CHRISTMAS IN WDW: A REVIEW

CHRISTMAS IN WDW: A REVIEW

This past Christmas was my first time experiencing it with the Disney magic. I’d always dreamed of spending the holiday in WDW and experiencing all of the unique offerings in all of the park. This year, my fiance and I went all in and tried to experience as much as we could during the holiday season, and we pretty much hit everything!

I absolutely loved the International Festival of the Holidays at EPCOT along with the Candlelight Processional (you can read all about that experience here: EPCOT’S CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL: A REVIEW), Flurry of Fun at Hollywood Studios was a great time, and of course for nostalgic reasons The Holidays at Disney Springs was my favorite. One of my favorites also happened to be the gingerbread displays at the resorts! There was one experience, however, that I was very disappointed in – and that was Christmas Eve in the Magic Kingdom.

I didn’t have the chance to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year, but I didn’t stress it too much as I knew that the week of Christmas I’d be able to experience just about everything unique about the party for free. Christmas Eve is the biggest night of the year in my family (we’re Italian, it’s a huge deal) and I knew I would be upset that I was missing our yearly party, so I saved Christmas Eve to experience all of the Magic Kingdom Christmas fun – and I wish I hadn’t.

There were several things that were a must do for me in MK on Christmas Eve – A Frozen Holiday Wish, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Castle Show, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and of course Holiday Wishes fireworks. So, the first experience we planned to see for the day was the parade at 3:30. My fiance and I got to the park around 1:30 to grab a bite to eat first, and it was then that we knew we were already way too late.

Main Street was already  lined with people sitting and waiting for  the parade that was two hours away. The walkways were so crowded that you honestly couldn’t take two  steps without running into someone. Also, I’m pretty sure about a dozen strollers, scooters, and wheelchairs rammed into my ankles within the first five minutes of being there. I knew to expect crowds, however I didn’t know it got this crowded.

After quickly eating, we finally found a spot for the parade about an hour before it started. We didn’t get a front row spot, but were behind a few people with more people behind us. Once the parade started, people were pushing their way up so much to the point where my fiance and I were sandwiched between people. Also, there were kids on their parents shoulders right in front of us, so we could barely see the parade itself. This is where the disappointment started.

After the parade, we had Fastpass+ reservations for the Jingle Cruise. When we showed up within our timeframe, the FP line was so far back that we were near Aladdin’s ride. At the end of the line was a cast member, who informed us it was a 45 minute wait – for the Fastpass+  line! So, we instead decided to go on Pirates of  the Caribbean, which had a suspiciously low wait time which was completely inaccurate and, was in fact, a much longer wait than stated.

After Pirates, we decided to head back to the castle to watch the Frozen castle show. It was about 5:00 at this point, so the show was almost an hour and a half out. We ended up finding pretty good spots and sat to wait. It was a beautiful sight, as always, to watch the castle light up minute by minute while it was getting darker and darker out. Finally, it was showtime and I was so excited – until parents began putting their children on their shoulders yet again and the crowds began pushing forward. Once again, my view was completely blocked and I was unable to see a majority of the show.

By this time, the park seemed  somehow ten times more crowded and my fiance and I just decided we’d enjoy the night more if we headed home and had a lowkey evening. Making the choice to miss the fireworks and Mickey’s castle show was a hard one, but I know there is always next year.

Now, I feel like I need to pause and say that I am not one to complain about standing in lines, crowds in Disney, or Disney in general. It is my happy place. However, being a tad bit homesick already had me in a bit of a funk, and then having a hard time experiencing everything I’d been looking forward to for years was just a bit of a let down. I also know that I have the opportunity to experience  these shows for years and years to come, and for some of these families it might be their once in a lifetime experience.

Overall, this was definitely a learning experience for me. Every other holiday event in WDW that I got to partake in was a great time, and it was because I hit those things before the busiest week of the year. Next year, my fiance and I know to head to MK a little earlier and make those memories when it isn’t so wild.

