Walt Disney World’s Most Lovable Moments

It’s been ages since I did a Five on Friday…which is weird since I’ve got so much Disney floating around in my head all the time and I love lists. Today for your (hopefully) thought-provoking enjoyment, I’d like to share my thoughts on my five favorites…

Walt Disney World’s Most Lovable Moments

1. Early Morning

For early risers (like me!), dawn and the anticipation of what the day has in store is one of the best vacation moments ever. When we’re at a resort on Bay Lake or Seven Seas Lagoon, the boats’ horns as they start their day and sometimes the sound of the train in Magic Kingdom adds to the excitement. In the early morning’s still and relative peace, knowing what awaits makes those first moments after waking particularly special. On clear days, the sunrise never disappoints. I love to step outside to savor my first cup of coffee and soak it all in.

2. Cast Members at Their Best

Cast Member in Norway Pavilion

It seems like it would be nearly impossible for Walt Disney World to exceed expectations. Let’s face it; the bar is high! But it happens regularly and there’s nothing more magical. On every visit, we manage to find passionate Cast Members adding immeasurable happiness to our vacation. It might be custodians playfully photo-bombing our pictures or mopping the image of a favorite character onto the pavement. Sometimes it’s parade attendants dancing or striking up conversations with us while we wait. Park greeters with extra enthusiasm and a sincere welcome add a certain special something. Then there are those cast members in stores or serving in restaurants who have the uncanny ability to make you feel like the most important guest in the World. I’ve said many times that Cast Members can make or break a Disney vacation. (Here’s what I’d tell them if I could.)

3. The Unexpected Lull

This can happen any time of the day, on any day of the year. Once, Raymond and I rope-dropped Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the week after Christmas and found, to our amazement, we could see and do an amazing number of attractions that morning despite the holiday crowds. If you’ve ever checked My Disney Experience and found crazy-low wait times for some of your favorite attractions, you have discovered the unexpected lull. Sometimes the lull lasts an entire day, sometimes the lull is relative and momentary – like that time in June 2017 right after Pandora opened when Megan and I caught an unbelievably short 90-minute standby line for Flight of Passage. Once, with the parks closing and hurricane Matthew bearing down on us, we snagged a last-minute ADR at California Grill!

4. Disney Surprises

They’re everywhere! Once we were walking to our room at the Grand Floridian and that Cinderella’s gorgeous horse-drawn coach passed right in front of us! It might be seeing a new baby animal in Animal Kingdom or watching a duck and ducklings in Magic Kingdom or Epcot. It could be as simple as finding a previously overlooked or new Hidden Mickey. Unexpected character interactions are always special and often hilarious (like this one). We once just happened along at the right time to enjoy Magic Kingdom’s Flag Retreat for the first time. In the rush to get from attraction to attraction and do as much as possible, I think a lot of guests miss the surprises. They’re there if you look for them and they are awesome.

5. When It’s Time to Go Home

One thing I can say with absolute certainty after nearly three decades of Walt Disney World vacations…We always leave wanting more. With new restaurants, lands, attractions, shows, nighttime spectaculars on the horizon, planning to go back is always on our minds. The fact that I appreciate how convenient and easy it is to check our luggage in for our flight home right at our resort and catch the Magical Express, I’m always a bit sad. No matter how long we stay, I always leave feeling like I needed a little more time. I hope it’s always that way. Planning the next Disney trip, no matter how far away it is, is almost as much fun as going there.

Your turn! What did I miss? What would you consider Walt Disney World’s Most Lovable Moments?

Disney World – January Winter Blues Cure

Nothing beats the post-holiday winter blues like a Walt Disney World vacation! In 2015, 2016, and 2018 we vacationed in February for runDisney’s Princess races. In 2017, we went in April for Star Wars races. This year? We picked January and not for the runDisney events. In fact, our carefully chosen 5-day getaway is (supposedly) during an uncrowded week. Fingers crossed!

Disney World – January Winter Blues Cure

Raymond and I have planned plenty of dining and FastPass+ action (more on that in a second), but we’ve also left extra-generous, unplanned blocks of time for being completely spontaneous. This does not mean we will be wasting this precious Disney time. Oh, no, quite the contrary!

We’ll be staying at the Villas at the Grand Floridian, so we’ll have easy access to the Senses Spa’s fitness center. We like exercising on vacation and, on this trip, we’ll have plenty of time in the morning on most days.

Unplanned time means we can indulge in one of our most favorite Disney vacation activities – Resort Exploration! I’ve mentioned the Resortloop Pub Crawl (highly recommend this!) and enjoying lunch and/or dinner at resorts other than where we’re staying. During these leisurely visits to our favorite resorts, we’ve had some of the best, most memorable vacation experiences. (I think this entire topic deserves its own blog post, so watch for it coming up soon.)

Free time in the parks means we can snack, shop, and people-watch at an unhurried pace. At Disney Springs, we can grab a cocktail and check out the different and varied musical entertainment offered there. Look, we were once among the believers in hard-core, 15+ hour days of non-stop attractions and park-hopping. Our family motto was: We’ll rest when we’re dead. Now we know that a slower pace isn’t any less fun. In fact, we have time to discover previously unnoticed magical details (and more Hidden Mickeys too).

What DO We Have Planned?

Let’s start with food. We’ve booked meals at Narcoossee’s (on the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian and one of our favorite places to end a park day), Rose & Crown (hearty, reliably tasty, and the UK Pavilion is among our favorites in World Showcase), Wine Bar George (new to us in Disney Springs), Yak & Yeti (haven’t eaten at this particular Animal Kingdom gem in too long), Sanaa (the bread service!!!), and The Hollywood Brown Derby (giving it another try after a disappointment).

