Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! As some of you may know, Justin and I (sans kiddos because...well...we just don't have any yet) recently returned from a magical visit to Disney's Epcot theme park. While there I made sure to jot down some notes (tips + tricks for my readers) and snapped some photos with my iPhone to document our little stay-cation. Guys - I'll let you in a not-so-little secret...Epcot can be so much fun without kids! Even if you are visiting with your children for a few days and decide to take advantage of a caregiver and find yourself sans kiddos, I strongly urge you to check out Epcot and all that Disney has to offer adults!
For the purposes of this post I'll be focusing mainly on Epcot, and specifically on all the Epcot 2017 International Flower & Garden Festival has to offer, so read on to learn all about how much fun you can pack into a 48-hour jaunt through the parks, including a top-secret tip on how to snag the bestWishes! Fireworks viewing spot that takes those monstrous crowds down to about 15 people with an unobstructed view of the show! And if you're very lucky like Justin and I were, you may just snag a private return boat trip back to the Magic Kingdom park - talk about romantic!
Let's start with the facts:
At Epcot during the Flower & Garden Festival, there are...
-30-million blooms and 240 floating topiaries!
-Not to mention it smells fantastic no matter where you turn!
-I don't know about you, but any place that offers slushy adult beverages with the option to seek shade under a giant Anna + Elsa topiary is A-OK in my book! #disneyslostprincess
DAY ONE - EPCOT
After we did the obligatory "photo by the giant ball thingy", we made way straight for the food because let's be real, that's why we come to the Flower Festival isn't it -- the delicious food!
A little tip - the food pavilions (World Showcase) doesn't open until 11am daily so don't even bother setting your alarm for pre-dawn if visiting Epcot's Flower Festival, unless you're interested in waiting 80-minutes in line to ride Frozen...but that's a whole other post all together...moving on!
Our first stop, if you decide to turn right upon entry, is the Urban Farm Eats pavilion. Now I don't know if it's my left-brain thinking kicking in, or just what feels like the natural route to go, but every time I visit Epcot I'm compelled to turn right to start exploring the World Showcase and go counter-clockwise from there. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but you'll see. You'll want to do it too.
Here, you're able to sample fresh, organic fair and learn all about gardening, including tips on how to create your own raised garden (pictured below). Their Watermelon Salad was hands down my favorite (and it just may have been my favorite item of the day), at the Festival anyway. The salad is served with pickled onions, arugula, feta and a balsamic reduction. The staff here was super friendly too and I even came across a teeny tiny pineapple -- what's not to love?
The Butterfly Haven is an ABSOLUTE MUST when you're visiting the Flower & Garden Festival! Being a professional portrait photographer, and working with children on a regular basis, I was so inspired! Thoughts of Alice in Wonderland began racing through my mind!
Positioned just outside of Future World, this exhibit is nestled among beautiful yellow and pink blooming trees. When you walk into the garden, you're immediately greeted by tiny, fluttering friends. If you plan ahead, wear pink, red, or other bright colors. It's a known fact that butterflies are more likely to land on those wearing these colors so dress accordingly and test it out! Remember, this post is all about sharing information about visiting Epcot/Disney as a couple, so have some fun! Butterflies fluttering by and landing on you certainly brings a little romance to an otherwise regular stroll through the garden
Ahh...Paris. The mere mention of this word evokes thoughts of romantic afternoons spent along the Seine while indulging on carb-loaded treats at a local pâtisserie. And that is why this particular country makes it to the tippety-top of my adult "Must-Do-Disney" list.
Speaking of must-do's, you must try the Macaron Chocolat Framboise (a large raspberry macaron filled with chocolate fudge and raspberry jam - pictured below) at the Fleur de Lys, located in the France Pavilion. Taste alone kept us going back during our brief jaunt through the parks, but the added bonus was the adorable faux newspaper wrapper in which they presented the delectable treat -- la perfection.
And finally, you cannot depart France without trying the La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush, a delicious slushy concoction of Grey Goose Vodka Orange, St. Germain Liquor, and white and red cranberry juice. Totally worth the $10. While you're at it, this is a great time to take a seat and people watch in front of the Beauty and the Beast topiaries.
