Disneymoon Blog – Day 1 – Animal Kingdom, Armidillos and Oh Getting lost…

I was up at 4am this morning, unpacking and writing yesterdays blog and went off for a little adventure around the resort while everyone else was asleep being a good wife and getting drinks for when Paul and Amelia woke up.

Port Orleans is such a nice resort as I said yesterday, it has such a relaxed atmosphere and because it is a small resort it’s not crowded which is brilliant. (I’ll do a proper in full review of the resort and the room when I get home)

We had an 8:20 reservation for Tusker House this morning with EMH at Animal Kingdom from 8am. We got there just after 8am and it was packed. Labour Day weekend and obviously Pandora I think were the reasons for that. In all my visits I’ve never seen so many people running towards a park at that time of the morning. As we made our way to Tusker and passed Pandora that crowd did thin out. A Lot.

Tusker House is fab!! It’s a large restaurant so even though it seats a lot of people it doesnt feel too crowded. It’s worth remembering for those of you who aren’t staying on site that if you do have a dining reservation before the park opens that is a really good way to get in the parks. Although you won’t be able to get on anything until it does open for rides like Flight of Passage it would mean you can get in line early.

Food at Tusker is standard for a Breakfast Buffet although it does have a bit of an African twist with things like corned beef hash and curry for you to try. I have a sweet tooth and would highly recommend trying the Banana Bread pudding which was lovely. As is the specialty drink ‘Jungle Juice’ which they give you when you get to your table. I could drink that all day.  I don’t know what was in it but it was lovely and fruity.

We met 4 Characters, Donald obviously, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey.  I do love the character dining it’s a great way to meet the more popular ones without having to be in a line for ages.

Bellys full we headed off to get my DAS sorted on our Magic Bands which was as usual quick and easy from Guest Services.  Then off we went to visit Pandora. We had a fast pass for River Journey and it was pretty quiet which we found a little odd. Turned out none of the rides were running. We did have a little look around and Amelia was fascinated by the big plant that lights up when you touch it. I have to say from that little bit that we saw I was completely gobsmacked. It is stunning!! The theming, the ambience the whole lot of it is breathtaking.  I knew it was going to be incredible after seeing all the vlogs and pictures but honestly none of those do it justice at all. IMG_8114

With Pandora having issues we decided to head up to Kilimanjaro Safaris – I was a bit lame today with taking photos and mostly videoed instead so look out for those when we get home. We saw loads of animals on the safari including a baby elephant which was absolutely the cutest thing we saw all day.

We bumped into Tarzan on our travels which was fab as I’d not met him before 🙂 I managed to embarass myself a little by tripping on my feet and very nearly grabbing his bum…

Off to Everest after that Amelia’s favourite, And a lot faster than I remember it being last time!! Then a quick visit to the river rapids which was lovely in the heat as it was incredibly muggy and hot yesterday.

Disability access for all the rides is so easy – I will go into all that a lot more when I get home – I know it’s something that is really important to know when you go somewhere like Disney.

We went back to Pandora for lunch and off to Satu’li Canteen one of the places I’d been most looking forward to eating in. Again the ambience is breathtaking in there!! Food was amazing, I recommend the beef but not with the grains which basically taste like plain brown rice, Paul went for the sweet potato hash which was lovely so that would be my choice for next time.

No pudding though cos we were full, instead we went and got a Night Blossom from Pongo Pongo. Which tastes like a twister in a glass 🙂

Using my DAS we got a return time for Flight of Passage – a wait of 4 HOURS – and then went back to the hotel for a bit of time in the pool. And we managed to get back without getting lost!!

Bad news when we got back literally just as we got to the pool they closed it due to lightning so instead we went in the arcade which was so much fun.

Back to Animal Kingdom after refilling our resort mugs for the journey, it was chucking it down so it was nice walking in that everyone else was heading in the opposite direction.

Straight to River Journey as they let us keep the fast pass to use at any time as well as giving us an extra for something else too.

Just like Pandora itself River Journey is just stunning!! There is so much to look at as you go round. It really takes your breath away with the sounds smells and noises you hear as you travel slowly around. I decided not to take pictures on this on my first time round just so I could fully concentrate on what was going on and take it all in. Then off we went to Flight of Passage. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do this ride being that the restraints hold your feet forward and also come up to fasten you at your back – 2 things that for me with my condition looked like they would be a little problematic. So I ducked out 😦 Paul and Amelia went on it though and when they came off Paul explained everything to me about the ride vehicle and we decided that I would be able to go on so we decided to go back again another day, instead a lovely cast member who I’d been chatting to while I was waiting actually took us back round so we could all go on again then.

Flight of Passage there are literally no words to describe how amazing it is!! It uses similar technology to Soarin but much more state of the art. Not only do you see all the places you’re flying over on your banshee you smell them as well.  It’s that realistic that you almost forget that you’re on a ride and you do really feel a little worried you might fall off of things might hit you as you fly at them – I had to stop myself putting my hand up to shield myself from some of it!! Because of the incredibly realistic effects it is really really intense. I have strange fears and big waves/tidal waves and things like that do scare me there is a bit where you fly towards a huge wave and I think you fly through it as it crashed over you but I shut my eyes for that so I could be wrong!! 🙂

It was dark when we got off so we were lucky enough to see Pandora at night with everything lit up. It’s beautiful!! You MUST go here at night and see how all the plants and walkways light up in the dark, if there is any place throughout Disney that showcases the talent of the imagineers this is it!! How they come up with the ideas to make these things so real I will never know!!

