When it comes to a Disney vacation, you’ve visited all the theme parks, eaten in all the restaurants, stayed in the hotels, and snapped more selfies with Mickey and friends than you can count. So, what now? The great thing about Disney is that even when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s much more to experience. From a private after-hours tour to cruising the high seas on a ship staffed with cast members and Disney characters, there is a whole world of amazing, exclusive, and one-of-a-kind Disney experiences waiting. Here are 10 of the best attractions to add to your Disney bucket list.
1. Discover the secrets of Disney with the Keys to the Kingdom Tour.
Rumor has it, there are tunnels beneath Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. And the only way you can see them -- unless you’re a cast member -- is by joining the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. This five-hour journey takes visitors around Magic Kingdom, revealing secrets about how the staff and cast members get around (the utilidor tunnels), the history of Walt Disney the man, and a range of Disney trivia. Prices start from $99 on top of park entry.
2. Enjoy a safari with the Wild Africa Trek.
A trip to a Disney brings you back in time, into the future, and all over the world, so it should come as no surprise that Disney World Resort can take you on your very own African safari. The Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando is the next step up from the Kilimanjaro Safari in which guests enjoy an open-air vehicle tour. The hands-on three-hour safari takes passengers over rickety rope bridges, across savannahs, and through grassland paths while passing impressive animals in recreations of their natural habitats. Tickets start from $189 for adults.
3. Take the VIP Animal Kingdom tour by night.
If a Disney World safari doesn’t quite hit the mark for you, then the Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom might be the one to cross off your bucket list. Yes, prices for the after-hours FastPass Plus tickets start at a cool $249 per person, but the four-hour tour takes you through Kilimanjaro Safari, lets you onto rides like Expedition Everest -- Legend of the Forbidden Mountain without queuing up, treats you to the Rivers of Light spectacular, and does it all in the exclusive setting of Animal Kingdom after hours.
4. Dress up for an unofficial theme day.
With all the organized fun at Disney, sometimes it can be nice to enjoy an unofficial fan-initiated experience in the form of a theme day. Throughout the year, visitors are encouraged -- via social media and fan groups -- to dress up in themed attire to turn the park into an even more fantastical version of itself. There’s Dapper Day (think 1950s dress to chime with the original wholesome vision of Disney); Steam Day, a Victorian-inspired steampunk event; and Gay Day, a celebration of all things LGBTQ. There are plenty more, too -- you just have to keep a close ear and eye on Disney fan groups.
5. Sail off on a Disney cruise.
Swap theme parks for the high seas and cruise on one of Disney’s luxury ocean liners -- Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Fantasy, or Disney Dream. Choose from destinations within the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, Europe, and the Mediterranean. Along with plenty of amazing places to disembark, the entertainment onboard makes this the ultimate Disney vacation. Along with some upscale dining options, you can expect Broadway-style shows, deck parties, fireworks, and Star Wars Day at Sea.
6. Experience Disney culture at the Epcot festivals.
Move over, Coachella. If you’re a Disney fan, the only festivals you need to know about are the annual Epcot festivals. Epcot in Walt Disney World Resort holds various festivals throughout the year, including the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. However, if we were to choose one, it would have to be the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Between the chef’s tables, cheese, wine, and craft beer tastings, cooking lessons, and book signings, it’s the Disney cultural event of the year.
7. Be the first to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm and Star Wars, it was only a matter of time before the new movies were backed by a park of their own. Now, finally the wait is about to come to an end with the launch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in August 2019. The biggest and costliest park ever to open at Disney World Resort, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is going to be a game-changer, combining both Disney and Star Wars. News coming out of the park has been kept to a minimum, but guests can expect to pilot the Millennium Falcon and explore the remote planet of Batuu. Oh, and there will be a Star Wars hotel on-site for extra ultimate bucket-list vibes.
8. Dine on Disney dim sum at Crystal Lotus Hong Kong.
Interested in dining on dumplings shaped like Disney characters? Head to Crystal Lotus at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort for tasty dim sum. A Disney experience with lots of Instagram potential, Disney Dim Sum is all about pancakes shaped like Mickey, Baymax baos, and pork and veggie dumplings in the shape of Toy Story’s little green aliens.
9. Summon the spirit of Disney at Tam O’Shanter.
It may be the one experience on this list that you can enjoy for free (or just for the price of a drink) without stepping onto Disney-owned soil, but a visit to Tam O’Shanter’s Scottish bar is no less hallowed. Located in Los Angeles, near Walt Disney’s early offices, Tam O’Shanter is one of the city’s oldest bars. Mr. Disney was such a regular here -- he would bring his team after work -- that there are plaques and doodles adorning the walls to this day. Best of all, you can sit at the table that Walt Disney used to frequent (table 31, FYI) and channel the spirit of Disney.
10. Dine with Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Table.
Few of us will ever get to dine with royalty, but at Walt Disney World Resort -- the place that makes dreams come true -- you can. Enjoy a banquet at the Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom. Here, along with Cinderella, you’ll be joined by a cast of other Disney princesses. Children are encouraged to dress up for this one, and let’s be honest, adults should consider it, too. The cost of the meal, the royal company, and the dramatic castle setting is around $60 per adult.
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