Top 5 (Free) iPhone apps for Disney World!

Hello all, hope everyone is doing well. There are many apps that help organize your travels, obviously we’re here to talk about Disney. Of course, we the tough economic times that we’re going through the least I’m going to recommend is spending $4.99 on an app (I mean…that’s a bag of Popcorn at Magic Kingdom!! Priorities, people.). Anyhow, these are the apps that I found useful during my most recent trip.

Just a recommendation, search for the ones that suit you and your family’s needs.

1. Undercover Tourist : Disney World 

  • Current park operation times (remember, sometimes they change by season), parade times, wait times.
  • Favorites section
  • Search for attractions and wait times with the “Near Me” button.
  • Add scheduled events.
  • Select rides by age/category/Fast Pass to search for.
  • Dining options list by theme park/Restort/Downtown Disney area (Menus and prices included in most).
  • Memory games.
  • “Friend finder” – You can create groups and see where the other members are through this option. Great if you’re traveling with teenagers.
  • Locate me – you never know.
  • Parking – Know where you parked through GPS system.

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2. Disney Mobile Magic

  • Option for WDW Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California.
  • Map and event times by park.
  • Entertainment areas (Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Downtown Disney, etc…)
  • Resort maps with recreation areas listed. (Includes only Disney hotels, not even Downtown Disney area hotels).
  • Some features are unlocked when you are at WDW since it uses the iPhones location feature.

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3. My Disney Experience

  • Guide map
  • Wait times
  • Sign in option to unlock more “magic”.
  • Park hours
  • New features.
  • Things to-do
  • Characters Today – See where your favorite characters will be that day and beat the crowds.
  • MyReservations – Sign in with your Disney account and make reservations at your favorite reservations.

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4. Disney World Wait Times

  • Just wait times… – I list this one because maybe not everyone wants a lot of features and just the wait times, this simple app is the one for you.

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5. Disney World Park Hours

  • Park hours for up 5-6 months in advance. (For example, as I’m writing this I checked and you can see park times up until May 13, 2014.) Great for planning ahead.

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– I know some of these apps share some common features but go ahead and check them out and see the one that you like better. My personal favorite is Undercover Tourist, I find it has everything I need. Check them out and see which one fits your travel needs.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All things mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo are taken from iTunes.apple.com !

Any additional questions, comments or suggestions you can contact me at– disneyandsparkle@gmail.com

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10 Must-Do’s at Downtown Disney

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I love Downtown Disney – some may say obsessed. This could be the result of two things. First off, I’ve been going to Downtown Disney every since I can remember, I’ve always stayed in the Downtown Disney (except once in 2008) resort area so we always ended our nights there. Second of all, it’s FREE and there is so much to do in a calmer pace than the theme parks.

1. Trade some pins! Whether you’re a collector, newbie or just looking for one or two pins to take back as a souvenir you won’t find a bigger collection than the one at Disney Pin Traders over at Marketplace. Even if you don’t buy any you can still see the amazing (and largest) pin collection on WDW grounds. If you’re on a budget order a few beforehand online and trade when you get there, just remember to follow the rules.

2. LEGO Imagination CenterWe’re still in Marketplace, keep up. – The best thing about LEGO Imagination Center is that kids (and adults) can both see amazing LEGO sculptures, play in the huge LEGO table or buy there own to build back in the hotel or at home. Take great pictures with the dragon in the lake or with the tourists. It’s like getting 2 “attractions” in one.

3. Disney’s Candy Cauldron
Now…don’t go yelling at me for mentioning candy, you’re on vacation, it’s allowed. Anyways, Candy Cauldron has everything from packaged goodies to fresh baked treats. Skip making lines for candy at the parks wasting precious time and make getting that caramel apple something to look forward to at the end of the night. Located in West Side (in front of Bongo’s). — Same goes for Goofy’s Candy Co. at Marketplace.