Would I recommend WDW during the holiday season? Absolutely – it is beyond beautiful and magical and everything I’d hoped. But, would I recommend WDW the week between Christmas and New Years? Probably not.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and has a safe New Years!Below are a few pictures of our time in MK on Christmas Eve. If you enjoyed today’s post, be sure to subscribe to our blog to be notified of any new posts. Happy holidays, see ya real soon 🙂

FOOD AND WINE 2018: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

FOOD AND WINE 2018: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This Friday, I finally had the chance to head to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival! Although I’ve been to this festival several times in the past, I feel as though I had a different experience this year. Below, I am going to dive into some of the aspects of the festival that left “first impressions” for this years festival. If you are unsure what this festival is, check out my blog post all about it hereA GUIDE TO EPCOT’S INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL 2018.

Crowd Level

This year, as I mentioned above, was the first year we visited the festival on a Friday night. Usually, we head to the festival during the week and midday. This choice we made definitely affected how we experienced the festival based on the higher crowd volume.

From the moment we pulled in to the parking lot, we waited almost 10 minutes in line to finally get in to a spot. We then waited over a half hour between bag check and the entrance. When waiting, I made a comment that they must have a pretty great entertainer for the night and that had to be the reason for the crowds – but I was wrong.

The park itself didn’t feel overly crowded until we got into World Showcase. WS definitely had to be over capacity because it was beyond packed. Literally, I couldn’t tell you how many times a stroller was rammed into my ankles and how many times people bumped into me. Lesson learned: not the best idea to head to the festival on a Friday night!

Du Jour Dance Party 

Heading to and from the World Showcase, we came across the new Du Jour Dance Party being offered at the festival this year. When we first arrived, it was still light out, so there were mostly kids taking advantage of the party. However, when we were leaving, there were all adults on the dance floor. It was fun to see both kids and adults enjoying this added bonus!

Photopass 

I was very unimpressed with the Photopass options at this festival. To begin, there was no Photopass cast member at the front of the park in front of the beautiful set-up for Food and Wine with Spaceship Earth in the background. This is a prime photo spot, and I was very sad there wasn’t someone there tending to guests to take advantage of this!

Next, we headed to an area behind the Du Jour Dance Party where there is another FAW set-up with a large pink cake for photos. We took a photo here last year and were excited to do it again. The Photopass cast member rushed us through our pictures (which seems to be happening more and more in the parks!), and then later we noticed she must have had her settings wrong because we ended up with the couples photo’s who went before us!

Lastly, WDW kept Snow White out to do a meet-and-greet during the festival which I thought was so fun, considering it was far past the usual time that characters are out. However, there was no Photopass person with her, so the character attendant had to take photo’s on my cell phone. They ended up poor quality because of the lighting in the area, and I’m sad we didn’t get better photos!

Hopefully, these instances aren’t something that happen continually at the festival!

Eat to the Beat 

The performer for the night was Living Colour. This is a group I’m not familiar with, but I know my parents are. My fiancé and I sat for about a minute to watch the performance, but quickly got bored and left. They’re great performers, just not the group for us!

Food and Drink Samplings 

Before heading to the festival, my fiancé and I chose to eat dinner before hand with the plan of grabbing a dessert or small snack in World Showcase along with a drink or two. We ended up each having two drinks, and I got a snack. The following is a short blurb about each item we tried:

  • Mariachi Loco: Beverage, Mexico: Margarita with Libelula Tequila Joven, Mango Purée and Chamoy – $9.00
    • My fiancé got this drink, but neither of us were impressed. It had a dried mango slice inside of the drink, and it seemed to leave a bad after taste. I wouldn’t recommend!
  • La Chancla: Beverage, Mexico: Red Wine Sangria mixed with Fruit Juice – $8.75
    • Just a basic sangria – good, but nothing too special about it. However, I would absolutely get it again!
  • Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce: Snack, Canada: $8.00
    • This is one of the most popular dishes at FAW, and I can see why. It was a small portion, which I expected, but so amazingly delicious. The sauce was exceptional, and the cut of meat was clearly a great quality and so tender. I will absolutely get this dish the next time I visit FAW, and highly recommend it!

Overall, I was very disappointed with our first visit to Food and Wine 2018 this year. I am hoping that my next visit is more enjoyable, which I am sure it will be! Nonetheless, Food and Wine is still my favorite festival at the parks and absolutely a must-do for guests. I’m already looking forward to my next visit!

