Home Blog Page 4

Disney Parks Inspired Pet Names

Russel and Dug Statue at Disney's Animal Kingdom - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Disney Characters are awesome inspiration for the newest member of your family. From iconic names like Mickey and Pluto to more “fan” designed from an attraction or land at Walt Disney World, you’ve got options!

Magic Kingdom

HAUNTED MANSION

  • Leota
  • Phineas
  • Ezra
  • Gus
  • Constance
  • Gracey
  • Bones / Boney
  • O’Dell

ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM

  • Michael
  • Pierre
  • Fritz
  • Jose
  • Collette
  • Suzette
  • Mimi
  • Gigi
  • Fifi
  • Josephine
  • Rosita
  • Sam
  • Tiki

TTA PEOPLEMOVER

  • Tom Morrow

Carousel of Progress

  • Rover (The Dog)

General

  • Push (The Trashcan)
  • Tortuga (The Restaurant)
  • Dapper
  • Robinson

Article Continues Below

Disneyland

MATTERHORN

  • Harold (Nickname of The Matterhorn abominable snowman)

FANTASMIC

  • Murphy (Fantasmic Dragon)

General

  • Churro

Article Continues Below

Animal Kingdom

KILIMANJARO SAFARIS

  • Simba One (Name of the Park Ranger’s CB call sign)

DINOSAUR

  • Seeker (Dr Seeker of the Dino Institute)

EPCOT

JOURNEY INTO IMAGINATION

  • Figment

SOARIN’

  • Patrick (Your Flight Attendant)

WORLD SHOWCASE

  • Eiffel

Article Continues Below

Hollywood Studios

STAR TOURS

  • DJ Rex

Walt Disney World

  • Trader Sam

Article Continues Below

Imagineering

  • Tony or Baxter (Tony Baxter)
  • Sherman (Robert and Richard)
  • Thurl or Ravenscroft (Thurl Ravenscroft)
  • X (X Atencio)
  • Marty (Marty Sklar)
  • Rolly (Rolly Crump)

Fun Combinations

  • Indiana Bones
  • Stinkerbell
  • Show (Call him “Bad Show” when he’s in trouble)
  • Prince Adam (Call him “The Beast” for fun)
  • Kronk the Chonk

Restaurants from Disney and Universal We Want at Home

Joffrey's Iced Coffee at Disney Springs - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Everything at Vacation is just…better!

Once you’ve been on a vacation to Disney World or Universal Orlando, you’re going to start to realize that your hometown may be cutting corners or maybe has stopped innovating to a certain level. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely evident when brands stop thinking about their competition in a global style.

  • Can your local Mini-Golf course compete with Fantasia Gardens and the Winter Summerland courses?
  • Does your July 4th fireworks presentation stand in the same breath as a Magic Kingdom fireworks spectacular?
  • What about a trip to the local wildlife park? Would it be better if you had a photopass photographer or a Kilimanjaro Safari experience?

These are all questions that I ask when I’m thinking about dining at home vs vacationing. Why is it that we’ll get up at 6am 180 days out from our first day to head online and make reservations for a restaurant that we’ve never been at?

What if it was different? What are some of the things that are at Disney World or Universal that we would love to have in our hometowns? Let’s talk about it!

AMORETTE’S

Desserts are just better when they’re in the shape of Mickey Mouse. I don’t know why, but they just are! Having the artistic ability to bring an excitement to eclairs and other fun treats without charging an arm and a leg would be very welcome in our hometowns!


Article Continues Below

VICTORIA & ALBERTS

Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

I’d love a restaurant that offered a 7 or 10-course meal with a harp player who knew all the classic Disney tunes!

SATULI CANTEEN

Satuli Canteen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

For the number of times that we’ve eaten at Satuli Canteen in Pandora: The World of Avatar, there’s gotta be a spot to find those incredible bowls!

It’s a simple concept, but this restaurant is the best example of things being better when you’re at Disney!

KRUSTY BURGER

I know! The joke of Krusty Burger is that the food is absolutely horrid and wouldn’t be healthy on any level…BUT don’t you miss the feel of heading to a spot where you can get a burger AND a Flaming Moe in the same spot?

Okay, I’ll admit that this is just for me:)


Article Continues Below

Individual Food and Drink Items

BUTTERBEER

Frozen Butterbeer at Hogesmeade in Islands of Adventure
Frozen Butterbeer at Hogesmeade in Islands of Adventure – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

We’ve found Butterbeer at a number of places outside of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but all of them are missing something. It could be because Universal has actually created the two parts of separately and add them at the last possible second, but it’s also a level of excitement that comes from the ambience of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!

DOLE WHIP

Dole Whip in the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Disney shared their version of the Dole Whip, but is it really the same? Nope!

Remember how Disney Quest was going to be franchised in Chicago, New York and other cities around North America in the 90’s? Well I’d love to have Aloha Isle across from Starbucks all over the land! #DreamsCanComeTrue


Article Continues Below

Franchises That We Need More Of

JOFFREY’S COFFEE

Joffrey’s at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Every morning that I’m in the parks, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be hitting up Joffrey’s for an Iced Coffee. This may be a blessing in disguise that we don’t have one nearby! πŸ˜‰

PS – Please expand, Joffrey’s!

SPRINKLES CUPCAKES

Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Outside of Disney Springs & Downtown Disney (and a few other spots around the USA), we’re in need of this awesome cupcake-ry!

EARL OF SANDWICH

There are 37 locations of my favorite sandwich shop…

Let that sink in. Did you know that there are more than 44,000+ Subway sandwich franchise locations? Let’s even the playing field a little bit!

BLAZE PIZZA

We love having a Blaze Pizza (or two) in our hometown. So much so that we’re actually more impressed with the level of dedication of the employees and the structure when we’re at the Disney Springs location.

This is what it should be – passion in the brand!


Final Thoughts

There’s a reason why folks move to Kissimmee Florida…and it’s not just because the weather is nice. Folks become a fan of the theme parks and everything that comes within them.

This is just another example why I should 100% be living a little closer to the Magic;)

Amazing Disney World Vacation Traditions

Night Blossom at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Night Blossom at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Tradition is defined on Dictionary.com as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior”. This is 100% a topic that can be shared through a vacation to Disney World!

FOOD & SNACKS

Dole Whip and the Tropical Serenade at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)
  • Night Blossom @ Pandora: The World of Avatar
  • Dole Whip in Adventureland @ Magic Kingdom
  • Lefou’s Brew in Fantasyland @ Magic Kingdom
  • Pretzel in a new land or new style (like the Simba Pretzel in Animal Kingdom)

ACTIVITIES TO SCHEDULE

Haunted Mansion Standby Queue Line at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

SENTIMENTAL STUFF

Autograph at the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT
Autograph at the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

As you may know, I worked at Walt Disney World back in 2007/2008. This means that there’s a list of things that just have to happen during our trip (for nostalgia’s sake)

  • Visit my signature in my old workplace
  • Try to lunch with as many friends and co-workers as possible
  • Annoy Jill with many stories

THINGS THAT JUST HAPPEN TO OCCUR

  • Window Shop @ Sprinkles and Amorette’s
  • Walk between Hollywood Studios and EPCOT
  • Get hungry in EPCOT (around the Germany Pavilion) and try to make it (unsuccessfully usually) to the France Pavilion, giving up for BBQ at Regal Eagle.
  • Always pack a swimsuit and NEVER use it!

