One of the first decisions you’ll have when booking a Disney World hotel room is which view to select. If you’re staying at the Yacht Club, for example, do any Garden View rooms have a view of the Stormalong Bay lazy river? If you’re on the monorail loop, does a Magic Kingdom View really improve your chances of seeing the Wishes fireworks? Is Savannah View at the Animal Kingdom Lodge worth the money?
To help you decide, we’ve spent the past year taking pictures of what you’ll see from the window of every Disney World hotel room – more than 30,000 individual photos. Today we’re giving you a preview of the first resort: Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort.
The first page shows you a map of the entire resort. On the left side is a set of filter options you can use to find exactly the room you want:
Room Type Includes Disney’s description of the view, and the bed type in the room (if we know it). All-Star Sports has Standard and Preferred views, most with double beds. Moderates will show queen beds, and so on.
Walking Distance to Lobby Useful for cutting down on walking time
Walking Distance to Transportation Allows you to find rooms near bus stops, monorails and boats
Floors If you prefer ground or upper-floor rooms, you can specify that here
Sound Level Helps find the quiet rooms at the resort
Accessibility Identifies ADA-accessible rooms by feature, including roll-in showers and more
Our Picks Shows only the rooms which the Unofficial Guide has determined to be the best at the resort.
Prices You can also filter by price by entering the date you’re checking in.
Set any of these options and click “Show Matching Rooms.” The map will highlight in red all of the buildings which have rooms matching your options.
Beginning today MyMagic+ is officially rolling out in waves across Walt Disney World Resorts. All guests checking in to resorts on or after the dates listed below will receive MagicBands and have access to the FastPass+ system. Every Monday for the next 4 weeks new resorts will be added. Then when Grand Floridian Villas open on October 23, 2013, all resorts will be fully online with the program. The program will still be considered “testing” for now; think of it as a sort of “soft opening.” The official start date for MyMagic+ is December 1, 2013.
For arrivals on or after:
September 30, 2013: Bay Lake Tower, Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, Port Orleans French Quarter, Grand Floridian, and All-Star Movies.
October 7, 2013: All-Star Sports, BoardWalk Inn, BoardWalk Villas, and Caribbean Beach Resort.
October 14, 2013: All-Star Music, Coronado Springs, Old Key West, Wilderness Lodge, and Villas at Wilderness Lodge.
October 21, 2013: Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and Saratoga Springs.
October 23, 2013: Grand Floridian Villas.
Note: Resorts not on the above schedule are already live.
According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, quite a few changes will be taking place at Walt Disney World’s most popular pools.
The first of the major changes is that lifeguards will now be on site all day. Previously, lifeguards were only around for part of the day, with the rest of the day being swim-at-your-own-risk. (Signs were up indicating this.)
The other very large change is that guests will no longer be allowed to swim after posted pool hours. To enforce this, the installation of fences and gates is planned at resorts that don’t currently have them. Feature pools will now open at either 7 a.m. or 9 a.m. (depending on the season) and will close at 11 p.m. nightly.
As of now, the smaller, quiet pools will remain accessible at all hours, with no lifeguards in place.
Fortunately, there are a plethora of options – especially if you are staying on property at the Walt Disney World Resort. While your run might not include the requisite character greeting opportunities of a race, it will surely provide a magical start to your morning and planned activities.
Each of the following recommendations include approximate mileage and terrain considerations and can supplemented with additional loops or out-and-backs on sidewalks and walkways within the confines of the resort area. Maps may be requested upon arrival at resort front desks – the following images below have been complied from a variety of sources.
Please exercise caution when utilizing shared spaces with maintenance vehicles and be courteous to fellow pedestrians. As in any other physical activity, please consult your physician before beginning a fitness routine.
Extra Magic Hours - extended hours either before or after (or both, depending on the season) regular operating hours avaialble just for resort guests.
Free transportation - buses, monorails and watercraft are all at guests’ disposal, and/or parking fees are waived at theme park autoplazas with valid resort identification.
Resort Hotel Delivery - all merchandise can be arranged to be delivered directly to WDW Resort hotels, with no additional charge.
While these perks are reason enough for many guests to book their vacation package, believe it or not, there are some additional – as well as some ‘little known’ – bonuses at some of the resorts that are worth considering. The following is a list of some fun perks that might come in handy when planning your next trip – by no means is it comprehensive, however, so please share any other fun tips you’ve found!
All WDW Resort Hotels tell a story, but these special rooms go beyond the theming of the grounds and hallways, and immerse your family into an adventure from the minute you wake up! Art of Animation has family suites themed around Finding Nemo, Cars and The Lion King, as well as standard rooms with The Little Mermaid decor. At Caribbean Beach, you can be a real buccaneer in a pirate-themed room, or choose the fairytale experience with Royal Guest Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside.