4. Disney’s Days of Christmas
Disney? Christmas? All year long? … Must I really say more?. Located in Marketplace.

5. Spice and Tea Exchange
Back to Marketplace, keep up. This is a great place to stop by for adults. It’s not just candy and glitter-y pens at WDW. There’s something for adults as well. This place has teas from all over the world, some WDW themed and some not but all great and lots of different flavors. Great spices too, but the tea assortment is the real winner. There are baggies, boxes, tea pots and tea cups! You’ll have to check with your airline’s regulations before stocking up but it’s great (and might I add, different) store to go to.

6. World of Disney
THE BIGGEST SELECTION OF DISNEY MERCHANDISE IN THE WORLD! Sorry…I got excited. Everything you could want is here, from toddler toys, pens, shirts and totes to Disney china for the kitchen and bedding it’s here. Everything you have seen in the parks you will find here and they usually have clearance sections for your budget travels. So stop carrying around bags with shirts, mugs and plush toys in the parks and buy them here at the end of the day to go back to the hotel. – Once you’re inside you have another hour or so after the store closes to finish your shopping, huge plus! Located in Marketplace.

7. House of Blues
I was a bit hesitant to mention HoB since you have to pay to get in but it’s too good to not mention. Located in West Side, HoB offers great Southern food (re-invented menu by Chef Aarón Sánchez), down-home ambiance and great entertainment. You can find events before online as well as purchase your tickets before them. It’s a great alternative to get away from Mouse and Pixie Dust overdose and enjoy good music and food… There’s even a tribute to Led Zeppelin this week.

8. Cirque Du Solei: La Nouba
Again.. I was a bit hesitant but it’s well worth the money. I believe it’s important to make the most of your trip (within your means of course) and if there are a few non-Disney things you can do while there go for it! La Nouba, Cirque du Soleil’s third permanent show, is an expensive one, the cheapest seats are currently $52 – however, if there is room in your budget it is breathtaking. Created as a fairy tale to keep in tone with the magic of WDW, the stunts are fun for the whole family, the “magic” is breathtaking for the kids and the music leaves you without words to describe how amazing it is. The acts are amazing as well, from the Diabolo girls (my personal favorite) to the flying trapeze to the aerial ballet in silk I know it’s steep but you won’t regret it. Located in West Side. You can find more information here. Apparently the backstage tour is no longer available according to their site, but be on the lookout and research before you go — it might become available in the future once more and it’s a great experience. (Off the record: I took it and was able to see everything, from costume rooms to rehearsals to even try my hand at the Diabolo girl’s act!)

9. Cap’n Jack’s Marina
Located in Marketplace this is one of the attractions in DD that I’ve always wanted to but have never gotten around to it. Although I can’t speak based on personal experience like the above mentioned must-do’s I will still recommend it. You rent nifty little boats and navigate your way through Village Lake, I can imagine amazing photo opportunities during the day and amazing views of everything lighted up during the night (specially during the holidays). The prices are rather reasonable for WDW and there’s a group offer that includes a driver (or should I say captain?) either way, check it out.

10. Eat something different!
Now I know this isn’t necessarily breaking news. However, there are many great dinning options at DD, gives you a break from the park hot dogs, fake grill marked burgers and fries. There’s Bongo’s Cuban Café for amazing Cuban food and mojitos. Fulton’s Crab House for seafood and an architecturally stimulating option. Wolfgang Puck Express for a different fare that won’t break your budget. Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Café – known chains with their own twist! If I had to pick I’d go with the latter, there’s something about a talking tree and rain noises that just opens up my appetite. Portobello for Italian dinning. T-REX Cafe , dinning in the pre-historic times of dino’s? Sign me up.

Can I add a number 11? Yes? Score!

Unofficial 11. Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Ice Cream Shop
Maybe it’s because I don’t have one of these where I live, although we do have a wide variety of Ghirardelli products I can’t go back to DD ever again and not go to Ghirardelli. Everything from hot sundaes to cones with scoops this is heaven on earth (or maybe Willy Wonka’s version?). There’s usually a line but it goes by quite fast since they’re used to a heavy volume of costumers. My hotel had a book with a discount so check online beforehand for coupons or ask at the counter if you’re staying in a hotel. — Reasonable prices and you can share almost all desserts, they’re quite big. Located in Marketside.

