Pandora: World of Avatar

It’s finally here! After what feels like decades, Pandora: World of Avatar has finally been opened to the public! The new land based off of the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar had high expectations and in my opinion, far exceeded them.

To take it all in was exciting. It was like stepping into the movie. Details upon details made the experience borderline overwhelming. I loved every bit of it. I loved how the imagineers were able to make it seem like you were walking through an almost foggy, dense, overgrown area without feeling trapped. 


The area is pretty crowded right now given the anticipation and excitement over the expansion so be prepared to wait in longer lines for the two rides featured in Pandora. The two rides are Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. Na’vi River Journey is a boat ride through the land of Pandora. I have not been on this ride yet so I don’t have many details. I have been on Avatar Flight of Passage. The ride was very built up as a “Soarin x10” type of experience so I went in there with high expectations. 


They matched my expectations plus some. It is a ride similar to Soarin but takes it beyond with the feeling that you are alone riding this banshee through Pandora. If you don’t look around while riding you will completely forget that you are sharing this ride with 48 people(I think). I would consider this ride a ‘must fastpass’ type of ride. The wait has been starting at around 3 hours but if this is the type of ride you really enjoy I don’t believe you would be upset or underwhelmed if you waited in line. 


I found this entire experience to be very immersive and captures everything that made the movie the hit that it is. I have already spent 2 full days in a row in Animal Kingdom since the expansion opened which is something I can honestly say I have never done. This was exactly was Animal Kingdom needed to bring it from the “half-day maybe” park to the “first stop or more” destination it is now.  


Enjoy!

Courtney(@pdcourt)

Beane Family Vacation: April 2016


Just this past week my family traveled down from Massachusetts to enjoy their annual(this year will be bi-annual) family vacation. Our trip included 2 pool days, 1 day at Gatorland, and 5 days in Disney World. This was a fun trip and I hope some of what I share with you can help you plan a long family vacation. 

Planning:

Something that gets forgotten when you live down here is that your family doesn’t get to just drive back down to Disney if they didn’t get on a certain ride. I have, many times, walked out of a park saying “oh I didn’t ride space mountain this time, I’ll just go on next week.” Well visitors don’t get that option! So when planning our days, I really planned out fastpasses. 

One thing I really focused on with fastpasses is trying to not make them on top of each other. Having fastpass after fastpass is tiring especially if they are across the park. So in order to have a relaxing vacation I set them up 2-3 hours apart. This way we could actually have time to do other rides, in the same land then make our way over to the next fastpass. It worked very well and it kept the vacation somewhat relaxing.

The other aspect I had to keep in mind was where I parked. Going to Disney a lot I tend to find new places to park such as near the Boardwalk Hotel or even parking at a resort and bussing in. These are great when you have an hour to spare but with 6 guests just wanting to get into the park it’s just better to park at the park itself. My crazy parking ideas can be picked back up again when they are at home.

Gatorland:


Now, I am a Disney Snob so I was not optimistic for our day trip here but Gatorland was a great experience for our family. The park is not big but has a lot to do. The best part of our stay was most of our party zip lining across an alligator filled pond! I suggest this for a low cost vacation day if you have extra days in central Florida. 



Animal Kingdom:

Animal Kingdom was super fun. The kids enjoyed all of the rides. This was Patriots Day so the park was fuller than usual but we made the most of it. We decided to spend some extra time at Rafiki’s Planet Watch since it was not only busy but also very hot, especially to people who just left 35° weather 2 days prior. All of us got to get on all of the rides and took in some shows around the whole park. The key to today was taking our time and enjoying some Mickey Ears! 

Magic Kingdom:


Time for what everyone’s been looking forward to; Magic Kingdom!! We did 2 days here and on one of those days we met some more family for the day. Anyways the park was actually not all that busy and we were able to get on most of the rides. One tip for people who keep track of wait times just remember that when the app says that Mine Train is a 40 minute wait everyone in the park is going to run to the ride so that 40 minute wait is going to turn into a 80 minute wait in moments. 


They were great days and a lot of memories were made. One of the best moments for us was very simple. Being super warm we brought the kids over to the splash zone in Fantasy Land and they were able to play around and cool off.


Of course our days ended with fireworks and proof that the days were a fun filled success my little Macy fell asleep before even getting on the monorail out of the park both times. 


Epcot:

Epcot is a difficult park right now since there is no Soarin which is everyone’s favorite ride and the World Showcase is “the worst thing ever” to Zachary but we made the most of it. It was one of those people watching days while enjoying some of EPCOT’s best snacks. We even got to meet up with Aunt Gina!


