The Happiest Place on Earth

Last week my family took a vacation to Disney World in Florida. We were supposed to go in September, but thanks to Mother Nature, that trip was canceled a week out. The day the trip was canceled, my sweet momma spent all day on the phone, waiting by the phone and frantically doing research trying to figure out a way to make this trip possible for the entire family. Thankfully we were able to figure something out and schedule our trip for this past week.

We had an absolute blast. Our entire party was all smiles for the majority of the trip. Even while eating tofu!

Accomadations

We stayed at the All Star Movie resort (in the Animal Kingdom area), which is a value resort at Disney. Value resorts, in my opinion, are the way to go if you don’t plan to spend a lot of time at the hotel and/or if you have children. At All Star Movies, each building was themed. The themes were Mighty Ducks, Fantasia, 101 Dalmatians and Toy Story. We stayed in the Toy Story themed section, and it really was cute. There wasn’t anything special about the rooms. But we didn’t need anything special because we were only in the rooms to shower and sleep. Outside our rooms were a larger than life Buzz and Woody, along with a huge door that was just like Andy’s. It gave you the feeling that you were a toy walking into Andy rooms. Inside “Andy’s room” was Bo Peep, Rex, a large checkers set, and blocks that spelled out Buzz and Woody. On the outside of Andy’s room was the RC car. This was cute because you could actually sit inside the car for photos.

As I stated the rooms weren’t grand, but they were great for what we needed. Each of our rooms had two beds, a tv, a table, and bathroom. The beds were comfortable and we slept great each night. H moves around a lot in her sleep, so the front desk gladly gave us two toddler rails to put on either side of her bed so she wouldn’t fall out of the bed. My only real complaint was that I was a little warm at night. I turned our air as low as it would go (68), but it didn’t seem to get that cool. My husband felt otherwise.

There are three other themes at All Star Movies, Fantasia, Mighty Ducks, and 101 Dalmatians. I’ll be honest I didn’t see much of Fantasia or Might Ducks (except the pools in passing). One evening we were tired and didn’t feel like waiting for our bus back to the hotel so we took the bus to All Star Music and walked over to our hotel (a short 3-5 minute walk) and walked through the 101 Dalmatians themed area. It was cute as well. They had two very large statues of Pongo and Perdita right in the middle, along with the dalmatian pups along the walkways. I asked my husband if he thought Disney put in the effort and actually made sure there were 101 dalmatians in that area. We didn’t count, but my husband feels like this isn’t something that Disney would skimp on. Anyone know for sure?

I can’t say much for the pools because we didn’t swim at all, but I do know that there are two pools. There is a Fantasia-themed pool right outside of the main building where you check in and eat. There was also a Mighty Duck themed pool, that had a statue of Goofy in a goalie get up guarding the goal net. I noticed that the pools did have lifeguards on duty when the pool was open.

Check in was simple and the wait wasn’t too bad since we checked in online with the Disney app (more on the app later).

Our first day was our travel day and I believe we got to the hotel around 2pm, so we didn’t really do anything other than let the kids play with each other, activate our magic bands,  go The Contemporary to eat at Chef Mickeys* and ride the monorail.

Magic Kingdom

Tuesday was our Magic Kingdom day. I was probably the most excited about this park. I had been to Disney twice as a child, but I was pretty young both times and I vaguely remember certain aspects. I’m nearly 30 so I expected a lot to be different, but I was glad to see that from my memory there wasn’t a ton that had changed.

Sadly, we missed the opening show, but it didn’t deter our fun! Our first stop was to meet Elena and Cinderella. There was absolutely no wait to see either of these princesses. I believe it’s because we were allowed in an hour early since we stayed on property. H was in heaven. Elena of Avalor is always on rotation here at our house so she couldn’t believe she was actually meeting her. Elena was great! She talked to H about the jaquins and even told us how beautiful the beaches of Avalor are. Cinderella talked to H all about her fairy godmother and her mouse friends. That night H asked if she could have mouse friends (the answer was no).

Next up were two of Disney’s oldest rides, Peter Pan, and Small world. Peter Pan was a ride that I don’t remember riding either time that I went to Disney as a child. Nevertheless, it was a great ride for my daughter and nephew. It’s a dark ride and you fly in a magical pirate ship over London and into Neverland. On the ride, you catch a glimpse of the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily, Mr. Schmee and Captain Hook. We made sure that we had a fast pass for this ride. It’s not a thrill ride by any means, but since it is one of the oldest rides in the park the wait times get pretty long.

I feel like everyone knows It’s A Small World, even those who have never been to Disney. On this ride, you get into a boat and hear “it’s a small world” sung in many different languages and see little dolls dressed in different clothes representing each country that they come from. It’s a cute ride with a great meaning, but be prepared you’ll sing the song all day long.

In addition to these rides, we checked out the barnstormer, which is a great first roller coaster for little thrill seekers. We also rode the carousel, Aladins magic carpet, Tomorrowland Speedway, the teacups, Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh,  Dumbo and The Haunted Mansion. Poor H was so excited to ride The Haunted Mansion, we had spent weeks watching Youtube videos to prepare her for it. We made it through the line, and into the shrinking room, and after that, she was done. It scared her too much. This left me to ride alone, which was fine as it was a break from the heat. I think she would have been fine had it not been the all the screaming the guy next to us was doing. Oh well, something to add to the list for us to do next time we go.

