Mickey and Mommy

Reviews & tips for traveling to Walt Disney World with young kids

Tag: Epcot

Five tips for taking kids to the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is my family’s favorite time to visit Epcot. With the festival running through May 29, 2017, there’s still plenty of time to go.

Here are my top five tips for taking kids to the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival:

1) Get a Garden Passport for everyone – including little kids!

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Garden Passport

You can find the free Garden Passports in the park map stands when you first enter Epcot. These are great because they list all of the food available at the festival’s outdoor kitchens, as well as additional festival information.

But why get one for little kids? One word: Stickers! Each passport contains two dozen stickers. The stickers are meant to be used to self-mark the outdoor kitchens you visit. However, they can also be a fun game to help pass time in lines – find the matching spots for the stickers in the passport. (Or, you know, just let your kids go crazy decorating their passport with the stickers.) Continue reading

Ice Cream at Walt Disney World

Any vacation – and especially a Walt Disney World vacation – isn’t complete without some delicious ice cream! Here are just a few of our family’s favorite frozen treats, as well as our top spots to get them:

Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar

A trip to Walt Disney World is not complete without a Mickey bar, which you can find at any of the ice cream kiosks throughout the parks.  These are vanilla ice cream with a chocolate shell on a popsicle stick.

Tip: If you are in the Magic Kingdom, grab a Mickey bar right before finding a spot for the 3 p.m. Festival of Fantasy Parade.  It gives kids (and you) something to do to help pass the time while waiting.

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Walt Disney World Rider Swap Explained

Walt Disney World offers an incredible number of rides and attractions for kids of any height (including infants), but there are still a handful of rides in each of the four theme parks with height restrictions.

If you are traveling with small children, you might automatically rule those rides out – but you don’t need to because Walt Disney World offers a great solution called rider swap or child swap.

So what is rider swap, and how does it work?

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Beat the Heat at Walt Disney World

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With summer officially upon us, the next few months are the hottest time of the year to visit Walt Disney World.  With schools out for the summer, it’s also one of the busiest times – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have an incredible trip with some simple planning.

Here are a few tips so you don’t “sweat” the high temperatures.

Stay hydrated.  This may be a given, but did you know:

  • Counter Service restaurants offer FREE ICE WATER.  Yep!  All you have to do is go up to the counter and ask, and they will give you a small free cup of ice water.  It’s tap water, but my family thinks their tap water tastes better than the bottled Dasani water (which costs $3 a bottle).
    • Tip: If you are ordering a meal at a counter service restaurant, order ice waters for everyone in your party, even if you are getting other drinks.  Everyone gets to hydrate, and it’s much easier carrying them on a tray with everything else.
  • You can bring your own water into the parks.  Whether it’s your own bottled water or a filled water bottle, you are allowed to bring it into all Disney parks.  Actually, you can bring in any drinks (except alcohol) and food, but you can’t have glass containers, coolers larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″, or, only in Animal Kingdom, plastic straws (so don’t bring juice boxes on your Animal Kingdom day!).
    • Tip:  If you are bringing a stroller into the park, put your water bottles into any stroller pockets or at the bottom of your stroller to lighten your load.
  • Epcot has FREE soda.  Club Cool, located in Future World to the right of the main fountain, features eight Coca-Cola beverages from around the world.  There are several beverage dispensers (all the same) and small sample-size paper cups to try as many – and as much – as you want.
    • Tip: While my toddler isn’t allowed to drink soda at home, we do let him have a tiny bit of VegitaBeta, which is described as a “non-carbonated beverage with apricot and passion fruit flavors and is rich in beta-carotene.”  It’s probably the “healthiest” and least sugar coma-inducing option there, with the exception of the Beverly (if an adult in your group has been getting on your nerves, encourage them to try the Beverly…).

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Attraction Reaction: Gran Fiesta Tour

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If someone told you that there is nothing for younger kids to do in Epcot’s World Showcase, then they probably haven’t been on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros (Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito).

Based on the animated 1944 Disney film The Three Caballeros, this slow-moving boat ride is located in the back corner of Epcot’s Mexico pavilion (open during regular World Showcase hours).  The Three Caballeros have a musical performance scheduled, but Donald Duck is missing.  Throughout the boat ride, you see Donald Duck enjoying some of Mexico’s most famous sites, with Jose Carioca and Panchito searching for him a few steps behind.

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Walt Disney World “Firsts”

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A first visit to Walt Disney World is special enough, but there are also a number of other “firsts” your child (or even you!) can experience to make even more magical memories.

(Tip: On a first visit, be sure to get a free “1st Visit!” Disney pin to wear.  You can pick one up from Guest Services, the front desk of Disney hotels, and often from the check-out counters of Disney stores in the parks or Disney Springs.)

Uniquely Disney “Firsts”:

  • Disney Park – Tater’s first park (and the first park that many visit) was the Magic Kingdom.  Nothing says “Welcome to Disney” like walking down Main Street and getting your first glimpse of the Cinderella Castle.

