This year we decided to take a week long trip to Walt Disney World. My kids were really excited and helped with the planning of our vacation. We did a lot of research online and were able to make reservations for lots of the experiences we wanted to have. I wanted them to have the opportunity to enjoy everything that the parks offered and in a relaxed fashion. It was a fantastic vacation!
On the way, we drove down and stopped in Atlanta for the night. We always love staying at this Ritz Carlton. They have wonderful amenities and the location is great. You can always get great packages that include valet parking and in room breakfast. They were showing a dive in movie the night we arrived and it was fun to take a dip before bed. The spa level at this Ritz is really great. The rooms have recently been redone and they have fun little amenities like Make your Own Salt Scrubs!
For dinner we headed to Ponce City Market. It is the Historic Sears Roebuck & Co building that has been refurbished and is now home to trendy shopping, an amazing food hall and is part of the Beltway, a pedestrian greenspace. We were impressed with the massive Williams Sonoma store and thought the shopping options were very cool. You have all of your favorites like lululemon and J Crew and some unique and fun specialty shops too. I thought Archer Paper Goods was really cool and would love to take a candle making class at Candlefish.
We had dinner at Brezza Cucina, a fun and airy Italian American restaurant. We had an amazing kale caesar and some yummy pizzas. It was a fun way to unwind and begin vacation. The next morning we had breakfast in bed and headed off to Orlando. We wanted to make this truly feel like vacation, so we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. The hotel is lovely and the pools are really great. At night you can swim and watch the fireworks from the Disney parks. It was a lot of fun and a much needed rest before going to the parks!
While we were at the parks we stayed in a Disney resort. While I would have loved to stay at the Waldorf for the week, the benefits of staying on premise outweighed the perks at the Waldorf. The benefits were really worth it and I’ll explain. When staying on premise you have the option to get the Disney Dining Plan. I found that the plans covered character dining experiences that my family really enjoyed. When looking at the receipts, we definitely made good use of the plan given how expensive character dining is. We were also able to get fun snacks, and use the credits at our resort’s restaurant. I liked being able to let my kids have whatever they wanted and not having to worry about it.
We were also able to use MagicBands. These bands are used for room keys, dining credits, FastPasses and Photo Passes. We were able to plan our dining and FastPasses months before our trip online. While at the park we could use the MyDisneyExperience app on our phones to manage this. We could see the wait times for each ride and make the best use of our time. We also got Park Hopper passes and this allowed us to move from park to park each day. It also allowed us to take pool breaks in the afternoon when we were hot and needed to cool off.
We also enjoyed the PhotoPass. There are photographers all over the park poised to take photos in landmark spots or with characters. The photos are available on the app and some include cute illustrations or animation! There are also extra hours for guests of Disney resorts. This means that you can stay late or come early while the park is not open to the general public. We enjoyed riding a ton of rides at Magic Kingdom after the fireworks one night.
FastPasses are really worth planning ahead. We were able to plan to ride the kids’ top picks and avoid wait times that were sometimes over 2 hours. The FastPass planning is a bit complicated but it really saved time and sanity. The last benefit was the transportation between parks and the resorts. We were able to avoid the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom, take the monorail to Epcot, take a ferry from our resort to Disney Springs and get a bus for all of our other transportation. With cab fares averaging about $20 per trip, I think this was definitely a valuable amenity.
There are also some things to consider when packing for your trip. You will need tons of sunscreen. I brought both the spray and stick types and also a mineral stick. You will need small umbrellas or ponchos, because it did rain while we were there and there is no time for being wet and miserable at Disney. I ended up buying a Harvest Label backpack because my tote was uncomfortable and it was getting dirty. You also will want hand wipes and hand sanitizer. Having a backpack was also great to hold the kids’ pin lanyards and autograph books for character dining. Also, if you are new to pin trading, I have a few tips. You will want to get some pins that your kiddos don’t mind trading. I ordered some from Amazon and they worked perfectly. This was really fun for Harper and she collected a pretty set that made a great memento.
