Blizzard Beach – Reopening March 7

When Disney’s Blizzard Beach originally opened on April 1, 1995, it was the third and final Disney World Water Park. According to the “legend” of the park, after a freak snowstorm hit the Orlando area in the 1970s, a ski resort was built; as the snow melted away, we were left with a melted mess that became a water park. Blizzard Beach has been full of fun and families for the past 25 years, but in 2020, it closed due to the pandemic. Over the past year, Disney has put so much time and effort into bringing back its parks. I’m so excited to share that today, March 7, 2021, Blizzard Beach is reopening!

Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to check out Blizzard Beach before its reopening and I am so excited to share everything that I learned. Here’s what you need to know if you are heading to Disney’s Blizzard Beach!

From Summit Plummet to Tike’s Peak, there is truly something for everyone at Blizzard Beach. Because this water park is themed after a ski resort, you will notice that every waterslide and play area looks like you could find it in the mountains. One of my favorite attractions at Blizzard Beach is the ski lift that takes you to the top of the Mt. Gushmore.

If you are heading to the water parks with children, check out Tike’s Peak, a fantastic splash pad area for little ones. Also visit the Toboggan Racers and Runoff Rapid areas which are full of water slides that are fun for the whole family.

If you’re a thrill-seeker, make sure you check out Summit Plummet, one of the tallest and fastest free-fall body slides in the whole world! Ready to relax? Look no further than Melt-Away Bay and the lazy river, Cross Country Creek; both of these are fantastic options for a relaxing adventure.

Hungry or thirsty? Well, Blizzard Beach is the place for you. Between mini donuts and margaritas, you can find just about anything to snack on at Blizzard Beach. There are nine different spots to grab something to eat or drink and more snack options than you can imagine.

We sampled some of the delicious food and drinks that Blizzard Beach has to offer on our visit. We tried the White Cap Flatbread, Honey Butter Chicken Sandwich, and Plant-based Bratwurst. All three of these menu items were very yummy. The White Cap Flatbread is a delicious flatbread with chicken, bacon, bell peppers and tomatoes, and can be found at Lottawatta Lodge. The Honey Butter Chicken Sandwich (my husband’s favorite) from the Warming Hut is sweet and savory. I also noticed how many vegan and vegetarian options are on the Blizzard Beach menus, including the Plant-based Brat that we tried (and loved!).

If you’re looking for an extensive beverage menu (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), make sure to stop by the Polar Pub. This cute bar has the largest variety of drinks in the water park. We grabbed a Blue Blizzard Margarita and a Banana Cabana, which are perfect for drinking while relaxing on a beach chair.

There is also a Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea in the middle of Blizzard Beach. This is the best place to get an iced or hot coffee for an afternoon pick me up and some mini donuts!

Disney takes safety very seriously, and I think that’s become pretty apparent over the past year. Between temperature checks, face masks, limited capacity, and social distancing, going to Disney World during Covid truly feels safer than going to a grocery store. Blizzard Beach will be following these same protocols. There will be temperature checks before entering the water park, limited capacity inside the water park, and social distancing markers on the ground.

We noticed so many signs throughout the park, which make the rules very clear. The chairs and tables that you can find throughout the park spaced six feet apart with signs asking guests to keep them where they are. This means that even when relaxing or sunbathing, you will be distanced from other parties. The lazy river will also have limited capacity, and guests will be required to stay in a tube.

I, for one, have been curious about the mask policy that Blizzard Beach will have. When visiting last week, I asked Marilyn, one of the Walt Disney World Ambassadors, what the plan was for masks at Blizzard Beach. All Cast Members will be wearing face masks, and face masks will also be required for guests. Guests will not need a face mask when they are in the water or walking from one water attraction to the next.

Overall, I was so impressed with our visit to Blizzard Beach, and I am so excited that it is reopening. Everything felt safe, clean, and just as magical as before. It was truly an honor that Walt Disney World invited me to come check it out. I hope that you are able to make a trip to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park soon.

Sending love and magic.

Gideon’s Bakehouse at Disney Springs

Gideon’s Bakehouse is a local Orlando bakery that initially opened in 2016 at the East End Market. Although many Orlando locals have been familiar with their award-winning cookies, I was unaware that these delicious treats existed until a couple of years ago. In 2018, The Polite Pig (an incredible quick service barbecue restaurant at Disney Springs) started selling Gideon’s Bakehouse Original Chocolate Chip Cookies at their register. These cookies would sell out daily, but on one of my trips, I was able to grab one. It was the most delicious cookie I have ever had, and I was hooked.

