Walt Disney World Snacking – 2017 Edition

There have been quite a few snack posts through the years here at Living a Disney Life.  There’s a good reason for that…Snacking around the World is an important part of a Disney vacation!  There are awesome tasty treats everywhere you go.  Let’s talk about a couple of this year’s new favorites and, of course, reliable old standbys.

Walt Disney World Snacking – 2017 Edition

New to us this year (If you’re on a Disney Dining Plan, these are one snack credit each.)

Salted Caramel Cupcake from Karamell-Kuche in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion.  It’s a beautiful and delicious choice for cupcake fans.  Moist, tender cake and wonderfully flavorful frosting.  If you’re like me and don’t have a sweet tooth, it’s a great snack to share.

Chocolate-filled Beignets from Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in Epcot’s France Pavilion.  These were the perfect mix of traditional beignets (fluffy and coated in powdered sugar) with the added bonus of a not-too-sweet chocolate filling.  Delightful!

Perennial Favorites

Of course most of you are already familiar with the classics:  Mickey Shaped Pretzels, Citrus Swirls (or Dole Whips if you prefer), Churros, Popcorn and Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars.  These are, without a doubt, “the usuals” for us.

There are a few slightly less universally popular, but worthy repeat snacks for our family…

Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes’ Eggroll – If we’re in Animal Kingdom and anywhere near Expedition Everest, I’m detouring into the queue for Yak and Yeti’s quick service counter.  The eggrolls come in single or double servings and are not only a great bargain, but are really fresh and delicious.  As a savory snack fan, these are currently my favorite.

Sweet Spells Carrot Cake Cookie – We will always miss the Writer’s Stop in Disney’s Hollywood Studios which was closed to make way for new construction.  That special shop may be gone, but at least one of its best offerings lives on.  The Carrot Cake Cookie (big enough to share) puts a slice of carrot cake in a convenient sandwich form.  It’s huge!  I’ve never eaten one all by myself.

Refreshment Port Croissant Donut – Take into consideration that this type of treat is not one we normally crave, thus it’s a special vacation sweet!  Flakey, cinnamon/sugar-coated and warm, fresh from the oven(fryer?), if you’re headed into World Showcase towards Canada, grab one of these and see for yourself how yummy they are.

Candied Almonds – They seem to be available in several places now, but my personal favorite place to snag a paper cone of these tasty morsels is at a snack cart in Animal Kingdom.  They’re warm and crunchy, sweet and delicious.  These?  I’m not sharing.

Karamell-Kuche Caramel Corn or really anything else on the menu.  While the Salted Caramel Cupcake (mentioned above) was new to us, the offerings in this place are always tempting!  If you’ve never taken the time to check out this sweet shop in the Germany Pavilion, please take a minute to step inside.  While the Caramel Corn does need to be eaten on day of purchase (trust me, it is absolutely best when fresh), there are so many treats (I’m partial to a simple salted caramel square) can be purchased for later.

Still in Epcot – There’s a Gelato Cart in the Italy Pavilion that serves the Gelato Affogato we’ve loved since the very first bite.  It also has the added bonus of being one of the cutest-looking snacks in the World.

Have you recently discovered a new Walt Disney World snack?  Do you have a favorite not mentioned here?  What is it and where can we find it?  Our next Disney vacation is right around the corner.

 

Getting Your Disney World Vacation Started Right!

There’s no right or wrong way to kick off a vacation at Walt Disney World.  But a bit of advance planning for some arrival day fun helps make the most of every precious vacation minute.

Getting Your Disney World Vacation Started Right!

First let’s take a quick look at some of the factors that influence your arrival day options

  • What time will you reach the World?  Will you have most of a day? Part of a day? Arrive Late?
  • What size is your travel party?  Maneuvering a group takes time and sometimes more effort that expected.  Spending a bit of time in advance to map out at least a framework of plans is super helpful when you’re traveling with a group.
  • Littles or Bigs?  Will your children need naps?  Did they have to get up extra early for travel?  (Also, it’s good to know before you go what the height requirements are on various attractions.)
  • Will you have park tickets on day one?

