A trip recap from a weekend at Disney World that focused a lot more on experiencing the parks versus cramming in a ton of rides.
My weekend at Disney World was a fabulous experience and it came at just the right time! I loved escaping the monotony of everyday life to have fun with my best friend in the warm sunshine of Florida. We rode some fun rides, ate a lot of great food, and drank fantastic cocktails. The trip was a bit of a whirlwind, but I wanted to share what we did and ate. My friend had never been to Disney before this trip, so we focused a lot more on experiencing the parks versus cramming in a ton of rides. If you are more of scenery, shows, and overall experience kind of person, this post is for you. It will give you an idea of things you’d like to do if you visit Disney World anytime soon!
A Weekend at Disney World
Where We Stayed
The Holiday Inn at Disney Springs
Since spent just the weekend at Disney World (3 nights total) at Disney, we wanted to save money and get the most out of our trip. We decided to stay at a Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel, the Holiday Inn to be specific. Several major chain hotels, like Holiday Inn, Best Western, and Hilton, make up the Disney Springs Hotels. These hotels are eligible for Extra Magic Hours, in addition to being a short walk away from Disney Springs. They also provide transportation to the parks.
Staying at a Disney Springs hotel gave us early access to Magic Kingdom on Friday and Animal Kingdom on Saturday. We beat the crowds going into the parks. This was the ONLY way we were able to ride Avatar Flight of Passage without a huge wait. We also visited two parks per day, so the extra hour kept us from feeling rushed.
Being close to Disney Springs was convenient because they are open long after the parks close. We hit up Starbucks every night to buy bagels and muffins for breakfast. Extra Magic Hours started at 8 am, so we caught the shuttle to the parks a little before 7. There wasn’t much time for breakfast, so we’d eat while waiting for the shuttle. Our hotel also had complimentary coffee out early, so we were set. This kept us from having to buy breakfast in the parks! We probably could have sprung for a cheaper hotel, but I think the location and perks were worth it.
What We Did for our Weekend at Disney World
Friday: Magic Kingdom & Hollywood Studios
On Friday morning we headed to Magic Kingdom first. I loved starting the trip by seeing Cinderella’s Castle first thing. It’s always the most magical part of Disney for me! We rode Under the Sea: Voyage of the Little Mermaid first thing. Then, we had breakfast at Be Our Guest (more about that below). After breakfast, we walked around the park and rode the rides with shorter wait times.
Since this was my friend’s first trip to Disney World, I made sure we spent a lot of time taking in the sights. That meant less time for rides. But we still rode the classics, like It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. Every ride we rode had us in a boat riding through scenes from a movie or theme. The park was moderately crowded, due to it being a marathon weekend.
Around lunchtime, we hopped over to Hollywood Studios. We had lunch in Hollywood Studios. After lunch, we rode Star Tours, took in the Stormtrooper parade, and watched the Frozen sing-a-long. Star Tours is a 4D ride that places you inside a spaceship. The ship moves around to simulate flight and takes you to familiar places from the Star Wars movies. If you like Star Wars, it’s definitely a must! The Frozen sing-a-long was exactly that, but it was so fun. There’s something great about screaming the words to the Frozen soundtrack in a room full of screaming kids.
We also met Chewbacca, Olaf, and Mike & Sully (Monster’s Inc.). My favorite ride in all of Disney World is Toy Story Mania, so it was a must ride. It is a 4D ride designed like a midway game. You shoot at targets as you ride through, taking sharp turns and spinning occasionally. You can’t help but laugh and squeal with joy. For real.
After dinner, we went to Fantasmic! I love it because it’s more than just a fireworks show. There is a whole story line and you see so many beloved characters. It’s always been one of my faves. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a classic good vs. evil story starring Mickey himself. We practically ran from Fantasmic! to Star Wars: A Galactic Fireworks Spectacular. It’s a combination of fireworks, lasers, fog with scenes from the movies projected onto the Chinese Theater. It was AWESOME! I’m so glad that we had time for both shows.
Saturday: Animal Kingdom & Epcot
Bright and early Saturday morning, with day-old bagels and free coffee in hand, we headed to Animal Kingdom. Extra Magic Hours started at 8 am, but they were letting people in around 7:30. Riding Avatar Flight of Passage was our morning goal. There is always a very long wait time. The wait time was about 90 minutes before the park was technically even open! We felt like we walked at a slow but steady pace from the end of the line to the front, so it went by quickly.
