Going into my Disney World vacation I was highly skeptically. For starters, I was taking my 2-year-old daughter (spoiler alert: she’s impatient, but what 2-year-old isn’t), my wife, and my parents. Then, mix in the Florida summer heat and the fact that we were driving there from Missouri. All in all, it seemed like a recipe for disaster. Trying to coordinate everything and please everyone was going to be daunting. And, I’ll admit it: I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. Much to my surprise, however, this vacation ended up being one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Find out why with this Dad’s guide to WDW.

Dad's Guide to WDW

Essentially, it comes down to one thing: planning ahead. Be sure to use all the tools available to you. Starting off, I used Reserve Orlando because of their awesome ticket prices. We received some additional days free (we ended up staying 5 but had 6-day tickets for the cost of 4 days). I had multiple questions before and after buying the tickets. However, I got answers pretty much instantly using the chat on their website.

My Disney Experience & MagicBands

After I purchased the tickets I received an email from Reserve Orlando. It contained my Disney ticket codes, which allowed me to setup a My Disney Experience account and connect my tickets. In addition, I purchased a MagicBand for every member of my group and connected it to the Disney account. This was awesome for multiple reasons:

First, you can use the MagicBands for entry into all of the Disney Theme Parks for which you have paid entry. To use, simply tap your band against a Mickey Mouse podium at the gates. The podium will light up green and into the park you go.

Next, there are Disney photographers around all the parks, at character greetings, etc., that you can get your picture taken by. Once the picture is taken, they will scan your band. Then, the photo is added to your account. This is true for anyone in your travel party; if they take a photo and scan their band, it will appear in your My Disney Experience account (Note: be sure they are connected to your group via your Disney account). The really cool part? If you have the My Disney Experience phone app you will see your photos magically appear within 20 minutes. Sometimes, it was almost instantaneous. It was fun to be able to look through your photos during the rare times that you were standing in line.

Another useful part of the bands is that it is used with FastPass+ reservations and dining reservations. Moreover, some rides, like It’s a Small World, will acknowledge you are there by name using the band. Other rides, like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, take an in-ride photo of you that can be scanned to the MagicBand at the end of the ride.11250_48_z

For our Disney vacation, we chose to stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. I highly recommend staying here due to its seriously phenomenal pool known as Storm Along Bay. It is shared with Disney’s Beach Club Resort and is the BEST Disney World Resort pool. Of course, there are many more benefits to staying at Disney World Resort Hotel. For instance, you can connect your MagicBand to a payment method in your Disney account. As a result, anyone in your family with your unique PIN code can purchase food, drinks, gifts, etc., with their MagicBand. When you checkout you will receive a listing showing who charged what to the account so that you can settle up later. Keep in mind, though, the full amount is auto-charged to your payment method. So, be sure your account can cover all of the charges until you settle up.

Disney’s Memory Maker Service

Another fastastic service Disney offers is Memory Maker. This is a great purchase to add to your Disney vacation as it lets you download all the photos taken of you around the park for one price. (These include ride photos and photos taken by Disney photographers.) If you order this in advance from your My Disney Experience account, it is cheaper than paying for it after your vacation. However,  be sure to buy it at least four days in advance before you go.

There is a three-day (from the time you purchase) freeze on the feature. As a result, you will have to wait three days from the time you purchase it to get all your photos for one package price. Otherwise, you will pay approximately$15/photo. The Memory Maker option was worth it to my family. It allowed us to relax and enjoy the vacation knowing we were going to get some really great photos of the whole family. This is in contrast to those photos we all have where there is always one family member missing (person taking photo.. usually Dad) or constantly interrupting someone else’s vacation asking them to take your photo.

My Disney Experience App

The last major tool any Dad’s guide to WDW should include is the My Disney Experience app. I’ve mentioned it previously, but it’s worth detailing as it is AWESOME. I really would not want to do Disney World without it. It’s that impressive. From the app, you can pretty much do everything from anywhere. It shows a constantly updated itinerary of each day you have planned at Disney World.

Using the app, I found it incredibly useful that I could:

  • Make dining reservations
  • Check current line times
  • Create FastPass+ reservation changes on the fly (Tip: if the ride you are going to has little to no line, use the app to cancel your FastPass. Then, you can schedule another FastPass at a different time without wasting one on a no-pass needed line)
  • Check park hours
  • See which parks have Extra Magic Hours (Tip: this is another perk for staying on-site at a Disney resort as Extra Magic Hours allow you to be in the park an extra two hours early or late on designated days/parks)
  • View maps of attractions and restrooms in a park
  • Discover location of character meet and greets
  • View dining options and menus
  • Review shows and events schedule
  • Discover location of Disney photographers

One of the best changes to the app that I noticed was that they recently added in GPS-like directions that show you how to get from point A to point B. It also estimates the distance from your location via different methods (walk, bus, boat, monorail).

Disney Character Dining

Now, on to more of the magical moments we had at Disney World! We did two character meals, both of which this Dad’s guide to WDW highly recommends. The first was in Epcot’s Norway lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. This was perfect for my daughter because it is a princess lunch featuring the likes of Snow White, Belle, Ariel, and Cinderella. Beyond the excitement for my daughter, the food was really good. You get a buffet style first course followed by an entree and a dessert to share. The other character meal we did was held at the Beach Club Resort’s Cape May Cafe. Upon arrival, we were greeted with beach themed Goofy, Donald, and Minnie Mouse. It was fun meeting the characters. Plus, the breakfast was huge and had anything you could desire for breakfast.

A Dad’s guide to WDW wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Disney Springs. Even though Disney World parks have some wonderful shops, it’s definitely worth a visit. It is home to World of Disney (the largest Disney store in the world) and The LEGO store, as well as The Art of Disney which sells unique artwork and prints.

