Thursday, August 30, 2018

6 Fun and Free Things to Do in Disney Springs

By Dawn Allcot

One of the best things about Disney Springs is there is always something new to explore. 

Whether it’s a small kiosk or a new restaurant, if you’re a regular visitor you’re almost bound to discover some unexplored corner of the vast, 120-acre shopping and dining extravaganza.

If you haven’t been there in a while, you will be amazed by the changes and improvements. 

And Disney keeps adding more to do each year.

Here are a few Disney Springs adventures you won’t want to miss. (And most of them are free – or close to it.)  

1. Take Your Picture with the Coca-Cola Bear

Venture up to the second level of the Coca-Cola Store and you’ll find the famous Coca-Cola Polar Bear all ready for a photo opp. The photos link to your Disney PhotoPass so you can download them free as part of your Memory Maker subscription.

Other reviewers say that you can even have a friend take a photo with your phone or your own camera to keep, for free. #PolarSelfie, anyone?

Keep going to the rooftop soda bar and taste a flight of 16 Coke beverages for just $9.

Race LEGO Cars for Hours

The LEGO store, one of the original retail venues when Disney Springs was still Downtown Disney, is a great place to spend time with your kids. We literally spent two hours there building and racing LEGO cars near the water’s edge. 

Photo opps abound, but you’ll need to use your own phone or camera. You’ll find a dragon, Buzz Lightyear on a rocket, Woody and Buzz, the Incredible Hulk, LEGO friends, and the famous Loch Ness Monster peeking out from the lake.

You can also build your own LEGO creations on multiple tables throughout the store, or create LEGO mini-figs to take home, three for $10.

3.  Become an On-screen Superhero 

Ever wonder what you would look like as Iron-man, Captain America, or Black Widow? 

Find out in the Marvel Super Hero Headquarters. 

The magic of green screen technology puts your face onto the Marvel super hero of your choice and displays it on the wall-mounted monitor for all to see. The store’s team members clap when the latest super hero is born.

The experience doesn’t link to your Disney PhotoPass or MemoryMaker, but you can take a photo home for $30. Even if you don’t buy the print, the experience is worth a few minutes of your time.

  4. Build Your Own Lightsaber

Disney Springs boasts two Star Wars stores – one right next to the Super Hero Headquarters. You can build your own lightsaber in either store from a wide collection of parts. No one frowns upon a mini-lightsaber battle inside the store, either.

While we didn’t purchase any of our lightsaber creations, you certainly can. But for our kids, the fun was in the building.

5. Dig for Fossils

Make a right at the entrance to the TRex Café and you’ll find an alcove filled with sand and children digging happily. Whether or not you eat at the TRex Café, children can play paleontologist and unearth dinosaur bones with the brushes provided – or their hands. 

Great for toddlers but I saw several tweens digging with younger siblings, too.  

6. Taste a Frose

This one’s for the hard-working moms.

After a day of Disney parks and the Florida heat, you’ll want to chill out in Disney Springs with this free perk during Happy Hour. Stop by Wine Bar George for a free taste of Frose, the season’s coolest adult beverage.

Six- and nine-ounce pours are also affordable by Disney standards, so get one to-go.

Take a Break (From Spending) at Disney Springs

With more than 150 shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, Disney Springs can certainly get as expensive as other properties in the Disney World Resort.

But it is also fun to wander for several hours and take in the atmosphere without spending a bundle.

What’s your favorite free activity to do in Florida’s Disney Springs?

Disney World Monorail Self-Guided Bar Crawl

Disney World Monorail Self-Guided Bar Crawl
By Michael DeBonis
Walt Disney World is known for being one of the most magical places on earth filled with adventure, thrills, magic and family fun. However, some only think Disney World is a vacation destination made for families and children. Disney World has something for all ages from special excursions, events, recreations, restaurants, nightclubs, attractions and live shows.

A favorite “Adult’s Only” adventure of mine includes riding one of the most world renowned transportation systems at one of the most famous destination in Florida, if not the country. Well, the Monorail loop and the three resorts that are connected to it feature world class restaurants and bars at which signature drinks and food can be found.
Now while some are taking the monorail to the parks, a select few, who are in on this somewhat secret activity, are using it for another purpose. The Self Guided Monorail Bar Crawl. You must be of age in order to partake in this magical adventure which features bars of different styles and themes. If you need some alone time in order to do this journey, Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers a child care center where children can have an exciting night of fun on their own. You can start at any one of the three resorts of your liking to begin the Self Guided Monorail Bar Crawl.

