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First Timers Guide to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney World

Last year I had the chance to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney World. I was visiting for a conference and had my (then) 5-month old daughter in tow. I didn’t do much research to prepare but these are a few things I gleaned from the visit. Here are my 20 first timer tips for taking on the Halloween Party at Disney World!

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1. You Need a Special Event Ticket, Not a Park Ticket

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a “special ticket” event. You do NOT need a regular Park ticket to attend. You need to purchase the event ticket only. Prices for the event vary, depending upon the date you attend.

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

2. The Party’s at Magic Kingdom

If you’re going to use a Park ticket to visit the Magic Kingdom in the morning, understand that this Park ticket doesn’t include the Halloween Party. This means you won’t be able to stay and Cast Members will be strategically clearing out the Park (Halloween Party-goers receive a special wristband designating them to stay for the party). If you have a Park ticket and not a Party ticket, you’ll be asked to leave at 7 pm.


3. Sleep In & Rest During the Day

With party hours extending to midnight, my suggestion is to take it easy during the day. The party ends at midnight and then you still have to walk to transportation and get back to your room. It was nearly 1:30 am by the time I rolled into bed!

Try and sleep in. Spend time relaxing at the Resort. Take a nap if possible. Save your ticket and skip going to the Parks that day. You’ll want to save your energy for the Party!

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

4. Tricky Weather

“Darn, It’s Hot!”

“Hey, Now It’s Raining!”

Keep an eye on the weather report. It’s likely going to be VERY hot and humid during the Party. On my visit it was already hot and then it sprinkled and the humidity shot up. I was wearing leggings and a tank with a shirt over the top. That shirt came off pretty quickly! Bring a poncho if rain is in the forecast.

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

5. Plan Your Costumes

Speaking of heat and humidity, you don’t want to be overdressed in an elaborate costume. I mean, Sully from Monsters Inc. is a great costume but TOTALLY not appropriate for the Party because you’ll be way too hot. I suggest lightweight and layers. This way you can take things off as needed.

Adults are allowed to dress in costume for the Party event only. Be sure to check out the costume guidelines first.

Lots of families go with a costume theme, like all the characters from Peter Pan, Inside Out or Alice in Wonderland. Search Pinterest for lots of dressing up Disney ideas.

Nobody says you have to wear a costume, but it is a fun way to get into the Party spirit. Consider Disneybounding! Or just wear a simple Halloween or Fall-themed tee or face paint.

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

6. My Disney Experience

Pre-party be sure to do your research and plan out a bit of your evening. Those 5 hours of Party time go very quickly and if there are certain things you want to see and do, try and schedule them out. The My Disney Experience app is free to download on your phone. You’ll be able to schedule showtimes into the app along with keeping track of dining reservations.


7. You Can Get In Early

Though the Halloween Party at Disney World actually kick starts at 7 pm, guests with the special event ticket are actually allowed to enter much earlier! You’ll be allowed to enter at 4 pm with your Party ticket. Plan to arrive earlier to pass through the crowds at security. Then at 4 pm on the dot you’ll be permitted into the Park!

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

8. Get a Guide Map

As you enter the Park, Cast Members will be handing out small treat bags for collecting candy along with a guide map. This guide map is your key to the evening’s activities. It includes times of the shows, which attractions are open, character greeting locations, what restaurants are serving food and where guests can trick-or-treat.

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9. No FastPass During the Party (But Here’s a Trick)

True, there won’t be any FastPass distribution during the actual Party (7 pm to midnight) but here’s a little trick. With your special event ticket, you will be able to book FastPass from 4 pm to 7 pm! I was able to pre-schedule two FastPass on the day of the event before the Party began.

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

3 extra hours before the Party so we went on rides!

10. Eat Early

Advance Dining Reservations will be available during the Halloween Party so book those early to dine at your favorite Magic Kingdom full-service restaurant. However I would suggest that you try to eat before 7 pm so as not to “waste” your precious Party time.

Also many of the dining locations will close during the Party so your choices will be more limited and lines for quick service will be longer. Check your guide map to verify which locations will be available. I ended up eating a boring burger & fries at Cosmic Ray’s because my first choices were either booked full or were closed.


11. Plan Your Evening

Cadaver Dans Barbershop Quartet will sing in Frontierland.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular happens 3 times each Party night. Singing, dancing and slightly spooky fun. This is a LOUD show and several villains appear, so if your kids are particularly nervous, you could choose to skip this. The last show of the evening is the least crowded.

Happy HalloWishes Firework show happens only once per Party night. I recommend finding a place to view it in front of Cinderella Castle at least 30 minutes early.

Boo-to-You Halloween Parade happens twice. Keep reading for why I suggest watching BOTH shows!

