Christmas 2018 Travel Diary: Resort Hopping & Disney Springs

Hello friends! Merry belated Christmas.

If you haven’t been following along with my Instagram stories (shameless plug rn, follow me at @bookishbrunettegal) then you may not know that I’m currently away in Orlando on my annual Christmas family vacation! Our Christmas vacation is one of my favourite trips of the year. It’s full of festivities, and magic, and beautiful lights! So, I thought I’d bring you all along with me on my trip with some travel diaries! Starting off with our very first day on the trip, December 26.

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Our vacation was set in motion by one of my favourite new traditions, the Boxing Day brunch. For the past two years, we’ve had brunch on our first day at the Grand Floridian Cafe, which you probably know is my favourite brunch on Disney World property. This year, we got to sit out on the patio which probably because of how massively packed the restaurant was. Our reservation was at noon but still there were plenty of people waiting to be seated. Having our meal outside was sooo nice. The weather was absolutely lovely and we had such an amazing time. As usual, I ordered the traditional eggs benedict with a cup of coffee and it was delicious!!

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After brunch, we embarked on another one of our beloved Christmas traditions: the monorail resort hop. On Boxing Day, we love to go around to all the monorail resorts and check out their Christmas decorations, starting at the Grand Floridian. I already adore the Grand Floridian. But I love it even more at Christmas time. The decorations are so beautiful and delicate. They have a number of Christmas trees, including their massive showstopper on the main floor of the lobby, and of course, their famous Gingerbread House. This year, I actually remembered to buy a gingerbread shingle which you can actually buy at the counter inside the Gingerbread House. Unfortunately though, the line at the Grand Floridian was huge so I got my shingle at the Contemporary Resort later on in the hop - which is a good tip for anyone who doesn’t want to wait in a massive queue!

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Our next stop on the monorail journey was the Contemporary Resort. The Contemporary, unfortunately, isn’t a huge stop for decorations because of the monorail track through the middle of the resort. There is a huge tree outside of the resort by the road, but you basically have to stand in traffic to see it. So that’s not really an option. They do, however, have a really cute gingerbread set-up based on the Cinderella characters in the lobby. This is where you can buy a bunch of festive treats, like the gingerbread shingle!! Definitely a good alternative to the Grand Floridian shop in my opinion. You can also go through the number of gift shops at the Contemporary while you’re there which is always a fun time!

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Lastly on our resort hop was the Polynesian Resort! I loooove the Polynesian. It’s so pretty and tropical, and like the Grand Floridian, has a ton of trees of different sizes throughout the lobby. Idk I just think the Polynesian looks extremely cute dressed up in her Christmas decor!! My mum also loves visiting the Polynesian because it means rooting about the gift shops for Lilo merchandise. Why is it that there’s always Stitch merch but never Lilo?! So disrespectful. A neat fact about the Polynesian is that it is one of the places on WDW property that sells Dole Whip!! If you’ve ever waited in line for Dole Whip in Magic Kingdom, you know how long it can take as so many people are always queued up at Aloha Isle. But at the Polynesian, there’s usually a minimal line! Just pop on over to the Pineapple Lanai. Enjoy your treat!!

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After we finished our grand tour of the monorail resorts, we headed on over to Disney Springs for a little bit of shopping. As I hadn’t been to the parks since October, I missed the opening of the new reimagined World of Disney shop so I was extremely excited to check that out! What did you guys think of the new World of Disney? Personally, I miss the old character-heavy design, but I think that the renovation has made it a lot more roomy and open, which makes it a lot more manageable during the heavy season (like Christmas time!). Luckily, I found the Christmas spirit jersey there which I was sooo happy about because I hadn’t seen it anywhere on our resort hop. We popped into a few other shops, namely Zara and my absolute fav, Uniqlo where I bought the most beautiful, cozy sweater EVER!!

Afterwards, we went home and ordered some pizza. It had been a long day, especially after a pretty gruesome travel on Christmas Day. So, that’s all for our first day! I’ll pop back in soon to share our other adventures in another travel diary post!

What did you guys get up to on Boxing Day?

Felicia x

5 Tips For Staying at a Disney Resort

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Staying at a Disney resort is an incredible experience. Everything from the resort grounds to the restaurants to the hotel rooms, there is magic sprinkled everywhere. But with so much ground to cover, staying there for the first time can be a bit daunting. So today I thought I'd give a few tips I've learned from staying on-property over the years! 

Use Disney Transport

One of the best parts of staying on-property at Walt Disney World is that you have access to the Disney Transport. There are a ton of different ways you can get around the parks - buses, ferries, monorails, and even Minnie Vans. Using the buses to get from resort-to-park, or vice versa, is so so simple. We drove to the resort with our own car but decided against driving around and instead using the transport provided and it was so worth it. The buses are quite efficient as they know the quickest routes around property. An added bonus is that you get to bypass the Transportation and Ticket Centre which, if you've ever driven to Magic Kingdom, you'll know is a nightmare. 

Download the My Disney Experience App

You may already have the My Disney Experience app if you've been to the parks before, but if you haven't been in awhile (or ever), then here's the gist. The app lets you do basically anything you'd ever want - look at maps, check wait times, book FastPasses, make dinner reservations. It's extremely useful and the fact that you can pull it up whenever you want on your phone with the in-park WiFi is incredible. Sometimes I can't even remember the days of going to grab paper FastPasses from the ride queues - remember when only a few rides had FastPasses?! Crazy stuff.

Purchase a Refillable Mug

This might actually be crucial, especially if you're planning on spending a good amount of time on-property. The refillable mug costs $18.99 for the initial purchase and then you can use it however many times your little heart desires without extra cost. If you're on the Dining Plan, you can even get the mug included in your plan! It's perfect for grabbing a cup of coffee at breakfast, or a few drinks if you're going poolside. I filled mine up dozens of times during our six-day stay and it was well worth the cost. Definitely saves you from waiting in lines for drinks all day long!

