I probably should think twice before posting this one…but we have a new favorite spot to hang out at when we are in Disney…the new Nomad Lounge at the Animal Kingdom theme park.
It has just the right mix of “the safari truck dropped me off in the wilderness” mixed with “I could sip watermelon cocktails at this lounge all night.” The Nomad Lounge is located right next to the entrance to the new Pandora section of AK, slated to open in May 2017. We predict this will become more of a hot spot when Pandora opens.
The lounge consists of two main seating areas, located to the left of Tiffins restaurant. The outside lounge features comfy chairs and couches and is open to the views of a forested river area, with cool breezes at night. This area would be lots of fun with a large group and a great place to take a relaxing break.
We opted to sit inside on a particularly sweltering day. The interior has an adventurist theme, with mirror-backed bar and pennants hanging from the ceiling that showcase features of life on safari.
The cocktail menu has the vibe of a traveler’s sketchbook and features pictures of all of the beverages. We had a lot of fun looking through it, but this also made for tough choices!
I ordered a “Jen’s Tattoo” cocktail and LOML had the “Leaping Lizard.” Both were great and refreshing on a hot day. The cocktail list was so inspiring, we ordered a second round.
We also ordered some nibbles: The vegetarian summer roll with ponzu sauce ($8) and chicken tikka wings with black rice ($10). We found the food to be lacking and the portions to be rather small for the prices. Disney is usually expensive, but this was not the quality one would expect.
Still hungry, and hoping for a winner, we ordered the coriander spiced pork ribs ($10). They were overdone and extremely tough, almost inedible.
Early on, the Nomad Lounge’s food options were extremely limited, so we basically ordered what they had on the menu. We have since heard that the options have been expanded to include Tiffins Bread Service, artisanal cheeses, beef sliders, fish tacos, and a charcuterie board.
With the drinks and the ambiance a grand slam, we are hoping that the Nomad Lounge can pick up its game in the bar bites area. They are still lacking some kind of salty nibble, like chips, often desired by those who linger!
Regardless of the food situation, we do think the Nomad Lounge will increase in popularity with the Animal Kingdom’s new night options and the opening of Pandora. Check it out next time you are in the Discovery Island section of the park.
Epcot is often overlooked as a place for Disney Magic as it lies in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom. But I am here to tell you that the magic truly abounds at Epcot with this top ten list!
10.Epcot has the BEST ice cream. That’s right, tucked in a corner of the France pavilion in Epcot’s world showcase is L’Artisan Des Glaceswhich scoops out the best ice cream in the World. Leave the Mickey pops to the kids, because this ice cream shop doles out original flavors like salted caramel, chocolate orange, and cinnamon with caramelized pecan. OK, they also have a mighty fine vanilla! Mango, strawberry, and mixed berry sorbets are also offered. If you are in the mood for something more exotic, you can get an ice cream sandwich made with ice cream in a french macaron or my personal favorite, the luscious croque glace which is served inside a warm brioche. And for the truly decadent, they offer a signature ice cream martini.
9. Hidden Mickeys are everywhere in Epcot. It’s true! While you may have exhausted your hunt for hidden mickeys at the Magic Kingdom or your resort hotel, Epcot often has a fresh spin on your search for the mouse that manifests everywhere. Look high and look low, you’ll see hidden mickeys all over this park.
8. Your photographs will look smashing! We might not be professional photographers, but thanks to Disney Imagineers carefully crafting every part of Epcot down to every detail anyone with a point-and-shoot camera will likely have photos that put National Geographic photographers to shame…ok maybe not quite that good, but you get the PICTURE. Epcot is one of my favorite places to take pictures in the world because of its landscaping and colorful flora beckons and inspires.
7. There’s always an impromptu party. Imagine this…you are sitting on a bench sipping Prosecco and minding your own beeswax when a band of flag twirlers come marching into the piazza. You are riveted! At any given moment in Epcot there are all kinds of cultural performances to get you on your feet. Pay attention because the chair tumblers in France, drum players in Japan, or lumberjacks in Canada might be up to something. And this magic is all included with the price of admission.
6. There are adult beverages in this park. If that’s not magic after a day full of hordes of screaming tourists and waiting for thrill rides in the hot Florida sun, then I don’t know what is. Maybe Mom and Dad are out on the town for an evening to themselves. Maybe you’re on your honeymoon. Maybe Susie loves Margaritas and Sammy loves Sake. Epcot is the park for all of these variables and more! Certainly one must be responsible in the parks so plan your itinerary accordingly. Epcot offers what the Magic Kingdom cannot: ahem, the opportunity to learn about the world’s beverages. Drinking around the world has become part of many an adult’s itinerary. If that’s something that interests you here’s a tip: You can print off a drink around the world passport from online (non-Disney sanctioned) or even engage in a rather mature and educational around the world Wine Walk passport (Disney approved). For the wine walk, check in at one of the three wine shops in the world showcase: the Weinkeller in Germany, Enoteca Castello in Italy, or Aux Vins de France.
5. Learn About Art! The rich artistic traditions of many of the cultures represented at the World Showcase are actually paid attention to here at Epcot. Study the tile and stucco of Morocco throughout the showcase spot or stop into the Gallery of Arts and History on the left side of the pavilion. Learn about the the cultural constructs of cuteness in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery of Japan! China also often has interesting exhibits in their interior gallery space, ranging from a small model of the Terra Cotta Tomb Warriors to displays of Disney theme parks from all around the globe. Stop inside the pyramid in Mexico to see the “Animales Fantásticos” art collection and even watch artisans crafting in the inside marketplace.
4. You can get your Frozen Freak on! Ok, so this one is a little controversial. But if you love Frozen, Epcot’s Norway is the place to be. Not only does it feature the new and fabulous Frozen dark ride to cool off in, you can meet Anna and Elsa in this cute little grass-topped cottage with a wait time of only 15 minutes! If that’s not magical enough, then whisk into the attached Frozen merchandise store and snag some of the best Frozen themed toys in Disneyworld, because it’s always well-stocked. After all that, you can stuff your face with schoolbread and start planning your next visit. Again, this is all controversial. If you are anything like LOML, your traveling companions will find you spritzing Geir for men at everyone in the Norwegian gift shop after a bit too much Aquavit as you proclaim loudly about, “how they ruined quiet little Norway. ”
That’s a hypothetical scenario, of course. Ahem…onward!
