disneyworld – my favourite things to do and see
As some of you may know at the end of last year/beginning of this year I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the USA again! My cousin, Aunty, Mum and I all went (girls trip!) as my lovely cousin was chosen to be a part of a dance troupe performing in Disneyworld and New York. She’s very talented.
I was away for six weeks going from place to place, hopping on sooo many flights & drinking copious amounts of Starbucks.
It was a fabulous adventure filled with lots of silly moments, arguments, memories, tears and did I mention Starbucks?
Because of these experiences travelling I feel that I am now qualified to share some tips, best places to go, what to see, what to avoid and all that. In case you’re wondering what to do when you travel.
I’ll be sharing the places, activities, etc that I enjoyed the most – you might have different interests to me or a different travel style. I like equal parts comfort and adventure!
Now, without further ado here is the first installment of my USA travel diary/guide/thing.
First up I’ll be sharing my favourites places to go, see and eat at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida!
We were able to visit all the parks at least once, some more than once! Although not a park, Disney Springs is a major part of the Disneyworld experience. We found ourselves there on a regular basis!
1. Disney Springs
Honestly, I enjoyed everything on offer at Disney Springs, apart from the massive crowds.
Disney Springs is setup like a giant open air shopping mall (think Rundle Mall but prettier my Adelaide friends).
I was there the day after Christmas so there were still some gorgeous Christmas decorations around and a GIANT Christmas tree.
This place is HUGE! There are so many rooms, displays, merchandise and people in there. If you’re in a group stay close to each other or arrange a meeting point beforehand because you’re liable to get lost or separated. My Mum and I often lost track of my Aunty!
Mostly because we all got distracted looking at all the cute Disney merch! Anything and everything you could possibly want or imagine was there, lovingly emblazoned with Disney characters of course.
The Princess room was a definite highlight (so many pretty tutu dresses) and the plush toy section!
MAIN SHOPPING THOROUGHFARE
Anyone that knows me is aware that I am an excellent shopper! For me, retail therapy is a legitimate thing. So I was quite happy to discover that Disney Springs has a variety of some of my favourite American/overseas stores – Anthropologie, Francescas, Tommy Bahamas, Free People, Sephora and Lilly Pulitzer, just to name a few.
The stores are so nice to walk around and browse in. Make this a stop if you love shopping like I do 😀
This little store holds a special place in my heart. I first visited this delicious cupcakery in New York the very first time I ventured to the States. I had the most amazing Red Velvet cupcake of my life and I was hooked.
Needless to say when Mum and I discovered that Disney Springs had a Sprinkles we knew we had dessert sussed for out time in Orlando!
My current favourite cupcake is the Black and White – chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and chocolate sprinkles. Delish! Oh, and did I mention they have a cupcake ATM!!
withdraw cupcakes here!
They also have delicious ice cream, cookies and drinks if you want something other than cupcakes. Although why you would not want a cupcake is beyond me…….
SHOP FOR IRELAND
I want to mention this store because Mum and I LOVE history, specifically our families history. Shop for Ireland had a selection of items (keyrings, hat pins, mugs, bookmarks, plaques) with Irish surnames and their meaning. We found it fun to locate the surnames we knew were in the family and find out a little more about the meaning.
Haha, Mum and I are total nerds!
- BASIN – I love anything bath/face/skincare/haircare related and this store has all those. It smelled really good and was too pretty to pass up! Lots of interesting soap designs, scents and other bath products. If I had room in my suitcase I might have bought the whole store….
- Disney Christmas Store – or Disney’s Days of Christmas. Basically a giant store dedicated to Disney Christmas decorations. Worth a look even though its a little pricey.
- Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC – I went here the first day in Disney Springs and had the most delicious lemon blueberry cake. Totally delicious. This bakery is a gluten/dairy/wheat/refined sugar/soy/egg free vegan/kosher bakery. But you’d never be able to tell its that good!
2. Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom park at Disney certainly lives up to its name – if you can ignore the crushing, swirling crowd of people, prams and small children!
Our schedule made it so our first visit to the Magic Kingdom was at night and I’m so glad it worked that way. Upon entering the arched tunnel gateway you can hear the perpetual Disney songs over the PA. And as you emerge from the tunnel you are greeted by beautiful old-style buildings and a ‘Main Street’ bedecked with thousands of fairy lights. It’s just absolutely gorgeous.
Everything down Main Street in Magic Kingdom (the main thoroughfare to the places in the park) is lit up at night as well and is truly gorgeous.
Down Main Street is where you’ll find the most concentration of stores, restaurants and Disney merchandise.
We spent a lot of time in Magic Kingdom second only to our Disney Springs visits!
LIBERTY TREE TAVERN
We came here specifically for dinner as they serve a proper Thanksgiving family style feast every night! The food was delicious and there was a lot of it too. My advice is to pace yourself so you can make it through to dessert – a lovely apple crumble pie. Yum!
Book in advance as you can’t just walk in and get a table. Be prepared to wait a bit. But it’s definitely worth it.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN RIDE
This ride is a classic family ride and is very popular with everyone.It’s been updated over the years to include characters from the films and reflect more of the iconic scenes.
As you board your boat you’re transported into the Pirates world from the rowdy Port of Tortuga through to an epic battle between The Black Pearl and her foe. The overall atmosphere is very impressive – you’re fully immersed in the story through the amazing animatronics, scenes, special effects, sounds and lights. Extremely interesting the whole way through and always something to look at.
