We started off our Disney adventure with trying to find a condo in the Orlando area that didn't break the bank.  While it's nice to stay on Disney property, it can also be pretty expensive and we only had one day of our trip planned for Magic Kingdom.  It wasn't worth it for us to stay on property, but if you had little ones and were doing a full Disney vacation it's worth the extra cash.

Luckily, Jessica's parents own a condo in the area... she practically grew up at Disney.  We stayed at their condo in Bahama Bay which is about a 10-15 minute drive from Disney World (Thanks, Mom and Dad!).  This little hidden oasis is located right next to Lake Davenport.  We love it!

If you are interested in renting the condo, send us an email.  We spent a couple of days just relaxing at the resort as it has a great man-made beach located right off the lake, a few swimming pools plus a splash area for kids, adequate restaurants and lots of frozen drinks.

Bahama Bay
400 Gran Bahama Bvld.
Davenport, FL 33897
(863) 547-1200

The other nice thing about the location of Bahama Bay is that it's close to shopping, grocery stores, several restaurants, Starbucks and Disney Springs... what more could you need?

Disney Springs

Disney Springs
1486 Buena Vista Drive
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 939-6244

Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) has something for the whole family.  You can check out our post all about Disney Springs here. Whether you're into shopping, shows, great restaurants or unique bars, this place has you covered.

This is another place Jess has lots of memories growing up.  If her family wasn't spending the day at a Disney Park, they were headed to Disney Springs in the evening for dessert.

Our favorite restaurant in Disney Springs has to be Morimoto.  Think of fine dining at a more casual price.  The restaurant is absolutely stunning!  This place has great sushi and is known for its signature short ribs.  If you plan to eat here, make sure that you make a reservation.

1600 East Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-6686 

The Boathouse is another great option if you're wanting a nicer seafood dinner.  It sits right on the water and has beautiful interior.  You must try the mussels.  This is another restaurant that stays busy.  We recommend making a reservation.

1620 Buena Vista Drive
 Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 939-2628 

If you are looking for an adult beverage (like most adults at Disney), The Hangar Bar is a great stop.  The 8-year-old in Dave loved this place as it's modeled after the movie series Indiana Jones.  

Even the drinks share the fun theme.  We sat inside (because it was so neat), but they also have great outdoor seating that overlooks the water.

Pleasure Island Boat Dock
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-6244 

It wouldn't be a trip to Disney Springs without a trip to Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop for dessert.  They serve specialty San Francisco themed sundaes, shakes and floats along with coffee if you're needing a little pick-me-up.  

We always order a sundae to share and then try to find a table... it's part of the tradition.  If you aren't in the mood to order something, you can still walk in the gift shop and grab a free piece of chocolate. 

Disney Springs Marketplace Buena Vista Drive
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 939-5277 

Now it's time to tackle the Magic Kingdom at Disney World.  The following is a play-by-play guide on how to get the most out of your day.  We know that your schedule will be different based on fast pass times and accommodating your crowd.  

Although Disney is a magical place for kids, it can also be magical for adults.  Especially when you aren't lugging a stroller around, changing diapers or have tired children who are crying.  We get it, we have it easy!  Good luck to all of you awesome, brave parents who tackle Disney with little ones (Jessica is so thankful that her parents did!).  One day we hope to get to share it with littles, too.

Magic Kingdom

We recommend getting to the gate about an hour and a half (at least 45 minutes to an hour) before the park actually opens.  Opening times vary day by day and season.  Check the website!  

You will want to take into account time for parking ($20 bucks), transportation by the bus/monorail/ferry from parking to the park and then going through security.  You arrive at the park gate once you have done all of this.  It's going to be early and you're going to be tired, but we promise it's worth it.  Plus its a good opportunity to get good pictures without such a crowd.

1180 Seven Seas Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-5277

Beginning about 20 minutes before the park opens, there USED to be an opening ceremony right at the gate.  Jessica always started her days at Disney with this and swears that it added to the magic.  Dave thought "it was pretty cheesy," but great if you have kids.  Now, you get to enter the gate where there's shopping, coffee and breakfast.  You're held there until opening time.  

If you get there early (like an hour and a half early), you might be fortunate enough to be right in front.  You will be front and center for the rope drop.  

