A Magical Gender Reveal Party

I love finding ways to incorporate some Disney Magic into my everyday life. We are expecting our first little Mouseketeer in January, so of course we’re seizing every opportunity to celebrate- Disney style! In September we assembled a magical gender reveal party to share the news with our loved ones. It took lots of brainstorming, Pinteresting and of course, some help from family members. Here are some of the highlights:

The Invitations: 

fullsizerender-5When we started planning the party, we had to first decide on a theme. Of course, we knew it would be a Disney themed party, but we had to decide if we wanted to go with “prince or princess” or “Mickey or Minnie,” etc. We decided to use pink and blue as our color scheme- but opted for brighter hues rather than your typical pastel or “baby” pink and blue. At first I planned on designing the invitation myself, but when I took to pinterest for inspiration I found these awesome Disney themed gender reveal goodies by Hilltop Custom Designs. I love supporting small shops and they were perfect for our theme so I ordered them. Plus, it was a huge time saver! I placed my order and within a day the final copy was emailed to me and I printed them at Walgreens. (I crossed out the personal info for the location and RSVP info, but of course that is included on the original invitation.)

The Goodies:

We decided to do a backyard cookout, and my dad was gracious enough to make dinner for everyone. He prepared chicken tenders, hot dogs, hamburgers and all the fixin’s. For dessert we prepared our go-to chocolate cupcakes with pink and blue buttercream frosting. We also made some Rice Krispie Pops drizzled with pink and blue chocolate. These were fairly simple to make, and really cute and colorful- just follow the recipe on the box and then grab some colored candy melts.(These were a huge hit with our crowd and we totally should’ve doubled the recipe!) We also provided Hershey bars with the “He” and “She” colored in blue and pink respectively as a take home treat for our guests.

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The Decorations:

dsc_0066With our theme and color scheme in mind we set out to find some bright pink and blue decorations- with some Disney flair. We found some adorable Mickey and Minnie plates at Target that we used as dinner plates, along with some pink and blue banners. At Walmart we grabbed some whimsical polka dot napkins and matching pink and blue dessert plates and tablecloths and some hanging decorations. We bought a button making kit to make pink and blue Minnie and Mickey buttons for our guests to display their guess about the gender.

We also had a chalkboard for everyone to tally their guess– our group was split almost exactly 50/50 between boy and girl. We included another chalkboard with some pregnancy old wives tales to help people make their guess.

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dsc_0331For some extra fun, we set up a Disney/baby themed photo booth. We found Disney themed and baby shower themed photo props on Amazon for a great price, and got the shiny photo backdrop at Walmart. Our guests had a great time goofing off and capturing moments on this special day. My brother and sister-in-law served as the photographer and videographer for the day. Having two cameras going during the whole party was a great idea so we didn’t miss a moment– from the photo booths to all the candid party moments.

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THE REVEAL:

dsc_0276We put a lot of thought into the reveal. We wanted the moment to be perfect and memorable, and of course full of Disney Magic. My brother actually came up with the idea to do an “Up” themed reveal, which was perfect because who doesn’t love that heartwarming story?! My sister-in-law did a fantastic job replicating Carl and Ellie’s colorful house, and we filled the house with the balloons for the big reveal. We knew we wanted this to be a shining, shimmering moment so we also got two confetti cannons from Superior Celebrations for the big moment as well. These were fantastic and worked perfectly. The sparkly confetti made the photos pop and made the reveal that much more exciting. My husband and I stood behind the “Up house” and grabbed the strings to the balloon release. With a 1-2-3 countdown we pulled the strings to release the balloons as my cousins fired off the confetti cannons. As you can see, it’s a GIRL! The moment was exactly what we pictured and everyone was so excited. We are ecstatic to welcome our little princess into the world and I’m so glad we were able to share this memorable, magical day with our loved ones.

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5 Quick Service Restaurants You MUST Try On Your Next Visit

Hello, Disney Friends! Long time no see! 😉 It’s been a while since we last chatted, but I am thrilled to be back on the blog and sharing more helpful WDW tips with you all. It’s no secret that dining is one of the many wonders at Walt Disney World. (And one of my personal favorites.) Some families prefer to stay on the go, and don’t want to take too much time out of their day for a leisurely table service meal. That certainly doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the delicious offerings of Disney dining. There are plenty of Quick Service Restaurant options around the parks and resorts that serve mouth watering food at a quicker pace. And not only will you save a bit of time, Quick Service locations are a bit easier on your wallet too! The next time you find yourself searching for a bite at Walt Disney World, consider trying the following locations:

