June 2015: Day 3 Magic Kingdon & Epcot

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For me and hubs, Magic Kingdom and Epcot are like peanut butter and jelly. Both awesome on their own, but put ’em together and BOOM! – a perfect pairing.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, Epcot is my husbands favorite park. I love Magic Kingdom and Epcot pretty equally, but for separate reasons. Magic Kingdom is nostalgic, full of wonderful aromas and attractions. Epcot offers adventure and excellent and abundant dining. Conveniently linked by the monorail, getting from one park to the other is easy and enjoyable. Going to both parks in one day also saves us the “argument” of which park to visit first on our trip.

So on our third day, the alarm buzzed at 6:30, we each grabbed a quick shower, enjoyed apple with almond butter and granola on the balcony, and were on our way to Contemporary Grounds for depth chargers by 7:00ish. We walked over to MK and passed through security and the turnstiles just as the opening show was wrapping up.

We walked straight back to Fantasyland and walked on to the virtually empty “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.” Our luck continued when we were able to walk onto “its a small world.” Next we went across to Peter Pan’s Flight. The standby queue was 35 minutes, which for Peter Pan, isn’t bad. Disney recently redid the standby queue to feel like you walk through the Darlings’ house. I CAN NOT rave about this enough! It is so awesome! If you spot Peter Pan’s Flight with a 30ish minute standby – go! You’ll enjoy your time in the queue as much – if not more – than the attraction itself. Post Peter Pan our streak continued with no wait into Mickey’s PhilarMagic and finding a 15 minute wait at The Haunted Mansion. (This kind of morning is why I think waking up early and taking advantage of early hours is the way to go.)

Leaving Haunted Mansion we stopped off at Sleepy Hollow and split a waffle filled with Nutella and fruit. So good. With our bellies full we headed back to Adventureland and walked right into the Enchanted Tiki Room.

At this point, though we were clearly on a roll, we decided to walk back to Bay Lake Tower for a break. We didn’t have any Fastpass+ reservations until later and our dinner reservations were fairly late at Epcot, so we thought breaking earlier in the day made sense. After returning to Bay Lake Tower, we both worked out (the Contemporary has a small, but awesome gym), we showered and went to the Contemporary’s Contempo Cafe for lunch. We got on the Monorail and were on our way back to MK to use our FastPass+ reservations for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Next we spun ourselves silly in a teacup at Mad Tea Party and then cooled off with this delicious raspberry lemonade slush from the neighboring Cheshire Cafe. We did a little people watching at the Casey Jr. Splash n’ Soak Station outside of Dumbo while we waited for our final FastPass+ reservation at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We’ve only experienced this attraction a couple of times, but it really is fun and adorable. I will say this about it: I spotted a lot of hats and a couple cell phones lost from the ride. Stash ’em away people. Think of how silly (furious) you’re going to feel to be out your iphone because you wanted a selfie.

At this point we felt like we’d had a really great first day at MK and so we hopped the Monorail over to Epcot to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

After passing through the gates, we had planned to head directly to the World Showcase to spend the evening, but Spaceship Earth had very small standby time that we couldn’t resist. After a glimpse at our future we ambled to the World Showcase to roam and kicked off with a beer in Germany. Prost!

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We had dinner reservations at Via Napoli in Italy. This was our first visit to Via Napoli and we loved it! Everything was delicious and the ambience is light and airy. It was simultaneously a cozy spot for a romantic dinner and a relaxed family environment. We would definitely dine there again, and I don’t hesitate in recommending it.

Post dinner we felt full and content, and decided to head home to Bay Lake Tower for a little swim and balcony relaxing. We caught a beautiful sunset on the way back that was the beautiful cap on a beautiful day.

 

 

June 2015 Trip Report Day 2, Animal Kingdom

On our June 2015 trip our first park day was Animal Kingdom. We have no traditions about beginning with one park over the other. Generally, we follow the Extra Magic Hours calendar when planning our days. It happened that Animal Kingdom opened early that day, so that’s where we went.

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I can tell you our alarm went off at 6:20, aka early o’clock. By 7:00 we were on our way to Contemporary Grounds for Depth Chargers. Armed with caffeine we headed to the bus stop, where we didn’t wait long. We got to Animal Kingdom and through security before 8:00 am. I say this practically every time I blog, getting up early may be a pain, but the payoff is worth it when you’re through the ticket line and onto your favorite attraction right at the start of the day.

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At 8:00 we were in queue for Expedition Everest. We waited a few short minutes before we climbed aboard. I love to start a day with a roller coaster. Hubby does not feel this way, but he’s a trooper who mostly indulges my fancies.

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After Expedition Everest we made our way to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The park was cool and uncrowded in the morning – really pleasant. We took our time walking, stopping to snap pictures. I think Animal Kingdom has an incredible amount of atmosphere and I love to just take in all of the scenery detail. We didn’t have much of a wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris, and we had a good ride. We spotted lots of animals, but my favorite of that trek was a baby rhino. The exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris spits you out right at the entrance for the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a great place to scope gorillas. The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail also features a really awesome bat display that was closed for refurbishment when we were there. Upon leaving the Pangani Trail we headed to the new Harambe Market to check it out. We also poked our head into the new Zuri’s Sweets Shop. Zuri’s had nut mixes and plenty to satisfy sugar cravings, including adorable animal sugar cookies and fun animal themed candy apples.

 

After that fairly leisurely morning we decided to hunt down the Dawa Bar. This is a really sweet spot to grab a drink, cool off, and take in the atmosphere. If you’re into bloody marys, Dawa Bar has you covered with a killer bloody mary menu. Though they looked awesome, neither hubby or I are big bloody mary people, so he had a St. George beer and I had a class of Fair Valley Chenin Blanc. The bar was uncrowded, our bartender was awesome, and we could see and hear the African Drummers street performance from our perch. Though we wanted to linger here we had Fastpasses for Expedition Everest at 11:35, so we headed back to Asia for our second pass at the Yeti, and scored front car seats. Did I mention I love roller coasters? We followed up by walking the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Tigers are one of the main attractions on the Trek, but we didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of them. Though we didn’t see tigers, we did see an incredible array of exotic birds in the aviary. One bird in particular must have been very fond of hubby because he deposited a load of poo on hubby’s brand-new fedora. Fortunately I had some wipes in our backpack and we had a good laugh about it as we cleaned up the, um, gift. Everyone loves souvenirs, right??

At this point we were both in the mood for some chow. Normally Flame Tree BBQ is our go-to Animal Kingdom lunch spot. It’s so tasty. However, it was being refurbished, so we decided to go back to Harambe Market. It was kind of a zoo, no pun intended. Lines were long and slow moving. Table seating was at a super premium. Hubby and I split up the task. I ordered food and he scouted for a table. We both ordered a chicken skewer that came with a broccoli, tomato, red onion salad. We both had a milk tart for dessert. The chicken was delicious, especially the bbq sauce that was on the side. We both enjoyed having a healthy lunch that day. It was worth the wait.

After lunch we made our way to DinoLand U.S.A. to use our 1:05 Fastpasses for Primeval Whirl, followed by 2:15 Fastpasses for Dinosaur. We left DinoLand in pursuit of the 3:00 Finding Nemo the Musical show. I love this show. It runs about 40 minutes and outside of its great music and beautiful costumes, it’s an excellent way to cool off and get out of the sun.

After Finding Nemo the Musical we decided to forgo It’s Tough to Be a Bug, which was the only attraction we had left on our list. We elected instead to head back to the Dawa Bar to wait out the interval before our Tusker House reservation with a refreshment. (Tusker House is located right behind Dawa Bar.) The bar had really picked up traffic since our late morning visit. We met some really cool people while perched on a bar stool. I find that Disney World is an awesome place to converse with people, whether at the bar, or just in a queue.

When our time came for Tusker House, we got right in and ushered to a table. Tusker House is a buffet character dining experience. Neither of us had dined there before and we enjoyed having a new experience. The buffet was varied, including familiar and more exotic flavors that had Indian and Asian influence. We managed to see Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy who were all dressed for safari.

 

Both hubby and I agreed on an early night for our first day in the park. So with our bellies full of grub we left Animal Kingdom to head back to Bay Lake Tower. We managed to get in a  good swim with a few water slide runs before returning to our balcony for another evening of fireworks. All in all, a pretty perfect 1st park day.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Can’t Miss List

DSC_0528Glitz and glamor. Action and adventure. Disney’s Hollywood Studios gives you old school Hollywood paired with thrills.There is much to love about this park – starting with its charm. Right when you walk into Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stroll down Hollywood Boulevard you’re transported to the golden era of Hollywood.

No matter your age or what you like to do, you’ll find something of interest here. There are thrill rides, live stage and stunt shows, insights to Walt Disney and animation, spectacular eats, and one awesome nighttime stage show. While I love the scenery and atmosphere of this park, I am split on the attractions. There are attractions I love to visit here and ones I’m OK with skipping. For me, this park doesn’t require more than a day.

Need a stroller? You'll find it here at Oscar's.

Need a stroller, wheelchair, or electric vehicle? You’ll find it here at Oscar’s Super Service.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not a large park, compared to Epcot and Animal Kingdom. But it does pack a punch in theming. As you are walking around, take time to look – this park has wonderful scenic details.

