First things first: there’s a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the Orlando theme parks. Literally acres and acres of rides, attractions, restaurants and resorts to include on your list (after family and friends, of course). But because my hope is that you’ll read this blog to the end, I’m not going to rewrite War and Peace.
Instead, in the spirit of Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes – which, by the way, you’ll soon be able to write at Universal Orlando – I’m going to keep this list short. I’d like for you to be able to keep it in your pocket to pull out and lighten the mood when family dinner discussion careens toward politics. You can be the savior of your family’s holiday!
Let’s get started:
I’m thankful for: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
As pretty much anyone who follows me on Instagram or Facebook can tell you, I have a somewhat unhealthy love affair with Sapphire Falls. My phone lock screen is now a shot of the falls. The pool. THE POOL. Strong Water Tavern. STRONG WATER’S RUM. I love everything about this hotel, and I love that prices for UOAPs usually run around $119 a night (sometimes as low as $99). Yes, there’s no Universal Express, but as a single rider that’s not a huge deal. Pro tip: if you want to keep it cheap but still have a cool view, get a Standard Room and ask to be placed in Guest House 2. These rooms, although “standard,” have a nice view of Islands of Adventure (at least on Floor 4 and above).
I’m thankful for: Expedition Everest after dark at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I didn’t spend a lot of time at Animal Kingdom before this year – but that was in correlation with my distaste for roller coasters before this year. Now that Expedition Everest is in competition for the title of my favorite ride in Florida, I’m up for new experiences at AK — and the extended hours provide plenty of those. Everest in the dark takes an already intense ride and kicks it up a notch. Somehow the passages within the mountain seem darker. The whole thing is shrouded in an extra layer of mystery. Plus that breathtaking view of Walt Disney World is pretty awesome – and you might be able to see Magic Kingdom fireworks from up there (to get an idea of what the ride is like during the day, check out this video).
I’m thankful for: Toothsome milkshakes
Are Toothsome milkshakes, or are they not, the greatest food invention of 2016? Some culinary genius figured out how to turn a Rice Krispies Treat into a milkshake, and this should be celebrated. There’s one to suit pretty much any taste: red velvet, chocolate, key lime, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. That list is nowhere near exhaustive, but Inside the Magic’s is. If there was a pumpkin pie shake, I’d recommend you forget about baking on Thanksgiving and just pick up a round of them. Actually, just scrap the dessert and go buy some milkshakes anyway. Your family will thank you.
I’m thankful for: Disney’s Boardwalk
The Boardwalk is the only thing on my list that isn’t new, or enhanced (beyond AbracadaBar), this year, but I’ll never stop expressing how much I love this area. First off, there’s Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club (I don’t care what other lists say – this is the coolest pool complex in Orlando). Then there’s the restaurants – a great selection at the Dolphin, including Shula’s, and plenty of great beer on tap at Big River. There’s the perfect location between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s themed so well that you’ll forget you’re in Florida. Even if you’re not staying on Disney property, or staying in a different Disney resort area, it’s worth getting over here for a night.
Of course there’s plenty more, but again, I’ll keep this brief. Any thing I’ve missed? Let me know! I’m on Twitter @kburg_UF.