Showing posts with label shows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shows. Show all posts

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!

5 Must-Do Star Wars Experiences at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars fever is raging all across the galaxy these days as people across all generations of enjoyed the power of the Force for decades.  While Disney and Star Wars fans anxiously await the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which will be coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2019, there is still plenty of ways to interact with the Light and the Dark Side during your Walt Disney World Resort visit.  My young padawans are near obsessed with everything Star Wars so Hollywood Studios is always a Force-filled, full day for us.  Below are my top 5 Star Wars Experiences for your family!

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple - My oldest has now participated in this incredible experience twice and he can't get enough of it!  Aspiring Jedi between the ages of 4 and 12 sign up early in the day to participate in one of the multiple shows throughout the day.  During the show, they receive training in the ways of the Force and using their lightsabers, all as they prepare to do battle with foes like Darth Vader and Kylo Ren.  For more details on this experience, check out my full blog post on it, here.  The key is getting to sign-ups early, meaning you'll want to rope drop this to get an assigned time for the day and then get excited!

Star Wars Launch Bay - Next to Disney Junior! Live on Stage, you'll find the entrance to Star Wars Launch Bay.  This has something for everyone in the family to enjoy!  Throughout the indoor exhibit, you'll find memorabilia from the movies and lots of cool trivia.  There's even a short film you can view.  But the highlight of Launch Bay are the character meet and greets!  Currently, you can meet Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, and BB-8.  We came to Launch Bay around 10AM and saw relatively no crowds - we visited both Chewbacca and Kylo Ren in under 15 minutes total and then waited about 15 minutes to meet BB-8.  These characters don't sign autographs, but the interaction is memorable!

March of the First Order and Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away - Both of these events you can see throughout the day down Hollywood Boulevard and on center stage.  Captain Phasma leads her troops down Hollywood Boulevard several times each day, followed by a stage show where iconic characters bring to light some of the most loved scenes from Star Wars movies over the years.  We don't typically "plan" to catch one of the shows, but each time we pass by and one is occurring we always stop to watch!

Star Tours - The Adventure Continues - The one ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios that is Stars Wars themed is AWESOME!  During the ride, you enter your space craft and are given your mission. Piloted by C3-PO, your group is strapped into movie theater type seats and then launched into space. The seats and screen move to create the sensation that you are flying, dodging debris, and engaged in battle with the Dark Side.  Each flight also identifies a rebel spy from the participants and my oldest was selected this time - he was so excited to see his face on the big screen!  This is a Tier 2 FastPass+ attraction in Hollywood Studios and is a good choice in my opinion as wait times often exceed 30 minutes.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular - The perfect way to end your Star Wars filled day at Hollywood Studios is with this nighttime spectacular.  Combining fireworks, lasers, music, and movie images, fans and non-fans of Star Wars alike will be awed by this performance.  We were actually disappointed that we missed it during our most recent trip as it was replaced with Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! during the holiday season.  I think John Williams' score was made for a show like this!

I hear a lot people saying that they plan to skip Hollywood Studios because of the recent closures and current construction, but all of the Star Wars magic coupled with other favorite attractions means that we still dedicate at least one whole day (and sometimes even more!) to this action-packed park!


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!

Jedi Master You Will Be

Have you ever watched a movie and imagined how amazing it would be to be a part of the magic?  Any Star Wars fans ever dream battling the Dark Side?  Well, young visitors to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World get the chance to do just that.  Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple allows children between the ages of 4 and 12 the chance to train with a Jedi Master, become an expert in the ways of the Force, and then do battle with Dark Side foes like Darth Vader.  This experience is entirely free (yes, you read that right. . .FREE!) with your admission to Hollywood Studios, but space is limited.  In order to make the most of your experience, here is everything you need to know.

Getting Registered - You cannot pre-register for the Jedi Training Academy.  Registration takes place each day at Hollywood Studios and you want to get there early in order to secure your spot.  We arrived at Hollywood Studios around 8:15 for a 9:00 opening that day.  Around 8:30, cast members began welcoming guests into the park.  Guests who were looking to head towards Sunset Boulevard, Pixar Place, and other parts of the park were held back by ropes once inside, but signs directed those signing up for Jedi Training to head over to begin the process.  The registration takes place back by Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.  Even though we entered at rope drop and were in line before 8:40, the line was still incredibly long.  After about a 20 minute wait, we were able to sign up.  Don't forget that your little Jedi needs to be with you to sign up.  They show runs multiple times throughout the day and you get to select your time based on availability when you arrive.  The earliest show we could get that day was 11:40 AM so we scooped it up.  Along with our confirmation ticket for the training, we also received three FastPasses good for the entire family.  I don't know if this happens all the time, but my guess is that these FastPasses might be a way for Disney to let guests be flexible in selecting their time for the performance - if you have to schedule during a FastPass+ reservation time, no worries.