  1. Sunshine Seasons – Epcot
    • I’ve already raved about this place before, but seriously.. it’s good. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, although we’ve only ever eaten here at lunch and dinner. This location boasts plenty of fresh food options, including some selections grown right there in Epcot’s The Land pavilion. There is plenty of variety, including options for kids, so there’s something for everyone in your party. My personal favorite is the Asian station. I prefer the sweet and sour chicken and Alex loves the Mongolian beef. Each entree is served with a side of jasmine rice, fried rice or noodles. They also have stations that offer wood-grilled entrees, such as salmon or rotisserie chicken with black beans and yellow rice; and a sandwich station with selections like turkey on ciabatta and pressed Cuban sandwiches. And the desserts. Oh, the desserts. They have a large variety of pastries and bakery items. My personal favorite is the Mickey Red Velvet Whoopie Pie. 
  2. Flame Tree Barbecue – Animal Kingdom826
    • You can practically smell what’s cooking at Flame Tree as soon as you enter the park. This unique location offers a variety of smoked meat entrees, perfect for the carnivores in your party. The offerings range from pulled pork sandwiches and roasted chicken to a full slab of St. Louis Ribs. Some of the sides include jalapeno cornbread and baked beans. This Quick Service location is also a great place to grab a bite because it has a unique outdoor seating location. There are plenty of tables and chairs and it’s nestled away from the bustle of the main paths.
  3. Backlot Express – Hollywood Studios377
    • This seemingly simple Quick Service spot’s menu was recently transformed to include all things Star Wars. You will certainly find some unique offerings here, perfect for the ultimate Star Wars fan. Entree items include the Royal Guard Burger (1/3 Angus beef burger, barbecued brisket and pepper jack cheese served on a Dark Side/pumpernickel bun,) and also Dark Side Chicken and Waffles, featuring Darth Vader himself. There are also specialty alcoholic beverages and desserts.
  4. Be Our Guest – Magic Kingdom
    • This one may take a little extra planning, but if you can snag a seat at Be Our Guest– do it. This location is considered Quick Service at breakfast and lunch, and transforms to a Table Service location for dinner. Since this spot is extremely popular, reservations are typically required during breakfast and lunch also. Don’t let this deter you though! Last minute reservation spots open up all the time, and occasionally they will accept walk ups during less busy times. Be Our Guest hosts French inspired cuisine that is always fresh and delicious. Even their fries– excuse me, pommes frites, are tastier than your typical Quick Service fries. The atmosphere is phenomenal, unlike any other dining location at Walt Disney World. It really feels as though you’ve stepped right into the story of Beauty and the Beast. And of course, the food is delicious. (Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!) 🙂 For a complete review on the lunch offerings check out my detailed Be Our Guest Dining ReviewIMG_1383
  5. Earl of Sandwich – Disney Springs
    • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Earl of Sandwich is fantastic. They have a vast menu with all types of sandwiches, wraps and salads. And a major plus, it’s one of the cheapest Quick Service meals you’ll find on Disney property. Their sandwiches are made on fresh, handmade bread and it’s always warm and delicious. Some of our favorite sandwiches include the Chipotle Chicken Avocado, The Original 1762 and The Earl’s Club. They also have plenty of options if you’d like a side with your sandwich, everything from chips or fruit to mac ‘n’ cheese or pasta salad. They also have plenty of dessert options. I always go with the classic- a chocolate chip cookie.1007

 

 

Reviewsday Tuesday: Via Napoli

Happy National Pizza Day! You didn’t know that was a holiday? Well, neither did I until a few hours ago! 🙂 But what better way to celebrate than with a review of the best Disney pizza?!

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Location and Atmosphere: 

487Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria is located in the Italy pavilion right at the heart of World Showcase in Epcot. Reservations are not always necessary, but definitely recommended. If you find yourself unable to secure a reservation but you’d still like to taste this delicious pizza, my best advice would be to show up at lunch time right when Via Napoli opens its doors at 11:30 AM. The Disney Dining Plan is accepted at this location and will take one Table Service credit per person. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available at this 300 seat location, with most of the tables being indoor. The restaurant has an open and airy feeling with beautiful Italian murals and touches throughout. You can even see real citrus trees outside peeking through the windows. There is a long community table in the center to seat large parties (or several small parties) which leads up to the three wood-fired pizza ovens named after Italian volcanoes: Stromboli, Vesuvio and Etna. It’s fascinating to watch the chefs prepare the pizzas as they go in and out of the giant ovens.

