Spooky (Not-So) Scary Halloween at Disney World

Disney is definitely one of my favorite vacation spots. It reminds me of my childhood and it’s just so magical and light and fun. So, for Bill’s 30th, we thought there was no better place to celebrate than in the Happiest Place on Earth!

Day 1 – Disney Springs

For the first time ever, Bill and I visited Disney Springs and really checked everything out. In years past, we’ve typically stayed toward the center of Disney Springs without really venturing out and this year, we realized how much we had been missing out on! There’s so much more to see and do there than we originally thought.

It was a little warm when we arrived — in matching shirts, no less — but it was the perfect way to spend our first day in Disney. Our flight had landed in the morning, so we spent the afternoon immersing ourselves in Disney stores, realizing Disney prices are more expensive than we remembered (haha), and getting excited to finally see Disney in the fall. In addition to most of the stores having spooky, Halloween decor, the whole of Disney Springs was complete with fall decorations. So cute!

Favorite moments: Stopping at Amorette’s Patisserie for champagne and a little Mickey Mouse cake; getting silly in the stores.; picking up a nice piece of Disney art; watching the sun set on the water.

 

Day 2 – Animal Kingdom

We woke up and the sun was shining so it made perfect sense to start our day down by the pool! This time, like last, we stayed at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, so we were already familiar with the entire resort and settled into a routine quickly. We wanted as much sunshine and pool time as we could get!

After a morning of swimming, it was off to Animal Kingdom. Bill and I wanted to try our hand at “Disney bounding” this time around — what the Pinterest/Instagram world calls wearing an outfit inspired by a Disney character without fully dressing up like that character — so we opted to be Piglet and Pooh. (Shout out to Amazon.com for our $10 character ears.) We got a surprising amount of compliments on them all day long, which was super fun.

We visited our favorite staples in the park, like Kilimanjaro Safari, where we saw giraffes and elephants and hippos, and walked the trails to see tigers, zebras, monkeys, and more. I loved it. Depressingly, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which Bill and I discovered for the first time last trip, was closed! But a quick Google search revealed that they are planning to reopen in spring 2019. Woohoo!

We also tried some new (to us) things, like the Up!-inspired bird show (super cute); A Bug’s Life show inside of the Tree of Life; and the new Pandora/Avatar world. Pandora is nice during the day and really quite beautiful at night! We decided to brave the line for Flight of the Passage and waited a whopping three hours. We ended up missing the night fireworks show, but at least the ride was pretty amazing!

Favorite moments: Grabbing lunch at the Nomad Lounge; getting up close to the giraffes on the safari; walking the animal trails; getting lots of fun compliments on our Piglet and Pooh ears; and eating a Mickey ice cream bar, not even joking.

 

 

Day 3 – Magic Kingdom and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Magic Kingdom and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was the day I was most excited about and kind of the whole inspiration behind our trip! We were both so excited to finally be able to experience Magic Kingdom near Halloween.

I decided to dress up as Minnie, while Bill went as Mickey. And let me tell you: this day/night did not disappoint! I wasn’t sure there would be enough fun and magic to make up for the fact that the Halloween party was a whole separate ticket/fee, but there was so much to do.

We started by taking a bazillion pictures of the decorations and in front of the castle. You don’t go all the way to Disney and then NOT take dozens of photos in front of the castle! Then it was off to Tomorrowland; Fantasyland; Liberty Square; Frontierland, and Adventureland.

In Tomorrowland, I whooped Bill during the Buzz Lightyear ride. Fantasyland was such a blast. I tried a pumpkin churro (delicious), we got some treats in the circus-themed gift shop, and by sheer luck, the wait time to meet Minnie Mouse was only 10 minutes long, so I got to meet Minnie for the first time ever! In Liberty Square, we visited the Haunted Mansion (of course) and pored over the gift shop. In Frontierland, we sat through the bear show and laughed a bunch because oh my gosh it’s so silly.

As the afternoon shifted to evening, it was time for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party! The crowd thinned out a little and we started seeing incredible costumes everywhere, so much so that we felt seriously underdressed. I loved seeing everyone’s over-the-top looks. So fun! With the park a little quieter, we rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and then decided to walk through the whole park all over again to check out all of the cute Halloween additions and changes.

We started in Tomorrowland and trick-or-treated in the Monsters Inc. Laugh Factory, where a bunch of adults (and kids, of course) rushed through the building getting free candy. BEST. NIGHT EVER? Plus, by sheer luck, I spotted RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3 icon Alexis Mateo!!! Dressed like Mickey Mouse, she was trick-or-treating with her friends, but was gracious enough to let me nab a photo. I love her so much! WILD.

Then we ventured towards the Halloween dance party with Mike and Sully; watched the Boo to You parade; was mesmerized by the Hocus Pocus show (Hocus Pocus celebrated its 20th anniversary this year so the merch was incredible); and watched the fireworks. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! If you ever have a chance to go Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, I highly, highly recommend it.

