Walt Disney World is home to 27,000 acres of land. Spread throughout the property are resorts, theme parks, water parks and shopping districts. There are multiple ways to navigate these areas – busses, monorails, boats or cars. Today’s blog will explore the option Disney transportation or driving yourself.

First, I must declare that because I’m a former Cast Member, driving is my preferred option as I know the roads quite well. However, that wasn’t always the case. Prior to working for Disney I relied heavily on their transportation. I will focus this blog on the advantages of Disney transportation and driving rather than the disadvantages.

Let’s first take a look at the advantages of Disney transportation. Disney’s fleet includes over 400 buses, approximately 40 boats, 12 monorail vehicles and the new Minnie Vans by Lyft. Taking a bus, monorail, boat or Minnie Van will get you close the entrance of the park. You skip the step of parking and boarding the tram then going to the entrance. Knowing the roads and routes of Disney World isn’t necessary and you avoid the stress of driving in theme park traffic. Finally, you save money by not needing to rent a car and pay for fuel.

Now let’s take a look at the advantages of driving. You have complete freedom to leave when you want and go wherever you feel like it. You get in your car and you’re off! You can also go wherever you like on or off Disney property. (Outlet stores anyone!) When dining at other resorts there are no transfers of Disney transportation, you drive up to the security gate and they scan your MagicBand and you’re in! Plus, you get free parking. Here is the added bonus of driving yourself. You can explore Walt Disney World. That means driving past the new entrance to Hollywood Studios or seeing other construction take place, (both things that a Disney nerd like myself enjoy).

Lets recap! If you want dependability and convenience you stick to Disney transportation. There are few headaches here except for the occasional tired child who happens to be a little fussy on the bus ride back to the resort when the park closes. (Yeah can’t blame them and I’ll be honest I think that is me some nights!) If you want a little more freedom and exploration opportunities than you take the car. You’re in control with this option but you will walk a little more in parking lots and at the end of the night you will be asking “did we park in Goofy row 97 or Donald row 57?”

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

 

The 1980’s saw a boom of Disney parks open across the world. In a 10-year span three new parks opened; Epcot, Disney/MGM Studios and Tokyo Disneyland as well as the idea for a park Europe. At this same time executives in Burbank, led by Michael Eisner, begin seriously planning for a second gate down the road in Anaheim.

In 1988, Disney purchased the Disneyland Hotel, which had remained under a licensing agreement with the company since 1955. They also looked at how to optimize the property around the park, including the purchasing of additional land. It was at this time the idea for the second park was finalized and in 1991 the company announced plans for WestCOT – a version of Epcot to built on the current Disneyland parking lot.

The park would feature familiar icons such as Spaceship Earth and the World Showcase. It would be much smaller than its east coast counterpart but still have eight city, country and continent destinations. London, New York, Africa, Asia, Paris, Tokyo, China and Toronto would be the stops in the World Showcase.

Spaceship Earth located near the entrance to the park was originally proposed to be gold not white or silver. Clones from Epcot would flank Spaceship Earth on both side, including Horizons, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, Universe of Energy, The Living Seas, Wonders of Life, and The Land.

A hub was planned to separate the entrance to Disneyland and WestCOT. Between the hub and the Disneyland Hotel would be a small lake and shopping district. The project called for improved transportation to the park and new parking lots in adjacent land.

So what happened? Neighbors felt Spaceship Earth would create too much of a light reflection and be an eyesore, the cost ballooned to an estimated $3 billion and financial issues at Disneyland Paris caused Disney executives to cancel the project in 1995. But the layout and foundation for the idea did not go away and at an executive retreat in Aspen, Colorado Michael Eisner and team came up with the idea for California Adventure.

The rest of the story is known. Disney’s California Adventure would open in 2001 and there would be an entertainment and shopping district. Parking would move off the main rectangle of property, transportation would improve and new resorts would open. Like many of Disney’s plans, WestCOT would be shelved only for elements to be used years later by the executives in Burbank and the Imagineers in Glendale.