Hollywood Studios:

We went to Hollywood Studios and since we were wicked tired we decided to get a late start. We were able to ride all of the rides. For Zachary we did Star Tours two times since he is a huge Star Wars fan. 

We didn’t stay for fireworks because the kids were just getting wiped out and we wanted the rest of our vacation to be enjoyable so we called it an early night(not all that early, we didn’t get home until 10:00 but compared to our other days, it was early).

Extra Days:


We had 3 extra days this year. We used one on Gatorland which was great. Another day we did swimming and a night at Disney Springs and then just a full pool day with dinner at Golden Corral(kids absolute favorite).

So how do you guys vacation as a big group? And how do you do non-Disney days?

And On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink: The Unwritten Rules of How to Dress in Disney World

Okay, not rules, more like, guidelines!

We’ve all seen it right? Each park seems to have its own themed attire. Walking around Magic Kingdom girls dress as their favorite princess or show off their favorite character on their shirts. All four parks have their theme that many park guests just seem to gravitate towards.

Magic Kingdom

 

Like I said above, women will find a way to represent their favorite princess or even pay homage to all of the princesses or favorite character in the way they dress. Or they just dress in a way that makes them feel like a princess. I tend to do more of the paying homage to them. I really like to be comfortable in the parks so I will often wear a shirt with my favorite character(that changes daily), exercise bottoms and my favorite ears! I never worry about coordinating shoes since I am really just for optimal comfort and feel like everyone else should as well.


For others, they go all out. Something that has really been popular at the parks lately is Disney  Bounding. Wearing costumes to the parks for adults is not allowed but that doesn’t have to stop you from making you feel like your favorite character. Bounding doesn’t mean you have to look exactly like the character. You can simply wear their color scheme and you are golden.

Hollywood Studios 

For Hollywood Studios it is much more obvious that there is a “dress code” for entering the park. I think it’s much more prevelent because both men and women do it….

STAR WARS

From t-shirts to bounding to almost everybody having a light saber, walking into Hollywood Studios can sometimes feel like you’re walking into a Star Wars Convention. Most wear their vintage looking t-shirts but other get quite creative.


Animal Kingdom

I think this one is pretty obvious. Animal Kingdom’s forever fashion tend is animal print. Some people keep it minimal, finishing their favorite outfit with an animal print accessory. Some kick it up a notch and have a piece of their clothing be animal print. And for a very few everything is animal print. So whatever your style type is make sure you pack your animal print for Animal Kingdom.


Epcot

This park is very hard to pin point trend. Many come dressed representing their country so they can feel festive walking around the World Showcase.

This park is where you see a lot of the group shirts. These shirts usually have some saying that indicated what the group is celebrating. A lot of the shirts will include drinking around the world which is a game adults play where they drink in each country at the World Showcase.

Epcot is definitely the most relaxed park when it comes to fashion. No one seems to go all out. With the amount of great food and drinks they offer I prefer to wear my looser fitting clothes! Lol!!

So, how do you dress in Disney World? Are you more laid back with just a few Disney touches to your outfit or do you give yourself a memorable outfit for each park? Also, what other trends do you notice in the parks?

PD Courtney

All outfits made by myself on Polyvore.com

My Fast Pass – Only Rides

Rides that I won’t go on unless I have a Fast Pass

Walt Disney World is a pretty popular place. Very popular! There was once very distinct on and off seasons to visit. It now seems like it’s always hopping! I haven’t seen much off time in over a year of visiting each week.

There are also very popular rides in each of the four parks. We always joke that there can be 10 people in Magic Kingdom but the line for Peter Pan is 50 minutes! I mean, I really enjoy the ride but wow! The new queue is really fun and interactive at least.

cropped-castle.jpg

 

Magic Kingdom

  1. Peter Pan’s Flight – see above
  2. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – This is a favorite ride of several generations. I just wish the queue were more entertaining.
  3. Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train – It’s the newest funnest biggest ride so it’s always got an obscenely long line.

Instead, I’ll go on:

  1. The Carousel of Progress – It’s nostalgic and campy but it’s also a great place to cool down or stay dry.
  2. Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor – This is an interactive comedy show with everyone’s favorite one eyed green monster – Mike Wazowski!
  3. The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini – This is a fast little roller coaster in the circus area near Dumbo. Always a blast!

wpid-img_20150912_135733.jpg

Hollywood Studios

  1. Rock N Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith & Tower of Terror – I have seen the lines for these rides actually meet up! Insane! I’ll just drive really fast home and then jump on a broken elevator.
  2. Toy Story Mania – As wonderful as the theming is, I can’t spend 150 minutes of my life in Andy’s room.

