As a family of four, we all have our own (very strong) opinions about our favorite place, so it seems only fitting that I share the spotlight a bit with the Rad Girls who make up three quarters of the Rad Fam. What follows is Rad Mom’s comprehensive guide to Walt Disney World, with some of my own clarifications sprinkled in for continuity and irreverence.
When Rad Mom and I took Rad Ella to Disney for the first time, we knew we had stumbled upon something special. Though we had been to Disney as children, neither of us was prepared for the magnitude of experiencing it with our own child and sharing in all of the firsts. It didn’t matter that the trip was short and ill-planned — especially compared to our current approach to Disney vacations. There are a few moments or experiences within a marriage during which your unique personalities and character traits somehow work in perfect harmony to make the experience greater than it would be otherwise. These moments cater to the best in each of you, allowing your better qualities to shine and benefiting your entire family in return. Disney is that kind of place for us. Rad Mom’s attention to detail and exhaustive planning are the foundation of our trips and the launching pad for all of our memories. She takes her job very seriously and approaches each aspect of the trip logically and thoughtfully. Thus, her responses to my questions reflect her pragmatic point of view.
Favorite Rides (in no particular order because ranking them was giving Rad Mom anxiety)
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: I love the theming, but most of all I love the “Heigh-ho!” inside the mine. I love the way the theming extends from the very start of the queue all the through the ride, ending with the Evil Queen lurking outside Snow White’s door.
Flight of Passage: It’s a lot like Soarin’, which I love, but even cooler and more breathtaking.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: I love roller coasters, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is the only real roller coaster in Walt Disney World. Plus, the cheesy Aerosmith beginning is funny.
Space Mountain: It’s easily one of the most fun rides in the parks even though the theming is dated and not as good as it used to be, but it’s just so fun you don’t care.
Toy Story Mania: It’s so much fun, and I actually feel as if I could beat Rad Dad at it! It’s fun for little kids, too, because they can actually do it and see what they’re doing, unlike Space Ranger Spin where they can’t see what they’re shooting at. It’s the perfect ride for the whole family.
Least Favorite Ride
Small World: because it’s very boring, and there’s no interaction at all. You’re just looking at singing dolls. Once you’ve seen it one time, you never need to see it again.
Favorite Places to Eat
Tusker House: Even though it’s a buffet, it’s very easy for a person with dietary restrictions (such as being lactose intolerant) to find good food. And you just can’t beat the characters in their safari outfits doing a parade with the kids.
Cinderella’s Royal Table: You get to go in the castle! Even though it’s not a buffet, they are extremely accommodating and made a dairy-free meal for me when I called ahead. (Many of the restaurants will do this, FYI.) There’s just something special about being inside Cinderella Castle.
‘Ohana: The food at ‘Ohana is absolutely amazing — hands down the best food we’ve eaten in Walt Disney World. (Those pot stickers, though!) The theming inside and outside is amazing, mainly because the Polynesian Resort is gorgeous. While I thought the food was amazing, if you have younger kids, they might not like it so much.
Least Favorite Place to Eat
ABC Commissary: It’s always super crowded there and the food is average, even by Quick Service dining plan standards. It’s definitely not worth the time it takes to get in and get a table. Mobile ordering can help with the wait somewhat, but it does nothing to alleviate the crowd.
Favorite Character to Meet
Anastasia and Drizella: We weren’t planning on meeting them — in fact, we were in line to meet the Fairy Godmother — but I’m so glad we did. They were so funny and so much fun to interact with.
Elsa and Anna: They are the best princesses to meet because their area of Norway is so thoughtfully themed, outside as well as inside. The theming leading up to them is fun and relevant, and they talk to each other as well as you when you’re getting autographs and pictures, which is a lot of fun.
Magic Kingdom: It might be a cliche, but it’s got something for everyone and it’s quintessentially Disney. If you could have only one day in one park, it’s the one I would pick every time.
Happily Ever After: When it comes to fireworks shows, it easily wins.
For the First Time in Forever: Nothing beats the Frozen sing along in Hollywood Studios. It’s exciting and funny, and it’s great fun to sing along with the well-known songs and the actors. And @equityben is hilarious!
Favorite Park Swag
Mickey Ears! But as someone with a large head, it’s really hard to wear them for extended periods of time. I find that the ears from small shops tend to be more comfortable depending on the style. Because of that, I got into pin trading on our last trip. It’s great because you can wear them, trade them, or keep them. If you’re looking for pins to trade, always buy the pack that has the most pins for the price. (They don’t all have the same number of pins.)
Favorite Thing to do to Relax
The resort pools! The kids can play while you enjoy the resort’s amenities or just take it easy by the pool. Some of the resorts have truly amazing pool areas, especially the Moderates and up.
If I’m sticking to no dairy, Mickey pretzels are excellent and quite large for the price, and the classic Dole Whip is also dairy-free, but if I’m taking one for the team (and certainly taking a dairy pill) you can’t beat the giant ice cream sandwich cookie from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street.
Coronado Springs: The resort grounds are really beautiful and the Pepper Market food court is fantastic.
Favorite Instagram Wall
You are Most Beautiful Wall: It has such a positive message, so that’s nice to see.
Don’t Miss Attraction
Don’t skip the Disney classics! Make sure to experience attractions like the Carousel of Progress, the PeopleMover, and — I guess — Small World (but just once). These often get overlooked when people are trying to make FastPasses for E-ticket attractions, but they are part of the magic of Disney.
Best Pieces of Disney Advice (you’ll want to heed Rad Mom’s Disney tips — always)
Pay attention to Extra Magic Hours when you’re planning your trip. Use breakfast reservations to get into the parks early on non-EMH days. This is great for photo opportunities and rope drop positioning. Book your first three FastPasses as early in the day as possible so you can use them and reload one at a time after that. (You don’t want to have a 4pm FastPass preventing you from reloading.) If you can swing it, at least one sit down meal helps to recharge your batteries for a long day in the parks. And of course, have fun!
So that’s Rad Mom’s comprehensive list of Walt Disney World favorites. Like mine, her love affair with Disney began with Rad Ella and has only grown along with the Rad girls. It is her commitment to their happiness and our family’s good time that drives her to plan each trip as meticulously as possible. I’ll add a few more noteworthy additions to her list:
Rad Mom is a big fan of fast rides and family-oriented rides, as well as fun and interactive shows, but she’s also always looking for an opportunity to cool off. (She does not enjoy being hot and will gladly trade being dry for being cool.) Because of this, Rad Mom is always willing to ride Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids — although in regards to the latter, she’d rather not get completely doused.
Rad Mom loves to interact with characters, and is happy to cheerfully play along with them even though the Rad girls have moved far beyond the age when such theatrics were somewhat necessary. She never forgoes an opportunity to thank them kindly for their time and attention, something I imagine many Disney performers appreciate and hear not nearly often enough.
Rad Mom loves a good character dining experience. It combines so much of what she loves about Disney: magic, good food, a chance to cool off, and character interactions. Sadly, she is somewhat limited by her complete intolerance of lactose in any form, but Disney is generally awesome in this regard and she is rarely left wanting. I’m afraid that after trying the Table Service dining plan on our last trip — one character dining experience per day — it will be very hard to talk her into going back to Quick Service.
For more of the Rad Girls’ antics, visit our YouTube channel at The Rad Family. I hope you enjoyed this opportunity to get to know the Rad girls just a bit better and see some different perspectives on what our Disney trips mean to them. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled cynicism next week when I talk about why crowds are good and you should stop your whining.
Rad Dad, out.