After trying my first Gideon’s cookie, I was obsessed. So you can imagine my excitement when Disney Springs announced that a Gideon’s Bakehouse flagship store would be coming to The Landing. A little over a month ago, Gideon’s Bakehouse opened at Disney Springs, and with wait times that can be over three hours, you could say that it’s a pretty popular spot. I was lucky enough to try Gideon’s for myself, and it did not disappoint.

We arrived at Disney Springs on a Saturday afternoon, and the line for Gideon’s was already so long. At the end of the line, I spoke with a Gideon’s employee who explained that we would first need to check into the virtual queue (a different line altogether) to get in line. I waited in the virtual queue check in, which took about 5 minutes, and when I got to the front of the line, I gave the employee my name and phone number. They quoted the wait to be about three and a half hours and said I would receive a text message when it was my turn.

With three and a half hours to kill, my husband and I decided to leave Disney Springs altogether. We drove around, grabbed some coffee, and shopped before we returned to Disney Springs. Three and a half hours later, I received the text message that it was time to get in the Gideon’s line! Once I checked in to the line, I was told that the wait would be about 15-30 minutes.

There were about six groups in front of us in line, and before we knew it, it was our turn. Before going inside Gideon’s Bakehouse, we were greeted by Steve, the owner of Gideon’s. He was standing outside greeting every single party in line, talking to everyone, and sharing his story. It was such a cool touch! After our chat with Steve, we headed inside to get our treats.

Gideon’s Bakehouse is set inside of an old bookstore; it is beautiful, spooky, and whimsical all at the same time. The walls are lined with books and pictures, and the smells inside will take you to another place. The bakery itself is relatively small, only holding about five parties at a time, but the employees were accommodating and friendly (getting guests in and out as quickly as possible).

There are a few display cases around to help give you an idea of what you want, but there are also rotating items and secret menu items that aren’t on display. You will also find a drink menu with some crazy delicious drinks on it (peanut butter cold brew, anyone?).

We decided to order the Original Chocolate Chip Cookie, Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie, Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie, Red Velvet Cake, Peanut Butter Cold Brew, and Classic White Cold Brew. Full disclosure, each of their cookies weighs almost half a pound, and we didn’t even come close to finishing everything that we ordered.

After exiting the store, we found a bench to sit on and enjoy our snacks and quickly found that each cookie is just as delicious as we imagined.

The Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie was almost like a brownie (and very rich).

The Original Chocolate Chip Cookie was just as good as I remember from the Polite Pig (basically the best chocolate chip cookie you’ll ever have).

The Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie was sweet and salty (my favorite).

We also enjoyed the Red Velvet Cake as it wasn’t overly sweet, and the cream cheese frosting was incredible. Both of our cold brew drinks were amazing and the perfect complement to our treats.

Overall, we were so impressed with the story of Gideon’s and their amazing sweet treats. There are so many other menu items that we want to try from Gideon’s, and I can’t wait to go back. We learned that to get into Gideon’s, the best thing to do is to get in the virtual queue as early as possible. The virtual queue wait times seem pretty accurate, so try to be back at Disney Springs around your quoted time if you leave. Waiting 3 1/2 hours to get a cookie might seem a little crazy, but it was definitely worth it.

Sending love and magic.

Epcot Holiday Cookie Stroll Cookies

If you have ever been to Taste of Epcot® International Festival of the Holidays at Walt Disney World, then you know how magical and fun it is. Last year my husband and I attended the festival for the first time, and it quickly became one of my favorite festivals that Epcot has to offer. A couple of weeks ago, we were able to attend again and try the Holiday Cookie Stroll for the first time, which is what I want to share with you today.

Epcot’s Holiday Cookie Stroll is a fun adventure through Epcot where you purchase five cookies in different countries, receive stamps for each cookie in your passport, and then redeem your passport a the end to get a free cookie. I enjoyed how leisurely it was, truly a stroll from country to country, and all of the yummy cookies.

Peppermint Pinwheel Cookie, Canada – 9/10

The first cookie on our stop was the Peppermint Pinwheel Cookie from the Yukon Holiday Kitchen in Canada. This cookie is definitely one of the most festive! It is a red and white swirled peppermint shortbread cookies with red and green sprinkles on the outside. Although I am not the biggest fan of peppermint in my baked goods, I thought that this cookie wasn’t overly pepperminty (is that a word?). This cookie was a great way to kick off our Holiday Cookie Stroll.

Gingerbread Cookie, World Showplace Events Pavilion – 3/10

The second cookie we sampled was inside of the World Showplace Events Pavilion. To be honest, I wouldn’t say I like gingerbread all that much, but I had really high hopes for this cute cookie. This cookie is a traditional Gingerbread Man cookie complete with frosting buttons and a face, but it was not my favorite. I didn’t like how soft the cookie was, and I didn’t even finish eating it. I probably wouldn’t purchase this cookie again, but it was a fun part of the cookie stroll.