This is a tradition that has taken place for years.  You get to walk right behind Disney Cast Members and literally help them drop the rope to open the park.  This is the best.  Pure Magic!

The schedule below is what we did, but we know that everyone's days at Disney are different.  Time of year and park hours can also play into effect at making the park more crowded.  Also keep in mind, Disney is not meant to be experienced in a single day.  Don't stress!  You should plan your day around when you are able to schedule fast passes.  Schedule your fast passes as soon as you can. 

This is no joke.  If you want to use them for the "big" rides and you want to have decent times, schedule your fast passes when the second hits that you can.  With Jess visiting Disney frequently while growing up, she had a pretty good idea of how to maximize our time at the park... she doesn't waste a second of magic.

Here's a look at our day when Magic Kingdom was open from 9 am to 11 pm:

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Peter Pan's Flight
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Winnie the Pooh
Enchanted Tales with Belle

Our first stop was Fantasyland.  We did not get Fast Passes for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so our plan was to go there very first.  We practically walked on the ride (along with everyone else running there).  By time we got off the three minute ride, the wait was up to an hour and a half... yikes!

We skipped It's a Small World because the wait was up to 30 minutes and Jess advised that you never wait for It's a Small World more than 10 minutes.  We planned to come back to hit it later, but neither one of us was going to be too disappointed if we didn't.
The listings we provide of the rides are in the order that we rode them.

A non-stop morning at Fantasy Land will have you already needing a snack.  We headed to Gaston’s Tavern for a larger than life Cinnamon Roll.  It was just the sugar that we needed!
Next up, Liberty Square.

Haunted Mansion

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Stich's Great Escape
 Space Mountain (Fast Pass: 2:05-3:05pm)
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Staying true to Shely tradition (Jess's family name), we had planned our meals at the restaurants that Jess went to growing up.  The only change in plan was lunch.

Pecos Bills had changed their menu style so we choose Cosmic Rays in Tomorrowland instead.  Their menu was similar to what Pecos Bills used to be.  We squeezed in lunch while we were in Tomorrowland based on wait times for rides.

Space Mountain is a classic but man is it rough on your body.  You will be sore after this ride.  We had to take some ibuprofen for headaches afterwards... embarrassing!

Big Thunder Mountain (Fast Pass: 3:55-4:55pm)
Splash Mountain (Fast Pass: 4:55-5:55pm)

One of the best parts of Disney is the rides are true experiences.  Splash Mountain is a perfect example.  When most people think of it, all they picture is the drop.  There's so much more to the ride before the drop... and that ladies and gentlemen is what makes Disney so magical.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Jungle Cruise 

We planned to have dinner at the Columbia Harbor House.  The restaurant is located in Liberty Square.  Before dinner, we went to the Hall of the Presidents.  The menu at Columbia's is great for dinner and the restaurant is air-conditioned.  As Shely tradition has it, we sat upstairs.

Mickey's PhilharMagic
It's a Small World

From years of Disney experience, Jessica recommends that you ride everything that you really want to ride first and then go back to ride others that you might not care as much about. 

This is the best way to make sure that you don't waste any time or miss out on any of the rides that you really want to experience.  Once you have ridden everything that you want to, extra time at the end of the day allows you to ride certain things again.

The big rides like Space Mountain, Mine Train, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain never really have "down times" so these might not be what you ride again.  However, rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and several others in Fantasyland have lines that die down. 

There are parades every night at Disney which will block off certain walkways.  Make sure that you plan ride times around those, or plan to be in an area that you won't be blocked.  We found that during a parade was the perfect time to squeeze in some time with Jess's Princess friends.

For an evening snack, we grabbed a Mickey soft pretzel with cheese.  An important tip to Disney to keep everyone smiling... stay hydrated and keep snacks on hand.  You want to keep everyone's bellies full and with all of the running around, it's important to snack for energy.


As long as you can see Cinderella's Castle, there is not a bad spot to watch Fireworks.  They soar and light up the entire sky.  Just park yourself somewhere on a curb in front of the castle and enjoy the perfect ending to a enchanted day.

Following the fireworks, a lot of people mad dash to exit, especially those with sleeping littles on their shoulders.  Following the fireworks for us included a mad dash to ride after ride to get in just as much as we could.

This is one of those things from her childhood that Jess remembers being so special.  Needless to say, our family will never be leaving after the fireworks.  Why would you?  If the park is still open, there's still magic to be had.

