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Things I Wish I'd Known For My First Walt Disney World Visit

  The first visit to Walt Disney World is stressful, confusing, and a dream come true. I am not the first on...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Magic Kingdom For Cinderella Lovers

Since my Ultimate Plan for the Pixar Fan was well received, I decided to do another itinerary based on a Disney movie. This time it is for Walt's favorite heroine, Cinderella. Most Cinderella-themed things are going to be found in Magic Kingdom. After all, it is the first Disney theme park with Cinderella's Castle. Here is how to do Magic Kingdom for Cinderella lovers:


Welcome Show
20 minutes before the park opens, the Welcome Show is presented. Sometimes the show features characters from Cinderella. TIP: Arrive early in order to get a good spot.

Anastasia and Drizella in the Welcome Show!

Meet Cinderella 
She is located in Princess Fairytale Hall. She is currently meeting with Rapunzel. If you do not have a fastpass for this experience, I recommend going here soon after the park opens. It is common to see the wait for this meet and greet to be around an hour. TIP: Ask Cinderella to see her shoes!

Meet the Tremaines
Cinderella's step mother, Lady Tremaine, and stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella are still trying to win the Kingdom over with their "charm".  Meeting these three is always a wonderful experience. Little kids might be scared of them at first, but they are so silly. Once a newlywed couple, complete with wedding ears and buttons walked by them. Anastasia and Drizella started yelling at the couple, "Thanks for rubbing it in!" Everyone waiting in line to meet them had a good laugh at that. The Tremaines will scream at each other and chase each other around. They are definitely the most entertaining characters to meet. 

Meet the Fairy Godmother
The Fairy Godmother and the Tremaines alternate with each other about every half hour. So after you meet the Tremaines, just jump back in line to meet the Fairy Godmother. It is important to note that they only meet in the mornings. They meet in various locations throughout Fantasyland. I have seen them by the castle walls, by Cinderella's fountain, and by Sir Mickeys. Make sure to track where they are meeting ahead of time on the My Disney Experience App. 

Look for all things Cinderella
While you are still in Fantasyland, explore all of Cinderella's hidden gems! Next to her castle, towards Liberty Square, is Cinderella's Fountain.  On the opposite end of the castle, towards Tomorrowland, is Cinderella's Wishing Well. This is a good place to take a break, as there are benches around. You can get some pretty cool snaps of the side of the castle and the moat, too. While you're there, don't forget to make a wish! All of the coins that are tossed into the well are donated to various children charities. So you can help make other children's wishes come true!

My favorite spot in MK

In between the fountain and the wishing well is a store called Castle Couture. This gift shop is dedicated to princess merchandise, so it's a good place for Cinderella lovers to do some souvenir shopping. If you're lucky, you might be pixie dusted by one of the cast members. But the coolest part of the store is Cinderella's dress. The dress that the mice and birds made for Cinderella to go to the ball is on display in the fitting rooms. TIP: Look for Jaq and Gus!

Ride Prince Charming Carrousel
This ride usually has a short wait (in comparison) and is a must. No matter your age, you'll feel happy after riding the carrousel. TIP: While waiting in line, look for Cinderella's horse. It's the only horse with a gold ribbon on its tail. I've been lucky enough to actually ride it once.

The Carrousel and Castle from Pinocchio's.  

At around 2:30 start making your way towards Main Street to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Cinderella and Prince Charming are on one of the floats. 

Shopping on Main Street
After the FOF parade, most of Main Street will clear out. Check out some of the shops for more Cinderella merchandise. Crystal Arts has a replica of Cinderella's castle made out of crystals! You can eve buy some miniature glass slippers here. The Confectionary usually has Cinderella cookies and mugs for sale. 


Make Royal Dining Reservations
Cinderella has her own restaurant inside her castle. Cinderella's Royal Table is character dining. You will see Cinderella and some of her fellow princesses like Ariel and Belle. This reservation can be very tricky to book, so it's good to have some alternatives in mind.