Article Continues Below

RESERVATIONS THAT I TRY TO GET EVERY TRIP

  • Lunch @ Steakhouse 71
  • Lunch/Dinner @ Saana
  • Victoria & Alberts @ Grand Floridian

ITEMS THAT WE BUY

  • A new puzzle (usually from the Toy Store at Disney Springs or The Emporium)
  • Something from the Art of Disney

Final Thoughts

Partners Statue at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

I absolutely love planning trips to Walt Disney World, and with all the flexibility and repeatability that comes form the vacation kingdom…there’s always something soothing about having traditions.

What are some of your traditions? Let me know over on Instagram @StepstoMagic

Epic Character Meet and Greets at Universal Orlando Resort

Popeye and Olive Oyl - Image courtesy Dustin Fuhs

Universal Parks are not comparable to Disney Parks in many ways, including dining, guest experience and merchandise. But, one thing that they’ve got down pat are the character interactions.

Islands of Adventure

THE GRINCH

You’re a mean one, Mr Grinch! You’re also absolutely hilarious to engage in a conversation and your personality (???) shines through when you’ve got the chance to riff with guests of all ages. If you ask the right questions in the right order, there’s a very good opportunity to be laughing harder than you’ve ever laughed while meeting a character in a theme park. He’s that good at improv!

BLUE, THE RAPTOR FROM JURASSIC WORLD

Not only do you get to interact with a raptor from Jurassic World, you also get to spend time with one of the coolest roles at Islands of Adventure…the Raptor Handler!

Lines get pretty long, but the goal is to set the anticipation for what you’re about to see!

HOGWARTS CONDUCTOR

When you first walk into Hogsmeade from the Lost Continent, the Hogwarts Express will be found on the right hand side. Iconic sight with a great photo opportunity, made even better when you get a chance to visit with the conductor. If you wanted to talk about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – this is the character experience for ya!

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • Students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang (Harry Potter)
  • Marvel Super Hero Island Heros – Captain America, Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, Spidey
  • Marvel Super Hero Island Villains – Green Goblin and Dr Doom
  • Betty Boop
  • Popeye and Olive Oyl
  • Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and 2, Sam I am and the Lorax

Article Continues Below

Universal Studios Florida

DOC BROWN

When they switched out Back to the Future with The Simpsons, we were all worried that the charm of the classic film would be lost. Well, it was…but then guests had the chance to meet Doc Brown in Universal Studios Florida and everyone was happy again!

The actors that they bring in to portray Doc are brilliant, especially when you think that he’s usually just off by himself with no handlers and no real backdrop. He can be found over by the train, or you can also just find him riding his bike around the streets. Great experience!

BEETLEJUICE

There are a couple of characters that just belong at a Universal Studios theme park, and BJ is one of them! Sure, he’s not 100% family friendly…but that doesn’t mean that the material of the Tim Burton cult-classic film can’t come around and be relevant again.

I’ve never had a bad interaction with Beetlejuice! If you ask him about the most mundane and off-kilter things, it’ll make everyone’s day. We tend to ask him about his neighbours in the park (Scooby and Friends or the Simpsons) or about the long-lost Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, and it tends to be a solid chat.

OPTIMUS PRIME, BUMBLEBEE AND MEGATRON

The stars of Transformers are a highlight for any guest, and it’s less about the conversation and more about just being there. The photos are great but the real skill comes from the banter that comes from Megatron when he’s let loose on unsuspecting park visitors that don’t really know who he is!

KNIGHT BUS CONDUCTOR

Huge lines are probable, but for any Harry Potter fan…you’ll definitely want this photo!


Article Continues Below

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • Scooby Doo and the Gang
  • Shrek, Fiona and Donkey
  • Gringotts Goblin (in the Money Exchange)
  • Lucille Ball
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Blues Brothers
  • Betty Boop
  • The Mummy Guards
  • Hashtag the Panda
  • Barney & Friends

Final Thoughts

Universal Orlando Resort is the place to be when you want to hang out with characters! They’re all over the place and all you have to do is walk around with a plan to selfie-it-up with the best of the best!

Disney World Stores with a Show

Arribas Bros at Disney Springs
Arribas Bros at Disney Springs - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

When you think about Disney World, the entertainment is everywhere! Attractions, live performances, fireworks and even dining. Did you know that there are retail locations that should be included in that list?

ARRIBAS BROTHERS

Not only can you buy hand-blown glass creations at multiple locations on property (Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT), but if you’re in the right spot at the right time…you can see a live demonstration!

GOOFY’S CANDY CO

Staying at Disney Springs, one of my favorite spots to catch a live performance is at Goofy’s Candy Co! Watch a plain apple be transformed into a less-er healthy candy apple.


Article Continues Below

PICK-A-PEARL IN JAPAN PAVILION

One of the largest stores at EPCOT, the Mitsukoshi Department store in Japan has a huge selection of authentic merchandise to browse. One of the coolest highlights in my opinion is the “Pick a Pearl” kiosk, in which a cast member opens up pearls from oysters in giant tanks around the area. 100% worth spending some time to see the presentation!

ART OF DISNEY LIVE ARTISTS

The best Disney movies are hand-drawn…there I said it!

If you had the chance to watch a live demonstration of classic animation characters coming to life with air conditioning…why wouldn’t you? When the add in the ability to purchase a hand-drawn character piece for your home, it’s even better!

This experience can be found at all Art of Disney locations, but the best set-up is at Disney Springs because they’ve got screens to show off the skills from above.


Article Continues Below

SILHOUETTE PORTRAITS

One of the coolest personalized souvenirs at Walt Disney World is the silhouette art, which is found in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney Springs. The skills from the artist will just make you want to watch over and over!

I know that this is a tradition for some families, as it allows them to watch their family grow from vacation to vacation…so keep that in mind if you wanted to support this lost art of handmade silhouettes!


Final Thoughts

Remember that Disney is all about creating magic! From the artists who bring their skills to the public with a stroke of a pencil to the cast members who are bringing an apple to life with chocolate and caramel…it’s all part of the vacation experience. Take it in and really enjoy your trip!

The Gift-Giving Mistakes from a Disney World Vacation

Customizable Phone Cases at D-Tech (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

I love getting gifts from friends who make the trip to Disney World and want to bring something back for the studio or my office. Even more fun, in my personal opinion, is buying stuff for friends back home who would get a kick out of something from my home away from home!

All of that being said, there’s a list of things that I’ve bought for friends that turned out to be more trouble than expected.

Bad Gifts for Friends from a Disney World Vacation

CLOTHING WITH A SIZE

Graphic Tees in The Emporium at The Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Notice the “with a size”, as there are so many great things that you can pick up without having to guess about body type. The most difficult things to buy are going to fall into this category, ranging from shirts to long-sleeve or sweaters. This is because everyone has a favorite color and your style may not gel with your friends!

  • T-Shirts
  • Long Sleeve Shirts
  • Dresses
  • Active Wear

HOUSEWEARS

Housewears at BVG in Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

One of my clients went down for a Disney Cruise & Disney World vacation and when they came back…they gifted me an awesome set of towels for the kitchen (one was personalized as a thank you). THIS WAS AWESOME!!! As someone who loves to bring more magic into our house, it worked out perfectly.

On the flip side, we’ve bought dishes, cups and other stuff that didn’t get the response that we thought they would. Why? Because when you’re in the parks and looking for a character to match a friend’s personality, the designs may not really fit their home decor. It’s not a bad thing, but Disney (although the busiest theme park in the world) doesn’t have the best selection;)

The other thing that I’ve run into is not knowing the full collection of your friend’s. It’s so disheartening to bring something back as a surprise just to hear the phrase “I already have that one”.