We met a few more princesses and caught a tiny bit of a show that was happening in front of the castle.

Epcot (and Magic Kingdom at night)

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I personally don’t think there is much at Epcot for the little ones. Nemo and Friends is a cute little ride for kids. On this ride, you get to sit in a shell and ride through to find Nemo. At the end of the ride, you walk out into an aquarium type place. This is actually pretty neat for kids and adults alike. It’s fun to sit and watch the different fish swim by.

Frozen Ever After was my favorite ride at Epcot. It’s another dark ride that takes you through to see Elsa at her ice castle. There is a small drop at the end so you may get a little wet. My daughter and I sang the songs on the entire ride.

We were at Disney during the Food and Wine festival. I was exceptionally excited about this because I LOVE food. In fact, I probably would have been perfectly fine left to my own devices there at the festival while everyone else checked out the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t use my time at the food and wine festival wisely and didn’t try nearly as much food as I wanted. I was trying to be smart and save my snack credits, but now I wished I would have just used them there, especially since we ended up with more snack credits then we could use. If you like trying different foods, I recommend going during the Food and Wine festival. I must say that the creme brulee in France was amazing.

One thing that disappointed me while we were at Epcot was that Test Track was down for maintenance (this was an ongoing theme). My family made a joke that we waited nearly 20 years for the ride (because it was down then as well), had fast passes and were unable to ride it. Luckily we were able to come back on our last day and ride it. Was it worth the almost 20-year wait? No, not really, but it was fun. The experience was great all around from designing your car to testing it out (mine and my husband’s car failed at every test except speed).

At the end of the day, everyone was pretty tired except J and me, so we decided to check out the Magic Kingdom at night. Unfortunately, many of the rides were down (see the theme?). We only got to ride Big Thunder Mountain and the Jungle Cruise. I highly recommend riding both of these at night if you can. It really changed the experience. While at the Magic Kingdom we were able to catch the fireworks. I am about to sound like a sap and a total nerd, but I got teary-eyed during this. Something about being at Disney and seeing the fireworks while listening to the songs, especially How Far I’ll Go, just did something to me.

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Animal Kingdom

Let me first state that I am extremely mad at myself for not taking any photos of Animal Kingdom, especially Pandora. Second, I think Animal Kingdom has vastly improved since I first went there as a child. As we were planning the trip, I remember telling my mom that I don’t remember there being a lot at the Animal Kingdom. I was wrong!

I really want to touch on a couple of things about the Animal Kingdom. First thing, you MUST catch The Lion King show. There are flying monkeys, fire dancers, Timon and Pumba, singing and dancing. I smiled the entire time. I’m really into Broadway shows, so that could be the reason I loved it so much, but my husband and daughter smiled nearly as much as I did (and they aren’t into Broadway). I don’t want to go into too much detail about the show because I don’t want to ruin it, but seriously CHECK IT OUT!

The next thing I want to talk about is Pandora-The world of Avatar. Disney went above and beyond with this one. Pandora is the land where you have rides such as Flight of Passage (get a fast pass for this one)  and Na’vi River Journey. There is so much detail here. They did a great job. It’s pretty during the day, but beautiful a night! My favorite ride of the entire week was Flight of Passage. The lines for this ride are long for a reason. Make sure you get a fast pass for this ride. We rode this ride four times. We had fast passes for it, but it is well worth the 2+ hour wait if you don’t have fast passes. Disney got it right with this ride. They nailed the smells, the feeling, and the entire experience. I believe that this ride has ruined any other theme park ride for J. He will forever compare any other ride to this and I am sure you will too. It was just amazing.

Hollywood Studios

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Our last day was spent at Hollywood Studios. This was my least favorite park. There just isn’t a lot here for smaller kids.  While we were there we were able to meet Kylo Ren, BB8, Chewbacca, Olaf, Princess Sofia, Star-Lord and Baby Groot.

Toy Story Mania was the only ride that was there that we did that was good for little ones. This was actually a pretty fun ride and brought out the competitive nature of my husband and me. It’s set up to feel like you’re at the midway of a fair and you have to shoot the different targets for points.

It seems like Disney has big plans for Hollywood Studios, including a Toy Story land and Star Wars land. I hope that once they are done we can return to the park and experience those. Another thing I would love for H to experience is the Jedi training. The kids have to be 4 or older to do that, so she missed the mark by a month.

All in all, we had a wonderful time and I wish that we could have spent more time there. No one really wanted to leave, but as vacations go you’re always happy to be home. J and I have talked about going back, and we hope to plan a trip in the future.

One thing that missed the mark on this trip was the My Disney Experience app. I’m not sure if the app is new and hasn’t gotten rid of all the bugs or what, but all through our trip it would freeze and force close. I also found that it was not accurate with the wait times, often being off by 15 or 20 minutes. I don’t recommend using the app for its map feature while you’re in the parks unless Disney fixes it.

*Be sure to check out my post on our dining experiences at Disney here.