September 2, 2015

What I Love About Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is the park that I have visited the least. Not that I don’t like it, just that some of the trips that I have been on were shorter and time wouldn’t allow it. The first time I ever visited Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom was still being built. It opened one year after my first visit, on Earth Day 1998. Even though it is the newest park (it’s still 18 years old), there are so many things that I love about it, and some things that make it different than any of the other Disney Parks. It’s a park that grows on you, and once you stop and look around, I think you will love it too.

Now onto the things I love:

Welcome to Animal Kingdom

The Details

The details in Animal Kingdom rival those of Magic Kingdom. I have watched documentaries on YouTube that take an in depth look at how Animal Kingdom was built, and they are all amazing. If you are interested in the details, I urge you to find the Expedition Everest documentary on YouTube. I had a whole new appreciation for that ride after watching it. I even looked for a certain something when you reach a dead end (watch it and you’ll know what I’m talking about!). The distressed look of the park is quite impressive considering it’s age! In terms of theme, I think Animal Kingdom is the party that cohesively fits the theme. (We will just ignore Dino-rama on this okay? Okay.) There was so much research done for this part, and I really think Imagineers pulled it off.

The Tree of Life

This park centrepiece deserves it’s own category, because of the detail alone. Every time I visit Animal Kingdom I see something new on that tree. When you learn how the tree was made, it’s even more impressive. I recommend going to see “It’s tough to be a bug!” so you can get an even closer look at The Tree of Life. It’s crazy to think that there are over 100 animals carved into that masterpiece. Want your picture with the Tree in the background? Don’t wait to get one when you first walk into the park, wait until you are in other areas where it isn’t as busy! Keep an eye out for Disney Photopass photographers, as most likely they are standing close to a picture perfect spot!

The Tree of Life

The Food

I always enjoy eating at Animal Kingdom! There are some more exotic food choices, and it’s always fun to try something new. During my trip in February, Ethan and I tried a falafel wrap and an asian noodle salad. Both were really good! It’s always nice to find good vegetarian options while on vacation so you don’t feel like you are having the same thing over and over. I’ve heard really good things about meat options at Animal Kingdom (like Flame Tree Barbecue) but unfortunately I can’t talk from experience! On your next trip to Walt Disney World, I encourage you to try the food at Animal Kingdom! Also Pizzafari has something other restaurants in WDW don’t- watch the episode of “Unwrapped” to find out.

On a side note, I feel like I have watched more YouTube videos focusing on Animal Kingdom than any other park. It really makes you want to spend more time there!

A Little Friend

The Atmosphere

Animal Kingdom is unlike any other Disney theme park. You have to explore a little. When you first walk in, you are surrounded by lush greenery. You know you are supposed to see a big tree or something when you enter, but you have to wait a while! There are so many nooks and crannies, it’s a park to really explore. It just has a different feel to it.  A lot of people find Animal Kingdom to be a half-day park (and I have definitely felt that way before) but recently my impression has changed. It’s a park that you can definitely spend the whole day at. There is so much to see, and it’s not just “a zoo”. The animal exhibits are beautifully detailed and really transport you to Africa and Asia. Kiliminjaros Safari is always fun, and there are a lot of shows to enjoy! If you are a fan of The Lion King, make sure to check out “Festival of The Lion King”! I haven’t seen it since it moved to its new home, but I hope to see it on my next trip!

The Trails

There are many different trails to explore at Animal Kingdom. It’s fun to head in one direction not necessarily knowing what you are going to see! The details in the trails are amazing, and really transport you. You feel as if you are in the animals’ natural habitats, not at a theme park in Florida! I think everyone should take it slow when visiting Animal Kingdom, because you never know where you can wander! Hint: there are even some trails that aren’t listed on the maps! And you can sometimes find some characters along the trails! You know, just around the riverbed? Can you tell I saw Pocahontas last time?

The Future

There are so many exciting things coming to Animal Kingdom that I can’t wait to see! Avatar-land is coming soon, and so is a nighttime show! There was a lot of construction happening in February so when I (hopefully) visit next year I hope a lot has changed! It will be interesting to see a nighttime show at a park many people deem a half day park, and especially one centred around wildlife. I really can’t wait to see “Rivers of Light”.