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

12. Party First, Candy Later

Everyone, even the grown ups, are encouraged to trick-or-treat. But don’t jump into a treat line right away. Lines will be extraordinarily long at the beginning of the Party. If your little ones can hold out, consider taking advantage of the shorter ride lines and Halloween Party shows first. Then trick-or-treat after 10 pm when the lines are considerable shorter.

13. Special Bags for Those With Allergies

Concerned about food allergies? Request a special bag from Cast Members who are handing out treat bags & guide maps. This teal colored bag will signify a food allergy. Cast Members at the various treat stations will hand out teal tokens. These tokens can be redeemed at special locations for allergy-friendly treats like cookies, gummy worms or even non-food Halloween crafts.

14. Watch the Parade Twice

Yes, the Boo-to-You Halloween Parade is that good! The Parade happens twice each night and I waited to watch the second showing. I was kicking myself for not watching it the first time too, because I LOVED it! The Headless Horseman, the elaborate floats, Gravediggers, favorite characters and the catchy theme music is not-to-miss. My favorite was the Haunted Mansion float (trust me, you’re going to want to watch it twice!)

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

15. Want to See Characters? Expect a LOOONG Wait

Looking forward to meeting with Jack Skellington and Sally? How about Snow White and ALL 7 dwarves? I’ve heard of wait times hovering around 2 hours! With the Party only lasting a total of 5 hours, I’d think twice before spending so much time waiting in a line for one photo op.

16. What’s Open & What’s Not

Some attractions do not stay open during the Halloween Party. For instance, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise are open only as treat locations to distribute candy. However Pirates of the Caribbean is open as both an attraction and as a treat location. Check your guide map before promising any rides to your kids and verify the attraction will be available!


17. MemoryMaker Photo Ops & Magic Shots

PhotoPass photographers will be located around the Park taking special photos during the Party. They will be available at character meetings to take pictures with their camera or even your own. Magic Shots and Animated Magic Shots will be taken at several locations – Magic Kingdom Main Entrance, Haunted Mansion, Town Square, Main Street, U.S.A. and Liberty Square. You’ll pose, the photo will be taken and you won’t know what surprise characters will show up in your photograph!

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

18. Happy HalloWishes is a Must-See

I love a Disney fireworks show and this one is AWESOME! I sat on one of the grassy areas in the hub (about 30 minutes before the show began). I had no problem finding a place to sit and the view of the show was perfect. I wore my Made with Magic Mickey Ear Hat and the ears lit up and flashed alone with the music for the show, it was so much fun!

19. Tips for Little Ones

When I visited Magic Kingdom with my preschooler he was able to stay up past midnight. However that’s because I’d kept him on West coast time so it was really only 9 pm for him!

If your kiddos are used to going to bed earlier than when the clock strikes midnight, consider that you may be leaving the Party early to get them to bed. Depending upon your child’s temperament (and how much candy was consumed) there might be an epic meltdown. Or take advantage of the earlier timed events and then let the kids fall asleep in their stroller.

Planning on taking a baby to the Halloween Party at Disney World? Check out my Disney Baby post.

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

20. Things to Bring with You

  • If you have kids under 5 (or a child who will fall asleep early) definitely bring a stroller.
  • Glow sticks allow you to find family in the dark
  • If you want to collect LOTS of candy, bring an extra trick-or-treat bag
  • Pack in healthy snacks and bottled water to off-set the treats

Planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World? Here's the first timers guide with 20 can't-miss tips!

 

 

Disney World Dining – Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

Have you heard of the Hoop-Dee-Doo? This two-hour long dinner show is long standing (over 40 years running!) and takes place nightly at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. Keep reading for more details and my honest thoughts about the production and food. Namely is the Hoop-Dee-Doo worth the cost?

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through will help me in a small financial way, thank you!

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

High quality song and dance routines you’ve come to expect from Disney? Check. Buckets of hearty and delicious food? You’ve got it. Silly jokes that are family appropriate. Yep!

That’s the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue in a nutshell. It’s a 2-hour dinner show so be prepared for a slower dining experience than you might be used to at Disney World. You’ll also need to allow plenty of travel time to and from Fort Wilderness. If planning to see Hoop-Dee-Doo schedule it for a non-park day when you don’t have tickets.


Advance Dining Reservations Required

Despite over 40 years running, the Hoop-Dee-Doo is still a hot ticket. You’ll need an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) to dine here. I visited Walt Disney World during a slower season (in mid-April) and our show was still fully booked.

There are three shows nightly, seven days a week. Show times are 4 pm, 6:15 pm and 8:30 pm (we dined at 6:15).

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue dinner show is a longstanding tradition (over 40 years!)

Since this meal and a show have a set price, you’ll be charged up front once you make the reservation. The price you pay includes tax and gratuity. I was attending with my preschooler and just-turned-one year old baby. Any child 2 and under do not require a ticket but I did put her on the reservation so they could make room at the table for the highchair.

