*I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*
We celebrate birthdays and holidays a bit differently in our family; we prefer experiences over things. The “new gift feeling” always seems to fade, however, experiences give you a lifetime of memories. Experiences define you, shape you and make our lives the unique stories that we get to share.
Cain and I have fairly close birthdays to one another, and every year we plan a trip or birthday experience to celebrate. This year we were thrilled to include our fellow Virgo, Zac, in our birthday plans! Our idea was to eat and drink our way around the world at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. I am so excited to share with you our inaugural #30daysofbirthdays and #disneybdaybash2018!
Adulting at Disney
Even though the stroller brigade was out in full-force, our Disney plans would consistently begin after 10am. Zac has an annual pass, so Cain and I both purchased two-day hopper passes so we could travel freely between parks. But really, let’s be honest, the two parks worth going to were Animal Kingdom and Epcot for these simple reasons:
1. The Food and Wine Festival
2. Alcohol Availability
3. Shade! (literally, this might need to move to #2, because I’ll be damned if I ever go to the FWF before Nov again. Orlando is just too ungodly hot in Aug and Sept!)
Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
The FWF is one of my most favorite things in the whole wide world! It now runs from Aug-Nov, so we were excited to make it our birthday selection this year. My food passport was covered in notes; I planned, I calculated and I was ready to earn all of my stamps.
Our first stop was straight to the mimosa bar. It became borderline dangerous when I realized all the kiosks and bars were taking Apple Pay, and the damage ensued. Craft beer, mimosas, wine, bubbly…ya’ll, I had to mentally find room for food. Cain hit the jackpot when Germany had flights of beer including his favorite, Hefeweizen.
Epcot is one of those parks where shade is patchy, and so we found sanctuary at the pub in England. God, it felt like home. Not only did we have AC, we had shots, pints and rowdy friends to stand with and cheers. I still can’t figure out what the kid drawing on a napkin was doing at the bar, but hey, kids need AC too, I guess.
We had to divide the FWF into Friday and Saturday because we couldn’t get enough of it. Friday was by far the better day though, because any day during the week will have shorter lines. We killed it on Friday, and barely waited for any food or drinks. Anything we missed, we got the next day, and let me tell you what, GET THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI! It was the best thing I had in the park and it sent my taste buds in a frenzy. I almost went back for seconds, but had to maintain my composure and not lose my shit for one dish. There were too many other countries and dishes to discover.
For lunch, we made our way over to Morocco and were lucky enough to score seats inside the restaurant, again, because AC. See a trend? I repeat, do not go to Orlando in September…it’s fucking hot! We only didn’t get sunburned because we had rad hats, not because we wore sunscreen, we were too dumb for that. We devoured hummus fries, which are a must-have, baba ganoush, garlic shrimp and whatever else we could fit in our stomachs before we got in line for Creme Brûlée in France. Oh, and because it was our birthdays, and we had the fancy birthday pins, Morocco gave us free desserts! Not to mention, all the Disney cast members were super nice to us and wished us a happy birthday all weekend long.
*Fact* The cast member in Australia who sang, “Happy Birthday to the Gang,” needs to be on American Idol or The Voice. So, whoever needs to go to Disney and make sure he makes it to the finals, do it!!.. k? Thanks.
Unfortunately, I was too busy eating at kiosks, and taking fireball shots in England to take pictures. Seriously, I need to work on that and be a better blogger…noted.
AK, as we like to call it, is our favorite park. While Epcot is the most expensive cover charge you’ll ever pay, AK is an animal lover’s dream. Hello, count me in! Plus, shade.
We had only planned on going for the evening so we could see Pandora lit up and ride the Avatar ride and Safari at sunset. We didn’t expect to get so damn hot in Epcot, so we went to AK most of Friday and did everything we wanted to do and more:
- Expedition Everest
- Avatar Flight of Passage (YAAAAAAAS, I literally lifted my arms like I was flying. I mean, I was flying.)
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
The key to adulting in AK is to have your drinks while waiting in line. This is pretty difficult if you have kiddos with you, so double-fist while you can. Here are our favorites places to frequent and some of our cocktail and food recommendations:
- Dawa Bar (Africa) – They happen to have free water stations here, so drink up, get your rally cap on and get some H2O on the rocks.
- Beer: Safari Amber, Victory Golden Monkey Tripel Ale, Old Elephant Foot IPA
- Nomad Lounge (Discovery Island) – If the weather is decent, sit outside on the comfy lounge patio and enjoy the views with a speciality cocktail and some apps.