Instead, I’ll go on:

  1. The Great Movie Ride – The line can be long at times but it does constantly move. It’s pretty rare that they have a break down and I love the new movie at the beginning.
  2. Star Tours – Again this ride does move at a good clip. The queue is super spacey!
  3. Muppet Vision 3D – I don’t really need an excuse to see this show.

 

 

Pictures as of Sept 13 2015 4424Epcot

  1. Test Track – This is a great ride. I love the remodel but not the long long lines.
  2. Soaring – Unless you run to this ride as soon as Epcot opens, you could be waiting hours. Literally.

Instead, I’ll go on:

  1. Mission: Space – The line moves. There are the Orange and Green Teams for more or less intense versions of the ride. Double the speed.
  2. Living with the Land – Or even better yet, The Behind the Seeds Tour. It’s only $20 per person and is a lot of fun and educational too!

 

safariAnimal Kingdom

  1. Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is a great opportunity to see animals up close and personal in their own habitats.
  2. Kali River Rapids – Who can resist the chance to cool down with a good soaking?

Instead, I’ll go on:

  1. Rafiki’s Planet Watch – Hop on a slow train ride to a nature station. You even get to interact with the animals!
  2. Flights of Wonder – Birds will swoop in just inches above you! They are so well trained and entertaining. Well worth the visit.

 

Extra hint: Instead of waiting in lines for autographs, I go to character meals and get a bunch all at once. Breakfast and Lunch are not awfully expensive and the food is usually quite yummy.

3 Reasons to Visit Walt Disney World in February – Courtney


1.Weather: Most people imagine their Disney Vacation as a warm. There is a time of the year in Florida that the weather drops to the low 60’s. For people who hate the constant feeling of walking on the sun while in the parks, this time of year is perfect. Just don’t forget your long pants and at least a sweatshirt!

 2.Crowds: The warm times at the park also tend to be the busiest. The beginning of I February has very low crowds so the lines to your favorite rides are much shorter. Also, there is less of a struggle getting around the parks and quick service eateries. As I mentioned, it’s the beginning of February that is less crowded towards the end of the month though, the crowds pick up since Spring Break starts for much of central Florida.

 3.Valentine’s Day: I cannot think of a much more romantic thing to do on Valentine’s Day than spending the day with the one you love at Magic Kingdom. Getting a picture kissing in front of the iconic Cinderella’s Castle, wearing couple Mickey ears. You can even finish up your day with dinner at Tony’s Restaurant or Be Our Guest Restaurant, two of the more romantic venues on Disney property. If you are looking for a less expensive way to show your love a lovely stroll around Cresent Lake on one of the Boardwalk bikes would be romantic a great way to see part of Disney that most guest don’t get to see. There are also some nice sit down restaurants all around Cresent Lake.


PD

Winging it at WDW

We’re lucky enough to live close to WDW and go very often. There are times that we will put some forethought into what we are going to do on any given day. Usually if we have a large group of us, we’ll at least loosely plan our time out. Usually. Sometimes we just wing it. Just show up to the park and live at the mercy of the crowds.

View from the People Mover

We’ll eat at a quick service if it’s not empty or even table service if we can get a last minute reservation on the My Disney Experience (MDE) app. No line at Hall of Presidents? Sounds good to me. Let’s walk around the Circus Big Top store, it’s so cool how they make the treats right in front of you! No stress – no pressure.

Spaceship Earth

Sure, if you are coming down for just a few days, you are probably not going to wander around aimlessly. If you have little ones, they will not enjoy the window shopping as much as you. Every trip is different but I hope that you have time to just do nothing and enjoy the atmosphere.

Tower of Terror

I feel like I planned and planned and planned even more when my children were young to the point where I didn’t always enjoy it as much as I could have. I just had a timetable to keep to and places to be and fast passes to make. Still when we have guests, we have to plan more, make reservations and check out park hours. I’m ok with that as long as it goes back to the new normal of taking my time.

PD

Going to Walt Disney World Without Going on Rides

Going to Disney Without Going on Rides

wpid-wp-1440542925936.jpg

We all know that Walt Disney World has some fantastic rides. Magic Kingdom has the mountains – Splash and Space. It is also home to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which opened to rave reviews. Hollywood Studios is known for The Rock ‘N Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which looms over the park and can be seen from everywhere. Expedition Everest with Yeti and Dinosaur will get your blood pumping in Animal Kingdom. Test Track and Mission:SPACE are the thrill rides in Epcot although Sum of all Thrills at Innoventions can be as wild as you want to make it – within the boundaries of math, of course. So if you are looking for some adventure, you’re sure to find it.