Immediately following France, you'll come across another romantic pavilion in the World Showcase, Italy. The Italian pavilion is all you'd expect it to be with gondolas, great food and drink, and high-end shops. In my excitement, I inadvertently referred to what I'm assuming are traditional citrus trees as "Limoncello Trees". This gave Justin a big chuckle and he still gives me a little tease about it. Hey - I'm coining the phrase because wouldn't that be awesome?! For any of you who've actually had Limoncello, you know what I'm saying.
After Italy, we walked through the Middle East and Japan, watched a drum ceremony, sampled some "Frushi", then landed in Africa where I met Hank, the South African whittler from Boston. There's a sentence I never thought I'd say.
When asked how long it takes him to "whittle" one of the many souvenirs surrounding him, he replied: "About 6-8 hours, depending on what time I get to work." So...I'm thinking he most likely does not actually whittle whatever it was he was holding, but hey, it was authentic-looking nonetheless!
My favorite part about the Africa pavilion at the Flower Festival, of course, was the Rafiki holding Simba topiary (pictured below).
Rounding out our day at Epcot...Asia! I'd say that Asia was colorful and crowded. It's down the way from Norway, the hot-spot of the beloved Anna + Elsa attraction. We honestly weren't too impressed with Asia this go-around, but I did enjoy the people-watching so I've included it in this post.
A little tip - the Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries were exactly how they sound...a few sugar-coated strawberries on a stick. Not the most impressive thing to come across when you're coming off of a month on the Whole30 but considering a romantic adults-only jaunt through the parks, it's worth mentioning.
DAY ONE - EVENING
After rounding out our day at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, we headed over to Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside for check-in, where we were greeted by a super friendly (and attentive and accommodating) staff. Upon arrival, we were congratulated on our anniversary stay-cay. Disney is good like that. They really do have a way of making each stay magical. We even received personalized buttons that read "Happily Ever After" Corny, I know, but #itsthelittlethings, right? And that is Disney! Their attention to detail is unsurpassed.
If you've never had the opportunity to stay at Disney's Port Orleans Resort, check it out! Seriously. We've traveled all over the world, and I genuinely enjoy staying here - especially for a quick romantic stay-cay that won't break the bank. You'd have to check the going rates at the time of travel, but we paid just over $200 per night with tax - not bad at all, especially for an on-property Disney resort!
And this resort had so many fun activities around every corner! On our first night, we were trying to get a lay of the land when we came across some caste members huddled around an open fire, roasting marshmallows. They eagerly invited us to partake in the roasting activities. Completely free, and might I add delicious and romantic! I mean when's the last time you indulged in a fire-roasted marshmallow without the kiddos? We called this our Hors d'oeuvre for the evening. Did we have dinner plans later that night at a Disney signature restaurant?...yes, but hey, when in Rome...
On the way to breakfast the next morning, we stumbled across a "Fishin' Hole" where for $6 you could partake in genuine, "worm n' cane pole fishin'", with the promise to catch actual live, freshwater fish from the resort's stocked pond! Being an avid fisherman, Justin was of course in heaven to discover this little home away from home, so we both tried our luck. Unfortunately, the only thing we caught was a glare from my iPhone while I snapped pics, but the people next to us did in fact get a catch of the day, so that's something I suppose. All in all, it was a unique and romantic way to start the day, and that's why I'm recommending this activity for a couple reading this post, if for nothing else than to get a little peace and quiet (and coolness) before bearing the crowds at the park.
DAY TWO - PARK HOPPING
On our second day, we decided to make the most of our Annual Passes and park hop! That's what they're there for, right?!
We began our day at the Animal Kingdom - one of my favorites. While I'm a huge roller coaster fan, Justin...not so much. Seriously, he literally will not go on one roller coaster with me, no matter what the occasion or how hard I try to convince him "it's not that bad". He will, however, snap a photo of me enjoying the ride. Can you see me in the photo below? I'm the teeny tiny speck on the left in the front row -- is there any other place to sit when on a coaster?
We'll be back fo sho to experience the Pandora exhibit at the Animal Kingdom, opening up May '17. Eek. So excited.