Unless you know the style of your receipient, you’ll probably be better off to get something edible (like tea or coffee).

  • Tea Pot
  • Coffee Cups
  • Water Bottles
  • Dishes

JEWELLERY

Pandora at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

This is a tough one, but when we put the call out to our community about this topic…jewellery was brought up a number of times under very specific situations. Most stressed that basic pieces would be completely perfect for a gift, but things like Swarovski charms or other collectables would fall into the category of not knowing what your friends actually have.

The other part of this came with a personal touch. Some folks have sensitivities towards various metals (silver, gold, etc) that may prove difficult to wear in day-to-day situations. Just know ahead of time before you visit a shop with shiny fun!

EARS

I’ve got a few sets of ears behind me as I’m writing this article. Haven’t put any of them on in YEARS, because when I’m visiting Disney World…I’m not going to pack stuff that I can just buy down there. It’s why my t-shirt game usually involves having shirts delivered to my hotel, so that I’m starting out with something new for my vacation.

Mickey Ears are great buys for folks who are locals or have an already established collection. Wearing Mickey Ears is one of those things that you’ll never see in real life OUTSIDE of the parks! (ps – we should really wear more mickey ears in real life;))


Article Continues Below

DISNEY GIFT CARDS

Unless you know for a fact that your friend is going down for a vacation to Disney soon, there’s so much more that you could get them! Actually, even if they are going down for a trip…you can get them something that would benefit their future adventure. Maybe a pin trading set, lanyard or something that you really think they would get a kick out of.

If you are going to get a gift card, get a Visa pre-paid one with enough for a meal or something like that on it.

HEAVY STUFF

Remember how I mentioned that we’ve bought plates and other kitchen stuff for friends before? Well…that stuff was heavy AND awkward to travel with. Disney makes things easy, as they can wrap your purchases up really well in order to pack in your suitcase, but remember that things get crazy the night before you leave for the airport.

Know ahead of time that anything that you buy will need a place in your suitcase!


Final Thoughts

Buy anything that you want for your friends! It’s almost like a birthday and holidays put together…except you’ve got hundreds of stores to choose from in multiple parks (and even the airport!). Have fun with it:)

Disney Souvenirs that Expire when you get Home

MagicBands at Disney Springs - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

We tend to purchase items on vacation that will have some longevity and won’t just become an over-priced paperweight when we get home.

Unfortunately, there’s stuff that we’ve bought that either have a short lifespan OR just don’t function in the ways that they would while in the parks.

MAGICBANDS

This isn’t really about the battery life of the product or that you can’t transfer them from one account to another once registered, although that is part of it. My main point for this is that you’re purchasing a MagicBand that will allow you to enhance your vacation. Awesome!

But, once you leave the parks…there’s really nothing to do with them (unless you want to create a display to hang them in your house). Seriously! I’ve got like a dozen of them just hanging around my office collecting dust.


Article Continues Below

CUSTOMIZABLE PHONE CASES

Look in your junk drawer and you’ll find phones from days gone by. I’ve got everything from old iPhones to a blackberry and flip phones…and all have been the integral to my life at one point in time. As soon as a new device comes out, we lose all need to accessorize something that we’ll never use again.

So my question is quite simple. Why would you buy a D-Tech customizable case when you know for a fact that you’ll be upgrading when the sales start? It’d be different if all phones were made with the same template, but if we can’t even get the same charging cables from one cell to another…the cases are literally being created to be thrown out.

GLOW WITH THE SHOW EARS

Disney is all about providing enhancements to your vacation! Sometimes you get them for free (like the FastPass+ system) and sometimes you have to pay for them…like Glow with the Show merchandise.

These are the ears and swords that light-up and interact via RFID with Disney’s technology in order to have them “move with the music”. It’s really cool to see! It’s really not cool once you’ve left the parks, as they lose their uniqueness once you’re not at a Disney Park.


Article Continues Below

CLOTHING

This is probably the biggest part of this article, as it’s a topic that I tend to bring up before actually making a purchase at the parks.

How long will this shirt last? How long did the pair of boxers from my last trip actually last before the fabric started to break down? Is this a design that I can use once the piece shrinks and turn it into a quilt or piece of art?

We’ve actually stopped buying basic shirts from the parks, as there’s more personality and uniqueness from platforms like TeePublic (check out our store!). The only shirts that I’ll be drawn into are dated or exclusive designs, like the opening of an attraction or something that really just speaks to me!

Final Thoughts

This is a fun topic, as I get to revisit things that I’ve bought over the years and try to remember what I was thinking! πŸ˜‰ Remember that an experience (dining, tour, event, etc) will usually be a better memory than a basic piece of merchandise…so maybe put that budget towards enhancing your vacation!

Disney Experiences That Are Not Worth Your Time or Money

MAC and Coach at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

We’re revisiting a topic that gets requested often through our social media feeds, and it’s involves things that you may want to avoid during your vacation. From dining to retail and everything in between, it’s time to #RealTalk!

HAIR WRAPS

For someone who doesn’t have long hair, this has been something that I can just walk past and not really worry about…but as more of my friends have kids (especially daughters), it’s been topical! I’m not saying that Hair Wraps are a bad deal (usually around $2 per inch), but it’s a huge investment of time for something that you really don’t have to do while at a theme park.

I’ve seen families choose a hair wrap braid session (15-20 minutes) instead of doing an attraction or show.

Now, here’s the Steps to Magic difference! IF you think that your child would love to get a hair wrap…put it in the schedule as a “hidden activity”, visit a deluxe resort or in the theme parks and do it early in the trip. Make it fun and not spontaneous! πŸ™‚

Disney Springs Shopping

Unique shopping at Walt Disney World is by far a worth-while activity, but if you’re looking at things that you really don’t need to do, it’s shopping at regular shops that you can get in your hometown or online.

Granted, there are product line that may be exclusive to the Disney Springs and entire Walt Disney World resort…but I’ve also seen the same Coach bags in Toronto as in Orlando.


Article Continues Below

FACE PAINTING

Remember how I said that Hair Wraps aren’t a bad deal…this on the other hand is.

Why? Because face paint is temporary and can be affected by the weather. With 1000% humidity in Florida, the first place that your kid will wipe is their eyes…followed closely by their forehead. I’ve seen so many complete meltdowns because of face paint (from parents AND kids) that it’s just not worth the investment.

What can you do instead? I’m a fan of the “hey look – a clever distraction”, because there is so much to look at while at Disney World that you really won’t have to try hard. πŸ™‚

TIMESHARE PRESENTATIONS

If you stay at a hotel off-property, you’ll be offered discount tickets to various theme parks and attractions in exchange for your participation in a timeshare presentation. From personal experience, don’t. It’s not worth the time or effort while you’re on vacation because you’re going to be put into a high pressure sales environment and it won’t be fun.

What can be worth it, is trying a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) presentation, as you’re going to receive things that can actually add value to your current vacation. From gift cards to Genie+, it may be worth the couple hours during the day instead of napping! πŸ™‚


Article Continues Below

Rapid Fire Time!

  • Waiting more than 5-Minutes for a Disney Bus when you can UBER
  • Tom Sawyer’s Island IF there’s a wait for the rafts.
  • Turkey Legs – Not only are they hot and greasy…but then you have to carry it around in the Florida heat!

Final Thoughts

The Disney vacation that you talk about years down the road with your family and friends won’t include the Face Painting and Hair Wraps. Why? Because there’s so much going on during your trip that these distractions just can’t compete with fireworks, attractions and great dining.

