My whole life, I dreamed of going to Disney World.
When you grow up never taking big family vacations and spend your young adult life being totally broke, something like Disney World can feel basically as far and unattainable as the moon. I finally came up with a plan that when I met the man who wanted to marry me, I’d tell him that I wouldn’t marry him until he took me to Disney World.
Would you believe that it actually worked?
At the age of 24, I finally went to Disney World with who was then my boyfriend (and now my husband of nearly 12 years). It was every bit as magical as I dreamed it would be, and I have to say that I’m thrilled that I got to experience it for the first time with the love of my life and no kids.
It’s kind of hard to believe that years later, I’ve had so many opportunities to return to Disney World, some of those times with my kiddos and sometimes for work with some of my dearest friends. There’s never a time that I see that castle and don’t take a minute to think about how unattainable it used to feel and how funny life is.
If you would have told my 20 year old self (or 10 year old self, for that matter) that one day Disney World would actually be HOSTING me at one of their resorts, I would not have believed it for a second. As silly as this might sound, Disney World will always remind me to keep hope in my heart.
Last month Disney World hosted me and seven of my friends at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Not gonna lie — when I found out where we’d be staying, I literally SHRIEKED. I’m never one to get super crazy about trips, but the Animal Kingdom Lodge was a major dream of mine. There are animals grazing outside your balcony! Zebras and giraffes and all kinds of cool animals I’ve never heard of. Can you imagine waking up, pulling the curtains, and seeing a giraffe?
IT HAPPENS THERE LIKE FOR REAL.
I was also pretty excited due to it’s proximity to Animal Kingdom…home of Pandora and the new Avatar rides.
I mean, Avatar was a good movie. Not my favorite, but whatever. It was fine. But for some reason, the thought of a real Pandora at Disney?! Whole different ballgame. All of a sudden I was like “I LOVE AVATAR MORE THAN ANYTHING. I AM SUCH A FAN OF THE BLUE PEOPLE.”
I don’t even know, you guys. Disney kind of turns us all into fools and I am definitely here for every bit of it.
A few things about what we ate:
Of course, our trip revolved around FOOD. Disney World has SO much of it, and I was lucky enough to be with girls who are willing to indulge each others desires to seek out every fun treat in the park. We also got to havebreakfast at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, which was one of my favorites of the trip. The breakfast buffet was SO good and the characters roamed the dining room for hugs and photos.
I had to stop and thank Mickey for his hard work in the Clubhouse. He’s one of my favorite babysitters! Thank goodness for that Mousekatoole, am I right?
Bonus — the Tusker House is pretty close to Pandora. Plan to grab an early breakfast, then go get in line for Flight of Passage before it gets too long.
(Flight of Passage is worth the wait. I feel confident in saying that it’s unlike anything you’ve ever ridden. MAGIC)
Did you know that you can get vanilla/Dole whip SWIRL? We tried it as a float and I LOVED it. The vanilla melted into the pineapple juice and tasted SO good, I probably could have had two. Definitely one of my favorites!
Pandora also had some really fun and colorful drinks and desserts. This frozen drink was super sweet, but so colorful and fun. I loved the boba on top! I definitely recommend sharing this one — the slushiness is perfect for a hot day, but it was too sweet to drink the whole thing. Definitely worth a try, though!
Holidays at Disney World:
Silly me didn’t even realize until a few years ago that the holidays at Disney are A WHOLE BIG THING. Last year we got to experience Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but this years trip was all about Fall and Winter holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas! I was surprisingly fascinated hearing about how quickly (and under the radar) Halloween decorations are swapped out for wreaths and Christmas trees. Holy cow — they take it SERIOUS! It takes a whole team and year-round planning to pull of decorations and themed trees for not only EVERY Disney World park, but also Disney Springs and every. single. resort.
The scale of that just blows my mind. Especially considering what an ordeal it is to find my ornaments and Christmas decorations for my little house every year.
We actually got to visit the warehouse where the trees are decorated and stored, and I TOTALLY geeked out. I don’t even know what came over me except for the fact that it was so overwhelming. The organization and planning that makes it all come together so seamlessly just absolutely blew my mind. I must have asked a zillion questions about the process and how they keep track of everything…and how they make and design their ornaments!
And now I’ve added “Christmas at Disney World” to my bucket list. I have to make it happen one day!
Of course, holiday treats are a huge part of celebrating at Disney World. We got to take a peek at some of the treats they’ll be offering this year. The homemade gingerbread s’mores were probably my favorite — the fresh marshmallows get this amazing caramelized exterior when toasted, and the soft gingerbread graham crackers were just perfect. The peppermint macarons with chocolate ganache were a close second.
Funny story about macarons — Lucy recently informed me (with an air of depravity) that she’d never tried macarons or a sushi roll. I knew my Disney World trip was coming up, and they have some of my favorite macarons! I picked up a box while I was there and brought them home to her — she was in HEAVEN. She absolutely loved them. You really can’t ever go wrong bringing home sweet treats as a souvenir.
Of course, nights always bring their own brand of Disney magic. We were invited to the Happily Ever After Fireworks dessert party, which features an impressive dessert buffet, followed by VIP seating for the fireworks. The show was absolutely incredible — I’ve seen several different Magic Kingdom fireworks shows, but this was probably my favorite. The projections on the castle were just STUNNING.
The group and I just missed a guy proposing to his girlfriend at the finale of the fireworks. But afterwards, we watched her gazing at her hand in disbelief. She kept crying and hugging him before breaking away to look at her ring in shock. If you know this woman, please tell her I’m sorry for staring at them and crying. I’m totally weird and I really don’t know why.
Of course, we all made time to visit the Epcot Food and Wine Festival! It can get hot during the day, so I definitely recommend a leisurely stroll through the park around late afternoon/early evening. Epcot is so beautiful as the sun goes down!
There was tons of great food to be had and I love that the booths sell small portions, making it easy to try a lot of different things. Visiting Disney World with friends has given me a whole new appreciation for Epcot — I really think it’s my favorite of all four parks.
Thanks so much to Jenny for all the planning that went into the trip. She’s one of my all-time favorite traveling companions, oldest blogging friends, head Disney guru, and just a really great person. Everyone needs a Jenny in their crew! (as an aside, I’m often asked by non-bloggers if Jenny is the same in real life as she is online. The answer is a resounding YES. And I’m so glad)
Thanks to Shelly (my forever bestie), Kristen, Amanda, Deborah, Julie, and Stephanie. I’m pretty sure we almost burn every calorie off with just how much we laugh. I always leave you girls refreshed and ready to tackle the world.
And of course, a huge thank you to Disney for hosting us and giving us a peek behind the scenes of how the holiday magic happens. You will forever represent the fulfillment of dreams and how important it is to never stop wishing.
Readers — feel free to comment or email me with any questions you have about food, lodging, or rides at Disney! There’s SO much to cover, it’s hard to put it all in one post. But I’m always here to help if you’re planning a trip!!
Have a magical day and thanks so much for reading! xo