My second trip of the year to Walt Disney World (of the 4 I currently have planned for 2019) was a classic girls trip with 2 of my besties. We first started discussing it in January, and it felt like it took FOREVER to get here. But finally, after turning in my time sheet for my last day of work before summer, I bolted home, packed a suitcase, and flew my butt down to my favorite place.
I was honestly a little skeptical about going over a holiday weekend like Memorial Day (I tend to try to schedule my trips during what I know are typically slower times of year and avoid holidays at all costs!), but it was nowhere near as crowded as I expected.
WHERE WE STAYED
This trip had a lot of firsts for me (and that’s saying something, considering I’m a self-proclaimed Disney expert/nerd, and proud of it thankyouverymuch). One of these firsts was staying at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. I’m typically a bargain hunter when it comes to hotels, so staying in one of the premium resorts definitely isn’t something I do on a regular basis. Okay, like, ever.
Turns out, though.. all you have to do to stay in one of these amazing premium resorts is get yourself an incredible doctor friend (sup, Allison) who happens to have a medical conference at said amazing premium resort and convince her to let you crash. We’ve been friends for about 10 years now, I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, blah blah blah, but let’s be honest, it was really all just leading up to this moment.
The Yacht Club is incredible. I called home about halfway through the trip to inform my family that “we’re Yacht Club people now”, so at least one of us needs to win the lottery in the somewhat near future.
Our room had 2 queen beds, plenty of room for all of our stuff, and a sweet little balcony overlooking the water where the Friendship boats pick up / drop off guests all throughout the day. The boats run on a loop to 3 resorts (Yacht and Beach Club, Swan and Dolphin hotels, Boardwalk resort area) and 2 parks (Epcot and Hollywood Studios). All 5 destinations are also within walking distance from one another, which we took advantage of pretty much every day (because ya know.. walking around the parks for a total of 10-12 miles per day just isn’t quite enough).
There’s also a massive pool area with lounge chairs galore, a lazy river, sand bottom pools, and a pirate ship waterslide. I repeat: a PIRATE SHIP WATERSLIDE. And don’t worry, it’s not just for kids. The high temps stayed around 100 degrees the whole time we were there, so taking advantage of this in the middle of the day was just what we needed to refresh, recharge, and get back out there.
Towards the end of our trip, we had to say goodbye to our beloved Yacht Club and hello to Niido Orlando, an apartment style complex, run by Airbnb. I randomly won a 2 night stay at Niido by entering an Instagram giveaway, and I’m so glad I did, because otherwise, I’m not sure I would have found this hidden gem!
Our apartment was on the third floor, had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a full kitchen, eating area, and living room. You can see the full tour saved on my Instagram highlight reel.
WHAT WE ATE
Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Kiosks (Epcot World Showcase)
If you ever have a chance to go to Disney World during one of Epcot’s two yearly festivals (Flower and Garden / Food and Wine), DO IT. We ended up at Epcot at some point almost every day to wander around World Showcase and eat and drink from the many pop-up kiosks available during this limited time. Flower and Garden is over now, but Food and Wine starts on August 29th (the same day Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens at Hollywood Studios)!
Step one: get a passport (available at Guest Services or any of the food or merch kiosks). Step two: take a few minutes to look through all of the awesome offerings (I like to bring a pen so I can make a mark next to everything I want to try!) and plan out your route around World Showcase. Step three: Walk, eat, drink, enjoy.
Satu’li Canteen (Animal Kingdom, Pandora)
Pandora is an incredibly beautiful addition to Animal Kingdom, and nestled in the back corner is the park’s newest quick-service restaurant, called Satu’li Canteen. I’m typically a Flame Tree Barbecue kind of gal (if you know, you know) but I’ve eaten here the last two times I’ve been to Animal Kingdom, and it was incredible both times.
It’s a build-your-own-bowl kind of situation, and you can choose a base, a protein, and a sauce. My favorite combination is the grilled chicken over noodles with creamy herb dressing, but we all got totally different combos and we all loved them, so I think it’s safe to say that all of the options are equally delicious.
Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
Another first for all three of us was the Boma buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and we were NOT disappointed. The meal isn’t cheap ($49 per adult, annual passholders can get 10% off), but there are more than 60 different offerings to choose from, and like any standard buffet, you can go back for more as many times as your stomach will handle. My non-negotiable recommendation: GO HUNGRY.
Some of the highlights for me included the Chicken and Corn Chowder (I got 2 bowls!), Watermelon Rind Salad, Eggplant and Feta Salad, Curry Pasta Salad, Slow-roasted Pork (with Boma Mustard sauce), White Cornmeal (tastes like the best grits I’ve ever eaten), and Zebra Domes for dessert (I was so mad I couldn’t eat like 7 more of these, but by the end of the meal my stomach was screaming at me to PLEASE STOP).
These are the faces of defeat. I did steal that last Zebra Dome off Allison’s plate, though.
Ale & Compass (Yacht Club Resort)
Ale & Compass is actually a new-ish restaurant inside the Yacht Club, serving a seafood-heavy menu, but with lots of other options as well. We started off with the Parker House Rolls and Spreads (including bacon jam, citrus butter, and pub cheese), based off our waiter’s recommendation (who was from Alabama! Shout out to Landon!) and they were incredible. Allison got the Lobster Mac and Cheese and a Wedge Salad (which were both huge portions for a super reasonable price!), Liz got the Cabernet-braised Short Ribs, and I went with the Sustainable Catch of the Day (Mahi), which came on a bed of spinach, risotto, and fire-roasted tomato-pepper sauce. If licking my plate clean was considered appropriate behavior, I would have done it.
