Why EPCOT and Animal Kingdom Are Such Important Disney Theme Parks

When I think of Disney World, I admittedly picture Cinderella Castle, the iconic landmark at the heard of Magic Kingdom. Disney World, however, is so much more than the castle and fantasy that Magic Kingdom provides. EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are two of the most important Disney theme parks, arguably across the world. Why you ask? Let me explain.

If you have never visited Disney World, it’s important to explain what makes these two parks unique. EPCOT houses the World Showcase, a section of the park filled with 11 different Country “pavilions.” These countries include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK, and Canada. Each of these countries is modeled to resemble the country itself, houses unique dining and experiences in line with the country, and introduces cast members who are native to the countries to interact with the guests. Having 11 different countries to explore in a day is an important interaction that shouldn’t be dismissed. Allowing guests to fully immerse in the different cultures of these countries provide a well rounded, education experience that would lack in that area with another theme park.

Travel west of EPCOT and you will hit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the newest of the four Disney World theme parks. Similar to EPCOT’s World Showcase, Animal Kingdom is split up into individual lands to immerse the guests in a unique experience. Here, guests can visit the Africa area and the Asia area. Like EPCOT, these two sections of the park truly involve the guests in the culture of these continents and are home to cast members from these locations. The music, entertainment, food, and overall style of these two sections of the park truly make guests feel as if they are a part of the culture.

The importance of these two parks really can’t go unnoticed or underappreciated. While this experience is important for kids and adults alike, families are especially lucky for this experience within the parks. A family with kids is unlikely to have the financial ability to visit the various countries represented, and I imagine overseas trips with kids to a brand new country comes with a handful of difficulties. But in Disney World, any child can get the chance to experience new cultures and then meet Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse in the same day. Sprinkling in the chance to learn about other countries and experience them within Disney World is a great way to keep kids attention and promote learning in a fun, friendly, exciting environment.

I know that there is no comparison to traveling the world. The France Pavilion in EPCOT cannot compare to taking a trip to France and visiting the landmarks, speaking with the people, and learning about the history. But, for those of us who simply cannot afford to visit a different country each year, the importance of the Disney World parks including a world traveling type of experience is one that truly makes EPCOT and Animal Kingdom two of the most important and special Disney parks.

Disney World is Changing: What’s to come before 2021

If you’re an avid Disney World fan like me, then you know that there are quite a few changes coming to Disney World in the new few years. The big reason? Disney World’s 50th anniversary will take place in the year 2021, and they are gearing up for large crowds, passionate fans, and visitors from all over the world stepping foot on the property. Disney wants to make sure it is in the best position come 2021 to provide a special memory for us all.

Some of Disney World’s most monumental changes are actually coming sooner than some may think. This August, Disney World’s version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be opening up in Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. If you’ve seen the pictures from Disneyland, you know how huge this is going to be for the resort. It will draw massive crowds and further Disney’s already great relationship with Lucas Films. Galaxy’s Edge will be bring two new attractions to Hollywood Studios; Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run opening on the day the land opens and Rise of the Resistance opening in very early December. This brand new land will bring much needed attractions, food, and immersion into Hollywood Studios, a once easy to look past park.

Shortly after Galaxy’s Edge opens, Disney World will unveil a new form of transportation. As far as I know, there has not been a new way to travel between resorts/parks in quite some time, so this is a huge step in a forward direction for Disney World. The Disney World Skyliner will be available for use this September and will travel between Pop Century/Art of Animation Resorts, Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT. These advanced gondola-like vehicles will cruise over top the Disney World property to transport it’s guests between these 5 locations. Personally, I couldn’t be happier about this addition. A new way to get directly between two Disney theme parks and an additional form of transportation to my go-to Value Resort? Sign me up!

Other changes coming throughout 2020 and 2021 include new attractions, restaurants, and aesthetic changes. The process of upgrading the remainder of the rooms at Disney’s three All Star Resorts is currently underway. On my last post, I linked the updated All Star Movies rooms, so feel free to check that out if you’re interested! These aesthetic changes to Disney’s cheapest hotels will be huge for them to garner more interest in visitors having interest in staying at these hotels on property rather than a similarly priced (maybe formerly nicer) hotel off property.

Other aesthetic changes are coming to EPCOT as well. Those of you who have been visiting Disney World for a while know that those large, triangular looking stones have been the face of the entrance of EPCOT for as long as we can remember. Finally, Disney World is moving those out of the way to make for a new, more visually pleasing entrance into the park. Spaceship Earth is such a beautiful, well known monument for EPCOT, and it’s always been clouded by the, some would call tombstones, planted in front of it. With a new look to the entrance of the park, I believe guests will feel much more welcomed as they walk in.

