Family, Humor, Life, Summer

Disney For People Who Don’t Like Disney

Hello friends, I’m back from an amazing five days in central Florida at a little place called Walt Disney World.
Heard of it?
I have only been to Disney twice in my life before this past week: the first time in 1984 with my family and the second time in 1987 when I went with our marching band to march in the Citrus Bowl parade.
It was loads of fun but it had been a solid 26 years since I had been back so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
This winter when my parents and I discussed taking Annie, my 13-year-old who had never been to Disney, I got excited.
Fast forward six months later and it was an amazing week to spend with my parents who I don’t get to see very often and with my teenager who I get little time alone with anymore.
It was so much fun, so tiring, so HOT and so amazing all wrapped into one and the entire time I was writing a blog post in my head.
So here are some of my tips and observations on one of the world’s largest tourist attractions, as only I could write it.

General Tips

You will be sick of people after this trip

Or you will end up sick.
Either way.
I have never experienced so many people coughing or gagging outside of the pediatrician’s office in February in my entire life.
Trip of a lifetime = suck it up and go even if you are on your death-bed.
So, as my friend Dawn suggested, use A LOT of hand sanitizer.
And don’t be above wearing a surgical mask.


My dad is awesome.

Go with a sense of humor

For the love of other people, please go with a sense of humor.
We ran into some amazing people while here, mostly.
It will be busy, it will be hot and it will tire you.
Go knowing this and you will fare far better.
There are so many people who can never get here.
Look around you and enjoy every minute and SMILE.


Bring your own misting fan

I want to kiss the person on the mouth who invented the misting fan.
They sell these inside the parks for $16 each but you can buy these at home for a lot less.
I got ours at CVS for $9.99 each AND I could take them on the plane, without water in them, of course.
You will NEVER regret this purchase.
If you are going off-season, you might not need these but buy them now just in case.


Florida isn’t always sunny

In fact, it rained every single day we were there.
But I guess this is just how Florida was built.
So my tip is to do your running around early in the day and plan for an hour or two in the afternoon for inside activities.
Or for taking a nap.
Because it will be raining.
And you will need a nap.


Clinton Kelly will agree with me


It’s not a beauty pageant.
As evidenced by my toe band-aid.
I saw some serious outfits while at Disney.
Serious outfits. 
This is what you need to know: dress comfortably.
This means lightweight clothing, light colors, comfortable shoes, no makeup, etc.
Platform heels, a thong, ten-inch hair does not a comfortable day make on a summer day in central Florida.


Here comes more rain!
Since we’re stuck inside, here are some more random tips/observations.


Ask the staff or “cast members” for their suggestions.
They work for Disney day in and out and know what sells, what tastes best, etc.
They are an enormous wealth of information, and they are so amazingly helpful.
Except for the nighttime bus driver to the Magic Kingdom on day two.
He was a tool.

Try to go early in the morning and walk all the way to the back of the park, then work your way forward.
I got this tip from our new friends we met at the airport on the way home.
This is smart when you think about it and completely lost on us since we were going home when we learned this?
But YOU can benefit from this!

Wave back at the cast members.
Seriously, how hard is it?

Thank your bus drivers and other transportation professionals
Except for the said “tool” mentioned above, our drivers were so nice and helpful.
Making eye contact and saying a genuine thank you is really a pleasant thing to do.
Even if you’re tired and hot.

Bring a hat or buy one there.
Keeping yourself cool is priority number one.
And who doesn’t look cool in a hat?

Did I mention PURELL??

Drink lots of water. NOT pop or those lemonade slushy drinks.
They sound like a good idea, but you will end up even thirstier.
But a beer or margarita is just fine.
Because you will be too drunk to notice how thirsty you really are.
Don’t listen to me.

Animal Kingdom gets a bad rep.
It was just okay, but it is the hottest of all the parks.
There is one ride that was pretty cool.
Not COOL, but refreshingly cool.
You will still be hot on this rideKilimanjaro Safaris.
I would go back to this park, if only for this ride.

Avoid summer if you can.
If we go back, we would definitely go during the school year.
In either the fall or late spring because June was too hot.
Even the locals said it was hot, and that should tell you something.

Have a “down day”.
Plan to have a day sandwiched in that you can go to the pool, relax in your room or explore your resort.
We did this on day three and really needed it.
We hung out at the pool, walked around the resort, ate lunch and it was the best thing we ever did for ourselves.
There will come a time during your visit where you will be sick of humankind.
This is when you will need to take your “down day” to re-charge.