Rumors have been flying for months (years, even!) that Disney Vacation Club would be coming to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Disney has even been doing some of the groundwork recently for the project, but as of today, it’s official. The next DVC resort will be The Poly.
One of the first Walt Disney World Resorts will become the last on the monorail line to get the timeshare program. Construction is expected to be complete sometime in 2015.
In addition to building Disney Vacation Club rooms, the resort will also see refurbishments to other guest areas; however, no extra details were given as to what would be seeing upgrades.
I recently stayed at Desert Inn & Suites. which is located on Harbor Boulevard across the street from Disneyland. The hotel, itself, is no-frills; the main advantage is the extremely close proximity to the main entrance of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. I clocked my walking time from my room to the front gate at several different times of day, and at no point did it exceed 6 minutes. That’s impressive for a budget hotel that I paid less than $70 a night for, and less walking time than any of the Disney-owned hotels.
Another feature I enjoyed was access to storage lockers to keep my luggage in until my room was ready. Sure, almost every hotel ever lets you check you luggage at the front desk for a later pickup. But the lockers are great if you’re like me and you travel with various expensive electronics and have trust issues with anyone taking possession of your bags.
My only complaint is that the walls seemed paper thin. This was especially noticeable at night, when I constantly heard people talking and walking through the hallways as if they were right next to me. Also, as you will see in the video, the “continental breakfast” was laughably bad. But I never hold that against a budget hotel, especially considering it’s free.
The California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort re-opened yesterday after a 9-month refurbishment, and the TouringPlans team was there for a review.
California Grill had been holding “preview” events since at least September 5, including a hosted event for readers of the Disney Parks Blog on Sunday, with free food and drinks. Most of those reviews were effusive, with comments such as “California Grill is even more spectacular than before.” But previews are planned events, with Disney-vetted guests and free alcohol. Monday was for reals, as the kids say, with paying customers and high expectations.
Below is an item-by-item review of everything on the menu. The 22-person TouringPlans team ordered several of each item, and each dish was served at least 30 minutes apart. Doing this allowed us to sample the kitchen’s skills across the evening, and ensures that one sample of one dish doesn’t unduly influence our review.
If you’re looking for a quick summary, here it is: the kitchen was inconsistent all night, with any two servings of the same item varying widely in quality. One order of the Oven-dried Tomato Flatbread would come out undercooked, with soft crust and too much garlic; the next would be crisp and properly seasoned. One table’s order of Georges Bank Scallops would be their favorite, while the next table over complained of grit and too much salt. The kitchen was so inconsistent that we’re not going to assign a rating to California Grill right now.
The kitchen staff seemed completely overwhelmed by the crowds the entire evening. I’ll have to check whether the refurbishment added seats, but it seemed that the kitchen just couldn’t keep up with demand at any point. Granted, we had 22 people spread across three tables, but each course took more than 30 minutes to be served, from the time the first item was brought to the time the last item was delivered. And the restaurant was going to be full, regardless of who was sitting at the tables. We ended up eating each course in shifts, with leftovers being passed from table to table, the fed to the unfed. (The bar staff were also overwhelmed. At one point around 7:45 PM, I counted exactly two bartenders trying to serve drinks to an entire restaurant, plus twenty or so of us needing a little something to, you know, take the edge off.)
Pssst, Goofy: renting DVC points is the best kept secret.
Most die-hard Disney fans are aware of the Disney Vacation Club (“DVC”), a timeshare program operated by Disney at eight resorts at Walt Disney World plus three locations outside of the World. DVC owners enter long term contracts to buy “points” that they use to book stays at these resorts. However, many people do not know that renting DVC points can be a cost-effective way to stay at a Deluxe resort. There have been a lot of questions recently about renting DVC points in the WDW Chat area at TouringPlans.com, so I decided to compile a few tips to help out first time renters.
This week’s Saturday Six looks at the Top Six “Secrets” of the Royal Pacific Resort. Like the Portofino Bay Hotel, the Royal Pacific is run by Loews and is one of the three on-site hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort (the Hard Rock Hotel is the third). Let’s take a look at some of the things you might not have known about this incredible hotel.
Minion dance party
#6. The Character Breakfast
One of the few weaknesses across Universal property is the overall lack of character dining experiences. At Walt Disney World you have a lot of unique opportunities to dine with various characters. Whether it’s dining with the princesses at Akershus, meeting Cinderella’s step sisters at 1900 Park Fare, or being able to enjoy breakfast with members of the “Fab Five” at Chef Mickey’s, Disney has many places across its entire resort to enjoy character dining. Universal? Not so much.