Showing posts with label MK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MK. Show all posts

Walt Disney World Is Open For Business!

I miss Goofy hugs!

"There's a great big, beautiful tomorrow. . ."

And that day is here.  Following the closure of Walt Disney World Resort due to the coronavirus pandemic, the resort has been in the process of re-opening for weeks beginning with Disney Springs, followed by select resorts, and now the parks.  While things look different - masks, reservation systems, temperature checks, characters, dining - there can still be magic to be found.  While I haven't been to Florida and won't be going any time soon, several of my local friends have been out and about covering the re-opening.  Here's a quick round-up of their coverage!

Disney Springs Re-Opening


Disney Springs was the first destination on Walt Disney World Resort property to reopen.  My friend Meg from www.megforit.com was at Disney Springs on opening day.  Check out her report at what you can expect in this YouTube video.


Since opening day, more has reopened in Disney Springs like my favorite restaurant, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'!  

Guests Return to Walt Disney World Resorts


Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Resort properties around Walt Disney World have been slowly reopening, beginning with some DVC fan favorites.  While not all resorts are opening at this time, you can find availability and even book new reservations for a 2020 stay.  My friend Brandon has his YouTube channel Expedition Neverland and shared this video of his stays at both Wilderness Lodge and the Polynesian.  


Looking for reviews on some hotels around Walt Disney World, both on and off property?  Check out my list of resort reviews!


If you're interested in booking a Walt Disney World vacation package, visit my friends over at Get Away Today (Affiliate Link).  There really has never been a better time to use a travel agent with so much uncertainty in the air.  Take the guess work out of your vacation planning and leave it to the experts!

Walt Disney World Resort Park Previews


Disney's Hollywood Studios

Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom are scheduled to reopen to the general pubic on July 11 with EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios following on July 15, but both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have had some special cast member and Annual Passholder preview days ahead of time.  While there can be varying stories found on social media, the overall feedback seems to be pretty positive.  More details about how Disney is asking everyone to do their part for health and safety can be found here on the Disney Parks Blog.

In the meantime, check out my friend Tina from Footprints in Pixie Dust and her visit to Magic Kingdom Park during the Annual Passholder Preview! 

Update on the AP Preview! What did we ride? Where we eat? Whom did we see? What can you expect?

Posted by Footprints in Pixie Dust on Thursday, July 9, 2020


Not able to visit the Disney Parks?  Catch some fun movies on Disney+ to add some magic to your summer at home!



Walt Disney World will certainly be a different vacation destination for some time.  However, I was happy to see characters and fun interactions around the parks, even if they weren't the same as in the past.  If you're planning a trip soon, pay close attention to the latest phased re-opening news as announcements come frequently about updates to the systems in place!  See ya real soon pals!

Don't Miss Disney - Holiday Edition!

We all know that there are several things that are "don't miss" items on any Walt Disney World Resort vacation and the holiday season brings it's own list of must-see attractions, events, and entertainment.  In fact, I talked about what makes the holidays a bit more magical during my Disney Parks Moms Panel Application video when I applied for the 2019 panel.  Even though I didn't make the panel, I think my video sums up a bit of what makes the holiday season extra special when vacationing in Walt Disney World.  Take a look at my video here:



Excited to learn more?  Check out my top 5 things you won't want to miss to put a little extra jingle in your bells this holiday season!

2014 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party - This is a special ticketed event on select nights at Magic Kingdom Park.  Similar to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, you'll find all the magic of the season at this party!  From top notch decorations to put the jingle in any bells to free hot chocolate and cookies throughout the park, you'll feel holly jolly as soon as you enter the park.  Don't miss the parade during this event which features a very special guest at the end!  The holiday fireworks are also an amazing end to the evening.  You will need to purchase a separate ticket for this, but that ticket gets you entrance at 4PM even though the party doesn't begin until 7PM.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional - Included with your ticket to Epcot is the chance to take part in this spiritually mesmerizing event.  Join celebrity narrators, an orchestra, and a enormous choir to hear the Biblical tale of Christmas as never before.  There are several performances each evening of this show and it is incredibly popular.  If you want to guarantee your seat, you can book a dining package at one of Epcot's restaurants with a special reservation on My Disney Experience.  For those of you choosing to attend without that dining reservation, plan to arrive early and wait in line in order to secure your spot!

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail - We all know Disney Springs is a premiere shopping, dining, and entertainment destination, but it gets even more spirited during the holidays.  With themed Christmas trees from Star Wars to Pixar to Disney classics, you'll quickly find yourself lost in a maze of color and merriment.  One extra perk of this particular holiday attraction?  It's located outside of theme park so if you're in the Orlando area for work, fun, or as a resident - you don't have to pay park admission to enjoy with your family!

Hotel Decor and Experiences - The holiday festivities and decor aren't just limited to the parks around the Walt Disney World Resort, but can also be found in hotels on property as well.  A great way to spend a low-key afternoon or evening is by taking some time to visit different resort properties and enjoy all they have to offer.  For example, the giant gingerbread house display at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is not to be missed.  Feeling a bit more rustic?  Make a visit to Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground where you can find special horse-drawn holiday sleigh rides around the property.
2017 Dinner at Minnie's Holiday Dine

Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine - Looking for a festive dining experience with some of your favorite characters?  Look no further than Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine in Disney's Hollywood Studios!  This dining option is available for lunch and dinner and provides guests with a wide buffet selection and memorable character interactions.  You can find something for everyone at this restaurant and can even grab a special dining package to get reserved seating for Fantasmic later on in the evening!