3. It’s a magical foodie heaven. Epcot is where you can eat around the world, yes. You can have treats like fish and chips in the UK and then stroll over to Germany for bratwurst. You can stock up on chocolates to bring home and watch your pizza go right into the oven in Italy. If you are a bit more serious about your food, Epcot offers many fine dining experiences like Monsieur Paul or Le Cellier. My personal favorite: the sushi at Tokyo Dining. That’s a magical plate.
2. You can find Zen. A quiet moment of introspection is nearly impossible at the Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. At Epcot’s World Showcase, there are many places to find your peace and get away from the crowds. Try crossing the footbridge by the koi pond in Japan or walk towards Le Cellier restaurant in Canada. The new perspective might surprise and the quiet moment will likely rejuvenate you! Enabling many more hours of touring magic.
1. There’s fireworks galore. That’s right, Epcot’s Illuminations has fireworks to rival the other parks. What’s so magical here? Unlimited spots around the lagoon to see them clearly. Pick your favorite pavilion and park yourself with some treats in hand. The view, the music, the sparkling pyrotechnics…that’s a magical way to end your day indeed.
I am always up for a terrific safari, aren’t you? Zebras, ornamental grasses, Kudu, termite mounds…bring it on! However adventurous my nature, I do really like certain safety precautions in place. Take for example a friend who went on a “budget” safari in Tanzania. She paid a much lesser price for a super special “budget safari” that enticed her with romantic mosquito netting, mint tea, and basically no safety precautions. Once they dumped her off the bus, she was able to basically able to walk right up and pet the lions if she felt like it! No, this type of safari is not for me dear reader.
Now that you know my penchant for seat belts and extreme caution around large felines, you will completely understand why I absolutely LOVE Disney’s Night Safari at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is a wonderful evening tour of the savannah at the AKL’s Kidani Village Resort. *Do not confuse this with the new night Kilimanjaro Safari at the Animal Kingdom Park! This one is a small group VIP tour and much more of an education experience for animal lovers.
To start our adventure, we took the complimentary shuttle van from Jambo House over to Kidani Village and checked in at 9:45 PM for our safari at the Sanaa Restaurant desk . We then joined our small group of ten people and two guides for our evening on the savannah. After tying on our glow-in-the dark entrance bands we were brought out the jeep that would take us out to the animals. The jeep has open sides so that you can see everything easily and take lots of pictures.
Our guide Rebekah was amazing from the start, and the main reason why our nighttime safari was such a wonderful experience. She was very down to earth and extremely knowledgeable and made us feel so at ease. She actually loved our questions and taught us a ton about the night habits of the animals. She also showed us how to use…
Night vision goggles!!!
Every person on our hour-long tour received their own pair of night vision goggles to survey the savannah with. It was so fun to gaze out the sides of the jeep and spot animals all over the place doing their “night things” in the darkness. My favorite and first animal encounter of the evening was spotting zebras sleeping on their sides like little rag dolls in the grass.
The jeep stopped at various points throughout the tour so that could take photographs through the night vision goggles. It’s a little bit tricky and the images are never quite as sharp as when you look through the goggles with your own eyes, but after a bit we got some very nice images of the animals. The trick appears to lie in keeping the lens of your camera tightly within the rubber eyepiece and NOT zooming out too far, which makes the image fuzzier.
We saw lots of animals on our Nighttime Safari, including giraffes, kudu, ostrich, gazelles, zebra and several exotic large birds. Rebekah taught us great things that I probably would not have learned anywhere else. She taught us the difference between horns and antlers (antlers can be lost, horns, not so much!) She taught us that giraffes love sweet potatoes and that kudu have certain behavioral traits for establishing dominance. She also showed us that animals love them a big old pile of dirt! The best toy in the world is…a big pile of dirt to play and make holes in (tell that to your kids when they are begging you for Disney toys on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom).
We also got to hold an ostrich egg on the jeep and Rebekah told us that ostriches are a bit flaky and “don’t listen”…and we got to see that in action!
The evening ended with a ride past the animal barn. It was neat to see how part of it is raised up to accommodate the height of the giraffes. On the ride back to the front of the resort Rebekah also pointed out the bat house. You can thank the bats for the scarcity of mosquitoes at Disney! They eat them right up.
We were rather sad to leave the warm glowing lights of the Kidani Village Resort and all of our new animal friends. We were also sorry to have to give back the night vision goggles.
But we are glad to have returned them if it means you can enjoy them on your own Night Safari!
Disney’s Night Safariis a one hour VIP Tour booked in advance by reservation at (407) 939-8687 and costs approximately $70 US per adult. Children 8 years and over may also attend.
Are you a picky eater? Or a foodie who wants to try everything within your budget? Maybe you’re a vegetarian searching for the vegetable oasis in the steak-filled desert that is Disney. This is a sequel to the highly successful (and thus useful) Cheap Eats in the Magic Kingdom! While it is common to “Drink around the World” in Epcot’s World Showcase, it is really fun to put some nibbles in your tummy and literally get a “taste” of each country too! This list contains the cheapest edibles at counter-service eateries in the World Showcase. For budgets, I have tried to keep every item as close to $10 or less. The few items that are more than that are large enough to be shared. I also only put items on the list that reflect the culture of the country you are visiting! So even if a soft-serve vanilla cone is available there for only $3.99, you won’t see it on this list. Two of the options, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar and Spice Road offer “small plates” (similar to tapas) and do require you to sit for a bit, but they are more economical than a full restaurant experience. Few of these options will make a meal on their own, so the prices are kept quite low so you can sample several items. If I missed one of your favorite “cheap” foods in a country, feel free to comment and we’ll add it to the list! I’ve started in Norway, so you can finish with margaritas…er, I mean tacos!
