All Around Florida
Bob and Terry on Tour 2012, with Donna and Joe
The Best of Florida

I recognize that we’ve been fortunate to visit Disney World a few times in recent years -- which is why I want to start this offering with a bit of a reminder.

The “Best of…” columns are intended to focus on a specific trip. I do want to include some new material when we go to a place again, while also being willing to note some things if they continue to impress. And I especially want to keep such an approach in mind with something like Disney World… where we’ve visited before, will visit again, and hopefully will bring some tales of our adventures to this web site along the way. I think we managed to take this 2012 visit and maintain a nice balance. That said… there were some things we did this time that were new, and a few things that were great previously that we couldn’t or didn’t do this time.

In 2011 we were able to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This year we went to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. (You can find the tour diary for that day here.) These are relatively new things for us… we hadn’t been to the Magic Kingdom for a special event like these until December of 2011. And yet, it is a repeat item of sorts for this “Best of…” column.

A brand new thing would be Earl of Sandwich.

I think, if you’ve joined us for our travel columns before, you will find some brand new notes here… and ones that really do nicely complement previous efforts and thoughts. Still… don’t be afraid to head over the Travel section and look for thoughts from other trips as well.

What were your favorite things we did in Disney World?

Bob: I’ll go with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Last year we got to see the Christmas effort… and when the dates of our visit matched up, we decided to return to the Magic Kingdom on this trip. VERY glad we did.

I also enjoyed our stop at Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. I had heard about the Holiday Sandwich just before this visit… and wow, was it worth the stop.

Terry: The Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom. Really enjoyed the trick-or-treating, and especially the quest we built for ourselves to visit every station.

What were you most impressed by at Disney World?

Bob: Hard to say, since Disney World has been a frequent stop for us over the years. I’ve noted some things in the past when I’ve discussed our visits, where Disney takes things one or two steps beyond where any other place is willing to go. In a way you almost get spoiled by that since a short stay might not reveal too many unexpected moments, and yet they still contain some impressive details.

I’ll go with the Art of Animation Resort this time, since that property is where we stayed and it was an eye-opener for this trip. We were in the Little Mermaid section

A pool where you could listen to music underwater? Terrific.

Movie night in one of the courtyards, featuring classic Disney animated features? Awesome.

A gift shop that manages to have everything Disney, and yet still provide some treasures to make it different from the thousands upon thousands of square feet of other Disney retail? Yup… got that too.

And, all that with a room fit for a visiting princess? Sure thing.

Terry: Trick-or-treating again. Amazing how many places they set up for distributing the candy, and then just incredible thinking about how much they doled out.

Favorite things we did…

Bob: Staying in the Art of Animation and going to the Halloween party.

Terry: Staying at a Disney property.

Orange Lake is awesome. We’ve been very fortunate Ellen and Richard are great about sharing that with us. I will stay there anytime (and I can already tell you I will be thrilled with everything during that next visit).

Still… it is nice to experience a bit of the Disney magic around the clock. There is nothing at any other resort that can perfectly match what a Disney property offers -- the movie nights… the themes at a pool or for a building or even inside the rooms… and so on. Heck, even the shuttle bus service to the airport was great.

Best ride…

Bob: I’ll go with the Haunted Mansion… because we did it before the party started (thanks to early admission) and also during the special event (with the cast living it up).

We also wandered into a portion of the new Fantasyland area… which was just beginning to lift its curtains but certainly wasn’t truly operating yet… and got on the Barnstormer. That was fun.

Terry: All of them.

I know Bob has a list and will share it somehow in his travel summaries. This time, we were there with Donna and Joe, which was very enjoyable because we hadn’t seen them since they moved down to Florida. And having had a few stops at the Magic Kingdom in the past couple of years, we focused on certain rides (like the Haunted Mansion, which we did twice… before the party started and then later during the special event) and didn’t stress about others since we had seen them recently (Jungle Cruise).

So I can’t tell you just one ride. The entire visit was great.

Best place to eat (overall)…

Bob: Earl of Sandwich wins this one, though our stops at Kobe Steakhouse are becoming regular events that we all enjoy.

Also… very happy we made it to the Polynesian Village, which is really the only place to go for Tonga Toast. (At the Kona Café.)

I’m also going to mention… since this is the Florida “Best of…” and we really haven’t spent much time looking at Ocala in these summary efforts… Harry’s Seafood. Another great visit when we stopped there in Ocala.

Terry: Earl of Sandwich. (Can someone please explain to me why I haven’t been brought here before?)

Best place to eat (inexpensive)…

Bob: Yeah… Earl of Sandwich wins this one.

Terry: Earl of Sandwich. (I mean it. I understand that usually the Rainforest Café or something else was expected and planned when we would go to Downtown Disney. I still want to know why I was never told about this option. That Holiday Sandwich was amazing.)

Biggest surprise…

Bob: I want to say buses… but I’ll save that one for the next question since it is something I really don’t remember considering much before.

Earl of Sandwich would be one. That was a new treat for us.