In fact, most of the things that I have done while on research trips since starting StepstoMagic.com haven’t even found their way to the website! Eventually I’ll share all the random stuff that I’ve done (10k photos per day during a trip), but that’s for a future article! πŸ™‚

The 5-Second Disney Day Checklist

Chip and Dale 50th Anniversary at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

A day at a Walt Disney World theme park is stressful, with crowds and constantly changing environments that will impact your “perfectly planned” vacation. The only thing worse than not getting to fulfill your dream day is to start out with forgetting something in your hotel room!

This is something that Jill and I do before each and every time that we leave our home, be it our actual home OR a hotel room while on vacation. It’s easy and works!

The 5-Second Disney Day Checklist

What are the things that you can’t be without? Put a list together and as you’re walking out the door…double check! For a day at Disney, it ranges from 4-6 items. Here’s the list!

  1. Phone
  2. Wallet
  3. Charger / Cables
  4. Magicband (Room Keys)

Each of these items have a reason why they are important and integral to a day.


Article Continues Below

Here’s the Deep Dive into the essentials

PHONE

Can you go without your phone for a day? I actually use my phone for more than social media and email. It’s usually my primary camera in the parks, as I’ve given up lugging around a DSLR in recent trips. In fact, most times I’m found with two iPhones in order to double my productivity and storage space.

WALLET

This includes ID, cash and cards.

CHARGER/CABLES

We go through so much power while utilizing our technology that it’s almost impossible to have a full day without having to recharge our phones. Imagine reaching into your backpack to find your Fuelrod in the pouch and NOT having a cable? It’s happened more than I’d like to admit :$

MAGICBAND / ROOM KEYS

Until we get to a point where we all have bluetooth chips in our fingertips, we’ll need a way to get into our living spaces. With Disney putting so much emphasis on the integration of MagicBands into your vacation, gotta make sure that you’re actually wearing it AND that it’s not hanging out on your bed while you’re in an UBER heading to the Magic Kingdom.

Yes, it’s happened. It wasn’t cool.


Article Continues Below

Other Items that you can add to the 5-second checklist

  • Pins for trading
  • Weather items (umbrella, poncho, sunscreen, sunglasses)
  • Water bottle

Summary

We all have the potential to forget something in the hotel room. It’s not an age or gender thing…it’s actually more about the excitement level of being within a short trip of something that has been planned for a long time. Be aware of this while getting ready the night before! 6am comes early when you’re trying to get to Rope Drop!

Disney Springs Counter Service Restaurants

Blaze Pizza at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Disney Springs is huge, which could be difficult to find a good meal if you’re not prepared for the adventure! For us, we’re very rarely at Disney Springs during the day because of our preference to be in the parks as much as possible – but what about arrival days, departure days or times that you just need a grab a bite to eat and find yourself at the district?

There are four areas of Disney Springs and 35+ quick service spots, so let’s break this list down by location. Many of the locations on the official list specialize on things that may not be enough for a meal…aka gelato or cupcakes…but that’s for another list:)

RESTAURANTS BY AREA

TOWN CENTER

  • D-Luxe Burger
  • Amorette’s Patisserie
  • Blaze Pizza
  • The Daily Poutine
  • The Polite Pig
  • Chicken Guy!

WEST SIDE

  • Starbucks
  • Disney Food Trucks
  • Pepe by Jose Andres

THE MARKETPLACE

  • Earl of Sandwich
  • 4 Rivers Cantina Food Truck
  • Starbucks
  • Lava Lounge @ Rainforest Cafe
  • BB Wolf’s Sausage Co.
  • AristoCrepes
  • Wolfgang Puck Express

THE LANDING

  • Morimoto Asia Street Food
  • The Basket at Wine Bar George
  • Cookes of Dublin

Article Continues Below

HIGHLIGHTS

BLAZE PIZZA

Can’t understate this, but finding a customized meal at a price that won’t break the bank and actually fills you up…Blaze is our choice. We’ve found ourselves in the Town Center district hot-spot a number of times and it’s definitely a highlight! Just remember to sign-up for their loyalty program on the Blaze Pizza app and you’ll earn points from eating a great pizza!

CHICKEN GUY

Just around the corner from Planet Hollywood and the Coca-Cola Store, Chicken Guy! by Guy Fieri is a gotta see. I’ve eaten there a couple times, but it’s usually late night and after all the crowds have dispersed…because waiting in a line when it’s crazy hot outside doesn’t really appeal to me. From the quality of the chicken tenders to the number of sauces (20+), you’ll want to keep this on your radar.

THE POLITE PIG

BBQ and a cool setting…this is a hidden gem that’s starting to shine through the competition at Disney Springs. Located right across from UNIQLO and around the corner from the World of Disney, it’s perfect location with table-service standards at counter-service prices.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Disney Springs is huge spot for shopping, dining and entertainment! You’re going to want to stay on top of trends, as something that I’ve learned over the years of playing at Disney World is that the only thing that changes more than traffic patterns on the roadways are the menus! πŸ™‚

20 Things First Time Disney Visitors Don’t Know

Spaceship Earth at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

β€œIf you had to offer a first time visitor just one tip before they arrived, what would it be?” This list is packed with 20 things that we wished someone would have told us before our first trip to Walt Disney World! (In no particular order, although the first one does involve the possibility of getting more Dole Whips!) 

Hi, I’m Dustin and I’m the editor of StepstoMagic.com, a trip planning website that provides ideas and concepts for you to consider when you’re planning a vacation to Central Florida.

Being that I’m a former cast member and someone who loves to visit Walt Disney World & Universal Orlando and travels from my home base in Toronto, first time travel this is a topic that I’m well versed on.

DON’T PAY FOR WATER

Bring an empty water bottle to the parks and fill it up at Quick Service locations…or at Starbucks! Don’t pay $4+ for bottled water when you can spend that towards getting a Dole Whip!

Related Article – Where to Find Free Water


Article Continues Below

SEE IT! LIKE IT? BUY IT!

The number of times that you see something that you really want and think “oh, I’ll get it tomorrow”…and then it’s gone or even worse when your size is sold out! It’s a horrible feeling that I’ve had so many times that it’s time that I share my secret….just buy it. You’ll thank yourself later πŸ™‚

Related Article – 10 Things We Wish That We Bought at Disney World

STAYING ON PROPERTY HAS PERKS!

When you stay at an official Walt Disney World resort, you will pay more. BUT with that price comes a number of perks that are exclusive to resort guests like complimentary transportation, Early Entry and extra days in advance of your vacation to make Advance Dining Reservations.

RESORT 101 – DON’T OVERPAY

Are you planning for 16-18 hours in the parks and just need a bed at the end of the day? Well staying at the Polynesian Village Resort will be wasting money (sorry to be honest), as you’ll get more bang for your buck at a value resort like Pop Century OR staying off-property at a location like the Holiday Inn Disney Springs!


Article Continues Below

ALL STAR RESORT TIP

If you can’t get into Pop Century and have to end up at the All-Star resorts, be prepared with an alternate plan just in case the transportation system is against you. During off-peak season, the THREE resorts are all serviced by ONE bus line and it gets crowded quickly. We suggest Uber-ing from the closest possible park if you get stuck in that situation.

DISNEY BUS SYSTEM WILL TAKE EXPONENTIALLY LONGER THAN YOU THINK

When you first go to Walt Disney World and plan to go from your resort to the Magic Kingdom, be prepared on how long it’ll ACTUALLY take. Maybe you’ll miss the first bus because there’s a cheerleading squad ahead of you…or a Brazilian tour group. Be patient and take it all in. Remember that you’re in Disney World!!