Checking In - The check-in for the Jedi Training Academy is directly in front of the 50's Prime Time Cafe.  You'll notice some blue circles on the sidewalk and that's how you'll know you are in the right spot.  They ask you to arrive 30 minutes before your show time.  This allows the cast members to check guests in, get them cloaked up, go over PhotoPass information with the family, and give directions to the young Jedi.  I stayed here with Brody while my husband headed over towards the stage to grab a good viewing spot.  It doesn't matter what circle your kid stands on; everyone will get a chance to battle the Dark Side.  While cast members were getting the kids ready, a PhotoPass photographer came over and shared with us information on accessing the pictures they take during the performance.  Remember, all of these images are yours for free if you've purchased Memory Maker.  About 5 minutes before showtime, cast members will lead the future Jedi and their parents over to the stage to begin.















The Show - The stage is located next to Star Tours: The Adventure Continues.  When the kids arrive, they take a spot on stage based on the line they are in.  Again, no worries about which line they are in - both get the chance to train and do battle against the Dark Side.  The Jedi Masters teach the kids the ways of the Force and some lightsaber battle techniques.  After some practice, smoke fills the stage and villains from the Dark Side emerge.  The villains may vary from show to show, but we had Darth Vader and the Seventh Sister.  Brody was so excited and volunteered to be first to do battle with Darth Vader.  The show is extremely organized with the Jedi-in-Training lined up and ready to fight as soon as one is done.  Once everyone completed their battles, those two disappeared, but it wasn't long before Kylo Ren emerged.  The kids did not do battle with Kylo Ren, but they used the power of the Force that now flowed through them to cause him to retreat.





















From check-in to the finale of the show, the whole experience lasted about an hour and was one of the most memorable from our trip.  The pictures from the Disney PhotoPass photographer were priceless and Brody couldn't stop talking about his encounter with Darth Vader.  I would highly recommend this free experience to anyone with a young Star Wars fan - just be sure to arrive to the park early to secure your spot as all shows do fill each day and they typically reach capacity very early on in the morning.  

Nighttime Spectaculars at Disney's Hollywood Studios

For years, each trip to Walt Disney World had included a visit to Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  We broke tradition on this trip and opted to skip Fantasmic! to get up close and personal with the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show.  As much as I love all of the nighttime shows throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, I was blown away by this extravaganza and would say it is a "not-to-be-missed" show.  Lasers, projections, fireworks, and music combine to make you feel like you are actually in a galaxy far, far away.  The projections highlighted movie clips from the older Star Wars movies all the way up through the latest installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I'm terrible at fireworks pictures, but hopefully you get the idea!
Now that I told you that you have to check this out, I'm also going to tell you that the show is going away. . .whomp, whomp.  Hopefully, it's just for the holiday season though and in it's absence you get to enjoy Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!  This new holiday nighttime spectacular will be shown nightly from November 14 - December 31.  It will be similar in it's presentation to the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show, but instead of droids and Jedi will feature some familiar holiday friends.  I'm sure the show will be amazing based on this sneak peek posted by The DIS on YouTube:



Whether you get to enjoy the holiday fun of Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! or you are hoping for the return of Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular after the holiday season, these newest nighttime shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios are amazing fun for the whole family!

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!  

Things That May Terrify Your Kids in Walt Disney World


When people think of a Disney vacation, phrases like "the happiest place on Earth" and images of smiling children often come to mind.  But parents with small children be warned - parts of Walt Disney World may terrify your children.  I don't say this to discourage your vacation or send you into pure panic mode.  The purpose today is to simply tell it to you like it is so you can be prepared for an all too often reality when traveling with toddlers and preschoolers.  Let's face it. . .this age group thrives on routines and familiarity.  So, what would possibly freak them out about larger than life characters, tremendous crowds, loud noises, change in nap and bedtime schedules, and dark rides?