Dad’s Guide to WDW: Kid Tested, Parent Approved

Needless to say, the vacation was amazing and we’ll definitely be back.

One last Dad tip: Drink plenty of water. Get comfy shoes and break them in before you go. Also, build in time to your plans for naps for both kids and adults. You will need them.

Need help planning your dream Disney World vacation? There’s a lot to see and do at the most magical place on Earth, and it can be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what to do. I’ve been many times and still haven’t done it all. However, I can help you start to plan your itinerary by offering Disney World questions designed to help you find the type of vacation ideal for your family. 

Disney World Questions

Let’s do a quick rundown of activities available at Disney World Theme Park:

  • Disney Copyright Family MKFour major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot
  • Two waterparks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
  • Five golf courses
  • Downtown Disney
  • BoardWalk Entertainment District
  • Over 20 large resorts

Granted, you most likely won’t see all there is to see at Disney on your vacation. Keep these Disney World questions in mind to help you narrow down your selection.

Disney_BigThunderMtn1) How many parks do you want to visit?
The most common answer is all of them! I recommend purchasing Disney Park Hopper tickets to get the most out of your days. The Magic Kingdom is by far the best and most endearing park, so visiting there is a must. If this is your first time at Disney you’ll want to take your time at each park you do visit. If you park hop, which is recommended to maximize your time, you can hit a park that opens early and divide your day with a park that stays open late.

Disney_s_Caribbean_Beach_Resort_(043)2) Where will you stay?
This factors into a lot of your vacation planning as location is key, but so is price. Luckily, there is a wide range of lodging choices available in Orlando. If you can, splurge and stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel. Although they can be pricey, they are so worth it! Disney hotels pamper you in every way, and the parks are literally at your doorstep. Many off-site properties are located just a few miles from Disney World’s entrance. So, you can have the convenience of being near Disney World yet save a few bucks for other vacation expenses.

Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade_0013) How long will you stay in Orlando?
As far as Disney World questions go, this one is extremely important. It certainly factors into both of the above questions, but after learning all there is to do at Disney World Theme Parks you may want to rethink your game plan. For instance, when I first visited Disney World I wanted to see it all! So, I made the most of my park hopper pass and went to three parks in one day! This was way too much, way too fast – especially if you really want to take your time and experience the unique activities and attractions at each park.

If you want to visit all four theme parks, which is ideal, you will want to have at least five full days. Want to add on extras like a round of golf, Disney Waterparks or DisneyQuest? Then plan on seven days. This way you can get the full Disney experience without running around like a mouse chasing after cheese! Plus, seven-day park hopper passes are only marginally more than five-day tickets ($20 more for two more days of fun). 

Typhoon Lagoon 1966203754_091206_1001 (1)4) What type of tickets should you buy?
You may have noticed I’m partial to Disney park hopper tickets. However, depending on the length of stay you’ve picked Magic Your Way base Disney tickets or Waterpark Fun and More tickets might appeal to you. Water Park Fun & More tickets give each member of your travel party entry to one theme park a day, each day of your ticket. Want to enjoy more than one theme park per day? Choose the Park Hopper Water Park Fun & More Ticket. With so much to see and do here, you’ll love the ability to come and go from Theme Park to Theme Park on the same day. Plus you receive an equal number of separate admissions to any Walt Disney World Waterpark.

Magic Kingdom Fireworks

5) When to visit Disney World?

When you run through this list of Disney World questions, you may find your time is limited. For instance, if you have children and don’t want to take them out of school, summer may be the only option for travel. However, if you are more flexible with your dates keep dates in mind for special Disney events and festivals. Highlights include Christmas, Halloween, Star Wars Weekends, Flower & Garden Festival, and Food & Wine Festival. When you visit also plays into crowd levels. The early fall, December prior to Christmas vacation, and mid-January through early March are all good times to visit. Summer is busy so plan on packing patience into your suitcase.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will soon be in full bloom at Walt Disney World Resort, a sure sign that spring is upon us. The festival begins March 1 and continues through May 29, 2017. Featuring a colorful array of flowers, gardens, topiaries, live music, presentations and educational events, this festival is a highlight for all visitors, from gardening pros to novice naturists.

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Throughout the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, guests will be able to explore topiaries and gardens, learn planting, style and design techniques and groove to the sounds of the Garden Rocks concerts.

Highlights of the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival include:

Topiaries

The 2017 festival features several new displays, as well as some old favorites, with over 100 topiaries. Here are the new topiaries you don’t want to miss:

  • Belle – Located at the France Pavilion
  • Figment – Located behind Spaceship Earth
  • Phineas and Ferb – Located near Odyssey Bridge
  • The Three Caballeros – Located at the Mexico Pavilion

 

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Garden Rocks Concert Series

Groove to music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s at the America Gardens Theatre. Performances are at 5:30pm, 6:45pm and 8:00pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Jon Secada
>March 3 & 4, 2017
Known for the Song: “Just Another Day”

Dennis DeYoung featuring the music of STYX
March 5 & 6, 2017
Known for the Song: “Grand Illusion”

The Pointer Sisters
March 10 to 13, 2017
Known for the Song: “I’m So Excited”

Simple Plan
March 17 & 18, 2017
Known for the Song: “Welcome to My Life”

Plain White T’s
March 19 & 20, 2017
Known for the Song: “Hey There Delilah”

Night Ranger
March 24 to 27, 2017
Known for the Song: “Sister Christian”

Little River Band
March 31 to April 3, 2017
Known for the Song: “Reminiscing”

Blood, Sweat and Tears featuring Bo Bice
April 7 to 10, 2017
Known for the Song: “Spinning Wheel”

