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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Our Family’s Experience of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

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It all started with my husband. It was his idea, okay?

19 months ago when we made reservations for our October 2015 family vacation to Disney World, my husband told me about Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I’d never, ever heard about it before. A Halloween party at Disney World? Okay! He told me that the event is ticketed, that you pay a per-person fee to attend. That all of the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party events are at Magic Kingdom. That there are cool Halloween parades and special shows at the castle, and that everybody dresses up in costumes!

Hmmm…

I wasn’t 100% sure about this Halloween party and dressing up at Disney World business, but my husband was super excited, so why not?! I was working part-time when we booked our Disney World vacation and we had the funds to cover the extra cost, so we went ahead and set the money aside for tickets.

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The time came. We bought our tickets to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Then came the real debate. What kind of costumes were we going to wear?

Our first thought was to dress up as the Sofia the First family. After all, we’re a family of five, just like Sofia’s. We’re huge Sofia the First fans, and our youngest already had a beautiful Sofia the First costume from last year’s Halloween. But when the rubber hit the road, we realized it was going to be challenging to find full ballgowns for me and my oldest daughter. And proper coats for the boys were going to be near impossible to replicate. So we ditched that idea.

We had other ideas, too.

My absolute favorite idea was for us to be the old versions of Carl & Ellie from the movie “Up.” I thought it would be quaint, sweet and easy to replicate. Our two oldest kids could be the kid versions of Carl & Ellie, then our daughter would be the Doug the Dog or Russell, the little boy scout who joined Carl on his adventures.

But my husband won the costume idea contest. Or should I say, I LET him win?! He wanted me to be Mary Poppins. He’d be Bert. Our two oldest children would be Michael & Jane Banks. And our littlest would be a penguin. Okay, alright! He won. Agreeing to this particular idea meant that I was agreeing to wear the most outrageous and attention-getting costume of our whole family. Basically, I was going to have to wear a wedding dress around Disney World. And…ummm…in case you don’t know me, it’s not typically in my nature to want to be so attention grabbing. Why such drama?! Anyway…I decided we’d go for it! After all, who doesn’t love Mary Poppins? And if I was going to have to dress up and be all dramatic, I might as well be Mary.

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We started looking for costume pieces at thrift stores. I found a $19.99 wedding dress at Goodwill that just needed a little altering, and a $3.00 red belt at Clothes Mentor that was perfect for Mary’s red-cinched waistline. We found a really old-fashioned white dress at Goodwill for my daughter to be Jane, some Once Upon a Child shorts for my son to be Michael, and the tiniest red and white candy striped dress at Once Upon a Child for my daughter to be Mini Mary. White super-clearance shorts and shirt for my husband, and a great deal vest off eBay, and we were set to go! Oh yeah…it took us forever to find, but I finally found a hat at a local antique store for $8 and ripped it apart to make it into a proper Mary hat. The whole thing came together VERY smoothly.

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The big day came! We spent all day at Magic Kingdom on rides and attractions. We enjoyed an early dinner at Crystal Palace, then made our way back to our Disney Resort to change into costumes for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! It took 45 minutes for five of us to get ready. Again, it was pretty slick. We made our way back fast, as the event had an official start time. We were going to be a bit late, and we didn’t want to miss the night’s opening event, a Halloween parade down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street!

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So…I have to admit. The night was pretty cool. It wasn’t perfect. We had a few tiffs. But all in all, I have great memories of our evening at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!

First of all, I knew we were going to create a scene leaving the Disney Resort in our Mary Poppins costumes (much more of a scene than I ever like to make). Thankfully, we were at a DISNEY Resort, which helped everyone understand WHERE we were going and WHY we were dressed up so crazy! Everyone knew it’s the month of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Yes, that’s where we were headed. Thank goodness they all understood! We got a bunch of looks, smiles and sincere compliments on our costumes as we made our way out of the Disney Resort and towards the shuttles to Magic Kingdom.

I made a quick FaceTime call to my dad on our way to the shuttle. It was his birthday and I was bound and determined to wish him Happy Birthday before any more time passed! My parents thoroughly enjoyed seeing us in full costume before we boarded the shuttle for Magic Kingdom. My dad said that being able to see us in costume was the only birthday gift he needed. Before we knew it, the shuttle was rounding the corner, so I shut down FaceTime so we could load and make our way to the Halloween Party!

