Resorts

The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! June 2015 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on June 30, 2015

MMM positiveWe have reached the end of June and the non-stop amount of theme park new continues. Most importantly, our prayers were answered and Disney World banned the use of selfie sticks at any of its four theme parks, two water parks, and DisneyQuest. Over at Animal Kingdom, snacks shaped in the form of animal poop became an instant success last week, generating more viral attention for Disney than I have seen in years, yet they have already been taken off the market. Meanwhile at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Frozen Summer Fun began its summer run, but with the good comes the bad, as it was also announced that The Magic of Disney Animation would be joining the Studio Backlot Tour, the Legend of Capt Jack Sparrow, Sounds Dangerous, American Idol Experience, and the Sorcerer’s Hat in the great big theme park in the sky. Universal, already in the middle of building an E-Ticket attraction (Skull Island: The Reign of Kong), a new hotel (Sapphire Falls) and a water park (Volcano Bay) also just committed to what looks like a MAJOR renovation of the Incredible Hulk Coaster and the removal of what is expected to be Twister: Ride It Out for a rumored attraction based on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Don’t the theme parks know it’s summer and they are supposed to be resting on their laurels while the theme parks are packed?!

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).

This trip started off with a surreal experience at the Disney Character Warehouse on I-Drive (close to Universal) because everything in the store was 50% off the already discounted prices. A lot of stuff that was normally in the store was gone though, such as Tsum Tsums, most of the pins, all the plush, etc. Later in our journey I’ll explain why this once-in-a-lifetime sale was happening. However, to show the type of deal that this was, that next level bananas Mama Melrose sign had been brought down to “just” $30 after all the discounts were applied. I was tempted to buy it, if only as a gag gift for Len Testa, but somehow held back.

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I promised to all that I will personally buy the BoardWalk Pizza Window sign if it is ever for sale. Because that will mean the place has finally been closed and I’ll be in euphoria.

It’s long been known that WDW Today’s own Matt Hochberg is terrified of the Dinosaur attraction at DHS, and you can imagine why if his parents ever got him this photo frame as a kid. I actually wish Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights merch was this scary. Originally $14.95, this was marked down to $7.99 (and keep in mind that would be $4 after the final discount.)

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Mesmerizing.

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Changes to 2016 Walt Disney World Magic Your Way Packages

by on June 22, 2015

magicyourwayDisney has shared details with travel agents for 2016 Magic Your Way packages. Magic Your Way is any package that includes a room at a Disney-owned and operated resort, the Swan or Dolphin, a Good Neighbor hotel, or a Disney Springs area hotel; and park admission. Packages can be booked through your travel agent or the Walt Disney Travel Company. This also includes all dining plans, which have their own extras. Thank you to Sue Pisaturo at Small World Vacations for the heads up.

Let’s start with the good news: The vouchers for mini-golf have been increased from 2 per room to 4 per room, and are good for play before 4PM at Fantasia Gardens and Winter-Summerland. If you’re an Annual Passholder, remember you get a discount on admission already and it’s good all day and night. Also, under the category of things that make you scratch your head, MYW packages now include 4 vouchers for one day admission at ESPN Wide World of Sports. There’s really not much to do there if you’re not participating in a sporting event. If you have made the trip out, let me know in the comments. Every time I go out there to see what’s up, there’s nothing going on. If your tickets include the Water Park Fun and More option, you already have the option for ESPN WWoS admission, so there’s no real benefit for you unless you’re using all your entitlements for water parks, Oak Trail golf, or DisneyQuest (while it lasts, see below) already and somehow still have time to visit Wide World of Sports too.

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Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Brunch

by on June 5, 2015

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

(Photo by Julia Mascardo)

Although I’ve eaten at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Hotel for breakfast and dinner, neither my husband nor daughter have had the experience. Most Disney meals tend to be last-minute impulses for us, and Chef Mickey’s is often a difficult one to secure at the last minute. So when I heard that they were going to start brunch, and I was able to get a reservation for the first day, I was delighted to give it a try.

The official name is Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Brunch Buffet, and the price is the same as breakfast at $37.99 for adults and $19.99 for children ages 3 to 9 (plus taxes and gratuity), with Tables in Wonderland discounts available. This price includes your choice of a non-alcoholic beverage.

How does the menu stack up? Well, here are the breakfast menu and the brunch menu side by side.

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Where To Get Work Done At Walt Disney World

by on June 1, 2015

Photo - Erin Foster

Business Center at the Contemporary

As much as we’d like a trip to Walt Disney World to be all play, sometimes the career gets in the way. After begrudgingly pulling out your laptop or tablet, you realize the last place you want to be is cooped up in your hotel room. Where else can you go to concentrate and get some work done?

Whether it be answering email or working remotely, here are some places to set up your make-shift office and get down to business (“to defeat…the Huns.” Name that film!).

The Supplies

If you know you’re going to be working throughout your trip, here are a few extras to consider bringing along for a more comfortable experience:

  • A mouse for your laptop
  • A stylus for your tablet/iPad
  • A keyboard for your tablet
  • Chargers for your devices
  • A power strip
  • Headphones
  • Paper and pen (if you don’t have technology handy)

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The Epcot That Never Was

by on May 28, 2015

(c) Walt Disney Company

Model of EPCOT, (c) Walt Disney Company

Epcot is one of my favorite parks at Walt Disney World. I never get tired of seeing Spaceship Earth, or watching the dancing Fountain of Nations in Future World, or doing a little shopping in World Showcase; but what I’ve recently discovered is that the Epcot that I know isn’t exactly what Walt Disney had in mind when planning Disney World. You see, back in the 1960s when Disney World was being planned, the Magic Kingdom wasn’t what Walt was most excited about. In fact, when Walt introduced television viewers to his plans for Florida, he said that EPCOT would be the “heart of everything we will be doing at Disney World.” Walt also said that it wouldn’t be a park at all, but rather a community of the future where you could live! So what was the Epcot supposed to be like? What happened along the way? Well, keep reading because for today, I’m here to tell you all about The Epcot That Never Was.

