Disney Tips and Tricks: Footwear Edition

You might think this is a weird topic for a post.  Trust me.  It isn’t.  I have actually put a considerable amount of thought into my footwear choice at Disney.  The reason is that Disney is big.  You’re going to walk A LOT.

The Walt Disney World Resort area is made up of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 1 shopping area, and over 25 hotels.  According to the internet search I just did, thats over 40 square miles of Disney fun times.  Or, Disney fun roughly the size of San Francisco.

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Map of the Walt Disney World Resort area.  Its big.  Map courtesy https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/maps/

The 4 theme parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.    With a variety of ticket options, and enough time, you can manage to visit all 4 parks in a single trip.  Ticket options range from 1 day passes to 10 day passes, and you can get admission to 1 park per day, or a “park hopper” that allows you entry to multiple parks per day.  Admission to water parks is separate.

The parks themselves are big, with Magic Kingdom being the smallest park and Animal Kingdom being the largest.  Different sources quote different numbers, but I went with the sizes listed on themeparktourist.com.

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Approximate park sizes.  Sizes are courtesy http://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140401/17257/numbers-comparison-disneys-theme-parks

What that also means is that you’re going to do a lot of walking trying to see everything.

We live in Florida and have had annual passes for a few years now (I know you’re jealous).  I’ve put more thought into what goes on my feet than is probably normal, but we walk a TON when we’re at Disney.  The max we’ve walked in a day was during Star Wars Weekends, and we (somehow) walked 13 miles around Hollywood Studios.  Thats a half marathon of walking, just to give you an indication.  On our last trip, our average daily distance was about 8 miles per day, some days being more and some less.

Getting straight to the point, you’re going to walk more than you think.  Thus, your footwear choice is something that you should put at least a little thought into.

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With the right footwear, you could be as happy as Leonardo DiCaprio.

In 5 years of Disney trips, I have yet to find an option that has left me pain free by the end of the trip, and that I didn’t find hideously ugly.  What I have found to work tremendously is a combination of Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons, and swapping them out daily.  Yes, that means I have walked upwards of 8 to 10 miles in flip flops.  Yes, my feet were fine afterwards.  I actually prefer them.  These all get between a 4.5 and 5 rating (out of 5).

Here are some others I have tried (with ratings), hopefully this will help guide your search for the perfect footwear:

Sanuk yoga mat flip flops (4/5):  Actually not bad, but for some reason soap would come out of them when they got wet and that annoyed me.

Chaco Flip EcoTread (0/5):  People swear by Chacos but these were possibly the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever owned.

Merrell Sandals (3/5):  Good for walking but not cushion-ey enough to stand on my feet all day.  The sandals I own aren’t available anymore.

Minnetonka Moccasins (4/5):  These were actually pretty good, but I could only wear them 1/2 a day.

Sperry Canvas Sneakers (2/5 at Disney, 4/5 for casual wear):  I actually love these shoes and wear them all the time, but walking long distances is ridiculously painful in them, so I do not recommend them for Disney.

Seriously though, cycling through Reef flip flops, Cobian flip flops, and Asics slip-ons has really been the most pain-free trip I’ve had.

Also, what really works is stretching while I wait in line.  Seriously.  You’ll look weird.  EMBRACE IT.

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts footwear at Disney?

Before you leave for your vacation, put some thought into your shoes.  Are you bringing shoes you wear every day?  How far have you walked in them?  Are they broken in?  THEY HAD BETTER BE BROKEN IN.

Trust me.  Its better to think about this before you leave then to realize, 3 days into your 7 day vacation, that your feet are killing you and you have blisters.

And really, stretching while your waiting in line is a good idea.

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Snackin’ Around Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Backlot Express

Hollywood Studios, as many of you may know, is going through a bit of a transitional period.  Here is a somewhat recent article from the Orlando Sentinel describing some of the changes.  Essentially though, Hollywood Studio’s is becoming more and more Star Wars-ey by the day.  Not that that’s a bad thing.