Black and White Cookie, Morocco and France – 5/10

We found our next cookie, the Black and White Cookie, between the France Pavilion and Morocco Pavilion. I had really high hopes for this cookie but was not blown away. You will see that this is a traditional black and white cookie that has a super sweet layer of vanilla and chocolate frosting. Overall, I found the cookie to be too sweet and not very memorable, and I ended up not finishing this cookie either. It wasn’t the worst cookie of the bunch, but it also wasn’t the best.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie, The American Adventure – 10/10

The fourth cookie on our Holiday Cookie Stroll was the Chocolate Crinkle Cookie from The American Adventure. Wow, this cookie was SO good! This Chocolate Crinkle Cookie is a chewy chocolate cookie with powdered sugar on it; you can’t beat it. I loved everything about this cookie and almost considered getting a second one because it was that good. I want to try to find a way to make these yummy cookies at home.

Linzer Cookie, Germany – 8/10

The Linzer Cookie that you can find in the Germany Pavilion is a traditional Linzer sandwich cookie with raspberry filling. I have never been a raspberry fan, but I didn’t think that this cookie’s raspberry was too overpowering. By this time of the cookie stroll, I was over cookies but still managed to finish this one. It was the perfect cookie to end the stroll, and I would definitely purchase this cookie again.

Complimentary Minnie Peppermint Cookie, Showcase Plaza – 7/10

At this point, our passport was complete, and it was time for our free cookie. I stopped at the Showcase Plaza, where they directed me to the “Cookie Stroll Completer” Window, and I was presented with a Minnie Peppermint Cookie. This cookie is by far the cutest of the entire Cookie Stroll and, although you can purchase this cookie separately, it was much more fun to receive it as a “prize.” This cookie is a traditional sugar cookie with peppermint, and it is pretty good. My daughter loved this cookie and gobbled it down.

Overall, we enjoyed the Holiday Cookie Stroll at Taste of Epcot® International Festival of the Holidays and would absolutely do it again in the future. We loved strolling through the World Showcase, sampling fun cookies, and creating so many memories. I can’t wait to share more holiday fun from our trip, so stay tuned!

Sending love and magic.

Things I Learned By Taking a Trip To Walt Disney World During a Pandemic

In July, I convinced my husband that we needed to take a trip to Disney World (yes, during pandemic). We were both once Disney World Cast Members, and we know how seriously Disney takes safety, so we didn’t feel worried about going. That said, we had self-made rules to ensure that we were as safe as possible while traveling.

For starters, we drove to Disney World from Texas. Yes, it took us 17 hours each way, but honestly, those 34 hours spent driving were so much fun! We talked, we sang, and we laughed (and we were very thankful for family that lives in between our house and Orlando so that we could stop). We rented a car for the long drive and then decided that we wouldn’t use Disney transportation but would drive to the parks each day. We brought so many masks, wore gloves while pumping gas, sprayed everything with Lysol, and throughout the trip we used hand sanitizer or washed our hands.

We also decided not to bring our daughter on this trip. I know that she would’ve had so much fun, but she would’ve hated the drive. We were also unsure what to expect while in the parks, so she stayed with Mimi.

Today I want to share the five things that I learned by taking a trip to Walt Disney World during a pandemic.

I Didn’t Miss Fastpass

As most of you know, Disney is limiting guests in their parks, but they also temporarily took away Fastpass. At first, I was a little bummed. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to ride anything and, because I’m usually a planner, it made me feel uneasy. But boy, was I wrong! Regular lines move so much quicker when there isn’t a Fastpass line merging with it. There were also more places to stand in the shade or air conditioning because most rides used both their regular and Fastpass queues.

Once Disney expands guest capacity, I’m sure Fastpass will return (and I understand why), but it was refreshing to take a trip without worrying about Fastpass.

There Are Great Quick Service Dining Options

On most trips, my husband and I look forward to the table service meals we will have, but this trip was different. One of the rules that we made for this trip is that we would not eat at any table service restaurant with inside seating. Although I think Disney is taking so many precautions, we haven’t even gone out to eat at a restaurant at home, so I didn’t feel comfortable eating inside of a table service restaurant. This opened up so many possibilities for quick service food, and we really enjoyed it! We also loved how slow Food & Wine Festival was; for the first time ever, we could try so many fun foods in the world showcase.

I am looking forward to eating table service at Disney again, but it was such a nice change to try some quick service options on this trip.

