June 21, 2015

June 21, 2015
10 Mistakes Not to Make at Walt Disney World
Part 2

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Sunday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great weekend so far. Dab the AIDS Bear is back on the road this weekend doing pride and other events. So stay tuned for new pictures soon.

So how many of you have been to Walt Disney World? Having grown up in Florida, I have been many times. Yesterday I started sharing ten mistakes not to do while you are visiting there which I will conclude today.

Don't: Dine exclusively at Disney.

Sure, it's novel to eat or drink your way around Epcot's World Showcase, and some Disney restaurants are very good (if expensive), notably the jacket-required Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian and Monsieur Paul at Epcot's France Pavilion. But dining at Disney isn't exactly synonymous with gourmet cuisine. Venture just outside the park gates and you won't fare much better — unless you're really into chain restaurants.

Instead: Discover diverse kitchens.

Away from its touristy drags, Orlando has a flourishing culinary scene—driven, in part, by one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the country. At Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue, about 20 minutes north of Disney World, there's a cluster of more than a dozen Vietnamese restaurants, each with its own specialty. Phở Vinh roasts its own barbecue pork, while Anh Hong (pictured) is known for its fried tofu. Go 20 minutes east for Bruno's Italian Restaurant, run by a real Italian from Puglia (ask if his succulent braciole is on the menu). And the family-run Havana's Café, near Downtown Disney, serves the best Cuban dishes this side of Miami.

Don't: Succumb to squabbling.

The combustible combination of sky-high expectations, an unreasonable touring agenda, and the exhaustion that a Disney vacation so often generates can make marriages splinter, friends chafe, and toddlers melt down with uncharacteristic ferocity. You came to Orlando for fun and togetherness, right?

Instead: Remember, this is the Happiest Place on Earth.

Each year, thousands of families with ill children stay at the 70-acre Give Kids the World Village, a Fantasyland of its own with a miniature train, the world's largest Candy Land game board, and a Hasbro-themed Winter Wonderland party every Thursday. The operation needs more than 1,000 volunteers each week to dish up breakfasts, scoop ice cream, and staff parties. A day spent lending a hand there will definitely make fighting over whether or not to ride Space Mountain again seem even sillier.

Don't: Give attractions equal weight.

Disney purists will object, but the truth is that not every attraction is worthwhile and not every park deserves a full day of your attention. (There's no shame in skipping out early — we won't tell.) And given the disproportionate number of amusements for young children, that's especially true if you have teenagers in tow.

Instead: Prioritize your time.

The Magic Kingdom and Epcot each merit a full day, and maybe more. But you can cover the Animal Kingdom's highlights in just over half a day — even if it's your first visit — and indefatigable guests could hit Hollywood Studios in the same day. The shops and restaurants in Downtown Disney are skippable, unless you are in the market for Disney Christmas ornaments or dying to eat at a Rainforest Café. Keep in mind that Disney's various shows tend to eat up more time than they are worth once you factor in the wait; Magic Kingdom's two parades are the only ones that shouldn't be missed. And repeat visitors shouldn't revisit rides they've taken before. Because, really, once through It's a Small World is enough.

Don't: Overdo it.

Hope you brought comfortable shoes. Disney's four major theme parks and two water parks make up 1,100 acres of ground to cover. Add in the Universal Orlando parks and you can feel the blisters already. There's no way you can see it all in one trip, and trying will only make you miserable.

Instead: Take a day off.

In the rush to see and do everything, it's easy to forget about Florida's original tourist attraction: the sun. Every Orlando hotel has a pool, and some of these water wonderlands compete with the theme parks themselves in terms of lavish design and family-friendly fun. Guests of Disney's Yacht Club Resort or Beach Club Resort can while away an afternoon at Disney's marquee hotel pool, Stormalong Bay, a three-acre complex that includes a beach and lazy river. The pool at Universal's Hard Rock Hotel is outfitted with underwater speakers that blast tunes to submerged sun-soakers as well as a sandy beach of its own, while the Nickelodeon Suites Resort's two multi-level slide-and-splash fun zones just might make the kids forget about the Magic Kingdom altogether for a couple of hours.

Don't: Go during school holidays

When school is out of session anywhere in the country—actually, anywhere in the world — flights to Orlando book up, room rates peak, and lines are excruciatingly long. Consider, too, that summer break coincides with the hottest, muggiest, most insufferable weather Florida has to offer. And during the Christmas/New Year's break, Disney has been known to close the park gates to control capacity crowds. Sound fun?

Instead: Let the kids play hooky.

In September, the throngs have departed and prices have dropped, but the summer sunshine is still out and the water rides gush at full throttle. October and mid-January are also prime off-peak times to visit. The prospect of skipping school is sure to elicit gleeful promises to hit the books during downtime. And if you don't think about it too hard, you can convince yourself that visiting Epcot is educational.

I hope these ten tips help you enjoy your visit to the Magic Kingdom more and you have a beary safe and great Sunday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab