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Mark and Ann’s Disney Tips

GENERAL DISNEY WORLD PARK INFORMATION 

TICKETS- In our opinion, always buy park hopper passes.  You can move from park to park even just for a meal or special event.  Check out the Kissimmee Guest services link on our sites main page for discounted ticket. Use our code OASBRE for the discounts.  KGS will mail to you or deliver to the door when you arrive.  

DISNEY TRANSPORTATION- Buses make multiple stops and sometimes take forever to get where you are going and then you have to get back to your car.  Skip it and drive.  However, if you are on a tight budget, park at downtown Disney Marketplace and catch the Disney buses to any park destination.  If you do this, catch the buses from the transportation center on the WEST SIDE area of downtown Disney. 

MONORAIL- The monorail is great to get from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot and back or to a dinner at one of the resort (Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian).  The kids will love the ride. 

CHOOSING YOUR PARK DAYS- Schedule your park visits around Special Magic morning or evening hours for on site guests.  The parks are generally more crowded on these days.  Also, most weekend arrivals head to the Magic Kingdom first.  We have found the Magic Kingdom Park to be less crowded during the weekdays. During peak times, all bets are off.

PEAK TIMES- If visiting at these times like Christmas and Spring break, expect every park to be crowded every day.  Some parks are closed because they reach the maximum allowable number of visitors so always head out early.  Use fastpass for major rides you want to go on. 

SET YOUR AGENDA- If you are scheduling a variety of dining, set you park agenda in advance and make your dining reservations and Stick to your schedule.  Dining reservations may be hard to change.  If the parks are not busy, you can always park hop if you like for variety that day.  Check the Disney website for promotional weekends and avoid that park for that weekend unless you are a fan of Star Wars, TV Soaps, and the like.  These promotions bring many more park guest to that particular park especially on the weekends. 

DISNEY CHARACTER GREETING- Disney has added many spots now for this.  Check out the times and places on the park guides when you enter each park.  Before you do, pick up an autograph book at home or in the parks.  The kids will have a blast gathering the signatures.  Some of the autographs are very creative.    

DISNEY PINS- If you plan on collecting Disney pins, buy some extras.  Any cast member wearing them will trade you their pins.  The kid will love checking out their pins and trading.

DISNEY DINING 

Book reservations as early as possible if you plan on eating at the park restaurants for character or other dining.  They fill up very quickly.  Disney allows you to book reservations 3 months in advance.  If you can plan your days at the parks in advance, try to do so and then get your character and other dining reserved.  Don’t despair if you don’t get a reservation at a particular restaurant.  Because of cancellations and no shows, sometimes there is immediate availability.  Just walk in and ask. It doesn’t always work but depending on the restaurant, we found we get in about 40-50% of the time during average attendance times.    

OUR FAVORITE (and not so favorite) DINING PLACES

MGM

 HIT- Sci-fi Dine In Theater- The restaurant is like a big drive in movie theater.  Your group will sit in a 50’s style car while you eat.  The food is very good. We like just about everything but the ribs and Rueben are our favorites.  The kids will love it.  We love watching the old Sci-fi B movie clips on the big screen. 

 HIT- The Brown Derby- expensive but probably one of the best menu’s at Disney.

 MISS- 50’s Prime Time Café- We found the food to be poor and who want to eat at a 50’s kitchen table and watch TV.  We can do that at home!

EPCOT

 HIT- Any restaurant at world showcase.  Our favorite is China, Mexico and Canada but pick any country for a unique dining experience for lunch or dinner.    

 HIT- The Land Pavilion for a quick breakfast or lunch.  It is walk up service and it is a relief from standard park fare. 

MAGIC KINGDOM

 HIT- Columbia Harbour House serves fish and chips and chicken.  This is a quick service stop that we like particularly when tired of burgers.  

 HIT- The Crystal Palace- The food is ok at this buffet but the kids will love Pooh and Friends.   Great location since it’s fairly easy to get to from anywhere in the park. 

 HIT- Mickey Waffles- To the left of the castle and on the path to Frontierland, is a little known shop that serves Mickey Waffles.  You can get them with strawberries or syrup and add whipped cream if you like.  It’s great for a fast breakfast or a treat.  This is on our must do list every visit.

 HIT- For a different soft ice cream treat, head to the Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland.  They serve pineapple and orange soft ice cream, an orange swirl creamsicle cone, and pineapple floats.  We all have our favorites mixes and this is another must do on our list.  

 MISS- Tony’s Town Square Restaurant - we were not impressed with the menu or quality but please read below.

