Friday, March 30, 2018

Walt Disney World: Mickey, Minnie, Magical, Memorable, Mesmerizing and Marvelous...

The Most Magical Place In The World.
Hundreds of books have been written about visiting Walt Disney World. There is so much going on that there is obviously no way that we could possibly inform you about everything you need to know. However, this is a short, sweet, simple version to hopefully give you a head start on your vacation planning. Get ready because there's a lot to take in and you don't want to miss a thing! There are four magical parks to visit: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot.

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This enchanting vacation spot is without doubt one of our favorite places in the world. Sure, the one-of-a-kind rides, exhibits, atmosphere, and fun around every turn are great. But it’s something more…something not easily explainable. When you’re inside a Disney theme park, you can’t help but feel happy. The Disney music that envelops each of their four parks just sparks something inside of you. It masks your worries and brings out your childhood innocence. You instantly morph from a 60-year-old to a 10-year-old in a matter of minutes. We have been going there for 30-plus years and we’re still not tired of it. Actually, we can’t wait to go each and every time. Old favorites remind us while new attractions excite us. We have traditions to follow, and memories to cherish. Each day ends with a spectacular show or parade, and a magnificent display of fireworks.

Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and other characters pose during Mickey’s Royal Friendship FaireMagic Kingdom.
Between the four parks, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot Center, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Magic Kingdom is where it all started. We think of it as the mother ship. As you walk up and see the train station sitting high and mighty alongside the “Magic Kingdom” sign, you will feel right at home. You can almost hear Mickey saying, “Come right in.” Under the train station’s tracks, the Mickey Mouse garden of flowers with the backdrop sign of “Let the Memories Begin” will be your first photo. Next up is Main Street where you will view Cinderella's Castle at the end of the road. Cute shops and restaurants adorn the street and it's such a happy place. You’ll go on lots of amazing rides, which are more like exhibits. Our faves are: Dumbo the Flying elephant (yes, for the young and old), It’s A Small World (one of the originals and still beloved), Little Mermaid Under the Sea, Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain (launch through space aboard a rocket ship), Splash Mountain (float through a bayou of singing characters and then fly 5 stories down on the water), Big Thunder Railroad (go through a haunted gold-mining town on a runaway train), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (challenge your opponents and test your arcade skills), Haunted Mansion (hop on this ride and see the coolest haunted mansion ever), Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Pirates of the Caribbean (you might even catch a glimpse of Johnny Depp). That’s just a partial list. Don't forget to meet some characters (there are many in each of the four parks). Cinderella, Ariel, Mickey and Minnie are some of the oldtimers here!

Cinderella smiling elegantly while she greets 2 young female Guests inside Princess Fairytale Hall Ariel, the Little Mermaid, hugging a young girl 

Our favorite places to eat: Be Our Guest Restaurant (excellent food, awesome desserts), and Winnie the Pooh character meals at the Crystal Palace. For quick snacks, give the ginormous turkey leg a tasting. And don’t leave without trying a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. They’re the best!

A group of excited Guests hold on tightly during a thrilling 5-story splashdown at Magic Kingdom parkDuring the day, you can’t miss the Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade. At night, The Main Street Electrical Parade has become a classic… half a million shimmering lights and a superb soundtrack are the backdrops enveloping all of your favorite characters, either walking or sitting on their ‘floats.’ Kids will love seeing Mickey, Minnie, and all of the friends (and boy do they have friends). Some of the lucky kids will even have the opportunity to high five them (get a close spot, which requires early seating). The last event of the night brings you to Cinderella’s Castle for an extravaganza. This is the place to be (check on times). Watch Tinker Bell fly by, sprinkling her pixie dust over the Magic Kingdom to create her magic. First, the castle changes colors. Then you simultaneously go through a visual and musical journey of Disney’s most memorable movies in a way that you could never imagine. The grand finale is a breathtaking display of fireworks, decorating and lighting up the sky.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror lords ominously into the evening sky at Disney’s Hollywood StudiosHollywood Studios.
Hollywood Studios brings us more rides and shows. These include: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (favorite of all), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (listen to great music while enjoying the thrills of a super-fast roller coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania (challenge each other as you shoot at targets), Indiana Jones Stunt Show, Beauty and the Beast Stage Show (a mini Broadway show), and Frozen's For The First Time In Forever show. Most exciting are the Star Wars Experiences... train in the way of the Force, view props from the movies, meet Star Wars characters and go on Star Tours, the 3D motion-simulated space flight.

Restaurants we love: the Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose. For a quick bite, Pizza Planet has some great pizza. It’s also an arcade so if you need to take a break, the kids can have fun while you’re resting your feet. And, if you’re still longing for something delicious yet sweet, go to Hollywood Scoop for great ice cream, or pick up a mouth-watering chocolate-covered apple (mmmmm).

The not-to-be-missed (our favorite show at Disney) Fantasmic! show thrills us every time we visit. Actually, if you buy the Fantasmic! Dinner Package, you get a reserved VIP spot at the show. Definitely worth pre-ordering! Mickey’s imagination (as the Sorcerer) is the premise of the show, as he envisions Fantasmic! in a dream. Almost every one of the characters you know and love are part of the show and there are thrills, lights, and surprises around (literally) each corner. Fantasmic! is stunning. It's the best place to see your favorite Disney characters (again), paired with an unbelievable musical and light show, all staged on an ‘island.’ The Steamboat Willie River Boat finale is a blast.

