EPCOT’S CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL: A REVIEW

EPCOT’S CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL: A REVIEW

Last night, I finally had the chance to see EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional in person. This event, part of EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays, is held in the American pavilion in World Showcase. Alongside a mass choir, the Voices of Liberty, and a 50 piece orchestra, a celebrity narrator tells the story of Christmas.

This event is held daily during three showtimes: 5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. and is running through December 30th. To see the show, you don’t have to purchase a ticket, but to guarantee a seat you can reserve a dining package for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at several restaurants around EPCOT.

There have  been plenty of well known celebrity narrators this year, including Neil Patrick Harris and John Stamos, but I made it a point to experience my first Candlelight Processional narrated by the beautiful Auli’i Cravalho (also known as the voice actor of Moana).

For this review, I am going to focus on the dining package reservation vs. standby line, the narrator, and the overall experience. I’ll start by saying, however, that this is absolutely a must-do experience if you are on property or nearby when it is offered! I was blown away by the event itself, and I don’t think any words that I type will truly do it justice. But, let’s jump right in!

Dining Package Reservations vs. Standby Line

The Candlelight Processional is a free event with park  admission, however the standby line can get pretty insane – especially if the celebrity narrator is well known. As this was my first experience attending the event, I did plenty of research and found out that it was common for people to wait in the standby line for over three hours to grab a seat at one of the three showings.

One way to avoid the standby line and guarantee a seat, however, is to make a dining package reservation for the day of the event you’d like to see. There are several restaurants that offer the dining package, and have options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the dining  packages can be expensive, reaching up to $70 per adult for a dinner.

I went back and forth between planning to wait in the standby line and just booking a reservation, but I decided [only a few hours before we left] that I didn’t want to chance not  being able to see Cravalho in person, since Moana is an absolute favorite of mine. I couldn’t find any available dinner reservations, but there were plenty of lunch reservations available and I ended up snagging  a 2:30 reservation at Garden Grill. The lunch included beverages, an appetizer, a family style meal, and dessert. Also included was a ticket for the 6:45 showing of the Candlelight Processional.

It ended up being a  good choice doing the dining package, because the standby line was seriously insane. Even the dining package line was crazy long, and we got there 45 minutes  before the event even started. We ended up finding out that they use the dining package to reserve 75% of the seating in the theater, leaving only 25% for standby guests.

So, long story short – as far as standby vs. dining  package, I would suggest the dining package if it is your first time seeing the event or if it is a celebrity narrator you just have to see. I definitely wouldn’t have paid for the dining package someone were  performing that I didn’t really care to see, but then again I don’t think I’d stand in a three hour line either!

Celebrity Narrator 

I mean… What can I say really?! Auli’i Cravalho is just as lively and spirited as Moana, and it really made the overall experience that much more magical. It was so obvious that she was honored to be there, so into the story, and absolutely loved the choir. You could see her mouthing and singing along to the songs with the chorus behind her, and she just seemed so moved and touched by the experience. I would absolutely go see her ten times over!

The Overall Experience 

I have to start out by saying that, in a country where there is so much fuss over “political correctness” and sensitivity, I am very surprised Disney puts on such a religious show. Between the story itself, the songs that accompanied it, and the overall story – it is a very Christian ceremony. That being said, I fear that one day (sooner, rather than later), someone somewhere will protest this event and it will be a thing of the past. I would absolutely recommend seeing it within the next upcoming years if it is a bucket list event.

Overall, it was truly a magical experience that really puts you in the holiday spirit. It was nice to be so immersed in a show that discussed the true reason for the season in such a beautiful way. The orchestra was outstanding, the choir was breathtaking, and the story was so beautifully told. It really has you step back from the hustle and bustle of the holiday itself and appreciate what this is all truly about.

All in all, like I said about three times above, this is a must-do experience if you’re on property for the holidays. The celebrity narrators are a nice touch, but really it’s all about the message and the beauty behind it all. Below, I’ll add a few clips of some of my favorite parts of the show (they’re poor quality, done on my iPhone – sorry in advance :)!