This is just a sampling of some of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays at the Walt Disney World Resort!  You'll find holiday magic around every corner and the decorations, costumes, and special events around the resort will help you create memories that will last much longer than those gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate on Main Street, U.S.A!

Cruising into Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen

Life is a jungle. . .and then you stop and eat dinner.  When you're up for an adventurous bite in Magic Kingdom, head over to Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen and you won't be disappointed!  The name of this Adventureland restaurant may be a mouthful, but the mouthfuls of delicious food that follow will make it all worth it.  So what makes this such a great place to eat? There's just so much to love!

Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen (let's just stick with Skipper Canteen for the rest of this post) is a table service restaurant located across from the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom.  If you love the corny jokes and fun atmosphere of the Jungle Cruise, you will fall instantly in love with the theming of this restaurant!  The hostess greeted me warmly and I was quickly escorted to my table for one.  On the way to the table, we shared a few Jungle Cruise type jokes and she pointed out some of the memorabilia from the Jungle Navigation Company that is located around the restaurant.  There are three distinct rooms in the restaurant, each which tell their own unique stories.  I dined in the former family parlor of Dr. Albert Falls himself!

The waitress who served me was absolutely delightful.  I always like to ask restaurant staff what their favorite items on the menu are and there was easily so much to choose from with the delicious flavors of Asia and Africa coming to life for all of the hungry explorers!  While she shared that the Curry Vegetable Crew Stew was her favorite, I had to opt for the Whole Fried Fish as it seems like such an iconic dish for this restaurant.  I did take her suggestion and asked for a substitution to have the coconut rice.  The presentation of this fish dish is not for the faint of heart!  My boys would have been completely weirded out by staring at an entire fish standing up on mommy's plate.  The fish was cooked perfectly!  It was crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside.  I'm really glad I added the coconut rice with the dish as the sweetness was a nice addition to the meal.  While I would recommend the fish to any seafood lovers, I think next time I dine here I would opt for another dish.  With so many rich flavors on the menu, I think there is even more to explore and love here!

I dined here on the night I attended Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party so I decided to skip dessert knowing that I wanted to savor all the sweet treats that were awaiting me out in the park. As a whole, this is a fun table service dining experience inside Magic Kingdom that the whole family will enjoy.  Pricing is mid-level and provides a nice alternative to some of the more expensive character dining options that are inside the park.  Reservations here are also easier to come by then some other restaurants in the park and it certainly won't disappoint.  Bon appetite!

Say "Boo-to-You" at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been delighting guests of the Walt Disney World Resort for more than two decades.  Once you've visited this event, it's easy to see why guests return year after year for spooktacular fun.  Whether you are looking for unique treats, rare characters, fa-boo-lous entertainment, or more time on your favorite attractions, there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy.  So here is a list of my frightful dos and don'ts while visiting this special ticketed event.

Do Arrive Early - Magic Kingdom Park opens to guests holding a ticket to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at 4PM even though the party doesn't start until 7PM.  With the cost of the event soaring in recent years, make the most of your party ticket by entering early.  Use this extra time to ride some of your favorite rides (you can even grab FastPass+ reservations between 4PM and 6PM!) and grab some dinner.  You're paying a lot of money for the special entertainment and characters available during the party so you won't want to waste party time eating dinner.

Don't Miss the Special Treats - Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party features many great sweet treats.  Throughout Magic Kingdom Park, there are several trick-or-treat locations which generously distribute mounds of Halloween candy.  In addition, you can find desserts and unique eats at many of the dining locations around the park.  From cupcakes to ice cream and everything in between, you certainly won't go hungry during the party.  I tried the Zero Waffle Sundae at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments which was filling and fun featuring the image of Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

Do Arrive Early for the Parade - Whether you choose to watch the early or late parade or you choose to watch it from Frontierland or Main Street, U.S.A., be sure to arrive approximately 10 minutes early so you don't miss the Headless Horseman's arrival.  Of course, if you want a prime viewing location, you'll probably want to snag your spot up to 30 minutes ahead of the parade, but this also isn't necessary unless you're picky.  I went to the 11:15PM parade and watched it from Liberty Square.  Arriving at 11:05 still gave me a front row location and I grabbed my spot right on time for the beginning of the parade.  Speaking of the parade, Mickey's Boo-to-You Parade is fantastic - probably my favorite on property.  You won't want to miss the Grim Grinning Ghosts and the Gravediggers as they captivate audiences along the route.  Of course, villains and some other favorite characters make appearances too!

Don't Head to the Party Without a Plan - There is so much to see and do you won't want to come and "wing it."  Know what your priorities are before you arrive and make a plan to achieve them.  I love meeting rare characters, but no character in my mind is worth a wait of more than an hour so I knew not to worry about Jack Skellington and Sally.  I also knew that I only wanted to do rides during the party that were "special" as I can ride the other rides on any visit to Magic Kingdom Park.  For example, Space Mountain had a Halloween makeover and Pirates of the Caribbean featured live pirates in the queue and in the ride!  I used Kenny the Pirate's Character Locator app to help me plan out the characters I wanted to meet and used his tips for timing to make the most of my evening in the park.  I also knew that I'd be able to stay until the end of the party since I was traveling without my little ones so I opted to watch the later parade and the midnight Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular which were less crowded.

