Prepping for Disney: What to Watch

So in order to get maximum appreciation for all the cast of characters at Walt Disney World I decided to embark on a list of movies to watch before arrival. I will attempt to make this list as comprehensive as possible. Character appearances tend to change nearly weekly, so please always check schedules before promising little ones you will see a certain character. Continue reading

Star Wars Launch Bay Opens at Hollywood Studios

Since Star Wars weekends has been sadly eliminated from Hollywood Studios, and the new Star Wars land is still probably three years out, Walt Disney World decided to hold us over with the Star Wars Launch Bay. The new experience features Chewbacca and Darth Vader Meet N Greets, as well as costumes and other items from the Star Wars franchise.

Check out this full video overview from Inside the Magic.

Touring Plan: What to Eat at the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival

So the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival has turned into quite the crowd pleaser, but fewer know that the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival not only has beautiful garden displays, but also has turned into a food event in its own right. Unlike other Disney special events, both of these festivals take place over several weeks, which means less concentrated crowds. Best of all, there is no additional admission. A win-win for everyone.

This year the Flower and Garden festival has been extended an unprecedented 90 days from March 2 to May 30, 2016. Limited viewing topiaries, food and even an interactive children’s garden are all part of the festival this year.

This is one of the reasons why I chose to go during April with my family in 2016. I can’t wait to snack on all the new pop up stands available during the Flower and Garden Festival. Check out the video below on some of the tasty foods offered in 2015.

Character Palooza: The Magical Unicorn of Character Experiences

Character Palooza is something I would think only exists in rumor, had I not seen photos of it myself. It’s so secret that Cast Members (Disney Employees) may say it doesn’t exit.

What is it? It’s a seemingly random mass appearance of usually rare characters in Hollywood Studios. It is, in fact a scheduled thing that if you subscribe to via Kenny the Pirate, character expert extraordinaire, you can work into your Walt Disney World touring plans.

Memory Maker photographers are NOT on hand, and it only lasts 15-20 minutes adding to it’s reclusive nature. It typically takes place at the Main Entrance of Hollywood Studios or in the Animation Courtyard near Disney Jr.

My best guess is that these characters are the same characters that appear in Fantasmic!. Since they are there already, why not parade them around for a short while and make some Disney magic?

For more information check out this post.

Top Fifteen Things to Do OUTSIDE the Disney Parks

As if there isn’t enough to do in the parks, Disney offers a world of activities to do outside of them in their various hotels, restaurants, Disney Springs and many recreational activities. I list my favorites below. Best of all, most are free or very reasonable.

  1. Experience the Dole Whip. Dole Whip is a legendary Disney World food. It’s a frozen pineapple dessert, sort of a sorbet, and it’s AMAZING. So amazing, in fact, that Disney opened up a new restaurant that serves Dole Whip and only Dole Whip at the Polynesian Resort called the Pineapple Lanai. Sign me up!
  2. Watch the Electrical Water Parade. Reminiscent of the Magic Kingdom’s Electrical Parade, this water version was supposed to be a temporary thing but has continued nightly for years. For best viewing check it out from the Polynesian Resort (with your Dole Whip of course).
  3. Take in the Wishes fireworks from Magic Kingdom. You can view the Magic Kingdom fireworks from various locations, or even pull over to the side of the road. However, the best viewing is at the Polynesian Resort as they pump in the music from the park.
  4. Eat at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge. Go for the fun and food, stay for a tour of this amazing property. We ate at this restaurant at last visit because it was listed as one of the best values and they were right. You are served a TON of food, which is delicious by the way, in a casual atmosphere. The Cowpolks that serve you here are a rootin’ tootin’ good time, and your kids will love the occasional hobby horse races they hold. Just too fun. Ask for the ketchup and see what happens. Free property tours are available – just ask the front desk. And be sure to see the geyser that goes off occasionally.
  5. Visit Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Fort Wilderness. Visiting the ranch is absolutely free and you can see all the horses that make the Disney properties tick. Your child can get a pony ride for only $8 – no reservation necessary. Trail rides are also available.
  6. Join Chip N Dale for a campfire singalong. One of many campfire activities at Disney resorts this one gets extra bonus for character appearance and it’s FREE. Located at Fort Wilderness. Picnicing is permitted at campfire activities, and snacks as well as s’more kits are available for purchase.
  7. Take in a movie under the stars. Perhaps there are few things more magical than taking in a Disney movie in the great outdoors. Offered at several resorts for FREE, Fort Wilderness gets my vote because if you’re there already for Chip N Dale, you can just stay for the movie.
  8. Listen to some fireside storytelling. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge their take on the campfire activities is African folktales. So cool.
  9. Visit a playground. If you don’t have small children, move along. If you do, visiting the various playgrounds at many resorts is a great way to see many of the properties and blow off some steam. I hear the playground at the new Art of Animation Resort is particularly awesome with a lot of character. Photo opp!
  10. Eat while enjoying a safari view. A visit to Animal Kingdom Lodge will give you a free view of the various African animals, but why not stay and enjoy them over an exotic meal? Sanaa, an Indian buffet available there, gets rave reviews and is a good value.
  11. Visit Disney Springs. At writing this area is undergoing a complete renovation and expansion to be sure to call first before heading there for something specific. On our last visit we were only steps away from Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and spent a lot of time there. There’s lots to do, and with the expansion there is sure to be more. Be sure to visit World of Disney which has the largest selection of Disney merchandise in one place – some of which is parks exclusive. Check out the live shows on the outdoor stage, and the 7pm DJ dance party for kids. There is also a splash pad/fountains for kids too cool off.
  12. Have a roar of a good time at T-Rex Cafe. If you have kids, visit the TRex restaurant to encounter “live” animatronic dinosaurs. The food was surprisingly good, and not insanely overpriced. Located in Downtown Disney.

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    Better eat your dinner before the dinos eat you!

  13. Build some fun at the LEGO store in Disney Springs. Check out the LEGO store and see all the awesome lifesize LEGO sculptures. On certain days there is even a free build set given away – call for details.
  14. Rent a surrey and drive it down the Boardwalk. Out of all the places in Disney, this area is probably the least kid friendly, and therefore skippable, but surreys are just too much fun. Also, if memory serves I believe there is a lot of sand there the kiddos can play in.
  15. Do the Disney Food Blog Cupcake Crawl. A few of the cupcakes are located in the parks, but most of them can be enjoyed by anyone with a sweet tooth.

It goes without saying, that getting to all of these places is half the fun. Whether taking a bus, the monorail or a boat, taking advantage of Disney’s free transportation can be just as thrilling as the destination. Be sure to ask a cast member about free Disney transportation trading cards!