My daughter and I recently took a trip to Disney World to celebrate her graduation from college. She graduated back in December of last year and is now a full fledged teacher!! We had a great time and tried a bunch of new things!
If you know me, you know I am a HUGE Disney fan!! Our whole family is, really (except, sadly, my husband). He isn't into the whole theme park thing, fighting crowds, scheduling everything you do, etc, etc. My mom and dad have taken our entire family since my kids were very little (they're now 23 and 20). We go every three years and LIVE.IT.UP!! We usually stay at the Polynesian.
The food is one of our most favorite things about Disney. When I had to switch to eating gluten free, that became even MORE important to me. You see, food allergies are treated like they should be at Disney--very importantly and with dedication. Disney doesn't want anyone to become sick while they're supposed to be enjoying themselves at the Happiest Place on Earth!
I remember the first time I went back to Disney after my diagnosis. That was back when I was still devastated about my diagnosis. I thought I wouldn't be able to eat all those foods I loved. When the chef came out to talk to me, I actually cried while sitting at 'Ohana for breakfast! They brought me a plate full of my very own Mickey waffles, eggs, sausage, and bacon. I had the most wonderful gluten free breakfast and I've been enjoying those times at Disney ever since!!
Where We Stayed This Time
This trip my daughter and I stayed at the Boardwalk for the first time. We wanted to experience something a little different than our usual. While the Boardwalk is a BEAUTIFUL resort, I didn't find it as enjoyable as I thought I would. Yes, everyone was super nice and the rooms were gorgeous, but it just didn't live up to the hype. I feel that if I'm going to stay at a deluxe Disney resort, I'd rather just stay at the Poly. This is my own opinion of course. Others might find the Boardwalk to be their favorite resort.
There's a heat wave going on in the Eastern part of the US right now. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and we spent most of our days in Epcot, which hardly has any shade. Not to mention I'm just generally out of shape. Haha!!
Walking from the Boardwalk to Epcot in the blistering sun is just flat out hot and intolerable. Idk why they say Epcot is just a short 5 minute walk from the Boardwalk because it's a LIE, haha!! What they really mean is it's an unpleasant walk in the extreme sun to the security checkpoint. If we wanted to actually go anywhere inside Epcot, it'd be another ½ hour to 45 minute walk! Our first night we had reservations at Coral Reef and it took us half an hour to get there! You have to allow for weaving in and out of people.
My mom and I looked back at all the times we've been to Disney over the years. It's always been end of September/beginning of October, end of October, December, and March. Those are our favorite times to go. I'll get a do over when the whole family goes at the end of February/early March in 2020!!
Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
These were just a few of the yummy treats we sampled from the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival: poached salmon, roasted beets with cashew cheese, chocolate macaron, and violet lemonade. I failed to get a picture of the best dish that I had there--the chilled cucumber soup! I loved it so much, I'm already researching how to make it at home. Haha!! And the best beverage I got at Flower and Garden was that violet lemonade pictured above. It's a purple concoction consisting of violet flavored frozen lemonade and it is DIVINE!! On a hot day, it's just what's needed.
There were so many amazing-looking gluten free options at the festival, but I didn't try any others. We would have been standing in the sun too long. We wanted to sample some of the alcoholic beverages, but the sun and heat didn't permit us this time.
Disney After Hours Parties
Other than the food, there were some phenomenal highlights of our Disney trip. First and foremost, we decided to do TWO After Hours Events. These are fairly new everywhere except Magic Kingdom. I'm pretty sure MK has been doing the After Hours Parties for at least 3-4 years. Disney sells a limited number of tickets to these events. In just 3 short hours, we were able to ride more rides than we'd ever imagine riding in a WHOLE DAY!! Sometimes several times of EACH ride!!! If that isn't enough, frozen treats, bottled waters or sodas, and popcorn are all INCLUDED in the price of the ticket.
Our first night, we went to Magic Kingdom and rode Mine Train at least 2-3 times (I can't remember exactly). This is UNHEARD of!! We also rode Thunder Mountain 2-3 times, Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, and Haunted Mansion a couple of times as well. The pic above is the empty queue of Haunted Mansion, which is NEVER like this! I remember being in the stretching room with only about 5 people!! There are usually bumper to bumper people in there, haha!! During the day, you're lucky if you get ONE Fastpass to some of these rides. I consider it a total win and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the parks.
The second night we went to Hollywood Studios. We hadn't yet been to the new Toy Story Land. It was a real treat to be able to ride (and love!) Slinky Dog Dash a total of FOUR times that night! We also rode Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, and Star Tours four times. We're not Tower of Terror fans and didn't make it to Rock and Rollercoaster. We were very pleased with the fact that we got to ride what we did in the short 3-hour interval, especially Slinky because it was SO MUCH FUN!!!! In the dark, it's so cool to see all the lights 😄
Woody's Lunchbox was open (most restaurants and stores aren't open during After Hours Parties). We ordered totchos and they were awesome. They hit the spot for a late night snack!! (Note that anything from Woody's Lunchbox isn't part of the treats included in the cost of the party ticket).
