My Theme Park Wishlist

After all, “a dream is a wish your heart makes.” Am I right?

Since I’ve gotten married, moved and begun my first post-grad school job, I’ve started making lists of things I want to do now that I have an actual income and vacation time. Of course, these things will require a bit of saving, but, hey, that’s what my Disney princess and Yoda piggy banks are for.

So, take a peek at a few of my wishes. What’s on your theme park bucket list?

1. Adventures by Disney: Southern California 


I always thought Adventures by Disney, thorough vacation tours put together by the Mouse, was for touring Europe with a Disney spin. And you can do that, with tours to France, Italy, and Norway (hello Frozen), to name a few, but there’s so much more than that. They offer tours in North America, Asia, Africa, Australia and South America, but it’s possible to include a more traditional Disney vacation (i.e., visiting the parks) with an Adventure by Disney.

Adventures by Disney’s Southern California tour is for the true Walt Disney admirer. You experience a behind-the-scenes peek at Walt’s life, visiting his private Disneyland apartment, touring the Disney backlot and exploring Walt Disney Imagineering. You also get a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland, Jim Henson’s Muppet Studios, and a traditional Hollywood tour. Adventures by Disney offers Southern California tours with an Avengers half marathon focus and a Star Wars half marathon focus, too. With Adventures by Disney, you don’t have to worry about anything. Everything — down to the Fastpasses — are taken care of, but your guides also allow for independent exploration time.

2. SeaWorld San Antonio


SeaWorld San Antonio is the only SeaWorld park I have yet to visit, and now I’m only 6 hours away. Like Busch Gardens, SeaWorld San Antonio puts on a Howl-O-Scream event, transforming the park into a land of haunted mazes. Unlike Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream is included in your park admission. The event begins at 7 p.m., lasting until 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., depending on the date. Howl-O-Scream takes place Sept. 26 to Oct. 31.

SeaWorld San Antonio’s dolphin show, Azul, combines beluga whales, dolphins, and birds. I love Blue Horizons at SeaWorld Orlando, but I’m interested to see beluga whales as part of a SeaWorld show. I also want to see SeaWorld San Antonio’s Clyde and Seamore show (the classic, comedic sea lion show), Cannery Row Caper. In this show, Clyde and Seamore have to figure out who is stealing fish from a local cannery. SeaWorld San Antonio also offers high thrills, boasting two steel coasters (Great White and Steel Eel) and their version of the water coaster, Journey to Atlantis.

3. Dining with an Imagineer, Walt Disney World Resort


You read that right. Disney Dining allows guests to sit down for a meal and chat with an Imagineer, the very people who who think up rides, shows and even entire parks. This is a dream come true for me. I think I will not be able to eat my food because I won’t stop asking questions.

As far as the food, though, it will be delicious, as Dining with an Imagineer takes place at the Hollywood Brown Derby, a recreation of the famous star-studded spot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Dining with an Imagineer is only offered a few days out of a month, and it is currently booked up through February 2015. This is definitely something you need to plan far in advance. For reservation information, click here. 

4. Six Flags Over Texas 


I’m now a few hours from Dallas, so I want to make a visit to Six Flags Over Texas soon. I’ve only been to Six Flags Over Georgia, so I’m ready to take on the coasters in a new locale. Six Flags Over Texas boasts Batman the Ride: Backwards, a coaster taking riders on the corkscrews and twirls of the Batman…backwards. It sounds like it may not be for the faint of stomach, but it’s definitely for the adventurous of heart.

Six Flags Over Texas also participates in Fright Fest, Six Flags’ Halloween event. Fright Fest occurs every Friday to Sunday from Sept.27 – Nov. 2, plus Monday, Oct.13 (Columbus Day). Six Flags Over Texas has not posted their lineup yet, but the event will consist of haunted houses, scare zones, rides and shows.

5. Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando 


I’ve journeyed to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, shopping in the village and dining at The Three Broomsticks, but I have ye to experience Diagon Alley.I cannot wait to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a 3D thrill ride through the most-protected bank in the wizarding world.

Like Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley has distinctively themed shopping and dining. Borgin and Burkes offers supplies for the more questionable wizards in your group. As a sorted Sytherin (according to Pottermore), I definitely plan on paying this creepy spot a visit. The Leaky Cauldron, the dive bar/restaurant serving as the entrance to the wizarding world from London, serves English dishes, much like The Three Broomsticks.