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The Food:

264I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Via Napoli serves the BEST pizza. While their menu is certainly not limited to pizza, I would highly recommend trying the pizza if it’s your first (or even second or third) visit. It really can’t be beat! The pizzas come in three different sizes: individual, large and mezzo metro. The individual obviously serves one, large is meant to serve 2-3 and the mezzo metro is meant to serve 3-5 people. Of course it all depends on how much pizza your family members can pack away. I have had both the individual sizes and the large, and I prefer the large mostly because the crust is a bit thicker on the large. Alex and I usually order a large to split and end up having a bit leftover107

My favorite is the margherita pizza which is essentially a cheese pizza. The food is authentic Italian style and all of the ingredients are imported from Italy. The mozzarella cheese is always fresh, moist and delicious, and there is always the perfect amount of sauce. You can add toppings for an additional charge or try one of their specialty pizzas.

 

For dessert we have tried the Tiramisu, Coppa Brutti Ma Buoni (“ugly but good”) which is essentially a chocolate cherry sundae and the Zeppole di Caterina. Our favorite is the Zeppole without a doubt. They are basically Italian doughnut holes, ricotta cheese fritters served with a side of chocolate sauce and handmade whipped cream for dipping. Very unique and very delicious!

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Overall: 

Overall I would rate this location 10/10. If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to give it a try, do it. The atmosphere is light and refreshing, the service is great and the food is fantastic!

Festival of Fantasy: Viewing Locations

The Festival of Fantasy Parade debuted in the Spring of 2014 at Magic Kingdom and has quickly become my favorite parade. Everything about this parade is outstanding- the costumes, the music, the floats and of course the characters you know and love. This parade route kicks off in Frontierland and works its way straight down Main Street, USA. This route creates plenty of great spots to watch the parade; although I’m sure you’re wondering, where is the best spot to watch Festival of Fantasy? There are pros and cons to each area, but here’s my experience with the following locations:

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  • Liberty Square: The very first time I saw Festival of Fantasy it was from Liberty Square, just before it crossed the bridge to Main Street, USA (near the Hall of Presidents.) We staked out a spot about an hour before the parade started so we were in the front row with a great view. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies which made for some fantastic, vibrant photos. I also enjoyed this location because the parade is somewhat rounding a corner from Frontierland so you get to see different angles of each float.

 

  • Frontierland: This is where the parade route starts, and is typically not as crowded as Main Street when it comes to parade viewing. There is also a bit of extra room along the streets of Frontierland because the boardwalk along the waterway and side paths leading up to the streets offer extra standing room. With that being said, I would suggest getting a front row spot if you want the best view here, especially if you plan on taking photos. Aside from having other people’s heads in your line of vision, the farther back you are from the main path, the more obstructions there are in this area. There are a few trees that may block your view as well as the food and beverage and merchandise carts that line the paths. Also, depending on the season, the sun may be in a position that shadows some of the floats and characters or it may be shining directly in your eyes. As you can see in the photo below, I encountered this problem with my most recent Frontierland viewing.

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  • Along Main Street, USA: It’s no secret that any parade or show is ultimately better with Cinderella Castle as the back drop. These spots will fill up quickly, so make sure you stake out a spot about 45 minutes to an hour before the parade starts. Also note, the parade typically starts at 3:00 PM but it will not reach Main Street until approximately 20 minutes later– however, the spots on Main Street will still begin to fill up just after 2:00, or even earlier depending on how crowded the park is that day. These spots are also in high demand, so be prepared for other guests to creep up in your personal space. If you abandon your post even for a moment, another guest is likely going to try to move in for a better view.

 

  • FastPass+ Viewing Location: I recently experienced Festival of Fantasy from the FastPass+ viewing location, at the beginning of Main Street (right in front of The Emporium) and it is without a doubt my new favorite spot. Truth be told, anyone can watch the parade without a FastPass– but if you want a prime spot you’re going to have to report to your desired area an hour before the parade starts. This FastPass location offers breathtaking views of the parade coming right down Main Street USA, with Cinderella Castle as the back drop. I really enjoyed this “head on” view, which allowed me to soak in all of the magic, the entire Magic Kingdom experience. This spot also presented the opportunity for some awesome closeups and character interactions. I always wondered if it was worth using one of my three valuable FastPass+ selections to secure this spot. The short answer is: yes, I think it’s definitely worth it for everyone to snag this FastPass at least once.

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Reviewsday Tuesday: Chocolate Coconut Kashyyyk German Chocolate Cupcake

Happy Tuesday, Disney Friends! I thought it’d be fun to start churning out some more Disney reviews for you all. I’ve already shared my opinion on dining experiences like Be Our Guest, but I wanted to expand my list of items/experiences to review. I’m planning to cover everything from desserts to Disney Resorts, so if there’s anything you’re curious about please let me know!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months you’ve probably noticed that Star Wars is everywhere nowadays. I mean everywhere! Walt Disney World is certainly no exception– they’re embracing The Force Awakens full force! There are endless Star Wars food and beverage options throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but one of the first to catch my eye was the Chocolate Coconut Kashyyyk German Chocolate Cupcake. First of all, the words “chocolate” and “coconut” are in the name which automatically makes it a winner in my book! This is a fairly large cupcake– enough to share with a friend if you’re feeling generous. Pro tip: grab a fork! This was much easier to eat with a fork and made a much smaller mess that way.

