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.

How The Disney College Program Changed My Life

Twelve years ago today, I walked into a small meeting room at the Vista Way Apartment Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (if you know, you know) and checked in for my Disney College Program. I did not realize at the time how life-changing this experience would be, but it left such an impact on me and my future. I secretly wish I could go back in time and do it all over again, but ultimately I am so thankful for the Disney College Program and how it changed my life.

I applied for the Disney College Program in August 2008 during my first semester of college. At the time, to apply, you had to go to a DCP Presentation at your college and then apply and interview after. If your college didn’t offer a presentation, you could go to one at a nearby school or do the presentation online. The presentation at my school wasn’t until the very end of the semester. I was too anxious to wait, so I watched the online presentation and applied at the beginning of the semester, interviewed quickly after, and had an acceptance letter in mid-October 2008. I remember standing in my mom’s kitchen after receiving that letter and telling her, “I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t do the Disney College Program” (how 19-years-old of me).

Once you are accepted to the College Program, you pick a date to arrive, an apartment to live in, and a roommate if you have one (if not, they will assign a roommate). I wanted to get to Orlando as soon as possible, so I first picked a December 2008 arrival date. My brother was getting married on January 16, so I changed my arrival until after his wedding date. On January 25, 2009, my dad, stepmom, and I loaded down the car in Texas and drove 20 hours to Orlando, Florida. At the time, I knew who my roommate was, where I would be living (Chatham Square), and that I would be working in Attractions (but wasn’t sure which ride or park). On January 26, 2009, I checked in at Disney and soon found out that I would be working in Attractions in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom.

The next couple of weeks were filled with tours, training, and teaching. I ended up working in the “Stitch Complex” in Tomorrowland, which meant I worked at Stitch’s Great Escape, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Astro Orbiter. I quickly made friends with Sarah, who is still one of my best friends years later, and my future husband, Kalib. Out of the thousands of Spring 2009 Disney College Program Participants, Kalib and I found ourselves arriving on the same day, working in the same place, and training together, just the two of us (something we still laugh about to this day). We all learned the ins and outs of Magic Kingdom, and Tomorrowland were so excited to spend an entire semester there.

Sarah and I quickly became friends with another Tomorrowland CP, Kaelyn, and we spent every day together. Most of our Tomorrowland shifts were late in the evening, so we would spend our days together at the parks. We bought Universal Studios Annual Passes (they were like $150 at the time, haha) and spent so much time there as well. Every day felt like a vacation, and work was always fun, even when we had to stay at work Extra Magic Hours until 3:00 am. I still laugh about how much Kalib annoyed me on our College Program; he loved to be silly and play jokes on everyone during our shifts (I never thought he would be the one for me). No shifts in Tomorrowland were mundane because you were constantly moving around and interacting with guests. I spent my Disney College Program surrounded by fun people, magical moments, and Disney magic. I wanted to stay forever, but of course, all good things must come to an end.

In June of 2009, as our Disney College Program was ending, I decided that I would stay in Orlando for a bit longer. I ended up getting a boyfriend while I was at Disney, who shall remain nameless, haha, and he convinced me to stay. My parents were reluctant but ultimately supported my decision to stay in Orlando for awhile. I got an apartment, signed up for online college classes, got a job at Universal Studios (that I had for like a solid 5 days before I quit) and watched all of my Disney College Program friends head home.

Not long after my College Program ended, I received a job offer to work with Disney’s Animal Programs Education Team at The Seas with Nemo and Friends as an Education Instructor. I lived in Orlando and worked full time at the Seas until March 2012, and then I went home to Texas to finish college (and started dating Kalib). I continued as a Seasonal Cast Member with Disney until June 2014, returning twice a year to work and keep my Cast Member status. Disney decided to do away with most seasonal positions around that time, and I was no longer a Cast Member.

In June 2014, I had a Disney Fairytale Wedding at Walt Disney World and married Kalib (yep, the same guy that I trained with on my College Program and pestered me). Two of the bridesmaids in our wedding were Sarah and Kaelyn, and we are still the best of friends to this day. Although we all no longer work for The Mouse, we now get to experience Disney as guests, and I think we are all okay with that.

I might have been a little dramatic when I told my mom that if I didn’t participate in the Disney College Program in June 2009, I would “regret it for the rest of my life,” but it’s true. I made the most magical memories and incredible friends and learned hard life lessons when I worked at Disney, but it changed everything about my life. I would do it over again in a heartbeat if I could.

Sending love and magic.

Five Friday Favorites: Disney World Halloween Treats

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I made a quick trip to Disney World to experience all of the Fall Festivities that they currently have to offer. We were thrilled that, although Disney still has stringent safety measures in place, there is so much Halloween fun and magic to be found!

While on this trip to Disney World, we decided to try as many fun Halloween snacks that we could find. Today I am sharing our Five Favorite Disney World Halloween Treats.

Constance’s For Better or Worse Wedding Cake

Disney describes this treat as a “citrus-scented cake with raspberry Bavarian cream, glacage, and buttercream pearls with flowers topped with a chocolate axe.” Last year, you could find this treat at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and this year you can find it at Liberty Square Market in Magic Kingdom. The cake and raspberry Bavarian cream are very light and delicious, and I didn’t find it overly sweet. My husband and I enjoyed sharing this cake and found that it is super cute for fun pictures!

Frozen Apple Cider

I’ll be honest, I got this drink thinking that it wouldn’t be that great, but oh man, I couldn’t stop drinking it! We grabbed this Frozen Apple Cider during our lunch at Backlot Express at Hollywood Studios, but I’ve read that you can find it at other places across the park (and you can add alcohol to it!). It tastes like an apple cider slush, and it is topped with green boba pearls and the cutest poison apple glow cube. I was so surprised at how delicious it was and decided that it is the perfect drink to grab if you need to cool down while at Hollywood Studios.

Box of Bones Eclair

My husband has always been a big fan of eclairs, so when we saw this on the menu at Backlot Express in Hollywood Studios, we felt like we needed to try it. First of all, it is so cute; I love the little white chocolate bones sticking out of it. It is also SO good! It is different from a traditional eclair in that it is all chocolate, but very enjoyable. If you are a chocolate fan like me, I think that this treat is a must-try!

Pumpkin Mousse

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Le Petite Cafe at Disney’s Riviera Resort is the best coffee shop on Disney property! After a morning at Hollywood Studios, my husband and I took the Skyliner over to our favorite coffee shop to grab some coffee (and a treat, of course!). We decided to try the Pumpkin Mousse, and WOW, I am so happy that we did. This Pumpkin Mousse is incredible and almost tastes like pumpkin cheesecake or an airy pumpkin pie. This mousse is also one of the prettiest snacks I have ever seen at Disney (nearly too pretty to eat, but trust me, you’ll want to eat it).

Pumpkin Spiced Waffle Sundae

I have wanted to try this sundae for so long, and I’m glad that my husband agreed to wait in a 20-minute line to get one. It was amazing! You can find this Pumpkin Spiced Waffle Sundae at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Magic Kingdom (along with so many other amazing treats). The Pumpkin Spiced Mickey Waffles were warm and crispy, and they are topped with a vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream, and sprinkles. My husband and I have not stopped talking about this treat, and we are already scheming on how we can make it at home.

I’ve always been a lover of Disney snacks, and it was no surprise that these fall treats were all so fun and delicious! I’m not sure how long these will stick around, so if you are visiting Disney World soon, make sure to grab some of these before they are gone!

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.