The Cheapest Meal Options in Epcot
Kringla Bakeri Og
School Bread -$3.19
Lefse with Cinnamon Sugar – $2.19
Vegetable Torte – $6.39
Joy of Tea Kiosk
Lucky Combo to SHARE (2 egg rolls, a curried chicken pocket, an ice cream flavored Caramel-Ginger or Strawberry-Red Bean, soft drink) -$10.98 (these items individually would add up to $18)
Lotus Blossom Cafe
Pot Sticker and Spring Rolls Kids Meal (with rice) -$7.95
Soft-serve Lemon Ice Cream – $4.69
Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and Paprika Chips $9.49
Nudel Gratin (German Mac & Cheese) $4.29
Apple Strudel $4.29
Black Forest Cake $4.29
Italian Gelato Kiosk
Cannoli – $4.75
Tiramisu – $4.75
Arancia Rossa (Italian Blood Orange Soda) – $4.50
2 Scoops of Gelato in a cup – $6.25
Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar (*Sit for a Bit!)
Panini served with a Caesar Salad Wedge (small sandwiches available in the following flavors: Fontina and Salami, Creamy Gorgonzola, Prosciutto di Parma, Carciofi and Fontina, and Fior de Latte Mozzarella & Pomodoro) -$8
Pomodoro Cavatappi – $12
Meatball Sliders – $11
Meatball Parmigiana – $12
Block and Hans
Jalapeño Cheese-Stuffed Pretzel $5.00
Cream Cheese Pretzel $5.00
Mickey-Shaped Pretzel $5.00
Fife and Drum
Root Beer Float (non-alcoholic) $5.00
Jumbo Turkey Leg SHARE – $11.25
Popcorn – $4.00
Apple Pie a la mode – $6.50
The American Dream Slush (Red, White, & Blue) – $4.75
Kabuki Cafe Cart
Kakigori (Japanese Shaved Ice) in flavors: Strawberry, Tangerine, Cherry, Melon or Rainbow (Pick 3)- $3.75 or add sweet milk topping for $1.00
Green Tea Ice Cream – $3.75
Combo Sushi (2 pieces of California roll with Salmon, 2 pieces of Hako-Square Shrimp sushi) $4.98
Miso Soup $2.99
Teriyaki Chicken Kid’s Meal with Vegetable – $7.99
Green Tea Cheesecake – $4.50
Tokyo Sushi Combo (4 piece California Roll, 3 Nigiri) $10.99
Baklava – $3.25
Tangierine Cafe (Spelled like the city, not the fruit!)
Strawberry, Chocolate, or Sugar-filled Crepes – $4.22
Le Artisan de Glace Ice Cream Shop
Macaron Ice Cream Sandwich (your choice of flavor sandwiched between two Macarons ) – $4.22
Croque Glace (Ice Cream in a Warm Brioche) – $6.33 (and worth every penny!!!)
Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles
Croissant Jambon Fromage (Ham and Cheese Croissant) – $4.75
Pissaladiere (pizza with tomatoes, olives, and gruyere) – $4.50
1/2 of a French baguette – $1.85
Quiche Lorrain – $6.20
Lobster Bisque – $4.90
Potato Leek Soup in a Bread Bowl – $5.50
Strawberry, Lemon, or Chocolate Tarts – $4.25-$4.75
Pain au Chocolat – $3.35
Macarons Collection SHARE (or not!) – $10.33
Yorkshire County Fish Shop
Fish and Chips Basket $10.49
Victoria Sponge Cake $4.29
Sadly, our friends to the north are lacking in quick service food options (let’s get some poutine, maple-flavored treats or bear claws on the table eh?)
Rumor has it that Ketchup-flavored potato chips can be found sporadically in the gift shop, but surely they can do better than this!
La Cantina de San Angel (Not La Hacienda de San Angel, outside people, outside!!!)
Pollos Cascabel – $12.50
Tacos de Barbacoa – $12.75
Churros (now called Churritos, and inferior to what they once were) $4.25
Paletas (Assorted Flavors) $3.50
Guacamole and Chips – $7
There you have it! The list of Cheap Eats! If you are on the Dining Plan, some of these will count as “snack options.” If you are not on the Dining Plan, do as we do and get a Disney Gift Card for a certain amount so you can budget wisely.
Let’s face it, the food at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is FUN, but expensive. But you don’t have to miss out! There are several things you can do to enjoy meals in the park on a tight budget. First, portions tend to be fairly large. If you don’t have a huge appetite, it’s possible to share, particularly a parent with a child. Second, you can also elect to purchase the kid’s meal option at many of the counter service restaurants…and then enjoy it yourself! The kid’s meals are often standard fare: hamburgers, chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, turkey sandwich. They also come with grapes, apple slices, carrot sticks, and/or water. Third, you can rely on my list of budget-friendly meal options. Here is a list of the cheapest foods at each Counter Service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom that make for great (sometimes healthy) lunches and dinners. I worked to make this list as useful as possible, trying my best to keep the maximum price under $9, unless the item is easily shared, and to incorporate healthy snack ideas. Sometimes it’s easy to miss these options on the menu boards, so I hope you find it inspiring for your next trip! If I missed anything on the list, let me know!