Thanks for reading 🙂 Below are some pictures of the night! Be sure to like this post, and follow my blog!

TOY STORY LAND: A REVIEW

TOY STORY LAND: A REVIEW

Toy Story Land is a new addition to Hollywood Studios that opened June 30th. My fiancé and I also moved from Ohio to Orlando, Florida on June 30th, and have been lucky to experience it several times this summer!

Toy Story Land is, obviously, based on the Toy Story movie franchise. The story is that Andy has created an amusement park in his back yard for all of his toys, and when you enter the park you “shrink down” to the size of a green army man. Toy Story Land consists of three rides, one quick service restaurant, and two meet-and-greet areas. If you’d like to know my honest opinion about the land itself as well as each experience within it, read below! Also, be sure to hang out until the end of the bog for some pictures of TSL!

Toy Story Land – Size

As a Toy Story fanatic, I was hoping to be immersed into this huge land – which was not the case. In planning, TSL itself was intended to be much larger and have more to it, but for budgetary reasons, a lot was cut. The land size itself is okay for what it is, but I was just hoping for more.

Toy Story Land – Theming 

Unlike how I feel about the size of TSL, the theming of this land is so immersive and perfect for what it is meant to be! Following the story, it really feels as though you’ve stepped into an amusement park put together by a kid. From popsicle stick walls, to benches made of dominoes, to Christmas lights being held up by characters, pencils, and straws. The list could go on and on – the theming related to the story is just incredible. The best time to see it, however, is at night when it’s lit up!

Slinky Dog Dash

After budgetary cuts to the roller coaster, making it shorter, and initially being compared to Barnstormer, I had very low expectations for this attraction. However, it is now one of my favorite rides in WDW! Although it is a “family” coaster, it doesn’t go too slowly or too fast, which makes it just fun and enjoyable for children of all ages. What I love about the ride is that it still isn’t too short (which I was nervous about!), and that it has two launches. Definitely a must-do attraction in Hollywood Studios!

Side note: I rode this coaster for the first time at night during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular nighttime show and it was magical. If you can time it up just right, I would highly recommend!

Alien Swirling Saucers 

Much like Slinky Dog, I didn’t have high hopes for this attraction. However, I was also pleasantly surprised with this as well! On this attraction, you are in a cart driven by an alien from Pizza Planet while you spin around and around.  Much like Mad Hatters Tea Party in MK, the ride just makes you happy – I found myself and Dee laughing the entire ride. If the line is under 20 minutes, I would highly recommend! Like Slinky Dog and the ride itself, the best time to go on this attraction is at night – the lighting and effects make the attraction even more enjoyable!

Toy Story Midway Mania

I’m not really going to go into much detail on this attraction, as it has been a part of Hollywood Studios for several years now and is a fun experience. I think it, obviously, fits very well into the theming of the land and is always a popular attraction in HS.

Andy’s Lunchbox 

The only eatery in TSL, Andy’s Lunchbox is a quick-service outdoor location that offers sandwiches, snacks, and beverages – basically what you’d expect in a lunchbox! The land itself is sponsored by Bellvita cheese, and that sponsorship shows A LOT in this area – there is a huge Bellvita cheese wheel at the top of the ordering window, and some of the chairs are made of the Bellvita casings. The sandwiches itself are unique and pleasing, and this location offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The only thing that is disappointing is that there is a very small sitting area, which is almost always full, and no indoor seating space.

Character Meet and Greets 

There are two areas you can meet characters in TSL: by the entrance of Toy Story Midway Mania, and near the entrance of the land itself. You can meet Woody near the entrance, while Buzz and Jesse are together near Midway Mania. The character meet and greets are as you’d expect for WDW, but I miss the air conditioned and themed queue with the designated photo area for Woody and Buzz in Pixar Place!

They’ve also incorporated army men – and women – in TSL to walk around for photo ops, hula hoop competitions, and more. The army men – and women – are a lot more interactive in TSL than they were in Pixar Place, which is a major bonus.

