My Magical 30th Birthday - Magic Kingdom

Though Epcot is my favorite park, I don't truly feel like I've arrived at Walt Disney World until I see Cinderella Castle! The fact that I am turning 30 today... at Disney World... in the Magic Kingdom... meant I was quite excited when I woke up! Ken wasn't feeling well and his knees were bothering him from standing the night before at the Symphony in the Stars dessert party, so he opted to rest.  I ran to the lobby to get breakfast (POP Waffles) before my parents picked me up and we set off for Magic Kingdom.

I was somehow lucky enough to get a last minute lunch reservation for Be Our Guest - must have been extra birthday magic. After riding a few rides, we set off for the Beast's castle to eat. My Grandma felt like the West Wing dining area was too loud with the "thunder," so we ate in the Rose Room.  I usually order the braised beef, but I didn't want a warm entree so I opted for the prime rib sandwich.  I ended up using my French onion soup as a dip for the sandwich - I highly recommend the combination! To finish our meal, my parents surprised me a birthday cupcake and I was given a birthday card signed by Belle and the Beast!

Thoroughly stuffed from lunch, we made our way to some of my family's favorite attractions.  My Grandma loves it's a small world so we made sure to ride that for her.  We grabbed some Dole Whip to eat while in line to see the Enchanted Tiki Birds and then made our way to my mom's next request - Country Bear Jamboree. I don't typically think of the rides/shows as "must-do" but they really are a piece of classic Disneyana that hold a little piece of my heart. We finished the day riding my mom's absolute favorite ride, Splash Mountain.  You will get wet... I did get soaked!  We finished riding just in time to catch the start of the fireworks.  We watched Wishes as we made our way to the exit, finishing my magical birthday at the Magic Kingdom!

Age is just a number, if you never grow up!
Miranda

Read about the rest of my Magical 30th Birthday Here:






On the Hunt for Turkey Legs

I fall into the third category
Love them or hate them (or tolerate them to appease your family members... cough cough), turkey legs are omnipresent throughout Walt Disney World! This post is dedicated to those whose Disney vacation is not complete without one of these behemoth meat-on-a-bone delicacies.

First and foremost, be aware that some locations accept a quick-service Disney Dining Plan credit for turkey legs, while others do not.  I'll detail not only which locations are which, but what the differences between locations are so you can get the best bang for your buck (or credit).


Pay Out-of-Pocket
Frontierland Turkey Leg Cart (Magic Kingdom - Frontierland) - no sides
Liberty Square Market (Magic Kingdom - Liberty Square) - no sides*
       *available intermittently
Prince Eric's Village Market (Magic Kingdom - Fantasyland) - no sides
Toluca's Legs Turkey Co. (Hollywood Studios) - Served with chips or baked beans and corn

Disney Dining Plan Quick-Service Credit
Flametree BBQ (Animal Kingdom) - Served with baked beans and cornbread
Fife and Drum Tavern (Epcot - American Adventure) - no sides listed
House of Blues Smokehouse (Disney Springs -West Side) - no sides listed


Please note: Disney changes things often. If you find something different than what's on this list, let me know so I can update!

My Magical 30th Birthday - Symphony in the Stars Dessert Party

In all our years visiting Walt Disney World, we have never done a dessert party before.  I was so excited when I heard about one of the newest additions to the dessert party family, Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party! I love the music of John Williams and Ken loves Star Wars and we both love dessert so it was a perfect fit for a special birthday treat!

Logistics
The dessert party is held in the courtyard between the Great Movie Ride and Min & Bill's Diner. A section is cordoned off for the party-goers. To enter, you will give a Cast Member your reservation name at the check-in area on the Min & Bill side of the party. You will be given a wrist band that shows you are an official party guest.  Once you've checked in, you can start to enjoy the party!

The Party Space
There were several long dessert-lined tables, a few "adult" drink stations, and non-alcoholic drink stations. Scattered throughout the area were tall tables for 2-4 people to gather around and a handful of shorter handicap-accessible tables in the front.  I felt the tables were fairly well spaced so you didn't feel like you were standing on top of the person next to you.  Just be aware that you are close enough to fellow guests that they can likely hear your conversations (I'm talking to you, CPA from Rhode Island with strong political opinions)! Overall, I thought the space was large enough for the group size, providing enough space for everyone to have somewhere to lay their plate.  I will say, my biggest complaint was the lack of seating.  Even after just a few hours in the park, standing still for 2 hours straight was rough on the knees.

