Surviving Hurricane Nicole And Other Hurricanes As An Orlando Resident

As you may have heard, Hurricane Nicole recently swept through the Orlando, Florida area. I live in an Orlando suburb called Clermont, which had high winds but overall wasn’t affected too much. The harshest part for me was that my favorite local restaurant was closed due to power issues.

While my family and I came out of the hurricane well, other parts of the state did not. This Orlando Sentinel article details the issues other parts of the state faced, such as shore erosion, flooding, and even some bridges ripped out: .

Fantastic article on Hurricane Nicole’s effect on Florida. Credit: Orlando Sentinel

Hurricane Nicole wasn’t too bad, but other hurricanes have hit my state and dealt much more damage. In those cases, where the hurricanes are predicted to be severe, my family books a flight to visit my siblings in Illinois, California, and Colorado.

But there are some times where a hurricane is not too bad – and then us Floridians go into party mode! We have hurricane parties to wait out the storm, stash extra supplies in our attic, fill our bathtubs with water, and so on. Having hurricane parties might sound crazy to people outside of Florida but for the most part Florida houses are built well and our neighborhoods are landscaped to channel water away, so there’s not much to be concerned about except for a 1-2 day blackout.

What I don’t see mentioned on the news at all is that it’s very common for some Orlando residents to – when they see a hurricane coming – to immediately book a hotel room in a Disney World resort and spend the hurricane plus a few days afterward there. There is an elderly couple a few houses down from mine that routinely does this. Disney World is fantastic with its emergency response and its hotels are well supplied, so even when the surrounding communities are in a blackout, there is at least food and warmth available in a Disney World resort.

I also have a work colleague that frequently books Disney resorts to wait out hurricanes, and he absolutely loves it – Disney passes out prepared meals for rooms (typically dishes that can be eaten cold such as sandwiches, yogurt, cut fruit, etc), has performers out in resort common areas to entertain the children, and has teams out fast to clean up the debris from hurricanes. You can Google some of the things that Disney does to keep the magic alive during hurricanes; here’s an article I found with a picture of the hurricane menu at a Disney resort.

I’ve been told that the best resort to take refuge from a hurricane in is the Contemporary Resort; the Contemporary’s A frame design makes it very strong, plus the common areas have huge windows so you can see the hurricane blow through. I was trying to find a YouTube video of a hurricane from the Contemporary’s viewpoint, but the best one I could find was this video of Hurricane Nicole’s aftermath in the Boardwalk area:

Credit: YouTube

We survived Hurricane Nicole, and now you know how we handle hurricanes in Orlando: book a Disney resort room, or have a party!

Flying Out Of MCO – Orlando International Airport

I live near Orlando, so I’m close to the Disney parks and can visit anytime my family wants to. However, I work as a consultant and I frequently need to fly out of Orlando’s airport to visit Chicago, New York, Denver, and Los Angeles where my client companies are.

Orlando weather can be unpredictable. There are often random rain squalls that can turn a sunny day into a pouring thunderstorm, and then back into a warm sunny day within the span of 20 – 30 minutes. When I first moved to Orlando a former colleague told me to always fly out of Orlando before midday, otherwise I would get stuck in airport delays. While I think that’s a bit too much for an Orlando regular it’s good advice for Disney World guests, especially if you need to make a connecting flight.

So whenever I fly out of Orlando I try to purchase flights that leave around 11 AM to 1 PM, and not past 2 PM. I don’t like early morning flights, but I also don’t want to get stuck in a delayed flight due to an afternoon storm. So a midday flight is the best compromise.

Typically I try to fly either United Airlines or American Airlines – I have frequent flier miles on my United account from a previous job, and my current employer prefers to fly on American whenever possible. I’ll recommend specific United and American flight numbers since I’ve flown on them, but if you prefer Southwest/Frontier/another airline, try to get a flight leaving no later than 1 PM EST (Orlando time).