So, without further ado…

The Walt Disney World Blog’s 2015 Disney’s Hollywood Studios Can’t Miss List:

(by area) Hollywood Boulevard and Echo Lake, Sunset Boulevard, Streets of America and Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue, and Animation Courtyard.

* “Super Favorites” – Things we always do at least twice.

  • The Great Movie Ride – Head inside the Chinese Theatre for this gem that takes a look at classic films. This tram ride is about 20 minutes long – which is a nice way to cool off and relax while you take in some film history. At the end there’s a movie montage on a huge screen, which is my favorite part. This ride fascinated me as a kid. Personally, now I think its due for an overhaul. But even with that being said, it makes my list.
  • DSC_0842Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – Looking for some insight on how Hollywood does special effects? Scenes from Indiana Jones are reenacted to show you stunts that include plenty of pyrotechnics. Want to be part of the fun? This show also includes a few audience volunteers. They don’t take many so you should arrive early for a chance to be part of the action.
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue * – Star Wars fans will adore this 3D flight simulation attraction that includes all of your favorite characters. Even the queue for this ride is entertaining. A few years ago Disney overhauled this attraction and gave it some mega upgrades – including the 3D technology. The other big change came by Disney gaving the ride over 50 story combinations. This means you can visit this attraction many times and enjoy a different experience each time.
  • DSC_0419Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster * – As I’m sure you know, I LOVE roller coasters and this is one of my all time favorites. After visiting Aerosmith’s studio you snag a “limo” to catch their concert. This limo takes you from 0 to 60 in no time, loops you upside down and in a corkscrew, all in a dimmed, neon atmosphere. And the best part? You’ll be rocking out to Aerosmith’s music the entire time.
  • DSC_0415The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror * – Check into this hotel that is frozen in 1939 for a wild elevator ride. The lobby is dusty, full of cobwebs and dead plants. Creeping bellhops will escort you to the basement so you can take the service elevator. After boarding the elevator you’ll enter the 5th dimension and the fun really begins. The elevator has a 13 story drop that is on a randomized sequence. You never know if you’re going up or down first. But I assure you – you will drop down. And you’ll love every heart pulsing, palm sweating second.
  • Fantasmic! – This stage based nighttime spectacular is formed around Mickey’s dreams. Hosted in a large amphitheater, the show includes fireworks, lasers, and water special effects. The show is 30 minutes long and every second is entertaining. If you do not have FastPass+ or a Fantasmic! Dining Package, plan to get in line early to ensure you get a seat.
  • Muppet Vision 3D * – This was the second 3D show to join the WDW ranks, following Epcot’s Captain EO. By our standards today, the 3D technology is very dated. But the story, wrapped around all of the Muppet greats, is quite loveable. While you’re waiting to enter the theater there is a pre-show (not 3D) that I’ve always loved. I may even have been known to quote from it. We never miss this one on a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Pizza Planet Arcade – If you enjoy pizza and you are a Toy Story fan – this is your dining spot! This Quick Service spot resembles the Pizza Planet arcade in Toy Story from the logo to the decor. If you want to beat the heat, there is ample seating inside. Seating outside offers tables with cheery, red umbrellas and views of The Muppets fountain. The menu, offering a variety of single serve pizzas paired with cesar salads is simple, but delicious. Meatball subs are also available. This is one of our favorite lunch spots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – This is an attraction especially geared for young ones. Stepping inside makes you feel as though you were bug sized and hanging out in a back yard. Mingle among giant blades of grass, climb a spider web, or slide down an over-sized branch. Music and sound effects help bring the set to life.
  • Toy Story ManiaToy Story Mania * – This is one of my favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World. It’s an exciting combination of ride, games, 3D technology, and beloved Toy Story characters. After stepping into a car and donning 3D glasses, you whiz through a series of carnival style games such as balloon pop and ring toss hosted by Toy Story characters. This attraction has proved immensely popular with guests. So much so, in fact, that they are building another track for the ride. (Frequent WDW visitors all rejoice!) This is definitely an attraction you will want to visit, at least once. If you can, make sure to make a FastPass+ reservation for it. Try going early in the day or during parade or Fantasmic! times for a lower stand-by wait.
  • Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream – This attraction isn’t one of thrills and chills, but it is informative and full of neat models and information. Walk yourself through a gallery of Walt Disney history that includes models, sketches, and memorabilia that includes a peak inside Walt’s office. You can also view a 15 minute film in a small theater, hosted by Julie Andrews offering a glimpse of Walt Disney’s life. One of the great things about this attraction is you can move around at your own pace, making it last as long as you wish.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Can’t Miss List

Animal Kingdom signMany years ago when Disney’s Animal Kingdom (or DAK for efficiency’s sake) first opened, I didn’t love it. I adore animals and you’d think my outlook would’ve better. But it wasn’t. However, as often with first impressions – my opinion has altered since my first look. I found my liking of DAK increased with each visit. It’s such a beautiful park; the landscaping is exotic. When I was working on the Disney College Program, I used to roam around the park on my days off to check out the plants and animals.

