Trattoria al Forno Dinner Review

Trattoria al Forno is located on Disney’s Boardwalk outside of Epcot’s International Gateway. Also known as the exit between the U.K. and France pavilions.

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This restaurant replaced Cat Kora’s Kouzzina 2 years ago. Another lesser known restaurant that consistently has excellent food and service. This was our second visit, we visited last year as well.

Trattoria al Forno

Trattoria al Forno

We started with ordering drinks, water for the boys, a Peach Bellini for me and an Italian beer for my husband. Next, we shared an appetizer of Fried Calamari – with Balsamic Agrodolce $11.99. I normally don’t eat more than a bit or two of calamari, not a big fan, but this was very good and I had more than I normally would.

Trattoria al Forno

For entrees I chose the Seasonal Risotto $18.99. I cannot remember everything that was in it, but it was very tasty. The rice was not over-cooked and the sauce was not overpowering.

Trattoria al Forno

Hubby chose the Braised Short Rib Bologonese – with smoked bacon, tagliatelle, and roasted mushrooms $21.99. He was a bit jealous of my short ribs last night at Captain’s Grille. These were just as wonderful, I had a taste. I did not get a picture, but click the dish name and it will bring you to a photo of the dish from All Ears.

The kids are too old for the kid’s menu and Matthew has very much looking forward to the Giant Meatball he had last year. He talked about it for months leading up to the trip asking if we could go eat there again.  It was changed a bit from last year, but he had the Polpetta Gigante – beef meatball, spinach ricotta canneloni and Sunday Gravy $19.99. It was not quite as big, but still pretty large. Spinach and ricotta not being items he would normally eat, but he wanted that giant meatball and ordered it anyways. He said he didn’t even notice the taste of the spinach although you could clearly see it and he liked the ricotta cheese.

Trattoria al Forno

Eric chose a pizza of course, it was quite large, but he finished off the entire pie by himself, including the crust, saying it was very good pizza.

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Service was great and we were seated within minutes of arriving despite being early for our reservation. It was busy, but not completely full and with the open kitchen, it makes for a fun lively atmosphere even though it’s more formal than most.

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This is another one of my favorite restaurants on Disney property.

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Captains Grille Dinner Review

Captain’s Grille is one of the most under-rated restaurants at Disney World in my opinion. Having had breakfast here twice, both excellent, we decided to try it for a “date” dinner one night on our recent trip.

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We arrived without a reservation on a rainy evening and were seating immediately. Our waitress was wonderful, she took our drink order and went over all the specials and then returned to answer any questions we had and make recommendations on things we were considering.

For an appetizer, I had the House-made Potato-Cheese Gnocchi – toasted walnut breadcrumbs, julienne pears and truffle butter $9. It was excellent. I am used to homemade, by my father and mother, gnocchi and they can be difficult to get right. These were perfect. Not too soft, but not hard either. A very nice texture. Hubby had the New England Clam Chowder – creamy chowder with clams, potatoes, and vegetables $8. I didn’t get a picture. He said it was very good though.

Captains Grille

Hubby chose beer and I chose a lovely glass of Riesling.

Next was the entrees. Hubby went for the crab legs as this is something he rarely gets to eat. Snow Crab Legs – New Potatoes and Corn on the Cob $31. They are a lot of work, but he enjoyed them.

Captains Grille

I chose Tagliatelle Pasta – braised short ribs, fennel, cipollini onions, veal jus, shaved parmesan, and seasoned greens $23. The braised short ribs were a menu item on their own as well and came recommended, but after a week of very little pasta when we eat it quite often at home, I was craving a little. The waitress did say they use the same braised ribs in this dish so it was a good choice. This was so good. The ribs were like butter, so soft and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente.  There was a good amount of short ribs in this dish, they are mostly covered by the pasta in the picture.

Captains Grille

We did not indulge in dessert as we were quite full with all this food, the portions are  just right.

The atmosphere in this restaurant, located just off Disney’s Yacht Club Resort lobby is upscale , but not overly so. Still casual enough to feel comfortable with kids and there were several tables of families as well as couples and a few small groups when we were there.

This was one of my favorite meals at Disney World, ever!

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Spirit of the Swamp Adventure

Our recent trip to Florida included this wonderful first for us.

Air boat adventure on Spirit of the Swamp Air Boats

We drove out to Kissimmee and Lake Tohopekaliga to the address from the website. We were a little worried as it was raining most of the way and a hurricane was bearing down on Florida.  We didn’t know what to expect and we arrived to a park with a playground, a restroom, a dock area with the air boats and the address was a private residence. You check in right at the dock and they use the private house address so your GPS will get you there, it was a tad confusing when we first drove in, but it worked. There appeared to be another air boat company there as well.

