afternoon. At the corner in front of Bongo's they have a DJ set up. When we walked by he had tons of hula hoops spread out throughout the area. My daughter enjoyed playing with the hula hoops and dancing to the music for quite a while. Eventually I got tired of standing there watching her in the hot sun so I dragged her away and we continued walking towards the lake.

By the lake they had a booth set up where children could play different games themed to the new Disney movie that is coming out this summer, Planes. One was a handheld video game, one was a bean bag tossing game (which actually used a softball) where you had to throw it into a canister, and one was a game where you had to throw some balls up on top of a little structures and then watch them slide down into different slots. My two year old played the bean bag/softball game and the ball tossing game and even though they were way above her skill level, she really enjoyed them both. Everyone is given a small balsa wood airplane and a sheet of Planes tattoos as a prize regardless of how they do. The wait time for these games was about five minutes each and the people running them were really patient with my daughter and even helped her out with the ball tossing one by catching the balls she threw and throwing them into the structure since the opening was way above her head.

Once we'd played all three games we continued walking along the lake where everyone was lined up to see the Cars. It was REALLY hot at this point and very few people in this line were wearing a hat or had anything to shield them from the sun. If you really want to wait I suggest maybe bringing an umbrella, wearing a hat, and making sure you put on lots of sunscreen!
On one side of the line they had some small white tents set up. These tents are completely separate from the Cars line and you do not have to wait in the Cars line to go into them. One just has a bunch of stuff advertising Photopass and explaining what it is all about. The other one, however, has the Disney Infinity video game set up inside and some screens to play it on.

They also had some screens with other new Disney video games on them. If you play one of these games you get a Disney Infinity Dash (from the movie Incredibles) figurine. My daughter saw others with the "toy" and really wanted one for herself so we waited. The line was pretty short but the wait time was about twenty minutes because every kid has to play the video game for a few minutes before they get the Dash toy/figurine. When we got towards the front I also discovered that they were asking the kids which game they wanted to play, which was making the wait time even longer. We watched the screen with the Pirates game on it stand empty for a long time while several kids were waiting to play the Cars game. Unfortunately my daughter also insisted on playing the Cars game so that added to our wait time as well. The game was a typical Wii game but it was way above my two year old's skill level and the guy manning the game was awesome about helping her.

She thought it was great fun watching McQueen race on the screen and was very happy to claim her Dash figurine/toy on her way out of the tent. At the exit I was able to snap a few decent pictures of Lightning McQueen in the Cars area, so this is probably the closest you can get to him if you choose not to wait int he long line.

We had finished everything to do in this area (other than waiting in line and seeing the Cars) so we wandered back along the lake towards Cirque Du Soleil. At the end of the row of restaurants, on the other side of House of Blues, they have another big grassy area with lots of cars in it. We looked at them briefly but again, it was really hot and there was no shade at all in this area. There was also a food truck selling refreshments in this area and a merchandise truck selling t-shirts and other items specific to this event. They had a band playing on a stage and my daughter stopped briefly to dance.

After we left this area we headed back towards Planet Hollywood but this time we walked through the West Side area instead of along the lake. They had lots of interesting cars set up to look at as we walked and we saw some of the more unique ones in this area.

By the entrance to House of Blues they had a small area where kids could play with the remote control Ridemakerz Cars but my daughter was not interested (they always have a small area to race the cars set up in their Ridemakerz Store on the other side of Downtown Disney and she has done that many times so she was just not interested in waiting). If you chose to make a Ridemakerz car they did have a buy one, get one free offer for the weekend printed on the event map, which would come in handy if you have more than one child because those cars can be really expensive!

We continued walking back towards Planet Hollywood, looking at all the interesting cars along the way. We stopped briefly at Candy Cauldron to buy a cake pop. Usually my daughter enjoys looking through the big open window for a little while and watching them make candy apples and other treats but it was just too hot today. There was a large line of people waiting nearby for Chip Foose's autograph so if you are interested in getting that, I imagine that is another line you need to get into really early (it was advertised on the map as 11 am-2 pm but it was a long line out in the hot sun, although not nearly as long as the line to meet the Cars characters unless the line also continued inside the store, which I could not see).
We made it back to the entrance bridge to the old Pleasure Island and I ducked inside Wetzel's Pretzels/Haagen Daz for a frozen treat. The event had gotten quite busy by then, however, and there were no tables available to sit at so I found us a spot in the shade by the lake. I was glad at that point I'd gotten my daughter a frozen lemonade instead of the ice cream she was clamoring for (that side of the store had a much longer line and I didn't really feel like waiting since we were getting ready to go home). It was so hot at that point I know the ice cream would've melted all over her in a big sticky mess before she had a chance to eat very much of it.

We enjoyed our frozen lemonade and then headed out towards the parking lot, which was now full of cars and many more circling around looking for an empty space.
Car Masters Weekend continues to grow every year and as it does it grows not only in the amount of things they have to do, but also in popularity. It is a lot of fun but I strongly suggest arriving early. Later on in the day the typical Florida afternoon thunderstorms rolled in, and I have no idea how many of the cars they keep on display/how much they keep open when it is storming but I imagine it isn't much. We left around 2:00 and at that point it was extremely hot and the storm clouds were just starting to roll in.
Throughout the day they also have many other small events going on such as a yo-yo competition and talks about how to draw a Car and how they created Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure, however, my two year old still doesn't have the attention span to sit through any of them. If you would like to cool off for a little while they have a Cars movie marathon running inside the movie theater ($7.00/adult or child ticket). They also have an award ceremony and a motorcade as the final event at 6:00 pm on Sunday night. Car Masters Weekend is a fun little event, and I hope to continue taking my daughter and watching it grow bigger and better for many years to come.