Elephant

 

What do you love about Animal Kingdom? Make sure to let me know in the comments!

Have you seen what else I love? Check out what I love about Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Walt Disney World!

Thanks again for reading!

Kelsey
August 26, 2015

A Complete Guide to My Disney Experience

My Disney Experience is the new platform that was released in 2012 to act as the “hub” of your Disney Vacation. You can access My Disney Experience by logging on to the Disney World website, or by downloading the app to your smartphone. All you need to do to make the most out of your vacation is create an account.

Creating an account is as simple as visiting the Disney World website and in the top right hand corner, hover over “My Disney Experience” and click Create Account. It will take you through all of the steps to link any existing reservations, but you do not need to have anything booked to create an account. You can link reservations once they are booked at any time, and it is really easy. On my last trip I accidentally used two different e-mail addresses, but linked all of our reservations to the same My Disney Experience account.

Seven Dwarf Mine Train

My Disney Experience is awesome because it will show all future plans and reservations, as well as what is going on today. It’s very helpful to glance at your phone before you head out the door to see what time Fastpass+ experiences are, dining reservations, and of course where you are staying that night (if you are staying at a Disney Resort).

Now on to all of the things My Disney Experience keeps track of for you:

Fastpass+

When staying at a Disney resort you can make Fastpass+ reservations up to 60 days before your trip. If staying elsewhere, but you bought tickets through Walt Disney World directly, you can book Fastpass+ 30 days in advance. You will be e-mailed when you can create your Fastpasses, and you will use My Disney Experience to make the selections. I promise, there will be a post all about Fastpass+ soon! Once you have your Fastpass+ booked, these “reservations” will be shown in My Disney Experience, so you can easily see what Fastpasses you have on what day of your trip.

Magicband selection

Again, Disney will e-mail you when you can make your Magicband selection. A Magicband is a bracelet that holds all of your reservation information, and is used as your room key. You press the Mickey Head to another Mickey Head (whether it’s at your hotel room door, when entering the park or when heading onto a ride using Fastpass+). If you live in the United States, your MagicBands will be mailed to you ahead of your trip. If you live Internationally, you will pick up your MagicBands when you check in to your resort. You can choose from a variety of colours when picking out your MagicBand (red, blue, yellow, green, pink, orange, and grey). If you do not pick a colour, the default is Grey. There are accessories available in the parks to add to your MagicBand and make it your own. They are waterproof and are one size fits all (part of the strap can be removed to fit smaller wrists like mine or children’s). Keep in mind that you need your MagicBand to do pretty much everything, so keep it somewhere safe! That includes your children’s bands! If you think they will take theirs off, you should probably hold onto it for them!

Hint: You are going to want to Fastpass+ this ride!

Sharing plans with other family members

With one My Disney Experience account, you can easily add other members of your family, and create reservations for everyone in your party. For parties of 10 or more, Disney suggests calling (407) 939-7771 from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM EST to help create a My Disney Experience account for your party. If you want to create multiple accounts within your party, you can easily send reservation information to those not on your account. Disney really does think of everything!

Dining Reservations

You can very easily use the Disney World website to make dining reservations, and once they have been made, they can be linked to your account! It makes it really easy to see where you are eating, what time, and how many people are on the reservation. Want to learn more about the Disney Dining Plan? check out my post all about it!

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Reservation Information

Lastly, My Disney Experience will keep all of your hotel information in one place. It will tell you which resort you are staying at, and which days the reservations are for, It seems like it might not be needed, but if you are staying at multiple resorts during your trip, you may need to know!

The My Disney Experience App

The App has all of the information you see when looking at your profile through the Disney website and more. I used this app all the time during my last trip. When I was hungry I could see the nearest dining options, and take a look at the menu without having to walk around the park! While in line for one ride we could see what we might want to hit next by looking at the wait time. Need a washroom? You can find out where the closest one was! Forget what time the park is open until? You can check that in 30 seconds! What time was the parade again? Oh right!

Seriously. I loved this app. I still check it once in a while, just if I want to know how long the line is for Space Mountain. You never know when someone will ask you when you’re at home… right? The only complaint I have about the app is that it was sometimes slow. I was using the Wifi in the parks, but I’m sure if you were using a data the connection would be faster. Other than that, it was amazing.

