Disney 2017 Trip: Day 1 – Hollywood Studios

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Our first real day of our Disney 2017 trip!! After Day 0 we were so excited to move to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we were staying in a Disney Vacation Club Kidani Village Studio we booked via renting points. We drove to the Kidani Village check in area from the Park Inn hotel, which didn’t take too long. After checking in and dropping our bags off we headed for Hollywood Studios!

First things first – food! It’s pretty much always food for me. We stopped by Sweet Spells (which has since closed) for a carrot cake cookie. This was massive. My partner and I split it and I’m glad. I LOVE carrot cake, but dang I don’t know if I could eat that much of one sweet treat first thing in the morning.

After doing more research on the offerings at Hollywood Studios I came to learn that the Frozen Sing-A-Long Celebration was probably not going to be as grand as I had hoped, so rather than book a FastPass+ for that as I had planned we changed our strategy. We ended up getting FastPass+ for Star Tours first, Toy Story Mania, and Tower of Terror all ending before 12:30PM. Note that this was before Toy Story Land opened, so obviously a completely different strategy would be required now.

I LOVE Toy Story Mania. I don’t think I have ever ridden it before. The lines for standby wait times were insane, but dang I think that ride is a blast and was totally worth it. We also had a lot of fun on Tower of Terror. My partner enjoyed Star Tours a lot; I however get motion sick pretty easy from these 4D type rides so that was not my favorite. I’m not sure I would do it again honestly.

We also purchased MemoryMaker so we stopped frequently to get pictures from the PhotoPass cast members. The park is so adorable during the holiday season. There were also a ton of really fun Magic Shots that were such a lovely surprise. Most of the time I didn’t even have to ask for them, the cast members just did it! The weather was unseasonably cold though so we were quite bundled up! I brought a light fleece jacket, but in retrospect I wish I had brought my long puffer coat. I had originally planned on wearing capri length leggings, a t shirt, and sandals. In the end I wore jeans, sneakers, a cami under a tank top, a zip up sweater, and by night my fleece jacket and scarf as well. I actually ended up buying that scarf as well as a pair of gloves from Uniqlo on our Day 0 at Disney Springs. While I wish I had just packed ones I already owned I think it was a smart decision and I got a lot of use out of them.

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After riding our FastPass+ rides, wandering around, and watching a bit of the Jedi Training session, we headed off to Mama Melrose for lunch. I was so glad I was able to pretty easily change our original reservation at Hollywood and Vine over to Mama Melrose. We booked the Fantasmic dining package and made sure to get our moneys worth. I normally would never eat this much in a single meal, but hey it’s vacation! I had the calamari starter, the steak with potatoes, and everyone gets a mini dessert trio. My partner started with the mozzarella with tomato and basil, then had the salmon main dish. Honestly everything was really good, I was very impressed. The worst part was the desserts – I didn’t particularly find them to be great overall. One was a small lemon cheesecake with passion fruit pearls and that was excellent. The other two were fine but nothing to write home about. I really enjoyed Mama Melrose. It was fairly quiet, service was paced perfectly, and honestly that steak was delicious.

After lunch we managed to score FastPass+ for Rock and Roller Coaster for later in the day. After riding that we would have ridden everything! We met Olaf at the Celebrity Spotlight, met Buzz and Woody together, had a great view of the March of the First Order, and had an awesome first and slow/easy paced first day. Unfortunately we did not catch the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which is probably the only non-food item I am sad to have missed.

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We also snacked our way throughout the rest of the day rather than a traditional meal. We went to the Brown Derby Lounge for a sit down and lovely people watching. I had the margarita flight trio, which was spectacular. Later on we stopped in to the Tune In Lounge and I drank a Mowie Wowie and we split an order of the Deep Fried Herb Garlic Cheese and Onion Rings. I still think about the deep fried cheese puck. Warning – do not eat this if you don’t like garlic. They aren’t kidding around with the garlic, and it’s amazing. We also had spiked hot chocolates from Dockside Diner – I had cherry bourbon and my partner had salted caramel Bailey’s, again both were amazing.

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We did some window shopping around the park. Hollywood Studios was an awesome place to do this since it really wasn’t that crowded. And finally we ended our night with Fantasmic! Which I loved. I think that show is perfection. I know people say it’s dated and could be revamped, and sure that’s true, but I honestly really enjoyed it and I’m glad we did a dining package to get priority seats.

Hollywood Studios was the perfect day 1 choice! I’m sure once Galaxy’s Edge opens up that will be a different story, but for our 2017 trip I think Day 1 went off pretty well.

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Disney 2017 Trip: Day 0 – Disney Springs & Resorts

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Our pre-Disney day! Arriving in Florida and non-park exploring. Let the magic begin.