There are three category levels. I wanted to be close to the stage, so I chose Category 1 on the main floor. I have read online that some of the chairs and tables upstairs face the wall. Guests need to turn around each time they want to see the stage.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

The set menu for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Disney World (leave room for dessert!)

Getting to the Hoop-Dee-Doo

Since there is no direct bus route from your Resort Hotel to Fort Wilderness, you’ll need to transfer at one of the Parks. Be sure to allow plenty of time because the bus rides can be lengthy.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Ready to explore Fort Wilderness

I chose to take the ferry from Magic Kingdom to get to Fort Wilderness. We arrived plenty early (about 3 hours before the show started) and there was no wait for the ferry. The Disney World website recommends you allow up to 90 minutes for this process.

Arrive Early to Play and Explore Fort Wilderness

It’s recommended that you arrive at least 30 minutes before the Hoop-Dee-Doo show begins but I think you should arrive even earlier.

We choose to take the ferry from Magic Kingdom Park, leaving just after 3 pm for the 6:15 pm show. It was our first visit to Fort Wilderness and we were in awe of the tall, shady trees and country vibe. Taking the ferry was a delightful and relaxing way to get there.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Horsedrawn carriages at Fort Wilderness

Once we arrived, we wandered the grounds for a bit, getting a feel of the woodsy location. The Hoop-Dee-Doo takes place inside Pioneer Hall. Inside this same large building is the Trails End Restaurant, Davy Crockett’s Wilderness Arcade and Crockett’s Tavern. The restrooms are just to the left of the Pioneer Hall front entrance.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Settlement Trading Post at Walt Disney World Fort Wilderness

A short walk away is the Settlement Trading Post, perfect if you’re looking for a souvenir. My preschooler spent a good amount of time on the playground while the baby slept in her stroller.

Wander down the path past Pioneer Hall to see the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. By the time we walked back there, the Ranch was already closed. Guests can visit with the horses and even take a pony ride (for a fee). Horse-drawn carriage rides are available for groups. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ takes place at Fort Wilderness as well.

When leaving for the night, you can choose to take the ferry back to the Magic Kingdom or there are buses available to the Park. Keep walking past the Ranch to catch a bus. Note that you’ll have to go back to Magic Kingdom and from there, get the bus back to your resort (FYI: it’s a LONG trip!)

PhotoPass Photographers

There were several PhotoPass photographers on the Fort Wilderness grounds available for special photo ops. We had our picture taken in front of the Settlement Trading Port.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Take advantage of PhotoPass photographers before entering Pioneer Hall

Before admittance to the Hoop-Dee-Doo show, photographers were stationed on the grass in front of the Ranch. Thank goodness for the shade because it was mighty hot in the sunshine! They had some cute props for us to use.

There are several other fun photo spots around the front of Pioneer Hall so be sure to take your camera!

All-You-Care-to-Eat

When we walked into the Hall, our tables were already set with salad and corn bread. We dug in right away but I held off on eating too much salad because I wanted to save room for the main course.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Starting with salad & cornbread at Disney World’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (don’t get too filled up!)

Soon enough our waiter arrived with heavy metal buckets stuffed with fried chicken, smoked BBQ pork ribs, mashed potatoes, corn and baked beans. It was a lot of food!

I’d love to say that we ate everything and ordered more but we hardly made a dent in the plentiful food! Everything was delicious and I wished I had a bottomless stomach to eat it all. If my teens had been with me, I know that they would have been able to eat everything and we’d order more. But as the only adult traveling with a preschooler and a baby, we just couldn’t eat a lot!

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Chicken, ribs and all the fixin’s for dinner at the Hoop-Dee-Doo (Photo Credit: Disney)

Also, I knew that I wanted to at least make an attempt at dessert! The strawberry shortcake dessert is presented in a grand way and it doesn’t disappoint. Sadly we couldn’t finish it either, though we tried!

All-You-Care-to-Drink?

Included in the meal are unlimited drinks. This includes soft drinks as well as draft beer, wine and sangria for those 21 and up.

I question the true “unlimited” nature of the alcoholic drinks however. My waiter made only 3 stops at the table so I’m not sure how often one could reorder drinks. I ordered a white sangria when he first came and asked for drink requests. I reordered when he returned with the food and asked if I wanted another drink. By the time he came back with dessert, alcoholic drink orders were closed.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Chowing down (the foods a’plenty) at the Hoop-Dee-Doo

Truthfully the white sangria was absolutely delicious and very refreshing. It was also very strong for me (perhaps I’m a lightweight!) It didn’t bother me that I couldn’t reorder. I know that having “unlimited” draft beer would be a draw for my husband to attend this dinner and it’s a definite perk.