- Cocktail: Tempting Tigress
- Food: Tiffin’s Bread Service and Gobi Manchurian (which is crispy fried cauliflower in a dream sauce. → Yes, I love veggies. They have meat things, too. So don’t roll your eyes yet.)
- Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snack (Asia) – This is where you get your drinks before waiting for Everest, and double fist like it’s 2010. You’re welcome.
- Alcohol: beer of your choice, or I prefer a double shot of Jameson and ginger. It’s a full bar, y’all. Get creative.
- Satu’li Canteen (Pandora) – We like to call it birthday luck, but sometimes I’m vain and call it my luck…we never have to wait in line for this place. Let me clarify, this is rare! The line is usually out the door and outrageous. The food is that damn delicious, and the atmosphere is overwhelmingly realistic. I’d like to think I have an avatar out there somewhere who rides on a banshee and kicks ass on the reg. Anyways, back to the recs:
- Drinks: I had water to revive my dehydrated corpse, but Cain and Zac had a green beer.I have no idea which one it was, but you can’t go wrong with their variety of organic and local brews.
- Food: Love, Love, LOVE the bowls! The grilled chicken and grilled beef bowls in particular, the delicious sweet potato hash and then there are the cheeseburger steamed buns! You have your choice of bases and sauces for the bowls and you really can’t go wrong.
Since we arrived at AK later in the day, we booked our safari ride for sunset and that was a magical experience all in itself. The lions were out and about, and the kids were mostly back at their hotels. We had the savanna all to ourselves, and there’s just something about animals that makes everything right in this chaotic, strange world.
When the sun went down, Pandora came alive! It was absolutely breathtaking in the evening. You became part of the world, the sounds, the smells, everything was real. The world transformed before our eyes and the ground sparkled with that mysterious Navi touch.
Magic Kingdom was purely for nostalgia. There was no alcohol, long lines, and damn it, I kept getting clipped by strollers. This visit was purely to ride our three fast passes and get the hell out so we could watch college football (Ole Miss vs Alabama), even though quite frankly, it wasn’t going to be much of a game. For the record, this is proof that I’m a loving wife and full-time emotional support because this just isn’t their year….love you, Cain!
Now, MK wasn’t on Epcot’s level of food, but holy hell, those Mickey PRETZELS! We had two throughout the day, and all the cheese. Oh my, it was heaven. Kids walked by and I looked at them like, no, absolutely not! I’m not sharing my pretzel with you. Keep on walking buddy, keep on walking. Until they understand the munchies, they will continue to think of me as that mean old hag who glared at them with a mouth full of salty, delicious Mickey carbs.
To be fair, MK was on our second day and we had spent most of the day back at Epcot with two goals: 1. Get drunk enough to go to MK and 2. complete our food passports.
Overall, it was a rather successful day.
Now, I will say, we took the monorail to the Contemporary to drink at their bar for a bit, watch the football game, and recharge. I was pretty stoked for the new MK fireworks show, but I couldn’t spend multiple hours dodging princesses in-training and desperate parents. The contemporary had an awesome vibe, they let you play with the channels and put on ESPN (Disney, obvs), and their Jameson and ginger didn’t disappoint. Remember, MK sober was unfathomable in my world; however, I did ride It’s a Small World, slightly buzzed, and it was a fabulous small world.
Zac and I went back to the fireworks show at MK and my God, it was worth it. The show was remarkable. I’m the dorkiest, happiest, proudest Disney fan out there, and I shed a tear…or two. But the best part about it was all the little kids singing with Moana and Elsa, but to be clear, they only knew the chorus, so it was fucking hilarious. Everything else was gibberish, and it was priceless. Absolutely priceless.
Once the show was over, everyone else was leaving the parks, and we snagged some fast passes to rides that earlier that day had been nearly impossible to get onto. Helloooo Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise! (and yes, The Rock is currently making the movie Jungle Cruise, so I just imagined he was my skipper the whole time…I mean, Cain gets it)
Our inaugural #30daysofbirthdays was over in a flash. It was worth the $30 flight on Frontier (yeah, you read that right, keep an eye on their cheap flights, but watch out for extra fees), and the months of meticulous planning for our Disney swag. We also scored big with our SPG Luxury AMEX card and stayed for free for two nights at the Delta Orlando Lake Buena Vista Hotel thanks to our annual credit.
We are already planning to keep the tradition strong, and who knows what #30daysofbirthdays will bring next year. Whatever it is, it will be an experience worth a lifetime of memories.