Disney 2017 Trip: Day 4 – Epcot

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Of course the Magic Kingdom is classic Disney, but my partner and I were probably most looking forward to Epcot. Neither of us had been to this park since we turned 21, and Epcot seems like one of the most perfect places within Disney World to almost get away from the “Disney” factor. The World Showcase is truly spectacular.

We hoped/planned for our Epcot FastPass+ selections to be Test Track, Mission: Space, and Spaceship Earth and that worked out perfectly. We got to the park around opening, not in time for “rope drop”, but since most of World Showcase doesn’t open until 11AM anyway being there super early wasn’t particularity important for us.

We got some PhotoPass pictures in front of the tree and wandered our way back to France. I got in line to meet Belle while my partner went into Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie. We then indulged in the bacon cheese roll (“Roule Lard et Fromage”) while the line moved along. Belle was in her Christmas attire – so beautiful! EPCOT_WSFRN2_20171214_407143890788

After eating it was time for our FastPass rides. We essentially were able to do a ride, go back to meet a character, then back to do a ride, etc. This worked well for us, but it was a lot of walking! We met Snow White, who taught us to pose like princesses, Mulan, Anna and Elsa, and Alice! Something about meeting princesses in Epcot instead of MK is so much less stressful. Maybe just because it never felt quite as crowded. I had dressed up as Alice for a prior Halloween and showed her, it’s always amazing talking to the characters in such an interactive way.EPCOT_WSUKPROMCHAR_20171214_407153853003.jpg

We ate lunch at Coral Reef. We originally had Via Napoli reservations, but after Warwick Davis was announced as the narrator for the Candlelight Processional we decided we wanted to do a dining package for that. We ended up choosing Coral Reef based on available times. The atmosphere is amazing. Getting to dine next to that HUGE tank is so peaceful. You really don’t feel like you’re in a crowded Disney park anymore. It didn’t seem like there was a “bad” seat in the whole restaurant. We weren’t right at the tank but certainly still had a great view of all of the creatures swimming past. The package meal came with an appetizer, entree, and dessert. For the appetizers we got the crab cake and the grilled octopus, both were quite tasty. We both got the steak entree with a side of potatoes. This was good, but definitely not as good as the steak we had enjoyed at Mama Melrose. I suppose if you go to Coral Reef it makes more sense to get a seafood entree. The desserts here were killer though, truly oustanding. I got a key lime tart and my partner got the Bailey’s and Jack Daniels Mousse. Dang. I would go back here just to eat the desserts. Do they do takeaway for desserts? Because that would be worth it.

After lunch we went back to the hotel for a midday nap. When we returned to Epcot we just explored World Showcase to our hearts content. We heard some holiday tales around the world, and I finally found a PhotoPass photographer who could put Pascal on my head! This was my goal magic shot. I don’t look super cute, but I’m still so thrilled this happened!

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We did the Wine Walk and explored France, Germany, and Italy, got chips and guacamole as well as a tequila flight at La Cava Del Tequila in Mexico, and ate the nudel gratin from Germany, which was maybe the best thing I ate all trip. The Candlelight Processional show that came with our dining package was a 6:45 start time, so we went over there around 6:15. The line was already pretty dang long! Even if you have guaranteed seats you may want to get there pretty early. We found most rows with lots of open seats contained 1 person who was saving the entire row for their family. Frustrating, but what are you going to do?

The Candlelight Processional itself was lovely. I am not religious, my partner grew up Jewish, so we definitely aren’t the target audience. But we both had a wonderful time. The choirs they use are so talented. It was honestly so lovely. I’m not sure I would pay to do it again, but I am very glad we did it once.

After the processional we had a bit of time to wander around, but essentially were just killing time until the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at 830PM. We found they did let us in a bit early – I’m not sure how early they would let you, but we got there around 8:15. This is seated, and since there were only 2 of us we shared a table with another couple. There were loads of drinks and desserts there. The stand outs for me were the eclairs and mini tarts for food and the margaritas for drinks. Being seated right on the water we had an amazing view for Illuminations. This nighttime spectacular is being retired! So I am extra glad we paid the money to get the perfect experience. It’s also really nice to have a reserved seat and be able to eat/drink through the show.

After the show we waited for 15-20 minutes then headed over to Frozen Ever After! I have never ridden this since the Frozen overlay and I truly love Frozen. It was so cute! I was so happy. I was definitely singing along. I did *not* expect to get wet though, and it was kind of a chilly night, so be prepared to be a bit uncomfortable as you walk back to your transportation. It was pretty magical leaving the park after getting to ride the Frozen ride, as hardly anyone was left. It was so empty and quiet, and since it was night everything was lit up (and probably extra so for the holidays). If you have a good camera and understanding of photography this would be an ideal time to take some amazing low light pictures. And even though the park was nearly empty there were still PhotoPass photographers out!