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

Kon’nichiwa! Greetings from Japan! Whether your family loves eating out at your local hibachi restaurant or you’ve never tried hibachi before, on your next Walt Disney World vacation be sure to have your Me and the Mouse travel agent reserve for you a lunch or dinner at Teppan Edo, a table service meal located in Japan on the far side of World Showcase Lagoon.

Check-in for Teppan Edo is located at the bottom of the stairs to the restaurant which is above the Mitsukoshi department store. After check-in, head up the stairs (an elevator is available for those that require it) and enter a calm and peaceful environment away from the hustle and bustle of Disney. Meals are served in one of several smaller rooms located along a hallway that overlooks Japan with a glimpse of World Showcase Lagoon. Four tables of 8 are located in each room and if your group does not fill a full table you will be seated with other Disney guests. Since everyone loves Disney, it’s a perfect ice breaker and before dessert you will become the best of friends.

Drinks, appetizers and sushi requests are the first thing offered after you sit down. The sushi options come with 8 pieces, perfect for sharing and they even have a sampler plate if you can’t decide between the various types of sushi. Please remember that appetizers and sushi are not included if you are on the standard Disney Dining plan but if you are interested in some of these I highly recommend the sushi sampler.

Once you have your appetizers and drinks, it’s time to pick the type of entree that appeals to you. Beef, chicken, salmon, shrimp, and vegetable options will all tempt you. Can’t decide? Select a combination meal. Garden salad, vegetables, and sukiyaki beef rice will accompany all choices. Now it’s time for the show! If you haven’t experienced a hibachi meal before, you are in for a treat. Each table will have their own amazing chef who will show off knife skills, toss food into the air, make a volcano from the sliced onions, and of course, being at Walt Disney World, you may also get treated to a hidden Mickey during your meal’s preparation. Once the show is over and your meal fully prepared, the food itself is delicious – a favorite on property for many.

Dessert is a choice between 3 different types of mousse cake and 3 different types of ice cream. My favorite is the mango mousse cake – a refreshing and light option.

Next time you have a day at Epcot, try something new and reserve a meal at Teppan Edo. You will not only have a great meal but an experience you won’t soon forget!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

 

As a Floridian, fall means enjoying a pumpkin spice latte in 90-degree weather, instead of the normal 95, but luckily, it also means the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT! Now those who know me, know that I love food, especially cheese (so much so that my husband wrote about it in our wedding vows, oy vey!). With that being said, I was really excited to see the return of one of my favorite kiosks, The Cheese Studio, which is hosted by Boursin this year. If you’ve never had Boursin cheese, you are missing out! It’s a creamy cheese that originated in France and it has a consistency similar to, but lighter than cream cheese, that melts in your mouth. Boursin boasts several different varieties, but my absolute favorite is garlic and fine herbs. The kiosk this year has three unique dish offerings utilizing several of the flavors.

The first dish, Braised Beef Stroganoff with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushroom, and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce, could probably be skipped despite how delicious it sounds. We loved the idea of this one, but the flavors, unfortunately, just come out a little boring, even using the Garlic and Herb Boursin, which I think is hard to do.

The second dish, however, A Cheese Trio: Profiterole topped with Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese and Orange Apricot Jam; Smoked Salmon Pinwheel with Boursin Shallot and Chive Cheese and Everything Seasoning; and Strawberry Macaroon with Boursin Pepper Cheese, is really good! The Smoked Salmon Pinwheel is as expected and quite tasty. But the Profiterole and the Macaroon steal the show. I was hesitant because the sweet and savory combination can be hard to master, but these both are really fun and delicious combinations.