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  • Disney Ride – We chose Dumbo as Tater’s first ride, as it was one of my favorites as a child.  Sure enough, he’s been on it half a dozen times now, and it remains a must-do any time we visit the Magic Kingdom.

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Food Review: Outdoor Kitchens at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

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If you are visiting Epcot during the annual International Flower and Garden Festival (now – May 30), make sure you spend a meal sampling from the Outdoor Kitchens (food booths) that are spread out around the World Showcase.

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Each of the 13 themed booths features farm- and garden-inspired food and beverages and are open every day during World Showcase hours (11 a.m. – park closing).  The food items are a tasting size portion, so you probably need to make a few stops to fill up for a meal, and they are priced from $3-7.  Each booth also offers a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, priced from $2.50-12.50, with the wines and beer flights being at the higher end.  Also, tax is included in all the prices.

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Visiting the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with Young Kids

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Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, running now through May 30, is one of our favorite times of the year to visit this Walt Disney World theme park.  In addition to the normal Epcot attractions, there are stunning Disney character topiaries throughout the park, special garden displays, yummy Outdoor Kitchens (food booths), and the Garden Rocks Concert Series on the weekends.

While many of these elements sound more catered to adults, Disney definitely didn’t forget the kids!  Here are our favorite toddler-tested and -approved parts of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

Play Areas

The Flower and Garden Festival features two play areas (recommended for ages 2 – 12) that were specially installed for this event: the Music Garden Melodies and the Cactus Road Rally.

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The Music Garden Melodies play area was the highlight of Tater’s day.  This play area is located behind Journey into Imagination on a path on the way to the World Showcase and features traditional playground equipment like slides and climbing areas, as well as larger instruments for the kids to play and some recognizable Disney friends in topiary form.  Additionally, this play area is illuminated after dark, and the ground is child-friendly synthetic turf.

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Food Review: Kids Meal at La Cantina de San Angel

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La Cantina de San Angel is a counter service restaurant located across from the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase that specializes in tacos, nachos, empanadas and other similar eats.

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Originally, we were on a quest for some grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup from the ever-elusive Taste Track. It was a cool (for Florida) winter day, and Tater will never say no to a grilled cheese.  But when we arrived, it was closed! I have attempted to get food from Taste Track on at least three separate trips, and it has been closed every single time (including 1:30 p.m. on Presidents Day). I have come to the conclusion that I will never get my Canadian Cheddar and Granny Smith apple deliciousness.

Anyway, without an ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation), we needed a quick grilled cheese replacement. Where else in Epcot could we find some cheese melted between carbs?

Off to Mexico!

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Where to find Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World

We’ve all seen the commercials – the cute little kid spots Mickey Mouse and runs into his arms for a truly magical moment.

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Those magical moments do certainly happen, but what a first-time visitor may not know is that Mickey Mouse does not randomly roam the parks.  However, with a little planning, you too can have picture perfect Mickey moments.  And let’s face it, a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without seeing the Big Cheese himself.

Here is where to meet Mickey at Walt Disney World.

The Magic Kingdom

Character Meet:

Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (located on Main Street immediately to your right after entering the park)

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If you only plan to meet Mickey once on your trip, go here!  Through the magic of Disney, Mickey actually speaks and interacts with guests. Only a few groups at a time are admitted into Mickey’s meet and greet dressing room (so your child doesn’t have to wait long once Mickey is visible), and PhotoPass photographers are present. Mickey will also sign autographs here. This meet and greet is open continuously during park hours, and FastPass+ is available.

Tip: If meeting talking Mickey is high on your list and your little one is low on patience in line, get a FastPass+.  Fourth FastPasses are also frequently available, though they are usually for later in the evening/night.

Shows/Parades:

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show – Every morning, 20 minutes before the official opening time, a Main Street official comes out on the train platform in front of the park to welcome guests for the day.  He/she is then joined by other Main Street citizens/dancers, and after a couple of songs, Mickey himself makes a grand entrance via train with a variety of other Disney characters to officially open the park for the day. He is also joined by the Family of the Day, who get to be up on the platform with him. There are no posed photograph or autograph opportunities during the show. If you can make it to the Magic Kingdom that early with your little ones, though, it really is a magical way to start off your day. (Note: there are different versions of the Welcome Show, for example, if the train isn’t running, but the show always goes on.)

Dream Along with Mickey – A 20-minute show with Mickey and friends that takes place on the stage in front of the Cinderella Castle.  This show is offered several times throughout the day, so check the Times Guide (pick up a copy near the park maps at the front of the park on your way in), official Disney website or the MyDisneyExperience app. Mickey does not directly interact with guests, and there are no posed photograph or autograph opportunities.

This show will be replaced with Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire this summer, which will still feature Mickey, but with additional characters from The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Frozen.

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