The Cheapest Meal Options in the Magic Kingdom
The Eggroll Wagon
Pork Egg Roll – $2.75
Fresh Cut Pineapple Spear – $3.29
Beef Nachos – $7.69
Kid’s Meal Cheese Quesadilla with Carrot Sticks, Grapes, and Water or Milk – $5.99
Macaroni & Cheese – $7.99
Apple & Caramel Dippers $3.69
Roasted Pork Shank (Share) $9.79
Warm Cinnamon Roll $4.19
Pinnochio Village Haus
Caesar Side Salad – $3.39
Tomato Basil Soup $3.29
Children’s Cheese or Pepperoni Pizza with Grapes, Yogurt, & Water – $5.99
Prince Eric Village Market
Whole Piece of Fruit (Apple, Banana, Orange) $1.49
Mixed Veggie Cup with Dip – $3.99
Shaved Ice (Variety of Flavors – Blue Raspberry, Cherry, etc)-$3.99
Story Book Treats
Frozen Yogurt (Cherry or Cake Batter) – $3.99
Hot Fudge Cookie Sundae (Share)- $5.19
Mickey Pretzel – $4.75
Cheese Sauce – $1.00
Golden Oak Outpost
Sweet Potato Nuggets with Powdered Sugar – $2.99
BLT Waffle Fries with a side of Apple Slices (Share) – $7.99
Chidren’s BBQ Pork Sandwich or Turkey Sandwich or Hamburger + Toppings Bar – $5.99
Corn on the Cob – $2.19
Taco Salad – $8.79
Columbia Harbor House
Battered Fish Platter -$7.49
Veggie Chili – $4.99
New England Clam Chowder – $4.99
Kid’s Meal Chicken Nuggets or Tuna Sandwich – $5.99
Mixed Green Salad with hand-carved Turkey or Pork Brisket – $7.49
Are you afraid to visit Disney during the holiday season? I say, the more the merrier when it comes to the Christmas season at Disney World. From mid-November to early January, there is extra magic in the air. Yes, this is a peak time to visit, but you will always find crowds at Disney and the parks are decked out in all their glory. If you are used to visiting from February to October, I highly recommend experiencing the limited-time splendor of the holidays done right.
Celebrate the Holidays at the Magic Kingdom
Start your holiday journey in the Magic Kingdom, at night. When the sun goes down, the lights go on! Out of the three parks, the MK just may be the most enchanting. Holiday music welcomes you at the gate and you will be greeted by an army of toy soldiers. The massive tree in the center of Main Street provides a great place for picture-taking with the castle in the distance. If you have the Memory Maker photo package, get your picture snapped by the Photopass photographer. You just might find an animated surprise when you login online.
Proceeding down Main Street, enjoy the lit up garland and decorated balconies. Mickey-shaped wreaths adorn the lamp posts and the Main Street stores have beautiful window displays. We like to view them all as a competition for the best window and see which one stands out the most for Christmas creativity.
Although many of the rides are business as usual (and you would want them to be!) try the Jungle Cruise. Renamed the “Jingle Cruise” during the holidays, this scripted boat tour down the river takes a delightful turn at Christmastime. The animatronics and jungle sets are decorated in a humorous way. Your guide on the riverboat will be full of holiday cheer. It’s a rare opportunity to see an old classic in literally, a new light!
For a holiday treat, swing by Gaston’s Tavern for delicious hot chocolate or get a custom ice cream sandwich at Sleepy Hollow. Seasonal options include peppermint or pumpkin ice cream, as well as gingerbread snowflake cookies, in addition to their infamous chocolate chip cookies.
Open all year, Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square seems extra joyful around the holidays. The store sells ornaments featuring all your favorite characters, as well as stockings, tree skirts, toppers, and door banners. We especially loved the huge glass Mickey ears to “hide” in our own tree!
In addition to its regularly scheduled evening Electrical Parade, Disney puts on holiday shows in the Magic Kingdom. Frozen fans will be in their glory as they watch Anna and Elsa perform with Olaf in front of the castle in A Frozen Holiday Wish nightly at 6:15 PM. Under their power, the castle is transformed into the glorious icy fortress created with thousands of twinkle lights.
Throughout the evening, light shows and projections periodically turn the castle into a celebratory centerpiece. End your night with a special holiday version of Wishes. Watch the sky fill with fireworks of red, green, and gold set to a score of holiday music. It’s enough to warm the heart of any grinch. Look to Tomorrowland to see Tinkerbell fly towards the castle. For an unimpeded view, you may want to book the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party in advance. This ADR has space set aside for viewing Wishes and a full spread of sweet treats to enjoy while you watch the show. A Photopass photographer is often present to take your picture with fireworks in the background (hard to get with a selfie)! If you have already seen Holiday Wishes, try riding the TTA People Moverwhile it’s going on. Nothing beats sitting and gliding in the breeze high in the sky away from the crowds while you watch the fireworks go off around the castle for a few perfect moments…before the view changes.
You may wish to have a holiday dinner to celebrate the season. Everyone’s tastes are different, so consider what the holidays mean to you and then go for it! Particularly seasonal offerings include the Liberty Tree Tavern (very popular for Thanksgiving), Be Our Guest Restaurant, and a special Christmas Dinner at The Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland (which truly had the most beautiful Christmas decorations of any Disney restaurant inside).
If you really want to splurge, make sure to call on the first day available to make your ADR for Cinderella’s Royal Table. If you time it right (ask for an ADR at 8:30 or 9:00 PM) you just might see holiday Wishes shooting off outside next to your table while you dine.
If you are visiting after Christmas, but before (or during) New Year’s, be sure to order the clock strikes twelve dessert. You know…just for practice!
If you are looking for a bit more exclusive holiday celebration, you might want to pre-book tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! Starting at $74 USD for a ticket (children under 3 are free with your ticket), you will have the park open just for party ticket holders from 7:00 PM to Midnight on that select date. You can enter the parks as early as 4:00 PM with your Christmas Party ticket.
Dates for 2016 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party:
November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27, 29
December 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 22
The Party includes Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade twice during the night, complete with spectacular floats, Minnie, Mickey, Santa, and dancing reindeer. Snow will fall intermittently on Main Street and you are welcome to hot chocolate and cookies included with your ticket. Ride your favorite rides, greet all of your favorite characters throughout the Magic Kingdom for photos and signatures, and then hop over to Tomorrowland for A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show, featuring Buzz Lightyear and your friends from Monsters Inc. You can also watch Minnie and Mickey and friends on stage in front of the castle in their rendition of the Nutcracker during the Celebrate the Seasons Show. At 9:30, there is a performance of Holiday Wishes fireworks to enjoy.
Celebrate the Holidays at Epcot
Epcot also gets in the spirit during the season with its Holidays Around the World. Although a bit more understated than the Magic Kingdom’s revelry, you will find beautiful decorations around each of the World Showcase pavilions. Be sure to stop by Germany. The Germans invented the Christmas tree, and it features several excellent options for buying handcrafted and blown glass ornaments, including Die Weihnachts Ecke (Christmas Corner).
An outdoor stall to the left of the town square often showcases the fine art of glass-blowing. Directly next to that is a stand selling traditional holiday beverages, including delicious gluhwein, a warm mulled wine available only at Christmas in Epcot. Also stop into Der Teddybar toy store in Germany, where you might want to finally pick up that Steiff teddy bear that is sure to become an heirloom.
The America showcase offers a massive centerpiece tree, as well as a small outdoor market area selling Christmas ornaments and dolls. This area is strategically situated across from the outdoor theater for the Candlelight Processional.
Epcot is a wonderful place to buy stocking stuffers and small gifts. My favorites include the Mitsukoshi store in Japan, which has terrific small stationary items (read packable), good luck figurines, packaged snacks and candy, pick-a-pearl, fans, incense, and elegant sushi paraphernalia. They also sell one of my favorite gifts to give: small purses in fun printed fabrics with a special pocket for your camera. Everybody loves them!
For elegant offerings, Italy sells Murano glass pendants and earrings, perfume, and scarfs. France sells some very beautiful resin barrettes, makeup compacts, and linen tea towels. The United Kingdom pavilion has a delightful tea shop where you can find the perfect gift for any Anglophile. It also sells soap from Buckingham Palace, tartan scarves, and beautiful fashion jewelry made in Ireland. Hop into the toy store and you’ll find something to win over any child’s heart, including a large selection of Paddington and Pooh related items.
If you are lucky enough to be visiting on a night the Candlelight Processional is being offered, try to secure your seat with the Dinner Package. While the processional itself does not require a separate ticket fee, seats are first come first-served and we observed very long lines for this performance of music and recitation of the Nativity by various celebrities. The dinner package offers you an ADR at the Epcot restaurant of your choice and priority seating at the performance.
We recommend you check out Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season. This performance of holiday gospel, jazz, and R&B music will renew your crowd-weary spirit. Held at hourly intervals throughout the afternoon (1-4 PM), walk over to Future World in Epcot early and snag some refreshments (or a free international soda from Club Cool) before you settle in to watch what is Epcot’s best holiday music performance.
Throughout the day, you will also find storytellers from each country explaining the cultural holiday traditions of each showcase. Pick up a holiday time guide when entering the park so you don’t miss any of these special encounters! We happened upon Pere Noel in France.
At 9:30 PM, get ready for Epcot’s answer to fireworks. Illuminations is held out on the showcase lagoon, complete with pyrotechnics, lasers, and lights. Watch for the torches located around the showcase to light just before the show begins. The message of Illuminations is clear: that humanity is one family. A special holiday ending, “Let there Be Peace on Earth”, seems to sum up what the holidays should be.
Celebrate the Holidays at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Not to be outdone, Hollywood Studios has the most spectacular light display of all. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is an unrivaled holiday display that puts on quite a show. This is absolutely my favorite Disney holiday feature. Located at the back of the park on the Streets of America, you will be dazzled by millions of lights that periodically dance to music before your eyes. You can wander in at any time and stay a while so you can notice all of the terrific details and soak up the sights and colors. If you want to glow in tune to the music, you can purchase and wear one of Disney’s new “Made with Magic”items (formerly called Glow with the Show). These ears, headbands, Mickey hands, and magic wands enable you to have accessories that change color to the beat of the Osborne music. They also work at Fantasmic and Wishes, so if you are an avid fan, it is absolutely a must have!
Several online resources recommend that you view this display right before park closing, you’ll have the whole place to yourself. However, I find a deserted Osborne street somewhat sad and I think being part of the camaraderie in the mix of all of the visitors adds to the enjoyment of this spectacle. I have visited several times and this area is never a complete crush of people, even at peak times. You can walk around and see everything and get your picture taken at key spots. There is also a small, discrete beverage stand which offers spiked or plain hot chocolate and seasonal cocktails, include thegumdrop cocktail, which is a delightful concoction of Chambord, Stoli Razberri Vodka, Pineapple and Cranberry Juices, and Sprite topped off with a gumdrop stirrer. You can enjoy your beverage in this section of the park only, as you walk around looking at the lights. To add to the sense of wonder, snow frequently drifts down from the sky to add to the seasonal effect.
Before you leave the lights, you may wish to stop by the creche near the flying angels and find a moment of peace in the park.
Celebrate the Holidays at Disney’s Resorts
Not to be outdone, Disney’s resorts are all decked out for the holidays too. You’ll find themed trees and decorations in all the hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort. The Polynesian features peach and red tropical flowers in their trees, while the Beach Club showcases turquoise sea horses and gold seaweed ribbons. The roaring fireplace at the Wilderness Lodge adds a seasonal touch to its lobby. Hop over to the Yacht Club Resort to see all of the gorgeous boats on their nautical-themed trees.
Train enthusiasts will be happy to watch the engines fly around the elaborate holiday layout in the Yacht Club lobby.
The elegant lobby of the Grand Floridian is traditionally elegant during the holidays. Hop on the monorail and then line up to have your photo taken with Mickey and Minnie in the holiday attire in front of the tree decked out with Victorian ornaments and ribbons. At one end of the lobby is a very impressive gingerbread house. Walk around to the back of it to find cast members inside selling amazing confections and sugared slabs of what is arguably the best gingerbread you will ever eat. The Beach Club and the Contemporary also feature large-scale gingerbread masterpieces and sell gingerbread treats.
Tips for Celebrating the Holidays at Disney World
Temperatures can range drastically, from the 80’s to the upper 30’s at night. During the course of our trip, we had temperatures early in the week at 78 degrees daytime to temperatures later in the trip reading 39 degrees in the evening. Pack accordingly in Nov, Dec, Jan. Bring jeans, warm socks, a warm sweater, and a jacket.