 HIT- Tony’s Town Square Restaurant- Although it’s on our miss list for dining, a fun thing to do is to make reservations for ˝ hour prior to the main street parade.  When you arrive, ask if you can be seated on the porch.  If they have space, they will accommodate you and you can watch the SpectroMagic or afternoon parade from your table.  Very fun.

 ANIMAL KINGDOM DINING- Coming soon

RESORTS

 HIT- Grand Floridian 1900 Park Fare or Polynesian Ohana character breakfasts.  Best breakfasts on site!  SPECIAL TIP- Reserve breakfast on the day you visit the Magic Kingdom and take the monorail from the Polynesian or Grand Floridian to the Park.  You will then skip the Magic Kingdom parking lot which takes you to the monorail anyway.

 HIT- Kona Café at the Polynesian.  Great place to stop for their unique desserts.  Usually a great dinner menu.

 HIT- The buffet at the Yacht Club.  The have a great seafood buffet. 

 MISS- Animal Kingdom Lodge Buffet- They serve unique African styled foods and at one time was on the hit list but the quality is not what it used to be.

 MISS- the Polynesian Luau (Disney Spirit of Aloha Show) - A snooze for the kids and the food is lacking.

 HIT- Hoop Dee Doo Review at Fort Wilderness Lodge- Comedy and fun audience participation for the kids and great barbeque style food.  

 MISS- Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary- Very standard fare buffet.  Schedule the Crystal Palace instead if you can.  Okay though if no other character dining is available.

FREE BUT FUN

Hidden Mickey’s- One of our favorite activities at Disney World is to look for Hidden Mickey’s.  All over the parks and hotels, line cues and the rides, the creators of the architecture and artwork have hidden Mickey’s head and ears, some are simple to see, some not.  Some are a real stretch.   The guide books are available at just about every major store.  When our son was younger, it was a great way for him to have fun through the more adult World Showcase at Epcot.  It also keeps the kids busy in lines.

Electric Water Pageant- The kids will love the little known and long running electric water pageant that runs every night at 9:00 on Seven Seas Lagoon. Several barges display a variety of sea life, each lighting to it’s own music with an Americana grand finale.    Our favorite viewing area is from the beach at the Polynesian Resort.  Depending on the season, you can also catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks at the same time.  SPECIAL TIP- View this on the day you visit the Magic Kingdom and park at the Polynesian to avoid the MK parking.  Just hop on the monorail on the second floor of the lobby.  Tell the parking security guard you are visiting for a meal. 

Animal Kingdom Lodge- At the right times of day you can stroll the pool area and catch a glimpse of giraffes and other wildlife.  Morning and early evenings are best.

Port Orleans fishing hole- For a small charge, you can use bamboo poles to catch some blue gills/sunfish.  Thread your worm right in the middle and let the ends dangle.  These fish have learned to detect a worm on a hook and this is the best way to catch one.  Bait and poles are provided for a fee.  You might even see one of the resident otters while there. 

Celebration- Celebration is the town that Disney built.  This town was built on Disney property and has an old town Disney feel.  Check out the unique shops or plan a dinner at Cafe D’Antonio’s Italian Cuisine or one of the many restaurants.  Take a stroll on the lake.  There are fast fare restaurants also.  Check out the beautiful homes.  Just off of 192 and Interstate 4 about a mile from the main gate.

Water Parks- When we take our young teens to the park and we are not attending, you can obtain a 30 minute shoppers pass that will let you enter the park and get them set up for a fun day with a locker and the like.  Kids must be 11 years old to be there on their own.

Singing in the Rain- When you are on the NY street, head to the back street in front of the Lights, Motor Action show.  Look for the lamppost with the umbrella attached.  If you are there early other guest may not have discovered that if you hang on the umbrella while stepping on the metal plate under your feet, you will soon be singing in the rain.    

EPCOT Soda Tasting- On the main concourse in Future World to the right hand side is a Coke tasting building where you can sample soda from around the world. Sample as much as you want.  This is a great as free refresher.    

The Art of Disney- At every park and at Downtown Disney you will find an Art of Disney Store.  There are many original Disney themed art pieces.  Great browsing for the art or Disney lover.   They also sell original character sketches that are singed by the artist for $25 or $30.  Sometimes the artists are on site.  This is a great way to get an original piece at a reasonable price.

The Free Disney Experience- Go to Downtown Disneyand park for free. Take either the bus or water taxi to the Contemporary Resort. Pick up the monorail there and ride the loop to your heart's content. Especially nice at night when all the lights are on in their spectacular glory. Doesn't cost a dime.