Beyond aesthetics, Disney World is going to have plenty of new attractions to finish before the 2021 celebration. Starting at Magic Kingdom, if you’ve visited recently you may have noticed some major construction there behind Space Mountain. That’s because, coming to Disney World is the Tron roller coaster, an exact copy of the ride that is currently in Shanghai Disney. This coaster is going to be a MASSIVE draw for crowds and really helps Magic Kingdom bump up their capacity.

Moving on to EPCOT, the park that I would say is coming with the most changes the next few years, there will be two brand new attractions in store before the 2021 anniversary. The Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster is going in near where Ellen’s Energy Adventure once lived. If you’re a Marvel fan like me, you’re thrilled to see some Marvel characters finally able to seep their way into Disney World. If you don’t know the story behind why Marvel cannot be in Disney World, it’s a confusing one but I’m more than willing to explain to the best of my knowledge. Just let me know! Beyond that, the France Pavilion will be home to a Ratatouille ride that can currently be found in Disneyland Paris. World Showcase has been lacking in attractions since it’s opening, so it’s exciting to see new rides pop up!

Hollywood Studios may already have Galaxy’s Edge to lean on, but that’s not all that’s coming. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be taking to former home of The Great Movie Ride. Not much has been released as far as details go for this attraction, but we’re interested to see what it’s all about. The Great Movie Ride is already very missed by Disney World fans, so I’m sure the Imagineers are working hard to create the perfect attraction to take it’s place. This will also be Disney Worlds first ever attraction to be directly based on Mickey and Minnie. I know, I was shocked too when I first realized that we have no Mickey and Minnie based attractions throughout 4 theme parks, but it’s true!

All of these changes will, no doubt, bring larger crowds to Disney World in the next few years. But, if you are able to avoid those busy Summer and holiday months, I still believe you will be able to visit Disney World and not have to wait 60+ minutes for every single attraction on property. The benefit of all this? Changes and new attractions mean more things for visitors to do. Hollywood Studios, at one point, only housed 4 attractions; Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and Toy Story Mania. Even if the crowds were slightly lower, the attention was only dispersed through 4 attractions (and a handful of shows.) Once Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway opens, Hollywood Studios will be home to 9 attractions plus shows. That’s over double. So, unless the crowds double, you can expect that increasing attraction offerings will spread the crowd thinner.

Is there anything new that you’re looking forward to the most? Let me know in the comments!

Disney World Money Saving Tips

We all know that Disney World can cost you an arm and a leg as a vacation destination. So how do so many people afford to visit year after year? The more you research Disney World and learn about vacation planning at the Happiest Place on Earth, the more you come across tips and tricks to save money for your Disney vacation.

As a 25 year old, these money saving tips were a little bit more of a necessity than a preference for me. As much as I loved visiting the Wilderness Resort as a kid and staying in club level (one time) it’s just not something I can afford right now. But every single part of me wants to continue to visit Disney World at least annually, so finding ways to save was big for me to be able to continue to do that.

The first tip I have for any fellow Disney World vacationers on a budget is to not look past the Value Resorts. Gone are the days of the 90’s looking carpers and bedding, wallpaper lining the tops of the room, and lesser amenities. If you haven’t seen the newly remolded Pop Century or All Star Movies rooms, I encourage you to click these links and take a look. Pop Century, All Star Movies. These renovations, which will be spreading through the remaining All Star Resorts as well, really give an upgraded look for such lost cost hotels. For someone like me who can only visit Disney World once a year with my current budget, I spend the majority of my time out at the parks anyway. So having a super fancy resort is not at the top of my priority list. However, these renovations make staying at a Value Resort feel much more high-end than the cost shows.

Another save money is always to book my trip during the window of a room or package discount period. Now, I know that it’s important to book your vacations far in advance to ensure that you get the hotel you want on the days you want. However, I have found a lot more success in having 3-4 different weeks that work within my schedule and seeing what is available for me when those room discounts come up. For a Value Resort, you can save (usually) 10-15% off the room price during those discount periods. Typically, they will be available about 4 months in advance, so that’s still plenty of time to book your airfare (if needed), plan out your days and fastpasses, and prepare for you upcoming trip!

While this isn’t necessarily a money saving tip, I love to have gift cards on hand prior to my Disney World vacation. Each time that I have a little bit extra money to spare after a paycheck, I will go ahead and purchase a Disney gift card for that amount. By prepaying on Disney gift cards, I don’t have to worry about spending as much during the trip. This also helps keep me to a stricter budget as I will only allow myself to spend what we have in Disney gift cards on food and drinks.