The Grand Floridian has plenty of amazing rsstuarants that are a great alternative. If you wish to get away from the crowded parks for a while, then try to make a reservation for one of the restaurants here. The Grand Flordian is the resort that Cinderella would stay at if she didn't live in the castle! It's elegantly themed. Also, it is very close to Magic Kingdom. You can take a monorail over. The Grand has a restaurant called 1900 Park Fair, which is also character dining. For dinner, characters from Cinderella come to visit, including Prince Charming and the Tremaines. If character dining isn't your thing, you can also eat at Victoria and Albert's or the Grand Cafe. Both have excellent food!


The Electrical Parade
Make sure you return to Magic Kingdom in time for the Electrical Parade. A good place to watch this is on Main Street. You can see Cinderella's carriage glowing in lights. 

Celebrate the Magic/Wishes
Watch Cinderella's castle light up in this spectacular night show! See if you can spot the clip of Cinderella's dress transformation in Celebrate the Magic. And listen for the Main Title song of Cinderella in Wishes. 

Cinderella, you're as lovely as your name...

Walk Through Cinderella's Castle
After the night shows, the castle is usually opened up. My favorite way to enter it is from the back entrance in Fantasyland. Inside the castle are murals depicting Cinderella's story. As you walk along, you'll emerge onto the castle stage. This is one the best views of Main Street in the entire park. Don't be afraid to take lots of pictures of the castle! 

Just make sure you're out of the park before the clock strikes midnight!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Top 5 Things To Do in EPCOT

5. Festivals/ Holidays
EPCOT has two main events every year. If you visit WDW in the fall, you have to go to Food and Wine Festival. Tour the World Showcase and sample food from each country. Not only do the pavilions such as Canada, China and Mexico have their own stands, but countries not featured in the World Showcase such as Scotland, Korea and Greece have their own stands. There's also fun activities. In 2015, there was a scavenger hunt based on Ratatouille. Statuettes of Remy the rat were hidden throughout the Showcase. If you found them all, you won an exclusive limited edition pin! And music acts come to perform. Last year, Boyz II Men was the highlight of the concert series. 
     If you visit WDW in the spring, you'll get the opportunity to go to the Flower and Garden Festival.  I have personally never attended, but it's on my bucket list! All throughout EPCOT are topiaries of Disney characters. And for aspiring gardeners, there are information sessions. There's also a butterfly garden featuring Tinkerbell and her fairy friends. Like Food and Wine, there is a concert series. For kids, there are interactive playgrounds. 

Flower made out of flowers!

     I also have to mention EPCOT during the winter holidays. You can explore the many decorations throughout the World Showcase. You can see how each country celebrates, and learn about their unique traditions. The highlight is the candlelight processional, which is the telling of the Christmas story. I was fortunate enough to attend the candlelight processional that Neil Patrick Harris was narrating. He did a fantastic job! Furthermore, Illuminations has an extended holiday version, with even bigger and brighter fireworks. 
A Christmas decoration in the UK pavilion

4. Explore Your Imagination
Walt Disney and his imagineers are big believers in utilizing your very own imagination in order to create new technology. And that is what EPCOT is all about. There are attractions all throughout the Future World that are hands-on and let you use your imagination. For example, the Spaceship Earth ride helps you create a new invention. And after the ride, you'll step out into Project Tomorrow, and interactive play area that lets you "bring new technologies to life". There's also ImageWorks after the Journey Into The Imagination ride, that lets you use your senses in order to create. And of course, there's Innoventions, where you can learn about weather, create your own roller coaster ride, and explore how colors affects our lives. As Ellen says in her EPCOT ride, brain power is the only power we will never run out of. So go ahead and use it!

Mission: Space's interactive lab

3. Take Flight
One of Disney's most popular rides, in Disney World and in Disneyland, is Soarin'. It is a flight simulator, so beware if you are scared of heights! The ride takes you over the many diverse landscapes of California, from skiing mountains to rivers to orange tree farms to desserts to San Francisco. Your final destination? Disneyland, of course! I love this ride because it really does feel like you are flying. Sometimes you'll hear the amazement of the other riders as they say, "Whoa!" or "This is my favorite part!" And my favorite part is the smell. You smell pine trees when in the forest and ocean water when you are on the beaches. Before you get on the ride, a safety video is shown. You may recognize the narrator as the voice of Kronk from The Emperor's New Groove. But we won't be Soarin' over California for much longer! Imagineers plan to add footage of places all over the world soon. 