Gin Blossoms
April 14 to 17, 2017
Known for the Song: “Hey Jealousy”

The Orchestra starring former members of ELO
April 21 to 24, 2017
Known for the Song: “Evil Woman”

Exposé
April 28 & 29, 2017
Known for the Song: “Point of No Return”

Berlin featuring Terri Nunn – NEW!
April 30 & May 1, 2017
Known for the Song: “Take My Breath Away”

STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas
May 5 to 8, 2017
Known for the song “We Built This City”

The Guess Who
May 12 to 15, 2017
Known for the Song: “American Woman”

Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
May 19 to 22, 2017
Known for the Song: “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”

The Spinners
May 26 to 29, 2017
Known for the Song: “Working My Way Back to You”

HGTV and DIY Stars Presentations

During the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, get inspired by the stars of these networks. Learn to build a better garden with fascinating tips, tricks and techniques from talented HGTV and DIY Network designers and personalities. All presentations are at noon and 3pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Monday through Thursday other experts will present at these times.

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Don’t forget to make time for these special Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival family-friendly weekend events:

Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment and Conservation Specialists: March 31 to April 2 and April 28 to 30, 2017
Interact with team members from Disney’s Animal Kingdom park during this unique opportunity—an entire weekend featuring a variety of topics the whole family will enjoy, including what we can do to protect the planet, a.k.a. our own Spaceship Earth!

Celebrate Earth Day: April 22 to 24, 2017
Share in a celebratory occasion as we commemorate the place we all call home! Enjoy an assortment of special activities—and listen along as featured personalities speak at the Festival Center.

Discover the Bounty of Florida Agriculture: May 5 to 7, 2017
Don’t miss out on the chance to dig into Sunshine State! Interact with a whole cornucopia of Florida Agriculture specialists inside the Festival Center.

Florida Federation of Garden Clubs: May 12 to 14, 2017
Marvel at amazing flora designs that defy description—each one located inside the Festival Center.

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Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor Kitchens at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival present fresh, seasonal menus from countries spanning the globe. The list below is what’s featured for 2017.

Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market
Country: Germany

Cider House
Country: United Kingdom

Fleur de Lys
Country: France

Florida Fresh
Country: United States of America

Hanami
Country: Japan

Jardin de Fiestas
Country: Mexico

La Isla Fresca
Features: Caribbean Islands

Lotus House
Country: China

Northern Bloom
Country: Canada

Pineapple Promenade
Features: Sweet frozen treats

Primavera Kitchen
Country: Italy

Taste of Marrakesh
Country: Morocco

The Berry Basket – NEW!
Features: Berry dishes

THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews
Country: United States of America

Urban Farm Eats
Features: All-natural food and drink

All of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival events, concerts and programs are included with Disney World tickets.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Disney World excels at keeping their parks fresh, fun and entertaining! This year is no exception, as the park is bursting at the seams with activity. With that in mind, it’s time to discuss what’s new and what’s next for Disney World Theme Parks.  To get the scoop on new attractions at Disney World for 2017, read on.

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Enjoy a VIP viewing of the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks at the end of your Highway in the Sky excursion.

Highway in the Sky Dine-Around

Open Now

Disney offers more than just character attractions and thrill rides. In fact, it’s an excellent place for foodies too! Experience the thriving food scene at Disney World Resort on the Highway in the Sky Dine-Around. It features priority boarding on the monorail, with stops for cocktails (Disney’s Contemporary Resort), appetizers (Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort), dinner (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), and dessert (Disney’s Contemporary Resort). The night is capped by a viewing of the Magical Kingdom’s “Wishes Spectacular” from the Contemporary’s observation deck. Available on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

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River of Light is an amazing new show sure to captivate audiences.

Rivers of Light

February 2017

Another element that will make Animal Kingdom a day and night experience is the addition of Rivers of Light. The innovative experience opened on February 17, 2017, and takes place on Discovery River. The show will combine live music, floating lanterns, water screens, and swirling animal imagery. As night show, it will become the perfect ending to a full day of fun at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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The Na’vi River journey will be unlike any other Disney adventure–ever!

Pandora: The World of Avatar

May 2017

As one of the most anticipated new attractions at Disney World in recent years, Pandora already has an eager fan base chomping at the bit to experience this one-of-a-kind world. Soon enough, they’ll get their chance!

Pandora comes to life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017, right in time for Memorial Day Weekend. The immersive fantasy world will envelop guests in the world of Avatar, inspired by James Cameron’s epic film Avatar. Floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforest, and a banshee flying attraction, as well as after dark entertainment, will immerse guests in the world of Pandora.

Highlights include:

Avatar Flight of Passage: Fly high above the jungles of pandora on a Mountain Banshee.

Na’vi River Journey: A family-friendly boat ride through the bioluminescent rainforests of Pandora.

Satu’Li Canteen: Explorers can recharge at this canteen, the main dining location within Pandora.

Pongu Pongu: The go-to place for drinks and snacks.

Windtraders: An all-encompassing gift shop for all things Na’vi.

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©Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

Star Wars Tour

Spring 2017

New attractions at Disney World don’t stop at the Animal Kingdom. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is opening an all-new Star Wars Guided Tour. The 7-hour experience is an immersion into all things Star Wars and is offered on Mondays and Saturdays only. Character greetings, themed dining, ride experiences, insider tours, a dessert party and VIP viewing of Star Wars: A Galactic Spectauracular are among the highlights. This new experience comes on the heels of several new Star Wars attractions that debuted in December 2016. Among them, the onstage showcase “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

Even more Star Wars themed lands are in the works for Hollywood Studios, so stay tuned!