Do Dress Up and Have Fun - Halloween is a time for everyone to be kids so don't miss out on the fun!  There were plenty of adults and kids alike dressed in full costume and others simply wearing festive attire.  I opted for a simple Lularoe outfit using my Maleficent leggings and my new Maleficent ears to be comfy as I ran around the park. If you are dressing in costume, be sure to visit the Walt Disney World Resort website for current guidelines.  Costume restrictions are looser during the party, but there are still items that are prohibited for adults.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was an amazing time and I hope to return again in future years.  I would still hold off a year or two to bring my kids as I want them to get the most from this special event and I know they wouldn't be able to hang late into the evening.  For families visiting the party, I would definitely recommend not visiting another park that day.  Enjoy your morning relaxing around your resort to rest up for the fun that awaits you and be in line to enter Magic Kingdom Park when your ticket becomes active at 4PM.  Here's wishing you and your family many boo-tiful memories at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.




Collecting Character Autographs in Walt Disney World

Meeting characters is a highlight of any Walt Disney World vacation - for both the young and the young at heart!  Photos are a great way to capture those memories and many people enjoy collecting autographs from their favorite characters to also bring home a piece of the magic.  Below are a few different options for recording those signatures.

Disney Autograph Books - On site and online, Disney sells autograph books for visitors to use.  The books range from a simple book of blank pages for characters to sign to larger books that hold pictures from your trip alongside the autographs you collect.  On a plus side, these books are readily available and easy to carry being small on size.  Brody keeps his old autograph books in his closet and occasionally will go back to look at them.  Books start at just $7.95 so if you are in a pinch in the parks, it's not an overly expensive option.

Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters (or another character book) - This is my new favorite option!  We bought this book from Amazon for less than $10 prior to our trip.  It's a nice hardcover book that features some of Disney's most beloved animated characters.  Each page has a picture and a brief description of each character.  The idea is that when you meet each one, they sign their page.  This is a nice book to keep on a shelf and revisit time and time again when you return from your trip.  I also enjoy that we can bring it back on each vacation and try to collect more and more signatures.  On the downside, it is larger than the Disney Autograph books in the parks and not every character is in the book.  We were easily able though to work around both of these minor concerns.  With our little ones, we still carry a backpack in the park so carrying the book wasn't a problem and we just had characters without a page sign on the front or back cover.

Wall Displays / Pillowcases / Etc. - I have seen people post about bringing various household items for characters to sign too.  While I have never done this personally, it may be something that we do in the future.  One example may be a photo mat that would hold one of your family photos from the parks or maybe a wooden letter.  I've also seen people hand characters pillowcases or t-shirts to sign too.  Perhaps the most creative I've found were the people who brought a frying pan to have Rapunzel sign!  While these appear to be great, creative ways to display character signatures when you return, I have always worried about carrying some of these items as they can be a bit awkward in the park.

At the end of the day, what you carry in the park is all about what makes you and your family happy! There are so many creative ways to collect character signatures and a quick Pinterest search will show you endless possibilities.  What are some of your favorite ways to gather signatures while on vacation in Walt Disney World?

Decadent Desserts and Fantastic Fireworks!

If you have a sweet tooth and crave a little VIP experience, you won't want to miss the Happily Ever After Fireworks  Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace in Magic Kingdom.  On our most recent Walt Disney World Resort vacation, our group decided to try this out and we weren't disappointed.  I have never done one of the paid dessert parties while visiting Walt Disney World for a few reasons - namely it seems crazy to pay for premier fireworks viewing that you can ultimately get for free.  However, the experience was well worth it!

First of all, you'll want to note when booking that there are two options for the Happily Ever After Fireworks Dessert Party.  While both begin with a dessert smorgasbord at Tomorrowland Terrace, there are two different viewing locations when it comes time to watch the show.  The first is to remain on the Tomorrowland Terrace where seating is available, but, from some reviews I've read, viewing can sometimes be a bit "off" as you are looking at the castle from an off-center location.  The other option, which we happened to select, was the Garden Viewing.  This takes you front and center with a prime location to watch the nighttime spectacular.  This is the same as the old FastPass+ viewing location if you ever used that during Wishes.  With the limited number of tickets sold, there is so much room available, you won't be crowded at all!

Stepping back to the beginning, when you arrive at Tomorrowland Terrace, you are greeted by a cast member who checks you in and gives you a wristband depending on your viewing location.  On the night of our party, the fireworks were scheduled to begin at 9 and our dessert party began at 7:45.  No worries if you're not there right on time though as it's simply an open buffet.  The desserts were quite delicious and there were certainly plenty to choose from.  My personal favorites were the chocolate covered strawberries and the chocolate fountain with fresh fruit and marshmallows.  There was also a beverage station that featured a selection of juices, including the ever popular POG juice (pomegranate, orange, and grapefruit).  There was also a selection of hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate - which was very popular on our December night as temps were in the 30s during the dessert party.  Another added perk during dessert time is the private bathrooms for the party!

Around 8:45, we made our way down to the reserved viewing location.  It felt great to be able to walk up to a prime spot without having to be sitting and saving our seats for 90 minutes!  The show began promptly at 9 and it was AMAZING!  I'll have a separate post devoted to the show itself, but the new Happily Ever After is not one to miss.  As I mentioned earlier, we had so much room around us, Brody actually held his own dance party throughout the fireworks.  When the show ended, cast members showed us to the back of Main Street USA to exit.  While this is not a reserved exit for those in the show, it's a handy tip to remember if you're near Tomorrowland Terrace to view as there were a lot less people heading that way then the normal crowds on Main Street USA.  You still merge back with the crowd at the train station to then exit the park, but it gets you down there much quicker.