There are many other places to go and things to do. There’s a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where little girls are transformed into princesses (for a price). Team Mickey Athletic Club to grab a souvenir for that athlete in your life. Characters in Flight hot air balloon — I’m in a currently between a rock and a hard place with this; when I went in January the prices began at $40 however, online it says that they start at $12 , don’t think it’s worth the $$ though…get walking, do some cardio on vacation and see DD by foot (or in one of the boats) instead of standing in a hot air balloon. Of course, there’s always Disney Quest, but at $45 p/p may I suggest saving this in case you spend a whole day at DD? There’s also AMC Theaters, movie at Disney? Why not! (Can’t imagine how much the popcorn costs though).

Check out the map before you go! Maybe you can fit in a day there in between parks to rest a little bit and save some $$ on parking and park entrance. Great to go at night for street entertainment and performances.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All things mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us!

Any additional questions, comments or suggestions you can contact me at– disneyandsparkle@gmail.com

10 Best EPCOT Secrets !

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I LOVE EPCOT…and no, I’m not writing in all caps throughout this post, I just wanted to emphasize love and EPCOT happens to be all caps. I wasn’t yelling at you, I promise, please don’t leave. Okay, moving on. EPCOT is my favorite of all the parks, however, it’s not a crowd pleaser with many kids. If you make your way to the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow…or EPCOT make sure to take advantage of these great tips.

…10 Best EPCOT Secrets…

1.  Cool Club by Coca Cola | Conveniently located right before Test Track, Cool Club is a hidden gem in Future World West. It’s brought by Coca Cola and offers tastes of many Coca Cola products throughout the world (My favorite was Israel’s, hubby’s was Mozambique’s). You can try as many as you want as many times as you want for FREE! They have cute little paper cups for your “samples” which are a decent size. – And you didn’t read this here but you could maybe take a few if you have little kids to give them a bit of your drink and save money on that later on -. They have great Coca Cola/Disney merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else.

2. Character Spot | Located in Future World West, you can finally stop hunting down Minnie, Mickey and his friends for a picture. They’re here! All day! Although the 3rd guest changes, the day I went it was Pluto, that dog is so lovable. It’s indoors, air conditioned and has a carpeted floor. This means that you can get some air and have the kids sit on the floor while the wait – maybe even have a snack. A great trick is to go towards the end of the day. Stop by and ask the cast member on duty until what time they’re going to be there and go at least 30-40 minutes before, the later it is the high chances that everyone has already take their picture and are on their way to the fireworks show. We did this last time and only waited 15 minutes. Remember, they’ll take a picture with your camera but the ones with the Photo Pass will look much better since it’s the camera that the cast members are used to handle. Smile!

3. Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure | Great way to make EPCOT fun for kids. It will give them small assignments to due, clues to find and places to go while on an adventure with Kim and Wade. Find all the equipment necessary at one of the KP Recruitment Centers, look for them at the park map when you get there or ask a Cast Member.

4. Get there early and head straight to Soarin, Mission:SPACE or Test Track| Pick 2, make the line for one while someone from your party gets Fast Passes for the other. These are the rides that tend to have the longest lines and remember that Fast Passes do run out. Do this little trick early, why? Because World Showcase doesn’t open until 11 a.m. Get there early and you have 2 whole hours to go around Future World and beat the crowds. (If you have extra magic hours and it happens to be EPCOT’s day and you can get there at 8am count your blessings, you’re one lucky Mousketeer!)

5. Sugar Candy artist at Japan Pavilion | Japan  (duh!) Right next to Teppan Edo there’s a small booth where an artist makes amazing sugar candy figures, from parrots to flowers they are true artists. Watch as they make these “figurines” in the blink of an eye while explaining everything.

6. Innoventions East & West | Future World East | Great area for kids and the whole family to walk around, see how stuff works, learn how to make the world a better place and see all sorts of cool things related to saving energy, recycling, air, etc. (Don’t tell the kids it’s all science, they’ll go mad I tell ya’, simply mad.) Oh and it’s indoors with air conditioning.

