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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...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Disney Darling's Top 5 Posts of 2016

I am pleasantly surprised to say that the most viewed post was Animal Kingdom 2016! My favorite park is DAK, and it's awesome to see so many other people taking an interest in it. 2016 was a big year for my home park as DAK at night was debuted. Even more exciting things are to come to Animal Kingdom in 2017.

Another popular post, unsurprisingly, was What To Bring To The Parks. This is a packing list of essentials to bring in a backpack or small purse to the parks. There are also tips of what to do if you bring too much to carry around all day. 

The most important post I wrote was Quick Tips for First Time Visitors. This post is unique because I asked a few people what they wished they had known before visiting for the first time in order to write this. Another very important post I wrote that didn't get as many views was What To Do If Your Child Gets Lost. I implore those traveling with children to read this!

Another top viewed post was Where To Meet The Disney Princesses. Of course, this will be updated in 2017 with the addition of Moana and the revamped Fairy Tale Hall.

My favorite post was A Ranking Of All The WDW Starbucks. I am a Starbucks lover, so naturally this was a fun article to write.

Coming in 2017
  • Disney College Program Page - tips, my experience, and a walkthrough of how I got accepted!
  • The "Are Disney Princesses Good Role Models?" series. I plan to do an analysis of Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana and Rapunzel by the end of 2017.
  • DIY Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

What do you want to see in 2017? Leave a comment below.

Thank you for the views!

- Disney Darling

Monday, December 26, 2016

All About Disney Gift Cards

Where to Purchase a Disney Gift Card?
You can order them online here or here. Major chain stores like Target, Walmart and Walgreens will sell them. You can purchase a gift card at most merchandise locations in the parks.  

How Much Are They Worth?
The gift cards purchased at chain stores will have a set amount on them. For example, there is a $50 one and a $100 one available at Target. If you purchase a gift card from the Disney store, you can add dollar amounts in $25 increments ($25, $50, $75...). The maximum amount you can have on these cards is $500. 

What to Buy With a Disney Gift Card?
  • Theme park tickets.  You will need to purchase these tickets at your local Disney store. 
  • Souvenirs at most Disney parks gift shops
  • Admission tickets to Disney Quest
  • Disney parks restaurant meals
  • Disney Store merchandise
And of course, if you ever have questions, don't be afraid to ask a Cast Member (preferably before you get in the check out line). 

How to reload a Disney Gift Card?
You can easily reload your gift card. If you are in a Disney park, just swing by any gift shop. A Cast Member can reload your gift card at the register. You can reload using either cash or a credit card. 

When do they expire?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 5 Lines Your Child Won't Mind Waiting In

     The only thing more famous than Walt Disney World's attractions are the wait times for the attractions. Wait times for a simple ride can be several hours long during the height of summer, Christmas week and spring break. Children tend to be very impatient. A meltdown halfway to the loading dock is something that no one wants to encounter on their vacation. However, Disney has mastered the art of queues. Waiting is inevitable. But there are things like interactive games and decorations that make the waiting more bearable, especially for kids. Here are Disney Darling's Top 5 lines that your child might not mind waiting in...or at least might not lose their mind waiting in. 

5. The Seas with Nemo and Friends
The Seas has the best queue line in all of EPCOT. The queue is indoors, meaning you will be shielded from both Florida's hot sun and Florida's rain showers. There is air conditioning. The thememing is really cool, making it seem as if you are venturing deeper and deeper into the sea to swim with Nemo.

4. The Many Adventures of  Winnie The Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has a queue line that is perfection. While this is a less popular dark ride, the wait times reach to 30 minutes - 1 hour. But kiddies won't even notice with so much to do in line. The front of the queue features the homes of Pooh and Eeyore that kids can explore. Moving deeper into the queue, you'll enter Rabbit's garden. This area has interactive play stations. The middle section of the queue features touch screens. You can use your hands to "draw" with honey. The section of the queue right before the loading dock is empty, but you can entertain yourself by reading the storybook "pages" on the back wall.

3. Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Mount Everest is one of Walt Disney World's most popular attraction, let alone one of Animal Kingdom's most popular. The lines can be up to an hour on busy days. However, waiting in this queue is not too bad. Half of it is inside, which will keep you out of the scorching Florida sun. The queue is the Yeti Museum. You'll find artifacts and pictures that prove of the Yeti's existence. The most unique feature of the Everest queue is the air conditioning. Fans are placed strategically throughout the queue to make it colder and colder the closer you get to the loading area. This mimics how Mount Everest gets colder the closer you are to the top of the mountain.

