Free Customized Disney Park Maps

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Plan your Disney Day with your free customized map. Source: Disney.go.com

Plan your Disney Day with your free customized map.
Source: Disney.go.com

Did you know the Disney website has a fantastic mapping tool that helps with planning your days at the Walt Disney World Resort parks?

Knowing the layouts of each park is essential to ensure that you are getting the most out of each day of your Disney vacation. You can decide in advance which rides and experiences are right for you and your family and get to your selected dining experiences on time. By using Disney’s customized mapping tool, you are able to familiarize your family with the parks before you leave for your trip and get an incredible memento for free!

How does it work?

Click here to go to the Walt Disney World customized maps site and select Let’s Get Started. You will be asked to log in to your Disney account. If you do not have one, simply follow the instructions to set up a free account.

From there you will be given the option to select the ages of the members of your family for suggestions on age appropriate activities. Choose the rides and experiences that interest you and continue to follow the directions to highlight the places that you wish to visit. You will make these selections for each park and customize your trip.

At the end of your map planning session, you will be given the option to decide the theme of your maps; with the options being a classic fairytale style or a character theme. You can choose to have the maps mailed to your home, or print them out on your personal printer. The maps mailed from Disney are printed on a high quality paper and make a great scrapbook addition or could be framed when you return from your trip!  Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery if you select this option.

Once you receive your maps, review the layouts of each park and note the locations of restroom facilities, restaurants, rides and shows. We generally take our maps along with us on the trip to review before we leave the hotel room. Once we are in the parks, we reference the MyDisneyExperience app to locate everything we wish to see that day.

Knowing the layout of the parks can save a lot of time and get you to your destinations faster than you can say, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

Do you use the customized maps for your Disney vacations?

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Cinderella’s Castle Holiday Ornament

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Cinderella's Castle Ornament

Are you looking for the perfect gift for your favorite Disney fan? Want to add some Disney magic to your holiday display? You may want to run…and I mean RUN….to your local Hallmark store and pick up the new Cinderella’s Castle ornament.

This little beauty is a model size of the iconic castle at Walt Disney World. Press the button on the side and, “When You Wish Upon a Star” plays while fireworks light up the background.

I am really impressed with this ornament…so much so…that I cannot stop pressing the button.  The sound quality is incredible and the fireworks are really something else.  This will delight any Disney fan, no matter their age!

The ornament retails for $24.95 and can be found in Hallmark retail stores. Unfortunately they are not available online though the Hallmark website. Be sure to call your local Hallmark store to make sure that it is still in stock. You can locate the closest Hallmark retailer by clicking here.

If you want to see the ornament in action, take a look at this YouTube clip:

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Gets Into the Holiday Spirit

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The PhotoPass location for the 2011 light display.

The PhotoPass location for the 2011 light display.

The Osborne family of Arkansas decorated their home every year and each season the display continued to grow. The family decided that the lights should be shared with the world and partnered with Disney to bring the magic to Hollywood Studios. The display was donated to the park in 1995 and has been a holiday favorite of Walt Disney World Resort guests.

This evening, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will get a little brighter with the 2013 premiere of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights. Guests of the park will become immersed in twinkling lights that dance to the music of the season while strolling the Streets of America. Features of this holiday display include; a spinning globe, Santa and his sleigh and a carousel made entirely of lights that sits atop one of the buildings.

What to Know About the Lights:

The lights are turned on every evening around 6PM and are accessible until closing. Each night a ceremony occurs in which the “family of the day” is joined by Goofy to flip on the switch and light the Streets of America. This is generally a very crowded event so it is recommended that you get to the area 30 minutes prior in order to get a decent view.

If you prefer to stroll the display with more minimal crowds, wait at least an hour after the lighting ceremony. When the park has late evening Extra Magic Hours, take advantage of the time and view the lights with smaller crowds. You can find the Extra Magic Hours for the park through Disney’s calendar tool located here.

Holiday beverages including hot chocolate and cider can be found at vendors around the display…some holiday themed alcoholic options are also available throughout the season!

Looking for the perfect spot for a holiday photo of the family? The middle of the display offers a PhotoPass location with a backdrop of towering lit trees and toy soldiers. These photos make great holiday cards or can be framed as gifts for loved ones.

The newly introduced “Glow With the Show” ears are synced with the lights and can be purchased for $25 in the park. The ears are interactive with several shows including; “Fantasmic” at Hollywood Studios and both “Wishes” and “Celebrate the Magic” at the Magic Kingdom.

If you have never seen the Osborne Lights in person, I highly recommend the experience. It is a magical way to get into the holiday spirit…and Disney surely knows how to do the holidays!

Have you seen The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights?

RunDisney Playlists

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Walt Disney World marathons are becoming quite popular with weekends throughout the year that the resort dedicates to runDisney. During each race weekend, several events are offered which may include full or half marathons, 5Ks and kid-friendly races.

