Resorts

Five Disney World Resorts to See During Your Vacation

by on November 14, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Resort Hopping is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World! Visiting the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, and The Polynesian Village Resort are as much on my trip to-do list as Pirates of the Caribbean or devouring a Mickey Premium Bar. That being said, I feel that guests who skip the resorts, or who don’t know they are allowed to visit the resorts, fail to achieve the full Walt Disney World experience. So for those who don’t know, anyone is allowed to visit the Walt Disney World Resorts, even if they’re not a guest of that resort or of any resort on property. But why should you? That’s what I intend to address in my five Disney World Resorts to See During Your Vacation!

© Sarah Graffam

Grand Floridian lobby

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Let’s start with Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, shall we? The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa boasts a Victorian Florida theme and is Disney’s take on luxury and sophistication. But no need to worry about feeling out of place or having rambunctious kids in tow. While the Grand Floridian Resort is like stepping into an old fashioned postcard, this is a Disney World Resort after all!

How to Get There

If driving your own car or a rental car, the Grand Floridian Resort is located at 4401 Floridian Way in Orlando, Florida, just off Seven Seas Drive.

Free transportation to and from the resort consists of Disney Buses, Ferry Boats, and the most famous mode of Disney transportation of all, the Monorail! A 1 mile walking path between the resort and the Polynesian Village Resort is also provided, offering views of the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Wedding Pavilion, and the Magic Kingdom Park in the distance.

Why You Should Visit

The Lobby

A number of Walt Disney World Resorts boast awe-inspiring lobbies, and the Grand Floridian’s lobby is at the top of the list! In addition to a grand staircase, a cage elevator, and enchanting Disney-inspired tilework under your feet, the Grand Floridian’s 5-story lobby is topped with stained glass domes and massive chandeliers. Tip: For the holidays, a life-size gingerbread house and a towering Victorian Christmas tree occupy the lobby and are must-sees!

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The Grand Floridian’s women’s boutique

Live Music

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, a live pianist and the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra alternate playing popular turn-of-the-century tunes and Disney songs!

The Shopping

The Grand Floridian Resort offers more shops than any other Walt Disney World Resort, which is why it’s one of my favorite locations to hunt for resort exclusive merch, Disney Dooney and Bourke bags, and that perfect souvenir to take home.

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Disney World Swan and Dolphin: A Foodie Paradise

by on November 11, 2016

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a resort that evokes lots of curiosity. It is unlike any other resort on Disney property because it straddles the line between being a Disney resort and being a Starwood property. Its history is rich and intriguing, but this post is not about the ins and outs of this whimsical resort. Besides the architecture, décor, and infrastructure there is something else that really sets this resort apart from all of its neighbors: the food and beverage.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

The quality of their food and beverage operation is not just evident in their variety of restaurants and dining options, but also showcased once a year on a grand scale. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is an incredible event that puts this resort at its best. I’ll share some of my experience at this magnificent event as well as an overview of the variety of dining options found at this resort.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

Variety of dining options

In the beginning the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin operated as two separate hotel companies. The Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton. During the first years of operation these two brands were separate entities, not part of the same parent company like they are now under the Starwood Hotels banner.

Model of the vast resort - photo by Brandon Glover

Model of the vast resort – photo by Brandon Glover

This initial separation between the two hotels helped set the foundation that the Swan and the Dolphin could be complete destinations on their own and thus provide enough dining variety among themselves. Each wing has at least one quick service option, one casual sit down restaurant, and one signature restaurant. Plus there is in-room dining and a personal pantry delivery service, oh and don’t forget the authentic sushi restaurant with a lively late night karaoke scene.

The best dining options

The signature dining at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is bar none the standout experience of the resort. Each restaurant is distinctly different from the next. It’s hard to decide which of the signature restaurants is best for a romantic date night or an impressive night with colleagues.

Todd English's bluezoo's creative cocktails - photo by Brandon Glover

Todd English’s bluezoo’s creative cocktails – photo by Brandon Glover

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Holiday Characters at Walt Disney World

by on November 8, 2016

The holidays are a great time to see characters in fun holiday outfits at Walt Disney World, as well as see some special characters that only show up for the holidays. Some characters are only at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while others you can find in the parks throughout the day. Let’s take a look at who you’ll find at this most magical time of the year. Most characters are out from November 11 to the first week of January, unless noted.