The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is my favorite Disney park. I associate it with everything classic Disney. It’s fun to enter the park and have a picture taken in front of Cinderella’s castle on Main Street. The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor is also on Main Street. The kids had fun getting an ice cream sundae and watching the afternoon parade under an umbrella there.
Our family favorites are in Fantasyland. We loved riding the classic rides like It’s a Small World, Prince Charming Regal Carousel and the Mad Tea Party. We agreed that the best rides were Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Under the Sea and Peter Pan’s Flight. The Barnstormer, Dumbo, and Mickey’s Philharmagic rounded out a fun experience.
We also ate in Fantasyland. We had breakfast with the princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table. This is pretty quintessential Disney. The whole experience is spot on. The ambiance is pretty special, the service is good and the princesses are perfect. The quiche was good and we had a lovely time. We had breakfast in Be Our Guest Restaurant too. The interior is amazing and the food was good. The service is nice too. It was a bit bustling but Harper was really glad to have gone and that is really all that matters. We also had a quick meal at Pinocchio Village Haus. The Caprese flatbreads are great and could have easily fed two people each.
We also really had fun at the Haunted Mansion, The Jungle Cruise and The Tiki Room. What gets me the most about the Magic Kingdom is the fireworks display. It is really the most magical experience at the park. Films are projected onto the castle as music plays and a fantastic fireworks display goes off. The ending is really special as Tinkerbell flies through the air. The next time we go, I am going to book a special viewing experience.
Epcot would certainly be my second favorite park. We loved the different countries you can explore and the different dining options that were available. We explored most of this park, but in my mind, Disney is a little like Vegas. There really isn’t time to play every slot machine in one trip. So there are definitely parts that we want to go back to.
The France Pavilion is lovely and it resembled a Parisian street perfectly. We enjoyed eating brunch at Les Halles Boulangerie – Patisserie. The quiche was tasty and the kids had yummy chocolate pastries. I would love to stop in for a chocolate mousse and also have dinner at Chefs de France the next time. We popped in next door and grabbed lavender sachets, chocolates from Maxim’s and a glass of Veuve to sip as we wandered on. The Morocco Pavilion was beautiful and fragrant and the music was fun.
The Japan Pavilion was so beautiful. The architecture is amazing and the gardens and water features are so pretty. I could have gone crazy shopping there. I restrained myself and bought a really cool backpack, a pretty rice bowl, a paddle fan with my name written on it and some Lychee candies. Another perk of staying in a Disney resort is having your purchases sent back to your resort gift shop, so you don’t have to carry them around with you.
The Italian restaurants looked pretty and the gift shop was fun. Jackson got a Ferrari jersey and Dan and I enjoyed smelling all the varieties of Acqua di Parma. At the Germany Pavilion, there is an adorable Christmas Shop with blown glass ornaments. There is also a biergarten that has the craziest pretzels that I want to get next time. We went into a cute shop that sold Werther’s original popcorn too! It was yummy!
The China Pavilion was very pretty too! Our next stop was Frozen Ever After, which was pretty cute! We went to Test Tracks, which was Jackson’s fave, and then we were ready for a late lunch. We went to the outdoor cantina at the Mexico Pavilion for some nachos and frozen margaritas. It was little crowded and while trying to get a table, a crane like bird decided it liked nachos too. So while we looked like a hot mess, we have a funny story to look back on and now you know. Watch your nachos at Epcot!! 😉 We also went to Soarin’ and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. The aquarium attached is fun and the perfect spot to relax and take a respite from the hot sun.
The day we went to Hollywood Studios was a rainy one and I really think that was okay. Most of the attractions there are inside and we were prepared for the weather. Our favorite rides were The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours and Toy Story Mania. We loved Muppet Vision 3d and The Voyage of the Little Mermaid too. We had dinner at Hollywood and Vine. It was character dining with Minnie and Friends. It was a buffet that had decent vegetarian options and very pretty desserts. The best part was that the kids were able to have pictures taken with the characters and get autographs while we relaxed.
