Skip to main content

The Happiest Place on Earth

We just got back last week from a great big Orlando Extravaganza, hitting up both Disney and Universal parks during our time in sunny Florida. It was such a great week creating some of the best family memories. But in my opinion, there are no memories like summer vacation memories, so really it didn't matter where we went - it was going to be the best. The rides and thrills and food and screams were just icing on the cake this year. 


Ultimately I want to recap our trip, hitting the highlights and answering questions you guys had for me along the way. I also want to note distinct differences we noticed, having gone to both set of parks all in the same week. I don't think the differences would have necessarily stood out as much had we not done it all in one week - but there are certainly things to note. 

But today I am going to recap our Disney experience! 


We stayed at Coronado Springs, mainly because we snatched it at a great price and the pool is supposed to be one of Disney's best. The grounds were absolutely gorgeous - it has the feel of a Spanish Riviera, and truly feels like you're on a tropical island somewhere. The pool was really cool, modeled after Mayan Ruins and had a really fun slide the kids loved, but pool time is super hit and miss on a Disney vacation when contending with weather and park schedules. We only swam at this pool once. 

The last time we came we stayed at Art of Animation, and honestly if we had it to do over, we would have stayed there again. I feel like there was more of an "adult" feel to Coronado Springs, and Art of Animation was truly all-kid and overall more magical. Also, our rooms were much nicer at Art of A. We were not impressed with our Coronado Springs room at all. Apparently they just renovated the main building there, but we were in one of the "casitas" and it just wasn't our favorite. A major highlight to our stay though was that we had a bus stop right outside of our building, so transportation was truly a breeze. I had read that Coronado Springs has one of the hardest transportation situations, but ours could not have been more perfect. 



We started our trip off with a bang at the classic and beautiful Magic Kingdom. We had the very best day! With masks and social distancing gone, it felt like the magic was back. We were able to ride every single thing we wanted and the lines were not bad at all. I think the longest we had to wait for any ride at Disney was 45 minutes tops. They are still at limited capacity which totally helped with lines in general. I wish they would keep the reservation system in place because it just helps so much with the wait times which makes for an overall more enjoyable stay. 


If you stay on property, you get to enter the parks an hour earlier than general admission. We got there early, snatched some castle pics while we were fresh (hello Florida humidity!), and headed back to Frontier Land to ride the coasters with the longest wait times. We essentially walked right on to Big Thunder Mountain and waited less than 10 minutes for Splash Mountain. Once those rides were out of the way we felt like we had all the time in the world didn't have to rush. We spent the rest of the day in Adventure Land, Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land riding the classics like Small World, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Little Mermaid, Haunted Mansion, etc. and enjoyed the new rides like 7 Dwarves Mine Train. We rode so many and made such good time that we were finished with rides by around 5pm! 

Here's my list of must-rides from each Land in Magic Kingdom:

Fantasy Land

It's a Small World
Peter Pan's Flight
7 Dwarves Mine Train
Mickey's Philharmagic - not a ride

Adventure Land

Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean

Tomorrow Land

Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear
Carousel of Progress

Frontier Land

Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain 

Liberty Square

Haunted Mansion
Little Mermaid - which is not in a "land".

When you are 60 days out from your trip you can start booking restaurants. Book them ASAP - the day it opens up for you.  I snagged one of the last dinner reservations for our specific day at the enchanting Be Our Guest AKA Belle's Castle. It was everything I hoped it would be and more! The whole experience, from walking in to leaving was magical. The service was top notch and the food was truly exquisite. It was hands down the best meal I had all week, both parks combined. 


Each room of the castle was dreamy. The ballroom was dark and had snow falling outside the windows. The Beast came out to greet everyone several times but we never saw Belle. 


Truly such a fantastic steak. Everything about this dish was perfection to me! I also highly recommend the appetizer salad - one of the best I've ever had. Not pictured here, but man, I'm still dreaming about that salad. I'm determined to find a copy-cat recipe online, it was THAT good.


For dessert the kids get their own Chip to "paint" with edible paint, a delicious truffle, and a dollop of the grey stuff - it's delicious. Don't believe me? ....

The dinner was pricey, but it was our one splurge meal so we had planned for it. It's certainly not a place you would eat at regularly, but for a special meal on your trip, I would recommend this place time and again. You have to go at least once!

Magic Kingdom will always be my favorite. The nostalgia and pureness of it can't be matched! It was the absolute perfect way to kick off our vacation.


Ezra had just turned one the last time we were at Disney, so it was truly like he was experiencing it all for the first time on this trip. Everything was so magical and special for him. This photo is one of my all time favorites!