Thanks for reading today’s post! Be sure to subscribe to our blog to be notified of any new posts. Happy holidays, see ya real soon!

WHERE TO GET A THANKSGIVING MEAL IN WDW?

WHERE TO GET A THANKSGIVING MEAL IN WDW?

The week of Thanksgiving is one of the most crowded weeks in WDW. Due to the week-long vacation, families often choose this time to take their vacation. However, even if  you’re on vacation for Thanksgiving, that doesn’t mean you have to skip the traditional turkey and fixings meal!

In recent years, WDW has done a fantastic job of setting up Thanksgiving themed menus with several restaurants across property, both in parks and in resorts. They usually announce on the Disney Parks Blog these restaurants and their menus months in advance – but this year, with only a week until Thanksgiving, Disney has been pretty tight lipped. Some participating restaurants were mentioned, but there aren’t nearly as much as in past years on the list. There haven’t even been mention for restaurants offering a turkey dinner at all in either Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, or even Magic Kingdom!

In honor of Turkey Day being only a few days away, I am going to list the restaurants that have been announced to have a special Thanksgiving feast planned so far. After that, I am going to list one restaurant that isn’t on the list, but is somewhere perfect to go for a turkey feast.

First, let’s talk about the restaurants that have officially been announced to hold a Thanksgiving dinner feast:

EPCOT

  • Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room (United Kingdom) – One table service credit, offering lunch and dinner.
  • Coral Reef Restaurant (Future World) – One table service credit, offering lunch and dinner.
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse (Canada) – Two table service credits, offering lunch and dinner.
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway) – One table service credit, offering lunch and dinner.
  • Biergarten (Germany) – One table service credit, offering lunch and dinner buffets.

Disney Springs 

  • Wine Bar George – One table service credit, offering dinner only.

Disney World Resorts

  • Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge) – One table service credit, offering lunch and dinner.
  •  Cape May Cafe (Beach Club Resort) – One table service credit, offering dinner only.
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge) – One table service credit, offering family style lunch and dinner.
  • California Grill (Contemporary Resort) – Two table service credits, offering dinner only.
  • Trail’s End (Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds) – One table service credit, offering brunch and dinner buffets.
  • Ale & Compass (Yacht Club) – One table service credit, offering brunch and dinner buffets.

As you can see, there truly aren’t that many offerings compared to how many restaurants are located on property, and how many offered featured Thanksgiving feasts in years past. This will absolutely make it hard to find a reservation or get a table by walking in. However, there are some restaurants that may not have a “featured” meal, but definitely have that “Thanksgiving Day” home feeling that would be great for a Thanksgiving dinner. One, however, stands out from the rest.

Liberty Tree Tavern is a table service restaurant located in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom. This restaurant is described by Disney as “…an 18th century colonial American theme with an all-you-care-to enjoy dinner buffet of Thanksgiving fare.” Although I’ve only ever eaten at this restaurant twice, it is the epitome of a traditional Thanksgiving feast. And, best of all, with the amount of food that you are provided with this restaurant is only one table service credit on the DDP!

Year round, the restaurant offers a set menu of traditional turkey day offerings including salad, turkey, pot roast, pork, mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, mac and cheese, gravy, and dessert. The feast is served family style, which means literally all of the food is brought over in large portions, placed in the center of your table, and you can serve yourself to any amount you choose. It is also bottomless, so if you run out of stuffing and you’re craving more, all you have to do is ask. The food and the atmosphere put you in a Thanksgiving mood, no matter if it is November or July. Even without the “featured” acknowledgment of Disney for Thanksgiving feasts this year, I would absolutely recommend this table service meal above the rest for your holiday dinner.

Just a few side notes…

These planned Thanksgiving meals are only planned for Thanksgiving Day, and most are only for lunch and dinner, or brunch and dinner. It is going to be very difficult trying to snag a table by just walking in when you are ready to eat. If you would like to score a seat at one of these restaurants, I suggest trying to find a dining reservation as soon as possible. I also suggest eating outside of normal “meal” times, as it is usually a bit easier to grab a table.