Rules on bringing outside food to Orlando theme parks

When traveling to theme parks, especially on a budget, outside snacks are important. However, different theme parks have different rules on what’s allowed. The chart below breaks down the information.



No Snacks For You

Universal Orlando does not allow any outside food or drink. You can’t even bring a Coke into the CityWalk area. I know because I’ve tried. When you drive to Universal Orlando (meaning you’re not staying onsite at one of the Universal Resort Hotels), you enter security between the parking deck and CityWalk. There, you will have to throw your snacks/drinks away, or finish them before entering the park.

Some Snack For You 

SeaWorld allows guests to bring snacks and drinks, but no meals. How do they typically differentiate? Bread. So, no sandwiches, but crackers are okay. They also won’t allow full fast food meals, but fries would be acceptable. This is a gray area and depends on the team member searching your bag. Though drinks are fine, SeaWorld (and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) does not allow plastic straws/lids. This includes juice boxes. Plastic straws/lids can be fatal to an animal if ingested, so this safety measure works to combat that. You can leave meals in your car/paid locker and eat them at the picnic area outside the park.

Snack For You 

DisneyWorld has no restrictions on snacks/drinks/meals. However, like SeaWorld, straws/lids are not allowed in Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals.

Allergies, health problems, etc. 

The parks will make exceptions for guests with severe food allergies or diseases like diabetes. They’ll also make exceptions for religious beliefs that dictate a certain type of food. Explain your concern with the worker checking your bag, and you shouldn’t have a problem. They may bring an assistant manager to discuss your reason for bringing outside food.

Bending the Rules

No theme park worker is going to check your pockets unless you look suspicious or your pockets are overfilled. If you want to sneak a sandwich into SeaWorld or some crackers into Universal, be sure to put them in your pocket. This is an easier feat for winter when pockets are usually bigger.

Orlando Theme Parks Halloween Roundup: Bunny Slopes Edition

Traveling to the Orlando area for a spooky vacation? From pee-your-pants frights at Universal Orlando to slightly spooky fun at Walt Disney World, there’s something for every witch and goblin.

In this roundup, I’ll discuss the less-scary Halloween time options. These options are great for families with small children or adults who still wear their scared-y pants proudly. (I also avoid seeing horror movies in theatres and think way too deeply about the possibilities of Jason or Ghost Face attacking me)

If you’re ready for fright, don’t worry. Another roundup will come soon, featuring more haunting options.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

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The name says it all. This not-so-scary event allows guests of all ages to trick-or-treat in the Happiest Place on Earth, Disney’s Magic Kingdom. See characters in their Halloween costumes and view a Halloween-theme Wishes fireworks show and Halloween parade. The Disney Villains also get a piece of the spotlight with their own castle show.

Be sure to visit Frontierland, where you may see some Disney classics transformed for All Hallow’s Eve. The Dapper Dans, a quartet usually seen along Main Street, U.S.A., are here as a quartet of cowboy ghosts.





  • Tickets: Start at $62. Remember, this is a separately ticketed event, so Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is not included in your regular Disney ticket price. You can save on select nights by purchasing tickets in advance. 
  • Attractions: Select attractions are open during the event, including popular thrill-style rides such as Seven Dwarve’s Mine Train, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. Of course, the Haunted Mansion will be open, and there’s “always room for one more.”
  • Costumes: Costumes are highly encouraged for this event. Although only guests ages 9 and younger can wear costumes to Magic Kingdom on a normal day, guests of all ages can wear costumes to this event. There are a few costume rules, so be sure to check before purchasing. 

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular 

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SeaWorld transforms its event space around Bayside stadium into an underwater-inspired Halloween party during weekends in October. This is not a separately ticketed event, and admission is included in regular park admission. The event consists of trick-or-treating, Halloween crafts, and character meet-and-greets.  Check out some of the sweets that will be offered at 2014’s Halloween Spooktacular.

Remember to stop by Penelope’s Party Zone, where bubbles and a DJ create a nonstop Halloween dance party.