We flew down on Southwest on a Sunday, arriving at about 3PM. I was too chicken to wear my Disney ears on the plane, so I put my hair up in small buns to mimic the feeling. A miracle happened and Southwest had recently sent out free drink vouchers, so we each had a happy time drink on our short flight. We landed at MCO and went to get our rental car from Hertz. I booked a room for Saturday night at the Park Inn by Radisson Resort & Conference Center Orlando, which is pretty darn close to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We dropped off our stuff, hit a Target for some water bottles and snacks (think breakfast bars, snack size cheez-its), and then went to explore the glory of Disney!

We were starving so we headed to Disney Springs and made a pizza at Blaze. I know Blaze is fast casual and probably not that impressive to locals, but I had never had Blaze and it was amazing. I would definitely go again. If one opened up near my home I would be a regular for sure. My partner and I decided to split just 1 pizza so we could keep eating more fun things at other places. We checked out a lot of stores, including of course the World of Disney, and I bought a MagicKeeper and lanyard from Pin Traders.

We wandered over to Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar and after perusing the menu just asked our waitress if they had a side of fries we could have. It turns out they had these amazing off-menu fries that were doused in a chimichurri-esque sauce but also with lots of bacon and cheese and garlic. SO GOOD. I also drank a Singapore Sling, which I enjoyed a lot, but definitely not as much as I enjoyed those fries.

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After our time at Disney Springs we wanted to go check out some of the resorts. I had originally planned on potentially making it out to the All Stars for some gelato, but time was running short so we had to get our priorities straight. We parked over at the Polynesian Resort and headed straight for the Tambu Lounge. It was not at all crowded! Maybe because it was a Sunday during prime park hours? But I was so surprised to just find a seat. Being the pineapple lover that I am of course we had to order the Lapu Lapu. And I loved every minute of it! Although I do wish it came with a fork/knife combo so I could eat more of the pineapple once the drink was gone.

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After wandering around the Poly we took the monorail over to the Grand Floridian and again found a seat very easily at the bar of Mizner’s Lounge. Here I enjoyed the Grand Cocktail as well as the cheese plate. One of the cheeses was a three cream brie that I still think about.

I absolutely loved just walking around the monorail resorts and having drinks and small bites. It was such a lovely way to start our trip. I didn’t want the pressure of going to a park on the day we were flying, but I wanted to start those Disney magic feelings as soon as possible. This definitely achieved that!

After our wonderful adventure we retreated back to the Park Inn. We were only staying there for one night, then moving over to the Animal Kingdom Kidani Village DVC studio the next day. Monday was our first park day, so we didn’t really want to spend the money to stay in a Disney hotel the night before. Thus we booked the Park Inn on Hotels.com. It was very inexpensive (I believe around $62 total). While the online reviews were decent, a “good” rating on Hotels.com, I will never stay here again. Generally everything was fine, you could tell it wasn’t the nicest place overall, but my main gripe is the beds. The beds were rock hard. They were horrible. I am old enough to where I need a good night’s sleep to enjoy something like a full Disney day. At home I have a 3 inch foam topper on top of my pillow-top mattress, so I like a semi-soft bed. This bed was akin to sleeping on a fluffy carpeted floor. It was. Horrible. And maybe we’ll stay in a non-Disney hotel the night before our Disney trip starts again, but it won’t be that one. The location was amazing though as it was very close to the AK lodge, which was the driving factor in booking it. So considering how inexpensive it was I suppose you get what you pay for! But buyer beware.

Dole Whip outside of Disney!

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RED ALERT!! This is not a test.

I first discovered Dole Whip as a small child during a family trip to Hawaii where we visited the Dole plantation. I’ve been a lover of pineapples (the fruit as well as the image for decor/fashion) for a very long time. We’re talking over 20 years. Thus, dole whip is easily one of my favorite treats.

It’s also so alluring because my entire life I thought you could only get the perfectly smooth vegan treat in Hawaii or at a Disney property.

Dang do I have news! I recently dined at a Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken, a fast casual chain, in the Washington, DC area. The chicken is great, don’t get me wrong, but what really caught my eye was the unlimited Dole Whip in the dessert section for $2.95.

It’s the real deal Dole Whip. My best friend and I both had multiple servings. And it’s bottomless! Enjoy as much as you care to eat! The best part if when you are feeling close to done if you dine in, get a coffee cup to go, fill with Dole Whip, take back to your place and add some rum to replicate what is one of my favorite Disney treats.

I am lucky enough to have 2 Nando’s locations pretty close to where I live so you can be sure I will be enjoying many Dole Whips (and Dole Whip with Rum) to ease my Disney cravings.

Nando’s is in the US around Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois. Check the menu of your local Nando’s to see if you can get that oh so illusive Dole Whip treat!

What’s your favorite Disney treat you crave year round when you aren’t in the parks?

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: Epcot

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In our Disney 2017 trip we planned on doing Hollywood Studios day 1, Magic Kingdom day 2, Universal on day 3, then on to Epcot for day 4. This was our first trip to Epcot since my partner and I were both 21+ so that’s obviously exciting. Read about my general plan for Epcot below the cut!

What’s your must do at Epcot?

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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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