The Drinks and Desserts
The food and beverage options were creative and fun.  From Padawan Punch and BB-8 cupcakes to Darth Maul eclairs and Blue Milk panna cotta, every item was tied in to the Star Wars theme.  In addition to sweets, there were a few savory items like cheese sabers and quarter ration bread.  References are made to characters from all of the movies, including the most recent addition with The Force Awakens! My favorite dessert was the Darth Vader chocolate peanut butter cupcake!  The Blue Milk panna cotta was fairly bland to me.  On our way out of the party, I was excited to learn Mickey Premium Bars were available and grabbed one for the road!

To my surprise, the adult beverage I ordered was rather strong, at least in my opinion. I ended up adding some extra non-alcoholic punch to mellow the flavor of the bourbon - I know... I put my Kentucky heritage to shame.

The Fireworks
By far, my favorite aspect of the event was the fireworks. While I am not generally a fan of fireworks in the real world, I do have an appreciation for Disney's pyrotechnics and the story they tell beyond the simple "boom!" These fireworks are now hands-down my favorite! The colors are stunning and the timing of the fireworks fit so perfectly with the music - it made my band-geek heart smile.

Overall Opinion
I think this event was a fun deviation from our norm, as a special birthday event.  The fireworks were stunning - not to be missed!  The food and drinks were pretty good, with some standing out above others. I do wish there had been seating available.  Overall, I think it was fun to do once, but there are other ways I would rather spend the additional money (like dinner at Be Our Guest)!

Whether on this planet or in a galaxy far, far away - Never Grow Up!
Miranda


Read about the rest of my Magical 30th Birthday Here:
Arrival Day - Epcot (1) - Hollywood Studios - Symphony in the Stars Dessert Party - Magic Kingdom - Epcot (2) - Rest Day - Animal Kingdom

My Magical 30th Birthday - Hollywood Studios



Our second day at the parks was just my husband and I. We began our day by going to eat brunch with my family.  With so many closures at Hollywood Studios right now, we weren't worried about getting there first thing. My mom and Ken had heard about a breakfast restaurant off-site that was supposed to be really good (even featured on some Food Network shows), so we decided to meet them there.

While most of the food was good, the service truly left a lot to be desired. Having been a server myself for years, I am generally sympathetic to the idea that someone is just having a bad day.  However, after being told a dish had no peppers in and and then it arriving twice with peppers, I expected the server to at least act like she cared. The manager was nice enough, telling us that most of their meals come with a garnish that includes peppers... which would have been nice for the server to share. The rest of us enjoyed our food, but I honestly won't be in a hurry to try it again.

imageAfter brunch, Ken and I were still pretty worn out from a full day of driving followed by a full day at Epcot, so we opted to go back to the room for a nap.  I was able to log in to the My Disney Experience app and move our fastpasses to a later time so that we wouldn't miss anything. We ended up finally heading to Hollywood Studios in the late afternoon.  We rode Tower of Terror and Rock'n'Rollercoaster and just enjoyed the beautiful weather for the evening.  At 7:00, it was time for us to make our way to the Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party!  I'll post a full review of the party soon, but the fireworks were amazing!

Tomorrow, we will meet back up with my family for a day at Magic Kingdom!  I have so many memories with them, especially at Magic Kingdom.  It's been almost exactly ten years since we've been to the parks together so I can't wait! The last time they were in the parks was when I was a Cast Member in the Disney College Program in Spring 2006!!!

Never Grow Up!
Miranda

Read about the rest of my Magical 30th Birthday Here:

My Magical 30th Birthday - Epcot

I woke up early for our first park day, thinking of all the ways my family had managed to plan such a big surprise. About a month before our trip, Ken had suggested going to Epcot instead of Animal Kingdom for our first park since we would have the most energy to visit the countries than later in the week. Come to find out, that was just an excuse (though a logical one) to switch parks because my family wanted to go to Epcot over Animal Kingdom! With it being such low crowds, the order didn’t matter to me – but I can’t believe how easily tricked I was!
Anyway, Ken and I went to check in at Pop Century while my family finished getting ready. The plan was to meet up and share a car to drive to the parks, since Ken and I got free parking for staying on-site. However, a villainous GPS and an excessive number of drug stores near Disney World meant we ended up just meeting them at the front gates.  Ken and I had to take care of a few things, like exchanging old tickets before we really got started.
image
imageBy the time we were ready to enter Epcot, it was about lunch time. We grabbed a bite to eat at Sunshine Seasons. It’s tradition in my family to ride Living with the Land at least once every trip because it was my late grandfather’s favorite. My family hadn’t been to the parks since his passing in 2013, so this was a way to make his memory a small part of or vacation. As we made our back out to Future World, we waved to the closed doors of Soarin’.
imageWe worked our way through the Imagination Pavilion, visiting Figment and the new Disney & Pixar Film Festival, before embarking on our adventure about the world. The Flower & Garden Festival had not officially started, but several of the garden arrangements and topiaries we’re on display. As we wandered through each country, we took the time to literally stop and smell the roses.
imageWith the sun setting and our energy waning, it was time to end our day at Epcot. Due to time constraints, we drove to the Polynesian, rather than taking the monorail as we had originally planned. We made it in time for our reservations at ‘Ohana and got an amazing table by the window. I was so excited to share one of our favorite restaurants with my parents! It was good, but something just seemed a little off… Nothing major, just little things like not getting a hot towel to wipe your hands after the wings. When it was time for the fireworks, the lights were dimmed and then brought right back up. While nothing was wrong, per se, the little things that make ‘Ohana special we’re missing. We have had some truly wonderful experiences here so I’m hoping it was just an off night. The food was good and we left feeling pleasantly full, so I’ll still call it an overall win.
Never Grow Up!
Miranda


Read about the rest of my Magical 30th Birthday Here:
Arrival Day - Epcot (1) - Hollywood Studios - Symphony in the Stars Dessert Party - Magic Kingdom - Epcot (2) - Rest Day - Animal Kingdom

My Magical 30th Birthday - Arrival Day

imageWhat a rollercoaster of a day! Ken and I got up at 3am in order to make it to Florida in time to have dinner with our friends in Clearwater. Unfortunately, due to a rock slide in Tennessee and NASCAR race traffic in Atlanta, our drive took 4 hours longer than it should have. Since we were going to be arriving so late, we opted to go straight to Orlando, rather than try to move our dinner plans. Given that we ended up getting to Orlando around 10pm and Clearwater would have been another 2 hours, I think that was probably the right choice.
While I was driving, Ken was looking at hotel rooms in Orlando (since we originally were going to stay with our friends in Clearwater). He told me he found a hotel and booked it, but wouldn’t tell me where. I joked with him that he was surprising me with a night at the Polynesian Village Resort for my birthday. As we pulled up to the registration desk at a resort, he finally told me that my mom had booked us a night using her timeshare points and suggested I call to tell her thank you while he went to the check in desk. I should have known something was up because I am the one that generally goes to check in. Anyway, I briefly spoke to mom and we headed back to our room. It took us a few minutes to find a spot, but we eventually found one and grabbed a change of clothes to take in. In the elevator, Ken said something to me about the guy at the front desk, but I didn’t quite catch it. He wouldn’t roast it and quickly changed the subject. I was too tired to care.
Our room was a bit difficult to find (A and B suites of the same room), so I was pretty focused on the door when I went to unlock it. As the door opened, I looked up to find my Mom, Dad, and Gramma standing there, wishing me happy birthday! Apparently, they’d been planning to surprise me tomorrow at Epcot, but changed things around when we didn’t have a room for the night! I stood there in shock for a moment. My family hasn’t been to Disney since I was a Cast Member in 2006! My mom had commented before about just showing up and joining us on vacation before, but it was always just a joke… Or so I thought!
As the news sank in, I went around the room hugging everyone. Between the initial shock, the excitement, and our exhaustion, I almost cried! I began realizing all the different ways they had tricked me to mage this surprise happen. I even remember telling my mom Ken must secretly like all my planning spreadsheets because he was asking to see them. Evidently, it was so he could send them to my mom (a fellow spreadsheet aficionado). The stars truly aligned for this surprise. Ken and I typically use the standard Disney dining plan but, we had decided not to this trip for a variety of reasons. Had we been on the plan, we would have had a lot of 2 person dining reservations to rearrange or cancel. For this trip, I only made a few special dining reservations. As we were discussing our plans, I remembered Ken and I had scheduled a late dinner at ‘Ohana for the first park night. I had been searching for weeks to try to move our 9:40pm reservation to an earlier time. I logged on and immediately found a reservation for 5, right as the Magic Kingdom fireworks were scheduled to start at 8pm. Talk about Disney magic!
I went to bed thinking how thrilled I was to be able to celebrate my 30th birthday with my family (minus my brother, who works weekends) at my favorite place on Earth!
Never Grow Up!
Miranda


Read about the rest of my Magical 30th Birthday Here:
Epcot (1) - Hollywood Studios - Symphony in the Stars Dessert Party - Magic Kingdom - Epcot (2) - Rest Day - Animal Kingdom

Breaking Discount News!

