Finding Happiness with the Travel Editor of Brides Magazine

Jacqueline Gifford


My earliest travel memory is of trekking in Nepal with my highly adventurous (perhaps slightly insane?) parents when I was three years old. Now I live for hotels with impeccable service - there’s nothing like feeling at home on the road.

In Orlando, I would stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian. It’s a little slice of Victorian-inspired luxury close to the Magic Kingdom, and it works for both couples and families. Even if you’re not staying here, come to check out the soaring lobby and look out for characters hidden in the marble floors. I always have a smile on my face when I’m in Orlando - it’s my happy place, and the happy place for millions of others. There’s something lovely about that.

The activities not to be missed

1. Riding Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom never gets old. This roller coaster doesn’t go upside down - what’s scary about it is that you’re totally in the dark. And I love that the entrance has a retro, '70s feel to it. It’s what the Imagineers thought the future would look like.

2. Epcot’s World Showcase Bar Crawl. I celebrated my 30th birthday with friends and family in Orlando, and we did Epcot’s round-the-world bar crawl (including tequila shots in the Mexico pavilion at Cava del Tequila!). What’s not to love about trying champagne in “France” and a "Super Tuscan" wine in “Italy”? All kidding aside, the menus and wine lists at each of the pavilions are legit.

3. Dancing to top 40 at Atlantic Dance Hall. It’s one of the few late-night places in the Disney complex, set on the Boardwalk. Just get silly.

Finding Happiness with the Travel Editor of Brides Magazine
Finding Happiness with the Travel Editor of Brides Magazine

My favorite places to eat

1. Jiko - The Cooking Place is a restaurant mixing African, Indian, and Mediterranean flavors at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Having just returned from South Africa, where we tasted the country's incredible wines, we were blown away by how many were on the list at Jiko (and are hard to get anywhere else). Order the oak-grilled filet and pair it with a Kanonkop pinotage.
2. Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian. Fancy food, paired with great wines. And you get a keepsake menu with your name on it.
3. Be sure to try the famous Disney World Turkey Leg - each of the theme parks sells them somewhere. Just because you've gotta do it. It’s Thanksgiving heaven.

The places you should definitely see

1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando - I got the chills walking through Hogsmeade. You feel like you’re in the film. And it’s adorable to see adults and kids dressed as wizards.
2. The Animal Kingdom at Disney - It has one of my favorite coasters, Expedition Everest, and a ride that mimics a safari experience in Africa.
3. The Magic Kingdom - Going to Orlando and not visiting this theme park would be like going to Paris for the first time and missing the Eiffel Tower.

Finding Happiness with the Travel Editor of Brides Magazine
Finding Happiness with the Travel Editor of Brides Magazine

My favorite hidden gems

1. I love buying Christmas ornaments on my travels. And you can get them 365 days a year at a shop in the Germany pavilion at Epcot, Die Weihnachts Ecke (The Christmas Corner). They have a fantastic selection (including the pickle, a German tradition).
2. The Waldorf Astoria Spa is outrageous. Great facials.
3. The Walt Disney Museum at Hollywood Studios is tucked away in a back corner, and they have cool little artifacts - everything from vintage stuffed Mickeys to Walt’s school desk and storyboards. They show a short film, “One Man’s Dream,” and you realize how Walt literally bet his entire fortune on Snow White being a success. By the way, did you know that Donald Duck was, at one point, more popular than Mickey Mouse?

The place I'm most excited to go next is Aruba! I’m going to attempt to learn windsurfing and paddle tennis. Yikes.