Definitely make this a must-do when you’re in Disneyworld Magic Kingdom!
TANGLED – FANTASYLAND
Rapunzel is my favourite princess ever! Clearly I’m still 5 years old….. #sheepishgrin #sorrynotsorry
So naturally I was all over the Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom where the Tangled inspired setup is!
There’s also a beautiful carousel back there, access to awesome rides like The Little Mermaid ride and Seven Dwarves Mine ride.
You can also see the inside of Cinderella’s Castle! There is some beautiful mural wall art inside.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST DINNER
If you want to try a character dining experience I highly suggest the Beauty and the Beast dinner.
The building exterior and interior is amazing and modeled after the Beasts castle from the animated film. Its very fancy so I dressed up a bit for the dinner.
And when dessert comes around, definitely try the grey stuff 😉
ITS A SMALL WORLD RIDE
Such a classic you have to go on it! The song gets kind of annoying (and stuck in your head), the dolls are a little creepy sometimes AND Australia is not properly represented. But its quite cute and very well setup.
- Main Street Ice Cream Parlour – delicious ‘home made’ style ice cream. Lots of different flavours to choose from!
- Winnie The Pooh Storybook Ride – take a nostalgic trip back through your childhood on this adorable ride. I loved it! If you loved (or still love) the Hundred Acre Wood and its cute characters then make this a must- do ride.
- Main Street Parade – happens every day as far as I know. Its quite fun to watch, very vibrant and the characters really draw you in by interacting with the crowd.
- Little Mermaid Ride – the entrance to this ride is pretty impressive just by itself! The ride itself is cute and fun too (you get to ride in pink clam shells). The Little Mermaid was one of my favourite characters growing up so I really loved seeing her story come to life.
Stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
By far one of my favourite parks. Namely the World Pavilion section of Epcot. A host of countries are represented in mini ‘worlds’. Amongst my favourites were France, Norway and England. The people who work in the Epcot worlds are from that particular country which is partly why France was one of my highlights…..the accents!
Home to the BEST ride ever – Frozen Ever After!
Based on the movie it takes you through Anna and Elsa’s adventure along with Olaf, Sven and Kristoff. The animatronics are so lifelike its almost scary. The special effects are spectacular and the songs from the film are played as you go through. If you’re like me and my cousin you’re going to want to sing along! Don’t worry, everyone sings regardless!
We all loved this ride so much that we got to the park at exactly 8am when it opened and went straight to the ride. We then lined up again with a 50 minute wait time. THAT’S how much we enjoyed this ride!
While in Epcot the French section was our go-to food choice (it’s France, what can I say?)
Tucked behind a glass building is a little ‘market’ building which sells amazing baguettes with real butter. Baguettes and butter was our lunch the day we were in Epcot.
We also had ice cream from Le Artisan de Glaces which was absolutely divine. I recommend all food in the France Pavilion!
Just walking around was a delight too. If there’s one thing that that I can say about the architects and designers of these parks is that they truly know how to capture the essence of a city and its recognisable landmarks.
- Germany Pavilion – home to pretzels, liederhosen and the decorative beer stein. Plus a delicious buffet style German restaurant called Oktoberfest. We spent New Years Eve there having dinner. They definitely have delicious schnitzel and strudel!
- British Pavilion – if you’re like my Mum and are craving a proper cup of tea head here. Go here anyway as its very pretty, very British (as one would expect). You might even spot Mary Poppins here!
- Future World – the technology and environmental aspect of Epcot. Here advances in tech and bettering our environment are explored. There’s lots of activities and rides dedicated to these pursuits. Definitely worth a look! I found it all quite interesting.
4. Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom
Even though we spent nearly two weeks in Orlando we didn’t get to explore much of Hollywood Studios or the Animal Kingdom. Which is a shame as I have a feeling that there were a lot more things I would have liked to do in Animal Kingdom.
However, here are my favourite activities, rides and shows I did get to from Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom!
Make a point to see the Beauty and the Beast live stage show. The costumes alone are worth seeing it for and worth being in line for so long.
Swing past the Chinese Theatre (modeled after the original in LA) and see how many famous names you recognise!
Definitely go and see the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show. The actors make the audience a part of the story and the tricks are truly exciting. I was on the edge of my seat for some parts! Very exciting and entertaining to watch.
The Kilimanjaro Safari was great fun! You are transported through a beautiful African habitat which is home to a variety of animals. Lots of popular animals such as giraffes, deer, zebras, hippos and elephants can be sighted throughout the tour, which is conducted from the safety of a large jungle safari truck.
Seeing the elephants was my favourite part!
The Festival of the Lion King show was utterly spectacular and a MUST see while in the Animal Kingdom. I left with goosebumps on my arms!
The costumes are out of this world amazing as was the dancing, singing and set. There was even a giant Pumbaa character float – he was a hoot! (or is that a toot? :P)
Cinderella’s castle lit up at night is truly a spectacular sight
*PHEW* that was a novel! Congratulations if you made it to this point. I promise I won’t go on for much longer!
Our time in Disneyworld was amazing. Although after being there for close to two weeks I must admit I was getting a little Disneyed out! Yes, it happens. At least it did to me. There’s probably more hardcore Disney fans out there I’m sure 😀
I really hope that from my list of favourite things to do and see in the Disneyworld parks that you get some idea of what you’d like to add to your itinerary. Or not add!
Thanks for reading!