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)

Universal Studios & Island of Adventure 

As a child, taking vacations to Florida really just meant Disney World. Only once in my 30 previous vacations to Florida did I go to Universal Studios or Island of Adventure. Fast forward to moving to Florida, the day I moved here was the day I got my Disney Annual Pass but it took me 2 years 9 months to finally go to Universal.  Being a #DisneySnob, I was not overly excited but really wanted to see what it was like.


I was not disappointed at all. The parks were beautiful. Walking around Unversal Studios made me miss my Streets of America in Hollywood Studios even more. It was really like walking down busy streets in a bustling city. Something new for me was the rides and shows are literally right next to each other, you can go from ride to show to another ride to another show without really adding many steps to your trackers. This made everything flow pretty nicely. 


Though everything is really close together there are still plenty of places to relax and get refreshed. Pictured below is a stage area where you can sit on the turf. They will sometimes play trailers to their upcoming movies but overall it’s pretty quiet(except for the roller coaster) . It was just a nice spot to relax at. There is also a street in the park that is a quiet street, you can’t be rowdy on it. It is meant as a quiet walk through to settle down some restless kids and cool off. 


Though I mostly only have pictures of Universal Studios(forgot my phone day one), my favorite of the two parks was Island of Adventure. The Jurassic Park area was really cool and immersive. The River Adventure ride is so fun and I REALLY wish I had a child with me so I could have gone on the gliders. And, even though I am older, I rode every ride in Seuss Landing. I just couldn’t stop myself. Plus, I got to see my beloved Marvel Superheroes! Now, I would love to talk about the crown jewel of Universal, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

 

This area was really like entering a different world. I really felt like I was in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The attention to detail that was put into everything just blew my mind and don’t even get me started on the Butterbeer! 


Taking the train was really something. I thought it was going to be a basic train ride just connecting the two lands but not at all. I actually saw my train leaving the station and transitioning into arriving at Hogsmeade. It was absolutely incredible. 


Going back to the detail, it felt as though I could stay just in the WWHP for days. It was truly incredible. To submerge myself more into the area, I purchased an interactive wand. The wand allowed me to cast spells at marked windows and feel like an actual wizard(!!).


The rides in this area are awesome. They also have a ride for Harry Potter fans of all ages, or rides for different intensity levels. 

To wrap up my two days at Universal I would like to say that even though through my time there I definitely did a lot of comparing to Disney World, they are really not the same at all. Most of the rides featured in both parks are definitely geared towards an older crowd. So if you have young children I really don’t recommend anything more than a day at the parks. Also, if you are prone to motion sickness or have back and neck problems a lot of the rides, and even some shows, may be a little difficult for you. 

When you purchase a pass, if you would like the whole Harry Potter experience, get the 2-parks 1-day option on your ticket(essentially their park hopper option) or else you cannot ride the train in between the two lands. I also did not think their express pass was needed. The longest we waited in line was 35-40 minutes and this was considered a “moderate” day in the parks. Universal also has an app like Disney. It helps with wait times and getting virtual passes(essentially a fast pass but you actually NEED one to ride the Jimmy Fallon ride). I will say, the wait times are highly inaccurate on the app but it gave me an idea of where everything was(it had rides shut down that were up and 1 hour long waits for rides that had a 20 minute wait) I do think Universal is a must for families who have thrill seekers or Harry Potter fans. Even if you don’t have either of those, it still may be worth a day trip to experience something different than Disney. 

Courtney (@pdcourt)

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort


With great ocean views and endless activities available, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is the perfect destination for a family or couple to have a nice beach vacation. The rooms are updated and spacious with balconies overlooking either the ocean or a garden. If you have a larger family, there are two level cottages that fit 10-12 people. You get to enjoy the crystal clear ocean on the resort’s private beach. For the adventurous types, there are hiking and kayaking trips you can sign up for at the resort and for the people looking to relax, there is a spa right in the main building. Your kids will have plenty to do with a big pool and slide and mini golf. Here are some pictures that capture some of the beauty of this ocean front resort. 

Quick Service – Part 9 Be Our Guest at Lunch

Be Our Guest (lunch) at Magic Kingdom

Although it can be very frustrating to get an ADR at Be Our Guest for dinner, lunch is considerably easier. We got our reservation the morning of, for a 1:30 lunch time. We then called and added a third person over the phone. MDE would not let us alter the reservation.

The menu is not large but filled with some really great choices. The options may sound fancy but it comes down to sandwiches; roast beef, turkey and ham, salads; tuna and quinoa, pork, quiche and soups.

