Beyond the Parks

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

by on February 13, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. With 26 on-site resorts at Walt Disney World, there is a wide variety of choices for families coming down. We’ve covered many here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts (Art of Animation and Pop Century), Moderates (Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside), and Deluxe (ContemporaryAnimal Kingdom Lodge, and BoardWalk Inn & Villas). We also can’t forget the Disney Vacation Club resorts such as Old Key West. Today we are going to take a look at WDW’s largest resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach.

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Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

Like with Old Key West, the sprawling size of Caribbean Beach does come with some downsides. There are many rooms quite far away from the check-in area (The Custom House) and several of the resort’s amenities located at Old Port Royale. Everything is walkable, and there is both an internal bus system and water transportation for those who don’t want to hoof it. The TouringPlans Hotel Room Request can also help make getting a room closer to Old Port Royale easier, which is something to consider. The Custom House is the only check-in area at WDW that is completely separated from anything else at the resort, so you may want to consider on-line check in (although they do have free swords and star wands for kids at the front desk).

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Map of Disney’s Caribbean Beach.

All that said, the size of Caribbean Beach is also a positive, as it is a wonderful place at WDW to spend time at outside of the parks because there is so many amenities and is an absolutely gorgeous place to relax in. So sit back, rest your sea legs ye scurvy bilge rat, and let’s begin counting down our top six reasons we love Caribbean Beach starting with…

# 6 – Fuentes del Morro Pool

If you are anything like our family, a resort’s main pool can have a major impact on where you stay. Right now pools with a slide are the biggest determining factor on where we stay, and the Caribbean Beach pool has a great slide and then some. Based around the 400 year old El Morro Fort in San Juan, Carribean Beach’s Fuentes del Morro pool looks incredible. The theme of a Spanish fort is complete with cannons, two water slides (one over 100 feet long), and has a zero depth entry. This area includes two hot tubs around the main pool, a fantastic kid’s play area that is a giant pirate ship, and the Banana Cabana bar for adults to get their fill of rum.

There are also six leisure pools located across property (near each of the main guest buildings).

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Fuentes del Morror pool.

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Shiver me timbers! Thar be water cannons in this pool.

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The main water slide at the Fuentes del Morro pool.

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Julia Mascardo’s Best Week Ever, February 11, 2016: Happy Lunar New Year!

by on February 11, 2016

Happy Lunar New Year! We celebrated Disney-style with red envelopes filled with Disney dollars.

Happy Lunar New Year! We celebrated Disney-style with red envelopes filled with Disney dollars.

Ed – Those of you who read Seth’s final Best Week Ever already know, but we have some new Best Week Ever Authors. Welcome Julia!

Greetings! You may already know me as Derek’s Unpaid Outlet Intern or as one of the voices from the TouringPlans Twitter account, but now the powers that be have given me the privilege of stepping into the lofty role of co-blogger for the Best Week Ever series, joining the ranks of the illustrious Seth and Daisy. Somehow I think an e-mail got misdirected into my inbox with the offer, but if you’re reading this, it looks like my blog slipped into publication somehow. (I won’t tell if you won’t!)

A bit of background about me: I grew up in Florida and have spent most of my adult life finding ways to leave for a little while and come back to settle down. I live with my husband, daughter, and two cats (Pixie Dust and Figment) in the backyard for the Magic Kingdom.

But enough about me — time for the best week ever.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! January 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on January 31, 2016

MMM positiveWelcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. The new year has started off exactly where the old one left us: with Walt Disney World closing attractions. It has been a pretty cool month though, including a cool Star Wars runDisney race out in California (and Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to watch a great parody of Undercover Boss featuring Kylo Ren). Erin Foster took us inside Vanellope’s on the Disney Dream, and for those who don’t know, this is a complete Wreck-It-Ralph themed sweet shop (pinch us, we’re dreaming). And Guy Selga introduced us to Four Glorious New Ways to Kill Time at Disneyland, including the am I dreaming this, or is this real Jungle Cruise Skipper School. 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year.

Now while all of you were off taking your kids to see Donald Trump, Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo and I were hard at work to bring you the quality Outlet coverage you expect deserve!

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

The first item this month made my heart grow three sizes (after double checking, that enlargement of the heart was actually due to eating the Pop-Tart Sandwich at Pop Century). Behold the Luigi’s Flying Tires hat! Anyone who has visited the Disney Dump has seen the remnants of this attraction, which opened with the debut of Cars Land in the summer of 2012 and was already closed by the ending of February 2015. Believe it or not, despite only being open for only 976 days, Luigi’s doesn’t even rank in the Top Five of Short Lived Disney Attractions. Originally $24.95, this baby could be sitting on your head for just $6.99. VIVA LA DISNEY OUTLETS!

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After seeing this, I know how Indiana Jones felt seeing the Fertility Idol.  (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Tsum Tsums returned this month! However it was mostly the ones we have seen in the past (including all seven of the dwarfs), but one that was new was this crying duck. I had literally no idea who this was, but found out it was the Ugly Duckling from a quick scene in Lilo & Stitch. That’s what we call a deep dive, and I love it. I actually dropped Loot Crate this month and started up the Disney Tsum Tsum Monthly Subscription Program, so starting in February I too will annoy you with unboxing videos (although my last one didn’t go so well).

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Ugly Duckling Tsum.

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Ugly Duckling sequence from Lilo & Stitch.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Pressed Pennies at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on January 23, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Pressed Pennies at the Universal Orlando Resort. Regular readers of this fine blog know that we have extolled the virtue of pressed pennies in our article on The Best Souvenirs at Walt Disney World and anyone who follows Your Humble Author on social media knows I am pretty much obsessed with them. Today we are going to head over to the Universal Orlando Resort and check out the best pressed coin designs they have to offer. So sit back, drive yourself crazy looking through all your change to find two quarters and a penny, and let’s start off with…

# 6 – Jurassic Park

The Jurassic Park logo is just as awesome today as it was when it made its debut over twenty years ago, and in the gift shop of the Jurassic Park River Adventure (way in the back) you can find a pressed penny design with this very image.

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Iconic Jurassic Park logo.

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# 5 – The Simpsons

There are a good amount of Simpsons pressed penny designs found throughout the entire Universal resort (not just in Springfield USA), and in fact our favorite design is located over at Islands of Adventure in front of the Islands Trading Post. One of the biggest strength of the Simpsons TV show is its huge cast of characters, however almost all of the pressed penny designs at Universal feature the actual Simpson family of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. One design features Homer, Moe, and Barney Gumble at Moe’s Tavern. Until we can get a pressed penny featuring Comic Book Guy (Worst. Penny. Ever.), Cletus the slack jawed yokel, Duffman, or even Poochie, the Moe’s Tavern penny is going to be  #1 in our book.

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Moe’s Tavern.

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The most relaxing place inside Walt Disney World

by on January 21, 2016

In 1971, the dawn of the Vacation Kingdom, Walt Disney World came to be. In the beginning Walt Disney World wasn’t about theme parks, it was a sprawling vacation getaway with multiple ways to relax and reconnect. Now that Walt Disney World has grown to encompass four distinct theme parks, two water parks, mini golf, PGA golf courses, and over 20 resort hotels, it can sometimes feel like the is no room for relaxation. But, if you look for it, you can still find the Vacation Kingdom’s message of leisure, and one of the best places to find it is the Bay Lake area.

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(Photo by Brian McNichols)

A brief history of Bay Lake

The strategic development of what was once marsh land to create Walt Disney World is pretty fascinating. It is a smart business move that sometimes happens today: company names created to purchase the land without the attractive, financial appeal of the Disney Corporation, and thus a price increase. Then there’s the creation of a self-governing city: Bay Lake. Many steps were taken to make Walt Disney World incredibly unique and free from much of the normal regulation other enterprises have to face.

Lay of the lake

The main destinations within the Bay Lake Area are some of Disney’s most iconic resorts. Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge resorts each have their own distinct character and appeal. Visiting these resorts is enough to make for a nice afternoon, but the activities that can be enjoyed throughout this resort area can make for a full day of recreation.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Top Six Vegan & Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants in Walt Disney World

by on January 16, 2016

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Vegan & Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants at WDW. When readers come to the SATURDAY SIX for food they are generally looking for the most unhealthy (Pop-Tart Sandwich), most outrageous (Beaches & Cream’s Kitchen Sink sundae), or most likely to have been created out of a fever dream (Animal Kingdom poop snacks). But there’s actually another side to theme park dining: a healthy side. Today we are going to look the top six vegan & vegetarian friendly restaurants at WDW. Some people choose to eat vegan because of dietary restriction or allergies, some due to animal welfare concerns, and others for their health, but whatever the reason Walt Disney World is a great place to accommodate their needs. Today we reached out to an expert in this area, Emily Woesthoff, former general manager of Erin Mckenna’s Bakery NYC in Disney Springs (a vegan bakery). Emily is a lifelong Disney fan and just celebrated her 11th year of losing her mind eating vegan. There is no better person to guide us on this journey, so take it away Emily!

If I was given the good fortune to have a limitless supply of cash, and the superpower to make an ADR wherever I please, the following six-ish restaurants would be my go-to table service locations for vegan dining at Walt Disney World! While I haven’t yet managed to eat at every restaurant on property, I’ve dined at quite a few. The list below features my favorites, please keep in mind they are in no particular order. 