MAKE YOUR DINING RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE!

This by far is the best tip that we can share because first-timers don’t know just how popular some of the Table Service restaurants really are. 60 Days out will give you the best odds to get that EPIC reservation!

Related Article – Top ADRs to get ASAP


Article Continues Below

GRAB YOUR SPOT EARLY FOR FIREWORKS AND PARADES

Want to see a parade or a fireworks performance? Get there early…because you don’t want to miss out in a great spot for EPCOT Forever (head to the Italy Pavilion), Magic Kingdom Nighttime Spectacular (Train Station) because being stuck in crowds just isn’t magical!

THERE’S ONLY ONE MICKEY!

Within the community, the topic of Character Integrity comes up regularly and it’s incredibly important. First-time guests may not become aware of what their words mean until they see the first kid in tears after hearing their parents try to explain why Mickey has to go away for a “cheese” snack.

How can you explain that guests can meet Mickey at every park? Well, how long does it take for you to go from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT…well does Mickey have to find parking or wait for the Disney Bus? πŸ˜‰

Related Article – Where to find characters at WDW


Article Continues Below

TALK TO THE CAST MEMBERS

You may feel stupid asking “What time is the 3 o’clock parade”, but a Cast Member will never laugh or judge you for an honest question. They’ll answer to the best of their ability, usually by asking a follow-up question and then providing the best possible explanation as to why you should get your spot at around 245pm if you’re in Frontierland, 3pm if you’re in the Hub or 315pm if you’re by the Train Station on Main Street USA.

Never be afraid! Disney Cast Members will always be there for you to help you enhance your Disney vacation.

NO GUM

Are you a gum-chewer? Well in keeping with the cleanliness of the Disney brand, you won’t be able to find Juicy Fruit (or any brand) sold on property.

If you really want to partake in this yucky habit (haha, sorry had to…because I love gum!) you’ll have to bring it with you, have it delivered through Walmart.com, stop in at a gas station on property or head off property to a gas station or at the Orlando Premium Outlets!

Related Article – Top Items to buy Online Before your next Trip


Article Continues Below

CHARACTER WAKE-UP CALLS

Want to be fully engulfed up in Disney Magic? Well, imagine getting a wake-up-call from a character? You can request to have this amazingly hilarious extra perk happen as many times as you’d like when you’re staying on Disney Property.

CHILD SWAP #1

Want to ride Expedition Everest but your little one hasn’t reached full height? Well, you can tell the Cast Member at any attraction that you’d like to do a Rider Switch. They’ll present you with a paper pass so that after you ride, you can hand it to the other half of your group so that they can ride without waiting in the line all over again.

CHILD SWAP #2

Do you have a kid who’s excited to go on Splash Mountain and one that’s scared of that 60ft drop? Well, you can have the child that wants to actually ride it…go twice! One with either parent:)


Article Continues Below

PIN TRADING WITH CAST MEMBERS

Trading is a ton of fun! How do you do it? Either buy a pin set at DisneyStore.com or on eBay and then go on your adventure. Every guest has a strategy or collection that they want to get…and to each their own!

Related Article – How to Pin Trade

TAKE TIME TO ENJOY THE MAGIC

We are so focused on getting every possible second out of the trip that we’ve forgotten to plan something so basic – To Sit back and Enjoy!

What does this mean? Well if you see an empty bench…sit down for a few minutes and just people-watch. It’ll be so much more impactful if you take it all in while you’re in the moment vs thinking after that you should have.

WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES

Don’t buy shoes the week before and think that you’re not going to HURT bad within a few days of walking 15k-25k steps!


Article Continues Below

GET TO THE PARKS EARLY

Sleep is for the weak;) You want to beat the crowds and then when it’s the midday heat (because it’s gonna get hot!), head back to the hotel for a nice shower and nap before hitting the parks again for the evening.

Related Article – Top Things to do at Magic Kingdom Before 10am

PLAN SOMETHING OFF-PROPERTY

Yes, you’re going to Walt Disney World for a vacation, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy attractions and activities off-property. This may mean a day at Universal Orlando for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter…or a trip to the Orlando Premium Outlets. There are a ton of great activities within a short drive (Uber, rideshare, shuttle) of the Disney resorts.

Related Article – Top Things to know about Universal Orlando


Article Continues Below

DISNEY-BLUES AFTER THE TRIP

We spend weeks and months planning a trip and sometimes years saving up to go to Walt Disney World…and then in a blink of an eye…it’s over. We call it the “Disney Blues”, but don’t worry because you’re not alone. The best way of getting through it? Well…besides stopping by StepsToMagic.com and reading some of the fun that we’re having is to plan your next trip!


WANT MORE?

We love sharing information for our readers to enjoy their trip to a whole new level. If you have anything that you think should be added to the article, let me know via Social Media @StepsToMagic!

Planning Your Disney Trip in 10 Steps

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Savanna - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Thinking about taking a trip to Walt Disney World? Well many people who are inexperienced with all the in’s and out’s of the “Steps To Magic” way of doing things!

STEP 1: BUDGET (PLAN ABOUT 12-14 MONTHS OUT)

The details of your experience start and end with your budget. Remember to take into account where you’re travelling from and how long you’re planning on staying at WDW.

Play on the WaltDisneyWorld.com website, as this gives you a good idea about what your preliminary budget could look like. Start with your possible dates of travel, resort choices, ticket types and a dining plan. The website automatically calculates a total for your vacation, with a ton of extra features along the way.

Related Article – How to do Disney World on a Budget

STEP 2: DECIDE ON DATES OF TRAVEL (12 MONTHS OUT)

We’ve evolved from the “Slow” and “Busy” seasons into a “Steady” season and “Just Don’t Do it” season. Do you have vacation time that doesn’t ever change (teachers, etc) or are you able to choose your time?

Do you have something that you’d like to do that is a seasonal offering, such as the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Food and Wine Festival or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?

Basically, our favorite time to visit WDW is in January-early March and the last 3 weeks of September…with a few sprinklings of dates in April/May and November.

Related Article – Guide to Walt Disney World Events


Article Continues Below

STEP 3: RESERVE YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS/RESORTS (9-12 MONTHS OUT)

Your goal is to find the resort that will work with your plan. Are you thinking about spending all your time in the parks? Then a ‘Value Resort’ may work for you.

If you have a family and want to take naps mid-day, you may want to consider a resort within walking distance of a park, like the Yacht and Beach Resorts. Most of the options are based around your price range, but you should definitely think about things like resort amenities, transportation options, and dining options.

STEP 4: PARK TICKETS (9-12 MONTHS OUT)

There are a few options, but our suggestions depend on how long you’ll be “on-property” and the time of the year.

  • Basic Ticket – which gets you into one park per day.
  • Park Hopper – allows you to go between the four theme parks on each day of your visit.
  • Water Parks Fun & More –  which allows guests to visit the two Disney Water Parks, Mini Golf, ESPN, etc.

Article Continues Below

STEP 5: RESERVE YOUR TRAVEL


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Waiting til the last minute for deals is always a possibility, but not recommended as tickets can actually become more expensive as time gets closer.

STEP 6: PRELIMINARY PLAN (7 MONTHS OUT)

So, you have your travel dates and resort sorted out. Now let’s talk about how you win! You’ll want to plan out which Table Service restaurants you’ll want to make Advanced Dining Reservations at, which FastPass+ attractions you’ll want to secure and which parks you’ll be at on which days.

Yes it seems like a lot, but you’ll be thankful that you spent an hour or so on this plan before you’re 180 days out (ADR’s) and 60 days out (FastPass+).

Related Article – Best Apps for Disney Trip Planning


Article Continues Below

STEP 7: SECURE DINING RESERVATIONS (180 OUT…JUST PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR)

ADRs (or Advanced Dining Reservations) are available 180 days out from your reservation date. When you’re planning, it’s important to have a plan about your dining, because some restaurants are just too popular to walk up to.

We’ve put a list of the Top Dining Reservations to get ASAP which will help with this important date in your trip planning.

Related Article – Top Ten Disney Advance Dining Reservations to get ASAP

STEP 8: RESERVE YOUR FASTPASS+ ATTRACTIONS (60 DAYS OUT…CALENDAR ITEM!)

Log onto your MyDisneyExperience account and choose your travel dates, then you start to play!

Related Article – Fastpass Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make


Article Continues Below

STEP 9: PACK AND RE-PACK (WEEK OUT)

Make a list, check it twice…and then think about what you need to have delivered by Amazon or Walmart. Remember to put the following on your list:

  • Chargers (you can never have too many, in addition to FuelRod)
  • Sunglasses (you will lose them, usually on an attraction like Expedition Everest)
  • Bandages for ankle blisters (you’ll walk around 20,000 steps a day…expect sore feet)
  • Sunscreen (you’re in Florida….)
  • Water bottle (There are water refilling stations all over the place, in addition to quick service locations that will provide you with tap water)
  • Poncho (Dollar store…because the official ones are a little pricey)

Related Article – What to Pack in your Disney Bag and 20 Items you should buy Online Before Your Trip

STEP 10: HAVE FUN! DISNEY MAGIC IS CREATED BY THOSE WHO PLAN PROPERLY AND AREN’T OVERLY STRESSED.

Being flexible is important, and since you’ve done all the work beforehand, you’ll be good to go.

If it rains, it rains.
If an attraction goes down, you’ll be taken care of by the cast members.
If you want to re-ride Living with the Land…we’ll you’re among friends here:)


Hope that helps with your trip planning!

20 Items to Buy Online Before Your Next Disney Trip

Autograph Pens at the Disney Store in Orlando International Airport - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is expensive. From the hotel to the transportation, the food to the souvenirs that you’re going to end up buying…it all adds up.

That being said, there are ways to keep your vacation spending within reason by pre-ordering stuff online. This way, when you’re in the Magic Kingdom and need sunscreen because it’s HOT, it’s already in your bag because you did an Amazon order the month before.

WHITE NOISE MACHINE

Everyone sleeps differently, but one of the top things that we can speak to is how unpredictable your resort room will be at night. From noisy neighbours to air conditioners that have a life of their own (like in Brave Little Toaster)…but this is a game-changer for folks!

My goal isn’t to share a specific color or model, because everyone has a different preference…but here’s where you can check out the many options!

TRAVEL POWER STRIP

Technology is becoming a larger part of our travel habits. From personal experience, the number of hotel rooms that are severely under performing with their outlet game…well you have to take things into your own hands. That’s where the travel power strip comes in!

Multiple outlets, multiple USB ports and a perfect size to stash in your suitcase – all things to consider before picking up the strip that works for you!


Article Continues Below

T-SHIRTS

Nerdy Disney shirts are a must have for your Disney vacation. We already put together a whole bunch of our favorites over here! The possibilities are endless on this one! Check out our recommended Disney Collection of tee shirts.

COMFY FLIP FLOPS – AKA SANUKS

They are the perfect shoe to wear in the Parks because they dry out so fast and they are super comfy. Each one of Sanuk’s shoes has yoga mat bottoms, squishy, comfy goodness! Check out their endless color options here!

UNSCENTED TRAVEL WIPES

This has saved my life a couple times, because who wants to be sticky while on vacation? Napkins are adequate for certain things, but we live in a world where Dole Whip’s are made to order and may get a little messy.

The best thing to do is to stop over at the Dollar Store before your trip, but there are a ton of options on Amazon as well!

UMBRELLA

It rains in Florida. Sometimes, it’s a light sprinkling where a poncho would suffice…but then there are torrential rainstorms that will require something a little more heavy duty!

The last thing that you want to do is waste your hard earned vacation dollars on a park umbrella when you can be prepared with a style that’s unbreakable! Please remember to do your research on this one specifically, as there are various sizes and styles out there.


Article Continues Below

MINI TRAVEL TOOTHBRUSH

You’re going to be away from your hotel room for most of the day…especially if you’re like us and LOVE theme parks! Well what happens when you want to take a refresher midday and aren’t at your resort?

Pack a Mini Travel Toothbrush in your bag! These are pre-pasted toothbrushes, with no rinsing required and are single-use disposable.

HAND SANITIZER

This is a must-have because of all the surfaces that you’ll come into contact with. From attraction queue lines to meeting characters – why not be prepared to sanitize your hands (especially before having a meal). Pick up a Disney Character inspired holder for your kids!

DISCOUNTED DISNEY PINS FOR TRADING

One of the best pin trading tips we have to buy a lot of these Disney trading pins ahead of time and trade them in the parks. Pins at Walt Disney World can range from $12 to $18 which is pretty steep if your intent is to trade. Pick up this no duplicate lot here.


Article Continues Below

PORTABLE USB POWERED FAN

Have I mentioned yet about hot it gets here in Florida during the summer months? Portable fan VERY smart idea! The ones that are bulky and misting that they sell you in the parks will set you back around $18. This fan is much smaller, takes up less room and runs off those backup batteries you can use for your phone too!

SUNSCREEN

You don’t want to get stuck buying this one at the resort due to Disney’s steep upcharge. It’s sunny more often than not here in Florida this is a MUST pack item.

POP TARTS, GOGO SQUEEZE & FAMILY’S FAVORITE SNACKS

With all that walking you’re going to get in around the parks your going to need a healthy supply of snacks. If you are looking to save money or want some back ups for your hotel room I highly recommend packing some snacks. We are big fans of granola bars, Gogo Squeeze and Pop Tarts.

Related Article – Best Snacks to Bring for a Disney Day


Article Continues Below

WATER FILTER BOTTLE

Water Bottles are becoming a huge part of your vacation, to the extent that we’ve actually got a full article about them over here. That being said, let’s look at the current trend…

Collapsible bottles allow you to pack them without too much stress, fill them when you want them and then re-collapse them for easy travel. With a variety of price ranges and colors, you’re able to really play with style! My big recommendation is to order early and then try it out at home before taking it down to the parks…because defects happen in mass-produced items.

Or you can just grab a Swell and you’ll be fine! Keep the cold water cold and don’t worry! We’ve got the Teakwood style because having a design vs a straight color will hide the dings n scratches.

Related Article – The Best Water Bottles for a Disney Trip

HEADPHONE SPLITTER

Don’t leave your family out when traveling! We love bringing this headphone splitter along with us on a trip, especially when flying so we can watch a movie together.


Article Continues Below

PONCHOS

It rains a lot in Florida and it’s always a smart idea to carry one these ponchos in your bag at all times. It seems that pop up storms are a central Florida specialty.

AUTOGRAPH BOOKS

The autograph book is essential for a trip to Walt Disney World! Huge fan of the classic style, and why not buy before hand vs having to get it in the parks?


Article Continues Below

EXTERNAL BATTERY CHARGERS

This is our favorite external battery to bring to the parks with us. It can charge our iPhones about 4 times before it runs out! None of our other battery packs can say that much. This item tops our list because you don’t want to be in the parks with a dead phone.

You want in line entertainment and obviously to capture all your vacation memories. Get this battery here.

Related Article – FuelRods


What items are your must haves for your Disney vacation? Anything we are missing on our list? Let us know via social media @StepstoMagic!

Top Ten Quick Service Locations at Disney World

Regal Eagle Smokehouse at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Thinking about where to eat when you’re in a hurry? This list is for you! 

When putting together a list of Quick Service (or Counter Service) restaurants, it’s important for me to stress that a “Top Ten” list may give you insights and ideas…but your vacation and your schedule is tailored to your specific needs.

Some of these will fit, but some may not. So take this as a starting point for your research…and oh ya…have fun!

2022 Update

The amount of change that’s happening at the Walt Disney World is mind-blowing, so you should always take the most up-to-date menus from the official sources (which includes DisneyFoodBlog.com).

The list is accurate up to our last trip, but always keep in mind that things can change and with price increases – a great deal could turn into a horrible value quickly.

The Polite Pig (Disney Springs)

Three Market Sides for $16 at The Polite Pig (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

We have enjoyed the service, food and value from The Polite Pig a number of times post-pandemic, so including them as a must-do on the Top Quick Service Restaurants just makes sense.

In addition to the sandwiches and handhelds, it would be remise of us to not mention the ‘3 Market Sides’ as an incredible value. For the vegetarians, take a change – you’ll be happy that you did!

Regal Eagle BBQ (EPCOT)

Regal Eagle BBQ at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

EPCOT has a change – we’re now suggesting that you look at the back of the World Showcase as your “go to”, with Regal Eagle and Les Halles taking the place of Sunshine Seasons and Connections Cafe (former Electric Umbrella).

We haven’t had a bad experience at Regal Eagle – lots of seating, self-serve soda and a sauce bar.


Article Continues Below

ABC COMMISSARY (HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS)

ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

The food is reasonable, and for a Quick Service location, the menu brings you all levels of theme park food. It’s not something to look forward to, but it’s also a great option is you really need to eat and it’s raining outside;)

We’ve found that eating here before peak lunch hours (11-1130a and after 1pm) is the best because of the air conditioning and ease of access to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

Related Article – Free Refills at Disney

FLAME TREE BBQ (ANIMAL KINGDOM)

BBQ – need I say more?

SUNSHINE SEASONS (EPCOT)

Another staple on the list of best Quick Service locations has to be Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion. Not only do they give you options, with around 6-7 different stations with 3-4 items each, but they provide you with some of the gosh darn tastiest meals that you’ll have inside of the four theme parks. And it’s healthy too…

LES HALLES BOULANGERIE (EPCOT)

We stumbled upon France in EPCOT after lunch plans fell through in Morocco and although the sandwiches are edible, the main reason why the Boulangerie made it onto the list was 100% due to the desert option!

CONTEMPO CAFE (CONTEMPORARY RESORT)

Thinking about a complete hidden gem? The Contempo Cafe is located directly beside Chef Mickey’s brings a serious game to the Quick Service category. We put this on the list because of the proximity to the Magic Kingdom, and the fact that you can walk, eat and be back in the MK within about an hour…check it out!


Article Continues Below

SA’TULI CANTEEN (ANIMAL KINGDOM

Satu’li Canteen (Photo: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Satu’li in Pandora: The World of Avatar is absolutely killing it! The quality, the service and the value is by far and away redefining the way that Disney does unique Quick Service!

And finally – two staples that can’t really go wrong…

Earl of Sandwich and Blaze (Disney Springs)

In fact, you’re more likely to eat Quick Service at Disney Springs than table service (due to the time allocation), but you should always explore your options before your trip. Just know that “hangry” family members can make you eat at the most random places;)


So that’s our list. Thoughts? Comments? Did we miss any? Share them in the comments!

Top Ten Family Disney World Attractions for Kids Under 5

Barnstormer at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Walt Disney World is the place where dreams come true for people of all ages, so when you’re planning your trip, it’s important to know the best of the best for your family!

This list is focused on activities that you are able to enjoy as a family, because let’s be honest…a family-focused attraction at Disney is so much more than you could have imagined!

MONORAIL

Monorail at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

I can still remember what a thrill the monorail was when my parents would bring me as a kid. The monorail enchants it’s younger guests as you zip through the sky traveling through hotels and even high above Epcot!

Don’t forget to pick up your very own monorail drivers license from a cast member.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD

it’s a Small World at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

While the song may drive parents crazy with it’s catchy tune and repetitiveness it has long been a must-do for kids. The Sherman Brother’s song will leave your little ones humming the tune for the rest of the day.


Article Continues Below

FROZEN EVER AFTER

Are your kids constantly tell you to just let it go? Do they constantly ask you if you would like to build a snowman? Then look no further than this recent addition to Epcot’s Norway pavilion. This enchanting slow moving boat ride will captivate Frozen fans both young and old. The characters look like they walked straight out their fairytale and into your vacation.

It will have your young ones asking to go on it again and again.

DISNEY JUNIOR LIVE ONSTAGE

Disney Junior Live on stage (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

If your young ones enjoy watching Disney Junior at home then this is a Disney must do! Disney Junior Live on stage brings your children’s favorite shows to life before their eyes. Join Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey and Minnie as they sing, dance and retell their favorite stories.

SEAS WITH NEMO AND FRIENDS

The Seas with Nemo at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

When Finding Nemo came out on DVD I swear I had to watch that movie with the kids I watched at least once a day for 6 months. Just like your young ones love to watch Find Nemo on repeat they will want to ride this one on repeat too!

The Seas with Nemo and Friends allow you to take a dive below the surface and swim along with Marlin’s friends in order to find out where Nemo wandered off to this time!


Article Continues Below

TRICERATOPS SPIN

The bright colors of this section of the park are enough to delight any small child. Throwing in spinning and soaring high above the park it becomes a ride every child will delight in.

MAGIC KINGDOM RAILROAD

There is something so nostalgic about riding the train around the Magic Kingdom. This 20-minute attraction will bring you 1.5 miles around the entire Magic Kingdom park. There are some hidden treasures tucked at the edges of the park that your kids will be delighted to discover.

Additionally, The Walt Disney Railroad is a perfect way to relax, catch a few z’s so you are ready to hit all the rest of the fun Mickey has to offer.

BARNSTORMER

My first ever roller coaster! The Barnstormer is the perfect way to expose your young ones to the thrill rides. This gentle coaster will take you on a goofy ride, quite literally through a barn!


Article Continues Below

PRINCE CHARMING’S CAROUSEL

I have countless pictures of me as a baby on this attraction. Carousels are the quintessential ride for a child under the age of 5 so be sure to take your young ones on it next time you visit Magic Kingdom.

DUMBO: THE FLYING ELEPHANT

This classic attraction has to hold our number one spot. Dumbo has managed to go down in history, he is on display at the Nation Museum of American History. Dumbo has managed to remain a timeless attraction still remaining popular after first opening over 60 years ago at Disneyland in Anaheim California.

HONORABLE MENTION – FROZEN SING-A-LONG

Why isn’t this on the main list? Because there are parts of the show that may not something that kids under 5 would get…like jokes and the storytelling aspects. BUT…singing is always welcome!


Article Continues Below

Additional Ideas

Family experiences are ALL over the place in the theme parks. But, one of the special tips that we can share include off-the-map play areas that kids just love! From splash pads to jungle gyms and everything in between, let’s look at a few options!

MAGIC KINGDOM

EPCOT

  • World Showcase to Future World Splash Zone
  • Mission Space & Test Track Splash Zone
  • SeaBase Animal Encounters
  • Jumping Water Fountains at the Imagination Pavilion
  • Drums in the Village Traders around the World Showcase

DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

  • Everything in Toy Story Land!
  • Mickey Mouse footprints in front of Chinese Theatre

DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

  • The Boneyard (Jungle Gym)
  • Drum Circle in Pandora
  • Discovery Island Trails
  • Drum Circle outside of Tusker House

So that’s our list. Thoughts? Comments? Did we miss any?

Top Ten Character Meals at Disney World

Hollywood & Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Hollywood & Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Meeting your favorite Disney Character while enjoying a memorable meal is the essence of this Walt Disney World experience!

Before we start the article, it’s important to stress that our goal is to provide you with the building blocks of a magical vacation to Walt Disney World. Dining is a very personal and subjective discussion point, so if our recommendations don’t match with your plans – have fun and just know that we’re doing this because we love the parks! 

In addition, We are going to do our best to give you a list that goes over food and entertainment in the same post. This may be crazy, but gotta have some fun sometimes!

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

We’re starting out this list with a little controversy, but this is about providing you with as much research and insights as possible without giving you the same old character dining list that you’ve found all over the internet.

Crystal Palace is a solid option, but outside of the location, this location provides little for us to really say that you should 100% book it, without a shadow of a doubt. In fact, we would go as far to say there are very few people that we would actually give the go ahead to book this ADR. We recommend this character dining if you are a young family with kids who absolutely love Winnie the Pooh characters, or just want to stay in the Magic Kingdom all day without leaving, then this is an option for you.

Why am I being this critical? Well the food is very limited, the staff is very run-down early in the day due to the amount of younger guests in the restaurant. The dining room is also very cramped, which makes for difficult character interactions.

Am I saying to never go here? Absolutely not…in fact, we dined there within the last 12 months and with over 300 restaurants on property…going in the last 365 days is pretty reasonable.

Also, the restaurant is well-known for not sticking to the reservation times. So although you can have a reservation at 2pm, you may not be seated until 2:45pm (even if you’re there 30 minutes before your reservation time to check–in).

Characters: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet

View Crystal Palace Menu

Related Article – Ranking Magic Kingdom Dining


Article Continues Below

Chef Mickey’s

This is a tough one, as the restaurant does a great job of keeping the flow of guests in and out of the dining room at a brisk pace. It’s ranked at this spot because of the quality of the food, and theming of the location.

It’s not an interesting experience from start to finish, so unless you just really want to check this character meal off your bucketlist (as we wanted to), then by all means go for it! If you want to meet Mickey and the gang, there are better options.

Characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald

View Chef Mickey’s Menu

HOLLYWOOD AND VINE

Probably one of the most unknown locations on our list, this Hollywood Studios character dining experience is designed for younger guests who absolutely love Disney Junior!

The only thing that I’ll say is that the location is perfect for a family experience in the middle of a park that’s undergoing a huge face-lift.

Characters: Disney Junior

View Hollywood and Vine Menu


Article Continues Below

CAPE MAY CAFE

Looking off the beaten path is what brings us to Cape May Cafe. Yes, it is a breakfast buffet, but it’s more about who’s not listed to appear that may surprise you. It’s known as Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast, but if you do a little research on google and TripAdvisor, you’ll definitely want to put this on your list of ADR’s to try to get (if you’re a breakfast buffet kinda bunch).

Characters: Minnie, Donald & Goofy

View Cape May Cafe Menu

GARDEN GRILL

Dining inside of The Land at EPCOT is always a thrill, but this has an added draw because of the quality of food. Served in the style of a good ol’ fashioned family feast, this restaurant has definitely made a strong comeback after adding a lunch serving.

Oh, and the character part of this meal is definitely a plus, as the dining room has a very intimate and exclusive feel to it!

Characters: Chip, Dale, Mickey, and Pluto

View Garden Grill Menu

OHANA

The breakfast “all you care to enjoy” experience is one that brings you into a high energy time with Lilo and Stitch! Not only is this one of the most difficult ADR’s in the system, but it’s completely worth the trouble to get it as soon as reservations are open. Families, solo travellers, couples…everyone can enjoy this meal.

Characters: Lilo, Stitch, Pluto, Mickey

View Ohana Menu


Article Continues Below

1900 PARK FAIRE

This ranks high on the list because of the sheer variety of characters that you could see. The Supercalifragilistic Breakfast brings you face-to-face with everyone from Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and more. It also allows you to have a dining experience in the Grand Floridian, which always helps to start your day!

The dinner is a little more subdued, as the food is a basic buffet lineup (similar to Chef Mickey’s), but they give you the chance to meet a few of the more difficult characters to run into in the parks.

You’ll get to meet Prince Charming and Cinderella, along with Lady Tremaine and her daughters, Drizella & Anastasia. Overall, it’s a positive experience for any classic Disney fan.

Characters: Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Drizella, Anastasia.

View Menu for 1900 Park Faire

AKERSHUS

Do you like Disney princesses? This is the meal for you. No questions asked…get this reservation because it’s basically made for you. Do you have nightmares about pixie dust getting caught in your clothing and never (and I mean ever) get it out? Then you may want to skip this one.

It’s ranked as high as it is because the reservation is almost impossible to get, and the experience is actually a fairly positive one across the board. The buffet comes in the form of appetizers, which a few options for the main course that you order like a regular restaurant. You are here for the characters though, so enjoy it!

Characters on Rotating Schedule: Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Mulan, Cinderella, and/or Mary Poppins.

View Akershus Menu

Related Article – Ranking EPCOT Dining


Article Continues Below

TUSKER HOUSE

I have never been more impressed with a buffet experience with characters than at Tusker House.

**Insider Tip….try to aim for an 11am reservation…you may be lucky enough to get the cross-over between breakfast and lunch. First plate with bacon, eggs and Mickey waffles…second plate with carved ham, curried goodness and a ton of options for lunch. This is 100% not guaranteed or promised…but if you ask the server around 10am when you should come back…you never know;)

Characters: Safari Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey Mouse.

View Tusker House Menu

Related Article – 7 Table Service Restaurants for Vegetarian and Meat-Eater Couples


Article Continues Below

CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE

Ok, so there is nothing more magical than eating in Cinderella’s castle. In fact, this is one experience that will stick with you for the rest of your life. The castle itself is part of the dining experience, as it comes to life from the second that you check-in to the moment that you leave.

The food is incredible and will leave you full (we actually had to take our dessert home in a to-go container).

You get to meet with princesses across the spectrum, at your table…in a dining room that provides nothing but exclusivity.

Characters Rotates Through: Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine, and Snow White

View Cinderella Royal Table Menu

Related Article – Top ADR’s to get ASAP


Article Continues Below

THEME PARK CHARACTER DINING EXPERIENCES

  1. Cinderella’s Royal Table
  2. Tusker House
  3. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
  4. Garden Grill
  5. Hollywood & Vine
  6. Crystal Palace

RESORT CHARACTER DINING EXPERIENCES

  • 1900 Park Fare
  • Ohana
  • Cape May Cafe
  • Chef Mickeys
  • Trattoria al Forno (Breakfast on the Boardwalk)
  • Garden Grove (Character Dining at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel)
  • Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White
  • Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and Pals (at Four Seasons Resort)

What do you think? Did we leave any of the Top 10 list that you would have included? What would you have taken off?

The goal is to provide you with the best reasoning why (or why not) to make an ADR (Advanced Dining Reservations) with Characters involved. Not every restaurant is perfect for every situation, and this is the perfect forum to go into those points.