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Miss Fortune Falls features a treasure hunt through raging river rapids.

Miss Fortune Falls

Spring 2017

New attractions at Disney World also extend to their waterparks. Over at Typhoon Lagoon, guests are treated to an all-new family-style raft adventure. It’s themed after Captain Mary Oceaneer, who legend has it, was a treasure hunter who roamed the seven seas until a rogue storm marooned her vessel at Typhoon Lagoon.

The ride starts gently enough, as treasure rafts make their way through the open waters. But then, they plunge into a whitewater adventure! At two minutes long, this excursion is set to be one of the longest at Disney’s Waterparks.

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Concept art of the revamped Planet Hollywood Observatory at Disney Springs.

Disney Springs

Throughout 2017

In 2017, the transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs continues. This year the expansion is focused on food, with a bevy of new restaurants opening.

Paddlefish: Taking over the former Fulton’s Crab House location, Paddlefish offers a sleek and modern spin on a steak and seafood house. Menu options include a build-your-own-boil, while the rooftop lounge will offer a special late-night menu as well as fantastic views of the water and Disney Springs.

Planet Hollywood Observatory: Out with the old and in with the new! This reimagined concept takes the old dome of the Planet Hollywood Restaurant, and transforms it into an observatory focused on a different kind of stars–the celestial ones! However, the interior still feature a ton of movie memorabilia, video screens, and music, so you can still get your pop culture fix. The menu, created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, puts an out-of-this-world spin on everything from burgers to cocktails.

The Polite Pig: Orlando locals love The Ravenous Pig. The Polite Pig, serving as it’s sister restaurant, offers the same scrumptious Florida cuisine. Wood-fired and grilled meats are their signature, as is an impressive beverage program that serves all drinks on tap–even wine!

Wine Bar George: Speaking of wine, at Wine Bar George master sommelier George Miliotes creates a unique place to sip, sit and eat. Infused with the themes of a winemaker’s estate, the vibe is very warm and cozy. Small plates dominate the menu as wines have a starring role. And, with over 100 to choose from, every palate will be pleased.

It’s Going to Be a Great Year

This is the latest update on new attractions at Disney World for 2017. As always, Reserve Orlando will keep you updated on all that’s happening in Orlando, Disney World and beyond.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

The spirit of New Orleans is brought to life during Universal Orlando Mardi Gras!  A combination of electrifying concerts, a dazzling parade, delicious Cajun cuisine and plenty of authentic New Orleans musicians creates one of the biggest parties in Orlando, Florida.   

Universal Orlando Resort Mardi Gras 2015

On select nights February 4 through March 25, 2017, Universal Orlando guests will be treated to a family-friendly version of Mardi Gras.  You know it’s Mardi Gras the minute you enter the park, with festive decorations, traditional Zydeco Music, street performers and stilt walkers creating quite the scene.  Of course, the biggest crowd pleasers are Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Concerts.  This year’s line-up features a variety of music with everything from rock to R&B, to country to pop sensations taking the stage. 

Concert_499673637The complete line-up of Universal Orlando Mardi Gras performers:
  • February 4: Trace Adkins
  • February 11: Ne-Yo
  • February 18: Collective Soul
  • February 19: X Ambassadors
  • February 25: Fifth Harmony
  • March 4: Yandel
  • March 5: Olivia Newton-John
  • March 11: UB40
  • March 12: Toby Keith
  • March 18: Jason DeRulo
  • March 19: Earth, Wind and Fire
  • March 25: The All-American Rejects

 

All concerts are included with the purchase of Universal Studio tickets.  Concerts are held at the Music Plaza stage.  Get ready for beads, bands and good times!

Before the concerts, be sure to take in the Mardi Gras Parade.  Winding its way through the streets of Universal Studios, the parade celebrates cultures from around the world  A lot of work, imagination, wood, glitter and paint went into making each float, all of which will take you around the globe to exotic locales.  The celebration continues at the French Quarter Courtyard, which is the central location of the Mardi Gras festivities.  Located near the Mummy and Twister attractions at Universal Studios, the French Quarter is where you’ll find food, spirits and music straight out of the Big Easy. 

The New Orleans Bands performing include:
February 4-14: Young Pinstripe Brass Band
February 15-21: New Breed Brass Band
February 22 – March 5: Free Agents Brass Band
March 6-15: Naughty Professor Brass Band
March 16-25: Dirty Bourbon River Show

 

After the concerts end, head to Pat O’Briens at Universal CityWalk.  It is a replica of the original bar in New Orleans.  Grab a hurricane and continue the festive fun you can find only at Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras Celebration.

Get Universal Orlando tickets for an authentic Mardi Gras Celebration unlike any other!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Searching for a break from the winter blues? Head to the Sunshine State! It’s the perfect place to play this spring, as there are endless things to do. From character-filled daydreams at Disney World to adventure-themed thrills at Universal Orlando Resort, attractions cater to families with kids of all ages. Need a nudge to get your spring break started? Read on to find things to do during an Orlando Spring Break.

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Make a Splash at Orlando Water Parks

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Aquatica

Nothing breaks the winter blues better than a day splashing under the Orlando sun. Kick off your snow boots, slip into some flip flops, and bask in the refreshing excitement of Orlando water parks. The choice is yours really, with five aquatic attractions available.

Aquatica is the perfect choice for families seeking both wild and mild thrills, while Discovery Cove puts you thisclose with manta rays, exotic birds, dolphins, and even otters.

Want to learn how to surf? Try the ultimate indoor wave at Fantasy Surf.

Don’t forget about Disney’s Blizzard Beach either. With tickets starting at $58, it’s more affordable than you may think.

