As a Florida resident, most of my trips until the past few years were day trips. We would leave early in the morning and arrive around 10, not thinking much about the going-ons before we arrived. We rarely did multi-day trips and didn’t think about arriving early, even then.
Until I “discovered” the Rope Drop Ceremonies. Starting 10-15 minutes before the park opens, cast members come out in different shows, welcoming the day and opening the parks with typical Disney magic.
At the Magic Kingdom, I’ve seen both the Mayor and the Fire Chief host the show, leading the cast members into song, and welcoming the Train and the Family of the Day into the Main Street U.S.A. train station along with Mickey Mouse and many other characters. I always love watching the show and then heading into the parks a few minute before the parks claim to open. Yes, the parks open a few minutes before printed!
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’re invited to participate in the filming of a commercial, or whatever the director and actors happen to be shooting in the morning. Make sure to participate – the Citizens of Hollywood love to interact with guests!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom brings in the Mickey Mouse and friends to start the morning off with a big party, though for extra magic hours this past June, they didn’t actually have the show. No word on if the show is no longer running! EPCOT doesn’t have a big ceremony – sometimes music and characters, but nothing to set an alarm for, unless you’re hoping to beat the crowds to Soarin’!
Not many people know about the Epcot Rope Drop, Cast members drive out on Motor Scooters each carrying a flag from one of the World Showcase Countries while waving and honking. Then they play a little music about the various lands and that is about it. Not really much to this, but it’s still something.
If you’re headed to the parks, make sure to get there early to watch the Rope Drop Ceremonies. If you’re like me, you’ll be happy you did!
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For most vacationers, standard routines go out the window. Regularly scheduled meals, diapers, potty breaks, naps, go out the window in search of magic and fun. But, even though the schedules may not be exact, Walt Disney World provides a safe haven for families to escape to, in search of return to normalcy.
Located in all four parks, though not at the water park or Downtown Disney, these baby care centers are nice and air conditioned, providing a comfortable place to cool down and relax. There is a room full of changing tables, cleaned in between each diaper change by cast members, high chairs, and private nursing rooms. There is a microwave to heat up food or bottles, fresh bottles of water (for free!) to mix formulas, or simply have a drink!
A separate room usually has a Disney movie on, and a big open area for children to run around without fears of bumping into other people, or getting run over by strollers. Chairs or couches line the walls, so parents can sit and relax while their children burn off energy from being in strollers all day.
Forget anything? Bottles, formula, baby food, diapers, or wipes? These, along with bibs and other Disney paraphernalia are for sale in the Baby Care Centers as well. As per Disney custom, expect them to cost a bit more than at your local store, but not insanely unreasonable, especially in an emergency!
Other bathrooms around the parks having changing stations, but none nearly as nice (actual changing tables with changing pads!) or as clean as in the Baby Care Centers. Unfortunately, there is only one changing station per park, so it may not always work to run all the way for a simple diaper change or a very hungry and fussy baby feeding, but if you’re in the general vicinity you will have a wonderful refuge waiting for you.
By park, the Baby Care Centers are located:
- Magic Kingdom – next to the Crystal Palace Restaurant on Main Street, U.S.A.
- EPCOT – Inside Future World’s Odyssey Center, near the Mexico Pavilion.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom – In Discovery Island, behind Creature Comforts (look for the ladybugs!)
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios - In the Guest Services Building inside the Main Entrance.
On a related note for nursing mothers – it is Florida law that nursing in public is absolutely legal. Feel free to nurse wherever and whenever you like. Many attractions offer dark, comfortable areas to feed babies, instead of hauling the family to a Baby Care Center from across the park.
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For the past 10+ years, I have driven either my own personal car or a rental car to the Walt Disney World resort and never even thought twice about the safety of my personal belongings. Something about crossing under the “Walt Disney World” sign that makes me feel like I’ve left reality and have entered a safe haven. Add the $14 parking fee, I generally feel that my car is in good hands when I leave it parked for the day. For details on free parking check out this article “Disney World Quick Tips – How to get free parking.”
In the parking lots, there are frequently parking attendants, directing traffic in our out of the parking lots and always dozens of people coming or going. However, there are a few precautions I would recommend to anyone traveling to the Walt Disney World Resort:
- Never leave luggage or personal belongings in plain view. If you can’t check in early and need to leave your stuff in your car, put it in the trunk!
- Make sure to lock your car doors. As silly as that may seem, many break ins are due to people actually leaving their cars unlocked. Don’t do it!
- Even though you’re at the Happiest Place on Earth, stuff can happen. I read a story of someone’s bag being stolen at a resort pool. Keep your valuables with you if at all possible!
Just being over cautious, though, I wouldn’t really worry about leaving my car on Disney property. In fact, I’ve never thought twice about it. Whether at the Ticket and Transportation parking lot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the parks are usually filled with people and are generally a safe place to leave your car. Enjoy!
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If you’re touring Epcot for Chip & Co.’s Drink Around the World Showcase (DAWS) challenge Epcot’s World Showcase offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for adult guests seeking do a global tour of the various tastes of its 11 pavilions. As an adult, I love being able to discover new flavors, both in food and drink, from different countries around the world. At the Mexico Pavilion, I learned that I liked Margaritas. But, even better than that, I discovered wine in Italy.
Several years ago, I was strolling the World Showcase with my older sister, when she suggested we stop in the Italy Pavilion to see what types of wine they had. We happily discovered they offered wine flights, and we sampled 4 different types – 2 whites, and 2 reds. That’s when I discovered Rosa Regale. At the time, this wine was not available in the states, so it was a rare and delicious treat that I now enjoy whenever I can!
A sparkling dessert wine, it is neither too sweet nor too bitter. It’s light, crisp, and tastes amazing with a nice piece of chocolate, or even a cup of Tiramisu from the dessert kiosk. It costs about the same as any other drink would cost around the World Showcase. It’s a nice, simple treat that I adore and am now tempted to run to the grocery store to pick up a bottle…
I know there may be more “exciting” drinks in Italy, such as the Italian Margarita, but I have a hard time skipping my Rosa Regale! We would love to hear your favorite drinks are from Around the World. Please let us know!
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Today’s question comes from Michelle:
You are in luck! Renting a car while staying at Walt Disney World is really fairly easy! Most cities keep all of their rental car companies at the airport, and while MCO does play home to the majority of rental car companies (with over a dozen located off-airport property with shuttle service), there are also convenient locations located on WDW property as well.
FYI – located at one of the terminals at MCO are:
- Advantage Rent a Car
- Dollar Car Rental
- Enterprise Rent-a-Car
- E-Z Rent a Car
- Hertz Car Rental
- L and M Car Rental
Luckily, a few of these same companies can be found at Walt Disney World - I would call ahead to double check, but you should be able to pick up a car staying on property and drop it off at the airport terminal!
Alamo and National have several locations on property:
- Walt Disney World Car Care Center (407) 824-3470 – they have free shuttle service to pick you up at your resort and take you to get your car
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- Shades of Green for military personnel only
- National only has a location at the Buena Vista Palace near Downtown Disney
Avis has a location at the Hilton in the WDW Resort, near Downtown Disney
Budget has a location at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton in the WDW Resort
Dollar has a location at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista near Downtown Disney
Enterprise has a location at the Royal Plaza in the WDW Resort
If you’re planning to arrive via train, the Orlando Amtrak Train Station (ORL) has a Hertz counter with a limited hours – if necessary to transfer to MCO to pick up car, they will reimburse up to $25 in taxi fees.
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