2. Dumbo The Flying Elephant
Dumbo is every kid's favorite ride to wait for. There is a play area inside the queue. Cast Members will give you a beeper to let you know when it is your turn to ride. In the meantime, adults can relax while kids run around the play area.

1. Under The Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
This queue line begins at Prince Eric's castle. Princess lovers will be able to take in the beauty of the castle and get some up-close pictures. The queue eventually leads indoors. As you wind around, be sure to play an interactive scavenger hunt game with Scuttle and the crabs. The detail of this queue is amazing. Look for broken seashells in the ground and gadgets and gizmos from sunken human ships. 

Did your favorite ride make this list? Do you have any other suggestions? Leave a comment down below, please! 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Disney Inspired Christmas To Do List

Christmas is upon us! Get into the spirit by partaking in some of these Disney-inspired activities. 

Build a snowman


Read a Christmas book

Watch a Mickey Christmas movie

Go ice skating

Bake a treat with family or friends

Dress up your pets

Give to the less fortunate

Send a letter to Santa

Stay warm

Decorate the tree

Go sledding

Spend time with ohana

RIP Osborne Lights

The Osborne Family Spectacular of Dancing Lights was the most magical place to be at Walt Disney World during Christmas. It started in the 80's, when a rich business man from Little Rock started decorating his house with Christmas lights, which is what most people do. And every year, the family kept adding more and more lights. After 10 years since they began decorating, the Osborne yard featured over one million lights. Of course, it was a sight to be seen. There were a lot of traffic problems as the lights grew in popularity. The family faced a lawsuit, filed by neighbors. The family responded by adding three million more lights. The case went all the way to the Arkansas state Supreme Court, who eventually shut down the lights. The new traveled from Little Rock to Orlando. Say what you want about the Disney company, but when they're presented with a good opportunity, they take it.

In 1995, the Osborne Lights went up on the Residential Streets, part of the Backlot Tour in Hollywood Studios. In 2004, the Lights were moved to the New York City Streets. In 2006, dimmer swithces were added to the Lights so that they could be synced up to music. In recent years, Disney has been making an effort to be more environmental-friendly (something I have no doubt Walt himself would have approved of). In 2011, all of the lights were switched to LED.

In 2015, after 20 years, the Lights had their final dance. The final songs the lights danced to was "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" followed by, of course, "Mickey Mouse Club".

I had the privilege to see the final season of the Lights. They're one of my favorite memories of my DCP. Some nights after work I catch a bus to Studios, grab a peppermint mocha, find a curb under the Lights and people watch. There was something truly magical about all the people gathered under all the colorful lights. And I'm heartbroken that future generations will never see it. Hopefully Disney will find a way to bring them back one day. I think they would be amazing on the Boardwalk or Hollywood Boulevard. Until then, enjoy some pictures and videos of the Osborne Family Spectacular of Dancing Lights.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Disney During Christmas Week

My biggest tip for Disney during Christmas week is: don't. Don't do it. It is tempting because the kids will have off school and there will be special events going on all over the park, but do NOT do it. Christmas is absolutely insane. It is the busiest time of the year at the busiest place in the enitre world. So that adds up to a lot of crowds. Crowds so thick that it will take you two hours to walk from the castle to the exit, a journey that normally takes 5 minutes. Attractions people detest, like Stitch's Great Escape will have hour long waits. And that means the rides you'll actually want to go on will be a 2 or even 3 hour wait.  The line to even get into the park will be an hour long. The parks will not let people in after a certain time because of capacity. You'll feel claustrophobic. You won't get to do much. And it's more expensive to go during Christmas. DO NOT DO IT.

You can still experience what the parks have to offer during the Christmas season before actual Christmas. Special events and decorations will appear in early November. It will be cheaper to visit during November, too.

However, if it is too late for you to cancel your trip or if you're a masochist, there are a few things you can do to survive the chaos that is Disney during Christmas.

Get to the parks EARLY
By early, I do not mean at rope drop. I mean about an hour before rope drop. The security check lines will be huge. It may take a while just to get through those. So by the time you actually get into the park, it will be too late. So plan on waking up early and catching that first bus to the parks in order to beat most of the crowds. 