My favorite dish by far though is the Savory Caramelized Onion Boursin Garlic and Fine Herb Cheese Tart with cold Arugula Salad and Aged Balsamic. Let me just start off by saying that the Tart has dethroned the Grilled Lamb with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (potato chips for the lay person) from Australia as my favorite dish at the Festival, which is saying a lot. Upon first bite, you immediately taste the great flavor and creaminess of the Boursin cheese, then from there, a slightly sweet flavor develops from the caramelized onions, and finally, there is a delicious tartness from the aged balsamic salad. If you are not a super adventurous eater, but want to delve into the spirit of expanding your horizons at the Food and Wine Festival, then this is a great item to start with. We’ve had it several times now and it has consistently been delicious. The other thing that I love about this dish, is that it’s one of the best values for your money ringing in at $4.50 for a very filling serving. I actually suggest sharing it if you want to eat your way around the countries.

Get to EPCOT to try a Tart before it goes away, but feel free to reach out if you have any other questions about the Food and Wine Festival or any food at Disney!

Jen Morrison

Travel Specialist

I know, I know, this sounds like crazy talk – but doing “4 Parks in 1 Day” is doable…even if you have only 1 day to do it, versus multiple park days.  It’s giving brief attention to each park, for what you absolutely want to do…all while understanding that there will be a lot of travel, both on foot and between the parks.

Let’s set you up for success, with realistic expectations, and a time frame.  

  1. REMINDER: There is no guarantee you will get to do everything in every park.  Choose those must do’s (2-3 attractions, characters, or shows) in each park.
  2. Pre-planning is key. Look at park hours. Do you want to do early morning magic hours?  Would you rather do late night?  Would you rather not do either, and hit those ‘magic hour’ parks midday instead?  Find what works for you.  Put each park in order.
  3. Book your Fast Passes for the park in which you want to do the MOST.  This will maximize your time in that park, and move you through quicker!  
  4. If it coordinates, make the park you made the Fast Passes in be the first park you visit in the day. That way you can utilize extra Fast Passes later in the day.
  5. Whichever park you pick first, be there at park opening/rope drop (or as early as you are able).  You can accomplish a lot at that early time, even without your Fast Passes.  
  6. Remember that you can adjust Fast Passes for other experiences if your choices end up being shorter waits than anticipated!
  7. Don’t focus on table service meals. Quick service, and ‘walkable’ foods/drinks, will help you get through the parks faster.
  8. Utilize in-park transportation.  It is much quicker than your own. (water taxi’s may delay your time frame, so plan accordingly)
  9. If you get side-tracked, or something keeps you from your set plan – be flexible enough to modify your plans on the fly if necessary.
  10. Finally, realize that you will spend every bit of 12-14 hours in the parks that day – especially if you have utilized Extra Magic Hours.  Wear comfortable shoes and clothing!

Now, what if you have elementary aged kiddos?  You know your kids better than anyone – and the list above can be adapted for kids as well.  

  • Add their list of ‘must-do’s’ in the mix – can they be achieved in a timely manner too? Or will you compromise for a little of each?
  • Are your kiddos early risers or night owls?  Do they need naps, etc?  This must go into your pre-planning as well.  
  • If you don’t want to go back to the hotel for naps – perhaps longer, air conditioned, attractions (i.e Spaceship Earth, a 3D show, etc) may be a good alternative ‘down time’ – and should be figured into your schedule.
  • Figure in ‘melt down’ times. It will happen. We know, and understand.  Just plan for it 🙂
  • And realize, at the end of the night, you may be carrying them out, sleeping in your arms!

Kiddos in strollers?  Well, while it is doable to do all 4 in a day with a stroller aged kiddo – It may be better to plan for 4 parks, but to stop when it’s appropriate for your family.  If they can sleep through anything, bring the stroller along!  

On our last trip, we squeezed 3 of the 4 parks into our day.  A table service meal, and a longer line to see Mickey than anticipated bogged us down.  Had we only done quick service, and utilized a Fast Pass for Mickey – we could have gotten to all 4.  Lesson learned!

Want to plan a jam packed day? Contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist today!

Amy Sowinski

Travel Specialist

 

After you enter Epcot and take your picture by Spaceship Earth, the big golf ball, everyone rushes to their favorite attractions. Test Track, Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After to name a few. What some people don’t realize is that there’s a lot of really cool hands on areas as well as having the opportunity to not only learn more about our world, but there’s also a lot to learn about some of the different countries that are part of our world.

