Resorts

TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

by on August 23, 2016

photo - Touringplans.comWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

If you’re a fan of both Disney and the outdoors, I have just the place for you…

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort!

Located at Walt Disney World, you’ll find both cabins and campsites to best fit your needs.

Enjoy!

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, August 18, 2016: Kidani Staycation

by on August 18, 2016

When we lived in Maryland, my husband and I bought ownership in DVC as a wedding present to ourselves. Now that we live right around the corner from Walt Disney World, people have asked if we are thinking of selling. Originally, we went with enough points for us to do a two-bedroom unit for one week out of the year (more or less). We’ve added on since then, but our needs have changed. Gone are week-long stays at Walt Disney World. Instead, we do DVC stays for a single night here and there, allowing us to use resort amenities on our check in and check out day. It provides a nice change of pace, especially with company in town. With my mother-in-law in town for the week, we booked a one-night stay at Animal Kingdom Villas: Kidani Village, just as a way to take it easy somewhere other than home.

My husband had checked us in on his way to work, and had an option of taking a room right away that was at the far end of Kidani or wait for a room that was right off the lobby. As the rest of us hadn’t planned on arriving until mid-afternoon, we decided to wait. At 2:00 PM, we arrived, and since our room wasn’t ready, we headed for Kidani’s Community Hall.

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Even if you’re not a DVC member, you can still make use of some of the facilities in the Community Hall. At Kidani, there is a pool table, board games, video games, and more. There’s also a selection of arts and crafts that you can do for a small fee.

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Selecting an Epcot Resort

by on August 8, 2016

View of the Epcot Resort Area

View of the Epcot Resort Area

With the recent release of the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival menus, I can’t help but think about my upcoming trip. The 60 day FastPass+ window is approaching quickly, and as an avid proponent of planning ahead, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t fully decided on a hotel!

It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face when planning any trip to Walt Disney World. It’s especially hard for me during the fall when visiting Epcot’s World Showcase is top priority thanks to the mouthwatering samplings at Food and Wine Festival. I’ve narrowed it down to the Epcot resort area to make walking to Epcot a breeze, but that still leaves me with five wonderful choices – Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Dolphin, Swan, and Yacht Club.

Not one to take the resort decision lightly, I’ve carefully mapped out a comparison to help me (and hopefully some of you) pick the right Epcot resort for any Walt Disney World vacation.

Theming

All five resorts fall into the deluxe category at Disney, and with that designation comes elaborate theming. However, because Swan and Dolphin are the only two that are not owned by Disney, some may find them to be lacking that special Disney touch.

  • Beach Club – It’s a New England-style resort hotel that is painted blue with white trim and adorned with typical beach décor. Think seashells and sand dollars.
  • Boardwalk Inn – Modeled after a turn-of-the-century Atlantic coast boardwalk, the rooms actually sit behind a façade of neon lighted shops and restaurants along a wooden boardwalk.
  • Dolphin – Words escape me when it comes to the theming of both the Swan and Dolphin, and if you’ve ever seen it for yourself, you can probably understand. Disney describes it as “deluxe accommodations inspired by Florida itself, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel juxtaposes modern architectural silhouettes alongside Renaissance flourishes—most notably, the twin stylized dolphin statues gracing its rooftop.” Now, I’m not sure what they think a dolphin is, but based on their designs, I would say that a dolphin is some combination between a goldfish and carp.
  • Swan – Though very similar the Dolphin in theme and design, the Swan is outfitted with two Swans atop the building instead. At least these two actually resemble swans.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on August 6, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has five on-site hotels. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Caribbean Beach), and Deluxe (The Poly). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Premier (Portofino Bay Hotel), and Prime Value, which is where Cabana Bay Beach Resort resides.

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Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Cabana Bay is Universal’s first attempt at a lower priced “value” resort, and  is also the first time they have gone after the increasingly popular Family Suite market (led by Disney’s incredible Art of Animation Resort). Unlike Disney’s lower tier hotels (such as the All Stars) Cabana Bay is loaded with amenities. In fact there are so many “extras” at Cabana Bay that many Universal fans consider it their favorite on-site hotel despite it not offering Unlimited Express Pass. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite features of this fantastic resort. So sit back, put on the soundtrack to Mad Men as background music, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – Lazy River

Now, Cabana Bay has two huge pools, a giant slide, several jacuzzis, and a water play area, but what separates it from the pack is everyone’s favorite water feature: a lazy river. The E-Ticket of pools, a relaxing float along the lazy river – with its waterfalls and lush theming – can be just what the doctor ordered. Unlike many lazy rivers, Cabana Bay does not supply tubes to guests (they have no cleaning facility to disinfect them) but they do offer a wide assortment of tubes for pretty much the same price you would pay at WalMart or a pool store. Several of the tubes they offer are Cabana Bay branded and are relatively inexpensive souvenirs. One of the more popular tubes for kids is one that is themed to a car’s tire. There are also several water cannons around the river which kids love to play with.

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Lazy river at Cabana Bay.

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Lazy River at Cabana Bay.