Backlot Express, the old standby of a quick service restaurant near the Jedi Training Academy and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, is still around, but recently went through a menu overhaul.  While the food is pretty standard, it has gotten a bit of a Star Wars theme, featuring items such as the Royal Guard Burger (1/3 lb Chargrilled Angus Beef Burger, topped with Barbecued Brisket, Pepper Jack Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato and a Pickle on a Dark Bun served with Carrot Sticks or French Fries – I’m not really sure I get Royal Guard from that, but whatever), and the Dark Side Chicken and Waffles (Darth Vader Waffles topped with Chicken Breast Nuggets served with Maple Syrup, this one makes a little more sense).  You can also get the really cool souvenir steins that are pictured in the menu above.

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Chicken Fingers and Fries with various dipping sauces from Backlot Express.  Sorry about the napkin on the left, I think I ate a chicken nugget before I took the picture and then didn’t want to touch my phone.

Because I have a thing where I absolutely need to get chicken fingers and fries at least once at Disney, we got the Chicken Breast Nuggets – 8 Pieces served with your choice of Carrot Sticks or French Fries ($9.49), and split it.  Honestly, chicken fingers and fries are a pretty standard item that doesn’t change much from park to park.  The serving size is decent, and its a solid choice for picky adults or children.  What I like most about Backlot Express is that there is a larger-than-is standard amount of sauces to dip your fries and/or chicken breast nuggets in (including ketchup, yellow mustard, honey mustard, ranch dressing, and BBQ sauce), and the location/theming.  Also, through a little bit of Disney “pixie dust” we got that cool little light up Millennium Falcon that I was super excited about all day.

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Outdoor seating at Backlot Express

I especially like to sit and be able to watch part of the Jedi Training Academy, or just sit in the shadow of a looming AT-AT while I eat my lunch.  Either way, its a pretty great location.  They have also recently added this cool seating area which is pretty great for people watching.

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AT-AT and Jedi Training Academy Stage near Star Tours and Backlot Express

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on Backlot Express at Hollywood Studios?

I do completely recommend giving Backlot Express a shot if you’re looking for a quick service lunch or dinner at Hollywood Studios.  However, I’m a bit biased because I actually prefer Backlot Express over any of the other quick service food options at Hollywood Studios.  For example, I inexplicably hate ABC Commissary for really no reason, so generally I choose Backlot Express for any quick service dining needs I have.  The Star Wars theming helps with this, because I absolutely love Star Wars.  But overall, the food you’re getting at Backlot Express is pretty standard, there is plenty of seating and the location is great.  So overall, recommended!

On another note, I do also enjoy the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a sit down restaurant!

Disney Full Review: Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party

Before I even start this review, I’m going to say that I highly and fully recommend the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  As long as you like Star Wars.  And I guess if you’re indifferent but you really like dessert.

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Star Wars!!

The dessert party costs $69.00 per adult and $39.00 per child (tax and gratuity are included in the cost) and comes with unlimited dessert and savory snacks, unlimited alcohol/non-alcoholic beverages, a souvenir Chewbacca Stein, and reserved viewing for the Star Wars fireworks show.

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Star Wars A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party:  Lanyard with map of included events.  You can access all of these areas throughout the day without paying to enter the dessert party, but some of these areas will be closed off during the dessert party.

The location of the dessert party portion of the evening is inside the Star Wars Launch Bay.  The tables are all standing cocktail tables.  You can wander around the Launch Bay during the party, and there are costumes and props from the movies throughout the area, as well as a few costume characters.  Stormtroopers walked around randomly (we thought they could be a bit more interactive), and there were Jawas that were a bit more interactive in one of the rooms.  There are a few rooms to choose from in regards to tables, the “funnest” room is probably the one where the Jawas hang out, which is partially patterned to look like the Mos Eisley Cantina, but if you want a place to sit try to get there a little early and find a table near one of the benches along the wall.  There are also storm troopers that walk around the area during the party, though we wished they had a little more interaction.  The highlight of character interaction during the dessert party was definitely the Jawas, so make sure you seek them out.

