I am so excited to present my first** guest post** in my new honeymoon series! Casie Shimansky is an amazing woman, friend, Floridan, Disney expert, and let's not forget photographer! She has an eye for that special memory, that twinkle in your eye, this needs to be captured and shared, loving moment. Her work is warm and inviting, creative and fresh, and exciting and passionate. So here to tell you all about celebrating an amazing Walt Disney World Honeymoon is Casie Shimansky from Rebel Belle Photography!
"I was sitting at a friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner on a freezing Friday night in Illinois a few years ago at a table complete with strangers. She had done this purposefully so that we would all 'get to know one another' - a much proclaimed 'Social Butterfly' I never had trouble making friends so I immediately took to conversing with these strangers - who I later found out were actually family members of the brides. I had mentioned, casually...maybe, perhaps even TOO casually, that I had once worked for Disney World.
The woman's eyes next to me enlarged to a nearly unbelievable size - I didn't know if she was choking or perhaps had forgotten to close the garage door to her home before her travels for the day. Then she gasped through a mouthful of delicious potatoes,** 'THE Disney World?' I hesitated, almost taken aback by her excitement, still thankful that she was not indeed choking, and replied, 'Ahm...yes, ma'am. **THE Disney World.' Instantly she wanted to know everything about the 12 months during my senior year of high school that I had spent working for 'The Mouse'- a term Floridians affectionately have used for Mickey Mouse, because - really - what other mouse is there?
It was not the first, nor would it be the last time that I had ever been enthusiastically approached by adults from out of Disney's reach, eager with anticipation, as children approach Mickey himself for the first time, who nearly demanded to hear all about the universal Magic of Disney World. Even years after “retiring” from The Mouse’s House? It seemed I carried the pixie dust with me.
My parents honeymooned at Disney World when it was ONLY The Magic Kingdom- EPCOTwas only partially built back then. And year after year, as our family grew, we would leave the great state of New Jersey just as the sun was setting. We would stop for dinner, and then my dad would drive through the night and all the next morning as we slept in the backseats - a plan carefully concocted by my parents so that we wouldn't absolutely drive them insane with 18 hours of "Are we there yet?!"
By that following afternoon we'd find ourselves transported to** Orlando, Florida**. A place that I had, almost quite intuitively, been born knowing we would move to once my father retired from the police department. That's right, folks, *I* was moving to Disney World. Cinderella's Castle. Right next door to Donald Duck and Goofy. And in the summer of 1993, that's exactly what happened. Well, short of the fact that our house looks nothing like Cinderella's Castle...and...Donald and Goofy are a good 45 minutes southwest of us. But, we were here. We were officially Floridians. Which typically means that we were transplanted from another state all together. Florida is probably the single greatest state to transfer to. People dream their entire lives of moving here. And why not?! We have sun, sand, surf, and DISNEY WORLD. Yes, THE Disney World.
I'm here to tell you that even after all my years of being a Mouseketeer? And even after those 12 months of working for THE Mouse? Walt Disney World is, still, every bit as magical as they want you to believe that it is. I still, to this day, get excited for Disney Days (which, to clear up any confusion - we Floridians really don't partake in quite as frequently as one might think) and still think that the world is complete with Pixie Dust- and quite perfect for any vacation, but most of all your honeymoon!
The World is different since my parents honeymooned here in 1979. Disney has completed EPCOT which takes you country to country - Italy to France, Morocco to Mexico - and added Hollywood Studios(formerly MGM Studios) which has you stepping foot into the movies from The Little Mermaid to Indiana Jones, and there's even a giant zoo now that transports you between continents, complete with real life giraffes and zebras, with their most recent addition, Animal Kingdom. And, yes, we still have The Magic Kingdom -- where you can come face to face with fantasy, adventure, and the future. This is where your "classic" attractions are - The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, and The Mountains - Space, Splash, and Thunder.
There'sDowntown Disney(their shopping, dining, entertainment mecca -- if you couldn't find enough of that in the parks) and resort upon stunning resort to meet every budget. They have water parks where you can swim with sharks (Typhoon Lagoon) and one that's a melting ski resort (Blizzard Beach). And they are ALWAYS expanding - seriously, it was just on the news. "Disney's Latest Expansion at eleven," and I looked to my dad and said, "Where are they going next? World Domination?!"
Even if you wanted to visit Disney elsewhere - they literally provide that with their original park in Anaheim, California -DisneyLAND(which people tend to confuse with Disney WORLD here in Orlando) as well as Disney Parisand Disney Tokyo. So where do you go, how do you get started, and what are the tips and tricks? That's where I come in, my friends - to help you out with TEN of my best ideas, recommendations, and tips for Walt Disney World. (and trust me - it wasn't easy to narrow it down!"
1 Do. Your. Research...
"During the summer months, when the parks are at maximum capacity? Florida can average into the 100's – that’s degrees, folks. And chances are, it feels even hotter! Whereas in our "winter" months? We can dip into the 20’s at night...that being said? Sometimes in December? We're still at 80 degrees. Research the best times to come (least busy? Typically right BEFORE the holidays.) and worst times to come (Summer...and any direct holiday.) If there is even a chance of kids being out of school? Then chances are Disneyis packed.
Research the parks, attractions, shows, and restaurants -- you'll want to have a priority list as it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to do it ALL (pending the length of your honeymoon, of course!) Note: Universal Studios(think rides like Jaws, Men in Black, and the newWizarding World of Harry Potter) is a COMPLETELY.DIFFERENT.THEME PARK. Completely different COMPANY. As isSeaworld. Neither is owned by Disney…so you will not see Mickey Mouse there. You don’t have to know everything - but have a good general starting point and understanding of The Disney Area.