The Most Amazing Cast Member Ever!!
The best thing that happened to us wasn't a ride or food we ate. It's kind of a long story, but I feel this story really deserves the words. It was the sheer kindness of one of the cast members that blew us away. My daughter was a cast member once with Disney's College Program. So we know how hard the cast members work and try to make everyone's day magical.
We were on the safari (our favorite attraction at Animal Kingdom) and I was expecting a call from my son at boot camp that weekend. I didn't know when it would come. As soon as we left the deck where we boarded the vehicle, the phone rang and it was him! I was so distraught! I really wanted to talk to him, but we couldn't just jump out of the moving vehicle. My daughter took the phone and talked to him because she was on the outside. I told the couple sitting next to me sorry, that we don't normally talk on the phone during rides. I said my son was calling from boot camp and he only gets one phone call every several weeks. The guy said he understood because he was previously in the military.
Our Safari Story (continued)
We pretty much missed the whole ride, Bre for talking to Brandon and me for listening to her talk to Brandon. At the end of the ride, the cast member asked if I could stay back. I thought for sure she was gonna chastise me for the phone call. She said "Ma'am, I heard you say your son was calling from boot camp. I come from a military family and understand how hard it is to talk to family members who are in the military. I'd like to offer you both another ride, if I can get it approved by my coordinator."
Jessica (the cast member) called her coordinator and he okayed it. So we hopped back on the vehicle. She told the other cast member there not to seat anyone else in our row. I was sad because I didn't get to talk to my son, but overjoyed because this act of kindness was so nice. I started to cry.
Come to find out Jessica was a fellow Disney College Program girl, too. It was her second week of being there and she just loved it! At the end of the ride, we shook her hand and said thank you several times. Then Bre starting crying! We were just a couple of emotional wrecks at that moment, haha!
We tried to speak to her coordinator when we got off the ride, but no one could find him. They suggested we go on Twitter and hashtag Jessica and she would get recognition for going above and beyond. She was such a thoughtful, kind person. THIS is one of those many, many reasons we LOVE Disney so much 💖💖💖.
We were only at Disney for four days this time around. Though we normally get the Deluxe Dining Plan, we got the Basic Dining Plan for just the two of us. This consists of one quick service, two snacks, and one table service meal per night. So technically, we were able to get three days' worth of meals on the plan. Our first day there we ate some "snacks" at the Flower and Garden Festival for a late lunch.
The Coral Reef
We had dinner reservations at the Coral Reef in Epcot. I hadn't been there in a long time. I ordered the lobster bisque and took about 2-3 bites of it. It was delicious, but again I wasn't feeling well at the time so didn't eat any more of it. I also ordered the seared sustainable salmon, which was okay and I only took about two bites of. I would have preferred to have two appetizers instead of an entree. Our waitress said I couldn't do that (I find that hard to believe). Bre ordered the tempura cauliflower and said it was phenomenal!!
If you know me, I rarely let a good dessert go by. But I couldn't even sit there and went into the waiting area because I was so sick feeling. I missed the Chocolate Wave 🙁
We went to Disney Springs one day and ate at Blaze Pizza. I ordered a make your own gluten free pizza with garlic sauce, ricotta cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts. The girl changed her gloves and got the toppings from different bins underneath the main serving area. The pizza was really very good 🙂
While we were at Animal Kingdom, we ate dinner at Satu'li Canteen. Satu'li has these wonderful bowls that are also make your own. I chose a base of rice and black beans, wood-grilled chicken, and creamy herb dressing as the sauce. The bowl was very good (the chicken was so tasty), but I only ate about 5-6 bites. Again, I wasn't feeling it because of the heat (such a bummer!).
Our final morning, we ate at the Wave at the Contemporary, which is Bre's favorite breakfast location at Disney. I let her pick all our dining locations since the whole trip was to celebrate her graduation, not mine. LOL! I ordered the gluten free Mickey waffles and a side of Tillamook cheddar cheese grits. The grits are the BEST grits I've ever had in my life!!! I enjoyed them just as much this visit as I have in the past.
The gluten free Mickey waffles, however, were the WORST I've ever had on Disney property! They were so gummy in the middle, it was like I was eating a cross between Jell-O and bread pudding. Yeah, that nasty!! I ate the ears off of them (they were crunchy) and couldn't eat anymore. I was highly disappointed because one of my most favorite things ever is Mickey waffles 🙁
During this trip, we also had an AMAZING lunch at Sanaa!! I did a separate review of that, which you will find here. It is now one of my favorite meals on Disney property and I can't wait to go again!!!
All in all, our trip to Disney World was magical, as usual. If I were to recommend one thing it would be to NOT go when it's hot. Other than the heat, we had a wonderful time!! Those after hours parties are a must do for us now!! If you're looking to book a trip, my sister is a Disney travel agent. For no additional cost to you, she'll help plan your trip and make it the most magical time of your life 🙂