Weekender’s Guide to Disney

No matter how old I get, I always get the urge to go to Disney every couple of years. The magic never gets old and as I get older I think I love seeing the ‘adult’ side of business. It might be the nerdy blogger in me, but I love seeing how well they execute their branding, the parks, the marketing, everything. It runs so smoothly and so well, it just makes me giddy with OCD excitement. 

Nerd girl aside, Disney is expensive (another thing they’re doing right, ha!). We usually can pop down, it’s only a 6 hour drive from Chattanooga, for an extended weekend. It’s the perfect way to save money on park tickets, hotels and food costs. My godparents lived right outside of Orlando and I also had many cheer competitions there so I’m a seasoned Disney pro! Lucky for you, I’ve now mastered all Disney parks in one weekend. Even if you want to extend your trip past a weekend, this guide will still help you to find all my park and Disney favorites! 


I love staying on the Disney property, like I mentioned above they have killer branding and the Disney magic overflows into all parts of the resort. The accommodations are no exception. Another perk to staying on the property is that you do not have to pay for parking at the parks, which is around $20-30 a day. 

Old Key West Resort – This is a great place to stay if you’re bringing a large crowd or extended family. These key west-esque condos are adorable! They really set the tropical mood and I love that they’re pink. They have a few restaurants and a very neat pool. Like all the other hotels, they have buses to take you to different places on Disney property and they also have a boat that can take you to Downtown Disney (which is great because the parking there is A W F U L). 

Animal Kingdom Lodge – This hotel makes you feel like you’re in Africa, which is really neat. If you get a balcony room, the animals can come up close to your balcony and basically you’re in a safari. There’s also a water slide at this one if you have kids. 

Polynesian Bungalow – We’ve never stayed in this one before, but I saw them while riding the monorail to Magic Kingdom and they looked awesome. They’re the Disney version of Fuji’s over the water bungalows and absolutely adorable. Each one is perched on the water, had a private pool and a killer view. Worth the splurge if you’re traveling with a larger crowd or looking for something romantic.

T H E    P A R K S 

So like I said, I can do all the parks in one day. It’s a whole lot of walking but boy is it worth it. We always say ‘Maybe we will skip this park next time’ but each one has something we love so we never actually do! Since we can’t hit every single ride in one day, I’m sharing our go-to’s and favorite food stops in each park. 

Magic Kingdom – The original! I love the magic of magic kingdom. Nothing is more exciting than walking down Main St. and seeing the castle in the distance. Magic Kingdom’s rides may not be as thrilling as the other parks, but they’re classics and so many great ones. Rides: Obviously our cannot miss list includes (In counter clockwise order of the park): Space Mountain, Snow White’s Dwarf Coaster, It’s a Small World, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.  Some unexpected and often looked over rides we love: Lilo & Stitch, Monster Inc. Laugh Floor, Philar Magic. Food: I’m not a huge fan of sitting down to eat in any of the parks, if you’re only there for a weekend you don’t have much time to fine dine. In Magic Kingdom, there’s a great order at the counter restaurant on the end, left side of Main St. when you’re facing the castle (we don’t eat here often so I can’t remember the name). Beside’s that restaurant, we tend to grab junk food in Magic Kingdom.. corn dogs, Mickey shaped pretzels, Ice Cream, rice krispy treats. You can bring your own food in the park or leave to get food outside the park and come back, if you have the hopper. We often do that just to save money, especially if you can eat on the way to another park. 

Animal Kingdom – Animal Kingdom is one of the parks were always debating if we’re running out of time. Atmosphere wise, it’s second best behind Magic Kingdom but ride wise in my book it’s third best. The giant tree is such a great centerpiece too, I love looking for all the animals! Rides: The Dinosaur Expedition (a little scary for young kids and me ha!), Mount Everest, the Safari. Food: They have better ‘fast’ options than Magic Kingdom, if you walk around you will notice different stands with boneless wings, chicken and rice dishes and asia noodles. They’re all great! 

Hollywood Studios – The most fun rides are at Hollywood Studios but I’m not a huge fan of the atmosphere. I can never skip Hollywood Studios though because of the rides, our two favorite are in this park. Rides: Tower of Terror, Rock’n Roller Coaster, Toy Story. Food: The best food of all three parks. For ‘fast’ food, head towards Tower of Terror, on your left there’s a few different stands with lots of options, they even have a Fried Green Tomato BLT. They also have seasonal Margaritas and Pina Coladas in the stands, last time I was there I got a Raspberry Coconut Colada that was heaven. If you do want a sit down meal or a sit down bar, I highly recommend ’50’s Prime Time Cafe’, we ate here one day and stayed for over two hours at the bar. The drinks we’re great, the atmosphere was so adorable and fun, and our bartender was amazing. I wish I could go there all the time! 

Epcot – Sadly, Epcot often gets cut out of my trips. If we’re on a budget while we’re down there, we try not to eat too much in the parks and a huge Epcot attraction is eating around the world. I definitely think it’s worth doing if you haven’t before, but I don’t do it every time we go.  Rides: Test Track, Soarin’ and Mission Space. 

Tips on Planning your Schedule: 

Look at the park hours. Start at the park that opens first. If you’re trying to squeeze everything into a day or two, be there right when it opens (or even a little before). Finish at the park that stays open the latest. A good thing to remember, Magic Kingdom does their ‘Dreams Wishes’ firework show every night at 8. If you want to see that, try to be at Magic Kingdom during that time so you don’t have to make a special trip back. 

-Pick which rides you want to ride in each park and get your fast passes ahead of time. 

-Bring snacks and water in the park! Not only does this save money, it saves time that you spend trying to get/eat food. 

-Use the ‘Single Rider’ line when possible! It can cut your wait time down by hours. 

-Try to go a weekend that isn’t super crowded. We were recently there during Nationals Dance competition and the lines we’re insanely long. 

-Dress comfy. 

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Obviously this schedule would probably look a little different if you have kids, but maybe this will help you hit the best spots! What’s your favorite part of Disney? Is there anything I need to add to my ‘must do’ list?

Thanks a million to Disney World for sponsoring this post and having us in the park. As always, all opinions are my own which is easy because we’ve always been huge Disney fans! 

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