Epcot consists of the World Showcase and Future World. Future World has pavilions that are dedicated to such topics as the ocean, space, transportation, agriculture, and innovation. Not only are their fun attractions at some of these pavilions, there’s also an area of hands on fun and learning. For example, after Journeying into the World of Imagination with Figment, you enter into the ImageWorks – The “What If’ Labs. It’s a sensory-inspired play space allows you to wave your arms like a conductor of an orchestra to create music, create a symphony of sound by jumping on squares on the ground, and record sounds and play it back in different speeds.

At Living with the Land, you’re able to sail through the greenhouses of The Land Pavilion on a boat to see firsthand how Disney’s horticulturalists are using innovative growing techniques and cross-breeding high-yield crops with the goal of sustaining our growing global population. And if you’re so inclined to learn more, you’re welcome to make a reservation for a walking tour of Behind the Seeds, which takes a deeper look at sustainable high-tech horticulture.

As if Future World doesn’t have enough to offer and experience, the World Showcase has even more. World Showcase is home to 11 countries. Each country will provide you with some learning about their culture, their people, and their community. Upon entering each country, you’ll be transported to another section of the globe by seeing familiar famous landmarks, smelling the cuisine specific to that country and even hearing the native language being spoken by cast members from these countries.

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Depending upon the country, you’ll also be able to learn more about that country, the culture, and the goods that they provide. For example, upon entering China, you’ll be able to journey through ancient and modern China by watching a short Circle-Vision 360 degree film called Reflections of China. You’ll follow along as the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai guides you through the sights and sounds of China.

After leaving Reflections of China, you might find yourself in the middle of a performance of the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats, which is an acrobatic troupe from China that performs breathtaking feats of strength, agility and balance. You might also find that the film left you a little hungry for some authentic Chinese cuisine. Whether you’d like to sit, relax and enjoy a table service meal at Nine Dragons Restaurant or want to grab a quick bite on the go at the Lotus Blossom Café, you won’t be disappointed.

There are a lot of things to discover at Epcot both in Future World and World Showcase. These are just some highlights of the many ways to learn more about exploring our world and the other countries within our world. We hope you’ll have a chance to take advantage of all it has to offer the entire family. You might have fun learning something new along the way!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist

On October 1 will be the 35th anniversary of Epcot. Today’s blog is dedicated the past, present and future of one of Disney’s most unique parks.

Walt Disney’s original plan for Epcot wasn’t what it is today. He envisioned it as a community where companies could innovate and people would live in a harmonious utopia. The original name was EPCOT meaning Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt dedicated the end years of his life to this project. Unfortunately, shortly after announcing plans for the Florida Project that included EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom, Walt passed away. Page after page could be written about Walt’s original plans for the park so I will focus on what was actually built.

Epcot Ticket

Nearly 16 years after Walt’s death the park opened. It was a mix of future and technology and world culture. A “sort of world’s fair” as Disney executives would call it. Much of the Future World we know today is not what was opened in 1982. The Land and Imagination Pavilion are the only untouched areas left of that portion of the park. Many of the structures are still there but now feature different attractions and themes.

This is where I think the park is truly unique. It is the only Disney park to open that, from the beginning, was all original. That means, for the most part, there were little to no existing Disney characters or movies that the rides, shows and areas were based on. Walking into the park in the early days was a complete new Disney experience filled with new sights and stories. For me that is what makes Epcot different and one of the best Disney parks.

As the years passed the park struggled with attracting younger visitors. It was thought as of an adult park more than a place for the entire family. Disney noticed this and started to introduce rides that were attractive to teenage audience such as Test Track and Mission Space. They also created festivals such as Food & Wine and Flower & Garden to attract locals.

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The next wave of updating the image of the park came with the introduction of Nemo to The Living Seas followed by Frozen in Norway. This changed Epcot to be a destination for younger children.

