I have been to Florida more than a few times yet I’ve NEVER been to the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World. I am a big Disney fan girl yet Disney World had been my white whale, until now.
At the start of 2016 I was determined to take a real vacation for the first time since 2009. Along with my cousins we decided that we were gonna do a proper Walt Disney World vacation with multi-day tickets and of course staying on site at a WDW resort. I was overjoyed and even though at the time it was more than 6-months away, I was already counting down in my head. We decided to go to the parks right after Thanksgiving, it’s like the sweet spot for theme park travel, the weather is still nice and warm, the parks are all decorated for the Holidays and (fingers crossed) the crowds wouldn’t be too bad.
PS: To see what I wore to the parks and to get some of my looks, head over to DisneyStyle.com for a breakdown and to shop my looks.
So after waiting 25+ years to go to Walt Disney World, did the parks live up to the hype? The short answer…yes, yes it did and here is why.
1. First off Disney works to make your vacation the least stressful vacation of all time. Since we were staying on site at a WDW resort, we got to take advantage of the parks airport transportation aptly named Disney’s Magical Express which took us directly from the airport to our resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach. I also didn’t have to worry about dealing with my checked bags as Disney takes care of picking up any checked luggage and delivering it directly to the hotel room for you. Another perk is the online check-in. While I was boarding my flight I got an email with my room number, this meant I didn’t even have to visit the check-in desk. Once we arrived at the resort I went straight to my room, which was awesome as the last thing I wanted to do after traveling all day was stand in line.
2. This leads me to the MagicBand, Disney’s latest way to simplify our lives. These little bands function as your park tickets, link any PhotoPass photos, and if staying at a Disney resort, they are your room key. You can also link the band your credit/debit card and use your MagicBand to make purchases at ALL the theme parks.
3. Speaking of theme parks, we kicked off with Animal Kingdom. I’ll be honest, I was least excited to go do Animal Kingdom but now it’s one of my favorite parks. True there are only a handful of rides but there are so many animals to look at and learn about. Of course the best exhibit/ride is the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is where I saw hippos, rhinos, giraffes, zebras and even lions. This isn’t like any typical zoo tour, these animals were out in the open, roaming around. I mean the zebras were so close to the truck I could’ve reached out to pet one.
4. Epcot’s World Showcase is the best place to eat in all the parks. The pastries in France pavilion are to die for (and I was able to get my hands on some amazing Buche dé Noel) but the real winner is the San Angel Inn Restaurante located in the Mexico pavilion. The dishes are delicious and the margaritas are top notch. Some of the dishes we tried that I fully recommend: Queso Fundido, Tostadas de Tinga, Pollo a las Rajas, and the good olé chicken quesadilla.
5. Disney does the best fireworks, period. Three of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios) did nightly firework shows that blew me away. In Epcot the show is called Illuminations and features telling of the world, over in Magic Kingdom the show is called Wishes and yes it does include a wishing star and for the holidays Hollywood Studios is doing a new show called Jingle Ball, Jingle BAM that includes fireworks and snow.
6. The Toy Story Mania! ride in Hollywood Studios is totally worth the wait. I’ve never had more fun shooting at random toys in my life. Also even if drop rides aren’t totally your thing, the Tower of Terror is a must since you know the one is Disneyland is going way.
7. The Magic Kingdom really is magical. I’m a 35 yr old grown woman and I teared up a little once I was standing in front of Cinderella’s castle.
8. Disney Magic Hours are a godsend. On the day we went to the Magic Kingdom, we got to stay till 1am thanks to the magic hours. What is hilarious is that even though we were at the park for about 15-hours (9:30am-12:30am) we STILL didn’t get to all the rides we wanted to. Thankfully we had a 5-day park ticket and went back on Friday before we flew out to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
9. Meeting Characters isn’t just for kids. I am not ashamed to admit that I stood in lines to meet Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, Donald, and Gaston, and don’t worry there were plenty of other adults (sans kids) in the line. Also, be sure to purchase the Memory Maker in advance. This will allow access to ALL of the PhotoPass pictures taken during your visit to the parks. Make to sure to ask for a few magic shots to be added, because who doesn’t want to picture with Olaf.
10. Make sure to download the My Disney Experience app, trust me this will be your best friend. Not only can you make additional FastPass+ selections, you can get instant access to your pictures and check on wait times for rides which trust me will help in the planning.
11. Ears aren’t just for kids anymore. Gone are the days when the only Mickey Ears available were the classic hat ears. These days there are ears for all occasions. I kinda went ears crazy and bought a different pair from each park: Christmas tree light ears at Animal Kingdom, light-up Minnie ears at Epcot, animated Frozen ears (seeing as they were sold out of the Star Wars ears I wanted) at Hollywood Studios, and the holiday edition of the sequin Minnie ears at Magic Kingdom.
12. The treats are outstanding however I have a total favorite, the Dole Whip. Yes the Mickey Ice Cream bars are great (as are the churros, popcorn, Mickey Pretzels) but the Dole Whip is where it is at. Seeing as I’ve never been to Hawaii this was my first time experiencing this frozen delight and I’ve been craving one since I left.
So will I be back? Of course I will, I’m already planning on going back when Star Wars Land opens in Hollywood Studios but since that isn’t for a few years I really want to make it out to Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Hong Kong and maybe even go back to the park that started it all, Disneyland.
If you’ve been to the Walt Disney World resort, let me know in the comments below.