Probably the biggest terrifying incident we've dealt with has been focused around rides.  On our first two trips to Walt Disney World with Brody, he loved all rides and experiences.  Then he turned three. Rides that used to be fan favorites as a toddler are suddenly terrifying as a preschooler.  In case you weren't aware - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh can cause shrieks of terror that rival anything you've ever heard before.  So what was the common theme between the rides that scared him - each of them started in the dark.  It didn't seem to matter if the characters inside were fearsome pirates or cuddly storybook bears, the slow ride with a dark start was not something he was interested in.  Tip - Try showing your children these rides ahead of time on YouTube or on the Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD.  By seeing the inside of the ride from the safety of their own home, your child may be brave enough to face some of these when they get to the park.

Another common experience that terrifies involves meeting their favorite characters.  It's not uncommon for small children to be frightened of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny at the mall so it shouldn't be any surprise that a 6 1/2 foot mouse would freak them out.  We were fortunate that our children have never been afraid of the characters in Disney. . .at least not yet.  Don't be surprised if one trip everything is fine and then on the next trip they won't get close to them.  Tip - Don't push your kids.  I know how frustrating it is to wait in a 45 minute line and then get to the front and find them unwilling to meet the character.  Just smile and say "OK.  How about a wave this time and maybe next time we'll get closer for a high five or a hug?"

Some of the shows have also scared our children.  Even fun, musical shows like Mickey's Philarmagic are not always as "kid-friendly" as they may seem.  The dark room and loud noises can push a child that's already on sensory overload over the proverbial edge.  Tip - If you have a pair of headphones, these can act as a great noise buffer for super sensitive little ears.

With everything in Walt Disney World, remember it's best to go at the pace of your young child.  Trust me, it's not worth fighting or trying to force a child to do something even though you've spent a small fortunate to create this magical experience.  The trip will be much more enjoyable for you and your child if you let them lead the way on deciding what their comfort level.  I've been on many Disney trips in my lifetime and the only thing that is consistent in all of them is that they are never the same.  So don't let a tough trip with a toddler or preschooler derail future plans and don't worry too much about your trip ahead of time.  Relax and enjoy - after all, you're in the most magical place on Earth!

BIG Announcements from Disney!

Over the past few days there have been several announcements from Disney that have fans of the parks and Disney Cruise Line excited.  Let's summarize the details here:

Rivers of Light - Animal Kingdom will be joining Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios by launching a nighttime show called Rivers of Light.  While discussions about and work on this show have been going on for a long time, the official start date was released this week.  Beginning April 22, guests at Animal Kingdom will be able to delight in the evening event.  The show will feature animal Spirit Guides that will tell their stories lanterns, fountains, and water screens.  It sounds like something not to be missed!



Disney Springs Expansion - The transition from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs has brought a facelift to the area and many new experiences.  Earlier this week, the Disney Parks Blog shared that another 30 dining and shopping locations will be joining Disney Springs.  Some of these include Under Armour, kate spade new york, and Sephora.  This expansion makes Disney Springs a nice high-end shopping location with a number of world class dining options as well.

Disney Cruise Line - Perhaps the biggest news to come from Disney this week was the expansion of the Disney Cruise Line fleet.  It was announced today that Disney is planning to add 2 more ships to join the Wonder, Magic, Dream, and Fantasy.  While these cruise ships are still in the distant future (anticipated dates of completion are 2021 and 2023), this brings a lot of excitement and anticipation to the future of Disney Cruise Line and expanded destinations for worldwide travel with entertainment and service that only Disney can provide!

With so many exciting announcements in just one week, the future of Disney travel is certainly looking bright!!  Remember that you can always follow along with the latest Disney news by following the official Disney Parks Blog.

Hollywood Studios Still Has Plenty to Offer Guests!

If you follow any of the news surrounding Walt Disney World, you are sure to know that Hollywood Studios is undergoing some major changes.  Just a few months ago, large additions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land were announced.  In preparation, Hollywood Studios has seen some attractions shut down and more will be on the way.  With closures of some popular attractions on the horizon such as the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure and Lights, Motors, Action Extreme Stunt Show, some people are scratching their heads wondering if Hollywood Studios is worth it's admission price.  Disney myth debunked!  This park still has plenty to offer during the exciting changes that are currently taking place.

Have a Toddler or Preschooler in Your Group?  Then you will LOVE all the Disney Junior excitement at Hollywood Studios!  Disney Junior, Live on Stage! brings together all of your favorite characters from Disney Junior into one 30 minute puppet stage show.  Kids are encouraged to dance, sing, and play during the show and are even treated to surprises throughout.  When you're done, be sure to visit the character meet and greets outside of the theatre which feature Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Minnie Mouse! As if that wasn't enough Disney Junior fun, you'll also find one entire souvenir store with nothing but Disney Junior goodies.  And if you're looking for a place to eat in the park, don't miss breakfast or lunch at Hollywood & Vine.  The Disney Junior Play 'n' Dine buffet is great fun!