What is next? The additions of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille. Both aimed at a different audience than the decades before. I believe Frozen is an incredible ride and I love The Seas with Nemo. I have no doubt Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille with make us say “wow!”

AT D23 EXPO 2017, DISNEY PARKS CHAIRMAN BOB CHAPEK ANNOUNCES E-TICKET GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ATTRACTION COMING TO EPCOT -- Looking ahead to the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced exciting plans across Epcot to realize the original vision of the park while making it more timeless and relevant than ever before, including a brand-new E-ticket attraction based on the rockinÕ and action-packed world of Guardians of the Galaxy.
AT D23 EXPO 2017, DISNEY PARKS CHAIRMAN BOB CHAPEK ANNOUNCES E-TICKET GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ATTRACTION COMING TO EPCOT — Looking ahead to the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced exciting plans across Epcot to realize the original vision of the park while making it more timeless and relevant than ever before, including a brand-new E-ticket attraction based on the rockinÕ and action-packed world of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The one thing that will never change about Epcot are the memories. I will forever remember my first visit to the park because it was so different to what I knew was a Disney park. That may change a little with the new additions but I’m sure that when children visit Epcot now and in the future they too will be in awe at seeing Olaf, Elsa, Anna, Remy, Crush, Nemo and Peter Quill!

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

Happy August everyone!  I can’t believe summer’s about to wrap up and kids are ready to head back to school soon!  It feels like just yesterday that I was sending everyone information on how to Beat the Heat on their summer vacations.  As we wind down our last few weeks of the fun in the sun, my family and I we are looking to find exciting ways to finish off our break with a bang.  What better than hitting the parks and refreshing our knowledge with an old favorite!

When my family and I visit the parks, we like to make sure we maximize our time by reserving the thrill rides for our choice fast passes and supplement our wait time with rides that are less likely to have too long of a wait.  One of our FAVORITES is Living with the Land, located one the first floor in the The Land Pavilion near Innoventions West in Epcot.

PicMonkey Collage

We have been on Living with the Land many times and I personally have never seen the ride with over a 10 minute wait, which is why we use this particular attraction as a filler to Soarin’.  The day that my daughter and I went, however, was a surprisingly busy day and we ended up waiting around 30 minutes in the queue for our boat.  The extra time didn’t annoy me in the least, as it gave me more time to take in the queue, which I would have completely missed had we not “stopped to smell the roses.” The Living with the Land queue, has a number of inspirational quotes from many different individuals, in addition, has beautiful murals of farmers working with the Land! (see photo).  The ride itself always seems to surprise me, each and every time I ride, I notice something new that I had never seen before.  The greenhouse, where the ride goes straight through, takes you by a multitude of plants, vegetables and trees and shows guests the innovative ways to grow them using the most space efficient techniques possible.  Some examples of the items they are growing at Living with the Land are, Canna, Pineapple, Bougainvillea, Golden Lotus Banana, Java Apple, Fluted Pumpkin, Japanese Maple, Papyrus, Dragon Fruit and Cacao (to name a few).

They are also involved in Hydroponics and Integrated Aquaculture, where they showed how the plants/water provide nourishment to the fish and in turn the fish in the tank provide fertilizer to help the plants grow, the “Circle of Life” alive and well at Epcot!

All in all, the Living with the Land attraction is always worth the trip, as even though you might think you know everything there is to know about the attraction, you might be surprised and see something you never even knew existed (aka see hidden Mickey planter).

If you are ready to experience the Magic up close, contact your Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist!

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Amy Pattee

Travel Specialist

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival begins as the summer crowds dissipate. From August 31st through November 13th , guests visiting Epcot can join in the celebration of food cultures from around the world they otherwise may never be able to experience. Guests can sample extended exotic food and beverages beyond what is typically found in World Showcase.

What to expect

For casual guests simply looking for different and fun food and drinks, along with a little entertainment,
they can enjoy:

  • Booths: With over 35 kiosks to sample new flavors, there is sure to be something for everyone. Throughout World Showcase you’ll see ongoing booths offering delightful eats and beverages from varying cultures! Grab a park map to see all booths offered and make your planfor the food locations you want to visit.