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Show

I went into the Hoop-Dee-Doo not knowing anything about the show so I’m not here to give any spoilers! Here’s a brief baseline: 6 countrified friends entertain guests with singing, dancing, crowd participation and silly fun.

Costumes are colorful and bright. We were able to see everything very well (seated in the center of the room on the floor). The singers moved around the room during some parts of the show and it was easy enough to follow the action by turning in my seat.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Upstairs seating inside Fort Wilderness’ Pioneer Hall

I enjoy musical theater but admit that some shows really drag on with too much boring singing. But not the Hoop-Dee-Doo! The songs are lively and fun and the audience participation is a highlight.  Everyone in the crowd was really getting involved with clapping and singing along.

The entertainers were top-notch, just as you’d expect from a high-quality Disney show. Singing was excellent. Dancing and choreography was fun and energetic. There is live music, which adds a fun element.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

It’s truly a show for all ages. One look around at the audience and that was plain to see. My 13 month old baby daughter enjoyed it as well as anyone there (even though I didn’t let her eat any of the messy BBQ ribs!)

There are breaks in the show to allow you to enjoy your dinner or to make a stop at the bathroom.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

So full we could barely eat any of the strawberry shortcake!

Bottom Line: Hoop-Dee-Doo Review

The big question is, is Hoop-Dee-Doo worth the cost? True, it’s not cheap (the cost of an adult ticket hovers around $60). When given the cost of other Disney World meals, I do think that this cost is in line.

If I were to go to any other buffet at Disney World with unlimited food, the cost for dinner would be about $50 for Chef Mickey’s. Chef Mickey’s is a character meal and no alcohol is included. Keep in mind that these type of buffet dinners are usually rushed and you might be done within 45-60 minutes.

Read my honest review of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Is this longstanding show worth the cost?

Ready for fun at the Hoop-Dee-Doo in Walt Disney World.

Given that the Hoop-Dee-Doo has unlimited alcohol as well as a 2-hour dinner show, I’d say that the value is well worth the cost. I highly recommend booking a dinner at Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue on one of your non-park days.


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check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!



What to Do on a Non-Park Day at Disney World with a Preschooler

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

No ticket? No problem! There are tons of things to do on a non-park day at Disney World with a preschooler from resort hopping, dining and free fun. Preschoolers can be notoriously fickle and many will have a better attitude when allowed free time and play without structure. These ideas for a non-park day at Disney World with a preschooler show you exactly what you can do with little ones without having to purchase a Park ticket.

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing fun things to do at Disney on non-park days.


11 Things to Do at Disney World with a Preschooler

Being a longtime Disneyland guest if we go to Disney, we always go into the Parks. Outside of the resort hotels and a few shops at Downtown Disney, there isn’t much that’s “Disney” to do if you’re not inside the Parks. However at Walt Disney World there are so many amazing things to do outside of the Parks (and lots of these ideas are totally free!)

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

I’ve always wanted to pad my visit with several non-park days and I was recently able to do that. My one-year old toddler and my 5-year old preschooler and I were recently at Walt Disney World and we had three non-park days on our visit. This allow us plenty of free time to explore some of the entertainment options outside of the Parks. Keep reading for my tips on how to enjoy a non-park day at Disney World with a preschooler.


1. Transportation is a Ride for Preschoolers

My preschooler couldn’t wait to get on his first Disney World ride and was disappointed when I told him we weren’t going to Magic Kingdom the first two days. He was appeased however when I told him we’d be taking the Monorail, the bus, and several boats that day instead. For preschoolers hopping aboard transportation is a Disney ride. And you won’t need a Park ticket or even need to be a resort guest to ride them.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

The boats from Epcot to the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club and Hollywood Studios are totally free to ride!

2. Resort Hopping

During our visit we were able to visit a total of six different resorts. We chose to stay overnight at three different places (Port Orleans Riverside, Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Beach Club Resort). Then we jumped aboard the Monorail and made stops at the trio of resorts on the loop (Contemporary, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Grand Floridian). Walking through the lobby, wandering the grounds, grabbing a snack inside a quick service restaurant and perusing the gift shops were fun activities for my preschooler.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Be sure to check online as to different activities that take place inside the resorts that anyone can enjoy. After reading an article on the Disney Blog site, I found out that the annual Easter eggs would still be on display in the lobby of the Grand Floridian during our visit.

3. Preschool Fun in Disney Springs

The first night of our stay we hopped on a boat that took us from the Port Orleans Riverside. In just under 15 minutes we were deposited into Disney Springs, a lively outdoor shopping spot with plenty for preschoolers to see and do.

My preschool was enthralled by the splash pad. It was quite late at night but being Florida, it was still pretty warm. I happily let him run through the water and it pretty much made his entire vacation!

