Resorts

Disney Romance at Old Key West

by on January 18, 2017

With Valentine’s Day a month out, we’re looking at some places at Walt Disney World that offer the chance for couples to get away from the usual park experience and enjoy some romance – Disney style. Disney’s Old Key West Resort is a surprisingly great resort pick if you are looking for some Disney romance with your significant other. At least it was a surprise to my husband and me when we made a recent adults-only getaway and stayed there for the first time.

As Disney Vacation Club members, we often plan our trips months in advance, but this trip was planned within a much shorter time frame. Old Key West is one of the DVC resorts that is more likely to have availability when planning just a couple months out.We were thrilled to find a room there for our dates. While we were excited for our first stay at this resort, what we didn’t expect was how much a part Old Key West would play in the overall romantic mood of the trip.

© Sarah Graffam

Covered walkway leading to the riverfront

So here’s a rundown of reasons why you should consider Old Key West Resort when planning your next couples trip to Disney World.

Disney Romance Factor 1: Setting

Old Key West’s layout is very spread out, with a central Hospitality House and two- to three-story buildings in pastel colors throughout several “neighborhoods.” This layout, especially for the buildings that are a bit tucked away, is extremely conducive to the feeling of privacy that enhances romance. The abundant foliage, palm trees, water features, and golf course fairways create an atmosphere of relaxation and seclusion away from the busy parks.

The slow pace extends to the Hospitality House where you can wander with your sweetie under a wide covered walkway that opens onto the riverfront and dock area. Upon arrival at the resort, take a stroll together through the walkway out to the river. This transition creates a similar reveal, and a feeling of “you are here,” as when walking under the railroad station into Magic Kingdom’s Town Square—but without the crowds. This first impression of the resort was one of the earliest indications that our time at Old Key West would be even more relaxing and romantic than we expected.

© Sarah Graffam

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SATURDAY SIX: The Best Resort Specific Merchandise at Walt Disney World

by on January 7, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Best Resort Specific Merchandise at WDW! Longtime readers of this fine blog series will remember that we have looked at the Best Souvenirs at Disney, the Best at Universal, and even the Best Pieces of Disney Merchandise That Don’t Exist. Heck, we even risk our lives and sanity each and every month to deliver you the fabled Disney Outlet Store Photo Report. So it is safe to say, we like merch. Now, one of our favorite types of theme park resort merchandise is the stuff you can get at the onsite hotels. When looking at them back at home, they instantly remind us of the great times we had on vacation and the places we have stayed at. Disney has always been the industry leader at incredible resort specific merchandise, but several years ago the company switched to a more homogeneous look for much of its hotel merchandise. With a very similar style of logo for various resorts all on the same type of items (t-shirts, coffee cups, keychains, etc), it was like Disney was running a Zazzle account writ large. Thankfully, more original merchandise has started to make its way back to the resorts, along with some old favorites. Today we’re going to look at our favorite resort specific merchandise, starting with…

# 6 – Camper Keychain at Fort Wilderness

Believe it or not, Disney’s Fort Wilderness campgound has one of the highest amounts of great resort specific merchandise on property. From great looking pins and shirts to amazing prints, Fort Wilderness offers an array of unique items that most other WDW hotels can’t compete with. There’s even a Fort Wilderness air freshener! Our absolute favorite piece of merch is the Camper Keychain ($9.99). Not only is this an incredibly creative keychain compared to what you’ll find at other resorts, the headlight of the camper is a working flashlight! Talk about the Disney Difference, and be prepared to talk about your Disney vacation when your friends and family back home see your cute keychain.

Fort Wilderness Camper Keychain.

The camper’s headlight is an actual working flashlight!

Plastic Mason Jar Travel Mug.

Fort Wilderness Air Freshener with “Wild Woods Scent.” To be fair, while we say it is unique that Fort Wilderness has its own air freshener, we will stipulate to the fact that no one would want an All Star Music air freshener anyway. We do wonder what the scent of “Pop Century” would be though….