Minnie and Daisy at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Minnie and Daisy at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

First, let’s look at the characters you’ll find this year at the party. Since this is a hard ticket event, there is an extra cost, but you’ll find characters here that you won’t find anywhere else at Walt Disney World.

Characters that you can normally find at the park, such as Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and the Winnie the Pooh gang, are dressed up in cute Christmas costumes. Then there are the characters that you can only meet at the party, such as the seven dwarfs together, Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws, Captain Jack Sparrow, and, new this year, Nick & Judy from Zootopia. Princess Elena meets at the party, and the princes meet with their princesses, too. You can also see characters that are hard to find together in one meet, such as all the Pooh characters or Mary Poppins with Bert.

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Decorating Your Resort Room

by on November 2, 2016

Lights, window clings, and paper mickey decorations for Halloween

Lights, window clings, and paper mickey decorations for Halloween

Whether you’re planning a vacation to celebrate a holiday, birthday, anniversary, first trip, or some other special occasion, sometimes it is fun to prepare a little extra magic. There are plenty of ways to add that extra touch, but one of my own favorites is decorating the resort room. Coming back from the parks at night to a room decked out in lights and other little embellishments is such a wonderful feeling. Decorations can help you find your room at night and really make you feel at home.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s set some ground rules. First and foremost, safety is the number one priority at any resort. Don’t do anything that puts you or anyone else at risk. And speaking of other people, be mindful of those around you. While that motion activated ghost yelling “Boo!” might be funny the first time or two, your neighbors probably won’t be feeling too neighborly after they hear it for the thirtieth time. Stay away from anything permanent or that leaves damage, and please don’t leave a big mess and expect housekeeping to deal with it. Follow the rules of the resort you’re visiting as well. For example, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has strict rules about hanging things outside your room since animal safety is a priority.

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some decoration ideas.

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort – Part One + Video

by on November 1, 2016

BoardWalk_mainbuildingWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Today, I’m giving you an overview of my FAVORITE resort at Walt Disney World:

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn!

I’ll be delving into the resort’s theme, rooms, room views and transportation.

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Sanaa Breakfast: A Solid Addition To Disney Dining

by on October 27, 2016

Hot grab-and-go options are available, in addition to standard cold fare.Recently, Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa added a new breakfast service to supplement their already great lunch and dinner offerings. In a resort without a quick service immediately available for breakfast (at least without taking the shuttle to Jambo House to hit up The Mara), it seems like a smart move. Families in search of something more substantial to eat than what’s available in Johari Treasures’ refrigerated section can now wander just downstairs from their room to sample Sanaa’s options (both hot and cold, grab-and-go or not). It’s rare we see a new addition to resort dining that sticks around for very long, so I wanted to give this meal a shot in case it’s short-lived (though, based on how good it was, I hope it’s here to stay!).

Standard hand fruits and muffins/bagels/toast available for purchaseAll in all, Sanaa breakfast is a pretty simple set-up: once you arrive downstairs to the restaurant (anytime between 7am-10am daily), you’ll be greeted by a Cast Member with a menu of offerings, and led to the front dining room just to the right of the restaurant’s entrance. Here, all of the hot and cold grab and go options are available to peruse and purchase, along with bottled juices, milk, water, and sodas, plus disposable cups for coffee. Once you decide on your items, or choose from the menu, you just let the cashier know, where they’ll ring you up and give you a number to place on your table (painted on a cute wooden animal carving).

A variety of bottled drinks and cereals supplement your meal. When I arrived towards the end of breakfast hours one day recently, the grab and go area wasn’t super well-stocked – a few of the items had run out, but Cast Members refilling items let me know that I could just ask if I wanted anything that was missing. Notable options include a beautiful fresh fruit platter, muffins, hot oatmeal, and slices of bobotie pie (African-style quiche). One other note – I was a little sad that you couldn’t get a fountain drink or cup of water here, like you’d find standard at a normal quick service. Be prepared that if you want water, you’ll have to pay for one of the small bottles that comes with the kid’s meals. Coffee was the only self-serve drink available. I realize this is a result of a restaurant not necessarily equipped for this kind of service, but it was still a little bit of a surprise to me, and different from what you’ll see elsewhere.

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The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Have Been Renamed

by on October 27, 2016

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

©Disney

With all the changes occurring at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge have officially been renamed. The Villas are now called Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This was done to more accurately reflect that infamous railroad theming that Guests can experience when visiting. (Like the Carolwood Pacific Room, where you can see two railroad cars that once ran around Walt Disney’s backyard.)