Other preschool activities could be taking in a G-rated movie at AMC Theater, The night of our visit there was family-friendly singing and dancing at the Waterview Park amphitheater. Brave preschoolers could take a high ride in the basket of the Characters in Flight helium balloon. If preschoolers just can’t wait for their first ride, the Marketplace area has a train and carousel.

4. Dining at Disney Springs That’s Perfect for Preschoolers

We ate dinner at Blaze Pizza, the perfect VERY quick meal for hungry preschoolers who don’t want to wait. The pizzas cook in just 180 seconds! Blaze had some deliciously unique pizza combinations available but we settled for simple pepperoni for my guy. It was a decent size for the two of us to share along with a green salad.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Other dining locations that preschoolers would love are T-Rex, Earl of Sandwich and Rainforest Cafe. The volcano outside the Rainforest Cafe ignited with shooting flames, something we had to stop and watch. Splitsville would be a great place for a few hours of dining and entertainment so you can eat and bowl a few games.

Ghiradelli ice cream and soda shop was our dessert location that night, with overflowing cones of mint chip. We’d intended to grab cupcakes from Sprinkles but the shop was closed and they were in the process of loading the ATM. There is also very preschool-friendly shaved ice from Florida Snow Company and treats from Erin McKenna’s Bakery.

5. Souvenir Collecting

If you plan on resort hopping, one fun activity that my son enjoyed was collecting pressed pennies. Resorts have themed pennies that you can only collect in that location.

Disney Springs has many great souvenir locations for preschoolers. Souvenir shops that are preschool-perfect here are Build-a-Dino inside T-Rex, The LEGO Store, Once Upon a Toy and the enormous World of Disney (only go in there if you have LOTS of time!)

6. Resort Playgrounds

What do preschoolers love more than playing! Many of the resorts we visited had playgrounds that let little ones burn off steam. My preschooler loved the waterside play area called Caribbean Cay at Caribbean Beach as well as the rustic playground in the woods at Fort Wilderness.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

7. Get in Character

Even if you’re not going to walk through the Castle that day your little princess can still get dolled up. A visit to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique inside Disney Springs allows her to get a magical makeover with make-up and hair styling. With any luck (and no swimming!) her hair will still look stylish the following day.

Another fun option is face painting or hair braiding. Many resorts as well as Disney Springs have this option.

8. Making a Splash at the Resort Pool

Take advantage of the amenities right there at your resort hotel. A day at the pool is one of the best ways for preschoolers to enjoy a non-park day. While parents can grab a drink from the poolside bar, preschoolers can swim and splash to their heart’s delight. There are life jackets available for new swimmers. Some resorts have very cool interactive pools like the water slide at Port Orleans Riverside or the fenced in pirate play area specifically for preschoolers.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

This play area at Caribbean Beach is made for preschoolers.

And nothing beats Stormalong Bay at Beach Club Resort. It’s the ultimate pool experience! My preschooler loved the sand-bottomed zero entry pool and the beach buckets and shovels to build sandcastles. And for brave preschoolers the dramatic water slide that shoots you through a pirate ship will be the talk of the trip!

9. Grab a Bite at a Resort Hotel

One of our favorite things on our non-park days was enjoying some of the dining at the resort hotels. While resort hopping, we enjoyed lunch as Gasparilla Grill inside the Grand Floridian. This quick service location offers freshly prepared dishes along with grab & go items (like this adorable and delicious Minnie Mouse cupcake!)

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Minnie Mouse cupcake at Gasparilla Grill, Grand Floridian Walt Disney World

The following day we enjoyed lunch at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at the Beach Club Resort. This charming location has such a fun vibe from the kid-friendly food and of course, the sweet treats. My son loved that his hot dog lunch came with the happy ending of a Mickey Mouse ice cream sundae.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

The Mickey Mouse ice cream sundae comes with a kid’s meal at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop.

Dinner at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was definitely one of our favorite things of the entire trip. We took the boat from Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness and wandered the grounds before dinner. I’m so glad we indulged in this dinner show. Everything from the plentiful and delicious food to the top-notch entertainment was perfectly tailored for everyone in the family. My preschooler loved the loud atmosphere, the strawberry shortcake & being handed a washboard to make loud music!

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Strawberry shortcake at Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

10. Indoor Fun for Preschoolers

Inside many of the resort hotel lobbies are artists waiting to draw your child’s portrait. My son had never had a caricature drawn before and it looked like a great souvenir to bring home so I had him sit for one.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

We don’t usually watch television when we’re on vacation but I did let my preschooler watch a bit before bed each night. Disney World has an entire channel devoted to safety. This very fun and informative cartoon series features Timon & Pumba from The Lion King. It was the only thing that my preschooler wanted to watch!