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The cake is a moist, rich chocolate topped with the perfect amount of creamy chocolate frosting. There is a silky German Chocolate Coconut filling on the inside that blends perfectly with the cake. There are also a few bits of nuts in the filling. It was delicious, but keep that in mind if you have any nut allergies. There is not a ton of filling so it doesn’t overpower the rest of the cake. The cupcake is sprinkled with toasted coconut and topped with a milk chocolate Chewbacca, which is also very tasty! I am a bit hesitant on the candy toppers because sometimes they are too rich or just taste sugary, but this one was really great! When we purchased this cupcake the Cast Member that served it to us warned us that the cupcake was a little “Chewie.” 🙂 As you can see, the super cute BB-8 sipper definitely complements this cupcake. I’d highly recommend them both!

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When is the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World?

This is probably one of the first questions that crosses your mind when it’s time to plan a Walt Disney World trip. When is the best time to go? What will the crowds be like? What about the weather? While the “best time” will differ from family to family, here’s what you can expect at different times throughout the year at Walt Disney World: 025

  • January – February: After the first few days of January, the New Year’s crowd dies down and crowd levels drop off significantly. You will also notice shorter park hours throughout the winter months. January and February both see some of the lowest crowd levels and also some of the lowest resort prices, with the exception of holiday weekends and special events. The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend take place in January and February, respectively. The crowds spike during those weekends and you can expect the Disney resorts to fill up fairly quickly. Also expect some traffic delays when driving to the parks during race times. This time of year is also popular for large international tour groups and teams. They tend to fill up the value resorts. One day after a long day in the parks we were just settling into bed a little after midnight at All Star Movies, when we suddenly heard a stampede of screaming, chanting teenage girls. Their group had apparently just checked in and had reserved all of the surrounding rooms on our floor and the next. The girls that checked into the room next to us proceeded to chant, scream, laugh and bang on the connecting door between our rooms until after 2:00 AM. Not the most magical experience. While I’m sure this doesn’t happen all the time, keep in mind that you may encounter a similar experience at this time of year in the value resorts. The weather during these months can be a bit unpredictable. It is not uncommon to encounter sunny, 75 degree days, but there are also plenty of days where the high doesn’t get above the low 50’s, or even cooler. Expect cooler temperatures at night also. If you decide to take advantage of some of the lower crowd levels during this time, be sure to pack a jacket!
  • March – April: Early March usually marks the beginning of Spring Break season. It also means the start of the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. You will see a bit of a spike in resort prices and the crowd levels are moderate – high, with the higher crowd levels later in the month. One of the most crowded times at Walt Disney World is the week of Easter. Most schools are on Spring Break at this point, so families are utilizing this time out of school in the parks. Resort prices spike during this week as well. The weather is still a bit variable, with mostly warm days and some cool nights. The crowds level off after Easter, and by mid-late April you will notice much shorter wait times. 236
  • May – June: Early May means warm weather and low-moderate crowd levels. This is personally one of my favorite times to visit. The weather is usually beautiful, and kids are still in school so the crowd levels are minimal. The crowd levels spike over Memorial Day Weekend, but this is still not the highest crowd level. The past few years Disney has done a 24 hour event in the Magic Kingdom to kick off summer. We went to the event in 2014 and yes, there were a lot of people there but it certainly wasn’t unbearable. We like to take advantage of late park hours anyway, so by 11:00 PM the crowds had dropped off substantially. Around mid June, resort prices spike and crowd levels are high. Most schools are out for the summer by this time and everyone is heading to Disney for summer vacation.
  • July – August: Hot and crowded. That pretty much sums it up! Fourth of July especially is extremely crowded. Everyone wants to spend the holiday weekend in Disney, especially to witness their legendary fireworks. In August, the resort prices decrease pretty drastically. It’s super hot and kids are about to go back to school so Disney does what they can to encourage last minute summer trips.
  • September – October: Labor Day weekend sees fairly high crowd levels and moderate resort prices; however, crowds drop off significantly the day after Labor Day. Crowd levels remain low-moderate through most of September and October. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival kicks off in late September, so you will notice a bit of an increase in crowds, particularly on the weekends. The weather starts to cool down a bit, making this a desirable time to visit. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party kicks off in the Magic Kingdom in mid September and runs through November. This is a separate ticketed event, so it does not drastically affect crowd levels.
  • November – December: Early – mid November and early December boast some of the lowest crowd levels. Resort prices are also on the lower end. As a huge added bonus, the holiday decorations go up around the parks in early November and they are absolutely stunning. This is by far my favorite time to visit. The Castle Dream Lights adorn Cinderella Castle, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starts in early November in the Magic Kingdom. Candlelight Processional begins in Epcot in late November. This is a beautiful show, with a celebrity narrator telling the Christmas story. Crowds will definitely pick up later in the month, with the week of Christmas and New Year’s Eve being the busiest time of the year in the parks. The weather is definitely variable this time of year. I have visited in early December when it was in the low 80’s during the day, and also at times where it only reached the 60’s, with evenings in the 40’s.