7. Funky snacks at the pavilions | Don’t just walk by the pavilions. Go inside, take a look around. Besides amazing replicas, natives from the lands and great information on each country there are delicacies from each country there. You don’t have to spend a whole lot, maybe buy one thing at every pavilion for the whole family to share. There are seaweed and shrimp chips at Japan, gummy sushi at China, hummus and kabobs at Morroco, dark chocolate with hazelnuts at Italy, German chocolate cake at Germany (or bratwurst with biër if you’re 21+). In United Kingdom you’ll find butterscotch biscuits (cookies) and native chips, same with Canada.

In Mexico, Norway, France and U.S.A you’ll find more familiar treats such as nachos, taquitos, caramel, caramel popcorn, croissants, napoleon dessert and funnel cake.

8. Malestrom | Norway . Fun ride that you wouldn’t expect inside a pavilion and it ends with a short film that you watch or skip. Short wait times as well and it has a few surprises here and there that I won’t spoil.

9. Illuminations: Reflections of Earth | The best way to end the night at EPCOT! Start heading to Showcase Plaza at least an hour before it begins (Check the times in the “Show Times” paper conveniently located next to the park maps when you enter) to get a great view.

10. Learn a new word/how to write or say your name in another language | All cast members of the pavilions are natives of the land and therefore the language, although this may not necessarily be as fun in United Kingdom and Canada it will be in the more exotic pavilions like China, Germany, Morocco and Japan. Pick a word and ask a cast member to say it in their native language or teach you to write it. In Morocco I got a necklace with my name written in Arabic on both the plaque and the box it was kept in, great keapsake. It’s great for children so they learn something new. — Heck, maybe even practice those 4 years of high school Spanish in México — Have fun, they’re used to being asked questions and are there to make your day magical. If it’s for the kids maybe they can write what they learn in their autograph book (extra hint: that could be great for a Disney Trip scrapbook later on.)

What are your secrets for EPCOT? Favorite things to do? Let me know!

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All things mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us! Have a sparkle-y day.

Any additional questions, comments or suggestions you can contact me at– disneyandsparkle@gmail.com

Take a Break – Magic Kingdom

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The Magic Kingdom (officially, it’s just Magic Kingdom, no “the” but it sounds more royal that way doesn’t it? No? Okay, moving on…) was the first WDW park to be opened back in 1971 and is represented and is home to the ever magical Cinderella Castle which is almost the official symbol of Walt Disney World. Magic Kingdom is divided into seven lands: Main Street, U.S.A, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Each of this lands is amazing and has great rides and “take-a-break” rides. What are these? Glad you asked! (Did I mention your skin looks radiant today?) these are rides/attractions that over the years I have noticed are great to take a break during the day. They may not be super modern like Enchanted Tiki Room but they have low wait times, offer a seat and air conditioning for a hot day!

These rides/attractions are great to rest your feet, wait for a Fast Pass time to approach, for the young kids to rest their little legs for a bit, give moms and dads a break from pushing around the stroller and such. Of course the wait times will vary according to the season and day of the week but based on previous trips the following list of attractions has proven good to unwind for 10 – 20 minutes while still enjoying the Disney magic. These are great to schedule between high-wait-time rides, half day when kids are used to their naps, after having lunch and such.

Main Street, U.S.A

  • Walt Disney World Railroad – Approximate duration: 20 minutes | This is an adorable train that circles MK, it’s about 1.5 miles in length and consists of 4 passenger cars, 2 of which are the ones that are usually functioning although they do add more as necessary during high season. The railroad begins functioning at 9:00 a.m. up until the fireworks show where it closes due to safety reasons. According to Wikipedia, the railroad remains closed during Mickey’s Pirate and Princess Party, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.The WDW railroad will give you 20 minutes of calmness as the train goes around the MK and behind a few bushes and trees. Although the wait tends to be 20-30 minutes while the train makes it way back if you’re at Main St. station the wait is under-roof which is good during the summer months.