Mizner's Cooler 
We’ll begin at The Grand Floridian. This is a short stop because there is only one bar that you can really experience without traveling far from the monorail station in the resort. Once at the Grand Floridian head to Mizners which is located on the second floor.  When you get to your first destination, I suggest trying a Mizners cooler. This cocktail is made with St-Germain, Nolet’s Gin, lime juice, simple syrup, soda water, and fresh mint. It’s a very refreshing drink that will get you on your way. There are other drinks you can try here as well - but remember to pace yourself otherwise it will be tough to make it all the way through this journey!

The Seven Seas Lagoon
Next stop, the Contemporary Resort! Upon arriving here, there are 3-bars that you can visit and each have a signature drink that you can try. The Wave on the ground level of the Contemporary, here I suggest you try the “Magical Star” or the “Seven Seas Lagoon”. (The Seven Seas Lagoon is not on the drink menu, but you can ask the bartender for it). Brace yourself; it is a rather large drink - and is best enjoyed by two people. The Magical Star is made with X- fusion Mango and Passion Fruit liqueur, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Pineapple juice and a souvenir multicolored glow cube. Both are very tasty and well worth the visit to The Wave. Once you’ve finished your drinks here, make your way up to the 4th floor to visit The Outer Rim. Here, there are many drinks you can choose from but I suggest you try the Glow-Tini.  A resort favorite, the Glow-Tini is made with SKYY Infusions Citrus Vodka, Peach Schnapps, Blue Curacao and Pineapple Juice. This glowing blue drink draws lots of attention from onlookers! Lastly, make your way to the Californian Grill elevator and ask the check-in desk if there is seating available at the bar or lounge area. Once you arrive to the rooftop bar, you can experience amazing views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. Most importantly, if you time it right, you can have an amazing view of the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. Try the Twisted Mai Tai which features Mount Gray Rum, Crème de Noyaux, Orange Juice and Pineapple juice with a splash of lime. Sit back, relax and enjoy the views! When you are ready to move on, head back down to the Contemporary’s monorail station and catch the transport to your next and final resort.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
The Polynesian Resort offers some amazing drink selections that are a must try. Once you arrive, head to the Tambu Lounge. Seating is limited because it is located outside of O’hana, but here you can try 2-signature drinks if you’re up to it. The Back Scratcher and the Lapu Lapu are very popular to all those who stay at the Polynesian Resort. The Lapu Lapu is a hollowed out pineapple  filled with Myers's Original Dark Rum and tropical fruit juices, topped with Bacardi 151 Rum. The Back scratcher is made with Bacardi Superior Rum, Myers Original Dark Rum with passion fruit juice topped with Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. Both are some of my favorites. Now that you made it this far, there is one more bar to go to and in my opinion it is a MUST do. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace. Trader Sam’s is located in a back hallway where there is a single door entrance- there may be a line for the Grotto but it’s worth the wait. Once inside, you will be immersed in an interactive Tiki Bar experience like none other. The Grotto is a sight to see with theming and lighting throughout with special effects that occur every time someone orders a signature drink, two of these include The Nautilus
Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge
and the Polynesian Pearl.
The Tiki Terrace, which is located outside of the Grotto, features views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and has its own water wall by the seating areas. Here you can order The Spikey Pineapple which is a twist on the
Disney favorite Dole Whip, this is a must try. After you’ve enjoyed your drinks, pat yourselves on the back because you have officially completed the Self Guided Monorail Bar Crawl!  To reward yourself, if you have timed it right, walk your way out to the Polynesian beach, find a lounge chair and end your night with a bang! The Magic Kingdom Fireworks can be viewed nightly and the soundtrack is pumped in as well.