View from the Garden Viewing Location
Overall, the Happily Ever After Fireworks Dessert Party was enjoyable for our group.  Is it something I would splurge on every trip?  Definitely not.  At $59 per adult and $35 per child, it's an added expense that certainly is not a necessity.  But it was very convenient, great viewing location, and good food.  If you're looking for a special treat on your next Walt Disney World vacation, check it out!

Disney News Update!

This week featured many big announcements in the world of Disney!  Here are some of the highlights in one place.

Image from Disney Parks Blog
Animal Kingdom Openings - Opening dates were released for the long awaited Rivers of Light Nighttime Show and Pandora: The World of Avatar.  Rivers of Light will open officially on February 17 - just in time for President's Day weekend.  You can book FastPass+ reservations for seating at the show and there are also dining packages with Tiffins and Tusker House that are available for booking at this time.  Pandora: The World of Avatar of Avatar will open on May 27, 2017 - Memorial Day Weekend.  First looks at this new land are amazing with lighted walkways, floating mountains, and so much more.  The movie featured breathtaking scenery and Disney imagineers have worked hard to replicate that in the park.

Star Wars Land Update - Disney also announced that Star Wars Land will be set to open in both Disneyland Resort and at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Walt Disney World Resort in 2019.  Reports have shared that the out-of-this-galaxy experience will feature character interactions, a new Star Tours, and the chance to be Han Solo and take control of the Millennium Falcon.  My two little padawans are going to love this!

Image from Disney Parks Blog
Goodbye Wishes - For the past 14 years, guests at Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom have ended their magical day with the Wishes fireworks show.  This park classic will bid farewell on May 11th and an all new show, Happily Ever After, will begin on May 12th.  The new show promises to bring even more shows topping magic to the Magic Kingdom with projections, lasers, fireworks, and of course classic Disney music!

Beauty and the Beast meets Disney Cruise Line - Disney will unveil a Beauty and the Beast stage show on board the Disney Dream beginning in November.  No doubt capitalizing on what is sure to be a wonderful live action film this year, the stage show is sure to bring this "tale as old as time" to life in the grandest of fashions.

Ticket Price Increase - As I was prepping this blog post, more information hit today about ticket price increases for Walt Disney World.  It looks like some of the most notable changes will be increases for single day and annual passholders, no more water park and fun option, expiration dates on all tickets, and an increase to premium parking rates.  More information on all of this can be found in numerous posts online today, including this article from the Orlando Sentinel.

What a whirlwind few days! Hope everyone has been able to keep up and I can't wait to see what new fun awaits in the wonderful world of Disney!

Pirate Adventures on the Seven Seas Lagoon

During our Halloween week visit to Walt Disney World, we knew we wanted to do something special to celebrate the festive holiday week with our 4 year old.  Once we had sticker shock at ticket prices soaring over $100 each for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, we opted to get creative and have just as much with a smaller price tag.  With that in mind, we decided to have a pirate themed adventure day with a visit to The Pirates League in Magic Kingdom and topped off with a sailing on the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage that evening.  I've read a lot about fireworks cruises at Walt Disney World before, but had not experienced one myself.  I was excited to try a new experience and am equally excited to share that it was a great one!

The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage departs most nights from The Contemporary Resort.  Sailors of all ages arrive at The Contemporary and are directed to a check-in desk where you get a special bandana to let cast members know that you are cleared for embarkation.  While you wait to enter the party, cast members keep the family entertained with coloring stations and a scavenger hunt around the hotel.  Our festivities were set to begin at 7:45 and right on schedule our pirate host, Patch greeted guests and invited us into a party room.  Brody was literally like a kid in a candy store as the desserts were unlimited and the sugar rush was intense.  I think his favorite out of the cakes, candy, popcorn, drinks had to be the blue cotton candy - he tried to eat two bags, but we convinced him to save one for later.  Which by the way is a fun tip.  The food is free and cast members encourage you stock up for the boat ride.  While you're busy enjoying the treats, you'll also notice a line forming to meet two of your favorite pirates - Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.  The line moves quick and both characters are happy to play and sign autographs.  After they are done greeting each party, the characters mingle around with guests (a rare treat anymore in Disney!) and enjoy some time dancing and playing.  Mr. Smee even engaged in a sword fight with Brody while they danced to Jake and the Neverland Pirate music.

Throughout the party, guests are frequently reminded about the 8:15 departure time to head to the boats and to please use the bathrooms before getting on the boats as there are none on board.  Despite these warnings, our son decided he needed to use the bathroom at the absolute last possible minute and we almost missed the boat.  Anyway, at 8:15 our pirate host, Patch, and his friend, also named Patch, came back in the room to get us organized.  There were two boats that night - the Hook and the Smee.  Captain Hook led his boat down to the dock and Mr. Smee did the same.  The two waved goodbye as we sailed off in the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon to get in position for the 9:00 fireworks.

During the sailing, Patch led our boat in some getting to know you activities as he greeted each family on board.  We were in position right on schedule and the view of Wishes was breathtaking!  It may be my new favorite spot to watch the show from as you truly get a sense of how grand the spectacle is from this distance.  After the show, the pontoon boat quickly departs to head back to The Contemporary.  Patch again leads our crew in a sing-a-long and some pirate games on the way back.  Each child leaves the cruise with a small token from the sailing.  When arriving back at the dock, Peter Pan is there to greet us.  Each guest gets a chance to have a picture with Peter Pan and sign autographs as the night draws to a close.  I was disappointed that our pictures with Peter Pan didn't link to our Memory Maker and we couldn't track them down, but we at least have our autograph and memories from the night as well as the other awesome Memory Maker photos too.




