What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Walt Disney World? Is it Cinderella's Castle, Spaceship Earth (aka the Big Ball at Epcot), or one of the other iconic structures? Perhaps it is Dumbo, It's a Small World, Splash Mountain, or another of the famous rides. It could be the joy on a child's face when hugged by Mickey Mouse - the character interactions truly are moments to treasure for a lifetime. Could it be the smiles on the faces of the cast members, and the phenomenal customer service? Maybe you think of one of Disney's colorful, fun-filled musical parades.
Walt Disney World is all of this and more. Like other Disney nuts, I treasure each and every one of these things. I have my own favorite rides, the places that I simply must visit, the characters that I... er, my kids... need to stand in line to meet. With the possible exception of the aforementioned customer service, however, Disney World could simply be just another successful theme park. To me, what truly sets the place apart from everywhere else is all of the little magic that can found in the details of your stay.
The next time you visit Walt Disney World, try to take a little time out of rushing from ride to ride to enjoy these five insider tips - otherwise known as underappreciated little slices of magic.
Treat yourself to a Dole Whip. Certainly you have had ice cream before. Perhaps you have enjoyed some interesting flavors. However, have you ever enjoyed a light, fluffy, frozen bite of Heaven? If not, consider visiting Aloha Isle and sampling a Dole Whip.
Right across from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in Adventureland (Magic Kingdom) is a small, unassuming counter service line - Aloha Isle Refreshments. They serve a limited array of soft drinks, fruit juices, and snacks - but most importantly, they serve Dole Whips.
Dole Whips are very similar to soft serve ice cream, but are essentially non dairy, so lactose intolerant folks need not fear! They come in vanilla, as well as citrus flavors (my son dearly loves the vanilla-orange swirl). For my money, however, the ultimate is the Dole Whip Float: pineapple flavored frozen wonder served in pineapple juice. Do not miss this!
A note: Dole Whips are widely reported to be dairy free. This is not technically true. They do contain casein, which is a milk protein - those with milk allergies should still be careful. However, they are lactose free, gluten free, and fat free.
Quench your thirst at Club Cool. Epcot is full of amazing, interesting, and even educational attractions, but let's face it - Epcot is a big place, and it really lends itself to making you hot and thirsty. Have no fear! Club Cool is here to offer you a tasty selection of soft drinks from all over the world. The best part? They are FREE!
Coca Cola sponsors Club Cool, and has a selection of shirts and other merchandise for sale here, but the real attraction is the ability to sample all of the different soft drinks. Some of the flavors include a sweet fruity beverage from Costa Rica, a ginger ale from Mozambique, a watermelon soda from China, and a lemonade from Israel.
Whatever you do, make sure that at least one person in your party samples the Beverly from Italy - it tastes quite like Sprite or 7up at first, then follows with an incredible bitter aftertaste. Have a camera ready for their expression!
May I see your pins? Pin trading has grown immensely in popularity since its inception in 1990, and for good reason - it is fun and highly addictive.
The basic premise is this: most cast members wear a lanyard around their neck, or have a card attached to their belt, and on these are various Disney pins. Cast members will trade any one of their pins for any official Disney pin owned by a guest (provided that they do not already have the pin). There is one further exception to this - some cast members have a specially colored lanyard (currently, green is the color) that indicates that they only trade with children. All a guest need do is politely ask to trade. Of course, many guests choose to trade with one another, as well, but no guest is ever obligated to trade.
Pins come in a breathtaking variety - there are pins for almost every major Disney picture and television series ever created. There are pins for the various Disney parks and resorts, and even pins for specific attractions. There are pins for certain holidays, pins for special events, and exclusive pins for Vacation Club members and annual pass holders. Some pins are never for sale - they may only be obtained by trading with a cast member. Finally, some pins are produced in limited editions, making them valuable in their rarity.
Pins may be purchased at almost any gift shop, and there are many pin carts that only sell pin-related merchandise. A good way to get started trading is to purchase starter sets that contain multiple pins - these are more affordable than buying the same number individually. Some people buy trader pins ahead of time from eBay, and save significant money doing so - but if you do this, be sure to buy from a reputable seller, and be careful to buy only authentic Disney pins.
Pin trading can be extremely enjoyable for the entire family, but beware - it can be addictive (and expensive)!
Take an island trip. One of the most overlooked attractions in all of Walt Disney World is Tom Sawyer's Island. Located in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom (right across from big Thunder Mountain Railroad), the only way to reach the island is via raft. Do note that this attraction is not wheelchair accessible, and young children will have to exit their strollers before they board the raft.
A short raft ride finds you in a location that almost every child has pretended to visit at some point in their lives. There are trails, caves, and an old mill to explore, as well as a small playground for younger children. Plenty of shade can be found on the island, which makes this a nice spot for kids to burn off some energy while the adults take a break. When the main island has been fully explored, head across the floating barrel bridge to Fort Langhorn, where the kids can explore the wooden stockade, fire rifles from the towers at imaginary invaders, and take a secret underground escape tunnel out of the fort.
Here's a fun fact for you: every morning, cast members hide several paintbrushes on Tom Sawyer's Island - if you find one, present it to a cast member and receive a special fastpass for either Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain.
Tom Sawyer's Island is a great place to spend an hour (or longer). Sometimes, imagination can be one of the best attractions available.
There is more to see at Disney World than what you can find in the parks. Consider setting aside a little time to visit some of the amazing resort hotels that Disney has to offer. The deluxe resorts, in particular, can be breathtaking to visit - the lobbies are especially stunning. All of them offer dining options - as a matter of fact, some of the best restaurants in Disney are located at the various resorts. In addition, many of the resorts offer special activities for both kids and adults.
Three of Disney's deluxe resorts - the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian, and the Contemporary - are a short monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom. A fourth, Wilderness Lodge, can be reached from the Magic Kingdom by boat. Animal Kingdom Lodge is reachable by bus only, but in many ways, is perhaps the most impressive of them all, and is well worth the trip.
Also note that if you are involved in pin trading, visiting the resorts can bring extra fun - resort staff don't see as many
pin traders as those in the parks, and their gift shops can carry offerings you may not find elsewhere.
There you have it - five little tips from WDW Insiders on ways to find some hidden magic at Walt Disney World. On your next trip, remember to slow down and enjoy the little details that make a Disney vacation into such a wonderful thing!
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
March 26, 2010
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