At each of these resort destinations sample some of the amazing food selections offered at each location! Each bar offers a variety of amazing appetizers, entrees and dessert selections to compliment your drinks. You can do the monorail bar crawl in any order that you want to, and have any drink that you desire, this is just how I did it and what I drank at each location. The beauty of this adventure is that each resort is connected by the monorail so you don’t have to worry about driving from place to place. Hopefully this has helped you discover some of the extra magic that Walt Disney World has to offer. So the next time anyone tells you Disney is just for kids, try and help them understand there is so much more to offer at this magical world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tips to Survive Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

The official kickoff to Fall has begun at the Magic Kingdom! The festivities were officially ushered in the by the Headless Horseman and his valiant steed on August 17th. 

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is a separate ticketed event featuring low crowds; special character meet and greets, The Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular with the Sanderson Sisters (celebrating their 25th anniversary...eeeekkkk!), Mickey's "Boo to You" nighttime parade full of villains, ghouls and rarely seen characters dancing along the route and the Happy Hallowishes Fireworks. On top of all the great entertainment, there are also dance parties and trick-or-treat locations throughout the park. Exclusive merchandise and snack options are also available for purchase on party nights.

The party is just a few short hours - check out these tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your ticket!

Tip #1. Costumes: Two words:  FLORIDA. HEAT.
    Did you know that the Disney costumed characters are limited to 15-minute intervals inside their cuddly heat suits? You can't survived dressed as Sully for 5 hours, especially if you were already hot during the day in your cool casual clothes. If you are considering a costume that includes a furry head-to-toe exterior, a leather jacket of any kind, pants, layers of tulle and satin - Don't do it. It's hot. It's Florida. You will get sick in the park. Opt for a super simple lightweight costume or even a cute t-shirt.

Tip #2. Don't waste time trick or treating
     Back to those 2 words-  FLORIDA. HEAT. Disney will gladly fill your candy bag to the brim- and hand you another bag! You know what you are walking out of the park with at midnight?...15-pounds of melted candy garbage that you have toted around the park with you for 5-hours.
My tip: hit 1-2 trick or treat locations for some snacks to enjoy during the parade and fireworks. You don't need to hit every single treat location.

Tip #3- Get to the park early
   You can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4:00 pm on a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween ticket. You can also make fastpasses starting at 3:30. You can have a 3:30-4:30, 4:30-5:30 and a 5:30 fastpass before the party even starts. The lines will start to diminish as party guests are let in.

Tip #4 - Relax the day of the party 
Watch Hallowishes on our YouTube Channel here! I
   I like to schedule a special event on an "off" day from the parks. Sleep in, use the resort pool, take a nap and rest up before the party. I don't like to stack regular park days along with a party night (except on some occasions). If your schedule allows for it, you are maximizing your actual park tickets by planning to attend the party on an "off" day. If you are starting your vacation off on a party night- be kind to yourself and your family and allow flexibility in your schedule to rest later in the vacation.

Tip #5- Choose a spot! 
     If you know you are not going to make it to midnight before turning into a pumpkin- find yourself a spot along Main Street in front of the castle about a half-hour before the first stage show. Stay there. Hit the bathroom, grab a drink (and a spare), pick up a snack and camp out. Especially if you get a "front row" seat.
     Are you in it for the long haul? The Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular runs 3 times on the castle stage, Mickey's Boo to You Parade rolls twice and Hallowishes runs 1 time. IF you are in it for the long haul and plan to close the party down- enjoy the rare character meets, (Cruella De Vil, The Seven Dwarfs, Jack Skellington and Sally and MOANA)... while the first batch of stage show and parade is going on. Head towards Main Street about a 1/2 hour before the fireworks start; you will have sacrificed a great view of the castle projections, but, you will have gained a lot of party activity. The second run of the parade will be significantly less crowded as people will leave right after Hallowishes.

Tip #6 - Make your children shine
    The lights of the Magic Kingdom are dimmed during the parade and it gets pretty dark. Hit up the Dollar Tree or Party City for a light up necklace or glow stick accessories. You might also want to weave one of the battery pack LED light strings around your stroller to make it easier to find in the dim of the park.

Happy Haunting! 

Want to join in on the fun? 
Contact your Castle Vacations agent today! 

