I was there for a retreat with my colleagues from TravelingMom.com, a network of mom travel writers. Workshops took place in the mornings, and we had afternoons and evenings to play in the parks. For this visit, we focused on Animal Kingdom and Epcot. I also squeezed in a short solo visit to Magic Kingdom to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Throughout our visit, we used our Disney Magic Bands to access our rooms, parks and FastPass attractions. The bands can be customized (mine is blue) in advance and used to make dining reservations and purchases.
We were divided into teams and assigned to different areas of the park to cover attractions, food and Disney's conservation efforts. My Team Timon was assigned to Dinoland U.S.A. At the crocodile exhibit, a park employee explained to kids that the difference between a croc and alligator is their nose. Alligators have a wide, u-shaped nose while crocs have a v-shaped nose.
While in the park, I couldn't resist riding the Expedition Everest roller coaster (one of the best rides at WDW in my opinion!) and Kilimanajaro Safaris, a 22-minute ride through an African savanna home to lions, giraffes, elephants, zebras and more.
The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is much more than a show of colorful blossoms. Each spring the popular event features more than 100 Disney-themed topiary displays, gardens, exhibits and outdoor kitchens with seasonal food and drinks. This year the event runs through May 17.
It's really quite spectacular to see the detailed topiary displays throughout World Showcase. Even kids were delighted with the whimsical displays of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Tinker Bell, Anna and Elsa, Belle and Beast, Bambi and many more.
Along the way we stopped to sample culinary delights, starting with Dole pineapple soft-serve with Sammy’s Beach Bar Red Head Macadamia Nut Flavored Rum. The delicious and refreshing pineapple whips are also served without alcohol. More virgin drinks include a frozen desert violet lemonade. The Smokehouse eatery in the U.S.A. pavilion serves a tasty beef brisket burnt ends hash with white cheddar fondue and pickled jalapeños.
Mid-evening our group gathered to watch the IllumiNations:Reflections of Earth fireworks display, a stunning show that depicts the story of earth. Afterward, we had just enough time to hit a couple attractions: Soarin' and Spaceship Earth.
During our visit to Disney World, we stayed at the moderately-priced Coronado Springs, comprised of four main buildings spaced apart around a man-made lake. My room (#4131) in the casitas building had a lake view and was adjacent to the pool. A lovely lakeside walkway leads to pools and the convention center. Access to the Disney parks is via buses, which depart regularly from several stops at the hotel.