My favorite season in Disney is Flower and Garden Festival! The weather is near perfect, there’s flowers galore, and every weekend there are outdoor concerts by a variety of great bands.
This year, Flower and Garden begins March 2 and goes through May 30. And as if this annual event couldn’t get any better, a few years ago they added outdoor kitchens which is essentially an extension of Food And Wine Festival in spring!
Great food, music, 30 million flowers and 70 different topiaries! Does it get better than that?
A favorite of mine is the butterfly garden, where the butterflies roam free and often land on guests. It’s best to visit this area a few weeks into the festival so you can see the more than 10 species of butterflies. Another highlight is a small group of performers called the Jamitors. They play amazing music with pots, pans, trash can lids and 5 gallon buckets!
So if you have the opportunity to visit Epcot in spring, you just can’t miss the Flower and Garden Festival!
Change is necessary. But it’s not always good.
Disney recently announced it will replace some of Epcot’s entertainment in the World Showcase to make way for new shows and performances.
Off Kilter, the Celtic rock band that has entertained many guests in Epcot since it opened in 1982, is part of those performers being cut.
Off Kilter fans are mad, and have organized a campaign to “Save Off Kilter.”
And although I agree that some performers need replacing in Epcot, I don’t agree with replacing Off Kilter.
The band’s last performance is September 27th.
So for the last 2 weekends, we’ve made our way to Epcot to listen to some of Off Kilter’s last performances. And while they know these are their last shows, they give it their all – just like they always have.
The kilt- wearing bagpipe playing band always draws a crowd, and appeals to all ages. Located in the Canada Pavillion, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy a beverage while listening to a performance.
You can always count on hearing favorites like “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” and “Amazing Grace.”
One Off Kilter fan from Michigan told me she just doesn’t understand why Disney would replace Off Kilter with log rollers. She admitted she’d probably watch that once, adding that she watches Off Kilter perform on every trip to Disney.
So I hope that Disney hears the Off Kilter fans loud and clear and finds a way to keep this Epcot classic performing for many years.
It was the first thing on my agenda after becoming a Florida resident – getting our Disney annual pass.
And 8 days after arriving with everything unpacked, we headed to Guest Relations at Downtown Disney to do just that.
Disney offers a great opportunity for Florida residents to take advantage of purchasing their annual passes and having the cost split into monthly payments with no additional costs or interest! What a great way to make the annual pass a little easier on the wallet!
We were anxious to get to one of the parks and enjoy a few hours of evening park hours.
I was also curious about how different it would feel to be in Disney now that we live here and can visit the parks anytime.
I have to admit there was this sense of unhurried park enjoyment!
If we didn’t get to an attraction, no big deal…we’d be back soon.
Unlike vacationing here, we didn’t need to spend the entire day in the park. Instead, we can go for a morning or evening.
We can also see every season in the parks! Halloween items are starting to pop up in the gift shops but I imagine it won’t be long before the parks are completely decorated for fall and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which begins in September. Also beginning next month is my favorite – Epcot International Food And Wine Festival!
And with the Christmas season approaching and 2 of our 3 daughters visiting over Christmas, we will get the opportunity to accomplish another Disney goal I’ve had – spending Christmas Day in the the parks!
I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands these days but when I do get a little time, I begin to imagine what it will be like living 24 miles from Walt Disney World.
On our most recent trip to Florida to find a home, I saw a Disney Magical Express bus and realized, I won’t be riding that bus anymore! In case you don’t know, Magical Express is the Disney-provided transportation from the Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort. It didn’t really bother me that I won’t be on that bus anymore since our new home is so close. I’ve always had this like/dislike relationship with Magical Express anyway. I liked it when I arrived and it was whisking us off to start our vacation, but I really disliked the bus when it was picking us up to return to the airport and go home.
There are a few things I’ll miss about planning my Disney vacations.
I’ll miss choosing a resort to stay at and I’ll miss the midday breaks we would take at the resort to go back and swim. I’ll also miss the anticipation and countdowns we always did to our Disney vacations.
But instead, we’ll have countdowns to the visits from our children and grandchildren, friends and family! We’ll also get to experience every season in Disney! I won’t have to go years without seeing the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. And I don’t have to wonder every year if I’ll get to the International Food and Wine Festival. I can spend my birthday in Disney every year.
I also won’t have to worry about how I’m going to get something home that I want to purchase. I won’t have to miss our dog, Tinkerbell. And if we spend a long day at the parks, I can take her to Best Friends Pet Care Center for the day! It’s located right near the Port Orleans resorts and is open an hour before the parks open and it closes an hour after the parks close, so I can drop her off on our way to the parks and pick her up after we finish!