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We met Captain Lynne from Spirit of the Swamp and boarded our boat after she put the canopy up since it was sprinkling. It was a small boat and it was just our family, which was really nice. We booked a 1 hour ride. We got on and were told about the headsets, we could hear the Captain and we could all speak as well without pressing anything and we could all hear each other. The boat is quite loud especially when going fast so the headsets are a must. As we were making our way along the canal out to the lake, Captain Lynne told us safety features and how the boat works.

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Once we arrived onto the lake, we immediately started spotting wildlife. Mainly birds, interesting birds everywhere. Vultures and egrets I believe were the first we saw. Captain Lynne was full of information about the birds, the lake and the alligators and she was funny too. We very quickly found our first alligator, it was hatchling season, so there were mama gators guarding their nests and babies in spots and Captain Lynne knew them all. We got to see several nests and the babies are hard to spot, they are so tiny, but at one nest we saw tons of them. Unfortunately, the mother was nowhere to be seen. Captain Lynne said she hadn’t seen her in days and was afraid she had been caught as hunting season had started 2 weeks earlier. It seemed really wrong to us that they would allow hunting of female alligators right during hatchling season. Now those babies will probably not survive much longer without their mother.

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We were not sure what to expect, but we had a really good time on this excursion and am so glad we did it. It sprinkled a bit, on and off, but we were covered and stayed dry.

I had been on an air boat once when I was a child in the everglades, but I barely remember it. I do remember it being a big boat with lots of people. This was so nice because it was just us, we all had a great view, Captain Lynne would turn the boat around so we all got a great view.

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From Disney World, it took about 40 minutes to get there with some traffic. It took us under 30 minutes to get back.

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I highly recommend this “off the beaten path” adventure while in the Orlando area.

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas Review

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, along with the Beach Club Villas are located in the Epcot Resorts area. Along with the Boardwalk  Resort and Villas and the non-Disney owned Swan and Dolphin. These resorts surround Crescent Lake and are walking distance to Epcot’s International Gateway and a slightly longer walk to Hollywood Studios. Boats are also available to take guests to these parks and from one side of Crescent Lake to the other.

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Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club & Villas share the undisputed best pool in all the “world,” Disney World that is. Stormalong Bay is a 3 acre water playground with the longest slide on property, built into a pirate ship! Additional slides, hot tubs, sand bottom and a lazy river round out this aquatic playground.

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The Villas are in a building behind the main Beach Club building. They have their own lobby with a concierge available to check in with and anything else until 4pm each day. After 4pm, check in is in the main Beach Club lobby. Access to the Villas is through the Beach Club Solarium or doors just by the back entrance to the Marketplace. This path is covered. The Villas have a community room and drawing room with pool table, tv, books, little reading nooks. As well as their own quiet pool.  Villas guests have access to all the amenities at the Yacht and Beach Club.

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The Beach Club Villas are just in the final minutes of a complete refurbishing. A new modern, light, airy feel really brings out the beachy theme with browns an blues and whites.

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With the one and two bedroom villas, you will have a full kitchen and a washer/dryer making life on vacation so much easier.When booking through Disney paying cash, guests receive normal daily housekeeping services. The Villas are a Disney Vacation Club property and if renting points, staying on points, housekeeping is every 4th day.

These villas speak for themselves. Take a look….

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas offer studios, 1 and 2 bedroom villas over 6 floors. With all that Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club have to offer steps away, it’s a great choice for families that need a little more space to stretch out.

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Welcome Home!

 

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Return to Universal

We recently returned from another fabulous Florida vacation. This time was different from all the previous ones. For one thing, we didn’t do the Disney parks, but we still stayed onsite at Disney of course. Let’s not get too crazy here!

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This trip was Universal and other Orlando attractions we’ve never taken the time to do. Sea World, Discovery Cove and we took an air boat ride through the swamp to see alligators! We also rented a car this time, which we’ve never done. Using Disney and private transportation is great, but with so many different things on the itinerary, a car was really necessary this time. It turned out to be easy peasy too.

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You can read all about our last trip (August 2015)  to Universal here. I just posted all about our amazing day at Discovery Cove here.

This trip we spent more time at Universal, 4 nights total with 3 days of park to park tickets, so we could ride Hogwarts Express! This amount of time was great as it really let us enjoy so much more of the parks and still get lots of down time at the resort pool to relax. We mainly spent half days in the parks, the mornings, and the afternoons and evenings at the pool. A dinner break at City Walk and maybe a short trip into a park for a few rides in the evenings.