We were one of only three families on the shuttle. They complimented us on our costumes and we chatted a bit before the shuttle turned pitch black! I sat in the way back and center of the shuttle (where there was space for my big Mary Poppins wedding dress), with our two oldest next to me, and my husband and youngest to the side. I felt a little silly wearing a gown and big hat on the shuttle, but if there’s one place to wear that kind of get up, it’s Disney World on Halloween. Luckily, I was up for it and had been preparing for months, so it was easy to get in the mood and in character with the family.

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We got off the shuttle and made our way to the gates to pick up our Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party wristbands! Most people were in costumes and the place had turned into full-on Halloween since we’d left the Park a couple hours prior. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. I’ll always remember a Disney cast member telling us “You’re in for a real treat,” right before we went through the gates to Magic Kingdom. A treat, for sure!

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We stood in a long line for photographs in front of the castle. After all, I wasn’t getting five people dressed up in all this gear for nothing! We needed to capture this moment and this memory properly! A superhero family was rocking it in line behind us. Most everyone was dressed up in some sort of gig. No need to feel out of place here!

After photos, we made our way further down Main Street, but not too far! We wanted to get awesome seats for the parade that was about to start. I plopped down on the Main Street curb with my big ‘ol Mary Poppins Dress. Mini Mary and Michael sat down next to me, and Bert went to grab some snacks with Jane. While they were gone, I chatted with the over-the-top Star Wars family seated next to us, watched people get photographed in their costumes, and took a photograph with a couple little girls who loved Mary Poppins.

Mickey’s Boo To You Halloween Parade was awesome. My favorites were the headless horseman, the villains and the dancing princess zombies. Super cool and unique Disney World experience.

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After the parade, we went trick-or-treating around the park in our costumes. They gave each child a bag and had stations set up around Magic Kingdom where you could get candy. Yes, it was great fun for the kids and extra fun to walk around the Park in full costume! As you can imagine, we got plenty of looks and compliments. Most people were dressed up, yes. But we didn’t see any other Mary Poppins get-ups the whole night, so our costume was unique and probably eye catching for that reason!

After trick-or-treating, we had a bit of an argument as to whether we should catch the Halloween stage and light show at the castle followed by fireworks, or go on as many rides as we could while crowds were lighter. I really wanted to see the castle show and fireworks since they were both Halloween-themed, so we found a grassy spot to rest and watch as a family.

I definitely had a moment there – on the grassy greens of Magic Kingdom’s castle – in my Mary Poppins costume. The castle light show and fireworks were beautiful. There was our little family…dressed up in our Mary Poppins get-ups. It was a cheesy, sweet, wholesome kind of Halloween magic.

After fireworks, a mom approached and said her daughter was a HUGE fan of Mary Poppins. She wondered if her daughters could greet me and get some photos. I said YES. Why not? This was a sweet mama and her girls. As I was getting photographed with those girls, a small lined formed with another family waiting for photographs with Mary (me). It was sweet. Super sweet. After all, these little girls thought I was the real Mary Poppins, the real Disney World version of Mary Poppins. I wasn’t some mom dressed up. To them, I was Mary Poppins! That made it all the sweeter, and me all the more comfortable with what was happening. So I took the photos and got in character as much as I could muster. This was a once-in-a lifetime thing. Nobody’s forming a line to see me as Mary Poppins again!

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Surprising enough, it was already getting quite late. We were having a great time, but it was 10:30 p.m. Our Mini Mary had a LONG first day of travel the day before, and a VERY LONG day at Magic Kingdom. She needed to go to bed. So Bert stayed to go on another hour and a half of rides with Michael, and I made my way back to our Disney Resort with Jane and Mini Mary.

My husband was feeling incredibly bad that I had to leave early from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party after all the work and preparation we’d done with the costumes. I didn’t feel bad. I’d had a great time. It was worth the extra effort, even if Jane, Mini Mary and I had to leave a little early. Bert and Michael had an amazing time going on as many rides as they wanted before Magic Kingdom closed. I’m pretty sure they even watched the second run of the Halloween Parade later that night. Jane, Mini Mary and I went back to the hotel, greeted and got photographs with an elderly Mary Poppins fan in the Resort’s dining room, and plopped in bed for a good night’s sleep.

Totally worth it. Fun. Unique. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Yes, we highly recommend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. And yes, I even recommend dressing up in your costumes of choice.

It was totally my husband’s idea. And a good idea at that.

orangesig

 

 

 

31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson and on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson.