I  certainly no longer find the park dull, as evidenced by my hearty “Can’t Miss” list. There are shows, attractions, stunning animals, and tasty treats everywhere. What’s not to like about that?

Below is the Walt Disney World Blog 2015 Disney’s Animal Kingdom Can’t Miss List. As always, there will be an asterisk next to “super favorites,” or things we often do more than once.

Tree of Life(by area) Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Asia, Dinoland USA

  • The Oasis Exhibits *These are just pathways around the front of the park, but they have some really beautiful plants, awesome birds and animals. Take time to enjoy these instead of power-walking past as you hurry to squeeze in one more attraction. (I might be speaking from experience…)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug * – This 3D show will have you feeling bug sized. The queue usually isn’t too long either so it makes a great midday attraction.
  • Discovery Island Trails  – Like the Oasis Exhibits.
  • Flame Tree BBQ *  – Many kinds of BBQ are available here. YUM, YUM, YUM. The food is delicious and there’s a great seating area off to the side making this is one of our favorite lunch (or dinner!) Quick Service options. Bonus – try the Safari Amber beer, specially brewed for Disney World.
  • Festival of the Lion King This charming 30 minute show brings The Lion King story to life with singing, dancing, and exciting acrobatics. Kiddos will love the interactive elements. The monkeys are our favorite park!IMG_3670
  • Kilimajaro Safaris ** This unique attraction takes you onto Disney Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Wildlife Preserve. As you bump along in an open-air vehicle you’ll see a variety of African wildlife. The animals are free roaming so what you see varies with each safari. There are over 34 species roaming the savannah such as lions, hippos, elephants, zebra, rhino, giraffe, okapi, ostrich, etc. **SPECIAL TIP** Visit the safari early in the morning or late in the evening for cooler temps and potentially more animal sightings.
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail A beautiful walking trail where you’ll encounter flora and fauna. You can get an amazing, close up view of gorillas here.
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek * This trail exposes guests to Asian wildlife. Get a close up view of a variety of animals that includes many species of birds, tigers, and fruit bats!
  • Kali River RapidsTo be honest I haven’t ridden this ride in several years. This raft ride is full of twists, turns, dips, and of course – water. I remember it being a lot of fun. So why haven’t I been in a while? You can get very wet. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll get soaked. I don’t liked to be soaked and left to dry out with my clothes sticking to me as I roam the park. Perhaps this makes me a party pooper. I do think husband and I are going to give it a go on our next trip. Soaking wet or not – I bet we’ll have fun.
  • Expedition Everest ** Oh dear readers, how do I express in words how I love this coaster? I adore every detail from the museum style queue, to the trainlike coaster, to the Yeti himself. This ride is a thrill and I tackle it as many times as I can.
  • Finding NemoThis Broadway style show tells the Finding Nemo story. It’s fun and gorgeous. The sets and costumes are really striking. The show lasts 40 minutes and it’s a nice opportunity to cool off, rest, and be entertained while you do so!IMG_3702
  • Primeval Whirl * This colorful ride is a mild roller coaster with round cars that spin. It will leave you giggling – I guarantee it.
  • DINOSAUR  – Hop into a time rover and travel back in time to hang out with dinosaurs during an impending meteor strike. Yikes! This ride is dark with some really cool animatronic dinosaurs. Could be scarey for young kiddos. IMG_3712

The Epcot “Can’t Miss” List

DSC_0311This blog post is brought to you by… yet another snow day. March has settled in and I think everyone is longing for spring. Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival started up yesterday. If I close my eyes and wish really hard, do you think I could transport myself there among the topiaries, special outdoor kitchens, and illuminated nighttime gardens?

Nope, I don’t think so either.

At least I have some beautiful pictures to brighten the gray sky.

Epcot Flower & Garden BedEpcot is Hubby’s favorite park. He likes the mix of culture from the World Showcase with the action of Future World. Epcot also has wide open spaces that he finds appealing. For us, Epcot means a blended day of attractions and culinary samplings.

The Epcot list includes attractions, snacks and quick service food. Table Service restaurants are so numerous at Epcot that I won’t address them on the list. Items with an asterisk are “super favorites,” or things we tend to do multiple times.