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So, when is the best time to visit? That all depends on what’s important to your family. My personal favorite times would be late April/early May to enjoy the low crowds and beautiful weather, and also early December to experience the Disney Christmas magic and low crowd levels. Remember, a good rule of thumb is that if kids are out of school, it’s going to be busier. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about coordinating with school holidays yet so we are able to take advantage of the slower times. The important thing to remember is that no matter when you’re visiting, there is no reason your vacation shouldn’t be absolutely magical. We have visited and lived in the area during some of the most crowded times, and we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves every time. Just remember to keep a smile on your face, and focus on the memories you’re creating with your family. 🙂 If you have any other questions about planning the perfect trip or when to visit, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Disney Manners

If you have ever spent a day in a Disney Park, you have inevitably witnessed some questionable behavior by other guests. There is nothing quite like being plowed over by a stroller while you’re skipping down Main Street. We all get a little over excited at times when it comes to Disney Parks, but many of those not-so-magical experiences can be avoided completely by stopping to consider those around you. Of course, accidents happen; but here are a few “to do’s” and “what not to do’s” to preserve the magic of your Disney trip as well as those of others around you:

  • Bus Etiquette – Disney Manners will come into play before you even board the bus to the parks. If you’re traveling with little ones in strollers, be sure to fold up those strollers and have them ready to go before you board the bus. It’s a Disney rule for the safety of all guests to make sure each stroller is empty and folded when boarding the bus. If you wait until the moment you’re about to board the bus to fold your stroller, there is a good chance you will be holding up the entire line of excited guests ready to board the bus. To avoid any not-so-Disney-looks or a stampede of eager park-goers, be sure to fold those strollers in a timely manner.
  • When you board the bus, be sure to head all the way to the back of the bus and fill in the seats from there. I promise this is the most efficient way to ensure your party and the rest of the guests get on the bus and to the park as quickly as possible. If each guest boards the bus and plops down in the first seat they come upon, it will inevitably lead to a traffic jam. There will be lots of unnecessary legs, feet, strollers and bags for the other guests to step over on their way to an empty seat. Also, be sure to listen to your Bus Driver. If the line to board the bus is a mile long, it’s in everyone’s best interest to fit as many guests on board as possible. So when the Bus Driver asks you to move all the way to the back (including standing room) be sure to do so. Finally, be sure to offer up a seat to those in need.
  • When the bus arrives at the park or back at your resort, keep those Disney manners in mind when disembarking also. Imagine boarding a packed bus back to your Disney resort after spending 10 hours in the Magic Kingdom. You’re completely exhausted and can’t wait to dive into bed so you can do it all over again tomorrow. There are no seats left so you and your family are standing (while of course holding onto the handrails) until you reach your resort. As soon as the bus stops and the doors open you’re ready to pile out– but four other guests who were seated behind you spring up and slip past you out the door. Not the most magical feeling, am I right? If you happen to snag a coveted seat on a crowded bus, please be polite and let standing guests disembark first. After that, file out letting those sitting closest to the doors exit first. If you’re sitting in the very back there’s no need to jump up and scoot past those seated in front of you.
  • Dress – Keep in mind that Disney is a place for families and there are plenty of little princesses and princes running around the parks. Anything with Mickey Mouse on it gets a thumbs up– but perhaps you should save that t-shirt with your favorite obscenity on it for another day. I’m not saying you have to measure your hem line before you enter the park each day, just be respectful and use your best judgement.