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

Kelly S - Beautiful costumes! And I love that they are homemade! How fun!November 24, 2015 – 10:44 am

Carol Femling - I think you should use these “Mary Poppins” family pictures for this year’s Christmas card. It would be so unique! Love your blog today and all the fun pictures!!!November 1, 2015 – 12:05 pm

Reasons to Stay on Disney Property

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In 17 1/2 years of marriage, we’ve taken six family vacations to Disney World and one family vacation to Disneyland! In all my writing about Disney this month, I’ve neglected to mention that we also made an additional one-night stop at Disney World in 2012 before we headed out on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Five of those eight visits to Disney Parks, we stayed on Disney property.

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We’ve stayed at the following Disney properties:

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Disney’s Pop Century Resort (a second time)

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Having experienced Disney’s excellent customer service and stellar resorts, one thing is for sure. Staying on property – at Disney’s Resorts and Hotels – is the best way to go. We won’t do Disney any other way. We’ll never again question where to stay when we go on a Disney vacation. The best answer is to always stay on Disney property.

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Today, I’d like to do a brief review of reasons to stay on Disney property! This post is intended for the family who’s decided to go on a Disney vacation, but isn’t sure WHERE they’ll be staying yet. They’re waffling between staying OFF Disney property at a regular resort or hotel, or ON Disney property at a Disney resort or hotel.

Here goes, friends! Here are the reasons WHY I love staying on Disney property, and think it would be a great choice for your family, too.

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Convenience

Staying at a Disney Resort or Hotel is incredibly convenient. That’s all there is to it. You can book the whole package at once. It’s a one-stop gig. This makes vacation planning A LOT easier. When you book a Disney vacation package, everything’s taken care of in one swoop – tickets to Disney Parks and Waterparks, Park Hopper passes, Disney dining plan, transportation, and your reservation at the Disney Resort or Hotel of your choice. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It makes vacation planning a lot more enjoyable and streamlined. For convenience alone, staying on Disney property is totally worth it.

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Proximity

When you stay at a Disney Resort or Hotel, you’re staying ON Disney property. That means you’re incredibly CLOSE to the Disney Parks. Sure, you’ll still have to travel some distance to get to the Park of your choice on any given day, but it’s a LOT closer than it would be if you stayed off property. Proximity is a big deal. It shaves off a lot of travel time in and out of the Parks each day, which means you have a lot more time to enjoy your stay instead of driving all the time. For proximity alone, staying on Disney property is totally worth it.

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Disney’s Magical Express

When you stay on Disney property at Disney World, you can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, which is Disney’s complimentary bus service to and from Orlando International Airport. Disney’s Magical Express is a GREAT way to start your Disney vacation. They pick up your luggage from baggage claim for you and deliver it straight to your room. So all you have to do is make your way to the Magical Express check-in desk, check in, activate your Magic Bands and off you go! You’re directed to the line that’ll bring you to your Disney Resort or Hotel, hop on your Disney Magic Express bus, and voila! Before you know it, you arrive at your Disney Resort! This is so easy, so slick! Disney’s Magical Express is complimentary both ways – FROM the airport TO your Disney Resort at the beginning of your vacation, and FROM your Disney Resort TO the airport at the end of your vacation. It’s a great way to begin and end your Disney vacation, and a big perk of staying on property.

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Shuttle Service

Once you arrive at your Disney Resort or Hotel, you’ll need transportation to and from the Disney Parks, right?! No surprise, Disney has that taken care of for you. No need to rent a car. No need to worry. Every day, all day long, they have shuttles that run non-stop from Disney Resorts to all the Disney World Parks. Travel time to the Parks can be as short as 5-10 minutes, or as long as 25 minutes, depending on what Resort you’re staying at and where it is compared to the Disney Park you’re visiting that day. At any rate, all you have to do is wait in line a bit, get on the shuttle, and off it takes you to the Park. When you’re done at the end of the day, stand in line again, hop on the bus, and they’ll bring you back to your Resort. It’s incredibly convenient and so easy. We’ve never once rented a car when we’ve stayed on Disney property, and this is why. Because Disney’s all-inclusive transportation system is seamless.

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Disney-Themed Rooms, Gift Shops, Food & Extra Perks

When you stay on Disney property, your whole experience is Disney themed. To some people, that might sound annoying or simply TOO MUCH. But our family loves it. We want our experience to be 100% Disney, all the way around. When you stay at a Disney Resort or Hotel, be ready for Disney-themed rooms, gift stores, shampoo bottles, decor, landscapes, and extra Disney perks such as pin trading in the gift store, character drawing in the lobby, and late-night Disney movies on the lawn. That doesn’t even begin to cover the food. Among the many lovely dining options in Disney Resorts & Hotels are Disney-themed foods, snacks and desserts, such as character waffles, Mickey cupcakes, Goofy trail mix, and refillable Disney mugs for your entire family. Whether you’re staying at the Grand Floridian, one of Disney’s Value Resorts, or anything in-between, rest assured your experience will be fully Disney!