We did Dinosaur which is probably one of the fastest rides I’ve ever been on, I don’t remember it being that quick – maybe we’re just getting old and things seem a bit faster than they used to be – I was knackered getting off that you get thrown around that much!!

Then last fastpass of the day was Everest about half hour before park closing 🙂 In the Dark with an AMAZING view of the park all lit up!! Highly recommened doing that at night 🙂

Wandering out of the park we saw a little Armadillo which was highly entertaining for all the Brits around us!!

Then we left. To come back to the hotel which we found with no trouble earlier!! Took us an hour again in the dark!! Theme of this holiday is definitely getting lost in Disney!! I’m beginning to regret not getting a decent map or renting a sat nav!!

Off to Islands of Adventure today and Blue Man tonight, I wonder if we’ll get lost coming home.. stay tuned I shall update you tomorrow!!

Disneymoon Day 1 – Plane, Longhorns and getting lost…

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After getting up at the silly hour of 3am (for a 11:20am flight!) Yes I know we’re mental loads of stuff to do before we left!! Picked up by the lovely Rob from Planelink Executive who I would highly recommend if you’re in the Southampton/Portsmouth/Hampshire area, we left home round about 7:15 and were checked in and through security by 9:15 bit of a record I think.  The Virgin check in staff were lovely although they didn’t offer us a free upgrade even though were were wearing our wedding ears!

It’s been a while since I actually paid attention to facilities in an airport but in the interest of research and knowing I was blogging I actually walked around and took in some useful little bits of info. There are an insane amount of charging points for all your electrical devices both USB and good old fashioned proper plugs which is useful if you’re in the departure lounge for a while. There is also USB charge points at the departure gates.

As always being as it’s too far to walk I did book assistance in advance, between getting through security and getting picked up to go to the gate was only 90 minutes or so which was really good. Straight through and straight on the plane, so if you do struggle to walk then it is really handy to book it.

We had a very swift breakfast in Garfunkels (no alcohol though) and no time for pudding or even a little peruse around the shops, which I think Paul was secretly happy about given my past record with perfume purchases before going on holiday 🙂

Boarding was quick and easy and we had a mostly lovely journey on Jersey Girl.  I was proud of Paul for actually staying awake for the whole flight despite taking some pills to make him sleep, it was nice to have him talking instead of snoring and drooling next to me.

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All seats on Virgin have individual USB charging points which is fab and on board WiFi (which you do have to pay for).

One of the things I absolutely dread about being on a plane is having to watch the security videos. I don’t want to see how my plane will crash thanks when I’m sat on a plane at the time!! Thankfully Virgin don’t actually use planes to show what you need to do in an emergency, they have a really quirky little video using cars and boats and it’s great for those of us who can be a little nervous when flying.

Entertainment was pretty good although I didnt get to watch a lot as my headphones were dodgy – note to self dont forget your own headphones next time – I did pinch Pauls in the end and watched a few episodes of Family Guy.  Amelia loved all the games on the plane however her screen did crash several times while she was playing which was annoying.

We were through at this end pretty quick again and off to get our beast of a car and onward to Port Orleans, doing pretty well until we actually got to the Disney resort when there was literally NO signs for our hotel (although 100’s for the others) and it took us about 2 hours to find it!!

Port Orleans is a beautiful resort, staff are lovely. We had a lovely little song to welcome us from Robert who noted our ears and knew we were on our honeymoon 🙂 Thats Disney Magic right there.

We’re in the French Quarter which is a small resort which is fab for us.

We had a cool caricature done and then went off to Longhorns for the steak we’ve been craving for 2 years!!

Got in shattered at 11 after being up for over 24 hours and now today we are off to Animal Kingdom for breakfast with Mr Duck!!

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Harry Potter event at Universal!

Having been to Orlando several times it’s always nice to find some different things to do when I’m there and try and experience the parks in a different way.

We all know about the Halloween and Christmas events that are much publicised and written about but did you know that there is something else happening at the start of September for all you Harry Potter fans….

Orlando Informer is hosting a meet up at Universal this September 2-3 which looks so much fun!!

I’ve been watching a lot of vlogs lately and one of the vloggers posted about this so I did a little bit of investigating!

It’s a separate ticketed event much like the Halloween Horror Nights but a little less big!!

You get to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter after hours which is amazing in itself!! It’s always so busy so there so seeing it when there’s actually room to wander about slowly and seeing the dragon breathe fire at night is one of those memorable experiences you’ll never forget!!

Both sides of the Wizarding World are open for it as well as some of the other rides in the Studios park and the Hogwarts express too. There’s food and unlimited butterbeer included as well!! That’s where I’ll get my moneys worth!!

It runs from 8pm-1:30am and you do need to register to get tickets but it looks soooo cool!! It is quite pricey at $154 so about £120 but if you’re there and it’s on and you can afford it then why not?!!

Full info and tickets can be found here https://meetup.orlandoinformer.com/

Character Dining in Orlando

One of the most fun things about being in Orlando – and Disney particularly – is the ability to dine with the Characters.

There is so much choice though so how do you decide on which one (or ones) that you want to do?

I thought I’d put together a little guide to all the Character Dining options in Disney (and the other parks) so hopefully I can help you choose which one(s) is best for you. I’ll include whether or not there are allergen/vegan options (although I will do a more extensive blog on eating with specific diets) and also a price guide and if it accepts dining plans and how many credits it uses.

The first thing I will say, as I thought this before I had done it, is that the characters don’t actually ‘dine’ with you. They come around to your table as you eat and do pictures and autographs while you’re there. The characters rotate and you don’t need to worry if you see one walk out as you walk in, that character will be back and your hosts always make sure your table isn’t missed out.