Utilize FastPass
Most people love to use FastPass to turn an hour long wait into a 15 minute wait. But during Christmas week, FastPasses will be CRUCIAL. The FastPass availability will close very early during Christmas week. First, book your FastPass reservations as early as possible.  If you are staying on property at a Disney hotel, you can book your FastPasses 60 days in advance. Do this. Second, make your FastPass reservations as early in the day as possible. Did you know that as soon as you have used all 3 of your allotted FastPasses, you can return to a kiosk and make one more? So if you finish all 3 of your FastPasses by noon, at noon you can go up to a kiosk and make one more reservation for that day. As stated before, the FastPasses will fill up very quickly. So the earlier you finish your first three, the better chance you have to snatch one extra one.

Pack your own food
If you want to save time eating, pack your own food. You can bring snacks such as granola bars, fruit snacks or pretzels into the park. Eat your snacks while you wait in line for an attraction. This way you can save time waiting in line for popcorn and trying to find a table to eat at. Besides, the lines for attractions will be long and eating a snack can be something to do.You can pack your own meals, too. Just don't bring too big of a cooler!

Eat at irregular times
It might be tricky, but do not eat during normal eating times. The restaurants will be busiest around noon and 6 pm. Some people will eat a big breakfast and have lunch/dinner around 3 in the afternoon. You can also eat a late lunch around 2 in the afternoon and eat a late dinner in your hotel after the parks close. You can try training your stomach to this new eating schedule a week or two before your trip.

Make dining reservations
Just like FastPasses, you can book dining reservations in advance. You can book as far as 180 days out. Dining reservations will also assure that you can get into the park, even if it closes because of capacity. They will always allow someone in who has a dining reservation.

Narrow down your priorities
Due to the extremely long lines, you may not get to do everything you want. So narrow down your priorities. You can make a Top 3 or Top 5 list (not including FastPasses). Or you can have each person in your party pick an attraction.

Stay flexible
If an attraction you have never been on has a shorter wait time over an attraction you have been on before, try the new one. You may end up enjoying it. Disney is all about trying new things. Have  backup plan in case the park you wanted to go to first was closed due to capacity. Or maybe the restaurant you wanted to eat at is too full. Try the one next to it.

Take breaks away from the parks
Lots of people will do this even when it's not Christmas. The Parks will be the busiest between noon and 3 pm. So head back to your hotel, recharge your phone, take a nap, grab some lunch. Then come back around dinnertime and stay until park close. Your park ticket is good for the entire day, so you are free to leave and enter whenever you wish. This tip is really helpful if you are visiting with little kids or older adults.

This is the MOST crowded day. I highly suggest avoiding the parks at all during this day. You may even want to skip Christmas eve. There are plenty of other things you can do on property besides go to the parks. You can book a reservation at a nice restaurant at your hotel, go resort hopping and look at all the Christmas trees, rent a movie to watch in your room, go swimming, play in the arcade, ride bikes at Wilderness Lodge, go mini golfing at Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland, stroll down the Boardwalk, grab a Dole Whip at the Polynesian, sleep in, open any Christmas presents, read the Christmas story from the Bible, call family members and friends to wish them a merry Christmas or take pictures of the resort. There are plenty low stress activities to fill your Christmas day.

Be patient
Remind yourself that during Christmas, an hour long wait really isn't that bad. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, remind yourself that you came to Disney to make happy memories. Find things to do in line.

Stay together
If you are traveling with a big group, stay close together. Wearing matching shirts, while a little tacky, is a good way to spot one another in the crowds. Hold hands, especially if you have children. Decide on a meeting spot if you ever become separated from your party.

A Review of Moana - Get ready for Moana Mania!


     My expectations were overall pretty high, as they always are for Disney movies. I was ready for a new Princess after all that Frozen madness that still hasn't ended after 3 years. And Princess movies are always my favorite of the all Disney movies. However, I was wary of two things. One was the animation style. I know, CGI has been used since the 80s. And it works amazing with movies like Tangled and Zootopia. But I still have my reservations. The second is the Hawaii theme. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii, and I think the culture is so cool. But Disney has already done a movie based in Hawaii. Lilo and Stitch is my second favorite Disney movie (Mulan being the first). So of course I'm going to compare Moana to Lilo and Stitch. 