Take Advantage of AP, Tables in Wonderland, or Disney Dining Plan

Staying in the parks, it's easy to rack up a pretty hefty bill from all the food and merchandise buying - especially if you're just charging everything to your room through your MagicBand. Using methods to get discounts makes a big difference! I bring my Annual Pass with me everywhere, just in case I want to buy something and get that 10-20% discount. If you have a Tables in Wonderland card or a Disney Dining Plan, those will also really help you with saving a buck or two throughout your trip, so you should look into those!

Bring Bug Spray

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Take it from someone who didn't bring bug spray - you need it!! Especially in heavily vegetated areas (which is 99% of Disney, let's be honest). In just one night of walking around Port Orleans, by the river, I got at least six mosquito bites. UGH. Make sure to pack some bug spray in your luggage and also, some After Bite juuuust in case. Better safe than sorry, am I right? 

What are your top Disney resort tips?

Felicia x

Walt Disney World Haul 2018

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As you probably know if you've been following my Instagram or read my latest blog post, I recently spent time in Walt Disney World, celebrating my 20th birthday (which you can read about here). While I was there, I got completely pulled into the merchandise trap which is pretty much the least surprising thing ever haha. So I thought I'd share with you guys some of the things I picked up! 

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Pumpkin Antenna Topper - When I first arrived in Disney, they had just put out all the Halloween decorations and merchandise around the parks. On our first day there, we went to Disney Springs and I found myself in Halloween HEAVEN. The first thing I picked up was this adorable pumpkin Mickey antenna topper. Currently, I have a regular Minnie Mouse topper but I thought this would be a cute change for the fall season. On the back of this topper, it says 'Hey, Pumpkin' which is just the cutest thing ever!! I literally can't wait to pop this on my car. 

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Mickey Ghost Mug - The other Halloween thing I bought while I was at the parks was this incredible Mickey mug. How cute is this?! It's a ghost Mickey and on the back it says 'Boo To You'. I already have wayyyyy too many mugs but honestly, this was a necessary addition to my collection. I love all things Halloween themed and they had an amazing variety this year. It's getting me so excited for the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in October! 

Journal - I hemmed and hawed a lot before deciding to buy this journal, but it was one of the best purchases I made. This beautiful hardcover journal is covered in retro-looking Walt Disney World logos and designs and has Mickey silhouettes on the pages. I picked this up after deciding that I wanted to keep a journal of all my Disney stays as a memory book. This was the perfect pick, in my opinion, and I can't wait to get writing!

Starbucks 'You Are Here' Hollywood Studios Mug - I'm sure you guys have seen the You Are Here mugs at Starbucks before, they're pretty popular and usually have a city/state/province on them with a cute lil design. Starbucks has a Disney World collection, as well as a Disneyland collection. I already have the Epcot and Magic Kingdom mugs, so I picked up the Hollywood Studios one this trip - and now I've only got the Animal Kingdom one left, and then I've got the entire set! 

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Rose Gold Phone Case - I fell in love with this the moment I saw it. Rose gold is my favourite and this is no exception. This bad boy has a little clasp on it and opens up to be a wallet with a few card slots as well as a window one, which makes it perfect for holding my Disney Annual Pass and my i.d. for getting discounts in the park. And, of course, it holds my phone. Hooray for multi-purposeful pretty merch!! 

New Fantasyland Mystery Pin Pack - On my birthday, I decided to treat myself to this adorable mystery pack. It comes with two Beauty and the Beast themed mystery pins, which are themed to the Beauty and the Beast area of the New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. I got the pin of Belle walking away from her house while reading (which I unfortunately already own) and the three Bimbettes sitting in Gaston's Tavern. They're super cute!! Can't wait to add them to my collection. 

2018 and Epcot pins - Following the pin trend, I bought two more! Shocker, lol. I bought a Walt Disney World 2018 pin with Minnie Mouse on it, as I used to collect yearly pins when I visited as a child but I stopped for a few years which I massively regret. So I'm back to collecting annual Disney pins! I also picked up this super cute Epcot pin, which features icons of the major rides (Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Test Track, etc.) and has a super cute Mickey on it! I saw it once about a week ago and then it was sold out nearly everywhere I looked until I finally found this one - and it was the last one there! Phew haha

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Disney H20 Sea Salt Body Lotion - Because Disney H20 products are the cutest ever and remind me of the resorts, I took a few of the complimentary hand lotions home *shrugs*. I'm gonna have to pop one of these into my school bag so I can apply this in class and miss Disney and cry all semester lol

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Haunted Mansion & Halloween MagicBands - Last, but certainly not least, I picked up these two lovely MagicBands! The Haunted Mansion one has a Ghost Host uniform on one side and Ghost Hostess uniform on the other! The Halloween one is decorated in a few of the characters dressed for Halloween, some ghosts and candy, and an orange castle! 

I've only been back for a little while and I'm already ready to go back! Post-Disney depression is real :( 

Felicia x

Travel Diary: Disney World August 2018

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Hello, everyone! Been awhile, huh? Sorry to have disappeared. If you've been following my Instagram stories, you probably saw that I mentioned I'd be taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog as I was on a week-long staycation at Walt Disney World. Crazy stuff, right!!

When I used to visit Walt Disney World as a kid, my family would always stay on-property. But when we bought our vacation home back in 2012, we didn't really have the need for staying in a resort anymore - that's what our vacation home was for, after all! But last year, all of that changed when my parents surprised me with a 2-night stay at Port Orleans French Quarter with my boyfriend as an early birthday gift. Needless to say, I caught the bug and we found ourselves back on-property this year! Today I thought I'd give you guys a bit of a run-down on what we got up to on our Disney trip this year...