Have a Thrill Seeker in Your Group?  Hollywood Studios is home to some of the most thrilling rides at Walt Disney World!  Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is a thrill a minute as you race to an Aerosmith concert in your own super stretch limo.  When you're done rocking out, head up the hill to the Hollywood Tower of Terror.  Step inside the Hollywood Hills Hotel and enter your own episode of the Twilight Zone.  Do you dare to step inside the haunted service elevator?  Lastly, if you're looking for excitement from another galaxy, visit Star Tours as you fight the Dark Side in a battle that is out of this world.



Have a Movie Lover in Your Group?  At it's roots, Hollywood Studios is all about the movies! The Great Movie Ride showcases some of the best movies ever made - and you might even become part of the action.  Throughout the park, you'll find several live shows including Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones, and Frozen.  And you can still get a lot of Toy Story fun while we anxiously wait for Toy Story Land to be built.  During the expansion, Toy Story Mania, perhaps the most popular ride throughout the entire resort, will remain open and you can still meet Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the Green Army Men too.


So there you have it!  Still an action packed day with lots of fun to be had inside Hollywood Studios. When the sun goes down, don't forget to end your day by viewing Fantasmic!  While it's sad to say goodbye to some old favorites, I'm excited to see what the future holds at Hollywood Studios!

Why Disney's Animal Kingdom is So Much More Than a Half Day Park

Brody caught up with Chip and Dale at Rafiki's Planet Watch
One of the more common Disney myths that I hear is that you only need half of a day to visit Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  At first glance, I can understand why some people may feel this way.  After all, there are far fewer attractions in this park then in it's counterpart Disney's Magic Kingdom Park, but, what you may fail to see is the quality and depth of these attractions.  Pandora: The World of Avatar has been a big addition to Disney's Animal Kingdom Park since it opened in 2017.  The draw of Flight of Passage and seeing the floating rocks of in the Valley of Mo'ara may seem like the biggest things to do here, but there is so much more.  Beyond Pandora, Kilamanjaro Safaris, and Expedition Everest (all obvious highlights), here are five reasons you need a full day at Animal Kingdom which you may have been missing out on.

1.  The Shows! - Animal Kingdom is home to several great shows the whole family will enjoy.  Festival of The Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical, tell familiar Disney stories with a colorful cast of characters that will leave everyone smiling.  There is also the Flights of Wonder show where live birds become the leading actors and actresses.  Each of these shows are roughly 25 minutes and require you to arrive about 15-20 minutes prior to showtime in order to secure your seat.

2.  Rafiki's Planet Watch - This is a hidden gem in the park that you may miss all together if you're not looking closely.  Hop aboard a train in Africa and be transported to a place where the Circle of Life is explained to young ones as they visit exhibits on animals and habitats.  At Rafiki's Planet Watch, kids can visit a petting zoo, observe animals being treated by veterinarians, and meet some of their favorite Disney characters.  In 2019, this area received a major overhaul and now also features opportunities for kids and adults alike to learn about Disney animation.  This quiet part of the park can be a quick 45 minute visit or may take as long as a few hours to explore.

3.  The Oases and Other Walking Trails- Upon entering Animal Kingdom, guests often rush through the trees and wildlife surrounding the Tree of Life to get to Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, or other rides.  However, you want to slow down as winding pathways get you up close and personal with beautiful plants and animals.  And great walking trails are not just confined to the entrance of the park.  Both Africa and Asia also feature trails filled with unique animals and jam packed with information from knowledgeable guides.

4.  Interactive Kids Activities - If you're traveling with children in your family, Animal Kingdom often has interactive educational opportunities to engage kids in the environment around them.  Whether they are studying to be a Wilderness Explorer like Russell in the movie Up or showing how brave they can be as part of the new Lion Guard, there are several spots throughout the park where kids can participate with cast members in activities to earn stickers and badges!

5.  Great restaurants - Any Disney park is home to great food and Animal Kingdom is no exception.  I highly recommend making a breakfast reservation at Tusker House for some quality time with Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey decked out in their jungle apparel.  In addition, a new fine dining restaurant, Tiffins, will be opening in 2016 which promises to bring even more excitement to the dining landscape.

Check out my review of Yak and Yeti here!


