Dreaming of Disney Days
As you will all know from my Instagram I visited Disney over New Years Eve! Which should be on everyone's bucket list - and if it isn't put it on there now! If you're on of these people who hate New Years Eve and had no clue what to do then Disney is a must there are endless celebrations over the parks. We checked in on Saturday December the 30th and left January the 1st 2018, and did you know, Disney celebrates New Years Eve on the 30th too! The same fireworks display and all, so if you can't make it for the 31st you can have it all the night before.
Saturday 30th December
I was going with my parents, as usual, and we had decided to relax on arrival day - usually when we arrive in Orlando we throw ourselves into a park and we don't really tend to explore outside the parks. So we got in the car and went to the outlets, the mall and Disney Springs. Disney Springs is HUGE, it's almost a park in itself! There's everything there, from cars that are boats, YES BOATS ($120 for 30mins) I thought the pricing was steep on this, but if you want to splash the cash then try this! I think you can book them from nearby The Boathouse restaurant. Disney Springs has every kind of shop you can think of, from the Disney store to Uniqlo with their limited edition Disney range to Zara. All around Disney Springs it's decorated with little motifs towards Disney, shaped hedges, or models, or characters (not your standard Mickey & Minnie) but festive piano players is more what I mean, in costume. One restaurant that I am partial to at Disney Springs is Morimoto, I had been to the one in NYC and therefore knew I loved the menu - however the one here is very casual unlike NY, and the menu is more affordable.
If you're looking for somewhere upmarket I highly recommend the restaurant on the top floor of Disney's Four Seasons hotel, Capa. This restaurant is a steak-house with a Spanish influence and the food did not disappoint! If you're lucky enough to be seated by the window then you can watch the fireworks display from Epcot, MGM and the Magic Kingdom! If you're not lucky enough to get a table there or simply fancy a drink and the fireworks they also have a wonderful bar area with a fantastic cocktail menu. We luckily got a table for the Saturday night and got to watch the pre New Years fireworks at most of the parks.
Sunday 31st December
ANIMAL KINGDOM!!! I was so excited for this, I slept so badly the night before because I felt like a little kid at Christmas. I had been waiting to get into Pandora for a few months now. I had read so much about it and seen so many things on all the Disney pages I follow on Instagram. Now, it did NOT disappoint!!
But first, I'll walk you through my experience of Animal Kingdom! It had been advised that we hit the Kilimanjaro Safari first thing in the morning because otherwise the animals tend to hide out in the afternoon and nap, so we had a 10.30am safari trip locked in! I was pleasantly surprised with this safari actually! (TIP: Sit on the back row if you want to take photos as you can turn around and snap out the back window, but it is bumpy! Sport mode on) Yes it is not a real safari, but for kids who will never get to experience Africa in reality, this was a great experience for them! The safari lasts about 20minutes, and drives through each area where you can visibly see animals, quite closely too! Sometimes the car has to slow down or speed up depending on the movement of the animals, and don't worry they're all separated so the Lions can't go maul the Zebras! After this ride it was only fitting we went by the Festival of the Lion King show, and if you've been lucky enough to see this show in the West End or Broadway then you will love this, it has a very similar vibe to it with the costumes and dance. If you have a little kid with you, hopefully they get picked to make the animal noise at the beginning of the show! Fingers crossed!!
I would highly recommend doing the walk throughs too, for example the Gorilla Falls Expedition Trail, but make sure you find out what time they close as a lot of them shut before 4 for animal feeding time. OOOO and I stood mesmerised by the Gibbons swinging about, which is located in Asia, honestly they were so cool, swinging about everywhere and chilling in the hammocks! Of course we hit all the other rides, like Expedition Everest which is fantastic and comparable to Thunder Mountain, a small high speed roller coaster - but no upside down loops encase you're wondering! But I was so eager to get into Pandora that we kinda whizzed through the park.
So, the new exciting land that everyone has been talking about! Pandora - The World of Avatar!!! This was exceptional. I was speechless when I first walked in there, having never even seen the film, I felt like I had stepped onto the film set! The attention to detail was incredible, and so were the rides. But first, I had to make sure I went and tried the famous slushie drink that had been circling Instagram! It's called a Night Blossom, sold at Pongu Pongu. They have an alcoholic version and a non, of course I tried the non because it looked way cooler in the cup. Oh and I also got the souvenir cup because it had a glow bud.... hehe!
So, the rides! Well, if you don't have a fast pass booked for these (which you can book up to 60days in advance if you're in a Disney hotel, and 30days for a non Disney hotel, and you can do this all on the app if you've linked your tickets) then you're in for a very long wait....maybe 3 hours.... Luckily I had fast passes for these (thank you Disney!) and so the wait for me was pretty quick. I'll start with Na'vi River Journey, this was comparable to Pirates of the Caribbean in the way that it is a calm river ride around the Na'vi through the luminescent forest. This ride was just breathtaking, the set design and everything was incredible.
Next we hit Flight of Passage and this was the best ride I have ever been on IN THE WORLD (and I have been to my fair share of theme parks!). I thought the attention to detail was incredible in the area, and on the Na'vi River ride but this knocked it out the park. I don't want to spoil it too much - but the queue is interactive nearer the front which totally makes you forget the wait time too. When you do eventually get on the ride, after being paired with your Avatar to transform, and you've picked up some very attractive 3D glasses, you sit on a motorbike - almost like a horse! Which is what simulates your ride on your Banshee, and you feel its breathing between your legs which was very cool. The ride was breathtaking, all in all - if you can wait the time - DO! It is worth it, and if you're lucky enough to get a Fast Pass then hooray!
One last thing to add about Animal Kingdom. We did a character lunch! TUSKER HOUSE! We joined Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Mickey, and Goofy at this colorful Harambe marketplace eatery for a wild Character Dining experience. The food is buffet style with a heavy African themed. But I must say, for park food, and buffet style it was very well done! This came recommended by a Disney advisor on the phone when I booked tickets, and I can't thank her enough because it was fantastic! (TIP: Sit in the Artefact room if you can! Better lighting for photos, and also the characters seem to slow up in there and dance more!)
NEW YEARS EVE
I will keep this short and sweet! GO.
Ok, I'll be serious now, as a last minute decision we decided to go into the Magic Kingdom for the night. Yes, it was overly rammed, but organised. They had a huge amount of extra staff and people being trafficked in one direction and the other to avoid a jam anywhere. We got into the park about 9:30pm after a quite bite in the hotel (we didn't want to fuss about with a set menu anywhere which is what most places were offering) and that was a good time to get in there, we walked about, got some light up Minnie ears - and hit a few rides! All in time to find a place to watch the fireworks and the count down.
The firework display was one of the best I have ever seen! They even had fireworks in the shape of numbers for the countdown over the castle! The fireworks were set up to be 360 around the park, so from anywhere you could see them going off, they were in front of you! Behind you! Above you! They were incredible.
Throughout the night there were DJs set up in different zones in the park playing club classics and top 40 music - of course kid friendly! It made for such a good atmosphere, you had people moving and grooving to songs in Frontierland which isn't what you see everyday!