Establishing the Boulder Ridge Villas name is part of a project to expand the Disney Vacation Club presence at the resort, with the upcoming Copper Creek Villas and Cabins expected to open in 2017.

Stay tuned for more info about the changes occurring at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge!

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TouringPlansTV: Part 2 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge + Video

by on October 25, 2016

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Ready for Part 2 of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?

Me too!

In this video, I’ll be discussing the pools, restaurants and amenities.

Enjoy!

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TouringPlansTV: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort – Part One + Video

by on October 19, 2016

Animal Kingdom Lodge LobbyToday’s episode of TouringPlansTV features Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort! This is located in the Animal Kingdom park area of Walt Disney World.

In Part One, I’ll be discussing the resort’s theme, rooms, room views and transportation.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Family Friendly Desserts at Walt Disney World Your Kids Won’t Forget!

by on October 15, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Family Friendly Desserts at Walt Disney World Your Kids Won’t Forget! Recent SATURDAY SIX articles have had us looking at some of the great drinks you can get at the WDW hotel lounges (such as the Northwest Exposure at Wilderness Lodge’s Territory Lounge or the Abita Flight at Port Orleans Riverside’s River Roost Lounge) along with some unique burger offerings on property including ESPN Club’s Old World Bavarian Burger or The Mad King at Splitsville. Today we are going to go straight to the end of the menu and look at some of the most unique, outrageous, and – at times – next level bonkers desserts on Disney property. So sit back, loosen up that belt on your pants, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – “DESSERT”ED ISLAND (Todd English’s bluezoo)

One of the most underrated dining experiences in all of “The World” is at Todd English’s bluezoo in the Dolphin at Walt Disney World. bluezoo is known for its world class bar that has one amazing cocktail after another (we recommend to start with the Burnt Orange or the Swedish Fish) but the restaurant’s dinner menu may be the true “best kept secret” at Disney. The Crispy Asian Pork Ribs appetizer is  somehow better than the mouth-watering ribs at Morimoto Asia. On the way to the dining room, guests will also pass by a unique circular rotisserie that makes the fish being grilled on it seem to dance on the coals. On the menu, this is presented as “this evening’s dancing fish.” So with a sense of style, originality, and wit you don’t often see in restaurants, it is no surprise that bluezoo also features a Must Try dessert.

The “Dessert”ed Island follows the grand tradition of Disney as it actually is based on story. This story features “a chocolate boat filled with vanilla ice cream sailing the Jell-O seas to explore chocolate island.” If more stories were like that I bet Millenials would read more. All of the chocolate pieces, including the ship and sails, along with the palm tree, are actually made in-house at the Swan and Dolphin. Just a spectacularly fun way to end a meal. ($9.00)

dessertedisland

“Dessert” ed Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)

bluezoo

One of the “dancing” fish.

# 5 – Everything Pop Sundae (Disney’s Pop Century)

No one believes this when I tell them, but the Everything Pop food court at Disney’s Pop Century is hands-down the “restaurant” at Walt Disney World I visit the most. Why? Because it’s the one place at WDW where you can get a Sloppy Joe. We all have that favorite Disney food or snack. Some guests love their Mickey Waffles, some prefer the cheddar cheese soup at Le Cellier, and others keep coming back for the bread pudding at ‘Ohana, but for me it’s the Sloppy Joe at Everything Pop.

Many SATURDAY SIX readers know of the Everything Pop food court because of the infamous Pop-Tart Sandwich. An inaugural theme park Turkey of the Year nominee, the Pop-Tart sandwich uses Pop-Tarts as the “bread” for a sandwich that has egg in the form of a hockey puck along with cheese and bacon melded together in a twisted form straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. But believe it or not, the sandwich is not the only item at the Everything Pop food court which uses Pop-Tarts. The Everything Pop Sundae features six flavors of ice cream, brownies, bananas, M&Ms, gummy worms, marshmallows, rainbow jimmies, chocolate fudge, caramel sauce, whipped cream, Maraschino cherries and Pop-Tarts sticking out of the top like monoliths. You may ask yourself “why, gummy worms?” That’s a very good question. ($10.99)

everythingpopsundae1

Everything Pop Sundae. (photo by Brandon Glover)

everythingpopsundae2

Everything Pop Sundae. (photo by Brandon Glover)

everythingpopsundae3

Everything Pop Sundae. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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