We had pictures taken with Olaf and the Star Wars characters and really enjoyed the cool buildings that were really reminiscent of Hollywood. We felt like for a theme park, they did a good job. The kids got ice cream cookie sandwiches at Hollywood Scoops and we headed to our reserved seats for Fantasmic!
The Fantasmic fireworks show was really awesome. It was a cross between a fireworks display and a live action show. We were really impressed. The seating was also great because it was stadium style which controlled the crowds. There are a few shows that we would like to see the next time. we would also like to grab pizza at Pizza Rizzo’s which looked really cute!
We decided that Animal Kingdom is the most underrated Disney park. We were so impressed. When you first enter the park you can have your picture made in front of the giant tree in the center of the park. We walked in and saw, Flights of Wonder, a showcase where a huge flock of colorful parrots flew right in front of the tree. It was so picturesque. We had a FastPass for the Navi’ River ride so we made our way to Pandora. This place is insane. The waterfalls and plants are so amazing. I hear that it is awesome at night as well.
We had some time before our FastPass, so we lucked out to get through the line at Avatar Flight of Passage in about 30 minutes. You should believe the hype on this one. It was a little scary but so worth it. The animation was really, really amazing. We thought the Navi’ River was really fantastic too. The bioluminescent rainforest is super beautiful.
We grabbed a Dole Whip at Tamu Tamu and headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris. It was a cool trip and I am glad we did it. The animals we so pretty and this is another thing that would be cool to do at night. We were tired and ready to relax at the pool, so we strolled through Asia and headed out. Asia was beyond beautiful and we will certainly explore this more the next time. Another really cool thing at Animal Kingdom is all of the music. My husband thought it was really great too.
Disney Springs is a lot of fun and adds to your Disney experience. I really like to visit before we go to the parks for dinner. On Father’s Day we had dinner at The Boathouse. It is a fun restaurant that sits on Lake Buena Vista. They have a really pretty collection of Chris Craft boats to check out. We enjoyed a sunset meal of crabcakes and firecracker shrimp with prosecco! Fun!
The shopping at Disney Springs is fun too! We liked Sugarboo and we also loved the Disney tees at Uniqlo. They were just the right amount of Disney for Harper. Low key but still fun. The kids picked up souvenirs at the Lego Store, the pin trading store and Once Upon a Toy. I loved Basin, where we got fun soap slices to bring home! Ganacery was also a super pretty chocolate shop!
We also headed to Sprinkles Cupcakes and the Coca Cola store, where Jackson just happened to get a Cherry Coke with his name on it! We never used all the snacks on our plan so the kids scored big at Amorette’s Patisserie! They loaded up on Mickey shaped blondies and brownies for the trip home!
On our final day we had a late lunch at T Rex and went to Cirque du Soleil La Nouba. T Rex was Jackson’s pick and the appeal for an eleven year old guy is obvious. You are dining in the middle of a bunch of animatronic dinosaurs and every twenty minutes a meteor shower show begins. The kids really enjoyed it and were excited to finish off the meal with the Chocolate Extinction. It’s a gigantic chocolate dessert for four that is served with a smoking volcano!
La Nouba, was truly amazing and was the perfect end to a perfect Disney experience. I loved everything about this! The music was fantastic and a lot like the Gypsy Kings! The costumes were beautiful and inspiring. We loved the silk act, the clowns, and the bicycles too! I would definitely recommend seeing this show when you are there!
After walking over 45 miles at disney we were tired and ready to take a swim. We checked into the Waldorf Astoria just in time to take a dip and watch the fireworks! It just so happened that the BlogHer 17 conference was being held there. The keynote speaker was Chelsea cCinton and she took a helicopter from the golf course right after the fireworks! How cool is that!
We headed toward home and spent our last night at the Ritz in Buckhead. They were playing Snow White at the pool and my kids were feeling too cool to go. So, we had dinner in the lounge listening to live jazz. I have to say that the artichoke and margarita pizzas were great and it was a nice way to relax after a drive! In the morning we took a quick dip, had some room service brunch and scooted towards home! All in all, it was a perfect trip!