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Water cannons at the Lazy River. There is actually very little water pressure in these, so guests who don’t want to get wet can easily avoid them.

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A Night Out On The BoardWalk at Flying Fish and AbracadaBar

by on August 5, 2016

The marquee at Flying Fish remains as colorful as everDisney dining fans have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of one of the most popular signature table service restaurants in Walt Disney World, and it’s finally here. After several months under refurbishment, Flying Fish (formerly Flying Fish Café) reopened this week with a new look, new menu, and a new chef leading the way (though Chef Tim Majoras is a familiar face to the restaurant, as he’s been with Flying Fish for the past five years). As a longtime favorite of mine, I was just as excited as all of you to try the new menu (and probably just as sad to see favorites like the potato-encrusted snapper fly away off the menu). But first, I had to make a quick stop into another new addition to the BoardWalk, right next door, at AbracadaBar.

The front of AbracadaBar's menu offers a peek into the bar's backstory.Located in the space formerly occupied by Seashore Sweets, AbracadaBar is the newest addition to the Disney bar scene, though it may surprise a few guests with how different it is from other recent additions. AbracadaBar, open at 4:00 PM daily, is a bar, through and through, and decidedly not a lounge in the traditional Disney lounge sense. The menu (featuring a little magic trick of its own) is fairly short, featuring eight signature cocktails with high-end spirits, a selection of beers, wines, and two non-alcoholic drinks (that can also be tailored to your tastes if you prefer them on the alcoholic side).

If you frequent Disney lounges, you’ll notice something – I didn’t mention any food on the menu; that’s because there isn’t any, though your server will likely offer you some truffle popcorn to snack on with your drink. This is probably for a specific reason – there are a TON of food options on the BoardWalk (AbracadaBar itself is sandwiched between Trattoria al Forno and Flying Fish). It seems like it’s meant more as a stop-off for those on their way to their final dinner destination. This could be a great idea for the area, typically packed with adults looking for a fun place or two to spend a night out without kids.

AbracadaBar's interior is both cozy and welcoming.The space inside AbracadaBar isn’t huge in size, and the beautiful dark finishes and ornate red and gold wallpaper inside make it pretty cozy but welcoming. The tables aren’t on top of each other, which is always a plus in a bar or lounge. I loved coming in to this atmosphere out of the harsh Florida summer sun – a quick twenty minute break inside to enjoy a drink was really all I needed. Speaking of a drink – what to sample? I’m a big fan of many of the style of cocktails on this menu, so my choice was difficult, but I settled on one of the rare-at-Disney drinks, the Elixir 13.

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Pop Flashback Friday

by on July 29, 2016

Pop Flashback Friday Photo Booth Props

Pop Flashback Friday Photo Booth Props

Visiting Pop Century Resort is always a trip back in time, as the resort is a tribute to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. But there is now a new event on Fridays that celebrates looking back, Pop Flashback Friday.

My favorite part of the event is the Pop Flashback Friday photo booth, which is available throughout the day. Instead of an actual booth, this is a backdrop, found off the lobby and next to the entrance of the Everything Pop Shopping and Dining. The backdrop has the main logo for the resort, as well as each decade’s logo. It’s a fun picture even if you didn’t want to use any of the extras. Next to the backdrop, there is a table set up with props you can hold in your picture. The props include each of the decade logos, as well as several themed elements, such as a cassette tape and a mirrored disco ball. There is even a prop with the event hashtag, #PopFlashbackFriday, on it. Along with the props, there is a fun frame that matches the backdrop, with the resort’s hashtag. I think this photo spot fits perfectly with the theme of the resort, and would be a great permanent addition.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts + Video

by on July 26, 2016

  • yacht clubWe’re back for a whole new episode of TouringPlansTV!

Make your way to Walt Disney World…I’ll meet you there to talk about Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts!

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July 4th Characters at Walt Disney World

by on July 22, 2016

Meeting Chip and Dale at Epcot on July 4th

Meeting Chip and Dale at Epcot on July 4th

Welcome to my first post for TouringPlans!

My name is Heather, and even though I live in New Jersey, I’m lucky to visit Walt Disney World often enough that some of my friends think I live in Florida. I’m a runDisney addict, and I especially love meeting characters at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. So of course my first post is character related.

Each July 4th at Walt Disney World, you can meet characters in special outfits that are only available on this holiday. Characters meet in special patriotic outfits at Epcot, and you may also see characters at different Walt Disney World resorts. Even though it won’t help you right now, it’s never too early to plan your character strategy for the future. Here’s a look at who I met this year on July 4th.

At Epcot, you can meet Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Chip, and Dale. Chip & Dale meet together throughout the day on the right side of the American Pavilion, near the restrooms. Chip & Dale are very interactive, so their line usually moves slowly. However, even when their set is over, the next set is only 5-10 minutes later, so you won’t have to wait too long for Chip & Dale to have their acorn break. The line is also partly in the shade, which always helps.

