Warning: Reading this article may be dangerous to your wallet. Here are some of my favorite WDW splurges. (Prices below are for 2014 and should be considered a starting point.)
7. Wanyama Safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge. You must be staying at AKL (and be age 8 or older) to participate. Up to 12 people ride in a special van around the lodge’s savannas. Lots of great photo opps, an engaging guide to answer your questions, and afterwards your entire group enjoys an amazing array of African foods at a family-style dinner (with wine pairings) at Jiko. The entire event takes about 3 hours and costs about $190 per person. Book it via the AKL Itinerary Planning Office or ask the Concierge. (Best to book in advance.)
6. Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a 2014 summer event on Saturday nights to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the movie The Lion King. It was so popular that the Disney rumor mill hints it may be coming back as a seasonal offering. Cost was $80 per adult for general seating (don’t waste money on “premium” seats, because the general ones offered better views). The event included a street festival with all the African food and drinks you could want, starting with yummy appetizers. Then everyone went into the Harambe Theater to see and hear a full orchestra, dancers, singers, and celebrity narrators who gave highlights from the story. Amazing visuals included scenes from the movie projected onto two huge screens. Mesmerizing. After the show, everybody spilled back onto the “street” for a huge assortment of main courses, salads, desserts, and more beverages to the beat of live music; plus photo ops with African stilt-walkers, and Lion King characters. Cast members were delightful hosts, helping guests find tables and seats, bringing drinks, and giving directions to the least crowded food stations. If Disney brings this back and you’re planning a summer visit, book tickets as far in advance as possible. Trust me.
5. MNSSHP/MVMCP. What? That’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party / Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. If you’ll be visiting WDW from mid-September through the end of October, you will have a blast at the Magic Kingdom if you book MNSSHP ($62). Likewise, if you’ll be visiting from the first weekend of November through December, give MVMCP ($67) a try. The park closes early on certain evenings and everyone without a special wrist band has to exit. That means short waits for popular attractions if you’ve got a ticket for these special events. What’s more, there are unusual Castle fireworks shows and amazing parades just for those lucky few with tickets. Note: MNSSHP is the only time of year when an adult may dress in costume at the Magic Kingdom. I had a blast at both of these events a couple years ago.
4. Backstage Safari Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This is one of my favorite adult Disney tours, which costs $77 and lasts three hours. Currently you can book 8:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. tours. You get a fascinating look behind the scenes at how the zookeepers care for the animals, how their food is prepared and measured, how animals are coaxed into coming for medical checkups, and more. You may even get up-close-and-personal with a wild animal! (We got to touch a rhino!) I found this tour fascinating.
3. Keys to the Kingdom Tour. This 5-hour backstage/on stage tour at the Magic Kingdom is well worth the $79 price for adults. You’ll hear some Disney secrets, be given instructions on where to locate several hidden Mickeys, go down into the famous utilidors, and see how some of the magic is made. Then your group will ride several attractions together, so you get a chance to scope out the secrets you’ve just learned.
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2. After Hours Wind Down at Epcot. Do you love watching IllumiNations but hate the crush of crowds afterwards? Stick around for a couple hours by booking this upscale snack and beverage experience at your choice of La Cava Tequila (Mexico), Rose & Crown (Great Britain), Spice Road (Morocco), or Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar (Italy) by pre-purchasing a $35 ticket.
1. Annual Food & Wine Festival at Epcot. Yes, I realize the festival is open to everyone with an Epcot pass. But there are a myriad of special ticketed events that may entice you to open your wallet a bit wider. Italian White Truffle & Wine Pairing Dinner, Dining Through the Decades (A Tribute to Walt Disney), Mediterranean Food & Wine Pairing, Party for the Senses, and lots more. Take a look at the WDW website and peruse the many options during the annual International Food & Wine Festival from September through the first week of November.
Set a budget, and then ask yourself whether you can stretch it just a bit to take in one of these special experiences. Be our (paying) guest!