Resorts

Walk Disney: A Review of the Boardwalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour

by on July 28, 2014

t_logo_fbThe Walk Disney series will provide a description and review of activities that can be done while walking the grounds at Walt Disney World resorts.

Do you know why the ESPN Club on Disney’s BoardWalk is shaped like an octagon? Do you know where the hidden Tinkerbell is near the elevators of Disney’s BoardWalk Villas? By taking the free BoardWalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour, you will learn these and many more interesting details about Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas resort area.

Before describing the experience that my wife and I had on the tour, here are the tour basics:

What does the tour entail? The tour covers many of the design choices that the Imagineers made when constructing Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area. The walking, informational tour begins at the Bellevue Lounge, continues through the main floor of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and eventually ends up on the boardwalk outside of the Boardwalk Bakery.

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A Review of Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge Tour

by on July 27, 2014

Our tour guide Ranger!

Our tour guide Ranger!

From the first moment I stepped foot into the Wilderness Lodge just to look around, I fell in love with it. The architecture and ambiance are romantic to me. Both my husband and I are nature lovers. We dream of staying at the Wilderness Lodge someday. But until then, we just visit it often, walking through the lobby and grounds, eating our hearts out. When I learned there were actual free guided tours of this majestic beauty, I couldn’t wait. My husband, on the other hand, was skeptical and thought it would be a waste of valuable park time. What could a tour offer that we hadn’t already seen on our many strolls through? We were about to find out.

On Thursday morning of our trip we had opening breakfast reservations for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. As soon as we finished we grabbed a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge, where our tour was about to begin. The meeting spot for the tour is in front of the large fireplace in the lobby of the Lodge. We were a little early, so we sat in the rocking chairs and enjoyed the slower pace. Soon another couple joined us, and we all waited patiently for our tour guide to arrive.

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Renting a Sea Raycer: Is It Worth It?

by on July 22, 2014

Renting a Sea Raycer at one of the Disney World Resorts has been on my to-do list for years, but the hardest thing about having so many things to do at the Disney World Resort is that there are just so many things to do! But a few weeks ago, I finally carved out some time courtesy of a Personalized Touring Plan to do a little cruising to see if it’s worth it. Here’s what I found out.

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The Fort Wilderness Marina

First of all, a Sea Raycer is a small, two person watercraft guests can rent at the Disney World Resort marinas. I personally chose the marina at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground because I wanted to cruise around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake to get a view of the Deluxe Resorts and the Magic Kingdom from the water. You can rent a Sea Raycer from the marina at the Yacht and Beach Club, but there isn’t as much to see, in my opinion.

The rental rates for a Sea Raycer are pretty reasonable at $32 per 30 minutes, $40 per 45 minutes, and $45 for 60 minutes. There’s also a 30% discount for passholders, which I gladly took advantage of! I also had to sign a waiver, show my driver’s license, and was warned that Sea Raycers are not known for speed. In fact, you’re looking at top speeds of around 20 mph. I was also informed that have two adults riding in a Sea Raycer, as opposed to driving solo or with a small child, will slow you down even more.

After getting my free life jacket, as it is a requirement for all drivers and passengers to wear a life jacket at all times, I was given a brief tutorial on how to operate a Sea Raycer by a friendly Cast Member, shown a map of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, was informed a few basic rules, and then was free to head out into open waters!

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10 Things You’ll Want To Know About a Vacation at Disney’s Aulani Resort

by on July 21, 2014

Aloha! This week I’ve got Disney’s Aulani Resort on the brain! Why, you ask? Because I spent a glorious week there recently. I’ve been to Hawaii before, and there’s a reason people call it paradise. And let me assure you, Aulani does its part to live up to that. It’s an absolutely stunning resort, and that trip was one of the most relaxing vacations we’ve ever had. I highly recommend a visit. And if you do get a chance to stay there, here are ten things that may help you experience the magic even more.

1. It’s Disney With a Light Touch – Aulani is absolutely a Disney resort. And that’s a good thing. It’s also a Disney resort with one of the lightest touches you’ll find. Sure, you’ll have the opportunity to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and friends decked out in Hawaiian garb, but they’re in an environment that truly feels authentic to the island. Because at Aulani, the central themes are the islands of Hawaii, its people, and their culture. Need examples? The interactive game at the resort isn’t a Phineas and Ferb adventure, it’s based on Menehune, a mythological Hawaiian people. Although there are hidden Mickeys to be found, there are actual hidden Menehune statues all over the resort. The collage of photographs behind the front desk is made up of individual photos taken by Hawaiian students across the islands. Additionally, the lobby is breathtaking and open air like you find in resorts all over Hawaii, and it has a grand 360-degree mural which tells the history of Hawaii. Even the pools aren’t Mickey shaped; they’re free form, most with gorgeous views of the ocean and lagoon the resort is situated on. Finally, in a fun touch that my family really enjoyed, the elevators play classic Disney songs using Hawaiian-style music and lyrics in the Hawaiian language. Have fun guessing which song is being played!

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Trattoria al Forno Restaurant To Open at Disney’s BoardWalk

by on July 15, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

While it’s well known that Kouzzina by Cat Cora is slated to close this fall (its last day of operation is September 30), what we didn’t know and have all been waiting to hear is what new restaurant was going to take its place.

Well, wait no more! Disney has officially announced that a brand new Italian restaurant, called Trattoria al Forno will be opening sometime this December at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.

