Travel Guide To Portland & The Northern Oregon Coast

Oregon is a huge state with lots of travel opportunities. For this blog I will be sticking to the Portland area, and thee two beach towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. I visited this area in July 2021 as part of a larger Pacific Northwest trip. This guide is based on that time spent in Oregon. 

Portland

Portland is the city most people think of when they think of Oregon and it is the largest city in the state. Portland is known for it’s “weird” culture and as a haven for hippies and hipsters. It certainly lived up to it’s reputation with an atmosphere you would imagine with those two influences. The city was eclectic and grungy with touches of historic buildings, and a lot of artwork around. We also observed the presence of many many homeless in downtown Portland. Overall I was not impressed by the city of Portland and I would not suggest planing on spending more than a day downtown. The surrounding areas however are absolutely beautiful and I greatly enjoyed them and recommend them. Portland is well situated to use as a base, or a starting point for your journey. 

Where We Stayed In Portland

We stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Hillsboro/Beaverton which was about 15 to 20 minutes outside of downtown. This suburb location was a great fit for us allowing us to spend a day in the city and have fast access to the highways that took us to both the Columbia River Gorge and the coast. I also love being able to go to a grocery store easily in the suburbs and stock up on snacks, etc. for our trip.

This Homewood Suites was exactly what I expected from the brand, free parking, free breakfast, a gym, and larger rooms with a kitchen. These are the reasons I love Homewood Suites as a brand in general. The rooms where a little smaller than some others from the brand I have stayed in. The rooms were not as newly renovated as some but it was not showing age or disrepair of any kind. The room was clean and I had no complaints. I was happy with our stay and the price point was good. 

Things To Do In Portland

Noteworthy Buildings: These are all landmarks of Portland and if you like architecture I’d suggest walking past each. The Portland Stag Sign is a classic photo-op. 

  • Portlandia Building with it’s massive statue of “Portlandia”
  • The Pioneer Courthouse & Courthouse Square
  • Portland City Hall 
  • Portland Stag Sign 

Pittock Mansion: The Pittock Mansion is as stunning house built in 1912 by Henry and Georgiana Pittock. The couple both traveled west on the Oregon Trail as teenagers and settled in the frontier town of Portland. They started The Oregonian a successful newspaper that still exists today, and become fixtures in early Portland. They built their mansion on a hill with sweeping views of the city and mountains beyond. The mansion is now a non-profit museum. You can take a tour of the mansion itself, explore the grounds, which include beautiful gardens and lots of wooded trails. Or enjoy the panoramic views of the city. While the mansion tour has visiting hours and paid admission the grounds can be explored at your leisure for a few dollars worth of parking. It’s a great place for photos. We visited one evening for the grounds and views and both were impressive. On the drive to the mansion you see some of the modern day “mansions” or Portland in the neighborhood surrounding Pittock Mansion. 

Museums:

  • Portland Art Museum – Most notable of the bunch
  • Center for Native American Art
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  • Oregon Maritime Museum

We visited the Oregon Historical Society Museum the crown jewel here is the top floor which features the Experience Oregon exhibit. This takes you from the time the land was created to present day. The exhibit was very up to date and included some interactive elements, videos and well constructed displays. The museum also had exhibits about the Portland soccer teams, and exploring the everyday lives of Portland residents with video testimonials among a few others. I would recommend a visit for anyone who enjoys history or wants a better grasp on the city. 

Powells Book Store has become an iconic Portland site as the largest independent book store in the world open since 1971. The winding series of rooms you will find here with seemingly endless staircases and twists and turns make is easy to get lost or lose yourself here. Certainly worth a stop for anyone checking out the top tourist destinations. A must for bookstore lovers. They sell new and used books along with board games, collectables and their own branded merchandise. 

Nike Headquarters is located just outside the city in Beaverton the campus has many jogging trails accessible to the public. You can also visit Prefontaine Hall on the campus which has an exhibit dedicated to the history of Nike plus rotating exhibits. 

Places To Eat In Portland

Voodoo Doughnut: Voodoo now has several dozen locations across the United States but these unique, cheeky doughnuts started here in Portland at the Old Town location. The Old Town location frequently has long lines to get in. To avoid that order online for pick-up, which we did and it saved us a ton of time standing in the sun. When we arrived we got to pop right in to see the inside of the store grab our order and pop right out. The doughnuts all have funny and sometimes obscene names. They also offer a wide variety of vegan flavors, including one for their signature doughnut the Voodoo Doll. As someone who eats dairy free I absolutely loved the vegan flavors, bought a bunch, and had them travel with us in tupperware for the next several days. There are also a few different locations around Portland where you are much less likely to find a line if you don’t care about seeing the original store. 

Saturday Market: Every Saturday this street fair happens and features lots of food, and craft stalls. We visited and were not overly impressed as this is the sort of thing we can do at home, but if you are already planning to be nearby on a Saturday it’s not a bad stop to add to your day. It is located right next to the Portland Stag sign. 

Breweries: Portland has a ton of breweries. If you enjoy them make sure to research some to stop at while you visit. 

For more info on visiting Portland see my vlog linked here. 

Columbia River Gorge

Just a quick 20 minute drive from our hotel in Beaverton was the start of the Columbia River Gorge area. You can take Highway 30/84 or the Historic Columbia River Highway, I suggest taking the new highway to get to your first destination to save time and then take the historic road the rest of the time. The gorge is large and you could keep driving for another hour before you reach the end of the National Scenic Area. There are lots of options of activities in the area, from the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, playing golf, boating on the river, tons of hikes and parks, small towns, visit the Columbia Gorge Dam, or cross the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. Or simply enjoy the scenic views from the road. There is something for everyone to enjoy here. 

Waterfalls: The most popular attraction in the gorge are the waterfalls, there are 26 in all. Some are right next to the roadways and some require a hike of various lengths to get to. They are very well marked on the historic highway.

Multnomah Falls: The tallest, and most popular of the falls this one is a must see. If you have ever looked at Portland travel brooches or the like you have certainly seen a photo to these falls. The parking here is limited there is a very small lot right next to the entrance off the Historic Highway, I wouldn’t shoot for this one unless you are looking for handicap parking. The second lot is off the new highway and is larger. You have to walk on a paved path and through a tunnel to get to the park entrance, its a fairly short walk. Come EARLY the parking lot opens officially at 8:00am we pulled up at 8:05am to the larger of the lots and it was about a third full. By the time we left an hour and a half later it was totally full. Parking here was free as was entrance to the falls area this was the case throughout the gorge. There is a paid shuttle offered from a further parking lot if these are full.

At the entrance there are restrooms, a coffee cart, gift shop, and restaurant housed in a stone building. It’s a very short walk to the bottom of the falls. You can take the trail up to the bridge which is about a 10 minute hike up a paved path, but is at an incline. I’d recommend anyone that’s able do the walk to the bridge. After the bridge you can continue on up the trails to the top. The trail is well maintained but it is a long hike to the top and it is all switchbacks that just get steeper. We went a little bit further and then turned around. Don’t feel you have to walk to the top, you can get similar views from other vantage points you can drive to. 

Multnohmah Falls is worth the hype, it is a must see in my opinion if you are going to be in Portland and the wonderful thing is it doesn’t have to take up a large portion of your day. 

Bridal Vail Falls: We also visited Bridal Vail falls, the falls are much shorter here but you can get so much closer to them. This parking lot was right off the historic highway and was unpaved, but there were restrooms. This trail was unpaved but very well maintained. It was about a half mile to the falls. Once at the falls there are stairs to an observation platform or you could walk down off the path and right up to the falls. There was also a river nearby that offered some fun exploring opportunities. There were additional trails beyond the falls as well. I enjoyed being able to get so close to these falls while still feeling I was in a very safe situation. Plus the hike did not have a lot of incline. Again the parking and experience here was free. 

Bonneville Hatchery – Five minutes beyond Multnomah Falls was the fish hatchery. The visitors center of the hatchery allows visitors to see hatching ponds, a salmon run (seasonally), and some exhibits of different kinds of fish in ponds including trout and sturgeon. There are also restrooms and a store, as well as a historic building. This was a lovely little stop and the whole operation is historic first constructed in 1909. A fun stop for kids or anyone who likes to see animals. 

For more info on visiting the Columbia River Gorge see my vlog linked above. 

Cannon Beach

After our time in Portland we made our way to the Oregon Coast with our first stop being Cannon Beach. The drive was an hour and a half, scenic, and very easy. 

Cannon Beach is a small coastal town full of small hotels, inns, and rental properties. It was very quaint with a main street shopping district full of tiny coffee shops and sandwich shops, as well as boutique craft stores. The vibe was of a higher end beach town and reminded me of New England. We parked in the public lot in the middle of town right next to the Sleepy Monk coffee shop we arrived around 10am and the lot was nearly full but there was street parking around. There were public restrooms nearby too. 

From there it was about two blocks to the beach. It was a foggy morning and at times even drizzled a little and the beach was absolutely stunning. There were not large crowds at all. The rocks were breathtaking and the beach stretched out in front of you was beautiful. Very few people were actually in the water and most of those were surfing in wetsuits as it was cold even in July. 

Cannon Beach is home to the famous Haystack Rock, it was huge and looming over the beach you could even see it from the road driving in. The rock is home to lots of birds including seagulls, murre, and puffins. The puffins are very popular. If you want to see them bring good binoculars or plan your visit to coincide with one of the times the town is hosting a binocular viewing and you can use their equipment. Our binoculars were not quite good enough we did see puffins but there were very small. We also saw some flying around the rock. 

Check out the cities website on details about the puffins: 

https://www.ci.cannon-beach.or.us/hrap/page/where-can-i-see-puffins

After our time at the beach we got back in the car to take the short drive to Ecola State Park. Once in the park it was a winding 10 minute drive to the Indian Beach parking lot, where you will find the Clatsop Loop trail. This looped trail is a total of 2.6 miles, with the option to go further to view the Tiilamook Rock Lighthouse. The trail takes you through the woods and loops you back along the shoreline toward Indian Beach with wonderful views and overlooks of the beach and ocean. If you are lucky you could even see some whales or other wildlife. We hiked a bit of both ends to the trail. The end of the trail in the woods is very well marked and surfaced but it is uphill. The end of the trail on the coast is not so uphill but much more treacherous, though nothing intense. If you don’t like heights this may not be for you though. There are pit toilets at the trailhead and halfway thought the loop. There were a few picnic tables in the parking lot area. 

For more info on visiting the Cannon Beach see my vlog. 

Lewis and Clark

This whole general area of the country is full of Lewis and Clark related sites. About 10 minutes outside of Seaside we visited Fort Clatsop, a location where Lewis, Clark and their party spent the winter after they reached the Pacific Ocean fulfilling their goal. Run by the National Parks Services this site offered a reproduction of the fort which was very well done and allowed you to walk through the different rooms. There was also a small museum, which was rather outdated in its style, but had a lot of information about the Lewis and Clark exhibition. Admission for the park was $10 per person and I found that a little step comparatively speaking. There were several programs going on around the fort, with seating available. Park rangers were giving talks on various topics and had some artifacts and reproductions you could touch. There was also a system of trails that you could take all the way to the shore. We opted to just go as far as the boardwalk system that took you to the river where you could see remnants of the logging industry. If you are a history fan it is worth a stop, my husband actually teaches this period of history so we made it a point to visit. If you are not interested in the history you can skip it and be secure that you are not missing anything monumental. 

Seaside

Seaside is just 15 minutes north of Cannon Beach.The town of Seaside is larger with larger hotels, and more of a vacation beach town vibe, with a small aquarium, a longer beach full of people camped out for the day, volleyball nets, a playground, an independent movie theatre, lots of traditional beach shops selling souvenirs, bathing suits and candy, even an arcade and a ton of dining. A paved path along the beach front known as the Promenade will lead you to the main strip with all these places. The Promenade offered a great walking or running path as well. This seemed like a town where people where taking a vacation here, where this was the final and only destination. The beach itself was very sandy with some dunes, and rocks in the distance. This location seemed to have a lot more that would appeal to children vs Cannon Beach. 

We stayed at Best Western Plus Ocean View Resort which was right on the beach and about a 10 minute walk to the center of town. I was very pleased with the room, it was very large, clean, and had a lot to offer such as a kitchenette and small dining table, plus a couch, and even a fireplace. Of course the ocean view balcony was the best part. I would stay here again in a heartbeat and the price was reasonable. There were a restaurant in the lobby and a gym on site, parking was free. It is a Best Western though so don’t expect luxury here. 

For more info on visiting the Seaside see my vlog linked above. 

During my time in Oregon I much preferred the coastal areas and the towns of Seaside and Cannon beach to the city of Portland. But I do think that the waterfalls or the greater Portland area are not to be missed and grab a doughnut while you are at it. 

If you are looking to travel to Oregon (or anywhere else) I would love to be your travel agent.

Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you.

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

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I Visited All 50 U.S. States: How I Did It and What I Learned

My husband and I have had a goal to visit all 50 United States and we recently achieved that goal! Our only rules were that we had to visit the state together and we had to do something there. This could be as simple as a scenic walk or as iconic as visiting Mt. Rushmore. Oh, and airports didn’t count. 

We both grew up in Maryland and our travel history as kids was mostly beach vacations on the southern east coast, visiting family, a few Disney World trips, plus a weekend or two in New York City during college. My husband lived in Alabama for his sophomore year of high school so he saw a lot of the South during that time. I went to Hawaii with my high school friends after graduation thanks to the very generous parents of a good friend. So we had seen a sampling of the country but much of it through the eyes of a child or teen.

We started this journey in early 2013. We were 25 years old and had been married a little over a year. We didn’t have kids and we still don’t. Our travel history together was a few family vacations not too far from home and our honeymoon to the Bahamas which was the first time either of us had traveled internationally.

All this to say we were FAR from travel pros when we decided to do this. 

So back to early 2013 when we knew we wanted to take a vacation somewhere but didn’t know where. We decided on Dallas, Texas for three reasons. We would be traveling in the winter and it wouldn’t be super cold there, my husband is a Dallas Cowboys fan and wanted to see the stadium, and it was cheep. We liked the idea of going somewhere that wasn’t a typical vacation destination and of seeing a new part of the country. We had a lot of fun in Dallas and it inspired us to see more of the country we never had before. 