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port orleans french quarter

port orleans french quarter

port orleans french quarter

THE RESORT

We stayed, once again, at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort. I've stayed at the French Quarter four times now and will keep coming back without a doubt. I absolutely love it. It's my favourite moderate-level resort by far. I love how small it is, how no matter where your room is located the lobby & restaurant are only a few steps away. The style of the resort is also amazing - the historic French Quarter style with cobblestone walkways, Mardi Gras decorations, and beautiful bursting colours is so pretty. And they even have horse-drawn carriages! How cute is that?! 

We stayed in two different rooms during our stay, because we extended our trip after we arrived and our first room wasn't available the entire length of our trip. But we were lucky enough to have both rooms in the 6th building, with a view of the man-made Sassagoula River. Although the rooms don't have balconies, the sights from the windows were GORGEOUS. I'd totally recommend trying to get a riverview room on your stay. It's not guaranteed you'll get one, but hey, it doesn't hurt to ask!

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grand floridian

eggs benedict at grand floridian cafe

eggs benedict at grand floridian cafe

THE FOOD

Because we were staying on-property, we took advantage of the restaurants that are available within Walt Disney World - safe to say we were by no means restricted! There are dozens (maybe hundreds?) of restaurants of all types around the World for you to try. We ate a few times at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, which is the quick-service on French Quarter property. I actually really enjoyed it! They had quite a different menu than typical quick-services because some of it was Cajun inspired and it was delicious (try the beignets!! you won't regret it).

We also tried out for the first time the Mobile Ordering at D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs. It was super efficient and so easy to use! All we had to do was place our order on the app beforehand, click a button to let them know we'd arrived, and grab a buzzer at the restaurant to place on our table. We took a seat on the back patio, listened to some live music while we waited, and within minutes, someone was bringing our food over! Sure beats waiting in the massive line to order and wait for food to be made. I'll definitely be using that feature again and I highly recommend trying it! 

And, of course, no trip to Disney would be complete without brunch at the Grand Floridian Cafe! If you know anything about me, you know how much I adore the Grand Floridian resort. I've decided I won't stay there until my wedding (dramatic af, I know) so I've got to get my fix somehow. And that's by having the delicious brunch at the Cafe. I always order the traditional eggs benedict and it's wonderful! 

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disney springs

MEMORIES

This trip was extremely special for me as we were there to celebrate my twentieth birthday! We spent the evening of my bday at the Magic Kingdom, where we did the Happily Ever After Fireworks Dessert Party. I did the Party last year for the first time with my bf and it was such an incredible experience that we decided to do it again for my bday. The Dessert Party is so much fun - there are a ton of sweets and goodies to try and best of all, you get prime viewing for the fireworks. We had a space of the hub grass to ourselves to just sit down, spread out, and relax while we waited for the fireworks - and even got to stay seated during the show. I'm spoiled forever and now standing during the show like a sardine in the crowds will never be the same!

Birthday outfit -- Top:  GREYLITTLEARROWS on ETSY ; SKIRT:  similiar - forever 21 ; EARS:  SHOPDISNEY

Birthday outfit -- Top: GREYLITTLEARROWS on ETSY; SKIRT: similiar - forever 21; EARS: SHOPDISNEY

Easily one of my favourite moments of the trip, however, was my date night with my boyfriend. The two of us went over to Epcot, as we had a dinner reservation at Les Chefs de France. If you've ever been to Epcot, you've probably walked right past this place. It's that beautiful brasserie at the edge of the France pavilion, with the expansive windows and glistening rooftop. We both ordered the boeuf bourguignon and it was TO DIE FOR!! I've tried this dish before at the International Food and Wine Festival but it was even better in the restaurant. We had a delicious meal with an incredible server (shoutout to Kevin!) and then ended our perfectly romantic evening off with a stroll around the park beneath the sunset! 

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yummmm

boeuf bourguignon at les chefs de france

boeuf bourguignon at les chefs de france

Sunset over world showcase

Sunset over world showcase

On our first trip to Port Orleans as a couple last year, my bf and I decided to do a little resort hopping to see what the other resorts had to offer. When else will you get the chance to do it? This time, we brought along my parents to join us! We checked out Port Orleans Riverside and my personal fav, Old Key West. Riverside was so so beautiful and I thought it was quite cool how they had two different areas (my bf loved the Alligator Bayou area) but honestly it was too big for me and I can't see myself choosing it over my one true love, French Quarter! Old Key West, on the other hand, is a dream stay of mine. I def want to stay there someday (next summer perhaps?) and think it's just the greatest. I've always had a soft spot for Key West, FL and I think this resort really nails it. 

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port orleans riverside

Old Key West

Old Key West

And just like that, I'm back to regular life! I can't believe how quickly a week in the parks went by... What will I do without my Must-Do Disney with Stacey?! The post-Disney depression is settling in. But luckily, now I get to look forward to next year's trip! Is a year in advance too early for starting to plan a Disney trip?? Asking for a friend...

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port orleans french quarter

Talk to you all very soon! x

Felicia 

Disney Must-Do's: Hollywood Studios

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I'm ready for my close-up! It's time for my Hollywood Studios must-do's. Although Hollywood Studios is in a bit of a transition period right now, there are still a bunch of fun things that you should see and do at this park. From walking the bustling streets of Hollywood to stepping into the exciting worlds of your favourite movies, there's adventure at every corner!

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Take a million pictures. This may seem very basic, but trust me when I say that Hollywood Studios is one of the most aesthetically pleasing parks in Walt Disney World. With the Chinese Theatre facade, the Tower of Terror, and basically just Hollywood Boulevard in general, there is no limit to the photo ops in this park. Some of my personal favourite photos to take are of Tower of Terror and Echo Lake, especially if there's an incredible sunset above!