Miscellaneous 

  1. Shade. The major issue that I’ve read on other blog reviews about the land and completely agree with is the lack of shaded areas in TSL. To be more specific – unless you go to where the restrooms are, there is NO shade in TSL. Being that we are in central Florida, I’m not sure how this was overlooked by imagineers. Especially being that all of the queue’s for the attractions, 2 of the 3 attractions themselves, and the quick service location in the ride are all outdoors. The ONLY place to get air conditioning and to get out of the heat is to ride Midway Mania or use the restroom. Hopefully trees, umbrella’s, or some other solution will be added by next summer!
  2. Photo spots. There are so many great photo spots available in TSL! Some crowd favorites are: Woody at the entrance of the park, the popsicle wall, and the alien near Alien Swirling Saucers. With all of the “toys” that were used to create this land, the photo opportunities are endless!
  3. Lack of merchandise spots. Although there is plenty of Toy Story Land merchandise to be found around Hollywood Studios, what this land lacks the most is a shop! There is an outdoor cart that has some merchandise, but I do not feel this is enough for what is supposed to be a popular area. It was rumored that an Al’s Toy Barn was supposed to be in TSL for a merchandise shop before budgetary cuts, and I think this would have been a great addition to this area that is sadly missed! Not only would they probably have sold more TSL merchandise to spur-of-the-moment buyers, it would have been a shaded and air conditioned spot that would have perfectly fit the theme of the land.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I absolutely love this land! Although it is on the smaller side, it truly brings that nostalgic feeling of my childhood back and makes me really feel as though I am in Andy’s back yard. I am disappointed of all that was cut from the land, but I am satisfied with what has still been included. This is a must-do for first time WDW vacation families as well as Toy Story lovers, and I’d highly recommend!

Thanks for reading! If you’ve been to TSL this summer, leave a comment down below letting me know your thoughts! Also, if you enjoyed this blog, be sure to subscribe and like it down below 🙂

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A GUIDE TO EPCOT’S INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL 2018

A GUIDE TO EPCOT’S INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL 2018

This Thursday, August 30th, 2018, one of the best festivals Epcot has to offer begins – Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival! The event will run daily from the 30th to November 12th, offering many special food and beverage options for guests to try as well as a few special events. The festival itself is free with park admission with hundreds of food and beverage options available for guests to sample throughout World Showcase.

As a general overview, the International Food and Wine Festival includes over 30 international booths all around World Showcase themed to different countries including The Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, Greece, Thailand, and more. Each booth will offer about three different snack-sized dishes (usually two savory and one dessert) that are popular in that country as well as at least three different alcoholic beverages.

Prices for the food and beverage items usually range on average between $3 – $8 each. To purchase, each booth will take cash, credit or debit cards, MagicBands, Disney gift cards, and Disney Reward Dollars. The best part about this festival, in my opinion, is that many of the food items can be bought using snack credits if you have a Disney Dining Plan! For me, this is a big thing because when we have the dining plan, we normally don’t use even half of our snack credits (you’re allotted 2 a day, per person), so this is a great perk! However, if you are an Annual Passholder like myself, don’t expect to use your Passholder discount as they do not accept them at the booths.

This event is a very popular event both for tourists and local residents of the parks. There are many adults and older couples that take yearly vacations to the resort specifically for this event, and local residents attend the event regularly. Because of it’s popularity, Disney seems to run it longer and longer every year (but no one is complaining!). Don’t expect light crowds, but do expect tons of fun – and to be hooked!

Now that we’ve discussed the basic information of the festival, let’s dive deeper into the fun and unique offerings of the event! If I were to list every event offered, this blog would be never ending. However, below I am going to list some of the most popular and interesting events that I feel are worth highlighting!

Party for the Senses  

Party for the Senses is probably the most popular event during the festival, loved by many regulars as well as new guests. This is a pre-reserved and pre-paid experience where a special host will lead festivities for guests catered around eating, drinking, and fun. During the event, you will be offered several favorite dishes and beverages from the festival, and will be entertained by a live performer. The event is pretty pricey (starting at $229!), and is only offered on select weekend nights during the festival, but it is something worth doing if you’d like to try multiple offerings from the FAW!