The runDisney website not only gives information about upcoming events, but also recommends training programs for runners. These programs guide you through the preparation process and offer tips for making the most out of your training.

If you are training for runDisney… you will need to fuel those runs with some upbeat music to stay on course. To help you remain on track (bad running pun), I have compiled a few lists of some catchy Disney tunes to keep you motivated on your journey.

Many of these songs can be found on both YouTube and iTunes:

Under the sea1

Disney Animated Playlist

The Little Mermaid

Under the Sea- Samuel E. Wright

Fathoms Below- Ship’s Chorus

Mulan

I’ll Make a Man Out of You- Donny Osmond

True to Your Heart- 98 Degrees

Peter Pan

You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!- Tommy Luske

Following the Leader- Bobby Driscol

Beauty and the Beast

Be Our Guest- Chorus

The Lion King

Circle of Life- Lebo M.

I Just Can’t Wait to Be King- Jason Weaver

Hakuna Matata- Joseph Williams

Pinocchio

When You Wish Upon a Star- Cliff Edwards (this is a great song for a run through the Magic Kingdom)

I’ve Got No Strings- Dickie Jones

Wreck It Ralph

When Can I See You Again- Owl City

Shut Up and Drive- Rihanna

tron

Disney Live Action Movies Playlist

Mary Poppins

Step in Time- Dick Van Dyke

Enchanted

Happy Working Song- Amy Adams

That’s How You Know- Amy Adams

Pirates of the Caribbean

He’s a Pirate-Klaus Badeit

Pirates of the Caribbean- DJ D-Rizzo- This is a great remix of the original

Tron Legacy

Derezzed- Daft Punk

End Of Line- Daft Punk

Cruella

Disney Villains Playlist

The Lion King

Be Prepared-Jim Cummings

The Little Mermaid

Poor Unfortunate Souls- Pat Carroll

101 Dalmatians

Cruella De Vil- Bill Lee

Aladdin

Prince Ali Reprise (Jafar)- Jonathan Freeman

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day

Heffalumps and Woozels- The Sherman Brothers

Beauty and the Beast

Gaston- Chorus

The Sword and the Stone

Madam Mim- Martha Wentworth

The Great Mouse Detective

The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind- Vincent Price

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Oogie Boogie’s Song- Ken Page

Are there any Disney favorites that should be added to the playlists? Do you create a playlist for your marathon running and training?

Get Wild at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Trek through Disney's Animal Kingdom Savannah. Photo Credit: Julie K.

Trek through Disney’s Animal Kingdom Savannah.
Photo Credit: Julie K.


Backstage tours at Disney give glimpses into sights that we normally would not see during a day in the parks. These tours are offered at an additional cost and cover everything from horticulture to costuming. Tours are a fantastic alternative to the parks and a wonderful addition to any Disney vacation.

The Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a 3 hour VIP tour that should be added to every Disney fan’s bucket list. Guests ages 8 and up have some very close encounters with the star residents of the Animal Kingdom Savannah. During the tour you will be guided through a viewing of hippos and crocodiles from a rope bridge 10 feet above. Don’t worry…you are securely harnessed to a cable, so there will be no unfortunate face-to-face meetings with Tick-Tock the Crocodile.

During your tour, you will also have the opportunity to try some African-inspired snack foods. Depending on the time of day you select for your tour; you will be given either breakfast or lunch menu items.

The tours start at 8:00AM and run every 45 minutes until the last tour of the day at 2:30PM. The expedition does also require theme park admission as well as a charge for the tour. Current tour admission rates can be obtained by calling Disney at (407) WDW- TOUR. Additional details, including restrictions and clothing requirements can be found here.

Will you plan a tour for your next Disney vacation?

Disney Firsts

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Do you remember the first time you saw the castle? Photo Credit: Julie K.

Do you remember the first time you saw the castle?
Photo Credit: Julie K.


We can all probably think back and remember the feeling of our first Disney vacation. The moment we entered the gates, stepped on to Main Street, U.S.A. and caught a glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle in person. That iconic scene that we viewed countless times on television was right there before us!

Disney Firsts are moments that we can remember for a lifetime and make great photo opportunities.

My suggestion to Disney travelers is to space out your Disney Firsts. Don’t try to do them in one vacation, but plan your firsts over several trips to get the most out of the wow factor. Too many “wows” in one trip can be magic overload; so plan accordingly.

Here are my suggestions for some Magic Kingdom Disney Firsts for your next trip:

1. First Ear Hat– This is a milestone for any fan of Disney. Getting your first ear hat is equal to officially joining the club. There are several locations to purchase personalized Mickey ears in the parks. My personal favorite is Sir Mickey’s in Fantasyland; however, I am only partial to this location because the store can be found in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle.

2. First Haircut– If you have a little one who is due for their first haircut, consider making an appointment at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. Cast members make this experience incredibly memorable by presenting your little one with a certificate and ear hat to mark the occasion! The first haircut package is currently $18. Call 407-WDW-DINE to make your appointment.

