Day 12 Wild Florida, Minnies Seasonal Dine and some park hopping!

 

Today was the thing Paul was most looking forward and we headed down to Kenansville to Wild Florida. It’s not just an airboat ride but also has a wildlife park where you can see Gators and Sloths and other animals native to Florida.  I was excited for the sloths and we were planning on upgrading when we got there to do a Sloth encounter.

It’s a 40 minute drive from Disney and considering we have no sat nav and relied on the directions on the website we did really well at not getting lost. Although some of the places you drive through do make you think you’ve gone the totally wrong way!

Due to Irma sadly none of the wildlife park was open as it was all flooded but the airboats were still running – the entry to the wildlife park is included in the price of the airboat.  The swamp land we went over we were told was probably double the area it usually was and as we were going round our captain was pointing out areas that aren’t normally underwater!

I’ll be honest I was a bit dubious about doing this, I’m a little scared of boats especially these types of ones, they just look like they’re going to topple over at any moment! That water is filled with gators I didn’t fancy ending up in there!!

This wasn’t our boat but this is what they look like, like a bit of tin with some seats on!

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In the end I actually really enjoyed doing this. It’s loud so you’re given headphones to wear and it was quite relaxing skimming over the water and so quiet and peaceful (except for the noise of the boat).

Our skipper was great, he was full of information and kept stopping when he saw signs of gators being around. The best thing about this experience though was helping to rescue a little baby Armadillo. Armadillos are not made for the water and with their scaly backs they do look a bit like a gator when you’re coming up close. That’s what our skipper was expecting when he pulled up to it. Sadly this little baby was in a bit of distress so our skipper pulled him out the water and we had to find some, very scarce, dry land to set him free.  After he had this little thing in his hands Paul realised there was actually nowhere for him to put it and he obviously couldn’t hold it while driving, Paul being the animal rescuer that he is (we’ve had all sorts of birds and ducks bought home) piped up slightly TOO excitedly ‘Would you like me to hold it?’ thus giving him a hero moment and the highlight of his whole trip!!

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Thankfully we did find some dry land to set him free on and carried on looking for Gators. We did find some in the end which I do have on video. It’s a great way to see them in their natural environment and I think a must do if you to Florida.

The gift shop was really good as well, and quite cheap and there were some baby gators in tanks that you can see, it’s just a shame we couldn’t see the Sloths, but there is always next time…IMG_8797

Wild Florida was really good value as well I think it was £20 each and that includes the airboat and the park. So pretty good really 🙂 We booked the earliest boat we could so we had the rest of the day to do other stuff.

We headed back over to Disney had a quick change of clothes and went off to get all the ‘wedding’ pictures I wanted. My work colleagues were nice enough to get me and Paul bride and groom ears as a wedding present so I was determined to get some nice pictures at all the ‘landmarks’ in Disney with these ears on. Paul and Amelia weren’t quite so keen!!

I also really wanted to see Fantasmic! as we hadn’t yet so we started at Hollywood Studios, about 12ish and it was super hot today. Amelia and Paul wanted to go on Rock n Roller Coaster, I spied Donald as soon as we got in so I waited for him while they went on that 🙂

We managed quite a few characters meets today including Olaf who was wonderful. The Star Wars ones are amazing though. Both me and Amelia love Star Wars, Paul, well he had no idea who any of these people/animals/aliens were we meeting. BB-8 was cute but really tiny, Kylo Ren was incredibly intimidating! but the best one was Chewy, I had no idea he ‘talked’ but I was so excited that he did!!

This is why I love the photopass, you get to have all of the photos that are taken rather than just having to choose some, which are usually the posed ones. The picture below captures the moment that Chewy ‘spoke’ to Amelia perfectly!!

We sadly missed the opportunity to meet Moana but her meet had turned into a Guardians of the Galaxy one so we got to meet Baby Groot, another one little miss loved!

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We had a booking for Minnies Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine, obviously this was Halloween themed. I’d heard some mixed reviews about this one so wasn’t really sure what to expect, it’s another where you meet the host, in this case Minnie, before you eat and the other characters come to the table. I’ve just noticed putting this together that the photos of that aren’t on our memory maker 😦

The food was good with some Halloween themed dishes, meaning pumpkin flavoured, we had some incredible pumpkin soup. And the Halloween desserts were so cute.

