It was in that very exact moment above that my 41 adult self was transformed back into a little girl. That’s what Disney does to us. No matter how old you are, no matter how many times you’ve gone — the fairy dust gets into our soul the moment we step into the most magical place in the world. Sharing my Disney World recap and my must do list with all of you today. I was fortunate enough to work with Disney and 14 other influencers on this trip. While we did a ton there of course is never enough time to cover it all. I’m not a Disney expert by any means but will highlight what things were on my family’s must do list for the 5 days we were there. Also for all my mom approved and comfy Disney fashion from the trip see this post.
WHERE WE STAYED
So let’s start off my Disney World recap with where we stayed. Back in December 2019 we had stayed at The Grove Resort right outside of Disney. You can read my full review of that hotel here. We loved staying there but this trip we were excited to be able to stay on a Disney property.
The Spanish colonial themed Disney Coronado Springs Resort is located in Disney Springs. There are 2400 rooms within 3 villages. On our tour they said Magic Kingdom could fit on the property. That’s how big the resort is. Guests have the option of booking regular rooms, suites to fit larger families and even upgraded suites who can take advantage of upgraded Club Level amenities.
What makes Disney Coronado Spring so special is that it caters to families, couples and business travelers. This hotel was hopping too! Several restaurants on the property from casual, upscale and we even loved the grab and go options from the Marketplace on busy days. The property has a gym, convention center, several quiet pools and a large family pool with a huge slide. The property truly is a home away from home. On days you want to rest from the park you are still able to find a ton of fun for the entire family on property.
It would take me an entire blog post plus some to fully recap this amazing resort. I created the video above with highlights from our private hotel tour of things that really stood out to me.
Additional things I loved about Disney Coronado Springs:
- Complimentary bus service to Disney Parks
- Live music in the evening outside
- The pool is open till 11pm for late night fun along with roasting smores by the pool
- The food was GREAT everywhere we ate
- You can use the Disney Mobile App to order food from on property restaurants
- Rooms include a fridge and we were able to order necessities like fruit, milk and yogurt from Garden Grocer to be delivered to bell services for us upon arrival to store in our fridge.
- For adult travelers — there are 2 great bar option on property. One overlooks the lagoon and Dahlia Lounge is on the 15th floor with rooftop views of all the parks.
MUST DO: GO TO THE EPCOT FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
One of my favorite things we did in my Disney World recap was have the chance to visit the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. The Disney team arranged for our group to visit Epcot for a media event before opening for the day and that was such an amazing experience. We got to meet a Disney Imagineer (YES A REAL LIVE IMAGINEER!) and also got a private tasting of some specialty dishes from the festival which I’ll highlight in a few.
BUT the real excitement was getting a private look at the NEW Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure area which will open in October 2021! This area is right in France and while we weren’t able to take any photos there I can tell you the attention to detail is unbelievable (as it always is when it comes to Disney). From the smell of French treats when you enter, to the cobblestone streets, to the beautiful fountains in the courtyard — this is an exciting upcoming feature for Epcot!
Not only is the new Remy’s Ratatouille addition exciting but the Epcot Food & Wine Festival kicked off the day before we arrived and will run through November 2021. The festival features authentic global cuisine and beverages from a ton of countries around the world. 50% of the food and wine this year are brand new offerings so even if you’ve gone before there will be new dishes you’ve never tried yet!
What I loved most about the Epcot Food & Wine Festival were the portion sizes of all the dishes. The dishes are served more tapas style which is still plenty for sharing but easy to walk around with and leaves plenty of room for sampling multiple dishes. The Vietnamese Beef Pho from The Noodle Exchange (bottom right) was the tastiest, spiciest dish and boasting with flavor!
I didn’t personally sample any wine during our day at Epcot but the Bourbon Bloody Mary from The Swanky Saucy Swine was amazing. Don’t knock it till you try it!
And while Summer may not have enjoyed some of the dishes I tried there was still plenty she loved. What kid or adult could resist the Candy Jar Donut from the Donut Box?! Other things we tried and loved: Tuna Poke from Hawaii and of course we had to pay homage to my Japanese roots and had the Spicy Hako Sushi and Teriyake Chicken Bun. There wasn’t a bad dish to be had during the festival!
You can absolutely spend the entire day at Epcot but it’s actually our favorite park to go to at night. All the countries are lit up and makes for such a beautiful backdrop.
Also back at Epcot are the Epcot Forever fireworks. They go off at 10pm and are just magical. No one and I mean no one does fieworks like Disney. Travel tip: Epcot seemed much less crowded for fireworks compared to Magic Kingdom so if you can’t grab a good spot at Magic Kingdom (people sit themselves out hours in advance for close viewing) then perhaps watch them at Epcot. We thought they were spectacular!
MUST DO: VISIT MAGIC KINGDOM
They always say each person has “their park.” One park they favor more than another. I gotta say that for me always has and always will be Magic Kingdom. There’s something about the castle, the landscaping and Main Street that takes me to another world. From the moment I walk in till the moment I leave I just get this euphoric feeling.