Make your room feel like home away from home. To quickly decorate, hang up some stockings for Christmas morning. You can also bring a small artificial tabletop tree to decorate (if your packing situation permits, or if you are feeling flush, order a tree or bouquet to be delivered to your room from the Disney florist. You can also bring a plug-in scent for your room like cinnamon, pine, or vanilla to make it more home-like.
With all of the business of Disney, small children get concerned that Santa won’t find them. Reassure them that Santa indeed knows they are at Disney World(so be good!)
Make ADR’s for your holiday meal. If a big holiday meal is important, make sure to make these reservations way in advance. This is THE busiest time of the year for Disney restaurants.
The Magic Kingdom might…CLOSE. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, sometimes the crowds swell to such a size that the park can close. This means that once it reaches capacity, you will not be permitted to enter, even if you are holding a ticket. This usually happens at the height of day. By the evening the park reopens for admission. If you have your heart set on a Disney MK Day on Christmas, try to stay at a resort hotel and take advantage of those Extra Magic Hours the minute they start. Or visit another favorite park at Disney during the day.
When I first mentioned to family and friends that we were planning on going to Disney World for our honeymoon, they were incredulous. “Why would you want to be around hoards of people and screaming children during the romantic start of your life together?”
There is no better place on earth for some sun and a lot of fun that you can share together than Disney World! It is the world’s number one honeymoon destination, with good reason. There are scores of restaurants, bars, pools, entertainment, and resorts for you to experience together. One thing that struck me when I was researching ideas for our own honeymoon, er sorry, “Disneymoon”, was how repetitive the advice online was. Over and over, I read the same few tidbits of advice: dine at Victoria and Albert’s; schedule a private photo-session with a Disney photographer; get the Disney Dining Plan; wear your “just married” buttons. Having just experienced a Disney honeymoon, I can honestly tell you, there are a lot better ways to create a romantic, fun adults-only vacation for you and your spouse.
The Ten BEST Tips for your Disney Honeymoon
1. Do not schedule a ton of reserved dinners (ADR’s)
It being our honeymoon and all, my husband and I scheduled quite a few dinner reservations. We ended up eating much more food, and heavier foods, than we normally do and we found the cuisine way too rich for us. This often dragged us down for at least an hour after each meal. My husband had more steak on this trip than he usually eats in a year, because every restaurant had steak as the dinner option with the “delicious potato side dish.” This also restricts your schedule because you have to be at a specific place and time each night. Pick one nice restaurant for every four days of your trip and make those special evenings.
I highly recommend Le Chefs de France the Epcot world showcase. My husband surprised me with dinner here due to my love of all things French. It was the best meal of our trip and the ambiance was a calming french bistro at a table by the window looking out at the World Showcase. Other good bets for romantic dinners (i.e. less children attending, romantic ambiance) are the Coral Reef Restaurant (eat fish in an aquarium), Le Cellier in Canada (beer and cheddar soup), the Yachtsman Steakhouse (steak, steak, and more steak), Restaurant Marrakech in Morocco (belly dancers for everyone), the Flying Fish Cafe (noisy deliciousness), Todd English’s Bluezoo (dancing fish…not literally), and the Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios (cobb salads and grapefruit cake).
Other than that, have some counter-service picnics, share snacks, sip one frozen lemonade with two straws, order room service in bed for breakfast. You will be so happy you did!
You DO NOT HAVE TO eat at Victoria & Albert’s The Grand Floridian’s foodie haven was listed as a top priority on almost every Disneymoon advice list that I read prior to our trip. Trust me, shelling out $500 that you don’t have as a young couple for one three-hour meal that involves foie gras and a partner who is a picky eater is not going to be the kind of memory that you want to make.
You also don’t need to have the dining plan with my system of ADR’s. If you get the Disney Dining Plan with your Disney Package at a good price, then go for it if you want. This includes “free dining” options that are sometimes offered in the fall. It is a lot of money up front for a lot of food and we did not use it, preferring to pay out of pocket. Do not feel pressured to get it.
2. Go to a Water Park for the day
Disney has two wonderful water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. If you are visiting during the cooler months, only one of the two will be open while the other is having maintenance done, so check ahead of time. We visited Blizzard Beach in November and had a blast together! For any time of the year, get there very early in the day, or go late in the day, because crowds will build.
First, stake out your lounge chairs in the sand away from the crowd and run into the wave pool. Blizzard Beach has a beautiful turquoise wave pool where you can bob up and down to your heart’s content. When they crank up the machine-made waves out by the rocks, hold on tight to your honey! After your refreshing dip, climb some steps (ok a ton of steps) up to the Crusher Gusher and get a raft for two. Sail down the twisting and turning slide while screaming before you splash down. You can also race each other down the toboggan racers slide.
A chair lift will take you to the top of the mountain for Teamboat Springs, a group raft ride down a very long, very fun, very splashy course. We rode down with a lovely family from Argentina. Be warned, if you have problems with heights, getting to the top of the mountain for Teamboat Springs is not the easiest. You have two options: climb a million steps or take the chairlift. The chairlift stops at times during your ride to let other people on and you are waaaaay up high…without a net…or even a foot rest. This did not bother my dear husband or the six year old girl seated with us, but I, your fearless traveler, clutched the handlebars for dear life, praying my wet bathing suit and the slippery chair seat would not repel each other. Next time, I promise I won’t look down.
This was my first time at a water park ever and we had the BEST time. The slides we went down were thrilling and fun. The water was warm, yet refreshing. When we grew tired, we got a couple of slushy cocktails and some donut holes with chocolate dipping sauce and we sat back in the sun and sand. To end our day, we floated around the entire park on Cross Country Creek (a lazy river) in a tandem raft together trying to avoid the icy drips of water that fell from the cave and a clothesline of dripping socks. The theming here is fantastic and your opportunities for a fun time abound.
