Walt Disney World
Over the course of 2018, we visited Walt Disney World on four different occasions. We had the Florida resident annual (Silver) passes which were convenient for us given their blackout dates did not fall on days we planned on making the drive to Orlando to visit the parks. We did not visit during the summer because of the hot temperatures and large crowds due to the peak tourist season. I’m going to separate this blog post into a spring and a fall/winter experience. It’s going to be a lengthy post so you may want to grab a snack or a glass of wine.
In May, our visit coincided with the 25th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival which normally runs from early March through late May/early June depending on the year. Epcot was filled with thousands of colorful flowers, topiaries, unique gardens, and an array of outdoor kitchen booths offering cuisines from around the world.
I was blown away by all of the beautiful colors and different types of flowers that we saw throughout Epcot. This picture is probably my favorite from this visit because of my love for The Lion King. Who else is excited for the new Lion King movie coming out in the summer of 2019?!
The weather on this particular trip was tricky as there were periods of rain that shut down some outdoor rides for safety reasons. We normally try to secure fast passes in advance for our favorite rides so that we don’t have to stand in line too long. One of our rides was affected by this cancellation, however, Disney allowed us to redeem the cancelled ride at any other attraction within the park. For those who have not been to Disney, a fast pass is a complimentary service that allows you to reserve access to select attractions.
Some of the rides could be considered “aggressive” as my boyfriend can attest. Mission Space: Mars was not good to him on a very full stomach LOL. I strongly suggest if you’re willing to attempt this ride, don’t do so after having a large meal. He was thankful that I had medicine and tea in my backpack to get him back to 100%.
We wanted to see some of the Disney characters in a more relaxed setting so we made a breakfast reservation at Tusker House which is located in Animal Kingdom. There were several characters making their rounds throughout the restaurant and I was lucky enough to get a photo with not only Donald Duck, but also the one and only Micky Mouse! I could barely contain my excitement as if I were a child seeing the characters for the very first time.
The large tree shown here is called The Tree of Life - If you look closely you will notice the intricate details of different animal carvings from the massive roots all the way up to its branches.
The most popular ride at Animal Kingdom is also the newest to Disney World, Avatar Flight of Passage. We have never been successful at reserving a fast pass to this ride. The usual wait time for Avatar is about 2 hours minimum, and is completely worth the lengthy wait, in my opinion.
We like to end our Disney weekend with a trip to Hollywood Studios mainly because it has fewer attractions compared to the other Disney parks, and we can get in and out quickly before making the road trip back home. Our must have rides are Hollywood Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: Starirng Aerosmith and Star Wars-The Adventures Continue.
On our November trip to Disney World, we were fortunate enough to experience the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which is one of a kind. This festival runs from late August through mid November and offers an additional 30 booths of food and drinks at the World Showcase section of the park. The crowd size during this festival was visibly larger than any of our other visits to the park. Even though the lines at every booth were extremely long, they did move rather quickly.
Upon arrival we grabbed a passport from the Festival Center to keep track of the food and drinks we consumed at each destination by adding stickers to act as stamps. We enjoyed cuisine from Greece, Thailand, Mexico, Africa and Spain. All of the things we sampled were delicious, but I’d say the wine flight from Spain was definitely my favorite.
I would highly suggest bringing plenty of water and snacks with you given the amount of walking involved while enjoying the Disney Parks. I normally pack a 17 oz S’well bottle filled with water, which can also be refilled at the various water fountains located throughout the parks. We also bring some light snacks with us that we can enjoy while waiting in line at some of the rides with longer wait times.
For dinner, we tried Restaurant Marrakesh, located in Morocco where we dined while watching the belly-dancers. I had the roasted lamb shank which was incredible. We couldn’t leave without having traditional Moroccan mint tea, which came in handy because the temperatures dropped and it became chilly.
There are plenty of good restaurants in the parks, however, it is always important to make reservations at least several hours in advance in order to guarantee you’ll be able to get a table without having to wait. We made our reservations from our Disney phone app and this allowed us to identify which of the restaurants had open tables for when we wanted to have dinner. We once inadvertently made a reservation in a different park and had to call Disney to get them to cancel that reservation without getting charged, which they kindly did.
We frequently used the Disney app to figure out which rides had shorter wait times. The neat thing about the app is that its wait time updates happen in real-time. For the most part the wait times reflected on the Disney app were accurate but on several instances some of the rides with wait times turned out to have no lines at all! We experienced this on a few occasions by arriving at the parks as soon as they opened at 9AM and were thrilled by this unplanned discovery! Spaceship Earth at Epcot was one of the rides in which there was a wait time of 15 minutes but when we got there we didn’t have to stand in line. It is also one of our must-do rides whenever we’re at Epcot. Other good times to find rides with short wait times are during the Festival of Fantasy Parade, or the Fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, both of which happen daily.
The “Africa” section of Animal Kingdom is especially unique to us because there are many references to Kenya, with a lot of the signs written in Swahili. My boyfriend is originally from Kenya and speaks fluent Swahili, and always has fun acting as my personal translator.
We’ve been to Kilimanjaro Safaris on two separate occasions and the cool thing about it is every safari is unique because you get to see different animals and experience new encounters with them on each trip. During our second safari, our tour guide informed us there was a newborn elephant which was only a few weeks old. We also got to see giraffes up-close as they walked right next to our tour bus!
Disney World begins their holiday season preparations in early November and each park has its own iconic Christmas tree. Main Street, USA is the street at the entrance of Magic Kingdom and leads directly to Cinderella’s castle. During the holiday season, it is normally filled with Christmas decorations and lights on either side of the street. It is also very difficult to get a photo of just yourself with Cinderella’s castle in the background because of the large crowds. This goes for all parks during this time of the year.
I really enjoyed that Epcot used poinsettias throughout their festive floral displays as they are some of the most popular Christmas decorations. The best display was in the UK section of The World Showcase where they used them in the tea garden.
One of my must-haves while we go “around the world” in Epcot is a giant pretzel with spicy mustard from Germany! Usually I share it with my boyfriend but for once I ate the whole thing by myself. All of the carbs were just the energy boost I needed after walking around all day.
We could not believe we were finally lucky enough to get a photo in front of Cinderella’s castle sans photobombers! This has to be my favorite photo from all of our trips to Disney World. Cinderella’s castle was draped in white icicle lights which glow and sparkle during the night to give the illusion of a winter wonderland.
There are several holiday events at Disney, which resulted in us not being able to use our Fast Pass for the Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios. However, we did enjoy getting to see the Tower of Terror Christmas projection show which started earlier in the evening.
What to Pack:
a rain jacket
a backpack containing a bottle of water, snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, an external charger, hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes
your favorite Minnie Mouse ears
Where to Eat:
Although there are many restaurants within the parks to eat or shop, I highly recommend checking out Disney Springs for a change of scenery. We try to find breakfast restaurants that open early enough so we can eat there before the Disney Parks open. Here are some of the restaurants we dined at during our visits to Walt Disney World:
Epcot: Restaurant Marrakesh , Tokyo Dining
Magic Kingdom: Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen
Hollywood Studios: The Hollywood Brown Derby
Animal Kingdom: Tusker House Restaurant (breakfast buffet with the characters)
Disney Springs: Morimoto Asia
My French Cafe - they have crepes and French pastries that are a must-try!
Where to Stay:
We used Airbnb on three of our four visits to Orlando. Our visit in December was around the holidays so we opted for a hotel due to the limited options that were available on Airbnb. Although the resorts offer a lot of amenities, those were not things that we needed as we spent most of our days at the Disney Parks and just needed a place to rest and get ready.
I hope that you enjoyed my post about the happiest place on earth and found it informative. We will be getting annual passes for Universal Studios for 2019 and I look forward to posting about my adventures at their parks in the near future!
If anyone is planning a trip to Disney World, I’d love to hear what you have planned in the comments section below.