Here’s another one that might be good as a “surprise” -- the only park we haven’t been in since 2005 is Animal Kingdom. Seems like a no-brainer that we’ll get there, especially considering how often the Magic Kingdom has been part of our trips recently. But hold on… new Fantasyland… the Magic Kingdom could be on the list again!

Terry: Well… I guess I’ll stick with Earl of Sandwich and say the food at the Disney property.

You know, I never thought about this before, so I found it interesting when…

Bob: Disney busses.

I don’t know why… but I never really considered how many buses the property must have moving at any point during a day.

A small list would point out that there are four theme parks, plus Downtown Disney, two water parks, and other resort areas. If we just go with the four theme parks, and say they have two buses in motion to each of those parks, that means Art of Animation has eight buses running during the day. (That’s wrong. Art of Animation has more, even though some will make multiple stops… say combining Art of Animation with Downtown Disney, Typhoon Lagoon and another resort. But still… we’ll just use eight as a sample number.)

Ok… ready? Just rattling them off as I think of them…

Animal Kingdom Lodge… Contemporary Resort… Grand Floridian… Polynesian Village… Art of Animation… Pop Century… All-Star Movies… All-Star Music… All-Star Sports… Fort Wilderness… Port Orleans… Coronado Springs…

What’s that? Twelve? Ok… eight busses each for twelve resorts. That’s roughly one hundred busses, and I already told you… eight is wrong, it’s higher. Plus, I’m not covering all of the Disney World resorts. I’m only at around half of them. And there are also busses that run routes for the airport and other Disney areas. We have to be talking about hundreds of buses running every day.

(Ok… I tried to look it up. According to Disney fun facts I found on the company web site (but the links have changed), there are about 270 buses running on the Disney World property. And that seems low… don’t know how old that fun fact sheet is, though one date on it says 2008. I’d be willing to bet it’s comfortably over 300.)

Terry: That Disney has the Not-So-Scary Halloween events. I’ve now been to the Christmas and Halloween parties inside the Magic Kingdom and they are both incredible. Very well run, lots of special stuff, and an amazing bargain.

If I had to recommend something that a person had to do, regardless of expense, I would say…

Bob: The Not-So-Scary Halloween events for sure.

Here’s something funny though… the resorts. Previously, Terry and I have never stayed at a Disney resort together with the intentions of really utilizing the transportation system. And from the Magical Express (for the airport) to getting around (Downtown Disney, chasing Tonga Toast, and to the Magic Kingdom) it really was very easy. Wasn’t always fast… there were waits for a bus… but it was convenient. And that is a way to cut out a car rental expense from a trip. So stay on the Disney property.

Terry: Check out what Disney is offering for special events, especially around the holidays (or at least themed to the holidays). If you are open in your travel dates, the holiday offerings can be outstanding.

If I had to recommend something but expense did matter (so go cheaper), I would say…

Bob: Hmm… just gave a good car rental tip that would save money, since you wouldn’t rent a car.

Here’s a good one… find ways to really explore the Disney World property. You could hop on a shuttle bus and go get breakfast in the Polynesian Village. (Yeah Tonga Toast!) After breakfast you can take the monorail to the Contemporary Resort or Grand Floridian. How about a ride on one of the ferries across the Seven Seas Lagoon? You could head out exploring the place, never needing to drive yourself, and find some pretty amazing things along the way.

Terry: Let’s see… buy a ticket to a holiday party for $20-plus less than a one-day ticket, encounter shorter lines for all the rides, and get special themed shows and experiences during the party. This is an easy one.

Instead of paying full-price on a one-day ticket for the Magic Kingdom, attend a holiday party.

Person/people that impressed me the most…

Bob: Art of Animation staff… great group of people.

Terry: The staff at our Disney resort. From the moment we were checking in at Art of Animation until the time we got on the shuttle to leave, they were all fantastic.

Event that impressed me the most…

Bob: Umm… the Headless Horseman riding out before the parade would be one thing. That was something I had never seen before at Disney. I’m a sucker for fireworks too.

Terry: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Thing I’m really glad we included…

Bob: The Halloween party. Really enjoyed it.

Terry: I admit it… the Magic Kingdom has managed to work its way into all of our recent trips. We keep trying to get to the Animal Kingdom again, and yet somehow the Magic Kingdom pops up with a special event. And now the new Fantasyland is open and just about completed.

Still… the Halloween party is the thing I’m glad we included. (Along with staying at a Disney resort property.)

Thing I wish we had done…

Bob: Animal Kingdom.

Terry: Another park… but time didn’t allow for that.

Suggestions from this experience…

Bob: Check out my other answers… any answer here would be from that material.

Terry: October… November… December… but a party ticket. From this trip, buy a party ticket for the Halloween event.

Sure, this will be set up as a best of column, but you should always warn people about the bad, so here is something I think we need to mention…

Bob: I got nothing. Great trip.

Terry: For the Florida part of the trip? I can’t think of anything.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at