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Beautiful, Well-Kept Landscapes and Properties

Disney has the magic when it comes to creating and keeping beautiful properties. Every Disney Resort and Hotel I’ve been to is immaculately kept. Outdoor landscapes are beautifully manicured. The properties are well designed to keep guests flowing through efficiently, while simultaneously helping them feel comfortable, cozy and right at home. Pools, beaches, gazebos, and outdoor sitting and waiting areas are meticulously planned and well kept. Nothing’s lost on Disney. They make sure every nook and cranny – inside and out – is top notch.

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Extra Magic Hours

When you stay at Disney’s Resorts and Hotels, you have automatic access to “Extra Magic Hours.” Extra Magic Hours are extended Disney Park hours. On certain days, they open select Parks extra early and keep them open extra late for guests staying on Disney properties. For example, one night on our most recent Disney World vacation, Magic Kingdom was officially closing at midnight. That was a late night the way it was! But Extra Magic Hours for that particular day ran all the way through 2:00 a.m., so my husband and son took advantage of the opportunity and stayed all the way until 2:00 a.m. closing! Typically, during Extra Magic Hours, you have FABULOUS access to rides, attractions and landmark locations you wouldn’t have otherwise. Want GREAT photos in front of the castle? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. Want to get on a bunch of rides before the park opens or after the park closes? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. Want to catch the ride that had a crazy long line all day long? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. Want a quieter start to your day? Extra Magic Hours are the way to go. We nearly always take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours one way or another. They’re a HUGE hidden perk of staying on Disney property!

So that’s about it, ya’ll! Those are the best reasons to stay on Disney Property. If you’re trying to make a decision one way or another, and want more input from somebody who’s been there done that, please let me know! I’m happy to answer questions about our experiences staying at various Disney properties. Obviously, Disney Resorts & Hotels have worked incredibly well for our family. I hope they’re a great fit for your family as well!

greensig

 

 

 

31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d also LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson and on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson.

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

Taking a Break to Chat About Our Favorite Disney Songs

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I’ve loved my 31 Days of Disney series! But I have to be honest. When I pulled out my laptop and started working on the post I had planned for today, Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disney World, I wasn’t in the mood to write it. I took notes while we were on our Disney World vacation and already have the post fully outlined, so it wasn’t a matter of content. It was a matter of mood.

It’s never a good day to be Grumpy. But today, I was. It was cloudy and rainy. It snowed. There were a bunch of circumstances that caused me to be a weird mix of Grumpy and Humbled. I rehashed the details in my first draft of this post, but decided to spare you the torture. Did I mention I’m still not fully unpacked from Disney World?

This has been a real-life kind of day. Therefore, this is going to be a real-life kind of Disney post. Instead of my originally planned post for today, “Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disney World,” you’re going to get a compilation of my favorite songs from Disney movies, and one song from a Disney Junior TV show for good measure.

When I tried to draft my rides and attractions post earlier this afternoon, I couldn’t get Pinocchio’s classic tune, “When You Wish Upon A Star,” out of my head. I pulled it up on YouTube and found the original. Then I ran across this beauty, a full album of Disney piano music performed by Hirohashi Makiko. I listened long, friends. It was just what I needed. And it reminded me why I love Disney so much.

So all I want to do today is share a few Disney songs. How about it? I’ll share some of my faves, then I’ll invite you to share some of your faves.

I need a change of pace. And let’s be real. A post filled with beautiful music is just as much “Disney” as a post about Disney World rides and attractions. No apologies here. Disney’s music is breathtaking. World-class musicians compose and perform their music. It’s definitely worth talking about.

So here goes…these are a few of my all-time favorites!

This song, “When She Loved Me” by Sarah McLachlan from Toy Story 2, is one of my favorite Disney songs of all time. It’s incredibly moving and touching. I LOVE the lyrics and clip from the movie. Just watch.

“Tale As Old As Time” from Beauty and the Beast is a classic. How can you not love this one? It’s SO good. So timeless. All versions of this song, with lyrics and instrumental only, are beautiful.

Can you tell I’m a Beauty and the Beast fan? This next song is another one of my favorites. It’s called “Little Town.” There’s something about this song that rings true with my soul. Maybe it’s Belle’s love of books. Maybe it’s because she’s a “little strange.” Maybe it’s because she knows “there must be more than this provincial life.” I don’t know. I love Belle. She’s the best.

My favorite Disney instrumental is Carl & Ellie’s scene from the movie “Up.” It makes me cry every single time. This portion of the movie was masterfully imagined, and incredibly beautiful. Honestly, I think this is the best emotional and sentimental work Disney has EVER done. Period. End of story. Well done, Disney. I want to see more work like this. You made me cry this viewing, too.

I’m not a big Tarzan fan, by any means. But this particular scene with this particular song, “You’ll Be In My Heart,” is another one of my favorites. It’s simple, beautiful and incredibly moving to me. Disney did a marvelous job with this one.

Who doesn’t love The Little Mermaid? “Part of Your World” is definitely one of my favorite Disney songs. I really relate to the lyrics in this song, and never fatigue of it no matter how many times I listen. No doubt, this song has stood the test of time. “I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a plenty, I’ve got who’s its and what’s its galore. You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty. But who cares. No big deal. I want more.”

At this point, you might be thinking all I like is slow, sappy Disney songs. It’s true. I do like slow and sappy songs the best. But I like fast, sappy songs too. This one from “Enchanted” is another one of my favorites. It’s called “That’s How You Know,” and it’s an out-of-control, slappy happy love song! It’s so cheesy and so theatrical you can’t help but sing and smile along.

Last, but not least, I have to step out of the movie song box and give props to my Disney Junior girl, Sophia the First. If you know our family well, you know we’re BIG Sophia the First fans around our house. Sophia and her friends sing a LOT, and I’m convinced that Disney has assigned their top musicians to compose music for the show because it’s that good. “Princess Things” is my FAVORITE song from Sophia the First. Little secret…my favorite part is at the end when Sophia goes off in the grassy area by herself and the birds fly around her head. Yes, I realize it’s cheesy that I have a favorite song and a favorite PART OF A SONG from a show that’s for three year olds. But hey. A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. This Disney Junior show is GOOD stuff!

Alright! That’s all, folks. Thanks to these Disney tunes, I’m ending the day on a much happier note. So how about you? Do you have a favorite Disney song? Old or new, I’d love to hear!

orangesig

 

 

 

31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d also LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson and on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson.

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

 

Traci Gasho - My all time favorite Disney song is “Hakuna Matata.”November 1, 2015 – 10:00 pm

Best Restaurants For Families at Disney World

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This post was originally titled “Best Restaurants at Disney World.” After some thought, I decided to change it to Best Restaurants for Families at Disney World. After all, most of our vacations to Disney World have been with children. Our perspective is undoubtedly skewed towards amazing, incredible, fabulous Disney World restaurants that ALSO happen to be family friendly. With that in mind, if you’re traveling to Disney solo, as honeymooners, with girlfriends, or as a retired couple, you might want to do an additional fine dining at Disney World search. As for me? I’ll be dining with the preschoolers, children, teens and young adults for a few more years!

So here goes nothing, families! If you’re traveling to Disney World with children and are looking for some great sit-down restaurants, these are my faves!

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Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

On our most recent Disney World vacation, our family of five dined at Ohana for the first time. It was amazing! We had reservations for the 5:15 p.m. seating. As far as we could tell, there were mass seatings; we were called into the restaurant with a large group of guests. The atmosphere is beautiful, casual, classy and very Polynesian. Disney cast members cook on grills in the front of the dining room while you’re served dinner, one course at a time. Our meal consisted of bread with butter, delicious wings and potstickers, noodles with fresh grilled vegetables, skewers of grilled shrimp/beef/chicken, and the most amazing Bananas Foster dessert I’ve EVER had in my life. Yes, it was ah-mazing! The meal was delicious. Service was excellent. We were even given steaming hot towels to wipe our hands off after the wings and potstickers. It was a lovely, lovely meal and setting. Delightful.

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Tusker House Restaurant at Animal Kingdom

Tusker House serves African and American cuisine in a “family-focused buffet.” As far as I’m concerned, this place is absolutely amazing. I LOVE it. We’ve dined at Tusker House twice; one time with characters, the other time without characters. The characters, of course, made it extra special for the kids. We saw Donald, Daisy, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy during our lunch buffet. The food at this restaurant is amazing. Absolutely delicious! As I stated in a previous post, picky eaters might be hesitant when they first look at the food on this buffet. But the second you try the food, you realize it’s crazy good! The flavors are rich and complex. You can pair just about anything with an African flair and the tastes blend perfectly. During our most recent visit, I stopped mid-meal to take a photograph of my food. It was THAT good. If you’re not up for African cuisine (trust me, it’s amazing), they have plenty of American fare for you, too, including mac ‘n’ cheese, pork tenderloin, garlic mashed potatoes, veggies, salad, fruit and lots of yummy desserts. Highly recommend this place. But book early, especially for character dining. It fills fast.

