Happy Sunday everyone!
So, as many of you may already know, I spent my winter holidays this year travelling with my family down to Florida. We spent the first part of our getaway located in the Delray area of West Palm Beach (if you’re interested, you can read all about that here!) before moving on to Disney World!
My family and I are definitely amongst some of the more seasoned Disney travellers — we’ve been countless times, and we all know what we like and what we don’t. So, for today’s post, I’ve compiled a little guide based on our day-by-day of this years trip! This post specifically features Disney’s Magic and Animal Kingdom, as well as Universal Studios. However, if you have any other questions about Disney World and it’s other parks, eats, hotels or attractions that I didn’t visit/discuss this time around, feel free to message me! Chances are I’ve experienced it before, and I’d be more than happy to help anyone (especially if you’re planning your own Disney getaway!).
This time around, we chose to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. I’ve stayed in this resort before, but not since I was very young, so it was a crazy little blast from the past. Not only is this resort full of beautiful decor and lush gardens, it’s just two monorail stops away from the Magic Kingdom — making it a very convenient place to stay for the duration of a Disney getaway.
This resort features a whole campus of buildings (and waterfront villas!!!), multiple pools, a restaurant and bar plus so many other activities — meaning if you’re staying for a longer trip, there’s no limit on fun stuff to do right at the hotel.
Our stay was rather short, so I didn’t really get the chance to indulge in any of these extras — but it was still a great place to stay with some of the most friendly hotel staff I’ve ever come across. (Plus, when you stay in any Disney Resort you usually get the option of entering the park an hour earlier than the general public!).
Friday: Universal Studios
Friday morning, my family and I woke up crazy early and took a little road trip down from Delray to Orlando. One thing that’s pretty important, especially if you’re not planning a week-long trip with all kinds of time, is to ensure you get to the parks as close to opening as possible to avoid crazy lines. The lines at just about any ride at Universal Studios are bound to be insane, but all of their biggest attractions (such as the rides included in Harry Potter World) can get to be hours long — so you need as much time as possible to fit it all in!
What To Do
Universal Studios, in my opinion, is definitely known for their crazy VR-type rides and bigger rollercoasters. While this definitely makes it a little less friendly for little ones, some of these rides are incredibly mind-blowing and an experience unlike any other. In terms of the absolute best, can’t-miss rides, I’d have to say the rides that combine VR-type video into the ride are the most important, since I’ve never experienced anything like them anywhere else. My can’t-miss rides would have to be:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- The Simpson’s Ride
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
What To Eat
I feel like I may be stating the obvious here, but the absolute can’t-miss food at Universal Studios definitely comes down to one thing: Butter Beer. Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, this stuff is absolutely delicious and totally worth trying. Otherwise, there’s all kinds of other Harry Potter themed food and candies you can try at HoneyDukes that are all outstanding. If you’re looking for a full meal, there’s countless restaurants at the entrance of the park, as well as stands that offer classic theme-park fare.
The lines at Universal Studios are the longest I’ve seen at any theme park, both in Florida and worldwide, so it’s definitely best to plan out your day as much as possible, and arrive as early as you can. Plus, if you’re willing to spend a little extra money to spend on Express Passes, it’ll definitely make your day a whole lot more action-packed and enjoyable.
Saturday: The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is arguably the most iconic attraction at Disney World — everyone can instantly recognize the classic Cinderella castle from any picture, any time. If you’ve never been to Disney before, this is obviously the one park you can’t miss. And, like me, if you’ve already been — then the nostalgia that this park has to offer is basically unparalleled. Even though it rained through most of our morning here, we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying all of our all-time favourite rides.
What To Do
The Magic Kingdom, for me at least, is definitely more of a nostalgia experience rather than a day full of thrill rides and coasters. This year, there were a couple rides my family had to cut from the usual list (such as the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Dumbo the Flying Elephant rides) due to weather and time restrictions, however, this really helped me narrow down my personal list of can’t miss rides in the park. While this list may change a bit person to person as it is, once again, rather nostalgia based, I feel like I’ve got down pretty much every classic you’d need to see if you’re going for a first-time vacation.
My absolute, all-time favourite rides that you HAVE to visit if you’re heading to Disney’s Magic Kingdom would have to be:
- The Pirates of the Caribbean
- Thunder Mountain
- It’s A Small World (my sister’s all time favourite, she would KILL me if I didn’t add it to the list)
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- The Jungle Cruise
- Space Mountain (a classic, although I do find it a little terrifying and whiplash inducing)
- The Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
What To Eat
While there are countless snacks and sweets all around the Magic Kingdom that are absolutely fantastic, I feel I’d have to argue the can’t-miss classic this park has to offer would definitely be the Dole Whip. Not only is is sweet and delicious, it defiantly helps to have a nice, cool snack whenever the sun comes out in the Florida heat. My sister would definitely also argue the turkey legs are a can’t-miss, but I usually pass on those — they’re too barbaric for me!
Disney doesn’t offer a more expensive, express-pass type of ticket — however, you do get 3 Fast-Passes per day in each park that you can re-book for another ride as soon as you use them up. My recommendation would definitely be to try to book your three passes for some of the most popular rides — such as Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain — and try to arrive as early as possible to fit in as many others as you can. From there, you can always rebook your passes as you use them up for any other rides you don’t want to miss! As well, if you’re staying at a Disney Resort, they often feature a Magic Hour where you get the option to enter the park an hour before the general public. Don’t let the early hour dissuade you — it’s 100% worth it to wake up early and hit as many rides as you can before the lines start getting crazy.