I could flip a coin to decide which park to go to that day. Or I could park hop and go to all of them in the same day. We could go to the parks just for dinner and fireworks! We can track points we accumulate at Buzz Light Year and Toy Story Mania and have monthly competitions!
And if I take another Disney Cruise, we’re just a short half hour drive to Port Canaveral!
So as the list of “benefits” keeps growing in my mind, I think about, and am grateful for the one thing I will not have to do ever again.
1. Make dining reservations! Yes, it’s vacation and you don’t want it to be scheduled but I’d you wait till you arrive you will have very little to choose from!
2. Pre-register through My Disney Experience. You can download the app for your smart phone or go to http://www.mydisneyexperience.com. Or both! From here you will order your Magic Bands and choose the color. If you don’t register, you’ll get a grey Magic Band when you check in to your Disney Resort.
3. Make some Fast Pass + reservations! You can reserve up to 3 a day. It’s a great way to get in the short line for popular attractions!
4. Do some walking to get your feet and legs ready for all the walking you will do. We don’t pay much attention to how much walking we do in Disney but it really adds up!
5. Wear supportive sneakers or sandals and alternate them throughout your trip to avoid blisters. If you get a blister anyway, the Band-Aid Blister strips work well.
6. Complete your Online Check In with your Disney resort. That way if it’s full at check in, you can go in the line for guests who have done the online check in and it’s a shorter line!
7. Pack light! If you’re flying, the baggage weight limit is 50 lbs. All of the Disney resorts have laundry facilities if you need to do a load of laundry while there. It’s much cheaper than the overweight baggage fee airlines charge.
8. Find out what attractions are closed due to refurbishment during your trip! There’s nothing worse than looking forward to your favorite ride only to find out when you get there that it’s closed for refurbishment!
9. Countdown to your vacation! There are many apps to countdown to your vacation but you can make your own too! We used a small dry erase board on the refrigerator and the first person up each day would change the number of days (and sometimes add some art work!)
10. Plan to take a break mid- day, especially in the summer. Go back to your resort and take a swim. You’ll feel much more refreshed afterward!
I think it’s easier on the legs if you’re taking a Disney vacation in the fall rather than the Spring!
Because I’ve spent the winter wrapped up in a warm blanket watching TV and making excuses not to go out into the cold for that 10 minute drive to the gym. And now it’s crunch time (not to be confused with crunches time because that’s a whole different blog post!)
So as most of you who have been to Disney know, there’s a lot of walking done in a Disney vacation.
Well, our daughters took pedometers during one trip and we averaged out the miles we walked that week and it ranged between 11-14 miles a day!
I’ve heard runners say they’re still not prepared for all the walking even with all the running they do!
But I do try to get some extra walking in ahead of time so I don’t have sore leg muscles in addition to my sore feet!
The feet are a whole different problem with a stress fracture twice before, forcing me to have to wear really supportive and very expensive shoes.
I don’t like sneakers when it’s hot so that means I need to find a good pair of sandals before I go. I naturally gravitate to something flip flop-ish but dear old foot doctor thinks I need heel support!
Crocs are out of the question because they “are like having your feet in marshmallows.” (More foot doctor advice!)
I’ve previously worn Clark’s, they worked well. But now I’m looking at Keen Sandals.
Arch support, keeping my feet cool and comfortable are most important. And they at least need a strap around my heel.
So if you have any recommendations please share them!
For most of my Disney trips the decision to fly or drive is an easy one….FLY!
But this year the airfare is so high (over $400 per person!) that we’ve decided to drive.
The last time we drove to Walt Disney World was 2004, right after hurricane Charlie hit Orlando. Our flight was cancelled out of Philly because the terminal in Orlando was damaged from the hurricane. And they told us we wouldn’t get on another flight for days. I looked at my husband and said, “do you know how to drive to Florida?” He said, “two roads, I-95 and I-4.”
Next thing we knew, we were in the car, driving to Walt Disney World.
We had nothing prepared for a driving trip but a stop at a Wal-Mart in Virginia fixed that.
Looking back on that trip, it was one of our most memorable ones!
This year is a little different. We are actually planning to drive so we will be more prepared with cooler, snacks, and even better technology than the last trip! Did you know there’s an I-95 Exit Guide app? It gives you details on what restaurants, hotels and gas stations are located at each exit!
Another benefit to driving is no limits on luggage! Not that I would take too much, it’s always what I want to bring back!
I’ve made advance hotel reservations for an overnight on the way down and the return trip, based on where we expect to be. And even that was easier to plan with maps that show construction locations and estimated arrival times.
While there’s not really a need for a car in Disney ( since they transport you everywhere) it will be nice to see more of Florida than the road from the airport to our Disney resort.
Driving does add 2 days to our trip but it will be our 10th anniversary celebration, so driving will make it more of an adventure!