The weather got pretty bad while we were in here and we came out to find that Fantasmic had been cancelled for the evening. There was evening EMH at Magic Kingdom so we decided to head over there once the rain had cleared. Meet some more characters and get the wedding pictures there.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of meeting the princesses but it’s always fun meeting Rapunzel. No queues this time of night either 🙂

We managed to get a really good spot right in front of the castle for Happily Ever After – I cried obviously – and we had a really good quick service meal from Caseys Corner. One of my favourites in Disney, the hot dogs are amazing and portions massive.

We did a few rides and spent some of our left over snack credits before heading out of Magic Kingdom for the last time this trip, always a sad moment 😦 But we did an amazing shot with a relatively quiet main street behind us!

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Tomorrow we go to Animal Kingdom for the last time 😦 I hate getting to this part I always feel sad…

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Day 11 – Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party and Skipper Canteen

One of the best things about being in Orlando at this time of year is all the Halloween festivities that are happening. Although Universal doesn’t start until the day we fly home (don’t remind me of that I’m not forgiven for booking too early to go). I first did MNSSHP 5 years ago on a trip with a friend and her family and I loved it one of my favourite things I’ve ever done at Disney. I loved meeting the rare characters and the fact you get free candy and can trick or treat around Magic Kingdom is just amazing!

We had quite a relaxing day, had a swim in the morning and then spent the rest of the day trying to buy some white facepaint for our fancy dress outfits, the make up we’d picked up at home we didn’t look at properly and the bit we thought was paint was actually a make up sponge….. We had NO luck at all, even though Disney decided Halloween should start at the end of August it seems the shops didn’t and nowhere could we get any 😦

We had decided to dress up this year, Paul and I as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams (mostly because I’d not long seen the musical and loved it) and Amelia, well she wanted to be a Zombie Bride… She’s such a girly, dainty, sugary child! After the face paint failure we decided to get her face painted in MK, it cost us $20 but they would touch it up for free if any of it came off.

We got in the park in time to watch the Festival of Fantasy parade and do a few rides before our dining reservation at Skipper Canteen. I was so excited about this place. I’d watched a few vlogs on it and it was highly recommended. I’d looked at the menu as well and it was different food than you normally expect from a theme park.

This place ended up being my top eatery of the trip!! Food was unbelievable, it was a bit more on the healthy side. But just look at it, everything looked so lovely!

I still dream about this meal now and honestly if anyone wants a good place to eat at Magic Kingdom this would be my recommendation. I will go into more detail about all the places we ate in in future blogs but for now I’m just going to say, the coconut pudding was just, well there are literally no words for how good this meal was!

With the Halloween party none of the events actually start until around 7pm, however you are allowed in the park from 4pm if you have a ticket for the event. We had the park hoppers as well so we could go in whenever we liked.

One of the big draws for these events is the rare character meets so knowing they were the most popular as soon as we finished eating we went on the search for Jack and Sally. There was already a pretty long line and I think we ended up waiting just over 90 minutes to see them. They were great, well worth the wait. Brilliant interactions and Amelia loved them.

We did as many of the trick or treat locations as we could but not many rides, that’s why its a good idea to get in at 4pm if you don’t plan on visiting for anything other than the party, it means you can do rides and then concentrate on all the Halloween stuff during the party.

We watched the Boo-To-You parade which is my favourite parade at Disney. The music is so good and seeing an actual headless horseman riding through Magic Kingdom is something you won’t forget.

As you can see from some of the pictures there are a LOT of awesome magic shots throughout the park for these events and we made the most of as many as we could.

It was a pretty quiet night and apart from Jack and Sally, Moana and Lotso from Toy Story the queues for characters weren’t too bad. Even Seven Dwarves which is normally a good few hour wait was only about 30 minutes.

We missed the Hocus Pocus show which was a shame and proved to me that I think if you can you should go to 2 nights of this. There isn’t enough time in one night to do everything and meet everyone.

The fireworks at this is brilliant, Hallo-Wishes is another of my favourite things at Disney. Halloween themed music and images projected on the castle, it’s a must do and we really loved it 🙂

It is a late night and Amelia was exhausted after it but she really loved it and especially loved the attention she was getting for her outfit, most people go as Disney characters or something less gruesome than she was so I think she was a bit of change for everyone!

Cost of MNSSHP varies depending on when in the season you go, obviously the earlier you go the less it is and Halloween night itself is the most expensive. We paid about $70 each for our tickets but UK ticket sellers like Attraction Tickets Direct have started doing these and had we bought them from there we would have only paid about £40 each so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those when the dates are announced.