Sunday Brunch with the Chef 

On nine select days during the festival, guests can purchase tickets for a two-hour brunch event with a special guest celebrity chef! Some well known chefs that will be hosting brunches include Alex Gaurnaschelli and Chef Art Smith. The brunch will offer a breakfast buffet, a wine toast, a Q&A with the celebrity chef, and a photo op! This event is also pricy at $129 a person, but is something well worth doing if there’s a celebrity chef on the list you’d love to see!

Make It, Mix It, Celebrate It Hands-On Workshops 

Offered every Wednesday and Thursday during the festival, guests can reserve a space in this event to learn various culinary tips and tricks from well known and experienced chefs. Some of the classes may teach you how to bake a cake or make unique cocktails! The event costs $39 a person, but is something that is well worth doing if you’d like to impress your friends and family back home!

Eat to the Beat Concert Series

Eat to the Beat is an event that most festival goers are most excited for every year! You can reserve your spot at this event by making a dining reservation at various restaurants around the World Showcase on the nights that it is being offered. Itself, Eat to the Beat is a concert series with well known musical acts on select nights including performances by Tiffany, 98 Degrees, Plain White Tee’s, and more!

Disney Du Jour Dance Party 

A character dance party for kids and adults alike, this experience is a new kid-friendly offering to the festival. Held on weekend nights, guests can join several characters ranging from Remmy (Ratatouille), Lilo and Stitch, Chip and Dale, or more friends to engage in interactive dances and activities. There will also be special appearances by Radio Disney stars! What’s best about this event is that it is free for all guests with park admission.

Remmy’s Hide and Squeek 

Another kid-friendly (and free) option for the festival, guests can go on a scavenger hunt to find the 15 Remmy statues hidden around World Showcase. Ask a cast member in the park for a Hide and Squeek guide map and be on your way!

Junior Chef Kitchen 

Something that I am most excited about and will be attending even though I am 25 years old is the Junior Chef Kitchen offering! The event is free, however guests must register for the event the day-of at the festival center. Once the event begins, junior chefs will be guided through creating some unique dishes including candy sushi! The event will be offered every Sunday with limited availability.

For a detailed guide including the 30+ booth with menu options as well as details about the other festival offerings, go check out the Food and Wine guide on WDW Info, or at this link: http://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-world/epcot/food-wine-festival.htm.

For myself, I know that I am very excited for this festival to begin! This, along with MNNSHP, is a must-do event during the Fall season. Every year, I am blown away by each food option or beverage that I try, and look forward to trying some new things this year!

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments below what you’re most excited for during the International Food and Wine Festival. Also, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you’re notified whenever I post! 🙂

OUR FIRST DISNEY TRIP AS A COUPLE!

OUR FIRST DISNEY TRIP AS A COUPLE!

Going to Disney World with your family as a kid is a totally different experience compared to going to Disney World with your significant other as I am sure it is different compared to going with your kids, and so on. As I already talked about my first trip as a child, I thought I’d reminisce on my first trip to Disney World with Dee.

Our first trip to WDW together was only a few months into dating. We came down to Florida to visit my mom, with my brother and his girlfriend at the time, and we all decided we would head to Disney together! It was in May of 2016, and this is a “first time trip” that I remember every detail of. This was also my first trip as an adult, second trip ever to WDW, and I made a LOT of rookie mistakes that I will never make again!

On this trip, we did just a two-night stay at a Disney partner resort in the Disney Springs area. Since we were just staying two nights, we thought it would be best to just do one park day, and spend the other two days at the hotel or exploring Disney Springs. The hotel was a Wyndham resort, and it was nice. It had a character breakfast which was awesome (featuring Goofy and Pluto), a spacious pool, and a spacious and clean room. Personally, I’d prefer to stay in a Disney-owned resort on property, but this is a great option for those looking to save some money!

The first night we chose to go to Disney Springs, and this is where I made my biggest rookie mistake. This was my first trip as an adult, like I said above, and I hadn’t yet gotten into the world of The Dis podcasts or other Disney blogs, so I didn’t know what to expect. The area itself is GORGEOUS and I was taken aback with all of the shops and dining options. I fell in love with the World of Disney store, of course, and it was a great night. That is, until it was time to EAT. I didn’t have the My Disney Experience app, and most importantly, I didn’t know that you needed to make a reservation if you wanted to eat anywhere nice.

I’m not kidding when I say every restaurant we tried to get in to had over an hour wait, or no wait. It wasn’t even a super-crazy-busy time on property as a whole, but still there were no options for eating because I didn’t make a reservation. We ended up waiting over an hour to eat at T-Rex Cafe, and did not have a good experience. We felt rushed, they messed up both of our dishes, and the dishes as a whole were not pleasing. Lesson learned number one: Book reservations as early as possible. I never made that mistake again!

The next day we chose to make our park day. I had an annual pass and dee had a ticket with a park hopper, so we planned to do Animal Kingdom in the morning and Magic Kingdom at night. We woke up super early, got ready, met with the rest of my family, and got on the bus to head to the park. This was when I got sick…..

I’m not sure why, but I got extremely nauseated. My face was flushed, I had a fever, but I was determined to lot let it ruin my day – until we got into Animal Kingdom. I seriously could not walk more than 10 feet without having to sit down and just stop. It was only like 9:00 a.m. and it wasn’t super humid yet in Florida, so it wasn’t the heat, it was because I had come down with something. Dee got me a water and surprised me with silver sequence Minnie ears to try to make me feel better (I’m so lucky), we sat on a bench for about a half hour, and we decided to head back to the resort. By the time we got on the bus, it was like the flip of a switch and I was perfectly fine. Seriously, no idea what happened!

We decided to just head right to Magic Kingdom, so we sat once again and waited at the resort for a bus. While waiting, my shoe became untied so dee (once again, being perfect) knelt down to tie it. I wasn’t even paying attention until I felt him pulling my shoe strings, so I looked down and smiled and said thank you and he looked up and smiled and said your welcome. Well, there was a couple standing behind him and they thought that he was proposing and got VERY excited, but then disappointed when they realized that he wasn’t proposing. And this is where Dee got the lovely idea to propose to me every. single. Disney. vacation.

Anyways, we got to Magic Kingdom and had honestly one of the best park days we have ever had together. There’s just something about your first experience with someone at Disney World that makes it so special, and this was that experience. We rode all of our favorite rides, but we had to wait in long lines because I didn’t make any fast pass reservations (rookie mistake number 2!). We also only ate quick service because, of course, I didn’t have dining reservations (rookie mistake number 3!). But there were some really special highlights of this day as well.

The first highlight was Dee fake proposing to me for the first time during the fireworks. With a blue ring pop. Just to get attention from everyone else and laugh at me. And it worked, by the way. Who knew this trip would start a whole tradition! (Side note: this was when Wishes was still the nighttime spectacular at the park, and that in itself was so magical. I miss that show!)

The last highlight, which is honestly my favorite of the whole trip, was during our last ride of the night. The park was open until midnight, and it was about 11:30. The last ride we needed to go on was Pirates of the Caribbean. We entered the cue, walked all the way down, and got to the part where it splits into two for faster boarding purposes. The cast member at this part asked which side we wanted to go on, since there were not THAT many people in line, and I jokingly said “whichever one that lets us have our own boat!”. He then, literally, told the rest of the people to wait, escorted us over, and got us on our OWN BOAT for the ride. The people behind us in line did not look to happy, but we were ecstatic. There is nothing like riding in your own boat on Pirates for your last ride of the night – it was so beyond magical. This is a memory I will never forget and will always cherish. I wish I remembered this cast members name because he was just beyond amazing!

This also started another tradition – Dee getting me a light-up Mickey balloon before leaving the parks. He surprised me with it (again!) right before the fireworks when he snuck off to buy the ring pop, and I fell in love with it. Every WDW vacation after that he’s gotten me a light-up Mickey balloon on our last night. Now that we live here, he doesn’t get me one every time, but he sneaks one every once in a while 🙂

The next morning, we packed up and got ready to go after our character breakfast at the resort. We had a late checkout, so we decided to once again head to Disney Springs to walk around. Dee and I talked about how we didn’t want to leave and really contemplated on buying him another ticket and going to another park.