Some suggestions…

Lots of folks don’t purchase park tickets for arrival day.  Before we became annual passholders, our family fell into this category.  If you’re staying near or on Disney property, you can jump right into the Disney Bubble and start soaking up the magic before you ever visit a park.

Here are some tried and true ideas:

  • Explore your resort.  It’s a good way to familiarize yourself with the location of restaurants, shops, pools, activities and transportation.  Many Disney World resorts have evening activities like movies, story-telling and S’mores-making – ask about the events schedule when checking in. 
  • If you have a car, make a grocery run.  Stock up on things like snacks, water, and breakfast foods.
  • Plan ahead for a nice dinner.  (Reservations at Disney resorts can be made 180 days in advance.)  There are so many restaurants to choose from, we usually pick someplace new to try on our first day of vacation.
  • Check out Disney Springs.  There’s something for all ages including fun shops, cool atmosphere, and live entertainment.  With or without reservations, there are a bunch of great places to eat.
  • Hang out at the pool.  We have lots of friends who claim this is their most favorite way to kick of a Disney vacation.
  • Turn in early so you can hit the parks refreshed first thing the next day.
  • During the holiday season, resort-hop to check out the amazing decorations.

Have Park Tickets?  With a little advance planning, you can dive right into the action!  If you only have three or four days in Walt Disney World, a few extra hours in the parks on arrival day can make a huge difference in the number of shows and attractions you get to experience.

Head straight to a park:

  • Book FastPasses starting about two hours post-arrival.  That gives plenty of time to check in at your resort and make your way to whichever park you’ve chosen.  Between FastPasses, keep an eye on the wait times in the My Disney Experience app and you’ll be amazed at how many attractions you can fit in on day one.
  • Magic Kingdom is my personal favorite arrival-day park.  There’s no better welcome to the Disney Bubble than seeing Cinderella Castle right away and soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells of Main Street USA.
  • Want a casual, low-key arrival day in a park?  Choose Epcot or Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  During any of Epcot’s festivals, there’s nothing more relaxing to me than a stroll around World Showcase sampling food and drinks along the way.  In Animal Kingdom, exploring the trails and animal exhibits is a laid back way to check out the park without waiting in long lines or rushing around.
  • Pre-shop a bit for park souvenirs to purchase later.
  • Plan a nice dinner at your favorite in-park restaurant.  We like Tiffins (Animal Kingdom), Skipper Canteen (Magic Kingdom), Via Napoli (Epcot) and 50’s Prime Time Café (Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
  • Pick a nighttime spectacular to wrap up the day.  Whether it’s Happily Ever After in Magic Kingdom, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular or Fantasmic! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Illuminations:  Reflections of Earth in Epcot, or Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom – there’s a magical way to end your first day of vacation no matter which park you choose.

Now it’s your turn!  What’s your favorite way to start a Disney World vacation?

 

Festival of Fantasy Parade – Favorite Viewing Spots

To me, Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade is one of the most fantastic, magical, amazing Disney creations EVER! (Totally not kidding – I’m crazy about it!)  Watch it once and tell me I’m wrong.  I love everything about it and while I may not be able to squeeze it into my schedule on every Walt Disney World visit, I make a point of seeing it as often as I can.  Finding the best spot from where to take in every charming detail can be a challenge, so let me share what tips I’ve learned.Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

Festival of Fantasy Parade – Favorite Viewing Spots

When deciding on an ideal parade viewing locale, a lot depends on the day’s FastPass line-up and what time we’re planning to leave Magic Kingdom.  Planning a little in advance, I try to minimize parade-spot-hunting time while making sure we’re well-situated for whatever’s next on our post-parade schedule.

Option 1 – Near the StartFestival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

The parade starts in Frontierland near the edge of Adventureland, so finding a place close to where the parade begins means no waiting for it to arrive further along the parade route.  Megan and I did this recently and thought it was great.  Once the parade passed, we were able to follow it to Liberty Square and ride Haunted Mansion with little wait.

Option 2 – On the HubFestival of Fantasy Parade

This one’s a little challenging on a hot, sunny day since there’s no real shade.  That being said, there’s nothing like watching Festival of Fantasy with Cinderella Castle as a backdrop.  If we can find a place to sit down, folded rain ponchos provide excellent posterior-protection from the burning hot concrete.  Tip – Claim your spot early and be ready to fend off encroachers.  This is a great spot to watch the parade if you’ll be headed to Fantasyland or Tomorrowland afterwards.Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

Option 3 – In Front of the Main Street Station

This is an excellent option if you want to make a quick getaway.  We stood facing Cinderella Castle and could see the parade as it made its way down Main Street USA before circling around right in front of us.  This location is at the very end of the parade route, so it takes a while for the magic to get there.  The ability to walk right out of the park after the last float passes by without battling the park crowds is so convenient!Festival of Fantasy Parade - Favorite Viewing Spots

The important takeaway here is that seeing Festival of Fantasy is worth the time and effort to find a place that fits into your family’s Magic Kingdom Plans.  There are tons of spots other than the ones I’ve listed from which to take in the action.  But do make room in your plans…you won’t be sorry!

Are you a Festival of Fantasy Parade fan?  Where’s your favorite parade-viewing location?

 

 

Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

We’re calling it the “Epic Mother/Daughter Disney Summer Road Trip” and in just a few weeks, we’ll be on our way!  Packing lists are made.  FastPasses are booked.  Like all great Disney vacations, new things are in store and include quite a few Disney firsts for us.  Megan and I are more excited than I can describe and are constantly texting each other about our plans.  Speaking of plans…

Almost Time – Disney Summer Road Trip Plans

Let’s start with the firsts:  First time at Saratoga Springs, first time on the Quick Service Dining Plan, first time driving to Orlando, and (the most exciting!) first time to see Pandora!  We’ve also booked the “Caring for Giants” tour at Animal Kingdom and are looking forward to seeing the new Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular in Magic Kingdom.

Here are the plans we’ve made day-by-day…

Arrival Day:

Magic Kingdom:  We’ll get there for lunch and grab what sounds good at the time.  We have FastPasses starting right after lunch for Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain.  Between FastPasses, we’ll fill in with the usual favorites depending on wait times.  Those attractions are usually PeopleMover, Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Carousel of Progress, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Country Bear Jamboree.  For dinner we’ll catch the boat to Wilderness Lodge to try Geyser Point before returning to Magic Kingdom and staying for Happily Ever After.

Day Two:

Animal Kingdom as early as possible.  It would stress me out to shoot for an exact arrival time, but it will need to be early.  FastPasses start at 9:00 am with Na’vi River Journey in Pandora.  We’ll grab breakfast there at Satu’li Canteen either before or after the ride.  Then we’ll have plenty of time to explore all of Pandora at our leisure.  Our next FastPass (Expedition Everest) isn’t until early afternoon.  We’ll do the Caring For Giants tour mid-afternoon then be able to roam around Animal Kingdom at a lazy pace, eat dinner, and use our final FastPass for Rivers of Light at 9:15.

Day Three:Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids

Animal Kingdom again first thing.  Our FastPasses are all in the morning:  Flight of Passage, Primeval Whirl, and Kali River Rapids.  We’ll be hopping to Epcot for the afternoon – so many great quick service options for lunch in World Showcase!  Dinner that night will be at Paddlefish in Disney Springs after which we’ll call it a day.

Day Four:Entrance for Toy Story Midway ManiaWe’ll start by rope-dropping the Studios to ride Rock’n’ Roller Coaster before using our three FastPasses for Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Star Tours.  The unplanned afternoon will be spent at either Magic Kingdom or Epcot before we start the first part of the long drive home that evening.

Yes, we have solid plans for much of the time, but I think we’ve allowed for plenty of free-styling along the way.  Primarily we’ll be focused on exploring Pandora since it’s new, but we’ll also be able to enjoy many of our must-dos in every park while trying a few new restaurants too.  Mother/Daughter time should include a nice mix of new experiences and old favorites while making lots of happy memories.

While we’re away, Joseph has decided he should stay at the house and keep Raymond (and Junior) company.  So while they won’t be going to Disney World, they’ll be guys home alone doing guys stuff.  I think they’re pretty excited about it.

Are you headed to Walt Disney World this summer?  What are you the most excited to see and do?