Also, keep in mind that some attractions, restaurants, and events may not be available in certain seasons or may perhaps be down for renovations – if there is something you absolutely MUST do, you may want to ensure that it will be available to you during your stay."
2 Sunscreen, Water, & Lightning...
"If you plan to visit in the summer - dress accordingly; light weight material. And BRING and DRINK plenty of water. I cannot tell you how many guests come to the parks seeking magic and get heat stroke because of dehydration. Sun Screen in Florida isn't only a recommendation - it's a must. Don't think you won't get burned by this scorching sun. I was just out at EPCOT on January 17th on a completely overcast, cloudy, rainy day and we all went home with rose sun kissed cheeks.
Also, in the summer please keep in mind that there is a reason that Orlando is known as being the “Lightning Capital of The World” -- if it starts to thunder and bolts of lightning start to prance around? Get to a safe, covered location. Consider the storm a great time for lunch, or maybe a quiet rest back at your resort…and additional “fireworks” display, if you will. This is, very seriously, NOT something to be out in."
3 Disney's Dining Meal Plan...
"This will save you a TON of moneyand is an awesome way to try several of their fantastic restaurants, and snack locations. I once ate on this for one weekend, and ate like a queen - you usually get a non-alcoholic beverage, appetizer, entree, and dessert with this plan!"
4 Make Reservations...
"I once worked for a restaurant located inDowntown Disney-- average waits, during non-peak seasons were at least an hour for dinner. During the holidays and peak seasons? I saw it go as high as 4+ hours. Most restaurants will accept priority seating, and that will definitely play to your advantage. Better to be safe than to...well, starve. Most menus can also be found online too!"
5 Restarants I'd Recommend...
- Polynesian Resort: Ohanais fantastic, but its next door neighbor, Kona's Cafeis my absolute favorite! I'd go for the teriyaki steak!
- Hollywood Studios: Prime Time Cafeoffers QUITE the experience, and serves great home cooked 1950's themed meals.
- EPCOT:Canadian Pavilion- Le Cellier- an amazing steak house!
- Yacht and Beach Resort: Cape May Cafe- a buffet style sit down restaurant featuring everything from mac-and-cheese to shrimp!
- Downtown Disney: Raglan Road- an Irish Themed restaurant (complete with dancers and entertainment in the evening hours) - I'd go for the shepherd's pie!
- Wilderness Lodge: Whispering Canyon Café-- Just be careful if you ask for the ketchup!
"I, personally, have never been - but in The Magic Kingdomthere's a great restaurant in** Cinderella's Castle** called Cinderella’s Royal Table. I'd also scope out any of the** character breakfasts** as they tend to be a lot of fun and give you a great opportunity to meet some of your favorite Disney Buddies; my favorite is located at 1900 Park Fare inThe Grand Floridian Resort! "
6 Disney Characters...
"Charactersare EVERYWHERE - they now have designated areas that are marked with signage and, of course, lines of folks waiting to get an autograph or photo taken with whoever is present. Sometimes it's a single character, other times a group of them. They also have a photographer present who will give you the recently launched Photo Pass card-- give this card to every photographer who snaps your photos throughout your stay and those images go directly to a website where you can purchase prints with your favorite characters! (keep in mind that you can still take your own photos with Mickey and Goofy -- and most of the time the Disney Photographer's will be more than happy to also take the image with your camera too. Although I’ve had a few who seem resistant on it -- Disney is ultimately about making YOU happy.)"
7 Visit Each Park...
"I would very sincerely dedicate at least one day to each park, depending on what your other priorities are while here in Orlando, I’d throw in an extra day at your favorite park as well. During those peak seasons - the parks are opened for extended hours as well. And Disney, of course, offers a variety of ticket packages so that you can get the most out of your stay. "
8 The Best Night Show...
"**Best Fireworks**?! Some will sayMagic Kingdom's(currently “**Wishes**”)...I will say EPCOT's IllumiNations- which go off every night at 9pm. I'd try to catch them both though!"
9 Animal Kingdom...
"Try to get to Animal Kingdom**FIRST** thing in the morning. They also are one of the** first parks to close** in the evening. It's best to try and view the animals there when it isn't quite as sweltering - so mornings are your best bet. Once the sun comes out most of the animals tend to become lethargic or just go into complete reverse-hibernation so that they can attempt to cool off."
Maybe you're staying at one resort - but explore the others (my favorites? Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Yacht & Beachand The Boardwalk- which also offers great entertainment and restaurants) -- learn as much as you can so that the NEXT time you visit? You'll be a pro and already have a list of what you'd love to come back and experience the next time you join us here in Orlando.
Oh! And at** guest services** - right when you first enter any of the parks? Stop in and ask for a "Just Married" button - they're super adorable AND it allows everyone to know that YOU are the new Mr. and Mrs. (plus Disney Cast Members **truly adore helping you to **celebrate in any way that they can!)
Remember to just have FUN! There is a lot do to and I am sure that it can be quite over whelming - but Disneyis designed to cater to YOU and your magical experience! They're all about their themed zones (hence why their cast members act and dress in certain ways depending on where they are located -- ie? Not to many cast members actually SMILE in The Haunted Mansion -- versus almost any other area of the park where you couldn't kick the smile off a cast member if you tried) Most of the cast members truly, honestly, and deeply believe in what they're providing while working at Disney World - and that it is all about the experience - most importantly, YOUR experience. So, just as your wedding day was uniquely your own? The mighty world of Disney looks to make your honeymoon uniquely magical as well.
Enjoy the Magic & Congratulations, Mr & Mrs!
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