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  • Foot Traffic – Perhaps the best thing you can do to keep your party and the guests around you happy is to be mindful of other guests along the walkways. If you’re strolling through Fantasyland with your family of seven, try not to fan out in a seven person line across the entire walkway. This makes it difficult for guests traveling in the opposite direction. Try traveling in a “pack” or perhaps in two rows to get to your destination.
  • If you need to stop to check your My Disney Experience App or grab some snacks out of your bag, pretty, pretty please do not stop in the middle of the walkway. This can lead to collisions, traffic jams and grumpy guests, which of course, we all want to avoid. If you need to make a quick pit stop, just pull your group off to the side of the path or find a spot out of the way of the main walkway.
  • Please do not use your stroller, wheelchair or ECV as a weapon! I know after you get that first glimpse of Cinderella Castle it is so tempting to run full speed straight to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but please don’t take anyone out in the process! Walkways typically get congested right after a parade or show, so please exercise patience and understanding when exiting the crowded areas. Don’t push other guests or bump into them with anything on wheels. But most importantly, if you do accidentally collide with another guest, simply apologize. We are all human, and a little kindness can go a long way!
  • Parade and Fireworks Viewing – It’s no secret that Disney’s parades and shows are not to be missed. (I’m looking at you, Festival of Fantasy! 😉 ) Guests gather around the parade route and pour on to Main Street hours before the shows start to get the best possible view. When selecting your viewing area, please keep in mind that guests both small and tall also want to see the same show. If you put your children on your shoulders it makes it harder for guests around you to get a decent view. Disney actually put this rule into place so you will probably see Cast Members making the rounds asking parents to take their children off of their shoulders. Eventually the crowds may get too dense for the Cast Members to navigate, so they may not be able to inform every guest.
  • Attractions – Disney is kind enough to post the estimated wait time for each attraction at the entrance to each queue. If you’re about to hop in a 50 minute line for Space Mountain, you may want to make a restroom stop first. Please try to refrain from saving spots in line on any attraction. If half of your party gets in line while the other half heads to the restroom (or Starbucks) that will result in the second half of your party having to “line jump” and squeeze by lots of guests that have been patiently waiting in line for the same attraction.
  • If you pay attention to the rules and safety warnings before you board each attraction, you will note that on most attractions the Cast Member states that flash photography is prohibited. This is especially the case on dark rides (Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, etc.) Please keep this in mind as it takes some of the magic away from the experience and is very distracting to other guests on the attraction. If you want to snap some photos on the attractions where photography is permitted, go right ahead– just remember to turn your flash off first!
  • During any show or performance remember to be courteous to the performers and surrounding guests by silencing your phone.

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  • Respect the Cast Members! – Cast Members are there to make your experience a magical and memorable one and also to keep you and your family safe. I can assure you, they know what they’re doing! Please be respectful and listen to all of the Cast Members. If they ask you to “fill in all available space” in an attraction’s queue, or to keep your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the ride vehicle– please do it!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hello, Disney Friends! Long time, no see! 😉 The holidays are officially in full swing and it’s been a wild ride so far. Of course, the most magical time of the year would not be complete without a little Disney Magic! We journeyed back  to the motherland for a few days earlier this month to celebrate my birthday and soak up some Disney Christmas Magic. Let me be the first to tell you, the only thing better than a visit to Disney is a visit to Disney at Christmas time. Here’s a few of the highlights for anyone in need of a Disney pick-me-up:

  • The Castle Dream Lights were donned again this year with a little help from my BFF, Elsa. During “A Frozen Holiday Wish” Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf gather together to cover Cinderella Castle in ice and snow to celebrate the holidays together. The lights are absolutely breathtaking. Cinderella Castle is always a sight for sore eyes but the lights make it absolutely dazzling. I could stare at these lights for days at a time. Luckily I took approximately 8,392 pictures to tide me over until next year. 🙂

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  • You know I stand by my “Disney does it better” philosophy, and Christmas decorations are no exception. Disney pulls out all of the stops to assure that all of the parks and resorts are decked out in holiday cheer. My personal favorite is all of the different Christmas trees across property. They are all elaborately decorated and each tree is different. Each park is equipped with a huge tree which serves as the perfect holiday photo op. My favorite Disney tree is probably the one at Art of Animation. This white tree is adorned with vibrant ornaments and tinsel, complete with sketches from The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Cars and Finding Nemo. 1056
  • After a day in the Magic Kingdom we decided to hop on the monorail one evening to do some resort hopping and to check out some of the amazing gingerbread creations at The Contemporary and The Grand Floridian. The Contemporary had an elaborate Frozen display that really made me want to stuff some chocolate in my face. The Grand Floridian had their huge gingerbread house again this year, with plenty of delicious goodies for sale. I would definitely declare this a “Disney Christmas must-do.” 420
  • If you’re in need of some Christmas spirit, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will definitely make you feel holly jolly! I was lucky enough to experience the party on my birthday this year, and I even let a few thousand of my closest friends attend this special birthday party. If you’ve never experienced it, I would highly recommend it. Mickey really knows how to throw a party– complete with special holiday parades featuring Santa, himself, A Frozen Holiday Wish, a special fireworks nighttime spectacular: Holiday Wishes, and of course all of the cookies and hot cocoa you can eat! Another great perk is the extremely short wait times for most attractions. We walked on to Space Mountain four times in a row with no wait. We even had a whole rocket ship to ourselves one time. It was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.