Avoid Downtown Disney.
Because they connect it to Pleasure Island, which sounds like a lube product.
You have shopping and chain restaurants at home. Why must you do this while on vacation?
Stay on Disney property and do your mall shopping when you get back to reality.
I love the cocoon Disney provided us while there.
When we got to Downtown Disney, we felt violated.
Real-life awaits you when you get back. Why rush it?

This tip comes to us courtesy of a great cast member on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
I asked him how he kept cool in such hot weather.

Baby powder.
So if you want to feel fresh for more than a half-hour, douse yourself in Johnson and Johnson before you leave the bathroom.

Magic Kingdom

This is the largest and busiest of all the parks Disney operates and my least favorite.
I think it is timing.
I would have loved it more if it hadn’t been so busy.
I expected it to be crowded, but claustrophobic was a better description.
Be prepared.
You won’t see everything you want to see.
You will not ride everything you want to ride.
And you will loathe humankind if you go here on a hot summer day.
This is exactly the reason we will come back in the off-season.
So we don’t commit a crime.


Dole Whips.
Believe the hype.
I ate this bad boy in less than 10 minutes.
But order it the correct way.
There were two Dole Whips on the menu plus a Pineapple Float.
We asked the cashier which one was the real deal and she directed us to the correct one, the Pineapple Float is the one you want.


Mouse Ear Cake Pops.
Best undiscovered item.
I read all about the Dole Whips and the Mouse Ear ice cream bars before coming to Disney, but these babies were INCREDIBLE.
We found them at the Confectionery on Main Street right by the exit/entrance to the park.
I would even dare to say better than the Dole Whips.
We even had them for breakfast one day.
We were on vacation.



See the Magic Kingdom at night when you go for the first time.
This was totally unplanned, but it was perfect.
We didn’t get there until day two at 9 pm.
The above is my daughter gaping at the castle lit up.
She is 13 and all about being cool and not being embarrassed.
Your typical teenager.
But this.
She said to me softly after seeing this, ” This IS magical, mom”.
Made my mom and me very emotional.
When you get there, wait until dark if you can.
The effect is magical.



We loved Epcot more than any other park.
Trust me, it surprised us as well.
The favorite part being the “World Showcase”.
This park isn’t as busy as the others, so it makes getting around so much easier.
The bummer is that it closes at 9 each night except for magic hours.
Don’t get me started on extra magic hours.

Spaceship Earth was still pretty cool.
It is what is inside the enormous sphere you see above.
I like the nod to Steve Jobs at the end of the ride, but feel like it hasn’t really been updated other than the cool feature in your seat.
Make sure you play along with the computer built-in the headrest.
It was pretty funny.


If you are going to eat anywhere in Epcot, eat in Italy at Via Napoli.
We had a taste for pizza and this place, set way in the back of the Italian courtyard, was perfection.
The U.S. Navy stationed my dad in Naples, Italy for three years in the late ’60s and he said it was the closest to true Italian pizza he had since then.
The cool thing about Epcot World Showcase is that everyone who works here is actually from the country that is being represented.
I loved that.
Our server, Chiarra, was from Torino Italy, and we loved talking to her.
She said she visited Chicago a few weeks earlier, and I asked if she had Chicago-style pizza.

She had, and she thought it was “interesting” but good.
I loved this pizza more than the pizza we find here, and Chicago makes some pretty good pizza.



– You can walk around Epcot with booze! Beer from Germany, margaritas from Mexico. These are my people.

– Skip the Maelstrom ride in Norway. There is a reason there is never a line.  

It has since been closed down. I totally saw that coming. 

– Definitely go on the boat ride in Mexico and try to eat at the restaurant inside as well. 

– Germany had amazing caramel apples that they slice for you and the coolest tee shirts which even had the translation on a sticker attached to the shirt.


Hollywood Studios

The last time I was at Disney was 1987, and this wasn’t yet built.
Not sure how I felt about it, very crowded but kind of cool.
It wasn’t until we went back later for dinner that we liked it a little more.


Eat at the 50s Prime Time Café.
The picture above just doesn’t do it justice.
Each “room” was set up to look like a kitchen or family room from the ’50s.
The servers tease you and tell you to “keep your elbows off the table” and leave your plates and silverware on the table, then tell you to “set the table” after they take your order.
The food was great comfort food.
We got pot roast, fried chicken, and meatloaf and it was all yummy.


The fake street scenes were so cool at the back of this park.
The above looks so real, doesn’t it?
We loved walking down the streets and seeing all the details.
We were here in the evening, and it wasn’t busy at all.



– Tower of Terror and Aerosmith roller coaster are supposedly amazing according to some Disney cast members at the Magic Kingdom. We wouldn’t know. We were there after an enormous meal, so opted not to go on the rides that night. Smart move for us and for the surrounding others.