Adventureland

  • Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room – Approximate duration: 20 minutes | This is the attraction that gave way to the identification of “take-a-break rides”. It isn’t a live show, it needs a bit of upgrading but it’s comfy, it gave my feet a break when my brilliant mind decided to wear high heel boots for a day at MK (Lesson learned!).Enchanted Tiki Room is an audio-animatronics based show featuring friendly toucan birds, fake thunder, dark room, Hawaiian-ish music and dancing orchids. It has a small pre-show and line to get moves quickly (if there is any). It’s nothing to write home about but it’s a good 20 minute break.
  • Jungle Cruise – Approximate duration: 7 minutes | I debated adding this one to the list since there usually tends to be a line and it is less than 10 minutes but if by some miracle there is little to no wait time go for it. No, there are no live animals and the narration has stayed pretty standard during the last couple of years but it’s a WDW classic. If there is a long line consider skipping it or getting a Fast Pass.

Frontierland

  • Country Bear Jamboree – Approximate duration: 15 minutes | Ah Country Bear Jamboree, there’s something that just directly associates this ride with my childhood visits to WDW. It’s house in a medium sized theater where the “bears” sing country songs and provide a good show to relax and take a break. Check park map for specific times or if they do one every 20 minutes or so (like Enchanted Tiki Room) once you arrive.

Liberty Square

  • Liberty Square Riverboat – Approximate duration: 17 minutes | Currently out of service | When I went in January ’13 the riverboat was working but now it is temporarily closed for enhancement (I wonder what they’ll do) hope they re-open soon. This is a great ride because it’s fun for all ages, it’s located on your way to Haunted Mansion/Fantasyland and covers a good half mile of MK territory cruising through Tom Sawyer Island. You can step back in time to the days of the early frontier while enjoying the ride on the Liberty Belle.
    Note: There is limited seating on the Liberty Belle (official riverboat name) so you might want to plan this break (when the it re-opens) to get there early and snatch a seat, however, it is still a great ride to sneak in half-day and unwind for a couple of minutes. The departure times are usually listed right in front of the ride, check attraction times when you arrive at MK so you don’t have to go all the way to Liberty Square from Tomorrowland only to see the Liberty Belle just departing.

Fantasyland

  • Casey Jr. Splash’N’Soak Station– Approximate duration: As much time as you want |The splash station is a water play area located across from the Dumbo the Flying Elephant. This might be best for young kids during the summer to give them time to refresh while you sneaky-ly wait for a Fast Pass time to come up? – If it’s during the summer don’t forget to stay hydrated. That Florida sun takes it’s job seriously.

Tomorrowland

  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover: Approximate duration: 10 minutes | Sit back, relax, give your feet a rest and enjoy a 10 minute tour of Tomorrowland above ground level allowing you see the second floor of many attractions.  It is located in the center of Rocket Tower Plaza (in front of Space Mountain). Lines move quickly since the PeopleMover seats 20 people per vehicle (there are 32) so, you do the math.
  • Carousel of Progress: Approximate duration: 25-30 minutes| The duration is an estimate since research showed that the theater revolved around the 6 stages every 4 minutes. This is a blast from the past, it takes you back to the early 20th century, how technology, families, colors and even world events affected different time eras. It’s also fun that the seats revolve around the fixed stages, adding a little extra magic. The show hasn’t evolved much but I believe that’s what’s great about it.  It shows young children how things used to be and work back in the day and allows those that did live through those periods of time to go on a small trip down memory lane.

Remember, in WDW everything is subject to change. Sporadic closing of rides due to mechanical maintenance, weather conditions, etc. can occur. However, the above mentioned attractions are pretty safe from those given the nature of their location and indoor seating.

Schedule these in between high wait time attractions like Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion and such. Like I said, these are good to rest your feet, give little kids some time to rest, wait for Fast Pass times to arrive or simply enjoy a calm attraction for those who get a little bit aggravated after 7 hours surrounded by masses.

Although you can sit and take a break at any restaurant or counter-service dinning option believe it or not there aren’t many benches and designated resting areas in MK so hey…two birds, one stone. And don’t forget to download the park map ahead of time (there are also iPhone apps that have them along with wait times – topic for another post), you don’t have to do a minute-by-minute plan but at least know what direction to head in as soon as you get off the monorail.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All things mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us! Have a sparkle-y day.

Any additional questions, comments or suggestions you can contact me at– disneyandsparkle@gmail.com