But I didn’t.
Because I’m a lady.
Columbia Harbour House (Magic Kingdom)
Let’s be honest, Magic Kingdom isn’t known for great quick-service options, but Harbour House is a pretty solid option with big portions for reasonable prices. It’s directly across from Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. I always get their fried fish and it has never let me down.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (Magic Kingdom)
We realized about halfway through our Magic Kingdom park day that it was also National Burger Day, so naturally, we felt like we had to comply with this very important made-up holiday. Cosmic Ray’s is located in Tomorrowland, across from the Tomorrowland Speedway. Liz and I both got your typical bacon cheeseburgers, while Allison went for the specialty burger, which included regular cheese, mac and cheese, Cheeto dust, and a grilled Mickey face on the bun. Yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds. (Oh, and after you visit their extensive condiment bar, make sure you find a spot to sit downstairs, where you’ll be serenaded by Sonny Eclipse and his band of Space Angels while you eat.)
MAGICAL PHOTO SPOTS
If you know me, you know I love a good colorful photo op, and Disney World is full of them. The flower wall pictured above and the pineapple backdrop below were both special stops during Flower and Garden Festival, but there are tons more that are always available for your modeling pleasure.
The Purple Wall (Magic Kingdom)
Location: On the right side of the entrance to Tomorrowland, past the Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant
The purple wall was one of the first walls to become truly Insta-famous, and it’s recently gotten a refresh! Part of it is the solid purple wall we all know and love, and part of it now has a funky geometric pattern painted on it. Clearly, I love them both.
P.S. Our matching shirts are from Castle Plus Love. Thank you, Lord, for best friends who are willing to wear matching shirts with me at my favorite place on Earth. Amen.
Ice Cream Weather Wall (Boardwalk Resort)
Location: Ample Hills Creamery
It truly was ice cream weather at the end of May, so this was a great spot to relax by the water for a bit and grab an ice cream cone (and a super quick pic before it melts)! Here’s Liz, the fanny pack princess herself, being extra cute.
The Toothpaste Wall (Epcot)
Location: Behind the Living Seas (to the right), in front of the Coral Reef Restaurant
Don’t @ me, I did NOT come up with that name. But that’s what it’s referred to as on Instagram, so here we are. It’s out of the way of the main traffic areas, in the shade, and usually not crowded, so you can take as many silly jumping pics as your heart desires (or as your friends will allow).
Safari Sunset Wall (Animal Kingdom)
Location: Near Tiffin’s, on your way to the entrance of Pandora
This painted mural is a new-ish addition to Animal Kingdom, and it’s the perfect spot for a pic. It was about 100 degrees when this photo was taken, and we felt like we were this close to the burning sun on the wall, so it seemed appropriate.
The Popsicle Stick Wall (Hollywood Studios)
Location: Toy Story Land, on the left as you’re exiting Toy Story Mania
Also a new-ish addition since the opening of Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios. If you haven’t been recently, you’ll notice that Toy Story Mania has a new exit, and there are some super cute photo ops on the winding pathway. These pastel popsicle sticks are my favorite, and they’re perfect for an Insta-worthy post.
There are SO many more awesome photo spots around Walt Disney World, but these were the main ones we made special trips to during this particular vacay. (I’ll do a full post with more Instagrammable places soon!)
EXTRA PRO TIP - stay hydrated
I honestly cannot stress this enough, especially during the summer when temperatures are hovering around 95 - 100 degrees or more. A bottle of water currently costs $3.50 in the parks, so it’s easy to spend a small fortune simply trying not to pass out, but you can get FREE (yes, FREE.. at Disney. WHOAH.) cups of ice water at many places around the parks. Just duck into any quick service restaurant that has a fountain drink machine. Don’t worry about standing in the ordering line.. you can typically walk right up to the counter and ask a cast member for a cup. You can also get water at any of the Starbucks locations (there’s one in all four parks and two at Disney Springs). They have cups and water dispensers at the back counters where the cream and sugar are.
In addition to the places we ate that are listed above, here are a few more stops you can get free cups of water:
Sunshine Seasons (inside the Land building, downstairs)
Electric Umbrella (past Spaceship Earth to the left side of the fountain)
Starbucks (past Spaceship Earth to the right side of the fountain)
Yorkshire County Fish Shop (in the UK, on the left, before the bridge to France)
Starbucks (Hollywood Boulevard on the right side, before you turn down Sunset Avenue)
Woody’s Lunch Box (inside Toy Story Land, past Toy Story Mania, on the left)
Pinocchio’s Village Haus (inside Fantasyland, past Small World on the left)
Pecos Bill (inside Frontierland, before Splash Mountain)
Gaston’s Tavern (inside New Fantasyland, to the left, before Storytime with Belle)
Starbucks (Just before the bridge on the way to Africa, on the left)
Obviously, this particular post is by no means a comprehensive guide because there is SO much to do, SO much to see, and SO MUCH TO EAT. I loved doing some different-for-me things this time around, and I loved sharing them with you here! My next official trip is planned for the end of September to see the finale of EPCOT’s Illuminations Fireworks Show (which I am STILL NOT OKAY WITH BY THE WAY), so you can expect another trip review as soon as I get back home and stop crying.