The Walt Disney World Blog 2015 “Can’t Miss” List:

Epcot

(By area) Future World East, Future World West, World Showcase

  • Spaceship Earth * – This attraction mixes history with the technological future. Interactive touch screens in the vehicles give you a personalized experience on the ride. You can have a different touchscreen experience every time, which is one of the reasons this is a super favorite.
  • Ellen’s Energy Adventure – What do Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye the science guy, and Alex Trebek all have in common? They are all stars of this attraction, along with some dino animatronics. This ride lasts about 45 minutes and you will most likely exit knowing a sciency thing or two you didn’t know before.
  • Test Track * – True confession: When this attraction first premiered, it didn’t really thrill me all that much. I liked it, but it certainly wasn’t going on my “can’t miss” list. However, in 2012 it was remodeled with a few fresh ideas that not only bumped it onto the “can’t miss” list, but also into super favorite status. Sponsored by Chevrolet, you will travel through an interactive queue, build a custom vehicle on touch screens, and then have those specifications applied to your ride to see how your design performs. It’s really fun.
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends * – This ride is adorable and clever. Climb into a clam shell and travel through the Finding Nemo story. As you exit the ride you will have a chance to roam the aquarium and view a variety of salt water dwellers. An added bonus: the queue is rarely very long and it moves swiftly.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush – If you have little ones, this is a must. Using technology developed by Steven Spielberg, Crush appears and chats with the humans who have dropped in to visit him.
  • Living with the Land * – This boat ride is all about growing and raising food. That may not sound all that exciting, but it’s really neat to glimpse the direction agriculture is taking. You’ll see plants growing in unusual configurations and in super sizes. Fun Fact: The Land produces substantial amounts of produce and much of it is used in kitchens at Epcot.
  • Soarin’ * – Oh how I love this attraction. Love it. This hang-gliding simulation transports you to California. You’ll experience stunning views, scents, and music. I recommend getting a FastPass+ for this ride  The stand-by queue time quickly climbs and stays lengthy.
  • Sunshine Seasons – This quick service spot is located in The Land. It offers a variety of fresh, tasty delights that will suit anyone’s palette. This is one of our favorite Epcot lunch spots.
  • Gran Fiesta Tour – Head inside the Mexico pavilion to hang out with Donald and his amigos on this charming boat ride.
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment – It’s hard not to love Figment. This whimsical ride celebrates your senses and imagination.
  • Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar – We love wine. If you do too you should head to the Italy Pavilion in the World Showcase. This cozy little corner offers a substantial selection of Italian wines. We’ve had some great wine flights here. If wine isn’t your speed there is also beer. If you feel peckish, check our their small plate menu.

Wine Cellar Wine Flights 962_PH307460812-0962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • La Cava del Tequila – Located inside the Mexico pavilion of the World Showcase this bar offers a wide variety of tequilas, tequila based cocktails, and my personal favorite – margaritas!
  • Yorkshire County Fish Shop – If you like fish n’ chips, this is your place. We love to grab a cold beer here on a hot afternoon. Cheers!

Welcome to Epcot Epcot Day

The Magic Kingdom “Can’t Miss” List

Sometimes, when we are in the car, Hubs and I play a game where we propose hypothetical scenarios and we ask the other to respond. Usually it goes something like this:

Husband: “We’ve just arrived at Disney World! Where are we going first?”
Me: “Hmmmm… I’m feeling Epcot today.”
Husband: “Excellent selection. What is the first thing we are going to do?”
Me: “Straight up classic – Spaceship Earth.”

The answers vary depending on our mood. Often the answers involve Epcot or Magic Kingdom. Probably 95% of the time often.

Epcot DayIn my last post I discussed finding a perfect WDW vacation balance. For me, that involves my favorites mixed with unfamiliar delights and some relaxation. It’s hard to fit in all of the attractions, in every park during one vacation. So how do you choose? What you decided to do will depend on your time, interests, if you’re traveling with kids, weather, FastPasses, etc.

I started my “can’t miss” Walt Disney World attraction list. It’s kinda long… What can I say? I have a lot of favorites. So I’ve broken it down by park starting with Magic Kingdom. The list includes attractions, snacks and quick service food. (Table Service dining is excluded because they can act as whole blog posts.) I’ve given a brief note about why each has made the list. Attractions with an asterisks are super favorites. Since I totally made that up, I’ll qualify it with a definition:

Super favorite, noun, a Walt Disney World attraction/food that can not be missed on a park visit and will mostly likely be visited multiple times during a trip.