I loved our night out on the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage.  The cost when we went in October was $69 for adults and $41 for children 3-9.  Since then, there has been a ticket price increase to $73 for adults and $43 for children.  I had no problem at all paying what we did for the cruise and thought the evening was full of fun!

  

Yo Ho, Yo Ho A Pirate's Life for Me

Ahoy mateys! If you are like me and have a young pirate in your family, there are several experiences you don't want to miss on your Walt Disney World vacation.  Today, I'm going to highlight a magical adventure for junior buccaneers - The Pirates League.  The Pirates League is located inside of the Magic Kingdom by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Adventureland.  There are experiences here for kids and adults, boys and girls.  Packages include the chance for pirate makeovers and mermaid makeovers.  Similar to the more well known Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, guests can choose to participate in just the makeover or purchase costume options as well to complete the look.

We made a reservation for 9:40 AM following a breakfast at The Crystal Palace.  We chose to make an earlier reservation so that we could get the most bang for our buck.  Brody also had a Captain Hook Halloween costume that we had bought on sale from The Disney Store.  We arrived at The Pirates League right on schedule, dressed and ready to go.  Upon checking in, Brody was presented with a menu of makeover options and he decided to go for the Captain Hook option.  I was prepared for the $49 price tag and was expecting a well-executed makeover.  The experience was so much more though!!

When the young pirate or mermaid first enters, he or she is assigned a new name.  You then wait your turn in the "salon" where you can watch everyone else getting their makeover and celebrate their transformation.  When it was Brody's turn, he was invited to join a cast member in his own special pirate chair.  The cast member was entertaining and asked Brody all kinds of questions about his pirate adventures.  During the makeover, Brody was presented with a bandana, eye patch, earring, and necklace with a pirate medallion.  When he was finished, Pirate Matthew Ironeagle (the name that was selected for him at the beginning), was presented to the room.  He was given his sash and sword and then had to swear a pirate oath.  The final step in the experience involved a secret trip into the treasure room.  I don't want to spoil the surprise - but it is certainly a fun, entertaining way to end the visit.  


The last step is to of course pay for your trip to The Pirates League.  In my opinion, this is well worth the money.  It was one of Brody's favorite things we did on this trip and I think he'll remember his visit for a long time to come.  We followed up our visit to The Pirates League with a sailing on the Pirate and Pals Fireworks Cruise that night - a topic for another post!

Favorite Mickey Meet and Greets in Walt Disney World

A trip to Walt Disney World isn't complete without a visit to the mouse himself, Mickey!  If Mickey Mouse is on your "must-do" list (and we all know he is!) there are plenty of opportunities to meet him around the theme parks and in resort dining.  With all of those chances to say hi to Mickey, where does one begin?  Here are my favorite places to meet Mickey Mouse around the Walt Disney World Resort!

Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater - I'm starting off my list with one of my all time favorites.  This meet with Mickey is located just inside Magic Kingdom.  Mickey Mouse is dressed as a magician and greets guests before he is set to go onstage at the theater.  What sets this meet apart?  The fact that Mickey talks!  Kids (and adults) have the chance to interact with Mickey in a way that is totally unique to this location.  We can't make a visit to Magic Kingdom without visiting "talking Mickey." FastPass+ is available for this meet, but may not be necessary as I've rarely seen lines longer than 30 minutes and often have spotted wait times of 15 minutes or less.


Garden Grill - Inside of Epcot's The Land Pavilion is a semi-hidden character dining gem, Garden Grill.  This restaurant features Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Chip, and Dale in their best farming gear as they serve up homestyle food, family style.  We had breakfast here and delighted in the character interaction and the delicious food.  As someone who travels a lot with small kids, the fact that breakfast is served family style is a nice touch so I don't have to juggle kids at the buffet.  Another unique aspect of this restaurant is the fact that it is circular and rotates through the Living with the Land ride.  This dining experience is not as crowded as others which meant that the characters really took their time at each table - and farmer Mickey Mouse is adorable!  A great tip is to book a character breakfast here before the park opens and you can be among the first in line for popular attractions like Soarin' when you have finished eating.  For more information on Garden Grill, check out my review here.


Chef Mickey's - If you'd like to meet Mickey Mouse without visiting one of theme parks, you can have a meal at Chef Mickey's inside of Disney's Contemporary Resort.  This character meal is energetic and upbeat.  The open air concept of the restaurant with the monorail zooming through the hotel above adds to the fun.  Here you can meet the "Fab Five" in one spot - Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald.  The price of this character meal is steep and reservations are hard to come by, but it's a great way to meet your favorite Disney friends without the lines and while enjoying a buffet breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It's also easy to access this restaurant as you can take any transportation to Magic Kingdom and then either take the short walkway or hop the monorail to the Contemporary.  If you're interested in learning more about Chef Mickey's, check out my review here.

At a runDisney race - I love meeting characters out on the course of my runDisney races and coming across Mickey is one of my favorite stops!  Mickey Mouse can typically be found as runners are waiting to move into corrals and once the race ends to pose for pictures (and Minnie is usually by his side).  We all know that when you runDisney, "every mile is magic" so what better way to capture the fun and memories of the race then with a photo op with Mickey!

There are so many places to meet Mickey on your vacation, that it's easy to follow Walt's advice and never forget "that it was all started by a mouse."  Happy 88th Birthday Mickey Mouse!  See ya real soon, pal!