Flying Orlando To Chicago

Here I like United, because United flight 1960 leaves at 11 AM and if you miss that you can catch UA 1962 leaving just one hour later at 12 noon. If you prefer American Airlines, AAL flight 1647 leaves at 12:40 PM, which cuts it a bit close to my rule of leaving Orlando before 1 PM but it’s still a great option.

Chicago has two major airports: O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW). I always prefer landing at O’Hare: it’s a much bigger airport than Midway and therefore has much more options; in case you miss a connecting flight there are more flights and more options available from O’Hare than from Midway. The lounges, restaurants, and hotels are also much better at O’Hare.

Flying Orlando To New York

United 2046 from MCO Orlando to EWR Newark. Credit: FlightAware

For New York, there are fewer options than Orlando to Chicago; there aren’t any midday flights by United or American. Depending on my airport destination (I pick the airport closest to my clients; you should pick the airport closest to your home) I fly United flight 2046 to EWR (Newark) at 10:50 AM, American/JetBlue flight 9484 to LGA (LaGuardia) at 10:19 AM, and American/JetBlue flight 2584 to JFK (John F Kennedy) leaving at 10:10 AM.

Flying Orlando To Denver

Flying from Orlando to Denver is a much easier choice. American Airlines doesn’t fly directly from Orlando to Denver; the only direct flight from United at midday is United flight 1520 leaving at 11:43 AM.

Flying Orlando To Los Angeles

Flying to Los Angeles from Orlando, I usually break my rule of flying United or American. The only United/American flights to LAX are in the morning or evening, so I pick Delta flight 2901 at 10:30 AM.

Changing Times

These times are accurate as of November 2022, but as time goes by flight times and numbers can change. However the general rule stands: try to fly out of Orlando by 1 PM EST (Orlando timezone) to make sure you’re not delayed by afternoon rain storms.

A Lovely Experience At Tony’s Town Square

A charming, delightful, well-lit restaurant with fantastic Italian food. That about sums up Tony’s Town Square, the Italian restaurant in Magic Kingdom. What I love about this restaurant is that it’s just inside the entrance to Magic Kingdom, so it’s a great place to people-watch as other guests enter and leave the Magic Kingdom.

The entrance to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. Love the tall, stately, graceful columns! Credit: © Theme Park Tourist / Flickr

The restaurant can be found to your immediate right as you enter Magic Kingdom. The entrance to the Magic Kingdom is through the red colored train station at the bottom of the map, shown below – as you pass under the building, you come to Magic Kingdom’s entrance plaza which has guest services, shops, and so forth. Tony’s Town Square in on the right hand side, next to a small set of shops. Fantastic place to see people come into the Magic Kingdom, and you can see the parades as they march down and around the plaza.

Entrance to Magic Kingdom plaza. Tony’s Town Square Restaurant is on the right hand side – see the blue arrow. Credit: Disney Parks Map

The restaurant is themed after The Lady & The Tramp, on the scene where both dogs are eating spaghetti. Make sure you see the statue of both in the middle of the restaurant! It’s a great place for a picture.

The Lady and the Tramp statue in the middle of Tony’s. Credit: Traci Sproule / Dreamstime

Speaking of spaghetti, Tony’s serves up all kinds of great pasta dishes: spaghetti, chicken parmigiana, fettucine alfredo, etc. Plenty of kids options are available: child’s menus are “build your own” by selecting grilled chicken, spaghetti, or macaroni and then selecting two addons from a list which includes grapes, fruit, green beans, etc. The servers at Tony’s Town Square are also very reasonable with changes – I asked for a side plate of diced grilled chicken for my child’s spaghetti meal (which was not listed as an addon option on the menu) and they did it with no problem!

If your child is more of a preteen and needs more food than what a child’s meal provides, Tony’s Town Square can also take an adult sized meal and break it up into two plates – my preteen wanted steak but wouldn’t have been able to finish it; the server was able to split the steak into two separate plates, one plate for her and one plate for the rest of the table to sample from.