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We had the French Onion Soup and it was fantastic! To me, it’s second only to the Grand Floridian Café and that is my ultimate favorite. The cheese is thick and the onions are caramelized. The Croque Monsieur (ham sandwich) is served with fries and is delightful. This isn’t deli ham, it’s sliced ham. The Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich was nicely flavored, generously sized and even better when dipped into the French Onion Soup.

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As you can see, the prices are a little higher than your average quick service but not over the top horrible. The food is better and the scenery make up for this!

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The venue is as amazing during the day as it is in the evening. The Rose Room is dark and menacing, the Ballroom is so grand and the artwork will make you feel engrossed in Beauty and the Beast. Not in a cartoony way but in the live action-where is Emma Watson way.

Gina

Enchanted Tales with Belle – Magic Kingdom

Surprisingly. I had never visited Enchanted Tales with Belle until recently. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I had heard from friends and family that it was a fun time but I was sceptical since it would be just Joe and I going. Sure, we may seem hip and happening but we’re actually a middle aged couple who don’t normally hang out with princesses (besides myself).

We had. Fast Passes and had just a few minutes wait. You are first brought into Maurice’s workshop. A magic mirror is used to bring us back to the night that Belle fell in love with Beast.

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The next room is where we meet Wardrobe and friends. We are informed that this will be an interactive story. Some children and adults are chosen for different rolls in the story. Sadly, Joe was not picked despite his loud pleas.

 

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We are then led to the library.Lumiere is on the mantle and is FANTASTIC! Belle joins in the story telling looking lovely in her golden gown.

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The show is not long but cute and wonderfully interactive. The little ones were completely engrossed. I truly enjoyed and will definitely go again.

A Disney photographer takes pictures throughout. A wonderful keepsake should your child or spouse be part of the story.

 

Gina

I Hate That I Love You!

There are certain things that we say we will never do. That’s not different at Disney World either. “Oh I’d never wear flip flops at the parks”. I now have permanent tan lines on the tops of my feet. “I’ll spend the money on bottled water because I hate the taste of Florida water”. I now stop at all quick service restaurants for my free Florida H2O.
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However there are things that I am so not proud of, things that I swore I would avoid like the plague. I was wrong. Here’s my list of things that I hate that I love:

      1. Baseball hats – just not my thing, I’m a girly girl and not a jock at all! However, the sun is strong down here. I prefer my hats light colored and made of thin fabric.

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      1. Yoga pants – they are everywhere you look. Know why? Because they are very comfortable and wick away the sweat. Yes, I make sure that I buy non- see through pants and wear long tops.

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    1. Matching family shirts – at one time, I would have cringed. Now I look at families in their  WDW themed bring orange tops with envy. What I wouldn’t give to have my adult children in shirts with a catchy phrase and personalized Mickey heads. The closest I’ve been so far is coordinated outfits with the hubby.

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Bonus: it’s a small world – LOVE it even more now with the new goodbyes!
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I may have relented on some things that I always said I’d avoid. There are still some things that I’ll vehemently deny ever considering. You will not be seeing me with a fanny pack ever! Sometimes you have to put your foot down!
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Quick Service Part 7 – Pepper Market and the Backlot Express

The Pepper Market at Coronado Springs

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The Pepper Market is a very well equipped food court. Their menu and choices are a little different from some other resorts at WDW. It’s beautifully decorated and has plenty of indoor seating. There is also a seating area outside of the PM.

For breakfast, they have the quick grab and go items – yogurts, pastries etc. They also have some really great omelets and of course the famous Mickey Waffles. Two items stick out as mouthwatering – the Egg, Chorizo & Cheese Sandwich and the Mexican Eggs Benedict Burrito. The kid’s menu is smaller but can be more than enough food for an adult.

Lunch and Dinner is where PM really excels. The Tacos, Enchiladas and Cheese Empanadas are fresh and made to order. The Market Nachos are the BEST! The baked pasta and chicken are good but the BBQ Ribs are amazing but can be messy.

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The Pepper Market is a destination for our family as the food is wonderful and the scenery is pretty special. It’s nice that after you stuff yourself, you can go for a walk around the resort to take in the views and burn some calories.

Backlot Express at Hollywood Studios

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I need to write this fast before it changes! This wonderful indoor/outdoor quick service spot is located on the side of Space Tours and behind the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I’m sure it will be completely Star Wars themed as it has been during Stars Wars weekends for several years.

Lunch and Dinner are served and are the basic in-Park fare with a twist of the Force.

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The children’s menu is limited to The Power Pack, Uncrustables and Dark Side Chicken and Waffles. There are a few deserts and the cupcakes are updated on a regular basis.

From some spots, you can watch Jedi Training on the stage beside Star Tours. I am excited to see this restaurant reimagined!

PD

 

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.

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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!

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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