I can’t remember if it was during the trip or once we got home but we soon had an idea, an idea that felt really big and important, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. “Let’s travel to all 50 states!” We agreed on the rules and pulled out a map. We made a list of the few states we could already check off and started dreaming about the rest of them. 

We didn’t set a time limit but it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a lifelong goal. This was going to be as fast as we can with our schedules and budget goal. Both of which became more flexible over the years but never unlimited. We knew we didn’t want to do a cross country road trip or plan vacations where we would be driving 12 hours a day. So for most of the trips we clustered the states into groups and we would fly to an area, rent a car, and make our way around visiting each state in the cluster. Sometimes that meant a week-plus journey through the West or New England and sometimes it meant adding on a morning in Michigan and an afternoon in Wisconsin when we went to Chicago, IL for 4 days. 

The best explanation I can give of why we decided to do this is that we love America, it’s our home, and we wanted to see more of it to both experience it and understand it. I was a political science major in college with a focus on American government, though neither of my jobs has anything to do with that. My husband is an 8th grade U.S. History Teacher. It’s safe to say we like American history and politics. We were excited by the thought of seeing iconic and historical landmarks, visiting National Parks and coastlines, and seeing what all these different states were really like. While we love America we see her for her faults as well and did our best to incorporate things like the Birmingham Alabama Civil Rights Museum, the Iolani Palace in Honolulu Hawaii home of the Hawaiian royal family in the 1800’s , and the Suquamish Museum in Washington state that shares the story of the indigenous peoples of that area. We wanted to see a lot of the good but we didn’t want to leave out the bad and the ugly either. 

So let’s talk about how we did this!

How We Did It

To achieve this goal efficiently we grouped states where we could and planned destinations around what allowed us to visit more states at once while not constantly being in a rush. Our longest trips were usually 8-9 days and our shortest ones 3-4 days. Many of the states located near Maryland and on the southeast cost, we visited as one offs since we could drive to them easily and spend just a night or two. For several states we were visiting family there. Here is how we broke things down from a geographic perspective. 

  • New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine & Vermont 
  • Connecticut & Rhode Island 
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Deleware
  • Maryland (HOME) 
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee & Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • Michigan, Illinois & Wisconsin (technically we drove through a portion of Indiana here too) 
  • Texas
  • Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa & Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • Colorado
  • Arizona
  • Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Back To Wyoming & Colorado
  • Nevada
  • California
  • Oregon & Washington
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii 

Favorites

I get asked a lot what my favorite states have been to visit. This is a really hard question but here is my best answer.

** One caveat I have taken Maryland and Washington D.C. out of the running here. Maryland is home and growing up so close to it D.C. feels like it’s a second home. Though I know if I grew up somewhere else D.C. would absolutely make this list. **

My Top 5 Favorite States to Visit:

1) Hawaii – It is simply magical. Clearly the landscapes here are unique in the U.S. and there are breathtaking ones everywhere. There is so much to see and do I can’t want to visit more of the islands.  

2) Wyoming – The National Parks here are fantastic.There is just so much nature to explore here. Some of the views at Yellowstone are so vast and amazing that you have to pinch yourself to prove they are real. 

3) New England – It’s hard to pick a specific state here. I really enjoyed the whole region and for a lot of the same reasons. Big cities like Boston and tiny towns like Stowe, VT, costal locations like Newport, RI or Kennebunkport ME, it was all uniquely New England in style. There is also so much history in this area. 

4) California – We spent our time in Los Angeles seeing sites in Hollywood which was so fun as someone who loves the entertainment industry. Visiting a movie studio, seeing the handprints at Grauman’s Theatre, and touring the home of the Oscars were things I had always dreamed of. Plus, it’s the home of Disneyland! 

5) Florida – If you asked my favorites places to visit Disney World is my #1 answer but ranking by states, Florida, is not all the way at the top. Florida has to make the list for being the home of the “Most Magical Place On Earth”

Honorable Mention: 

  • New York City, NY 
  • Alaska 

Reflections on America 

This journey has taught me a few lessons I will never forget. These lessons are valuable not just for my future personal travel, my work as a travel agent advising others, but my life as an American and simply as a human. 

Climate Change Is Visible Now – We saw it across the country and in places we didn’t expect. The obvious here is the Mendenhall glacier in Alaska,. The park ranger talked about how it was significantly larger when she started working there a decade ago. The most unexpected view was in the desert of Phoenix Arizona, where a rise in temperatures has led to more moisture in the air which means more rain in the desert, a place not built for rain. The rain results in more small brush growing throughout the desert and this brush is the perfect kindling to start and spread fires through the desert. On our ride into the desert our tour guides shared this with us and we then on the way out actually saw a small fire start and spread rapidly. Luckily the tour guides were able to put it out. There were many times we had to worry about extreme weather effecting our trips, as hurricane season stretches longer and longer, extreme heat waves hit place like Portland, Oregon, and fires rage in the West. Climate change is here and it is effecting all terrains now. Something has to be done to stop it.  

There Is So Much History Everywhere – There are important historical landmarks and museums all over. Don’t over look them. While traveling I have learned a lot of history that I only had a passing understanding of before or didn’t know at all. When learning about history being in the actual place brings a whole new level of understanding and connection. It brings a new kind of empathy for the people who lived it. Those who don’t understand history are due to repeat it or so the saying goes. If you want the world to change you have to know how we got here.

America Is Even More Beautiful Than You Think – There is so much beauty in this country that I think gets underrated. Especially when people are listing places they would like to travel. Go travel the world too but don’t forget to appreciate your own backyard. 

There Really Are Two Americas  – Poverty vs. Wealth. Liberal vs. Conservative. Democrat vs. Republican. The divide is strong, noticeable, and very real. This gap needs to be closed. So many Americans need help to be brought out of poverty. The need is in rural communities as much as in urban ones. I will never forget the first time I drove through an entire town in the rural mid-west that was so run down I could just feel the depression in the air. In the very same state I saw some of the most beautiful city blocks with historic homes. A clearly wealthy area just buzzing with energy.  We need to help one another even if one of these places would be considered blue and one red.  

But We Are Not That Different – Here is my not so exciting travel secret, sometimes when traveling I find myself with a free hour or two having finished the days activities and I go to the mall. I love a mall. It’s also a great way to see the people that actually live somewhere you are visiting. What I have seen in malls and grocery stores across America is people and families  are all essentially the same as each other that want the same basic things. America is the great melting pot and we have so many unique sub-cultures and a beautifully diverse population. We are stronger for it. But in the end we are all Americans who just want to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We need to remember that. 

What Did This Teach Me About Maryland

It confirmed for me that I love Maryland. Maryland has a little bit of everything. We have beach, forest, mountains, a big city, small cities, suburbs, and tiny towns. I have access to almost every kind of activity I could want to do within a few hours drive or much closer. Maryland is diverse and overall liberal which appeals to me. It’s home and not one of these other states made me think “oh I want to move here.” 

Would I Do It Again?

Yes! I absolutely would and I suggest to every American to see as much of America as you are able to. Prioritize it in your travel plans. But will I do it again, nope. There are absolutely places in the U.S. I will go back to. There are also several states like Texas, and California that we only saw a little sliver of and I want to go back to see more. But there is so much more left to see in the world. Not to mention so many Disney vacations I need to take and can take when I am not devoting vacation time to long weekends in Kentucky. 🙂 

What’s Next! 

First I need to commemorate this accomplishment and that starts with this blog. We took photos for the occasion the evening that we finally entered state 50, Washington, which are going to be something I treasure forever. These are the photos throughout this post. I also have a scrapbook and a home movie project I can finally finish. Plus a wall display I need to make some decisions about. 

Everyone wants to know where we are going to travel to next? Do we have another list? The answer is no. We don’t have a list or a real plan. We want to plan our travel without a list for a little while. I know that I would like to do more international travel. Starting with more of the Caribbean, Europe, and Canada. 

The biggest lesson I learned about travel doing this was to give myself little grace. It’s ok if I don’t see everything in a city or everything I had planned to. Make the itinerary but then focus on the moments while you are living them.  A lesson that has taken me a few times to learn but I think I’ve got it now and it will stick this time. 

I do know where I am going next though.

I visited all 50 States and what am I going to do next ….. I’m going to Disney World ….. a lot! 

Dining Guide To Universal Orlando Resort

Food is a big part of the vacation experience and figuring out dining at Universal Orlando can be a challenge. There are so many options it can seem overwhelming. So let me break it down for you so you will be ready to start planning where you want to eat.

If you are brand new to Universal Orlando Resort check out my overall guide to the vacation destination. 

https://4ears4eyesforthemagic.travel.blog/2020/06/09/introduction-to-universal-orlando/

Where Can You Eat?

Everywhere! There is food around every corner, you will definitely not go hungry at Universal Orlando. There are locations in the theme parks, at the hotels, in City Walk, and literally everywhere. 

There are many styles of food locations.

Table Service – These are your traditional sit-down restaurants where you have a server come to your table and you order off a menu. These also include the styles of dining below.

Character Dinning – While you enjoy your meal costumed characters will mingle with guests offering you the opportunity to meet and greet and take photos.

Counter Service – These are locations where you place your order at a counter, pick it up and select a table yourself.

Snack Stands / Carts – These are small counter service locations that offer shorter menus typically all one type of food. 

Gift Shops & Bakeries – Most gift shops also sell bagged snacks and treats.

Bars / Lounges – Found throughout the parks. 

Festival Booths – Throughout the year there are various limited time festivals at Universal Studios park during which there are festival booths throughout the park that sell foods and drinks themed to that festival.

***** Lines are just a part of being at a theme park, but sometimes lines for food can be just as long as a line for a ride, and you’ll want to try and avoid that. Reservations at table service locations help reduce your wait times. Also eating at a quick service location at an off peak time. Eating your meal early of late can help you avoid crowds but make sure you keep your eye on the locations operating hours. ******

Mobile Order

Some quick service locations offer the use of mobile order though the Universal Orlando Resort app. Through the app you place your order and pay for it. When you are ready your food will be prepared and you can pick it up to dine there or in some cases as take out. 

Availability of mobile order can change daily.

Check out all the details here:

https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/plan-your-visit/mobile-food-ordering

Reservations:

Table service locations offer the use of reservations. You can book these reservations up to 6 months in advance. If you have your heart set on a restaurant I suggest booking it at early as possible. If you want to eat at a table service restaurant you more than likely will need to have a previously booked reservation. 

You can make reservations on the website linked below or through the Universal Orlando Resort app. 

https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/plan-your-visit/dining-experiences/reservations

Dining With Special Dietary Needs

Many locations have vegetarian options and they are labeled as such. Many of these options are also vegan or easily modified to be such. Vegan as is options are labeled as such but not as available as vegetarian options. 

You may find some locations especially in city walk that list allergens on their menus or have an allergy menu available but this is not standard at Universal as it is at Disney World. 

You can also ask your server what your options are or what allergens are present in a dish. 

The key is to do your research ahead of time and check menus to see what your options are. 

Universal offers more details and resources as well:

https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/dining/food-allergies#executive-chef

Three Broomsticks

Now let’s talk about specific restaurants and food! 

Listed here are all the major dining locations at Universal Orlando. However, there are even more options for food as well. There are additionally small stands that offer snack options, for example the a baked potato stand in Harry Potter’s London, or Central Park Crepes in the New York area. Many of the shops also offer snack, drinks and bakery cases with treats. For instance the Kwik-E-Mart in Springfield offers Squishees and Buzz Cola. Food is really around every corner. 

Universal Studios Florida 

Hollywood:

Mel’s Drive-In 

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner 
  • Dine in 50’s fashion at this restaraunt themed to the famous Hollywood landmark, Mel’s. With classic cars and a 50’s dining vibe. Here they serve all sorts fo burgers and of course milkshakes. 

TODAY Cafe

  • Quick Service
  • Breakfast, Lunch  & Dinner
  • Themed to the TODAY Show this cafe has a lot of quick options beyond what is offered at many of the locations in the theme park. A lot of sandwich and salad offerings as well as many coffee options. There are also many bakery options here. 

Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone:

KidZone Pizza Company

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Very basic pizza options here are good for your littles that just want a quick pizza slice for lunch.

Springfield: Home of the Simpson’s:

Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • A variety of tacos are served here from the truck. 

Springfield’s Fast Food Boulevard

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • This food court offers lots of classic theme park foods like burgers, hot dogs and fried chicken, but themed to the iconic foods and restaurants featured in The Simpsons. You can get a Krusty Burger or a Flamin’ Mo. All of these locations share one seating area and it is essentially a food court. There are many quick service options here. The stands include:
  • Krusty Burger
  • Cletus’ Chicken Shack
  • Flaming Moe’s
  • Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror
  • Luigi’s Pizza
  • The Frying Dutchman

Duff Brewery:

  • Bar 
  • This outdoor bar and lounge area where you can grab a Duff Beer and watch clips from the Simpsons. Some snacks are also served here. The Duff Beer itself is locally hand crafted and brewed. 

Moe’s Tavern:

  • Bar
  • You will feel like you just stepped into the location from the show and there are lots of great photo ops here. Here they serve Duff Beer, Flaming Moe and other specialty beverages including none alcoholic. You can also bring your food from Springfield Fast Food Boulevard into Moe’s to dine as it is right next door. 

Lard Lad Doughnut:

  • Snack
  • Grab a pink iced doughnut as big as your head at this snack stand. There are also some great photo op’s at this location. 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley:

Leaky Cauldron

  • Quick Service
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • The iconic Diagon Alley pub from the books comes to life here with a quick service restaurant that takes the menu up a notch. At breakfast, served until 10:30, you have options of several kinds of breakfast platters with English touches. At lunch or dinner the options are very classic English fare including fish and chips, toad in the hold, scotch eggs, and more. For this looking for less adventurous fare they also offer both sausage and chicken sandwiches and a kids menu with macaroni and cheese. They also have butterbeer, draught beer, and wine. For Harry Potter fans you will defiantly want at least one meal either here or at Hogsmead’s Three Broomsticks. The Harry Potter locations are some of the most popular be prepared to wait in a line here, to avoid lines try eating at off peak meal times.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour

  • Quick Service
  • Snacks
  • Try some really special ice cream flavors here like Butterbeer, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Earl Grey and Lavender, along with some more classic flavors. This is not to be missed for ice cream fans. 

Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment

  • Bar
  • Here you can purchase non-alcoholic drinks themed as elixirs, each with a different power. It’s a small experience in itself as you get to pick out the elixir and mix it yourself.