3. Stay at a Disney Resort or on-site Resort.
If you can swing it financially, stay at a Disney Resort for all, or part, of your honeymoon. Disney Resorts are an experience themselves and there is something for everybody. If you love the idea of a secluded cabin in the woods, stay at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. If you dream of walks on the beach in Hawaii without the long flight, stay at Disney’s Polynesian. Do you love New Orleans? Stay at Port Orleans Riverside. Or make every day a safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Disney’s theming offers wonderful resorts for everyone, and their amenities will make your honeymoon’s trip logistics much smoother. Disney resort guests are offered Extra Magic Hours, with an hour just for you at specific parks in the morning and evening. That means you might get into the Magic Kingdom one hour earlier than everyone else and then close up the night one hour later at Hollywood Studios.
You will also be in the best proximity to enjoy the included Disney transportation (buses, boats, monorail) so you won’t have to worry about parking. Some resorts also enable you to walk to the gates of your favorite parks! If you are having any trouble with your magic bands or forgot one last souvenir, your resort can help you with that too. Stay at a Deluxe Resort or Moderate Resort. We don’t advise you stay at a Value Resort for your honeymoon because those are geared heavily to families (lots of kids in the pool) but if you happen to know and love one, then go for it.
If price is an issue, and Disney Resorts can be very pricey, particularly in peak times, running anywhere from $270 a night and up (waaay up), you can still be in great proximity to the parks for a nicer price by staying at the Swan or Dolphin hotels in Disney’s boardwalk district. Located right between Disney’s Yacht Club and Boardwalk resorts, you are in a prime location to visit Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The hotels feature great restaurants, Disney transportation, Extra Magic Hours, and a spot for a lively nightlife on the boardwalk. Prices tend to be lower here, and if you are a teacher or a nurse, they often offer a discount.
Also an option is the Buena Vista Palace & Spa, located directly across the street from the Disney Marketplace (soon to be Disney Springs). If you are a D23 Gold Member, you can receive a 15% off discount, at times. They offer a shuttle to all Disney theme parks and water parks, a Disney Store, and a Disney Character Breakfast on Sundays.
If you are a Hilton Honors member, your best bet might be the new Waldorf=Astoria Orlando, located just minutes from Disney. Rooms rates are often lower than Disney Deluxe Resorts, yet feature cushy amenities and complimentary transportation to the parks. Teachers are also offered a very nice summer room rate here. We’ve also heard good things about the room rates and amenities at the Wyndham Cyprus Palms in Orlando.
Or, try splitting up your stay. Book an off-site hotel or motel for several night and then splurge on two or three nights at a Disney Resort.
4. Take a Special Disney Tour
Your honeymoon is the time for making memories as a couple, and Disney’s high quality tours will enable you to have special experiences that most of the guests to Disney world won’t. We did the Wild Africa Trek, a three-hour safari in Disney’s Animal Kingdom complete with animal interactions, informative lessons, a suspension bridge adventure, photo opportunities, and a beautiful lunch out on the savanna. It was the highlight of our honeymoon and we can’t stop talking about it. The tour groups are small (ours was 8 people) and offer you much needed time away from the crowds at Disney. Disney offers something for everyone.
If you love the sea, Epcot is your answer. Dolphins in Depth can provide for dolphin interactions, Epcot’s Seas Aqua Tour and Dive Quest are available for those of you who know how to dive. Are you avid gardeners? The Behind the Seeds tour in The Land may be just your thing! The Wilderness Back Trail Segway Adventure, The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour, the Keys to the Kingdom are several other unique options for your Disneymoon.
On a smaller scale, Disney offers new dessert and drink options during fireworks displays in both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. A cordoned off VIP area with a great view of the fireworks, sparkling beverage, and a buffet of desserts provides a memorable evening for honeymooners. You can book this under dining (ADR) in your “My Disney Experience.”
5. Wear your buttons…but only if you feel like it
Ah the buttons, sweet buttons. Everyone tells you to get the buttons and wear the buttons. Disney offers honeymooners a special “just married” or “happily ever after” button that you can pick up at your resort or at Guest Relations at the parks. It makes you more recognizable to cast members. But in the words of my husband, “everyone has a freaking button.” And it’s true. There are buttons for first visits, Birthdays, Anniversaries, the just engaged, family reunions, My Triumph, and the mysterious, yet general “I’m Celebrating.”
Many people don these buttons with the hope that they will get “free stuff” during their travels throughout Disney World: cupcakes, fast passes, room upgrades, gold krugerrands. A word of advice, do not wear a button with too much expectation attached to it. We wore our buttons quite a bit because we liked them. We got a lot of congratulations from cast members and visitors and it was a nice conversation starter. We got beautiful leis at the Polynesian Resort in honor of our newlywed status and a nice tasting plate of little chocolates for dessert at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. We also got a pink plastic placemat with all of the Disney princesses on it at Cinderella’s Royal Table (not sure where I put that, come to think of it). It was nice to be congratulated. Just don’t expect perks because of your big purple button or you will likely be disappointed.
6. Find the perfect honeymoon souvenir
The opportunities for buying an object to commemorate your honeymoon abound. When you are searching for the perfect souvenir, think “heirloom” not Disneyana. You can always get that giant stuffed Minnie Mouse on your next Disney trip. We found beautiful blown glass Christmas ornaments in a “wedding set” complete with a certificate and wooden storage box in Germany, which is sure to be a family heirloom. We also picked up a small hand-carved wooden statue of two intertwined giraffes to remember our safari and stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The world showcase offers many opportunities for honeymoon souvenirs from different countries, including crystal wine glasses, jewelry, murano glass, perfume bottles, silk kimonos, venetian masks, beer steins, and teapots.
If you are just setting up a home, Disney kitchen items make great, packable souvenirs. Available at the Disney marketplace and many resort gift shops, potholders, tablecloths, dishtowels and fun kitchen gadgets will help you remember your trip.
Did you marry an animation enthusiast or Disney fanatic? You might want to invest in a piece of framed animation art or a beautiful snow globe you can display. Did you love your resort? Many of the hotel shops have matted prints of artists’ interpretations of resort views.