Sunday: The Animal Kingdom
We finished up Sunday by heading off to the Animal Kingdom. While the overall vibe of the Animal Kingdom is a lot less ride-based than the other Disney parks, over the last ten years it’s developed a couple newer rides that definitely bring the thrills ride-lovers may be hoping for.
What To Do
One of the newest, biggest attractions Disney has to offer is it’s two newest Avatar-themed rides — Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. Both of these rides offer the best new ride technology Disney has to offer — the former with a similar VR-type experience to the rides at Universal and the latter with animatronics and live-action effects. While I only have three “can’t-miss” (confession: I actually haven’t been on one of these, but I really wish I had the chance) rides for the Animal Kingdom, these three rides honestly may be the best Disney has to offer. The top three rides, without a doubt, are most definitely:
- Expedition Everest
- Na’vi River Journey
- Avatar Flight of Passage
I’ll give a little more explanation here because I feel these rides deserve it. Expedition Everest is not only one of the coolest rollercoasters I’ve ever been on — no VR or 3D effects required. Plus, it’s the biggest thrill ride that I can think of at Disney World offhand — it actually has huge drops and is more of a classic coaster. It’s so fun, the first time I ever rode it with my family we legit went on it about 13 times straight. It’s THAT good.
The Na’vi River Journey ride and the Avatar Flight of Passage are two of the newest to Disney’s parks. The rides are based on the 2009 film Avatar, which Disney will be releasing a sequel to later this year. This means that not only have they just installed these attractions, there’s actually and entire area of the Animal Kingdom built to replicate the Avatar world. I will admit — it was not only strikingly realistic and similar to the films, but also pretty awe-inspiring. While I (sadly) only got the chance to go on the Na’vi River Journey ride (and therefore it’s the only one I can really speak on), I have to say, I was beyond impressed. This ride is not meant to be a thriller, but rather a smooth water ride through a nighttime landscape straight out of the Avatar world. Not only was it incredibly true to the film and absolutely stunning — there were also a couple of incredibly realistic animatronic versions of a few characters from the film. I’m talking so real, it was almost a little scary. I’ve truly never seen anything like it before, ever. If you’re ever visiting the Animal Kingdom, trust me, you don’t want to miss this ride.
What To Eat
This park is full of just about any kind of cuisine you could ever want — since it has different areas themed after different parts of the world, there’s a wide array of food from all different cultures. While, obviously, we didn’t get a chance to try everything, I have to say the little food carts around the park really have some fantastic eats. My two personal favourites were definitely the barbecued corn on the cob in the African exhibit, and the stir-fried pork and rice in the Asian exhibit.
Since all my tips about Fast-Passes don’t differ much from those I shared about the Magic Kingdom, I’ll just leave you with this tidbit of advice: the new Avatar rides are just about impossible to get on if you don’t book a Fast-Pass for them in advance. Any other ride at the Animal Kingdom may have a wait, but if you want to experience these rides you won’t be wasting your advance Fast Passes booking both of them, that’s for sure.
Where To Eat
Our first night in Orlando, we headed over to Disney Spring’s to Masaharu Morimoto’s Asian fusion restaurant. To start off, my family and I split a couple appetizers — a round of Shumai as well as some tempura-fried popcorn shrimp. To finish off appetizers, we split the chef’s famous spare ribs — which were beyond spectacular. If you get the chance to visit this restaurant, then trust me — these spare ribs are their signature dish for a reason.
For dinner I ordered a plate of Orange Chicken, which was both delicious and remarkably large. Not that I’m complaining, though — I was absolutely starving after the long day I had (we had to wake sip at 5am in order to make the trek from Delray to Orlando!). For dessert, we split an order of Mochi — which was not at all what we expected it to be, but absolutely delicious nonetheless. You can see it pictured below, but in case you were wondering — it was made of an almond-flavour pudding, fresh fruit, popping boba, and mango sauce. Overall, it was an amazing meal — I’d definitely recommend checking this place out if you’re planning a Disney getaway any time in the near future.
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
Okay, honestly, I wasn’t really expecting to eat one of the best meals of my life at Disney World — but this restaurant really delivered. The menu keeps it pretty simple, opting for a couple classics rather than an overwhelming list of options. However, there’s still all kinds of options for even the pickiest of eaters. My family and I ordered the three meatball appetizer and Burrata to share — and while you can NEVER go wrong with Burrata, the meatballs were absolutely to die for as well. Seriously, meatballs can basically never be bad — but these ones really took it to the next level.
For my entree, I ordered burrata-filled tortellini. I’m sure my comments above, both about the food quality and my love of burrata, probably give you a good idea of how I felt about this meal, but I’ll still say it, just in case: this was absolutely one of the most fantastic meals I’ve had. Its hard to go wrong with simplicity, and just pasta, tomato sauce and burrata can really be one of the best combinations food has to offer.
On top of all this, my family and I shared a vanilla bean creme brûlée (a classic favourite of mine), which was also fantastic. On top of all this, the cocktails were delicious and the service, while a little slow, was still pretty top-notch. Seriously, if you’re planning a trip to Disney any time soon, be sure to book this restaurant for at least one meal during your stay.
And that’s it for my Florida, USA travel segment! I hope you all enjoyed it, and hopefully if you’re planning a trip to the area anytime soon you got some useful tips and recommendations. I hope you’re all having an amazing week and that you’re absolutely crushing your January goals — be sure not to let up on that post-new years motivation!
Be sure to stay tuned next week to hear all about what it’s like getting a lash lift and my personal experience with it! Is it a worthwhile alternative to lash extensions, is it safe, is it long lasting? Don’t worry, I have all your questions (and more) covered! As well, if you’re hoping to feed your wanderlust just a little more, stay tuned for my next travel diary coming up next month — any guesses where I’ll be going next?