While waiting for our dining reservation we wandered the lobby inside the Beach Club on a hunt for Hidden Mickeys. Preschoolers absolutely love spotting Hidden Mickeys everywhere from the flower arrangements to the carpet design.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Hidden Mickey finding is perfect fun for preschoolers! Here’s one in the Beach Club lobby.

Be sure to check the resort guide for other activities they offer to guests. Many have organized things to do indoors including scavenger hunts.

11. Outdoor Adventures

If your preschooler loves the great outdoors, take ’em to the fishing hole and see if they can catch the big one! There are small places to fish (like this area at Port Orleans Riverside) or larger fishing excursions (like on the Seven Seas Lagoon).

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Some of the resorts have horse drawn carriages that will take you for a tour of the property. Or rent a bike surrey and everyone can pedal while enjoying the resort.

We’d intended to visit the Campfire at Fort Wilderness however our dinner at Hoop-Dee-Doo let out later than expected and we missed it. Many of the resorts offer this evening activity with the option to purchase and prepare your own s’mores over the flames. At Fort Wilderness Chip & Dale greet guests and there is a cowboy singer (no charge at all to attend this event!)

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Ready to explore Fort Wilderness

While at Fort Wilderness we had the chance to see the horses. My preschooler didn’t want to ride but that option is available if you have a horse lover.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Did you know that Disney World has two mini-golf courses (Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland – read Adventureland Pam’s review on that with the link below). My son really wanted to go miniature golfing during our trip but we just didn’t have enough time. Guess we’ll just have to plan more non-park days on our next Disney World vacation!

For more ways to spend non-park days at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Blogorail Green | Things to Do on Non-Park Days at Disney

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, we spent several hours exploring the world of Epcot. I have a feeling that even a lifetime of exploring wouldn’t have allowed us the time necessary to properly explore this amazing Park!

During our visit to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival we were visually treated to incredibly detailed topiaries, had our taste buds tickled with international treats and were able to delight in the nighttime show, Illuminations from our perch in a private viewing area near the French pavilion.

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Park guests receive a pocket guide to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, including where to find topiaries, gardens, demonstrations, dining and shows. You can check mark off each item as you visit, eat and watch. The guide makes a wonderful souvenir too, as you recall & reminisce about your trip.

 

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festivalepcotcollage9

During the Festival, guests can purchase food at outdoor kitchen locations throughout the World Showcase area of Epcot. These are taster (appetizer) sized portions so you can try a variety of different tastes. My brother wanted German food and I wanted Italian. We compromised. I ate my manicotti and sipped my Prosecco in front of the Germany pavilion while he ate sausage and drank a beer!

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

There are some inspiring topiaries throughout the entire Park. The detail and expression of them are simply jaw-dropping. We were able to grab a photo with the highly anticipated topiaries of Elsa & Anna from Frozen.

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalWhat I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalWhat I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

We were able to spend two partial days at Epcot and were simply drawn to the World Showcase area. The cultural aspect here was beautiful and intriguing. To be able to wander from Japan to France in a matter of minutes…incredible!

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Photo Credit: Eric Dill

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

There were some tasty sips throughout the Festival including a non-alchololic La Tizana and Desert Rose (a sparkling wine with pomegranate liqueur).

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden FestivalWhat I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

On our second day at Epcot we opted for a larger meal at the Moroccan pavilion that we could share between us. We chose two platters and it was quickly devoured. I can highly recommend the Tangierine Cafe schwarma platters, they were large and delicious.

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Our only regret? Lack of time to see it all! Oh well, there’s always next time *wink*

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Until next time Epcot!

What I Saw, Ate & Drank at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Photo credit: Eric Dill


Portions of my visit including my Park tickets and a Disney gift card to purchase food were covered during my visit. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

I just returned last night from my first Walt Disney World trip! It was a whirlwind vacation, that’s for sure. I was visiting during a writer’s conference with Traveling Mom. I was able to invite three guests and brought along my mom, brother and three-year old son (my husband and older kids all were in school). My family and I padded the visit with extra days on the front and back end of the retreat. I would have rather stretched the trip out twice as long so as to have had time to relax and truly be in the moment. 4 days just wasn’t enough, but it was amazing all the same!

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip


These are the 11 things that were most wonderful, magical (and patience-testing) on my first Walt Disney World trip-

1. The Walt Disney World resorts are beautiful. From the brilliant green lawns, to the thick tree lined roads everything is well-maintained. Just as we’ve become accustomed to the cleanliness of the Disneyland resort, so is WDW. I never saw errant trash or anything out of place. There is a resort employee or cast member there whenever you need one.

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

Lush, green and humid! The Walt Disney World Resorts are so pretty.