The ride definitely lived up to the hype! It’s 4D as well, but instead of sitting in a seat, you are on something that’s more like a bike. Similar to one of those motorcycle video games at an arcade. Except the “bike” is meant to be a Banshee (flying creatures from the Avatar movies). The Banshee moves and you can feel it “breathing” as you go through the ride. If you’ve seen Avatar, then you know the visuals are phenomenal and it translates so well into a ride. It was equal parts stunning and fun. Definitely worth our wait time!
After Flight of Passage, we rode Kilimanjaro Safaris, another MUST in my book. It’s an imitation of an African safari. You ride through the savanna and see real-life giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions, and more! I’ve ridden this ride a handful of times and seen a lot of the animals pretty close to the truck. This ride in particular was fun because it was still early and the lions were actually out and about in their area. We made sure to see the Festival of the Lion King show as well. It’s a fantastic show featuring songs from the movie, acrobats, and a guy that dances with fire!
Animal Kingdom also has a few exploration trails, which are kind of like walk-through zoo exhibits. One has tigers as the big attraction and the other is gorillas. We did both exhibits. Disney does such a great job designing each of its attractions and everything is such an experience to walk through. I think all the attention to detail is better than any ride. The rides are great, I’m just an overall experience versus rides person.
After lunch, we headed to Epcot. Since we planned on drinking around the World, we started with riding Soarin’. This ride is a flight simulator in a huge IMAX dome. Your feet hang as your seat is lifted into the air and you “fly” around the world, taking in the sights of Paris, the Alps, the Great Wall of China, and more! In case you can’t tell, this is also one of my favorite rides!
After Soarin’ we headed to the World Showcase, both to drink and to take in the sights. The World Showcase has always been one of my favorite parts about Disney, even when I was a kid. The architecture and culture that they pull from each of the countries are stunning. There are eleven total countries or Pavillions: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, Colonial America, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. They all surround a large lagoon in the middle of the park. Each Pavillion offers a taste of the country’s architecture, food, drinks, music, and various goods in the shops. I could spend an entire day just on the World Showcase!
After we made our way around the world, we headed to Sea Base. We had dinner at The Coral Reef. Afterward, we checked out the aquarium itself. The aquarium houses a giant Caribbean Coral Reef and is actually one of the largest man-made reefs in the world. After the aquarium, we rode The Seas with Nemo and Friends, another ride-through style ride with characters from Finding Nemo. After all of this, we headed back towards the World Showcase Lagoon for the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show (which is ended in 2019).
Sunday: Disney Springs
After sleeping in and relaxing morning in our hotel room, we headed back over to Disney Springs for brunch. Brunch was lovely and walking around Disney Springs made me realize that there is SO much to see and do there! I have a mental list of some of the restaurants I want to try next time. There is also a Cirque du Soleil show that I’d love to see.
What We Ate
Earl of Sandwich
Earl of Sandwich has been my favorite sandwich place since Jesse and I went to Disney World for our honeymoon in 2007. They have a large menu of gourmet hot sandwiches all served on their artisan bread. The bread makes the sandwich. It’s soft but slightly flaky on the outside. It’s just SO good. Whenever Jesse and I travel we always check to see if there is an Earl of Sandwich. We’ve also been known to run across airports during layovers to get it. So going here for lunch when my plane landed was a no-brainer for me.
Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar and Restaurant
Enzo’s Hideaway is a speakeasy-themed tunnel bar in Disney Springs. The menu is Italian, as are all of the servers’ accents (which is fun!). I had the Penne Rigate, a pasta dish with chicken sausage and broccolini in a creamy tomato-based sauce with a glass of Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It was DELICIOUS and the d’Abruzzo paired well because it’s such a smooth, slightly delicate red wine. We also had to try a few of the specialty cocktails after dinner.
I had the Holly Hill, which is made with Ketel One, St. Germain, Soda, and Prosecco. I’m not usually a fan of vodka, but I do like St. Germain with champagne, so I figured it would be good with prosecco too. It was so tasty! I definitely wouldn’t mind recreating it at home. Overall, the atmosphere was really cool and the drinks were delicious. It was a little pricey, so maybe not the best spot for the whole family. Definitely perfect for a night out with friends or a date night!
We had brunch at STK Kitchen on Sunday before I headed home. We sat on their patio because it wasn’t too hot out yet and people watched while we sipped mimosas and frosé. I chose the Old School, which was eggs, thick-cut bacon and home fries. It was simple and a dish that’s pretty hard to get wrong. After a weekend of indulging, simple was nice. However, my friend got the Cinnamon Monkey Bread, so of course, I stole a few bites. It was very yummy! I don’t do sweets in the morning often, so I’d probably order a savory breakfast and then split the monkey bread with someone if I were to go again.