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  • Another birthday treat and a Disney “first” for us was experiencing Candlelight Processional at Epcot. It was an incredibly beautiful show. The music was amazing, and we got to see Neil Patrick Harris narrate the Christmas story.

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  • Last, but certainly not least, we went to say our goodbyes to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. 😦 This is my absolute favorite part of any Disney Christmas trip. As usual we decided to arrive early so we could be there when the lights came on. It is so magical to watch the lights come to life and hear all of the “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd as each person’s face lights up like a Christmas tree. Throughout the night your favorite Christmas music rings throughout the Streets of America as the lights “dance” in time with the music. It truly is incredible. It’s no secret that I am SO upset that this was the last time we will ever see them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Disney will come up with an alternate location for these lights some day. It really is the perfect way to make your holidays merry and bright.

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Disney Resort Perks: Transportation

I’ve already mentioned a few of the advantages to staying in a Disney Resort; however, I wanted to elaborate on the perks of Disney Transportation. Disney Resort buses, in my opinion, are one of the greatest Disney perks. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to Disney Resort buses:

  • Disney Resort buses will pick you up from the front of your Resort and drop you off at the park’s entrance. Resort buses travel the Disney Resorts to the four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, the two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, as well as Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney.) Some Resorts also have bus transportation to ESPN Wide World of Sports during special events, etc. While the bus stop is in one central location, there will be separate areas/lines for each destination. Disney is great about including proper signage so it’s easy to determine which line you need to be in. As soon as you arrive at your Disney Resort, one of the first things I would suggest doing would be to locate your resort’s bus stop. (Some resorts even have more than one bus stop.) You will most likely see it upon entering the resort, but if you’re unsure just stop by the Front Desk and ask a Cast Member.
  • Buses depart approximately every 20 minutes. Resort buses run back and forth constantly from approximately one hour before park opening to one hour after park closing. Each bus driver’s route is constantly changing so the wait may be a bit shorter or longer throughout the day. Disney has been working on implementing a system to keep guests better informed on each bus’ arrival time. On one of our last visits we chatted with a transportation Cast Member and he informed us that they are working on installing screens at each of the resorts’ bus stops to display approximate arrival times for each bus. They had already installed them at some resorts and I will be interested to see how much progress they’ve made during our next visit. I think this is a fantastic idea and it will give guests some peace of mind if they’re trying to make it to the parks by a certain time for a dining reservation, etc.

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  • You can take a bus from park to park.  For example, you decided to spend the morning in Animal Kingdom but you’d like to head to Hollywood Studios for lunch. Along with the resort bus stops, you will find bus stops for the other theme parks as well. This can be a huge time saver as it eliminates the need to go back to your own resort between parks.
  • However, there are no direct buses between the parks and Disney Springs. If you’ve just spent the day at Epcot and you’re ready for an evening of shopping and dining at Disney Springs, you will need to take a bus from the park to a resort in order to get to Disney Springs; however, you don’t have to return to your own resort. To cut down on travel time, I suggest traveling to a resort that’s closest to your location or a resort close to Disney Springs, like Port Orleans.
  • It’s extremely convenient. I really can’t stress this enough. I will also point out that parking at the parks is free to Disney Resort guests– but with all of these wonderful reasons to travel via Disney transportation, why not take the bus? I think the travel time to Magic Kingdom alone by bus compared to driving yourself really highlights the pros of taking Disney transportation. If you choose to drive to the parks you will drive to the Magic Kingdom toll booth, pay to park (or verify that you’re a Disney Resort guest), then drive to the parking lot where a Cast Member will guide you to the next available parking lot row. When you unload your car you will head to the end of your row in the parking lot to wait for the tram which will take you to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC.) From the TTC you will wait to board either a monorail or ferry which will then take you to the entrance of Magic Kingdom. If you choose to take a Disney Resort bus however; it will pick you up at the front of your resort and drop you off at the entrance to Magic Kingdom– you get to skip the TTC entirely. Also, we all know at the end of a 12 hour day at Magic Kingdom you are absolutely exhausted. If you let Disney take the wheel you can kick back and enjoy the ride– or if you’re like my husband, catch a little cat nap on the way back to your resort. 😉

 