2. Magic Bands…wow! I don’t know if anything like this could happen at Disneyland (since so many of the Guests there are annual passholders or day trippers) but Magic Bands really are amazing. This little rubber bracelet holds all the information for your trip including your room key, credit card, park tickets and FastPass+ reservations. When we dined at Be Our Guest Restaurant, we’d already placed our order online several days earlier so we seated ourselves in the dining area when we arrived. Within a few minutes our food was magically delivered to our table (aka: GPS signals found where we were seated).

3. And with technology, sometimes you hit a snag. Once we arrived at the Coronado Springs Resort (our hotel for the first three days) the check-in process was slowed by the fact that we’d not received Magic Bands in the mail. Tickets, credit cards and room were assigned to the bands but it was a laborious process that took over 45 minutes.

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

Coronado Springs Resort

4. Huge resorts = Lots of walking. I’m used to Disneyland, where Disney California Adventure Park is literally feet away. And Downtown Disney and the Resort hotels are all reasonably close. At Walt Disney World, everything is so BIG and spread out so it definitely takes some getting used to. Fortunately there is a wonderful shuttle transport system that is free to resort guests so getting around to the parks and back to our hotel was never a problem.

5. We were at Walt Disney World and running on adrenaline so it was easy to brush off the fact that some things just weren’t going smoothly. It wasn’t Disney’s fault, we’ll blame this one on the airline. By the time we arrived at the hotel, ate dinner and got into our room, it had been over 3 1/2 hours since we’d gotten off the plane. Yet our luggage was not in the room (we’d been told it would take about 2 hours). I called to the bell desk but was told that unfortunately our luggage was not in Resort possession yet.

It was late and we were exhausted. We fell asleep in our clothes, without pajamas, toothbrushes or hairbrushes. I wasn’t until the next day that we found out our checked bags had not made the plane transfer in Dallas. It would be a full 24 hours until we had the bags in our possession again. I received a call in the afternoon from bell services letting me know when my bags had been found, which I truly appreciated.

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

Beaming with excitement!

6. Definitely pack your good attitude and patience in your carry on bag! I’d brought a change of clothes for both me and my little one on the plane but my mom & brother had only checked their bags and had nothing with them. But Disney couldn’t wait and we just did what we had to do. We finger combed our hair and hopped on the transport bus to the Magic Kingdom!

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

A Mickey Bar fixes all problems, right?

7. It’s similar. It’s familiar. But it’s definitely not the same. I’m referring to the Magic Kingdom, which I’d heard is just the “same as Disneyland”. It’s not. Yes, some rides have the same name (like Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean) but they are not identical. And we loved visiting old classics like Country Bear Jamboree and the Carousel of Progress that closed at Disneyland years ago. Cinderella Castle is enormous. And we enjoyed the song and dance number that opens the Park and wish they did that at rope drop for Disneyland!

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

Opening Ceremonies at Magic Kingdom

8. Epcot is as beautiful as the pictures. This was such an amazing park, with added beauty from the incredible topiaries and gardens spread around for the Flower & Garden Festival. I really liked the sharp contrasts of Future World and the World Showcase, made harmonious by the lovely flowers. We sampled at the outdoor kitchens and ended the night with a viewing of Illuminations. There was a lightning storm that entertained us through the dark clouds before the show began.

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

9. I was brave. I rode roller coasters that I might have normally balked at (Expedition: Everest!) I tattled on my brother at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe and told our waitress that my brother didn’t finish his vegetables! I broke out of my comfort zone and chatted with the Traveling Moms during the conference despite that I’m usually reserved around new people. It was a chance for new opportunities.

10. We kept ourselves open to surprise throughout the trip. My three-year old was delighted by the speed of Test Track but refused to ride on Peter Pan’s Flight and burst into tears! Our room for the final night of our stay was at the Port Orleans: Riverside. What a lovely surprise to see our room theme in an intricate princess design that included a special light-up feature in the headboard!

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

Disney’s Magical Express takes you to and from the airport

11. The final surprise came when we were preparing to leave for the airport and we were refused passage on the Magical Express bus. Imagine my facial expression when I found out that we were supposed to have received paperwork on our door informing us about the time for our bus transfer to the airport…we didn’t and I was unaware of how the process worked. I thought you just showed up and they took you to the airport, I didn’t realize it required a reservation! Unfortunately we were too late to ride the Magical Express bus back to the airport and had to spring for a taxi. And now we know! It was a lesson learned and I should have done more research on the topic instead of assuming how the process worked.


Despite the challenges, we had an amazing trip. Traveling with a three-year had it’s own set of rules but we just went with the flow and didn’t over think things too much. Next time we’ll stay longer to allow for more relaxation and poolside lounging!

11 Wonderful, Magical and Patience-Testing Experiences on my First Walt Disney World Trip

All smiles at the end of our adventure!


Portions of this trip were compensated. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip

4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip

Only 4 more days until my son and I leave for Walt Disney World for the first time. I will admit, this week has been a bit of a frenzy. I’m a planner, in a big way. I make lists. And then I revise my lists. And then I print my lists and check mark things off as I go.

