We’ve just returned from a lovely vacation in Walt Disney World! We had a wonderful time, but needed a few days of recuperation to recover from the long 12-hour drive and the 40+ miles of walking we did across 6 parks! The heat was suffocating at times, but we powered through it. And we can’t complain too much because we only had to pull out our ponchos for half a day at Magic Kingdom mid-week!
This will be a photo-heavy recap post.
Lee has been to Disney several times as an adult but Whitney had only been once when she was very young and hardly had any recollection of it. We decided to be big kids when we planned this vacation and go all-out!
One of our favorite things at the parks were the shows. They are really awesome productions in such a short time frame! They also provided (most, but not all) a temporary reprieve from the heat and a comfy seat in an air-conditioned auditorium. Our favorites were Finding Nemo, Frozen, Festival of the Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. Frozen was particularly fun because of recent Frozen mania. The “storytellers” for the show were hilarious and made the whole experience really fun for parents who are possibly Frozen-ed out by this point. The interactive shows like Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and Turtle Talk with Crush were really fun, too! You just have to be prepared to get called out in front of the entire audience.
We rode classic rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Carousel of Progress, It’s a Small World, Hall of Presidents, Spaceship Earth, Jungle Cruise, PhilharMagic, Muppet Vision 3-D and The Great Movie Ride. We also rode newer rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Despicable Me. Poor Lee only got sick once the whole trip – on the latter ride! It was a blast, but not for anyone who is prone to motion-sickness.
We did one character dining experience at Animal Kingdom at the Tusker House. It was well worth the extra cost! The food was delicious, the desserts – wow!, and you were guaranteed visits with the four characters who were on rotation. The day we were there, Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy were working the room. Instead of waiting in line four times (for who knows how long), you sat and enjoyed your meal in the A/C and let the characters come to you throughout the course of your time at the table. It was a really nice experience!
We enjoyed Downtown Disney/Disney Springs more than we expected to. It has such a nice atmosphere and so many fun shops to visit! We probably would have spent a lot more time walking around if we just weren’t so exhausted. Here, we got to enjoy a sinful Ghirardelli Mint Chocolate Chip Quake Shake as our evening treat and cool-down.
Perhaps our greatest disappointment was Epcot. This was probably because we had such high expectations and planned to spend two days here. After day #1, we’d had enough and chose to spend our extra day at the Magic Kingdom instead. We had been so excited to learn that the Food and Wine Festival fell right during our visit, but all that did was draw huge crowds and miserably long wait lines. We were so over it after just a couple of hours. We must say, though, that our best meal was at Epcot. We highly recommend Les Chefs de France! We didn’t have a reservation but got in for lunch within 10 minutes. The Crêpe à la Tartiflette de Savoie, filled with smoked ham, onions and potatoes, topped with melted cheese – was just the best thing ever! The Croque Monsieur, classic French toasted Ham and Cheese sandwich was also more delicious than any ham and cheese sandwich has any right to be! Sadly, we did not get a sighting of Chef Remy from Ratatouille, but our dining experience was a resounding 10/10.
Speaking of food, did we ever eat on this trip! This will come as no surprise to anyone who has known us longer than one week. We just love food.
We only stayed for one end-of-day nightly park show, and of course, we chose Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. (We were just too tired to stay each day til close at every park!) We were not disappointed. Lee said he enjoyed it more this time because, of course, the Main Street Electrical Parade precedes the fireworks, but there is also an amazing new “Celebrate the Magic” projection show on the Cinderella Castle. It was stunning.
Our absolute favorite day was not actually at Disney. One day only, we visited Universal for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley! (Not Islands of Adventure.) We had been waiting and waiting for this day and it did not disappoint…though the rest of Universal was completely terrible! Can’t imagine why anyone would have spent the money to visit the park pre-Harry Potter. Diagon Alley was wonderful, though, and we actually felt like we’d spent an entire day in the HP books.
Down to the most minute detail, Diagon Alley was just stunning.
Lunch at the Leaky Cauldron – yum!
We had to stop by Ollivander’s to purchase our replica Elder Wand! It was so fun practicing our spells all over Diagon Alley! With some practice, Lee got to be a real champ at it.
We always joke that Lee would be sorted into Slytherin, but he decided against buying this shirt or Draco/Voldermort’s wands.
Overall, Universal is a dismal park, but the Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes the cost of admission more than worth it!
Random Disney Tips:
- If visiting Disney on your birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion, be sure to stop by Guest Services for a pin you can wear on your shirt. This will help you get special treatment from cast members and some dining establishments!
- Something we observed that your kids may enjoy is pin-trading. It is a fun way for them to interact with cast members. We saw a cute little boy run up to a store employee and ask “Do you do you pin trading?” She knelt down and let him choose one of the pins off of her lanyard.
- FastPass, FastPass, FastPass! This thing is awesome. It will help you skip lines and maximize your day at the park. They are also now offering MagicBands that you can buy to make things even simpler. Just wear the waterproof band on your wrist and scan as your FastPass so you don’t have to worry about fiddling with your card. Very cool!
- Selfie sticks are not permitted in any Disney park. (They are allowed in Universal.) They will be confiscated if seen.
- This one will seem so “Duh!” but utilize the parking lot tram! We saw so many people uselessly making the huge hike from their car to the park entrance gates and we just scratched our heads. In the parks alone, we walked over 40 miles. No need to add on totally unnecessary long walks! Your poor feet will thank you.
- On a related note, ALWAYS write down (or take a picture) of your parking lot name and row. The last thing you want is to be lost in that huge lot at the end of the day.
We the Lees Comprehensive Ranking:
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter (not the rest of Universal!)
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
In summary, we had an awesome time! Now we need this week to recuperate from our vacation!
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