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Dessert buffet table and standing cocktail tables before the dessert party started.  In the back (behind the employees) is the bar/drink area.  In the very right hand corner of the picture is the frozen nutella serving area.  Its easy to miss but make sure you make your way over to it!
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Jawa at the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party

Lets talk about the drinks.  Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available.  Of the alcoholic drink options, all were honestly very meh.  I tried all of them, and my favorite thing to do was mix the overly-acidic watermelon lemonade drink with the non-alcoholic but very much overly sweet “Jettison Juice”.  The line for drinks can get LONG, there is only 1 bar and bartender, but they try and mitigate a rush for the bar upon entry by handing out drinks as soon as you walk in.  On another note, we tipped the bartender and he gave us one of the strongest drinks I have ever had.  You will also want to get a drink before you head outside for the fireworks (they’ll give you a warning) as there are no drinks available outside.  Plus you can stick the cup in your Chewbacca stein for some added outdoor fun.

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Non-alcoholic drinks.  There was also coffee, tea, and soda available.  The menu is hard to read (it was dark in there), but it says “Jettison Juice:  Passion Orange Guava Juice with mango syrup.  Lunar Lemonade:  Watermelon Lemonade.  Soft Drinks.  Water.”
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Alcoholic drink menu:  I liked the Cosmic Citrus Twist the best, but it was better once I added “Jettison Juice” to it.  Swamp Milk was definitely interesting, but I got the impression it wasn’t very well liked because the bartender gave me a small sample to try before I committed.

And onto the food!  We had actually done a similar dessert party during Star Wars Weekends a few years ago, and my main complaint was that there was TOO MUCH dessert (I know, I know, weird complaint, but it seriously ended up making me sick from all the sugar).  There is, of course, a gigantic variety of desserts to try. But there are also some savory snack options like hummus, “lightsaber” olive and cheese sabers, fruit, etc.  I managed to make a meal out of it and skip anything substantial for dinner.  My top recommendation for dessert is the blue milk panna cotta (seriously I dream about it, I must have had 4, at least). If you read other reviews they will most definitely also touch on the bread pudding, which was good but a little too sweet with the addition of candy to it, and the frozen nutella.  The bread pudding is self serve and has toppings available like cookie or brownie crumbles, fresh berries, whipped cream, vanilla sauce, and chocolate sauce.   But guys.  Get the frozen nutella.  Its amazing.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but its basically whipped nutella (so not that heavy) that is flash frozen with liquid nitrogen, and you can top it with raspberry or chocolate sauce.  Seriously.  Get it.  Seriously.  It also looks disgusting in the picture I took so I’m skipping that one.

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Buffet table at the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party

When you book the dessert party you will get a reservation time of 6:30 or 6:45pm (probably, I didn’t check every date), depending on the timing of the fireworks show, which will start around 7:45 or 8:00pm.  The fireworks show is 14 minutes long, and about 15 minutes before hand you will be led (by stormtroopers!) outside to a reserved viewing area where you will be given your (empty) souvenir Chewbacca stein.  There is no seating in the reserved viewing area.  We were close to the end of the line of people and still had a great view of the fireworks/show, even though I’m only about 5’1 on a good day.  The fireworks show is one of the coolest things I have ever seen at Disney, and makes use of projection effects, lasers, music, and fireworks.  Its seriously awesome.

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Movie props in the Launch Bay

So Drinking Ever After, what are your thoughts on “A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you should consider this experience.  Even if you’re not a giant fan of Star Wars, its definitely a cool experience.  I guess if you HATE Star Wars I wouldn’t recommend it.  Overall, the food is great, especially considering the addition of savory items and fruit, the drinks are not that great but free, and the fireworks are amazing.  Overall, I’m really glad we did it, and we would certainly consider booking another reservation on an upcoming trip.

I’ll also add this slightly related tip:  If you or someone in your party has the Disney Chase Visa card there is a Star Wars character meet and greet in the Launch Bay daily from 11:00am to 4:00pm.  We happened upon it by chance and met Kylo Ren with absolutely no line, which was really cool.  You also get free photo downloads.  Keep an eye out while you’re there.