This post was sponsored by Walt Disney World. It’s no secret that I am a huge Disney fan, so I was thrilled to partner with Animal Kingdom Lodge to celebrate the opening of Pandora, the world of Avatar!We arrived at the resort Saturday morning, and were greeted by giraffes, zebras, gazelles and exotic birds wandering right outside our bedroom. That is what is so special about this hotel -- you can sit on your balcony and enjoy a meal while watching more than 30 different species of African wildlife roam for hours. At one point, three zebras were chasing one another and playing for almost 20 minutes. You pinch yourself because it looks so unreal!We wasted no time and went straight to Pandora. The park is nothing short of mind-blowing – enormous floating mountains tower above the crowds with waterfall after waterfall spilling from the sky. Endless plants, trees and brightly colored vegetation surround you everywhere you walk, and insanely cool rides with advanced technology make you feel as if you’ve actually stepped onto a different planet.As you ride a boat through the bioluminescent rainforest of The Na’vi River, you are surrounded by a dazzling spectacle of color and lights. The Avatar Flight of Passage, an immersive 3D ride in which you fly through Pandora on the back of a Banshee, is one of the most impressive rides I have ever been on. You feel the wind, smell the forest, and through the movement of the seat, actually think you are on a living, breathing animal. Riding this just once wasn’t enough so we had to experience it again. I don’t want to give too many details away, but trust me when I say that this ride is worth waiting in line for -- over and over again.We hit our favorite rides in the other three parks after Pandora (we tend to fit a lot in each day) before working up an appetite. One of my favorite restaurants at Disney is The San Angel Inn at Epcot -- delicious Mexican food with one of my all-time favorite drinks: the avocado margarita! After some guacamole, chipotle shrimp and a margarita (or perhaps two), it was time to watch the brand new firework show, Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom. The show brings the most iconic and modern Disney stories to life, set to inspiring music and booming fireworks. In my opinion, the show is even better than Wishes (which I thought was impossible to beat).The next morning we had a relaxing breakfast on the terrace (including gluten-free Mickey waffles) before heading to the Magic Kingdom. We rode two rides I have to experience each visit, the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, and watched our friend perform in the Main Street parade. I needed one more taste of that famous avocado margarita so we hopped over to Epcot and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the International Flower and Garden festival and checking out some more rides.Disney is a place that will always be special to me. We try to go down every year to experience the latest attractions and to visit our furry friends at Animal Kingdom Lodge -- a hotel that has quickly begun feeling like home away from home. Disney World brings you back to feeling like you are a kid again, dazzled by the magic of imagination coming to life -- a feeling that all of us deserve to experience and relish in from time to time.
This weekend, I partnered up with the Grand Floridian Hotel for a Disney takeover!This Victorian-themed hotel is surrounded by water and looks as though it was plucked straight out of the 1900s. We were instantly greeted by a jazz band playing instrumental versions of the classic Disney tunes. The resort has its own private beach and two pools (we definitely jumped in between park hopping in 90-degree heat). The monorail is attached to the building for quick and easy access to the parks. For such a short weekend getaway, the convenience of being one stop away from the Magic Kingdom was crucial in maximizing our time.One of the reasons we were looking forward to this was because Disney just opened Animal Kingdom at night. The Tree of Life now transforms into a beautiful light show, morphing into an array of colors, animals and imagery throughout the night. There’s also a new Jungle Book show on the river set to music and special effects that celebrates the new film. My favorite update to the park is that now guests can ride the main attractions in complete darkness. Expedition Everest has always been one of my favorite rides, but at night, riding a high speed roller coaster backwards while dodging an oversized Yeti is that much more intense!The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was running while we were in town and the creations around the park were spectacular --over 70 Disney-themed arrangements.In just over 24 hours, we were able to visit Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom, try new restaurants throughout the parks, see the latest updates and features, and even take some time to relax by the pool at our beautiful hotel. If you’re looking for a relaxing hotel just minutes away from the main action, the Grand Floridian is a great choice for your next Disney experience!