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10 of Chris Queen's Greatest Hits

October 30, 2011:

1. The Ten Things You Must Do at Disney World

By my count, I’ve been to Walt Disney World 25 times, though others in my family think I may have been more times.

I’m a major Disney fan -- I grew up on Disney, and it has been a key influence throughout my life. From films to music to television series there’s always been some type of Disney entertainment playing in the background. I can’t think of a period in my life without Disney.

Growing up in a family that’s nutty for Disney, Walt Disney World has always been our favorite vacation destination. My parents honeymooned there and they first took me as an infant. By my count, I’ve been to Walt Disney World 25 times, though others in my family think I may have been more times. Since my nieces were born, we’ve tried to make our pilgrimages at least once a year.

I love planning our trips to Walt Disney World almost as much as I love going there. Planning helps us build anticipation and makes our trips that much sweeter. There’s no greater excitement than the expectancy that comes with a Walt Disney World trip.

My whole family have become experts for our friends and acquaintances when it comes to Walt Disney World. People constantly ask us for tips and trip-planning advice. In fact, my sister and I have talked about opening a travel agency specializing in Disney trips.

So without further ado, here’s a list of ten essential Walt Disney World experiences. If you’ve never been or if you haven’t been in a long time, hopefully these tips will help you plan and know what to expect. If you’ve been many times like me, maybe this list can inspire some good-natured debate about what’s best at Walt Disney World.

10. Shop at World Of Disney.

No trip to Walt Disney World is complete without picking up a couple of souvenirs, and while there's plenty of shopping at the parks and resorts, there’s no better place to shop than World Of Disney at Downtown Disney Marketplace. The largest Disney Store in the world (literally), World Of Disney contains a dozen rooms filled with an extensive collection of Disney merchandise.

World Of Disney boasts around 51,000 square feet of product. You name it, and chances are you can find it there. From apparel to entertainment to housewares and cookware to typical souvenirs, there are plenty of items to choose from. Many of the items at World Of Disney are unique to Walt Disney World, while others are designed especially for certain occasions. The store is also home to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where little girls can get a princess makeover.

Don’t let the size and scope of World of Disney overwhelm you. Like all of Disney’s parks, the store is built around a central hub -- in this case it’s a sculpture of Cinderella Castle. Many of the rooms are specifically themed to make it easy to know what merchandise is in them. Even though lines can build up at some of the registers, there are a few that are off the beaten path and offer less wait.

One of the coolest things about World Of Disney is that cast members can ship your items home, or if you’re staying on Disney property, they’ll send your purchases to the resort where you’re staying.

9. Ride the Monorail.

There are plenty of forms of transportation at Walt Disney World, from “old-school” ways of getting around to innovative, futuristic methods. None of them are as fascinating and unique as the Walt Disney World Monorail System. As a kid, I was mesmerized by the Monorail. As an adult, I have a similar fascination, and the monorails are still an integral part of my trips.

The eleven trains -- soon to be twelve with the addition of Monorail Peach this fall -- ride high off the ground on 26 inch-wide concrete beams. The system covers 14.7 lane miles, traveling three routes: an express route from the Transportation & Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom, a resort route from the Transportation & Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom that stops at three resort hotels, and a route from the Transportation & Ticket Center to Epcot.

Along each route, narrations tell you the history and trivia about the parks and hotels, aswell as previews of coming attractions. The view from the trains is stunning and in the hotter months the monorails are a cool respite from the heat.

One special treat is to ride in the front of the monorail. Up to four guests can travel in the front compartment. All you have to do is ask one of the cast members when you arrive on the platform, and if you’re early enough, you just might get to ride.

It may not seem like such a unique and innovative form of transportation these days (especially since it has changed little in 40 years), but the monorail truly is a fun way to get around.

8. Eat a Dole Whip.

There’s a myriad of great stuff to eat at Walt Disney World, and there are tons of ways to satisfy any craving – or to try something new. Each of the parks have options ranging from snack bars to quick eat to fine dining.

(On a side note, Disney offers a Dining Plan to its resort guests. For one reasonable price each day, guests can enjoy dining and snacks, including many fine dining experiences. At certain times of the year, Dining Plans are offered free with room reservations!)

One of the best snacks at Walt Disney World is the Dole Whip. It can’t be much simpler: a non-dairy, soft-serve pineapple frozen treat. It’s available by itself, as a float with pineapple juice, or swirled with vanilla soft-serve. And it’s nothing short of amazing!

Dole Whips are available at the Aloha Isle snack counter in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom and at Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian Resort. The soft-serve is also available in vanilla or chocolate, or as a Coke or root beer float. But why would you settle for something so ordinary when you can have a delicious, one-of-a-kind Dole Whip?

Next: The best place to stay for a Disney World vacation...