It's A Small World After All

It's A Small World After All

A Floridian's Guide to an Ultimate Disney World Experience

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Growing up an hour away from Cinderella's Castle, I have had my eyes set on a Disney vacation for as long as I can remember. I would see all of my neighbors and friends come back from the theme park with Mickey ears and ice-cream sandwiches every summer while I either went to visit my family in India or enjoyed a staycation.

After a long wait, I was finally able to convince my family to go on a trip to Orlando's Disney World as Florida residents. With cheaper tickets comes its pros and cons, but at the end of the day, there are 5 ways that can ensure a magical stay at Mickey's Home.

When my family and I went to Disney, I only remembered standing in lines that were hours and hours long until my legs were waiting for relief. Only after we left the park had I known about the concept of a FastPass. The FastPass allows an individual to be in a shorter line for a specific attraction or ride at the park. The other catch: you need to get three and use them BEFORE adding more passes! However, my advice is to choose wisely and ahead of time so you can have more fun at the park. The most popular rides usually don't have passes available, but if you try to buy them a few weeks before your trip, you could be lucky!

1. FastPasses

When my family and I went to Disney, I only remembered standing in lines that were hours and hours long until my legs were wailing for relief. Only after we left the park had I known about the concept of a FastPass. The FastPass allows an individual to be in a shorter line for a specific attraction or ride at the park. The other catch: you need to get three and use them BEFORE adding more passes! However, my advice is to choose wisely and ahead of time so you can have more fun at the park. The most popular rides usually don't have passes available, but if you try to buy them a few weeks before your trip, you could be lucky!

2. MyDisney Experience

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As soon as the tram lets you into the park, you enter a crowd that is excited, confused and energetic in the most magical place on Earth. Do you have questions or want to have the day planned for you? Save time with the MyDisney Experience App found in the App Store. The MyDisney App connects your ticket to the app to give you real-life wait times at all attractions, a list of showtimes and the best places to dine or take some nice pictures!

3. Bring Food/Water

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As a vegetarian, finding restaurants with proper meals for a reasonable price was rather difficult, impossible even in some of the parks. If you are a picky eater or have dietary restrictions, bring homemade food to match your palette. The Disney staff respects these decisions and will not mind as long as you show your bag like everyone else in the security line! If you pack some refreshing bottles of water or Gatorade, you're all set for the day!

4. Skip the Parade at Magic Kingdom

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Magic Kingdom is the face of Disney World on an international level, so it makes sense that this will be the park with the most crowd and greatest entertainment. Magic Kingdom has a 15-minute parade at 3:00 every day. The parade features all of your favorite princesses, Mickey and Minnie and even Alice in Wonderland! In the sweltering heat of summer, I spent too much time waiting for the parade to start that I got exhausted physically and mentally. For families with little kids, the wait was not worth it. If you want to make the most of Magic Kingdom, don't wait for the parade.

5. Extra Magic Hours

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The best way to have an ultimate Disney Experience is to go relish your favorite attractions during Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours, part of Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, allow resort guests to enter the park one hour earlier. The perks of staying at a Walt Disney Resort include shorter wait times and more time to take pictures before the rest of the crowd floods inside!

Every trip to Disney World is magical, exhausting and unforgettable. With these tips from a Floridian and true Disney fan, you are guaranteed to have the time of your life and live happily ever after!

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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8 Southern Destinations To Escape The Cold This Spring Break

New Orleans and Mardi Gras is a must do!

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This winter has been brutal with the large amounts of snow across the country, and record temperatures of around zero. Popular destinations for spring break are mostly Florida beaches, but there are other places that are just as nice if not nicer, without annoying college kids:

1. New Orleans, Louisiana 

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"The Big Easy" is always a joy. Even though it's a city, New Orleans is relaxing, quiet, has beautiful scenery, and great music. It's even more exciting the first week of March aka Mardi Gras!

2. Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico is known for being a beautiful island in the U.S. It has a true Caribbean feel. With the risk of climate change swallowing low-level areas, it's better to go now than later. Unlike other destinations, Puerto Rico has the El Yunque rainforest and lots of island shopping in San Juan.

3. Charlestown, South Carolina

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Much like New Orleans, Charlestown has a similar old town field. Founded in 1670 as a port city, it has great seafood from the day's catch among neighboring beaches. Hilton Head and Folly beach are a short drive away. Seeing historic downtown with local restaurants and horse-drawn carriages make a relaxing experience with Palmetto trees and loads of shopping. Another must see is touring the ship museums on the harbor, including Fort Sumter.

4. Savannah, Georgia

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Famous for filming Forrest Gump, Savannah offers an allure of ghost and walking tours around the city. An abundance of river cruises and ocean activities can be found, including dolphin tours. Also, beaches surround Savannah for time away from the city.

5. Key West, Florida

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Known as "the southernmost point in the continental United States," Key West is famous for being a set of islands at the tip of Florida. One main destination is the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum featuring artifacts from shipwrecks from the past 400 years. Also, Key West has a lot of parks to take long walks around the city and on the beach.

6. Grand Canyon, Arizona

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The Grand Canyon is a great destination for spring break. It might be on the chillier side, but going during the off-season had its positives. During spring break, the Grand Canyon isn't busy. The Grand Canyon National Park offers park tours. Although in a remote area, the Grand Canyon is peaceful and has astounding views with lots of wildlife.

7. Nashville, Tennessee

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Full of country music, Nashville, Tennessee, is a cultural experience like no other. There's lots of restaurants and nightlife. Not only is there the Grand Ole Opry, but bus tours of where the show, Nashville, was filmed. The Country Music Hall of Fame Museum and a Jack Daniel's distillery bus tour are must do's.

8. Atlanta, Georgia

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Atlanta is famous for the creation of Coca-Cola and the museum is there to prove it. World of Coca-Cola offers tasting different Coca-Cola products, observing the bottling process, history of the Coca-Cola brand, and a film. In addition, CNN is also based in Atlanta and offers studio and newsroom tours. The College Football Hall of Fame is not to be missed and is sponsored by Chick-fl-A of course!

Finally, going somewhere warm and peaceful has its benefits before we are all back grinding on finishing the semester and finals.

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