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‘Ohana restaurant in Disney’s Polynesian Resort offers a Character Dining breakfast and a Polynesian-inspired dinner menu. Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney World

By Jill E. Cooper

The vacation countdown has ended, your boarding passes have been printed and you’ve checked in online at your resort. The much-anticipated day has arrived: You’re going to Walt Disney World! You’ve got plans to spend a full day at each of the four main Disney theme parks in Orlando (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and have set aside time to shop at Downtown Disney and swim at Disney’s fun water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) during your stay. But how will you spend your day of arrival at the most magical place on earth? You may not want to burn a day of admission on your theme park tickets since you won’t have a full day to spend in the parks. So what should you do? Here’s a plan for a magical first day at Disney.

  • Since Disney’s 20-plus resorts are destinations in and of themselves, check in and then set aside a few hours to explore the amazing themed hotel that you’ll be calling home for the next few days. Get the lay of the land and soak in the atmosphere. Listen to some jazz music in the lobby of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort in the French Quarter or watch Fire Rock Geyser erupt behind the Hidden Springs Pool at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Cool off in the Hippy Dippy Pool at Disney’s Pop Century Resort or pull up a rocker and watch the gazelles amble by on Arusha savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  • Make your way over to ’Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort via complimentary Disney transportation. Advance dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance of your arrival (and are highly recommended) for this popular, uber-fun family style restaurant situated on the second story of the Great Ceremonial House. Here guests dine on succulent skewered meats amidst imposing tiki statues and young guests engaged in coconut races. You won’t be able to resist dancing with your fellow diners as the island music swells. And beware the lure of the enticing house-made bread pudding served à la mode.
  • After dinner, proceed out the back of the resort to the most captivating beach in all of Walt Disney World. There you’ll find the perfect spot to enjoy a lapu lapu (a signature beverage at Disney’s Polynesian Resort served in its own pineapple) and watch the bustling activity on the Seven Seas Lagoon from the comfort of a welcoming hammock. Then, just one hour before the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular erupts above Cinderella Castle, board your own private watercraft from the resort dock. (Boats of varying sizes can be booked by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.) The Cast Member who pilots your vessel will give you a private tour of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon just before anchoring the watercraft directly in front of the Magic Kingdom. Music coordinated with the fireworks display will waft from the boat sound system as you enjoy the best seat for viewing fireworks in all of Walt Disney World. There’s no more magical way to kick off the Disney vacation of a lifetime.


Jill Cooper is a member of the 2012 Walt Disney World Moms Panel.

Panelists have received/will receive a Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Disneyland Resort or Disney Vacation Club vacation for panelist and up to three family members and/or park tickets for their participation on the Walt Disney World® Moms Panel. The views expressed in the Panel are those of the panelists, who are independent contractors. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online, its affiliates, its management, its agents or its employees and have not been reviewed or approved by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online prior to posting.

Tagged: Disney

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