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Go on a shopping spree. Hollywood Studios has arguably the best shopping of all the Disney World parks. On your next trip, I'd definitely recommend taking a stroll through the shops lining Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd. They've got such a wide selection of Disney merch, including some Hollywood Studios specific merch and a ton of cute apparel. If you're looking for Pixar merchandise or an addition to your Dooney and Burke collection (a girl can dream, can't she?), then this is the place to be! It's also worth mentioning that the outsides of the shops are extremelyyy cute!

Step into Andy's backyard at Toy Story Land. Of course, I have to mention the newest addition to the Walt Disney World parks - Toy Story Land!! Coming off of the excitement of the Pandora opening last year, this land boasts two new rides, as well as a revamped Toy Story Mania. If you grew up in the 90s, you won't want to miss this. I recently gave a little review of my first impressions of the new land when I visited awhile back, which you can read here. The number one must-do here has to be the Slinky Dog Dash family coaster which looks incredibly fun and I cannot wait to give it a go when the lines aren't ridiculously long.

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Have a meal at 50s Prime Time Cafe. Keep your elbows off the table! The 50s Prime Time Cafe is the perfect burst of nostalgia and a great diner for some family fun. The whole place is set up like a stereotypical family's home kitchen in the 1950s, decorated right down to the most specific details, and they are very strict on making sure you mind your manners! All in all, it's an interactive restaurant fun for the whole family. 

Watch Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks. Callin' all my Star Wars fans, this one is for you! The Star Wars fireworks at Hollywood Studios are sooo amazing. The way they incorporate fireworks, lasers, projections, and pyrotechnics is pretty phenomenal - plus they do a really good job of uniting the characters from the original trilogy, the prequels, and the recent films together seamlessly. And if you think Ewan McGregor is as perfect as I think he is (*swoon*) then you'll be thrilled to hear that he has quite a lot of face time in the show!! 

What are your Hollywood Studios must-do's?

Felicia x

5 Favourite Retired Disney Attractions

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Walt Disney himself once said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." He knew that in order to keep visitors enjoying the parks for generations to come, they'd have to constantly update what was inside them. And although he wasn't present for much of it's lifetime, the very same idea has been carried over to Walt Disney World also. But there isn't an unlimited amount of space in the world and unfortunately that means that by updating the parks, some attractions have to be retired or removed to make way for new ones. 

Of course, Disney is constantly coming up with exciting new rides - but there will still always be a bit of me that misses some of the older attractions that have been removed. So today, let's take a trip down memory lane and chat about some of the attractions that are now gone that I once loved!

1. Snow White's Scary Adventures

I always loved this ride so so much when I was a little girl, even though it slightly terrified me a bit. Snow White's Scary Adventures was a dark ride in Fantasyland at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It travelled through the story of Snow White, with her meeting the seven dwarfs and the Evil Queen. This was one of the remaining opening day rides at the Magic Kingdom, meaning that it was a ride that had been in open since the first day of park operation in 1971 - although, in 1994, the ride was modified to be less frightening for children as the original ride was pretty terrifying (allegedly!).

I used to go on this ride all the time, every time I visited the park. One of my favourite park memories was boarding this ride with my mum while the fireworks were going on, as there was virtually zero line at all and we got on right away. It was so much fun and we could see the fireworks from where we boarded the ride. Sadly, the ride closed down in 2012 to prepare for the New Fantasyland. It was soon after replaced by the Princess Fairytale Hall.

2. The Great Movie Ride

Oh, my beloved Great Movie Ride. I've loved this ride for many, many years. I loved how this ride really tied in with that old Hollywood feel of the park, especially with it being in the Chinese Theatre replica. I'm a huge film nerd so being able to ride through the movies, even if they were a little bit tacky-looking, was so cool to me. Every time I saw that Casablanca scene with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, I was in heaven. And at the very end of the ride, seeing that incredible movie clip montage sealed the deal for me because I have a weird obsession with movie quotes?? It's strange, but I know thousands of famous movie quotes so that sorta thing is so up my alley. 

Riding it for the last time last August was actually the most devastating thing ever. I'm interested to see the ride they replace this with but, let's be honest - I'm going to be bitter over this for awhile. 

3. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Sigh. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (phew what a mouthful) was a wonderful experience and one of my family's favourite Christmas traditions. I could go on and on about why they shouldn't have gotten rid of this, but instead I'll hark back to the good ol' days without the resentment. The Spectacle started back in Little Rock, Arkansas with the Osborne family themselves - the father, Jennings, owned a large estate and created a huge Christmas light display which eventually spread to the two properties on either side of their original home.

Eventually, Disney approached the Osborne family, asking to set up their display on Residential Street in the then Disney-MGM Studios. By 1995, it was a part of what's now Hollywood Studios and the rest is history. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights was honestly so much fun, and I could spend hours and hours walking around there. 

4. Main Street Electrical Parade

This parade music would be stuck in your head for days but God, was it worth it!! 

There's nothing that upsets me more than the fact that Disney took away the MSEP but never replaced it. I miss having that nighttime parade experience so so so much. Here's hoping that someday very soon they're going to put in a new parade! (*fingers crossed*). This parade had magic to it, that's for sure. I always loved seeing The Jolly Roger come down Main Street, with Peter Pan and Captain Hook fighting it out on board. It was such a fun time and I'm so sad that it's gone away. 

5. Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams

Of course, I had to end this list off with quite possibly the most painful departure of any Disney attraction: Wishes. Wishes was the very first Disney fireworks show that I ever saw when I was 6 years old. And it was my favourite until it went away in spring 2017. On every trip to Disney, I saw Wishes at least once. I saw it from all over the park too: from Tomorrowland, from on Big Thunder Mountain, from the queue of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It was such a magical, meaningful show and watching it brought back so much nostalgia from my childhood for me.