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The Walt Disney World Blog 2015 “Can’t Miss” Attraction List:

Magic Kingdom

(By land) Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, New Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Main Street USA

  • Pirates of the Caribbean * – Set sail with the pirates? Yes, please. This is usually our first Magic Kingdom stop. And that brings us too….
  • Aloha Isle – Dole whip? Yes, yes, and yes again. I like my pineapple, in a cup, no juice please. Whip is perfect on its own.
  • Jungle Cruise – It’s corny and classic. There is nothing fast or feverish about this attraction, but it makes us chuckle. 
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – The audio-animatroics for the Disneyland version of this attraction were among the first that Disney designed. There is a simulated thunderstorm in the middle of this attraction and when I was a little girl I was never quite sure if it was real or not. Once we exited the theater and I saw the hot, dry pavement I knew it wasn’t real.
  • Tortuga Tavern Code of ConductTortuga Tavern – Tasty Mexican food such as taco salads and burritos with a pirate theme. There is even a code of conduct written in pirate speak. Arr!
  • Splash Mountain * – Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear, and Br’er Fox make this log ride full of charm. This ride is over 10 minutes long, making it one of the longest in Magic Kingdom.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad * – The wildest ride in the wilderness is a family favorite. We like to ride it during the day and then again at night where it takes on a new feel.
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe – Awesome taco salads and burgers,
  • Haunted Mansion * Delightfully creepy any time of the year. Hubs and I always find this a fun one to day late on Extra Magic Hour nights at MK.
  • it’s a small world – I won’t lie, this one does not make my husband’s “can’t miss” list. In fact, it’s more on his “I really don’t like it, but I’ll go once to make my wife happy.” But I like it. I love the costumes and I do not find the song irritating in the least.
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – A brand new interactive queue was just introduced to this attraction. The standby time is often long for this ride so it’s a good one to FastPass. Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney movies and this is like flying through the film.
  • Mickey’s Philarmagic * – I love everything about Mickey’s Philarmagic. It blends Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy seamlessly with scenes from Disney films like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Alladin, and Beauty and the Beast.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – I think this ride is adorable. Everything from the queue of Whinnie the Pooh book pages to the little hunny pot you ride in to the part where your hunny pot bounces like Tigger. This is a must for little ones.
  • Mad Tea Party * – I love to spin, so this is a winner for me. Bring on the twirling! My mom does NOT feel that way. She won’t go anywhere near this ride. Ever. I’m sure she’s not alone. If spinning of whirling motion is not your thing, watch and wave while other go ’round.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – I have only been on this new attraction once. On our last trip this ride had just opened and they were clearly still working out issues. On two different days during our trip the ride was closed for hours. We were pretty annoyed. Our first impressions of the ride itself were positive, though the ride seemed as though it was over in a flash. I hope we get a chance to experience it a couple of times this summer so we can really get a sense of it.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – The queue for this ride is gorgeous. Actually, the castle and everything from the exterior is stunning as well. We only had the chance to ride this once on our last trip, and that was our first time. Overall, I found this ride disappointing. I think it was the style of the audio-animatronics. I do remember being distinctly impressed by the Ursala portion of the ride. I told my husband that it would’ve spooked the pants off of me as a little girl. But I love the queue, and I love the little mermaid. So this gets a second chance this June.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – The re-imagining of this attraction was brilliant. I love the entire set up and all of the themeing and detailing that Disney does so well. And the splash zone they set up? Love at first sight.
  • Space Mountain * – This was one of my first roller coaster experiences. I loved it then and I love it now. This coaster rattles and it’s a little rough compared to so many coasters now, but I think that’s fun. Add space sound effects and subtract the light to imitate space and you’ve got a great ride.
  • Carousel of Progress This was one of Walt Disney’s original attractions. It’s vintage but a classic for me. 
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover * – Just kick back and relax for a few on this one. There is nothing crazy about this ride. But, it’s just a opportunity to unwind and take in some great Magic Kingdom views from an elevated perspective.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – Buzz Lightyear has enlisted your help! Climb aboard and aid him in defeating the evil Emperor Zurg with your marksman skills.
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor  – If you like a good chuckle don’t miss this one with the Monsters, Inc. gang. This attraction is audience interactive, which gives it a new twist every time you visit. If you have a favorite joke you can even text it in and it may appear in the show.
  • Walt Disney World Railroad  This is great for traveling from Frontierland to Main Street or to get to Fantasyland from either of those two. We like to just get on and ride the full loop. It’s fun and a good way to relax.
  • Casey’s Corner – So this is a little funny. In my day to day life I don’t eat much meat. Irregardless, I LOVE hot dogs. Piping hot with ketchup only please. (And maybe a small sprinkling of raw onions.) Casey’s Corner brings you some awesome hot dogs with a baseball theme. Yum. Oh, and often there is a ragtime piano player on the porch. Need I say more?

Cinderella Castle Close up

Finding the Perfect Disney World Vacation Balance

IMG_3152I am a creature of habit. I like a routine and if I find something that works I tend to stick to it. This is also true of my Walt Disney World vacations. I have resort hotels I really love, and attractions I can’t miss, and treats I must eat. (Ahem, Dole whip!!) And when in WDW I will go to any length to fit it all in. (My husband was entirely unprepared for this on our first trip together.)