6 – ‘Ohana (Polynesian Village Resort)

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‘Ohana.

Yup. The infamous meat-fest that is ‘Ohana made the list. Crazy, right? I waited a really long time to eat here for a few reasons. First, all anyone ever talks about when they mention ‘Ohana is that it’s very meat-heavy. I had only assumed that they basically sat you in front of a roasted pig with an apple in his mouth and said, “have at it!” Second, I’m not a huge fan of the stuff-your-face-as-much-as-you-can-we-are-not-going-to-stop-bringing-you-food restaurants. It’s just too much pressure! And finally, I had accidentally been reading the restaurant’s name as O’Hana for quite a number of years, and I just didn’t think Polynesian-Irish fusion food would work. 

Much to my surprise, the vegan options at ‘Ohana are outstanding! The same lettuce wraps that meat-eaters rave about can be made vegan! There was also a considerable portion of stir fried noodles, vegetables, and tofu from which to choose, along with a starter of crispy pita chips and hummus, too! Vegan ice cream was available for dessert, if one can manage to save room for dessert at ‘Ohana. There’s also a bit of during meal entertainment, which definitely enhanced the experience. Since this restaurant is “all you care to enjoy,” the price can be a little steep. I recommend coming here with a big appetite!

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Vegan dessert at ‘Ohana.

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Universal Orlando’s CityWalk is Reborn

by on January 15, 2016

Universal Orlando’s CityWalk hasn’t always been much of a draw for many visitors. It was often viewed as the place that you have to walk through in order to get to the parks. By contrast, it is actually the catalyst for me becoming a Universal Orlando Annual Passholder. I spent so much time enjoying the restaurants (I’m looking at you Margaritaville), bars (oh the stories we could tell about Cigarz) and nightclubs (yes, I do love to shake my groove thing).  Whenever I said I was going to “Universal” I’d be referring to CityWalk. But it is no secret that a revamp was needed.

Other than replacing the no-one-is-going-to-miss-it NBA City, the new and improved CityWalk has arrived. Let’s talk about some of the highlights of the reborn CityWalk.

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The original restaurants are keeping it fresh

CityWalk has welcomed a wave of new restaurants over the past two years, but there are three restaurants from the early days that are still going strong. What’s more is these restaurants have updated their menus within the past year or so. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe compares to no other when it comes to transporting patrons to the tropics. Margaritas and boat drinks, burgers, seafood, and sweets are waiting to be enjoyed. Radio Margaritaville DJ, JD Spradlin broastcasts live Wednesdays – Sundays 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, live musicians strum their guitars on the Porch of Indecision in the early evening, and a live band rocks the house on the main stage inside after 9:00 PM, so there’s always something to entertain you.

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Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Tips and Full Review

by on January 13, 2016

Before being known for theme parks and other attractions, Florida was a vacation destination for enjoying warm weather, sandy beaches, and other beautiful scenery. Although Walt Disney World is the undisputed champion of having changed Florida’s tourism scene forever, Disney is responsible for a resort that honors and celebrates Florida; the Florida before Disney. Whenever I visit Disney’s Vero Beach Resort I am filled with Florida pride and become instantly relaxed. After five visits I have my own list of favorite activities and features of this resort, and I’d like to share my Disney’s Vero Beach Resort tips with you.

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You do not have to be a DVC Member to stay here

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is primarily a Disney Vacation Club property. It is one of the very first DVC Resorts, offering villa style accommodations (studios all the way to three bedroom villas) as well as regular hotel rooms. As a DVC member you can use your vacation points to stay in any available accommodations, including hotel rooms. Non members can also book any available accommodations, based on availability.

All accommodations have Florida and nautical themed decor. All rooms are pretty well sized, offering a pleasing amount of space. All units, even the hotel rooms, have DVD players. As with all DVC resorts, DVDs are offered for rent from a fairly decent sized DVD library.

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Trivia Tuesday: Why Stay at a Walt Disney World VALUE Resort Hotel? + Video

by on January 12, 2016

Photo - TouringPlans.comWelcome back to Trivia Tuesday!

Today, I’m going to discuss the pros of staying at a Walt Disney World VALUE Resort Hotel.

Like our posts? Check us out on Facebook and YouTube for more!

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Trivia Tuesday: Why Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel? + Video

by on January 5, 2016

Copyright 2010 Claire NatI can’t wait to delve in to this week’s Trivia Tuesday topic!

Why should you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel?

Have any ideas for future Trivia Tuesday’s? Write ’em down in the comments!

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