In 2017, Wishes sadly went away. It was a big moment for my family honestly!! Unfortunately, because they hadn't given a lot of forewarning that it was being replaced, we weren't able to go to the parks to see the last showing of Wishes, but we did watch the Facebook livestream. It had been a part of the Magic Kingdom for a whopping thirteen and a half years. And all of a sudden, it was gone! Fortunately, the replacement, Happily Ever After, is incredible and so, so good. But a part of my heart is always going to miss Wishes and all it stood for. 

What is your favourite 'lost' Disney attraction?

Felicia x

How to Plan a Walt Disney World Vacation

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Hello everybody!

So as you probably already know by following my blog and Insta, I'm majorly into Disney. Shocker, right? I've been visiting the park for awhile now and I feel like I've gotten pretty comfortable with the whole planning process. In fact, a lot of people I know message me to ask for tips on booking their own trips to the parks. So, I thought it might be fun and helpful to post a how-to on the planning process. Fair warning: there's a lot to cover, so this post is going to be pretty meaty and lengthy. 

So, first things first...

Get familiar with the parks

The first thing you'll want to do before taking any steps in the planning process is become acquainted with all the Walt Disney World has to offer. I'll try my best to keep this short and sweet!

Walt Disney World is comprised of 4 major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. With a base ticket (more on that later), you can enter any one of these four parks. This is where all the rides, characters, and general excitement is, so you'll definitely want to take time to explore each park!

They also have two on-site water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. These are not accessible with a base ticket, so be wary of that. Both are equipped with water slides (tame and thrilling), pools, and lazy rivers. 

Another key feature of WDW is their massive dining and entertainment complex, Disney Springs. Originally Downtown Disney, in the past few years, it's undergone a huge reimagining and has become one of my favourite places in the Walt Disney World resort. It's jam-packed with amazing restaurants, bars, stores, live entertainment, bowling, movie theatres, and so much more. You could never get bored there!

Disney also has a number of other entertainment features, such as mini-golf, golf, boating, horseback riding, water sports, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports. 

When to go

As you can probably imagine, Disney World can get hella busy. You've essentially got two options, as there are two "seasons": busy season and off-season. 

Busy Season

Busy season has the heavier crowds and primarily consists of the days or weeks that sit around major holidays. Columbus Day, U.S. Thanksgiving, Spring Break, Easter, Christmas, New Years' and July 4th are all extremely busy times to visit the parks. At these times, you can expect wait times from 50 to 100+ minutes, depending on the popularity of a ride. Also, the parks are generally more crowded. 

Off-season

Don't fret! There is also an off-season. Basically, in the off-season, you can expect less of a wait on rides (usually 20 to 50 minutes, sometimes higher) and it's far less crowded around the parks. The best times to go if you're looking for lighter crowds are the end of August to mid-September (as the kids will have gone back to school in Florida and most of the U.S.) and May.

You can easily find crowd charts for the parks in a quick Google search, but I'll link one down below as well!

It's also worth factoring in the weather when making a decision. Summer is the craziest time for weather; it is extremely hot (I'm talking 90-110 degrees F) and also the end of the summer is hurricane season, which makes for lots of rainy days. 

Special events

A bonus of attending the parks during busy season is that you have the chance to experience some really awesome special events that Disney hosts. There are two types of these events: free festivals and ticketed events. 

Free Festivals

The three major free festivals for parkgoers are held at Epcot annually. The first is the International Festival of the Arts (January - February), which is a newer festival that showcases the work of Disney artists around the park and also celebrates many famous paintings from different countries. The second is the International Flower and Garden Festival (February - May) which boasts a number of topiaries featuring classic Disney characters and it is utterly beautiful. They also feature many outdoor kitchens which offer delicious food and beverages! And last but not least is the International Food and Wine Festival (August - November) which is a celebration of different cultural dishes from around the world. The food is phenomenal and not to be missed. 

Ticketed Events

There are two major ticketed events held in Walt Disney World. Ticketed events require visitors to purchase an additional ticket outside of the park entrance ticket. These extra tickets allow you into the parks for these events which take place after regular park hours - they close the park early on select nights for the people partaking in the event. 

These two major ticketed events are Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Both are held at the Magic Kingdom on select nights throughout the holiday seasons. They're both really awesome, as they have their own special fireworks, parades, and nighttime shows. And the Not So Scary Halloween Party even has trick-or-treating! How cool is that??

Where to stay

This is a pretty big decision for anyone visiting the parks. I'll just run through some basic things to note when you're deciding on whether to stay on- or off-property. 

On-property

Staying on-property means staying in any one of the Walt Disney World resort hotels. These hotels are organized into three tiers: value, moderate, and deluxe (with value being the cheapest, and deluxe being the priciest). Staying on-property is inarguably the most convenient option, as the hotels are literally minutes away from the theme parks and they offer free transportation to all the on-property venues. Also, they offer free transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport, which is a huge bonus. You also get some extra magic by staying on-property, like having the option to add a Disney Dining Plan, attend park Extra Magic Hours, and book FastPasses 60 days in advance. Of course, all of that will cost you - it gets pretty pricey, especially adding on top of that the cost of flights and park tickets. 

Off-property

With off-property, you obviously lose the accessibility, but with that you shave off some of the cost as well. There are literally hundreds of hotel options in Central Florida with many different ranges in pricing, especially in the touristy International Drive area. If you're planning on doing a few days at Disney but also spending some time at the other attractions in Orlando, then staying on International Drive would be beneficial as it's right in the middle of it all. You can also stay in a vacation home rental which is great for big families and groups that want to stay together without paying the cost of a Disney suite or villa. However, you do still have to factor in travel time (it's a bit of a jaunt from Disney), car rental prices, and parking fees (at Disney alone, you'll be paying $22 to park per day). 