Last, but certainly not least, if you are not an Annual Passholder, consider looking at dropping your Park Hopper tickets and doing 1-park per day tickets instead. This has been a really hard thing for me to let go of recently as I have always been a Park Hopper person. However, seeing the cost difference between Park Hopper and 1-park per day is enough to lead me to looking into the latter option for the future. It requires a bit more planning to ensure you hit all of the things you would like during your trip, but it’s better to only be able to attend 1-park per day than to not be able to afford your trip at all!

Disney World is getting pricier and pricier as the years go on. As that continues, it’s important that those of us who are constantly researching and learning more about Disney World and the costs associated with it share our tips with others! Do you have any money saving tips I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

Villains After Dark

If you haven’t year heard about the new Villains After Dark event being offered at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, I’m here to help fill you in, give my opinion, and let you know if I think it’ll be worth it.

Last week, Disney Parks Blog announced a brand new, After Hours type event that will be hosted at the Magic Kingdom this summer. Villains After Dark is a play on the current Disney After Hours events that are currently taking place at Magic Kingdom. After Hours, not to be confused with Extra Magic Hours, is a separately ticketed event that takes place on scheduled days. The event begins at 7:00 pm and extends until 3 hours past the closing time at Magic Kingdom. With limited numbers of tickets sold to these After Hours events, guests get the opportunity to have the park virtually empty. Most, if not all, of the major rides are open and wait times are significantly lower across the board.

My boyfriend, James, and I went to our first After Hours event in January at Magic Kingdom. The amount of rides we were able to hit between 7:00-11:00 was crazy. The only ride we really had a wait for was Seven Dwarfs, which is to be expected. However, even that was only about a 10 minute wait and we managed to get on it twice. If you want to hear my overall opinions on After Hours, check here for the blog I wrote breaking it down!

Villains After Dark sounds like it will be your standard After Hours event, just with a twist. There will be a special stage show hosted by my very favorite Disney villain, Hades. Our favorite Festival of Fantasy parade dweller will also be around. Maleficent the Dragon will be unleashed and roam around the park during the course of the event. You never know where you might spot her. This event will also offer it’s own unique merchandise, food, and beverage options. Disney Parks Blog also informed us that Space Mountain and Pirates will have some overlays that are “Disney villain” themed.

With all that being said, the price for Villains After Dark will be slightly higher than that of your standard After Hours event. After Hours at Magic Kingdom will cost you $125 per adult, while Villains After Dark will top that at $139 per. It’s now up to guests to decide if the unique qualities of this event are worth the additional $14 that it costs. For me, it’s basically a no brainer. Magic Kingdom will likely not be offering a separate After Hours event throughout the summer, so Villains After Dark will be the only opportunity for an After Hours event. Also, After Hours prices did go up after one year of events, so the price increase for these specially ticketed events kind of comes with the territory. There’s every chance in the world that once the fall/winter comes along, standard After Hours events at Magic Kingdom will run in that $139 range, so you may as well take advantage of the prices and get a unique experience with it!

The one thing I could see with this event is how the little ones may feel about it. I love the Disney villains, and I think a special stage show involving them is going to be awesome. However, your little ones may feel differently than I do. When I was little, I can’t say I would have loved the idea of watching the “bad guys” and seeing a spooky, fire-breathing dragon wandering around the park, sneaking up on me. With the darkness surrounding you in the late, nighttime hours, it could be a scene that is just too scary for some little kids to enjoy.

If you’re heading to Disney World this Summer on an adults only trip, or you know that your kids will enjoy the event, I think it’s definitely worth looking into if it can fit in your budget. Summer is a hard time to visit Disney World as the parks can get super crowded and that Florida heat/sun can be unbearable. If you can, check out this event to avoid some of those crowds and be able to enjoy Magic Kingdom in the coolness of the night.

Theme Park Backpack: What to Bring

I can’t go a day in a theme park without my trust backpack behind me. I’ve said this in previous blogs, but it really amazes me that my family used to travel to theme parks when I was a kid with just fanny packs. I think in our later years, my mom graduated to a drawstring bag, but still! How is it that at 24, I needed a full size backpack for just myself and my mom managed a family of 4 in a fanny pack? Maybe the times have changed. I honestly don’t know. But, what I do know, is what you have in your backpack or bag on your theme park days is really important. I’m not going to mention the obvious things here. Of course you need your wallet, your phone, your magic band, etc. This list is some of your not so obvious, must-haves.