Wearing A Mask All Day Is Not That Bad

Okay, so the first day in the mask wasn’t great, but it was fine by day two! The worst part about wearing a mask all day was the sweat on my face, but I never had issues breathing, walking, or riding rides while wearing it. Disney is very strict about masks, you cannot take it off unless you are sitting down and actively eating or drinking, but these rules made me feel so much more comfortable about being there.

If you are going to the parks, makes sure to bring lots of mask options! My husband and I both went through many different masks until we each found one we liked.

It’s The Best Time To Get Pictures

The parks’ lower crowd capacity means that it is so much easier to get good pictures! I took pictures by the castle mid-morning on a Saturday, and there wasn’t a soul in them (except me!); it was crazy. The low crowds also make it so nice when you’re walking from ride to ride. We quickly found that everyone wants their space, which made it so much easier to social distance.

If you aren’t a fan of Disney crowds, now may be the best time to go to the parks!

Disney World is Safe

Okay, I’m not saying that if you go to Disney World right now, you won’t get sick, but I am saying that Disney is taking every precaution to keep you as safe as possible. As a former Cast Member, I know how important safety is to Disney, and was I was not surprised about all the rules and changes they have implemented. I 100% felt safer in Disney World than I do when I go grocery shopping at my local grocery store.

I applaud everything that Disney has done to ensure they keep their guests and cast members as safe and healthy as possible, while still making sure there is so much magic.

Overall, I was so pleased that we decided to take this trip to Disney World. We loved the low crowds and cleaning methods and didn’t hate wearing masks in July heat as much as we thought we would. So would I go back to Disney again during a pandemic? 100% yes.

Sending love and magic.

Five Friday Favorites: Traveling with a Baby

As a mom and travel agent, I get a lot of questions about if or when people should bring their kids to Disney. My daughter will be two in September and has been to Walt Disney World four times. Each time we go brings it’s own challenges (like when she was still drinking formula from bottles and I had to sanitize bottles each night), but we also create wonderful memories. I am a big believer that you should bring your kids to Disney no matter what their age, they might not remember it, but you will.

I think the most important thing when traveling with kids is to be prepared! Below you will find my five favorite things to bring when traveling to Disney with a baby or toddler. Please note that I make a small commission if you purchase through my Amazon affiliate links, or you can find these products on your own.

Fan

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This fan is the number one thing that you need when traveling to Disney with a baby or toddler. Not only is this fan easy to clip onto a stroller, it will also stand up on a table if you need it to. I’ve learned that a hot toddler = cranky toddler, so having this fan handy can help calm the situation down. My husband and I have also taken turns using this fan when it gets too hot in the Florida sun.

Travel Bottle Rack

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The first two times we went to Disney World, my daughter was still drinking from a bottle. This traveling bottle rack was a lifesaver! It’s very compact for packing in a suitcase, but so handy when you are in your hotel room. Once she transitioned from a bottle to a sippy cup, I still brought this bottle rack along to dry sippy sups at night.

White Noise Machine

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From the time my daughter was little, she has always slept with a white noise machine (and so have I), so bringing a white noise machine to Disney has always been important to us. But, over the past couple trips, I have learned how helpful that white noise can be! White noise machines help to drown out other noises, which can be very helpful when staying in a hotel room. During the day (ie nap time), there is often construction going on around the Disney resorts and this machine can help your child to sleep through it. At bedtime, this white noise machine can help to drown out the sound of fireworks that you might hear from your room. We have also clipped this to her stroller to help with nap time in the parks while walking around.

Stroller Tag

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I have learned that when you are at Disney, it’s hot, you’re tired, and your kids are tired, all strollers look the same! Bringing a stroller tag, whether for your personal stroller or a rented stroller, will help make finding your stroller a whole lot easier. We have this stroller tag that I purchased from Etsy and I love it because not only is it cute, but it’s great quality.

Travel Mattress

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If you are staying at a Disney owned resort, they have complimentary cribs that you can use for your children. One thing I have recognized with my daughter is that she needs a little extra comfort when sleeping in a crib that’s not hers. I purchased this foldable travel mattress for traveling and it has been a lifesaver! It easily packs into a suitcase and then unfolds to fit perfectly in a Pack n Play or crib. I also wash a crib sheet at home and bring that with us to put on her mattress which makes a difference.

Bonus: Bring your patience.

Even if you have visited Disney 1,000 times, traveling with a child will make it much harder. Pack your patience and lower your expectations when traveling with a baby or toddler. Remember that they will need breaks and naps (and honestly you probably will too), so take it slow. If you have any questions about traveling with a child, leave a comment below.

Sending love and magic.