Purchasing tickets

The lowest level of park ticket you can purchase is the Magic Your Way Base ticket. It is literally a basic entrance ticket, meaning that you can enter one of the four theme parks at a time for the set number of days on the ticket. For example, if you visit Magic Kingdom on the first day of your trip, you can come and go as you please, but you cannot travel to another theme park on that same day. Just Magic Kingdom. This is the most inexpensive option, for that reason.

In order to visit another park on the same day, you'll need to purchase a Magic Your Way Park Hopper option. This is an add-on to the base ticket which allows you to go from one park to another in the same day. For instance, if you start your day off at Magic Kingdom and then decide midday to go to Epcot, you can do that. You can even visit all four parks in one day, if you're up for the challenge! But of course, it will cost you more. 

Additionally, you can add on the Water Parks Fun and More option, which also allows you to visit Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. This also use to include Disney Quest, but that no longer exists!

Lastly, you can purchase a Walt Disney World annual pass. There are two options, Disney Platinum Plus Pass and Disney Platinum Pass. The main difference is that the Plus allows you entrance to the golf course, the water parks, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports in addition to the four theme parks, whereas the regular pass only allows you to go to the theme parks. Both give you discounts on select dining and merch. 

How long to visit

If this is your first visit to WDW and you plan on only visit the Disney parks, I'd suggest staying for anywhere between five to seven days. It sounds like a very long time, but there is so much to see and do at Disney that you'll be grateful for it. Plus, it allows you to see everything at your own speed and eliminate that rushed feeling. It's also good for if you want to see things outside of the WDW resort, like Universal Studios Orlando or Cocoa Beach (which is about an hour out from Disney). 

Planning FastPasses

What is a FastPass, you might ask? Well, lemme tell you. (That was so cheesy haha). FastPasses are free tickets that you can get that essentially allow you to virtually reserve a place in line for rides. You just pick a ride and a time (they work in hour-long increments), then schedule it. When your time comes, you just pop over to the ride and jump into the FastPass line. For example, if you've booked a 5 o'clock FastPass for Jungle Cruise, you can get in the FastPass line for Jungle Cruise at any point between 5 and 6 o'clock. The FastPass lines are generally shorter and quicker than the standby lines. You're given three FastPass selections for the day BUT once you've used them up, or your last FastPass for the day has expired, you can book one at a time in that same day. Pretty cool, right? It makes getting on more popular rides like Flight of Passage so much easier. You can book these online or on the My Disney Experience app 30 or 60 days in advance (depending on whether you're staying on-property) or at the in-park kiosks. But FastPasses go quick, so make sure to do this asap!

My Disney Experience app + MagicBands

These are two fairly new additions to the parks in the last few years and they've become pretty much integral to the WDW experience, so I'll quickly explain them both.

MagicBands

MagicBands have become the new way of entering and getting around the Disney parks. Your pass is linked to this rubber wristband, which means you can enter the park by tapping your band to a reader and placing your finger on a fingerprint scanner. It's so much easier than fumbling with your wallet to get a card out. They also can be used to present your FastPass by tapping a reader at the rides, as it's linked to your My Disney Experience app. For on-property guests, you can also link your credit card to the MagicBand to make paying for dining and merch a breeze. 

My Disney Experience app

This is an app that you can download onto your phone and use in the parks with the free Disney World wifi connection. It has everything you could ever imagine on it - park maps, ride wait times, FastPasses, dining reservations, room check-ins, park passes, and more. It's like a tool kit for your stay in the parks. Personally, I'd highly recommend getting it before you travel to the parks as it'll make your life so much simpler. 

Helpful websites

Well, that's all for now! If you're still a bit lost or looking for more info, you can follow these useful links for more explanations. 

"So, you're overwhelmed, huh? See if this helps." (WDW Prep School) 

"The ideal Disney World planning timeline (and what to do if you're short on time)" (WDW Prep School)

"Orlando Crowd Calendar" (Undercover Tourist)

The Disney Parks Mom Panel

Walt Disney World Official Site

My Disney Experience

I hope you guys found this post helpful. Thanks for reading!

Felicia x

Items in Photo:
Millennial Pink MagicBand [x]
LIFE Inside the Disney Parks: The Happiest Places on Earth [x]
Millennial Pink Mouse Ears [available in-store only]

 

Why I Love Disney So Much

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Whenever I tell anyone that I'm going to Disney World again, I get the same reply:

"Don't you want to try something new for a change?"

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A lot of people just can't understand why my family wants to spend so much of our time in a place that was made for kids. We spend about four months in Orlando, per year, and we visit the parks at least 4 times a week. That's a whole lotta Disney.

From the first time that I visited Disney, I was hooked. The minute I saw Cinderella's castle, that was pretty much it for me. For a little girl who dreamed of being a Disney princess, I was in my own personal heaven. On the last day of every trip, the ever-so-dramatic child I was, I used to stand on Main Street and cry because I literally could not imagine spending even a day away from Disney World.

But what's so special about an amusement park? I hear you asking.

Well, lemme tell ya.

At Disney, there are no boundaries between grown-ups and kids. I love that. Can you, as an adult, buy a Mickey-shaped balloon and then skip around the Magic Kingdom with an ice cream in your hand?? Hell yea, you can!! You can do whatever you want! The parks were actually made for everyone - not just for kids. The parks are constantly being improved and added to, to keep every trip interesting and it's like a different park every time. And all in all, it's like experiencing all the films from my childhood in real life. It couldn't get any cooler than that!!

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Back when my bf first came to Disney with my family in 2014 (peep those two throwback pics!!), he was what you'd call a "casual Disney fan" - he'd been to the parks before but he didn't know too much about it and wouldn't consider himself a megafan or anything. But it didn't take long at all for him to get hooked. Four years later, he's an annual passholder and a friggin' Disney expert, I must say.

Visiting Disney has become such an important part of our lives together. And bonding over our love for the parks has honestly brought us so much closer in our relationship. I love that we can go to the parks and just be able to have fun together. So many of our greatest memories have happened in Disney. And whether it's running around the Magic Kingdom in Halloween costumes, or singing along with the fireworks music, or riding our fav rides - it's just so much more fun because we get to do it together!

So why do I love Disney so much?

It just never gets old, honestly. Like, no matter how many times I see the Happily Ever After fireworks, the part with the floating lanterns always makes me emotional. And the sight of Spaceship Earth at night is still photo-worthy after hundreds of visits and photos. I even still get that excited feeling in my stomach whenever I pull up to the Magic Kingdom station on the monorail. It doesn't matter how many times I go - the magic is always there for me. And it's so amazing to me that I get to see kids and adults see the magic for themselves for the first time.

At the end of the day, in Disney World you can be whoever you want to be. You can be a kid, or a princess, or a superhero, or a pirate, or a galactic warrior. Disney is the place for dreaming and for releasing your imagination. As Jiminy Cricket says, "If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme."

So, yeah I could go somewhere else... But I think I'll stick to Disney World for now. :)

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If you wanna keep up-to-date with my many Disney World shenanigans, you can follow my Disney Instagram here.

Felicia x

#THROWBACK: My First Disney Trip

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Hello my loves! Today I just realized, out of the blue, that I have been visiting Disney World now for fourteen whole years. Where has the time gone!? I cannot believe that Disney has been a part of my life for so long now. Over the years, it has not only become one of my favourite places in the world, but my second home. So I thought I'd share with you all some of my favourite photos and memories from my very first trip!

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My first ever trip was in 2004. Not long before we'd left, I'd actually had surgery to clip a piece of my upper gum that was attached to the inside of my lip. And the day before I left was my sixth birthday. Soooo this trip was a v big deal to me.

On our first trip, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is right next to - you guessed it - the Animal Kingdom park and has an amazing view of animals walking around just outside your hotel room! We also stayed there in 2006. We later stayed at Coronado Springs in 2008, and Port Orleans French Quarter in 2009, 2011, and more recently in 2017.

These pictures are some of my absolute faves from my trip. Unfortunately, as I was so young, I only remember certain things that happened on the trip. One of the things I remember so clearly though was when the picture of Belle and I was taken - they had cancelled a show at the castle so they brought the princesses out for photos. Belle has always been my favourite princess and I was SOOO flippin' excited to meet her. I seriously cannot wait to be able to watch my own kids meet their favourite characters and to see them be as excited as I once was!!

So many things have changed since 2004 - it's so weird to look back on all these pictures and see not only myself as a kid, but also a ton of attractions that are no longer at the parks! A lot of my beloved rides and shows have gone onto the great beyond and they'll be greatly missed by me and probs many others forever. #rip y'all

Have any of you guys been to Disney World? I'd love to hear about your first trip! 

Felicia x

Review: Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival | 2017

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Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival is absolutely, without a doubt one of my must-do's at Walt Disney World. If you were to ask me, 'say Felicia, I'm thinking about going to Disney, when should I go?', I would say AUTUMN because FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL. My family has been going to the Food and Wine Festival since 2011, and in 2015 my boyfriend joined in on our yearly tradition. Each year, we pick up a complimentary Food and Wine Passport to record what we've tried each year and our thoughts on each dish. So, I thought I would share with all of you what we tried and what we thought of everything.

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Starting off with my home and native land. Every year since we first started going to the Food and Wine Festival we've had the "Le Cellier" Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce. It used to be one of my favourite dishes of the event, but the past couple years it's been meh. My boyfriend and I shared one, and though I was happy it was cooked fairly well done, we both agreed it was not as great as previous years. I'm not sure if this had something to with the fact that we got there later in the day, and it might have been sitting out for some time, but I was sadly unimpressed.

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Okay, here we go. Favourite dish time. My boyfriend and I each had our own plate of the Boeuf Bourguignon with Purée de Pommes de Terre, which is Cabernet Sauvignon-braised Beef served with mashed potatoes. Guys, this is the most tender piece of meat I have ever had in my entire life. Honestly, you don't even need a knife, you can easily break it apart with a fork. Drizzled in gravy, atop mashed potatoes, it's meat heaven. Added bonus: they serve this year-round at Les Chefs de France, one of the two restaurants at Epcot's France pavilion. Bon Appetit.

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Although I didn't try anything at the Italy stand, my boyfriend did, so I thought it fit to mention it regardless. He tried the Absolut Penne, which is penne served with vodka sauce and shrimp. I'm not a fan of seafood at all, but my boyfriend loves it. He really enjoyed this dish and said he would definitely try it again. Although he did say it was a little spicy, so if you're not into spice, this probably isn't for you.

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We visit this stand every year, and it's always worth it. I always get the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise. I loveeeee this so so much. It's super odd in terms of the description. Like, pineapple chutney, spicy mayonnaise, pork. It sounds like a weird combo. But I promise you, it's heavenly. Definitely a must-have in terms of dishes at the Festival. The pork, mixed with the pineapple chutney is delicious. Yum. I'm in heaven thinking about it right now.

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The next stand we went to was Australia, where my boyfriend tried the Grilled Lamb T-Bone with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies. He found the lamb to very tender and quite good, but the mint sauce was too excessive and overpowering.

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I had never tried anything from the Mexico pavilion before this year, but my parents tried the Rib Eye Tacoso I thought I'd give it a try and I was pleasantly surprised! Although I wasn't totally in love with it, I did think it was pretty good. It's made up of marinated rib eye, roasted chipotle sauce, and grilled scallions on a corn tortilla. It was good, but I'm not sure I would have it again.