Seriously, planning a dream vacation to Walt Disney World in ten days was enough to send me into a tizzy! (Read about how this vacation is a big check off my Disney bucket list). Going on this trip with Traveling Mom is a life-changer for me, so I’m doing what needs to be done to make this a smooth vacation.

Here’s how I’ve been staying organized and (somewhat) calm while planning my Disney trip:


Use My Disney Experience

I’ve never flown to a Disney resort before. We live just 90 minutes from Disneyland so most of my “trips” are done in one day. My longest Disney trip is two consecutive days. I am thrilled that I’ll be spending 5 days and 4 nights at Walt Disney World! Our first 3 nights, we’ll be staying at the Coronado Springs Resort. The last night we’ll be moving over to the Port Orleans Riverside. I would have changed hotels every night if I’d had the chance because I want to experience everything!

4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip

Coronado Springs Resort – Image from Disney World.com

Keeping track of the reservations is easy with My Disney Experience. One of the nights I booked directly through the Disney website but another night I booked through Orbitz. I was able to plug in my Orbitz reservation number and it immediately linked all my room reservations into My Disney Experience.

Because of the quick vacation plans, Disney is going to have our Magic Bands waiting for us at the hotel on the first night but generally they are delivered to your home in advance.  My Disney Experience sent me an email notification letting me know!


Book Dining Reservations

You’ll be able to link park tickets as well as make dining reservations in My Disney Experience. Dining reservations isn’t really something we “do” very often at Disneyland (except for maybe very popular Character Dining meals during a busy season). But apparently it’s a must at WDW.

I’m finding out that trying to book meals 10 days out for any decent dining times can be tricky. Not impossible though. I have Liberty Tree Tavern booked for the rest of my family while I’m in conferences and 50’s Prime Time Cafe with my family when I’m done with the Traveling Moms for the day. I’m still stalking the dining reservations for a few more meals as some guests will cancel and leave open spots for me to hopefully nab!

4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip

50’s Prime Time Cafe – Image from Disney World.com

I also appreciate that the Disney website lists the menus for each restaurant. It truly makes it that much easier for the planner in me to decide what I’d like to eat ahead of time and also to budget my meals. I definitely suggest figuring out ahead of time what you want to order to make things more streamlined when you’re at the restaurant. I printed the menus out and will share them with my brother & mom on the plane so they can make their meal decisions ahead of time.


Research

I had been reading the book The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World purely for fun before this trip was planned. Now of course with a trip in the near future, I’m reading it more for research. I’m also scouring the internet for helpful tips about traveling with my preschooler and keeping him occupied on the nearly 7 hour plane trip.

I have found great help on Pinterest and the website Trips with Tykes. Of course Traveling Mom also has a large section of reviews and advice about Disney on their site. And don’t forget about the Disney Parks Moms Panel! There have been so many questions answered on the site, you’re sure to find just what you need to know before your trip…and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask the Panel and you’ll receive a personalized answer!

(images from left to right: Amazon affiliate link, Tourist Blog, Trips with Tykes)

4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip                          4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip


Daydream

Oh yes, daydreaming for sure! Since my only knowledge of the place is via the internet, books and photos there is still so much unknown that it leaves it open to my imagination. How do the topiaries look in person at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival? Is Finding Nemo – The Musical as beautiful as it looks in photos? And will my son still hold a fascination for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train even after he rides it for the first time?

4 Quick Tips on Planning Your Disney Trip

Mickey & Minnie topiary – Image from Disney World.com

I can’t wait to make my daydreams a reality…4 more days!


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CONTEST ALERT- GoGo squeeZ Goodness on the Go Walt Disney World Sweepstakes

Go-Go Squeeze Goodness on the Go Sweepstakes

Image from WDWnews.com

Someday I’d love to see and smell the beauty that is the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World! Maybe we’ll win a trip there to see it ourselves!

GoGo squeeZ Goodness on the Go Walt Disney World Sweepstakes

  • Round-trip coach air transportation for four (4)
  • Round trip ground transfers between the Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World® Resort via Disney’s Magical Express Service
  • Four day, Three Night trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL for Four (4) guests
  • Three (3) nights at a Deluxe Walt Disney World Resort Hotel
  • Four (4) 4-Day Magic Your Way Tickets with Park Hopper Option
  • $200 Disney gift card
  • One (1) Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival Merchandise item
  • Twelve (12) cases of GoGo squeeZ (a year’s supply)

Many will enter, only ONE will win! Here are the quick entry details:

  • Enter once a day for the best odds
  • Entries must be received by April 30th, 2015.
  • Read the Official Rules for all the details

Good luck!

ENTER HERE