I personally had the garlic bread as an appetizer, fettucine alfredo as the main, and the strawberry short cake as dessert. Other family at my table had the sustainable fish, spaghetti, chicken parm, and the steak. We all agreed that Tony’s Town Square is a great restaurant, roughly on par with or slightly better than Olive Garden.

So bottom line: Tony’s is a great place to people-watch Magic Kingdom guests from. You can’t see the evening fireworks displays from it (for that you’d want either Crystal Palace or The Plaza restaurants) but you can see some parades as they march through the entrance plaza; make sure you ask for a window seat. The food is roughly equivalent in quality to Olive Garden (and I love Olive Garden, so that’s a positive in my view). It’s easy to get to as it’s right inside the Magic Kingdom entrance, in comparison to other restaurants which can be scattered inside MK and require you to wend your way through crowds. I actually love to get early lunch reservations and eat while watching the crowds in the Magic Kingdom entrance plaza. Tony’s is a great option if you want Italian food in the most magical place on earth!

Chef Mickey’s Breakfast: How To Get There, Having A Delicious Time!

I love character dining – where you get to meet Disney characters while eating – and Chef Mickey’s is no exception. I particularly like doing a character experience in the morning: you get a super dose of Disney at the start of your day, and fill up your family’s stomachs at the same time!

So, on to Chef Mickey’s: the restaurant is on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort’s tower. Now Contemporary Resort is made up of several buildings, so make sure you get the right one; it’s the colloquially-named A-Frame tower that has the monorail running through it:

The Contemporary Resort. Notice that if you view it from the far left corner, the angled sloping sides of the resort resemble an A, thus the resort is often called the A-Frame building. Credit: © Jerry Coli / Dreamstime.

There are several ways to get to Chef Mickey’s: if you are in a monorail resort – the Polynesian or the Grand Floridian – you can ride the monorail to the Contemporary. If you have a car, you can park your car at the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) and then take the monorail to the Contemporary as well.

If you’re in the Wilderness Resort, you can take the boat launch from Wilderness to Magic Kingdom, then ride the monorail from the Magic Kingdom’s monorail station directly to the Contemporary.

If you are in a different resort, getting to Chef Mickey’s is a bit more complex. If you’re doing a late breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the easiest way is to take your resort’s bus to Magic Kingdom, then walking from the Magic Kingdom’s front entrance (before you enter the MK gates) to the Contemporary. There is a short walking path that takes you directly to the Contemporary; see the blue arrows below:

Front Entrance of Magic Kingdom. Use the path with the blue arrows to walk to the Contemporary. Credit: Google Maps

If you have an early morning breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, or don’t want to walk, the best way to get to the Contemporary is via an Uber or a Lyft. An early morning breakfast reservation at Chef Mickey’s means you need to be there before potentially the Magic Kingdom buses even start up for the day, so you can’t use the above strategy. An Uber or a Lyft is guaranteed to get you on time to the resort.

When you order your Uber or Lyft, you can type in “Contemporary Resort” in the location box and the app should pop up “Disney’s Contemporary Resort” as a location to go to. When your Uber gets to the Contemporary, there is a gate with guards checking cars – show them your Chef Mickey’s reservation on your My Disney Experience app to go through. Once you’re in the Contemporary lobby, take the escalators to the 4th floor to get to Chef Mickey’s.

Chef Mickey’s entrance, on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort’s A-Frame building. Credit: © Dave Minogue / Flickr

Once you get up to the Contemporary Resort’s 4th floor, you should see this big Chef Mickey’s sign (pictured above). If you’ve arrived early, there’s a gift shop on the other side of the floor and an arcade – both great places to visit and check out. The gift shop sells a large variety of items – the last time I was there I purchased a set of Mickey Mouse-branded rolling suitcases.

Chef Mickey’s was formerly a buffet style restaurant, but after the pandemic it has converted into a family style restaurant – which means that your table gets plates and dishes piled high with food, and then each person can take from the shared dish. Eat up, because soon you’ll see Mickey and his friends! If someone in your group loves monorails, ask the usher for a table with a view of the monorail line – it goes through the Contemporary just above the restaurant.