Also, it is not uncommon for several other table service and quick service restaurants to end up having some sort of holiday offering on Thanksgiving. I am sure there will be many other places to grab a turkey meal, but these places listed above are featured special holiday meals on property. If you absolutely cannot get in to any of these restaurants and are dead set on a turkey feast Thanksgiving day, I would speak with some cast members to find out where some other options can be found that aren’t “featured” this year!

Thanks for reading! If you’re considering spending your Thanksgiving day on property, I hope this article helped you create a plan on where to eat your turkey feast! Be sure to like this post, and subscribe to my blog to be notified whenever I post next! Have a great Thanksgiving 🙂

10 ROOKIE MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN VISITING WDW!

10 ROOKIE MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN VISITING WDW!

When visiting WDW resort for either day or a week-long vacation, it is important to have  a game plan. There is so much to do, a lot of ground to cover, and a ton of people all around you. It will make your time in WDW so much more enjoyable and efficient if you can avoid some mistakes that most rookies and first timers do when visiting the parks!

A lot of the mistakes on this list are things that I did when I would first come to visit the parks. After doing research, getting more familiar with the resort, and a ton of trial-and-error, I found I was doing way more than I needed to! So, below is a list of 10 rookie mistakes to avoid when you visit WDW resort. This list is in no particular order, just a compiled list of things to think about.

  1. Not coming to the parks prepared. A backpack filled with “Disney survival” items will be your best friend during a park day. Including items such as bandaids, deodorant, extra socks, ponchos, a portable phone charger, and ziplock bags will be helpful throughout the day. Be sure, however, to not use a backpack that is too large or too heavy, as it will become a burden!
  2. Not bringing water or snacks. Contraire to popular belief, you are able to bring your own food and drinks into WDW – and I highly suggest it. Everything in Disney is so expensive, it will help in the long run if you cut down on costs by packing a few bottles of water and snacks in your backpack.
  3. Not using Fastpass+ reservations. As I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog post (BEST RIDES FOR FASTPASS+ RESERVATIONS!), utilizing Fastpass+ will cut down on your wait times in the parks and make your day more efficient overall. Be sure to utilize the booking window and book the reservations smart to get the best out of this tool!
  4. Not taking advantage of the My Disney Experience app. This app is definitely a life saver when in the parks. With an account, you can use this app to check wait times on all rides throughout the park, check showtimes for entertainment and spectaculars, utilize a digital park map that will give you directions to a specific location, and so much more. However, it will eat your phone battery if you leave it constantly running in the background, so be sure to close it out after every use!
  5. Not booking dining reservations ahead of time. This was the biggest mistake I made when visiting my first time, and something that I will never do again! For table service restaurants, unless you want to wait over an hour to sit down and eat it is so important to make dining reservations ahead of time. Keep an eye out for a future blog post where I talk about the best table service restaurants in each park 😉
  6. Park hopping. Although this is a fun concept that I have done several times, park hopping in my opinion is not worth paying for or doing. Doing multiple parks in one day takes so many experiences away from what is possible, especially with the now normal crowd levels. In my opinion, choose one park per day and make the most of that experience! It will make your vacation much more enjoyable.
  7. Wearing the wrong shoes. Of course you want to look cute heading to the parks, but give your feet a break! Avoid shoes with no support such as sandals and flip flops, and be sure to not wear brand new shoes. Birkenstocks and running shoes will truly be your best friend. There is no damper on a Disney day than multiple blisters or hurting feet!
  8. Underplanning. This goes along the lines of making Fastpass+ reservations and dining reservations. Be sure to at least have a game plan of which park you plan to visit each day, where and when you’d like to eat, and your can’t miss attractions and experiences.
  9. Overplanning. Opposite of number 8, it is so important to be sure not to over plan. Weather, crowd levels, and other factors can cause plans to veer from what you’d like, so be sure that your entire day isn’t planned and that you are willing to be flexible with your ideas.
  10. Staying in the parks from open to close. This is also something I am guilty of doing many, many times. On a four-day park vacation, we would be in the park from rope drop to close, and were completely drained. Other than the fact that it is a long day in itself, the heat can become unbearable in central Florida and you’ll find yourself walking 15-17 miles at the least. Instead, hit rope drop, stay until lunch time, go back to the resort and relax around the pool or take a nap, then head back before dinner time to enjoy the rest of the day. It really makes all the difference in an enjoyable experience!