This was when our obsession began. There’s just something about Walt Disney World that just takes you to this magical, special place. Since then, it’s really become “our thing”, and I wouldn’t change that for the world! Like I said, my first trip to the resort with my family was a totally different expereience than my first trip to the resort with my fiance, and I’m sure it will be a totally different experience once again when we bring our children for their first trip – and I cannot wait for those memories!

Below are some pictures from that trip. Fair warning, they are NOT good quality – crazy how much iPhone camera’s have improved in two years! Thanks for reading 🙂

BEST VALUE RESORT ON PROPERTY?!

BEST VALUE RESORT ON PROPERTY?!

There are five value resorts on Disney World property: All Star Music, All Star Sports, All Star Music, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. The value resort category are the lowest tier priced resorts on property. Even as the “lowest tier”, these resorts are (in my opinion) the most Disney immersive on property and the most family friendly in terms of decor and appearance. I’m lucky to have had the chance to stay at all of these value resorts, and I think I have an answer for the best value resort on property.

Art of Animation! 

Art-of-Animation-Resort-001

Art of Animation is the newest resort on Disney property, made up of just under 1,990 rooms in total. The hotel does have single rooms, but is made mostly of family suites. The theme of the hotel is a kudos to Disney animation, and has four main themed areas: The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, and Cars.

Each of the “themed” areas are somewhat broken up into their own little hotel clusters. Other than the theming themselves, which I will get into a little later, there are some minor differences between the clusters. First off, The Little Mermaid area is the only area where you can find single rooms and no family suites. Also, The Lion King section is the only section without a pool, but has a playground themed to “the animal graveyard” in the movie. Lastly, the Finding Nemo section has the largest pool area, where you can hear the music playing under water with special speakers and sometimes even hear the characters talking! This area is also the only pool with a pool bar in the resort.

There are two very strong reasons why this value resort stands out from the rest: the immersive theming, the food court, and a pretty unique offering.

THEMING

You first get the impression of the theming of AoA as soon as you walk in to the main building. The first thing you see is a long wall to the left of sketches, based on the four movies featured at this resort. The sketches start from the “early” stages, then as the wall goes on, the sketches get more and more “finished” until the very back wall where you see colorful scenes from the movies themselves. There are chandeliers hanging from the ceiling decorated with sketches as well, and the wall behind reception is illuminated with bright colors with lights all the way down.

Although all of the value resorts have larger-than-life sized statues and props which are perfect for photo ops or even just to admire, AoA stands out from the rest. The statues are part of a larger scene within the sectioned areas, and you really feel like you’re a part of the story. For example, in the Lion King section of the resort, they have the elephant graveyard, there is a section of pride rock where Scar is laying and watching over the kingdom, and the scene where Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba are walking along the log singing Hakuna Matata is centered in the area, high above your head to admire. Another example is in the Cars area of the resort, where as soon as you enter that section you are completely immersed into Radiator Springs, where you walk along Route 66 to meet all of your favorite characters from the movie.

The theming also doesn’t stop outside of the building, but continues into the room. Each room, no matter if it is the single room or family suite, is deeply themed to the section you are staying in. Even down to the smallest of details such as the tiles in the shower, you truly get the feeling that you are staying in the world where you are immersed.

FOOD COURT

AoA is well known to have one of the best food courts out of all resorts on property. Named The Landscape of Flavors, the food court itself is broken up into different stations based on what you would like to eat, but in a circular fashion which makes it easy to navigate. The different stations include salad and cold sandwiches, an Italian foods station, a Mongolian foods station, and a hot sandwich station. There are also coolers which have drinks as well as fruit and vegetable options, sushi, yogurt, and more. You can also head over to the dessert area where there are many delicious dishes offered!

Breakfast is a whole different story. Breakfast is the only meal my fiance and I eat daily at the resort on property because, of course, we have to start of the day fueled up. This was the last resort we’ve ever stayed at, and up until staying at this resort, the breakfast options were pretty much the same across the board from the eggs to the potatoes to the other offerings. However, Landscape of Flavors puts their own twist on every dish, including the breakfast potatoes which are my favorite, that makes it unique.