For me, nope. Not looking for that at all. Of the above rides, I will go on 1 maybe 2 if the mood strikes. I have a soft spot for Dinosaur. Not sure why but I love it. Also, I can be persuaded to go on Sum of All Thrills if I am allowed to create it (no drops for this girl). So what could you possibly do in Disney World if you are not going on rides?Well, there are tons of shows!

 They do a pretty good job right at the front of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom. I could watch that show over and over.  Philharmagic is always a fun time reliving some favorite movies and the Carousel of Progress helps me to remember that Walt had a hand in all of this. Oh and the parades! The Festival of Fantasy parade blows my mind. There is a fire breathing dragon! Fire. Breathing. Dragon. I don’t need to plummet down a mountain for excitement.

So if I choose to watch the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo instead of visiting the Yeti, don’t think I’m not having a blast. I am getting so much out of every visit to Beauty and the Beast that I wouldn’t trade it for all the Terror in the world! Figment is enough to get my imagination going, I don’t need to go into Space. Don’t skip the wonderful movies in France, Canada and China!

I get enough excitement dodging raindrops in Florida or as I refer to it – Liquid Sunshine. I don’t need to go on any rides! I could also people watch forever and there is no greater variety than right in WDW. People from all over the world and every culture is represented. Talk to cast members and other guests. There are some really great people out there!

Enjoy Disney your own way but make sure you are having fun!

PD

Four Parks in One Day

All Four Disney Parks in One Day – Courtney, Gina and Joe

image
Picture in front of all four landmarks Courtney:pink hat, Gina: blue “B” hat, Joe: blue golf hat

We put together a plan first. This is a must. Know what you are going to do before you even leave home/hotel. We decided the order of the parks, the transportation and the activities that would be done. We also knew to stay hydrated and take it slow because if you burn yourself out too quickly, you won’t enjoy the journey.

We started at Animal Kingdom. This was actually the only FP+ we used all day. We wanted to get on the Safari right away. We went to the bakery and had a haystack and white chocolate chip cookie. Breakfast of champions! We walked around a little after the great safari (the animals were really awake and close to the trucks) and stopped by Starbucks for some caffeine. What a wonderful job they did in there!

Safari-Animal Kingdom

We then jumped on the bus (furthest stop ever #17) to Hollywood Studios. It was actually a little more crowded than I would have anticipated at the entrance. My Magic Band has been having issues and needs to be replaced but luckily my crew didn’t dump me and leave me behind.

We checked out wait times and decided to go to Muppet Vision 3D. Yippee, one of my favorites! We again walked around a bit and checked out the fun times on Pixar Street. We stopped for a churro because they rock! We did share it at least (I’m pretty sure Joe got the biggest piece). Again, I was a little surprised by how crowded this park was getting.

Muppetvision 3D- Hollywood Studios

We then hopped on the boat to Epcot. We entered through the International Gateway and ate again. We wanted real food so we stopped by the United Kingdom. We had the quick service version of fish & chips made even better because Courtney paid.  Always get the free ice water. Nice little cool down. We had to check out the Doctor Who merchandise and walked out to see a musical quartet. How cool is that?

sights and sounds throughout Epcot

I can’t believe how crowded the food stands for the Food and Wine Festival were. We had been two days earlier for the preview, so luckily I had most of the dishes I wanted. I figure we’ll try that on an early Epcot day again.

Living with the Land- inside The Land- Epcot

We went to the Land and rode Living with the Land. It had been closed briefly earlier in the month for some maintenance and it feels fresher. Always a great ride. We had done the Behind the Seeds tour which gives you a whole new appreciation for the work that is accomplished in Epcot.

Food & Wine Festival themed entrance and exit displays- Epcot

We did stop in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion to check out the festivities. We watched an interesting movie on the work that goes into the Food & Wine Festival and also ate some chocolate samples.

Food & Wine Festival Event Center-near Universe of Energy-Epcot

We then boarded the Monorail to the TTC and then onto the Magic Kingdom. We had moved slower in Epcot but decided to really relax and enjoy now. We had hit four parks and needed ice cream! We stopped at Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and enjoyed our scoops sitting at the Tomorrowland Terrace. We could see the Festival of Fantasy Parade from that spot. My only complaint is that the music from the parade can’t be heard very well over the pumped in futuristic music.