FAVORITE  PARK ACTIVITIES AND TIPS

DISNEY STUDIO

American Idol Experience-  AIE presents park guests who audition for the shows daily to win a golden ticket that lets them head to the front of the line at the actual  American Idol auditions throughout the country.  AIE shows several times during the day but save the best for last.  The last show of the day at 7:00 is the finale for the winners of the earlier shows.  We are always entertained with some very good vocals.

Toy Story Mania- Head to the newest and very popular ride first.  If the wait is more than ˝ hour get a fast pass for later in the day or do both if you want to ride it twice.  Both kids and adults will love this one. 

Fantasmic- Some people like this show but it is not on our hit parade.  If you decide to go, check the days in advance because they are not running every night.  Arrive around an hour early also.  It fills up rather quickly. 

Lights Motor Action Stunt Show- We saw this once when it first opened.  We have never been back. 

Walt Disney-One Man’s Dream- Don’t miss this if you are a Disney fan.  This is a  snooze for the kids but a less traveled and very informative history of Disney.  It ends with a short movie.  Great to walk through if the very young ones are sleeping.  It includes original models of parks and attractions, vintage toys and merchandise, and many items built by Walt Disney himself.  A truly amazing story.  It’s like a Disney museum.   

The Great Movie Ride- This has become another classic for us.  I don’t think it has changed since it opened but we ride it every time.  The Wicked Witch of the west is touted as one of the most advance animatronics characters in any park. 

Narnia- If this is still showing on your visit, miss it.  It is a big advertisement for the Movie.  A total waste of time.

Kids shows- All of them are great, Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are must see’s in our book.  The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is fun for the kids and adults.

Classics- Twilight Zone tower of terror and Rock and Roller coaster are great rides and some of the most thrilling in any Disney park. 

MAGIC KINGDOM

Parades- We always found the best viewing in Frontierland but if the park is not crowded you can go just about anywhere.  The afternoon parade is nice but the SpectroMagic parade is a must see.  The last parade of the night is always less crowded if the kids can stay awake.

Special Holiday Nights- The tickets are worth every penny for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas particularly during busy times.  No Waits for rides but you also get special parades and free candy throughout the park and other activities.  The Christmas parade at night is a must see on main street where it snow’s during the show.  You can get on every major ride because the lines are so small.  Buy this ticket in place of an additional day on your park hopper tickets.    

MAGIC KINGDOM TRAIN- The Magic Kingdom Train does a complete circle around the park.  If you are near a stop and want to get to an attraction across the park, it’s nice to take this ride and save the wear and tear on the legs and feet.  It stops on Main Street, Frontierland (specifically Splash Mountain) and Mickey’s Toontown Fair.  The kids love it.

MUST SEE- Well what can I say, we love just about everything.  Maybe we should put it this way, here is the list of attraction that you can skip if the park is very crowded- Swiss family Robinson Tree House, The Jungle Cruise, The Tiki Birds, Magic Carpets of Aladdin.  In fact, this makes up just about the whole Adventureland with the exception of Pirates.  Country Bear Jamboree, The Tomorrowland Raceway and Stitches Great Adventure are the other snoozers not worth the wait if long.

THE CLASSICS- I drive my son crazy every time we visit and I tell him about how I saw It’s A Small Word and Carousel of Progress at the 1964 Ney York World’s Fair when I was 5.  In fact, when we ride Carousel, he now sits apart from us since we tend to sing the anthem.  Isn’t it fun harassing the little ones!  Well these are truly some of the early animatronics that Disney created.  The other classic attractions in this category are Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s a Small World and Winnie the Pooh.  We drag my son onto It’s a Small World every visit also.  Small World also premiered at the New York World Fair and he hears about my experience again when I was 5!

HALL OF THE PRESIDENTS- Barack is in the house!  This is a boring one for the kids but sometimes a cool nap time for Dad. 

ANIMAL KINGDOM

MOUNT EVEREST- The newest and arguably the best coaster at Disney.  Go there first and get a fast pass if the lines are long. 

KILAMANJARO SAFARI- A unique Disney experience as always but go in the early morning or late in the day.  You will see more animals typically. 

KALI RIVER RAPIDS- Not the greatest water raft ride and sometimes you don’t get wet.  Not as wild as Bluto’s Barges at Universal.  It is actually pretty calm.   We take out poncho’s to the park that day if we decide to ride it.

DINOSAUR- Dark and it can be scary for the young.  Our son loves this ride though. 

THE LION KING- Nice show with cool acrobatics. 