See What’s in Bloom at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

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Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

In the past, Epcot was thought to be the adult side of Walt Disney World. With a focus on global attractions and culinary delights, it’s easy to see why. However, Epcot appeals to kids too. This is especially true during the International Flower & Garden Festival this spring. Held March 2 through May 30, the event features elaborate topiary displays showcasing Disney characters in a splendor of greenery, flowers, and colors. In addition, there are pop-up outdoor kitchens to try and Garden Rocks Concert Series musicians to listen to like Gin Blossoms and The Guess Who.

Experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Harry Potter

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Kids and adults alike are fanatics for all things Harry Potter. At Universal Orlando Resort, immerse yourself in the worlds of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Both bring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to life. At Hogsmeade you can explore the iconic Hogwarts Castle, surrounded by the village of Hogsmeade where you can eat at the Three Broomsticks and find your own magical wand at Ollivander’s. Plus, you can join Harry Potter and friends on The Forbidden Journey for a thrilling adventure filled with magical creatures, a quidditch match and more. Before you board the ride, you tour through Hogwarts Castle, making your way through the familiar classrooms and corridors of Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Hop aboard the Hogwarts Express for a trip to Diagon Alley, the newest area withing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Traipse through the streets of London, browse through shops for wizard robes and quidditch supplies, dine at the Leaky Cauldron, and then ride the heist-themed Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Wash it all down with a frothy butter beer!

Catch Spring Training at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports

ESPN Wide World of Sports

ESPN Wide World of Sports

Are your and your kid’s diehard baseball fans? During your Orlando Spring Break, see the action up-close in a spring training game at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. The Atlanta Braves call the field home for spring, and play some of the best teams in baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees are a few of the ball clubs on tap. See if your team is on the schedule, which runs through April 2, 2016. It’s great way to see your favorite players up close without having to pay Major League prices. Plus, you’ll get the inside, pre-season scoop on your favorite baseball team. Score!

Travel to the Space Coast

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach

Need another Orlando Spring Break idea? One the great things about Orlando is its easy access to the coast. Travel to the Space Coast, and make a day of it by exploring beaches like Cocoa and Melbourne. Add a visit to nearby Kennedy Space Center to get an inside look at the NASA Space program. It’s an extensive attraction that lets parents sneak it a bit of education during their spring break. On top of that, it’s interesting too! Stop for lunch in Downtown Titusville, known for its shopping and dining, and if there’s time take a peek at the animals of Brevard Zoo.

Take to the Outdoors

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Blue Springs State Park: By Ebyabe/Wikimedia Commons

Florida is a known for its man-made theme parks, but there’s a whole lot of family fun found outside in Orlando. During your Orlando Spring Break, trek to Wekiva Island to go boating, canoeing, fishing and kayaking. If you just want to relax and soak up some Florida sunshine, reserve a cabana. It comes equipped with comfy places to lounge, a grill, and a fridge. At Blue Springs State Park you can hike, picnic, swim and even see majestic manatees. Of course, for a little more adventure outside you can opt for an Orlando airboat tour. These high-speed boats put the wind in your hair and place you right in the middle of Florida’s everglades. Be prepared to see an alligator up close! For even more outdoor adventures, head to Forever Florida. They have ziplines, horseback rides, safari tours and more.

Get Ready for the Best Orlando Spring Break Yet

These are some of the best things to do on your Orlando Spring Break. From theme park adventures to outdoor escapes, your family is sure to have an epic escape in the Sunny State. Reserve all of your vacation needs, including attraction tickets and hotel rooms, with Reserve Orlando for the guaranteed best rates and insider insight.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

When you think of an Orlando vacation, what comes to mind? A lot of dollar signs, right? A trip to Orlando can easily add up to far more than you prefer to spend. Between theme park tickets and reserving hotel rooms, it may seem as though a trip to Orlando is out of reach. But did you know that there are several free things to do in Orlando for adults?

You can say goodbye to extravagant theme park prices and get ready for a thrilling, budget-friendly Orlando vacation with these ideas.

Free Things to Do in Orlando for Adults

1. Wander through Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk

You don’t need to purchase theme park tickets or a Walt Disney World hotel reservation to experience the magic of the mouse. Anyone can explore Disney Springs for absolutely free. While you will have to pay to dine or shop, there’s no cost to walk around, see the sights, and take in the magic. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a free festival, event, or entertainment.

Don’t forget about Disney’s Boardwalk, too. This charming part of Walt Disney World® resort is — you guessed it — free to explore. Be sure to visit Disney’s Boardwalk at night and get a glimpse of the fireworks from the theme park.

2. Harry P. Leu Gardens

Who said a romantic vacation in Orlando needed to be expensive? The Harry P. Leu Gardens offer Free Admission Mondays throughout the year, meaning you can stroll through the multiple gardens without paying a thing. You’ll embark on a self-guided tour through the mesmerizing gardens and sights which include:

  • The Butterfly Garden
  • The Horseshoe Fountain
  • Lake Rowena Overlook
  • The Idea Garden

 

While at the Harry P. Leu Gardens take the time to smell the roses (literally) and enjoy all that the gardens have to offer for the low price of free.

3. Ocala National Forest

You’ll notice that any of the free things to do in Orlando for adults involve the great outdoors. Trust me, Orlando is home to more than just roller coasters and movie characters. Located just north of Orlando, Ocala National Forest boasts 383,000 acres of forest for you to explore. With more than 600 lakes, rivers, and springs, the state park is the perfect place for those who want an adventure without the price tag. From hiking to boating, you won’t experience a shortage of fun (or funds) when you spend the day at Ocala National Forest.

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4. Drink Up at Orlando Brewing Company

What’s better than a free tour? A free brewery tour. When you visit Orlando Brewing Company, ask your server for a tour ticket. These free tours are first-come, first-serve, so get here early to reserve your spot.