Alice at 1900 Park Fare

1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

1900 Park Fare is a buffet-style sit-down restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. First off, the location is absolutely stunning. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a must see. Second, this dining location is a winner all around. Our family has eaten at 1900 Park Fare at least twice, maybe three times on past Disney World vacations. I highly recommend it. You can’t go wrong with anything at the Grand Floridian. The buffet is delicious. And the characters are great! We saw Winnie the Pooh & Alice in Wonderland characters at breakfast, and Cinderella characters at dinner. If you have children, you can’t go wrong with 1900 Park Fare. It’s a staple character dining location for our family.

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Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios

Our family has eaten at Hollywood & Vine twice on vacations to Disney World, once for breakfast buffet and once for lunch buffet. Both were amazing, although I’d lean towards a preference for lunch because I was oohing and aahing over the food on that buffet. This is a definitely a good character dining option for young children. Disney Junior characters such as Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates make appearances while you dine. Sure, it’s a little loud with all the music, characters and children dining with their families. But it’s still lovely and an EXCELLENT choice for young families. The buffet is absolutely delicious. I couldn’t get enough of it, to be honest. And my three-year-old daughter was 100% satisfied with the meal options for children. Even the dessert buffet is tailored towards children, with chocolate covered strawberries, pineapple and marshmallows, among other adult-friendly goodies! Yum! This place is great. If you have little ones, make sure to stop by!

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The Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom

This restaurant is another one of our family’s favorites. We’ve been here three or four times for their buffet lunch, breakfast and dinner. The Crystal Palace is another character dining location, featuring classic Winnie the Pooh characters who visit your table as you dine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are equally good, although I recommend TRYING to book this restaurant at off-peak hours if at all possible. Since it’s just off of Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, it’s incredibly convenient, popular and busy. If you land an off-peak reservation, it’s quieter and more relaxed, which personally, I enjoy. Great food. Convenient location. Fun characters. Beautiful setting. Highly recommend.

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Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot

Okay, I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. But this is one of our absolute FAVORITE character dining locations of ALL Disney World. If you have ANY princess lover (or good food lover) in your party, you must visit Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. The atmosphere is amazing, and the food is even more amazing. As far as quality of food, this location ranks among my top three favorites. I LOVE the salmon and cold shrimp on the buffet, and meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy off the menu. Delicious. And the desserts? May I have some now, please?Any meal promises to be excellent, but I prefer the dinner menu. Did I mention this is ONE of the ONLY Disney World locations that has character dining with PRINCESSES? No surprise, lots of little girls choose to dress up as their favorite princess. It’s simply lovely, friends! Super sweet. A must see, must do.

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Sci-Fi Diner at Hollywood Studios

We’ve eaten at the Sci-Fi Diner three times. Our kids are especially huge fans of this place. There aren’t characters at this location, but it is extra special for other reasons. You’re seated in old-fashioned cars in a large, dark, open-air room. Basically, Sci-Fi Diner is like a drive-in movie theater with restaurant. They play old movies on the screen, which the kids think is super cool. It’s a fun location for young and old kids alike! Their food is great, too. The menu is diverse, with items ranging from burgers to steak. And their desserts? Fabulous every time. Bonus, if you have the Disney dining plan, you can order a SHAKE instead of soda if you’d like! My husband and kids take advantage of that every time, without fail. Sci-Fi Diner is one of Disney World’s hidden little treasures. It’s fun and unique, and loads of fun for everyone. Because of the dark room and movie playing in the background, it’s a relaxing dining option, too. Check it out. I hope you’ll love it as much as our family!

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Be Our Guest Restaurant at Magic Kingdom

This restaurant is one of Magic Kingdom’s newest sit-down options. It’s crazy busy and crazy popular, but worth every bit of effort you to put in trying to get a reservation. We were fortunate enough to eat there for lunch AND dinner on our most recent vacation to Disney World. The atmosphere, both outside and inside the dining hall, is absolutely stunning. Disney has gone all out when it comes to this dining experience. The food is excellent for both lunch and dinner, but PLEASE NOTE that if you have a reservation for LUNCH and are on the Disney dining plan, it counts as a quick-service meal. DINNER at Be Our Guest counts as a full-service, sit-down meal(As of October 2015.) At lunch, families order electronically from kiosks in the main entrance to the dining room, with the assistance of Disney cast members as needed. For dinner, families are seated and order off a full menu. Again, all meals are wonderful, offering a variety of items to meet the needs of each family member’s unique palate. I highly recommend the slow-roasted pork for both lunch and dinner, as well as the chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and chocolate frosting for both lunch and dinner. Did I mention I was highly satisfied with the Be Our Guest restaurant?