  • Snacks: ALWAYS PACK SNACKS! You will be hungry. Probably more hungry than you are on an average day. Having snacks will prevent you from having to spend money every time you’re hungry. Now, you’ll spend money on just meals and snacks you really want to eat.
  • Sunscreen: Even in the more modest months, I would say sunscreen is a must-have. If you’re going in Florida Winter, bring a little travel size sunscreen. You definitely won’t need a full bottle, but there could always be a random day where it’s very hot and sunny. Be prepared!
  • Water Bottle: This one is a no brainer. There’s water fountains all over theme parks. Don’t be that person who spends $5 on bottled water every time you’re thirsty. Put a TON of ice in your water bottle before you leave your hotel, and continue to fill up on free water during the day.
  • Ponchos: I was totally, 100% the person saying “I won’t wear a poncho in Disney World.” Are they cute? Not really. But it’s so much more convenient than an umbrella. It’s more compact, it’s easier to walk around with, and it’s the one place in the world where you won’t be judged for wearing a poncho. Extra pro tip: buy cheap ponchos somewhere outside of Disney World. If you really want a poncho with something Disney on it, some of the stores (Target, Walmart, etc.) around Disney will have ponchos with Mickey or Minnie on them. They’re a little pricier than the standard ponchos, but they are A LOT cheaper than the ones in the parks. Or, splurge on the park ones if you want. To each their own!
  • My Must-Have Makeup: Read this blog for my must-haves and why I say so. Just out here plugging my other blogs 😉
  • Flip Flops: Again, this one is good year round just in case. We all love Splash Mountain. What do I not love about Splash? Just the thought of it getting my feet wet with gym shoes and socks on and being forced to walk like that all day. Blister city. Avoid all of that annoyance by packing a cheap pair of flip flops. Throw them on before you get in line, and you’ll be able to put on your dry shoes and socks after the ride is over.
  • Extra Socks: On that note, always pack extra socks. Even if you don’t do water rides, and you stay dry all day long. They say one of the best things for your feet is to just change your socks. Even though you didn’t do water rides, the gross truth is that your feet are still sweating and causing that moisture to be contained in your socks. Switch them out for a fresh pair once or twice. Yes, that may mean you pack 15 pairs of socks for 5 days, but it’s a lot better than having painful, blsitery feet. Take it from me.
  • Portable Charger: This is huge. Having a portable charger in the 21st century is a must. I brought 3 every day on my recent trip. Even though 90% of the time I didn’t have to use them, it was the comfort of knowing they were there if I needed them. I never had to worry about my phone dying. First World problems, I know. But that’s the reality a lot of us live in, so we may as well be prepared.
  • Plastic Baggies: This is my inner mom coming out at ya. I’m 24, but I am so Mom in Disney World it’s almost unbelievable. Plastic baggies are a must have for water rides, especially in the summer. For those of you who don’t know, they tend to turn off or lessen some of the water features on the water rides during the colder months. If you were guaranteed to get soaking wet even in the 50 degree weather, no one would want to go. Having plastic baggies for your electronics is crucial in ensuring they will also make it through the water rides. Again, there’s a chance you never even touch them, but they take up virtually no space so it doesn’t hurt to have.
  • Clothing Additions (depending on the season): This really depends on when you’re going, but I think any season could benefit. If you’re going in the dead middle of the summer when it’s the hottest, you may want to bring extra shirts. Long theme park days in the sun = sweaty. A fresh shirt could do you good. If you’re going in the winter or fall, it could be warm during the day but get cool at night. Pack a long sleeve t-shirt or a sweatshirt to save yourself from a pricey gift shop trip.
  • Deodorant: My only explanation will be a little math equation. Long days + sweating = smelly. Smelly + deodorant = not smelly anymore. You’re welcome. Math lesson, over.

I’m sure there are things on this list that I didn’t mention. Anything you think is crucial that I left off? Let me know!

Why Disney World After Hours May Be Perfect for You

Disney After Hours events are a relatively new thing that Disney World has started to do. I believe it was around the beginning of 2018 when Disney World started to offer a hard ticketed, limited attendance event to anyone who was willing to cough up the extra cash for it. What started at just Magic Kingdom has now spread to both Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios as well. After attending one of these events last month, I’m here to share my thoughts on After Hours.

After Hours, for me and my boyfriend, was a Christmas gift from my parents. With such a short trip to Disney World (5 days, 4 nights, and 3 park hopper tickets), I really wanted to make sure that we maximized our time there and got to experience everything that we wanted to. This was going to be our first trip to Disney World together and, as two avid Disney fans, we really wanted to make sure it was extra special. Not to mention, I just needed that perfect castle pic, too.