The SATURDAY SIX mobile sits outside Coronado Springs with the inside smelling like Fort Wilderness.

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Dani’s Best Week Ever December 29, 2016: Disney Vacation Club Members without park tickets

by on December 29, 2016

The new year is practically here and many of us have already encountered expenses going up in 2017 – the way of the world, especially Walt Disney World. This past year we saw all major theme parks toy with their ticket and pricing structure. This has led to some families changing the way they do things, including some Disney Vacation Club Members opting to not purchase theme park tickets even when they are staying on Walt Disney World property using their vacation points.


Such is the case with my parents. They craved a visit to the Merriest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, and booked a short stay to gather family together in a three bedroom grand villa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge before Christmas craziness took over. However, because of tiered pricing and annual pass blackouts they decided not to purchase any theme park tickets and just enjoy WDW without the parks. We dined at some of the underrated, but oh-so-good restaurants on Disney property. We enjoyed some of the best Disney Vacation Club resorts. And it turned into one of our best stays ever!

Enjoying being a Disney Vacation Club member at Kidani Village

My parents and aunt and uncle are all retired so while I worked they checked into Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and had the pleasure of walking into the three bedroom grand villa when it was ready in the early afternoon. My workday couldn’t wrap up fast enough. The moment I arrived a sense of peace and contentment washed over me: “welcome home.”

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TouringPlansTV – Part 2 Review: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels + Video

by on December 20, 2016

Time for my Part 2 Review!

To check out the dining options, recreation and amenities at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, click below.

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TouringPlansTV: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels + Video

by on December 13, 2016

The Dolphin at Walt Disney World

Welcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Ever heard of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels? Well, you’re about to!

To find out more about the theme, rooms, transportation and pools, click below.

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TouringPlansTV: BoardWalk Inn – Dining and Amenities + Video

by on December 6, 2016

I’m finally here with part 2 of my BoardWalk Inn review!

Here, I delve into the dining options, pools, recreation and amenities.

You’ve all been so patient, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

Check it out below!

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Highway In The Sky Dine-Around: A Memorable Monorail Meal

by on December 6, 2016

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Last week, Disney announced a new upscale special dining event modeled after the popular “monorail crawl” many Disney fans love, called the Highway In The Sky Dine-Around progressive dinner. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with a short break for the holiday season), this event highlights dining offerings at Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian Resorts in a four hour experience priced at $150 plus tax per person (gratuity included, no discounts of any kind offered).

I was lucky enough to book a spot for the first night of this event last Friday on a whim. As it turns out, there really was a bit of luck involved here, as the event is already nearly sold out through the initial booking period currently running through March 2017 (sporadic parties of 1 and 2 are available on select dates as of the date of this article)! Here, I’ll walk you through the logistics and food/beverage I enjoyed during the event, which I’m sure will change over time as this event settles into permanent status, but it will give you a good idea of how it all works and whether it would fit your dining preferences.

Booking and Arrival

First, a few notes about booking: Many guests attending Friday’s dinner noted that some Cast Members assisting in booking by phone had no clue what the event was (which can sometimes happen with new events). I was able to book online directly through the Disney site without hassle (by searching for the Highway in the Sky event page). On Thursday, I received a call from a Cast Member confirming my attendance and checking if I had any food allergies or accessibility concerns, as the event includes a set menu and several sets of stairs and standing throughout. I was also reminded that valet parking was included at the Contemporary Resort. All of these items were touches I’d expect of any upscale dining experience, so I was happy to see they hadn’t been lost in the shuffle of it being a new event.

I was told to check in to the podium at The Wave… restaurant around 6:30 PM (event start times will vary based on the time of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks on any given night). Several Cast Members were around to welcome me, and once all the business was settled, I was led into the lounge area in The Wave’s lobby, where one of the blue alien-spaceshippy trippy rooms had been reserved for our group. If you’re acquainted with these lounge areas, you’ll know they aren’t particularly huge, so I was curious to see how big our dining party would actually be. As everyone filtered in, the group grew to about 25 guests – a reasonable size that seemed intimate but not so small that you couldn’t socialize with lots of different people.