Plus, while you wait for your free tour, why not sample one of the 24 organic crafts beers on tap? Although beer samples are not provided on the tour, you can purchase flights in the tap room. However, purchasing a flight (or two) won’t break the bank. A single flight is only $8 while a double flight is $14.

When it comes to free things to do in Orlando for adults, a free brewery tour and great beer is something we can all raise a glass to.

5. Free Tours and Tastings at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards

If you’re more of a wine person, head over to Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards. The winery hosts complimentary vineyard tours and tastings seven days a week. Tours run every 30 minutes with a 15-minute video introduction. You’ll then have the opportunity to witness and experience the production process, from growing the grapes to labeling the bottles.

Once you understand what goes into making a superb bottle of wine, you get to taste it! At the tasting table, guests are presented with a wide range of wines to try. As far as free things to do in Orlando for adults go, a free wine tasting sounds phenomenal to me!

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6. Walk Through the Town of Celebration

Did you know that the Walt Disney Company designed a town near their theme parks? Celebration, Florida is a quaint community reminiscent of small town America. Take a walk through the center of town and you’ll notice the various styles of architecture blending together effortlessly to create a community worthy of Disney’s magic.

Throughout this pleasant little town, you’ll find specialty eateries, charming boutiques, and even an event or two depending on when you visit.

7. Lake Eola Park

Nestled in bustling downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is a free hidden gem you don’t want to miss. The park is a great place for a romantic stroll under the city lights, a picnic with friends, or taking in the sights before your dinner reservations.

The .9-mile sidewalk loop overlooks the pristine lake, making it the perfect backdrop for any special occasion. When looking for free things to do in Orlando for adults, why not take one of the swan boats out onto the lake or attend one of the many free concerts at the park’s Walt Disney Amphitheater?

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8. Watch Theme Park Fireworks

You don’t have to buy theme park admission to watch the spectacular fireworks shows. One of the top free things to do in Orlando with adults is watching theme park fireworks from anywhere but the theme park.

Bypass the admission price and claustrophobic crowds by watching the fireworks from these spots:

  • Disney’s Boardwalk
  • The right side of the marina at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • The beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • The Contemporary Resort — make sure you face The Magic Kingdom
  • The Transportation Center at Walt Disney World® resort — take the monorail for free.

 

9. Window Shop at the Mall at Millenia

For those who want a taste of the finer things in life without footing the bill, go window shopping at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando. This mall boasts everything from Armani Exchange to Louis Vuitton. While window shopping won’t cost you a penny, purchasing something from any of these stores will. Spend wisely!

10. Watch a Rocket Launch

If your Orlando vacation lines up with a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, you’re in luck. One of the coolest free things to do in Orlando with adults is looking to the sky and seeing a rocket launch into space. However, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is only an hour away from Orlando if you’d like to see the launches up close. From Orlando, you’ll be able to see the rocket ascending into space, but not the launch itself. Still a cool (and free) experience, nonetheless!

Experience the Many Free Things to Do in Orlando for Adults

From sipping wine at a vineyard to watching the fireworks light up the sky, there are so many exciting and free things to do in Orlando for adults. Plan your vacation with Reserve Orlando to save even more on hotels, attraction tickets, and more.

 

Congratulations! You’re engaged and about to marry the person of your dreams. You’ve eagerly awaited the day when you could say “I’m going to Disney World!” when asked about your honeymoon plans — and that day is here. Whether you want to relive the magic you experienced as a child or it’s your favorite place on planet Earth, nothing can quite compare to a Walt Disney World honeymoon.

Of course, planning a honeymoon can be overwhelming. But don’t worry! Putting together a Walt Disney World honeymoon is easier than you think. Use our step-by-step guide to planning the best honeymoon for you and your significant other at Walt Disney World.

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1) Fund Your Walt Disney World Honeymoon

As with any honeymoon planning process, the first step is to determine your budget. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to enjoy the magic of Disney all within your defined budget.

Create a Honeymoon Registry
Do you really need yet another set of silverware? Of course, not. What you and your soon-to-be spouse need is an exhilarating ride on Space Mountain or a behind-the-scenes tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Forgo a traditional registry for a Walt Disney World registry. From theme park tickets to romantic spa treatments, wedding guests can help make sure you both have the magical vacation you desire by contributing to your honeymoon registry.

Travel Off-Peak, If Possible
If possible, travel to Walt Disney World during an off-peak time of the year. To avoid the crowds and take advantage of seasonal prices on flights, plan your honeymoon during these specific times:

  • Second week of January through mid-February
  • First three weeks of May (before the school year is over)
  • Late August and entire month of September
  • Mid-November through mid-December (except the week of Thanksgiving)

 

If these times aren’t possible, no worries! There are plenty of other ways to plan an affordable Walt Disney World honeymoon.

Skip the Park Hopper Pass
A Park Hopper pass allows you both to visit multiple Walt Disney World resort theme parks in one day. While this is a nice convenience, I recommend forgoing the park hopper pass on your honeymoon. You’ll want to slow down, and savor every moment, which is hard to do when you’re racing from park to park. This additional pass can cost anywhere from $50-$60 per person in addition to park admission. To save money, visit one park per day and use your free time for extra magical experiences such as shopping at Disney Springs.

Book a Year in Advance
It is recommended that couples book their honeymoon to Disney World a year in advance. This enables you and your significant other to have guaranteed lodging, tickets, dining reservations, and take advantage of the best possible rates.