We stayed on site at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, we love this place! Read all about it here.

Highlights for this year:

Eric was tall enough for everything, last year he missed out on Hulk and Dragon Challenge, so he was thrilled. Hulk had just re-opened after an almost year long refurbishment just a few weeks prior. Phew!

We missed out on a few things last year that we made sure to not miss again. We rode Hogwarts both ways, enjoying the walk through the wall at Platform 9 3/4. The Simpson’s ride became a new favorite and finally after a 20 year wait, I rode E.T. So cute! I was in line for E.T. 20 some odd years ago on a trip with a friend and after waiting in line 2 hours, the ride broke down and we never got to ride it, we were almost inside!

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The Schenectady sign!

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen had just opened so while wait times for milk shakes and the restaurant were a bit much for us, I did tour the shop and it was great, so unique!

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Matthew the donut lover got to have the Big Pink Donut from Lard Lads. Heaven for him!

img_7408We ate at several restaurants at City Walk including Margaritavilla, Hard Rock Cafe, NBC Sport Grill and Brew, all wonderful.

Skull Island Reign of Kong had recently opened and just started accepting Express Pass when we arrived, perfect timing.

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We of course rode all our favorites from last year, more than once taking advantage of early park entry for onsite guests on 2 of the 3 days and the invaluable Express Pass included with our stay at Portofino Bay Resort. Even during a not so busy time of year, the last week of August, Express Pass came in handy.

Universal can be done in 1-2 days, but taking a little more time really makes it a much more enjoyable vacation and as the kids get older, they tend to lean more towards this type of entertainment.

Ready to go? Let’s plan a trip!

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La Dolce Vita in Orlando

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is one of my favorite hotels in the world. It is picturesque and looks exactly like the real deal in Italy. Only cleaner. It’s so serene and really does force you to slow down and savor the sweet life.

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Our most recent stay was longer than in the past and much more relaxing as we enjoyed the resort as much as the theme parks. We arrived in the evening and after a lovely check in were in our room in no time.

We stayed Club Level in a Deluxe room and found ourselves in the Villa Wing. Location was great, high floor which I requested and not too far from either the front elevator down to the lobby and club lounge or the back elevator which led right to the pool. We had a lovely view of the Villa pool and Bocce Ball court.

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The deluxe rooms are larger than the already very large Portofino rooms. They are 490 sq ft.  The bathroom had a tub and separate shower and is spacious as is the room.

Club Level at Portofino was wonderful. The staff is very helpful, friendly and they keep the food and drink stocked nicely. Club offers you food and beverage options throughout the day. It was easy to stop by the lounge on the way in or out to grab water or a drink.

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In the morning there is breakfast which includes fruit, pastries, cereal, hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes. A coffee station as well as milk and orange juice station round it out.

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During the afternoon, snacks are available, chips cookies and the like. As well as lemonade.

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A drink station is available all day, anytime the lounge is open. Soda and bottled water are available here as well as to go cups.

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During the evening reception, 2 hot dishes are available, usually a pasta dish and something else. As well as a salad bar, cheese, crackers and wine and beer.

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Later, dessert with cakes and cookies.

Potofino Bay Hotel
walking to the parks with my to go cup of vino

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One of our favorite features of this hotel is the pool. The main pool is the Beach Pool. There are fun pool side activities for the kids and adults, the slide is fabulous and great food and drinks can be had at Splendido, the poolside bar. The villa pool is the quiet pool, with cabanas surrounding it and in just a beautiful serene location. There is another small pool called the Hillside in the East Wing of the resort. Pools stay open late, 11pm and the main pool shows a movie at night right there on a screen on the beach in the sand. There is a lovely large hot tub at the Beach Pool as well, with a waterfall feature. Another hot tub and a small children’s splash pad rounds out the area. Music is playing all day and there is lots of activity.

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There are lots of great restaurant choices here, but it’s not far to City Walk or the other hotels either. Bar food at Thirsty Fish, comfort food from Nonna at Mama Dellas or the Trattoria, something quick from Sal’s Deli or upscale Bice. Don’t forget gelato, it’s so good! There is a Starbucks as well. Shopping for art work and unique pieces, a Universal Studios Store and the hotel gift shop with some lovely unique gift ideas.

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The walk to the parks is about 15 minutes via a lovely scenic path that takes you passed Hard Rock Hotel.  Security will be a the end of the path just before arriving at Universal Studios. The boat is quick and easy and you will go through security before boarding the boat.img_7466

A little bit of “la dolce vita” right in the heart of the theme parks!