Another thing that’s a bit of a misconception is that you can only do the dining in the parks. There are places in resort hotels you can dine with characters and you don’t have to be staying there to do that. So if you’re on a trip to Orlando and you’ve done Disney before and don’t fancy the parks but do want a little of the magic. You can do this!!

Currently I’ve only done Chef Mickeys in Orlando and Cafe Mickeys in Paris so review wise I can only comment on those. However for our upcoming trip I’ve gone a bit mad on the character dining and so far have booked 4 character dining experiences (5 if you include Be Our Guest) I’m sure there will be more….

So let me start with the ones available in the parks!

All these are correct and available at time of writing but they do have one off dining events sometimes as well. Keep an eye on your MDE (My Disney Experience) for them.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Magic Kingdom has 3 in park character dining – I honestly thought there was more!!

Cinderellas Royal Table, The Crystal Palace and Tianas Riverboat Party

CINDERELLAS ROYAL TABLE is one of the most popular dining experiences in WDW and if you want to dine here you need to pre book. (a step by step guide on how to book dining via your MDE app can be found here)

The restaurant is inside the castle in Magic Kingdom and is one of the most stunning looking places to eat in the parks not to mention the incredible views you must have from inside the castle.

WHO CAN I MEET? Obviously this is Cinderella’s castle so you will get to see her. After doing a little bit of research it seems you meet her before you enter the dining hall and the others come around the tables. You will see Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine and Rapunzel here. Also Snow White on occasion. They do have different ones so just ask your server who it is that day.

WHAT CAN I EAT?

Breakfast you can have pastries and choose from a few different breakfast plates including a traditional American breakfast, Shrimp and Grits, Quiche and a healthy option. TOP TIP If you’re not staying on site and you want early entry to the park book in for breakfast.

Lunch and Dinner menu is pretty similar with Pork, Beef, Fish, Chicken and a vegetarian CousCous option. Puddings here look incredible and you can pre order the Cinderella shoe dessert for around $15. It comes in white and milk chocolate and you can have your own message written on it as well. You can view the full menu for it here and all the other restaurants on your MDE app.

ALLERGEN /VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes ask your server.

PRICE $35-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED?  Yes it requires 2 of your Table Service credits.

Extra info – it seems as though you need to turn up dead on your reservation time here you will not be let in any earlier. Wands and Swords will be provided for the children. I’m hoping I will get a wand as well but I guess we will see in a few months!!

THE CRYSTAL PALACE is found at the end of main street. Looking at it it reminds me a little of the Plaza Gardens at Disneyland Paris.

One of things I love about any of the character/themed dining in Orlando is how it can transport you to a different time/place. This restaurant looks beautiful.

WHO CAN I MEET? This is a Winnie the Pooh and friends experience so you will see Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Rabbit.

WHAT CAN I EAT?

This is a buffet restaurant and I do love a buffet!!

Breakfast buffet will be standard american breakfast regulars bacon, sausages (that look like burgers), biscuits and of course the infamous Mickey Waffles.  As well as pastries and fruit.

Lunch and Dinner are again the same with various meats and fish, salad and sides and vegetable ‘creations’

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes ask your server. They do have the Tofu ice cream in here.

PRICE $15-$35 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes it requires only 1 of your Table Service Credits.

TIANA’S RIVERBOAT PARTY Now this looks amazing!! I actually didn’t know about this one until recently.  This is actually ON the Liberty Square Riverboat and isn’t just dining. This is a dessert party with perfect viewing for the parade. It only runs once a day.

WHO CAN I MEET? After the parade and a little journey on the lake you are met by Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

WHAT CAN I EAT? This is strictly for those of you with a sweet tooth. It’s cakes and ice cream so really my idea of heaven!!

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ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Can’t find any info on this.

PRICE – $49 PER ADULT $29 PER CHILD

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? No

EPCOT

Epcot has 2 Character dining experiences.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Garden Grill

AKERSHUS ROYAL BANQUET HALL is found in Norway in the World Showcase and is incredibly grand. It’s a nice alternative to Cinderellas Royal Table.

WHO CAN I MEET This is a Princess Dining experience and as with CRT they can change them around. Here you can meet Snow White, Belle, Aurora, Jasmine and Ariel. Anna and Elsa don’t appear at any of the dining.

On reading it seems that you do meet one of the Princesses before you go in, much like at CRT.

WHAT CAN I EAT? As you’d expect from being in the Norway pavilion the menu is Norwegian themed. It’s all all you can eat buffet.

Breakfast has the normal american staples but also a few other things found in a traditional Norweigan breakfast, meats and cheeses.

Lunch and Dinner are similar menus with a wide range of choices including the famous meatballs and various different fish dishes.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? A really extensive GF menu here and chefs are really great at walking you through and letting you know what you can eat being Vegan.

PRICE – $35-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? – Yes it requires 1 Table Service Credit.

THE GARDEN GRILL is in the Land pavilion in Future World and is a really cool rotating restaurant that rotates through different scenes of the Living with the Land ride which is underneath.  TOP TIP from the reviews I’ve read you will have a much better experience if you sit in one of the booths so be sure to request one.

WHO CAN I MEET? This is the only place you can meet ‘Farmer’ Mickey as well as Pluto and of course Chip and Dale who are the hosts of this particular dining experience.

WHAT CAN I EAT? This is a harvest style ‘family’ dining experience so although this is all you can eat. Its not a buffet. Your servers bring you round what is on the set menu and you can ask for more if you wish. A lot of the food is sourced from inside the ‘Land’ pavilion so the salad items will be different depending on what’s in season at the time.

Breakfast items are the same as everywhere else in Disney.