Our After Hours event took place on a Monday night. For us, we were able to get in the park as early as we wanted since we had our park hopper ticket already for that day. All we had to do was head to one of the in-park locations to get our wristbands for the night. Having that park hopper to get in early was a really good thing for us, and it really helped us get everything we wanted done that night. However, if you don’t have either a Magic Kingdom ticket or a park hopper ticket, you won’t be able to enter for your After Hours event until 7:00. If this were the case for us, I don’t know how I would have felt. We would have gotten from 7:00-11:00 only for the night. Keep an eye on this when you purchase your After Hours tickets. If you go at a time that is typically warmer, the parks tend to be open later. You will always be able to get in at 7:00 (as of now) for the event, but how late your event goes really depends on the time of the year. I have seen some events that are as late as 1:00 AM. 7:00-1:00 AM is a good 6 hours of park time. It may be worth it for you to avoid a normal, daytime ticket altogether and just opt for the After Hours ticket that day instead.

Crowd level for this event was awesome. Even though many people who had attended After Hours events in the past said it was busier than usual, I still thought that being able to walk on virtually every ride (and wait maybe 5-10 minutes for Mine Train) was a huge plus side for this event. It’s not often that you can walk right onto Big Thunder Mountain or Space Mountain without a Fastpass. I really do think that we probably got more done as far as attractions go at this After Hours event than we did the full day that we had at Magic Kingdom later in the trip.

After Hours is a really good idea for people like us. What I can’t imagine is spending that kind of money on the event when you go with a larger group or as a family. It’s significantly harder to coordinate where to go next when there are a lot of different personalities that you have to cater to. When it’s just one or two of you, like us, it doesn’t take a lot of decision making time when choosing where to go next. It’s also a really late night event. Like I said, ours only went until 11:00 at night, and even I was ready for bed after that. I can’t imagine a kid being able to make it until 11:00, 12:00 or 1:00 am for that event. And, honestly, if you don’t plan to make use of all the time you have there, I really don’t know if spending the money is worth it.

All in all, I REALLY loved the Disney After Hours event and I’m looking forward to doing it again. When you are taking a short trip to Disney World, I think you really get good bang for you buck when it comes to the event itself. Especially when you throw complimentary ice cream novelties, popcorn, and coke products into the mix. To be honest, free stuff always makes everything better! I wanted to share my thoughts on these events because I know that, when planning a Disney vacation, people really want to know what others think. But YOU know the best how this event will work for you.

Have you been to an After Hours event? Tell me about it! Did you think it was worth the money? What would you change?

Fashion Dos and Don’ts in Disney World

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Disney fashion has become a pretty hot topic since the expansion of social media. Everyone wants to share their own advice on what to wear and how to wear it for your Disney World vacation. Lucky for you, my dos and don’ts list is pretty short. Actually, it’s only a do’s list, and there’s only one do on there.

Do: Wear whatever it is that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Do you feel confident if you Disney Bound as your favorite character? Rock it! Do you feel comfortable wearing shorts and a t-shirt with your favorite gym shoes? Awesome! Do you feel the most picturesque wearing a dress? Go for it! There is nothing (aside from the rules that Disney has set up) that you can’t wear.

It’s really easy to get caught up in what the trends are. I’m a victim of this, too. I this Disney Bounding is so cool. I love the way that all of the dedicated Disney fans can turn street wear into a look that mimics that of their favorite characters. But, for me, I don’t feel confident in that. Should I feel bad or like I’m not a big enough Disney fan because I don’t Disney Bound? No. But, it’s easy to feel that way. I also love the looks that I see on Pinterest and Instagram posts. The outfits that people put together are always so cute and trendy. But, I know myself and I know my body. Those looks aren’t going to be the same on me as they are on others.

So, pack up your favorite outfits. What is it that you tend to lean toward when you’re getting dressed each day? What are the looks that you have felt the most comfortable and confident in? That’s what you should bring with you to Disney World. If you want to take a risk and try something new, go for it! There’s nothing holding you back. Just don’t pack up your suitcase in hopes that you will live up to the expectations of social media Disney fashion. Disney World is about being able to get away from the real world, be a kid again, and have fun. No one needs the added pressure of lacking confidence or comfort. Be YOU, always.

I lied. This blog does actually have one don’t. Don’t try to be anyone but yourself with your Disney fashion. Express who you are, embrace what makes you confident, and don’t ever try to be something you’re not.