One of the biggest things I always encourage my clients to do it to take a rest day. Pick a day, preferably in the middle of your trip, to skip the parks and relax some. Sleep in, hang out at the pool, visit Disney Springs, play mini golf, just chill. The parks are very busy. There’s a lot of walking involved and, though its so much fun, it can be exhausting. After our first 3 park days, on the day my in-laws were due to arrive, we planned to have our rest day. Though the girls (and us adults) were handling the parks well, I was so glad we decided to have that down time. We took our time getting ready, hung out at the resort, and then headed to Disney Springs for lunch. After a great lunch at Chicken Guy (a Guy Fieri restaurant- we are big Guy fans in our house!), we did some looking around and shopping. The girls loved seeing the massive figured outside the Lego store as well as the Princesses outside World of Disney.
The girls were very excited about seeing Cinderella, even if it was just a statue
After shopping, we headed back to the resort to get my in-laws settled into their room and to get ready for our dinner. We planned an early dinner at Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I had never been here but had heard great things, so it was near the top of my list of places to try. The African-inspired food was delicious. I can’t eat spicy food, and I’m typically not a fan of African flavors/spices, but everything we had there was great. My girls had the kids’ salmon and ate almost all of it! One of the big perks of this restaurant is it overlooks one of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s savannas. Huge windows allow you to see the animals move about, and a door out to the patio gets you even closer. While we waited for our food, we were able to let the girls walk around outside and look at the animals.
We were able to walk outside while we waited for our dinner. We saw 3 giraffes, as well as several other animals.
The next morning, we headed for Animal Kingdom. This was our only day in this park, so we wanted to make the most of it. We headed straight for Kilamanjaro Safari, my favorite attraction in Animal Kingdom. It can be hit or miss with how active the animals are, but I was so happy to see lots of animals out that morning. Several were even fairly close to the ride vehicles, which made for great photos and up-close viewing for the girls.
The girls were fascinated by the animals, especially the zebra that was fairly close to our vehicle!
After the safari, we journeyed through the animal/nature walk areas (similar to a zoo) before heading for lunch at Satu’li Canteen in Pandora (Avatar area). This is probably my favorite quick-service meal on Disney property. The bowls are so filling and the flavors are great. Because most of the shows are closed, Animal Kingdom had the least amount of rides/attractions the girls could participate in. Thankfully, with the animal exhibits and character encounters, they were fully entertained the entire day! In addition to the safari, the girls also rode Navi River Journey in Pandora and the train out to (and back from) Rafiki’s Planet Watch. We didn’t actually get off and go this area, but there are activities for kids out there as well as a small petting zoo. Two of my favorite things in Animal Kingdom are shows- Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo, the Musical. Neither of there were operating, so I was sad to miss them, but we still had a great day without them.
The character encounters at Animal Kingdom are different than the other parks. While Magic Kingdom has the parade floats and Epcot and Hollywood Studios have the cars, the characters in Animal Kingdom ride down the river on pontoon boats! This was a lot of fun, but in some places was a little harder for the girls to see from the stroller since the river was below us.
Donald and friends sailing down the river on their pontoon boat
Even if you’ve never been to Animal Kingdom, I’m sure you’ve seen photos of its “Tree of Life” with all the animals carved into it. The tree can be seen from many parts of the park, and the different sides make a great photo backdrop!
The animal carvings that make up the Tree of Life are very intricate. Its amazing how many animals they fit onto that tree trunk- over 300!
On the morning we were checking out, we had a late breakfast reservation at Topolino’s Terrace, Disney’s newest character dining location. I’d heard such great things about the food and characters here that I had to try it out. This breakfast featured Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy, all dressed to represent various art forms- a sculptor, poet, painter, and dancer. Our table location at this restaurant wasn’t quite as good as that at Hollywood and Vine and few nights prior, so our character interactions and photos weren’t as good as I’d hoped, but it was far from disappointing. The food was amazing, and the overall experience was so much fun! I wouldn’t hesitate to go back- in fact, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get to do that one again on our next trip.
Taking photos with toddlers is no small task. Snap what you can, but don’t sweat over it. Make sure you’re also enjoying the moment! It will be fun to look back at the “imperfections” one day. I’ll always be able to look at these photos and remember that the girls loved the characters so much, and were so entertained by everything going on, that the camera was the last thing they wanted to look at… and that’s ok!
Topolino’s Terrace is located on the top floor of Disney’s Riviera Resort. Because of this, it provides an amazing view from the terrace. While we waited on our food, the girls and I walked out to the terrace where a few of my travel agent friends were hanging out. The view was beautiful! After our meal, we all went out there for a few photos before loading up the car and officially saying goodbye to Walt Disney World (for now)!
Much of Walt Disney World was visible from the top of the resort. It was such a nice view and so fun to look for different landmarks!”
Overall, we spent 9 nights at Walt Disney World. Though it sounds like a lot, it truly flew by! I was nervous about taking two toddlers, but they adapted so well to the schedule changes and loved the adventure! We took lots of photos, made countless great memories, and are already looking forward to our next visit! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Disney adventure- I’ve sure enjoyed reminiscing and looking over the photos, even though its been less than 2 weeks since we were there! If you’re hesitant to take small children to Walt Disney World, or on any vacation, I’d encourage you to give it a try! It will have to be well planned out, flexible, and it’s probably good to set low expectations, but it was completely worth it for us! If you’re ready to take that jump and go on your first vacation with a toddler, your Coasters & Castles Travel advisor is ready to help you make that a reality! You’ll never regret quality time spent with your family. Kids grow up so fast- don’t be afraid to make as many memories as you can!
Kara Brown is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel and a mom to twin toddlers. She loves traveling with her family and making priceless memories. Kara specializes in Disney destinations, Universal Parks & Resorts, and Royal Caribbean cruises. You can contact her at KBrown@travelcnc.com.