Favorite moments: Meeting drag queen Alexis Mateo (!!); trick or treating in the Monsters Inc. Laugh Factory; watching the Boo to You parade; dancing with Sully and George Sanderson during the Halloween dance party; meeting Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck; getting a free pretzel in Tomorrowland AND a free chocolate-covered strawberry in Fantasyland because it was Bill’s birthday (woohoo!); seeing everyone’s amazing costumes; riding the Winnie the Pooh ride at nearly midnight and purchasing an adorable Winnie the Pooh and Piglet stuffed animal; watching the spooky fireworks.

 

Day 4 – Hollywood Studios

After a really busy day at Magic Kingdom, Bill and I were excited for a more low-key, Star Wars-filled day of fun at Hollywood Studios. To me, Hollywood Studios is still finding its footing, especially as they revamp a huge portion of the park and gear up to launch the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, so there isn’t a ton I’m personally invested in outside of Star Wars and Toy Story Land. But still, we were in for a great day!

As is tradition, we stopped at the Star Wars ride first and then watched the adorable Jedi Academy. Then we booked it to Toy Story Land and were in awe of how beautiful everything was. We loved the details like Andy’s (giant) footprint, seeing the green army men walk the park, and the sheer amount of toys everywhere. We stopped by Woody’s Lunch Box for a snack, where we tried one of their hash brown dishes (yum) and Disney’s version of a homemade Pop Tart (DOUBLE YUM). Toy Story Land is also home to my official new favorite ride: Toy Story Mania!!! YOU GUYS. It’s sort of like the Buzz Lightyear ride from Magic Kingdom only 10 times better. It’s a shootout game, but it moves so fast and you have to try it! Even the interior is beautiful, full of gigantic replicas of games like Uno and Twister.

After spending a thorough time hanging out in Toy Story Land, we left and ran into Phasma, watched the Indiana Jones show, got some beers at Baseline, and then it started to get real warm, so we called it a day, went back to the hotel, and lounged by the pool.

Favorite moments: Riding Toy Story Mania and the Star Wars Ride; meeting Chewbacca; lounging in the sunshine.

 

Day 5 – Epcot

Epcot always leaves me with belly aches because I eat too much, but I still love it. Though the weather wasn’t so nice and it rained, Bill and I were really excited to check out the Food and Wine Festival. Plus, I was pumped to rock my new Minnie Mouse earrings I had just purchased because aren’t they fabulous (see below)?

I loooved what they’ve done to Mexico by adding all of the Coco displays and merch. I even got a little choked up at one display. Plus, Bill got serenaded with a birthday song by a mariachi band in Mexico, too! I have it all on video and I look forward to blackmailing him in the future.

Mostly, though, we ate, and we ate A LOT. In addition to the normal countries, there also were new, pop-up countries that offered delicious food selections. Since this was the Food and Wine Festival, we felt compelled to try a lot and, like last time, I started to feel sick halfway through and needed a break. But we soldiered on!

Some of my favorite foods:

  • Spicy Tuna and Salmon Handroll in Japan
  • Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake at The Cheese Studio
  • Short Rib Tostada in Mexico

We loved watching the sun set on the water and then, by nightfall, we ventured into the ride area, which was pretty much deserted. We got onto the Finding Nemo ride in seconds and we got to go on Journey into the Imagination with Figment by ourselves. It was great! In the aquarium, Bill and I spent a lot of time watching the dolphins and fish because it was so relaxing. Then it was off to IllumiNations (my first time!), which we wanted to see before the show wrapped for good.

Favorite moments: Eating that maple bourbon cheesecake; riding Journey into the Imagination with just me and Bill; playing around in Journey into the Imagination’s music chamber; watching the dolphins play.

 

Day 6 – Magic Kingdom (Reprise)

Our final day at Disney was spent back at Magic Kingdom. We wanted to revisit some of our favorites (Haunted Mansion, Ariel’s Grotto, Winnie the Pooh) and we also got a chance to see the daytime parade. We watched from Pecos, the restaurant, which had a patio that offered an incredible view of the action. Tiara even waved at me, guys. I’m kind of a big deal.

Sadly, we couldn’t stick around long as we had a flight to catch, but it was still a super fun day.

Favorite moments: Watching the parade; getting waved at by Tiana; being with Bill.

 

Then we said farewell to Orlando and wrapped our magical vacation. It was truly a spectacular one full of fun and adventure and excitement (and expenses — lots of those bad boys, too), and I hope we can go back soon.

xo.

Five Amazing Days at Disney (and Universal Studios)

Hello, best vacation ever.

Last week, Bill and I spent five days at Disney World, staying at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort in Orlando, Fla. And, we couldn’t stop in Orlando without also visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Because obviously.

We left on Saturday evening.

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The day we left, I literally bought an app called RealBokeh so I could add Mickey Mouse bokeh to photos as I saw fit. I’m a fiend. (And, I was just really, really excited.)

Never in a million years did I think we’d be able to afford to stay at an actual Disney resort. But some of their hotels are surprisingly affordable. We stayed at the All-Star Music Resort and loved it.

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Each building had a different musical theme, like calypso, rock’n’roll, jazz, and country. We got Broadway.

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The resort itself was lovely. Well-kept, surprisingly serene, with plenty of amenities (including two pools, a laundry service, a food court, an on-site Disney store, and complimentary transportation to/from the parks, as well as to/from the airport).

I was obsessed with the little details, like the Mickey-shaped cap on the shampoo bottles!

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Beautiful, right?

Day 1 – Animal Kingdom

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I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge fan of Animal Kingdom. I liked it well enough, but I’d always heard it called a “half-day” park—AKA it’s the kind of Disney park without much to do in it. Bill had had a similar experience.

This time around, though, we loved it.

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We got to the Kilimanjaro Safari first thing, using our first-ever Fastpass. Uhh, I’m literally never going on another Disney ride unless I have a Fastpass? Those things are amazing and we didn’t have to wait for more than five minutes to get on a ride.

I knew I wanted to get onto the safari early. I had done some reading and learned that it’s best to go on the ride in the morning when the animals are active. Previously, I’d gone on the safari in the afternoon and it was tough to catch a glimpse of the animals who might have already been seeking refuge from the sun.

We did not run into that problem this time around.

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EEEEEEEE, look at those cutie pie elephants!

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The safari was hands down my favorite part about the day. We did some walking tours, too, stopped in plenty of gift shops, and swung by the petting area, which I had no idea existed until this very trip. I ended up petting a bearded dragon. No big deal.

We also ate a Mickey-shaped pretzel. Why does Mickey-shaped food taste better?

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As well as some samosas and falafel.

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Day 2 – Disney Springs and Hollywood Studios

It was on this trip that I learned Downtown Disney has been rebranded to be Disney Springs. Mostly the same shops; different name. We had fun in the Disney merchandise store, which is supposed to be the biggest one around (it was a madhouse, though). We also stopped by the Lego store (also crazy!) and Goofy’s Candy Company (which had yummy treats).

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Then we went to Hollywood Studios, which we were super excited about because of the new Star Wars additions (especially the late-night fireworks set to Star Wars music).

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Hollywood Studios did not disappoint. Disney has been working to revamp the park, which in recent years had probably begun to feel a bit stale. Some of the updates they’ve made include substituting their American Idol experience for a new Frozen sing-a-long and changing the Art of Animation area (which previously showed a film about animation featuring Mu-Shu, the dragon from Mulan) to an immersive Star Wars experience—with STORM TROOPERS and Jawas, as well as memorabilia from the Star Wars films. The Star Wars ride has also been updated to include an appearance by the beautiful John Boyega. Sigh.

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And, of course, you can get some incredible lightsabers. Like this one.

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It was amazing. We also stuck around for the Fantasmic! evening show, which was a first for us. I’ll admit I even got a little emotional during the show. Something about it was so magical.

And, of course, we had to stay for the new Star Wars fireworks show—which was incredible. Set to Star Wars music, there was nothing about it I didn’t love.

Day 3 – Epcot

Epcot was going to be a big day for us. We knew this going in. One of Bill’s goals was to “eat and drink” his way through Epcot, an idea he and his dad came up with when Bill was a little kid. This time around, he wanted to see if he could make it happen.

I loved the idea so I threw in my full support. Also, I love food, so it was kind of a no-brainer.

I’m happy to report that HE DID IT. HE FUCKING DID IT. He ate and drank his way through all 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Not pictured are the sushi/sake from Japan; kabab/white sangria from Morocco; and salmon cake/beer from the UK because I was starting to feel a little sick from all the food and sun. But I made a comeback and we finished strong.

This photo about sums up the day.

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Bonus: it also happened to be the 2016 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, so it was beautiful.

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Bonus bonus: I just loved this photo I took of a building in China.

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Day 4 – Magic Kingdom

It’s the mother of all Disney parks, right? The park.

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So excited! We loved exploring all of the areas, including the little circus section (which I had no clue existed). Plus, we had some yummy food on this day, too. What can I say? We like to eat.

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Nutella, strawberry, and banana waffle from Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square

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Pot roast macaroni and cheese (highly recommended) from the Friar’s Nook in Fantasyland

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And a Mickey-shaped ice cream (vanilla with milk chocolate shell), which you can get basically anywhere  It’s irresistibly cute and delicious.

Day 5 – Universal Studios

On this day, we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Because that’s where I want to live.

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Can I move to Diagon Alley yet?

All in all: a perfect vacation. Beautiful weather, a playful resort, and so much fun every single day. I’m happy. And I’m already trying to figure out a way to go back.

10 Days in Paradise

It’s not every day you get to go on an island vacation in December. Bill and I were lucky enough to spend some time with my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend on a 10-day cruise, which stopped in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Tortola.

Turns out I’m all about wearing a bathing suit in December. Here’s a look back on our trip.