How’s that saying go? You can take the girl out of Orlando, FL, but you can’t take the Disney out of the girl? Well, for today’s intents and purposes, let’s pretend so. A few weeks ago, Brett and I took the kids back to my hometown of Orlando, FL for a trip to Disney World, and, it felt so good to be back at a place that once was home. Per usual, I got so many questions about Disney from friends on Instagram that I thought we might take today to map out a few of my personal faves. PLUS, I have a happy little Disney-inspired recipe to share- sugar cookie pops! Let’s get to it.
We should start with a disclosure: everyone does Disney different. There are some people who are one-and-done kind of visitors and others who go as often as possible. There are some that like the shut the parks down everyday, and there are other (raises hand) who are really just there long enough to eat as much Dole Whip as possible. Regardless of what camp you fall into, Disney has changed so much over the past couple of years that even those of us who have been nearly 100 times need a little help. With that being said, I highly recommend doing your own research prior to any trip to Disney, and if you are interested in a few of our faves, here they are!
My All-Time Favorite Disney World Hotels
- Disney’s Riviera Resort. This is my current favorite Disney resort. Fresh paint, loads of suite options for those traveling with little ones, and an overall more quiet and polished vibe make this a comfortable place for kids and parents alike.
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Have you seen the beautiful new over-water bungalows at the Polynesian? They’re to die for! Plus, proximal location to the Magic Kingdom makes this an easier option for those traveling with young kids.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge. You know what never gets old? Waking up to seeing giraffes, antelope, and zebras outside of your balcony. My kids love this resort for the animals, and Mom loves it for the dining options.
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World. I know most people will roll their eyes at this one, but I do really love a Four Seasons hotel, and this one, one Disney property and with shuttles on location, makes luxury accommodations possible even on a Disney trip.
Favorite Disney Meals
- Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is probably my all-time favorite Disney restaurant- Middle Eastern cuisine in a comfortable, kid-friendly environment. Don’t miss the bread service with all the dipping sauce- SO GOOD.
- Rose & Crown at Epcot. This was my parents’ fave as a kid, and old loves die hard. Now, as an adult, I come here for the fish & chips and a pint.
- Topolino’s Terrace at Riviera Resort. Fine dining at Disney is rarely actually fine dining, but at Topolino’s, it really is. The pastas are housemade and the cocktails are a welcome addition after a long day at the parks.
- Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom. Why would someone who lives in Alabama go all the way to Disney for barbecue? Let me just say, the smoked meats are actually really good, and the intoxicating smells from the smoker literally draw you in. Don’t miss this quick dining spot.
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn at Magic Kingdom. My kids love a burrito bowl. LOVE one. With most of the dining at Magic Kingdom consisting of burgers and chicken fingers, a little guacamole is a welcome change of pace.
- Tusker House Restaurant at Animal Kingdom. If you are set on doing a character meal, I love this one at Animal Kingdom. Moroccan flavors in an indoor/outdoor dining setting make this for a really enjoyable meal.
Best Themed Dining
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant at Hollywood Studios. One word: TELEVSION. If you’re traveling to Disney with kids, let them zone out at this drive-in while you relax for a minute.
- Restaurantasaurus at Animal Kingdom. Again, this one is here for the kids. My boys love checking out the dinosaur bones on the wall, and this mom appreciates any dining option that keeps them busy for a few minutes.
- Biergarten at German Pavillion Epcot. It’s a meal AND a show! My husband loves this meat-heavy menu, and I love the beer flights.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom. If you’re traveling with a little princess (or want to feel like one yourself!?), could there be anything better than dining INSIDE of Cinderella’s castle? I think not.
Best Disney Desserts
- Dole Whip at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom or Tamu Tamu Refreshments at Animal Kingdom
- The Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream Soda Shop
- The Frosè at Bar Riva at Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Funnel Cakes and Nutella Waffles at Sleepy Hollow Inn at Magic Kingdom
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop at Disney Springs
- Crepes from The France Pavillion at Epcot
- Milkshakes from 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios
My Best Tips for a Great Disney Experience with Toddlers
- Make a Plan. So much time, energy, and waiting can be saved by knowing what you want to experience in the parks. Even as a seasoned Disney veteran, I always take time prior to a trip to look at the park maps (I even print one offline!) and make note of what rides, shows, and experiences my kids will want to check out. You can even take this a step forward by cross-referencing wait times (available daily on the Disney app!) with your list to determine which rides will get busy.
- Get Genie+. This most recent trip was our first time using Genie+, Disney’s new system which has essentially replaced the old fast pass system. Now, for a daily per person fee, you can have access to shorter wait times. Be sure to buy the Genie+ pass in advance and log in at 7am EST sharp to get your first round of passes. I highly recommend research Genie+ and Lightening Passes to noting which rides you want access for PRIOR TO your morning at the park.
- Rise and Shine! I used to think that people who got to the park before it opened were crazy, but now, I am among those people. Nothing makes riding rides easier than getting there 30 minutes prior to park opening times and being prepared to HUSTLE. For example, if a park opens at 9 am, I typically try to get my family there by 8:30, and we move fast to ride as many rides as possible during the first two hours of operation. Again, make a plan and knock out as much as you can in those morning hours.