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Royal Pacific Paradise

Staying onsite at Universal Orlando Resort has many benefits and staying at one of the 3 deluxe resorts  includes the best benefit of all, included Unlimited Express Pass.

HOTEL GUESTS ENJOY EXCLUSIVE THEME PARK BENEFITS
  • SKIP THE REGULAR LINES with Universal Express SM Unlimited ride access* in both theme parks – a FREE benefit worth up to $89 per person, per day^
    (valid theme park admission required)
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens (valid theme park admission required)

Loews Royal Pacific offers the lowest cost option of the deluxe resorts and is an absolutely gorgeous resort. Easy walking distance to both parks and boat service as well.

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Dine on exceptional cuisine; delight in the impeccable service; and soak in the breathtaking splendor of lush tropical surroundings at a white sandy beach of the lagoon-style swimming pool; all while enjoying the latest in modern conveniences.

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Royal Pacific offers several room categories, from standard, water view, suites and their fun kid’s suites…Jurassic Park themed!

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Guest Room Amenities

  • 1,000 guest rooms including 51 suites; rooms start at 335 sq. ft
  • Flat panel television with HD channels and On Demand® in-room movies (fees apply)
  • iHome clock radio and docking station
  • Keurig coffee maker featuring Emeril’s Gourmet Coffee and assorted teas
  • Refrigerator
  • Cotton signature bathrobes
  • Nightly turndown service (upon request)
  • Iron, ironing board, hairdryer and in-room safe
  • Complimentary* wireless internet access in each guest room and most common areas of the hotel
  • Upgrade to Premium Plus^ wireless internet access for optimal entertainment and business needs
  • 2 telephones (1 cordless) with dual voice lines, data port and voicemail
  • Club Level rooms feature complimentary continental breakfast, access to the fitness center, and more

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Hotel Amenities

Whether it’s relaxing in the serene lagoon-style pool, the sights and sounds of our weekly luau, or a workout in the fitness center, Loews Royal Pacific Resort has something for everyone.

Pools

One of the most impressive features of this resort is the lagoon-style swimming pool and sandy beach. Sink your toes into the sand and ease your body into your lounge chair. Lagoon style swimming pool featuring a white sand beach and the following:

  • Two (2) hot tubs
  • Beach volleyball court
  • Private cabanas for rent

Mandara Spa® & Fitness Center

Visit the full service Mandara Spa® next door at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Mandara Spa® offers comprehensive wellness services, a de-stressing zone where you can work out, or tune out with a delicious spa treatment.

Supervised Kids Camp

When Mom and Dad want to enjoy a night on the town, drop the kids off at the supervised children’s activity center.

Kids will enjoy an arts & crafts table, storybook corner, computer desks, a movie room, and more. Counselors are trained to supervise toilet-trained children ages 4-14 only. One counselor for every 8-10 children.

COST: $15 per hour, per child / $15 per meal

HOURS: Open from 5:00 pm to 11:30 pm, Sunday through Thursday and from 5:00 pm to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. * Times are subject to change.

Restaurants

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop

In both atmosphere and menu, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop offers diners a unique and exotic journey through the Pacific Seas, a perfect complement for the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, complete with bamboo, waterfalls, sculpted gardens and giant woks in full view.

Islands Dining Room

Enjoy savory chef-inspired creations featuring noodle bar dishes, rice bowls, wok and hibachi specialties. At breakfast, join us for traditional favorites, along with several Polynesian-influenced morning specialties.

Jake’s American Bar

Jake’s American Bar is the perfect place to meet for drinks and lively conversation after your day’s adventures.

Wantilan Luau

Sit back and experience an evening of authentic Polynesian food and entertainment at the enchanting Wantilan Luau, a weekly Hawaiian dinner show featuring an all-you-can-eat buffet of Polynesian specialties, live Hawaiian music and traditional hula dancing. Hula and fire dancers delight the audience and entice a few to even learn the hula! (Fees apply; reservations required)

Orchid Court Lounge & Sushi Bar

Enjoy a continental breakfast or a tropical cocktail at the Orchid Court Lounge, which overlooks a serene orchid garden. The Orchid Court Sushi Bar features modern, inventive sushi and sashimi presentations along with Asian-inspired desserts and South Seas martinis.

Bula Bar & Grille

Bula means “welcome” in Fijian, and you’ll definitely feel right at home at this poolside eatery serving up food and beverages with a tropical flair.

THE LONGER YOU STAY THE MORE YOU SAVE!

Stay more nights and save up to 35%!

Contact me to get starting planning your EPIC vacation at Universal Orlando!