Carousel Of Progress-Tomorrowland-Magic Kingdom

We went to The Carousel of Progress next. I could go to this show every day and love it more and more each time! Such a happy tune that gets stuck in your head! We needed to visit the charging outlets in the Space Mountain gift shop afterwards. They have been somewhat relocated to the right hand back side of the store. There are changes going on in the store where you will be able to customize phone covers – similar to the Co-op in Disney Springs.

Cinderella’s Castle-Magic Kingdom

We wondered a bit, soaking up the surroundings when Gary (brother- CM) called for dinner. So we jumped on the Monorail, met him at the Grand Floridian Café and let him buy us a meal. This is such a gem. We are always able to get last minute reservations here. We ended up at home around 10:30pm tired but happy.

 

Pork chop and Dessert Sampler from Grand Floridian Cafe
 
Grand Floridian Cafe
Wrap up:
Animal Kingdom: haystacks, cookie, found a hidden Mickey, safari, coffee, bus

Hollywood Studios: Kermit, churro, discussions on changes and excitement for the future, boat

Epcot: fish & chips, wondering why they don’t have a full sized Tardis, the Land, free chocolate, saw our cousin Kelsey and family, Monorail

Magic Kingdom: ice cream, fire breathing dragon, there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, gift shop rehab

Grand Floridian: my favorite restaurant in all of WDW!

PD

EPCOT’s China Pavillion: Nine Dragons Resaurant


EPCOT seems to be the Disney Park with the most choices and variety of places to eat. The World Showcase offers very authentic dining experiences from each of the 11 countries showcased. The Nine Dragons Restaurant in the China Pavillion provides guests with a calming atmosphere and delicious meals.


Walking into the low lit building we instantly noticed that the loud noises and hustle of an always moving area were eliminated. The dark wood with colored glass features and the classical music gave a real calm feel. This was a nice break from a hot day.


The food that is featured here is just amazing. The two entrees featured above are a barbecue pork rice bowl and fried rice bowl. Both of these meals are served in a giant bowl and you would have to very, very hungry to finish it all. The rice had a ton of flavor and the meat was savory and tender. Another great entree that is very good and plentiful is the sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice. We must comment on the service we received on our many times here. They are excellent, your glass will never be empty and they are very appreciative and thankful for your business.

If you don’t want to or just don’t have time for a sit down meal there is an outside quick service that offers many of the same meals but more of a lunch sized serving of it. Nine Dragons Restaurant is a must do for us when we go to the World Showcase.

Thank you for reading and enjoy!!

PD

Quick Service – Part 1 (Pizzafari, Tangerine Cafe and Artist’s Palette)

 Quick Service – Part 1

image

Pizzafari

The Animal Kingdom is home to Pizzafari. As the name implies, they serve pizza. They are open for lunch and dinner. They serve personal size thick crust cheese, pepperoni, meat lovers and vegetable pizzas with a Caesar salad on the side. Not only is the pizza really yummy but the salad is excellent. They also serve a meatball sub, a romaine salad and pasta with sauce. The children’s menu offers mac & cheese, cheese pizza, uncrustables and pasta.

The food is good and the restaurant itself is fun and brightly decorated. There is plenty of seating and Cast Member are often seen coloring pictures with children or leading a Congo line. This is a great place for a cool down relaxing meal before trekking off into Africa.

imageTangerine Café in Epcot’s Morocco

Inside Epcot’s Morocco is a gem that is hidden in plain sight. The Tangerine Café has some of the best food that I’ve had in all of WDW. It’s refreshingly different from anything else I had enjoyed. It’s wonderful fresh food simply prepared to be a filling and surprisingly delicious meal.

I had the Shawarma Chicken Platter and it is literally enough for two adults. The meat was moist and flavorful and the combinations of hot and cold food and spices really worked. The hummus was creamy and the pita was warm. The wraps (lamb, chicken and falafel) were also generously sized.

There is seating outside and inside but it’s open to the hustle and bustle of Epcot. Adjacent is also a coffee bar with pastries. Don’t skip it!

image

The Artist’s Palette at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

Think “upscale deli” and that’s what you’ll get at The Artist’s Palette. The food is freshly prepared to order in front of you and will often be delivered to your table if you not ready when you pay for your meal.

We had the Caprese Flatbread pizza and the Spicy Italian Beef sandwich. Both were wonderful light meals along with fountain soda and light lemonade. There are multiple yummy looking deserts to choose from including cupcakes. The general store and gift shop are all connected so you can mix grab and go items with your order.

The seating area is accented by colorful lighting fixtures that feel like artwork. There is a drawing station for younger kids but they won’t kick you out if you’re older (don’t judge). Tables can be hard to find and seating can get tight but you can always bring your order down a few steps and eat by the pool.