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

  • Bar
  • This bar is a location where you can get  Harry Potter beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic including butterbeer.  Several of the beers here are specialty brews made for the land. There is also a very small snack menu here as well. 

San Francisco:

Lombard’s Seafood Grille

  • Table Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Themed to the San Francisco Wharf this restaurant specializes in seafood.

Chez Alcatraz

  • Quick Service 
  • Snacks
  • This location is a bar themed to Jaws, if you want a show with your drink make sure to order the Ocean Attack!

Richter’s Burger Co. 

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • This earthquake themed location offers burgers and grilled chicken and several kinds of pluses up french fries. 

San Francisco Pastry Company

  • Quick Service 
  • Snacks
  • Stop here for your sweet treat needs. 

New York:

Louie’s Italian Restaurant 

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Classic Italian food featuring pizza, as well as a meatball sub, and pasta dishes. 

Finnegan’s Bar & Grill 

  • Table Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner 
  • This location is theme as an Irish Pub and includes a lively bar area. They serve Irish fare such a Shepherd’s Pie and Guinness Beef Stew plus American fare. This location sometimes has live music. 

Schwab’s Pharmacy

  • Quick Service
  • Themed to a 1930’s soda counter this location primarily serves ice cream. 

Plus:

  • Starbucks
  • Hagan Daas

Production Central:

Bone Cillin’

  • Quick Service 
  • Grab a slushee, beer, soft pretzel of other snack.

Pier 8 Market

  • Quick Service
  • Breakfast, Lunch  & Dinner
  • This location is a grab and go food court with options like salads, and sandwiches. 

Classic Monsters Cafe

  • Table Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Themed to classic Universal monters like Dracula and the Wolf Man this location has a really fun interior, the menu features American classics like, rotisserie chicken, pizza, and ribs. 

Festival Booths:

Throughout the year Universal Studios Florida also has seasonal limited time festivals with special decor, entertainment, shopping, and or course food throughout the parks. These festivals feature various food booths around the park each with a limited menu of options of smaller potion dishes. If you are visiting during this time these are great option for snacks or to sample several options for a meal.

Universal Island’s of Adventure

Port of Entry:

Confisco Grille

  • Table Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • This location has an Asian touch with a married menu included pad thai, roasted fish, chicken, udon noodles and ribs. Lots of appetizer options on this menu too. This is a good option for a group that wants to share a few items. 

Backwater Bar

  • Bar
  • Snacks
  • Connected to Confisco Grille you can get many of the same appetizers and a full bar menu. 

Croissant Moon Bakery

  • Quick Service
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • Pre-made sandwiches, pastries, and snacks. 

Plus!

  • Starbucks
  • Cinnabon

Seuss Landing:

Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Pizza, burgers, and fried chicken in a circus setting with lots of indoor seating. 

Green Eggs and Ham

  • Quick Service
  • Snacks
  • This stand offers several options including green eggs and ham and even who hash, some served in fun containers.

Hop on Pop Ice Cream Shop

  • Quick Service
  • Snacks
  • A stand with ice cream and frozen treats. 

Moose Juice, Goose Juice

  • Quick Service
  • Snacks
  • This stand offers drinks and basic snacks. The title drinks and icees of differing flavors. 

The Lost Continent:

Mythos Restaurant

  • Table Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • A mix of Mediterranean, Asian and American cuisines this full service restaurant has a really fun setting inside a cave, themed to greek gods. It is one of the highest end locations inside of the park. 

Doc Sugreue’s Desert Kebab House

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner 
  • This stand offers Mediterranean kebobs and snacks like hummus and fruit.

Fire Eater’s Grill

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • The options here include gyros, and also traditional theme park food of chicken fingers, hot dogs, and salads. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmead:

Three Broomsticks

  • Quick Service
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • With highend theming this pub in Hogsmead serves breakfast served until 10:30 you have options of several kinds of breakfast platters with English touches. At lunch or dinner the options are very classic English fare including fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and more generally rotisserie chicken and ribs. They also offer a basic kids menu. Here you can also get a butterbeer, pumpkin fizz, or draught beer. For Harry Potter fans you will defiantly want at least one meal either here or at Diagon Alley’s Leaky Cauldron. The Harry Potter locations are some of the most popular be prepared to wait in a line here, to avoid lines try eating at off peak meal times.

Hog’s Head 

  • Bar 
  • Stop into this bar to grab a butterbeer, pumpkin juice, along with domestic and imported beers, the pub’s exclusive Hog’s Head Brew, specialty drinks, wine, spirits, and mixed drinks.

Jurassic Park:

The Watering Hole

  • Quick Service
  • Snacks
  • Grab a beer, wine, soda or theme mix drink. Some snacks available at this location as well such as soft pretzels, and nachos. 

Pizza Predattoria

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Grab a quick pizza or sandwich with outdoor seating. 

The Burger Digs

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Burgers and fries

Thunder Falls Terrace

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • This location is in a really fun Jurassic Park setting with a lot of platter options including, ribs, chicken, and turkey. This is a good place to stop if you want quick service but not a burger or pizza. 

Toon Landing:

Blondie’s

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Made to order subs including the iconic Dagwood Sandwich. 

Cathy’s Ice Cream 

  • Quick Service 
  • Snacks
  • A quick stop for ice cream in this land. 

Comic Strop Cafe

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Themed to old school newspaper comic strips this location serves burgers, pizzas, and salads.

Whimpy’s

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • This stand sells burgers, chicken fingers and fries. Plus soft serve ice cream. 

Marvel Superhero Island:

Cafe 4

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • This location themed to the Fantastic Four comic books has a large menu with pizzas, and Italian pasta and sandwich entrees. 

Captain America Diner 

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Of course here they serve American eats with burgers, and both grilled and crispy chicken sandwiches. 

Chill Ice Cream 

  • Quick Service
  • Snacks
  • Your stop for ice cream in this land.

City Walk

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen

  • Table Service
  • Brunch, Lunch & Dinner
  • This restaurant has a really fun steam punk meets chocolate factory look and the menu features dishes with lots of chocolate touches. Known for their huge jar milkshakes. Brunch is served here and they also have a full service bar here and a quick service window for the milk shakes. 

Bigfire

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Dine while watching the chef’s in the open kitchen and its fires featured in the restaurant. Them menu is American fare and a lot of grilled options. 

Cowfish

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Choose between burgers or shush or have a little of both. The menu here has many options of both.

Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • As titled this colorful restaurant offers Mexican food. 

Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Themed to Bob Marley’s life this location serves Jamaican food including jerk chicken, seafood, beef patties, plantains and yucca fries. 

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. 

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Themed to Forest Gump and a southern shrimp shack the menu of course offers shrimp, and other seafood as well as other American fare. 

Hard Rock Cafe

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Like the other locations around the world this location features music and other memorabilia throughout the restaurant. The menu is American food with a lot of options. 

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville 

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Themed to the tropics and Key West this menu offers American foods with an island flare and of course a large menu of margaritas. 

NBC Sports Grill & Brew

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • A classic sports bar theming and a great place to watch the game while on vacation. This location offers over 100 beers and a menu full of appetizers like soft pretzels and nachos. The menu has a ton of options from burger and wings to chicken pesto pasta and brisket. 

Pat O’Brians

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Here you will find a piano bar with a New Orleans theming and a menu to match including classic po’boy or a hurricane cocktail. 

Vivo Italian Kitchen

  • Table Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Classic Italian fare with lots of menu options. 

Red Over Pizza Bakery

  • Quick Service
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Made to order fired pizzas taking it up a level from the pizza inside the theme parks. 

Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Fresh deli hot and cold sandwiches that you can customize. 

Fat Tuesday

  • Quick Service 
  • Drinks
  • A New Orleans staple Fat Tuesday has a rainbow of frozen drink options. 

Hot Dog Hall of Fame

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner 
  • This ballpark themed location serves a variety of gourmet hot dogs. 

Bend the Bao

  • Quick Service 
  • Lunch & Dinner 
  • A twist on traditional bao buns.  

Voodoo Doughnut

  • Quick Service 
  • Snacks
  • A great place to stop on your way out of the theme parks to grab a dessert for later. Made famous by it’s Portland, OR location this is a gourmet doughnut shop with a large array of flavors including many vegan options. 

Plus!

  • Starbucks
  • Panda Express
  • Auntie Anne’s
  • Burger King
  • Cinnabon
  • Cold Stone Creamery
  • Dippin’ Dots
  • Menchies Frozen Yogurt
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill 
  • Fusion BIstro’s Sushi & Sake Bar 

Volcano Bay

Bambu Jungle Kitchen

  • Quick Service 
  • Here you will find burgers, chicken and salad. 

The Feasting Frog

  • Quick Service 
  • This location has some more varied options with tacos, nachos, and poke bowls. 

Kohola Reef Restraut and Social Club

  • Quick Service
  • This is the largest dining location in the park and has the wides menu with breakfast options in the morning. With Hawaiian flavored options, flat bread pizzas, chicken, and sushi jus some of the options. 

Whakawaiwai Eats

  • Quick Service
  • Here you will find pizza, hot dogs, Mac and cheese and more. 

The Fish Tail

  • Snack Stand
  • Pretzels, churros and frozen drinks

KoKa Poroka

  • Snack Stand
  • Ice cream stand

There are also two bars / lounges:

  • Dancing Dragon Boat Bar
  • Kunuku Boat Bar

Hotels

All of the hotels that are a part of Universal Orlando Resort have dining options as well. Anyone can enjoy these restaurants though for the typical vacationer I would not suggest planing to dine here unless you are staying on property. It can take time to get from the park to the resorts and as a day guest your time is best spent in the parks or City Walk. If you are staying on property make sure to know what your dining options are at your hotel and if you want to explore other hotel options check out the ones near yours. 

Character Dining:

There are a few character dining opportunities at Universal Orlando. Reservations are required for these meals. 

Despicable Me Breakfast – At the Lowes Royal Pacific Resort you can have all you care to enjoy breakfast with Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the minions. The plus side to this meal is that its is at a hotel and not inside the park so no park admission is needed. 

Marvel Character Dinner – Have dinner with Marvel comic book super hero at Cafe 4 at Islands of Adventure for an all you care to enjoy buffet experience. Superheros like Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the X-Men will be in attendance. 

The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast – During the Christmas season you can dine with the Grinch at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous all you care to enjoy buffet inside of Universal Island’s of Adventure park. 

Halloween Horror Nights Scareactor Dining Experience – During Halloween Horror Nights you can dine at the Universal Studios’ Classic Monster Cafe at Universal Studios Florida park for an all you care to enjoy experience with several frightening scare actors up close. 

As you can see there is no shortage of food at Universal Orlando Resort. Time to start making those reservations.

If you are looking to travel to Universal Orlando (or anywhere else) I would love to be your travel agent!

Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you.

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow Me!   https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

A Guide to Disney World For Animal Lovers

There is so much to see and do at Disney World and the greater Orlando area it is impossible to do everything there is to do in one trip. Some sites and activity options can get lost in the shuffle or overlooked. Because of this I like to highlight specific areas of interest one can plan an itinerary around. 

In this blog I will be discussing activities, sites, attractions, and information that would appeal to animal lovers. Those who would love to be surrounded by, see, or interact with animals while on vacation. There are tons of opportunities for animal lovers at Disney World and many of these activities go under the radar especially for first time visitors so I am here to point them out for you. 

A quick note up front. Some people have varying opinions about zoos, aquariums, and animals in captivity. If you are upset by or have uneasy feelings about these places and topics then I would suggest skipping this blog or even using it as a guide of things for you to avoid while at Disney World. Personally, I have done my research and I find zoos and aquariums to be a vital and valuable way for us to learn about, and ultimately help animals, both those in the wild and in captivity. As well as an important tool for fostering appreciation for animals and conservation with the public. While also being of great educational importance to the public. I find a lot of joy in visiting these places, so if you do too I am here to share with you all your opportunities to enjoy animals at Disney World and the Orlando area. 

Bringing Your Own Animals

Several of the Disney World Resorts are dog-friendly resorts. For an additional fee your dog can stay with you at these Disney resorts. 

  • Art of Animation Resort
  • Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Yacht Club Resort
  • The Cabins and Campgrounds at Fort Wilderness 

These rooms all have access to outdoor walkways and designated dog-relief areas. Dogs must be on leash at all times in public areas. A maximum of 2 dogs per room are allowed and at this time dogs are the only pets allowed. Proof of up to date vaccinations is required. Keep in mind that these specific resort grounds are the only place at Disney World where dogs are allowed, with the exceptions of service animals. 

Upon arrival each dog receives a Pluto Welcome Kit which includes food and water bowls, a feeding mat, a toy, waste bags, dog walking map, and puppy pads. 

Fort Wilderness even has a dog park that is fenced in and leash free. The Waggin’ Trails Dog Park is a big perk for those traveling with a dog that needs to get their energy out. 

Specific floors and sections of the resort are designated a pet rooms so guests with allergies don’t need to worry that a dog was in their room previously.

The other option for traveling with your pets at Disney World is the on site kennel, Best Friends Pet Care. Here they offer daily and overnight pet care at this “resort for pets” that welcomes dogs, cats, and smaller pets such as birds, reptiles, and rodents. 

Best Friends is open an hour before the theme parks open to one hour after closing and is located on Disney World property and very close to the Port Orleans Resort 

For overnight accommodations there are several levels of service and “suites” available for all of your pets. Animals can enjoy one on one playtime and social group interaction, bed time stories and special snacks. 

For daily visitors looking for “pet day care” they have that as well with convenient morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups, your pet will enjoy the same luxurious suites, condos, amenities and services as overnight Guests.

There is also a grooming salon on site. 

Check out their website for all the details. 

https://www.bestfriendspetcare.com/waltdisneyworldresort/

c. Disney

Resorts With Animals

A great way to build some time with animals into your trip is to stay at a resort that has animals on site. 

Animal Kingdom Lodge & Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village are the number one place to see animals at your resort. Both of these resorts, which are neighbors and you can walk between them, have savannahs on the grounds with African animals such as giraffe, zebra, gazelles, ostriches and more. You can see the animals from throughout the resort. You can even book a savannah view room and wake up to the site of giraffes from your balcony. The resort offers wildlife guides and there are signs throughout so you can learn all about your new neighbors. Of course you can always just visit the resort as well and grab a meal at one of the many restaurants just to check out the animals. If you want to plus your experience there are even some additional paid tours you can book including a nighttime safari on the savannah complete with a ride in a safari vehicle and night vision googles. Or you can tour behind the scenes with a morning tour that includes breakfast at Boma and a look at how the cast members care for the animals at the Lodge. 