This brand new restaurant will serve up delectable, Old World-inspired dishes, showcasing dishes from the different regions of the country. Menu items will include Neopolitan-style pizzas, Bolognese with house-made cavatelli;  whole roasted fish with roasted vegetables; semolina tagliatelli carbonara; grilled steak; a seasonal risotto; pork chop alla Milanese; chicken breast alla Parmagiana with tagliatelle pasta; shrimp with garlic, capers and anchovy butter with polenta;  baked lasagna; slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta; ruffled campanelle pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes and Genovese pesto; and eggplant rollatini.  

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Disney World Situational Celebration Guide

by on July 14, 2014

Many guests plan Disney World trips, either in whole or in part, to celebrate an event. This phenomenon is such a truism that Disney even planned their 2009/2010 marketing campaign around the theme “What Will You Celebrate?”

While Walt Disney World is indeed a great place to celebrate, not all Disney celebrations should look the same. You’re not going to celebrate your daughter’s first birthday the same way you’re going to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary. Here’s a guide to constructing the perfect celebration for common situations.

Different situations call for different celebrations.

Different situations call for different celebrations.

1st BIRTHDAY

Who should be there?: The birthday boy/girl, mom and dad, siblings, possibly grandparents.

Where should we stay?: The monorail hotels (Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian) are great because you won’t have to fold your stroller to get to the Magic Kingdom. But if that’s not in the budget, try a family suite at Art of Animation or All-Star Music, or a cabin at Fort Wilderness because you’ll have a separate room where the baby can nap undisturbed. At the moderate level, the standard rooms at the Coronado Springs resort have a sliding wooden door between the bed area and the bath area, creating a de facto mini-room which can serve as a nap area. The value resorts, with their small square footage, may be a challenge during this trip because your Pack n’ Play will take up a substantial percentage of your living area.

Where should we eat?: Chef Mickey’s (breakfast or dinner). The boisterous atmosphere will muffle any cranky noises the birthday child might make. Since it’s a buffet, it won’t seem odd if you’re walking around a bit, also you’ll have lots of food options for fussy eaters.

What should we do?: Character photos! This is the perfect time for pictures juxtaposing little toddler next to a giant mouse. Cuuuute!

What should we buy?: Mouse ears embroidered with junior’s name (another perfect photo opportunity!).

Helpful hints: The celebrant is likely pre-verbal, so there will not be any direct memories being made for the child. Focus on making mom and dad comfortable (traveling with an infant can be exhausting) and taking lots of great photos to help convey your family’s Disney/birthday story when the little one is old enough to understand.

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Unexpected Extras at Disney World Value Resorts

by on July 7, 2014

Fantasia Splash Pad

Nothing says cool like an interactive fountain surrounded by icebergs.

Part of the joy of staying on property at Walt Disney World resort hotels is the immersive theme of each resort hotel. And while you won’t find some of the amenities offered at Deluxe or some Moderate resorts at Value resorts, Value resorts do have some unique hidden gems just waiting to be found.

Here are some of my favorites extras you can find at Walt Disney World value resorts.

All-Star Movies At All-Star Movies, look for the vintage movie posters lining the front wall in World Premiere Food Court. All-Star Movies is also home to an “interactive fountain” water feature for kids near the Fantasia Pool (just look for the giant icebergs). Also in that area is a shallow wading pool area for the non-swimmer (and swim diaper) set.

And for fans of Disney Cruise Line, you can spot a Golden Mickey prop in the Cinema Hall building.

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Disney World’s Electrical Water Pageant: The Original Light Show

by on July 6, 2014

When Disney Imagineer Bob Jani looked out over Seven Seas Lagoon at night he saw a black gulf, void of interest. It was late 1971 and Magic Kingdom, Polynesian Resort, and Contemporary Resort opened soon. The lifeless lagoon, formed from draining the swamp that dominated the land Magic Kingdom occupies, would presently be filled by ferries and water attractions, including a water ski show. But something was missing. His mind turned to his hometown of Los Angeles, where any body of water reflected myriad lights every night. Somewhere this need to fill the dark with twinkling lights sparked the idea of the Electrical Water Pageant: a train of barges sporting colorful animated lights.

The final float in the aquatic scene.

The final float in the aquatic scene.

A brochure given to guests in the Summer of 1972 entices the guest to “watch porpoises leap . . . seals play . . . even a sea monster breathe fire!” Guests were directed to see the Pageant nightly 9:00 PM through 10:00 PM along Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, advice that is still good today. The whimsical attraction’s appeal eventually inspired the Main Street Electrical Parade even copping the song “Baroque Hoedown” as its theme.

Today the Pageant is one thousand feet long and features 25-foot tall screens on fourteen barges. The show is split into two parts: an aquatic theme featuring King Triton and various sea creatures followed by a patriotic salute. Total time, nose to tail, is about ten minutes.

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Walt Disney World Resorts Testing New Check-In Process

by on June 18, 2014

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Copyright Disney

Select Walt Disney World Resort hotels are currently testing a brand new check-in process where guests are able to bypass the check-in desk and head immediately to their hotel room. Hotels participating in this test include Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas.

Guests who are eligible to take part in this test must have already created their My Disney Experience account, making sure their profiles are complete. They also must make sure they have completed the online check-in process, and their balances must be paid in full.

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Best Disney World Hotel for a Bar Tour

by on June 18, 2014

Disney World Hotel bar tour

View from the Polynesian’s Barefoot Bar (when it’s not under construction)

I know most folks traveling to Walt Disney World are not thinking primarily about going on a bar crawl. I also know that many legal adults could use a drink when they get back from a day at the theme parks. So here’s the scenario: You are done touring the parks for the day and are looking for a place for a nightcap or two. Maybe the kids are with relatives, maybe there are no kids on this trip…either way, you only have a few hours because you don’t want to be out too late. After all, you know making park opening, or rope drop, is super-important when touring the parks.

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