Again Lunch and Dinner are pretty similar. There are various different meats on the menu Turkey, pork and Pot Roast.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes, ask server for options esp Vegan as they can change according to season.

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 table service credit.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Hollywood Studios has only one permanent dining experience at Hollywood and Vine which is located opposite Echo Lake.

WHO CAN I MEET?  During Breakfast this is a Disney Jnr Play and Dine where you can meet Jake and Doc Mcstuffins, Sofia the First and Handy Manny. Lunch and Dinner will be Mickey, Minnie and friends. This is seasonal and changes throughout the year with them all dressed in seasonal outfits!

WHAT CAN I EAT? Breakfast is again the same as the other places in Disney. Lunch has a variety of different meats and nuggets and chips for the kids. Dinner has more choices including steak.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes both and quite extensive.

PRICE $35-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes 1 Table service credit.

N.B during some events they do have different offerings here such as Star Wars and Villian Dining. These may not be included as part of the dining plan.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Animal Kingdom also only has one dining experience. The Donald Duck hosted Tusker House which can be found in Africa in AK.

WHAT CAN I EAT? Breakfast is slightly different here as the menu is African inspired so you’ll find some interesting new items you can try.  Most people I’ve spoken to have said this is the best breakfast in Disney..

Lunch and Dinner are the same menu roughly.

WHO CAN I MEET? Well this is Donald’s restaurant so you’ll meet him all dressed in his Safari gear with his friends.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes and very extensive. African food is all about flavour and a lot of vegetable dishes are available.

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table Service Credit.

DINING OUTSIDE OF THE PARKS

1900 PARK FAIR AT GRAND FLORIDIAN

This has really cool themeing based on an old Victorian Carousel (just like the one Mary Poppins brings to life)

WHAT CAN I EAT? It’s another all you can eat buffet. Breakfast here is a little different to the others with a lot of fresh fruit, smoked salmon and made to order omelettes. Brunch has some of the breakfast items and salads and the famous Floridian Strawberry Soup. Dinner menu combines some of the things from the brunch with a few extra meat dishes and a wide selection of veggie ones. And Sushi! (This is a bit of a posh one!)

WHO CAN I MEET? There are 3 different types of experience here (for each meal) Breakfast is Supercalifragilistic where you can meet Mary Poppins, Alice, Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Brunch there isn’t a list for but Dinner is Princess themed, although it changes all the time Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Ugly Sisters are a regular occurrence here.

There is also a Wonderland Tea Party here for children only 4-12 which is an hour of fun, games and stories with Alice and her friends.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS Yes, lots of veggies here. Ask server for the allergen menu.

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT FOR THE BUFFET AND $40 FOR THE TEA PARTY (CHILDREN ONLY)

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table service credit. Buffet only. Dining plan can not be used for Tea Party.

PERFECTLY PRINCESS TEA is also found at Grand Floridian and is a really pricey option for Character Dining at over $300 for 1 adult and 1 child. For Fruit, Sandwiches and Cake. You do get lots of Disney merchandise like dolls and jewellery but it would probably be cheaper to purchase them yourself!!

CAPE MAY CAFE is at Disney’s Beach Club resort with beach-side themeing throughout.

WHAT CAN I EAT? Character dining here is breakfast only and is the same sort of breakfast food at the other buffet offerings.

WHO CAN I MEET? Minnie and friends so usually Mickey and Donald and Pluto.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes as with the other breakfast ones.

PRICE $15-$35 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes,  1 Table Service credit.

CHEF MICKEYS is inside the Contemporary resort right next to Magic Kingdom and can be seen from the monorail.

WHAT CAN I EAT? It’s another buffet so breakfast food is the same including the famous Mickey Waffles. Brunch and Dinner are pretty similar with meats, fish and vegetable dishes. As well as some awesome puddings!!!

WHO CAN I MEET? Mickey and friends all dressed in chef outfits! We met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN Yes

PRICE $15-$60 PER ADULT

DINING PLAN ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table Service credit.

MICKEYS BACKYARD BBQ is at the Campsites at Fort Wilderness and is a little different as this is more like a dinner ‘show’ with music and line dancing with the characters.

WHAT CAN I EAT? Well it is a BBQ so you’ll have plenty to chose from with chicken, burgers, corn on the cob and plenty of sides.

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WHO CAN I MEET? Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale and Goofy all dressed in their best line dancing gear!

ALLERGEN/VEGAN There are a few vegan options but it is mostly meat. Servers will show you what you can eat if you have allergys.

PRICE OVER $60 PER ADULT – IT’S NOT CHEAP BUT IT IS ENTERTAINMENT AS WELL

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? Yes 2 Table Service credits for this one.

OHANA BEST FRIENDS BREAKFAST is in the stunning Polynesian resort just a short monorail ride from Magic Kingdom so along with Chef Mickeys is a fab choice to go for Breakfast on a Magic Kingdom day.

WHAT CAN I EAT? American Breakfast with a Polynesian twist. This is all you can eat but not a buffet. It’s family style so your food is bought to your table.

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WHO CAN I MEET? Lilo and Stitch!! And Mickey has been known to make an appearance as well. This is only during Breakfast there are no characters at other times of the day.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS Yes, ask server and they will accommodate.

PRICE $15-$35 PER ADULT

DINING PLANS ACCEPTED? Yes, 1 Table Service Credit.

That’s everything that I know of in Disney, they will have extra seasonal dining experiences as well so it’s worth checking on your MDE. You’re able to filter your search for dining to ‘Character Dining’ so have a look before you go especially if it’s during Halloween and Christmas time.