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We never did find time to meet Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, and I think you could spend a full week just in World Showcase and continue to notice new amazing details, but overall our day at Epcot was almost perfect. We got so much done and ate some of the best food we had all trip. I think Epcot is my favorite park!

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Disney 2017 Trip: Day 2 – Magic Kingdom + Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

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Is everyone’s favorite Disney park the Magic Kingdom? Surely not, but there’s something about MK to me that just *is* the essence of Disney – being a kid no matter what age where your dreams can come true. I was so excited about this day.

Also as a note of caution: we did most of our planning 6+ months in advance, at the time the MK was scheduled to open at 9AM. Sometime between me writing down all of the park hours 6 months in advance and the day of the opening time changed to 8AM – so keep an eye on park hours as your trip gets closer! Thankfully we noticed this change in time about a week before our trip. A week before I wrote down all of our FastPass+ reservations and ADR reservations, as well as all of the park hours (in case we wanted to park hop) on an index card for every day of our trip. This way I could easily know the bare bones of the day without having to use the MyDisneyExperience app. I would recommend doing this, as while the convenience of the app is amazing it is sometimes a bit buggy, and also without an external battery pack my phone would definitely die in the parks every day.

We did rope drop. We really did it. I am not a morning person at all, and we were staying all the way at Animal Kingdom Lodge, so this was a trek. But it was so worth it! We arrived at the Transportation and Ticket Center around 7:15AM – this was a little later than I would have preferred but hey that’s how mornings go sometimes. We were in line for rope drop by 7:45. We went in with a mass of humanity and watched the opening show. I cried a little; I wasn’t expecting this. It was just such a stress relief I think to really feel like I was at the most magical place on earth, away from my job, finally fulling being engaged in the moment. It’s a cute cheesy opening show, and I loved it.

Most people were crowded to head over to Fantasyland ASAP, presumably to hit up Peter Pan and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I just don’t love crowds, which of course makes Disney World an interesting place for my anxiety, so we headed elsewhere. We were also fortunate enough to snag FastPasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan on our flex day so there wasn’t too much pressure to get that done. We instead headed elsewhere! We wandered around practically empty streets of Liberty Square and WOW empty Disney is extra magical. We walked onto Haunted Mansion, then headed down to ride Pirates of the Caribbean both as walk ons. We practically had our own boat for Pirates. We then had a FastPass+ for The Jungle (Jingle!) Cruise. It’s magnificent not having to wait in lines.

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After our first three morning rides we stopped at Aloha Isle and shared a pineapple upside down cake with Dole Whip – this totally counts as breakfast. It was DELICIOUS. I also love pineapple in general and especially Dole Whip so really nothing beats that. There was also no line at Aloha Isle, which was fantastic.

By some stroke of luck Jasmine happened to come out to do a meet and greet very close to Aloha Isle/the Aladdin Carpets ride so we got in line to meet her. I’m always so impressed with all of the cast members, but especially the face characters. She casually dropped a “it’s hotter than hot, more often than not” in conversation so smoothly. A+.

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We took advantage of the lack of lines for Photo Pass photographers and got a lot of fun MemoryMaker shots in front of the castle and such.

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From here on out we had our FastPasses planned, but otherwise relied on the MyDisneyExperience App to tell us where the shortest waits were on anything we wanted to do. So next we met Ariel at her Grotto with about a 20 minute wait. I had dressed up as Ariel one year for Halloween so I showed her, but sadly I had to dress up as Ariel when she’s a human well because I don’t have a fin, so she let me know she’d ask King Triton to send up a fin for me. Not the most flattering photos of me during this interaction, but Ariel looks great!

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After that we headed over to Princess Fairy Tale Hall to meet the princesses. We did both sides of the Princess Fairy Tale Hall line, meeting Cinderella, Elena of Avalor, Tiana, and Rapunzel. We had a FastPass+ for the Rapunzel side, but waited about 30 minutes for the Cinderella side. As you can tell a big part of Magic Kingdom for me is meeting the characters, especially since we paid for MemoryMaker.

After all of this meeting and greeting we did our last advanced FastPass+, which was for Big Thunder Mountain. What a fun ride! We then rode the tea cups, because I love spin rides and what a classic. Sadly Alice was not out meeting that day, but we did go find Merida, who I love. I wish the Brave movie was out when I was a little girl, but even as an adult I look to it for inspiration.

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By this time it was a little after 1 PM, we had been there since before 8AM, and it was getting peak crowded. We made our way out, stopping to look at the shops on main street, and headed back to the hotel for a nap. Before napping though – lunch! MK is amazing but in my opinion doesnt have the best food options. Rather, we got quick serve at The Mara in the AK Lodge where we split a chicken Caesar salad, fries, and a tamarind bbq sandwich. It was delicious. Honestly the food at the AK lodge is so underrated. We also got some zebra domes to go ;P

We took a nap. This was key. Disney days are exhausting, way more intense than a normal day. So I don’t care how old you are, I think that a mid day break is useful. For us that’s naps, for some maybe laying by the pool or another low key activity. But it’s so useful to get out of the parks and crowds and decompress and fully relax.

After the nap we made our way back to the MK. This is probably the biggest downer of MK – getting there takes a long time. We drove a car from the AK lodge and parked at Transportation and Ticket Center, then took the monorail in. From leaving our room in AK lodge to getting through security at MK it took an hour. Plan for a long time. Upon entrance we took some more Photo Pass photos, because why not?! Again the cast members were so generous with taking Magic Shots without even me having to request it. So fun to see these show up =]

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We walked on to the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride, and then went to our early dinner reservation. We originally had a 3:45PM ADR at Liberty Tree Tavern. Luckily I was able to snag a 4:30 ADR the day before, which is more reasonable for dinner time. The mac and cheese and salads at Liberty Tree Tavern were just fine, but everything else was dang great. The mashed potatoes were especially great. All of the meats were tasty too! As previously stated, I don’t think there are a ton of great places to eat in MK so I’m really glad we ate at Liberty Tree Tavern because I genuinely enjoyed my meal. I tend not to eat a ton though so the “all you can eat” portions as well as pricing is a bit of a waste for me, but my partner loves it. The ooey gooey toffee cake for dessert was almost to die for level. It was so rich though, I wish there was a way I could have consumed more without feeling like I might want to puke.

We had hard tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that night, so we went and got our bracelets. By this time it was about 6:15 so we got in line to meet Nick and Judy from Zootopia. Technically the party starts at 7, but we heard that characters sometimes come out early. In our case Nick and Judy did not come out early, but they came out right on time. We waited about 30 minutes to meet them and then we headed over to Space Mountain! Space Mountain was a walk on, but getting through the queue takes a bit, so that wasn’t an instant ride. But I had so much fun! We thought about doing it again but decided on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin again. Compared to Toy Story Mania, which we rode just the day before, I really dont think I enjoy Space Ranger Spin that much anymore.

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Again we took at ton of pictures at Photo Pass photographer stations during the Christmas party, and also ate a lot of snickerdooles (maybe my favorite cookie) and drank a lot of hot cocoa. My partner also really enjoyed the Mickey pretzels.

 

I next got in line to meet Moana. When I got in a line a cast member told me it would be about 45 minutes. Fast forward – it was a 2.5 hour wait. It’s 9 months post my vacation as I’m writing this and I’m honestly still upset. I don’t mind that the characters spend time interacting with folks and lines take a long time, and I don’t mind that cast members get breaks to go inside during their shift (and thus the line doesnt move very fast), but being told by 2 cast members that it would be 45 minutes from where I was standing when it was really 2.5 hours blows. I would not have wasted 2.5 hours of the $100 Christmas party in line. As much as I love meeting characters, and I know Moana is only out at parties now so she’s extra special, 2.5 hours is not worth it to me. We missed the fireworks entirely. When we got up to the front of the line of course Moana went to take a *long* break (I assume her lunch) and the cast member at the front told us Moana is ALWAYS at least a 2 hour wait. It’s interesting how much miscommunication the cast members monitoring the Moana line had that night. I complain in the moment, and of course I’m complaining now, but I didn’t write in an official complaint to Disney or anything. I could have left the line at any time, but once we were over an hour of waiting (which is what I was expecting in total) I couldn’t get it out of my head that I had already invested time so I should stick it out. Also by the time an hour went by I was in the switch back line to her, I could see her. I can’t believe how long it took from that place in line. Still shocked honestly. Missing the fireworks was a huge bummer, and we missed a lot of prime time to ride the rides, but at least it was for something pretty exclusive to just holiday parties.

After *finally* meeting Moana we were able to see the second parade, which was so magical. That was such a quality parade. That really put me back in the spirit after being quite soured from my Moana experience. We went to go meet Winnie the Pooh and the whole gang too! They were wearing winter gear and it was so adorable. I have loved Piglet my whole life, so this was a highlight for sure. We then rode the Winnie the Pooh ride, and headed back over to Tomorrowland. We rode the Tomorrowland Speedway, which I don’t think I had ever done before and probably won’t ever do again. And then had a good time at the Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor.