You can just taste the high quality of food that is being utilized when you eat at any station or for any meal at this food court. I really can’t put into words why it stands out for the rest, you’ll just have to take my word for it and try it yourself!

landscape-of-flavors-gallery00

UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

The one thing that put this resort over the top for me was their unique (and free!) daily offering – illustration classes! Offered three times a day, you can head to the resort lobby to engage in an illustration class where you’ll learn how to draw a famous Disney character. What I love about this is that it isn’t just always Mickey Mouse, but instead they switch up the characters and focus mainly on the four intellectual properties showcased at the resort.

WDW used to offer something similar at Hollywood Studios, but removed it and relocated it to this location. I think it is a perfect fit, as the entire theme around the resort is animation. What I love the best, though, is that it is such a unique experience that you can do for free. It is a can’t-be-missed experience!

Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

Overall, this is a resort I suggest time and time again to people who ask me for advice, or ask me to help them, when planning their Walt Disney World vacation. This is a resort you don’t mind spending time at during the day, and honestly there isn’t a resort that is anything like it on property. If you are a lover of Disney animation, have children, or are just looking for an immersive experience on property, I highly suggest a stay at Art of Animation!

Thanks for reading 🙂 See you Wednesday!

OUR DISNEY WORLD ENGAGEMENT STORY

OUR DISNEY WORLD ENGAGEMENT STORY

Getting engaged at Disney World was always my dream. So much so, that I remember  in the beginning of our relationship jokingly telling Dee that I would say NO to his proposal if he didn’t do it in the Most Magical Place On Earth. On January 3, 2016, that dream became a reality. Here’s the story:

So I want to start off by saying that’s my fiance and I are both extremely awkward people by nature because this story definitely shows it. It was the first night of our WDW vacation, which we always start by dressing nicely and heading to Disney Springs for dinner and a little shopping. Even though the holidays had just passed, they still had the Christmas Tree walk, and after dinner Dee and I took a stroll through the attraction.

I remember how magical it felt because it was snowing. Being that I am from Ohio, I actually hate snow but there’s just something about “pretend” snow in central Florida that makes it so much different. All of the trees were lit up and shining because it was evening, and we were admiring all of the different theme decorated trees during the walk.

After the walk, being just so happy to be back in Disney and loving life, I guess my fiance decided that right then and there was that perfect moment to pop the question. He took me over to the main Christmas tree that greets guests at the entrance of Disney Springs and had me sit on a bench while he made a phone call. Usually he will make phone calls in front of me, so automatically I thought something was off. He ended up calling 3-4 people which I can only assume were his close family and/or friends, then eventually came back to the bench.

When he came back, he asked me to come with him and we walked about 10 feet to stand right in front of the tree. Then,  he told me to “stay here” and just left. At this point I knew something was up, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. All of a sudden, a family comes up in front of me looking at me and whispering, which automatically made me nervous and skeptical. I immediately started looking for Dee, and he popped up out of nowhere with a snarky grin.

Before he even got on his knee, I saw the mother of the family in front of me start to point her phone at me while the rest of the family was smiling and waiting. I knew then exactly what was about to happen and immediately I thought YES before he even had the chance to ask. Literally, by the time he got on his knee, my awkward self already had my hand out for him to put the ring on! LOL.

Obviously, he laughed at me as most would, asked the question while still giggling, I asked him “ARE YOU SERIOUS” about five times, and he slid the beautiful ring on my finger. By now a crowd had gathered around the tree, and there was an applause.

Later that night, he told me that his plan was to propose in front of the castle during the fireworks, but he didn’t want to wait. This itself is actually funny, because during every Disney World vacation we’ve taken together, he has FAKE proposed with ring pops, a promise ring, and even literally nothing during the fireworks and has actually faked people out (including Cast Members!). I think that where and how he proposed was absolutely perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it for the world.

The rest of our vacation was filled with so much joy. Characters noticed we’d just gotten engaged and would work that into our interactions, we’d get free desserts from restaurants, and almost every cast member that saw our buttons congratulated us. Getting engaged on property just took an amazing, life changing event and made it even more magical than it already was.

This is a day that I will never forget – I still get butterflies and tear up just thinking about it. The parks were a special place to us already, but now our travels to WDW mean so much more than just a “vacation”. We will always associate the parks with where a new chapter in our lives began. Next up, the wedding!