If you want to get really up close to some animals you’ll want to consider Fort Wilderness Resort with it’s campground and cabins. Here you can visit the Tri-Circle D Ranch where you can just visit with the horses and ponies who live here, including those who you see work in the parks and even pull Cinderella’s carriage for Disney Weddings. You can even take a ride yourself as the ranch offers, at an additional cost, horseback riding, pony rides for kids, wagon rides, and horse drawn carriage rides. 

You can also take a horse drawn carriage ride at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

Animals In The Parks 

At Magic Kingdom you can see some of the horses form Tri-Circle D Ranch at work as they pull the trolley and other transportation down Main Street. You can also see Merida, Gaston, and others riding horses in parades. 

At EPCOT you can find perhaps a surprising amount of animals. 

At the Seas Pavillon there are tons of aquatic animals to visit. The Seas With Nemo And Friends ride includes views of the aquarium while you are on the ride. You can also explore the pavilion on your own and look at the expansive aquarium displays with all sorts of fish, dolphins, and sharks. This includes a portion with several rescued Florida manatees. If you want an extra special experience at the Seas Pavilion there are several extra tours you can sign up for as well. These include an up close encounter the dolphins, scuba diving, and snorkeling tours. 

Seasonally, in the spring when the Flower and Garden Festival is happening part of the festival is a butterfly garden where you can get up close and admire the butterflies and their plants. 

Of course Animal Kingdom is full of opportunities to see and interact with animals. There are zoo style animal exhibits throughout the park especially in the Discovery Island and the Oasis section where you can find many smaller exhibits. Keep your eyes open and check the maps as some can be easy to miss. The more elaborate and large exhibits can be found at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail where you can see gorilla’s and other African animals. Then on the Maharajah Jungle Trek you can see tigers and other Asian animals. At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which you will need to take a train inside the park to get to, you can visit Affection Section which is a petting zoo with goats and other domesticated animals. Also at Rafiki’s is Conservation Station with several educational exhibits about animals and caring for them. If you are lucky you may even spot a veterinarian working on an animal in the viewing windows. 

There are two opportunities to catch bird shows one in an amphitheater with Feathered Friends in Flight and one shorter show in front of the tree of life with macaws, Winged Encounters.

The star attraction for animals here is Kilimanjaro Safari where you board a jeep and take a 20 or so minute ride thought the African Safari and get fabulous views, some up close with animals like giraffe, rhino, elephants, cheetahs, lions, and zebra. This ride is not to be missed for any animal kingdom visitor. 

If you want to get even closer to the animals there are two behind the scenes tours where you can learn about how these animals are cared for, one with rhinos and one with elephants. Additionally there is an evening safari experience, Savor the Savanna where you can take a private savannah tour and dine on the savannah for the evening. 

For those who want a little more adventure the Wild African Trek tour gets you closer to the animals on the safari as you take the exhilarating trek through and over the savannah including a rope bridge, a jeep, and a walk along the savannah. This experience includes photos, a meal, and is truly one of a kind. 

Around Orlando and Beyond

If you have the time and means to travel off of Disney World property while in Orlando there are a few animal attractions you may want to consider. 

The biggest being Sea World where you can see all sorts of sea creatures, they also offer many behind the scenes or up close tours. Along with all the animals Sea World also offers big thrills with their roller coasters and has an immersive Sesame Street area for the youngest set. The park offers something for every age group. 

Discovery Cove is part of the Sea World family but a much different experience. This all inclusive experience allows you to spend the day in a relaxing pool setting surrounded by birds, and sea life. The highlight of a day here are the dolphin experiences including the opportunity to swim with them.

At Universal Studios park at Universal Orlando Resort you’ll want to catch the Animal Actors on Location where you will meet some real animal actors and learn what it takes for them to work on screen. I certainly wouldn’t plan a visit to Universal Orlando for this show but if you are already building Universal into your plans you’ll want to add this to your itinerary.

If you want to see and learn all about Florida’s iconic alligators then Gatorland is a great opportunity. See tons of alligators along with other Florida native species. There is also a petting zoo here and an opportunity for a zip line experience. 

If you are up for a day trip to the Crystal River area about 80 miles away there are also several companies that offer the opportunities for manatee tours including opportunities to swim with them. Nearby you can also visit the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where you can see lots of Florida wildlife including manatees and an underwater viewing area. 

If you are visiting at the right time of year, nesting season is May – October, you could head over to the Space Coast and Cape Canaveral to try and see sea turtles. There are also locations here you can can try and spot manatees, including Manatee Sanctuary Park. There are also many parks and the like in and around Orlando where you may see some native wildlife.

Spotting animals in the wild can of course be hit of miss so do your research before you make the drive to spend you day at one of these locations. 

Wether you want to vacation with your pets or see animals on your vacation there are a lot of opportunities for animal lovers at Disney World and the surrounding areas. 

If you are looking to travel to Disney World I would love to be your travel agent. Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you. 

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow Me!   https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

Vacation Packing List : Theme Parks and Beyond

So you are going on a vacation! You have everything booked with your travel agent and your itinerary is all planned out. Now you just have to pack before you head off on your fabulous trip. 

There are a lot of different kinds of packers out there. Some people can just throw some clothes and a toothbrush in a suitcase the night before they depart and are perfectly happy with what they have with them during their trip. 

When I pack I am the complete opposite of this. I start months in advance with spreadsheets and lists and meticulous plans. The actual packing usually starts a week or more in advance, takes over my entire bedroom at times, and goes on for hours. Believe it or not I enjoy this process.

Now you don’t have to be like me (though if you are, WELCOME!) but if you’d like to be somewhere in the middle of these two styles, feel confident you have packed everything you will need, and take some of the stress out of packing, or just wondering what you really need to bring on vacation then this blog is for you. 

I have already covered outfit planning and packing clothing in another blog linked here. 

Outfit Planning Guide – What Clothes To Pack On Vacation!

So in this blog I am going to cover packing everything else beside clothing. All the things you will want to consider bringing with you on vacation!

A quick note upfront. Packing can be stressful. Remember that in most locations and on most trips if you forget something and it is absolutely critical that you have it you will have the ability to get to a store and buy it or have it delivered to your hotel. So don’t let packing turn into a panic. Plus that’s why I have created these lists to help you make sure you cover all your packing bases. 

Download The Full List At The End Of This Blog

Toiletries

When making my toiletries packing list I like to go through my morning and evening bathroom routines in my head to make sure I am packing every item that I use on a regular basis.

I have tried to cover all the categories and types of items with this list. A few I’d like to expand on. 

Basically all hotels will provide shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap, many also have hair dryers so you’d have the option to use what is provided instead. 

First Aid items can be key to your comfort on vacation, if you are sick or uncomfortable you are not going to have a happy vacation. Packing these first aid items can really save your trip. 

Liquid Hand Soap might seem like an odd item to add but most hotels only have a bar of soap which in my experience tends to make a mess on the counter. If you are used to liquid hand soap at home and have the space it’s worth bringing some with you for a longer vacation.

Glasses wearers don’t just bring your glasses but bring a spar too, and bring a copy or have digital access to your prescription, and don’t forget a lease cloth and repair kit. 

When flying keep in mind the TSA’s 3x1x1 rule for carry on liquids, gels and sprays. To carry them on the plane these items have to be 3oz or less in size and each (1) person gets to bring a 1 quart sized clear bag of liquids with them. A 1 quart bag is larger than your normal ziplock sandwich bag so make sure you are checking the size correct. I use a reusable 1 quart clear plastic bag from Amazon that is TSA compliant. This bag is far more durable than a ziplock and I can easily wipe it down inside or out. Have your bag ready to go before your arrive at the airport so you can just pull it from your bag when you go through security. Liquid prescriptions (as well as formula and breast milk) are exempt from this rule but will be screened, make sure you tell the TSA official early in the security process that you have a medical liquid with you. 

When checking a bag there are no size limitations on liquids, gels, and sprays. So if you are ok with checking a bag putting your toiletries in there can be much simpler. When packing liquids in a suitcase make sure items are either in a ziplock bag or something that will prevent a leak from getting all over your packed clothing. 

I typically check a bag and place my toiletries in there but I will bring a few things on the plane with me like lotion, chapstick, and hand sanitizer. So I will prep those in my clear 1 quart bag. 

A tip to make packing easier is to just leave your toiletry bag always packed as much as you can. I do this by using refillable travel bottles and buying duplicates of items like deodorant to leave in the travel bag. Then when I have a new trip I can fill up any empty bottles and throw in the things I don’t keep duplicates of and I am ready to go. 

For a toiletry bag or kit make sure it is something leak proof, and that has a secure closure. I am also a fan of a pack flat bag that unfolds and that you can hang in the bathroom once you arrive. This lets you same room in your suitcase and give convenient access to your items during your stay. 

When traveling with prescription medications make sure you always have them in a bag that you will be keeping with you. Don’t place them in checked luggage. If you are going on a cruise or to a resort where they transfer your luggage for you keep your prescriptions in your day bag with you. Things can happen and bags can get misplaced you don’t want your pills being misplaced with them and be put in a situation where you are unable to take your medication as needed. 

Traveling you will encounter bathrooms and portapoties that are out of toilet paper, for any road trip or visit to a National Park pack some travel sized toilet paper you will be very happy if you need it. 

Electronics 

Did you pack all the cords? That seems to be the hardest part when packing electronics, making sure you have all the right cords, adaptors, and batteries. Here are my three tips for packing electronics

1) Write it all down. Add all the cords you will need to your list so you can check them off as you pack

1) Get a cord case or create one with a ziplock and twist ties and keep all your cords together and organized. 

2) Charge & Download Everything! Make sure you are starting with a full charge and that you have downloaded all the media content you want to consume during travel before you go. 

A few more notes are specific items:

If you are bringing higher end electronics that you plan to leave in your room. Make sure your accommodations have a safe you can use to store them. In a pinch I would suggest leaving them in a locked suitcase. 

Most of us prefer Bluetooth headphones these days but if you are flying make sure you bring a standard plug in pair as well so you can access the TV sound on the plane. You also might want to consider some larger noise canceling headphone for flights. If you plan to workout on vacation make sure you bring your athletic headphones as well if you use different ones. 

For photography make sure you have plenty of space and back up memory cards.

International travelers you’ll want to check into what sort of power converter you will need for your destination and pack one with you.

I like to bring a small power strip with me on every trip. There are always things to charge and sometimes hotels run low on plugs so they are all over the room. With a power strip you can set up a charging area. You will also want to make sure you phone will still work in the country you are going to, you may need to adjust your phone plan or get a SIM card. 

A small but real luxury when traveling can be to bring a streaming device with you to hook up to the TV. While some hotels offer the ability to log into your streaming account from the TV already it’s no ubiquitous yet. The option to have access to all your streaming services on vacation is really nice. 

An absolute must for theme park travelers is a portable charger or a power bank that will allow you to charge your phone on the go. I suggest this for any vacationer but specifically theme park visitors as you will be using your phone all day to access the necessary theme park apps during your visit. Between this and photos your battery can easily run down. 

Food

Packing food can vary wildly between the kind of trip you are taking, how you are getting there, and how you like to travel. If you are driving to a beach vacation and staying somewhere with a kitchen you are going to pack food much differently than if you are flying to spend a weekend in a standard hotel room in Chicago. So depending on your travel style and vacation you may not need most of these items. 

Packing food is also a fantastic way to save money on vacation. An alternative to packing is to have a grocery order delivered to your hotel or stopping at a grocery store at your destination. If you plan to do either of these make sure you have a grocery list and a store or service located in advance. 

No matter where I am traveling I alway pack snacks. When flying I will pack a specific plastic baggie of my flight snacks. Keep in mind any food you bring on the plane will have to be pulled out of your larger bag when going through security. You also can’t have any liquid food over 3 oz. I also make sure to always have an empty water bottle when flying that I can fill up after security, depending on the length of the flight I may bring 2. 

If you are flying internationally be aware that all food that you travel with has to be pre-packaged and fully sealed. Check the rules for you specific destination as well as some may have additional restrictions. 

I will also pack snacks to have throughout the trip. Not only can snacks add up but sometimes while traveling you could be far from food options, or stopping for food is going to mess up your schedule, or maybe you are in a long theme park line. A granola bar in your bag can be the difference between a delightful day and a hangry melt down for travelers of all ages. I also love to have some snack options when I get back to the hotel room. I like to pack some food that I eat at home all the time and a few special treats. 

If you plan to provide a lot of your own meals while on vacation and pack the food you’ll want to make a meal plan. Write it down and know what you will need. Then make sure you know what kind of dishes will be available where you are staying and pack what you need. Don’t forget the lunch boxes and food containers so you can items with you on the go. Disney travelers, Disney only provides paper straws on property so if you are not a fan make sure to pack a reusable straw. Also gum chewers Disney does not sell gum so make sure to pack plenty. 

Packing your own breakfasts is a great way to save time on a vacation morning and to save a good chunk of money. I have eaten many an instant oatmeal made from coffee maker hot water. Instant oatmeal, some nuts, and dried fruit is my go to. 

A refillable water bottle is a must for all travelers, one for everyone in the party. For car trips or long flights you may even want to bring extra to fill up. If you are going to be doing a lot of outdoor activity, or just be outside in the heat consider hydration tablets to help your keep up your energy all day. I strongly suggest this for any theme park trips. 

I always bring Airborne or a similar immune booster product with me when I travel. Not only are you exposed to a lot of germs on a plane but often traveling means being in large crowds. Plus on a big site-seeing or theme park trip you’ll be walking a lot and tired which is an easy recipe to get sick. I’ll take airborne though out my trip plus a few days leading up to it.

General Items

Make sure you have digital and hard copies of any important papers or information. This includes you itinerary with all of your confirmation numbers. Have digital copies of photos or any tickets or passes you have incase they get lost. I like to have a physical map if I am spending a few days in a larger city and I plan to walk around it a lot. I find it easier to visualize where I am going then on my phone and it will also save some battery life. But I make sure to review the map ahead of time as well. When doing a big road trip in a remote area, like a lot of National Parks I will bring a physical map as well in case of emergency. If you like to send postcards don’t forget addresses and stamps for the recipients. 