Tomorrow we are off to Wild Florida to do an airboat ride, this is what Paul has been most excited about doing, I’m a bit dubious I’m not a fan of boats….

 

Planning your Trip – Where to Start! – Buying Park Tickets

I realized that although I’ve given you loads of tips and info on what to do when you get to Orlando what I haven’t really touched on is how to plan from the beginning!! So let me give you some basic info about Orlando and what there is to do, there are still people out there who don’t realize that Walt Disney World is not just ‘the park with the castle’…..

Orlando is a 8/9 hour flight from the UK. My big tip with booking flights is to leave the UK as early as possible to get to Orlando late afternoon – you’re able to have a look about go out for some food and then go to bed at the same time as you would at home. I find this stops any jetlag you may suffer from. Coming home, always get the latest possible evening flight, giving you at least half the day to maybe visit your favourite park or do a bit of shopping..

Orlando has 3 main theme park resorts. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, Seaworld Parks and Entertainment.

Walt Disney World (the clue is in the name, it is a WORLD) not just one park. Disney is made up of:

Magic Kingdom (the one with the Castle)

Epcot (the one with the Golf Ball)

Animal Kingdom (the one with the tree)

Hollywood Studios (the one that used to have the Hat…)

Blizzard Beach

Typhoon Lagoon

Disney Springs

Disneys Boardwalk

ESPN World Wide of Sports

Disney Resort Hotels

Universal Orlando Resort is made up of:

Universal Studios (including Diagon Alley of Wizarding World of Harry Potter)

Universal’s Islands of Adventure (including Hogsmeade and Hogwarts of Wizarding World of Harry Potter)

Volcano Bay

Citywalk

Universal Resort Hotels

Seaworld Parks and Entertainment is made up of:

Seaworld

Aquatica

Busch Gardens

Discovery Cove

Most of the parks are in Orlando with the exception of Busch Gardens which is just over an hour away on the west coast in Tampa.

All the tickets that we can purchase in the UK are valid for unlimited access for 14 days, and on first trips people always say ‘but I won’t need 14 days’ – you will!! Buying your tickets in the UK before you travel is a lot cheaper than purchasing them on the gate in Orlando. The 14 day tickets are not available once you get there. With these tickets you’re able to ‘hop’ between the parks meaning you can visit more than one in a day if you like and Disney parks tend to stay open late. It gives you the flexibility to be able to see the evening shows at Disney but spend a day somewhere else if you wanted. ‘Hopping’ at Universal will include the use of the Hogwarts Express which transports you between the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter. All 14 day tickets for the Seaworld Parks will include complimentary bus travel to Busch Gardens.

The only park that you cannot visit multiple times is Discovery Cove. This is a one day experience where you can swim with Dolphins if you wish. This is a fully all inclusive day with all your food and drink (including alcohol) included. You have to book a date for this as it gets booked up quickly and prices vary throughout the year. All the Discovery Cove tickets include unlimited access to Seaworld and Aquatica, there is an Ultimate package which will also include Busch Gardens.

Are there any waterparks included?

Yes. Disney has Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, Universal has Volcano Bay when it opens and Aquatica is Seaworlds offering.

What Parks Shall I Visit?

If you’re unsure what parks you want to visit my advice to you is to use YouTube to watch some holiday planning videos that show you what there is at each of the parks.

Think about who there is in your party and what would be of interest to them.

Surely I won’t need 14 day tickets?

You may not think you do and you may think that buying a smaller amount of days will save you money. That all depends on what parks you want to see.

If you want to visit all the parks at Disney including the Water Parks you will need at least 9 days! The 14 day tickets include water parks and park hopping. On the gate you’d pay $60 for each of the water parks and around $120 per day for each of the theme parks, plus an extra $55 to park hop. And don’t forget the 6% sales tax you have to add as well.

If you want to see all of Universal then as of June you’d probably need 4 days. One for each of the theme parks, one to hop between the 2 and see things you might not have on the other days and then a whole extra day (maybe 2 it looks HUGE) for Volcano Bay. Again the 14 day tickets are much more cost effective than buying 3 days on the gate and including the hopping.

Seaworld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove you could spend a day in each and see everything. One day in each of the parks (with the exception of Discovery Cove) is around $70 (plus the sales tax). If you want to visit one more than once or all of them then again the 14 day tickets work out best.

Ticket Types

In the UK you are able to buy the 14 day tickets that I mentioned. There are many ticket sellers in the UK who provide these at a lesser cost than travel agents and usually the parks directly.