UNIVERSAL

There is only one permanent in park character dining experience here. The Superstar Character Breakfast at Cafe La Bamba in Universal Studios.

WHAT CAN I EAT? It’s a traditional American breakfast. All you can eat but you order from a menu and it’s bought to your table.

WHO CAN I  MEET? Minions!! and Gru!. We also saw Dora and Diego, EB and Fluffy from Hop, Spongebob, Patrick and Squidwart. However these can change around. This was one of the best character interactions we had.

ALLERGEN/VEGAN OPTIONS? Yes, but you need to advise when you book. There doesn’t seem to be any menus online for any of the Universal places although they do state they cater for food allergies/specific diets.

PRICE? $35 FOR ADULTS $20 FOR CHILDREN

This breakfast is also available in some of the Universal Hotels on select days as well.

During the Halloween Period you can Dine with the Scare Actors from the Halloween Horror Nights at the Monster Cafe and during Christmas you can eat Green Eggs and Ham with The Grinch.

Both Seaworld and Busch Gardens have previously had dining with Elmo and Friends however that seems to be off for this year but hopefully it’ll come back on.

If I’ve missed anything then please let me know and I’ll do an extensive review on all 7 that I’ve booked for this upcoming trip when I get back 🙂 Did you notice it was only 4 at the start of this blog? Writing and researching made me want to do more….

 

 

Orlando – When’s the best time to visit? What’s on this year?

This is probably one of the most asked questions from people who are planning a trip to Florida. The answer is a really hard one! Orlando is a great place to visit whatever time of the year and there’s plenty to do whatever season you’re there.

Many of you are tied to the school holidays when you visit and obviously during these times it will be a bit busier than term time but with fast passes available for all the parks you can somewhat avoid some of the queues.

Crowding aside what are the other deciding factors in choosing when you visit?  For me I like to go when some of the seasonal events are on. Some of these you will be well aware of and some you might not be. So, here’s a little guide to what annual events are on this year. And a little info on what sort of weather you’re likely to have .Hopefully this will help you decide when you visit or give you some other things to experience on your trip.

MARCH : Going this month there is loads to do!! Weather wise March is one of my favourite times to go. It’s hot but not too hot and I’ve never had any issues with storms or bad weather. You might need a light jacket if you’re out in the evenings but you can go to waterparks and the beach and not be cold and get a tan.

HOURS OF SUN IN MARCH – AVERAGE 9 HOURS PER DAY

Disney has the annual Flower and Garden festival which has all sorts of topiaries all over Epcot of many different Disney characters. It’s included in your park admission and this year they also have loads of live music. Called ‘Garden Rocks’ throughout March and into May you can find some well known names in music playing free shows in the America Gardens Theatre. This month you can see Pointer Sisters, Simple Plan (my favourite band I’m so upset I’m not going), Plain White T’s, Night Ranger and The Little River Band. A full list of times can be found here.

Universal also has some live music as part of their annual Mardi Gras event in Citywalk. Again this is included with park admission and this runs through March. Acts playing this month are UB40, Toby Keith, Jason Derulo, Earth, Wind and Fire and the All American Rejects.

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Seaworld has a food festival on and you can see live music there as well. All included in your standard park admission. Discover loads of new cuisines from all over the world in the ‘Seven Seas Food Festival’. Live music every weekend until mid May and this month you can see ZZ Top and Phillip Phillips (whoever that is!)

For something a little different. Crayola Experience at Florida Mall is having Cirque month with La Nouba themed crafts. Some of the make up artists will be there to paint your faces like the performers in La Nouba and some of the costumes and props will be on display.

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There’s golf on at the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club from 13th – 19th, Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival is also on this month, and the Lakeridge Winery has a wine and Seafood Festival.

It’s always worth checking out Hard Rock Live, House of Blues and Velvet Sessions. You never know who will be playing when you’re there.

March is a great time to visit if you’re a music fan!!

APRIL – Weather wise April is pretty similar to March, although it can get slightly hotter towards the end of the month.  It is Easter holidays so you’ll find the parks are fairly busy.

HOURS OF SUN IN APRIL – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY

Epcot still has the Flower and Garden festival and during ‘Garden Rocks’ this month you can see Blood, Sweat and Tears, Gin Blossoms, The Orchestra (feat members of ELO), Expose and Berlin.

Hollywood Studios has the Star Wars Galactic night from 13-16th as well. These are evening separate ticketed events and will include stars of the films doing talks and a scavenger hunt through the park amoungst other things. Tickets are $129 and need to be booked in advance it’s something that’s likely to sell out.

Seaworld’s Seven Seas food Festival is still on and this month you can see Jack Hanna, Village People, Commadores and more.

There’s a big Star Wars convention on during April the Star Wars Celebration. Conventions in the US are crazy so if you’re a Star Wars fan this would be well worth a visit.

star wars celebration

April is also Wrestlemania month at the Camping World Stadium on 2nd. This is a huge thing in the wrestling calendar and a really fun night out. If you like football then the soccer season starts so you may be able to catch Orlando City Soccer

MAY – Getting into May the weather is starting to get a little hotter. More humid and a lot warmer in the evenings.

HOURS OF SUN IN MAY – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY

Epcots Flower and Garden festival finishes this month so it’s your last chance to see the Park with all the awesome Disney themed flowers. Last few shows at America Gardens Theatre are Starship, Hermans Hermits and The Spinners.

Seaworlds food festival also finishes this month so be sure to check it out.

Legoland has Lego Star Wars days throughout May showing some of the most famous scenes from the movies made of Lego and opportunities to build your own as well as a Star Wars themed costume parade. This is included in standard park admission.

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The Orlando International Fringe festival is on this month which is modeled on the famous one in Edinburgh as well as another convention. The MegaCon is a huge comic/movie/gaming convention and has some incredible guests including Stan Lee and Tim Curry.

Football season is in full swing so now is a good time to get to a game.

JUNE/JULY/AUGUST – Orlando starts to get really hot during June, when you’re looking at high temperatures in the 90s. It’s really important to keep yourself hydrated during the summer months but all the inside buildings are air conditioned and are great places to cool off during the hottest times of the day. These are the busiest months to visit due to the summer holidays over here and during August you may experience some storms and heavy rain. The weather forecasts in Orlando are incredibly accurate and they can predict the times of showers pretty much to the minute. They’re usually over as quick as they start and don’t ruin your holiday at all. Standing out in the rain is quite nice, it’s like a hot shower.

AVERAGE HOURS OF SUN – JUNE 11, JULY 10, AUGUST 9

By the summer the 2 BIG new theme park openings should be well ironed out and hopefully should be less busy the further into the summer you get. Obviously I’m talking about Universals Volcano Bay and Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, both of these are scheduled to open towards the end of May and both look AMAZING!

It’s always worth checking out places like the Amway center in Orlando during the summer. There’s usually some really good touring music festivals.

SEPTEMBER – My other favourite time of the year to visit. September in Orlando weather wise is similar to March. Although it is classed as hurricane season so you are likely to get a bit of rain.

HOURS OF SUN IN SEPTEMBER – 9 HOURS PER DAY

September means HALLOWEEN!! I know it’s not strictly until October but they do like to drag it out!! Both Disney and Universal start their Halloween festivities in September.

Disney – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! One of my favourite things I have ever done and great for adults and children alike. Magic Kingdom is decorated for Halloween and there are themed parades and show, appearances from rare characters (including most of the Villains) and the best bit is the Treat or Treating around the parks. You can get so much candy!!  It’s the only time adults are allowed to dress up in the park as well. It’s not included in your ticket price and is a separate ticketed event but it’s well worth it. Dates for this year haven’t been announced yet but they usually start around the second week of the month. Prices are around $90 and can only be purchased from Disney directly. This is an evening event only.

 

Universal – Halloween Horror Nights, this is a lot more grown up than the Disney one and puts you inside some of the most popular horror movies and TV Shows. They have a series of ‘houses’ all with different themes. Each one has live actors in them transporting you into the film or TV show it’s based on. It’s not for the faint hearted!! Dates for this have been announced and are on selected evenings from 15th September. Past themes have been American Horror Story, Poltergeist, The Walking Dead and Friday the 13th. You can also dine with the scare actors and they have shows and special events as well. Again this isn’t included as part of your ticket price and you do need to purchase separate tickets for it. You can do this in advance from most of the UK resellers, it’s worth getting a Frequent Fear Pass which will allow unlimited access to selected dates during your stay. Prices are around £90 for these. This is also an evening event.

September is also Magical Dining Month. This is a fab event that lots of restaurants in the area participate in with loads of food offers. Nearly 100 places took part last year offering 3 course meals for $33 with money from each one going to charity. A lot of the best and most expensive places in Orlando take part in this so it’s a really good way to get to eat in some of those places for a portion of the price. September is a great month to visit if you’re a foodie!!

Epcot has it’s annual food and wine festival as well running until mid November.  With loads of food carts from all different parts of the world there’s even more choice of things to eat in Epcot during this festival, as well as concerts, celebrity chefs and other food themed events. I for one cannot wait to get to this!

OCTOBER – October starts to get a little cooler – although not by our standards – it’s still in the high 80s during the day.

HOURS OF SUN ON AVERAGE –  8 HOURS PER DAY

Both the Disney and Universal Halloween events run all through October.

Seaworld has it’s ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ which runs on weekends only throughout October and is included in your park admission. It’s aimed at children and there are not so scary live shows and trick or treating for candy throughout the park. It runs during park hours as well.

Busch Gardens has ‘Howl O Scream’ from the tail end of September through October. Running on weekends only.  It looks pretty similar to the Universal Horror Nights with scare actors and haunted houses and shows. It seems as though all the rides are open in the park which isn’t the case with Universal. It’s a separate ticketed event and you’re not allowed to wear costumes.

If you want a ‘real’ Halloween experience and you just so happen to be in Orlando on Halloween itself it’s worth a little trip to Celebration. It’s a Disney owned community and most residents will decorate for Halloween and Christmas so it’s a bit of a spectacle to see.

Halloween is a BIG thing in the US and I’m sure nearer the time most of the attractions will have some kind of event on for it.

NOVEMBER – Temperatures in November are in the 70s so much more bearable than the summer months but still hot enough for water parks and beaches.

HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 8 HOURS A DAY

It’s classed as low season for some of the behind the scenes tours at Seaworld and Busch Gardens so now is a good time to do those.

As soon as Halloween is over Christmas begins! Going to Disney end of Oct/start of November is great as you’ll get to experience both Holidays!

Disney Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party starts early November and like the Halloween one is a separate ticketed event. It follows the same idea as Halloween just all Christmas themed. Different parades, characters in festive costumes and a chance to meet Santa. You also get free milk and cookies and it will snow on main street.

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Orlando has a great theatre that has some of the best touring musicals so if you fancy seeing a bit of Broadway in Florida check out the Dr Phillips Center for Performing Arts and see if there’s anything on that takes your fancy.

DECEMBER – Although it is a lot cooler in December, mid 70s it’s still hot!

HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 7 HOURS A DAY

December is a great time to go to Discovery Cove as it’s classed as low season so likely to be a little cheaper.