I suggest traveling with a paired down wallet from your everyday wallet but make sure you have the items you need. Your ID, cash, ATM card, and 2 credit cards are the obvious choices but don’t forget things like your AAA card, not only for a car emergencies but many hotels, museums, ect. have AAA discounts. Things like military, teacher, and student IDs are worth packing in case of a discount as well. Then if you will be shopping for food or essentials at your destination don’t forget things like your Costco membership card or a Target Red Card. 

If traveling internationally it is also a good idea to have a zerox copy of your passport and a digital photo of it. Incase of loss or theft. Go ahead and write the embassy phone number down and put it in your phone as well just incase. 

I suggest brining an assortment of bags with you when you travel. I suggest a small and larger day bag a purse, hip-pack, or backpack for each traveler so that you can adjust as needed. I also suggest packing an extra duffel bag or similar into your suitcase so if you come home with more souvenirs or everything doesn’t seem to fit back into your suitcase you have room to grow.

If you are going somewhere that pick pocketing is a concern pick up an anti-theft wallet this normally hangs around your neck or on your waist under your shirt. There are also many options for day bags with straps that are slash proof.

If flying you will want TSA approved locks on all of your luggage and a portable bag scale to make sure you are under the weight limits. 

You never know when you will need a ziplock or a trash bag and they just might come in handy so I never pack without them. Having a laundry bag is perfect for packing at the end of your trip. If you think you might have damp clothes when departing a wet bag is great as well. 

Make sure to have some entertainment that can’t run out of battery life. I also suggest always having something for everyone to do with their hands while they watch or listen to entertainment as well. Coloring or activity books, crossword puzzles, or similar. A deck of cards or travel games can be a lot of fun too especially for road trips or if you find yourself with a long layover or delayed flight. 

A pop up hamper is a great way to keep your hotel room organized and if you want to take it to the next level think about packing a cheep hanging organizer or over the door shoe organizer. Many families staying in smaller rooms swear by them. 

I have always wiped down my airplane seat when I board a plane so anti bacterial wipes are a must for me. You never know when else they might come in handy too. 

If you plan to do laundry while traveling make sure you have all the items you will need. Plus for all travel I suggest some stain wipes or a Tide to go pen incase of a spill.

Packing For Kids

Turns out kids need a lot of items! While every kid’s and family’s needs are different here is a lengthy list of items you will want to consider. Many of these you may have access to at you destination, for example Disney hotel rooms provide pack and plays upon request. Or some of them may not apply to the kind of vacation you are taking. But many of these items will apply across the board for any family and any vacation. 

Be sure you are aware of the identification you may need for your children when traveling based on your transportation and where you’re traveling to. You may need copies of or their actual birth certificates or other documents. You may also want to consider an ID bracelet or ID temporary tattoo to help identify your child in the event they get separated from your group and are too young to memorize phone numbers etc. This is especially useful if you are traveling internationally where there may be a language barrier between the child and authorities or when visiting places like theme parks, or major cities with huge crowds. 

I strongly suggest that your stroller and baby carrier game be prepped in advance. Many vacations include a lot of walking so consider that children who are too old for a stroller at home may need to use one on vacation. Then optimize your stroller! With organizers for the handles, clips or hooks, and don’t forget a blanket and a fan so the kids have a bit of climate control. Stroller hand holders, rings that attach to the stroller that walking kiddos can hold onto is a great option for keeping the party all together if someone doesn’t want to be in the stroller at the moment. If you are going to have one big stroller you may even want to consider also brining a small umbrella stroller as an option for a quick trip to dinner or shorting outing. 

If you are traveling to Orlando there are many companies that rent strollers and other baby equipment if traveling with it is not an easy option or if you want to upgrade strollers for vacation. 

Of course if you are going to have a pool or be at the beach you will want all the water items! Be sure to pack multiple as needed and remember things don’t air dry the quickly in humid locations.

Theme Parks 

Many of the items we have discussed and listed above and needed for theme park travel but there are a few items that are very specific to theme parks you will want to pack if you are headed on a theme park vacation. I have restated a few key items on this sheet as well such as ponchos and a fan as they are absolutely key for a theme park visit. 

If you collect or want to collect smashed pennies during your trip you will need pennies, quarters, and some $1 dollar bills though some of the newer machines provide the pennies for you and may even take a credit card. 

It you want character autographs and want to pay less for the book pack and autograph book and a sharpie or fat pen so the characters can hold onto it more easily. 

Glow sticks are a lot of fun at night while waiting for fireworks and ones from home will cost you much less than the ones at the parks. You can even take it up a notch and pack some light up toys. If you have tiny ones who might be startled by fireworks back some noise canceling headphones to put on them when the show starts. 

If you have kids with you have a plan for in line activities, an app on your phone, or a handheld device or a small activity book or family game. Something to distract that can go easily into your park bag. The Play Disney Parks App has some fun options too.

If you don’t want to sit on the ground but want a good spot for the parade or other long wait shows pack a small fold-up waterproof blanket to sit on while you wait. 

Disney World only offers paper straws which can wilt very quickly so if you drink a lot of beverage with a straw pack some reusable ones. 

Then of course don’t forget your park specific items like those Mickey ears and Harry Potter wands if you have them at home. 

For Universal you will want a fanny pack with a 3 prong clasp. These are the only bags you are allowed to take with you on to many of the rides. These can help you avoid using the lockers or allow you to keep a few items with you in line. You’ll also want a lanyard with a card holder for you park ticket. This is not needed at Disney World due to Magic Band and the Magic Mobile App.

A few items that will help you in your hotel room are clothes pins to hang up wet clothes on the provided clothes line in the shower. If you are a light sleeper you will want to consider ear plugs as the hallways can get loud as people return from the parks late or if you are trying to nap during the day. Most Disney value and moderate resorts are open air entrances and the long exterior hallways are full of rooms and their windows. It can be easy to miss your room as you walk by. A way to make it easier to find your room and to add some flare to your time there are window clings or other window decor the you can easily set up and remove. If you are celebrating a birthday or holiday it can also be fun to bring a few decorations with you. Jus make sure you won’t be putting any holes in the walls or doing anything to damage the room by setting up your decor.  You can order an in room celebration kit from Disney Floral and Gifts but they are very expensive. 

A super fun extra to pack for a Disney vacation are “Tinkerbell Gifts” or whatever you want to name them. These are small gifts to leave in the room for children each morning or in the afternoon when they return from the parks. Tinkerbell has left the gifts for the kids. This is great in two ways. One it can just be a really magical and fun extra for your kids. Two this is a way to provide new toys to your kids inexpensively during the trip to hopefully keep them from wanting lots of souvenirs at the parks where you would spend much more money on them. A great place to pick up Tinkerbell gifts is the dollar store, Five Below, Target, Walmart or even a local Disney Store outlet for clearance items. 

You can use a similar tactic while traveling and give them out while driving or flying. This doesn’t have to be for a Disney vacation either. You could do this for any trip and name it whatever you want. 

In Conclusion

I feel like we really covered a ton of ground here and I hope all of you feel completely prepared to start adjusting this parking list to your particular trip or make your own. 

If you are looking to travel  I would love to be your travel agent. Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you.

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

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Outfit Planning Guide – What Clothes To Pack On Vacation!

So you are going on a vacation! You have everything booked with your travel agent and your itinerary is all planned out. Now you just have to pack before you head off on your fabulous trip. 

There are a lot of different kinds of packers out there. Some people can just throw some clothes in a suitcase the night before they depart and are perfectly happy with what they have with them during their trip. 

When I pack I am the complete opposite of this. I start months in advance with spreadsheets and lists and meticulous outfit plans. The actual packing usually starts a week or more in advance, takes over my entire bedroom at times, and goes on for hours. Believe it or not I enjoy this process.

Now you don’t have to be like me (though if you are, WELCOME!) but if you’d like to be somewhere in the middle of these two styles, feel confident you have packed everything you will need, and take some of the stress out of packing, or just wondering what you should wear on vacation then this blog is for you.

How Do I Outfit Plan?

In this particular blog I am going to cover outfit planning. So first of all what do I mean by outfit planning? This is the process before you pack where you decide what outfit or outfits you and anyone you are packing for will be wearing during your vacation.

I would recommend to start at least two months before your trip, but you could do this as early as you want. 

If you are packing for not only yourself but for your partner, kids, or others you will want to have a plan for each person. If your are traveling with other adults and you want to coordinate your looks but you will not be packing for them then you will want to do your outfit planning in consultation with them. Even if you are the one packing for the whole family it can be a fun activity to discuss and plan some outfits as a family and to get everyones input. This could also mean much smoother sailing when you are actually on vacation because everyone will already be on board with what they will be wearing. 

So what do you use to outfit plan? I have included an outfit planning template here (see end of blog) that you can use as a basic outfit planning list and tool. I suggest using whatever kind of list or graphic that works best for you when you are both planning and then later packing. Once I have decided on an outfit I will lay it out on the bed with all of its parts and photograph it. I will take all of these photos and make a visual list of all the outfits I have planned for the trip. This helps me to visualize the looks all together and finalize my decisions. I will then create a list, usually a spreadsheet, and list every item of every outfit, down to the socks. This is the list I will use when packing, checking off items as I go. 

If you are wondering what outfits do I plan, the answer is all of them. I will pull out my vacation itinerary and take a look at what I will be doing each day. I will take note of how many outfits I will want for each day. I then add a column on my spreadsheet or note my template for each outfit needed.

For example if I am going on a Disney World vacation and my plans for a day look like this:

8:00am – 3:00pm – Animal Kingdom

4:00 – 6:00 – Hotel Break / Pool Time 

7:30 – Dinner Reservation @ California Grill @ The Contemporary

I would plan three outfits for this day, plus pool items, plus pajamas. I would outfit plan for Animal Kingdom, a set of comfy clothes to wear at the hotel, and an outfit for dinner. I would also be sure to list additionally a swimsuit outfit that could be reused throughout the trip or and pajamas. The goal is to prepare for all points in your day. If you prefer to wear one outfit all day of course that is also an option and you would just plan one outfit that would suit you for this day. 

A big part of outfit planning is knowing what the weather is going to be where you are. I recommend checking average temperatures for the month you are visiting for your destination. You can just Google this and it will come up easily. When you get to the physically packing stage you will want to check the forecast for the actual days of your vacation and make sure all your outfit plans are still weather appropriate. Packing a few contingency items incase it is hotter or colder than predicted is always a good idea as well.

Made These Shirts!

Shopping or Crafting

One of the reasons I start my outfit planning so early is because I tend to purchase new items for my outfits. I want to give myself plenty of time to find the pieces I want and to be able to shop sales. 

I tend to shop the most for Disney vacations where my outfits tend to be more meticulously planned and elaborate. 

Some of my favorite options for shopping for Disney clothing and accessories are:

  • Target
  • Khols – Great for matching family shirts
  • Hot Topic 
  • Box Lunch 
  • JC Penny – Best for kid items 
  • Shop Disney aka Disney Store – If you have a Disney Store outlet near you they have some great deals on parks merchandise.
  • Cakeworthy
  • Loungefly – Bags
  • Etsy & Small Shops – There are a ton of small shops and Etsy shops that sell shirts and ears and more. Instagram is also a great place to find these but you can also just google for them. 

If you are someone who likes to make items such as iron on shirts, crafting your own ears, or even sewing an outfit you will want to give yourself plenty of time to complete your projects. Pinterest and Etsy are great places for inspiration.

Disneybounding Example

Disneybounding

Disney travelers if you are unfamiliar, Disneybounding is when you wear an outfit that is inspired by a Disney character but it is not quite a costume, the pieces are normal clothes. It’s a great way to bring some extra magic to your day.

I have an whole blog all about Disneybounding check it out here:

How to Disneybound

What Exactly Should I Pack?

Color Matching Wardrobe

A great way to keep the packing light is to plan outfits with a similar color scheme for the week, say you decide to pack outfits with all blue and grey tones. This allows you to reuse pieces in multiple outfits as everything coordinates. Another way to do this is to make sure all of your accessories and outerwear are neutral colors so that they will match any outfit. This way instead of packing 6 cardigans to match each outfit you can just pack one or two neutral ones, or ones that match the color scheme. 

Pack For Your Itinerary

This seems simple but it can be tricky. We all want to look nice in our vacation photos but don’t make yourself or your family miserable all day because they had to wear clothing that not was appropriate for your activities. A day mostly spent hiking is not the time to wear your best jeans. 

Many children want to wear a costume on their Disney World vacation but the standard polyester costumes can be very uncomfortable in the Florida heat after a while. Don’t get me started on the costume shoes no one wants to walk around in those all day. Wear the costume to the park, get the photos, and have a comfy outfit in you day bag waiting for when your little one wants to change. Same goes for adults who want to wear an elaborate outfit at the parks. If you are attending a Disney Halloween party at the parks make sure the costumes you plan follow the party costume guidelines and make sure you consider the weather and the amount of walking you will be doing in the costume when choosing it. As someone who has hobbled back the buses after decided to wear sparkly flats with her Belle costume after a week of non-stop park walking, at least throw the sneakers in your bag they may not be cute but your feet will thank you later. 

If you are visiting somewhere that requires a specific dress code make sure you are aware and following it. The most common of this would be dining locations, if you are planning to have an extra special meal make sure you have planned an outfit that follows the dress code. It is common on cruise ships, resorts, and even a handful of Disney signature restaurants to have a dress code. This is also something to be aware of when traveling and visiting religious locations such as historic churches. Many religious locations have rules about covering your shoulders, or similar. This is an easy fix by planning to bring a shawl or large scarf with you. But make sure you check out the rules for the sites you plan to visit before you go. 

Make sure you are being realistic when you outfit plan. Realistic not only about what you need to be able to do in these outfits but that everyone will be happy and willing to wear what has been planned. This might mean several outfits a day to accommodate everyone and all of your different plans. 

Formal Night On A Disney Cruise (this theme night dress code is not mandatory but several Disney Cruise restaurants do have mandatory dress codes)

Layers

When traveling layers are key. Chances are you are going to be in a variety of temperatures throughout your day. Your early morning on late evening activities will be a bit colder than your mid-day explorations. If most of your day is going to be spent outside in the summer but you plan to have a meal indoor you very well may catch a chill from the air conditioning and feel like you need to add another layer even though it is 90 degrees outside. Being able to easily take off or put on a layer will make you a much happier traveler. 