We woke up bright and early the next day and caught the bus to Hollywood Studios. Again, we were in the parks an hour early and caught the longest line rides first - Tower of Terror and Rock n' Roller Coaster. Both are more "thrill" rides than anything at Magic Kingdom, and both cannot be missed. And they're right next to each other! It's perfect to ride one and then hop in line for the other as soon as you get there and then continue on through the rest of the park with minimal wait times.


Fun and funny fact. As soon as we took this photo we turned around and saw some of the boys' friends from school! What are the odds? They're actually in the background of my photo! 

Hollywood Studios is one of our favorite parks because the whole feel of it is so fun. The retro Hollywood vibes are perfect! I could just walk up and down Main Street all day taking in all the sights and shopping the stores. 

Darin had told the boys the day before "now keep your eye out, because you never know who you'll see when you're at Disney World. Everyone goes here - we could even see a celebrity." Well as luck would have it, I rounded the corner in line at Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway and I spotted the lovely Busy Phillips and her family. I hit Darin in the arm and said, "IT'S BUSY PHILLIPS" and before he could even look her way I was over talking to her. I told her I was the biggest Dawson's Creek fan ever and that I follow her on instagram. She was literally SO nice. She was super softspoken towards me and and thanked me for everything I was saying to her. I told her she made my day and she looked so genuinely appreciative and said, "Really?! Oh, I'm so glad!" Ah! I was so excited! 

And of course I saw her in the hottest part of the day when I had been in a forever long line and was looking my absolute worst, so here's the black & white photo of us - for posterity. 


Toy Story Land is a classic and just so fun to look at. The rides there are excellent, too. Slinky Dog Dash was a new one for us and it was great! We also saw Busy there, too. We literally kept seeing here everywhere we went the rest of the day. It was so funny! I told Darin I thought she was stalking me. Ha!


We were really excited to see the new Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and wow - it was truly something. I'm not even a Star Wars fan, but I absolutely loved it. It seemed other-worldly and realistic. I could imagine a true Star Wars fan would freak out in this whole area. We were amazed!

Now let's talk about the new Star Wars ride - Rise of the Resistance. 


Rise of the Resistance is the only ride in all of the Disney parks that requires a reservation. They open up the time slots for reservations at 7am and 1pm, and you can only secure one spot per day, meaning you can only ride it once per day.

You reserve the spot through your Disney app the second they open up. I woke up at 6:50am and hit the button continuously to try and secure a spot and the very second it rolled over to 7am all the time slots were booked. I truly have no idea how I did not get one, but alas, I didn't. So we made sure to try again at 1pm. We had just finished lunch in the ABC Commissary and so many of us in there were on our phones trying to get a spot. I did the same tactic I tried that morning and by the luck of the draw, secured us a spot. There were people in there cheering as we all seemed to have gotten a spot at the exact same time! Disney comradery at its finest.

My advice: if you don't get a spot in the morning, try again at 1pm. I had much better luck then and feel like there are much fewer people on there trying at that time since everyone is trying at 7am and only half are trying at 1pm. 

Once you get a reservation, they put you in a queue and they give you a time to come back and ride. Was it worth all the hubbub and theatrics trying to get a spot? 100% ABSOLUTELY.  Do whatever it takes to ride this ride. All I can say about it is that it's not just a ride - it's an entire experience. And that made it phenomenal. 


When restaurant booking opened up for me 60 days prior, I booked an Italian restaurant at Hollywood Studios, but the only time slot available was at 1pm in the middle of the day. If you book a restaurant and decide not to go, you must cancel within 24 hours or you will be charged $25/person. So if it's something you are not certain you want to do, give yourself plenty of time to cancel. We decided a few days before going that we weren't going to want a heavy pasta dinner smack dab in the middle of the day, (heat, humidity, pasta and rides are not a great combo!) so we canceled our reservation there and decided to just grab a quick service lunch. It gave us plenty of time to do and see everything we wanted right before a torrential storm rolled in that evening. We then left the park and went to a nice leisurely Italian dinner outside of the parks (perk of driving!) and were super glad we made that decision. Plus, you're way hungrier at the end of the day from all that walking!

Here's my list of must-rides at Hollywood Studios:

Hollywood Boulevard

Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway

Sunset Boulevard

Rock N Roller Coaster ft. Aerosmith
Tower of Terror

Toy Story Land

Slinky Dog Dash
Toy Story Mania

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Millenium Falcon
Rise of the Resistance


It was truly another magical day.

This concluded the Disney portion of our trip and it was just so incredibly fun and perfect in every way. Stay tuned for what came next.....! 

I am a modern day homemaker with a passion for family, cooking, celebrating, decorating, travel, and memory making! The Lord has blessed me with the desires of my heart in my husband and our two sons. We recently built our dream home and cultivating a loving and happy haven for my family is where I find so much joy.