Universal Orlando 

Universal Studios is also located in Central Florida.  We didn't go into the park, but checked out Universal's version of Disney Springs called City Walk for dinner one night.

It's very similar to Disney Springs, minus the fact that it's not Disney.  There are a lot of restaurants, bars and entertainment to keep you busy while you visit.

If you are planning to go to City Walk in the evening, check their website or call for times on parking.  Instead of paying $5 to park after a certain time, we ended up having to pay the full $20 like we were visiting the park all day.  The difference in time was about 15 minutes.  It's one of those things that we learned the hard way and certainly will not forget.

Universal Orlando
6000 Universal Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-8000

Dave remembered visiting Universal with his parents as a kid.  Jess is more of a Disney kid and honestly didn't have much interest in Universal.  This was new territory for us so when we arrived, we walked around to explore.

Dave had eaten dinner at Emeril's when he was young and remembered getting to play chef at the restaurant.  For old times sake, we went in to have a drink before settling on dinner.

Emeril's Orlando
6000 Universal Blvd. #702
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 224-2424 

We ate at a great restaurant called Cowfish for dinner.  Their food is a combination of two of our favorite things: burgers and sushi.  We sat outside which provided a pretty view of the park.

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
6000 Universal Blvd. #700
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 224-2275 

Daytona Beach

This beach city known for having a beach that cars can drive on is about an hour and a half drive from Bahama Bay.  It has changed quite a bit over the years.  Once known as the perfect family vacation spot, we think it's become a little less of that.

There's just something not so relaxing about laying on the beach and hearing rap music blaring from a car and the speakers vibrate the sand between your toes.

Once we arrived, we headed straight to lunch at The Oyster Pub.  It is known as Daytona's largest oyster bar and Dave was exited about all of the different options they had.  The atmosphere was more like a sports bar, but the oysters were good.

The Oyster Pub
555 Seabreeze Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
(386) 255-6348

We wanted to visit the beach for a day while we were in Orlando and figured that Daytona would be easy.  Jess was familiar with Daytona as she vacationed there a lot growing up.

It was seriously  the coldest, windiest day we've ever had at a Florida beach.  Not the best weather for enjoying the Florida sun, but we made the most of our time there.

To escape from the wind, we tried our luck on a couple rounds of mini-golf and ventured the infamous Daytona Beach boardwalk and pier.

For dinner in Daytona, we ate at Bubba Gumps.  Normally we stick away from chains, but Dave wanted to go since he had never been before.  Plus, Bubba Gumps is pretty good for a chain.  The experience is fun, if you've never been and there are a lot of options on the menu.

250 North Atlantic Avenue, Suite 12
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
(386) 947-8433

Following dinner and a long day at Daytona, we headed back to Bahama Bay.  Bahama Bay provides a convenient location to all things Orlando, especially Disney.  Although not ideal, rainy days can be spent at one of the large outlets nearby.

At the end of the week, we realized just how much we loved our vacation here.  Normally on trips we go, go go.  There were still days on this vacation that felt that way, but we also had days that were completely relaxing yet still fun.  Central Florida really has it all.

Shout out to Starbucks for fueling our travels this go around.  Starbucks is conveniently located less than a mile from the condo, with a drive-thru.  In addition, whoever worked out the Starbucks deal with Disney... people all over are praising you!

Starbucks locations are now throughout Disney Springs and located on Main Street in Magic Kingdom.  Yeah, you read that right.  Thank you Starbucks for adding your magical dust around Disney!  Now, it truly is perfect.  Let us note that in no way is this sponsored by Starbucks, we just love our coffee... and you tend to need a lot of it at Disney.
 You can get fast passes for Disney World at 7:00 a.m. sharp (EST) 30 days in advance if not staying on Disney property, 60 days in advance if you are.  The key is getting fast passes early in the day that you visit each park.  Once you've used all three, you can add one more if any are available.  Make sure that you have signed up for the Disney Experience in advance so that you are logged in and ready to secure the passes.

In our opinion, Orlando really is the perfect location in Florida to be close to a lot of things.  The gulf breaches are an hour and a half to the west and the Atlantic beaches are one hour to the east.  We recommend hitting up Cocoa Beach as the closest beach to Orlando.

No comments