Some key items for this can be accessories, see below for the accessories I suggest based on weather. Make sure you have the correct range with you, not only packed but in your day bag as needed. 

Hiking Outfit complete with a wide brimmed hat. Keep in mind at higher elevations the sun is more intense and it is colder. These pants can convert to shorts and I have a t-shirt under this sweatshirt, plus a package puffy vest, and gloves are in my bag.

Main Items: Shirts, Pants, Dresses & More 

My number one tip is to not pack clothes completely different from what you wear at home. If you only wear jeans and t-shirts in your regular life I wouldn’t pack nothing but dresses on vacation. If your kids never wear flip flops at home don’t only pack them flip flops for vacation.  I like to plan a mixture, shorts, pants, dresses, skirts so I don’t feel like I am wearing the same things all week and I have different looks throughout the trip. Don’t forget those layers when planning. 

For a Disney Parks vacations if you plan to take hotel breaks in the middle of the day don’t underestimate the heat and that you may want to change your outfit halfway though the day. Which means additional outfits to plan and pack. 

This is a category that is really hard to get specific but in this one scenario I will. 

Ladies going to Disney Parks here is my go to favorite park outfit:

  • Sturdy Sneakers
  • Athletic Socks (preferable moister wicking) 
  • Comfy undergarments
  • Slip Shorts or Bike Shorts
  • Lightweight flowy dress or T-shirt and A-line Skirt
  • Cardigan or Jacket 
  • Ears 
  • Hat with a brim: I flip back and forth between ears and a hat depending on the sun exposure. 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Backpack 
    • Hip Pack instead if someone else in the party is carrying a communal backpack. 
  • Accessories that complete my outfit like trading pins, buttons, jewelry, watch 

This is pretty adaptable to any kind of travel just skip the ears. 

I like to plan outfits to match what I am doing that day. I wore a Hamilton shirt I already had to visit Mt. Rushmore. Being able to both theme and use items I already have is the best case scenario.

Under Garments 

 Be comfortable, pack lots of extras. 

Shoes & Socks 

This is where you really don’t want to mess around. 

Pack STUDY shoes, I don’t care where you are going pack at least one pair of broken in study sneakers. 

If you are going to be doing lots of walking on your trip bring two pair so you have a backup if one gets wet, you can also rotate between the two which will help your feet. Looking at you Disney travelers. 

If you are planning a National Parks or similar trip with lots of hiking make sure you invest in legit hiking boots for each member of the family. Don’t forget the hiking socks too. 

I also suggest you pack at least one pair or sandals or less structured shoes to wear if you are just going a very short distance to let your feet breath a little. 

If you are going somewhere rain is a concern you are going to want some rainproof shoes as well based on the kind of trip you are taking.  Be it rain boots, water proof hiking boots, crocs, flip flips, or other water proof shoe. 

Good athletic moister wicking socks will get you a long way.

Matching group shirts can be a lot of fun!

Sleepwear & Hotel Wear

Don’t forget to pack pajamas! I also like to pack some sweats or something really cozy to wear when taking a break at the hotel during the day.

Swim

If you are going to be in the water on vacation you don’t want to forget your swimwear. If it is a water heavy trip you will want multiple suits for each person. You’ll want cover-ups as well and don’t forget flip flops or water shoes. If you are going to a water park I highly recommend water shoes! That pavement gets hot!

If you have a little one don’t forget those swim diapers and make sure to check out what kind of life vests etc. may be available at your hotel if you plan to use one for your kids. 

I also suggest packing a wet bag for anything that doesn’t dry before you have to pack back up. 

Alaska Cruisers Prepare For Cold and Rain

Cold Weather

A packable puffy jacket can be your travel best friend. Gloves and a warm hat can be a life saver. Scarfs are great if you are not sure if you will be cold or not as they are easy to layer. If you are going somewhere truly cold invest in a good warm jacket. Ones from companies like North Face that have multiple removable layers are great. Make sure to size the jacket so you can wear layers underneath. Pack hand warmers and thick socks. As well as cold weather gear like Under Amour tights or shirts to wear under your clothes these will keep you much warmer. If it’s a ski vacation or you’re going to be in the real cold make sure to pack all your snow gear.

Hot Weather

Hats with a brim will help keep you cool and protect you from the sun.  Don’t forget the sunglasses. Moister wicking socks are a must. Lighter material clothing when possible. 

A portable fan or ever a wearable one and cooling towels can be life savers as well. 

Even if you are going to a warm destination I suggest packing a warm sweatshirt or light jacket to have incase of a chilly plane, evening, or highly air-conditioned restaurant, etc.

Rainy Weather

A package rain jacket, or it’s cousin the dollar store poncho, is great for almost any vacation but especially a Disney Vacation. Make sure it has a hood. 

If the location is cold and rainy consider a higher end water proof jacket, with a removable cold weather lining that will keep you warm and dry. Make sure to size so that you can wear layers underneath as well.

If you are headed somewhere with a high chance of rain consider waterproofs shoes or boots. 

For Disney Parks I suggest bringing crocs, flip flops, or other water proof shoes and throwing them in your day bag if you know it is going to rain so you can spare your sneakers when the rain starts. At the very least extra socks so you can change them after they get wet. Then make sure you have packed an extra pair of sneaker so when you get back to your room you can dry out the wet pair and wear the second dry pair. 

A Rainy Day at Disney World

Accessories 

Pack lots and lots of face masks, more than you think you will need. 

I wouldn’t suggest bringing any nice jewelry on vacation the risk of losing it, or worrying about losing it is too high. 

Accessories like a scarf, hat, bold jewelry, or belt can really add to the fashion level of an outfit without take up much space. 

Bags

Backpacks, backpacks, and backpacks are key for vacation days. Be it one larger backpack for the whole group or smaller ones for everyone, they are key to being able to cary with you the items you need.  Packable backpacks or sting backpacks are great to throw in a larger backpack or purse if you think you may buy something or need more room later in the day or the reverse. I’ll also bring a packable backpack as my hiking bag on trips where there will be hiking and I don’t want to take a nicer bag on the trails. 

Hip bags are great for when you don’t need to bring a lot with you. 

Neutral colored bags can be great because they will match with all your outfits. Or you can go the opposite route and have a bag for each specific outfits it can be a really fun accessory especially when Disneybouding. 

A variety of styles of bags, cross body, backpack, hip bag can be good as well to spare your back and shoulders from having the same weight distribution on them during the whole trip. 

Work Out

If you like to work out during vacation make sure you pack your work out gear. This is another great use for a wet bag to keep sweaty clothes contained when you have to repack. Runners don’t forget the running shoes. Make sure you have the right headphones are well, one thing to consider is many hotel treadmills have tv’s in them but you will need plug in headphones to use them which the hotel may or may not provide. Plus any accessories you might need like a yoga mat, water belt, or others.

Extras!

Things sometimes don’t go according to plan, pack emergency extras. 

Dole Whip Outfit at Aulani

I hope this helped you get a better idea of what outfits to plan on your vacation and what sorts of clothing to pack.

If you are looking to travel I would love to be your travel agent. Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you. 

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow Me!   https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

Download the planning sheet below and start planning your own outfits!

Guide to Physical and Other Accommodations Available at Disney Parks

We all want to be able to take a fun vacation with our loved ones. For many that means a Disney Parks vacation. For all visitors a Disney Parks vacation means a lot of time standing, walking, and waiting in lines. That presents a special challenge to those with a range of mobility concerns, or those with emotional concerns such as autism, and others who need special accomodations. In this blog I am going to present an overview of services and support that the Disney Parks provide to serve these guests. Disney prides itself on being inclusive to all guests no matter their abilities so they do go the extra mile to provide assistance. 

Hotel Rooms 

All Disney resorts include booking options for rooms that are wheelchair accessible, the largest change here is in the restrooms. As well as rooms that are hearing accessible, with additional TTY equipment available by request at check in.

If you are in need of medical equipment for your room such as a hospital bed for your room you can arrange rental through AdventHealth World of Wellness the official healthcare provider of Disney World. Find them at the link below.

https://www.adventhealth.com/adventhealth-world-wellness

If lots of noise or loud-ness is a concern for a guest you can request being placed on a higher floor, and avoid pool view rooms when booking. I would suggest working with a travel agent (like me) to determine the best room location for you at each resort. 

Transportation

Let’s start with getting to the parks. If you will be arriving at a Disney resort or park by car and need handicap parking, and have a handicap parking tag there is ample handicap parking in all parking lots. Keep in mind though that there is likely still a decent distance from your parking space to your room, or the theme park. 

At Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT the handicap parking location will remove the need for you to ride a parking lot tram. At Magic Kingdom you will still have to take either the monorail or ferryboat from the parking area to the park gates, both are handicap accessible and can accommodate wheelchairs and Electric Scooters (ECVs). If you are worried about space I would suggest the ferryboat over the monorail. 

At Disneyland and California Adventure the distance from the parking structure to the theme parks is significant a parking tram is available but larger wheelchairs and ECVs will not fit. However you can utilize the wheelchair or ECV on the pathway to the parks. 

If you are staying at a Disney Resort and utilizing Disney transportation to the parks all of these are able to accommodate wheelchairs and ECVs. All Disney busses have a chair lift to assist with boarding if needed. One thing to keep in mind is that only so many ECVs or wheelchairs can fit on each bus so if you are arriving or departing at a busy time you may not get on the first bus if a few ECVs or chairs are ahead of you. The Skyliner has handicap accessible units. The monorail, and ferryboats are handicap accessible as well.  Simply alert a transportation cast member is you are in need of handicap access.

ECV Scooter Rental and Wheelchair Rental

You are welcome to bring with you any wheelchair or ECV scooter that you may have traveled with but have several rental options as well. 

Wheelchair rental and ECV rental from Disney is available near the entrance to each theme park. These can be rented for the day or you can get a length of stay rental at a slight daily discount. This would mean you pick up a new wheelchair or ECV daily at the parks. 

While this is a great service there are several things to keep in mind.

  • You can not take these vehicles out of the theme park. Meaning if you are staying at a Disney Resort you can not take these back to your room or even to the theme park parking lot. 
  • These are rented on a first come first serve basis and can sell out. If you are arriving to the parks in the morning you should be fine but if you are arriving mid-day or later you run the risk of the vehicles being sold out. 

These are some pretty significant draw back is you are not traveling with your own chair or ECV and you will need to utilize one throughout your stay not just within the theme park gates. But don’t fear this is a simple fix. Orlando and Anaheim are home to many private companies who rent ECVs and wheelchairs. A google search will show you many options for this service. Many will drop the vehicle off at your resort and teach you how to use it. With a private rental you can take the vehicle with you all over the Disney Parks, and resorts for the length of your vacation. You can charge them in your hotel room. If you are in need of a rental this is the way to go in my opinion. 

Restrooms & In Park First Aid 

Each restroom in the park includes facilities for those with mobility concerns. For additional space there are also several companion restroom areas throughout each park. These are notated on the park maps separately from general restrooms. 

In each theme park there is a first aid location near the entrance. In additional to basic first aid materials these facilities have additional space and privacy for individuals who may need assistance from a member of their party with their personal care needs. These locations also provide free ice if you have medications that need to stay cold. Bring your own cooler to fill with the ice and be aware that while you can bring cold packs or bagged ice in your cooler into the parks you can’t bring lose ice. So bring some baggies to fill at the hotel ice machine.  

Health Emergencies, Prescriptions Delivery, Medial Equipment Rental

AdventHealth World of Wellness the official healthcare provider of Disney World.

If you are in need of a doctors appointment while at Disney World you can set up a virtual appointment with them. You can also have prescriptions delivered to your Disney resort. There are additionally several pharmacies located near Disney World and easily accessed by cab or ride share if you don’t have a vehicle. Over the counter medications can be found at Disney first aid centers and Disney Resort gift shops for purchase. Additionally grocery delivery services and Amazon Prime Now offer some personal care items and will delivery to your Disney resort.

Additionally you can rent medical equipment to your resort. Excluding wheelchairs and ECVs as discussed above.

If you are in need of an urgent care facility you can arrange for transportation from any Disney resort or park to the AdventistHealth urgent care at Flamingo Crossing which is on Disney property. Call 407-938-0605 to arrange transportation.

For all the details about all of these services visit:

https://www.adventhealth.com/adventhealth-world-wellness

Disability Access Service – Rides / Attractions

The Disability Access Service (DAS) is Disney’s service that accommodates those who would find it challenging physically, cognitively, or emotionally to wait in a traditional line. To utilize the service visit the park’s guest relations on the first day or your visit. You will be able to use the service for the duration of your stay so you will not need to visit guest relations daily. The service can not be signed up for in advance. 

Direct from the Disney site DAS is described as:

“DAS is intended for Guests whose disability prevents them from waiting in a conventional queue environment. This service allows Guests to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current queue wait for the given attraction. Once a return time is issued, Guests are free to enjoy other theme park offerings such as meeting a Character, grabbing a bite to eat, enjoying entertainment or even visiting another attraction until their listed return time. Return times are valid until redeemed prior to park closing.

Guests can only have one active return time at a time. As soon as an outstanding attraction return time is redeemed, Guests can receive a return time for the same or a different attraction.

This service can be used in addition to Disney FastPass+ Service.”

Note that when you return to ride your entire party may ride with you. Some attractions can accommodate wheelchairs and ECVs. Theatre style attractions include handicap seating areas that can accommodate wheelchairs and ECVs. But at many rides transferring from the chair into the ride vehicle is necessary, either under the person’s own power or with the assistance of a member of their own party. If transferring from a wheelchair or ECV is of concern take note on the parks website ahead of time which rides require this, it is noted on the ride page for each attraction. 

As far a who qualifies for the use of DAS this is a good faith system. No documentation or proof is needed to prove that someone qualifies.

For step by step details check out Disney’s guide to DAS found at the links at the bottom. 

Those traveling with children with special needs (or any child at all for that matter) can also take advantage of the Ridder Switch system at select attractions. Ask a cast member at the attraction to see if ridder swap is available at that attraction during your visit. 

Here’s how it works:

 “With Rider Switch, one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again!”

Hearing Accommodations

There are several accommodations available in the parks for those with hearing imparments.  All of these can be obtained by visiting guest relations at each park.