I think that My Disney Experience is one of the many things that keeps Disney above and beyond other theme parks, and they are always on top of the newest technology. My Disney Experience really helps to make your vacation easier, with all of the information you could want at your fingertips.

Expedition Everest

Have you ever used My Disney Experience on the computer or the app? What were your thoughts? Need me to elaborate on anything? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey
August 12, 2015

Should I Stay On Site? All About Disney Resort Hotels

Walt Disney World is almost 42 square miles, and holds many hotels in that area. Disney owns 25 resorts, and there are many others within Walt Disney World (not owned by Disney, but on Disney property). So which hotel do you choose? Is it better to stay on or off site? I have done both, but I prefer to stay on site. Before you tell me I’m crazy, let me explain a little.

Finding Nemo the Musical

A Little Background Story…

When My family visited the Orlando area in 2012, we rented a house very close to Walt Disney World and rented a car. We stayed for a week and visited Universal Orlando, Sea World and Kennedy Space Center. For these destinations, it was great. We liked having the room of a house, and we could prepare meals when we wanted. After a week of staying there, we were off to Walt Disney World! We returned the rental car back to the airport, and were off on Disney’s Magical Express (look for a post all about that service soon!). We stayed at a Value resort and took advantage of the Disney transportation.

In the same trip, my sister Alex was feeling under the weather 🙁 but Disney transportation was very fast (they even dispatched an entire bus for the 5 of us to get us to the hotel faster!) It also helps that wheelchairs have priority getting on Disney buses, because they need to be tied down. Being so close to the parks helped in this case, because when she was at a park and wanted to head back to rest, she could easily go with my Dad.

I find that with the size of Walt Disney World it is easier to take Disney Transportation than renting a car, and you can also get the Disney Dining Plan. If you are staying at a resort that is in Walt Disney Word but not owned by Disney, you may be able to get free transportation to the parks. I have never done this, but know that it may be available at some resorts.

Gawrsh!!

Gawrsh!!

The Disney Resorts

The resorts that are owned by Disney in Walt Disney World are split into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value are the least expensive, moderate are in the middle, and deluxe are the most expensive.

Value resorts include Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the All Stars: All Star Music, All Star Movies, and All Star Sports.

Moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach (my favourite), Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Fort Wilderness cabins and campground, and Coronado Springs.

Deluxe Resorts include Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Yacht Club.

There are a lot of advantages to staying on site. Disney Resorts guests get access to the parks earlier and later on specific days called “Extra Magic Hours”. I would strongly suggest taking advantage of this if you stay at a Disney resort.

What To Consider When Selecting A Disney Resort

Location! Location can be really important, especially if you are relying on Disney Transportation. In some cases you can even WALK to the parks. Like how friggen cool is that? In general, location can be something to consider. I tend to like resorts in the Epcot area, because they are central, and close to 2 of the 4 theme parks. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are somewhat out of the way, so getting to the other parks can take a little longer if you are staying close to a Kingdom park. Location can also be great, like at Caribbean Beach you can see Illuminations from the main pool. At the Contemporary, you can watch Wishes from the California Grill.

The Muppets

Special Offers

Disney usually creates special offers for guests staying at Disney Resorts, by giving you up to 30% off your stay. You should always check, because they are only for certain dates. You can find the information on the offer by visiting the “Special Offers” page on the Walt Disney World website.

A Note About Disney Transportation

Buses only go from resort to park and from park to park. Not from resort to resort! You have to take time into consideration when making reservations at a resort that is not your own. If you are visiting a park that day it won’t be that hard to get there, but getting back can be time consuming. Buses run to Downtown Disney until after midnight most nights, so you would have to take a bus to Downtown Disney and transfer there to the resort you are staying at. It sounds confusing but I hope it makes sense!

Good Morning to you!

It can be cheaper to stay outside of Walt Disney World, but I feel like it is much more convenient and adds to the experience to stay on site. Especially if you are dedicating your entire vacation to  WDW, which I would recommend to get the most of your Walt Disney World experience.

Which do you prefer, staying on site or off? If you like to stay on site, which is your favourite resort and why?

Thank you so much for reading!

Kelsey