If you are strapped for cash with all this Disney-ing…fear not, you can have a great souvenir for very little money! Simply collect small items along the way to put into a shadowbox frame. We made one with our happily ever after buttons, hotel stationary items, a menu from our favorite dinner, magic bands, receipts, park maps, pressed pennies, and some favorite photos for less than $20!
7. Do not go to the parks every day
Repeat after me. Do. Not. Go. To. The. Parks. Every. Day.
Do not do it! No matter how much you love Disney! No matter how much you want to ride Splash Mountain again. No matter how much you really need to get those cute ballet flats in the store on Main Street. No matter how much you want a better photo of the two of you in front of the castle. Even if you have a Tinker Bell tattoo somewhere on your body (yes, you are indeed a hard core Disney fan sir). Do not go to the parks every day. This is your honeymoon and it only happens once! So spend time together relaxing away from the parks. Sit by the pool, stroll on the beach, have a drink at the hotel bar, work out in the gym side-by-side, see a show, or relax in your room. Be together without hoards of people in your business.
If you think you will have trouble doing this, and there are many people who will, I recommend buying your Disney Parks ticket as a Park Hopper Pass for 2 days short of your stay. For instance, if you are staying 6 days, purchase a 4 day Park Hopper. This gives you a lot of flexibility on the days you are at the parks to do everything you want to do, but will restrict you from going every day.
You can thank me later.
If you need to do something away from the parks, rent a SeaRacer boat or bikes at your resort and set off together to explore. The boats seat two people and are a lot of fun. You’ll forget about the parks if you and your sweetheart cruise in Bay lake together. Take turns driving the boat! Or pack some snacks or sandwiches for a picnic and head off on your bikes for a relaxing ride. Disney also offers Surrey bicycles built for two.
For more romance, carriage rides are offered at Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans. (I’ve heard the one during the holidays is fantastic because of all the decorated campers.) If a little competition makes you frisky, Disney also offers two miniature golf courses: Winter/Summerland at Blizzard Beach and Fantasia Gardens golf just past the Boardwalk.
We also really enjoy exploring the other resorts. Use Disney transportation to visit the other hotel and see the different theming. Have lunch, a coffee, or a drink at the resort and see the stunning lobby, grounds and pool. Look at the restaurant menus for future visits. Often, the resorts are quiet when everyone is at the parks during the height of day, which will enable you to have a nice look around.
8. Buy some ears, just not necessarily those ears
You know the ones I’m talking about right? The bride and groom ears? The white ones with the little tiara and the bit of veil flying off of it? The black ears with the tiny top hat. I’m sorry. We couldn’t do it. We tried. We even took a picture in them. And that was more than enough for me. They just weren’t us. If they are you…if you’ve been dreaming about them since you were a wee lass, well, then go on ahead, wear them with pride! But if you grimace at the thought…
and my there was a lot of grimacing…
Then try the new Glow with the Show ears. They light up! Oh yes they do! And they change colors, seemingly randomly, so you can always find your honey in the dark…even when you are back home! If you are at Fantasmic, they synchronize in a light show with the music. When the blue fairy flies out during Wishes, they turn blue. Be a part of this chromatic spectacle. Get your picture taken with these ears on coming down Splash Mountain at night. When you touch your ears to his ears they turn the same color. Touch your ears together a lot. (Touching ears leads to kissing. You can’t have enough of that on your honeymoon!)
9. Eat, Drink, and Shop Around the World
Epcot’s World Showcase enables you “walk around the world.” This is a delight for honeymooners when you eat and drink and shop your way around the world. For every drink you get, make sure to have a snack in each country so you don’t get too tipsy. The more you drink and eat, the more you will buy souvenirs. This is particularly fun. (No, I’m sorry honey, I don’t remember buying the navy blue Italian leather hobo bag that I now love so much. Soft. So very soft).
If you are drinking Aquavit in Norway, then share some school bread (why is this so delicious, tell us why!) Dumplings go great with the slushy Plum Iced Tea in China. Split a bratwurst or curry wurst in Germany with your beer (if you visit during the holidays Germany has Gluhwein!) You can do this economically if you save your snack credits from the Disney Dining Plan or split items out-of-pocket along the way. Or do like we did and pre-purchase a Disney Gift Card for this purpose. Then you can just enjoy yourselves! Visit the kiosks and counter service areas of each country to maximize time.
Visit the kiosks and counter service areas of each country to maximize time. In Italy, we picked out a handful of Italian chocolates to nibble on with our bellinis. We did a sake tasting in Japan (turns out we like sweet sake). And in France (why is it always France?!) we had the best snack of our lives… Oh yes… An ice cream sandwich made with a scoop of salted-caramel ice cream inside a buttery brioche. And the whole thing was toasted! It was warm and cold. And oh so good! With two Grand Marnier slushies. I think about it still. The Best. Snack. Ever! And I cannot recreate this. Ce’st Impossible!
10. Enjoy being the “biggest kids” around
Let’s face it, if you didn’t have a bit of childlike wonder in you, Disney World would not be your Honeymoon destination. We say live it up…and embrace your inner child. Delight in each other’s happiness. Ride Aladdin’s Magic Carpets at night. Laugh at the Country Bear Jamboree. Split a Mickey sundae on Main Street. Construct your own lightsabers.
We went to the Character Breakfast at the Cape May Cafe. Nothing beats a hug from Goofy and strawberry waffles together! We watched Wishes twice. We (finally) rode the Seven Dwarves Mine Train at midnight.
Try to get the Memory Maker photo package if your honeymoon is three days or longer. This is not something we would always go in for, but for our honeymoon, we were very glad we got this. Photopass photographers stationed at the best points throughout the parks (and in some hotel lobbies) will take your photo on their camera, and then take some for you on your own. (You can do this for free with a Photopass card) Included in the Memory Maker, however, are all the big ride photos (Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror, Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, Test Track, Expedition Everest). We were delighted to discover later that Disney had some video of us on there too, including the Tower of Terror drop, our nighttime ride on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and a Holiday Greeting from Main Street. It all makes for a great digital album of our honeymoon.
If you follow these ten tips, you will have a wonderful Disneymoon…