One option is assistive listening which amplifies sound through headphones at specific theme park attractions. Recommended for guests with mild to moderate hearing loss. There is a refundable $25 deposit for the device and it is recommended that you bring your own headphones. 

Handheld captioning is also available this is a portable captioning system which displays on-screen text in locations at select theaters and attractions. There is a refundable $25 deposit for the unit. Reflective captioning is offered as an alternative at some theatre style attractions  Video captioning is available with open captioning in many pre-show and exhibit areas, these are marked by a “CC” on the maps and you can also check the website ahead of time. Video captioning can also be activated using the assistive listening devices.

Sign language interpretation at live shows is provided on select days and you can obtain the specific show schedule for your visit by contacting WDPRsignlanguageservices@disney.com

You can also request special scheduled sign language interpretation at select shows and tours, Hoop-Dee-Doo Review, Spriti of Aloha, and the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. Contact (407) 824-4321 at least 14 days in advance of the show to request. 

Sign language interpretation is typically offered at these parks on these days of the week. 

When meeting characters it is possible that you may encounter one that signs, some are able to interact with some simple sign language but this is luck of the draw unfortunately. If you are with a deaf child it is worth telling the character and or their handler, or making it clear to them that the child is deaf as it may prompt them to sign to the child. It is also worth asking at guest relation if they know of any characters at the park today who sign. 

Keep your eye on the cast member’s name tags as well as the tag will indicate if they speak another language besides English including American Sign Language. 

See the hotel section to see what accommodations are available for hotel rooms.

Vision Accommodations

The Disney Parks offer a wide range of assistive services for those who have visually impairments. These include braille guidebooks, and hand-outs of tactile park maps, as well as signage maps throughout the park that include braille. Some table service restaurants also offer Braille menus. 

Audio description is also available via handheld device which will describe many of the parks attractions as you experience them. There is a refundable $25 deposit and it is recommended that you bring your own headphones. 

All of these can be obtained by visiting guest relations at each park. 

Service Animals

Disney classifies a service animal as a “dog or miniature horse that is trained to do work or perform tasks for, and to assist, an individual with a disability”. The animal must be under the control of the owner at all times and remain leashed. They are welcome in most locations throughout the theme parks and resorts.

There are service animal relief stations located through the parks and resorts, their locations are notated on the maps. 

Service animals are not allowed on most rides and attractions. You can utilize Rider Switch between members of your party. In this process part of your party would ride the attraction while the other part has the service animal. Then you would switch places but the second part of the party would not have to wait in the full length of the line. Ask an attraction cast member for help with the rider switch process. 

Light & Sound Sensitivity

If you have a photosensitivity or seizer disorder Disney advises that you get very specific instructions from your doctor before visiting. Lighting including strobe, flash, and other effects are throughout the park in shows, night-time spectaculars, and rides. On the parks website you can see the warning labels on each attraction’s page that will indicate if strobe and flashing lights are precent on each ride. 

If you have a child with either light or sound sensitivity for emotional reasons you will want to research attractions and shows before you visit to avoid anything that might be triggering. YouTube is a great resource to see ride through videos or videos of shows. Noise canceling or large headphones are also a great option during fireworks for and sound sensitive guests. 

Conclusion

I hope this has been helpful and I hope that this has made everyone feel that they can have a safe, comfortable and fun visit to Disney theme parks. 

For more details, rental pricing, and printable “guides for guests with disabilities” for each theme park head to”

Disney World:

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/guests-with-disabilities/

Disneyland:

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/guests-with-disabilities/

If you are looking to travel to Disney World I would love to be your travel agent. Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you. 

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow Me!   https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

How To Spend One Day In Boston

Sometimes because it is part of a larger trip, or because you are just spending the weekend somewhere, you only have limited time in a city full of things to do. Without planning ahead it can be daunting and lead to you seeing practically nothing.

As part of a large New England trip in 2017 my husband and I spent just one day in Boston. Based on that experience I am sharing my thoughts on how to spend one day in Boston as a tourist. 

Getting To And Around Boston

We were staying at a hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and looking to get into and out of the city with relative ease. We took the Amtrak Downeaster from Exeter Station into Boston. In Boston the station was at the TD Garden. This was simple and inexpensive and prevented us from having to drive and park in the city. We were able to walk from the TD Garden to Boston Commons (about 3/4 of a mile) where we planned to start our day. 

Of course driving into Boston is an option but remember that just like most cities you are going to have traffic, and parking can be expensive and limited in key areas. 

If you are flying into Boston than Logan International Airport is going to be your main option. Located in Boston the airport is connected to the T (Boston’s subway) so you can get from the airport to other major parts of the city. 

We found the city to be extremely walkable. For distances that were too far to walk we used the T with has an extensive network of stops all over the city. Of course there are always taxis and ride-share as well. Or you can drive yourself around town.

Historical Sites

Once we arrived in Boston it was about 9am and we had a full itinerary for the day. The first item on our list was the historical walking path that runs through the city and connects all of the major colonial historical attractions, The Freedom Trail. The trail is literally a bricked pathway that runs through the city. Embedded in a sidewalk or other pavement. I highly recommend taking advantage of this trail and all it has to offer. Many of the experiences along the way are free and you will see some truly landmark locations. Plus you can’t get lost! 

Find a map of the trail before you visit or grab one at one of the visitor centers along the way so you know what is coming next. 

You can even sign up for paid guided tours of the trail. 

Some of the buildings along the trail you can enter some you can not. Throughout the day there are also tour guides, lectures, and performances that go on at many of the sites. 

https://www.thefreedomtrail.org

We started at the Boston Commons which was a great starting location as it is one end of the trail, there is even a visitors information booth there. This is also one of the ends of the Black History Trail that runs through the Beacon Hill neighborhood. After a peak at the Massachusetts State House and the park that is the Commons itself we were off following the Freedom Trail.

Stoping at Granary Burial Ground we paid our respects at the graves of John Hancock, Samual Adams, Paul Revere, the victims of the Boston Massacre and even “Mother Goose. 

We continued past the first public school and a few other sites until we reached the Old State House behind which is the site of the Boston Massacre and a memorial in the ground to it. 

At this point in our day we branched out to other activities after which we returned to the Freedom Trail picking it up at Old North Church the site of Paul Revere’s historic ride. Here we happen upon a free lecture being given by a costumed tour guided. Seated in the church pews he discussed the building and the history of Paul Revere. This was a very nice addition to our visit. 

We continued on and made it to our last stop on the Freedom Trail, the Bunker Hill Monument. There is also a Battle of Bunker Hill Museum here but we did not visit it. 

All of the sites on the trail were interesting and walking the trail gave us a peak at a lot of Boston. I highly recommend adding the Freedom Trail to your day. If you plan to walk a good portion of the trial it will take up about half of your day. 

Museums

I would recommend devoting the second half of your day to visiting a museum or two. Boston has a bunch of museums to choose from. These are some of the most popular options and ones I would recommend seeing if you only have a short amount of time. 

  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Library – This museum and it’s library are the living legacy of President Kennedy. Visit the museum to learn all about the history of the Kennedy presidency and to see exhibits like a replica oval office and some of Mrs. Kennedy’s dresses. The museum also offers guided tours. 
  • Museum of Fine Arts Boston – For Art lovers this is where you will want to spend your time. The museum has wide ranging collections from all over the world. 
  • Boston Tea Party Museum & Ship – Enjoy and participate in reenacting the Boston Tea Party with costumed tour guides, a replica ship, and a museum. There are also a lot of kid friendly elements here.  
  • Museum of Science – This is the museum that we visited specifically to see the Science of Pixar exhibit which shows the process of computer animation and the science behind it. As Pixar fans the exhibit was a lot of fun and I would recommend it to fans or those traveling with children. The rest of the museum is your typical city science museum mostly aimed at families with children. 

Sports

Boston is a city that LOVES it’s sports. After a day spent exploring history and museums a great addition to your day in Boston is to take in a game. We choose to add a Red Sox game into our afternoon. After walking the first half of the Freedom Trail and then visiting the Museum of Science. We took the T over to Fenway Park and took in about half of the game before heading off to complete the Freedom Trail. An evening game would have been ideal to fit everything in so keep that in mind while scheduling. 

Fenway Park & The Red Sox – The iconic old school baseball stadium was a fantastic addition to our time in Boston. Even though neither my nor my husband are big baseball fans as a general sports fan he wanted to see Fenway. The Red Sox are something so distinctly Boston that it was a really great addition to our day. The stadium was very easy to get to and if you don’t want to take in a game they offer stadium tours while games are not ongoing. There were also tons of bars and dining options right next to the stadium. It very much felt like it was a part of the neighborhood. 

TD Garden, The Celtics & The Bruins – For basketball and hockey fans this is another great option to take in a game. It is also a much more climate controlled option. Plus the train station is a part of the TD Garden so if you took the train into the city it makes for a perfect end to your day. 

Food

There is plenty of great food to eat in Boston. Our lunch was just some hot dogs and snacks at the baseball game. But for dinner while walking back across the river from Bunker Hill we stumbled upon an Italian restaurant that we loved. Fillipo was a great find for us we loved the food and the atmosphere of a classic Italian restaurant was a lot of fun. There were photos on the wall of the atrium of all the notable people who had dined here including a few Presidents which leads me to believe this place is very popular. It was a fun addition to our evening and I recommend a meal here. http://www.filippori.st

Boston is a great city to spend the day in and it is certainly on my list for a return visit! 

If you are looking to travel to Boston (or anywhere else) I would love to be your travel agent. 

Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you. 

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow Me!   https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

Newport Rhode Island Trip Report

Newport, Rhode Island is a small New England city on the coast of Rhode Island. It was a major 18th century port and still has many Colonial era buildings. Newport is home to many fabulous mansions from the Gilded Age of the late 1800’s. Today sailing and yachting is very popular and prevalent in Newport. It is a popular tourist location with many upscale hotels and dining, many shopping areas, and the ever popular mansion tours, plus water activities. 

The weather here is lovely in the late spring and summer with temperatures from May to September hovering from the low 60’s to mid 70’s. This is peak tourist season. During the winter months it gets quite cold with average highs in the 30’s.

We wanted to visit Rhode Island and choose Newport for its coastal atmosphere and the uniqueness of the mansions. It was a perfect location to spend a few days. 

Getting To Newport

Newport is very accessible by car and relatively close to several major cities. The closest major airport is T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) right outside of Providence, RI. We flew into T. F. Green, picked up a rental car and drove off. The drive from the airport to Newport is around 30 minutes. Newport is on an island but you will not have to worry about ferries as there are bridges that connect the area to the mainland. Overall getting to Newport is very easy. 

Accommodations

We stayed at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Newport Middletown, RI. Which was right outside of the city of Newport. It was a 10 -15 minute drive to most parts of Newport including the Thames St. shopping area and all of the main wharfs. This hotel was a significant savings from staying at one of the hotels that was walking distance to this same area. 

The Homewood Suites brands is one of my favorite hotel brands because you get so much room at a reasonable price point. I would qualify the brand as a little above average with a lot of included amenities though nothing that would be considered luxury. All rooms include a full kitchen and I find them spacious. This location offers studio rooms and one or three bedroom options. We were in a studio. While the interior at this location seemed a little more dated than some other Homewood Suites we have visited I did not find it to be an issue and nothing felt run down or dirty about it. I love that the room had a couch which allows you somewhere comfortable to sit besides the bed itself. The bathroom area here was also spacious with a separation of the sink outside of the closed off shower and toilet area. This makes it easy for multiple people to get ready at once.

The amenities here include a gym and a small indoor pool. There is also complimentary breakfast which we really enjoyed. On weeknights they even have complimentary evening snacks and beverages. A nice coffee and tea set up with fresh fruit was in the lobby throughout the day. 

We chose this hotel to get the full kitchen as we enjoy being able to make some of our own meals. The free breakfast is a huge plus, as is the price point vs. some others in the area. The drive into town was not a big negative for us as it was so short and we only stayed for a few days. I always enjoy a stay at a Homewood Suites and this one was no exception. 

Day One 

We arrived in the mid afternoon to our hotel and after checking in and getting settled we took the quick drive over to the Discover Newport Visitors Center. (aka the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau) We found this the most convenient place to park. While the inside of the building itself was not impressive they have restroom and lots of maps and brochures. This is also a hub for many tour companies. From here we walked to Thames Street which is lined with shopping and dining. Some were chain stores but most were small local shops, mostly clothing shops and souvenir stores. We walked over to Queen Anne’s Square for a stroll and then over to St. Mary’s Church to see the church where JFK and Jackie Kennedy were married. 

Next we walked over to the wharfs full of restaurants, bars, and more shops. Here we could take in the sights of the water and many boats. The architecture here was very interesting as well. After exploring several wharfs it was time for dinner. We had made reservations at The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar for dinner. We sat on the patio on the dock with a view of the water and the setting was lovely. The interior of the restaurant was lovely as well. The atmosphere and service here were great. We enjoyed our meal as well sticking to seafood items. I would recommend dining here. 

After dinner we walked back to the car and were back to the hotel. Though parking at the Visitors Center was the easiest way to go it did add a half mile of walking to the end of our day. There were other paid parking options throughout the area but some of the fees are steep and the small lots seemed to fill quickly. 

Day Two

We got up bright and early to drive over to the historic Cliff Walk for a morning walk. The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile paved trail along the cliff that boarders the ocean. The walk is in the historic mansion district so on one side you have the ocean and on the other side you have many historic mansions. Access to the Cliff Walk is free of charge and it is open to the public. We arrived around 8:15am on a Sunday to the very small street parking area at Narragansett Ave and 40 Steps. We were able to get a spot to park easily but this area can fill up rather quickly. There were also some porte-potties here the only rest rooms available. One feature of the Cliff Walk is the 40 Steps this is a stone staircase that leads down towards the ocean where you can get a lovely view. We started at the steps as that is where we parked we then started our walk. Even on a very foggy morning the views of both the ocean and the mansions were fantastic. The photo opportunities were great and the mansion views were better than those you would get driving down the street as many of the homes had large walls and gates obstruction the view. Along the Cliff Walk that was not the case and the backs of these magnificent homes were in clear view. The walk itself was rather easy going as most of the pathway is paved or very flat and well worn.  I would absolutely recommend not only taking this walk to anyone visiting but to make it a priority. 

