Category Archives: Disney

A Day in the Life of the Magic Kingdom

June 14, 2017

a Disney day in the life – Day 1

Magic Kingdom

I don’t manage to visit Orlando very often at all, so I wanted to make sure I started my day out early on my first day at the Magic Kingdom on my recent visit to see what it’s like early in the morning. It was a Thursday and normal park opening time was 9am. That meant they likely would start letting people in onto Main Street around 8am so they could spend time shopping and wandering around Main Street before the 9am “rope drop”. I’d grabbed an early morning breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest with an 8:35am reservation time. I knew that they likely would let people with early morning breakfast reservations into the park around 7:45-7:50am, and I wanted to make sure to be there very early.

I started out my day by grabbing an Uber from my off-site (e.g. non-Disney) hotel to the Disney Contemporary Resort. I was dropped off at the front lobby around 6:40am, where I quickly asked for directions to the walking path to the Magic Kingdom. Easily finding the path, which is clearly marked, I walked down the path for about 5 minutes until I reached the small security checkpoint which is for guests walking from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom. It was around 6:45am at that point, and the security guards informed me that they didn’t let people through the checkpoint until 7am. Promptly at 7am, they checked my bag and purse and I was let through. I then continued down the path for a few more minutes until I reached the area in front of the Magic Kingdom train stations with the entrance turnstiles. I found my way to the far left entrance which was clearly marked “Event Entrance”. There was a couple of guests in front of me in the Event Entrance line – presumably they had taken the Monorail or boat from the Ticket and Transportation Center instead of the walking path from the Contemporary.

At about 7:15am a cast member came over and verified our early breakfast reservations using one of their tablets and then a few minutes later let us pass through the entrance turnstiles. Cast members then held us at the tunnel that leads from the train station area into Main Street. Because it was raining a bit, they let us wait underneath the overhang. From there I could see cast members working diligently to clean up Main Street before rope drop.

Magic Kingdom

Precisely at 7:45am, we were let through onto Main Street. I quickly walked down Main Street, trying to capture a few photos along the way. Several Photo Pass photographers were waiting down the middle of Main Street waiting to take photos of guests. I grabbed photos of the empty street, in front of the castle, and the little character statutes around the fountains. I then walked over to the empty area in front of Adventureland (which was roped off) and snapped a few photos. From there, I walked over to the Liberty Square entrance where I snapped some photos and found a PhotoPass photographer who captured some images of me on the bridge with the castle in the background.


After that, I finally walked over into Fantasyland. By this point it was about 8:15am, and even if other guests were let in onto Main Street at 8am, only guests with early breakfast reservations were allowed back into Fantasyland. Thus, it was still quite empty! The carousel wasn’t running yet with guests on it. I walked a bit towards the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and that is where I was stopped and told I couldn’t go any further (that direction led towards Tommorrowland.)

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Around 8:20am I headed to the Beast’s castle for my breakfast reservation. I was quickly checked in and was served my pre-ordered breakfast.

Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest

After breakfast, I headed over through Fantasyland to the Tangled Restroom area.

Tangled Restrooms

Tangled Restrooms


Magic Kingdom

Then I snapped some photos of the Peter Pan ride wall, walked through to Liberty Square and looked at the outside of the Hall of Presidents – which was closed for renovations. I started planning the rest of my morning; I wanted to be over at the Boardwalk area at 11am for lunch with a friend, so I headed out down Main Street to exit the park, and stopped up on the 2nd floor of the train station to snap a quick photo of Main Street. The park was filling up quickly!

Magic Kingdom

To save time, I wanted to Uber to the Boardwalk so I decided to take the Monorail back to the Contemporary to catch a ride from there. I hopped on the Monorail to the Contemporary Resort and 5 minutes later I was in the lobby of the resort looking at the Mary Blair murals. I explored the hotel for a few minutes, then grabbed an Uber over to the Boardwalk. I arrived at the Boardwalk and had fun exploring the hotel and Boardwalk area for a while before lunch.




After lunch I hopped on a FriendShip boat to Epcot Center and entered the park via the Worldshow case entrance in the France area. This was a great way to enter the park and maybe someday we will stay at on of the Disney Boardwalk area resorts and use this route!

I then spent a bit of time wandering around the Epcot World Showcase. I had dinner reservations at the California Grill at the Contemporary at 5:10pm, and had plenty of time of time before then to wander around. After my tour around the world, I made my way towards the Epcot front entrance, stopping by the Bubblegum Wall along the way.