As I mentioned yesterday in my Pack Like A Pro post, my cousin just honeymooned in WDW and I made this list of my “must see” attractions for her. It occurred me as we were talking about attractions and dining, that in my two recent trips I have focused on the things that I love to do and sort of dismissed things that didn’t fall into that category. Several times I said, “Well, I haven’t done that in a few trips, but I remember enjoying it.”

I am certain I can’t be the only person in this boat. Disney World is so massive, and offers so much to to do. You only have so much time when you’re there, and you feel this pressure to do the things you know you love because once you leave it’ll likely be a while before you go back. Sound familiar to anyone?

This repetition pattern is especially true for dining. Typically we only have one table service meal per day. We have spots that we really love to dine and so we repeat locations. Do we enjoy our meals? Absolutely. But trying a new restaurant is fun – and at Disney World it will probably be delicious.

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Peter Pan’s Flight was a 1st time experience for Hubs last June.

On our last trip, we did a better job of having a more balanced vacation. We enjoyed a little relaxation and did lots of swimming. We fit in attractions that we missed the trip before and all of our favorites. In our upcoming trip in June, Hubs and I have a new motto: balance what we love with “new” experiences. Let’s qualify “new.” New will be something neither of us has experienced, something one of us hasn’t experienced, or something we didn’t do in our last two trips.

IMG_3775For us, barring favored Les Chefs de France, all of our table service restaurants will be “new.” We are staying at Bay Lake Tower, which will be a brand new experience for both of us. We have a short list of attractions that we have not done together that we are going to try to hit. Additionally, to my husbands fervent delight, we have scheduled a day where we will not be going into a park. If you can manage it, a day away from the parks to rest and relax by the pool or whatnot is a great choice. You’ll be better refreshed and able to enjoy your vacation.

In the next few days I will be sharing my list of “can’t miss” favorite attractions, and I can assure you we will try to squeeze all of those in. (Our favorites list is plentiful.) But I think we are on our way to a more balanced Walt Disney World vacation that will leave both us feeling very joyful.

Ultimately everyone will have their own idea of a perfectly balanced Walt Disney World vacation. But for us, the perfect balance looks like this: our “must see” favorites mingled with new experiences and a little relaxation.

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June 2014 Video Montage

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, my family took vacations to Walt Disney World. We always drove and the trip would take 18 hours of drive time on average. Good ol’ dad always documented these trips. (Mum usually did/does most of the driving.) The old school version of good ol’ dad’s documentations included a very large, black video camera that rested on one shoulder while filming and video casette tapes. Yikes! Talk about the Carousel of Progress…

While filming, part of good ol’ dad’s routine was acting as if he was reporting in for a news station – “WDW T.R.I.P.” This little routine has stuck around in my family for a lot of years. When my husband and I got married in Disney World in 2012, my parents gave us a video camera and passed the baton to me. As a point of interest, this camera fits in the palm of my hand. So when you hear me checking in with WDW T.R.I.P. know that it’s a time honored tradition.

And so without further ado, I present the Walt Disney World Blog June 2014 Video Montage! I hope you enjoy.

Spaceship Earth – Epcot

Epcot DayHello once more from WHAT TO DO WEDNESDAY. I’m telling you again that this winter gloom is really getting to me. While I’m not buried in snow currently, it’s been raining all day and I find myself thinking of little else besides fresh air, sunshine, and sun ripened fruit and vegetables. Last week we found our Laughin’ Place at Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom, and today I decided to mentally hop the Monorail and head to Epcot.

Epcot is Walt Disney World’s second park, and the last project that Walt Disney had a hand in before his death. Do you know what Epcot stands for? Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Fancy, eh?

I love the concept of Epcot, it’s really quite profound. The parks two parts, Future World and the World Showcase unite to bring global, cultural perspective to its visitors. I’m continually amazed that a visit to Epcot grants us not only entertainment, but a glimpse of our world, our affect upon it, it’s potential, and who we are as many cultures of this one planet.

Upon entering the park, you are greeted by the HUGE park icon (180′ tall to be exact) Spaceship Earth, which of course looks like a gigantic golf ball. Taking over two years to build, the technical and mechanical specs for this structure are quite impressive, including a complex draining system that prevents water runoff from the ball during rain. The water instead is channeled into the World Showcase Lagoon. But beyond the engineering, Spaceship Earth is worth discussing today because of the attraction inside.