 

After this it was pretty much Midnight so we headed back to Main Street, took some pictures and made our way back to the AK lodge. Even with our nap this was an super long day! We woke up around 6AM and were back around 1AM. The midday break was 100% necessary for me. If I were to do a hard ticket night event again I would probably go about that differently – but I’ll save some of my thoughts on that for another post.

Have you ever done Magic Kingdom + Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (or any other hard ticket night event) on the same day?

Disney planning: Animal Kingdom

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For our Disney 2017 trip we planned for 1 day at Animal Kingdom (even though we were staying at the AK lodge!). We had been hearing such AMAZING things about Pandora and were so excited. Although I’m really not a fan of the Avatar movie and my partner is lukewarm about it, the immersion factor from all of the pictures and vlogs we were saying couldn’t be beat. I also love animals. Almost everywhere we go I try to go to the closest zoo. So it sounds like a perfect park!

Unfortunately the two rides in Pandora cannot be booked in advance via FastPass+ for the same day, so we did have to make a sacrifice. How do you handle touring Pandora? Read below to see our thoughts and plans!

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Disney planning: Magic Kingdom

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My partner and I went to Disney World for a week in December 2017. I had my blog on hiatus then, but I did document my planning. So see below for my planning for 1 full day at the Magic Kingdom and utilizing some of our time on our flex day at this park as well.

What are your must dos at the Magic Kingdom?

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Disney planning: Hollywood Studios

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MGM–I mean Hollywood Studios. This will be our first park! I doubt we’ll be rope dropping for HS. I want to start off on a more relaxing note. I won’t be able to book FastPass+ until October, but I am hoping to get mid-morning to afternoon time slots for Frozen Ever After, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Tower of Terror. Hopefully we can get additional FastPass+’s for Rock n Roller Coaster and/or Star Tours. If not I’d probably be willing to wait in line for these. Here’s a ranking of rides/attractions specifically for us (two young adults, no kids, likes thrill rides and my partner likes Star Wars) — I’ll be using this ranking basically to book FastPass+ in advance and on the fly at the park:

Rides/Attractions/Meet&Greets 

  • Hoping to book our 3 advanced FastPass+ selections for:
    • Frozen Celebration
    • Toy Story Midway Mania
    • Tower of Terror
    • Fantasmic! <– we have priority seating for this with a dining package, kind of like a FastPass+
  • Hoping to book FastPass+ on the fly, or will wait in Standby / must dos
    • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
    • Star Tours
  • Will likely wait in Standby for
    • Meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody (together!)
    • Meet BB-* Astromech on Duty
    • Celebrity Spotlight (depending on who’s there)
    • Muppet*Vision 3D
    • The Music of Pixar Live! <– as of this moment this is only scheduled through August; if it is ongoing when we are there in December I definitely want to see this.
    • Jedi Training
    • Indiana Jones Stunt Show
  • Probably skip unless the standby line is very short
    • The Great Movie Ride
    • Voyage of the Little Mermaid
    • Meet other characters
    • Beauty and the Beast Live
    • For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing Along Celebration
    • Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams
  • Definitely going to skip
    • Disney Junior Live on Stage

Food/Drink
Ah, the real reason why we go to WDW… I want to have a solid plan for meal options so I don’t end up eating overpriced chicken nuggets every day.

  • Breakfast: we’ll probably just eat granola bars that we bring with us in the hotel
  • Lunch: reservation at Mama Melrose’s
    • This is our Fantasmic! dining package meal so we’re going to overeat to get our moneys worth. I’m excited for steak!
  • Dinner: no real plans yet, might fill up on snacks instead?
  • Snacks
    • Fried Herb and Cheese at the Tune In Lounge
    • PB&Jelly Milkshake at the Tune In Lounge OR a seasonal flavor at Min and Bills
    • Carrot Cake Cookie at Sweet Spells
  • Drinks: Margarita Flight or Flight of the Stars White Wine Flight at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge

Disney dining planning and execution

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My partner and I are going on a week-long Walt Disney World trip this winter! I am so excited. Sept ’15 we went to the Magic Kingdom just for one day, and before that I hadn’t been to WDW since I was a child. Our upcoming trip is basically my first full-fledged Disney experience in over a decade so we are trying to be on top of planning to make it as magical as possible.

We are staying on site in a Disney Vacation Club villa at the Animal Kingdom lodges, which means we can book dining 180 days in advance of the first day of our trip for the length of our stay. This day recently happened, so read more below to find out our trials and tribulations!

Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to advance dining reservations at Disney? How the heck are people snagging dinner at Be Our Guest?!

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