Be Flexible with Your Itinerary
While I just told you to book a year in advance, one of the best ways to stretch your honeymoon budget is to be flexible. For example, arranging your travel days according to the cheapest airfare is always a good idea if you are able to be flexible. Also, being flexible in your itinerary is a good idea as it allows you to take advantage of extra experiences and unexpected opportunities throughout your Walt Disney World honeymoon.

Once you’ve set your budget, launched your honeymoon registry, and know how to save, it’s time to start the reservation process.

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2) Choose a Hotel or Resort

The Walt Disney World resort property is home to several hotels and resorts. From budget-friendly hotels to extravagant resorts, you have a wide range of lodging options to choose from.

Depending on your Walt Disney World honeymoon budget, you have three options:

  1. Book a hotel room at one of the budget resorts.
  2. Reserve a room at a resort offering premium amenities, but still within budget.
  3. Go all out and get a room at one of Disney’s top-tier resorts.

 

The budget-friendly hotel option for guests are Disney’s All-Star resorts. While the price of these rooms is enticing, keep in mind that the hotel property is geared towards families and children. This means that the pool, dining area, and resort lobby will be filled with families. Just remember, you aren’t going to Walt Disney World for the hotel room. If you plan to spend most of your time outside of the hotel room, this is a great option for budget-conscious honeymooners.

Upscale Walt Disney World resorts that won’t break the bank include:

 

These resorts are well within a honeymoon budget but offer a wide range of premium amenities and activities onsite.

On the other hand, if you and your new spouse want to reserve a room at the top Walt Disney World resorts, check out these options:

 

While at your chosen Disney resort or hotel, don’t forget to ask a cast member about “In-Room Celebrations”. After a long day at the theme parks, you can have a surprise bouquet of flowers or other gift waiting in your room.

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3) Make Your Dining Reservations

Everyone knows that the restaurants at Walt Disney World resort are outstanding. If there’s a specific restaurant you and your future spouse want to dine at during your honeymoon, make your reservation ASAP. In fact, it is recommended that newlyweds make dining reservations up to 180 days in advance to secure a table at the restaurant they desire.

Quick insider tip: Make sure you have reservations for a late dinner at California Grill, located on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. You can watch all 3 theme park fireworks shows from this restaurant while enjoying a meal. The viewable fireworks schedule is as follows:

  • IllumiNations at Epcot: 9:00 PM
  • Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios: 9:30 PM
  • Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom: 10:00 PM

 

Between the food and the views, dining at California Grill is a “do not miss” experience while enjoying a Walt Disney World honeymoon.

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4) Figure Out Transportation

When planning your honeymoon to Walt Disney World, your first thought might be to procure a rental car. However, think of all the costs associated with renting a car: gas, parking, insurance, and on. A rental car will eat through your budget in an instant. Instead, rely on the transportation options provided by Walt Disney World resort.

Disney’s Magical Express provides guests with transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport and guests can use the monorail or bus system to get around Walt Disney World resort. No need for a rental car, a taxi, or an Uber. This means you only have to figure out your flights. Easy enough!

Walt Disney World attractions lifestyle shoot. April 2013. Photographer: Cynthia Perez

5) Purchase Theme Park Tickets

Now onto the main reason you chose a Walt Disney World honeymoon — the theme parks! If not already taken care of by your honeymoon registry, it’s time to purchase your tickets to the Walt Disney World theme parks. Be sure to check Reserve Orlando for discount tickets to all four theme parks and more.

Now that you’ve procured your tickets, use these tips to make the most of your honeymoon in the theme parks:

Utilize FastPass+
Dying to ride the Haunted Mansion? Anxious to finally try the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster? Unfortunately, so are hundreds of other guests. Bypass the sprawling attraction lines with FastPass+. Using the My Disney Experience app (which you both need to download!), select your top three rides or shows and create your reservation. When the reservation time approaches, head back to the ride and enjoy!

Use these extra tips from Reserve Orlando to take advantage of all that the My Disney Experience app and FastPass+ have to offer.

Visit on a Weekday
As you might have guessed, weekends at Walt Disney World theme parks are overcrowded. Visit the theme parks on weekdays to eliminate some of the crowd congestion and lines. With fewer crowds, you and your spouse can experience all the theme parks have to offer during your Walt Disney World honeymoon.

Purchase a PhotoPass
While at the theme parks, you’ll find yourself trying to get the perfect picture of you and your significant other. Instead of asking a stranger to do it, let one of Disney’s pro photographers help! With a PhotoPass, photographers will help you capture lifelong memories of your Walt Disney World honeymoon. You can then access your images on the My Disney Experience app and cherish them forever by downloading and printing or sharing with friends and family.

Let Cast Members Know It’s Your Honeymoon
Trust me – you’re in store for a treat once Walt Disney World cast members find out you’re on your honeymoon. From free dessert to complimentary souvenirs and more, you’re in for a great surprise. In addition, it’s super fun to wear bride and groom Mickey ears. You’ll hear congratulations from everyone which makes your honeymoon that much more special.

Go Behind-the-Scenes
Enjoy a unique honeymoon experience by reserving your spot for one of the exciting behind-the-scenes tours. Each theme park offers a vast array of tours, but my personal recommendation is the Keys to the Kingdom tour at Magic Kingdom. During this legendary tour, you’ll have access to the mysterious underground tunnels, learn about Mr. Walt Disney and his vision, and more.

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Time to Plan Your Walt Disney World Honeymoon

Before you dive into your planning activities using this step-by-step guide, let me leave you with a bit of last minute advice:

  • There’s more to Walt Disney World than the theme parks. Visit Disney Springs, go to the spa, play a round of golf!
  • Remember to get a customized souvenir from your Walt Disney World honeymoon.
  • Slow down and enjoy your honeymoon! You want to create lasting memories. There’s no need to rush!