There are booths representing the existing countries in Epcot and many more to peak your taste bud interest. Some additional represented countries include: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland,New Zealand, and Scotland… just to name a few.

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Complete booth list

  •  Eat to the Beat Concert Series: Each night of the festival, scheduled acts perform for your entertainment at the American Gardens Theater. They are scheduled for at least 2 consecutive nights to perform 3 mini concerts per night (5:30 PM, 6:45 PM, and 8:00 PM). Arrive early to reserve your spot, or for reserved seating, consider booking a special dining reservation that includes VIP seating at one of the shows!

Entertainment scheduled this year includes: Baha Men, Plain White T’s, Everclear, Billy Ocean, Hanson, and Boyz II Men…there is just so many!!

Eat to the Beat Performers

**Concerts subject to change/cancel without notice.

Some guests want to expand their experience beyond the booths and want to hear/see food
preparation, mixology, and hear from top chefs. Check out these offerings:

  • Culinary Demonstrations**: Watch a 45-minute demonstration from some of the best gourmets! They’ll share their knowledge and wisdom as they put together a delicious creation.
  •  Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It!**: At this hands on lesson, master the art of mixology, explore
    ingredients in cocktails, and learn how to wine pair with certain foods.
  • “What’s Cookin’ With…”**: Gourmet VIPs are in house for this event! On varying dates, a scheduled celebrity chefs will be present and have guests enjoy a plated favorite breakfast of the VIPs choosing while having a food centric discussion.
  • Beverage Seminars**: Sample amazing beer, wine, and spirits at this seminar! Beverage experts will also offer their knowledge!

**These events must be booked in advance and have a separate fee associated with them.

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Crowds
Disney vacationers and Florida locals love the Festival, so expect higher crowds on weekends. Expect lower crowds during the week after World Showcase opens (11 AM).

Dining Plan
Purple DDP symbols next to items on individual booth menus indicate a dining plan snack credit can be used for that item.

Make Epcot a destination this fall for your Disney World trip! You won’t be disappointed as you experience the smells, tastes, sounds and sites of the offerings of the Festival.

Contact your Me and the Mouse Specialist to book any additional offerings!

 

Megan Thompson

Travel Specialist

Have you ever walked into one of the parks at Walt Disney World and wonder who those people were wearing the same outfit taking everyone’s picture?  They are actually photographers that are part of Disney’s PhotoPass.  They will take your pictures at some of the most memorable places and in front of some of the iconic landmarks of Walt Disney World.  Once they take your picture, they will scan your MagicBand or park ticket to automatically link it to your My Disney Experience account.  From there you can browse through all of the pictures that were taken and decide if you’d like to purchase any to download.

Walt Disney World Magic Shots

Instead of paying for individual photos, your best option is to include Disney’s Memory Maker with your vacation package.  The Memory Maker photo package lets you download all of the pictures that were taken by Disney’s PhotoPass photographers for one up front cost.  

Walt Disney World Magic Shots

Now, here’s something special that can happen when a Disney PhotoPass Photographer takes your picture.  It’s called a Magic Shot.  It combines the great photograph of you and your family with some Disney magic!  Before these Magic Shots were sprinkled throughout the parks and were sometimes hard to find.  

Walt Disney World Magic Shots

Disney’s now made them easy to find!  By visiting Disney PhotoPass Service Facebook page, and clicking on the Albums tab, there’s a photo album showing each park’s current Magic Shot offerings and where they can be found inside the parks.  It’s always updated and there will be more Magic Shots available during festivals and holidays.  

 

Whether you’d like to have a picture with Stitch, Figment or Sebastian, you’ll now be able to know before you head to the parks if they’re available and where to go to find them!  Magic Shots is certainly a great added feature to the PhotoPass service that you’ll surely not want to miss!

Are you ready to book your next Disney vacation? Contact a Me and the Mouse agent today! All of our agents are highly trained in Disney vacation planning!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist