One of the more recent additions to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks are the interactive quests that you can participate in at each park. These are awesome! They get the kids involved and interested in areas of the parks where they otherwise might be bored or not as into the attractions such as the World Showcase at Epcot. Well at the Animal Kingdom, they have the Wilderness Explorers.
The Wilderness Explorers has been around for years, but only recently have both my boys been old enough to understand and truly engage with the cast members. and THEY LOVED IT! If you are unfamiliar with it, the concept of the Wilderness Explorers stems from the movie Up, where Russell is in search of his final badge for his Wilderness Explorers Club when he meets Mr. Frederickson, the protagonist of the film. So in Animal Kingdom you get a chance to join the Wilderness Explorers and tour through the entire Animal Kingdom Park in search of badges which you must then earn from the cast members.
The starting point to pick up your Wilderness Explorer Handbook and earn your first badge is the "headquarters" located on the bridge between Oasis and Discovery Island. From there you will travel to different posts throughout the park on a self-guided pace to earn over 30 badges. Some of the badges include the Ecology Badge, the Hiking Badge, the Asian Culture Badge, and the Dinosaur Badge.
Each Post is marked with a small wooden sign that coordinates with the badge itself you can find in your Field Book. Another hint is to look for Cast Members carrying orange satchels. Those are carrying the badges and so they can help you find where you are looking for. Each badge took approximately 5-10 minutes to do and to be honest a lot of that time was spent trying to find the different stations!
Here is one tip that would certainly have helped us going into the Wilderness Explorers is that some stations close BEFORE the park does. There are 4 badges located over at Rafiki's Planet Watch which closes around 4:30pm. So if you are working hard on collecting every badge, I encourage you to make sure you look at the times at the different locations and prioritize the ones with earlier closing hours.
And did I mention, this activity is FREE? Making it a great way to spend time with your kids, explore the Animal Kingdom, and save some money in the process!
Overall, we truly enjoyed this activity! My children found it fun (and dare I say it, educational!) and we were encouraged to explore areas of the park that we had otherwise ignored and passed by without much thought. And it was FREE! I really can't ask much more than that!
UPDATE: On our most recent trip to Animal Kingdom, once again our kids begged to be Wilderness Explorers, and really how can I not say yes? This time they were flat our insistent on collecting every single one of the badges. So we set of to do just that, and a little over 6 hours later, they did it! They collected every single badge. The best part was that the Wilderness Explorer Leader made a huge deal out of it and announced it to everyone near by. The boys ate it up! Again, this is really a super cute and fun thing for kids of all ages.
This seriously may be the second best invention at Walt Disney World (after Fastpasses)! I know that when I am with my kids in the parks and they are beginning to show signs of being "Hangry" the LAST thing I want to do is go stand in line at a quick service restaurant. I love quick service for its ease and the variety of their menus, but my goodness the lines and the wait feel like they are anything but quick. Well, welcome to the future folks because Disney has heard my plight! Earlier this summer they began rolling out a new feature, Mobile Ordering. Here's how it works!
First, make sure you have downloaded and updated your My Disney Experience App to your smart phone. Most likely you have since this is where you can make Fast Passes and check on wait times around the parks.
Next, click on the "Order Food" Icon under My Plans. From here, choose which participating quick service restaurant that you would like to eat that day. When we first tried this feature, we were eating a Satu'li Canteen, so I'll use that as an example (see below for the participating locations including Dole Whips in Adventureland!) and then click on the "Order Food" Icon again.
Now, you will see full menu where you are able to customize and build your order just as you would at the normal cashier's station. Once you are finished putting in your order, you can review it in your "Cart". When you are ready, just complete the payment steps. You will need to have a credit card linked to your account in order to charge the card from the My Disney Experience App.
Then, when you are present at the restaurant and ready to eat, just click in the App that "You Are Here." The Kitchen will then begin preparing your food for you all while you wait comfortably inside the restaurant. Once your order is ready, your phone will alert you. Then proceed to the designated counter and VOILA! You get your quick service meal faster and without the headache of waiting in line.