If you're wanting to visit Walt Disney World this summer, I have great news! Discounts have been released for travel dates May 30 - August 25!

Welcome

Welcome to Travels in Neverland

Travels in Neverland is a place, just beyond the second star to the right, for those adults that refuse to grow up... who believe in magic... who have a little pixie dust in their veins! On this page, I'm going to share about our adventures as a couple, give advice for those traveling without kids, and share general vacation tips and hints. 

This site is currently being imagined, but I hope you'll check back soon! In the mean time, you can visit my old blog or website!

Never Grow Up,
Miranda

Tips and Reviews from our Disneymoon Cruise

With summer just around the corner, it's getting to be one of my favorite times of the year - wedding (and honeymoon) season. Though my husband and I got married in the fall, the bridal events of spring make me wax nostalgic.

My husband and I got married on Anna Maria Island in October 2013.  Prior to the wedding, we spent a few days at the Walt Disney World parks with my soon-to-be in-laws (another story for another time). Following the wedding events, we embarked on a 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy. In celebration of brides- and grooms-to-be, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts from our Disney Cruise honeymoon!



Time of Year
When planning your cruise, make sure you look at holiday calendars outside of the US.  We managed to book our honeymoon the week of Canadian Thanksgiving which meant we cruised with a lot more children than we were anticipating, given we got married in the middle of October.  We wouldn't have moved our trip, but just would have had different expectations for our trip had we known.

Private Verandah
When booking our cruise, I knew early on that I wanted to splurge on a stateroom with a verandah.  I must say, I highly recommend it.  We enjoyed being able to sit and listen to the peaceful ocean waves without the additional noises of cruise life. I particularly thought it was wonderful to be able to enjoy time together, taking in the salty sea air just the two of us.

So many things on a cruise are group activities (excursions, swimming, even meals) that it was really nice to be able to have the opportunity to sit on the private balcony and enjoy each other's company for a while.


Palo & Remy
Prior to our cruise, I had mixed feelings about paying extra for one of these meals - considering all meals are included in the cost of the cruise.  After much debating, I made us brunch reservations for Palo and I am so glad I did.  This was hands-down our favorite meal! We were treated to a window-facing table with an amazing view.  The food was phenomenal and there was a large variety! Plus, they garnered extra favor for with this decorated "Happy Honeymoon" plate.

Excursions
I planned two activities for us prior to our cruise.  Our first port,
Costa Maya
Cozumel
after a day at sea, was Grand Cayman. I hadn't booked anything for us that day, assuming we would want to sleep in and visit the island on our own time.  We did look around some and visited a local coffee shop, but otherwise didn't do much. Back on the ship, we heard everyone raving about different excursions they'd done so we decided we needed to look into adding a few excursions for the rest of our trip.  We were luckily able to still add a few activities we were interested in.  We rented dune buggies in Costa Maya and went on a Jeep tour in Cozumel.  If it's your first time visiting a location, excursions allow you to see the beauty of a given destination that you wouldn't see otherwise.  I strongly advise giving some real thought to the excursions offered and find some that match your family's interests so you don't end up like us, just aimlessly wandering in Grand Cayman.

Adults-Only Areas
One thing I wish we had done more of was exploring the adults-only areas. There is an adults-only pool area that we never made it to. We also are not big drinkers so we didn't spend much time in the bar district, other than to meet up for our excursions.

Castaway Cay Couples Massage
I thought it would be incredibly romantic to plan a couple's massage in a private cabana during our day at Castaway Cay.  While I definitely enjoyed the massage, I think I would prefer to do the massage at the spa on the boat instead next time.  Castaway Cay was our favorite destination and the massage took up over an hour of our limited time on the island.  Plus, you are laying face down so you aren't really getting the ocean view.  As an important side note, being in the sun after using massage oil can be a VERY bad idea... even with applying sunscreen.  Which brings me to my next point...

Wear Sunscreen
Seriously. Nothing can ruin the romance and splendor of your honeymoon like lobster-red skin and pain from the simplest of movements. Many cruise destinations are closer to the equator, where you are closer to the sun and are more likely to burn. If you're like me, that means you need SPF 100,000!!! Be careful and reapply as necessary.

Enjoy your couple's vacation, but Never Grow Up!
Miranda