Bubblegum Wall

I grabbed the Monorail from the Epcot entrance and headed over to the Contemporary Resort. At a few minutes before 5pm, I checked in for the CA Grill and was quickly taken upstairs in the special elevator to the 15th floor. When I entered the restaurant and saw the view, I was not disappointed. The view was incredible.

California Grill

The dessert menu was so ridiculously good, I decided to wait on dinner and instead I just ordered several desserts, including this crème brulee.

California Grill

After “dinner”, I went out onto one of the two outdoor terraces located at the CA Grill and marveled at how incredible the Magic Kingdom looks from 15 stories up. After checking out the view for a few minutes, I went back downstairs, hopped on the Monorail and rode over to the Polynesian Resort. I explored the hotel for quite a while and then grabbed a snack of Thai meatballs.

Polynesian Resort

Polynesian Resort

Around 8:30pm I popped back over to the Contemporary and explored some more, before heading back to the CA Grill check in spot so I could back upstairs to view the 9pm fireworks show from the terrace; they told me to show my receipt to the elevator cast member who let me up back to the restaurant. After going back inside the restaurant, I went to the back terrace by the restrooms which was largely empty at the time and grabbed a great spot for fireworks viewing.

California Grill

After viewing the fireworks, I grabbed the Monorail back into the Magic Kingdom where I explored what the park looked like in the evening. The Tangled restroom area is so charming at night and as guests starting heading home for the night, I was able to capture some images of an empty park.

Tangled Restrooms

Magic Kingdom

Cinderella Castle

It was a very long but rewarding day and I can’t wait to return!

Magic Kingdom

Toddler Time at Disneyland

March 8, 2017

As we get ready for our next trip to Disneyland, I’ve been thinking about our favorite things for younger kids at both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks. We have been taking our daughter to both parks since she was a little over 2 years old, and can attest to the fact that there are an abundance of things that toddlers love to do at Disneyland! Here’s a run down of our faves at the Disneyland park:

FANTASYLAND – there are so many rides and attractions to choose from! Fantasyland is one of the best areas of the park for little ones. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight (if you can handle the long wait times), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, King Arthur Carrousel, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Alice in Wonderland, “it’s a small world“, Mad Tea Party and the Storybook Land Canal Boats are all rides we have enjoyed over the last couple of years. Snow White’s Scary Adventure is a ride with officially no height requirement, but many people say that it can be a bit too frightening for toddlers so we have avoided it so far.

Dumbo Photo Spot at Disneyland

Just past “it’s a small world” is MICKEY’s TOONTOWN, which opened as a new “land” in 1993. This area was designed with younger visitors in mind and has several rides and attractions. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and Gadget’s Go Coaster are the two rides (the Coaster does have a 35 inch height requirement). Goofy’s Playhouse, Donald’s Boat, and Chip n Dale’s Treehouse are great playground areas for kiddos to run around and burn off some energy and adults to sit down to rest. And best of all – Mickey and Minnie’s Houses can both be found here in Toontown – and often Minnie and Mickey are available for photos and autographs. The line to meet each of them winds through their homes, which contain plenty of fun things for the little ones to play with while they wait to meet Mickey and Minnie.

At the other end of the park is CRITTER COUNTRY – home of Splash Mountain, which is great for adults but not so great for young children! But this area has a few fabulous things for toddlers who are Winnie the Pooh fans. During the day, Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore are often available for photos and autographs. Also in Critter Country is one of our favorite rides – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This is a fun indoor ride that little ones tend to want to go on over and over again! The wait time is usually quite short, and it’s a must do on our visits.

TOMMOROWLAND is home to one of our favorite attractions – Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage. Also found here are more great rides for younger visitors including Buzz Lightyear Astroblaster, Autopia (32 inch height requirement), and Astro Orbiter. The Star Wars Launch Bay has meet and greets with Marvel characters including Thor, and Star Wars characters including Chewbacca, so if your family loves these characters it’s a great place to visit.

Finally, there are a few other attractions throughout the park for toddlers. The Jungle Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room in ADVENTURELAND are perfect for young ones. And don’t forget to try a Dole Whip while at the Tiki Room!

Disneyland 101

December 22, 2016

Meeting Princess Tiana at Ariel's Grotto

Last year around this time, we were enjoying my oldest daughter’s first trip to Disneyland. She had turned 2 a few months before our trip – an age where some people might say it’s a waste of time to bring a toddler to Disneyland. But I love Disneyland and I had already learned from other amusement park trips that she absolutely loves dressed up characters, so I suspected she would have a great time…which she did. We then made several trips to Disneyland after that first vacation – up until right before she turned 3. I think the age 2-3 is perfect for kids to visit Disneyland, since their admission is free! I had a fabulous time on all those trips – and here is my list of things that helped make it an enjoyable time for all.

1) NO selfie sticks allowed! The parks will absolutely not allow them in, so don’t even try…

2) Check crowd calendars (many different websites have variations of these) to figure out the best time of year for you to go, considering the anticipated crowds. If you’re going at a busy time – be prepared for it to take a long time to get through the parks and be careful scheduling yourself for things that you might end up being late for because of time to get around the parks.

3) Disneyland app – the official Disneyland version is incredibly helpful. It provides info for both parks – Disneyland and California Adventure. Its many features include ride wait times AND the schedule and location of character appearances, as well as important ride information like height requirements. There are so many rides at both Disneyland and California Adventure that allows kids of all ages and heights, but a few do have height restrictions, so make sure to check before you stand in line.

4) Food/snacks – although the official park rules might not state this, you can usually bring in your own food and snacks. You can’t carry around a cooler, but bringing some of your own edible items into the park reduces some of the cost and time involved in purchasing all your food items from Disney.

5) Water – many restaurants will provide a free cup of ice and water if you ask for it- no additional purchase required.

Mr. Toad Photo Spot at Disneyland

6) Fast passes and single rider lines – definitely important to grab a fast pass for certain rides VERY early in the day; Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure is one example. Single rider lines are also a great option to reduce your line wait time, if you are OK with your party being broken up and not going on the ride together. There are limits on how many fast passes you can have; here is a good run down of the rules.

7) Rides with consistently short lines – certain rides like Winnie the Pooh and the Little Mermaid usually have very short wait times and are a great way to enjoy a ride without waiting too long.

8) Playgrounds – a great place for kids to run around and burn off some energy. There are fabulous play areas in Mickey’s Toon Town in Disneyland and at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in California Adventure.

9) Photo Pass- even if you don’t purchase a Photo Pass, the photographers are usually more than happy to take a photo of your family if you hand them your camera or phone.

10) Meeting Mickey and Minnie – my favorite places for this are in Mickey’s House and Minnie’s House in Toon Town. The line for meeting each of them goes winds through their respective “houses” which features some fun interactive features for young kids.

11) Character meals – one of the most efficient ways of meeting characters! The characters come around to each table while you enjoy your meal. Kids under 3 eat free! I like to do the character breakfasts, as a nice way to start the day and by doing it in the morning, we don’t have to scramble mid-day to get to lunch or dinner reservations.

Meeting Belle at Ariel's Grotto

12) Quiet spots – whether it’s the adults or the kids in your group who need to get away from the crowds, it’s good to have an idea of places to go where there aren’t so many people. My favorite quieter and less crowded spots tend to be Critter Country and the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland (although the previous great view onto the river is gone because of Star Wars construction.) However, at Christmas time, Santa Clause can often be found in Critter Country – so it’s possible it could be a bit more crowded in that area than usual. There are also some indoor venues that can offer a bit of respite from outdoor crowds. These include the Animation building in California Adventure (also the spot to go see Turtle Talk with Crush- a great attraction!), and Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland (where often you can meet characters like Chewbacca.)

13) Ride selections – keep in mind that some rides do have height requirements and other rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventures can be a bit scary for some younger kids.

14) Must eat food – turkey legs, Dole Whips, beignets….the list goes on and on.

15) Mickey’s Fun Wheel- this is the beautiful ferris wheel at California Adventure, and it’s a great ride – but most people will want to choose the regular/stationary line, not the “swinging” line when going on this attraction. The swinging gondolas can make many people VERY queasy. The regular line provides a wonderful trip around the ferris wheel with great views of the parks.

16) Tower of Terror – still open at California Adventure through the end of December – absolute MUST do (for people who enjoy thrill rides), since the ride is being closed in January and re-vamped to a Guardians of the Galaxy theme. Best time to go on this attraction is at night, in my opinion!

17) Meeting characters – there are so many to meet at each park; be selective about which ones you want to stand in line for. If you’re asking for an autograph, make sure to have your pen and paper out and ready for the character when you are in the front of the line.

Captain America

Those are just a few of my tips for enjoying a fabulous trip to Disney. Have a great time!