Now on to the FastPasses. We may not have booked three per day, but quality over quantity was my driving factor. We’re visiting Magic Kingdom a couple of times and locked in Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain. The absence of Splash Mountain may seem like a glaring omission, but January weather is often unpredictable and we don’t want to be soaked and freezing.

In Epcot, we snagged Frozen and Spaceship Earth, choosing to spend most of our Epcot time enjoying the Festival of the Arts rather than attractions. In Animal Kingdom, we’ve got Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and Flight of Passage. Finally, we went a little crazy with the Studios and over a couple of visits managed to book Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror (x2), Rock’n’ Roller Coaster (x2), and Slinky Dog Dash. If park attendance is low-ish (as predicted), we should be able to fit in plenty of other attractions everywhere as we please.

Now that you know what we have planned and unplanned, what do you think? What restaurants and attractions or activities would you have chosen differently? If you’ve been to Wine Bar George, we would love some recommendations!

Disney Dining – Animal Kingdom’s Best Dessert

We were big fans of Harambe Market in Animal Kingdom long before Joseph worked there during his stint in the Disney College Program.  We love the atmosphere and the consistently solid menu choices for a quick lunch or dinner.  Oh, and there’s good beer there too. Lately, Harambe Market has moved ahead of Flame Tree Barbecue and Yak & Yeti for me.

Disney Dining – Animal Kingdom’s Best Dessert

What we didn’t know before Joseph became an expert on all things Harambe is that the Market serves up an excellent dessert.  As part of his Disney College Program training, Joe tasted everything on the Harambe Market menu.  What surprised him most was the number of dishes he enjoyed after thinking initially they were not something he would like.  Dessert was a surprise to him because the Safari Cake’s description didn’t sound all that good. And this is why, I’m sure, Disney has those DCP members employed in food and beverage service taste the food! 

Not being a dessert person, I would never have noticed any dessert item on the menu, much less tried one.  On our last family visit to Animal Kingdom, Joseph encouraged us to try the Safari Cake and thought even I, born without a sweet tooth, would like it.

What’s a Safari Cake?

It looks a bit like Boma’s famous Zebra Domes, but much larger.  It’s a coconut cake, but fancy.  Inside there’s pineapple filling and coconut mousse and the entire concoction is covered in chocolate glaze.  It’s very tropical tasting and the blend of flavors is indeed delicious. Neither the coconut nor the pineapple are overpowering. I think even non-coconut people would like this dessert.

Intergalactic travel, safari expeditions, and Yeti hunting can surely work up a powerful appetite!

So the next time you find yourself in Animal Kingdom near Harambe Market and crave a sweet treat, you should consider giving this cake-y dome of deliciousness a try! Our family unanimously agrees that the Safari Cake is Animal Kingdom’s best dessert.

Have you tried a Safari Cake? What’s your favorite sweet treat in Animal Kingdom?

Disney Cruise Excursions – Bicycling in Astoria, Oregon

Who doesn’t love a good Disney vacation adventure? We always try to pack in as much action-packed, fun-filled excitement as we can.  We’ve been zip-lining, scuba diving, sea kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and more.  After we booked our West Coast Cruise from Vancouver to San Diego, I poured over the available excursions for our stop in Astoria, Oregon.  When those nice folks from Disney Cruise Concierge services called to help us book activities, we knew what we wanted.  A bicycle tour!

Disney Cruise Excursions – Bicycling in Astoria, Oregon

As we sailed towards Oregon, the weather forecast was not favorable at all.  Chilly (to us, anyway) and with rain predicted, we weren’t even sure the excursion would still be on.  When we woke up that morning, things had turned around.  The day was sunny and, while not exactly warm, was very comfortable.  We booked the early adults-only tour so we’d have the afternoon to explore.  After breakfast, we met up with our tour group and walked off the Wonder into Astoria.

Local vendors and artists had set up tents in a festival-like market and we passed a variety of wares on our way to the tour’s meeting area.  A selection of well-used bicycles awaited and we quickly chose our rides and fastened on our helmets.  Our tour guides introduced themselves as Ronni and David.  Ronni took the lead and we started out right away with the early history of Astoria.

Once dominated by canneries, the waterfront bore evidence of a once bustling fish-processing industry.  Our tour moved into town, past historical sites and museums – all the while Ronni shared stories about each location which kept the tour interesting and educational.  Best of all, there were absolutely NO hills to climb.

Tour Highlights

There were two parts of the tour I liked best.  The first one was seeing sea lions outside of a zoo.  These guys were fascinating and I could have watched them for hours.  All males, congregated on and around some boat docks, they were piled on every available surface and on top of each other.  Just like in Finding Dory, there was a “Gerald” whose every attempt at finding a basking spot was rebuffed by shouts of, “OFF! OFF! OFF!” Noisy, funny, and so interesting!  I was delighted.

The other highlight was visiting Fishhawk Fisheries.  The owner of this fish-processing establishment welcomed us inside where we watched fresh fish being cleaned and learned about the different types of fish processed there.  Our group was then invited up to the owner’s office (what a view!) for snacks of fish dips, of course, with veggies and chips.  While we ate, we listened to stories of Astoria’s past and present dependency on the fishing industry.  This was interesting and a very special, unexpected treat!

To end the tour, Ronni (tour guide and Astoria’s only meter maid) brought us all safely back to the pier where those booths were set up.  I asked her what was being offered and she described different wares.  I was not surprised to learn that she is also an artist specializing in pet portraits and had her own booth set up nearby.  Missing Junior as I was, I found the prospect of having his sweet little face immortalized on canvas irresistible.  A few weeks later, Junior’s portrait arrived and is the perfect souvenir from our fun and memorable bicycle tour of Astoria.