Disneys Christmas Festivities will still be going and this is also when Universal start theirs. Not only that Epcot is a great place to visit throughout the Christmas season as each country in the world showcase will be decorated as they are at home and you can find out all about different Christmas traditions and food as you walk round the park. Not to mention the famous Candlelight Processional.

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Universal has a really good festive event included in your park admission called ‘Grinchmas’. Housed in Islands of Adventure, You’re able to meet the Grinch and some of the other ‘whos’ in WhoVille. Cindy-Lou reads the story of The Grinch and there is music and festive things to do all day. Universal Studios also has the Macys Day Parade.

Seaworld has its Christmas Celebration. You can meet Rudolph and friends, try some festive food and do some Christmas shopping. Ice Shows and more. All included in park admission. In past years they had the Polar Express Experience so hopefully they’ll have something equally as special this year.

Busch Gardens changes itself into Christmas Town. They have over 2 million Christmas lights and a whole host of Christmas shows and music. As well as a Christmas market and Santa’s House. All included with Park Admission.

christmastown

Legoland has a Christmas ‘Bricktacular’ has a HUGE Lego Christmas tree and other festive friends around the parks as well as fireworks, meet n greet with Lego Santa and themed building events. All with your park admission.

During Christmas Day parks can be unusually busy and Magic Kingdom has been known to hit capacity so plan well and if you want to go to Magic Kingdom get there extra early!!

Again as with Halloween, Celebration is a great place to visit over Christmas to see the decorations and the SNOW!

celebrationxmas

JANUARY/FEBRUARY – Weather in Jan/Feb are the coolest months in Orlando and again most things are classed as low season so a good time to do extras like Behind the Scenes tours.

HOURS OF SUN – JANUARY AVERAGE 7 PER DAY – FEBRUARY 8 HOURS

New Years Eve is a really popular time to go to the parks and all will have special events on with fireworks etc. Parks can be really busy though so be prepared for that especially into the evening.

Epcot is a great place to be on New Years with all the different festivities around the world and dance parties from 7pm.

January with the exception of New Years Eve and Day is a pretty quiet time to go to Florida.

February is of course Valentines Day, I couldn’t see any special things in any of the parks for this but being in Orlando for it is romantic enough surely!! There are plenty of romantic things to do though. I’ve found a great list of things within Walt Disney World here

Don’t forget to check out places like Old Town and Celebration who have regular fun family events on that are worth having a look at.

Hopefully this should have given an idea of what sort of things to expect at different times of year.

There’s probably a load more things going on that I don’t know about. Check out the Visit Orlando website for up to date info on what’s going on. There’s loads of sports events as well NFL, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Soccer, Golf… some ticket resellers in the UK sell sporting tickets but it’s worth checking Visit Orlando for dates of when they’re on.

If there’s anything you know about that I haven’t mentioned then please let me know

 

 

 

 

Step by Step Disney Dining Booking

I’m now at my 180 day mark (well, 179) and am able to book dining up until 3 days before the end of my trip. So it looks like when you hit your 180 mark (on resort anyway, I can’t comment if you’re off site) you can book dining for the next 10 days.

There is lots of blogs on booking dining etc but I thought it might be useful for you all to see exactly how it’s all done.

You will need to connect a credit or debit card to your account to secure the reservations, they don’t take any money from you unless you don’t turn up to the reservation. The only exception to this was when I went to book ‘Cinderellas Royal Table’ if you have the dining plan then it gives you the option to secure the booking using that if you don’t it’ll ask to charge it to your credit card. It was not cheap. $205 for 3 of us.

I was lucky with my reservations and managed to get all the places we wanted. So far we have bookings for Tusker House (breakfast with safari Donald and friends), Cinderellas Royal Table (Princess dining INSIDE the castle), Be Our Guest (where the Beast makes an appearance during dinner only and is not the same as character dining, he isn’t inside the restaurant while you eat but a separate room after), and this booking I’m going to use to show you how it works at Ohana (best friends breakfast with Lilo and Stitch)

So the first thing you do is choose your restaurant from the list and then choose your date, party size and either a specific time or you can choose a time of day.

ohana1

With this one I chose Breakfast but I wanted earlier than the available times listed so I actually chose a time instead and it came up with availability for 7:30 which was a better time for us. So it’s worth doing it both ways if the times that come up aren’t suitable for you.

Click on the time you wish to dine and then you’re taken to the next page where you chose who you’re booking for.

ohana2

You have a drop down menu for each of the other people you’re booking for, all you need to do is select their names in the list and then click on ‘next’ at the bottom.

ohana3

This shows you the date, time and location of your booking so check that you have the correct ones before you continue – I had to change a few reservations cos they booked for the wrong month – it will then give you the option of using your stored card or another one to secure the booking.

The next page will ask for a reservation contact, you need to put your mobile in using +44 at the start and dropping the first 0 of your phone number.

ohana4

Under the phone number you are able to make any special requests diet wise – it gives a list of common allergens and you can select whatever you need to. It does say to notify your server as well on arrival.

ohana5

All the terms and conditions of booking are on this page and it will tell you how many dining credits it uses as well.

You need to click to agree to these before clicking next.

ohana6

The last page is your confirmation and will have the number on it, a copy of all this is also sent to the email address you set up your MDE with.

Once all this has done it will show in ‘Your Reservations’

diningreservations

And there you go!! You’re all booked and all the dates/times/confirmation numbers will show in your MDE account so you can have everything there in the palm of your hand when you’re in the parks. You can see as well you’re able to cancel or change your reservations from here as well if need be.