Well, that’s it, friends! Those are my recommendations for best sit-down restaurants for families at Disney World. I could certainly add more, but these are the restaurants that rose quickly to the top. We dined at ALL of these locations using our Disney dining plan, which we HIGHLY recommend. If you have any questions about the Disney dining plan or restaurants at Disney World, please let me know! I’m happy to field any questions you have.

greensig

 

 

 

31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d also LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson and on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

Tips for Meeting Characters at Disney World

Daisy

One of the BEST things about visiting Disney World is the chance to meet and greet Disney characters! They’re so fun. So amazing. So cute. So friendly. So classy. And so photogenic. If you have children or grandchildren of any age, you’ll definitely want to meet and greet as many Disney characters as you can. If you don’t have children or grandchildren? Well, you’ll still want to meet and greet as many Disney characters as you can. Perhaps someday I’ll grow out of my love for characters. But for now, keep ’em coming!

We’ve been on seven Disney vacations in our 17 1/2 years of marriage, so we’ve become fairly knowledgable about the art and science of meeting and greeting Disney characters. Today, I’d like to share some tips for meeting characters at Disney World!

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Tip #1: Go to parades!

Parades are the best and most obvious place to see the biggest variety of Disney characters in a short period of time. Want to get a hearty dose of characters? Go to as many parades as you can during your Disney vacation. The cool thing about parades is that Disney pulls out a big mix of characters, old and new. Sure, you’ll see Elsa and Anna in any modern-day Disney parade, but you also might see Jiminy Cricket. If you have good luck and are loud and attention-getting with your voice like my daughter, you might also get the opportunity to GREET characters during parades. Many characters ride on floats. A bunch walk through the parade route performing, shaking hands and giving high fives. Get yourself a great seat for the parade; you’ll see a ton of characters all in one spot, and you might even get to shake hands with a few!

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Tip #2: Go to dance party parades!

These parades are shorter and a little different than full-length Disney parades. Typically, these dance party parades operate within a shorter route. The floats and characters come through a high traffic area (e.g., Main Street in Magic Kingdom), then stop and put on a little show, which usually includes some sort of interactive dance party with Disney guests. These dance party parades are a GREAT opportunity for seeing AND spending time with Disney characters. During the dance parties, many characters will be ON the streets dancing and engaging with guests. Great opportunity for kids of all ages. Fun for adults. Great opportunity for photos as well!

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Tip #3: Find official character meet and greet spots.

Throughout the Parks at Disney World, there are official “meet and greet” spots where you stand in a line and have an opportunity to meet Disney characters one-on-one. You should expect a line, but usually the lines aren’t too crazy long. You can expect a wait time of anywhere from 10-25 minutes, which isn’t bad to meet a character. Be prepared with your autograph book and camera! Meet and greets are fairly brief, but still substantial. You’ll know when you need to pass by. And you’ll have a good sense of when it’d be a good time to stop and wait in line. Some character sightings are more rare. In those cases, you might want to stop and take advantage of the opportunity. For example, we saw Princess Mulan in China at Epcot during our last visit. In seven trips, this was the FIRST time we’d seen Mulan (other than a parade or night show), so we waited in the 20-25 minute line to see her.

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Tip #4: Use My Disney Experience app to find characters!

The My Disney Experience app has revolutionized guests’ opportunities to meet and greet Disney characters. Install the My Disney Experience app, and it’ll tell you ALL the characters that will be at the Disney Park of your choice for the day, where they’ll be, and what time frame. For example, on our way to Epcot on our last Disney World vacation, my son and I looked at the app and found out that Mary Poppins was going to be in the United Kingdom Promenade, so we planned our route around the park accordingly so we could be in line to meet her when she arrived for meet and greets at 11:00 a.m. This app works slick! It’s quite amazing. Sure, it creates a lot more lines in advance of characters’ arrivals, but it also gives you a better opportunity to see the characters you WANT to see vs. having it be happenstance. Highly recommend the app for meeting characters.

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Tip #5: Meet characters as they’re roaming the streets, or catch them as they’re traveling to or leaving their official meet and greet locations.