So there you have it! My list of top 10 rookie mistakes to avoid when visiting WDW! I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Be sure to like the post, and follow my blog! See ya soon 🙂

BEST TIME TO VISIT WDW?!

BEST TIME TO VISIT WDW?!

Being the Disney nerd I am, I constantly get asked the question [regarding crowd size] “When is the best time to visit Disney World?”. Although I would love to say the Halloween and Christmas seasons due to the festivities, decorations, and vibes, it can be very busy during these times of the year. People are well aware of the large crowd volumes in the parks as a whole, so what is the answer?

I want to first start off with stating that there is no longer a “slow” season in WDW. Crowd levels vary from moderate to extreme, but no matter when you go there will be crowds and there will be 45+ minute waits for beloved attractions. However, going during a time where there is a moderate crowd level will make your trip much more enjoyable. Below are the top three best times to avoid extreme crowds in WDW.

  1. The end of January. December into the beginning of January is one of the most busiest seasons for the resort, if not the busiest. With the Christmas and New Years celebrations as well as the Run Disney marathons, crowd levels can be unbearable. However, once the festivities and marathons are over and children are back in school, the end of January marks one of the best times to visit the resort. Not only are the crowds bearable, but the weather is cooler-than-normal for central Florida temperatures.
  2. Middle-End of May. Spring break is over and children are still in school, so this makes a great time to head to WDW. Although not as low of crowd levels as number 1, this is the “calm before the storm” before the summer months. It’s also not during the rain season and not unbearably hot, which makes the weather easy to manage! An added bonus, this is when Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom, which is a fun and beautiful can’t-miss event!
  3. End of September/Beginning of October. Although it can still be very hot and during the rain season, this is another great time to visit and avoid large crowd levels. Students are just starting school and it isn’t too close to Halloween, which makes this the perfect time to visit. What makes this time of the year even better is that Magic Kingdom is decorated for fall and you can still hit Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party if you’re looking for some added fun!

Once again, I would like to point out that none of these three times is a slow season. Unfortunately, there will be crowds and longer wait times for popular attractions. However, these different times of year have wait times and crowd levels that are easier to manage compared to the summer months and the holidays. Below are a few pro tips to get the most out of your vacation even during these moderate times of year!

  • Visit parks during the week days. During the weekends, locals (like myself) often frequent the parks, adding to the crowds. The best times to go are during the week days, where children are in school and parents/adults are working.
  • Use Fastpass+ Reservations. It is always nice when you don’t have to wait an hour or more to ride your most favorite attractions. Be sure to use the open window (60 days out with a resort reservation, 30 days out with just tickets) to book your allotted 3 Fastpass+ reservations per day.
  • Expect to wait in lines. If you are going during these times of year, or any time of year, and expect to wait little-or-no time to ride an attraction, meet a character, or even to order food you will be highly disappointed. For literally everything you do on property, you will be waiting in lines. Be prepared for this by downloading fun games to play in line, bringing something to keep the kids busy, or just go in with the understanding that there will be a wait so that your time in WDW isn’t ruined!

I hope these tips help you plan your future WDW adventure! Thanks for reading 🙂 Be sure to like this post, and follow my blog to get updates on new posts. See ya next time!

BEST RIDES FOR FASTPASS+ RESERVATIONS!

BEST RIDES FOR FASTPASS+ RESERVATIONS!

If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you are well aware that the wait times for popular attractions can be off-putting. For beloved attractions such as Peter Pan in Magic Kingdom, Soarin’ in Epcot, Avatar: Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, you can expect to wait well over an hour in the stand-by queue. This is why Fastpass+ reservations are key when planning for your stay!

For those of you who are unaware, Fastpass+ is a reservation for a ride that you can book for you and your party. These reservations basically “hold” your place in line within an hour long window, and when you arrive for your reservation you basically walk right on to the attraction. The service itself is free, but is very limited.