Quick Trip Recap

We're fresh off our latest trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and I have so much to share about our vacation!  We traveled with my parents and stayed at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.  This was the first time we've stayed off property with kids and I have to say that the Hilton was a perfect choice.  I'm going to update my review of the property with everything that we enjoyed with the kids, but in short, the pool, breakfast, and transportation made it easy to enjoy all the parks had to offer as well as relax around the resort during our "down time."

Daddy and Caleb enjoying the pool at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Our week long trip included a 6 day Magic Your Way base ticket where we visited one park per day.  We opted to spend 2 days each at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom with 1 day each at Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  Inside the parks, we tried a few new experiences including The Pirates League at Magic Kingdom and the Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple at Hollywood Studios.  Brody, our 4 year old, loved all of the Star Wars activities at Hollywood Studios in particular.  While Hollywood Studios is getting a bad rap lately due to so much of the park being closed for the addition of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land, I think this might have been one of Brody's favorite days.

My handsome Captain Hook!


Brody was an extremely brave Jedi as he battled Darth Vader and Kylo Ren!
We also tried a few new dining and evening experiences.  The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage was a memorable evening and one that I would highly recommend to anyone with young kids.  We also enjoyed a fabulous date night out at Jiko with it's delicious South African cuisine and tried out the breakfast at Akershus inside of Epcot.  I was also thrilled to run in the inaugural runDisney Wine and Dine 10K my last day in Walt Disney World.

Meeting my doppelgänger, Snow White, at breakfast!
Just a few quick pictures from the inaugural runDisney Wine and Dine 10K
I'll admit that the week long vacation with a 1 year old and 4 year old had its trying moments, I still think that the boys enjoyed their time in the most magical place on Earth.  I can't wait to share all of the experiences with you from my trip over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for some new and exciting posts!

My Top 5 Must-Do Rides in Walt Disney World

As we continue to count down the days to our next Walt Disney World trip, I'm busy finalizing FastPass+ reservations for our favorite rides and attractions using the My Disney Experience website and app.  I don't know about you and your family, but we have some favorite rides that are "can't miss" experiences for us on each of our family vacations.  Here are my top 5 must-do rides in Walt Disney World.

5. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - Magic Kingdom - One of the newer rides in Walt Disney World, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train boasts mild thrills while also showcasing some amazing creativity.  The dwarfs inside the mine take you right back to the famous scenes from the movie.  This is probably the most popular ride in Magic Kingdom these days and FastPass+ reservations go quickly.  Without a FastPass+ time, you can expect to spend well over an hour in line for your turn.

4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - Hollywood Studios - I have a closet obsession with The Twilight Zone.  Each year, when the Sci-Fi Channel runs marathons of the show on fourth of July and New Year's Eve, I find myself drawn into the show.  This ride puts you right in the middle of your own Twilight Zone story as you go plummeting down an elevator shaft in The Hollywood Hotel.  This is a definite FastPass+ reservation for us.  At Disney's Hollywood Studios, this is a tier 2 FastPass+ selection which makes it a no-brainer for us!

3. Toy Story Mania! - Hollywood Studios - This is Brody's favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World!  Here you enter the world of Andy's toys while playing a carnival-style selection of computer games.  The ride is interactive, fast-paced, and entertaining.  This is another ride where wait times can easily top an hour, so a FastPass+ reservation is highly recommended.  As a tier 1 attraction, you'll have to make some tough choices in Disney's Hollywood Studios, but for our family there is no question on securing a FastPass+ for this favorite attraction.

2. Soarin' - Epcot - We have yet to experience the new video in Epcot's Soarin', but if it's even half as good as the previous version of the ride (and I've heard it's even better), we're going to be thrilled with the experience.  This has always been one of my husband's favorite rides in Walt Disney World and I'm excited that my oldest son will get to enjoy it for the first time on our upcoming visit!  We always like to hit this early in the day while also checking out other fun features in the Land Pavilion before heading over to Epcot's World Showcase.

1. Dumbo the Flying Elephant - Magic Kingdom - This ride is a Walt Disney World classic and holds a special place in my heart.  One of my favorite Disney memories is from my very first trip.  I was just 5 years old and my grandmother and I rode Dumbo together.  It's still one of my favorite pictures from Magic Kingdom!  Now I get to make memories with my own children nearly 30 years later.  That's the magic of Walt Disney World - family memories to enjoy year after year!

FAQ - Should you use Disney FastPass+ on parades, fireworks, and shows?

Walt Disney World Resort
Magic Kingdom's Happily Ever After Fireworks
I hear this question asked often among friends and in several of the Walt Disney World groups that I'm in on Facebook.  We have chosen on some trips to use Disney's FastPass+ for viewing parades, fireworks, and shows and skipped it other times, so I can speak about the pros and cons here pretty honestly.  And like most answers related to planning a Walt Disney World vacation, the answer about how to use your FastPass+ reservations truly depends on your family and vacation priorities.

For our family, using Disney's FastPass+ to catch great viewing spots for fireworks and parades has been a good choice - especially if we're spending more than one day in that particular park.  As a family with two young children, we find it difficult to get to a prime spot to watch nighttime entertainment up to an hour before it starts.  When we visited the parks with babies and toddlers, we were traveling with a double BOB stroller - basically a minivan for kids - so even having one adult go to hold a spot while the rest of the family continues to run around the park can be a challenge.  For this reason, knowing that we can grab a perfect spot to see fireworks and parades while arriving just 10-15 minutes before they start is a great luxury.  If you have young kids in Walt Disney World too, the cost/benefit may be easy for your family to figure out.  Many of the rides and attractions for babies and toddlers don't really *need* FastPass+ because the wait times are rarely longer than 15 minutes or so.