FINDING NEMO- We found this show to be a snooze.  Went once and never back again but like everything is worth a visit if time allows.

It’s TOUGH TO BE A BUG- Fun show that the young ones will get a kick out of. 

EPCOT

FINDING NEMO- Of course the kids will want to see this but it is not quite up to the standards of Disney.  A snooze for us and sometimes the kids.

SOARIN’- Usually a long wait but my family really likes the ride but I can take it or leave it. 

CLASSICS- Spaceship Earth is a must see but go to other attractions first. Usually there is no line on the way out but there can be a line on the way in.  Energy is fun, long and usually very little wait. 

ENERGY- The kids will like the Dino’s, the adults will enjoy the overall show.  We really miss the original Imagination.  The new show replaced what we considered a classic.  They brought back Figment and the original theme music but it’s just not the same. 

TEST TRACK & MISSION SPACE- Get a fast pass for one and ride the other first.  Always on our list.

DISNEY SHOPPING TIPS

Disney Shopping- The best stores on the property are Main Street, Mouse Gear at Epcot and the shops at Downtown Disney.  They are all loaded with Disney merchandise. shops.

Smaller park shops- These shops tend to carry items that are more specific to the attractions around them or the park itself.  Always fun browsing.

Merchandise Shipping- Every Disney store will ship you items home if you choose.  This is great for the larger items in particular and beats dragging them through the park or on the plane.

Lego Land at Downtown Disney- Check out the Lego play area. They let you build Lego cars and people.  The kids love it so much that sometimes it’s hard to pull them away.  Great activity for Dad and the kids if Mom wants to shop.  They also have giant Lego statues the kids will love. 

JUST FOR OUR GUESTS

Getting back to 192W- Throughout the Disney property, specifically from EPCOT and DOWNTOWN DISNEY, there are multiple signs for 192W via Interstate 4.  Ignore these. The exits will take you the long way around.  Follow the signs to DINSEY STUDIOS or ANIMAL KINGDOM where you will again see 192W signs.  Follow from there.  From the Magic Kingdom, Disney Studios and the Animal Kingdom you are ok to follow the 192 signs.

Sports Activities- The clubhouse requires a deposit for basketballs, putters, ping pong, pool and the like but you get it back when you return the equipment.  This is a great way to enjoy non-park days at the clubhouse pool.

A treat to see- In the conservation area directly behind the clubhouse, there are alligators.  Sometimes very hard to see but you may catch them sunning.  When Windsor Hills was built, the marsh area was conserved in tact, hence the gators.  The whole area is fenced but never enter it and never feed them. 

On a rainy day- Hit the clubhouse for a workout, rent a movie, watch a movie in the theater, play games and lounge around or speak to the concierge for vacation suggestions.  In our home, feel free to pull out a board or video game.   

Disney history- Usually in the great room is a book about the history of Disney World.  If interested in how it all started and how it was built, you won’t be able to put the book down.  This book was from the mid 90’s before animal Kingdom was built- it’s interesting to see what the original plans were for the park to what it is today.   

It there is a space shuttle lift off, look out the front door.  Although it is an hour drive, you will see the shuttle trail through the sky.  You can also travel there to see it up close.   

CHRISTMAS AT DISNEY

As mentioned before it is worth every penny to get passes for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas evening in the park.  They run from 7-12 midnight and you can get on every ride since the lines are short.  The Christmas parade is awesome and it snows on Main Street!  The castle lights are amazing. 

A definite must see is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney Studios.  This is on the New York street.  No it’s not Ozzy Osborne as we once thought but the Osborne family from Little Rock AR.  The Osborne family went all out on their house decorations and the entire stand up decorations actually came from their home. When you see the display, it makes you wonder just how big their yard was.  Every building is covered in light and about every 10-15 minutes the show is in sync to Christmas music.  It snows there also.  What a great sight this is. 

Outside of Disney and about 3 miles away from our home is Gaylord Palms, just down Rte 192.  They have an amazing indoor Ice Sculpture Display including slides for the kids.  Bring a coat.  This is a very fun activity.     

PARADES

Always catch the latest Magic Kingdom parade if you can since it is less crowded.  If you are heading out directly after, view it from the entry point of the park.  Otherwise it will take you forever to get on a ferry or monorail.  Any magic kingdom parade is great but the Spectromagic parade is a must see.  The parades at the other parks are nice but nothing great in our book.

After your visit, drop us a line with your favorite activity, new found freebee or items on your miss list.  Since we are always adding item, we will be happy to incorporate these items into our Disney tips for future guests.