Disney Dining Reservations: FAQs

The key to a smooth, successful Disney Vacation is careful planning. Sure, it’s possible to “wing it” and still have a wonderful vacation; however, if you are going on a once in a lifetime trip or if you have your heart set on certain experiences, I highly recommend putting in the time to plan your trip or leaning on an Authorized Disney Travel Agent to ensure a seamless, magical experience. A large part of the planning process revolves around your family’s dining plans. Walt Disney World offers countless exceptional table service dining options around the parks and resorts. These restaurants are so outstanding that they are of course in high demand. Here are a few of the frequently asked questions when it comes to the dining reservation process at Walt Disney World:

  • How can I make dining reservations?
    • You can make reservations online directly through the Walt Disney World website, on your smartphone in the My Disney Experience App or by calling the dining reservations line: 407-WDW-DINE.
  • When can I make dining reservations?
    • Dining reservations can be made 180 days prior to your vacation– so the earlier you plan, the better!
  • What information will I need to have handy when making my dining reservations?
    • Obviously keep your itinerary and any plans you’ve made for your trip in mind when making reservations. If you are making the reservations in the My Disney Experience App be sure to link all of your family members’ My Disney Experience accounts so the dining reservations will appear in each person’s “plans” on the app. Finally, you will need a credit card to secure the reservation. This is a fairly recent requirement when booking dining reservations. In the past only a select few dining locations required a credit card to book a reservation because they were so highly in demand. Over the years reservations at many of the dining locations became more and more scarce because people were booking an outrageous number of reservations at once so they would have countless dining options and meal time slots at their disposal. To cut down on “mass reservation bookings” Disney implemented the credit card requirement to secure a reservation. Disney will not charge your card or place any kind of hold on it unless you do not show up for your reservation or neglect to cancel your reservation before 11:59pm the day before your reservation. You can store a credit card on your My Disney Experience profile to make the reservation process quicker and easier in the future.
  • How does the reservation process work? Is the restaurant holding my table for me?
    • The restaurant is not actually holding a table for you prior to your arrival. The reservation essentially secures your place in line. Don’t let this worry you! I can assure you the wait with a reservation is very minimal compared to walking in without a reservation. Disney has this process down and it is their goal to seat you promptly.
  • Are dining reservations necessary at all table service restaurants?
    • The short answer is no, they’re not required but definitely recommended. This is heavily dependent on the time of year and also the time of day. It is possible to walk up to some table service restaurants without a reservation during non peak times; however, you will still more than likely be looking at a bit of a wait for a table. There are some restaurants that are so heavily in demand that you can essentially never (or very rarely) walk up without a reservation. Some of these coveted restaurants include: Be Our Guest, Le Cellier, ‘Ohana and Cinderella’s Royal Table. I would definitely recommend making those reservations 180 days in advance if at all possible.
  • If something comes up can I cancel my reservation? 
    • Yes, you can cancel your dining reservations the same way you made them: online, in the My Disney Experience smartphone App or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. There is no penalty if you’re cancelling before 11:59pm the day before your reservation.
  • Will I be charged a cancellation fee if I do not cancel ahead of time and I do not show up for my reservation?
    • Yes, there is a $10/person cancellation fee if you do not cancel your reservation before 11:59pm Eastern Time the day before your reservation. The fee will be charged to the credit card you put on file when you booked the reservation in the event that you miss your reservation. If you’re just a few minutes late, don’t worry– Disney is very understanding and accommodating and you won’t be charged a fee at that point.
  • How can I secure a reservation at one of the “high demand” table service restaurants?
    • The best way to secure a reservation is to plan well in advance–ideally at the 180 day mark. I know that seems like a lot to ask considering most of us probably haven’t decided what we’re going to be eating for dinner tomorrow. My advice would be to make the reservation as soon as you begin planning– you can always cancel it later if plans change. If you try to make a reservation and you’re unable to secure one (even 180 days out– it happens!) keep trying! Availability changes daily so you never know when something may pop up. Keep trying up to the day of your desired reservation. As I mentioned earlier, guests must cancel their reservation by 11:59pm the day before if they do not plan to attend to avoid a charge on their credit card. That means several reservations could become available the day before your dining experience, so don’t give up! I would also recommend being flexible with your meal time if possible. Dinner reservations at 4:45pm are much easier to come by than 7:00pm reservations if you’re looking for a last minute reservation or trying to dine at a high demand restaurant.

If you’re unable to secure a reservation for your favorite restaurants, don’t fret. There are so many delicious dining options across the parks and resorts. Many of the table service restaurants in the Disney Resorts tend to have more availability because most guests don’t think about venturing outside of the theme parks. You may also be able to dine without a reservation if you’re flexible with your meal time and arrive at non peak times. There are also plentiful quick service dining options that are sure to please everyone in your party if you decide to forego the table service option. The important thing to remember is that you are on vacation to enjoy yourself and spend time with your loved ones. So please don’t let dining reservations or any part of the planning process hinder your magical memories!