Be Our Guest
It doesn’t matter the meal if you are a Disney Princess fan you have to eat at Be Our Guest. The dining room looks just like the ballroom from Beauty and the Beast. It’s absolutely magical! Also, make sure you check out the “West Wing” area. It’s just so cool to feel like you are in the castle from the movie. Breakfast and lunch are quick service at Be Our Guest, meaning that you order and pay first. They give you a “rose” that’s really a little GPS device and your food shows up at your table.
We both ordered the Open-Faced Bacon and Egg Sandwich, which is poached eggs, bacon, and Brie served on a croissant. The eggs were just slightly runny and I thought it was delicious. For breakfast, they also bring a plate of assorted pastries to your table. I also HAD to have some “Grey Stuff” while I was there. For breakfast, the “Grey Stuff” is served atop a chocolate cupcake called The Master’s Cupcake. It was indeed delicious!
It was almost 2 pm by the time we had lunch on Friday at Hollywood Studios, so we headed for something quick, convenient and familiar. Backlot Express is a quick service location that serves burgers, sandwiches, chicken tenders and salads. I had a burger and fries, which are amazing when you’re hot, sweaty and hungry. It’s nothing special or over-the-top, just solid classic dishes. I remember eating here with my family when I was a kid too, so it’s a solid family spot.
Woody’s Lunch Box was a spot I’d seen on a food Instagram that I follow. The Instagrammer’s family was at Disney for vacation, so he sampled a ton of different things. He said one of his favorite quick service meals was the BBQ Brisket Melt at Woody’s Lunch Box. He was not wrong. That sandwich was AMAZING! It was made with sliced brisket, pickles, melted cheddar, Monterey Jack cheeses, and BBQ sauce on Sourdough bread. He got it with the Macaroni Salad, so I did too. It wasn’t over the top delicious, but it was good and paired well with the sandwich and Bud Light I ordered. Hands down, I’d eat this again.
For lunch at Animal Kingdom, we opted for the first place we saw when I said “I’m getting hungry,” which was Pizzafari. It’s another quick-service spot that serves personal-sized pizzas in several different flavors. It was good, and it was another spot I remember going to with my family as a kid. There were 6 of us on that vacation and we were ages 16, 11, 9, and 4, so pizza was an obvious winner. Disney has good food, so even with a simple, inexpensive choice you really can’t go wrong.
While we drank our way around the world, we also had some pretty good food. One of my favorite dishes from the whole trip was the Mediterranean Sliders Combo from Tangierine Café. The sliders are 3 mini pitas with one with lamb, one with chicken, and one with falafel. They also have a Tahini sauce, cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes inside. They are served with lentils, tabouleh, and hummus. These sliders were BOMB! We split them since this was a “snack,” but I definitely want to have them as a meal for my next Disney trip. The flavors were so on point and it was delicious.
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
By the time we got to Norway, we were due for another snack. We tried the Kringla Sweet Pretzel with Chocolate from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe and it was yummy! We ordered one of our drinks, Viking Coffee, at this bakery too and they went well together. It was a great sweet treat to get us to dinner time.
Coral Reef Restaurant
The inside of the Coral Reef Restaurant is so cool. You eat right next to the giant aquarium and can see fish, turtles, rays, sharks, and scuba divers swim by while you’re eating! It is a seafood restaurant, which my friend made a lot of jokes about feeling guilty eating fish in front of fish. I actually did not get seafood though (and I probably should have). After a day of drinking, I was starving and tired and not in a fish mood, so I had the sirloin and mashed potatoes. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t a great steak. I can’t say I’d not recommend the restaurant because it was frigging cool, but you should not order the steak. I did have a lovely glass of Malbec with it though.
My Disney Gear
I did a little shopping before my trip for Disney shirts and a pair of ears. I snagged an adorable Marie (from the Aristocats) shirt that says “Because I’m a lady that’s why” and a Princess Jasmine shirt at Kohl’s. (Jasmine isn’t online for some reason!) That is actually where I got my fanny pack too! My Adidas fanny pack was one of my favorite things for February because it was so dang convenient. I will definitely be rocking this baby at theme parks and concerts for the rest of eternity! I scored my ears on Etsy from a shop called Cali and Me. They have SO many cute ears! I had a hard time choosing, but I ultimately went with solid Rose Gold sequins. I will definitely be buying a new pair for every trip to Disney from now on though!
Check out my other Disney post for tips and recommendations for Drinking Around the World at Epcot!