- Get a Lunch Reservation. I’m sure other people feel differently about this, but by about 11:30, my crew just needs a break. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more unnerving to me than trying to figure out where to eat, where to sit, and how I can take a break for a few minutes after a morning of hustling. Lunch is a great opportunity for taking a seat, getting out of the elements, and zoning out for just a few minutes. Your body and brain need this.
- Know When to Call it Quits. Brett always jokes that one day he’s going to make a website called “Meltdowns at Disney,” because for as much joy and magic as the parks bring, it also just makes people lose their minds a bit. That’s why my policy is always to know when to throw in the towel. I don’t want to ruin a perfectly great day by pushing my toddlers (and my sanity!) beyond it’s limit. The kids will have just as much fun swimming in the pool or watching endless Disney cartoons back at the hotel. If you don’t squeeze it all in, that’s ok. At the same token, don’t be bummed if you can’t ride every single ride! The kids will have a blast watching parades, exploring the park, or even use jumping in muddy puddles.
- Pack for Every Forecast. Florida weather is unpredictable. Come prepared for everything.
- Don’t Forget the Snacks. A backpack full of lollipops, Goldfish, and trail mix has gotten my family through many a waiting line. Disney is not the opportunity to make sure your kids get in all their fruits and vegetables- pack some snacks for insurance, and know they’ll get back to a normal routine at home.
Sugar Cookie Pops
There are so many cute treats available all over the Disney parks, yet, for some reason, my kids always fixate on the desserts on a stick: Rice Krispie treats, ice cream bars, lollipops, and even sugar cookies. I decided to make these sugar cookie pops as an homage to all those kid-friendly desserts at Disney, and my kids were not disappointed. Tender sugar cookies decorated with a soft-set icing serve as a great pick-up treat option wherever a good theme is required. Just grab a theme-appropriate cookie cutter and a few lollipop sticks, and voila! Magic.
To make these sugar cookie pops, we start with a dough. I use this painted sugar cookie dough, because it holds up well even with a stick in it! The cookies are soft but stable. Once you’ve prepped and chilled your dough, roll out a thick 1/4″ slab of dough and use your cookie cutter to trim out shapes. I prefer to use a small or medium-sized cutter here, because large cookies are more likely to break off the stick. dough shapes have been chilled, gently twist to insert 4″ lollipop sticks into the base of the cookies. The first one or two might flop, but you’ll get the feel for it. If you happen to break through the cookie dough, you can use your fingers to gently pat extra dough around it to clean up. Make sure your dough is thick enough for future cookies too!
After baking, these cookies are iced with a simple powdered sugar glaze that sets overnight. You can follow my method as outlined in this post. Be sure to add sprinkles or sanding sugar before the sugar cookie pops have set up completely. I love to bag these cookies individually as party favors, school party treats, and more! Truly, even the adults in your life will love these happy little sugar cookie pops.
So that’s it My Disney faves and some yummy sugar cookie pops. Pop in my email to share any secret favorites of your own. Happy Wednesday and Happy baking!Print
Sugar Cookie Pops
These sugar cookie pops are cutout cookies a stick with a soft and simple glaze icing!
- Prep Time: 60
- Cook Time: 13
- Total Time: 120
- Yield: 32 Cookies
- Category: Dessert
For the cookies:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 32 (4″) lollipop sticks
For the icing:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3–6 tablespoons of whole milk or heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
To prepare the cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two sheet pans with sheets of parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and extract and cream until combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir on low just until combined. Dump the dough crumbles out on to a lightly floured surface and work together into one ball with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to just over 1/4″ thicken and use a medium sized cookie cutter to cut shapes. If the dough ever gets too soft, refrigerate briefly. Place shapes on a baking sheet and freeze briefly to firm up slightly, about 5 minutes. Once chilled, gently insert the lollipop sticks into the cookie by turning the cookie stick back and forth gently as you insert it into the cookie. Make sure 1/3 of the stick is inserted into the cookie, and use your fingers to patch up any dough cracks or places where the stick has broken through. Spread the cookies about 2” apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool completely prior to icing.
For the icing:
- Sift or whisk powdered sugar to remove lumps.
- Add 3 tablespoons of the milk and the extract, whisking until combined. Continue to add milk until it is the right viscosity. You will want thicker frosting for piping. To test viscosity, run your whisk or a knife through the bowl of frosting- your frosting should slowly move back together until you can’t see any trace of the whisk any longer. This process should take about 10 seconds. If the frosting is too thick, it will not pool back together, and if it is too thin, it will pool back together too quickly. The ten second test doesn’t lie. Add more milk for a thinner icing and more powdered sugar if your icing becomes too thin. Cover tightly in a tupperware or with a wet paper towel if you are not using it immediately, as frosting will dry out and become clumpy. Whisk occasionally and add more milk if it becomes too thick. Spread or pipe the icing onto the cookie as desired. I like to pipe the border onto each cookie and then fill in with a food-safe brush or knife. Allow to rest and set up, and enjoy!