Epic Savings Event – Vacation Package

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All Vacation Packages Include:(per night rate shown)

  • 4-Night Hotel Accommodations
  • 3-Day Park-to-Park Ticket^
  • Early Park Admission one hour before the theme park opens to one (1) Universal Orlando® theme park as determined by Universal Orlando
  • Access to select live entertainment venues^^ at Universal CityWalk®

Rosen Inn International

Starting from $99* per adult, per night, tax inclusive

  • FREE scheduled transportation^^ between hotel and Universal Orlando
  • Discounts~ on merchandise, food & non-alcoholic beverages at select theme park & Universal CityWalk® locations
  • Additional Universal Partner Hotels available

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Starting from $145** per adult, per night, tax inclusive

  • Complimentary transportation to both theme parks and Universal CityWalk® make getting around the resort fast and easy so you can make the most of your time
  • Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to your hotel
  • Resort-wide charging privileges with your room key card 

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

Starting from $219*** per adult, per night, tax inclusive

  • FREE Universal Express℠ Unlimited ride access to skip the regular lines in both theme parks – a benefit worth up to $89 per person, per day††
  • Complimentary transportation to both theme parks and Universal CityWalk® make getting around the resort fast and easy so you can make the most of your time
  • Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to your hotel
  • Resort-wide charging privileges with your room key card
  • And more!

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Hard Rock Hotel

Starting from $239**** per adult, per night, tax inclusive

  • FREE Universal Express℠ Unlimited ride access to skip the regular lines in both theme parks – a benefit worth up to $89 per person, per day††
  • Complimentary transportation to both theme parks and Universal CityWalk® make getting around the resort fast and easy so you can make the most of your time
  • Priority seating at select restaurants throughout both theme parks and Universal CityWalk®
  • And more!

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

Starting from $249***** per adult, per night, tax inclusive

  • FREE Universal Express℠ Unlimited ride access to skip the regular lines in both theme parks – a benefit worth up to $89 per person, per day††
  • Complimentary transportation to both theme parks and Universal CityWalk® make getting around the resort fast and easy so you can make the most of your time
  • Priority seating at select restaurants throughout both theme parks and Universal CityWalk®
  • And more!

Subject to availability, room type, hotel, and travel dates selected. Rate valid for bookings 3/31/16 – 4/4/16 and valid for travel; 4/3/16 – 6/10/16.

 

Top 3 Reasons to be at Rope Drop

Rope Drop is what opening is called at the Disney theme parks. At Magic Kingdom, they have a Welcome Show each morning as a part of their Rope Drop. Occasionally, the other parks have had shows as well, but not regularly.

Why should you plan to be at the Magic Kingdom in time for Rope Drop?

 

3. It’s a fun show! The train pulls into the station with most of the characters on it, there is singing, dancing, waving, confetti and often a Family of the Day picked from the early arrivals to the park. Often there is fun going on just inside the park as well, cast members waving hello, the Dapper Dan’s may be out. It’s exciting!

Rope Drop
Welcome Show at Magic Kingdom
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Where else can you see Drizella and Anastasia getting into trouble with Stitch!

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2. Parks are empty! You are walking into an empty park. A cast member will lead people to the main attractions and there are photo ops with  fewer people than you will see for the rest of the day. You can ride the big ticket rides with little to no wait, more than once if you’d like.

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An empty Liberty Square

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1. The number one reason is to maximize your time in the park! By arriving at opening when crowds are minimal and many are still sleeping in, you’ll have access to many rides with little to no wait for an hour or two. You’ll get much more accomplished in the morning than in the afternoon and it’s not quite as hot either.

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Heading to Space Mountain first thing at Rope Drop, nobody ahead of us!

 

While sleeping in is nice, my number one recommendation on a Disney trip is to be at Rope Drop and make the most of your time. Relax by the pool later in the afternoon when the lines are long and the parks are crowded.

 

Here Come Mickey and Santa

Join Mickey at this festive winter celebration for live entertainment, spectacular fireworks and an oh-so-jolly holiday parade.

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Here Come Mickey and Santa

Start planning for a marvelous gathering with family, friends and some familiar Disney faces!

When Mickey celebrates the season, Magic Kingdom park lights up with excitement for Guests of all ages. Cinderella Castle shimmers. Joyful music fills the air. Disney Characters don their most festive attire. Favorite attractions take on a holiday theme. And enchanting surprises lie around almost every turn!

Mickey dressed in seasonal holiday clothing dancing in formation between two life-size nutcrackers

Held on select evenings, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is currently scheduled to take place on the following dates in 2016:

  • November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27 and 29
  • December 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 22