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Loews Sapphire Falls Resort: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by on November 29, 2016

Sapphire FallsVisiting Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights provided the perfect opportunity to stay in the new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Back in July, Dani included a visit to Sapphire Falls in her Best Week Ever series, and I was curious to see if the resort completed most of the last minute touches since then. Here are my first impressions and experiences of Sapphire Falls. To give you a taste of what it’s like to stay at the new resort, we’ll start with ‘great’ and work through ‘good’, ‘average’, and ‘bad’ before finally reaching ‘ugly’.

Great

Staff: When your main competition is Walt Disney World, a company known for its friendly Cast Members, slacking off in the customer service department would be unwise. The Team Members at Sapphire Falls did not disappoint. Every single Team Member, from the luggage service staff to the managers, went out of their way to be friendly, helpful, welcoming, and engaging. Out of all the hotels I’ve visited, including many of the Disney Deluxe resorts, the staff at Sapphire Falls was by far the best I’ve experienced. They genuinely seemed happy to be there.

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Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to Receive New Amenities

by on November 23, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Recently, I shared that the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was renamed as Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. But that was just the start of the changes.

Boulder Ridge Cove will open in the summer of 2017. This new area will feature an expanded sun deck and a zero-depth-entry pool in an area themed around an abandoned rock quarry. A nearby Boulder Ridge Railway and Mining Co. water tower will serve as the pool area’s landmark. Besides the pool, there will also be a new quick-service location called Geyser Point Bar & Grill. The new areas will include ample outdoor seating.

Stay tuned to the blog for further information about the changes coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

 

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN

by on November 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (The Poly and The Contemporary). Three of the Deluxe resorts are not run by Disney, these include Shades of Green (owned and operated by the US Armed Forces) and the Swan and Dolphin. For over 25 years the Swan and Dolphin has been a part of the Starwood chain of resorts. While Starwood was bought by Marriott in September of this year, the hotels continue to be run under their respective brands (Swan being part of Westin, while the Dolphin part of Sheraton.)

swan_logo

Walt Disney World Swan.

Both the Swan and Dolphin are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts. While neither hotel offers the Disney Magical Express to and from the airport, or participates in the Disney Dining Plan, guests do get the normal WDW on-site ammenities including Extra Magic Hours, Disney transportation, and early access to Fast Pass+. How do the Swan and Dolphin stack up compared to the other on-site resorts?  Well, today we are going to check out our favorite parts of these two incredible hotels, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 –  Todd English’s bluezoo

One of the most underrated restaurants on Disney property is Todd English’s bluezoo located on the ground floor of the Dolphin. The bar area is visually stunning, and sets up the unique food and drink menu perfectly. Recently we did a tongue in cheek look at a Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, but one thing that stood out at those bars – along with many others on Disney property – is a reliance on the standard Disney bar menu. Todd English’s bluezoo is the complete opposite of that. Whether you get a Burnt Orange that arrives on fire or a Swedish Fish with its infused foam, the drinks served at bluezoo are served with creativity and flair.

The dining room of bluezoo is deceptively large. While the menu is filled with some great items (especially if you’re a seafood fan,) what shocked us was the crispy Asian pork ribs. I didn’t think anyone would come close to touching the quality of Morimoto Asia’s Hoisin sticky spare ribs, but bluezoo’s are somehow better. While many probably wouldn’t think of bluezoo as the first choice to bring your kids, there is actually a part of the menu for kid’s appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The whimsicly named “desserted island” is among the most fun at WDW.

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Smoking Red Sangria. (photo by Brandon Glover)

bluezoo_burtorange_glover

Burnt Orange – “herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_ribs

Crispy Asian pork ribs. (photo by  Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_dessertedisland

Desserted Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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