    The first thing that I noticed was the castle logo in the opening. The animation was the same, with the Cinderella Castle, but there was no "When You Wish Upon A Star". Instead, there was a Hawaiian chant. I did not like this. They did the same thing in Frozen, where instead of the Disney theme song, they played a choir singing a capella in Norwegian. I really hope they do not start doing this with every Disney movie. When You Wish Upon A Star is Disney's theme song. It played during the Disneyland TV show title sequence. It is played during commercials advertising the parks. It was the backbone of Wishes, Magic Kingdom's firework show for over 10 years.  It has a special place in all Disney fans' hearts. I hope they do not get rid of it. 
    The second thing I noticed was when baby Moana helps the baby turtle get back to the sea. She covers the turtle with a big leaf. This reminded me of the picture of Stitch doing the exact same thing at the ending credits of Lilo and Stitch. 

     I loved the "Moana meets the sea" scene, particularly its animation. The bright turquoise waves were stunning, and when I saw them on screen I wanted to venture out into them as much a Moana did. Also, I loved how the sea was a character. It was alive, it had a personality. That added more importance to the role of the sea. 
     The song "Where You Are" reminded me of "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast. Instead of saying hello to the baker, Moana sees the coconut harvesters. She goes through the village and learns about it. They sing to her, and sometimes about her. Meanwhile, Moana is dreaming of somewhere else. This similarity isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, everyone loves "Belle" and it's one of Disney's best openings to a movie. And the scenes were not so similar that it was a direct copy and paste. 
     I LOVED the grandma! She was my favorite character of the entire film. I don't know why, but I love Disney's elder women. Grandma Fa, Grandmother Willow, Mama Odie, Madame from the Aristocats, the Fairy Godmother...I love them all. Maybe it's because they remind my of my own grandmother. 
     I am absolutely obsessed with the song "How Far I'll Go". I love the beat. I love how Moana's voice ascends and descends, reflecting the sound waves make. However, he voice does sound young and a little immature when compared to Mary Costa, Lea Solonga and Jodi Benson. However, her voice is still pleasant to listen to.
      Other than the sea, my favorite animation in the movie was Moana's hair. It is similiar to my own, curly and frizzy. CGI definitely is capable of more detail when it comes to hair.  I also loved when she put it up into a bun while she sailed. That's a cool character detail.    
     The one thing about the CGI I hated was the faces. They seemed too cartoony.  Now it looks like Moana's face was animated the exact same way as Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa with the big eyes taking up half the face and pudgey cheeks. The only thing different was the nose.  I want to seek cheekbones and jawlines! Disney animated cheek bones on Flynn, why can't they do that with Princesses? Moana also had very similar facial expression to Rapunzel. Maui's face also seemed weird to me. Disney is awesome at animating everything else, why can't they do CGI faces? Walt made the animators study animals for 5 years before releasing Bambi because he wanted them to be perfect. Maybe Disney should do the same now with CGI characters.  

      Since Moana's face is a copy and paste of Rapnuzel, I was hoping her personality wouldn't be the same. To my delight, it wasn't. Moana wasn't soft like Rapunzel or overly postive like Anna. She wasn't quite as hotheaded as Merdia. She was a new personality, and it was refreshing.  
     I really liked how Disney used the wayfinders in this movie. I learned about Wayfinders in an anthropology class. They used the stars to track where to go. I love how Disney used the culture of Hawaii and Polynesia to form the story of Moana. It turns out that Maui was real legend in Hawiian culture. A lot of the songs are sung in the Tokelauan language. 
      The plot, like Zootopia was a little long. That meant they had to focus on only a few characters. I would have liked to have been introduced to more characters from the island, but I guess they're not as important in Moana's story. 
     My other criticism is that I wish Pua had gone along with Moana on the journey. I feel like his character wasn't really necessary. If he was part of the journey and had helped Moana, he would have been more important. 
     My favorite scene was when Moana gives back the heart to the sea, and her Grandma appears to her to remind Moana who she is. I love that the sea wouldn't just give Moana the heart back. She had to dive down to the water to get it. I think that's the perfect metaphor for reaching your dreams. You aren't always just handed them, you have to work for them.  
     I like how the story came full circle. Moana needed to figure out who she was, and then she helped Te Fiti discover who she was. 
     Overall, Moana is a fantastic movie that I hope that Generation Z falls in love with it. Across the internet I see nothing but acclaim for the movie. Disney has another hit on their hands. I am beyond ready for Frozen Fever to be replaced with Moana Mania. I suspect that the parks will have a "Disney Princesses Welcome Moana" type celebration this summer. I expect to see lots of Moana merchandise and Halloween costumes.