Thanks for soarin' with us!

2. EAT!
Epcot has the most amazing food out of any of the parks. And you don't have to attend Food and Wine just to taste it. I've gone with friends to EPCOT just to eat dinner.There is a good balance of quick service and table service You can find cuisine inspired by all of the places around the World Showcase. Some of it is American-inspired, and some of it is authentic!. Sushi-obbsessed? Japan has it. Love Italian? It's there. Just want a good old American barbecue? Head to the American Adventure. Even the Future World has fantastic options with Coral Reef and Electric Umbrella. Want to dine with characters? You can eat with Chip and Dale at the Garden Grill or you can eat with the Princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
Coral Reef Resturant

1.  Meet Characters
In addition to Mickey and friends, EPCOT recently added meeting spots for Baymax and Inside Out characters to Future World. The World Showcase is the best place to meet characters at WDW. You can find at least one character in almost every pavilion. England has Pooh, Mary Poppins and Alice. France is home to Aurora and Belle. Aladdin and Jasmine flew into Morocco from Agrahbah. You can find Snow White's wishing well in Germany. China presents its hero, Mulan. Norway will be adding a meet and greet spot for Anna and Elsa. And Donald meets in Mexico. You can just walk around the Showcase and jump in line for whichever character you come across. This will definitely be the highlight of the Showcase for kids and character hunters.

I met Snow White in Germany and Mulan in China!

If you liked this, be sure to read my Top 5 Things To Do In Hollywood Studios
and my Top 5 Things To Do in Animal Kingdom

Monday, February 15, 2016

What to Do When It's Too Hot Outside

Let's be real: Florida gets HOT. And MUGGY. You can be outside for 4 minutes and already feel the sweat on your face. Most of the time, you're too distracted by all the wonders around you to notice. But, if the heat ever does get to you, here are some things you can do.

Try to avoid the parks during the hottest part of the day, which is the afternoon. If you can, plan to visit the park in the morning, go back the hotel for a break in the afternoon, and return to the parks in the evening. Check the day's weather forecast (hour by hour) so you know exactly when to leave and when to return.

Do Disney at night! Not only is it cooler, but the lines are shorter! This is a great option if you are visiting with a group whose bedtime is after 9. Check out the parks schedules before making plans.

Take shortcuts and detours through stores! Headed to Adventureland from Main Street? Walk though the Emporium. Venturing to Africa from the Tree of Life? Take a walk through Island Mercantile. The stores are air-conditioned and in the shade, preventing nasty sunburns.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Drink a cup of water with all of your meals instead of soda or milk. Every time you stop to take a break, drink some water. 

A lot of the attractions have queues that are inside and/or feature air conditioning. The ride itself may also cool you down!

Animal Kingdom
1. Kail River Rapids
2. Finding Nemo the Musical
3. Festival of the Lion King
4. It's Tough To Be A Bug
5. Meet Mickey and Minnie in Adventures Outpost
6. Conservation Station
7. Dinosaur (if you dare)

Magic Kingdom
1. Splash Mountain
2. Mickey's Philharmagic
3. Under the Sea
4. Casey Jr. Splash n Soak Station
5. Dumbo
6. Laugh Floor
7. Hall of Presidents
8. Meet Characters (Mickey, Tinkerbelle, Princess Fairytale Hall, Ariel, Pete's Silly Sideshow)
9. Carousel of Progress

1. Test track
2. Soarin
3. The Seas with Nemo
4. Spaceship Earth
5. The American Adventure
6. The Circle of Life
7. Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
8. Character Spot (Mickey and friends, Baymax, Inside Out)
9. Ellen's Energy Adventure
10. Gran Fiesta Tour
11. Impressions de France
12. Innoventions
13. Journey Into Imagination 
14. Living With the Land
15. O Canada
16. Turtle Talk with Crush

1. Star Tours
2. Launch Bay
3. The Great Movie Ride
4. Muppet Vision 3D
5. One Man's Dream
6. Voyage of the Little Mermaid
7. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
8. Meet Buzz and Woody
9. Beauty and the Beast Live

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Disney Love Song Playlist

In honor of Valentine's Day, I complied a list of my favorite Disney love songs.

Here is the complete list:
  • Love Is A Song - from Bambi
  • I'm Wishing/ One Song - from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  • Someday My Prince Will Come - from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  • Part Of Your World (Reprise) - from The Little Mermaid
  • Bella Notte - from Lady and The Tramp
  • Can You Feel The Love Tonight - from The Lion King (both the movie version and Elton John's version are beautiful!)
  • So This Is Love - from Cinderella
  • I Wonder/Once Upon A Dream - from Sleeping Beauty
  • Kiss The Girl - from The Little Mermaid
  • If I Never Knew You - from Pocahontas
  • I Won't Say I'm In Love - from Hercules
  • I Can't Help Falling In Love With You - from Lilo And Stitch
  • Something That I Want - from Tangled
  • A Girl Worth Fighting For - from Mulan
  • Something There - from Beauty And The Beast
  • A Whole New World - from Aladdin
  • Ma Belle Evangeline - from The Princess And The Frog
  • I See The Light - from Tangled
  • Beauty And The Beast - from Beauty And The Beast

What's your favorite Disney love song? Let me know in the comments below. 
Happy Valentine's Day!

Top 5 Things To Do in Hollywood Studios

Note: Hollywood Studios will be undergoing a huge makeover in the next few years. Parts of the park will close, and other will open. This list is pertaining to Studios of April 2016. It will be updated as necessary.

5. Raves

Since the sorcerer hat was dismantled (may he rest in peace), the area in front of the Chinese Theater has been open. As of right now, there is a stage. This stage has been used for many shows such as the Frozen fireworks in summer 2015. But what I love is that this stage usually hosts a DJ in the evening. In 2015, there was a dance party every night before the Frozen fireworks and every night the Osbourne Christmas Lights were up. In addition to a DJ playing a mix of Disney songs and pop songs and crazy lights shining on the crowd, there are even characters that come out and dance with the crowd. Some of them really got into it! I had no idea Pluto was such a good dancer. Sometimes they bring out rare characters. I have seen Robin Hood, the White Rabbit, Bolt and Genie all bust a move at Studios. To be honest, the raves seemed lame to me at first. But once you join in, they can be a blast! This is a great way to let kids dance around and burn some energy. And who knows what characters you'll see? You may snap some pics of characters that wouldn't otherwise be out in the parks. It's a win-win!
My favorite DJ of them all, DJ Chill

4. Time Travel For a Meal
Two of the most highly suggested restaurants at WDW are in Studios. They are Sci-Fi Diner and 50's Prime Time Diner. Both will take you back in time to the nifty fifties. Sci-Fi is themed after a drive-in movie theater. The tables look like cars and you are able to watch movie clips as you eat! 50's Prime Time is themed after a typical 50's house with pastel colors and knick knacks galore. The best part about Prim Time is the Cast Members that work it! The waiters were all into the theme, big time. Their acting would put some face characters to shame. Also, Prime Time is said to have the best milkshakes in WDW. I highly suggest making a reservation at one of these restaurants the next time you visit Studios.
Above: Sci-Fi
Below: Prime Time

3. Citizens of Hollywood
There is atmosphere entertainment in all of the parks. There are the Dapper Dans barber shop quartet on Main Street, the Vine dancing in the trees at Dak and Chinese acrobats at EPCOT's World Showcase. Hollywood Studios has the best of them all, the Citizens of Hollywood. The cruise around Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard in old cars and comment to every guest passing by. They are improv actors, and they're excellent at it. They act as if they are in the 1930's. So if they see you talking on a cell-phone, they might comment on how weird you look. What I love about the Citizens is that they directly interact with guests, pulling guests into whatever they are doing. Sometimes they will perform skits or play games with guests. So, if you see them strutting about, be sure to take the time to see what shenanigans they are up to!

2. Fantasmic
Fantasmic is my favorite nighttime show at Disney (so far). It's got fireworks, laser lights, princesses, dragons, boats, movie clips, great music and it stars the Mouse himself! Everyone will find something in this show to be entertained by. I have seen this show at least 10 times and I'm still not sick of it. You can make fastpasses for this show. Depending on the park hours, sometimes there are two shows. I suggest going to the later one as it will be less crowded. 

Steamboat Willie Mickey drives the Princesses!

1. One Man's Dream
What better way to experience Disney than to learn about the man who started it all? One Man's Dream is a walk-through exhibit. Here anyone can learn about and gain appreciation for Disney's founder. He truly changed the world. The exhibit starts from Walt's boyhood in Marceline, shows his cartoon shorts, movies, television shows and ends with models of the parks and future plans. At the end of the walk-though is a movie theater that show a short documentary of Walt's life, narrated by Julie Andrews (aka Mary Poppins). I dare you to make it through the movie without crying. 

Walt's school desk with his initials carved in and a poster on the importance of 101 Dalmatians

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pixar Fan Itinerary for WDW

Where to Stay
All Stars Movies
Request to stay in the Toy Story section. This is a value resort so it has the lowest costs. I recommend this hotel to smaller families of less than 4. If you are planning on spending more time in the parks than in the hotel, this is perfect for you. If you do want to spend some time in the hotel, there is a basic food court, an arcade, pool and of course, movie showings at night.

Art of Animation
Request to stay in either the Finding Nemo section or the Cars section. Both of these sections have family suites, so if you are traveling with a party of 4-6, this is perfect. Art of Animation is more expensive than All Stars, but you get what you pay for. It has some of the best pools, best theming, and a great food court (that create your own pasta station though).

Fort Wilderness Lodge, Cabins and Campgrounds
Camp in the Wilderness like Russell from Up! would. While all of these areas are in the same location, each varies in price. Bringing your own camping gear or RV is the cheapest, of course. The Cabins are a moderate price. They are a good option if you have a bigger family and plan to stay longer. Each cabin has its own kitchen so you can save on food by making your own. The Wilderness Lodge is the priciest. However, if you are planning on spending a lot of time at the hotel, this is a good option as it offers bike rentals, campfires, fishing, fantastic restaurants and a great view of the Electrical Water Pageant on top of the standard arcade, playground and pool. It has rooms that can sleep 4, and rooms that can sleep 6.
TIP: Add these resorts to your Resort Hopping Day Itenirary!

What to Wear
Show off your love of Pixar by Disney Bounding as some of the characters!
DAK: Up! or Bug’s Life
EPCOT: Inside Out or Wall-E and Eve
Studios: Toy Story, Monsters, or Cars
MK: Toy Story, Monsters, Brave or Incredibles
TIP: Stay out of the rain with this  nod to the Pixar short, the Blue Umbrella. You can buy a plain blue or red umbrella and draw a smiley face on it!

What to Do
Animal Kingdom:
  • Head over to Dinoland! Here you will find merchandise from The Good Dinosaur. Ride Triceratop Spin in honor of Trixie from Toy Story 3.
  • Take a 40-minute break from the heat (or rain) inside the theater to watch Finding Nemo: The Musical. TIP: Get a fastpass for this so you can have awesome seating!
  • Discovery Island is hopping! Inside the park’s icon, The Tree of Life, is a show titled “It’s Tough To Be A Bug”. FACT: DAK opened in 1998, the same year A Bug’s Life was released to theaters!
  • After you shrink down to bug size, meet Flick. He is located near Creature Comforts (Starbucks). Check the My Disney Experience App for an accurate schedule.
  • You can also meet Russell and Doug on Discovery Island. They are near the It’s Tough To Be A Bug Entrance.
  • Did Russell inspire you to become a Wilderness Explorer? Start earning your badges in this fun, educational activity that takes you throughout the park. You can pick up your guide book near Riverside Depot. Just look for Cast Members wearing orange scarves!
  • Also check out my Top 5 Things To Do at Animal Kingdom

  • Head over to the Seas Pavilion. Here you will find the entrance to The Seas With Nemo and Friends ride. After the ride, check out the aquariums and learn all about Nemo’s friends! You can even meet one of them by venturing into Turtle Talk With Crush.
  • Take a well-deserved break by watching films in Pixar’s Short Film Festival, located across from the Seas Pavilion.
  • EPCOT is my favorite place to meet characters. Recently it was announced that Joy and Sadness from Inside Out would be visiting Character Spot!

Hollywood Studios:
  • This theme park has a section dedicated to Pixar! In Pixar Place, you will find Toy Story Midway Mania. It is an arcade-like ride with excellent theming. TIP: The wait for this ride is ridiculous. Aviod it by either snagging a fastpass or arriving early to the park and heading here first thing.
  • Across from Midway Mania is Woody and Buzz’s meet and greet. I really like this meet and greet because the que is filled with wall art and props so you can shoot pictures of your family while you wait!
  • In the upcoming years, Studios will be receiving a big-time makeover and the addition of Toy Story Land! Keep an eye out for more news on Toy Story Land. TIP: Ask the Cast Members nearby to see if they have any new information!
  • As of Winter 2016, you can still meet Mike and Sulley at Studios. However, I believe that their meet and greet area will go away to make room for the modifications. Meet them while you can!
  • Before the entrance to Pixar Place is One Man’s Dream. This is an exhibit dedicated to Walt Disney’s life and legacy. There is even a section about Pixar!
  • The Great Movie Ride is also a must-do. While it does not have any scene dedicated to any Pixar movies, several clips from Toy Story and the Incredibles can be seen in the ending montage.

Magic Kingdom:
  • The bulk of Pixar-themed attractions and activities will be found in Tomorrowland.
  • One of the first attractions you will see in Tomorrowland is Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor. This is an interactive show. I’ve seen it thrice and I still laugh eveytime!
  • I highly recommend Buzz Lightyear Space Spin. It is similar to Midway Mania, but the line is shorter! TIP: The line for this ride isn’t a bad wait. If you would like to ride this ride multiple times, I suggest jumping in line during slow times and booking a fastpass for a busier time.
  • Next to Buzz’s ride is…Buzz! If you have already met Buzz and Woody at Studios, this is optional. But for big Buzz fans, this is a must!
  • In Fantasyland you can meet Merida. I highly recommend this for all ages and genders. Merida is a blast. I’ve met her twice and had memorable interactions with her each time. And her que is greatly themed with coloring pages for kids if they become bored.
  • In Frontierland you can also meet Woody and Jessie. This is Jessie’s only meet and greet location.
  • Frontierland is also the starting location for the Festival of Fantasy Parade. It is my favorite parade, and you are bound to get character interactions no matter where you are. Here you can see Merida on top of her very own float.
  • At nighttime the Incredibles Dance Party starts in Tomorrowland. Frozone, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible show off their mad skills and dance with the crowd. While this is not a meet and greet, you can still snap some great pictures or shoot funny videos of the characters.
  • After you dance out your energy, head over to hub to watch Celebrate the Magic. Celebrate the Magic is always changing. In the summer they had appearances from Finding Nemo. In late fall there was a Brave part. But there is always a part where they show Buzz and Woody flying and Buzz saying his catchphrase, “To Infinity and Beyond!” Right after Celebrate the Magic is Wishes. Wishes doesn’t have anything Pixar-specific, but it’s still fun to watch. TIP: If you decide to skip Wishes, head over to rides that typically have the longest wait times. They will be significantly reduced during Wishes!

Downtown Disney Springs:
  • Near the WDW Bus stop is Once Upon a Toy. Here you can create your own Mr. Potato Head! You can also find fun Pixar-based puzzles, games and DVDs.
  • Design your own Pixar themed tee shirt at Design-a-tee
  • Design your own Pixar themed phone case in Co-Op

Places to Eat:
DAK: Stop at Resturantosaurous for something Arlo-worthy.
EPCOT: Next to the Finding Nemo ride is Coral Reef Restaurant. Just remember – fish are friends, not food!
You can also travel to the French Pavilion to have cuisine that Remy would whip up in Ratatouille.
Studios: Studios is the only theme park with a restaurant dedicated to a Pixar Film. Pizza Planet is a great option for a quick bite or for kids. It even has an arcade!
MK: Grab some out-of-this-world food at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland. Buzz would approve!

Of course, this is not a full itenirary. It is more of a skeleton to start planning. When planning a WDW trip, it is important to start with some musts and build around them. So, this is the starting place for those who love Pixar! You can add and tweak your itinerary as you add more things to do.