Patriotic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy’s set is different than Chip & Dale’s. The three characters appear at the end of the Voices of Liberty show at the American Gardens Theater. After the show, they walk over to the left side of the American Pavilion to meet guests. The line works like at the Epcot Character Spot. They do not meet together, but you stand in one line and meet each of them in a row.

Mickey, Donald, and Goofy only have 3 sets, since there are only 3 Voices of Liberty shows in the American Gardens Theater, and they are very popular, so make sure you get there early. Their sets start about 15 minutes after the Voices of Liberty show, so I would get in line shortly before the show begins. The line is unfortunately mostly in the sun. It was so hot this year that Cast Members passed out free water to those of us in line for the first set. However, you can hear the Voices of Liberty from the line, which is a nice perk.

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Wilderness Lodge Review and Construction Update

by on July 20, 2016

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Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts in all of Walt Disney World. As a deluxe resort, though, I admittedly don’t get the chance to stay there as often as I’d like because of the prices. Luckily, with a lower than normal nightly rate due to the ongoing extensive resort renovations coupled with an annual pass discount, the decision to pull the trigger on a four night stay was that much easier.

If you have an upcoming trip to Wilderness Lodge planned or are considering making a reservation before renovations are complete, you’re probably wondering if the construction will negatively impact your trip. I’m happy to report that construction was never a detriment to our trip and I’d happily stay there again in the resort’s current state. With that in mind, think of this article as a a resort review combined with a construction update.

Wilderness Lodge Lobby

Upon arriving at the Wilderness Lodge late at night after heading directly to Hollywood Studios from the airport, I took a few minutes to enjoy the ambiance of the resort’s lobby, which is one of my favorites in all of Disney behind Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Unbeknownst to me, the lobby was also in the midst of construction, which I wouldn’t have noticed if my fiancee, Sarah, didn’t point it out to me. Despite one entire side of the Wilderness Lodge lobby being boarded up on the upper levels, I clearly didn’t think it was that noticeable. See the picture above for yourself.

For those of you that were “lucky” enough to see the Polynesian during its extensive transformation into the Polynesian Village Resort, you may remember that the entire middle portion of the lobby was boarded up on the upper level, which created an almost claustrophobic effect for anyone present. Thankfully, this is nowhere near as bad. While I wouldn’t have recommended guests stay at Polynesian during the aforementioned renovations, I’m happy to say that the lobby at Wilderness Lodge doesn’t suffer from the same effect. Other than the boarded upper levels, the more significant victim of construction is that the main elevators in the lobby are down. While there are still elevators operating down the hallway past Roaring Forks, I can see how this could be an inconvenience to guests.

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Walt Disney World Resort Television

by on July 19, 2016

POR FQ TV ConsoleThere is so much information that you can take in and memorize before embarking on a Walt Disney World vacation…park hours and show times, what the restaurants are and what is on their menu, what is the music playing around the resort and where can you find it for your iPhone, so on and so forth.

There is also a ubiquitous part of your Walt Disney World Resort hotel room that you could potentially familiarize yourself with in advance–and perhaps you should because I’m talking about something you quite possibly have on for every waking moment spent in your room: the television. Walt Disney World resorts, like many hotels, do not simply follow an Orlando area cable or satellite provider. The channel lineup available in the resorts is decidedly Disney and much more varied than what you might find at a typical roadside hotel around the country.

The first few channels, and the ones that many Disney guests watch every day, are the ones programmed by Disney specifically for the resorts. Foremost is the Walt Disney World Resort “Must Do’s” with Stacey, a spunky 13-year-old inside a 23-year-old’s body who rides the newest and most popular rides while spouting the occasional touring tip and trivia fact. Just by the fact that you have pointed your web browser at this site, you are likely already more informed than any actual information you will glean from Stacey. Nevertheless, this channel is considered a Disney World tradition by many longtime guests and “watching the park tour channel over and over again” is something many people always remember after their trip. (If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World in many years, this took over the channel that formerly had the “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah Tip for Today.” And yes, the jingle is now stuck in my head too.) There are also channels displaying park hours and special events while others show round-the-clock infomercials for Disney Springs and the Disney Vacation Club.

Next up are the Orlando affiliates of the major television networks followed by the channels in the Disney cable portfolio, including every ESPN known to mankind. The ESPN networks are followed by other sports networks (some that I don’t even get on my cable package at home!) Notably missing however, are the Fox Sports networks: FS1 and FS2. Make note of this if you are hoping to catch post season baseball, college football, MLB Saturday broadcasts, or UFC, among others. For a more complete rundown of where to catch major sporting events on property, check out this article that I wrote last year.

The next few channels are other Walt Disney World resort exclusives, including one exclusively showing Disney cartoons including bedtime stories for young children in the early evening. (Note that I spoke to someone in guest services at Port Orleans French Quarter while researching this article and she stated that the bedtime stories also appear on the Disney Channel, channel 13.) More special resort channels show up near the end of the lineup including one on Adventures by Disney and another on safety around the resort (which probably should be emphasized a bit more in light of recent events.)

Everything else is typical American cable staples including  The Weather Channel, CNN, TBS, Food Network, History Channel, Lifetime, so on and so forth.

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