It is really important to check that whoever you buy from is providing you with real gate ready tickets. This means that when you get to the parks you are able to go straight in. Some travel agents will provide you with vouchers which you would need to exchange when you get there, meaning you have to queue for them BEFORE you get in the queue to get in.

You will also need your ticket numbers to be able to book your Disney FastPasses, although these numbers can be given to you by your travel agent 30 days before you travel this isn’t automatic and you may find yourself chasing them for it and missing out on booking some of the rides you want to do.

There are a number of resellers in the UK who send real tickets and will have offers on throughout the year.  There are links to some of those in the useful links page.

Most of these are Orlando experts and will give great advice.

Most will allow you to secure the current prices with a small deposit and will give up to 6 weeks before you leave to pay the balance.

The tickets all have the same names with the sellers:

Disney Ultimate

Universal Explorer

Seaworld 3 park

Discovery Cove Standard ticket and Discovery Cove Ultimate ticket.

All the resellers above do combination ticket packages which works out better than purchasing them individually.  They will all have different names but they will include the same tickets within them. Each of the tickets will have 14 days on it from the first day of activation so if you’re going for longer than 14 days you are able to stagger that so you can visit parks for the whole duration of your trip.

You cannot buy a combination ticket to include Discovery Cove. This is a stand alone ticket and will include your entry to the other parks owned by Seaworld.

Do they offer discounted tickets for Disabled or free carer tickets?

No. And the reason for this is that 90% of the rides and attractions are fully accessible. Universal do a small discount on the gate but this is for day tickets only and it the saving is minimal. There is a system in place for guests with disabilities. I go into  much more detail here – Disney with Disabilities

What’s included in my ticket?

All the tickets above will include unlimited park hopping access to all the parks owned by that company.

Disney tickets also include Disneys Fastpass which allows you to skip the line at some of the key attractions by being able to book your time on the ride 30 days before you go (60 if you’re staying on site). It gives you 3 fast passes per person per day which you can book on your My Disney Experience (MDE) account. The app for this gives you all the current wait times for rides so by looking at it a bit before you go you’re able to figure out what rides you would need to book for. Peter Pans Flight always has a really long line, as does Soarin’, some of the character meets will have a long wait you can book some of them too.

Currently the UK tickets also include Disney Memory Maker (or photopass) free of charge. This is ALL of your professional photos taken around the parks, ride photos (and videos for the ones that have them), character photos and all the ones in the scenic places around the parks. These are all digital photos that are uploaded to your MDE account when the photographer scans your ticket. You can then download them all when you get home and get them printed off when you like. I found when I did mine that if you leave them in your shopping basket with some of these companies they start to send you discount codes so you will buy them. Photobox is what I used for my 2000 odd when I came home. It’s a great thing to have with the tickets it’s worth $170.

Disney tickets also include mini golf free every day (before 4pm) there are 2 mini golf courses on Disney, Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens and they’re so much fun. Nothing like the boring golf we have here.

You can also use the Oak Trail golf course if you want a ‘normal’ round of golf. Tickets include a round and club hire.

Universal tickets include park hopping as well – this means you can use the Hogwarts Express to travel between the 2 Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter.

Seaworld tickets currently include free parking if you’re purchasing a ticket to include all 3 parks and you do get the free transportation to Busch Gardens as well if you don’t fancy the drive.

Can I skip the lines?

Yes you can.

Disney’s Fastpass is free and included in the tickets.

Universal have their own called an Express Pass which you can only buy from them directly. It’s more cost effective to buy a 1-day 2- park Express meaning you can do all the rides in both the parks in one day. With an Express Pass it’s easy to do that. The UK based booking site has them and they vary season to season – these tickets allow you one ride on each of the rides that day. You can get unlimited ones on the gate. Some of the hotels on the Universal Resort include free express passes and early entry to Harry Potter.

Seaworld and Busch Gardens have a ‘QuikQueue’ ticket which is the same sort of thing. All the re-sellers I mentioned sell an unlimited one which gives you as many rides as you like on each of the rides. This varies in price by park and season.

None of the waterparks have fastpasses. Volcano Bay however has a virtual queuing system using a wristband called ‘TapuTapu’ which allows you to select the ride and time you want and will vibrate when you can get on, meaning you can do other things while you’re waiting.

Hopefully that should answer most of the questions you have about tickets. If there’s anything else you want to know or I’ve missed let me know.