New Stuff at Disney and Universal

By the time I get to Orlando this year it will be 2 years since my last trip. There’s so much new stuff there since then, a lot can change in such a short time it would seem. That’s what I love about it, you can never be bored on a holiday there no matter how often you go, there’s always something new to see.

There’s so much I’m looking forward to!

It seems like ages ago now but Frozen Ever After hadn’t opened last time, I was a big fan of Maelstrom and was upset when they announced it was closing, it’s one of the few things I remembered from my very first trip to Orlando in 1998. It was such a fun little boat ride and knowing that the ride vehicles and track are still the same I’m intrigued to know how it all fits in. There’s obviously new Frozen themed character meets now too with the addition of everyone’s favorite Snowman.

Epcot also houses ‘Soarin’ which has also had an upgrade with more screens and a new journey taking in a worldwide trip rather than just a Californian one.  I was always amazed with Soarin and how they used scents to make the experience more realistic and make you feel like you’re really flying over and orangery. It’s going to  be interesting to see what that has in store now. Queues for that seem to be constantly long so that’s definitely one to book a fastpass for.

There’s loads of new character interactions with Baymax, Joy and Sadness and some of the Star Wars characters.

It looks like the Pandora will be open by September, I’ve heard whispering’s of a labor day opening and with black out dates for Animal Kingdom for certain ticket holders at the end of May it looks like it could be around that time. I could see nothing of the construction on my trip aside from the top of the cranes. Everything was fenced off but images appeared not long after showing the construction making pretty quick progress. I can’t say I was the biggest fan of Avatar, although it was visually stunning, I wasn’t hooked on the story and I have to say I was quite surprised when I heard that Disney were making a whole extra ‘land’ out of the idea of this one film. Having said that and reading about the 2 planned attractions it’s one of the things I’m most excited to see. Knowing that some of it, especially the planned boat ride is using some never before seen technology I just know that these attractions are going to be some of the most immersive and visual that Disney have ever created. Who knows after actually visiting Pandora I may have a new found appreciation for the film.

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Along with Pandora, Animal Kingdoms much blighted new evening show ‘Rivers of Light’  is now running. After a few shows in the middle of last year the show was pulled after Disney themselves were not happy with how it looked and was running. Most reviews I read about it said it was poor and lacking in that Disney magic. Although this show is unable to have any of the fireworks the shows in the other parks has and focuses on using water and light with music to create something, I think it has the potential to be something really unique and bring a different outlet to those evening shows that we’re all so used to. I’ve read a few reviews and seen a few pictures and it reminds me a little of Illuminations but obviously without the fireworks. There are lilypads that are lit up and open and also lots of animal floats.

There’s a new restaurant opened at Animal Kingdom as well. I love food and having booked the dining plan for this trip we plan on eating in as many different places as we can. Tiffins is the new place and is one of Disneys Signature Restaurants. The themeing is around the creation of the park with artwork and concept art all around. That is the best thing about eating in Disney is how much you forget where you are when you’re there, it can take you away and put you into a different world.

Being a bit of a Star Wars fan all the extra stuff around that excites me. New shows and behind the scenes things about all the films, I’m sure by the time I go there will be something else.

But the one thing I’m really excited about? There’s a Coca Cola cafe at Disney Springs with cocktails based around the flavours of the world you can try at Epcot (including the Beverley..) not only that but they’ve added the Coca Cola Polar Bear!! I’ve watched many a video of people meeting him in Las Vegas and I was so excited to see he’s in Orlando. We will be spending our first evening at Disney Springs so I’ll be making a bee-line for him!!

Universal has loads of new things to offer as well, with King Kong already open and the new Jimmy Fallon ride opening in April. The biggest news for Universal is the opening of the new Volcano Bay water park which I am looking forward to the most. I usually struggle with water parks, I find them hard to get around with crutches and standing on the stairs to queue for things and having to struggle with the inflatables just makes me not really want to bother. I think the extent of my enjoyment in them tends to be the lazy river and the wave pool. The idea of not having to queue or carry any inflatables is making it incredibly attractive to me. The family flume ride looks a lot safer than some of the other ones with quite a robust ride vehicle and the fact it’s the size of a theme park with different zones just like Universal I think will make it feel less busy than the others. I’m looking forward to being able to visit a water park late at night and seeing the volcano erupting. I have to say I have never been as excited about a water park as I am about this one!! I might actually be able to do more than just the lazy river on this one!

Food wise (cos we all know I like food) I am dying to try the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium!!  It’s a full service restaurant and although they serve savoury food like Steak and Fish dishes a lot of them have a sweet twist with things like Chocolate Stout Chicken Wings and Chocolate Gnocchi!!

I have 6 months before my trip so no doubt there will be a load more new things announced between now and then as well!! It’s going to be a packed trip!

New Countdown!! 236 Days to go!!

I’m going to attempt to update all the info I need to from my last trip I didn’t get the time when we got home, far too many hours working!! I’m part time now and made a new years pledge to actually do something with this blog!!

Booking the next trip has reignited my excitement. Again we’re staying on resort although this time we’ve gone for Caribbean Beach rather than an All Star Resort. We have the dining plan so expect some info on that too. I’ve been looking and there’s things that I just can’t find info on so I’ll make sure that I cover that and this time I get to wear one of these:

happily-ever-after-badge

Holiday Officially Starts Today!!

Work is done, we have collected little miss so the holiday can officially begin today…. and this is what I’m doing all day… I guess you could say this is my happy dance…

We leave for the airport in 2 hours and while Paul is having a kip, I am doing sat watching Beauty and the Beast for the 3rd time in 2 days!! I am so excited to see the stage show of this. I would imagine there will be tears…