So what are the big questions to ask yourself when determining whether or not to book Disney's FastPass+ viewing areas for parades and fireworks?

  • How many days are your going to spend in that park?  If you're spending more than one day you may have some FastPass+ allotments that you don't need to do your favorite attractions.
  • How old are your kids?  If you're traveling with older children or adults, it might be easier to arrive early and hold a spot as opposed to keeping young kids entertained while waiting for the show to start.
  • Are there any other options to get preferred seating for the show?  For example, we always book a Fantasmic Dining Package in Hollywood Studios.  We figure that we have to eat anyways, why not book at one of these locations and get the perk of prime seating for Fantasmic so we can save our Tier 1 FastPass+ reservation for another popular attraction? Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have also offered dining packages paired with nighttime parades and shows as well.  

Check out my review of the Happily Ever After Fireworks Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom here!


If you do choose to use your FastPass+ options for entertainment, you won't be disappointed in the location.  All of them offer a great spot that's not as crowded as some other areas may be without the stress or worry about saving your spot.  

Magic Kingdom Fireworks - Without a Park Ticket!

One of my favorite attractions on any Walt Disney World trip is taking in the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.  Whether it's Wishes or one of the seasonal shows, there is nothing quite like watching this nighttime spectacular over Cinderella Castle.  The music and fireworks quite literally brings tears to my eyes each visit.  Of course, the best place to watch the fireworks is right in front of the castle inside the park, but many don't realize that there are other great options to experience fireworks that don't require you to have a park ticket.

Restaurants - Who doesn't love dinner and a show?  California Grill (Disney's Contemporary Resort),  'Ohana (Disney's Polynesian Resort), and Narcoossees's (Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa) all have views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks and dim the lights while piping in music to provide guests with a great experience.  Reservations around fireworks times are difficult to get so make sure that you are ready to book 180 days in advance.  Time your reservation about 90 minutes before fireworks are planned to start and you should be ready to enjoy your dessert while the fireworks display takes place.

Beaches - The beaches at Disney's Polynesian Resort and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa both have beautiful views of the fireworks.  Recently, a new FREE (yes, you read that right, FREE) viewing party has been opened at the Grand Floridian.  The party features decorations and food and beverages for sale while you watch.  The best part - this isn't open to just guests of this resort!

Boats - There are two cruises on the Seven Seas Lagoon that also offer fireworks viewing.  The Ferrytale Wishes Dessert Party features sweets and beverages included in the price tag while you watch the fireworks and enjoy the music just like you were in the park.  For a more daring adventure on the high seas, there is also a Pirates and Pals Fireworks Cruise where you enjoy snacks and drinks at the Contemporary with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee before setting sail with some pirate friends around the lagoon to see the fireworks.  When you return back to land, Peter Pan is there to greet your party.  Each of these options do have a price tag attached, but feature more than just the viewing when you factor in the food and experience.

These non-park options are great if you don't have a park hopper option on your tickets and want to take in the fireworks on a night you were not in Magic Kingdom.  Or, those of you who are lucky enough to be locals might like to check out the fireworks without braving the Magic Kingdom evening crowds.  I'm excited to use some of these options on my upcoming trip for Princess Half Marathon weekend when my friend and I have opted to save some money and skip park tickets.  Whatever your reason, all of these viewing locations provide a wonderful alternative to watching the fireworks from inside the park.

Celebrate the 4th in Walt Disney World

4th of July is a busy travel time as families are in the middle of summer and many parents are enjoying a long weekend home from work.  If you're lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World for the holiday, there are several ways to celebrate the birth of America on vacation.

All-American Eats - Nothing says American food more than hot dogs, corn dogs, and ice cream.  Lucky for Disney guests, you'll be able to find all of the above together on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disney's Magic Kingdom.  Casey's Corner is a quick service eatery located at the end of Main Street closest to the castle and has hot dogs and corn dogs with baseball themed decor.  Right across the street, you'll find The Plaza.  While the restaurant is table service, there is also a counter service ice cream shop attached where you can pick up a cone or a sundae.  These treats are the perfect food and the perfect location for the Festival of Fantasy Parade that runs everyday in Magic Kingdom at 3PM.

All-American Attractions - Inside Magic Kingdom, guests can have an experience fit for a president at the Hall of Presidents.  This indoor show features each of the U.S. presidents talking about their time in office using audio-animatronic technology.  If your day in the parks takes you to Epcot, you can also brush up on your U.S. History by visiting the American Adventure.  Join Mark Twain and Ben Franklin as they take you on a journey through U.S. History using music and some familiar faces.  As a former U.S. History teacher I love any chance to highlight history lessons to my kids, but one added perk with both of these shows - they are in air-conditioned theaters!  

All-American Fireworks - On the 4th of July and the days surrounding the holiday, Wishes gets an overhaul and the nightly fireworks show in Magic Kingdom pays tribute to the United States with patriotic songs.  We also were lucky enough to see the Celebrate the Magic projection show with an American twist as red, white, and blue stars and stripes lit up the castle.  No need to miss out on your holiday fireworks while on vacation in Walt Disney World.

Happy 4th of July everyone!!