BUT having the once in a lifetime experience of being in Magic Kingdom before park opening with no one else except our group was something that will stay with me for a lifetime. I did this at all the parks we visited before opening — I took it all in. I looked around and just saw the beauty in the detail. Even if you don’t ever have the type of opportunity I had try to look past the crowds and see the love that Disney puts into everything they put their wand to. Their attention to detail has never wavered and truly only gets better with time. Yet, they are so nostalgic and keep so much of the Disney we all grew up with the same as it was. It’s a blend of old and new and together creates such beautiful magic.
That morning in Magic Kingdom is a story I’ll one day tell my Grandkids about when they fall in love with their first Mickey and Minnie doll. I tried to capture the magic I was feeling in the video above. By far one of my favorite moments in my life.
We actually went to Magic Kingdom twice on our trip. Can you tell it’s our favorite park? And while it was packed we didn’t wait more than 35 minutes for most of the rides we wanted to go on.
A couple tips in my Disney World recap for tips on visiting Magic Kingdom:
- Go in the evening around 7 or 8pm. Everyone is already lining up for fireworks so we were able to hit Big Thunder Mountain (twice), Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion all before park closing! We could still see the fireworks on line for rides and to be honest — Summer was more intrigued with rides at MK than fireworks so that worked in our favor.
- The lines go faster than they say almost 90% of the time!
- Obvious one but hit the bigger rides early in the morning. We did Space Mountain and Mine Train all before 10:30am with short wait times.
- Don’t feel pressured to go on every ride. Summer didn’t love It’s A Small World or Peter Pan the last time we went. So we skipped and rode the ones she loves most. Each time you go to Disney your kids might be in a different stage. Let them take the wheel!
And can’t have my Disney World recap continue without mentioning that Dole Whip is now available at the parks! AND OH MY GOSH it is good! It’s the MUST HAVE Disney treat this summer! Tip: use the Disney Experience Mobile App to order ahead of time. I ordered on the app and had mine in hand 5 minutes later. Saves times from standing on line!
MUST DO: VISIT ANIMAL KINGDOM
Out of all the parks I actually find Animal Kingdom to be the most relaxing. It’s definitely the most shady of the parks so it’s a great park to sit down, grab some food and take in some of the nature.
Of course relaxing only lasts so long when you have kids. Highlight for Summer was riding Everest. She was finally tall enough! Tip: Go in the afternoon to Animal Kingdom. They close earlier (7pm I believe) so most people tend to do AK in the morning making it slightly less crowded in the afternoon.
MUST DO: SEE THE STAR WARS AREA & THE NEW MICKEY & MINNIE’S RUNAWAY RAILWAY AT HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
We went to Hollywood Studios on our last day and by that point we were all getting exhausted. However, we powered through! So glad we did because there are some exciting things not to miss at Hollywood Studios! The brand new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway was an unbelievable ride! So inventive and adorable for all ages!
And while I loved going on Tower of Terror I think the big win at Hollywood Studios is Star Wars. Holy cow was this something to experience! This area of the park is massive and literally you feel like you are on the set of The Mandalorian. From the restaurants to the rides to even the garbage cans — everything was done on another level and another planet. You gotta see it to really appreciate it. While we weren’t able to get on Rise of the Resistance I heard it was amazing.
Tip: It’s not easy to get tickets for Rise of the Resistance. Have your tickets in advance for Hollywood Studios. Then on the day you are going to the park login to the Disney app at exactly 7am or 1pm to try to reserve your tickets. They go within seconds but you only get those 2 shots at scoring your ride for the day. Even if you don’t love Star Wars this is an area of Hollywood Studios not to be missed!
MUST DO: HAVE DINNER IN DISNEY SPRINGS
I had to include a quick visit to Disney Springs in my Disney World recap. It’s an absolute must do when visiting Disney World. There are 100 shops, 62 dining options plus 23 attractions and events.
We actually went to Disney Springs our first night of vacay and it was a great way to kickstart our trip. We had dinner at Wolfgang Puck and rather than get dessert we went to the massive M&M store and got candy to have in the room all week. It’s definitely a cool vibe in Disney Springs for everyone. Vendors selling cocktails and live music — perfect for adults too!
Phew that was quite the Disney World recap but I didn’t want to leave anything out. This truly was a Disney trip for the books. I’ve worked my butt off on this blog for over 4 years now and I’ve been blessed with so many great opportunities. This one, however, was just such a special one. This was one I could share with my family. This is one I did for Summer. To be able to give back to Erik and Summer, my 2 biggest supporters, meant the world to me. There were a lot of pinch me moments during my time in Disney that will turn into memories our daughter will never forget.
Maybe I say it too much or maybe I don’t say it enough, but I’m forever grateful for all the good that has come to me and my family since starting House of Leo Blog. 4 years ago I had a dream of making this into something and I did that. I didn’t do it alone though. I may put in all the work and long endless hours of working.. However, all of you who follow, brands and fellow influencers believing in me, and my family supporting me are what make things like this possible.
Shared this on FB and IG but it couldn’t be more true. “When you wish upon a star your dreams come true.” Dreams do come true friends. The magic of Disney was a reminder of that. We are never too old to be a kid again. And we are never too old for dreams to come true. Till next time Disney.
**A special thank you to the Walt Disney team for hosting and having me be a part of this collaboration.