Spaceship Earth signSpaceship Earth is a ride that takes you on a journey through the evolution of people and the history of communication. Science-fiction author Ray Bradbury and a team of prestigious historians worked with Disney to compose the original storyline of this ride. (Ray Bradbury was also played a part in designing the Spaceship Earth structure.) After entering, you climb into a teal-colored car that will take you through history beginning with Cro-Magnon man, heading to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and passing through the Renaissance. Printed press, telephone operators, and the invention of computers are all part of the adventure.Spaceship Earth

DSC05211One of my favorite moments of the attraction occurs in the middle when your car rotates and you begin to go backwards. In the process you are greeted by a dark sky littered with stars and a view of Earth from space. While much of this attraction remains true to its original 1982 form, a few updates have been added. In 2008 the attraction gained a new musical score, a new narration by Judi Dench, and in the inclusion of touch screens in the ride vehicles.

Spaceship Earth Future AnimationimageThe touch screens bring the ride to life and give a unique, interactive experience to each guest. Cameras take your picture at the beginning of the ride and through answering a series of questions you can see what your life could be like in the future.

Upon exiting the ride you enter Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. Here you can view your picture on a giant screen, and send it out through email. There are also interactive displays and games that highlight the latest accomplishments in medicine, travel, and energy.

Spaceship Earth is an attraction for all ages. As a whole, the ride moves quite slowly, with no fast-moving sections. During the nearly 15 minute run time there are plenty of dark sections – so take heed if you have little ones fearful of the dark.

At times the queue can look much longer than it is because of the way it wraps around the outside of the building. I have always found this is a queue that moves along quickly. I do suggest if the wait time is above 45 minutes, especially if it’s in the morning, that you simply try the ride at another point in the day. Chances are you’ll get lucky with a reduced standby wait.

Epcot closeup

WTDW – Splash Mountain

Splash MountainDear friends, today I would like to tell you a about a girl, rapidly approaching 30, who loves Walt Disney World. She also simply adores Florida, with its plentiful year-round sunshine, palm trees, citrus fruits, and soft, sandy beaches that reach out to turquoise waters. Most of all, she loves Florida’s warm climate. This particular girl HATES the cold. It makes her nose run, and it traps her inside for long periods of time, interfering with her running schedule. And generally, the short freezing days that lack sunshine make her grumpy.

This particular winter is being very tough on said girl. The temperatures have been exceptionally low, with plenty of snow to go around. This morning the girl awoke to a fresh 5 inches of powder – that while beautiful, left her toes numb and mood as gray as the sky.

IMG_2739Retreating to her cozy office, the girl turned her thoughts to Disney World in an effort to cheer her winter gloom. Before long she was imagining herself strolling down Main Street, U.S.A. deciding which attraction to visit first. Determined to be in a better mood, the girl decides to take her imaginary self to Splash Mountain in Frontierland. A great choice! Before long she is singing a snippet of the ride music to herself:

“Everybody’s got a laughing place, A laughing place to go-oh-oh! Take a frown, turn it upside down, And you’ll find yours we know -oh-oh!”

DSCF0370Sage advice, no? This log-flume style attraction follows the tale of Br’er Rabbit who ventures from home and meets Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, who have grand ideas of roasting Br’er Rabbit. With a bit of cunning, Br’er Rabbit tricks Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear into letting him loose and throwing him into the briar patch. As the story goes, Br’er Rabbit is able to maneuver through the briar patch, while the larger Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear are entangled in the painful thorns, barely escaping the briar patch’s Br’er Gator. As the ride wraps up, Br’er Rabbit is happily back at home and  it’s a “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Day.”

DSC05287The Splash Mountain storyline and music is derived from Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South, where Disney first interpreted the famous Uncle Reemus stories of Br’er Rabbit.

One of the great things about Splash Mountain is that the ride is nearly 11 minutes long. Through those 11 minutes is wonderful balance of story, scenery, music, and ride that includes 3 dips and one large 5 story drop where you appear as though you are plunging into the briar patch.DSCF0371The view from atop before you slide down into the briar patch is lovely. It’s always fun to get a bit of a high vantage point at WDW.

DSCF0363Being a log flume style attraction you may certainly get a little wet – which on many days at Magic Kingdom is a welcome thing. Riders in the front of the log are at higher risk of taking on more water than riders in the back. I have never been completely, totally soaked to a point of unpleasantness on this ride.

Riders must be 40″ tall to board, and generally I find Splash Mountain to be quite kid friendly. But as always, use your own judgement if you have a kiddo who is height/drop nervous.

TIP*  This attraction is popular and the queue can get very lengthy in the afternoon. My advice is to use a FASTPASS+ for this attraction or visit in the morning to avoid a long line. If you do find yourself in a situation where the standby entrance is lengthy and you’re out of FASTPASS+ don’t worry too much about it. The queue line is pretty well shaded and pleasantly scenic – a great way to spend time with family or friends.

Splash Mountain is the perfect spot to cool off a bit on a warm, sunny Florida day and lift your mood if you’re in the need of a pick-me-up like this girl today. But if you’re in Disney World, chances are your mood is more than fine, and you’ll simply just join in the merriment.

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-Ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day…