Chef Mickey’s on the 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort. Note how you can see the monorail line through the Contemporary Resort. Credit: © Disney Parks

Mickey and his friends will come around to each table to sign autographs, take pictures, and play around with everyone. Make sure you know what to say! Each Disney character will be dressed up in chef’s clothing, so it’s a great and unique picture to get!

Donald Duck at Chef Mickey’s. Credit: © Princess Ashley / Flickr

Chef Mickey’s is a wonderful place to go, I hope you love it as much as I do.

Christmas Gifts For Your Disney Toddler!

Looking for a Christmas gift for your toddler, or your friend’s toddler? For a recent friend’s toddler birthday party, I purchased this pretty Mickey Mouse -themed sipper cup: .

I loved this cup! Makes a great gift for a toddler! Credit: Amazon

My order came packaged in a clear plastic bag, so if you want to make it easy to carry, I’d suggest a decorative gift bag such as this one: Gift Bag with Tissue Paper. The cups were small, easy to hold and grip, and well liked by everyone at the party. It’s less than $20, so if you need to pad out your gift, I recommend this set of Mickey plates – again, great to use and small enough for kids. The bright colors means that kids love them!

If you need other Mickey and other Disney themed characters, shopDisney is also a great place to find items. In particular, I love buying fleece blankets as gifts. I think when a child is 5 and under, you can never have enough blankets – they’re useful for everything: making forts, catching messes, insulating a room, hanging them up like a poster, or for use as a blanket – they’re great gifts that last forever and always remind your recipient that you bought this blanket. I recently ordered this holiday fleece throw from shopDisney, but you can find others by going to and searching for fleece blanket.

In general, I find that any product branded with a Disney character is a decent product – it’s my easy way of figuring quality: if a Disney character is on the box, then most likely someone at Disney is doing quality control to make sure no bad products get a Disney character stamped on them. When in doubt gift-wise, I search Amazon for Mickey Mouse, Elsa, Anna, and buy the first product themed with a Disney character – it always turns out well for me!

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party – A 2022 Recap

I was coming home from work this afternoon, and while sitting in my Uber looking out the window, I saw so many children walking around trick-or-treating. That’s a VERY welcome sight after the last two years of pandemics. Seeing all the neighborhood’s children and their parents walking around, greeting each other, it feels as if a sense of community and normalcy is returning.

And that’s more or less why I love going to Magic Kingdom’s Halloween parties. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (often abbreviated MNSSHP) is a microcosm of American communities all over the nation, children collecting their well-earned candy and neighbors able to reconnect with each other after being shut in their homes for far too long. This year I was lucky enough to visit MNSSHP on several nights, and I loved seeing everybody dressed up. Both adults and children were obviously having so much fun!

I want to highlight some notable media items I saw that really didn’t get the attention they deserve. This Reddit post is a nice shot of how much candy you get during MNSSHP evenings at Magic Kingdom:

Credit: Post on Reddit’s r/WaltDisneyWorld on October 2, 2022

This is a nice overview of the candy from MNSSHP, it’s good quality candy. Too often people end up handing out old or crumpled candy, I’m very happy to say that Disney springs for good, name brand candy that looks to be in good shape. I personally sampled a great deal of MNSSHP candy and they were delicious.

A lot of people don’t know that Wilderness campgrounds have their own small Halloween bash – people decorate their RVs in the Halloween spirit. A great example is this video from Resort TV 1 – forward to 2 hours 44 minutes in to see a selection of great examples. I love the Boba Fett design!

Credit: YouTube

And finally, no highlight of MNSSHP is complete without mentioning the fireworks. Love the castle all lit up in spooky colors:

Credit: YouTube


Thanks for visiting my blog about all things visiting Disney World. I started this blog to help document my guides and thoughts about visiting Disney World. Make sure you favorite this site and visit often!