 

Lastly, don’t forget to rely on Reserve Orlando for discounted Walt Disney World tickets, premier lodging, and insider advice. Now, stop reading this article and start planning your Walt Disney World honeymoon!

 

It’s hard to plan for New Year’s Eve with kids. You want to do something, but what? I’m here to help! Here are a few affordable and free family New Year’s Eve celebrations in Orlando.

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Celebration Town Center
If you have little ones you know won’t make it to midnight, visit Celebration Town Center. Technically, an official New Year’s Eve party isn’t planned. However, there are still a lot of festive things to do for families. “Now Snowing” is Central Florida’s premier snowing event, featuring a snowfall program, ice rink, strolling characters, photos with Santa, horse drawn carriane rides, and more. There is a small fee to skate, but all of the other experiences are free!

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
Ring in the New Year family-style with a “Noon Year’s Eve” daytime Celebration at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. Join in the festivities with live entertainment, games and activities, character appearances and more. Watch a giant countdown clock and welcome the New Year with noisemakers, hats and a juice toast. Activities are included with paid Zoo admission or Zoo membership. Held from 10:30am-1:00pm.

Dave & Buster’s
Families can eat, play and party on New Year’s Eve at Dave & Buster’s. Family packages are available starting at $30. All packages include an appetizer buffet, soft drinks & play in the Million Dollar Midway.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Ring in 2017 with live entertainment, champagne toasts and top notch parties. Orlando New Year’s Eve celebrations for adults are festive, fun and located at some of the hottest venues in Central Florida. To find out more about Orlando New Year’s Eve parties, read on.

Orlando New Year's Eve Celebrations for Adults

Universal Orlando Resort
Both parks—Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure—are open from 8am to 1am on New Year’s Eve. Party zones will be set up throughout the parks, with DJs, character appearances and fireworks at midnight planed. A midnight coaster ride sounds like a thrilling way to welcome 2017.

NYE ThinkstockPhotos-493374134Eve at Universal CityWalk
CityWalk pulls out all the stops for its New Year’s Eve celebration. The jam-packed party feature six unique party zones with signature drinks, six popping night clubs with live music and unlimited gourmet cuisine, and access to Orlando’s biggest outdoor dance floor. DJ M-Squared is returning for a third New Year’s Eve at CityWalk, and will bring is genre-fusing mixes with him. Tickets start at $139.99.

Wall Street Plaza
This annual December 31st Block Party is downtown Orlando’s largest New Year’s Eve event. Rock in the New Year with live music and an outdoor lighted dance floor. Plus, DJ Draven is returning to keep the party going all night long. The Wall Street Plaza party kicks off at 8pm. Ticket are $30.

Blue Martini NYE 2017 Celebration: A Casino Royale Gala
Book a New Year’s Eve special table for your own party then dance the night away with live entertainment. An open bar (beer and wine only) will be available from 8-10pm. In addition, there will be a live band at 8pm, balloon drop at midnight at live DJ from 1-2am. Tickets start at $70, and reservations are required.

NYE Champagne ThinkstockPhotos-463795637Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar
Hosted by Danielle Hunter and featuring the talents of Chantal Reshae, David Freklz Hunter, and many more, this party includes a $75 prix-fix menu. A sushi bar with a live sushi roller and champagne bar with unlimited champagne are highlights. Reservations are required. Call 407-418-9463.

Church Street New Year’s Eve Block Party
Orlando’s biggest street party is one Church Street New Year’s Eve. Watch the world-famous “Orange Drop” 60-feet in the sky and spectacular fireworks, as well as DJs spinning tunes, a video wall, and a live simulcast of Times Square. The party starts at 8pm. Minimum age for entrance is 21.

New Year’s Eve Celebration starring Kristin Chenoweth
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will be have Kristin Chenoweth, along with special guest Cheyenne Jackson, host an elegant New Year’s Eve Celebration. Doors open at 8pm, with the show starting at 10pm. An after party will be held until 2:00am in the lobbies of the art center. Tickets start at $110 and include show, two drink tickets, and champagne at intermission, party favors, after-party entertainment and after-party desserts. Call 844-513-2014 for tickets.

New Year ThinkstockPhotos-78820594Cuba Libra
Put a little spice in your New Year’s Eve plans! Cuba Libre will have an open bar from 10pm-12am, live entertainment, a balloon drop, champagne toast, and so much more. Reservations are suggested. Event is for ages 21 and over only. “¡Feliz Año Nuevo!”

Five Star New Year’s Eve

Party all night at this Brazilian dance party, featuring world-class DJs and fireworks. General admission offers a full-service open bar with beverages, beer, vodka, whiskey and Prosecco. Guests are asked to dress in white and gold, in keeping with the Brazilian theme. Bonus: Child card will be provided at the event. Ticket packages start at $290.

Howl at the Moon
The dueling piano bar on International Drive is offering a gourmet buffet, champagne toast and party favors on New Year’s Eve starting at $75 per person. For only $25, though, your’e guaranteed entry, a champagne toast at midnight and party favors. Other ticket options are available. Guest must be 21 and over for entry.

NYE ThinkstockPhotos-78818827Atlantic Dance Hall
Swing in the New Year at Atlantic Dance Hall with a live big band, fun and high spirits. Party hats and horns, a viewing of the Epcot fireworks at midnight, and champagne toast are included in the cost of admission ($42/per person). Doors open at 9:00 p.m. Guests must be 21 years or older with valid ID to enter. For reservations, call (407) WDW-DINE.

As you can see, there’s a lot of parties planned for December 31, 2016. Choose which New Year’s Eve celebration for adults you’d like to attend. Then, begin your own countdown to this special night. 2017 will be here soon!


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.