Friday, August 10, 2018

7 Things to Buy Before You Reach Disney

7 Things to Buy Before You Reach Disney 
By Dawn Allcot

Image result for disney at walmart
Disney is expensive. Between park tickets and lodging, you can spend a fortune before you even pass through the magical gates. 
Once inside, that’s when the temptation starts. Mickey ice cream. Sweet beverages. T-shirts. Toys. It doesn’t end. 
Carrying a well-stocked bag can help you avoid having to make impulse purchases at the park so you have money to spend on the things that really matter.  
Here are 7 things you should buy before you reach Disney property, because you’ll save a bundle. 
  1. Refillable Water Bottles
In spite of Disney’s high prices, the parks are accommodating to guests and do allow you to bring in water bottles, as long as they are plastic or metal. Glass bottles will be confiscated. 
Since you don’t want to weigh yourself down with water, however, pack one bottle per person and plan to refill it at Disney’s water fountains. Since the water doesn’t exactly taste like Poland Spring, you may want to bring packets of flavor enhancers, and even Emergen-C for when the grown-ups start lagging later in the day. (Disney’s iced coffee is also delicious for a mid-day pick-me-up.) 
  1. Spray Bottles with Fans
These devices that let you spritz water while enjoying the cooling comfort of a handheld fan are a great investment. But you can get them a lot cheaper off Disney property. Stop in to the local Walgreens or Dollar General before you reach the parks for a bargain bottle and batteries to power it. 
  1. Snacks
Some Disney treats can’t be beat, especially in Epcot’s World Pavilion. It’s worth springing for caramel corn inside Epcot’s German Pavilion, Churro bites from Mexico or, well, virtually anything in France. 
But for those times when hunger strikes and the kiddos aren’t up for traveling the world (so to speak) pack a bag full of easy-to-eat, non-perishable snacks. My kids like dehydrated apples, goldfish, granola bars, Pringles, cereal, and trail mix, so I’m stocking up before our trip with a quick stop at Publix. 
If you don’t mind carrying a small cooler or lunchbox (Disney allows soft coolers up to 24-by-18-by-15 inches), the possibilities expand to things like yogurt, smoothies, string cheese, fruits, and vegetables. 
  1. Disney Clothing
There is just so much shopping at Disney, it’s hard to resist the cute character t-shirts, hats, bags, and outfits. Of course, certain items can only be found on Disney property and you’ll have to decide if they are worth the splurge. 
For everything else, try Kohl’s or Target, which offer a wide selection of Disney clothing. 
For our upcoming trip, I picked up Stitch and Groot shirts for myself and my daughter, and a ton of Marvel tank tops for my son. 
I love that Marvel is now part of Disney and very prominent in the parks, because it alleviates the princess overload and offers something my son loves. He will get lots of wear out of those shirts even after vacation.  
  1. Rain Poncho or Umbrella
It’s Florida. 
It rains. 
Although we snagged a great deal on a panda umbrella once in Japan at Epcot, for the most part raingear is not cheap inside the parks. You’ll spend less virtually anyplace else. 
  1. Sunscreen
It’s also very sunny. 
True story: I went to Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), with a close friend and our one-year-old daughters, years ago. First-time moms, both of us. And we forgot to pack sunscreen. I think we spent something like $25 for a small bottle, which we shared and treated like gold. 
  1. Glowsticks or Light-up Toys 
The sun goes down, the carts come out …. Carts carrying all manner of light-up toys and glow items at Disney prices. Hit Family Dollar, Dollar General or Party City before the parks so when your child asks for a glowing princess wand, you can pull one out of your bag and save the money for Mickey Mouse ears, which are tough to find outside the parks, and are reasonably priced anywhere on the property. 
Does It Ever Pay to Pack Light? 
If you’re not on a budget, are the spontaneous type, or don’t have kids, you can probably get by with your park passes, cash and credit cards, smartphones, and ID. 
You really can buy almost everything you need on Disney grounds. 
But most of the items listed don’t take up a lot of room in a backpack or slingbag. 
The convenience and cost-savings make it worthwhile to spend some time preparing for your days at the parks, so you can splurge without guilt on things like a meal with your favorite characters, a princess makeover, and the all-important Disney PhotoPass. 

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist, frequent Disney vacationer, and mom-of-two. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two kids, two cats, and two lizards. To learn more, visit

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