I can't say this enough. This is a game changer for me and my family! No more splitting up and finding table while my husband tries to remember what everyone ordered. No more standing behind a a family of 8 who can't decide what to order! Now it is streamlined and efficient!
Other quick service locations using Mobile Ordering are:
Magic Kingdom: Aloha Isle, Columbia Harbor House, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, The Lunching Pad, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, and Pinocchio Village Haus
Epcot: Electric Umbrella and Liberty Inn
Hollywood Studios: ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, and PizzaRizzo
Animal Kingdom: Flame Tree Barbecue, Harambe Market, Pizzafari, Restaurantosaurus, and Santu'li Canteen
Disney Springs: D-Luxe Burger
On our last trip to Walt Disney World, I wandered over to the Boardwalk for my first time. I can't believe it was my first time visiting this charming area. Located behind Epcot, and accessible through the International Gateway, the Boardwalk transports you to another time, the Mid-Atlantic coast at the turn of the century to be exact.
The wooden walking path along the waterfront facing the Beach Club Resort and the Yacht Club Resort is lined with several eateries and entertainment.
The Boardwalk eateries include the Boardwalk Baker, the ESPN Club, the Pizza Window, and a few others. Two that we were drawn two were the AbracadaBar and Ample Hills Creamery.
AbracadaBar is truly a unique and well-themed spot. It is clearly for the adults in the group as it centers around the bar area. But the theming of this lounge is spot on! Immersed in turn of the century magician and illusionist props, the lush darkness of AbracadaBar is as intoxicating as the alcohol. Ourselves, we went with a classic French 75 which was made to perfection. We did not eat here, although I wish I had now! But the menu looked amazing featuring charcuterie and cheese plates.
Ample Hills Creamery
We headed to the Boardwalk area with Ice Cream in mind! With both Ample Hills and Beaches n Cream located in the area, it was a tough choice, but Ample Hills won out pretty much only because of its proximity to AbracadaBar. The atmosphere of the creamery compared to AbracadaBar couldn't be more opposite! Instead of dark and lush, the creamery is bright, fresh, and cold. It was also extremely cheery and I adored the cartoons and descriptions of the ice cream flavors. I highly recommend getting the Ice Cream Flight which allows you to choose 6 different ice creams and get two mini scoops of each. This was perfect for us as we could not decide on flavors!
I will definitely be heading back to the Boardwalk during our next trip! But perhaps I'll give the Bakery and Beach and Cream a try! Really you can't go wrong!
One of my all time favorite things to do at Epcot is "Eat Around the World!" Whether this is during a festival or just on a normal day, sampling cuisines through the Epcot World Showcase is just awesome. Yes, you can also drink your way around the world, and I will admit that I have done it (check that - I have survived it!), but another way you to challenge yourself is to sample the desserts around the world. And since I have not yet made it to this year Food and Wine Festival (just a few more weeks!!) I am going to focus on dessert options that are usually always present inside the pavilions!
1. Norway's School Bread
Just out of habit I always turn left when I hit the lagoon at Epcot's World Showcase, and so Norway is my first stop for a dessert! My all time favorite there is the School Bread. I know I have written about the school bread before and thats because it is a surprisingly delicious combination of cardamom roll with a sweet cream filling, topped with coconut. I would never have picked this out until one day I did, and now I am obsessed.
2. Italy's Cannoli
3. France's Brioche Ice Cream Sandwich
If there is one pavilion that stands out among all the rest in terms of desserts, its France. Not only do they have the most delectable mouses and tarts inside the boulangerie, the ice cream shop alone is filled with delicious choices! My favorite is the Brioche Ice Cream Sandwich. The ice cream is placed inside a brioche bun with a sauce of your choice, and the baked til just golden and crispy enough on the outside but still cold and creamy in the center. Try this!
Did I miss any of your favorites?? Let us know and I'll add it to my must-dos this next trip! And as I mentioned since we are heading to the Food and Wine Festival in just a few weeks, stay tuned for some updates!
Disney World is famous for many things, but it is not always known for offering truly great deals. Except when it comes to the Japan Pavilion at Epcot. Not only is the Japan Pavilion one of the most beautiful and tranquil, their "Pick a Pearl" shop is actually a great value for the experience and, ultimately, the pearl.
When we arrived at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japan Pavilion, we headed straight to the Pearl counter to see how long the line is. Sometimes there are many many people just watching, which is totally fine too, but before you sign in, make sure the line isnt too crazy! To sign in, you simply head to the cashier and let them know that you would like to pick a pearl. The cost to pick the pearl is only $18. For the $18, you can keep it or take it home (or maybe lose it...). There are settings that you can purchase to have the pearl set into necklaces, rings, etc., but those obviously cost more. I have heard of people taking the pearl home and ordering a setting from Amazon or eBay. I actually have yet to choose a setting for mine and so I have two pearls just hanging out in my jewelry case!
Once you have paid the $18, you will be given a number. You can browse the Department Store (which I highly recommend. Its one of my favorite shopping experiences in Disney World!) or watch the guests before you choose their pearls. Once your number is called, you will step forward and choose which oyster you would like. Here is a tip: try to pick the ugliest, oldest, nastiest looking oyster in the case. They tend to be the largest and the most exotic!
After you have selected which oyster you would liked opened, the Cast Members perform a short ceremony on the drum and have you help them count to three in Japanese. They will then crack open your oyster revealing a pearl (maybe two!). They will measure it and note if it is an unusual color. At this point you have a pearl!
As I said, I love this experience. Its fun and unique, but also worth the $18 price tag as you get to walk away with a souvenir I don't rush to do the Pick and Pearl every time I'm at Epcot (if I did, I would have a LOT of pearls...), but this is one that I can easily and highly recommend if you are looking for something fun and different to do!
Last week I posted some of my top tips for getting the most out of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and promised to share my game plan for the upcoming year. While we are not scheduled to go for another few weeks, it always helps to be prepared! So here is our tentative game plan:
Up to 4pm: Have an restful day with perhaps a bit of swimming for the kids. Around 2:30pm we begin to get ready and in costume.
4:00pm: Arrive at the Magic Kingdom to pick up wristbands. Head immediately to either Cosmic Rays or Pecos Bill's for an early, light dinner.
5:00 - 5:30pm: Pick one or two rides to entertain the kids and then make our way to meet Jack Skellington and Sally.
5:30pm: One of the adults will be in line for Jack and Sally at this point. The other will take the kids for rides or just walking around and admiring other costumes.
The waiting can take a while...
6:45pm: This is usually when these top characters start to meet and greet with guests. Hopefully we are far enough in front that we are out of line by 7:30pm.
7:30pm: Grab a quick specialty snack (Like those Jack Pops from Sleepy Hollow!) and pick another character or two meet. We tend to like Villains, but have met most of them by now. Ill let the kids pick this one usually that morning. If we have time, we'll fit in a ride or two!
8:45pm: Find a good spot for the Boo to You Parade. While one adult waits, the other may help the kids grab another snack or ride one more ride.
9:15pm: Boo To You Parade! Easily one of my favorite entertainment events at Disney...
9:45pm: With about 30 minutes before the fireworks, this is usually when we start to hit some candy stations for the trick or treating. The lines will be much shorter now. We also usually try to make our way to the Haunted Mansion, but the lines for this ride can get quite long...
10:15pm: Happy Hallowishes Fireworks! Again, a true highlight of the party and should not be missed. The view for this is pretty good almost everywhere in the park and so we don't tend to stake out a spot like we do for the Parade.
10:45 - 12:00: If anyone is awake and still going, this is when we ride some rides, meet another character or two and grab that last bit of candy. After the fireworks show the crowds tend to really thin out! SO if you've got the energy, this can be a truly great time to be in the parks!
Have you created your game plan yet??
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!