My boyfriend and I went down for the whole week and stayed at the nearby Marriott World Center Resort - Royal Palms. The resort is incredible and I recommend staying there if you can. They renovated the pool area a few years ago and it now has multiple hot tubs, a waterfall, and three water slides. The water slides are in a separate pool right next to the main pool, as to avoid any collisions with swimmers. They are legitimate water slides, manned by a few lifeguards, that require you to climb up multiple flights of stairs.
The pool area also has fire pits with seating and an outdoor restaurant where you can choose to eat there or have food and drinks delivered to your poolside chair. We did this on one of our down days and the food was delicious, definitely worth the price. There is also a small, but recently updated game room with large-scale versions of your favorite app games like Fruit Ninja and Plants vs. Zombies.
We did manage to leave the resort long enough to go to all four Disney parks. We started on the Sunday at Animal Kingdom, and it was almost 100 degrees so we got there early and left early. I cannot stress enough how important I think it is to get to Animal Kingdom when it opens. My favorite part of this park is the safari, and the animals will be more active and easier to spot earlier in the day. Also, the wait time is a lot shorter at opening so you can save your Fastpass for something else. (ahem... Expedition Everest) My favorite place to eat here by far is Tusker House, the buffet themed as a market with characters dressed in safari clothes. Tusker House has amazing options for vegetarians, as well as carving stations for those carnivores in your life. However, we didn't make a reservation and opted for Rainforest Cafe, which was fine dining-wise and incredible for air conditioning. After riding the usuals, Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, I was excited to find Disney dog toys, bowls, and collars. I bought a collar and a Minnie Mouse bow squeak toy for my goldendoodle Minnie and she loved them. These are available in other stores throughout the parks as well as downtown disney but I found them in the store in Dino Lan U.S.A. on the way to the Dinosaur ride.
As this is a small park and we wanted to spend some more time by that incredible pool, we only gave it a half day this trip. We went around 3pm on another hot day, but a combination of thunder storms and the oncoming evening helped cool down the park. In recent years, Hollywood Studios has really underwhelmed me, and so I was thrilled to hear about the plans for future expansions with Toy Story and Star Wars. We used our Fastpass on Toy Story Midway mania, grabbed a quickly melting Mickey ice cream bar (delicious), and meandered through One Man's Dream, during which I embarassingly cried while watching the film. This visit, we were on a mission to hit the bigger rides, mainly because I had never been on Rockin' Roller Coaster. The wait wasn't too bad and the ride was extremely fast but tons of fun. My hair, however, did not enjoy this one and I came out looking like I had just been through a tornado. We went to Tower of Terror next before having dinner at the ABC Commissary. The theming here leaves something to be desired, but it does look like the cafeteria of a TV studio so I guess there's not much more they could do. I chose to eat here because, as someone who eats fish but not meat, I really enjoy their quinoa and arugula salmon salad. Other than that, I probably would choose somewhere else. I'm glad we didn't though, because we made it just in time for the last showing of Muppets 3D. There were only six of us in the entire theater, which was a cool experience. We skipped but favorite Writer's Stop this time due to the earlier Mickey ice cream bar, but I wish we had stopped for one of their massive cookies.
There are so many things that I love about Epcot. They mostly involve food or drink, for obvious reasons. Epcot is the one park that you MUST do your research prior to going if you want the best places to eat. (I recommend disneyfoodblog.com, which I have followed for the last 3 years) It has so many hidden gems that you can easily walk right past. My absolutely favorite thing thing to get in Epcot is the caramel popcorn at Karamell-Kuche in the Germany pavillion. It is warm and buttery and completely addictive. I always wish I had bought more since family and friends end up stealing some. In the wine store in this pavillion they also have a wine flight with cheese plate that I'm dying to try but tragically skipped this time. We had lunch at Via Napoli, in Italy, where they have arguably the best pizza I've ever had; and I live near NYC, so yeah. They cook the pizza in three massive ovens, each named after one of the famous volcanoes, and it truly is Italian style, softer in the middle. I have eaten here before and this trip I had the Carciofi Pizza, which is a white pizza with truffle oil, mozzarella, artichoke, and amazing fontina cheese. It is incredible but I sadly couldn't finish the whole thing. I highly, highly recommend. It was another hot day so, after lunch, we grabbed a frozen Grey Goose Citron Lemon Slush in the France pavillion. It was expensive but definitely large enough to split, which we did. The lemon was refreshing and the alcohol taste was subtle but not lacking at all. We spent a long time at Epcot, wandering through the various shops and enjoying the scenery. It's impossible to pick a favorite pavilion, although if they ever added Greece that would have to win my heart. Stores I wouldn't miss include the massive Mitsukoshi department store in Japan, the back alleys of Morocco that transport you fully there, and the "outdoor" nighttime marketplace in Mexico. I spend way too much money at Epcot every time and have purchased a small Moroccan lantern, tea mugs and candy from Japan, Murano glass wine stoppers in Italy, and soaps from France. Every time I go to Epcot, I find something new, and I can't wait to see what I'll discover in the future.
We saved the best for last and made sure I'd be spending my birthday in the Magic Kingdom. We arrived early, but after opening, and I immediately went to guest services to get my birthday pin. This is the best part of being in Disney for your birthday, as you receive "Happy Birthday's" from cast members, characters, and even strangers. During the day it was very hot and we got a frozen lemonade slush. When we went to way for it, the cast member told me not to worry about it and to have a great birthday. I was completely taken by surprise and it made my day so special. Also the frozen lemonade was perfect for a hot day, tart and sweet. We got it at a stand in Frontierland. But I jumped ahead of myself. We arrived and got breakfast from the Starbucks on Main Street and took it down the side alley between the stores. This is one of my favorite hidden spots. There are a few tables and chairs with umbrellas and it is usually empty. You can watch all of the people on Main Street without being part of the crowds. I am proud to say we did almost all of the rides in Magic Kingdom, including the new Seven Dwarves Mine Train. The wait for that one was around 90 minutes, but I was excited to be on a new ride. It would have been even better without the large middle school groups and angry parents, but I loved looking inside Snow White's house at the end. We had lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant (!!!!) which was incredible in both theme and food. We sat in the West Wing, which is spooky with lightning and the torn portrait. At first I was disappointed we sat in there instead of the larger Ballroom, but it ended up being much better as it was quieter and less crowded. I ended my meal with a "Grey stuff" cupcake which was rich and delicious. We rode some more favorite rides like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, and charged up our phones at the sitting area near the Tangled themed restrooms. In the evening, we ate at Columbia Harbour House, so that I could get my beloved "Lighthouse" sandwich, hummus and veggie slaw on multigrain bread. After that we went 45 minutes early to the reserved Fastpass section for Wishes fireworks. I am glad we did this but to be honest I would not recommend it. We had no idea you could get there early, but the guy let us in so we were able to snag a spot right by the little fence with no one blocking our view. If you arrive on time, though, you will most likely have a view that is worse than one you would have outside of this section. The fireworks were amazing as usual and I cried again. After the fireworks we decided to run to Splash Mountain and ride it again. This was the best decision ever. There was one other couple there so zero wait time and I asked to sit in the front, as earlier in the day I was in the back and my face was blocked by the person in front of me. We all got soaking wet and the view of the castle at night was wonderful. I would definitely do that again. Overall a pretty perfect birthday.
I apologize for the super long post, but I always have way too much to say when it comes to Disney World. I am most likely going again in April and will try to post an actual review with photos and such. Thanks for reading!