The terms and conditions for this feature are as followed: 1. Each guest is allotted 3 Fastpass+ reservations per day within the same park. 2. These reservations can begin to be reserved 30 days in advance or 60 days in advance with a hotel reservation. 3. The reservations can be made within your My Disney Experience app or on Disney World’s website.

Since you are only able to book 3 Fastpass+ reservations in advance per day, it is important to be sure that you are choosing the rides that not only fit your interest, but that are worth wasting 1 of the 3 reservations on. Below, I am going to outline what I feel are the top three attractions worth reserving in each of the four theme parks, with a few honorable mentions. I would like to state that I am choosing based on crowd popularity as well as my own interests! Let’s get started:

Magic Kingdom

Luckily in MK, there aren’t any specifications on tiered rides (I will get into that in the later parks), so as long as you book as early in advance as you can, you will be able to book any attraction you’d like as long as it’s still available. In MK, I use my Fastpass+ reservations on:

  • Space Mountain (average wait time: 65 minutes)
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (average wait time: 110 minutes)
  • Peter Pan’s Flight (average wait time: 90 minutes)

Some honorable mentions that are also worth booking Fastpass+ reservations include: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Also, when the new Tron coaster opens, I am sure that will take one of my top three spots!

Epcot

Unlike MK, Epcot has tiered attractions. Tier 1 attractions are those that are most popular (such as Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, and Test Track), while tier 2 attractions are those which usually have less of a wait time. When using Fastpass+ in this park as well as the AK and HS, you are only able to book one tier 1 attraction with FP+, and the other two reservations can be utilized on tier 2. So, my choices for Epcot would be:

Tier 1: 

  • Soarin’ (average wait time: 75 minutes)

Tier 2: 

  • Mission Space
  • Spaceship Earth

Honorable mentions in the tier 1 category that I would choose if I were unable to book Soarin’ would be Frozen Ever After or Test Track. To be completely honest, I do not have any honorable mentions for tier 2 rides – I usually don’t even utilize all 3 FP+ reservations in Epcot, and instead just book my tier 1 choice!

Animal Kingdom

As I mentioned above, AK is also  on a tiered ride system. There are two attractions to choose from in the tier 1 category, and those are both of the attractions in Pandora. Other than that, all other attractions are tier 2 in AK and are able to be booked together. My AK choices for FP+ are:

Tier 1:

  • Avatar: Flight of Passage (average wait time: 120 minutes)

Tier 2:

  • Kilimanjaro Safari (average wait time: 80 minutes)
  • Expedition Everest (average wait time: 90 minutes)

As far as honorable mentions, I do not have one for tier 1 attractions. In tier 2, however, it would go to Dinosaur.

Hollywood Studios

HS is the third land using a tiered attraction system. Currently, all tier 1 attractions are the three located in Toy Story Land. However, this is something to expect to change when Galaxy’s Edge opens in 2019. My choices for HS are:

Tier 1:

  • Slinky Dog Dash (average wait time: 90 minutes)

Tier 2

  • Tower of Terror (average wait time: 45 minutes)
  • Rockin’ Rollercoaster (average wait time: 110 minutes)

I would have to say that any other attraction [that you can actually ride] in HS is worth an honorable mention. However, do not waste your FP+ reservations on shows in this theme park! You will be able to see and experience the shows regardless of having a FP+ reservation. Use FP+ to get more out of your day by cutting down your wait for attractions!

There you have it – the attractions I feel are well worth FP+ reservations. To wrap up, here are a few pro-tips when planning your FP+ reservations:

  • Take advantage of the open windows, and book as far in advance as possible! I was always booking my FP+ reservations first thing in the morning when the 60 day window opened and still struggled to get some of my favorite attractions.
  • Book your FP+ reservations early in the day. Once you use all three, you can start to book FP+ reservations using the app one at a time. This is the best way to get the most out of your day!
  • You can arrive five minutes earlier or five minutes later than your hour window and still go on the attraction. They give you a grace period both ways!

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! Be sure to like this post and subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already. Thanks for reading 🙂