5 Ways to the Beat the Heat in Walt Disney World

Crusing Main Street, U.S.A.
July 2013
Walt Disney World in the summertime often gets a bad reputation for being full of heat, humidity, and the frequent afternoon thunderstorms.  Well. . .this is kind of true.  While your Disney trip in the summer does feature some intense weather from time to time, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat and humidity to have fun with your family.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

1.  Order a case (or cases) of water from an online grocer and have them delivered to your hotel.  You can get a case of water for a few dollars instead of paying $2.50 a bottle or using one snack credit in the parks.  Disney lets you bring in soft side coolers, food, and drink.  This is a great way to make sure you have plenty of water to stay hydrated and cool while also not breaking the bank.  Remember that the online grocers have order minimums, but if you're traveling with kids for at least a few day trip, you can certainly fill up on snacks, fresh fruit, and other drinks to keep everyone happy.  I've used Garden Grocer in the past and have been really happy!

Enjoying the water slide at
Port Orleans Riverside
2.  Avoid the parks in the middle of the day by taking a break back at your hotel.  Whether you decide to take a nap in your air conditioned room or cool off in one of the amazing pools, the break will be sure to refresh you so you can stay up for the nighttime activities in the park without tiring out.  I recommend getting to the park at rope drop, head back to your resort after lunch and then return to the parks around dinner.

3.  Indoor rides and shows can be a great way to quickly cool off in the parks when you need a break and don't want to head all the way back to your room.  If you're in Epcot, check out Ellen's Energy Adventure - the total ride takes about 45 minutes where you are seated watching a video and riding through time.  Over in Hollywood Studios, The Great Movie Ride is one where you have a fun ride queue that is inside featuring scenes from some Turner Classic Movie favorites.  And in the Magic Kingdom, shows like Mickey's PhilarMagic and The Country Bears provide both music and a respite from the heat.

Taking a break with Mickey
Ice Cream at Hollywood Studios
4.  What would a trip to any amusement park be without ice cream?  And in Walt Disney World, you can find lots of cool, frozen treats.  If the classic ice cream sandwich or ice cream bar are your favorites, you can find Mickey shaped ice cream throughout the parks.  But perhaps the most famous cool treat in Walt Disney World is the Dole Whip.  If you haven't tried one, you're missing out!  This is a soft serve pineapple creation that can be served simply in a cup or as a float.  Dole Whips are more elusive in the parks than the typical ice cream.  My favorite spot to pick one up is in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom.

5.  Don't forget to pack up some ways to keep cool and stay safe in the sun from home.  Sunscreen is available throughout all of the Disney parks, but you're going to pay a premium for buying it on vacation compared to what you'll pay at home.  Also, remember to pack spray bottles or personal fans - or better yet the spray bottle with a fan on it!  Again, you can buy one with a picture of Mickey and friends in the parks, but you'll save significantly by buying a generic one at Wal-Mart or Target before heading out on your vacation.  If you have kids using strollers, I also recommend purchasing a stroller fan to help them stay cool.  We bought one on Amazon for less than $15 before our trip with a 5 month old and it was some of the best money I ever spent.  Remember that a cool baby is less likely to be a cranky baby!

And as a bonus tip - if you are traveling with infants or toddlers, don't forget to make use of the baby care centers in each park.  They are perfect for a little rest and relaxation in the middle of the park day and can be a mom and dad's best friend!

Just remember that with a good strategy and some advanced planning, you can make Disney in July not only bearable, but an all around magical vacation!  

Quick Service Favorites in Walt Disney World

I love the shirts that say "I runDisney to eat Disney" because it is such a true statement!  Eating my way around Walt Disney World is one of my favorite things to do - and with so many great choices it's easy to see why!  Typically, it's easier to review table service restaurants in the various parks and hotels, but tonight we're going to take a look at some of my favorite quick service locations.  There really are a lot of great choices, but a few stand out when I think of my Disney vacations.


Whether it's a Mickey Bar or a Dole Whip, there's a lot of great treats to be found in Walt Disney World!

Aloha Isle - Magic Kingdom - The Dole Whip is one of the most iconic Disney treats and you can find it in Adventureland near The Enchanted Tiki Room.  If you haven't tried a Dole Whip yet, you absolutely must!  It's a frozen pineapple treat that will definitely cool you off on a hot Florida day!

Columbia Harbor House - Magic Kingdom - In my opinion, this is one of the best and most unique quick service locations on property.  Located in Liberty Square, you'll find New England favorites here such as a Lobster Roll and Clam Chowder.  It's a nice change of pace from some of the other quick service restaurants that serve more traditional burgers and chicken nuggets.  No need to fear though if you have picky children, as the kids menu features all of the favorites for your young ones.

Gaston's Tavern - Magic Kingdom - This is a relatively new spot that was added with the Fantasyland additions a few years ago.  While there is a relatively limited menu, you have to check out the warm cinnamon roll as a dessert item or a midday pick-me-up.  And the ultimate item on the menu, is LeFou's Brew.  This frosted apple juice concoction is heaven in a mug!  The theming of this stop is also with checking out as it looks exactly like the tavern from Beauty and the Beast.

Pizzafari - Animal Kingdom - As you might imagine, pizza is the name of the game in this restaurant.  Selections here go beyond cheese and pepperoni to include Mediterranean pizza and even a shrimp flatbread.  But you can find much more than pizza on the menu here, with other Italian favorites like baked pasta, there is definitely something for everyone.

Sunshine Seasons - Epcot - Located inside The Land pavilion, this location is set apart by it's focus on using ingredients produced in the sustainable environments of this pavilion.  You can count on fresh flavors here and a lot of Asian twists to the menu.  Even the menu items for kids are unique featuring salmon and salads.  

These are just a few of my favorites around Walt Disney World and there are so many others to choose from!  Which are your favorite quick service places to check out when in the parks?