Beyond the Parks

SATURDAY SIX: Six Things To Do On Your Next Orlando Trip (Outside of Disney and Universal)

by on October 18, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things To Do On Your Next Orlando Trip (Outside of Disney and Universal). When I was growing up, our family trips to Orlando never meant just going to Disney. Sure, we would spend time at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but we always built time in our vacation to travel outside of Walt Disney World and visit attractions like Cypress Gardens, the Kennedy Space Center, and SeaWorld. Now it seems many guests lock themselves into a vacation at WDW and – thanks in part to Magical Express - never leave property. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has convinced some to venture over to the dark side of the Universal Orlando Resort, and today we are going to look at six other things to do on your next Orlando trip that are worth checking out. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, and let’s count down the fun….

 

# 6 – Fun Spot America

FunSpot1_Sperduto

Fun Spot America. (Photo by Mike Sperduto)

 

Located near Universal off of I-Drive, Fun Spot America doesn’t away the immersive theming you will see at Universal and Disney, but still has the fun rides and at a very reasonable price. One unique feature is that admission to the park is free, so that if you have family members who don’t enjoy going on rides, they can still be with everyone without having to pay the full cost of a ticket like you do at the theme parks. For my family this is a great option because my grandmother loves coming with us to the parks but has zero interest in riding anything. She does enjoy watching the kids have fun, and at Fun Spot this entertainment costs her $0 where at Disney it’s $100. Another ticket option Fun Spot has that I wish the bigger parks would adopt is pricing of rides based on height rather than age. I’ll never understand why both Disney and Universal for all intents and purposes charge a full price ticket to kids whose height prevents them from going on many of the park’s rides.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Beating the Post Disney Blues – Part 2

by on October 8, 2014

You planned what to do before your trip – how to tell the kids, what to pack, book the flight, or chart the roadmap course. You definitely planned what to do during your trip – where to stay, what to visit, where and what to eat. Did you plan what to do after the trip? After vacationing at the happiest place on earth, it is hard to come back to reality when your vacation is finished. To make your return home a little less “blue”, you may want to organize a plan for your return home from your trip.

Jedi Training Certificate

Jedi Training Certificate

1) Plan time with friends: Before you leave for vacation, make plans within the first week or two of your return with someone fun. That’s what friends are for – to lift your spirits. Our kids usually miss their friends by the time we get back, so we invite a whole family over. If you know someone else who is planning a trip to Disney, even better. You can share all of your tips while they are still fresh in your mind.

2) Frame the souvenir: Did you pick up any certificates or autographs while in the park? Frame it with a photo of the event happening. My son trained as a Jedi and fought Darth Vader. Now he has the certificate and photo to prove it.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

The Disney Dazzle: Wishes Fireworks Cruise

by on October 7, 2014

Photo - Keith Dahlgren

Mom and Dad sharing a special moment

Today, I’m going to share my experience attending the Wishes Fireworks Cruise. I first went on this cruise in 2011 and again in September 2014. This most recent time, it was a birthday surprise for my dad. If you know me personally, you will understand just how hard it is for me to keep a secret. The cruise can be booked as early as 180 days in advance, but mine was booked about 90 days beforehand. That’s 90 whole days I had to keep my lips zipped…I barely made it! After a fun day at the parks and a delicious dinner at The Brown Derby (Yes, he was spoiled rotten!), we arrived at the Contemporary. We led my confused dad through the lobby and outside to the marina. He had no clue what this birthday surprise could be!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going on my First Disney Cruise Aboard the Disney Wonder!

by on October 7, 2014

Over the past few weeks and months you’ve probably read several articles on the upcoming big October event - TouringPlans #Everywhere. If not, here’s the skinny: during Columbus Day weekend, TouringPlans is sending its staff across the world to Disney destinations in order to collect content, meet our subscribers, and if we can squeeze it in, have some fun, too. Brian McNichols, my cohost of the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast, is going to Disneyland. Gerelyn Reaves is going to the Aulani resort in Hawaii. Guy Selga is going to Tokyo Disneyland. And I’ll be going to the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Just kidding, I’ll actually be taking my first ever trip on the Disney Cruise Line aboard the Disney Wonder.

DisneyCruiseLine_Dream

Spoiler Alert: This is NOT the Disney Wonder, this is the Disney Dream.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

The Four Seasons Orlando (Part 1)

by on October 6, 2014

Ed. – To hear (literally,™ James Hill) more about the Four Seasons, listen to Steve and Paula Bloom on today’s episode of the WDW Today podcast.

The Four Seasons Orlando is the newest resort at Walt Disney World. My in-laws, wife, and two children visited the Four Seasons Resort September 18-21. After the Touringplans Everywhere trip in October we will do a blog post comparing the deluxe resorts in Orlando. This blog post is going to focus on our experience at the Four Seasons.Four Seasons View from 14th floor

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: The Disney Hipsters Examine Six of Their Assumptions After Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort

by on October 4, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one. A little over a year ago I was introduced to the Disney Hipsters podcast via the TouringPlans Podcast Network and I became an immediate fan. They are refreshingly different from the seemingly hundreds of Disney podcasts out there that just recite Disney press releases and while they have a true passion for Walt Disney World they never shy away from pointing out the bad along with the good. When they announced their first ever trip to the Universal Orlando Resort earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to get their unique perspective on the theme parks and staying onsite after years of being “Disney Only” fans. Today Disney Hipster Adam Ferretti is here to examine six of the assumptions they had about Universal before going on the trip and whether or not they held up after the vacation. As always, clicking on any picture will open up its full size version, so with that out of the way I will see you, Dear Reader, at the end of the article and hand the reigns over to Adam…

DisneyHipsters_Krusty

The Disney Hipsters, Andrew and Adam, with Krusty the Clown.

As Disney nerds going into Universal, we had tons of preconceived notions on what to expect. We thought we would discuss six of those assumptions.

ASSUMPTION # 6 – Universal Team Members Would be Inferior to Disney Cast Members

This assumption was very wrong. As a rule, the team members were super friendly, helpful and amazing. We expected the customer service aspect and general employee/guest interactions at Universal to be less than great. We ended up being really surprised by the enthusiasm of the team members at both the parks and our resort (Royal Pacific.) This was especially true of performers inside both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

Universal pays their team members a bit better (we have heard) and gives them more freedom when doing their jobs. This results in guest interactions that come off as way more genuine along with performances that were truly engaging (check out the hosts of Disaster or the Horror Make Up show for great examples.) Disney is more controlling on Cast Member behavior, including what they can and cannot say. Sometimes this makes Cast Members seem like they’re faking it, resulting in their performances being generally stale and boring (see The Great Movie Ride).

HipstersHorrorMakeUp2_Trygve

Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show. (photo by Trygve Nelson)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Menu Monday: The Fabulousness That Is Jiko

by on September 29, 2014

IMG_5151I’m not a fancy girl. If a restaurant employs someone to pull out my chair and place a linen napkin in my lap, then you can bet I’d rather be eating burgers. Over the years I’ve begrudgingly been dragged to nearly every restaurant on Disney property. While they’re all nice, only one has pulled me back over and over: Jiko – The Cooking Place isn’t just my favorite restaurant at any Disney Resort, but it might be my favorite restaurant in the universe! Of course, like all good things, I feel like I should share it with you. So sit back and prepare for the fabulousness that is Jiko!

Jiko can be found at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. When first approaching the lobby, you’ll notice that it’s just across a hallway from Boma – Flavors of Africa. You’ll likely hear loud drums and screaming children. Don’t be deterred: Boma is responsible for all the noise and craziness. That will make it all the more serene when you walk into the quiet calm of Jiko. Around the restaurant walls it looks like a beautiful sunrise. I wasn’t surprised to learn the interior of the restaurant was inspired by the opening scene of The Lion King. In addition to the large dining room, there’s also a smaller wine room for quiet, intimate dining. However, my favorite spot is at the bar. I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t for the alcohol! :) At the bar a full menu is offered with more relaxed service. Every bartender we’ve spoken to has been at the restaurant for many years and gone out of his way for us. Not to mention there are no reservations needed at the bar!

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Best Video Games To Play Before Your Next Disney Vacation

by on September 26, 2014

Disney Infinity

Waiting for your next Disney vacation can be grueling. Especially when you get closer to the big day, it becomes almost impossible to focus on anything that isn’t magical and amazing and oh come on why isn’t it here yet? Utterly unbearable anticipation aside, I love the time right before a Disney vacation because it’s usually when I go back and revisit some of my favorite Disney things to remind me of the fun I’m about to have. If you’re reading this site, I’m sure this isn’t a novel concept to you. People watch classic Disney films, research any and all new additions to the parks and do countless other activities in preparation for their vacation. For me, I love to play certain video games that remind me of the Most Magical Place on Earth. For those of you that have the same passion for games, there are several that you can play that evoke the same mood and joy found within the Disney Parks. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite video games that you should try if you’re looking to get excited for your next Disney vacation.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Creating a Disney World Challenge: The Facebook Photo Challenge

by on September 25, 2014

We received 39 photo challenges from friends and family.

We received 39 photo challenges from friends and family.

Ed. – today we’re running two articles with ideas for silly things that can make your trip to Walt Disney World even more fun. Has your family ever done anything like this? Talk about it in the comments.

This past spring, TouringPlans blogger Erin Foster wrote a blog article about Disney World challenges – defined as anything that can turn your trip into a game, and add a little extra spice. It struck a familiar chord with me, as I’m always looking for creative ways to add fun. In fact, I’m no stranger to the concept as a couple of years ago I created my first Disney World challenge, although it was more of a challenge for my friends and family. I dubbed it “Where in Disney are the VanderVoords” and set out to take pictures of my family in obscure locations around Disney World. I would then post them on my Facebook page with the tag “WIDATVV?” and let my friends and family guess where we were. It was a fun time interacting with our loved ones who couldn’t be with us while sharing a little of our trip.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Walk Disney: Jogging Trails of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

by on September 24, 2014

The Walk Disney series will provide a description and review of activities that can be done while walking the grounds at Walt Disney World resorts. You can find maps of all the resort jogging trails in Krissy Murphy’s excellent article  from last year.

A great jogging trail provides you with sensory details that encourage you to move forward and rewards you for your hard work. The beautifully crafted jogging trail at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa does just that.

Saratoga Springs Trail

Just look at what awaits you on your run!

While the jogging trails map of Saratoga Springs indicates that there are two jogging trails, there exists only one main trail that can be halved. When looking at the map, the longer version includes a trip around the Congress Park area. The map shows that the larger version of the trail is 1 mile, but my GPS enabled pedometer app measured it at 1.5 miles total. The shorter version was both .75 miles on the map and in actuality. A busy street, Broadway, cuts through the trail and will cause exercisers to cross it at least two times on a single trip around the longer version of the trail.

My wife, Kelly, and I began at the Springs-Carriage House corner and started walking clockwise around the jogging trail. The serene views of the pond immediately came into view, and once we got just a few feet past the Carriage House walkway, there was nary a person in sight. The paths were wide enough for a solo jogger to comfortably run past two walkers going the other way, but on our mid-afternoon walk, that issue never arose.

When we came to the beautiful bridge that divides the lake, the jogging trail indicated that we make a left to go around the lake, thus extending our walk. The bridge looked inviting, but we wanted to stick to the designated plan.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print