Check out my review of Tusker House's Character Breakfast here!


When you combine these reasons with the already popular attractions at Animal Kingdom including Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur, there is so much to do in this park you definitely need a whole day, if not more!

Talk like a Pirate on Your Next Disney Cruise Line Vacation!

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day," making it the perfect chance to highlight all the pirate fun that awaits on your Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.  The Pirates in the Caribbean night features food, entertainment and that splash of pixie dust which combine for a memorable evening where everyone in the family can take part in the fun.

You won't want to miss the pirate fun that awaits!
While you're out enjoying the day, your cabin host will deliver pirate bandanas to your room for the entire family which you're invited to wear that evening.  Some guests join the crew members and characters by bringing their own elaborate pirate costumes, but don't feel like you need to purchase costumes to enjoy the evening.  At dinner, each of the three main dining rooms will be serving a special pirate themed menu.  On both of our Disney Cruise Line vacations, we dined at Animator's Palate on Pirate Night which meant that the dining room featured pirate art from movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Planet, and Peter Pan on that particular night.

The pirate deck party is great fun for the whole family!
Following dinner, venture outside to the main pool area for a deck party unlike any other.  Pirates are about to take over the ship unless Mickey and friends can save the day!  Don't be surprised throughout the evening to see familiar pirate favorites such as Jake, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Captain Jack joining in the fun.  The deck party  is followed by a truly unique cruise experience - fireworks at sea!

Fireworks at sea!
Of course, your Personal Navigator will have all of the important details for your particular cruise so be sure to check it out!

Magic and Lights at Walt Disney World's Main Street Electrical Parade

One of the many things Walt Disney World is known for is superb nighttime entertainment.  When visiting Magic Kingdom, guests can enjoy both Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade.  The parade first debuted in Walt Disney World during the late 70s and over the decades has made several different appearances.  The current run of the parade has been rolling down Main Street U.S.A. since 2010.


As a classic parade, you will find some of your favorite classic characters during this nighttime extravaganza.  Little ones will delight in seeing Alice, Snow White, and Cinderella during the parade while also enjoying the pirate antics of Captain Hook and Peter Pan as well.  The lights dazzle guests throughout the Magic Kingdom.  This is the perfect multigenerational parade as grandparents will remember some of their favorites right alongside mom, dad, and the kids too!


Walt Disney World offers a FastPass+ option for this parade which I really enjoyed using.  The viewing for FastPass+ is located in the Town Square area of Main Street, U.S.A.  I was impressed by cast members who managed the area to make sure only those with FastPass reservations were permitted to enter, even after the ropes were taken down and the parade began.  The viewing spot was a great option with our little travelers.  We were able to get a front row seat for our 3 year old without having to get to a viewing spot well before the parade even began.


Between the music, the lights, and the characters, the Main Street Electrical Parade is a nighttime marvel that will create many magical memories!

See your Disney Favorites at Mickey's PhilharMagic

Tucked inside Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is an attraction that can be easily overlooked, but is certainly not be missed!  Mickey's PhilharMagic is a perfect family friendly attraction that delights both young and old with an array of music and favorite characters from some of Disney's most popular movies.

Guests enter the attraction and wait for the doors to open to the performance.  While you are waiting to enter, don't forget to grab you "opera glasses" - this is a 3D show after all!  However, don't worry if you have little travelers that won't wear the 3D glasses, they can still enjoy the music and movie.  Our son has yet to wear the glasses and this is still one of his favorite things to do.

Trying on our "opera glasses" before the start of Mickey's PhilharMagic.
The movie begins with Donald Duck finding Mickey's sorcerer's hat on the orchestra stage.  When Donald places the hat on his head, he is transported into a number of Disney movies where he stars alongside some familiar favorites.  Along the way, Lumiere invites him to "Be Our Guest," he finds out why Simba "Just Can't Wait to Be King," and experiences "A Whole New World" with Aladdin and Jasmine - just to name a few!  At the end, Donald finds his way back to the orchestra and Mickey resumes his place as the rightful conductor.  Of course, in true Disney spirit, there is one final surprise at the end!

As a child who was raised on the golden age of early 1990s Disney movie musicals, this is a journey back to my childhood and a chance to share some oldies but goodies with my own kids.  Besides the fact that this is a wonderful musical experience, it's also a great place to get inside and cool off on hot Florida days.  FastPass+ is available for this show, but don't waste one it.  A great perk of this show is that it runs continuously and you rarely ever wait more than one show for your chance to enter. 

Now, on with the show!