  • Tickets: This event is included in SeaWorld’s park admission. To buy SeaWorld tickets, click here.
  • Attractions: All attractions are open during this event, as it occurs during regular park hours.
  • Costumes: Costumes are encouraged, but not required.
  • Dates: Weekends in October

Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat

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Legoland, located in nearby Winter Haven (about an hour from Orlando), offers Halloween fun for Lego fans, specifically targeted children ages 1-12. Kids can help build a ghost model out of Legos. The event also offers trick-or-treating with six different treat stations. Lego Halloween characters will be available for photo opportunities, along with the largest Lego pumpkin in the world.

The Lego Scary Scavenger Hunt in Miniland allows families to team up to find minifigures hidden throughout Miniland USA. Lego Ghosts will also be part of the scavenger hunt, with each ghost bearing a letter. Kids will have to use the letters to unscramble a secret word. They can submit their answers to

  • Tickets: This event is included with daily admission to Legoland Florida. To buy a Legoland Florida ticket, click here.
  • Attractions: All attractions are open during this event, as it occurs during regular park hours.
  • Costumes: Costumes are encouraged, and there are costume contests for three age groups.
    • 3 p.m. – 0-3 years
    • 4 p.m. – 4-8 years
    • 5 p.m. – 9-12 years
  • Dates: Brick-0r-Treat takes place on weekends in October. The Miniland Dance Party only occurs on Saturdays.

Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas


Do you want something different from a strictly theme park experience? Check out Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas. This special event is included in the cruise price and is offered fleet wide. For more information, click here. 

New feature: Vacation Planning

Are you feeling stumped as you work to plan your Orlando theme park vacation? I now offer vacation planning services under the Vacation Planning tab at the top of the page. You can also click here to learn more.

I have traveled to Orlando to visit the theme parks over 4o times, and I lived in the area for three months while interning for SeaWorld. I’ve planned and booked vacations to the area for the past three years, planning for a variety of budgets and groups of people (friends, families, couples, etc.).


  • Consultation (Preliminary email/phone calls to discuss budget, dates, goals, etc. No booking.): Free
  • Booking (Includes hotel, flight, car rental, theme park tickets, dining reservations, entertainment, etc.): $40

If you’re ready for me to plan the vacation of your dreams, simply fill out the form below!

SeaWorld Orlando’s Summer Nights

From June 22 to Aug. 11, SeaWorld Orlando stays up late for Summer Nights. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In addition to longer hours alongside sharks and sea turtles, Summer Nights also hosts two nighttime shows, Shamu Rocks and SeaLions Tonite. Show times vary by day, so check the show schedule to make sure you don’t miss a beat. During the week, each show is usually performed once, but multiple times are available on the weekends.

Shamu Rocks

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Shamu Rocks is the daytime Shamu show, One Ocean, set to pop rock music. Don’t expect a surge of AC/DC and Aerosmith, though. The soundtrack incorporates more of a pop vibe with a few rock and Latin hits. Lighting adds a mysterious feel to the show, as during the daytime it’s easy to see what the orcas are about to do. If you have limited time during your stay, I would recommend only watching One Ocean or Shamu Rocks, since the shows are similar. Though Shamu Stadium is large, it fills up quickly. For a good seat, you need to arrive about 30 minutes before showtime. You can catch a seat with an obstructed view about 10-15 minutes before. Remember that the lower bowl of Shamu Stadium makes up the Soak Zone, so if you don’t want to get splashed by a school bus-sized killer whale, it’s best to grab a higher seat.

Sea Lions Tonite

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Sea Lions Tonite is a comedy show starring Clyde and Seamore, SeaWorld’s star pinnipeds. The show parodies pop culture and SeaWorld culture. Clyde and Seamore spend a day at SeaWorld with their trainers, and they perform their own versions of popular shows like Blue Horizons, Allure: the Call of the Ocean, and even Shamu in One Ocean. Be sure to experience all of SeaWorld’s shows before seeing Sea Lions Tonite so none of the jokes are missed. The later in the summer you visit, the more tricks you’ll see. The sea lions, otter and walrus develop new skills as the summer progresses. Definitely arrive early, at least 30 minutes, to grab a close seat. You also don’t want to miss the pre-show featuring the hilarious pirate mimes. Be warned: if you arrive late, a mime will make fun of you.

If you can only catch one show at Summer Nights, I recommend Sea Lions Tonite. With hilarious jokes, upbeat music and furry creatures with fins, it’s a nonstop party. Also enjoy shorter lines at attractions like Journey to Atlantis, Kraken and Manta during the late hours.