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Germany was another new stop for me, but it will definitely be one I go to again in the future. My boyfriend and I tried the Schinkennudeln. My boyfriend ordered it, offered me a bite, and after that, I was in love. The Schinkennudeln is pasta gratin made with ham and cheese. It was reallyreally good. I can't wait to have it again next year!

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ACTIVE EATS

This was a last stop, but certainly worthwhile. I had the Loaded Mac 'n' Cheese with Nueske's Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, and Green Onions. I am a mac 'n' cheese fanatic. And this mac 'n' cheese checks off everything on my list when it comes to the perfect dish. It's so good, and even has a bit of a spice to it. I highly recommend this dish.

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NOTABLY ABSENT

There were definitely some dishes that didn't show up this year, that were very missed by us:

  • The Chicken Gyro from Greece

  • The Ravioli alla Caprese from Italy

  • The Kielbasa and Potato Pierogi

RIP to you all. :(

Until next time, Food and Wine!

Felicia x

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party | 2017

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I love Halloween. The decorations, the candy, the movies. What's not to love? And of course, having it blended with Disney World only makes the holiday better. For today's post I wanted to talk to you guys about one of my favourite Disney holiday experiences and that is the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is an annual event held at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom from the end of August through to the start of November. On the select nights of Not-So-Scary, the park closes to the general public at 7pm, which means smaller crowds for those who have tickets to the party, which means lower wait times for rides. Score. There's also exclusive entertainment, rare character meet and greets, and even trick-or-treating. Without further ado, here are some of my favourite things about Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

HIGHLIGHTS

Dressing Up

One of my favourite parts about Not-So-Scary is dressing up in costume. Being nineteen years old and considered an "adult (*shivers*), I don't ever get a chance to dress up like this, so it's really cool to get to do this. The first year we came to Not-So-Scary in 2015, my boyfriend and I dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse and I loved it. This year, we opted to go for Belle and the Beast (after he transforms into a prince) from my favourite Disney film Beauty and the Beast. I had the time of my life, no exaggeration. Belle has been my favourite Princess since I was a little girl, so being called "Princess Belle" all night was a dream come true haha.

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Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or-treating is something I haven't done since, like, middle school I think. But at Disney, everyone gets to be a kid again. And they hand out a lot of candy. I mean, a lot of candy. We ended up with about 20lbs of candy. Yes, you read that right! My dad and my boyfriend literally went to most Treat stands at least twice, if not three times. We got mini bars of Milky Way, Snickers, Dove, and much more, plus Starbursts and other kinds of sweet candies. At least now we have something to hand out to kids on Halloween!

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular

Okaaayyy so this one is a big one for me. If you love Halloween, chances are you love Hocus Pocus. I for one am a huge Hocus Pocus fan, as I mentioned in my Favourite Autumnal Films post a few weeks ago. At Not-So-Scary, they put on a show on the stage in front of Cinderella's Castle that features the Sanderson sisters (!!!!) and other Disney villains. It's seriously so fun to watch. I mean, where else are you gonna be able to see a live performance of I Put A Spell on You, with Hades and Oogie Boogie dancing along?

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Decorations

Though the decorations aren't really particular to the event, I always love how Magic Kingdom is decorated for Halloween. They make everything so cute and photogenic. I love walking down Main Street and taking a billion photos of everything to post on Instagram or set as my phone background.

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Happy HalloWishes

If you ever visited Disney World between 2003 and the beginning of 2017, and you saw the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, chances are you saw Wishes or some variation of it. Wishes was the nightly fireworks show at MK until very recently (R.I.P Wishes) and for holidays, they show a special version of it. For Halloween, it's Happy HalloWishes. I love these fireworks. It's all about Disney villains and it's spectacular. I would recommend going to Not-So-Scary just for the fireworks (and the parade - we'll get to that in a sec).

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Mickey's Boo To You Halloween Parade

Last, but certainly not least, is the wonderful, the famous, the fabulous Mickey's Boo To You parade. Okay guys. This is hands-down, my FAVOURITE part of the night. The parade goes twice a night, at 9:15 and 11:15, and family waits for the later showing because we choose to end the night right haha. I am sooooo in love with this parade I could gush about it forever but I'm going to keep this short and sweet, for the most part. One of the really cool things about the parade is that it shows characters that aren't usually in the parks. My favourite part is themed around the Haunted Mansion ride - it has a float of the Hitchhiking Ghosts, dancers that are supposed to be the ballroom ghosts, and best of all, the Gravediggers. Search up a video on YouTube of the gravediggers, it's SO worth it. They also have Villains, Wreck it Ralph characters, Mickey and his gang, and Captain Jack Sparrow with Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, and did I mention it starts off with the Headless Horseman riding down Main Street?!

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BONUS: PhotoPass Opportunities

If you've been to Disney World before, you've probably used PhotoPass services before or at least heard of them. But, if not, here's the gist: PhotoPass allows you to have photos taken by professional photographers around the parks, with special effects or characters, available for purchase on the My Disney Experience app. During Not-So-Scary, there are special opportunities for photos including a very popular Haunted Mansion one, plus they use Halloween-themed special effects on the cameras (i.e. they'll add characters or graphics to your photos using their *magic* technology). I was walking around the park when I stumbled across the coolest PhotoPass opportunity ever: TANGLED FLOATING LANTERNS!!! I love Tangled so much, so when I saw you could take a photo with a floating lantern, with the Tangled restrooms as a backdrop, I had to do it. So my boyfriend and I had our photo taken, and it's the greatest thing ever. Inserting now for your viewing pleasure (and also so I can cry about it again).

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Until next year, Not-So-Scary!

Felicia x