– Hollywood Studios had the best gift shops of all the parks, in my humble opinion.


Restaurants To Hit


Maya Grill at the Coronado Resort.
Best dinner of the week and the best Mexican food I have ever eaten.
Go for the salsa and the margaritas alone, but the rest was INCREDIBLE as well.
And tell Sal we said hi.


50s Prime Time Diner
Order the sampler of “mom’s favorites” which includes meatloaf, pot roast, AND fried chicken. Amazing.

Via Napoli in Epcot Italy.
Get the wood oven pizza.
For the cheese alone, please order this pizza.


Restaurants To Miss

Restaurant Disney
photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

Paradiso 37

See that picture above?
That made the deciding factor in choosing this restaurant from afar in March to prepare for our trip.
When we were sitting in the actual establishment, my mom and I both sat there and wondered where in the hell they took this picture.
It looks nothing like the picture leads it to believe.
The staff was amazing and attentive.

But the food was just okay, and the atmosphere was like a bar.
First, it was boiling in there.
And it was really sticky.
The floors, the tables, etc.
Because in all reality, this restaurant was more BAR than a restaurant.
So if you are looking for a family restaurant, skip this place.
If you are young and child-free?
This would be pretty cool.


photo courtesy of Walt Disney World


Pecos Bill in the Magic Kingdom

We only ate at one restaurant while in the actual Magic Kingdom, and this was a fail for me.
I had one bite of my cheeseburger and wanted to spit it out.
Or I may have spat it out.
The fries were okay, though.
I realize you aren’t gonna find great food at an amusement park, but I would rather have a corn dog at a stand than food at this place.
Or another Dole Whip.
And I am not picky with food, nor am I a food snob just to give you a frame of reference.
Oh, and the place looks nothing like the picture above, yet again.
Does this even look remotely familiar, mom??

A couple of extra tips

Disney is expensive.
Stupid expensive.
If you had one park to go to money-wise, choose the Magic Kingdom but go off season to save money on everything from airfare, gas, hotel, and tickets.
Plus, it won’t be as busy and much more enjoyable.

Disney offers food plans, but my mom said she was on the fence about it, and I agree.
You break even when choosing a plan or just paying as you go.
The plan offers dessert with every single meal, but it is just too much.
Dessert after lunch is just not a good idea when it is 190 degrees outside.
Choose wisely.

Try to stay inside the park if you can afford it at all.
They offer moderately priced hotel options which can still be pricey, but you park your car when you get there and never drive until you leave to go home.
They take care of all the transportation, and that is worth every penny alone.
No parking hassles and when we zoomed past the lines of traffic and the PACKED parking lots, it was lovely.


I hope this helped you out.
Or scared the heck out of you.
It can be daunting, but it can also be fun.
If you go with the right people.
And my people are pretty darn good.


17 thoughts on “Disney For People Who Don’t Like Disney”

  1. Well, you know that I am not a Disney person, but have been a couple of times. I agree with your tips and wish I would have followed them for our trips to Disney. Glad you had fun with your parents and your girl, and I'm glad you are back.


  2. I am glad to be back too but wish I could have brought my parents home with me. Next time, I am shoving them in my suitcase.


  3. And now I want to go to Disney. I went a few years ago with a girlfriend (drunk Disney as an adult is surprisingly awesome) and my husband and I did Universal Studios a couple years ago before the kid. Now I feel like I need to wait until Jack is big enough to actually appreciate it if we go. In the off season. =)


  4. We went to Disney World last year for the first time. You were spot on! We loved Epcot and tolerated the other parks. We went the first week of June and were told that it was their hottest week yet. Animal kingdom was a nightmare, as it was over capacity, at least until it rained! Then we were good to go! It rained every day we were there, was hotter than hell and more crowded than I had expected. We are planning to go again next year, but trying to do it in February if we can swing it! Looks like you had a great time and were able to inform us all!


  5. Love this post. It's a great idea to wait until your kids are teens to enjoy Disney. And I am so glad that you two had a wonderful time.


  6. Jen- I was so happy to share it with Annie and can't wait to share it with Ellie someday! 🙂


  7. Agreed that Via Napoli is AWESOME! Also, the only place that is really worth eating at in the Magic Kingdom is Liberty Tree. Amazing food, served family-style. Eat until you explode. Ham, turkey, steak, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, salad, green beans, and dessert. It's a must do.


  8. You didn't miss a trick! And I thought you looked super-cute throughout (Vince Neil or no). Well done! You should write a guide!!


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