Rarely will you find Disney characters just randomly roaming the streets. But occasionally, it still happens! For example, in Hollywood Studios, green army men will often be hanging out on the streets back by the “Toy Story Mania” ride. This is a GREAT opportunity to meet the green army guys, and engage with them as well. They do lots of fun army movements with the kids. Kids love it! Also, we’ve had some great run-ins with characters as they’re traveling to or leaving their official meet and greet locations. This doesn’t happen often, but keep your eye out for sure as it’s a rare treasure of an opportunity! One time, we met the Fairy Godmother right behind Cinderella’s Castle as she was coming out for meet and greets. Nobody else noticed Fairy Godmother was there, so we got some great time and photos with her. It was awesome. I saw two girls walking hand-in-hand along a sidewalk with Princess Tiana on our most recent trip; she was clearly moving with some pace from one location to another. What a special experience for those girls!

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Tip #6: Use Fast Passes for Character Meet & Greets.

I highly recommend using your Fast Passes for character meet and greets! This is an amazing opportunity. In all cases, a Fast Pass for character meet and greets will get you in faster. (Obvious, right?!) In some cases, a Fast Pass for character meet and greets is the ONLY way you’ll ever be able to meet that character face to face. For example, on our recent trip to Disney World, we had three Fast Passes to meet Disney characters. My daughter and I had one to meet Mickey, Goofy & Minnie at Epcot. My daughters and I had one to meet Mickey & Minnie at Animal Kingdom. And our whole family had Fast Passes to meet Elsa and Anna at Magic Kingdom. We were able to reserve all of those Fast Passes two months in advance of our vacation because we were staying on Disney property. But even two months in advance, the Fast Passes to meet Elsa & Anna were already in short supply. So we grabbed them up fast while we could! In short, ANY time you have the opportunity to use Fast Passes to meet Disney characters, definitely do it!

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Tip #7: Attend shows at Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.

Morning and afternoon shows on the front stage of Cinderella’s Castle are always FANTASTIC for character sightings! They bring out a whole host of characters for a live, 15-20 minute performance. The show is great and fun for all ages. Highly recommend catching one of these if you want to see characters in action.

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Tip #8: Go to stage shows and special attractions with characters.

There are a few unique opportunities at Disney World where you’re able to see and/or meet characters in a more intimate setting for a longer period of time. For example, I got Fast Passes to go to Enchanted Tales with Belle with my three-year-old daughter at Magic Kingdom. It was quite the hidden treasure of a Fast Pass. Highly recommended. The kids were actively engaged in a story with Belle, then they EACH had an opportunity to meet Belle and get a photograph. It was darling and got me teary eyed. At Hollywood Studios, there’s a live stage show called “Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage.” It’s one of my FAVORITE attractions of all Walt Disney World. Belle appears, of course, along with the Beast and a bunch of other characters from the movie. It’s great. Lovely. High quality. Enjoyable for the whole family. And a great opportunity to see characters in action for a good 20-25 minutes.

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Tip #9: Definitely do character dining!

Character dining is a must do. We LOVE character dining in our family. So much so that we try to reserve as many character dining opportunities as possible as part of our Disney dining plan. Character dining experiences are typically associated with a sit-down buffet meal, or a sit-down full-service meal. Buffets are just as good as meals you’d order from the menu. (Believe me, the beef stew at Hollywood & Vine buffet was AMAZING!!! Two servings, baby!) After you get your food, a set of Disney characters come around to visit your table one at a time. You meet them, get their autograph and photograph, and engage with them a bit. It’s awesome, and hands down the best way to meet and greet characters at Disney World! If you have a Disney dining plan and children, I HIGHLY recommend character dining. Character dining is one of several reasons we purchase the Disney dining plan. So worth it. You can definitely do character dining without a Disney dining plan, it’s just a little pricey (as in $35-40/adult for buffet). I must say, though, on our most recent vacation, I saw plenty of people coming to make reservations at character dining locations that DIDN’T have a Disney dining plan. Character dining is so good, so worth it, that people are willing to pay for the unique experience.

Well, that’s it friends! That’s a wrap for today’s 31 Days of Disney post. After today, there are only FIVE days left in the series! I’ve left big posts for this week knowing it’s the end. Be sure to catch tomorrow’s post, Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disney World.

orangesig

 

 

 

31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days. I’d also LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson and on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

Tom Baunsgard - Great Post Amy! As Ed McMahon would have said. “THAT’S EVERYTHING you need to know about meeting and greeting Disney Characters!”October 26, 2015 – 11:31 pm