After Animal Kingdom, we headed back over to Epcot to hit a few of the pavilions we missed the day before. Once you've had the opportunity to sample cuisines from around the globe in tight quarters for between $5-$8, you'll want more - trust me!
Something strange, and quite comical actually, happened on the way back into Epcot. Justin and I noticed a sign for an aquarium near the entrance. What, we thought?...there's not an aquarium at Epcot...but...there is. The ironic thing is that this post is about adults enjoying Epcot, sans children, but the reason we never even noticed the fact that there is this amazing, interactive aquarium at Epcot is because we don't have kids, so we never really had a reason to I don't know...visit Nemo and his friends...
Anyway, there is an aquarium at Epcot, and it is amazing - highly recommended for adults. Justin and I spent the better part of an hour trying to get a panning shot of some mackerel. Yes, photog nerds, we know. And we love it.
Beaches & Cream - "Good times and great eats are a "shore" thing at this old-fashioned soda fountain."
If you've never had the pleasure of visiting this resort and you have the extra cash in the vacation fund, spring for the ambiance - you won't regret it. And as for romance, you can't beat a stroll along the shoreline on the boardwalk. Think Coney Island meets a postcard from the 20's. <3
DAY TWO - A MAGICAL EVENING
On our final evening at the Parks, we decided to enjoy the Magic Kingdom. I absolutely love the Magic Kingdom, and not only because I photograph clients and their children there regularly, but because it really is magical.
In addition to the overall romantic ambience that comes alive when day turns to dusk, this park is extremely walkable. And, every night like clockwork from the castle, they host the Wishes! Nighttime Spectacular. And yes, inside the park there are spots where you can grab a seat and take it all in, but this post is about sneaking away for a romantic mini-vacation as adults exploring Disney, so this suggestion comes with that thought in mind.
Two words - The Polynesian.
My final, and favorite, tip in this post came from the advice of the beloved Disney Food Blog. Justin and I wanted to spend our last evening on our 48-hour Disney getaway in the most romantic way possible, sans crowds. And of course, after spending the day at the parks and ending with an early evening in the Magic Kingdom, we wanted to cap off the evening by viewing the fireworks. We took the advice of the DFB and headed over to The Polynesian, where we b-lined it straight to the Pineapple Lanai to grab the iconic Disney treat, the Dole Whip (pictured below in a very dramatic flaming fashion, thank you Justin!). Afterwards, our treats in tow, we walked through the Polynesian pool area and grabbed a lawn chair on the "beach" where we could easily face the Magic Kingdom's Castle with an unobstructed view.
Before the fireworks started, it was mostly just us and a few families. And although the crows did increase as it got closer to "show time", it remained pretty private for it's entirety - especially when considering the drones of crowds lining Main Street, hoping to get a glimpse.
When the show was over, the real in-the-knowtip (sorry DFB) occurred to me. If you're looking for a romantic, extremely private firework experience, don't stop on the beach. Grab your frozen Hawaiian delight and head over to the dock near the beach. That's right, the dock that you stand in line for as if you were waiting for one of those private little ferry boats to take you back to the Magic Kingdom. Walk down the dock and take your pick of one of several, completely empty (because everyone else is on the beach) benches and enjoy.the.show. in a completely private, completely away from anyone else, dimly-lit, unobstructed view kind-of-way. The perfect way to end your romantic Disney stay-cay.
Unfortunately, Justin and I realized this a little too late as the fireworks were ending. We wanted to be sure to get in line for the ferry boat that needed to take us back to the Magic Kingdom, and ultimately to our hotel near Epcot, so we started walking over to the dock slightly before the firework show ended. As we approached the end of the dock, we noticed a couple sitting completely alone. When the fireworks were over, the gentleman stood up to turn towards the ferry boat and walked into the spotlight at the edge of the dock, just enough so that I could make out what his shirt said - "Firework Technician". I thought to myself, now he knows what's up.
From that day on, I now officially know the absolute best spot to enjoy the Wishes! Spectacular in complete and utter privacy. It doesn't get much more romantic at Disney than that.
So there you have it! Two super romantic days spent at Disney without the kids - see, it can be done! And hey, even if you have the kiddos with you, this is still a stellar itinerary to take full advantage of this time of year. Great weather, lighter crowds - go for it!
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