After our walk we hopped back in the car and drove over to Ocean Drive and the popular scenic route Ten Mile Drive. We saw some more mansions and got a closer look at the rocky shores. There were several beaches and parks along the way. We parked in a few of the parking lots along the route and took a little time to explore the shore. 

After the drive we headed back to the hotel to change and have some lunch in our room. Then it was back to the Discover Newport Visitors Center where our afternoon tour was departing from. We took the Viking Tours of Newport’s Grand Mansion Trolley Tour with The Breakers (Tour 2B). The tour vehicle itself was an adorable trolley bus, though it does have wooden benches as seats so it is not the most comfortable ride.  The first portion of the tour was about an hour during which we were driven around the Ocean Drive area and the tour guide provided narration with history of the area, the mansions, and some notable current residents. It was great to get some back story on the homes we had seen in the morning and to see even more. 

For the second portion of the tour we were dropped at The Breakers with house tour tickets and told what time to return to the trolley by. We were dropped right at the front gate so there was not much of a walk at all to get to the entrance. The Breakers is the most famous and grandest mansion in Newport. The summer home of the fabulously wealthy Vanderbilt family and built in the 1890’s. The home is the hight of Golden Age luxury and opulence it was built to showcase the wealth of the Vanderbilts. Today it is owned by the Newport Preservation Society and is a historical landmark. There are several ways to visit The Breakers, you can simply buy a ticket, visit as part of a larger tour as we did, or there are even more in-depth tours offered. We had the normal house tour ticket and it came with an audio tour. The audio tour presented on headphones and a digital device gave a lot of background about what each room was used for, the lifestyle of the family, and the details of what we were looking at. The home itself is nothing short of breathtaking and astounding. The intense level of detail and amount of artwork and craftsmanship is amazing. On the main level each room had something different that would impress you. Upstairs the bedrooms were less elaborate but provided a more intimate look at the daily lives of the former inhabitants. A look into the kitchen on your way out was very interesting as well. Of course there was also a gift shop on site. The restrooms were outside in a separate area so I recommend seeking them out before you start your tour. Honestly you can’t go to Newport without seeing a mansion and The Breakers is the most noteworthy. I really enjoyed the visit here and recommend adding it to your itinerary. However, if you are traveling with young children I would skip visiting this, or possibly any of the mansions. It’s a relatively quiet affair as everyone is listening to their audio tours and basically everything around you is breakable.

We were back on the trolley at our appointed time and taken back to the Visitors Center.  Using the trolley tour made visiting The Breakers stress free and easy. I really enjoyed hearing the history of the mansions and being able to ask questions from the tour guide during our drive. This was a great tour experience. 

After the tour we walked back toward the wharfs. On the way we stoped at the Museum of Newport History. While the upstairs museum exhibit was closed for the day the museum store downstairs was open. This shop had some nice resources about the area for sale. The museum would have been a nice addition to our visit and if I return it will be on my list. 

After a little more window shopping along the way we arrived at our dinner plans, a restaurant on Bowen’s Wharf, The Wharf Pub. We found this location online and it was well reviewed but that was not our experience. The atmosphere was very much of a wharf pub which was what we expected. The burgers and tots that were our main meal were very basic. Though perhaps we should have ordered something more exciting from the menu. What really soured us on the experience was the service. Everyone we encountered had a bit of an attitude where it felt as though they were annoyed we were there. A side salad that my husband ordered came with anchovies and he ordered the salad without them. When the salad arrived there were anchovies. This is an understandable error but when we pointed it out the server simply took the salad in back and picked off the anchovies. This was clear because the salad still tasted like anchovies which is a very distinct taste. I would not recommend dining here. 

After dinner we walked back to our car at the visitors center and went back to the hotel to pack back up as we flew out early the next morning. 

Other Activities 

Of course there are a bunch of other activities in Newport that we didn’t get to partake in. Here are a few highlights. 

More Mansions – There are several other mansions that offer tours and you can even get tickets that cover multiple ones. 

International Tennis Hall of Fame – Tennis fans will want to check out this museum. 

Boat Tour & Water Sports – There are many harbor tours, seasonal whale watching tours, yachting experiences, sailing and more available in Newport. If you want to get out on the water you have a lot of options. 

White Horse Tavern – This is  the “oldest operating restaurant in the U.S.” and is acknowledged as the 10th oldest in the world. This is an upscale dining option serving guests since 1673.

Festivals – There are several annual festivals in Newport that add additional opportunities for enjoyment. These include annual events like the seafood festival, boat show, flower show, and the oyster & chowder festival. Check out the annual calendar here. 

https://www.discovernewport.org/events/annual-events/

Conclusion

Overall as a destination I loved my time in Newport. It is the perfect little town for a weekend getaway or as part of a larger trip through the area. We paired it with time in both Mystic, CT and New Haven, CT and the travel between the three was very simple by car. 

I would recommend Newport for couples, families with teen or adult children, friend groups, and solo travelers. I think you get a great taste and feel for coastal New England here with the added attraction of the mansions which are unique to Newport. 

Newport is definitely on my list to visit again! 

If you are looking to travel to Newport or anywhere else I would love to be your travel agent. Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you.

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Follow Me!   https://linktr.ee/katiethemagicsyours

A Complete Guide To Discovery Island & The Oasis in Animal Kingdom

Disney World and Animal Kingdom are filled with so much detail and so many things to see or do around every corner. For that reason I am breaking down the fun land by land. Here I take a look at The Oasis and Discovery Island inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 

The Oasis and Discovery Island are the entrance and the main hub of Animal Kingdom. They immerse you into a world of nature and the wild. The areas are full of animal viewing, food and lots of shopping. Make sure you don’t just skip past this areas when you enter the park. 

Location 

The Oasis is the entrance area to Animal Kingdom as you walk through the Oasis you enter Discovery Island.

Discovery Island is a hub in the middle of the park that connects all of the other lands. This is where you will find the park’s icon the Tree of Life. You can access Discovery Island from any other land in the park and vice versa. 

Animal Kingdom is a large park and it may take longer to get from one land to the next then you think. If you are trying to be on time for a reservation, or FastPass make sure you allow ample time to get where you need to be. 

Attractions

Oasis:

The Oasis Exhibits – Animal Viewing:

Throughout the Oasis you will find lots of animal viewing spots. Take the time at some point during your day to wonder around these pathways and spot some interesting creatures. Some animals found here include giant anteater, boar, barking deer, wallabies and spoonbills.

Discovery Island:

Wilderness Explorers Headquarters:

  • Any Height / Age

Start your wilderness adventure here! Inspired by Up and designed for preschool and elementary children the Wilderness Explorer Outposts can be found throughout the park. But you want to start here at the headquarters. You will embark on a series of nature-themed challenges throughout your day to become an official Wilderness Explorer. You will collect over 25 badges if you complete all the tasks. A great way to add an extra layer of fun and learning to your day. 

It’s Tough to be a Bug:

  • Any Height
  • FASTPASS+ Available 
  • Accessibility: May Remain in Wheelchair/ECV, Audio Description, Reflective Captioning, Assistive Listening, Language Translation Devices

This 4D theatre show takes place inside the Tree of Life and just entering the theatre is fun. The show itself is a story about bugs told with characters from a Bug’s Life. With both animatronics and a large movie screen. It’s a fun experience and the 4D aspects really draw you into the show. But one word of caution for easily startled little ones during one segment the back of your chair produces the sensation of being stung and while it does not hurt it is very startling. The animatronic of the villain Hopper also enters the show suddenly and can be a little scary. I have seen crying small children as a result from both.

Winged Encounters:

This bird show takes place several times a day in front of the tree of life. The show happens in the open so there is no real seating but the show is brief. Watch as trainers interact with macaws. A great experience for bird lovers and a thrill for anyone as the birds will fly right over the crowd. 

Discovery Island Trails – Animal Viewing: 

At your own pace explore the trails surrounding the Tree of Life. Throughout you will find several animal viewing opportunities with vultures, flamingos, otters, tamarins and others. This trails are really beautiful and are easily missed so make sure to add them to your plans. 

Tree of Life Awakenings: 

Throughout the evening the Tree of Life Awakenings show is projected onto the Tree of Life. Animal species you may have seen throughout your day at Animal Kingdom and more are projected on to the tree in a beautiful light show. You might even spot some Lion King favorites. Different portions of the show will happen throughout the night. This is a great option for those who enjoy projection shows but may have children who can’t handle the sound of fireworks. 

Food

For more details about dining at Animal Kingdom check out my blog post all about it. 

https://4ears4eyesforthemagic.travel.blog/2020/07/07/everything-you-need-to-know-before-dining-at-animal-kingdom/

Sit Down Restaurants

Rainforest Cafe:

  • Located at the park entrance at The Oasis
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • Food Style: American
  • Part of a national chain, and one of two locations at Disney World, Rainforest Cafe is an immersive dining environment themed to what else but the rainforest. A great place to eat for families with food options that will please all. Kids will love seeing all the animatronic animals up close and the frequent “thunderstorms” that pass through the restaurant. For anyone with sound or light sensitivities I suggest skipping dining here as it can get quite loud and the “thunderstorms” include lightning. 

Tiffins Restaurant:

  • Located in Discovery Island 
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Food Style: African, Asian, Latin Cuisine
  • Signature Fine Dining Restaurant = 2 table service credits on the dining plan
  • Tiffins is the only signature restaurant in Animal Kingdom. The theming to world travels and exotic locations is beautiful and fits in perfectly with Animal Kingdom. The food features flavors from around the world. As this is a Signature restaurant which comes with a higher price-tag I would recommend this for adult only parties who consider themselves foodies or are looking for a special meal. If you love Animal Kingdom the decor here shares a lot about the making of the theme park. 

Quick Service Restaurants

Flame Tree Barbecue:

  • Located in Discovery Island
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Food Style: American
  • Mobile Order Available 
  • Outdoor Seating 
  • You will have lots of BBQ options here, a great place to to get a meal that you can split as you will get a good amount of food from one meal. With all of the snack options around this can be a good way to go for lunch. Split a meal and then grab some fun snacks throughout the day. 

Pizzafari:

  • Located in Discovery Island
  • Lunch & Dinner
  • Food Style: American 
  • Mobile Order Available
  • Indoor Seating 
  • Your go to for pizza in the park, they also offer salads. For dinner family style options are also available which is a good deal for those on the dining plan as you will get a variety of food options for your counter service credit. But it is not the most exciting dinner you could get at the park. 

Stands – Discovery Island

Creature Comforts (Starbucks) -Each park has a Starbucks location and this is Animal Kingdoms. 

Eight Spoon Cafe -Baked mac & cheese

Isle of Java – Coffee and pastries

Smiling Crocodile – Street tacos & tamales

Terra Treats – Pizza 

Bars & Lounges

Nomad Lounge:

  • Located in Discovery Island 
  • A wide range of small plates are offered. 
  • Specially brewed beer – Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale
  • Many cocktail, wine and beer options.
  • A great way to see the vibe and decor of Tiffins without the price as they are located in the same building. 
  • Indoor and outdoor seating.

Characters

Dug & Russell – Meet & greet these characters from Up. 

Mickey & Minnie @ Adventurer’s Outpost – Often the only spot on property to meet and get a photo with Mickey & Minnie together. While they are both present at several character meals it is not normal for them to take photos together at dining locations. Here they are in their safari outfits and ready for an adventure. 

Pocahontas – Located in theDiscovery Island Trail meet the American Indian Princess here. 

Timon & Rafiki – Located in the Discovery Island Trail meet these Lion King favorites.

 

Shopping

The Outpost Shop & The Outpost Cart – The first a last chance to shop at Animal Kingdom these are actually outside of the ticket gate. Pick up some ears for your day at the park of that last minute souvenir. 

Rainforest Cafe Shop – Located inside the Rainforest Cafe this store has a lot of Rainforest Cafe branded merchandise and general rainforest themed items. 

Garden Gate Gifts – Photo services and items, magic bands and more. 

Island Mercantile – This is one of the larger gift shops full of all sorts of general Animal Kingdom merchandise. 

Riverside Depo & Discovery Trading Company – These two connected stores are full of tons of Animal Kingdom merchandise. 

Tree of Life Cart – Apparel and Accessories 

Tiffins Cart – Apparel, pins and more

Pressed Pennies Locations

  • Riverside Depo
  • Island Mercantile 

Pin Trading

Park Entrance  – A large pin board is located by stroller rental and across the street on the other side of the entrance there is a trash can covered with pins for trading. 

Discovery Trading Post –  Ask one of the cast members where the pin trading board is 

Other Conveniences

Smoking Area – Located outside the gate entrance

Guest Relations – Located at entrance gate. If you are celebrating a special occasion make sure to stop by to get a “I’m Celebrating” button. You will also find lost and found  here and be able to get help with any special assistance you may need like translation services or disability access services. 

Storage Lockers – Past the main entrance on your left

Wheelchair, Stroller & ECV Rentals – Located to the right of the main entrance as you enter. 

Disney Vacation Club Kiosk – Learn about Disney time share program. 

First Aid & Baby Care Center – General first aid is available here for all. In addition this is the home of the Animal Kingdom Baby Care Center. The baby care center offers a lot of amenities for families with infants

  • Changing room with tables and a women’s restroom
  • Private nursing room with rocking chairs 
  • Feeding area with highchairs 
  • Kitchen with microwave and sink
  • Main room with television, table and seating
  • On-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase

* Something to note in the event of a lost child, the child will be taken to the baby care center where they will be cared for while the parents are located. * 

Restrooms

  • Restrooms – Main Entrance 
  • Restrooms – Oasis 
  • Restrooms – Pizzafari 
  • Restrooms & Companion Restrooms – Flame Tree BBQ
  • Service Animal Relief Area – Discovery Island near first aid center

VIP Tours

A Path Less Traveled Tour – This ticketed 2 hour guided walking tour takes you through Animal Kingdom as you discover what it takes to bring the magic of animals, culture and conservation to life. You will meet with members of the animal care team and learn about how the park’s animals are cared for. This tour does not go back stage. 

Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour – This 4 hour guided group tour will give you front of the line access to all of the major attractions at Animal Kingdom for a night full of fun. Enjoy some signature snacks and beverages as well. 

Animal Kingdom’s Asia is such a beautiful land packed full of things to do and I highly recommend a visit during your next trip. 

If you are looking to travel to Disney World I would love to be your travel agent. Get expert advice in planning your vacation and a personalized experience at no additional cost to you. 

Contact me at katiev@themagicsyours.com

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