Walt’s Original Vision for EPCOT

One of Walt’s many interests was city planning and finding solutions to the everyday problems of the cities of the day, such as traffic, slums, pollution, and crowded conditions. He had learned a lot about planning, building, and construction when creating Disneyland, and he now felt that he could provide some solutions to the problems he saw in the real world in the form of a working community called EPCOT.

EPCOT stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it would be an example to the country and the world for how to build and run better cities. It would also serve as a sort of testing ground for new technology, products, materials, and ideas from America’s industries and corporations that would serve to improve our lives.

EPCOT wasn’t just some idea or possible plan for the distant future of Disney World. Walt fully intended to build it, had many plans and diagrams, and intended it to be the focus of his Disney World on the East Coast where 20,000 residents would live and work. Pretty cool, huh?

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Updated Port Orleans Riverside Room View Photos

by on May 20, 2015

Disney landscapers have trimmed back many of the trees in front of the Magnolia Terrace building (#85) at Port Orleans Riverside, allowing for better river views from upper-floor rooms. Our photographers swung by for quick stay last week, and get updated photos for our hotel room view database.

Here’s the view from room 8916 before the trimming:

Room 8916

And here’s the view after:

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It’s a much better view, and they’ve kept the lovely Magnolia trees around the sides.

The photographers are making their way around Walt Disney World this summer, updating room photos for the Polynesian, BoardWalk Inn Villas, and more.

Thanks to our friend Andre Wiley of PortOrleans.org for the tip about the maintenance!

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside

by on May 16, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. Earlier this year we took a trip to Port Orleans French Quarter, one of our favorite hotels at Walt Disney World, and today we will be looking at French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside. Formerly known as Dixie Landings, Riverside’s theme comes from the tranquil scenery of Mississippi River communities and lavish opulence of pre-Civil War Louisiana.

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Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside.

While one of French Quarter’s biggest selling points is the resort’s small size and intimate feel, Riverside goes the other way and is a huge resort with a ton of stuff to do. Let’s face it, sometimes more is more, and although Riverside is sprawling it is actually one of the most relaxing areas on Disney property.  From horse-drawn carriage rides to evening campfires to six (yes, six) pools, Riverside has a lot of reasons to love it, and today we’re counting down the top six starting with…

# 6 – The Southern Charm of Riverside’s Theming

While French Quarter focuses on the city feeling of New Orleans, Riverside takes a step back and puts a spotlight on the rural areas of antebellum Louisiana. The overall level of theming is much closer to what you will find at deluxe Disney’s hotels like the Polynesian Village Resort or Wilderness Lodge than a fellow moderate like Coronado Springs.  The Riverside Mill’s 32 foot working water wheel is a standout feature, but it is all the little details which will pull you into the resort.

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Riverside Mill (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Horses play a prominent theme throughout property. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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A Review of Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge

by on May 4, 2015

Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge is an upscale bar combining spectacular views of the sunset followed by spectacular views of Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show. Perched high atop Bay Lake Tower, the Disney Vacation Club resort that is the counterpart to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Top of the World Lounge is close to Magic Kingdom yet a world away from the busy atmosphere of the park.

Bar with monorail mural at Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge (Photos © Sarah Graffam)

My husband and I recently had a chance to visit Top of the World and invite you to come along for a peek at this exclusive Walt Disney World spot. Why exclusive? Because access to Top of the World Lounge is open only to Disney Vacation Club members (and their guests) staying at a Disney resort.

Whether or not a visit to Top of the World Lounge is likely in your future, why not have some fun getting an inside look at one of the best lounges in Disney World.

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Trip Report: Coronado Springs Resort

by on May 1, 2015

Freshly back from my favorite place to vacation, I can’t stop thinking about the clean white sand, the lazy hammocks, the gorgeous Spanish architecture, and the relaxing atmosphere I experienced. This is one of our favorite resorts to visit; and no, it isn’t next to the ocean. It is a Disney resort: Coronado Springs to be exact.

Coronado Springs hidden mickey lobby - Amy FarkasI have several friends that vacation at the beach. When I ask them why, they describe the sand, the waves, and the relaxation. And to them I say: Coronado. Coronado Springs has all of these things plus a gorgeous pool, a 24 hour fitness center, a spa, some wonderful dining venues, and (a plus for me) is on Disney property. After the hustle and crowds of visiting Magic Kingdom, just hop the bus and head back to your serenity zone at the resort.

Our recent stay here was over the Easter holiday. We flew in late Saturday night, arriving at the resort about 10pm, and even at that hour we found the staff to be warm and friendly. One gentleman even pointed out the “hidden Mickey” in the lobby lighting, as he passed by my photographer husband. Check in itself was a breeze and we were soon on our way to our room.

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Extra Hotel Fees and Costs You Need to Budget For

by on April 29, 2015

Going on vacation is such a treat. It’s a fantastic privilege that can pay off in so many ways. But if you don’t factor in all the extra costs and budget appropriately your vacation can go from being refreshing and rejuvenating to frustrating and stressful. I’m a hotelier at heart and I am continually surprised, and saddened, whenever I come across guests who did not anticipate different hotel fees and other extra costs that can pop up when staying at a hotel. So to help you plan and budget, let’s talk about the most common costs.

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Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – it may not have a lot of hotel fees, but it carries some of the highest room rates in Orlando. Photo source: Disneyworld.com

 

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