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How to Visit Disney World Like a Local {Guest Post from Orange Blossoms & Sunshine}

Ashley and Jenny, the two lovely ladies behind Orange Blossoms and Sunshine, know a thing or two about Disney World. So, while I'm riding Expedition Everest for what will hopefully be the twentieth time in a row, they're going to share some of their tips for making the most of your Disney World vacation. 
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Growing up here in Central Florida we've been to Disney a time or two (okay, maybe a few hundred times more than that). Jenny and other family members were tour guides. Ashley's grandfather worked at Disney since the 80's, and her sister Lacey currently works there in EPCOT. So, in some ways, Mickey is just another member of the family. We've learned many things over the years that make our trips a little more affordable and not so hectic. We'll let you in on a few of our local secrets.

WHEN TO VISIT

Cinderella's Castle at night
{photo courtesy of Orange Blossoms and Sunshine}
February and October are the best times to come. Avoid holidays if you can. If you are here over a holiday, make sure you check out park hours. Disney offers "Magic Hours" at a different park each day, which means they open earlier or later for those staying at a Disney hotel. 

BEFORE YOU VISIT

  • Come with a plan, but prepare to be flexible. I personally like to go later in the day when I can. Its usually cooler and less busy, which means shorter ride times.  Jenny likes to get there early and beat the crowds.
  • Use the Disney Parks website. Ashley's sister Lacey works at EPCOT, and this was her best piece of advice. There, you are able to purchase tickets before going, so you avoid the VERY long ticket line to get into the park. You can also see park attendance numbers, which may help you plan which days to visit. 
  • Use the Fast Pass+ System. Fast Passes allows you to reserve a time on a ride of your choice. Back in the day (about 10 years ago) when FastPass came out, the passes were little paper slips with varying rules on how many you could get. Now, Disney has switched to the Fast Pass+ system, which allows you reserve passes ahead of time. You can reserve at the parks, but according to Lacey, sometimes the popular rides, like Soarin' and Test Track, have been booked before the park even opens. 
  • Save on your accommodations. Did you know you could camp at Disney? The Fort Wilderness Resort offers campsites! Jenny goes with a group in the fall every year. It is at least half the price of the hotels plus you get all the perks of staying on property such as the resort events, buses to the parks

Admission gates at Hollywood Studios
{photo courtesy of Orange Blossoms and Sunshine}







IN PARK RECOMMENDATIONS

Inside the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride
{photo courtesy of Orange Blossoms and Sunshine}

  • Do: skip parades and fireworks. If you have been to the Magic Kingdom before or if you're visiting with a multi-day pass, use the time to head to the busiest rides and get in line. If you choose to skip the fireworks, go for an outdoor ride, such as the new, very popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or The Thunder Mountain Railroad. One of Ashley's most magical Disney experiences was watching the fireworks while riding it.
  • Don't: miss out on meeting the characters! Meeting at least one character is worth the wait. It's likely to be one of the fondest memories you'll have after your leave.
  • Do: remember It's A Small World. this could be your savior in the potential HELL that Fantasyland can be. Especially during the summer. The lines for ALL the Fantasyland rides are long, almost all the time. Even the carousal! .Except for Its A Small World. It's nearly always a short line wait and it’s a little piece of air conditioned Heaven!
  • Do take the Kilimanjaro Safari as early in the day as possible. The animals are more likely to be out and active at this time.

Jenny's husband and little girl meeting the characters
{photo courtesy of Orange Blossoms and Sunshine}

WHERE TO SPEND AND SAVE YOUR MONEY

  • Do lunch instead of dinner at the fancier restaurants. Your wallet will thank you. A majority of locals will tell you that EPCOT is their favorite because it is the only park that serves alcohol, and the World Showcase has the best restaurants. 
  • Try some local favorites. Some of our favorite snacks are giant smoked turkey legs (I even take one home sometimes!), a Dole Whip (an ice cream and pineapple treat found at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom and Captain Cook's at the Polynesian Resort), Mickey Mouse ice cream bars (a classic choice!), and churros and margaritas at Mexico in EPCOT.
  • Choose your souvenirs wisely. Just think of Disney as the world's largest gift shop. There is something to buy around EVERY corner. As a local, the souvenirs that are really worth the money are an autograph book and Mickey ears. I still have my autograph book to this day! Everyone should get a pair of Mickey Ears when visiting the park. You can also have them embroidered to make it a special keepsake.
Ashley's sister Lacey with her Dole Whip
{photo courtesy of Orange Blossoms and Sunshine}

OUTSIDE THE PARKS

  • There are TWO water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. And since it is Florida, you can visit pretty much year round.
  • Celebration is a little town near the Disney property that looks like it is straight out of The Stepford Wives. It has great shops and restaurants. Later in the year, they give us poor Floridians a taste of what seasons are like. During the Oktoberfest, leaves fall nightly. And no local misses out seeing the "snow", which happens this year from November 29th through December 31st at 6, 7, 8 and 9 PM.
  • Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island and Marketplace have been local favorites for years. There is a multi-screen movie theater, a bowling alley called Splitsville, Disney Quest, Cirque de Soleil, House of Blues, a hot air balloon ride, and numerous other restaurants and shops. However, at this time, the area is transforming into what will be called Disney Springs. There is a massive amount of construction going on right now, and the parking is especially awful. If you're visiting through 2016, you should be prepared for lots of construction and poor parking situation.
  • Mini golf is a must-do. There are SO many mini golfing places to visit. Mickey's Winter Summerland Mini Golfing is our favorite! It's a blast year round as well.
{photo courtesy of Orange Blossoms and Sunshine}
Finally, the best advice a local can give you is to relax and enjoy your trip. You can physically not do it all. So, enjoy what you do get to do. It’s still going to be the Most Magical Place on Earth!