3. First Character Experience– Does your first time WDW traveler have a Disney favorite? Character meet and greets can be found in all the parks and photographers are on hand to catch those special moments. Plan accordingly because the wait times for the popular characters can be long during peak park days.

4. First Mickey’s Premium Bar– This Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream is one of the most sought-after food items in the parks. Purchase one and get that camera ready (and some wet naps) because this magical moment can get messy.

5. First Rides On Dumbo and Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel (formerly Cinderella’s Golden Carousel) – These rides appear on many Disney ads because they are some of the most family-friendly experiences in the parks. One member of your party can be appointed the official photographer to capture the smiles and giggles of the first timer!

Are there any other Magic Kingdom Firsts that you recommend?

The Jungle Cruise Gets Into The Holiday Spirit

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Backside Ornament1

The Disney Parks Blog announced yesterday that the Jungle Cruise will get a makeover for the holiday season. The beloved Adventureland classic will have a new storyline featuring Skippers who are missing being home for the holidays. In an effort to cure those home-sick feelings, the Skippers will decorate the boathouse, rename their cruise vessels and bring some holiday cheer in the form of jokes…..oh, those infamous Jungle Cruise jokes!

This new holiday-themed cruise sets sail at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in early November and is sure to become an instant classic.

Will you be going “cruising” for the holidays?

Holiday Shopping at Walt Disney World

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Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

There is nothing like spending the holiday season at the Disney Parks. The decorations, the music and the SHOPPING! Speaking of shopping…if you are traveling to the Walt Disney World resort prior the holidays, it’s the perfect opportunity to get all of your shopping done for everyone on your list.

Create a Shopping Plan

Just like Santa, you will want to make a list of all the people who you are shopping for and come up with a plan. Make sure to decide in advance a general idea of what you are purchasing, so you are not spending your entire vacation in the retail stores. Also keep in mind that if you are flying, you will want to purchase items that pack and travel well without taking up a lot of space in your bags.

Disney’s website has a search tool for finding the stores that sell the items on your list. Simply type in the item that you are looking for and all of the stores that carry the item will be listed.

Here are some ideas of simple and easy gifts for everyone on your list:

Ornaments

Every one could use one more ornament on the tree, right? This is an item that receivers can use year after year. They are both inexpensive and travel very well, so they are the perfect gift for anyone on your list!

Disney has entire walls dedicated to Christmas decorations in several stores as well as specialty Christmas shops in two locations; Disney’s Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom.

T-Shirts

T-shirts can be found in many stores in the parks. When deciding to buy shirts or any type of clothing, be sure to check on sizes and ask recipients about their favorite Disney characters before your trip. This will simplify your shopping and cut down on those calls back home.

Jewelry

Disney trading pins make excellent gifts for the collectors in your life, and they are really portable. Retail locations throughout the resort also offer necklaces, rings and bracelets adorned with your Disney favorites. Add a little Disney “bling” to someone’s life!

Toys

There are thousands of toy options to choose from at Disney; from light up swords to Legos, you are sure to find the perfect gift. Stuffed animals are wonderful presents and knowing that they came from the resort, makes them even more special.

Mugs

One of the easiest and most cost-effective gifts is a Disney-themed coffee mug. They come in all shapes and sizes and are adorned with almost every Disney character. They are portable and make the packing process a breeze.

Global Treasures

For the world-traveler in your life; think about visiting the shops within the World Showcase at Epcot. Items from each highlighted country can be found in their resident shops. You will find jewelry, art, housewares and even apparel items that are specific to each country. Plan on at least an afternoon exploring each country and their corresponding retail shops.

What About All Those Bags?

While staying on the Disney property, there is an option to have your purchases sent back to your hotel room, so you aren’t walking around the parks lugging bags. If you are staying at an off-site resort, purchases can be sent to a location at the front entrance of the park. You can pick up your merchandise when you leave at the end of the day.

“The Deals”

If you want to go offsite during your stay, the local Orlando outlets can be a nice place to visit for some deals. The Character Warehouse is Disney’s outlet shop and offers some discounts on clothing, accessories and toys. The stores can be found in one of two Orlando Premium Outlets; International Drive near Universal Studios and Downtown Disney. Something to consider: If you have a car, this may be a way to save some money on merchandise, but when taking a taxi or paying for a shuttle, the cost of the trip may outweigh your savings.

The Disney Store

Souvenir shopping can be effortless if you wish to purchase items before you leave for your Disney vacation. Select Disney Parks Products can be found on the Disney Store.com website. Sales on the site occur often and free shipping options are available for purchases of $75 or more. Have the items shipped to your home and save them for your return. This could save a lot of time in searching for those perfect gifts in the parks.

To “Wrap” This Up

Planning ahead for your Disney souvenir shopping could potentially save a lot of time and money…and allow more time for magical memories.

Do you plan to do your holiday shopping at Disney? Have any tips or tricks?