Iconic Characters perform live during Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios A menacing duo of First Order Stormtroopers standing guard directly in front of Star Wars Launch Bay Woody and Buzz Lightyear await Guests of all ages during a Character Greeting experience at Pixar Place  
Animal Kingdom.
At Animal Kingdom you won’t want to miss the newest attractions at Pandora, The World of Avatar. Fly on the back of a mountain banshee during the thrilling ride 'Avatar Flight of Passage,' navigate deep into a bioluminescenter rainforest on the family adventure 'Na'Vi River Journey', or just walk around Avatar -- it's spectacular. Your journey begins when you cross an old bridge into the valley of Mo'ara, a place of amazing beauty. Stroll under spectacular floating mountains and a sparkling waterfall as you walk through lush jungles, passing unique animals and insects (including stingbats). We especially love this magical land in the evening when it comes alive with bioluminescent glow. Na'Vi River Journey brings you on a reed boat (crafted by the N'Vi from giant reeds) that takes you down a mystical river through a Pandoran rainforest while their songs and their melodies awaken the glowing forest plants and provide the most beautiful journey. A Flight of Passage has you riding a banshee (after linking you to one of course) as you dive, soar and plunge over spectacular landscapes with fantastic sights, sounds and scents of Pandora. It really is a right of passage. Stunning. Magnificent. Lifechanging.

Simba stands tall during a performance of Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom parkThe iconic centerpiece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park illuminates during Tree of Life AwakeningsWe also love the Tree of Life (the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom and a great places for photos), The Lion King (another extraordinary mini ‘Broadway’ show), Affection Station, Kilimanjaro Safaris (see lots of jungle animals in their habitats), It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Kali River Rapids (a rip-roaring raft ride), DINOSAUR, and our favorite there, Expedition Everest (an exciting roller coaster that will pump you up). Mealwise, we love Tusker House Restaurant, Flame Tree BBQ (excellent sandwiches!), the Restaurantasaurus character buffet, and Rainforest CafĂ© -- you can’t go wrong with any for a quick bite or sit-down meal. And don't forget to end your evening with the Rivers of Light Show!

Monorails pass by both sides of Spaceship Earth as the iconic centerpiece of Epcot lights up at nightThe last of the theme parks, Epcot, has more thrills and fun. Rides/exhibits not to miss: Soarin’ (sail away and glide around the world), Test Track (what a thrill as you race around a track and test the endurance of your own race car), Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, The Circle of Life, Journey into Imagination (a boat ride that includes some dinosaurs along the way), MISSION: Space, and The Seas. Entertainment and Education at the same time!

A large shark swimming around an underwater habitat, viewable from Coral Reef Restaurant at EpcotFood is where it's at when you're at Epcot. Travel the world and enjoy authentic cuisine (and gift shops) as you cirle the globe. Some of our favorites include: LeCellier Steakhouse, Coral Reef Restaurant (enjoy spectacular food with spectacular views of a living coral reef), San Angel Restaurant, Tutto Italia. All unique with an authentic experience. This is just the tip of the iceberg there but it’s a start.

The evening show is called Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. It takes place at the World Showcase Lagoon, begins with flames and fireworks erupting from the lagoon, and just keeps getting better. Lights blaze on the shimmering waters, and then the show turns into an adventurous tale of the history of earth, ending with an explosion of lights and sounds.

A female Guest enjoys a Character Greeting experience with Anna & Elsa at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot A family of Guests screams in enjoyment during an exhilarating ride aboard Test Track in Future WorldConceptual artwork of Guests gliding above the Great Wall of China aboard Soarin’ Around the World

Coming soon...
This is our favorite section because it means that there will be lots of new memories and experiences to enjoy. This is a partial list of Disney fun to come:

Walt Disney World Skyliner Concept Art

Seamless Transportation Options 

An all-new Minnie Van service will provide a point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do, while a whole new transportation system called Disney Skyliner will give guests a birds-eye view of Walt Disney World Resort.

More Disney...

Image result for blizzard beachWater Parks.

If you need a break from the walking and the heat, visit one of Disney’s water parks. Our favorites are: Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, both very different experiences. We like them both for different reasons so give them both a try if you have the time.

Disney Springs.
For more great restaurants and shops, there’s Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). If you haven't seen the change, you will be in for a huge surprise. Disney Springs is gorgeous, adorned with wonderful shops, and extraordinary restaurants. Our favorites are still there, Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, T-REX restaurant, and House of Blues, but there are so many new and exciting resturants to try now, too. We love the Boathouse! The shops are wonderful, with plenty of selections of gifts for yourselves or others! At night, there are plenty of clubs to keep the young adults entertained. Each club has a different theme and all provide a tremendous amount of fun.

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Resorts.If all that wasn’t enough, you have a huge decision regarding your hotel experience. We love: Yacht & Beach Club (the best pools for kids!), The Grand Floridian (in a class by itself), Animal Kingdom Lodge (sit on your balcony and you’re in Africa, watching giraffes and zebras), and The BoardWalk Inn (experience Atlantic City or Coney Island at the turn-of-the-century and get that old-time feel). Then, for the budget conscious, there are All-Star Resorts in themes for Music, Sports, and Movies! There are dozens of choices, depending on your budget and location preference. Restaurants inside the hotels are fabulous. That will be your most difficult decision. Delicious choices include: Buffets from Chef Mickey’s, Boma – Flavors of Africa or 1900 Park Fare; meals from Il Mulino, Narcoossee’s, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Artist Point, Big River Grille and Brewing Works. For dessert, go to the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop or Seashore Sweets. There are so many new restaurants as well so we suggest going on Disney's website and researching everything!


Have a great vacation, meeting, or family reunion! Happiness is what Disney is all about!!!